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Fanfiction: One Small Step - Part I

Title: One Small Step
Fandom: SG-1 
Rating: PG-13
Summary: When SG1 goes missing, Cassie sets out on a quest to find them but will even the help of old friends help her discover the truth?
A/N: Gen. Written for the Women of the Gate Ficathon 2010. Warnings for minor violence, mention of rape, and teen alcoholism. Prompt was: the first time Cassie steps through the wormhole since her mother's death. Set timeline wise post Continuum in the Milky Way (effectively during SGA S5); minor spoilers for SG1 and SGA. Thank you as always to Denise for the beta.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.
 

One Small Step

Chapter One:


Don't let him see you squirm.

Cassandra Fraiser stilled the urge to shift in the uncomfortable chair and tried to return General Landry's penetrating gaze with the same easy confidence as Vala Mal Doran sat next to her. After a brief moment of stand-off, Cassie's eyes flickered to the wide internal window behind the General. The familiar Stargate in the gate room below gleamed dully. She wondered how it was possible to simultaneously love and hate the inanimate object so passionately.

'You want to what?' Landry asked brusquely, regaining her attention. His brow rose as though in disbelief although Cassie figured it was more for effect than a real response. He clasped his hands on top of the polished surface of the conference room table.

'Leave.' Vala repeated, flicking her dark hair over one shoulder. 'As soon as possible.' She flashed a false smile at the SGC commander.

Landry stared at her for a beat before he shifted his gaze back to Cassie. 'Miss Fraiser, Colonel Carter...'

'Sam's not here.' Cassie interrupted him sharply. The ache in her heart sharpened like a knife twisting. 'That's kind of the point.'

He hid his flinch at the stark boldness of her statement well but not before she caught the shadow of it in his eyes as they dropped to the table. She knew he was as frustrated as she was at the disappearance of SG1. It was supposed to have been a milk-run, a non-event of a mission...

'We'll be gone a few weeks.'

Cassie winced at the crackling line that distorted Sam's voice. 'And by we?' She prompted, picking up the large mug Daniel had gotten her for Christmas proclaiming her a 'Coffee Lover Extraordinaire.'

'SG1.' Sam replied.

'You're not assigned to SG1.' Cassie pulled a face at the cold bitter dregs in the mug and dumped them down the kitchen sink in the tiny apartment that she shared with her friend, Kelly.

'I'll always be a part of the team according to Cam.' Sam sounded overly cheery.

Cassie rolled her eyes. She knew Sam was pissed about the political delay that had seen her own ship, The Phoenix, put on hold while The Tzu Sun was completed to satisfy the Chinese government. Sam was being shuffled from one temporary assignment to another in the interim.

'So, are you, Daniel and Teal'c planning to drive Cam and Vala batty with your stories of the old days?' Cassie teased.

'Actually, Jack, Daniel, Teal'c and I are planning to drive Cam batty with stories of the old days.' Sam said brightly.

'Jack's going with you?' Cassie's lips started to twitch as she imagined Jack's glee; he really missed going through the wormhole on a regular basis since he'd become Head of Homeworld Security.

'Oh yeah.'

Cassie's lips turned into a full scale smirk at the fond mix of amusement and exasperation in Sam's reply. Jack was probably driving them all nuts on some level and yet she knew they would all love having him along. She frowned suddenly as she replayed the list of names in her head. 'Is Vala not going with you?'

'She has some kind of chicken pox.' Sam murmured.

Meaning it wasn't chicken pox but some kind of alien disease. Cassie winced in silent sympathy with Vala's plight.

'Carolyn won't sign off on her.' Sam continued. 'We met these people when Vala was...you know, away...'

Meaning lost in another galaxy, Cassie supplied.

'...so she's not really on the invite list. Jack's only going because he signed the original treaty.'

'Poor Vala.' Cassie said, turning her attention to making a fresh pot of coffee. She wrinkled her nose as she gathered up the old filter and tossed it in the garbage.

'How are things with you?'

Cassie tensed at the sudden switch in subject, slamming the new filter into place with more force than necessary. 'I'm fine, Sam.'

'You and Will were dating a long time.' Sam said mildly, evidently ignoring Cassie's unspoken plea that she didn't want to talk about her recent break-up.

'I haven't fallen off the wagon if that's what you mean.' Cassie snapped angrily.

There was a tense pause.

Cassie closed her eyes and took a breath. 'Sorry.' It wasn't as though Sam didn't have cause to worry, Cassie reminded herself. The day Cassie and her childhood sweetheart Dominic had parted ways, Cassie had wrapped her car around a tree in a drunken stupor. The drink had been a guilty comfort in the wake of her mother's death on a battlefield and somehow in a very short year had become an addiction. Sam had supported her while she'd gotten sober.

Sam sighed heavily and Cassie knew she was struggling with what to say to make everything better; the break-up, the alcoholism. 'I love you, you know that.'

Cassie slumped back against the kitchen counter. 'I love you too.'

Three weeks later, Landry had called with the news that SG1 were missing.

Five weeks later, Vala had shown up at Cassie's door, looking pale and drawn with shadows under her eyes. SG1 were officially being declared MIA and the active search discontinued. It had been Cassie who'd come up with the insane idea of going after SG1 themselves.

'I understand you're disappointed with the decision regarding SG1,' Landry began carefully, 'but leaving isn't the answer.'

'You called off the search because of the IOA.' The words came out colder than Cassie had meant them as though blasted by the cool air from the air-conditioning that penetrated Cassie's smart grey pants suit.

Landry shot Vala a look of annoyance, blaming her correctly for telling Cassie. 'I called off the search because there was nowhere else to look.' He corrected briskly. 'Vala, you were on the Odyssey when they scanned Cartegia; SG1 aren't being held by the Cartegians.'

'You can't believe their claim that SG1 simply disappeared.' Vala started to argue.

'The Cartegians showed us the new treaty with Jack's signature,' Landry said, speaking over her, 'and they've been loyal allies. They have no reason to lie to us. They believed we'd picked them up early for some reason without informing them. And let's not forget that they're a medieval society which doesn't have the technology to hide something from us.'

Vala's mouth thinned into a straight line. She hadn't been allowed on Cartegia to question the locals.

'You and I know that the likely explanation is the Lucian Alliance grabbed them from the planet.' Landry said. 'They could be anywhere but one place we know they're not is Cartegia.' He stabbed the table forcefully with his finger. 'Officially, I can't continue the search but that doesn't mean we won't keep our eyes and ears open unofficially and as soon as we have any leads we will follow them up.'

Cassie waved a hand to attract his attention. 'Vala and I aren't from Earth. We can leave and continue searching whether the IOA wants it or not. Teal'c did the same thing when the rest of the team was captured by Hathor and Uncle George, I mean General Hammond, had to call off the search.'

Landry's expression cleared as he realised their intent but Cassie could see he was reformulating his strategy. She'd spent too much time with the various members of SG1 not to recognise the look. He didn't disappoint her.

He turned to her with a solicitous concern. 'I can appreciate your determination but we're talking about a potentially dangerous situation and you're not trained.'

Cassie held his gaze squarely; she'd had the same argument with Vala. 'General, I'm young and fit. I speak fluent Goa'uld; I know more than most people about self-defence, and I know SG1 better than anyone else in the galaxy.' Her eyes slid to the woman beside her. 'I'm also not going alone. Vala has years of off-world experience.'

Landry shot another annoyed look at Vala who raised her hands in supplication.

'Don't look at me,' Vala exclaimed brightly, 'this is all her idea. She insisted that either I go along with her or she'd find a way to do it herself.' She tossed Cassie her 'I told you' look.

Cassie sighed and ignored it. There was nothing left for her on Earth and if the positions were reversed, she knew all of SG1 would do the same for her.

'What about your studies?' Landry asked. 'Jack tells me you're almost a qualified teacher, right?' His statement left no uncertainty that Jack had boasted about Cassie to him probably on several occasions.

'I asked the same question.' Vala grinned at Cassie.

'I've taken a personal leave of absence.' Cassie said stiffly. The college had been very understanding. They knew Sam, who was her legal contact, was in the Air Force and had assumed she'd gone MIA in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The General huffed out a breath. He pursed his lips as he considered their request. 'I can't give you a GDO.'

'We know.' Vala said evenly. 'When we find the others we'll follow protocol and head for one of the off-world bases or an ally.'

'And I can't guarantee you back-up if you run into trouble.' Landry continued.

Cassie smiled grimly but nodded.

'However, if you insist on doing this, I can give you some supplies.' He conceded.

'Thank you, General.' Cassie felt her shoulders unknot a little before they tensed back up at the realisation that it was really happening; she was going to leave Earth and search for her family.

'You do realise Jack is going to kill me when he finds out I let you leave.' Landry laughed but his eyes were serious.

'If Samantha doesn't do it first.' Vala added sweetly.

Landry's eyebrows shot up but he smirked back at the former thief. 'What do you think they're going to do to you?'

Vala opened her mouth to reply and shut it again. Her fingers tapped the wooden table restlessly. 'You may have a point.'

Cassie grimaced at the by-play; they could remember she was in the room. 'When can we leave?'

'There's a team scheduled for departure to the Gamma site at thirteen hundred.' Landry informed them. 'You can go through with them.' He regarded them thoughtfully. 'Any ideas about your first move?'

'We're going to Hak'tyl.' Vala informed him. She had smoothed her mobile face into an impassivity of which Teal'c would have been proud. 'We're hoping to secure a transport.' She continued. 'Make our way from there to Cartegia.'

Landry nodded and stood up. 'You should gather your gear. I'll see you in the gate room.' He departed into his office, closing the door with a dull thud.

Vala jerked her head towards the exit and Cassie followed her out. They walked the corridors in silence to Vala's quarters.

Vala closed the door behind them and gave a dramatic sigh. 'Well, that went well.'

'He's letting us go.' Cassie wondered why it felt like she was arguing rather than agreeing.

'It's not too late to change your mind.' Vala said dryly.

Cassie raised an eyebrow and didn't reply.

'We should change.' Vala gestured at Cassie's outfit.

Cassie nodded. She reached for the large duffel bag she had stowed by the door and pointed at the bathroom. Vala nodded and Cassie escaped into the small room, shutting the door behind her.

The functional room was cluttered with colourful bottles of gel, soap and perfume. They added vibrancy to the grey walls and bright white units. The room reminded her of department stores and the weird mix of perfumes that were sprayed all over the beauty counters.

Cassie briefly made use of the facilities before she stripped her pant suit off, leaving it in the laundry basket in the corner; she wouldn't need it again. She dressed quickly in a pair of khaki cargo pants. She pulled on a heavy cotton shirt over her white tank top. She completed the outfit with a brown leather bomber jacket and matching hiking boots before she tied her auburn hair back into a ponytail and pulled on a worn green olive cap.

She caught sight of herself in the tiny mirror above the sink and stopped. She looked scared; pale. She licked her lips, more aware than she would have liked of the tempting urge to find some kind of alcoholic Dutch courage.

You can do this, Cassie told herself briskly. They need you to find them. If Sam could stay with you in a bunker, if they can all protect you from Nirrti, you can walk through the wormhole and find them.

Only it wasn't that simple.

The last time she'd walked through a wormhole had been an emergency evacuation to the Alpha site, she couldn't remember why. She'd walked through with her Mom, Doctor Janet Fraiser; the woman who had adopted her after SG1 had rescued her from Hanka. After her mother had died, Cassie had refused to be evacuated any more. She hadn't wanted to ever see the Stargate or the SGC again. She'd even refused to come to her Mom's memorial. Sam had reluctantly agreed to her decision, Cassie thought sadly.

A sharp rap on the door had Cassie jerking out of her thoughts. She opened the door and stared at Vala. The brunette had changed into skin-tight leather pants and a halter-neck bustiere under a leather blazer; thigh high boots completed the outfit.

'What?' asked Vala, looking down at herself with a frown. 'Is there a stain or a rip?'

'No,' Cassie remarked, 'you just...you look great.'

Vala smiled and swept her eyes over Cassie's outfit. She lifted an arched eyebrow. 'That's what you're wearing?'

'Yes.' Cassie frowned as Vala had done previously. 'What's the matter with it?'

'Absolutely nothing.' Vala's suddenly wide and guileless eyes said otherwise. 'I mean, if you like that...' she waved a hand at Cassie, 'kind of thing.'

Cassie glared at her.

Vala smiled sheepishly. 'You could change your mind.'

And Cassie knew she wasn't talking about the clothes. 'I'm not going to.' Cassie said firmly. She had made her decision.

Vala picked up a bag and opened the door. 'Then, let's go.'

Cassie hoisted her own duffel. Her breath seemed to quicken with every step on the way to the gate room. Fear coiled around her belly; skittered down her spine. She could hear the grinding sound of the Stargate spinning as they neared the gate room; the thuds of military issue combat boots along the concrete floor; the babble of activity as the team waiting prepared to move out.

Sergeant Siler moved to intercept them at the gate room door. He held up a hand. 'I have orders to issue you both with weapons.' He motioned towards one of his people and picked up two zats. He handed one of them to Cassie who wondered where she was supposed to put it. She settled for the side pocket of her duffel bag.

Vala tucked hers into an inside pocket of the blazer. 'Thank you, Siler.'

'There's also this.' Siler handed them a large black back-pack. Supplies, Cassie deduced as Vala took hold of it.

Siler nodded at them briskly. 'Good luck.' He moved out of the way and Cassie stepped into the gate room.

'Ladies.' Dave Dixon called out a greeting. 'I hear you're joining us on this jaunt to the Gamma site.'

'We are, indeed.' Vala answered back, saving Cassie from the effort of making conversation.

The wormhole exploded out furiously; a splash of white and blue that looked for a moment like nothing more than a violent gush of water suspended in air and Cassie froze, her eyes widening in remembered surprise. It's so beautiful, she thought awestruck. It was quickly sucked back into the shimmering pool that filled the Stargate and the moment passed.

Cassie's head filled with memories; of stepping through that first time with Sam holding her hand; the noise and terror, the strange alien environment of the SGC so claustrophobic and grey compared to the bright Hankan fields.

'Ready?' Vala asked quietly.

Cassie nodded. She turned back to the control room and saw Landry stood silently behind the ubiquitous Walter. She turned back; the room was half empty, Dixon and his team already gone; Vala half-way up the metal ramp. Cassie strode forward, ignoring the trembling that attacked her legs and the way her chest tightened with worry. Just a step, Cassie thought determinedly. It was just a step.

The wormhole swallowed Vala and Cassie paused in front of the event horizon. She could feel the pull; the graze of the electricity across her skin. There was no-one to hold her hand this time; no Mom, no Sam. Just her. She was alone and she had to find the courage. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and stepped into the wormhole.

Chapter 2:

'You OK, kid?' Dixon placed a hand on her shoulder as Cassie sat down shakily on the steps.

She nodded, suppressing the urge to hurl the meagre lunch she'd managed to eat. She couldn't remember feeling this sick the last time she'd walked through the Stargate.

Dixon grinned at her sympathetically. 'It gets better.'

'That's so reassuring.' Cassie quipped. He held out his hand to her and she grasped it allowing him to pull her upright and off the steps.

They headed down to the DHD and Vala handed her some water. Cassie gratefully took a hesitant sip, washing the metallic taste that lingered in her mouth. She looked around the camp with interest; the grey buildings to the left that constituted the base, the training grounds to the right. A runaway stretched out in the far distance, a 302 taking flight into the clear blue sky.

Dixon swept his cap off and crumpled it in one hand. 'OK. I understand you ladies want to go to Hak'tyl?' He gestured at Captain Kellog to begin dialling.

'That's right.' Vala agreed brightly. Her eyes gave away her bravado.

'Look,' Dixon stared at the ground for a moment before he looked back up at the two of them, 'we all know why you're going and most of us wish we were going with you.' He gestured with his cap at Vala. 'You know the schedules for the SG teams for the next month. You need any of us; you call and we'll be there.'

Cassie swallowed hard around the lump in her throat as the sincere offer of help triggered a rush of emotion. She looked away to hide her tears, blinking furiously to clear her vision.

'Thank you.' Vala replied.

Cassie could hear the catch in Vala's voice; she had also been moved by Dixon's words.

'Bring 'em home.' Dixon ordered. He tapped Cassie on the arm. 'And you: make sure you come back alive because I am not having SG1 tear me a new one for letting you go off to find them, you got that?'

Cassie rolled her eyes. What was with everyone thinking they were letting her do this? It had been her decision. But she didn't argue, nodding instead.

The wormhole erupted again and Cassie looked at it in trepidation remembering the sickening journey she had just undertaken.

'Colonel Dixon is right. It does get better with practice.' Vala assured her.

'Yeah,' Cassie muttered, 'right.' She fell into step beside the other woman and stepped back through the Stargate. The journey was as dizzyingly terrifying as the last but Cassie was pleased to step out on the other side a shade less nauseous than before.

Two of the Hak'tyl warriors pointed their staff weapons at them. 'State your business.'

'We're here to see Rya'c, son of Teal'c.' Vala said formally.

'You are Vala Mal Doran.' The left guard shifted her staff weapon to a vertical position and nodded at her companion to do the same. 'We have met.'

'That's right,' Vala smiled tightly, 'Tya'na, correct?'

'Correct.' Tya'na pointed toward the path. 'Rya'c is in the village. We will contact Ishta and tell her of your arrival.' She removed a small Goa'uld communication ball from a pouch on her belt.

Cassie kept the hard pace Vala set as they walked to the village and Cassie was quickly pleased that she kept in shape. The former thief had warned Cassie after their initial discussion that Cassie would need to keep up off-world and Vala was being true to her word. The path was heavily wooded and narrow it made it difficult for anyone to approach the settlement without warning. Cassie noticed something that looked like a rabbit dart through the undergrowth.

'They're baagts.' Vala commented unexpectedly.

Vala sounded as though she was taking an afternoon stroll around a park, Cassie thought sourly. 'Baagts?' She winced at her own breathlessness. She guessed her jogging around her neighbourhood hadn't exactly prepared her for treks through alien forests.

'They thrive in these types of planets where the gravity is a touch stronger than normal.' Vala said.

'The gravity?' Cassie hadn't noticed anything different.

'You're probably finding it difficult to walk at this pace because your body is so attuned to Earth gravity.' Vala said conversationally. 'Most planets are close enough that you can't tell the difference but with some the difference is shaded just enough to make things seem harder than they would be if we were doing the same thing on Earth.'

'Great.' Cassie said dryly. 'So if you knew this why are you trying to set a new world record for speed-walking?'

'I wanted to make sure you'd keep up.' Vala slowed her pace and stopped. She handed Cassie the water flask again.

Cassie took the water and gulped back a healthy amount before handing it back. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. 'We're not going to get very far if you don't trust me to hold up my end.'

'It's not about trust,' began Vala, waving the water bottle.

Cassie raised an eyebrow in a fair imitation of Teal'c.

'OK,' Vala clarified, 'it is about trust but...' she stopped and sighed heavily. 'I'm used to working alone.'

'You were part of SG1.' Cassie argued.

'Yes, and look how that's turned out.' Vala retorted. She turned away to hide the devastation on her face but Cassie glimpsed it anyway.

'Vala.' Cassie struggled to find the words. What could she say? They'd both lost a family when SG1 had disappeared. She took a step toward the older woman and placed a hand on her arm. 'We're going to find them.'

Vala sniffed, giving away evidence of tears that she hadn't been able to hold back.

'I know them and I know they've survived somehow because that's what they do.' Cassie squeezed Vala's arm gently.

Vala looked at her, searchingly. 'I guess that's what we do too.'

Cassie hadn't thought of it that way but she nodded. 'We're going to find them.' She repeated.

Vala pulled a surprised Cassie into her arms for a quick hug. 'I just...miss them.' The words were whispered quietly as though Vala was confessing some big sin.

'Me too.' Cassie murmured.

Vala pulled away abruptly, swiped under her eyes and breathed in deeply. 'Now, tell me honestly,' she paused for effect and then waved at her face, 'did my mascara run?'

Cassie's lips quirked upward. 'You look fine.'

Vala gestured at the bags. 'Come on. We should make a move.'

The rest of the walk was made in silence but at a much better pace. They reached the settlement and Cassie took a moment to drink in the sight of Hak'tyl. It had become one of the most popular Jaffa settlements since the end of the Ori war according to Teal'c and she could see why. There was an order in the structures; the dusty pathways were clean and tidy. The small streets were bustling with people who were well-dressed. It was a society that was cared for; one which took pride in itself. Several of the Jaffa greeted them with a nod and a smile as Cassie and Vala made their way to the Council building at the centre.

Rya'c met them on the steps of the small structure. He wore a simple outfit of leather leggings and a brown canvas tunic belted at the waist with a leather belt which had a knife sheath attached. His hair was short; shaved close to the skull. Cassie smiled at him, genuinely happy to see him; they had met a few times over the years.

'Rya'c.' Cassie bounded up the last few steps.

'Cassandra Fraiser.' Rya'c's dark eyes were warm as they regarded her but they sobered quickly. 'You bring news of my father? Have SG1 been found?'

'Not exactly.' Vala suggested. 'Perhaps we should continue this inside with Ishta. She should be waiting for us.'

'Of course.' Rya'c turned and motioned for them to follow. 'This way.' He strode up the steps and both women hurried to keep up with him.

Ishta had kept the government seat of Hak'tyl simple and elegant. Cassie admired the restrained decor and sleek lines as they were shown straight through to what was clearly a reception room for visitors. The decor was plain but the room was bright with sunshine.

Vala dropped the bags she carried and flopped onto the wide upholstered bench by the door. 'Oh, that's good.'

Cassie placed her own bag on the floor and rotated her shoulder gingerly.

Rya'c turned to them eagerly but before he could speak Ishta swept into the room. Her dress was similar to Rya'c's and only softened by a more feminine cut to the tunic and Ishta's own womanly body and appearance; her blonde hair flowed down her back.

She gave Cassie a brief glance; they had only met once that Cassie could recall. Ishta rarely left the SGC base when she visited Earth and her visits had been rarer since Teal'c had aged in a time dilation bubble. Cassie wondered at that but Teal'c had always kept his own counsel on the matter of his love life.

Ishta's attention moved to Vala. 'There is news of Teal'c?'

Vala stood slowly. 'The SGC thinks it's probable that SG1 have been captured by the Lucian Alliance.'

Ishta glowered unhappily and whirled away, heading for the tall windows. 'Juka path!'

Cassie's eyes widened as she translated in her head and came up with snivelling excrement.

'Yes,' Vala said mildly, 'but I rather think the Alliance is a convenient explanation that someone was hoping we'd accept.'

Rya'c stared at her. 'You believe there is another explanation?'

'I don't know.' Vala admitted, her frustration shining from her eyes. 'But I'd prefer to question the Cartegians myself.'

Rya'c's gaze swept over her and Cassie. Cassie could see him take in their attire and come to the right conclusion. 'You are going after them.'

'Yes.' Cassie said. 'We're not waiting.'

Ishta turned back to them, her surprise evident. 'You have left the SGC?'

'Left Earth.' Vala agreed cheerily. 'Striking out on our own.'

Cassie couldn't help notice that Ishta looked at them as though they were mad.

'Is this wise?' Ishta asked carefully.

'Probably not.' Vala admitted. 'But the SGC has had to call off the official search so...'

Ishta's expression softened. 'You have not given up on finding them.'

'Never.' Cassie raised her chin as Ishta's knowing gaze swept over her.

'You are a child...' Ishta began.

'I'm an adult.' Cassie interrupted her. 'Some of your own warriors are younger than I.'

'But they are trained as warriors.' Ishta rejoined.

She began circling Cassie as though challenging her to a fight. Cassie really hoped that wasn't the case, she was really tired after the walk, but knowing Teal'c, it was very probable Ishta was going to test her abilities in some way.

'I've been trained.' Cassie replied shortly, tensing. She had grown up as the child of SG1. Every single member had been her trainer in some way.

'Very well.' Ishta suddenly dropped into a crouch and swept her leg out to connect with Cassie's, knocking them out from under her.

Cassie landed on her butt and rolled as Teal'c had taught her, coming up into a fighter's stance, fists in front of her face just in time to parry Ishta's first blow. Cassie ducked the second, leaned away to avoid a third and drove her own fist into Ishta's midriff with enough force to send the leader of the Hak'tyl back a few paces. Cassie was stunned enough at her brief success that she missed Ishta's leg flashing out; it caught her shoulder and had Cassie tumbling off balance again to the floor.

Ishta offered her a hand and Cassie took it as she scrambled up from the floor.

'You have some skill.' Ishta looked at Cassie thoughtfully. 'But you should always be prepared for a counter-attack.'

Cassie willed her heartbeat back to normal. So she had been tested but she had also passed. Vala winked at her across the room.

'Finding Teal'c and the others is a noble quest.' Ishta said. 'I regret that I cannot join you but I have duties here.'

Rya'c straightened. 'I will go with them.'

Ishta looked at him with fondness. 'Your father would be expect nothing less.'

Rya'c nodded.

'Actually, we didn't really come to recruit help,' Vala said urgently, 'I mean, we came to request help just not that kind of help,' she noticed Rya'c's glower, 'not that you're not welcome to join us, it's just...not the help we were after.' She winced.

'What help do you require?' Ishta asked.

'A ship.' Cassie jumped in. 'Cartegia is only accessible by ship.'

'And supplies.' Vala added. 'The SGC provided us with zats and enough food for a few days but it would good to have as much as you could spare.'

'Weapons and food I can provide to you,' Ishta agreed, 'but I have no ships to spare. There are none currently on Hak'tyl and those we have are many days from returning.'

Vala sat back down with a thump and turned to Rya'c. 'What about Bra'tac or one of the other Jaffa settlements?'

Rya'c frowned and crossed his arms over his tunic. 'Master Bra'tac is on a pilgrimage and nobody knows of his current location. Rak'nor may have a ship but he leads many settlements. It may take some time to locate him.'

There was silence while they all processed the lack of transport. Cassie sat down on a nearby chair and rubbed her neck tiredly. It would be ironic if they couldn't secure some kind of transport. All they needed was a cargo ship. A memory stirred; a visit from an old friend and stories of the Ori Resistance...she was certain there had been mention of a ship.

'I guess I could explore one of my old contacts but he is a long shot and may not have gotten out of prison yet.' Vala mused out loud.

'Or maybe we try someone not in prison.' Cassie said.

They all looked at her with various degrees of bemusement.

'Who?' Vala asked impatiently when Cassie remained silent.

Cassie allowed herself a small smile. 'Jonas Quinn.'

Chapter 3:

The corridors of the Langaran Congress bore the scars of weapons' fire. The wood panelling was gouged and splintered in places. Cassie shuddered, remembering Jonas's light-hearted stories of the Ori Resistance. It was clear that he had down-played the danger and terror of the Ori occupation. She wondered if he had down-played it with Sam or Daniel – or whether it was just her. She was beginning to get irritated at the idea of everyone protecting her.

The guard marched onwards taking them out of the Congress building where the Stargate was located and across a small square. The second building was smaller. It only took them a moment to reach Jonas's office.

'Wait here.' The guard said politely. 'I will fetch Professor Quinn.'

Vala threw herself into a chair. 'This is cosy.'

Rya'c looked over at Cassie checking with her that Vala was joking given the palatial size of the office. Four wide windows let in a wash of golden sunlight that skipped over the plain wood floor turning it a burnished copper colour. The room smelled of books, dust and a faint hint of lemon polish. Every other wall was covered floor to ceiling with shelves, all filled with books or artefacts. There was a large desk over by the far wall where more books were stacked. Two benches were covered in old manuscripts and oddities.

Cassie strolled over to take a look. She picked up a battered metal bowl and examined it intently. It was very old, Cassie mused; Byzantine in style. She wondered where it had been found.

Jonas burst through the open doorway; Cassie barely had time to take note of the brown pants and green over-shirt that he wore before he was across the room and sweeping her into a hug.

'Cassie!' Jonas spun her around before setting her down and taking a step back from her, leaving his hands cupping her shoulders as her own hands moved to gently clasp his arms. 'You look great!'

She felt her cheeks warm at his compliment. 'You too.' He did look good; he looked better than the last time she'd seen him. He'd put on some weight, grown his hair back to the length that he had sported during his time on Earth. She shifted moving away from his hold. 'You remember Vala?'

'I do.' Jonas gave her a wave.

'And Rya'c.' Cassie completed the introductions.

'Rya'c?' Jonas's eyebrows shot up. He walked back across the office to offer his arm and Rya'c clasped his forearm strongly. 'It's been a long time! I barely recognised you.' His eyes ran over the Jaffa. 'Your Dad said you'd grown into a fine young man.'

'Thank you.' Rya'c smiled at him tightly. 'It is good to see you again.'

'So,' Jonas broke away from Rya'c and whirled back around, striding back across the room to perch on the edge of his desk, 'what's going on? How much trouble are SG1 in?'

Vala pushed herself out of the chair and walked over to him, hands in the back pockets of her pants. 'What makes you think they're in trouble?'

Jonas absently picked up a round fruit from his desk and rubbed it against his shirt. 'Well, you're all here and they're not.'

'They've been declared MIA.' Cassie confided. She sat beside him on the desk and folded her arms over her chest. 'They went for some treaty mission with an ally...'

'Cartegia.' Vala supplied.

'And didn't come back.' Cassie saw Jonas's expression sharpen with interest and concern.

He held up both his hands. 'From the beginning.'

Cassie smiled at him; she bet he was a hit with his students.

'Well, the beginning is Cartegia.' Vala said, beginning to pace. 'You probably remember them from the alliance briefings you may have received during the Ori war.'

'I do.' Jonas answered.

'They requested a new alliance treaty a few months ago, and Earth saw no reason to protest.' Cassie inserted as Vala stopped pacing as she reached the window and stared out into the Langaran sunshine.

'SG1 took the mission.' Jonas surmised. 'But not you.' He pointed at Vala.

Vala shrugged. 'I wasn't officially invited but I would have been with them except I contracted a virus from a Julloi child the week before.'

'You can only get to Cartegia by ship so the Apollo took them when they were making a run to Atlantis – it's kind of on the way.' Cassie added.

'SG1 was scheduled to be picked up by the Odyssey three days later. I was on the Odyssey waiting to surprise them.' Vala spun back around. 'They claim that SG1 was there until the morning of the third day. Apparently they didn't show for breakfast at which point someone went looking and found their rooms empty and their belongings gone. They assumed our people had been beamed away early and they hadn't had the chance to say goodbye. The Cartegians produced the treaty as evidence that they had been there and the treaty had been signed.'

'The SGC believes it's the Lucian Alliance.' Cassie said.

'And you?' Jonas asked, nudging Cassie's knee with his own.

Vala pinned a bright smile on her face. 'I'd like to speak to the Cartegians.'

'You didn't speak to them before?' Jonas inquired.

'I was prevented from going down to the planet.' Vala admitted. 'There might have been a small,' she waved her hand and pinched two fingers together leaving a small space in between them, 'miniscule chance that I might have infected the population with the virus. Apparently, Carolyn discovered that everyone on Earth has a natural immunity which was why I was allowed on the Odyssey to pick up SG1, but not humans on other planets.'

All three of them looked at her.

'Oh, I'm fine now.' Vala assured them swiftly. 'Completely cured.'

'If the Cartegians are lying, we will find out.' Rya'c spoke up for the first time. There was a glint in his eye that reminded Cassie of his father.

'And how do you propose to find out?' Jonas asked pointedly, tossing the fruit he held from one hand to the other.

Cassie and Vala exchanged a guilty look.

'We may not have all the details quite worked out yet.' Vala allowed, walking back over to rejoin them.

Which was something of an understatement, Cassie thought wryly. They hadn't thought any of the details out exactly.

'Well, I'm in.' Jonas said firmly.

Cassie darted an amused glance at Vala.

'I believe they are about to tell you that they did not come to seek your assistance on the actual mission.' Rya'c said dryly.

Cassie wondered with chagrin, why she and Vala hadn't considered that the others would want to join them in searching for SG1. Possibly because, as with the plan, they hadn't really thought much further than leaving Earth and securing transport to Cartegia.

'Not that your presence wouldn't be appreciated, Jonas, but surely you have duties?' Vala jumped in quickly.

'Nothing more important than helping you find SG1.' Jonas looked at her. 'So if you didn't come here for me to join you specifically...'

'We require a ship.' Rya'c explained, emphasising his own involvement in the rescue in a subtle but firm way that Cassie knew he'd inherited from his father. 'Ishta has none to spare and it may take days before we secure one from our various contacts.'

'I remembered you telling me of a Goa'uld cargo ship that you used in the Resistance.' Cassie said.

Jonas turned and smiled at her. 'That's right. She's pretty beaten up though.'

'But it flies?' Vala questioned urgently.

'It flies. But if you want it, I definitely come as part of the deal.' Jonas slipped off the desk and handed Cassie the fruit. 'Try it; it's delicious. Kind of a cross between a lemon and an apple.' He started to walk away to the door. 'I'll make the arrangements.'

'I should return Hak'tyl and confirm we will be leaving from here.' Rya'c said. 'I will need to say goodbye to Karyn and collect our supplies.'

'Sure.' Jonas motioned for him to follow. 'We'll stop by the Stargate on our way back.'

The two men left.

'That was unexpected.' Vala said, breaking the silence.

'Really?' Cassie examined the fruit with a frown and placed it back on the desk. 'I think we should have expected it. Jonas was with the team for a year. He loves them as much as we do. Plus he did lead the Resistance here during the Ori occupation, and he has tons of knowledge and...'

Vala held up a hand to stop the spill of words. 'And Rya'c is Teal'c's son and a trained warrior, I know.' She sighed. 'I guess the more the merrier. They can help with the plan.'

'What plan?' Cassie said dryly.

Vala winked at her. 'Which is exactly why they can help.'

Continued in Part II.

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