Chapter 25

Before anyone could react, Carter gave an odd, quick flick of her wrist, and an ultra thin metal pole with a handle suddenly extended with a quiet pfft. In a lightening move, she whacked Ugly Man in the face with the pole, breaking his nose to take him down for the count. His surprised cry heralded the strong thrust of the pole straight into the astonished System Lord's stomach. The move caught him so by surprise that he didn't even retaliate as she deftly hooked a tiny metal wire sticking out the side near the end of her pole onto his wrist device. In one swift move, she yanked it off to clatter beside her right foot. Quick as a blink, she used the pole to shove the Goa'uld device behind her, putting a stop to the possibility of Ba'al somehow regaining control of the weapon.

With a heartstopping thrust, she smashed Jack into the console that he and Carter stood beside, and acted as an automatic shield when she instantly followed him, sandwiching him between the console and her body as chaos erupted in the cloning room. “Now!”

The sudden zingzingzing of many zat guns simultaneously activating accosted Jack's one ear that wasn't mashed into Carter's shoulder. He blinked, and suddenly Ba'al was just another unconscious pile on the floor, along with every one of his Jaffa.

Barely ten seconds had gone by before it was all over. The armored bodies of enemy soldiers littered the ground, all of them having fallen where they stood - they hadn't even had time to lift their weapons before being overwhelmed by surrounding fire. Even Ba'al's evil First Prime was a victim of a well placed zat blast, and was sleeping two feet away from Jack as blood continued to stream from his broken nose.

Now that the fiery chaos was over, the SGC personnel took a unified breath of the stale air as the energy caused by the numerous zat blasts crackled once, twice, then vanished.

Timidly, almost as if they thought they'd done wrong, as many as thirty Cimmerians poked their heads around crates, consoles, corners, and even from the shadows cast by the golden throne. To the last one of them, they looked as freaked out by the sudden occurrence of unexpected zat fire as the captives they had set free, though they were clearly responsible for the zat blasts in the first place. The men and women who had been captives only seconds before stared at their saviors in stunned silence, most still desperately heaving in air.

An eerie quiet settled over the room. Jack grasped Carter as she began to slide in a graceless tumble to the floor, and righted her without thought. She inelegantly clutched at the edge of the console, using Jack and the pole still in her hand as a center till she found her balance. But for the life of him, he couldn't understand why she would need help in regaining her lost balance. They struggled on, but still no one said anything, not even the more grounded Cimmerians. The two groups just continued to stare at each other in shock.

Jack shook his head, but the sight remained unchanged. Carter was still flailing, the Cimmerians were still peeping, Ba'al was unconscious, and his Jaffa were still sleeping. “Carter?” he asked, surprised into a slow crawl to his feet. “Whatchyadoin?”

But before Carter had a chance to respond, out popped Shanahan, still in his Jaffa armor, beaming like he was Father Christmas. “Got him!” he exclaimed the second he spied the prone Ba'al lying only feet from Jack. “Ya like my cavalry?” he jocularly asked. “I figured that a prisoner of Ball was a man after my own heart, so I let 'em go, and here we are!”

Jack shook his head in confusion at the suddenness of the turned tables. It was a given that he still didn't have all the information to the reason that Shanahan had suddenly turned up like the bad penny that he was after being AWOL for the last several hours.

“I see you found the Vikings,” Jack slowly began, and sent a loose gesture at a few of the Cimmerians that he recognized.

Pete was far more excited. “I did good, didn't I? I mean, I was supposed to have found them like this, right? They said something about knowing...”

“Um... tell you what,” Jack said, finally getting his head wrapped around what had just happened, cutting through the extraneous detail with his usual turbo speed. “As much as I'd like to hear about what just happened here, we have more pressing concerns right now. We need to take advantage of whatever you did to...” And he waved at the fallen army of Jaffa. “So - Carter.” He regarded his former 2IC. “So glad to see you on your feet.” He quickly glanced down to see that Carter once again had only one leg, and without missing a beat, corrected, “Foot.”

Pete stared, his incredulity at the banality of that statement growing. “She just saved your life, and all you can do is..?”

Jack abruptly grabbed the zat still in Shanahan's hand and while Pete was still saying something about owing his life to Carter, which he'd known for a long time, summarily shot Ba'al two more times. The superiorly thinking System Lord disappeared in an arc of blue fire.

Without further fuss, Jack negligently tossed the zat back to Shanahan. “Thanks.” And again without missing a beat, went back to his original reason for even being in the cloning room. “Carter - we need to find a way to penetrate two force shields around the cloning machine so that we can destroy Ba'al's toy - got any ideas?”

Called on to perform more scientific than soldierly duties, she shrewdly regarded the entire room. “The best way to shut down any shield is to simply turn it off.”

Daniel had by then wandered over. “We... your two clones and I... thought that the source for shields this powerful must be so big that they're hidden someplace else in this...”

He didn't have time to state the word 'facility' when Carter flicked her wrist to activate another of her poles that somehow turned into the slickest pair of crutches that Jack had ever seen, and had used them to 'walk' over to a large console in the center of the room.

“That's some kind of... isn't it?” Jack quickly said, telling her without telling her that this console had already been considered and ruled out by the scientists.

Either not hearing him or choosing to ignore him, Carter continued forward. She expertly pushed a complex series of commands into a recessed side panel on the console, and instantly a crystal drawer slid open. She stared at the crystals in concentration, looked in the direction of the invisible shields, looked at the socks lying on the floor, peered at the wall, then surprisingly turned to the one conscious Jaffa in the room. “Teal'c, is there a staff weapon available that I can use?”

He grabbed one from close to him on the floor. “What do you require, SamanthaCarter?”

Carter didn't hesitate. “Shoot the crystals.”

Daniel wasn't so confident. “Uh... won't that..?”

“You told me to find the shield's power source and destroy it,” Carter interrupted in a voice of Steele. “My best guess is that's it.”

Daniel was quick to point out, “But Sam2 said that the source wasn't in this room.”

Carter gave him a look of long-suffering amazement. “And you believed it?”

Daniel looked at the incredulous Carter, at the two Sam clones, and gave his head a slight shake, as if to remind himself that yeah, these clones were loyal to the snake, so of course they would lie as to the whereabouts of a power supply. “Point taken,” was all he said. “She's all yours, Teal'c.”

Without further ado, Teal'c shot the Goa'uld tray. Crystal remains sprayed across the room, and the steady hum of some kind of energy device suddenly ceased. No one had even been aware of that humming before, but now that it had vanished, it's presence was obvious.

Carter gave a pleased grin. “There you go,” she said to Jack.

The experimental toss of another sock through the formerly shielded area gave credence to her grin. Meanwhile, the two Sam clones just stared at the place where Ba'al had lain till a moment before, clearly not quite knowing what to do.

Jack didn't take notice of their obvious emotional state. Actually, he noted it, but was quickly terrified of so much emotion, and so fell back on his typical way of handling such a response from any Carter - he ignored it in lieu of more professional concerns. “How do we destroy this cloning machine?”

“Do you have any C4 with you?” Carter asked, capturing his attention by still using that same businesslike tone.

Jack shook his head. “We don't have any... unless you brought some back from wherever you came from?” he hopefully asked. But Carter shook her head. “Then nope.”

“Have you got other explosives?” Carter next asked. Again Jack had to shake his head. “A nequedah generator hidden somewhere in your shorts?” Another head shake left Carter stumped.

“Ba'al didn't leave us with much - you know that - and the Cimmerians don't have much call for blowing things up,” Jack told her.

Daniel posited, “Can we just use a staff weapon?”

“Not powerful enough,” Carter negated.

Jack snapped his fingers. “One of those Jaffa gun placement thingies?”

Carter regarded him with a look that said she didn't want to shoot down his idea, but did it anyway. “Have you got one on you, Sir?”

To which Jack just rolled his eyes. “Carter!” he simply said instead of reprimanding her once more for calling him 'Sir.'

She didn't apologize. “Then don't call me 'Carter.'”

“What do you suggest we call you that's different than 'Sam' that won't get you mixed up with your clones?”

Carter sent a wry look at her vanished left leg. “I somehow don't think you'll have any trouble telling me apart from my clones.”

Not wanting her to get stuck on the fact that her leg was once again missing, Jack led her back to the topic of explosives. “Can you rig this joint to blow itself?”

Carter glanced around the room, stunned at the request that made rigging explosives sound so simple. “Maybe if I had a week to do it!”

“Is that a no?” Jack asked. Carter didn't even bother with a response.

Captain Allen piped up from his position near the wall, “And I don't see anything that might work as an explosive, either.” The other scientists all nodded as if they were one person.

Jack scowled at Allen. “I thought you said that you worked with weaponry?”

“I do,” Allen replied.

Jack threw up his hands. “Well then - can't you - I don't know - make a weapon?”

Allen snorted incredulously. “I'm sorry, General, but you just don't make a weapon!”

“But we need one!” Jack blurted. “Isn't necessity the mother of all invention?”

Allen grunted, his amazement at the impossibility of what Jack was asking of him again showing in his voice. “Well, yeah, but...”

“But nothing!” Jack threw his gaze to take in the room's consoles and equipment. “This is advanced alien tech - making a bomb out of all this stuff can't be that hard!” He was conveniently forgetting that Carter had already told him it would take at least a week.

Allen's snort came again, quickly reminding him. “Forgive me, General...”

“Wait,” Carter commanded, pensive.

“Carter?” Judging by the way she was suddenly chewing her bottom lip, a sure sign that she was deep in thought, Jack fully expected her to have some kind of wild, wacky, dangerous, outlandish, off-the-wall idea that would eventually save their asses.

Carter cast a glance at her clones, another glance at the Cimmerians, at Ba'al's Jaffa, at Teal'c, at Reynolds, at Allen, then finally at Jack. “It's kind of nutty... and a long shot, besides.”

Jack took a breath to steady his nerves. “Most of your ideas are nutty, Carter. That's why they work so often.”

Trepidation shot through her eyes in spite of his encouraging words. She looked assessingly at the clones again, and finally said to them, “I have a question, but you have to answer me honestly.”

Jack immediately said to them, “I order you to answer Colonel Carter as honestly as you can.”

Sam2 flinched, but despite where her loyalties lay, couldn't disobey such a direct order. “Yes, Sir.”

Sam3 wasn't far behind in saying the same thing.

Jack grinned the barest hint of satisfied grins. Ba'al should have cut the military part out of them when he'd had the chance. But the System Lord's death made certain that it was too late to implement a great many demonic things - an idea that made Jack immensely satisfied.

Carter's question immediately took advantage of Ba'al's unwitting loophole. “Is there a shield of some kind protecting this facility from above?”

“No, not to my knowledge,” Sam2 quickly replied.

“Mine either,” Sam3 said.

“They are lying,” Teal'c immediately announced in a dispassionate voice.

Sam2 growled in frustration. “I'm not lying, shol'va!” Jack flinched. It was almost more than he could stand to hear even a clone of Carter address Teal'c that way. But before he could stop her, Sam2 was going on. “I was cloned long ago when there was no shield of any kind protecting this facility. Things might be different now.”

Sam3 uncharacteristically wrung her hands, but didn't say anything.

Jack did a double take. How strange - no technobabble. The silence from this third clone sent shivers up his spine again.

But he ignored his misgivings, as he knew that they leaned more towards the personal than the professional. “Should we trust her - er, them?”

Daniel instantly defended, “Well, Sam2 has a point, Jack - it has been quite awhile since...” He deferentially refused to speak about Carter's original cloning session out loud. “But who knows what Ba'al could have acquired or done in the meantime.”

“No, she's right,” Sam3 broke in, timidly rubbing her hands together when all eyes in the room again turned on her. “Um...” Her voice petered off.

“Go ahead - speak,” Allen said, sidling up to her in an act of encouragement.

Sam3 looked so spooked that she wished to run screaming from the room - it was once again an unsettling expression to see in Sam Carter's usually confident blue eyes. “I... mean...”

A huff of irritation exploded out of Carter. “She means that this is a Cimmerian facility, and as the Cimmerians have no reason to shield their places of justice...” She didn't finish her comment as her gaze briefly landed on Gairwyn, who gave a short head nod showing her agreement before Carter continued. “The only way for this place to be shielded is if Ba'al thought to add that shield later, then didn't bother to tell his pets about it.”

Sam2 instantly retorted, “We were never his pets!”

Carter gave a dismissive wave of her hand. “Whatever.”

Sam2 overrode every other noise in the room to quickly warn, “I know what you're thinking, and it won't work!”

Carter frowned. “How can you possibly know what I'm thinking?”

Sam2's frown was an eerie echo of Carter's. “I know, because that's what I would do! And whatever ship you flew here in doesn't have even close to enough firepower to...”

Carter unceremoniously cut her off when she took an oval shaped rock from the pocket of her pants and spoke into it, “Am I right in thinking that you carry some kind of portable shielding device?”

Thor's strangely melodic tones issued from the rock, “You are correct, Colonel Carter.”

Satisfaction crept across her eyes. “Then I need two things. One, beam me out of here. And two, once I'm off the planet, I need you to lock onto my signal still on the planet - I'll explain later - then beam down your portable shielding device as well as some kind of source to power it. The me still on the planet will implement the necessary changes to get it up and running.”

“Will including an English translation of the shield's directions be helpful?” Thor asked.

Surprised at that suggestion, Carter smiled. “Yes, it would be a big help - thank you.”

“My pleasure.” The sound in Thor's voice called the Sam Carter fan club to Jack's mind again. At this rate, Thor was sure to be its first alien inductee!

Carter lowered her rock, and addressing the Sam2 clone, said, “Go with Gairwyn - it's up to you to make certain that shield is...”

“I know what to do.” The irritation in Sam2's voice was unmistakable as she moved to stand next to Gairwyn. “Though I still say this won't...”

“Sir,” Carter said to Jack, dismissively ignoring her clone's second warning. “Get back to the ship - tell Bra'tac to head for the moon.” She paused again as her attention swung inward to repeat with forced conviction, “This will work.”

Jack didn't know who she was trying to convince - him, her, or her clone. Or both clones. Or all of them at once. “I trust you, Carter,” he softly stated instead, choosing to share her professional conviction just as he chose to trust her personally.

With that, Sam thumped on her crutches to stand beside Sam3 and again spoke into the oval shaped rock. “Get me out.” She gripped the clone's shoulder, then they vanished in another flash of white light.

The Tau'ri were all too busy bursting into action to pay much attention to what had just transpired in the cloning room. “Gairwyn, can I trust you to get your people to the caves?” Jack asked in distraction.

Sam2 nodded in tandem with Gairwyn. “We know what to do.”

“What plans have you?” was all Gairwyn asked as she began gathering her people together to leave.

While marveling at Gairwyn's trust in the Tau'ri, Jack brusquely responded, “Carter's got some kind of idea - obviously - and if I know her, it doesn't include getting you all killed.”

“The portable shield,” someone behind him whispered, as if suddenly understanding Carter's strange request, but Jack spoke over him to Gairwyn. “It's a good bet that all of us should get the hell away from here before she does her thing.”

Pete pointed at Sam2 and instantly protested, “But didn't that clone thing say that it was impossible to..?”

Jack grabbed his arm to stop him. “Haven't you figured out yet that nothing is impossible for Carter?”

Pete reluctantly grumbled, “I'm beginning to understand that.”

“Think about it later,” Jack harshly ordered. The fact that Pete had even spoken reminded him that in spite of how he felt about the cop's continued presence on this mission, it was still his distasteful job to deal with him - it made him terse. “Gairwyn, in case these Jaffa wake up before any fireworks happen, take any of these staff weapons you can find with you, too. No point in arming these Jaffa if we can help it.”

Gairwyn nodded, and after grabbing every weapon they could carry, herded her people and Sam2 out of the cloning room prior to running with those still in the village for the caves. At exactly the same time, the rest of the Earthers hurried as fast as they could towards where Bra'tac had parked his ship what seemed like eons ago. They didn't get the chance to surprise Bra'tac with their sudden arrival. Carter had beaten them to it.

“Thor transported her several moments ago,” Bra'tac reported the second they entered the cloaked ship.

Carter was all business. “Thor said that she... the clone... already has the portable shield up and running.” Her voice hardened in resolve. “Now it's up to us.”

“The plan...” Bra'tac began. Jack interrupted him.

“The plan is to get out of the way so Carter can do her thing,” Jack told him, still brusk. “I suggest...” And he waved Bra'tac aside.

But Carter's hand placed on the Jaffa master's shoulder stopped him from rising from the pilot's seat. “No, you fly the ship, I'll operate the weapons that the Asgard installed. They installed them, right?” And she questioned Bra'tac with raised brows.

He gave a brief nod. “I was told to warn you that you will have one, maybe two shots before we completely burn out - a teltac does not carry enough fuel to power weapons so that they're truly effective.”

Carter nodded back at Bra'tac. “That's what I expected. Hopefully we won't need more than a few shots.”

Hopefully?” Jack croaked from behind her. Oh, swell. As Sam Carter's ideas went, her 'hopefully' was enough to cause fear to wiggle through his insides. This was sure to be fun!

Chapter 26

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