By Marcus L. Rowland
"Two minutes, everyone!" shouted Jack. "Two minutes!"
"What is your plan?" aske Teal'c.
"If it's hostile we take it out fast, if it's really running on autopilot we might be able to capture it."
"Can you beam aboard it?" asked Willow, who seemed to be recovering a little, although Kennedy was supporting her.
"We'll try when it's closer," said Jack. "You'd better take cover."
"Not a chance," said Willow. "If you go aboard and Illyria's there she'll go through you like a chainsaw. We can slow her down a little."
"You seem pretty sure it is Illyria," said Carter, suspiciously.
"I recognized her. Or rather, I recognized the woman she possessed. Fred... Winifred. She used to work for Angel."
"And you didn't mention this before?" said Jack.
"We haven't exactly had a lot of time," said Willow. "It's a long story, and maybe I could have stopped it, stopped the infection before Fred was consumed, if certain people hadn't decided to keep me out of it. We'll never know now." There was a little anger in her eyes.
"Gi... He thought he was doing the right thing," said Kennedy. "Anyway, it's pretty much academic now."
"Ha'tak's on radar," shouted one of the technicians. "Coming in from the south-west, be overhead in about thirty seconds."
"Weapons crews hold your fire until my signal," said Jack, "Let's see what it's going to do first."
The answer, it seemed, was nothing. The pyramid flew overhead, gradually slowing, and halted a few hundred feet above the tel'tak.
"Wow," said Kennedy. "Hanging there the way that bricks don't." Nobody seemed to pick up on the reference. Dana glared at it, as if daring it to do something.
"Let's see if we can get the rings to work and teleport aboard," said Jack.
"I had wondered if you would find your way back here," said a familiar voice. "And you have brought a guest. Illyria, it is good to see you again."
"Oma Desala," said Daniel. They were somewhere else. A diner, of all places. "Wait a minute... you know Illyria?"
"I should have guessed," said Illyria. "What now, Power? Here to gloat at my failure?"
"You haven't failed yet," said Oma. "You have simply mistaken the nature of success." They locked eyes, and Daniel felt himself excluded from a silent conversation. After several minutes he said "Hello?"
"Silence, muck," said Illyria.
"By now that leopard thing will be getting itself together," said Daniel.
"Mere seconds have passed in the White Room," said Illyria, "There is still ample time. Be silent." She turned back to Oma Desala, ignoring him.
Daniel shrugged, went behind the counter, and poured himself a coffee.
"All decks secure," said Sam. "No sign that anyone's been aboard in thousands of years, but we've found a couple of dozen skeletons in technical areas and the crew cabins. Most of the systems are down or running on backup power."
"Including the engines?" asked Jack. "I'd hate for this thing to run out of juice and fall out of the sky."
"They're okay," said Sam, "someone fuelled it before it was abandoned, the naquada reactors are still okay."
"This place is amazing," said Willow, coming in with Tea'lc and Dana. Kennedy followed, holding an onyx jar in the shape of a stylised woman. "We found this in one of the bedroomy compartments," Willow added, "there's something alive inside it, I can sense it. Kinda evil, I think, but dormant. Teal'c says it's probably a Goa'uld parasite."
Jack picked up his radio and said "Someone get me a containment case. We've got a Goa'uld in a stasis jar."
There was an inscription in heiroglyphics on the jar, and Sam said "If Daniel was here he could read that, tell us who it is."
"I've got someone on it," said Willow, holding up her cellphone. "Might take a while, but she's pretty good."
"How the hell did you get a signal in here?" asked Jack.
"Magic," said Willow. "It thinks it's in Cleveland." As she spoke the phone played a few bars of the Ghostbusters theme. Willow looked at the screen, then said "Hi, Dawn... got something for us?" There was a mumble from the other end, then Willow said "thanks" and closed the phone. "She says it translates as 'Shala,' or something like it, and that some sources say that Shala was the bride of Dagon."
"That was fast work," said Sam.
"She probably found most of it apart from the name in Wikipedia," said Willow. "That's just a preliminary report, it'll be a couple of hours before she can send us everything we have on her."
"So Dagon left his wife aboard in a jar," mused Jack, "maybe she was disloyal to him, or he wanted to find her a new body. He must have parked the Ha'tak in Illyria and set out aboard the tel'tak for some reason. I wonder why he never went back."
"Could be anything," said Sam. "We haven't checked out the tel'tak thorougly yet, maybe there was an engine problem, or a mutiny aboard the ha'tak. Or he might have been on the run from some other Goa'uld and gone to ground somewhere."
"That could explain it," said Jack. "Maybe he camouflaged the big ship and killed his crew to stop them from talking, then went native for a while until the heat was off. But he lost the tel'tak somehow and couldn't get back to the ha'tak."
"Can you ask the wife?" asked Willow.
"Only by putting it into a human host," said Sam, "and I don't think anyone here wants to volunteer, do you?"
"Nope. Hey... how human would the host have to be?"
"They can take over most animals," said Sam.
"I was thinking more of a homunculus, a magical construct. It would only live for a few minutes, that might be enough time to get some answers."
"It's tempting," said Jack, "but no. Policy on this is to keep the jar, maybe trade it for prisoners if the Goa'uld capture our people."
"Knowing that they'll put it into a human host?" asked Kennedy.
"It isn't something we want to do," said Sam, "It would have to be a pretty important prisoner, like Daniel or Teal'c, or a major ally."
"Hey!" said Jack.
"Or me, of course," Sam said with a wink.
"Indeed," said Teal'c.
Two marines came in carrying a large steel container covered with biohazard symbols, and Tealc lifted the stasis jar into it and supervised its packing. "We'll take that back to the SGC," said Jack, "put it in secure storage."
"I think we're missing a point here," Willow said once the marines had left. "If that was Shala then we know for sure that Dagon was a Goa'uld. He must have founded the Knights of Byzantium and the Order of Dagon as a power base. That still doesn't tell us how they got hold of the Key though. And the whole Illyria thing is one hell of a coincidence."
"The Key is not negotiable," Oma Desala said abruptly. "It was placed on Earth for good reason, and has still to fulfill its destiny."
"Then there is no agreement," said Illyria.
"Had you forgotten the knowledge of the shell?"
"You already know the secret of dimensional portals. It would be simple to apply it on a large scale."
"This shell lacks the power..." Illyria said thoughtfully.
"With the engines of a starship that should not be a problem," said Oma Desala.
"Wait a minute," said Daniel, "are you interfering? I thought that you guys didn't do that sort of thing."
"They do it all the time," said Illyria. "The Ancients you know are just a facet of the Powers that Be. And they are constantly meddling."
"This has nothing to do with your petty war with the Goa'uld," said Oma Desala, "or the things you have yet to face. This is more a matter of..." she seemed to struggle for a phrase.
"Of pest control," said Illyria. "The Wolf, the Ram and the Hart are an abberation, the Ancients wish to see it cleansed as much as I do."
"You over-simplify," said Oma Desala, "but essentially you are correct."
"Then everything you've ever told me..." began Daniel.
"Was true," said Oma Desala, "just incomplete. We do not meddle in mortal affairs. The mystical is another matter."
"Great," Daniel said bitterly. "Just peachy."
"You will return to your world," said Oma Desala. "We can keep the White Room isolated for a time, but only for a time. You must be ready to act soon, or the Wolf, the Ram and The Hart will know of your coming, and have defences prepared."
"They won't just let her have the ha'tak on my word," said Daniel.
"We will provide more tangible proof," said Oma Desala.
Abruptly Daniel and Illyria were standing elsewhere. Daniel looked around and recognized the bridge of a Ha'tak, as half a dozen guns were pointed towards them.
"You're back already?" said Jack. "And you bought friends."
"Friends?" said Daniel. He looked around. Illyria stood to his left, watching impassively. To his right, floating in mid-air about a foot above the deck, was a woman in a flowing white dress, crouched in a foetal position, hair covering her face. She glowed a soft white, and seemed to be muttering something.
"What?" said Daniel.
"I said," the stranger repeated, floating down towards the deck, "what the hell does a girl have to do to stay dead around here?"
Almost in unison, Willow and Illyria said "Cordy?"
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