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nightspear ([personal profile] nightspear) wrote2009-06-15 07:18 am
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Archaeology (25/30)

Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Pairings: Gen.

Chapter1 Chapter2 Chapter3 Chapter4 Chapter5
Chapter6 Chapter7 Chapter8 Chapter9 Chapter10
Chapter11 Chapter12 Chapter13 Chapter14 Chapter15
Chapter16 Chapter17 Chapter18 Chapter19 Chapter20
Chapter21 Chapter22 Chapter23 Chapter24

XXXXX

Chapter 25: The Others

XXXXX

9 July 2001; Control Room, SGC; 1000 hrs

Sam leaned over the console to see the screen, then straightened, looking out at the iris that was closed over the wormhole. "It says Comtraya," she said.

"What do you mean, 'it says Comtraya?'" Daniel said, not sure how a computer could say that or why it would do so. He was pretty sure he couldn't type things into his GDO.

Jack groaned aloud, pressing his fingers into his eyes. "It's like shalom or aloha...that stuff."

"It was the greeting used by the artificial life form Harlan on P3X-989," Teal'c added.

"The one who made robotic duplicates of you," General Hammond said, looking at the three senior members of SG-1.

"Hey," Daniel said, interested, "maybe it's them. You know, you. The other you."

Jack stopped trying to gouge out his eyeballs and said, "No version of me would ever go around saying Comtraya."

Sam nodded in agreement. "It's more likely Harlan himself. Sir, I admit he was annoying, but he wasn't a serious threat."

Jack looked like he seriously disagreed but couldn't find a good counterargument. The general nodded. "Open the iris," he ordered. Jack glared at Sam, who shrugged apologetically.

As Daniel hurried down the steps after the general, eager to see the robot who was apparently so lifelike they couldn't even tell he wasn't a man, the iris opened and someone stepped through--

--and looked nothing like what Daniel had been imagining. "Huh," he said aloud.

Harlan opened his eyes wide as he saw the security teams with their guns pointing at him. "Oh--oh!" he said, his voice surprisingly thin and unimposing. "I have no weapons."

"Stand down," General Hammond ordered.

"Thank you for opening the doorway device which you call 'iris,'" Harlan added, looking quite excited at the idea of the doorway device.

"Just for the record," Jack added sourly, "I was opposed."

Daniel couldn't help feeling bad when Harlan's eager smile dropped off his face. "Welcome to Earth," the general said more diplomatically. "I'm General Hammond, leader of this facility."

Harlan clapped his hands together and grinned. "Comtraya! Yes, I have heard so much about you."

"What's wrong, Harlan?" Sam said.

Immediately, Harlan's smile disappeared again and his expression became worried. Daniel tried to examine Harlan surreptitiously to see if he could detect any sign that the man was a robot and failed. He tried to imagine a machine pretending to be worried and decided there was no reason to believe the robot wasn't worried, or that there wasn't some program that made it--him--approach and perceive things the way that a worried person might, which was really the same thing, wasn't it?

"Oh, please, yes," Harlan said, turning from Sam to Teal'c to Jack. "It is a very big...e-emergency. Erm. You must help...you."

"Uh-oh," Daniel said.

Just as Harlan turned to him in surprise, the general said, "Let's take this upstairs," and gestured toward the briefing room.

As they made their way up, Harlan tapped Daniel on the shoulder and said, "Who are you?"

"Oh, um...I'm Daniel," Daniel said, holding out his hand. "Comtraya."

"Oh, yes, yes!" Harlan said, sticking out his hand in imitation and blinking at Daniel but not shaking his hand. "I have heard about Daniel as well. You are"--Harlan reached up to squeeze Daniel's arm experimentally--"bigger than they described."

"Um...yes, that...well, yeah," Daniel said, a little disoriented by Harlan's odd mannerisms but a little amused, too.

"All right, all right," Jack said impatiently, tugging Daniel along and making a face at Harlan. "Let's move it along, shall we?"

"We shall," Harlan agreed. He pulled a chair out from the table, then abandoned it to look out the window, staring to looking more nervous as he seemed to try to disappear into his robes. "It is your others. I told them not to go. I begged them. Going through the Stargate is dangerous--very, very dangerous. You told me all about the Goa'uld, you did. You must help, yes? No?"

"Harlan!" Jack barked.

"Yes?" Harlan said, turning around.

"Sit," Jack ordered.

"Yes," Harlan repeated, and shuffled his way into a chair.

"Now," Jack said slowly, as if talking to a small child whom he was trying to convince himself not to strangle, "from the beginning."

"The beginning, yes," Harlan said, nodding emphatically and visibly pulling himself together. "They were not happy; they could not stop being you. The portable power pack you invented..."

When he pointed to Sam, Daniel clarified, "The robot Sam?"

"Oh, it was ingenious," Harlan said excitedly. He started to pull open his robe. "I have one in my chest now--would you like to see it?"

"Yes," Sam said in interest, leaning in for a closer look.

"No!" Jack snapped. "You can show her later."

"What type of help do you require?" Teal'c said, cutting easily to the heart of the problem.

"Oh, not me," Harlan explained. "You. The others."

"What exactly has happened?" the general said.

Harlan shrugged. "Well, they have not returned."

"Returned from where?" Daniel said when Jack's face took on a familiar expression, the one that said he was trying to force himself not to shake someone in the hope that a full explanation would tumble loose.

"Away--they go away," Harlan said. He pointed through the window at the 'gate.

Sam raised her eyebrows. "Are you saying," she said, "that our robots are going through the Stargate on missions?"

"They have never stayed away for more than twenty-four hours," Harlan said anxiously as General Hammond scowled at Jack, who made a face as if to say it wasn't his fault, sort of. "They have less than nine hours left."

...x...

Harlan ended up liking Daniel more than the rest of them. By the time they were done with their briefing, Daniel was staring to sympathize with Harlan more than the rest of them, too.

"But you must help them," Harlan said anxiously.

"General," Daniel added, "whether or not they were created with your authorization--"

"Or our authorization," Jack said.

"--well, they didn't have any choice, either," Daniel pointed out. "This is yourselves. We can't just leave them somewhere."

"We did once," Jack said.

"On a safe planet!"

"Daniel, they're robots," Jack said.

"Colonel O'Neill," the general said, "if you don't want to do this, I'm not going to make it an order."

Jack nodded. "Thank you, sir."

"But--" Daniel started.

"Daniel," Sam said.

"Then I shall just have to help myself," Harlan decided. He puffed himself up and pulled his robe around himself. All in all, he looked like he might be ready to fight a rabbit, but not much more.

Daniel scowled at Jack, then stood and turned to the general. "Request permission to join Harlan in the search, sir," he said.

"Oh, come on!" Jack burst out.

"Those are our friends out there," Daniel snapped, and while it was confusing to think that while at the table with his team, it was true, too--those robots held the minds and personalities of the man who had pointed out stars to him, the woman who had given him a pen and a book when he'd been desperate for something familiar, and the man who had taught him about strength in every form. "I'm not leaving them."

"Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson," the general said, "while I understand your concern, I can't allow you to risk your life like that."

"I'm no longer under age restrictions," Daniel said.

"And if this were SG-1's mission, I'd let you go," the general said. Daniel glanced at the others in time to see Sam lower her eyes while Teal'c looked rather ambivalent. Jack's determined expression didn't quite waver, but it looked a bit more defensive. "But I won't order SG-1 into that situation. Your lives, not theirs, are my responsibility. As it stands...Harlan, we can send you anywhere you need to go. I'm sorry."

...x...

Using duty as a reason to go on a mission didn't work when Jack and the general didn't feel it was their duty. Guilt, however, worked quite well on his friends.

"Wait a minute," Sam said after Harlan started dialing the address on the DHD where the robotic SG-1 had gone. "That's P2X-729--Juna. We've been to this planet before."

Daniel didn't remember that one and leaned closer to see the address, hoping it would spark a memory. Just as he remembered that it was a mission SG-1 had undertaken while Daniel had been on Abydos with the recovering Skaara and Sha'uri, Teal'c said, "We did engage in battle with the Jaffa of Heru-ur and liberated the people of Juna."

"That's right," Sam agreed. "We told them to bury the 'gate after we were gone. Are you sure you've got the right address?" she said, turning to Harlan.

"I could run a diagnostic of my systems," Harlan said pragmatically, "but it might be quicker just to dial the address."

General Hammond nodded. "Proceed," he ordered.

Harlan drew himself as tall as he could and dialed again, this time activating the central crystal. Sure enough, the vortex shot out of the 'gate and the wormhole was firmly established.

"Well, it's not buried anymore," Daniel said, then added, "Obviously something's happened over there. Shouldn't we check it out?"

"It is possible another Goa'uld travelled to the planet by ship in order to reinstate command," Teal'c said.

"Why?" Jack asked. "There's nothing there--the mine's dried up, the people were skeptical enough to help us overthrow Heru-ur's Jaffa..."

"Possibly strategic military reasons," Teal'c said.

Sam stared at the wormhole. "We told them they'd be okay," she said, looking stricken, which was when Daniel knew the mission was just a probe away from being approved.

"Send a probe," the general conceded.

...x...

Daniel didn't notice at first that he was leaning forward to see Jack's--the robot Jack's--face on the screen through the MALP because everyone else had leaned in along with him. "I'll never get used to that," Jack muttered, staring.

"This is General Hammond of the SGC," the general said through the microphone.

The other O'Neill's mannerisms were...exactly the same as Jack's. He bent close to the MALP camera. "Hey George. How you doing? Who else you got there with you?"

"SG-1 and Harlan," the general answered.

"Harlan!" O'Neill snapped. "I told you to stay away from Earth!"

"Yeah, well," Jack retorted, taking the microphone away from the general, "I told you to bury your 'gate!"

Scowling into the camera, O'Neill answered, "Well, you seem to think that solves a lot of problems, don't you?" Sam grimaced. Jack seemed to be annoyed enough to be less affected by the accusation, though Daniel suspected he'd feel it once he no longer had his own face to glare at.

Suddenly, O'Neill looked over his shoulder and then disappeared. Frowning, Sam panned the camera around, trying to see where he'd gone--

A few moments later, a man appeared along with O'Neill. "That's Darian," Sam said, clearly recognizing him.

"Earth," O'Neill said, pointing toward the MALP as if the man could see them through it. "General Hammond and the other SG-1."

"What exactly is the current situation?" the general said.

"Our Teal'c is dead," O'Neill said.

Daniel winced and looked up at Teal'c, but it was Jack who looked more disturbed. Teal'c didn't seem to care either way. "Oh my," Harlan murmured, sinking into his robe again.

"Cronus...well, he wanted to draw it out, but once he found out we weren't quite human...let's just say Teal'c got damaged too much. Carter's been captured by Cronus, too. He's got a ship in orbit and his Jaffa are everywhere. So it's just Darian and me."

The man named Darian leaned closer to the MALP and added, "Please--help us."

The general turned to all of them, lingering on Daniel for a moment, then nodded. "You have a go." He leaned into microphone and added, "SG-1 is on its way."

"Thanks, George," O'Neill said. He stabbed a finger toward the MALP camera. "Harlan, you stay there!"

Daniel checked his watch as the wormhole winked out of existence. "Just over eight hours," he said.

"C'mon," Jack said tersely.

As they entered their ready room and pulled down their gear, Jack said, "Stay under the radar as much as you can. Cronus knows us all. With just the four of us and a couple of helpers, we're not going to do much good--we're going to need the Juna people to help us, like last time."

"We must once again prove to them that the Goa'uld are not gods," Teal'c said.

"If they'll even believe us after last time," Sam said.

"If Cronus is dead," Teal'c pointed out, his eyes bright in anticipation, "then they will have no choice but to believe us."

"Then all we have to do is assassinate the most powerful System Lord aside from Apophis," Jack said. "Piece of cake."

Teal'c didn't acknowledge the sarcasm. "He must have arrived in a ship to avoid using the Stargate. Therefore, we need to access his ship and kill him."

"Rings," Daniel said, thinking of traditional Goa'uld methodology.

"Okay, sounds like a plan," Jack said, despite the horribly gaping holes in their idea. "We'll figure out the details as we go. And Daniel..."

"Jack?" Daniel said, removing a few nonessential items from his vest.

There was a pause, and then, briskly, "You know the drill. Follow your orders, even if it means hanging back. No heroics--anything that risks your life will risk your team, too."

Daniel nodded. He knew better than that now. "Yes, sir."

"I know you're sympathetic about the...the robots," Jack continued, leading the way out and toward the armory. "But we need to be one team now, not two teams who can't figure out who the commander is. Trust me, the other me would agree. He and the three of us know the layout of that main temple; you don't. You stick with Teal'c; do as he says. And Teal'c--"

"We understand, O'Neill," Teal'c said.

"Right," Jack said. He handed a P90 to Daniel and let him secure it onto his harness. Sam took her own weapons and then handed Daniel his sidearm.

The Stargate was already active when they entered the embarkation room. "Good luck," the general's voice said from the control room.

"Thank you, sir," Jack called up, then strode up the ramp. "SG-1--move out!"

XXXXX

9 July 2001; Juna (P2X-729); 1045 hrs

They met Darian by the Stargate and followed him to the woods. And then the other O'Neill stepped out, and Daniel had enough time to register that the robot's hair was less gray before he snapped, "Well, look at you--" O'Neill stopped where he stood, staring. "What...Daniel?"

"Hi, Jack," Daniel said. Jack--his Jack--gave him a look. "Uh...well, I should probably call you Colonel, at least just for now, or this could get pretty confusing."

O'Neill gaped at him, then turned back to Jack. "What the hell is he doing here!"

Daniel bristled. "He's a member of SG-1," Jack said, sounding rather more satisfied about that than he usually did, "so he's following General Hammond's orders, which is more than I can say for you, pal."

"Oh, like you always follow your orders," O'Neill said, rolling his eyes. "Besides, just because I'm not on the Air Force payroll anymore doesn't mean I can't do the job."

"The job?" Jack repeated.

"Explore the universe. Fight the Goa'uld."

"Oh, what, like now?"

"Jack!" Daniel said. Both men swiveled back around to face him. "Ss. Jacks. Colonels."

"What?" both of them snapped.

Sam cleared her throat. "Should we really be standing around here, sirs?"

It was Darian who nodded and answered in thickly accented English, "It is not safe. There are guards in these forests. Come--we can speak in my home."

Jack gave his counterpart another final glare and set off after Darian. Sam gave the robotic O'Neill a semi-apologetic look and followed. O'Neill sighed exasperatedly and fell into line with Teal'c and Daniel.

"So," O'Neill said. He reached out, hesitated, and patted Teal'c firmly on the back. "How're you doing, Teal'c?"

"I am fine," Teal'c said.

Remembering that the other Teal'c was dead, Daniel said, "Colonel O'Neill, I'm sorry to hear about, uh, your Teal'c."

With a stiff shrug, O'Neill said, "Well, what the hell. We might all be dead by the end of...oh, eight hours. You have a plan, right?"

"We do," Teal'c said. "However, we will require more information to implement it successfully."

O'Neill looked up at him, then turned back and concentrated on walking again. "Yeah. Sounds like something you'd say."

Daniel looked down as he walked, uncomfortable. It was hard to miss Teal'c when the Teal'c he'd known for four years was next to him, and at the same time, he knew it must be hard for O'Neill to be walking next to Teal'c when his own Teal'c had just died. Even now, their Jack was glancing over his shoulder suspiciously, as if to ask what they were chattering about.

"Here," Daniel said when he couldn't think of anything else to say. He unhooked his P90 and raised his eyebrows at Teal'c. When he received a nod from the Jaffa, he held it out to O'Neill. "You should probably take this."

O'Neill frowned at it, and then at him, but didn't take it. "I have no idea what to say to you right now," O'Neill said.

"That you're still a better shot than I am," Daniel suggested, pushing the weapon toward the other man. "Trade me your zat'nik'tel if it makes you feel better, but it makes no sense for me to have this instead of you." Finally, O'Neill took it, but he was reluctant in handing the zat gun over even as he glanced down at the gun on Daniel's thigh. Realizing then what a difference the missing years between them made, Daniel took the zat and assured him, "I've used these for years. I won't get hurt."

"Can't promise that," O'Neill said.

"If it makes you feel better, I came of age again yesterday, and I've had about as much cumulative training as new officers," Daniel offered. "And more experience."

"Yeah, well...hey--" O'Neill started, then stopped. Daniel waited until he tried again. "I have a feeling we don't have time to go into it, but just tell me--what happened with Abydos? Why aren't you...?"

"Oh, Abydos is fine," Daniel said, remembering that this Jack O'Neill wouldn't know the details of why he'd stayed at the SGC. "There's a close relationship between Abydos and the SGC, Skaara's fine, Sha'uri's fine..."

"Really?" A real smile spread over O'Neill's face. "Their Goa'ulds--"

Daniel nodded, allowing a smile in return. "Gone. Extracted. We met Thor, and Thor's Hammer...long, long stories. But yes, really."

O'Neill glanced at Teal'c, as if for confirmation, then gave Daniel's shoulder a brief squeeze. "Glad to hear it, kid."

Jack didn't call him that so much anymore these days. Daniel found he wasn't sure what to think of it. "We'll get your Sam back," Daniel said determinedly, startled by how perfectly real O'Neill's hand felt before it dropped away to grip the gun again.

"Catch up when we finish here?"

Daniel just barely caught the hopeful expression before it disappeared off O'Neill's face. "Yeah," he said. "Lots to catch up on."

With a final nod, O'Neill assumed the stance Daniel recognized well, the one that said he was about to start on a mission and was going to be serious about this one. "So what's the plan?" he said, turning to Teal'c and managing to look at him without even flinching.

...x...

"There will be as many as one thousand Jaffa on Cronus's ship," Teal'c said as they sat in the relative safety of Darian's home. "But that is not the problem."

"What is the problem?" Jack said warily.

"The rings must be activated from within the ship," Teal'c said. "There was no control panel within the pyramid when we were last there."

Daniel squinted at the floor, trying to figure out how this was just an obstacle rather than a dead end. Jack scowled at Teal'c. "Now, see, you didn't mention that before."

"We had very little time to formulate this plan," Teal'c replied calmly. Daniel silently thought that calling it a 'plan' was pretty generous.

But O'Neill raised a hand. "It's all right. Carter might be able to help. The other one," he added to Sam, who was anxiously checking her watch.

"How's she going to know what to do and when?" Jack pointed out, not hiding that he thought it was a pretty stupid idea.

Instead of answering, O'Neill tapped his chest, cocked his head, and said, "Wait, excuse me." Daniel glanced at the rest of this team, just to make sure he wasn't the only one who thought this was odd. Sam had her eyebrows drawn low, looking worried, while Jack seemed to take this as confirmation that his double was either crazy or a moron. Then O'Neill looked up, tapping his chest once more. "Just a little static. But Carter said she'll do what she can."

"Uh..." Daniel said.

"Oh!" Sam said, her expression clearing. "You have a communication, uh...like an internal radio? That's amazing,"

"Yep," O'Neill said, then turned to give Jack a look that Daniel could only call smug. "I've been maintaining radio silence, but it's getting late, and we need her help."

"What about the Jaffa on the ship?" Jack countered.

"Once we have reached the peltak," Teal'c said, "the other levels can be sealed off. Cronus will have very few Jaffa remaining for support."

"How do you know about the layout of Cronus's ships?" O'Neill said, frowning at Teal'c.

"There's history between Teal'c and Cronus," Daniel said, not wanting to take a long tangent into explaining just how well Teal'c probably knew the best possible methods of killing Cronus or taking over his ship, and how Teal'c must have studied Cronus over decades.

"What do we do with the thousand Jaffa once we've dealt with Cronus and taken over the ship?" Sam asked.

"We offer them freedom," Teal'c said.

O'Neill shrugged. "Gotta like that. So...about this alleged way of getting into the main chamber of the pyramid..."

"They are searching for Colonel O'Neill, are they not?" Teal'c said. "And Darian has been charged with bringing him to Cronus."

"Oh, wait," Daniel said, sitting up straight. "Teal'c--"

"Yep," O'Neill said. He rolled his shoulders and handed the P90 back to Daniel. "Better switch back. I'm not getting in there with a submachine gun."

Daniel didn't take the weapon. "We're using you as bait," he said, then turned to Jack. "We're using him as bait?"

"He's our way in, Daniel," Jack said. "We've all done it before. Same as always. We'll be right behind him."

"This isn't the same," Daniel countered; "those were...more easily escapable situations."

Well. Maybe not more easily escapable. But now he was starting to realize how difficult it must have been for Jack to agree to plans in the past that had used him or someone else in that way.

"One of my people is in there, kid," O'Neill said, still holding out the gun. "Actually, she's the last one of my people, and both of us are running out of time. I'll do it. Besides," he added with another smirk at Jack, "I'm better, faster, stronger... Face it, buddy--I'm more likely to survive that than you."

"But--"

"Kal shak," Teal'c said sharply. "There is little time, Daniel Jackson."

Exhaling angrily, Daniel took the P90 even as Sam held out a pistol to O'Neill. "You should be able to hide this somewhere, sir," she told him. "How much time?"

"Just over five hours left in the power packs," O'Neill said. "And it takes about an hour to get to the pyramid from here."

Daniel watched out of the corner of his eye as O'Neill stood and, with the help of Teal'c and Darian, carefully secreted his handgun somewhere that would be reasonably easy to reach and still well enough hidden if they were careful.

For himself, Daniel turned toward an empty corner and brought his P90 to bear, squinting through the ring sight, just in case it had been somehow knocked out of place during the trip here. As he nervously checked the magazine and chamber, he caught sight of Darian pulling some sort of leather scale armor over his tunic.

"Hey," Daniel said, lowering the gun, "Whoever's following behind as backup will have to stay...behind, right?"

Jack must have heard something in his tone, because he exchanged a wary look with the other O'Neill and said, "Yeah. Not far behind, but--"

"But whoever's actually with Colonel O'Neill and Darian can help clear the main chamber," Daniel pointed out. "Obviously, none of you three can go, because the Jaffa are looking for Jack and they've seen one version of Sam and Teal'c already, but they don't know me."

"You've gotten up close and personal with Cronus," Jack said. "He knows your face."

"His Jaffa don't. Cronus is probably in his ship now, right, Teal'c? He won't be in the pyramid without a good reason?"

"That is likely," Teal'c allowed.

Daniel took off his glasses, blinked a few times to make sure he wasn't completely blind, and looked closely at what seemed to be one of Darian's tunics. He didn't think he was wearing anything else that marked him obviously as Tau'ri without a closer look. A roll on the ground would cover things like the seams on his trousers with a layer of dirt, and no one would question that there might have been a struggle while they tried to capture Jack O'Neill.

"It wouldn't hurt," he said. "I'll come along, Darian will say we captured Colonel O'Neill, and then we'll have a better chance of overwhelming the Jaffa with three of us instead of two."

"Not a chance," O'Neill said, looking at Daniel as if he were insane or perhaps stupid.

Fortunately, Daniel was used to that look and raised his eyebrows at his own Jack. "I'll be in the firefight anyway. But if we fail to secure that room, we might as well give up the mission."

To his relief--and some surprise--Jack said neutrally, "Can you shoot without your glasses?"

Daniel eyed the cape Darian was pulling on--it looked like it could hide something relatively large--and tried to imagine the situation they would be in. "Well enough not to hit friendlies. In fact, I'll keep an M9 under my clothes so I won't have to handle the P90--I'm better with that."

"You need better aim, then," Jack warned. "The armor will stop those rounds"--he nodded at the pistol--"four times out of five. Harder to kill than with a P90."

"I know the weak spots; a shattered hip or shoulder can still incapacitate," Daniel pointed out. Jaffa armor manufacturing wasn't consistent enough to be certain of any weakness other than where it didn't cover fully--between joints, for instance, or in the head if they weren't wearing helmets. P90s could blow through most things a Jaffa wore, but they had to be more precise with pistols. "I'll get my glasses on as soon as I can. I can do it."

Jack hesitated, then nodded once. "Get dressed. Darian, give him a hand, will you?"

And then that was it.

Teal'c gave Darian a nod, and the Juna warrior began searching for spare clothing. Daniel ignored the look on O'Neill's face and slipped the glasses into a pocket. He quickly stripped off enough of his SGC gear to pull on a tunic over his shirt and a heavy cape made out of what looked like fur. "Colonel," Daniel said, fastening the harness backward and adjusting until it fit snugly and was hidden under a belt, "if you'll clip the gun onto my back, you can grab it as soon as--"

"What the hell is wrong with you people?" O'Neill said.

"I'd take whatever help I could get if I were you," Jack snapped back. "This is my team, and this is how we're doing it. So don't screw up."

...x...

9 July 2001; Juna (P2X-729); 1430 hrs

"Halt," Teal'c said, holding up a hand. As the rest of the crouched behind the nearest bush, he looked out briefly, then pointed. "The temple is beyond that rise. There will be guards at the perimeter. From here, the three of us should proceed with caution."

Darian stood, looking determined. "We will go first," he said, nodding to Colonel O'Neill and Daniel.

Before Daniel could follow, Jack stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Ready?" he said quietly, pulling the cape open to make sure the P90 was snug against Daniel's back and the pistol was in place at his belt under the tunic. Daniel nodded, tugging his clothes back in place. "Say nothing, follow Darian, and when they start shooting, get to whatever cover you can, first. That guy can take care of himself. You help out only once you're sure you can take of yourself."

"I know the drill," Daniel said, but Jack did, too, and must know he'd shoot first and run second if it looked necessary. He looked back the way they'd come and caught Sam's eye when she glanced back from watching their rear. "Good luck," he told them, and stood.

Darian took the lead, just barely holding onto the robotic O'Neill's elbow as if to restrain him. Daniel raised a crossbow that he barely knew how to use and took up the rear.

"You done this before?" O'Neill said as they walked.

"Silence, prisoner," Darian said, giving them a pointed look.

"Ah, come on; I've got better ears than either of you or the Jaffa," O'Neill said dismissively. "No one's listening."

When O'Neill turned back, clearly waiting for a response, Daniel said quietly, "Sort of--but last time, I was in your position, Jack was in mine, Teal'c was in Darian's, and we had more Jaffa to deal with but more C-4 to use on them. And a baby. And Thor helped."

O'Neill shook his head.

"Long story," Daniel said.

"Can't believe you're on his team," O'Neill muttered. Daniel opened his mouth indignantly to answer. "Aht--someone's coming."

Daniel shut up. A Jaffa patrol passed nearby as they reached the top of the hill and looked down into the valley below to see the pyramid. Daniel waited for Darian to start down the other side before following.

They met three Jaffa on the way. Daniel was glad for the smeared mud and muddy paint on his face, because he found it more difficult than he'd previously imagined to say nothing at all and still make his gestures and his expression match what the Jaffa seemed to expect. At least O'Neill looked irritated enough that Daniel thought he himself must look positively stoic in comparison.

And then they were at the pyramid.

Two Jaffa met them. Daniel looked quickly around--no one else nearby. SG-1 could take both of these Jaffa easily, as long as no reinforcements came. Darian raised his fist to them in what must be a salute, then tilted his head toward O'Neill. One of the Jaffa smirked and nodded to them before entering the pyramid.

Okay. One less for SG-1 to handle.

Darian led the way inside. O'Neill followed, and Daniel had to quicken his pace to make it look like following was his idea and not his prisoner's.

There was a short corridor before they truly entered the main chamber, with plenty of columns to provide cover. Daniel counted four Jaffa standing guard--enough that they didn't want to have to worry about these guards joining a fight against them, but not enough to stop SG-1 from blowing through here from behind once the fight started and the Jaffa were distracted.

Finally, they reached a doorway, where Darian stopped, letting the Jaffa precede him. Daniel couldn't figure out what they were waiting for until, from within, the heard someone say, "Ma'kree?"

"Sindar," Darian whispered, just loudly enough for Daniel to hear. "First Prime."

When the other Jaffa answered to announce the prisoner had been caught, Darian strode forward again. Taking a deep breath, Daniel pressed the crossbow very slightly into O'Neill's back, and they followed.

As they entered, Daniel slowed slightly to let O'Neill pull ahead, just enough to give them both space to maneuver. The Jaffa marked with the gold Cronus mark--Sindar--was standing on a raised platform in the back.

While their attentions were fixed on O'Neill and Darian, who had taken the task of explaining, Daniel looked carefully around.

Including Sindar, there were four Jaffa he could see--no, five, including one to his right, standing guard by a large column. There might be others--there was enough room beyond his somewhat blurry field of vision that could conceal as many as two or three more, and reinforcements would come from behind. Darian would take Sindar by surprise, and then if Daniel could get the Jaffa standing to one side, he'd be able to use the column for cover while he reached for a weapon he actually knew how to use.

Sindar was speaking in Goa'uld, not the local dialect--Darian must be relatively high-ranked among the humans, then, which meant that Daniel, as his companion and someone never seen before, would either remain unremarked as a lowly soldier or catch someone's attention for being in Darian's company. In fact...

"You," Sindar said, pointing at him as he continued to aim his crossbow at O'Neill's back. "What is your name? Cronus will be pleased with your service."

Daniel glanced at Darian, who gave him a small nod. "The gods are my judge," Daniel answered. While Sindar seemed surprised--at his accent, maybe, or the talk of many gods or his answer itself--Darian shifted his grip on his own crossbow. "But I do not think Cronus will be pleased."

In one quick, smooth motion, Darian raised his crossbow. Without waiting to see, Daniel whirled to the side, aimed at the Jaffa standing there, and released the trigger.

O'Neill was pulling at his cloak at the same time, though, and Daniel didn't know the bow, so he missed--the bolt only skimmed the side of the Jaffa's leg--but it was enough to give him time while the Jaffa stumbled.

As the weight of the P90 disappeared from his back, Daniel dropped the crossbow and ran toward the column, pulling the pistol from his belt. He heard gunshots behind him and knew O'Neill was opening fire, so he followed suit, and his target was dead before he'd had a chance to recover.

Ignoring the corpse next to him, Daniel pressed himself against the wall as staff blasts blew past him to strike harmlessly nearby. He took an extra second to fumble his glasses onto his face, then moved out from behind the column to fix on another target.

His vision clearer now, he could see two others already down. O'Neill had the P90 at his shoulder and was aiming into a corner that Daniel couldn't see from his position, and Darian looked like he was covering the other side, but he was busy reloading his crossbow and a Jaffa was priming his weapon--

"Darian, move!" Daniel shouted, taking aim.

Without questioning, Darian ducked out of the way, and Daniel squeezed his trigger in time to stop the Jaffa's staff weapon from firing at O'Neill.

O'Neill looked like he was trying to move out of the open, but there were too many firing all at once. Daniel managed to wound two more in succession--clean hits in the armor joints, enough to make them drop their weapons. In the brief pause that followed, O'Neill scrambled toward him and shared the column he was using for cover before they both had to duck back again.

"Stay down," O'Neill ordered shortly, and then used his synthetic body's weight to press a surprised Daniel against the wall as he peeked out to shoot again.

And then, as Daniel tried with frustration to get O'Neill to stop babying him without distracting the robot's aim, he saw another staff blast, but from the other direction.

Teal'c's head appeared in the doorway. Automatic fire sounded from behind him, and Daniel knew the rest of his team had arrived.

Daniel finally squirmed out from behind O'Neill and circled around the pillar from the other direction, sticking his head out only to see his Jack appear, crouching next to O'Neill as they finished clearing the room together. Daniel looked around, but Darian's crossbow took care of the last Jaffa he could see.

The sound of gunfire stopped suddenly.

A beeping noise came from the corner. "Got it!" Sam called. Scraping stone sounded, and a door descended over the entrance, sealing them inside the main chamber of the pyramid and leaving any reinforcements locked out.

"Teal'c," Jack said, and then the two of them ran up to the raised platform to check the last few corners.

"Sweet," O'Neill said, lowering his weapon. "Daniel, Darian, anyone hurt?"

"Don't coddle me!" Daniel snapped, miffed, as he ejected his half-empty magazine and reloaded. "My bullets work like anyone's."

O'Neill looked taken aback but didn't answer.

Jack's voice called from the other end of the chamber, "We're clear!"

"Here, too," Sam said. "They won't be getting in anytime soon."

"My Carter's almost ready to activate the rings," O'Neill said, standing up. "She's going to try to hit Teal'c's autodestruct as a distraction." Daniel looked up in horror, but O'Neill had already moved on. "Darian, stay here and wait for our word."

That Teal'c was dead already, Daniel reminded himself. He would have been pleased to know his destruction would help in Cronus's death.

Daniel quickly unfastened the Juna cloak from his shoulders and stepped onto the platform. He crouched with his pistol in position to shoot as soon as they arrived, one Jack O'Neill standing on either side of him while Sam crouched behind him with Teal'c next to her, covering all possible angles.

"She's on her way," O'Neill said suddenly. Daniel tensed, moving his finger into the trigger guard. "Now!"

Rings shot up from the floor around them. Daniel squinted his eyes, knowing he'd be blinded by glare for a moment if he stared too long at the bright light from the platform--

They reappeared. Daniel scanned the part of the room in front of him, saw one Jaffa on the floor, either dead or stunned, then turned around.

Sam--the other one, Captain Carter--stood there, holding a zat'nik'tel and looking generally well (and just like Sam), except for the part of her cheek that looked like it had been burned off. As he watched, Captain Carter raised the zat and fired again on one Jaffa who had started to recover.

She looked over them, lingering on Teal'c. Before she could say anything, O'Neill nodded to her. "Nice work, Captain," he said.

"We need to seal off this level," Jack added.

"Apparently, there's a control center somewhere that services all the doors," their Sam said, standing up and facing her counterpart. "Kind of like a circuit panel."

Narrowing her eyes, Carter thought for a moment, then nodded. "This way," she said tersely.

"Where is Cronus?" Teal'c said before they could leave. "The peltak?"

"Probably," Carter said, "but he and his troops will be heading this way--"

"I will intercept him," Teal'c said, and turned immediately toward the peltak.

Jack looked like he'd have called Teal'c back if they hadn't been in such a hurry--single-minded revenge wasn't the best frame of mind at the moment. Taking advantage of the rush and his standing orders to stick with Teal'c, Daniel said, "I'll go with him," and hurried off toward the peltak before anyone could stop him.

Daniel was sure Teal'c would handily dispatch just about anyone in his path, because, as far as his friend was concerned, those were just obstacles between him and Cronus. That meant, however, that someone needed to watch the other directions, and, indeed, Teal'c didn't even slow when Daniel fired on one of Cronus's Jaffa off to the side that he'd missed in his eagerness to reach the Goa'uld.

"Teal'c--" Daniel started.

"Get down!" Jack ordered from behind.

He turned and registered that it was the robotic Jack O'Neill, not his, then squashed himself into a corner behind a small ledge just in time to avoid a Jaffa staff weapon. He glanced over his shoulder, but Teal'c had already disappeared down the corridor and into some doorway that had to be the peltak.

Gripping his gun tight, Daniel leaned out from his hiding place and realized with a jolt that there were four Jaffa, not one, even as he saw O'Neill duck out of sight. They were wearing helmets this time--these were real guards, not ceremonial watchmen like in the pyramid--so, discarding the head as a target, Daniel raised his gun and fired on the first Jaffa.

His aim was good enough, and one of his bullets struck between the armor plates at the Jaffa's shoulder. The Jaffa dropped his staff weapon with a scream. In front of him, O'Neill rolled into the middle of the corridor and opened fire, calling, "Go, Daniel!"

Daniel took one more shot and didn't wait before he sprinted around the corner where Teal'c had disappeared and found himself next to the entrance to the peltak in an otherwise empty corridor.

Once he was there, he leaned against the wall for a moment to gather himself, then quickly moved into the room.

There were three Jaffa on the ground, either dead or unconscious, and Cronus was leaning over Teal'c. At the sound of his footsteps, Cronus looked up, and Daniel had a second to realize the Goa'uld had his hand in Teal'c's abdomen before he raised his gun and fired.

Too late--Cronus activated his force shield, and the bullets dropped uselessly to the ground.

"You," Cronus growled, standing and letting Teal'c flop back to the floor.

Even knowing it was useless, Daniel raised his gun and fired again and again until he ran out of bullets, hoping that O'Neill would finish and burst in behind him or that Teal'c would recover and get up right now.

Cronus let his shield take the hits, though, and smirked. "You know, Daniel Jackson," Cronus said, "that that is useless. Did you and the shol'va think you could defeat me?"

Feeling like an idiot but out of other options, Daniel threw the empty pistol at Cronus as hard as he could.

It flew awkwardly and struck Cronus in the face with enough force to surprise but not stun, but it was enough of a pause to let Daniel scoop up some fallen Jaffa's staff weapon and fire, hoping the shield was down.

No luck--the energy dissipated immediately, and Cronus's smirk became a scowl. Daniel took another step closer, bringing himself into range to swing the staff weapon around like a bashaak. Cronus couldn't quite dodge away from the blow, with the peltak control console behind him, but Daniel was limited in the space available, too, and he struck only a weak, glancing hit against the armor Cronus wore.

Cronus grabbed the staff weapon and tossed it away. A strong hand closed over Daniel's arm and threw him back hard against the side of the control console. The impact forced air from his lungs, and Daniel slumped back to the ground, momentarily too dazed to do more than breathe.

"Foolish," Cronus said.

Daniel looked up and started to rise, but Cronus's foot dropped onto his chest and pressed him back down. As Daniel tried to reach or kick something--anything--from his awkward position, the ribbon device rose over his head.

But before the familiar pain could hit, he heard the sound of a firing staff weapon.

Cronus jerked once, twice. His eyes glowed with the light of a dying Goa'uld, and he collapsed to the floor, his body just barely missing Daniel as his hand loosened its grip.

Daniel dragged in a breath and scrambled away from the dead System Lord. When he finally looked up, panting, he saw Teal'c drop a staff weapon to the floor and collapse again himself.

"Teal'c," Daniel gasped, crawling toward his friend. "Teal'c!"

"I will live," Teal'c whispered, but he closed his eyes, still trembling in pain with both hands over his symbiote pouch. "And you?"

"I'm okay," Daniel assured him, grabbing Teal'c's wrist to check his pulse because he didn't know what else to do. It seemed steady, if fast from the exertion, and Junior was moving within Teal'c's abdomen, so he dropped back onto his hands and knees, trying to make the spots in front of his eyes go away.

"Cronus?" Teal'c said weakly, staring to push himself back up.

Daniel cursed himself for the stupidity of fussing over each other before they knew they were out of danger. He forced himself to move, wincing at the ache starting to settle into his back where he'd hit the console, and looked at Cronus's staring eyes. Just in case, he reached out and touched a finger to the Goa'uld's throat.

"Dead," he said. He lowered himself gingerly to sit on the floor and found Teal'c staring at the dead form of the Goa'uld he'd been hoping to kill for over seventy years. "He's dead," Daniel repeated, thinking he should feel triumphant or relieved, or at least something other than tired and bruised.

Teal'c nodded once.

Then footsteps sounded in the corridor outside.

Daniel scrambled to pick up the first weapon he could find--a staff weapon--while Teal'c rolled over and grabbed a zat'nik'tel from one of the fallen Jaffa's hands. As Daniel staggered to his feet and swayed back against the console, he thought that if they had to move much at all, they were going to be in trouble.

But it was their Jack who stepped into the doorway, looking anxious but relatively unwounded. Daniel lowered his weapon in relief.

Jack's eyes landed on Cronus for a moment, then roved over the two of them. "Dead?" he said.

"He's dead," Daniel said. Sam appeared behind Jack, and he added, "He had his hand in Teal'c's symbiote pouch."

At a nod from Jack, Sam moved to Teal'c's side, taking away the zat'nik'tel and helping him into a sitting position.

"Wasn't Captain Carter with you?" Daniel asked when no one followed.

Sam paused but didn't look up. It was Jack who said, "We needed to get past a force shield to seal the ship. She got through for us, but...it must've burned out some circuits or something."

"She's dead?" Daniel said with a sinking feeling. He'd promised the other Jack they'd get his Sam back. And then that made him remember--"Jack! The other one...he was right behind us!"

Jack hesitated, and Daniel pushed himself away from the console, hurrying past all of them and back into the corridor.

There were more than four Jaffa lying in front of O'Neill's body. A few reinforcements--two, three--must have been able to reach them before they'd managed to seal off this level. The P90 was still clutched in O'Neill's hands as he lay on his side, but he wasn't moving.

"Colonel?" Daniel said, dropping to his knees to the robot's side and carefully turning him over onto his back. "Jack?"

To his relief, O'Neill turned his head very slightly. "Thought you...weren't gonna call me that," he said in a strained voice, raising his head and then flopping back to the ground to lie still.

"Nataru," Daniel breathed in horrified fascination, watching some thick, metallic-looking fluid leaking slowly from O'Neill's leg. "Are you hurt anywhere else?"

"You mean...damaged?"

"Well, are you?" he insisted, patting O'Neill's body and not sure what he was looking for, except maybe more of that fluid that looked too much like silvery blood, and he learned very quickly that there was no pulse where there should be one on a human, but the fluid was leaking so fast that there had to be something very, very wrong. "You can...you know, heal, right? I mean, can you be repaired?"

No answer came as he took his borrowed tunic off and looped it under O'Neill's leg, tying it tight and really hoping tourniquets worked on robots with an unknown fluid the same way that they worked on humans with blood.

"Hey," Jack's voice said from behind, and Daniel looked up to see Jack moving to crouch next to his counterpart's chest. It was only then that he realized the leg wound might not be the worst damage after all--there was something wrong with O'Neill's chest, too.

"What happened to Cro...nus?" O'Neill said, and Daniel imagined he could hear parts clicking as the robot's speech began to loose the normal timing of speech. "Everyone...else?"

"Cronus is dead," Jack said. "Your guys don't look so good. Mine..." He gestured with a thumb. Daniel glanced back to see Sam and Teal'c, both standing on their own now.

"Ah," O'Neill said.

"Jack--" Daniel started as he probed O'Neill's chest wound, and faltered when both of them looked at him.

O'Neill looked away first and turned to Jack. "Darian," he reminded. "Go."

So Jack said, "I'll deliver the news. Teal'c, get this ship on the ground and then see what you can do about the Jaffa down below. Carter, make sure we're alone up here."

"Yes, sir," Sam said. She glanced down at O'Neill, hesitated, and left the room.

"Daniel--" Jack started.

"Colonel," Daniel said when O'Neill's eyes drooped closed. He shook the robot gently. "Colonel O'Neill? Jack!"

"Daniel," Jack repeated.

He checked his watch. There were still two hours left before the power packs were to run out, but maybe doing more work--like shooting people and getting shot back--made them run out faster. Maybe that fluid leaking out was draining...something, too. "We need to get them to Harlan's planet. Maybe he can fix them."

Jack grimaced, but nodded. "Yeah. Okay--I'll get him to the ring chamber. Go with Carter and watch her back. If it's clear up here, the two of you bring...Captain Carter and we'll all meet down in the pyramid."


From the next chapter ("Jack O'Neill")


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