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Stargate Etheria (Stargate SG-1/She-Ra crossover)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Starfox5, Sep 25, 2021.

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  1. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Stargate Etheria

    Summary:
    Entering a gate leading to an unknown planet while dodging fire wasn’t too uncommon for SG-1. Meeting strange new people wasn’t unusual either for the Best Friends Squad. But figuring out how to deal with each other, the remnants of the Horde Clones and the Goa’uld threat without a D.H.D. for the Stargate on Etheria? That was new for both.

    Disclaimer:
    I do not own She-Ra and the Princesses of Power or any of the characters in the series. I do not own Stargate: SG-1 or any of the characters in the series.

    Author’s Notes:
    This story is set in an Alternate Universe. While the canon events in She-Ra and SG-1 up to this point happened, there will be changes to either series’ background to fit them into the same universe.

    Cover:

    [​IMG]

    Chapter 1: The Encounter

    Trias, July 10th, 1998

    “Take cover!” Jack O’Neill yelled as he jumped behind a large rock, two blasts from Jaffa staff weapons narrowly missing him and blowing up a tree behind him. Another exploration mission gone awry. Sometimes, he wondered if they were cursed with how often they ended up on a planet full of enemies.

    He ignored the wooden splinters raining down on him and glanced around. The rest of his team had taken cover - he could see Daniel just crawling behind the remnants of a wall while Carter and Teal’C were already returning fire from behind two rocks further back.

    Good. He speed-crawled along the rock, then peered around the other end. Another shot from a staff weapon hit the rock, showering the area with stone splinters while he pulled back.

    No way to flank the enemy on this side - the staff weapons were notoriously unprecise, but with the blast radius from a hit… He took a deep breath, bent around the corner, leading with his M4 carbine and fired two bursts before pulling back again.

    Three more blasts hit the rock, throwing up dirt at its edge. There had to be at least two dozen Jaffas out there, to focus on him with three while the others were still pinned down. He checked on the rest. Carter, as expected, was returning fire while changing positions with textbook perfection. Teal’C had shifted behind a larger rock and kept their left flank clear. And Daniel… was pointing his zat’nik’tel vaguely into the direction of the enemy and squeezing off shots.

    “Daniel!” Jack yelled. “Fall back and dial us out! Carter, Teal’C - cover him!”

    To his credit, Daniel didn’t argue and started crawling back towards the Stargate behind them. He was even using the rocks on the way as cover.

    Jack took a deep breath, then stood, leaning against the rock as he fired a long burst into the treeline from which the Jaffa were shooting at them. This time, the top of the rock disintegrated under the fire from half a dozen staff weapons an instant after he dropped to the ground.

    “Must have hit someone,” he muttered, baring his teeth as he crawled away. Smoke from all the explosions was covering the area but that wouldn’t last forever. Just long enough.

    Jack jumped up and sprinted back and to the right, sliding behind a smaller rock and into a firing position. The smoke was still clearing when he spotted two Jaffa charging their position - they were using the smoke to hide from Carter and Teal’C.

    He dropped the first with two bursts from his carbine, but the second threw himself to the ground and rolled into a ditch before Jack could shoot him as well.

    Those were skilled Jaffa. Not Apophis’s, according to Teal’C. Well, they could sort out who they had fought once they were back at Stargate Command. Jack glanced behind him. Daniel had almost reached the D.H.D. Good.

    He popped up from cover to fire another burst at the Jaffa in the treeline and tried to keep an eye on the Jaffa in the ditch. If that guy made it into their position…

    More blasts forced him to reposition again, behind an even smaller rock. “We’re running out of rocks!” he yelled. “Hurry, Daniel!”

    “I am, Jack!” Daniel yelled back. He had almost reached the D.H.D.

    Jack grinned and emptied his magazine into the treeline to keep the Jaffa’s heads down. Daniel would need a few seconds to…

    Movement near his old position caught his attention as he pulled back to reload. The hiding Jaffa! He had a clear line of fire to Daniel! And Jack was out of ammo!

    “Daniel! Watch out!” he screamed as he swapped magazines and jumped up again, lining up his shot, firing as he aimed, anything to make the bastard flinch and miss…

    His bullets caught the Jaffa a moment too late - Jack saw the staff fire. Heard Daniel scream. “Daniel! Carter!” She was closest!

    “I’m… I’m OK! But he hit the D.H.D.!” Daniel yelled back.

    What? With it, they couldn’t dial the Stargate. Couldn’t return to Earth. Would be captured here - there had to be more Jaffa approaching. Gliders on the way. He fired into the treeline again. Perhaps he should save a bullet for himself...

    “Sir! It’s dialling!” Carter yelled. “Outgoing!”

    “What?”

    “The Stargate is dialling!”

    “But I didn’t enter the coordinates! And the D.H.D. is damaged!” Daniel complained.

    Jack slid back into cover to swap magazines again. Three left. And about two dozen Jaffa. No choice. “Get through the gate!” he yelled. “Hurry!”

    “But Jack!”

    “Into the gate, Daniel!” Carter yelled, already sprinting towards the archaeologist and the gate - she knew what the alternative was. Better dead than snaked.

    “Teal’C! I’ll cover you!”

    The big guy didn’t argue either - just fell back, firing on the move, then stopped behind a rock to cover Jack just as Carter pushed Daniel through the gate.

    Jack started to run, bent over to reduce his profile. Staff bursts went past him left and right, blowing up rock and dirt. Splinters tugged at his cap and pinged against his vest.

    “Go on!” Teal’C snapped as Jack passed him.

    “Like hell!” Jack muttered, crouching down next to the gate and aiming his carbine at the enemy. “Fall back!”

    Teal’C obeyed, running faster than a man his size had any right to, and jumped through the gate.

    Jack emptied his magazine as he moved backwards up the ramp, more blasts missing him, then one blast that was a little too close all but blew him through the gate.

    He came out rolling over his shoulder, down a ramp, his carbine flying away. It was a steeper ramp than expected, he realised as the gate went out behind him. He came to a stop on his back - and found himself staring up in the face of a huge cat. A huge alien cat.

    *****​

    Whispering Woods, Etheria, Same Day.

    “I think there’s a passage here,” Adora said, leaning forward to study the wall in front of her. The light from her lamp wasn’t the best.

    “You thought that before. And we spent half an hour digging through stone and rock to discover… more rock,” Catra said behind her.

    Adora glanced over her shoulder. Her girlfriend - even after months, she still had to suppress a silly grin every time she thought that - was leaning against the wall, hands behind her head and rolling her eyes. She could see perfectly well here, of course. At her feet, Melog was acting as if it was cleaning its mane. “I don’t remember you doing much digging,” Adora told Catra.

    “Someone had to keep an eye out for dangers,” Catra replied. “This is a lost outpost of the First Ones, in the middle of the Whispering Woods. So, we have to expect both some monsters the First Ones created and forgot to dispose of and the general garden variety of monsters from those cursed woods who took up residence here. And I’ve got the best eyes and ears of us all, which makes me the natural choice for lookout.”

    “And you don’t like digging,” Adora added.

    “And I don’t like digging.” Catra flashed her a toothy grin that made Adora think of... other things.

    “Or working,” Glimmer muttered as she walked up to them. “Entrapta finished examining the remains of the console in the main room. The memory crystals were smashed, she said.”

    Adora knew Catra had heard the dig against her, but her girlfriend didn’t react other than looking away and clenching her teeth - Adora could see her jaw muscles move. She wanted to sigh. If Catra didn’t give as good as she got against Glimmer, it usually meant she was feeling down. Perhaps Adora shouldn’t have asked her to come with them on this expedition. No. They were a couple, and she wanted Catra and the others to not only get along but be comfortable with each other. And Glimmer didn’t mean to be mean. She was just a little cranky now.

    “Yes, Entrapta’s trying to recover some data, but I don’t think she’ll find anything intact enough for a partial retrieval.” Bow joined them, ducking under a root that had managed to burrow through the ceiling. “Another dead end?”

    “No!” Adora said. “I’m sure there’s a tunnel behind this wall. And yes, I’m really sure this time.” She pointed at the symbol on the wall. “This means ‘Gate’. And this is a wall, not bedrock. So, this is a gate.”

    “Or some First One flunky made a mistake,” Catra pointed out. “Or this was planned to be a gate, but they never got around to dig it out.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “If you want to spend another half an hour digging through rock, be my guest, though.”

    Glimmer bared her teeth in return. “I’ve got a better plan: We just dig a small hole, so we can check if there’s anything behind this wall.”

    “We would need a drill for that,” Bow objected.

    “No, we just need She-Ra!” Glimmer beamed at her, Adora realised.

    “Me?”

    “You can drive your sword through the wall. Wriggle a little to widen it, lather rinse repeat, and we have a hole!” Glimmer said.

    “Or you could alter your sword and turn it into a drill,” Bow suggested.

    That sounded… well, either way, Adora would be digging a hole.

    Catra snickered. “Poor She-Ra. From Champion of Etheria to convenient excavation tool.”

    Adora stuck her tongue out at her in return. She wasn’t mad - it was good to see Catra smile. Then she raised her hand and closed her eyes. “For the Honour of Grayskull!”

    As always, power filled her as she changed. Grew. Became far more than she was. Power that made her feel as if she could do anything. She barely noticed her clothes and hairstyle change as she became She-Ra. Princess of Power.

    “Nice light show. Now, get to it, slacker,” Catra commented. Adora frowned at her - she wasn’t pouting - and her girlfriend’s grin grew wider. “Should’ve done that the first time.”

    Adora snorted and turned towards the wall. Perhaps she should’ve. Yet… They might be joking about this, but it did feel weird to use She-Ra’s power for something you could do without it. Even without magic. Like cheating.

    Not that she would say that, or Catra would lecture her about not being stupid. Her girlfriend had strict views on fair fights and working more than you had to. Mainly, that both was stupid.

    And they had been down here for a few hours already. Adora raised her hand and summoned - or conjured, according to Castaspella - her sword, then changed it into a drill. She looked at it, cocking her head. It seemed to be functional.

    Taking a deep breath, she pushed the tip against the wall and started to drill. The tip went into and through the wall like a hot knife went through butter, as Glimmer liked to say. Rock dust and a few splinters flew, but she didn’t mind it - her clothes would be cleaned next time she transformed. She-Ra’s magic was convenient that way.

    Also in other ways - she stumbled slightly when she suddenly felt a lack of resistance, but caught herself instantly. “I’m through!” she announced.

    “I knew it!” Glimmer gloated.

    “I knew it,” Adora corrected her.

    “Yes, yes. You were right. For once.” Catra rolled her eyes again. “So, open up the tunnel.”

    That took a little longer. Halfway to clearing the entire wall, Catra suddenly held up her hand. “Stop! I heard something!”

    “What?” Adora asked, freezing in the middle of carving through another stone.

    “A… whooshing sound, or something.” Catra’s ears were twitching, and her tail was swishing back and forth.

    “A ‘wooshing sound’?” Glimmer snorted. “Is that a word?”

    Catra narrowed her eyes. “It sounded like that. Something is behind that wall.”

    “Well, we better…” Adora started to say when Melog suddenly jumped up and sped past her, into the tunnel.

    “Melog! Wait!” Catra yelled.

    But the cat had already disappeared down the tunnel.

    And Catra was about to climb after it.

    *****​

    Samantha Carter kept her M4 trained on the alien looming over the Colonel, silently cursing herself. It must have arrived while she had been distracted by waiting for the Colonel to arrive. Waiting and worrying… She buried the thought, clenching her teeth. She could lambast herself for her unprofessional mistakes later. Now she had to focus on dealing with the situation at hand.

    They were facing an alien. It had roughly the shape of a big cat, but in purple, no markings or stripes, and a mane and tail that looked transparent - almost like holograms. Glowing eyes that matched the mane.

    And it was growling fiercely.

    “Carter!” the Colonel hissed through clenched teeth. He was staring straight up at the creature, and his carbine was about a foot away from his hand - if he grabbed it, he might provoke the creature. “Mind doing something about this? Like, making it go away?”

    “I’m not sure if it’s corporeal,” she told him. If she shot it and the bullets went through its body… the ricochets would endanger everyone. Especially the Colonel.

    “Well, yeah, but I’m sure it’s dangerous,” he snapped back as he started to slowly try and slide away from it.

    “It might be intelligent,” Daniel interjected. “Have you ever seen one like it, Teal’C?”

    A stupid question, Sam knew - if Teal’C had recognised the alien, he would have told them so already.

    “No,” Teal’C replied anyway. His staff was pointed at the animal, but as close as it was to the Colonel… the plasma blast would injure him whether or not it hit the body of the alien. Perhaps Daniel’s zat’nik’tel… that would be safe. Unless there was some interaction between the creature’s aura and the blast. And Daniel wasn’t the best shot.

    The alien growled again. At Teal’C, she realised. Had it recognised him? Had it met Jaffa before? Could it tell Jaffa from humans? The differences were hard to tell without exposing their midriffs, but who knew what senses this creature had…

    Her eyes widened when she heard footsteps. She shifted her carbine, aiming at the tunnel behind the alien, trusting Teal’C to keep the cat covered.

    “Someone’s coming!” Daniel announced.

    “Melog!” A figure appeared in the tunnel, then froze when they spotted SG-1. “Who’re you?”

    Sam stared for a moment. The figure was humanoid but had cat-like features. Fur, twitching, cat-like ears, a tail. And she was female - the tight clothes she was wearing didn’t hide that. And she was unarmed. Or not, Sam corrected herself when the woman unsheathed claws on her fingers and feet. She didn’t attack, though - she must have realised they had her covered.

    “We’re Tau’ri,” Daniel spoke up. “We’re travellers who ended up here by mistake. Who are you?”

    “Travellers?” The woman’s ears twitched as the alien growled again. Her eyes widened. “Goa’uld?”

    “No! We aren’t Goa’uld,” Daniel blurted out.

    Sam hoped that they weren’t talking to a loyal servant of the local Goa’uld.

    “What are Goa’uld?” the woman asked.

    Daniel blinked. “They’re a species that…” he started to explain, but the alien cat cut him off with another growl.

    “Parasitic snakes?” the cat-woman hissed, eyes darting to the cat for a moment.

    She could understand the alien cat, Sam realised. Who was obviously intelligent. And didn’t like the Goa’uld.

    “Yes, exactly,” Daniel went on, blissfully ignorant of this. “We’ve…”

    More footsteps. “Catra! Melog!”

    And Sam stared again as a huge blonde woman - easily seven foot tall - arrived, brandishing a giant sword. She drew to a stop next to the cat-woman - Catra? - and pointed her sword at them. “Who are you?”

    “We’re Tau’ri, from Earth,” Daniel repeated. “We come in peace.”

    “They’re servants of parasitic snakes,” the cat-woman cut in.

    “Parasitic snakes?”

    Two more figures arrived. They looked like humans. A man with a… bow and arrows? And a woman with a staff. Sword, bow and staff - if they didn’t end up dead, the Colonel would make a D&D joke, Sam was sure. As sure as she was that she wouldn’t reveal that she understood the joke.

    “No! We aren’t servants of the Goa’uld!” Daniel exclaimed.

    Another growl.

    “He is!” the cat-woman said, pointing at Teal’C.

    “I do not serve them. Not any more,” Teal’C replied. He didn’t show any emotion, but Sam could see that he was tense. Ready to take them all down.

    “Yes. We’ve been kinda fighting them for some time,” the Colonel chimed in.

    “He carries a snake in his body!”

    “A larvae - the Goa’uld use his people as hosts,” Daniel explained. “We cannot extract it without endangering his life. Please - we do not mean you any harm.”

    “And yet you’re pointing your weapons at us,” the blonde woman replied.

    “So are you,” the Colonel shot back. The cat growled at him, and he winced.

    “You started it! And Melog doesn’t like you!” the cat-woman retorted.

    “It’s a misunderstanding.” Daniel took a step towards the four. Sam gritted her teeth and shifted her position so he wouldn’t block her line of fire. The Colonel was still too close to the alien cat to get his carbine. “We oppose the Goa’uld - we have killed one of their leaders. In fact, we ended up here fleeing from one of their planets.”

    “You fled to Etheria?” the blonde asked. “Like the Star Siblings?”

    Star siblings? Sam didn’t remember any term like that.

    “We travelled between the stars, yes,” Daniel said.

    “Where’s your ship? And how did you get past the frigates in orbit?” the other woman asked.

    “And what are you doing here?” the man added.

    Frigates in orbit? Sam’s eyes widened. Despite the primitive weapons, these people must be a spacefaring civilisation. Or at least on a level to achieve orbit.

    She glanced at the Colonel. He had realised it as well, she knew.

    “We didn’t arrive by ship,” Daniel went on. “We arrived through the Stargate.” He pointed at the ring behind them, which had gone inert.

    And which, Sam realised with a gasp, didn’t have a D.H.D. anywhere near it.

    *****​

    Catra hissed. They were facing a group of armed strangers - armed strangers with parasitic snakes in them. Well, at least in one, possibly two of them, according to Melog. And Adora and the others were talking with them! Even though the tactical situation favoured them. They outnumbered the others. Melog had one of them - the oldest - locked down. Adora was close enough to get the big guy with the staff before he could do anything, and she would bet on Bow against the woman with the gun. Especially since the blonde seemed to be distracted by the ring thing behind them. The Stargate, according to them.

    Well, that would explain the ‘Gate’ sign Adora had mentioned.

    Anyway, Catra could take the guy with the glasses - he didn’t seem to be much of a fighter - and Glimmer could teleport behind whoever made trouble. There was no need to talk like this.

    “There’s no D.H.D.!” the glasses guy exclaimed.

    What was a D.H.D.?

    “What? Carter!” the old man turned his head away from Melog.

    “I… I don’t see any, Sir.”

    “How could you miss that?”

    “We were distracted by being under fire and waiting for you,” the glasses guy said.

    “And it wasn’t relevant,” the big guy added - without taking his eyes off Adora, Catra noted. Points for identifying the biggest threat to them. But it wouldn’t help him anyway. No one could beat She-Ra.

    “What is a D.H.D.?” Adora asked.

    “It’s what is used to control the Stargate,” the glasses guy explained. “Without it, you can’t use it.”

    “So, you’re stuck here unless we find one?” Adora cocked her head.

    Trapped, Melog growled.

    Catra blinked. Did Melog hide it with an illusion? It must have used illusions to sneak up on them, so hiding this other thing would not be too much of a stretch. “You know this gate, don't you?”

    No. Only know of.

    Well, that was something. Catra hated missing intel. Or giving information to the enemy. “So, did you see one?” she asked Melog.

    No.

    He wasn’t hiding one, then.

    “So, we’re trapped here,” the old man said. “And apparently, their cat is their gate expert.”

    Cat? Catra narrowed her eyes. Ah. He was talking about Melog.

    “You know the Stargate?” Glasses guy was looking at Melog. “Uh… can they understand us? Or do you need to translate?”

    Catra snorted. “Melog can understand you just fine.”

    “Ah.” The man nodded. “So…”

    “We still don’t know who you are and why we should trust you,” Catra told him.

    “We come in peace. And by accident,” the man replied. “We do not mean you any harm.”

    “You could be lying,” Catra shot back. “You’re carrying snake parasites that Melog really doesn’t like.” And she trusted Melog. Almost as much as she trusted Adora.

    “I am not controlled by the Goa’uld,” the huge guy said. “And I will die before I let the larvae mature and take over anyone.”

    Well, anyone could say that. But the guy did sound like he meant it. Not like Adora ‘I can’t lie to save myself’ honest, but… determined.

    He still could be lying.

    “Look… let’s lower the weapons,” the glasses guy said, holstering his own tiny thing. “Let’s deescalate. None of us wants to fight. I hope so, at least,” he added, looking at Melog.

    Melog growled again. Don’t trust snakes.

    “Can the snakes hurt us?” Catra asked. “Like… control us?”

    Burrow into you.

    She shuddered. “The snakes bury into you,” she told the others.

    “Ew!” Glimmer grimaced.

    “That’s why they’re parasites!” Bow exclaimed. “And you have one inside you!”

    “Not like that,” the glasses guy said. “The Goa’uld use Jaffa to, ah, grow their young, but they do not control them as they control the Tau’ri. But please, let’s lower our weapons. Guys?” He was talking to his friends. “We’re stranded here. We need help. And it’s clear that they won’t trust us easily.”

    The woman looked at the old guy. That must be their leader. “Sir?”

    “Well, I don’t have a gun to lower… but we’re in close quarters, and I’m pretty sure this cat can shred me before anyone can shoot it.” He sighed. “Let’s talk.”

    The glasses guy smiled as the woman lowered her gun and the big guy put the staff up. “So… I’m Daniel Jackson. These are Colonel Jack O’Neill, Major Samantha Carter and Teal’C.”

    Catra narrowed her eyes. It was a gesture of trust… or it could be a trap. But either way, they had an even greater advantage. If these people tried anything…

    Then Adora lowered her sword - and put it on her back. “Alright.”

    And Bow lowered his bow. Catra clenched her teeth. So much for having an advantage!

    Glimmer took a step forward. “I am Glimmer, Queen of Bright Moon. This is She-Ra, Princess of Power. Bow and Catra. And Melog.”

    “Glimmer? Bow? Princess of Power?” The old guy - O’Neill - blinked.

    “Sir!” the woman - Carter - hissed.

    Even Jackson sent a glance at the old man before smiling again. “Thank you. We are honoured to meet you and apologise for entering your realm without permission. Ah… how do we address you?”

    *****​

    “Your Glowing Highness?” Jack O’Neill clenched his teeth a little too late to keep his comment from slipping out.

    “Jack!” Daniel looked aghast.

    “Colonel!” Carter too.

    But he couldn’t help it - he had been lying far too close to an alien cat creature for far too long. And those names… Even if they were a translation quirk, how could anyone resist?

    And the cat-woman - named Catra? What the hell? - giggled. “‘Your Glowing Highness’! That’s almost as good as Sparkles!”

    “Catra!” the big blonde hissed.

    And the alien cat chuffed or something. It had changed colours too, for a moment, Jack noticed. Perhaps if it was distracted, he could reach his carbine… No. They were talking now. And this group seemed to loathe the Goa’uld, which made them OK in Jack’s book. And they were all so young… barely twenty, by his guess. Unless that was old for a cat-woman.

    “Just call me Glimmer,” the supposed queen said. “We aren’t at Court.” She was frowning at Jack, though.

    He smiled back - he had seen worse glares. Like the one Carter was sending at him. “Glimmer it is. Call me Jack.”

    She nodded. “You’re the leader of your group.”

    Had it been obvious? Daniel had told them their ranks, but would they have understood that? Jack told himself not to underestimate the kids. “I’m the leader of SG-1, yes. Do you mind if I get up? Talking to you while I’m on my back feels a little weird.” He managed not to add the very off-colour joke about being on his back that came to mind. See, Carter, I can control myself!

    “As long as you don’t try to attack us,” the blonde amazon said. Adora She-Ra, or something. Daniel was probably analysing the meanings of their names.

    “Thank you.” Jack kept the sarcasm down as he slowly backed off a little more from the cat - no quick movements - and got up. After a moment’s hesitation, he picked up his carbine and slung it over his shoulder. He always felt better conducting negotiations when he was armed.

    The kids seemed to relax, he noticed.

    “So, Glimmer, once again, our apologies for entering your realm,” Daniel repeated himself as he gave them his usual charming smile. One of those days, he’d send the wrong signals to people, Jack knew.

    “It’s not exactly my realm,” Glimmer replied. “This is the Whispering Woods. Bright Moon and Plumeria share the responsibility for the area. Bright Moon is my kingdom.”

    “Ah.” Daniel nodded.

    So, they were in disputed territory. And there were more kingdoms. Jack grinned - good to know. And good to know that this kid wasn’t the ruler of the planet.

    “So, you arrived here by the Stargate,” the boy - Bow - said. “And you are stuck here since you can’t activate it from this side.”

    Right. Daniel needed the ‘don’t blurt out information’ talk again, Jack reminded himself.

    “Yes,” Carter said. “We need a D.H.D. A…”

    Jack grinned. “A Dial Home Device, as we call it. It’s round, looks a little like a weird sundial, and has the symbols you see on the Stargate. Found it lying around by chance?”

    “No.” “Nope.” “Don’t think so.” “Didn’t pay attention.”

    “It might be around,” the blonde said. “We’re still exploring these ruins.”

    “Looks like we’re stuck until we find it,” Jack said. Carter might be able to create a replacement device, but it had taken Stargate Command fifteen years to build the supercomputer to run the Stargate, and it still didn’t work perfectly. Stranded on an alien planet, she’d need… He pushed the thought away. Focus on the task at hand, he reminded himself.

    “Uh… you said you fled from enemies. Will they follow you through the gate?” Adora asked.

    “That’s…” Daniel trailed off. “The D.H.D. was hit when I was dialling. It’s possible that it got stuck, but…”

    “They would have reopened the gate and followed us if they could,” Carter said.

    “Yes,” Jack agreed. “Jaffa don’t give up easily.” Not when their lives, and the lives of their families, might depend on it.

    “If their orders were to capture us,” Teal’C added. “If their orders were to drive us off, they might not have followed us even if they could.

    “The gate went out as soon as you came through, Sir,” Carter said. “And the D.H.D. was damaged. I doubt that it’s functional, but we cannot dismiss the danger, either.”

    “Great.” The cat-woman sighed. “We’ve got a portal straight to another alien invasion force.”

    “Well… It’s a small portal?” the blonde smiled weakly. “Can we brick it up?”

    “The opening of the wormhole destroys almost anything in the way,” Carter told her. “You would need a special material or bury the entire gate to block it.”

    “Or you just seal the chamber,” Jack suggested.

    “That would still allow anyone to arrive. And they would be stuck here,” Glimmer said. “We’ll ask Entrapta if she can block the gate.”

    “Entrapta?” Jack tilted his head. What was it with those names?

    “Princess of Dryl,” Glimmer told him. “She and Bow are experts on First Ones technology.”

    “She’s better,” the boy said with a smile.

    “But you’re not a slouch either!” Adora added.

    “So, where’s Entrapta?” Jack asked. They had to stay focused.

    “Trying to fix the main console,” Adora told him.

    “I’ll fetch her,” Bow said. “She’ll love this.”

    Jack suddenly had a bad feeling about this.

    *****​

    Adora kept an eye on the new arrivals while Bow went to fetch Entrapta. They didn’t look like they’d attack her or her friends, but better safe than sorry - they still hadn’t verified their story, after all. Not that she knew how to verify if they were stranded here. But she knew they were dangerous. Well, most of them - the guy with the glasses didn’t seem dangerous. Or he was a better actor than Double Trouble.

    “Sir, if we don’t find the D.H.D….” the woman, Carter, told the older man in a low voice.

    “We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it, Carter,” he replied. “For now, let’s be optimistic.”

    “Optimistic? You, Jack?”

    “Hey! I’m always optimistic, Daniel.”

    “You always assume the worst.”

    “Not always. And I’m just being realistic.”

    “So, you mean you’re not always realistic since you claim you don’t always assume the worst?”

    “Daniel! Not in front of our new friends!”

    Catra snickered. “Oh, do continue.”

    “See?”

    “Honesty is a good policy, Jack.”

    So, Carter called the man ‘sir’, while Daniel called him Jack. Which must mean he wasn’t a soldier. Adora nodded at her conclusion. But that left the tall black guy who hadn’t said much so far. Was he a soldier?

    But their visitors had fallen silent now.

    “So, you’re from Earth, you said?” Catra spoke up. She sounded casual, just making conversation while they waited, but Adora knew her too well to fall for it. Catra was being sneaky.

    “Yes, we’re from Earth,” Daniel replied.

    “And you travel through Stargates to fight evil parasitic snakes.” Catra didn’t try to hide the hint of scepticism in her tone.

    “The Goa’uld, yes,” the man confirmed. “Although most of our missions are simple exploration missions.”

    “We just keep stumbling into Goa’uld, and suddenly the mission gets all complicated,” O’Neill added. “Or simpler, since it becomes all about shooting the enemy before he shoots you.” He grinned at them. “Or blowing them up.”

    Catra snorted in response. “Ah, that kind of simple.”

    Adora rolled her eyes. “And you accidentally ended up here, unable to go back.”

    “And we could have an invasion arrive at any moment.” Glimmer shook her head. “Another one.”

    “Oh, yes, Your Glowiness,” Catra told her. “But never fear, She-Ra’s here.”

    Adora cleared her throat and pointedly looked at their visitors when Catra and Glimmer turned towards her. Glimmer blushed a little, but Catra scoffed.

    “Ah… Forgive me if this is prying,” Daniel said, “but you don’t seem overly concerned with an invasion.”

    “She-Ra here can handle it,” Catra replied before Adora or Glimmer could say anything. “And as you explained, we can replace her with a few tons of rock.” She smirked at Adora.

    Adora snorted - she knew what Catra was hinting at.

    “Ah… you shouldn’t underestimate the Goa’uld,” Daniel said. “They are very old and experienced and often use quite brutal or underhanded means to pursue their goals.”

    Catra chuckled. “We’ve got experience with that.”

    “Mainly thanks to you,” Glimmer retorted. “And we don’t know anything about those Goa’uld.”

    Catra glared at her in return.

    Adora sighed. She knew Catra was trying to impress their visitors to keep them honest, but… “I can handle it,” she told them. “But we do need to find a more permanent solution.”

    “Can the gate be moved?” Catra asked.

    “Yes. Although it’s not easy,” Carter replied.

    “She-Ra can carry it.” Catra waved her hand. “Problem solved.”

    Adora snorted. She probably could - she could throw a tank, after all - but she wasn’t some beast of burden.

    “Except for the fact that we’re still stuck here,” O’Neill said. “Our… friends at home must be worrying.”

    “You mean your army,” Catra told him. “Or they wrote you off. Your missions seem to be rather dangerous.”

    “We don’t write our people off!” the older man protested. He seemed genuinely angry at the assumption, Adora realised.

    “Neither do we,” Glimmer took a step forward. “But some of our enemies considered everyone but themselves disposable.”

    Catra pressed her lips together and didn’t say anything. Adora wanted to sigh again. Catra had changed. Her girlfriend just needed to accept that. For good. She smiled at her, but Catra didn’t seem to notice.

    “Will they send a team after you?” Glimmer asked.

    The others looked at each other. “I don’t think they know where we are,” Daniel explained. “We arrived here by accident, travelling from another planet. Our… friends… wouldn’t have any way to find out where we are.”

    “Well, theoretically, if the Stargate on Trias has remained stuck with this gate address, then a team could find us should they be able to secure the Stargate there,” Carter explained. “However, the odds of that happening…” She winced.

    “So, you’re stuck here until you find a way home,” Adora summed up.

    “As they already said,” Catra commented.

    “We just need a D.H.D.,” Daniel said. “If you just discovered this facility, then it could be in storage somewhere, and you just haven’t found it yet.”

    Adora nodded. That sounded plausible.

    Catra was about to say something, but she cocked her head instead, ears twitching in that cute manner that made Adora want to caress them. “Bow and Entrapta are coming,” her girlfriend said.

    “A Stargate! A Portal! New Technology! Oh, I can’t wait to examine it!” Entrapta’s voice could be heard.

    A few seconds later, she appeared in the door, walking on her hair tendrils while holding her recorder. “Hello, everyone! This is so exciting! Oh, there it is!”

    Their visitors stared.

    *****​

    A teenager? was Samantha Carter’s first thought. Then she saw the woman’s face. No, twenty to thirty - just short. Shorter than Queen Glimmer. And she was… walking with her hair. No, that couldn’t be hair. It was moving, carrying the woman. And yet it looked like hair. Some sort of nanostrands? Microstructures that allowed it to move like muscles?

    “Hi!”

    “Hello,” the Colonel nodded.

    “Hello.” Daniel looked speechless for a change.

    “I’m Entrapta! You’re the travellers from another planet? And you arrived through a portal! Fascinating? Do you mind if I scan you? Just to check if you have some weird radiation or anything else we could use to determine your home planet.”

    Belatedly, Sam greeted the woman as well. “Hello.”

    “Hi! You’re the scientist of your group?” Entrapta beamed at her, which looked a little creepy as she was still hanging down from her hair.

    So, they had noticed that Sam was a scientist. That meant they knew what a scientist was - well, they already knew that, what with the remarks about frigates in orbit. Still, why would they use bows and swords? A cultural relic from a Goa’uld occupation?

    Metallic steps drew her attention back to the tunnel, and she froze. A huge, round robot entered the chamber. It was the size of a small car and walking on articulated legs.

    “What the…?”

    “That’s Emily!” the woman announced. “She’s my assistant - and bodyguard, I guess.”

    The robot beeped, and the woman nodded. “Exactly!”

    She turned and pointed a device at them. “So, let’s scan you!”

    “Whoa! Wait a minute!” the Colonel protested. “What exactly are you planning to do?”

    “Gathering data about you, of course! You’re an alien species - at least one of you is an alien for sure, but the others could be as well.”

    “It’s considered rude to scan people without their consent,” Daniel said.

    “Why?” The woman cocked her head - somehow without unbalancing her hair. “It’s just gathering data.”

    “It, ah, is a potential violation of our privacy,” Daniel replied. “Medical data is considered confidential in our home culture.”

    “Really? Well, I need to scan you. What if you carry some alien viruses or bacteria? Or are suffering from an allergy to anything here?” The woman held up the device and started pushing buttons.

    And the tall blonde - Adora - who had raised her hand, lowered it again.

    “She’s right,” the cat-woman muttered.

    “Yes, but…”

    “No, you’re right,” Sam said. “This is a medical necessity.”

    “Carter!” the Colonel protested.

    “She is correct, Sir.” It was only sensible to check them for diseases.

    “Yes, but you could’ve said it a little more diplomatically.” He was almost pouting. Not that Sam would ever tell him that.

    “O-K! Now let’s analyse this!” The woman - Entrapta announced. Pushing a few more buttons. “And while we wait, let’s do science!” Her mask, which had rested on top of her head, slid down and covered her face as she approached the Stargate. “Oh, First Ones style!”

    “First Ones?” Daniel asked at once.

    “What we call the people who built this temple,” the young man told them. The group was predominantly made up of women, Sam suddenly realised. There was only one man, and he was clearly not a leader. She’d have to point this out to Daniel.

    “Oh! This is a fascinating material!”

    “It’s Naquadah,” Sam told her. “A rare, super-dense mineral.”

    “Oh, yes. Yes. Really fascinating. I need to take a sample to analyse it.”

    “Please don’t damage our only way home,” the Colonel said.

    “Oh, right. Though a little sample won’t hurt - it’s already scratched.” One hair tendril separated and grabbed a tool.

    “How are you doing this?” Sam blurted out, both to make the woman reconsider damaging the Stargate and to satisfy her curiosity.

    “Doing what?”

    “Your… hair. How do you move the strands?”

    “Oh.” The woman turned around to face and smile at Sam. “It’s my magic talent. It’s more useful than you might think!”

    “Magic talent?” Daniel asked.

    “Yes. Inborn magic. Some princesses can control plants, some can control the sea, I can control my hair. And it’s very useful for doing fine work.”

    Magic. Sam was tempted to lower her estimate of this planet’s technical level. On the other hand, there was a lot of technology that, if not quite understood, would appear to be magic. And some species had talents that matched some definitions of magic. She’d have to ask Daniel to look into this. The last thing they needed was some cultural misunderstanding. Or some blind spots due to preconceptions. Something, fortunately, Daniel lacked.

    “Magic hair. Now I’ve seen everything,” the Colonel commented. “Can you pull a rabbit out of your hat as well?”

    Unfortunately, the Colonel easily made up for that. Sam winced.

    The woman, Entrapta, didn’t seem to mind, though. “No, I can’t. I don’t have a hat or a rabbit.”

    But the rest of the group was glaring at the Colonel. Even the robot seemed, somehow, to show some annoyance.

    “Sorry, Daniel said, smiling again. “We don’t have magic on our planet, so we’re not quite used to it.”

    “Oh, we know,” the blonde woman said, smiling. “We’ve been working hard to return magic to all the worlds without it, but it’s going slowly. But we’ll get around to your home planet, don’t worry!”

    Sam blinked.

    What?

    *****​
     
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: The Gate
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 2: The Gate

    Whispering Woods, Etheria, July 10th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “What?” The blonde woman was gaping as if Adora had been stuttering.

    Catra frowned. “We’re bringing magic back,” she told her. “It’s just going to take a while.” No need to let them get high expectations.

    “Magic?” The guy with glasses stared at them. “What exactly do you mean by magic?”

    Catra sighed. Were those guys slow or what? “Magic. You know, the power that lets you teleport, control plants - or hair - and turn spaceships into plants?”

    “What?” the blonde repeated herself.

    “Magic.” Entrapta beamed at them - Catra could tell even with her mask up. “It’s a way of manipulating a form of energy that is commonly called ‘magic’ as well, which is, kinda confusing, I guess. But that’s fine - you haven’t had access to magic in this sector for a thousand years or more, so you can’t be expected to understand everything at once.

    “A form of energy?” The blonde would make a good recorder, Catra thought with a smirk, the way she kept repeating stuff.

    “Yes.” Entrapta nodded as if that explained everything.

    The old guy who had been making fun of Entrapta shook his head. “There is no such a thing as magic.”

    “Really?” Glimmer narrowed her eyes at him.

    Catra grinned. That should be good. Entrapta was their friend. And they wouldn’t let someone mock her for her… quirks.

    “Yes, really,” the old guy told her.

    “Colonel!” the blonde hissed.

    “Jack! This is obviously a cultural difference.”

    “No, it’s just ignorance,” Glimmer spat - and teleported next to them.

    All of them were shocked. Or at least surprised - even the tall, dark guy twitched.

    “What do you call this?” Glimmer challenged them.

    “We’ve seen transporters before,” the old guy replied - he was still looking wary, though.

    “But nothing like this, Jack!” Glasses gushed. “This is like… teleportation! Instant transportation! And we didn’t see any rings!”

    “Yes, this is Glimmer’s innate magical talent. She can teleport using magic,” Entrapta said, nodding at the others. “Just like I can control my hair.”

    “Perhaps they have trace elements of Naquadah or something similar in their blood, and it allows them to wield devices like the Hara’Kesh,” the blonde mumbled.

    “But Sam!” Glasses objected. “Why would they try to convince us that there is magic if it’s actually technology?”

    “Oh, actually, magic is part of technology, at least according to some definitions.” Entrapta smiled. “If you have the talent, you can learn to cast spells, and they follow the laws of magic. It’s science!”

    This was getting out of hand, Catra realised. They were discussing magic and technology with a bunch of intruders as if they were on Mystacore and not in the middle of an ancient installation of the First Ones they had barely begun to explore. “How about we discuss that stuff once we’ve hashed out the more important bits? Like whether or not there’s one of those ‘D.H.D.s’ around?” And once they had confirmed that this installation didn’t have some homicidal bots waiting in secret rooms to go after all intruders. Catra didn’t want a repat of that particular excursion.

    Melog growled in agreement.

    “Good idea.” Adora smiled at her, and Catra smiled back with a warm feeling in her chest before she caught herself. They could flirt when they weren’t standing in melee range of a group of still suspicious strangers.

    “So, first: Are they safe, or are they controlled by alien parasitic snakes?” Catra asked. Melog certainly wasn’t warming up to them.

    “Well, my scan should… ah! It finished while we talked. Yes!” Entrapta slipped her mask up on her head and peered at her recorder. “Ah. None of you carries dangerous or unknown diseases as far as my scanner can tell - and it can tell a lot. And none of you has a parasitic or other organism connected to your central nervous system. So, you probably aren’t controlled by those ‘Goa’uld’.”

    “Probably?” Adora asked.

    Catra looked at Melog. Her friend was still tense.

    “Well, they could be controlled by other means, right?” Entrapta cocked her head sideways. “We shouldn’t assume that there’s only one way to achieve the same result; that’s what leads to failed research!”

    “Blackmail, hostages, bribes,” Catra explained with a shrug. “Whatever works.”

    “I would rather die than obey the False Gods!” the huge guy growled. “And so would my family.”

    Catra narrowed her eyes. That sounded… well, she’d keep an eye on the guy. Anyone who’d sacrifice their family like that was dangerous. And probably not quite stable - she knew all about being fanatically devoted to one thing. And how dangerous that made you to everyone - including your friends. Knew it far too well.

    “We are fighting the snakes. We don’t obey them,” the old guy said.

    “But you had one inside you,” Entrapta went on, pointing at the blonde with one hair tendril. “I can see where it accessed your spine - it’s not quite healed yet. Fascinating! And your blood! It’s full of this new metal. Relatively, of course - you’re not in any danger of succumbing to heavy metal poisoning. I think - I’m not a Healer.”

    The blonde obviously didn’t think that this was fascinating, nor was she particularly relieved that she wouldn’t be dying to poison. “Yes,” she spat through clenched teeth.

    “It was a very recent and very traumatic experience,” Glasses said.

    “Oh? How so?” Entrapta blinked.

    But before she could ask for more details, Adora took a step forward. “Yes, we understand. We know about traumatic experiences.”

    Catra, meanwhile, glanced at Entrapta and grimaced.

    Her friend blinked, and then her eyes widened. “Oh! That kinda experience. Right! No asking for details!” She nodded firmly. “Anyway, they aren’t currently controlled by parasites.”

    That didn’t mean that they were trustworthy, of course. Catra knew that better than most as well. “What about the snake inside him?” she asked.

    “As I said, the snake embryo in Teal’c’s stomach is only connected to his bloodstream so it can receive nourishment and oxygen, but has no connection to his brain or spine.”

    Adora blinked. “Wait. It’s not just… you’re really pregnant with a snake?”

    *****​

    “We’re calling him Junior,” Jack O’Neill said. Teal’c raised an eyebrow at him, but that was to be expected. A little humour should diffuse the situation.

    “It’s not exactly a pregnancy,” Daniel tried to explain. “It’s more like… like an incubator.”

    “That’s not much of a difference,” the Queen - who could barely be twenty - said.

    “It’s not my child.” Teal’c was getting annoyed. Jack could tell. Fortunately, the others didn’t know Teal’c like Jack did. “And if I could, I would get rid of it.”

    The other group exchanged some glances. Except for the princess with the magical hair - she was studying her scanner again. “It’s kind of a symbiont, actually - it provides him with an immune system. Otherwise, he would die.”

    “The Jaffa were genetically engineered to lack an immune system without an implanted Goa’uld embryo,” Carter explained. “It’s a way to control them.”

    That got a reaction - even the slightly off science princess looked shocked.

    “They did what?” The amazon gasped. “That’s… that’s horrible!”

    “They’re forced to serve or die…” Queenie suddenly looked a few years older. And angrier.

    And the big cat growled.

    The boy, though, frowned. “But… if you have an embryo per, ah, Jaffa, wouldn’t that mean that you have more Goa’uld than Jaffa?”

    “Sounds more than a little top-heavy as a command structure,” the catwoman added.

    “The Goa’uld don’t really care much for their offspring,” Daniel told them.

    “They eat them,” Teal’c said.

    Once more, the kids looked shocked. “They eat their own?” Blondie blurted out.

    “Cannibalistic tendencies have been observed in many animal species, especially if they spawn a lot of offspring, but to see it in a sapient species is rare,” their scientist commented. She didn’t look shocked, Jack noticed.

    “No wonder Melog hates them,” the catwoman mumbled.

    “They’re evil,” Teal’c said.

    “But… even the babies?” The amazon - Adora, Jack reminded himself - looked at Teal’c’s stomach.

    “They have genetic memory - each of them knows what their progenitor knows,” Daniel explained.

    “That’s handy for getting intel.”

    “Catra!”

    “What? I’m just saying - if all you need is one of the snakes to find out what they know, then that’s a huge weakness.”

    “They’re still children!” Adora shook her head.

    “Still better than being eaten,” Catra retorted.

    The blonde stared at her, then closed her mouth. “That’s…”

    “In order to interrogate a Goa’uld larva, you’d have to present it with a host,” Carter interrupted their spat. She pressed her lips together, no doubt remembering her own possession.

    “And that would be morally unacceptable since the host would be effectively dead,” Daniel went on.

    To their credit, most of the others nodded at that. Though the catwoman - named Catra, really! - struck Jack as a little too pragmatic to be fully convinced. She reminded him of a few spooks he had known in his youth.

    “So, you’re saying they’re born evil?” Adora asked.

    “Everyone can change,” Entrapta protested. “No matter the circumstances of your birth!”

    Adora nodded, as did the others, though Catra looked away. Interesting.

    But they really should focus on searching the area now. The kids seemed friendly, but that might change if more locals were brought in. If they found a D.H.D., then Jack’s team could be back at SGC before anyone back home started worrying, and then they could prepare a proper diplomatic mission to this planet. He cleared his throat. “So, how about we look for our missing device? We wouldn’t want to impose on you, after all.” He gave them his best smile.

    “That sounds good.” Catra nodded.

    “But we still need to guard the gate,” Adora pointed out.

    “You can do that,” Catra told her. “We’ll look for their device. But let’s stick together for safety.”

    “Never split the party,” Jack agreed. As expected, Daniel the nerd frowned at him, but Carter didn’t react to his joke. Neither did Teal’c, but again, that was par for the course.

    “So… Adora stays here,” Queenie said.

    “But I’m the one who can read First Ones writing.”

    “You’re also the best way to seal the gate here. If we find anything we need translated, we can call you.”

    “But…”

    “She’s right,” Catra agreed. “Someone has to watch the gate.”

    “You’ve got the best eyes, as you claimed before!”

    “And that’s why I’m going to look for their device. You can watch the gate - you don’t need my eyes to spot an invasion force trying to come through.” The catwoman smiled and briefly hugged the amazon. “We’ll be back soon.”

    “Daniel, stay here as well,” Jack said.

    “But, Jack!”

    “You two can talk about translating.” And he could keep an eye on the blonde amazon while staying out of the way of any traps or ambushes. And if the group turned on them, Daniel wouldn’t be caught in the crossfire.

    “Oh, right!”

    Besides, if things went as they usually did, Daniel would be charming the socks off the woman. “Just don’t get married by accident.”

    “Jack!” Daniel looked annoyed. And Carter frowned at him. Right. No joking about wives.

    “Sorry,” Jack mumbled. “Now, let’s get this show on the road! We’ve got a D.H.D. to find!”

    “If it’s made from the same material as the gate, then I can scan for it!”

    “You can, Entrpata?” Adora asked.

    “It’s simple data gathering.”

    “Do it,” Queen Glimmer ordered.

    Well, that should speed things up.

    *****​

    And there went the others. Adora sighed as she watched the group leave, Emily bringing up the rear. She still didn’t like staying behind and guarding the portal. Of course, as She-Ra, she could repel an invasion through such an obvious choke point - even a young cadet would be able to plan such a battle, except for Kyle - but she was also the best choice to deal with lingering guard bots, traps or monsters that had ventured into the ruins. And she really didn’t like letting her friends face such dangers without her.

    “So… you can read Ancient script?” The man who had stayed with her asked. Daniel.

    “Ancient?” She cocked her head to the side.

    “This one.” He pointed at a text on the wall. “It’s the language of the Ancients. That’s our name for the civilization which built the Stargates.”

    “Oh.” So, the First Ones had built the gates? That figured. “We call them the First Ones,” she told him.

    “Ah.” He nodded. “I’ve been studying their language for years.”

    “Ah, yes. It takes a long time of studying and such to learn it, right?” Adora smiled at him. There was no way she was telling him that she was born with the ability to read First Ones script. Not after all the talk about genetic memory. “I kind of studied history,” she went on.

    “Oh? You did?” His face lit up. “That’s great! What do you know about the impact the Ancients - the First Ones - had on your world?”

    They had tried to blow it up to defeat Horde Prime. And, if not for Mara and Adora, would have succeeded. But she couldn’t tell him that, either. “Well, they left those ruins,” she said instead. “And their technology. Though few can understand it. Other than that…” She shrugged. “Not many can understand their language.” Not even dedicated historians like Bow’s dads.

    “A topic for academicians, then?”

    “Historians, mostly,” she replied. Perhaps she should’ve played dumb.

    “Like yourself.”

    “Oh…” She grimaced. “I had to cut my studies short because of the war.” It was true. Kinda. A little. She had missed Force Captain orientation.

    “The war?” He looked surprised.

    “Against the Horde. Invaders,” she told him. “They tried to conquer Etheria for decades. We finally defeated them a year ago.”

    His eyes widened. “That’s… very recent.”

    “Etheria was hidden from them for a thousand years,” she explained.

    “And then they found you?”

    “Something like that, yes. It was a bit more complicated.” And not something she liked to talk about. “Anyway, you studied the Ancients?”

    “As much as I’ve managed,” he told her with a sigh. “There aren’t many artefacts left from their time. It’s a miracle that there’s anything left.” He looked at the gate. “I still am awed that this is over five million years old and is working as well as it was on the first day. Or so we assume.”

    “Five million years old?” She stared at him. “But…” Adora wasn’t a historian, but she knew that the First Ones had arrived a thousand years ago. Not five million years ago. “Are you sure?”

    “Over five million years ago, actually. That’s when the last Stargates were built,” he told her. “All our research confirmed it so far.”

    “Then we need to have Entrapta date this gate. If this is five million years old…” Adora didn’t know what it meant, but it was important.

    “How old did you think it was?”

    Oh. She pressed her lips together for a moment. Should she lie? They might see through it. “The ruins are about a thousand years old,” she said. “That’s when the First Ones arrived.”

    “Ancients, a thousand years ago? But… they all vanished from the galaxy five million years ago. Approximately.”

    That was weird. “Are you sure?” The galaxy was big, after all.

    “We were. If we have to rewrite history…” He beamed at her. “This could be a historic discovery! Perhaps a colony of the Ancients survived?” Then he frowned. “Or another species could have been using their language and script. Or just their script. Like the Goa’uld.”

    “Ah.” Adora didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t a historian. She was just a First One… Oh. “How did the Ancients look?”

    “Ah… as far as we know, like us.”

    “Oh.”

    “Yes. they could probably pass for humans.”

    “Or Tau’ri, right?”

    “We call ourselves humans, but others call us Tau’ri.”

    Adora blinked. “I see. And you’re aliens.”

    “Well… the Goa’uld took humans in the past, kidnapped them from our planet and spread them across the galaxy through the gate network. That’s why so many planets are populated by humans.”

    “And you think we’re humans as well.” Well, Glimmer, Bow and the others. Adora was a First One. And Catra was… Catra.”

    He looked a little embarrassed. “Well, yes… the odds of a species independently evolving to look like us… I assume a gene test should tell us if we’re the same species.”

    She nodded. “Entrapta will probably do that anyway.”

    “Ah. She seems very enthusiastic.”

    So enthusiastic, she had eagerly worked for the Horde. But that was not her fault. Not entirely, at least. Entrapta had been manipulated by Catra as well. Adora nodded. “Yes.”

    “Like Sam, I guess.” He smiled.

    *****​

    The tunnel ahead looked empty, but Samantha Carter knew that looks couldn’t be trusted. Not in a facility such as this one. Exploring Ancient ruins was a dangerous task.

    “I don’t like this,” Catra mumbled. “This is too easy. We should’ve encountered a monster or a bot at least by now.”

    “Don’t be so pessimistic,” the man told her. “We’re bound to have some luck with ancient ruins, one of these days.”

    “That’s both correct and incorrect,” Entrapta said. “While it’s improbable that every place we visit has traps and guardian creatures or bots, that doesn’t mean any particular installation, such as this one, is any more likely to be unguarded than the one before. The odds of a particular outcome are roughly the same each time you encounter it, after all. That’s simple maths.”

    “Well,” Catra said, “this tunnel before us is likely to be a trap. It just smells like it.”

    “Do we have a thief with us?”

    And there was the Dungeons and Dragons joke. Sam suppressed a sigh. “Sir?” she asked.

    “Just a joke,” the Colonel replied. “About a game I used to play,” he added, nodding to the others with them, “when I was much younger. Thieves could detect traps.”

    “A game?” The man - Bow, and carrying a bow and arrows; Daniel would have a field day trying to puzzle but the cultural significance of the name - asked. “What kind of game?”

    He didn’t expect them to discuss games in the middle of an Ancient installation, did he?

    “It’s like a board game. You play adventurers and explorers in a sort of maze,” the Colonel replied.

    Sam wasn’t even sure if this culture had board games.

    “Oh! Do you use miniatures?” Apparently, they not only had board games, but Bow was a fan of them.

    “Yes?” The Colonel obviously hadn’t expected that response.

    “Great!”

    “Bow! We’re not about to ‘wargame’ this.” And Queen Glimmer wasn’t a fan.

    “You do wargames?” The Colonel cocked his head.

    “Yes!”

    “Once. We did that once,” the queen corrected Bow. “And it was awful.”

    Sam cleared her throat. “Can your scanner detect anything in the tunnel?” She asked Entrapta.

    “Hm? Oh, yes. No Naquadah in the tunnel,” the woman replied without looking up from her device. “That’s a fascinating metal. I can’t wait to experiment with it.”

    Oh. Sam refrained from cursing. “You have to be very cautious with it. It can enhance the power of explosions to a level your research facility might not be able to handle.”

    “Really?” Entrapta was beaming at her. “I have to test that!”

    “Err…” Bow looked a little pale. “But under strict safety protocols, right?”

    “And not near Bright Moon,” Queen Glimmer added.

    “And do it by remote.” Catra was still looking down the tunnel. Her eyes were like a cat’s, but Sam didn’t know if the woman could actually see in the dark as well as that indicated. Or whether or not her heterochromia affected her senses in any way.

    “Oh. Something is moving ahead of us!” Entrapta piped up. “I knew my motion detector would end up working!”

    “Can you detect what kind of creature is moving?” Catra asked, just as the cat, Melog, started to growl. “Watch out! Monster incoming!”

    Sam aimed her M4 down the tunnel and moved to the wall, crouching down. The Colonel did the same on the other side with his M4A1. “What’s coming?”

    “It’s moving like a snake,” Entrapta announced.

    “Snakes? Why did it have to be snakes?” the Colonel commented.

    “Well, they’re native to the area…” Entrapta started to explain

    “Not now!” Glimmer snapped. “It’s coming!”

    And there it was. It was a snake - or a worm - and it was huge. The head was the size of a human torso, but it had multiple, brightly glowing eyes. And fangs the size of Sam’s lower arm. For a moment, she hesitated. Could they shoot the snake? Or would that be…

    Next to her, Bow released his arrow. It struck the snake in the open mouth, and it reeled, knocking its head against the ceiling, hard enough to shake loose dirt from it.

    The Colonel fired, Sam joining him a moment later. Short bursts into the thing’s wide-open mouth, where no scales could protect it.

    The snake roared and charged them, mouth wide open. Sam fought the urge to turn and flee and kept firing. Twenty yards. Fifteen. This would get ugly.

    Another arrow hit the ground in front of the snake, releasing a green mass - and the snake got stuck. And a laser bolt struck the side of the thing, leaving a long scorch mark.

    “Aim for the mouth!” the Colonel snapped.

    Teal’c shot as well, sending a blast down the creature’s maw. Sam kept firing until she had emptied her whole magazine - two left, she automatically reminded herself - into the creature.

    Which finally collapsed, green blood oozing out of its mouth.

    Sam sighed with relief.

    And Catra cursed them, holding her ears. “Warn me next time!”

    “Oh! You’re using a chemical propellant to fire metal bullets at the target! Fascinating! What advantages does it offer over energy-based weapons? I assume you don’t have to deal with losing focus at longer ranges, but the drop-off in kinetic energy would probably be a problem, right?”

    “Wow. Carter, she sounds like you when you discover a new thing.”

    Sam glared at the Colonel. She wasn’t like that. Not at all.

    *****​

    Those weapons were more effective than Catra had expected. At least at this range. Much higher rate of fire than a bow, and they did take down the monster. If only they weren’t so damn loud - her ears were still ringing.

    She knelt down next to the monster - a Creeping Worm, at least according to the simulations she had done as a cadet - and looked at the wounds in its maw. Small holes, from what she could see. And the bullets hadn’t gone through the skull of the worm. But it had been enough to kill it. And people weren’t as tough as such a worm. “How good are they at going through armour?” she asked.

    “Depends on the armour,” the old guy said.

    “We can’t really say, not without a sample of the armour in question,” the blonde woman added.

    One non-answer and an attempt to gather more information about them. These people weren’t bad at the game. But Catra hadn’t really been asking them.

    “I would assume, based upon the penetration of the worm’s skull, and the lack of exit wounds, that they would go through standard Horde field uniforms,” Entrapta said. “A Bright Moon Breast Guard’s breastplate might stop it, as long as it’s not too close.”

    That wasn’t too bad at all. Quite nasty, actually - for the size of these weapons. Bow whistled, obviously impressed as well. Glimmer didn’t look like she was happy about hearing that her soldiers would be vulnerable to those weapons. Well, she shouldn’t be.

    “Slightly better than a Horde light laser rifle, then,” Catra summed up. They had seen Prime’s bots use those against them often enough to compare. Far too often.

    Entrapta blinked, then nodded. “Somewhat. It depends on the circumstances. I could make armour that would repel those bullets, of course. And it’s definitely weaker than Emily’s main blaster, I think.”

    Much lighter than either, however. And the rate of fire… “But it needs ammunition, I guess,” Catra asked. And a lot of it, from the way it looked. That would strain supply lines and make it harder to operate behind enemy lines for any length of time. And the loud noise would alert everyone in the vicinity.

    She still would like one. If it wasn’t so damn loud.

    “Oh, yes! Do you have a way to make more ammo?” Entrapta asked the others. “If you don’t but have the formula and schematics for the bullets, I could make some for you.”

    And she’d also find out how to make the weapons herself. Catra smiled.

    “Ah…” The woman looked to the older man.

    “We’re still good,” he said. “But if we’re stuck here, we might want to talk to you about that.”

    “Great! It’s like a completely new technology! There have been forays into kinetic weapons like this, based upon crossbows and bows, but crystal-based lasers and blasters were deemed more effective.”

    “Probably because of the lessened strain on supply lines,” Catra suggested. And the lower chance of some idiot cadet blowing themselves and everyone else up by mistake.

    “Yeah, lugging around ammunition can be a bother,” the old guy said with a shrug. “But we manage.”

    “Crystal based lasers?” the woman - Carter - asked.

    “Oh, yes. You use focus crystals to shoot laser beams. Not quite as effective as blasters, but if you have a power source, you can fire forever - or until it overheats and breaks down,” Entrapta explained. “Old technology. Blasters are more interesting.”

    “I bet.” The old man chuckled. “But with the monster dead, and no loot I can see, how about we look for our way home?”

    “Oh, yes! I already scanned the area here,” Entrapta told him. “No Naquadah, sorry!”

    “Then let’s move on to the next area,” Glimmer said.

    “Shouldn’t be too much left,” Bow said. “Unless there’s another level that we didn’t find yet.”

    “I could run a seismic scan,” Entrapta offered. “Now that the worm is gone, I doubt that the sonic vibrations would attract another - they’re territorial, after all.”

    “Do it,” Glimmer said. She sounded impatient. She probably wanted to get their visitors back to their planet or out of this facility.

    Catra could understand the feeling. The group acted friendly, but they were dangerous. Their weapons might not be enough to hurt She-Ra, but everyone else wasn’t nearly as tough. And those were just the weapons they had shown - who knew what else they had? You always kept something in reserve if you were a good officer, and the old guy didn’t strike her as a bad officer.

    No, he was like a tough, old Force Captain. If they came to blows, she’d take him out first. A decapitation strike. Perhaps literally - her claws would go through his uniform and throat, she was sure of that.

    “Alright,” Bow said, seemingly oblivious. “The next area is behind this junction ahead.”

    They went on, with Emily bringing up the rear. Catra wasn’t too comfortable with the bot being their backup, but at least Emily wouldn’t be easy to disable in case of an ambush - or treachery.

    Though she had a feeling that the old guy already had plans for that. Several, probably.

    To be fair, she was planning how to take them out as well. Just in case things turned sour, of course. And she was sure that Glimmer was also ready for a fight. Just in case.

    *****​

    They were underground in a maze-like area fighting monsters looking for the key to getting home. It really felt like a roleplaying session. At least an old school one - Jack O’Neill wasn’t quite sure if the hobby had changed in the twenty years since he had last played. Probably got too commercialised, like everything from the seventies.

    He shook his head - he had to focus on the task at hand. He couldn’t let himself get distracted by the absurdity of the whole thing - he had seen weirder, after all, since he started at SG-1. Though, given the talk about magic and space ships, Jack had a feeling that things might get even weirder if they couldn’t get the gate working and return to Earth.

    Which, according to the science princess with the weird hair and weird name - Entrapta? Who named their kid that? - was looking quite unlikely.

    “So, no Naquadah here either. Sorry!”

    She sounded as if she was pleased about it. Then again, she was not quite normal. A little off, at least - even compared to her friends. Which included the catwoman who felt like a spook. The way Catra talked about gathering intel, and the way she kept an eye on Jack’s team, always staying in the back if she could manage… If they came to blows, Jack would take her out first. She wasn’t carrying a weapon, not openly, but that only meant that she had one hidden or didn’t need one. With those claws of hers, Jack was betting on the latter.

    “And I think that was the last part of the ruins we hadn’t checked yet,” Bow said. Did they name every kid after something obvious? Or did they earn their names once they came of age? Daniel would probably know that by now. But the kid looked apologetic. “I’m sorry, but I think this device you need isn’t here. It might have been carried off since the installation was built.”

    “We might be able to build another one, though,” Entrapta offered.

    And find out how to operate the Stargates. Clever, Jack thought.

    “It’s a very complicated venture,” Carter told her. “The Stargates need enormous amounts of power to work, and we need advanced computers that can interface with the gate. Most importantly, though, we need the gate addresses and astronomical data so the gate can correct for astronomical drift and safely connect to other gates.”

    “Oh, a nonstandard operating system!” Entrapta beamed. “Fascinating! I wonder if it’s similar to Horde Prime’s computers - those were hard to fool!”

    “Horde Prime?” Jack asked.

    “The leader of the Horde that tried to conquer Etheria,” Catra told him. “We defeated him a while ago.”

    That was valuable intel. “Sounds like a tough customer. Is he still around?” Jack asked, trying to sound only politely interested. It also sounded like a Goa’uld.

    “No,” Catra told him.

    “He was dealt with,” Glimmer added. No details, Jack noted. “But if you can’t return through the gate, we need to secure it and then return to Bright Moon.”

    Her country. Or her something. With, presumably, more guards. “We can camp out here. We don’t want to be a bother,” Jack said. If Daniel were here, he would protest, of course, something about refusing hospitality, but Jack needed to know where they stood with the locals before trusting them.

    “It’s the Whispering Woods - it’s full of monsters,” Glimmer told him.

    “Like the worm?” Jack asked.

    “Worse. How much ammunition do you carry for your weapons?” Catra asked.

    Jack shrugged with deliberate nonchalance. “Enough to handle trouble.”

    “Sir, it might be safer to accept their offer.”

    Jack knew that as well. But now he knew that the kids hadn’t tried to order them to come back to their home. They had tried to persuade them. They might still order them, of course, if they kept refusing. “Alright, I guess sleeping in a real bed wouldn’t hurt,” he said.

    Catra snorted, but the others smiled.

    “But we need to secure the gate,” Glimmer said. “We can’t leave it open for an invasion.”

    “If we can move the gate, we can lay it down on the ground, facing up - anyone trying to exit would fall back down into the gate. Which, unfortunately, is fatal. The gates are one-way only,” Carter suggested.

    Rather ruthless, but the odds of anyone from Earth following them and finding this gate were zero.

    The kids, though, looked taken aback. Except for Catra.

    “Can’t we… seal it so it doesn’t activate?” Bow asked, wincing.

    “We would have to bury it for that,” Carter replied. “It would need to be completely buried to keep it from activating - otherwise, it would blast an opening in whatever is covering it, unless you use a special metal.”

    “Then let’s do that!” Glimmer announced. “We don’t want to kill innocent travellers.”

    “It’s going to be a very deep hole. Unless you have explosives, that will take some time,” Jack explained.

    Everyone smiled. “We don’t need explosives. We have She-Ra!” Glimmer announced.

    “Although I could whip up some digging charges, I think,” Entrapta offered. “Though limiting their blasts so they create a hole instead of a crater would require some planning.”

    “Let’s file that as Plan B,” Bow said, “and just ask Adora first.”

    “Alright!” Entrapta nodded, apparently not fazed in the slightest.

    They seemed to trust She-Ra - or Adora; She-Ra seemed to be her title - to be able to handle this. Jack was curious to find out if the woman could deliver. It wasn’t exactly easy to move a gate - you couldn’t just pick it up and carry it with you.

    *****​

    “Where do you want it?” Adora asked, teeth clenched, as she turned with the Stargate in her hands. It wasn’t actually that heavy, but it was unwieldy - she had to hug the ring to herself, and she had to watch it so she didn’t swing it around too much and brain some of her friends or visitors with it. Or broke it by accident. And knowing that, should it activate right now, she might lose her arms… No, she wasn’t going to think about that!

    “Just drop it on the ground to the side for now,” Entrapta told her, “Uh… this side - the right side up. No, the other right side, the left from your point of view - up.”

    Adora suppressed the urge to curse and forced herself to smile as she flipped the gate over. “Like this?”

    “Perfect!” Entrapta beamed at her. “Now, if the gate activates, it will blast a hole in the earth. Right?” She turned to face the blonde woman, Carter.

    “Ah, yes,” Carter replied. She seemed still surprised that Adora had been able to carry the gate around. They must not have Minotaurs on Earth. Or Scorpionfolk. Compared to throwing a tank, the gate wasn’t exactly heavy. Then again, a tank could be replaced, but if Adora broke the gate…

    “You must be popular when your friends are moving.” The old man, O’Neill, chuckled.

    Adora blinked. “Moving? We’ve got a skiff for that.” Two actually - one for them, one for Entrapta and the camping gear. And Emily still had to walk.

    “It’s a custom in our culture that when you change homes, your friends help you carry your furniture and other belongings to your new home,” Daniel explained.

    “Ah.” Adora nodded. That made more sense.

    “You don’t have porters?” Glimmer asked, cocking her head.

    “We do, actually.” Daniel smiled at her. “But not everyone can afford them. Or trusts strangers to handle their most valuable belongings.”

    “Ah.”

    “Not everyone’s a princess,” Catra commented. “Some of us have to work for a living.”

    Gimmer rolled her eyes. “You don’t work.”

    “I do work. I keep you from killing yourself by being stupid, and I keep an eye on Adora, so you don’t make her do everything for you,” Catra shot back, showing her fangs.

    Adora smiled - Catra was looking out for her, in her own way at least. But… “I’m currently doing all the work,” she pointed out.

    “That’s because there aren’t any alternatives. We don’t have a troop of Glimmer’s guards here to carry the gate around,” Catra replied. “So, it’s you or nothing.”

    “I would have brought some porters if I had known we would have to move anything,” Glimmer said.

    “You expected us to find nothing in the ruins worth keeping?” Catra faked surprise.

    “That’s not what I meant!”

    Adora cleared her throat. They weren’t in private - they had visitors. Who were watching them attentively. “So, now we dig a hole? Or, I dig a hole?”

    “Like in training,” Catra said. “Just faster and deeper.”

    “Training?” Daniel asked. “For… excavations?”

    “Digging holes and trenches,” Adora corrected him. “Basic infantry training.”

    “Oh.”

    “They mentioned a war, Daniel.”

    “Yes, Jack, but many societies do not have boot camp style training. At least not for their leaders. And while earthworks are a staple of warfare in history, they might not wage war in the same style here since the technology is wildly different. For example, a war fought on the sea would not see any need for sailors being able to throw up earthen fortifications - at least not so they would be trained for it.”

    Catra rolled her eyes, Adora saw, as Daniel talked to his friends. The man had a tendency to go on for some time - but he had a nice voice and a friendly smile. Which probably was another reason for Catra’s attitude, Adora realised.

    Well, that could be helped. Smiling, she walked over to her girlfriend and hugged her. Catra squirmed in her arms but didn’t actually try to slip out. “Love you,” Adora whispered - and her girlfriend froze for a moment.

    “Not in front of the strangers,” Catra whispered back. But she didn’t really mean it. Adora could tell.

    “So… hole?” Jack asked, cutting off his friend’s explanation. “I don’t want to rush anyone, but you mentioned monsters around here.”

    “Right!” Adora released Catra and drew her sword.

    “Are you going to dig with…” Jack trailed off when Adora changed the Sword of Protection into an oversized - for She-Ra - spade. “Now that’s handy.”

    “A morphing weapon? A multi-purpose tool?” Carter shook her head. “Molecular reconstruction? It has to be to change like that, but as fast as it was...”

    “Magic,” Entrapta told her. “We don’t actually know how it works - Castaspella said it wasn’t a spell, and she doesn’t know what it is, either, and she should know. It’s probably an innate talent of She-Ra. Like my hair is mine.”

    Adora didn’t know how exactly it worked, either. But she knew how to make it work, which was all that was needed. She rammed the spade into the ground and started digging.

    For all of Jack’s comments, he was correct - they shouldn’t linger here.

    About fifteen minutes later, the hole was deep enough, according to Carter. And Jack had stopped making comments about excavators.

    Then it was just a matter of lowering the gate down without breaking it - Carter said it wouldn’t break if dropped, but Adora wasn’t risking that - and filling the hole up again.

    And then hiding the fact that they had dug a hole so no one would find the gate until they returned.

    And then they were off to Bright Moon. Their visitors would love it there, Adora was sure.

    *****​
     
  3. Lightxdarkwing

    Lightxdarkwing I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Stargate and She-Ra? Not a cross I ever expected to see, but so far I love it. Especially post canon Catra and Melog. I can't wait to see where this is going.
     
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: The Palace
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 3: The Palace

    Whispering Woods, Etheria, July 10th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Trying to disassemble the ‘skiff’ would be very rude, Samantha Carter told herself as she stared at the floating vehicle. It looked… like a cross between a sailing yacht and a… actually, it looked like a floating sailing yacht.

    “We’ll have to check if George Lucas is an alien once we return to Earth,” the Colonel joked. “This looks almost like Jabba’s skiff.”

    “Indeed,” Teal’c said. “Although the skiff there doesn’t have the sail.”

    “You’ve got skiffs as well?” Entrapta jumped down from her robot - Emily - and let her hair tendrils catch her fall. “How do they work? You said you don’t use magic, so you can’t be using a levitation spell stabilised in a crystal matrix like the skiff here does. Do you use gravity generators? The Horde tanks and frigates use them, but they’re a bit bulky and finicky. Lots of maintenance is needed to keep them going at peak efficiency. Darla got a more robust system, but it’s not as optimised.”

    “Darla?” Daniel asked before Sam could ask about the gravity generators - which had to be the same technology the Goa’uld used for their space ships’ artificial gravity.

    “That’s our spaceship’s name. I named her!” The princess nodded. “She’s old but reliable, and I’ve been updating her systems for months!”

    “Ah.”

    “But if you have a better way to create artificial gravity, I might use that. What do you use?”

    “We were talking about a fictional vehicle,” Daniel said. “We don’t use anti-gravity vehicles on Earth.”

    “Oh. Is flying taboo in your world? If it is, we have a long walk before us.” Bow looked concerned. Judging by the way he winced, walking through the forest wouldn’t be a good idea.

    “This is Etheria, not Earth. They’re guests here, not the other way around,” Catra snapped. “I’m not going to walk through the forest because someone thinks flying is evil.”

    “No, we don’t have a taboo against flying,” the Colonel spoke up. “In fact, both Major Carter and I are pilots.”

    “Oh! Neat!” Entrapta gushed. “But you don’t use gravity generators or magic…” Her eyes widened. “Do you use pure powered flight using aerodynamic principles, like birds?”

    “More or less,” Sam replied. “We have different ways to achieve lift.”

    “And we can talk about all that once we’re underway,” Catra cut in. “I don’t want to be in the forest at dusk when all the worst monsters come out to hunt.”

    “We were planning to camp here for a few days,” Glimmer said.

    The catwoman glared at her. “That doesn’t mean we have to, now that we’ve explored the ruins. And that was just the five of us - I can’t protect everyone else when they’re stumbling around in the darkness.”

    “Let’s just board the skiffs,” Adora said. “It’ll be a little tight, I think, but we’ll manage.”

    “Can the skiff carry all of us?” Glimmer asked.

    “No. At least two will have to ride with our supplies,” Catra said.

    “Perhaps we should have taken a Hauler,” Adora said.

    “A Horde Hauler wouldn’t have made it through the swamp,” Glimmer retorted.

    “Emily made it.” Adora nodded at the robot.

    “You carried her.”

    “I could carry a Hauler,” Adora said.

    Sam wondered what a Hauler was. The way they talked, it sounded like a truck - an all-terrain truck. But the woman claimed to be able to carry it. Then again, they had anti-gravity technology. And magic.

    “Let’s just board the skiffs and get going,” Catra said again.

    “We’d like to stay together,” the Colonel said.

    Sam nodded in agreement. It was best to keep an eye on both Daniel and the Colonel.

    “So… one of us needs to pilot the skiff, with four of you on board, it should work. The other skiff can carry three people, including the pilot, with our supplies” Entrapta said with a slight frown. “That means we’re one short. I can ride Emily!”

    “Please don’t inconvenience yourself on our behalf,” Daniel said.

    “It’s not an inconvenience. Emily’s my friend!”

    “So, that’s settled. Let’s go already!”

    “Catra! Don’t be rude!”

    “I’m not being rude! I didn’t even call anyone names.”

    “But they’re our guests!”

    “They are also in the middle of the Whispering Woods.”

    “It’s actually not in the middle,” Entrapta said. “We’re more to the east.”

    “It’s a figure of speech.” Catra jumped up on the empty skiff in an impressive display of agility and strength. “I’m going to pilot this skiff,” she said. “Everyone aboard!”

    They climbed up the short ladder hanging down from the vehicle. There were no seats, Sam noticed. It really was like the vehicle from Star Wars. Not the most ergonomic design, she couldn’t help thinking. But it flew.

    “How high can this skiff fly?” the Colonel asked.

    “Not very high,” Catra replied as she looked at the other skiff. “The spell’s only good for a few yards. Otherwise, we’d just break through the canopy and hightail it out of here.”

    Which was obvious in hindsight. Then again, nothing was obvious on a foreign planet.

    “So… you’re a pilot as well?” Daniel asked. As expected.

    “Anyone can drive a skiff,” Catra replied.

    “Well, I can’t.” Daniel flashed her a smile. “But I take it skiffs are common, then. In our world, most people - at least in our country - stick to cars - but in another country, private planes are a common way to travel.”

    He was stretching the truth a little, there, Sam knew - not even in the outback in Australia were planes as common as cars. But it probably wouldn’t hurt to make Earth appear a little less… earth-bound. They were dealing with what seemed to be a space-faring civilisation, after all.

    And as much as she would deny it, should the Colonel ask, Sam was very curious how their settlements would look, with access to gravity generators and space ships.

    *****​

    “So, do you do most of your trade with skiffs? Or are they just used for exploration and scouting?”

    Didn’t the guy - Daniel - ever get tired of asking questions? “Both,” Catra told him.

    “Ah.” He nodded, not looking confused or frustrated in the slightest.

    “We were slower when traversing the swamp. Was that deliberately, or is this a limitation of the skiff?”

    “The spell lifting us doesn’t work well over water,” Catra told the nosy woman.

    “Like a hoverboard.” The old guy chuckled.

    “A hoverboard?” Catra asked. The others looked confused, she noticed. Except for the tall, dark guy, Teal’c, but he never showed any emotion anyway.

    “From Back to the Future,” O’Neill explained.

    “Ah!” Daniel nodded with a smile.

    Carter sighed while taking notes, so it was probably a joke.

    Daniel cleared his throat. “It’s a, ah, fictive story in our world. Quite famous, actually, as far as such things go, and there’s a scene where the main character tries to use a hoverboard - a floating skateboard - to fly over a pond, and it stops moving.”

    “Ah.” Catra nodded. “That’s the same here - the spell stops working, and the skiff goes into the water.” And then you better prayed that the hull had no holes in it.

    She steered the skiff around a patch of forest, checking that Adora’s skiff and Emily could keep pace. Perhaps she shouldn’t have told their guests that - they might use that information if they stole one of the skiffs. On the other hand, it wasn’t really a secret. Unless they locked the group up, they could easily find out how things worked. As they would easily find out about the war against the Horde.

    And Catra had a feeling that Glimmer wouldn’t have their guests locked up. Not on mere suspicion, at least.

    “So, you use ships as well?” Daniel asked. “I mean, ships for the ocean, not space ships.”

    “Yes.” Just because they could find out things didn’t mean Catra had to spell out everything for them, though.

    “Like Earth. Bulk trade is still most efficiently handled by ships,” Daniel told her. “Do you have canals as well?”

    “Some.” No matter how curt she was, the guy didn’t stop.

    “So, do you have both an ocean port and a spaceport, or do the spaceships land in the water as well?” O’Neill asked.

    “They can land in the water, but it’s a little bothersome.” There! Try to make sense of that!

    “Do the spaceships use spells as well?” Carter had finished taking notes.

    “Some do. Some don’t.”

    That got a reaction - Carter exchanged a glance with O’Neill. Of course, they had no experience with magic, so they probably would feel safer in a Horde frigate.

    Or they would feel safer stealing a Horde frigate. Catra pressed her lips together. If the Stargate wasn’t working, a ship was their best bet to return to their home - Earth. She’d have to talk to Glimmer to ensure that their guests couldn’t talk to the remaining Horde clones in Bright Moon. Not privately, at least. Most of the clones were still trying to adjust to a life not spent in blind obedience to Horde Prime. They weren’t the brightest, either - Before they had vanished, Double Trouble had said trying to con them was so easy, it was beneath the spy. Which was a good thing, or they would have probably gathered a following of their own by now.

    “Did you ever talk to someone about what you did in the war?”

    Catra’s eyes widened at O’Neill’s question. Why would he suddenly ask her that? What was his game? “Sometimes, all we did was talk about the war,” she replied with a forced chuckle. “We had plenty of time in space.” Not quite a lie. Not that she wanted to remember that time, on Darla, after Glimmer’s rescue. After Adora had come for her, despite everything Catra had done.

    “Ah.” The old guy didn’t pry. But he was looking at her in that weird way.

    Catra almost sighed with relief when she finally spotted Bright Moon in the distance. “Look ahead!” She called out. “Bright Moon!”

    They had caught it at the perfect moment. The sun was setting, but several moons were up already, and the town was shining compared to the darkening sky. The royal palace looming over the town was glinting, the golden wings catching the last rays of the sun.

    “Wow!”

    “Is that… an artificial waterfall? From the top of the mountain?”

    “That, or their plumber messed up.”

    Catra snorted. Sometimes, the old guy was actually funny. “Don’t let Glimmer hear that. It’s her kingdom’s pride and joy.”

    “What is that floating… crystal?”

    Ah, damn. “That’s the Runestone, the symbol of her rule,” Catra said. “That’s also her pride and joy.”

    “So, Jack, don’t joke about it. There might be religious aspects as well to consider.”

    “Daniel, you know me - I’m the perfect diplomat.”

    Catra snorted again. But she actually didn’t doubt the claim. She was sure O’Neill was the sneakiest of the whole group. The kind of guy who would sneak some bombs into a diplomatic meeting just in case.

    Like herself.

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, July 10th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    So, that was Bright Moon. Shiny was an understatement, Jack O’Neill had to admit. The town was built around and into a steep mountain, domed houses circling the mountain’s base and wrapping around its flanks as they snaked up to a huge palace. Compared to the settlements SG-1 had seen so far, it looked impressive. Very impressive. The artificial waterfalls - because there was no way a spring happened to be on the very top of a mountain, magic or no magic - would be the envy of a number of landscapers and architects on Earth. Mostly in Vegas, he thought with a chuckle. And the palace itself… well, the Goa'uld would like the golden statue on top of it. And the floating crystal. Very ‘divine right’.

    On the other hand, no Goa'uld would be caught traipsing through the jungle without an entourage large enough to serve every whim of theirs and build a road first. Or would ride with the luggage so their unwanted guests could take their seats on their floating barge. Jack had to give the locals props for that.

    Then again, while their pilot had been quite curt and cagey when answering Carter and Daniel’s questions, she had let slip enough - also by evading certain questions - to paint a pretty grim picture.

    The kid had been fighting in that war they had mentioned for years. And, catwoman or not, if Catra or the other kids, with the exception of the hair princess, were a hair over twenty, Jack would eat his cap. Someone had sent those kids into war. And it had left scars. The way Catra didn’t mention anything personal about the war, the way she got evasive whenever Carter or Daniel asked for details about this or that part related to the war… She didn’t want to talk about it. Didn’t want to think about it. Jack knew the signs. Saw them often enough in the mirror. And he had seen the signs on other kids, after the Gulf War. During his own mandatory therapy. It wasn’t as if the US Army only sent adults into battle. But for the grunts, the ground part of the Gulf War had only lasted a couple of days.

    Those kids here? They had fought for years. And Jack bet that they hadn’t had an easy time of it. Which contrasted a lot with the shiny town they were approaching.

    “That’s… the architecture doesn’t match any historical style,” Daniel commented. “It must have evolved on its own. Another hint that this isn’t a forgotten Goa’uld slave colony started with kidnapped people from Earth.”

    The fact that their pilot had cat ears, a tail, claws and cat eyes as well as fangs was a bigger clue, in Jack’s opinion.

    “Better keep that slavery stuff to yourself,” Catra said. “Some people might take offence.”

    Such as the kid, Jack knew. The way she tensed… Had she gone through something similar as Jack had when he had been captured by the Iraqis? Or was he projecting? He couldn’t check with the others right now. Not that he wanted to in the first place. He was their leader. They depended on him keeping things together.

    “Of course. We meant no offence,” Daniel said with an easy smile. “It’s just that this is so fascinating!”

    Catra snorted. “It came through the war quite well. Unlike other kingdoms, the Horde never took it. Came close a few times, though,” she added with a toothy grin. “The shield almost fell.”

    She talked as if she were glad of that - did she resent the people here for staying safe while she was on the frontlines?

    “The shield?” Carter asked.

    “The magic shield protecting the town,” Catra replied with a scowl.

    Another slip, then, Jack noted. The locals had force shields. Shields large enough to cover an entire town - including a mountain. SGC would want one of those. Or more.

    They reached what probably passed for the gates for the city. It was a simple checkpoint. Jack could see two guards in ornate armour snapping to attention, spears raised. He tilted his head, but they were travelling a little too fast for him to make out whether or not the spears hid some blaster cannons. They probably did, though - the archer kid had trick arrows straight out of comic books, the sword of She-Ra could change into a spade, and the princess had magic hair. They couldn’t assume that any weapon they saw was what it looked like at first glance.

    Hell, he thought with a snort, we better be careful with the cutlery, so we don’t accidentally blow up dinner.

    They drove up a winding road towards the palace. A number of the people - both humans and aliens - on the street waved to the queen, but it was a far cry from the cheering section a Goa'uld fake god would have demanded. And some even glared at them. Trouble in paradise? Or some oppressed minority?

    Jack couldn’t tell. But he trusted Daniel to have noticed it as well. And his friend would probably know what was up with that.

    Then they reached the gates - massively oversized gates - of the palace. More guards snapped to attention, all in shiny armour with capes. And Glimmer took charge. “General Juliet! We require quarters for four guests. And an escort for them.”

    “Well, it’s not off to the dungeons with us,” Jack joked as he climbed down to the ground.

    Catra snickered in return.

    Jack had a feeling that he had missed something.

    *****​

    Royal Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 10th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Adora shook her head. Catra was being rude. Well, ruder than she usually was. She could just be tired and cranky or there could be more to this. But this wasn’t the time to sort that out. “Don’t mind her,” she told their guests. “She just thinks it’s funny that the palace has no dungeons.”

    “No dungeons?” Jack sounded almost disappointed.

    “That’s not exactly abnormal,” Daniel said. “The White House doesn’t have any dungeons, either. There are prisons to hold, ah, prisoners. I suppose that things are the same here.” He looked at Catra, who snickered again.

    “Not quite,” Adora’s lover said.

    Glimmer sighed and rolled her eyes. “Bright Moon’s prisons aren’t rated for princesses and similar prisoners. So, when we had such prisoners, they were housed in specially reinforced rooms in the palace.” And where princesses were close to deal with any trouble, Adora knew.

    “Which also were the guest quarters.” Catra grinned. “In other words, you’re going to the palace dungeons.”

    “They’re not dungeons,” Glimmer spat.

    “Could’ve fooled me.”

    “You are welcome to find out the differences.”

    Adora cleared her throat. “Anyway,” she said. “They’re really nice guest quarters.”

    “Who can be turned into prison cells,” Jack said.

    “Any room can be turned into a prison cell,” Entrapta pointed out. “A force field on the doors and windows is all you need. You can cover the walls as well if you think they could be breached.”

    “And you did that with guest rooms for your prisoners?” Jack asked. “Not a storage room somewhere damp and cold?”

    “We’re not the Horde!” Glimmer protested.

    Catra scoffed. “Horde cells weren’t damp and cold.”

    “But not as nice as our rooms.”

    “Are you really arguing about who had the better dungeons?” Bow asked.

    “No, they aren’t” Adora said, glaring at both of her friends. “So, let’s go?” She gestured at the open gates. “It’s getting a little late, and you probably want to freshen up before dinner.”

    “Yes, thank you,” Daniel said with a smile. “That’s very generous.”

    “It’s the least we can do,” Adora told him.

    “Yes, yes, let’s go. I want to freshen up as well,” Catra said. “And you also need a shower.”

    Adora frowned. She hadn’t really exerted herself, which was hard anyway as She-Ra, and she could simply change back and would be fine, but… Oh! “Yes, I do,” she said.

    Glimmer rolled her eyes, but Bow elbowed her before she could say anything.

    “Oh! You want to be intimate!” Entrapta beamed at them.

    Adora forced herself to smile back while Catra snickered. “We want to rest a little.”

    “Ah!” Entrapta nodded and took out her recorder. “I see.”

    She would be recording another ‘euphemism for sex’. But they got going. Juliet had a squad of guards show the others the guest quarters while Adora and her friends walked towards their own quarters.

    As soon as they were out of earshot, Glimmer sighed. “Finally! What did you find out, Catra?”

    “Not much,” Catra replied. “They’re good at hiding things. The old guy is the leader, but we knew that already.”

    Adora nodded. Their ranks had been obvious.

    “But he’s… laid back. Lets the others talk, Daniel and Carter,” Catra went on. “They had a lot of questions,” she added with a wry expression. “Anyway, he tries to play dumb but he’s sharp.”

    “Well, he wouldn’t be their leader if he were dumb,” Adora said.

    “Anyway,” Catra said, “He’s got training in interrogation, I think. The way he looked at me when he thought I wouldn’t notice, and how he commented on some of the questions…” She hissed under her breath. “I think he’s the most dangerous. Most experienced. He’s not a scientist like Carter or Daniel is, but...” She shrugged. “Just a feeling I got off him, and Melog agrees.”

    Adora nodded. That fit her own impression. “What about Teal’c?”

    “Didn’t say more than a few words.” Catra cocked her head. “Melog says he’s intense. Whatever that means.”

    “And Carter is a great scientist!” Entrapta blurted out. “I’m looking forward to sharing data with her! The things we could research together!”

    “Ah…” Adora licked her lips.

    “Perhaps we should wait a bit before we share data?” Bow suggested. “We don’t know them yet.”

    “The best way to get to know someone is data.”

    “That doesn’t mean we need to give them data,” Catra said. “They’re already gathering intel.”

    “Daniel had got a lot of questions,” Adora agreed.

    “About what?” Glimmer asked.

    “Everything,” Adora told her. “From clothes to families to religion.”

    “Oh, yes. The guy never stops talking.” Catra sighed. “I was tempted to crash the skiff just to shut him up.”

    Adora hoped she was joking.

    Glimmer frowned. “Do you think they’re spies?”

    “No,” Adora said.

    “Yes,” Catra said.

    “What?” She stared at her lover.

    Catra shrugged. “I don’t know if they are here to spy on us. But they’re spies. Scouts. Whatever. So, don’t transform around them. Not until we know more about them, and whether we can trust them.”

    “Great.” Glimmer slumped a little. “Another problem to deal with.”

    “It’s not a problem - it’s an opportunity! A network of Stargates!” Entrapta gushed. “Imagine how many worlds we can visit!”

    “Or how many worlds can be invaded,” Glimmer retorted, tilting her head. “You heard about those Goa’uld. And what they do.”

    Adora suppressed a shudder. Snakes that wrapped around your spine and took over your body? They were worse than Horde Prime. She glanced at Catra. Her lover had her arms crossed, claws denting her own skin - she must be remembering being chipped.

    Adora wrapped her in a hug, feeling her tense for a second before huffing and relaxing. And then she started squirming since they were still in public, sort of, and Adora let her go.

    “We need a way to detect those snakes. Other than Melog,” Glimmer said while Catra huffed and ran a hand through her hair.

    “I bet Carter and the others know one!” Entrapta was still smiling. “Another reason to share data.”

    Glimmer didn’t look like she agreed. Adora wasn’t sure herself. Daniel was nice. And the others seemed, well, not bad either. And yet… They had to talk about this.

    *****​

    The quarters they were shown were very much unlike cells. Samantha Carter didn’t remember ever staying in more luxurious surroundings - they might put the best hotels on Earth to shame.

    “A waterfall inside the room? Those interior decorators would make a killing in Vegas,” the Colonel commented as he walked around. “Although their beds need some work,” he added, pressing a hand down on the mattress. “That’s more like an oversized pillow than a mattress. You could drown in this.”

    Teal’c nodded. “Indeed. I will sleep on the floor.”

    The Colonel looked at her. “Any bugs, Carter?”

    She shook her head. “None that I can detect.” That didn’t mean much, of course. The locals could be using entirely different technology to do their surveillance. Or just have a person with their ear pressed to the wall. But they had to discuss their situation - they couldn’t wait much longer.

    “Well, maybe there is a kernel of truth in the tale of the Princess and the Pea,” Daniel said, chuckling. “But I’m sure we can ask for harder mattresses. Our hosts seem very accommodating.”

    “Yeah, ‘seem’,” the Colonel told him with a frown. “Don’t let the glitz and pastel fool you. Those people have been through a war. At least the ones in charge. A bloody war.”

    Teal’c nodded in agreement. “They are veteran warriors, not untried children.”

    Sam nodded as well. They were correct. The way the group reacted to threats… They were acting like soldiers, not archaeologists. Certainly not like young adults on an ‘adventure’. And the little details that Entrapta let slip about her technology… “Yes, sir. And they grew up during the war.”

    “That will have shaped their lives and outlook, yes,” Daniel said. “But many aristocratic societies hold guest rights in high regard. I doubt that they plan to turn on us.”

    The Colonel snorted. “It’s an alien society with magic princesses and animal people, Daniel. Who knows how they think?”

    “They aren’t animal people!” Daniel protested. “They are humanoids with some animal traits.”

    And clearly human or ancient ancestry in the mix. Sam wished she had a way to test the DNA.

    The Colonel mumbled something that probably involved potatoes. Sam ignored it. “And they are technologically advanced. Entrapta knows more about robotics than anyone on Earth, sir.”

    “So, you believe their claim that they have spaceships, Carter?”

    “Yes, sir.” She nodded firmly.

    “Why would they make this up?” Daniel asked. “They didn’t know us. Or about us.”

    “Or they want us to think that,” the Colonel pointed out.

    “I doubt that. I talked at length with Adora. And we talked with Catra. Their stories match up. And how could they have expected us? They would have had to improvise a deception that holds up under scrutiny without being able to coordinate their answers.” Daniel shook his head.

    “They could be talking in their minds,” the Colonel retorted. “Or like the cat. The four-legged cat.”

    Sam couldn’t discard that possibility, but she didn’t think that was likely. “I believe they were genuine.”

    “Maybe they were, but that was out in the woods. Now we’re in a palace. A royal Palace.”

    “We haven’t met many democratic societies, Jack,” Daniel said. “And with obvious magic talents present in some locals, apparently hereditary, an aristocracy is a logical result.”

    “An aristocracy that just finished a war involving spaceships. And with huge guns.” The Colonel shook his head. “And ground soldiers that can carry Stargates around as if they were bags of groceries. We aren’t in Kansas any more for sure.”

    Sam smiled at the reference. “And we don’t have any red shoes.”

    The Colonel chuckled. “So… were guests of magic princesses. And we need to find a way to activate the Stargate to return to Earth. Ideas?”

    “We need to find the D.H.D.,” Sam replied at once. “It’s the fastest way to restore the gate’s functionality. Entrapta can scan for Naquadah, so if she’s able to build a scanner with enough range, we should have good odds of finding the missing D.H.D.”

    “If it’s still around, you mean.”

    Sam pressed her lips together. If the D.H.D. wasn’t around any more… She nodded. “If we cannot find it, we might be able to build a computer and power source for the ring. Entrapta’s work with robots and artificial intelligence clearly shows that this civilisation has the resources to build both supercomputers able to handle the load as well as the power sources to supply the gate.” As long as Entrapta’s claims were true. But the princess hadn’t seemed to be lying. And Sam doubted that the others would have gone on an expedition with a delusional person - they had trusted Entrapta and treated her as an expert on technology.

    “How long would that take?”

    “That’s hard to say, sir,” Sam ventured. “But months at least. It depends on the architecture. I will have to program the software as well. And the navigational data.”

    The Colonel didn’t like that, judging by his frown. But it couldn’t be changed. “So we will have to live in Barbie’s Disney Palace for a while.”

    Daniel nodded with a smile. “Their civilisation is fascinating. We’ve barely scratched the surface. Different species! Multiple sapient species! Spaceships and magic! And a society shaped by both, possibly founded by the Ancients!

    Well, at least one of them was happy about their situation. Though if Sam was honest with herself, then she had to admit that she was looking forward to studying the local technology as well. Including the magic parts.

    *****​

    “We should have made Entrapta build a device to eavesdrop on our guests without them knowing,” Catra said, looking at the ceiling above their bed.

    “Hm?”

    Catra felt Adora shift next to her. The arm she was resting her head on pulled a little to the side. She resisted the urge to grab it and let her claws prick the skin to keep it in place. This wasn’t the time for games. They’d already had their fun, anyway. “I’m sure they’re planning something. We should listen in.”

    “That would be rude.”

    “So?” Catra turned her head. Adora was frowning at her in that pouty way that made her so… She smiled against her will, and Adora smiled back.

    But then she grew serious. “You don’t eavesdrop on your guests.”

    How naive. Catra wanted to shake her head. “You eavesdrop on potential enemies.” That was the smart thing to do.

    “They aren’t our enemies. And they’re just four people.”

    “Four people can do a lot,” Catra pointed out. Like the ‘Best Friends Squad’, as Bow insisted on calling their group. Even though it now included her. And she was many things, but not a good friend, much less the best.

    “They’re not princesses,” Adora retorted. “They don’t have any magic. Their weapons aren’t anything special, either.”

    “Entrapta would disagree.” As would Catra. The rate of fire she had seen put laser rifles to shame.

    “That’s because the weapons are different. But they aren’t really better than Horde small arms.” Adora shook her head. “I’d rather have a stun baton. It’s more versatile.”

    Indeed. The ‘Tau’ri’ must not take many prisoners with their weapons. “The baton has a shitty range, though.” The stun setting only worked in close quarters, and the blast setting wasn’t much better. ‘Just far enough so the blast won’t hurt you’, they had called it in the Horde.

    “Well, that’s what laser rifles are for. And those don’t need ammunition.”

    “But they run out of power.” Catra smiled. Talking about weapons… that took her back to when both of them had been little, just starting weapons training as… cadets. She stopped smiling.

    “Eventually.” Adora blinked, then bit her lower lip. She had noticed Catra’s mood. Somehow, she always seemed to notice. Or almost always. It was both annoying and, well… endearing. “It’s OK,” Adora said in a softer voice.

    Catra rolled her eyes and huffed. They didn’t have to talk about that. “We shouldn’t underestimate them. Carter’s like their Entrapta.” And they both knew how dangerous Entrapta was if she put her mind to it. Or when she didn’t really think about what she was doing.

    “Do you really think they are here to hurt us?” Adora shifted to her side. She let her arm keep serving as a headrest for Catra, though.

    Catra scoffed. She didn’t really think that. But... “We can’t exclude the possibility. Even if they arrived here by accident, they are a potential threat. If their enemies follow them and think we’re allied with them...”

    “Well, they are our guests. And those Goa’uld sound horrible. Almost as terrible as Horde Prime,” Adora pointed out.

    “We only have their word for that,” Catra retorted. She wasn’t going to think about being brainwashed and controlled, a prisoner in her own body.

    “And Melog doesn’t like the Goa’uld,” Adora said.

    Melog confirmed that with a slight growl from their bed.

    “That doesn’t mean our guests are nice, though.” She held up a hand to stop Adora’s response. “They seem nice - but Double Trouble also seemed nice.” Before they stabbed her in the back.

    “Double Trouble is…” Adora trailed off before she could embarrass herself by calling the spy ‘nice’. “...special,” she finished with a frown.

    Catra snorted. “Speaking of them, we really should track them down.”

    “Why?”

    “I don’t trust them.” Catra scowled. “And not just because of what they did to me. Do you trust them, with so many lost Horde Clones around with no idea what they should do now?”

    “Do you really think they’ll try to take over a group of clones?” Adora shook her head. “They’d grow bored of it in a heartbeat.”

    That was true, and Catra believed their claims about that. “I’m more concerned with them causing trouble.”

    “We can deal with that if it happens.”

    “When it happens,” Catra corrected her.

    Adora smiled wryly. “When then.”

    She should take this more seriously, in Catra’s opinion. Horde Prime’s flagship and many of its escorts around Etheria had been dealt with, but there were a lot of Horde ships left, both over Etheria and in the rest of the former Horde realm. “Well, when Double Trouble takes your appearance and starts another She-Ra cult amongst the clones, you can deal with it.” Catra showed her teeth at her lover.

    Adora grimaced. “Ugh. The first was bad enough, and they started that on their own.” She blinked. “Unless… Do you think that was Double Trouble?”

    “No.” The spy would have told them. Double Trouble was sly, but they craved attention. And they bragged all the time so people would know how ‘smart and creative’ they were.

    Adora sighed. “Anyway, I don’t think our guests are a threat to us.”

    “I’m still going to keep an eye on them,” Catra said.

    “That’s OK. Trust but verify, right?”

    Catra scoffed. “Someone has to keep the lot of you from falling for every scam. Might as well be me.”

    “Yes.” Adora smiled at her, then leaned over and kissed her.

    If they had a little more time… But dinner would start in half an hour. Just enough to get another shower and get ready.

    Catra sighed as she returned the kiss.

    *****​

    For a royal dinner with the Queen of the realm - and her father, the king - this was a rather casual, private affair, Jack O’Neill thought as he looked around. Less than a dozen people, all in all, sitting at a round table that would have had him make a King Arthur joke if anyone other than his own team would have understood it. Two guards at the door, and Jack hadn’t seen more than three different waiters so far.

    He had been at working dinners at the Pentagon that had been more formal and more grand affairs. Of course, that probably said more about the Pentagon than about their hosts here. Still, he was positively surprised by the lack of pomp and circuses. And relieved - you could always count on Goa’uld to go all-out with the boasting and posturing. Though the furniture and the cutlery were all of the finest quality, as far as he could tell - he was no expert.

    “Do you like the meal, Colonel?”

    That was the king. Though, as far as Jack had understood Daniel’s explanation, he was actually the former queen’s consort. Glimmer was the actual ruler of this realm. “It’s excellent,” he replied. “Your highness,” he added. It was actually very good. And not too exotic, either - a tasty steak, just as he liked it, with some vegetables that looked like broccoli but tasted not unlike carrots.

    “I’ll tell the cook,” the king said, smiling. Really down to earth, Jack couldn’t help thinking. Much more polite than most brass he had met back home. Also a far cry from most politicians he had met.

    “It’s excellent, your highness,” Daniel chimed in. “May I ask what it is called?”

    “Uh, steak with greens,” the king replied. “Beef, in this case.”

    Daniel actually looked surprised and a little disappointed. Jack smirked - his friend probably had hoped for some exotic dish steeped in myth and history.

    “You can also use horse meat for it, but that has fallen out of favour since the war,” Entrapta said, looking up for a moment from where she was talking to Carter in a low but excited voice. Voices, actually - Jack had the feeling that he should be concerned about that.

    “Oh?” Daniel turned towards her.

    Jack tilted his head slightly. Had they had a shortage of beef during the war and had to turn to horses? Jack knew that many countries in Europe had to order rationing during the Great War and World War II and had to make do with alternatives for traditional dishes. Horse meat would have been an obvious choice to replace beef.

    “Yes,” Adora said. “Swift Wind put an end to butchering horses.” She looked up for a moment, then down again, and Catra, sitting next to her, snickered while the blonde woman flushed.

    They had animal activists here? That was a surprise. Daniel would probably say this was another sign of an advanced civilisation.

    Glimmer cleared her throat with a slight frown. “He did. I trust the guest quarters are to your satisfaction, Colonel?”

    “They are,” Jack replied. “Although the beds are a little too soft.”

    “Jack!” Daniel hissed. “You can’t just complain about…”

    But both Adora and Catra laughed. “Oh, did you get the standard beds? Yes, far too soft,” Catra said.

    “I almost drowned in them the first time I slept in the palace,” Adora added.

    Queen Glimmer pressed her lips together for a moment. “I’ll tell the staff to replace the beds with the Horde model,” she said.

    “It’s not actually a Horde bed or cot,” Bow said, leaning forward. “It’s what we call the beds that visitors from the former Horde are more comfortable in.”

    That was interesting. So, they had visitors from their enemies? Former enemies?

    “We’d never have guests sleep on horde cots or bunks,” Adora said, shaking her head. “Unless they insisted, of course. But the Horde models are much more comfortable without being too soft.”

    And that was interesting as well. It almost sounded as if she was very familiar with the difference.

    “You said former Horde,” Daniel spoke up. “What happened to the Horde?”

    “Scorpia changed the name after the war,” Adora said.

    “She restored the Scorpion Kingdom,” Glimmer said.

    ‘Scorpia’ and ‘Scorpion Kingdom’? A former princess who managed to reconquer her country?

    “Well, she’s working on that - most of the land is still wilderness thanks to Adora, but they are making progress in turning it into fields,” Entrapta said with a slight pout. “I offered to construct bots to clear the plants, but Perfuma said she could handle it.” Then she perked up. “But once they rebuild their industry, I’ll get to design the new factories so they won’t pollute the environment! I’ve got so many ideas, and Hordak knows what went wrong the first time, so this will be so much fun!”

    Adora was looking down at her plate again. What had she done to the land? Jack wondered. Some weapon of mass destruction? Or a bombing campaign? It had to be something horrible for her to feel so bad about it. But Glimmer was scowling, he noted. As was the king. Jack was missing something here.

    “Hordak?” Daniel asked.

    “Hordak! My partner!” Entrapta beamed at him.

    “Yes.” Glimmer definitely didn’t like that, Jack noted. “But enough of that,” she went on. “Could you tell us of your home, Colonel?”

    They were constantly deferring to him, Jack noted, when addressing SG-1. And calling him by his rank. So, a certain formality persisted. Or were they just treating him like a royal? If Daniel made a ‘Princess Jack’ joke… He shrugged. “There’s not much to tell. We’re from Earth. It’s quite the normal planet - we work, we farm - I like to fish in my spare time. It’s very relaxing even if you don’t catch any. Of course, that’s because where I like to fish, we don’t have such monsters as we met in the Whispering Forest.” He smiled his best ‘harmless retiree’ smile at them.

    “And you have a Stargate to travel to other worlds,” Glimmer went on. “Which you use extensively, despite the obvious dangers.”

    Of course they wouldn’t just accept his deflection. He kept smiling. “We discovered the Stargate a while ago. When we opened it, we encountered the Goa’uld. They want to conquer us, but we’ve held them at bay ever since, but that means we have to be active.”

    “If they need gates to attack, that shouldn’t be too hard,” Catra remarked. “Unless they have spaceships.”

    Jack kept his polite smile on even though she had just named SCG’s worst fear - an invasion with a fleet of big honking spaceships. “We keep them busy in their own realm. Saving slaves, striking at their armies, the works.”

    “And exploring new worlds,” Daniel added. “We’re always looking for allies against the Goa’uld.”

    Jack suppressed a wince. Daniel was showing their hand far too soon. He was usually much more diplomatic.

    “And you hope to have found some here,” Glimmer said in a very neutral voice.

    “Well, your cat knows about them and how bad they are,” Jack pointed out, nodding at their big alien cat, which was lounging on the floor near Catra. Perhaps he could salvage this.

    “Melog does, yes,” Catra said. “But they’re not eager to start another war. They’re the last of their species - they were all killed in the last war.”

    Daniel winced. And Jack wanted to sigh - they had stepped into it there.

    *****​
     
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: The Dinner Conversation
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 4: The Dinner Conversation

    Royal Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 10th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “The last of their species?”

    Their guests sounded horrified, Adora noticed. As they should be, she thought a moment later, feeling guilty at her grief surprise. Wiping out entire planets was one of the most horrible things you could imagine. Unless you were Horde Prime.

    “Yes, Horde Prime razed their planet when they resisted his attack,” Glimmer said.

    Adora kept her expression neutral while she nodded. “And it wasn’t the only planet that suffered that fate.”

    “Sounds like he took lessons from the Goa’uld,” O’Neill commented. “They’re big on making examples out of any resistance as well.”

    “Yes,” Daniel agreed. “They would eradicate a planet’s population, then resettle it with slaves if they deemed that necessary to crush a rebellion. Sometimes, they even rendered the planet barren, unable to sustain human life. They mark such planets with a totem to warn off Jaffa and others.”

    That sounded terrible as well. But then, they were fighting the Goa’uld, and it was obvious that they wanted help. Yet, fighting another war...

    Melog growled.

    Catra nodded. “Horde Prime did the same - he wiped out the planet.”

    “Yes. There actually wasn’t much left that could sustain any life on Melog’s home planet,” Entrapta said. “The ecosystem was completely destroyed. I don’t think it could’ve been restored without magic - or technology on a scale we don’t have access to.”

    “It’s an example to discourage the others,” O’Neill said. “Tyrants generally think nothing of sacrificing one world to control the rest.”

    “It wasn’t the only world,” Adora told them. “The Star Siblings were the only survivors of their people as well. Horde Prime did that to many, many worlds.”

    “Oh.” Even O’Neill looked taken aback.

    They still didn’t understand. “He didn’t want to rule the population. Just as long as they were useful. Ultimately, he wanted to replace them with his clones,” she said. “Clones who were utterly loyal to him. His perfect empire.”

    “He had a collection of art and food from the various planets he had destroyed,” Glimmer said. “He liked to show it off.”

    Adora glanced at Catra. Her friend was tense, sitting utterly still, but her tail was rapidly swishing back and forth. She placed her hand on Catra’s thigh and gently squeezed.

    “Well, I think no one will be missing the guy,” O’Neill said.

    “Except for his clones,” Entrapta corrected him. “They’re very lost without him. Left adrift. Some even died because they didn’t bother eating.”

    Adora clenched her teeth. She hadn’t had any choice - she had to destroy Horde Prime before he destroyed Etheria and everything else in the sector. But the clones, brainwashed to blindly obey, were suffering because of it. And there wasn’t much she could do about it - they didn’t even know where most of them were, what with Horde Prime’s flagship gone. Turned into plants. All they could do was helping those on Etheria and nearby to rebuild their lives.

    “Well, enough of that,” Micah said. “You were telling us about your world, Colonel.”

    “Ah, right.” O’Neill’s smile was fake; even Adora could tell. But he nodded. “Well, as I said, it’s a rather average world. We’ve got a lot of water - about two-thirds of the planet’s covered in it. Lots of people, too, but there are still plenty of places where you can be by yourself and relax.”

    And they still called the world ‘Earth’ even though it was more water than earth? Well, different planet, different customs. “That sounds peaceful,” Adora commented. Far more peaceful than she would expect of a world fighting such monsters as the Goa’uld.

    “Well, I won’t say we don’t have any conflicts,” O’Neill said. “But most people are just living their lives. And they won’t have to face war if we’ve got anything to say about it.”

    “Until the Goa’uld reach your world with their spaceships, you mean,” Catra said. “Pretty hard to live your life once the orbital bombardment starts and the infantry and tanks drop into your towns.”

    “They probably would get stuck in traffic,” O’Neill said with a short snort.

    “Sir,” Carter hissed.

    “Sorry, that was a bad joke about traffic jams in big cities.” The man’s smile looked a little rueful.

    “Trying to move anything through a bottleneck is frustrating,” Catra said. “One stuck transport and an entire column might be forced to divert - or wait for supplies.”

    “Yes. That can be averted with proper planning, though, and a smart traffic control system,” Entrapta cut in. “Not that it’s needed any more, what with the Horde dissolved. But it would have worked if I could’ve implemented it.”

    Adora liked Entrapta very much, but sometimes, she wished her friend would not sound quite so disappointed about all the missed opportunities to make the Horde even more dangerous.

    “So, tell me about your leader,” Glimmer said. “Who rules your world - or your country, if you aren’t a united world. You don’t seem to have monarchs, do you?”

    Adora leaned forward. This was interesting.

    “Ah, no, most countries elect their leaders,” O’Neill said. “Everyone gets to vote for who calls the shots.”

    Adora blinked. That was… “How does that work?” she asked. “You just… gather and say who you want to lead you?” That might work for a village, but for a town like Bright Moon? “And how do you pick whoever you want? Do you see their test results?”

    “Test results?” Now O’Neill looked confused.

    “How else do you know if your pick for leader is a good leader?” Adora explained. “Do you look at how they fared in leadership training?” That was how Force Captains had been selected, at least as far as she knew.

    “Most people chosen as leaders have some experience with leadership on a smaller scale,” Daniel said.

    “Ah. So, like promotions,” Catra said. “You look at who’s doing well leading a squad, then promote them to lead a platoon, and if they don’t get everyone killed, they take over the company once a slot opens. Sensible.” She nodded.

    Daniel cleared his throat. “Ah, it’s not quite like that.”

    “I sure hope it isn’t,” Glimmer muttered. “Just because you can lead troops doesn’t mean you can rule a country.”

    “Well, you would know best,” Catra told her with a smile.

    Adora winced.

    *****​

    Samantha Carter saw the queen glare at Catra for that flippant comment. And the smile looked quite toothy. Did that mean that the queen had started commanding troops and wasn’t very adept at ruling the country? Well, she was very young, so she obviously couldn’t have a lot of experience. Although her father would be helping her with advice and, possibly, handling some matters himself.

    Daniel cleared his throat again. “There are no restrictions for running for, ah, leadership positions, although there is usually a minimum age requirement. In our country, for example, you have to be thirty-five years old to become president - which is the highest office, the leader of our country.”

    “Wow, Frosta would hate that!” Entrapta said next to Sam. The princess turned towards her. “She was always sensitive about her young age,” she whispered.

    Sam blinked. Young age? Glimmer, Queen Glimmer, looked as if she were barely in her twenties. “How young was she when she took her throne?” Sam whispered while Daniel went into a brief or not so brief explanation of various age requirements.”

    “I think she was eight years old when she took over the throne of the Kingdom of Snows.”

    “Eight years old?” Sam blurted out, a little too loudly, as it turned out since everyone looked at her.

    “Talking about Frosta?” Catra asked.

    “Yes.” Entrapta nodded.

    “You had an eight-year-old ruler?” The Colonel shook his head.

    “I’m sure she had advisers,” Daniel was quick to say.

    “I think she had,” Entrapta replied with a nod. “It’s not as if you can run a kingdom, even one as small as Dryl, on your own. Although I probably could if I used my bots, though they are kind of like advisors. Or guards. Or servants. But I don’t call them that, or my actual servants might feel hurt.”

    “Our monarchies - many of them, at least - had a regent when the heir to the throne wasn’t of age yet. The regent ruled until the monarch reached adultness.” Daniel smiled at their hosts.

    “But you replaced them with your elections, didn’t you?” Catra asked.

    “Well, yes,” Daniel admitted. “Though in some countries, the monarchs remained as heads of state, though with very limited power.”

    “So… you have countries with a queen or king and an elected leader,” Glimmer summed up. “What if they don’t agree on something?”

    Sam winced. That was a tricky question, and…

    ...Daniel answered it honestly: “The elected government takes precedence.”

    Sam was very relieved that the Colonel didn’t make a guillotine joke.

    Catra snorted. “Well, that only works if your princes and princesses don’t have any magic powers.”

    “I think that is the crucial difference between our two worlds, yes,” Daniel agreed. “Without, ah, royalty defined by magic powers, a king or queen’s right to rule was more easily questioned. In the past, they claimed divine right to rule, but there came a time when that, too, was questioned - as was religion itself. So, gradually or abruptly, most monarchies were replaced by democracies. Democracy means ‘the rule of the people’.”

    “Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” the Colonel quoted Lincoln.

    It was quite clear, at least to Sam, that their hosts didn’t like that. Well, except for Entrapta, who seemed intrigued. Then again, the princess seemed to be curious about everything from Earth.

    “Fascinating!” she gushed. “So, you elect your leader, who then acts like a princess without magic.”

    “And you hope you didn’t pick an idiot as your leader,” Catra added. “If you did, how do you get rid of them? Kill them off?” She actually sounded serious, Sam noticed.

    “There are regular elections,” Daniel explained. “Usually every four to seven years. But in most democracies, there’s generally a non-violent way to remove a particularly inept leader. A peaceful change of power is the hallmark of a working democracy.”

    “And if that doesn’t work?” Glimmer asked.

    “Then you tend to have a violent change of power,” the Colonel said.

    “But that’s rare in democracies,” Daniel quickly added. “The most stable countries in our world are democracies.”

    “Fascinating!” Entrapta beamed. “So, you use a system of calculated instability - the change in government based on elections - to create long-term stability. A very creative concept with a number of promising applications.”

    That was a rather creative view, but not wrong. Though Sam had a feeling that Entrapta was thinking about something not related to government.

    “That’s about it,” Daniel said, nodding.

    “And how can you make long-term plans if you will be replaced in a few years?” Glimmer asked.

    “Well, in most countries, you can get reelected. Some countries have term limits, but they vary.” Daniel nodded. “But there are some issues with short-sighted policies.”

    “I bet,” Catra said. “That’s like letting the troopers run the army.”

    “Oh, I’ve met some troopers who would be great at that,” the Colonel said. “And some generals who were bad at running anything.”

    “Must be a bad system then,” Catra retorted. “If you end up with bad leaders at the top.”

    “And you would know all about that, wouldn’t you?” Glimmer asked with a toothy smile.

    Sam frowned. She was missing something here.

    *****​

    Catra glared at Glimmer then forced herself to smile. Good hit, Sparkles - though she had still copied Catra. And she wasn’t entirely wrong. Catra had messed up. A lot. Of course, she had also won a lot. Conquered Plumeria and Salineas. Almost taken Bright Moon. All without some sparkly magic power or sparkly magic friends. All without Adora…

    A hand - Adora’s - squeezed her knee. “No system is perfect,” her lover said, frowning at Glimmer.

    “No one’s perfect,” Catra whispered under her breath. Adora sometimes still thought she had to be perfect.

    “Yes!” Entrapta, with perfect timing, piped up. “It’s how a system deals with the inevitable errors that crop up that determines if it’s a good, working system or a problem. Also, blowing up is generally not a good result.” She nodded.

    Catra snorted, even though she was pretty sure that Entrapta was talking literally about blowing up. But it fit anyway. Or either way, given what Glimmer and she had done in the past.

    Adora nodded, but before she could say something, the old guy spoke up. “And those officers were removed, retired, or moved to a post where they couldn’t do much harm. Eventually.”

    Oh, that was a pretty soft system then. Inept leaders would’ve been disposed of in the Horde. Or sent on a suicide mission to the Crimson Waste, she reminded herself. “So, your troopers got promoted to replace them?” she asked.

    “Some,” O’Neill replied. “They would have to want to get promoted - and they would have to go to officer’s school.”

    “Officer school? Is that like the cadet command course?” Adora asked. “Where you learn how to lead?”

    “Pretty much, yes,” O’Neill told her. “Though you don’t really learn to lead - that you only learn in the field through experience.”

    Which was true. And sometimes, you didn’t learn how to really lead, even if it seemed to be working. But that wasn’t the subject Catra wanted to hear about. “So, you either replaced your princesses, or you turned them into servants?”

    “Ah, not servants. That wouldn’t be correct,” Daniel spoke up. “They serve the state, but as Head of state, performing ceremonial and representative duties. And while they generally don’t have any, ah, official power, they still have a lot of soft power - influence amongst the people and the politicians, that is, the elected officials in the government and parliament.”

    Still sounded like a raw deal for any princess, in Catra’s opinion. Not that some of them didn’t deserve to be replaced or serve someone, at least for a while. Teach them how everyone else lived. As Adora showed, you didn’t need to rule a country to be a princess, anyway. Some would probably be happier if they didn’t have to deal with a country.

    Glimmer, though, wouldn’t. She was keeping up a polite front, but Catra could tell that she didn’t like what she was hearing. “But how were your original monarchs chosen if you didn’t have any magic?”

    “Mostly by their ancestors killing everyone who disagreed with the opinion that they should lead,” O’Neill replied.

    “Jack!” Daniel glared at him. “That’s an oversimplification. While probably true in some cases, not every leader was selected through force of arms. As experiments and records show, often, leaders were chosen for their qualities in handling a crisis.”

    “So… you first elected your leaders, then they stopped being elected, and now you’re back to electing them?” Micah asked.

    Daniel laughed. “You could put it that way, I suppose, though, as usual, the truth is more complicated.”

    It always was, Catra knew. Nothing was ever simple. If it looked simple, it was a trap. And their guests did look a little too simple for her taste. A team of soldiers, here by accident, fighting enemies that fought Melog’s people in the past and were a threat to Etheria. Very simple, very convenient.

    “So, who’s your leader?” Glimmer asked.

    “Ah, do you mean our country’s leader or our commanding officer?” Daniel asked,

    “Both.”

    Catra leaned forward. This would be interesting.

    “Stargate Command is under the, ah, command of General Hammond,” Daniel said. “He’s an experienced officer who has seen us through a lot of situations. And he cares for the troops under his command.”

    “He’s a fine, honourable leader,” the tall, dark and silent guy, Teal’c, spoke up.

    “Yes.” Daniel nodded.

    So, basically, ‘good officer’. Not much to go on.

    “And your country’s leader?”

    “That would be the President. He’s in his second term,” Daniel said. “He’s done a lot for the economy; the country’s prospering.”

    “Impressive,” Glimmer commented. “A country generally suffers in a war.”

    “Unless you’re winning and conquering enemy territory and resources.” Catra looked at their guests. Fortunately, Glimmer didn’t take this as a dig but as the warning that it was meant to be.

    “Ah, we don’t conquer territory. We’re looking for allies, actually,” Daniel said. “But since we mainly fight the war through the Stargates with limited means, we didn’t have to turn the economy into a war economy. Most people don’t even know about the war.”

    Catra blinked. That sounded… “You’re fighting body-snatching snakes out to destroy your planet, and you haven’t geared up for war?” That couldn’t be true!

    But from the way the others, especially O’Neill, frowned at Daniel, it probably was true.

    What were those people thinking? That wasn’t how you won a war!

    *****​

    Just great. Daniel kept spilling intel. And in the worst way possible. Jack O’Neill knew that being honest with potential allies was the best policy - keeping secrets tended to come back and bite you at the worst possible moment - but there was a time and place to explain how SGC operated and the first dinner date with royalty wasn’t it.

    But it would have to be. He had to fix this before their hosts got the wrong impression. He shook his head. “We’re doing what we can. Since we fight this war through the Stargates, we don’t exactly need huge armies, and tanks and planes wouldn’t fit through it.” Theoretically, a tank would fit, but that would require ramps that could handle its weight - and you’d have to get the tank to the gate in the first place. Not to mention that Death Gliders would turn most tanks into scrap in short order.

    “Planes?” Adora asked.

    “Vehicles that rely on aerodynamics to generate lift to fly, not spells or gravity generators,” Entrapta explained.

    “Yeah, that,” Jack said. “Anyway, vehicles are generally too big to send through the gate - at least military ones - and we aren’t invading any planet anyway, so we’re using small, mobile teams to explore, recon and strike.”

    “Like your team?” Catra asked.

    “Yes.” That should be obvious, in Jack’s opinion.

    “Great. You’re fighting princess-style without princesses.” Catra snorted. “And you’re doing it using natural choke points.”

    “We’re not walking through the gate without sending in a drone first,” Carter said.

    “Unless we have to leave in a hurry,” Jack added. They were already aware of that, after all.

    “It’s still…” Catra shook her head. “How can you fight a war without even telling your people?”

    Jack shrugged. “We manage.” It wasn’t the best idea, in his opinion, and he absolutely hated lying to the families of the soldiers killed in action about accidents instead of telling them the truth, but orders were orders, and those came from the President himself. And Jack had done enough black ops to know that the military refusing to obey the government was a bad idea. Generally, at least - sometimes, you had to do what you had to, orders or not orders. But he certainly wouldn’t bitch to strangers about that. “It also keeps us under the radar. If the Goa’uld saw us sending armies through the gate, they might stop fighting each other and unite against us.” And Earth would be conquered. Hell, just one System Lord with a single spaceship could crush all their defences unless SGC managed to pull off another miracle.

    “But how can you prepare to repel an invasion without telling your people what’s happening?” Glimmer asked.

    That was a question Jack had asked himself. “We’re doing what we can - recruiting the best and brightest, gathering information, looking for weaknesses…”

    The others didn’t look as if they were buying that. Well, from what they had said and let slip, they had been through a more conventional war. As conventional a war could be when they were using magic, of course. And spaceships.

    “That only works until the other side changes the rules,” Catra said. “If you rely on the gate protecting you, you might end up like Salineas.”

    “Salineas?” Jack asked. He saw that Catra flinched a little, and the blonde, Adora, pat her hand.

    “A kingdom in the sea, protected by the Sea Gate,” Adora explained. “The Horde found a way around it and attacked with massed forces. It fell quickly.”

    “Ah.” The catwoman had probably fought there. He nodded at her. Losing a battle was always hard.

    “But why are you looking for allies if you don’t even use your own people?” Glimmer asked. “That sounds as if you want others to fight your war.” She narrowed her eyes at them. “And why should we trust you if you don’t even trust your own people to tell them the truth?”

    Damn. Well, time to do what Daniel would do. “To be honest,” Jack said, “Earth isn’t as advanced as the Goa’uld. We can match them on the ground - we’re a bit better, actually, since our weapons are more effective - but we don’t have spaceships or the technology to produce them.” He ignored Carter’s slight gasp. “Not yet. So, even if we went all war economy, we would only produce more targets on the ground which would be bombed from orbit. We stopped one such invasion, but if they launch another, we’re pretty much done for.” He pressed his lips together. He didn’t like admitting how weak Earth was, but they weren’t dealing with a planet full of slaves or former slaves, kept at a primitive tech level for millennia. These people had spaceships.

    And they looked surprised. Jack could tell as they exchanged glances and looks.

    “And if we told everyone, there would be a mass panic,” Daniel spoke up. “People would riot, wars might get started - we’re not ready for such a revelation. We would have to prepare for that very carefully, or we might destroy ourselves before the Goa’uld make another attempt to take Earth.” He smiled ruefully. “We only started using the Stargate a few years ago.”

    “In other words, you’re desperate,” Catra said.

    “We’ll help you!” Adora blurted out. “We won’t let another planet be destroyed.”

    Jack blinked. He hadn’t expected that. Judging by the groans of Glimmer and Catra, they hadn’t expected that, either.

    *****​

    Catra was giving her that look - the one where she thought Adora was being stupid - again. And Glimmer looked annoyed with her. If both of them agreed on something.. Well, they were still wrong this time! Adora sat straighter. “We’ve seen what happens when people like Horde Prime aren’t stopped. He destroyed a lot of planets just for not bowing to him. If the Goa’uld are the same, then we have to stop them.”

    Melog growled. It sounded like they approved.

    Catra sighed. “Melog agrees,” she confirmed.

    Adora smiled at both of them.

    Catra still glared at her. Same as Glimmer.

    “Thank you!” Daniel beamed at her.

    “Yes, thank you,” O’Neill added. “So what would that help entail, exactly?”

    Oops. Adora had spoken as if she spoke for everyone. No wonder Glimmer was annoyed. “Well, I’m She-Ra. I’m good at destroying spaceships.” She smiled at the Tau’ri.

    “Well, that’s straightforward.” O’Neill sounded as if he was sarcastic, though.

    “Just point her at a spaceship you don’t like and let her at it,” Catra said. “But we’re not going to let her go off alone.”

    “Of course not,” Glimmer said with a last glance-glare at Adora before looking at O’Neill. “But we’re not going to rush out without a plan, either.”

    Adora hadn’t been planning to do that! She was about to point that out when Catra’s hand on her thigh - the claws pricking her skin - stopped her.

    “If we are to become allies, we need a lot more information about your world,” Glimmer went on. “What kind of help you need, what kind of help you can provide.”

    “Data!” Entrapta said, nodding. “The more data, the better. We can’t make plans without sufficient data. First, we need to determine where Earth is in relation to us. Then we can work out how long it’ll take for a fleet to arrive here.”

    “A fleet?” O’Neill tilted his head a little.

    “I think we’ll need a fleet. But without more data, I can’t say how big it has to be,” Entrapta said.

    “We’ll also have to ensure that Etheria is safe from any attack by the Goa’uld,” Catra pointed out. “That means enough ships to stall an invasion force and a secure Stargate so we can return at once if Adora’s needed.”

    Glimmer nodded after a glance at Catra. “You have the means to secure a Stargate and still allow easy access through it,” she told their guests. “We need that.”

    “That requires quite the resources,” Carter said.

    “Which we’ll gladly share,” O’Neill cut in. “No sweat.” He looked at Carter and mouthed something Adora didn’t catch.

    “Yes!” Entrapta beamed. “We need metallurgy data and examples of the mechanism you use.”

    “And we need to talk to your leaders,” Glimmer said. “So we can come to an agreement. We’re not going to jump into a war without a formal alliance.”

    Right. Politics. Adora wasn’t good at those. She wasn’t a real princess, after all - she was the protector of Etheria, not a ruler. She nodded anyway.

    “That can be arranged,” O’Neill said.

    “With all your leaders, though. Not just your country’s,” Glimmer told him. “We aren’t going to create another Horde.”

    “What do you mean?” Daniel asked.

    “When Hordak arrived on Etheria,” Glimmer explained, “He was alone. He created the Horde by using his knowledge to take over the Scorpion Kingdom, which he then turned into the core of his army - an army dangerous enough to almost conquer Etheria.”

    “Wait!” Daniel said, frowning, “You mentioned Hordak before.” He looked at Entrapta.

    “Oh, yes. He’s my science buddy.” Entrapta smiled, then blinked. “Ah, yes, he doesn’t want to conquer Etheria any more, don’t worry!”

    Adora didn’t need to hear Glimmer’s words to know that her friend was muttering ‘he better not’ or something like it under her breath.

    But their guests looked surprised. “Hordak was the leader of the Horde?” Daniel asked.

    “Until he turned against Horde Prime,” Entrapta confirmed. “And he only led the Horde he had built on Etheria, not Horde Prime’s Horde.”

    “He turned against his cruel leader,” Teal’c spoke up with a slow nod. “An honourable action.”

    “Yeah, yeah.” Glimmer’s mouth twisted into a slight grimace. “It was pretty much everyone against Horde Prime.”

    “We have a saying on Earth: The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Daniel said.

    “Something like that,” Glimmer said.

    Adora half-expected Bow to mention the Best Friends Squad, but he stayed quiet.

    “Yes,” Entrapta nodded with a scowl. “Horde Prime wiped his memories - or tried to. Hordak was stronger than he thought, tough.”

    “Not all of us are best friends,” Bow spoke up, “but we aren’t enemies any more.” There he was!

    Adora nodded in agreement. “Yes. We all worked together to defeat Horde Prime. And we’ll have to work together to defeat those Goa’uld.”

    “Well, we have sort of experience with that,” O’Neill said, looking at Teal’c. “Working against your former overlord and such.”

    “Indeed. It’s our hope that many more Jaffa will turn against the false gods.”

    Right. Teal’c had changed sides as well. Adora remembered his comments.

    “So, with that settled, we have to determine where Earth is, so we can get there. We probably can find a world with a Stargate to travel there, but that won’t work for spaceships.” Entrapta nodded. “Do you have any astronomical data?” she asked, beaming at Carter.

    *****​

    “So… that went…” The Colonel trailed off after closing the door to their quarters.

    “I think it went well,” Daniel said with a smile. “We made new allies.”

    Samantha Carter suppressed a wince. They might have made new allies, allies with advanced technology - very interesting technology, as she had gathered from her talk with Entrapta - but...

    “Care to tell me why you kept spilling information about Earth to people we just met?” the Colonel asked, narrowing his eyes.

    Daniel, unlike what Sam had expected, wasn’t flustered. “It was necessary to earn their trust, Jack,” he replied, crossing his arms over his chest. “Lying to them would have caused trouble as soon as the truth came out.”

    “You didn’t have to lie,” the Colonel told him with a frown. “But you didn’t have to tell them everything.”

    “Lying by omission is still lying,” Daniel countered. He was frowning - digging in his heels, Sam realised. “We’re dealing with an advanced civilisation here, Jack! Not with former slaves hiding from their ‘gods’. They just finished a decades-long war, too. Do you think they wouldn’t have noticed if I answered evasively? They did actually, but were too polite to point it out.”

    Some of their hosts had noticed when Daniel had been evasive, Sam agreed. But Entrapta probably had missed it. The woman was brilliant, but she seemed to have some issues with social interaction.

    “They were so polite, they called us desperate and started to list conditions for their help.”

    “Aren’t we desperate?” Daniel retorted. “We barely managed to defeat Apophis when he arrived with two motherships. If he returns with an actual fleet…”

    The Colonel clenched his teeth. “I’m aware of our military situation, Daniel. But everything has its price. The more they know about us, the more they can demand.”

    Daniel shook his head. “They won’t do that, Jack. They’re good people.”

    The Colonel snorted. Sam was forced to agree with him - Daniel was naive. Their hosts might be good people - they certainly have that impression - but they were also rulers of a country. And that meant they had to act in the interest of their country.

    Their friend looked at them and frowned. “I’ve talked to Adora while you were hunting monster worms. She’s not going to extort us. And she won’t let others extort us either.” He sounded convinced of that.

    The Colonel scoffed. “She also wants to bring magic to Earth.”

    “And she probably could,” Daniel retorted. “At least something she considers magic.”

    “A form of energy you can manipulate, according to Entrapta,” Sam said, “if you have the talent for it. Probably a genetic condition or trigger.”

    “That’s not the point.” The Colonel shook his head. “I didn’t get the impression that she would be asking nicely if she could turn Earth into a land of magic and rainbows.”

    Sam was, once again, forced to agree with this assessment.

    “She won’t. Just as she won’t let us get exploited.” Daniel shook his head as well. “Jack, this is the chance we’ve been hoping for! Allies who have the technology and means to fight the Goa’uld on even terms! And they have magic!”

    “So they claim.”

    Sam cleared her throat. “So far, their claims seem to be plausible, sir. I’ve talked with Entrapta, and she has demonstrated a quite extensive knowledge of Ancients technology.”

    “Don’t let the spears and swords fool you,” Daniel added. “They have shown us their technology.”

    “We didn’t see their ships,” the Colonel objected.

    “Why would they lie about that? What would they gain?”

    “Entrapta knows how to navigate in space,” Sam pointed out. The woman had asked for astronomical data, and Sam didn’t doubt that, if she had enough data, she could locate Earth.

    “And she wants to know where Earth is.” The Colonel clenched his teeth. “We can block the gate. We can’t block space.”

    “Do you expect them to invade us?”

    “We’ve only met half a dozen people here,” the Colonel pointed out. “What about the rest of the world? And they’re working with their former enemies!”

    “That fits with their society, Jack.” Daniel smiled. “In an aristocratic society, people often felt closer to fellow aristocrats than to their subjects, even if they had fought each other in the past. Especially if they hadn’t lost close family in the war. They might not have the concept of nationalism as we know it.”

    “They fought a war against the Horde - and it was a total war; you saw their reaction when they found out that the USA doesn’t run a war economy.” The Colonel shook his head once more. “And they let the enemy leader off.”

    “That wasn’t uncommon on Earth, either. Especially for aristocracies. And he switched sides according to them. You can’t judge them according to our values, Jack. And they aren’t like the Goa’uld.”

    “We hope so.”

    “We have seen their reaction to the Goa’uld practices and policies,” Sam said.

    “They do not seem as if they would tolerate the false gods,” Teal’c commented.

    “And it’s not as if the USA is only allied with perfect democracies,” Daniel pointed out - a little snidely, Sam thought. “At the very least, they do not seem to discriminate based on gender or sexual orientation.”

    “There were a lot of women in charge and few men,” Jack objected.

    Sam refrained from rolling her eyes. “They accepted you as our leader at once, sir,” she said. “If they were biased against men, they wouldn’t have done that. They would have kept looking to me instead. Trust me, sir, I would know.” She had experienced enough discrimination and sexism in her career to spot that kind of bullshit everywhere.

    The Colonel looked a little abashed but wasn’t giving in. “So they aren’t a matriarchy,” he said. “But they aren’t a democracy, either. And we don’t know how they will react if and when they visit Earth.”

    Sam had to agree again. They could only hope for the best now.

    *****​

    Catra shook her head as she leaned against the planning table in Glimmer’s operation room - which wasn’t called that, of course, but something like ‘planning room’. Or ‘Royal Planning Room’, all capitals. “So… we’re going to help those guys just based on their word alone?”

    “Melog confirmed their claims about the Goa’uld,” Bow pointed out.

    “Yes, yes.” Catra waved her hand. “But just because their enemies are as bad as they say doesn’t mean our guests are as good as they say.”

    “Do you think Daniel lied?” Adora asked. She wasn’t fidgeting, but she sounded a little insecure. Damn.

    “I don’t think so,” Catra admitted. “But he wasn’t telling us everything.”

    “And the others didn’t like him telling us as much as he did,” Glimmer added. “We did hear enough, though.”

    “We did? We still don’t have astronomical data to locate their home planet. Or the location of another Stargate,” Entrapta said.

    Glimmer narrowed her eyes for a moment. “We know enough to make a few deductions.”

    “As Mermista would say,” Adora cut in with a grin.

    “And me too! It’s science!”

    Glimmer’s eyes narrowed further. Sparkles didn’t like it when she was interrupted, Catra knew that. “First, they are not representing their world, but a single kingdom.”

    “But they don’t call it a kingdom,” Bow cut in.

    “I was coming to that.” Glimmer glared at him. “Second, they don’t have kingdoms. They have no princesses in charge.”

    “Some of their countries might be ruled by royalty,” Catra pointed out. Daniel had been a little evasive.

    “But none that matter,” Glimmer said.

    Bow cleared his throat. “Since they don’t have magic, it’s understandable that they don’t have royal lines.”

    “Third,” Glimmer continued a little more loudly, “they don’t like our plan to return magic to their world.”

    “Sam likes it, I think,” Entrapta said. “She was very interested in my data on magic.”

    “O’Neill doesn’t like it.” Glimmer objected. “And he’s their commander.”

    “Yeah,” Catra agreed. “But he doesn’t like many things, I think.” He reminded her of some older Force Captains she knew. Had known.

    “That doesn’t change that we have to help them.” Adora took a step forward. “We can’t let their planet get destroyed. Or any planet.”

    “Yes.” Glimmer smiled. “And we will help them. But we can’t just blindly stumble into this. We don’t want to cause another Horde situation.”

    “Do you really think they’ll use our help to conquer their world?” Adora asked.

    “They aren’t their kingdom’s leader - they answer to them,” Catra pointed out.

    “But we wouldn’t let them use us to conquer anything.” Her lover shook her head. “We’re not the Horde.”

    “If they learn magic here, then they will be ready when we return magic to their world. That would give them a huge advantage,” Glimmer said.

    “If their world works like ours.” Bow looked at them. “We don’t know that.”

    “Magic is an advantage,” Catra told him. “Without it, the Horde would have crushed you.”

    “But as the Horde proved, you don’t need magic to win a war against a kingdom with magic,” Entrapta spoke up. “Although since the Horde ultimately lost, that might be incorrect.”

    “In any case, we need to know more before we can commit to an alliance.” Glimmer put both hands on the table.

    “I won’t let their planet get destroyed!” Adora insisted.

    “And we won’t,” Glimmer agreed. “But that’s not the same as forming an alliance.”

    “Right.” Catra nodded. “Since they need protection we can station a fleet in their system. That would give the clones here something to do.”

    “Some people are nervous about the presence of the clones,” Bow said. “But should we send them out to fight a war on someone else’s behalf?”

    Catra grinned. “If She-Ra is going, half of them are going anyway.”

    Adora frowned at her in return. “I don’t want them to! I am no goddess!”

    Catra shrugged. “You killed their god, you took his place.”

    “Hordak killed Horde Prime!”

    “Hordak wasn’t the one to turn Prime’s flagship into a plant. A space plant,” Catra shot back. “They pray to you, not to him.”

    “Well, some do,” Entrapta said. “But not all. Some do want Hordak to lead them.”

    “What?” Glimmer all but jumped.

    “He refused - it’s tedious, he said. And he’s right. But just as we have a responsibility towards our kingdom - you taught me that, remember? - he has a responsibility for them.” Entrapta beamed at Glimmer.

    Catra kept a smile on her face, but she was a little worried. Hordak working with Entrapta was one thing. Hordak working with clones? Clones with space ships only they and a handful of people on Etheria, most of them in this room, could fly? That was another thing.

    “Why didn’t we hear of that?” Glimmer asked.

    “Well, nothing happened. There was nothing to tell,” Entrapta said. “You don’t want to hear about our failed experiments, do you? If you do, I can fetch my log!”

    Glimmer grimaced. “No, that’ll be OK.”

    “I do,” Bow said.

    “Oh, I’ll get it to you later. Look it over? You might spot things we missed.”

    “Sure.”

    “Thank you!”

    “Can we get back to the whole new war thing?” Glimmer asked. “We need to decide what to do.”

    “We need more data. About everything,” Entrapta said. “I think we need to finish upgrading Darla and then go looking for Earth or a planet with a Stargate. Although we need to fly to Earth anyway if we want to protect it.”

    “And we need to find out what we are facing - how many ships the Goa’uld have. Where they are. And how we can beat them,” Catra added. “How many ships we need to protect Etheria. And how to use the Stargate network.”

    “Oh! If we get access to the entire network, that will make it easy to return magic to everyone!” Entrapta smiled. “Just walk through the gate, do your magic, then go to the next planet!”

    Adora perked up. “Right!”

    Catra was both relieved and annoyed. It was nice to know there was a more efficient alternative to flying through space from planet to planet. But Adora was still set on returning magic to all the planets without it - no matter how long it took. As if it was her fault what the First Ones had done.

    Well, at least she wasn’t planning to sacrifice her own life and happiness for it. That Catra wouldn’t let her do. And as long as she was with Adora, it would be alright.

    “So… we need to talk to them some more,” she said. “Sound them out. And find out where Earth is.”

    Which was still a stupid name for a planet. Might as well call it ‘dirt’.

    *****​
     
  6. Voidlord

    Voidlord Know what you're doing yet?

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    It doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t consider some planets may be against the return of Magic.
     
  7. Lightxdarkwing

    Lightxdarkwing I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Because from their perspective why would you be? Magic is so fundamental to their world that the idea of trying to live without it is unimaginable.

    To be honest I would be all for the introduction of magic to Earth, but I can understand why not everyone would be as keen as me.

    Can I also say I'm really enjoying how SG1 is drawing exactly the wrong conclusions about Catra's history, but in a way that makes complete sense given what they know.
     
    FlagrantSplash1 and Starfox5 like this.
  8. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    They really can't imagine why people wouldn't want magic to be returned. And even once they have things explained, they might not agree.

    The thing is, what do you do if part of a planet's population says "yes, we want magic back" and another says "no, go away"?
     
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: The Third Fleet
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 5: The Third Fleet

    Royal Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    He was getting old, Jack O’Neill thought as he got out of the still too soft bed. His back ached in a familiar way, just in different spots. A few stretches, though, and it was gone. “Rise and shine, sleepyheads!” he said.

    Daniel grumbled something from where he was half-buried into his pillow, but Carter got out of bed. Jack carefully didn’t watch her as she stretched in her tank top and shorts. She was his subordinate; nothing could come of anything he wasn’t thinking of, anyway.

    Teal’c rose from his meditation - his kelno’reem. Not that Jack saw any difference to normal meditation.

    “You have the bathroom, Carter,” he said. She wouldn’t take as long as Daniel, and the three men could share. That it would also mean Carter wouldn’t wait in her sleepwear was just a bonus.

    She nodded and went into the way too luxurious bath. Whatever their hosts were, they were rich. Well, this was a royal palace. Jack had been in dirt-poor countries where most people lived in huts while their leaders lived in palaces with fleets of luxury limousines. At least the people in the streets hadn’t looked like they were starving.

    Daniel yawned and groped for his glasses with one hand. Jack was tempted to pull the glasses away before his friend found them, but such pranks were something you did at home base, not in the field.

    “I wish I had such a bed back at Stargate Command,” Daniel said as he put the glasses on his nose and got up.

    “I believe similar beds are readily available for you,” Teal’c told him, “according to the advertising I saw.”

    “I didn’t mean at my home, Teal’c. I meant at my lab.”

    “Daniel, if we gave you a comfortable bed, you’d never leave the base,” Jack told him with a grin.

    “Well…” Daniel grinned. “It would be worth it. It’s not as if I have much of a social life, anyway.” And there vanished the grin. He was thinking of his wife again. Sha’re. Who had been snaked.

    Jack clenched his teeth, then forced himself to relax. No point in dwelling on that. They were still in the field. Stranded on an alien planet with potential allies. This wasn’t the time or place to deal with those issues. “Well, I’ll ask the general once we’re back. But a bed of this size will mean you won’t have much space left for your artefacts.”

    Daniel actually took his joke seriously for a second - he frowned before he pouted. “Very funny, Jack.”

    Jack chuckled. “Anyway, I’m not sure the United States Air Force will pay for a palace. We don’t have the budget for it.”

    Daniel laughed at that and got up, rolling his shoulders. “Well, I’ll just have to enjoy our stay here, then.”

    “Yeah, with our friendly royalty,” Jack muttered before he could help himself.

    And Daniel frowned at him. Damn. “Jack. This planet has a completely different culture and history. We can’t judge them according to our own standards.”

    “Sure we can. We do the same to the Goa’uld.”

    “That’s different,” Daniel shook his head. “These people don’t keep slaves. And they’re willing to help us, even though they’ve just fought a war. You can’t compare them to the Goa’uld!”

    “It is not a fair comparison,” Teal’c added.

    Damn. “I didn’t mean that they are like the Goa’uld. But I’ve heard ‘It’s another culture’ before, and it generally meant that we were meant to look away when our ‘allies’ did something that would get them jailed in the US.”

    “Just as they were told to tolerate things from you that would get them jailed in their country, right?”

    That was normal - the US didn’t let other countries judge their soldiers. “Don’t tell me that you’d prefer living under an absolute monarch instead of in a democracy,” Jack said.

    “I don’t!” Daniel protested. “But we can’t expect democracy to evolve on a planet where magic is real, and royalty has magic powers. The social dynamics are completely different.”

    “Just because it’s logical doesn’t make it right,” Jack countered. “Might doesn’t make right.” He pressed his lips together - he knew better than most that in many places, you had no rights without might or support from the mighty. But this was more fundamental. “We don’t let just soldiers vote. Or the rich.”

    “Not any more. But we used to. In Athens and other Greek democracies, only men could vote.”

    “That still doesn’t mean that it’s right.”

    “It doesn’t, but we can’t expect them to follow our customs,” Daniel said.

    “And what if they expect us to follow theirs?” Their hosts were young, after all, and convinced they knew best. “They’re planning to turn Earth into a magical realm.”

    “Even if they manage that, that doesn’t mean they’ll manage to change your society. We’re too advanced to revert to feudalism.”

    Jack hoped that his friend was right. But before he could make another point, Carter stepped into the room again. In uniform, but…

    “What did you do to your hair?” Daniel asked.

    Jack nodded - it looked different. Still regulation-length, but… more like a style worn by a fashion model than a soldier. Not like Carter’s usual style.

    Carter frowned. “I just washed it with the shampoo that was in the bathroom. That was all. When I was done, it looked like this.”

    “Magic hair shampoo. Now I’ve seen everything.” Jack shook his head. He wouldn’t use the shampoo. “Tell me if your hair starts moving on its own, Carter.”

    “Sir!”

    *****​

    Jack O’Neill hadn’t seen everything. Not by far. Standing on the perfect green grass in the palace courtyard, he was forced to admit that.

    “Did someone say Swift Wind?”

    Swift Wind wasn’t an animal activist. He was a horse. A talking, flying horse. With a horn on his head.

    “Swift Wind, these are our guests: Jack O’Neill, Daniel Jackson - they’re not related. Samantha Carter and Teal’c,” Adora said. “Everyone, this is my friend Swift Wind!”

    “Your friend and loyal steed, united by a bond no one else shares!” The horse raised one hoof into the air and looked at the sky.

    A talking, boasting and posing horse. They really weren’t in Kansas any more. Or Jack had gone crazy and no one had told him.

    “It’s like the Pegasus!” Daniel whispered. Ok, Jack hadn’t gone crazy.

    “Actually, it’s an alicorn,” Carter corrected him.

    “What?” Jack turned to her.

    “It’s from a cartoon show I had to watch when I was babysitting as a teenager. A winged unicorn is an alicorn,” Carter explained, blushing slightly.

    “You’ve seen horses like Swift Wind before?” Adora leaned in towards them.

    The horse, too, perked up. “Oh, I thought I was the only one - created by She-Ra’s magic, but if there are others of my kind…”

    Carter shook her head. “No, no, it was just… fiction. Tales of imaginary creatures.”

    “Well, I’m anything but imaginary, I’ll have you know.” The horse threw his head back and flared his wings.

    And he had been created by She-Ra’s magic? Jack shook his head. “If you can do this on Earth, you’ll be revered as a goddess by every teenage girl in the US.”

    He saw Adora grimace at that.

    *****​

    “I don’t want to be revered!” Adora blurted out. “I’m no goddess!” The clones turning to her were bad enough! She didn’t want more such people following her!

    “We know,” Catra said. “You snore too much for that!”

    Adora shot her a glare. “This isn’t the time to joke! I really don’t want any more followers!”

    “Ah… I was joking,” O’Neill said, looking puzzled. “You wouldn’t really be revered as a goddess on Earth. Not literally, at least.”

    Adora smiled at him. That was such a relief!

    Then Daniel cleared his throat. “Uh… I don’t want to pry, but… did this happen before? You seemed to take this seriously.”

    Adora winced. “Well, the Horde clones - the clones of Horde Prime. Some of them consider me a goddess.”

    “‘Some’.” Catra snorted.

    Adora glared at her again. Hadn’t they agreed that they wouldn’t spill more ‘sensitive information’ to their guests until they knew more about them and their goals? That was the reason she was always She-Ra when meeting them!

    “Why would they revere you as a goddess?” Daniel asked. He tilted his head in apparent confusion.

    “Well…” Adora smiled at him, though she knew it wouldn’t look convincing. “They think that I killed Horde Prime, and he was the centre of their lives. So, they replaced him with me.” And she couldn’t tell them to get lost - who knew what they would do then?

    Daniel still looked puzzled. “Well, it’s not unheard of in mythology that someone took the place of a god by killing them, but… why wouldn’t they take your word that you aren’t a goddess?”

    “Religious zealots wouldn’t even listen to their god if he told them they were wrong,” O’Neill said. “They’d tell him he was wrong. Or convince themselves that they heard wrong.”

    Daniel frowned at him. “Jack! This is obviously a serious problem! And since the Goa’uld are posing as gods, knowing more about this might give us some insight into how we can convince more of their slaves that they aren’t gods.”

    “Indeed,” Teal’c agreed.

    “Especially since you didn’t even kill Horde Prime. Who spread that narrative?” Daniel asked.

    “Ah…” Adora bit her lower lip. How could she explain the whole situation without revealing more than she should? She had killed Horde Prime, kind of, after all. But not by herself.

    “Oh, She-Ra broke his power and turned his flagship into a space plant!” Swift Wind said, throwing his head back. “And then she turned the stinky barren Fright Zone into a lush country covered with fields and forests! Perfect for grazing! It was glorious!”

    Right. Adora winced again while Catra pressed a hand to her face, and Glimmer glared at Swift Wind. They hadn’t briefed her friend about the need for more discretion.

    “You turned his flagship into a plant?” Carter sounded… well, as if she didn’t believe them. And slightly shocked.

    “Well… I was channelling the magic of the Heart of Etheria, and, well, it had to go somewhere…” Adora spread her hands.

    “A space plant,” O’Neill repeated in a flat voice.

    He didn’t believe her, either, Adora realised. She frowned. It was embarrassing, but she was telling them the truth!

    “Yeah,” Catra spoke up. “If you watch the sky, you can catch a glimpse - it’s still orbiting Etheria. And we call it a space plant since, apparently, it’s still looking healthy despite months in orbit.”

    “But… the radiation, the vacuum, the temperature differences in space…” Carter shook her head. “That’s…”

    “Yeah, that’s She-Ra for you,” Catra said. “She doesn’t do things by half.”

    “The magic did it!” Adora protested. She’d only had vague intentions to render the ships harmless. She hadn’t planned to turn them into a giant plants!

    “It does sound a little…” Daniel trailed off, grimacing.

    “Well, we can show you,” Adora said before she could help herself. “Darla should be able to make orbit in no time. Entrapta probably would like to give it a test ride - she’s been tinkering with her.”

    “That’s not necessary. We were merely surprised - plants don’t survive in space where we are from.” Daniel smiled at her.

    “No, no, I insist,” Adora told him.

    “And don’t worry, Darla hasn’t crashed since her original crash, even when she had all those problems with the systems,” Swift Wind added.

    “Her original crash?” Carter asked.

    “We recovered her wreck and restored it,” Catra told the woman. “She lasted a thousand years buried in sand, so she won’t break down on the next flight.”

    Their guests nodded at that.

    “I’ll call Entrapta,” Bow said. “We can go over to where Darla’s parked.”

    “Turning barren land into fertile meadows and turning weapons into plants… that certainly would be grounds for deification in our myths,” Daniel said as they started walking towards the back of the palace, where Darla was parked in an enclosed courtyard.

    “Swords to ploughshares, space edition.” O’Neill snorted.

    He didn’t believe her. Even Adora could see that.

    Well, he’d see.

    They entered the courtyard. Darla was there, and Entrapta was working on the left engine - Adora saw her legs dangling out of the opening.

    “That’s certainly not a Goa’uld inspired craft,” Daniel said. “And it’s a thousand years old, you said?”

    “At least,” Adora told him. This had been Mara’s spaceship.

    “But it’s holding up nicely - the First Ones technology is very durable,” Entrapta cut in as she jumped down, her hair catching her fall. “And I’ve fixed the fluctuations in the engine thrust! She’s all ready and eager for a trip to space!”

    *****​

    Daniel was right, Samantha Carter knew. This ship wasn’t a Goa’uld design. She couldn’t see any parallels. Other than the ramp at the stern, but that was just good design. And the size of the engines… She craned her head to take a closer look at them.

    “She’s old but tough. And I’ve been upgrading her!” Entrapta said next to her. “She’s now faster than a Horde frigate!”

    Sam had no idea how fast a Horde frigate was. But she nodded anyway.

    “And I strengthened her shields. They’re not as strong as a frigate’s, of course, but Darla’s far smaller and more manoeuvrable, so she can avoid fire.”

    “Up to a point,” Bow commented, looking at the engine as well. “Did you add the booster?”

    “No. It, uh, kinda had some tiny problems at sustained use,” Entrapta told him. “But we’ll get around to fixing that as soon as the lab’s fixed. Incidentally, did you know that boosters can explode like a bomb?”

    Sam winced at that. As did Bow.

    Entrapta went on: “I mean, it’s kinda obvious, if you think about it, since they enhance the energy output of a device…” She blinked. “Oh! We need to test that with Naquadah! Once we have some.”

    “Uh…” Bow looked at her, Sam realised. “That metal amplifies explosions, right?”

    “Yes.” Sam nodded.

    “So it should amplify an engine as well - it’s just energy, after all!” Entrapta nodded.

    “But if anything explodes with it nearby…” Bow trailed off.

    Entrapta blinked again. “Oh, right. We have to be extra careful with that. Once we get more of it. Though I guess a few samples should be possible…”

    “I don’t think you should try to take a sample from the Stargate,” Sam told her. “That could affect its function.” And, depending on the method used - it wasn’t easy to get a sample of Naquadah from a Stargate - could cause more trouble.

    “Oh, right. Well, once I’ve finished building a global scanner for it, we can search for deposits from space!”

    “Is this ship armed?” the Colonel asked.

    “Yes,” Entrapta replied.

    “Not really,” Catra said. “Just two blaster cannons.”

    “Technically, that’s armed. We took them from tanks!”

    “So, this is a civilian vessel?” Daniel asked.

    “Uh…” Entrapta cocked her head. “She’s She-Ra’s vessel.”

    “She’s not a warship,” Catra said. “But she’s fought in the war.”

    That seemed to be good enough for Daniel.

    “She belonged to my predecessor,” Adora told them. “Mara.”

    “Did she crash her?” the Colonel asked.

    Hadn’t the ship been buried for a thousand years in sand? Did that mean the last She-Ra had been a thousand years ago? Or… Sam almost bit her lip at the thought. How long did Adora or Mara live? The group here looked young and acted as you’d expect a bunch of people their apparent age would act after fighting a war - Sam was familiar with soldiers of their apparent age - but if they were actually far older… She would have to ask Daniel about that. He was their expert on alien cultures. Sam focused on technology.

    And the ship was a marvel of technology, Sam had to admit as they entered. Very spacious - not at all like the ships she was familiar with.

    “Darla’s not quite up to greeting us,” Entrapta explained. “I’m still working on a holographic display for her.”

    “She’s intelligent?” Daniel asked.

    “She’s smart,” Entrapta replied. “But she’s not… she’s different. Different smart. But she’s nice. Very nice. And she likes us.”

    “Good to know.” Daniel smiled.

    Sam felt a little uneasy. An artificial intelligence in charge of a ship? Or so it seemed. And one that seemed to be a little off, if she understood Entrapta correctly?

    “Quite a cosy ship,” the Colonel commented with fake casualness. “And no golden hieroglyphs plastered all over the place. I approve.”

    “‘Golden hieroglyphs’?” Bow asked.

    “The Goa’uld are fond of covering walls with boasts and praises to themselves,” the Colonel said.

    “A not uncommon practise of absolute rulers,” Daniel added. “At least in Earth’s past. Although there are still a few countries where the leaders foster a cult of personality.”

    “Don’t give the clones ideas,” Catra commented with a grin.

    Adora grimaced. Right, she didn’t like followers.

    They reached the bridge.

    “Oh, very spacious,” the Colonel said. “Lots of room for expansion. And a big Captain’s chair. Roddenberry would approve.”

    As would several other science fiction authors, Sam knew. Not that she would mention that.

    “You wouldn’t want to travel in cramped space for months, would you?” Glimmer asked. Anyway, we’re just going into orbit so Adora can show you the plant that’s left of Horde Prime’s flagship.”

    “Right!” Adora sat down in the Captain’s seat.

    Sam looked around. There was a row of other seats that looked as if they were intended for passengers. They also seemed to be new - and done in a different style.

    “Just take a seat!” Entrapta said. “Or keep standing - this won’t take long.”

    Before Sam could reply, the lights on the bridge flared, and holographic displays lit up. Engine data, navigational data, three-dimensional display of their surroundings… Sam tried to track everything. Ancient script, too.

    “Darla, lift off!” Adora said.

    And the displays shifted - as did the view through the windows.

    “Smooth ride,” the Colonel said as they shot up through the atmosphere, allowing Sam to catch a glimpse of the continent below them.

    “Yes. It was a little bumpy before I fixed the gravitational generators,” Entrapta said.

    Which reminded Sam that they were flying in a ship restored after a crash. She couldn’t help being wary of that. All the structural stress this would have caused, metal fatigue, warping… This wasn’t an airplane, she reminded herself, nor was it built by humans. She couldn’t judge it by those standards. She…

    The Colonel whistled. Sam just stared.

    There was a plant floating in orbit. A huge plant. In space. This was…

    Was this a decoy? A station made to look like a plant? But why would anyone do that?

    She shook her head. A plant in space.

    “The bioengineering possibilities...” she whispered. Could they grow spaceships? At least the hulls? But how had they done this?

    *****​

    In Orbit above Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “How did you do this? Did you grow it in space?” Carter asked.

    Catra smirked. The woman looked… well, not unlike Entrapta when she found a new piece of First Ones tech.

    “Well, kind of - if you consider transforming as growing,” Entrapta replied. “As we said: This was Horde Prime’s flagship. Until Adora transformed it.”

    Carter turned her head to stare at Adora. “You transformed a spaceship into… this?”

    “Yes.” Her lover was slightly annoyed, Catra could tell. Well, no one liked being thought a liar. Except for Double Trouble. “I used the magic of Etheria to transform the ship onto a plant.”

    “Why?” Daniel asked.

    “We were fighting him. With the ship, he could’ve bombarded the planet at leisure,” Catra explained.

    “No, no - I mean, why turn it into a plant?” Daniel cocked his head and adjusted his glasses.

    “Oh.” Adora blinked. “It was… instinct, as I said. I had all this power and had to use it. And plants don’t drop bombs or shoot cannons at you.”

    In other words, she hadn’t had any idea what she was doing. But that wasn’t something you told the guests you were trying to impress. So Catra nodded in agreement.

    “Magic is tied to life, sort of. Castaspella is the expert - the leading expert - on magic - but the basics are that magic needs life to grow. There’s possibly also a reciprocating effect, but that hasn’t been verified yet, though some data indicates it,” Entrapta explained. Or tried to explain. “So, from a conceptual point of view, plant growth is a natural effect of magic. Or the base of magic.”

    “It’s tied to life?” Carter asked.

    “Barren planets don’t have magic,” Entrapta told her. “Well, they lack the potential to have magic would be more precise, seeing as most planets don’t have magic at the moment.”

    “But we’re working on that!” Adora told the others with a smile.

    “Are you saying that magic was taken from the galaxy?” Carter asked.

    “We don’t exactly know,” Adora said. “But we know the First Ones, who were not native to Etheria, used magic - but that none of the planets we discovered once Etheria was returned to this sector had magic.”

    ‘Returned to the sector’? Something else Sam had to ask about, later.

    “Yes! It could be a local effect - I was theorising that the First Ones siphoned all available magic in the sector - or their Empire - to fight Horde Prime,” Entrapta said, nodding excitedly, “but if your planet doesn’t have any magic, either, and isn’t in the local sector according to your astronomical data, then this might have been a wide-spread effect.”

    “How would you remove magic from the galaxy?” O’Neill asked with a grimace. “It’s a rather big place.”

    Entrapta ignored his sarcasm and beamed at him. “That’s exactly what I asked myself! It didn’t make any sense - and the time involved…” She nodded. “But now that we know that there’s a Stargate network linking so many planets… We need more data!”

    “You mean they used the Stargates to… syphon off magic from all the worlds?” Carter didn’t sound as if she believed that.

    Hell, Catra didn’t really believe it. She was no expert on magic, but she knew - roughly - how big the galaxy was. And if this network was as big as their guests claimed, then even if all those planets had only had a trickle of magic each, it should’ve been more than the Heart of Etheria could gather. The First Ones should have defeated Horde Prime with such power. Unless it was really inefficient or something. Or, she thought, it was used to construct the Heart of Etheria.

    Well, Catra was neither a sorceress nor a princess. She could let others sort this out. “So, now that you’ve seen the remains of Horde Prime’s flagship, are you convinced?” she asked.

    “Convinced of what?” O’Neill asked. He was back in control, or so it seemed.

    “That I told you the truth,” Adora said.

    “Well… it’s a big plant, yes. And a space plant.”

    “But to transform metal and plastic into plant matter…” Carter trailed off. “The amount of computing power you’d need for that, on this scale… Unless it’s a self-propagating process, spreading from a point of origin, like nanomachines replicating and transforming as they grow...”

    “It was transforming magic,” Entrapta said. “Totally different process, same effect. But what you just mentioned sounds interesting! How do you make such nanomachines?”

    “Ah… that was only theorised. Although I have a few ideas about that…”

    “Ideas that we’re not going to experiment with, Carter,” O’Neill said. “We don’t want a grey goo scenario, do we?”

    “Grey goo?” Entrapta tilted her head to the side.

    “I wasn’t aware that you were familiar with the concept, sir,” Carter said.

    “I read more than just the briefings,” O’Neill replied.

    “You read the briefings? Daniel blinked in apparent surprise.

    O’Neill glared at him but didn’t comment.

    “What is grey goo?” Catra repeated Entrapta’s question.

    “Ah, sorry!” Carter smiled at them. “It’s a hypothetical doomsday scenario in which nanomachines self-replicate by converting everything - plants, animals, people and even solid matter in some scenarios - into more nanomachines. Effectively turning a whole planet into a mass of nanomachines.”

    Catra shivered. That sounded…

    “That’s horrible!” Adora exclaimed, echoing Catra’s thoughts.

    “And you have ideas about that?” Bow shook his head.

    “Theories. No practical work has been done - we don’t have the capability to create nanomachines on that scale,” Carter said.

    That was a relief. But it was another clue that their guests were far more dangerous than they appeared. They couldn’t underestimate them. No matter how surprised they were by magic.

    Nor could they underestimate the Goa’uld.

    *****​

    This spaceship was far too spacious, in Jack O’Neill’s opinion. The bridge had enough room for an army. An army of giants. Yet the doors were normal-sized - well, sized so the seven-foot amazon could walk through it. What kind of people built spaceships like this? Not even the Goa’uld wasted space like that.

    At least it looked like their hosts had started to use the space for something, what with the shiny looking seats they had installed. Still… you didn’t carry your passengers on your bridge. That was just asking for trouble in a fight.

    “So, you don’t have nanomachines? But you’ve been thinking about them?” Entrapta asked. Far too eagerly, for Jack’s peace of mind. He had almost died to those hellish things, after all.

    “We’ve encountered the technology before, and we’re working on exploring it, and considering several scenarios, to counter such threats,” Carter replied. Good. No need to make them think that Stargate Command was planning to turn planets into grey goo. Or make every one die from old age in a few days.

    “And to use it yourself,” Catra added.

    Well, that was a logical deduction - you tended to use the weapons you had, after all. Especially when fighting an enemy that had you outnumbered and out-teched like the Goa’uld. But in this case, they were wrong.

    “We wouldn’t destroy a planet!” Daniel protested.

    “Not even to win a war?” Catra tilted her head. “Not even to save your planet and everyone else?”

    Something was off here. Everyone else was watching intently, Jack realised. This wasn’t just an idle question.

    And Daniel was faltering. “Well…”

    “We wouldn’t kill the entire population of a planet to defeat the Goa’uld,” Jack said. “Our laws forbid attacking civilians.” Of course, there were exceptions. If the Goa’uld used their slaves as human shields… But uncontrolled nanomachines? No.

    But the others seemed to have accepted his statement. Catra nodded, and Adora looked relieved. Bow smiled.

    Then Carter added: “Besides, the risk of unlimited nano-warfare is too great. Like biological warfare.”

    “Biological warfare?” Glimmer asked. She glanced at the space plant floating in front of the ship, Jack noticed. Were they thinking of that? Battling plants?

    “Weaponised germs,” Carter explained. “Diseases engineered to infect enemy soldiers and disable or kill them. We don’t use them, but we had to research them and develop countermeasures since our enemies used them.”

    That seemed to shock everyone. “Diseases?” Adora blurted out. “The Goa’uld use diseases as weapons?”

    “They have no qualms about using such dishonourable weapons,” Teal’c stated with a slow nod.

    “Monsters!” Glimmer whispered.

    Even Catra looked grim as she nodded in apparent agreement. “We have to consider how to defend against that, then.”

    “I can heal a disease,” Adora said.

    “An entire planet’s worth?” Catra asked, turning to look at the woman.

    “There are protocols to isolate and stop such an attack from spreading,” Carter said.

    “And there’s the threat of retaliation,” Jack said. “We found that that worked well with chemical weapons.” Not even Hitler had used poison gas on the battlefield.

    “Chemical weapons? Poison?” Catra asked.

    “Yes.”

    Their hosts were looking at the catwoman.

    “Poison that kills people or plants?” Adora asked.

    “People,” Jack replied. He wasn’t about to go into Agent Orange. Filthy stuff - if he had run into it…

    “Ah.” That seemed to relieve Catra. Had she proposed such an attack herself? Or used poison as a defoliant? A question for another day.

    Jack cleared his throat. “So, this was your enemy’s flagship. What’s it doing now?” He nodded at the space plant outside.

    “Uh…” Adora bit her lower lip.

    “We don’t actually know,” Entrapta said. “Perfuma checked it and said it’s a harmless plant and that it should survive in space, but that’s about it. We don’t know what it does, other than that it absorbs sunlight.”

    That was… On Earth, there would be half an army of scientists in orbit, studying the thing. And they had sent one expert and then let it be? That made no sense. Unless… Unless all their experts were busy on the ground, dealing with the damage of the war. Or if they didn’t have enough experts to handle this. “Perfuma?”Jack asked.

    “The Princess of Plumeria,” Entrapta replied. “She can control plants - make them grow and move.”

    Ah. So, another magical princess. Jack would have to check with Daniel about this planet’s society. Did they have many scientists? Entrapta was one, of course, but she also was a princess.

    “Is she your leading expert on botany? Daniel asked.

    “Pretty much, yes,” Catra said.

    “She’s helping Scorpia with the agriculture of her kingdom,” Entrapta said. “They have a lot of former Horde soldiers settling there, so they need a lot of produce. And Adora’s magic turned the place fertile, but her plants aren’t really suitable for eating.”

    “Sorry,” Adora mumbled.

    “It wasn’t your fault, dummy!” Catra told her. “Besides, without you, nothing would grow there. You know how the Fright Zone was.”

    “Yes.” Adora nodded.

    An interesting interaction. Catra seemed familiar with the Fright Zone as well. Of course she would be if her troops had operated there. Still… Jack knew he was missing pieces of the puzzle. “So… this is your personal ship?” he asked.

    “Well, it was Mara’s, and she was She-Ra before Adora,” Entrapta said. “But they let me tinker with it!”

    “As long as you don’t blow it up,” Catra added.

    “I won’t!”

    Jack was about to ask a few more questions about the ship’s capabilities when a noise - an alert - sounded on the bridge.

    “Oh! A frigate is moving toward us!” Entrapta said.

    So, this was one of the frigates they had mentioned. The ship that appeared on the screen looked far different from ‘Darla’. Bright colours - white mainly - and less angular curves. A completely different style, Jack noted.

    This should be interesting.

    *****​

    “Which frigate?” Adora asked. She didn’t add ‘Please, not the Third Fleet. Please, not the Third Fleet’ under her breath, mainly because Catra would hear her, but she was thinking it.

    “Three-One,” Bow replied from where he was looking at the screens.

    First of the Third. The flagship of the Third Fleet. Adora hung her head.

    “Incoming call,” Bow added, looking over his shoulder at Adora.

    She sighed. “Yes.”

    He pushed a button, and a smiling clone appeared on the large screen in front of them. A clone with a silver diadem of a very familiar design. ‘Priest’. “Your Divine Highness!” he beamed at her, then bowed deeply. So deeply, Adora only saw his back when he proclaimed: “Your slightest wish is our holy command! How may your fleet serve you?”

    “Wow. I thought you weren’t really formal, but that… That takes the cake,” O’Neill commented, followed by a hissed ‘Jack!’ from Daniel.

    “Ah. We’re just showing our guests the space plant,” Adora explained. “No need for an escort. Or an orbital strike. Or an invasion,” she added hastily.

    “Guests?” Priest straightened and cocked his head as if he hadn’t noticed their visitors before. He probably hadn’t, actually, since he added. “And good day, Holy Consort and Companions of the Divine She-Ra!”, with a deep nod towards Catra and the others.

    Adora suppressed a shudder. Priest sounded far too much like Horde Prime when he spoke like that.

    “Holy Consort?” O’Neill cocked his head towards them.

    Before Adora could explain, Priest spoke up: “Catra, the Holy Consort of the Divine She-Ra, first to be saved by her love, before we all saw the light.”

    Adora heard the groan from Catra at that, but Priest either didn’t or ignored it. Not that he’d change, anyway.

    “Ah, nice.” O’Neill nodded. “I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill, from Earth. This is my team - Major Carter, Daniel Jackson and Teal’c.”

    Priest nodded. “Well met, and be welcome…” his smile faltered as he looked at Teal’c. “Jaffa?” he spat with a growl.

    Uh-oh! Adora winced.

    “I do not serve the false gods,” Teal’c declared before Adora could say anything. “I fight the Goa’uld.”

    And Priest beamed at the guy. “Another soul saved by the Divine She-Ra! Praised be her name, blessed be her followers!”

    “Did he just bless himself?” O’Neill added in a low voice.

    Adora cleared her throat. “They were stranded on Etheria, and we’re looking into helping them return to their home.”

    Priest frowned again. “They aren’t from Etheria? I wasn’t aware that any ship slipped through our perimeter. When did this happen? Did the heretics fail their most basic duties?”

    “Wrong Hordak did nothing wrong!” Entrapta protested. “They arrived through a Stargate.”

    “A Stargate?”

    “A device from the First Ones which allows instant travel from one gate to another, across the stars,” Entrapta explained. “Kinda like a transporter, but it needs another gate to lock on, although it can cover much, much greater distances. There’s an entire network spanning the galaxy!”

    “Oh.” Priest blinked. “And such a gate is on Etheria? And there are others? A network? Your Divine Highness, we must guard this gate! Please allow us to deploy the Holy Legion to safeguard Etheria!”

    Yeah, right. Glimmer would kill Adora if she told Priest to deploy a few thousand clones and even more bots on Etheria. “I have secured the gate personally,” Adora told the clone. “Rest assured that should we require your help, you will be called at once.”

    And the clone was beaming at her again. “Of course! Blessed is the planet under your protection and guidance, Your Divine Highness!” Another deep bow.

    “So, ah… just resume your duties,” Adora added. “We just wanted to show the remains of Horde Prime’s flagship to our guests.”

    “Of course! Everyone should visit the place where the scourge of the galaxy was purged at least once in their lives to bask in the sight of the silent witness of your divine glory!”

    “Oh, boy,” O’Neill muttered.

    “Ah… right.” Adora forced herself to smile. That wasn’t why they had taken their guests up here. She raised her arm and waved. “So… return to your duties, Priest.”

    “At your command, and with your blessings, Your Divine Highness!”

    The screen blinked out, and Adora sighed.

    “I’ve known a number of Goa’uld who’d be very jealous of such devotion,” O’Neill said.

    “Indeed.”

    “It’s not as if Adora wanted this,” Glimmer said, scowling. “They latched onto her and won’t take no for an answer.”

    “I tried telling them that I’m not a goddess or their goddess,” Adora explained. “They aren’t listening.”

    “Well, you did kill Horde Prime and turned his flagship into a space plant,” Catra said with a shrug. She, of course, found the clones’ devotion funny. Most of the time. “And it’s better that they follow you rather than anyone else.”

    Oh, yes. Blindly fanatical clones with a fleet, following someone selfish, cruel or greedy...

    “Are they all like that?” O’Neill asked.

    “Only the Third Fleet,” Bow said. “Second Fleet is led by Wrong Hordak. They don’t think She-Ra is a goddess but are still grateful for being freed from Horde Prime’s control.”

    “And those who do consider them heretics?” Daniel asked.

    “Yes,” Adora admitted. “But I forbid any attempts to, ah, convert them.”

    “Is there a First Fleet?” Carter asked.

    “There was,” Catra said. “But their ships were mostly destroyed with the flagship. Not many are left - a dozen or so.”

    “Hordak has been talking to the remnants,” Entrapta added. “They are kinda lost, what with having lost so many in the war.”

    Lost at her hands, Adora knew. And the clones hadn’t known any better. They had just followed their creator’s orders, as they had been raised to. Like Shadow Weaver had tried to raise her.

    She clenched her teeth. She wouldn’t think about Shadow Weaver and what the woman had done to her and Catra. Not now.

    *****​

    Adora was still tense, Samantha Carter noticed. The whole situation must be stressing her. Which, as cynical as it sounded, was a good thing - if she embraced such worship… Sam knew that this was what the Goa’uld wanted. Utterly loyal followers who worshipped them as gods. Who could resist such power?

    “It’s still fascinating,” Daniel said. “I didn’t expect this to be so… direct. Although in hindsight, it makes sense. Converts are often the most fanatical of any religion’s followers.”

    Sam winced - Daniel had let his scientific curiosity get the better of his tact, again.

    “Sorry,” Adora said, looking dejected. “I’m working on this, but… you’ve seen how they are.”

    “It’s a work in progress.” The Colonel nodded. “Don’t worry. Deprogramming a cult takes time.”

    “Indeed.” Teal’c nodded. “I know the trials it takes to make my people accept the truth.”

    “Thanks.” Adora’s smile was weak but seemed honest.

    “But at the least, the fanatics are fighting for you,” the Colonel went on. “Are there any other fleets left?” Fishing for more information, Sam realised. A little underhanded, but they needed to know more about this world.

    “There should be,” Entrapta replied. “But we’re not quite sure how many. Horde Prime was conquering the sector, yet there were rebellions all over the place by the time Adora defeated him, so his Horde was split up.”

    “So, there are more of those… clones… around? With fleets?” Daniel asked.

    “Yes.” Adora nodded. “We are trying to track them down, but… We lost the way to contact them with Horde Prime’s flagship.”

    “And reconstructing the deployment orders from the surviving data hasn’t worked out,” Entrapta explained. “Horde Prime controlled them personally, so all that knowledge died with him.”

    “We’ve been sending out ships to explore the sector, but it’s going slow,” Bow added.

    “And we don’t really want to send out the Third Fleet,” Queen Glimmer said.

    “Imagine them meeting a fleet and considering them heretics!” Catra snorted. Sam didn’t think it was funny. Then again, the Colonel made similar jokes.

    But… Religious fanatics on a crusade in space - and former soldiers of a megalomaniac dictator who razed planets for resisting him, at that? She could imagine the horrors such a conflict would unleash. Although… “You lack a complete overview of Horde Prime’s former empire?” Hadn’t Horde Prime kept his data properly backed up?

    “Yes. We think we have the gist of it,” Entrapta told her, “but not the details. Though we’re working on it. It just takes time.”

    “They recognised me,” Teal’c pointed out.

    “Yes.” The Colonel nodded. “They must have met Jaffa before.”

    Sam nodded. That made sense. “And since they couldn’t see your stomach or sense the larva inside you…”

    “Junior!” the Colonel cut in.

    Sam ignored him. “...they must have recognised the symbol on your head or the staff weapon,” she finished.

    “Or both,” Daniel said. “Yes, they must have had contact with the Goa’uld.” He smiled. “That means they might have navigational data about the Goa’uld holdings.

    “Right!” Entrapta beamed at them. “Let’s talk to Wrong Hordak!”

    “Not Hordak?” Sam asked. Entrapta had mentioned that he was her partner, after all.

    “Uh, no. He’s been out of touch with Horde Prime for a few decades.” Entrapta winced and shook her head, her hair staying still somehow. “And the First Fleet’s remnants are still a little, uh, shaken up. Wrong Hordak, though, is leading the Second Fleet, which is mostly intact. They are bound to be our best source about the Goa’uld. Though if they know nothing, then odds are, it’s just the Third Fleet who knew about Goa’uld. Which would, by itself, be useful data, of course!”

    “Let’s hope we don’t have to talk to the Third Fleet,” Adora muttered.

    “Right,” The Colonel agreed. “My quota for bombastic religious sermons is already full. For this year.”

    That sent a few of their hosts snickering. Not Adora, though, Sam noticed.

    “Sorry,” Adora said. “I try to tell them to tone it down, but…” She shrugged.

    Though, Sam couldn’t help thinking, given the fanaticism she had observed, it might be dangerous to tell those clones to stop following Adora at all. They might take offence and lash out. Or, possibly worse, they might listen.

    “So, you have three distinct groups amongst the former Horde?” Daniel asked.

    “Four if you count the former Horde on Etheria,” Bow corrected him. “Though they have split as well.”

    “Most of them are staying in Scorpia’s kingdom. Some of them have turned into bandits and pirates,” Queen Glimmer explained. “At least the clones haven’t done that.”

    “As far as we know,” Catra pointed out. “Some of them could be conquering planets out there.”

    “So far, we haven’t heard anything about that,” Queen Glimmer replied with a frown.

    Sam watched both. It felt like an argument they had had before. Two leaders, clashing over the best course of action? But Catra was, as far as they knew, not a princess. And all leaders so far seemed to be princesses. Or clones. Sam would have to ask Daniel about the possible ramifications of that.

    “Well, isn’t that a wonderful thought,” the Colonel commented.

    “It’s quite common for soldiers to turn into bandits or mercenaries after a war if the social structures that supported them before broke down, which might be the case here,” Daniel said. “We have numerous examples in Earth’s history,” he added.

    “Oh?” Catra tilted her head.

    “We’ve had many wars,” Daniel told her, “and there are several civil wars currently being fought on Earth, or having been fought until a short time ago.”

    Several civil wars?”

    Their hosts seemed shocked again.

    And the Colonel wasn’t amused.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2021
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 6: The Moon of Enchantment
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 6: The Moon of Enchantment

    In Orbit above Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Those people had multiple civil wars? All currently going on on their planet? Catra couldn’t help but stare at them. That was…

    “That’s like the Age of War,” Glimmer said, shaking her head.

    “The Age of War?” Adora asked, to the relief of Catra - so she wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what that was.

    “A time of great upheaval in Etheria,” Bow started lecturing, “when every kingdom was pitted against every other kingdom. This was about eight hundred years ago - the exact date is contested amongst historians. Some say it started when the precursor kingdom of Plumeria attacked Bright Moon’s first settlement. Others claim the Age of War began when that conflict spread to involve the Kingdom of the Forest and the Serpent Empire.”

    Right, Bow was the son of two historians, Catra remembered. Or amateur historians - neither Bow nor Adora had been completely clear about that, and Glimmer had only chuckled at both when the topic had come up.

    “I’ve never heard of those two kingdoms,” Adora said. “And I’ve studied all kingdoms when we prepared for the Princess Prom.”

    Catra snorted. Adora hadn’t changed at all - she still overprepared for everything.

    “They didn’t survive the Age of War,” Bow said. “The Kingdom of the Forest occupied parts of the Whispering Woods. When they faced defeat at the hands of Bright Moon and their allies, they tried to use the Whispering Woods’ monsters against them. But the monsters turned against them, and so the kingdom was abandoned and taken over by the woods. Parts of it were absorbed by Plumeria two centuries afterwards, following their conflict with Salineas, but they never managed to recover the whole area.”

    “Yes, Mom told me about that time. Bright Moon was one of the most advanced kingdoms, and everyone wanted a piece of it - or wanted to destroy it,” Glimmer explained. “But Mom had already bonded to the Runestone, so the enemy armies couldn’t break through the shield.”

    Queen Angella had been around that time? Catra had known that the former Queen of Bright Moon had been around for a while, but to have lived for centuries?

    “Ah… how long is a year on Etheria?” Daniel asked.

    “Three hundred and sixty days, why?” Bow replied.

    “How long is a year on Earth?” Entrapta asked, recorder out.

    “Three hundred and sixty-five days,” Daniel replied. “And a quarter day, more or less.”

    “How does that work?” Entrapta cocked her head. “Do you have quarter days or how?”

    “Wait, wait - are you saying that your mother, the former queen, was alive eight hundred years ago?” O’Neill asked.

    “Yes.” Glimmer nodded, apparently confused about the question.

    Catra wanted to sigh at her naivety. “She was an exception. No one else is that long-lived,” she explained.

    “You forgot Madame Razz!” Adora objected. “She was around when Mara arrived a thousand years ago.”

    Catra hadn’t forgotten the witch - though she had tried to forget her. The old woman’s ramblings made her skin crawl.

    “Right. A thousand years old.” O’Neill sounded sceptical.

    “It’s not really unbelievable,” Daniel said. “We’re talking about an alien species.”

    And someone who was trapped between dimensions because of Catra’s fuck-up. She cleared her throat. “And what about the Serpent Empire?”

    “I know! They were located where the Crimson Waste is situated now,” Entrapta said.

    “Yes,” Bow went on. “Back in the Age of War, the area was, well, not a waste. Still arid, but they could grow crops. But they were expansionist and pushed out against the neighbouring kingdoms. They had various alliances but tended to betray their allies whenever they felt they could gain an advantage. They did well in the Age of War, but the desertification of their lands doomed the kingdom. Some scholars claim that this was caused by their attempts to construct a runestone to control the earth. Others think that the Princess of Salineas used her runestone to drain most of the area’s water into the ocean.”

    Catra blinked. “Mermista could do that?” she asked before she could control herself.

    “Err… not to my knowledge,” Bow told her. “That’s why it’s not a popular theory. Its proponents claim that Mermista’s ancestor used dangerous rituals to enhance the power of the runestone.”

    “Ah.” Not a safe topic, then.

    “Anyway, the Age of War ended with the Treaty of Bright Moon, seven hundred and five years ago,” Bow said. “But during that time, there was not a year when no kingdom was at war.”

    “And afterwards, peace reigned until the Horde arrived?” Daniel asked, cocking his head.

    “Ah, no,” Bow replied. “But the wars were generally smaller and more limited. The treaty started the regular gatherings that would become the Princess Prom to settle conflicts diplomatically.”

    “Generally, as long as the Elemental Princesses were in agreement, they could enforce their decision on anyone,” Glimmer added. “So, most wars were either between smaller kingdoms or short-lived affairs between Elemental princesses, like the Orange War four hundred years ago. Few wanted to risk war after the horrors of the Age of War, so such conflicts were very rare.”

    “The Orange War?” Adora asked.

    “A sailor from Salineas stole - allegedly stole according to Mermista - an orange from Plumeria. A prized orange the then-princess had cultivated herself. She demanded restitution, the Salinean princess offered the price of a normal orange, the Plumerians insulted them, and war broke out. A failed invasion at sea and a failed landing on the shores of Plumeria later, the war was over,” Glimmer said.

    So, the Plumerians weren’t always such pushovers. Good to know.

    “You went to war over some royal orange?” O’Neill sounded surprised.

    “The USA and the United Kingdom had a war over a pig,” Daniel said.

    “Yes, yes,” Catra cut in. No need to dwell on that. “But let’s get back to the point: You have multiple civil wars going on in your world?”

    Daniel grimaced. “Right. That’s true.”

    *****​

    Jack O’Neill suppressed a grimace - he knew Daniel could be more subtle - and took a step forward. “Yes. We have several civil wars going on on our planet. However, the vast majority of our people is living in peace.”

    “How many wars are going on?” Adora asked.

    “Ah…” O’Neill frowned. Angola, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Yugoslavia, Algeria… he was sure that he was forgetting a couple in Africa. Burundi, for one. But there were bound to be more. “I think about a dozen,” he said.

    “A dozen?” Adora gasped.

    “How many kingdoms - countries do you have?” Bow asked.

    “Almost two hundred,” Jack replied. “We’ve got almost six billion people on Earth.”

    “Six billion people!”

    “That’s…”

    “How do you feed so many?”

    “Rations. Must be rations. They don’t have magic to speed up growth.”

    Jack cleared his throat. “We’ve got very advanced agriculture.” He glanced at Daniel, but, for one, his friend wasn’t about to mention the environmental impact of industrialised agriculture. “We don’t generally eat rations outside the military. And even in the military, rations are generally limited to the field.”

    “Hunger is a fact of life for many, though,” Daniel piped up. “But there is enough food for everyone - or would be, if it were distributed evenly.”

    “No shit. Logistics must be hell with so many wars,” Catra muttered.

    “And why don’t you intervene and stop those wars?” Glimmer asked.

    Jack suppressed a sigh. “We do try that. But it tends to be bloody.” He had operated in such countries - he knew the score. “No one really likes foreign powers trying to control your country. If you invade, soon, many hate you more than their enemy. .”

    “But if those are local wars, can’t you just smash their armies with superior forces?” Adora asked. “You have to outnumber them, right?”

    Oh, damn. The kids thought those civil wars were fought like their wars apparently were fought. “Most civil wars aren’t fought with armies,” Jack told them. “They’re asymmetrical conflicts. Guerrilla wars. One side is generally outnumbered and hiding, striking at their enemies before fading away. They can fight for years with just small arms - they don’t need or have heavy weapons.”

    Catra got it first. “Damn. And they hide amongst the civilians, right?” Jack nodded, and she winced.

    “Oh.” Adora looked abashed.

    “How can you tell the soldiers from the civilians in such a war?” Entrapta asked, looking puzzled.

    “You can’t,” Catra told her.

    “Oh.”

    Jack nodded. “Yes. But as I said - the vast majority of Earth’s population lives in peace.”

    “In ignorance,” Glimmer said. “You said they don’t even know they’re at war with the Goa’uld.”

    Jack looked at her. They had gone over that already.

    Adora cleared her throat. “So… now that you’ve seen the space plant, do you want to see anything else in orbit before we return to Bright Moon? There isn’t much to see, though. Just the First, Second and Third Fleet, basically.”

    “And the moons!” Entrapta added. “Though they aren’t inhabited. But it’s neat to visit them - although you’d need spacesuits. I think I can adapt a few we have for you!”

    To walk on a foreign moon? Jack was tempted. That had been his dream as a kid. How could anyone have seen Apollo 11 land on the moon and not wish to become an astronaut? But… “Don’t go to any trouble just for us,” he said.

    “Oh, it wouldn’t be any trouble!” Entrapta beamed at them. “I’d like to explore the moons some more, too - there might be valuable materials on them that we lack on Etheria.”

    So, they hadn’t yet explored the moons. That was interesting. They had spaceships, but old ones. And foreign ones. And no orbital infrastructure.

    It didn’t look like Etheria had been to space for long. They might not even have the infrastructure to produce spaceships. Although the clones or whatever they were would have such facilities, they were likely not in this system. Or they had been on that huge space station and were now turning sunlight into plant mass.

    “I think we have a lot of other things to do first, though,” Glimmer said.

    “Like a potential war with parasitic snakes,” Catra added. “And a bunch of stranded soldiers we need to get home.”

    Jack smiled, showing his teeth. “Right, exactly that!”

    Catra frowned at him in return.

    “So, no moon expedition?” Entrapta asked.

    “Maybe later,” Bow told her. “Although… is your scanner ready?”

    “Right! My scanner!” The princess perked up. “I just need to add some finishing touches, and we can scan for Naquadah on the entire planet from here!”

    Jack smiled. That was good news! Once they found the DHD, they could dial home. And let the professional diplomats handle negotiations. The general would be mad enough about what they - mostly Daniel - had let slip already about Earth.

    “Do you want to help me?” Entrapta asked.

    Carter - of course - as well as Bow agreed, and all three left the bridge.

    “So…” Daniel beamed at the others. “How many people live on Etheria?”

    “Well… We’ve got about fifty million people,” Glimmer said. “Kingdoms rarely take a census at the same time, so it’s all just guesswork, and with the war, most numbers are out of date anyway.”

    That was… both more and less than Jack had expected. For a planet seeded by the Goa’uld, it was a lot. But for a native civilisation left in peace? That was very little.

    “How long back go your records?” Daniel asked.

    “Records? About a thousand years,” Glimmer said. “The time of the First Ones. Anything before them isn’t very well known.”

    “And you have almost six billion people?” Adora shook her head.

    *****​

    Six billion people. That was… Adora couldn’t even imagine so many people. Most planets they had visited - which, admittedly, hadn’t been more than a handful in the months since Horde Prime’s defeat - had populations more in the range of Etheria’s. Or, rather, had had such populations before Horde Prime had conquered them.

    But six billion people! That was like… over a hundred times Etheria’s number! The population of a hundred planets, all living on one planet? How did they fit everyone onto one world?

    “You must have gigantic armies,” Catra said. Of course she would think of the military first.

    “I wouldn’t say gigantic, but we do have a few million under arms,” O’Neill replied.

    “Only a few million?” Catra sounded almost disappointed.

    “They’re normal people, not an army with a planet,” Glimmer snapped.

    Catra frowned at her. “They’re also fighting a war.”

    “You heard them - it’s not that kind of war,” Glimmer retorted. “They can’t send an army through a Stargate.”

    “But once we have a fleet there, they can move it with spaceships,” Catra said. “The Second or Third Fleet can transport a lot of people. They can’t supply as many, but the First Fleet’s fleet train should be intact, and they don’t need as many transport ships any more, so that should compensate.”

    Daniel blinked. “Are you already planning to launch invasions from Earth?”

    Adora frowned. Why did he sound surprised? Preparing for all eventualities was what a good commander did. And Catra was a good commander, even though she might not think so. She had almost beaten the Alliance, after all, when she had been leading the Horde.

    “Of course!” Glimmer cut in. “If you have so many soldiers but no ships to transport them, and we can provide you with ships, then it only makes sense to use both our strengths.”

    “Yeah,” O’Neill agreed. “Though preparing an actual invasion on a planetary scale will take a long time. You don’t just send an army off without sufficient training and exercises.”

    “And the political implications…” Daniel shook his head. “Not to mention the problems with coordinating all the different militaries.”

    Right. Adora nodded - she knew all about that. The scattered nature of the Alliance forces had almost driven her to despair a few times. She didn’t miss the Horde, of course, but she did miss their organisation, at times at least. And their discipline.

    “Well, the heavy lifting will be done by the fleet. Orbital bombardment will deal with most defences. We can sort out the details when we reach Earth,” Catra said. “But your planet needs to be protected at all costs - it’ll be a prime target for the Goa’uld once it turns into a staging area.”

    Adora nodded again. That meant a full fleet - Second or Third. Second was more, well, reasonable. They wouldn’t cause much trouble with the Tau’ri. The Third were fanatics. But if they left for Earth and the Third stayed guarding Etheria and the rest of the sector, would the clones behave without Adora being present? Would they even stay? She clenched her teeth. As much as she disliked it, they would have to take the Third with them to Earth.

    “Yes, we are - the Goa’uld really don’t like us. And we have six billion civilians to protect,” O’Neill added. “Poor helpless civilians.”

    Glimmer frowned at him. “Yes.”

    O’Neill smiled, and it looked… Well, not quite like Catra’s smile when she thought she had pulled one over Adora and her friends, but she was sure it wasn’t an innocent smile. “We will protect your planet anyway,” she said. “Just as we will protect everyone else.”

    Catra and Glimmer were frowning at her, but Adora ignored that. This was the right thing to do. As she had said before.

    “Thank you!” Daniel beamed at her. “And we will do our best to help you.”

    “Speaking for SG-1,” O’Neill added. “We cannot speak for our country, much less the Earth.”

    Which was really inconvenient, Adora found. On the other hand, without princesses and magic, it made sense that the Tau’ri wouldn’t send their leaders to the front. It probably made governing easier as well, especially with the frontlines being on another planet or in space.

    “Yes, yes, we know that,” Catra replied with a snort. “You’re just good soldiers doing your duty.” Why was she being so… sarcastic?

    O’Neill smirked in return. “Well, we’ve been known to act independently in the field, as any good soldier would.”

    Ah. Adora sighed.

    “But we really cannot speak for Earth,” Daniel said.

    “I am sure once the leaders of the Tau’ri are aware of the situation, they will do the right thing,” Teal’c said. “Their history shows that they haven’t shied away from going to war.”

    “Not forever, at least,” O’Neill said.

    “It’s not a bad thing to hesitate to start a war,” Daniel added.

    “But you’re already in a war,” Catra objected. “I doubt that the Goa’uld will just stop if you don’t want to go to war.” She frowned. “Well, Plumeria did, but even they got the message after their kingdom almost fell.”

    Right. That hadn’t been Adora’s finest hour. Trying to figure out how to heal the forest… She felt embarrassed just remembering it. But that was in the past. They had a new war to fight now. A war on a scale that was even bigger than she had thought. And with much higher stakes.

    She almost missed the time fighting the Horde on Etheria… No, Adora firmly thought as she glanced at Catra standing next to her, reaching out to grab her hand, I don’t miss that at all.

    Catra looked surprised when Adora gently squeezed her hand but didn’t pull away. Instead, she smiled at her with that happy expression Adora loved to see on her face.

    *****​

    “Can you hand me the calibrated crystal, Bow?”

    “Sure! Here it is.”

    “Thanks! What do the readings say?”

    “Everything nominal.”

    “Good!”

    Samantha Carter felt a little out of her depth, and she didn’t like it. She was used to not understanding alien technology - at least at first - but she wasn’t used to being the odd one out when working on said technology. Both Entrapta and Bow were familiar with this, but while Sam could easily identify parts of the scanner they were building - and help with assembling those - she was at a loss when it came to magic crystals. “How do you calibrate the crystals?”

    “You tune them to the right frequency.”

    That sounded logical. And not very helpful. “And how do you do that?”

    “I’ll show you,” Bow told her, stepping over to the table on the side of the workshop. “You have to align the crystals with each other and the master crystal, then run a pulse through them. Ah, a pulse from this crystal.”

    “Are you using magic?”

    “Yes. Crystals generally use magic. You could use electricity, but it’s not nearly as efficient - the Horde did that for some of their gear,” Bow explained.

    “And who creates the crystals?”

    “Most are mined and then refined,” Bow replied. “Or tuned.” He shrugged. “It’s not exactly complicated, but it can take a while.”

    “But that only gets you blanks. You have to program them with the right matrix to do anything, and that’s where the fun starts!” Entrapta cut in.

    “Like… ROMs?” Samatha asked.

    “ROMs?”

    Sam explained the process.

    “Oh! Yes, something like that! We generally use crystals for that. I have to try out your method!” Entrapta beamed at her, and Sam couldn’t help but smile back. The woman’s enthusiasm was contagious.

    “I think the crystals are ready now,” Bow pointed out.

    “They are? Good! Now let’s connect them to the power source and run some tests.”

    That, too, made sense. Sam could easily track how those two components worked together. And the sensor itself was not much of a secret, either. She didn’t recognise a few components, but she had a rough idea about how to replace them with more familiar technology. Maybe a few bits from Goa’uld gear… She cocked her head. If you could substitute electricity for magic and she understood the program that the circuits used, she could duplicate this. Probably. It would certainly be fun to try - a planetary scale Naquadah detector would be very useful. Though… “How much less efficient is electricity compared to magic?”

    “Oh, it depends. If you just want to shoot lasers or lightning, it’s decent. But if you want to use some of the more flexible parts of magic, like we are doing here, it’s generally a few orders of magnitudes less efficient. And you need a way to duplicate the principle of similarity.”

    “The principle of similarity?” Sam asked.

    “Yes. Like attracts like,” Entrapta said. “We will be using a sample of Naquadah as the primer to look for more. Magic is quite useful for such feats.”

    That sounded as if the scanner wouldn’t just look for certain characteristics of Naquadah using data from prior scans, but that the presence of actual Naquadah affected and enhanced the process. That was… quite fascinating.

    Sam smiled and looked at the scanner, then frowned. “And where is the sample?”

    “Oh, we still need to get it. You’ve got it in your blood.”

    Sam froze. “You want my blood?”

    “Only a small sample - this is a scanner, after all,” Entrapta told her. “It’s powerful enough to only need traces of the element.”

    “About this much,” Bow explained with a rueful smile, holding up a small transparent vial.

    Well, she could spare that much blood. And the Colonel wasn’t here to object - or, worse, make fun of her. And she really wanted to see how this worked. So Sam nodded and rolled up her sleeve. “Alright.”

    They extracted the blood using an old fashioned syringe. Not quite a bloodletting, but Janet had better instruments in the med bay back home.

    “Done!” Entrapta smiled widely. “Now, let’s put it in the scanner and see what we get!”

    “Yes!” Sam smiled back.

    Entrapta put the trace - stored in a crystal vial, or so it seemed - into the scanner, then took a step back. “Ready!”

    “You’re running it here?” Sam asked.

    “Yes. Being inside Darla shouldn’t affect it. We might get more range if we placed it on the hull, but it already covers the planet.”

    That was impressive. And a little worrying. “The scanner won’t affect us?”

    “Oh, no - it’s perfectly harmless. Even for people with Naquadah in their blood.”

    That was reassuring - and concerning. What if something else could affect her blood? Something to keep in mind.

    “Booting up! Running diagnostics! Oh, it’s working beautifully! No tendency to explode at all!”

    Sam hoped that the princess was joking. But Bow grimaced as well. Damn.

    “Ok! Here we go!” Entrapta announced, her hair pushing several buttons at once.

    And Sam heard a humming noise that quickly grew louder and louder. Just as she was about to plug her ears, the humming stopped.

    And Entrpata frowned. “Oh. There’s no concentrated Naquadah on the planet other than the Stargate.”

    Sam pressed her lips together. This wasn’t good. Not at all. They were now completely reliant on their hosts to get back to Earth. And on technology that she didn’t understand. Not yet.

    *****​

    “We need to check the moons,” Entrapta said. “There’s no second Naquadah concentration on Etheria, which means there is no D.H.D. there, but they could’ve moved it to a moon for, ah, safety reasons.”

    “To keep people from using the Stargate?” Catra asked. As O’Neill and his group had shown, people could still arrive on the planet, but it would keep them from leaving. Not exactly a good way to stop an invasion.

    “Or because they wanted to analyse the device without risking parts of Etheria,” Entrapta replied, mimicking an explosion with her hands.

    That was… Catra hissed at the idea.

    “Naquadah isn’t actually that dangerous,” Carter cut in. “Unless you deliberately wanted to prepare a Naquadah-enhanced bomb, you won’t get it to explode with sufficient force to be a threat to a planet.”

    That didn’t sound as reassuring as the woman likely meant it to be, Catra knew.

    “So… you just lose a building, not the kingdom?” Adora asked.

    “Major Carter hasn’t lost any buildings due to Naquadah. So far,” O’Neill said. “I can’t speak for her labs, though.”

    “Sir!” The woman looked embarrassed, and O’Neill was laughing.

    Catra snorted as well and ignored the looks from Glimmer and Bow. “Well, we can just quickly scan the moons for the thing.”

    “And tell Third Fleet to not come too close to avoid interfering with the scanning,” Adora added.

    “Actually, more ships shouldn’t affect the process at all,” Entrapta pointed out.

    “But there’s no need to risk it, right?” Glimmer asked.

    “Well… if there is interference, that would be valuable data, and we would need to test it anyway to see if we can deploy the scanner in a fleet - say, to detect other ships,” Entrapta explained.

    That was a good point. Better find out now if that would work than in the middle of a battle. But if they had to listen to Priest again...

    “Uh…” Daniel raised his hand.

    “Yes?” Entrapta turned to him.

    “There are no other concentrations of Naquadah on the planet?” Daniel asked.

    “Not any which would be big enough to be the device you want,” she told him.

    “But… didn’t the First Ones use this technology?” he asked.

    “Apparently not.” Entrapta shrugged. “Most of them used magic as a base for their technology. It would’ve been nifty to find all their ruins, though.”

    “Carter?”

    “It seems that this culture didn’t rely on Naquadah, except for the Stargates, Sir,” Carter told O’Neill. “I’m sorry for not mentioning it sooner. They might have developed a new technology base.”

    “A magical civilisation? Huh.” The man shook his head.

    “Or they limited Naquadah to military uses,” Daniel said. “If there was a shortage of the metal, that would be a logical measure.”

    And you didn’t risk civilians blowing you up by accident.

    Carter nodded in agreement. “That is a possibility as well.”

    “Or they moved it to a moon!” Entrapta blurted out. “We should explore them!”

    “Right. Let’s go scan the moons,” Adora said. “If there are some First Ones bases on them, it’s better to find out now.”

    “Before some doomsday device gets activated,” Catra added.

    The way their guests nodded in agreement wasn’t very reassuring, in Catra’s opinion.

    “Alright! Darla, fly us closer to... the closest moon!” Entrapta used her hair to carry their scanner and sat down in her favourite seat - the ‘science seat’, as she called it. “It’s time to discover what the moons are hiding from us!”

    “She’s as eager as she was about space,” Glimmer muttered as Darla turned and started to fly towards the closest moon.

    Catra shrugged in return. Entrapta was a little quirky, but there were not many other people Catra would trust with her life. And most were in this ship.

    They quickly reached orbit around the moon, and Entrapta, Bow and Carter got busy with the scanner. Catra clenched her teeth as the infernal humming noise started up again. “First improvement will be to get rid of the noise,” she muttered. She wasn’t going to suffer every time they scanned something.

    Adora didn’t say anything. Instead, she wrapped her arms around Catra and pulled close to place a quick kiss on the top of Catra’s head.

    “Dummy,” Catra whispered. That didn’t help with the noise at all. But it helped with her mood. She ran her hands over Adora’s back. She could still feel, or thought so, where she had scratched her once. She tensed a little at the memory, but Adora held her firm - she knew Catra, after all.

    Daniel cleared his throat next to them. “So, uh…”

    Before Catra had to snap at the man, the scanner’s noise ended, and Entrapta spoke up: “There’s a large amount of Naquadah on the moon!”

    “Carter?” O’Neill asked as Catra pulled away from Adora.

    “Several concentrations, Sir. A few are large enough to possibly be a D.H.D. All in close proximity to each other.”

    O’Neill smiled at that. “Great. Let’s go take a look.”

    Catra bit her lower lip - this was a logical suggestion, not an attempt to order them around. At least it should be.

    “Yes!” Entrapta cheered. “Let’s suit up.! Oh, I didn’t make you customised spacesuits yet! You’ll have to make do with standardised ones, sorry!”

    “That’s OK,” O’Neill said. “We’re not picky.”

    “Alright! Follow me, then!”! Entrapta led them to the locker room. Catra trailed behind them - she wasn’t needed on the bridge to land Darla, and someone had to keep an eye on Entrapta with those people.

    Catra knew better than most how trusting her friend was.

    *****​

    The First Moon of Enchantment, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “So, you come here often?” Jack O’Neill asked as they entered what looked like a locker room. A space locker room. “To the moon, I mean,” he added after a moment and a glare from Carter and Daniel.

    “Oh, not really,” Entrapta replied. “There was so much to do, we haven’t had time to explore any of the moons. We just checked if there were clones stranded here or crashed ships. Or any ruins - but we didn’t do any deep scans or exploration. Which is why we must have missed this base; it’s underground.”

    They hadn’t even explored the moons? Another clue that these people hadn’t had spaceships for long. And now they had entire fleets at their beck and call. Fleets manned by the brainwashed former soldiers of a genocidal conqueror. Great.

    “And, of course, there’s the fact that, from a certain point of view, the moons belong to Glimmer,” Entrapta went on.

    “They belong to her?” Daniel asked.

    “Well, she’s the Queen of Bright Moon - and the Moonstone, her runestone, is connected to the moons,” Entrapta explained. “If they are in alignment, certain magic processes are strengthened or rendered more efficient.”

    Jack clenched his teeth and suppressed the urge to sigh. Magic influenced by moons? Astrologians would have a field day back on Earth if they heard this. And some idiot congressman would likely want horoscopes to be used by the government.

    “How does that work?” Carter asked. “Is it tied to radiation?”

    “Kinda,” Entrapta replied. “They influence the magic field, of sorts.”

    “Yes. Attacking Bright Moon when all three Moons of Enchantment were in the sky would’ve been suicide for the Horde,” Catra added.

    “In myth, our moon was often said to have magical properties as well, such as influencing werewolves,” Daniel pointed out. “And many people believe that it influences humans - Tau’Ri.”

    Superstitious folks did. The only thing the moon influenced was visibility at night and the tides. But that was without magic. If their hosts ‘brought back’ magic to Earth, would that change? Would they have trouble with actual werewolves?

    “So… Here are our spare suits!” Entrapta pushed a button, and a panel slid back, revealing a rack of suits in various sizes. None of them looked as bulky as the suits Jack had seen at NASA. “They’re not customised, as I told you before, but I can easily adapt them to your body type. Though yours might still be a little large,” she added with a smile to Teal’c. “You’re too big for a standard size and too small for a Scorpia size.”

    Teal’c nodded back. “I shall manage.”

    “Good!” Entrapta pulled the suits out and handed them over. “Now… just put them on as you would put on normal clothes. They’ll seal automatically!”

    That sounded very advanced. Jack wasn’t an astronaut, but he knew that suiting up was a complicated process. But the suit he was holding did look pretty simple.

    Carter looked impressed, too, as she studied her suit. “Do they use magic?”

    “What? No. I didn’t want them to have to rely on magic.”

    “You made them?” Carter asked.

    “Yes! I used the pattern stored in Darla but adapted it to my own technology!” Entrapta beamed at them. “Do you like them?”

    “They’re very advanced,” Carter told her. “I wish we had such suits at NASA.”

    “I can get you the pattern,” Entrapta said. “It’s really easy to construct.”

    Jack had his doubts, but he was sure the scientists at Stargate Command could construct such suits. Good work, Carter, he silently praised her.

    The ship suddenly shook a little - they must have landed.

    “Oh, you’ve missed the landing! I’m sorry - I got carried away a little,” Entrapta said.

    “No worry,” Jack told her with a smile. “Once you’ve seen one landing, you’ve seen them all,” he lied.

    “Well, they’re actually very different - but now, let’s get you suited up!”

    Suiting up was actually as easy as the princess had claimed.

    “We do need such suits,” Carter exclaimed. “If they can handle the environment on the moon’s surface...”

    “Why wouldn’t they?” Entrapta replied. “That’s what they are made for - that and space!”

    “They work,” Catra told them - her suit had a tail and cat ears on the helmet, Jack noted. They took their customisation seriously here. “We’ve tested them on various planets.”

    That was reassuring. Jack wasn’t an expert, but he knew that constructing suits that could handle Earth’s moon had been a challenge. He closed up his own suit and moved around a little. The suit barely hindered his movements.

    “Are you ready? Oh!” Glimmer entered, followed by the others. Not Adora, though, Jack noted. Was she staying back?

    “I got carried away with explaining things,” Entratpa said. “Sorry!”

    “No worry,” Bow told her. “We’ve got time.”

    They grabbed their own suits - which were quite distinctly customised, down to different boots and patterns. Entrapta’s suit had openings for her hair in her helmet - god only knew how that was sealed. Probably magic. Even though she’d said that she didn’t use magic in the suits, the hair was supposedly magical. And Bow’s suit had a… not a boob window, an abs window? Jack stared.

    “Excuse me… Is there a reason for this?” Daniel asked. “Is showing your stomach of cultural significance?”

    “What?” Bow blinked and put his helmet down again. “No. I just like it.”

    Catra snorted. “You should have seen his suit for the Princess Prom.”

    “And Catra’s!” Entrapta added. Catra smirked in return. Was that related to being Adora’s consort, as the clone leader had called her?

    A question for another time - now they were about to explore a moon base. On a magical moon. Jack wasn’t looking forward to writing a report about this.

    *****​

    Adora had second thoughts about keeping her transformation a secret from their guests. Sure, not revealing to them right away that She-Ra wasn’t her normal form was just being cautious. Until they knew if they could trust the Tau’ri, it was better not to let them know that they could attack Adora instead of She-Ra if they planned an ambush. But their guests didn’t seem to be evil people. They hadn’t shown any sign of planning to betray or attack them. O’Neill was snarky and grumpy, but in a kind of nice way. And he reminded her of Catra, in some way. Carter was fascinated by technology like Entrapta. And Daniel… Well, he gave the impression of an older Bow. Earnest, well-meaning and a little naive. She couldn’t imagine him planning to betray her. Nor Teal’c, though she couldn’t say much about the tall Jaffa - he didn’t say much, after all.

    And, she added in her mind as she approached the airlock at the back of Darla, if keeping her secret was still necessary, as Glimmer had argued, then what about the fact that She-Ra could survive in the emptiness of space without a suit? Hiding your capabilities from potential enemies was smart, wasn’t it? Unless you wanted to scare them into leaving you alone, but judging by their guests’ reactions, not a lot scared them if they were ready to fight the Goa’uld.

    She sighed, and Melog turned their head towards her, growling a question.

    “Just thinking,” she told them. She wasn’t as good as Catra at understanding their friend, but she could guess some meanings.

    “How do you seal the hair?”

    That was Carter’s voice.

    “The helmet has adjustable seals,” Entrapta replied.

    “But how do they work? The pressure difference would be so significant...”

    “It’s a sort of semi-permeable force shield,” Entrapta replied. “Only keyed to hair.”

    “Keyed to hair?”

    “Yes? It’s for my hair, after all.”

    They turned the corner and found the others already inside the airlock.

    “You’re not coming with us?” O’Neill asked.

    “Yes, I am,” Adora told him, stepping inside the lock as well.

    “But where’s your… Let me guess, magic?” O’Neill shook his head with a snort.

    “Magic,” Catra told him as she moved to Adora’s side. “Same for Melog.”

    “Well, Melog being a half-energy life form means they can survive in the vacuum of space even without magic,” Entrapta explained as the door closed. Adora’s using magic to form a sort of magic space suit around her body.

    As the air started to be sucked out of the lock, Adora took a deep breath - she knew she didn’t have to, but she couldn’t help it. Then she started to glow as her magic reacted.

    “That’s going to be hard for a stealth mission,” O’Neill commented.

    “She-Ra and stealth don’t mix well,” Catra said with a snort.

    Adora pouted at her lover. She could be sneaky! She had proven that in the war. A few times, at least.

    But before she could remind Catra of that - and of the fact that they had foiled a lot of her plans - the outer door opened, and they were facing the moon’s surface.

    “Whee!” Entrapta was the first out of the door, jumping off the ramp as it extended and throwing up a small cloud of dust as she landed on both feet.

    “Don’t get your hair all dusty!” Glimmer told her. “I’m not going to clean out the shower again!”

    “You clean the shower?” Daniel asked.

    “Not this time!” Glimmer replied. “Not when it’s all her fault.”

    “Well, that’s going to shock the Queen of England,” O’Neill commented. “Royalty, cleaning up after herself…”

    “Actually, Queen Elizabeth served in the British Army - the Women’s Auxiliary Territory Service - as a mechanic during World War II,” Daniel said. “She did menial tasks as far as we know.”

    “Don’t destroy my hard-earned American preconceptions, Daniel,” O’Neill replied.

    “Jack! Those would be prejudices!”

    “Really?”

    “Yes, as I pointed out…” Daniel trailed off to glare at his friend, and Adora heard O’Neill laugh as they walked down the ramp. She smiled as well - that sounded familiar to them.

    “So, Queen Elizabeth is one of your princesses?” Glimmer asked.

    “And she’s a mechanic?” Entrapta added, looking up from her recorder.

    “She’s the Queen of England, a nation allied with ours,” Daniel replied. “But I do not think she has worked as a mechanic since she took the throne. And since she was crowned as queen, she isn’t a princess any more - at least not by our definition.”

    That sounded weird to Adora. Glimmer was a queen as well, but still a princess.

    “Well, your definition is weird,” Catra echoed Adora’s thoughts. “Though without magic, your princesses probably don’t have any powers.”

    “Exactly,” Daniel replied. “It’s a title, nothing more.”

    Adora looked around while Daniel explained about nobility on Earth. She couldn’t see any threat around them, but it never hurt to be cautious.

    Catra snorted next to her. “Nothing on the surface. The fun starts once we enter the base.”

    Right. Entering a First Ones base was always dangerous; Adora’s ancestors hadn’t been very careful with their weapons and other tools. They probably hadn’t cared about a world they were sacrificing anyway, she thought.

    She shook her head. This wasn’t the time to dwell on that. Unless this base was related to the Heart of Etheria. The Moons of Enchantment did influence magic, after all.

    “OK! The base is this way! Darla’s seismic sensors indicate that there’s a hollow space close to the surface right in this crater!” Entrapta announced.

    “Let’s go!” O’Neill said. “Before something goes wrong with the magic and you try to breathe vacuum.”

    “Sir!”

    “Jack!”

    “It’s perfectly safe,” Entrapta said.

    Adora nodded. She-Ra had faced worse than the vacuum of space. Much worse.

    “Yes, yes. Just let’s go!”

    “OK!” And Entrapta was off.

    *****​
     
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 7: The Moon Base
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 7: The Moon Base

    The First Moon of Enchantment, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “The entrance should be here. Somewhere here, at least,” Entrapta said as she turned in place, pointing her multipurpose tool around. Something else that Samantha Carter would love to get her hands on to copy it. The device served as a computer and communication device with integrated holographic projection capability, but Sam was primarily interested in its capacity as a scanner. The tool was smaller than a walkie-talkie yet must be covering multiple frequencies. And - presumably - without magic.

    So Sam was pretty confident she could duplicate it, given enough resources and time to study it. Of course, standing on the surface of one of the planet’s bigger moons, she couldn’t exactly spare the time for that. But maybe later…

    “But my scanner isn’t showing any entrance,” Entrapta went on.

    “Probably buried under all the dust,” Catra remarked. “It’s been a thousand years since the base was last used.”

    “That shouldn’t have been long enough to actually bury any entrance. Not without wind to move the dust. Perhaps a meteor struck nearby, or tectonic activity…” Entrapta speculated.

    “Or this is a dead-end, and the entrance is somewhere else,” Glimmer said.

    “Can you map out the base?” Bow asked.

    “It’s more difficult than I anticipated. The material used to construct the base is blocking most of my scans, and the results of those that aren’t completely blocked are… not delivering as much data as they should.”

    “That would suit a base using the technology left by the Ancients,” Sam pointed out. It was petty, but she was almost glad that the others were not able to easily scan the base. The Ancients had been incredibly advanced, much more than any other race that Stargate Command had encountered so far. If the people of Etheria - Etherians? She had to ask Daniel if they used that name for themselves - were able to match the technology of the species that had built the Stargates, then that would likely make them the most advanced species known to either Earth or the Goa’uld.

    Entrapta pouted, and her hair waved around for a moment. “But I didn’t have such troubles with First Ones technology so far.”

    “If we don’t see an obvious entrance, we can dig a tunnel and just break through a wall,” Adora suggested.

    “You mean, you can dig a tunnel,” Catra added.

    “I already buried the Stargate!”

    “Perfect! That means you’ve got experience!”

    The Colonel chuckled at that, and Sam had to hide a smile - the exchange could’ve come straight from the Airforce Academy; it was the kind of comment the instructors were fond of. Another sign that their hosts had had formal training as soldiers. Though Daniel would likely caution against drawing parallels to Earth based on such flimsy evidence. In any case, they were here to explore a base, not to study cultural differences. She cleared her throat. “Can you scan for the most likely area that might have been buried following a meteor strike or tectonic activity? Without an atmosphere, any traces such an event has left should be still easily detectable.”

    “Oh, good idea!” Entrapta raised her tool and started looking at it - or through it. “I was focusing on artificial structures, but… There! The crater there has some fresh - relatively fresh - traces of a landslide. Or dust slide, I’d say.” Her hair formed a cartoonish-looking hand and pointed to a ridge a few miles away.

    “Well, then let’s see if we can find an entrance buried there,” the Colonel said. “You have your magical shovel ready to be conjured, right?”

    “Yes,” Adora replied.

    “Handy.”

    It was. If Earth had that technology - or magic - then that would allow them to carry many more tools of all kinds with them. Or much larger tents.

    They started walking. Once more, Sam felt a little envious - the spacesuits were far more comfortable and much lighter than those she had worn when she had been working for NASA. It was still noticeably heavier than her uniform, but the lower gravity more than made up for it, and she could move almost as well as without it. If her fellow astronauts could see her now, walking on an alien moon… Well, Entrapta had said she’d give them the pattern.

    Of course, Adora didn’t have to wear a spacesuit at all, but she seemed to be a special case even for their hosts.

    “So, why don’t you have a spacesuit?” Daniel asked. “Would it hinder your magic, or do you just like wearing your usual clothes?”

    “Ah… You could say that,” Adora replied. “Like, ah, Bow, I prefer this.”

    Sam exchanged a glance with the Colonel. That was a bad lie, in her impression. Of course, it was so bad, it could be an attempt to deceive them - but Adora hadn’t struck her as that devious or adept at lying.

    Unlike, say, Catra.

    “Ah.” Daniel nodded. “I see. So…”

    “Oh, there it is!” Entrapta exclaimed, interrupting Daniel’s next question. “The entrance is buried here, about…” She cocked her head to the side as she moved her tool sideways. “...five yards down!”

    “Great. Get digging, Adora!” Catra said, sitting down on a rock nearby.

    Adora huffed but did produce her magic shovel. Her first load of moon dust did manage to barely miss Catra.

    “Hey!”

    “Sorry!”

    “No, you’re not!”

    Well, they were in good spirits, Sam thought. And with Adora digging, they would reach the base entrance in no time.

    *****​

    Catra felt a little bad at having Adora do all the digging. Just a little, though - Adora was the strongest of their group. By far. Even if Catra helped, it wouldn’t do much compared to She-Ra using that oversized magic shovel of hers. Cartloads of dust and moon-ground - she’d have to ask Entrapta what it was called - pretty much flew out of the growing hole in no time. And it wasn’t as if anyone else had volunteered to help, anyway.

    She studied the others - SG-1 - as Adora unearthed what would hopefully be the entrance to the First Ones base. Carter was huddled with Entrapta over the princess’s scanner. Teal’c and O’Neill were standing guard - O’Neill was trying to fake being bored, juggling a single moon rock, but Catra caught his eyes scanning their surroundings. And Daniel… was talking to Bow about Etheria’s history. Catra cocked her head and listened to their talk.

    “...so, you have a detailed documented history of the last thousand years, but barely anything before that?”

    “Yes,” Bow said. “There just aren’t many records or artefacts left from the time before the First Ones.”

    “That is weird.” Daniel made a humming noise. “Few civilisations went from no records to detailed histories. It’s generally a much more gradual process.”

    “Well, some scholars think that the First Ones introduced writing to Etheria. But my Dads disagree - that would have meant that all of Etheria would be using a script derived from their script. And that’s not the case. In fact, few can read First Ones script or understand their language,” Bow explained. “So, we think the proto-civilisations before their arrival had developed their own script already.”

    “But why wouldn’t there be any records left, then?” Daniel asked. “Did the First Ones destroy them?”

    That was an interesting question. Catra certainly wouldn’t have put it past the First Ones to wipe out another civilisation - they had planned to sacrifice Etheria to defeat Horde Prime, after all. But why would they wipe out writing? That didn’t gain them anything. It would be a waste of effort. Unless they wanted to hide something…

    “They might have attempted to colonise the planet,” Bow said. “And they might have wanted to, ah, spread their own culture over Etheria. Their influence is certainly visible in almost every kingdom, although after a thousand years, the divergences have become so pronounced, in many cases, it’s hard to spot whether something is based on the First Ones or was originally developed by natives.”

    “Well, such policies certainly have historical precedents on Earth,” Daniel admitted. “But to be able to shape an entire planet to that level…”

    “They were far more advanced, both with regards to technology and magic, than the native cultures,” Bow said. “And they probably had significant numbers as well.”

    “So… what happened to them? Why did they vanish?” Daniel asked. “Do the records cover that?”

    “No. We only know that most of them ‘left’. But after the revelations of the last war, the consensus amongst scholars is that the First Ones were called back to their home planet to fight Horde Prime - or evacuated in anticipation of the destruction of Etheria.” Bow shrugged. “The remainders were probably absorbed by the emerging kingdoms.”

    Catra nodded. That made sense. Though she didn’t think it mattered much. It had been a thousand years ago, after all. A metallic noise interrupted her thoughts.

    “I’m through!” Adora yelled.

    “Yay!” Entrapta was at the edge of the hole in no time. “Is it an entrance?”

    “Wait a moment!” more dust flew out of the hole. “There’s a button labelled ‘open’.”

    “It is an entrance!” Entrapta jumped down the hole, and Catra heard Adora make a surprised sound. “Hey!”

    She peered over the edge. Yes, Adora had caught Entrapta. “We should install a ladder before we all get stuck down there,” she said.

    “I’ll get one,” Glimmer said - and disappeared in a shower of sparkles. So, her magic worked this close to Etheria. Good to know.

    “Now that’s handy,” O’Neill commented. “If she ever gets tired of being Queen, she has a great future as a delivery service.”

    Catra snorted at the joke - Glimmer as a courier? - and even Bow smiled.

    Then Glimmer returned with a rope ladder, and a minute later, Bow had set it up.

    “Don’t come down yet!” Adora said. “I’m opening the door first! Entrapta, head back up. Just in case we have a monster hiding here.”

    “It’s quite unlikely that a monster would have survived so long,” Entrapta replied. “Unless there’s a closed biohabitat here, which I think should have shown up on my scans. Although automated defence bots could be active. Or perhaps cryostasis pods, though they would likely need some time to thaw any specimen stored inside.”

    “Come up, then,” Catra told her.

    Entrapta quickly pulled herself up with her hair. “Clear!”

    “Alright. Opening it now…” Adora announced. Catra heard her mumble ‘If this doesn’t work, it’ll be embarrassing,” under her breath as she reached out to touch the button.

    For a moment, nothing happened. Then the door slid open, revealing a dark corridor leading downwards.

    Catra jumped down the hole, landing in a crouch next to Adora. “Good work.”

    “Careful!” Adora said as the rest climbed down. “We don’t know what’s in here.”

    “That’s why we’re here!” Entrapta announced. “To explore!”

    “Yes, well… let me go first,” Adora said. She entered before anyone could object.

    And nothing happened - other than the hallway getting lit up by glowing crystals.

    Catra followed her love. It was a short hallway - no, it was a large airlock.

    “Let’s all go in so we can open the door without venting the air from the base!” Entrapta said. “That would be bad.”

    Catra suppressed a sarcastic comment. To her slight surprise, so did O’Neill.

    As soon as everyone was inside, the door behind them closed, and air started to fill the room with a hissing sound.

    Then the other door opened, revealing a figure standing in the entrance. Catra gasped, then saw that it wasn’t a figure - it was a hologram. Like Light Hope.

    “Greetings, visitors,” the projection said in that creepy voice of theirs. “Please identify yourself.”

    “I am Adora - She-Ra,” Adora spoke up.

    “Catra,” Catra snapped.

    “Queen Glimmer of Bright Moon.”

    “Bow.”

    “Entrapta! Hi!”

    “Colonel O’Neill.”

    “Captain Carter.”

    “Daniel Jackson.”

    “Teal’c.”

    “Greetings, Adora, Colonel O’Neill. Research Station Alpha is at your disposal. Please keep your test subjects from entering restricted areas.”

    Catra blinked. Test subjects? And why was the bot talking to Adora and O’Neill?

    *****​

    Research Station Alpha, The First Moon of Enchantment, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    What? Jack O’Neill stared at the computer hologram or whatever it was. Why was it singling out him and Adora? Hell, why was it treating him as if he were a seven-foot-tall amazon with magic powers?

    “Test subjects?” Adora asked.

    “The other life forms present have been identified as test subjects.”

    “I’m not a test subject!” Catra spat.

    “Sir,” Carter whispered next to him. “Why is it treating you as a... First One?”

    “I don’t know, Carter!” he hissed back. He was a human, not some… alien. He couldn’t glow and step into vacuum as if it was a spring day in Colorado.

    “What is the purpose of this station?” Daniel asked, taking a step forward. “What is it that you research here?”

    “That information is restricted,” the computer - as far as Jack knew - replied.

    “What do you research here?” Adora asked. “And who are you?”

    “Research Station Alpha is the main research station for the experiments in genetic engineering conducted on Etheria. I am the primary computer system of the station, designation: Alpha.”

    “She sounds like Light Hope,” Catra muttered. “Creepy.”

    “It must be a common pattern for First Ones computer interfaces,” Entrapta said.

    “They conducted genetic engineering experiments on Etheria?” Bow asked.

    “What are those? And where did they do it?” Glimmer shook her head.

    “Genetic engineering is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genes,” Entrapta explained. “Say, when you cross two plants so you can get an edible flower. Plumeria’s famous plum roses are said to be the result of early genetic engineering by their princesses.”

    “Ah.”

    “They talked about us being test subjects,” Catra said. “They weren’t experimenting with plants - they were experimenting with us!”

    “They probably were experimenting with plants as well,” Etrapta pointed out. “Although, yes, I think you are… Oh.” She blinked with her mouth open.

    “Yeah,” Catra said. “It looks like they used Etheria for more than just magic superweapon construction.”

    Magic superweapons? Jack really didn’t like the sound of that. Though he didn’t like aliens experimenting with humans even less. In truth, he loathed it.

    “Sir! If the Ancients - or the First Ones - experimented with human genetics, then that would explain the hybrid life forms we saw in Bright Moon,” Carter said. “If they were advanced enough to combine human and animal genes, that would entirely be possible!”

    Jack suppressed a wince. Carter was a genius, but sometimes, she forgot about the social niceties.

    “You think the First Ones… made us?” Glimmer glanced at Catra, then at SG-1. And she didn’t sound amused.

    “It’s a hypothesis,” Daniel replied with his diplomatic expression. “We don’t know if it’s true.”

    “But it fits what we know,” Entrapta said, cocking her head. “And we can ask the system here. Well, Adora and Colonel O’Neill can ask her!”

    Everyone was looking at Jack and Adora, he realised. Expecting them to ask? Or to spare them the knowledge? Well, Entrapta was beaming at them, so she would want to know.

    And Jack wanted to know why he was treated as an alien. But how to ask without possibly telling the computer that it made a mistake? If it was a mistake in the first place…

    “Alpha, show us an overview of the experiments performed on Etheria by people on this station,” Adora said.

    “It would be best to show that information in the main control room,” the computer replied.

    “Show us the way. Also, everyone here is authorised to enter the control room.”

    “Acknowledged.”

    Glowing arrows appeared on the ground and in the ceiling, showing them the way. Not that there were many junctions, anyway - after two minutes, they entered a big, round room where half the walls were covered with screens and the centre taken up by a huge hologram.

    “Genetic engineering research started soon after the discovery of Etheria since the planet’s uncommonly high magic level facilitated research with advanced organisms, greatly reducing the rate of unviable results. Splicing various organisms with lesser First Ones stock resulted in various hybrid lines, many of which proved to be stable enough to reproduce without further manipulation necessary,” the computer droned on while the scenes and the main hologram showed various humanoid species. Jack saw a Minotaur, lizard people, bug people - and cat people, amongst others.

    “They made us. They made our people,” Glimmer mumbled. Bow put a hand on her shoulder.

    Jack clenched his teeth. This must be a shock for them. They would have origin myths, and to find out they were the result of experiments…

    “Fascinating!” Entrapta beamed. “This answers so many questions! No wonder we can interbreed if we were engineered to be compatible and from a common ancestor!”

    Apparently, not everyone was shocked.

    “Entrapta!” Glimmer snapped.

    “What? Did you never wonder why different species can have fertile offspring?”

    “I thought that was done by magic,” Bow said.

    “Well, yes, usually, but it should be much harder than it is,” Entrapta replied. “This explains so much!”

    It probably did. But there were a few questions left. Crucial questions. Jack cleared his throat. “Alpha. What is my genetic status?” There, safe wording.

    “Scans show your genes are free from mutations. There should be no problems with reproduction, should you so desire.”

    “I meant my ancestry,” Jack clarified, clenching his teeth.

    “We lack the data to identify your exact ancestry, but you are a descendant from a First Ones colonial family.”

    What? That couldn’t be true. He was a human. Not an alien. He was born on Earth. Not on an alien colony.

    Jack shook his head, Then he noticed that everyone was looking at him, even Adora.

    “You’re a First One? Like me?” Adora asked.

    *****​

    Adora… didn’t know what to feel. She had finally found someone of her, not quite family, but people. She wasn’t the only one left after Horde Prime had destroyed the First Ones. And yet...

    “I’m not a First One, Ancient, or whatever!” O’Neill retorted with a glare. “I get checked out by our Napoleonic doctor and her big needles every week - I’m human.”

    “Jack…” Daniel trailed off when O’Neill glared at him.

    “Sir!” Carter stood straight. “Nothing indicates that the First Ones weren’t human.” She nodded at Adora.

    “Do you see me walking around in space without a spacesuit, Carter?”

    “That’s my magic,” Adora blurted out. “That’s not normal for me, either.” She couldn’t walk in space without being She-Ra, after all. And she had a spacesuit for when she was Adora.

    “I can’t do magic, either,” O’Neill snapped.

    “You have an aptitude for magic, Colonel O’Neill,” Alpha spoke up. “Like every First One. Although the power displayed by Adora indicates the first successful bonding with a Runestone for a First One. Did our experiments with the local test subjects finally bear fruit?”

    “What?” What did Alpha mean? Adora looked around. The others seemed as confused as she was.

    “Mom…” Glimmer mumbled. “What do you know about Mom?”

    “Queen Angella?” Adora turned back to Alpha.

    “No person or test subject of that name is in my data banks.”

    “She wasn’t a test subject! She was the Queen of Bright Moon for centuries!” Glimmer yelled.

    “Bonded to the Moonstone,” Entrapta added. “If that helps.”

    “An extended lifetime?” Alpha tilted her head. “There were a few experiments to prolong the life of the test subjects. Although none of them was merged with those who were to bond with a Runestone.”

    A number of people appeared as holograms. Adora stared. A mermaid, a huge figure that looked like Scorpia, just with more armour, a lizardwoman, and…

    “Mom!”

    Yes, there was Angella. “Who’s she?” Adora asked, pointing at the figure.

    “Test Subject A-Gamma. Most successful bond to a Runestone to date. Hybrid with DNA material from an avian species from another magic-heavy planet.”

    “Mom!” Glimmer shook her head. “No!”

    Bow put his hand on her arm, but she shrugged him off. “Mom wasn’t a test subject! She was the Queen!”

    “She probably became Queen after Mara sealed Etheria in Despondos,” Entrapta speculated. “And it looks like all the royal lines were based on experiments. I wonder what my ancestors looked like! Oh, we can find out about our families!”

    Their families! That was right - Adora could finally find out where she was from. Where her family lived. And might still live. “Alpha! Where am I from?”

    “You’re from a colonial line as well.”

    “Which planet?” Where was her family?

    “I would need more data for such an analysis.”

    So, no luck here either. Adora still didn’t know where she was from - and if her family still lived.

    “What, you don’t know where the planet of the seven-oot-tall amazons is located?” O’Neill snapped.

    “There is no such planet in my databanks. And her family line is not exclusive to any one planet in the Empire.”

    “And mine?” O’Neill glared at Alpha.

    “Your line wasn’t exclusive to any one planet, either.”

    “Great. Useless robot.” O’Neill scoffed.

    “Enough!” Glimmer shook her head. “This… this… This is huge. We need to get a grip on this.”

    Adora nodded.

    “The origin of our species!” Entrapta beamed. “This is the biggest discovery on Etheria since magic!”

    “Entrapta!” Glimmer shook her head. “People will be shocked that we are descendants of ‘test subjects’ of the First Ones.”

    “And of the First Ones themselves,” Bow pointed out.

    Right, Adora’s people had experimented with themselves - ‘lesser stock’, Alpha had called it. Adora pressed her lips together. That sounded… Well, what did she expect from people who were willing to destroy Etheria to win a war? They probably saw the entire planet as some experiment.

    She stifled a gasp. What if they were right?

    Catra’s loud scoff interrupted her thoughts. “So we’re descendants of some people used for experiments? So what? That doesn’t change anything about us. It’s ancient history!”

    “‘So what’?” Glimmer turned to frown at her. “The First Ones made Mom!”

    “So?” Catra met Glimmer’s eyes. “What’s the big deal?”

    “The big deal is that we were made as an experiment!” Glimmer all but yelled at Adora’s lover.

    “We aren’t an experiment any more. We haven’t been one for a thousand years!” Catra retorted. “We’re free!” She grinned, flashing her fangs. “And I bet we were never just an experiment. She-Ra was around before the First Ones arrived, remember?”

    That was right! The First Ones hadn’t created She-Ra! That meant… “Alpha. Was there a native population before the First Ones arrived?”

    “Yes. Distantly related to the First Ones. A small population.” More figures appeared on the display. They looked like Adora, walking through a village.

    “Daniel? Can you identify their culture?” O’Neill asked.

    “It’s hard to say. The garments would fit a number of cultures in the Mediterranean. Possibly Minoans or Mycenaeans - the style could’ve developed from either culture.” Daniel pushes his glasses up with one finger. “Although we’d need a linguist to examine their language for more clues. Or genetic samples.”

    “I’d prefer not to muck around with genes right now,” O’Neill said.

    Adora nodded - she wasn’t too keen on more such revelations herself.

    *****​

    The revelations about the origin of their species had shocked their hosts. Almost as much, it seemed, as the revelation that he was descended from the ‘First Ones’ had shocked the Colonel. Samantha Carter could tell. The Colonel was better at hiding his reaction than their hosts, who were openly discussing the ramifications of their descent from ‘test subjects’ of an alien race, but Sam knew him too well to be fooled by his attitude.

    And SG-1 couldn’t afford their leader having a breakdown. Not in the middle of this mission.

    So she took a few steps towards him, ending up at his side, and whispered: “All of the data we have gathered so far points at the First Ones being human. Probably people taken from Earth to another planet and developing their own culture.”

    He turned to look at her with narrowed eyes. He wasn’t fooled, either, she realised. But she stood her ground, raising her chin.

    He snorted. “You heard the computer. The First Ones considered humans ‘lesser stock’,” he said in a low voice.

    “That doesn’t mean that they were genetically different enough to be considered an alien species,” she pointed out. “Sir.” Lots of humans considered other humans to be their lessers.

    “It’s enough to make the computer single me out. And apparently, I can do magic.” He shook his head. “Magic!”

    “That might merely be a talent that many humans have, which hasn’t expressed itself so far since Earth lacks magic.” If the talent was genetic - and royal families inheriting the same talent supported this hypothesis - then it was likely that humans from Earth had such talents - provided that Earth once had had magic.

    “My alien heritage,” the Colonel replied in a flat voice.

    “Sir, according to what we know, those people must have arrived on Earth so long ago, the majority of humanity could be related to them,” Sam said. Though that didn’t mean all of them had the same genes that apparently qualified them as First Ones. She and Daniel didn’t, after all.

    “So, why didn’t you or Daniel register?” the Colonel asked. Of course, he wouldn’t have missed that.

    “The human genome has a large variance. And yet we are all humans,” she said, staring at him.

    He snorted again but slowly nodded. “Maybe you’re right. But I’ll still tell the doc that she missed an alien in SG-1 once we’re back on Earth.” He flashed her a grin.

    She smiled in return. It wasn’t a particularly good joke, but if the Colonel was joking about it, things were improving. They would get through this.

    “So!” he spoke up, raising his voice, “how does this magic work? Do I wave my hand and think electric thoughts, and lightning strikes whatever I point at?”

    The others turned to look at him, interrupting their talk about how best to tell the rest of their alliance about this discovery. “It doesn’t work like that,” Glimmer told him. “You need training. Lots of training. My dad and my aunt studied magic for years before they could cast spells.”

    “Unless you have a magical talent like a princess. That’s different from spellcasting and generally expresses itself as a single magical ability,” Entrapta added. “You’ll have to train to use it most effectively, but figuring out how to use it should be easy. At least it was for me.”

    “Yes,” Glimmer said with a nod. “If you are a princess, you’ll figure out things easily enough.”

    “Great. I might be a pretty princess.” The Colonel shook his head.

    “A prince, in your case,” Glimmer told him.

    “We’re just calling them princesses because the majority are female,” Catra said.

    “Great. That makes it all better.” The Colonel snorted again.

    “Men are included in the female term,” Daniel said. “Is this only the case for princesses or a general rule? Or do you pick the term according to what gender is the majority in any particular group?”

    The others looked confused.

    “On Earth, we generally use the male term for a mixed group, no matter whether or not the majority are female,” Sam explained.

    “Ah.” Glimmer nodded. “It varies, but we generally go with the majority.”

    “That should make a few feminists back home happy,” the Colonel said.

    Sam didn’t comment.

    “Well, a society with predominantly female leaders will be of quite the interest for a lot of people back home,” Daniel said earnestly. “Many models and theories can be validated.”

    And a lot of people would have some issues with female leaders; Sam knew that better than most.

    “Feminists?” Adora asked.

    Sam saw the Colonel wince when he realised that Daniel wasn’t the only one who could make a gaffe. “Feminists are people on Earth, mostly women, who work to remove gender-based inequalities,” she explained. “Some of them have more extreme goals.” Not nearly as many as some of the chauvinists Sam had encountered during her career claimed, though.

    “Wait…” Bow frowned. “Do you mean you treat people differently based on their gender? I mean, why else would you have people trying to change that?”

    “What?”

    “Really?”

    Sam suppressed a sigh. “Women and men are considered equals in most countries, but there are lingering prejudices and biases, which affect their actual treatment.” Boy, were there lingering biases. Especially in the Armed Forces.

    “We’re working on it,” Daniel chimed in, “but it’s, ah, a work in progress.”

    “That makes no sense,” Glimmer protested. “You don’t even have magic!”

    Right. Since princesses were predominantly female, they would assume magic might make them biased towards women.

    “Without magic, society was dominated by men for a long stretch of our history,” Daniel replied. “But things have changed. And are still changing. For the better.”

    Their hosts didn’t look like they were happy with the explanation. Sam couldn’t really blame them - she wasn’t happy with it, either. Yes, things were changing for the better, but they had a long way to go.

    *****​

    This Earth didn’t sound like a nice place, Catra thought. She knew about prejudice from the top from her time as a Horde cadet. Knew it all too well. She wasn’t going to let anyone look down on her for being a woman. There were enough reasons to look down on her, anyway.

    She gritted her teeth and pushed the thought away. She was changing for the better. Like Earth? She snorted at her own foolishness. This wasn’t the time to dwell on that. Not when Adora looked like she was blaming herself for the First Ones crimes. Again.

    Catra stepped closer to her lover. Close enough so no one could hear her whisper: “It’s not your fault. Not at all. You’re not responsible for your ancestors.”

    “But…” Adora started to object.

    Catra reached up and placed her finger on Adora’s lips. “No buts. This happened a thousand years ago. Long before you were born.”

    “We don’t know that,” Adora retorted, holding her hand so Catra couldn’t shut her up. “The portal that brought me to Etheria might have reached back in time.”

    Catra rolled her eyes. Entrapta’s idle speculation really wasn’t helping sometimes. “Even then, you were a baby. Innocent.” And then Shadow Weaver had gotten her claws into her. Into them all. The woman had a lot to answer for, but what she had done to Adora was the worst of her crimes.

    “Yes, but… I can’t help feeling responsible for this.” Adora said, a little more loudly.

    “For what?” Catra shook her head. “What’s the big deal?”

    “But…”

    “We - the Etherians - are the result of genetic experiments by the First Ones,” Glimmer cut in. “That’s a big deal.” Catra opened her mouth to tell her it wasn’t, but she lifted a finger and went on: “And yes, it’s been a thousand years, and we aren’t defined by our origins anyway, but… it still matters. People care about their families. Their origins.”

    Catra clenched her jaws. She knew that Adora cared a lot about the fact that she didn’t know her real family - that she was taken from them by a portal thanks to Light Hope.

    “My Dads will be… I don’t actually know how they’ll react,” Bow said. “They’ve studied the First Ones for so long, and now to find out about those experiments?”

    “They didn’t experiment on your ancestors,” Catra told him. He didn’t look like the people they had seen in the hologram, after all.

    “We don’t know that. And if we were not experimented on, we still were involved,” Bow replied.

    “As a control group, probably. You can’t run such experiments properly without a control group.” Entrapta nodded.

    Well, at least she didn’t have any issues with this revelation.

    “We need to decide how we tell the others about this,” Glimmer said, shaking her head. “And I thought telling them about a new war would be bad.”

    “Why would it be bad?” Entrapta asked. “I still don’t get it.”

    “People might not like being descendants of, ah, ‘test subjects’,” O’Neill said.

    Catra snorted. What did it matter? Besides, what did he know? He had trouble with the fact that he wasn’t the descendant of test subjects,but of a First One! “They’ll get over it,” she said. “Most of them, at least.”

    “It’s not that,” Glimmer said, biting her lower lip. “But this revelation could shake the kingdoms. If our magic powers as princesses are just the result of experimentation, what does that mean for us?”

    Oh. That. Catra suppressed another snort. “So? You still have the magic powers.”

    “Power alone isn’t… enough,” Glimmer retorted.

    “You worry about your legitimacy,” Daniel spoke up, nodding.

    “No more divine right,” O’Neill muttered under his breath in such a low tone, Catra was sure she was the only one of her friends to overhear him. “What a pity.”

    “Sir!” Carter hissed.

    He was right, though. This would shake up some kingdoms. At least the weaker ones. And those ruled by stupid princesses. Probably.

    “But… Etheria had magic before the First Ones arrived. She-Ra predates them, for one,” Entrapta pointed out. “It would only be logical that other people had magic powers as well.”

    “Great. So we usurped the first princesses?” Glimmer shook her head again.

    “Well…” Bow shifted a little. “That was quite common in the Age of War. At least amongst the kingdoms without a Runestone. It took time to establish a dynasty, according to my Dads.”

    Catra rolled her eyes. “So, you have to admit that your ancestors took power thanks to their magic? So what? You’re not responsible for them.” And it was kind of funny that for all the Alliance opposing and condemning the Horde, their kingdoms had been founded in a similar way.

    “Mom was already alive at the time,” Glimmer pointed out. “And she never told me anything...”

    Oh. That expression… Catra was familiar with that feeling as well. “She probably had a reason for that. Or she forgot.”

    “Mom never forgot anything! She could recite everything I did wrong,” Glimmer shot back.

    “Parent of the year,” O’Neill mumbled.

    “But things a thousand years ago? Things she might have wanted to forget?” Daniel asked.

    Glimmer hesitated. “I have to ask Dad about this. And we need to tell the others of the Alliance.”

    “But we need to find out more about this, first!” Entrapta chimed in. “We need more data - what kind of experiments, which test subjects, what happened to them… We need to know the truth before we can tell it!” She turned to Adora and O’Neill. “And we need you for that!”

    Neither Adora nor O’Neill looked happy at that.

    *****​

    “So… now we have a baseline to analyse. Too bad we couldn’t get the raw data, but the records in the main databanks should suffice for now,” Entrapta said. “Why would anyone not share their research data with other scientists?”

    The princess sounded as if she genuinely didn’t understand, Jack O’Neill thought.

    “You didn’t exactly share your research with us when you were in the Horde, did you?” Glimmer asked her.

    “You didn’t ask for it to be shared,” Entrapta replied. “And it was supposed to be a secret. But this is basic research, and this is a research station, and we have two First Ones here. Why would they keep their data from others in the same project?”

    Jack’s eyes widened. Wait - she had been in the Horde? Entrapta was amongst the most open and easy-going princesses they had met so far, and she was a former Hode scientist?

    “You were in the Horde?” Daniel asked.

    “With Hordak, yes,” Entrapta replied. “Well, I was in the Alliance, first, but then I was accidentally left behind during a mission and thought they had abandoned me, and Catra was offering me a laboratory and all those First Ones technology to study, so I joined them. That’s how I met Hordak!” She beamed at them. “And then, later, I left the Horde - well, I was kinda banished to Beast Island, where I met Micah and the others, so…” She shrugged. “It all worked out and now we’re all friends!”

    Jack blinked. Catra had offered her a lab? In the Horde? That meant she had been in the Horde as well - and apparently in a rather high position. He glanced at the others. Carter was surprised as well. And Teal’c… wasn’t showing any emotion.

    “Ah.” Daniel, though, didn’t seem to be fazed at all. “So, you switched allegiances several times during the war. Was that common?”

    “Kinda,” Entrapta said. “At the end, it was everyone against Horde Prime. Scorpia, too.”

    “Yes,” Glimmer said. “And we beat him.”

    Catra was silent, Jack noticed. And Adora was holding her shoulders. Things were more complicated than he had thought.

    “I, too, left the services of a false god once I had the opportunity,” Teal’c spoke up. He nodded at their hosts. “I understand.”

    Catra snorted in response, but it sounded more… well, she didn’t really smile. Entrapta, however, beamed again. “Yes! Maybe we can get some Goa’uld to change sides as well!”

    “Ah…” Jack grimaced. Trying to turn the snakes? He’d rather juggle hand grenades.

    “There are Goa’uld who oppose the system lords. The Tok’Ra,” Daniel said. “We met one of them, but he died before we could contact them.”

    Jack glanced at Carter. She was standing still, ramrod straight, lips pressed together. No doubt remembering her recent possession by Jolinar. He suppressed the urge to put his hand on her shoulder and glared at Daniel; that wasn’t how you talked about things like that.

    “Oh? So they can change!” Entrapta nodded. And her friends smiled.

    Great. Now they had the completely wrong impression. “We have met one individual who claimed to be a Goa’uld rebel,” Jack corrected them. “We don’t really know if he was telling the truth.”

    “Oh. But the possibility remains,” Adora said, nodding firmly. “If one can turn against them, others can do so as well.”

    “In theory,” Jack said.

    “I trusted Jolinar,” Carter said in a clipped, tight voice. “But he didn’t tell me how to contact the others - we don’t really know anything about them. They have to operate in strict secrecy, which makes it very hard to reach them.”

    “Oh. Well, once we’re starting offensive operations, they’ll probably make contact with us,” Adora said.

    “Even if only so they aren’t mistaken for our enemies,” Catra added. She, too, was still tense.

    “Anyway, we have data to analyse. With these records, we can track the lineage of many princesses,” Entrapta said. “And we might discover more of our past! I wonder what kind of creature had prehensile hair.” She tugged at her own hair. “Perhaps it’s a creature from another planet? Wouldn’t that be neat?”

    Judging by their expressions, the others didn’t really share Entrapta’s opinion. Jack couldn’t blame them. He wasn’t happy about being part alien himself. He was an officer in the Air Force. A human. Not some… alien. Part-alien. And what would the brass think about him? Hell, some would want him removed from SG-1 for security’s sake.

    And he couldn’t blame them - he’d probably ask for the same if someone else were revealed to be part alien. Especially if they arrived with other, related aliens as potential allies. Aliens with very firm views of what was acceptable amongst allies and what was not. On the other hand, if they had taken in former Horde personnel as it seemed...

    Things had become really complicated. But that didn’t change the fact they had to find a way home. “So!” He clapped his hands. “Now that we’ve got the genetic data for you to analyse, how about we look for a DHD to get us home to Earth?” He noted that most others looked slightly guilty at being reminded of their original reason for entering this station in the first place.

    “Right!” Entrapta said. “The concentrations of Naquadah!” She held her multitool or whatever it was up and pushed a few buttons. “It’s this way!”

    “Alpha, can you show us a map of the station?” O’Neill asked.

    “Yes, Colonel O’Neill.” A moment later, a 3D map of the place appeared floating above the holoprojector.

    “Oh! Neat!” Entrapta cocked her head and peered at it, then at her recorder. “The concentrations are all here!” She pointed at a large room in the eastern part of the station.

    The largest room in the station, actually. Jack had a feeling what they would find there.

    Five minutes later, he found out he was right. The room was a hangar. And none of the concentrations of Naquadah was a Stargate. They were transport planes. Or shuttles, actually, since it was certain they could travel through space. Unfortunately, they were also all in various states of disrepair.

    Not that that would deter Carter and Entrapta. Quite the contrary - both were all over the things the moment they had laid eyes on them.

    “We’ll never get them away from this place in time for dinner,” he commented.

    They’d be here for a while. Well, at least they wouldn’t get shot at. And they might find out a little more about Etheria’s past - both ancient and recent. Though Jack would have to keep an eye on Daniel - his friend was a little too enthusiastic about new cultures. They really didn’t need any more slips and leaks. Their reputation amongst the Etherians was probably already not the best.

    Then again, as they had just found out, the Etherians had some skeletons in the closet as well. Though whether that was a good or bad thing remained to be seen.

    *****​
     
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 8: The Meetings
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 8: The Meetings

    Research base Alpha, First Moon of Enchantment, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Adora sighed. The ships - or shuttles, as Entrapta called them - looked a little like Darla. Just a little. Same grey colour, all angled as well - but where Darla had two pods on her sides, this shuttle had none. And it was much smaller, of course; its bridge had only room for five people or so, and Adora would probably hit her head if she wasn’t careful as She-Ra.

    And they were all broken. At least they looked broken to Adora. One was basically just a frame, two more had their hind parts - their aft sections - dismantled, one looked like it had been shot at by a tank platoon, and the last one, the one Entrapta and Carter were checking out, looked as if it had been patched together; the colour of some parts was off a little.

    “We’ll never get Entrapta out of here,” Catra mumbled next to her.

    “Yeah,” O’Neill agreed. Well, he had just said the same.

    “To be fair,” Daniel added, “more spaceships is a good thing, right?”

    “Those are shuttles,” O’Neill told him. “No hyperdrive.”

    “Oh.”

    “Do they have weapons?” Catra asked.

    “Looks like they have smaller versions of Darla’s guns,” Bow told them as he passed them on his way to Entrapta and Carter, carrying a piece of crystal from one of the other shuttles with Glimmer. “Hidden in the bow section.”

    “Pointless then,” Catra said. “Those won’t be able to scratch a frigate’s hull.”

    “Really?” Daniel sounded surprised.

    “Those are a thousand years old. At least a thousand years old,” Catra explained.

    “You could upgrade them,” Daniel said. “You did upgrade Darla, didn’t you?”

    “Yes,” Catra said. “But that was mostly Entrapta’s project.”

    And Hordak’s, Adora knew.

    “Well, it seems this might be her new project,” O’Neill said.

    Catra scoffed. “Waste of time. We don’t need shuttles. We’ve got frigates for space and orbital bombardment, and we have flyers on the ground. And tanks.”

    “I wouldn’t dismiss a fast transport as useless,” O’Neill objected. “There are situations where you might need one.”

    To Adora’s surprise, Catra nodded. “Right. But most of them we can probably handle with Darla.”

    “Darla can’t be in two locations at once, though.”

    Adora frowned. O’Neill was right again, but… that would mean letting others risk their lives in the sort of commando operation that was perfect for her and her friends. At least she couldn’t imagine any other use for shuttles that a frigate with their transporters could do as well. Of course, she could handle a war by herself, but… She-Ra was Etheria’s protector. If anyone had to go on such missions, it was her. On the other hand, if they had such shuttles, she could go on a mission without dragging Darla and her friends with her. “Good point,” she said with a faint smile. Which she lost immediately when she saw that Catra was frowning at her. “What?”

    “You’re thinking stupid thoughts.”

    “I’m not!” Adora protested.

    “Yes, you are.” Catra took a step closer and stood in front of her, staring at her eyes. “You’re thinking of taking such a shuttle for a stupid mission, aren’t you?”

    Adora blinked. How did Catra know? And how could she deny that without making it obvious that she had been thinking that?

    “I know you.” Catra shook her head, then stood on the tip of her toes and grabbed Adora’s face. “And I won’t let you risk your life without me. Never again. You hear me?” She tilted her head to the side, just a little bit.

    Adora opened her mouth to protest, and Catra pushed up, kissing her before she could say anything.

    Oh. Adora closed her eyes and hugged her lover.

    When they broke the kiss and Adora let Catra down on the floor again - she had taken her up sometime during the kiss - both of them were smiling. “But I’m She-Ra,” Adora said. “I’m supposed to protect everyone.”

    “And I’m supposed to protect you from yourself, dummy.” Catra smiled, but kept staring into Adora’s eyes. She was just so… so...

    O’Neill cleared his throat.

    Adora jerked, but Catra just turned her head and looked at the man. “What?”

    “Nothing.”

    “So,” Daniel spoke up. “You were called She-Ra’s consort. Is that a formal position?”

    Catra snorted. “No, that’s just Third Fleet being stupid.”

    Adora nodded. “But we’re planning to marry soon.” Once things stopped coming up that they had to deal with. Such as unexpected visitors from a faraway planet with six billion people.

    “We could’ve married already if you stopped listening to Glimmer,” Catra pointed out with a smirk.

    Adora pouted. She wanted to get married, but she was She-Ra, Princess of Power. Glimmer had told her several times that marrying without a big ceremony and dinner would be a snub to every princess and prince who wasn’t invited.

    “Listening to Glimmer?” Daniel asked.

    “She wants a big wedding for us,” Catra said. “It’s political. Probably gonna be as big as the Princess Prom.”

    “Ah! A state affair.” Daniel nodded. “Are there many different wedding customs on Etheria?”

    Adora smiled - she had researched that ever since Catra had accepted her proposal. “Oh, yes! Every kingdom has a different way to officiate a marriage. For example, in Bright Moon, it’s an official act - you need a representative of the Queen.” Or the Queen herself, in their case. “In Plumeria, you just marry and inform others afterwards. It’s a very private ceremony. And in Salineas, you have to have a ship’s captain marry you. On the ship. And in the Kingdom of Snow, you construct a temple out of ice, before you...”

    *****​

    “This is fascinating. It’s using a miniature version of Darla’s original engines! Like a tiny Darla!”

    Samantha Carter resisted the urge to shake her head. Entrapta was very enthusiastic about their discovery. Sam could understand the feeling, of course, but Entrapta was… well, in a class of her own.

    “Why is that fascinating? Both are First Ones designs,” Glimmer asked. The queen was leaning against the wall in the shuttle’s engine room, watching them work. Or watching Bow, as far as Sam could tell.

    “Because you usually construct different engines for different ships,” Bow explained. “Just scaling down an engine generally isn’t optimal.”

    “Yes!” Entrapta, held up by her hair, turned. “You lose effectiveness if you simply scale engines up and down. And sometimes, you have an explosion because the material needs a certain thickness to withstand the temperatures an engine generates. So, we can conclude that the First Ones either were bad engineers - and we know they weren’t - or they had other reasons to do this. It can’t be logistics; the parts are not interchangeable, after all. So, why did they do this?”

    “Perhaps they didn’t want to spend the money for a new design,” Sam speculated. She had been stymied by short-sighted cuts to her budget before, although not often any more since she joined Stargate Command.

    “Oh.” Entrapta frowned, then nodded. “Right. But that would mean that they didn’t value science very much.”

    “What?” Bow asked.

    “In the Horde, we didn’t have to worry about money for science,” she explained. “If I wanted something, I just asked Hordak, and I got it. Unless it was First Ones tech; those were sometimes scarce.”

    Oh. Sam had wondered what had made Entrapta join the Horde. An effectively unlimited research budget might have been the reason - it would tempt anyone for a moment at least. And Entrapta did seem to be a little… off when it came to morals. At least that was Sam’s impression.

    “Ah. Well, it’s not the same in the Alliance,” Bow said. “We’ve got a tight budget.”

    “I know! Hordak complains about it all the time,” Entrapta said.

    “Well, he’s not the Horde leader any more. He doesn’t get to rob everyone else for his projects,” Glimmer said.

    “Technically, those were spoils of war,” Entrapta replied. “Or Horde production. I think. We didn’t really need much of what the Alliance produced, and First Ones tech was finder’s keeper.” She perked up. “Though if the First Fleet agrees to supply us, we’ll have a much higher budget again!”

    “The First Fleet?” Glimmer looked concerned. “Supplying you?”

    “Yes! They’ve got their full supply train, but they don’t have many frigates left to be supplied. So, Hordak asked if they would mind sending supplies to us. It would really speed up our research if we had better access to Horde Prime’s technology. But they are still debating.” Entrapta frowned. “They really need a leader to speed up decisions.”

    “I think it’s fine if they debate and make their own decisions,” Bow said.

    Sam agreed with that. She didn’t know what exactly happened on Etheria, but a former conqueror gaining more followers? Followers with a space fleet? Who were used to blindly obey their leader?

    Judging by Glimmer’s expression, she wasn’t in favour of this either. “And when were you planning to tell us about this?” the queen asked.

    Entrapta looked puzzled. “Should I have?”

    “Yes.”

    “Oh.” Entrapta shrugged. “It’s just for science. You know we’re doing research now that we don’t have to worry about the war anymore. Although I guess that might have changed now, with the Goa’uld. Do you think we should focus on weapon technology again? I’ve got a few ideas, and Hordak has had a number of projects that he never had the parts to pursue until now.”

    “Ah…” Bow looked at Glimmer.

    “I think we should discuss that with the Alliance,” Glimmer said.

    “Right.” Entrapta nodded. “Back to tiny engines! I think I could upgrade them like I upgraded Darla’s. That would make them faster.”

    “We’ll need a lot of spare parts, though,” Sam pointed out. The First Ones had been cannibalising four shuttles to repair the fifth - their supply situation must have been terrible for that to happen.

    “Yes. But we can make do with Horde parts. I’m sure that Third Fleet would part with some of theirs if Adora asks them.”

    “That might be a good idea,” Glimmer said. Bow looked confused for a moment, then nodded as well. Sam agreed as well - depriving those apparent fanatics of supplies was likely a good thing.

    “Good! We might even be able to install a hyperspace engine on a shuttle if we sacrifice some space and manage to miniaturise them. Not a modern one, but Darla’s old one wouldn’t be too hard to shrink. We could make a tiny starship!”

    “I think we should focus on our discovery here, first,” Bow said. “And then on getting our new friends home.”

    “Right.” Entrapta nodded, apparently unfazed. “That means finishing Darla’s upgrades. And plot a course to Earth.”

    “Or to a planet with a Stargate,” Sam reminded the princess.

    “Yes. But we don’t know where those planets are. Perhaps we’ll meet some on the way. Although that might also delay us.” Entrapta pouted. “We’ll have to decide if we should just go full-speed to Earth or look for another Stargate.”

    And before SG-1’s gate validation codes expired. They could contact Stargate Command through the gate using their radios, but the longer they took to open a gate, the more suspicious Stargate Command would be that they had been compromised.

    *****​

    Planning Room, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “I hope you have a good reason to call for an emergency meeting of the Alliance,” Mermista complained as she entered the planning room. “I had to sacrifice my first day off after a week filled with budget meetings with the Admiralty.”

    Catra suppressed a snort. For a ruling princess, Mermista was complaining a lot. Perhaps she should learn to delegate. And to scare her underlings into not annoying her. No one had bothered Catra when she had been in command. Well, Scorpia had, but that was different.

    “I’m sure they had a good reason, my love!” Sea Hawk told the princess. “And we got to enjoy a trip together on the Dragon’s Daughter VIII!”

    “That’s another reason they better have a good explanation,” Mermista replied - but she was smiling as she said it. So, she wasn’t really mad. Or not too mad - the princess was always grumpy. And she carried grudges. Conquer her kingdom and take her runestone one time… Catra clenched her teeth. That hadn’t been her finest hour. Even if it had been a finely planned and executed offensive.

    “And good evening to you, Mermista, Sea Hawk.” Glimmer was smiling, but her tone was full of sarcasm.

    “Hello!” Adora said with an honest smile. Catra nodded, as did Bow.

    “Yeah, yeah, good evening. What’s this about?” Mermista took her usual seat.

    “Hello, everyone!”

    “Hi!”

    Perfuma and Scorpia had arrived. Catra nodded at them.

    “Wildcat!” Scorpia made a beeline towards her.

    Catra grimaced. “Wait…”

    But the other woman picked her up and swung her around. “Haven’t seen you in a while! You never visit!”

    Yes, because she wasn’t keen on revisiting the Fright Zone. Too many bad memories. Catra pushed against Scorpia’s shoulders, but the princess’s grip was too strong. Without actually fighting, she couldn’t escape.

    Fortunately, the woman started hugging everyone else before she broke Catra’s ribs. “She-Ra! Bow!”

    “Ack!”

    “Good evening.” Netossa and Spinnerella just took their seats. They looked serious - well, they were the most experienced members of the Alliance; they would expect an actual emergency.

    And there was Frosta, glaring at Catra as expected. Catra smiled at the kid. Sure, she had wrecked Princess Prom, but that had mostly hurt the little princess’s ego. It wasn’t as if she had conquered her realm or something. She didn’t need to feel too bad about that - most princesses could do with some humble pie.

    As everyone sat down, Catra leaned against the wall behind Adora, ignoring her lover’s frown. She wasn’t a princess. She was just with Adora. Sea Hawk and Bow might sit down with the princesses and King Micah, but Catra was fine standing.

    “Where’s Entrapta?” Netossa asked.

    Glimmer sighed. “She’s coming. We made a recent discovery that has her… fascinated. A discovery that has repercussions for everyone on Etheria. Actually, two discoveries.”

    Catra noticed that Netossa relaxed a little upon hearing that. Had she expected that Entrapta would be the reason for the emergency meeting?

    “I’m not going to like either, am I?” Mermista asked.

    “Probably not,” Glimmer admitted. “Alright. First, remember the First Ones ruins we discovered in the Whispering Woods?”

    “Yes!” Perfuma nodded. “You told me about them since it bordered my kingdom. You went and explored them?”

    “Don’t tell me you found another superweapon!” Mermista blurted out.

    “Not quite. We found a Stargate,” Glimmer told her. “A gate that connects to other gates on other planets.”

    “What?”

    “Like the portal Hordak was building?” Scorpia asked.

    “No.” Glimmer looked at Bow.

    “It’s part of a network spanning the galaxy,” he explained. “Built millions of years ago. You can connect from one gate to any other gate in the network if you know the gate address, and then you can travel to the other planet in an instant.”

    “Millions of years ago?” Frosta asked.

    “Yes.”

    “And I guess while Etheria was in Despondos, it wasn’t working,” Netossa said. “But now whoever is on the other side of such a gate has realised we’re back?”

    Well, she had always been the sharpest amongst the princesses. Catra nodded.

    “Yes,” Glimmer said. “And there is a war being fought out there.”

    Mermista groaned. “Another war?”

    “How do you know that?” Frosta asked.

    “We met a group of soldiers who were travelling through the gate,” Adora told her. “They arrived here by accident.”

    “And they told you about the war?” Mermista scoffed.

    “Melog confirmed part of their story,” Catra said. “They’ve been fighting the Goa’uld.”

    Mermista scoffed again. Catra narrowed her eyes. Melog hadn’t done anything to her.

    “Anyway,” Glimmer spoke up again. “The Goa’uld are an Empire of body-snatching snakes. Small parasites that burrow into your body and take control of it. They have enslaved lots of people and rule many planets.”

    “An empire of body-snatchers?” Mermista stared at them.

    “Do you have proof for that?” Netossa asked. She had wrapped an arm around her wife.

    Right. Spinerella would remember being controlled by Horde Prime. Catra pressed her lips together and pushed her own memories away. It was in the past. Horde Prime was dead.

    “Melog confirmed that,” Adora replied. “And, well… we saw one of the snakes. Well, a larva of a snake.”

    “We’ve secured the gate, so no travel is possible, so we aren’t in immediate danger,” Glimmer explained. “But the Goa’uld also have ships. And they want to conquer the galaxy.”

    “Like Horde Prime,” Bow added.

    “And like Horde Prime, they destroy planets that resist them,” Adora said. “We can’t let that happen! We have to fight them!”

    Catra agreed. The Goa’uld would find Etheria sooner or later if Melog was right, and Catra would prefer to fight them on their own turf.

    “We just finished a war that lasted for years!” Mermista protested. “It almost destroyed Etheria!”

    “Technically, by defeating Horde Prime, Adora finished a war that had lasted a thousand years,” Bow said, then cringed when everyone stared at him.

    “That’s not the point. The point is that…”

    The door opening interrupted Mermista, and Entrapta entered. “Hi, everyone! Sorry for being late! I was showing Hordak the tech we recovered, and we kinda lost track of the time!”

    Hordak? Catra tensed.

    Behind Entrapta, Hordak entered the room, nodding at the princesses.

    “What is he doing here?” Mermista blurted out.

    “Providing advice, of course,” Entrapta replied as she took her own seat, her hair pulling out a chair for Hordak. “So, where were we?”

    *****​

    Guest Quarters, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “So, team!” Jack O’Neill clapped his hands as he stepped into the centre of their room. “What did we learn today?” Carter hadn’t found any listening devices, and they really needed to discuss things.

    “That Etheria was once a test site for genetic experiments?” Daniel asked, looking up from his notes.

    “That magic likely has a genetic component that can be manipulated by genetic engineering?” Carter added.

    “That our hosts are more like us than we thought.” Teal’c nodded.

    Right. Joining the good guys after working for the bad guys would resonate with Teal’c. Jack shook his head. “Close but no cigar!”

    “Then what did you learn?” Daniel asked, a little peeved.

    We learned that our hosts have a big fleet of spaceships but limited production capabilities,” Jack said. “And a limited pool of personnel.”

    “Yes?” Daniel looked irritated.

    “It means that Earth has something to offer,” Jack explained. “We might not have magic, we might not have shiny spaceships, but we have people and industry.” They wouldn’t have to be the sidekick in an alliance.

    “We don’t know about the supply capabilities of the former Horde fleets, Sir,” Carter pointed out.

    “Yep, we don’t,” Jack admitted. “But we also know that the princesses don’t really trust them. And we know that they don’t know everything Horde Prime knew.”

    “Entrapta mentioned bots - robots,” Daniel said. “If they can mass-produce them…”

    Jack waved his hand. “Yes, yes. But robots aren’t people; they can’t adapt or innovate.” At least he had never met some who did. “And we have six billion people on Earth.”

    “That number really shocked them,” Daniel said. “They have had contact with other planets but were still surprised.”

    “So, we have something to offer beyond our knowledge of the Stargates.” And that was important.

    “And the Ancient technology,” Carter said. “First Ones technology is advanced but not as advanced as Ancient technology.”

    That was a temporary advantage at most, though. Once you shared technology, it was lost. Entrapta would quickly catch up, in Jack’s opinion. But it was something to offer as well. “So, that’s the good news. Earth isn’t as far behind as we thought - except for magic. We don’t have flying, talking unicorns.” Who probably pissed rainbows.

    “Or a floating magical city,” Daniel added.

    “Town. Or village,” Carter corrected him. “It sounded like a university with an adjacent settlement.”

    Either way, the important part was the ‘floating’. People back home wouldn’t believe this. “So, now the bad news we learned today,” Jack went on.

    “Bad news?” Daniel asked. “Oh. The cultural differences between Etheria and Earth are more significant than we assumed.”

    “Yes.” Jack nodded. “And that’s saying something since Etheria is ruled by magic princesses.”

    “I do not think the differences are too significant,” Teal’c said. “Both Earth and Etheria are determined to fight the Goa’uld. Both have shown honour and welcomed former enemies into their ranks. I do not see any significant problems for forming an alliance.”

    Jack suppressed a grimace. “Well, that’s true. But there are a few things that kinda complicate matters. Like politics.”

    “Like the leading figures of Etheria being young women,” Carter added.

    Jack glanced at her. That was actually the least of their problems, in his opinion. The US had dealt with Thatcher just fine. Granted, the Iron lady hadn’t been young by any means, but he didn’t think the gender of She-Ra or Glimmer would be an issue once the state department got talking to them.

    “They were appalled by the concept of sexism, yes,” Daniel said. “But that’s not the only thing.” He pushed his glasses up his nose. “She-Ra and Catra are a couple. And no one acted as if this was unusual - the clones called Catra her consort. And Bow mentioned having ‘Dads’. Same-sex relationships might not carry any stigma here.”

    Jack nodded. Unlike back home.

    “I doubt that our hosts would take kindly to our practice of releasing known homosexuals from service,” Daniel went on.

    “Yes. That’ll be a tricky thing,” Jack said.

    “To say the least,” Carter said.

    “Why would it be a problem?” Teal’c asked. “A warrior’s gender or taste in mates does not affect their effectiveness in battle.”

    “Yeah…” Jack sighed. “That’s not exactly how some of the people back home think.” Certain conservative politicians would be frothing at the mouth when they heard about the ‘customs’ on Etheria.

    “Then they are fools and should be ignored,” Teal’c stated.

    “If only it were so easy,” Jack commented. He didn’t have anything against gays, as long as no one expected him to be gay or something. Though the idea that someone might be ogling him in the locker rooms… Well, he could handle it. Still…

    “And there’s the reaction to magic,” Daniel went on.

    Right. Another hot topic. The fire and brimstone types would go ballistic. “At least there won’t be any witch hunts,” Jack joked.

    “Actually,” Daniel said, “witch hunts are still a concern in some countries. And some states have the death penalty for magic. I think the Saudi Arabians executed someone for sorcery a few years ago, though I am not sure.”

    Great. That was a worse problem than Jack had thought. It was the gulf war all over again - just this time, he wasn’t sure if he was part of the prickly natives with archaic laws and customs or the modern allies.

    *****​

    Planning Room, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Another war, where we have to rely on your clones to fight! Clones that tried once already to conquer us.” Mermista leaned back and crossed her arms. “Ugh.”

    “Well, it will mean the clones will have something to do, other than guard Etheria,” Bow pointed out.

    Adora nodded. She knew that Mermista wasn’t happy about having a fleet in orbit that could level her kingdom.

    “Fine!” Mermista shook her head. “It’s better to fight those Goa’uld far away from here, I guess.”

    Adora half-expected Sea Hawk to yell about an adventure amongst the stars or something, but he instead leaned closer to Mermista and whispered something into her ear that made her half-smile.

    “The Kingdom of Snows cannot and will not provide many soldiers for this, though,” Frosta announced. “Our soldiers aren’t trained for this kind of war.”

    “That goes for all of us,” Mermista said. “My soldiers are used to fighting on the sea, not in space.”

    “Not quite,” Hordak spoke up. “The training the former Horde soldiers in the Fright Zone received should allow them to easily adapt to this conflict.”

    That was because he had formed them after Horde Prime’s Horde, Adora knew. Deliver a planet and an army to his god.

    “But they aren’t soldiers any more,” Perfuma objected. “You can’t just assume that they’ll go off to fight another war!”

    “We can ask them, though,” Entrapta said. “That doesn’t hurt.”

    “Why would they want to go fight a war?” Perfuma shook her head.

    Scorpia grimaced. “Well, some of the former Horde soldiers aren’t too happy,” she said, rubbing the back of her head. “They don’t like working the fields or building homes.”

    Perfuma stared at her with her mouth half-open. “What?”

    “I’ve heard some complaints,” Scorpia said. “Nothing serious, but…” She sighed. “I think a number of them will probably join the war.”

    “The older ones,” Catra said, nodding. “They’re used to it.”

    And the ones who liked fighting, Adora mentally added. And those who liked hurting others.

    “You should’ve told me!” Perfuma said.

    “I, uh, was about to. But I didn’t find the right moment.”

    “I thought everything was going well! We made such progress with the fields and orchards! And the villages! And they aren’t happy?” Perfuma shook her head.

    “Most are happy. Very happy!” Scorpia said. “It’s just a few who grumble. And soldiers always grumble.”

    “They aren’t supposed to be soldiers any more!”

    Glimmer cleared her throat. “Anyway, we can recruit volunteers for our forces. But we’ll rely on the fleets, clones and bots for the bulk of our fighting. And probably Earth forces, once we reach them and can form an alliance.”

    “Sounds good,” Netosssa said, nodding. “But who amongst us will go fight the war? It’s easy for us two” - she gestured at Spinnerella and herself - “since we don’t have kingdoms to rule, but what about you?”

    “I’ll go!” Entrapta said. “Dryl pretty much rules itself, anyway. And the trip to Earth will be fascinating! So much new technology!” She beamed at Hordak. “You’ll love it!”

    He nodded at her. “I am looking forward to the challenge.”

    Adora winced at that. “And speaking of Earth… We need to decide who gets to travel there and negotiate an alliance.”

    “Glimmer has to go,” Netossa said. “She is the commander of our Alliance and Queen of Bright Moon. And you have to go as well - She-Ra is the symbol of Etheria.”

    Both true.

    “She-Ra also is the protector of Etheria,” Mermista objected. “We can’t send her away if we’re at war.”

    “But She-Ra has the authority to speak for the rest of Etheria, not just the Alliance,” Bow pointed out.

    “But can I speak for them? I can’t really drag them into a war,” Adora said.

    “We’re already in a war according to what you found out,” Netossa retorted. “And you have a following. Not just amongst the clones.”

    That didn’t mean she could or should rule them. But she could and should represent their interest. Adora slowly nodded.

    Behind her, Catra sighed. But she would come with her, Adora knew. Just as Bow would not let Glimmer travel alone.

    “So, the Best Friends squad for diplomacy,” Bow said.

    “And us!” Entrapta said. “I need to study their technology! And Hordak is my science buddy!”

    Adora could see the others exchange glances.

    “Bet they’re wondering if they feel safer with Hordak and Entrapta staying here or going far away,” Catra whispered into her ear.

    It wasn’t really funny, but Adora snorted anyway.

    “Fine,” Mermista said. “So, Netossa will be in command of the forces here?”

    “With Wrong Hordak, I suppose,” Netossa agreed.

    “Yes. We’ll take Third Fleet with us,” Glimmer said.

    That made everyone perk up, Adora noticed.

    “Good. Anything else?”

    Glimmer sighed. “Yes. We visited the First Moon of Enchantment, looking for a First Ones base. And we discovered something that might have unsettling consequences.”

    “Ugh.” Mermista groaned again. “Another enemy? Another superweapon threatening to destroy the planet?”

    “No.” Glimmer sighed. “It’s about the origin of us - our families.”

    She had everyone’s attention now.

    “We found out that the base was a research base. And their research was done on Etheria…”

    *****​

    Guest Quarters, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and while witch hunts were often aimed at outsiders, or used as a tool to hurt rivals or enemies, many people sincerely believed that witches were real,” Daniel explained. “Tales of magic are found in almost every culture’s myths on Earth. And if our hosts are correct, then magic - powers that could achieve the deeds mentioned in the legends and myths - was once real on Earth, and not too long ago - only a few millennia, at most. We thought those tales were, if not completely fabricated, related to advanced technology used by the Goa’uld or other aliens, but this might not be the case.”

    Samantha Carter, sitting on the bed next to him, nodded. “They could be related to the sort of magic powers the Etherians use.” Powers that had a genetic component, if the information they had gained today was correct.

    “Yeah,” the Colonel said, “and that’s the problem. Most people don’t have issues with technology.”

    “Actually,” Daniel spoke up, “there’s a not insignificant number of people who do have issues with technology, and it’s not just minorities like the Amish. Many people feel that technology advances too quickly, leaving them unable to keep up, and...”

    “Yes, yes,” the Colonel interrupted him. “Computer bad, parchment good. Television bad, books good. But those people aren’t going to demand that engineers are burnt at the stake. They won’t be a problem when we arrive on Earth with magical princesses in tow.” He paced in front of them.

    When, not if. The Colonel didn’t voice any doubt that they would return to Earth. Of course, that didn’t mean that he actually was that certain. Sam suspected he had concerns. But as their leader, he couldn’t show them. Even though everyone here knew that nothing was certain when travelling through Stargates. As their accidental arrival on Etheria proved.

    “But magic - actual, honest to God, ‘turn you into a newt’ magic? That’s going to ruffle more than a few feathers.” He shook his head. “If the Etherians ever watch a televangelist, we will be fortunate if they only leave and don’t decide to level his home from orbit.”

    Daniel laughed at that, but Sam didn’t. It might not be hyperbole. “They are our best chance to win this war,” she said. “We cannot afford to insult or attack them.”

    “Indeed,” Teal’c added from where he was leaning against the wall. “It would be foolish to let superstition alienate such allies.”

    “That never stopped a televangelist,” the Colonel said. He sighed. “And it’s not even the worst thing.”

    Daniel looked puzzled. “What do you mean, Jack?”

    “The Etherians have indicated that they do not intend to keep their presence and existence secret,” Sam explained. “And if Earth is to mobilise for war, we have to reveal the Stargates.” And everything that entailed.

    “Yep.” The Colonel nodded. “And while many will love the fact that the Egyptian gods were aliens out to enslave us, how many will now wonder if their own gods were the same?”

    “A crisis of faith,” Daniel said. “The Biblical wonders certainly would be easily duplicated with Goa’uld technology. Now that we know actual magic exists…”

    “And we know there’s a magical princess who can turn a giant spaceship into a space plant,” the Colonel added. “Who is worshipped as a goddess by a bunch of fanatical clones bred for war.”

    “She-Ra clearly stated that she is no goddess,” Teal’c said.

    “But she displayed powers - at least to our current knowledge - that would be considered divine in many religious scriptures,” Daniel retorted.

    “If all that is revealed at once, the backlash will be terrible,” the Colonel said, standing up and pacing again. “Religious nutcases will be screaming their heads off, people will be calling each other’s god a Goa’uld, half the world will be either starting a witch hunt or trying to recruit witches, there’ll be panic about being bombed from orbit by alien invaders, and people will claim their neighbours are snakes.”

    “And everyone will be blaming the US for it,” Sam added.

    The Colonel pressed his lips together and nodded.

    “Yet the consequences of this revelation that you describe do prove the need to keep it a secret,” Teal’c said.

    “Yep. But no one will care,” the Colonel told him. “They’ll all claim the US should’ve told everyone from the start about the Stargate.”

    Sam pressed her lips together. That would have avoided a lot of the problems that they were now facing. It might have led to a disaster, of course - people were not always acting rationally - but only having to deal with Etherians and magic would be far easier.

    “Come on, team! We need a strategy to handle this before we arrive on Earth!”

    “Jack! We’re not in charge of Earth,” Daniel protested. “We can’t implement any policy.”

    “But we can make suggestions,” the Colonel pointed out. “And we’ll be the best experts on the Etherians. The general will listen to us.”

    But would the president listen to him?

    “Honesty seems the best policy,” Teal’c said. “The longer a secret is being kept, the more dangerous it becomes to reveal it.”

    “Unless you can keep it a secret for so long, everyone involved is dead from old age by the time it gets revealed,” the Colonel said. “But yes - we cannot count on the Ethrians agreeing to keep this a secret. And we cannot mobilise Earth without revealing that we’re in a war with aliens.”

    And they would have to mobilise Earth if they wanted to win this war. And be prepared for the next - Horde Prime had been stopped by the Etherians, but who knew what other conquerors were active in the galaxy?

    They needed a way to handle this. And Sam couldn’t think of one right now.

    *****​

    Planning Room, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “We’re test subjects?” Perfuma blurted out.

    “Descendants of test subjects,” Bow corrected her. “Well, most of the people present.”

    Most of them glanced at Hordak, of course, Catra noticed.

    “Yes!” Entrapta nodded with a smile. “As far as we can tell based on the data we gathered, pretty much every current royal line was the result of First Ones experiments. Originally. There’s bound to be some genetic drift over the centuries, perhaps a few new mutations, and some of the original princesses will have intermarried with the new lines, but we can track every princess in this room to an experiment!”

    As Catra had expected, not everyone shared Entrapta’s enthusiasm about this discovery. She shook her head as Frosta jumped up. “That can’t be true! My family was chosen by magic to rule the kingdom!”

    “That’s probably a myth that was formed - or created - to add legitimacy,” Entrapta told the kid.

    “No!” Frosta glared at Entrapta. “That’s a lie!”

    Catra rolled her eyes. If the princess threw a tantrum...

    “Frosta,” Micah spoke up, “Entrapta isn’t lying - she’s just telling us what they found on the moon. This isn’t her fault.”

    “Data doesn’t lie,” Entrapta said with a frown.

    Frosta stared at Micah with wide eyes. The king smiled at her, and she sat down with a deep scowl, crossing her arms over her chest.

    “I fail to see why you are getting so worked up about this,” Hordak spoke up. “Your power has not been changed in any way because of this. If anyone challenges your rule, you can easily deal with them.”

    Catra winced as half the table glared at Hordak. In a way, Hordak and Entrapta were perfect for each other - both obsessed with science and research. But neither was good at reading a room or understanding others.

    “Not everyone rules by force!” Mermista spat. “We’re not going to fight our own people!”

    Hordak frowned at that. “Why would they attack you? You are the princesses; you are bonded to the Runestones.”

    “It’s not about power,” Glimmer spoke up. “It’s about legitimacy. If we are the descendants of test subjects and only became princesses thanks to the powers we received in the experiments, then some people might contest our right to rule.”

    “But unless they can bond to a Runestone, they’ll fail,” Hordak pointed out.

    “Not everyone is bonded to a Runestone,” Netossa told him. “Most princesses aren’t. Like Spinny and I.”

    “You aren’t ruling a kingdom anyway,” Frosta snapped. “You don’t have to deal with such challenges.”

    Right. The kid had probably advisors telling her what to do. Must have had them for years. No wonder she was so worked up about this.

    “This could shake the entire society of Etheria,” Glimmer said. “Unlike She-Ra, we weren’t chosen by Magic - or Etheria.”

    “I was chosen by a sword manipulated by the First Ones,” Adora pointed out with a weak smile.

    Catra scoffed. “You were chosen by Etheria or magic, whatever it was, when the sword broke and you could still transform into She-Ra.” Adora, of all the princesses, had nothing to worry about her legitimacy.

    “But…”

    “No buts.” Catra shook her head and stepped over to the round table, placing her hands on it. “This changes nothing about what kind of people you are,” she told the others. “Your ancestors don’t define you. Did you follow your father’s example?” she asked Mermista. Without giving the princess time to reply, she nodded at Perfuma. “Do you judge people for their parents’ actions?”

    Perfuma shook her head. “Of course not! But can we keep ruling a kingdom that was founded on or by naked power?

    “Yes?” Hordak looked more confused than ever. “You’ve been doing this for centuries, haven’t you?”

    Literally, in the case of Queen Angella.

    “Well,” Bow spoke up with a sheepish expression. “The ruling lines do go back centuries - to the Age of War - for most kingdoms. One could argue that the sheer time that has passed is legitimacy enough to continue your rule.”

    “And our Ancestors also ended the Age of War,” Glimmer added. “They didn’t just keep fighting wars.”

    “Still…” Perfuma looked torn.

    “Ugh! No one will bother you!” Mermista snapped. “Your people love you!”

    “As do your people, my love,” Sea Hawk was quick to say.

    “My father abandoned the realm in the middle of a war!”

    “As did most of your people,” he reminded her. “Yet you stayed. And triumphed.” He smiled. “No one will challenge you. And if they do, I shall smite them down for their presumption and cowardice!”

    That seemed to mollify the princess. So much for not fighting her own people.

    “Well, I’m mostly ruling the Fright Zone since I’m a former Force Captain and a princess,” Scorpia said. “I don’t think there’ll be trouble - those who disagreed left already - but we’re kinda an exception.”

    And those former Horde soldiers who left could return, Catra knew. That was a potential problem.

    “Say, Glimmer,” Netossa spoke up. “Did Queen Angella ever say anything about this? She was already around back when it happened, wasn’t she?”

    Glimmer shook her head. “She never mentioned that. She rarely spoke of her past at all. I thought she was sad about all the people she had seen die, but…” She shrugged.

    “Angella rarely talked about her past,” Micah said. “But that was because she didn’t remember too much. Yes, she lived for centuries, but she didn’t have a perfect memory.” He smiled at Glimmer. “Your personal impression notwithstanding. She once told me that she had forgotten most about the past centuries and had to rely on notes and archives - just like most of us.”

    “The archives!” Glimmer spoke up. “Her personal notes!”

    Bow and Entrapta perked up at that, Catra noted with a wry smile.

    “Yes. We can search them,” Micah said. “Now, I think we should talk to our guests.”

    “Yes.” Adora nodded. “You need to meet them.” She coughed, “And there are a few things you need to know about them…”

    *****​
     
  13. Lightxdarkwing

    Lightxdarkwing I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Well, this just keeps getting better. I can't wait for Sg1 to meet Hordak.
     
    Starfox5 likes this.
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 9: The Princess Alliance
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 9: The Princess Alliance

    Guest Quarters, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...so Teal’c is opting for full disclosure,” Jack O’Neill summed up his friend’s opinion.

    “Honesty is the honourable option when treating with friends.” Teal’c inclined his head.

    “Yeah. But there’s also need to know, classified, and white lies,” Jack pointed out.

    “Hiding that the majority of Earth has issues with magic and same-sex relationships isn’t a white lie, Jack,” Daniel objected.

    “I didn’t say it was,” Jack retorted. “But we can think of a way to present the truth in a more… manageable fashion.”

    “‘As long as you hide your sexuality, you’re fine’?”

    Jack narrowed his eyes. Daniel’s sarcasm wasn’t very helpful. “I thought more about pointing out the progress we’ve made in that area.”

    “‘In a few decades, gay people will be as accepted as women with regards to equal rights’?” Daniel looked at him over the rims of his glasses.

    Jack glanced at Carter. She was carefully staring at the wall and not showing any expression. Which meant she was trying not to laugh; he knew her. He sighed. “I know it’s not perfect, but we cannot alienate the nice aliens here. And just telling them everything that’s… not perfect on Earth might do it.”

    “Earth might not be perfect, but it has many good sides,” Teal’c said. “I am certain that our new allies will see that.”

    “Right until some religious nutcase calls for burning them at the stake for witchcraft,” Daniel cut in.

    “I’m sure that they have their share of nutcases as well,” Jack said. “They should understand that we’re not all perfect angels. We stress that we’re making progress, that we’ve made a lot of progress…”

    “Cut down on trying to turn them into democracies?” Daniel asked.

    Jack glared at him. “The United States are quite pragmatic when it comes to allies.” No one had tried to change Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or any of the other Gulf States into democracies, after all.

    “We could tell them how we toppled democracies and replaced elected presidents with dictators,” Daniel suggested.

    “Daniel.” Carter shook her head.

    “What’s wrong with you?” Jack asked with a frown. This wasn’t normal.

    Daniel met his stare for a moment, then sighed. “It’s just… I don’t want to lie to them. They are nice people. Good people. They have offered their help freely and as soon as they met us.” He shook his head. “They just… they’re all so idealistic.”

    Jack knew that. And their hosts were all so damned young. Not quite as young as Charlie would be now, but far too young for what they had gone through. And yet… “Yeah, but two of them served in the Evil Horde.”

    “And switched sides,” Daniel retorted.

    As did, apparently, the leader of the first Evil Horde. “I’m just saying that they aren’t perfect, either,” Jack said.

    “Then they should understand that we are not perfect,” Teal’c said.

    Jack sighed. This was above his paygrade. He was an officer, not a politician. But Teal’c was right. Lying wouldn’t help them. “So…”

    A knock at the door interrupted him. “Yes?”

    The door opened, and Catra entered. “Hey.” She nodded at them. “The Alliance wants to talk to you. Unless you’re busy,” she added with a grin.

    Too busy to meet what was probably this planet’s Security Council? Or NATO command? While being their guests and depending on their goodwill to get home? Jack suppressed a snort. “Let’s not make them wait, then.”

    “So, we’re meeting the leaders of the Alliance?” Daniel asked as they left the room.

    “Yeah,” Catra replied. “All the princesses of the Alliance are present.”

    “Oh. Is the Alliance limited to princesses, or does it encompass others as well?”

    Catra shrugged. “The majority are princesses, but there are others.”

    “Can they vote?”

    Catra snorted. “It’s not really a ‘democracy’,” she said. Then she frowned. “Well, I guess they do kinda vote, but it’s… not formal. More like you debate and say what you think, and then there’s a decision. And if you really don’t like it, you can leave the Alliance, I guess.”

    Great. Jack frowned. That sounded like a mess just waiting to happen.

    “That sounds… How did that work in a war?”

    Catra chuckled. “It didn’t work very well. Not until She-Ra showed up.”

    “What did she do?” Daniel asked.

    But they had reached a big door, guarded by two soldiers in armour, and Catra grinned again as she opened the door. “Won the war,” she said as they stepped inside.

    “Welcome, Colonel O’Neill. Captain Carter. Daniel. Teal’c.” Glimmer nodded at them. “Please have a seat.” She gestured to four seats at the round table. Which did look like a conference table that could’ve been found in any bigger organisation on Earth.

    “Thank you,” Jack said. As they walked over to sit down, Glimmer introduced the new faces at the table.

    “Princess Mermista, ruler of Salineas. And Sea Hawk.”

    The woman - in her twenties, a little older than the rest, Jack guessed - nodded at them with a frown.

    “Well met, brave soldiers!” The man stood and raised his fist to his chest. He flashed them a wide smile. For a moment, it looked as if his teeth gleamed. Mermista groaned. “Sit down, Sea Hawk,” she snapped.

    “Of course, my love!”

    Jack blinked for a moment.

    “Different customs,” Daniel whispered.

    “And these are Princess Scorpia, of the Scorpion Kingdom, and Princess Perfuma, of Plumeria.”

    “Hello!”

    “Be welcome!”

    Whoa. That woman looked like she could wrestle Grizzlies and win. Without breaking a sweat. Or just stab them to death with her stinger. And the other looked like a hippie. There were flowers in her hair. Both were sitting closer to each other than the others. Both looked to be in their twenties.

    “Princess Netossa and Spinerella.”

    “Hi there.”

    “Hello.

    Another pair of adults. Neither of them was close to thirty, though, in Jack’s estimation.

    “Princess Frosta of the Kingdom of Snows.”

    Another silent nod. And she was a damn kid. If the girl was fifteen yet, Jack would eat his service cap. And she didn’t have anyone sitting with her. Did they really let teenagers make decisions about war and alliances?

    “And this is Hordak.”

    So, that was the former leader of the Evil Horde. Jack looked him over as he sat down. The alien looked like the clones they had seen before. Although he was wearing full armour. Nasty looking armour, too. Not decorative, like the Goa’uld. And he was sitting close to Entrapta.

    “We have called you to discuss the situation with Earth and the Goa’uld,” Glimmer said. “Our members have a few questions.”

    Great. Jack smiled. “We’ll be happy to answer them,” he lied.

    *****​

    Planning Room, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...so you have six billion people?” Netossa didn’t sound as if she believed it, Adora thought.

    O’Neill, though, nodded with the same polite expression he had worn for the last fifteen minutes. “Yes. Though Earth isn’t united - the population is split amongst about two hundred countries.”

    “Unevenly split,” Daniel added. “The majority of the population is found in a handful of countries.”

    “That should facilitate negotiations.” Netossa nodded.

    “And you represent the most powerful kingdom on Earth?” Mermista leaned forward, her elbows on the table and her hands folded beneath her chin.

    “Arguably, yes,” O’Neill replied. “The United States of America are the most technologically advanced, richest and have the most powerful military.”

    “And you’ve kept the Stargate a secret.” Mermista nodded.

    “We’ve already covered that,” Glimmer said.

    “It’s the crucial point,” Mermista retorted, “How can we trust them to be open and honest with us if they don’t even trust the other kingdoms on their planet? If they don’t even trust their own people with the truth?”

    “We didn’t tell everyone everything either during the war,” Adora told her.

    “But our people knew at least that we were at war.” Mermista didn’t quite sneer, but it came close.

    “Yes,” Frosta spoke up. “And you don’t have princesses. Not as rulers. How can we trust that you’ll keep an agreement if your leader might get replaced at any time?”

    “While our leaders may be replaced after an election, our countries do keep treaties regardless,” O’Neill replied. “If you can’t trust a country to keep a treaty, no one would deal with them.”

    “That’s exactly the problem!” Frosta blurted out.

    O’Neill smiled, but it looked a little forced. “We have a history of treaties being kept.”

    Daniel coughed a few times, earning himself a glare from O’Neill and Carter. That was unfair. “Do you need a cup of herbal tea? Or a glass of water?” Adora asked. “Or are you sick? I can heal you!” she offered.

    “No, no, I’m fine.”

    Catra snorted, shaking her head.

    “The Tau’ri have acted towards me with honour. I trust their word,” Teal’c said.

    “Yeah, but you were working for the Goa’uld,” Mermista replied. “That makes your testimony a little suspect.”

    Catra winced for a moment, and Adora glared at Mermista. That was uncalled for!

    “Why?” Hordak asked. “Your people deserted you once as well. Do you distrust them?”

    “That’s not the same!” Mermista snapped at him.

    “Well…” Entrapta drawled. “It’s actually quite similar. From a logical point of view.”

    “Whatever,” Glimmer spoke up. “We are in agreement that we’ll fight the Goa’uld and that we’ll protect Earth.”

    “Yes!” Perfuma nodded emphatically. “We cannot let so many people be attacked and conquered - or worse!”

    “Yes, but we haven’t agreed on how we protect Earth,” Mermista protested.

    “We can’t fight a war by ignoring potential allies,” Adora said. “And while we have a fleet, we don’t have nearly as many people as Earth has.”

    “If that’s true,” Frosta cut in with a frown. “No planet we know of has so many people. They claim to have over a hundred times more people than Etheria!”

    “Why would they be lying? We would find out the truth as soon as we reach Earth,” Bow pointed out.

    “Exactly,” Adora told him with a smile.

    “I still have reservations. We can’t form an alliance unless we know that we can trust them.” Mermista looked a little mulish.

    “We’ll know that once we talk to their leaders,” Glimmer said. “That’s why we’re sending a delegation.”

    “And because SG-1 can’t agree to an alliance anyway,” Catra added.

    “We won’t make an alliance until we’re sure that we can trust the Tau’ri. You can trust us on that,” Adora said, looking at everyone.

    “Really, why are you being so difficult?” Perfuma asked, looking at Mermista and Frosta. “These people need our help!”

    “Because if they betray us, they’ll outnumber us a hundred to one,” Netossa said. “That’s kind of a worry.”

    “They don’t have a fleet, though,” Scorpia said.

    “So they claim,” Frosta repeated herself.

    “We don’t have a fleet. Believe me, we wish we had one,” O’Neill said. “We don’t like being so vulnerable.”

    “But you have advanced technology,” Hordak pointed out. “If you mobilise your entire population, you should be able to rapidly produce ships and train crews. In fact, since you haven’t done this despite it being obvious, did you check if your leaders have been compromised?”

    Adora blinked - that was a good question. She looked at their guests.

    O’Neill winced. “Revealing that we are at war with aliens was deemed to be too dangerous. The people would riot, panic, countries would distrust us…” He shrugged. “So far, we’ve done well enough by ourselves.”

    “And do you share this view?” Catra asked. “You said you were looking for allies.”

    “In our country, the military is under the command of the civilian leadership,” O’Neill replied, rather stiffly in Adora’s opinion. “It is not my place to question their decisions.

    Catra smirked. “So you do think it’s stupid!”

    O’Neill didn’t answer. But Carter didn’t show any expression, and Daniel hid a grin behind his hand, Catra was probably correct. Adora at least thought so.

    “Great. We’re gonna have to deal with stupid rulers,” Mermista groaned.

    “But at least they can be easily replaced by better leaders?” Perfuma smiled hopefully.

    Judging by the way the entire SG-1 - with the obvious exception of Teal’c - winced at that. Adora was sure that this wasn’t going to work as Perfuma thought it would work.

    At least it seemed Mermista had stopped being difficult.

    *****​

    Samantha Carter pressed her lips together and forced herself to return to a carefully neutral expression. “That is not as easy as you think,” she said. “We have regular elections and set terms for our rulers. They cannot be removed easily.” Not democratically, at least, but she didn’t think that the princess was talking about coups and assassinations.

    “I thought that you could easily replace a bad leader was part of why you have such a system,” Glimmer said.

    “Some democracies can quickly change their leadership if a majority of the members of parliament agree,” Daniel said. “Not in our country, though.”

    “Would be a bloody mess if that worked,” the Colonel added.

    “It works for the United Kingdom,” Daniel retorted. “And for Germany, to name two examples.”

    “But not for your most powerful kingdom - country,” Adora said, shaking her head. “Well, at least some bad rulers might be replaced then. That should help.” She sounded as if she was trying to convince herself, in Sam’s opinion.

    “But forming an alliance is only logical,” Entrapta spoke up. “Why would anyone be against that? Especially with most of your planet defenceless against the Goa’uld?”

    Sam grimaced. As did the Colonel.

    “If they don’t trust us, for example,” Mermista said. “They might think we’re as bad or worse than the Goa’uld. Or that the Goa’uld don’t exist, and it’s a ploy to force them into a treaty.”

    “If the Third Fleet is in orbit above your homeworld, then the lack of orbital bombardment should be proof that they do not intend to conquer you,” the former Horde leader said. “With such an overwhelming advantage, what would be gained by deceit?”

    “Yeah… No. Things aren’t that simple,” the Colonel replied. “Overwhelming force isn’t always the best way to achieve your goals. And I am saying that as an Air Force colonel, mind you.”

    Sam chuckled at the joke, Daniel sighed, but the others either looked confused or didn’t react at all in Teal’c’s case.

    “You make it sound as if half your planet is crazy,” Frosta blurted out. That the Etherians let a child - she was barely fifteen, in Sam’s estimation - sit at the table and treated her as a sovereign ruler equal to the others said a lot about the planet’s culture. They were all so young. Sam could imagine how that would look to most politicians on Earth. Young people, especially young women… She knew how they were seen and treated.

    “Well, we can sometimes give that impression,” the Colonel joked. “But no, it’s just… Very few people actually believe that aliens are real. Or magic. They will have a hard time accepting that we’re at war with snakes and allied with magical princesses.”

    “That shouldn’t be a problem,” Adora said with a firm expression. “We can demonstrate that both are real.”

    “And surely your word will help as well?” Perfuma asked. “Your country’s ruler is aware of the truth, isn’t he?”

    “Yes.”

    “And as the ruler of Earth’s most powerful country, people will listen to him, right?”

    “Some will, yes,” the Colonel replied.

    But they wouldn’t be happy about having been kept in the dark about the Stargate program. Especially the United Kingdom, since the Stargate was found in Egypt at the time when it was under British control.

    “That’s a start.” Perfuma smiled. “We just have to convince the rest, then.”

    Sam suppressed a wince. The princess sounded so earnest - and so naive, for someone who lived through and, presumably, fought in a war for years. Not naive, she corrected herself - ignorant. They didn’t know anything about Earth. They lacked the experience and cultural awareness to understand the problems their arrival on Earth would cause.

    They had to rectify this, or this would end in a disaster. She glanced at the Colonel; he was in command. “Sir!” she spoke up.

    “Yes, Carter?” He cocked his head.

    “I think we should brief our hosts extensively about the political and cultural situation on Earth.”

    “Yes, Jack!” Daniel chimed in, as she had known he would.

    The Colonel narrowed his eyes at them both, and Sam had to suppress another wince. Telling him in public… that wasn’t done. But they were in an extraordinary situation. So she met his eyes, and, after a moment, he sighed. “Well, we probably should at least explain in detail how the United States’ political system works.”

    Daniel perked up. “I can do that, Jack!”

    “An objective, neutral briefing, Daniel,” the Colonel stressed.

    Sam knew what he meant: A positive portrayal.

    Daniel looked mulish. “I am objective.”

    “Remember that our hosts aren’t familiar with democracy,” Sam reminded him. “They don’t know that it works.”

    “Right.” Daniel sighed. “I almost forgot about the cultural preconceptions.”

    They were talking in low voices, but Catra was grinning at them - she probably could hear them, Sam knew. Well, this might serve to build some trust - in a convoluted way.

    “So.” Daniel stood. “Democracy. It’s a very old concept on Earth, over two thousand five hundred years old, but its form has changed a lot over the years. In Ancient Greece, it meant that every citizen of a town or country had one vote to determine the course of the polity, so...”

    Sam refrained from sighing. Of course Daniel would start at the very beginning!

    *****​

    “...and that’s roughly how checks and balances work.”

    Catra rolled her eyes with a loud sigh. Daniel really didn’t know how to stop talking. She wasn’t sure if he was worse when he was asking questions or when he was lecturing.

    “Catra!” Adora hissed under her breath.

    “What?” Catra whispered back. “This is worse than cadet instructions.”

    “Which were very useful!” Adora objected. Ever the model cadet. Even when she was very little, she had been so damn serious.

    Catra grinned at the memory of Adora as a young cadet, then sighed. “Yes, yes. Eventually.”

    “Eventually? This is an in-depth briefing of the government of Earth’s most powerful kingdom!”

    “It’s also very long,” Catra retorted.

    “Uh… do you have any questions?” Daniel asked, looking at them with an almost shy smile. “Was something not clear? I might have rambled a little, I think.”

    A little? But Catra shook her head. “So, your government is based upon different factions struggling for power while keeping each other in check.”

    “Ah, well, you could say that, yes.” Daniel nodded. “Although it’s really not…”

    “Like the Horde then, but the leader can’t just have those who make too much trouble executed,” Catra went on. She pressed her lips together for a moment, remembering her banishing Entrapta. Not her finest hour.

    “Catra!” Adora blurted out.

    “What? It’s like putting the Force Captains against each other so they won’t unite and topple the leader,” Catra explained. “Only, there’s no overall commander who is above everyone else.”

    “That wasn’t covered in Force Captain Orientation!” Scorpia protested. “I’ve never heard of that!”

    Everyone looked at her. Catra sighed and put the palm of her hand on her face. Sometimes, she wondered how Scorpia had survived to make Force Captain in the Horde before Catra had taken over.

    “Uh… It was called the Evil Horde for a reason, dear,” Perfuma said.

    “We never called us that!”

    “Everyone else did,” Glimmer cut in while Hordak and Entrapta were whispering about ‘official policy’. “Anyway, you have to balance different factions, one of which gets replaced every four or eight years, the other two lasting until death or retirement?”

    “It’s not quite like that but, essentially, yes.”

    “It’s really better than it sounds,” O’Neill added. “It has worked for hundreds of years for us.”

    “A bit more than two hundred years at most, Jack.”

    “That’s what I said.”

    “But…”

    “Two hundred years isn’t very impressive,” Frosta said. “My family has ruled the Kingdom of Snows for four times longer.”

    And Queen Angella had ruled for almost a thousand years. But Catra wouldn’t mention that.

    “Few monarchies on Earth were as stable,” Carter said. “And most of those are actually democracies.”

    “Yes. With a figurehead.” Frosta pouted at her.

    “Anyway,” Catra spoke up, “you have rules and traditions against anyone simply taking over, so that’s not an option.”

    “Not for the United States,” Daniel said. “A number of other countries have suffered changes of power by force. Often repeatedly.”

    “It didn’t serve them well,” Jack added. “So, that’s the United States of America. Warts and all. It’s not perfect, but it works well enough, and we’re always trying to become better.”

    “I still fail to see why supporting your president to take control of the other factions and uniting the country is not an option,” Hordak said. “That’s how I started the Horde.”

    “Which we beat,” Mermista snapped.

    “Horde Prime arrived,” Hordak shot back.

    Catra bit her lower lip. The Horde hadn’t really been beaten, despite her own… problems. They had actually been doing quite well.

    “If they say it’s not an option, then we have to respect that,” Perfuma said. “We cannot force our own views on others.”

    “Right.” O’Neill nodded. “No couping and no forcing regime changes. Good.” He looked… not as happy as Catra would have expected. Had he planned on taking over his own country with the help of Etheria? She frowned, then shook her head. No, that didn’t seem like him. It had to be something else.

    “But can we actually deal with such a kingdom?” Spinnerella asked. “We would have to deal with every faction.”

    “Actually, foreign policies fall under the President’s power. Though treaties need to be ratified by Congress,” Daniel explained.

    “So, we deal with the President, and then the rest of your government checks if the deal is good enough?” Mermista asked.

    “Pretty much, yes.”

    “Great. How many countries does your planet have again?”

    “Almost two hundred,” Daniel told her.

    “But most of them are too small to be very important,” O’Neill pointed out.

    “And there’s the United Nations,” Daniel went on. “Almost every country is a member of that organisation.”

    “You have a united government for your planet?” Adora asked. “Why didn’t you mention that before?”

    “It’s not quite a government,” O’Neill said.

    “It was supposed to be a sort of global not-quite-government,” Daniel explained. “But the way it was formed, well… It has its share of problems.”

    “More checks and balances?” Glimmer asked with a sigh.

    “And bureaucracies,” O’Neill added.

    “Great.” Glimmer shook her head.

    “Are you really sure that having your leader take over isn’t an option?” Entrapta asked. “One single leader would clearly make things more efficient.”

    Every one of their guests except Teal’c winced at that, Catra noted. They really had some deep issues with princesses. Or Horde leaders.

    *****​

    Guest Quarters, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Well, this is a nice mess!” Jack O’Neill sighed as he sat down on the still too soft bed in their quarters. “Did you have to give our monarchist hosts ideas about couping and conquering Earth?” He looked at Daniel.

    “I’m sure that Entrapta didn’t mean it. The conquering Earth part,” his friend replied.

    “They were quite clear earlier that they didn’t want to support a hypothetical conquest of Earth by your army, O’Neill,” Teal’c said.

    “The others were. I’m not sure Miss Mad Scientist got the message,” Jack retorted. “She’s buddy-buddy with the Evil Leader who tried to conquer Etheria. And she was part of his Horde.” And he was sure that Hordak hadn’t learned his lesson, whatever it was supposed to be.

    “Adora is in a relationship with a former Horde leader as well. And another former Horde leader is a member of the Alliance,” Daniel pointed out.

    “And all of them wished that the president weren’t held in check by Congress and the Supreme Court,” Jack told him.

    “To be fair, I think every American has wished the same at least once in their lives,” Daniel said. “But more importantly, I am sure she didn’t intend a coup. She thought about democratic changes in our government structures. Probably.”

    “Probably.” Jack snorted. At least Daniel was honest. Sometimes too honest. On the other hand, their hosts seemed to trust him a lot, so that evened out. He glanced at Carter. She was uncharacteristically silent. Well, her little ‘suggestion’ had been a surprise. It had worked out somewhat, but Jack didn’t like how she had done it. And she knew he didn’t like it. “Carter. Your assessment.” It had been her plan, so she had to at least comment on it.

    “Sir.” She briefly winced, then nodded. “I think we’ve built trust with our hosts. They are aware of the problems their arrival will cause and of the difficulties we are facing when building an alliance. If we hadn’t informed them of this in advance, it would have damaged our prospects in the long run.”

    “No one trusts a liar,” Daniel added. “And they need to be warned of... well, of how Earth is.”

    “You don’t need to try and scare them off Earth, though,” Jack told him.

    “I didn’t. I was fair and balanced in presenting our good and bad sides. And I didn’t even mention the bigotry and racism yet,” Daniel said with a frown.

    Right. The other elephant in the room. Invisible elephant for now.

    “Something else we can’t put off until we reach Earth, Sir,” Carter said.

    “And something that is anathema to Etheria, as far as I can tell,” Daniel added. “In my talks with them, it never came up. They might not even have a concept of hating someone just for being different.”

    Jack snorted. “That’s human nature. You’ve seen how hostile some of them were. The kid and the Sea Princess are carrying grudges.”

    “But those are related to the war. I never heard of any view that would be the equal to racism on Earth.”

    “You didn’t notice how they view former Horde soldiers?” Jack asked. “They don’t trust either the clones or the other former Horde members.”

    “But that’s not the same as hating someone just because they’re gay. Or black,” Daniel said.

    “Or looking down on women.” Carter didn’t frown, but she would have if they were civilians. Jack was sure of that.

    He sighed. “I know. But we can’t just tell them all the bad stuff about us. That would give the wrong impression.”

    “I am sure that they will understand that Tau’ri society is not perfect but striving to improve,” Teal’c said. “They do value redemption.”

    Of course Teal’c would catch that.

    “They want to save the Goa’uld. Or change them,” Daniel pointed out. “That’s…”

    “...terribly naive,” Jack said.

    Daniel frowned at him. “I would call it idealistic, Jack.”

    “Idealists are the worst,” Jack muttered.

    “They seem to be genuine,” Teal’c said. “And their ideals are honourable.”

    Had they gotten to Teal’c already? He hadn’t been raised in a democracy. He might not realise how dangerous and prone to corruption monarchies were no matter who started them. “Yeah, yeah. And how will they react when they find out how not-idealistic politics are on Earth?”

    “That’s why we briefed them, Sir. So they can mentally prepare.”

    Which would also prepare them better for the negotiations. The State Department wouldn’t be happy if they ever realised that. “Well, they still want to take us home. And they still want to protect Earth and form an alliance,” he said. “So, it worked out. For now.”

    Daniel smiled. And Teal’c nodded slowly. At least Carter didn’t smile.

    Jack narrowed his eyes and stared at Daniel and Carter. “But no more such stunts. We’ll carefully plan how to tell them about the other problems they’ll face on Earth. Understood?” He wouldn’t tolerate more such surprises.

    “Yes, Sir.”

    “Yes, Jack.”

    Teal’c nodded silently.

    “Then let’s get ready for the banquet.” Jack nodded. “Carter, you have the bathroom first.”

    “Sir.”

    “And no sneaking off to raid the royal archives, Daniel. Behave.”

    “Jack!”

    “Don’t tell me that you haven’t thought about it.” Jack grinned.

    “I would never break their trust like that!”

    Unless Daniel thought it was necessary. Jack’s friend was an academic and a civilian, but he could be very pragmatic. Like everyone on Jack’s team.

    *****​

    Royal Hall, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Compared to other feasts, this one was not much to write home about. The food was great - Adora took another serving from the roast beef - but everyone was acting subdued or annoyed.

    “...and then we compensated for the stellar drift, and the remaining star systems in the data banks we copied from Alpha were quickly sorted out thanks to a spectral analysis of your sun. As we expected, Earth was amongst them! Isn’t that fascinating? That our planets were linked so long ago, we don’t have records of it? But now we do!”

    Well, almost everyone was acting subdued. Entrapta was enthusiastically explaining to the others how they had found Earth’s coordinates, with Carter and Bow nodding along.

    “Indeed.” Hordak sounded… not bored, but not as enthusiastic either. “How long will it take Third Fleet to reach the planet?”

    “About a month at cruise speed,” Entrapta replied. “We could do it faster at flank speed, but that would put a lot of strain on the engines, and while Darla could handle it - with some additional maintenance - the Horde frigates would need yard time afterwards. If they even make it that far.”

    Adora winced. ‘Some additional maintenance’ probably meant Entrapta and Bow working frantically to fix the ship and keep it from falling apart. Just like when they had set out to save Glimmer from Horde Prime. And Catra.

    “Well, it would be faster if we just headed to a planet with a Stargate and took the quick route back,” O’Neill said.

    “If we find a Stargate that’s not guarded,” Catra retorted. “If the Goa’uld find out about us, that will cost us the strategic surprise.”

    Adora nodded. “The longer they don’t know about us, the better.”

    “You cannot count on the Goa’uld being ignorant of your existence,” Teal’c spoke up. “They knew about the Horde, or at least about the threat it formed - this sector was prohibited for the System Lords under Ra for a reason.”

    “Because they feared Horde Prime,” Glimmer agreed.

    “Or they merely didn’t want to risk a prolonged war against a peer-level opponent,” Daniel suggested.

    “The snakes don’t do live and let live,” O’Neill retorted. “That’s not their style. They want to rule the galaxy.”

    “Or at least the Tau’ri,” Teal’c added.

    “Yeah.”

    “Well, we won’t let them,” Adora told them. Letting such monsters who enslaved entire planets be? Not if she had something to say about it! And she did.

    “Still, giving Earth some advance warning would be a good idea,” O’Neill went on. “So they can prepare for the fleet’s arrival. If we take one of the shuttles with us, we could head down to a planet and use the Stargate without alerting the Goa’uld.”

    “Unless they spot you,” Catra told him. “The shuttles are a thousand years old. They aren’t exactly stealthy.”

    “The Goa’uld technology is mostly stolen from other species and hasn’t progressed very much in the last millennia,” Carter pointed out.

    “It’s still a risk,” Glimmer said.

    “We could use the frigate’s transporters!” Entrapta suggested. “If we can make orbit without being detected. Which might be kinda hard if the Goa’uld have a decent patrol system.”

    “Many System Lords will be expecting attacks by their rivals,” Teal’c agreed, “and be prepared accordingly.”

    “We’ve beaten worse odds,” O’Neill said.

    “And you’ve ended up stranded here,” Catra countered.

    “The odds of that happening again aren’t very high,” O’Neill said. “It would be worth the risk.”

    “We can check a few planets on the way,” Glimmer said. “But only after careful planning. We have to remain undetected.”

    “Fair enough.” O’Neill shrugged.

    “And if you find an unguarded Stargate, who would travel to Earth?” Mermista asked. “All of you? Anyone from us?”

    Adora opened her mouth to say that she would be heading through, but Catra grabbed her thigh and pricked her skin with her claws. “Ow!” she complained, glaring at her lover.

    “Third Fleet,” Catra hissed.

    Oh. Right. Priest and the others wouldn’t take kindly to that. They probably would insist on sending a guard with them. Half an army.

    “Whoever you want to send along,” O’Neill said. “That’s your decision.”

    “Or none,” Glimmer shook her head. “We wouldn’t want to split our party.”

    For some reason, O’Neill seemed amused at that.

    “And it reduces the temptation for some of Earth’s leaders to take our people hostage,” Netossa added. “If they hear about a fleet coming, some might panic.”

    “We wouldn’t let that happen,” Daniel protested. “And it would go against every treaty regarding diplomatic immunity.”

    “Still, it would be best to arrive as a unified party,” Glimmer said.

    “Or not find a Stargate at all,” Catra whispered under her breath low enough so only Adora could hear her.

    Well, that was out of their hands, wasn’t it? Oh. Catra meant lying about not finding a Stargate. “I doubt we can fool them,” Adora whispered.

    “Well, not if you try to lie to them.” Catra snickered.

    Adora pouted at her lover. But, speaking of lies. She cleared her throat. “Also, in the interest of fostering trust, I have to reveal something we’ve been keeping from you until now.” She stood.

    The whole group immediately stared at her. And O’Neill tensed up - she could see him stop slouching in his seat. Glimmer was frowning at her, but this had to be done.

    “This is my form when I am She-Ra,” she went on. Taking a deep breath, she changed back. “And this is what I really look like.”

    SG-1 seemed shocked for a moment.

    “A magical transformation!” O’Neill shook his head. “Now, you just need a theme song.”

    What?

    *****​

    Samantha Carter stared. Such a transformation! Adora had lost more than a foot in height and much more in mass. And her long mane of golden hair had been changed to a more normal dirty blonde ponytail. How was that possible? Magic, of course. With the power Adora had demonstrated, changing the body wouldn’t be too much of a feat. Still…

    “Theme song?” Adora blinked. “What do you mean?”

    Oh! Carter narrowed her eyes at the Colonel. He had to go there.

    “Oh, just a thing that’s popular in some TV shows. A theme song,” he said with a grin.

    “That’s a popular media on Earth. Moving pictures that tell a story,” Daniel cut in. “Some of them portray magical princesses who transform to fight monsters. Not unlike yourself.”

    Right. Sailor Moon. Cassie loved those cartoons. Sam had had to watch them often enough when visiting the girl. Apparently, so had the Colonel.

    “Although they usually do not grow in size as much as you do,” Teal’c added. “Though the transformation of their clothes seems similar.”

    And obviously, so had Teal’c. Sam suppressed a giggle - the thought of the Colonel and Teal’c having to watch a show aimed at young girls…

    “Your magical companion seems to be larger than the norm as well,” Teal’c went on, nodding at Melog.

    The Etherians still looked confused. Sam looked at Daniel. This was his task. If Sam had to explain Sailor Moon to aliens, the Colonel would never let her forget it.

    “So, there are cartoons - animated pictures. Drawings,” Daniel began. “They are quite popular with children. And some adults,” he added with a glance at the Colonel.

    “Hey! The Simpsons are quality entertainment for adults!”

    “The Simpsons?” Catra asked with a grin.

    “Jack’s favourite cartoon,” Daniel told her. “Anyway, amongst those cartoons, there’s a genre that has magical princesses, and they are usually depicted…”

    *****​

    “...which is why you reminded us of that show,” Daniel finished his second lecture in a day.

    “Fascinating! You use holograms for entertainment!”

    “Ah… no,” he said.

    “It’s a different technology,” Samantha Carter told Entrapta. “It’s not a hologram, but it uses a screen.”

    “Ah. Still a great idea!” Entrapta nodded eagerly.

    “Oh!” Princess Mermista’s consort, Seahawk, beamed at them. “Imagine a show depicting my many adventures!”

    Judging by the expressions on everyone’s faces, even Mermista’s, they didn’t like imagining that.

    “Yeah, no,” Glimmer said.

    “We can check out those ‘TV shows’ on Earth!” Entrapta smiled. “And we can work out how to adapt them to our planet!”

    “There are also movies. Cinema,” the Colonel said with a smile. “You’ll love them.”

    “You need to watch Star Wars,” Teal’c said. “I have watched it thirteen times, and it remains as impressive and moving as it was the first time.”

    “Star Wars?” Adora asked, at the same time that Daniel blurted out: “Thirteen times?”

    Which started another round of explanations.

    *****​

    “So, this Darth Vader was the right hand of the evil Emperor. And he was hurt, so he had to wear a suit of armour that kept him alive. And in the end, he threw the Emperor down a reactor shaft.” Entrapta nodded as she summed up Teal’c’s explanation. “He’s like Hordak!”

    What? Samantha Carter stared at the clone.

    “I am no longer dependent on my armour for survival,” Hordak objected.

    “But you were! And you threw Horde Prime down a shaft!”

    “And you led an evil Horde,” Mermista remarked, shaking her head.

    “We must watch Star Wars when we reach Earth! And in a theatre, so we can have the proper experience, as you explained!” the princess declared.

    The Colonel had the grace to blush when Sam looked at him. This was all his fault. At least hiring a movie theatre for a screening of the trilogy would be an easy feat for the State Department. Sam hoped she would be able to watch when the Colonel had to explain the request.

    But that was a thing for the future. They had more important things to worry about. She cleared her head. “So, we know the route to Earth.”

    “Yeah,” the Colonel cut in, as she had known she would. “So, when are you planning to leave?”

    “In a few days, once we have the fleet provisioned and ready to move,” Glimmer replied. “That will leave us enough time to look through our archives as well.”

    “And enough time to modify the First Ones shuttles!” Entrapta added.

    A few more days on Etheria. And then a month in space to reach Earth. Probably.

    Sam really hoped they would find a Stargate on the way. Stargate Command needed advance warning of their arrival, or things would turn a little problematic. The General wouldn’t be pleased in any case. Well, he certainly would be happy to know they survived, but dropping a fleet led by magical princesses in his lap?

    His reaction to that wouldn’t be pretty. Sam felt a little guilty that she was glad the Colonel would have to shoulder most of the blame for that. Just a little, though.

    And the reaction of the government… She had half a mind to ask Entrapta if she needed another ‘science buddy’. On the other hand, part of her couldn’t wait to see how all the sexist politicians and generals she had met would react to the Etherians.

    *****​
     
  15. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Ask and ye shall receive :p
     
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  16. carterhall

    carterhall Know what you're doing yet?

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    This was lovely!
    The interactions between the Etherians and SG-1 are great
    I understand that SG-1 needs to work out how to address social and political issues with the Etherians, but that's a lot of discussion that doesn't actually do anything for the story. I feel like those sections are dragging. Establishing Daniel and Jack's positions could be condensed to a paragraph of dialogue each with a little internal monologue. A couple sentences for Sam and Teal'c. You write the characters well, those sections just seem larger than necessary, and don't give us greater insight into SG-1 or grow them as characters.
     
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  17. Loki-L

    Loki-L Getting out there.

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    I like it, especially the culture clash and the acknowledgement that the characters from a fictionalized version of the US military from 20 years ago would have somewhat different cultural viewpoints than the average Netflix viewer had when they watched the show.

    Jack and the others are people from the late 90s and even though they are good people they may not be as open about things as someone from the present would be.

    I also like the extrapolation of how the various She-Ra characters would have evolved after the show.

    I also think this might be a good point to quote from one of my favourite Terry Pratchett books "Only You Can Save Mankind" in which the young hero is informed by the aliens that he is helping that they want to go to "Earth"

     
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter 10: The Farm
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 10: The Farm

    Royal Gardens, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Perched on a ledge on the palace wall, Catra spotted her prey almost at once. He was working out - stretching right now. But even from this spot, she could see that he had been running - his top was drenched with sweat. She looked around some more but couldn’t see anyone else. There shouldn’t be - Teal’c was in the guest quarters, ‘meditating’, Carter was with Entrapta and Hordak doing tech-stuff, and Daniel was with Glimmer in the Royal Archives. Or the private family archives. Whatever.

    Perfect. She grinned as she stood, then jumped off, landing on a windowsill a bit to the side and below her. Another jump took her to a small ledge for a lantern, and then it was a safe drop to the ground.

    She landed on all fours on the grass below. As she rose, O’Neill turned to face her from then yards away. “I thought the garden was off-limits to others,” he said, raising his eyebrows.

    She shrugged. He was correct, actually - Glimmer had ordered that to give their guests some privacy - but it wasn’t as if Catra cared. Instead of answering, she looked him over. His rifle was next to him, leaning against the tree he had been using for his stretches. Close enough to grab it quickly. “Never cared much for every little rule.”

    He snorted at that. “Just for the important ones?”

    “I focused on results.” Overly so, but that was neither here nor there.

    He cocked his head to the side. “In the Horde?”

    “Yes.”

    “What I heard of the Horde didn’t make me think it was a very flexible organisation,” he said as he started some squats.

    She flashed him her fangs. “It was very flexible when I was in charge.”

    “Ah.” He stopped and faced her again. “You were in charge of the Horde?”

    “Effectively, yes. Highest ranking Force Captain.” And she had earned it. “Directly below Hordak. And he was too busy with his research to meddle with command.”

    “Must have been a cushy job. Why did you quit?”

    Because everything had been rotten from the start. She forced herself to shrug and grin. “I had a disagreement with Horde Prime about general policies.”

    His eyebrows rose for a moment, and she was sure he didn’t really believe her. But he nodded. “That tends to happen with megalomaniacal dictators. Sooner or later, they go off the rails.”

    Oh, she knew that from first-hand experience.

    “So, why did you come here? I suppose you have a gym of your own to work out.”

    She shrugged. She could use the training hall for the guards. But she only did that when Adora trained. “I wanted to check on you. You’ve gone through a lot in two days.”

    This time, he did snort. “You’re worried for us or about us?”

    She grinned. No need to mince words or with him. “About you. You look like you can take care of yourself well enough.”

    “About us? We’re just four soldiers who got lost.” He picked up one of the fluffy towels the Bright Mooners loved so much and wiped some sweat from his face and neck.

    “You’ve blown up a palace before, according to your friend.” She leaned against the tree, crossing her arms. “But I’m more worried about the rest of you.”

    “Little old Earth? We don’t even have a single spaceship. You’ve got three fleets.”

    So they claimed. Catra wasn’t quite sure if that was true. They would have been able to recover technology. And they knew about First Ones technology - Carter certainly did. “You’ve got six billion people. And you’re afraid of their reaction to us.” And that worried her.

    “Yep. It would really make things easier if you wouldn’t reveal yourself to the whole planet.” He sounded flippant, but he was serious, or so Catra thought.

    “Easier for you,” she replied. “But only in the short run. The longer you lie to someone, the worse it’ll get.” Especially if you were lying to yourself.

    “The longer it lasts, the more time you have to prepare for dealing with it.”

    “You mean the higher the chance that someone else will have to deal with it.”

    “Hey! Delegation and procrastination are the base of good leadership.”

    She snorted at that. “I was never any good at either.” She tilted her head as he jumped up and grabbed a low-hanging branch to do some pull-ups.

    “So, what are you worried about specifically?” he asked between pull-ups. “You hold all the cards.”

    “Until you start building your own spaceships.”

    “Well, by then, we’ll have kicked some Goa’uld butt together and will be friends. No need to worry.”

    Catra snorted again. “Six billion people. And no princess to lead them. That’s like the biggest army ever, without a commander in chief.”

    “We do have leaders.”

    “Leaders elected by the people. How good would an army be if they elected their officers?” She knew the answer to that - soldiers would vote for the worst officers who let them be lazy. Or run wild. “You don’t elect your officers, do you?” She certainly hoped they weren’t that crazy.

    “People aren’t an army.” He dropped down, grabbed the towel again and turned to face her. “But we had long discussions about that. So why are you here by yourself?”

    That was a good question. Because Adora was busy and Catra was bored wouldn’t be a good answer. And not true either. “I’m not a princess. And I wasn’t raised with princesses, either. I was a Horde cadet since I can remember.”

    He frowned for a moment, then shrugged. “And?”

    “So, I’m not like my friends.” Not like Adora. She flashed her fangs at him again. “I overheard your discussion. I know that there’s more to your story and your planet.”

    “Ah. And you want the truth.”

    She scoffed. “Not particularly. I just want you to know that if Adora gets hurt because of you or your people, I’ll take it out on you.” She nodded at him, then jumped up, landing on the next higher branch. A few more jumps and she was on the palace wall again.

    Mission accomplished.

    *****​

    Royal Archives, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and then just down the hallway until you reach the entrance to the archives.”

    “Thank you.” Jack O’Neill nodded at the helpful guard - a woman, like about half the guards in the palace, part of him registered - and started walking down the corridor. Seeing guards in chainmail and carrying spears on a world with spaceships in orbit still threw him off a little - it was too much like a Goa’uld palace. At least the spaceships weren’t pyramids, and the hallways in the palace, while wide enough to fit two cars next to each other, weren’t covered in gold and murals praising a snake. In fact, there was a distinct lack of decorations - no statues or pictures, actually.

    He’d been to palaces on Earth - well, one, during a stay in England that he couldn’t talk about until everyone involved had died from old age - and they tended to be a little cluttered with such stuff. Another cultural difference, as Daniel would say. Plenty of those going around.

    Passing a window, he glanced outside. Two people were unloading a horse cart next to a skiff. This must have been how the country had felt back when people were still using horses to get around while planes were already carrying passengers and the mail. It would be interesting to find out how the people outside the palace lived. Perhaps he could arrange a little excursion before they left for Earth?

    Two more guards, a woman and a man, stood in front of the door. “Howdy!” he greeted them with a wide smile and his best fake Texan accent.

    Unfortunately, they didn’t react at all. “Are you here for the archives or are you looking for someone?” the woman asked.

    “Both!” He grinned at her, but she didn’t react this time either.

    “Your friend is inside.”

    The other guard opened the door for him.

    As he entered, Jack was tempted to ask them if they didn’t have to tell him not to touch anything and be on his best behaviour. He didn’t, though. Those people were just too nice and trusting for that. Or appeared to be.

    Inside, he had to whistle - shelves upon shelves formed rows in a huge room, and each of them was full of scrolls, stacks of sheets, and… “Crystals?”

    He cocked his head and walked forward, looking at a line of purple crystals sitting on the shelf.

    “It’s a form of data storage. Obsolete, though, since a century, or so I’ve been told.”

    “Hi, Daniel.” Jack nodded at him. “They told you that?”

    “I asked.” Daniel smiled. “This is incredible - the records go back to the founding of the kingdom! To the day the First Ones arrived - officially arrived, I mean.”

    “Well, enjoy it while you can,” Jack told him. “We’re still set to leave in a few days.”

    Daniel’s face fell. For a moment, Jack worried that his friend might choose to stay. But he wouldn’t. He had never before, after all. Then Daniel smiled again. “Yes, I know. I hope we’ll be done with our search by then.”

    “Good.” They needed Daniel for this. The people back home were good - the government wouldn’t have campaign donors represent them in the negotiations with Etheria - but Daniel was the one who had the best insight into their future allies. And, speaking of insight… “By the way, isn’t this anachronistic?” He nodded at the crystals. “Magical data storage, but horse-drawn carts? And spears?”

    “Not at all!” Daniel beamed. “You can’t expect technology to advance just as it did on Earth. Certain technologies depend on others, but not everything is interconnected in that way. And magic, as well as different species, will completely change how a civilisation develops. Etheria had electronic - well, magical, but with similar results - communication a hundred years ago!”

    “And how widespread is that?” Jack asked.

    “Ah…” Daniel blushed. “I haven’t actually asked. I should.”

    “Do that.” Knowing how the average commoner lived in Etheria would be very valuable to know. You couldn’t judge a country according to the palace of its king, after all. Some of the poorest countries had leaders who lived in luxury while their people starved. Jack didn’t think this was the case here, but neither did he think everyone lived in such a palace.

    “Oh, by the way,” he went on. “I got a shovel talk at my age. Should I be flattered or afraid?”

    “A shovel talk?” Daniel gasped.

    “Yes,” Jack went on, hiding his grin. “That’s when you are threatened with death should you hurt your date.”

    “I know what a shovel talk is, Jack!” Daniel bristled. “But why did you get one? What did you do?”

    Jack snorted. “Nothing like that. Catra just warned me that if Adora gets hurt because of something on Earth, she’ll take it out on me.”

    “What?” Daniel stared at him.

    “What? What did she do?”

    Oh damn… Queen Glimmer had been on the other side of the shelves. Time for damage control. “She was joking,” Jack quickly said.

    “Was she? Even if she were, that’s not how you treat a guest!” Glimmer scoffed through clenched teeth. “I’ll talk to her. And I’m sorry about this!”

    “It’s nothing. She’s just looking out for her girlfriend,” Jack said.

    “It isn’t nothing!” Glimmer insisted. “And she should’ve known better.” She sighed. “I’ll handle this.”

    Oh, damn. Jack felt like a tattletale. “Really, it’s nothing,” he repeated himself. “I understand where she’s coming from.”

    And now Glimmer was looking at him with narrowed eyes. “You do?”

    “Don’t you feel protective of your friends?”

    “Of course I do!” she replied. “But that doesn’t mean I threaten guests without any reason!”

    Well, whether or not Catra had a reason was debatable. Jack clenched his teeth for a moment. How to handle this? Hadn’t Catra talked to Glimmer about what she heard? “It’s not all sunshine and rainbows on Earth,” he said. “She’s got a reason to be concerned - we have a lot of differences, after all.” More than they knew.

    “We know that,” Glimmer said.

    “But also many things that we share,” Daniel cut in.

    Jack refrained from asking what exactly, other than a desire to kick snake butt and help their victims.

    “Well, of course we do,” Glimmer said. “Even if you have a weird system for governing your kingdoms - your countries. And you don’t have stage plays, but those ‘movies’.”

    “We do have stage plays,” Daniel said. “And concerts. Both are quite popular.”

    “You do?” Glimmer smiled. “That’s a relief. We thought that all that you did for entertainment was staring at a screen.”

    “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!” Jack protested - but with a grin. Situation defused? “Anyway, we’ve got six billion people, which means our fair share of idiots is much bigger than yours.”

    “In total numbers,” Daniel explained.

    Jack frowned at him. Judging by the way Glimmer pursed her lips, she didn’t like being talked down to, even by accident. Well, few people did. And she was royalty. “Anyway, don’t, ah, scold her, OK? It’s really no big deal. I probably would do the same thing in her place if I was worried for my team.”

    Glimmer snorted. “There’s always a reason to scold her.” But she was smiling. “So, what brings you here?”

    “Oh, I wanted to check up on Daniel. Maybe drag him out to see the sun for an hour or two. Take a trip through the countryside before we get stuck in a spaceship for a month?”

    “Oh!” Glimmer blinked. “That’s right - we’ve been here for hours!”

    “That’s not a problem!” Daniel reassured her. “I love this!”

    “Yes, you do,” Jack agreed. “But it’s not healthy to stay inside all day.”

    Daniel stared at him, then frowned. Jack kept smiling at his friend. Yes, I need you outside, he thought. Come on, pick up the hint!

    “I guess a break wouldn’t go amiss,” Daniel said with obvious reluctance. “And you might be needed for, well, ruling?” he asked the queen.

    Glimmer rolled her eyes. “Dad should be able to handle it. He will have to when we leave for Earth. But I guess a break sounds fine.” She looked at the crystal in her hand and shook her head.

    Possibly troublesome information? Jack wondered. Not that he’d ask the queen right now.

    Glimmer sighed, then smiled. “I’ll ask Adora to be your guide. She must be all worked up about planning and logistics by now.”

    “Thank you,” Jack said. He would have preferred to walk around without a ‘guide’, but he couldn’t fault their hosts for being cautious. And, he added to himself, with all the magical creatures around, maybe there were monsters to be wary of outside the city.

    Getting ripped apart by an alien Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog because Jack didn’t recognise the threat until it was too late would be an embarrassing way to die.

    *****​

    Outside the Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “So, where do you want to go?” Adora asked with the best smile she could manage as they stepped through the gate. She didn’t need to take a break no matter what Glimmer had said. Not when they still had so much to plan for their expedition. They would be gone for months, and that required extensive planning to cover all eventualities! She had barely gone through everything that was needed in case they all lost their engines at the same time.

    Catra, walking and stretching at the same time, snorted.

    Adora frowned at her. Her lover, of course, had agreed with Glimmer - but only so she could take a break as well.

    “Well, I was always fond of the countryside,” O’Neill told them. “You know, farmlands and such. Makes me feel nostalgic.”

    “You want to compare farms,” Catra said with another snort.

    “Well… I’m curious, yes,” he admitted. “We don’t have magic at home, so I wonder how that changes things.”

    Daniel nodded after a moment. That was a little weird - he was usually much quicker.

    But Adora could show them farmland easily. “Most farms are near Bright Moon,” she explained as they walked over to a skiff. “The Whispering Woods aren’t good for farming - too many monsters venture out of them - though Plumeria manages well enough in their part.”

    “That’s because Perfuma controls the plants,” Catra said.

    Adora sent her another frown. She had been about to explain that! “Anyway, the farms surround Bright Moon.” She had already said that, damn. “Most produce, uh, vegetables. And they have cows.”

    “Ah. Where do you get your grain?” Daniel asked.

    “Mostly through trade, I think,” Adora said.

    “Trade from the plains before they turn into the Crimson Waste,” Catra added. At Adora’s surprised glance, she grinned. “I was planning to cut you off from that supply once. Decided against it since Perfuma could have made up the difference easily.”

    Adora blinked, then frowned at her lover. Did she have to bring her Horde past up?

    “Ah. That would facilitate logistics,” O’Neill said.

    “But if they could replace your grain source, why don’t they do it?” Daniel asked. “They could make a profit, right?”

    They could, but… “Perfuma’s busy helping Scorpia,” Adora explained. “And she wouldn’t want to hurt the farmers in the plains.”

    “Ah.”

    “That’s good to know,” O’Neill said. “So, where is the next farm?”

    “Get on, I’ll drive us there,” Adora told him, pointing at the skiff. She knew a few farms - well, she had seen them while travelling to and from Bright Moon. It wouldn’t be hard to find one.

    “Do you know the farmer?” O’Neill asked as they climbed into the skiff. Well, Catra showed off and entered with two jumps. At least she hadn’t scratched the hull this time.

    “No,” Adora told him as she took her position at the controls. Catra joined her, as expected.

    “We don’t have to visit the closest farm if there’s a farmer you know a bit further away,” O’Neill said. He was standing near the bow.

    “Ah, sorry, I don’t know any farmer,” Adora replied. She might have met some at one of the festivals, but she wouldn’t be able to tell if they were farmers, of course. Bow had a brother who was a farmer, but Adora had never met him, and his farm wasn’t near Bright Moon anyway. At least as far as she knew. “But it shouldn’t be a problem; everyone I met was very friendly. They won’t mind showing you their farm.” At least they shouldn’t.

    “Ah.” O’Neill looked at Daniel, who seemed to be frowning.

    “Is something wrong?” Adora asked while she guided the skiff next to the road - you didn’t drive on the road with a skiff, after all.

    “Nothing.” O’Neill smiled. “Daniel’s grumpy because he wanted to spend more time in the dark cellars of the palace, staring at mouldy books.”

    “It is a bright, well-illuminated archive, and there’s no speck of mould in sight!” Daniel protested.

    “Ah.” Adora smiled. The two were friends and joking around with each other. Just like Catra and Adora had, back when they had been cadets.

    But Catra was narrowing her eyes at the two, Adora noticed. So, something was wrong.

    “We’re not exactly involved with farming,” Catra said, leaning against the railing. “We were raised as cadets in the Horde.”

    “So I gathered,” O’Neill replied.

    “Do you know any farmers back on Earth?” Catra asked.

    “Neighbours of my parents,” he told them.

    “Ah.” Catra grinned again. O’Neill smiled back, showing his teeth.

    “As I said, I don’t think they’ll mind showing you around,” Adora repeated herself. “Whether we know them or not.”

    “Unless you wear a Horde uniform,” Catra added.

    “Well, we don’t,” O’Neill said.

    “Is the symbol still in use?” Daniel asked.

    “Not officially, but a lot of people are wearing their old uniforms. Even Adora does it,” Catra said.

    Adora frowned at her for a moment before paying attention to the road again. She had removed the Horde symbol, but the uniform was just too comfortable. And practical. Bright Moon’s clothes felt a little off. “It’s a very good uniform,” she defended herself. “And you’re wearing your old one too!”

    “I’m wearing it since it annoys Glimmer,” Catra replied with a grin.

    “You two don’t get along?” Daniel asked.

    “They do,” Adora said at once. “They just like annoying each other.”

    Catra snorted again. “We have an understanding.”

    “Ah.”

    “There’s the farm!” Adora pointed out. She could see the fields on both sides of the road and the farmhouse a bit away.

    “It looks new,” Daniel said.

    It did. “The old one was probably damaged or destroyed during the war,” Adora said.

    “Probably. I think I sent a tank platoon through this area,” Catra added.

    Adora frowned. Did she have to remind everyone of her past in the Horde every day? And act as if she were proud of it at times? Adora remembered that battle. And not too fondly, even though the Alliance had come together as one here.

    “That would have torn up the fields,” O’Neill said, looking down.

    “Hovertanks,” Catra told him. “They don’t touch the ground.”

    “Ah.” O’Neill nodded. “That’s easier on the countryside.”

    “But they might have flattened the house anyway,” Catra went on. Adora pressed her lips together. There she went again.

    “Bad drivers or standing orders?”

    “Both. Anyone could hide with a grenade in the house.”

    “Well, either way, it was rebuilt,” Adora said as they came to a stop near the main house. “Hello!” she yelled as she jumped down from the skiff.

    A young man came out of the house, wiping his hands on an apron. “Who is… She-Ra!” He gaped at her.

    She smiled at him in return. “Hi! Our guests here said they were interested in seeing a farm, so I wanted to ask if they could take a look at yours.”

    “We’re not planning to take up farming,” O’Neill added. “We’re just curious how it compares to our own country.”

    “Of course!” the man blurted out. “Jesa is working in the fields, but I can give you a tour here. What do you want to see? Ah, I’m Ketro.”

    “Just show us around,” O’Neill said. “No need to make a production out of it.”

    “Ah. Well, here’s the barn, and there’s the stable. It’s empty right now since Jesa is using the plough and the cows are on the field. And there is our well. Over there…”

    Adora smiled. This was going well. And Ketro didn’t seem to mind Catra, either, which had been a worry for her.

    *****​

    Laboratory No 2, Royal Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and if we replace this part here with a smaller, more efficient one, we gain the space to add a second booster unit here! Do you see?” Entrapta asked with a smile.

    Hordak nodded. “Yes, I see. Very good. But we need to compensate for the reduced redundancy in case there is a power fluctuation.”

    “Oh, yes. But we can handle that with a better power supply that can store the excess power as well. We just need a dual-way regulator here.” Entrapta’s hair strand twisted and pointed at the main crystal array.

    Or at least what had been the main crystal array - Sam Carter wasn’t sure any more whether the secondary array hadn’t eclipsed the main array’s capacity after all the modifications they had done. And speaking of modifications… “But can it handle fluctuations quickly enough?” she asked.

    Hordak frowned at her, but Entrapta nodded. “Good question! We have to reinforce all power lines to compensate for the possible delay.”

    “Unless we use the improved regulator,” Hordak said.

    “But that model isn’t ready…” Entrapta’s eyes widened. “Did you finish it?”

    Hordak’s pale, alien face twisted into a smile. “I did.”

    “How did you manage to solve the synchronisation issues?” Entrapta cocked her head sideways.

    “I replaced the control crystal with a more advanced one that could anticipate more requests So…”

    “...it’s always ready to reverse the flow even as it feeds the engine! That’s perfect, Hordak!” Entrapta’s hair lifted her up, letting her hug Hordak.

    The alien’s smile grew a little more… a little softer? Sam couldn’t really tell. “I would say adequate. Perfection is… overrated,” he said.

    Entrapta’s smile grew softer as well as she nodded. “Yes.”

    Sam was sure she was missing something. But asking for an explanation right now? Interrupting the two felt rude. The Colonel would do it anyway, of course, but Sam wasn’t him.

    She still cleared her throat after a short while. “So, with those changes to the engine, do we need to adjust the controls as well?”

    Entrapta blinked and released Hordak before turning to look at Sam. “Oh, yes! We need to update the controls, or the automated security programs will not allow the shuttle to use the improved engines. Silly limiters!”

    Limiters generally had a reason, in Sam’s experience. If the shuttles had been meant for civilian use, it made sense to regulate the engine’s output so it wouldn’t go past safe levels. For a combat craft, though? A military pilot was expected to handle such a challenge easily - and would be needing the full power at one point at least, no matter the risk or strain.

    “And we need to make a note in the manual,” Hordak went on.

    “Right! Someone other than us will be flying this shuttle!” Entrapta nodded. “So, let’s do it! Come on, lab buddy!” She dragged Hordak along with her hair.

    Or, Sam amended her thought, Hordak let himself be dragged along. He was strong enough, according to Sam’s estimates based on seeing him work on the shuttle, to resist Entrapta.

    But he wouldn’t. Sam was sure - the former Horde leader hadn’t quite ignored Sam, but his attention had always been on Entrapta. Was that how Entrapta had been convinced to join the Horde? She had said it had been Catra who had offered her a lab, Sam remembered. And neither Hordak nor Entrapta struck her as the type to seduce an enemy into joining them. Still…

    She shook her head. She was here to work on the First Ones shuttle, not to speculate about a workplace romance between a magical princess and an alien warlord. And she certainly wasn’t here to wonder whether or not this had happened while Entrapta had been Hordak’s subordinate and scientist. She wouldn’t touch that thought in a hazmat suit!

    No, she would do what she did best: Focus on the technology and learn as much as she could while she had the opportunity. Personal relationships could wait. A long time.

    *****​

    Guest Quarters, Royal Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and the farmers, even though they are living right next to the capital, use animals to pull the plough and other large farming tools,” Daniel said. “Obviously, they haven’t mechanised agriculture so far. Though with magic, they probably don’t need to.”

    “The fields are too big to be handled by a single draft animal,” the Colonel added. Samantha Carter raised her eyebrows at him, and he grinned. “I grew up with farmers as neighbours.”

    She filed that bit of information away as she nodded.

    “Yes, Jack. But they manage to tend to those fields. So that means either their draft animals are much more efficient than Earth’s, or they use magic to compensate. Somehow.” Daniel shook his head. “Though I don’t see how that would work.”

    The Colonel grinned. “See? Isn’t that more interesting than mouldy old records?”

    “They aren’t mouldy!” Daniel snapped. Then he sighed. “But yes, we did find out more about Etheria’s society - well, Bright Moon’s. They don’t have mass media as we do. Ketro and Jesa have a communication tablet, but it’s mostly used as a telephone with video. The palace apparently can use the network to give out warnings and other information, but they don’t use it for entertainment.”

    “So, the state controls the news - what passes for news here,” the Colonel said.

    “For now,” Daniel replied. “Glimmer is interested in our media, so this might change. She was talking about adapting our entertainment media.”

    “Then let’s hope that daytime TV won’t kill Etherian agriculture,” the Colonel joked. He grew serious quickly, though. “Other than the video phone thing, the farm wasn’t very advanced. Could’ve been taken straight out of the 1930s on Earth.”

    Sam nodded. “Such technological discrepancies aren’t uncommon on Earth either,” she pointed out.

    “They aren’t, no. But not in developed countries,” Daniel said. “If Bright Moon is their most advanced country, then contact with Earth will be more disruptive than we thought.”

    The Colonel nodded. Sam agreed as well.

    This could be a problem.

    *****​

    Planning Room, Royal Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and logistics look good. Third Fleet should have stocked up on provisions by tomorrow,” Bow said. “They are eager to escort us.”

    Catra snorted as she saw Adora wince at the comment. Her lover had left talking to Priest and his clones to Bow and the others and felt guilty about it. Typical! As if her friends didn’t know how uncomfortable talking to those clones made her feel!

    “Sorry…” Adora said. “I was busy.”

    Bow smiled at her. “We know - you showed our guests around.”

    “Kept an eye on them as they scouted your farms,” Catra corrected him.

    “Catra! They were just curious!” Adora said with a pout.

    “Very curious,” Catra agreed with a snort.

    “Besides, what is to scout there? It’s not as if we’re hiding the fields. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t. Nor the barns.

    “Actually, between Perfuma and Entrapta, I’m pretty sure we could create underground farms,” Catra told her. “But that wasn’t what I was thinking about. They were curious about the farmers.” At least O’Neill had been.

    “So? That’s a good thing, meeting more people,” Adora said.

    “They are a little odd about princesses,” Glimmer added with a nod.

    “Odd? How so? I didn’t notice anything odd,” Entrapta said with a frown. “Sam is a great scientist!”

    Hordak tilted his head slightly. “She’s skilled. But she doesn't have much experience with our technology.”

    Are you jealous? Catra wondered privately. Or just concerned? As if he had to worry about Entrapta falling for someone else; Catra’s friend was head over heels for Hordak. But that was a topic for another day. “You know how they are about their ‘democracy’; they wanted to find out how you treat farmers,” she explained. “Whether we treat them like the Horde or not.”

    “Oh!”

    Glimmer scowled. “Who do they think we are?”

    “They have certain preconceptions about princesses,” Bow said. “Based on their own planet and the Goa’uld.”

    “Well, they better lose them if this Alliance is going to work out,” Glimmer retorted. “So, did their visit go well?”

    “Yes,” Adora said, nodding firmly. “Ketro and Jesa liked them, too.”

    “Good. They’re good people, too. Anyway, we’re ready to leave as soon as Darla is ready,” Glimmer said. “Dad’ll handle Bright Moon in my absence.”

    King Micah nodded. “We’ve informed the staff.”

    “We still need some time to get the shuttles modified - well, one of them,” Entrapta said. “We might need her if we want to visit a Goa’uld planet. I am thinking of calling her Delia. Hordak told me that ‘Tiny Darla’ would be misleading.”

    Right. Catra pressed her lips together. She wouldn’t mind skipping all those planets and not giving Earth a lot of time to prepare for their arrival. Less chance of them hiding something important. On the other hand, if their people really would be shocked by the existence of other planets, maybe a little warning would be good. Enough to avoid the worst, but not enough to fool Adora and the rest.

    “Can you do it in a day?” Glimmer asked.

    “Uh… It wouldn’t be as good as it could be,” Entrapta said. “We’ve got some ideas about a stealth system upgrade.”

    “You can tinker with it on the trip to Earth, can’t you?” Glimmer looked at her.

    “Well, yes. Though we would have to take more parts with us.”

    “Please do it.” Glimmer nodded. “I want to leave tomorrow.”

    And if Entrapta was busy working on the shuttle, she was less likely to modify Darla literally on the fly.

    “Why the rush?” Bow asked. “Is this about the archives?”

    Glimmer pressed her lips together in return. So, it was about Queen Angella’s diaries. Catra suppressed the guilt she felt - the former Queen was lost because of Catra’s plan to win the war. A rather foolish plan, all things told, that had almost doomed them all and had led to Entrapta almost dying on Beast Island…

    A hand on her thigh interrupted her thoughts. Adora. Catra snorted softly and nodded at her lover. She was fine.

    Adora frowned slightly but nodded back.

    “I’ve read through several entries,” Glimmer said, “and Mom didn’t mention any experiments. She also didn’t mention any war to take over Bright Moon’s land.”

    “She founded Bright Moon,” King Micah said. “That is known.”

    “Yes. But was it a wilderness? Or another, earlier kingdom?” Glimmer shook her head. “I can’t tell either way. Mom didn’t say anything about it.”

    “There might be other entries,” Bow suggested. “You only looked for half a day.”

    “Which was O’Neill’s fault,” Glimmer grumbled. “But going through the entire archive will take weeks. Weeks we don’t have to spare. Not with a war looming.”

    “The Goa’uld don’t know that we’re about to fight them,” Adora said.

    “We can’t count on that,” Catra pointed out. “Not only might they strike at Earth at any moment, but they might regularly probe our sector or have spies planted on some planets.” She certainly wouldn’t have ignored a threat like Horde Prime - she would have had her troops keep an eye on him.

    “Could they have spies on Etheria?” Entrapta asked.

    “No. We were in Despondos for a thousand years,” Glimmer said. “Any spies would be long dead.”

    “They could’ve hidden amongst us and survived so long by taking over other people,” Bow said.

    “For a thousand years? Never trying to take over a kingdom?” Glimmer shook her head.

    “Maybe they have, and we never noticed,” Entrapta speculated.

    “Great. More things we need to search in the archives!” Glimmer cursed under her breath. Angella’s records must be something disturbing, then.

    “Well, even if they had spies on Etheria in Mara’s time, they might not be loyal to the Goa’uld any more,” Catra said. “They might have gone native - or deserted.” Like Double Trouble. Oh. “We should probably keep an eye on Double Trouble, though,” she said.

    “Double Trouble? Do you really think they could be a spy for the Goa’uld?” Bow asked.

    Sometimes he was just too naive.

    “They would betray us in a heartbeat, as long as they think it would be fun,” Glimmer said. “Remember how they vanished the first time?”

    Catra nodded. She was biased, but she knew that you couldn’t trust that spy.

    “But finding them will be hard,” Glimmer went on.

    “We will do our best,” King Micah cut on. “Don’t worry about it.”

    Catra was sure Glimmer would worry, of course. The princess had some issues with delegation.

    Not that it mattered - since they were leaving for Earth in a day, she would have to leave that to others.

    *****​

    Courtyard, Royal Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 13th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    The Etherians were no slouches, Jack O’Neill had to admit. When he had seen the amount of supplies they had readied for Darla, he had worried they’d be loading for days - they didn’t have containers, or so it seemed, and he hadn’t seen any cranes - but the big hulking half-scorpion-woman, Scorpia, and Adora in her magical amazon form, were making short work of that. The sun was still up, and the ship was, supposedly, almost ready to lift off.

    He looked at his team. Teal’c was standing straight and not showing any emotion. Jack hadn’t expected anything else. Carter was helping with last-minute adjustments of the shuttle, off to the side. And Daniel was… sulking. Jack snorted. “Cheer up, Daniel! You’ll get more chances to visit!”

    “But when? I doubt we’ll be sent back to Etheria to search their archives, what with the war and all.”

    “The information will keep. Patience, young grasshopper,” Jack told him. “Or: Priorities!” he added with a grin.

    Daniel’s glare deepened. “This information could give us crucial insight and information about the First Ones and their technology!”

    “Then you can bet that General Hammond will send you back as soon as possible.”

    “Indeed. The General is very pragmatic.”

    “‘As soon as possible’!” Daniel spat. “I’ve heard that before.”

    Right. He had heard something similar about saving his wife. Jack suppressed a grimace. “Come on, cheer up!” he repeated himself. “Wouldn’t want our guests to worry that they might have accidentally offended you.”

    “I think they’ll understand my frustration,” Daniel retorted.

    They probably would, Jack agreed. The princesses did seem to place a lot of importance on friendship. Which was a recipe for nepotism, of course, but it meant Daniel would have an easier time earning their trust. He shrugged. “And they want to win this war as well, so they’ll prioritise accordingly.” At least Jack hoped they would - he wasn’t quite sure about some of them. And Hordak… Jack carefully didn’t clench his teeth as he watched the alien walk up the ramp of the spaceship.

    Cheers from the shuttle to the side drew his attention. Was that Carter in the cockpit? It was!

    The shuttle slowly started to float, about a yard above the ground, then turned towards the loading ramp of Darla. Jack held his breath for a moment - he trusted his team with his life. And with his car, if they needed it. But piloting a ship that size up a ramp and into a spaceship? Carter was a pilot, but she had never piloted this kind of ship! But she was Carter. A genius.

    So he watched as the shuttle vanished into the spaceship without the tell-tale sounds of metal hitting metal. She was the smartest woman he had ever met. One of the most beautiful ones, too. And the bravest by far.

    And she was his subordinate, and he wouldn’t even think of anything beyond that. They were both professionals. And they knew the rules. So, nothing could happen. And nothing would happen.

    He sighed.

    “Don’t tell me that you suddenly want to stay!” Daniel blurted out. A little hopefully, too.

    Jack snorted. “Just feeling a little nostalgic,” he lied. “Let’s go over to the others.”

    Now that the ramp was clear again, Adora was just lifting up another crate of supplies while Scorpia had already one on her shoulders.

    “I guess if the shuttle hadn’t been able to fly, you could’ve just carried it up the ramp, huh?” Jack joked as he approached the princesses.

    Adora wrinkled her nose. “I actually don’t know how much the shuttle weighs.”

    “More than a tank?” Scorpia asked. “I guess so. We’d probably have to carry it together then!”

    Adora nodded. Probably yes.

    Jack blinked. “Are you serious?” They couldn’t be serious, could they? They had been carrying heavy crates without effort, but a shuttle? Or a tank?

    “Well, when I was mind-controlled by Horde Prime, I threw a tank at Adora,” Scorpia said.

    “Yeah.” Adora frowned. “And I wasn’t allowed to throw one back.”

    Both laughed. But Jack had the distinct feeling that they weren’t joking. He glanced at his friends. Daniel was staring as well, his mouth slightly open. Teal’c was unflappable, of course. “Well, you could try to lift the shuttle in the hangar inside,” Jack said with a grin. “Wouldn’t want to find out in the field that you can’t carry it.”

    “Good idea!” Adora smiled. “Let’s check it!” She lifted her crate on her shoulder and hurried up the ramp, followed by Scorpia.

    “You were joking, Jack, weren’t you?” Daniel asked.

    “Let’s just go and watch what happens,” Jack told him, stepping on the ramp.

    “Jack.”

    “Daniel.”

    “We have not seen the tanks they threw around,” Teal’c pointed out as they entered the ship. “There is a significant difference between a light tank and a main battle tank.”

    “Yeah,” Jack said. But even throwing a bloody M-3 Stuart around would be a huge feat.

    Then he saw Adora lifting one side of the shuttle. She was grunting and straining, but she was lifting it.

    Damn. “DC will sue for copyright infringement,” he muttered. “Supergirl is trademarked.”

    “Jack!” Daniel hissed.

    “What?” Jack stared at him. “It has to be Supergirl. Power Girl got short hair.” And a bigger bust.

    “That’s not the point!”

    Of course it wasn’t. But Jack didn’t want to think about what he had just seen here.

    At least Carter seemed to be shocked as well.

    Jack had never thought that their trip home would be boring. But he wouldn’t mind a few surprises less. Not at all.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
  19. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Those sections could be smaller. Then again, there's a lot of potential trouble that tends to come up in those discussions, and I think it's better to foreshadow that to some degree. There'll be less of that now that they are en route, though.

    I like that book! It was my first Terry Pratchett book.

    And yes, the 90s were a different time. Especially in society. I often have to remind myself to take off the rose-coloured nostalgia glasses when writing about them.
     
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  20. Tiktog

    Tiktog Versed in the lewd.

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    I fucking love this. I've been reading all day and I'm eager for more.
     
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  21. Threadmarks: Chapter 11: The Departure
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 11: The Departure

    Courtyard, Royal Palace, Bright Moon, Etheria, July 13th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    The shuttle was heavy - too heavy to easily lift. And Adora didn’t have the leverage to lift it, anyway. But she should be able to drag it, in a pinch, if they could rig some sledge or something. And it was good to know that.

    She smiled at O’Neill. Then she noticed that he was staring at her. Had he expected her to lift the shuttle? Well, she couldn’t beat physics! “Alright, now let’s secure it!” she said. “We want to lift off on schedule!”

    “Alright-y!” Entrapta’s hair started to push buttons, and the shuttle seemed to freeze to the floor. “Magnetic clamps!”

    Ah. Adora nodded. “Let’s get the rest of the supplies.”

    “OK!” Scorpia followed her out of the ship. The four crates left took them two trips - you had to be careful with the parts Entrapta and Hordak were bringing.

    “Alright! Everyone, to the bridge!” Entrapta said. Then she blinked. “Or to the ramp to say goodbye, I guess.”

    Glimmer’s dad was waiting there, with the rest of the Alliance. Even Frosta was there, though she was scowling. Which made her look adorable, not that Adora would ever tell her that.

    “Dad.” Glimmer hugged Micah, closing her eyes.

    “Be safe, Glimmer.”

    “Be brave!” Sea Hawk raised his fist to the sky. “You’re going on the greatest adventure ye..oh!”

    “Don’t scream,” Mermista told him after elbowing his gut. “And you! Don’t get killed!”

    “We won’t, “Adora said. She would make sure of that.

    “Not if we can help it,” Catra added with a snort.

    Perfuma, one arm wrapped around Scorpia’s waist - as far as she could manage, at least - smiled at them as well. “And tell me about new plants and animals you meet.”

    Right. That was a good idea. Earth would have many exotic plants and animals. “We’ll bring you back some seeds!” Adora told her.

    “Ah…” Bow scratched his head. “That might not be a good idea…”

    “I can keep them safe,” Perfuma told him.

    “Good.” He nodded.

    “Safe?” Adora wondered.

    “Foreign plants - or animals - unbalance nature,” Perfuma explained. “It happened before, on a smaller scale, on Etheria, when new plants were introduced to an area.”

    “Oh.” Adora hadn’t thought about that.

    “They didn’t cover that in Force Captain Orientation,” Scorpia said.

    “That’s because we tended to log the trees and crush the rest,” Catra said.

    “Which we don’t do any more.” Perfuma smiled. “Anyway, safe travels.”

    “Thank you.” Adora hugged all her friends. “Be safe.”

    “Right. And Come’ere, Wildcat!” Scorpia grabbed Catra, pulling her into a hug despite the latter’s protests. Adora grinned at the sight.

    “We’ll keep things going,” Netossa told them. “You forge the alliance with Earth.”

    “Bye!” Entrapta waved at everyone as she walked up the ramp, where Hordak and SG-1 were waiting. Adora and the others followed her.

    “That was a touching sendoff,” O’Neill told them at the top of the ramp. “I expected more speeches.”

    “Speeches?” Adora blinked.

    “You know, state affair, big speeches about the importance of this trip, a cheering crowd…” The man shrugged.

    “It’s just a trip,” Catra remarked.

    “It’s also a diplomatic expedition,” Daniel said.

    “And the Alliance was here to see us off,” Catra pointed out.

    “Right.” O’Neill nodded. “Everyone important, at least.”

    They had reached the bridge, and Adora took her seat in the centre.

    “Everyone, strap in!” Entrapta announced. “We’re ready for lift-off!”

    As the holographic projections appeared, showing the state of the ship, the others sat down.

    “All’s green!”

    “System’s are good.”

    Adora nodded. “Darla, take us up!”

    The ship shook a little, then they rose, quickly clearing the palace walls. Then the view changed as Darla tilted, pointing her bow at the sky.

    And then they were shooting towards space. Towards Earth.

    “Your Divine Highness!”

    And towards Third Fleet, which had been assembled in a close formation in orbit. Adora suppressed a sigh and smiled at the display showing their leader.

    “Your Faithful stand ready to escort you on your holy mission!”

    “Thank you, Priest,” she replied. “We’re happy to have you all with us. This is a very important mission.”

    “We are ready to lay down our lives for you, Your Divine Highness!”

    She winced. “Let’s hope it won’t come to that. We’re on a diplomatic mission.”

    “Yes, Your Divine Highness!”

    Catra snickered softly behind Adora. And O’Neill was mumbling something that Adora didn’t catch but which had both Daniel and Carter whisper to him. Or at him.

    “Thank you,” she repeated herself. “Let’s proceed then.”

    “Standard formation! Vanguard, cruise speed ahead!” Priest exclaimed. “Main force, form up around the Holy Vessel!”

    Apparently, Darla had been upgraded in status. Adora really wanted to sigh. This was so embarrassing. And Catra found it incredibly amusing.

    But they were moving now and would soon engage the hyperdrive.

    “Now, let’s see if our calculations are correct!” Entrapta said. “We should be noticeably faster than before!”

    “‘Should’?” O’Neill asked. “Haven’t you tested this?”

    “Not on such a long trip, not yet,” Entrapta told him with a wide smile. “This will produce very useful data!”

    It was clear that he didn’t share her enthusiasm, Adora noticed.

    “Don’t worry,” she told him. “We are good at repairs in space.”

    “Great.”

    *****​

    Etheria System, July 13th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Samantha Carter watched the screens on the oversized bridge of Darla. According to the sensors, they were surrounded by Horde frigates. And since she could see some of the sleek ships just by looking out the windows on the bridge, she was inclined to believe the sensors.

    “If the Navy ever sees the size of our escort, they’ll go green with envy,” the Colonel commented.

    “The Navy?” Catra asked.

    Sam hadn’t noticed her walking over to them. The woman could be very quiet, apparently. The claws on her feet must be retractable, so any sound they had made before on the floor had been by choice. Perhaps to make people underestimate her.

    “You don’t have warships on Etheria?” The Colonel raised his eyebrows.

    Catra snorted in return. “Of course we do - and you know it; you’ve met Mermista. So, there’s some rivalry between you and the Navy?”

    “We’re Air Force,” the Colonel told her. “The Navy doesn’t like us.”

    “I think it’s not quite so one-sided, Jack,” Daniel cut in. “At least according to, oh, everyone I met at the base. Except for the Marines.”

    The Colonel grinned. “But the Navy started it. Anyway, they would be green with envy because you’ve got more ships as an escort than they have in total.”

    Catra, unexpectedly, frowned. “That’ll make recruiting trained crew harder.”

    “They’re trained on ships, not spaceships.”

    “But the principles are similar,” Catra retorted.

    “That is correct - in as much as Horde sailors are concerned. I set the training so they would require minimal training to crew spaceships as soon as we made contact with Horde Prime,” Hordak said.

    “Really?” The Colonel frowned in return. “That sounds a bit inefficient.”

    “The only major sea power amongst the Alliance is Salineas, and they became isolationist after the first Alliance fell apart. I considered the additional training worth the effort.”

    “And you lost the war,” the Colonel said.

    “Not because of my Navy.”

    “Well, we’re Air Force. We’re used to flying and crewing airplanes, so you’ll find us more suited for crewing spaceships,” the Colonel said.

    “And Air Force pilots were the first astronauts,” Sam pointed out.

    “That, too. I guess we can recruit from NASA as well. That’s our space agency.”

    “You’ve got space forces?” Catra asked.

    “Not officially, no,” the Colonel admitted. “Nasa is a civilian agency.”

    “And they don’t know about the Goa’uld, right?” Catra shook her head.

    “That seems rather inefficient,” Hordak commented. Sam glanced at the alien - he wasn’t showing any expression. But Sam was used to Teal’c and was sure he enjoyed turning the Colonel’s words back at him.

    The Colonels shrugged. “It worked well so far. We haven’t had much trouble with other services, no mass panic, not too many senators and other bigwigs meddling with operations, no international pressure…”

    “And all built on a lie,” Catra replied.

    “Technically, it’s an omission. A secret. You know, need to know and all that stuff.” The Colonel smiled, though it was a little forced. Sam could tell.

    She cleared her throat. “So, I checked the route. We’ll be taking quite short trips through hyperspace.” According to what she had seen, Darla should be able to make much longer trips.

    “Oh, that’s because we haven’t fully mapped out the route - our data isn’t as precise as it could be,” Entrapta said. “So we’ll be making frequent stops to check our data. Later, we’ll be able to shorten travel times. Also, this way, we can check that everyone kept up. If a frigate suffers a malfunction and drops out of hyperspace, she’ll be easier to find if we don’t have to backtrack all the way to Etheria.”

    “Yeah.” The Colonel nodded. “Losing a spaceship is much more embarrassing than losing a plane.”

    “Exactly!” Entrapta beamed at him. She turned to Hordak. “See?”

    “Certain frigates wouldn’t be a loss at all,” Hordak said.

    Catra scowled at him for that but didn’t comment, Sam noticed.

    “Everyone, strap in! We’re engaging the hyperdrive in a minute,” Adora announced.

    “It’s just for the very, very unlikely case that we’ve made a mistake modifying the hyperdrive,” Entrapta said. “The data checks out, and, as I said, we’ve done shorter trips without issues, but sometimes, longer trips reveal a mistake in the setup.”

    Right. They were on a shakedown cruise. Sam pressed her lips together. It wasn’t as if she’d never done anything like that. But, usually, it had been under pressure, with no time to carefully test anything. This wasn’t the case here. Well, they were effectively at war, and the longer they waited, the higher the chance that Stargate Command would write them off, but…

    “Three. Two. One. Hyperspace Window formed! Entering!”

    And they were in hyperspace.

    “Bubble’s holding stable.”

    “No anomalies detected from the escorts.”

    Adora sighed audibly. “So, we’re in hyperspace.” She got up and stretched.

    “And my scanners don’t detect any signs of imminent system failures,” Entrapta added.

    Sam sighed herself. With relief. And a little apprehension.

    They were on the way to Earth.

    “Alea iacta est,” Daniel mumbled, mirroring her thoughts. For good or ill, they were now committed. But then, they probably had been committed ever since they had met Adora and the others.

    *****​

    Hyperspace Near Etheria, July 13th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    So, they were on their way to Earth. Catra sighed. It would take them about a month if Entrapta was correct - and the princess knew her business. About a month on the same ship as O’Neill and the others.

    She looked around the bridge. It had changed since her first trip with it. For the better, in Catra’s opinion. Originally, it had been She-Ra’s ship. One single seat for her, no consideration for anyone else. Just She-Ra and the ship. That wasn’t a good way to travel, in her opinion.

    “Something wrong?” Adora asked in a low voice.

    Catra snorted. “Just wondering about our passengers,” she lied.

    “Ah.” Adora nodded with a slight frown. “You still don’t trust them.”

    Well, duh, of course not. She shrugged.

    “You threatened O’Neill.”

    “I warned him,” Catra corrected her. “That’s not the same.”

    “They’re our guests,” Adora said.

    Catra shrugged again. If they hurt Adora, they could be their sworn allies for all she cared; she would make them pay.

    “So far, everything looks good!” Entrapta announced.

    “The ship’s performing within expected parameters,” Hordak added.

    “And are those parameters good?” O’Neill asked. “Just checking!” he added with a grin.

    “Why would we alter the ship’s systems to decrease performance?” Hordak asked.

    “That would only make sense if you’re trying to sabotage a ship,” Entrapta added. “And Darla is our ship.”

    Adora’s actually, though Darla might have second thoughts about it, if she could talk, in Catra’s opinion - Entrapta had spent far longer with the ship.

    “The ship’s speed exceeds the speed of known Goa’uld ships, Sir,” Carter said.

    O’Neill nodded. “That’s good then. If you’re faster, you control the engagement.”

    “Unless you’re on the defensive,” Catra pointed out. You couldn’t run if you had to hold the line. Or fortress.

    “Yeah, yeah. But we’re in a spaceship. Even if we have to hold a planet, speed will help a lot. Right?” He looked at Teal’c.

    “That is correct,” the big man replied. “Although by using the mass of your ships against important targets, you can force even faster enemies to engage you at a point and time of your choosing.”

    This was starting to sound like a tactical course for cadets. Catra snorted and stretched, groaning softly as she bent and straightened her spine. “So, we’re in hyperspace and won’t drop out for a few hours at least.”

    “Twelve, to be exact,” Etrapta cut in.

    Catra nodded. “Twelve hours. So, what’s for dinner?”

    “Rations,” Glimmer said.

    Catra scoffed. “Yeah, right.” As if anyone would choose to eat rations, least of all a princess.

    Glimmer chuckled. “I had the palace kitchen pack us a meal. We just need to reheat it.”

    Catra perked up. That was better than what she had expected. “Don’t tell Priest, or he’ll try to have his cooks do the same for us.”

    Glimmer and Adora shuddered.

    “I take it that clones aren’t known for their cooking skills?” Daniel asked.

    “In the Horde, efficiency was more important than frivolous comforts,” Hordak said. “Rations provided everyone with what they needed.”

    O’Neill grimaced. “That doesn’t sound like taste was a priority.”

    “It wasn’t.”

    “Horde Prime had some great cooks,” Catra said. She suppressed a shudder at the memories of her time with Horde Prime. Glimmer tensed, too, Catra noticed. “But they didn’t survive the war.” She frowned. Or had that been Horde Prime himself, taking over their bodies to cook his own meals? It seemed absurd, but Catra also could imagine Horde Prime declaring that only his cooking was good enough for him.

    “Let’s go then! I’m a little hungry after loading all our supplies,” Adora announced, changing back into her normal form.

    “Did they make tiny food, too?” Entrapta asked as they walked to the door. Or bulwark, since they were on a ship.

    “I think they prepared tiny desserts,” Glimmer said.

    “Oh, good!”

    “Ah… who’s standing watch on the bridge?” O’Neill asked.

    “Darla,” Entrapta replied.

    “The ship herself?” Daniel cocked his head and looked around.

    “She knows best,” Entrapta told him. “And she can call us if we’re needed.”

    O’Neill nodded, though he looked a little uncomfortable, Catra noted. Was that another Earth thing? Did he mistrust Darla? Or was he concerned about the fact that Darla had cameras all over the ship?

    She kept an eye on the soldiers as they walked towards the mess, her ears twitching as she listened to their conversation. Ah. Something about Artificial Intelligences and computers. O’Neill didn’t trust bots.

    Not a stupid attitude, of course - bots, no matter what Entrapta might say, weren’t people. Not even Light Hope. But Darla could be trusted - she hadn’t been messed with by the First Ones.

    And not having to stand watch, at least not in hyperspace, made travelling easier. Catra wasn’t really looking forward to spending a night on the bridge instead of with Adora. Unless, of course, they could spend the night together on the bridge. Use the oversized She-Ra seat for something fun, for once.

    But Adora wouldn’t want to risk anyone walking in on them, even though that only made it more fun. So, this would probably remain a fantasy.

    Well, you couldn’t have everything you wanted. Catra had learned that the hard way.

    *****​

    Hyperspace, July 14th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “All systems running as expected!”

    Entrapta sounded so happy and excited, Jack O’Neill refrained from making a sarcastic comment. They were heading home to Earth. On a spaceship. With a fleet.

    And waiting to finish the first leg of their trip - a ‘standard navigational stop’, as Entrapta put it. And yet...

    “I didn’t think that we’d travel to Earth on Love Boat,” he muttered.

    “Jack!” Daniel gasped next to him.

    “What?” Jack nodded towards the others. Everyone was on the bridge, though Jack was sure that any Navy officer would have a fit if he saw them. Catra had placed herself in Adora’s lap with one of the smuggest expressions Jack had seen lately. Glimmer and Bow were standing next to each other, talking in low voices, and looking at their expressions, Jack was sure that they weren’t discussing politics or space travel. Unless they were literally in love with either. At least Hordak was checking the screens more than Entrapta. “Just look at them,” he whispered.

    “But…” Daniel shook his head. “That’s obviously normal for them.”

    “Public displays of affection?” Jack grinned at his friend. “On duty?”

    “Well, are they technically on duty?” Daniel asked.

    “We finished breakfast twenty minutes ago,” Jack pointed out.

    “Yes, but…”

    “We’re ready to drop out of hyperspace,” Entrapta announced.

    Glimmer turned and walked towards Adora while Bow went to check the scenes on his side of the bridge.

    And Catra slid out of Adora’s lap.

    “Now they’re on duty,” Daniel said. “See?”

    Yeah, even General Hammond, for all that he was a rather laid-back Texan, would raise his eyebrows at that. Which would be amusing, at least. Still, working alongside three couples? For a month? That was a little much. Jack very much didn’t look at Carter.

    “Dropping out in three...two...one!”

    And they were back in ‘normal space’.

    Entrapta’s hair tendrils flew over the consoles next to her. “Everything and everyone is where they should be. Deviations are within safety margins and tolerances.”

    The big screen lit up, and the clone commander appeared. “Your Divine Highness, we have arrived. All ships are accounted for! Command us!”

    “Thank you, Priest.” Adora nodded. “Start preparing for the next leg. As soon as we’ve finished our system check, we’ll depart again.”

    Priest hit his chest and bowed. “As you command, Your Divine Highness. We shall prepare at once!”

    The screen went blank again. Jack snorted. “I can see how that would grow old quickly.”

    Adora pouted at him.

    He grinned. “You could tell him to use a title that’s less of a mouthful.”

    “I tried,” she said.

    “Priest’s ‘unfailing devotion’ fails when it clashes with his ideas on how to talk to a goddess,” Catra said.

    Which was rather worrying, though not unexpected, if Jack was honest. “So, he claims that he knows his dogma better than his goddess does? Wouldn’t that qualify as heresy?”

    “I’m not a goddess!” Adora snapped.

    “I don’t think it would be considered heresy since Priest is the de facto head of their church,” Daniel said. “Although it’s hard to say since we don’t have gods that actually talk back when prayed to and might comment.”

    “Except for the Goa’uld,” Jack said.

    “False gods,” Teal’c stated.

    “Well, in the past, something that went against established doctrine and custom of a religion often was called heresy, though since this faith is rather new, there probably is no established consensus about this yet.” Daniel pushed his glasses up. “Or Priest is defining it as we speak.”

    “Don’t give him ideas!” Glimmer said.

    “Even without writing scripture, his ideas will likely form the dogma of the faith,” Daniel pointed out. “As long as he is the uncontested leader of his, ah, flock.”

    And if there was a schism, they would have to deal with two competing sects of religious fanatics with their own spaceships. A recipe for disaster if Jack had ever seen one. “Yeah, let’s hope that they don’t start splintering,” he said.

    Adora sighed. “I just wish they’d stop treating me as a goddess.”

    Catra snickered. “Just them, though, right?”

    Adora blushed - Jack wasn’t going there - and Glimmer rolled her eyes.

    “All systems check out!” Entrapta interrupted them. “Calculating the next course! Well, recalculating and adjusting for minor stellar drift. So far, we’re doing better than expected! The star charts we have are matching up well.”

    “They should. We’re talking stars. They shouldn’t move erratically,” Bow said.

    “Well, Etheria was in another dimension for a thousand years,” Entrapta retorted. “Its absence should have affected the other stars nearby. Not to any great extent, but enough to affect navigation.”

    Another dimension. Jack didn’t want to even think about that. Scientists back home would have fits one that came out.

    “Easily compensated for,” Hordak commented.

    “But we still need to verify the data through actual observation,” Entrapta told him.

    “Which we just did.”

    “Yes. And which we will keep doing!” Entrapta smiled. “This is exciting! We’re making history - of sorts. It’s not our first trip, after all, but we’re much better prepared now.”

    “And we’re not about to charge at Horde Prime’s fleet,” Catra said. “That’s already an improvement.”

    Jack nodded. A nice, peaceful trip back to Earth would be perfect. No, it would be perfect if they found a Stargate on the way, so they could warn Earth.

    *****​

    Hyperspace, July 14th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    The second trip through hyperspace went as well as the first. At least as far as Adora could tell. Entrapta and Hordak were tinkering with Darla or the shuttle or doing something else together that involved First Ones technology. Adora didn’t know what exactly they were doing, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. They were a lot closer than she had expected. Not that she would admit that to Catra - her lover would be insufferably smug for having pointed it out before.

    Her lover… Adora sighed as she twisted so she was lying on her side and looked at Catra. She had been curled up against Adora and now was groping for her body in her sleep. “You just want my body heat,” Adora whispered with a smile as she wrapped her arms around her.

    “I just want your body,” Catra mumbled without opening her eyes as she snuggled into Adora’s embrace.

    “You’re awake.”

    “Of course I am. You think I wouldn’t notice you leaving just because I was asleep?” Catra whispered into Adora’s chest.

    Adora chuckled - Catra’s breath was tickling her skin. And her tail wrapped itself around her leg. “Of course not.”

    “Good. ‘Cause I’m not gonna let you leave.”

    “You will have to - well soon arrive at the next stop,” Adora pointed out.

    “We can sleep through it.” Catra wrapped her arms around Adora and held on more tightly. “The others can watch Entrapta do her thing and then enter hyperspace again.”

    “And talk to Priest?”

    “Bah! They can tell them you’re doing your Divine Duty with me.”

    Adora snorted. “My Divine Duty?”

    “Getting much-needed rest. R&R is crucial for a soldier, remember?”

    “Ah. We haven’t done too much resting today,” Adora pointed out.

    “That’s the recreation part,” Catra replied. “The best part of R&R.”

    “Right.” The instructor in cadet school had told them so with a rare grin. Not that the Horde had been big on R&R in practice, though. Adora suppressed the urge to sigh. That was the past. They weren’t cadets any more. They weren’t Horde any more. Even if they might still be wearing their old uniforms. Or not wearing them right now. “But I can’t stay in bed. We’ve spent the whole trip in bed.” Well, much of it.

    “I bet you we can.”

    “I need to be on the bridge.” She had to. What if something happened? She was She-Ra. It was her duty.

    Catra sighed this time. And not the happy, contented sigh she used after, well, recreation. “You’re a dummy.”

    “But I’m your dummy,” Adora replied.

    “And don’t you forget it.” Catra’s arms tightened around Adora, squeezing her for a moment before releasing her. “Let’s go be useless on the bridge then.” She rolled to the side, staring at the ceiling. “After dinner.”

    “Right.” And after a shower.

    *****​

    O’Neill looked a little grumpy, Adora noticed as they entered the mess. “Is something wrong with the food?” Adora asked. This meal hadn’t been prepared by the palace staff, after all, but by Bow.

    “What? No, no. It’s peachy.”

    “Peachy?” Adora asked.

    “It’s fine. The food is good.” O’Neill speared a piece of meat with his fork and put it into his mouth.

    “It’s excellent,” Daniel added with a smile.

    “Much better than rations,” Catra commented as she filled her plate from the big pots.

    “Indeed.”

    “Where’s Sam?” Adora asked.

    “In the engine room with Entrapta and Hordak,” O’Neill replied. “She took a sandwich.” He was frowning again.

    Ah. Adora nodded. That was it. “Don’t worry. We’ll make them eat proper meals in the future.” Entrapta had been doing better until now. Hordak must be a bad influence on her. Or she was too excited about their trip, Adora added with a slightly guilty feeling. Hordak hadn’t done anything so far to make them suspect him. At least in her opinion.

    And the food was good. She smiled at Bow. “It’s great!”

    “Thank you!” He beamed at her.

    Glimmer snorted. “I bet you would even find rations good, as famished as you must be.”

    “Jealous?” Catra grinned between bites.

    “Hardly!” Glimmer sniffed, then grinned. “It’s like a vacation, isn’t it? No court to bother us. All the free time we want while we travel. All the privacy we want” She smiled at Bow, who blushed a little.

    Adora nodded. Her friend was right - this was nice. Nice so far. Darla wasn’t the palace, but they had their own rooms. And there were no guards or staff following them around and asking questions.

    “Enjoy it while it lasts,” O’Neill said. He looked even grumpier now. “We’re still at war.”

    “We know,” Catra told him. “It’s still nice. Nicer than our last war.”

    Adora nodded. Definitely. She wasn’t fighting Catra this time. Etheria wasn’t about to be destroyed by some ancient superweapon. Her friends weren’t mind-controlled. It was much nicer than their last war.

    So far.

    “It’s a little new for us,” Daniel said. “We aren’t used to so much, ah, free time on a mission.”

    “Right. You travel through gates,” Glimmer nodded. “No travel times.”

    “Yes. We’re generally home for dinner,” O’Neill said.

    Oh. Adora was so stupid - they were missing their home! “We’ll get you home soon,” she told him with a smile. “Promise!”

    That didn’t seem to cheer him up as much as she had hoped. Not very much at all, actually.

    *****​

    “And the hyperspace bubble is perfectly stable even with the changes to the generators here,” Entrapta explained.

    Samantha Carter could see that. But she could also see something else. “It could be more efficient, though, if you tweaked the converter there.”

    “That would remove redundancy,” Hordak objected. “Not something you want to do when it concerns hyperspace travel.”

    “It wouldn’t remove redundancy - both this and the other converter there rely on the same systems,” Samantha pointed out. “The lessened strain would strengthen the whole system.”

    “Oh, I see!” Entrapta piped up. “Yes, that would work. Probably. We need to test it.”

    “Yes.” Hordak nodded in one of the most grudging ways that Sam had ever seen. She was sure that if Entrapta hadn’t agreed, he wouldn’t have agreed either. “We’ll have to make adjustments at the next stop.”

    “Which is in… oh, five minutes! Time flies when you’re having fun!” Entrapta announced. “Let’s go to the bridge!” She turned and started for the door.

    Sam followed her after a last glance at the machines in the room. Whatever else this trip might result in, she had learned a lot about advanced hyperspace drives. She might not yet be able to craft one herself, but she was close. And she should be able to duplicate a standard Goa’uld drive with the right parts.

    But that could wait. First, they had to find a way back to Earth. Which meant a series of navigational stops to update their charts - because they had been out of touch and out of sync with the rest of the universe for a thousand years.

    Sam still had trouble with the idea that an entire star system had been shifted to another dimension - a pocket dimension, even - for a thousand years. But the way everyone talked about it as something that had happened, the way people mentioned seeing stars for the first time in the sky… It had to be true. Something else to give nightmares to the people back on Earth who would be worried about magic.

    Though Sam was also sure that more than a few people would be speculating about using something similar to save Earth in extremis. She hoped they wouldn’t find support - what she had heard about the Heart of Etheria from Entrapta gave her nightmares.

    They reached the bridge, and Sam felt a brief pang of guilt and embarrassment when she noticed that everyone else was already present. Arriving last was never a good thing for a subordinate.

    “The drives are running fine!” Entrapta announced. “No trouble at all!”

    “Good.” Adora nodded at them.

    “Carter! Did you enjoy your sandwich?” The Colonel raised his eyebrows at her.

    Sam suppressed the urge to frown - she knew what he really meant. “Yes, Sir,” she replied. “We tweaked the drives a bit.” She carefully didn’t smile at his slight twitch upon hearing that.

    “Well, next time, take the time to eat with us like civilised people,” he told her. “Unless it’s an emergency, of course.”

    “Yes,” Glimmer agreed, looking at Entrapta. “You need decent meals, not just snacks. Or tiny snacks.”

    “We had rations,” Hordak said. “They covered our nutritional needs perfectly.”

    Catra made a gagging noise, and everyone else from Etheria winced as well.

    “They weren’t bad,” Sam said. “No as good as MREs, but edible.” She had tried some, after all.

    “‘Not as good as MREs’? That’s practically poison, Carter!” the Colonel blurted out, shaking his head.

    “Jack! People have different tastes and culinary traditions! You can’t just insult their meals like this!” Daniel protested.

    “Of course he can - Horde rations are horrible,” Catra said. “I’ve eaten enough of them to know.”

    Adora nodded. “Yes. There’s no comparison to actual food. And…”

    “Exiting Hyperspace in one minute,” the voice of the ship’s computer interrupted her.

    “Oh!” Entrapta turned to the screens and consoles. “Good girl, Darla!”

    Sam watched the screens showing the power fluctuations in the hyperdrives. That was a critical phase of the trip - entering and leaving hyperspace. The phase that was most prone to failure, Hordak had claimed, which made sense.

    But they made the transition without apparent trouble. All readings were within expected parameters.

    “And the fleet made it out as well… getting a count… still complete!” Bow announced.

    “The frigates were kept in top condition - anything that might fail was replaced,” Hordak said. “And anyone,” he added with a deep frown.

    Priest appeared on screen a moment later, telling them what they already knew - Third Fleet had arrived safely - but taking longer with all the “Divine Highnesses” thrown in. He would be trouble; Sam was sure of that as well, even though she understood the reason they had taken him and his fleet along. Another reason that they needed to find a Stargate. If Priest got into a debate about religion with some of the more… fanatical faithful on Earth, the consequences could be catastrophic.

    “Scanners running! Navigational update… We’re at the projected coordinates, with a slight but expected deviation,” Entrapta announced. “So, let’s take the time to tweak the engines before we start the next leg of our trip!”

    Sam nodded. “Yes.”

    “Tweaking our hyperdrives, Carter?” the Colonel asked.

    “Minor adjustments to improve efficiency,” she told him.

    “Not so minor!” Entratpa beamed. “If this works, it’ll make Darla even faster!”

    “Ah. That’s a good thing.”

    “Yes, Sir, it is,” Sam replied before she could help it. She knew what she was doing.

    “Scanning finished… Oh,” Bow interrupted the Colonel’s reply. “There’s Naquadah on the planet in the nearby system. Processed Naquadah. According to our data, the system should be uninhabited.”

    Everyone looked at the screen. Naquadah on a planet? That usually meant advanced technology. And a Stargate.

    *****​

    Outside System PK-327, July 14th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Anything in the system? Ships?”

    “No,” Catra replied. She didn’t see any hostile contacts on the screen.

    “We’re outside their scanning range, right?” Adora asked.

    “We’re outside the range of the Goa’uld sensors that we know of,” Bow told her.

    That wasn’t as reassuring as Catra liked. SG-1 might have claimed that the Goa’uld didn’t advance their technology, but that was the sort of assumption that got your plans foiled at the worst moment, in Catra’s experience. Granted, she had been fighting Adora and the princesses, not some age-old megalomaniac parasites, and SG-1 had a lot of experience with them, but still… She couldn’t help worrying.

    “And we didn’t pick up any active scans,” Entrapta said.

    “Could they have picked up our scans?”

    “They shouldn’t have. But…” Entrapta bit her lower lip. Not a good sign. “Third Fleet is big enough to show up on optical sensors - if they have some.”

    Optical sensors? Oh, telescopes. The frigates’ colour scheme wouldn’t help, either.

    “They would have to be looking at this exact location,” Hordak replied. “And we’re too far out for our arrival to be easily detected with hyperspace sensors, either.”

    “That means travelling to the planet in the shuttle will take some time as well, though,” Catra said. And ‘not easily detected’ didn’t mean ‘undetectable’, either.

    “If we want to travel to the planet in the first place,” Glimmer said.

    Catra snorted at that. As if they wouldn’t check out the planet. O’Neill would probably walk there if he had to. And they had to know if there was a Goa’uld base so close to Etheria.

    Glimmer smiled wryly. “It had to be said.” But she had that glint in her eyes - she was craving some action. The queen was rather bloodthirsty for a princess.

    But that raised another question. “So, who’s going?” Catra asked.

    “Me!”

    “Us!”

    “I want to see the new technology!”

    “You need me on the ground - I can teleport us.”

    “I can carry a Stargate if we need to.”

    “We need to go and see if there’s a Stargate.”

    “We’ve got the most experience with Goa’uld.”

    “So, basically everyone wants to go,” Catra summed it up. But someone had to stay back and watch the ship. And Third Fleet.

    Everyone looked at each other. Catra sighed. This would be ugly.

    *****​

    “...and we’ll stay in contact. If there’s any trouble, you can come and relieve us,” Adora said.

    Glimmer rolled her eyes. “We - and the entire Third Fleet.”

    “Don’t pout, Sparkles,” Catra told her. “Someone has to stay back, and you’re the Queen. You’re in command.”

    “Yet no one is listening to me!” Glimmer looked like she was about to stomp her foot.

    “Glimmer.” Bow put his hand on her shoulder.

    She gripped it, sighing. “I know.”

    Catra stretched. It sucked to be Queen. Not that she cared as long as she was with Adora.

    “I still fail to see why I need to stay back,” Hordak complained.

    “So in the case that we get discovered, people will not connect us to the Horde,” Entrapta replied. “Though we could disguise you, I guess…”

    “We don’t have the time for that,” Catra lied.

    “Be careful,” Glimmer said.

    “Of course!” Adora nodded with a serious expression.

    Catra suppressed a snicker. Adora and cautious? Yeah, right. Catra would have her hands full trying to keep her lover from risking her life. “So, stay safe and don’t get bored,” she said.

    “Right! Let’s go!” Entrapta hugged Hordak, then entered the shuttle. “Let’s see if our stealth system works!”

    “Uh… it does work, right?” Daniel asked. “We’re about to fly towards a Goa’uld-controlled planet.”

    “We’ve tested the system, and it should work,” Carter told him. “But this is the first time it’s used on an actual mission.”

    “Nothing like field testing new gear on a recon mission,” O’Neill said with a snort.

    “It’s very efficient!” Entrapta said, sticking her head out of the shuttle.

    “As long as it works…” O’Neill muttered.

    “It should, Sir. The calculations work out.”

    “Sometimes, math doesn’t work in the field, Carter.”

    “That’s not how it works, Jack,” Daniel said.

    “You know what I mean.”

    “Well, yes, but…”

    “Let’s go!” Adora said. “The sooner we go, the sooner we’re back. For the Honour of Grayskull!”

    Watching her lover grow into a huge princess never got old, in Catra’s opinion. But it was over quickly, and then Adora stepped into the shuttle. Catra waved at Glimmer, Bow and Hordak before following her. O’Neill might be worried, but Catra wasn’t. If Entrapta, Carter and Hordak were sure that the stealth system would work, then that was good enough for her. Entrapta might be a little too confident, and Carter was hard to read, but Hordak wouldn’t let Entrapta go if he didn’t trust their technology. And if it didn’t work, well… They had She-Ra with them. And the shuttle was fast.

    They were ready for whatever awaited them on the planet.

    *****​
     
  22. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Well, enjoy the next chapter! :)
     
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  23. Tiktog

    Tiktog Versed in the lewd.

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    I very much did
     
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