|A Shattered Visage|
Credit to Alx for the 304 model and edawan for the planet texture.
Chapter 1 of X
© 2010 by J. F. McCoy (Lt. Col. Mcoy).
Stargate, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate: Ark of Truth, Stargate: Continuum, and Stargate Universe are the property of MGM Television Entertainment, Stargate Productions, and NBC/Universal. This work is solely for the enjoyment of the author and readers, and is not to be sold or otherwise distributed for profit.
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A woman ran through the underbrush of a verdant planet, her black hair whipping around her face. She was plainly dressed, and wore no jewellery, but she had a regal air nonetheless. That is, she would have, if she hadn’t happened to be running for her life at the moment. Her pursuers were slow, but blasts of gold plasma flashed by frequently to remind her that they were still following. Her only hope was to reach the Stargate before they wore her down.
And she did, barely. She came to the clearing where the Stargate was placed and ran straight towards the dialling device. When she was almost to it, her foot struck a root hidden in the undergrowth, and she fell to the ground. She scrambled to her feet immediately, and she heard the sound of her pursuers thrashing through the undergrowth. They were close now, very close. She hurried over to the dialling device and began to enter an address she had thought she would never use.
The Stargate activated, and she breathed a sigh of relief. As she stepped up to the ’gate, she reached down to activate a device strapped to her arm. This pause gave her just enough time to see the first of her pursuers step into the clearing. The Jaffa raised his staff weapon, but he hesitated for a second, and she was gone.
Daniel Jackson walked quickly through one of the hallways of the Littlefield Building on Heliopolis. The planet had originally been a meeting place for the Alliance of Great Races, and so he had suggested it when the United Nations of Earth had wanted a location where representatives of the various galactic governments could meet and conduct diplomacy. The Stargate on Heliopolis had been lost, but they brought a new one from the remains of the interstellar ’gate-bridge.
The Littlefield Building was UNEC’s embassy on the planet. Named after the first human from Earth to step through the Stargate, it was a large, marble-coated building that shone even in the dim sunlight on Heliopolis. It stood opposite the Langford Center, where the Stargate was housed, and around it were embassies from several other governments. A small town had been built around the area to house the various people who lived and worked on Heliopolis as well as the tourists who passed through on a daily basis.
Daniel stepped out of the main doors to the Littlefield Building and made a beeline for the Hebridian embassy. He glanced down at his watch and groaned, quickening his pace. He hoped the Hebridian ambassador, Kayro Mornis, would forgive him for taking so long. It had been fifteen minutes since the Kayro had called, asking for Daniel to come see something. He could only hope it wasn’t something important.
As Daniel walked into Kayro’s office, the younger Serrakin stood up from his desk. “You made it!” he exclaimed teasingly.
“Sorry,” Daniel said, catching his breath. “I was busy translating a history of the Oannes that Nem offered as a gesture of good faith. Hopefully that means his people have decided to come out of isolation and–”
“Okay, okay,” Kayro said, throwing his hands up in surrender. “I get it.”
Daniel grinned. “Now, what was it you wanted me to see?”
“This,” Kayro said, tossing a small, grey object at him. Daniel caught it, and turned it over in his hands. His eyes widened as he realized what it was.
“Where did you find this?” he asked.
“We didn’t find it,” Kayro said. “It found us. Or rather, the person it belongs to did.”
“But that’s impossible,” Daniel protested, “because this belonged to the Tollan. It’s one of their phase devices.”
“They found a what?” Jack O’Neill said to Daniel via a subspace link in his office. He had resigned from the Air Force in 2016, but he had retained his job as the Secretary of Homeworld Security for UNEC. Right now, he had a feeling his day was about get more interesting than he cared for.
“They found a Tollan, Jack,” Daniel said, his image projected onto a flat screen like the ones on Atlantis. “She just phased through the iris on the Hebridian Stargate and fainted. The Hebridians put her in a holding area before she came to, but after they found out who she was they moved her to a diplomatic suite. Now, she wants to see us.”
“Us? Specifically?” O’Neill asked. He felt a headache coming on.
“Well, not ‘us’ us, but someone from Earth,” Daniel said. “She said she had a warning for us.”
“What kind of a warning?”
“I don’t know,” answered Daniel. “Apparently, she won’t tell the Hebridians. She says she’ll only talk to someone from Earth.”
“That’s . . . odd,” O’Neill said. His ‘funny-sense’ was ringing all sorts of bells around in his head. “I mean, come on, even I trust the lizard guys.”
“Serrakin,” Daniel corrected reflexively. “And while I agree it’s kind of strange, the least we can do is hear her out.”
“Fine,” O’Neill said, giving in. “But I’m coming with you. I want someone who won’t get distracted just because she’s got a pretty face.”
Daniel laughed at that. “Come on, Jack. I’m not exactly young anymore.”
“I know,” O’Neill said, affecting a patronizing look. “We can’t all have my luck.”
Daniel only laughed harder at that, and after a couple of seconds O’Neill began to chuckle as well. After a minute, Daniel wiped his eyes and looked back at the screen. “But how are you going to get to Hebridan? Do they even let you off-world for stuff like this nowadays?”
“The Hammond is docked at the ISGC right now,” O’Neill said with a smile. “And you know my wife can’t deny me a ride.”
The International Stargate Command, or ISGC, glittered in the light of the sun. Built on the surface of the moon, the amazing structure never saw night, and its white walls were dazzling. The Moon Base that housed the ISGC had been finished in 2019, and the Stargate had been moved there the following year. In addition to housing the ’gate facilities, the complex also contained research areas, R&D labs, and two docking facilities. Though it was easier to build the ships on the ground due to the availability of labour and material, once launched they could retrieve cargo and other equipment that was beamed to the Moon rather than taking up Earth’s landing areas.
Currently, the UES George Hammond was docked at one of these facilities, resupplying for its next round of patrols. On board the ship, Major General Samantha Carter of the UNEC Space Force sat in her quarters, talking to her husband.
“No,” she said. “Not this time.”
“Come on, Sam,” Jack said pleadingly. “I told Daniel I’d be there.”
Carter tried not to smile at the wounded expression on Jack’s face, but a little grin broke through anyway. “You know how much trouble you got into last time,” she protested. “Do you really want to file all that paperwork again?”
Jack’s expression changed to something akin to disgust. “That’s just ridiculous. They were just being petty because they can’t find a competent enough guy to replace me.”
Carter actually snickered at that one. She’d been married to Jack for eight years now, and she still couldn’t believe how childlike he could be. “Sure they were, Jack.”
Jack suddenly remembered why they were talking. “Okay, so I don’t really want to go through that again. But it’s a Tollan for cryin’ out loud. Aren’t you at least a little bit curious about what she has to say? Even if they are a bit stuck up.”
Carter had to admit that she was a bit curious. But she had a job to do, and secretly ferrying the Secretary of Homeworld Security off-world to see a person of unknown intent was not part of it. Jack didn’t even have jurisdiction over her ship since the creation of the Department of Interstellar Defense, and so she had no reason to do what he was asking.
No reason, except of course that the man she was talking to was her husband. And she didn’t really think he’d be in any danger. And then . . .
“Oh, all right,” Carter said. She heard a voice inside her head laughing as if it had known she was going to cave. “But if we get in trouble, this is all going on your head.”
Jack just grinned. “Doesn’t it always?”
Carter smirked at that, and then cut the channel. She walked onto the bridge of the Hammond and turned to Colonel Marks, who had been the Hammond’s captain since her promotion.
“Prepare to beam Secretary O’Neill to guest quarters, and contact General McLelland. We’re going on a little trip.”
“Aye, ma’am,” Marks replied, suppressing a grin. He’d known his orders the minute the General had taken the call.
Brigadier General James McLelland stood in his office, watching the blue disk of the Earth rise slowly above the dusky horizon. Being in charge of the ISGC didn’t exactly keep you on the edge of your seat, but after a few years he’d gotten used to the slow pace.
His job consisted of little more than filing paperwork and welcoming visitors to Earth, at least since military ops. had been transferred off-world. He’d fought those orders valiantly, but in the end they went through. Still, he and some of his officers had managed to come up with some pretty fun ways to pass the time in the low-gravity rec. room.
His reminiscing was cut short when a screen on one of the walls beeped at him. He hit a button on his desk to accept the transmission, and the screen changed to a picture of Colonel Marks on board the Hammond. “What can I do for you, Colonel?” McLelland asked.
“Requesting permission to leave the base, sir. Could you open the bay doors for us?” Marks replied. McLelland scratched his chin.
“You can’t possibly be done with your overhaul yet, Marks,” he said. “Where are you planning on going?”
“General Carter wants to take the ship to Hebridan. Do you want to talk to her about it?”
“Sure,” McLelland said. “Put her on.” Marks motioned to one of the officers on the bridge, and the screen switched to Carter’s quarters. She grinned sheepishly when she saw the other General.
“Okay, Sam, what’s O’Neill up to now?” he asked.
Carter tried her best to look ignorant. “Why should this have anything to do with Jack?”
“Maybe,” McLelland answered, “because every time your ship leaves on an unscheduled mission I get a call from the Secretary’s Office asking if I know where he’s disappeared to.” He actually managed to keep a straight face, which was a fairly impressive feat.
“Point taken,” Carter said. She decided not to draw it out further. “The Hebridians had a surprise visit the other day from someone claiming to be a Tollan. Their ambassador on Heliopolis told Daniel, and Jack wants to go with him to check it out.”
McLelland whistled as he sat on the front edge of his desk. “A Tollan, huh? I thought they were wiped out by Anubis.”
“Tanith, actually,” Carter corrected. “But we do know they had ships. It’s possible some of them were off-world at the time of the attack.”
“True,” McLelland said. “But I wonder where they’ve been hiding.”
“I’d like to know, too,” Carter agreed. “Maybe we can get her to tell us when we get to Hebridan.”
“Subtle,” McLelland said, laughing. “Very subtle.”
“That bad, huh?” Carter asked.
“Oh yes,” McLelland said. “It was definitely that bad. But I think I can let you go, given how important this could be. After all, who knows what a Tollan could teach us.”
“She’s not actually offering that,” Carter said. “She apparently has some sort of warning for us.”
“The plot thickens,” McLelland said, interested. “You’ll have to give me the rundown after you get back. I’ll tell ’em to open the doors for you in fifteen minutes. That should give the crews time to evacuate the bay.”
“Thanks, Jim,” Carter said. “See you later.”
“Good luck,” McLelland said, waving and cutting the transmission. He sat down at his desk and began writing a response to the query he was sure to receive from the Secretary’s Office in a few hours.
O’Neill grabbed a portfolio off his desk, loosened his tie, and then opened an audio link to the Hammond. “I’m ready to go.”
“Understood, General,” Mark’s voice came back.
“I’m retired, Colonel,” O’Neill began. “You don’t have–” His sentence was cut off by the flash of an Asgard transport beam, and a second later he reappeared on the bridge of the Hammond. “—to call me that anymore,” he finished rather flatly.
“Yes, sir,” Marks said, holding back a grin.
“You’re enjoying this far too much, Colonel,” O’Neill chastised, waggling his finger at Marks.
“I try, sir,” Marks said, grin in full view. “General Carter ’s in her quarters waiting for you.”
“Thank you,” O’Neill said, walking towards the door. He stopped just short and turned around. “Just remember, Colonel, I’m watchin’ you.”
“Of course, sir.”
O’Neill grumbled as he turned and walked through the door. Marks laughed.
O’Neill walked into the admiral’s quarters and greeted his wife with a hug. “It’s been too long since you were planet-side, Sam.”
“I know,” she said. “I’m hoping to get a couple months off after this next round of patrols. Then we can go to that little house of yours back in Minnesota and relax.”
“Sounds good to me,” O’Neill said.
“On another note,” he said, looking around, “I can’t believe you’re still flying this old tub instead of the Olympia.” He loved needling her about her refusal to move the flag to the larger and better-armed Athens-class ship.
“Hey, this ‘old tub’ is better armed than a lot of planets,” Sam protested, grinning. “It’s nostalgic, flying in a good old 304. I don’t like the bridge design they’re doing on the new ships. It’s all mixed up.”
“That’s what we get for opening things up to other services,” O’Neill said jokingly. “Everybody has their own ideas about what should go where.”
Sam laughed. “Right. Now, unless you have anything else to tell me, we should probably head to the bridge. They bay doors should be opening any time now.” “After you, General,” O’Neill said with a smile. Sam bowed and exited the room.
“What’s our status?” Carter asked Marks as she walked over to the admiral’s chair. Jack sat in an empty seat off to the side.
“The bay is clear of all personnel,” Marks said. “The bay doors are prepped, and depressurization will complete in forty seconds. IDS is active, and engines are prepped for launch”
“Good,” Carter said. She turned to Jack. “You ready?”
“Yup,” he said, giving her a thumbs up. She turned back to the viewport and looked down the length of her ship. After a moment, the massive bay doors above them began to grind open, noiseless in the near-vacuum. When the doors completed their motion, Carter turned to Marks.
“Take us out, captain.”
“Aye, ma’am,” Marks said, turning to his helmsman and ordering the ship up. The Hammond rose silently out of the bay, lifted by an inertialess grid and rocket thrusters. When she had risen two hundred metres above the surface, her main drives activated, creating a low hum that reverberated throughout the ship. She flew out past a pair of Scorpions as they ferried personnel from another ship to the ISGC.
“Set the jump coordinates for Hebridan,” Marks ordered.
“Aye, sir. Coordinates set,” the helmsman said.
Marks looked at Carter. “On your orders, General.”
“Thank you,” Carter said. She turned to the helm.
“Activate the hyperdrive.”
The Hammond turned slowly, and in front of her the purple-blue filaments of hyperspace tore through into normal space. She hung in space for a second, and then disappeared in a flash, the hyperspace window collapsing back in on itself as the four dimensions of regular space-time righted themselves.