Nova Vitae

by dossier

Notes & Warnings

Part One:

Captain Doctor Jerome Horne pulled the body bag along behind him as he made his way to the compact infirmary. The zero gee's on the International Space Station made his task easy, it took a little skill in putting physics into practice, but basically he just had to get the corpse moving and keep it headed the right direction.

It was Geronimo's coping mechanism. He'd lost his share of the usual patients, but he'd also seen the dried up husks of bodies used for Moth food, and this, as deaths go, was pretty tame. Geronimo wasn't responsible, but it hurt, just the same. Steven Hoyt had simply died in his sleep. There were no external signs of trauma, he hadn't complained of any illness or fever; he'd simply gone to sleep, never to wake again.

Maybe that wasn't weird in the real world, but in the rare atmosphere of qualified NASA astronauts aboard the ISS—it was very unusual, and it was sure to cause some tension among the crew. They needed a preliminary cause of death, ASAP, so Geronimo was carting the mortal remains of Steven Hoyt to the infirmary, tamping down his misplaced guilt and trying to focus on the task at hand.

He had limited tools but, with a little ingenuity, he could do a fairly comprehensive preliminary autopsy, short of the Y-incision, which would be very messy in zero G. Something to put on the wish list for the infirmary: a way to do surgery on the space station. Another avoidance mechanism.

Dr. Horne worked methodically, extracting blood for a series of tests, performing a thorough physical inspection of the corpse then using the portable X-ray machine to take a number of films. He didn't really have a hope of finding very much with x-rays, because soft tissues need contrast, and he had no way of getting contrast in Steven. He really needed an MRI machine.

He started the series with the head, and he planned to work his way down the body until he found something, or they told him that the shuttle was ready for an emergency launch. The body would go away, but he'd still be here, mourning the loss of a teammate.

The first film hit pay dirt. What the hell was that? It looked like fish bones wrapped around the top of the spine? Three more films revealed that it was attached at the intervertebral disc at C2, and then wrapped around the spinal column like a cross between a remora and a feather boa. Parasites don't usually kill the host, but—sorry Steven—the dead guy was the least of their problems.

Houston, we have a problem--someone had better put the pedal to the metal on that ride home.

~*~

"Good morning, campers!"

Ah, the briefing room. The time Jack O'Neill spent at the table wasn't any better now that he sat at the top. It was still hot and stuffy, and worse—now he had to pay attention to twenty teams' lectures. However, when SG1 was there, it was different; the fact that he was CO, the General, fell away, and for a few moments he was still part of the team.

Daniel was at the coffee pot, the first one to arrive. "Hey, Jack. You want one?"

"Sure. Where are Carter and Teal'c?"

Daniel handed him a coffee mug and sat down at the table. "I'm not sure. I'm early."

"I noticed. What gives?"

"Gate lag. Still on Rand time."

"Ah. Glad to have you back. Again." Jack gave him a faint smile.

Daniel looked up, and nodded. "Yeah. Not our finest hour."

"No, but we were bound to have a failure at some point. You did your best Danny. No one can ask any more than that."

Footsteps on the metal staircase signaled the arrival of Carter, and Teal'c was right behind her. "Morning, Sir." She shot a brief worried glance at Daniel, and then grabbed a cup of coffee for herself.

"Greetings, O'Neill, DanielJackson." Teal'c sat at the table across from Daniel, and Sam took the chair next to Daniel.

"Morning, Sam. Teal'c, good to see you."

"Carter, Teal'c. Glad you could join us."

"Pleasure is all ours, Sir. What's up?"

Jack slid the report folders to Sam, Daniel and Teal'c as he spoke. "Got a call from the White House—a few hours ago an American astronaut suddenly died aboard the International Space Station. Dr. Jerome Horne took a good look at the body and found a snake in the guy's head." Jack had a look of utter disgust on his face.

"Wow. He died suddenly with a Goa'uld in him? Were there any signs of external trauma?" Sam quickly scanned the report for the pertinent details to answer her own question. "No, his report says that there was no visible cause of death. It must have entered through the mouth."

Daniel closed his folder and carefully placed it in front of him, precisely square with the table edge and then folded his hands over the top of it. "I think the larger issue is what was a Goa'uld doing in an astronaut on the space station?"

"I agree, DanielJackson. This is most alarming. The symbiote's method of assault would indicate that it was Tok'ra." Teal'c uttered the pronouncement, his deep and dignified voice gifting the statement with the solemnity they all felt.

"Or, the snake was pretending to be Tok'ra." Daniel said the words slowly, not wanting to say them, but the scientist in him refused to shy away from any self-deception.

"That's the sixty-four-thousand dollar question." The tone of Jack's voice was flat, hiding his underlying concern.

"What course of action are we to take in this matter?" Teal'c tilted his head slightly toward O'Neill.

"The shuttle's launching now to go and retrieve the good Doctor. The body is being put aboard the Russian cargo ship Raduga for immediate return, and I'm sending SG13 to bring the body back from Russia. I want you to meet Dr. Horne when the Endeavour lands, either KSC or Edwards, and bring him back here for debriefing. It's about 86 hours round trip, and they'll have to calculate a return landing window, so we won't know until almost the last minute where it'll land."

"The Goa'uld will have dissolved in the body by the time it gets here, Jack." Daniel leaned back in his chair and briefly rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"True. I've had Warner on the horn with the doctor, and they're talking doctor talk until he gets launched home. The main thing is, we don't want this guy talking to anyone but us on this, and I want to put a bit of a friendly face on the SGC; I can't think of anyone better at that than you guys."

"Thank you. So, we don't want him talking to anyone else, and we're bringing him back here. What if he wants answers?" Daniel understood implicitly that while Sam was in charge of the team, he was still their first contact man—human, alien, or whatever.

"Stonewall him. The courier from Washington should have his dossier here in a few hours. We'll know more by the time you leave."

"So, a mysteriously dead Goa'uld." Sam looked across the briefing room table at Daniel, and then Teal'c, finding a concurrence of opinion as she met their eyes.

"Yeah, who'da thunk it?"

~*~

Daniel mused about the edited highlights of Dr. Horne's career at NASA as they waited for the final landing site to be determined. Details were sketchy as they were classified, and he had the wrong top-secret classification. It bugged Daniel—he'd seen more crap and fought off more invaders than the world would ever know, died and come back again, and yet the pencil pushers thought that his clearance wasn't high enough? Sheesh. But, on the other hand, the five days waiting had given him a leg up on some research, and for the first time in a month his desk was nearly cleared off. It was a strange feeling. He left off his thoughts and looked over at Sam.

"What do you think, Sam?"

"I think the General is looking for a new doctor." Replacing Janet Frasier was unbearable, but Sam knew it was inevitable.

"That's what I thought." Daniel nodded; her distress was evident in the set of her shoulders and the small thrust of her chin as she spoke.

"Dr. Frasier will indeed be difficult to replace." the loss of the Chief Medical Officer at the SGC, their friend and main caregiver was a still painful subject. They each went their own mental direction on the idea of replacing her while waiting calmly at the Quonset hut that served as the 'terminal' for the Kennedy Space Center.

Sam shook off thoughts of Janet as she watched the Endeavour make final approach at Kennedy Space Center. It was still pretty cool to get to watch the Shuttle land, even though it wasn't as spectacular as the takeoff. Their escort waved them into the waiting van and then followed the rescue vehicles chasing down the Endeavour, now waiting on the tarmac. SG1 stood back as the shuttle was opened and Dr. Jerome Horne disembarked, wearing an EVA suit.

Daniel keyed his radio. "Dr. Horne, pleased to meet you; I'm Daniel Jackson; this is Colonel Samantha Carter, and this is our friend 'Murray'."

"Ya doing all right in there, Dr. Horne?" Sam asked sympathetically. "You want to get out of that?"

Horne gave Sam a courtesy salute. "I'm fine! Nice to meet you all, but I'd better keep it on until we're sure I'm not contagious." He peered at them through the glass helmet that separated him from reality. His welcoming committee was a tall, striking woman with a shock of blond hair, a black man that looked like a god fallen to earth, and a handsome man with glasses and a warm smile.

"It's going to be a couple of hours and you're probably not at all contagious." Daniel met Sam's eye, and she shook her head briefly. Daniel glanced at Teal'c and he dipped his head slightly in assent. Horne wasn't host to a Goa'uld symbiote.

"How long until we get wherever we're going?" Dr. Horne felt like he was dying a little every moment he was in this suit; commensurate reparation for his failures.

"It's probably another three hours." Sam answered him as she assessed his apparent condition.

"Then let's get this show on the road! I've been in this thing for nearly three days, another couple hours isn't going to kill me." It might not, but the alternative was taking it off and raining down death on these innocent folks.

"You sure?" Daniel took the doctor's arm as he sagged when he stepped forward.

Horne nodded inside his helmet, and summoned what little strength he had left. "Yeah, I'll be fine."

Teal'c took his other arm to assist him. "The plane is this way."

They climbed back into the van, and the driver sped back down the tarmac to the C20 jet, ready and waiting back at the terminal.

Horne stumbled climbing up the stairs to the aircraft, even with Teal'c and Daniel assisting him. He may have said he was fine, but now that they were a little closer, it didn't look like he was. Daniel peered at him through the faceplate of the EVA suit. "Dr. Horne, you don't look so good."

"A little shaky, but it's almost over."

"It's a two hour flight, so relax if you can. You sure you don't want to take that off?" Daniel wanted to rip the doctor's helmet off and give the man a drink of water and a power bar, but Horne was insistent that they follow isolation protocol.

After they had made him as comfortable as possible on the plane, their charge fell asleep on the short flight back to Peterson, a sign that he was totally wiped out. SG1 moved to the other end of the cabin to let Horne sleep undisturbed.

~*~

"Fercryinoutloud, Carter, what's he doing?"

Sam Carter looked up from her laptop. She was watching Dr. Horne in isolation, while she finished a few reports. "He insisted on it sir, and we've not been able to convince him otherwise, without divulging classified information."

"Stubborn." And smart, Jack added to himself.

"Yes, sir."

"Oy." Jack glanced down into the isolab, where Dr. Jerome Horne was motionless on the gurney. He'd showered, had had a decent meal, and the IV was doing its work getting him back to speed as he slept, unencumbered by the bulky EVA suit. "Have an airman stand watch, we'll debrief in twenty."

She snapped the laptop closed and spoke briefly to the SF standing outside the gallery door, then went to track down Daniel and Teal'c.

They were both in Daniel's lab, heads together at the computer screen.

"Hi guys, what are you doing?"

"Going over the last of the autopsy results from the dead astronaut. Look at this—" Daniel swung the monitor around so she could see the screen. "No known cause of death. No disease, no trauma."

"What do you think it means?"

Teal'c replied. "It appears the Goa'uld simply forced itself to die, causing the host to die with it."

Sam asked, "Teal'c, have you ever heard of that happening before?" She had searched the memories of Jolinar, her short-lived Tok'ra symbiote, but found nothing even remotely like this.

"Indeed, I have not. It is most unusual. It may be possible its death was a warning of some nature, perhaps to draw attention to the ease with which it perpetrated its subterfuge."

"Yeah." Daniel stared at the screen, his mobile features telegraphing his curiosity. "It had to be Tok'ra, a Goa'uld would never be able to suppress the arrogance."

"We may never know, DanielJackson. We are operating in the dark."

Sam smiled, Teal'c's use of colloquial English never failed to amuse her. "Anyway—bring it with you. The General wants to debrief in ten."

"Oh, right. Give me a second here, and we'll walk with you." Daniel saved the open report on his computer and picked up a file as they left his office.

SG1 climbed the stairs to the conference room, taking their places around the table as O'Neill joined them from his office.

"So, tell me about Dr. Horne."

Daniel went first. "He seems to have a near-pathological obsession with infection protocol, Jack. He refused to get out of the makeshift isolation suit. That EVA suit was never designed for three days—he looked pretty bad when he finally got out of it."

"I agree sir; he was absolutely by the book on it."

"He seems to be a man with great integrity; he was most concerned that we not be contaminated, even when reassured it would not be possible." Teal'c had watched as his teammates had tried to convince the doctor of the unnecessary precaution.

"Beyond that, he didn't ask a single question about coming to Cheyenne Mountain." Daniel thought Dr. Horne's apparent lack of curiosity, well—curious.

"The Joint Chiefs have been hinting that they want me to make a decision about a permanent Chief Medical Officer, and Doc Warner has told me in no uncertain terms that he doesn't want the position. No one else here already is qualified."

"But this guy is?" Daniel knew the answer to that; but he wanted Jack to make his point.

"Yeah, he is. As commissioned Captain and physician, he was CMO at NASA a few years ago, but there was an incident and then Horne went back to being Flight Surgeon in the shuttle program..."

Jack was interrupted by a loud humming sound, and in a flash of light Thor was instantly standing at the end of the conference table. "Greetings from the Galaxy Ida, O'Neill."

"Thor! Buddy! How ya doing?"

"I am well, O'Neill. SG1, I hope you are all well."

They each greeted Thor and assured him that thank you, they were well.

"So, is this a social call? Just drop in to say hi?" Jack knew better. As much as he loved the little guy, there was always an agenda of some sort when Thor dropped in.

"Indeed I have not, O'Neill. The Asgard High Council has been in conference for some time while the rebuilding on Orilla proceeds apace. Our thanks again to SG1 for your part in saving our new home planet."

"Glad we could help."

"That is why I am here. I have some information that would be of great interest to you, and I have won approval for an exchange, of sorts."

"An exchange?" Jack sighed—an exchange usually meant they were in hot water.

"Yes. There is an outpost of the Ancients of which Anubis had knowledge; I believe that you should investigate this world immediately."

"Really? Which one?" Daniel leaned forward in his chair; another Ancient outpost like Proklarush Taonas, or the one in Antarctica, was big news.

"I believe you have designated it P3X-867. It is also known as Ayohsust."

"It's on the list, sir; we haven't gotten to that one yet." Sam Carter had an almost frightening categorical knowledge of the numerical designations for the gate addresses stored in the SGC database.

"River of Fire." Daniel leaned back in his chair as he mused on the name Thor had given them.

"What's that, Daniel?" Jack was sorry the instant the words had left his mouth.

"Oh, it's from Persian mythology. Ayohsust was the river of fire that would swallow Azi Dahaka…" O'Neill raised his hand, and Daniel trailed off.

"You can tell us all about it later. Thor, you were saying?"

"There is word that the System Lord Ba'al may soon be sending his Jaffa there. We do not want the technology from this planet falling into the hands of the Goa'uld."

"So we go in, take a look, and then what?"

"Everything you find on this world is yours to keep in exchange for removing this temptation from the Goa'uld."

"Everything?"

"Yes Doctor Jackson, everything. Do not delay, for Ba'al's threat is imminent."

"Jack, this is amazing. Add this to what we already have from the Antarctica site..."

Jack raised his hand again to stop Daniel from getting too sidetracked. "Thor, what aren't you telling us?" It seemed that their allies were always withholding some critical piece of information. "Why don't you just go in and clean this out this place yourselves?"

"The settlement has been investigated to the satisfaction of the High Council. There is nothing that the Asgard deems of value, however I saw much there that would be of interest to you. I regret that I cannot assist you with this; to do so would cause much discord in some factions. The best I have been able to accomplish is to get permission to present you with this opportunity."

"Thor, what are we going to find?"

"That I cannot say, Colonel Carter. I have given you all that I can, and you must do the rest." With that, Thor disappeared in a beam of light.

"Well, that was interesting." Jack looked back at his former teammates.

"Thor seemed most insistent that the Systems Lords do not gain control of this planet." Teal'c found the Asgard to be highly fascinating, and with every meeting he could not help but favorably compare them with the other advanced races they had met in their travels across space.

"Jack, we have to go." Daniel leaned forward across the table, pinning General O'Neill with firm, intent look.

"Yes, Daniel, I know. Carter, send a MALP through, and then do a thorough aerial survey. I want to have solid information before I commit to this mission."

"Yes Sir."

~*~

A courteous, if taciturn airman escorted Dr. Horne from the infirmary upon his release to General O'Neill's office. The hallways were all the same, mile after mile of gray concrete crisscrossed with pipes and the occasional hatchway, so much so that he lost track of where he was. The airman had no problem, though. He found the door, rapped on it once, opened it to let the Doctor in, and then firmly closed it behind him.

O'Neill was tall, good looking and obviously doing his best to appear charming and un-general like as they warmly shook hands, "Dr. Horne, I'm glad we could meet at last." Jack sat down and leaned back in his leather chair. "Have a seat, how are you feeling?"

"I'm better, thank you. I was cleared of the possibility of any infection that I might have been exposed to on the Endeavour, and I'm told that the autopsy was completed on Major Hoyt."

"Yes, I've had the report on my desk for a couple of days. I gotta tell you, it has a few knickers in a knot around here."

"May I see the file?" Geronimo Horne was curious, but he masked it in professionalism.

O'Neill was suddenly all business as he leaned forward and clasped his hands together in front of him on the desk. "That, Dr. Horne, depends very much on a few other things."

"Such as?"

"First off, this report is so highly classified, I think they have to pump air in to whomever is reading it. Outside of this facility, there are probably only a handful of people in the United States who have the necessary clearance to open this file."

"I see." He didn't really, but it did explain his treatment in the infirmary.

"Yes, the quandary. You know little enough of what is in this report that, if you choose to not to read it, you can sign the dotted line and walk away."

"And if I want to read it?" He really wanted to read it, but past experience told him to be cautious.

"You'll sign the other dotted line, and your life will never be the same. There aren't many people who get the opportunity to make this choice; mostly they're dragged in kicking and screaming."

"Is this a job offer, General O'Neill?"

"It's the offer of an offer. I happen to need your skills; you happened to catch a ride in here on the tail of our latest mystery."

"So, karmic destiny?" Horne didn't believe in Fate, but she had surely bitten him on the ass a few times.

"We have a lot of that—you'd be surprised."

"Do I have some time to think about it?"

"Sure. You'll have your shadow following you around, and you're restricted to certain parts of the base, as well as restricted to the base itself, until we have an agreement one way or the other--but you're welcome to take some time and think about it. I'll have one of the VIP rooms assigned to you."

"Would it be possible to talk to the team that brought me in?" He wanted to meet them in reality, without the shield of space age material between them.

"Ah, they're not available at the moment, but I'll let them know you'd like to speak with them."

Geronimo knew when it was time to make an exit, so he stood and shook the General's hand. "Thank you General. I'll think it over very carefully."

"I'll be here." After Dr. Horne left, Jack joined SG1 in the control room, standing next to Teal'c behind where Daniel and Sam were watching the video and telemetry from the MALP.

"Anything interesting, kids?"

Sam answered without looking up from the display screen. "Sir. The local weather on P3X-867 looks like its going to live up to its name. The ambient temperature is currently about 43C, with little to no humidity."

"Hot."

"It's still within normal range, but the atmosphere may be too thin to support flight, sir."

"Any sign of this settlement Thor was talking about?"

"Not yet, there's a lot of mountainous terrain around their Stargate, so we don't have a clear line of sight for very far."

"Go ahead and launch the UAV anyway, let's see if it'll fly."

"Yes sir. Launching in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1." The small drone aircraft took off in a shower of smoke and sparks, and disappeared through the event horizon of the open wormhole. "UAV is away and staying airborne." They watched the birds' eye view from the plane's video feed as it soared over the craggy hills sparsely covered in ragged grey weeds. "The terrain may be an issue, sir, if we have to bring back anything bigger than a bread box, especially if there's a lot of it."

Daniel commented on the craggy topography the aerial survey was returning. "Yeah. Looks pretty rugged." The camera found a group of buildings located on the top of a small mountain. He pointed to the screen. "That's probably what Thor meant by a settlement. Sam, see if you can circle those buildings—I'd like to get a better look."

She manipulated the joystick, and the UAV circled the buildings in a wide arc. They were tall, with spires and flying buttresses that glinted in the harsh red sunlight, even on the low-resolution video.

"Oh, wow." Daniel leaned closer to the screen, his hands flying over his keyboard, capturing stills for later analysis. "This is incredible. I've never seen anything like it; this is nothing like Vis Uban or Taonas."

Sam checked the power level; it was time to end the flight. "Gotta shut it down Daniel."

Daniel nodded absently; his eyes were glued to the small video screen as the small plane continued its flight path, circumnavigating a twenty-klick area around the mountain.

She guided the UAV on a return course to the Stargate and landed it neatly in front of the gate and MALP, ready for pick up. "Shutting down the wormhole, closing the iris."

She and Daniel turned to look at O'Neill, who watched the looping video feed, until he felt the combined weight of their gaze.

"What?"

Sam and Daniel shared a swift look of amusement. Daniel asked, "What do you think?"

"Think we've been surprised before. Get readings every four hours until we determine the minimum and maximum temperature. No need to get sunburned if you don't have to. We'll do a pre-mission briefing tomorrow and if everything checks out, we'll set a departure time."

~*~

It hadn't even been eight hours since he'd spoken to General O'Neill, and Geronimo was bored out of his skull. Like Chinese Water Torture, it was probably a tactic the General used - keep the victim so bored that he'd make a snappy decision just to get it over with. Geronimo stuck his head out of the door to speak to the airman—oh, shift change. "Do you think the commissary would still be open?"

"Yes sir, the commissary is open 24/7 but at this time of night the chow line is closed."

"That's fine. I'm just a tad bored and looking for something to do. I've already been to the gym, so I thought…"

"Not a problem, sir. Right this way."

This airman was a little more talkative than the last one. "So how long have you worked here?" Surely the offer of an offer gave him the right to go on a fishing expedition.

"A little over a year, sir."

"Do you like it?"

"Best posting in the world, sir." The Corporal that looked like she could take him down without breaking a sweat gave him an honest smile.

"No kidding."

"Nope, no kidding. I wouldn't work anywhere else." Her enthusiasm was unquestionable; there was no doubt about her sincerity.

"How did you get this posting, if I may ask? Were you dragged in kicking and screaming?" He smiled at her, she wouldn't get the reference, but she shared a smile with him anyway.

"No sir, no way. My former CO recommended me, and I accepted on his recommendation to me."

"I see. Do you think he had any idea what goes on around here?" He was intensely interested the goings-on of the SGC. The placards were everywhere, but no one said what they meant.

"No sir, I'm sure he doesn't. He served with General O'Neill in the past; I think it was in Germany."

They reached the commissary and Geronimo still didn't have an idea of where it was in relationship to the room he'd been assigned, he'd been too busy talking to pay attention. Damn. As expected, there was no one serving, but there was an array of beverages, sandwiches, fruit, salad and dessert available, including a few servings of blue Jell-O, which he inspected curiously. He passed on the blue food and chose a safe piece of cake. He turned around to ask another question of his shadow, but she had left him at the door and was standing guard just outside the door.

He set his chocolate cake and coffee down at a table where someone had left a newspaper. Thank god, something to read. He scanned the headlines, and read a few articles as he sipped his coffee and nibbled on the cake. Geronimo was in no hurry to return to his room. Although a cup of coffee at this hour would probably keep him awake for hours, he wasn't in a cautious mood. It wasn't like he had to get up early in the morning, and he'd basically spent the last two days asleep anyway.

He turned the page and looked up to see Daniel, Sam and Murray--just the people he wanted to see! They were talking quietly to each other as they came in and got their snacks. When they turned around to look for a table he lifted a hand in a wave, and they immediately came over to his table.

"Hi, mind if we join you?" Sam mentally kicked herself as she belated remembered General O'Neill mentioning that Dr. Horne wanted to talk to them.

"Not at all, I was hoping you would, I wanted to talk to all of you." His eye was drawn to 'Murray's' gold tattoo, but he didn't ask, because it was probably something they couldn't answer.

"So, Dr. Horne, how are you doing? Good to see you out of isolation." Daniel thought he looked a lot better than the last time he'd seen the doctor.

"Geronimo, please. It's good to be out."

"Call me Daniel, please. That's an interesting nickname."

"My younger brother had trouble with Jerome as a child, and it sort of stuck. So you guys are here late. I wasn't expecting to see anyone here at this hour."

"We're keeping an eye on a project, otherwise we'd have come talked to you sooner..." Sam said, by way of an apology for their unintentional snub.

"Ah, not a problem, really. I have a question for you; I know you can't go into any detail about what it is that you do around here, but…"

"We'll be glad to answer anything we can." Daniel reassured him.

Geronimo leaned forward. "What field are you in, Daniel?"

"I'm an archeologist by trade, and a linguist."

"A civilian?"

"Mmm-hmmm." Daniel agreed around a mouthful of hot coffee. "Consultant."

"How about you, Colonel Carter?"

"Call me Sam. Theoretical astrophysicist."

"Career military?" He guessed, but he'd spent enough time in the military to recognize the bearing and attitude.

"Yep, Air Force, my father was in the Air Force too, until he retired a few years ago."

"Murray, how about you?" Murray was military, but there was an indefinable difference.

"I am a consultant to this project as well."

"Are you a civilian?"

"No, I am not."

Hah, well that shut down the questioning pretty quickly. Geronimo looked at each of them, his gaze landing on Sam. "So, a civilian archeologist and linguist, a career military theoretical astrophysicist, and a non-civilian consultant—what did you say you did around here?"

She flashed Geronimo a sly smile. "Technically? Deep space radar telemetry for NORAD."

"So is it worth it? Should I sign up?" He returned her sly smile. Geronimo didn't believe for a second that they were involved in DSRT, but it was as good a cover story as they came.

Sam shrugged. "I know that I couldn't do what I do anywhere else on Earth."

"Very interesting," Geronimo mused.

Murray surprised him by rejoining the conversation. "It is a most worthwhile endeavor, Dr. Horne. As O'Neill would say, I believe that you would be 'missing the boat' if you were to pass up this opportunity."

Sam and Daniel glanced at each other and smiled, and Daniel turned his grin to Teal'c, who inclined his head and smiled slightly in return, but whatever the joke was, it went over Geronimo's head.

"Don't get us wrong here, Geronimo—there are a lot of risks that go along with what we do. It's not just a cozy research station. People are killed and injured, and we lost our C.M.O. not too long ago." A pained expression briefly ran across Sam's face before she schooled it into a bright mask.

There was the crux of O'Neill's job offer. "So, dangerous and exciting Deep Space Radar Telemetry."

"Don't forget important. So, why did you join the Navy?" Sam had read his file, but details like intention were always left unexplained.

"Wanted to be a pilot, wanted to be a doctor and couldn't choose—so I did both. It's worked out pretty well. Going to space, that was just the gravy. You're Air Force, right?" Sam nodded as he continued. "The young lady that's my escort, she's definitely a Marine. I was sure I'd seen Army here earlier today, too."

"NORAD and Cheyenne Mountain are part of STRACOM under Admiral Ellis."

"Of course."

An airman approached the table, and saluted. "Sirs, Sergeant Harriman requests that you join him in the control room."

"Thank you, Airman." Sam pushed her unfinished serving of blue Jell-O away, and they all stood as one.

Daniel looked at his watch and said, "It's about that time. Hope to see you again soon, Geronimo."

"I'd like that." Sam and Daniel shook hands with Geronimo, and Teal'c simply bowed, and then they were out of the room and heading down the corridor. Sighing to himself, he piled everything on the tray and set it on the rack provided, and returned to his room with even more to think about.

~*~

The next morning, Geronimo had decided that the offer of an offer was interesting enough to investigate further what that might entail without getting into specifics. He poked his head out of the door, and taciturn Special Forces Airman that he met the day before was back. "Commissary?

"Yes, sir. Right this way."

"Thanks." They walked for a few minutes and Geronimo tried hard to keep track of the route they took, but after a few turns, he was already lost. He gave up. "Would it be possible for me to see General O'Neill?"

"I'll pass that on to his aide, sir and he'll let you know."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

There was almost a hint of a smile—he was making progress.

Unlike his late evening run to the commissary last night, this morning it was bustling with activity. Geronimo grabbed a tray and stood in line, eventually getting through with a full breakfast of scrambled eggs, a slice of ham, whole-wheat toast and a side of sliced melon, juice and coffee. He would never be able eat all of the enormous servings, but in a way the serving size matched the personnel in the room—lots of men and women that looked like they meant business and needed to stoke up at breakfast. He sighed internally as he surveyed his choice of tables, and located an empty seat at the end of an eight top that was mostly full.

He approached the table, and inquired if anyone was sitting there and if not, could he join them? Geronimo was warmly accepted and he sat down. He ate slowly, dragging out the meal, partly because he didn't have anything better to do, and also because the conversation at the table was fun. These folks enjoyed their companions, and while nothing was said that could be remotely construed as a clue to what they did, the camaraderie itself was an indication.

It was something he'd noticed last night with SG1, too. It was very different at JSC or KSC, the people there were usually pleasant to one another and worked together well, but their relationships didn't have the same intensity. Even among groups of astronauts, there still an edge of competition. Here, it felt more like the brothers-in-arms attitude that was generated among small combat units. He already knew that Sam classified what they did as exciting and dangerous, and despite her smile, he'd seen the pain of loss in her eyes when she spoke of losing their C.M.O.

His table partners finished and left, wishing him a good day. Geronimo had eaten all that he cared to, so he bussed his tray and found his shadow outside the commissary door.

"General O'Neill would like to see you now."

"Great!"

The SF ushered him to the general's office, Geronimo thought he could almost remember how he got there this time.

"Good morning, Dr. Horne. Sleep well?"

"Yes, I did, thank you."

"What can I do for you?"

Geronimo got right to the point. "This other dotted line—tell me what it entails."

O'Neill gave him a look of approval. "I need a Chief Medical Officer, and from your service record, it looks like you have the capability of thinking outside the box and solving problems."

"Thank you. At the risk of losing this offer of an offer, I should tell you that I also made a critical error in judgment, which caused that situation to get out of hand. I wanted to be the one to solve the problem, but nearly ended up turning South Texas into a nuclear wasteland."

"I know. I suspect that it was a lesson you took to heart, since you stepped down as CMO and went back to the flight deck."

"I didn't trust myself to not make the same mistake again." Geronimo knew that historically he had overcompensated to prove to himself that he could overcome the small voice in his head that kept saying, 'you're not good enough'. He'd done it over and over again; it was the main force that had driven him to the top position he'd held at N.A.S.A.

"I need a problem solver, Dr. Horne. I can accept the fact that you made a mistake—we've all done it, and I'm guilty of some of real whoppers."

"So if I say yes, what then?"

"I'll arrange your transfer, and you can start in about 30 minutes."

"Oh, is this about Major Hoyt?"

"No, it's something that came up this morning."

Crap. His curiosity was going to get him into deeper trouble than it had ever before, but the fact that he was really needed here was what tipped the scales. "Very well. I'll do it."

"Excellent. I'll get Walter to help you with some paperwork, and we'll meet in the briefing room," Jack pointed towards the room on the other side of the window, "in about 30 minutes. Welcome aboard." He stuck his hand out and they shook on the deal.

"Glad to be aboard."

"Oh, Dr. Horne? Just so you know. If you hadn't said yes—I would have dragged you in kicking and screaming. I'm glad it didn't come to that."

Geronimo chuckled as he stood to shake O'Neill's hand. "I am too, sir."

O'Neill raised Sgt Harriman on the intercom, and Geronimo went with him to tackle the inevitable paperwork.

~*~

If the data they had gathered was any indication, this was going to be a hell of a briefing. SG1 had compiled nearly twenty-four hours worth of statistics from P3X-867 and were prepared for the pre-mission briefing.

Daniel entered the briefing room and Teal'c, Sam and Jack were already at the table, as was Dr. Horne. Daniel glanced at his watch; it said he was on time. He tapped it briefly as he took a chair next to Geronimo.

"You're not late, they were early." Jack pointed his thumb to Sam and Teal'c. "Two things. First, Thor paid me another visit and said we might want to consider taking a physician to P3X-867. The good news is that Dr. Horne has decided to join our little enterprise. Two, I thought we'd kill one bird with two stones and send him on the mission."

"Thor said we'd need a doctor of medicine? He didn't say why, did he? Oh, and congratulations, Geronimo. Glad to have you on the team."

"Thanks, Daniel. Should be interesting, considering."

"I love the little guy, but he has this deep seated need for mystery, I think. No, he just dropped in, said his piece and left again—as usual." Jack wiped a hand over his face in a gesture of exasperation.

"Sir, it's going to a rough one. The apparent dawn on P3X-867 is approximately 11 p.m. local time and, due to the thin atmosphere, the range of temperature is from a low of –50C at night to peak temperature of 65C during the day. The UAV put the altitude of the settlement at around six thousand feet. The air density at the Stargate is at the very low end of acceptable, so we'll need to take oxygen to make it to the top."

Daniel interjected, "it's even more fun—we calculate those buildings are probably at nearly ten klicks from the Stargate, as the crow flies, closer to fifteen on the ground. The good news here is that the aerial survey showed a road from the valley up to the top of that hill."

Jack asked, "Doctor, do you think you're up for a hike like that?"

Geronimo was absolutely lost. What was the Stargate? It sounded exotic. Who was Thor, and where was P3X-867? Why would it have an O2 level that was lower than normal? "I passed the space flight physical with flying colors, and I'm more than recovered from the return home. Yeah, I can make it."

"The other consideration, sir, is if there is any technology there we'll need to have transportation. A regular combustion engine may not be suitable to the environment, if the readings we have on the atmosphere are any indication."

"I'll see what I can find, Carter. What about the FRED?"

"Those are battery operated; we shouldn't have any problem with them. We'll have to hike up there to do the survey."

"What time is dawn on P3X?"

Sam smiled a little at the General's act of ignorance. She knew damn well that he could convert the time difference without even thinking. "It's about 0700 UTC."

"I'm going to assign SG-13 and 16 as back up on this mission. Tentative departure date is 23:00 hours so I'd like you to spend a few hours bringing Dr. Horne here up to speed on the SGC, and get some rest." Jack returned to his office, but SG1 stayed seated.

Geronimo knew he had to be wearing a shell-shocked expression, from the sympathetic look on their faces.

"Welcome to Stargate Command, Geronimo." Daniel wore a small sheepish smile.

"I knew it had to be something interesting, but damn."

"I guess I'll go first, start at the beginning." Daniel walked over to the window, motioning for Geronimo to join him and then palmed the red button that raised the closed blast shield. "This is the Stargate."

It was a large ring, with markings around the edge, and a metal grate ramp that ended at the open section of the ring. Geronimo thought it looked remarkable, and was reminded of an old Star Trek episode.

"Dr. Langford discovered it on an archeological dig on Egypt's Giza Plateau in 1928. After a failed experiment during World War II, the project was mothballed. His daughter Catherine Langford got it reinstated in the early 90's after decades of lobbying. Sam was part of the group working to solve the mystery for three years until Catherine called me in to work on the translation of the cover stone that was found with the gate.

"I translated the symbols that are inscribed around the ring to represent points in space, and found the key they were looking for. The Stargate is a transportation device, created by a race of people that we believed to have vanished some seven to ten thousand years ago. We didn't know that until much later, though.

"The first time we used the gate, we only had a single address that would connect, and so that's where we went, to Abydos. On the other side, we discovered people who were descendents of an ancient Egyptian people that were ruled over by a powerful, brutal race of snake-like symbiotic creatures that use other beings as a host, the Goa'uld."

Dr. Horne made a characteristic leap of intuition. "Is that what was in Major Hoyt?"

Daniel smiled at his quick grasp. "Yes, exactly, but he's a mystery all on his own. Sometime between the Epipaleolithic and the Predynastic eras, Earth was hidden from the System Lords after the Stargate was buried after an uprising of the slaves under the control of a Goa'uld known as Ra."

"The Egyptian sun god?"

"Very good. The inhabitants of Abydos were still under the control of Ra; we managed to piss off the Goa'uld and bring ourselves to their attention when we helped stage an uprising and killed Ra with a nuclear device that destroyed his ship. The Goa'uld possess an unnaturally long life that is extended by use of a device that heals, a sarcophagus, but they can be killed. This sarcophagus also corrupts and changes them, essentially reinforcing an innate evilness. They also believe themselves to be Gods. We're not certain if the Goa'uld assumed the personas of preexisting theological constructs, or if they gave us our ancient religions—at any rate, Earth seems to be ground zero.

"We found more addresses on Abydos and have spent the last eight years going through the Stargate, exploring different planets with several motives. The gate system was the focal point of a Diaspora of human cultures by the Goa'uld taking human slaves to create pools of potential hosts, so we are discovering a lot about our own history through the discovery and study of these populations. Another objective is to search for a way to defend ourselves against the threat of the System Lords and to lift the yoke of their oppression, both the slaves they use as a potential pool of hosts and the people they transformed to be part of their reproductive cycle and soldiers, the Jaffa." Daniel turned and pointed to Teal'c.

"We call Teal'c 'Murray' in public. He was one of the System Lords' First Prime, right arm and leader of the Jaffa under Apophis' control before he saved us from certain death and then broke free and joined the SGC." Daniel returned to the table,

Geronimo took his seat again and turned to Teal'c, who nodded. "My teacher and mentor taught me to understand that the System Lords were false gods. I joined the Tau'ri at first because I was an outcast, but stay because they fight oppression and aid me in my cause to free my people."

"Wow. So how is this fight going? What's the status? Tau'ri—what's that?"

"The people of your world are known to the rest of the galaxy as the first race, the Tau'ri. It does not 'go well'; we have lost the aide of some of our allies. The Jaffa are still under the control of the false gods, but I remain steadfast."

Geronimo nodded. He found Teal'c quite mysterious, but there was an aura of calm about him that was almost contagious. They looked back at Daniel, who continued.

"We've found a few things along the way, parts of a puzzle that we're finally putting together. The people who built the Stargate, the Ancient road builders, were part of an alliance of four races, the Ancients, Asgard, Nox and Furlings. The Ancients suffered a plague, and as a race, ascended to another plane of existence. We refer to them as 'The Other'. They are still around, and extremely powerful, but their methods and motives are opaque, even after an up close and personal experience. We think they are unwilling to affect change because they can see the infinite numbers of outcomes their actions could precipitate. We've located several of their abandoned outposts where we've taken advantage of their technology.

"We haven't found any trace of the Furlings. The Nox are still with us, also extremely powerful, but they are pacifists. They've given us some aid in specific cases, but they've chosen to retreat and remain apart. The most prominent remnant of that alliance is the Asgard, and they have negotiated treaties with the Goa'uld that protects a few planets from the System Lords. Unfortunately, they are located in another galaxy, and have some of their own problems, but they consider humans to have great potential.

"Which, skipping huge sections of the eight year narrative, brings us to the point of today's briefing. We've managed to maintain a relationship with one of the Asgard in particular, Thor. We've saved his butt a few times, and he's saved ours. He's indicated that there is another of the Ancients' outposts on the planet we designated as P3X-867, and that Ba'al, one of the more powerful and dangerous of the System Lords, may have his sights set on taking whatever is on this planet."

"What's at this outpost?"

Sam took over the briefing. "We don't know, Geronimo. The Goa'uld are scavengers, they used the technology of other advanced races, the Ancients included, to gain their power and maintain it. We're still at a distinct disadvantage, and now that we understand some of what is still left out there, we're in a race to keep as much of it from them as possible."

"Sort of like an arms race."

Sam agreed. "To a certain extent. One of the problems is we have no idea how widespread the Ancients were in this galaxy; based on the volume of gate addresses that we know were particular to the Ancients, there could still be thousands of outposts out there waiting to be discovered. We do have a reasonable census of the Goa'uld population, and so our focus has been guerilla type action to disrupt their political system and to keep them squabbling among themselves, and reduce their overall power."

"Not going well, I take it."

"Not really. So, we're going to go to P3X-867 and see what it is that Thor is talking about, and try to keep it out of Ba'al's hands."

"And I'm going because?"

Daniel replied gently. "Thor told us to take a doctor, and we've learned to trust his suggestions."

"I don't even know what questions to ask." Geronimo felt off-center and was reeling from the information.

"I know it's overwhelming, and this is only the very tiniest tip of the iceberg. We've had years to learn all of this the hard way; no one expects you to get up to speed immediately." Sam gave him a sympathetic look, which intimated that they did expect that he eventually would get all of this.

"I'll probably end up hounding you with questions for weeks."

"I expect so. Daniel, Teal'c and I are all here to help you, we're a team, and you'll learn to rely on that."

"Thank you, it's just. A lot."

Daniel gave him a reassuring smile. "I completely understand. I had a crash course in the military subculture, but I had Jack, Sam and Teal'c to help me out."

"General O'Neil?"

"Yes, he was our C.O. until last year when he was promoted to take over the SGC." Daniel sounded vaguely wistful.

Geronimo thought about his musings on the camaraderie he had observed this morning in the commissary. "It sounds like you've all been through some amazing adventures together."

"That would be an understatement, DoctorHorne."

"Teal'c, call me Geronimo, please."

Teal'c looked thoughtful for a moment, and decided he could do that. "Yes, GeronimoHorne." A faint smile hovered on Teal'c's face, and Geronimo couldn't swear to it, but thought that might be a joke. The smiles on Sam and Daniel's faces confirmed it.

Geronimo chuckled and shook his head; he figured he'd quit while he was ahead. "So, what now?"

Sam jumped in with her request. "I'm starving, Daniel. Let's get some lunch, and then we can go over the MALP and UAV readings again with Geronimo, and pretend to get 'some rest' before we head out."

"I concur. There will be meatloaf today in the commissary."

Daniel shuddered slightly at the idea of what the military called meatloaf. "No, we wouldn't want to miss that."

They moved the briefing to the commissary. Geronimo had eaten breakfast not two hours ago, so he had a salad and iced tea, but the company of his new companions was more satisfying to him.

They talked about some past missions; he listened and asked questions and he tried to put a shape and size on the experiences they related, but it just kept expanding and the boundaries widening.

Eventually the conversation turned to more personal matters. They asked questions about his experiences as an astronaut, where he grew up, and he discovered that Daniel was quite familiar with Chicago, so they chatted about their favorite haunts for a while. Geronimo avoided his experiences as C.M.O. at NASA, no point in rehashing old failures. Sam reminded them that they had to finish the briefing, and she still wanted to go home and take care of a few things at home before they went off world.

Daniel looked like the proverbial light bulb had gone off in his head. "That reminds me. Geronimo, I know the VIP rooms are okay, but if you want to stay with me at the house until you get yourself situated, you're welcome to the guestroom. It can get to you after a while staying here all the time."

"That sounds great, Daniel thank you. I probably should check in with my brother, and let him know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth." Yet.

"I'll take you home, and get you situated this afternoon. Oh, we usually don't wear uniforms off base, to avoid the neighbor's attention. I've got some stuff you can probably wear in my locker."

"No problem. I'll call and see if I can get some things sent to me, too."

"Then that's settled. Your office or mine, Sam?"

"Yours, you've got the coffeepot."

Part Two:

The embarkation room was a hive of activity.

Geronimo had been introduced to the two teams providing manpower and back up for the mission to P3X-867. He would eventually get to know them, but at the moment it was a dizzying array of personnel who wished him luck on his first mission, and then went about their business of preparing to go off-world. Balinsky, the other archeologist, stayed to talk with Daniel as he helped Geronimo get his heavy pack situated on his back while Sam was doing a last minute inspection of the FRED with Sergeant Siler. The large, motorized cart carried extra oxygen and the equipment that the Colonel had deemed indispensable, but they were still strapping on the heavy field packs that carried the personal essentials they'd need if they were separated from the FRED. Another FRED that carried artillery and communications gear was being checked over by one of the other teams. Teal'c, with a staff weapon in hand, was serene and stood motionless as he waited. Daniel and Sam had P90's dangling from their vests, and the men from the other teams cradled their weapons like babes in arms. Geronimo felt an uncharacteristic twinge of gun-envy as he fingered the Beretta strapped to his thigh.

Three teams, twelve explorers were gathered at the bottom of the ramp that led up to the Stargate to wait while P3X-867 was dialed up from the control room one story above. General O'Neill stood behind the gate technician, watching the flurry of personnel below.

Daniel gave the thumbs up on Geronimo's pack, and Sam snapped a last lock shut, and then turned to the control room, "We're ready, sir."

All eyes were on Geronimo, not the Stargate—they'd seen it often enough that, for them, the real interest lay in his reaction. The countdown commenced, and the huge stone ring flared to life. "Chevron one encoded." Geronimo wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen; Daniel had thought it best that he see it for the first time without any preconceived notions of what was coming.

The voice on the loudspeaker droned on, marking each thunk of the ring as it turned and stopped, until Chevron seven was locked. The wormhole formed, with a huge kawoosh that spun lazily out into the room, then settled down to materialize a flickering pool of azure light. SG13 and 16 took position in front of the first FRED near the top of the ramp.

He turned to his new companions with an expression of incredulity on his face.

"That, Dr. Horne, is the event horizon of a stable wormhole." Sam gave him a brilliant smile.

"And we just walk right into it?"

Daniel nudged his elbow. "We do, and will."

General O'Neill called down to them. "Everyone have their sunscreen and long johns?"

Daniel smiled at Jack and Teal'c gave O'Neill a slight bow, before they turned to face the Stargate. The Colonel from another team gave Geronimo a little wave of his hand that held the P90.

Carter called up to the control room. "Yes sir, we're ready."

"Then SG1, 13, 16--you have a go. Godspeed."

Sam grinned as she turned to face the gate and spoke to the team leader of SG13. "Colonel Dixon, would you do the honors?"

"Yes, sir. Come on boys, let's head 'em out."

The four men of SG13 strolled up the ramp and disappeared into the shimmering blue puddle of the event horizon, one by one. Colonel Reynolds and SG16 were next with the FRED loaded with the weapons following them. Only a moment later the radio crackled to life, it was Colonel Dixon reporting in. "Come on in, Colonel Carter, the water's fine."

"Roger that, Colonel. We're on our way." Daniel had the remote for the remaining FRED, and he started it slowly rolling up the ramp. SG1 was positioned in a row behind the cart, with Geronimo in the center. After the cart had dematerialized, they paused at the event horizon for a moment, and then they walked into the light and onto the soil of a distant planet.

Geronimo stood still on the gate platform of P3X-867, taking in his new surroundings. The temperature of Ayohsust wasn't that different than the freezing cold of the wormhole, but to say the trip had been both shocking and exhilarating would have been an understatement. It was dark, dawn was still hours away, but the sky was brilliant with the cold light of a million stars. The pale, crescent moon was poised on top a hill on the distant horizon, its slim face burning with the crimson light of the red giant sun hidden away on the other side of the planet.

SG 16 was busy deploying a pair of M2 machine guns and setting up a small camp beside the gate. SG13 stood by the dial-home-device. Balinsky checked that it was indeed in operating order by punching in the symbols for home. Colonel Dixon reported that all had arrived safely, before slapping Bosworth on the shoulder. "Pay up boys, I was right." His team laughed and made blithe excuses that they'd left their wallets on Earth.

Geronimo caught up with the rest of SG1 and the FRED they would take with them on their hike as they moved a little farther away from the gate. "What are they talking about?"

Sam was smiling. "It's an SG13 ritual. They took bets as to whether or not you'd throw up when you exited the wormhole."

"Damn, I wish I'd known—I'd have taken some of that action. Does it happen a lot?"

"Often enough. What do you think, so far?"

"It's unbelievably incredible—that ride's better than a Saturn 5!"

"Hey, that's good to know. Colonel Reynolds, we'll keep the radios on. Dixon, you take point, and I'll take six. Let's move it, daylight's coming."

Dixon gave Carter a lazy salute, and SG13 formed a wedge across the road as they began the trek up the road, toward the small cluster of shining buildings that lay hidden in the early pre-dawn darkness.

The lab complex was a three-hour hike uphill. Dixon set a steady pace, keeping ahead of the FRED, while Carter remained slightly behind. Conversation was nearly impossible; the exertion of the march in the thin air made the constant use of oxygen a necessity as they gained altitude. They stopped infrequently to rest and touch base with Reynolds at the 'gate.

When the ruddy dawn came, Carter mentioned she thought that they were located somewhere around the equator of the planet due to the swiftness of the sunrise. It wasn't particularly spectacular; there were virtually no clouds to provide refraction. Fortunately they were very close to their destination, so the rapidly increasing temperature from the huge sun in the sky was not yet an issue for them.

When they arrived at their destination, it was already hot, and they took a breather to inspect their surroundings. The six buildings were arranged in a semicircle around a plaza. Daniel thought the structure in the center might be an old fountain, but enough of it had eroded away after millennia, so they might never know for sure. The buildings were a different story. They appeared to be made of a lightweight metal and 'glass', but there was almost no wear, no erosion or pitting from weather, despite the fact they were built by a civilization that had disappeared thousands of years ago.

"Incredible, just like Antarctica, but better." The awe in Daniel's voice was contagious, and the eight explorers understood this was a singular event.

"Antarctica?" Geronimo asked as he shouldered off his pack and sat on it. Daniel had pulled his video camera out and explained about the Ancients' base on Earth as he filmed. Geronimo tried to keep up, but his head was so full he thought that, if he heard one more fact, it would explode. He could hear the radio chatter as Sam checked in with Reynolds at the base camp, and SG13 checked in with the all clear from their initial perimeter sweep.

Sam's voice broke in. "Two man teams, one for each building starting with this one, call it Building One. Keep in constant radio contact, and to coin a phrase, Fercryinoutloud don't touch anything. Geronimo, you're with me. Daniel, you're with Teal'c."

Daniel grimaced and keyed the mike on his radio without looking away from his video recorder. "Sounds good, Sam. Will do."

Geronimo waved at Sam and stood up after taking a deep breath of oxygen, then hauled his pack onto his back to join her.

"'Fercryinoutloud don't touch anything'?" He asked when he caught up to Colonel Carter at the entrance to the building.

She grinned. "It's an O'Neillism. You'll get it later, it's a long story."

Geronimo nodded as if he understood. It was going to be difficult to catch up to the years of shared experiences these people had with each other. He would just have to make sure that he made his own place at the SGC.

"Come on let's see what we can find." Sam gave a nod in the direction of the building ahead of them.

As they moved toward the door, it slid open automatically, as smoothly as if the last time it had been opened was just yesterday. Carter didn't seem to be particularly surprised, so he followed her inside. The lights came up automatically. "Cool." She keyed the radio. "We have power here. Keep your eyes peeled."

Each of the teams replied in with similar reports of lights coming on, and the temperature cooling to room temperature as they walked down the corridor. The doors opened automatically when paused in front of, but each room was as empty as the last. The corridor sloped upwards in a circular fashion, rising up to the top of the building. Geronimo though he'd never seen so many empty rooms, but they weren't completely featureless; the red light from the windows gleamed crimson on the built-in fixtures.

They stopped in a room about half way up; it faced towards the Stargate, which he could see very clearly through the glass walls.

"Huh, that's weird." Geronimo mused out loud.

Sam joined him at the window. "What's weird?"

"I thought we couldn't see the city from the Stargate?"

"We couldn't—I wonder if this isn't some sort of hologram."

"Damn good one—it really looks like a window."

The radio crackled to life. "Bosworth here in building four. I found something that looks like a lab of some sort."

Sam replied as she took off. "Roger that, Bosworth. Where are you?" Geronimo had to nearly run to keep up with her.

"About the third level up, facing the plaza."

When they reached the door to the plaza, it became even more apparent that the buildings' climate control was working; the temperature outside was already nearly a hundred degrees. They could see the other teams staying in the shadows of the buildings as they converged on Building Four.

Daniel and Teal'c were right behind them as they hustled up to the third level, where Bosworth and Wells stood in the open door to the lab. Dixon was in the room, walking around with his gun at the ready.

The room had the same built in tables as he'd seen in the other building, but here they had things scattered on them, possibly scientific equipment. It looked as if someone had left for lunch and never returned. Tall glass walls stood over two of the tables; they looked like a heads-up display in the cockpit of a futuristic jet. Daniel and Sam walked around the tables inspecting the array of inscrutable objects as Dixon disappeared around a curved wall, then immediately backed out again. "Whoa—you have got to see this."

Geronimo, Sam and Daniel joined him and they gasped as one. There were more than a dozen clear tubes with human beings floating in what appeared to be a blue fluid. The victims were probably human and most of them wore clothes that were definitely modern twentieth century, but a few wore native clothing might've been from Earth, but also could've been from another planet. Every one of them wore a singularly astounded expression, their faces frozen in place.

"Holy Hannah!" Sam exclaimed.

Daniel said to no one in particular, "déjà vu." He frowned as he closed the distance so he could examine them closer.

Geronimo was shocked into silence. Okay, he'd seen some weird things; most of them in the last couple of days, but this—this was out of bounds. He had no way of assimilating the tableau in front of him. He watched and listened as the rest of the team deliberated.

"I can't believe these have been here since the Ancients left."

"I don't think so—look at their clothing."

"Do you think they are alive?"

"I don't think Thor would have us rescue 20 dead bodies."

It was all a blur; he had finally reached the point of not being able to process any further intake just when there was another huge download coming his way.

Colonel Dixon called out. "I count twenty total, Carter. Hey Doc, come here—maybe you're one of them!" Dixon waved Geronimo over to the tank that contained a young man--dressed in a tank top, fatigues and boots--who could have been a double for the doctor.

"That's more than a passing resemblance, Geronimo." Daniel gave him an apprising look. "Did you ever have any missing time? Blackouts, weird dreams? Sam, I'm thinking Loki."

Geronimo shook his head, which nearly caused him to fall to his knees. Daniel touched him on the shoulder to steady him.

Sam replied as she kneeled in front of one of the tubes. "Ya think?"

Everyone but Geronimo laughed, and he gave them a bewildered look. "Is this another long story?"

Sam looked chastened. "Yep. Sorry, we'll explain as we go along. Daniel, come read this, it looks like Asgard." Daniel joined her on the floor, conferring over the text on the base of the tube.

"Definitely Asgard." He began jotting down a quick translation in his journal.

Geronimo was still massively confused, but he trusted Daniel and Sam to eventually get around to an explanation. He watched as Sam stood up, and brushed the dust off her hands.

"Okay people, here's the plan. Balinsky, you and Teal'c both know what we're looking for, so break it up into two teams to finish surveying the rest of the buildings, we'll cover the lab."

"I will take Airman Wells. I wish to speak to him about his young daughter."

"Thanks, T."

Teal'c gave her a small bow and left the room with Dixon, Balinsky, Wells and Bosworth.

"Okay Doctor, I'll give you a down and dirty crash course in Asgard technology, we'll do an inventory here of what we can take, and figure out what to do with these folks."

He nodded, and she gave him a reassuring smile as she opened a channel of her radio. "Reynolds, do you copy?"

"Go ahead, Carter."

"What's the situation down there?"

"Hot, but no company."

"That's good. We've found a laboratory and the little surprise the Asgard left for us. I need you to dial back to the SGC and patch me through to General O'Neill."

"Roger that, Colonel. I'll advise when we've made contact."

"Thanks, Carter out."

Daniel was making a video record of the lab, and taking notes as he walked around the large room. "Sam, I can't believe the Asgard would just hand all of this over to us."

"Well, like Thor said, Daniel—better us than Ba'al." She pointed Geronimo towards one of the tall displays and hunted around on the table for something, which turned out to be an opalescent, oval crystal that fit into the palm of her hand. "These are the control devices, and they go here," she set the crystalline device down onto the circles inscribed on the board, and the display sprang to life, "to access their computers. We can download the data or maybe just take the whole damn thing."

Daniel called out to her from the other side of the room. "Sam, we'll need to locate and take back any and all ZPM's we can find—don't want Ba'al finding those either."

She replied absently as she worked at the console. "Yeah, we'll make that one of the last things we do. I guess we're all going to need a crash course in Ancient and Asgard, too." She called Colonel Dixon and asked him to mark the location of any ZPM's they found while searching the complex.

"What's a ZPM?" Geronimo asked yet another question, the thousandth since yesterday morning. He hoped Sam wasn't sick of him yet.

"Zero Point Module, it's a power source the Ancients used, sort of like a complicated battery; it derives its power from a tiny bubble of subspace. We found one at Taonas Proklarush, and brought it back to Earth, and O'Neill used it to activate the Ancient planetary defense system in Antarctica during a battle with the Goa'uld. It was depleted when we used it to gate to the Pegasus galaxy. Haven't found a way to recharge it."

Just when he thought it couldn't get any weirder. "That's really, wow. The Pegasus galaxy."

"We sent an exploration team to an Ancient outpost we think might be Atlantis. Obviously, I didn't get to go." Daniel sounded sour with frustration.

Humor had to be the way to go; he had to laugh, or go crazy. "You kids!" Geronimo shook his head and returned his attention to Sam.

"Ok, Geronimo, this section is the video records, just turn the device like this to scan through them, just like a VCR. Hopefully this will give you a good idea about what's going on here. We've run into this type of thing before. There was an Asgard named Loki that was abducting humans and cloning them, but the ones we know about were returned to Earth in a week's time. We need to understand why these people are still here, or if these are, in fact, the clones."

The first of the video records started playing on the screen, and the star of the show surprised Geronimo. "Hey, it looks like that guy from Roswell!"

"He might have been one of them, yeah." Sam watched the movements of the Asgard on the screen for a few minutes with a puzzled frown. "Daniel, can you come take a look at this?"

He snapped the video camera closed and stuffed it into a vest pocket. "Yeah, what've you got?"

"Does this look like Loki?"

He joined her at the table, and watched a few minutes. "I don't know, I can tell the difference when they're standing next to each other, but I don't think I could pick him out of a crowd. Think it might be someone else?"

"Like you said, hard to say. Geronimo, pause it this way if we get a second Asgard on screen. Daniel, we should probably start by separating the Asgard technology from the Ancient."

Sam's radio crackled. "Colonel Carter, I've got O'Neill patched through."

"Thank you Reynolds."

"What's the report, Carter?" Jack's voice was deceptively laconic.

"Well, sir, we're sorting through it now, but we found what Thor wanted us to find. It's probably one of Loki's laboratories, because there are twenty humans in some form of suspended animation."

"I thought he'd been under lock and key."

"It might not be Loki, sir; he might've had an accomplice. We're reviewing the data now, and so it's hard to say just yet. The good news is there is a lot of stuff here, and we seem to have found a clone of Dr. Horne, too."

"The deuce you say. What do you want to do?"

"I'd like to try and revive them, see if they can shed any light on what happened to them from their point of view. At any rate, I don't think Thor wanted us to leave them here."

"A lot of stuff?"

"Yes, sir."

"Sweet. I'll see what I can come up with in the way of transport. Go ahead and be careful fercryinoutloud. We don't want Daniel taking on any passengers."

Sam grinned at Daniel. He opened a channel on his radio, "thanks, Jack. It wasn't my fault."

"Yes, I know, Daniel. I just have to take my chances when I get them." Daniel made a face worthy of a two year old at the radio.

"I don't think we're in any danger of that happening, Sir." Sam grinned at Daniel.

"Excellent. I'll advise when I've got the transport arranged."

"Thank you, sir. Carter out."

With Sam's assistance, Geronimo got a handle on the equipment monitoring the dormant test subjects. They all appeared to be in perfect suspension. All the data indicated that these were not clones and confirmed that it wasn't Loki who had been conducting the experiments, but another Asgard named Vali.

At the Geronimo's questioning look, Daniel filled him in with a quick background on the Norse mythology of the Asgard. "Vali—there's two different myths. In the Prose Edda he was the son of Loki and Sigyn, in which case he was transformed into a wolf who killed his brother Narvi. Narvi's intestines were then used to bind Loki beneath the dripping mouth of a venomous snake, to await Ragnarok as his punishment for tricking Hodur into killing Balder, another of the Æsir. Or, Vali was Bali, the son of Odhinn and Rind, and he killed Loki, who was masquerading as Hodur, for killing Balder. In either event, there's obviously some relationship between Loki and Vali."

"So, why do these Asgard people pretend to be gods?"

"In the two examples we've run across, the Asgard use these personas as a way to protect their charges and allow them to mature at their own speed, without direct interference. It's fairly benign, and there are ways for them to learn of the truth about their 'gods' when they're ready."

"As opposed to the System Lords."

"Right."

"I see, I think. So what's with the experimentation here?"

"As in any society, there are those who disagree with the government and do what they deem necessary. Loki was doing research into cloning human beings, because we most closely resemble the physical bodies of the Asgard as they were in the distant past; he was hoping to solve a problem they're having with their own cloning technology."

"They clone themselves, too?"

"Apparently they lost the capability of achieving cell division through meiosis a very long time ago."

"Damn interesting. Hopefully, whoever it was has left an illustrated how-to manual on for reviving the test subjects. I need a little more time to get a handle on the medical facilities. I'm expecting problems."

"Would it be better to take them back to the SGC as is?"

"I don't think SGC infirmary has the necessary resources, and I can't even begin to guess at what will happen if we disconnect those pods with them still inside. It would be better to do it here, using the same processes and equipment that got them in there. Assuming I can figure this out."

"You're the doctor, you'll do fine."

Geronimo grinned. "Yeah." He spent the next few hours sifting through the computer files, and with Daniel doing the translation, eventually located the information on the abductees. It appeared that Vali had refined a method for determining who was about to die horribly, and he had taken these people as they were on the brink of death. As expected most had been taken from the same place, and Daniel translated the name to mean Earth, but a few had other names listed as their home planet.

Daniel looked at the names of these planets, but he couldn't decipher them. The Asgard had their own planetary naming system, but the co-ordinates in space were carefully noted. They could compare them to the dialing computer back at the SGC; hopefully they would have a corresponding gate address. Vali hadn't taken time to actually get to know his victims, so no personal information was listed, just screens and screens of medical and technical data.

Nightfall on Ayohsust was as swift as the dawn. Geronimo had reached a point where he could barely keep his eyes open, despite the excitement of finding the lab and the immobilized people. They had all been on the move for nearly twenty-four hours with the time difference between Earth and Ayohsust. Despite the progress they had made, it was obvious that they weren't going to do any more good in their current condition. They joined the rest of the team one level down where they had bivouacked in what might have been a lounge.

They tore into dinner. Geronimo watched Carter and Jackson trading pound cake and brownies and stashing the leftover MRE accessories into their vests. Carter questioned Dixon as they waited for the flameless heaters to warm their packets. "Did General O'Neill have an update on the transportation?"

"Yeah, SG2 is deploying with four M-gators pulling trailers, SG 9 is riding shotgun. They aren't turbo-charged, so they might have to make the run up here at night when the atmosphere is thick enough to support combustion. Colonel Reynolds reported all quiet at the gate before SG4 relieved them. It was pretty harsh out there today."

"I can imagine." Sam reflected on a time when she'd been trapped off world on P9Q-281 with a broken DHD, nearly roasting alive while waiting to be rescued. "They're fine, though?"

"Yeah, they just needed a break. They'll rotate teams to guard the gate until you're done here."

Geronimo had been listening. "Is there any chance I could get a medic detailed to join us? I might need the help of some trained medical personnel when we start reviving those people."

"Good idea. This little project seems to be taking over the SGC, might as well get a few more people involved." She radioed the request down to the gate to pass onto the SGC. Colonel Edwards had just arrived, so Reynolds would make the request when he returned to the SGC.

Colonel Dixon knew it would take some time to get the extra personnel to the city. "We'll set watch and get them settled in when they get here. You get some rest."

"Thanks, Dave." Sam gave him a grateful smile.

Geronimo was beyond exhausted, and if he had thought his brain was going to explode earlier, it was now a certainty. He rolled out his sleeping bag and crashed.

~*~

The sudden, disconcerting dawn startled Geronimo from a deep sleep. When he struggled out of his sleeping bag, he discovered that he was the last to wake up. There was a large group gathered around the table in the lounge eating breakfast. He used the Ancient equivalent to the water closet, and joined them, picking out a beef stew MRE from the pile.

While he ate, Geronimo was introduced to SG4, SG9, and the two registered nurses that they'd brought with them as his request, Lieutenants Scott and Stevens. Carter took the opportunity to brief everyone on what they had found, what they planned to do, and lay out a basic plan for the eventual dismantling of the lab, team by team.

Carter would assist Horne, Scott and Stevens in reviving one of the abductees. Jackson and Balinsky would do further study on the mix of Ancient and Asgard technology, while Teal'c would join Dixon and Ferretti to continue to videotape and investigate the parts of the complex they hadn't been able to get to the day before. They still had to find the building's power source; Carter knew there had to be at least one zero point module, if not more.

Trash was disposed of, the last of the coffee chugged down, the morning report filed, and then they separated to tackle the jobs assigned to them.

Stevens and Scott had brought small mobile field hospital with them, and as they set it up, Geronimo chose the first test subject—the man that appeared to be his twin. It wasn't merely curiosity about the expression of horror on that face that drove his decision; his information in the Asgard medical dossier indicated that the subject was in perfect health, and his clothing suggested US Military. Once revived, he might be able to give them critical information that wasn't in the files.

Geronimo reviewed the procedure for deactivating and draining the tube with the nurses and, after everyone was prepared as best they could be, he turned up the controls, and a bright light illuminated the tank. The blue substance glowed as it slowly changed colors; according to the information in the computer it indicated that the resuscitation stage had begun. Once it had turned a dark violet color, the mysterious material gurgled out the bottom of the tube, and the man crumpled to the bottom of the cylinder.

Geronimo had Daniel press the buttons on the life pod to open it while the nurses stood close by, ready to assist. They pulled the patient out of the enclosure, and began to assess his condition. Sam tried to get a sample of what he had been floating in.

Heart beat normal, breath sounds in his chest indicated no fluid and he appeared to be breathing normally. Temperature was low, but not dangerously so. They picked him up and put him on a cleared off section of the table.

Scott wrapped him in a warming blanket, and Stevens applied the leads that would monitor his heart, pulse and oxygen. As Geronimo began to insert an IV, in case they needed to administer fluids and medication, the patient started awake, looking scared as hell.

Geronimo felt a sudden rush of warmth for the patient. "Hey, can you hear me?" At the brief nod, he continued to talk to him and gently stroked his arm. "It's okay, we're going to help you. You're going to be fine. I'm going to put this IV in your arm, so you need to hold still. Can you do that?" He got another nod, but the chilled patient began to shiver uncontrollably. "Get some heat packs over here, let's warm him up."

The plastic bags were twisted to start the chemical process that would provide heat and packed around him, with another thermal wrap to keep the heat in, and soon the shuddering had stopped. "That's better, isn't it? All right, let's try the IV again. Someone hold his arm for me."

Daniel was standing close by, and he had a free hand. He patted the young man's arm and then held it as still as possible while Geronimo expertly inserted the needle and taped it off. "Thanks. All right, let's see if we can heat some of the saline." He pulled a small amount of blood into the vacuum tube, and then attached the thin plastic tubing that led to the bag of fluid with a heat pack strapped to it.

"Daniel, can you stay with him? I'm going to run a quick analysis of this, and see what we're dealing with." Geronimo took the blood sample and went to the other end of the table where their equipment had been set up.

Daniel smiled at the patient, while gently holding his hand. "Hi, I'm Daniel. Guess you might've already figured that out. How are you feeling?"

The young man on the table cleared his throat, and tried to speak, but nothing came out.

"I'm sorry; maybe you shouldn't try and talk yet. Don't be scared, we're going to take care of you. In a good way." Daniel smiled reassuringly and reached over to brush the long floppy bangs out of the young man's eyes. The patient closed his eyes and smiled a tiny, brief smile, then appeared to fall asleep. "Hey Geronimo, your patient just fell asleep."

"That's good, I guess. Probably a stress reaction, I imagine they'll each react a little differently. So far, the results are all normal, and I mean perfectly normal—not a single result varies from the accepted norm by even a single percentage point. Scott says they brought a portable x-ray, I guess we need to run a head and neck series."

Sam joined him at the blood analyzer. "Have you found any unusual protein markers?"

"Nope, and I'm going to guess we won't find anything on the X-ray either, but I think to be safe we should do it anyway. Scott, have you got that set up yet?"

"Yes, sir. Just finished."

"All right, he's stable enough, go ahead and get your films. We'll need to clear out for a couple of minutes, they only brought two aprons."

They went back down to where they'd bivouacked and left Scott and Stevens in the lab to do the x-rays. Sam sat down at the table, opened her canteen and took a drink of water. "When do you think he'll be able to talk?"

Geronimo joined her, setting up a cup of water to heat. "Hard to say. Were you able to get a sample of the suspension he was floating in?"

"No, the tube was perfectly dry, just like he was."

"Damn. It's possible that it's affected his larynx. It's hard to convert the date system the Asgard use, but I think he's been in there at least fifteen years. We may just need to wait and see if breathing normal atmosphere will restore regular function. Barring that, I think we can assume he's literate. Although, it might be the fatigues he's wearing aren't military, but hunting camouflage… "

Daniel snickered at the implication, but kept writing notes in his journal.

"Sam, I don't think we brought enough of the chemical heat packs to revive all of those people, we're going to run out about halfway through if they react similarly. Also, we should go back and see what the Asgard used to restore normal body temperature."

"I'll get some back ups just in case. What else do we need?"

"So far, we're copasetic except for that, at least, until we get to those that might not be from Earth. Might need to take a food and water inventory, too." He stirred the instant coffee into the cup of hot water and took a sip.

"Most of the inhabitants of other planets we have had contact with were from Earth originally, so genetically they were pretty similar, maybe a 2-3% difference."

"Might be enough to screw things up if we have to perform more drastic intervention. We'll just have to do more research."

"What kind of timetable are we looking at?"

"Hmm. All things being perfect, we could probably have them all out by late tomorrow. How long is it going to take to pack up all of the Asgard and Ancient stuff?"

"Realistically, another two days. We'll take what we can and probably destroy the rest—as much as it hurts to say that."

Daniel looked up, his eyebrows reaching impossible new heights. "Destroy it?"

"I don't know, Daniel—the reason Thor had us come here was to keep this out of the hands of the System Lords. There are a lot of things here that aren't portable. It may be that disabling the complex by taking any ZPM's we find is enough—but we already know that Ba'al is familiar with them, and he may have his own supply. We might not have a choice."

"I know, but I wish we could find a way to keep it for future reference."

"If we can come up with something that meets both objectives, I'll run it by the General. I want to keep it all, too."

"Don't suppose Thor would lend us a hand with the transport."

"I'm thinking not—otherwise he would have already done it. This might have been his clever ruse for allowing us to get our hands on a ZPM to replace the one that was booby-trapped. We've already got quite a lot of Ancient tech in our hands in Antarctica."

"Exactly—what's a little more?"

"I'm thinking more of the Asgard interfaces—those could be really handy."

Geronimo's radio beeped. "We've got the films, Doctor, everything looks normal."

"Thanks, Scott. We'll be there in a moment."

Sam stood up. "We'll plan to have all the abductees revived by tomorrow night and send them to the SGC; we'll take what we can, and then we can entertain any brilliant ideas at that point. We also have to have a fallback plan if we get unwanted company—it might be a moot point."

When they returned to the lab, the first patient was still unable to speak, but otherwise appeared to be fine. Dr. Horne sat him so he could look out the 'window', nearby and out of the way while they continued to refine the resuscitation process.

It was decided that the first batch of newly revived abductees should be sent home ASAP. One, to conserve the food and water supplies, and two, the doctors back at the SGC were better equipped to monitor a large number of patients in the infirmary. The trip to the Stargate in the M-gators would reduce the stress on the victims, so they wrapped them all up in the thermal blankets and extra cold weather gear that SG2 had brought with them in the trailers. Spare lab equipment they were planning to take back anyway was packed onto the front racks and around the passengers, in order to extricate as much as possible, and as quickly as possible. SG2 and 9 set off down the mountain with their precious cargo, while SG1 continued their task of reviving the rest of the passengers late into the night, with SG 13 watching their six.

It was nearly dawn again by the time the got to the last two of the aliens. By that time the three of them had the procedure worked out so that it was a smooth routine.

Stevens and Scott pulled the second to last victim from the tube, and Horne grabbed his feet to help lift him to the table. He suddenly got an odd mental shock--it was so bizarre that he couldn't figure out what it was. He had been working nearly around the clock at this point, so it had to be lack of sleep.

"How are you guys holding up?"

"Not too bad, actually. Scott, how about you?"

"I'm okay.

"Did either of you notice anything…strange about this guy?"

Stevens gave him a curious glance. "Like what?"

Geronimo stared at the prone man on the table; he didn't dare look to see what their reaction would be to his confession. "I'm not sure I can even explain it. It was like an image or something when I touched him."

Scott had only sympathy in her eyes when he got the courage to look up. "Dr. Horne, I'm sure we can handle the last one—why don't you get some rest?"

"Are you sure?"

Stevens' reply was matter of fact as he continued to check the vitals of their latest patient. "Totally. Go, you look like you're dead on your feet."

"All right. I'll see who's awake down there when I get down there and send 'em to help."

"I don't think that's necessary. Wells is on watch, so if we need help, we'll just commandeer him. There's only the one left."

"Call me if you need anything."

"Sure, Doc. Will do." Stevens sounded like he was humoring Dr. Horne. Well, he was probably twenty years younger, and used to staying up all night anyway.

"Very good, see you later." Geronimo walked down the ramp to their bivouac slowly, lost in thought about his very strange experience with the alien man. He just knew he was in for a bout of nightmares, but he was so tired. He crawled into the sleeping bag and relinquished consciousness to Nepthys.

Geronimo was focused on his coffee when SG2 returned. Heavy coats and ski masks obscured the faces of the incoming team, until they ripped off their facemasks.

"Good Morning, campers!" Jack looked happy to be out of the office. He pulled his heavy coat off and sat at the table, and poured a cup of coffee.

"Sir! This is a surprise!" Sam shoved a pile of MREs towards the General.

"Good, it was supposed to be." He sorted through the pile, but rejected all of them.

"Jack! Nice to see you off-world, and don't take this the wrong way, but what are you doing here?" Daniel tossed another packet to Jack, who smiled and happily tore into it.

"Your little project here has emptied the SGC. No one left to talk to."

"I can see where that would be a problem."

"Seriously. All the other teams have returned from off-world and are on stand down in the SGC. I had to come see for myself what the hullabaloo was all about."

"It's incredible isn't it?"

"Yeah, very pretty. So, what's going on?" Jack O'Neill's being unimpressed with architecture was legendary. Daniel rolled his eyes; he had eventually learned to not take it personally.

Sam hid her smile with her coffee cup. "Dr. Horne has revived the rest of the Asgard test subjects, and they seem to be fine."

Geronimo waved weakly over his coffee cup. The little sleep he'd managed to get hadn't been very refreshing. His concern about the incident with the alien had translated itself into disturbing dreams. "They haven't spoken this morning, and it's obvious that a couple of them are unfamiliar with English. Daniel's tried a few different languages, while getting them to sit down for food, but until they talk, or we check gate addresses, we aren't going to be able to figure that out."

"Sign language, then."

"In its most rudimentary form."

"Daniel, have you found anything you can't live without? Rocks, plants?"

Daniel glared briefly at the General. "Actually, so far we've spent most of our time in the lab, and it's pretty amazing. SG2, 9 and 13 have been exploring the rest of the complex, but today I'd like to do some exploring myself. I know Balinsky is itching to go back to a few places, too."

Jack glanced at Sam. "It's a good idea, sir. We've covered the lab, and we're going to start taking it apart today, otherwise I'd go with him. I'm dying to see more of it." She left the 'before we blow it up' unsaid, but both Jack and Daniel understood anyway.

"Jack, I wish there were some other way…"

"Tactically speaking it's the best solution. We can't really use this place because the Goa'uld are aware of it, and the environment outside doesn't really lend itself to inhabitation. We can barely protect one planet; we don't have the resources to defend a second."

"I know, but it seems like such a waste."

"That's exactly what it is. A total waste, but I don't see any other solution—outside of the Asgard putting in a snake detector like the one on Cimmeria. Considering Thor's attitude about this place, I think that's unlikely. Let's get what we can before any Jaffa come tromping up the path."

Daniel frowned, and finished his coffee. He had ideas about that, but he kept them to himself until he had concrete evidence. "Well then, we're off. Jack, you want to come with?"

"Thanks for the invite, but I'll pass."

Daniel shrugged and picked up his pack. "I'll see you later. Teal'c? You want to join us?"

"It would be my pleasure, Daniel Jackson." The Jaffa picked up his staff weapon and followed the two archeologists, their heads together as they compared the survey notes taken by the SG teams, Teal'c already fielding Daniel's questions.

"If it's still not too hot outside, I'm sure Geronimo would like to get the last passenger run on its way. Just curious sir—why did you come?"

"Honestly, Carter? I was as curious as Daniel. Just don't ever tell him that, I'd never live it down."

Sam laughed out loud. "Your secret is safe with me, sir. For a price."

"Oy."

Geronimo thought the whole conversation was strange—but then he wasn't in any shape to make any comments, what with the strange impression he'd received a few hours earlier. It bothered him, but he had things to do so he shrugged it off and slurped the last of his coffee before returning to the lab to check on the patients, and get them ready for transport.

~*~

Experimentation had proved that the M-gator's diesel engines could operate normally in the thin, dry, daytime air. By the time evening fell, the complex was empty of everything that wasn't fastened down, and even a few things that had been--like the Asgard computer console with the heads up display--were packed to go back on the last trip.

The two archeologists finally found what Daniel had prayed for. The complex had a planetary defense system like the one the then Colonel O'Neill had used to repel Anubis' attack on Earth.

"Sam, Jack. You there?"

"Go ahead, Daniel."

"Found it."

"Cool. Where are you?"

"Building six, there's a sublevel."

"On our way."

Daniel began his explanation almost before O'Neill, Carter and SG13 had joined them in Building 6. "Colonel Dixon found these markings on the wall yesterday. Since they're unique to this building, I started here." Daniel touched the wall in four places, and a doorway appeared on the opposite wall.

Jack stepped back uneasily. "I'm not going to have my head sucked into anywhere I don't want it to be, am I?"

"No. If I've translated this correctly, this should be a chamber just like the one in Antarctica."

"Colonel Dixon, if you'd do the honors?"

"Sure. C'mon boys." SG13 fanned out into the room, weapons drawn as a precaution, but it was as deserted as the rest of the complex. Dixon gave the all clear, and the group waiting at the door crowded around the large, reclining chair that stood on a platform in the center of the room.

Daniel kneeled down at a corner, and opened the power housing to reveal a glowing ZPM. "The good news is, its working. The bad news is, it's the only one we've found so far. The good news is, we found the control console."

Sam was already at the console, fiddling with the controls. "Great, we should be able to figure this out; we've already had some experience with the one in the Antarctica." She looked at her CO. "Could take some time."

Jack nodded. "All right. I'll leave SG13 and a 'gator here with you two, and the rest of us'll head back to the SGC. I imagine the Doctor would like to catch up with his patients."

"We'll have an update for you in a few hours, sir."

"Yes, you do that."

General O'Neill had made it to the plaza where the M-Gators stood ready to depart, when Major Rodgers of SG7 called in news of the attack. "Sir, we've got Jaffa, and we got 'em bad—and they didn't come through the gate. They're getting smarter, sir—they must've landed outside of visual range to sneak up on us. You might have some on their way up there, too."

"How many?" O'Neill could hear gunfire in the background.

"I think it's a whole freaking battalion, sir. We're not going to be able to hold them for long."

"Understood, Major. I'll see what we can do from here. If you can, get to the DHD and call the SGC for backup."

"Roger that, General. We'll hold 'em as long as possible."

Jack verified that Carter and Daniel had heard the news as he hauled ass back to the control room. Once there, he walked straight to the chair. "Any idea how I did this before?"

Daniel was standing next to the platform. "If what happened with Dr. Beckett is any example, I imagine you just think about what you want it to do."

The chair and platform lit up instantly when Jack sat down. He leaned back and closed his eyes as he touched the control pad at his fingertips. Almost instantly a rush of bright and deadly drones was called forth, heading up and out of a previously unseen opening in the ceiling. The sound was nearly deafening, a high-pitched buzzing noise that sizzled the air.

Sam pulled up a screen on the Ancient console, and it looked as if the drones were reaching their target. She called Major Rogers at the gate for a first hand report. "What's the situation down there, Major?"

"We're fine but the Jaffa are under attack, sir. Wait, it looks like something's exploded in the sky—whoa! Make that two!"

The stream of glowing fire ceased as suddenly as it had started, the silence as deafening as the noise that had vanished. All eyes turned to Jack as he stood up and put his hands in his pockets. "Sweet. Is that what happened before?"

"Just like that."

"Kinda different when you're awake, or not in a helicopter being chased by one."

"Better than a filthy gunfight in the trenches, too."

"Yeahsureyoubetcha. Carry on. I doubt you'll have any more visitors, but…"

"Why don't you stay, just in case?" Daniel gave Jack a faint smile.

"Good idea, Daniel. I think I will."

"Now that the Goa'uld have had a taste of what's waiting for them, if they come back, can we please not blow this place up?"

"Could be pretty useful as a back up site, sir."

"Let's see if there's any more ZPM's. If this is the only one, we need it back on Earth more than we need it here."

"Yes sir."

~*~

The remaining SG team members had had a vantage point in the 'lobby' of Building 4 with a clear view of the fireworks. They threw up a cheer as the counter attack started; but Geronimo was clueless about what was happening. He shouted over the din. "What's going on?"

"That's the planetary defense system—we've got one just like it on Earth."

"Let me guess—Antarctica."

"Got it in one, Doctor."

Geronimo thought that it was obvious that from here on out, his life was going to be very different.

Part Three:

The post-mission briefing had been scheduled for the day after their return; O'Neill had experienced the situation on Ayohsust first hand, and now he needed to play catch up at the SGC. This gave SG1 some breathing space to put together a coherent report on the scavenged equipment, not to mention the people they'd brought back with them.

Geronimo spent a busy evening getting the newest group of abductees settled in and checking over the previous group that had been sent home. They looked mighty upset, all of them. No wonder, he thought. Under the circumstances, I'd be upset too.

He spent a few minutes with each one of them and reassured them as best as possible that they were safe, and that their loss of voice was likely due to the effect of whatever they'd been suspended in, and so it would pass. The five that were probably from another planet, of course, were the most difficult. Geronimo just patted them and spoke to them in a soft voice.

It happened again. When he touched the last alien that had been revived after he'd gone to get some sleep, he got a very clear mental image. It was a Stargate, but not the one a few floors below. This was on a high stone platform in a sunny glade, surrounded by blooming trees with pale petals that were fluttering to the ground in a gentle breeze. It was beautiful, but creepy.

He removed his hand, and the vision melted away like a Dali watch. He tried to keep his expression neutral to cover his ill ease; he didn't want the patient to know he was freaking out. He quickly moved on to the next victim.

Geronimo finally came to the young man who looked so much like him, and decided the affection he'd felt for him on Ayohsust was because it was like looking in a mirror. The patient communicated very effectively that he wanted to write. Geronimo remembered his crack about literacy and grimaced as he handed him the small notepad and pen in his pocket and asked the duty nurse to have a large stack of pens and legal tablets brought in for all of them, before he left the isolation room.

Geronimo was still a little hazy about the layout of the SGC, so he called the base operator and asked for Daniel Jackson's extension; she'd patched him through after giving him the number. Daniel didn't seem to be in his office, so Geronimo thought he'd see if maybe he could track him down. Unfortunately, he got desperately lost in the attempt. Why they didn't give new people a map, or at least post one with big red letters: "you are here", he didn't know. He sucked it up and asked for directions from the first airman he saw, who insisted on helping him find Dr. Jackson.

They ended up at the embarkation room, and the airman pointed out Dr. Jackson in the control room. Geronimo thanked him and stopped at the base of the ramp to marvel for a minute at the giant, motionless ring. What a very strange rabbit hole he had fallen into. He thought about that for a moment and decided that General O'Neill in a giant white rabbit suit was a mental image that left him wanting a bar of mind soap. Seeing O'Neill hopping through the Stargate surrounded by flowering trees only proved that he did indeed have an active imagination. Shaking his head as he turned around, he waved and joined them in the control room one level up. "Hi, I was just looking for you."

"Oh, what's up?"

"Daniel, do you have a few minutes to come to the isolation room? I've given our mysterious guests paper and pens, and I didn't know if you might be able to use that to communicate with the, uh, aliens."

"Are you kidding? Sam, do you need me for the rest of these?"

"I've got it. I'll let you know when I've got the data."

"Thanks, Sam."

Daniel brought Geronimo up to speed on what they had been able to determine so far as they made their way up to the sixteenth floor. "Sam and I just started going over the gate addresses from Vali's laboratory and comparing them to those in our dialing computer. There are a lot of them in there that we haven't been to. In the last couple of years exploration of those planets has slowed down some, while we focused on pest control."

"I'm still having trouble believing that all of this is real, despite the fact that I've actually traveled by wormhole to another planet and met aliens."

"Pretty incredible isn't it?"

"I don't think there's been an adequate adjective invented."

They reached the multi-purpose room on level five that had been turned into a makeshift bunkhouse to accommodate all twenty guests. It wasn't truly isolation, but they really couldn't just let them go in their current state, either. Once they regained the ability to speak, Geronimo was sure that they were going to need some counseling, and he couldn't even begin to guess how to begin reintegrating them into society, and especially for some, an alien society. Geronimo started making mental notes about the needs of these lost people for the briefing in the morning.

Most of their guests were either in their bunk or sitting at the long table busy scribbling away on note pads. Some were napping, and a couple of the aliens were looking dubiously at the writing instruments as if they'd never seen anything like them. On the other hand, that was the same expression they'd worn since they'd been awakened on P3X-867, so it was hard to tell. The room sounded like a classroom at test time, the predominant sound was of pen to paper.

Daniel crouched down next to one of them, and began using pantomime to ask if he could see the paper. Geronimo went over to his look-alike and asked quietly how he was doing. The young man handed over the notepad. He'd already filled about three of the small pages front and back with small, cramped handwriting, but it was legible enough. He'd written his name at the top in block letters. "Pleased to meet you, Lieutenant Cyril Baines. Do you want to finish this, or may I take it with me?"

Baines took the notebook, tore the pages off and handed them back to Geronimo.

"Thanks. I'll be back, going to see if we can scrounge up some dinner for all of you; is there anything else you need?"

Baines took the pad of paper, scribbled his question and handed it back.

Geronimo read the note, and considered his answer very carefully. Baines had a right to know, but on the other hand he didn't want to send the man into a psychological tailspin when he couldn't fully communicate, and he explained that to the Lieutenant, who took the pad back and advised Geronimo that he probably couldn't freak out any more than he already was, and please just tell me?

Sighing, Geronimo wrote the current date and time down. "All right. We haven't come up with a plan to deal with wholesale panic here, so I don't want this to get around." He gave the pad of paper back to the young man.

The color in his face drained away as Baines read the date. He said 'Oh, my god' over and over again, but there was no sound, only his lips moved. Geronimo sat down next to him and put his arm around Baines' trembling shoulders, as he began to cry, silently. Geronimo's empathy for the young man's plight verged into horror at the idea of losing so many years, but he couldn't stop thinking about that eerie, but almost bucolic Stargate amid the blossoming trees.

~*~

Geronimo met Teal'c in the corridor on his way to the briefing room, and though he thought he might know how to get there, he was glad to have someone to follow. He wasn't exactly sure of what to say to the imposing Jaffa, so he settled for good morning, and received the same, courteous reply.

Sam was already there, with a cup of coffee and slim folder of notes on the table. She greeted him with a cheery smile, and he nodded, giving her a return smile. Geronimo set his voluminous pile of notes at the same place he'd sat at the last briefing, and got a cup of coffee. Daniel arrived a few moments later with only a coffee cup in hand. Geronimo was starting to think he might have over prepared for this, but he'd learned long ago that he spoke better with a piece of paper--or in this case, a stack--in his hand.

He'd declined Daniel's offer of a ride home, and stayed on base last night, putting together what he thought the residents of the isolab might need, along with checking in on them at regular intervals. He was beginning to think he'd taken a larger bite than he could chew; but there was no spitting it out—nothing to do but forge ahead and hope for the best.

General O'Neill joined them from his office, and it was all business. "All right, kids, what have we got?"

Sam passed each of them an inventory sheet. "The equipment itself is mostly medical in nature, though there are some things that we haven't figured out what they do. I'm confident that it's merely a matter of time before we determine their purpose. The most interesting thing is the Asgard-Ancient interfaces. It might be that we ask Thor for some clarification, but we've seen this kind of thing before, so it may not be as difficult as it might appear."

"So we got some good stuff?"

"Yes, sir. The zero point module we recovered is ready to go to the Antarctica outpost to power the planetary defense system."

Daniel added, "That's going to go a long way in the research going on there. Basically after the last ZPM died, every project came to a complete halt. I'd still like to know where Camulus found the ZPM he booby-trapped—that could be why we only found one on Ayohsust."

"I'd like to use the ZPM to call Pegasus before we send it out, sir. Siler still has Dr. McKay's power interface for the gate."

"I'd like to know for certain that we aren't going to suck this one dry before we do that."

"I'll double check my simulations, sir, but so far the indications are excellent that it will be able to withstand the power draw."

"Get back to me on that. I want to know for sure—our entire planet's depending on the answer."

"Yes, sir."

"Dr. Horne, what about your new friends?"

Geronimo cleared his throat and shuffled his papers. "So far, they seem to be holding it together. They are all in perfect health; none of the subsequent tests have revealed any side effect except the inability to speak."

"Patients that don't sass back. That's a first around here."

"Yes, sir. My main concern right now is their mental health. Records indicate that some of them have been gone for a very long time, twenty years in one case. It's going to be difficult for them, and I'd like to recommend that we start some counseling, and reintegrate those that have been gone the shortest period of time first, once we've made a final determination on their lack of speech."

Daniel smiled at that. "We might have some experience with that."

"It's almost an annual event, actually." Jack smirked at Daniel, but Daniel only frowned.

"I see, I think. At any rate, Sam and Daniel have been able to confirm the home planets for two of the, uh off-worlders; Vali's records indicated that all of the aliens were abducted last. Most of them are cognizant of the Stargate on their worlds, and so returning them should be reasonably straightforward."

"About that. The two addresses were confirmed by the individuals, they recognized their home address. The third one, the female, was completely confused—I don't think she's aware of the Stargate on her planet since she didn't appear to know what it was. The last two, I can't correlate the address with anything in our database, and if they know it, they aren't corroborating it. They didn't seem to be very interested in the process at all." Daniel seemed frustrated by his lack of progress.

Geronimo considered bringing up the disturbing image he'd had the day before when examining the alien. He wasn't sure how to approach the subject, and while it was unusual, there still the possibility that he was suffering from a lack of sleep. He decided to pass on the opportunity. Just as well, the briefing had moved on.

"I'll have another SG team do a little re-con for those three, make sure we're not sending them into snake territory."

"Great. I'm most worried about those that have been missing the longest—they'll have the most difficult time getting up to speed, and dealing with their families that have aged when they haven't, spouses remarried, and so forth. Also, we haven't been able to identify what they were contained in—we weren't able to obtain a sample, and while it may be only matter of time, we might have to consider the possibility that they might not regain vocalization."

"If you need to call in any specialists, let me know and I'll get the clearance for them."

"I'll look into it. Is there a staff psychologist?"

"Dr. McKenzie. Just don't mention SG1 and he'll be fine."

Geronimo frowned at that, but let the remark pass. "I had them write out their pertinent information, so we have the names and some basic bios on the people from Earth." He dug into his stack of papers and handed out copies of the list. "I was hoping that we could do a little research for them and see what we can find on their families for them."

"Good job, Dr. Horne. Consider it done."

"Thank you, I'm sure it will go a long way towards easing their discomfort."

~*~

It was the third day after their awakening that the patients began to regain the ability to speak; Geronimo was lost in a whirlwind of arranging group and individual therapy sessions. He'd appreciated Daniel's guestroom, but right now, he was needed here. After the first session, Dr. McKenzie had asked to have the Earth-born humans transferred to the Academy hospital—it would give them a more familiar environment, and he could bring the larger resources there to bear on their needs.

Geronimo jumped at the chance to go with them. One, it would offer the patients a modicum of familiarity, and two, he would get the chance to see some of Colorado Springs and get off base. Daniel was right—this place could drive you crazy. The third time he'd touched the alien, the visual flash was more recognizable, and definitely more sinister. The last one had focused on the Ancient/Asgard equipment, and the SGC's Stargate. He had no idea what it might mean, but the specificity of the impression worried him. It was undeniably time to bring this to the attention of someone. Maybe Mackenzie could squeeze him in.

The trip topside reminded Geronimo that he had some reintegrating of his own to do. Daniel had brought him the care package from Florida with a few necessities that had been shipped to his house, but he needed to get settled. He shared his home in Clear Lake with his younger brother and his family, since his previous line of work often had him out of town, but the apartment on Merritt Island would have be taken care of. He'd also have to find a place to live here in the Springs and arrange for movers. It was hard to believe that in the space of less than a week, he had been floating high above the Earth on the International Space Station, lived through a self-imposed isolation, taken a new job, been to another planet and shot at by aliens, and was now planning a cross-county move. His life was very different, indeed.

~*~

The next day Geronimo woke early and went to level five to check on his alien patients in the makeshift bunkhouse. The last couple of times he'd done rounds, Geronimo had avoided touching the two mysterious aliens, but his curiosity was piqued—was it just his overactive imagination, or was something really happening?

Three of the aliens had regained the capability of speech along with the earth-born patients, but Geronimo didn't speak whatever language they used, so he continued to use his universal sign language. They all seemed to be in good spirits, and three of them were chatting with each other.

He steeled himself, and approached the mysterious duo. They were sitting apart, silent as before, and Geronimo wondered why they didn't speak. The MRI had revealed all the expected physical manifestations of speech related organs, so he had to assume they were silent by choice.

Geronimo hoped that they weren't aware of his intentions, they scared him and he hoped he was masking it well enough in soothing tones and gentle touch.

He most assuredly did not like the conclusion to his experiment. Geronimo withdrew as quickly as was seemly, and had one of the drivers from the motor pool take him the Academy hospital to do rounds there. The alien touch had given him a very clear picture, and the image made him feel very uneasy. The patients at the Academy had appeared to be settling yesterday, but he wanted to do some normal doctor/patient bonding with people he understood and could relate to.

Geronimo paused at the partially open hospital door. The bright, airy room had a view of the grounds outside the hospital; stacks of newspapers and magazines were strewn over the table and chair, and the man occupying the room was standing by the window, looking out at the manicured lawn dappled with sunlight. The rapping sound startled him and he whirled around to face Geronimo.

He hadn't meant to scare the man. Geronimo made sure his voice was as calm and soothing as possible. "Hello, Cyril, how are you holding up?"

Lieutenant Baines gave him a weak grin, and offered his hand. "Dr. Horne. Call me Cy, or Baines."

Geronimo joined him at the bedside and clasped the extended hand with both of his and shook it warmly. "Cy, then. Call me Geronimo. How are you?"

"Confused. Upset. You name it, I've probably worried about it."

"I'm sure you have. Have you had an opportunity to speak with anyone yet?"

"An aide came and gave us our appointment schedule, Ronnie—my roommate—is at his now."

"I hope you don't have to wait too long."

"No, I'm going later today."

"That's good." Geronimo let go of Baines' hand, then casually picked up a pile of newspaper from the chair and sat down. "Have a seat; let's talk for a few minutes. Where are you from, originally?"

"I was born around the Chicago area, and though we moved around a lot, I generally think of it as home."

"Hey, me too. I grew up in the city; all of my family is there."

"We live out in the suburbs, around Wheaton. Or at least we did fourteen years ago."

"Ah. I know they are working on finding the whereabouts of everyone's family, so hopefully you'll know something soon. I can't even begin to imagine how you must be feeling. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Yeah." Baines looked at his doctor with an appraising eye. "Maybe. How high is your security clearance?"

Geronimo chuckled. "Pretty high at this point, but I think it's fairly specific to the project I'm associated with."

"Right. I have a feeling we're going to get a visit from an intelligence specialist before we're through."

"Probably."

"Okay, here's the thing. I was actually on a classified special ops mission when I was snatched up. It wasn't going so well—we'd already had two of the team and a couple of civilians killed. I'm trying to figure out who I can ask to find out what happened after I left."

"I see the problem. I've got to tell you that until just recently, I was with NASA, and though I don't have any strings to pull, I think I know someone who does. I'll ask, and let you know."

"That would be great, thank you."

"Sure, no problem." Geronimo looked at Baines. "I just can't get over how much we resemble each other. If you don't mind, I'd like to do a little research on your family, and see if we have some common relatives."

"Uhm, right. That's fine, it would be interesting to find out." Baines found his notepad and pen under the newspapers, and scribbled down the names of his parents and grandparents. "I know my mother and grandmother were both from Mound, Illinois. The farm's been there for a long time."

"Great, thank you." Geronimo took the notepad and scribbled something on it. "Here's my cell phone number, I may leave for a couple of days, but I should be back soon. Call me any time if you need anything, anything at all."

Cy folded up the piece of paper and dropped it in his shirt pocket. "Thank you, I appreciate that. I will."

"Good. I've got to go and check on the others, but I want you to rest, take it easy and stop worrying. Take advantage of the programs and facilities here. Get what you need to help you pull it all back together."

"I'll try, Doc. And thank you again, for everything."

"Anytime." Geronimo stood and shook Baines' hand again, and looked at him closely. He shook his head; it was just like looking into a mirror that showed you the past. "Amazing."

"It's kinda scary if you ask me."

Geronimo laughed. "You know, I don't think I've ever been called scary. Oh, speaking of scary, I wanted to ask you something. You know the two aliens…"

"Oh yeah. The others were okay, but I know exactly what you mean by 'those two'."

"Did you ever bump into them and notice anything strange?"

"Uhm, yeah? I thought I was just finally completely gone crazy, you know? I got a picture in my head, but it didn't make any sense, but the worst part was how it made me feel."

"How did it make you feel, when it happened?" Geronimo was surprised, he didn't like the images he'd received, but they were only pictures.

"I felt threatened, got a sense of coldness, like they meant harm. I stayed away from them completely after the once."

Geronimo frowned. "I've had repeated contact, but I never had any emotional reaction, other than my own. Just images."

"Was it that big ring, in a glade of some sort?"

"As a matter of fact, it was. Hmmmm. Cy, don't worry about it; it's all water under the bridge for you. Take it easy and I'll check in again tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay, and thanks. Now I know I'm not the only crazy one!"

Geronimo forced himself to smile. "Apparently not. Have a good afternoon." He stopped outside the door, and made a note on the chart hanging on the wall, cut his rounds short and returned to the SGC immediately to speak with General O'Neill.

~*~

When he returned to base, Dr. Horne found O'Neill in his office. "Sir, do you have a few minutes?"

"Sure, Doc, come in, have a seat. What've you got?"

"One of the refugees, sir. Lieutenant Baines, I spoke to him this afternoon, and he asked me to look into something, but I'm fairly sure I don't have the necessary clearance."

"As Chief Medical Officer of Stargate Command, there's probably not much you don't have clearance for."

"Oh, that's good to know. Still, I think his request might be more in your purview. He mentioned that, when Vali took him, he was on some sort of secret special ops mission that was going bad, and he wanted to find out what happened after he left."

"Now, that—that is interesting."

"Yes, I suspected you might think so. I know you're a busy man, but I hoped I could ask you to look into the matter."

"Sure, I think I can manage to tear myself away from the quarterly budget report."

Geronimo slid Baines' folder across the desk. "Thank you, General O'Neill. This is everything we have so far. When you have something, I can go back and talk to him."

"I'll do that."

"There's something else. I'm not sure how to approach this, but there is something odd going on with two of the aliens down in isolation."

"How odd?"

"Since we didn't have any other way to communicate with them, I'd try to give them a reassuring touch, it seems to be a universal standard among most humans. These two—they tended to shy away from it, that could be a social norm for them, but I backed off that because they seemed uncomfortable with it—I think they might be telepathic. I got visual images from them when I touched them."

"Anything specific, these visuals?"

"Ah, yes. The first time, it was brief, and I'd been awake and working for twenty hours, so I passed it off to lack of sleep. The second time, it was back here at the SGC, just after we'd returned. That one was just a quick image—a Stargate that was outside, on a stone platform. The last one was this morning—and it was very specific, it was a picture of the Asgard interfaces and the zero point module being put in storage."

"Oy. Telepathic aliens with a jones for our stuff."

"I think we might want to ask the other nursing staff, though Scott and Stevens denied anything happened on P3X-869. Daniel—he's dealt with them a lot more in trying to get information. I spoke to Lieutenant Baines this morning and he had a similar experience, and saw one of the same images I had, the Stargate. However he also reported an emotional reaction, that he felt threatened and a sense of danger."

Jack ran a hand over his head in irritation. "I'll take it from here, Dr. Horne. I know you've got your hands full, but if you get anything else, let me know immediately."

"I'll do that, General. Thank you." Geronimo was relieved that O'Neill hadn't decided he was a total flake, but he'd have taken that chance anyway.

They stood and shook hands over the desk, and Geronimo left the office to return to the infirmary.

Baines piqued O'Neill's curiosity, and the aliens pissed him off. He had glanced over the list of abductees in the briefing, but hadn't studied it carefully. He relied on his people to point out the critical information, and the strategy had worked well for him so far. O'Neill called Sgt. Harriman into the office, and turned the file over to him to do the initial inquiry on Baines' issue. He called the top security officer, Major Jones, and after relaying Horne's information, asked him to start an investigation.

Within a few hours the final report on the Nexus facility had been handed to him on crisp facsimile paper.

It was an incredible tale, and, had he not already lived through some of the weirdest shit in this galaxy, and others, Jack would have discounted most of everything in it. The civilian scientist that filed the report had been extremely thorough, but the entire fiasco of invasion by a monster from another dimension read like a grade Z horror movie. He'd have to send Carter the technical information and have her look into it; this stuff would be like giving candy to a baby.

The young officer's service file had a plethora of sterling recommendations and honors to his credit, and by all accounts he was an exemplary soldier. Jack fired off an email to the doctor with the edited highlights of the mission and advised that he was going to speak with Baines personally. He pulled the photograph out of the service folder on his desk, and took the mission report with him.

At the academy hospital, Jack showed the floor nurse Baines' picture; she thought that the Lieutenant was probably at the cafeteria. It was still crowded at this hour, but he finally located Baines at a table with several other people, presumably his fellow abductees.

Baines stood and saluted as Jack approached the table.

"At ease, Lieutenant."

"Thank you sir." Baines relaxed slightly.

"I'm Jack O'Neill. Could I borrow you for a minute?"

"Yes, sir."

"Let's take a walk."

Baines turned to his dinner companions. "Later, guys."

One of the men asked if they should save what was left of his meal, but Baines allowed as how he was finished. They reminded Baines about the movie in the common room later as they walked away.

"What can I do for you, General?"

"Dr. Horne mentioned that you wanted some follow-up information on your last mission, so I brought the final report with me." Jack handed him the folder. "I can't leave it here, but I thought you'd like to read it."

Baines swallowed; his throat was suddenly dry as he took the brown folder with "Top Secret" stamped on the front in red. "Uhm, yeah." He looked around indecisively for a moment. "Why don't we go up to my room?"

"Good idea."

They found the elevator and once the door was closed, Jack openly inspected the Lieutenant. He had gone back and read all of Horne's notes, and there really was a remarkable similarity between them. "So how are you holding up?"

"Fine, sir. Well, as fine as you might expect."

"I read that report. Pretty wild."

"Yes sir, it sure was." The ding signaled their arrival at his floor and Baines led the General to his room. He offered the chair to O'Neill and Baines settled himself on the bed holding the folder like it was a poisonous snake. "So, how bad was it?"

"Well, we're all here and there's no creature from the eighth dimension laying waste to the countryside, so I suppose it's all a matter of perspective." Jack smiled briefly and nodded. "Go ahead."

Baines hands shook visibly as he opened the folder and read the report. The dry prose detailing the events of that fateful February day was calming in a way—he could almost step out of his memories while he read. Oh, thank god, Zunoski had made it out alive, along with Doctors Casserly and Shepard. No one else had, especially that skanky bastard Dr. Summerfield. Baines refused to feel bad about the doctor's demise, but knowing he'd been infected with the larvae of that creature went a long way toward explaining his erratic behavior. He glanced over the other information in the folder, but it was all technical information about the magnetic flux chamber. Baines closed the file and slipped off the bed to hand it back to the General. "Thank you sir. That really helped."

Jack looked him straight in the eye. "You're welcome. Have you told anyone about the PTSD?"

Baines ducked his head and studied the suddenly interesting floor tile. "Ah, no, not really. I didn't know what to say. 'Oh by the way, on top of having been abducted by little grey men from outer space, I'm having nightmares about a monster from another dimension that ate my teammates.' That would go over real well." Baines lifted his head and gave O'Neill a sardonic grin.

Jack grinned back. "I can see how that might sound a little strange. The thing is, some weird crap has happened to a few of us over the years, and this won't really be any weirder than that stuff. If you don't mind, I'll make sure that one of the shrinks with the proper clearance gets to see this; sort of a conversation starter."

"That would be great, sir. I really wanted to talk about it, it's all so clear in my mind and fresh—it's impossible to understand that it was all over a long time ago."

"All right. I want to ask you about something Dr. Horne mentioned. He said you had an unusual reaction to two of the aliens?"

"I was sure I had gone over the edge, but yeah. It was weird. I got a definite mental image, and a feeling that's hard to describe."

"Do you think you could describe the image?"

"Like to a sketch artist? Sure."

"I'll have the arrangements made, you'll need to make a trip back to Cheyenne Mountain, but we'll let you know. Have you given any thought about what you might do once you get out of here?"

"Most of the time I can't imagine what to do. Go and spend some time with my family for certain. Maybe if nothing else, I suppose the Army might still have a place for me, though I'm probably the oldest living active Lieutenant."

"The problem is, that to the Army, you're neither living, or active. That explosion at the bottom of the elevator shaft didn't leave much behind."

"Right. I'm dead. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that fact."

"Believe it or not, you're not the first person we've had to return to the living."

"Really?"

"I've got an archeologist with more lives than Morris the Cat."

"I see. Not really, but okay. Sir."

"It's a pretty amazing story, actually. I might even be able to tell you about it someday."

The offhand remark caught Baines by surprise, and he had to think about it for a minute. "Yes, sir. I think I'd like that."

Jack stood up to leave. "Good. Take it easy, and don't worry. Major Jones is the security officer, and he'll contact you and make the arrangements."

"Yes, sir."

Part Four:

Geronimo didn't manage to catch up with the real estate agent until the next day. He grabbed a staff car and a driver out to her office, hoping she wouldn't mind taking him back to the base when they were done.

They spent a few minutes going over the available properties, organized a list of the ones he liked and set out to inspect the first one. The apartment was perfect; it was airy, had a balcony that over looked the city, and was within walking distance of a variety of stores and services. It had been painted recently, the wood floors were polished, and the carpet in the bedroom was new. He'd taken one look around, and agreed to sign the lease immediately; there was no point in looking further when a gem fell into your lap. With that detail out of the way, he decided to catch a cab and pick up some dinner to take back to Cheyenne Mountain.

Now he had to organize the trip to Florida to pack up his apartment there and retrieve his car. He could have his stuff packed and moved for him, but no way was he leaving the Corvette to the tender mercies of a moving company.

He was still using the temporary badge to Cheyenne Mountain, and he had to find time to arrange a permanent badge. He'd been given an office at the Air Force Academy hospital, the office there and the infirmary at SGC were pretty much the way the previous CMO had left them, and while they were workable he wanted to do some reorganizing. There were personnel records to go over, and previous cases to brush up on, not to mention the incipient mystery of a Goa'uld that had crawled into Major Hoyt and died, and – finally, a base map to memorize. O'Neill had given him a sarcastic look (he'd had no idea that was possible, but apparently it was) when Geronimo had suggested that a map be posted at key intersections; that was when he realized that maybe he needed to fill in the background of the SGC more thoroughly. Daniel had given him the highlights when they were prepping for the mission to P3X-867, but the emphasis then had been on the Goa'uld and Asgard. Daniel had missed more than a few key points, but then how was he to know they'd find an Asgard cloning lab?

Dr. Warner had things under control in the Infirmary, so he was going to closet himself in the temporary quarters on base and, no doubt, read until his eyes bled. That was, until Major Jones ran into him in the elevator. "Dr. Horne, I've been looking for you. Major Jones, security."

"Oh, this is about the aliens."

"Yes, sir it. Could I have a few minutes of your time? I'd like to get your full report first hand."

"Right now?"

"If you have a moment, it won't take long."

Geronimo sighed; his dinner hour just got pushed back. "Very well."

Jones led him to the security office on the fourteenth level, and they spent nearly an hour going over every detail of the problem at hand. How often had he got this mental image, was it the same every time, did one of the two seem to give him a better image, etceteras, ad nauseum. The Major didn't reveal any details about what the others might have reported, and that was fine with Geronimo. He just wanted to eat his chicken sub gum and read. He was finally released, and then he continued down to the sixteenth level to pick up the files that he wanted to study.

Before he escaped the infirmary to go to his assigned VIP room, one of the SG teams returned injured. They had gated to the first address of the abducted aliens to check it out, and had run into a surprise firefight with Jaffa troops. Major Coburn had suffered staff wounds to the neck and side of his face; the blast had deflected off the ceramic polymer vests, but at least he was alive. There were other assorted injuries, scrapes and bruises, enough so that when he was through with SG2, it was late and his chicken sub gum had solidified to a nasty mess in dire need of a microwave. He sighed as he grabbed the bag off the desk and headed towards the commissary. He'd heat it up, retreat to his quarters and attempt to get through at least some of the mission reports.

Daniel was just leaving his office when Geronimo ran into him. "Hi Geronimo, what's up?"

"Dinner got interrupted by Major Burns and SG2. They ran into some Jaffa on P2 whatever it was. I was going to go see if it could be salvaged, but I'm not holding out much hope."

"At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I was just on my way home--would you like to join me?"

When faced with the choice of sleeping hundreds of feet underground and eating congealed sub gum, or going home with Daniel, it ended up being no choice at all. "That sounds great, Daniel. I appreciate it. It's just been really hard to get away."

"I know that better than anyone, well, except for Sam. But take it from an expert—you'll never get a good night's rest on base."

"A good night's rest…" Geronimo's mind wandered to his king-size bed at home in his apartment in Florida. "Oh yeah. I could do that."

"Then let's go."

Geronimo dropped the white paper sack in the first trash can he saw on the way out.

Daniel unlocked the front door and moved through the house turning on lamps. "Make yourself at home. I'll see what I've got in the fridge." He stopped in front of the fish tank to drop in a few flakes of food to his remaining specimen, an upside down catfish that looked like he reveled in having the tank all to his own. "Have a nice dinner, Fish."

A bottle of wine was produced, and Daniel handed Geronimo a glass. "Hope you like Shiraz, it's the only thing in the house."

"Love it. Thanks. This is a nice house, Daniel. Very you."

"Thanks. It's my first house, always lived in apartments before."

"Oh that reminds me, I found an apartment today."

"Cool, where is it?"

"It's on the eastside, close to the park and Memorial Hospital, over on the corner of Foote and Platte."

Daniel choked on the drink he'd just taken, and then attempted to try and swallow and cough at the same time. "Brick building, few stories tall, with a balcony that overlooks the city side?"

Geronimo gave Daniel a quizzical look. "Yeah, how did you know?"

He grinned in return. "I used to live there a few years back."

"No shit."

"You'll love it there. I would have moved in again, but it was rented when I came back. Jack and Sam convinced me that I needed to put down some roots and buy this place."

"Came back from where?"

"Ah, well, it's a long story, I'll tell you over dinner. Of which I don't seem to have any. You like Chinese food, obviously—I'll order some in, and I'll tell you the whole sad tale of how I lost my apartment."

"Sounds like a plan."

Dinner was ordered, and as they began to eat, Daniel related the story of how he had received a fatal dose of neutron radiation while disarming a bomb, then instead of dying had been given the opportunity to join the Others and ascend to live on another plane of existence.

Geronimo forgot to eat. He sat with his mouth open and chopsticks in hand while he listened to this horrible tale. "You died of radiation poisoning and ascended to another plane of existence?"

Daniel nodded. He'd had some time to learn to deal with it, but it was still a painful memory to relive, for both physical and emotional reasons. "I shuffled off this mortal coil. I didn't have too many choices, and it was a chance to learn and maybe be able to do more than I was doing at the time at the SGC. I was losing the tug of war between the military and sociological concerns of the SGC. My wife had died the year before, and some things happened to make me believe that the friendships that had previously shored me up were crumbling." He looked up at Geronimo, and the grief on his face was almost palpable.

"Daniel." Geronimo whispered. "What happened?"

"I don't really remember what happened for the next year, but I ended up breaking their rules, and losing much more than I had ever lost before. I think that they kicked me out of their club, but it's possible I chose to un-ascend. SG1 found me on a planet a little while after that, with a serious case of amnesia."

Geronimo was completely flooded by the emotion in Daniel's voice, and he used the serviette to wipe his eyes. "My god, Daniel. How?"

"One of the last things that happened before I was un-ascended was that we found a tablet, and my replacement on SG1 had mistranslated it to be a place where they might find the ultimate weapon needed to fight the Goa'uld. They went looking and found me instead. I owe my return to the SGC to a faulty translation—how appropriate is that? Anyway, once I got back here, my pre-ascension memory started to return, but for the most part, the time I was ascended remains inaccessible."

"So I'm living in the apartment that you left behind?"

"'Fraid so."

"That's terrible, Daniel. I'm sorry... I couldn't even begin to know…"

"Don't worry about it. It will be nice to see it again. I'm fine with it. I think that Jack was really glad to see me out of there though. We had an incident with the balcony when I was having a bout of withdrawal."

"What the hell have I got myself into?"

Daniel laughed. "No getting out now, once O'Neill gets his hooks into you, you're signed up for life—or beyond."

Geronimo laughed with him. What else could he do? The conversation consciously turned to other events that were easier to absorb, like the ongoing investigation about the aliens.

"So, Daniel—have you spoken with Major Jones?"

"I have, but I'm afraid I didn't have anything to tell him. I didn't get so much as a flicker."

"Oh. Do you know if anyone did?"

"No one else did either. It's just you and that Lieutenant."

"That's very strange, don't you think?"

"It certainly adds another layer of mystery over the top of it all."

"I'm glad that it wasn't just me—I was afraid that you guys would think I was crazy."

Daniel shrugged. "Maybe. It's happened. I do wonder why you thought to ask him, and not anyone else."

"You know, I couldn't say. I was there, we were talking, and it just seemed like the right question at the right time. I did ask Stevens and Scott when it happed on Ayohsust."

"Ah. Well, I know how that goes."

Geronimo yawned. "I hate to break this up, but I think it's bedtime for me."

"Oh, sure." They disposed of the trash and leftovers, and Daniel showed him the guest room and bathroom, pointing out towels and other necessities. Geronimo thanked Daniel, and fell into bed, his dreams disturbed by images and memories of things that had never happened to him.

Geronimo liked Daniel. He was such an honest, real person. Geronimo had already figured out that Daniel was a very private person, and felt honored that he would share not just the story of his ascension, but also the pain and grief he'd felt. He found himself craving the pleasure of his company. As they drove back to Cheyenne Mountain the next morning, Geronimo asked Daniel if he would like to go to Florida with him, and take a cross-country road trip to bring the Corvette back to Colorado Springs. "It'll be about a two day trip if we push it, and I'd really like your company."

"I think I will. Sounds like fun, and I didn't really get to see very much of Florida when went to pick you up. I hadn't been there before."

"Cool, we can take longer if you want. If we can get away."

"Sam and Teal'c might want to come."

"Oh I can see the two of them squashed into the back seat of the 'vette."

"Yeah, maybe not."

They were still laughing when they signed in at the front gate.

~*~

Later that day, Geronimo received Daniel in his infirmary for a pre-mission check up. "So, Daniel, you're off to see the wizard." Geronimo smiled widely.

"Oh, please, not you too. Where did you pick that up?"

"Here and there. The gossip around this place is incredible."

"Just a giant rumor mill."

They talked as Geronimo drew blood, took the MRI and verified the health and state of his friend and coworker.

Sam joined them about halfway through. "So, Daniel, I hear you're going to join SG13 on P49-212." She looked around the newly arranged infirmary, and Geronimo noticed her tense slightly.

Daniel watched Sam carefully; he also noticed her reaction to the infirmary. "Yeah, Balinsky wants me to see the site in-situ, thinks the site itself may be a clue to his translation."

"How long are you going to be gone?"

"I'll be back in a couple of days."

Of course, Geronimo thought to himself. This meant a delay in their trip to Florida, and while that was a foregone conclusion, it also meant he'd have to catch a staff car to his apartment or stay on base.

"Sam, I brought Geronimo in this morning, and I was planning to drag him out tonight and get a few things for his new apartment so he wouldn't have to stay on base."

She thought it over for a moment. "Yeah, I can do that."

"Oh, yeah, get him the spare key, if he wants to stay at the house."

"Okay." Sam agreed in a flat voice.

Geronimo thought her response could possibly have been a little less forced—but not much. "No, really it's not necessary. I was planning on staying on base anyway. Plus, I have all the stuff from my apartment to move in. Eventually." He wondered why she seemed suddenly hesitant here, and he meant to find out. "But if you don't have any plans, I'd like to buy you dinner."

"Sure. I don't have any plans, we could do that." Sam relented and gave him her trademark grin, and shoved her unreasoning jealousy aside. "Sounds great. I've got to get back to the lab. Daniel, be safe, and I'll see you later, Geronimo."

"Thanks, Sam. I'm always safe, but the rest of the universe seems to have it in for me."

"Right. This from the man who rushed in where fools feared to tread. Bye."

Geronimo watched her leave, and turned to Daniel. "What was that all about?"

Daniel considered his words carefully. "The former CMO was killed in action last year, and she and Sam were best friends. It was pretty difficult, for all of us."

"Oh man. It's because I messed up her stuff."

"It's your infirmary, Doctor. You can't leave it as a shrine to Janet, and I know that Sam thinks so too, but it's just a human reaction."

"Yeah. Well, I'll see what I can do to smooth over the ruffled feathers."

"Good idea. Am I finished here?

"Sure. All tanked up, oil checked and air in the tires. Get out of here, and have a good trip."

"Will do. See you in a few days."

"Later, Daniel. Thanks again."

~*~

True to her word, Sam showed up around seven, and she seemed more like her normal self. "Hey, Geronimo, you about ready for dinner?"

"Let me just finish this, and let Warner know where I'll be." Geronimo closed the file he'd been reading and left his office briefly. When he returned he closed the door behind him. "Sam, would you mind if we cleared the air a little bit first? Have a seat."

She sat in the offered chair with a minor sigh of resignation. "I'm sorry, I know this is your place now, I just didn't expect it to be so hard."

"I understand, Sam, and I'm not upset, I'm just concerned. I want to make sure that you aren't harboring any resentment about my taking over the infirmary."

"No. Yes. Well, no. I was just surprised, that's all."

"You were very close to Dr. Frasier."

"Best friends. I still really miss her."

"I know you do. I can't be Janet, but I'd like to be your friend, too. You're an amazing person, and I respect your talent and knowledge. I don't want to be your friend, because I'm the replacement, but only because I think you're a great person, and I love that smile."

Sam couldn't help but grin. "I can deal with that."

"You know that you can talk to me, and even though I don't think I can promise to always be here, I think I'll be here for a long time." Geronimo had been reading the mission reports surrounding the firefight that had killed Dr. Frasier. Doctors and Astronauts don't make particularly good soldiers, but sometimes they had to go out on the frontlines as if they were. He now had a better idea of what his job might entail.

"Thanks, Geronimo. I appreciate that. And we're fine." Sam reiterated, "I was just surprised."

"If I had known, I would have given you a little warning. I have a feeling you're not going to be the only one who feels that way. Maybe I should put out a memo."

"Good luck with that."

They smiled at each other. "Now that we have that settled, is there any decent Mexican food in town?"

"It tends to be more Native-Mexican, but I know a good place."

"Then let's go."

~*~

Dinner with Sam had gone extremely well. They'd had a long heart to heart talk, or at least he figured it was long for Sam, and cleared the air between them. He noticed that she would let out a short burst of emotion, and then cut it off, getting herself under tight military control. But, under gentle prompting, she'd eventually continue and finish the dialogue.

Geronimo wondered if Sam wasn't the only one who felt like he was an interloper. Granted, he'd been there only a couple of week or so, and it would be difficult to know the patients that streamed through his doors on a daily basis very well, so he could hardly see the change in their attitude the way he had with Sam. Now that the possibility had been uncovered, Geronimo would be more alert to the sensitivity of his position. It had been a long time since he had been a personal physician to so many people, and it would take a bit of practice to get back in practice.

A part of being a Chief Medical Officer, especially at NASA, was dealing with the politics of a closed system. Geronimo had done it, and while not a master politician, he had managed to succeed well enough. Part of that success was determining who the primary leaders of the pack were, and once you had them eating out of your hand, the rest would follow naturally.

Geronimo figured that he was two for two. Teal'c, and especially General O'Neill were next on his list. If he were to try to explain this to an outsider, it would seem cold and calculating, but his scheming was ameliorated by a true interest in knowing who these people were.

His next 'project' fell right into his lap. Teal'c showed up just after a late lunch for a pre-mission physical.

"Hello, Teal'c, how are you?"

"I am very well, GeronimoHorne,

Geronimo chuckled. "I just can't get over the way you say that. I think it's great, very individualistic."

Teal'c smiled. It wasn't a huge grin, but he was definitely smiling. "Thank you. I believe that most of the Tau'ri think the same, and so it is an affectation that I continue with. They would expect no less."

"I'll keep that secret safe."

"Yes, I think you are trustworthy in this matter."

Geronimo started the physical. "How are you feeling? Any problems with the tretonin?""

"None that I am aware of. I will need to replenish my supply before I depart."

"Okay, we've got just what you need. I'm curious—how have you managed to live on base all of these years?"

"It has been difficult at times, especially since the loss of my primta. When I carried the infant Goa'uld, I did not sleep, and my kel'no'reem was less disturbed as is my new habit of sleeping."

"Anything I can do there for you?"

"No, I am becoming accustomed to the routine, and while I wish to gain more experience of this world, living at the SGC allows me the freedom to travel through the Stargate more readily."

"Well, that's certainly an optimistic way of looking at it."

"It also allows me to 'get all the gossip'."

"The truth comes out. If you find any juicy tidbits, you be sure and tell me."

"I am sure that soon you will have no difficulty in getting 'tidbits' of your own."

"It's pretty much Grand Central Station, here isn't it?"

"Very much so. The commissary is also an excellent place for interesting conversation."

"Oh, yeah. I heard all about the General's Wizard of Oz fixation this morning."

"That was most vexing in the beginning."

Major Jones came into the infirmary. "Excuse me a moment, Teal'c. Doctor Horne, just wanted to let you know that I'm going to double the armed guards outside the room on level five."

"So is it true that me and the Lieutenant are the only ones that reported seeing anything? Did you talk to him?"

"Yes, and we got a sketch of what he saw. It might not be serious, but that's no reason to not take it seriously. If you have anything else happen, be sure and let my office know."

"Thank you Major, I'll do that."

"Thank you. Pardon the interruption, Teal'c."

"It is not a problem."

Geronimo turned back to Teal'c. "Sorry about that. I wonder if I need to put up a do not disturb sign."

"I do not believe that it would aid you in your quest for privacy."

"Hmm. Probably not. Let me get you that tretonin, and you're ready to go."

Geronimo had conceded the necessity of packing and moving himself; he was too busy to get away to do it on his own. He made arrangements with the super at the old apartment to let the moving company to take care of it; his stuff would be delivered to the new apartment the following week.

He still had three aliens left in the lab; the single female the nurses had dubbed 'Annie', and the two aliens that gave him the willies. He wanted to go see Annie, he'd found her to be very sweet natured but he couldn't just ignore the other two. Geronimo was reluctant to deal with them, he really didn't want to see any more weird visions, but he would go do it anyway.

Part Five:

Daniel returned to the infirmary from his dig with what he thought was a sprained wrist.

"So, Daniel. What have we got here?"

"Sprained wrist."

"Oh, when did you graduate medical school, Daniel?"

Daniel was about to let go with a scathingly brilliant rejoinder when O'Neill appeared in the doorway. "Daniel."

"Jack."

"What happened?"

"One of the airmen tripped over a lay line, and fell against me. Knocked me down the hole, and I thought I just sprained it."

Geronimo removed the Ace bandage that had been wrapped just a little too tightly. "When did this happen?"

"Day before yesterday. Didn't seem too bad at the time, but it hasn't gotten any better."

Geronimo made a concerned noise as he inspected the injured appendage. "What have you taken for it?"

"Motrin, and Tylenol."

"Anything else, contusions or bruises?" He quickly checked his pupils to make sure there wasn't any sign of concussion.

"No, really just this."

"I want to get a quick film, and make sure it's not fractured, but I think we'll have you out of here in no time at all."

"Briefing when you're through, Daniel."

Daniel waved at the General as he was wheeled out to the x-ray. "I'll be fine, Jack." O'Neill sloped out of the infirmary, much to Geronimo's relief.

Geronimo took the needed x-ray and the standard post-mission MRI. "So, what was that all about?"

"He's still got a few issues left over from last year. He'll get over it."

"You two seem pretty close."

"As dysfunctional as it looks, we're really quite good friends. Jack just chooses to display it in an odd way."

"All of you are good friends, I think. You're very lucky Daniel, to have friends like that."

"Yes, I am. Present company included."

"Thank you. I like you too. Okay, I'm going to let you cool your heels until the results are back and we can decide what to do with them from there. Has the Motrin helped the pain or has it gotten worse?"

"Definitely worse than yesterday."

The film clearly showed a broken scaphoid in the wrist. Geronimo finished the rest of the physical then put a temporary cast on it, because it was still too swollen for anything permanent. "No skydiving, water-skiing or rally races. Otherwise, be careful. I want you back in two days; we'll take another look at that wrist, and see about getting something a little more permanent."

"Great, just great. I can't believe I broke my wrist falling into a hole!"

"I'm sure it happens to the best of us. You need to rest that wrist for the next few days. Type with the left hand, or use a voice recorder and let someone else do the typing. Keep taking Motrin, you can safely take four at a time of the over-the-counter stuff for the next two days, and you'll probably need it."

"All right, I'll think of something. Do you want a ride tonight?"

"Sure, that would be great. Sam's helped with that while you were gone."

"How did that go?"

"Very well. I took her to dinner, and we cleared things up. We'll be okay."

"Glad to hear that. If I decide to knock off early, will you be able to get away?"

"I don't see a problem with that."

"I'll see you later then."

"Bye, Daniel. Be careful!"

~*~

Geronimo decided he could get away for a moment to go to the commissary for a turkey sandwich. When he turned the corner in the corridor, it was a hive of activity. He caught sight of Sam rushing down the corridor, and he sped up to walk beside her.

"Hey, what's up?"

"General O'Neill decided we could use the ZPM we brought back from P3X-867 to try and contact the Atlantis group, but we couldn't make contact. I'm going to go run some figures through the computer and see what I can make of it."

"That's the one in the Pegasus galaxy, right? Does that mean they could be in trouble?"

"It's hard to say. There could be a few reasons their Stargate might be offline, or the ZPM might not have as much power as I had thought."

"Oh, that is bad."

"If that's true then I've made a serious miscalculation."

Geronimo raised his hand; he had crossed two fingers. "Here's hoping."

Sam chuckled. "Thanks, but I'll rely on the data, not luck."

"Good idea."

They had reached the end of the corridor where they would part company, when all hell broke loose. The klaxons sounded, and the red lights began to flash, and Sam yanked him out of the way as a group of soldier armed to the hilt nearly ran him over.

"What the hell?"

Sam ran to the base phone next to the closest elevator, and asked for an update. She gave him the news as she hung up. "Come on, looks like the alien guys made their move—they took out the guards and armed themselves."

They took off together, running pell-mell through the SGC until they reached the multipurpose room. Sam determined which way the aliens had gone, and took off running again. Geronimo stopped and knelt next to the first of the downed guards and checked for a pulse and any visible wounds. "He's alive, but unconscious and bleeding. We need to get him to the infirmary!"

An airman with a radio yelled back, "already on the way!"

Geronimo quickly performed triage on the four men, two were simply unconscious and two were wounded. He was assisting the nurses in getting the men on gurneys, when someone called out from the lab. "Doc, it's Annie, she's pretty bad."

"Get these men to the infirmary, I'll be there shortly." He ran into the isolation room to find her bleeding out from a nasty gunshot wound to the abdomen. He picked her up and instructed the airman to hold his hand over her injury as he carried her to the infirmary.

His team worked in a fevered rush to get those that needed surgery into the theaters and stabilize the less injured as more wounded began to show up. The slow trickle of new patients eventually stopped, and within the hour everyone was being cared for, or had been released with their minor injuries treated.

Geronimo took a brief break to make a call to find out what had happened. Sgt. Harriman said there would be a debriefing in a couple hours, and O'Neill wanted him there with a medical report.

He started scribbling notes in between checking on patients, as he went down the list of the men and women he'd seen today. Annie and two of the soldiers were still critical, a few less seriously wounded, the rest were assorted flash burns, bullet creases and one inexplicable broken finger. There were only ten; it could have been much worse.

The only fatalities were the two telepathic aliens that had instigated the battle. Those had gone directly to the morgue; there was no question that they were beyond medical intervention.

Geronimo made did a last round of patients before going to the briefing room. Sam Carter was in the general's office; Daniel was standing at the coffeepot. "You look like you could use a cup. Here," and he handed him the cup he had in his hand.

Geronimo accepted it gratefully and slumped into the closest chair.

Daniel sat next to him, and they sat quietly for a few moments drinking their coffee until Major Jones joined them, and Sam followed the general out of his office. "Dr. Horne."

"General."

They all sat down, O'Neill with his hands clasped together on the table. "What's the situation in the infirmary?"

"Two of the guards and Annie are still in critical condition. It's going to be a few hours before we know more." Geronimo looked up from his notes to find see O'Neill looking at him intently.

"Who's Annie?"

"Oh, that's the last alien from P3X-867. The nurses were tired of calling her 'that alien girl', so they gave her a nickname."

"Ah."

"Anyway, the other seven injuries were less severe, three of them I'm keeping overnight for observation, but I don't think there's anything to be concerned about, it's just a precaution. The rest were treated and released. I also have two dead aliens in the morgue." Geronimo found that angered him, which was a surprise given his previous ambivalence about treating them. "What happened?"

Sam answered. "Given that they knew exactly where they were going, and the directness of the route they took, it's my theory that while you might've been the only one getting back any images from them, they were probably receiving information about the SGC from virtually everyone. They made it down to my lab, where I'd had the ZPM taken after the Atlantis test. I think it's likely that they timed their move to coincide with that event, though at this point it will remain only conjecture."

"Daniel, did you make any headway on figuring out where these guys were from?"

"No. We don't have any known gate address that correlate to the coordinates from Vali's data, and as I noted in my previous report, they were particularly uncooperative in aiding our search."

"Major Jones?"

"I'm still getting the full reports, but all indications are that they overpowered the first two guards without a sound, and so were able to take down the next two and escape. How they did that I don't know exactly, but the closest thing they could describe it as," he paused to consider his next words, "was a Vulcan neck pinch."

"You're kidding me."

"No sir. That's how they described it."

"Major, I want a full report, ASAP. Please have your men review proper security procedure."

"Yes, Sir." The Major quickly left the briefing."

Jack looked at the remaining attendees. "How could we have handled this differently?"

Geronimo thought about it for a moment. "I guess we could've separated them, put them in the brig." The image of that alien Stargate had stayed with him, taken on a foreboding tone. He couldn't shake it off, and he wondered how his look-alike was handling it.

"I would object in principle of treating refugees like criminals. It sets a very bad precedent." Daniel looked serious. "We would end up no better than the Goa'uld."

"I understand that, Daniel. I'm just not particularly thrilled to find that the stray kittens turned out to be tigers." Jack's voice edged dangerously close to a reprimand.

Daniel was never one to back down from a challenge. "I think it's a risk we take every time that we offer aid. We've brought back refugees from the very beginning; and we've never had this situation happen before."

"We may have overbalanced the need to get them off base, with our wish to send them home." Sam spoke to the table; she didn't want to see the look she knew Daniel had to giving her.

Daniel retorted indignantly, "so, our basic, natural compassion is to blame?"

"I didn't say that, Daniel. The General asked for ideas, I'm tossing out possibilities. The truth is, once they were deemed medically fit, we should have removed them, to—I don't know—the alpha site."

"Now there's an idea I can get behind. I want the three of you to hammer out a plan for the humane treatment of possibly hostile refugees. I think you've got an outline. Dismissed." O'Neill retreated into his office, but they stayed put. This wasn't over, not by a long shot.

Geronimo felt like the pivot point. He understood, and agreed with Daniel, in that he'd wanted to treat his abductees with as much dignity as possible while they were recovering, and you didn't put patients in the brig. On the other hand, he was military and threat assessment and the subsequent management was a harsh reality. In a way it was a lesson he'd already learned the hard way. This was going to be very tricky; he didn't want to damage his friendship with either of them, and maintaining neutrality wasn't necessarily the answer.

Sam spoke quietly. "I think that we should all get some rest. Let's plan to get back together again tomorrow to talk about this."

Daniel puffed a sigh. "I'm sorry Sam, I shouldn't have snapped."

"No apology needed, Daniel. Personally, I happen to agree with you, but after today, the General may have a point—we need a compromise."

Daniel nodded, but kept his head bowed down, unconsciously rubbing the dressing on his wrist. "I can do that."

"I know you can, Daniel. I wish you didn't have to, I wish it was a perfect world."

He scoffed and looked over the top of his glasses. "It's highly overrated, perfection."

It was Sam's turn to nod, but she trained her blue eyes on Daniel. "So, tomorrow?"

Geronimo stood up. "That sounds good to me. I'm going back to the infirmary. Daniel, I'd like to take a look at your wrist, maybe we can get a permanent cast on it."

Daniel looked up, and gave him a small smile. "I'll be there shortly."

~*~

The crowning event of the day was when the moving company called, just as he was finishing up the bright yellow Fiberglass cast on Daniel's wrist. They would deliver his furniture the next day, and, either he'd caught a lucky break, or someone had set fire to their asses, for the truck had shown up five days early. They wouldn't agree to a specific time, just sometime between noon and five p.m. He couldn't just leave and sit in an empty apartment for five hours; there was entirely too much going on. He called his new landlady and made arrangements for her to watch for the truck and to let them in, and to just put the furniture where it looked like it might belong and stack the boxes wherever.

It would be a disaster, but at the moment, he couldn't worry about it. Geronimo was also starting to reconsider his decision not to have his car shipped. It would've been delivered with the furniture, and the whole mess would be over with. Events had conspired to delay his trip to Florida more than once. He was beginning to think that he should have rented a car at the very beginning, but then he wouldn't have had the opportunity to get to know Sam or Daniel as well. Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers let good things happen, but he really thought he was starting to push his luck.

Geronimo waved off Daniel's offer of a ride home; he needed to stay here in case any of the three critical patients turned south during the night.

The next morning they were still alive, although he was dead on his feet, it was worth it, as he'd been able to downgrade their condition to stable. Geronimo was about to go back to his room when Daniel and Sam showed up together in his office.

"Hey. How is it?" Daniel asked softly.

"They are doing much better. They are all stable, and I expect each of them to make a full recovery. Being able to get them medical treatment as quickly as we did really helped. Thanks, Sam."

She gave him a short nod. "It could have been much worse—we could have been completely in the dark about their intentions."

"We were lucky, I think."

"So, Geronimo, we were thinking. If we try to brainstorm anywhere on base, we'll be constantly interrupted and called away. I thought maybe we could do this at your apartment while we wait for your truck to arrive."

"Thank you, Daniel. That will work out nicely."

Meeting at the apartment turned out to be a stroke of genius. Daniel had brought scores of documents that gave them precedents to work from, and they worked steadily without interruption for the entire afternoon. By the time the truck showed up, the three of them had a rough draft of a treatise on the handling of alien refugees with indeterminate intentions.

Daniel couldn't help with the moving with his wrist in a cast, so he made the beer run while Geronimo and Sam helped the movers. By the time Daniel returned with the necessary libations, the movers had almost emptied the truck. The three of them unpacked boxes and had the apartment whipped into shape in a few hours—all of them had moved more times than they could count.

Take out was ordered and they went over the document again as they ate, ironing out sticky details. The first draft was finally ready to turn over to General O'Neill. They had put in a good days work, and Geronimo was pleased that they had been able to work together so well, both on the paper and the apartment.

Sam and Daniel left him to putter around the apartment with a promise that one of them would return in the morning to pick him up.

~*~

Geronimo knocked on the open door of Daniel's office. "Hi."

Daniel looked up from his computer. "Oh. Hi, come on in, have a seat, I was just finishing up here."

"I can catch a staff car if you're busy, and I hope you're not typing with that hand yet."

"Nope, I have one of the airmen typing up my notes. I could probably work all night and not even realize it."

"I know what you mean. I think I'm going to drown."

"I sympathize completely. What have you got going on?"

"Reports. Mission files, medical reports, and research papers--I'm not sure I'll ever catch up. I'm afraid to skip anything, it might be important. There's just so much of it, I'm not sure where to begin, and I'm having a hard time cramming it in around the other stuff going on."

"Yeah I see the problem. Maybe Sam, Teal'c and I can help prioritize the mission files, and put a little perspective on it."

"That would be great. I'll take any help I can get, but when we get back—I think I need this trip to take a few days and let all this soak in a little bit."

"I know I can't imagine having to catch up with all of this, let alone the last twenty years. Those people must be going through hell."

"Most of them are going to be fine. Mackenzie decided to release them in order of how well they were coping, There are only about six of them left at the hospital, and Annie is going to be fine, I think. She'll be with us a few more days, just to be certain her injuries are healing."

"I'm sure we'll find someplace for her to settle in, we have made a few friends around the galaxy that haven't gone south on us."

"That's a relief—the way General O'Neill makes it sound, it's us against the universe."

"Jack is overly fond of broad, sweeping generalizations. You'll figure them out. So, let's hit the road. What should we do for dinner?"

"I found a steak house that's got pretty good reviews. I thought we might try O'Malley's."

"Try might be the operative word—it has been a few years, so they might've forgotten."

"Forgotten what?"

"Uh, I started a bar fight. We trashed the place pretty good."

Geronimo shook his head. "I would never have figured you for the type."

Daniel laughed. "Me either. If they won't let me in, I have a back up plan."

"And you can tell me all about it."

~*~

Daniel pulled into an empty spot in front of the apartment building. He had taken the wheel on the last day of the road trip; Geronimo had quashed his niggling concern about letting someone else drive his car and acquiesced to the request. Daniel was suitably impressed, he loved his little Thunderbird but the Corvette was definitely a powerful machine. "Whew, home at last."

Geronimo extricated himself from the passenger side. "Not a minute too soon, either. Thanks for going with me, I could've done it myself, but it would have been a chore. I had a great time."

Daniel followed him to the trunk, to retrieve his overnight kit. "I did too. The Magic Kingdom was certainly…interesting."

"Just another slice of Americana. Every kid should go at least once, no matter how old they are." Geronimo hadn't laughed out loud, but seeing Walt's make-believe world through the eyes of a highly trained anthropologist had been entertaining all on its own. "It was a pleasure, thank you for going with me. I have a feeling that it'll be a long time before I have a chance to go back." The few things they had taken were on the sidewalk, and Geronimo carefully closed the lid on the trunk.

Daniel flashed a mischievous grin. "I'd love to take Teal'c, see what his reaction would be."

"That could go either way, I think. It would be fun, in any case. You want to come up for a drink?"

"No, I think I'm going to head home, but thanks for the offer."

"You bet. I'll see you tomorrow, then."

"Under your own power, even. Oh, yeah, don't forget to bring me the information on Lt. Baines. I'll see what I can uncover."

The similarity between Geronimo and the Lieutenant appeared to be multi layered. Not only did they look alike, but they were the only ones who had reported receiving anything back from the aliens who had instigated the skirmish at the SGC. Geronimo hadn't had the time to start a comparative genealogy search. They had talked about it on the long drive, and Daniel turned out to be quite interested in the project.

"Okay, I'll do that."

"All right, later then."

"Later."

~*~

Geronimo was scarfing down a turkey sandwich and a cup of coffee, and was surprised to have Daniel knock on his office door. His absence for the last couple of days had been noted, and the answer given was 'he's working'. They had been nearly living in each other's pockets for the last month and while Geronimo thought they'd needed a break, but in fact he missed the closeness.

"Hi, Daniel, what's up?"

"Got that genealogy chart worked up for you."

"Already? How's it look?"

Daniel laid the sheaf of charts and tables on the desk and sat down. "I went as far back as I could, about six generations, and you have no common ancestors with Baines."

"None? That's weird."

"None. Especially strange considering your amazing resemblance. I suppose the point of reference could have been farther back than that, but I don't think so."

"No, I agree. The similarity might have been attributed to cousins, but not that many generations back." Geronimo leaned back in his chair, and wiped his hands across his face. "We seem to have a mystery that needs more data."

"What are you thinking?"

"I've got his DNA test here, I think I'll run the same test on me, and compare the results."

Daniel glanced at his watch. "Let me know what you come up with. I've got a staff meeting I need to get to, but I wanted to let you know what I'd found."

"I'll do that. Thank you Daniel, I would never have been so thorough, or so speedy."

"You're welcome, and not a problem, glad to do it. Sam and I are taking Teal'c to dinner tonight, you want to join us?"

"Sure, that sounds great."

"I'll find out what the plan is and let you know."

~*~

Geronimo was the one that Teal'c wanted to ride with, more specifically wanted to get behind the wheel of the sports car. Teal'c had heard about GeronimoHorne's sports car from Daniel. Geronimo admittedly was a little worried, but he agreed that Teal'c could drive the Corvette to dinner, after finding out that he had a driver's license.

His concerns were immediately allayed. Teal'c was an excellent driver, and he appeared to thoroughly enjoy the experience.

When they arrived at the restaurant, Daniel was already there, and surprisingly, so was General O'Neill. Sam came in right behind him, so they sat down, and ordered their drinks. Jack and Daniel had apparently been here for a while, since they were halfway through their first round.

He picked up that this type of gathering was uncommon of late, as the waitress recognized each of them, but was surprised to see all of them together. Geronimo sat back and let their conversation wash over him. He had a decent working relationship with the General, but seeing him in a casual setting was a nice change. It was an excellent opportunity to get a feel for the dynamic of the foursome as they caught up with each other.

The food was adequate, and the atmosphere was comfortable. Halfway through the meal, Daniel brought up the subject of the genealogy search he'd done for Geronimo, and explained the negative results. "Geronimo, did you finish that DNA test you were talking about?"

"Yeah, it's the damnedest thing. I think I must have done something wrong—because apparently there is a variance of less than one percent between the two samples." He looked up from his mashed potatoes to find they were all giving him the same curious look. "What?"

Jack asked the question they were all thinking. "Your test showed you were virtually identical, and you didn't think to mention it?"

"Well, like I said. Could be it was a fluke, or contaminated samples, or any number of things. I was going to run them both again tomorrow and compare the two results."

"And if those prove identical?"

"I could call him and have him go see a friend of mine in Chicago, get a new sample. I was thinking of sending two samples each to two separate labs and see what we come up with. One test is simply statistically inconclusive."

"I agree, sir. More data lowers the improbability. The PCR machine we have is good, but there's more sophisticated analysis available at the big labs."

"And say those tests all prove the same thing?"

"I'm not sure. What does it mean, after all? I'm not sure I want to dig too deep on this, I might not like the answers."

Daniel frowned. "The implication is that You-Know-Who was involved. Plus there's the fact that the two of you were the only ones to receive any images from the aliens."

Geronimo bristled as he defended his doppelganger. "The idea that I might not be who I thought I was is fairly terrifying. Imagine what it would be like for Baines—what he's been through so far, only to call his actual existence into question? What kind of emotional damage might that cause to him? At this point, I think it's merely a point of scientific curiosity, and I'm not willing to be the one to wreak that kind of havoc on the poor kid."

"Indeed, GeronimoHorne. I can not see any advantage to be gained by such an action."

"Thank you, Teal'c. No advantage at all."

Jack acquiesced with a nod. "I see your point. I went to see him, before he went home, he wanted to know about that file I gave you, Sam. Nice kid, but he's been knocked for a loop, and he's definitely suffering from PTSD."

"Mackenzie kept him here as long as possible because of that, but thought more good could be done by sending him home to his family. He's been keeping tabs on him by phone."

"If you change your mind about the DNA studies, Geronimo, I'd be glad to help."

Geronimo smiled; it was good to have Sam asking to work with him. "Thanks. We can run another set of tests tomorrow, if you like."

She gave him that bright smile he loved to see. "That'd be great."

With that, the conversation ran to other more subjects. Geronimo discovered that they were all quite interested in his career and past experiences, specifically the reason he'd stepped down as CMO at NASA. When the question came up, he took O'Neill's brief nod as permission to relate the incident.

"To be honest, I hadn't thought it would be very interesting, in light of the adventures you've all had."

"Actually we were dying to ask, but you didn't seem to want to talk about it."

"Oh." He recounted the tale in a low voice, so they wouldn't be over heard. "It wasn't my finest hour, really. An astronaut was struck by a small asteroid while out on EVA, and he seemed to be doing all right. Then, it was discovered that the object that stuck him was carrying the DNA to an alien species. It was, we thought, an incredible discovery—we weren't alone, that there was life out there." Geronimo waved his dessert fork. "I was going to be the one to reveal the finding, so I kept a tight lid on what we found, against the better judgment of the other scientists. There were some genetic anomalies, a gene that seemed to be just hanging out there, for no reason at all. Dr. Bailey, the entomologist that we called in had found it. It was just a matter of curiosity until we discovered that that gene had latched onto the DNA of the patient. He ended up dying and spawning a race of giant blood sucking moth men."

Geronimo paused, considering his past actions. "That's where I failed—we should have immediately notified as many agencies as possible, but it was too late, the contagion spread. Blood type was the key—one type allowed the mutation to take hold, and another didn't, and those that didn't turned out to be lunch for the others.

"It had reached the point of threshold, when the infected would swarm, and get completely loose in the ecosystem, and then Quidd took over. He planned to nuke Houston as a defensive strike, because the other nuclear powers were threatening to do it for us.

"We caught a lucky break, we found them on a ship they had hijacked, and the threat was eliminated when we blew the boat up."

Teal'c was the first to speak. "I believe that though you may have made a grave error in judgment, the fact that you persevered and dispatched these mutants says much about your character."

"That's what I said, T. It's not so much that you make a bad call, it's how you resolve the problem." Jack seemed to be making an apology.

"We'd be lying if we said none of us had made a few really bad decisions." Daniel kept his eyes on Jack as he commented on Geronimo's story.

"Thanks, but I took it really hard—I wasn't sure that I could trust myself again. Being given a second chance here has made a huge difference."

Daniel turned to look at Geronimo. "That's all you can do, sometimes."

"Oh probably so. But, I think there's more important things to talk about. Like a housewarming party, now that my house is put back together, thanks to Daniel and Sam."

"It was nothing, we're pros by now. I think a party is a great idea." Sam sounded very enthusiastic.

Geronimo listened to them plan the party, and he was genuinely thrilled to have found friends that cared about him, a place that he could belong and be an integral part of mankind's greatest adventure.

He had finally come home.

~fini~

| Read Comments | Post Comment |


Notes

Fandom: Threshold/Stargate SG1

Category/Rated: Gen, E

Year/Length: ~32,600 words Started Feb10, completed April 24, 2005. Re-edited January 20, 2007

Spoilers: All of the movie "Threshold", and for the tv series Stargate SG1, up to and including "Icon" in Season 8.

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun. So not my universes. Gecko & Kawoosh Films, MGM, Amber Light Films, The Sci-Fi Channel and a whole lotta others are standing in line ahead of me at the event horizon. The story is mine, though.

Summary: Dr. Geronimo Horne stumbles across a mystery and lands firmly in the rabbit hole.

Author's Notes: My deepest thanks to Sue, who--as always--provided excellent beta and inspiration, along with a light whip; my friend J, who asked hard questions and expected answers; and Amazon-X for midpoint encouragement. And of course to Patti, for planting that little seed. Any remaining errors are mine alone. I've chosen to make Horne Navy instead of Air Force, it suited the story. I've tried to skate the fine line between a satisfying read for the avid SG Fan, and making it accessible to the uninitiated. I hope I succeeded.

| Home | Stories | Sitemap O'Doom | Whazzup? | email dossier |

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional