Author Topic: Chapter 17  (Read 5239 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 17
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:31:03 AM »
Tony could see more than a few bleary eyes in his people, as they began to gather in the command tent. He could feel fatigue dragging at him, as well. Only Hargrove seemed to be fully alert, though that could easily be just an image he portrayed for everyone's benefit. The man had been working harder than most in the SR, after all.

It had been over three weeks since their initial forays into Nereus' territory, but during the last few days Tony had set a grueling pace for the Survivors. They'd hit half a dozen planets, never staying put longer than a few hours at most, and racked up an impressive list of victories. There had been more injuries, of course, and one of the Byrsa had been killed two days ago, but they'd inflicted far more damage on the Goa'uld. And, if what Hargrove's people had reported was true, their work was finally about to pay off.

Tony surveyed the room once more, trying to get a feel for the Survivors' morale. There were more people here than he'd expected, but as he thought about it, it only made sense. Aside from the original half dozen from Earth there were now team leaders, from teams SR-1 through SR-7, as they'd started calling themselves in Earth fashion. Mostly, they were divided along cultural lines, but a few teams were made up of people from several different planets. Just like on Earth, each SR team had four people who trained as a group, and by now they'd even started developing their own tactics and senses of style. Cayo's team, SR-1, was coolly professional while SR-6, the Valei team, was raucous and light-humored. Each team leader had proven himself in combat, been recommended by an SGC person, and finally appointed by Tony personally. The rest of the Survivors had been on loan to the teams, during the missions, to let them get experience. It had been Hargrove's idea to give them a sense of self-governing, and Tony had to admit it'd worked well so far.

Premin'aha and Govis could also be seen talking quietly with Blake and Haley in the back, but the Byrsa sniper who'd saved the day at that first enemy camp, Chanehi, was not present. Despite her impressive accuracy and timing, she obviously had no interest in being in charge of anyone. Page and Avery weren't there, either. He'd made it pretty clear that they'd have to prove themselves, and this mission would be the perfect opportunity for them, but they'd do so under the command of other Survivors.

Tony thought back on the dressing-down he'd given them. He didn't feel he'd been overly harsh, but he could see where they were coming from. A few months ago, I'd have had problems taking orders from these people too, he had to admit to himself. Even though they weren't soldiers by Earth definitions, in his mind they were just as good. He cared about them, and that was probably part of the reason he'd been so quick to spew vitriol at Avery and Page back there. Over the months he'd felt a rising sense of pride in his people, and he knew he wasn't the only one.

He could see Argyros and one of his twitchy, pale-skinned assistants standing in one corner, too. Most of the apprehension about their Deuca friends had evaporated, but Tony could still see some unease in his people as they passed that corner. The Pyrta had been remarkably closed-mouthed about his people, and his assistants barely spoke at all. Hargrove had speculated that they lived underground, on whatever planet they called home, and that Argyros was tanned because he was one of a few merchants who spent time offworld. Despite the haggling he'd done during their earlier meetings, his loyalties were obviously to his people, not his own profit. And their 'gate address remained a mystery, despite Hargrove's best efforts. Still, they'd kept their end of the bargain, and Tony would make sure to keep his.

"I know you're all tired." He spoke up, and the group quieted. "I've driven you hard the past few days and we've all paid a price, but the Goa'uld have paid more, and it's starting to show. It's time to hit Nereus where it really hurts." He looked at Hargrove, who stepped forward.

Hargrove flipped a switch on the crude projector Blake had rigged from parts at the lab, and a whirring sound accompanied a map appearing on the back canvas wall. The map portrayed a large city set into hills, with several areas marked. A trail outside the city marked a path to what was obviously a Stargate. "This is Pergamon, Nereus' capital city on his homeworld of Palchan. I won't lie to you; this will be one tough nut to crack." He eyed the group seriously. "Based on my recon last week, we estimate at least twelve hundred Jaffa stationed in and around the city, as well as staff weapon emplacements at every main entrance. Nereus' palace is up in the hills to the west of the city, and has even tougher defenses: perimeter forcefields, automated weapons turrets, and probably a warning beacon in case of attack." He pointed there and to another nearby point on the map. "Based on descriptions I heard back on Earth, this is a subspace communications array. It's what he uses to keep track of his forces throughout his territory. The building itself is behind a forcefield, and doesn't have any entrances. That means the only way in is by using a ring platform."

There was some quiet chatter from the group as they took all this in. Ring platforms worked like Stargates, but over much smaller distances. The Goa'uld used them most often to deploy forces from their ships.

Cayo raised a hand, and Hargrove looked towards him. "Sir, you learned all of this from one recon run of his planet?"

Hargrove hesitated, until Tony nodded at him. "Not exactly. We've been planning this for a while now. As you know, a few weeks ago some of the Survivors were sent on an extended mission. They've actually been undercover on several planets in Nereus' territory, gathering information where they can. Our spy in Pergamon has been posing as one of the human slaves kept in the city." He looked over at the laptop. "The rest we got from old Tok'ra reports I was able to remember."

He pointed at a large pyramid structure drawn just inside the north wall of the city. "The pyramid itself serves as an airbase. There are almost a dozen gliders and at least two larger ships there. Our spy caught a glimpse of a ring platform in there, too. Lastly, the Stargate is most certainly guarded by now." He looked back at them. "In short, people, our usual tricks won't do it here."

Tony raised his hands to quiet the murmurs from his people. "I know it seems overwhelming, but we've got a plan, and a few surprises to even the odds."

"We're not going there to take the city." Hargrove continued. "Our objective is to eliminate Nereus himself, along with his First Prime, and as many of his commanders and advisors as we can. If we can do that, the city will be thrown into chaos, giving us time to maybe steal a ship or two, and to get into the comm array and broadcast a message."

Blake frowned as he raised a hand. "You want to contact the other Goa'uld? Why?"

Tony put his hand on Hargrove's shoulder before he could respond, and stepped forward. "Intel has about a dozen Goa'uld in this region of space, all with about the same strength as Nereus. When they find out he's dead, they'll all want his territory and resources. If they all find out at the same time, they'll all hopefully get into a nice long shooting war over it."

After a moment, Galosi raised his hand. "Sir, we've been using… what was it you called it? G'rilah warfare… because we don't have the numbers to face the Jaffa openly. If we succeed in killing Nereus, and another Goa'uld takes over, what is the point of all of this? The people will still be slaves, the planet will be no better off than before!"

Tony waited for him to finish before nodding, calmly. "You're right, of course. Until all the Goa'uld, everywhere, are dead, we can't truly free any planet from their control. That's not why we're going there." He looked around at the faces gathered there. Some showed confusion, others determination. Naturally, Hargrove's showed nothing at all, yet. "Nereus has a planet called Hovak hidden away from his rivals. Because it's a secret, it's only lightly guarded. If this mission succeeds, it'll stay a secret from the Goa'uld, and we can at least free the people living there. It's not what you were hoping for, I know, but it's a start."

-.-

Most of the group began to file out of the tent but at his request, Cayo, Argyros and the other five original SG people stayed behind. Cayo sounded worried, despite his deadpan face, when he spoke up. "Colonel, based on the palace's defenses, I don't think we could get close enough to kill Nereus without being detected. Even if we could, it's doubtful we would be able to escape."

Tony nodded. "I know. That's why you won't be getting close." He looked at Haley.

"I figured out a way to…" She hesitated a moment, looking at Blake. "To override the safeties on our naquadah reactor." Over Blake's exclamation, she continued, pointing on the map at the hills just north of the palace. "If you put it here, when it overloads, the blast should take out the palace and the courtyard, but not hit the city."

She looked around apologetically, in the stunned silence.

"Go easy on her, people." Tony added. "Hargrove and I asked her to do it. Good job, by the way." He nodded at her.

The response was as he and Hargrove had predicted. Several voices overlapped.

"Are you saying you built a naquadah bomb?"

"Sir, we'd better be damn sure about using something like that!"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Blake spoke up, over the din. "Are you sure about that blast radius? What if there are naquadah deposits in the surrounding soil? It could cause a chain reaction, and we could end up blowing up the entire valley!"

"We've considered that." Hargrove answered. "All the local deposits were mined out a long time ago. Our spy said people are shipped off every week to the nearest mine over two hundred clicks away. Unless your bomb can reach that far, we should be safe."

"You said you wanted to get him and as many of his higher-ups as we can," Blake continued after a moment, "but how can you be sure he's even in there?"

"Our spy spotted him yesterday, but there's more." Hargrove explained. "We have a psychological profile on him, originally provided to the SGC by the Tok'ra. According to them, every time he's felt truly threatened in the past eight hundred years, he's gathered his best and brightest together, to… motivate them. Our other spies have already noticed that he's been recalling his people to Palchan over the past few days."

"No offense, but are we really going ahead with this based on what you remember about something you read months ago?" Blake responded, a little delicately.

Tony took that question immediately. "Most of the operations we've performed up until now were based on Hargrove's memory. On every one, the situation has been exactly as he remembered. I'd say the record backs him up, wouldn't you?"

Blake nodded, a little chagrined.

Ahardt finally spoke, tentatively. "Boss, I'm all for busting up their chain of command, but this feels more like… a terrorist attack. Planting bombs outside peoples' homes? Really?"

"They are Jaffa and Goa'uld." Cayo put in, his voice cold. "They deserve their fate. After our first engagement, the only reason I gave that Jaffa Commander a chance to surrender was because the Colonel ordered it."

"There have to be human slaves in there, too." Desousa added quietly.

"Enough." Tony interjected before Cayo could respond. He sighed. "Anyone who goes into that courtyard isn't making it out. We could throw every Survivor we have in there, and still probably not get the job done. There will be two dozen people, at most, inside the palace when the naquadah reactor blows; the Jaffa and humans in the nearby city will survive. At least they'll have a chance to surrender to the next Goa'uld who shows up." He shrugged a little helplessly. "Who knows? Maybe seeing their 'god' explode will knock some sense into them. I don't like this idea either, believe me, but I can't think of a better way to do this, at least not one without a much bigger body count. Can you?"

Reluctantly, Ahardt shook his head.

"Hargrove and SR-1 will handle Nereus. Your job will be harder, Ahardt. You and Desousa will be handling the pyramid and the subspace array. Make sure their ships don't leave the ground. If they start launching gliders, none of us will make it back to the 'gate. I'll take the rest of the Survivors to Hovak and secure the villages and the mine there."

"What if they use the radiation weapon against us?" Cayo put in.

Tony resisted the urge to wince. News about the energy projector had spread like wildfire, despite his efforts to contain it. A lot of people were concerned as a result. "Thanks to Blake and the Pyrta we know how to detect and disarm them, but if we find that there's one on the planet, we'll have to hold back until it's taken care of. Pyrta?"

Argyros cleared his throat. "The last time you connected the portal to Palchan, I detected no signs of radiation, but I can't be sure until I'm actually on the planet. If there is another device, I will know immediately. In accordance with our agreement, I will help you locate and destroy it." There was a note of excitement in his voice at the prospect.

"All right, everyone." Tony concluded. He could see uncertainty on their faces. Actually, he felt some of it himself, but tried not to show it. "The stakes are higher, and the odds steeper, but remember that this is just another job. The Survivors will be looking to us for courage, and we have to show it to them. I know most of you don't like it when I start talking 'religion' at you, but I don't just have faith in God. I also have faith in them, and in you, to get the job done. Let's do it."

-.-

As the 'officers', for lack of a better word, filed out, Nelson stepped in close to Archie. "Not that I'm complaining here, Pyrta, but didn't your agreement with the Survivors say you wouldn't fight for us?" He kept his voice low.

To his surprise, Archie responded with a conspiratorial smile. "The degree to which our agreement can be interpreted is all up to me, Major. Since any radiation weapon would be a direct threat to me, and I am allowed to defend myself, I see no problem with helping to disarm it."

Nelson chuckled. "You walk a fine line, man."

"That's half the fun."
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:10:45 AM by Daen »