Chapter 18

Pete skulked near the doorway leading to the center of the cloning facility. While he was careful to remain in the shadows cast by some kind of alien storage crates and computer-type consoles, he was fully able to see everything transpiring in the cloning room, from the thoughtful placement of the group's C4 to the capture of his three other teammates to when the Jaffy people eventually led Sam, Teal'c, and the unconscious O'Neill away. He was momentarily surprised at how roughly the Jaffy soldiers treated his three counterparts, especially cringing whenever Sam was manhandled by one or more of the warriors, but was pleased to note the silver skullcaps, drapey chainmail and cloaks that the Goa'uld soldiers were wearing perfectly matched his own. His concealing armor would make him fit right in with the despicable group. Even the funny symbol that O'Neill had insisted he wear on his forehead wouldn't mark him as any different than the typical Jaffy guy. As disguises go, it was quite thorough.

Disguised or not, the group's C4 could not be completely concealed. Pete witnessed a gleeful Ball as his Jaffy warriors confiscated every last bit of the carefully placed C4. Now, even if O'Neill and company somehow managed to escape, they had lost their means of destroying the cloning facility.

Pete growled quietly, crouching in his concealing shadows to watch the scene unfold, waves of hot and cold alternately boiling or freezing his blood. Whatever was going on - and Pete understood that he didn't know the history that was clearly involved with Ball and SG-1 (particularly with O'Neill) - he could still appreciate the danger of the scene that was unfolding in front of his eyes.

This Ball fella was obviously not the typical criminal whom Pete was used to dealing with. He was too oily, too sure of himself. He had the upper hand in these proceedings, knew it, and wasn't the least afraid to use every bit of his influence to bring down what was obviously a hated enemy. It was easy to see that Pete would have to be careful to avoid this man if he was to take advantage of his current freedom and save the world.

That phrase now sounded so glib, and he momentarily realized where O'Neill's sardonic cynicism had come from when Pete asked to join the mission. Pete didn't know anything, not really. He may understand about Earth criminals, but his knowledge didn't extend to these galactic badguys. He couldn't see how he was going to pull any last minute miracles out of his butt and save them all - he just didn't know enough. He was alone in an alien environment that he barely understood, had no hope of a sudden appearance of the calvary coming to save his hide, and above all, didn't know what he could do that would change any of this crazy situation so that it ended in his favor. He felt the first stirrings of panic twirling in his guts.

He let the panic take control for one wild minute.

Then with an iron grip on his emotions, he stopped his panic before it could play havoc with his brain. He didn't want to become completely useless and fulfill the poor image that O'Neill carried of him - he refused to give O'Neill the satisfaction of being right about him. He may be in over his head in this situation full of aliens and clones and other planets, but he was not going to get captured. He was a better detective than that. Though things between him and SG-1 hadn't started out in the best light, he was being given this second chance to redeem himself, for whatever reason, and he intended to see this through. No one ever accused Pete Shanahan of missing such a glorious opportunity when it fell so temptingly right in his lap.

But how best to take advantage of that opportunity? Pete watched the Jaffy guys as they roughed up Sam and the others, saw O'Neill go down, then heard one of the soldier fellas say, 'Yes my Lord' to that Ball guy before dragging their captives out of the room. He had seen psychopaths be kinder to their captives than the Jaffy guys were to SG-1. But he was able to note that the direction they were going in led away from his position. The cells - or whatever was being used for the detention of prisoners on this alien planet - was obviously somewhere in the opposite direction from his position. All he would have to do would be to sneak his way down that corridor to find them, get them out, and finally find out what was going on with this mess, and what he was supposed to do about it. It would be a relief to have someone who understood the ins and outs of the Jaffy world to tell him what to do.

But at the same time, there was that urge to save the world by himself accosting him again. He was a smart cop, not some rookie in training. Come on, Shanahan. You've been in worse situations than this and come out smelling like a rose. So... just do the same thing here.

Resolve filling him now, Pete waited until the cloning room was empty, then cautiously peaked around the crates he'd taken refuge behind to assess the situation. Was it clear? Alright for him to creep out yet? He was casing both this room and the next when footsteps reached his ears. He ducked back behind the crate just in time as another group of warriors dressed in shiny armor just like his stalked passed him. Their footsteps sounded loud in the relative quiet of this antechamber. They marched in columns of two abreast, holding those long stick weapon things at their sides, ready to use them at a moments' notice, but relaxed now that there was no perceivable threat. Without giving himself time to think about what he was doing, Pete darted out and joined the ranks of the strutting soldiers, making sure he was in the very back, and mimicking everything he saw them do. He held his weapon stick at a jaunty angle, set his face to show no emotion except a look of intimidation, and did his best to appear as if he belonged exactly where he was.

It worked. Not a soul turned to glance at him. They simply followed the man who seemed to be their designated leader, looking neither left nor right, simply marching in the direction the others had been dragged in. Maybe he was going to be led to the very place where SG-1 was incarcerated, and then he wouldn't have to do any sneaking after all. Wow - this disguise was working better than he'd ever hoped!

In fact, the disguise worked so well that Pete was beginning to think that it was working too well. It couldn't be this easy to infiltrate such a powerful enemy stronghold, could it? Nah! That Ball guy had strutted around as if he owned the place, like he held all the cards, had mucho power at his disposal. Surely such a guy would predict something so simple as the infiltration of his own army, and take precautions? A guy didn't get to be called 'Lord' without showing some amount of caution, right?

But the soldiers never wavered from their mysterious destination. It was almost as if they were robots, unable to think beyond their programming. They'd obviously been ordered to do something, and their attentions never wavered from those orders. It was like they were so sure of their power base that an infiltration was purely inconceivable to them. It was like they were... arrogant.

And so was that Ball guy. He'd acted so sure of himself, as if he was already aware of all the players in this drama, and could even predict the outcome. Which meant he had something up his sleeve, something big, something bad, something that made him think he had everybody right where he wanted them. What Pete had to do was discover what that was before Ball was able to use it on them.

Easy.

But he still didn't know enough of what was going on to stop anything. Pete didn't even have time to wonder what that something that Ball had up his voluminous sleeve was before his group of soldiers was standing before some kind of crude cell. What appeared to be another group of men and women - humans - dressed in the semi-familiar garb of Earth military BDUs stood impatiently on the other side of the cell bars. Rough stone walls took up three sides of this cell, then the bars made the fourth. This jail was of crude design, but wasn't any less effective because of it. The head Jaffy guy unlocked the cell door and swung it aside.

Instantly, three of the warriors pointed their weapons at the group being held captive. “We have come for O'Neill,” the leader guy spat.

“So?” came the familiar cocky voice. “Why should I care?”

The warrior man pushed several people aside with his weapon like they weren't trained military personnel in their own right, and regarded O'Neill with disdain. “You'll care... or we kill one of your friends for every minute you waste of my time.”

Surprisingly, O'Neill laughed, as if he knew something the Jaffy guy didn't. “No you won't,” he intoned, confident. “You need us in perfect condition for cloning - Ba'al will break your neck if you decide to play nasty with us. So...” and he leaned nonchalantly against the bars, stubbornly crossing his arms. “Eat me.”

With no expression on his face, the Jaffy man yelled, “Jaffa, cree!” In the next instant, one of the Jaffy men in front had drawn some kind of compact weapon from the side of his arm, activated it, and in the next second a beam of blue energy engulfed one of the humans standing near O'Neill. The man remained standing, so he hadn't been attacked by something like a blaster that shot holes in its victim. He simply writhed for a second, jerking back and forth, a look of genuine surprise frozen on his face before he fell to the stone floor, still jerking. After another moment, the man lay still.

Pete was astonished, and gazed down at a similar weapon attached to his own arm - so that was what that thing did!

“Stun us all,” O'Neill drawled next, as if what had been done to the man didn't affect him in the least. “I'm sure that Ba'al won't care - as long as you...”

But Pete had the feeling that this drama wasn't finished. That Jaffy leader guy was just looking way too smug. As if to prove Pete correct, he pulled out his own version of the energy weapon and casually fired at the man on the floor. This second arc of blue took him over, but he didn't twitch this time, just lay still and let the beam do its thing. When it had disappeared, the man lay there unmoving.

The look on O'Neill's face was now more akin to horrified agony rather than the defiance from before. Pete surmised that the man on the floor must be someone O'Neill knew to make such a seasoned military man look so horrified. But O'Neill had said it himself - the Jaffy guy had stunned the man. It wasn't like he had killed him!

“I think you'll come with us,” Leader Guy growled knowingly. “If you don't, I'll just kill another one of you... humans.” The way he said it gave Pete the idea that he rated humans somewhere below the slime on his boot.

But what was this? He'd killed the man? Pete looked again at the weapon on his arm, and almost flinched, but stopped the gesture at the last moment. He was one of those evil Jaffa, and had to remember that.

Pete still didn't understand how Leader Guy had done it, but that second shot from the weapon thing had certainly gotten O'Neill's attention. “Alright,” he barked, looking sick and instantly agreeable. “I'm coming. Just don't kill anybody else.”

Leader Guy smirked. “Lord Ba'al wants you cloned.”

O'Neill came slowly forward, hands slightly upraised to show his abruptly benign intentions. Leader Guy roughly grabbed him the second he was in range and thrust him towards his fellow army friends. Then he gestured at Sam and curtly ordered, “You too.”

“I've already...” Sam started to protest, but the second that argument left her lips, Leader Guy simply turned his blue energy weapon thingy on another human in the cell and fired. The victim writhed for a moment before falling with a thud to the floor. Leader Guy looked meaningfully at this second man, but Sam immediately thrust her hands into the air and walked towards the door. “Alright, alright, I'll come! Just don't kill..!” Several hands yanked her mercilessly from the cell in spite of what she'd said, cutting off the rest of her words.

“I would kill both of you now,” Leader Guy spat, and his glare encompassed the human male lying on the floor before his gaze flicked back to Sam. “But Lord Ba'al wants you to watch.” And his gaze grew even more malevolent. “Gods get what they want.”

Uh... Gods? These Jaffy guys thought the Ball guy was a... God?

Leader Guy malevolently went on, “Yet Lord Ba'al didn't say what shape you had to be in when you were watching.” And his hungry gaze shifted to visibly stroke up and down Sam's body.

His insolent look did what he'd intended. Sam clenched her teeth even harder, but quieted.

Leader Guy must not have been satisfied with her response for he grabbed her arm and yanked her nearly off her feet. She let out an oof when two other soldier guys caught her. They quickly surrounded her, yanking her back the way they had come.

O'Neill immediately yelled, “Leave her...!” But a fist slamming into his stomach cut the order off in mid word.

“What is this!” O'Neill wheezed when he could talk again. “I thought cloning meant we had to stay unharmed - even bruises clone!”

Leader Guy's smile that wasn't a smile now turned on the SGC General. “Bruises fixed by a sarcophagus don't count!” And he punched O'Neill again, then dragged him unmercifully down the corridor back the way they had come.

Sarcophagus - what was that?

As expected, no one explained. Confused, Pete at least remembered to once more stay in the rear of the group as he instinctively tagged along, clanking all the way.


Chapter 19

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