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Stargate SG-1 fic: Ashes of Tulsa

Written for the [info]sg1friendathon for prompt #164: Classic Team (& others if you wish). The world ends, but they’re still fighting for another day (apocafic). This story took me forever and there’s still more I’d like to tell but just didn’t have time to get to it before the deadline. Expect an epilogue… hopefully soon.

Ashes of Tulsa
by jennickels (aka Jen Connelly)
Stargate SG-1
team
9570 words (without epilogue)
rating: PG-13
WARNINGS: “it’s the end of the world as we know it…”

The world is burning and there’s nothing for Daniel and the rest of SG-1 to do except keep fighting because this time it’s their world that’s on fire.

don’t own… wish I did, but I don’t. No infringement intended.


The air is easier to breathe here—away from the burning cities. Daniel’s not entirely sure what state they’re in any more. He just goes where he’s told, shoots anything with a tattoo on its forehead. He’s a soldier now, like a lot of other civilians—forced into service to protect their families and their land.

He’s tired. And battered, his left arm weak from a staff blast. He was lucky they said—the blast only glanced him. Still hurts like hell. But it’s not the first time he’s been shot. The other civilians marvel at that. They still don’t know the full truth. Don’t know about the Stargate and the other worlds he’s seen.

After marching for what seems like forever the guy in charge, an Army lieutenant colonel named Finch, calls a halt. Daniel sighs in relief. He’s been attached to this battalion—mostly National Guard and some Reservists trying to organize people with no military training or weapons knowledge—for a week. Ever since…

He tries not to let the worry get to him, tries to be strong for the guys that seem to be looking to him for guidance on dealing with the military. They intuitively understand Daniel knows more than most civilians. No one says anything but Daniel sees the way they look at him from the corner of their eyes.

Or maybe it’s because he was one of the few survivors to walk away from the ruins of Tulsa. He pushes the thought away again.

Finch says something about being “home” and Daniel just grunts. He’s lived in a lot of places but only one was ever home to him and it wasn’t even on this planet. The bittersweet memory of Sha’re and Abydos brings a smile to his face—short lived but a smile nonetheless. He’s still grinning when he exits the treeline into a clearing. Not just a clearing but a “city”. A city of tents and corrugated metal bunkers. And there are people. Lots of them. Women and kids—families—laughing and running around. His mouth drops open in surprise.

“Welcome to Eden, people.” Finch raises his arms to the heavens.

“How?” Daniel asks coming up alongside the colonel as they descend into the somewhat organized chaos of the shanty town.

Finch claps him on the shoulder. “I haven’t a clue, kid. You’ll have to ask them.” He nods his head at a group of BDU wearing people hunched over a table near the center of the complex. They’re obviously military by the way they carry themselves, the way they aren’t completely absorbed by their work—eyes darting around to keep an eye on things.

As Daniel gets closer one of the people stands up and stretches his arms over his head, his head tilting side to side. Daniel is frozen to his spot, and Finch passes by him with a curious side glance.

“Colonel,” Finch calls, and the man spins on his heels. Daniel’s chest restricts, and he needs to breathe but he can’t seem to force the air into his lungs. Jack. And then Jack sees him, and his expression changes to something serious. He by-passes a frazzled Finch and is at Daniel’s side in seconds.

The two just stare at each other a long moment, Finch still yammering out his report in the background, his voice tinged with confusion.

“I thought you were dead,” Daniel whispers.

“Back at you.”

Over his shoulder he sees Sam, a smile spreading across her face. She’s seen better days—there’s a long gash healing from her temple down her cheek. She doesn’t hesitate as long as Jack does, and she’s already crossing over to them when Jack finally moves, grabbing him by his shoulders and hugging him tightly until Daniel groans in pain. “Sorry,” he mutters, but his face doesn’t show any regret. He’s smiling like a fool. “You okay?”

“Got shot.” Daniel raises his injured arm as far as it will go as further explanation.

“Is it bad?” Sam asks as she tenderly embraces him while Jack ruffles his hair in a brotherly way that just warms Daniel to the core. He’s missed them. More than he’d let himself think about.

“Just a graze.”

Jack snorts. “Playing the hero, Daniel? Where ever did you learn that?”

“I had a good teacher.” God, it feels good—the banter. “What happened to you guys? They said Tulsa was lost. No one else made it out.”

“They told us the same thing,” Sam answers with a grimace.

“You should have our doctor look at that,” Jack interrupts. He nods toward one of the metal buildings under the canopy of the forest.

Daniel rolls his eyes. “I’m fine, really.”

“Still, I’d like you to get checked out.” Jack gives him no choice but to follow. Like the good little soldier he’s become. He’s a little leery of Jack’s lazy grin as they enter the building but then he sees a familiar face in the crowded room.

“Janet,” he calls, and her shocked look instantly morphs to one of relief. Seconds later he’s getting his third hug of the hour before Janet forces him to strip to his skivvies for a thorough physical. He’s so happy to see his friends he doesn’t care if she pokes him with a hundred needles. He watches the familiar movements as Janet sets out her instruments and begins to take his vitals. She looks tired.

“How’s…” He’s about to ask about Cassie but he sees the way Janet stills at his words—she knows what he’s about to ask. “Sorry.” He doesn’t know how to comfort her, but Janet doesn’t give him a chance.

“She was at school when the attack hit. Everything happened so fast… I’m not sure what happened to the kids.”

Daniel nods in understanding. Nearly everyone he’s met over the last few weeks has had a similar experience. He had noticed the board at the entrance to the settlement—the one with pictures, names, descriptions of lost loved ones tacked to it. “She’s a tough kid.” He doesn’t know what else to say.

Janet gives him a small smile. “Yes she is.”

Given a relatively clean bill of health he finds some clean BDUs waiting for him and is directed to a shower. Something about being ripe muttered under Jack’s breath. He’s surprised the water’s hot and, for a moment, doesn’t let himself think of where it’s coming from or how they’re heating it or if there will be enough for the next person. He just lets the water wash over him, cleansing his body and soul. But only for a moment. Then Jack’s banging on the door wanting to know if he’s drowned yet.

That night at dinner he finally gets the chance to actually talk to his friends. Sam’s just stuffed a forkful of salad in her mouth when Daniel asks about the settlement.

She gives him a sheepish smile as she chews but it’s Jack that answers. “It’s amazing what you can do when you have a bunch of geniuses working for you.” He gives Sam a smirk. “And some pilfered alien technology.”

Daniel frowns in confusion.

Sam rolls her eyes and wipes her mouth. “There was a downed cargo ship,” she starts.

“The kind that you can’t see.”

“Ah, you figured out how to use the stealth technology.”

“It’s not perfect. It needs constant maintenance. I’ve been training some of the scientists here. It’s been slow going but I think they’ve got it. Even if some of them don’t have the slightest clue what it is.”

Daniel marvels at her and sees that smile inching up Jack’s face again. It’s nothing less that all out pride for his 2IC. “You managed to adapt an alien technology to work with the primitive resources here and train people to take care of it in a week?”

She turns bright red, and Jack’s practically beaming now. “That’s my girl.” Sam nearly chokes on her food at the words.

Daniel shakes his head. Despite everything nothing has really changed. His friends are still the same people, still getting through with the teasing and flirting and banter. The way they try not to look at each other while they toss cracks back and forth feels right. It feels normal. Something that is sorely lacking in his life right now. After a moment he takes a sip of his coffee and finally gets up the courage to ask. “Teal’c?”

Sam goes very still, and Jack looks down at his food, the mood at the table changing in an instant. “I’m not sure. Until you showed up-” He gestures wildly with his hands in lieu of words.

“We thought you were both dead,” Sam finishes and is rewarded with a grateful look from Jack.

Daniel sighs. At least he’s found Jack and Sam. He’s not alone any more. They sit in silence until their food is done, each lost in their own thoughts.

Several days pass, and Daniel becomes accustomed to the pulse of Eden—the waking and sleeping patterns of a small village of people living in close quarters. He bunks down with Jack and some of the other ex-SGC people that he knows. Jack even lets him take the cot, opting to sleep on the floor—something about Daniel being injured. Daniel passes back a quip about Jack being old but has to admit to himself he’s thankful for the small comfort. It’s the first real bed he’s slept in since the initial attack. That was four or five weeks ago.

When he wakes on the fourth day he finds Jack, Sam and a contingent of military personnel gearing up.

“What’s going on?”

“Orders,” Jack mutters as he checks and rechecks his pack.

“You’re leaving?”

Jack’s head snaps up and his eyes narrow on Daniel. His skin crawls under the scrutiny of his friend. “Yeah, Daniel, we’re leaving. There’s word a platoon of Jaffa are heading this direction. They don’t seem to know about Eden yet, and I plan to keep it that way.”

Ferretti pulls a block of C-4 from a pocket in his vest. “We’re going to go distract them.”

Daniel’s lips narrow into a thin line as he considers the plan. “Sounds dangerous.”

Jack snorts. “Since when has our job not been dangerous?” He finishes with his pack, and Sam helps him snap it to his vest before he stands and adjusts it on his shoulders. He nods his approval. Daniel glances over his shoulder at the complex, the people milling about trying to reclaim some kind of normal in their lives. “You can stay, Daniel.”

“What?” He looks from the grim-faced Jack to the slightly sad look Sam’s giving him.

“You’re injured.”

He glances down at his arm. It’s sore, but the pain killers Janet gave him have taken away most of the pain and give him back a good range of motion. Besides, he only needs his right hand to point and shoot a gun. “I thought we were a team?” The words are out of his mouth before he has time to really comprehend the implication.

Jack grins at him in that devilish way that always raises the hairs on the back of Daniel’s neck. He tosses a tac vest at him. “Kit up already; we leave in ten.” With that he’s gone, his arm around Ferretti as they plan their fireworks display.

Daniel groans, throwing a longing look over his shoulder. Hot food, warm showers, soft bed, safety. Sam squeezes his good arm. “I’m glad you’re back, Daniel.” He gives her a lopsided grin and a sigh before donning the vest. Heavily armed aliens, firefights, loud explosions, sleeping in the dirt. Fun times. But as Sam joins Jack and the others he realizes he wouldn’t want it any other way. If he’s going to get blown up he’d rather be at their side.

Well, he’d rather just not get blown up.

They travel by night across the scorched land that once was Oklahoma. Or maybe it’s Kansas—it’s hard to tell any more. All of the major cities have been destroyed and now the Jaffa march through burning the smaller towns, forcing people out into the open. Anyone that resists is shot on sight. Not many resist any more.

Eden Sanctuary is one of the few safe-havens available to the survivors. It’s hard to hide large groups of people when your enemy has huge ships that can hover overhead and blast you away from space. Most people band together in much smaller units hiding in the wilds of the Rockies and other mountain ranges. The further from the big metropolitan centers, the safer you are.

It takes two nights of walking before they come upon the first enemy squad. They’re lucky not to be seen and hole up in an abandoned library. Daniel’s flipping through a random book when Jack flops down next to him.

“Even during the Apocalypse I can’t drag your nose out of those books.” He tears open an energy bar and offers it to Daniel.

Daniel takes it with a slight reluctance. There had been potato soup on the menu at Eden. “I don’t think this qualifies as the Apocalypse.”

“Why not? Destruction from the heavens, mayhem, people dying, good fighting evil.” He ticks off each point on a finger. Daniel raises a questioning eyebrow at him. “What? I know stuff.”

“I don’t think the Bible was talking about aliens, Jack.”

“Hey, you never know..”

Sam sits down on Daniel’s other side. “Looks clear, sir.”

Jack nods. “We’ll move out in thirty, then.”

“Ferretti’s anxious to get going.”

“I’m sure.”

“What’s the plan?” Daniel asks around his last bite of food.

Jack chuckles at the mumbled words. “Same as always, Daniel.”

He forces the dry granola down with effort. “You mean let Sam come up with something brilliant while you twiddle your thumbs.”

He shoots Daniel a hurt look. “I do not twiddle.”

Sam giggles.

“Just for that, Major, you get to babysit Ferretti.”

They get up and join the others who are in varying degrees of readiness—the SGC people are milling about, some still stretched out on the ground, chatting and laughing; the regular Army guys are more put together and on edge. Lt. Col. Finch is one of them. He’s watching Ferretti with the wary eye of a seasoned veteran. Daniel wonders how much they really know about what’s going on. Command is spotty at best with normal communications down, and even as the attack began, information wasn’t very forthcoming.

Jack moves to a cleared area in the center of the library and pulls a glossy, laminated map from his vest. Finch starts over at the same time the SGC teams snap to attention—all previous levity leaving the room in a heartbeat. Finch pauses at the change in tension then takes in the scene like he’s calculating how much he can trust this ragtag group of Air Force and Marines. And one civilian. The time Daniel spent with Finch’s command over the week hasn’t left him in the officer’s good graces. Daniel spoke out of turn too many times, offered too much advice Finch didn’t want to hear.

After a moment, Jack raises his head to eye each member of the group. Finch and his mean join them as he lays the map on the semi-circle circulation desk and flattens it with gloved hands. Dust and debris and slightly singed books scatter to the floor as each person tries to get the best view.

“The Jaffa were seen on this road.” He taps a finger on what looks like the highway running along the eastern edge of town. “We want them to go this way-” Another finger joins the first, sliding to the north. “-away from Eden. Finch, I want you and your men to head southeast. Claymores every fifty yards or so along this treeline. Taking out the bridge probably wouldn’t hurt either.” Finch nods, his eyes still glued to the worn map as if committing the geography to memory.

“Daniel, Becker and Fleming are with me. We’re going this way.” Daniel watches Jack’s finger fall on a grassy, open area to the west.” Carter, Ferretti and the rest of SGs 4 and 6 will head through town and plant the C-4 on anything that’s gonna put on a good show. We want them dazed and confused.”

“What about dead?” Finch asks suddenly, his brow knitted together in concentration as he still examines the map.

“That, too,” Ferretti mutters in return.

“The Jaffa won’t hesitate to shoot first and never ask questions. They have no reason to take prisoners.”

One of Finch’s men, a sergeant named Cousins, raises a hand to stall Jack. “What about all the people they’re grabbing? The ones they’re putting into the… spaceships?” He looks like the last word is physically difficult to get out.

“Those are slaves.” Everyone turns to stare at Daniel. He feels his pulse quicken at the sudden scrutiny and uses the nervous energy to push his glasses up his nose. That familiar motion centers him some, this is what he does… did. “The Jaffa don’t need prisoners on a planet they think they have just about fully conquered. They just need to gather the slaves. Anyone that resists isn’t worth their time.”

“You mean all those people they took-” The kid looks ill, and Finch puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Mary,” he moans softly. Daniel looks away—he knows better than most the chances of this guy finding Mary. They’re not even sure which Goa’uld is attacking, where the people are being taken.

After a moment Jack clears his throat. “The difference between us and these bastards is we don’t kill for no reason. Anyone that surrenders-”

“Hardly likely.” Ferretti again. Jack shoots him a glare; he has the decency to look abashed.

“Anyone that surrenders will be given quarter. Subdue any others as you can. Our main objective is to protect Eden Sanctuary. If we have to blow this whole damned town to bits to do it-” He slams his hand down on the map, a layer of dust billowing into the air around them.

Daniel watches as the particles glint in the glow of their flashlights before drifting to solid ground again. The map is quickly coated and Daniel tries not to think of Tulsa burning… burning until there was nothing left but the husk of the town. And the ash falling on everything. He has a feeling this little town won’t fare much better.

They move out twenty minutes later into the darkness of early morning. Daniel follows silently behind Jack, Becker and Fleming ahead of them carrying the crate full of mines. They stop every few minutes to plant another explosive then move on, all without speaking. They are a well oiled machine, and Daniel marvels at the way the two members of SG-6 have slid into the empty spots on SG-1. He tries not to think about “empty”. Sam is safe he tells himself as they pause again. His eyes slide across the horizon, his hand resting lightly on his sidearm. Jack’s taught him well over the years even if it took an attack on Earth to really hone his combat skills. He tries not to think of that either.

Jack taps him on the shoulder, and they move on to another hill. This place used to be a park, a large green place for the residents of this small town to come relax and enjoy the warm summers. Now it’s empty, the creak of the gently swaying swings lending an eerie quality to the area. A layer of ash covers the grass, and Daniel is reminded of Jack’s Apocalypse description. It sure feels like the end of the world.

They get to the end of the park with several mines left. Jack motions for them to move around towards the north side of town, the low buildings just visible in the misty haze wafting up from the ground as the sun overhead begins to rise, heating what little ground it can reach through the cloud cover. They’re almost to the closest building when their radios click repeatedly. Jack returns the signal.

“Sir-” It’s Sam, her voice hushed and sounding a bit harried.

“What’s up, Major?” Jack keeps his own voice down and calls a halt to their advance on the town.

Daniel strains to hear the rest of Sam’s report. “We’ve got company.”

“You safe?”

“Yes, sir. For now. The Jaffa are splitting up as they move through town.”

Jack pulls the map from his pocket and squints at it. “How many?”

“About forty, sir. Some are heading towards the park, some are going up Main Street and checking the buildings.”

Jack grunts his understanding. “Stay out of sight, but get ready to blow the town sky high.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jack changes frequencies and contacts Finch. A few seconds later an explosion in the distance rocks the ground under them. Daniel throws his hands out to keep his balance, Jack grabbing his pack to steady him. Several more booms follow after that, and Sam radios back that the Jaffa are moving north. Jack grins. Right up until the building thirty feet away explodes outward knocking them back into the dirt.

Daniel groans and rolls to his knees, gasping for air. He doesn’t really have time to recover before Jack is dragging him out of the alley and into the building they were aiming for.

“What… was… that?” he asks between forcing gulps of air into his deflated lungs.

“Ferretti,” Becker mumbles. “Must have rigged the building to go if the Jaffa got too close.”

Daniel looks at them all with a growing alarm. “Are we safe here?”

Becker nods. “This is the police station.”

“How do you know?” Fleming asks.

“I used to live here. There are more cells downstairs.”

“Sounds like you have experience,” Jack says with an amused huff.

Becker blushes slightly but doesn’t reply so Jack motions for them to head to the basement. The cells—there are three of them—are old but sturdy, made of cinder block and iron bars. Jack gives them a few pulls and grunts.

“What are you thinking, Jack?”

“I’m thinking this would make an excellent jail.”

Daniel rolls his eyes and distinctly hears Becker and Fleming give soft snorts from the other side of the room.

“There should be some keys over here somewhere,” Becker says then pulls a large metal ring out from under a desk. Several old style iron keys clank together.

“Excellent, Lieutenant. Now all we need are some prisoners.”

As if on cue there’s a noise—heavy boots shuffling through debris—from above. Daniel’s aware his senses have become a bit heightened since this attack began. The fact that he could imagine the size, shape and weight of whatever was above made him shiver. Jack puts a finger to his lips, and they all duck down behind the overturned furniture of the room. Daniel quietly slides his Beretta from the holster and fingers the safety off. The object now feels familiar and comfortable in his hand; he feels a little more secure with it. Another shiver registers down his spine.

More footsteps, just as heavy, enter the building upstairs. Across the room, Becker is lining up the site of his P-90 at the stairwell. Fleming looks like he’s making the Sign of the Cross then kisses a small cross and stuffing it back under his shirt. He picks up his gun and holds it tight against his shoulder. His young face is set, eyebrows knit together in concentration as he listens for any sign the persons are descending the stairs. Daniel knows this because he’s doing the same thing—closing his eyes and straining his other senses to pick up the smallest disturbance from the stairs.

He hears a creak on the old floorboards. Then another a few feet away—all the closer to the where the stairs begin above. He bites down on his lip and tightens his grip on his sidearm. Jack makes a hissing noise next to him; Daniel opens one eye to look at him. Jack gestures slightly to the stairs. Daniel nods in understanding—they’re coming down.

One by one, he hears a boot scuff each concrete stair. The clink of armor echoes off the walls and is loud in the small, stone room. The hairs on Daniel’s arm stand on end, every muscle tightens. He didn’t sign up for this all those years ago—to be a soldier—but he’s doing what he has to do now and he’s never been more grateful that he had Jack as a leader, a mentor, a friend to guide him and train him without him really even knowing he was being trained.

Jack nudges him then with a toe, and Daniel readies himself to launch up and take the first shot to draw their fire. He’s got far less ammo than the others so he’ll stay hidden for most of the firefight. He counts off in his head as Jack rocks back on his heels. Becker straightens slightly telling Daniel the Jaffa is in the room now. He’s about to stand up when the clank of armor disappears, the sound of gunfire being exchanged replacing it.

There’s no time really to react or help. Fleming and Becker are making for the door when a dusty Ferretti appears. “Thought you guys could use some help,” he says with a grin.

Jack lets out a soft puff of air as Daniel holsters his gun. “About time,” Jack grumbles, clapping Ferretti on the shoulder.

It doesn’t take too long to corral the injured Jaffa into the basement cells. Jack leans back on one of the desks and eyes each one. They all stand at attention glaring back at the Tau’ri leader. Daniel doesn’t recognize the symbol on their heads. It’s been driving him crazy since the attack began but he doesn’t have the luxury of the internet to research. Or books even. In the end it really doesn’t matter he thinks.

“So…” Jack starts, pushing off from his perch. “Whatcha doing in my part of the galaxy?” The Jaffa continue to stare. “Stop by for the donuts? We got pretty good ones here. Or the barbeque? I heard the Jaffa love a good barbeque.” Still no response, not even a blink. “No? Well, then maybe you’ll tell me which one of those slimey little snake-heads you call ‘god,’ and we can get on with this charade.”

“We serve Karttikeya.”

“Kart-a-who?”

The Jaffa visibly grinds his teeth but refuses to answer. Instead he shifts his weight to stand at his full height, spine stiff and straight. Jack glances over at Daniel who’s leaning against the far wall with his arms crossed over his chest.

“Oh, right,” he shoves off and pushes his glasses up his nose. He’s forgotten about this part of his job. “Karttikeya… he was a Hindu god obsessed with battles and wars. He was associated with Alexander the Great. Interestingly enough he-”

Jack puts his hand up to end Daniel’s impending ramble. “In a nutshell, Daniel.”

“Uh, Karttikeya liked to fight.”

“So, there might not be any other purpose of this invasion except-”

“To invade, yeah.”

“Interesting.” Daniel smirks at him, but Jack misses it as he starts to pace in front of the cells. “So, what’s old Kartti up to these days?” The Jaffa continue ignoring Jack. Daniel shakes his head and leaves Jack to his entertainment. He knows his friend can go on like this for hours—antagonizing the Jaffa until they finally snap and give up some vital information without thinking.

Upstairs, Sam is taking apart an old transistor radio while the other guys set up a game of poker on a ratty table covered in grime and not a few bullet holes. Scorch marks and more bullet holes mar the stone walls of the main booking room. Daniel makes his way through the debris and twists a chair up from the mess. It rocks slightly under his weight but doesn’t collapse.

“Where did you find that?” Daniel asks as she manipulates the tiny components.

“Lost and found,” she mumbles, leaning forward as she tries to connect a loose wire with some tweezers.

“When was it lost?” He continues to watch in amusement as Sam fiddles with the radio. Several minutes pass in peace, and Daniel finally lets himself relax a little. He’s so tired. And his arm is killing him. Janet’s going to be very unhappy if there’s more damage from the explosion, he thinks as his eyes drift shut. He’s asleep almost immediately.

A loud crash wakes him suddenly—the lovely dream of a distant desert planet vanishing in an instant. Daniel groans, looking around with blurry, burning eyes. He realizes his glasses are folded next to him on the table. Sam he figures. There’s another noise and the indiscernible voices of several men talking at once. Across the room Fleming is rubbing his eyes, looking similarly disgruntled at being woken.

“What’s going on?” Captain Leyman—one of Ferretti’s men—asks, rushing out of the storage room where he apparently found refuge for a nap.

“Don’t know,” Daniel murmurs, stumbling to his feet. Every muscle aches, and there’s a shooting pain running up his injured arm into his shoulder and neck.

The noise grows louder, getting the attention of the others. Ferretti and Spencer appear from the staircase with guns raised. They have a clear view of the rear door from their position, and Daniel trusts their judgment. His hand instinctively goes for his sidearm.

The activity intensifies, but Ferretti just backs up making room for the people entering. Daniel see it’s Finch and his men struggling with several other large individuals. Jack and Sam crest the stairs just at that moment, guns drawn.

“Lookey what we got,” Finch drawls, pushing a bound and bleeding Jaffa forward. He’s tied up with what looks like phone cord and duct tape, a pillowcase over his head for good measure.

“We got three,” his second, a major with a heavy New England accent, adds as he pulls another Jaffa into the room. Behind him a scuffle breaks out—everyone is shoved and jostled around as they try to help subdue the last prisoner or just get out of the way. Finally he’s brought down.

“They didn’t come easily,” Finch says. “Except that one.” He tosses a thumb over his shoulder at the second Jaffa.

The major tugs on the arm of his charge. “He was trying to pass himself off as one of us.”

Daniel’s brain finally begins to catch up with the events. He glances at the calm Jaffa. He’s tall. And stocky. And wearing combat boots—SGC issue. His heart stops, and for a painful second, he can’t breathe or speak. Finally he forces air into his lungs, and his heart slams against his chest at breakneck speed.

“Jack-”

But Jack’s already moving, he’s seen the same thing. He shoves a surprised Finch out of the way, getting a glare in response. Jack pauses a split-second with his hand poised over the pillowcase before snatching it clean off. Daniel’s heart leaps into his throat. He’s never felt relief of this intensity. Sam appears out of nowhere, a smile growing on her haggard face. Finch and his men are looking confused as they watch the bizarre welcome of a supposed enemy.

“O’Neill.” The voice is deep and strong and just as he remembered it; Daniel doesn’t think he’s ever heard anything so wonderful in his entire life.

“Well ain’t you a sight for sore eyes.” It’s Ferretti that finally speaks.

Teal’c nods his head. “It is good to see you, Major Ferretti.”

Before he can say anything else, Jack throws his arms around the larger man, squeezing him tight for a second before leaning back to smile at the last missing member of their team. He pats Teal’c on both shoulders then steps back to let Sam have a turn. Daniel’s still frozen to the spot, his mind reeling. He realizes he had given up on Teal’c back at Eden, resigned himself of never seeing his friend again. And now here he is. Finally Teal’c moves, embracing Daniel in a suffocating bear hug.

“Daniel Jackson, I feared you perished in the collapse of the building we were sheltered in. I am relieved to see you well.”

“Teal’c.” It’s the only word he can get out, emotions suppressed for too long surfacing as tears flood his eyes. Sam squeezes his arm reassuringly while he wipes the wetness from his face. No one calls him on his weakness. Introductions and more reunions seem to take forever. Daniel is grateful when SG-1 retreats to the Chief of Police’s office in the back of the station.

The room is cluttered but private. They settle into the available seats, Sam opting to perch on the surprisingly tidy desk. Jack leans back in the chief’s chair and puts his feet up, arms behind his head like he owns the place. Teal’c lowers himself into one of the molded plastic chairs; Daniel slumps into the other. He rubs at his eyes, tears still burning behind his lids.

“So, Teal’c…” Jack begins in his usual light manor but then seems to think better. He drops his feet down and leans forward. “Where have you been? We didn’t think anyone else made it out of Tulsa. Up until a few days ago I… we…” He looks down at his hands resting on the worn metal desk.

Sam takes up the explanation. “There weren’t many survivors at Tulsa. The city burned to the ground.”

“It’s still burning,” Jack comments without looking up. The ash caking everything in a thirty mile radius is proof of that.

“When our place of cover collapsed I was buried along with several Tau’ri soldiers and many civilians. We eventually dug our way to the surface, but we were too late to escape. The Jaffa were already upon our location, and being injured, we were easily captured.”

“That was almost two weeks ago.”

Teal’c nods at Sam. “After our capture the soldiers were brought forward and executed as a warning to the civilians. I was kept alive as a prize and forced to march for days without food or water. When I could no longer walk I was dragged.”

Daniel’s eyes drift over Teal’c, noticing the ragged clothes and numerous injuries for the first time. He cringes, visibly shaking at the thought of what his friend went through. Jack’s dealing with it in his own way—pealing paint from the wall behind his chair. Sam just stares at her feet.

“Several days ago we came to a place not far from here where the Jaffa were building a camp. I overheard much talk of a missing cargo ship. They seemed quite distressed at it’s disappearance, unsure what to do.”

A smile spreads across Sam’s face, and Jack turns back to the conversation. “Yeah, we might have something to do with their missing ship.” He winks at Sam and she blushes furiously. She spends a few moments giving a short explanation of the capture and retrofit of the cargo ship’s cloaking device.

“That would explain their agitation after capturing us.”

“What happened after you got to their camp?” Sam asks.

“The Jaffa separated the prisoners by gender. At first I was overlooked and allowed to mingle with them. The men were frightened at first but the civilians from Tulsa spoke up for my honor.”

“Vouched for you.”

“Yes. I noticed a weakness in the defenses and planned an escape but we were discovered. I was brought out and chained to a post as punishment.”

“Overzealous bunch aren’t they.”

“Their inability to communicate with their leaders has left them… agitated.”

“What do you think happened… with communication?” Daniel asks.

“There are many things that could interfere with the communication balls.”

“Or,” Jack says, tapping his finger on the desk, “maybe ole snake-head isn’t up there any more. You don’t think it’s odd they were relying on just one cargo ship to transport prisoners?”

“It is very unusual.”

“What can you tell us about Karttikeya?”

Teal’c tilts his head to one side, lips set in a thin line as he shuffles through almost 100 years of information. “Karttikeya was once a minor Goa’uld commanding a small army. He ruled over several small, insignificant planets at the far edge of this galaxy. They were raided often by other Goa’uld wishing to curry favor with the System Lords and advance in the ranks. Karttikeya grew vengeful at this constant interference and eventually fought back by invading and conquering three neighboring systems. It is said he became infatuated with battles. The Jaffa called him ‘The God of War.'”

“I’ve never heard of him,” Jack says with a snort.

“There’s a lot of things you’ve never heard of, Jack.”

Jack shoots Daniel a glare but Teal’c just continues, ignoring them both. “Karttikeya grew powerful but reckless. His lust for battle and power became an obsession. He thought himself on the same level as the System Lords and yearned to prove it.”

“He attacked one of the big dogs?”

“He began systematically raiding Ra’s less protected outlying planets.

Jack lets out a low whistle. “Can’t get any bigger than that. This guy had balls. Or he was a complete idiot.”

“He was easily defeated and exiled.”

“So,” Daniel says, pressing two fingers on each temple, “when we killed Ra…”

“There was no one left to guard Karttikeya.”

“Great, so we’re the purveyors of our demise,” says Jack.

“It would appear so, O’Neill.”

Jack frowns at Teal’c.

“Is there any reason Karttikeya would leave orbit during the invasion?” Daniel asks, bringing them back on topic.

“I believe if Karttikeya thought victory imminent he would leave orbit to boast to the System Lords. He would leave behind his First Prime to oversee the operation.”

“So there probably is a mothership up there, just not Kartti’s.”

“They do have control of the Stargate, sir. They could just as easily be transporting people to Cheyenne Mountain.”

“That makes sense. The real question, though, is can any of this help us stop the invasion?”

“I don’t see how,” Daniel says with a sigh. “They still outnumber what’s left of the military, outgun us and they have the Stargate.”

“Were you always this pessimistic, Daniel?”

“I learned from the best.”

Sam hops down from the desk and paces the limited space in front of Daniel and Teal’c. “We might not be able to take back the SGC… yet. But we can do something locally.”

“Major?”

“Teal’c, the camp they took you to, did it look temporary?”

“No, the Jaffa were erecting barracks and an armory.”

“Armory? Now we’re talkin’.”

Sam shoots a smile at Jack before continuing. “And, presumably, the civilians are still there.”

“They would keep them there until new orders arrive.”

“So we could rescue them?” Daniel feels a sense of purpose well up in him again. A little bit of hope that they can still make a difference.

“And get the weapons,” Jack states matter-of-factly.

“Jack, I think the people are more important.”

“Yeah, well we can’t defend ourselves if we run out of ammo. Some staff weapons could really come in handy.”

“We can do both,” Sam says, bringing the impending argument to an abrupt halt before it starts.

“You have a plan, Carter?”

Sam’s eyes light up and Daniel thinks he can actually see her brain shift into ‘think mode’. “If Ferretti hasn’t blown it already.”

Jack gives her a quizzical look, but she’s already halfway to the door calling for the other major.

* * *

Four hours later they’re chugging northwest in a beat up old Chevy that hasn’t looked new since the 50s. Jack’s standing in the bed with his hands resting on the roof of the cab. Daniel’s amazed at his stability considering he’s about to tip off his perch on a box with every bump.

“How much further?” Jack calls over his shoulder.

“I do not believe we should venture much further, O’Neill.”

Jack pounds the roof, and Ferretti slows the truck to a crawl so Jack can hop over the side. “Me and Teal’c are gonna go check things out,” he tells the major. “Stay out of sight and be ready to roll when we get back.” Ferretti nods. Teal’c takes two of their fifteen confiscated staff weapons, handing one to Jack. Jack gives them a sloppy salute before disappearing into the woods lining one side of the road.

Ferretti parks the truck in an abandoned barn a quarter mile off the road and sends his team out to patrol. While they wait, Sam captivates Finch and his men with a more detailed explanation of recent events. Daniel can see understanding dawn on the colonel’s face. He imagines the story would be more entertaining with popcorn. He’s lived the whole thing, so instead of taking a seat, Daniel tears open a protein bar and nibbles on the end as he wanders around the old farm.

It’s mid-afternoon but the sky is dark with ash. It occasionally drifts down like snow coating everything in a bleak gray fluff—the remnants of so many burning cities. He wonders how the rest of the would is faring but with the loss of their orbiting satellites he’ll probably never know.

He finishes up his lunch and stuffs the wrapper in his pocket. Jack would probably make some crack about him not littering even when the world is falling down around him. Ahead, the large farmhouse looms eerily dark and silent. Daniel approaches cautiously, his palm resting on his sidearm.

The yard is littered with discarded bikes and toys, a slip-n-slide just visible under the layer of old ash. Daniel finds that disturbing but decides to risk entering. The porch stairs creak loudly in the still air, but the door pushes open silently into a small hall. A wooden staircase lines one wall—each step overflowing with stacks of books and magazines and crates of toys. The door to the right appears to be a den or office.

To the left is a very comfy living room strewn with more toys. The hairs on the back of his neck begin to stand on end as he crosses the crowded room into the kitchen. It’s modest for an older house but looks lived in. Recently. He automatically draws his weapon, spinning in place to take in the entire space.

“Anybody here?” He says loudly, hoping to not get an answer. “I promise I won’t hurt you. I’m with the Air Force.” He’s answered with a muffled noise from his left where he finds the pantry door half open. “Look,” he calls out with more authority, “I’m not going to hurt you. I’ll even put my gun away.” Oh, Jack is going to kill him for that one.

Daniel glances around the kitchen, taking in the details—the empty, open cupboards; buckets of filthy water; empty, overturned canning jars. The pantry is equally devoid of food, and he notices an empty chicken coop out the back window.

“If you come out I can get you something to eat. We have food. And fresh water. See.” He pulls his canteen from his belt and takes a sip. There’s more noises and hushing sounds coming from below the pantry floor. After a moment a trap door lifts slowly. Daniel backs away as a head pops up. A small boy with dark hair and eyes, no older than nine, stares hard at him.

“Are you an alien?”

Daniel chuckles until the kid points a shotgun at him. His hands go up immediately. “Do I look like an alien?”

“No, but neither do they.”

“Uh-”

“If you’re not an alien you must be a looter. My daddy said to shoot looters on sight.” The sound of the gun cocking is loud in the small kitchen.

“I’m not a looter,” Daniel says quickly, cringing at the way his voice cracks.

“Eli, stop pointing that at people.” The boy disappears, replaced by a teen girl with ratty blond hair and a worn expression on her freckled face. She’s got a toddler on her hip as she climbs out of the cellar followed by two more girls and Eli.

“Are you really in the Air Force?” one of the smaller girls asks.

“Uh, no.”

“Looter!” The barrel of the shotgun rises but the teen tears it from his hands.

“Knock that off.”

“He don’t look like a looter.”

“Or a alien.” He realizes the two girls are identical twins, both gap-toothed and dirty—probably around six years old. They have their arms intertwined and look unwilling to move more than a few inches from each other. He can’t imagine what these kids have been going through the past few months.

“Actually, I’m an archeologist-”

“Like Indiana Jones?” Eli interrupts, his earlier distrust evaporating.

Daniel smiles at the thought, he just needs a fedora and a whip. “Sort of. I work for the Air Force and we’re here to help people that-”

“Were attacked by the aliens? They came down in their spaceships—ZOOM– and started shooting—PTWAH, PTWAH—then blew up New York. KABLOOEY! I seen it on the TV… before it stopped working.” Eli is getting more and more excited, running around the room and jumping on the chairs.

His older sister rolls her eyes and shoves him out of the way. “I’m Emily. This is Ethan. Those two are Eve and Elsie. And that is Eli. Our parents had a thing for Es.”

Daniel shakes her outstretched hand. “Daniel Jackson.”

“We have an older brother named Eliott, too. He went out for food. I think the aliens got him,” says Eli. Eve and Elsie make a mournful sound and Emily tut-tuts her brother into silence.

Daniel hates to ask. “Where are your parents?”

The kids exchange looks, Emily schooling her features before answering. “Mom was sick… before the attack. She had cancer. When she ran out of meds and the pain got bad Dad went out to find more.” Emily shifts Ethan to her other hip. “He never came back. Mom died a couple weeks ago.”

The twins moan again, their arms tightening around each other. Eli rubs at his eyes, turning away from Daniel. Emily juts her chin out and bites down on her quivering lip. When she has control again she says softly, “we buried her out behind the chicken coop.”

Daniel nods, his eyes betraying his discomfort as they dart around the room unwilling to settle on any of the children for more than a second. “And Eliott went for food?”

“Three days ago.”

“Well,” Daniel says after a moment, “we have food. Not a lot but we’ll share what we have.”

The kids’ eyes light up, and he ushers them out the back door. They’re half way to the barn when he hears the rumble of an engine. “Did your brother drive when he left?” Emily shakes her head, eyes wide with alarm. “Down, now,” he orders. The kids drop obediently to the ground and wiggle over to the only cover in the yard—a rusty tractor.

The sound of the vehicle gets louder. Daniel’s radio squawks next to his ear causing him to jump.

“Jackson, where the hell are you?”

He motions for the kids to stay hidden and peeks over the huge back tire. A large military transport crests the hill in front of the house surrounded by several Jaffa in full armor, each carrying a staff and zat gun. Daniel keys his radio and speaks softly. “I’m about thirty yards south of the barn. And we have company.”

“I see them,” Ferretti says, equally subdued. “Stay out of sight.” As if he has to tell Daniel.

Eli’s starting to get antsy, mumbling about killing him some aliens as he tightens his grip on the shotgun. Emily’s doing her best to keep the little ones calm, but he sees the terror in her large eyes. He puts a sturdy hand on Eli’s shoulder, briefly wondering if this was how Jack felt back during those early missions.

Despite his pounding heart Daniel manages to remain the model of calm on the outside. The truck passes, Jaffa and all, leaving a trail of dust behind them. Daniel lets out a sigh of relief that’s mirrored by Emily. They quickly gather the little ones and make a dash for the barn.

* * *

With full bellies and warm sleeping bags, the twins and Ethan zonk out minutes after hitting the hay, literally. Emily stretches out in her own pile of straw while Eli regales the military men with stories of aliens and cowboys. Daniel’s pretty sure about half of it is actually true.

Daniel, himself, is almost back to sleep again when Sam taps him on the shoulder. “The colonel and Teal’c are back,” she whispers.

“Heard you made some new friends,” Jack says in way of greeting as soon as Daniel enters the front of the barn where the other team leaders have gathered. Daniel gives him a sheepish look as Jack drops his pack and rubs at his shoulder. Sam’s eyeing him eagerly.

“I think it’ll work, Major,” he tells her with a grin then proceeds to map out the camp in the dirt on the floor. “Getting in will be tricky. They have guards every thirty feet or so. And a fence… What Daniel?”

Daniel smiles at the exasperated look Jack gives his raised hand. “I think I have a way in.”

“Do tell, Doctor.”

Daniel explains about the truck—the one Emily says comes by daily, morning and afternoon.

Jack rubs at his chin. “That could work but how do we take the truck?”

“The element of surprise would be most beneficial in this endeavor, O’Neill.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Ferretti adds. “We could hide on either side of the road… here,” he points to a spot on Jack’s glossy map lying next to his crude drawing. “It looked like they had eight guards—two front, six rear. And one in the cab. We take out the six in the rear with these.” He holds up a zat, rocking it in his grip.

“We will need a diversion to distract the forward guard,” Teal’c reminds them.

“We still have a few claymores,” suggests Finch.

Jack shakes his head. “Too messy.” He glances around the barn, eyes narrowed and brow knit together in thought. “Do they have any saws in here?”

“Huh?”

“Chainsaw. Or an axe. Anything that will cut through a tree.”

“I can ask Emily.”

“Good. I’m thinking we fell a couple trees near the river. They’ll have to stop to move them.”

“And once the Jaffa do the work,” Ferretti says with a little too much glee for Daniel’s taste, “we pounce.”

“Something like that. What time is this truck supposed to come?”

“Morning, around nine.”

“All right, campers, let’s all get some rest—tomorrow we’re gonna have a little invasion of our own.”

* * *

Morning comes all too quickly for Daniel’s liking. He’s woken with a boot to his lower back. He lifts his head and squints up at the blurry figure he knows is Jack. Somewhere above his little pallet in the hay are his glasses but he can’t really search with sixty pounds of farm boy curled into his side. It takes a feat of agility and luck to pry himself from the unconscious form of Eli but he finally manages to get to his feet.

Jack’s staring wistfully at the kid; Daniel pretends he doesn’t notice as they join the others outside.

“Sir,” Sam calls in a hushed voice, “the truck just passed Becker’s checkpoint. They should be here in twenty.”

Daniel glances at his watch—not even 8AM. “They’re early.”

“Guess the Jaffa don’t observe daylight savings.” Ferretti snorts at the confused look on Daniel’s face before passing him a zat.

“Remember,” Jack says so everyone can hear. “One to stun, two to kill. Three gets rid of the evidence.”

“Cute,” Daniel mutters. Jack gives him a self-satisfied smirk.

They move quickly to the spot a mile down the road where the treeline encroaches on the gravel. Daniel takes up a spot between Sam and Jack, plastering himself against a tree. Teal’c is across the road with Finch and his major. The rest move another half mile down to the bridge and their downed trees.

The sputter and groan of the engine is loud in the still morning. The Jaffa appear from the fog like ghosts, mist swirling around their legs. The rays of sun breaking through the clouds glint off their armor.

Daniel holds his breath as the first two pass. Then the truck. Finally the rear guard come into view. The fog is working in their favor, and it’s over before it really starts—the only sign the telltale whine of the zats and the dull thuds of the Jaffa hitting the ground. The truck continues on, disappearing into the mist.

Jack pats Daniel on the shoulder indicating he can finally let out the breath. Several anxious minutes later their radios let out a belch of static then Ferretti’s voice fills the empty road. “Piece of cake. We are good to go, Colonel.”

Jack punches the air and gestures for them to meet the truck. It’s full of supplies—food, water, building material. And ten very frightened civilians. Fleming guides them back to the barn where Spencer is guarding the kids. Teal’c and Finch quickly don the Jaffa armor. Sam draws a reasonable facsimile of Karttikeya’s symbol on Finch’s forehead. Teal’c can’t hide his golden tattoo so he gets to sit in the truck with Ferretti driving. A third volunteer finally pulls on the last Jaffa uniform. Daniel, Jack, Sam and the rest pile into the back of the truck.

“Won’t they notice the rear guard is missing?” Daniel asks as they start moving, the truck lurching forward with a loud clunking sound.

“They won’t have time if everything goes according to plan.”

Daniel frowns at Jack. “Since when has that ever happened?”

It seems like forever before they get anywhere. Daniel’s eyes are slowly sliding shut despite his continued efforts to stay awake. Sam’s trying to help him by chatting non-stop about wormhole theory or something equally over his head. But all that’s doing is lulling him to sleep faster.

Suddenly the truck halts sending Daniel slamming into Sam. “We there yet?” he mumbles with a yawn. Sam giggles softly into his side before returning to her military demeanor.

Outside there’s a loud commotion, and somewhere in the distance something explodes. Daniel ducks instinctively, his hand already reaching for his gun.

“What the hell-” Jack yells over the noise. He disappears out the back of the truck. The rest join him quickly. Ferretti’s already standing with Finch near the main gate of the compound. “It’s pandemonium, sir,” he shouts, waving them over. Inside the camp people are running in every direction, screaming and attacking the Jaffa. Fireworks explode overhead lighting the darkened sky with brilliant colors. “Looks like the Fourth of July.”

“I think it’s August, Major,” Leyman says absently, his eyes glued to the scene. The Jaffa are vastly outnumbered by the prisoners who have desperation on their side. They take pot shots into the crowd not caring if they hit friend or foe. A staff blast impacts the front of the truck causing the group to dodge out of the way. A few rockets whiz by as well. It takes them a minute to figure out what is going on.

“Looks like our prisoners couldn’t wait to be rescued,” Finch says with a laugh. He yanks the armor over his head and motions for the nearest civilians to follow him. Soon a dozen huddle along the side of the truck.

Forty-five minutes later it’s over. Daniel stands with the rest of SG-1 in the middle of the camp. The fireworks come to an end with a random pop from a leftover bottle rocket punctuating the deafening silence.

“Huh,” Jack snorts. “That was-”

“Easy?” Sam offers.

“Isn’t easy usually bad?” asks Daniel but Jack hisses at him.

Sam laughs. “After the year we’ve been having I’ll take one easy mission.”

“I agree, Major Carter.”

The wind suddenly shifts, a cool breeze blowing in from the north. Daniel shivers but then he feels the warming rays of the sun on his back. He cups a hand over his eyes and peers up at his first glimpse of blue sky in weeks. The air around them clears as the wind pushes the ash in the other direction. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, his face turned up to the sun.

Jack looks around with a huge grin plastered on his dirt streaked face. “It might have been a small victory but it’s a victory nonetheless. I for one will take ’em any way we can get ’em.” They all non in agreement. Jack claps his hands together. “Let’s go home, kids.”

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