Originally published in the Seventh Chevron 4, 2001
Hand in Glove
"But, Mom, all the other kids are going."
Janet Fraiser heaved a sigh at the universal teenage refrain. It hadn’t taken Cassandra long at all to assimilate into Earth culture, to discover boys and endless phone calls and hours on the Internet, instant messaging her friends. Then there was the music. Until she had adopted Cassie, Janet had believed that she had moved with the times. When she was Cassie’s age she had vowed she’d always love rock and roll and refuse to become stuffy like her parents. Yet by the time her marriage had ended, she knew that if she had not grown away from modern music, it had grown away from her. Jack O’Neill, who did not have an ear for the current Top Forty, sympathized with her. Daniel, who probably preferred his music played on an ancient lute and at least three thousand years old, tended to sympathize with Cassie, but Janet suspected that was mostly in hopes of riding Jack.
But this concert was in Denver, at Red Rocks Amphitheater, and that meant a very long drive home when it was over. Cassie was too young for such a trip, even in the company of her friends. Any of them old enough to drive were old enough to cause Janet’s blood pressure to rise. Cassie wouldn’t be home until well after midnight and she was, in Janet’s opinion, far too young for that.
"What night is it?" she asked in what she considered a weak way. When Cassie turned such a glowing face to her, it was hard to refuse her anything, although she knew she had to. She had come so late to motherhood and had missed all the early parts: the first steps, the first words. Yet she was a mother in her heart, and she still remembered vividly the joy that had flowed through her when Cassie had first called her ‘Mom’ as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
"Saturday." The smug triumph in her daughter’s face was so typical of a teen who has managed to achieve a coup that Janet had to hide her smile. Not a school night. "Gina’s mother is going to drive us there. She won’t sit with us," Cassie added with obvious relief. To have to attend a concert with parent attached would create a horrendous stigma. Besides," she added, her eyes twinkling, "You like Eddie Plummer, too. It won’t be a night of pornographic lyrics and drugs. Eddie doesn’t do drugs."
At least that was what his publicity said. Janet wasn’t inclined to believe rock stars’ PR under normal circumstances, but she’d attended an Eddie Plummer concert herself, a few years before she joined the Stargate Project, around the time when his hit Greenwillow Memories had been on the charts, and she had to admit that there was something compelling about Eddie. She had seen no overt drug use in the audience, either, nor had there been anything in his song lyrics that she wouldn’t want Cassie to hear. What amazed her was that teens swooned at the sight of Eddie, who was no teen himself. He was in his thirties—probably late thirties—if it came to that. He was securely married to his female vocalist, Whitney Stone, and they had a little boy who was probably around eight years old. That didn’t stop girls like Cassie from gazing at him wistfully. Or mature women, either.
Cassie read Janet better than any child had a right to. "You do like him," she crowed. "I know you do. So I can go?" She waved the latest Plummer CD in Janet’s face. "You’ve heard Hand in Glove, haven’t you? Everybody’s singing it."
Janet tried to look past the CD, then she stiffened and snatched it from Cassie’s hand. "Let me see that."
"Mo-om. There’s nothing dirty in any of the songs. Eddie never has that kind of lyrics. He just sings so great. There’s something about him...."
Janet squinted at the picture of the singer on the jewel case liner. Eddie was by no means beautiful. His face was too long and too bony and his hair was retro punk. In the picture, he wore a white shirt with flowing sleeves like a Renaissance Faire wannabe. A jeweled medallion hung on a chain around his neck, and the stone in its center exactly matched the stone in the ribbon device on his left hand.
Fraiser stared at it in utter disbelief. Surely she couldn’t be seeing that? It had to be something that only looked like a Goa’uld ribbon device. "Cassie, may I borrow this?"
"So you can make sure the lyrics are okay?" Cassie asked, resigned.
"So I can show it to General Hammond." Cassie knew about the Goa’uld, of course, and she knew what a ribbon device was, but she hadn’t made the connection. She probably hadn’t been looking at Eddie’s hand or simply hadn’t thought of it. Goa’uld were out there, on other worlds, or, rarely at Cheyenne Mountain. Except for Seth and Hathor and a visitor to the base or two, they weren’t here on Earth, and their tools and weapons weren’t for sale at a handy local mart. Where had Eddie Plummer found one? Surely he wasn’t a Goa’uld?
"I’ve got to go to work, Cassie," Janet said. "I’ll give you my answer about the concert when I come home."
"I mean it, Cassie. This is important."
Cassandra craned her neck to see the album cover, but Janet tucked it away under her arm. She’d explain later. Right now, she needed to take this to the SGC.
** *** **
"My lord, you must see this."
The Goa’uld’s eyes glowed. "Must I? You forget yourself, Dalton. It is not you underlings to say what I ‘must’ do." His voice rumbled.
Dalton bowed his head. "Forgive my choice of words, Lord. I only meant that what I wish to show you is urgent and important to you." He went over and turned on the television set. He might regret his words, but he was not cowed. That was good. Had he cringed away, he would have proven himself less than useful. Sobek preferred initiative, as long as it was tempered with the proper respect.
Sobek knew of the Stargate currently active beneath NORAD in Colorado. One day, he planned to pass through it, but he would not risk himself on a foiled attempt. Most of the Tau’ri were ignorant of the Goa’uld, but those at Cheyenne Mountain were not. Better to take control with a complete plan. He had been trapped on this benighted planet too long already to waste himself in an ill-conceived escape plan.
The television image sharpened into a performance by a rock band. No fan of rock and roll, or of any other Tau’ri music, the Goa’uld grimaced. In the corner of the screen, the title of the song, Hand in Glove, was displayed. It had a more pleasing melody than most modern music. The lead singer, a tall young human with extremely fair hair, clasped the hand of an equally blonde woman. The Goa’uld’s experience of humans informed him that they were a mated pair, although that could have simply been a part of the performance. Behind them, at the drums, a muscular black man beat out the rhythm against the soft background of a full orchestra, while the lead singer’s baritone voice soared out, pure and strong. The Goa’uld did not find the lyrics distasteful, but he allowed no pleasure to show on his face.
As the song built toward the ending and the theme words came into play, the blond male first raised the hand that was gripping his female as he sang the word ‘hand’. Then, as he concluded, his voice commanding a breathless attention, he sang, ‘in glove,’ the Goa’uld realized why Dalton had wished him to watch the performance. His other hand thrust out toward the audience, and the spotlights caught the power focus stone on his palm and made it shiver with a muted hint of its true power. Impossible to determine if the blond man were a Goa’uld simply by viewing him on the screen, but on his hand he wore something that none save a Goa’uld should possess. A ribbon device.
"Who is he?"
"My lord, he is Eddie Plummer."
Even Sobek had heard of the name. Eddie Plummer had burst onto the music scene a decade earlier. Few people had not heard his trademark song, Leftover Souls, so many times that they could sing it from beginning to end. The Goa’uld was a leftover soul on this planet, trapped when the ancient Egyptian people had buried their Stargate.
A ribbon device. Although Sobek had possessed one in the beginning, it had been appropriated during the Spanish Inquisition. He had survived by taking a new host, but he had been unable to retrieve his weapon. Now he had been granted the means to take another.
"Dalton," Sobek said, "use our Internet connections and discover for me the location of Eddie Plummer. I want to know where it will be most expedient for me to retrieve the ribbon device."
** *** **
"Okay, I’ll bite," said Jack O’Neill. He looked at the others gathered around the briefing room table, with Hammond in his customary position and then back at the printout of the CD cover that lay in front of him in his briefing pack. "A ribbon device. You saying one of America’s most famous rock stars is a snakehead?"
"He wouldn’t necessarily have to be, Jack." Did Daniel have it written into his contract that he disagree with everything Jack said, or was he just having fun by being perverse? "He might have picked it up somewhere. There are probably bound to be a few Goa’uld artifacts here and there on Earth." He gestured vaguely with his printout.
"Yeah, right, he went down to his local Goa’ulds ‘R Us and snatched up a few, along with a couple dozen staff weapons."
Carter gave a quickly-suppressed snort of laughter that she choked off when O’Neill rolled a basilisk eye at her. "Plummer most likely wouldn’t know about the Goa’uld, sir. Maybe he found it when he was writing his new song, Hand in Glove. It might appear to be an unusual glove to him." She pointed to the album title. Yep, Hand in Glove. Well, that was the kind of glove Jack wanted to keep off any hand that might use it badly.
General Hammond took control of the meeting. "SG-1, I want you to not only retrieve the device from Plummer, but investigate his situation. He’s been a successful rock star since the early Nineties." The general patted the report that followed the printout in their information packets. "He evidently has high praise from everyone who knows him, has a good reputation in the music business, no arrests, and—this will interest you, Major Carter—he has a doctorate in physics."
"Bad sign," muttered O’Neill. "He’s been a busy little beaver, hasn’t he? Maybe it’s because he’s been around for hundreds and hundreds of years."
Carter ruffled through the papers and scanned the text quickly. "He actually taught physics at Ohio State for several years before he broke into the music business," she reported. "Born in Nineteen Sixty-one in Cleveland, Ohio. His real name is Edgar Spengler and his father owns a prestigious science lab there, Spengler Labs. I’ve heard of it. I’ve even had some contact with one of their physicists, a Doctor Laboryteau, when I was working for the Pentagon. They have several government contracts."
"So you’re saying...." Jack prompted.
"Only that if he’s a Goa’uld, it’s recent, sir. Wouldn’t it be more likely that he happened upon the ribbon device and simply decided to use it as a prop on this concert tour? Assuming there are that many Goa’uld artifacts here."
"Daniel just said there might be. Beside, the Stargate was," Jack countered. "Bound to be more. With all these planets we’re finding with Earth cultures that date after the ancient Egyptians buried their gate, the Goa’uld had to be trekking over here some other way. The Antarctic gate, some of their honking big ships, tourist cruises, whatever."
"Leaving valuable artifacts behind?" Daniel asked, then he shook his head impatiently. "Well, maybe. If he’s a Goa’uld, Sam would be able to tell and so would Teal’c."
"Indeed," agreed the Jaffa. "I have seen Eddie Plummer on television. His music is...acceptable."
From Teal’c, that was high praise. Maybe he’d get a charge out of attending an Eddie Plummer concert with all the screaming teenyboppers. Jack had to struggle not to smile at the idea.
"Mister Plummer’s concert is Saturday night at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver. We’ve investigated him and learned that his new tour begins there. He and the other members of the band—one Jackson MacKensie, who plays the drums, and the female vocalist, Whitney Stone, who is Plummer’s wife, and their entourage, have rented a compound only a few miles from here and are staying there until the day after the Red Rocks concert."
"Only a few miles from the Mountain?" Jack’s eyes narrowed. "And nobody thinks that’s suspicious?"
"A ribbon device and such proximity to the Stargate?" Hammond countered. "Extremely suspicious, Colonel. I placed an order to put the compound under surveillance immediately before this briefing began. I want the four of you to go in, assess the situation, retrieve the ribbon device, and determine whether Plummer is a Goa’uld or not, or if, for some unlikely reason, he is allied with them."
"There’s another possible problem," Daniel offered. "If there are any other Goa’uld lurking on Earth like Seth was, they may well have seen the ribbon device. This is a new album. It says here—" and he tapped the report—" that it only went on sale three days ago. If a Goa’uld has seen it, or seen him perform on television wearing it—"
"Plummer just painted a big bulls-eye on his forehead," O’Neill finished for him. "If he’s not a Goa’uld, he could be a target of them. We don’t know if there are any more of them lurking, but Hathor was here, and Seth. I’d bet you dollars to doughnuts that they aren’t the only ones."
"It’s even possible that others have learned to phase-shift like Nurti, and sneaked back with us on one of our missions," Carter offered. Peachy. They ought to whip out TER’s for every single return through the gate, just to be safe.
"Assess the situation, SG-1," Hammond ordered. "Your mission to P2V-502 is postponed until this situation is resolved."
** *** **
SG-1 went to Eddie Plummer’s rented vacation compound that noon in civvies, although they had the necessary ID’s and passes to command authority if need be. Teal’c wore one of Jack’s fishing hats low on his forehead to conceal his tattoo, and all four of them were in jeans and casual shirts and jackets. They might not resemble a commando squadron but neither did they look like a set of groupies, out to storm the bastion of their idol. Groupies didn’t come bearing weapons, and they had to have them, since they might have to confront a Goa’uld who had taken over Eddie Plummer. Jack was positive they wouldn’t be believed as casual vacationers, either—survivalists, possibly. But for him and Carter to go in uniform would alert any potential Goa’uld who were lurking, casing the joint—and Plummer and Company, if the ribbon device meant he was either a host or allied with the Goa’uld. Weird to imagine the Goa’uld wanting anything to do with a rock star, but stranger things had happened. The team’s weapons were concealed in their clothing, but it would be obvious enough to anyone who took a closer look. Jack’s jacket came down over his sidearm, and he had a zat tucked into the waistband of his pants at the back. Talk about uncomfortable. He had an M-90 in the car and Teal’c’s staff weapon and zat were there, too.
They pulled up into the driveway and followed it around a bend to a closed gate. No uniformed guards occupied the sentry booth, but just on the other side of the gate, a couple of big, muscular guys were sprawled in deck chairs taking in the sun. The blond one vaguely resembled Eddie Plummer, if Eddie had come in the giant economy size. He made Teal’c look almost puny. The second guy was about Teal’s size and color and he wore his hair in a bushy Afro. Jack hadn’t seen that style for years.
When he pulled to a stop, both men looked over at them, studied them, and frowned slightly. They might have expected teenagers but they hadn’t expected the more mature contingent.
The team piled out of the car and went to meet them.
"This is private property," said the blond man as he studied them through the gate. Extremely penetrating eyes. He picked up on the concealed weapons right away, and his eyes flashed, but not in the way of the Goa’uld. O’Neill was pretty sure these two were bodyguards and wondered if they were armed, too. The jeans and knit shirt on blondie didn’t reveal any obvious weapons, though, and the black man’s tee shirt contoured to his impressive display of muscles. Any weapons would have to be tucked out of sight like Jack’s zat.
"We know that." Jack flashed his ID. "We need to talk to Mister Plummer." It wasn’t a request. He didn’t want to get tough if he didn’t have to, but he was taking his team in to retrieve the ribbon device no matter what these two Mister Americas said.
The blond studied Jack’s ID, then he called over his shoulder, "Chan?"
O’Neill wasn’t sure if that were a name or a word in a language he didn’t know. He rolled his eyes in Daniel’s direction and saw that the team’s linguist didn’t have any more of a clue than Jack did. Chan was a Chinese name, surely, and the guy with the Afro didn’t look Chinese. But he got up obligingly and jogged over. "Mel?" So maybe it was his name.
"They’re from the Air Force. They’ve got IDs. They want to see Eddie. And they’re armed." He stopped, frowned suddenly, and turned his attention on Teal’c’s mid-section with a single-minded intensity, as if he could sense ‘Junior’. That didn’t look good, didn’t look good at all.
"Carter...." Jack growled uneasily under his breath. She’d know if either of them were Goa’uld. If they were Jaffa, they weren’t tattooed.
Sam concentrated. "No, sir, he’s not," she responded in an undertone after a minute. "But he’s...something different. I’m sorry. I can’t get it clearer than that. It’s nothing I’ve sensed before and I can’t find anything in Jolinar’s memories that would explain it."
"So are you, different," ‘Mel’ replied. He must have great hearing. He didn’t question the mention of Jolinar. "But not so different as this one." He nodded at Teal’c. "You aren’t demons, that much I do know."
Jack’s hand drifted down to the region of his concealed 9 mm. "Demons?" he squawked. "Are you kidding me? We’re not demons. We’re just four people who have military security business with Eddie Plummer."
If they were talking about demons, could they have some idea of the Goa’uld without understanding what a Goa’uld was? The Goa’uld had been called demons before. Someone who didn’t understand them might well call them that. This was turning out to be a bad day.
"We’re just two of Eddie’s roadies," Mel said quickly. "We serve as bodyguards, too. I’m..." he hesitated, and his face scrunched up in an expression Jack recognized. It was the look of an honest man steeling himself to lie. "I’m psychic. You probably think that’s crazy, but it’s true. I have a sense about you." He nodded at Teal’c. Then his face eased slightly. "I don’t sense any malice from you, just suspicion. You sense something about me, as well. I think you’d better come in and we can let Eddie figure it out." He unfastened the gate and swung it wide.
"I think we better," Jack agreed.
"Jack," Daniel breathed under his breath. "Do you think...."
"What, Daniel? Do I think it’s smart to go in there? No, I don’t think it’s smart. But you know why we have to." And if you mean do I think he’s psychic, then you’re nuts. I don’t buy into anything like that—not on this planet.
But the ribbon device the rock star wore indicated that the characters they were facing, even if they looked human, didn’t have to be. They didn’t even have to be from this world—although they had a pretty conclusive background for Eddie Plummer. Mel might know all too well what a Jaffa was. The edge of Teal’c’s tattoo was just visible under the brim of the fishing hat, if anyone knew where to look. Mel must have seen it, and his involuntary glance at Teal’c’s stomach only served to prove he understood its significance. It didn’t have to have a thing to do with the psychic lie.
Jack was positive this wouldn’t be fun.
** *** *8
"Sightseeing," Whitney Stone offered up as temptation. "Pike’s Peak. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Cy?" She glanced over at Eddie for encouragement.
The tow-headed boy at the lunch table frowned and pushed the potatoes around on his plate. "I’d rather go to the Museum of Natural History in Denver, Mother. They have an IMAX theater, and I’m sure the current exhibit would be of great interest."
Eddie Plummer smiled across the table at his wife. "It’s not worth it, love. Our little scientist knows what he wants to do. Getting him to play outside won’t work, not if there’s science handy."
"Da-ad," protested Cy with all the embarrassed intensity of an eight-year-old. "Don’t call me a little scientist. If any of the other guys ever heard, my ass would be grass."
"Cy!" Reluctant humor lurked in Whitney’s reproach.
"I suppose you don’t like me to say ‘ass’," Cy returned. "But it’d be okay if I was talking about a donkey. Parents are funny. Anyway, Uncle Peter says it." He dug a complacent fork into his broccoli. Cy never hesitated to eat healthy food.
Eddie couldn’t help smiling. His son had such a distinct personality. The science came from his grandfather, although the boy was more interested in Eddie’s original career of physics than Grandfather Cyrus’s biology. Eddie didn’t mind a bit that Cy wasn’t remotely musical. He could enjoy music, even if he didn’t make it, and he had been befriended by every roadie the band ever had.
"Uncle Peter is a good man, but you don’t want to model your language on him," Whitney said firmly. She and Eddie exchanged a quick smile.
"I’ll take him up to the museum if you want to work on your duet this afternoon," volunteered Jackson MacKensie, the band’s drummer, who had calmly eaten his meal in cheerful amusement while the debate raged around him. It took a lot to shake Jackson. Eddie could think of only a few occasions that had broken through Jackie Mack’s cool. He was probably missing his wife, Sharonna, who hadn’t come on the tour because she held down a job in Chicago. "What do you say, Cy?"
"Sure, Uncle Jackie. That’d be mucho cool." He grinned.
"There are museums everywhere," Whitney tried again.
The boy nodded vigorously. "I know. I think it’s really great."
"I meant, you shouldn’t miss the Rocky Mountains," she persisted. "That’s science, too. Geology. The formation of the mountains...."
Eddie shook his head. "Don’t fight it, love. That’s generations of Spenglers talking. Almost every one of them has been a scientist. I’m one myself, don’t forget, even if music overruled it. It’s in the blood."
"See, Mom." Cy grinned. He sneaked a look at the book he thought was hidden on his lap. Eddie knew for a fact that it was a text on astrophysics. Cy’s IQ was practically off the scale, but Eddie and Whitney had insisted that his life be as normal as possible. Hard enough to manage that when his parents were rock idols. Eddie’s cousin’s father had insisted on turning his life into nothing but study. He’d turned out all right, but it had taken friends he’d made in college to free him from the laboratory. Eddie’s father had tried to do the same thing to him, but the music had always given Eddie normalcy with his peers. The last thing Eddie wanted was that kind of unnatural life for his own son. Science, yes, but he was a small boy first and a budding scientist second, and Eddie and Whitney were determined to keep it that way.
"Nina will be here tomorrow," Whitney offered. "She could take you to the museum then, Cy. Or Mel could take you. We really need Jackson for the rehearsal this afternoon."
Cy brightened. He liked Nina Corey, who was Eddie’s secretary but who sometimes doubled as nanny for Cy, and he adored Mel. They were family. All of Eddie’s entourage was.
They heard approaching footsteps, and Mel came in with four people in tow, four non-groupie type people who had a few suspicious bulges in their clothing that might be weapons. Odd. Mel didn’t usually show fans into the house, and he wasn’t likely to allow people in who might be a threat. Still, with Mel, you couldn’t quite tell. He was far from your typical roadie. But then Eddie got a better look at them and realized that, even apart from the potential guns, they weren’t typical fans, either. They were too old, for one thing, and for another, they were an unlikely combination. The oldest guy looked like he ought to be in uniform, and the woman beside him, who was as blond as Eddie and Whitney, gave that impression, too. Something in their bearing. The youngest man, who had an air about him that Eddie recognized from his father’s lab and his cousin and his friends, might well be a scientist, and the big African American had ‘bodyguard’ written all over him, and a stoic expression on his face. Who the heck were these people?
"Eddie," Mel blurted out, "They’re here to talk to you officially. They’re from the Air Force. I think you’re in trouble."
** *** **
That sudden announcement made the four people at the dining table stare at SG-1 in astonishment. Daniel recognized Eddie Plummer from TV appearances. His song Leftover Souls had been popular before the first Abydos mission and Daniel had always liked its reference to the fragments of the past. One summer on a dig in the Valley of the Kings with Doctor Jordan, the students had adopted it for a theme song and hummed and sang it according to their inclinations until it had driven Jordan nuts. Plummer looked like he was a few years older than Daniel. His wife was as fair as he was; they made a matched pair, and were one in actuality, he realized as their hands reached out automatically and clasped although neither of them took their eyes from the newcomers. Daniel sighed faintly. He and Sha’re had once been able to do that. Beyond Eddie sat Jackson MacKensie, the drummer of the band. He set down his fork with a little clatter and stared at them in surprise.
It was the fourth member of the group who spoke first. "They sure are." The little blond child, surely the son of Eddie and Whitney, jumped to his feet and raced eagerly to meet Sam, his eyes shining with excitement. "You’re Doctor Samantha Carter. I read your article on neutron stars in Scientific American." He stuck out a formal hand. "This is indeed an honor."
Sam looked startled and a little amused but she was kind enough to hide it as she offered him her hand. The boy didn’t notice the amusement. He was too awestruck. For him to recognize Sam made Jack lift one grey eyebrow sardonically. But it went down again and Daniel saw a touch of dark unhappiness flash in his eyes only to be deliberately banished. Charlie. Jack’s son couldn’t have been more than a couple of years older than this eager child when he died, and he’d been fair-haired, too. The youngster even bore a faint resemblance to the crystal creature when it had taken Charlie’s form. God, Jack didn’t need that kind of reminder. Daniel took a subtle step closer as an offering of support.
Plummer noticed Jack’s reaction, even though he’d have no way of knowing what could have caused it. But it showed he was a perceptive man.
If Sam picked up on Jack’s reaction, she didn’t let it show as she shook the child’s hand. "Yes, I am. Are you interested in astrophysics?"
The fair head bobbed up and down. "I sure am. I’m going to be a physicist as soon as they let me. I’m Cyrus Spengler II, but you can call me Cy. This is my dad, Eddie Plummer, and my mom, Whitney Stone." He added confidingly, "They’re really named Spengler, too. The others are just stage names."
Daniel had a hard time keeping a straight face. At Cy’s age, he’d been just such a budding scientist, too. But he darted a quick look at Jack, and frowned. The last thing Jack needed was a constant reminder of his dead son.
"Carter," Jack said.
She pulled herself to attention. "I’m sorry, sir, but we physicists must stick together. I’m told you’re one, too, Mister Plummer. Let me introduce us. I’m Doctor Samantha Carter, as your son already announced. This is Colonel Jack O’Neill, USAF. Doctor Daniel Jackson, and this is Teal’c."
Daniel saw Mel trying to catch Eddie’s eye, to convey a message. He didn’t understand their signals, but Mel had talked of demons out by the gate, and that had driven Jack nuts. What kind of place had they walked into? Surely Eddie and his friends hadn’t encountered Goa’uld before? And surely Eddie couldn’t be one? Daniel couldn’t remotely imagine a Goa’uld allowing all those concerts, or singing like an angel for the pure joy of it, the way Eddie Plummer did.
"Just Teal’c?" Whitney asked. She shook hands all around. "I’m Whitney Stone, and this is Jackson MacKensie, our drummer. What can we do for you today?"
"Just Teal’c," Jack agreed in a ‘wanna make something of it?’ voice.
"Something different," Mel insisted stubbornly. "I can sense it. Not a demon."
"So what’s with this demon thing?" Jack asked. "He was going on about that out at the gate, too." He rolled his eyes. Daniel was afraid Eddie had realized that it was a distraction. They’d come to take away a ribbon device, not to give away security issues.
"Told him I was psychic," Mel said quickly.
Cy glanced up at Mel in surprise and opened his mouth to protest, then he caught on and shut it again. He was quick. He narrowed his eyes at Teal’c, then he glanced at Sam again, and back to the big black man. He was too young to have learned subtlety.
"And we could tell that was a fib, right away," O’Neill plunged in. "Okay, bottom line. Carter, where’s the album?"
Sam produced the CD. "Here, sir."
"The Air Force has it in for my new album?" Eddie couldn’t keep the amusement out of his voice. Whitney moved to his side and took his hand again. Jackson MacKensie fell in at Eddie’s other side, displaying the same kind of unity that SG-1 displayed on new worlds. They didn’t pull Cy back, but Mel hovered, huge and, if not menacing, wary, ready to yank him out of danger.
"Not the album," offered Daniel hastily, suddenly sure there was nothing here but the accidental discovery of the Goa’uld device. He took the CD from Carter and held it out. "This device you have on your hand. Where did you get it?"
"The glove?" Eddie stared at him in such blank surprise that Daniel was almost convinced that he was innocent. "You’re here about the glove?"
"Where did you get it?" demanded Jack.
"At a junk shop in the Village in New York," Eddie replied easily. "They didn’t know what it was; they said it was probably part of a theatrical costume."
"Do you have it with you?" O’Neill persisted.
"Then we’ll have to confiscate it," O’Neill replied. "It’s not a theatrical prop. It’s a classified device." He turned to Samantha. "Carter? Anything?"
Her nose wrinkled slightly as she concentrated on Eddie, on Whitney, and on Jackson. Then her face cleared. "No, sir, nothing."
"I concur, O’Neill. They are not...." He let his voice trail off.
"We’re not what?" Eddie frowned. "Is this some paranormal thing?"
"Paranormal?" Jack was surprised enough at the question to momentarily forget about Cy. "Sweet. What’s with the paranormal gig? Demons? Wait a minute." He put an answer together. "You haven’t seen any guys running around here with eyes that glowed, have you?"
They all considered that. Whitney shook her head immediately. "I haven’t."
"Neither have I." MacKensie sounded like he ought to be commended for it. "But then we just got here last night and we haven’t even been off the grounds since then."
"We were planning to send Cy sightseeing today, while we rehearsed. But the only people we’ve seen were the groundskeeper and the man who gave us the key at the office down in Colorado Springs."
"I have," Cy said quickly.
SG-1 all stared at him. Jack’s eyes narrowed and he threw Daniel a doubtful look. Child genius imagination? Daniel shook my head. He wouldn’t have made up stories at that age. Even when he had told the truth, he wasn’t always believed, especially after his parents were killed. He’d been about Cy’s age when that had happened....
Jack nodded at Sam, and she squatted down to be at eye level with Cy. "Will you tell me about it?"
Cy melted. He’d have turned cartwheels if she had asked him to. "I was out on the grounds. Mom and Dad like me to get exercise in the fresh air. They don’t want me inside reading all the time or going on line. We didn’t have the laptop connected yet this morning and my books were still in the suitcase so I went out and Chandarl and I played catch."
"Chan works with Mel," Eddie explained. "You probably saw him at the gate."
"Anyway," Cy snatched attention back to himself, "there was a man at the gate. He got out of a limo and walked over, and waved to me. I didn’t go up close and Chandarl took hold of my arm. The man asked who lived here, and Chan said it was private property, and who was the man looking for." He tried to stand taller. "I didn’t tell him who was here. I know about groupies and people like that. The man looked at me really hard, and then he apologized and said he must have the wrong address, but for a second, his eyes sort of glowed. And he looked at me so hard I knew he recognized me. I’ve had my picture on television," he added with childish delight. "Then he got in the car and drove away."
Daniel exchanged a glance with Jack. That must have been just before the surveillance General Hammond had ordered had been put into place.
"Did Chan see his eyes glow?" Jack prompted. He was so good with Cy that Daniel felt a sudden pang.
"No, ‘cause he was checking out the car license plate, just in case, and wasn’t looking at the man. But then the man got back into the car—in the back; he had a chauffeur. And they drove away."
"When was this, love?" Whitney asked him.
"It was a while before I came in to lunch."
"Okay, I’m calling it in." Jack pulled out a cell phone and stepped out into the hall.
"We better get the ribbon device and the other artifact," Daniel told Eddie.
"Are we in trouble for having it?" the blond man asked.
"As long as you turn it over, you won’t be in trouble with the government," Sam replied. "Although we will ask you not to mention it again. I’m not sure what will happen with those album covers, and I’m afraid you’ll need a new prop for your tour."
"But there might be others out there who will be interested in it," Daniel cautioned.
"You mean it’s dangerous?" Eddie’s eyes narrowed. "I always had the feeling I should be doing something with it, not just wearing it. I had Mel play with it a little, to see if it was a question of using the stone as a focus, but he couldn’t get it to react, and if he couldn’t, then I figured it wouldn’t hurt me."
"I’ll go get them," Whitney offered.
"Daniel, go with her," Jack called from the hallway.
He turned to the soprano. "I’m sorry, but I better come."
Whitney held out her hand for Cy, who hung back reluctantly for a moment before he sighed and put his hand into his mother’s. He watched Sam over his shoulder.
The house the Plummers had rented for the duration was huge, styled rather like a Swiss chalet with overhanging eaves. A curving stairway led up from the main hall to the second floor, and Cy ran eagerly ahead then hesitated on the top step. "I want to know what the glove thing does. If it’s a weapon, something has to make it work, and I couldn’t see any control buttons when Dad let me examine it."
"Cy examines everything, very scientifically," Whitney explained with a smile. "I’m told Eddie did the same when he was little, but his father encouraged science to the exclusion of all else. If Eddie hadn’t been so musical, I’m sure he’d be in a lab somewhere today, but the music won."
"I’m an archaeologist," Daniel admitted. "My parents both were, too, and there was never any doubt that I’d follow in their footsteps. It’s in the blood. I went into college early. For me, that was the best thing. My parents were dead by then. But even if Cy studies on the side, let him have a normal family life." He caught himself. "I’m sorry, it’s none of my business. But...I was rather like that when I was his age."
"Does your friend Colonel O’Neill have a son?" Whitney asked. "The way he looked at Cy...."
"He lost his son when he was a couple of years older than Cy," Daniel admitted. "Don’t mention it to him. He won’t bring it up. I think he’ll be glad if we can insure your safety, confiscate the item, and be out of here."
"You think the man with the glowing eyes is a threat to us?"
"If he believes you have the artifact, yes. We’ll have to make it clear that you don’t have it any longer."
"But...glowing eyes? I don’t understand. I believe you. I’d never doubt Cy, not for a second; he may see things from his own unique perspective, but he’d never lie, and he’s been raised to be open-minded and not to deny something simply because it’s implausible." She smiled suddenly. "Why, we even live in a haunted house."
Daniel, who knew all too well that almost anything was possible, didn’t object to that. "I can’t explain about the glowing eyes. I wish I could, but it really is better for you not to know."
"Come on," Cy urged, dancing ahead of them. He started to pass one of the rooms along the hall, stopped abruptly, and vanished inside. A second later, he gave a startled, choked-off cry and fell silent.
"Cy!" Whitney raced ahead with a mother’s instinct before Daniel could grab her to hold her back. Daniel went after her, delaying only long enough to draw his zat. He peeked around the corner of the door and saw Whitney sprawled on the bed—the room must be the master bedroom—and Cy struggling in the grip of two men in dark clothes who looked like housebreakers. The room was in wild disarray, drawers pulled out, bedcovers torn aside, pictures askew on the walls. Standing in the center of the room was a man in an ordinary shirt and slacks, but the expression on his face was one of power. The weapon he held in his hand was not a zat, but Daniel recognized it from the weapons’ drills the SGC required of all its personnel as an AIR TASER weapon. It looked a little different from the standard models that had been considered for inclusion on SG missions. As Daniel aimed the zat at the men who held Cy, the Goa’uld’s eyes glowed. He frowned at the weapon in recognition and retaliated by leveling the TASER at Daniel, although he didn’t activate it.
A man concealed against the wall just inside the door grabbed Daniel’s wrist before he could fire. There was another of them on the other side of the door. Even though he tried to get a zat blast off, they secured him and wrested the gun away. Whitney lay unmoving. The Goa’uld must have used the TASER on her—except that a TASER shouldn’t produce unconsciousness like that. It might stun her for a moment or two, but to put a person out of commission so fully? No. It would be just like a stranded Goa’uld to equip himself with useful human weapons if he were denied the traditional Goa’uld armaments—and to modify them with Goa’uld technology.
"What did you do to her?" Daniel demanded uneasily.
The Goa’uld gestured with his TASER.
"No." Daniel faced him head on. "That’s not what I’d expect from such a weapon. What did you really do to her?"
"Ah." The Goa’uld eyed Daniel with interest. "You know weapons. But then, of course you must." He gestured with the TASER. "I used it on the back of her neck. But you are correct. I find such weapons...inferior. It amused me to adapt this one to suit my needs. She will not die, unless I will it."
Daniel tried to send reassuring signals to Cy, but the distraught child continued to struggle.
"Now," said the Goa’uld to Daniel in the echoing voice that went with the territory, "Where is the ribbon device?" He gestured menacingly with the TASER. Daniel knew he couldn’t help the boy if he were rendered unconscious. He had to stall, to gain information.
There was only one answer to give, and it had the advantage of being the truth. "I don’t know."
A slight nod of the Goa’uld’s head made one of the men who held Daniel backhand him hard across the face. Daniel staggered and caught himself quickly. His glasses slipped sideways and he raised a dazed hand to straighten them.
"Do you think me a fool?" demanded the Goa’uld. "You have Goa’uld technology." He accepted the captured zat from his henchman. "You are here in the presence of one who bears a ribbon device." He gestured casually at the boy with the zat. "This is his son."
"My dad will get you," Cy snarled. His eyes darted worriedly to his mother and his bottom lip quivered although he tried to still it. "He’ll make you pay for hurting my mom."
"Will he? This singer? This puny human who has no comprehension of what he possesses? Who does not understand my powers? I will have the ribbon device and any other Goa’uld tools he possesses, and I will have them now. Where are they, boy?"
"I won’t tell."
"If you don’t tell, I shall kill your mother. Now tell."
Cy’s face crumpled up and his science persona trailed away to be replaced by a very scared little boy. "Don’t you hurt my mom," he said with as much trembling defiance as he could manage.
"I will have the ribbon device."
Cy gazed with hatred at the Goa’uld. "Don’t you hurt her. Doctor Jackson, please, help my mom." Daniel wasn’t sure he even knew what it was, but he had been alert and interested during the conversation downstairs. He was too smart not to know what the Goa’uld wanted.
"I’ll try, Cy." He turned to the Goa’uld. Time to stall. If they stayed away too long, Jack would send reinforcements. He’d back Jack, Teal’c, and Sam against this crew in a heartbeat. "How long have you been on Earth?"
The Goa’uld drew back and one eyebrow arched up, Spock-like. "On Earth, is it? Ah. So you know. You understand what I am. You are of the educated Tau’ri, perhaps with those who control the Chappa’ai. Possibly you are even one of those who did away with Seth. Ah. You react to that. You are."
"The boy doesn’t know anything," Daniel said hastily. "Let him go."
"I think that I will not."
A strange man appeared in the doorway, dressed in black like the Goa’uld’s other henchmen. "My lord, there’s trouble coming." He pointed urgently at the window.
The Goa’uld strode over and yanked back the curtains, giving Daniel and Cy a view of a convoy of military vehicles racing up the driveway toward the house.
"Wow," breathed Cy. "The whole army’s coming." He glared defiantly at the Goa’uld. "Now you’re gonna get it."
"Your friends summoned back-up." The Goa’uld turned to Daniel and backhanded him hard. The second blow, so soon after the first one, made Daniel’s head swim and sent his glasses flying. They landed at Cy’s feet, and he swooped down and picked them up like a trophy. Daniel stood straight with defiance and no little effort. He would have liked to shake his head to clear it, but he suspected that would have made it fly into many pieces. It took effort to force stiffness into his knees, but he wouldn’t let himself give ground. He had to protect the child.
"You can’t get away." He had to work to keep his voice level. He caught Cy’s shoulder and drew the boy back against him. Daniel doubted he would be able to shield Cy, but he’d try. Hands around the boy’s shoulders to rest on Cy’s chest, he restrained him from going to Whitney. She was breathing; Daniel could see her body stir with each inhalation.
"Your mom’s alive, Cy," he said softly. Bending down to speak made him dizzy, but he righted himself hastily and concentrated on standing upright. The side of his face throbbed painfully. "He only stunned her. She’ll be fine when she wakes up."
"I want the ribbon device." The Goa’uld glanced at the approaching vehicles. "We withdraw. Bring them. I am sure that Eddie Plummer will instantly trade a prop he considers worthless for his son. As for you," he said ominously to Daniel as he was dragged toward the open window, "you will be trouble, but I may yet have use for you." He nodded and the man who had given the warning hit Daniel hard across the face. The third blow did what the first two had not; they tipped him backward off his feet and down. The Goa’uld finished it with a TASER blast to his chest that was enough, in his dazed state, to push him over the edge before he could even yell a warning to Jack. Muscles spasming, he fell into an echoing darkness, in which the only sound he heard was the little boy crying. Then, even that went away and there was nothing at all.
** *** **
The sound of the approaching vehicles of the back-up force penetrated even to the dining room. O’Neill frowned. Whitney shouldn’t have needed so much time to retrieve the ribbon device, which was probably tucked away in a drawer or with the performance costumes, rather than locked up in a safe. Even if it were still packed, they should have returned by now. Trailed by the rest of the party, he went out to the front door to the door to wave a greeting to the support teams and motion for them to spread out around the house. Leaving the door open, O’Neill turned. "Taking long enough, aren’t they? Teal’c, go and see what’s keeping them."
Teal’c started for the stairs.
"Teal’c?" When the Jaffa halted, he added, "Go armed."
Eddie practically exploded. "You’re saying my wife and son are in danger right here in my own home? Or do you even remotely imagine Whit will use the glove as a weapon against your friend?"
Teal’c pulled out a zat and went away. No nonsense about him. Jack motioned for Carter to draw her own weapon. Gun in hand, she stood just beyond the doorway. The singer’s eyes tracked the movement and his drummer and bodyguard fell in beside him to present a united front.
"That’s it, isn’t it?" Eddie persisted. "It’s not an ‘artifact’ or a ‘device’. It’s a weapon, isn’t it? Some weird weapon that works—I don’t know—that works by mental focus? The government’s creating super soldiers with heightened psi ability."
"Heightened psi? I like it." O’Neill’s hand was steady on his 9 mm. "That’s quite an imagination you’ve got." Carter could probably pull the mental control number because of the lingering naquada in her system. But the odds were about a billion to one that the singer had any of that handy substance in his bloodstream. The ribbon device was useless to him except as a decoration—and it was dangerous to him, since he’d publicly flaunted it where any lurking Goa’uld might see it. ‘Course that implied there were Goa’ulds on Earth watching rock concerts, which was more than a little mind-boggling. Hard to imagine Apophis sitting down for a cozy evening with MTV.
Jack turned to confer with the two Marines who came up to the door, instructing them to deploy their forces outside. "And send in half a dozen men. We could have a situation right here in the house."
"If anything’s happened to my wife or my son...." Eddie’s voice rang with threat. Jack wasn’t sure what he could do—but the big bodyguard, Mel, looked prepared to grab Jack and hold him up by the ears until he gave ground. Mel had lied about being psychic, but there was something threatening about him. O’Neill had been around the galaxy enough to know that there were more things in heaven and earth than were ever dreamed in his philosophy, or whatever Shakespeare had said. He just expected most of them to be on the other side of the Stargate.
Five heavily armed Marines stormed into the house, a sixth following with the other guy from the gate—Chandarl, was it? Weird name—and Jack gestured them to the stairs. They had barely started up when a motion at the top made them freeze and level their weapons, ready to fire.
"Hold it!" Jack yelled as he realized who was there.
"O’Neill!" Teal’c’s voice held alarm. At his cry, Eddie lunged closer for a better look. MacKensie caught his arm to hold him back but Eddie would have run right into the Marines’ guns if Mel hadn’t helped the drummer restrain him. As soon as he realized he had been identified and wouldn’t be shot out of hand, Teal’c started down the stairs, carrying Whitney Stone, unmoving, in his arms. Even burdened with the unconscious blonde, Teal’c held his zat on the man who marched defiantly in front of him. At once, two of the Marines grabbed the guy and restrained him. The others went past Teal’c up the stairs to check it out.
"This one," Teal’c told O’Neill, his voice dripping with contempt for his prisoner, "tells me that his lord Sobek has removed Daniel Jackson and the child, and that he will exchange the boy for the ribbon device and any other Goa’uld artifacts that are here."
Eddie let out an anguished cry and broke free of his two guardians. "Whitney! My god, what’s wrong with her?"
"My lord rendered her unconscious with a specially modified TASER weapon," the prisoner admitted calmly. "I was to wait and give my message and explain his terms."
"And go to prison for so long that you’ll never come out again," Jack snarled as Eddie reached Teal’c’s side and put out his hand to touch Whitney’s face.
"If my lord permits it," said the prisoner complacently. It was pretty clear to Jack that the guy would have jumped into the heart of a fire if the Goa’uld had instructed him to. He must have walked around his whole life just waiting for a cult to join. What kind of weird mentality turned a guy like that?
Chandarl drifted over to Jackson MacKensie. "Sorry. They just came in. I couldn’t stop them."
"It’s okay, we need them, Chan."
Teal’c lay the unconscious woman on a sofa that ran alongside the stairs, and Eddie knelt beside her and snatched up her hand in both of his. Mel followed him and stood with his big hands resting reassuringly on Eddie’s shoulders. The singer didn’t even notice. "Whitney, come on, love, talk to me." He let go with one hand and checked her pulse. "Somebody call Nine-one-one," he gritted out.
"We’ll take care of that." Carter took the cell phone from Jack. Not 911, of course, but the SGC. She’d check with Fraiser. They hadn’t arranged to have the doctor standing by, but she could be here as quickly as paramedics could, if it seemed called for.
Jack left her to it. "What about Daniel?" he asked Teal’c. He was sure he’d have been able to tell from Teal’c’s expression if Daniel were dead. Hell, he’d have known, somehow, even without being told.
The prisoner answered for him. "The Tau’ri with the zat? My lord thinks that he will kill him. Perhaps. Or he might use him to bargain for the use of the Chappa’ai."
Jack stilled his automatic groan. Hammond wouldn’t give in to terrorists; he couldn’t. Let one Goa’uld use a hostage to escape through the gate and they’d be lining up outside the door. But this was Daniel, for crying out loud. "Kill him and you’ll be sorry," he snarled.
Eddie whirled on the man and stormed over to him so fast that he had his fingers twisted in the guy’s shirt front before anybody realized what he meant to do. "Where is my son? If you’ve hurt him...."
"Your son will be traded to you for the ribbon device," the prisoner said complacently as Mel and Jackson took Eddie’s arms and pulled him back.
The Marines returned from their search of the upstairs. "Nothing up there, sir," one of them reported.
"Well, they can’t be far. Daniel and the kid went upstairs only a few minutes ago. Take this guy out of here," he added with a nod at the defiant man. "Keep him close. I’ll want to question him."
One of the Marines marched the prisoner away, and another stepped up to O’Neill. "We’re searching the grounds, sir."
Jack turned to Eddie, who once again knelt beside his wife, stricken, determined, and furiously angry all at once. It must look to him that Jack and his team had brought this crisis upon him, but it hadn’t happened that way. Right now, that didn’t matter. What did was retrieving Daniel and the little boy—god, if only he didn’t remind Jack so much of Charlie—and take down the Goa’uld. What had Teal’c said the flunky called him? Sobek?
Eddie glared back. "You have to save my son," he insisted through clenched teeth.
"Planning on it." How the hell could he reassure Plummer when he couldn’t even reassure himself? Yeah, he had good back-up, but he also had a vicious Goa’uld who now had Daniel’s zat as well as a TASER that could put a person out. Sweet. He couldn’t let Daniel or the child die, but he might be unable to prevent it.
"You can’t imagine how it feels to lose a child," Eddie spat at him. "That’s my son. If he dies...."
Jack reeled back as though he’d been punched in the stomach. He could feel every shred of color leave his face. Oh, god, Charlie.... There was no answer for that. It was all he could do not to whirl and stalk out of the room. He swallowed hard.
Carter jumped in before O’Neill could utter one word. Pain ran through him; god, he’d be responsible for the death of another child here.
"You shut up," Carter hissed fiercely. "You don’t know what you’re talking about. If we hadn’t been here, you would have had no chance at all. We’re your only hope of getting your son back. We’re trained to deal with people like Sobek. You’re not. Let us do our jobs." Her voice softened slightly. "I can understand what you’re going through."
"Can you?" Eddie challenged more quietly. His eyes never left Jack’s face. Realization flashed there, as if he knew he’d jumped in with spiked boots.
"To a degree," Sam admitted. "She wasn’t my daughter, but I thought she was going to die." Cassandra. "She didn’t, but it’s a feeling you can’t forget. We’ll do everything we can to save Cy. Just remember, he’s only valuable to Sobek alive. I’m sure Sobek knows that perfectly well. He’s lived among us long enough to know that if he so much as hurts Cy he hasn’t got a chance of going through the...getting what he wants."
She took a step over to O’Neill’s side and spoke in an undertone. "He doesn’t understand, sir."
O’Neill spared her one brief glance, but couldn’t face the sympathy in her eyes. "Yeah, Carter," he murmured in reply. "Thing is, he does."
Eddie squeezed his wife’s hands once more, then he stood up and faced Jack head on, one father to another. "I’m sorry," he said. "I didn’t know." The other three members of his party watched with varying degrees of comprehension. MacKensie got it, and Mel might. Chandarl looked perplexed. The singer continued urgently, "But you do understand how I feel?"
"Yeah." O’Neill finally got his mouth working again. Wish he could say the same for his stomach. He wanted badly to be sick, but he didn’t have that luxury. He swallowed hard. "Your son is our first priority," he admitted.
Teal’c shifted position. He didn’t speak, but he placed himself at Jack’s side like a sentinel, projecting unspoken support, as solid as a six-foot wall.
Eddie blinked. "Your friend...."
Jack drew a deep breath. He was getting too old to deal with another possible death for Daniel. He’d faced too many of them, yet Daniel kept coming back. Here, with no chance of a sarcophagus if Sobek got fed up, the odds were bad. Yet Daniel was a full member of SG-1 who had dealt with Goa’uld before. Jack had to trust him to stay alive, to look out for Cy in the process. He did trust him to do his best. But what if his best just wasn’t good enough this time? "Daniel knows what he’s doing," he said stiffly.
The shaky bond that had suddenly sprung into existence between him and the singer firmed up into understanding. Eddie reached out and touched his shoulder lightly. "Do what you have to do," he said, and Jack could tell without anything more than the pain in his eyes what it cost him to speak those words.
Eddie’s eyes lingered on Jack’s face as if he could recognize the stark emotions that must be flying there like flags. O’Neill willed his churning stomach to settle down. Time to get back to business. The two men exchanged a silent look, then O’Neill nodded to Carter to go back to her phone relay. It was time for practicalities.
"Listen up, Plummer. Cy said the guy showed up just before lunch and checked that you were here. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have had his people all over the grounds before then. When did you rent this place?"
"My people arranged it a week ago."
"So, if this Sobek dude has a good information retrieval system, he could have known that. They could have already been on the grounds when you came."
"We came last night," MacKensie said. "You’d think that would have been the best time to act, in the dark, while we were sleeping." He shivered at the idea.
"Nobody came in the night," Mel said. "Would have known."
"I know you would, Mel." Eddie spared a brief smile for his bodyguard before he turned back to his wife.
"Maybe they were waiting for Mister Big," Jack suggested. "Sobek." God, he wished he could ask Daniel what ancient god that one was. He settled for asking Teal’c. "What do you know about Sobek?"
"His name has not been mentioned for many years."
"Crocodile god," said Mel surprisingly. "Read a book on Egyptian mythology. He controlled the Nile, the annual floods."
"He a system lord, Teal’c?" O’Neill prompted.
"He was at one time. He disappeared."
"Stranded on Earth when the ancient Egyptians buried...." Jack let that trail off, although he saw Eddie’s ears prick up at the phrase ‘on Earth’.
"You’re saying this Sobek is some kind of entity?" the singer asked.
"I think he means an alien, Eddie," MacKensie corrected. "Mel would have known if he were a demon."
"Would have sensed that," Mel agreed.
Jack thought he would explode if these people mentioned demons one more time. "What the hell is this demon shit?" he burst out. "This is serious, it’s not some scary movie."
"If it’s aliens, maybe I can help," Mel offered. "I’m a demon myself."
"Yeah, right, and I’m Topo Gigio, the little Italian mouse." Jack saw Teal’c’s eyebrow soar up to where his hairline would have been if he’d have hair, and he held up a finger to warn the Jaffa to silence. "Don’t start."
Carter spared one quick glance from her phone conference with Fraiser, her eyes as full of concern for Daniel and for the little kid as Jack knew his own were.
Mel sighed. "Know how to keep secrets," he said hopefully and concentrated. A second later, he was...something else. Blue with horns, for crissakes.
"Oh, mother...." Jack took an involuntary step backward. Every Marine in the room leveled weapons at Mel the way they did when somebody suspicious popped in through the gate. Jack saw the color drain out of their faces. Even accustomed to system lords, hostile Jaffa, and invisible Ree Tou rebels, these guys weren’t sure what to do about people who could shapeshift.
Mel spread his hands uneasily—son of a bitch, he had talons instead of fingernails. "Can be bigger," he admitted. "And I will if we need to stop Sobek."
"Mel’s a good demon," offered Jackson MacKensie hastily. "He won’t hurt anybody. Eddie trusts him with Cy—that ought to tell you. Mel would die for Eddie and his family. You want an ally—you just got one." He shifted uneasily. "Come on, you can put the guns down. I think we’re all on the same side."
The Marines glanced to Jack for that decision. He remembered Mel standing there with his hands on Eddie’s shoulders as he fussed over his unconscious wife, and knew that Mel hadn’t needed to blow his cover. He nodded at them. They lowered their guns but didn’t put them away.
"Okay, I don’t want to know," O’Neill muttered. "What I do want to know is how the hell they got out of here with Daniel and the kid. You guys were on the spot. They had to be seconds ahead of you." He shot a glance at Eddie, who knelt chafing his wife’s hands and urging her to wake up. Nah, let him be for the moment. Instead he collected his courage and went over to the blue guy. "Uh, Mel. Can you switch back? My heart’s not used to this kind of shock."
"Sure." Mel reverted without effort. "Better?"
"Much." He blew out his breath in frustration. Hang in there, Daniel, we’ll get you back. "Okay, Mel. These guys’ll watch you. Carter says you’re not a Goa’uld, and I don’t think you’d do anything to hurt Eddie or his son. You folks got here last night. Did you search the grounds? Is there anywhere out there the Goa’uld can go to ground?"
Mel hesitated, then his head bobbed eagerly. "Grotto, maybe. Back in the woods. Remember, Chan?"
The other roadie—was he a demon, too?—nodded. "The ground rises up into the hills or mountains behind the house. There’s a little stream coming through, and off to the north of it, there’s a deep cavern. It’s fitted up with a barbecue grill and picnic tables out front of it, but it goes in a fair way, and I think it’s defensible. If this...Goa’uld?" he tested the word and continued when Jack nodded, "this Goa’uld, Sobek, knew ahead of time where Eddie would be, and if he knows strategy at all, he’d have scouted out the place. That’s what I’d have done."
"Are you blue, too, in your natural form?" one of the Marines asked him.
Chandarl shook his head. "No, I renounced that when I came to live in this world. I’m human now."
"Son of a bitch," Jack snarled. "You guys are aliens?"
"They aren’t Goa’uld, sir," Carter reminded him without turning from the phone.
"I know that, Carter, but there are a lot of nasty folks out there who aren’t Goa’uld."
Chandarl spoke up. "I’m not a demon now. I used to be but I transformed. We’re not from another planet," Chandarl continued. He glanced at MacKensie as if for permission to continue. The drummer rolled his eyes, shrugged his shoulders, and nodded. Chandarl plunged on. "We’re from a place called the Netherworld. It’s a dark realm that parallels this one."
"We talking little alternate reality games here?" Jack asked unhappily. "Teal’c? You know about this Netherworld?"
"I do not," the Jaffa replied.
"There are no Goa’uld there," Mel said. "At least, all those whose eyes glow are as we are. Not as this one." He pointed to Teal’c. "You have another life form in your belly. I can tell."
Jack muttered, "Shit," under his breath.
Teal’c cast a wary glance at Jack. Eddie didn’t pay attention, but MacKensie, Chandarl, and Mel waited eagerly for the answer.
Jack shrugged. "What the hell. We’re about to get up close and personal with a Goa’uld. I want all of you to remember this is classified and that if you so much as hint at it, you’ll spend the rest of your lives in a military prison."
"If these Goa’uld are aliens who are a threat to the Earth, of course we’ll cooperate," Eddie said unexpectedly. Jack could have sworn he was too focused on his unconscious wife and the kidnapping of his son to pay much attention to the conversation, but he looked up and there was a ferocity in his expression that didn’t bode well for Sobek. "If they want the glove, the, uh, ribbon device, give it to them to get my son back. But don’t let him get away with it."
"We can’t give him a weapon like that," Jack said grimly. Turn a ribbon device over to a hostile Goa’uld? Even if this one held Daniel hostage, he wasn’t prepared to return him in trade. Jack was pretty sure he wouldn’t even return little Cy if he got the device. Instead, he’d use both his hostages in an attempt to gain access to the Stargate.
Jack beckoned over the head Marine. "Find this grotto they talked about and check it out, but if Sobek’s there, hang back. We don’t want to push him into anything while he’s got hostages."
"Yes sir." The man went out to relay the orders.
Whitney Stone chose that moment to groan, open her eyes, and cry out, "Cy!"
"I’m here, love," Eddie told her. "I’m right here."
"Men in our room. They attacked me. They had Cy." She clutched at his hand.
"We’ll get him back, love," Eddie reassured her. "Just stay there quietly. I promise, we’ll get him back. We’ve got the whole U.S. military to help us, and we think Cy’s still on the grounds. Just lie quietly and listen to Doctor Carter. It’s going to be all right."
It’s going to be all right? Yeah, sure it is. Jack groaned softly. He just hoped Daniel could manage to keep himself and the boy alive until they tracked down Sobek so they could free the two of them.
Hang in there, Daniel, he thought absently to his missing friend. Don’t you dare die on me, or I’ll go through the gate and grab the first sarcophagus I can find. You’ve got this nasty habit of dying on me, and I don’t think I can take much more of it. He glanced over at Eddie, who held his weeping wife in his arms. We’ll stop him, he vowed to himself. We’ll stop him. Without anybody getting hurt. And he hoped it was a promise he could keep.
** *** **
"Doctor Jackson? Wake up, Doctor Jackson!"
The voice was soft and insistent and very young, and for the first moment, Daniel was so confused he didn’t remember what had happened and who was speaking to him. "Shifu?" he asked fretfully.
"It’s Cy," the boy said urgently in his ear. "Shhh, don’t be so loud."
Cy? The Goa’uld. Everything came back in a rush, and Daniel struggled to smother a groan. His body twitched with ebbing tremors; that’s right, he’d been zatted. No, not zatted. TASERed with a Goa’uld-modified device. It hadn’t felt all that different from a zat blast except that it had instantly knocked him out. As Jack would say, sweet.
He opened his eyes warily, just mere slits. The light that greeted him was yellow and flickering, like torchlight, and the nearest wall looked like rough stone. Had he been taken through the Stargate? Where was he? A flutter of dizziness accompanied his blurred vision and he blinked hard to drive it away. "Cy? What is this place?"
"It’s a cave, out behind the house. Mel showed it to me this morning." The boy shivered unhappily. When he saw Daniel squinting at him nearsightedly, he held out Daniel’s glasses. "Here. I brought these. I thought you’d need them."
Daniel put them on; his face was sore and swollen where the bottom of the left lens rested against his cheekbone but it was worth it for the clarity of vision. Now that he had detail again, he saw the fear spelled out on Cy’s face and he propped himself up against the wall and put his arm around the boy’s shoulders. At least he hadn’t been bound and gagged. Cy leaned against him trustingly. "Is my mom dead?" he asked.
"I don’t think so. I think they did to her what they did to me, so she’s probably awake by now. Did they bring her, too?"
"No. She was on the bed and that mean man with the funny voice said to leave her. He said you and me were good enough. Good enough for what, Daniel?"
"I think he hopes he can trade us for your dad’s glove." Daniel ran a cautious eye around the cave. As long as he leaned his head against the wall, he wasn’t dizzy. What were the odds of being hit three times in exactly the same place? Hit while they held him so he couldn’t even duck.
The Goa’uld sat across from him and Daniel on a folding lawn chair. The furniture seemed incongruous for a Goa’uld. He was far enough away that he wouldn’t hear Daniel and Cy talk if they kept their voices low, and he wasn’t even paying them more than cursory attention as he talked to a grey-haired henchman. Was the guy like Seth’s cult, drugged into complicity with Nishta? He didn’t look drugged, but rather like a man who had weighed his options and decided the best one was to throw in his lot with a Goa’uld. Daniel wished he knew which one this one was. If he knew the Goa’uld’s name, he might have some idea of what he was like, based on the known mythos. But he didn’t. Yet.
"Cy? Did anybody call the man with the funny voice by name?"
Cy’s head shook against his shoulder. "I didn’t hear it."
"You’re very brave," Daniel told him, hoping to encourage him, although he knew their situation was precarious.
"I’ve been kidnapped before." Cy tried to sound matter-of-fact, but the quiver of panic in his voice belied his stanch attitude.
"I didn’t know that."
"I was only a baby. I don’t remember. My dad had a groupie and he thought she was only a teenage girl, but she was really a demon. She snatched me and Nina with me. But Nina helped me get away."
"Demon?" Daniel remembered the earlier mention. "Like this one?" He nodded at the Goa’uld—that was a mistake.
"No, this one’s an alien or something. Has to be. Normal people’s eyes can’t glow and if he was a demon, Mel would have been able to tell."
"Because...he’s psychic?" Daniel prompted skeptically.
"No, ‘cause he’s a demon, too, only a good one. That’s how we know all about this. Mel serves my dad. Dad says they’re friends, brothers—he says good friends are always brothers, even if they’re not related."
Like Jack and me, Daniel thought fleetingly.
But Mel says he serves Dad. Mom talked to me about it once and he said that was all Mel ever knew before he came to live with us. I like Mel. He’s funny and strong. When I was little, he gave me horsie rides...." His voice trailed off. "I’m too big for that now," he insisted, but Daniel heard a wistful note in his voice, not for the childish game, but for a time when he had been safe.
God, Jack would be frantic. He hated bad things to happen to his people, and Daniel had put him through a lot over the years. None of it had been deliberate, but it had happened. When it was bad, Jack was always there for him, even when Daniel didn’t want to admit needing anyone, even when he closed away from everyone. Jack was always there, waiting till Daniel was ready. He’d even got the wisecracks down to a fine art and knew just how much comfort Daniel could take.
The reverse was a lot harder.
At least Jack had Sam and Teal’c. They’d stand together and they’d get him away from the Goa’uld—who not only wanted Eddie’s ribbon device but who probably thought he’d bought himself a one-way ticket through the Stargate when he snatched Daniel.
"You’re not too big for Mel to be your friend," Daniel said softly. "Cy, do you know how many men the Goa’uld has?"
"Goa—Goa’uld? That’s what the alien is? Does he have a UFO? Dad says most of the stories about UFO are nonsense. Mom says how does he know, if we’ve run into demons and ghosts and things like that, and Dad says that’s different."
A singer with an attraction for the paranormal? And none of it ever written up in the tabloids? Or maybe Daniel just tended to discount stories like that. It was true he gave the National Register slightly more attention than he did before. Once it had been a symbol of what other people thought of his own research. Now it might actually give clues to Goa’uld presence on Earth. Daniel knew for a fact that Hammond had designated that such tabloids be studied for the slightest evidence of Goa’uld activity. As far as he knew, nothing had come of it, and Daniel had been the one to find Seth, but through computer research, not through reading the supermarket rags.
Still, Daniel could hardly discount Eddie’s weird background, not when he had lived on another planet for a year and routinely stepped through the Stargate onto distant planets.
"I think there are six of them," Cy said. "He told one of them to wait until someone came and then give them....um, give them his terms. There were all kinds of army guys coming with guns so we went out the window—there’s a balcony there, and we went down over it—they dropped me down and another guy caught me." He shivered. "They did that with you, too."
Daniel was glad he’d been unconscious for that particular maneuver. He was sure Cy wouldn’t have rated it as much fun as playing horsie, and Daniel couldn’t convince him it had been an adventure, so he didn’t try. From the way Cy clung to him, the child had abandoned posing as a grown-up scientist and reverted to his real age. Daniel didn’t feel a lot older himself.
There was only one man with the Goa’uld. That meant the others were probably standing guard outside, or preparing to repel the Marines. Daniel couldn’t hear any gunfire, though.
He leaned closer to Cy and lowered his voice. "Is there a back way out of the cave?"
Cy’s head came up and he thought hard. "I...don’t know," he admitted, but his eyes were busy. "Mom said I should be interested in geology because we were here at the Rocky Mountains but I know most about physics. Not about caves." His eyes traveled over the rocky walls, and narrowed.
Daniel copied him. As far as he could tell, there was no way out besides the main entrance, although the back of the cave was in shadows. The other direction had an edge of daylight to it, as if the way out was just around a bend in the tunnel. Daniel could see a barbecue right where the wall curved. It would be exposed to the outer world but sheltered. Was that the edge of a picnic table? A shiver of near-hysterical amusement touched Daniel at the surreal nature of his capture. A Goa’uld in a lawn chair. A picnic table. Not the usual trappings of a Goa’uld.
As if thinking about him had attracted his attention, the Goa’uld rose and came over to them. He had abandoned the TASER weapon in exchange for Daniel’s zat’nik’a’tel. Jackson wondered uneasily if a zat blast so soon after the disruption of a TASER would have the same effect as if he’d been zatted twice. He did not want to find out. When the Goa’uld activated the zat and it rose to its full height like a striking cobra, Cy shivered and cowered against Daniel, who tightened his grip around the boy’s shoulders.
"Let him go," he urged. "You don’t need him."
"I need the ribbon device."
"You already have the TASER and now you have a zat," Daniel reminded him.
"So I shall continue to acquire what I need. His father will trade the ribbon device without hesitation. I have left a man behind to express my demands."
"It won’t do any good," Daniel insisted. "They won’t let you go through the Stargate, no matter what you offer. The United States government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists."
"In which case, it will hardly matter to you because you will be dead."
"So will you," Daniel said firmly. He didn’t want to show his fear in front of Cy, who needed all the courage he could get.
"This body, perhaps, but it is only a host. Disposable, as all you humans are. Perhaps I will take you instead. You are young, and fit, and I will cure the need for glasses. Perhaps I should take you now anyway. Your friends would not realize, and it would be easy to escape through the gate."
"My friends would know instantly," Daniel insisted, struggling against the knot of fear that twisted his stomach. The possibility of being Goa’ulded was something every member of every SG team lived with; it could happen—and had. Sam had been taken by Jolinar, and Jack had been almost infested with Hathor’s Goa’uld, and only the presence of the undercover Tok’ra woman had saved him. Then there was Sha’re....
"Ah yes, you have a Jaffa. I won’t take the child. Children in your culture have no power. But I will go through the Stargate and I will go in possession of the ribbon device."
"Who are you?" Daniel prompted. He needed information—a lot of it.
"Why do you ask?"
"I’m a scholar. I know much of the old gods. I want to see if I’ve heard of you."
It was a poor reason, but the Goa’uld took it more seriously than Daniel had expected. "A scholar. Ah. Then know that I am Sobek the mighty, and I will again be worshiped as is my right."
"The crocodile god. Sobek controlled the Nile’s annual floods."
"And more," Sobek replied. "A crocodile devours the innocent; they need not even provoke me. Remember that."
"You were stranded here when the ancient Egyptians buried their Stargate?"
"I chose to explore this pitiful planet, to seek out new worshipers. When I returned, the Chappa’ai was gone. Those of us who remained behind scattered."
"Those of us...." Daniel’s voice trailed off. That implied more than Seth and Sobek. How many other Goa’uld might still lurk on Earth? Hathor had been here but she had come directly to the Stargate. Seth hadn’t bothered. He had his followers and had seemed content with them. Sobek—who knew why he hadn’t attempted it?
"Uh...those of you?" Daniel prompted.
He didn’t expect an answer and he didn’t get one. Sobek merely looked amused.
"You in the cave! Sobek!"
Jack! Daniel heard the tension in his voice, tension more than matched with a grim determination. Before the Goa’uld could reply, Daniel raised his voice. "Jack! We’re here!"
Sobek must have doubted the safety of using the zat on him—he didn’t yet want his prisoner dead, not while he might still be useful. Instead he aimed a savage kick at Daniel’s ribcage. There wasn’t room to duck, not without endangering Cy, so Daniel had no choice but to ride it out. Pain flared through his chest, and he struggled not to cry out, although he couldn’t hold back a faint whimper of pain. Cy glared at the Goa’uld with as much defiance as he could muster, but he looked terrified.
So Jack and Teal’c were both out there. Probably Sam, too, and the back-up teams he’d seen out the window before he had been TASERed. Sobek was cut off.
"Guard him, Dalton," Sobek instructed his henchman, and the man aimed the TASER at Daniel. Satisfied, Sobek raised his voice. "He lives. He will continue to do so as long as you agree to my terms."
"Is my son alive?" That was Eddie, and he sounded frantic.
"Get him back behind the lines." That was Jack. He must be pretty close for his words to carry.
"Dad!" screamed Cy, his voice shaking with terror.
"Shh, shh, Cy. Don’t make them do anything to you." Daniel stroked the fair hair. "I’ll take care of you. It’s all right. Jack’s here." At the automatic reassurance, he couldn’t hold back a faint smile.
"My dad’ll stop ‘em. So will Mel. He’ll come in here, and he’ll be eight feet tall and even if you can make your voice funny and your eyes shine, he’ll get you. Even if you shoot him, he just makes the bullets pop out again. He told me he got shot once, three times, and the bullets just came out. You can’t stop Mel."
"The imagination of children bores me," Sobek said over his shoulder.
"Don’t say I didn’t warn you," Cy persisted. He was crying, but the defiance rang in his voice.
"Shh, don’t make him mad," Daniel urged. "Jack’s out there, and if your Mel can really do that, then he’ll help, too. We’ll be fine. I won’t let anybody hurt you." He curled the arm that wasn’t around Cy protectively across his ribcage and probed with his fingers. He didn’t think anything was broken or even cracked, but he was sure he’d have a bruise there the size of a dinner plate. He could already picture the expression on Doctor Fraiser’s face when she saw it.
"You want my terms?" Sobek called. "Very well. They are simple and they are not subject to negotiation. I have the boy and I have your scholar, Daniel Jackson—your friend, judging by the concern in your voices. Excellent. I have chosen well. I will first have the ribbon device brought to me."
"Well, no can do," Jack called back. "You’re stalling us. You’ve got it already. We know that."
Daniel was surprised. If Sobek had found the device, why wasn’t he wearing it now?
"You can know nothing of the sort. What trick is this?"
Beside Daniel, Cy squirmed uneasily. Did he think that if the ribbon device was missing that Sobek wouldn’t give him back? Daniel was sure Sobek meant to keep both his hostages and hope they would shield him all the way through the gate. He might free them on the other side, but he was just as likely to kill them for impeding him.
He opened his mouth to call out to Jack that the ribbon device wasn’t here, but before he could speak, Cy nudged him softly. He glanced down at the boy, who raised his head and whispered abashedly, "I took it," in Daniel’s ear.
Eddie yelled outside from further away, "We looked for it just now and it’s gone. You have to have it. Give me back my son."
Dalton was halfway paying attention to them ready to fire if they tried to get away, but more interested in the dialog. Cy shivered at his father’s words.
"Why?" Daniel asked. Not that it mattered right now.
The thin thread of a voice continued in Daniel’s ear. "I thought it was some kind of energy thing, a focus. I wanted to study it and take readings of it."
Yes, it might well appeal to a budding physicist. Could Mel, who had to be something different, have felt something about the ribbon device, too, and mentioned it to Cy? Why wouldn’t he have spoken about it to Eddie? After all, Eddie had a doctorate in physics. He might have been interested, even if he loved music more.
"Where is it?" Daniel asked him, too softly for Dalton to hear.
"I won’t say." Cy gazed up apologetically at Daniel. "Sobek might be able to hear. He’s an alien. Maybe he’s got super hearing."
Good point, even if the kid’s imagination seemed to have no limits.
"I will not release my hostages," Sobek insisted. "I want the ribbon device in the next ten minutes, or I will begin breaking Doctor Jackson’s fingers. One finger for every ten minutes’ delay. When I have broken all of them, I will begin to cut them off."
Cy shivered against Daniel, who tried not to do the same. He had no doubt that Sobek would do what he instructed, and Daniel couldn’t risk going for the TASER for fear of calling down fire on the boy.
"Try that and you will be soooo dead," Jack returned. "Come on, Crocodile Breath, you blew this one. There’s no way out of there but right through us, and we’ve already got two of your men besides the guy you left us like a lamb to the slaughter. Only chance you have is to give up right now. Let the boy go. Let Daniel go. And you better hope you haven’t hurt either one of them." The grim intensity in Jack’s voice was proof to Daniel that he wouldn’t cut the Goa’uld one iota of slack.
Daniel risked raising his voice. "He means it, Jack."
Dalton tightened his grip on the TASER, but Sobek made a quick gesture to keep him from firing. Maybe he thought O’Neill would listen to Daniel.
"So do I," Jack bellowed. "Daniel, you keep your head down and don’t aggravate him." He added, "Is the kid okay?"
"He’s fine," Daniel called back. "They haven’t hurt him." He doubted anyone who didn’t know Jack could hear the thread of pain in his voice. If anything happened to Cy, Jack would take it so personally. And Eddie would blame him, too, although if SG-1 hadn’t come, Sobek would still have attacked—and definitely gotten away with it.
"You better not hurt the kid," Jack called. "Your terms are shit, Sobek. You’re not going through the Stargate."
"Then I see I must start hurting Doctor Jackson. You have nine minutes."
He turned his glowing eyes upon Daniel and Cy, and Daniel could feel the utter menace in the inimical gaze. Unless somebody did something soon, he could kiss his fingers goodbye. He resisted the urge to hide his hands behind his back. All he could do was keep himself between Cy and the Goa’uld and hope that Jack had a plan. He had to have a plan. He always did.
** *** **
Shit, shit, shit. O’Neill glowered at the cave mouth. This would not be easy. Even if Plummer and Mel the demon said there wasn’t a back way out of the cave, Sobek could easily trash Daniel and Charlie—Cy, damn it—before the team could break in. There were still a couple of Sobek’s mock Jaffa at the entrance, crouched behind rocks, and well armed. They hadn’t taken any pot-shots at the team yet, but it was only a matter of time before somebody lost his head and started World War III. And Daniel and an innocent little boy would be caught in the crossfire. Goddam it all to hell.
It was Mel, the guy who could turn blue.
"Make it quick, we’ve got a crisis here." Jack heard the sharpness of his voice and knew he was letting his emotions get the better of him. How the hell did Daniel manage to get into scrapes like this? Retrieve a ribbon device from a singer and look what happened. The guy couldn’t even be safe at the 7-Eleven.
"Bullets can’t hurt me," Mel said. "And I can get in the back way."
"Thought you said there wasn’t a back way," Jack groused. They’d already covered that ground. Only one entrance to the grotto, and they were looking at it. "And what do you mean, bullets can’t hurt you?"
"Well, they do hurt," Mel admitted. Behind him, Eddie grimaced. He had left Whitney under protest, secure in the knowledge that the team had a medic who was looking after her. She was all right, but too shaky on her feet to be out here, and the last thing Jack had wanted was another civilian on his hands. Even the modifications on the TASER hadn’t really endangered her. Jack had heard the medic explaining that there were no documented deaths ever associated with the use of a TASER weapon. He’d sent eye signals to the medic, who had insisted she stay in the house, even though she would recover completely. ‘Course Jack had insisted Eddie and the rest of them stay in the house, too, but Eddie and Mel had come anyway. Short of throwing them in irons, Jack couldn’t remove them, but he’d kept sending them back and detailed a couple of Marines to guard them. Eddie was still back there, restrained by two hefty Marines, but Mel had surged forward, trailing his Marines in his wake like kite tails. Maybe he’d picked them up and carried them along. All the guys who’d seen him turn blue before gave him a lot more space than they normally would someone they guarded. "I mean, I feel them. I’ve got a physical body. But then I can pop them out. If they shoot at me, I won’t die."
"Sweet. But what’s this back way thing?"
"I can walk through solid earth." Mel beamed engagingly. It didn’t really take but that was because his worry for Cy shadowed his eyes. "Can carry you with me," he offered.
Carter let out a squeak of surprise. "Take him through solid earth? That’s impossible."
"Only to your physics," Mel said.
"He can do it." Eddie pitched his voice carefully so it wouldn’t carry all the way to the grotto. "Believe him. Let him do it. But he should take me. I have to get my son."
Jack knew exactly where Eddie was coming from. His son was still alive, and there was something he could do for him. He wouldn’t want to leave his rescue to strangers. But in this instance, he had to. O’Neill drew a deep breath. He saw Carter watching him sympathetically; even in her concern for Daniel and for the little boy who idolized her, she’d picked up on O’Neill’s reaction. Teal’c, himself a father, would be sympathetic to Eddie, too.
"Believe me, this is something I’m trained for and you’re not," he told the singer. "I’d give Cy the best chance, and you know it. I’ll do everything I can to make sure another child doesn’t die."
Eddie stood there a second, so caught up in his concern for Cy that only a flicker in his eyes acknowledged Jack’s tangle of emotions, then he drew his mouth into a tight line and nodded. "Bring him out, Colonel," he said. "He’s everything to us."
"I know." O’Neill’s voice held no expression at all. Eddie returned his gaze, then he bowed his head in confirmation.
"Okay, Mel," Jack said to the demon. "What do we do? And hadn’t we better do it out of sight of those guys?" He gestured at the nearly concealed baddies at the cave mouth.
"I shall accompany you. O’Neill," Teal’c offered.
"I think I have to play this one out by myself." Jack frowned. "We’re gonna have about one split second of surprise, and I want you out here ready to take out those guys in the opening. I don’t know how many more are in there but even if Mel can grab them all at once, we’ve got a Goa’uld in there, and he’ll have Daniel’s zat as well as the TASER and god knows what other weapons. I don’t want any stray shots hitting him or the kid."
"Indeed," Teal’c concurred, inclining his head.
"Carter, when this goes down, I want you to go for the boy," O’Neill told her. "Teal’c and the Marines can do the mopping up but your job is to make sure Cy comes out of there intact. I’ll do what I can in there and I know Daniel will protect him."
"Yes, sir," Carter agreed. She didn’t ask the question Jack was already asking himself. Who will protect Daniel? It was going to be tricky, going into a situation with an untested ally, whose main advantage was that he could walk through solid matter and pop bullets out of his body—assuming any of that was even true.
Jack relayed instructions to the Marines in an undertone, ordering them to keep Eddie Plummer well out of the line of fire, then he turned to Mel. "Come on."
They walked down the slope of the hill, parallel to it, until they no longer had direct line of sight with the cavern mouth, then he checked to make sure the Marines, Carter, and Teal’c still had them in visual range so they could coordinate the attack. They were ready, watching him. O’Neill tightened his grip on his weapon. "Okay, Mel. What is it that you’re gonna do?"
"This," said Mel. He kicked off his shoes, whipped off his belt, but didn’t bother with any more of the striptease. His face scrunched up and he turned blue. This time, he didn’t settle for the appearance transformation. He went for size, too. He’d always been three or four inches taller than Jack. Suddenly, it was three or four feet. He hulked right out of his shirt, shredding it. The blue jeans ripped out along his muscular calves and talons ripped out of his socks.
"Whoa!" Jack jumped back a couple of feet without even realizing. Even the hardened Marines shuddered at the sight. If it weren’t for the benevolent expression on the huge blue face, Jack would have had a hell of a lot more qualms than he already did.
"Ah, crap," he said involuntarily. "This job gets weirder every day."
"Don’t worry, Colonel." Mel smiled at him. He seemed to have a lot more teeth than he had when he looked human.
"Yeah, tell that to my heart. It just got a major jump start." He squared his shoulders. "We don’t have much time. Daniel will take me off his Christmas card list if he has to have his fingers in splints. What do we do?"
"I’ll do it," Mel said with a toothy grin. He reached out and grabbed Jack, who could barely refrain from flinching. "It’ll feel kind of weird," Mel explained. "And you’ll probably feel like you’re about to crash into a wall, but I won’t let you feel it."
"Just do it, okay? We’re running out of time here." Daniel’s running out of time.
It did feel weird, like he’d stuck his finger in a light socket, only without the violence of the shock. His flesh tingled and he was sure his hair stood on end. Bad hair day, he thought incongruously. Mel held him against his side, encircling the Colonel with one muscular arm.
"Don’t try to resist, just go with it," Mel urged. "Be okay. I promise."
"Yeah, well, I hope you’re good at keeping them."
"Would never hurt Cy," Mel insisted. "Love him." He took a quick stride toward the cliff face—and into it.
Jack cringed in spite of himself and tucked his head down against his chest. But instead of a painful crash into a wall of granite, he felt as if he were wading through a gigantic bowl of marshmallow cream, although not as sticky. The substance they walked through seemed to lack the consistency of stone.
Passing through solid matter. Okay, this goes up there on my list of unfavorite things to do. O’Neill didn’t close his eyes, but it wouldn’t have mattered if he had because all he could see was darkness, touched by a faint sparkle that was nearly subliminal. A projection of the field, like a force-field? His imagination? Proof that he was completely and totally nuts?
"Nearly there. Get ready." Mel’s voice tickled the inside of his skull and he realized he wasn’t hearing it with his ears but with his mind. Yikes. Not only a demon but telepathic. If not for his years of gate travel, Jack would have convinced himself he was ready for a rubber room. Like Daniel the time Machello’s little Goa’uld killers....
He shoved that thought away and tried to raise his P-90. Great. It felt like pulling it up through deep water. Oh yeah, he was gonna be right on the money when they came out into the cave. Don’t let us make it worse. Be ready, Daniel.
They zipped into the cavern with a faint, weird popping sound that might have been the displacement of air at their arrival or the lowering of the protective field Mel had projected around them. In the first instant, Jack got a glimpse of the Goa’uld, his back to the new arrivals, bending menacingly over two figures on the ground while another guy stood guard with the TASER, and his heart sank into his boots. The Goa’uld held a zat in his hand. Jack leveled the P-90 at the Goa’uld’s back, but he didn’t fire for fear of the blast triggering one or the other of the two weapons.
Then the Goa’uld must have sensed a presence because he whirled. In that split second as he moved, Jack saw that Daniel and the boy were alive and staring. The left side of Daniel’s face was puffy and starting to darken with a massive bruise—shit, what had they done to him? Cy didn’t look hurt, just scared, but at the sight of them, he let out a whoop of triumph and cried: "Mel!"
Daniel spotted Mel as he let go of Jack and reached for the Goa’uld with a massive paw. The archaeologist’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull at the sight.
"It’s okay, he’s with me," Jack said inanely and leveled the P-90 at Sobek. "Drop ‘em, snakehead."
Sobek’s jaw dropped at the sight of Mel, then he pulled himself together in a split second and fired the zat at the demon, whom he must have perceived as the major threat. Mel yelled as the twin energy impacted on him, and blue light ran around his form. It didn’t put him down, though. Jack wasn’t surprised.
The guy with the TASER jumped to defend Sobek, but Mel shook off the zat blast, grabbed the guy’s wrist, and twisted. The snap of his bones was grossly distinctive. With a clatter, the TASER fell to the floor, and the human dropped to his knees, moaning. Jack got off a bust at Sobek, who dived sideways, directly between Jack and Daniel. Sweet. If he fired again, he’d be sure to hit Danny or the kid and the Goa’uld knew it. Mel kicked the TASER away so hard it ricocheted off the far wall and shattered.
Jack tried to catch Daniel’s eye but Daniel shifted hastily to place himself between the boy and the Goa’uld. Sobek ignored the two of them as unimportant and tried to zat Jack.
Daniel drew back his legs and then thrust out with his feet. He caught the Goa’uld hard on the back of his knees, and not even a Goa’uld could stand up to being kicked hard right there. The Goa’uld’s knees buckled and he pitched forward. He got off one zat blast as he fell and the trailing edge of it caught O’Neill in a sizzle of energy. He jerked and went down on his back, struggling not to let go of his gun.
Mel bellowed with fury and snatched the collapsing Sobek right off the ground with one hand. He used the other to disarm the guy as if he were plucking a chicken, and tossed the zat down beside Daniel, who picked it up. The guy with the broken wrist struggled to come to Sobek’s rescue, but Mel put his free hand on the man’s chest and pushed. The man fell down.
"Stay there," Mel insisted in the tone of voice people didn’t ignore.
"Jack?" That was Daniel and his voice was full of concern.
"O-okay," O’Neill gritted out as he resisted the nerve-tingling effects. He was never gonna like being zatted. "You?"
"Well, I’ve still got all my fingers."
A burst of weapons’ fire and staff weapon blasts outside stiffened Jack’s resolve, and he pushed his shuddering body up to his knees. "Daniel," he warned. "How many guys?"
"Uh, three, besides that one," Daniel said hastily with a nod at Sobek’s friend. "There were more, but I think our guys got ‘em." He glanced uneasily at Mel. "Um, Jack...who’s that?"
"It’s Mel," cried Cy happily. He wiggled free of Daniel’s protection and ran over to stand beside Mel. "That was so cool," he cried. "You did great. He zapped my mom. Don’t let him get away."
"I won’t," said Mel complacently. "Stand behind me, Cy, in case they come back."
"They won’t come back," Jack said and stalked over to the entrance. Daniel fell in with him, zat at ready.
Two of Sobek’s guys were down already, and the third was concealed behind a handy boulder, popping off shots at the Marines with a .38. "I wouldn’t if I were you," Jack warned.
The guy jerked as if he’d been hit, risked one glance backward. At the sight of Jack’s M-90 and Daniel’s zat, he shrugged and tossed aside the .38. "You got me."
Jack nodded at Daniel to scoop up the gun while he covered the man. Daniel nearly went over on top of it—had to get him to Fraiser fast—but he caught himself and backed away with the gun in his hand. Jack nodded at him to sit down, then raised his voice. "It’s okay, stand down, we got him!" he bellowed.
The shooting stopped. Marines ran forward to check the downed henchmen and to grab the guy Jack and Daniel had just disarmed. Teal’c and Sam thudded up and converged on Daniel.
Carter started to go to Cy as per orders, but Eddie Plummer sped past them at a dead run, screaming his son’s name, and she realized she didn’t need to do anything to protect the boy. Jack heard Cy cry, "Dad," and turned to watch the reunion as Cy launched himself through the air at his father. Eddie staggered at the impact but he steadied himself, then he stood there, his arms around his son, his face hidden in Cy’s hair. His shoulders quivered.
Jack couldn’t bear to watch. He turned away abruptly and came face to face with Daniel, whose eyes lingered on Jack, moved past him to the joyous reunion, and returned to Jack’s face. He didn’t say anything—he wouldn’t—but sympathy filled his eyes. He kept his face impartial; maybe he knew any more would be too much for Jack to stand right now. Daniel used his body language to urge them out of the cave, and Carter and Teal’c picked up on it right away. A Marine went past them to collar Sobek’s buddy. Was Daniel favoring his ribs? Jack hoped Fraiser had arrived.
As soon as they were outside, Daniel said to Teal’c and Carter, "Jack got zatted. Classic rescue."
"Who was it that needed rescue, Jackson?" O’Neill retorted gratefully and tried to pretend he didn’t see all those eye signals flying back and forth between the rest of his team as Carter and Teal’c turned from their examination of Daniel to make sure Jack wasn’t about to keel over. "Is that a new look for you?" He reached out and tapped the darkening bruise on Daniel’s cheek with two fingers.
"It’s better than being Nine-fingered Daniel." He smiled softly. "I have to say, Jack, you really know how to make an entrance. That was Mel?"
Mel emerged from the cave with Sobek tucked neatly under one arm like a parcel. "Here he is. You better have your people take him away. I’m not sure I can stop myself from tearing him apart if you don’t."
Since he was still eight feet tall, Jack didn’t have any trouble believing him. He snapped his fingers at the Marines and gestured at them to cuff Sobek and take him into custody. The Goa’uld’s eyes glowed impotently. Yeah, one more snakehead down. Chalk up another one to SG-1—with the help of a big blue guy. That ought to look good in the report. Hammond would have kittens.
Whitney Stone arrived at a dead run, Chandarl and MacKensie at her heels. She ran past them into the cave and flung herself at Eddie and Cy. Jack craned his neck to spare the trio one long, inscrutable look, then he turned and stalked the rest of the way out into the sunshine, leaving the relieved family intact behind him.
The rest of SG-1 followed him as if he were a magnet, and Daniel firmed up his steps without hesitation, even if he had to stand carefully, and placed himself at Jack’s side.
Okay, make that two intact families here. Be glad of what you’ve got, Jack. And just how intact was Daniel anyway? He looked like he’d done special duty as a punching bag. Mel’s desire to tear Sobek apart had a lot to recommend it.
Fraiser charged up—when had she arrived?—and flung herself at Daniel. Good. Let her check him out. Maybe someday there’d actually be a mission when one of Jack’s team—usually Daniel—didn’t turn into a candidate for infirmary care.
Automatically, Daniel batted at her hands. "I’m okay, Janet."
"I’ll be the judge of th—" Her voice trailed off and her mouth fell open at the sight of the huge blue demon that accompanied them.
Jack cherished the moment. "It’s okay, Doc," he said with a big grin that he doubted would quite convince anyone. "That’s just Mel. He carried me through solid rock."
Fraiser’s eyes lingered on Mel a long, stunned moment, then she turned back to Jack. "And I’ll want to run tests on you, too, Colonel," she decided. "You appear to be delusional."
"It really happened," Daniel confirmed. "I saw them walk right out of a wall."
"You can tell me all about it later. Back to the house. I want to examine you."
"You can’t win, Danny boy," Jack told him with a big smile. "All doctors are tyrants. Besides," he added as Fraiser steered Daniel away from the cave with the rest of SG-1 like attendant tugboats on all sides of them, "we still have to get the ribbon device."
"They couldn’t find it," Daniel reminded him. He fingered his swollen cheek with unhappy—and intact—fingers. One hand curled around his ribcage.
"Don’t worry," Jack reassured him as he slung his arm around Daniel’s shoulders to guide him down the slope to the house. "We will."
Under Jack’s careful supervision Janet Fraiser had conducted a professional examination on the injured archaeologist. "Hmm, that’s a lot of bruising on your face, Daniel. How many times did he hit you?"
"Uh, three." Daniel tried to look nonchalant and only succeeded in appearing sheepish. O’Neill wanted to explode at him for provoking old Crocodile Guts, but he held his breath—and his temper. Sobek would get what was coming to him. Maybe the Tok’ra had a use for the guy—stuffed and mounted would be Jack’s first recommendation.
"Well, your pupils are equal and reactive. Any dizziness?"
"Not since the first," Daniel admitted. "My vision’s normal, too. I’m just a little sore."
"A little?" Jack echoed skeptically.
"What do you want, Jack? To kiss it and make it better?"
He was coming on with those zingers. "Not in this lifetime," O’Neill returned. "Just watch it, okay?"
"Okay," said Daniel mildly, but his eyes sparkled with amusement.
"How will a kiss heal an injury?" Teal’c asked as if he were confused and genuinely wanted to know.
"Oh, for crying out loud," exploded Jack. He wasn’t winning this one. He glanced sideways at Carter, who was sparkling with mirth. "Don’t you start."
Carter sketched a precise salute at him. "Sir, no sir," she barked, just like your regular jarhead. Eddie Plummer gave a sputter of laughter. Great, now he had famous singers laughing at him. This was not a good day.
Janet’s fingers danced across Daniel’s ribcage, probing. Jack watched the archaeologist steel himself and felt a flutter of alarm until he realized that more than half of Danny’s reaction was because he was ticklish and struggling not to show it. Jack stored up that thought for future reference. Payback could be hell.
"What happened here, Daniel?" Fraiser asked.
"Oh, uh, well, Sobek kicked me."
Stuffing and mounting was too good for the guy. How about drawing and quartering?
"I can’t feel any broken ribs," Janet said aloud—probably for the benefit of the rest of SG-1, who were taking full advantage of watching the examination. Or maybe she could sense Jack’s tension. Usually Fraiser shooed them out of her infirmary and made them wait.
"No, it’s just sore, too." Daniel batted at her hands. "Come on, Doctor, I’m fine."
"Well, I think you might be, but I’m still going to want to run a more thorough exam and take X-rays when we get back to the infirmary. That’s not debatable," she concluded when Daniel opened his mouth to object. "You’d think I ran a medieval torture chamber there, the way you try to duck out."
Cy’s eyes widened in fascination. Eddie’s entourage had listened to the entire exchange with interest, and, in the case of Eddie, Whitney, and MacKensie, with amusement.
Fraiser saw the boy lurking and lifted her head to his father. "My daughter wants to come to your concert Saturday night," she said as she calmly unbuttoned Daniel’s shirt for a more thorough exam. "But I’m afraid she’s too young for the long drive back."
Eddie nodded. "And you want to protect her, more than ever after this?" he asked understandingly.
"It will break her heart if she can’t go with her friends, and it’s not her fault I’ve just been reminded of what can happen when things go wrong."
Whitney smiled at her. "Motherhood," she said. "A joy and a nervous breakdown waiting to happen, all wrapped into one."
Yeah, and fatherhood was just as bad, although Jack would have sold his soul for a chance to resume that state.
Eddie jumped in. "Doctor Fraiser, if it would make you feel any easier, I can send your daughter and her friends home in my limo. They’d be driven safely back by a professional chauffeur. I always hold some spare front row seats, and I’d be happy to offer them to your daughter and her friends."
Jack was glad the singer hadn’t offered them to him. He didn’t hate Eddie’s music, but a concert full of screaming teenagers was guaranteed to make him feel every second of his age. He didn’t need that. Daniel was good enough at that, entirely on his own.
Fraiser lit up like a Christmas tree. "Cassie would be so thrilled," she said. "Under the circumstances, I can’t refuse. One of the parents plans to attend as a chaperone, but Cassie informed me that she wouldn’t dream of sitting with the kids."
"Of course not," Eddie returned with a grin. "Don’t worry. I’ll make sure my people keep an eye on your little girl."
Fraiser finished her torture of Daniel and took her hands away from the poor guy’s ribs. "You seem intact," she decided. "Infirmary, though, as soon as we get back."
"You’re right, Jack, doctors are dictators," Daniel observed sagely.
"Yep, right every time. To quote Master Bra’tac, watch and learn. I’m the master here."
"I wouldn’t go quite that far," Daniel returned.
"As for the TASER," the doc continued, "I don’t see any problem there, either. If he had to stun you, it was far safer than a zat. Which reminds me, Colonel, I want to check you out next." She patted the couch beside Daniel. "Front and center."
Daniel’s eyes gleamed with fun. "Watch and learn, Jack. You’re seeing a real pro at work."
Carter disgraced herself by laughing out loud.
Jack submitted to the exam with as much good grace as he could muster. The rest of SG-1 watched with total attention. Cy crowded close, and even though he was a good kid, Jack wished he wouldn’t.
Carter’s eyes lingered on Jack, then she turned to Cy and made a remark to him about physics. The child abandoned Jack without a backward look. Jack relaxed slightly. You could always count on Carter.
Fraiser finished. "Well, Colonel, you seem to be just fine. I suspect you caught a backlash, not the full brunt of a zat attack. Daniel. You’re on sick leave for two days," she concluded. "And I want to examine you more fully when we return to the base and take X-rays of your ribs to be absolutely certain. Then I’ll determine when you can be released for g—for missions."
Speaking of missions..... "Eddie." Jack turned to the singer. "We’ll still need the ribbon device."
"Sorry. I’ll look for it again." He hurried up the stairs.
Daniel leaned over, favoring his ribs, and said something to Cy in an undertone. The boy squirmed. Now what was that all about? Cy hesitated, his eyes lifted toward the stairs. "When he comes back down, you tell him," Daniel said quietly. Cy nodded in confirmation.
So Jack would find out when Eddie returned. Some secret about their shared captivity, probably. If it didn’t come out, Jack could always get around Daniel later. He had ways of doing things like that.
O’Neill turned back to Fraiser. "Don’t worry, Doc, we’ll make sure he doesn’t overdo," Jack reassured her. "You hear that, Daniel? That means no pulling all-nighters over some obscure translation."
"But Ja-ack. I’m fine. Translating doesn’t hurt me."
"Lack of sleep might." He threw up his hands. "What am I saying? For all I know you work half the night half the time anyway. Well, this time, quit it. I’ve had enough shocks on this mission."
Shit. Daniel’s expression showed momentary sympathy and understanding. But he knew Jack too well. "I know," he said promptly without the slightest trace of penitence. "I’ll turn your hair completely white—by next week."
"Next week?" Jack echoed, relieved. "I expect to wake up tomorrow morning and find I’ve gone bald."
Teal’c stepped in. "When we exchanged bodies, O’Neill, you would not allow me to shave your head. This indecision is most perplexing." That made Eddie’s entourage stare. Let ‘em. They had demons. They didn’t have a lot of room to talk.
Carter cracked up—she had to get this tendency to laugh at her commanding officer under control—and even Daniel had a broad grin on his face. But his eyes shot a question at Jack. Are you okay?
Jack drew in his breath. Yeah, I’m making it. And knew it was true, as long as he had his team.
Before anyone could develop the theme, Eddie returned—without the ribbon device. "I’ve looked everywhere it could possibly be. I can’t find it."
Jack eyed him narrowly. What the hell was this? Had Sobek actually found it and sent one of his men away with it? But if he’d had it, why hadn’t he used it or just departed before SG-1 appeared on the scene?
Whitney stared at him in surprise. "I thought we’d just misplaced it. I saw you put it in your suitcase at Segue. Our house," she explained quickly to SG-1 and Doctor Fraiser. "I know we couldn’t find it earlier, but I thought that was just because we were in too much of a hurry to get to Cy."
"I know," Eddie agreed. "I saw it when we got here, so I know we brought it." He looked genuinely perplexed. This was no scam to permit him to keep the weapon.
"Dad?" Cy’s voice was very small. Daniel reached out and patted him on the shoulder.
They all turned to look at the boy. "I...took it to my room last night," he admitted. "I thought maybe it was...you know...some kind of paranormal gadget, and I wanted to run tests on it and see if the stone might be an energy focus. I put it under my pillow." The budding scientist was back, but mingled with abashed small boy. "I forgot I hadn’t put it back until the Goa’uld man asked about it when Mom was hurt. I’ll go get it now," he offered.
"You knew where it was and you didn’t tell Sobek?" Jack asked in surprise and admiration.
Cy nodded. "He was a bad guy. He hurt my mom." He cast one quick glance at Whitney to reassure himself she was all right. "I didn’t want to tell him anything. Besides," he added, "nobody believes kids anyway. Mom and Dad believe me but most grown-ups don’t."
Daniel struggled to conceal a smile. He’d probably been just like Cy at that age. Jack wasn’t too sure he was very different now.
Carter stood up. "Cy? Shall we go and bring it down?" She held out her hand to him.
Cy’s face lit up. He bounded to his feet, stuck his small hand into hers, and went off with her, radiating delight.
Jack cast a knowing glance at Eddie Plummer, who visibly restrained himself from jumping to his feet and going along, too. All too well did Jack understand the impulse that prompted him. O’Neill gave the singer points when Eddie made himself relax and stay where he sat.
Cy and Carter were back in minutes, Cy proudly bearing the ribbon device in his hands. "I wish I could study it," he said wistfully. "And study about the Goa’uld, too. If I study physics, can I come and work with you when I grow up and have my doctorate?" he asked Sam. "After all, I know about the Goa’uld now. Well, a little anyway."
"We want people like you," she said softly. "But you’ll need to study very hard."
"That won’t be a problem," said Eddie with a smile.
"The problem," said Jack, "is that you folks are now in possession of a lot of classified information."
Eddie met his eyes. "So does that mean you plan to lock us up forever and throw away the key?" The challenge in his voice reminded Jack that he was a famous man whose disappearance would not go unremarked. He didn’t look worried, either.
"That’s what a guy like Sobek would do," Jack said firmly. He was uncomfortable with Plummer. The guy knew too much about him without a word of explanation, and he didn’t like it. But he also knew they couldn’t start incarcerating civilians who happened to become involved in Goa’uld trouble. It would make them no better than the enemy they fought. "We’ll just insist that you keep quiet about what happened here today."
"I think they know about keeping secrets, Jack," Daniel put in helpfully. "After all, Mel...."
They all looked at the demon, who perched on the arm of the couch not far from Eddie. During Daniel’s examination, he had changed into new clothes to replace the ones he’d hulked out of. He was still big and muscular, but the controlled power he exuded was nearly overridden by the innocence and loyalty that were even more intrinsic to his nature. "Eddie won’t tell," Mel said simply. "Eddie’s a good man. You can trust his word. Mine, too. I won’t say anything. Never do anything to hurt Eddie."
"I owe it to you," Eddie said to Jack, man to man, based on the shared understanding that Jack hoped like hell would remain unspoken. "I’ll have a new prop glove made. I’m afraid it will have to look a little like the old one. Too many people will have seen the album cover for me to discard it when I sing Hand in Glove. But they’ll get used to the new look and it will be different enough that anybody else like Sobek won’t automatically think it’s one of the, uh, ribbon devices. If anybody asks, I’ll just say the old one was uncomfortable and I threw it away. Will that do?"
Jack knew it was the best they could get out of the deal. "You’ll have to have surveillance for a while," he said because there was no getting out of that. Hammond would insist on it. "We don’t know that Sobek was the only Goa’uld who might have seen the ribbon device. The surveillance will be for your protection."
"And your security," Eddie replied. "That’s acceptable. I don’t want any more, uh, Goa’ulds coming after my family."
"There’s one more thing," Jack said quickly. He didn’t want to talk about families right now. He could feel his present family closing ranks automatically without another word being spoken.
The two men gazed at each other, measuringly. Then Jack looked past him to Mel. "Are there any more of you wandering around? I’ve got the feeling the SGC could use a few of you. You’d make great secret weapons."
Eddie Plummer is a character I invented years ago in The Real Ghostbusters fandom. Eddie is the first cousin of Egon Spengler (since ‘spengler’ can be translated as ‘plumber’). Here is a list of the stories Eddie (or his entourage) appeared in, in—mostly—chronological order. Eddie’s wife Whitney was temporarily Blair Sandburg’s stepsister (in the Sentinel universe), as her father and Blair’s mom, Naomi, lived together for a year in my universe.
Real Ghostbusters fiction:
1). To Soothe the Savage Ghost, originally published in Remote Control 6
2). Leftover Souls, originally published in The Manifest 2
3). Obsession (novella) available from Agent With Style
4). And a Demon in a Pear Tree, originally published in The Yule Tide 2
5). Repo Demon (novella) available from Agent With Style.
6). The Night Between the Stars (novella).
Eddie guests in this story but is not a main character.
7). The Hungry Ones (novella) available from Agent With Style
1). Father Figure (a Sentinel/Riptide crossover). Eddie does not appear but
reference is made in passing to Whitney Stone
2). Gateways, originally published in Sensory Overload 2. Eddie and Whitney
appear at the beginning of the story
3). Remembrance of Things Past, originally published in Sensory Overload 6.