Chapter 23

With an upraised fist, he signaled to the SGC group to pause as he continued to scope out the surroundings, expecting a group of hidden Jaffa to jump out at them at any moment to spring that suspected trap.

This idea of course raised the hackles on the back of Jack's neck. This is all too easy, he thought to himself as he cautiously stayed on the room's outer perimeter, his eyes constantly flicking from one portion of that room to the next. He caught sight of the cloning machine, the shackles that had been used to imprison him and Carter, and the consoles and gadgets that still blinked furiously at him. The two cloned Sam Carters rested imperturbably in their cryogenic alcoves, both with eyelids closed tight over their blue eyes. That state of suspended sleep suited Jack perfectly, as he didn't exactly want Ba'al's Carters spying on him just now.

“O'Neill,” Teal'c whispered, sidling quietly up to him. “You have a plan?”

Jack blew his breath out in a soundless hiss. A plan? “Of course,” he assured.

Joining them, Daniel heard what had passed between the two of them and turned to Jack. “So... no plan, huh?”

Another hiss came from the General. “I got nothin.”

Teal'c would have chuckled if Jaffa laughed much. As Teal'c rarely did, he stared straight at Jack with an unflinching gaze and stated, “You think this is an ambush.”

Jack cautiously peered across the room. “It's occurred to me.” He turned to his friend and whispered, “Did you get the feeling it was waaaay too easy to get here?”

Teal'c looked perturbed. “Yes.”

Daniel warily eyed his friends. “You think this is a trap?”

Jack hissed, “Of course I think it's a trap, Daniel. This is Ba'al we're talking about - he isn't so sloppy as to just leave his prize possession out in the open like this unless he was absolutely sure that it was safeguarded.”

The three men silently stared at all the alluring emptiness before them, trying their best to think like the paranoid megalomaniac that was Ba'al. Jack had the most success in channeling the System Lord, as he was equally as paranoid, but it was Daniel who thoughtfully spoke up first.

“Maybe it's not a trap. Maybe Ba'al left it open like this for a reason.”

Jack glared at him. “Yeah, he wants us dead, so he's luring us out into the open so he can kill us - that's his reason!”

But Daniel shook his head. “Too simple.”

Jack's frown deepened. “Excuse me?”

“DanielJackson is correct. Ba'al would not make things so easy for us, or for him, even if it meant our deaths.”

Jack bowed gracelessly to what the Jaffa and archaeologist were saying. “Ok, so I agree with you! But how are we supposed to find out what his plans are if we don't send somebody out there to check?”

“That would be a kill-me mission,” Teal'c rumbled in a low voice.

Daniel automatically replied, “That's suicide mission, Teal'c, and yeah, I bet you know that, and I don't think killing us is what Ba'al has in mind.” His thoughtful gaze still probed the room, looking for clues. “There.... and there.”

Both Jack and Teal'c perked up in morbid curiosity. “Do you see something?”

Daniel hissed a breath as he kept looking. “Well...” He looked once more, spending several moments gazing at several points in the room. “See that corner by the wall? And one on that console there? And that spot by the cloning machine?”

“Yeah,” Jack gusted a huff of air. “So?”

“So...” Daniel didn't expound on his idea further, but took off his right combat boot, then peeled the sock off his foot. Without bothering to replace his boot, he balled up the sock in his fist, then tossed it towards the corner he'd first pointed out.

Before it could hit the ground near the wall, the sock struck a force shield, remaining half way between the group of Tau'ri and the Clone Room's corner, throbbing in time with the field that had captured it in mid flight. Two pulses later, the fried sock dropped to the ground, smoking calmly.

“Ah,” Jack said, staring at the singed sock. “Let's say that it was a damned good thing that I'm too paranoid to have sent a person into that shield.”

Teal'c finished for him. “We would now have what you call 'shish kabob.'”

Daniel's thoughtful gaze swept over the area. “I don't think these are the common Goa'uld force shields, either.”

Jack agreed. “The common shield isn't mean enough for Ba'al.”

Daniel stared again at the smoking sock. “Mean enough?” he questioningly repeated, as if to ask how a shield that fried a sock almost beyond recognition wasn't mean enough for Ba'al.

Jack responded, “Goa'uld shields obviously just kill you too fast - these kill you as well as leaving none of those disturbing signs behind that will identify you - so there's no job satisfaction here for old Balsey-boy.” He pensively regarded his friend. “Give me your other sock.”

Daniel blinked his confusion, but complied. “Uh... why?”

Jack wadded up the sock Daniel handed to him, gagging, but steadfastly ignored the odor of long unwashed smelly foot. “Because I want to do this.” He tossed the sock in the direction of the console that Daniel had earlier indicated, and again, the sock fizzed and pulsed, then fell to the floor in a smoking heap.

“Well,” Jack gazed at the clone machine that was easy to see but impossible to reach - if you wanted to stay alive, at any rate. “Now we know why it was so easy to get here.”

“Indeed.”

Daniel retied his boots. “So - what do we do now?”

“Turn off the force shields,” Teal'c stated as if it was obvious.

Jack regarded the Jaffa. “That's what I love about you, Teal'c - you're so good at stating the obvious.”

“But he's right.” This time, it was Colonel Reynolds who whispered at their shoulders. “We need to find the power source for those shields, and destroy it.”

“What do you suggest, ColonelReynolds?”

But Reynolds was silent as they all gazed at the room, doing their best to detect a power source.

Finally, Jack sighed, deeply regretful when none of them turned up an obvious power source. “If only we had Carter - she would know how to turn off those damned shields.”

A second later, Daniel reared back as a thought struck him. “Uh, Jack?”

Jack didn't even look at him. “Don't bother me unless you have a way to phase through a force shield, Daniel.”

“Uh...” Daniel continued to stare at the corner of the room.

Irritated more than normal at the archaeologist's interruptions, Jack barked a quiet, “What?”

Ignoring Jack's burst of temper, Daniel just pointed to the side of the room he was gazing fixedly at. “You wanted Sam - you've got two of them right here.”

As one, the other three men whipped their heads back around to stare where Daniel was now indicating, taken aback. At last, Jack whispered, “Can it be that easy?” After another thoughtful moment, he slugged Reynolds on the shoulder. “Give me your sock - me and Teal'c aren't really wearing any.”

Reynolds hurried to comply, and Jack tossed the smelly garment towards the Carter alcove, which was on their side of the force shields. The sock passed harmlessly between the two alcoves, where it hit the wall the two women leaned against, then slithered to the ground. It lay on the cold stone floor, rolled twice, then flattened into a benign looking pile.

They all stared at the sock. “There needs to be a human component to activate the fields around the alcoves?” Jack broke the silence to guess.

“Only one way to find out.” And Reynolds slouched away to quickly cross the room before Jack could yell at him for insubordination.

“Reynolds!” Jack hissed in anger anyway, even though he knew the Colonel was beyond hissing range.

Oblivious to his General's displeasure, Reynolds crawled behind two nearby crates, then carefully waved his left pinky between the alcoves.

Though Jack held his breath, expecting the man to get a fried pinky for his troubles, nothing happened. The expectant hush of twenty-six people forgetting to breathe reigned again in the cloning room.

Jack grimly considered his options. It's been plenty long enough to bring the Jaffa if they were gonna come running. “Anybody know how to bring these... I don't know - should I call them Carter clones? Should I bring them to life?” he next asked. “Or even just one of them?”

Daniel grabbed his zat. “I'm amazed that Ba'al didn't think to move them behind the force shields.”

Teal'c had followed Reynolds to the Carter alcove, but hesitated to end the clones' cryo sleep. “Perhaps this is what Ba'al had in mind for us to do. If so, activating them could be extremely dangerous.”

Before Jack had the chance to agree with him, Reynolds said, “We can think of things that way - Ba'al is probably counting on it - after all, he knows you, Sir.” He shot a glance in Jack's direction. “Or we can just do it and hope for the best.”

Teal'c spent a few seconds sizing up the Colonel, then turned his gaze to the two Carters.

“If anybody can find a power source, now's the time to speak up,” Jack quietly called over the group of people surrounding him. “Surely we have a scientist or two with us.” His gaze landed on Captain Allen. “John? You're a scientist, aren't you?”

“I study weaponry, not force shields,” the Captain replied. “I wouldn't even know where to start.”

Jack's gaze moved on. “Mrs. Briggs?”

The one-time member of SG-8 gave a start. “I'm a civilian, Sir, and this is my first mission. What am I looking for?”

Jack dismissed her without responding. “Captain Klondike?”

The man, who though a soldier rather than a civilian, also shook his head. “My expertise is 'Gate mechanics. Colonel Carter was training me before she was captured. But I don't know much about small power sources - what if I choose wrong and end up turning someone into one of your steaks?” Before Jack could respond to the barb, he continued, “No offense, Sir.”

Jack gave a frown. “Isn't there anybody here who knows power sources?” Nobody raised their hands. “Is this a case of 'I want Carter to do it and not me in case I'm wrong?'”

“We know she won't be wrong,” Major Lovelace of SG-10 said. “Why bother with anyone else?”

Jack grunted a shrug - why indeed? “Ok, Teal'c, light her up.” He just hoped this didn't turn out to be the stupidest thing he'd ever agreed to.

Teal'c confidently did something to the buttons on the sides of the first Carter chamber. At the same time, Jack realized that he could never call these clones 'Carter.' He already had a Carter, and no clone could ever be the real thing as far as he was concerned. So what should he call them? He supposed he could call the first one 'Sam2' and the second 'Sam3' just for clarity purposes. Sam1 had already done her brand of damage to the SGC. But he wasn't calling the clones 'Carter,' at least.

Ready for a struggle in case this Sam2 clone was too loyal to Ba'al to be of any use, he warily watched as Teal'c finished activating it. Sam2 blinked several times as it woke, yawned once, then stared at them all in at first confusion, then obvious distrust. Jack could see the emotion in her eyes before she said in a ringing voice, “You're not who's supposed to be here.”

Jack swiftly crossed to stand next to Teal'c. “Yeah, well, you're stuck with us,” he said in his most 'don't argue with me,' tone.

“You're O'Neill, Lord Ba'al's ardent enemy.”

So much emotion displayed in any Carter's blue eyes was just eerie to watch. Jack didn't let her words sink in before answering, “I'm General O'Neill, as you well know, and I expect you to do as ordered, Colonel!”

It was almost funny to watch the military training that Ba'al hadn't thought to withhold kick in. “Yes Sir!” she barked a second later.

“Good,” Jack brusquely answered. He did his best to forget that this thing was in any way related to his Carter. As long as he could think of it as a thing, his mind stayed a lot clearer. “You're ordered to find the power source of the two force shields in this room, and to deactivate them both.” He studied her for another moment, then thought to add, “And don't speak of 'Lord Ba'al' ever again.”

Confusion shot through her blue eyes, but her military training was too much to deny. “Yes Sir.”

At her confused-but-compliant attitude, guilt shot through Jack. After all, it wasn't her fault that she was a clone at the mercy of an evil jackass like Ba'al. Jack just couldn't stomach hearing about it. At the same time, that didn't necessarily mean that he was unaware of her dilemma of being brought to life (no Jack, being activated) due to one person while owing that life to its enemy. That was undoubtedly an unexpected set of circumstances for Carter as well as the Sam2 and Sam3 clones to have to deal with. Still, Jack squashed any feelings of sympathy that he was having - he could not afford to be nicey-nice right now - he had a job to do!

The Sam2 clone was dealing with his brusqueness and the Ba'al issue with Carter's usual aplomb, meaning that she was completely ignoring any impact of either issue. She stepped down from her alcove without a look back at it and set right to work examining the room, the nearest force shield, and anything that might or might not be a power source.

“O'Neill,” Teal'c said, breaking into his thoughts about Sam2. “Shall I activate this last clone as well?”

“Sure,” replied Jack, sounding more confident about this situation than he really was. “The more, the merrier.”

Daniel cut in to add, “Two heads are better than one - especially if they've got Sam's brains inside those heads.”

More dials, more pushed buttons, and the next thing Jack knew, he was staring into a much more familiar pair of blue eyes. The Sam2 clone was clearly all military - it now had that blank stare-over-the-shoulder-at-nothing look of the typical soldier down pat. This one, however, had a much more hesitant look in her eyes, as if it knew who he was, what she was supposed to think about him, but had been allowed memories that obviously warred with what it was 'supposed' to think.

Jack instantly felt sympathy course through him, and again had to remind himself that in this situation, he absolutely could not feel any kind of good feelings for anything created by Ba'al. He needed to coldly use the minds of these cloned individuals, then move on. 'Use them and lose them' as the saying went. It didn't matter that these Sam2 and Sam3 beings were clones of the woman he most definitely loved. They were tools, an ends to a means. He would do well to remember that. “I'm General O'Neill.”

“I know you,” said Sam3 in the eerily familiar tones that were just as eerily lacking in any of the affection he was used to hearing from Carter.

Jack refused to let this deficit bother him. “It's good that you recognize me - it means you know that what I say now is a direct order. I need you to find the power source of the force shields in this room, and to deactivate them.”

Sam3 was slower to comply than Sam2 had been. She cocked her head and stared at him in a most disturbingly charming way, but at last agreed. “Of course, Sir.” She moved off to sit at the base of the second force shield, staring fixedly at it, clearly lost in a typical Carter round of observation and thought. She had almost experimentally touched the shield with the tip of her index finger when Daniel stopped her.

“Don't touch it!” he bellowed, making them all jump about a foot. He ignored their collective reactions, and moved to Sam3's side. “Look what it did to my sock,” he said, pointing out the blackened object lying on the floor. “I don't want that to happen to your finger.”

She smiled gratefully up at him. “Thanks, Daniel. I'll be careful.”

“Daniel!” Jack hissed, mortified. “This isn't the time to get cozy with the clones!”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “I realize that, Jack. I just don't want her to turn into a Sam Fricassee if I can stop it.”

“It's not a 'her,'” Jack continued, still hissing. “It's an 'it!' And it's been ordered to help us, whether it has a burned finger or not!”

Daniel reared back at the vehemence of Jack's speech, and slowly inquired, “Is there some hidden reason why you don't like them? They have the right to be treated with respect, same as Sam, don't they?”

Jack sighed. He so did not want to get into an argument about clone rights with Daniel at the moment. So he dodged the question. “What we need is their brains, Daniel, you said so yourself.”

Daniel shrugged. “Yeah, but using what we have available to us doesn't automatically mean that we have to treat it poorly at the same time.”

Which was true. But Jack still didn't want to debate the issue with his friend, who had an annoying habit of always taking the humanity side of any argument, leaving Jack to argue the military standpoint. While useful in the long run, the military standpoint often left Jack looking like an emotionless automaton. He avoided these discussions when he could. Instead, he eyed Daniel in mock disgust. “We need their help, and they're helping - end of story! Now instead of spending time on how the Carter clones are feeling, maybe you can help discuss possible power sources with one of them?” That might at least get Daniel off his back, as well as somewhere out of his personal space.

“Sure.” And Daniel moved casually over to Sam2, asking her if he could be of service. Soon the two of them were deep in a discussion of something clearly important, according to their wild gestures to several points in the room.

In a lowered voice, Teal'c complimented, “A most masterful redirection of DanielJackson's talents, O'Neill.”

“Ah...” Jack grunted. “Daniel's harmless, as you know, but he does tend to get stuck on the issues of a problem rather than the problem itself. I just gave him a nudge in the direction that will solve our problem in the fastest way possible.”

“Yes. ColonelCarter struggled the most with channeling DanielJackson's many talents when she took command of SG-1.

Which was a comment that morbidly caught Jack's interest. “Carter struggled?”

Teal'c gazed knowingly at Jack. “I once heard her say that she did not understand why she had so much trouble handling him - you had always made it look so easy.”

Surprised at the compliment, Jack did his best to diminish a show of his pleasure. “Well, I have didlie-squat compared to Carter's brains, so I guess we're even.”

The 'didlie-squat' reference didn't even faze Teal'c, though it was unlikely that he knew what that word meant. He was just getting that good at sloughing off unusual Tau'ri expressions. “I will endeavor to tell her so when we meet again.”

That brought the tenuous Carter situation back to prominent focus for Jack. “And I suppose you're going to tell me that we'll definitely see her again, right Teal'c?”

Teal'c gave his semi grin. “I am confident that we will.”

Jack certainly didn't feel as confident about it as Teal'c obviously did. But he pretended that he was. “Yeah. She's with... you know... not with...” Dare he say it? Could he? “... Ba'al.” He choked over the word, but was at least able to vocalize that possibility.

“Indeed.” Teal'c sagely nodded, then wandered away.

Leaving Jack alone to the mercy of his doubts, as if he hadn't already been at their mercy for a long time. For just a minute, he felt those nervous doubts knife through the butterflies in his stomach. He was a mess in seconds. But he hid the fear slicing through him - he couldn't afford to look unfocused now. He had a job to complete, and he was darned well going to see it through to the end. But he was still left with the niggling thought that Carter just had to be alright!

Jack's anxieties were cut short when he realized that he was staring at Sam3 sitting on the floor near the force shield, still contemplating what kind of power source that type of shield would require. But instead of doing tests on the shield with the usual amount of doohickeys that she unerringly knew how to find, she was instead staring intently straight at him, her hands idle in her lap.

And without the need of a memory recall device, Jack somehow knew that she was seeing a different force shield in her mind. “We were on Apophis's ship,” she softly said, recalling the incident. “We were going to destroy it. But there was a force shield...” And she stared at the present shield as if the shield of her memory had somehow transplanted itself into the here and now. “You were on one side of the shield... and I was on the other.” Thoughtful pause. “And you refused to leave. I told Anise - that was because we never leave a man behind.” She looked like she was struggling to bring this memory into line with the outcome of that particular situation. “But telling Anise all about it wasn't good enough. We were both called Zatarcs.” She looked like that term was synonymous with 'traitors.' “We had to be secured... but you decided to do Anise's experimental thing.” She gaped at him in wonder. “You should be dead.”

That's when Jack realized that there were two memories for her to have of this event. There had been the Zatarc retest... a memory that Ba'al was sure to have deleted from this Carter clone, as it definitely referred to Jack's feelings for Carter, and hers for him.

And there was another memory of the Zatarc situation. It had produced almost the exact same memory, but had emphasized different aspects of that same situation.

The memories were close enough, yet different enough that Ba'al would not have thought to delete this particular memory of the Zatarc test from Sam3 - he had already deleted the second memory, then clearly not bothered to delete its nearly identical twin.

The clone's look of utter confusion that had spurred on Daniel's humane side now arrowed into Jack. The hesitancy that he had seen in Sam3 was nothing compared to the expression of near panic he saw in her eyes right this minute.

And only Jack would be able to explain the situation to her, as he'd been the only other person besides Carter and Anise in the Zatarc room.

Yet, what could he say to this clone to set her back on track of figuring out the force shields? Any kind of useful explanation would have to delve into the issue that Ba'al had so carefully kept from all his Carter clones. He didn't see how one issue could be explained without dealing with the other.

And shouldn't the other Sam clone be confounded by the same memories? Or lack of memories?

But one look at Sam2 showed a woman who was deep in conversation with Daniel, happily considering their options as to hidden power supplies, oblivious of any other human in the room.

In a second, Jack had the reason why she was so oblivious. From the minute they were activated, the two Sam clones had begun living different lives from each other, as well as different lives from Carter's life... wherever she was having it at the moment. (And she was having it!)

This third clone was experiencing something very unexpected. Jack was fairly sure that Ba'al would have simply put an end to her life in order to end this misery of confusion, but he himself could never do such a thing. With no accompanying threat to base wide security, all the reminders and self reprimands in the world weren't enough for him to actually volunteer to end Carter's life, even if the Carter in question was a clone and not the real thing. Jack supposed that a Carter was a Carter, even if this one showed an unnatural amount of hesitation for the Carter that he knew.

But Sam3 was waiting for him to reply. He had to tell her something, and fast, in order to do that redirecting that Teal'c had so recently complimented. He needed 100% of her brain right now - he didn't want it to be stuck in some kind of weird memory loop, especially when he could help avoid it.

At the same time, why the heck was he feeling so uncomfortable? He and Carter were an item now... sort of. There was nothing he wouldn't give to her if it was in his power to give. He had given her his heart, after all. If she already had that, and he admitted to it, he should be proud of her hold on him rather than uncomfortable with it!

Of course, doing what he should do rather than what he was so much more used to doing was another matter.

Still, Jack felt that he had to try.

He sent a look at Sam2 to see how she was doing. More importantly, it was to see if Daniel was aware of what he was doing... or going to do. But Daniel was as oblivious as he often was, intent only on his discussion with Sam2 that had somehow morphed into a dialogue including every other scientist available. The rest of the Earth humans were either hiding or walking the perimeter of the room, intent on keeping those scientists safe. None of them were watching him.

So Jack felt pretty safe in squatting behind a console near Sam3 in order to talk unseen. “Ok, here it is - not pretty, but I haven't got time for pretty right now. The thing is, you're a clone, right? Do you understand at least that much?”

The confusion shifted in her eyes. “I'm a clone? Not the real thing?”

Crap - he didn't have time to go into the 'I'm not real?' issue right now. He decided that bluntness was the best way for him to avoid the following emotional entanglements. “I know this is a lot to take in, but no, you're not the real thing. But you're close enough to the real thing to have her memories. Well,” he amended, “most of her memories.”

Sam3 wrinkled her nose in more confusion. “Most of them? Why not all?”

“Well, see, that's the problem. You were... created... with one mission in mind. If necessary, you were going to be sent to Earth in order to hurt me in any way possible, and the best way to do that was to...” But the words got stuck in Jack's throat, and he couldn't continue as the memory of that original Gate Room scene came roaring back to leave him shaken.

Not that his continuing mattered, however. “I was... created?” she questioned in disbelief. “By who?”

“Whom. By Ba'al.”

“Ba'al!”

“Shhhhh!” Jack sent another quick glance around to see if the scientists had overheard the explanation. They hadn't. He breathed a sigh of relief, telling himself that he could explain this to her, but didn't exactly want to defend his actions of the past year to anybody else just now.

“Yes, Ba'al. He had some sick, twisted idea that cloning Carter, then holding her captive while sending back one of her clones... there were originally...” His voice trailed off again, and he heaved a sick sigh. How had this become so complicated so quickly? Jack gazed into the familiar blue eyes brimming with the equally as unfamiliar confused hesitation, and decided that no matter how afraid this naturally made him feel, he was going to have to sum up. “Ok, you and I are... and have always been... on the attraction side of the frat regs. Ba'al cloned Carter, and used a memory device to literally 'cut out' all those nicer feelings we've always had for each other. The first Sam clone then asked me...” But he couldn't actually vocalize it right now, so, as usual, he attempted to bypass the issue. “It was something that I couldn't possibly do because of my feelings, and I sort of went nuts for awhile... AWOL is more like it. Now, here I am, here you are, this is Ba'al's cloning chamber, and it's my job to blow it the hell up. But I can't do that if I can't touch it, so I know this is a lot to take in right now, but I need you to focus on...”

“But what does that have to do with Zatarcs?”

Crap. He was hoping that she would forget about that. Jack tried to calmly steal himself against his natural reticence when dealing with this topic. “Listen, all Carter's memories of her feelings for me - Ba'al cut them all out, right? That Zatarc memory you're having right now - the one with the force shield - it's only one of two actual memories from that day on that ship. There was the safe thing Carter and I told for the Zatarc tests, then there was what really happened.”

Sam3 gaped at him in distress. “What really happened?” she repeated in a tragic whisper, clearly thinking the worst. She knew perfectly well what most likely would have transpired for two humans captured while aboard a Goa'uld ship.

This was what Jack wished she wouldn't wonder about. But then, how could he expect to get used to having Carter by his side if he couldn't even talk about this to her clone? So he forced himself to swallow his nervousness and answer her question. “That's when we both admitted to ourselves and each other that we... care about each other.” Oh! Jack could do better than that! Even though saying this out loud was sooooooo hard! “Loved each other.”

Sam3 reared back. “But the frat regs..!”

“Yeah, we know, we know,” Jack quickly interrupted her, choking at what he'd just said. On a submerged level, it amazed him that he was able to be so open so successfully. It was heartening. “But since that Zatarc thing... Carter's been... medically discharged from the Air Force... due to other reasons, and... and I'm retired, and...” Jack swallowed, then shrugged. “Well, things are... better now,” he lamely ended. “But since we were... you know... doing the repressing thing... but we weren't lying!... the Zatarc tester... thing... turned out to be wrong. We weren't Zatarcs... just on the wrong side of the frat regs.” Even stuttering as he was, he made the situation sound so simple, and it had never been simple! It was so not simple that he was sweating buckets even as he talked about it. His heart was slamming his ribs like he was facing a natural disaster, but he was also determined to talk about this situation despite his fears. It was just a pity that this conversation was with a Carter clone instead of the real thing.

Before Sam3 could inquire what they had chosen to do about that Zatarc situation, Daniel leaned right over the console Jack was hiding behind to stare straight into his eyes. Obviously he wasn't as well concealed as he'd thought he was. “Jack?”

Jack gave an internal sigh, unable to decide if he was glad for the interruption, or instead wanted to castrate his friend for once again intruding where he wasn't wanted. He stood in order to face the man before he'd fully decided. “Daniel?”

Daniel jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing to the group of scientists. “We came up with several ideas as to possible...”

“Did you find the source, Daniel - yes or no?”

Daniel didn't even blanch at Jack's brusqueness. “No. We've decided that the power source has to be located in another part of this complex, since we can't find anything here that might hide something big enough to power something like those shields.”

Jack gave a sigh of aggravation. “We didn't come up with anything, either.”

That's when Daniel smiled. “You two seemed awfully cozy to be doing much...”

“Daniel!” Jack blurted, cutting into his friend's observations. “We were doing the memory thing, not being cozy!”

But Daniel's smile didn't diminish with Jack's cranky denial. “If you're so determined that the clone is an 'it,' why were you bothering to do the memory thing at all?”

Jack was stunned - that's right, he had wanted to think of these clones as 'it' rather than 'her.' Sam3 had somehow wormed her way inside him without his notice, and done it quickly at that. Without consciously deciding to think that way, he wondered if this had been its intention all along.

But then he quickly berated himself: how could this clone have any diabolical intentions of her own in the first place? This clone was a servant of Ba'al (and he was loathe to admit that he'd disregarded that fact for even a moment) and it was Ba'al who would be having the nefarious delusions of grandeur, not Sam3. Beyond anything else, no matter what Sam3 was, or who momentarily held it's allegiance, this clone was a Carter. Carter didn't have a diabolical bone in her body. Even if the third clone's allegiance was to Ba'al, Jack would have a hard time believing that a simple memory inquest had been part of any grand plan to keep him distracted long enough for Ba'al's forces to surround them.

Though in the next second, that's just what happened. The event had Jack immediately calling his judgment into question. Perhaps he'd been sitting behind a desk for too long and had lost his field edge by now?

Ba'al had time to slowly appear from out of the shadows, wearing a flowing robe and the ubiquitous Goa'uld wrist device. Jack gave him a mysterious one sided smile as Ba'al opened his mouth to surely gloat about his seemingly superior tactical skills when the surprising transpired once again.

SGC soldiers that the paranoid Jack had instructed to lay low while the scientists were so open to attack streamed out from behind consoles and popped from dark corners to surround the Jaffa surrounding the humans in the next second.

It was clear that the Earthers now had the upper hand. Jack mockingly tipped his head towards Ba'al in a show of pure insult as the humans seized the last of the Jaffa's staff weapons.

The minute the humans were done collecting every weapon in the room, the situation suddenly reversed itself a third time. Before anything more than a breath could be drawn, several more Jaffa armed with more staff weapons and zats surrounded the entire group of humans and aliens bent on capturing each other. It was a coup of a coup of a coup, a revolutionary battle fought in three parts, all without spilling a single drop of blood.

This, however, now allowed Ba'al to retain the upper hand, leaving a sour Jack with the knowledge that he'd been outwitted by (gag!) a Goa'uld.


Chapter 24

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