manips by Eilidh17

Hands of the Enemy

Focused on his destination, Daniel Jackson ambled through the corridor at a steady clip, head bobbing absently to those who acknowledged him. Making the turn at the control room stairs, he took them two at a time, pausing on the landing just long enough to right himself.

He spied Cameron Mitchell in his direct line of sight and, smiling broadly, extended a hand in greeting as he approached his jovial former teammate. “Mitchell. How’s it going? For a while there it was like we were on the same team again, then I don’t see you for weeks at a time.”

“Don’t blame me,” Mitchell drawled, giving his hand a firm squeeze. “You’re the one with the insane schedule. If you’re not out on missions, you’re on Solarjaia for those ‘English as a second language’ courses. You’ve been going back and forth there now for what, six months?”

Daniel chuckled softly. “Closer to seven. Doctor Tomasi actually has lead on the project, but I like to keep my hand in. Between helping her with those lessons and my other projects for Homeworld Security, I’ve barely left my office for the last three days. It’s a good thing the people in my department can get along perfectly fine without me.” 

“I’d heard you lost your enthusiasm for teaching the Solarjaia once you learned weapons technology was their primary offering. What changed your mind?”

“The Solarjai’s enthusiasm for learning. It’s actually taken about half as much time for them to pick up the basics than I’d expected.”

“Your kinda people, huh? It was really their idea to learn English?”

“Yeah,” Daniel confirmed. “Chief Consul Angius thought it a fitting tribute to their new allies to conduct negotiations in our language. I almost didn’t tell him that English is only one of about 7,000 languages spoken here. I was afraid he might insist on learning them all before we commenced discussions on the treaty. Fortunately, he was content with just the one. For now, anyway,” he added, his mouth crimping briefly at the thought.

“General O’Neill must be thrilled he’ll be able to negotiate in English.”

“Thrilled might be a bit of an overstatement,” Daniel grinned vaguely. “The Solarjai are a very formal race, so Jack may find their English a bit stilted.”

“Yeah, you told me they’re sticklers for ceremony. How’d General O’Neill handle the news of all that bowing and scraping Solarjaian protocol requires?”

Daniel shrugged. “He mostly just bitched about the strain on his back.”

Considering this for a second, Mitchell frowned slightly. “It can’t be easy for him, though, to show that kind of subordination.”

“I’m sure it rankles a bit, but one thing I learned very early on is that Jack will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Anyway, it’s too late to worry about it now. Treaty talks begin tomorrow.”

Mitchell twitched a sly smile. “I know. So, why are you still here? Didn’t General O’Neill give you a curfew?”

Sighing, Daniel jammed his hands into his pockets, tempering his sudden irritation at the mention of Jack’s memo regarding his archaeologist’s ‘appointed bedtime.’ His mouth tightened, his responsive smile an ill-humored parody of its former self. “Yeah, that’s very funny,” he returned icily. “But, as I explained to Jack, just putting it on Air Force letterhead does not make it an official decree.”

“I don’t know,” Mitchell’s dubious tone begged to differ. “A few of the SFs were just considering whether they should escort you to your on-base quarters.”

“And yet, you thought it worth the effort to track me down at HWS. Why did you want to see me?”

Mitchell’s mood sobered somewhat with his transition to ‘business’ mode. “Actually, we thought maybe you’d want to see this.” He jerked his head towards the control room window and the Stargate beyond. As though it had been waiting for his prompt, the giant ring began to turn, the musical whir of the device audible even through the reinforced glass.

Beneath the steady hum, Daniel registered the frenetic tapping as the gate technician on duty, Walter Harriman, sailed his fingers across the surface of the command computer keyboard, inputting the information necessary to connect the SGC to a specified distant point in the galaxy. Turning slightly, Daniel lowered his gaze from the gate, looking beyond the technician’s shoulder to his computer monitor. Reflexively, his mouth fell open.

“You’re dialing P2X-416? General Hammond had that address deleted from the computer.”

“Technically, we’re returning a call,” a voice shouted from the stairwell behind him.

Pivoting, Daniel flashed a courteous grin at the speaker. “General Landry. Are you saying someone from Bedrosia contacted us?”

Hank Landry dropped to the control room floor and marched towards them. “No,” he countered, “someone from Optrica contacted us.”

“What?” Daniel demanded. Checking the query when Sergeant Harriman called out the final chevron, he bellowed to be heard over the din of the opening wormhole. “How did they get our gate address?”

As the explosive burst of energy settled into the calm pool within the ring, the heavy thump of quick-moving boots signaled the arrival of another visitor to the control room. A breathless query gushed in ahead of the newcomer.

“Did I miss it? Have you gotten through?”

“Nyan.” Daniel welcomed his former research assistant with an easy smile, though it felt odd to see him somewhere other than the library.

Promoted last year to research supervisor, whose job it was to monitor all ongoing projects, Nyan had not allowed the added responsibility to dim his enthusiasm for his work. Though he’d acquired some grey hair since he’d been with them, his attitude overshadowed the signs of aging. Nyan still tackled every new circumstance with the same boyish excitement he’d displayed at their first meeting on his home planet.

The Bedrosian native nodded in respectful acknowledgment of the SGC’s senior officers before turning to his boss. “Daniel,” he returned. “Fancy meeting you here. Had any luck with our elusive script?” In addition to his responsibilities on base, Nyan was periodically called into the field to evaluate especially interesting archaeological finds. It was on one of those outings, to P2X-345, that he’d come across ruins with a most intriguing inscription, one that had thus far stumped even their most skilled linguist.

“Not yet.” Daniel sighed. “Maybe if I’d had two whole days to myself in the last six months, I might have cracked it.”

“I imagine starting up a new department would be time consuming,” Nyan commiserated. “How are things in Homeworld Security?”

“Not as exciting as they are here at the moment,” Daniel grumbled, realizing from Nyan’s initial question that everyone seemed to be up to speed but him. “Someone want to tell me what’s going on?”

The air around them split with a thunderous reverberation and Daniel startled, instinctively lifting his right hand to cover his ear.

“Sorry, sir,” Walter offered, glancing sheepishly over his shoulder. He toggled down the volume on the overhead speakers. “I should have anticipated the feedback.”

“Not your fault, Chief,” Landry waved off the apology. “Obviously, they still haven’t gotten the frequency right.”

Thanks to the technician’s intervention, the grating whine had been refined to a crackling white noise. Still, Daniel had to raise his voice a bit when he inquired, “You said someone from P2X-416 contacted us?”

Landry ushered the little group closer to the console. “Twenty minutes ago we received a radio transmission. The reception was poor – very much like what you’re hearing right now.” Landry shot an annoyed glare into the air at the rude sounds providing a backdrop to their conversation. “But, we were able to pick out some key bits of information.

“The sender identified herself as Mallin,” Landry continued, “and the place from which she transmitted as Optrica.”

Nyan blanched. “Optrica,” he echoed hoarsely. “So Bedrosia lost the war. That’s the only way the Optricans could have gotten the gate.”

Settling a consoling hand on his friend’s shoulder, Daniel gave it a gentle squeeze.

“We never got that far," Landry said. "This Mallin said she needed our help, then the reception degraded and it became almost impossible to communicate. She gave us a quick assurance their technician could match our signal and said we should try back in twenty minutes.”

“Are there teams assembling?” Nyan blurted anxiously. “General Landry, I’d like to go with them.”

Landry shook his head. “Nobody’s going anywhere just yet.”

“But, if Mallin needs our help –”

“I’m sorry, son, I can’t send people to a known hostile environment without more information. Surely you remember the ill treatment SG-1 suffered when they were there last time.”

“But something’s obviously changed,” Daniel submitted, casting a cautiously hopeful glance in Nyan’s direction. “Nyan’s right. The Optricans must have the gate. If the Bedrosian military we dealt with was still in charge, Mallin would never have been allowed to contact us. In fact, the Stargate wouldn’t even be operational.”

Clearly anxious to make his case, Nyan allowed his enthusiasm to carry him forward a step. “It’s true. My people would have destroyed or buried the Stargate. According to their beliefs, it could not exist.”

“I’m aware of the history,” Landry replied. “Colonel Mitchell’s filled me in on what he remembers from the mission report. I still can’t –”

The background static died abruptly. The control console winked, its usual status display resolving into the image of a young woman. Her quiet voice drifted through the control room speakers. “Hello?”

Nyan’s response was just above a whisper. “Mallin.”

“Receiving audio and visual,” Walter murmured.

Nyan’s strained reply drew Daniel’s attention and he smiled sadly at the unusually naked emotion assailing his friend’s features. The younger man stood transfixed by the image floating before them. The long, narrow brown eyes, normally sleepy in appearance, were round and wide, the pupils darting in a tight circle over his former colleague’s face, as though they were some sort of laser imaging device tracing the contours, a matching image being simultaneously etched in his brain.

Turning back to the monitor, Daniel tried in vain to reconcile his memory to the face that filled the screen. Time and events had not been kind to Mallin. Nyan had told him that they were of a similar age, but the woman he was seeing appeared ten years older than his friend. The long, loose, sun-kissed blonde hair he remembered from their initial contact was nowhere in evidence. Pulled back severely, it was impossible to tell the present color.

If the tightly drawn hair was intended as an impromptu facelift, it failed miserably. The stress-borne furrows which lined her ample forehead made it seem as though she had skin to spare, but the oval face beneath, now angularly gaunt, belied that illusion. Contrasting sharply with her sallow complexion, the shadows beneath her probing dark eyes were a testament to the weight of whatever hardship had prompted her to contact them. She tendered a hesitant smile which only served to accentuate the creases at the sides of her mouth.

“Nyan, is that you?” Belying the reality of her physical appearance, her voice was still soft and youthful.

At Daniel’s prompt, Nyan shuffled closer to the mike. “Yes, it’s me. It’s good to see you again, Mallin.” Turning slightly, Nyan glanced over his right shoulder. “You remember Daniel?”

The smile fell from her face. “Yes,” was all she said.

Landry moved in behind Nyan. “I’m glad to see you were able to find a way to improve the connection. I’m General Hank Landry, commander of this facility. I was here when you sent your message earlier, along with Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell.”

Stepping forward, Mitchell muttered a quick, “How ya doin’?”

“Yes, General,” Mallin smiled amiably. “I recognize your voice. It is good to have a face to go with it.”

“You can see us,” Landry deduced, mildly amazed.

Seemingly flustered for a moment, Mallin cut her gaze to her right. “Yes. Our technology appears ill-equipped for communication through the Gateway. However, we had retained the… possessions abandoned by your people when they were last here. Though the large rover is quite ungainly, it nevertheless admirably serves its purpose as an intermediary.”

His mind lingering on the way Mallin’s lip had curled when she’d described her people’s acquisition of the probe, Daniel startled at the words quietly sounding in his left ear.

“They’re using the MALP?” Mitchell asked under his breath. “I thought they fried the camera with a zat.”

Daniel shrugged. “They’re technologically advanced,” he said distractedly. “Obviously, they found some way to make it work.”

Mitchell’s question answered, he redirected his attention to Landry, wondering if the General was likewise irked by Mallin’s insinuation that SG-1 had purposefully tossed their weapons and equipment around her planet, in some great deliberate act of littering. Forget the fact that it had all been forcibly taken from them or that they were running for their lives when they’d left it.

Beating back the resentment that threatened to override his sense of compassion, Daniel kept his attention on Landry, though he could still make out Mallin’s image from the corner of his eye.

“From the little we got of your previous message,” Landry recapped, “I understand you’re requesting our assistance. Before I respond, I’m going to need more information. What is it exactly that you’re asking for?”

“I can better answer that question,” a deeper feminine voice responded.

Surprised by the change in timbre, Daniel turned back to the monitor. Mallin moved awkwardly out of the picture, her place instantly filled by a stiff-backed, dark-haired woman.

Daniel reflexively clenched his jaw when the new speaker appeared. Parey. He hadn’t learned her name until much later, after they were safely back on Earth, but he remembered her all too well as second-in-command to the psycho who had imprisoned and tortured them on Bedrosia. His mouth twitching tensely, he mused that it was just as well that Nyan had supplied a descriptor for her, because the one he’d conceived was not very flattering.

It wasn’t a fair comparison, but it was difficult for him not to see Parey as her world’s version of Samantha Carter. Like Parey, it was Sam’s place to carry out the directives of her superior, but Sam would never agree to sacrifice her humanity in the process. On more than one occasion she’d acted under protest and, though she ultimately followed through with her orders, the emotional toll on his friend was evident.

Not so with Parey. Daniel could forgive her following orders without question – it was entirely possible it was a capital offense in her military to do otherwise – but the cold, unfeeling manner with which she assisted Rigar in his abuse, that was a little harder to pardon.

He scanned her rigid features. Unlike Mallin, this character from SG-1’s nightmare visit to Bedrosia had aged gracefully. Seemingly unlined by time, her skin looked pasty: an effect, Daniel surmised, of the harsh lighting at their location. She looked entirely too healthy otherwise for the odd pallor to be a result of illness. Like the first time Daniel had seen her, her hair was swept back, captured and bound, behind her head. Having regained their freedom, several strands billowed around her face, framing her severe expression with incongruous softness. Her features apparently set in permanent disapproval, her attempt at a friendly smile failed to materialize as more than a surly grimace.

“I am Marshal Parey,” she declared. “I asked Mallin to contact you.”

Two men filed in just behind her, both also distinctly pale in appearance. Each wore a uniform identical to Parey’s: a dark blue coat, open at the throat to reveal a brown crew neck shirt beneath. The man on her right was about six inches taller than Parey. Beneath the dusting of dark hair, his thin face bore a heavy jaw and penetrating black eyes, currently narrowed as though he was having difficulty focusing. The second man was taller than the first, his full head of light brown hair clearly visible above Parey. He gazed at them over a long nose, his small mouth pushed out in a dismissive moue.

Glancing over her right shoulder, Parey lifted her upturned hand toward the dark man, her gesture bizarrely reminiscent of a model showing off the prizes on a game show. “This is Minister Elgar, who heads the administrative branch of the government.” The hand twisted to her left, presenting the fair-haired man. “Magistrate Obert is in charge of dispensing our society’s justice, while I oversee the enforcement of our laws. Together, we are the Optrican ruling Triumvirate.”

“Triumvirate?” Nyan challenged. “Bedrosia is ruled by Coun –”

“Yes,” Parey cut him off with an impatient huff, “as I said, this is the Optrican Triumvirate. This territory is no longer governed by Bedrosian principles.”

Rather than slumping in defeat at the obvious attempt to negate his objection outright, Nyan straightened, squaring his shoulders.

Daniel’s lips turned up at the corners, and he lowered his head slightly to hide his delight at Nyan’s refusal to yield. Adventitiously yanked from under the restraint of his military protectors’ scrutiny, Nyan had blossomed under his new guardian’s tutelage, encouraged to let sway his own high moral sense. It had taken some time but, once convinced that the military staff assigned to assist in the archaeology and linguistics departments had no more authority than their civilian counterparts, Nyan had become an adamant voice for equity within his department, just as Daniel had throughout the SGC.

Gratified to see that Nyan would not let himself be intimidated even by a representative of the agency that had dogged his every move on Bedrosia, still Daniel rested a calming hand on his friend’s shoulder, unsure whether Landry would appreciate the fire as much as he did. Immediately, the younger man’s hackles relaxed. Nyan acknowledged Daniel’s restraint with a fleeting glance and returned a hard stare to the monitor even as he gave way to General Landry.

“Marshal Parey,” Landry prompted, his use of the title indicating that, at least for the time being, they were to accept its legitimacy. “Without getting into politics, why don’t you tell us what happened?”

A spasm of irritation crossed Parey’s face, though she tipped her head in assent. “After your people went back trough the Gateway – the Stargate as you call it – my commander, Rigar, reported the incident to his immediate superior. Like Rigar, he refused to believe the ring was the Optrican Gateway and I was ordered to gather together all those who knew of its existence. The situation had been very quickly contained; all personnel involved, save one, were under Rigar’s direct command.”

Parey paused, her proper military demeanor wavering slightly. With uncharacteristic cynicism, Daniel wondered whether her shiver was an honest reaction to her memory of that day or just a product of the line of interference which rolled down the transmission at that moment. The steel in her voice as she continued did nothing to resolve the question.

“The Commander was quite… persuasive in his arguments. We all signed oaths of fealty, vowing to never reveal our knowledge of the ring.”

Again she hesitated. Her gaze drifted to her right, the direction in which Mallin had moved when she’d yielded her spot in front of the camera. For the first time since he’d looked into those seemingly apathetic eyes all those years ago, Daniel saw something akin to sorrow reflected in their dark depths.

“Unfortunately,” Parey continued flatly, giving away nothing of what Daniel had seen in her eyes, “he had no binding authority over civilians, so a written statement of silence could not suffice for those working at the site.”

On their side of the gate, a strangled gasp issued in the wake of her statement. Daniel felt Nyan tense. He turned, dismayed to find Nyan’s face a rictus of horror. Abruptly, Nyan stepped back, spun on his heel and stumbled to the stairwell. He clung to the banister as if it was the only hope he had of staying on his feet.

Out of respect, Daniel caught Landry’s eye, asking silent permission to withdraw and check on his friend. Giving a small nod of thanks when the general jerked his head vaguely over his shoulder, Daniel slipped beyond the line of sight of the monitor’s tiny camera, and hurried back to Nyan.

Letting his hand drop from the banister, Nyan twisted, pressing his back into the wall. “I don’t know why I’m so shocked,” he rasped. “I knew they would do it. But, she seems so normal...”

Daniel offered an understanding smile. Jack had told him, after they’d debriefed Nyan following their escape from Bedrosia, that he had asked the young alien what would happen to the woman who had first accompanied him to the gate. Other than to say death was not the worst possible outcome, Nyan had declined to speculate.

Shaking his head, Nyan drew a restorative breath. “You don’t have to stay with me, Daniel. You should be participating in that conversation.” 

Daniel glanced up, finding his view of the monitor unimpeded by those who still surrounded it. “I can hear just fine from here.”

Landry apologized for the disturbance, and Parey picked up where she’d left off, giving no recognition of Nyan’s distress.

“The commander ordered the Gateway destroyed,” she said. As one, the three members of Optrica’s ruling body closed their eyes and dropped their chins slightly, the gesture distinctly similar to a respectful moment of silence. Lifting her gaze again, Parey added, “Five men were killed in the resulting explosion and half the hillside was vaporized.”

Daniel wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, to believe that their solemn regard had been for those who’d lost their lives. But, those men had been Bedrosian, and these three were the ruling body of Optrica, a society that revered the Stargate. It was therefore more likely that they were truly more upset by the suggestion of the Stargate’s destruction than by the deaths of those who would destroy it.

“Officially,” Parey pressed on, “the deaths were attributed to an enemy spy, but our superior saw fit to relieve Rigar of his command. As I was already aware of its presence, I oversaw the removal and storage of the great ring.”

Neither her voice nor her expression gave Daniel any clue about what she thought of Rigar’s forced removal from leadership. He’d always been fond of the phrase inscrutable as the Sphinx, but Daniel was finding interaction with someone who apparently lived the cliché nothing short of frustrating. He prided himself on his ability to read people, but Parey was giving nothing away. Hope for more than rote sharing of information stirred within him as another of Optrica’s leaders took over.

“In spite of all their precautions,” the Triumvir identified as Minister Elgar gleefully sneered, “Optrica learned that they had found our Holy Gateway. It was that information which turned the tide of a war we’d been waging for decades. Within the year, we had overrun Bedrosia. We renamed the continent Optrica Prime and established our capital here.”

Acknowledging Elgar’s contribution with a glance from the corner of her eye, Parey reclaimed the narration. “The Gateway was brought out and erected in the center of our new capital and the people were encouraged to forget what they had been taught of their origins. With the presence of the Gateway, and the testimony of those who witnessed its true purpose – to transport individuals to and from this world – the Bedrosians were finally convinced that the Optricans had been right all along.”

“Wait a minute,” Landry snapped, incredulous. “You’re saying the people of Bedrosia agreed to give up their god without a fight?”

“No,” Elgar snorted. “Many died in the struggle before Marshal Parey came forward.”

“I had seen the Gateway in operation and had met those who had come through from another world,” Parey explained. “You’ll remember when you were last here, Doctor Jackson, that the leader of your base used the Gateway to contact us and demand your return. Rigar and I were approaching the device when it activated. It was that event which solidified my belief that the Optricans were right.”

“Once her story began to circulate,” Elgar jumped back in, “others who were there likewise shared what they had seen. It was Marshal Parey who finally convinced both Bedrosian and Optrican alike that, no matter our beliefs concerning how we arrived here, the probability was we all worshiped the same entity. Ultimately, we agreed to accept that Nefertum was the being we believe brought our ancestors through the Gateway. Optrican tradition holds that the alien who delivered our forefathers liberated them from an evil adversary and placed them here. It was a small step then to adopt the Bedrosian idea that Nefertum is our god.”

“Conflict resolution by compromise,” Mitchell murmured with a playful grin. “Right out of the Daniel Jackson handbook on diplomacy.”

Daniel acknowledged the compliment with his own grin. He doubted his time on her planet had really given Parey any sort of clue about settling disputes. However, it was entirely possible she had gotten her idea to identify Nefertum as the Optricans’ alien from his conversation with Rigar, all those years ago. Though Rigar had flatly refused to accept a word he’d said, Daniel was gratified to learn that at least he hadn’t wasted his breath.

“I commend you all,” he offered earnestly. “It is not often easy to find a way to accommodate the needs of everyone.”

“Not all were content,” Obert growled. “We made the Gateway available for all to see, but there were still those who refused to believe it is the means by which we came to be here, even with the evidence staring them in the face. We learned that Parey’s former commander, Rigar, was to blame. At her suggestion, he and all those who followed him were rounded up and exiled to an island off the west coast of the former Optrican homeland.”

Daniel’s heart quickened. “They’re still there?” he felt compelled to ask.

“We have not monitored them,” Parey hedged, “but it was quite impossible for them to escape. All means of transportation, all technology were removed from the island. We left them with only that which they needed to survive.”

Nyan scoffed. “It’s easy to see how you gained such a high ranking position in our enemy’s government.”

“Optrica is not the enemy,” Parey countered, her vehemence immediately dispelling Daniel’s previous notion that she was incapable of expressing any emotion. “Her rule here was fairly established. The city was rebuilding. The people were flourishing.”

Daniel heard Mitchell’s muttered, “Sir, if I may,” just before the colonel jumped in the path of her self-aggrandizing narrative. “So, what changed? If things are so great, why do you need our help?”

“Things are not ‘great,’ as you so ineloquently state, sir,” Magistrate Obert spat. “In the last week, a group of fanatics – those who refuse to give up their baseless Bedrosian theology – has taken advantage of the citizenry’s discontent, inciting them to riot. They move through the back alleyways, infecting the people with their venom. They have razed government buildings in multiple sectors, and set fires in the markets, disrupting commerce. Yesterday they attempted to break through the defenses in our command center, no doubt hoping to destroy the Gateway.”

“We can’t get involved in your internal struggles,” Landry cut in. “If you’re asking for military assistance –”

“We are not,” Parey said self-assuredly. “I’ve doubled the security detail within the city. Fortunately, the rebels appear uninterested in harming our people; they wish only to tear down what Optrica has built. Damage is widespread. As Obert said, they’ve mainly targeted government buildings, but there has been some collateral damage to dwelling houses. We have teams working on it, but many have been left homeless.”

“Assuming your need is genuine –”

“What proof do you require?” Parey questioned. “Shall we send your rover out to gather visual evidence?”

Landry nodded. “That rover is called a MALP, and that will do for a start. I hope you understand, given what transpired when SG-1 was last there, I can’t just blindly send people to your planet.”

“The government has been restructured since that previous encounter,” Obert contended. “The Bedrosian military has been disbanded. You must ensure the safety of your citizens, of course; however, any assistance you choose to offer would be greatly appreciated. Our primary concern at the moment is caring for those adversely affected by the unrest.”

“Yeah, about that,” Mitchell interjected. “You said those who refused to convert were exiled. So, who are these rebels who are, as you say, infecting your people, causing them to riot?”

As Mitchell spoke, Daniel extended his hands before Nyan, silently urging the younger man to stay put. He strayed forward and raised an eyebrow by way of asking Landry’s permission to jump into the fray. “While we’re at it, maybe you can explain how a people who were so content in their new administration – if we take your account at face value – could be so easily swayed to riot against it.”

To varying degrees, the face of each representative pinched in disgust, as though a shift in the wind had just brought them a good whiff of rank air from the garbage dump across town. Elgar recovered first.

“We have been unable to locate the leaders of this rebellion,” he said a bit testily. “Though we suspect they are former Bedrosian military. I know of no one else who could elude us so easily.” The minister’s expression suddenly lost a lot of its venom, taking on more of a pained quality. “However, the fault does not lie wholly with the extremists,” he admitted, visibly galled by the necessity for such a confession. “Recent developments have caused many to doubt their adopted faith. The rebels are merely capitalizing on their confusion.”

“What recent development?” Landry asked.

Elgar moved forward. “The Gateway had stood for more than five years, ready for those who placed us here to return and reclaim us. Two years ago a being calling himself a Prior of the Ori came through the portal.”

“Aw, hell,” Mitchell muttered under his breath.

Daniel shot a glance at Nyan. The younger man captured his gaze, his wide-eyed stare clearly telegraphing how troubled he was to learn that a Prior had been to his home world.

“This Prior claimed to represent powerful beings,” the minister continued, “who were not only worthy of, but demanded our devotion. We believed these unseen beings to be our long lost deliverers and this Prior a messenger preparing us for their reappearance.”

Daniel’s incredulous gape rivaled Nyan’s. “You willingly accepted Ori control?”

Obert sidled between his cohorts, his hands fidgeting at the buttons of his official-looking coat. “Of course we accepted their control,” he snapped. “We believed them to be our gods.”

Elgar placed a hand on Obert’s shoulder, stilling his agitation. “The Prior told us there were some on other worlds who believed the Ori were evil,” he declared. “He said you wanted to destroy them – and us for worshiping them. He gave us the address to your world, and instructed us to move the Gateway indoors where it could be better guarded.”

Daniel snatched off his glasses and massaged a knot in his brow. He turned away from the monitor and said softly to Landry, “Well, now we know how they got our gate address.”

Unfazed by Daniel’s attempt to shield his comment from them, Elgar continued. “We spent the better part of the next year gathering forces and constructing war machines for the invasion.”

Daniel whirled, even as Landry bellowed, “Invasion! Are you saying you planned to attack Earth?”

Parey nodded curtly. “As we were instructed. The Prior labeled our destination the seat of the resistance against our gods. You can imagine my surprise when he identified the instigator as one Daniel Jackson.” Daniel met the hard gaze that zeroed in on him. “He promised all measure of rewards for the destruction of you and your kind.”

Daniel quirked a composed smile, but Landry bristled visibly. “Alright,” he blustered, “comments like that aren’t going to win you any points in your effort to obtain our assistance. Why didn’t you go through with your plan to invade us?”

Clearly affronted by his reprimand, Parey regarded Landry with cold speculation before responding. “We were waiting for a sign from the Prior. We believed the time had come, last month, when the Prior returned.” Her features shifted, settling somewhere between disgust and disappointment. “However, rather than prompting us to action, the Prior told us that the Ori are not benefactors as he’d believed, but were, in fact, evil beings who only wanted to use us to serve their own ends. He warned there would be no reward for doing their bidding as he had told us previously, only endless torment.”

“Last month,” Daniel echoed. Closing his eyes, he mentally counted back the nearly eighteen months since the Priors had been exposed to the Ark of Truth. He raised his eyes to the monitor, his lips maintaining their thoughtful purse. “You must have been near the bottom of his list.”

“What list?” Parey challenged suspiciously.

“The list of planets he’s got to revisit to set the inhabitants straight. Yours is not the only planet the Priors have visited,” Daniel explained. “They’ve been making converts for their murderous gods all across the galaxy.”


All but forgotten on the periphery of the transmission, Mallin’s high-pitched objection startled even those standing with her. Parey reached out, intercepting the distraught younger woman before she came fully into camera range. Both women disappeared from view.

“Looks like religion is off the table, too,” Mitchell quipped. “Now, what do we talk about?”

Daniel called to the two remaining representatives. “Gentlemen, is everything alright?”

Obert glanced after his female counterpart. “You must forgive Mallin. She has had a difficult time accepting that the Ori were not the gods we have waited so long to see.”

Though she was no longer visible, Mallin’s anguished shouts still issued from the control room speakers. Drawn to the sound of his friend’s distress, Nyan moved forward.

Daniel shifted to let him closer to the monitor, asking on Nyan’s behalf. “Is there anything we can do for her?”

“No, thank you,” Elgar frowned. “In time, she will come to accept, as we have, that our true gods are still out there and we need only wait for them to return.”

“In the meantime,” Landry queried assertively, “what do you intend to do with these war machines you were so eager to tell us about?”

Elgar shook his head. “I assure you, General, the Prior’s second visit drained any bloodlust that may have been building towards the inhabitants of your world. We come to you now, humbly seeking your assistance in restoring order to our own.”

Landry’s eyes rolled dramatically at Elgar’s claim of humility. “Send us that MALP transmission. I’ll confer with my staff and get back to you within the next twelve hours. Landry out.” He signaled Walter to shut down the gate. “I never could abide self-important government types.” Turning his expectant gaze on those surrounding him, he winked at Daniel before singling out Nyan. “I’ll need your department head’s approval before I agree to let you go on any approved mission, son.”

“You’ll have it,” Nyan replied, looking to Daniel with open entreaty.

All thought of prolonging Landry’s little game immediately fled. “I think he can be talked into it,” Daniel promised.

“I’m afraid I can’t offer you the same assurance, Doctor Jackson,” Landry claimed with regret. “I assume you’d like to go on this mission, too?”

“Yes, sir, I would,” Daniel confirmed, realizing suddenly how much he wanted to accompany Nyan to his former home.

“I thought as much,” Landry chuckled. “I’ll need your department head’s approval as well, but you’ll have to get that on your own. After your last few missions for the SGC, I don’t think General O’Neill would readily agree to loan you out to me anyway.” Landry started towards the stairwell. He was halfway up the first section when he backed down a step to announce, “I’ll schedule a briefing for 0900. Get some sleep.”

Daniel stared after Landry, watching until he disappeared from view. He turned to Mitchell, surprised when the colonel warded off the attention with upturned hands.

“Sorry,” Mitchell shrugged. “In spite of his assurances to the contrary, I don’t think General O’Neill has forgiven me for the whole Merlin incident. If you wanna come, you’ll have to ask him yourself.” He spun on the ball of his foot and beat a hasty retreat down the far stairwell.

Eyes narrowed in annoyance at their insinuation that he needed assistance getting Jack to sign off on his participation in the mission, Daniel huffed. “Come on,” he told Nyan. “It’s not even midnight yet. What do you say to a cup of coffee?”

Daniel spent the trip back to level 18 only half listening to Nyan’s reminiscences of his home world, while in his head he ran through all the most unlikely triumphs from his years in the debating arena, both off-world and against opponents in their own government. While quietly proud of his success tally, Daniel had little hope that any of it would help in his upcoming discussion with Jack.


General Jack O’Neill stalked into the briefing room, the members of his team, sans one, in tow. Taking in the assembled, he glanced at the clock on the opposite wall, noted the time as 0854, and raised a speculative eyebrow at the huddled form of his archaeologist. Sitting alone opposite the members of SG-13, Daniel stared with exaggerated intent at the contents of the folder laid open before him.

Jack felt his mouth tense. Daniel, what are you up to? He halted by the table, sparing a glance for Carter and Teal'c as they moved to the empty seats before nodding a curt greeting to the figure standing rigidly across from Daniel.

“Mitchell,” he hailed amiably. He shifted his gaze to Captain Grogan, standing at attention by his team leader’s side, then gestured them both to their seats. He pointed his chin at the empty chair. “Where’s Landry?”

“Right here, Jack,” a gravelly voice called behind him. Jack turned to find Hank Landry marching out of his office, an impatient hand waving at Mitchell, who had leapt back to his feet. Jack broke into a spontaneous grin. ‘Like some anxious to please cocker spaniel, that boy,Landry had commented to him shortly after meeting the lieutenant colonel.

“Have a seat,” he invited. “We’ll get the party started.”

“You all RSVPed, I trust,” Jack quipped, making his way around the table to the chair Teal’c had left open between himself and Daniel. He pulled out the seat, noting with mounting displeasure that Daniel had shifted to his left, damn near hugging the arm of his chair closest to Landry and farthest from Jack. Whether or not the relocation had been deliberate, it occurred to Jack that Daniel had allied himself with the head of the SGC.

Well, if he thinks Landry is gonna champion his cause, whatever the hell it is this time…

Betraying none of his disquiet at the thought that Daniel apparently felt he needed a champion, Jack dropped into his chair. He flattened his right hand on top of his unopened copy of the briefing report, leaned a bit into the space Daniel had created between them, and asked with unaccustomed enthusiasm, “So, Hank, what’s up? I thought we covered everything at our mission briefing yesterday.”

Landry quickly transitioned into command mode. “Jack, we’ve had a request for aid from P2X-416.”

His left cheek tweaking in instant annoyance, Jack shot his gaze around for a hint before finally looking down the table to his right. “Carter, you wanna clue me in?”

“It’s Nyan’s homeworld, Jack.”

The arm of Daniel’s chair moved beneath his elbow, and Jack turned to find Daniel facing him, a familiar obstinate set to his features.

“The government is having difficultly maintaining control. The people have been induced to riot. Homes, government buildings and several marketplaces have been destroyed, which will only escalate the panic for foodstuffs. Unless we extend aid, what is currently an inconvenience could become a significant problem.”

And there you have it, Jack thought. Daniel’s potential disaster du jour.

“Wow,” Sam said. “I can’t believe Rigar didn’t bury the gate again right after we left.”

“He did,” Daniel replied. “In a manner of speaking.”

Sending a peevish look Daniel’s way, Jack complained, “Okay, you know, I don’t do cryptic first thing in the morning. You wanna just lay it all out there?”

Daniel nodded, and the words tumbled from his mouth. “Short version. After we left, the Bedrosians locked the gate away in one of their secure military facilities, but, in spite of their precautions, word of the gate’s existence leaked out. Now, as you may or may not remember, the Optricans believe the Stargate is their ‘Holy Gateway,’ the means by which their ancestors were delivered to the planet. It’s why the two continents were at war.


Part 2


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