A PERFECT HOST
By Donna M. Smith
Captain Simon Banks looked out of his office to see Detective James Ellison and his partner Blair Sandburg returning from an assignment. Simon shook his head. He was glad that whole dissertation fiasco was behind them now and Blair had been able to stay with Ellison as a police observer. The kid had even managed to finagle his way back into the university graduate program. He was going to be writing a new dissertation on the closed society of the police force—the phony topic they always used to give people who asked. Simon didn’t know how he’d done it, but Blair had a knack for talking his way into or out of anything. Even though he always gave Blair a hard time, Simon was glad to see him back in Major Crimes—not that he would come out and say that, of course. He’d rather eat his cigar. “Ellison, Sandburg. Back so soon?” The two of them looked whipped.
Blair managed to find the energy to jump up and head for the office, Jim right behind him.
Simon shut the door. “How did it go?”
Blair raked an exasperated hand through his long hair. “Not good. They claim to know nothing about the recent disappearances, but they were lying through their teeth. The head honcho was also conveniently unavailable. They said he was out of the country or something.”
Jim nodded. “That’s the bad part about being able to tell when someone is lying—I usually can’t act on it. We know they’re linked to the disappearances of those college students, but how would I get a warrant? ‘Yes, your honor, we have probable cause. I could tell from their heartbeats that they were lying.’ That would go over real well.” Jim started pacing angrily.
Blair knew this was tearing his partner up inside. It was hurting him, too. Who knew what those nutcase cult members were doing to the people they’d kidnapped? “Jim, relax, man. We’ll figure something out.”
Just then Rafe and Henri jumped up from their desks. They were talking excitedly. Whatever they were discussing made Jim tense up. The two of them rushed over to Simon’s office and knocked on the door. Simon ushered them in.
Henri held out a paper for the captain. “Good news and bad news, Captain. This fax just came in. The good news is that we may finally have something on that ‘Cult of Darkness’ for you. The bad news is that the FBI is taking over the case. They’re sending a team—they’ll be here in the morning.”
Blair glanced over at Jim. So that’s why he’d looked so tense.
Henri continued. “Apparently the leader of this cult, who claims to be an Egyptian god of Darkness named Kuk, has been around. He’s been traveling the country, gathering recruits, among other things. Several of his ‘high-priests’ are ex-cons or currently-wanted criminals who’ve been obtaining firearms for him. The towns he’s been to all have unsolved disappearance cases stemming from his time there. Same profile as the ones who disappeared here—healthy, intelligent, hard-working young people. Mostly college students. The FBI just made the connection between these crimes and the Cult. They want him bad.”
Rafe handed the fax to Simon. “They want us to keep him under surveillance—that’s it. Nothing else until they get here. Then they want to borrow some of us for backup.”
“Backup?” Simon chomped furiously on his cigar. “That means they plan to raid the place, guns blazing.”
Jim was pacing again. “I don’t like their heavy-handed tactics, either, but it looks like we’re stuck. They’re going to be in charge here. If you’re taking volunteers, Captain, I want in.”
“Hey, man! Aren’t you forgetting somebody?”
“I didn’t want to speak for you, Chief.”
Simon jumped in. “Must I remind you once again…”
“Yeah, I know. ‘You’re not a cop, Blair’. If Jim’s going in, of course I’m going in. Where else would I be?”
“You’re also forgetting that I’m not in charge on this one. The FBI may not want a civilian there.” He saw the stubborn look on Blair’s face and the resigned one on Jim’s. Simon threw up his hands in surrender. “I’ll talk to them about it. If they say no, I don’t want to hear anymore about the matter.”
Blair was beaming. “You’ve got it, Simon.”
“Rafe and I want in on this, too, Captain.”
“It’s the FBI’s show, gentlemen. But I’ll make sure I recommend all of you. Now we just have to sit tight until they get here.”
Dr. Daniel Jackson hurried to meet up with the others. General Hammond had summoned SG1 to the Stargate immediately. As he entered the room which housed the gate, he could see that the others were already there—Colonel Jack O’Neill, Major Samantha Carter, and Teal’c.
General Hammond walked over to him. “Sorry to cut your leave short, Dr. Jackson, but we received a message from the Tok’ra. Jacob is coming through the gate with important news that the Tok’ra were unwilling to talk about through regular communications.” He turned to speak to someone behind him. “Tell them we’re ready.”
Within minutes, the gate whooshed as a column of bright, water-like energy burst from it then retracted. A figure emerged from the circle of wavy light. He walked towards the team, but his eyes were on one person. “Sam. It’s good to see.”
“You, too, Dad. You’re looking good.”
“Selmak does wonders for my constitution.” He hugged her quickly then turned to the General. He extended a hand to his friend. “George.”
“Jacob. Welcome back.”
Jack interrupted. “It’s usually good to see you, but somehow I don’t think this is one of those occasions. Whatever bee got up the Tok’ra’s bonnet has to be a big one for them to contact us like this.”
“You’re right. We should get down to business.”
They all went to the main meeting room. Hammond started immediately. “So why are you here, Jacob? And why all the secrecy?”
“Perhaps I should let Selmak explain.” He lowered his head. When he raised his face again, his demeanor had changed slightly. “We are sorry for the clandestine nature of this conversation, but we were unsure of how secure our transmissions would be. The Tok’ra always monitor stray signals, broadcasts, anything we can that will give us an edge over the Goa’uld. This past week we picked up a strange transmission that our people have not seen in a long time. It was traced back to earth.”
Jack shook his head. “I think I know where this conversation is headed. Please don’t tell me there’s another Goa’uld on earth.”
Daniel nodded his head. “Setesh was quite enough, thank you.”
Selmak was silent for a moment.
Samantha leaned forward. “Is this true? Is there another Goa’uld on earth?”
Jack was exasperated. “Could you be a little more exact then?”
“He’s not Goa’uld…at least he wasn’t. We don’t know what he has become, but he was once Tok’ra.”
Teal’c raised an eyebrow at this. “Forgive me, Selmak. But if this transmission is from a Tok’ra, why is there such concern?”
“He may be as dangerous as any Goa’uld. We cannot be sure. Let me start at the beginning. Long ago, Rames was one of our best inside agents. He and his mate, Naufri, provided us with information that was instrumental in our defenses against the Goa’uld. The Goa’uld they served called himself Sebok.”
Recognition lit in Daniel’s eyes. “The ferocious Beast of the Nile who took the crocodile as his symbol.”
“The same. Sebok’s slaves had unearthed a strange artifact on Baroun. Those who saw it said it resembled a full-length mirror. From what we were able to piece together, it was some type of portable transportation device similar to a gate—one that needs no connecting mechanism at the destination point. It transports itself when it is used.”
Samantha’s eyes widened. “With a portable gate, Sebok could become the most powerful System Lord.”
Jack didn’t quite get the implication yet. “Why would having his own gate technology make him any more powerful than all the other System Lords that use Stargates?”
“Think about it, Sir. With a portable gate that doesn’t need a connecting one on the other end, he could, for example, transport soldiers directly onto an enemy’s ship, or inside an enemy’s stronghold. Granted, with the size of this device, it would be a small force, but think of the potential for quick assassinations. He would be able to suddenly strike anywhere—even in another System Lord’s private chambers.”
“Ah. Well, that would be a selling point.”
Selmak continued. “Our agents were determined to steal the gate and bring it back to us. But Sebok was watching them. They were caught. If you believe that Ra and Apophys were cruel tyrants, you have never met Sebok. He was a master torturer who delighted in finding new ways to inflict pain on his enemies. Our people were ruthlessly and brutally tortured for several months before Naufri died. Rames was very much in love with her. The strain of torture and her death destroyed something inside him and he became like a shell. Sebok took the broken Tok’ra to his ship to show him off as a warning to all who dared oppose him. But that was a mistake on his part. He thought Rames’s mind was completely gone. We do not know exactly what happened, but almost a week later Sebok was found dead—skewered with a sharp object. Rames and the gate were gone. One of our agents on Sebok’s ship said there was a message written on the wall in Sebok’s own blood. ‘From Chaos, Kuk, the god of Darkness is born! Death and Devastation shall be my companions! And they shall be my gifts to you all. Beware my kingdom’.”
Jack grimaced. “Great. A guy who calls himself, “Kook”. That’s not a good sign.”
Daniel sighed. “It’s pronounced, ‘Kuk’, Jack. It’s the name of one of the Egyptian Creation Myth deities—the Ogdoad. They personified the essence of the primordial chaos before creation, always in male-female duos. Nun and Naunet represented primordial waters, Huh and Hauhet were infinite space, Amun and Amaunet were the hidden powers of the universe, and Kuk and Kauket represented the endless darkness.”
“Kuk. Kook. In this case, there may not be much difference. What’s he been up to since then?”
Selmak answered. “He was never heard from again until we picked up this transmission. It was his personal, coded signal. It originated on earth and was directed at Esmus, a planetoid once under Ra’s dominion. Ra eventually found more fertile planets in more advantageous locations and abandoned Esmus.
It has been so long since Rames’s signal was used that we almost didn’t recognize it. Either he does not believe the System Lords will be able to recognize his old codes, or he does not care.”
Teal’c looked thoughtful. “Why would Kuk desire such a place as Esmus?”
“We are not sure. Perhaps there’s a limit to the distance his gate device will work. He may be trying to quietly build up forces closer to the Goa’uld and is planning to use Esmus as a jumping point. We are sure of his hatred for them. Beyond that, we don’t know what his goals are except for what he wrote in Sebok’s blood.”
General Hammond’s voice betrayed none of the worry he felt. “The tenor of that message does nothing to allay my concerns. So, what you’re saying is that we have a mentally unbalanced Tok’ra on our hands who could possibly be a danger to us as well as the Goa’uld?”
“Yes. We can provide you with information on his location, but we won’t be able to assist you further.” Selmak lowered his head. When he looked up, Jacob Carter was back in control. “The Goa’uld are on the brink of discovering our base. We’ll be incommunicado for a while until we get set up somewhere else.”
“Understood. Can you tell us where exactly this signal came from?” Hammond spread a map in front of Jacob.
Jacob figured the coordinates on the map. Cascade, Washington.
The General turned to Jack. “Colonel…”
“On our way, Sir.” They all got up from the table. “Ready for a roadtrip, kids?”
Teal’c looked confused. “It was my understanding, Colonel O’Neill, that the place called Washington was some distance from this base. Would not a plane be a swifter means of transport?”
Jack shook his head. “I’ll explain it on the way, Big Guy.”
Samantha and Daniel smiled behind Jack’s back as they headed out.
Jim and Blair were finishing up some paperwork at Jim’s desk. Jim didn’t need heightened senses to feel the tension at the station. They’d been staking out the warehouse where the Cult of Darkness had been staying. For four days they’d taken turns with other officers in Major Crimes helping the FBI. There had been no sign of Kuk, yet. The FBI wasn’t going to make a move if they didn’t have a good chance of bagging the top man. Now it was just a waiting game…and Jim was not a patient person.
Simon threw open his office door and stuck his head out. “Ellison, Sandburg! Get going! They’ve spotted Kuk. He’s at the warehouse.”
The two of them jumped up and headed out the door without a word.
In no time there were at the outer perimeter of the stakeout. Blair couldn’t understand why Jim never let him drive—especially when Jim drove like a madman. Blair seriously thought the only reason Jim hadn’t run over anybody was that the citizens of Cascade recognized his truck and hid whenever they saw it coming. Thank goodness they did. It wouldn’t look good for the department to have a detective who ran over puppies and little old ladies. Under normal circumstances, Blair would’ve teased Jim about his driving, but he could see how worried Jim was about how the raid would go down.
Blair was relieved the FBI was letting him come along. He was supposed to wait outside, though, while they raided the place. Someone would let him know when it was safe to go in. He didn’t like the idea of Jim being in all that chaos without him, but he didn’t have much choice. The only reason they were even allowing Blair that far was because the agent in charge owed Jim a favor. It seemed Jim saved his brother’s life once in the service.
The two of them quietly moved into position beside Rafe, Henri, and an FBI agent named Dubois. The minutes slowly ticked by in complete silence. Suddenly Agent Dubois perked up. He signaled for Rafe and Henri to come with him in one direction. He motioned for Jim and Blair to make their way around the side. Jim and Blair crept around the side until they met up with another detective and two agents. One of the agents motioned for Blair to conceal himself behind some barrels. The rest of them slowly moved towards the warehouse. They positioned themselves by the door and pulled their gas masks down over their faces.
Blair could see what the agents were carrying from his hiding place. He looked over at Jim, but Jim was still watching the door. Blair whispered so low, no one but a Sentinel would be able to hear him. “Jim. Turn your hearing down. They’ve got flash-bangs.”
Jim nodded slightly to let him know he got the message. In Jim’s headphone, only one word was said.
The FBI was taking no chances. They shot a mixture of flash-bangs and tear gas canisters through the windows of the warehouse. The flash-bangs would temporarily blind and surprise while the tear gas would blind, hurt, and disorient. One of the FBI men kicked in the door. From all sides of the building, agents and officers were busting in through doors and windows. Uniformed officers waited on the street to catch escapees and haul away the people the others subdued.
“FBI! HANDS ON YOUR HEADS AND GET FACEDOWN ON THE FLOOR! I SAID GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR! NOW!”
Rafe and Henri were struggling with a burly man who was screaming like a maniac. He elbowed Rafe in the eye. Rafe twisted the man’s arm behind his back and upwards painfully. Henri kicked the man in the bend of the knee to make him go down. They finally got him handcuffed as two other cops came to take him away.
Similar scenarios were happening throughout the warehouse. Most of the people surrendered peacefully. A few, however, tried to escape or fight.
Jim struggled with a reluctant arrestee, but all the while maintained an awareness of his surroundings. He noticed three men slipping away in all the confusion. There was something odd about one of the men, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Jim moved stealthily down the hallway after them, listening for any sounds. He could hear an odd humming noise and four heartbeats. Three of them were men’s heartbeats. With help from Sandburg and his “fun” little tests, Jim had learned how to distinguish between most male and female’s heartbeats. In general, they didn’t beat at quite the same rate. But the fourth heartbeat…he couldn’t figure that one. It was very strong, but had an odd rhythm. Maybe someone with a heart problem? It didn’t sound like any he’d ever heard—and Sandburg had made sure he listened in on patients whenever they were at the hospital. He said that if they were going to be stuck there Jim might as well get in some practice. Maybe it was an animal of some kind.
Jim positioned himself on the other side of the door. He suddenly burst through the door, diving to one side.
“CASCADE PD! YOU ARE UNDER ARREST!”
Blair got tired of waiting behind a bunch of barrels. He had a bad feeling that Jim was in trouble. He looked around carefully before he popped up from the shadows and ran into the building. Thankfully most of the teargas had dispersed by then so his eyes were only slightly irritated. He saw Rafe ready to take a handcuffed woman outside. “Hey, man! Have you seen Jim?”
“I think he went down that hall there after somebody. Wait a minute! You’re not supposed to be in here!” But Sandburg had already taken off.
Blair could hear voices coming from a room at the end of the hall. He slowly crept up from the side to listen in, peeking around the corner. Jim! With a couple of other guys. A white haired old man stood near the wall, two young body-builder types moved between him and Jim.
Blair noticed the strange tattoos on the younger men’s foreheads. Some kind of raised symbols that looked like they were carved into their skin. Blair’s area of expertise was South America so he couldn’t be sure, but the symbols looked Egyptian.
Jim tried not to look at the full-length mirror behind the old man because it shimmered with a strange golden light. He didn’t want to zone-out now. He was also aware of Sandburg’s heartbeat in the hallway. Didn’t he ever listen? Jim’s attention was drawn back to the three men in front of him—he could still hear four heartbeats. Where was the fourth coming from? Suddenly he found it, not believing his ears. The white-haired man. He was giving off two distinct heartbeats! How was that possible?
The old man looked furious. “The mirror is not ready! I need more time!”
Blair saw the look on Jim’s face and yelled at him from around the corner. “Jim! Whatever your concentrating on, stop it! You’re going into a zone-out. Listen to my voice. Let it keep you grounded, man.”
One of the men pointed an odd, curved device at Jim.
A burst of energy shot from the strange object. Jim rolled away just in time. If Sandburg hadn’t yelled… What was that? He’d never seen a weapon like that before.
Jim ran towards the old man, but one of the guards stepped in his way. Jim punched him in the face. The man staggered back a step but didn’t fall. He punched Jim in the stomach then backhanded him across the face. Jim fell to the floor, but quickly got back up. He’d underestimated this guy. Not again. He laid a stunning roundhouse kick to the man’s head then struck out with a fist straight into his opponent’s throat. The man dropped like a brick, gasping for air.
Meanwhile, the other guard had grabbed Blair before he knew what was going on. The guard pulled him over to the old man. “Hey! You can’t kill me!”
The white-haired leader looked him over with disdain. “And why not?”
Anything to stall. “Uhhh... I’m too young to die? I just got back into the university and I don’t want to make a bad impression by missing classes already? And it will really make my partner mad if you kill me because it’s my turn to dust and vacuum the loft this weekend.”
“You are a fool. I, Kuk, God of Darkness, hold your fate in my hands. The trivial details of your pathetic human life mean nothing to me. I decide when you die!”
“Oh, wow! You’re Kuk? The Kuk? I’ve never met a god before. This is so cool! My area of expertise is native South American culture, but Egyptian mythology is fascinating, too. It’s such an honor to meet you!”
Kuk stared at him for a moment, confused by his strange banter. “Of course, it is an honor. It will be even more of an honor to be killed by me personally.” He raised his hand. He was wearing some type of jewelry that fit over the hand and fingers. He splayed his fingers, palm outward, in front of Blair’s face. Blair suddenly felt like his whole body was vibrating violently. He cried out.
Jim shot the guard holding Sandburg. He flinched as the bullet tore through his leg, dropping Blair in the process. The old man was intent on Sandburg, still hurting him with the device on his hand. Jim ran at the cult leader, knocking him away from his partner. The two of them fell against the mirror and disappeared in a flash. Blair watched groggily as it flared up and then folded in on itself. There was nothing left. No mirror, no Kuk, no Jim.
Jack O’Neill jumped out of the military jeep almost before it stopped. He focused on the FBI agents and police officers coming from the warehouse, dragging out robed figures with Egyptian symbols on their clothes.
“Colonel! It looks like we’re too late!”
“Ya think?” He walked over to one of the agents. “Who’s in charge here?”
A man came up behind Jack. “I am. Special Agent Javier Boseman. What business is it of yours?”
“I think we need to talk in private. It’s about a guy named Kuk.”
That got Boseman’s attention. He led them to a secluded spot where they wouldn’t be disturbed. “Ok. What’ve you got for me?”
“Actually nothing. It’s all classified. We’re going to be taking Kuk and his followers off your hands. And as soon as everyone’s cleared out of the warehouse, it’ll be off-limits.”
“WHAT! If you think I’m going to let some arrogant little…”
Daniel held out his cell phone. “Uh, sir. These are orders straight from the president.”
“Right. And I take my orders directly from Abraham Lincoln’s ghost. What are you trying to pull?”
Daniel still held out his phone. “He wants to talk to you. You really should take this.”
Boseman snatched the cell phone from his hand. “Hello? Uh, huh. What’s the codeword?” All of a sudden the FBI agent stood up straight. “Sir. Yes, sir. Understood.” He folded the phone back up and gave it to Daniel without a word. If looks could kill… Boseman walked off in a huff to speak to his men.
Teal’c looked slightly amused. “It appears your president was able to convince him of the importance of our mission.”
Jack smirked. “Ya gotta love a man who can make FBI agents crumble with one quick phone call.”
Meanwhile, Blair still sat in the room where Jim had disappeared. It had been almost a half an hour. Some part of him seemed to believe that if he waited there long enough, Jim would magically return. He almost hadn’t heard Simon come up beside him.
“They told me Jim was missing and I got here as soon as I could. What happened?”
“They took him?”
“No! No one ‘took’ him anywhere. He vanished. I saw him. We met up with Kuk. There was a fight. The mirror was humming and glowing behind them. Jim tackled Kuk and they both fell into it.”
“What mirror?” Simon looked around, not seeing anything that remotely resembled a mirror. He was starting to worry about Blair’s frame of mind.
“It’s gone. It vanished in a bright light, too. Just like Jim and Kuk.” He saw the look on Simon’s face. “I know what I saw! I’m not crazy and I’m not that emotionally distraught. I’m having a hard time believing it and I saw it! I saw it! Come on, Simon. You believe in Sentinels and Shamans and spirit guides. You even believed Jim when he told you about his visions. Believe this, too!”
“Do you know how long it took me to accept those things? This…this just sounds…”
“Insane?” Blair jumped up, angry that Simon couldn’t just accept his word about what he’d seen. “If it doesn’t fit into your neat little definition of reality, it can’t possibly have happened, right? Then you tell me what happened to Jim and Kuk. You explain these weird weapons to me.” Blair squatted down to get a closer look at the curved energy weapon one of the guards had dropped.
Just then Rafe rushed in. “Captain! We’ve been ordered out immediately!”
“Agent Boseman’s really steamed. Some Air Force hot shots just showed up and took over the whole show. They’ve got their own teams and they’re taking the people we’ve rounded up. They said the ones we’ve already taken back to the station are considered officially ‘quarantined’. We’re not allowed to question them or even talk to them. Now the AF’s taking over the warehouse. They won’t even let us examine or bag anything.”
“The Air Force? On whose authority?”
“Someone said it came from the top.”
Blair looked up. “The Commissioner?”
“No. The very top. The President-of-the-United-States top.”
“Why would the President be interested in a cult?”
“Don’t know, but we have orders to clear out.”
Rafe left the room. Simon turned back to Blair. “I hope someone can shed some light on this mess.” He put a hand on Blair’s shoulder. “Come on, son. We’ll find out what’s going on here and find Jim. I promise.” Simon headed for the door. He didn’t see Blair pick up the curved weapon and hide it under his jacket before getting up to follow.
As they exited the building, Blair glanced over at the new arrivals. His eyes fixed on the group that seemed to be in charge—a very military looking man with a short haircut, a large African-American man, a blonde woman, and a younger man with glasses and longer hair. The last one didn’t look military at all even though he wore the uniform. Blair had seen him some place before, but he couldn’t quite… “Simon. I need a favor.”
“You’re not going to do something stupid are you, Sandburg?”
“Just fishing for information.” He took off his observer’s ID and passed it to Simon. Then he carefully handed him his jacket with the energy weapon wrapped up inside it. He smiled at the stricken look on Simon’s face. “Don’t worry. I’m not quitting or anything. I just want you to hold onto these for a few minutes. I’ll be right back.” Blair slunk down the alley and came back through another so that he could approach the Air Force people as if he were just arriving from the neighborhood. He walked up to them so casually and quietly, and they were so busy organizing their people, that they didn’t notice him at first. He managed to catch a few words. Something about ‘SG’, ‘SGC’?
Tael’c was the first to see him. “Colonel O’Neill. We are not alone.” He nodded towards the stranger.
Blair went into his act. He walked up to the young man with glasses. “Man, you look great! I haven’t seen you in, like, forever! What happened to you, man?”
“Do I know you?”
“Aw, man. Of course you know me. Blair Sandburg. It’s weird running into you like this. I live around here and I heard all the commotion and came to check it out. This place looks like crap. Come on, don’t you remember me?”
Suddenly, recognition clicked in his eyes. “Blair? The anthropology student from Doctor Sebel’s Barbary Coast dig! I always wondered how you managed to snag a spot on his expedition.”
Bingo! Now Blair remembered where he’d seen him. “Charm, luck, and some heavy-duty sucking-up. Still in archeology?”
“To some degree.”
“So what’s an archeologist doing in an Air Force uniform? And what happened here? It looks like a drug raid or something.”
“Well…uh. I can’t really talk about that. It’s all classified.”
“Really? Maybe you could…”
The military guy interrupted. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, Danny. We have work to do. You can play catch up later.”
“Sorry. Maybe I could call you sometime to…” He turned back to Sandburg only to discover he was gone. “That’s odd.”
“No time to worry about that now. We need that brain of yours inside. They’ve found several weird symbols and marking on the walls.”
“Sure, Jack.” Daniel looked behind him one last time before following the others into the warehouse.
Blair made his way back to where Simon waited. He took his jacket and ID back.
“So, Sandburg. You going to tell me what that was all about?”
“Sure…when I figure it out myself.” So Daniel Jackson, archeologist, was working for the Air Force? If Blair remembered correctly, Daniel’s field of expertise was Egyptology. This guy Kuk thought he was an Egyptian god. But why would they need a real Egyptologist to study some nut? Did it have anything to do with the strange symbols he’d seen on the walls inside the warehouse, on the clothing of the cultists, and on the guards’ foreheads? And whatever they were working on was important enough to rate backup from the Prez himself. He couldn’t shake the feeling they knew exactly what happened at the warehouse. He wouldn’t be surprised if they were in on it somehow. Jim disappears, the military’s involved—Blair didn’t think it could get much worse.
Blair sat in the loft, his laptop open in from of him. He’d used up every resource he could at the station already, even having Rafe and H cover for him while he snuck around the warehouse looking for clues. Now he was on the Internet, searching for anything he could come up in regards to SG or SGC. Nothing. If they were part of the Air Force, they were certainly keeping a very low profile. What he couldn’t figure was Daniel Jackson’s connection to the Air Force. Blair had no trouble finding out information about his earlier career. He had been a rising star in the field until he starting giving lectures on his theory that aliens built the pyramids. He was soon mercilessly ridiculed and snubbed by his peers. Blair could certainly identify with that. Then he mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. How did he go from disgraced archeologist to Air Force consultant? And if he were just a consultant, why was outfitted in military clothes and gear? Suddenly the phone rang. “Sandburg here.”
“Robby, my favorite hacker! What’ve you got for me?”
“Not much. I don’t like this, man. What little I could get was hard to find. And I could tell it wasn’t nearly the whole story. This is big, Blair. These guys are into some majorly serious stuff—ultra top-secret.”
“Just tell me what you did find.”
“I don’t know what the initials stand for, but ‘SGC’ is linked to a base in Cheyenne Mountain, CO. It’s an Air Force base that tracks spatial bodies for NORAD. That is like, such a lame cover, man. I think they’re making new weapons or defense technology there.”
“What does that have to do with Egyptian cults?”
“I don’t know, but I can’t help you anymore. This whole thing’s freaking me out. After I started doing some heavy searching for you, these scary-looking guys showed up. I think they’re watching me. You’re on your own, man.”
“Robby, wait!” *click
He knew Robby was a paranoid conspiracy-theorist, but Blair couldn’t help looking out the window all the same. Nobody there. Maybe he should be more careful just in case.
Blair went into Jim’s room. He took a picture down from the wall. Scribbled on the back in tiny print was a phone number. The number changed every so often and Jim would hide it in a different place each time. The two of them had talked about what they would do if Jim ever disappeared under mysterious circumstances or was taken by the military. Jim had made him learn some weird code signals and would sometimes quiz him out of the blue to make sure he remembered.
Blair went over to the phone and took a deep breath. He dialed the number.
A strange mechanical voice spoke. “Rerouting number. Rerouting number. Rerouting number.” Another voice suddenly came on. “Hello.”
Sandburg remembered his lines. “Hey, Larry! How ya doin’? Sandy told me you were coming into town in a few weeks. She said you were bringing the kids. If you want, I could show you guys around. I bet your kids would love the amusement park.”
“Sure. You think we could go to the zoo, too? My son’s really into wild animals. He’s especially crazy about the big cat exhibits.”
“They used to have some lions, tigers, jaguars—but I think they got rid of that part.”
“That’s too bad. Tell you what. Why don’t you send me some brochures tomorrow of what there is to see in town, I’ll see what the kids want to do, and I’ll call you back. Then we can plan the whole week.”
“Ok. Talk to you later.” Blair hung up. That was weird.
Jim had told him about a guy he worked with in Covert-Ops whose codename was ‘Spider’. He trusted very few people—Jim was one of them because he’d saved his life when the brass had written him off as a casualty. After the government screwed Spider over on another mission and almost got him killed, he became even more paranoid. He eventually left the service and dropped out of site. He kept in contact with Jim, but Jim had no idea exactly where he was. He did know that Spider spent all his time in some secret hideaway delving into top-secret government files. Spider said knowledge was power and protection. No one could touch him if he held all the cards—the more information he had, the safer he’d be. Blair thought the codename appropriate. The guy sat in the middle of a web, tendrils stretching out to catch what he wanted.
Blair got together the scant information Robby gave him plus the copies of the police reports. In his official statement to the police, Blair had made no mention of the strange mirror. If Simon didn’t even believe him… But Blair had written down every detail of what had happened in personal notes. He put everything in a package—even the strange weapon he’d picked up. He’d wrapped that very carefully and wrote “Handle with Care” on the package. In their strange little conversation, he’d told Spider that Jim was missing. He in turn had told Blair to take all the information he had to the nearest post office tomorrow. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do after that.
The next day Blair went to the post office. He walked around, pretending to look at pamphlets and read his mail. Then he got in line and bought some stamps. He was looking at the wanted posters when someone came up beside him.
“It’s amazing how criminals can just disappear into the woodwork, isn’t it? But people go missing all over the country every day and no one knows where they end up. It’s tragic.”
“Uh, yeah. Sometimes people get found, though.”
“Spider.” Blair handed him the package.
“Saturday. The park. The bench across the walkway from the gazebo. Two o’clock.”
Blair started to say something else, but when he looked over Spider was already leaving the building.
Jim could feel his senses drifting again. It was hard to keep focused. He didn’t know exactly where he was, but it was so foreign to anything he’d ever known. The stars he could see from his cell window were all wrong. The plants smelled strange. And the air…he could taste strange spices in it. What he could see from his window made him think he was in an oasis area of a desert. At least he now knew what happened to the missing people. He’d watched them out in the hot sun, building some kind of temple and statue. That was why they’d kidnapped young people—strong, resilient workers. A lot of them had also been engineering, architectural, and design students. Good choices for planning and implementing a large building project. At night they were brought back into the prison area where he was. Jim wondered why he was being left alone. He didn’t have to wonder long. Two guards came to his cell.
“Well, well. Tough-guy cop. Not so tough now, huh? We heard what you and your partner did to Tony and Ray, so we’re not taking any chances. The Boss wants to see you.” He pointed his staff at Jim. The end opened up, crackling with energy. When he woke up later, he was chained, on the floor, looking up at the old man, Kuk.
“Detective. So glad you could join us. You came around sooner than expected. You must be very strong, very resilient. That’s good. I’m going to need those qualities in my host.”
One of the guards spoke up. “You want him to join us? Boss! He’s a cop! He’ll…”
Kuk turned to look at him, his eyes glowed. He held up his hand. The guard dropped to the floor, cowering.
“I didn’t mean it! I’m sorry! Whatever you say goes, Boss.” Kuk’s hand crackled. The guard corrected himself. “Master.”
Kuk lowered his hand. “See that you remember. I will not remind you again. Get out of my sight.” He turned his attention back to Jim. “You’ve caused me a great deal of trouble. You forced me to leave Tony behind. He was one of my most devoted followers. He was also the one I had chosen to be my next host. I have never taken an unwilling host before, but this body is nearly finished. I have no choice. And you owe me for the inconvenience. It is only fitting you take his place. You should feel honored. You will be host to the God of Darkness as I go forth to destroy my enemies and build my new kingdom.”
“Are you insane? Host? What are you talking about?” Then Jim heard it again—the second heartbeat. This was wrong. This was all wrong. He could hear something crawling around inside the other man. It was so unlike anything he’d ever heard before that he couldn’t help himself. Jim was drawn with horrid fascination into that sound until he zoned on it.
Kuk, thinking the man was just in shock, called for his guards. “Take him to the implantation chamber. I will be there in a few moments.” Kuk went to the window. He could see the statue his slaves had begun. “Naufri. We could have built this kingdom together. Now it shall be a memorial to you. When your monument is finished, your countenance will give me the spiritual strength I need to destroy the Goa’uld and anyone else who stands in my way. And this detective with give me the physical strength I need to create my new dynasty.”
Blair waited on the park bench. He could barely sit still. He hadn’t been able to sleep all night because he had this terrible feeling something bad was happening to Jim. He knew he was alive. After all they’d gone through together, the bond they shared, Blair would know if he were dead. A man sat down next to him. Spider.
“I thought you were crazy at first, Sandburg. Disappearing mirrors? But when I started investigating this SGC… Well, I believe vanishing mirrors to be a small idiosyncrasy in a much larger, much stranger picture. Everything I’ve researched on you says you’re very open-minded. I hope that’s true. I would never have believed this stuff if I hadn’t seen crazier things in my research of secret government projects.” He handed Blair an envelope.
Blair read everything carefully several times, not sure if this was some kind of joke. “Aliens?”
“Officially, the base tracks spatial bodies for NORAD. That’s a cover story that no one gets past. Well, almost no one. I’ve been keeping tabs on all these secret projects for years. If I can’t find information on it, it doesn’t exist. And that weird weapon you gave me? I can’t figure out what kind of metal it’s made from. I don’t think it’s from around here—and I don’t mean the United States.”
“So these guys at SGC, Stargate Command, have an alien device that allows them to transport soldiers to other worlds? And they’ve been fighting alien parasite invaders who use humans as hosts and slaves—aliens who’ve been here before? Yeah, I’m open-minded, but this is too much.”
“Believe it. This is real. Ellison’s life depends on you dealing with this and going to get him. This Kuk he tried to arrest is probably one of these Goa’uld aliens SGC is fighting. Everything I’ve found suggests the Stargates are bigger than the mirror you saw, but I’m willing to bet it’s another type of gate.”
Blair was about to say something smart when he realized he was doing what he’d accused Simon of—not believing something because it didn’t fit into his world. Jim trusted Spider with his life or he wouldn’t have set up this whole secret-code thing. Blair would have to trust that Jim knew what he was doing.
“So where is Jim now?”
“Kuk could’ve taken him anywhere—another country, another planet. SGC doesn’t seem to have him from all I’ve heard. If on the outside chance they do, they’re not even mentioning it internally. I’ve picked up the name Esmus a few times. I think it’s another planet. I’m sure SGC knows where it is. That’s probably where Kuk and Jim ended up.”
Another planet? “I’ve got to get to Colorado!” Blair sprung up to leave. Spider grabbed his arm.
“Already taken care of. I can’t go with you. As far as the government is concerned, I’m dead. I intend to keep it that way. Information is all I can give you—but there’s plenty of that. Besides, sneaking into a military base is a stealth job. Stealth is always best done by one person. Here.” He handed Blair a package.
Blair opened it to find a plane ticket, fake Air Force ID’s, a military uniform and regulation sidearm, and diagrams—diagrams of every inch of SGC. “How did you...?”
“That’s not important. We have some work to do.” For the next few days the two of them met to go over every detail. Spider drilled him mercilessly until he could recite military jargon in his sleep.
When Spider thought he was ready, he gave him one more piece of advice. “Lose the hair, kid. It’s not military.”
Blair went home and headed straight for the bathroom. He cut off the long hair in back and trimmed the rest with an electric razor. He looked at the stranger in the mirror with absolutely no regrets.
Blair mingled with the other soldiers milling around. His fake papers had gotten him into the area. All the soldiers there were recruits specially selected for assignment to SGC. If Spider were as good as he seemed, Blair’s fake name would be on the list, too. He could just see Simon’s face Monday morning when he didn’t meet him at the station like they’d planned. He hadn’t told Simon was he was going to do. There was no way he would’ve let Blair go through with it. So Blair had written him a letter. Spider was going to make sure he got it Monday morning—enough time for Blair to be so far away Simon wouldn’t be able to stop him.
The sergeant began calling out names. Each young man or woman would go forward, show ID, and get in the truck headed for Cheyenne Mountain. Blair was shaking like crazy inside. If Jim were with him, his Sentinel would be going nuts over how fast his heart was pounding. He was not scared. He was not scared. Blair took a steadying breath.
Blair stepped forward and showed his ID. The sergeant motioned for him to get in the truck. Within minutes they were on their way. He looked at up at the sky and wondered if Jim were really out there somewhere.
SG1 sat around the conference table discussing their options. General Hammond looked at Jack. “So this Kuk has been kidnapping people from Earth?”
“Yes, sir. We knew about the Cascade PD’s interest in him, but it seems the FBI suddenly wanted in on the action. They just connected him with other disappearances across several western states. It also looks like some of his little playmates are wanted criminals who were into everything from drug trafficking to armed robbery before they ‘saw the light’.”
Daniel spoke to no one in particular. “Or the dark, as the case may be. He is the God of Darkness, after all.”
“I stand corrected.”
Samantha finished what the colonel was saying. “He was at the warehouse, Sir. A Detective James Ellison and a police observer named Blair Sandburg, who’s been riding with Ellison, had him cornered. Then Kuk and Ellison just vanished.”
“What did this Mr. Sandburg have to say about Ellison’s disappearance?”
“He said he was knocked almost unconscious and was so groggy he didn’t see exactly what happened. When he looked up, they were both gone.”
Teal’c looked thoughtful. “It seems, General Hammond, that the Tok’ra’s fears are justified. Kuk has become a dangerous madman. And he possesses the means to teleport himself anywhere.”
“What is he doing on Esmus, then?”
Daniel looked up. “General Hammond? He may have been Tok’ra once, but he’s acting more like a Goa’uld now. Maybe he’s building an empire of his own. Then he’d need humans for slave labor—mining, farming, building. He also might need a new host or symbiote. The police reports stated that he was a very frail-looking old man.”
“But is it possible for a Tok’ra to become a Goa’uld? The Tok’ra have told us that the first among them chose symbiotic relationships, but that it became a genetic difference over time. They always strongly protest when anyone calls them Goa’uld.”
Samantha shook her head. “I don’t think it’s a cut and dried as that, Sir. The Tok’ra hate the Goa’uld so much, that they want to distance themselves as much as possible. I do believe there are some slight genetic differences, but most of it’s, well, wishful thinking on the Tok’ra’s part.”
Hammond’s frown deepened. “Colonel. I want SG1 ready to move out in fifteen minutes. I want to know what’s going on on Esmus.”
“Yes, sir. Let’s not forget to pack our toothbrushes everybody.”
As they left the conference room, Daniel wondered why Blair Sandburg had approached them at the scene as a curious bystander. He’d been wondering that ever since they read the police report listing him as the partner of the missing detective. SG1 did some more research on him and came up with a strange picture. He’d been a promising grad student in anthropology working on his dissertation. His paper was published, but then he refuted it at a press conference—proclaiming himself a fraud. The university turned its back on him. He felt a pang at the memories it brought up of his own experiences. Apparently Blair had managed to get himself back into the grad program about a year later, but Daniel wondered what it had cost him.
Daniel thought the topic of the fraudulent dissertation was an interesting one—people who had heightened senses. He supposed there might be people out there who could see, hear, feel, taste, or smell better than others. But he didn’t seriously think there were individuals with the incredible range Blair described.
Somehow Daniel couldn’t see the Sandburg he remembered from the Barbary Coast dig hanging out with the police. Too much of a peace-loving, free-spirit, anti-cop kind of a person. Maybe they should have another talk with him when they got back from Esmus.
Blair had endured the long truck trip, the waiting in line, the introductory speeches, and the tedious assigning of gear and quarters. He thought people were kidding when they always said the military made its soldiers “hurry up and wait”. It was no lie. And he had a hard time keeping still. So far, the military was more boring than those stupid seminars Simon always made them go to.
He was extremely grateful for Spider’s repetitive lessons in military etiquette and protocol, though. He’d made sure Blair knew whom to salute and how to salute. Without such good practice, he’d have been doomed.
When Blair went to his quarters, he found himself bunking with a talkative man who kept trying to get him into a conversation. Normally Blair would be right in there shooting the bull with him, but he didn’t have time. He made some lame excuse about being tired and pretended to go to sleep. His bunkmate left a little while later—probably to get something to eat. Blair quickly dug into his duffle bag, opening the hidden flap inside. There were several different patches and pins for different ranks and security passes to get him into anyplace. There was one thing he knew about the military. If you wanted answers, you needed to go to the top. They always kept the little guy out of the loop. He had to see General Hammond. He’d memorized the layout from the diagrams. He just had to get there—the passes would take care of that. He fixed up his shirt to look like a colonel’s, checked the hall, and headed out.
When he got to the General’s office, he found it guarded by two tough-looking goons. So what? He looked at his shirt. He outranked them. He steadied himself and walked up. They both saluted.
“At ease. I’m here to see General Hammond.”
“The General’s busy and left orders not to be disturbed, Sir.”
“This is very important—a matter of national security. He should have been notified of my coming.” Blair hoped he’d been notified.
One of the guards spoke into his headphone then turned back to Blair. “Colonel, Sir. General Hammond will see you now.”
The door slid open. “Colonel Sanders, come in.”
Blair almost groaned. Colonel Sanders? What that Spider’s idea of a joke?
“I’m sorry about the confusion. I only received notice of your arrival a few minutes ago. They said you were coming in incognito with the new people. What is this all about, Colonel? Why all the extra secrecy?”
“It’s about Kuk, Sir. And a missing detective named James Ellison.”
“Apparently this detective tried to stop Kuk and both of them disappeared.”
“Sir, it is important that we find out where Detective Ellison was transported to when he and Kuk went through the mirror gate.”
Hammond’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “That information wasn’t in any official police or FBI report. So far it’s just SGC’s theory—one that hasn’t left this base yet. Who are you and what’s your interest in this?”
Blair couldn’t believe he’d given himself away already. He’d thought for sure Hammond would keep his superiors up to date. He noticed that Hammond was reaching for something. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Blair pulled out his own gun first. He didn’t like the feel of it in his hands. “I think maybe I should ask the questions here. And if you don’t put your hands out where I can see them, I’m going to shoot you.” Blair hoped the general wouldn’t see how nervous he really was. Pulling a gun on a general had to be a hanging offense or something. Boy, was he going to get a lecture from Jim about this.
General Hammond raised his hands slowly. “Let’s talk about this, son. No one has to get hurt.”
“They won’t if you tell me where James Ellison is.”
Part 7: Madman’s World
“Which way, Carter?”
Samantha scanned the area with a hand-held device. They’d been able to isolate the mirrors energy signature from their examination of Kuk’s room in the warehouse. The device had been modified to pick up that energy. “This way, Sir. About two miles north.”
The team made it’s way without incident. As they closed in on the signal, they expected to see regular soldiers—Kuk wouldn’t have any Jaffa because he had no larvae to implant in them. He would have to make due with ordinary humans. They were so close now they could hear the hustle and bustle of Kuk’s slave laborers. No sentries, no guards. They hid behind a grouping of rocks, watching with binoculars.
Daniel looked around nervously. “Is it just me, or does anyone else have a bad feeling about this?”
“You are right to be worried.” A voice called to them from a distance. “I’ve been expecting you and your noisy little group.” Several armed soldiers burst up out of the sand and began firing.
SG1 was taken by surprise. Samantha got winged in the side before she managed to dive behind a rock.
“Samantha, are you alright?”
“I’ll be fine. It just grazed me.”
SG1 fired back with a vengeance. Kuk had about ten men with him. He hadn’t counted on his enemies having energy weapons, too. He had only been able to procure a few for his most trusted guards. The others had been forced to use primitive weapons stolen from earth.
Jack spoke low to the others. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I never thought I’d see the day when these guys had to resort to bullets. What next? Spears and rocks?”
Kuk waved a hand for his men to stop firing. “Impudent dog! How dare you insult the God of Darkness in such a way? Who are you?”
“Colonel Jack O’Neill of Earth. We’re here for the humans you’ve kidnapped. If you surrender now, we promise you’ll be taken back to your people. They can help you.”
“My people? The other gods?”
“The Tok’ra.” For a moment it looked like he was softening up, but at the mention of the Tok’ra, his face hardened into a cold mask.
“The Tok’ra? The betrayers? Yes, boy. Take me to them so I can make them suffer as Naufri suffered. I would gladly give them the same fate they left her to.”
Jack turned to the others. “I don’t care how old he is, it’s hard to be called ‘boy’ by someone who doesn’t look any older than you. I guess he found his new host.”
Daniel added, “Or symbiote.”
Teal’c glanced over the top of the rocks. “Daniel Jackson, I believe that Colonel O’Neill is correct. It appears that Kuk has taken the body of the missing detective from the warehouse. I doubt that he joined with Kuk willingly.”
Daniel thought Kuk’s new body had looked familiar. He just hadn’t paid as much attention as Teal’c apparently had. The detective’s picture had been among the many pieces of information gathered from the warehouse incident. So that was Blair’s friend. From all accounts, Blair and Detective Ellison were very close. He’d been hoping they would find Ellison alive and well for Blair’s sake. Things had just gotten a whole lot more complicated.
Kuk hailed them from where he stood behind his men quite a distance away. “You are correct. I’ve never taken an unwilling host before, but I had no choice this time. Things have worked out for the best, though. Fate ordained for James Ellison to come to me! His body is more powerful than any human body I have ever encountered.”
Jack frowned. “Anyone care to guess as to how he heard us from way over there when we were whispering?”
Samantha wondered if they’d been bugged somehow.
“Fools! It is as if you are standing next to me. I have been given new powers to destroy my enemies. This was meant to be. With this body I can hear and smell and see farther than anyone. Who knows what other mysterious abilities await me? Surely this is a sign of my impending success. My brother and sister gods who have gone on before me still keep watch over me. Naufri blesses me—and condemns you! Kill them! Kill them all!” Kuk turned without another word, lost in his own little world. He walked off, laughing hysterically.
Daniel was dumbstruck. He could hear and smell and… No. Could it be? A man with heightened senses? It was true. Blair’s dissertation had all been true. But he told everyone he was a fraud. Why would he..? James Ellison was Blair’s friend. He threw away his academic career to save his friend.
Jacks’ voice broke through his thoughts. “You know, when fighting the bad guys, it usually helps to shoot back. They don’t fall down by themselves.”
“Oh. Right.” Daniel scooted closer to the rocks, trying to make himself less of a target as he fired.
Teal’c popped up from cover to shoot one of Kuk’s men dead on. Then dropped back down again. He peered around the rocks every few seconds. Then he would pop up in a different spot and shoot another one. One of the soldiers nailed him in the arm, but Teal’c barely noticed he’d been hurt and kept firing.
Jack wished he had five more Teal’cs—except without the juniors. A bullet whizzed by. He needed to keep his mind on his own shooting. He heard something in the bushes to the left. He turned and shot. One of Kuk’s men fell out of the bush. “They’re trying to surround us. Carter, you’re with me. Daniel, Teal’c. Cover us.”
Daniel and Teal’c started firing like crazy, giving the two of them time to crawl away from the rocks and into the bushes. From there they could see three more headed their way. They both took careful aim, trying to synchronize their shots. They wanted to take out two of them at once and then the third before he had time to react. Jack looked at Carter. She nodded. They both fired. Jack swung his weapon into position and took out the third man before he had a chance to raise his gun. They stayed in the bushes, waiting for any more men to attempt a sneak attack. None came. They no longer heard any sounds of gunfire at all.
Jack spun around. “Teal’c! How many times do I have to tell you to stop sneaking up on me? Especially when I have a weapon in my hand.”
“My apologies, O’Neill. We are here to inform you that all of Kuk’s men have been dealt with.”
“When you bring good news like that, you’re allowed to sneak up on me.”
There was a noticeable twinkle in Teal’c’s eyes. “If you say so Colonel O’Neill.”
“Jack. I think we need to go back to SGC and regroup. We have a lot of new information to deal with now. If what I suspect is true, there’s no way we’ll be able to sneak up on Kuk. He’ll hear us coming and summon even more soldiers. He might even be listening in on us right now.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Kuk now inhabits the body of a Sentinel.”
Daniel tried to explain himself on the way back, but he hadn’t read Blair’s entire paper and didn’t quite have a handle on the idea himself. Jack couldn’t believe in the concept and Samantha wanted to see scientific evidence. All Teal’c would say was that he had never heard of such a thing, but that did not mean Sentinels did not exist. They debated the issue even as they entered the Gate.
As they came through, Jack was the first to speak again. “Come on, Daniel. Heightened senses? Even this guy, Sandburg, confessed that he made the whole thing up.”
“He was protecting his friend, Jack. I had a hard time believing that Blair would fake a dissertation, but throw away his future for someone he cared about? That sounds like him.”
“Not Blair. Not that much.”
“Aren’t you the one who told me Blair didn’t like guns or cops? Now he hangs out with police officers all the time—even rooms with one. Nope. No change there.”
Jack sent Teal’c and Samantha to the infirmary while he and Daniel headed for General Hammond’s office. The general had wanted them to report to him immediately. Jack thought it was odd that he hadn’t been waiting for them at the Gate. As they approached the door, one of the guards spoke up.
“Sir. The general is in a meeting.”
Daniel looked puzzled. “A meeting with whom? We know his schedule for the day and he’s not meeting anyone.”
“He’s with a Colonel Sanders, Sir.”
“Colonel Sanders? Is this some kind of joke?” Jack knocked on the door. “Sir, you wanted to see us?”
“Not now, Major O’Neill. I’m busy at the moment.”
Major O’Neill? Something was wrong. He nodded to the others. He pulled his gun and kicked in the door.
Daniel was shocked to see Blair Sandburg holding a gun on the general. “Blair?”
Jack took no comfort in the fact that he’d been right. “Some people do change, Daniel.”
Part 8: Spirits of Protection
Kuk sat on his throne, brooding. The headaches were getting worse. Those stupid slaves were chattering away like a sky full of screeching seagulls. Why couldn’t they be silent? What was wrong with him? He couldn’t even sit still because his silk robes scratched against his skin. He knew from Ellison’s memories that he’d had these problems when his senses first emerged. But how had the detective gained control? There were parts of Ellison’s mind that were closed to him. This had never happened before. Everything in his mind should be available to Kuk. He could almost hear the man laughing inside his head.
Kuk was startled by a movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned with a jerk to see a large black cat staring at him with its teeth bared. He held out his hand to kill it with a blast of energy. The energy went through it like it wasn’t there. The creature swatted at his leg. He felt a searing pain as if he’d been scratched, but there were no marks on him. Then the black cat began to circle him with a murderous, mocking glare. “Guards! Guards!”
Two men rushed into the room. “Yes, Master?”
“Kill it! Quickly!”
“Kill what, Great Kuk?”
“That black monster right there!”
“But…there’s nothing there, Master.”
“You call me liar? Is this some plot to make me look foolish?” He reached out his hand. The guard trembled violently for several minutes before he fell to the floor in great pain—hurt, but alive.
Jim felt stronger somehow in the presence of his spirit guide. He reached out, making contact with Kuk inside his mind. “If you think I’m going to let you use my body to kill people, you’ve got another thing coming.”
Kuk put up his hands in a protective gesture. “Who are you?”
“I’m your very own personal ghost, Kuk. And I’ll be haunting you every step of the way until you turn yourself in or get out of my body!”
“This can’t be! You shouldn’t even exist anymore!” He noticed the guards staring strangely at him. He raised his hand to punish them, but found he couldn’t activate the weapon. “Get out of my site! Both of you!” The two men scurried out of the room.
Kuk retired to his bed chamber, hoping to rest and calm his nerves.
“Pleasant dreams, Kuk. I’ll be watching.”
The large black cat appeared in the corner. It lay down and proceeded to groom itself, never taking its eyes from Kuk. The God of Darkness didn’t sleep that night.
Jim was soon pleased to discover he could talk directly to Kuk and had at least a small measure of control over what Kuk did with his body. He could see from the alien’s thoughts that this was unusual—like a few other things about their joining. When Goa’uld took hosts, the host’s personality was subjugated. The Goa’uld would then have total access to the host’s memories. Even if Kuk had joined with him in a symbiotic relationship, they should have been able to completely share each other’s thoughts. There were parts of Kuk’s mind he couldn’t reach, just as there were parts of his own mind that Kuk couldn’t touch. When Jim first discovered this, he retreated to that barricaded area in his mind, surprised to find that it looked very much like the Peruvian jungle.
At first he could do nothing but watch as Kuk used his body to harm others. Jim had tried everything to get back into control, but it was as if he were on a tight leash. He’d almost given himself over to despair when the jaguar showed up. It infused him with the strength to pull at the leash until it stretched far enough for him to make trouble for Kuk. Ever since then he’d been studying his enemy’s defenses, exploiting his weaknesses. He now knew just what Kuk feared the most. Betrayal. Jim understood that very well. It had been his own greatest fear, one it took him years and heavy doses of the Sandburg antidote to cure. Blair had taught him trust. Jim’s knowledge of Blair was one of the things in Jim’s mind Kuk couldn’t touch. And it seemed Kuk didn’t know about the spirit guides, either. All the better.
The next morning, Jim and his spirit guide continued with a vengeance. The jaguar followed Kuk everywhere, snarling and pawing at him. Kuk tried to ignore him at first, but he became so persistently annoying that on several occasions Kuk yelled at him and called for his guards. They, of course, could see nothing, which only made Kuk even more frustrated. Jim wasn’t helping.
“You know that you’re men don’t really believe you’re a god, don’t you? Listen to them talk about you. They think you’re losing it. I bet a few of them are even planning to get rid of you and take over.”
At first Kuk refused to listen. But then he would stretch out his hearing out of curiosity.
Jim knew he’d pick up on some negative comments eventually. A lot of Kuk’s men really were loyal, but Jim could tell by looking at some of the other cons that they weren’t the type to bow and scrape to a nutcase for long. He was right. Kuk picked up a few disrespectful, even treasonous conversations. Jim didn’t let up. “They know you’re an alien. You’ve proven that to them already. But they certainly don’t believe you’re a god. Do you think they’ll tolerate some alien freak ruling over them? Think what they could do with this place, with that mirror gate, if they got rid of you. Several of them were convicted of drug trafficking. This would be the perfect place for a drug lab. The cops would never be able to touch it. They could make the stuff here then take it to earth to sell. They could use the mirror to live or hide out anywhere. And they’ve got built in workers. You’ve set everything up for them so well. They’re just waiting for the chance to get rid of you.”
Every day Jim and the spirit guide worked on Kuk until the alien was exhausted. He wasn’t eating or sleeping. He didn’t trust anyone and would keep himself locked up in his chambers most of the time. His bizarre behavior only fueled the grumblings against him—grumblings Jim made sure Kuk listened to with Sentinel hearing.
Sometime Jim would even trick Kuk into going into a zone-out on something Jim had learned control over long ago. Jim found he could bring Kuk out of the zone whenever he wanted because he was always perfectly conscious in his little jungle hideout. It made Kuk crazy to know he didn’t have complete control. He could never figure out how Jim was doing it, either. In as little as a week, Jim had turned a crazy, dangerous God of Darkness into an incoherent, paranoid wreck.
Cheyenne Mt., CO
Jack pulled his gun, the two guards rushing in behind him. “Put down the gun, mister! NOW!”
Blair moved closer to the general. “I think you’re forgetting something here, Colonel. I have a hostage. Unless you want to work for ‘General Swiss Cheese’, you put down your gun! And tell those two goons to take a hike.”
“Go on.” The two men looked at him for a minute.
“Go. We’ll handle this.” The guards left. Jack slowly backed away, but he didn’t put his gun down. “If you hurt him, there’s no way you’re leaving this base. If you give yourself up now…”
Blair snorted in disbelief. “I’ll get to leave the base? Oh, come on! I’m not that stupid. I know too much. Either way, you’re not going to let me leave.”
Daniel noticed the look of resolve on Jack’s face—he was thinking of ways to shoot Blair without endangering General Hammond. Daniel purposely moved between Jack and Blair.
“Jack. Let me talk to him. Blair. This isn’t you. We weren’t best friends or anything, but I remember the things you dreamed of doing, the ideas you talked about. I can’t believe you’d change that much.”
“That was a long time ago. You’re not the guy I remember, either.”
“Whatever problem you have here, we can talk about it without threatening people. Give me the gun. Please.”
“Why are you talking to me with that tone of voice—like I’m a nutcase or something?”
Jack rolled his eyes. “If the shoe fits…”
“Jack!” Daniel rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Well, you are holding a gun on an Air Force general in a top-secret base. What are we supposed to think?”
“Well, yeah. I guess it does look bad. I don’t know if I can trust you. The old Daniel—the scientist-dreamer? He was someone I could trust. But I don’t know about the secret-keeping, Air Force Daniel. I want to know what happened to Jim Ellison. I know you guys know where he is.”
“We’ve been investigating his disappearance…”
“Don’t give me that crap! I know what goes on here! I know about the aliens, and the Stargate, and the Goa’uld!” He pointed his gun at the generals’ head. “WHERE IS MY PARTNER? WHERE DID KUK TAKE HIM WITH THAT MIRROR GATE?”
Daniel put his hands up in a calm-down gesture. “Well, it seems you know our secrets, but you’re keeping a pretty spectacular one yourself.”
“What are you talking about?” Please let it not be about Sentinels.
“The fact that you friend is a Sentinel. That he can see, smell, hear, taste, and feel things way better than the average human.”
Jack shook his head. Not the Sentinel thing again!
Blair tried his best to look shocked. “That’s crazy! Sure, they were myths about guys like that in lots of cultures, but I could never find a real one. Don’t you watch the news? I made up that stuff in my dissertation. It was all a lie.”
“The press conference was a lie. That must have been hard for you—to throw away your future for Jim. He must be a great guy.”
“He’s my best friend, my brother.”
“I’ve seen him.”
“He’s here? Is he ok? So help me, if the military has hurt him in any way…”
“We don’t have him.” He looked to the general for confirmation. The general nodded, giving him the go ahead. “In fact, he’s not even on earth. But that’s not the worst of it. How much do you know about the Goa’uld and what they do to humans?”
“They were here on earth a long time ago. They used humans for slave labor and sometimes for hosts…” He saw the look of pity on Daniel’s face. “No! Not Jim! Please, no.” Blair didn’t even realize he’d dropped his gun. He slumped down to the floor in a daze.
Jack quickly picked up the gun and was ready to haul Blair away. Daniel went over to Blair, looking back at Jack and shaking his head. Jack backed off and let Daniel do his thing.
Daniel sat down on the floor beside Blair, a faraway look in his eyes. “I understand how you feel, Blair. A few years ago, after we got rid of what we thought was the only Goa’uld in existence, I went to live on a planet called Abydos. I got married and made a home for myself there. But another Goa’uld came. He killed some of the people and took others. My friend, Skaara, was taken as a host. So was Shau’re, my wife. We got Skaara back, but Shau’re…” He forced his thoughts back to the present.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.” After several minutes of silence, it dawned on Blair just what Daniel had said. “You got Skaara back? Then there’s a way to save Jim?”
“There’s a race called the Tollen. They have the technology to separate Goa’uld from their hosts so that both live. We had to go through this trial called a Triad, but yes, it’s possible.”
Blair hopped to his feet. “Then I’ve got to go to this planet and get Jim!”
Jack stepped forward. “Now wait a minute! You come in here and take the general hostage and now you want us to let you just waltz out of here and through the Stargate?”
Blair turned to the general and gave him most pathetic, innocent face. “Sir. I wouldn’t really have shot you. Daniel’s right. I haven’t changed that much that I could kill someone in cold blood. I was desperate to find my friend. You’ve got to believe me!”
The general didn’t look convinced.
Jack proceeded to empty Blair’s gun, but found there were no bullets in it. “You infiltrated a high-security base with an empty gun?”
“I don’t like guns all that much. I figured if a confrontation occurred, I didn’t want to be in a position where I would even be tempted to shoot somebody. When you shoot at other people, they tend to shoot back—and on a military base, everybody’s got a gun. I didn’t want to end up dead before I even had a chance to find Jim. Hey, I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.”
The general looked relieved—somewhat. “Look, son. We have every intention of stopping Kuk and rescuing his captives. But I’m afraid you’re not going to Esmus. We need to find out how you breached our security. Until we do, you’ll be confined to the base.”
There was only one way they’d even consider letting him go. He’d have to tell them about Jim. Daniel seemed to know already, but Blair hadn’t confirmed his observations. “Daniel? Do you trust the general and the colonel here?”
“Of course. We don’t just work together. We look out for each other.”
Blair looked into Daniel’s eyes. Many cultures believed that the eyes were the windows to the soul. All he saw there was the Daniel he’d met years ago—the dreamer, the thinker, but most of all, the honest man. He made his decision. “Sir. If you don’t take me with you, you’ll never stop Kuk. He’ll always be able to hear you, see you, even smell you before you get near him.” He noticed the look that passed between Daniel and the colonel. “You’ve already found that out, haven’t you?”
General Hammond looked confused. “I think we need to have a meeting.”
In twenty minutes, they were all in the conference room—including Teal’c and Samantha. Introductions were made and everyone settled in. SG1 related what happened to them on Esmus. Blair managed to restrain himself to only a few eager, interrupting questions.
“Well, Mr. Sandburg?”
He couldn’t believe he was about to blab Jim’s secret to a room full of people who worked for the military. Daniel had convinced him that Samantha Carter and Teal’c were also good friends who could be trusted and that what he said would stay in that room. He took a deep breath and plunged in. When he finished, he could see the looks of incredulity on some of their faces.
Samantha was skeptical, but intrigued. “So you don’t think this is a fluke? It’s a genetic advantage? There might be more of these Sentinels out there?”
“Oh, there are. Believe me. They’re not all upstanding citizens, either.”
“How could these people keep themselves secret? Surely others would notice.”
Blair nodded. “They aren’t as plentiful nowadays because of the way societies have changed—I’m sure there were more of them long ago. Their stories eventually became myths in many cultures. I’ve found the richest mythology on them among native South American peoples.”
Daniel thought about that. “There were probably Sentinels all throughout history, all over the world. Most likely they were considered crazy and locked away—perhaps even labeled witches or demons and put to death.”
Blair shook his head sadly. “I think a lot of them might even have killed themselves before realizing their full potential. Jim told me that before I started helping him, he thought he was going crazy. He didn’t want to be a danger to himself or others and had actually contemplated…” He didn’t want to think about that. “You know, it’s no less dangerous for Sentinels today. One of our worries has been that the government would find out and try to turn Jim into an assassin or something. Or that he’d end up in a secret lab so the government could experiment on him or try to duplicate his abilities. That’s why I was so on edge in your office, General. I thought maybe he was here. That you’d found out about him and…”
“We don’t do that sort of thing here, Mr. Sandburg. Not under my command.”
Teal’c spoke up. “That is true, Blair Sandburg. I am proof of that.”
Blair didn’t understand at first. Why would Teal’c have to worry about being experimented on? He looked at him, really looked at the other man. Then it hit him. Teal’c nodded in affirmation. “You’re an alien? Oh, that is so cool! Do your people...”
“…have a similar…”
Blair blushed slightly. “Sorry. I get carried away sometimes.”
Daniel smiled at that. This was the Blair he remembered.
Jack looked perturbed. “Assuming that what you’ve said is true, then how are we going to sneak up on Kuk?”
“White noise generators. They’re real good at distracting Jim. You shouldn’t do any talking, though, because he might be able to pick that up despite the generators. I have a few more tricks, but I want in on this mission before I go any further.”
Daniel looked at him. “I’m a civilian, Jack.”
“You’re different. You I trust. What if we have to hurt Ellison to subdue him? That wouldn’t be a problem for you?”
“Not as long as you don’t kill him or use excessive force. If our positions were reversed, I would expect Jim to do whatever he could to stop me from hurting someone else without killing me.” Blair was practically pleading now. “You have to take me with you! I’m his Guide. The two of us have a unique bond that even death couldn’t break. I may be able to reach him somehow.”
“I forgot the spiritual bond.” A note of disbelief was evident in Jack’s voice.
“You’ve met aliens and been to other planets and you’re going to laugh at the idea of a spirit world?” Just then a lean and angry wolf appeared beside Blair. Everyone could see it as it walked around the table to stop by Jack’s feet. It glared at him, baring its teeth.
“What the..?” Jack jumped up out of his chair. The animal went back over beside Blair.
“You’re here to help Jim, aren’t you?” The wolf bowed its head and promptly disappeared.
Jack winced in displeasure. “Let me guess, visitor from the spirit world?”
Blair nodded smugly.
Jack turned to the others. “I don’t need a house to fall on me. Sandburg’s in. Any objections? Sir?”
General Hammond shook his head no.
“Ok, Sandburg. What do we do to keep this guy from detecting us?”
Blair proceeded to question them about everything—what they wore for missions, what hygiene products they used, what kind of plant and animal life they’d seen on Esmus. He took a lot of notes. When they finished, Blair took charge with a vengeance. He had them all wash in a very mild soap that smelled like desert spices so they would blend in. No shampoo, no lotion, no cologne—not even toothpaste, mouthwash, or breath mints. They would also all be wearing desert camo clothes instead of SGC uniforms. He then had them pour bottled fox urine over what they would be wearing. Since some types of foxes hung out in desert-like areas on earth, Blair figured there might be similar animals on the arid Esmus. Colonel O’Neill was not fond of the idea, but Blair finally managed to convince him. He assured Jack that bottled fox urine was used by hunters to attract game all the time and was odorless to regular humans. The colonel did it, but he still didn’t like it.
“And if at any time, you think he’s spotted you and hasn’t summoned his men yet, light a flare or shine something bright in his eyes. He’ll be blinded and maybe even go into a zone-out. If you get near him and have a chance to catch him, blow one of these.” He gave Samantha and Daniel bobby whistles. He gave Jack and Teal’c mini horns like those people blew at sporting events.
Jack looked at Blair like he was crazy. “Party favors?”
“Hey, those things are loud! Most regular people don’t like the sound of them. Jim has gotten pretty good about filtering out sounds, but he still has trouble with sudden loud noises. You should have seen him at the last Jags game we went to. Some guy blew one of these things right behind us. After Jim snapped out of it, I thought he was going to shove it up the guy’s... Anyway, you could incapacitate him for a few minutes with one of these.”
Samantha could see the strategy in that. “A sensory overload. Having heightened senses sounds incredible at first, but it seems to have its share of disadvantages.”
“We had a lot of work to do, that’s for sure. Jim had to learn how to filter out extraneous input and be able to concentrate on certain things without zoning out. Then we had to find a way to distinguish and catalog different stimuli. ”
Teal’c turned the noisemaker over in his hand quizzically before putting it in his pack.
Jack handed Blair a weapon, one of those strange curved ones. “This one is loaded, Sandburg. Make sure you use it on the bad guys.”
Blair looked at it uneasily. He didn’t like the idea of carrying a weapon. But for Jim’s sake he would take it—and even use it if he had to.
Suited up and ready to go, SG1 plus one headed for the Stargate. Blair stared at the rippling energy of the gate, speechless.
Jack looked at Daniel. “I think that’s the first time he’s shut up since we met him.”
Daniel walked up next to Blair. “Just step through it and you’ll come out on Esmus. Jim’s on the other side somewhere.”
Jack raised an eyebrow at Daniel. “Doesn’t he remind you of someone?”
“What are you talking about, Jack?”
“The first time we went through the gate, you lagged behind, too. They told me you walked around it, touched it, practically smelled it before you slowly stepped through—like a kid who’s not sure if he should jump into a pool because it might be too cold.”
“I’m a scientist! I was studying it.”
“If you say so.” Jack walked up behind Blair. “Time’s a wastin’. In you go, kids.” He gave Blair a slight push into the gate.
When they came out on the other side, none of them said a word. Their white noise generators had already been turned on before they stepped through. They didn’t want anything to give them away. Blair wished he could shout, laugh, something! That was the most incredible experience of his life—except for meeting Jim, of course. He was chilled and in the desert. The desert of an alien planet! He’d felt bad earlier about Daniel being ridiculed by his fellow Egyptologists. He didn’t so much now. If Daniel got to do stuff like this all the time, it was worth the scorn. Blair still got some flack about the dissertation sometimes, but he knew that as long as he and Jim were together, what people said about him didn’t matter anymore. He hoped Daniel felt the same way about the Stargate.
Jim was startled by the sound of a howling wolf. Kuk was restlessly pacing his chambers. For some reason, the God of Darkness hadn’t heard it. Jim looked around his jungle retreat. In the distance he saw the silhouette of a wolf. It raised its head and howled again before it trotted off. Sandburg was here! He shouldn’t be surprised. Somehow, some way, his Guide could do anything he set his mind to. For a second, Jim felt a wave of dizziness. He was looking down at his hand—his real hand. He flexed it. Then just as suddenly, he was back in the jungle part of his mind. Jim smiled to see how terrified Kuk was. For a moment, Jim had been in control of his own body. Things were looking up.
Part 10: Control Issues
Kuk tilted his head, listening to some small noise that caught his attention. There it was again—rhythmic, pounding. He couldn’t quite place it. And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to separate it from the innocuous noises of nature that assaulted him day and night. And there was that smell, too. Animals. Filthy desert creatures gathered nearby, fouling the air with their waste! Perhaps he would send out a hunting party in the morning to eradicate them all. He clutched his head in pain as the sounds of the night pounded in his ears.
As Blair and the SG team approached Kuk’s palace, Blair desperately tried to calm his frantically beating heart. The white noise generators had allowed them to sneak in—he certainly didn’t want to give them away now. Kuk must not have good control over the Sentinel abilities yet. Jim would’ve heard his Guide’s pounding heartbeats for sure at this range. Blair also wondered if Jim could even smell odorless fox urine. He hadn’t told the colonel that they’d never really tried that kind of stimulus before. Blair had taken an educated guess based on what he knew of Jim’s abilities. It was hard enough getting Jim to do any kind of test, let alone a ‘sniff-the-animal-urine’ one.
Kuk was at the end of his rope. Jim was loving every minute of it. Sandburg’s spirit guide had joined the party and now the three of them were doing everything in their power to break Kuk. The alien hadn’t slept well in days. Jim was constantly talking to him in his mind, feeding his fears. The slightest sound made Kuk jump out of his skin now. Jim also made sure he zoned out as often as possible. He was careful not to take it too far when doing things to Kuk physically. After all, Jim wanted to have a healthy body to go back to. His main goal was to weaken the Goa’uld mentally and emotionally. It was working. Perhaps in another day or so, he could take his body back.
A group of priests and guards suddenly walked into Kuk’s throne room. He was furious. “Leave me! I didn’t summon you!”
They looked at each other and smirked. One stepped forward—apparently the leader of their little gang. His voice dripped with sarcasm. “Forgive us, Great God of Darkness. We needed to talk to you about a slight change in management.”
“What are you talking about?”
Jim didn’t like it. He wasn’t ready for these idiots yet.
“We’ve been thinking. We do all the work and you sit around here hiding all day. Now is that fair? We think maybe we could get better use out of that mirror than you. Don’t we boys?” The others smiled in anticipation.
Jim knew most of a Goa’uld’s power lay in the belief of his followers in his godhood. That’s why Jaffa obeyed them so eagerly. If all the Jaffa ever revolted, they’d probably be able to take out their masters. But they wouldn’t because they believed their lords were all powerful. Far from it. From Kuk’s memories Jim had seen some of them. They relied heavily on technology to maintain the illusion of godhood. In general, they were an effeminate, weak bunch of tyrants. What was funny was that Kuk had bought into his own press—he thought he was really a god. He didn’t know how to fight physically and it never occurred to him that his “loyal” high priests and guards would turn against him. The whole idea was foreign to him. But these guys weren’t Jaffa—they’d betray their own mothers to make a profit. “Kuk! I need control of my body!”
“You can’t fight these guys. I’ve been trained for this sort of thing. You don’t have the strength, either. You’re thoughts are incoherent, all over the place. I don’t know about you, but I want to live.”
Kuk couldn’t seem to make up his mind what he wanted. He was so tired. So tired of everything—fighting Jim, trying to build a kingdom, suppressing a part of himself that had once fought against the kind of creature he’d become. “I…I don’t know. I’m so tired. Maybe death wouldn’t be so bad. I could have peace from the chaos of my thoughts, be with Naufri once more.”
“Do you really want to be killed by a bunch of lowlife scumbags? The Great God of Darkness shot by the lowest criminal element like a common man? Would Naufri be honored to be by your side then? I thought you had some pride.”
Kuk bristled at the idea, the delusional part of himself rising up. He was a god! No lowly human lice would kill him. But… He didn’t have the power, the strength. Maybe he could kill a few of them before they reached him, but not many more than that. He did not know how to fight them on their level. His host did. “Do it. Do it before I change my mind!” Kuk relaxed his hold over the body and felt himself drift away.
Jim looked down at his hands. YES! He was back in charge! “Well, boys. I think you’re right.” He stood up to pace, pretending to be weak and disoriented. “Someone else should be in charge.” He leaped for the staff weapon leaning against the wall. He rolled behind the throne and started firing. “The name’s Jim Ellison, Cascade PD, and I’m in charge! You’re all under arrest. Drop your weapons and put your hands up!”
They started shooting. Why did he always meet up with the crooks that wanted to do it the hard way?
Blair smiled. Before him stood a black jaguar. Jim was ok. But maybe not for long. They heard shots being fired down the hall. He hoped Jim wasn’t in the middle of it. Knowing his partner, that’s exactly where he’d be. The guys at Major Crimes called Blair a trouble magnet, but truthfully, he and Jim both seemed to have the ability to attract disaster. The jaguar turned and ran down the hall. Blair pointed at the cat and gave the “ok” signal to the others. Jack led the team down the hall. Samantha took the rear position.
When they got to the sounds, Jack moved to one side of the entranceway, Teal’c to the other. He peered around the corner to see five cultists firing at Kuk. Two of the cult members were out cold on the floor. Kuk was firing from behind his throne. So they’d had a falling out. Too bad. He nodded to Teal’c. They swung their weapons around, pointed them into the room, and started firing. They took out two guys before the others noticed they were being attacked from behind.
Jim was definitely glad to see the colonel again—and in one piece. He’d been able to keep Kuk from killing someone with his body, but he hadn’t been able to stop him from ordering it done. He’d tried not to think about what had happened to them. He hoped all of them made it, not just the colonel and the big guy. He listened for more people outside. He could hear…there was… SANDBURG! Now that he was in his own body again, he could hear his guide’s heartbeat. He was with the military team on the other side of that wall! Was that why he’d felt so much stronger, more in control? One of the criminals got off a shot that almost hit Jim. He ducked back.
Blair had peered around the corner to see Jim almost get shot—or was he Kuk? It didn’t matter. Without thinking, he took the energy weapon SGC had loaned him and charged into the room. He shot the man who’d almost hurt his partner. The man went down, unconscious. The other guard turned to aim at him, but never got the chance to fire.
Jim jumped the man from behind and slammed him to the ground. He hit him upside the head with his staff, knocking him out. “Sandburg. How many times have I told you to stay down and out of the line of fire?”
“Umm. About a million?”
“Are you ever going to listen to me?”
Jim walked over to his Guide. “I don’t know how you did it, but I’m glad you’re here.” He gave Sandburg a weary hug.
“Oh, man, Jim. There were a few times I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I kept hoping and praying. It’s good to see you.”
SG1 stepped into the room. Jack did not look happy. He still had his weapon raised—pointed at Jim. “Step away from him, Sandburg.”
“Colonel! What are you doing?”
“That’s not your friend anymore. He’s been implanted. He ordered my team killed the first time we came here.”
“That was Kuk. That wasn’t me.”
Jack moved towards Jim slowly. “Sandburg. Don’t let him fool you. They have all the memories of their hosts. They can make you think it’s your friend you’re talking to. I know. One of my people, Kowalski, was implanted. The Goa’uld inside him fooled us into believing he was normal. He looked like our friend, talked like our friend, and acted like our friend—and then he tried to kill us.”
“No! Jim? Is it true? Were you implanted? They were shooting at you and you seemed like you… I thought maybe they were wrong somehow.” Blair took a step back.
“It’s true. About a week ago. But I’m in control.”
“Only for the moment.”
“There’s no way you’re getting back in the driver’s seat.”
Blair’s eyes widened. “Uh, what are you talking about? You never let me drive anyway.”
“Sorry. I wasn’t talking to you, Chief.”
Jim had an odd expression on his face that scared Blair. His face was pale and drawn, his eyes strange. For a moment they had almost glowed. Jim was facing him, but for some reason Blair thought he was looking at something only he could see.
Blair pulled a whistle out of his pocket before Jim noticed and blew it right next to him. Jim dropped to his knees in agony. Teal’c held his staff weapon on the dazed detective while Jack restrained him, removing his hand-weapon in the process.
Part 11: Building Trust
Now that Kuk was out of the way, they didn’t have to worry as much about stealth. Jack called for General Hammond to send a few teams to take out the rest of the criminals and rescue the people. SG1 had finished its primary mission—capture or incapacitate the God of Darkness. Now they needed to look for the mirror gate while they waited for reinforcements to arrive.
After a few minutes, Jim started to regain his equilibrium. He glanced over at Sandburg. There was a hint of dark humor in his voice. “I see you’ve been hanging out in the toy department at the store again. Nice idea, Chief, but remind me to run you over with the truck when we get home.”
Blair managed a half smile. “I’ll put it on my calendar.” He turned to Jack. “Are you sure about this? He sounds like Jim. Maybe it’s really him.”
“It sounded like Kowalski, too. Right up until the moment he tried to kill me.”
Blair slumped visibly. He watched as Teal’c led Jim over to sit by the throne. The rest of SG1 was busy tying up the cult members and dragging them into the adjacent room.
Blair sat down not too far from Jim, but noticeably out of reach. He addressed Jack, never taking his eyes off his partner. “What happens to Jim next?”
“We take him to the Tollen and see if they’ll separate Kuk from his body.”
“And then what?”
“That’ll be up to him.”
Jim shook his head in disgust. “Either you’re good with the B.S., or you’re incredibly naïve You obviously know about me and my abilities. You don’t think the Air Force is going to let me go free and clear, do you?”
“They will if they don’t know about your little talents. Only SG1 and General Hammond know. And none of us would give that information up.”
“So the Air Force is full of Boy Scouts these days?”
“Here and there. But some of the officers earn their merit badges by stabbing others in the back. That’s why SG1 won’t say anything. Not with people like Colonel Maybourne running around. He gives idiots a bad name.”
Jim seemed to relax a little. In fact, it looked like he was about to go to sleep. Blair watched as his exhausted friend slumped towards the floor little by little until he was lying on his side. Blair moved over next to him to keep an eye on him.
Jim was dreaming. He lay on a cold table, strapped down on his stomach. They were a few men in the room, but he couldn’t see them. And then he heard it, hissing and writhing, coming towards him. The smell made him nauseous, but he could seem to dial it down. A sharp pain seized him—as if someone jammed a knife into the back of his neck. It was that worm! That thing! It was crawling into him! He could feel it in his soul, in his thoughts. Pain! Pain! Every nerve ending was on fire. It felt like his mind was being ripped to shreds! Chief, this isn’t real! Tell me this isn’t real! “CHIEF! Get it out! GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD!”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Blair grabbed hold of his friend. “Jim! It’s just a dream. Come on! Everything’s going to be ok. We’ll find a way to fix this. Wake up, man! Jim!”
Jim’s eyes shot open. At first he didn’t know where he was and tried to move away from the person next to him. Then he heard that voice—the one that always brought him back from the edge. The tension in his muscles eased. His Guide was there. Everything would be ok. His voice was barely a whisper. “Chief. Please don’t leave. I don’t know if I can handle this just yet. I can still feel him in my mind, struggling to get control. But when you’re here, he can’t take over.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know if it’s our bond or something else about you, but you weaken him somehow. I knew the minute you stepped through the Gate because Kuk started losing control. The closer you got, the stronger I became. He let me take over to fight those guys, but then he couldn’t take my body back again. It’s because you’re here.”
Jack and Daniel were hearing this conversation from different areas of the room as they searched for the mirror. Jack didn’t want the kid to get hurt, but his friend couldn’t be trusted. He started towards them to separate the two when Daniel stepped in his way.
“Jack. I think we may have been wrong about Jim.”
“You’re buying this, too? He’s got Sandburg snowed. I didn’t think you were that gullible.”
“Jack, you and I’ve both watched the Goa’uld hurt people we cared about. If there’s even a small chance… We’ve seen a lot of things in our travels we couldn’t understand, but we accepted them. I think this is one of those things. Let him sit with his friend.”
“And watch as his ‘friend’ manipulates him into helping him escape, then tries to kill him?” Jack started towards them again. A wolf appeared and blocked his way. Every time he tried to pass, it snarled and moved in front of him. Jack liked dogs, but this particular relative of the family pet was starting to get on his nerves. “Ok, ok. I get the idea. Sandburg and Ellison stay together. But he stays under restraints, flea-bitten wolf or no.”
The wolf bared its teeth then disappeared.
Jim looked Blair in the eye. “You do believe it’s me, don’t you?”
Blair stared at his partner expectantly, not knowing what to say. He seemed like Jim, but what if Jack were right? What if this were all a cruel trick?
Jim closed his eyes in exasperation. “I don’t know of any way to convince you that it’s me. If I tell you something, a secret, they’ll say it’s because the Goa’uld has my memories. What can I do or say to prove who I am?”
Just then the jaguar appeared and walked over to Jim. It sat at his feet and purred contentedly. Blair looked at Jim and smiled, pointing at the big cat. “That’ll do.”
Just then, fighting erupted in the hallway. Everyone tensed and took cover. Blair and Jim moved behind the large throne. It sounded like the reinforcements had arrived and were cleaning out the palace. The door burst open. Several of Kuk’s loyal followers flooded in, retreating from the SG teams outside. They were probably hoping their leader would open the mirror gate and they could flee to earth. They hadn’t counted on SG1 being there. They started shooting at the Stargate team. SG1 returned fire.
Jim thought O’Neill and his people were putting up a good fight, but they were outnumbered. “Blair. Get me out of these things.”
Blair carefully shot of the restraints on his hands with his energy weapon.
Jim reached up and pressed a decorative knob on the back of the throne. He then turned it to the left. A panel opened on the wall behind. “Colonel! Get your people over here, now!”
Jack still didn’t trust Ellison, but he didn’t see any other options. He and Teal’c covered Daniel and Carter as they took off for the hidden door. Teal’c and Jack headed for the exit, firing like crazy, without turning their backs on Kuk’s men. Carter and Daniel crouched down by the opening, shooting at the cultists to help their friends make it to safety.
Jim took Blair’s weapon—a zatnicatel. He took precise aim and began picking off the bad guys one at a time. As the colonel passed him, Jim gave him one of his patented “maybe-next-time-you’ll-listen-to-me” looks. Once everyone was through the opening, he followed, twisting another knob on the inside to shut the door. He turned to see Daniel and Carter staring at the mirror gate that stood near the wall.
“It’s amazing! It almost looks like it was made from the same material as the quantum mirror that took me to that alternate universe.”
“Could it have been made by the same race?”
Now Blair was practically bouncing on his feet. “Alternate universe? They really exist? I’d always believed they did, but it’s hard to get proof for something like that. But you actually went to one? Oh, man. Daniel, we have got to talk. This could be…”
“Chief? Could you interrogate him later? Those guys out there are probably looking for the secret switch as we speak. We have to activate the mirror gate.”
“How? It doesn’t look like it came with instructions.”
“That’s not a problem. Kuk just might come in handy for once.” He touched the sides of the mirror in a special order, concentrating on a place to teleport to.
“Make jokes while you can, young fool. You will let down your barriers sooner or later. Then I will take over.”
“I bet none of your followers worshipped you for your personality.”
Blair was confused. “Jim? Whom are you talking to?”
“Hmm? Oh, just Kuk. He thinks he always has to be the center of attention.”
Now Blair was worried. “You mean you can hear him?”
“Just like he could hear me when he was in control. I think he’s trying to use the same trick I used to wear him down—talk to me continuously until I go crazy. He doesn’t know it won’t work on me.”
Daniel looked at him curiously. “And why is that?”
“I’ve been living with Sandburg here for years. If his constant chatter hasn’t sent me to the asylum, Kuk doesn’t stand a chance.”
“Gee thanks, Jim. Love you too, man.”
“It was a compliment, you know. You’re stories at least have some cohesion and interest value. Kuk just wants to rave about himself.”
“So my stories are better than a madman’s rantings? Keep it up, Jim. I think I’m getting a swelled head from all this flattery.” He smiled sourly at Jim.
Jim returned the smile broadly and kept watch on the mirror. “Ok. I think this baby is warmed up and ready to go.” He put his hand on the edge of the mirror and closed his eyes. “Everybody in.”
Blair looked at the shimmering gate with trepidation. Without opening his eyes, Jim nodded for Sandburg to go on. “Hurry up, Chief. I don’t want to miss any more days of work. Simon’s probably had at least one stroke already. I’ll be right behind you.”
There was no way Jack was going to let his people go before Ellison. “We all go through the gate together.”
Blair agreed, but for different reasons. He wasn’t going to let Jim out of his sight now that he’d found him. “He’s right. We should go together. Make sure you dial down all your senses. This could really hurt.”
“You’re telling me. The first trip through was a nightmare.” He pictured the dials in his mind and proceeded to turn them all down extremely low.
Sandburg grabbed Jim’s hand and placed it on his shoulder, never letting go of the hand. He wasn’t sure Jim could still hear him. “Don’t worry. I’ll guide you.”
“I know. You always do.”
They stepped through the gate together.
They appeared in the middle of Jim and Blair’s loft.
Jack looked around suspiciously. “Where are we?”
Blair’s face lit up. “Cool, Jim! You took us straight back home.”
“Where else would I go?”
Daniel started examining the tribal artifacts Blair had on display. “This is where you live?”
“Yep.” Blair plopped down on the sofa. “Nice, huh?”
When Daniel had read that Blair and Jim lived together, he couldn’t imagine what their place would look like. From all accounts the two of them where totally different personalities. As he took in his surroundings, he could see both of them in the décor—a weird fusion of multicultural-casual and military efficiency. Somehow it worked.
Jack glanced at his watch. “I need to contact General Hammond and report in.”
Jim went to the refrigerator to get something to parch his desert-dry throat. “Sandburg? Get off the couch before you stink it up. You smell like piss.”
Teal’c raised an eyebrow at that. Samantha and Daniel looked at each other in surprise. They couldn’t smell a thing.
Sandburg popped up off the couch with almost child-like glee. “Alright! You picked up on that! I wasn’t sure if you could.”
“Kind of hard not to. What did you do, bathe in the stuff?”
“Nah. Just poured it all over my clothes. Now what kind of urine is it? Come on. You should be able to guess this one.”
“Sandburg! Shower, now! The rest of you are welcome to have something to drink, but stay off the furniture.” He started opening all the windows. “I wonder if Simon will let me stay with him until this place airs out?” He sniffed again, shaking his head. “Fox urine. Where does he get this stuff?”
Jim had changed his clothes and was on the phone with a loud and angry Simon before Sandburg finally came back in the room. He’d showered and changed. Although Jim could still pick up traces of urine from him, he smelled much better. He would be even happier if he could get these other reeking people out of the loft. “Chief? You want to talk to the Captain?”
All the color drained from Blair’s face. “Uhhh. No thanks. I’ll catch him at the office after he’s had a chance to calm down.” Under his breath he muttered, “Maybe in a few years.” He walked over to balcony where the others were talking. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to hear Simon’s tirades from that far away.
Jim noticed Blair standing very close to the alien, Teal’c, and frowned. “I’ve got to go, Captain.” He hung up and walked over to the others. He nudged Sandburg away from Teal’c, inserting himself between the two.
“Jim! What is with you? That is so rude, man.”
Jim turned to Teal’c. “Look. Nothing personal. But I really don’t want you standing so close to my partner. That larvae you’re carrying in your stomach is making me very nervous. I can hear it moving around in there and I don’t like the thought of it near Sandburg.”
“That is understandable. It’s presence makes many people uncomfortable.”
“Jim? You mean he’s got one of those things inside him, too?”
“Yes, but not in the same way. He’s just incubating a baby one until it’s ready for a host. I know how excited you are about meeting an alien, Chief, but keep a little more distance unless you want to drive me crazy. Just chalk it up to one of those ‘Blessed Protector’ instincts, ok?”
Blair didn’t argue with him for once. He still questioned Teal’c vigorously, but Jim was happy to see he kept a good physical distance between them. Jim knew it was hypocritical of him to make Blair stay away from Teal’c and then stand close to him with Kuk in his own body, but he couldn’t help the overwhelming urge to protect Sandburg from others. He couldn’t do that if he kept his distance, too.
Jim knew there was one more thing he had to do before they left. He grabbed the zatnicatel he’d used back at the palace. The look on O’Neill’s face almost made him laugh. The colonel thought Jim was going to shoot him. Jim quickly pointed the weapon at the mirror and fired. The gate wasn’t powered up at the time and so had no defenses. The mirror shattered silently, the shards sucked back into the empty space. Then the frame turned to dust and fell to the floor. Jim set the zatnicatel down on the table and went to get a broom, dialing his sense of smell down so the dust wouldn’t bother him. He walked past the colonel and Teal’c who were holding their weapons at the ready. “Something like that could’ve fallen into the wrong hands too easily. And there’s no way I was going to let the Tok’ra get their mitts on it.”
Kuk’s voice was thoughtful, quiet. “Yes. On that we agree, Sentinel.”
Daniel looked out over the balcony to see military vehicles approaching the building. “Jack. Our ride’s here.”
Jack never took his eyes off Ellison, giving him a brief nod of understanding and agreement. “Ok, people. Let’s move out.”
As they were leaving, they saw one of their neighbors who lived in the building. She had come out of her apartment to get the morning paper. When she saw them, she quickly withdrew and shut the door before they even had a chance to say hello. Blair looked at Jim and shrugged his shoulders. “We have such strange neighbors, man.”
The old woman handed the paper to her husband who sat down at the table and promptly began to read it. She rushed to the window, pulling back the curtain a little to peek out as the six people left the building. “Abner. Abner!”
“Yes, dear.” He didn’t look up.
“That Mr. Ellison and Mr. Sandburg are up to something.”
“What could they possibly be up to at this time of morning?” He turned the page of his newspaper.
“I don’t know, but something’s not right. They had weapons, Abner!”
“Detective Ellison’s a police officer. Police officers are supposed to carry weapons when they go to work.”
“But I didn’t see anybody go into their place, and now they come out with four other people!”
“They probably came in quietly and have been minding their own business since then—something other people should do.” He sipped his coffee without looking at her.
“But Abner! Those people with them were wearing some kind of military uniforms! I just know something’s up!”
Her husband finally put down his paper to look at her. “For crying out loud, Gladys. Get away from the window and leave the poor people alone.”
Reluctantly, she let go of the curtain, letting it fall back over the window. She sat down at the table and took a sip of her coffee, muttering to herself. “Well at least that Blair Sandburg finally got a decent haircut.”
Jim and Blair waited by the Stargate with SG1 and General Hammond. The Tok’ra were sending two representatives to accompany them to the Tollen homeworld. Blair warned Jim to dial down his hearing and close his eyes. A woman and man came down the ramp. Blair let Jim know it was ok to look again. The woman walked straight up to Jim.
“Rames. After so long, you have returned to us.”
Jim’s face hardened. “The name is Detective James Ellison. And whether or not Kuk goes with you remains to be seen.”
“But surely Rames is there with you? You are joined. You are Tok’ra.”
“He can hear everything you say, but beyond that… Well, let’s just say we’re working on a separate peace.”
“This is highly…unusual.” She looked at the general. “Is all prepared?”
“Yes. The Tollen are expecting you as we speak.”
“Then let us proceed.”
Jim shot daggers at her. “I’m not going anywhere with the Tok’ra until you answer a few of my questions. When I ask you if my shirt is grey, I want you to say ‘no’. When I ask again, I want you to say ‘yes’.”
Anise looked towards General Hammond. “What is this meaning of this?”
Blair could see what Jim had in mind. He wanted to listen to the Tok’ra’s heartbeats. Because they each gave off two and they were aliens, Jim would need to test them to see how they reacted when telling lies as opposed to the truth. Their reactions might not be the same as humans from earth. Way to go Jim. Blair turned to the general. “Sir? I know it sounds strange, but it’s really important they do this. We’ll explain later. If they want Rames, they’ll have to.”
The general managed to persuade Anise and Selmak to humor Jim by answering a few of his strange questions. After several minutes of such questioning, Anise exploded in outrage. “Have we come here to be insulted?”
Jim’s eyes were cold. “I want to know something for Kuk’s benefit and my own. Why did you betray him and his wife to Sebok?”
“What! What are you talking about?”
“He sent the emergency signal to let you know they were on the verge of being found out. The Tok’ra replied, giving them the coordinates where they would be picked up and taken to safety. But when they got there, Sebok was waiting. Sebok even rubbed their noses in the fact that the Tok’ra had been relaying all their messages to him. They were betrayed.”
Jim’s voice was menacingly casual. “Kuk wants me to kill you. Does he have a right to ask?” He listened to their heartbeats.
“We never received a pickup signal! What are you talking about?”
Selmak was thinking back. It had been so long ago. “All communications would have gone through their contact. Their contact was Teneth.”
Anise practically spat his name. “Teneth! Over a hundred Tok’ra died because of him! He was another of our deep-cover agents, but he decided it would be to his advantage to switch sides. He gave away our base locations to Sebok. We managed to relocate most of them before he attacked, but he succeeded in wiping out two of our bases. It is no wonder we received no word from you or Naufri. He betrayed you and then betrayed us all. We did not know or we would have been there.”
Selmak bowed his head. “Forgive us, Rames. You have been greatly wronged. Come back with us and we will do everything in our power to heal the scars that still plague you.”
Jim waited. Kuk was strangely silent. “They’re telling the truth, Kuk. They didn’t know. And they do want you back.”
In a tired voice he finally spoke. “I need…perhaps it is time to go home.” Kuk lapsed into silence once more.
The Triad had gone off without a hitch. Since there were no opposing parties, they only had to state their objectives and that was that. The Tok’ra took Kuk with them. Jim and Blair went back to earth with SG1. Dr. Frasier, of course, wanted to examine Jim. Blair made sure he was present for every test. She could find no physical explanation as to how Jim was able to take and keep control of his body away from Kuk. She couldn’t even find anything that would explain Jim’s extraordinary abilities. Jim and Blair didn’t want to think about the implications of that or go through any more tests. Besides, General Hammond wanted to see them for a debriefing. The sooner they got everything settled, the sooner they could go home…if they’d be allowed to, that is.
After they’d brought the general up to speed, Jim glanced nervously at Blair. They were both thinking the same thing—what now? Sandburg looked like he was about to have a panic attack or something. “It’s ok, Chief. Whatever happens.”
The exchange did not go unnoticed by Jack and the general. Hammond spoke up. “We have guest quarters ready for you both until you’re rested and ready to return home.”
Blair glanced at him in surprise. “Home?”
Jack lifted his eyebrow jokingly. “As much as we enjoy you’re company, I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable living at home. We really don’t have the resources to accommodate you in the style to which you’ve become accustomed.”
Jim smiled slightly. “You’re right. It’s no desert palace, that’s for sure.” Then he turned serious. “We’re free to leave? Just like that?”
“We have no reason to keep you, Ellison. There are enough recruits who actually want to be here that we don’t need the hassle of kidnapping them.”
General Hammond nodded. “Your secret never left SG1 and it never will.”
Blair let out a long-held breath. “Oh, man! What a relief!”
“If we ever do need your…particular talents, however, I hope you would be willing to help us.”
“If, in the outside chance that you desperately needed my help, I would come.”
Blair jumped in. “WE would come.”
Jim glanced at Blair appreciatively. “We would come.”
Jack was taking them back to their quarters when Carter and Daniel showed up. Carter wanted to talk to Jim. Jack had an idea why.
“Chief? Can you stay out of trouble for a while?”
Daniel spoke up. “I can show him around, if that’s ok with Blair.”
“That would be cool. I think Daniel can keep me in line. See you later, Jim.”
Daniel and Blair headed off to get something to eat. Then they toured the non-restricted areas of the facility. The two of them found they didn’t have a problem with conversation topics. They grilled each other about everything they’d been doing over the years. Daniel suddenly turned serious. “How did you deal with the snide comments, the jeers, after you denounced your dissertation?”
“It was hard at first until I realized that what I was holding onto was more important than anything I was letting go. I don’t think most people even remember the press conference anymore. The ones who matter remember, but don’t care.”
Daniel sighed. Someone who understood. Someone who knew what it was like to throw away a huge part of your life, but get something even better to replace it. Even if the outside world never knew what SGC did to protect it, Daniel would know how important his work was. His friends in SG1 would know. That was all that mattered.
Samantha noticed that Ellison had a strange smile on his face. “Detective Ellison. What is it?”
“Hmm? Call me Jim. Do you have a first name or are you just Major Carter?”
“My friends call me Sam. What were you smiling about?”
“Nothing really. You’re base just isn’t as soundproof as you think it is.”
She didn’t know what to make of that. Sam moved on to what she really wanted to talk to him about. “Besides Skaara, I might be the only person who can understand what you’ve been through. I was implanted without my consent, as well. Jol’inar of Malkshur—a Tok’ra.”
“The Tok’ra seem to act like Goa’uld when they feel like it, don’t they?”
“Jol’inar was desperate. An assassin was after her and her host was dying. She didn’t have time. I know that’s no excuse, but it is an explanation. My friends locked me up because they couldn’t believe that the alien inside me hadn’t completely taken me over. Colonel O’Neill has a hard time dealing with the Tok’ra because the whole idea of implantation reminds him of Kowalski. I didn’t know him very well, but he and the colonel were friends. To have Kowalski try to kill him…”
“That explains why he was so set on keeping Sandburg away from me.”
“It took Jol’inar’s sacrificing herself to save me to convince the colonel that a group did exist that only chose symbiotic relationships. He still feels a little uncomfortable around them, though. But Jol’inar left so many things in my head. Sometimes I’ll remember or dream about something from her life. I know it’s hers, but it seems like a part of me, too.”
“So I should be prepared for flashbacks? Great. Kuk was a nutcase. So am I going to have psychotic episodes?”
“No. It’s not like that. There’s a Tok’ra device that actually allows you to experience the memories, but this is more like remembering parts of a movie you saw. You recall the story, but know it’s not your own. I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m making as much sense as I thought I would. I can explain quantum mechanics and astrophysics, but this is difficult.”
“Because it’s personal. Believe it or not, you are making sense to me. I sometimes get a flash of memory. I can see it clearly as if I were there when it happened. But I know I wasn’t. Then I concentrate on something else and it fades away.”
“Yes, that’s it. They’re inconvenient, but they won’t control you or make you lose control of who you are. And the good news is that they become less intense, less clear, as time goes by. I still have them on occasion, but never like in the beginning. Perhaps someday they’ll disappear all together.”
“Hey, we can dream, can’t we?” Jim gave her an incredible smile. Sam returned it with equal brilliance. The two of them talked about their experiences for a while before the topic drifted to other things. Soon they were chatting like old friends.
Samantha realized it was getting late and she had to get back to work. She escorted Jim to his quarters. She wrote on a piece of paper and gave it to him. “If you ever need to talk about Kuk, give me a call.”
Jim was feeling reckless. “And what if I want to talk about something else—dinner, dancing.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. After a moment she gave him a kind of “we’ll see” expression. “It’s a multi-purpose number.” Then she walked off.
Jim was still standing there watching her go when he heard Daniel and Sandburg coming. Daniel left the two of the alone.
Blair had a puzzled expression on his face. “For what?”
“For being the kind of guy who has to ask why he’s being thanked.” Jim shifted uncomfortably. He didn’t say anything for a few minutes. Sandburg waited silently for him to continue. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle all this stuff in my head. I might…I might need to talk about it sometimes.”
“Hey, man. I don’t talk all the time—I’m a good listener, too. Whatever you need. You know you don’t even have to ask.”
“I know. I just like to hear you say it.”
Jim lightly cuffed Sandburg on the back of the head as the two of them went into their quarters.
The two of them stayed at SGC for a couple of days. They needed the time to just sort through everything around people who knew and understood. True to his word, General Hammond had transportation to Cascade ready for them when they wanted to go. They were fairly quiet on the trip home, still trying to absorb everything that had happened. When their ride dropped them off at their building, Blair seemed to perk up. Jim took Sam’s number out of his pocket, wondering if she’d like to get together sometime and not talk about aliens.
“Whatcha got there, Jim?” Blair peered over his arm. “A phone number? In all this craziness, you managed to get a lady’s phone number? And it’s the major’s, too. I’m impressed. There may be hope for you after all.”
“At least I’m not losing my touch, Chief. When was the last time you had a date? And hanging out with Megan from the station doesn’t count.”
Blair had a cat-who-ate-the-canary look on his face. “Oh, I don’t know, Jim. You’re not the only one who can turn disaster into triumph.” He held up a small piece of paper. “Doctor Janet Frasier’s a very charming, interesting, intelligent woman, don’t you think?”
“So she’s not your usual type?”
“Hey! What are you trying to say?”
“That you usually date young, perky, college girls who don’t always have a clue.”
“That is so mean, Jim. What about Gina and Terry? They were funny and smart. Then there was Kiki. She was a chemistry major. Don’t forget Roxy and…”
“Ok, ok. I give up. If I don’t, I’m going to have to listen to a long list of your past conquests. I’m really not that interested in your love life, Sandburg.”
“So you admit I’ve dated a lot of women. A few minutes ago you said I was a loser with the ladies. Come on, which is it?”
The two of them walked up the stairs to the loft. “Having dated a string of women isn’t necessarily something to brag about. It makes you seem commitment-shy.”
Blair was still glaring at him.
“Ok. You want me to say it? Fine.” He raised his voice, gesturing mockingly. “Blair Sandburg is the king of sex. His hippie charm is irresistible. I bow down in worship before the master.”
Just then they noticed their neighbor going into her apartment with some groceries. She seemed to be nervously fumbling with her keys.
Jim stepped towards her. “Do you need a hand, Mrs. Kravitz?”
The woman’s eyes bugged out of her head. She suddenly got the door open with amazing speed, scurried inside, and slammed the door in Jim’s face.
Inside the safety of her apartment, she gaped through the peephole. “Abner! Abner!”
Her husband turned up the volume on the TV so he couldn’t hear her.
Jim looked at Blair with a puzzled expression. “You were right, Chief. We do have some strange neighbors.”
1) I know it sounds crazy, but I really think there is something called odorless bottled fox urine. I believe I saw it at the store. I am positive, however, that K-Mart sells odorless bottled deer urine. It’s used by hunters to cover their own scents. It isn’t truly odorless—it’s just that humans can’t detect it. They also make one that smells like deer in heat. Doesn’t that sound like a fun job? “What do I do for a living? Why, I make animal urine.” (I don’t mean this as an insult to the people who actually do this, it’s just so weird and funny)
2) In the many Sentinel fanfiction stories I’ve read, I’ve seen a lot of things happen in the loft—demon attacks, sword fights, shoot-outs, stabbings, bombings, break-ins, etc. Few authors have shown what the neighbors think of Jim and Blair and the goings on at their place. I was reminded of Samantha and Darren’s neighbor, Gladys Kravitz, on the old TV show, Bewitched. She just knew Samantha was a witch and was always watching their house, face practically glued to the window. Her long-suffering husband Abner had to put up with her constant ravings about what was going on next door. I thought it would be funny if the guys had them for neighbors. As a disclaimer, I should say that I’m making no money off these characters. I have no idea who created Abner and Gladys, but they are classics.
3) The idea of possible romance between Jim and Sam, and Blair and Janet, was not mine. I read it in a crossover fanfic at the Cascade Library. I just don’t remember whose it was.