Author Topic: Epilogue  (Read 7558 times)

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Offline Daen

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Epilogue
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:26:38 AM »
The blinking lights from the various Tok’ra consoles seemed to mirror Tony’s thoughts. Sitting in a corner of the… Martian bunker, he realized he was having difficulty concentrating. Every time he formed a coherent thought, he seemed to flash back to Hargrove’s ship, to staring down at the man. As he sat, he tried to say his prayers for Hargrove’s soul, and for the others. No matter what the man had done, or had become, he deserved that much. It was Hargrove’s love for his wife and son, after all, that had compelled him to let Tony and David go.

That look in Hargrove’s eyes had stuck with him. He’d believed what he was saying. Whatever he’d been preparing the Alliance for, it hadn’t been for his own personal power. Yet another way he’d been better than the Goa’uld he’d replaced.

With Siali’s help, Tony and David had been able to make it past the Kek’shara on the surface and through the ‘gate. After that, it had been easy enough to link up with Nelson and Avery, and to make it here to Mars. Just as it had during their rescue mission, the trip back seemed to blur together in his memory.

David had been able to retrieve some information from the ship’s computer, and he and Avery were intently going over it, but Nelson stepped away from them and sat next to him silently. For once, he didn’t seem to have anything to say.

Tony thought back over the many times Nelson had been a sounding board for him. "Is this the part of the mission where I tell you what we did wrong, and you tell me what we did right, to make me feel better?"

"Maybe we should switch, just this once."

Tony looked at him in surprise before remembering that he, too, had gone up against someone he used to know. "I know what you did back there is bothering you, Nelson. Just remember: your actions saved thousands of lives. You did what you did… because you had to."

"I’m sure that’s what Bokal told himself, too." Nelson retorted bitterly. "Wiping out the Goa’uld was just as personal for him as stopping him was for me!" He looked down at his hands. "He was probably the very last Tollan, and I killed him."

"He made his choice, Nelson! We can respect him for that, at least. He fought the Goa’uld for years, and he never gave up what it meant to be a Tollan in the process. He was probably the bravest one in their entire history. It’s fitting that he’d be the last one, too."

Nelson’s hands clenched. "You’re not very good at this whole ‘pep talk’ thing, you know."

Tony smiled sadly. "Sorry."

The others beckoned them over, and Tony wearily stood and helped Nelson up. He could see a galaxy map spread out on the display, with two stars highlighted, about half a galaxy apart.

"There wasn’t much in the ship’s database about Alliance tactics or technology," David reported, looking over one of his data devices, "but they’ve been searching for a very specific kind of planet for several years now." He looked up at the screen. "Apparently, out of several billion possibilities, these two were the only two planets that met all of the criteria. In this galaxy, at least."

Looking at the map, Tony noticed something curious. "Isn’t that Earth?"

David zoomed the map in. "No, but it’s practically in our back yard. This is Gliese 892. It’s only twenty-one light-years away."

"What were they looking for, exactly?"

"Well, for one thing, these planets have to have a certain mass." Avery spoke up. "About two-thirds that of Earth. But the tricky thing is, they also have to be loaded with naquadah. Over eighty percent of the total mass."

Tony whistled. "The Goa’uld would have mined them to pieces if they found either one. Is that what the Alliance was doing?"

"No. In fact from what we can tell, the Alliance found them, detonated some kind of explosive near each one, and then just left them alone!"

"Here’s the kicker." David continued for him. "The explosives they set off were actually made from naquadria."

A hush fell on them all.

The naquadria derivative of naquadah was probably the most dangerous substance humanity had ever come across. It was so unstable that making ships out of it was risky, but naquadria bombs were… terrifyingly powerful.

"Are you sure?" Tony asked quietly.

"Dead sure. They had detailed analyses of the mineral, and it matches everything the Tok’ra, and probably the SGC, know about naquadria."

"Ok, but that doesn’t make any sense." Nelson finally spoke. "They could have set off a chain reaction. Why risk turning such a valuable planet into a big ball of fire? And how did they even know about naquadria in the first place? We found out about it almost by accident, and we haven’t exactly spread that information around."

"Pierson knew." Tony said softly. "He must have told Hargrove everything he needed to know about naquadria to make this happen."

Nelson grimaced.

"We think we know why they did it, actually." Avery said. "We think the explosions were meant to start a conversion process inside the planets. If you bombard naquadah with a certain kind of particles, you can transform it into naquadria. You may remember, the process nearly blew up one of our allies’ planets last year. That explains why they wanted small planets, too. If they tried to convert a normal-sized planet, the heat and pressure in the core would detonate the naquadria before the conversion was complete."

Tony thought back over what little he knew about the conversion process. "But it takes time, right? Years, if I remember."

"That’s right." David confirmed. "Based on when they did this, it’ll be several years before they can start… whatever it is they’re planning with these planets."

"That gives us time, at least. Whatever they have planned, you can be sure that Hargrove arranged it, and that it has something to do with the Soma Voco."

He looked over at the device in the middle of the room, and they all followed his gaze. Despite everything it had been through over the years, the silvery cylinder seemed just as untouched as the first time he’d seen it.

"I can use my Tok’ra connections to let them know about these planets, under the table." David said in the background. "They’ll never know that we were responsible for finding them." He paused. "Do you want me to do the same for the SV? They can study it, and possibly find out how to duplicate it."

"No." Tony realized his tone was unnecessarily harsh, and tried to calm himself. "Whatever that thing really is, it influenced and drove Hargrove. Possibly into creating the Alliance itself!" Purposefully stepping over to their equipment, he retrieved the zat gun and aimed it. "I don’t know exactly why I brought it back with me. Maybe I just wanted to make sure it was destroyed. All I do know is, it’s caused enough suffering already. I’m not willing to risk any more."

He carefully fired three shots into it, and peripherally saw Nelson wince at each one. Tendrils of electricity raced across the SV as expected before it vanished, leaving nothing but a wisp of smoke behind.

"Hargrove told me something, before he… died." Tony spoke into the silence. "Before I killed him," he forced himself to clarify. "He said that we couldn’t stop him. That even killing him and destroying the SV would only slow down the Alliance."

He looked around at his friends. "We crossed a line today, doing this all by ourselves. Some of us more than others," he added, nodding at Nelson. "I want to thank you all, for doing this with me. For what you’ve risked, and what you’ve lost, but most of all for what we’ve managed to accomplish here. Thank you."

As they gathered up their gear and dialed the ‘gate home, Nelson sidled up next to him. "You know, you might be getting a little better at pep talks. Just a little." He kept his voice low.

Tony gave him another small smile. "I had a good teacher."

-.-

The drive home was quiet, for the most part. The sun was rising ahead, giving Tony a brilliant view of the city below as he steered downhill. Street signs, other cars, even the road itself seemed somehow… different, though. Just as things had seemed in the SGC after the barriers had fallen.

No, everything’s the same. Tony told himself. I’m what’s different now.

Beside him, Nelson stared aimlessly out the car window. They’d dropped off the other two at their own cars, but Nelson’s was in the shop again. His eyes seemed to be reflexively tracking other cars, but not actually focusing on anything.

Eventually Nelson stirred, and looked over at him. "Are we there yet?"

Tony smiled slightly. "I think you and I still have a long way to go, Nelson."

"Yeah, I get that. I still can’t stop thinking about… all of it." He clenched his fists for a second. "I mean, how do I come back from something like this? How do you?" He shook his head. "I just want things to be normal again!"

"They will be," Tony assured him. "Eventually. But I find it helps to focus on what hasn’t changed. The people in our lives, the jobs we should probably get back to now." He gave Nelson a sidelong glance. "The jokes we have to eventually start telling again."

Nelson gave him a sharp glance, before nodding reluctantly. "I guess."

"And most importantly right now-" Tony slowed down and maneuvered into his driveway- "the roles we still have to play, whether they’re real or imagined, Uncle Nelson."

As they stepped out of the car, Tony could see that some of the party guests had already arrived. Julia was on the front steps checking the birthday banner above the door, and Syl was inside, already chatting with her friends.

Whatever Hargrove had planned would have to wait. He had a more important job right now. Giving Nelson an encouraging glance, Tony squared his shoulders and went in to be with his family. Above him, Sylvia’s favorite bird was sitting in its nest in the front yard's oak tree, content and asleep.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 04:41:05 AM by Daen »