Chapter 2: Old Frenemies
SUMMARY: The boys are called back to the SGC for some unpleasant news.
Jack rubbed his hands together as he drove home. The thought wouldn’t leave him: How the hell does this strength thing work all the time? Do I have to be careful with Daniel and Jason? Do I have to concentrate on it instead of concentrating on them?
Alternately . . .
Can I bend this tire iron? What about fixing a tire? Can I lift the truck? Will I break the weight set? Will I send the puck into the next neighborhood? Or stratosphere?
His phone rang in the middle of his questionnaire and he swiped. “Daniel.”
“Jack? Why aren’t you waiting for one of us to drive you home?”
“Because I . . . grew impatient.”
“We were getting pizza.”
“Yeah,” Jack said, wincing. “I know.”
“Dog house,” came Jason’s voice.
“Bite me,” Jack said, and turned down the street toward their house. Their huge house. It was, technically, a mansion. And he loved the hell out of it every time he drove up to the circular driveway. All those years saving money was worth it. Having two partners who also saved made it possible. No, not partners. Husbands. Not legally. He sighed. He could marry one of them and . . .
Jack shook his head, imagining an etch-a-sketch. His thoughts were all over the place. And he was ignoring those very same husbands. He looked down. They’d hung up. He winced again. The phone rang again and he answered without looking who the caller was. He didn’t need to. He’d set the SGC’s ringtone to The Empire music from Star Wars.
“O’Neill,” he said, putting it on speaker.
“Sorry, Jack,” said Hammond, “but you have to come back. Jacob’s come by. The Tok’ra need our help.”
“Well, sh. . .inola.”
“See you in twenty.”
“Yes sir,” Jack said, detecting amusement in Hammond’s voice. But Jack wasn’t amused. After hanging up he said, loudly, “Shit!”
Heading straight to the Briefing Room, Jack found Jason and Daniel already there. With two pizza boxes on the table, paper plates served around, and Jacob in the middle of taking a folded bite. Jack grinned despite his annoyance at having to deal with the Tok’ra again.
“Nice to see ya,” he said and pulled out the chair he always took. The first chair to the right of the head of the table, the side facing Hammond’s office. Said General was on the phone, probably on the phone getting permission to do whatever fool thing the Tok’ra wanted. Before sitting, he grabbed a slice of pizza and bit into it as he sat down. His favorite combo topping: pepperoni and hamburger with jalapenos, onions, and . . . pineapple.
“Not bad,” Jacob said, swallowing his mouthful. “Cuts the heat down slightly.”
“It’s revolting,” Jason said, with Daniel nodding. “It’s why he gets a full pizza all to himself when we have pizza night.”
Jacob blinked and Selmak said, “I concur. It’s revolting.” He blinked again and Jacob said, “My body, my rules.”
Jason burst out laughing while Jack and Daniel only grinned.
Jack was about to engage in a little backbiting about symbiotes when Hammond saved Jacob from having to listen to it by entering the room. Moving around the table, he took a slice of pizza from the second carton: Sausage, olive, and mushroom. “Jacob, we have the green light. While we wait for Teal’c and Major Carter, how’re things going with the Tok’ra?” He then took a small bite of his revised dinner plans. Jacob began talking and since the conversation involved the Tok’ra, Jack mostly tuned him out.
The reason was that something was off. Since when did Hammond allow food in the Briefing Room when a guest showed up with important news? On the table by the observation window sat bottles of water, coke, sprite, and iced tea. Despite his misgiving, Jack rose to grab an iced tea. Twisting off the cap, he took a long pull before sitting down.
“Jack?” Daniel asked just as Sam and Teal’c entered the room.
“Oh, pizza!” Sam exclaimed. “Drinks. Excellent.”
Teal’c frowned and gave Jack a look.
“Don’t look at me. I’m almost to the point of believing that I’m actually passed out in the infirmary and this is a very vivid dream.”
“Jack?” Jacob asked.
Jack waved at the table, looking at Hammond. “Since when is this allowed?”
“Since I’ve been tasked with another five years as commander of this base,” Hammond said with as much dryness as possible.
Daniel made a face. “The request didn’t go through huh?” Hammond shook his head. Jack gave Daniel a querying look. “I asked a few weeks back. He’s passed his retirement deadline.”
“You have?” Jack asked the General, brows rising.
“I’m a bit torn, to be honest,” Hammond said. “I feel a great responsibility in commanding this base. And truth be told . . .” He nodded to an SF by the door. “Please close the door, airman.” The guard did so. Hammond jerked his chin at the staircase and since Jack was still standing, he walked over and looked down.
“All of you are aware of the need to create a secondary home.” There were nods all around. And they were interrupted by a knock on the door.
The SF opened it and said, “Sir, the other members of SG-2 are here.”
“Send them in and close the door behind them.”
Jason’s teammates came in, saw the pizza, but went for their seats around the table.
Hammond gestured at the food. “Help yourselves, gentlemen.”
Once examining the toppings, they each took a sausage slice while Jason’s XO, Major Alex Wagner, handed out Cokes. “Sorry, sir,” he said to Hammond.
“Quite alright. I took the opportunity to gather my thoughts.” Jacob snorted, making Hammond grin. “As I was saying, and gentlemen . . .” He looked at Jason’s teammates, “Mums the word. As I was saying, we need a second home, just in case our enormous hubris results in a catastrophe perpetrated by the Goa’uld or someone else. So steps have been taken with help from the Asgard. There’s a planet in their home galaxy, untouched by the Replicators, which is a smaller replica of Earth. The Brass and I have named it Omega-Iota. In English, it loosely translates as The Last Detail. The plan is to send a scientific party to investigate the planet. Given that we need all our ships here in this galaxy, this recon mission will have to wait until our new line of battlecruisers has finished.”
“New line?” Jack asked.
“Phoenix. The technical name is the X304 Battle class.”
“Appropriate for a new home,” Daniel said.
“That’s what I was thinking, Doctor,” Hammond said.
But Daniel knew there was more he wasn’t saying. He couldn’t read Hammond’s mind but he could read the man’s emotions. Ever since the vampire Adriann had altered his mind, allowing him to read Ill Intent in others, the unforeseen complication emerged: Daniel was now a full empath. And he hated it. He wanted to go back to just the Ill Intent version. Unfortunately, Adriann couldn’t take the power away.
Daniel suspected that the change occurred due to his being a Tau’ri human. Figuratively speaking, there was something in the water that made the Tau’ri different and Daniel had privately speculated that it could be blamed on the Ancients’ meddling with their DNA. Or perhaps there were more descendants of the goddess Morrighan than she realized.
Daniel refocused his thoughts on the present issue. He waited until an exchange between Hammond and Jacob reached a lull and he asked, primarily in a dry tone, “I take it that the Tok’ra have a job that requires our special attention?”
“For cryin’ out loud, really?” Jack asked Jacob.
Jacob gave Jack a flat look, then he asked Daniel, “What do you know about an Egyptian being named Seti Ptah?”
Daniel blinked. “There is no pharaoh or Egyptian figure with that particular combination of names. Specifically—”
“Here we go,” Jack said.
Daniel sniffed. It said, Fuck you, Jack, I’m ignoring you. “Ptah is an ancient Egyptian deity, a creator god and patron of craftsmen and architects. In the triad of Memphis, he is the husband of Sekhmet and the father of Nefertem—whom we sort of ran into with the Bedrosians, who believed they were descendants of Nefertem.”
“Oy,” Jack said with a sigh.
“Ptah was also regarded as the father of the sage priest, Imhotep.”
“Ah, how well we knew thee,” Jack said, giving Teal’c a grin. The Jaffa gave him a bow of his head and returned the slight smile.
“As for Seti,” Daniel went on. “Menmaatre Seti I was the second pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt during the New Kingdom period, ruling circa 1294 or 1290 BCE to 1279 BCE. He was the son of Ramesses I and Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II. The name ‘Seti’ means “of Set”, which means he was consecrated to the god Set. He might have been a high priest or literal First Prime to the Goa’uld, Set. Regarding Ptah, Set’s better-known nomen, or birth name, is transliterated as sty mry-n-ptḥ or Sety Merenptah, meaning ‘Man of Set, beloved of Ptah’.”
“Bottom line, Doctor?” Hammond asked.
Daniel looked at Jacob. “I take it this Seti Ptah is a Goa’uld?”
Jacob nodded. “And a System Lord as old as Ba’al and Yu. But he separated himself from the other System Lords. Or as we colorfully say on Earth, he ‘went rogue.’”
“Lovely,” Jack said. “What’s he up to that requires our so-called ‘special attention’?”
“Ya’ll are aware that the Tollan survived Anubis and Tanith’s assault on Tollana?” Jacob asked.
“We are,” Hammond said.
“We have a few operatives on Tollana II, their new homeworld, there to keep an eye on any Goa’uld that might want to take over the planet. They’re still on good terms with The Nox and they received a communique from a representative asking for help.” Jacob paused.
“And?” Jack asked.
“The Nox have relatives known as the Nialla. They’ve contacted the Tollan to ask for aid in getting rid of Seti Ptah, who has subjugated the race and taken up shop.”
“They don’t have the same powers as the Nox?” Sam asked.
“Apparently not, or they haven’t made use of them,” Jacob went on. “They’re agrarian, like the Nox, and that’s all we know of them. The Tollan didn’t see the need to ask a lot of questions.”
“Oy,” Jack repeated.
“And they contacted the Tok’ra why? Can’t they handle the aid themselves? Why bring us into it?” Sam asked.
“We . . .” Jacob began.
Jack eyed him. “We’re expendable. So this green light means we’re going in to kill the snake and his Jaffa.”
“That’s the end game,” Hammond nodded. He gave Jacob a sour look. “But I must state very clearly that I don’t consider my people expendable. Period.”
“Nor do I, George,” Jacob said with a curt nod. “But I operate in a hierarchy, just as you do. These are my orders. To request assistance from the Tau’ri.”
Jason snorted. “The Tollan are in for a big surprise in that arena, given the upgrade to our standard-issue weapons.”
“Massive upgrade,” Alex said with a nod.
Jacob raised his eyebrows as he looked at Jason, then Alex, and finally Hammond. “Upgrade?”
Hammond gave him a grim smile. “My repeated urgent request for better armament has finally been granted, primarily because Area 51 finished their weapons production facility and have sent over a compliment of new arms.”
Jack echoed the grim smile. “No more P90s, M16 rifles, 9-millimeter sidearms, and standard shrapnel grenades.”
“I didn’t know the shipment came through this soon,” Daniel said, brows rising.
“This is awesome,” Jason said. “But don’t we need to test out on the range before we deploy with it?”
“We do,” Hammond said and raised a hand at Jacob when the latter opened his mouth to presumably protest. “Sorry, Jacob. Protocol must be adhered to.”
The table was silent for a few long seconds before Teal’c chimed in. “What is the tactical data for this mission?” he asked Jacob.
The answer came from Selmak, who withdrew a small metallic orb from an inside pocket of his brown leather vest. “We do, but it is limited. I am not comfortable with this and have pressed our operatives for more information. I am awaiting a more thorough answer. Here is what we do have.” He set the orb on the center of the table and clicked a tiny button.
Overhead, a holographic map appeared in full color. It showed an island just off a continent, with transposed labels giving the names of locations. Selmak pointed a stylus at the orb and the map was zoomed out to show a very small planet.
“This is all we have at the present time,” Selmak said, and then Jacob retook control and added, “It’s not adequate, to say the least. We have little information on the number of Jaffa, where they’re stationed, and where Seti is located at all hours of the day . . . which I might add is only 21 hours.”
“Unacceptable. We can’t walk into a situation with unknown threats. We need further vectors,” Jack said. “I’m not walking into a mass of unknown factors that’ll end up getting my people killed.”
“I agree,” Hammond said. “We need more intelligence, Jacob. Make sure the operatives, if they haven’t been compromised, get us the information we need. Now, explain what we do have, according to this map.”
“It looks like a D and D RPG battlemap,” said Captain Koffman.
“A what?” asked Hammond, Jacob, and Carter.
“A fantasy map for role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons,” Daniel clarified unhelpfully.
Jack eyed him. “Like that explained why you said it looked like a D and D map.”
Daniel got up and went to the far end of the table where there was stationed a dry-erase board and he picked up a long pointing tool. Extending it, he came back to his seat and pointed at references on the map. “This,” he said, pointing to a building labeled Seti’s Quarters. “This is a stylized version of an elven house. These,” he continued, pointing to several round domes, “are stylized versions of elven rooftops.”
“None of which have markers telling us where the Jaffa are stationed, what armaments they have, and where they’re situated. The stargate looks unmanned. That’s unlikely unless this Seti is so arrogant that he doesn’t believe they’re necessary.”
“It’s an unacceptable unknown,” Jacob said, “which is why we have to ‘gate to Tollana and take a ship from there. We can’t approach this, intel or no intel, by ‘gate.” He gave Hammond and Jack an apologetic look. “Selmak and I emphasized the need for more information and I agree that we shouldn’t go until we have it. I don’t believe our operatives have been compromised but it’s not out of the question. So far, they haven’t behaved as if they were.”
“Aside from the lackluster evidence gathering,” Jack said sourly. “They ought to know the info needed for any incursion unless the Tok’ra council sent in newbs.”
“We’re low in numbers,” Selmak said. “We’ve suffered a few losses thanks to Ba’al. The council, therefore, sent in regular human operatives instead of Tok’ra.”
“Cannon fodder,” Jason said, frowning. “I thought they valued their people better than that.”
“We’re still fighting a war,” Selmak answered. “It means operations have to be selective and only those who aren’t already in place elsewhere are available on short notice. Lately, only human spies who have Tok’ra as family have signed on to the cause.”
Jack grimaced. “That sucks.”
Selmak matched the grimace. “Indeed.”
Jason held up a placating hand. “I meant no offense, Selmak. I apologize for sounding unnecessarily critical.”
Selmak gave a slight smile. “Accepted but unnecessary. You have not said anything that I myself have not already aired to the council.”
“So . . .” Daniel began. “We wait?”
“We wait,” Jack said but grimaced with an apology toward Jacob/Selmak.
“We wait,” Jacob said. “This meeting is, in fact, to get the foundation set. Rescuing the Nox’s cousins from a System Lord.” He made a face. “I’ve already aired the obvious to the council: why the hell aren’t the Nox taking care of this issue themselves? The aggravating answer is that they don’t get involved.”
For the third time, Jack said “Oy,” but he combined it with pinching the bridge of his nose. “For such an advanced race, you’d think they’d take care of their own.”
“That’s sort of the problem,” Jacob said. “The Tollan wondered the same thing and the answer from the Nox representative was, ‘We offered to move them to a shielded sky city but they preferred to remain in their land-based homes.’ They didn’t elaborate why the ground dwellings couldn’t be shielded.”
“Maybe they’re harder to cloak,” Daniel offered.
“Possibly,” Jacob said. “In any case, they need our assistance.” He stood up. “I’ll need to send a message to the council.”
“I’ll join you,” Hammond said.
After a moment’s hesitation, Jacob grabbed another slice of pizza.
Once they left the room, Jason said in a low voice, “This is such horseshit. How typical of them to use us as cannon fodder, never mind their own people.”
“The Tok’ra?” Jack asked.
“I know, I know,” Jack said. Then leaned over and grabbed another slice of pizza leaving only two left from both boxes.
“So . . . our quarters here or home?” Daniel asked.
Jack made a growling sound. “I’ll ask. Hang tight.” He went downstairs and came back up a minute later. “Home,” he said with relief.
“Awesome,” Sam said and pulled out her phone. “Hey, Jan. Heading home. Dinner’s where, I forget? Yeah, but don’t we . . .” Her voice faded as she hurried out of the room, leaving the boys behind.
Al and the fourth member of Jason’s team, Staff Sergeant Connor McCaffrey, were right behind and Alex hung back. “Need me to do anything?” he asked Jason, who shook his head.
“Tell Cari I said ‘hey.’”
Alex gave him an index finger salute and left, calling after his teammates to wait up.
“I thought they broke up,” Daniel said to Jason.
“Yeah, a few times. It’s never been about how they feel toward each other. It’s always been the job.”
“Put up or shut up,” Jack quipped, meaning to make it work or quit it for good. He then gave his husbands one of his sex-on-legs grins. “We did.”
Daniel groaned and said low so the SF by the door didn’t hear him. “Here I thought we were going home to clean. Now we’re having sex instead? There’s not enough time.” Jack and Jason gave him meaningful stares. “You know I don’t like threesome quickies.”
Jason snorted. “Since when?”
“If we get the go-ahead, it may be a while before we get to be together again. I want this time to last. Don’t tell me you don’t feel the same.” He cleared his throat. “I can tell, remember?”
Jason glowered and looked at Jack peevishly. “Jesus. We can’t even fake that teasing shit anymore. I gotta bone to pick with Adriann.”
“Get in line,” Jack said and followed his husbands out of the room.
To be continued in Pyramid 1, Chapter 3: Hurry Up & Wait.