Choices

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  6 - March 28-30, 2003
Spoilers:  Prometheus, Unnatural Selection, Menace
Size:  112kb
Written:  April 10-15,26-28, May 1, 2008
Summary:  With Daniel and Sam on board, the still-unfinished Prometheus is hijacked.  Then Thor asks SG-1 for a favor that could prove to be deadly.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Wallpapers used to illustrate this story are courtesy of DChan!
2) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Lissa, Jo, Melissa, Linda, Lil Bear, Keri!

Choices
by Orrymain

Jack and Daniel got out of their vehicles and stood facing each other with broad smiles gracing their faces.  They'd just made up after a tumultuous situation had threatened to end their love affair forever, but their love, faith, and belief in each other had won out.  Now, their nation of two would get them through any difficult times that might arise as they continued to weld together the coupling of their hearts that had briefly been torn apart.

“How about we meet for lunch?” Jack asked, breaking the spell that had enraptured the two men in the parking garage of the SGC.

“Okay, but I'm supposed to meet with John about one or so to go over some research, so it'll need to be either before or after that.”

“Not a problem,” Jack replied as they walked.  “John?  That Carpenter guy?”

“Jack, please tell me that after what we've just gone through, that you are *not* going to get all crazy on me today because of a meeting with one of my staff,” Daniel pleaded a bit desperately but with a hint of warning in his tone.

“Did I say anything?” Jack asked lightheartedly, trying to sound innocent.

Daniel sighed, but he loved his crazy colonel, even when he did get jealous.  He let out a yawn, bringing his fisted hand to his mouth.

“Not enough caffeine this morning?”

“Jack, it's only 6 a.m.  I'm surprised I was able to get dressed,” the younger man replied.

“That explains it.”

“Explains what?” Daniel asked.

“Why you're wearing your pajama bottoms instead of pants.”

“Wha...what?” the archaeologist stammered, looking down at his body.  He sighed, “Jack!”

The colonel laughed, “Daniel, do you really think I'd let you out in public in your pajamas?”

Daniel thought and then smiled, answering, “No, I don't think you would.”

The couple made their way through the upper levels of the SGC and entered the second elevator.  They were chatting idly as the apparatus carefully powered its way down through the shaft.  Both were smiling when it stopped on Level 16.

“I don't believe it,” Jack heard himself say when the doors opened and there, standing in front of him, was Major Paul Davis.

“Paul,” Daniel greeted, his tone friendly and inviting.

“Daniel, hello.”  The major entered the elevator and pressed the button for Level 26.  “Colonel.”

“Davis,” Jack droned.  ~What are the odds?~ he sighed inwardly, since Paul Davis was the one person he'd always been the most jealous of where Daniel was concerned.

With his back leaning against the side of the elevator and his arms folded across his chest, Daniel bowed his head, trying not to laugh at his lover's distress.

~Okay, it feels good,~ Daniel admitted to himself.  ~We just made it through Netu ... again, and it feels good to know what he's feeling.  So sue me for letting myself indulge for a minute.~  Suddenly, he straightened, and his smile faded a bit.  ~Don't tempt Fate,~ he warned himself, feeling like he'd lost way too much in his life to allow himself a moment's indulgent pleasure, not even at this.

“Sir, Doctor Jackson ...” Davis began.

~Okay, he just went from 'Daniel' to Doctor Jackson'.  Something's up,~ Jack thought.

“We've been waiting for you to arrive,” the major continued.

“We?” Jack asked, looking to his left at the Pentagon liaison.

“There's a situation,” Davis stated.

~I don't like that look,~ Jack thought, his jealousy instantly buried and replaced by concern for whatever was going on.

“What's happening?” Daniel asked.

“Two days ago, a reporter for a news magazine show called 'Inside Access' ...”

“Pretty blonde?” Jack interrupted.  “Tall, short hair, likes to wear a lot of lipstick? Looks a little funny when she scrunches her face, but still a good looker?”

Daniel blinked, his smile long gone in favor of a frown.  He stared at his lover, wondering when Jack had become a fan of television news magazines.

“Donovan,” Jack said, extending one hand out as he brought the name forward from the filing cabinet of his mind.  “Julia,” he added with a smile.

“Yes, Sir, that's her,” Davis confirmed.

Jack smiled and casually glanced at his frowning soulmate.  He'd returned his focus to the major when it registered that something was amiss in his soulmate's mind, and it wasn't the crisis Paul Davis was referring to.

**Daniel?**

**We'll discuss it later.**

Jack smiled and smirked, **You're jealous of a news reporter.**

**I am not.**

**Are, too,** the older man insisted.

**I ... crap, I hate this.**

“Sir,” Davis called out, well aware that somehow he'd lost the colonel's attention.

“What about Julia Donovan?” Jack asked, his serious demeanor having returned for the moment.

“She approached Major Carter for an interview.”

“What, a 'blondes have more fun' story?” Jack quipped, resulting in Daniel rolling his eyes.

“She claimed to have access to information about the Prometheus Project,” Davis answered.

“She knows about the ship?” Daniel asked with concern.  “How?”

“No, she doesn't, but she somehow got wind of the money that's been used to pay for the project.”

“We've had things like this crop up before,” Jack interjected.  “What makes this so earth shattering?”

“Trinium.”

“Excuse me?” Daniel asked in disbelief.

“She showed Major Carter a vial that she claimed was trinium.  She also said that she'd had it analyzed and that she knows it's unlike anything else in this world.”

“Claims,” Jack echoed.

“What did Sam do?” Daniel inquired.

“She didn't confirm or deny anything.  She came straight to the Mountain and reported the incident to General Hammond.”

“Call the President,” Jack stated with a shrug.

“We're beyond that, Sir,” the male major replied.

“Catch us up, Major,” Jack requested, understanding more why Davis had been so anxious to see them in the first place.

“The Pentagon immediately began an investigation, placing Ms. Donovan under surveillance.  Yesterday she made a trip to New York City, and I intercepted her to try to gain her cooperation.”

“Obviously, your charm didn't work,” Jack surmised, since the crisis was apparently still ongoing.

**Jack!**

**I was just saying ...** the colonel replied mentally.

“I did try to reason with her, but she demanded details about what Prometheus was.”

“She doesn't know it's a ship,” Daniel spoke.

“Actually, she believes it's some kind of fusion reactor.  She refused to provide her sources ...”

“Not a surprise,” Jack interrupted as the elevator doors opened on Level 18, after which the major immediately shut them, preventing Jack or Daniel from exiting, just in case that's what they had in mind.  ~Okay.  Good thing we weren't planning on getting off, considering we're still in our civvies.~

Without explaining his sudden movement with the elevator buttons, Davis nodded and continued, “I was as tough on her as I could be, but she retaliated in kind; said that if anything happened to her, the story would be released.”
“Okay, let's stop.  Don't ya think we're getting a little 'Spy Game'ish?” Jack questioned with arched eyebrows.

“This morning, the President contacted the network.”

“Not the right political party?” Jack asked, wondering if the network refused to pull the plug on the news item.

“The network understands.”

“Julia Donovan doesn't,” Daniel deduced.

“She's threatened to contact a couple of broadcasters overseas to run the story, and she's refusing to turn over her notes,” Davis stated, exiting the elevator on Level 26 and motioning for Jack and Daniel to do the same.

“So ... what's the problem?” Jack asked.  ~Story is killed; they'll get the notes.  Why is he so up in arms?~

“She's a loose canon.  We're not sure the situation is contained, so the President has authorized a compromise.”

“The President is compromising?” Jack asked incredulously.

“Jack, we all have to compromise sometimes,” General Hammond interjected, meeting the three men as they rounded a corner.  “I'm glad you two are back.  As soon as you've changed, we need to debrief.  Make it fast.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged, glancing at Daniel before he and his lover headed for the locker room to put on their green BDUs.

====

“So, you watch 'Inside Access'?” Daniel questioned as he and his lover changed in the locker room.

“Don't you?”

“No,” Daniel answered.

“Daniel, it's a TV show.  Sometimes, it's on.”

“You know her name,” Daniel spoke accusingly.

Jack chuckled, “She's a reporter.  Why wouldn't I notice?”

“Why would you?” Daniel responded, his question rhetorical.

**You're cute when you're jealous,** Jack communicated.

**I am not.  I'm just wondering when you watch this show, since I've never seen it on when I'm there, and I'm ... there a lot.**

**Daniel, 'there' is our home, and you live there, so don't call it 'there'.**

**But ...**

**Angel, you're cute when you're jealous.**

**I am n... oh, crap,** Daniel sighed, getting a grip on his momentary lapse.

**Danny, it's only because of ...**

The two men paused for a moment, sharing a look.  Both were thinking about recent events and someone who had threatened to come between them.

“You're right, Jack, and that's the end of it,” the younger man spoke steadily.

“It's the short, blonde hair,” Jack stated.  “It's vaguely reminiscent of Sara's, and this Donovan woman is strong-willed, like Sara.”

Daniel smiled, his lover's explanation making perfect sense to him.  He really didn't know Sara, having only met her one time, and they didn't talk about her very much, but the words were rational to him.

“I hope her being strong-willed doesn't mean she won't listen,” Daniel replied.

“Sounds like she's ready to take on D.C.,” Jack agreed.  “You ready?”

“Yeah, let's go.”

====

“Stepping out without us, Carter?” Jack teased as he walked over to the small table that always had a coffeepot on it.  He picked up a mug and filled it, taking it over to his lover and setting it down.  **Caffeine for My Love.**

**Thank you, Babe,** Daniel responded gratefully, inhaling the aroma of the coffee before taking his first sip.

“Believe me, Sir, I wish you'd been the one Ms. Donovan had approached,” Sam responded.  ~Cute.  I wonder what he's trying to apologize for,~ she thought about the coffee service her commanding officer had just performed.

~Wonder why he didn't get coffee for himself,~ Davis pondered silently as he sat back.

~O'Neill is taking care of DanielJackson.  That is his function, when not occupied in battle,~ Teal'c thought.

“Me, too,” Jack replied in response to Sam's comment, smiling innocently at his teammates as he sat down next to Daniel, totally oblivious to the silent thoughts about his having just fetched coffee for the archaeologist and no one else, including himself.

“Major,” Hammond called out as he entered the room and sat down, motioning for her to begin the briefing, now that everyone was present.

After giving a brief summary of the events up to now, Sam stated, “Major Davis and I have serious concerns about whether or not Ms. Donovan will remain quiet.  She wasn't happy about the network's decision and did threaten to call foreign correspondents to have the story released.”

“Do you think that she would really go through with it?” Daniel asked from his seat next to his lover.

“We have no way of knowing, and the fact is, we can't take the chance,” Hammond answered.

“There's also the question of where she's getting her information.  If we kill the story without plugging the leak, there's no guarantee this won't happen all over again,” Davis added.

“What are you suggesting?” the archaeologist asked.

“Once Ms.  Donovan left the meeting, her producer agreed to reveal the source in exchange for a tour of the facility,” Davis stated.

~He's kidding,~ Jack thought, his facial expression saying what he wasn't verbalizing.

The general saw the look on his second-in-command's face and explained, “The Pentagon feels this is the best way to contain the situation.  Once we've confirmed we have the source, we destroy all videotape and any related materials.”

“So, essentially we're just double crossing them,” Daniel surmised, making it perfectly clear what was happening, regardless of whether or not he might agree.

“We have no choice, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond responded.

“Without any hard evidence, the only place she'll be able to run the story is in the tabloids,” Davis pointed out.

“This ... is an *insanely* bad idea,” Jack spoke with disdain for the idea.

“The decision has been made,” Hammond advised.  “Major, I want you and Doctor Jackson to take care of this.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Dismissed.”

“Did I mention this was an insane idea?” Jack questioned just as emphatically as he had the first time.

“The President feels it's the best way to ensure Ms. Donovan's cooperation,” Davis reminded.

“The President is wrong.”

“I'll tell him you said that, Sir,” Davis replied, nodding at the others before walking out.

“This is a bad idea,” Jack sighed.  ~And was he giving me attitude?~

“Do you have a better one, Sir?” Sam questioned.

“Yeah.  Call Thor.  He can make her disappear,” the colonel answered.

“And what about her threat that if anything happened to her, the story would get out?” Daniel queried pointedly.  “I don't like the deception, but I have to agree with the President that it's probably the best option.  I mean, uh, we can at least try to do this the peaceful way.”

“And we don't have to tell them everything about the Prometheus,” Sam pointed out.

“Like where the technology came from,” Jack responded, shaking his head.  He let out a growl and headed out the door, saying, “I'll bet this was Davis' idea.”

Sam and Daniel exchanged a look with each other and then with Teal'c before walking out of the room.

====

Jack and Daniel were on the parking level, waiting for both Sam and the transportation that would take the two scientists to Peterson and then to the desert facility where the X-303's hangar was located.  The arrangements for the private tour had been made swiftly as the news team was eager and willing to set aside their regular plans to fly to Nevada to see the billion-dollar project.

“Jack, why are you hovering?”

“I'm not hovering,” the older man denied.

“Okay, why are standing here, conspicuously waiting with me when you should be ... uh, what is it you do?” the archaeologist snarked, a slight smile slowly appearing on his face.

Jack stared for a moment, but then groused, “This is a bad idea, Daniel.”

“There's nothing we can do about it.”  Daniel noticed Jack's widened eyes and pointed expression, causing him to raise his right hand, one finger extended, and say, “Let me correct that.  There's nothing *legal* we can do about it.  Maybe it'll work.”

“And maybe 'The Simpsons' will be made into a theatrical film,” Jack quipped.

“Jack, stay real, and stop thinking about the impossible,” Daniel responded.

“Watch your back.”

Daniel chuckled, “It's just a tour.  Nothing's going to happen.”

“Okay,” Jack sighed, running the palms of his hands down his face.  “I don't know why I'm so wound up.”

“Maybe it's just us getting back to normal,” Daniel theorized.

“Maybe it's you and Paul Davis.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and then glared at his lover.

“I was just kidding,” Jack said, his tone only half teasing.

“Sir, are you coming with us?” Sam asked upon approaching her teammates.

“I have memos to read,” Jack answered.  Giving a nod to his soulmate, he said, “Don't get lost,” and started to walk away.

“Don't get lost?” the archaeologist muttered under his breath.  “No, I ... won't,” he called out, shaking his head slightly before smiling at Sam.  “He thinks this is a bad idea.”

“He's probably, Daniel, but what else can we do?”

“Short of relocating Julia Donovan to another planet, I have no idea,” Daniel replied.

“Here we go,” Sam said, seeing the driver approaching.

**I love you, Jack.  I'll be back soon,** Daniel assured his lover, glancing over at the colonel, who was just getting inside the elevator.

**You'd better be, or I'm blaming Davis; and just for the record, I love you, too.  Stay safe, Angel,** Jack responded.  ~I wish I knew why I was feeling so uneasy about all of this,~ he reflected as he pushed the button to close the doors.

====

“Here we go,” Sam said as she and Daniel waited outside for the two approaching vehicles to stop.

“Didn't you just say that?” Daniel teased.

Sam chuckled for a brief second and then took a hopeful breath that she and Daniel would be successful in their task.

The two members of SG-1 were standing next to a small red and white checkered building that was surrounded by a chain link fence.  Two Special Forces' sergeants stood nearby.  There was nothing else in sight but the sand of the hot Nevada desert.

When the SUVs stopped, Julia Donovan and Al Martell, her producer, headed towards the teammates.  Behind them, the camera crew was getting their equipment from the second vehicle.  The camera crew consisted of three men, Smith, Sanderson, and Reynolds, and a woman named Jones.

“Ms.  Donovan,” Sam greeted.

“Major.”

“This is Daniel Jackson,” Sam introduced.  “He'll be joining us on the tour.”

Looking at the small building, Martell erroneously observed, “I guess a couple billion dollars doesn't buy what it used to.”

“You'd be surprised,” Daniel replied.

“Shall we?” Sam asked, leading the group over to the building.

Sam entered a code on the building's keypad while one of the sergeants opened the door, revealing a large elevator.  Daniel, Sam, Julia, and Martell rode the elevator down several hundred feet to an underground hangar.  Stepping out, Donovan and Martell were stunned to see a huge, gray spacecraft docked there.

“This is Prometheus, otherwise known as the X-303,” Sam stated.

“Hope you brought a lot of tape,” Julia quipped to her producer as she walked forward.

A few minutes later, the two sergeants escorted the camera crew inside, where they joined with the others for the promised tour.

====

As the tour continued, Julia said in disbelief, “This is a joke.  It would take at least twenty Saturn rockets to get this thing off the ground, let alone into orbit.”

“Prometheus is the third in a series of designs that incorporates both human and alien technology,” Sam responded.

“You're saying little green men helped you build this?” Martell questioned.

“Actually, they're gray,” Daniel smirked, raising his eyebrows for a second.

Sam smiled at her teammate and then continued, “All the key systems were reverse engineered from a ship that crashed a hundred miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska in 1978.  It was only in the last few years that our technology evolved to a point where we could take advantage of what we had.”

As the others entered the bridge, Daniel spoke quietly, “Fairbanks?”

“Better than Roswell,” Sam replied.

The archaeologist grinned and then followed Sam onto the bridge.

“It doesn't look very alien to me,” Julia observed.

“The controls are all standard design.  Some of the key systems use crystal technology rather than wires and chips.  The hard part's making them compatible,” Sam responded.

As the camera crew set up their equipment on the bridge, Sam and Daniel continued the tour of the ship, explaining that the X-303 wouldn't be ready for flight for some time since many of the support systems were still being assembled.

====

The tour progressed to the engine room where the hyperdrive that allowed for interstellar travel was located.  As the reporter and the producer took in the room, Sam heard a beep from the computer and went over to check it.

Noticing Sam's puzzled expression, Daniel walked over and asked, “What is it?”

“I'm not sure.  The computer was running a series of hyperdrive simulations, but they've been interrupted.”

“So?”

“So, there are no other tests scheduled for today,” Sam responded.  She walked over to the communication system and spoke, “Engine room to the bridge.  Sergeant Gibson, this is Major Carter.  Come in.”

“Maybe the comm system isn't finished yet,” Daniel suggested.

“All right,” Sam responded, putting the phone back into its slot.  “I'll go check it out.  Keep an eye on these two,” Sam stated, not really trusting the journalists.

====

En route to the bridge, Sam was confronted by Reynolds and Sanderson and quickly realized that something was wrong.  When a scuffle broke out, she managed to break away, fleeing down the corridor and just barely escaping capture as they chased her.

Meanwhile, Daniel was accessing the system and noticed something was amiss.

~I guess it's a good thing General Hammond insisted we be on an ... intimate basis with the X-303,~ the archaeologist thought as he studied the computer readings.

“What is it?” Julia asked, standing behind Daniel.

“Someone's trying to lock down the ship.  I can't stop them, but I think I can slow them down,” Daniel answered.

“So, you're a scientist, too, like Major Carter?”

“Actually, I'm an archaeologist.”

“And you know how to operate this ship?”

“Uh, it's a long story,” Daniel sighed, focusing on the monitor in front of him.

“I'd like to hear it.”

“It's ... classified.”

“Like this ship?” Julia asked.

“Good point, but right now, I have to try and slow down whoever is doing this,” Daniel responded with urgency.  

“How are you going to do that?”

“Well, computers love tests, so ...” Daniel answered cryptically as he proceeded to order the computer to do a full diagnostic of all systems.

====

In order to evade capture, Sam ran into a storage room and lowered the door.  While the door definitely kept her pursuers out, it also locked her inside, since the two men contacted Jones and had her seal the door shut.

--

While this was happening, Daniel opened a drawer and removed the control crystal from the assembly and hiding it.  Removing the crystal essentially froze the ship's controls.

A minute later, the three male members of the film crew rushed the engine room, their weapons drawn, completely surprising the confused reporter.

From the bridge, Jones called out, “We've got a problem.  The computer's been tied up with a diagnostic program.  I need you to shut it down.”

When Sanderson was unable to do as Evans had requested, Martell realized there was a serious situation that could cause the plan to fail and stunned Donovan when he called out excitedly, “He removed the control crystal.”

“Al, what are you doing?” Julia asked in surprise as she watched her boss take the crystal from the overhead bin where Daniel had placed it.

“It must link the computer to the alien systems,” Martell responded without answering her question.

“You're working with them,” Daniel deduced.

“No questions,” Smith ordered sternly.

“That's okay,” Daniel responded.  “The answer's obvious.”

====

“Colonel,” Hammond called out, stopping Jack as he was headed for the commissary.

“Sir?” Jack responded, immediately noticing the urgent tone of the general's voice.

“We have a situation.”

“Another one?”

“The camera crew has taken control of the X-303.”

“The camera crew?” the colonel questioned, his voice raised and a stunned expression on his face.

“Doctor Jackson and Major Carter are both on board.”

“Sir, request permission to ...”

“Go,” Hammond ordered with a nod.

“Thank you, Sir,” Jack responded, his walk turning into a jog as he went to round up Teal'c and arrange for transportation to the secret facility.  ~I knew that tour was an *insane* idea.  Keep your head down, Danny.  I'm comin'!~

====

With the control crystal back in place, Jones regained control of the computer system.  The renegade crew began to activate the hyperdrive generators.

====

Above ground near the hangar entrance, the command center, under the charge of Major Paul Davis, had been set up.  As soldiers disembarked from a large truck and took up positions around the small building, another silver SUV arrived.  As soon as it stopped, Jack jumped out with a full head of steam.  He stormed towards the major, wanting answers now.

“Major Davis!” Jack yelled.

~I'm gonna be demoted, right after he kills me,~ the major thought as he immediately walked away from the tented area and towards the colonel.

“What the hell happened?” Jack barked angrily.

“Approximately 0900 this morning, the X-303 was put into lockdown mode.  At 0920, we received a communication from someone inside the ship informing us that they had destabilized the hyperdrive.  They're threatening to blow it,” Davis answered, speaking as fast as he could.

“I don't believe it!” Jack replied.  Angrily, he repeated, “I do not believe this!”

“We're getting energy readings that confirm an overload building in the ship's generator,” Davis advised.

Still yelling, Jack replied, “This is supposedly the most secure facility on the face of the planet!”

“We think it was the camera crew, Sir,” Davis informed.

“Did anyone bother with a background check?”

“Yes, Sir, and they were clean.  Their cameraman was a decorated Marine in Somalia.  Every member of that crew has been at the network for well over a year, Sir.  This plan has obviously been in the works for some time,” the major expounded.  ~We need a new procedure; I'll work on that, if I'm still in the Air Force when this is over.~

At that moment, a staff sergeant walked over behind Davis, standing nervously while staring at the colonel and waiting for an appropriate moment to interrupt the two men.

“What?” Jack shouted to the unsuspecting sergeant.  ~I'm just getting started.~

“Sir, we're receiving a transmission.  It's from the hijackers,” the sergeant answered.

“Patch it through,” Davis ordered as he and Jack went inside the command tent.

Davis picked up the radio and spoke, “This is Major Davis.  Go ahead.”

“I assume by now you've confirmed the status of the hyperdrive, so you know we're not bluffing,” Smith spoke from the bridge of the ship.

“What do you want?”

“You're currently holding two prisoners we want released -- Colonel Frank Simmons and Adrian Conrad.  You have exactly three hours to deliver them, or we blow up your ship,” Smith threatened, ending the transmission a moment later.

Jack rolled his eyes, thinking, ~Now this is just peachy.  How in Netu did this happen?  Where's the security in our security?~  Suddenly, a thought occurred to him.  **Daniel, can you hear me?**  He waited a minute and tried again.  **Daniel!**

The colonel grimaced, realizing that the couple's special communication system wasn't working right now; at least, he hoped that was the reason and not anything more devastating, like Daniel having been hurt.

~Hurt him, and I'll kill you,~ Jack pledged silently while he and Teal'c, who had smartly hung back while Jack had been confronting Davis, stood by helplessly, waiting to see what was going to happen.  When he had Davis' attention, he asked, “Do we know who is responsible for this?”

“It's probably a rogue faction of the NID.”

“NID,” Jack sighed sarcastically.  “Major, when this is over, we're gonna have a little chat about security.”

“Sir ...”

“Later, Davis, not now,” Jack said, heading for the communication table to place a call to Hammond.

====

Finally, from the storage room on deck seven, Sam was able to get through to the command center by using a different frequency of the comm system.

“Carter, is there any chance they can get that ship off the ground?” Jack questioned.

“It's not finished, Sir.  It could lose structural integrity,” Sam answered.

~Why can't a scientist ever answer my question with a 'yes' or 'no'?~ Jack growled inwardly.  “Will it fly?” he asked, reiterating his question.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Major Carter, the sub-light control relay is right above you on Deck 8.  If you can get to it and sever the connection, that will ground them for sure,” Davis advised after reviewing the plans to the space vessel.

“I found a plasma cutter in here, but it will take me a while to get through the trinium alloy,” Sam replied.

“We have less than three hours to deliver the prisoners or they blow the ship,” Davis responded.

“Copy that.”

“Carter,” Jack spoke cautiously.  “What about Daniel?”

“The last time I saw him, Sir, he was with Julia Donovan and her producer  in the engine room,” Sam answered.

With a nod, Jack spoke, “Get cutting.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam replied and then went about her task.

Jack stared at Paul Davis, who returned the stare, until he decided he should contact the Pentagon with the latest information.

~Yeah, run.  You can't hide from me, Davis, and, if anything happens to Daniel, you're on my list, too.~

====

Inside the engine room, Martell told Julia he was going along with the hijackers because he was being paid a great deal of money.

“Uh, just to point out the obvious,” Daniel began, looking at the two men who were holding them captive.  “You do know that there's only two ways off of this ship?”  He paused, looking at each one before elaborating, “Handcuffs, or ... or dead.”

“Who says we wanna get off?” Sanderson responded smartly.

“Oh, you don't?”

“You'll find out.”

“Lucky me,” Daniel responded with a smirk.  ~I hope Sam's having better luck than I am, wherever she is.~  As he sat quietly, he began to think about Jack and realized that his lover was probably en route to the Nevada location, if he hadn't already arrived.  ~Oops.  Paul,~ he thought, having a hunch that his lover would probably blame the major for the entire situation, as promised.  ~Sorry,~ he thought.  ~Hmm.~  **Jack?  Jack, are you here?**

The archaeologist leaned his head back against the wall, his eyes looking up at the ceiling.  He sighed, wishing the private communication had worked.  For some reason, he really wasn't worried about his current situation, but he longed to see his Heart, the man he loved more than anything.

~It's only been a few hours, but I miss him.~

“You blame me for this, don't you?” Julia asked, her question luring Daniel from his lament.

“No, I don't ... blame you, but, on the other hand, if you hadn't threatened to go public with information that you knew ...”

“... that the public had a right to know about.”

“I was going to say, that you knew could have global implications on the world,” Daniel responded dryly.

“The public does have a right to know, Doctor Jackson.  Billions of dollars have been appropriated for this project,” the reporter claimed.

“If you say so,” Daniel replied noncommittally.

“People have a right to know.”

“Right to know?” the archaeologist questioned.  He looked sternly at the woman and said, “That's a very convenient excuse for the media.”

“How about shutting up over there,” Sanderson said, aiming his weapon at Daniel and Julia.

Daniel just nodded and leaned his head against the wall again, while Julia sighed, a bit of a pout on her face.

====

While Sam continued to try and cut her way out of the storage room, Major Davis went to meet the transport that was bringing Frank Simmons to Nevada.  He was certain Simmons and Conrad, a Goa'uld, had some kind of deal going, and, as they rode from the transport to the secret facility, he tried to get the man to admit to the connection.

Simmons, however, smugly denied knowing anything about the situation, while at the same time attempting to sound generous in agreeing to board the ship when people were being held hostage, something that caused the major's stomach to turn in contempt for Simmons.

~You're lying, Colonel Simmons.  I just can't do anything about it right now.~

====

On the ship, Daniel was lost in thoughts of his lover.  It had been quiet in the engine room as the hijackers went about their tasks and Julia pouted in silence.  As a result, his mind drifted to a happier place -- Jack.  His face became peaceful as he thought about his lover.  Jack was so many things.  Right now, he could imagine his soulmate as the protector.

~You're probably an unhappy camper today, Babe,~ Daniel thought.  ~Are you here yet?  You're on alert, wherever you are.  My lover, the fighter.~  Of course, he realized that wasn't a bad thing, but Jack was so much more.  He smiled, thinking of Jack smiling back at him.  ~I love it when you smile.  Your brown eyes shine so brightly when you do, especially when you're playing and teasing.  Even in BDUs, your smile is what I see the most.~


Oblivious to the activity of the hijackers as they continued their plan and also to Julia Donovan, who was still sulking, Daniel continued to let his mind wander.  After all, there was nothing else he could do at the moment.

~Sexy.  Gawd, Jack, you are so incredibly sexy.  Oh, man, in your Class A's, you are ... oh, wow, you just make me all ... wow,~ Daniel thought, thinking about the dress blue attire his lover wore to official briefings and meetings with the Brass. ~Babe, do you know what I love the most about that uniform?~  He chuckled inwardly, ~Yeah, I know you know -- ripping it off of you and then ravishing your naked body.  We've lost a few buttons from time to time, but when you're in that uniform, something happens inside of me.  It's like a ... a switch is flipped, and I just have to have you -- right away.~  He let out an audible sigh, and he was smiling.  ~I can't wait to do that again.~

Daniel blinked, feeling eyes looking at him.  He looked over at the reporter and just smiled some more.  The hijackers were ignoring them at the moment, and there was still nothing he could do, so he went back to his happy place of the moment -- his thoughts of his sexy Silver Fox.

~My protector, the man with the smile in his eyes, and my sexy Love: how I love you, all of you; but my favorite?  That's just My Jack.  When I dream of you, in uniform, in civvies, or in your birthday suit, I can't help but smile.  I'm smiling now.  Julia thinks I'm nuts, but, hey, she's not the first one to think that, and, frankly, I don't mind.  I mean, uh, I really think we're going to get out of this.  I'm just not worried, for some reason; but, if I'm wrong, I want to die thinking about My Jack and how he loves me.  I'm really believing in us now, and I know it's taken a long, long, long time, but, deep inside, you're keeping your promise to me, Babe.  Gawd, I love you.~

All of a sudden, things heated up in the engine room, and Daniel's thoughts of his life partner faded in favor of the reality of the moment.  Sanderson discovered that someone had recalibrated the ignition module.  He looked over at Daniel, who just shrugged innocently.

“We need the new settings.  If we're off by as much as one percent, the engines won't start and the module will burn out.  We'll be stuck,” Sanderson told his compatriot.

“Give me those settings now,” Smith demanded of the archaeologist.

“I don't know what you're talking about,” Daniel claimed.

Taking Reynolds' gun and aiming it at Daniel, he stated menacingly, “I'm not fooling around here.”

Martell became increasingly nervous at Smith's actions, expressing his displeasure that anyone might get hurt.  Unfortunately, Smith told him he was improvising and then killed the producer.  At that point, Daniel agreed to help, standing up and walking over to the computer console.

~Maybe Jack and I should have stayed at the cabin for another day or two,~ the archaeologist thought as he sat down and began to undo what had been done previously.

====

Outside, Jack impatiently waited for Teal'c to arrive with Adrian Conrad.  His mind kept searching for answers, for something that would allow the SF's to regain control of the spacecraft.  There was nothing, though, that could be done at the moment.  He looked over at Paul Davis, who was still trying to get Simmons to cooperate and reveal his secrets.

~Davis: he allowed this mess to happen in the first place, and Simmons -- you shot me in the back, and I actually thought Harry'd done it.  It was you.  I know that now.  One of these days, I promise you, I'll get my payback.~

Jack walked over to the other side of the command tent, wanting more distance between himself and the other two men.  He was afraid he might obtain a weapon and shoot both of them, if he didn't.  He lowered his head, fighting off the smile that was threatening to overtake him.

~Okay, Danny, I hear ya.  Simmons you don't care about, but you want me to give Davis some slack.  Yeah, yeah, yeah -- right.  It's not his fault.~  Jack sighed, imagining his lover's admonishment of the thoughts currently going through his mind.  ~Angel.~

The colonel found himself going back in time, to when he'd first met the younger man. Daniel had been more slender then and definitely less buff.  He'd had the shag, that long, silky hair that had 'geek' written all over it.

~I kinda miss it, but I won't admit that, Love.  You were sexy then, too, just like you are now.  Okay, so you weren't as soldiery as you are now, but you could move when you had to.  Kinda like a cat -- cagey, in a way.~  Jack smiled as he thought, ~And you sure do pounce on your prey when you get all hot and bothered.~

Jack actually chuckled, though no one could hear him or see the brief smile.  He knew he was Daniel's prey, and being so always made him happy inside.

~You're all muscles now, though.  Geez, Danny, all those workouts with Teal'c and Carter.  You're ... my muscle man now, but you're still a thinker, full of compassion.  I bet you're on that ship trying to reason with those people.  You'll do what you have to, but you're going to try and get them to see reason.  Down deep, you're hoping no one dies.  It's who you are.  Of course, no one wants anyone to die, but you feel it deeper than anyone.~

The colonel looked off into the distance, but it wasn't the desert he was seeing, but rather his lover, dripping with water.

~Nem.  I should send him a 'thank you' note.  When he stole you from us, Danny, I had to face my feelings.  Okay, so I didn't understand them, but I knew I loved you.  Who couldn't?  Geez, I lose all my resolve when you're wet.  Something about you and water gets my blood pumping like nothing else, except those blue eyes of yours.~

Then Jack smiled, a thousand images and thoughts of his Heart flooding through him.  His Daniel: he made the silver-haired man smile, just for being.

The sound of an approaching SUV drew the temporarily contented colonel from his thoughts.  He sighed.  It was back to the business of rescuing his lover and 2IC.

~Time, Danny.  It's running low, but I'll find a way -- somehow.  The faster we get you out of there, the faster I can hold you again and look into those beautiful blue eyes.  They're your soul.~

With the deadline approaching and both Simmons and Conrad on site, Davis radioed the hijackers that the prisoners were being sent in.

====

Inside the vessel, Daniel finished working on the computer, and Sanderson confirmed that the sub-light engines were online.

“This doesn't change anything.  Even if you get this ship off the ground, they're track you down wherever you go,” Daniel asserted.  ~Trust me on this: Jack will find you, and you won't like it when he does.~

“You're forgetting about the hyperdrive,” Smith responded.

“Well, the hyperdrive is far from operational, and that is something that I cannot help you with,” Daniel replied.

“Perhaps not, but I can,” the Goa'uld within Adrian Conrad spoke as he stood arrogantly at the doorway.  “I must work without interference.  Get them out of here,” he ordered the hijackers.

“Get up,” Smith instructed forcefully, taking Daniel, Julia, and the two military men to another room on a different level of the ship and leaving them alone.  “Jones, seal it up,” he stated over his radio.

====

“Major, they're preparing to take off,” the sergeant reported in the command area.

“Thank you,” Davis acknowledged.

“They're running out of time,” Jack noted unhappily.

“MajorCarter may still succeed in disabling the ship once they reach orbit,” Teal'c spoke as confidently as possible.

“Teal'c, deck seven isn't pressurized.  The airlock in that section is still under construction.  By the time they reach orbit, she'll be dead,” Davis bemoaned realistically.

“Major Davis, this is Colonel Simmons.  We'd like to leave now.  Would you be so kind as to retract the roof?” the man called out over the radio as he sat in the command chair on the bridge.

~Simmons is in control.  I knew he was a snake,~ Jack thought, not that he needed the affirmation to support his supposition.

“Colonel, you're gonna to have to wait a couple of minutes.  We're having problems with the hydraulics,” the major responded as casually as possible.

“Nice try, Davis.  You have thirty seconds or we're gonna detonate the hyperdrive.”

Davis looked over at Jack, who gave him a nod.  There was no other acceptable choice available but to let the ship go.  Reluctantly, Davis ordered the roof retracted.

--

Just in time, Sam managed to break through the door and hurried as fast as she could through the corridor.  Hearing the engines powering up, she knew she was about out of time to reach freedom.

Up on the bridge, Jones reported, “We're good to go, Sir.”

“Take us outta here,” Simmons ordered.

--

Helpless to do anything but stand by, Jack, Teal'c, and Paul Davis watched as the X-303 lifted up and headed skyward.

~It is an impressive ship,~ Teal'c thought, his sunglasses on as he watched the craft's assent.

~Okay, it's big, huge, and honkin', and it's supposed to *our* ship.  What is it with our ships?  Every time we get one, something happens.  We finally build our own, and it gets stolen.  Go figure.~  Jack sighed.  ~Danny, I'll find a way to save you, or I'll kill Davis for letting this happen.~

~Colonel O'Neill may not kill me.  Maybe he'll just maim me instead,~ Davis sighed inwardly as he watched the pride of the Air Force move further away from its dock.  ~It's an awesome ship.  I wouldn't mind being on her myself.~  With the ship entering low Earth orbit, he asked “Now what?” while turning around to face the two members of SG-1.

“Does the ship not possess a docking bay capable of receiving the X-302?” Teal'c inquired.

“We don't have any ready to fly,” Davis responded.

“We've got the death glider from Anubis,” Jack stated, looking at the Jaffa.

Realizing that was their only hope, Jack and Teal'c jogged away, anxious to get to the glider's location.

Calling out to them, Davis advised, “The radar system on the X-303 -- it's still incomplete.  Fly through the lower bay.  They'll never see you comin'.”  He looked back at the command center and sighed before turning back towards the running men.  ~Bring them home, Sir.~  He walked over to the communication table and requested, “Get me General Hammond.”  As he waited, he thought, ~I'll make my report and then contact my superior at the Pentagon.  We need to reassess our security protocols,~ looking over at the SUVs that were speeding away, ~before Colonel O'Neill kills me.  I wish I could figure out why he always gets so testy when Daniel's involved.  It's not like he can't take care of himself.~

====

“So that guy with the weird voice, he was an alien, wasn't he?  You might as well tell me.  We're probably not gonna survive this anyway,” Julia argued lightly.

“We've been in tighter spots,” Daniel responded, looking over at Simmons and Reynolds as they entered the room.

“Ms. Donovan, I...I...I just had to come down here and say hello.  I'm a big fan of your work,” Simmons stated rollickingly.

“Terrific.”

“And, Doctor Jackson, it's always a pleasure.  Am I going slow enough for you?” Simmons asked sarcastically, a reference to a confrontation the two had had a couple of years earlier.

“I don't exactly think I'd call it a pleasure; more like a trip to a garbage scow,” Daniel retorted.

Simmons smirked, staring at the archaeologist for a moment before he quipped, “Don't worry, Doctor.  I'll be sure to empty out the garbage soon.  Space makes a great trash can, don't you think?”

Daniel decided that it probably wasn't a smart idea to antagonize his captors at this stage, so he ignored the barb and asked, “Where are you taking the ship?”

“Oh, look, you don't worry about that, all right?  You just sit tight, and you'll be released when everything's over,” Simmons answered.

“Into space?” Daniel asked pointedly, getting only another silent smirk from the civilian-clad colonel.  “Do you really think it's wise to be working with a Goa'uld?”

“He's fixing the hyperdrive.  It's in his best interest.  We'll deal with him later.”

“Yeah.  What about Major Carter?” Daniel asked, hoping to get some indication of where his friend might be.

“Major Carter.  Major Carter should've stayed with the group, but she wanted to play the hero, and she got herself killed,” Simmons said before walking out and closing the door behind him.

“She's dead?” Julia asked, the seriousness of her situation hitting her more than ever.

“We don't know that,” Daniel stated.  “You can't trust anything that Frank Simmons says.”

“Why would he say she's dead if she's not?”

“Mind game,” Daniel answered, turning around and walking away, needing a moment alone.  ~Come on, Sam.  I don't believe him.  You're out there, somewhere.~

====

A while later, Sam managed to pull out a cable, which was located in the access tube on deck eight, thereby short-circuiting some of the systems.  Her efforts resulted in the sub-light engines going off-line.  Realizing what must have happened and who had done it, Simmons ordered his men to go after her.

As Sanderson walked down one of the corridors, Sam attacked him, but her assault was interrupted by Smith and Reynolds when they approached from the opposite side of the corridor.  Aiming his zat at the blonde, Smith walked closer, preparing to fire.

~Okay, Samantha.  You've been in worse binds before.  Or maybe not.  I wonder if they'd believe me if I told them that Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c were right behind them.  Sure wish that were true.~  Suddenly, the three men were zatted and fell to the floor.  ~Wow!  Talk about a wish come true.~  Walking towards her teammates, she smiled and greeted, “Sir, Teal'c, it's good to see you.  How'd you get here?”

“Anubis' death glider,” Jack answered.  “Is Daniel still in the engine room?”

“I don't know, Sir.”

Jack sighed and then responded, “Let's get these three secured.”

====

Adrian Conrad managed to get the engines back online, the sound of the powerful motors getting Julia Donovan's attention.

“What is that?”

“The hyperdrive,” Daniel answered.

“That's bad, isn't it?” Julia asked.

“Let's just say it's not the best thing that could have happened right now,” Daniel sighed.  ~Okay, I'm getting a little worried now, but it'll be okay.  It always is, I hope.~

====

After tying up and gagging the three men and then locking them in one of the rooms, the three members of SG-1 entered the engine room, checking first to make sure it was clear.

~No Daniel,~ Jack thought disappointedly as he surveyed his part of the room.  “Clear.”  He walked over towards the astrophysicist and asked, “Can you shut down that hyperdrive?”

“The computer's been reprogrammed, and I don't have the access codes,” Sam answered.

“All right.  Let's find the others,” Jack replied, leading his team out of the room.  **Daniel?**  The lovers never knew when their non-verbal communication would work, especially if they were separated by a distance.  Unfortunately, it wasn't working now.  ~Maybe it's the trinium,~ he sighed regretfully.

====

When they reached the bridge, the team discovered Adrian Conrad dead from gunshot wounds and Jones knocked out, though she began to rouse almost instantly and quickly revealed that the hostages were in the supply room on deck four.

Leaving Sam on the bridge, Jack and Teal'c immediately headed for the supply room.  As they walked down one of the corridors, Simmons hit Teal'c from behind and then headed towards Jack, who quickly went on the attack and slugged the man.

Simmons barely reacted to the punch and pushed Jack against the wall.

~Whoa!~ Jack thought, seeing Simmons' eyes glow and realizing that Simmons and Conrad must have fought on the bridge and that when Conrad was mortally wounded, the Goa'uld had fled the one-time entrepreneur's body and entered Simmons'.  ~A snake for a snake.  Sounds right,~ he thought as he tried to push the man away.

The two men struggled until Simmons slammed Jack against another wall, stunning the silver-haired man, who slid down to the cold corridor floor.

Simmons turned his attention to Teal'c, who had gotten back up.  They exchanged punches until Teal'c ended up on his knees, struggling to regain his strength.  The Goa'uld grabbed a large wrench and prepared to do the Jaffa in.

~No, I don't think so,~ Jack spoke emphatically in his mind as he reached up and entered a code into the keypad located directly above his head.

Suddenly, the space doors opened, and Simmons was sucked out into space.  Jack leaned down and grabbed Teal'c to prevent him from being pulled out as well.

~Okay, gotta get that door closed,~ the determined colonel urged himself before reaching up and keying in another code which shut the space doors.  As he stood up, he couldn't help but think, ~Now that's what I call payback.~

The thought was human, Simmons having been after Jack and Daniel, and all of SG-1, for that matter, for almost three years.  Jack didn't feel any remorse, nor did he have time to.  Instead, he and Teal'c regrouped, saying an unspoken thanks before continuing on to the supply room.

“Daniel?” Jack called out as he opened the door.

“Hey!” Daniel responded.

“Hey.  You okay?”

“Fine,” Daniel answered, happy to see his lover, though curious as to how he had managed to get aboard the vessel.  “It's good to see you guys.  Uh, have you met Julia Donovan?”

“Only on my TV.  We need to get back to the bridge,” Jack said, patting his lover's upper arm and smiling.  **You sure you're okay?**

**Don't I look okay?**

Jack frowned while responding, **Maybe too okay.**

Daniel actually laughed, surprising everyone around him.

The archaeologist shrugged and explained, “I'm just glad we're getting out of that room.”

“Of course,” Julia replied, though she still thought it was an odd time for a laugh.

“O'Neill, should we not put the three men we captured into the brig?”

“Why?  They're fine,” Jack responded.

“You have them?  All three?” Daniel asked.

“Yeah, they're all tied up,” Jack answered.  Seeing Teal'c's continued stare, he acquiesced.  “Okay, fine.”

“Jack, what about Jones, the woman who was with them?” Daniel inquired, having remembered that the three had a female accomplice as well.

“Carter is watching her on the bridge,” Jack responded.

====

With the prisoners secured in the brig, Jack ordered, “Teal'c, take Ms. Donovan to the bridge.  Daniel and I will be there in a minute.”

Teal'c nodded and began to walk away, but the reporter stayed put, asking, “Why aren't you coming with us?”

“Ms. Donovan, I'm not used to explaining my actions to anyone but my commanding officer.  He's bald; you're not.”

It was a stare down, but Julia didn't a have a chance up against the colonel.  With a glance at Daniel, she turned and walked away with the Jaffa.

The lovers walked down the corridor, stopping when they were out of range of the brig.

“Danny,” Jack said softly, leaning his forehead against his lovers'.  It was something the two often did when they were in a time of crisis and didn't have long to be alone, as was the case now.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too.  I wasn't worried,” Daniel revealed, moving so that he could look into his soulmate's eyes.

“I was,” Jack admitted with a smile.

“What happened with Frank Simmons?”

“Space: the final frontier,” Jack quipped, running his fingers along the air and then making a sucking sound.  “Better than a vacuum.”

“Oh.”

“Adrian Conrad's dead, too.  Uh, what about that producer?”

“He was part of it, for money.  They killed him,” Daniel answered, knowing his lover didn't have time for details at the moment.

Jack nodded and then put his left hand on his lover's cheek.  The younger man closed his eyes, leaning into the palm of heaven.  He blinked as he refocused on the needs of the moment.

Without saying another word, the lovers headed for the bridge.

====

“Everything secure?” Jack asked when he and Daniel walked onto the bridge.

“Yes, Sir,” Sam said, smiling at Daniel as he walked behind her, stopping between one of the SF's and the reporter.  “I'm attempting to calculate our position,” she added as she reviewed the large navigational board.

Jack walked over to stand next to Teal'c.  In front of him were Jones and the other sergeant, who had made it his charge to stay with the hijacker.  The colonel stared at Jones expectantly.

“Where's the rest of my team?” Jones inquired.

“Just never you mind about the rest of your team,” Jack answered.  ~You're lucky I'm not showing you the same exit I did Simmons.~

“Sir, I have no idea where we are,” Sam admitted.

“There should be a planet here,” Jones interjected.

“A planet?” Daniel asked.

“What planet?” the major questioned, her look going from Daniel to Jones.

“Back when Colonel Maybourne was running our off-world op, we found a tablet written in the language of the Ancients.  It described a large cache of weapons and technology hidden in a secret location.  Colonel Simmons wanted it bad.  Only problem was we couldn't translate the coordinates,” Jones answered.

“Therefore, Colonel Simmons enlisted the aid of the Goa'uld,” Teal'c surmised.

“After that, it was just a matter of waiting until we could get transportation.”

“Okay, let's go home,” Jack responded lightly.  ~I have plans with my archaeologist.~

“Well, Sir, it's possible when the hyperdrive was brought on line, no one fully accounted for the instability of the naquadria,” Sam advised.

“Well, who does?” Jack asked.  ~Why does she always give me that technobabble, when she knows I haven't a clue what she's talking about?~

“Well, what I'm saying is, if I don't know where we are, I can't plot a course for home.”

~See?  How hard was that?  Speak English, for crying out loud,~ Jack whined.

“So, whatta we do now?” Julia Donovan asked.

“Well, for starters,” Jack began, looking around the bridge and then focusing on his lover, “Daniel, take our guest somewhere where she will be more comfortable and see to it that this one can't get into trouble.  While you're at it, see how much inventory we have on board.”

“I'm comfortable here,” the reported interjected.

“I don't care,” Jack responded, less diplomatically than his lover would have liked.

“Uh, where exactly do you want me to take her?” Daniel asked, shrugging when his colonel stared at him incredulously.  “What?  You don't expect me to lock her up.”  Seeing Jack's glare, he asked, “Do you?”

“Ms. Donovan, I don't care squat how much you've seen up to now, but this is a classified vessel, and we're in a bit of a bind.  Do I need to lock you up, or can I trust you to stay put ... somewhere?”  When the woman just glared in response, he ordered, “Take her to the brig.”

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, do it.”

Reluctantly, Daniel escorted the woman off the bridge, while the sergeants stayed closer to Jones, whom they considered more of a threat.  The two were taken to the brig, where Smith, Sanderson, and Reynolds had been taken earlier.

“Uh, Julia, come with me,” Daniel requested.  He saw the questioning expressions on the sergeants' faces and ordered, “Check out the galley like Colonel O'Neill requested.  I'll meet you there.”

The two men looked at each other, but then moved away.

“You have quite a bit of power, Daniel,” Julia observed as the two began to walk towards another area.

“I know a few people,” Daniel mused.  “Jack can be a little gruff sometimes, but you have to realize what he and Teal'c accomplished today.”

“So, you think he's a hero?”

“And Sam, and Teal'c,” Daniel added.

“You're disobeying his order,” Julia noted.

“No, I'm not,” Daniel refuted, looking over at her as they continued to walk.  “He told me to take you to the brig.  I did.  Now I'm taking you somewhere else.”

“Thank you for that.”  After a moment, Julia said, “There's a lot more being kept from the people, isn't there?”

Daniel snorted, bowing his head at the question.  The reporter may be thankful for not being thrown in the holding cell, but she apparently wasn't appreciative enough to stop snooping.

“That's not for me to say.”

“The world isn't going to know about the aliens with the deep voices, are they?” Julia questioned.

“Do you think they could handle it?” Daniel asked pointedly.

“You realize I'm a reporter.  It's my job to make sure the public is aware of everything.”

“It's obvious to everyone you're a reporter,” Daniel answered a tad sarcastically.  As they arrived at their destination and Julia walked inside, he stated, “It's Colonel O'Neill's job to protect Earth.  Look, I don't know if the world is ready to know or not, but there's a lot of ... stuff going on out there.  I just hope you'll agree to help us, instead of fighting us.”

“What do I get out of it?”

“I don't know, but my guess is that you'll get more from being a friend of the President's, than being one of his enemies; but, uh, the choice is yours.”  Daniel smiled, and then he nodded and backed away, watching as the door to one of the crew quarters closed.  He walked to the nearby comm link and picked it up.  “Sam, it's Daniel.”

“Yes, Daniel.”

“Can you seal a door, please?”

Sam looked at Jack, who just rolled his eyes and shook his head as he sat in the captain's chair.

The major smiled and then asked, “What room is she in, Daniel?”

====

With Sam and Teal'c seated at the navigation and helm positions that were to the right and left, respectively, of the captain's chair, Daniel returned to the bridge, saying, “Sergeants Gibson and Finney are checking the food supply, but it doesn't look very good.”

“Sir, based on the amount of time we spent in hyperspace, I'd estimate we're at least twelve-hundred light years from Earth,” Sam stated.

“How does that help us?” Jack asked curiously.

“Uh, it doesn't.”

~Scientists,~ the colonel sighed.

“Jack,” Daniel called out as he stood behind and a tad to the left of the colonel's seat, motioning towards the view screen where a large ship appeared.

“It's the Asgard,” Sam observed.

In a flash, Thor, seated in his command chair, appeared on the bridge of the spaceship.

“Thor, buddy, nice timing,” Jack greeted.  ~Cool!  Now we can get home.~

“It has been some time, O'Neill.  I owe you all a debt of gratitude for rescuing me from my Goa'uld captors,” Thor responded, referring to his last encounter with SGC personnel.

After a bit of further discussion, Sam queried, “So, how did you find us?”

“The Asgard monitor all hyperspace activity in the vicinity of Earth.  We have been tracking you since you left orbit.”

“Excellent,” Jack interjected.  “Can you help us out here?”

“In fact, it is we who need your help.  The Asgard home world has been overrun by the Replicators.  We have need of both you and your ship,” Thor stated expectantly.

“Are you serious?” Jack asked the small alien being.  **Daniel, I'm having a severe case of deja vu.**

**Yeah, I know.  Been there, done that, and it seems we're going to do it again,** Daniel responded.

“Very,” Thor affirmed strongly.

“This ship you need?  This brand new ship?” Jack questioned excitedly, not eager to let another ship out of his grasp so soon.

“Yes.”

“So new it doesn't have a name yet.  It's not even finished,” Jack pointed out.  ~We should at least get to name the thing first.~

“Jack, he gets the idea,” Daniel interrupted.

“I think that's the point, Sir.  The more low-tech, the better,” Sam interjected.

“They like us because we're ... young,” Daniel surmised, thinking fondly back to what The Nox had told them so long ago on P3C-117.  ~Which is a nicer way of saying we're dumber than they are.~

“Correct, Major Carter,” Thor affirmed, choosing not to address the archaeologist's comment.

“It certainly defies conventional wisdom,” Daniel stated.

“Mine, too,” Jack responded, glancing over at his genius archaeologist.

“The Replicators will not wish to integrate such vastly inferior technology into their own,” Thor explained.  He went on to say that the Tau'ri were “uniquely suited,” for the mission.

“You need someone dumb enough,” Jack surmised, glancing over at his lover in resignation of what was about to occur.

“On the contrary, it is both your physical prowess and military expertise that are required.”

“Yeah, don't get me wrong, flattery goes a long way with me, but, if you're goin' where I think you're goin' with this ...” Jack began.

“When it became clear to the Asgard High Council that the war with the Replicators could not be won, a plan was devised; a trap was set, one made possible by you,” Thor elaborated.

“By us?” Daniel asked incredulously, looking over at each of his teammates.

“The android Reese, that you discovered and provided to us for study, retained a single core command in her base programming which we believed all Replicators would still follow,” the Asgard commander stated.

“You were ... Thor, were you able to reactivate her?” Daniel asked anxiously.

Jack glanced over at his lover incredulously.  He just couldn't believe that even now, Daniel cared about Reese.  To the colonel, she was a machine to turn on and off, not to mention the 'mother of the Replicators', but to the archaeologist, she was a living being, a child even in many ways.  He'd taken her demise hard, resulting in a heated argument between the lovers.
 
“No,” Thor answered.  “The android was damaged beyond repair.  However, the key command was activated within her neural network, amplified, and broadcast through subspace throughout the known universe.”

Jack couldn't help but notice the look of regret on his compassionate lover's face, but he had to admit, he felt no sorrow in Thor's response.  He was glad that Reese was unable to be 'turned on' again.

“What was the command?” Sam queried.

“To come forth,” Thor answered.

“You instructed every Replicator out there to come to you?” Daniel asked, hoping he was wrong but fearing he wasn't.  ~Not a good idea.~

“I have a theory why you lost the war,” Jack said dryly.  ~Since when are the Asgard vying to win and the universe's 'dumb and dumber award'?~

“The command was only given once the trap was set,” Thor explained.

“What was the trap?” Daniel questioned.

“A time dilation device, generating a field radius of point-one-six light years.”

“Wow!  That's some trap,” Sam spoke nervously as she exchanged hesitant looks with her teammates.  Seeing Jack's confused expression, she explained, “They created a bubble in space around the Replicators within which time was slowed down by a factor of ...?”

“Ten to the fourth power,” Thor answered.

“Relatively speaking, Sir, one year to the Replicators would be about ten-thousand years to the rest of us.  An hour would be over a year, a day would be ...”

“I get it,” Jack interrupted.

“The point is, if the plan had worked, it would have effectively bottled the Replicators up in one place and bought the Asgard thousands of years to solve the problem,” Sam spoke.

“No, the point is, it didn't work,” Jack refuted.  ~And the winner is ... the Asgard!~

“O'Neill is correct.  Our plan failed,” Thor stated.

“What, uh ... went wrong?” Daniel asked.

“We do not know.  The time dilation device was constructed within a very old structure on Hala, the first planet settled by the Asgard.  The device was encased in a solid neutronium shell and set with a time delay sufficient to evacuate our entire civilization.”

“Well, however strong neutronium is, wouldn't the Replicators be able to eat through it?” the archaeologist inquired.

“Eventually, yes, but not in sufficient time before the device activated.  This calculation was made with considerable margin for error.  When the time came, nothing happened,” Thor responded.

It was obvious to the Asgard, and to SG-1, that the Replicators had somehow managed to deactivate the device.

“So, what do you want us to do?” Jack asked.

“Fly your ship through Replicator-dominated space, repair whatever damage may have been done to the time dilation device, and activate it before the Replicators can stop you,” Thor answered straightforwardly.

~Oh, is that all?  He's kidding.  He's got to be kidding,~ Jack reflected as he stared at the tiny Earth ally in disbelief.  “Thor, buddy, there's no way.”

“The Replicators will soon consume all that they can within our home galaxy.  Yours will be next,” the Asgard advised.

“I thought we were too *primitive* to consume,” Jack spoke a bit hopefully.  ~Sometimes, it's okay to be primitive.  This would be one of those times.~

“Your technology would not immediately attract the Replicators, but they would eventually be drawn to the raw materials of which your civilization is built.  Your extinction will be assured,” Thor insisted.

“For that matter, so would every other world we've visited.  It's just a matter of time,” Sam put forth.

“Did all of the Asgard manage to escape?” Daniel asked out of concern for the alien race.

“Most, but not all.  A great battle was fought.  The evacuation fleet is standing by in the void between our two galaxies, awaiting to hear word of your response.”

“My response?” Jack asked, pointing at himself.

“We have done all that we can and failed, O'Neill.  You and your team represent our last hope,” Thor implored.

“Yeah, great.  So, no pressure, right?” Jack sighed.  He stood and walked towards his friend, passing Thor and standing in front of the view screen.  ~Crap.  What choice do we have?~

“If you have in fact made your decision *not* to undertake this task, I will inform the Council,” Thor stated, looking up at the colonel.

“Just ... give me a minute here, okay?”

“Are you reconsidering, O'Neill?” Teal'c asked.

“I'm considering reconsidering,” Jack answered, inwardly struggling with his decision, especially since alternatives were practically nil.

**Jack, we have to help them,** Daniel stated firmly, but choosing to do it privately at the same time that Sam had moved forward to express her concern that the alien didn't fully understand what he was asking them to do.

“In the past, your projectile weapons have been most effective,” Thor stated.

“Yeah, well, we don't have any projectile weapons with us at the moment, and, according to Carter, we're a long way from ...” Jack began.

At that moment, Thor touched a device on his command chair, causing the Earth to appear on the view screen.

“... home,” Jack completed.

“You towed us back into Earth's orbit,” Sam assumed.

“Correct, Major Carter.  The contents of your armory at Stargate Command, along with appropriate attire, food, and other supplies you may require are now being transported aboard this vessel,” Thor revealed.

“I hope you did the paperwork,” Jack quipped as he stared at Earth.

“Wait a minute,” Sam said.  “We have a few passengers.”

“They are being transported to Stargate Command,” Thor stated.

“All of them?” Daniel asked.  “There's one in the crew ...”

“Seven people and two extinct bodies have been transported.  Is there anyone else?”

“No, no, that's ... everyone,” Daniel acknowledged.

“I haven't said 'yes' yet,” Jack sighed.

**Jack!**

“But you are reconsidering,” Thor replied, well aware Jack was going to help.

“I'm ... leaning in the general direction,” Jack replied, glancing over at his lover, whose facial expression was mirroring his nonverbal pleas to help the Asgard.

After once again touching the device on his chair, Earth suddenly disappeared from the screen.

“Hey, whatta ya doing?” the colonel asked.

“We're leaving the solar system,” Sam stated.

“Thor, little fella, I ... that's not the way it works.  It's not my ship.  It's not up to me,” Jack stated.

“The journey to our home galaxy will take many hours with your vessel in tow.  You may consult your superiors en route,” Thor stated.

Jack sighed, nodding as he looked at his teammates, and then spoke, “Okay, hologram me.”

“We must return to my ship,” Thor responded.

“Your ...”

Daniel blinked, realizing his lover was no longer on the bridge.

Sam looked at her teammates and surmised, “Maybe he didn't have enough power to do it from his chair.”

“He towed our ship to Earth,” Daniel refuted lightly.

“I'm sure Colonel O'Neill is fine,” Sam stated.  “I'm gonna run some systems tests.  Teal'c, we should probably check out the supplies Thor beamed up.”

Teal'c gave the major a nod and exited the bridge.

“I think I'll hang out here a while,” Daniel sighed.

“Daniel, Thor just forgets etiquette sometimes,” Sam spoke, knowing her friend was worried about Jack.

“I know Jack's okay; it's just ... I wanna stay for a while.”

Sam gave the archaeologist a supportive smile and then began her task.

====

After having appeared as a hologram to Hammond at the SGC, Jack returned to the bridge and advised, “They didn't go for it.”

“They didn't approve the mission?” Daniel asked in surprise as he stood with his arms crossed near Sam, who was working on the computer.

“No, they did that, once they knew the stakes and the whole 'fate of the universe' stuff.  Both the President and Hammond realized we have no choice.  He sends good luck, God speed, and all those things he says when he thinks we're going to die.”

“Oh,” Daniel responded quietly.

“So, what didn't they go for?” Sam asked.

“The name I suggested,” Jack answered, causing Daniel to immediately roll his eyes.

“For the ship,” Sam sought to verify.

“Yeah.”

“Jack, we can't call it the Enterprise,” Daniel spoke.

“Why not?”

“Well, for one thing, there's already a shuttle named after it and for another thing, this is real, not a fictional TV show,” Daniel answered.

“Hey, NASA learned a lot from 'Star Trek'.”

“I'm not saying they didn't, but ...”

“The code name for the project is Prometheus,” Sam interrupted.  “What's wrong with that?”

“It's a Greek tragedy.  Who wants that?” Jack asked.

“He has a point,” Daniel agreed.

“Okay,” Sam responded.  “The X-303 it is then.”

“Yeah,” Jack expressed in agreement.  Looking at the device Sam was working on, he asked, “Whatta ya got there?”

“Well, the Asgard surmised that the Replicators probably disabled the time dilation device by destroying the control interface mechanism.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, it's really not much more than an advanced timer, but since any Asgard technology we took along would cause the Replicators to swarm all over us, Thor had a facsimile of their interface built from Earth-based materials.  It'll work just as well as the original, but it shouldn't attract the Replicators,” Sam explained.

~Why did I ask that question?  I know better,~ the colonel thought silently.  “I'm hungry.”

“Cargo bay three, Sir,” Sam said with a small chuckle.

“Thanks,” Jack acknowledged.  “Daniel,” he said, nodding his head towards the exit.

“See you later, Sam.”

Sam smiled, having a hunch the two men would detour long before getting to the cargo bay.

====

“You do realize the ship's going to be called Prometheus,” Daniel stated as the two men walked the corridors.

“I'm still holding out for the Enterprise,” Jack maintained.

Daniel chuckled, “Just don't hold your breath.  I'd miss you.”

Jack looked at his mischievous soulmate and smiled as he entered a room.

“Uh, Jack, that's not cargo bay three.”

“No?  Really?” Jack asked sarcastically, reaching out and pulling the younger man inside, after which he closed the door.

“Oh,” Daniel expressed with a smile knowing that this time the two could do more than just lean their heads together as one.

For several minutes, the soulmates kissed, touched, and lightly fondled the other, enjoying some 'selfish' time for their nation of two.  They couldn't do more than some seductive touching, but that was okay.  It was enough to give them strength and act as a reminder of why they needed to survive the current crisis.

“I want you,” Jack whispered.

“I want you, too,” Daniel replied.  “So, we need to be ...”

“... successful,” both men said together.

“The quicker we get the job done, the quicker we can ...” Jack began.

“... you know,” the lovers spoke in perfect unison, even with matching smiles.

“I hate to say it,” the older man sighed.

“We had now.  Now's good.”

“For now,” Jack replied, leaning in for a last passionate kiss.

“Mmmm,” Daniel moaned.  “So much, Jack, so freakin' much.”

“Love you, Angel.”

Reluctantly, the lovers released their hold on each other, checked their clothing to make sure everything was in place, and then headed for the cargo bay.

====

“T, what are you doing?” Jack asked in surprise when he and Daniel finally entered the cargo bay.

“It would appear Thor failed to take the need for refrigeration into account.  This food will go to waste,” the Jaffa said as he enjoyed some ice cream.

“Ice cream,” Jack said with a smile.  “Love the stuff.”

Jack and Daniel sat down, each grabbing a spoon and digging into their own gallon cartons.

“This is good.  Mmmm,” Daniel opined.

“I'll buy that,” Jack agreed.  “We should have ice cream every night.”

“Don't you think that's a little ... overindulgent?” Daniel questioned.

Jack stared at his soulmate thoughtfully and then answered, “No.”

Daniel chuckled lightly as the three continued to enjoy their treat.

“You know, I'm really tired of this Replicator business.  It got old real fast,” Jack sighed, reaching over to take a spoonful of Daniel's ice cream.

“You have your own.”

“You can share,” Jack insisted, ignoring his lover's glare.

“I, too, would prefer never to fight the Replicators again,” Teal'c agreed.

“They are interesting, though,” Daniel said, moving his carton of ice cream to the side after Jack attempted to take another spoonful of it.

“Interesting?  Daniel, give me a break,” Jack requested in disbelief.

“Well, think about it.  A human scientist created a female android, a child really, who then goes on to create these Replicators as a toy.  The concept of something that starts out so innocent and then becomes so evil is ... well, that's interesting,” Daniel claimed.

“Replicators exist merely to increase their numbers and do so without prejudice.  They are no more evil than a virus,” Teal'c stated.

“A really evil virus,” Jack agreed.

“I'm not arguing.  I know what they are capable of,” Daniel replied.  “I'm just saying that the evolution is ... interesting.”

“They're evil,” Jack reiterated before taking another spoonful of his ice cream.

“Well, yes, we can all agree that any living thing that isn't inherently evil in and of itself is capable of undertaking actions that are evil,” Daniel stated.

“I think I'm getting a headache,” Jack groaned.

“What's the matter, Jack?  Brain freeze?” Daniel quipped.

“We are slowing,” Teal'c observed, interrupting the trio's ice cream party.

“Colonel, you should come forward, Sir,” Sam called out over the radio.

“Fun time is over,” Jack sighed.  Into his radio, he spoke, “We're on our way.”

====

Back on the bridge, Thor informed SG-1 that they'd have to proceed under the Prometheus' power.  He also told them that long-range sensors had discovered that the time dilation device had definitely been activated.  The kicker was that time was now going faster within the field by a factor of ten squared.

“What is with you people?  Time machines are nothing but trouble, even we know that,” Jack spoke in frustration.

“Clearly, the Replicators have discovered a means of utilizing the time dilation machine to serve their own purpose,” Teal'c stated.

As the group talked, they realized that with the process reversed, they were in a worse situation than they were an hour before because, as Sam explained, “... in that hour, four days have passed for the Replicators.  Depending on when they did this, relatively speaking, they could have experienced hundreds of years.”

Sensing Jack's frustration, Thor offered, “If you wish to reconsider ...”

“No, no.  Full well expected the other shoe to drop eventually.”

“We can only hope that this will be the last footwear to fall.  The coordinates to the planet have already been programmed into your navigational computer.  We have modified your engines and structural integrity fields to their maximum potential to assure your safe arrival.  We will monitor your progress as best we can.  Good Luck,” Thor stated and then returned to his own ship.

“Setting course to programmed coordinates.  Throttling up sub-light engines,” Sam announced.

“Engage,” Jack ordered, causing all three of his teammates to stare at him.  “I'm still hoping for the Enterprise.”

It was a light joke, but it lightened the tension, at least for a few seconds.  SG-1 grew serious once again, though, as they headed for their destination.

“Insane.”

“What?” Daniel asked, hearing his lover's mumbled comment.

“This entire day has been insanity.”

“As in crazy?”

“As in nutso, wacko, *insane*!” Jack exclaimed wildly.

“Feel better now?” Daniel teased with a light smile.

“Much.  Carter, kick it.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam acknowledged, chuckling slightly.

“What would you have MajorCarter kick, O'Neill?”

“It's just a saying, Teal'c,” Jack explained, staring at the stoic Jaffa, who stared right back at the colonel.  “Never mind.”

====

As it moved towards the planet, the Prometheus' sensors picked up a single structure at the designated coordinates.  The ship edged closer to the smooth surface, until it finally touched down.

“Get a message to Thor.  Let him know we touched down.  Let's move out,” Jack ordered.

A few minutes later, SG-1 disembarked and headed for the structure they'd picked up on the ship's sensors.

“This can't be the only structure on the entire planet,” Daniel stated.

“I'd be willing to bet the bugs ate everything else,” Jack responded.

“Then where are they?” the younger man questioned.

Sam kneeled down, swept away some of the dirt on the ground, and then advised her teammates that the surface appeared to be covered by Replicator blocks that could be miles thick.

“Why would that be?” Daniel asked.

“Well, it could be a by-product of the reverse time dilation.  In relative time, they've been here hundreds of years, but there's nothing left here to consume, so they're just conserving energy,” Sam speculated.

“What's keeping them here?” Daniel wondered.

“Who cares?  Watch your step,” Jack advised as the team continued towards the structure.

The interior of the X-shaped structure was dim as they entered.  With their flashlights on, SG-1 walked down some steps and went further inside the large room where, at its center, the time dilation device was located.

“Sir, the original interface is still intact.  I might be able to ...” the astrophysicist began as she examined the device.

Footsteps interrupted Sam's comment.  The team was stunned when a young curly black-haired man, dressed in black, approached.

“Who are you?” the man asked.

“Colonel Jack O'Neill, US Air Force, Earth.  Who are you?”

“The others are coming,” the man answered cryptically.

Within seconds, two men and two women, all also dressed in black, joined the stranger.

One moved forward and asked, “What do you think you're doing?”

“Clocks are running a little fast around here.  Thought we'd stop by, wind ‘em.  We'll be on our way,” Jack answered.

“Your companion is attempting to alter the settings on the time device, and we cannot allow that.  If she does not stop immediately, we will be forced to take action,” the man advised forcefully.

“Well, now, if you do that, we might be forced to take our own action,” Jack said with equal force.

“Tell your companion to stop.”

Jack's next move was to find out how much time Sam would need to do what they'd come for.  He was distressed to hear her say it could take hours because the interface had been completely rebuilt.  He advised the five strangers that Replicators were on the planet, but that news didn't phase them.  Then he stated that the team was there to make sure the Replicators were stopped.

Hearing that, the man responded calmly, “We cannot allow you to stop them, I'm afraid.”

“Why not?” Jack asked.

“We *are* Replicators,” the man revealed.

“Ah,” Jack responded, opening fire as did Daniel and Teal'c.

The three teammates fired, to no avail, for several seconds.  The five strangers were unharmed.  However, the room quickly filled with the Replicator bugs the team had dealt with before.

“Tell your companion to step away from the device,” the man ordered.

“Carter,” Jack called out, after which Sam stood and walked forward.

“Your projectile weapons?” the man requested.

“Yeah, you know, I think we'll hang onto those for a while,” Jack said, looking around at the metallic bugs.

As quickly as they had appeared, the metallic Replicators left.

“Now there is no need,” the man stated.  After SG-1 had done as requested, he casually spoke, “Where are my manners?  This is something of an occasion, after all, isn't it?  Our first meeting.  Welcome.”  When Jack ignored his outstretched hand, he implored, “Colonel, if we really intended you harm, do you believe you'd be standing there?  As I said, welcome.”

This time, Jack stepped forward and took the man's hand, instantly regretting the move.  He found himself sinking to his knees under the man's vise-like grip.  Then the man held out his other hand, touching the colonel's forehead with his finger.  Then, his fingers went into Jack's head, causing him to scream out in pain.

“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed, but being unable to help his distressed lover when he, too, suddenly felt the same, excruciating pain.

====

~What?  Where am I?~  Jack looked around and realized he was on the bridge of the Prometheus, sitting in his command chair.  “Crap!” he exclaimed.  It took him a minute to regain his senses.  He jerked forward as he realized what had gone down.  Looking around, he saw his lover in the navigator's seat.  He reached over to his left and shook his lover.  “Daniel.  Daniel!”

“Huh?  Oh, I'm fine, except for a ... a very bad headache,” Daniel replied as he grimaced.

Suddenly, the lights went on.  Looking around, Jack saw Teal'c, who was also recovering from their unconscious time.  He'd just awoken as well and had activated the lights on the bridge.

“Carter,” Jack called out, reaching over to his right to rouse his 2IC, who was in the helm's position.

“Her hand was inside my head, and it was like a ... it was like a nightmare,” Daniel gasped.

“I think we all had a similar experience.  I don't remember much of it,” Sam stated.

“Nor do I,” Teal'c said as he stood behind the command chairs.

“How long were we out?” Jack questioned.

“Thirty-seven hours, Sir, ship time,” Sam answered.

“Why would they bring us back here?” Daniel asked.

“Perhaps we can take advantage of the situation,” Teal'c suggested.

“Detonate the hyperdrive, you mean,” Sam surmised.  “An overload would cause a pretty big explosion.”

“Big enough to be worth it?” the colonel questioned.

“I honestly don't know, Sir,” Sam answered.

“Go,” Jack ordered.  As Sam left, he ordered Teal'c to, “Get a message to Thor.  Let him know how *massively* he screwed up.”

Jack stood and left the bridge.

Daniel followed, calling out, “Jack, I don't think this is going to work.”

“If Carter says she can do it ...”

“Yeah, but if ... if explosives and weapons worked, the Asgard would have won their war,” Daniel pointed out.

“I suppose you want to talk to these bug people,” Jack sighed as they entered the elevator.

“Don't you?”

“No.”

“Maybe we can reason with them.  If we blow this ship, then we lose that option altogether.”

“If we blow the ship, I won't care,” Jack responded as the elevator doors opened, and the two men walked out.

“Jack, I don't think that you fully appreciate what they've become,” Daniel argued, the curious anthropologist wanting to know more, even after what he'd just experienced.

“Replicators who look like we do.”

“More than that.  Jack, this is a *huge* leap in their evolution,” Daniel pointed out a tad excitedly.

“Daniel!  They are Replicators,” Jack replied in disbelief as they entered a room, surprised to find not just Sam, but the young man with the curly dark hair that they'd first seen in the structure.  “Carter?  What's going on?”

“Everything's fine, Sir.  We were just chatting,” Sam answered.

“About what?”

“He carried us back here, Sir, one at a time, so we'd be more comfortable,” Sam claimed.

“Thanks,” Daniel spoke dryly.

“It was not difficult,” the human Replicator responded.

“Apparently, Sir, we're invited to dinner.”

“At his request,” the human-like creature added.

“Whose?” Jack inquired.

“First,” the man answered.

“And you are?” Jack asked.

“I was Fifth.  The others are merging with our Replicator brethren, but they will return soon.”

“Yeah, you wanna let him know we've made other plans?” Jack responded.

“Exploding your vessel would only serve to feed energy to the Replicator blocks on the surface of the planet.  Your food stores have already been taken to the temple,” Fifth answered.

“When are we expected?” Daniel queried.

With a grin, Fifth answered, “When you become hungry,” and walked away.

“That one's different,” Daniel observed.

“No kidding.  I mean, he comes across as almost human,” Sam noted.

“Well, he's not,” Jack reminded.

“So, whatta we do?” Sam asked.

“Can we leave?” Daniel questioned.

“The ship will fly, but I don't know how far we'll get,” Sam replied.

“Jack, if this really is the next evolution of the Replicators, we should find out as much as possible about them and try to report it back somehow,” Daniel implored.

“Anyone hungry?” Jack questioned rhetorically.

====

Walking towards the structure, Sam and Teal'c were in front of Jack and Daniel, the pairs separated by several yards.

“Jack, do you remember what happened when First entered your mind?”

Jack groaned, “Something with Charlie.  He threatened me with Charlie, but I don't remember much more than that.  What about you?”

“My parents.  That's all I really remember, too.  It was kinda like ... The Keeper, but worse.”  Seeing his lover's concerned expression, Daniel added, “I'm fine, like you.”

“Yeah,” Jack sighed, knowing exactly what that meant.  ~So, we don't really remember what they did on their little voyages into our minds, but we remember the point of pain that they used to keep us cooperating, if you can call it cooperating.  I really don't like these bugs, human facsimiles or otherwise.~

====

The dinner quickly proved to be another standoff between SG-1 and the human Replicators, who were very anxious for the team to eat their meal.  There was also now a sixth human 'bug' present, and the table was made out of Replicator blocks.

After everyone sat down, SG-1 on one side of the table, the Replicators on the other, Daniel stated, “We still have some questions that we never got a chance to ask the last time we met.”

“When our Replicator brethren discovered the android Reese, they realized she was their creator.  They studied her design and form and found aspects of her technology superior to their own,” First explained.

“Our brethren are composed of ungainly blocks,” Second added.

“We are composed of millions of cell units, microscopic in comparison, that combine to create this form,” Third stated.

“Like nanites, Sir,” Sam clarified for her CO.

“I hate those things,” Jack spoke emphatically.  ~And I hate these things, too.~

“My creation took place in the last moment before the Asgard time device was to activate.  There was a miniscule crack in the neutronium shell.  I could penetrate this where my Replicator brethren could not.  I managed to stop the machine before it activated and eventually used it to suit our purpose,” First informed the team.

“Which is?” Daniel asked.

“To increase our number,” First answered.  “That has never changed, and now, thanks to the Asgard, we have all the time in the world.  In a few short years, we will go forth as an army.”

“Yeah, see, we can't let you do that,” Jack asserted.

“You cannot stop us,” Second claimed.

The debate continued with First arguing that their evolution was the same as human evolution -- “a process of natural selection?  The strong survive” -- and that, “We are far superior,” asserting that the humans would agree, if they, too, could reach into the human Replicators' minds.

“It was our kind that built your creator.  You created yourselves in our image,” Sam pointed out.

“No.  In the image of Reese,” Fourth corrected.

“Yeah, now see, there was something wrong with her programming.  You all know that,” Jack stated.

“The flaw in the emulation programming was discovered during my creation.  Eat,” First requested as he had done previously as well.

The human Replicators claimed that they attempted to correct the error in Fifth, but that Fifth had proven to be too weak, though Daniel argued that, in reality, he was too human.

“Maybe Fifth represents what you're supposed to be,” Sam suggested.

First denied the statement and again demanded SG-1 eat their meal.  That's when the team realized that the human Replicators wanted them to keep up their strength so that the human-like creatures could continue to invade their minds.  Just as First was about to force the issue, Fifth intervened, stopping the process for the moment.

Talking to Fifth, First argued, “There are four minds to explore at least once, and Sixth is very curious to experience their thoughts; and you, you haven't yet had your chance.”

“No,” Fifth replied, not wanting to invade the minds of others.

“I insist.  I want you to see the disorder, the chaos, recognize what they are in comparison.  You need to understand what *you* are.  Visit their memories of the worlds we will conquer.  Do you understand?” First asked.

“Yes,” Fifth replied.

Sam then volunteered to have Fifth invade her mind, sensing that they could somehow talk, or, at least, that was her hope.  She was surprised, though, when it wasn't her mind that they went to, but a corner of Fifth's mind that was his only truly alone place.  There, Sam tried to convince Fifth to help SG-1.

“If you were to come with us and the time dilation device was reset with the new interface we brought with us ... ” Sam began.

“They are my brothers and sisters,” Fifth argued.

“The Asgard device was never designed to destroy the Replicators.  For them, it would seem like a few days had passed.  We'd have hundreds of years to solve their flaw,” Sam claimed.

“What do you want me to do?” Fifth asked, now willing to help the humans in exchange for being able to leave with them.

====

When Sam awoke, she realized her teammates had been invaded again by the human Replicators.  She hurried to Jack to wake him.

“Oh, that's just not right,” Jack spoke as he roused.  “Daniel?  Teal'c?”

“I'm here.”

Jack looked over and saw his lover, standing up slowly.  Teal'c, too, was there and walking towards him.

“Sir, there's a way out of this but we're gonna have to trust...” Sam began, her words cut off by Teal'c when he noticed Fifth working.

The human Replicator approached, stating, “I've made the necessary adjustments.”

“To what?” Daniel asked curiously.

“The time dilation device.  I'm coming with you,” Fifth answered.

“I assume this was what you were gonna tell me?” Jack asked as he looked at the major.

“Yes, Sir.”

“The others are merging with our brethren, sharing what they have learned from you.  They will return soon.  I have reconfigured the device, but you must enter your command code.”

“Go,” Jack ordered, watching as Sam went over to the device.  “You guys head back to the ship.  Don't fire up the engines, but be ready,” he said to Daniel and Teal'c.

**Jack, be careful.**

**Danny, he's not coming with us.**

**Jack ...**

**Daniel, follow orders.**

Daniel and Teal'c left the building without saying anything.  Both knew there was no time to spare, and that this might be their only opportunity to escape from the planet.

Sam informed Jack that it would take them two minutes running to return to the ship and two more to fire up the engines.  Hearing this, Fifth argued that his absence would be noted by the other Replicators if he were gone that long.  Sam suggested Fifth give them a head start since he could get to the ship in a much shorter period of time.  The human Replicator agreed.

“So, set the timer for five minutes,” Jack instructed, though he covertly signaled 'three' with his fingers.

Sam didn't like it, but she did as ordered, lying to Fifth that the team wouldn't leave without him.  With the timer set, she and Jack hurried to the Prometheus.

====

Aboard the ship, Jack shouted over the radio, “Fire up those engines, now!”

“Understood, O'Neill.”

Reaching the bridge, Jack asked Sam, “How long?”

“Twenty seconds before the device activates.”

“Get this thing in the air, or we're gonna be here a long time,” Jack ordered as he took the command seat.

Sitting at the helm, Teal'c hit the proper control, and the ship lifted off.

Less than a minute later, Teal'c reported, “We are beyond the time dilation field.”

“Thor sends his congratulations, Sir.  They'll rendezvous with us as soon as they've determined no Replicator vessels escaped,” Sam advised as she sat at the navigational controls.

“Fine,” the colonel replied.

“You do realize what you did?” Daniel asked pointedly, well aware that Jack wouldn't allow a Replicator, human or otherwise, to return to Earth with them.

“The right thing, Daniel.”

“Was it?” Daniel replied.  “You used his humanity against him.”

“His what?” Jack questioned incredulously.

“Daniel is right,” Sam interjected.  “It's exactly what we did.”

“He wasn't human.  Get that through your heads,” Jack barked.

“You could have fooled me,” a very guilty Sam argued.

“We all know what would have happened if those things had gotten out.  Who's gonna stop them?  We did the right thing,” Jack maintained forcefully.

“I hope you're right, Sir,” Sam stated.

“I hope we never have to find out if you're wrong,” Daniel stated solemnly.

“Did the device work?” Jack asked.

“What?” Daniel asked in surprise.

“If the device worked, I was right.”

“At least you think so,” Daniel responded.

“Daniel, I know you want us to be the compassionate do-gooders of the universe, but those things are dangerous.  There's no way we were gonna let one of those things get away.”  Jack looked over at Sam, who was avoiding his gaze.  “Carter, I'm sorry if you're feelings are hurt, but we did what we had to do, for Earth, not to mention our allies, the Asgard.  We didn't have a choice here.”

“If you say so, Sir.”

“I do.  Now let's go home.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Jack looked over at his lover, the two exchanging a poignant look that spoke not of right or wrong, but of choices and differences and moving forward.

“Uh, Sir ...”

The colonel felt the pull of the ship and stood up, seeing Earth once again on the view screen.

“Send Thor our thanks for the ride,” Jack responded.  “Contact the base and tell them we're coming in for a landing.”

====

“Sir,” Paul Davis greeted when Jack and his teammates disembarked the Prometheus.

“Major,” Jack greeted a bit gruffly.  “One ship, returned, pretty much as when she left.  Try not to let anyone steal her again,” he said, walking away.

“Major Carter, Doctor Jackson, I apologize for ...”

“Paul, it wasn't your fault,” Daniel interrupted.

“No one suspected anything, Major, until they'd begun their takeover,” Sam agreed.  “Our checks were thorough.”

“Apparently not thorough enough,” Daniel interjected.

“I'm recommending some changes in our procedures, but I'm not sure what more we could have done,” Davis admitted, looking over where Jack and Teal'c were just disappearing from his view.

“Maybe our reports will help,” Sam stated as she walked off.

“Paul, you know how Jack gets.  He's protective of the team,” Daniel stated.

“He wasn't happy, Daniel,” Davis replied.  “He ripped into me pretty good when he first arrived, but that's his job, and mine.  This incident aside, we need to make sure this never happens again.”

Daniel nodded and then walked away to join his teammates.

====

That night, the lovers were back at home, relaxing on the roof deck of the country-style home that they both treasured.  They were sitting, side-by-side, both leaning against the side of the house.  Both were gazing up at the stars, reflecting on what they'd just gone through.

“Funny how perspectives can change,” Daniel commented.  “The stars are so small from here, but up there, they're worlds to be explored.”

The younger man became quiet, and Jack knew where his mind had gone.

Sighing, Jack opined, “We didn't have a choice, Danny.  I know you think we used that thing's ... his ...”

“Humanity, Jack.  He trusted Sam.”

“He wasn't human, Daniel.”

“Jack, we went through this with Reese.  We ... we won't agree on this, not completely.”

“Danny ...”

“Jack, it's okay.”  Daniel interrupted his lover by putting his arm in Jack's and laying his head on the older man's shoulder as he interrupted, “You did what you thought you had to do to save us, and Earth.  We can 'what if' to death.  The Replicators were evolving.  I know that.  I'm not ... angry, but I wish we hadn't had to lie to him, because yes, I did see his humanity, but ...  just like with Reese, I know you didn't have a choice.”

“I don't deserve you, Danny.”

“No, you don't, but you're stuck with me anyway.”

“Gee, thanks,” Jack mused with a smile.  “Danny, I am sorry.  I really wish I could see things the way you do.”

“I don't,” Daniel replied, looking at his Love.  “Jack, we are who we are.  Don't you see that it is our differences that make us fit so well?  You've told me over and over that you don't want me to lose my ideals or morality.  You've even gone so far as to regret that I ... well, that I can be military when I have to.  I don't want you to be anyone but who you are either, Jack.  You're an intelligent, compassionate, strong person, and you have a giant-sized heart, O'Neill.  You just try and hide it from others.”

“Not from you.”

“You can't.”

“Wouldn't want to,” Jack responded lightly, but seriously.

“I love you, Jack, even if you do prefer big honkin' guns over artifacts.”

“Love you, Danny.”

Jack had made a tough choice, and Daniel understood that, even if he didn't agree with it. Professionally, the two men often disagreed. Privately, though, their nation of two was brighter than any star. More than that, it was timeless, going beyond eternity, to whatever it was that lay in a great unknown, and that made both men smile as they thought of each other and their special love.



~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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