<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>
A Vacation of Sorts
Annika warily poked her head beyond the cell wall. The dimly lit corridor was empty. Well, why post guards when the cargo bay/cell don’t open from the inside? She skimmed across the ceiling, remembering the tactics Jack had drilled into her. It seemed that regardless of whether human or alien, behavior was predictable. People usually didn’t look up or down, even when they were supposed to be paying attention. They tended to keep their concentration on level with their own physical limits. Annika had joked that they obviously hadn’t watched many horror movies, where the bad guys nearly always attacked from above or below. It was a psychological weakness that Annika planned to use to her advantage.
She glided down the passageway. The only sound was the low hum of the ship’s engine. Every few meters she checked what was behind the golden walls, but all she found were vacant rooms. Searching the halls Annika had to stifle a laugh. She could suddenly hear the cartoon Looney Tunes character Elmer Fudd echoing in her head "Shhh…I’m hunting wabbits."
Floating up she paused between levels, listening for any sign of life. She heard nothing. Cautiously she peeked her face through the floor. Nothing on the right… She swiveled her head to the left and froze. Not two inches from her nose were a set of steel boots. Please, let me have invaded a Jaffa wardrobe…Her eyes traveled up the boots to find they were connected to chain mailed legs and a body dressed in amour. Standing next to him was another Jaffa, also at attention.
She waited for the cry of discovery but it never came. Her gaze moved above the body to see the Jaffa’s face staring directly ahead of him. Occasionally he moved his head from side to side, like one of those open mouthed clowns at a county show, however his eyes never looked up or thankfully, down. What did ya’ know? Jack was right.
The Jaffa were obviously guarding the room. If it was worth guarding, it was worth checking out. Slowly she lowered back down to the empty level and scooted over to the far wall. She’d learnt her lesson. There was no way she was going to risk emerging into the middle of the room without knowing what or who was in there. No, sir, when she moved between levels she was sticking to corners and walls from now on. Specifically she was using the walls that made up the outside hull of the ship. They were more than a foot thick to withstand the pressure of space travel, and would provide the perfect hiding spot.
Once again she floated up, taking an educated guess at how high the room would be. When she peered out a few inches below the ceiling, it was to see seven of the abducted women. Some were huddled in pairs, others sitting alone, but they all shared the same expression. Frightened, horrified and dejected. If Annika ignored their faces, at first glance it looked like they were unharmed. Bes had provided luxurious pillows for comfort, food and wine in jeweled cups and platters, silken gowns in lieu of their normal clothing, and even their hair was arranged in elaborate styles. When she looked closer Annika saw evidence of bruises, both fresh and old, and two sported swollen black eyes.
The sound of Jaffa boots echoed in the air becoming louder as they approached. Annika drifted to the corner and hid in the shadows as the door split open. All of the women cringed away when another pair of Jaffa clanked into the room, dragging the eighth woman, between them. They unceremoniously dropped her on the floor then spun on their heels and clomped out. The doors immediately slid shut.
Annika recognized the victim as the youngest and final of the abductees. From memory she was seventeen and had gotten into the club that fateful night with a fake ID. At the moment she looked barely a teenager rolled into a fetal position, quietly sobbing into her hands.
Another woman, this one the oldest of the group, brought forward a dish of water and a bundle of towels. She dipped one in the water and wiped the crying girl’s face, whispering soothing words. Taking another cloth she soaked the soft material, wrung it out and gently placed it beneath the girl’s dress, between her legs.
The girl cried even harder. Amidst the sobs, Annika heard her tortured words and her heart wrenched.
"I couldn’t stop him…my mind was screaming no…Why did I let him?…He wasn’t…supposed to be…my first…This isn’t how… it was supposed to be…"
The older woman rocked her in her arms, still crooning words of comfort, knowing it was all that she could offer the child that had so brutally been made into a woman.
Without revealing her presence, Annika reluctantly followed protocol and melted back into the abyss of the wall. As much as she wanted to offer hope to those women, she couldn’t risk them letting it slip that they had seen her or that a rescue was planned. But dammit, the training manuals never said it would be so hard!
An errant thought tugged at her mind. She paused her recon to puzzle it out, sensing that it was an important insight, not for the mission per se, but rather for herself. Emotion…it had to do with one specific emotion… She recapped all that had happened since her abduction. There was something she wasn’t feeling…something she was damned sure she should logically be feeling… Her mind flashed to Scully then to the other women and with a start she realized what it was. Fear. She examined the jumble of emotions coursing through her. Anger, frustration, concern, even a guilty rush of excitement, but there wasn’t a scrap of fear.
Huh! Well, that’s a pleasant surprise. Annika continued her exploration with a rueful sigh. All that worrying for nothing! She rolled up the rest of her emotions into a tight ball and tucked them into the corner of her mind, carefully leaving them room to grow. She’d need their strength later on, of that she was certain, but for now she couldn’t let them cloud her judgment.
The next room made her jaw drop. If she had any doubts that the ship was a hybrid of Goa’uld and Asgard technology they flew out the airlock. Lining the walls were a series of upright coffin like chambers. The sleek outer shells screamed ‘Asgard’ even to her novice knowledge of the species. The inside of each pod was molded into the generic form of a body, with tubules hanging limply at various points around the ‘head’ and ‘torso’ areas. Stasis chambers! So that’s where the Jaffa had come from! She did a quick count. Twenty. She carefully searched the rest of the level, but aside from discovering the Jaffa barracks (complete with six Jaffa in the middle of kelnoreem,) and the engine room (empty), there were no other ‘stasis’ rooms. Assuming none of the pods had malfunctioned, that meant there were twenty Jaffa roaming around the ship.
But why would an Asgard help a Goa’uld modify his ship? Annika ran her hand over the smooth shells, concentrating on solidifying her transparent form. She was hoping to get a reading from the ancient technology. For a brief moment she felt the cool metal beneath her fingers before her hand passed through it. It was all she needed. A bombardment of images assaulted her mind.
…the inside of a ship, the control panel shooting sparks, smoke belching out filling the small cabin, filling his lungs…gasping for breath, vision blurring, losing consciousness…blackness…then encased in a white light so bright it almost burned through closed eyelids…a grinding noise and the whiteness dissipates as the lid of the sarcophagus splits open…hands pull him out and strap him to a table…The Goa’uld appears above, eyes flashing, a ribbon device on one hand glowing orange, poised to strike…the other hand has a similar tool, but it is attached by only the second and fourth fingers. The stone glows a sickly green…The Goa’uld raises both hands, the energy waves twist together before impacting the brain of the victim…pain…excruciating, blinding agony convulses his body but it is nothing compared to what is happening to his mind…one by one his memories are being torn from his brain…flowing back up the energy wave and into the Goa’uld…with every memory ripped out, never to return, the Asgard writhes in torment, feels his consciousness becoming smaller and smaller…his body seizes with such force that bones shatter…his heart rate becomes sluggish…even if he was rescued, there would be nothing left of his mind to download into a new body…
Annika took a calming breath when the vision ended and the room came back into focus. Now she knew how this ship came to be. Bes had literally taken the knowledge from the little gray alien’s head. She felt a new surge of anger and firmly added it to the sphere of emotions she was already holding at bay. The broken soul of the nameless Asgard would be avenged, she planned to make sure of that.
She moved up another level. It was the bridge. A half a dozen Jaffa manned various stations, keeping the ship on course to wherever they were going. A hologram showed their flight path and Annika memorized as much as she could, noting key star constellations for reference points. A green dot slowly moved across the screen, but it was a small red blip almost at the edge that caught her eye. Each time the green dot changed direction, the red one almost immediately followed suit.
Her heart fluttered with joy and consternation at the same time. It was SG-1, and they were getting closer by the second. But they had been detected. Clearly another modification by Bes was that he could locate cloaked Goa’uld ships.
Anxious to finish and get the intel to her teammates, Annika glided up to the final level. She wasn’t surprised to discover that it was Bes’ audience chamber and private quarters. Where else would he be but the penthouse?
The Goa’uld himself was seated on an ornate throne, listening stony-faced to a Jaffa report their progress.
"My Lord, every time we make a course change the pursuing ship immediately follows. Somehow they are tracking us."
"Impossible." Yellow eyes flashed. "The cloaking device must be malfunctioning. Fix it."
The Jaffa hesitated before pointing out, "My Lord, we’ve just completed a full diagnostic. The sensors indicate it’s working at a hundred percent efficiency."
Bes’ fist thumped the throne’s golden arm. "Then the diagnostic is wrong. The new women were scanned for tracking devices. None were found. Personally check the cloaking mechanism, and do not return until you have corrected the malfunction."
"At once, My Lord." The Jaffa bowed deeply and hurried out of the room.
The moment the doors slid shut, Bes sprang to his feet and began pacing, muttering to himself. Annika didn’t need to be psychic to read his frustration.
Run as many diagnostics as you like, she thought smugly. You won’t find anything.
With her recon complete, all Annika had left to do was report in to Jack. She firmly gripped her link with Daniel, then using it like a flying fox she launched herself away from the ship. She skimmed through the blackness of space, faster than any hyper light engine. She marveled at the stars and planets that whizzed by in her wake and made a mental note to try this again when time wasn’t an issue.
The teltak came into view and she tried to slow her momentum, but her excitement at seeing SG-1, especially Daniel, and the adrenaline rush of flying through the galaxy, kept propelling her forward. She threw out her arms, pin wheeling as she shot through the hull. "Arrrgh! Look out, incoming!" She managed to shout materializing into the command deck and tumbling passed her startled teammates, before zooming out the other side back into space.
There was a firm tug beneath her heart and then she was yanked back like a jumper on a bungee cord. She flew backwards into the ship. When she saw she was once again on deck she desperately focused her mind to stop herself from repeating the yo-yo routine. Think solid thoughts…I’m solid…I’m solid…I’m…wumph…
Abruptly she collided with a warm body and both of them collapsed in a tangle of arms and legs. There was an amused tickle along her bond.
"Nice of you to drop by."
She gazed up into Daniel’s blue orbs. "Thanks for reeling me in." Her ghostly hand gently caressed his cheek. "I didn’t know you could do that."
"Neither did I," he grinned. "Seems I instinctively need to hold you whenever you’re near."
"Ahem." Jack’s loud cough interrupted.
Annika sheepishly looked up at the colonel from her place on the floor. "Fallen Angel, reporting in, sir."
"You took your sweet time getting here." Jack tried to sound serious but the twitch of his lips betrayed him.
Annika floated to her feet. "Sorry, next time I’m knocked out, I’ll try to regain consciousness a little quicker."
"Are you otherwise unharmed, Annika Murdoch?" Teal’c approached from the pilot’s console after turning on the autopilot.
"Besides this," she touched her bruised cheek, "I’m fine."
"And Scully?" Mulder asked, his voice etched with worry.
"She’s okay too," Annika assured the FBI agent. "A little scared, but she’s holding together."
"You’re sure?" Sam was also concerned and surprisingly Annika heard disbelief in her tone.
"Of course I’m sure." She frowned in confusion when she saw that all of them, especially Daniel, were studying her with pale faces. "Why would I lie about something like that?"
It was Teal’c who spoke up. "Please explain your current attire."
"My attire?" Annika glanced at her clothes, or rather the lack there of, and comprehension dawned. "I promise you that hasn’t happened to either of us. This," She gestured to her body with a wry grin. "Let’s just say that there was an unexpected hiccup. Remind me never to astral travel in a dress again."
Everyone visibly relaxed and though he tried to hide it, Daniel’s immense relief seeped through their bond.
"The other women, they haven’t been so lucky." Her image shimmered, becoming less transparent as her bundle of feelings threatened to unravel. No, not yet…
Jack saw her internal struggle and switched his tone from friend to commanding officer. "Report what you discovered on recon."
She managed to rein in her emotions. Giving Jack a grateful smile, she launched into a detailed description of her search, including her vision of the tortured Asgard and finishing with the modifications she’d observed on the alkesh.
"Bes is tearing his hair out trying to work out how you’re following him." She felt a smirk of satisfaction from Daniel.
"There goes plan A out the window. No way we can do a sneak attack. Carter, is there any way you can adapt the cloaking device?" Jack was hopeful until the major shook her head.
"We don’t have the time or the components here to jerry rig an Asgard shield."
"What if I could convince Thor to stop by?" Annika asked.
"It would be doable then," Sam nodded, "but even better we could hitch a ride with him."
Jack agreed. "Annika, are you sure you can find Thor before we catch up to Bes?"
She smiled. "It only takes a blink of an eye. Convincing him to intervene will be the hard part."
Daniel made a suggestion. "Try focusing on the technology, rather than an emotional plea. Mention that if the System Lord’s find out that Bes has a ship with Asgard technology it’ll look like they have formed an alliance with one Goa’uld. It could have damaging consequences to the Protected Planets Treaty."
"Okay." She turned back to Jack. "Whatever else we do, we have to make sure that other hand device is destroyed." She gave a shiver at the memory of the tortured Asgard. "It goes way beyond cruel and unusual punishment, even for the Goa’uld."
"He would keep such a device hidden in his private quarters," Teal’c supplied helpfully.
"Any idea when you’ll be mounting this rescue?"
Jack hesitated before answering, flashing Daniel a quick glance. "I think it would be best if you don’t know."
Both Daniel and Annika’s eyes widened at the implication of the colonel’s words.
"So if Bes uses the device on me, I can’t give him the information."
She felt Daniel’s worry gauge jump to red alert and she waited for her own to do the same, but it never did. Gently she cupped his face in her hands. "I’ll be okay." Her voice was soft yet firm. "I’m not afraid. I know we all will survive this."
He heard the emphasis, and some of the tension and eased from his body.
She knew he assumed that she’d had a premonition of a happy ending and she didn’t dissuade him. She’d had a vision. It was of SG-1 and the FBI agents being beamed into the ’gate room. However Daniel, clutching her body in his arms immediately started running to the infirmary, calling for a medic. She knew she was breathing by the fact that it was Daniel who was carrying her, but when she probed the mind of her unconscious self she sensed only a very weak flicker. She was hurt, badly, and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t see what happened after Daniel left the ’gate room.
It was the first time that she’d felt the need to be misleading about a vision to Daniel, and she lowered her eyes, trying to hide the guilt that trickled through her.
His head tilted to the side in concentration, eyes unfocused.
Had he picked up on her omission?
Daniel gave her a light peck on the lips. "Course change." He moved away to the navigation console to adjust the ship’s heading.
Annika gave an inner sigh of relief. She spied Mulder keeping to the sidelines, looking uncomfortable in the military garb they had all changed into, and glided to him. "Dana gave me a message for you." She repeated his lover’s words and witnessed the same mix of emotions filter across his face that she had seen on Scully’s. "Is there a reply?"
After a moments thought he nodded. "Only that I’m kicking myself that we wasted so much time worrying about what other people would think. When this is over, I plan to spend the rest of our lives making up for that." A mischievous glint lit up his eyes. "Of course that’s after I finish gloating that I’ve been right all these years."
They shared a soft chuckle as Jack approached. "Annika, a word?"
One look at his serious expression and the laughter died in her throat. "Why do I get the feeling that I’m not going to like what you’re going to say?"
Mulder discreetly joined the others gathered at the view screen.
"Psychic moment?" The quip was automatic. Neither smiled.
Annika waited with trepidation as her CO ran an anxious hand through his hair. He obviously didn’t want to have this conversation.
"The survival training we put you through last month…" he began keeping his voice low. "The emphasis was on survival. You need to do anything, and I mean anything to survive. The toughest part of being a prisoner is when to choose your moments, whether that means fighting back or not fighting at all…" His eyes darkened with anguish when Annika drew in a sharp breath.
For a moment her voice refused to work. Finally she managed to croak, "You mean if Bes…" she couldn’t say it. "…You want me to let him…"
"If it means you live, yes." The colonel nodded and Annika heard the past horrors that Jack himself had endured reflected in his voice. "Fight only if you think you can win…And if it comes down to a choice of either you or one of the hostages being killed, I am giving you a direct order to save yourself."
"No buts," he interrupted harshly. "If you martyr yourself, the Goa’uld will kill you and then kill the one you were trying to protect. The Goa’uld have no sense of honor-"
"But I do, Jack!" Annika’s voice became heated. "You can’t ask me to sit back and watch an innocent die just to save myself."
"I’m not asking, I’m ordering."
"And what if that innocent is Scully? How could I live with myself knowing that I could have saved my friend?"
"The key word is live. You fight the battles you can win and then live with what you couldn’t change. You’re life is too important. Your premonitions have already saved four teams from walking into ambushes, you’ve identified spies…"
"Is that all I am, Jack?" She couldn’t help the stab of hurt that sliced through her. "A tool?"
Jack sighed, the regret at his choice of words clearly evident on his face. "Annika, you are so much more than that. Even without your gift, you have made our lives all that much brighter because you’re in it, not to mention what you’ve done for Daniel. You are a true friend and I don’t want your life cut short by some selfless act that will ultimately mean nothing."
Annika was silent while she considered Jack’s heartfelt words. As much as she was loathed to admit it, deep down she could see his point.
Jack’s next comment was barely a whisper. "And you have the added responsibility of holding Daniel’s life in your hands. You know better than anyone, that if you die, Daniel will die right along with you."
"That’s a low blow, Jack."
They both spun around at Daniel’s quiet voice. He’d moved into hearing range when he’d felt Annika’s outrage and had caught most of the conversation. Daniel himself had received similar lectures over the years, and knew it was only Jack’s desire to keep his team safe, even from themselves, that made him say such things. However that was going too far.
"I know." He was unapologetic. "But if it makes Annika think before jumping in front of a staff blast, then it’s worth it."
A frustrated sigh escaped Annika’s lips, resigned to the fact that no matter how underhanded, Jack’s ‘low blow’ had secured her agreement to try and survive at all costs. "Jack, I could very easily hate you right now."
Her friend simply nodded, the burden of command making his features taut.
She gave his arm a squeeze. "I may not like it, but I understand why."
Jack gave a sad smile. "I’m sorry I had to say it." He paused a moment then his hand gestured between them, "So…we’re good?"
Annika nodded then grinned impishly. "But if you ever use emotional blackmail on me again I’ll pin you to your office ceiling for a week."
The colonel’s tension drained away at the good-natured threat. "I have an office? I thought that was just a nasty rumor. Now, you’d better flitter off to see Thor and then get back into your body."
Reluctantly she nodded. "I’ll see you guys soon." She waved to her teammates and Mulder then drifted to Daniel. His solid arms immediately reached out to her.
"I love you, My Angel, now and forever," he whispered. "Whatever happens, remember that."
"I love you too." She gave him a lingering kiss.
"Don’t forget about that magic rabbit." It was murmured into her hair.
"I won’t." Then in the blink of an eye she vanished out of his embrace.
A A A
Annika concentrated on the little Asgard and when she opened her eyes she recognized the sleek minimalist design of Thor’s ship. Thor himself was stretched out on a bio-bed, asleep.
She glided over to him. "Thor," she whispered.
"Thor!" A little louder this time. "Wakey, wakey."
Big black eyes snapped open, betraying not an ounce of the surprise he was feeling.
"Good morning…er…evening." Annika wiggled her fingers hello.
"Greetings, Annika Murdoch." His long fingers experimented with a wave of his own. "I trust your appearance means you have an urgent matter requiring my attention."
"Sorry to interrupt your sleep cycle, but we were kind of hoping you could help us with a Goa’uld."
Thor gracefully sat up and slid off the metal bed. "I will do what I can to assist you, however I am bound by certain restrictions."
Annika hovered by his side. "You mean the Protected Planets Treaty?"
"Yes," he nodded, walking to a side control console. A twist of a smooth stone a quarter turn had the bio-bed lowering into the floor.
"What this Goa’uld has could threaten that treaty."
Thor tilted his head in question and Annika quickly relayed all that had happened. Taking Daniel’s advice, she paid particular attention to the modifications Bes had made to his ship and how he procured the information for said modifications. When she’d finished, Thor’s blank face studied her for a few minutes. Damn, he’d be a good poker player, she thought waiting for his response.
"You have lifted a burden that has plagued me for many centuries," he began. "To finally know what happened to Malika…his disappearance caused great distress. He was one of our most brilliant scientists and to me was a friend."
Annika remained silent. Any words of condolence would sound trite, but she did lay a comforting hand on his shoulder.
The little Asgard gave it an absent pat before continuing. "It is unusual for O’Neill to be so concerned about the treaty."
Annika considered trying to defend Jack, then realized it would be useless. Thor had worked with the colonel many times and knew his views of the sometimes shaky agreement. "You and I both know Jack doesn’t give damn about it, but we know deep down you want to stick it to the Goa’uld as much as we do. We figured this gives you a loophole so you could help us without jeopardizing the protected planets."
More silence with a couple of eye blinks thrown in for good measure.
"It would be inconvenient to explain the existence of the ship to the System Lords."
Annika had to restrain herself from throwing her arms around the Asgard in a hug. "You’ll help us?"
"Yes. I will adjust my heading to intersect with SG-1."
"Thanks, Thor." She recited the coordinates. "You’re a real sweetheart." Unable to resist she gave him a light peck on the cheek before blinking back to her prison.
She didn’t see the little alien lift tapered fingers to the spot where her lips had touched, a bemused smile almost lifting the corners of his mouth.
<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>