Author Topic: Chapter 19  (Read 4574 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 19
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:30:52 AM »
Sparing a glance behind him, Tony saw Blake next to the fake door, crumpled on the ground.

"Blake!"

Over the cries of alarm from the other Survivors, he could also hear a repetitive loud blaring noise begin echoing through the corridors, followed by a voice saying something in Goa'uld. Definitely a recording of some kind.

"Zo'hait, guard this door!" He barked, as he moved over to Blake. "The rest of you stay put, and keep your eyes open!"

Blake was still conscious, barely. His left side, just under the arm, was coated with blood. Tony's gut twisted as he carefully turned him over, and saw that the blast had gone all the way through. His skin already felt clammy and cold.

He's going into shock. Tony's mind raced back to the basic medical training he'd received. Before he could even begin to think what to do next, though, he heard the grinding of stone on stone above him, and looked up.

Above the fake door, three wall panels were opening. Behind each one, he could see a small metal sphere with a red light in the middle.

"Take cover!" He shouted on instinct as he grabbed Blake by the shoulders and dragged him towards the hidden door. There was a high pitched whine that started up, culminating with red energy beams criss-crossing the room. The rest of SR-5 reached cover, but one of them, a hot-tempered young man named Kasoru, took a beam in the back and went down. With Zo'hait's help, Tony barely got Blake through the door before the beams began tracking their way.

Without any obvious targets, the beams stopped, but Tony could still hear the alarm blaring through the halls, punctuated by that same recorded message.

First things first. "Zo'hait, get his pack off, carefully, and prop his feet up under it!" Tony grabbed his radio. "Jahu, tell me you're in position."

There was a short delay, followed by, "Just now, sir."

"We've set off an alarm back here. Get started, now!"

Dropping the radio, Tony shucked his own pack, and grabbed the emergency medkit out of it.

"Tony?" Blake's head moved feebly. There was frothy blood coming out of the corners of his mouth.

"I'm here, Blake." Tony began spooling out a bandage as he moved back over. "You've been shot. It's important that you stay very still, ok?"

"Ok, Tony." Blake's voice sounded faint, and curious. "How come it doesn't hurt?"

"It will, trust me." Tony promised, grimly. Frothy blood meant that his lung had collapsed. It also meant he couldn't use any of the chemical cauterizer in the medkit to stop the bleeding. If Blake was to have any chance, he'd have to get to work immediately. Zo'hait stood nearby, looking stricken but determined, as he guarded the corridor.

Tony whispered a silent prayer as he began working on the wound. He kept talking to Blake during the process, trying to keep him calm.

"What did he say?" He asked as the recorded message blared again.

"The closest translation would be 'intruder alert'." Blake responded weakly. He coughed slightly. "I can't believe I shot at that Jaffa."

"Yeah, you did, Blake. Good job."

"Did I get him?" Blake winced. "Ok, maybe that hurt, a little."

Tony kept both his touch and his tone light. "Actually, you did. I guess underneath your weak and wimpy exterior, you're just a tough guy deep down. Everyone knows it." He accidentally brushed his hand against one rib, and Blake gasped in pain. "Sorry."

"No problem." Blake managed. "Tough guy, remember?" He took a light breath. "Tony, just in case, I want you to tell Haley that I-"

"Hey!" Tony interrupted him. He grabbed Blake by the chin, forcing him to look up into his eyes. "I won't hear any of that, all right? I'm not your personal message service. If you want to tell Haley something, you'll have to do it yourself, understood?"

Blake smiled faintly. "Understood."

Tony kept working, trying to project an air of confidence, but wasn't sure if it was for Blake's benefit or his own.

-.-

It had taken a lot more effort to place the bomb than Hargrove had thought. While the power core itself was about the size of a football, the coolant lines, regulation system, and all the other components he didn't have a chance of understanding took up about as much space as a small table. They'd finally placed it north of the citadel, as planned, and buried it under a light layer of leaves and dirt. Haley had warned them, though, that it had a one to two minute fuse, and could not be turned off once the timer started.

So, Hargrove and Cayo were lying on their bellies on a hill outside the palace in the pre-dawn darkness, keeping tabs on the torchlight in the courtyard and waiting for their targets to show up. They could signal the rest of SR-1 to start the timer and get out of there, but given the delay, it would have to be a guessing game as to when.

Hargrove shifted in his position, uncomfortably, and caught an amused glance from Cayo. "Problems, sir?"

"Not at all."

Cayo waited a moment, and then continued. "Sir, I wanted to speak to you… about Suna."

"Oh?" Hargrove was careful to keep his voice neutral. "What about her?"

"I wished to apologize, actually. At first I was angry with you for sending her here, but I know she was- and still is- the best person for the job."

Hargrove hesitated only a moment. Not what I expected. "Apology accepted." He chuckled slightly. "I guess I thought you'd tell me if I broke her heart you'd kill me."

Cayo tilted his head, puzzled. "Why would I say that?"

"It's something of an Earth tradition. Siblings there, especially male siblings, tend to be overprotective of their sisters. Threats like that happen often."

"Ah. Well, you know Suna well enough to know that she doesn't need any such guardianship. If she wishes you harm, she'll do it herself."

Hargrove smiled wryly. "I guess she would, at that." He noticed that Cayo seemed to be less formal now, than he usually behaved. As if talking to a friend, instead of a CO.

"I am protective of her, though." Cayo admitted after a while. "When we first heard that you'd been cut off from your homeworld, she decided to try to join you. She believes she convinced me to come with her, but I would have regardless of her efforts."

"To keep track of her?"

Cayo nodded. "She is the only family I have left, and takes far too many risks with her safety, despite her skills."

Hargrove considered that. "Do I need to be concerned about that? If she's in danger, will you drop everything and go to help?"

"I've thought about that." Cayo shook his head. "Once, perhaps, I would rush off to help her as you said, but I have other responsibilities now. To my team, to the other Survivors, and to you and Colonel Marcus."

"Good." Before he could continue, Hargrove noticed Cayo's stance change. He leaned forward, peering through his scope.

"I see movement."

Hargrove readied his flashlight. When it was time, he could signal one of Cayo's people to the west of the palace, who would in turn signal the two with the bomb. Radios would be more reliable, but there was always the risk the Goa'uld were listening in or could jam the transmission. Of course, all of this would depend on Cayo, even if he didn't know it yet.

On the horizon, dawn looked to be less than an hour away. Perfect timing. "Can you see the First Prime? He should have a golden tattoo instead of the usual black or commander's silver."

"Yes, he's there. There are six others with him; two are Jaffa."

Hargrove squinted down at the courtyard. He saw the flash of light as a section of the perimeter forcefield was deactivated to let them in, and then reactivated.

"You're sure the explosion will penetrate their… shield?" Cayo was still having trouble with some of the words he didn't understand.

"I'm sure. Or rather, Haley is. That shield would stop a bullet or staff blast, but a naquadah explosion is a lot more powerful. Even if the shield could withstand the explosion, the blast will encompass the entire area. It would go over the forcefield, too." He aimed the flashlight. That should be enough time. "All right, I'll light the match."

"Wait."

Cayo had shifted his gaze to the left, towards the city. "There are more coming. Ranks of Jaffa. Many of them."

-.-

Hargrove peered into the darkness. Without a scope, or binoculars, he couldn't see far enough to be sure. "Are you sure they're headed to the Palace?"

"Definitely. The road only leads one direction, after all."

Over the next few minutes, over two hundred Jaffa could be seen marching up to the palace. Those already there were standing at attention; there was no sign they'd be leaving anytime soon.

Cayo sighed heavily. "We have to abort the mission." He pulled out his flashlight. "I'll tell the others."

This was it. "Are you sure?"

Cayo looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, is that what you really want?"

He thought about it for a second. "It doesn't matter what I want. The Colonel was clear. Only minimal casualties, remember?"

"I know, but think about this. We may never get this opportunity again. If what I know about Nereus is true, we won't get another chance like this."

Suspicion narrowing his eyes, Cayo studied Hargrove's face. "You knew this would happen, didn't you?" He accused.

Hargrove said nothing, and could see Cayo thinking back through it all. "We based this mission on reports you read, and remembered. You said that Nereus would bring only his 'best and brightest' here to motivate them, but we had no way of confirming that. You must have lied to the Colonel, telling him there would only be a few casualties!" He concluded.

"That's right."

"But why lie to him- to us? You could have convinced him to go ahead with the plan, regardless!"

"Could I?" Hargrove gave him a frank stare. "He's following our country's military policy. Surgical strikes, hitting only the enemy's most fanatical people, disabling rather than killing. I know that he hopes some day the Jaffa will rise up and fight for their own freedom." He gave it a moment to sink in before continuing.

"But our planet's policies don't work out here. There are no Jaffa who aren't fanatics, and we can't disable them without killing them. The Jaffa outnumber the Goa'uld at least a thousand to one; if they rebelled, the galaxy would be theirs in a few weeks at most. Still, in thousands of years, out of maybe billions of Jaffa out there, only a few have even tried, and they would have been killed without help from Earth!"

"But if these Jaffa see their god die, would that not speed their decision, as the Colonel said?"

Hargrove shook his head, sadly. "It's been tried. Jaffa don't become cute and cuddly as soon as their Goa'uld master dies. They just end up working for another one. It's happened again and again." He started ticking off fingers one by one. "When Ra died, Heru'ur took over his armies. When Apophis died- the second time- Klorel took over. When Sokar died, Apophis took over!" He stopped to take a breath.

Down below, he could see the Jaffa assembled in the pre-dawn light, waiting for their god to appear and speak to them. Others might have been concerned about the timing, but Hargrove knew that when Nereus' speech did start, it would take hours. The Tok'ra version of a psych report on him had been very thorough.

Cayo showed a mixture of resignation and frustration on his face. "Very well. You don't want me to abort the mission. Are you ordering me to start the timer?"

"No."

"Do you intend to do it yourself?"

"No."

"Then what do you want??" He exclaimed in frustration.

Hargrove sighed. How to explain this? "I want you to make this decision, Cayo. Not me, not the Colonel, not anyone from Earth, you."

Cayo shook his head, uncomprehending, and Hargrove explained. "Eventually, whether all of us 'tau'ri' die off out here or end up going home, the Survivors will have to fend for themselves. You're the ones who will have to live with the fallout, the results, of these decisions, so it's your job to make them. I know you were trained to follow orders, but what is it that you want to happen here? Think about it carefully."

Cayo considered, his face going blank. He stared long and hard at the crowd down below. Finally, "I would want them all to burn."

Hargrove nodded. "And they will. If you choose it." When he didn't respond, Hargrove continued. "It's understandable that you'd want revenge. Jaffa took your parents from you. I want revenge, too. Some Jaffa took my team, the closest thing I've ever had to a true family, from me. You just have to decide if it'll be worth it, in the end."

Cayo was silent for a few more long moments. Finally, he lifted his flashlight and began signaling.

-.-

It had taken some effort, but with Suna's help they'd been able to sneak into the pyramid undetected. Unfortunately, David reflected, that was probably the easy part. The nine of them clustered in the entryway as he and Nelson surveyed the hangar. A few Jaffa could be seen on guard on the far side of the open platform, but the real trouble was on the north end.

David leaned back, out of sight, and quietly addressed the others. "So, we've got a problem. There's some kind of maintenance crew at work between us and the ring platform. A Goa'uld, I think, in charge of a half-dozen Jaffa. Also, Suna's numbers didn't add up." He looked at her apologetically.  "There are at least two dozen gliders in here, and three bigger ships."

Suna shrugged. "It was only an estimate. How does that affect our plan?"

"We were ordered to blow them up," Nelson explained, "but it looks like we won't have enough C4 for all of them. Unless…" He looked at David, who nodded.

"I saw it too. I was thinking the same."

Suna, Haley, Premin'aha and SR-4 were all staring at them as though they'd spontaneously grown horns on their heads. Nelson blushed a bit, and explained. "One of those big ships has what looks like a double-barreled turret mounted on its belly. If we can get inside, and figure out how to aim and fire it, we could turn this place into one big turkey-shoot. Not to mention the benefits if we could end up flying it out of here."

"I suppose we can try." Haley consented after a moment's consideration. "Get me on board and I'll see what I can do. If the ship's been locked down, though, it could take a long time to get it running. How will you stop the gliders if I can't?"

"I'll think of something." David assured her. "Suna and I will get you inside. Nelson, you take the others along the far wall, around the maintenance crew, and get to the rings. Uh… sir." He lamely added as he remembered he'd been talking to a Major. Now that I think about it, he realized, when did I start thinking of him as 'Nelson'?

Nelson grinned. "I know a good idea when I hear it. Besides, if any of us aside from Tony has a chance of flying that monster, it's you. I'll get the rest into the comm center, don't worry. Just don't start the fireworks until you hear back from us, all right?"

Premin'aha opened his mouth to object, his face painted with agitation, but Haley patted his shoulder reassuringly. "You'll do fine, Prem. You have the message, and you know what to do, and how to do it. And just think of how much fun you'll have trying to figure out that ship when this is all over!"

He nodded, tremulously, and allowed himself to be herded along by Nelson.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:09:32 AM by Daen »