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Keys to the Gate (3/3)

Title: Keys to the Gate
Fandom: The Pretender/7 Days/Stargate SG-1
Genre Crossover
Word Count 9313
Summary Jarod is diving off the Florida Keys and discovers a site that bears an unfamiliar alphabet. There's only one man he knows he can call to interpret them: Dr. Daniel Jackson.
Follows Trust Someone, 7 Days to Pretend, Building a Better Mousetrap, Thicker Than Water and Brave New World
Author's Note This is the latest in my ongoing Pretender crossover series. If your curious as to how the characters arrived where they are, you can read the others but I don't believe that it's necessary to enjoy this one. I'd like to thank Shad, Leanne, Heidi, and Laura for helping flesh out the story and answering plot questions. It's been sometime in the making (almost a year) but it's been sitting waiting for a few points to be cleared before posting. Please enjoy and don't forget to tell me what you think! I do have a new story that has been mouldering in my pc for over a year so if anyone wants to read it to give me a nudge, let me know.



KEYS TO THE GATE by DTS
(A Pretender/7 Days/Stargate SG-1 crossover)


Jarod woke from his doze the moment the cell door slid open and Daniel was pushed inside. He was weak and his eyes a bit unfocused, but at least he wasn't bleeding. "Are you okay?"

"I've been better. Right now he can't kill us as we're too valuable."

At that moment the door opened again and one of the Jaffa brought in Daniel's pack and set it none too gently on the floor. He said something in a tongue Jarod didn't recognize but the meaning was clear: get to work.

Once he left, Daniel picked up his pack and went through it. "All my notes are here. Even the laptop. It must appear like a child's toy compared to their technology. No weapons though."

"And you're surprised by that?"

"No, I expected it. What I didn't expect was this." He lifted the ZPM out of the bag and set it gently on the floor. "Ba'al wasn't kidding when he wanted us to get to work. But why is he letting us work with this?"

"Maybe since you don't know how it works, he feels secure."

"Because I don't know how it works is precisely the reason this has me worried. Any wrong move..." Daniel left the outcome unsaid. He rummaged through his pack and pulled out a pair of black leather gloves. "Put these on."

Jarod took the gloves and slipped them onto his hands. "It needs direct contact to interact with me," he stated.

"In every instance I've witnessed, yes. This way you can help me examine it without the risk of setting it off."

Jarod picked up the device and looked at it closely, something he didn't have a chance to earlier. It was cool to the touch, as if it had switched itself off, conserving power. It was composed of a number of long crystals somehow fused together in a loosely cylindrical shape. As he looked at it, an idea came to him. "Daniel, I believe we are being monitored somehow. Ba'al must realize we will talk more freely if we believe we are alone," Jarod said in Russian. "That's why he didn't leave any Jaffa inside with us and let us use the ZPM."

Daniel looked up from his notes that he had spread on the floor. "That sounds about right," he replied. "We'll just have to spout some jargon that will satisfy whoever is listening."

The two men pored over Daniel's notes briefly forgetting where they were as they worked on translating the text. As Daniel had mentioned while they were in Florida the meaning of certain words changed depending on the context. "You know the ZPM is a major energy source, but what if it has other uses, uses long forgotten without the Ancients to pass along the knowledge?"

"Good point. We could just be scratching the surface. Do you think we should put on a performance for our audience?"

"Excitement or frustration?"

"Frustration. They'll leave us alone a bit longer. If we're doing well, Baal will want details. I'm not good at lying about details, especially under the ribbon device."

"What is that thing?"

"It concentrates a beam of energy directed by the mind of the Goa'uld. It has many levels of intensity. Nasty."

Jarod pushed the notes away and put his hands up in disgust. "We aren't getting anywhere, Daniel. We're just going in circles."

"Something'll break soon," Daniel replied also in English. "Just when I was on the edge of giving up deciphering the Gate, I saw something that made it all fall in place. We need to keep going."

"Maybe if I had some food, my brain wouldn't shut off," Jarod said pointedly.

Daniel smiled at the acting and the two continued on knowing they would need to have something to show Baal when he appeared.

******************************************************

From his control room, Baal listened to his prisoners' conversation. "What is this other language they speak?"

"There are many areas of the planet that have their own language," Agrona informed him. "It could be a tongue of scholars so they find it more easy to converse in such a tongue."

"Or they could be up to something."

"My lord, there is one on the ship who may be able to translate for us. The human known as Lyle."

"Yes, the one who assisted you in recovering the device and getting us Dr Jackson and the other man. Bring him to me."

Minutes later Baal got his first look at the human Lyle. He was less prepossessing than he expected yet there was something about him that made Baal wary. He showed no fear but entered the room as if it were something expected and awaited.

He bowed. "Lord Baal, thank you for deigning to see me. I believe we can assist each other in this endeavor."

"We can discuss more later. Right now, I would like you to listen to a conversation and translate for me."

The man gave a crooked smile. "What do you need me for? You guys don't know every language under the sun?"

Gone was the subservient obsequious toady. Now he was being insolent. If he were a Goa'uld, he would be dangerous. "Many new languages have evolved since any Goa'uld last visited this planet for any period of time. It would be hard for us to say we know them all." He motioned Agrona to turn up the sound from the prisoners' cell.

Lyle tilted his head, listening intently. "Sounds like Russian. I'm not fluent, but it seems like they're saying something about energy output."

"It is not plans of escape nor ways to sabotage my ship."

"Believe me, I'd tell you if it were. The end result would not be too pleasant for me either way."

Baal knew Lyle was being truthful as a man like that priced his life far above anything else. "It still does not explain why they would speak in another tongue."

"Maybe they just want to irritate you in the only way they can at the moment."

"Very well. Return to your quarters and we will talk more later."

He watched the man be taken away and prepare himself to visit his prisoners and find out just what it was they were discussing.

**************************************************************************

It was decided that they would break into two teams. Col. Carter and Frank Parker would go after Daniel Jackson and Jarod and Teal'c found himself paired with Mira Parker. The other man, Sam, would remain onboard with Thor, assisting in directing them via hologram if necessary. He would then be locked up so the one know as Lyle would not know the part he played.

Col. Carter divided the C4 between them. "Place it where you think it can do the most damage. We should be able to trigger them once the ship reaches Baal's base, destroying both at once."

"And when will we know when that happens?" Frank Parker questioned.

"The ship's sensors will know," Thor replied. "There will be enough time for the rescue before that happens."

Teal'c fingered the zat'ni'katel at his side knowing it would be necessary to subdue Mira Parker's brother. Thor would have to beam them directly to the brig so both men could be locked up while still incapacitated.

He walked to the designated area and nodded to Thor to signal his readiness. "Mira Parker, if you will come stand beside me, we can begin our part of the mission."

The woman strode over, attempting to hide her nervousness by checking the readiness of her weapon. "OK, let's go."

The last thing Teal'c saw was Frank Parker smiling and giving them one of the many human signals for good luck; his thumb rising from a clenched fist.

They were beamed down to an empty utility room on the same level as Baal's guests. His partner blinked a number of times, adjusting quickly after her new experience. "Travel like that often?"

"I have done so a few times," he replied. "It can be disconcerting at first."

"A little. Which way next?"

"From the readings on Thor's ship, your brother and his associate are in a room down the hall to the left." He approached the door, his zat'ni'katel at the ready as it slid open. Once he was sure the corridor was clear, he motioned Mira forward.

They proceeded down the hall, rotating who took lead. Teal'c was impressed with her professionalism and remembered that she had been placed in charge of the retrieval team sent after Jarod. He heard a small patrol of Jaffa approaching and pulled Mira back into a doorway. Once the patrol marched by, they continued down the corridor. Spotting two Jaffa guards, Teal'c knew they had reached the right room. He used his zat'ni'katel quickly, and the guards fell to the floor.

The door opened and Mira was the first through.

"Why, Miss Parker, I'm surprised you went through all this trouble to get me."

"It was no trouble, but my duty," she replied.

"Duty to family?"

She scoffed. "I never considered you family. I shot you once and I'm not afraid to do it again."

"Then why did you bring a friend? In case you can't go through with it?"

"No, to keep me from doing it. For some reason, they think it best to keep you alive."

This familial bickering was getting them nowhere; Teal'c used his zat'ni'katel on both men. "We have no time to spare," he informed Mira.

"He is in pain, though?"

"Yes."

"Good."

Teal'c signaled Thor and they were beamed directly to the cells. He noticed she took great pleasure in her brother's discomfort. There had to be some underlying story to turn family against each other. Perhaps on the return journey, he could learn more of Mira Parker. "Let us return to the bridge to await the return of the others."

******************************************************

After Teal'c and Mira disappeared, Sam and Frank took up position. She noticed his ready stance, automatic in hand. She knew he could fend for himself, having been in covert ops. Even though he hadn't come up against the Goa'uld before, his very existence proved he could make things up as he went along, always an added benefit. "Ready, Frank?"

"As I'll ever be."

After a brief moment of disorientation, she saw they were in an empty room. "I'll take point. I'm sure they'll be heavily guarded so we have to make it quick."

"Get rid of the guards, get to Jarod, Daniel, and the ZPM thing, and then signal Thor all before either Goa'uld realizes we're here." Frank grinned. "No problem."

Sam couldn't help but smile at his attitude. It did remind her of the general in that respect. Was it a requirement for special ops? "OK then. Let's go."

They crept along the hall without encountering any Jaffa, which made her a little nervous. Where were they all hiding? Somehow, she didn't think Baal would have them all guarding over Jarod and Daniel.

Hearing the low drone of machinery, Sam paused in front of a door. As it slid open, she motioned Frank to stand guard as she stepped inside. The room appeared to house an auxiliary power source, which would greatly add to the original explosion. While it might not actually destroy the ship, it would certainly cripple it, delaying any pursuit.

That task completed, she rejoined Frank and they continued down the hall in silence. She appreciated that he was holding back all his questions and comments knowing full well he must be ready to burst. She remembered Daniel's babbling that first time.

Frank stopped at a bend in the corridor and peered around. "Two," he whispered. "I'd say it's time to use that doohickey if you want to keep things quiet."

Sam used her zat and both Jaffa fell to the floor. "Be quick. It's likely they're being monitored somehow."

The door slid open to reveal Daniel and Jarod going over Daniel's notes on the Ancient language. On the floor between them was the ZPM! Jarod and Daniel began to pick up the papers as Daniel continued to express some thought regarding the translation. Jarod motioned for she and Frank to remain quiet.

In order to help, Frank picked up the ZPM, nearly dropping it as it glowed brightly. Daniel held out the bag and Frank gladly placed it carefully inside. Sam sent the signal to Thor as her mind dwelt on the irony of three possessors of the Ancient gene found them.

Thor, Teal'c and Mira were waiting for them on the bridge. "It is good to see you all again," stated Teal'c.

"It's good to be seen," Daniel replied.

"Are you guys okay?" Sam asked. "You don't look too bad considering."

"He knew we could be useful so he didn't dare damage us," Jarod answered.

"But you guys were working on the translations and you had the ZPM with you," said Frank. "He can't have trusted you with that."

"Oh, he was listening in," said Daniel. "We said what we wanted him to hear but any possible theories or breakthroughs were discussed in Russian."

Sam looked at her watch. The C4 was due to go off any minute. "Thor, you might want to get us out of here before the explosion."

"We are already on our way, Col. Carter."

*************************************************

Sam sat on the edge of the bunk in his cell and thought on all he had seen. Aliens were real! And Mr. Lyle was with them. Maybe he wouldn't make it back. However, if he returned to the Centre, how would he explain what happened and not come off as if he had shirked his duty? Maybe he could join up with Miss Parker again. That was another surprise. Miss Parker looked...human. He certainly hadn't expected to see her on a military base, secret or otherwise.

She had to be there because of Jarod. That was obvious. It also meant that they kept in touch. If it had been anyone other than Jarod, he would have thought it strange, be he had learned pretty early on that they both shared some sort of weird connection. Sam had noticed a softening of her façade over those last couple of years and he knew it was due to communication with Jarod.

He stood and began pacing the floor. But what of the other man, the one Mr. Lyle had called "little brother"? He hadn't been there the day Miss Parker had left the Centre, but he had heard the stories. Could this man be the one rumored to be Mr. Parker's real son? If this were true, he would be the "heir" to the Centre, something Mr. Lyle and Mr. Raines would want to prevent. Wherever Miss Parker and her brother were hiding, they had to have major protection.

He stopped pacing when he heard the lock to his door open. Sam recognized the base commander when he walked in and stood a little straighter. The man didn't display the fierceness that he associated with leaders. Instead, the officer seemed to treat things as a lark or a game, baiting and goading the enemy. Maybe he was an adrenaline junkie and in it for the rush. Whatever it was, the general was probably as loyal to his men as they were to him.

"Sam is it?"

He nodded.

"I know why you were after Jarod. He told us what the Centre did to him. Mira and Frank Parker filled us in on their experiences with the place, too."

Her name is Mira?

"But that's not what I want to talk about now. I want to know why Agrona was with you. What kind of hold does she have over your boss?"

"Over Mr. Lyle? Nothing. He volunteered the use of the jet."

"Volunteered?"

"Maybe that's not the right word. She boarded the jet demanding we take her to some secret base. Mr. Lyle..." Sam paused. Part of him wished to tell all about Mr. Lyle and his cruelties while another part wanted to keep mum knowing he would still have to work with him. "Mr. Lyle took advantage of the situation, treating her as a welcome guest, like royalty, really. We had no idea what she was after but I believe she made promises to Mr. Lyle that he would be rewarded for his cooperation."

"Same old trick," the general commented. "When the jet landed, how did you get here?"

"I drove according to her directions. We pulled over onto some dirt road and then walked through woods to a large cement block with a hatch. She shot it with some weapon, disabling the alarms. I hate to say it, sir, but she knew the layout of the base. I think she said something about infiltrators."

"Yeah, well, a few of her type have been here before. Thanks for that. We can make some changes." He turned to knock on the door to be let out.

"Sir?"

The officer turned to face him. "Yes?"

"I was just wondering, is Miss Parker okay?"

"Last time I heard from them, yes, she was fine. I'll let you know the next time I get a communication."

"Thank you, sir. I'd appreciate that."

His fears somewhat at rest, Sam settled back on the bunk for a quick catnap.

******************************************************

Baal strode through the corridors determined to show Jackson the punishment for plotting against him. Yes, the SGC had brought about the downfall of many other Goa'uld System Lords thus paving the way for his rise but he was not going to allow himself to be goaded into acting rashly. He would sit back an attempt to riddle out their plan, which was sometimes difficult as the Tau'ri were so unpredictable.

He turned the corner and saw the two Jaffa guards dead on the floor. Jackson and the other man had been rescued! It had to be SG-1 with the assistance of the Asgard-most probably Thor. He entered the room and saw that nothing remained; all evidence of the Ancient and the research Jackson had done were gone. Instinctively he knew that the Tau'ri would have left something damaging behind, usually it was a crude but effective explosive.

He left the room and headed for the ring room. It would be time to change the location of his base now that it had been revealed. He had to start a new search for another Ancient power source. Perhaps by then, he would know how to use it-and the SGC would not.

******************************************************

Daniel took the ZPM from Frank. "What were you thinking?"

"That's a fine thank you to someone who just rescued you."

"No, that's not what I meant. What were you thinking when you held the ZPM?"

"Oh, I was just wondering how it worked."

"This is amazing! Finding the three of you in one day! I guess the reasons are obvious why we couldn't find you during our search for personnel for the Atlantis expedition. Of course you couldn't have gone even if we had found you, having other major issues to deal with." Daniel realized he was babbling and stopped.

"Did you and Jarod come up with anything new?" asked Sam.

"We thought that it might have another purpose than just a power source," Daniel replied.

"Some type of hidden purpose?" questioned Frank.

"I don't know if I'd say 'hidden'. Probably just not obvious to non-Ancients," Jarod answered.

"What kind of purpose do you think?" Mira asked.

"Most obvious would be a weapon of some kind," Daniel answered. "Practically any major power source can be. Another thing we were wondering was if it could be used as a long distance communication device. It's never been tested, but I was curious if it gave off some sort of radio wave that could be directed at a receiver."

"It could be possible," Sam put in. "As you said, we've never been able to test it. I never noticed if any of the others had similar markings."

"I don't remember seeing any." Daniel tried to stifle a yawn. God, was it really only this morning I woke up on Jarod's boat in the Keys? No wonder this day is catching up with me.

"Daniel, why don't you and Jarod try to get some sleep? You both look dead on your feet. I don't think Baal will be mounting a pursuit any time soon."

"You are correct, Col. Carter," put in Thor. "The ship's sensors just registered a large explosion in the vicinity of Baal's ship."

"I guess it's too much to ask if he was on it at the time?" inquired Jarod.

"I have learned never to trust word of a Goa'uld's death unless I have witnessed it myself," Teal'c told him.

Daniel thought of Apophis and Anubis. They had "died" almost as many times as he had. He yawned again. "C'mon, Jarod. I know you could use a nap as much as me."

"I don't think I could sleep. My mind is racing with all that's happened."

"I'm sure once you put your head down, you'll be out," Frank joked.

"Sleep well," Teal'c told them.

"We'll tell you if anything happens," Sam added.

***********************************************************

Mira watched as Jarod and Daniel left. The moment she had seen them materialize on the bridge, relief flooded through her on a level she had never experienced before. This new concern for Jarod's well being she found rather frightening. Yes, she had come all this way to save him, but how much of that was the desire to get back at Lyle?

"Col. Carter, the others have awakened," Thor announced as he watched them stir. "You may wish to question them before we reach Earth."

"Teal'c, let's go and find out just how much they know," Carter said, heading for the door.

"Let Frank and I go." She could sense their hesitation. "Lyle hates us. Somewhere between his bragging and taunting, he might let something slip. Besides, we're family."

"She does have a point, Col. Carter," commented Teal'c. "I strongly doubt he will speak in our presence."

"You can listen in anyway," Mira argued. "If you think we're getting nowhere, you can always come in and give him a scare."

"Oh, and if we get insulting, please don't take it personally," Frank put in. "If we can't convince him of the Goa'ulds' true purpose, things may turn a bit ugly."

"Appealing to Lyle's better nature has never worked because he doesn't have one."

"OK," agreed Carter. "If you can't get anything out of him, we'll send in Teal'c. He can be seen as rather intimidating." She looked over at the man in question. "You didn't bring your Jaffa armor, did you?"

"No. I did not foresee the need for it."

Mira strode through the corridors. Lyle had always been a self-serving bastard but she couldn't believe he would willingly sell out the planet for his own petty desires.

"Since he likes inflicting pain so much, I wonder if he likes being on the receiving end," Frank commented.

"Like most bullies, he caves." She stopped. "You've given me an idea." She turned to look at her brother. "What if we just hint at the torture and pain waiting for him if he doesn't help?"

"He'll know we're bluffing. There's nothing like that here."

"You said yourself that Thor looks like the aliens in the basement at the base, the Roswell Greys. With all the stories of abduction and experimentation, we just need to make him believe we're all that's keeping him from a date with a scalpel."

*********************************************************

The door to the cell slid open and Frank could see Lyle staring defiantly at them from the opposite wall. "I was wondering when someone was going to show up. I was actually expecting the black guy."

"They were going to," Mira stated. "We felt you deserved a chance to convince you of what's really going on."

"Gee, you really have my best interests at heart." He leaned against the wall with his arms crossed and asked as if he were back at the Centre and not locked up on an alien ship. "Jarod not with you? I would have thought he'd be taking advantage of this role reversal."

"He's had a bit of a strenuous day," Frank commented. "What with being kidnapped and threatened by aliens bent on enslaving the human race."

"Oh, they didn't want to kill him, Frankie. Far from it. They thought he would be able to operate technology left behind by some other aliens."

Frank bristled at the nickname. "Why couldn't they do it themselves?"

"Something about a gene. I figured it had to do with Jarod being a pretender so I offered to help them locate others who possessed it. We have the methods in place already so what harm could it cause?"

Frank resisted the urge to land a punch on that GQ face. "You really are a self-centered bastard, aren't you?"

"At least I wasn't locked up in an institution."

Yeah, they got the wrong one there. "At least I have morals and some sense of right and wrong."

"Morals are overrated."

"We tried, Frank," said Mira. "We can tell ourselves we did our best when they come for him."

Frank noticed the nervous look that the other man, Willie, gave Lyle. At least they had him worried. "I sure wouldn't want to be in your shoes."

"There is no court that would be able to prosecute this case without exposing just what it is that goes on inside that mountain."

"Oh, we're not talking trial," Frank told him, barely containing how much he was enjoying this.

"The race that owns this ship has been visiting Earth on and off for years," Mira put in. "They've made humans their main point of 'study'."

Lyle scoffed. "You're trying to tell me that these guys are the infamous Roswell Grays, the ones who abduct rednecks from their pickups out on some county road and experiment on them? C'mon, give me some credit."

"They'll get that info out of you one way or the other." Frank turned for the door. As he did so, he saw the look on Mira's face which was a cross somewhere between pity and outright amusement.

"Wait! I'll tell you what I know."

Frank grinned before he did an about-face. That was easier than I thought.

***********************************************************

Jack was in his office when a hologram of Carter appeared. "Everything go according to plan?"

"Yes, sir. We retrieved Daniel, Jarod, and the ZPM. We blew up Baal's ship with C4 but that doesn't necessarily mean he was on it."

"Of course not."

"We should be there in about five hours and I'll be able to give you a full briefing."

"Hey, Carter, before you go, see if Thor has any ideas for what we can do about the guys who were with Agrona."

"Yes, sir." The hologram shimmered and was gone.

Jack left his office and made his way to the holding cell where the man Sam was waiting. He had promised to notify him when he heard from Carter. He entered the room and Sam stood at attention. Must've had some military training. "I just had word from Col. Carter that everyone is fine and that they would be here in about five hours."

"Thank you, General."

"You seem overly concerned for people your boss wants dead."

"I worked with Miss Parker for years. I saw how she changed when she began to go after Jarod. She began to question what the Centre was doing. If it had been anyone else, they would have been killed for it." He sat back on the cot.

This is becoming interesting. "Why do you say that?" Jack questioned.


"It's her family that founded the Centre. And that's one strange family."

"I've seen bits of it."

"Sir, what will happen to us? I will keep this secret. I won't gain a thing from telling anyone, and who would believe me if I did?"

Jack believed him.

"If I go back without Mr. Lyle, I'll be held responsible so I might as well not go back."

"So why go back?"

He took a deep breath. "If none of us make it back, Jarod will get the blame, since, as far as they know, that was who we were after. There are a couple of people there, other friends of Miss Parker's and Jarod's who will feel the brunt of that anger. I can't let that happen."

"I'll see what I can do. We're looking into some possibilities." Jack left the cell with a few more things to think on.

***************************************************

Jarod woke up fully rested after the best sleep he had had in years. After a moment of disorientation he remembered where he was and what had happened. He stood and ran a hand through his hair before rejoining the others on the bridge.

"Here's Sleeping Beauty," declared Miss Parker alerting the others to his arrival.

"We were wondering if we would have to wake you up," said Frank. "According to Thor, we're within range to be beamed down to the SGC."

"Did I miss anything?"

"Mira and Frank found out what Lyle learned from Baal," Carter answered. "It was amazing to watch."

Jarod looked at the two of them grinning. "I would have loved to have seen that myself."

"We made him think that Thor was one of the Roswell Grays and would experiment on him if he didn't tell us," Frank admitted.

"A sadist like him would no doubt cave under the idea of being on the receiving end."

"Unfortunately, he told us nothing we did not already know," Teal'c said.

"So what are we going to do with Lyle and Willie?" Jarod asked. "We can't just let them go back to the Centre."

"Thor can alter their memories, create new ones, and we can send them back to Key West," suggested Daniel.

"That won't work," said Miss Parker. "The Centre pilot will have already reported them missing. I doubt that even Thor would be able to a memory wipe on everyone."

"That is correct," Thor agreed. "I would not be able to do a sufficient memory enhancement on all those involved in the short time allotted."

"Then we'll just have to think of a new reason for their disappearance." Jarod thought quickly, mentally crossing off unlikely possibilities. "I think I have something that will work. Lyle, Willie, and Sam were arrested for trespassing on restricted military property. They were arrested but Lyle refused to give his name or give a number."

Sam smiled at the idea. "Perfect."

********************************************************

Lyle woke up in his cell and groaned. How long had he been here? He had lost all track of time. Locked up for trespassing on restricted military property. What a joke! What really irked him was that every minute he sat here, Jarod was getting further away.

Jarod. It all came down to the lab rat. Lyle began to wonder if Jarod had even been here. The exploding boat off Key West had obviously been a ploy, else why would he be here in...wherever he was? By now the pilot had notified the Centre that he was in need of an extraction. He knew there were enough connections in the military so with the proper application of pressure, there was no need for the Centre's involvement to become known. He was just not looking forward to facing Raines once he did get back.

He heard keys jangling and then the door opened and a blonde walked in wearing blue fatigues. "We've received a call and you and your 'friends' are being released."

"It's about time."

"Considering you didn't give us a name or a phone number, I just wonder how they located you."

Lyle stood and brushed his suit. "It's all in who you know."

"It must be."

Lyle strode past her into the hallway where Willie and Sam were flanked by armed guards. The two who had stood outside his cell door moved to either side of him. He saw a flicker of movement in his peripheral vision but before he could comment, a black cloth was fastened over his eyes. "What's going on here?" he demanded.

"Merely a precaution, sir," came the voice of the woman officer. Did he detect a hint of amusement in her tone?

"Isn't this a little too late? I found my way here."

"We just don't want you to find your way back." A new voice, caustic and sardonic. The commanding officer. "Your friends know the right strings to pull and the right palms to grease, but I don't have to like it. If I see you again, well, let's just say it'll be interesting."

Lyle allowed himself to be led away. When he returned to the Centre he would pore over military records to learn the identities of these people. He'd make sure Broots didn't sleep a wink until he got them all reassigned. They paused and he heard the whirring of machinery. An elevator. They were probably below ground as he hadn't noticed any windows.

The elevator doors opened and before he stepped inside, Lyle heard a taunting familiar voice whisper in his ear. " 'All warfare is based on deception. There is no place where espionage is not used. Offer the enemy bait to lure him'."

Dammit! He was here after all and quoting Sun-Tzu! "Jarod! So help me!" He knew the elevator doors had closed due to the echo. The lab rat had made him run the maze and look a fool. At least he would have some time to create his own spin on this story. He was not going to be the scapegoat for this fiasco.

****************************************************

Carter watched as the three men were led away. She heard the general humming at her side. "Three Blind Mice, sir?"

"I couldn't help it, Carter. It just seemed appropriate."

"Are his connections really that powerful?"

"Not as powerful as ours but they seem to have a few multi-starred generals in their collective pocket. From what Jarod's said, the Centre has been advising on many military operations as well as selling a certain number of weapons and other such devices. I'd say that was worth a few favors."

"I'd say so." She stopped in the corridor near the elevator and saw Jarod approach the blindfolded men. "What is he up to?" Jarod then whispered something in Lyle's ear before falling back out of reach as the other man shouted the Pretender's name as he was dragged into the elevator. She had to smile as Jarod waved to the closing elevator doors.

"Now that is class," announced her fellow officer.

"What was it for?"

"Showing that he had the upper hand and that he is still out there. Takes guts. I wouldn't mind having him here."

"Do you think he'd take it?" Carter had come to like the man, and, if could do half the amazing stuff he said he could, he would be a marvelous asset to the SGC.

"I doubt he'd take a regular posting since he's so driven to right wrongs and all that. I could offer a freelance job, call him as needed."

"That he might go for. Let him know that we'll be here for him and that the exchange will be an even one." Jarod had disappeared somewhere in the hallways, probably heading to the room they had set aside for him. "What about the ZPM?"

"Hm? Oh, the geeks upstairs said something about it being a little different from the others and that it might not be compatible. That make any sense to you?"

"If you think of the ZPM like a battery-which, in a sense, it is-they come in different sizes for different purposes."

"Now that makes sense." He started to walk away, then paused and turned. "Oh, Carter, celebratory cookout at my place. Festivities start at 6:00."

Carter smiled. This whole episode had turned out better than seemed possible.

******************************************************

Mira viewed the monitor in the Security room as Lyle, Willie, and Sam were led away blindfolded. It was decided that she, Frank, and Jarod would wait here so they wouldn't be seen or heard and ruin the setup. It was too bad that they couldn't send them all back to Key West and let them think Jarod was dead. If she had had any say in the matter, she would have wished for something more stringent-like mutilation.

"That was pretty classy of Sam to go back to the Centre because of Sydney and Broots. We could have easily set something up for him at NNL. Jack even said he would have found something here for him, probably in security." Frank didn't take his eyes off the monitor.

Mira was quite pleased at that revelation. She knew Sam would have taken a bullet for her during her time at the Centre, but she had attributed that to fear. The fact that an Air Force general was willing to award that loyalty nearly had her bursting with pride. "He knows that they would be vulnerable because of their connection to me and Jarod." She looked around the room. "Where is he anyway?"

"There." Frank pointed at the screen.

She saw Jarod lean forward and whisper in Lyle's ear. "He's always had a flair for the dramatic." She smiled. "It makes quite a change, seeing him do that to someone else."

"I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he has to explain this," Frank joked.

"You just want to see someone else in hot water."

"Oh, like you haven't made a few infractions," he retorted. "How about when you--"

"OK, there's no need to go into that." She didn't think it necessary to let their new friends learn about the Parkers' shared problem with authority. "C'mon, I think it's time we made arrangements to head back."

They left the security room and strode through the corridors towards O'Neill's office. Walking through windowless halls made Mira feel that she was back at the Centre-almost. Aside from the fact that all the personnel was in uniform, there was a lightheartedness here. Everyone smiled. They were probably just as close-knit as those at NNL if not closer. A few nodded at her and Frank as they passed. They must have been filled in on the reason for their presence.

They reached O'Neill's office and were lucky to find him behind his desk. He waved them in and set aside some papers.

"General," she began. "I'd like to thank you for helping us with Lyle."

"It was the least I could do in return for your assistance. Not many people would have jumped head-first into such a strange situation."

"True," Mira agreed. "Anyway, I think it's time we head back to Nevada."

"I've already arranged for a flight in the morning."

"Morning? I was expecting tonight."

"You're in that much of a hurry to leave?"

At his hurt look, Mira attempted to smooth things over. "I didn't mean..."

"Oh, I know," he grinned. "I'm just having the team over for a little cookout tonight to celebrate and let off a little steam and I thought you'd want to join us."

"Beer and burgers?" asked Frank.

"You betcha."

"We're there!"

Mira made a mental note to stop for a bottle of red.

****************************************************

Daniel entered his lab and emptied his pack onto his desk. With the papers he and Jarod had worked on spread out, he reached for his journals of translations. He was so wired from all that had happened and needed to use all that energy productively. As he flipped through the pages he wondered if he would be able to get Jack to allow Jarod special clearance so they could work this out together. Or maybe somehow arrange a dig of the Ancients' site. There definitely had to be more there. The inscriptions alone would make it worthwhile.

There was a knock on the door and he looked up to see Jarod wearing a uniform. "Hey, why are you wearing... You saw Lyle, didn't you?"

"I couldn't help myself." He sat on one of the stools. "I had to let him know he screwed up. I just wonder what will happen to him back at the Centre. It should buy me enough time anyway."

"I was wondering if you might want to hang around a bit and work on these translations."

"Daniel, I don't know..."

"I was also going to ask Jack about excavating that site off Key West. Since you were the one who found it..."

"I'll have to think on that."

Daniel nodded in understanding. Jarod had so much going on, he had to keep his priorities straight.

"Hey, Daniel." Jack entered without knocking. "Oh, Jarod, classy move earlier. Anyway, cookout at my place tonight. Come by around 6-ish." He was gone.

"Is he always like that?"

"When he's relaxed. If you hang around long enough, he'll ask you to go fishing."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

"Depends if you like fishing."

"I've never been."

Daniel couldn't hold back the laugh.

***********************************************************

Jack put the beer in the cooler, doctored the burgers with a little Worcestershire, and then sliced onions and tomatoes. He had just lit the charcoal when the bell rang. He looked at his watch: 6:45. "Probably Carter." When he opened the door, it was Daniel and Jarod who stood there. "Hi, guys. C'mon in. Didn't expect you to be first."

"Well, we wanted to talk to you first," said Daniel.

"OK." He led them to the living room. "Beer?"

"Not yet, thanks." Jarod took a seat on the couch.

"Let me take a guess. You want Jarod to hang around and help with translations."

"Well, yeah." Daniel looked stunned.

"It was kinda obvious, Daniel." Jack looked at Jarod. "I was going to ask if you wanted to help out on a freelance basis. You know, we'd call if we needed your help. We could also provide a bolt hole if the Centre tracks you down again." He watched Jarod's face. "I know it's a lot to take in, but think on it, OK? You can always email Daniel and leave a number once you've decided."

"Thanks, Jack. I appreciate that." His eyes wandered over to a framed photo on the mantelpiece. "May I?"

"Sure." To Jack, he seemed entranced. It was only an old picture from his dad's time in the Air Force. "That's my father's squadron when he was stationed in--"

"Clearview."

"Yeah." Jack wondered how he knew that from just a picture.

Daniel came up to look at the photo. "What's that symbol on the tail?" he asked, pointing to the plane in the background.

"Ring of fire," Jarod murmured.

OK, this is getting too damn freaky. He can't have guessed that. "How the hell could you know that?"

Jarod pointed to two men in the back row, arms slung over the other's shoulder in camaraderie. "That's my dad."

"Wow," said Daniel. "That's pretty amazing. What're the odds?"

Jack peered at the pair. "I remember him. He was my dad's best friend."

"Is there anything you can tell me about him? I don't even know my last name."

The pleading and need in Jarod's eyes cut right through Jack. Just the idea of going through life without knowing who you were made him really want to help. "Growing up I only knew him as Major Charles. I may have known his last name once, but I can't be sure."

"Oh." Jarod tried to hide his dejection. "That's all right. It was a bit of a long shot."

"Jack, don't you have any of your dad's stuff packed away somewhere?" questioned Daniel. "I don't know, papers, letters, pictures?"

"Maybe in the attic somewhere. Depending on how things go, I'll start looking tomorrow."

"Guess that gives me a reason to stay awhile."

The front doorbell rang again. "OK, we'll keep this quiet until we find something concrete," Jack told them. "Go get some beer and look like you're enjoying yourselves." He watched them go into the backyard before going to open the door. "Let the games begin."

****************************************************************

Teal'c met Colonel Carter at her lab door. "Col. Carter, if we leave now we will arrive at O'Neill's at the designated time."

She looked at her watch. "I didn't realize how late it was. I wanted to type up my report while it was still fresh."

"As did I." He watched as she saved her report. "Mira Parker has informed me that she and her brother have been invited by O'Neill as well."

"OK, let's go pick them up." She picked up her jacket. "I can't wait to hear what stories Frank has to tell about the general."

"I am more intrigued regarding what Mira Parker can tell us of Jarod's life within the Centre."

"Let's just not handle it like an interrogation."

"But do we not wish to acquire information?"

"Through conversation, Teal'c. They're allies, friends, not enemy Jaffa."

Sometimes the approach the Tau'ri took confused him. Why would they not go directly to the problem?

Bother Parkers were in a community lounge and Frank appeared to be hurling insults at the program on the television. He had seen O'Neill do the same thing and was told it was part of the experience.

Mira looked away from her brother and saw them in civilian dress. "Time for the party?"

"Yeah. Sorry we're a little late."

"C'mon, Frank."

"Wait, they're just about to--"

"Now, Frank." She grabbed the remote and switched off the television.

Teal'c caught the glare Frank directed at his sister's back but detected no menace. Was this banter typical among siblings of the Tau'ri? He had never had a chance to observe such behavior. It added a new dimension to them.

Once in the elevator, Col. Carter started conversing with the Parkers. "I take it you only became aware of your relationship recently."

"Yeah, it's been almost three years," Frank replied. "I think it was after our second meeting in that Jarod suspected and ran tests."

"He ran his own tests?"

"Yeah, put him in a lab and he's a happy camper," Mira inserted.

Teal'c thought that sounded like the colonel herself but refrained from saying so.

"Jarod called Mira first and then they called and met me in Vegas. Jarod had narrowed it down but the only definitive proof of my parents was at the Centre. Not wanting to be confined in the hotel I went out and Lyle spotted me in town and nabbed me. Set me up in some torture chamber to find out what I knew about Jarod."

"I called Jarod and together we got Frank out. Unfortunately the wrong people had learned of his existence," Mira continued. "As I had openly defied them by siding with Jarod, I had to leave. Between them, Frank and Jarod set me up with a new job."

The ride to O'Neill's was filled with idle chatter as the three humans told tales of amusing and annoying co-workers. Teal'c was anxious to hear tales of the inner workings of the Centre. From the looks he was getting from Colonel Carter, she knew what he wanted as well.

They pulled up in front of O'Neill's house and saw Daniel Jackson's car already in the driveway. "It appears we are the last to arrive."

"So we know nothing's happened yet," Frank Parker grinned. "Cos the fun starts with us!"

Teal'c raised his eyebrow at this comment. It would be most interesting to see this man interact with O'Neill. Somehow he knew if they paired up against any enemy, they would emerge victorious.

Col. Carter rang the front doorbell and, as O'Neill opened the door, Teal'c heard him say, "Let the games begin." Were sporting contests planned?

*************************************************************

Frank looked about the spacious house and whistled. "Nice place, Jack. I've been living in cramped quarters for so long, I've almost forgotten what a real house is like."

"C'mon in, guys. Daniel and Jarod are out back. Beers are in the cooler and the charcoal is lit. Once everyone settles in, I'll put the burgers on."

Frank followed the others through the house. From what he could see, it was clean, nothing out of place. Whether it was because of his military need to keep things that way or the fact that he was hardly ever here to mess it up, he couldn't tell.

Daniel and Jarod were deep in conversation, beers in hand. What they were talking about, he could only guess.

"How many times do I have to tell you boys to mingle?" Jack questioned.

"As there were no other guests, you could say we were mingling."

"Don't go into details with me, Daniel. You'd probably bore everyone else anyway, going on about your rocks."

Frank reached into the cooler for a beer. "Moved up to the imported stuff now, hunh? I'm impressed. You used to be content with a Bud."

"Doing my best for international relations. What about that Philly beer you used to go on about?"

"They used to make beer in Philadelphia?" asked Daniel.

Frank looked at Daniel in shock. "I'll forgive you as you probably spent most of your childhood overseas, but Schlitz was great stuff. Mike Schmidt was a spokesman."

"I guess your taste has improved then," commented Sam.

"Not really," Mira smirked. "He'll still drink just about anything with alcohol in it."

"That is so not true. You've been hanging with Ramsey too long." He took a defiant swig of beer.

"O'Neill, is this not a good time to begin cooking?" Teal'c inserted into the lull.

"Good idea." Jack made his escape into the house.

Conversation stopped, which was strange considering what they had just been through. They couldn't really talk about anything else since what they all did was classified. Except for Jarod but he couldn't be expected to bear the burden alone. Then a little devil visited Frank. It was time to tell stories of Jack while he was inside.

****************************************************************

Jarod listened with one ear as Frank regaled everyone with the story of an early meeting with Jack. It was interesting that three people could hear the same story and come away with three very different meanings. Sam listened attentively as if the story would reveal some inner workings of her commanding officer's psyche. Daniel heard it as a missing piece of Jack's background that went a long way to explaining the way his best friend was. Miss Parker (he still had a hard time calling her Mira) listened to it from a tactical standpoint. It would be hard to hear it for what it was. She would probably grill Jack upon his return.

"Thanks, Parker, for dredging up that old chestnut," the man in question said once the laughter had died down. "I have a hard enough time getting them to take me seriously as it is."

"I take you most seriously, O'Neill," declared Teal'c. Your tactical instincts are unique."

Jarod couldn't help but agree. All he had seen and heard said that Jack O'Neill was an unorthodox officer which was something the SGC needed as it was anything but a By-The-Book command.

He stood and walked over to the grill. "Let me help. I was a short-order cook once."

"Of course you were." Jack handed over the utensils.

"You'd be amazed at some of the stuff he's done," Miss Parker said. Was that admiration in her voice?

"Really?" asked Sam. "Like what?"

"Fireman, policeman, FBI agent, plastic surgeon, bounty hunter, lawyer, stunt man, Coast Guard, test pilot--"

"What did you fly?" Jack asked.

"I flew at Skytronics Proving Grounds testing the Scimitar chip."

"I remember hearing about that," Sam commented. "The Scimitar chip was proven to have a 3.1 failure rate. A pilot was killed and they tried to cover it up." She looked at Jarod. "You were responsible for exposing it." He nodded. "You saved hundreds, maybe thousands or lives."

"But I haven't saved the planet like you do, or prevent world wars like Frank." He flipped the burgers.

"But that's our job. And it's not an everyday occurrence," put in Daniel. "You go out of your way to help people all the time."

"You may not always see the end result of your work," added Miss Parker, "but if you added them up, I'm sure the total would rival anyone's."

That made him feel a little better. She was right. If he looked at it like the Ripple Effect, he probably had changed the world almost as much as the others. "Thank you."

"Preventing world wars?" Jack asked Frank.

"A few times. My first assignment was preventing President Maxwell's assassination by Chechnyan terrorists. As a matter of fact, I helped save Maxwell's butt a number of times."

"Funny, he never mentioned you."

Jarod had to smile at the exchange. "Burgers are done!" he announced.

"Yeah, like you've talked to him. Frank wasn't going to let go despite being pulled away by Miss Parker.

"Hello! Hotline to the Oval Office on my desk!"

Daniel took a plate and shoved it into Jack's hands. "You've both saved the world a number of times over. I think we can leave it at that."

"Daniel's right," said Sam. There's no need to compare notes."

"I can't believe that-sometimes-the fate of the world rests in his hands," muttered Jack.

"Then why are you going to make him an offer?"

"What?" Jack looked at Jarod as if he had grown another head.

"It's obvious that's what you want to do." Jarod took a bite of his burger. "You asked me."

"What offer?" Frank questioned.

"I, too, would like to know."

Five pairs of eyes looked at Jack, who in turn, faced Jarod who feigned innocence at what he had started. "All right," he broke down. "I thought of forming an SG team made up of people with the Ancient gene."

"And if the team gets captured..." Sam let it go unfinished.

"I didn't say it was a good idea."

"Jack has offered me a place to hide should I need it, a sanctuary, if you will. In exchange, I assist when they need someone else with the Ancient gene." He purposely left out the fact that Jack had known his father.

"So, you're looking for allies," said Miss Parker.

"You could say that," Daniel replied.

"I believe she just has."

"Teal'c, always so literal. I thought you would've caught on by now." Jack looked over his plate at Frank. "So, whaddya say?"

"Say to what? You haven't offered anything yet." Frank was seeming to enjoy Jack's discomfort.

"Gen. O'Neill, I know it's a bit much to comprehend, but Frank is central to every mission." Miss Parker was fond of backhanded compliments. It retained her need for insults. "He can't be gone for any prolonged period of time. Even this is pushing it."

"OK, let's say I can arrange things with...Talmadge?" Frank nodded. "Would you be willing to give us a hand?"

"And I could call on you if I need help?"

"Sure. If I can do it, I will help."

"If you can get Talmadge and the Board to agree, you've got yourself a deal." He raised his beer bottle.

Jack did the same.

"I'd like to make a toast," Jarod said, standing.

The others stood as well.

"To friends, new and old. May this extended family expand even further."

"Hear, hear," said Daniel.

The bottles clinked as they met and everyone took a deep drink of beer. Jarod meant his toast. As long as the network of connections extended, they would soon have every region of the country covered. As long as he had friends, he would never be alone. And neither would they. That was the key to everything.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
deralte
Jun. 1st, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
This is a fun series that I've enjoyed reading. Thanks for writing it.
jpgr
Jun. 1st, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I have another one started but it stalled. I just need to look it over again to get a jump start. Basically, it was with Daniel and Jarod and the King Tut exhibition. I wanted something like a whodunit possibly caused by an unknown Goa'uld device. If you're interested, I'll send what I have and if you can comeup with something new, please send it my way. This story has been sitting sround for 3 years.
deralte
Jun. 2nd, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)
I'd love to see what you have (email is ariana8898 at yahoo), but could only give you some story ideas/prompts if I think of anything (have sworn off all fanfic until I finish writing my book).

I was crossing your series over with Highlander in my head today for fun if that's any help.
animalynx
Jun. 26th, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC)
This here is just a nudge...
I would love to here of anything else you have written in this universe of Jarod and Friends anything more you may have plans to continue it or let it collect dust. I know I would love to read anything you have, email me or PM me over at Fanfiction.net

Well done on this story by the way I really did like it!

ALx
jpgr
Jun. 27th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
Re: This here is just a nudge...
I have one started--well, it's been sitting around for a couple of years--inspired by seeing the King Tut exhibit in Ft lauderdale. Basically, it's Daniel and Jarod investigating. Or at least they will be once I give them something to investigate. Any ideas?
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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