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A Vacation of Sorts
After a quick breakfast, SG-1 split up into their respective pairs and set off for their assignments.
"You’re hoping that I’ll pick up a thread of these women, aren’t you?" Annika asked when Daniel pulled off the highway, following the signs to the gorilla mountain.
"Yes," he admitted. "Otherwise we’ll be looking for a needle in a haystack."
"Were you going to mention this to me?"
Daniel grimaced. "Didn’t want to put any pressure on you."
"I probably won’t pick up a thing," she warned. "There’s been so much people traffic around here, that all the ‘impressions’ are just one big blur, like white noise."
He reached for her hand and gave it a tight squeeze. "If you don’t sense anything it’s okay. Even Lya agrees that you can’t control what you see. If you have a vision, that’s great, if not, we’ll just have to search the old fashioned way."
"What exactly are we looking for?" Annika winced at the thought of doing a massive grid search around Mount Tibrogargan. Trust the Goa’uld to pick one of the widest of the Glass House Mountains as his lair.
"Ultimately the ring transporter platform." Daniel turned down a dirt track. "Since we know a Goa’uld ship has to be directly above the platform for it to work, we’d have a reference point we could give the Prometheus to focus on."
"But that’s assuming he doesn’t land it somewhere on solid ground."
"Right, but if he could do that, why use the rings at all?" he countered. "The transport beam is pretty obvious to the naked eye."
"You think the ship may be damaged?" Annika was thinking out loud. "I suppose that after a few thousand years without a tune up, you’d have to expect some wear and tear."
He shrugged. "Maybe. But I don’t think so. Whatever is in that second jar is probably a key component to his ship. Maybe the landing control crystal or navigation."
She frowned trying to follow his logic. "How did you reach that conclusion?"
He looked at her with wide eyes as if the answer were obvious. "If Bes could have summoned his ship at anytime with only the ribbon device then he wouldn’t have wasted his time flying by plane to get here. He probably had it set up for escape all along but Ra got to him first."
"But why would Ra keep the crystal in a matching Canopic jar to Bes?"
"Knowing how ‘trusting’ the Goa’uld are, Bes would have booby trapped the ship to only respond to him. Ra would have kept Bes, the ribbon device and the crystal together until he could work a way around the trap. The jar was a handy and secure place to keep it. We know the rebellion on Earth happened shortly after Hathor and Bes were imprisoned and Ra probably left them here in his hurry to leave."
"Okay, that makes sense," Annika agreed. Something about the ring platform niggled at her. "Bes didn’t originate in Egypt, right?" she asked and Daniel nodded in confirmation. "Have you considered that Australia might be his original home turf? It would explain why there are transporter rings where technically speaking there shouldn’t be. One of the Aboriginals’ most well known myths is the Rainbow Serpent, it wouldn’t be entirely farfetched that the ‘great serpent’ was a Goa’uld."
His blue eyes were startled by the theory. "Now why didn’t I think of that? I knew there was a reason we brought you along." They shared a grin, then Daniel’s brow furrowed in thought. "So the jar being here is just a lucky coincidence for Bes," he mused. "One less side trip for him to make before resuming his original escape plan."
"But if he knows where the jar is, why hasn’t he taken it and left?" Annika queried.
She felt a rush of anger through their bond. "Because," he answered grimly, "the bastard hasn’t finished building up his harem yet."
The anger turned to frustration and Annika voiced what she too was feeling. "And at the moment we haven’t really gotten any closer to stopping him."
"No. But we will."
She saw his eyes glitter with determination and didn’t doubt him for a second. Suddenly the world swam out of focus and her head began to spin. "Daniel, stop the car."
Immediately he braked, with a look of concern. "What’s the matter?"
Fighting the dizziness she gasped, "Back up, I’ll tell you when to stop."
He didn’t ask questions, already surmising that she had made the psychic connection they were hoping for. Slowly he began reversing. About twenty meters down the road she gestured to a barely visible ranger’s track. "Turn in here."
The car bounced over potholes despite Daniel’s careful driving and she closed her eyes to avoid watching the roiling motion; her sight was blurred enough as it was. The second she did, the vision solidified in her mind.
…She was in a car…whose car?…why was she with this man?…it sounded like a good idea at the club…he was so handsome…he said he’d make her his concubine…that should have sounded wrong…but somehow it didn’t…he has such evil…no…wonderful eyes…she’d never seen someone with glowing eyes before…oh, we’re stopping… what a nasty tree it was for blocking the road…
Annika fumbled for the door handle and staggered out of the car. With unseeing eyes she started walking down the overgrown path.
"Annika, wait up," Daniel called to her as he grabbed the backpack and yanked the zat’ out as a precaution.
Annika vaguely heard his voice, but the vision that now controlled her wouldn’t let her out of its grip.
…What a lovely night it was…a lovely night to die…where did that thought come from?…the handsome man caressed her hair…who was he again?…why was it important that her hair be naturally red?…of course it was, but why would he care?…the stars are wonderfully bright tonight…glistening like slivers of glass ready to fall down and cut her to ribbons…what a romantic phrase…he says he’ll take me to the stars…
Daniel watched anxiously as Annika stopped and swayed on unsteady feet. If he had any doubts that Bes was using the pheromone drug they evaporated when he saw the vacant look in her eyes. He dared not touch her. He didn’t want to break her link.
A look of confusion crossed her face; she seemed torn, like she was being pulled in two different directions. For a brief moment she was Annika again. "Daniel, tag this spot."
In a flash the lucidity was gone and she started running away from the track.
Daniel dropped his pack as a marker and ran after her.
…She was running for her life…have to escape the demon…left foot, right foot, jump over the bush, left foot, right foot…have to get away…can’t let him, no It, touch me again…why didn’t I fight him/It?…how could I let It do what It’d done?…left foot, right foot, don’t fall…don’t you dare fall, not now…
Hurdling over a log, Daniel almost lost track of her, but then saw Annika’s flaming hair duck behind a large tree. She gave a soul piercing scream.
… Have to catch my breath…get my bearings…can’t hear anyone chasing me…did I loet him?…glowing eyes bored into her…God, No!…how did It get in front of e?…It wasn’t even breathing hard…It was speaking in that cold dual voice…How can I defy my God?…It was God?…How could It be God?…Oh God, please, It can’t be God! God was good, he was kind, he was merciful, not this demon…Nooooo…
Daniel skidded around the tree to see Annika on her knees, her face a mask of horror. He’d seen that look too many times before on people entrapped by a ribbon device. Hell, he’d been on the receiving end of quite a few himself, experienced the agony of having his brain shaken like a rag doll yet being powerless to move even one muscle to stop it. Enough was enough! He had to pull her out of the vision.
Even as he reached out to her, Annika pitched forward, throwing her hands out for support so she was on all fours. A second later her stomach released all the breakfast she’d eaten.
Daniel knelt beside her, holding her hair away from her face. "Annika, tell me what you saw." He already guessed what she’d seen, but he also knew that she had to share the vision to make it dissipate. Otherwise she would have that woman’s death floating around in her head indefinitely.
Annika’s eyes were glazed as she gasped for breath, and Daniel could see she wasn’t completely back in his reality. He tried a different tack.
"Annika, show me."
Still sucking in haggard breaths, she groped blindly for him. Daniel caught her hand and raised it to his forehead. His voice was soft yet firm, "Show me."
Her fingers jerked against his skin, but he held them in place. He felt both her reluctance to inflict her vision on him and her desire to rid herself of it. "It’s okay. It’s not like I haven’t seen it before."
After a second of hesitation, Daniel’s mind was bombarded with all that Annika had witnessed. First the drugged induced rambling thoughts of the third woman reported missing, then the divergence to the last moments of the first woman killed.
As the vision faded away, Annika slumped into his arms, tears coursing down her cheeks. He tenderly stroked her back, and Daniel was suddenly wracked with guilt. It’s all my fault. If it weren’t for me, Annika wouldn’t have been dragged into the seedy world that is my life. "I’m sorry," he whispered into her hair.
"For what?" She sensed his conflict, and lifted her now focused eyes. "You didn’t kill that woman."
"For bringing you out here. You shouldn’t have to go through that." He gently wiped a tear from her cheek.
"Daniel, I’ve been having visions for over half of my life." She scrubbed the remaining wet trails from her face. "But for the last two months, for the first time I feel like my visions have a purpose. If my seeing that woman’s death, helps us get that parasitic vermin then it is worth it."
He studied her face and realized that her tears and shaking limbs were not a product of fear, but were of anger. An anger that burned deep within her, fuelling the desire to eliminate the Goa’uld threat, not only from Earth, but from the whole galaxy.
"Daniel, don’t you dare regret bringing me into the SGC. I don’t. Not for one second."
She could still see a faint trace of guilt when he focused on her recently expunged breakfast.
"Well, that will be the last time I eat any of Sam’s cooking. I suggest we ban her from KP on all future missions." Annika watched with baited breath for Daniel’s reaction to her wisecrack.
His blue eyes momentarily widened in surprise and then crinkled with humor, his body relaxing. "Now, who has been hanging out with Jack too long?"
Annika smiled but her gaze was serious. "Acceptance, right?"
"Right," Daniel agreed and pulled her into a tight hug before hauling them both to their feet. They traipsed back to the ranger’s track and Annika rinsed her mouth with water from the pack.
She considered the invisible link, knowing that as soon as she stepped into its path she would once again be lost in the mind of the missing woman. It was too strong for her to control on her own. An idea sprang into her head and she reached for Daniel’s hand, interlocking her fingers between his. "I don’t want to lose myself in the vision again. I need you to act as my anchor to reality." She gestured to their linked hands. "Don’t let go."
He nodded in understanding. "I won’t."
Taking a deep breath, Annika stepped forward and was immediately encased in the vision. While her head once again spun with the effects of Bes’s intoxicating breath, it wasn’t quite as bad. Out of the corner of her eye, there was a pale blue light that hadn’t been present before. With a jolt she realized that it was Daniel. Although it was what she’d hoped for and his touch was keeping her grounded, she’d never expected to actually see him while ensconced in the vision, nor that it would reduce the effects of what she was seeing.
Taking comfort in his presence Annika let the rambling thoughts lead them deeper into the rainforest. She had no concept of time and when Daniel tugged her off the path, she was surprised to see her watch claim over thirty minutes had lapsed.
"What’s the matter? Why’d you pull me out?"
"Because you took us right to it." He wore a proud smile and indicated a spot about five feet away.
Her now refocused sight followed his finger to see a series of flat stone tiles shaped into a circle lying flush with the loamy dirt. Curious she stepped closer and after a moment of hesitation Daniel released her hand.
"Just don’t step inside the circle," he warned. "It’d be our luck Bes would choose that moment to ring down and you’d be transported up in the process."
Annika nodded and bent to touch the smooth stones. She’d never seen them with her own eyes before. Expecting another vision she braced herself, however all she sensed was a residual flow from the immense energy the rings used when activated. Glancing up she saw the canopy of tree branches had been sheered off in a perfect circle the size of the platform.
The unpleasant smell of rotting flesh assaulted her nostrils and she searched for the source. On the far side of the ring were the remains of a small wallaby. It had been sliced lengthways from head to tail with surgical precision. Obviously it must have been standing half on and half off the base when the first ring descended. She resisted the urge to bury the poor little critter, knowing that they had to leave everything the way it was.
Daniel kept one eye trained on Annika and the other on the surrounding trees. He was suddenly very uneasy. Activating the zat’ into standby, he fished out his cell phone from his pocket with his spare hand. He hit the speed dial to contact Jack to give him their coordinates should things get dicey. When it failed to connect he studied the screen with a grimace. "No reception."
Annika cocked her head to one side, listening. "Do you hear that?" Her voice was low.
After a moment of straining his ears to hear a sound besides their own breathing he whispered, "Hear what?"
He frowned in confusion and she hurried on.
"The forest is too silent."
A shiver ran down his spine realizing Annika was right. There were no birds chirping, no animals scurrying, no insects buzzing around. The forest was unnaturally still.
"Can we leave now?" Annika instinctively moved to his side, her curiosity instantly gone.
Daniel nodded. With his finger on the zat’ trigger he cautiously began retracing their path.
They’d barely taken two steps, when Annika accidentally trod on a fallen twig. The resulting crack sounded like a gunshot, making them both jump. She was about to whisper an apology but Daniel held his hand up to her lips for silence. He’d heard something else. Hardly daring to breath, they waited for the sound again.
A few seconds later there was a soft murmuring. As it grew louder they could distinguish what it was. Voices heading their way. There was a man’s deep tone, but mostly a woman was doing all the talking. Although they couldn’t yet make out the words it sounded like she was either ranting, or rambling.
The two exchanged questioning glances. Had the Goa’uld started taking women during the day?
Daniel quickly scanned the area for a suitable hiding spot and spied a tree wide enough to shield both of them from sight. Being careful not to make any noise they ducked behind it.
Now they could hear twigs and leaves crunching underfoot but to Daniel’s surprise he realized whoever it was, they were not following the ranger’s trail. The direction of approach was at a right angle from the path. At the same moment Annika recognized the voices. She lifted her hand to the top of the zat’ and pushed down, silently telling Daniel the weapon wasn’t needed.
After another second of intent listening he shut down the zat’, as he too identified the mystery couple.
"…I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. I could be lying on the beach, acting like someone who is actually on vacation, instead of traipsing through the underbrush, looking for God knows what…"
"It’s called a yowie, the Australian version of a yeti…"
"A yowie that was sighted by the oh so reliable source of a kid checking on his ‘hidden garden’. He was probably so doped up from sampling his ‘hidden garden’, he confused a kangaroo with this Bigfoot…"
"Whatever. I came here to relax, catch a bit of sun…"
"But as a medical doctor you know sun baking isn’t good for you."
"That’s not the point. If I was on the beach, I’d know where I am, not lost in the wilderness, being eaten alive by mosquitoes." They heard a hand slapping against bare skin. "Got ya’, you blood sucking parasite."
"Scully, how many times have we run full pelt through forests, chasing or being chased, since we’ve met?"
"Too many to count," Scully groused, slapping at another mosquito. "What’s that got to do with anything?"
"How many times have we gotten lost?" Mulder’s tone was patient.
Scully was silent a moment thinking back. "None, now that you mention it."
"See? So how can we be lost now?" He sounded very pleased with his reasoning.
There was the echo of another slap and Mulder cried out. "Hey, what was that for?"
"Mosquito." Scully was unapologetic. "Hate for you to get malaria or Ross River fever."
Stifling a laugh, Daniel stowed the zat’ in his backpack, before stepping out from behind the tree with Annika on his heels.
The two agents gave a start at their sudden appearance.
"Where did you two come from?" Mulder quickly sidestepped another mosquito swipe from Scully.
"We’re just taking a hike," Daniel answered easily. "I heard there were some old Aboriginal cave paintings around here."
Knowing he was an archaeologist, the couple accepted his explanation.
"How about you guys?"
Mulder was about to answer but Scully sarcastically beat him to it. "Mulder’s taking a new kind of bush walk. It’s called ‘let’s get lost and pretend we know where we are’."
"So did you find anything?" Mulder pointedly ignored his partner’s comment.
"Like the way out of here?" Scully was hopeful.
Daniel shook his head at Mulder’s question. "Guess we took a wrong turn."
Annika grinned. "We were heading back ourselves." She heard a mosquito whiz passed her ear and thought it was the most wonderful sound in the world. "The…ah…natural inhabitants," Or lack there of, she added silently, "Were getting to us too."
With the arrival of two agents the forest was suddenly swarming with life again, the threatening silence of a few minutes ago dissolving into the gentle breeze rustling through the leaves. As Daniel swatted at an especially large specimen of nature’s vampires, he smirked at the irony. Not five minutes ago he’d prayed for the forest to return to normal. Now that it had, he wished for the absence again.
"Hey, Scully, look at this." Mulder had spotted the transporter ring base and the unfortunate wallaby.
Scully sighed, seeing her escape being delayed indefinitely and dutifully went over to investigate her partner’s discovery.
Neither member of SG-1 tried to stop them but they both cringed when the agents stood in the middle of the stone circle, studying the carcass.
"That’s something you don’t see everyday," Scully murmured, intrigued in spite of herself. "It looks like he’s been sliced in one swift move. No hesitation marks, no sawing striations. Must have been a big blade."
Annika now wished she had moved the remains that lined up perfectly with the edge of the transporter. They weren’t stupid, any second now the FBI agents, already used to thinking outside the box, would put two and two together. She glanced at Daniel to see if he wanted to intervene and distract them before reaching any conclusions.
He shook his head, in answer to her unasked question. Instead he sat down on a conveniently placed log, and watched them curiously, wanting to see how they treated the anomalous evidence. If the agents were going to be brought into the loop he wanted to know how they worked.
Annika planted herself on his lap. Leaning against his broad chest she whispered, "Ten bucks says Mulder’s the first one to look up."
"Twenty that it’s something Scully says that makes him do it," Daniel countered.
"Mulder, look at the positioning." Without touching the body, Scully traced her finger from head to tail. "It runs right along the curve of the stones."
Mulder followed her finger and then after a moment of consideration swung his head towards the sky.
"I win," Daniel laughed while Annika pouted.
"We didn’t shake on it."
The two agents spun around. From their expressions it was clear they had forgotten they weren’t alone.
Mulder was the first to recover. "Did you notice this?" He gestured upward.
Daniel put on his best innocent face. "You mean the trees cut into a perfect circle matching the stone ring?"
The agent nodded.
"Nope, don’t know what you’re talking about."
Annika elbowed him in the ribs. "No more hanging out with Jack for you." She approached the platform making sure she stayed outside the circle. "Yes, we did."
"What do you think caused it?" Mulder’s eyes were bright with curiosity.
Annika let Daniel answer. She didn’t want to lie to the couple who were quickly becoming her friends. He was much better at twisting words than she was.
Daniel shrugged. "Didn’t really give it much thought."
She hid a smile at the perfect response. It was the absolute truth and yet gave nothing away. She really must ask him to give her lessons in double talk.
A slight frown marred Scully’s face at the blasé comment. "Really? I’d have thought given your background you’d be curious by nature."
Daniel gave a wry smile. "Oh I am, but my ‘background’ taught me to keep my theories to a select few."
Mulder gave a snort of laughter. "Believe me you’re in good company. I haven’t been tagged Spooky Mulder because of my pale complexion."
"Okay." Daniel pretended to mull the matter over in his head. "As one who has already expressed the idea that aliens exist, my theory is that ET beamed himself up to his ship and down again from this spot and it was the beam that sheared off the tree limbs." He said all this in a deadpan tone and with a remarkably straight face.
Annika’s heart skipped a beat. What was he doing telling them the real truth? She cast a look at his face and caught his eye. She read the silent message. Play along.
Mulder and Scully were silent for a moment, trying to work out if he was serious.
Scully determined Daniel was joking. "I’m sorry I asked."
Mulder on the other hand was scrutinizing the younger man. "Really?"
"Mulder, he’s pulling your leg," Scully warned.
The agent shifted his focus to Annika who was the picture of innocence. Very deliberately Daniel sent a bubble of laughter through their bond and her lips involuntarily twitched. Mulder turned back to Daniel who gave the impression of trying not to smile.
Mulder sighed. "Very funny. Obviously that’s not what you think at all."
Daniel chuckled. "Sorry, couldn’t resist. As the laughing stock of the archaeological community, I’ve got to get my kicks some way."
Annika disguised her relief with a laugh. "He’s got a warped sense of humor. You’re lucky you don’t live with him."
"So, you’re really not curious?" Mulder looked like he’d taken a serious wrong turn in his assessment of Daniel.
"Nope. Like I said, I didn’t give it much thought. I’m an archaeologist. I’ve found there are more than enough mysteries in the ground to keep me busy without looking to the sky for more unanswered questions." Daniel felt a pang of regret at the deflated look on the man’s face and threw him a bone. "Look, we’re heading back to meet up with Jack and Sam for lunch, you’re welcome to join us. We can speculate on more realistic reasons for this while we eat."
"Sounds good to me." Scully was all for leaving the bush. She’d had enough of communing with nature for one day.
Mulder nodded, his faith in his profiling skills partly restored.
They headed back down the ranger’s track, with Annika and Daniel leading the way. Annika was careful to stay to the side of the path, not wanting to risk accidentally stepping into the missing woman’s mind trail again. The conversation inevitably turned to the wedding they were all going to attend. When the women started to discuss important matters such as what they were going to wear, Mulder quickly stepped forward next to Daniel, letting Annika take his place next to his partner.
"Now, that’s something I haven’t given much thought too." Mulder grinned, showing he held no hard feelings about Daniel’s earlier ‘joke’.
The men started their own conversation about how women fussed over the most inconsequential aspects of life.
Halfway back, Annika had a flash of premonition. Immediately she grabbed the two men by the back of their shirts, forcing them to stop in mid stride. "Hang on a sec."
Mulder was curious, but Daniel took one look at the expression on her face and obediently remained where he was.
She peered between their shoulders at the path ahead watching for something.
"What are we waiting for?" Scully whispered, craning her head around Mulder’s body to see what Annika was looking at.
"I don’t know," Mulder replied bewildered. "Why are we whispering?"
Scully still keeping her voice low, replied absently, "Seems appropriate."
"Ssshhh." Annika beckoned them to be quiet.
A few seconds later there was a soft rustling noise and what seemed to be part of a fallen log uncoiled itself and slithered across the path. If they hadn’t stopped, the five foot long snake would have had four choice victims to take out its annoyance upon at being disturbed.
"Ah…that was a Brown snake, right?" Scully’s mouth was suddenly dry at the close call.
Annika nodded. "One of the deadliest species on Earth."
"How did you know?" Mulder asked, keeping one eye on the retreating reptile.
Daniel grinned. "My Angel has excellent vision." The two shared a smile at the double meaning.
They continued walking back to the car. When they dropped the two agents at their vehicle a few kilometers down the road, they arranged to meet up for lunch.
Daniel gave a nonchalant wave as they drove off.
"Mulder suspects," she frowned.
Daniel agreed. "I know. I could practically see him adding up all the ‘coincidences’ in his head. We’ll leave it up to Jack to decide if it’s time to shatter their reality with the truth."
Watching the trees blur by, Annika thought about the FBI man, running all their encounters through her mind. "You know, Mulder has someone watching over him."
"Really?" Daniel raised an eyebrow. "You mean like a ghost?"
She shook her head. "I’ve never been able to see ghosts before. It’s some sort of presence. I’ve seen glimpses of it every time we’re with him."
"What does it look like?" The researcher in him was intrigued.
"A white light, tinged with blue." She struggled to find the right description. "It’s strange. I’m tempted to call it a Guardian Angel, but I sense it can’t actually step in to help him no matter how much it wants to."
Daniel almost ran off the road as a burst of recognition hit him. "It’s one of the Ascended."
He nodded, his eyes lit up with excitement. "The blue-white light is how our ‘mortal’ minds perceive them. I may not remember much, but I do remember the frustration of not being able to talk to my friends, let them know I was okay, not being able to help them. Wonder who it is."
Annika shrugged. "A family member? It seems feminine, if a ball of light can have a gender. Perhaps a sister or his mother?"
Daniel recalled the slightly haunted tinge in Mulder’s eyes. Instinctively he knew this Ascended being was the reason for that look. "Whoever it is, I wish we could convince them to break the damned rules for a few minutes. It would give Mulder the closure he needs."
"Maybe we can ask Oma for help?" Annika felt his disenchantment with the higher beings he’d dwelt with for a year. She reached over and gave his hand a comforting squeeze. "She’s been known to bend the rules for a good cause."
He looked doubtful for a moment and then determined. "We’ll convince her somehow."
A A A
Scully watched Mulder from the corner of her eye while concentrating on the road ahead. She knew that distant look in his eyes. Silently she began counting down. Five…four…three…two… one…
"Scully, don’t you find it a bit odd?"
She hid a grin. "You’ll have to be more specific."
"We’re investigating an X-file…" He caught her expression and recanted. "Okay, you’re on vacation, I’m investigating an X-file, and at every turn Doctor Jackson and his friends appear."
"Technically we’re appearing wherever they turn up," Scully pointed out. "If I was Doctor Jackson I’d think we were stalking him."
"Don’t quibble semantics." Mulder waved her quip aside. "They are not here to escape a cold winter."
Scully stopped teasing. "I admit it is becoming a little coincidental."
Before she’d finished her admission, Mulder was already reaching for his cell phone.
"Let me guess, you’re calling ‘The Three Stooges’."
Mulder’s lips twitched at his partner’s nickname for ‘The Lone Gun Men’. "Call them what you will, you know those guys can squeeze out more information than the CIA, the Pentagon and the FBI put together."
"Yes, if you can wade through all the paranoid conspiracy theories first." Her tone was sarcastic but Mulder knew Scully had a soft spot for the trio. More often than not their theories did have some semblance of fact and the mostly harmless group had helped them out of a number of sticky situations.
Mulder turned up the volume on his phone and held it out so Scully could hear the forthcoming conversation.
"Hello, you’ve reached ‘The Lone Gun Men’…"
Scully recognized Byer’s voice.
"We’re out researching government plots and shady back door deals, leave a message and we’ll get back to you if we haven’t been kidnapped by shadowy men in black."
Mulder waited for the beep. "Hey, fellas, it’s Mulder, pick up."
There was a moment of silence and then Frohike came on the line. "Hey, Mulder, hang on a sec." There was a crackle of static down the line. "Just need to activate the scramblers."
Scully’s eyes tilted heavenward but she kept quiet.
The static died down and the little man came back on the line. "Mulder, is the ever beautiful Agent Scully with you?"
"I’m here, Frohike."
In the background a mechanical voice announced, "Voice print confirmed."
Mulder gave an eye roll of his own.
"Now, what can I do for you?" They could hear Frohike relax back into his chair.
"I was wondering if you could run a check on some people we’ve run into."
"Sure. What’re their names?"
"Doctor Daniel Jackson…"
Frohike’s excited gasp made Mulder pause.
"Can you get me an autograph? A picture? A napkin he held?"
The two FBI agents exchanged startled glances.
"I take it you’ve heard of him?"
"Mulder, are you kidding?" Disbelief echoed through the phone line. "The man is a genius! His paper about the Egyptian pyramids being alien landing platforms is like the bible for all us UFO nuts."
"I know about the paper, it’s what he’s doing now that I’m interested in."
"And," Scully added, "what his relationship is with a Colonel Jack O’Neill, a Major Samantha Carter and an Annika Murdoch."
"Oh my God!" Frohike’s voice was strangled, followed by a series of quick breaths.
"Take a deep breath, Frohike, you’re hyperventilating." Scully tried to keep the amusement out of her tone.
"Ohmygod, Ohmygod, Ohmygod!" He was repeating it like a mantra.
"Frohike! Focus!" Mulder demanded. "Who are these people?"
After a few more ‘Ohmygods’, the little man was able to calm himself enough to answer. "Mulder, you have hit the jack pot!"
"That doesn’t really enlighten us," Mulder said wryly.
"They are like real life super heroes in an urban myth kind of way."
"Still not helping, Frohike."
"I have been trying to make contact with them for years, and you go and meet them in…" There was a pause. "Australia? What are you doing Down Under?"
Mulder grinned at Scully. "Didn’t your mother teach you it’s impolite to trace your friends phone calls?"
"Can’t be too careful." Frohike’s voice was sedulous then perked up. "Hey, are you chasing that glowing eyed freak?"
"Trying too." Mulder attempted to get him back on track. "So tell us what you know."
"Okay." They heard Frohike crack his knuckles as though preparing for a long session. "For starters they all work at the Cheyenne Mountain Base in Colorado. Officially they are studying deep space telemetry. For eight years Doctor Jackson has been hired as a civilian consultant, Annika Murdoch is the newest recruit, she’s only been there for a couple of months also as a consultant. Colonel O’Neill, an ex-black ops commander, was pulled out of retirement twice to work on the project and Major Carter, an astrophysicist, has been working there for seven years."
"Deep space telemetry?" Mulder was incredulous.
Frohike gave a snort of derision. "I know. You’d think the government would come up with a better cover story than that, huh? Especially when both O’Neill and Carter have received medals of valor normally reserved for rewarding action in combat."
Okay, now she was curious, and she had to ask, "What do they really do?"
"Rumor has it that they travel to other planets trying to rid the galaxy of evil aliens."
Scully let out a deep sigh. What did she expect? Ask a stupid question… "Isn’t Cheyenne Mountain mostly underground? How do they get to these other planets?"
"It’s all thanks to Doctor Jackson. He was first hired to decipher some sort of ancient device found in Egypt. Jackson is like a living, breathing Rosetta Stone. Apparently using this device they go traipsing around the galaxy. Mulder, if you want proof of extraterrestrial life, stick with them. If my source is correct they see it everyday."
"Just who is your source?" Mulder demanded.
"He was a newspaper reporter." Frohike was sober. "He was getting ready to publish a tell all article but he was conveniently hit by a car and killed, and his research disappeared."
"You think Jackson and O’Neill organized a hit?" Mulder frowned at the thought. Trained as a profiler, Mulder was a good judge of character. He wouldn’t have lumped either of them in the hire-a-killer category.
"No!" The vehemence in the Gun Man’s tone was clear. "They’re the good guys! We know who killed him, but can’t prove it. It was an organization that officially doesn’t exist called the NID who want to gain control of the project."
"What was the article going to say?" Mulder gave an inward sigh of relief, glad that his instincts hadn’t been wrong.
"Among other things, that the supposed meteors that lit up the night sky a couple of years ago were actually two alien ships O’Neill and his team blew them apart to stop them from attacking Earth."
"I remember reading something about that," Scully murmured. Reluctantly she conceded that at the time she’d thought the story had sounded a bit too contrived. "So what are you saying? That this serial killer is an alien?"
"If O’Neill, Jackson and Carter are there then I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet."
Scully could picture Frohike nodding.
"We can almost confirm that they have already neutralized another being with glowing eyes a few years back."
"Almost?" Mulder prodded.
"Langley managed to wade through a paper trail that ended with the President himself giving O’Neill temporary command over an ATF operation north of Seattle, to take down a cult leader known as Seth, who reportedly had glowing yellow eyes."
"That doesn’t sound like ‘almost’." Scully was back to being skeptical.
Frohike gave an embarrassed cough. "Yeah, well, before Langley could do more than skim the report the government traced us. We had polyester suits chasing us for weeks. When we tried to get back into the system the entire file had been deleted. The whole program and especially that team are protected from the highest level. You are walking with top secret royalty. I am so jealous."
"Thanks, Frohike. As usual you’ve been a mine of information."
"Anytime." The little man was about to hang up but quickly added, "Mulder, don’t forget that napkin. If you can get one from each of them I’ll give you my first born."
"There’s an offer I can’t refuse," Mulder chuckled. "I’ll do my best." He hit the end button. Almost immediately his jovial manner retreated into a pensive silence.
"You believed every word he said, didn’t you?" Scully tried to keep her tone neutral.
Mulder shoulders lifted slightly up and down. "I know a lot of their theories are born of paranoia, but instinct tells me this time they’ve hit the nail on the head, even if they can’t prove a word of it."
Over the years Scully had come to trust Mulder’s sixth sense though it warred with her scientific nature. While she wasn’t quite ready to admit that their new friends were the real life equivalent of Indiana Jones and Ripley combined, she was willing to reserve her judgment. She was surprised to hear a frustrated sigh escape from her partner’s lips. "What’s the matter? If Frohike is to be believed these people could hold the key to validating all our work."
"They’re also key players in the whole cover up. Another government conspiracy to stop the truth from coming out." His bitterness was clear. "This lunch is probably going to be them pumping us for what information we do know without them telling us a damned thing."
"Frohike said they were the good guys…"
"Yeah, and I’m sure Cancer Man thinks he’s going to heaven." He thumped the dashboard. "Dammit, I like them Scully! But if they are connected to Spender and his cohorts…" Mulder’s voice trailed off.
Scully knew he was thinking about all they’d been through. Having proof just to have it snatched away time and time again, the death of his father and her sister, her abduction and subsequent cancer, all the vicious acts instigated by the shadowy group that had plagued them since opening the X-files. She tried to picture Daniel Jackson and his friends assassinating innocents or infecting people with deadly diseases, and failed. "Mulder, I can’t see them taking orders from Spender. You know there are many secret organizations within our government. Not all of them have an evil agenda."
There was only brooding silence from the passenger seat.
She tried a different tact. "I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if we assume Frohike’s tale of traveling to different planets and fighting aliens is real, then Daniel told us the truth back in the bush about the stone ring. When have any of Spender’s goons done that?"
"He told us in such a way that he knew we wouldn’t believe him," he growled. "Doctor Jackson is a linguist, an expert on manipulating and twisting language to suit his needs."
"Mulder, it was our interpretation of his words that was twisted," Scully staunchly defended the archaeologist, knowing intuitively that he (and the others) were not the bad guys. "He’s more than likely bound by law not to discuss certain truths. By making a joke he…"
"Then why say anything at all?" Mulder interrupted harshly. "They’re playing us, Scully."
"Maybe it was a test."
"A test? I’m sick of being some government pawn."
Scully sighed in exasperation. There was no use trying to reason with him in his current frame of mind. As much as she loved the man sitting beside her, he could be infuriatingly stubborn when he wanted to be. "So what now?"
"Oh, I think lunch is going to be quite interesting." His tone was flat.
Oh, Boy… "Mulder, don’t bite your nose off to spite your face." She ignored his glare. "If back there was a test, then possibly they want to bring us into the fold. You’ve been waiting your whole life to learn the truth, don’t screw it up now with your hatred of one covert organization."
He said nothing but his forehead crinkled into a frown, considering her words.
The rest of the drive was finished in a tense silence.
Scully inwardly grimaced. This was turning into such a ‘peaceful’, ‘relaxing’ vacation.
A A A
Bes deactivated the modified communication device. The screen immediately changed from the bird’s eye view of the ring platform to black, reflecting the piercing eyes of the Goa’uld. He’d hidden the fist-sized ball high amongst the branches and rigged it so that if anything bigger than a small animal crossed within range it recorded the unexpected visitors. He was rather proud of this foresight. He had been about to transport down when His soon to be consort and her mate entered the clearing. His heart thumped in anticipation to find His chosen Beloved with only one of her protector’s until He saw the male holding a zat’ni’katel. No matter how fast Bes moved, He knew He wouldn’t have been able to snatch the woman and ring back to His ship before the electric charge of the weapon would disable Him. Even a God knew His limits.
He’d been astonished when the two had noticed the activation of the spying device. From their actions it was clear they hadn’t known exactly what was wrong, but they did sense something was not right. He hadn’t realized their perception was so acute. Perhaps He had underestimated these Tau'ri.
When the other object of His desire had arrived with her mate He'd had to stifle the frustrated sigh that threatened to escape. Both of them were within His reach. In moments He could have had the final additions to His harem, but still the presence of the zat’ni’katel had kept Him from acting on the impulse. It would do Him no good to be caught at this stage of the game, not when He was so close to achieving His goal.
"My Lord, the crystal has been reintegrated into the ship’s system. The landing mechanism is now operational and the hyper drive engines are on-line."
Bes deigned to glance at the Jaffa bowing low in the presence of his God.
"Good." He masked His expression. Gods did not show Their emotions to the help, no matter how loyal they were. He once again prided Himself on His foresight, this time regarding His plan set forth before Ra had imprisoned Him.
Thanks to the information tortured from an Asgard prisoner He’d been able to transform a cargo bay into a series of cryogenic chambers. A score of His best Jaffa had lain asleep all these years, perfectly preserved, waiting for His return. The reanimation process had worked just as the little gray alien had assured Him it would when he had pleaded for his pathetic life. That in itself had been surprising, (not that He’d let it show,) He hadn’t thought the Asgard capable of any sort of emotional display. Bes had made a mental note of the method of procuring the information. Species such as the Tau'ri would expire too quickly, however if He managed to capture another of a mentally advanced race, it would be useful. Of course it was inevitably fatal, but much information was given ‘freely’ before the victim gasped their final breath.
"Keep them on standby. Tonight we leave for Our Home world."
"As you wish, My Lord." The Jaffa bowed again and backed out of the room.
The God contemplated visiting the women He’d collected. He still had yet to partake in the sweet innocence of the one He’d lured away last night. During her delirious ramblings she’d let slip that she had not experienced the pleasures of the flesh. It had been too long since He had a virgin in His bed. Such a delicate little thing she was, deflowering her was not something to be rushed. No, He’d delay His pleasure until He was safely away from this planet. What a lucky girl she was to have the Great Lord Bes as her one and only lover.
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