Chapter 26

Bra'tac sent a questioning look between Jack and Carter, not knowing which one of them to listen to. Jack swallowed his misgivings and gave a nod to tell him to do as she said. Master Bra'tac quickly began prepping for flight.

They were in orbit before Jack knew it, heading for the Cimmerian moon. The rapid appearance of a ha'tak from the dark side of the moon had most of the twenty-six passengers shrinking back into the bulkhead behind Bra'tac and Carter, as if they believed that distance was enough to confound a mother ship's heat sensors. The appearance of the ha'tak didn't even faze Carter, though, who acted like she had anticipated just this thing. Jack wished he knew what she was considering, but refused to interrupt what was clearly a coordinated dance.

“What..?” Pete started to say once he had regained his breath after his first sprint across alien terrain. Jack stopped him just as he had earlier, only this time his staying hand was much more entwined on the cop's arm.

“Trust her,” was all he said, but to him, that was enough.

It wasn't enough for Pete. “But I'm telling you, she can't even..!”

“Why do you insist on reminding us that she isn't as capable as anybody?” Jack hissed at him. “Carter has an idea...”

“Which you don't even know about yet!” Pete viciously reminded.

“Yeah, but I don't have to!” Jack's eyes blazed. “She's Carter - enough said!”

Carter paid no attention to this exchange, eyes riveted to the ha'tak on the viewscreen just as that view abruptly disappeared. A very evil looking man, obviously the ha'tak's First Prime, took over. “Tau'ri scum - surrender!”

Just the tone was enough to make most of the SGC personnel quail, but instead of cowering, Carter barked in her most authoritative voice, “Join us or die!”

Jack blinked - wasn't she quoting Darth Vader?

Unaware that Carter was so successfully channeling a fictional Dark Lord, the First Prime seemed momentarily surprised to find anyone willing to stand up to him, especially a female, but recovered quickly to sneer, “I will destroy you!”

“Not if I destroy you first!” Carter threatened back. She severed the link between the two ships, raised her Asgard communication rock, said, “Thor, fire!” just as she pushed the correct series of buttons for her own ship to fire at the same time.

Those on the teltac held their breath as they fired not at the ha'tak, but at the planet, leaving themselves wide open to attack. Jack prayed that Carter knew what she was doing.

An unexpected mushroom of fire suddenly erupted on the planet's surface, forcing those on the ha'tak to pause just long enough to avoid any backlash from the explosion. The air surrounding that explosion filled the sky with a fury of red and gold. The teltac's shields, already raised in anticipation of just this event, saved them from having to quickly divert any sudden power to protect themselves as the wave of fire abruptly shot through the atmosphere in a whooshing cloud of smoke and debris. It was obviously the very violent end to the only Cimmerian building containing an explosive agent; the cloning facility.

Without missing a beat, Carter reopened the link between the teltac and ha'tak vessels. “Goa'uld scum!” she barked. “You will join your ill-fated comrades on the planet!”

Wow - she sounds just like a Goa'uld Jack appreciatively thought, but his thoughts abruptly suspended at the sudden appearance of... Ba'al.

Jack did a double take. Another one? How could there possibly be another Ba'al?

But again Carter hardly looked fazed. She continued to glare at Ba'al as he leered through the image link... but the System Lord had eyes only for the man standing behind her.

“O'Neill,” he calmly said. “We meet again.”

“Ba'al,” Jack flatly announced, strangling his surprise.

Ba'al's eyes sparkled with malevolence. “I was most pleased with my clone's reports of your capture.”

His clone?

Then Jack sighed in irritation: of course Ba'al had a clone. He had controlled a cloning machine in a cloning facility on a backwater planet for months. He should have seen this coming.

Apparently, Carter had seen this coming. She now growled low, “Enough. Fire!”

But before anyone could push a single button to carry out her order, a hyperspace window suddenly erupted in the space edging the teltac's viewscreen. The ha'tak vanished into the window as abruptly as it had appeared.

The Tau'ri were again triumphant over the Goa'uld - and hadn't spilled a single drop of Cimmerian, Asgard, or human blood in order to do it.

The one-legged Samantha Carter finally relaxed to give a primal smile. “Well, that was easy.”

The silence that followed this short statement slowly gave way to relief, then to euphoria - winning was a great sensation!

* * *

Moments later, Carter finished up with an abbreviated explanation of her actions, “It was obvious that the real Ba'al would never trust his Jaffa to handle such a big operation as this one on their own - he would want to personally see to overthrowing the Tau'ri. But he would also want to keep his power base nearby so that his clone was never truly vulnerable, either. So...”

“You guessed as to the ha'tak's location,” Teal'c bluntly informed.

Carter nodded. “I guessed.”

But it was a good guess, Jack appreciatively thought.

Before he could voice that view out loud, Carter was going on, “So, I had that shield set up to protect the Cimmerians, then had us pick a fight with the big bad ha'tak, and had Thor stay cloaked while he fired at the cloning facility from a relatively low orbit.”

“And what better place to hide a ha'tak than the far side of a moon...” someone interrupted.

“... which was blind to any sensor sweeps...” another voice added.

Carter triumphantly finished, “And while we pretended to deal with the ha'tak...”

“... you had the Asgard destroy the cloning facility for you...”

“... and firing at anything while in a planet's atmosphere like that would have not only destroyed the cloning facility...”

“... but lit up the atmosphere like a birthday cake...”

“... which is why you had the Cimerrians hide in that shielded cave - as protection.”

Carter gave an enthusiastic nod. “Any Asgard shield would be strong enough to withstand even a blast that strong...”

“... and by firing at the same time, it looked like we were the ones who destroyed that thing...”

“... making us look much stronger than we actually are...”

“... and voila! It was a bluff among bluffs!”

“Hope the Asgard were taking notes,” Daniel said, ending what had been a scientific recitation that would keep the SGC scientists in raptures for months. The military officers present were just glad that they weren't pushing up daisies right now. But as one, genuine respect blazed out of everyone as they all stared in ongoing appreciation at the injured but not beaten Samantha Carter.

It was Jack's scoffing remark that ended the tableaux. “And you thought you would be a liability.”

Chapter 27

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