Previous parts are here
by Marcus L. Rowland
In the streets outside men, women, and children seemed to be going about their daily lives. It would have taken a keen eye to notice their blank expressions, or realise that they seemed to be cycling through an unchanging routine. Inside one of the accommodation blocks most of the real people on site were getting very bored. Until...
"We've got company," said the technician monitoring the satellite feed.
"About time," said Jack. "Where are they?"
"I've got seven trucks unloading horses on the road to the east of the compound, and twenty to thirty metallic objects moving through the woods towards the outer perimeter. The radar returns are about what you get from an armoured Jaffa, they'd be about the same for someone in chain mail."
One of the Russian observers monitoring the security cameras around the site tapped her headphone and said "Telephones are out."
"Okay!" said Kennedy. "Finally some action. I'll get Willow and Dana." She ran out, dodging Teal'c in the doorway.
"The Knights are attacking?" asked Teal'c.
"Looks like it," said Sam. "Can't figure out how they plan to cross the minefield."
"Maybe that's what the guys on foot are for," said Jack. "Steel armour would give them some protection from anti-personnel mines, maybe they're going to clear a route."
"I think that there are a couple of wizards out there," said Willow, coming in with Dana and Kennedy. "I can feel strong magical auras. Could be they're gonna use magic to clear the way."
"Won't their wizards notice you?" asked Daniel
"Not yet. I'm pretty well shielded, and the spell I used to detect them is powered by their magic, not by me. Like... what do they call it when they listen for submarines, without sending out those 'ping' noises?"
"Passive sonar?" asked Sam.
"Remember," said Jack, "we want to figure out their objectives before we take them out. We still haven't identified the 'Old Temple' the prisoners told us about,"
"It's definitely not the church?" asked Kennedy.
"The Russians are positive that there was nothing there before they built it in the nineteen-fifties. No ancient ruins, nothing that might be an old temple. And ground radar seems to bear that out. There are no old ruins showing up anywhere on the site."
"If we'd had more time we might have figured it out," said Willow, "but a record search could take weeks."
"They've finished unloading," said the technician. "I've got the horses moving through the woods towards the main body of troops."
"How long until they join up?" asked Jack.
"Couple of minutes."
"Okay. My guess is they won't hang around. They're pretty close to the outer perimeter now, I think real guards would start to notice something wrong. Can you simulate that?"
"I guess," said Willow, concentrating for a second. Around the edges of the compound several uniformed figures raised binoculars to their eyes and began to scan the woods. There was a long pause, then Willow said "Some major mojo's going down."
"Any idea what..." began Jack, but was interrupted by a series of violent explosions. The main lights and power went out, but most of the SGC equipment had battery backup. About half the security screens were dead.
"They must have taken out the mines," Jack shouted over the ringing in his ears.
"I guess," Willow shouted back.
"Okay," said Jack, switching on his encrypted radio. "All observers, report."
"Post one, nothing in sight"
"Post two, I've got nothing."
"Post three... I can see hostiles in the woods, starting to cross the minefield on horseback and on foot, grid coordinates 17-43 and heading west. They're moving fast."
"Okay," said Willow, looking at the map. More of her ersatz guards moved towards the inner fence opposite the incursion, carrying assault rifles. On the streets a crowd began to form, with the fake townspeople appearing to panic as the Knights thundered across the torn earth. A hail of arrows rained down on the guards, and Willow obligingly dropped them as they were hit.
"Sweet!" said Jack. "I didn't think they'd be this convincing."
"Thanks," said Willow, her face tense, then added "More mojo!"
"The inner fence is down," said the observer in post three. "About fifty yards of it just... melted, I guess."
"Holy crap," said Willow.
"That's bad?" asked Sam.
"Either they think there won't be any magical opposition, or they've got one heck of a lot of power to burn."
On the streets the crowds fled, chased by the mounted knights. More fell to their deadly arrows.
"They don't seem to care who they hit," said Sam.
"The Key is the link, the link must be severed," said Dana, her pupils dilated, "such is the will of God."
"And anyone that gets in the way is against God?"
"Such is the will of God," repeated Dana. From outside there were screams and the noise of shots, then the unmistakable crackle of a zat.
"How many have zats?" asked Jack.
"Post five here, I count three. Oh crap!"
"The camouflage on the dummies goes down when they're shot. I can see the skeletons."
"Maybe they won't know the difference," said Sam. "It's the first time they've used them, as far as we know."
"Maybe, so long as they don't take a close look," said Willow. "The springs and wires are a bit of a give-away. I'll try to make it look like they're real..."
"Don't do anything to reveal yourself, not yet!"
"Post seven, they're heading towards the park."
"What's in the park?" demanded Jack.
"Nothing," said Daniel, looking at the map. "Boating lake, a couple of statues, benches, and some swings."
"If there is it didn't show up on radar or a magnetometer sweep."
"Could be screened," said Willow, "something like the spell I used to hide the cars in Los Angeles."
"Anyone got a clear view of the park?" asked Jack.
"Post nine. Two of the knights are standing by the lake, chanting something, Must be a dozen others guarding them. The water... the water's rippling, like something's moving underneath."
"I can feel something moving," said Willow. "It's rising. Something old, real old."
"Okay," said Jack. "We know their target. Let's mess things up a little. Willow, on your mark, let's give them a show."
"Okay," said Willow, closing her eyes.
On the street outside the panicking crowds stopped, and began to form up into ordered ranks, their disguises fading away to reveal the skeletons underneath. The Knights guarding their route into the town watched in astonishment, firing arrows at the skeletons, which ignored them. Something crackled, then backed by a bass disco beat and several hundred watts of amplification a voice sang:
"Young man, there's no need to feel down.
I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground."
The 'bodies' shot by the guards climbed to their feet, shedding their disguises, and joined the ranks.
"I said, young man, 'cause you're in a new town
there's no need to be unhappy."
The skeletons began to dance towards the Knights,
"It's fun to stay at the y-m-c-a.
It's fun to stay at the y-m-c-a."
A couple of skeletons went down, their legs severed by bullets or arrows, but most of the rest crowded towards the Knights. By the lake the chanting Knights speeded up their song. On the street the Knights began to back away from the advancing skeletons. Inside the command post one of the monitors imploded, then another. "They know I'm here," said Willow, her eyes darkening, "You'd better clear the building, things could get kinda ugly."
"Who's doing it?" asked Jack.
"Guys at the pond," said Willow.
"Post nine, can you take out the group by the lake?"
There was a pause of a few seconds, then a voice said "Post eight reporting, post nine just got taken out, looks like something exploded."
"Damn," said Jack.
"That wasn't them," said Willow. "Something else is out there."
"Maybe... but it's old, and a heck of a lot more powerful than the Knights."
"They've summoned something?" asked Kennedy. Another monitor blew out.
"I don't think so," said Willow. "It's... it's using them, I think."
"Post eight, something's surfaced. Looks like a tel'tak, Colonel."
"What's a tel'tak?" asked Willow.
"Goa'uld cargo ship," said Sam. "They aren't usually armed."
"Post eight, the Knights at the lake are going down, something's fighting them."
"Can you identify it?" asked Jack.
"It's moving really fast, but... it's one of the Knights."
"Let's get out there," said Jack. "Whatever's aboard that tel'tak, we probably don't want anyone using it."
Teal'c and Kennedy took the lead, followed by Jack, Sam, and Willow, with Dana and Daniel in the rear and half a dozen soldiers guarding their flanks. On the streets the Knights were trying to fight off the skeletons. Individually they weighed a few pounds; tangled together and animated by Willow's magic they were hampering their movements and slowly dragging the Knights down, giving them no room to fight anyone else. Zat bursts from the SGC troopers took out anyone who seemed likely to get free. On the speaker system 'YMCA' ended and 'In The Navy' began.
"Who picked the music?" shouted Jack.
"Me," said Kennedy. "I couldn't find a good one for the Air Force, hope you don't mind."
"I think I can live with my disappointment."
It was only a few hundred yards to the park; by the time they got there only one Knight was standing, wading towards the tel'tak.
"Stop right there," shouted Jack. "Put down your weapons and step away from the vehicle."
The Knight slowly turned towards them and raised an empty hand, glowing with blue energy. There was something odd about his face, an absence of distinguishing features, a caricature of a normal man.
"Everyone down!" shouted Willow, flinging herself to the ground behind an armoured body. Everyone else ducked for the nearest cover. There was a loud explosion. When they looked up there was a hole a yard wide in the side of the tel'tak, and the Knight was climbing in. Teal'c fired a blast from his staff weapon, and Sam and Daniel their zats. The Knight ignored them.
"Force field?" asked Sam.
"Don't think so," said Jack. "He just seemed to absorb the energy."
"Whatever it is," said Willow, "I think giving it more power to play with might be a really bad idea."
"Good point... okay, no energy weapons. Carter, can that thing fly with a hole like that?"
"Maybe. Depends what systems it took out."
"Let's hope he doesn't know that." He shouted "You in the ship... that thing isn't flying anywhere. Come out with your hands up."
There was silence for a moment, then a groan of twisting metal. The hole in the hull slowly widened, pulled open from inside.
"I don't think he wants to fly it," said Kennedy.
"Let's take this carefully," said Jack. "Carter, any energy signatures from the tel'tak? Nukes, antimatter, anything like that?"
She looked at a hand-held sensor and said "No, Colonel. Just the usual power systems and engines. Can't detect any weapons."
"What the hell is he after then?"
Suddenly the speaker system howled, and everyone wearing a radio headset winced as a piercing whistling note jamed communications. It lasted a few seconds, then faded to silence.
"My guess would be the comms systems," Daniel said dryly.
Over his earphone Jack heard "SGC to SG-1."
"SG-1 to SGC, go ahead."
"Foothold, repeat Foothold. We have a major Goa'uld energy signature, it just went active in Bosnia."
"What type of energy signature?"
"We're not sure yet, but whatever it is, it's big."
In Bosnia a hillside slowly split open. Shedding rocks, soil, and a few scrubby trees, a huge pyramid-shaped Ha'tak rose into the air.
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