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Fanfiction: Never Ending Cycle - Part II

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Never Ending Cycle

Fade into Night

Jack lowered the monocular. He had kept pace with the Jaffa when they had picked up Elliot. Someone had needed to ensure Elliot went through with the plan or to be a back up if something went wrong. Not only that, but the timing was going to be a nightmare. Once the poison hit and dissipated, the others would need to haul ass to the gate to leave and that meant having someone on point to tell them when. Jack had simply told the others it was going to be him. Jacob and Teal’c had been out given their symbiotes anyway; Daniel was far too conspicuous in the strange get-up he’d been dressed in and Carter…

She had protested and when he’d held firm, she had requested permission to accompany him. He had denied it. She was pissed but he couldn’t do anything about that. He didn’t doubt that she wouldn’t allow her emotional connection to the symbiote that occupied Elliot to endanger the mission knowingly but she had been a mess when she had originally believed she had killed Martouf during the whole za’tarc thing and he preferred not to risk her Jolinar remnants making an appearance. Luckily, Jacob had been unable to confirm whether the poison would affect Carter given the protein marker and naquadah in her blood. She’d subsided after that. Jack hadn’t wasted any more time debating it.

He had hidden and waited until the Jaffa had found Elliot; followed the Jaffa back to the base camp. Teal’c had been right; getting in undetected was almost impossible despite his years of covert surveillance. He had found a vantage point overlooking the camp. It had some cover, and he had scrambled into it, hiding himself with dirt, branches and leaves.

Jack raised the monocular again. He could see them lowering the stretcher in front of the Stargate. It wasn’t right. The young Lieutenant had deserved better than for his first mission to go totally FUBAR. Bad enough that the Goa’uld had attacked; bad enough that Elliot had lost his team; bad enough that he’d gotten snaked even if it was a Tok’ra…Jack winced. Bad enough that Elliot was going to die to give them a chance to live.

He hated losing people. Hated it. It was the worst part of the job. Commanding meant sending people into battle; into war. Sometimes they came home; a lot of the time they didn’t. Jack knew that was the way it was. His jaw tensed. It didn’t mean that he had to like it though and he hated it most when they lost someone like Elliot; young and full of promise. The Lieutenant had the makings of a fine officer; he needed seasoning, toughening up, experience to guard against the over-thinking. Elliot wouldn’t ever achieve that though; wouldn’t ever grow into the man and soldier he could become.

Such a waste, Jack thought sadly. Yet he was proud of Elliot. The Lieutenant had coped admirably with the mission all things considered. He had kept his head up during the initial bombardments; helped Mansfield. He’d stayed conscious and ensured he’d relayed the information from Lantash that they needed to escape the tunnels and change the transmitter message. And Elliot’s last act was one of heroism; it took courage and bravery to face death.

Jack pulled a face. He had agreed to deliver Elliot’s last message for his family and it was a promise he would keep. He dreaded it. He knew only too well what it felt like to lose a child; to see the promise of that child gone forever. A parent never recovered no matter what the circumstance. Life would go on but with a part of it constantly missing; constantly aching.

Moreover, his heart had sank when Elliot had made the request because Jack knew it was fine line between accepting the reality that death was inevitable and giving up. But as much as Jack had wanted to deny it he’d known if Elliot was going to survive the symbiote would have already healed him. His lips twisted. Carter had been vague about how Lantash had got into Elliot and he rather suspected he didn’t want to know the detail. Maybe the symbiote had been trying to do the right thing; maybe. Jack knew Selmak had saved Jacob, and Jack had liked Marty enough to give Lantash the benefit of the doubt but his mind kept creeping back to Carter’s experience with Jolinar. He shook himself slightly. There was a part of Jack that couldn’t lose the suspicion that when it came right down to it the Tok’ra were still snakes.

A sudden cry from the camp grabbed Jack’s attention and he hastily yanked his attention back to the mission. The sight through the monocular was grotesque; the Jaffa were falling, clutching their bellies where the Goa’uld pouch resided. Jack checked on Elliot. The Lieutenant was perfectly still. He’d gone. Jack didn’t know how he knew, he just did. Elliot was dead and he was taking the Jaffa army with him.

Jack lowered the monocular and huddled into the ground. Two gliders appeared early on; descending out of the sky like metal eagles. They buzzed the camp and left. The Goa’uld checking on what had happened on the ground probably when he lost contact, Jack surmised. He hoped the evidence that the poison had been used would force him to leave. The Goa’uld couldn’t be certain how long the poison would last after all. Jack didn’t know how many more hours passed. He listened as the moans and cries grew as the poison spread; as the Jaffas’ lives seeped away with the loss of their symbiotes. It seemed like forever until the camp was silent.

He raised the monocular. The bodies of the Jaffa littered the camp. There was an eerie silence and a shiver ran through him. He hated biological warfare. There was something insidious about killing people so easily.

Jack reached for his radio. ‘Carter; this is O’Neill. Come in.’

‘Sir.’

‘Area looks clear. What does Jacob say about the life span of this thing?’ Jack said briskly.

There was a brief pause – she was probably conferring with her father, Jack mused.

‘Carter.’

‘Sir, Selmak is certain we should be OK to proceed to the gate.’ Carter radioed back.

‘Roger that. I’ll clear the way.’ Jack signed off and made his way cautiously into the camp. Dead bodies were everywhere. It was a massacre. It was just one more nightmare to add to the others. He kept his gun poised and kept alert just in case. But nothing moved; nothing stirred.

Jack felt his skin crawling; a primal urgency shooting through him to leave. He pushed it down and focused on the job. It didn’t take him long to get to the Stargate. He knelt beside Elliot.

There was a grey cast to Eliot’s cold skin; his eyes were lifeless. Jack reached out and gently closed them. He snagged Elliot’s dog tags and took them. As much as he wanted to take Elliot home, they couldn’t risk it between the presence of the symbiote and the poison. Jack sighed. Elliot had deserved better. Elliot’s parents deserved better than to bury an empty box. He got to his feet and headed for the DHD to wait for the others.

o-O-o

Teal’c was exactly where Daniel had suspected he would be; on the top of the mountain watching the sunset. The Jaffa sat away from the door, crossed legged on the grass. His back was straight; his face turned away to the sun. There was a solemnity about Teal’c; a reverence in the way that he watched the colours bleed across the sky. He seemed undisturbed by the cold chill that had traced goose-bumps across the dark skin of his naked forearms; the way the moisture from the grass seeped into his heavy BDU pants.

Daniel didn’t speak. He dropped to sit beside his team mate without a word. He focused on the sunset. On the orange ball falling into the horizon leaving behind streaks of pink and red as the sky shifted from blue to violet.

For the first time since they had arrived back through the wormhole, worn and heart-sore, with not only the failure of the mission to report but the destruction of Revanna, the loss of a SG team, and the rise of a new Goa’uld, Daniel felt his body relax. The tension drained out of him.

He had failed.

He accepted that inescapable fact. He had failed. Twice over. The mission had always been outside of his comfort zone. He had killed Goa’uld before. He had sent a bomb to Ra; had shot up an entire tank of them in anger. But it wasn’t his usual path, Daniel mused. He had questioned whether he could live with effectively being an assassin. He hadn’t been certain that he could do it; hadn’t been certain even with the vial in his hand and the time of reckoning upon him. He had used Sarah’s arrival to delay.

Could he have killed her? Daniel still wasn’t sure. He had wanted another way – had been desperate for something to save her. He needed to save her where he had failed to save Sha’re. Maybe some of it was guilt that Sarah had been caught up in his world. Intellectually, he knew it wasn’t his fault but on some level, he blamed himself for not telling Sarah of the danger. Maybe it also had something to do with the leftover regret from his relationship with Sarah. He hadn’t loved Sarah enough; he hadn’t loved her as much as he had loved Sha’re. In the end, he wasn’t sure what drove him to save her – to make up for what he had failed to do with Sha’re or to make up for the failed boyfriend he had once been to Sarah.

When she had spoken about Anubis he had felt so much relief flood through his body that it had been a wonder that he could stand. He’d had a valid reason not to kill her. But he had still failed to save her and that smarted more than the failure of his mission to eliminate the System Lords.

In truth he was pleased it had failed. The Tok’ra’s plan seemed too entirely genocidal to Daniel; too blasé about the collateral damage they would create in the wake of using the symbiote poison. Which brought him neatly to the reason why he had sought out Teal’c.

Their use of the symbiote poison on Revanna had been a necessity but the devastation it had caused had been unspeakable. The camp had been a field of corpses. So many Jaffa had lain dead. Teal’c had taken one step and stopped. His gaze had travelled over each warrior and Daniel had seen sorrow swim in his dark eyes. It had been a moment of complete clarity for Daniel that the Tok’ra had been wrong to consider using the poison without considering the impact on the Jaffa.

The sun disappeared and left behind the soft purple of early evening. Daniel breathed in the air; the crisp freshness rushing through his lungs.

‘I’m sorry, Teal’c.’ Daniel said softly. ‘For the loss of your people.’

Teal’c didn’t move. ‘The symbiote poison is most effective.’

‘I don’t think we should use it.’ Daniel said clearly. ‘Not until we have a firm plan for helping the Jaffa be free of the symbiotes.’

‘Bra’tac has spoken to me of a new Jaffa rebel leader.’ Teal’c commented. ‘One who is gaining some success in attracting more Jaffa to our cause; to fight for freedom. Yet I fear we will not be truly free until our bodies can be sustained without them.’ He inclined his head. ‘I had not considered the Tok’ra’s plan beyond the elimination of the System Lords.’

‘I don’t think the Tok’ra had really considered their plan beyond the elimination of the System Lords.’ Daniel commented wryly. He pulled at the laces on his boots.

‘You were wise to refrain from killing them given the return of Anubis.’ Teal’c said.

Daniel shrugged. ‘In all honesty, Teal’c, I just wanted to save Sarah.’

‘An understandable ambition.’ Teal’c commented.

‘One that I failed to accomplish.’ Daniel sighed heavily. ‘I never seem to make a difference.’

Teal’c finally turned to look at him. ‘I do not believe that to be the case, Daniel Jackson.’

‘You know why I decided to take the mission, Teal’c?’ Daniel blurted out. ‘I took the mission because I thought; this is it. This is my chance to really make a difference. Wipe out the System Lords; break the Goa’uld hold over the galaxy.’ He sighed. ‘But when it came down to it, I couldn’t do it. I’m not sure I could have done it even if Sarah hadn’t turned up; and if I had…I’m not sure I could have lived with myself.’

‘It was a most difficult mission.’ Teal’c murmured.

Daniel pulled a face and glanced at his team mate. ‘You knew I would hate it.’

‘I knew you would prefer another way.’ Teal’c countered. ‘That is not a bad thing, Daniel Jackson.’

‘I think about Elliot and I wonder if I could do what he did.’ Daniel murmured. ‘Whether I could face death the way he did to save others but knowing that I would kill so many in dying.’

‘I am certain you are capable of facing death to save others, Daniel Jackson.’ Teal’c said firmly. ‘You have already done so on many occasions.’

‘But taking out so many with me?’ Daniel shook his head. ‘I don’t know.’

‘He performed with honour.’ Teal’c said.

Daniel didn’t say anything more. He hoped whichever God Elliot believed in would weigh his soul and judge him the same way. He had been so young.

They sat for a while in the night air; the company and the silence both appreciated.

‘Has Colonel O’Neill departed?’ Teal’c asked eventually.

‘Yeah.’ Daniel winced. He didn’t envy Jack his responsibility for informing Elliot’s family; for tap-dancing around the truth of what had happened to give them the core essence of it; that their son had saved their lives with his death. ‘I offered to go with him but…I think he needed to do it alone.’

‘He holds himself responsible for the death of Elliot and the rest of SG17.’ Teal’c noted. ‘Yet he could not know of Anubis’s plan to attack the Tok’ra base.’

‘You know Jack.’ Daniel commented. The military man was incredibly protective of those under his command and Daniel knew he felt each loss. Elliot was a difficult one to come to terms with; the circumstances, their involvement in his training, the sacrifice the young officer had made.

‘Major Carter must have also volunteered to accompany O’Neill.’ Teal’c surmised out loud.

‘She did.’ Daniel grimaced. ‘She was denied permission by Hammond. I think everyone’s worried she’s going to turn all Jolinar on us again like she did after she thought she had killed Martouf.’

‘It is good Jacob Carter chose to remain on Earth.’ Teal’c commented.

‘I don’t there’s any place for him to go back to.’ Daniel said sadly. ‘He contacted the Tok’ra; they’re evacuating all their bases. They figure if Anubis knew the location of Revanna…’ he shrugged and looked over at Teal’c. ‘What do you know about Anubis?’

‘Only that he was exiled long ago for crimes against the System Lords.’ Teal’c answered promptly. ‘Until now he was believed dead.’

‘That’s what Selmak said.’ Daniel said.

Teal’c nodded sagely. ‘For many years, he has been a monster to frighten young Jaffa into good behaviour. Anubis was among the most feared of the original Goa’uld.’

‘You think he was the Goa’uld Tanith wouldn’t name back on Tollana?’ Daniel wondered out loud.

‘It is possible.’ Teal’c said. ‘Tanith was weak; he would need to ally with a stronger Goa’uld.’

A breeze brushed over them, disturbing Daniel’s hair. He patted it back into place and got to his feet. ‘I’m, ah, going to head in. Get some sleep.’ He murmured.

Teal’c inclined his head but made no move to follow.

Daniel nodded understandingly and headed for the door. He wasn’t sure he would be able to sleep between Anubis, Sarah and the failed mission but his body ached with tiredness. He took one final look at the sky. He had failed his mission but he somehow felt that maybe, just maybe, he had saved his soul.

o-O-o

Selmak stared out at the night sky through the den window. Jacob had acquiesced to her need to stay awake; to wander silently through his daughter’s house. He had ended up making a drink of hot chocolate and sitting in a large comfy chair by the window.

They had managed to contact Garshaw to raise the alarm. If Anubis had somehow found out the location of Revanna then it was clear their other bases were equally at risk. The Tok’ra were evacuating not even to secondary locations but planets they had not even previously considered. Selmak had convinced Jacob they should spend a few days on Earth. There was no point rejoining only to simply spend the next few days running especially given their injuries in the crash. It would be good to stay and finish their healing. It was getting harder for Selmak to heal her host; a sign of her age. She was getting old.

She heard the names of the constellations drift through their shared thoughts as Jacob recognised one star formation after another. A memory floated into being: Jacob sat with his wife and two children outside in the cold night air; a simple house behind them. He and Kathy were teaching Mark and Sam the names of the stars; childish fingers pointed upwards, their eyes bright with wonder. It was a treasured memory and Selmak treasured it too; holding it close like a warm blanket to soothe her.

Let yourself grieve, Selmak, Jacob chided her gently.

If I start I’m not sure I’ll stop, Selmak responded sadly. They had lost so many at Revanna. It wasn’t the first such loss that she had endured in her life and she doubted with the news of Anubis’s return that it would be the last. She had long since stopped being attached to places. The life of a Tok’ra was a life on the run. She envied Jacob his sense of home when they returned to Earth, welcomed his admonishment that it was her home too since they were joined. Revanna though had signified a new hope with the loss of Apophis and their move from Vorash.

It’s not the place you grieve for, Jacob said quietly.

No; not the place. Selmak acknowledged the truth. She grieved for the loss of her kin. So many deaths. Ren-al, Aldwin, Andor, Viro, Lantash…the list was endless. Three of the Council had perished along with the rest. Hiku, one of her oldest and dearest friends…it had been Hiku who had taught Jacob the customs of Yu’s court. Her host, Pila had been a concubine there. Hiku’s former host, Leon, had been Saroosh’s lover and the two symbiotes had remained close ever since. Sorrow surged through Selmak and Jacob did his best to comfort her silently.

His grief was muted; couched in less familiarity with those who had died. There was regret for Aldwin who had been a good friend to them and for Ren-al and Hiku who they had worked with so closely on the plan. There was more regret for Lantash; Jacob had been truly fond of him.

I am sorry they all died, Selmak, Jacob said, sensing her thoughts. Your grief is mine.

I know, Selmak assured him. And so it was; just as his was hers. All tangled together with the fragile intricacy of a spider’s web. She sighed inwardly. She had known some better than others though; some had remained distant and mere acquaintances. She had known them all though; the curse and gift of being the oldest among them.

Selmak figured she was probably the only one who remembered Anubis from before his exile. She remembered him as cold and arrogant. He’d favoured men as hosts; strong, virile usually but not especially handsome. The cruelty of Anubis had turned any superficial beauty to ugliness regardless.

You fear him, Jacob realised following the meandering path of her thoughts.

Yes. Selmak couldn’t deny it. When Daniel had communicated with them and told them of how Osiris was representing Anubis…a chill had run through her.

Who is this guy, Jacob questioned.

All of our worst nightmares, Selmak replied. Anubis is Death. He slaughters all without mercy; humans, Jaffa, Tok’ra…Goa’uld. He rules not for power or glory but because he believes he truly is a God with the power of life or death in his hands. And he is clever, more so than any other Goa’uld. He is manipulative and vile in his strategies seeking not only to win but to cause as much pain as possible to all in the winning.

Hy’lok Mor. Jacob picked the name out of her head. What is that?

The final atrocity; the one that forced Ra and the other System Lords at the time to ally to exile him, Selmak said. Hy’lok Mor was a planet on the outer edges of his domain; on the outer edges of this galaxy. Rumour that Anubis was creating a new weapon there surrounded it and eventually Ra took an army and conquered it. She stared out at the stars. It wasn’t a weapon.

Then what? Jacob asked curious.

The Tok’ra never knew for certain, Selmak admitted. The exact details remained a secret between Ra and the other System Lords, and they burned the planet. However, rumours spoke of a queen being found there; of vast vats of symbiotes.

He was attempting to recreate the Goa’uld race in his own image, suggested Jacob.

Perhaps. Selmak shrugged. There were stories that these symbiotes were malformed somehow; abominations. Some of the Tok’ra Council at the time thought Anubis was attempting to play God with the Goa’uld themselves.

I can see how that could have gotten him exiled, Jacob mused.

He was exiled into a feeble human boy and left on the remains of Hy’lok Mor; the Stargate was removed, Selmak said. The Tok’ra heard of his death from a minor Goa’uld in Ra’s court. Ra was rumoured to have eaten the body of the child.

God, that’s sick, Jacob shuddered.

But it seems he survived somehow, Selmak said in wonderment.

Perhaps his death was more spoken about than real, Jacob mused.

Selmak nodded. Perhaps. If Ra had discovered that Anubis had somehow managed to escape he would not have wanted it known.

And as long as Anubis kept hidden, nobody was any the wiser. Jacob frowned and adjusted his robe. Where’s he been all this time? Or maybe, I guess the better question is why is he back?

To kill us all, Selmak answered dryly. I think that much is clear; Tau’ri and Tok’ra alike. It is going to be a difficult time ahead, Jacob.

We’ll face it together, Jacob assured her.

Selmak let herself sink into his confidence. The Tau’ri had defeated the Goa’uld before; powerful Goa’ulds that the Tok’ra would never have risked taking on. It was perhaps the example of the Tau’ri that had spurred the Council into its most ambitious plan to strike at all of the System Lords during the Summit.

Thank God Daniel Jackson wavered over killing Osiris, Selmak mused. As frustrating as it was for the plan to have failed, if they had followed through, they would have handed Anubis the galaxy. She felt Jacob’s continued frustration at Daniel’s actions. You cannot blame him for wishing to save his friend, she admonished. Daniel had failed to save his wife and she guessed that played a part in wanting to save Sarah Gardner.

I forget sometimes that he isn’t a soldier, Jacob replied.

He prefers other options to killing, Selmak agreed; that isn’t a bad trait, Jacob. Certainly his doubt over using the symbiote poison given its effects on the Jaffa had validity. The sight of so many fallen warriors on Revanna had given Selmak considerable pause. Teal’c had been ashen by the time they had reached the gate. Maybe the Tok’ra were as guilty as the Goa’uld of treating the Jaffa as no more than collateral; their lives to be saved or spent at their whim. Maybe instead of the poison their efforts should be focused on freeing the Jaffa.

A sound broke the silence; a door opening. Sam appeared in the doorway. She stopped as soon as she caught sight of them.

‘I’m sorry, Dad, I didn’t know you were up.’ Sam pointed at the kitchen beyond the breakfast bar. ‘I just want a glass of water.’

‘It’s OK.’ Jacob said, rising. ‘Selmak and I couldn’t sleep.’ He looked at her worriedly. ‘You?’

Sam’s eyes darted to his sharply. ‘I haven’t turned into Jolinar if that’s what you mean.’

Selmak nudged for control and Jacob conceded with an inward huff. ‘Jacob is simply worried for you, Samantha.’ She could see Sam blush in the dim light. ‘Especially with all you have been through recently.’

‘Sorry.’ Sam raised her glass. ‘It’s just…’

She had been denied permission to accompany her CO to inform Elliot’s parents; denied permission to accompany him to watch over the last moment of the young man’s life – of Lantash’s life. Selmak figured Sam was grating against what she perceived was everyone being over-protective.

‘You don’t remember how it was when the memory of Jolinar took over you after Martouf’s perceived death.’ Selmak remonstrated gently. Sam had been unaware of how her mental barriers had collapsed; of how the memory of Jolinar had risen to the surface and taken over Sam. It had taken an ancient technique with the hand device to reinstate the mental blocks; to push Jolinar back into her rightful place in Sam’s mind. ‘Perhaps that is why it is difficult for you to understand our concerns.’

Sam nodded. ‘I guess that’s true.’ She gestured. ‘How are you? I know you and Lantash were close.’

‘We miss him.’ Selmak acknowledged gruffly. ‘We miss all of them.’

‘Of course.’ Sam reached over the breakfast bar and patted her father’s arm. ‘I’m sorry; what happened at Revanna…’ her voice trailed away uncertainly.

‘It is a major blow for the Tok’ra.’ Selmak admitted. She glanced at Sam; at the paleness of her skin, the scratches and bruises from her ordeal evident. She felt Jacob’s worry surge up and let him take over again.

‘How are doing, kiddo?’ Jacob asked.

‘I’m fine.’ Sam’s fingers tightened on the glass; her knuckles turning white.

Jacob simply stared at her in that paternal way that communicated he was her father; that she couldn’t lie to him; that he knew better.

They could see how Sam hesitated but she suddenly deflated, gazing intently into her glass as though she would find answers there. ‘Lantash gave his life to save me.’ Sam said. ‘I’ve had…others do that recently,’ Jacob wondered who she meant, ‘and,’ she bit her lip and shrugged. ‘I’m not worth that.’

Jacob walked around the breakfast bar. He wrapped her in a hug. There had been a moment when they had heard the Tok’ra warning that Jacob had feared the worse; the loss of his child. Selmak could feel his gratitude for Lantash’s sacrifice. ‘You are definitely worth saving, kiddo; don’t you ever think otherwise.’

Sam returned her father’s hug before she eased back and swiped at her face. ‘Everybody just seems so keen to die to save me, I just…just once, I kind of wish someone would want to live for me, you know.’

Jacob brushed a tear from her cheek. ‘I know you really cared for Martouf and Lantash.’

Sam turned away, hiding her face. ‘Dad.’

‘Hey, I’m not exactly comfortable about talking about this kind of stuff with you either.’ Jacob pointed out. A memory shot through Selmak; of Jacob stumbling through a discussion on safe sex with his teenage daughter. ‘Maybe because of losing Lantash again it seems right now like you won’t find happiness but believe me it’ll happen for you one day.’

Sam didn’t turn back to face them and Selmak knew the moment of exchanging confidences between father and daughter had passed. Sam picked up her glass again. ‘I should get some sleep.’ She leaned in and kissed her father on the cheek. ‘’Night.’

‘Night.’

Jacob sighed and she felt his paternal desire to sweep away all of his daughter’s hurts; to make them better; to take away the pain of the traumas she had endured; to take away the pain of those she had lost. He so wanted her to be happy; to find the love that he had once shared with Sam’s mother. Selmak suspected Sam had already found that love even if Jacob didn’t want to admit it given that it was against the rules of the military Sam adhered to keep and so could never be fulfilled unless something changed. But Jacob didn’t need to hear the truth of it.

You were right, Jacob, Selmak soothed instead. She will find happiness one day.

She felt his tiredness and acquiesced to his wish to retire. It was time to sleep. The new day would bring with it new challenges.

Continued in Part III.
 

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