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The Happiest Place (2/4)

At laetificat: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Read the entire thing at AO3.

They're shoved through the queue to the ride that had once been Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey by what remained of the Kalashnikov crew, and after doing her threat assessment of the long, winding queue tunnels ('we're fucked,' she thought), Carter's only mildly interested by the fact that the Goa'uld thought it would be a good thing to keep the power routing to the ride. Of course, she thought, keep the spectacle running -- that's definitely something that a Goa'uld would do, especially in a world like this. Show your power. I'd imagine that would impress anyone whose world has turned to dust and hunger. Pride'll only take you so far.

They pass some talking portraits babbling what sounded like nonsense to Carter, the phoenix outside Dumbledore's office, the Hogwarts greenhouse – an actual greenhouse, now, just look at all that kale, she realizes, before her attention returns to the woman whose back is now towards them, swaying in her gorgeous golden robes.

What the hell is a Goa'uld doing here?

And then they turn a corner in Dumbledore's office, of all places; she vaguely remembers seeing the movie, vaguely remembers it resembling the library on Merlin's planet. But the office is now also stinking of Goa'uld, with golden Horus-heads and hieroglyphics on the walls and even sconces spouting fire, of all things, and Carter presses her lips together to keep the snake from realizing just how much of this technology she recognizes on sight.

“I'll be succinct, Tau'ri of Phoenix Base,” the snake says in the host's voice. She crosses to a side wall, presses a button, and retrieves a ribbon device from a hidden compartment, which she slips on her fingers with some delicacy. Her eyes flash as she turns back to Mitchell and Carter. “I am not your enemy today, but if you wish to make of me an enemy by denying me the things that I need, you may rest assured I will be most obliging.”

Mitchell coughs – a, deep, phlegmy cough that suddenly has Carter feeling very worried, wondering if the earlier rough treatment had caused him to bleed internally. “No, you just treated us to the whole nine yards – you zatted us, locked us up, stole somebody's body and told me to kneel before your ugly ass, so of course we'll believe you completely.”

The snake's eyes flash once more. “I met my host during the invasion. She was critically wounded. She had at best three breaths left in her lungs, while I had lost my host seconds before. She took me willingly. True, I am no Tok'ra, but neither can I truly call myself a Goa'uld, after all of the things I have seen from the Ori. We can work together.”

“Could've fooled me,” Mitchell wheezed.

“You are Goa'uld, you lie as a rule,” Carter breathes, the old protective spirit crawling into her voice, the voice she had on the Hammond, on Atlantis, in the last days before the Ori smashed the Mountain. Mitchell warms inside to hear it, instead of the slightly unhinged warrior that had been traveling with him for so long.

The snake temples her fingers; her face is dark and unknowable. “And so you would think, host to Jolinar of Malkshur.”

Mitchell could feel Carter stiffen beside him.

“But I like this planet,” the snake continued. “It suits me and my plans far more than the pathetic slave worlds over which I once ruled. It would have been a lovely jewel in my crown, before the Ori came and ruined everything. But you Tau'ri – you are so weak, so overconfident, so blind that you will always make your own undoing in the end. Ori forces shot down my al'kesh. The remains of it you see here.”

The snake sits back in a chair, her voice dripping with derision as she indicates the Goa'uld trappings in Dumbledore's office.

“Oh, typical,” Mitchell says. “Worried about your al'kesh when millions of people are dead.”

“Dead,” the Goa'uld replied, “is not a problem.”

The snake's mouth twists in a smirk, a smirk that drives something cold into Carter's stomach. A familiar smirk, a smirk she'd seen on other lips a dozen times before --

“You're Ba'al,” Carter breathes.

The snake's smirk grows even more self-satisfied.

“You're almost smart, for a Tau'ri,” the snake says. “You do deserve an answer. The real Ba'al was executed on the Tok'ra homeworld, after he was stupid enough to get caught. I am just a clone. I have forsworn that name and the actions of the System Lords. I much prefer my current title.”

“How the hell did you escape the massacre on P3R-112?” said Carter, unable to rein in her curiosity.

“What do you Tau'ri say – 'know thyself?' I took it to heart. I did not attend the meeting.” She grinned a little, showing the Tau'ri girl's perfect white teeth, and Mitchell doubted for the seventeenth time that whoever the host had once been, she had taken Ba'al willingly. “I assure you, I am reformed. I saved hundreds of lives in the aftermath of the Ori attack. It isn't my fault if your more unrefined cousins called what I did for them – miraculous. Godlike. After all, that is only what I am.”

To Mitchell's eye, Ba'al was clearly enjoying herself, her fingers templed and her face self-satisfied. He resisted the thought of spitting on the floor.

“My people love me.” Ba'al continued. “And, truly, I appreciate everything they've done for me, but I do understand that the only way out of this Ori mess is up. Up, up and away, as you Tau'ri say. So I have a proposal to take back to your commander at Phoenix Base. I know the capabilities of the prototype ship housed there. I know you're looking for Merlin's weapon. I know your base has the Ori attack vessel. I also know your people will not be able to make it work without me. Take me to the base. I'll make your ship work in return for a ticket out of this shithole. In return, I won't kill you.”

Mitchell exchanges bullshit, more shit, shit piled higher and deeper looks with Carter.

The snake shakes her head. “I am no fan of the Ori,” she continued, her eyes growing colder by the second. “And I am no fan of Tau'ri games. Make your decision.”

Mitchell narrowed his eyes. “Oh, I don't think I'm the one playing games, here.”

Darkness passes over Ba'al's face, pretty features marred by the thoughts of thousands of years of vindictiveness and revenge. It's not a pretty look for the lost girl; Carter's gut aches with the memory of Jolinar's possession.

“I hate the Ori as much as you do,” Ba'al continues. “I have a plan. Our history has never been a good one, but this time I will not double-cross you. You have my word as Supreme System Lord.”

“Yeah, and I'll believe that when hell freezes over and Satan sells snow cones,” says Mitchell, blithely.

And then it hits Carter, and she shakes her head, and can't help but laugh. “You have no idea where Phoenix Base is, do you? Otherwise, you'd be there already. Well, we don't, either. We were never there -- we were injured in the battle, Teal'c beamed us off the General Hammond –“ the laughter bubbles up, and in another day, another age, before her world imploded, she would have been remanded to Mackenzie, stuck in the infirmary for crazy, crazy, Carter's acting a little off, get the Colonel an MRI stat --

“The girl. Your host. I remember her. She's one of the new SFs at the front desk, wasn't she? When did you take her? During the battle? Before? You were trying to steal the prototype in the conflict, and you failed. And now you don't know where it is. I don't know where it is, either. And now you've failed again, because we don't know. Jack and the others, they've won -- and you will never know where that ship is.”

“A pity, Colonel,” whispers Ba'al. Her eyes flash. “A pity I have to rely on tried-and-true methods rather than trust. There's more than one way to get what I want. If you would see it end this way, then this is the game we will play.”

In one swift movement, she reaches into her desk drawer, takes out a shiny silver pistol, and shoots Mitchell in the shoulder. He staggers back into the wall; Carter's out of her chair like a shot. A second bullet hits Mitchell in the other shoulder, and a third in the gut before Carter finds herself grappling with the Goa'uld. Her experience can't hold up against the Goa'uld's strength, though, and Ba'al shoves her to the ground, her forehead cracking against the concrete. Struggling, she lifts her eyes to meet Mitchell's.

“Sam,” he whispers. “You need to --”

The strangled sound she hears when the light goes out of his eyes she barely recognizes as her own.

And then Ba'al has the gun to the back of her head. She's been here before; the choking feeling in her chest isn't fear or even anger. It's despair.

Despair, and something far more desperate than that.

“You will tell me where Phoenix Base is,” the snake-thing says. “One way or another. Guards; take her to the lab, put her to work, and don't feed her until she's found something of use."


It's a sodden, slush-covered winter in a torn-up Memphis, where prostration occurs at the gates of Graceland for six hours a day and the Prior is reportedly holed up in the Jungle Room. Mitchell wants to move on, but Carter has a few theories she wants to test, and Mitchell ends up repelling looters for a hotel manager while Carter trades her engineering skills for spare parts.

On the fourth day, they attend prostration. The Prior emerges from the wrought-iron Graceland gates and moves among the people like an evangelical pastor, laying his hands on the blind and stroking the hair of the broken. A boy with a broken leg stands. A sallow-faced, malnourished old man flushes with the relief of gout. Carter manages to fix the heating in three or four buildings, but it's nothing like when the Prior provides food in a downtown park.

They can't get a DNA sample from the Prior, which means the equations written on Carter's arms are still purely theoretical.

There is no music in the air outside Graceland.


They leave her alone with a gun to her head and Mitchell's body for  two minutes before they pick her up and drag her towards the offices behind the theme park.

Carter doesn't go quietly.

The fight drags on. Finally, enough guards come from doors stuffed into the crevices of nowhere that she simply can't win, and, exhausted, they push her back against a fake rock wall and let her catch her breath.

“Jesus,” one of them says. “Jesus. Where the fuck did you learn that?”

Carter tastes blood, and wipes it from the side of her mouth. “United States Air Force. You call her the Savior, but you just saw what happened in there,” she says. “That isn't God's work.”

“Oh, right, I never ain't believed in God before,” says one of the goons. He has an old AK-47, and he lifts it up to the sky in some sort of tribute. “Thought all that religious bullshit was for towelheads and weirdos. But I ain't seen nobody work miracles like that.”

Carter inhales, testing her rib cage. No broken ribs; oh, the small mercies, she thinks. She grabs the rock wall behind her as a support, and stands. “They're not miracles,” she says, spitting out blood. “It's all technology. Imagine if you brought your gun or your iPod back to medieval times. They'd think you're magic. It's the same thing --”

The goons exchange looks, and say no more; they grab her by the shoulders and propel her towards a sign that indicates they're entering an employee-only zone.

We fought for over a decade so that this wouldn't happen, she thinks. And look at them.

Jack answers, as he sometimes does. There's no accounting for taste, Carter.

“You know,” the second peon says, finally, his weapon flush with the small of her back. “she's really not all that bad. You do what she says, she gives you what you want. Better deal than we ever got from Rick Scott.”

She's too heartsick to argue this time, too careful that she's the last of SG-1. She's the last with the knowledge to defeat the Ori, the last that still might make it to Phoenix Base in time – but the desire to set this whole place on fire crawls in her veins, curdling the rage she feels over Mitchell's death, a rage that whispers behind the duty-call that she knows is the only true path she has left.

Jesus, Cam, she thinks, and banishes the memory of him in a necessary swerve, shaking away the grief with the need to stay alert.

She's seen death in the eyes of friends and of enemies. She's even felt it breathing under her own skin, felt its inexorable welcome clawing around her very own spine in the the frantic, hell-bent fluttering of Jolinar's final seconds. The reality of it is never easy to countenance, but after a while she's learned how to deal with it, to deal with the inevitability of the end. But Cam's death is different. It eats at her very soul. He was the last of them. Quite possibly the very last, if all the tales of Phoenix Base are just wishful thinking, are wrong, are tales sown by the Ori to root out the last of the human resistance.

That's crazy talk, Jack whispers.

Grey like thunderstorm skies, the building to which she's being taken is an antiseptic, strangely clean reminder of the world that was, a functional space for the functional business of running Universal's dead fantasies. Carter forces herself to remember the spare, green hallways of Stargate Command as the goon swipes a Universal ID card and slams open a door to hallways that are very so much the same as the hallways in the Pentagon outside the General's office years ago during her reports on the command of her ship. Her shoes, burned and battered as they are, hit the linoleum with the same satisfying click as her boots did on the cement of the Gate Room floor.

All around her, there's an eerie, unfamiliar humming that slips into her ears and claws at her brain – the sound of electricity, and it takes her a few moments to realize she'd almost forgotten what it sounded like.

And then Jack's voice, rattling around her head -- a poem he probably never read. I am Ozymandias, King of kings; look up, ye mighty, and despair.

She imagines him in the early years when they were both SG-1, before all the grey hair, before the slight paunch to his belly, when the wariness in his voice was an act and not the status quo. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches an old framed poster, still bright behind the glass.

Harry Potter, encouraging her to Be Extraordinary.

Be Outrageous, says Shrek a few steps later.

Scream Louder, whispers Jack O'Neill behind the eyes of Shrek.

Yes, sir, she says.

Seconds later, the goons push her through a door into a conference room where a large, businesslike oak table disappears under a wealth of alien technology, a mish-mash of Goa'uld and Ancient runes and decorations connected together with too-human red-and-black wires. There's two rumpled pallets in the corner with a sweaty, twentysomething redhead wearing a bikini top and sweatpants in the one furthest from the door, too-long, too-white limbs dangling from the short, uncomfortable precipice.

“Wake the fuck up, Christina, your God demands your presence. Here's your new lab partner,” the goon says. “Your boyfriend's still in the morgue. She has a similar dead boyfriend problem. Maybe you can help each other, if you get my drift.” 

The girl comes awake with the kind of fumbling precision Carter's only seen on galley slaves on Goa'uld motherships or first-week boot camp cadets crapping their pants at the sight of their drill instructors. Before she can get a word in edgewise, the goons push Carter into the room, shut the door, and lock it behind her. Carter whirls, her fist connecting with the reinforced glass. The pain shoots up her arm but no glass breaks; she bites her lip and savors it.

“Um,” says the girl. “You must be new.”

Carter turns. “Who did she kill?” she says, quietly.

The girl pauses, considering Carter's dirty hair. She lets her eyes linger over the places where Mitchell's blood is still drying on Carter's tank top and the skin of her right arm. “My – Chris. She killed Chris. I try not to think about it,” she says. “It's not so bad here. Better than out there. There are no Ori here.”

Carter eyes her incredulously. “You like being locked in a room?” she returns.

And the girl's eyes light up. She's all freckles and innocence and earnest sadness, another Carter before the Academy or Daniel before he met Oma Desala. “With alien shit,” she says. “Real live alien shit. And we're going to kill the Ori with it, she says. And they locked you in the room, too, so they must think you can help. Which is great, because I can't make any of this work and I really want Chris back. I need to find something, but I can't find something if I can't get any of this to work...”

Big honkin' space guns, 

whispers Jack, somewhere in Carter's medulla oblongata. “Really. Alien shit,” she echoes, ignoring the girl's eventual rambling.

It makes her feel better, that old chestnut.

“Oh,” says Christina, licking her lips. “Yes. You probably think the Ori have all the alien shit, but no. No, let me show you. This is all stuff they found locked up in the administrative offices, back when the invasion happened -- ” She skirts the table like a ballet dancer and picks up a ribbon device buried under a few golden tablets Daniel would have whisked off to his office in the before-days. The sheer recognition of it makes Carter's blood boil, makes her heart sing, makes the ghost of Jolinar creen love-tangs and terror-vowels, and Carter shoves the memory of the snake down her throat with practiced precision as she’d been doing for over a decade.

The girl meanders on, oblivious to Carter's inner battle. “Not that I've been able to get it to work, mind, but it's definitely alien, and not Ori, which is exciting, which means there are tons of other races out there, probably. I haven't been able to make most of this stuff work. I mean, this —”

Carter snatches up the ribbon device immediately and turns it over, searching for the catch that led to the power source, nearly ignoring the girl's words.

“ —looks like some sort of pretty LARPer nerd bracelet, but I've taken samples to the electron microscope and the chemical composition includes elements that are not found on this earth – that can't be found on this earth. And, um, I'm technically only a sophomore in chemistry at UCF, if there was still a UCF, so don't take my word for it, but --”

“You have an electron microscope at a theme park,” says Carter, trying her best to be deadpan and failing miserably.

The girl blinks. “Yeah, the Savior made it,” she says. “She's awesome. She's like The Doctor, you know, she can sonic up all sorts of amazing things. They promised me someone who could help with all this crap, but so far everyone here's dumb tourists who probably couldn't even make their iPhones work before the Ori, but anyway, the stone I found, the alien stone -- I named it roswellite, and it’s got really cool properties – and it's in everything.”

And Sam can't help it, can't help the anger swirling up her spine, around her guts, up her esophagus, in her mouth. She slides the ribbon device on her arm, hoping to use it. No such luck -- it doesn't even sputter, even though the naquadah in her blood makes her nerves tingle. “Probably broken,” she says.

If the ribbon device were functioning, it would caress her hand and whisper terrible songs of domination and blood, like the abusive lover it had always been. And she'd feel it, this time, down to her very bones. She'd always suspected that naquadah exposure did something to the human hippocampus, to the memory center where she stored her own memories and those of Jolinar; she'd probably never get the chance to discover if she was right. She flexes her fingers and thinks about how Cam would already be factoring the ribbon device, as nonfunctional as it was, into their escape plan.

Cam. The feeling in her stomach is empty. Churning.

In front of her, Christina rocks from side to side and shoves her hands in her pockets. “I’d say it was just costume jewelry, but I’ve done extensive testing and it contains a huge concentration of roswellite. And the Savior thinks that's important.”

There’s silence, as Carter closes her eyes and lets the naquadah sing to her.

“Um,” says Christina. “You all right?”

Carter’s eyes fly open. “Are you nuts?”

The question seems to hit Christina where she wasn’t expecting it; the girl steps back a moment, and Carter can almost see the wheels in her head turning.

“I've seen a lot of things,” Carter responds, fiddling with the jewel at the center of the ribbon device. “You guys are just as bad as the folks in the Ori towns. Your Savior may as well be Ori, for all she cares about you.”

The girl’s bottom lip trembles. “It's not that,” she said. “But I don't want to die.”

“What does the Savior have you looking for?” Carter said, her hands running over the dead machinery.

Christina takes a moment to compose herself, and then shakes her head. “Others. Like us. Rebels against the Ori. She says there are people out there who can help us defeat them.”

The irony of it makes Carter bite her lip. “Yeah, there are. But not like her. We can only hope,” she mutters, and turns her attention back to the table, to the scattered crystals and device-innards and draws her hand over it — most of it familiar, some of it unfamiliar. And then — her breath catches as she pauses her hand over something she thought she’d never see —

“Oh boy,” she breathes.

Behind her, Christina is a blur of motion, her neck craned, skirting the desk. “Oh, that? I don’t know what that is. I’ve never been able to get it work.”

The naquadah sings of blood. Violence. Brains on the floor, brains on the walls, guts for garters --

“Oh,” Carter says, quietly. She presses her index finger to the communications device and it hums underneath her skin. “I bet I can.”


The last few minutes aboard the General Hammond --

The ship is falling apart around her. She's already given the evacuation order, and most of the crew will have appeared on the top of Cheyenne Mountain by now. But this is her command; her ship. Until the sparks stop flaring out from behind her, until the deck stops shuddering, until the howling sound of air screaming out the hundred hull breaches reaches her own ears – if there's still a chance to kill the Ori ship, she has to take it.

“Colonel Carter,” she hears. Teal'c, his voice calm but urgent. “You must evacuate.”

“It's okay, Teal'c,” she says. “I've got this.”

And, faraway, Vala -- “Here they come, Muscles --”

The air is hot and desperate and nearly gone, but that's not why Carter is holding her breath.

“Colonel Carter,” she hears. And then Ori weapons fire. “It has been an honor. You must stay alive.”

“Teal'c --”

And then there's a bright white light, and she's in a room at Area 51, with a bloodied Cameron Mitchell staring at her, wordless, his shaking hand on the last Asgard device in human possession. She won't forgive him until they see the faraway, glassy molten plain where Colorado used to be.


He wakes up screaming to the thrumming silence of anxious machines.

The dank air is somehow sweet and hot, even through the layer of dust coating his hands, his pants, the left side of his face. He's alone in a darkened room; a quick exploration finds an upended bucket, a cold and sweaty metal door – air conditioning from the ceiling and humidity seeping in from under the door. A different closet than before, he thinks, but a closet nonetheless. Outside, he hears the shuffle of boots on linoleum; the click-clack of someone in heels and low words like muffled liquid. And then --

“I’m to take the test — with the prisoner,” a woman's voice says.

Light pours in, and his eyes burn like he's a baby straight out of his mama that's never seen light before. He throws his palm over his face until she pushes the door closed halfway and leaves the two of them in near-darkness, illuminated by the light of the hallway and a candle-lantern held in the right hand of the person who has just entered his cell. The woman next to him – it's a woman, a  middle-aged blonde in cutoff jean shorts and ratty remade Fiona tee-shirt tied like she's going to the beach and tangled hair kept out of her face by a messy ponytail – drops down to squat next to him. Mitchell’s head lolls to the side as he watches her take out a stethoscope, a syringe and a bottle of water from a bag at her side.

He reaches for the bottle of water like a man in the desert, his words still scrambling to line up with his vocal cords. She untwists the cap and slides it over to him. The water is metallic, angry; he gulps it down desperately before he puts it down.

Sam,” he says. “Where?”

The woman shakes her head, “Your memory’ll be a bit spotty for a few hours, I am afraid, just like your physical coordination. Just take a few minutes to adjust to the light, and then we’ll talk, all right? Give me your right hand.”

Mitchell remembers: the gun in his face, the pain, the abrupt blackness, the light that came just as quickly, the pain, the inability to move, to think, a prisoner in his own body, the flashes of the sarcophagus – Oh, God, you're alive before you're alive, before you can think, Mitchell realizes, and he's driving away thoughts of holy fuck I was dead as he's clasping at the dirty floor, trying to get to his feet. With a sick fascination, he realizes that he's not quite up to speed, that his feet don't do what he wants them to do — he wobbles pathetically as the woman reaches for his hand, and he snaps it back as he loses his balance, hitting the floor like a sack of bricks.

“No,” he says, and then — damn the inability to make complete sentences — “Sarcophagus.”

The woman tilts her head to the side. Her voice is soothing, quiet, and insidiously Carolyn. “That’s what she calls it, yes. I'm Dr. Greene. Don't try to talk.”

“Bastard —” He pushes her hand away.

The woman’s lips turn up in amusement. “Hey. Take it easy. I’m here to help you.”

“Not,” says Mitchell, frustrated by his inability to make a complete sentence. “Where’s Sam?”

The doctor blinks. “The woman? Was she your wife?”

“Yes,” Mitchell said. Good enough for government work.

“She's dead,” says Greene. “I'm sorry.”

Mitchell's stomach turns. No. “Dead. Or dead like me.”

And then the doctor’s hand is at his sternum, pushing him back to the floor. His floppy new limbs betray him; feeling like this, he can no more fight back than he can build a Stargate from raw naquadah. But the doctor’s leaning in, and her breath smells like it hasn't seen a toothbrush in months — foul, rotten, bitter.

“She can bring people back from the dead,” the woman says. “That’s where you were. Listen. I’m a neurosurgeon at Florida Hospital — or I was, before the Ori. There are rules for this kind of thing — how long your brain can survive before we have to call it. Even then you'd probably spend the rest of your life as a vegetable. They brought you in DOA, fifteen minutes after your death. Chest wound, bullet ripped right through the right ventricle at full speed. And now we’re talking like nothing ever happened. And, see — you’re not the first one. Last week there was a kid who drowned in the water behind Jurassic Park. Brought ‘em in, hadn’t been breathing for ten minutes — now he’s running around like death was just a pit stop. And I’m telling you that can’t be possible. Listen, I — I have to know.”

Mitchell laughs, and the pain in his chest uncoils. “Impossible as aliens,” he drawls, finding it easier to connect his mouth to his brain. Now if my arms and legs would just function correctly

The woman betrays a first glimmer of doubt, top teeth chewing on her sunburnt bottom lip. “You look so familiar. Like I’ve seen you before somewhere. Are you local?”

“Just passing through,” he says, his stomach lurching. Flashes of memory, now, cascading like water through a floodgate — the Stargate program going public, doing the press tour, going up in the F-308 with Sam in the first wave against the Ori, the endless press conferences, the fact that he knew he'd never been invisible again. Sam’s eyes after Teal'c's betrayal, her blood, his panic. Vala's voice on the intercom, cut off by staff-blast fire. “Visiting relatives. Christmas in July. Didn’t get to do it last year; there was this little thing called an alien invasion. You know. Puts a damper on the pumpkin pie part.”

The doctor’s face changes, and she lifts the syringe. “Listen,” she says, “I know that for the next half-hour you’re not going to be able to do anything else than sit there and mouth off at me. If you know something, please tell me. There’s so much riding on this. You have no idea.”

“First, let’s get some things straight. The Savior's name is Ba’al. She’s a sonofabitch alien snake wearing a human suit. See, we used to think they were worse than the Ori – the snake wraps around the brainstem, takes over brain functions… suppresses the host’s consciousness, like a tapeworm hijacks your caloric intake. They call themselves the Goa’uld. Not even a she — more like an it. Lesser of two evils, but --” he brings a hand up to finger the smooth skin where he remembered the bullet hitting, all too vividly -- “ — still only in it for himself. And yes, he can bring people back from the dead.”
The doctor said nothing, but her hand was shaking where she held the syringe.

“An it,” she said, “but not Ori.”

“Well,” Mitchell responded. “Technically, the pronoun’s ksa. Goa’uld don’t have gender as we know it.” Damn you, Jackson. “And you’re not really a member of the cult of the Savior, are you?”

The woman’s hand shook harder; when she spoke, her voice slipped a register or two, darkening quietly. She brings her hand to her neck, where a golden cross dangles at her throat. “I don’t know anymore,” she says. “She’s the only thing I know who can stand up against the Ori, and — my kids are still out there. She says she can get my kids, bring them here, and protect us all.”

“Wait,” Mitchell said, and this time he manages to get to his feet. “You can't believe her. Goa'uld lie, and that one, he's the king of liars --”

The woman’s eyes flicker to the door again; Mitchell catches the action, hears the shuffling of amateurs in the hallway, and the telltale squeak of rubber against linoleum.

The doctor licks her lips. “I’m really sorry,” she says.

“You don't want to do this,” says Mitchell.

The woman's hand is shaking. “I've already been through it twice,” she whispers. “It's so beautiful. I feel so strong --”

She launches herself at him, syringe in hand; but Mitchell has the upper hand. This is no different than the hundred other fights he’s had with desperate civilians, despite the fact that his body still isn’t obeying him very well — and despite her sarcophagus addiction, the woman goes down easily; her head cracks on the concrete floor and she goes limp, but she’s still breathing, and Cam chalks one more tally on the list of things for which he’ll hardly forgive himself. But there’s no time to waste, and he whips the syringe from her arm and stumbles out into the hallway, cursing.

In the bright light of day, he’s faced with a teenage girl with a pistol, waiting there, her hand shaking, a few women and men in clean tee-shirts gathered around her. She’s not even thirteen, skinny-small with dark, sunken eyes. Sarcophagus eyes. He'd seen those on pictures of Jackson, back in the early days, undergoing withdrawl.

The girl's hand shakes, her finger on the trigger.

“Do it, Lisa,” one of them says. “Do it and you can have your mother back. Do it and you can have another trip.”

The girl shoots with her eyes closed.

“Oh, fuck it,” swears Mitchell, and the last thing he thinks of is Carter.


Carter, her skin hotter than the campfire in the Tennessee forest.

They shouldn't be doing this, but, then, a lot of things shouldn't be happening.


He awakes in the sarcophagus this time — walls warm with incandescent life, its life-giving heat a tight fit around his broken throat. His first breath is that of a newborn, blood rushing out of his lungs and air in for the first time, a searing, scalding inhalation as the top of the sarcophagus rolls open to reveal a massive statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

With no amusement — all right, some — Mitchell realizes they’re in Jurassic Park. Straight out of the movie.

Maybe if I'm lucky, a velociraptor will eat Ba'al, he thinks.

Hands of all kinds reach in and take him out, half-carefully; his skin sings with the pain of rebirth. He's placed on a hard wooden chair. The shadows move behind him, and Ba'al steps out, her stolen brown eyes dancing with light. Her borrowed red hair is tied up in a multitude of braids with colored rubber bands, like a schoolgirl who’s just learned that her hair can do more than just lay flat against her back. The rest of her outfit, though, is vintage Goa’uld; the corset wouldn’t be out of place on Nirrti, while the miniskirt looks more like something Qetesh would wear. Or Vala.

Fuck, he even misses Vala.

“Nice look,” he croaks. It's an crack about which she'd be proud.

The snake licks ksa's lips and tilts the woman’s head to the side. “You Tau’ri are mystifying,” she said. “Some of you are so easy to manipulate. But then, there are those like you, which take a little more… effort. So let’s try this again. Tell me the location of Phoenix Base, and I will bring your Carter back from the dead and we can get on with going to pick up my ships and saving your absolutely miserable excuse for a planet.”

Mitchell makes a game attempt to will strength back into his hands. “Maybe. I'm pretty sure Carter would rather be dead than help you. I mean, not wearing that skirt. She's far too classy. You know, Vala wouldn’t even wear that. You have a lot to learn about —”

Ba’al punches him. Pain floods Mitchell's chest as he flops over like a rag doll, his limbs still far from being in his own control.

“Please, sir,” he said, “can I have some more?”

Ba’al leans over and stares at him, his body language decisively threatening.

“You think you’re going to last,” Ba’al whispers. “You think that you will be able to outlast everything I throw at you, like a good little Tau’ri. But who are you to think that, when your greatest warrior even failed? O’Neill broke under my hand, like a summer reed or a clay pot — Tell me the location of Phoenix Base, and tell me where you're keeping the Ori ship!”

“I think,” whispers Mitchell, “that I’m never going to tell you anything. And that Sam won’t, either, no matter where you have her, if she’s still alive — And that you can kill me all you want, because nothing — nothing — is worse than watching my team die. Knowing that I’m the last one. So do it, do it over and over again. I won’t break.”

“Everyone breaks,” says Ba'al, and fishes her gun from her waistband.

The quick crack of a report, and then – nothing.

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