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Count Time (An SG-1 fic) (2/2)

Title: Count Time
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: SG-1, OC (Alan Kelly)
Word Count: 6657
Rating: PG-13 ?
Notes: This is my first Stargate fic that isn't a crossover. However, it does involve an original character from my own stories located here: The TOC Files. I've placed it during season 5 sometime after "Rite of Passage" but before "Meridian". I hope you like it and I already have a sequel in the works. I also want to thank Leanne for being my beta; catching typos, tense changes, and helping me fill in the blanks!






__________________________________________________________________


Alan returned to the day Nirrti arrived and hid in the woods to wait for her approach to the Gate. As soon as she was near the pedestal with all the symbols on it, he sent himself into her consciousness. It was a strange sensation of being the third in the mind.

He watched through her eyes as she pressed the symbols. Once the Gate opened he returned to his body and then moved a few days ahead. He arrived in almost the same place he left. The others just stared dumfounded.

"You've got to give some kind of warning when you do that!"

"Sorry, Colonel. It's meant to be covert." He headed for the pedestal and began to enter the address before he forgot.

"You got it." Daniel was impressed.

"Found out through Nirrti. Her head was a bit crowded and I'm still a little lightheaded from the experience."

"You entered the mind of the host."

"Ew!"

"That's why you wanted to know where the Goa'uld positioned itself," said Carter.

Alan spared a glance for Nirrti who looked at him bordering on fascination. "I didn't fancy putting myself in the wrong place."

The Gate opened and Jack and Carter took point. Teal'c followed with Nirrti while Alan and Daniel entered last with the Celts.

The new planet was barren as if all life had been stripped from it. Three suns burned down on cracked earth.

"Add a little fountain in a goldfish pond, it could be almost hospitable," joked Alan.

"Mannequin Pis," stated Jack.

"You would," Sam commented.

"With all its valuable minerals depleted and population gone, the Goa'uld have no reason to come here," Teal'c informed them.

"Making it perfect for secret experiments. Except she needs to import guinea pigs." Daniel didn't bother to hide his distaste.

"We should have taken her back to the SGC first."

"You could always take her back now that we're here."

Alan kept his mouth shut knowing Jack had a point. Nirrti would just be a liability. Also, with the warriors, they had enough manpower. It was not his place to say.

"Right. Teal'c, you take her. Once she's locked up, come and check on us."

Teal'c checked Nirrti's bindings as she scowled. "You will not be able to hold me long, human. Soon you will find a reason to free me," she growled.

"Well, until that day comes, I want you where I know you can't cause any trouble. Carter, dial it up."

After the wormhole was established, Teal'c and Nirrti walked through.

__________________________________________________________


Carter looked over the open expanse of land. There was no way they could approach without being seen-even if they knew where they were going. There were a number of possibilities. (1) She was using a ship as her base (2) She was using rings to transport to a ship in orbit (3) There was an existing building she was using, and (4) A cave network in the surrounding hills. She said as much to the others.

"I've already thought of that, Carter."

"We've got to pick a direction or try to find some cover, sir."

The colonel looked at Kelly. "Can your friends give us any directions?"

Alan spoke to them in that same language and the leader--Diarmuid--nodded vigorously and pointed north.

"I take that as a yes."

"There's a citadel less than five miles north-by-northwest."

"What are its defenses?"

Daniel took up the translation. "Not more than 20 Jaffa with zats and staffs. He doesn't know about any other weapons." Alan and Diarmuid looked at him and smiled. Diarmuid said something else and Daniel smiled, embarrassed.

"It's nice that you make friends so easily, Daniel," Sam told him.

"Sometimes Daniel's friends aren't the kind you wanna take home. OK, let's head out. I'll take point. Carter, you cover our six."

As they walked, Carter couldn't help but smile as she listened to the conversation going on ahead of her. Daniel was a little hesitant, still sounding somewhat unsure of himself. She hadn't been joking when she commented on Daniel's ability to make friends. She had always been unsure of what to say around people unless they were scientists or in the military. Even then she would sometimes alienate them. The ability to talk science with Daniel and strategy with the colonel and Teal'c made her situation with SG-1 ideal.

After about 25 minutes, the colonel put his hand up and they all stopped. It seemed they had arrived.

___________________________________________________________


Daniel was enjoying his time conversing with the villagers. The story of how they came to be on the planet was just like the majority of all the other civilizations they had encountered. A Goa'uld posing as a god--in this case Rigisamus, the Celtic god of war--brought their ancestors through the Gate to use as slaves. One day he left and never came back. Left to their own devices, they continued their culture the only way they knew how.

When Jack stopped, he motioned for them to take what little cover there was behind an outcropping of rock. "What is it?"

"That."

Daniel looked to where Jack was pointing and saw a tall formidable fortress built of the same rock as the cliffs that surrounded it. "Wow."

"It can be easily defended," Sam commented as she looked through her binoculars.

"But is it?" Jack questioned.

"Every stronghold has a weak point. We just have to find and exploit it."

Jack looked at Alan. "You mean you don't know already?"

Daniel opened his mouth to defend his new friend, but Alan raised his hand to hold him off. "Despite what you think, Colonel, I don't have every insignificant tidbit of history at my beck and call. Yeah, I could probably go ahead an hour or so and find out how we breach the defenses but that would be cheating."

Daniel had to keep himself from applauding. "Jack, we do know that any minor changing of the past could alter the future dramatically. Anything compounded onto that increases the odds."

Jack had that look on his face again.

"What he means, sir, is that just by coming into the past, Alan set things in motion. Nirrti's arrival and then ours just built on that. There was no way he could have predicted this."

One of the other villagers--whose name Daniel couldn't remember--began talking too fast for him to follow. Jack looked at him expectantly. Daniel could only shrug.

Alan translated. "He says that he once saw a magic room in the east tower."

" 'Magic room'," Jack scoffed.

Alan glared but continued. "Two of the metal-clad warriors would enter the empty room, yet five would come out. Transportation device?"

"Rings," Sam explained. "Nirrti must have a ship in orbit."

"If we can get to the rings, we can get to the ship and take it home." Jack was excited at the prospect of a new toy.

"After we rescue the villagers. That is the reason we came here."

"Fine, Daniel. Do you know the address back?"

"Only thing different is the point of origin."

"All right. Once we get the villagers, you and Kelly take them to the Gate while Carter, Teal'c and I get to the ring room."

"All this 'What-We'll-Do-When-We-Get-There' is fine," said Carter, "but it just takes us back to where we started."

"We'll wait for Teal'c. He might have some ideas."

_______________________________________________________


Teal'c released Nirrti into the care of the armed guards that waited in the Gateroom. He then made his way to the control room, meeting General Hammond in the hall.

"Teal'c, how did you capture her? Where's the rest of SG-1?"

"With the aid of Colonel Kelly and some of the native warriors that returned with Nirrti, we ambushed them, killing the Jaffa. We then gated to the planet where Nirrti had been conducting her experiments. O'Neill had me return to ensure she could not escape."

"So as far as you know, they're all right."

"Affirmative, General Hammond. I must return to them now."

"You know the address?"

Teal'c nodded. If he said he had seen Colonel Kelly, General Hammond would want to know how Kelly learned the address.

"Very well. You let Walter know."

"Sir, it is a barren planet. Perhaps some extra bottles of water would be welcome."

Once through the Gate, Teal'c moved away and soon found the footprints of the others. He clicked his radio twice to give O'Neill the option to open communications should he be able.

"Teal'c, buddy, everything go OK?"

"General Hammond was quite pleased at what we had accomplished."

"Great. We're about three miles north-northwest of the Gate."

"I have found your trail and am heading that way as we speak,"

"Of course you are. We might have a plan put together by the time you get here. O'Neill out."

Teal'c continued along the trail. As had been surmised, a barren and forgotten planet was ideal for Nirrti's plans. But what was the purpose of the experiments? The men he had seen showed no outward signs of any genetic alteration. That did not necessarily mean anything as Cassandra did not show signs until years later.

He arrived and joined the others in what little shade they could find. "Teal'c, take a seat. Put your feet up."

Teal'c sat across from O'Neill, opened his pack, and removed the bottled water. "I thought you might be in need of this."

"You are a genius!" O'Neill grabbed a bottle and guzzled a good third of it at once.

While the others drank the water, Teal'c took the time to study the fortification. It was massive in height with little in the way of footholds by which to scale the outer walls. The main entry was a large thick wooden door and the lowest openings were small slits approximately ten feet from the ground. Had they the proper resources available, the task would not seem as daunting.

"You said you might have a plan, O'Neill."

"Daniel said that castles and fortresses always had a back door in case of a siege. We simply use the escape route as a way in."

"Where is this opening?"

"Ah, that's the point we haven't figured out yet," Daniel Jackson said. "Diarmuid and the others have no idea of a possible location."

"It makes sense," commented Major Carter. "Nirrti wouldn't want the slaves to know the escape route."

"It's possible that she doesn't know its location either."

Teal'c raised an eyebrow at this comment.

Alan Kelly continued. "C'mon, we know she wasn't the one to build this. She probably didn't know anything about its construction other than it looked impenetrable."

"He does have a valid point. As long as there was a set of rings, Nirrti wouldn't have worried beyond that."

"That's all well and good, Carter, but it still doesn't tell us where to look." O'Neill looked to Alan Kelly.

"It's your call, Colonel. I'm just here to lend a hand. All decisions are yours."

"Some help you are."

"Pretend I'm not here. How would you go about it?"

O'Neill almost seemed at a loss. "Well, I'd look for the back door which would be...in the back."

"Brilliant!" He looked at Major Carter. "Why don't you let him take credit for being the brains of the group?"

Major Carter responded seriously. "It would ruin his reputation."

Daniel Jackson turned his head so O'Neill would not see his grinning face.

By the look on Alan Kelly's face one could see he intended no malice. Teal'c allowed a small smile on his face.

____________________________________________________


"What are you grinning at?" Jack demanded of Teal'c.

"It was a most brilliant piece of deduction, O'Neill. Alan Kelly could not help but be amazed."

"Sarcasm, Teal'c? Satan must be sharpening his skates."

"Since we're pretty sure there are rings, then we can assume the Ancients had a hand in building this," stated Daniel.

When you assume...

"I believe they would have chosen to make tunnels through the cliff face, perhaps using existing caves."

"Would they have had the tunnels go up to the top of the cliff or further along either side?" asked Carter.

"We'll divide into three groups. One will go east along the cliff, one west, and the other to the top. Kelly, that's yours. I'm sure you can use that doohickey of yours to get up there." Kelly nodded. "Take Teal'c and some of your friends with you." He needed someone objective to keep an eye on the guy and he knew Carter and Daniel had already been swayed. "Carter, you come with me and Daniel can be with the other villagers since he can understand 'em. If you see anything, radio the rest of us. Do not go in," he ordered, looking at Daniel. Sometimes his enthusiasm towards a new discovery overrode caution. Correction: make that always. "OK, move out."

Kelly gave him a salute and said something in what Daniel had called early Gaelic and the men formed a human barrier forcing Teal'c to stand almost on Kelly's toes, dwarfing him. Then they were gone.

"Gotta get one of those."

"I don't think that will happen, sir. Just the fact that-"

"I know, Carter. Doesn't mean I can't add it to my wish list."

The remainder of the village hunters walked away with Daniel, all of whom wished to impress and question their new friend. "Remember, no later than 11:00 or you're grounded!" Jack called after him, unable to resist.

Jack and Carter walked along the bottom of the cliff looking for any opening-or anything that might be hiding an opening. The idea of the Ancients even bothering with a tunnel when they were so technologically advanced seemed backwards to him, but maybe that's why they did it. No one would even think that of them. Of course this could have been built before they were all that advanced, the rings added later. It was enough to give anyone a headache.

"Sir, why did you assign Teal'c to Alan's team? It still can't be a trust issue. He did save your life."

"I just wanted a member of SG-1 with each group. Teal'c hasn't had the chance to get to know him yet."

"You think Daniel and I might let him get away with something and Teal'c won't."

"He's a wild card, Carter. A rogue element. I need to know what each team is doing. That's why Teal'c is with him."

That was the real reason. He knew his team after working with them for almost five years and knew-or could guess-what they'd do in a given situation. Kelly was such a mix of personality it was hard to pin down the way he thought. He was part soldier going by the book and part adventurer flying by the seat of his pants, acting on impulse. That was fine when you were solo, but it could get the rest of your team killed.

"Let's just find this damn tunnel."

_______________________________________________________________


Alan and his group materialized a safe distance from the edge of the cliff. They were lucky that the fortress had no windows on this side or they surely would have been spotted. Diarmuid and the others, believing he had been blessed by the gods, took the journey as part of the package. Teal'c looked about and slowly nodded his approval. "It is similar to Asgard transporter technology."

"If you say so. I've never experienced it." He turned to the Celts. "We have to imagine what the land looked like when this was built. There would have been many trees and bushes to cover the entrance. It might even have a cover to help it blend in. So you must listen for sounds that are different from what they should be."

Diarmuid spoke. "Your new friend, he is like those who took us, like those we killed in the village." He motioned to his forehead.

Alan glanced at Teal'c who was using his binoculars to watch the general area surrounding the Gate. "He was like them, yes, but he does not serve like they do. He is free to chose his own battles."

"Tell him that we are honored he has chosen our fight." With that he turned to take part in the search.

"What has he said, Colonel Kelly? Is he concerned for the welfare of his fellow villagers?"

"Right there? He was just commenting that you were like the other Jaffa. I said you were the same physically but fought your own battles."

"And how did he accept this information?"

"His people are honored by your having chosen their fight."

"I saw many atrocities committed in the name of so-called gods and was unable to act. The moment O'Neill and the rest of SG-1 appeared and dared to stand up against the Goa'uld, I knew there was hope for my people."

"And O'Neill trusted you from the start?"

"Perhaps he saw my hesitation in carrying out orders that were unnecessary. It is one thing to kill an enemy in battle, but I found it abhorrent to slaughter innocents."

"What have I done wrong-or not done at all-to make O'Neill still not trust me? I saved his life for Chrissakes!"

"I, too, do not understand why he is still distrustful of you. It could be because you are something he cannot predict. For those of us of SG-1, we can hazard a guess as to what our comrades will do in a given situation. Since you are unknown to O'Neill in that context, he does not wish to open up to you."

"Sounds reasonable, I guess. Thanks, Teal'c." Alan looked back at the Celts. "Maybe we should join in the fun."

_____________________________________________________________


Daniel was enjoying his treatment by the warriors and hunters of the village. He knew his Gaelic was horribly rusty but he believed they forgave him because he was making an effort to speak their tongue.

According to the stories told by the village elders, the Stargate hadn't been used for generations so when Nirrti first arrived, they treated her with honor and respect, cornerstones of great hospitality. It wasn't until after sharing the midday meal that she became hostile and demanded that they pay her homage as their new god. The elders who refused were killed on the spot and those who remained were cowed into obeying.

"When we returned from hunting, she gravitated to Rimílid knowing he was different from the rest of us," said Fionn.

Daniel translated that to mean "kingly warrior" which seemed to fit Alan perfectly. "Could that be why she chained him in the middle of the village instead of just killing him outright?"

Eoghan smiled. "She must have sensed he had been blessed by Cernunnos and given special gifts. To kill one blessed by another would have brought his wrath down upon her."

"She will be punished for not respecting the hospitality of the village," stated Fionn.

Daniel remembered that hospitality was treated as sacrosanct by most early cultures. Such a breach was considered a great offense. He knew the Irish alone had many myths that revolved around such mishaps.

He couldn't help but be curious about Alan and how his arrival had been received. "When Alan arrived, did he speak your tongue?"

"He was hesitant as you were, but after a few days he spoke as one born to it."

That's some talent to have! Daniel thought on what the men had said. It could be that Nirrti could tell Alan had psychic abilities. But why didn't she kill him outright? Did she plan to weaken him so he'd agree? Daniel shook his head. It was a waste of time to try and figure out why a Goa'uld did anything. It was enough that they did.

One of the younger warriors, a boy barely 18 called out and pointed excitedly at the cliff face. They ran over to him and it wasn't until they were standing right next to him that the opening was visible.

Daniel spoke into his radio. "Jack, we've got it."

"Great. Stay put, we'll be right there."

Before Jack had even finished, Alan, Teal'c and the others arrived. "Be right back," Alan said before disappearing again.

"Definitely the way to travel." Daniel couldn't help but be a little envious.

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed.

Alan returned with Jack and Sam. Daniel could see Sam trying to process what she had experienced; to find the scientific explanation.

Jack was more succinct. "Sweet. Is there--"

"Sorry, Colonel."

"Can't blame me for trying."

_____________________________________________________________________


"OK, let's see what we've got."

"I'd just like to point out that since this was meant as an escape tunnel, there's a chance they might have made it so no one could follow."

"I had thought of that, Daniel," the colonel said in a tone that implied he thought of it the same time Daniel mentioned it.

"Like a scorched earth policy?" questioned Alan. "I guess they never got to use it."

"Scorched earth?"

"When one group is retreating from an advancing enemy, they destroy what they leave behind so the invaders can't use it," Sam explained.

"I believe the name came into use when Napoleon was advancing on Russia and they burned all the crops so the French army would have no food. It--"

"Daniel, enough."

"It is a policy the Goa'uld have encountered many times."

"But something they haven't had the need to do themselves," Alan commented as he followed the colonel into the opening.

The lights from their weapons revealed rough-hewn walls that gradually narrowed so they could only go two abreast-barely. The colonels took point and Sam wondered if Col. O'Neill appreciated the proximity of a man he didn't fully trust.

"Is it just me or do their actions mirror each other?" Daniel whispered.

Now that he had mentioned it, she did see an eerie similarity of movement. "Well, he is in the military, granted a couple hundred years in the future, but I don't think training has changed that much."

The tunnel then opened into a spacious cavern with smooth walls that looked machine made. After the colonel crossed the threshold, the room grew brighter, realizing someone was there.

"This is more like it."

"We must be under the fortress-or beside it," said Daniel as he began to look for a symbol that would tell them the way out.

"What do we look for?" Alan asked.

"Anything that looks like it could lead to an opening, technology out of place."

Alan relayed the description to the men from the village and everyone spread out to search.

After about ten minutes, Sam noticed a section of the wall opposite the tunnel seemed to jut out a bit, its edges too regular to be natural. "I think I've found something!" She slowly reached out to touch it, running her fingers around the edge. She felt a small latch and pressed it. The panel slid open to reveal a bank of lights and buttons similar to ring controls.

"Nice work, Carter. Daniel, see what you can make of it."

___________________________________________________________________


Teal'c watched as Major Carter stepped aside and let Daniel Jackson study the panel. Its set-up was similar to that of the rings but with a slight difference. He could see the archeologist's lips move as he mumbled, attempting to decipher the Ancient writing.

"OK, I think I've got it." He pressed four colored buttons in succession and they all heard the grating of a door opening but couldn't see anything.

Teal'c then heard a strange rumbling sound. He looked up as sand poured through a number of openings along the ceiling. "I do not believe that was the correct sequence."

"According to the translation, that was the way for the door to open into the fortress."

"Try it again. Your finger might have slipped." O'Neill spat sand from his mouth.

"Daniel, you keyed in the sequence for getting in which any invaders would use." Alan Kelly waded through the increasing sand. "What if you key in the one for getting out?"

Daniel Jackson hesitated. "But--"

"Daniel!"

The linguist entered the new sequence and the sand stopped pouring from the ceiling. After a few moments, the level began to drop as it emptied through grates in the floor.

"How did you know such a thing would work?" Teal'c asked as they walked through the remaining sand to a door that opened once the sand had lowered enough that it wouldn't pour through.

"It just seemed right somehow. Devious, but in a simple way. If you were really determined to get in, you wouldn't think to use the code to get out."

"But you did," put in Major Carter.

"We're not in the heat of battle. I had time to think."

"No heat of battle, just possible suffocation by sand." O'Neill made a point of shaking his boots.

They entered the fortress proper and found themselves in a little-used corridor. "Daniel, Kelly, find out where we go next," O'Neill ordered.

Teal'c noticed that Alan Kelly allowed Daniel Jackson to speak with the natives. The Jaffa had yet to notice something negative about the officer from the future. He was intelligent, a brave fighter, loyal, and honest; a combination one did not encounter often. Should O'Neill ask for his opinion, he would give it honestly and hope O'Neill could see the truth.

"The ring room is in the east tower," Daniel informed them.

"Probably as far from this spot as possible knowing my luck," O'Neill muttered.

"I could always..."

"I think Carter and I can manage it, Kelly. Stick to the plan and get everyone to the Gate."

"Whatever you say, Colonel."

Teal'c met O'Neill's eyes across the others and understood the message there: Keep a close eye on them both. Even though he still would not outwardly accept Kelly's presence, O'Neill was treating him as part of the team.

"All right. Let's go people."

______________________________________________________________

She sat on the poor excuse for a bed, ignoring any attempts to engage her in conversation. She had been here before not long ago and it was only through the Tau'ris' weakness for the young female that she had been set free. There was no such opening this time around.

What she found hard to accept was the fact that there had been a natural hok'tar within her grasp and she hadn't sensed it. She knew immediately that he had been different from the others in the village but thought it was only because he had been from the SGC. That was why she had left him chained in the village. His suffering had been intended to act as a warning to the villagers and his death would have shown the Tau'ri that they would not always be the victors.

She thought back on the hok'tar and what she had witnessed. He had somehow gotten into her head without her knowing. Such an ability would be invaluable when it came to judging the loyalty of her subjects. She then pondered what other things he might be capable of. Telepathy? Telekenesis? Teleportation? He did disappear before her eyes without the use of rings or Asgard technology so the latter could be a possibility. Ah, now she remembered. He had manipulated something on his wrist before vanishing. Could it be new Tau'ri technology?

He had nothing different from what the other members of the SGC carried except... That insignificant bracelet that he had grabbed from her wrist. That trinket could not hide the secret of instantaneous travel.

She needed to get out of this cell and try to find him again--or others like him. She would need a device that would allow her to find such people and read their genetic makeup--and perhaps make certain "alterations". A slow secret smile spread across her face and she began to plan.

_____________________________________________________________


Daniel found himself in the middle of the strange group that headed slowly down the corridor. Alan took point automatically and Teal'c acquiesced and covered their six. He was itching to explore the fortress to see if there were any Ancient artifacts that might shed light on the culture or even when it was constructed. Maybe he'd be able to sway Jack into making another visit.

At a sign from Alan, they stopped near a narrow opening that led to a passage that sloped downwards. Daniel could tell the hunters were getting excited so he knew this was where they had to go. Alan crept quickly down the passage on a little recon while they waited in the hall. It was then that Daniel realized he didn't know just how many people they were rescuing. Going by the number of homes he had seen in the village, he guessed somewhere between 75 and 100. How are we going to manage this?

Alan returned. "There are only two guards that I could see standing outside the cell. We can easily use the zats. Also, I think if we stagger them in small groups to the tunnel, we shouldn't have a problem."

"We should position ourselves at strategic points and allow the villagers to lead them to the tunnel," Teal'c advised.

"Provide covering fire. Great idea. Let's go."

They slipped down the ramp and Alan and Teal'c fired at the guards almost simultaneously. The Jaffa fell and they approached the door. The large arched entry was blocked by criss-crossed metal bars with two doors that slid open.

"Daniel, check that one for a key or something that'll open the doors," Alan ordered as he searched the other.

Daniel gingerly approached the unconscious guard fearing he would come-to too soon. Assured this wasn't the case, he began to search the body. Ah, there, something metal dangling loose. He pulled it out in triumph. He then stood in front of the door, squeezed the sides of the device, and then waved it before the door.

Facing inside the cell, Daniel could see it was more of a large cavern, giving him a strange sense of déjà vu. It was very similar to the prison on Chulak where he first learned that Sha're was lost to him. He looked at Teal'c and wondered if he was fighting the memories as well.

The villagers stopped at the base of the stairs inside the cell, unwilling to approach any closer. Alan took off his hat in hopes that he would be recognized and they would feel more at ease. However, it wasn't until Diarmuid and the other hunters joined them that the villagers realized they were being freed. It was then they looked past the uniform and actually saw Alan. The expression on their faces would have been comical under different circumstances.

Diarmuid introduced Daniel and Teal'c as friends and allies who would protect them as they escaped. Understandably they had fears of Nirrti and her Jaffa. Daniel only picked up two words here and there.

Eoghan told them what had happened to Nirrti. "She was taken away to their world where she will be punished for her transgressions. We are not the only people she has treated this way."

With their immediate fears put to rest, they began the exodus. Alan stayed to protect the entrance to the main hall. Teal'c took up position where the two main halls intersected which left Daniel the final spot of watching the entrance to the tunnel. The first groups were rather timid, afraid the Jaffa would catch them at any moment. The later groups, emboldened by the success of the others, were excited and quicker.

Once everyone was in the "sand pit", they started out the tunnel towards the Gate. Everyone was quiet, seeming to sense the urgency of reaching it undetected. Daniel went ahead and had the Gate open when the others arrived so they could file through right away.

Eoghan looked to Alan. "Are you not coming through?"

"We're going to wait for Sam and the colonel. I will come see you again," he promised.

"You and your fellow travelers will always be welcome, Daniel," Diarmuid told him. "I believe there are many things we could share."

The two men bowed their heads before disappearing through the Gate.

_______________________________________________________________________


"Jack! Sam! Everyone's through!" Daniel's voice came over the radio. "How're you doin'?"

The colonel ducked as the blast from a staff weapon went over his head. "We've had to move onto Plan B. You and Teal'c get through the Gate and tell Hammond what's going on!"

"We could--"

"That's a negative, Daniel!"

Sam changed clips and was preparing to fire when she heard the discharge of a zat. She looked at the colonel who shrugged before peering over the pedestal they were hiding behind. Three Jaffa were lying on the floor-most probably dead-and the remaining five had turned their attention to something outside the room.

"OK, Carter, while they're distracted." They stood and fired and the Jaffa fell to the floor.

"Guess it's a good thing I came along."

"Damn it, Kelly! What're you doing here?"

"In all fairness, sir, you only told Daniel and Teal'c to go back to the SGC."

"Let's get you the hell out of here before more of those guys show up."

"We can't. Since we can't take the ship ourselves, we had better make sure they can't either."

"And do you have the ordinance, Carter?"

"Never leave home without it, sir." She showed him the pouch of C4.

"In that case..."

"We just need to place it where it can do the most damage."

"Let me have some. I can take it to spots far away."

"Do you know the layout of a Goa'uld mothership?" the colonel asked him.

"Ah, no."

"OK, then, you're with me. Carter, we'll meet at the glider bay at 1430."

"Yes, sir." She didn't comment on his apparent about-face regarding Kelly. He'd only deny it or claim it was to keep an eye on him. "Set the timer for 30 minutes."

She left them wondering how long the colonel would be able to hold out against Alan's optimism.

_______________________________________________________________________


Teal'c and Daniel Jackson arrived at the SGC to see a number of Marines lying on the Gateroom floor. General Hammond stood in the midst of it all, surveying the damage. "What has happened, General?"

"Nirrti escaped. We don't know how yet. She regained possession of her hand device and used it on these men before going through the Gate."

"Were you able to read any of the symbols?" questioned Daniel Jackson.

"No, it was cleared before anyone in the control room came to. We believe it has been wiped from the memory as well."

"Perhaps Major Carter will be able to locate the address."

"By then it might be too late. For all we know, that was not her final destination."

"It could give us a general area to work from, General," put in Daniel Jackson. "Any information we can gather would be a help."

"Of course." They walked up to the briefing room. "Tell me what happened on your end."

"There was a fortress that Nirrti had been using as a base with a mothership in orbit above. There was a small number of Jaffa left guarding it as well as the villagers."

"The building was built by the Ancients, General. Aside from the set of rings, there was an escape tunnel whose entryway was protected by their technology."

General Hammond looked at the archeologist who became silent. "What of Col. O'Neill and Maj. Carter? And where is Col. Kelly?"

"Col. Kelly helped us free the villagers and take them to the Gate while O'Neill and Major Carter used the rings to access the ship. When we radioed them to inform them of our progress, it sounded as if they were in trouble. O'Neill ordered us to return and notify you of what was happening."

"Alan went to help them and we came through."

"So you have no idea what they're up against?"

"No, sir, but with Alan there, I think they've got a very good chance of getting out in one piece."

"Very well. If we don't hear from them in an hour, we'll send a rescue party."

"Yes, sir."

Teal'c bowed his head, acknowledging the dismissal. He followed Daniel Jackson until they parted company outside his lab. There was nothing to say and nothing to do but wait for an hour.

_____________________________________________________________________________


After showing Kelly a diagram of the ship, Jack took hold of Kelly's sleeve and they soon found themselves at the ship's core. After planting the explosive, they made three more stops and were ready to meet Carter at the appointed time and place. Jack was amused as Kelly couldn't resist a peek at the gliders.

"Have you flown one of these?"

"I've been in one but I haven't handled the controls--yet."

"You might have to wait a little longer, sir."

Trust Carter to ruin the fun. "What now?"

"There won't be enough time to launch before the explosion."

"I guess we know what that means." Kelly tilted out his elbows like he was getting ready to do a chicken impression.

With a resigned sigh, Jack took hold of Kelly's left sleeve while Carter took his right. Barely a second later they were in the SGC briefing room. "Whoa! What a rush!"

"Col. O'Neill! Maj. Carter! You're all right!" Hammond rushed from his office. "And Col. Kelly! Teal'c and Dr. Jackson filled me in on as much as they could."

"Everyone present and accounted for, sir. It's thanks to Kelly that we made it out at all."

Kelly looked at him. "Thanks, colonel."

Jack relented. "It's Jack."

Kelly grinned. "Thanks, Jack."

There is some news I have to impart to you," Hammond started almost reluctantly.

"What is it, sir?" Carter asked.

"Nirrti escaped. The address she keyed in was wiped from the computer but Teal'c said you might be able to retrieve it."

"It is possible. I'll go give it a look." She paused, waiting to be dismissed.

"Go ahead, Major. The debriefing can wait." He watched as she went down the stairs to the control room before turning back to Jack. "As you have an hour as well, you can go let Dr. Jackson and Teal'c know you're all right."

"Thank you, sir."

They left the room via the hallway. Kelly stopped. "Jack, after I say a few words to Daniel, I'd like to do you a favor if I could."

"A favor?"

"Yeah. I think you'll like it and it won't take any time at all."

Intrigued, Jack looked him in the eye. "What do you have in mind?"

"Chicago 1908."

"Sweet."

Epilogue

Oma stood on the ramp in front of an active Stargate. "Anyone can reach enlightenment. Anyone prepared to open their mind as you did when you first came to Kheb."

Daniel could sense what was happening to his body though it seemed so far away. "They're trying to save me. They're healing me, I can feel it."

"Then your journey will continue as before."

"What if I don't want it to? Not that way."

"Walking the Great Path brings great responsibility. You cannot fear it nor hesitate in your resolve."

Daniel stood there, his mind in a quandary. If Jacob healed him, he would continue saving people here and there as well as stopping a Goa'uld or two. But what if he took this chance to learn more than he ever could in one lifetime?

Unbidden, a voice echoed in his head. "When you need to make a life-altering decision, don't over-analyze. It may sound corny, but follow your heart, your gut, and do what feels right. That way, you can never regret your decision." Alan had taken him aside before going on a trip with Jack and shared some "insight" as he called it. More like foreknowledge.

He stopped analyzing and just let his mind go. He knew what he wanted to do. "I understand. I'm ready to go with you."


FIN

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