Author Topic: Part 1: Cut Off, Chapter 1  (Read 6481 times)

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Offline Daen

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Part 1: Cut Off, Chapter 1
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:39:31 AM »
The bird landed on its nest, carefully stepping around the amalgamation of twigs, leaves, and the three eggs in the center. The two suns above, the nine moons that flitted across the sky at night, the intricacies of galactic politics among the stars, none of that mattered to it. All that mattered was the nest, and the precious contents within.

The bird instinctively twitched as it heard harsh sounds coming through the forest. It didn't understand what they meant. Whatever was moving on the ground below was certainly no predator it knew, but instinct told the bird to remain still and hope that whatever it was would pass by soon.

And pass by they did.

Colonel Antony Marcus yelled into his radio, trying to be heard through the stuttering gunfire of his team and the noise of alien energy weapons returning fire through the forest.

It was not an easy task. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, granting him endurance and strength but interfering, slightly, with his ability to make decisions. He stopped trying the radio with a grunt of frustration and raised his P90, spraying cover fire into the trees as Major Ahardt retreated past him through the forest. This was not what he’d had in mind for his first command.

-.-

General Hammond looked over his desk at the Colonel, gauging his stance, while Tony stood at attention. The General held him at attention for a moment longer before saying, "At ease."

Hammond looked over the three files on his desk, each with a photo at the top. He looked up at Tony. "I understand you've assembled quite a team for your first command, Colonel."

Tony couldn’t help but flick his eyes to the files momentarily. "Yes, sir."

"Each member of SG-14 has impressive credentials and skills, but I'm concerned about their field experience."

"Sir?"

Hammond shook his head dismissively. "As you know the President recently signed our second interstellar treaty, this time with the Tok'ra. Since the ceremony, we've been trading intel with them on the forces and positions of the Goa'uld throughout the Milky Way. Our analysts have finally come up with a list of potential worlds, and I've been assigning teams to go through the Stargate and do recon on each one."

Tony resisted the urge to shake his head in wonder. He'd been told about the galactic network of teleporter devices called the Stargates, and about the Goa'uld aliens who used them, over a year ago, and had been assigned to a team shortly later. Even after all this time, he could still barely believe it, and sometimes he couldn't help but think he'd been happier before he'd known any of it. Still, he told himself, they're out there, and we're better off knowing what they can do.

The General continued. "Your team is the newest field-rated one. Are you confident in their abilities under fire?"

Tony’s lip twitched. "With respect, sir, no one can be completely sure until they've been under fire. For what it's worth, my people performed excellently in training and battle simulations."

Hammond gave him an unreadable look, but Tony thought he could see the barest trace of a smile. "True enough."

He handed Tony another file. "All right, you have a go. Tomorrow at 0940 hours, you will take SG-14 through the Stargate to P4X-7344. The details of your recon are all there, as well as everything we got from the Tok'ra. I expect your team to be briefed and ready to go by then."

"Yes sir!" Tony saluted.

The General returned the salute by reflex. "Dismissed."

-.-

"Where are we going, sir?" Captain Olivia Temens craned her neck to look at the file in Tony's hands.

"We call the planet P4X-7344, but to the locals, it's Hovak. A minor Goa'uld named Nereus set up a base in the mountain chain just north of their 'gate."

"A minor Goa'uld? But we're hot stuff. I was hoping for a shot at the big boys for our first time out." Nelson Ahardt, his second in command, spoke with his usual good cheer and light-hearted wit.

Temens elbowed Ahardt hard in the ribs, and he winced and shut up.

Tony gave him a cool look. "This Nereus doesn't have the resources of the Goa'uld System Lords and is hiding his mining operation, probably to keep them from taking it away. Fortunately for us, the Tok'ra found out about it, and gave us the 'gate address to get there."

"How could he hide a whole planet? It's not like you can just throw a camo net over it."

"He can't." Tony explained, turning the file to face Ahardt and the others. "According to this, he found the planet a few hundred years ago and brought a Stargate there, along with a bunch of human slaves. As far as the other Goa'ulds are concerned, P4X-7344 is just another uninhabitable ball of rock."

Ahardt gave him a skeptical look. "He just happened to find an inhabitable planet? What are the odds of that?"

"Pretty good, actually. We know that the Goa’uld terraformed a bunch of planets themselves, but they weren’t the first race to use the Stargates. I’d bet that 7344 was terraformed by the race that built the ‘gates in the first place," Tony explained. He didn’t know much about the Ancients, as they’d called themselves, but it was the only explanation that made any sense to him.

Temens took the file when Tony offered it. "What are our orders, sir?"

Ahardt grinned and opened his mouth, but she shot him a venomous look, and he subsided, looking disappointed.

"We're going to scout the area, determine what defenses they have in place, and hopefully find a good way to raid the place for their resources." At Ahardt's questioning look, he continued. "They're mining naquadah there, and the General has made it pretty clear that we need as much as we can get our hands on."

The group nodded almost reflexively. The mineral was rare and powerful, and couldn't be found on Earth. From what Tony had read, the Goa'uld used it in just about all their technology, and even the Stargates themselves were built with it.

"But how far can we trust these Tok'ra?"

All three looked over at the speaker. Captain David Desousa looked back at them, unashamed, before continuing. "After all, they're Goa'ulds, right? Parasites. They need human hosts to survive, just like the Goa'ulds."

Temens shook her head angrily. "They're not like the others, and you know it. They've been fighting the Goa'uld System Lords for over two thousand years!" She glared at him. "Even their name means Resistance in their language."

Tony grimaced. In their natural form, the Goa'uld were small, snake-like critters that weren't very intimidating. However they were highly intelligent, and their ability to infest people, taking a person as a host and controlling them from within, had generated a great deal of fear over the years. The Tok'ra offshoot of their race tended to take the brunt of the abuse from that fear.

Desousa continued arguing his case. "One of them tried to kill the President when he was here to sign the treaty. How much more proof do you need?"

"He was under mind control, and you know it! Tok'ra died during those attacks, too, you know!"

"Major Carter trusts them." Ahardt cut in, apparently trying to conciliate things. "I heard her talking about her experience with one of them two years ago. She's the one who contacted them for us."

"I heard she'd been infested by one of them. By force." Desousa's face remained impassive. Despite his words, he seemed completely calm. "Am I the only one who thinks they could have made her say those things?"

"And what about her father? General Carter agreed to become one of them. Are you saying he made a mistake?" Temens seemed to be taking the argument personally.

"He was dying, right?" Desousa waved his hand. "He didn’t have a choice."

Her face reddened, and she opened her mouth to continue the argument before Tony cut her off.

"Enough." He looked around the room. "Whether they can be trusted or not, whether they're Goa'uld or not, our Commander-in-Chief signed a treaty with them. As far as we're concerned, they're allies, and should be treated as such. Understood?"

Temens and Ahardt responded with a subdued 'yes, sir'. He held Desousa's gaze until the other finally followed suit, and then continued. "Now. Here's the most recent map of the mine shaft entrances…"

As he laid out the information for them, Tony sighed inwardly. Maybe Desousa's right. Maybe Earth has to stand alone in the galaxy.

-.-

An energy blast cut the tree behind him in two, and Tony winced under the shower of heated splinters. He whispered a prayer and leaned out of cover long enough to finally get a good shot off. Whoever it was went down. Tony assumed it was a Jaffa soldier, but he couldn't be sure at this distance. There was blissful silence for a moment before he heard a strange horn-call from further in the forest. He grabbed his radio. "Temens. Is the 'gate secure?"

There was a burst of static, followed by, "Yes, sir, but we've got a problem here."

He exchanged glances with Ahardt, who looked puzzled. "Hang tight. We'll be right there." It took a few more minutes of running to get to the Stargate, but they managed to avoid more enemy contact. Tony breathed a sigh of relief upon entering the clearing.

The Jaffa were mostly human, but had been physically enhanced by the Goa'uld and were a significant cut above ordinary humans. The only real advantage his team had was that the enemy wasn't used to facing humans who actually fought back. Up ahead he and Ahardt could see the massive ring shape of the Stargate, along with the machine that controlled it, the Dial Home Device, a few feet to its left. Temens was busy pressing buttons on the DHD while Desousa kept watch on the treeline.

"What's the problem here, Captain?" Tony carefully avoided panting from the long run.

"I'm not sure, sir. I can't connect to Earth." She looked up, concern mixed with frustration on her face. "I've tried several times. Either the Earth 'gate is broken, or it's in use right now."

"All right, we knew that might happen." Tony scanned the treeline. "We can't stay here, though. In a few minutes, we'll have Jaffa all over this clearing. Dial the Alpha Site instead."

"That's part of the problem, sir. I can't reach them either!"

There was a moment of silence, broken by another horn-call in the distance. Tony pushed down the panic rising in his stomach. "Desousa, you and Temens check the DHD and lines to the Stargate. If this 'gate is somehow broken, I need to know right now." He started reloading his P90. "Ahardt, cover the other side of the clearing. You see so much as a branch twitch, you let me know."

His team broke into motion. He was peripherally aware of Temens lifting the covering to the DHD and conversing quietly about the possibilities with Desousa. He focused on his breathing. Just like in training, he thought. Think about the goal, not the problem. Your team's counting on you.

"Heads up, we got incoming!" Ahardt spoke tersely before suddenly opening fire.

Tony stepped back and to the left, using the 'gate as partial cover, before joining him and firing. "We could use some good news about now, people."

Three Jaffa had stepped into the clearing. They had checked their advance when Ahardt opened up on them, but now had found cover and begun returning fire. From the shouts, more were on their way.

The situation was impossible. If they stayed, they'd be flanked and cut to pieces in minutes. Tony opened his mouth to order a retreat, but closed it when he heard the familiar grinding noise of the 'gate's inner ring moving. A few moments later, he could hear the rushing-water sound of a stable connection forming.

He didn't hesitate. "Get moving. I'm right behind you." With practiced ease, he pulled a grenade from his belt, pulled the pin and lobbed it across the clearing before getting behind the 'gate again. The explosion scattered the attackers, and he stepped through the shimmering event horizon after his team, before the Jaffa could regroup.

-.-

A blast of hot, dry air washed over the team as soon as they reached the other side. Tony reflexively shielded his eyes against the bright glare of a much closer sun overhead. Dry, dusty savannah stretched out in all directions. His team was on the ramp headed down from the 'gate, and seemed uninjured.

"Maybe I hit my head when I dived for cover back there," Ahardt murmured, "but this doesn't look like Stargate Command."

"No, it doesn't." Tony agreed. "Someone want to fill me in?"

Temens opened her mouth, but Desousa beat her to it. "We're on P3X-779, sir. I was here last year during my time with SG-9. It's uninhabited, has a stable environment, and the Goa'uld abandoned the planet a long time ago and have no reason to come back."

"Now that we've covered where we are, how about you tell me why?"

Temens cut in. "We were under fire, sir. We had to go somewhere! I didn't know anywhere safe, and Captain Desousa suggested here."

Tony looked around. As far as safe havens went, he admitted to himself, it could be a lot worse. He could see gently sloping hills less than a mile away, to this planet's north, he thought. "Try Earth from here. Maybe it was a glitch in Hovak's 'gate and we can finally dial in."

A few minutes of frustrated attempts later, to both Earth and the backup Alpha Site, and Temens gave up. "Why won't this work? It should be working!"

"Take it easy, Temens." Tony said. "We'll figure it out. In mean time, try P4C-989. SG-7 should be there babysitting a research team. I heard Lieutenant Avery whining about it last week."
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:30:15 AM by Daen »