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Yeah, if it was mentioned that the outer intercept was difficult, I missed it. In fact, if I understand you correctly, they're not actually using that option at all, and that too I failed to pick up from the chapter.
I will add that to the next chapter when the forces arrive.
The most efficient strategy for this entire escapade would have been to anonymously warn the targeted system lords... I wonder why the Tokra went with recommending alliance engagement. Are they testing their new allies?
The most efficient strategy for this entire escapade would have been to anonymously warn the targeted system lords... I wonder why the Tokra went with recommending alliance engagement. Are they testing their new allies?
Anonymously warning Heru'ur would only prevent the atrocity if he a) believes the warning and b) sends enough ships to stop Apophis's forces. And even in that case, he might decide to retaliate in kind to the attempted atrocity - and the Tok'ra likely lack a spy in his circle. So, you'd have to be very lucky to avoid ending up with another planet's population wiped out. I'll add a line about that to the next chapter to make it clearer.
Chapter 77: The Intervention Part 2
Chapter 77: The Intervention Part 2

Deep Space, On the Way to PZ-921, January 7th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"We got the first data from the spy bots in the system!"

Samantha Carter turned away from the preliminary analysis of the latest readouts from her experiment - the lab on the frigate wasn't as good as the one in the Mountain, much less the space lab, but she could still do a lot of work here - and went over to her friend. "What does it look like?"

"Hmm…" Entrapta cocked her head to the side as she looked at the screen held in her hair. "It looks like it confirms the data the Tok'ra shared. At least with regard to the presence of spaceships in the system. Scans show one patrol flight of Death Gliders near the asteroid belt, no other ships."

"Ah." That would fit the intel they had. Of course, if this was a trap by Heru'ur, then any fleet units would be hidden from long-range scans, and while the Alliance had better scanners than the Goa'uld - as far as they knew - they hadn't mounted the best scanners on the spy bots; the chance of them falling into enemy hands was just too great.

"Oh, wait - there's an Al'kesh in orbit around the planet!"

A single bomber? Sam leaned forward and confirmed it. Yes, indeed, a single Al'kesh was in orbit. "That's curious," she commented. But a single ship - and a small one, at that - wouldn't change the equations of the space battle. Not when facing multiple capital ships from Apophis fleet, much less the task force from the Alliance. "Any sign of bombing operations?" If the Goa'uld were dealing with a rebellion on the planet…

"Hmm… nothing going on right now - no explosions. Well, none big enough to show up on the scans. We'll have to get closer to get more detailed scans of the planetary surface."

That would increase the risk of the bots being detected, but not by much. They weren't true stealth bots, but they had a reduced sensor signature. "Yes," Sam agreed.

Entrapta sent the command, and then they waited. A bit more than six seconds to reach the bot in question, then another six seconds to see it starting to move… the lag was frustrating. Even more frustrating was that Sam hadn't been able to find a solution yet.

Finally, the readings started to change. Of course, it would take longer for the bot to reach a range where the scans were more effective. And it couldn't get too close, or the Goa'uld forces might pick it up.

On the other hand, if they just picked up a bot, with advanced technology, if not too advanced, then they would go on alert, and it might even be enough for Heru'ur to send more ships to the system, perhaps spoiling Apophis's plans without revealing too much about the Alliance's existence… No. Heru'ur was unlikely to send enough ships to deter the attack. Not if he was suspecting spy activities instead of an invasion. And he would be on the lookout for spy bots from then on, making their recon missions more difficult. And as the Tok'ra had pointed out - if Heru'ru found out about the planned atrocities, he might strike back with atrocities of his own no matter whether or not Apophis succeeded in the first place. That was how those things worked. No, they had to stick to the mission.

And speaking of the mission… "Let's call the others," Sam said. The Colonel wouldn't like to wait for the more detailed data, but he would hate not being told at once even more. And Adora and her friends could keep him in line.

"Alright!" Entrapta turned to the main screen. "OK… Aw. I really miss Darla. We should have taken her along." She pouted as her hair handled the intercom.

"She's rather distinctive," Sam pointed out. Horde frigates showing up might keep the Goa'uld guessing even if they were spotted, but Darla? A design last used by the Ancients? If the Goa'uld thought they were facing the Ancients, Ancients bent on destroying their empire and way of life, they would likely band together at once, no matter their past feuds. A common enemy did that. And that would make the war much harder to win.

"We could camouflage her! Make her look like… hm… a totally different ship! Or we improve her stealth systems!"

"If we manage that," Sam replied.

"Well, we'd also have to ask her if she wants to change her appearance. But at least we'll get good data on the Goa'uld sensors on this mission. Oh! Do you think we'll get to analyse a captured ship?"

"If we capture one." Boarding a Ha'tak… Sam pushed the memories that brought up away. They had been desperate, back when Apophis had attacked Earth. This time, it would be different - but it would also be more dangerous. Apophis wouldn't blow up a ship with him inside, but Sam didn't doubt that his most loyal Jaffa would rather die and take the enemy with them than allow their ship to be captured.

They had more troops now, but it was still a daunting task, even with Etherian support. Magic didn't work in space - unless you were She-Ra.

Before Sam could voice her thoughts, the door in their temporary lab opened, and the Colonel stepped inside. "So, I spy with my eye…"

Sam suppressed a sigh. She had heard better jokes from him - he must be more nervous than he let on about the mission.


"So, Heru'ur has a slightly larger force in space than expected," Catra summed up the data Entrapta and Sam had presented. "But it's a single bomber." Hardly a threat to either Apophis or their own forces. She frowned. "That doesn't seem much of a concern - though we probably need to take it out to stop them from alerting Heru'ur's main forces."

"The question is why Heru'ur would station a single Al'kesh on this planet," Sam pointed out. "Its main use is to bombard targets on the ground, but Heru'ur controls the planet."

"The planet's population might be rebelling," Daniel suggested.

"Our spy bots haven't found any sign of combat on the ground," Sam retorted.

"Unless the population was supplied with advanced weapons, the Jaffa on the planet would be able to handle them," Teal'c added. "Should they require air support, then the Death Gliders could handle it. Though they would be unlikely to do so - Heru'ur's soldiers are renowned as skilled and experienced, and highly motivated even for Jaffa; the false god focuses more attention on them than his rivals usually do since he is said to often fight at their side."

That had been in the briefing, Catra recalled. She hadn't thought it would be very relevant, though, since they didn't expect Heru'ur to be present. He would not travel in a single Al'kesh, at least.

"Wow, he sounds like one of the boys," O'Neill commented with a snort.

Catra narrowed her eyes at him. Princesses did the same - and she had taken the field numerous times when she had been leading the Horde. "A leader's presence can decide a battle," she pointed out.

"Yes," Glimmer agreed. "Also, Heru'ur fighting at their side would increase his troops' morale and their motivation, even in training. No soldier wants to slack or fail in front of their god."

Catra nodded. Not if they wanted to avoid getting punished, at least.

"It is a brave but dangerous tactic," Teal'c said. "Seeing their false god defeated in personal combat would strike a harsh blow against his followers' morale even if he manages to escape."

Which he wouldn't if he ended up facing them. Based on what they knew about the System Lords' technology, Catra wouldn't bet on them if they were facing an experienced princess, much less Adora. And Scorpia would probably just crush the snake, shield and all. And Catra had a few ideas about dealing with him herself, should she get the opportunity…

"Well, if he shows up, we'll do our best to teach him the error of his ways," O'Neill said.

Catra narrowed her eyes at him again. Was that some backhanded criticism of personally leading your force?

If it was, Adora had missed it - Catra's lover nodded with a grim smile. "Yes, we will."

"But back to the Al'kesh," Sam spoke up again. "We still don't know why it is stationed there."

"It might be used as a transport," Teal'c suggested. "Although a Stargate would be faster and more efficient for ferrying both cargo or troops unless the destination lacks a gate - or the Stargate is not under Heru'ur's control."

"So, he might be planning an attack of his own?" Bow asked. "With a single Al'kesh?"

"It's enough for a raid. Their cloaking device isn't going to do much against our new sensors, but against a peer-level opponent…" O'Neill shrugged. "Using a backwater planet like this as a staging area would make OPSEC easier, too."

"We'll have to take it out anyway," Glimmer said. "But as long as it stays out of the atmosphere, we need more firepower than the stealth shuttles can deliver."

Catra frowned. The Goa'uld shields were weaker in a planet's atmosphere, but they were quite strong outside - well, not against a frigate. "We could take a few Horde fighters with us, but that would increase the risk of getting identified. Of course, if it engages Apophis's forces with the Death Gliders, our task force can jump it and destroy it - but if it stays in orbit…"

"I can deal with it," Adora said. "I just need to get to it. And a stealth shuttle can get me there."

"Do you plan to board it, or are you going to cut it apart?" O'Neill asked.

"Destroying quickly is safer," Catra pointed out. That would stop any message from getting out. But…

"We can take it over - there might be prisoners on it," Adora said.

"I guess boarding action it is," Catra said. "Good thing I brought my space suit." Adora opened her mouth, but Catra cut her off. "You're not going there alone. And we've got enough officers to handle the ground targets." Entrapta, Bow and Sam would be busy dealing with any technical issue, but that still left Glimmer and Scorpia. And Jack, in case the other Alliance officers screwed up. He might not be in the official chain of command, but Glimmer could easily give him a field promotion or something to outrank whoever screwed up. It would cause some issues with the Earth generals, but that would be less of a problem than messing up this operation.

Adora was still frowning but didn't seem to have a counter-argument for that.

Catra grinned.


PZ-921-System, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"The spy bots have detected Apophis's forces," Carter reported.

Finally! Jack O'Neill managed not to blurt it out loud - that would have set a bad example. He wasn't just leading SG-1 here, after all - there was an entire platoon of marines in the shuttle. Sure, they were led by a marine lieutenant, and Jack wasn't in the man's chain of command, but that was only a technicality. The lieutenant's superior officer was back with the frigates of the task force, waiting outside the system, outside sensor range, to deploy once the vanguard in the stealth shuttles had secured the Stargate and taken out enemy communications. And that meant the man might as well be back on Earth - he might even arrive more quickly on the planet if he could use the Stargate, but you couldn't count on that; even if you took control of the gate, the enemy could dial in and block you from using it.

No, with Jack in the stealth shuttle, and him being the highest-ranking officer present, as well as the most experienced when it came to gate travel or fighting the Goa'uld, his advice and suggestions would be taken as orders. And his reaction to, well, anything would be closely observed.

So he yawned and stretched before getting up from his seat in the main hold of the shuttle. "Who won the betting pool? I had 'Apophis tries to be clever and attacks in a straight line from his holdings, to make Heru'ur think Sokar is trying to frame him'," Jack asked.

He was lying, of course - there was no such betting pool. But Carter played along. More or less. "He chose a vector that did neither point back at his territory nor at Sokar's expected holding."

He could hear Entrapta ask, "What betting pool?" over the link to Carter's laptop, but Carter could explain that later.

"Ah, so no one won. What's the status of our fleet?" he asked.

Carter, as usual, had anticipated that and had already done the calculations. "The task force is moving to intercept the attackers. They should be able to engage them in the outer part of the system, sir."

That, too, had been expected. With hyperspace travel, you couldn't intercept an enemy on the approach unless you got very lucky and stumbled on them during a navigational break or had their planned route in your computers. So, you had to wait until they dropped out of hyperspace and engage them. And that meant staying near the target, or you might get caught too far out to reach the enemy force before it reached the target.

Still, that meant that Heru'ur's forces would be able to observe the battle easily. "And that's our cue!" Jack said, loud enough so all the marines would overhear him. "We need to ensure that by the time the snakes get their butt kicked in space, we control the ground."

Soldiers, especially the noncoms, needed to know a mission's goal in case the officer's got taken out. They had been briefed, of course, but the forces being marines, it was better to repeat the information, in Jack's opinion. Maybe a few times.

"Alright, men!" the Lieutenant spoke up. "Check your gear and get ready!" He sounded more confident than his age and rank would make you expect - but then, the leathernecks would have sent their best for this mission. Just like the Air Force, Jack added to himself as he watched his team get ready as well.

"Alpha separating," Carter reported.

Jack nodded. That meant the shuttle carrying Adora, Catra and the boarding force to the Al'kesh.

"Beta, Gamma and Delta en route," Carter went on right after Jack noticed the acceleration of their shuttle. Beta meant them - the shuttle headed for the Stargate. Gamma with Glimmer and Bow would hit the main mining complex, and Delta would hit the second mine. Epsilon with Entrapta would stay in orbit as reserves.

Just as planned.

Which meant it was now time for things to go wrong.

"Alright!" And there was Scorpia, back from the bridge. Or cockpit. The huge woman smiled as she took her seat. "Let's crack some snake skulls!" She flexed her pincers, and Jack saw a number of the marines wince.

"Remember, don't shoot the control device!" the lieutenant bellowed. "Also, don't use it as cover!"

Jack snorted. That was good advice. No matter how well it had turned out for SG-1 with their unplanned trip to Etheria, you didn't want to risk a faulty gate forming.

Then the shuttle shook, entering the atmosphere, and Jack clenched his teeth. This was the most dangerous part of the landing. All the stealth in the world wouldn't be able to completely hide the thermal signature of that manoeuvre. And if enemy Death Gliders were close enough… They shouldn't be - the bots had tracked them - but Jack couldn't help worrying anyway.

After a few far too long seconds, the shuttle stopped shaking. Which meant they were now in the lower parts of the atmosphere, slow enough to be again hidden from sensors, now that they weren't imitating a meteor any more.

He slowly exhaled and checked his carbine. Not much longer now.

"Almost down!" Scorpia commented. Her stinger twitched above her head.

"Alpha reached the target," Carter reported, cool as always. "Ready elements of the Death Gliders squadrons are launching."

Which meant they were now on the clock. They had to secure the Stargate as soon as possible - or at least prevent it from dialling out and opening a communication link. FtL communications could be disrupted or hacked, whatever Carter called it, for a time at least, if you had enough tech and juice, but to block communication through a gate, you had to take the gate, or people could radio or even send a messenger through it.

"This is it, kids!" Jack said. "See you at the gate!"

A few marines chuckled at the reference. Daniel pouted, but Jack had expected. Carter and Teal'c didn't react, of course. And Scorpia grinned widely.

And then the shuttle shook once more - they had hit the ground. Then the ramp went down, and the battle started. Heru'ur's Jaffa were sharp.

Jack wasn't the first out of the door, but he was a close second behind Scorpia.

And it was like running behind a tank. Despite the staff blasts flying their way - most splashing against the shuttle's shield - the huge woman charged straight at, then into the line of Jaffa still forming up, sending them flying. Literally - Jack saw a Jaffa warrior, armour and all, catch a swing of her pincers and get thrown into the air, high enough to clear the wall behind him.

He put a short burst into another who was lining up a shot at Scorpia, dropping him, then fired at a Jaffa crawling on the ground to get his staff. Another, behind that one, was shredded by Teal'c's staff weapon while Jack opened on two more Jaffa trying to hold a gate in the base wall.

Another Jaffa, screaming like a banshee, went over the wall - no, into a Jaffa on the wall who manning a gun emplacement, both vanishing from sight.

"Teal'c!"Jack called out, pointing up.

A moment later, the whole emplacement vanished in an explosion.

The gates of the base began to close, but Scorpia barreled through the remnants of the Jaffa formation in front of it - Jack thought he saw staff blasts bouncing off her armour - and then threw herself into the gate, tearing it out of its hinges and smashing it on the Jaffa behind it.

Jack emptied his magazine into three warriors left staggering in Scorpia's wake and looked for the rest of his team as he reloaded his carbine. Teal'c was at his side, staff firing at another Jaffa on the wall, and Carter and Daniel were right behind him, with the marines fanning out to cover their flanks.

He turned and raced after Scorpia. The gate's remains were forming a small ramp, and Jack rushed it, shooting a Jaffa caught beneath it through the head, then jumped off, landing in a crouch.

They were in the main yard of the base - in front of the massive stone building housing the Stargate. A dozen Jaffa lay on the ground between the gate and the entrance to the building, some still moving, but more were arriving from both sides as Scorpia was busy ramming herself into the closed and reinforced doors of the building.

Jack switched aim and started shooting the Jaffa reinforcements on the right while he moved up to the building himself, Teal'c, Daniel and Carter, as well as a squad of marines, following him.

By the time Jack reached the building and pressed his back against it, the right wing of the Jaffa had collapsed, and the left wing was falling back under withering fire from the rest of the marines. Jaffa bodies littered the yard, but Jack spotted at least two bodies in camouflage amongst them, both still smoking from the staff blast that must have caught them.

Damn. He gritted his teeth.

"Just a second…" he heard Scorpia grunt as she struggled with the door. "This is tougher than I expected."

"Naquadah-alloy," Carter commented.

That made it super-tough. "We need breaching charges!" he yelled. To go through the walls.

"Just a bit…" The sound of screeching metal cut off Scorpia's words, followed by cracks as she managed to crush the left side of the wall holding the doors in place, stone crumbling under her pincers.

The doors started to shift, Scorpia grinning fiercely while she kept pushing, and Jack grabbed a grenade from his belt. The Jaffa would be ready behind the doors.

As soon as a gap opened, he moved ahead, pulled the pin and threw the grenade through it, then dropped to the ground at the base of the wall. "Fire in the hole!"

A second later, the grenade went off, and dust and smoke billowed through the widening gap, followed by screaming.

A marine ran up to the gap, sticking his gun through it, but before he could fire, a staff blast blew his head off.

Jack pulled out another grenade, intending to throw it through the widening gap, but the other wall was already also crumbling, and Scorpia threw the doors inside with a yell.

Then all hell broke off as she charged inside, staff blasts going left and right before she vanished in the cloud of smoke and dust covering the entrance.

Jack cursed under his breath. He wasn't about to charge blindly - literally - into that. But he couldn't leave Scorpia to face the remaining Jaffa by herself.


The marine lieutenant drew his attention to the yard - no, to the sky above them. Jack glanced up and cursed.

Death Gliders.

Two of the things, and they were starting an attack run. The stinger team and the bot guarding the shuttle opened up on them. The missile hit one, causing it to whirl out of control and crash somewhere behind the walls, but the other kept going, the shots missing, and rained down blaster bolts on the yard and parts of the wall. One marine carrying two boxes of ammo was caught in the open and shredded by them, machine gun ammo spilling across the ground as he fell.

Then the Death Glider was past them, pulling up to turn around for another go. A second missile chased it but missed. The bot was still firing but didn't seem to be effective. And the Death Glider now had the perfect angle of attack to strafe Jack's entire force.

No choice, then.

"Into the building!" Jack bellowed. "Into the building!" he repeated himself as he started pushing his team into the thinning cloud of smoke.


In Orbit above PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"We're on final approach on target. No sign of detection, Your Divine Highness."

Adora licked her lips and took a deep breath upon hearing the clone piloting their shuttle. Good. Just a bit longer, and they had this in the bag. Maybe she wouldn't even have to jump - maybe they managed to sneak up so closely on the Al'kesh, they could surprise them by docking and boarding the ship? Although Entrapta, Sam and Bow had told them that it was unlikely with their current stealth system…

"Target powering up shields, Your Divine Highness! Deploying electronic countermeasures to impede communication!"

Adora gritted her teeth and turned around, looking at the window in the airlock's inner door. Catra was standing there, scowling at her.

Adora smiled weakly in return. She felt bad about it - a bit - but as great as Catra was, she wasn't She-Ra. She couldn't do the same things She-Ra could. Like fighting spaceships in melee. Or disabling them so they could be boarded and examined to find out what their purpose was.

"Opening the airlock, Your Divine Highness!"

The door slid open, and Adora stepped up to the edge. Below her, she could see the planet's main continent. And to the side, starting to move, was the target - the Al'kesh. She could see the glow from its engines as it tried to evade the shuttle, but it had just begun to move - to change direction - and the shuttle was on an interception course.

She took a moment to watch it move. Enough to know where it would go. Then she pushed, launching herself into space, towards the Al-kesh, sword in hand.

For a brief, brief moment, it was… exhilarating. Like flying. Weightless. Unburdened. Free. Pure joy.

Then she saw the Al'kesh starting to bank and roll in front of her, saw the guns turn to face her and bared her teeth. The first shot missed her, the second she swatted aside with her sword. She cut through the vessel's shield on the backswing, feeling a tingling sensation on her glowing skin as the force field shattered. Yes!

She hit the hull feet-first, her boots adhering to the metal through She-Ra's magic. The turret was still trying to aim at her, but two strides brought her close enough so she could grab a barrel, stopping it in its track.

A slash with her sword cut the whole thing apart, the remains blowing up a moment later. She was already moving, though, sprinting towards the main communication array. It, too, blew up after a single swipe with her blade, and she continued to run, to the back of the vessel, her steps hammering the hull. There was the port engine.

Her sword sliced into it in passing - she kept going towards the starboard engine, easily compensating for the sudden heaving as the loss of one engine unbalanced the craft, and the pilot struggled to keep control.

Before the ship could stabilise, though, she reached the second engine, stabbing her blade through its casing, then twisted - and the ship shuddered as its propulsion died.

"Preparing to board the target, Your Divine Highness!" she heard the pilot over the radio.

"Show-off," Catra added with a snort.

But as she watched the shuttle manoeuvre to align itself with the Al-Kesh, the pilot spoke up again. "Incoming vessels on interception course from the surface, Your Divine Highness - Death Gliders."

Adora turned, scanning the planet below her. If the Death Gliders were launching from the surface, then… yes. She could spot four trails of glowing plasma, like miniature comets, angling towards her.

Towards the shuttle carrying Catra.

She clenched her teeth. They were not yet close enough to fire at the shuttle, but that wouldn't take much longer - now she could see the fighters themselves, not just the trails of their engines. Almost close enough… "Engaging!" she yelled through the radio, raising her sword and pushing off again as they started shooting.

They came in too fast, too focused on the shuttle, to react in time when they spotted her glowing form flying at them. She sliced the first fighter in two, both halves vanishing in a fireball behind her, and cut the right wing off his wingman before they started to evade - and she still managed to grab onto the wing of the third, twisting to land on top of its fuselage.

She could see the pilot gasp at her through the cockpit's windows, eyes wide with terror, as she raised her sword, then drove it through the cockpit and him, wrecking the craft as she killed the pilot.

The fourth Death Glider had gone past her, turning around with blazing guns. Outside the range of the shuttle's guns - the pilot was lucky or good. Probably good.

But not good enough. Not nearly good enough to threaten her lover and get away with it.

She jumped off the tumbling wreck, landing on the Al'kesh's hull a moment later, then jumped off again, straight at the strafing fighter. Before the pilot could evade, she ran her sword through the main cannon's casing, and the freed plasma obliterated it instantly.

"Show-off," Catra repeated herself over the radio.

Adora grinned as the shuttle finished docking with the Al'kesh, looking for a way to enter the ship herself.


Gate Area, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Into the building!"

Samantha Carter was already moving, running while bent over, carrying the backpack with her computer in her arms as she passed the Colonel. She entered the gate building behind Teal'c and stepped to the side as soon as she was past the debris - and the corpses - at the entrance.

The smoke and dust were settling, but visibility was still impaired - she could barely see Teal'c's form as her friend stepped forward, blasting something or someone with his staff.

She didn't bother aiming her own gun - they had a platoon of marines with them. Most of them were already cleaning the rooms of the building with short bursts and grenades. She had other duties.

Sam dropped to the floor and flipped her laptop open. The communication module she had worked on with Entrapta during the last few days was already on, and the utility program she had written was… jamming Heru'ur's comnet. But she could see it wouldn't last - whoever was running the Goa'uld's communication was good. Better than expected. And they had a more powerful machine to use. Sam's laptop was linked to the Shuttle's mainframe, but the connection added just a tiny bit of lag - which could be decisive.

But now she was inside the building. "I need access to a sensor or radio!" she snapped as the Colonel ducked inside, dust and sand from an explosion outside showering him as he threw himself to the ground.

He would have waited too long outside, as usual. She buried the thought as he got up.

"Well, let's find it!" he said.

A loud crashing noise rang through the entire room, followed by an "Oops! Was that supposed to hold?"

"She is a walking tank," Sam heard the Colonel mutter.

"Yes, sir," she agreed. "But she's our tank."

He snorted at that and then moved forward, towards Teal'c, who had crossed the room and was now next to another broken door, peering inside. "Scorpia has secured the Stargate," he said. "But it might be damaged."

The Stargate? Sam's eyes widened. To damage a Stargate, you needed… "The D.H.D.?" she asked as she moved forward.

"The housing," her friend clarified.

That was putting it mildly, Sam realised when she reached the door - the gate was on the floor, facing down. She could see a pair of legs sticking out from underneath it. In a growing pool of blood.

"Well, that's one way to block it, I guess," the Colonel commented.

Scorpia laughed, rubbing the back of her head. "Sorry about that - I heard the gates were very durable, so… I guess the mounts were not?"

Sam checked the rest of the room. Half a dozen Jaffa, dead or disabled. "There should be more warriors," she said. The garrison had, according to their intel, several hundred guards. And this was the key stronghold.

"Yes. We didn't kill nearly enough for the snakes to run out of bodies to throw at us," the Colonel said.

"And Heru'ur's warriors are fanatical - even by the standards of the false gods," Teal'c said, scanning the room as if he expected a secret passage to open. Which, given what they knew about the Goa'uld, wasn't too improbable, actually.

"Well, I only saw those here - and the ones in the entrance hall," Scorpia said.

Sam wanted to look for the missing enemy guards, but she had to stop the enemy communication. She rushed to the D.H.D. The unit wasn't linked to the enemy comnet, but the radio next to it was - the guards would have used it to communicate through the gate and to announce arrivals to other bases. And while her laptop was a rather jury-rigged combination of Etherian magitech and Earth electronics, it also had a port that was compatible with Goa'uld technology.

She plugged it in - the radio had, fortunately, survived Scorpia's assault, unlike the guard who had manned it, whose broken body lay crumpled at the foot of the wall nearby - and quickly started taking over the Goa'uld comnet. The enemy operator was still active, so he hadn't been in the building here - or he was in a bunker in the base. But now that she had a direct line to the Goa'uld hub, it was quickly becoming obvious that as good as he was, Sam was better. And he would realise it as well. Would he crash the entire network to deny her access?

No, he was… broadcasting 'Avidan' to everyone.

"Gods are just…" Daniel translated. "Is that a battle cry?"

"Not to my knowledge," Teal'c replied.

Then it made no sense… Sam gasped. "It's a code word - he is signalling the guards here and elsewhere, knowing I am reading his comms. And now he's crashing the net," she added.

"Did I mention how much I hate competent enemies?" the Colonel complained before he yelled: "Lieutenant! Report!"

"The enemy outside is falling back, sir!" the marine yelled back from outside the gate room. "They've lost the second Death Glider."

But why were they falling back? They had to hold the building. Or… "They're planning to destroy it!" She quickly focused on her scanner. She hadn't detected any bombs on their approach, but…

Still no bombs. And unless the Goa'uld had found a way to fool Ancient technology enhanced with Etherian magic, that meant there was no bomb here. Not close enough to affect the gate, at least.

"They must be planning to bomb us," the Colonel said. "Joke's on them - we're taking their bomber!"

That was the logical explanation. Death Gliders didn't have the firepower to destroy the reinforced building - probably not even in a suicide attack. But an Al'kesh had the firepower - more than enough.

But Sam couldn't help feeling she was missing something. Keeping an Al'kesh stationed here just for that? That didn't sound like it would fit Heru'ur's standard procedure.

She ran another scan through the base and the area around it. But once again, no bomb showed up - the entire area to the lake's shore was clear. And any bomb placed further out would have to be too big to be hidden if it had enough power to reach, much less damage the gate.

And yet, what the Colonel would call a gut feeling insisted that she was missing something. Something crucial.


In Orbit above PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Adora would be OK. She is OK, Catra reminded herself as she moved up to the airlock of the shuttle, pushing past the Earth troops - British Special Air Service. Which weren't part of the Air Force despite the name. But Catra was used to such weirdness - it was actually tame compared to what some princesses came up with.

"Ah, Ma'am…" One of them opened his mouth.

"I'm not going in first, don't worry," she cut him off, showing her fangs. "She-Ra's the one who can shrug off blasters." Her suit might withstand a volley, Entrapta did great work, but she wasn't betting her life on it if she didn't absolutely have to.

"And fly naked through fucking space," another soldier muttered.

"Smith! Shut up!" the officer in charge yelled.

Catra chuckled, then pulled her shock rod from the holster on her back. The engine noise was dimming slightly - they would dock any moment.

Then the shuttle rocked, a few soldiers having to grab the bars on the walls to keep standing. And there was the metallic noise of the magnetic clamps engaging - they had touched down on the Al'kesh's hull.

A moment later, the airlock opened, revealing the smooth hull of the enemy bomber. "Breaching charges!" the officer bellowed, but his demolition man was already moving forward and placed the device Bow had designed on the hull.

"Clear!" he yelled, rushing back - behind the shield-bot stepping up.

A beep followed as the shield sprang up.

"Blow it!" Catra snapped.

The charge went off, quickly melting through the armoured hull. For a brief moment, Catra wondered what it would have done to people - and if Bow had ever used the trick arrows from which he had claimed to have developed this on Horde soldiers.

Then the breaching charge finished, and the hull had a hole wide enough for two soldiers at once.

Or one shield bot moving forward. And not too soon - the bot had barely stepped inside the Al'kesh when the first staff weapon blast splashed against the shield. Obviously, Heru'ur's warriors were living up to their reputation. The average Horde troops wouldn't have reacted as quickly.

But the Jaffa were not facing average Horde troops. Catra grinned, flashing her teeth, as she moved forward, next to a soldier carrying a light machine gun - an Earth weapon. Two staff blasts hit the shield right in front of her, causing it to flicker.

But she had spotted the shooters' positions and flicked her rod at them. She hit the first one, lightning crackling over his armour as he went down, frozen with his muscles cramping up. The one next to him was riddled with the bullets the earth armies loved so much, falling against the wall and sliding down, blood flowing from several holes in his armour.

It seemed the armour-piercing ammunition worked as well as SG-1 had claimed.

The rest of the boarding team was now also inside the bomber, half of them going down the other side of the hallway, guns firing. They would secure the armoury and bomb bays.

"Alright, move it!" Catra snapped. "Bridge team with me!" She turned, moved forward, to the next corner, then peered around it. Three Jaffa were half-hidden behind struts, blocking the way. And one of them… She jerked back, and two staff blasts whizzed past her head as she dropped to the ground and rolled around the corner, catching the shock grenade the third had thrown with her rod's blast halfway in its arc.

It went off, lightning filling the hallway for a moment, and Catra pushed off, somersaulting away and behind a strut herself.

That let the soldiers with her round the corner and open up, and the three Jaffa went down - though so did one of the soldiers, half his arm blown away.


Catra grit her teeth. They couldn't stop. She dashed forward, over and past the dead Jaffa, through another intersection, and caught a pair of Jaffa coming out of a passage to the side. Before they could react, she jumped, pushing off the wall, then the ceiling, and came down between them, lashing out with claws and shock rod.

Her left hand's claws went through the armour of her target as if it weren't there, tearing his throat out, while her shock rod hit the chest of the other, sending him to the floor in convulsions.

She dashed on, running on all fours, rod between her teeth. Speed was of the essence now.

A blast went over her head - another Jaffa, laying in ambush. She jumped over the next blast, and then she was inside his reach, jamming the shock rod into his side. One more down.

The door to the bridge was locked, but that didn't stop her. A few slashes with her claws cut it to pieces, and she side-stepped the volleys from inside. At least three Jaffa, judging from the number of blasts.

She clenched her teeth. She didn't like doing this, but… They had a nice choke point. And the soldiers were still coming up.

She gripped the grenade on her belt - a 'flash-bang', pulled the ring away and lobbed it inside, then slapped her hands over her ears.

The explosion still hurt, of course. But not enough to stop her. She dashed inside, where the four Jaffa were still reeling from the grenade going off. Her shock rod put one down, then she rolled beneath a swing from the next before lashing out with her feet, her claws slicing through the Jaffa's leg muscles and tendons. He collapsed, and she finished him off with a stab of her rod.

The two others were recovering - but as they were turning to face her, the rest of the bridge team arrived, and both went down in a hail of bullets as she rolled behind the closest console.

"Watch your fire!" she snapped as she rose. "But good work."

She quickly thumbed her communicator. "Bridge secure!"

"Engine and bomb bay secure!" the Lieutenant confirmed.

"Already? I just found the airlock!" Adora complained over the communicators.

"Slowpoke!" Catra shot back. But before she could tease her lover further, the spy bot that had followed the boarding team and connected to the computers started beeping.

"What? A bomb went off?" Catra gasped. "Where?" Had they missed one?

Another beep.

"On the surface?" she hissed. "Where?"

The screen lit up, showing the location. But that was… far from the Gate area. None of the landing teams should have been near it. Heh, it was in the lake there!

Catra blinked. The bomb was in the large lake that ended in a narrow bay right at the gate area. And she remembered the briefing about explosives and water from the Salineas campaign.

Cursing, she hit the button on her communicator, switching to the general frequency. "Beta! Watch out! You've got a flood wave incoming!"

Last edited:
"Using a backyard planet like this as a staging area would make OPSEC easier, too."
'backyard' -> 'backwater'

and if Bow had ever used the trick arrows from which he had claimed to have developed this on Horde soldiers.
Either a missing or excess word somewhere around 'developed'. 'developed this from'?

So he yawned and stretched before getting up from his seat in the main hold of the shuttle. "Who won the betting pool? I had 'Apophis tries to be clever and attacks in a straight line from his holdings, to make Heru'ur think Sokar is trying to frame him'," Jack asked.
That seems like a bad plan. Better to pick an arrival vector that implicates a 3rd party; that way whether they take it at face value or as a deception, you are in the clear either way.

"This is it, kids!" Jack said. "See you at the gate!"

A few marines chuckled at the reference.
I missed the reference.
Chapter 78: The Intervention Part 3
Chapter 78: The Intervention Part 3

Gate Area, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Beta! Watch out! You've got a flood wave incoming!"

Jack O'Neill froze for a moment when he heard Catra's warning over the radio. "A flood wave?" They were near a lake, and…

Carter gasped and started typing quickly on her laptop. "The bomb that went off - it was in the lake! Sir, we've got a localised tsunami incoming!"

"What?" Daniel went over to look at her laptop as if he was an expert.

"What is a tsunami?" Scorpia asked, leaning forward to look upside down at Carter's screen. "Oh, that's a big flood wave. We heard about them in Force Captain orientation. Once. Or was that a briefing?"

"The bomb went off at the other end of the lake, underwater, and caused an underwater landslide - and the form of the lake is creating a tsunami aimed at this base!" Carter spoke in that tense, clipped tone she only used when they were in mortal danger. "And this structure won't resist the power of the wave. We need to get to higher ground - but the wave will hit the shore here in four and a half minutes!"

The area around them was pretty flat.

Carter kept talking. "We can dial out and evacuate through the gate, provided we can get it upright and stabilised! We just…"

Jack cut her off and thumbed his radio. "Beta shuttle, lift off and land at the entrance to the gate building - we need to be gone in three minutes." He almost felt bad upon seeing Carter blink and then blush. For all her brilliance, sometimes she missed the easy solution. "Everyone else - head to the entrance right fucking now for evac! We've got a tsunami incoming!" He could only hope none of the marines was trying to be stupid. They should know how deadly a tsunami was.

"Good call!" Scorpia nodded. "So… do we take the gate with us?"

Right. Jack had to remember that she could carry the damn gate as if it was a heavy backpack or something. "Take the D.H.D. with you," he said, already moving towards the doors. The gate would survive this. The D.H.D. was more fragile.


Jack reached the broken door and saw that the marines in the building were already rushing towards the entrance. "Squad leaders, check no one's left behind!" he yelled. Probably not necessary, but better safe than sorry. "Move!"

"I'm moving!"

He turned and blinked. Scorpia had misunderstood him - she was carrying both the gate and the D.H.D.! He opened his mouth to tell her to drop the gate, then stopped. Despite the weight, she was moving at a decent clip.

"Three minutes left, sir!" Carter was behind the princess, followed by Daniel and Teal'c.

"Noted," Jack replied. "Move!" He clenched his teeth. They could make the entrance easily - but would the shuttle be in time?

But as he approached the main gate, he could hear the shuttle's engines - they were coming in to land.

He still reached the landing spot before the shuttle touched down, but they had the ramp lowered already - and kept hovering instead of actually landing.

"Go! Go! Go!" the Marine Lieutenant shouted. He looked like he wanted to push and carry his men up the ramp.

Jack knew the feeling.

"Two minutes!"

Jack thought he could already hear the roaring water. But that might just be his imagination.

It shouldn't take too long to get inside the damn shuttle, but two marines were wounded and had to be carried.

"One minute!"

Still plenty of time, Jack told himself. "Get inside!" he told his team.

Daniel jogged past him up the ramp, followed by Carter. Teal'c didn't move.

Jack knew better than to urge his friend on. He watched as Scorpia, grunting, stepped onto the ramp - and winced at the sound the metal made under the weight of the woman and the gate. But the Ancients made solid shuttles. Solid anything.

"Watch out - don't get crushed - pull your legs back!" Scorpia yelled, panting, as she stumbled up the ramp.

"Move! Give her some space!" Jack heard the Lieutenant yell.

"Sir!" Carter stood at the top of the ramp, next to the swaying Scorpia. "The wave's moving faster than predicted! It's already here!"

Too early. "And that's our cue!" Jack rushed up the ramp. "Let's go." Don't look back. Don't look back.

He looked back anyway, and his eyes widened. The wave was taller than the walls of the base. And coming in way too fast.

"Lift off!" he yelled as Teal'c passed him, both of them barely inside the shuttle. "Pull the ramp in!" He barely heard himself over the noise, but the pilot didn't need to understand him anyway.

The shuttle started to fly up just as the wall facing the lake was crushed by the wave, concrete and metal parts flung around by the water, and Jack had to grip a handlebar to keep his balance when it suddenly turned.

They were still too low - the wave was too fast. Too high. It would crush them in a…

The engines screamed, and Jack was almost thrown out of the shuttle, only the closing door stopping him - painfully - when the shuttle boosted away, a moment before the water reached the gate building - and swallowed it.

"I'm sorry, sir!" Carter said as he got up, "My projections were faulty - I didn't account for the narrowing width of the lake, which sped up the wave, and so…"

He shook his head. "Stop it, Carter. You did your best. No one's perfect. And we've made it out alive."

At literally the last second, but they'd made it.

"So… can I put this down now?"

Oh, for… He turned around and winced. Scorpia was still holding the Stargate - and her strength was the only thing keeping the gate from crushing a few marines.



In Orbit above PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"...and yes, everyone got out - we didn't lose anyone to the wave. Over."

"Thank you." Adora sighed with relief. Jack sounded a bit annoyed for having to repeat himself, but she had to make sure that no one had died in the flood. Losing people in the fighting was bad enough, but this?

She looked at the screen with the feed from Jack's shuttle - beta shuttle - again and winced. She had only seen pictures of the gate area on the planet, not the best pictures at that, and holo-projections, but even so, the scene she saw on the video was shocking. The entire base was pretty much gone, replaced by a stretch of murky water. What buildings hadn't been swept away by the waves were buried in the mud. Only the gate building was still standing. Somewhat at least. It looked as if the front had collapsed, or maybe the foundations had given way there - that part was also under water, while the roof of the rest was still visible. It must be full of mud inside… "Do you need assistance? Over."

"Not at the moment. We achieved our objective. Over."

Next to her, Catra chuckled. "Technically, he's correct - since Scorpia carried the gate and the D.H.D. into the shuttle before everything was buried in water, we have taken control of the planet's gate."

She was right, but the entire base was gone. That hadn't been planned. Of course, they were planning to create a new base underground anyway, but…

"Remind me not to needle Mermista as much as I used to," Catra commented, leaning a bit forward and cocking her head.

Against her will, Adora snorted. "I don't think Mermista could do this," she said.

"I bet I could make her mad enough to manage it," Catra retorted as their shuttle stopped its approach and hovered next to the other shuttle.

Adora wasn't sure about that but she couldn't rule it out. "Everyone got out," she said. That was one of the good things about this.

Catra nodded. "And the enemy didn't get a call for help off."

"As far as we know," Adora reminded her. She pushed a button on the console, and the image on the screen changed, showing buildings on solid ground, built at the foot of a cliffside, a number of them smoking. Bots were walking around between the buildings, and the ground was covered with bodies. The feed was from a bot as well - Adora could tell from the angle of the view.

Catra whistled. "Wow, that must have been bloodier than I expected."

Adora once more was forced to agree. Glimmer's report had been on the short side - 'The mining complex is under our control. No active enemy forces remain in the area'. "The Jaffa must have fought to the death." Horde troops - Hordak's Horde troops - would have retreated or broken long before… before dying like this.

And they hadn't died alone - she could see at least two bodies wearing Earth uniforms on the ground. And there were three wrecked bots. Had the Jaffa managed to focus enough staff weapons on the bots to overload the shields? Or had they used heavy weapons?

"Looks like Entrapta needs to work on adapting Emily's shields for all the bots," Catra said. "How's the third site going? Did they manage to clear the mines?"

Adora winced. The third force, led by a French officer, had been forced to land a bit further away due to the terrain, and by the time they had overrun the base there, the Jaffa had fallen back into the mines. And digging them out of there… "We might have to reinforce them."

"You mean, you want to go and do it yourself," Catra corrected her.

Adora blushed a little. "I can shrug off their weapon fire," she pointed out.

"You can't shrug off the mines collapsing and the mountain falling on you," Catra retorted. "And if they're willing to flood their base, they're willing to blow up their mines. Send bots into the mines."

"The mine shafts aren't large enough for the bots," Adora told her.

"Then send smaller bots." Catra stared at her.

"We don't have combat-rated bots that small," Adora said. Her lover knew that - Catra just didn't want her to enter the mines. Adora pressed her lips together. There were slaves inside the mines. Hostages. They couldn't starve the Jaffa out. Or bury them inside the mines. They had to go in and save the hostages. And she was the best person for this mission.

Catra kept glaring at her for a few more seconds before she sighed. "Alright. But we'll do it smartly. With the Tok'ra tunnelling tech, after scanning for their explosives."

Adora nodded.

"Your Divine Highness!" Priest's voice filled the shuttle's bridge. "We have destroyed both enemy forces in space! Although I am sad to report that even when their ships were crippled, the enemy crews refused to surrender and preferred to destroy their own ships to deny them to us. Our secondary objective failed. I take full responsibility, Your Divine Highness, and await your judgement!"

Adora closed her eyes and sighed. That was… She shook her head. "You did well, Priest. I am proud of your task force."

Next to her, Catra snorted again. "He's very hard on himself."

"Thank you, Your Divine Highness. But we could have done better. I await your divine insight."

Oh, no! Adora really didn't want to debrief Priest right now. "Ah, I am sorry, but… we have a… situation on the planet that requires my personal attention. Secure the system and await further orders!"

"Your wish is our holy command, Your Divine Highness!"

"Only you would prefer to assault a suicidal enemy holed up in a mine ready to collapse over debriefing your subordinate," Catra commented, shaking her head.

Adora didn't answer. Instead, she called up the feed from the second mining complex and started looking for the best way to deal with that.


Near the Gate Area, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Samantha Carter took a - subtle - sigh of relief when Scorpia finished manhandling the Stargate out of the shuttle and put it down on the ground - facedown. Not just because of the danger that the gate would shift during flight and crush the troops near it, but mainly because if anyone had dialled in, the vortex forming would have wrecked the craft - the shuttle simply wasn't big enough to survive a gate activation.

"Whew. Adora makes it look so easy." Scorpia wiped some sweat from her brow, then flexed her pincers. "I guess I need to work out more," she added with a chuckle.

Sam couldn't tell if the princess was joking or not - Scorpia had a self-deprecating streak, at least in Sam's opinion. Maybe low self-esteem, but Sam didn't know her well enough to tell. So she shrugged. "She's She-Ra." That covered a lot, in her experience.

"Right." Scorpia grinned. "But we did well." Then she looked at what used to be the base housing the gate, and her grin vanished.

Sam understood the feeling. And shared it. They were a good distance away, on the closest hill in the area, and so had a good view of it. The base was simply gone. Wiped away and buried in water and mud. Irradiated water and mud, at that, according to Sam's sensors. It was relatively weak as far as radiation went, but still a concern for long-term exposure.

"Cleaning this up will take some time," she commented. And a lot of effort. "And it has to be done quickly because when it dries up, the winds will carry radioactive dust to untouched regions."

"Yeah." Scorpia nodded. "It might be easiest to unlock the planet's magic and have Perfuma grow some plants over the area."

"That would help contain the radioactivity," Sam agreed. The right plants would keep the soil together and stop it from becoming a radioactive version of the Kansas dustbowl.

"We still have to dispose of the plants once they sucked up the radiation, of course," Scorpia went on, "but we've got some experience with that in my kingdom." She chuckled again. "The Horde wasn't very environmental-friendly, so we had to clean up a few dumps like this. Maybe worse. Perfuma helped so much..."

Sam ignored the slight twinge of envy that she felt after seeing the sappy smile that had appeared on Scorpia's face and made a mental note to check if Perfuma actually could create plants that 'sucked up' radioactivity. If she could, that would be a game changer for several regions on Earth - and the war, of course. "This has to wait until we've secured the planet, though," she said.

"Yeah. But we've wiped out the space forces, and all that's left on the ground are the Jaffa holed up in that mine. And scattered guards and the patrols caught too far away to join the battle, I guess." Scorpia shrugged. "And with the gate secured, we pretty much control the planet."

"There might be more such bombs hidden on the planet," Sam pointed out. "Entrapta's running a thorough scan from orbit." They should have done that from the start, but… 'You can ask me for anything you like, except time', as Napoleon had put it. Still, Sam wasn't looking forward to the debriefing of the mission. The things she had missed…

She glanced at the Colonel, who had dropped all pretence of not being in charge and was ordering the troops around to secure the hill until the troop transports arrived. He would claim it was his fault, but Sam should have spotted the bomb before it went off. Should have expected something like this.

Although… Why did they put a bomb into the lake? It was a very convoluted way to self-destruct. Was it meant to wipe out an attacker and leave the base mostly intact? That wouldn't really work out; the mud would harden quickly, and clearing it out would probably take as long as building a new base. Although the Stargate and D.H.D. would survive a flood. A bomb powerful enough to wipe out a base would destroy the D.H.D. and might even damage the Stargate.

Sam wasn't convinced, though. The whole plan went against what they knew of Heru'ur. They'd have to interrogate the prisoners about this. Too bad they hadn't caught the Jaffa giving the signal for the bomb.

Though with their magic scanner, the chances of the Jaffa managing to hide from the Alliance were very, very low. They could track their symbionts and most technology from orbit. There would be no guerilla war on the planet. Not unless the local slaves turned out to be a lot more loyal to the Goa'uld than expected.

She noticed the Colonel walking over to them, Daniel and Teal'c in tow, and straightened.

"So, who's up to play tunnel rat?" he asked with a wry grin when he reached them. "I hear we have some fascinating caves to explore. Or to make, I guess."

Sam nodded. "Yes, sir." Despite her blunder, she still was the best choice to handle the technological side of the assault on the mine. Except for the tunnelling part; that part would be handled by the Tok'ra, of course.

"I'm up for it!" Scorpia flexed her pincers. "Let's finish this so we can focus on helping the people!"

To Sam's surprise, the Colonel didn't make a cynical joke about it. Then again, he had just been checking on the casualties of their force - both the wounded and the dead. Even though it wasn't his fault that they had died, he would be blaming himself for it anyway.


Secondary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"This wouldn't work if that were a Naquadah mine - well, it would not work as well. We probably could calibrate the sensor to ignore Naquadah ore, unrefined Naquadah, but it would be quite the challenge since Goa'uld larvae have so little Naquadah in them, so it would still be a little tricky to discern them from the background. But since this isn't a Naquadah mine, we can track all Jaffa in the mine shafts! So, that's a good thing, kinda - even though having a Naquadah mine would have been great."

Catra nodded at Entrapta's explanation. Of course, if this world had Naquadah deposits, it would have been defended with far more forces, and Apophis would have picked an easier target, so it was all hypothetical anyway. What mattered was that they knew where the Jaffa holed up in the mine shafts were.

She studied the holoprojection in front of her. It showed a maze of twisting tunnels where they followed the ore veins. And a smattering of red dots - the Jaffa guards who had made it into the mines. They were concentrated at several choke points. An obvious deployment, but that didn't make it any less of a pain to deal with - if you had to attack them from the front. But there were also a number of Jaffa on the lowest levels. "Did you detect any explosives?" she asked.

"Yes! A lot, actually - but since this is a mine, that's kinda expected, right?" Entrapta turned to Emily and nodded, and the projection floating in front of the bot changed, orange dots appearing at various locations. A lot of them. And spread out. "That's not ideal," she commented. There were three concentrations of explosives, but the rest of the stuff was scattered all over the tunnels.

"Yes," Adora agreed. "It would be easier if they had concentrated all the explosives in one spot."

Catra also wondered if the Jaffa took the explosives from the central magazine outside when they were falling back or if they had another magazine in the mine. But that was an academic question right now.

"What about their hostages?" Glimmer asked. "If we can get them out, the Jaffa can blow themselves up as much as they want."

"That would ruin the mine!" General Soissant objected.

"It's a single mine on a backwater planet," O'Neill retorted. "And we already control the main mining site on the planet."

The one Glimmer and Bow had secured, while the French-led fore had failed their objective at the secondary site. Something Catra wasn't tempted to bring up.

"The hostages are our priority," Adora spoke up. "Where are they?"

"They're gathered at the deepest part of the mine," Sam explained as blue dots lit up on the projection.

"That allows them to kill them all if we launch a frontal assault," Soissant said.

"Or they just moved them there to get them out of the way," O'Neill pointed out. "They might not see them as hostages - the Goa'uld wouldn't care about the lives of slaves, and the Jaffa might not be aware that we aren't working for a rival System Lord."

That was a good point. But it also meant that the Jaffa might kill the slaves in case this turned into a siege. Or to deny them to the enemy. "Well, that makes it more urgent to get them," Catra said.

"We can reach that, but it will take a while," Martouf told them. "We could also dig tunnels to all the other locations, but we only have two tunnelling devices. So we would have to dig the tunnels one after another, leaving a thin wall to break through when we are ready."

"And if the Jaffa detect a tunnel, they'll know what's up and start taking countermeasures," Catra said. "And they'll expect more tunnels."

"Do they have the sensors or scanners to detect that?" Glimmer asked.

"They might hear us tunnelling," Soissant suggested. "Even if they didn't have any sensors."

"And they might have sensors to detect cave-ins," Bow added.

"We didn't detect any such technology," Entrapta said.

"The snakes don't really care much about their slaves." O'Neill shrugged. "Though they would care about cave-ins holding up the mining."

"Anyway, even if we focus on the hostages and write off the mine, the explosives could bring down the mountain on us while we're getting the hostages out. So, we need to deal with the explosives and the hostages," Catra summed up. In the Horde, that kind of mission would have been assigned to expendable troops. Or a budding rival you wanted to get rid of.

"So, three main sites for the explosives, one for the hostages. And we have to hope they don't detect us before we can surprise them." Glimmer shook her head. "It might be better to return magic to the planet - I could teleport inside, dropping off soldiers. Perfuma could use plants to take control of a shaft. Frosta could freeze the explosives. But even with magic, I don't think we can reliably take control of all the explosives without the Jaffa managing to blow up at least a few of them - they aren't stupid and will be ready for an attack."

"We can jam electronic detonators," Sam said. "That would only leave manual detonators."

Which wasn't really reassuring. Catra was sure that Heru'ur's guards were willing to die if it took their enemies with them.

Adora leaned forward, frowning at the projection, then turned to Entrapta and Sam. "Can you build a shield generator that can protect the hostages as long as we need to get them all out?"

"Uh…" Entrapta scrunched her nose.

"I doubt it," Sam replied. "Not if the Jaffa have wired the mine to collapse. If the tunnel is safe, maybe." She looked at Martouf.

"We can't guarantee that," he said. "If the explosives have enough force to cause a localised earthquake…" He trailed off with a grimace.

So, that was a bust as well. Damn. Catra clenched her teeth. No matter what, it looked like they would have to take a huge risk. And that meant Adora would take the risk.

"I have an idea," Bow spoke up with a hesitant smile. "But we need Glimmer's magic for it - and those spy bots."

Oh? Catra cocked her head to the side.

"You have an idea?" Glimmer asked, smiling at him.

"Yes." He nodded and leaned forward. "So… we have samples of the explosives they use in the mine. All we need is…"


Jack O'Neill peered at the bottom of the hole in front of him, checking if the explosive was prepared correctly. It was - Jack had done it himself, after all. Then he moved back to the trenches, well, back to the reinforced laboratory-slash-observation post, as Entrapta was calling it. "It's ready."

"Goody!" Entrapta beamed at him. "Sabotage Bot Three, go!"

One of the spy bots gathered in the room beeped and left. Jack could see it outside, moving towards the hole in the ground.

"It should work," Bow said. "The lab trials were successful."

"Nothing beats a test under field conditions," Catra said. "Except for actual field testing, of course. And Kyle."

Adora chuckled at that, but none of the others did, Jack noticed. An obvious in-joke.

"Three's approaching the test site," Carter reported. On the screen next to her, they could see the bot's point of view as it moved into the hole, then sprayed the explosive down with the solution Bow, Carter and Entrapta had cooked up in less time than it had taken the ground forces of the task force to disembark and set up forward bases.

"Good work, Three! Now get to safety!" Entrapta said.

The bot's feed changed as it climbed out of the hole.

As soon as it was clear, Carter spoke up: "Attempting to detonate the explosives." She pushed a button, and the scene changed to show the feed from the camera they had installed next to the explosives. "Detonating." She flicked a switch, and Jack saw a small spark on the screen.

"Detonator was activated, but the main charge remained inert," Carter reported. "Test successful."

"Impressive as always, Captain," Jack commented with a smile as Entrapta and Bow cheered.

"It was Bow's work, sir," she immediately deflected. "He already had the base solution for a fire-suppressant arrow; we merely adapted it to the specific explosive, produced sufficient quantities of it and modified spy bots to deploy it."

And she honestly thought that whipping all this up in a few hours wasn't impressive. Jack chuckled - and caught himself before he patted her shoulder. Moving to parade rest, he nodded. "Good work anyway, Captain. I'll go check up on the rest of the force."

"Yes, sir."

"I'll come with you!" Adora said, joining him as he approached the door.

"Can't leave the generals unsupervised for too long." Catra, as expected, followed her, as did Glimmer.

"You never know what they get up to," Jack agreed.

They walked over to the centre of the field base that was springing up around them - well, the part of it that was above ground, at least. Which was mostly composed of fortifications, a heavily guarded entrance to the bunker being grown below them, and storage buildings that would turn into decoys as soon as enough underground storage room was created.

And tanks and other heavy weapons, of course. "The cats are out in force," Jack commented as they passed a platoon of Leopard 2s placed to cover the road leading to the landing site of the transports. Two Gepards were behind them, covering the skies. They weren't really necessary, given the sensors and guns on the transports near them, but Jack approved of covering the bases. They were at war, after all.

"Hm?" Catra cocked her head at him.

"The Germans name their tanks after big cats," he explained.

"They've got taste," Catra replied with a grin.

Glimmer snorted at that.

The guard troops at the entrance here were a mix of French and German soldiers, straightening as they approached. The officer in charge even saluted them - which you shouldn't be doing in the field. Then again, Adora was the Supreme Commander of the Alliance and quite distinctive in her outfit.

Inside, they found the familiar chaos of a headquarter in the middle of a huge exercise - or an invasion. Officers and noncoms coming and going every which way, people talking into dozens of radios and phones, people staring at maps and screens… well, also holoprojections in this case. And the walls were distinctively alien-looking.

But it was still a NATO standard field headquarters at its core. "Seen one, seen them all," Jack muttered under his breath as they approached the generals' corner.

The generals, too, straightened when they spotted Adora. "Supreme Commander," General Duchemin greeted her. "Commander Glimmer," he added with a nod at the queen.

"Generals." Adora nodded back. "The tests were successful. All that's left before we can assault the mines is the tunnelling equipment and magic."

Jack caught the German general wincing a little but he couldn't tell whether it was because of the magic or the fact that Adora had made it clear before that she would be leading the assault. Duchemin, though, smiled. "Very good. We are proceeding on schedule and will soon commence mopping up operations - motorised recon units are already shadowing the remaining enemy forces." He pointed at the screen behind them, where red symbols showed the locations of the remaining Jaffa thanks to Entrapta and Carter's magic scanner.

"Good. What about the civilians?" Adora asked.

This time, the French officer grimaced a bit. "Our soldiers are keeping away from them. They seem wary of our presence, and we have focused on deploying our force and dealing with the remaining military threats before further pursuing this."

"They shouldn't be a factor for the operation," the German general added. "Besides, Dr Jackson has volunteered to take the lead on handling the civilian population and is currently talking to the local village."

Jack blinked, then suppressed a sigh. He should have expected this, but he had been so busy with handling things until the invasion force had landed, then handing over command to the generals and following the preparations for the assault on the mines.

Adora, though, beamed. "They're in good hands, then!"

"Yeah, right," Jack added, trying to sound sincere. His friend was great with people. Most of the time. Sometimes, though, he tended to mess up. Jack hoped this wasn't one of those times.


Outside the Former Gate Area, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Alright. We're ready."

Adora took a deep breath as she heard Glimmer over the communicator. The bots were ready. Glimmer was ready. It was time. They couldn't really wait much longer, anyway - the longer they waited, the greater the risk that the Jaffa would do something drastic. As Jack had pointed out, they might not even be aware that the slaves were hostages as far as the Alliance was concerned. If they decided that they couldn't afford to feed them…

She took a step forward, away from the shuttle waiting behind her, and stared at the huge field of mud in front of her.

"Don't worry," Catra said next to her. "Even if you mess up, you can't actually make things worse here."

Adora slowly nodded, though she could make things worse if she made a mistake. Or lost control. The power of magic returning… She almost shuddered at the memory. But this was the best plan they had come up with. Much safer than trying to use the magic to deal with the Jaffa in the mine. If she made a mistake there…

"You won't mess up," Catra told her. Full of trust. Full of love.

Adora clenched her teeth and forced her doubts away. She couldn't dwell on that. Wouldn't. She was She-Ra. She had the duty to save people. And she would.

She raised her sword and closed her eyes. Focused. She felt the power. The magic. Reached out. Connected.

She gasped as the magic of the planet filled her. It wasn't the same as Earth's magic, but still somehow like it. So much power! Trying to flow through her, like water trying to get around a dam. And she…

Gritting her teeth, she cut the pattern holding the magic back. And shuddered with relief as the pressure lessened - the magic was returning to the world.

But she still was filled with power. She felt as if the magic would burst through her skin any moment. And if she didn't focus, didn't control this…

She pointed her sword at the muddy field below her. Focused. Thought. Imagined. The mud. The water. The radiation contaminating, poisoning both.

Eyes blazing, she moved her sword from one side to the other, a beam of light reaching out, sweeping over the area.

She barely heard Catra whistle next to her as she directed the magic into the water. Into the mud. Into the very earth. Cleansing. Healing. Changing.

When the pressure, the power from the planet's magic, was gone, she opened her eyes and took another deep breath, shuddering slightly.

The radioactive muck covering the area was gone. As were the ruins of the Goa'uld base. Replaced by vast fields filled with plants ready to be harvested. Wheat. Corn. Lentils. There were orchards full of trees with ripe fruits on them. Apples. Olives. Oranges. Rows upon rows of vegetables. As far as the eye could reach.

Catra snorted. "You know, if Perfuma was the envious sort, this would make her mad."

Adora turned to look at her lover. "She didn't get mad at the space plant."

Catra grinned, flashing her teeth. "I know. That's why I said if she was the envious sort." She reached over and patted Adora's back. "Well done!"

Adora nodded.

"Of course," Catra went on, "if any of the locals here saw that, they'd worship you as a goddess of fertility."

Adora smiled. "That's why we were doing this here." There were no settlements near the former base. The planet's population, except for the Jaffa, had been concentrated at the mining sites and the farming villages feeding the miners. And any Jaffa left behind had died in the flood.

No, she wouldn't be worshipped as a goddess just for returning magic to the planet and putting the spillover magic to use. "Let's get back to the mine," she said. "We've got people to save."

Catra nodded. "And enemies to defeat."


Secondary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Everyone was ready when they returned to the mining site. Glimmer met them at the landing pad. "There you are!"

Adora smiled at her. Glimmer seemed to be bursting with energy.

"Bet you teleported a few times just for the heck of it," Catra said with a grin.

Glimmer frowned at her, but she was blushing just a little. "It would have been irresponsible not to test it before we start."

"Sure, sure." Catra folded her hands behind her head as she stepped down the ramp.

Adora nodded at Glimmer with a smile. She understood her friend - it must be terrible not to be able to use the power you had grown up with. Adora herself hadn't grown up with magic powers, but she remembered the time she had lost her sword and hadn't been able to turn into She-Ra, back in the war. She had felt terrible. Weak. Useless. A failure. Glimmer was so strong to be able to bear that whenever she travelled in space - or visited planets without magic!

They walked over to the area where the force for the mission had been gathered. Dozens of spy bots, fading in and out of view as their stealth systems engaged. Soldiers with stun weapons, in case the slaves were too cowed or indoctrinated to let themselves be saved. Medics.

And Adora's friends - Bow, Entrapta, Scorpia, Jack, Sam and Teal'c. No Daniel - he was busy with the local people, or so she had been told.

"Hey! Done with turning the ruins into a space plant?" Jack grinned.

Adora rolled her eyes. "Everything worked as planned," she told him. And he had known she hadn't been planning to create another space plant. She turned to look at Sam and Entrapta. "Any changes?"

"No. They haven't moved from their positions, except for a few swapping positions," Sam reported.

Adora nodded. "Good. Let's go then."

"Let's teleport!" Glimmer corrected her with a grin. She turned to look at the holoprojection in front of Emily.

This was tricky, Adora knew that. Glimmer had never been inside the mines. And as good as Entrapta and Sam's scanner was, it couldn't fully replace seeing the actual location. But Glimmer was very experienced with her power, and the holoprojection was detailed enough and to scale so she could estimate the distances. It would be safe enough for Glimmer.

At least, that was what she had told Adora. Of course, Glimmer wouldn't lie - not about this - and Bow didn't seem worried, or not more worried than would be normal.

Adora still worried, of course. Teleporting into an unknown location full of enemies and explosives was dangerous. And Martouf was doing their best, but the tunnel couldn't really get close to the mines until the explosives were dealt with.

Glimmer nodded to herself, then took a deep breath. "Alright. I've got this." She turned to the bots. "Who's first?"

A few of them beeped, one warbled, then two skittered over to her, their stealth coating flashing briefly.

"Trust your sensors!" Entrapta told them.

"OK. Now, this might be a bit disorienting…" Glimmer reached out to grab a leg of both bots, closed her eyes - and disappeared with the usual popping sound and sparkles.

Adora looked at the holoprojection. Three new, green dots appeared. Two split off and started moving. And the third…

Glimmer reappeared with a wide grin. "Next!"

Two more bots moved toward her. Glimmer grabbed them and teleported away again.

A minute later, a dozen bots had been transported. And Glimmer looked a little winded.

Catra shook her head. "Bit out of shape, huh?"

Glimmer glared at her. "Teleporting into new locations is not as easy as you think it is."

Catra shrugged. "As you say."

But Glimmer straightened. "Let's go down the tunnel so we're ready."

They moved to the small bunker they had erected to hide the tunnel entrance - they would have to clean that up afterwards, Adora reminded herself - and then began their descent. Sam and Entrapta stayed behind, updating them on the bots' progress.

"...Five and Six have reached their targets… Good bots! That's one stash neutralised! And Seven has gotten to that tiny stash at the air shaft! Yes!" Entrapta cheered.

"No movement of the Tok'kals," Sam added. That meant the grenades the Jaffa carried.

The enemy had half a dozen of those, of the explosive variant, but they were spread out - and one of them, or even two, wouldn't be able to collapse a tunnel, much less the mine. But if they were gathered together… Well, as long as they were used as grenades, their main danger would be when used against people. Such as hostages.

"And that's the last one!" Entrapta announced as they reached the end of Martouf's tunnel. "All explosives have been neutralised! Good work, bots! And Bow!"

Bow smiled, looking relieved - even though no one would have blamed him if anything had gone wrong.

"Enlarging the tunnel to connect to the hostages," Martouf announced.

Adora watched the tunnel grow in front of her. It was impressive how smooth it was - the earth and stone seemed to meld into walls. Smooth but slow. No, that was unfair - it was moving quite quickly, for a tunnel. But slowly for an attack. It would take several minutes to reach the part of the mines with the hostages. Minutes in which anything could happen. The Jaffa could decide to kill the hostages. Or…

"Oops! Seven was detected!" Entrpata called out over the communicator.

Or they could spot a bot. Adora clenched her teeth, then looked at Glimmer. "Get me inside!"

"And me!" Catra moved to her side.

Glimmer didn't hesitate and grabbed both of them.

A moment later, they reappeared in a different tunnel - inside the mines. "The hostages are this way!" Glimmer whispered, pointing down the tunnel illuminated by Adora's glowing sword before she disappeared again.

Adora started running, Catra right behind her. She had to duck a bit in spots - the tunnels were narrow and twisted as they followed the ore veins. But people were counting on her, and she wouldn't let them down.

"Two Jaffa ahead of you!" Sam announced over the communicator.

Behind Adora, Catra hissed.

Adora gritted her teeth and sped up. She rounded the next corner and ploughed straight into a guard, slamming them into the rough wall behind them. She followed up with a blow to the head that took the helmet off and knocked the Jaffa out - or killed them. Adora didn't stop to check but whirled around, sword rising…

…and saw Catra withdraw her claws from the bleeding ruin of the other Jaffa's throat as he slumped over.

Nodding, Adora continued to run down the tunnel.

"Two more - no, three, they're gathering at the choke point," Sam told them.

"Got it!"

Staff blasts greeted them, but Adora struck them with her blade and charged through the explosions. A swing of her sword cut the closest Jaffa in half. Another screamed: "Goa'uld!" right before she cut him down as well.


The third also died screaming, disembowelled by Catra's claws.

They raced on.

"They've tried to detonate the explosives!" Sam reported a few seconds later.

So soon? Why? Adora asked herself. But she had almost reached the prisoners. Just a bit further.

"They keep yelling 'Goa'uld'," Catra told her as they dashed down the tunnel. "They must think you're a Goa'uld."

"Oh." That was…Was that why they were trying to blow the mines? To kill a Go'auld?

Dim light and more screams greeted her before she found an answer. Scared screams - they had reached the hostages!

Adora lifted her sword above her head. "Do not fear! We're here to save you!" she told them. "We will get you to the surface, to your families! A tunnel will open here soon!"

"It doesn't look as if they believe you," Catra commented as the people shied away from them.

Adora kept smiling at them. How could she make them trust her? Oh! There was one holding his arm, grimacing. He must have been hurt. Perfect! She pointed her sword at him. She could…

…terrify him, she realised when the people started screaming, many falling to their knees and bowing. Pleading.

"I am healing you!" she snapped - and sent magic power at the man.

He yelped when the magic reached him, then broke off, looking stunned.

"You're healed," Adora told him.

He hesitantly touched his arm, then started to move it, a shy, hesitant smile appearing on his face.

The people started whispering, no longer shying away from her. Yes!

Then everyone knelt, their foreheads touching the ground.


Catra snorted behind her. "Good work, idiot."

"At least they trust us now," Adora shot back. And the tunnel would reach them soon. So…

"Oh! The Goa'uld at the main shaft are… they're dropping their weapons!" Entrapta told them over the communicator.

Were they surrendering? Adora started to smile.

Then Entrapta went on. "They're manipulating their weapons - the power fluctuations… but…"

"They're overloading the power cells!" Sam cut in.

What? That meant…

"They're blowing up!"

Adora didn't hear the explosion, but she thought she felt the earth tremble. But that was all. Whew.

"The main shaft is collapsing!" Sam sounded terse over the communicator.

And then the earth was definitely shaking.

Last edited:
'backyard' -> 'backwater'

Thanks, fixing!

Either a missing or excess word somewhere around 'developed'. 'developed this from'?

He developed them from his trick arrow. AFAIK, the grammar checks out.

That seems like a bad plan. Better to pick an arrival vector that implicates a 3rd party; that way whether they take it at face value or as a deception, you are in the clear either way.

Yes. But Jack was joking - they didn't actually bet on that.

I missed the reference.

A mangled "See you on the beach" from "Saving Private Ryan".
Huh actually if they portray Adora as a system lord it solves a ton of their operational security issues.

Also it causes maximal embarrassment for her.
Huh actually if they portray Adora as a system lord it solves a ton of their operational security issues.

Also it causes maximal embarrassment for her.
Unfortunately, it would also wreck the whole "we're fighting against false gods, don't trust the Goa'uld" angle of the war.
Chapter 79: The Intervention Part 4
Chapter 79: The Intervention Part 4

Secondary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Samantha Carter stared helplessly as the main shaft of the mine collapsed on her screen - and on the holoprojection in the middle of the command centre. "It's just the main shaft," she whispered. "As long as the mining tunnels hold… if the shockwave isn't too powerful…" The uppermost tunnels were fine so far. And below…

"That's a shockwave!" Entrapta cried out.

Screaming filled the communicator - the hostages inside the mines, Sam realised. As miners, they would know about cave-ins.

Her heart sank. Whether the Jaffa had planned this - she couldn't tell; the explosives had been improvised, after all - or had just gotten lucky, the shaft's collapse had struck the hardest on the lowest level; she could see the tunnels there shake on her screen. And those weren't tunnels made according to Earth's safety standards. Those were tunnels dug by slaves for a cruel master who didn't care how many of them died as long as he got his ore.

Sam saw a small side tunnel starting to cave in as the supports splintered and clenched her teeth. Her fingers flew over the keyboard as she zoomed in. "I need a structural scan!"

"On it!" Entrapta replied. "Uh-oh! That's not good - there's an unstable layer on that level. And the pressure…"

Another side tunnel was collapsing - no, collapsed. And that caused more shifts. More pressure. More tremors. This was a cascading cave-in.

The screams turned into coughing - the dust cloud caused by the collapse of the shaft must have reached the hostages. More, hoarse screaming.

"Everyone, into the tunnel! Run!"

That was Catra.

"The entire area is shifting - now tunnels upstairs are collapsing!" Entrapta yelled. "And that softer layer of rock is…"

It was giving way under pressure. Filling the tunnels beneath it. And that destabilised the more solid rock layers. At least there was no water in those layers.

"Move, damn it!"

"Everyone, into the tunnel!"

"Come on!"

Some of the hostages were starting to run. But not all of them - and a few were running in the wrong direction! They must be panicking.

"Get them out!"

"Come back!"

And some were… on their knees, praying? Sam shook her head and focused on her screen. There had to be something she could do, other than watch as the mine caved in one tunnel at a time. "How's the Tok'ra tunnel doing?"

"It's holding - the shock wasn't too strong at the start. But I don't think it will hold forever - the pressure from the collapsing tunnels is building up, and check that area there!"

A strand of hair whipped over Sam's keyboard, enlarging an area above the hostage tunnel. And that was… Sam paled.

"You need to get out!" she screamed into the communicator. "The whole area is going to cave in - including the evacuation tunnel!" Her friends were down there! The Colonel was down there!

"Oh, no!"

Sam froze for a moment. The entire area above the tunnel was shifting now.



"Adora!" Catra screamed at her love. Who had changed her sword into some huge support-beam-thing which she was using to hold up the ceiling.

"Run!" Adora snapped. "Get out!"

"You can't hold up the entire damn mountain, you idiot!" Catra screamed - and dragged one of the kneeling idiots up and pushed him towards the tunnel. "Run!"

"Glimmer can get me out once everyone's safe! Ugh!"

Catra blinked through tears as she watched her love strain, then turned around. More soldiers, O'Neill at their head, were literally dragging the stumbling slaves out of the tunnel. She kicked another who was not fast enough, pushing the numbskull towards the tunnel.

The earth shook again - another tunnel collapsed. Dust and pebbles rained down from the trembling ceiling.

Catra coughed once - she needed to bring a breath filter if she was ever doing this again - and looked around. The dumb hostages were finally leaving. But…

"There are some who ran away!" Adora yelled. She was straining to hold up the ceiling, Catra could tell. But the idiot wouldn't leave while others were in danger.

"Glimmer!" she snapped into the communicator. "Can you get those who ran into the mine?"

"On it!"

Sparkles was on the job. Catra looked around. Most of the hostages were now in the tunnel - but they were too slow.

Another tremor, another tunnel gone. She could hear the rock grinding against each other, even over the yelling and screaming. And she could see cracks appearing in the smooth walls of the Tok'ra tunnel.

"How many are left?" she yelled.

"Sec… three… no, one, Glimmer got two. One is left!" Entrapta replied.

That would be an acceptable loss. But not for Adora.

"Where are they?" Catra asked.

"Glimmer got them!"

Finally! Catra rushed towards Adora. "Everyone's out of the mine!"

"But not out of the tunnel!"

Oh, for…! Catra clenched her teeth - the idiot was right. The evacuation tunnel might not withstand the collapse of this tunnel.


Never! Catra shook her head. "I'm not leaving you!"

"You can't do anything here," Adora pressed out through clenched teeth. Her knees trembled, buckling - no, she straightened with a grunt, pressing back against the ceiling. Rocks and more dust were now dropping steadily, and the ground was constantly shaking.

"I can be with you," Catra retorted.

The look she got from Adora was… both full of love and desperation.

Catra smiled back as best she could. "I'm not leaving you, you dummy!"

"Idiot!" Adora's next words were lost when she groaned. This time, she didn't manage to straighten - she was slowly giving ground.

Catra swallowed. "It's getting close here," she said into the communicator.

"Run!" Adonra snapped.

"I wouldn't make it out," Catra told her.


A dust cloud filled the room - part of the main tunnel had collapsed. Catra coughed once more.

As did Adora. And she almost lost her footing, grunting again as she pushed back. This was…

Catra hissed. If she had to die here, then she would…

Glimmer appeared next to them. "Hands!"

Catra reached out, hugging her - and Adora.

A loud crack filled her ears, and the ground started to give, and someone screamed, and…

…she was on ground that didn't move, under the open sky, blinking, coughing, crying. Outside. Next to Adora. Alive.


Fresh air. Jack O'Neill took a deep breath as soon as he reached the exit of the tunnel. And then another. And another. He might be in the best shape ever since Adora had healed him, but racing up a shaking, collapsing tunnel from the bottom of a mine to the surface would have left anyone panting.

"Adora and Catra are safe."

Anyone but Teal'c, Jack amended his thought. But the Jaffa was kind of cheating, with his alien body and symbiont.

But his friend was right - Jack could see the two - three, couldn't forget Glimmer - crazy girls on the ground in front of the bunker. Alive and healthy. Though they looked pretty… tired. Maybe exhausted. Adora was sitting on the ground, holding onto Catra in her lap, while Glimmer was lying on her back, arms and legs spread. She must have overdone it with the teleports, Jack realised.

He shook his head as he approached them, trying not to show how relieved he was. And how he wanted to scream at all of them so they would never do anything like that again. "We had a headstart, yet you beat us to the finishing line. Took a shortcut?"

"Did you just call Glimmer short? She's kind of sensitive about that," Catra shot back without releasing Adora or even looking at him.

"I am not!" Glimmer protested, also not looking at him.


"Adora! Catra!"

"What were you thinking?"

Bow, Entrapta and Carter had arrived. Jack schooled his features as he turned to face them. Well, face Entrapta and Carter - Bow went straight past him to hug Glimmer. "I think we both know what they were thinking," Jack told Carter with a wry grin.

"Yes, sir."

"I think it's obvious that they wanted to save everyone," Entrapta said, her head cocked sideways as she looked at Jack. "And according to our data, they did."

"But it was a near thing," Martouf chimed in. He, too, wasn't out of breath at all. Damn snakey cheaters.

"Indeed. But they succeeded." Teal'c inclined his head.

"Our tunnel was close to collapsing in its entirety," Martouf pointed out. "The geological conditions were more dangerous than we anticipated."

"Yes!" Entrapta nodded. "We didn't take the different types of rocks in the mine into account. And we kind of missed that the Jaffa could use their own weapons as explosives."

Improvised explosives, but still. Jack nodded. "Yeah. Someone forgot to tell them that they aren't allowed to do that."

"Oh?" Entrapta blinked. "Who?"

"The Colonel's joking," Carter explained.

"Ah." Entrapta nodded again. "Is that his coping mechanism, as Daniel explained?"

Jack reminded himself to ask Daniel what exactly he was telling people about Jack. Some stuff was private. A lot of stuff, actually.

Carter glanced at him instead of answering.

He sighed. "A good joke can relieve tension. And we're all very tense here." And explanations ruined jokes.

"Ah, I see!" Entrapta nodded and made a note on her device or something.

"And yes, we'll have to address those things in a proper debriefing," Jack added. "So we can do better next time."

Carter winced. "Yes, sir."

Jack suppressed a sigh. Carter was blaming herself. Even though she wasn't to blame. Nobody was perfect, but she came pretty close. And she was a physicist, not a geologist. That they hadn't had a geologist on call - or called one - while preparing to storm a mine wasn't her fault. That was a failure of her commander. Meaning Jack. Sure, he was just a Colonel, but he had been involved in the planning from the start - and he had the ear of the Etherians. They would have listened to him.

"Well, we know we need to keep Adora on a leash," Catra commented. "Or she'll risk her life again. And get herself worshipped as a goddess."

Jack blinked. That was… Oh. He snorted as he saw the saved hostages stare at them - at Adora - from a distance, some craning their necks to keep looking even as soldiers guided them away to reunite them with their families. "Well, she just held up an entire mountain to save everyone," he said. "That's bound to make people mistake you for a god."

"Indeed. The mythology on Earth has similar deeds attributed to various deities, I believe," Teal'c commented. "And no false god would be able to equal this."

That almost sounded as if Teal'c was calling Adora a real goddess. But he would know better than that, wouldn't he?

Adora groaned and closed her eyes. "I am no goddess!"

Well, at least she knew it.

"And you aren't a Goa'uld," Catra added. "Anyway, mission accomplished. The hostages are saved, and the enemy was crushed - and it was their own fault."

Jack had to chuckle at that, and she grinned in return.

"They thought I was a Goa'uld, and they were willing to die to kill me." Adora shook her head as she got up, and Catra slid off her. "We didn't expect that kind of fanaticism."

"Heru'ur has some of the most loyal Jaffa amongst the System Lords," Teal'c said, "but I would not have expected such dedication. Things are, or at least were, different under Apophis."

Jack nodded. "Yeah. Let's hope this guy remains an exception. If we have to re-enact the War in the Pacific, things will get messy." Messier than they already were.

"At least his human slaves do not display any such loyalty," Teal'c pointed out.

That was a small consolation. Jack clapped his hands together. "Anyway, how about we move this to a nice, private debriefing room, once Glimmer and Bow come up for air?"

The two didn't even have the grace to blush. Kids these days. And now Catra was glancing at Adora as if this was a challenge or something. Was that how Hammond felt with SG-1?

"So…" Jack trailed off when he spotted a signals officer heading towards them.

"Sir! Ma'am!" the young man snapped. "We've received a radio transmission from the main mining site! The, ah, representative of the local population has requested a meeting with Supreme Commander Adora to discuss the planet's status."

Jack blinked. He hadn't been aware that the planet's population had a leader - they had been slaves until a few hours ago. And now they wanted to 'discuss the planet's status'? He would have expected them to keep their heads down and play it safe, not… He blinked.

And then he sighed. Of course!

"Daniel, what did you do?"


Primary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

The base at the primary mining site - the one Glimmer and Bow had taken without issue, Adora reminded herself - looked a lot like the one they had just left at the secondary site. As she stepped out of the shuttle, Adora could see soldiers putting up walls - both earthen and prefabricated steel - around the base area.

And the guards were as alert as the ones back at the other mine, she noted as they snapped to attention at her approach. Just different uniforms - American and British, here. Of course, there were still Jaffa scattered on the planet, but the ground troops had started to hunt them down.

"I thought we didn't salute in the field," Catra whispered, though a little too loud to be discreet, next to her.

Adora gripped her lover's hand a little tighter - and suppressed the urge to hold her tightly and scold her again for staying with her in the mine - and nodded at the soldiers.

"It's debatable if this still qualifies as in the field," Jack commented behind them. "Though I generally say that it counts until a PX opens in the base."


"A military store," he explained. "Where soldiers can buy goods and services. Like food and uniforms, for example."

"You make them pay for their food and uniforms?" Catra asked with a snort. "If we had done that in the Horde, we'd have had a rebellion on our hands. Well, a second one."

While Jack protested that it wasn't like that, Adora smiled even though she didn't like being reminded of that time. "Anyway," she said, "let's go see what the representative of the people here wants," she said, nodding at the aide waiting for them.

"And what Daniel did this time," Jack added under his breath as the officer led them towards a big tent.

"I am sure Daniel didn't do anything bad," Adora told him with a frown.

"Tell that to the generals," Jack retorted.

"Oh, I will." Adora nodded firmly. Daniel was smart and honest. She trusted him to do the right thing.

Jack blinked, then snorted. "Right. Forgot for a second that you can do that."

"Forgetting stuff is a sign of old age," Catra told him.

"Of course, you'd think I am old."

Martouf kept silent, Adora noted. Well, they might be thinking about where they would be using the tunnelling technology here.

The guards at the tent also stood at attention when Adora and the others arrived, and the aide opened the tent's entrance. "The Supreme Commander of the Alliance!" he announced.

Inside, Adora saw a few officers - Generals Bryce and Percival, and their aides - Daniel, who was smiling a little sheepishly at them, no, at Jack, and half a dozen people who were obviously locals judging by their clothes. All of them bowed, but they didn't fall to their knees.

"Sadiki, leader of the people of the planet," Daniel introduced the man in the middle of the group.

"For now," the man added. "We couldn't ask the other settlements, but ours is the largest."

"Which means that this is not a diplomatic meeting with the actual representative of the local population," the American general, Bryce, said with a frown.

"Sadiki represents the majority of the people here," Daniel retorted.

"It looks like he's trying to steal a march on the others and get himself installed as the leader before anyone else," Bryce shot back.

It sounded as if they were repeating an argument, Adora thought. She focused on Sadiki. He looked at her, though he wasn't quite meeting her eyes.

She smiled at him and the others. "Hello. I am She-Ra, Princess of Power. Please call me Adora." She transformed back as she said so. Catra snorted next to her, and Adora didn't have to glance at her lover to know she was rolling her eyes. But there was nothing wrong with being friendly, and she didn't want to tower over those people. "We have saved the hostages in the second mine," she added. "But the mine collapsed when the Jaffa hiding there blew up the main shaft."

"Oh." Sadiki, who had been staring at her, seemed surprised, then slowly nodded. "The mine is lost then?"

"We can't tell yet," Martouf cut in. "We need to scan the area and determine if it's safe to tunnel back down. If it is, we can open it quickly."

"You can do that?" Sadiki seemed surprised.

"We have advanced technology," Daniel told him.

"And magic," Catra added.

Right. Adora nodded. "Yes, I have restored magic to your planet. So, those of you who have the talent will be able to learn how to do magic."

"Magic…" Sadiki blinked.

"Yes." Catra grinned. "Also, she used the surplus magic power to turn the flooded site into fields and orchards. You might want to send people there to harvest the goods."

Adora suppressed a frown. Yes, Catra was right, and the locals would have to harvest the fields before it went all bad, but she didn't have to make it sound so… deity-like.

"I see." Sadiki bowed again, more deeply this time. As did the others. "We thank you for this. With Heru'ur's forces gone, we were not sure how to feed everyone - we have fields and farming villages, but not enough to supply everyone. We depended on food delivered by his Jaffa."

"Yep, that's one way to keep control of a population," Jack said.

"The Alliance can and will supply you with food and everything else you need," Bryce cut in.

Sadiki glanced at the general, then at Daniel, before he looked back at Adora. "Does that mean you will be taking over our world?" he asked, a bit hesitantly.

"What? No!" Adora shook her head. "It's your world! We came to liberate you, not to conquer you." They were the Alliance, not the Horde!

"Although in order to ensure that Heru'ur won't return, we'll have to station troops here," Percival added. "We will need bases for them."

"I see," Sadiki repeated himself. "And will you take control of the Stargate?"

"Only until you can safeguard it yourselves," Adora reassured him. They were here to save the people, not to take over.

Sadiki smiled. But Bryce was now openly scowling. And glaring at Daniel.


Forward Base, Primary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"...and so, although this is merely a preliminary geological analysis, and experts in the field need to confirm it, it seems that while the lower parts of the mines have completely collapsed, the upper tunnels won't suffer the same fate. Not without further tectonic activity, natural or induced." Samantha Carter nodded as she finished her report.

"So, basically, if you want to mine more ore, you need to do a thorough geological check beforehand - some of the rock there is more like gravel," Entrapta added. "And that's not very stable. Although with the right technology, you can deal with that. We've got a few ideas on how to strengthen tunnels, but they require some testing."

"Thank you." General Percival nodded. "So, the Secondary Mining Site won't be operational for the foreseeable future - and not at all unless we invest considerable resources."

"Yes, sir." That was what Sam had just explained.

"Resources the local population cannot afford," General Bryce added, "and which wouldn't be justified by the expected return in ore production."

Sam noticed that General Percival glanced at his colleague with a peculiar expression. The British officer was a bit hard to read, but she didn't think he approved of Bryce's comment.

"That doesn't matter, though," Entrapta said. "The mine got destroyed because of us, so we need to fix it. That's how things work."

Sam had to suppress a smile at her friend's comment. It was a simple but, fundamentally, correct view of the morality of the situation.

Percival nodded, though Bryce scowled. "We are at war. Resources are limited. We can address this once the war's won," the American general said.

"We just need more data," Entrapta retorted with a slight frown. "And we've got the time for that."

"And this will result in useful experience for future operations," Sam pointed out. The Tok'ra tunnelling technology was a key component for assaults and invasions, after all. And Bryce knew that. So, what was going on?

"Indeed," Percival said. "Although we'll also require permission from the local government for such actions."

That was a surprise. Sam hadn't expected the local population to have a government already. Much less one that was apparently a potential obstacle for Alliance operations, at least if she interpreted Bryce's scowl correctly.

"Well, we can easily ask them." Entrapta beamed. "I doubt they will refuse our help - it won't cost them anything, after all."

"I wouldn't be so sure," Bryce scoffed.

Sam was missing something. She had been rushed into this briefing after arriving at the base here, and so she hadn't been able to talk to her team and her Etherian friends yet. And she had a gut feeling that she really needed to speak with the Colonel and Daniel about this.

As soon as she was dismissed by the generals.


"So, you're hiding from Jack?" Catra asked while she dug through an MRE for the candy parts. She was lounging on a fold-out chair, which was surprisingly comfortable once you contorted yourself just right, especially since the design, unlike the more padded armchairs like those in the palace back in Bright Moon, allowed her tail to swish freely. Ah, chocolate! She pulled the bar out and dropped the rest - curry, which was meh - on the floor of the meeting room she had commandeered.

"I'm not really hiding," Daniel protested. "I'm just… catching up on my paperwork until Sadiki and his people return. Jack can easily find me."

Catra snorted. "Sure, sure."

"Besides, wouldn't that mean that you're hiding as well?" Daniel looked at her over the rim of his laptop.

She grinned back. "I'm not hiding. I told Adora I would get something to eat instead of trying to keep myself from clawing the colonialist generals." And she had done so loudly enough for at least one of them to overhear her.

Daniel smiled at that. "I see."

"You're not the only one who has issues with installing a 'protectorate'," Catra told him while she ripped the wrapping off the bar. As if she wouldn't realise what the result of such a policy would be.

"It's official Alliance policy that any bases require the agreement of the local government." Daniel deflected.

"Official Alliance policy you told the local government about." She bit the bar in half and chewed, savouring the taste. "A local government that was formed shortly after you made contact with the settlement here."

"In order to make an informed decision, you need to be informed." He looked at his screen instead of at her, but she could see his lips twist into a smile. "Everything I did was in line with official Alliance policies."

She swallowed, then snorted. "Yeah. And if not for the princesses backing that policy, you'd be in trouble with the leadership."

"That's speculation," he retorted.

"Well, good work," she told him, flashing her fangs.

He didn't reply, but she could see his smile grow larger.

But then the door to their room was opened, and Entrapta and Sam entered. "There he is! Just like the scan showed!" Entrapta said, beaming.

Daniel blinked. "You used your scanner to find me?"

"Ah, so you admit you were hiding!" Catra chuckled.

"You were hiding? We thought you were lost!" Entrapta said, blinking.

Catra doubted that Sam had believed that.

"I'm just working on my report." Daniel pointed at his laptop.

"And hiding from Jack," Catra added.

"So, it was you who organised the local government and told them how to approach the Alliance." Sam shook her head.

"All in line with official Alliance policy," Catra told her. "As agreed by all the big leaders back on Earth."

Daniel nodded. "Pretty much, yes." He didn't look as confident as before, though.

Sam sighed. "And what did the Colonel say about this?"

Daniel grimaced. "Ah, we weren't able to talk about it yet - he was called into a meeting."

Catra nodded. "And Daniel's been hiding here ever since."

Sam and Daniel both winced at that while Entrapta looked confused. "Why would you be hiding from Jack?"

Daniel smiled. "Ah, that's a bit complicated…"

Entrapta nodded encouragingly at him, and Catra chuckled. He wasn't going to get out of this.


"Commander, we cannot just leave this world be! Apophis lost his task force here, Heru'ur lost the planet - both will want to find out what happened!"

Bryce had a good point there, Jack O'Neill admitted. Both of the two head snakes, and probably half their rivals once they heard of it, would send scouts, spies or even probing forces to this world to find out what happened and who held it. Of course, it was a point that was pretty obvious and so had been raised during the planning phase of this operation. And had been addressed as well.

Glimmer rolled her eyes. "We're aware of that, General. And we won't leave the system defenceless. But we don't need to control the planet to defend it. We can leave a task force in the system to destroy invaders."

"But that runs the risk of them detecting our presence and plans here!" Bryce objected. "That would jeopardise our entire war plans!"

"Holding the planet would not decrease that risk either - quite the contrary," Glimmer retorted.

"But even if we lock down space, that still leaves the Stargate! And the locals cannot defend it. We have to either defend it ourselves or remove it from the planet." Bryce wasn't giving ground there.

"Or give them the ability to prevent others from using it," Adora said. "A simple mechanism to keep it horizontal unless raised to be used would keep anyone from using it for an invasion - without having to place it in a foreign base."

A simple mechanism by Carter or Entrapta's standards, Jack mentally amended - but it was a good solution. Any invaders would be killed when they tried to step out of the gate and fell back into it. Of course, any peaceful visitors or explorers would suffer the same fate. But there was no perfect solution either way.

"That would still leave us committed to the system's defence, and without anything to show for it. It would be a pure drain of resources - resources needed for the war."

Jack wondered if Bryce was in someone's pocket. The man hadn't struck him as the type to care so much for the strategic implications of the operation that he was willing to argue with the Supreme Commander of the Alliance over it. Certainly not without backing from his own superiors. Civilian or military.

"It's going to take a task force from the fleet," Glimmer replied. "And nothing to show for it? As you said, they will be dealing with recon and probing attacks, perhaps even invasions, from the Goa'uld. Which means they'll reduce the enemies' forces."

"And draw their attention to this system, potentially weakening their control over other systems," Percival added.

"Although this will endanger this system," the German general, Müller, pointed out. "And the more forces the Goa'uld focus on it, the more of our forces will be needed to defend it. This could become a Verdun."

"No matter how many forces they send at us, we will defeat them! We cannot fail under the command of Your Divine Highness!"

Jack didn't bother to hide his grimace at Priest's outburst. The clone had kept silent so far, to jack's surprise, but it was obvious that he had overcome his shame or embarrassment for 'failing' Adora and was back to full confident fanaticism.

Adora winced. "Thank you, Priest." She nodded at the generals. "We were aware of this potential issue before we launched this mission, and there's no need to change our plans and contingencies for this. If it becomes too costly or impossible to hold the system, we'll pull out and leave the population with an underground network of tunnels to shelter and hide in and enough resources to survive for years if they do not want to evacuate through the Stargate."

"A very generous offer," Duchemin commented.

"Your Divine Highness provides for those in need."

"It's the least we can do if we fail in our duty to protect them," Glimmer said. She wasn't reacting to Priest's comment, Jack noted.

"But shouldn't we ask the people here to make an effort for their own protection as well?" Bryce asked. "Of course, we cannot expect them to provide an effective military force - they are barely out of the stone age, after all - but they could provide the war effort with the same resources that they mined for the Goa'uld. That shouldn't be too much to ask of them after we've bled for their freedom. And with modern technology and organisation, the output of their mines could surely be increased significantly."

Ah, that was his angle! Jack almost snorted as he wondered which mining corporations were ready to move in from Earth.

"Of course, we'll ask them if they wish to sell their ore," Glimmer told him. "But that's, ultimately, their decision. If they wish to stop mining, then we will accept that - none of the ore mined here is crucial for our war effort."

"And why do you think they couldn't help us militarily?" Adora frowned. "They can learn how to fight just as anyone else can with the right training. If they wish to join our forces, we'll happily accept them."

Bryce blinked. "But… they come from a culture on the technological level of Ancient Egypt! How are they supposed to operate tanks and modern weapons when they have grown up using horses and spears?"

Glimmer glared at him. "My royal guards use spears. And my people use horses. All of them fought well against people in tanks and spaceships."

"It doesn't take a lot to teach people how to effectively use modern weapons. Like the Soviets found out when we taught the Mujahedin how to use Stingers," Jack cut in.

Bryce glared at him, but Adora nodded. "Yes. But it will be their decision. We are not here to take over but to save and support people. We aren't the Goa'uld," she added with a frown. "We will gladly accept any help, but we will not demand it."

"A policy which was set in the Alliance Charter," Glimmer pointed out. Under her breath, she added: "We've read up on your history."

And that was it. Jack liked Bryce's expression, but he knew that the man's backers would not give up so easily. And the Europeans might be more discreet, but they would also be salivating at the thought of getting access to the resources of entire planets.

And once they realised that the Etherians actually meant what they said about leaving such decisions to the locals, Sadiki and his people would be swamped with offers from corporations and politicians with vast experience in exploiting Third World countries.

Jack didn't think they would be more successful or luckier than the countries on Earth. Not even with Daniel's help. Which was something he still needed to discuss with his friend, he reminded himself.


Adora kept smiling - confidently and friendly, she reminded herself, not like Glimmer baring her teeth - as they left the meeting room. She might disagree with General Bryce's opinions, but they were all on the same side here. Probably. While she had no doubt that they were all working to defeat the Goa'uld, she wasn't as sure that they all meant the same when they talked about 'winning the peace'.

"Ugh!" Glimmer said when they had turned two corners and were - presumably - out of earshot of the earth officers. Well, except for Jack, who was walking with them. "What were they thinking?"

"Is that a rhetorical question, or do you want an answer?" Jack asked with a snort.

Glimmer scoffed in return. "I know what they are thinking. It's 'Hey, those poor primitive people need our guidance. Let's take over their world for their own good! And for ours!'."

"You've studied Earth's history extensively," Jack commented.

"Please!" Glimmer snorted before Bow could say anything. "We heard it all a dozen times every day from your … pundits, I think is the name. Back when you all were panicking that we would do this to you. We couldn't have missed learning about your colonialism and neo-colonialism periods if we tried."

"Though I did study both in more detail than that," Bow added. "Since, well, Earth is, according to some people, still in the neo-colonialism era."

"Well, yeah, some people are opinionated about that," Jack replied. "But not really wrong." He sighed. "They'll try to swindle the people here, you know."

"We know," Glimmer told him. "They'll try to do the same thing they were afraid we'd do to them: Exploit them under the pretext of helping them."

"We need to warn Sadiki and his people of that," Adora added. "But, ultimately, we have to let them decide what they want."

"Even if they mess up and ruin their world?" Jack asked.

Adora nodded. "If we try to force our own ideas on them, we'd be no better than the Goa'uld." Or the First Ones.

"But we can offer them advice," Bow added.

"Yes!" Priest chimed in. "We shall teach them about your deeds and your wisdom, Your Divine Highness, so they, too, might benefit from your guidance!" He bowed in the middle of the hallway and added: "After asking for their permission, of course!"

"Of course," Adora replied, wincing. She couldn't prohibit the clones from talking to others - well, she could, but it would make her a hypocrite. And a dictator. But she really didn't want more people worshipping her.

"Well, you won't be the only ones," Jack told him. "You can bet that the missionaries from Earth will chomp at the bit to spread their faith - and they'll demand equal opportunities."

"As is fair," Priest replied. He turned to smile at her. "However, unlike them, Your Divine Highness's deeds and power are real, as anyone on this world can see when they visit the Divine Fields blessed with your divine power or when they work magic which was restored to their world by your will."

"I'm not a goddess," Adora told him. She wasn't. She was She-Ra, Princess of Power. A princess like other princesses. Mostly.

Priest bowed low but didn't agree. Which she had expected.

"You know, having a holy war on this world won't really help anyone," Jack said.

"If you need violence to spread your faith, you are following false gods," Priest retorted with a serene smile. Which looked like the smiles of the clones worshipping Horde Prime. Like Catra's when she had been… Adora pushed that painful memory away.

Jack narrowed his eyes. "Speaking of false gods, when your god tells you they're no god, shouldn't you listen to them?"

Adora drew a sharp breath, and she saw Glimmer and Bow tense up.

But Priest kept smiling. "Like when your god tells you to sacrifice your child?"

Jack stared at him. "That's not the same."

"Indeed, it is not." He bowed towards Adora. "Your Divine Highness, you would never demand such a thing from us to test us."

"Of course not!" Adora blurted out before she realised what she was doing.

"You lead by example. Your deeds speak for themselves, and we follow your guidance by our choice." Priest bowed again. "Your wish is our holy command, for we place our trust in your power and your wisdom and your honesty and benevolence."

Adora winced again.

And Jack looked annoyed.

But they had arrived at the room Catra had commandeered. And where the rest of their friends were supposed to be. So, Adora couldn't really continue this discussion.

She opened the door. "Hello!"

"Hey, Adora!" Catra jumped up from her chair and moved towards her, hips swaying, swishing in that distracting, sexy way of hers.

"...and so, you see, I had to explain all this, so… Oh, hello, Adora. Jack." Daniel blushed a little. "I was just, ah, explaining…"

"He was telling us why the generals were mad at him for doing the right thing." Entrapta nodded. "It's complicated," she added, "but he can explain it."

"So I've heard," Jack commented with a toothy smile.

Adora was about to frown at him - Daniel had done the right thing - but Catra hugged her, and that was even more distracting than her strut.


"So, you decided to teach the locals all about interstellar politics in an afternoon. Everything they need to know to make the best, most informed decisions about their future. Right, Daniel?"

The Colonel wasn't happy with their friend. Samantha Carter could understand why he was annoyed, but that didn't mean she agreed with him. Yes, Daniel had acted without orders - his explanation that he had merely followed the obvious logical conclusions drawn from the general goals of the mission was a paper-thin excuse. Some might, would even, argue that he had acted against orders when he had contacted the local settlement.

But this wasn't a Stargate mission. This was an Alliance operation. And the Supreme Commander of the Alliance, as well as the rest of the Etherians, obviously approved of Daniel's decision.

"Well, not everything. Obviously, that would have taken far too long to teach them. Even a general overview of the galactic politics was a challenge." Daniel smiled weakly. "But I did tell them about the basic stance and aims of the Alliance, yes. And that they did not owe anyone their allegiance, much less their support or property," he added in a firmer tone.

"And that was a good thing," Glimmer added with a nod. "We didn't come here to take over the planet. And it seems not everyone realised that we don't just mean outright conquest with that policy."

"That still leaves them at the mercy of our carpet baggers," the Colonel retorted. "Are you planning to stay here to ensure the locals won't sell off the mines for a handful of glass beads?"

"Well, I can't stay - but I left them a number of examples of more equitable contracts for resource extraction agreements." Daniel's smile turned more than a little smug right now.

"And our brothers staying here, defending the system against all enemies, will certainly do their utmost to ensure that the people are not taken advantage of, just as Your Divine Highness wishes! By offering advice and guidance, I mean."

Sam narrowed her eyes a little at Priest's declaration. No matter the clone's intentions, this didn't sound very reassuring to her. Quite the opposite, actually.

And her friends - except for Entrapta, who happily nodded in agreement, Catra, who grinned, and, weirdly, Daniel, who nodded - seemed to share her reservations.

"Remember that the people here are free to make their own decisions, for good or ill," Adora told him with a pained smile.

"Of course, Your Divine Highness. Anything else would be a betrayal of your ideals." And there came the deep bow the clones seemed so fond of. Sam couldn't help but be reminded - very uncomfortably - of the way the Goa'uld were worshipped.

The Colonel was pressing his lips together in a frown. "Well, seems that's settled then. Let's just hope no one will start a holy war once the other missionaries arrive."

"They would have to be allowed through the gate first," Catra said.

"I don't think the United Nations will refuse permission if the alien missionaries are allowed to visit already," the Colonel retorted. "Of course, if you advise the locals here not to let visitors through the gate…" He glanced at Daniel, then at Priest.

"That would set an unfair precedent," Priest replied at once. "While it is their decision, we would certainly counsel the people here against closing off their world, for it is in isolation where complacency and ignorance grow. Only in the free contest between ideas and ideals can you find true, tested guidance for your life!"

That was… surprisingly liberal for a zealot, Sam had to admit.

She wasn't surprised, though, not this time, that Daniel agreed enthusiastically. "Yes!"

"Yeah, sure. Especially if you have such contests on a world with 'divine fields' created by your 'goddess', huh?" The Colonel glared at the clone.

What did he mean? Ah, the effects of Adora's magic, Sam remembered. The clones apparently had named the fields.

Priest inclined his head with a smug smile. "Of course. The claims of false gods pale next to such proof."

Sam couldn't help thinking that the clone was not just talking about the Goa'uld here. But he wasn't wrong, she had to admit - faced with what could arguably be seen as actual miracles, especially by people who had been raised to worship the Goa'uld, any missionary from Earth would be fighting an uphill battle.

She wasn't looking forward to discovering how this would play out - here or on Earth. Not at all. No matter who 'won' in this 'contest of ideals', there would be some very unhappy zealots. And in her experience, no matter their origin, unhappy zealots were dangerous.

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A simple mechanism to keep it horizontally unless raised to be used
'horizontally' -> 'horizontal'

A simple mechanism by Carter or Entrapta's standards, Jack mentally amended - but it was a good solution. Any invaders would be killed when they tried to step out of the gate and fell back into it.
But not by an invasion of anything that can fly, and we know the Goa'uld have at least one design of fighter craft that is designed to fly through a gate. A better solution would be a cylindrical plug of stone, slightly smaller than the diameter of the gate, which is suspended just behind the gate, and can be moved forward on command to block it. It is well-established that a buried gate is inoperable, so this would effectively disable the gate on command.
Chapter 80: The Intervention Part 5
Chapter 80: The Intervention Part 5

Forward Base, Primary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 12th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"So… did anyone find out yet why the Jaffa here thought of burying a bomb in the lake? Did anyone show them James Bond movies or Saturday morning cartoons?"

That was a very transparent attempt to change the subject by O'Neill. At least, Catra thought so. Then again, it was a bit stupid to scold Daniel for doing something everyone else thought was the right thing to do. Although O'Neill probably agreed with it as well - in principle, at least - and just didn't like that Daniel had annoyed at least some of the generals. And their backers, of course. The man was very protective of his friends - in a grouchy old-people sort of way.

"We don't know, sir." Sam, of course, replied earnestly. "I wondered if the bomb was placed in the lake, outside of the range of most scanners, so the defenders of the gate had time to withdraw while the attacker couldn't detect much less defuse the bomb in the meantime. But we now know that Heru'ur's Jaffa were willing to die if it meant taking out an important enemy."

Catra suppressed a shudder. The Jaffa had killed themselves, blowing up their staff weapons, to kill Adora by collapsing the mine onto her. And they had come far too close for Catra's comfort to actually pull that off. Adora had taken the whole weight of the tunnel's ceiling on herself, in the middle of a crowd of panicking slaves, with the entire tunnel shaking and buckling… She took a deep breath and pushed the memory away. Adora was alive. Safe. And with Catra.

"And I don't think they knew that we wouldn't pick up the bomb there since it would have been too weak to affect the gate area if it had just blown up on the ground," Entrapta added. "They wouldn't have been able to know about our scanner's power."

"Or our procedures," Catra added.

"Yes." Glimmer nodded.

"Are we sure of that?" O'Neill asked.

"Sir, any leak would have to have been at the highest level."

"Yes. Like, Sam or me. Since we upgraded the scanner recently, so we're the only ones who know the new stats." Entrapta nodded. "And I know it wasn't me, and I don't think Sam would reveal anything either."

"Of course not!"

"Perish the thought!" O'Neill grinned. "If you keep the scanner's real power a secret even from your superiors, then I doubt you'd sell us out to the enemy."

"Of course not, sir!"

Sam was blushing a little, Catra noted - no doubt a response to O'Neill's slightly teasing tone. They really should admit their feelings.

"Do the prisoners we took know anything?" Adora asked.

"All of those we interrogated so far claim to have not known anything about this." O'Neill shrugged. "It might have just been a Jaffa trying to be clever."

"Jaffa generally are not encouraged to 'be clever'," Teal'c said. "In fact, such behaviour is discouraged - often harshly."

"And it couldn't have been an experiment," Sam added. "Unless wrecking their own base would have been an acceptable result for a test."

"I don't think that would have been the case," Entrapta said. "Unless they wanted to replace the old base."

Catra snorted. "That would have ruined the surprise, though. If we had found traces of such flooding, we would have been on our guard."

"Right!" Entrapta nodded emphatically.

"On the other hand," Catra went on, "We do know that the Jaffa improvised when we took out their explosives. So, maybe Heru'ur didn't discourage 'being clever'?" She looked at Teal'c.

The Jaffa inclined his head. "Indeed. It might be that Her'ur's known camaraderie with his warriors extends to trusting them with such… innovations. Using the lake to amplify the bomb's effect was an ingenious way to avoid using more refined Naquadah, after all."

"Great. We almost died under a tidal wave of mud because some Jaffa tried to impress his boss." O'Neill scoffed.

"Impressing your superior through outstanding deeds during battle, on the other hand, is generally encouraged." Teal'c tilted his head, and Catra caught his lips twisting into a hint of a smile. "This would have qualified, would it have worked."

"Yeah, sure. Maybe we did catch the one who thought of this and just didn't get around to interrogating them yet," O'Neill said. "But captured or killed, it's a good thing that this guy isn't serving Heru'ur any more."

Catra nodded in agreement. Clever enemies were a pain to deal with. It was much easier to defeat enemies who blindly followed orders. Or to be defeated with such troops.

At least whatever bastard had had this idea couldn't get away. They had control of the Stargate and the orbitals. And they were tracking every Jaffa on the planet through the Naquadah in their symbionts. Soon, the last of them would be captured. Or killed - Catra really didn't care what would happen to them as long as they were dealt with.


Northern Hills, PZ-921, January 13th, 1999 (Earth Time)

The Jaffa had picked a good location for their last stand, Jack O'Neill had to admit that. He studied the area with his binoculars. A narrow canyon between two steep hills - he'd call them mountains if not for Carter's insistence that they were not tall enough. Hell, he might call them mountains anyway. The valley was so narrow and twisted, and the hillsides so steep, sometimes with vast overhanging parts, that bombing runs and artillery strikes would have to rely on luck to hit the ground instead of the hills. A frontal assault would mean facing staff weapons and zats at close range - Jack wouldn't give even main battle tanks good odds of surviving that kind of crossfire. And rappelling down the hillsides… Unless you could suppress the ground, anyone could shoot you from below. Yeah, Heru'ur's Jaffa knew what they were doing.

But so did the Alliance. "I almost feel bad about this," he muttered as he lowered his binoculars.

"About offering them the chance to surrender?" Teal'c asked next to him.

"What? No," Jack replied. "That's just… You should always offer your enemy the chance to surrender if you can. People who have nothing left to lose fight the hardest." Heru'ur's Jaffa had already shown that in the mine.

"Indeed. But victory in battle generally goes not to those who fight the hardest, but those who fight with the most cunning."


Teal'c didn't say anything, but Jack didn't have to glance over to know his friend was waiting for him to answer his original question. He sighed. "It just feels… I've been there, you know? Sort of. Facing an enemy who outnumbers and outguns you, doing your best to outthink and outfight them, but still ending up trapped."

"In death ground, fight."

It figured that Teal'c would have read Sun Tzu. Jack snorted, then frowned."Was that from The Art of War, or did you hear that from a Jaffa teacher?"

"I quoted the book, but since this is a common piece of advice for anyone who would wage war, it will come as no surprise that I have heard this before, during my training," Teal'c replied.

"Ah." Jack nodded. "Anyway, it feels a bit like cheating since we can track every single Jaffa on the planet thanks to their symbiont. Then again, if you're not cheating in war, you're not fighting seriously." That was a lesson that Jack had taken to heart.

"There is sometimes a fine line between a cunning and a dishonourable plan."

That was Teal'c-speak for 'don't cheat with abandon', Jack knew. He shrugged in return. "We're not exactly breaking our word. And speaking of that… Are you sure that they will honour an attempt at parley?"

Teal'c tilted his head slightly to the left. "It would be very rare - almost unheard of - for any Jaffa to break a truce for parley without explicit orders from their superior."

"That's not really reassuring," Jack commented.

"I do not think it is very likely that Heru'ur would have left such orders for his warriors. Especially since they apparently assume we represent the forces of a rival Goa'uld - breaking your word in that manner when interacting with another System Lord would hurt his reputation amongst his peers and hinder any future diplomatic moves he might plan."

"That's still not too reassuring," Jack said.

"The false gods are not known for their honour."


"But despite this, the Alliance will still make an attempt to parley." Teal'c sounded as if he approved.

"It's Adora." Jack snorted. "Of course, she can probably shrug off anything they can throw at her. As long as they don't parley in a mine or something."

"Indeed. And She-Ra and her friends will be prepared for treachery."

Mostly Catra, in Jack's opinion. "I just wish we could attend. But we're probably a bit too infamous amongst the Goa'uld. Would give the game away." He still expected to see his face on a Goa'uld wanted poster one of these days. If they had such things in the first place, of course.

Teal'c inclined his head. "A consequence of our many deeds in the war against the false gods. But I have trust in our friends. They are honourable and skilled."

Jack narrowed his eyes. "Do you honestly think they'll convince those guys to surrender instead of fighting to the last?"

"If it is possible at all, then I believe they can do it."

Jack snorted again. So, Teal'c didn't think either that Heru'ur's Jaffa would surrender. Of course, out of all of the other groups they had run down, they had only been able to capture those too wounded to fight on. And Jack didn't think there would be too many of those if it came to a fight here.

Damn, he really wanted to be at that meeting. Sure, he wasn't a magical princess who could shrug off cannon shots or teleport everyone to safety, but… he hated letting his friends risk their lives while he stayed safely behind! "Let's hope for the best."



Near the canyon in the Northern Hills, PZ-921, January 13th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"For the record, I think this is a bad idea."

Adora suppressed the urge to roll her eyes at Catra's comment - they were walking up to the Canyon entrance where Heru'ur's remaining Jaffa were dug in, and if anyone was watching them through binoculars, she didn't want to show such a reaction.

"You've said that before," Glimmer said next to her.

"It bears repeating. And I'll still hurt whoever came up with this outfit."

Adora glanced to her right side and caught Cata pulling at her collar. Again. Privately, she thought her lover looked very attractive in the design. Although, maybe they should have picked less 'bling', as Jack put it - the white top and skirt combo was fine and let Catra's tail swish freely back and forth, an important consideration, but all the jewellery, especially the heavy ornamental collar that reached out to cover shoulders, were apparently not very comfortable.

"We're supposed to look like Goa'uld, so suck it up." Glimmer scoffed. "You don't hear me complaining, do you?

"You already had the look; all you needed was more jewellery and a bare midriff," Catra shot back.

"What did you say?"

"I said you already had the look."

It wasn't true - Adora was the one who had been able to keep her usual clothes, the white and gold aligning perfectly with what many Goa'uld would choose as colours. Not that she would have been able to change her outfit, anyway. But Glimmer had to change her usual clothes like Catra. Although she didn't have fur that could get caught up in all the metal links and meshes of the jewellery. And she was used to wearing elaborate clothes to make an impression. Catra was more used to making an impression with more casual clothes. Casual, but stylish and sexy clothes, Adora amended her thought with a smile, remembering the Princess Prom.

But they were now almost at the entrance of the canyon. "I think we're close enough," Adora said. "Let's wait for them to come to us." Far enough from the canyon to be outside the effective range of staff weapons.

"Or shoot at us," Catra added.

"Don't worry, I'll port us to safety before anyone can mess up your new look," Glimmer said.

"I'll use you as a human shield."

"Then I'll leave you behind."

Glimmer seemed to be a bit more nervous than she wanted to let on - Adora's friends were bickering more than usual. "Please…" Adora started to say.

"Quiet! Here they come!" Catra hissed.

Oh? Adora squinted her eyes. There was movement at the canyon. Two, no, three people emerging from the shadows.

"Jaffa. Same armour as the ones we fought," Catra commented.

"Well, who else could it be?" Glimmer asked.

"Infiltrators from Apophis?"

"None of our sources have reported that he had troops on the planet."

"They might have missed that like they missed the tsunami bomb."

"That was different."

"Guys…" Adora whispered. She could now see the Jaffa clearly as they approached. They looked… a bit scruffy. The metal of their armours wasn't polished but seemed to be covered in dust. Was that deliberate, or just the result of the Jaffa's trip through the wilderness?

She straightened a bit and raised her chin. She had to make the right impression on the Jaffa. They were used to Goa'uld claiming to be gods and demanding worship. She wouldn't do that, of course, but she had to project confidence if she wanted to be taken seriously.

The three Jaffa, all of them carrying staff weapons, approached until they were about ten paces away, then stopped and stared at Adora and her friends. Mostly at Catra - one of them whispered, but Adora couldn't make out what he said.

"They think I'm a 'Sekhmet', whatever that is. Something related to Bastet," Catra whispered.

Bastet? That was a System Lord, although a rather obscure one, as Adora recalled from her research on the enemy. But it was an opening.

She took a step forward. "I am She-Ra, Princess of Power. My companions are Glimmer, Queen of Bright Moon, and Catra."

The Jaffa tensed. "You are not Goa'uld," their leader told her.

Right, the voice. Well, Adora had never planned to lie during the negotiations - the Goa'uld style was just to make them come out to parley. She shook her head. "No, we aren't." She waited a moment. She didn't like doing this. But she didn't like to lie either. "I am a First One. You know them as the Ancients - the Gate Builders."

One of them, the youngest-looking, gasped. The others hissed through clenched teeth.

But their leader recovered quickly. "That is a bold claim. The Gate Builders have been gone for millions of years."

"Someone studied their history," Catra commented.

"Not all of us left," Adora said. "Some stayed. Some left this universe." That was technically correct - if you counted the pocket dimension Etheria had been sealed in by Mara. "But I have returned."

"To fight the gods?"

He still hadn't introduced himself or his companions, Adora noted. "To save the people. To free them from slavery," she replied. "We heard of a plan to massacre the people of this planet and intervened."

"Lies!" one of the younger Jaffa spat. "The Great Heru'ur would never do that to his loyal subjects!"

"It was one of his rivals," Adora told them. "Apophis, hoping to frame Sokar for the deed."

That didn't seem to surprise them, but they exchanged glances. Their leader spoke up again: "And you used the opportunity to attack while we fought them? Like a carrion eater?"

That… it wasn't like that!

"'Carrion eaters'?" Catra sneered. "We destroyed both Apophis's fleet and your paltry forces in space before they engaged each other, and we crushed you on the ground at the same time. You're all that's left of Heru'ur's forces."

"And you want us to surrender to you? Betray our god?"

Adora refrained from nodding. The Jaffa was right, but she knew better than to admit it right away. They had to be a bit more diplomatic about it if they wanted to convince the Jaffa to surrender.

"Because even if you don't surrender, you can't do anything for your god any more," she said. "You cannot fight us any more. You cannot hide, either - we know exactly where you are at any time."

She nodded Glimmer, and her friend disappeared in a shower of sparkles.

Once more, the Jaffa gasped - and even their leader looked surprised, maybe even shocked, when Glimmer reappeared a moment later with a bot in her hands.

She put it down, and a holographic projection appeared in front of it, showing the canyon - and the Jaffa inside it. All of them.

The Jaffa tensed up again, and the two younger ones glanced at each other. But their leader had regained his composure and frowned. "Every one of us is ready and willing to die in service of our god."

"Of course," Adora said, nodding. "But why should you die pointlessly? We have you surrounded, and we don't need to storm the canyon - we have ships in orbit that can simply destroy the entire area. Your death here wouldn't serve your god - or anyone else."

"It will serve as an example to others," their leader retorted. "Inspire them to do their utmost in service of the Great Heru'ur."

Adora clenched her teeth. They sounded like Horde Prime's clones. But the clones had learnt better, she reminded herself.

"To serve as an example, people have to hear about it," Catra pointed out with a snort. "And who do you think will tell them? Do you honestly expect us to spread the news?" She pointed at the holoprojection. "We can turn this into a crater, and no one will know. There's no settlement nearby, and the only other Jaffa on the planet are our prisoners. You won't inspire anyone - you'll simply vanish."

For a moment, Adora hoped that this would shake the Jaffa's fanatical loyalty.

But the older Jaffa shook his head with a glare. "Our god will know."

"Really?" Glimmer said. "How would he know? He didn't know about Apophis's plan, did he? Or about our attack. Why do you think he will know about your fate here?"

"When we appear in front of him in the afterlife, ready to be judged, we'll tell him."

Horde Prime sees all, Horde Prime knows all…

Adora had been afraid of this. If the Jaffa were convinced that they would meet their god in the afterlife, ready to be judged, then they wouldn't fear death. It would take more than a military defeat to shake their faith in their false god - but Heru'ur wasn't here for Adora and her friends to personally beat and expose as a fraud.

"And what will you tell him? That you had the chance to find out more about us but decided to die instead of doing your duty?" Catra asked, cocking her head and flashing her fangs at them.

"What?" They looked confused, even their leader.

"If you surrender, you become our prisoners. You will have the opportunity to observe us and our forces. Gather more information. If you die now, you won't really be able to tell your god anything useful."

"We can inform him that he is facing a Gate Builder."

"A claim you doubted yourself," Catra retorted. "Will you tell that to your god?"

Yes. Adora smiled as she saw the older Jaffa glance at his companions. If the Jaffa surrendered, even if they did so with the plan to spy on the Alliance, then Adora and her friends could work on teaching them the truth about the Goa'uld. And keep them from killing themselves.

But then the Jaffa straightened, raising his chin, and stared at them. "I will not be deceived by such trickery. I will face my god with my honour intact, and he will judge me fairly." He nodded, followed by the other two. "We will not surrender. This parley is over."

Adora clenched her teeth. This was so, so… pointless! They would die for Goa'uld lies!

Glimmer, also angry - Adora could tell - nodded in return. "Then that is your decision."

Adora wanted to scream at them, even plead for them to reconsider, see reason. This was just a senseless death. But that wouldn't have helped. Maybe if she had the power to turn the canyon into a field of wheat or something… but she didn't. So she nodded, curtly. "Goodbye then."

She felt Glimmer grab her hand, and a moment later, all of them were back at their field headquarters. All except the bot - she could see the feed from its sensors on the big screen here, showing the Jaffa walking back to the canyon.

"Well, some people are just too stupid to live," Catra commented.

Jack nodded. "Don't blame yourself. You did all you could to make them see reason."

Adora didn't believe him. She didn't quite know what else she could have done, but there had to be something. Anything. They couldn't just kill all the Jaffa for believing Goa'uld lies.

"So… time to blow up the canyon from orbit?" Jack asked. "Or just starve them out?"

"They would not surrender either way. If they were growing too weak to fight, they'll charge us," Teal'c said.

"Banzai charges. Yay." Jack scoffed.

Catra shrugged. "So, unless you found a way to take them out without killing them and risking our own soldiers' lives in the process, it's bombing time. At least that will be quicker than letting starve."

But it still wasn't right. "I'll do it," Adora said.

"Adora!" Catra hissed at her.

But Adora shook her head. This was her fault, so she would fix it. She would take them all down. If she couldn't convince them with words to see reason, then she would knock some sense into them with her sword.


Field Headquarters, PZ-921, January 13th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"I thought the whole idea was not to risk our soldiers trying to save our enemies' lives," the Colonel commented.

"I can deflect their staff blasts," Adora retorted. "Or shrug them off."

They had never specifically tested that, but Samantha Carter didn't doubt the claim - she knew from Entratpa and the others that She-Ra had taken worse than a staff blast.

"You're not invulnerable," Catra snapped. "And what if the Jaffa bring down the canyon on you?"

"They would have to have more explosives than we scanned and would have to prepare for that." Adora nodded at the holoprojection displaying the data from Sam and Entrapta's scanner. "They are spreading out, not concentrating."

Changing positions, probably hoping that we have bluffed about our scanners, Sam thought.

"They could get lucky," Catra insisted.

"If the canyon comes down, I can still jump out."

Now that was… not quite a boast, but Sam would prefer to see proof of that before accepting it.

"You'd need to be lucky yourself for that," Catra insisted. But she was scowling in a way that made Sam suspect she believed Adora.

"I can't just let them kill themselves because they think the Goa'uld are gods," Adora said.

Sam half-expected the Colonel to make a quip about how she totally could but didn't want to, but he just frowned at her. And Glimmer and Bow nodded, though they didn't seem to like it, either.

"Use zats?" Daniel suggested.

"You have to get fairly close with those in the first place, and in the Canyon with all those twists and turns and rocks littering the ground, you'd be almost in melee range anyway. It's the same for our shock rods." Catra shook her head.

"If we had some way to knock them unconscious without engaging them in close combat…" Bow trailed off and pressed his lips together.

Catra turned to glare at him. "If we had that, we'd save it for a more important mission than saving a bunch of fools from their own stupidity!"

"We could use it for both," Bow replied.

"We can't expect the enemy not to adapt to our plans and technology." Catra shook her head and turned back to glare at Adora. "But it's not just that they could get lucky, you also plan to knock them out. If you want to avoid killing or maiming them, you'll have to be far too careful to fight effectively. Especially with a shock rod or zat."

It was Adora's turn to scowl. "I have to at least try!" she shot back - but she sounded more desperate than determined.

Catra met her eyes for a moment, then blinked - and sighed. "No, you don't have to try. Others can do better. But we'll need the Stargate to bring them here. And we need a frigate."

"Oh?" Adora looked hopeful.

"What are you planning?" Glimmer asked.

"Something stupid and far too elaborate, so it'd be right up your alley," Catra replied. Then she started explaining.

It was the most absurd plan Sam had heard in a long time. Since her time at the Air Force Academy, actually. But she couldn't find a reason why it wouldn't work. And Entrapta agreed.

And, judging by the way he was shaking his head and muttering about 'Saturday morning cartoons', the Colonel had no good argument either.


Near the canyon in the Northern Hills, PZ-921, January 14th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"I don't want to hear any snarky comments. The only reason I have proposed this plan is to keep you from doing something stupid. If I had my way, we would be dropping bombs and blaster bolts on them until there's only a crater left of the entire canyon." Catra glared at Adora to emphasise her words. This was all her lover's fault. Everything. "The things I do for you…" she sighed.

In response, Adora hugged her. Which was nice. But it didn't quite make up for all the annoyances Catra had to deal with here. "I was the leader of the Horde. I directed tank divisions and fleets," she mumbled.

"Yes, you were," Adora replied. "Look, it's starting!"

Catra pulled back and looked up. In the distance - quite the distance, Catra had insisted Entrapta and Sam doubled it - a Horde frigate, Priest's flagship of the task force, actually, descended and opened up with her ventral broadside, lasers and blaster bolts striking the ground below, starting far outside the canyon range and drawing closer.

Catra hoped that the idiots in the canyon at least were scared by this. It would serve them right for making her do this. "We could have just used this on the canyon," she muttered.

Adora didn't comment as they watched the short bombardment.

"Your will has been done, Your Divine Highness!" Priest reported over the communicator as the frigate pulled up again.

"Thank you, Priest!" Adora replied cheerfully. "Entrapta?"

"One moment! The scanners need to adjust - all the power kind of disturbed the readings… ah, yes! Both the crater and the furrow match the projected data within tolerances! That means we can proceed with phase two!"

Of course, Entrapta would be excited about this. Sam and Bow were probably as enthusiastic but hid it better. Catra sighed again. "Proceed with phase two."


"As the Chosen Consort of Her Divine Highness commands!"

Catra shot a frown at Adora, who steadily ignored it, then looked up again.

They didn't have to wait long. Glowing balls of not-quite-fire were quickly falling from the sky. "What a waste!" she complained as the first struck, throwing up a plume of ash quickly disturbed by the next impact. And the one after that. And the ones following them. She could feel the ground tremble slightly even at this distance. If the canyon collapsed from this… But it didn't. As the geologists they had called in for this had told them.

"The pattern of the craters adheres to our projections. Mostly. Some corrections are necessary. Transmitting data to you, Priest!"

"Thank you! Commence firing when ready!"

Shortly afterwards, the frigate reappeared in the sky and started firing her ventral guns into the smoke and dust concealing the impact area.

"Take care to melt the bits that are still solid!"

"Of course!"

Priest was enjoying this as much as Entrapta was, Catra realised. Of course, he was doing his goddess's work, so to speak, so she should have expected that. And he was probably already thinking of how to use this to convert the idiots in the canyon.

Well, that wasn't her problem.

"Mission accomplished!"

"The furrow is starting to fill!"

Adora was beaming.

Cara sighed again and pushed the button of her communicator. "Mermista, Frosta, you're up."



"This shall be a day to be remembered, my love!"

"Ugh, don't distract me!"

Catra shook her head and picked up her binoculars. She didn't want to miss the conclusion of this.


In a way, it was a fitting end to the campaign, Jack O'Neill was forced to admit as he watched the canyon through his own binoculars. Sure, Carter and Entrapta's sensors offered a detailed overview, but some things you had to see with your own eyes. And this hare-brained operation certainly qualified.

"All the ice has melted - or evaporated, but the losses are within expected tolerances," Carter reported. "The water's flowing into the furrow."

It was more like a canal, in Jack's opinion. Wide enough to let a few yachts pass. Sizeable ones, too. Of course, they wouldn't survive it right now - not with the current becoming a flash flood that would wreck even large boats as if they were toys.

Jack clenched his teeth as he remembered the tidal wave that had almost drowned them in the enemy base. This was different, he reminded himself. It wasn't nearly as powerful, for starters. And it was under control.

He still shuddered when he saw the water crest the edges of the new canal, foam covering the banks as the wave raced towards the canyon.

"The Jaffa in the canyon noticed the wave," he heard Catra comment from behind him. She was inside the headquarters, watching the holoprojection. "Look at them run."

"Some of the Jaffa are trying to climb the walls, Mermista!" Adora sounded concerned.

"That won't help them!" he heard the water princess's gleeful reply through his communicator.

"I meant, watch out so you don't accidentally kill them!" Adora retorted.

"Don't worry! I have it under control. Water is my element!"

"And beauty and grace!" the smuggler added.

Han Solo would have never said anything sappy like that. This really was more like a Saturday morning cartoon.

A deadly one, though, Jack amended his thought when he saw the water reach the end of the channel, close to the entrance of the canyon. There, walls made of ice appeared, catching the water and funnelling it towards the canyon like a huge… Jack couldn't actually think of a fitting word when he saw the water reach the canyon.

Now, against all laws of nature, the water slowed down. Instead of smashing into and through the canyon like a tsunami, crushing everything inside, killing the Jaffa by battering them against the stone walls before they could drown, it almost gently filled the valley.

It was still a force of nature, though - and even slowed down by magic, it still hit the Jaffa wherever they tried to hide and brace themselves, dragging them along. Still… They were literally using water to flush out the last enemies. Like in a goddamn cartoon.

"Oh, look at them go!" Catra chuckled.

"That must have hurt!" Adora added.

"Don't worry, I have it under control!"

"We know, Mermista!"

"There's one almost at the top of the canyon!"

"Don't worry - I've got him!"

Jack turned around and stepped inside the field headquarters to check the holoprojection. He just caught one Jaffa almost at the top of the canyon's walls suddenly freezing. Literally.

"Got him!" Frosta cheered over the communicator.

Jack pressed his lips together. The princess was a kid - a teenager. Barely old enough to drive, if at all. She shouldn't be here, on an alien planet, fighting a war against genocidal maniacs.

But she had already fought in such a war. And Jack knew very well what the response would be if he mentioned his opinion. As a princess, she was expected to fight. Noblesse oblige, Daniel called it. Jack called it using child soldiers. And to think that the Etherians didn't see anything wrong with it…

"Look, they've reached the end of the canyon!"

Right. On the projection, Jack saw the water spread out as it left the canyon, carrying the tiny figures representing the Jaffa with it.

"Watch this!" Frosta exclaimed.

"Yeah, yeah."

And the figures started to freeze, like the climbing champion before. Soon the few dozen Jaffa were caught in ice, ready to be taken in. They would be freezing, probably suffering frost burn, but they were alive. And Adora could heal any wounds they suffered, anyway.

If not for the sheer absurdity of it, it would have been an almost anticlimactic ending of the operation, Jack thought as he saw the others cheer. Well, mostly the Etherians and the Junior officers in the headquarters. Percival nodded in his reserved way, the German general was openly gaping, and Bryce… looked as if he really wanted to drink himself into a stupor.

Jack grinned. There was nothing better to help cope with magical solutions than watching other people freak out at seeing it for the first time. Time to play the old hand at magic.

He stepped over to the radio and ordered the capture teams in.


Forward Base, Primary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 14th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Ah, there is their idiot leader! Let's go rub it in how we destroyed them!"

"Catra!" Adora frowned at her lover. "We're not going to 'rub it in' or anything like that!" They were better than that! "We're going to check if they're OK or need healing."

"Bah! We've had to go to great lengths to take them alive, and it was all my work! Gloating about it is the least I deserve!"

Adora shook her head. "Technically, it was Mermista and Frosta's work."

"They wouldn't even be here if not for my plan." Catra scoffed. "Not that they'd thank me for letting them show off."

Uh. Adora suppressed a wince. She didn't know how serious Catra's complaint was - her lover sometimes tried to hide concerns about her relationship with the other princesses in the Alliance, out of guilt or shame - but it was a touchy subject. Better to change it. "Anyway, Mermista and Frosta did their best, but many Jaffa still got hurt, so we have a duty to check on them and treat their wounds if necessary."

"Sure, sure." Catra grinned. "And it's a great way to convert them."

Adora narrowed her eyes at her - Catra knew what she thought about being worshipped - but before she could say anything, her lover went on: "I mean, convert to our cause, of course."

"Ah." Adora nodded. That was better.

But then Catra's grin widened, showing her fangs. "And I am sure that Priest has already plans to convert them to worshipping you."

This time, Adora did wince. She knew Priest was planning that - she had heard him talk about the captured Jaffa being marked by her, chosen to live where other enemies died. Yes, he wanted to convert them. And healing them would only make that worse.

But it was still the right thing to do. She straightened, lifting her chin, as they approached the fenced-in area where the prisoners were temporarily housed before they could be moved to a more secure - and more remote - planet without a Stargate which would serve as a central prison camp.

"And now let's hope they are still too shaken to compound their stupidity and attack us," Catra muttered. Adora didn't have to glance at her to know she was checking that the guards were attentive and ready to intervene.

Which was common sense, of course - the prisoners hadn't actually surrendered and so weren't honour-bound to behave. At least in theory; Adora knew that Catra had her doubts about how much trust could be put into that; she hadn't been shy about sharing them. But for now, the Jaffa seemed to be behaving.

The American guards at the gate in the chainlink fence topped with razorwire - NATO-style - saluted them but quickly turned their attention back to the prisoners, who had also noticed them. They weren't gathering at the gate, but Adora could see all of them staring at her.

Well, she had weathered worse. She smiled gently as the gate was opened, and they stepped inside.

"If they try something, don't hesitate - just crush them," Catra whispered next to her. "They had their chance."

Adora nodded. As if she would risk her love getting hurt. She could summon her sword with a thought if she needed it.

Their leader - Anok; they had gotten his name while the prisoners had been processed - rose from where he had apparently been meditating. "She-Ra, Princess of Power. Catra." He bowed. Not quite as deep as Priest loved to bow, but it was more respectful than Adora had expected.

"Anok." Adora nodded at him. "How are you? Do you require healing?"

He stood ramrod straight. "I do not."

She could see that he had several bandages on his limbs, like most of the prisoners - the result of being scraped along rocks by the water - and thought about healing everyone anyway. But that would be… rude, probably. Or something. "If you do, please call me. Every prisoner has the right to medical aid."

He inclined his head very slightly, like Teal'c sometimes did, and Adora was sure he wasn't planning to ask for help. Too proud, probably.

She suppressed a sigh. They were talking, and he wasn't cursing her or her friends or trying to attack them. And the other prisoners didn't look hostile either. Things were going better than she had feared, she reminded herself.

"Still doubting our claims?" Catra asked with a smirk.

Adora pressed her lips together. They had talked about this! And just when she had thought that things were going well!

But Akon tilted his head and looked at Adora. "I stand corrected. The way you have captured us all… Whether you are a Gate Builder or not, you have demonstrated that you are a goddess."

Adora blinked, and Catra chuckled next to her. That was… Well, it made sense for someone who thought the Goa'uld were gods, but it was still wrong!

"I am no goddess," she corrected him.

He nodded in return. "As you say." His expression was… far too close to the one Priest often had on his face when talking to her, she realised.

"You've heard the clones talk during transport," Catra said.

"As you told us, we kept our eyes and ears open to gather information in captivity." Anok managed to sound both smug and respectful at the same time as he bowed his head once more.

Adora clenched her teeth. She hadn't meant it like that!

Catra was chuckling again. Louder this time.

Adora had been wrong. Things weren't going better than she had feared. Not at all.

'horizontally' -> 'horizontal'

Thanks, will be fixed!

But not by an invasion of anything that can fly, and we know the Goa'uld have at least one design of fighter craft that is designed to fly through a gate. A better solution would be a cylindrical plug of stone, slightly smaller than the diameter of the gate, which is suspended just behind the gate, and can be moved forward on command to block it. It is well-established that a buried gate is inoperable, so this would effectively disable the gate on command.

Yeah, they might just flip it over.
Chapter 81: The Intervention Part 6
Chapter 81: The Intervention Part 6

Forward Base, Primary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 14th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"...and now they think I am a goddess! And some think that's funny!"

Samantha Carter knew who Adora was complaining about - Catra hadn't even tried to hide her amusement. Sam didn't share it, though. Religious matters tended to be complicated and troublesome. And converts were often the most zealous and, therefore, the ones presenting the greatest potential problem.

"It is funny," Catra insisted. "Especially since they think you controlled the water and ice."

"Ugh. All that work, and I don't get credit?" Mermista complained.

"We have to set the record straight!" Frosta agreed.

"You just want to be also worshipped as goddesses," Catra told them with a snort.

"I already worship you, my love!"

"Ugh, not like that."

"However you want, my dear Mermista!"

Sam suppressed a frown. Mermista and Sea Hawk were… they were a couple, that much was obvious, but the way they acted together had Sam wondering how stable their relationship was. The last time she had seen that kind of dynamic had been in high school. And both Mermista and Sea Hawk were in their twenties. Of course, she wasn't exactly an expert on relationships. Or romance. Not even second-hand. And they weren't American, or even from Earth, so they would have different customs, but neither Adora and Catra nor Glimmer and Bow acted like that. Nor did Entrapta and Hordak, but Sam did her best to ignore that relationship.

"Well, if we could tone down the RomCom dialogue a little?" the Colonel spoke up. He sounded annoyed, Sam noted. More than she had expected. "We do have a few dozen prisoners to deal with. Prisoners, I'll note, who might think they could suicide to pass on intel to their leader."

Adora winced at that. "Sorry."

"It's not our fault," Catra said with a scowl. "They came up with that themselves. Before we even talked to them."

"However it happened, we have to deal with this," General Percival said. "We cannot let our prisoners kill themselves - we have a duty towards their welfare."

"If they want to kill themselves, that's their business," General Bryce disagreed. "Some even think that's their right." He shrugged. "Let them kill themselves if they want to."

"That's incredibly callous! You cannot compare this to an informed decision to commit suicide - they honestly think they will meet their god in the afterlife!" Daniel blurted out. "We can't let them kill themselves over such a lie!"

"Indeed." Teal'c nodded.

"Are we going to restrict their freedom of religion?" Bryce asked.

Sam couldn't tell if the general was actually serious, but she was surprised to see Daniel blink and hesitate. "It's not like that," Daniel said after a moment. "We know that the Goa'uld lie to their slaves about being gods. This is more… like a scam."

"Well, it's not the first religion that is actually a scam," the Colonel said.

Daniel tilted his head slightly to the side. "Actually, the Goa'uld might be the first such scam - at least the first we know about. It's certainly the biggest."

Sam had to smile at that - and at the Colonel's expression.

"Of course, that depends on how you see the various religions on Earth," General Soissant pointed out. "But I think we have a less theological and more practical problem to solve since even if the prisoners would convert, it's unlikely that they would do so very quickly, so the threat of at least some of them killing themselves remains. That wasn't anticipated in planning, so I fear our procedures will be insufficient."

Sam made a mental note to address this in the debriefing.

"We can keep them under guard and intervene when we notice an attempt at suicide," General Müller suggested. "That's standard practice, anyway."

"You would not be quick enough to stop a Jaffa from killing another at their request," Teal'c told him. "You would have to isolate all of them, and even then, there are ways to kill oneself quickly, almost instantly, if one is determined and skilled enough."

Which Jaffa generally were.

"Scheisse!" the German cursed under his breath. "That would violate their rights as well. Isolation is torture," he added.

"Isolating prisoners is justified if it's necessary to save their lives," General Percival objected. "If they are endangered by the other prisoners, for example. Which would be the case here."

"They'd still suffer, though," Glimmer pointed out.

"But they'd live." General Bryce rolled his eyes. "We can only do so much."

It was clear that the Etherians disagreed, but they didn't seem to have better ideas on how to handle this. Sam couldn't help them, either. She might be able to rig up bots to surveil the prisoners and intervene if needed, but that wouldn't prevent a trained Jaffa from killing someone else with one blow. Even in handcuffs. And if they were put in restraints around the clock…

"We need to talk to them as soon as possible," Daniel said. "And we need to make them see that the Goa'uld are false gods."

He was correct, of course - but Sam didn't know how they could do this. Not quickly and efficiently enough to avoid hurting the prisoners one way or the other.

On the other hand, while the Etherians and Daniel clearly hated it, sometimes, there was no easy or simple solution to a problem. Especially in a war.


Should they let the prisoners kill themselves or keep them alive, even if that meant treating them cruelly? Catra didn't know what would be worse. They are enemies, she told herself, and if they want to die, we can oblige them - it's not our fault. But it rang hollow. The Jaffa had been raised to blindly follow their leaders - worship them as gods, even. They didn't know any better. Couldn't know any better.

Catra knew how that worked. Sure, she had seen through the Horde propaganda, even as a cadet, but she hadn't really realised that there were better ways to live. To fight. Alternatives that were available in the Princess Alliance. And when she had realised that, she had been too angry, too proud, too stupid to take them. So much pain and hurt, just because she hadn't been smart and strong enough…

She pressed her lips together and forced herself to focus on the problem at hand. This was an opportunity to change things. For the better. "It's not going to be easy to convince them that they were lied to and manipulated their whole life," she said. Oh, how she knew how that felt! Shadow Weaver had been a master of manipulation, playing her like a fiddle. Her and Adora. "And it's not going to be quick."

"We know that," Glimmer said. "That's why we're looking for more effective solutions."

"Yeah." Catra took a deep breath. "I have an idea, but you're going to hate it." This wasn't going to be pretty.

Glimmer narrowed her eyes at her. As did O'Neill, who muttered something about already having hated her plan to capture them.

Catra ignored both and looked at her lover. Adora would hate it. But Adora would hate it even more if those idiots killed themselves after they had gone to all that effort to take them alive. "You're going to have to put the fear of god into them."

"What?" Adora blinked.

"What do you mean?" the American general asked.

"Or, to be more precise, the fear of goddess," Catra went on. "If you make them think that even in death, they can't join their god, then they will have fewer reasons to kill themselves."

"You want me to make them think I'm a goddess!" Adora blurted out. "You want me to lie to them!"

"Yes." Catra nodded. "As long as it keeps them alive long enough to make them see the truth."

"But…" Adora pressed her lips together in that pouting way she used when she didn't know what to say. "It would be based on a lie. I'd manipulate them," she added with a scowl.

Like Shadow Weaver. Catra suppressed a wince and slowly nodded. "If it keeps them from killing themselves? And they already think you're a goddess - even after you denied it to their face." If the enemy was making a mistake, you were supposed to exploit it, after all.

Adora clenched her teeth - Catra could see her jaw muscles twitch.

"Converting them would facilitate turning them to our side," Soissant cut in.

"We wouldn't be any better than the Goa'uld if we did that," Adora said, glaring at him. "We cannot earn their trust by lying to them. Honesty is the best policy."

Oh for… Catra frowned at the idiot. "You don't have to lie. It's true that when they die, they won't meet their god since he's a fraud."

"They won't believe that," O'Neill said. "That's the problem."

"They believe that you're a goddess, though. So, you've got better credibility," Catra pointed out to her lover.

"But in their religion, the Goa'uld struggle with each other and resort to lies and trickery," Daniel said. "They would expect a rival goddess to lie to them to make them convert."

Catra shrugged again. "It's worth a try. It can't hurt, anyway, can it?"

"It still feels wrong to let them think I am goddess," Adora complained.

"And it would make converting them to a real religion harder," the American General, Bryce, pointed out.

That was… Catra narrowed her eyes. "A real religion?"

"One that isn't a scam with false gods," Bryce replied.

"But how do you prove that a god isn't false?" Bow asked.

Bryce frowned at him but took a moment to answer: "We're talking about the Goa'uld here. They claim to be gods, which is provably false." He looked at Adora. "And it's also true that you're no goddess."

"Of course not!" Adora nodded emphatically.

"That actually depends on your definition of godhood," Daniel said. He looked a bit taken aback when he realised that everyone was staring at him - especially Adora. But he rallied quickly. "I mean, many so-called pagan religions have deities who aren't, in myth and lore, omnipotent like the Abrahamic god. Just very powerful. She-Ra would fit those definitions."

Adora blinked, and Catra had to suppress a chuckle at her expression. This particular point had been brought up before, but Adora seemed determined to ignore it.

"You could honestly claim to be a demi-goddess of old?" Daniel suggested. His tentative smile faded away at Adora's scowl, though.

"I don't want to be worshipped!" Adora insisted.

"You could get a TV show instead?" Jack grinned. "Warrior Princess She-Ra? There's good money in that."

"An how would you know about that, Jack?" Daniel asked.

"I've got a TV and I need to watch something when there's no Hockey on."

"Sure, sure."

"I'm not sure we should push ancient religions on other civilisations," Sam pointed out. "We might end up playing into the hands of Goa'uld who have taken up the mantle of Greek gods."

"We're not going to push any religion on them," Adora said, still scowling.

"Does that mean you'll prohibit your followers from proselytising?" Bryce asked.

"That might infringe their freedom of religion," Daniel added before Adora could answer.

"I am aware of that. Which is why I won't do it," she told them. "But I don't want to be worshipped as a goddess!"

It sounded a bit whiny instead of firm. Catra was sure Adora would end up doing something like what they were discussing. Eventually.


Jack O'Neill generally didn't like rushing into things. Not when things were serious, at least. Sure, he was good at thinking on his feet, and flying by the seats of your pants and succeeding was an incredible feeling - he was honest enough to admit both - but only if you actually succeeded. And even then, odds were a rush job wasn't as efficient as a well-planned action, and in a war, efficiency was often measured in lives. Yours and the enemies'.

The enemies', in this case, Jack thought when he approached the temporary prison camp with his Daniel and the Etherians. If they failed at this, many Jaffa would kill themselves. And while Jack usually didn't care too much about the enemy, it was a fact that the Jaffa were - most of them, at least - fighting for the Goa'uld because they were indoctrinated from birth and didn't know any better.

But that didn't make them innocent. "Don't forget that all of them have blood on their hands - innocent blood," he commented. The snakes used their Jaffa not only to fight their rivals but also to oppress their slaves. "And they never questioned their 'god'." Unlike Teal'c. Who should be here but wasn't since his presence might enrage the prisoners or something.

He noticed Catra tensing up and clenched his teeth. She had blood on her hands as well. Jack knew more than enough by now, just based on what he heard when talking with the Etherians, to be sure. She had switched sides, like Teal'c, though she obviously still felt guilty about it. Which made Jack wonder how Teal'c felt about his time as Apophis's First Prime.

"Questioning your god isn't exactly encouraged in many religions," Daniel pointed out. "Not to the degree that would qualify as critical thinking in the modern sense. That your god was real was generally considered beyond doubt. So, I don't think we can hold that against them. Many religious texts also contain atrocities that are portrayed as good and moral."

"I'm aware of that," Jack told him.

"Most but not all religions." Priest smiled serenely, then bowed his head towards Adora. "As you taught us, you should never blindly follow anyone, Your Divine Highness. We follow you not out of blind faith, but conviction born from observation."

That was a load of bull, in Jack's opinion. The clone had all the markings of a zealot, and zealots were all about 'don't question or insult my religion, or else!'. He really would have preferred it if the fanatic wasn't with them, but the others thought it was better to introduce Priest to the prisoners while Adora was present to rein him in if needed. Or, as Jack suspected was the case with that bastard Bryce, thought the plan would work better with someone eager to convert them tagging along since Adora might not be fully behind it.

But they had reached the gates. Time to put up a unified front, Jack thought as he saluted the guards there - Military Police from the Army. All of them would have been briefed about the Jaffa's capabilities, but Jack knew from experience at Stargate Command that new recruits always underestimated the enemy. He would usually let Teal'c show them up close how dangerous Jaffa could be, but that didn't work on the scale of entire divisions being sent to land on alien planets.

"She-Ra, Princess of Power," Akon greeted them inside the camp. He bowed to her before addressing the others. "Catra. Queen Glimmer." Nods for them. "Colonel O'Neill." Another nod. He didn't stare at Priest, but the prisoners had met the clones before, when they were shuttled to the camp, so Priest would not stand out.

"I see my reputation precedes me," Jack replied before he could help himself.

"Yes." Akon inclined his head. "So, the Tau'ri have allied with rival gods. Or were you working for them the whole time?"

"It's a recent thing," Jack said. "You know, with Goa'uld being enemies of all we believe in and stuff, it just seemed the obvious thing to do." He shrugged with a grin.

"We're allies - they aren't our subordinates," Adora said with a frown.

Jack nodded. This wasn't the time to disagree about that, even though she was glossing over the power imbalance.

"Akon, these are Daniel Jackson. Princess Frosta, Princess Mermista and… Priest," Adora introduced the others.

Daniel smiled at them, Frosta waved with a cocky smirk, and Mermista nodded with an almost bored expression.

"Greetings, Akon of Heru'ur." Priest bowed.

"We've heard about your kind," Akon told him. "There were rumours of an upheaval in your realm."

Jack made a mental note. That was good intel. They had known that the Goa'uld knew about Horde Prime, but this confirmed that they kept tabs on the maniac's territory.

"Yes." Priest nodded, his smile never changing. "Horde Prime attacked Our Divine Highness and was struck down by her in return, freeing us from his tyranny. We've been following her since that day, guided by her wisdom."

That set the other Jaffa whispering. Jack would have to ask Catra later about what they were saying.

Akon, though, tuned to face Adora. "You have not struck down Heru'ur."

"I have not even met him yet," Adora told him.

"And yet, you wish to replace him."

"No!" Adora shook her head. "I do not wish to replace him - I wish to free his slaves so they can make their own decisions. All his slaves."

"Power shouldn't be desired for power's sake, but only as a means to do good," Priest chimed in.

Adora slowly nodded, so that was probably a direct quote of hers or she would have agreed more enthusiastically. She also looked a bit… embarrassed?

Akon glanced at Priest, then looked at Adora again. He didn't say anything, but he lifted his eyebrows.

Adora flushed, definitely embarrassed now, and Jack thought, once again, that letting Priest tag along had been a mistake.


It wasn't like that! Not at all! The Jaffa were getting it all wrong! Adora had to correct Akon's… well, he hadn't said it, so it wasn't a claim, though he had implied it. But when she opened her mouth to tell him, she felt Catra's claws lightly pricking her thigh. Oh.

She took a deep breath and stared at Akon. "You respect Heru'ur because he fights at your side."

Akon nodded without saying anything - though he seemed to look a bit wary now.

"That is called leading by example," Adora went on. Horde cadet training had taught her that, though it had been a bit of a mixed bag in practice. "I help people. I don't expect to be obeyed or worshipped for it. I don't want to be worshipped. I am not looking for followers. I just want to do what's right. And lying to people to make them obey you isn't right. Nor is enslaving them."

"Loyalty is a privilege, not a right." Priest nodded again.

At least he hadn't said obedience. Not that he was particularly obedient, anyway. Well, he sort of was, but in an annoying way.

"Our god has earned our loyalty," Akon retorted.

"Has he?" Catra asked. "What did he do for you to earn your loyalty? He fights at your side, you said? But why do you fight? To protect yourself and your family, or because he orders you to fight?" She cocked her head with a snort.

Akon raised his chin, jaw set. "He guides us and will judge us after death, rewarding or punishing us as we deserve in the afterlife."

"He says he does that. But can he prove it? Promising a reward you don't plan on ever paying out is the oldest scam in the world," Catra told him. "And he doesn't even have to prove he has your reward since you're supposed to get it in the afterlife, so you can't check beforehand." She scoffed. "That's the perfect scam."

Daniel and Jack looked a bit weird, Adora noticed, but she focused on Akon.

The Jaffa shook his head. "Our god provides for us. He bestows his gifts on us in return for our loyalty."

"What gifts?" Glimmer spoke up. "Healing, food and weapons? That's just supplying your army. That's not a gift, that's part of your pay."

Akon narrowed his eye at her. "It is not merely payment, but a sacred exchange. His divine power provides for us, and we repay it with our service."

"And there lies the difference," Priest nodded. "Our Divine Highness offers her help freely, yet we do not depend on her generosity. We meet our own material needs. And when she does help us, it is without any expectation of a reward. It is not an exchange, but truly a gift." He smiled, though a little sadly. "Ask anyone who served under Horde Prime, the false god, and they will tell you the same. As she said: It is by their deeds, not their promises, that you shall know people."

Adora was pretty sure she had never said that. But… that didn't make it wrong, did it? You should judge people according to what they did, not what they claimed. So she nodded. "Yes. I don't fight to make people obey and follow me - I fight to free them. To let them make their own decisions, to control their own lives. Humans and Jaffa," she added.

"And yet you do attempt to sway us from our chosen path." Akon narrowed his eyes at her.

"Because you were lied to and manipulated!" she said, a bit more forcefully than she had planned. "You need to know the truth to make your own decision."

"Yes. A decision based on lies is no decision at all, but just the illusion of one - another lie, in other words," Priest added.

"And yet, for all your claims that our god is lying to us, you have no proof at all." Akon shook his head. "Why should we believe you?"

"Ugh!" Mermista rolled her eyes. "That's not how it works. If you demand payment for something, you need to prove your claim. That's basic contract law."

"Our loyalty to our god is not a contract!" Akon spat. "Do not profane our faith like that!"

"It's based on a lie!" Adora blurted out. "He's no god! He is using technology to fool you - technology that he didn't even invent himself but copied from others!"

"So you claim." Akon sneered. "I await your proof."

That was… Did she have to drag Heru'ur here and beat the truth out of him? No, that wouldn't work. For several reasons.

Priest took a step forward. He was smiling, Adora noted. "Have you seen the Divine Fields? They are proof of her power. Where once was just devastation, irradiated mud and silt covering, poisoning the land, now fertile fields cover the ground as far as you can see. Magic was restored to the planet as well, rightening a wrong that was done a thousand years ago. Have you asked the people saved from certain death in the mines? The people healed of the ailments stemming from years of abuse?" He turned to look at her. "Look upon Her Divine Highness! Observe her deeds! She could have killed you all, yet she decided to spare you. To save you. There is your proof! Open your eyes, and look at it! And look at yourself, and your beliefs, and you will be able to tell truth from lie." Priest bowed to Adora, then nodded at the assembled Jaffa.

Adora tried not to blush while she nodded. This wasn't how she would have put it, but she couldn't think of anything else to add.

Akon shook his head. "Your words won't sway us! We are loyal!"

The Jaffa around them nodded, but… Adora thought that they looked a bit doubtful. Some of them, at least.

It wasn't much, but it was something.


Forward Base, Primary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 14th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"...so, it doesn't look like we had any success. They're just too indoctrinated - they refuse to see the truth." Adora shook her head while she paced in front of the big screen in the headquarters, blocking Samantha Carter's view of the drone feed.

"People generally don't change religion so quickly or easily," Daniel pointed out. "We can't expect Jaffa to just take our word on Heru'ur being a false god. Deprogramming them, so to speak, will take time."

Sam checked that no one could see her screen and then connected her laptop to the drone feed. She was a physicist, not a sociologist - there wasn't much she could add to this debate.

"The entire point of our plan was to make them change their views quickly, before they start killing themselves to report to their god in the afterlife," Catra retorted. "So, in that, it was a failure."

"My failure, you mean." Adora sighed. "I was supposed to convince them, and I failed."

"It was my plan, my failure," Catra objected.

Sam checked the progress on the gate site while the two tried to claim the blame for their supposed failure. Entrapta and Sam had improved on the original Etherian design by having the gate be effectively buried in the ground while not in use. It was a bit more complicated than simply lowering it to the ground and back up again, but nothing too advanced. Well, handling the gate would be a problem for a pre-industrialised society, but, in theory, a team of draft animals could replace the machines they had designed for the purpose, though they would need very strong ropes to pull it off.

She almost snorted at her unintentional pun - the Colonel would have loved pointing it out to her.

Daniel, ever the optimist, still tried to put a good spin on their visit. "We did seed some doubts amongst at least a few of the Jaffa. Or that was my impression - I am no expert, of course, but Jaffa aren't that different from humans. So, we might see dissenters amongst the prisoners in the future." He blinked. "Oh. We probably should be prepared for violence once the first Jaffa start voicing doubts about the divinity or honour of Heru'ur."

"Indeed." Teal'c nodded. "Those still blinded by their false god's lies will consider such doubts treason and react accordingly."

Which meant violently.

"Well, we're already preparing to keep them from killing themselves or each other to snitch to their god, so it shouldn't be hard to cover normal murder as well." The Colonel shrugged. "It's just a different motive, same result."

Adora sat down, sighing again, Sam noticed. "I should have done more to convince them. I could have healed them all, but…"

"...that might have killed their symbionts," Bow pointed out with a wince. "We still don't know how your healing will react to symbionts."

"And the Jaffa are used to the false gods providing healing, although not on that scale," Teal'c added. "I doubt that it would have noticeably improved your credibility amongst them since they already consider you a goddess."

Or at least claimed they did. Sam wasn't quite convinced that the Jaffa really believed that Adora was a goddess. They might just be playing along. But she wasn't an expert on Jaffa society, much less their religion. Or any religion. But, speaking of symbionts… "We also need to prepare in case any of the prisoners' symbionts are about to mature," she said. "That will either leave the symbiont in control of the Jaffa's body or, if we extract it, leave the Jaffa without a working immune system." Which was a death sentence unless the symbiont could be replaced. Even placing the subject in a sterile environment would only offer a temporary solution.

"Indeed." Teal'c calmly nodded, his expression not showing any indication that he, too, had this fate hanging over him, although he had a few years left before it would become urgent in his case.

"Yeah. If the snakes start hatching, it will get messy." The Colonel nodded.

"Oh, no!" Adora looked aghast. "We need to find a way to replace their symbionts - with something else, I mean. Not with another symbiont."

"We could build an artificial immune system?" Entrapta suggested. "Or… The First Ones were great at genetic engineering. Alpha's data might contain something helpful. Maybe we could create a species that could replace a symbiont without being a symbiont." She perked up. "One that could provide its benefits to anyone! If we make it dumb, so it can't take over anyone, that would be OK, right?" She beamed at the others.

Sam suppressed a wince. In theory, creating a species that wasn't sapient - nor sentient, ideally - would be ethically acceptable. But the ramifications of such an action… Even leaving aside the expected protests against 'playing god' from the religious conservatives, and the fear-mongering about parasites and genetic engineering in general from the usual suspects, such a symbiont would increase the human lifespan significantly, and the effects of that on society…

Sam wasn't a sociologist, but she didn't need to be one to see the problems that could cause. Especially if it was too expensive to be offered to everyone.

But the Etherians were nodding in obvious agreement with Entrapta.

Sam sighed. Of course, they wouldn't consider that. She'd have to explain.


"...and so releasing such a symbiont to the public would need to be handled very carefully to avoid widespread unrest."

Catra blinked when Sam finished her explanation. Earth was so weird - whenever she thought she had a handle on the planet, something else popped up that made her wonder what was wrong with that planet. On the other hand, she should have expected this particular problem after the whole healing issue.

Entrapta, though, looked confused. "But… it's going to benefit everyone! People would be healthier! Live longer and better!"

Catra sighed. "But not everyone would get it right away, and that will cause problems."

"Riots," Bow said, looking grim.

"Seriously?" Mermista shook her head. "Just make it go to those who are so sick, they need it the most."

The princess didn't have any experience with Earth, Catra reminded herself.

"There are too many who need a symbiont," Adora said. "Earth has eight billion people."

"And most of them aren't good at sharing," Catra added with a snort.

"Well… there are historical reasons for that. Resources on Earth have always been distributed rather unfairly," Daniel said. "Even in the most, ah, advanced countries."

"How so?" Mermista frowned. "Don't you have that democracy system where the majority of the people decide what you do?"

"That's not a guarantee that resources are distributed fairly," Daniel told her. "And it's currently limited to individual countries - Earth doesn't have a global democratic government. So, if a country, say, offers universal healthcare to its citizens - and residents - that only covers that country. Historically, many countries waged war over resources, and while that has fallen out of use and has been condemned as a practice by the United Nations for decades, it has not stopped less violent forms of exploitation."

"Yeah, yeah," O'Neill cut in. "Things aren't all sunshine and rainbows on Earth. But we're working on improving the situation. It just takes time, and the whole war with half the galaxy thing isn't helping."

"The United States is one of the richest countries on Earth and still has no universal healthcare," Daniel retorted. "And we've had decades of peace to work on that. It's not that easy to change the mind of people," he added. "It took official contact with aliens, I mean, Etheria, something unprecedented in history, and the threat of being left behind by other countries to push through more progressive laws in the United States in record time - which still took months."

Mermista gaped at him. Catra wished she could take a picture of the princess.

"They don't like change - any change," Glimmer said, rolling her eyes at Mermista.

"That's the conservatives," Daniel objected. "The progressives wish for faster change, but in our - the United States' - political system, any change is often slow, the result of changes in society and political compromises."

"We also have seen a lot of examples of what can go wrong when the local supreme leader makes hasty or stupid decisions," O'Neill added. "And the whole 'everyone gets the same resources' plan didn't really work out well for the communists, so everyone involved abandoned it for capitalism as soon as they were free to do so."

"But there are many different ways of building a capitalist society. The Nordic model, for example, is drastically different compared to the United States model," Daniel said.

"What's the Nordic model?" Frosta asked.

"The political and economic system of the Nordic countries - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden," Daniel explained.

"Are they located in the North?"

Catra rolled her eyes. "They're not like your kingdom," she told Frosta. "And we were talking about new symbionts that don't take over your body while still providing the benefits." She scoffed. "We can discuss the absurdity of Earth politics later."

"And, so far, those symbionts are just a project." Sam nodded at Entrapta. "We can worry about how to introduce them to Earth once we actually have them finished - and the Jaffa would get them first, anyway, since they depend on symbionts for their immune system."

"Yes!" Entrapta smiled. "But we should get started on that as soon as possible - we can't let prisoners die or get taken over by a Goa'uld, right?"

No, they could not. To lose control of your body was a fate worse than death. Catra clenched her jaws, remembering Horde Prime.

"And once we have enough for everyone, people won't get upset any more, right?" Entrapta smiled.

Catra scoffed again. "They'd still get upset because they don't want one."

"But no one would be forced to take one," Entrapta pointed out.

"They would still get upset. It's their thing."

"It's not quite that bad, not for the majority, at least, but…" Daniel grimaced. "There is a vocal minority on Earth, divided into different groups, who think everyone should live their lives exactly like their particular group does."

A very vocal minority. "We can show you some recordings," Catra told Mermista. "But can we focus on the problems at hand?"

Really, she never had trouble with long meetings when she had been running the Horde. Of course, the whole thing had ended in utter failure, and it had been all her fault as the sole leader, unlike how things had been run in the Alliance…

She still hated those discussions and meetings, though, whether they were useful or not.

And this meeting seemed doomed to be stuck in the 'not useful' category.


Outside the Primary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 14th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Jack O'Neill shaded his eyes with his hand as he watched the sun set over the mountains in the distance. It looked very peaceful. If he squinted, he could spot, illuminated by the fading dusk, the hills where the Jaffa had been captured. If not for the noise from the base behind him, full of soldiers and vehicles, construction still going on in the perimeter, he could pretend he was alone on an alien planet, just enjoying the sunset. Almost like being in his cabin, just him and nature.

And footsteps behind him. He turned, hand on the carbine dangling from its sling. Sure, Carter and Entrapta had found no more Jaffa with their magic scanner, but Jack knew better than to assume that his only enemies were snakes. Even his friendship with the Etherians, who would investigate his death thoroughly, might not deter everyone he had pissed off in the past - and some of them had the resources to reach this planet. Not many, but…


He sighed and relaxed. "Daniel?"

"Ah, there you are!" His friend appeared in the underbrush, pushing through with some difficulties. His woodcraft was still atrocious. Then again, he had spent most of his time in the wilderness in the desert.

"Yes, here I am. Enjoying the sunset." Jack swallowed the 'no longer alone' comment he wanted to add - Daniel would take it as an invitation to ask what was wrong.

"Ah, yes." Daniel nodded, brushed off a twig that had gotten stuck on his uniform, and joined him on the small ridge he had been using to shield himself from the base. "It's pretty," he commented after a moment of pushing his glasses up and fidgeting.

Jack sighed. "So, what brings you out here?" It couldn't be anything official, or Daniel would have told him straight away. If they had sent him out to fetch Jack in the first place, of course. So, it was something private.

"Ah…" Daniel cleared his throat.

"Out with it, Daniel, so I can continue to enjoy the sunset in peace."

"Well, I can leave and ask you later… it's not really, ah, time-critical…"

And Jack would wonder what his friend wanted to talk about - away from the others - for the rest of the evening. He shook his head. "Just ask away."

"Ah, OK." Daniel nodded. "So… This is what a war looks like, huh?"

Jack frowned. Daniel was still working himself up to talk about what he really wanted to ask. "Yep."

"Fleet battles, planetary invasions, fortresses being constructed, planets being liberated…" Daniel sighed.

"I didn't think you had a problem with that." Jack raised his eyebrows.

"I don't!" Daniel retorted. "It's just… today, it really hit me that Stargate Command is gone. I mean, not really gone, but…" He sighed and looked at Jack. "We're not going to be working there anymore, exploring and, well, dealing with everything. SG-1 will be part of the army. If they even keep us around as a team. They might split us up! I mean, Sam's been working with Entrapta almost full-time anyway, you've been busy training the new recruits, Teal'c's been… well, he's been helping you. I'm the only one who's been doing what I've been doing all along."

Ah, that was it. Daniel was maudlin about the future, even though he should know better. "They won't split us up," Jack told him.

"I'm not exactly a soldier, and this is a war."

"We've been fighting a war since we started SG-1, and you did pretty well." Jack smiled at him.

"Yes, I know, but, you know how things changed. We've got a fleet and an army now." Daniel shrugged.

"And SG-1 will still be needed." Jack snorted. "Hell, the Etherians are doing the same kind of missions we've been doing, and they have the fleet."

"I'm not a magical princess."

"And that's a good thing," Jack told him. "You'd look terrible in a dress. But we don't need you for your fashion choices, but for your brain and people skills."

Daniel winced. "Unless I get fired for spoiling the plans to colonise the planet."

"You've seen the Etherians' reaction to the whole thing. Do you think anyone will dare to piss them off?" Jack snorted again. "And if they do, you can work for the Etherians. Better pay and more freedom."

"Right." Daniel nodded, smiling a bit weakly. "I could do that."

Jack hesitated a moment, then slapped him on the shoulder. "Cheer up. We've just liberated the first planet in the war. It's time to celebrate." And then to debrief everyone thoroughly so they won't repeat the mistakes they had made in this invasion.

Daniel nodded again, more firmly. "Yes."

Jack turned to look a the mountains. The sun had set now. "Let's go back," he said.


There is a very real chance of the most of SG1 getting poached by the etherian royal council to act as their earth liaisons.

It fixes way too many organisational level issues and at the same time fits the etherian heros first frame of reference.
Chapter 82: Educational Issues Part 1
Chapter 82: Educational Issues Part 1

Gate Area, Primary Mining Site, PZ-921, January 15th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"...and this is how you raise and lower the gate. If it's in the ground, it won't work, and no one can come through the gate." Entrapta gestured at the Stargate.

"I see." Sadiki nodded. "And what if this machine breaks?"

"Then you can lift it out with this fall-back pulley system we rigged up! Or you can ask Adora to pull it out. But only if she's here."

Adora managed not to wince at the looks she got from Sadiki and the others with him, but it took an effort. They probably only didn't fall to their knees because Daniel told them that she didn't like that. This was so… wrong. People shouldn't worship her.

"Or if I am here, I can lift out with ice!" Frosta added. And demonstrated by creating a pillar of ice under the gate that lifted it out of the hole.

"Let's hope the whole thing is waterproof," Catra mumbled next to Adora. "And solid enough to resist the ice."

It should be. And Entrapta didn't look worried. "Yes, like that," she said, nodding.

The stares switched to Frosta, who struck a pose and smiled in return. "I am Princess Frosta, ruler of the Kingdom of Snows. And I control the element of ice!"

Sadiki and his people bowed to her.

Adora gritted her teeth. That, too, felt wrong.

"Does that make her a demi-goddess?" Catra asked with a snort - though not loud enough to be overheard by Frosta, Adora noted. "Since she's half your size?"

Glimmer chuckled. "I don't think that's how it works."

"Ugh. Such a show-off," Mermista complained.

"Someone is jealous," Catra whispered with a grin.

Adora was forced to agree - it sounded as if Mermista would have liked to show off as well. She shook her head. This was so silly! And wrong. She wouldn't have expected that from her friends.

They would have to talk about this once they were back home.

"Anyway, the machine should be good for a decade or so unless you damage it," Entrapta went on. "And if you do damage it, you can still use the gate to call us - you know our address - and we'll come and repair it. Or tell you how to repair it. Though you'd have to learn about mechanics for that. And a few other things, I guess. Not magic, though - the entire mechanism works without magic. Just in case you wondered."

"Can… can we learn how to do magic? Like this?" one of the women asked. Adora didn't remember her name, to her shame.

"If you have the talent. You can also learn how to use and make magitech, though you need even more knowledge for that," Entrapta cheerfully explained.

"Yes. We are aware of how much we don't know," Sadiki said. He glanced at the others with him, and a few of them blushed. "And we are happy you have offered to teach us and our children what we need to know."

"Wait until they get homework," Catra whispered.

Adora frowned at her lover. They hadn't had homework in the Horde. Just extra duties to study their material. Which was kind of the same, but not quite. Not like what they had seen in Earth movies. "They know how important education is."

"And our allies know how important offering an education is. For them and our allies," Catra retorted with a cynical grin.

That was true, but Etheria wasn't prepared to teach so many people. Earth's education system, on the other hand, could absorb them easily - they had the teachers to spare, as Daniel had explained. Though he had also made a joke about people complaining about their own schools being neglected or something.

But the important thing was that Sadiki and his people would learn the things they needed to build better lives for themselves. Except for magic - Earth couldn't teach that. And Etheria… was still debating that.

"But while we appreciate you showing us how this works, the Chappa'ai will be operated by your soldiers, right?" Another man asked.

Sadiki glared at the man, but Entrapta nodded. "Yes. For now - unless you don't want us on the planet any more. Then we'd just keep a fleet in the system to defend you against the Goa'uld. Or anyone else, I guess."

Glimmer stepped forward. "This is just a temporary arrangement based on military necessity," she said. "But we are your guests - this is your world and your Stargate. We're here to help you, not rule you."

Sadiki nodded. "And we are grateful for your help."

"And they'll be even more grateful once they don't need our help any more," Catra whispered with another snort.

Adora rolled her eyes. Catra was sometimes a bit too cynical. There was no reason they couldn't become friends with Sadiki's people - they had common interests, after all.

"Well, that's good to hear - again. Can we go home now?" Mermista asked. "Not to rush anyone, but some of us have a kingdom to run."

She was a bit rude, but she was correct. They had a lot to discuss at home. About the invasion, what they learned from it, and about politics.

Adora wasn't looking forward to the latter part.

But she was looking forward to going home for a bit.


Alliance Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, January 15th, 1999

"...and so, in conclusion, the tactical deficiencies laid out earlier can be dealt with by more training and more experience. First priority should be more training for assaults with stealth shuttles," the Colonel finished.

"Thank you, Colonel O'Neill." General Percival nodded at him, then looked at Samantha Carter. "Captain Carter, what's your opinion about the lessons that should be drawn from this assault?"

Sam had already given her suggestions in her report. But she knew how this game was played, so she didn't tell the generals to read her report. She still made a point of pulling her report out. "From a technological and scientific point of view, a much closer cooperation with the Etherians and Tok'ra is needed. As we have seen, their technology and magic offer capabilities that Earth is lacking, which has repercussions for our training and tactics." They couldn't train as realistically if they didn't take their allies into account. The Colonel had already covered proposed changes to training, but he had focused on conventional aspects.

"I don't think we can expect the Etherian princesses to train with our soldiers," General Bryce commented. "Most of them are heads of state."

Sam disagreed. Daniel would be able to explain it much better, but he wasn't here. Neither was Teal'c. And the Colonel and Sam were, at least technically, only here as external advisors since they were still formally part of Stargate Command and not the Alliance. But that was mostly just a polite fiction. So, it fell to her to tell the general how their allies thought and fought. "I think that our allies would help with our training if we ask them, sir. That is what they are used to."

"Yep," the Colonel chimed in. "They're big on personally taking charge and charging in."

"In battle, yes. But we're talking about training," General Bryce retorted. "The Supreme Commander of the Alliance doesn't do duty as a drill sergeant."

"I bet his drill sergeant didn't like him," Sam heard the Colonel mutter under his breath.

She cleared her throat to hide her amusement. "The Etherian forces are structured and led differently, sir." Which he should know. "Princesses are expected to lead from the front and to personally deal with problems they might encounter - both in the military and civilian life. If we ask for their help with training our troops, they will help us."

"And become training instructors?" General Bryce still sounded doubtful.

Sam nodded. "Temporarily, at least. Until the structures for an improved training doctrine have solidified."

"I bet Netossa would be a great instructor," the Colonel added. "She has that vibe."

"And the experience," Sam said. "They did train their own troops."

"They didn't have nearly as many troops as we have," General Bryce objected.

"Most of our forces aren't combat-ready yet," General Percival pointed out. "And I think it would be a good idea to have our landing forces train with our allies. They will work closely with the Etherians."

"If they agree, sure. But that will impact their ability to do their actual job." General Bryce was frowning as he shrugged.

"But, speaking of shuttles…" General Müller spoke up. "We need more stealth shuttles. A lot more. Currently, only regular shuttles are in production. If we had sent our troops down with those shuttles, they wouldn't have achieved tactical surprise and would likely have taken far greater casualties as a result."

"Stealth shuttles require magitech," Sam explained. "That technology requires far more extensive training to adapt to our factories and so shuttles with it will take a while to enter production." Something the general should also be aware of already!

"Current plans assume we'll put stealth shuttles into production once we launch our own spaceships," General Percival said. "Until then, we'll be relying on the Etherian space assets."

And those spaceships were years from being commissioned - procurement was still quibbling over the exact specifications for the designs. And, according to what Sam had heard from her father, the yards in the United States were not too keen on joining the European consortium that would, apparently, handle their own design.

"Then we need to ask them for more stealth shuttles," General Müller said.

"They're aware of the need," Sam told him. "But they have no such shuttles in mass production yet." There was so much to do, and Entrapta and Sam - and Hordak - could only do so much.

"We need to take that into account when planning our next move," General Soissant nodded.

"I'm sure Adora is aware of that," the Colonel said.

Sam nodded. They had plans to add stealth generators to conventional shuttles - not quite as effective as stealth shuttles built as such from the ground up, but still quite decent - but they would need help to set up a factory for those as well…

"You fight the war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had," General Bryce said, shrugging once more.

Sam pressed her lips together. That was a very callous attitude. She glanced at the Colonel and saw that he also seemed to restrain himself. They were here as advisors, she reminded herself. They were not even in the chain of command of the Alliance forces.

But that meant that she could go and talk to her Etherian friends about this without violating regulations or the chain of command…


Bright Moon, January 15th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Ah, boring Alliance meetings in Bright Moon. How have I missed them!" Catra muttered as she arched her back on her seat and stretched her arms over her head.

Unfortunately, her lover wasn't paying attention - Adora wasn't frowning at her comment or staring at her chest while blushing. Instead, she was focusing on Glimmer's report from the intervention.

Catra sighed. Adora already knew every little detail of what Glimmer was telling the others.

"...and that was the end of the fighting, though we're faced with the challenge of keeping our prisoners alive and teaching them that they have been lied to."

Ah! Sparkles was finally done! Catra sat straighter for a moment, then leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table.

And now Adora was frowning at her? Catra rolled her eyes. Just not taking a nap while Glimmer rehashed the invasion was a huge achievement!

"I see." Netossa nodded. "I'll have to go over the detailed report to see if and how we need to adjust our training. Though without actual battle experience for our soldiers to base any changes on, we'll have to make a few guesses."

"We can ask the soldiers from Earth for their experiences," Bow suggested.

"That might help a little - but our forces are already trained to fight differently," Netossa told him. "They're used to fighting with Princesses leading them."

"Or fighting Princesses," Catra added. When half the table frowned at her, she flashed her fangs in a grin. "Just reminding you that a sizeable part of our forces is made up of former Horde soldiers. And their training is closer to what Earth soldiers get."

"Yes." Netossa, to her credit, didn't frown at her. "There is quite the overlap - but we've been training them to integrate with Princess Alliance forces since the war ended."

Since the Scorpion Kingdom was restored and it tuned out that most former Horde soldiers chose to follow Scorpia, meaning the new kingdom had one of the most powerful militaries of Etheria, Catra mentally added.

"Yeah!" Scorpia nodded. "I can say that they fight kind of like our guys. Mostly. I missed the bot and tank support, though they would have been of limited use inside the main building. And they would probably have been destroyed by the wave."

"Not if I had been with you from the beginning." Mermista sniffed. "I could have stopped that wave."

"Or I could have created ice dams to shield the base!" Frosta chimed in.

Mermista frowned at her, but Frosta raised her chin in that manner of hers that made her look like a petulant kid. Business as usual, then.

"While that is true, we can't deploy everyone to every mission," Glimmer told them.

"Just to every mission near water," Mermista insisted with a grin.

"That wouldn't really narrow it down," Adora spoke up. "Most settled planets have large bodies of water."

Mermista shrugged. "I'm ready to do my part. And with the Stargates, we can travel to every world we need to, across the entire galaxy, and still be back home for dinner."

"Only if we have control of the Stargate in question," Glimmer objected. "And the Goa'uld will fight the hardest to defend it."

Of course, they would - most of their forces depended on the Stargate network for supply and transport.

"Then we can still help taking it and then return to Etheria," Frosta said.

Mermista nodded again. "As long as we have the initiative and decide where to fight, we should concentrate our forces and hit with overwhelming power. Thanks to the Stargate network, we can quickly redeploy after an attack. We need to exploit this. The more princesses we can bring to bear, the easier the battles will be."

"And the more vulnerable you'll be." Catra shook her head. "The Goa'uld aren't stupid, and we won't be able to keep them in the dark about our attacks forever. Once they realise what we are doing, they'll prepare to counter us. And if a single trap can take out all of us…" She trailed off.

"If we had been there, their trap would have failed."

"That was one trap. What if there had been something else?" Adora nodded. "We can't just risk everyone like that."

"Like what?"

"Uh… A biological weapon? Or a chemical one? I could probably rig up a poison that won't show up on a scanner until it takes effect, though that would be cheating since I know what the scanners will detect, but it is possible for others to manage that as well." Entrapta frowned. "Sabotaging the Stargate is another option, I guess."

"Just trapping us on a planet without a working Stargate and forcing us to use ships to travel back would hinder an offensive planned with rapid redeployment in mind," Glimmer agreed.

"We can adapt to that when it happens. We still should use our advantage as long as possible," Mermista objected. "So we can get the most out of it. Hit as many planets before they wise up."

That wasn't a bad plan. But it wasn't a terribly good one either. Catra shook her head. "We aren't ready for such a campaign yet. We'd get strung out too much and would be stuck with defending too many systems while still trying to figure out how what to do about the liberated people. The Goa'uld don't care about killing civilians, so once they figure out we do, they will be able to force us to react to them." That was an obvious way to regain the initiative. Well, obvious if you had been trained in the Horde, Catra amended her thought.

"Yes." Adora nodded firmly. "We only struck this time because we needed to save those people. We need more time to prepare a proper campaign. More time to train and plan."

And that should have been obvious to everyone. "Victory disease is setting in early," Catra mumbled as the other princesses disagreed again. Well, it wasn't that bad, but still a concern. They weren't fighting on and for Etheria any more - the scope of this war was far beyond the Princess Alliance's experiences. And Catra had her doubts that everyone was fully aware of that.


Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States, Earth, January 16th, 1999

"...and while the official press release doesn't mention which planet was invaded, only that Alliance forces successfully liberated a planet under Goa'uld control, various experts have speculated that…"

Jack O'Neill pushed a button, and the channel in the mess hall changed.

"...how many people died in this invasion? If the casualties were as low as the government claims, then why can't we see footage from the battle? What is the government hiding? Or, rather, what are the aliens controlling our government hiding? We cannot trust…"

He pushed the button again. Harder. Why were those channels still available in the base?

"...and according to our sources, the people our soldiers died to liberate spurned our friendship and expelled us from their planet without lifting even a finger to support the war in return, showing such selfishness that it raises the question of whether the Alliance policy of self-determination can and should be enforced at this point in the war. It might be better to take an example from history, the Philippines, and…"

Jack muttered a curse and switched the channel again. Bryce and his carpetbagging backers at work, no doubt. And the newsies were probably still angry that they hadn't been allowed to cover the invasion live from the frontlines.

"What's with the television?"

"Someone broke it!"

"Stop changing channels all the time!"

"I'm not doing anything! We don't even have the remote!"

"...and several leading news organisations have petitioned the Alliance command to allow embedded reporters with their forces, citing the need for independent information to both build trust and check for potential abuses in the war. So far, the Supreme Commander of the Alliance, Princess She-Ra, has declined to comment on the matter, prompting concerns about the freedom of the press being neglected. As some might not be aware, freedom of the press, even freedom of speech, is not a right on Etheria, so…"

Yeah, as I thought. Jack switched channels again.

"...and the last preparations of the Mission to Mars are now being finished, according to the NASA press release. Originally, it was planned to transport a habitat to Mars with an Alliance spaceship, but with interplanetary shuttles now produced on Earth for the war, it was decided that the first mission to Mars should be launched in a spaceship produced on Earth, with the habitat following afterwards. Now, let's take a closer look at the multi-national crew chosen for this historic event!"

That was better. Jack wasn't in the mood for more stupid rumours and thinly-veiled propaganda. Boring propaganda, at that. Not that the 'Mission to Mars' wasn't propaganda either - they could have sent the first shuttle rolling off the new assembly lines to Mars as a test flight - but at least it was entertaining.

"Where did you get the remote for the TV, Jack?" Daniel asked in a low voice.

Jack slipped the remote into his pocket under the table and smiled his best 'butter wouldn't melt in my mouth' smile at his friend. "What do you mean?"

Daniel rolled his eyes and went back to eating his lunch.

"Please don't change the channel again, sir."

Jack glanced at Carter. She was looking at the screen, apparently following the report quite attentively as it covered the various astronauts who would soon be - officially, at least - the first people on Mars. Was that a wistful smile? "You know, we could ask the Etherians to drop you off on Mars this afternoon if you want to be the first woman on Mars," he half-joked - he had no doubt that Priest would do it if one of his goddess's friends asked.

"Sir!" Carter frowned at him. "That would be an irresponsible abuse of power for egoistical reasons!"

"Yes?" Jack cocked his head and grinned.

"I believe that Captain Carter would consider it dishonourable to, as the saying goes, 'steal the thunder' of those astronauts by beating them to Mars," Teal'c commented.

As usual, Teal'c was hard to read, but Jack was sure that his friend didn't really believe he had to explain Carter's opinion to Jack. Still… "It's just showboating. They've even delayed moving the habitat just so they can pretend that they are doing this on their own. I guess the 'to boldly take a taxi where no one took a taxi before' skit on SNL was one joke too much."

"It's the principle of the thing, sir." Carter was still frowning at him. "Using a shuttle built on Earth means that the mission will not require outside assistance."

Jack shrugged. "Sure, but it's still an Etherian shuttle design we basically copy. One we have been using to ferry troops and officers around for a few weeks now."

"We haven't left Earth's orbit, though," Carter retorted. "This will be Earth's first interplanetary mission."

"I do seem to remember visiting another star system a few years ago…" Jack grinned again.

Carter didn't pout, but the way she narrowed her eyes at him in exasperation was almost as good. "You know what I mean, sir."

"Sure I do." He shrugged. "I'm just not too impressed by the hype. Though it's better than listening to people pushing their agenda on the news." Kinsey was probably involved in half those stories leaking to the press.

"Well, they do have some legitimate concerns. The Etherians don't have the concept of 'freedom of the press'," Daniel said. "They don't have what we would consider modern news media, actually. So, they could be ignoring the issue of independent reporting."

"Well, announcing military secrets to the world isn't a good idea," Jack said. Even though Vietnam hadn't been lost because the press had been turning people back home against the war, as some claimed, it certainly hadn't helped. "But I guess some embedded reporters won't hurt too much." It had worked well in the Gulf War.

"They're also pushing for a visit to Etheria," Daniel told him. "So do many of my colleagues, actually."

Well, that was the Etherians' problem, not Jack's. Though it might be fun to see what kind of stories reporters could dig up in the land of rainbows and unicorns if let loose.


Alliance Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, January 17th, 1999

"...and we're all in agreement that there'll be a special task force working on deprogramming the prisoners, recruited amongst experienced people in the field." Adora looked at the generals present as they nodded, then glanced at the aide de camp taking notes.

"Finally!" Catra muttered next to her. "That shouldn't have taken so long. Even a gaggle of princesses would have been faster."

Adora suppressed a wince. Her lover was probably correct. But then, this was an important task, and Adora knew that it didn't pay to rush important decisions without thinking them through and getting the opinions of others. Catra should know this as well, given her past, but pointing that out would be… unkind and pointless. Catra was just venting her frustration, and pretty subtly at that - at least for her.

"Next item: Embedded reporters," General Naird said, shuffling the papers in front of him. According to Jack, Naird was only on this council because he had been commanding Air Force Space Command, and they wanted an Air Force general in the spot, and with General Hammond still stuck in Stargate Command, Naird was the next-not-too-bad choice. But he seemed competent enough and quite nice personally to Adora.

"Embedded reporters?" Catra asked, cocking her head. Adora knew she had read the briefing papers for this meeting, so she was faking her ignorance.

Naird, though, did seem to take her at face value. Or he was just too polite to comment on it. "Yes. The leading news services of the United States and its allies have petitioned Alliance Command - that's us - to allow embedded reporters to cover the war."

"You mean propagandists?" Catra asked, in the same tone she usually denied being responsible for whatever had gone wrong in one of their Horde cadet exercises.

The way Naird frowned at her told Adora that, this time, he had seen through Catra's act. "They are news services, not propaganda organisations. The United States and its allies do not control their media."

"I didn't mean their government propaganda organisations," Catra retorted with a toothy grin. "But they're definitely spewing propaganda." She leaned back. "Trust me, I've been raised on that stuff."

Adora pressed her lips together but nodded in agreement. "Several of those news services do show clear biases in their reporting."

"Well, that's a matter of opinion, though one could argue that truly unbiased reporting is impossible due to the observer effect…" Naird trailed off under the glances of the others in the room. "At least, that's what my friend says."

"Leaving philosophical or physical questions aside, I don't think we can keep the press out of the war," the American Secretary of Defense said, frowning at Naird. "But we can handle that like we did in the Gulf War."

"I don't think they'll accept such strict limitations," the British Secretary of State for Defence said. "Especially since, unlike the Gulf War, this won't be over in a month. You can't control the press for so long."

"Maybe not yours," the American shot back.

"Control of the press goes against the fundamental principles of a democracy."

"Military necessity trumps freedom of the press. Without information security, we will not be able to effectively fight a war," the American retorted. "And with the war spreading to other worlds, we cannot count on Earth's isolation to keep news from reaching our enemies forever."

"If we act like a totalitarian regime, we will lose the support of the population, which will endanger the war effort much more than the occasional leak on Earth," the British official pointed out.

"I would hardly call basic military procedures to control sensitive information a totalitarian move. It's just common sense."

"If we don't give them the news, they'll find something to publish that we don't have any control over."

"Or they make something up," Glimmer cut in. "We've been following the news coverage of the last mission." She leaned forward. "And it was quite easy to tell which news organisation was owned by someone with an interest in exploiting the planet."

Adora nodded with a scowl. "And we haven't forgotten which of your media portrayed us and people like us as monsters." It would be easier to simply forbid any reporters from joining their forces. But Mister Brown and Julie had assured them that that would be 'counter-productive', and they were the experts.

Both the American and the British officials flushed a little while their French and German counterparts looked a bit smug. Naird shuffled his papers some more before speaking up again: "Any embedded war correspondents will have to be thoroughly vetted, of course."

"Of course." Catra grinned. "But who does the vetting?"

"We have people with the experience for that task," Naird says. "And I assume you have such people as well?"

"Yes." Glimmer nodded.

Adora didn't think Alliance spy hunters had quite the same experience as the Earth specialists, given the differences between their worlds, but it was probably good enough. If you could deal with the likes of Double Trouble, picking out honest reporters shouldn't be too hard.

"So, that's settled as well." Naird marked something on his papers. "Next item: Recruiting, screening for and training magically talented people."

That again. Adora sighed.

"That's the purview of Mystacor on Etheria," Glimmer said. "They pick their students."

"And they have offered to train our soldiers, haven't they?"

Catra chuckled. "Castaspella offered to train Colonel O'Neill."

"He's the first soldier known to have a magical talent, right?" Naird asked.

"He's a special case," Glimmer said with a frown aimed at Catra. "Similar cases might receive the same invitation, but we don't know any yet."

"We haven't made a lot of progress with screening for magical talent," the Frech Minister commented. "We would be grateful for any assistance in that area."

"We'll pass it on to Mystacore," Glimmer said.

Adora nodded again. They had to talk with the sorcerers anyway. About this, and a few other things.

"Great. Next item: Commendations. Several members of the Alliance forces have distinguished themselves in the recent combat and deserve recognition…"

Catra groaned, a bit louder this time, but Naird went on.


Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States, Earth, January 18th, 1999

Jack sighed as he watched the Stargate. It was almost time. "You know, I don't see why we should be here - the Tok'ra want to discuss Alliance matters, and Stargate Command is not part of the Alliance forces. We're just the gatekeepers and gophers for the United Nations." He had better things to do than greet alien visitors.

Daniel frowned at him. "We've been working closely with the Alliance - SG-1, I mean. We've fought in the first Alliance combat mission. I don't think you can claim we aren't part of the Alliance forces."

"Being temporarily detached to other forces doesn't change that we're still under United Nations command," Jack retorted. He knew his regs - the better to bend and twist them.

"That's a fig leaf. We also were part of the delegation that negotiated the Alliance. And didn't you tell me you expect us to be transferred to Alliance command anyway?" Daniel pouted.

"Yep. But all that doesn't mean we should stand here to greet aliens." Jack wasn't pouting. He was better than that.

Daniel frowned. "Don't tell me you're afraid of meeting Anise, Jack!"

"I'm not afraid of meeting the mad scientist snake, Daniel." Jack simply would prefer not to meet her. Not until she accepted - preferably in writing - that he wasn't going to have a baby with her. Or with anyone else. Or with test tubes. Or clone pods. He wasn't going to have kids, period. Not if they were just wanted for their - his - Ancient genes. "But we do have better things to do than meeting and greeting people we've already met before."

"It's called being polite and welcoming to our allies." Daniel's frown deepened.

"Yeah, and others can do that better." Jack wasn't feeling very polite and friendly. And why were the snakes visiting anyway? They had mentioned a 'potential issue for the Alliance' when they had called ahead, but they hadn't mentioned what issue it was.

Not that it was Jack's business, anyway. He wasn't a politician or a general. Unless you could shoot it or blow it up, it wasn't his problem. Or shouldn't be.

That was his story, and he would be sticking to it. Although you could solve a lot of problems by shooting them or blowing them up.

He glanced to his side. Teal'c was doing his 'stoic waiting' thing. And Carter was… in her lab with the other alien mad scientist they knew. Apparently, being a genius working to develop new technology was enough to get out of greeting duty. Jack would have to take notes.

"We're being dialled," Siler announced. "Codes match the Tok'ra."

"Open the iris," General Haig ordered.

A moment later, the iris retracted, and the wormhole vortex formed.

"Wormhole stable."

"Send the go-ahead."

"Yes, sir."

A moment later, two people stepped through the gate, and Jack had to suppress a groan. Anise and Martouf? The snake after Jack's genes, and the snake pining for Carter? This was shaping up to be one of those days he should have called in sick! "We should have claimed that the gate's down for maintenance," he muttered as the two Tok'ra walked down the ramp.

"Since we communicated through the wormhole, I think that they wouldn't have believed us," Daniel pointed out.

"Yeah, but would they have called us out? They might have decided to directly talk to the princesses instead!" Jack whispered. Come to think of it, why were they coming to Earth instead of Etheria? Sure, the Alliance Headquarters was on Earth, but everyone knew where the real power in the Alliance was located.

But here they were. Time to lie and smile. "Marty! Anise! How nice to see you!" Jack said as he stepped forward.

"Jack! It's Martouf!" Daniel whispered behind him as if Jack wasn't aware of that. Hey, if he was the ranking officer in the gate room and had to greet new arrivals, he would do it his way. Otherwise, they might think he liked doing this.

"And it's nice to see you, Jack!" Anise beamed at him, and Jack had to struggle not to wince.

"Yes, it's a pleasure to see you again," Martouf added. He was - none too subtly - looking around, though.

"Captain Carter's busy in her lab," Jack told him with a genuine smile. "You know how it is - science takes priority over politics."


"Of course it does!" Anise nodded. "But the issue we need to talk about concerns Sam - and science."

Oh. Jack narrowed his eyes. If this was just a pretext for Martouf to hassle Carter, then Jack would have to be a bit undiplomatic.


"Hello, Sam."

"Good morning, Captain Carter."

"Anise? Martouf?" Carter sounded surprised, Jack noted as they entered her lab.

"Hi, guys!" A holoprojection of Entrapta standing next to Carter waved at everyone. With her arms, hair and a few metal arms in the lab - waldos, the name was, he reminded himself.

"Hello, Entrapta." Anise returned the greeting.

"Princess Entrapta." Martouf gave her a nod, already focused on Carter.

"Hi, Entrapta." Daniel beamed at her.

"Greetings." Teal'c nodded politely.

Jack cleared his throat. "Yeah, hello, everyone. Marty and Anise here came to talk about a 'potential issue for the Alliance' related to your work, Carter."

"Oh?" She seemed surprised.

"A potential issue? Do you need our help? We've got a full schedule, but we could probably shuffle a few things around. The spy bot network is growing according to our projections and doesn't need too much supervision, so we could delay the next version, and we could also probably wait with the construction bots for the stealth modules for shuttles for a week or so since we still haven't perfected the mining bots to feed the automated factory station we're designing." Entrapta beamed at their guests.

Jack made a mental note to look into those projects she had mentioned. They sounded… well, he wasn't a geek, but automated factories manned by bots, fed by mining bots… that sounded like a Cameron movie about a robot uprising in the making.

"It's actually about your plan to create 'dumb symbionts'," Anise said. She wasn't smiling any more.

"Oh! You've got the message!" Entrapta nodded, still smiling happily. "Do you have a genetic sample? We could use one of the samples from the prisoners we have, but it might be safer to use a sample without the genetic memory of a Goa'uld, even though we probably would remove it anyway."

Jack blinked. They had asked the Tok'ra to donate a genetic sample to create dumb symbionts to save the Jaffa prisoners?

"We have a few concerns about your plan," Martouf said. Very diplomatically.

Anise nodded with a not-so-diplomatic expression.

And Jack had to struggle not to laugh out loud. It was different when the shoe was on the other foot, was it?


Mystacor, Etheria, January 18th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Mystacor hadn't changed at all since their last visit, Adora noted. Or, rather, they had repaired whatever damage it had suffered in the war and restored the island exactly as it had been before, so it looked untouched by the war.

Which probably said something about the sorceresses ruling the floating island.


"Glimmer!" Castaspella lifted Glimmer up in a hug that made Adora smile and also feel a bit sad - or jealous. "So nice of you to visit! It's been too long!"

"You were staying in Bright Moon for months."

"That's not the same. It's been too long since you visited."

"I would like to visit more often, but with the war…"

"The stress from the war is even more of a reason to visit and relax, Glimmer!"

At Adora's side, Catra sighed. Loudly. She was rolling her eyes as well.

Both Castaspella and Glimmer turned to frown at Adora's lover, and Adora stepped forward to head off any barbs. "Hello, Castaspella. Thank you for having us visit."

"You're always welcome here," Castaspella replied with a smile. "Although, since I doubt you were visiting to enjoy our beaches and hot springs, let's move to my office so we can have tea while we talk."

"Yes." Adora nodded. They were here to discuss politics, after all. All sorts of politics.

Castaspella led them through the marble hallway, past a group of what looked like students - they were young, younger than Adora had been in the Horde war, at least, and stared and whispered. Fortunately, Catra didn't try to startle or hiss at them - sometimes, she did that when she felt annoyed.

Once inside Castaspella's office - which was as large as Adora and Catra's room in the palace, but sorceresses probably needed the space for their spells and experiments - they sat down at a small table, and at a gesture from Castaspella, a tray bearing tea and snacks floated over.

"So, what do we have to discuss?" Castaspella asked while their cups were being filled and Catra looked for fish sandwiches amongst the snacks.

Adora and Glimmer exchanged a glance. "It's about teaching students from other planets," Adora said after a moment. "We have restored magic to another planet, and we will continue to do so, so there will be more people in need of training." Straight and to the point. Like Adora preferred it herself.

"Not nearly as many as Earth will add over time, though," Castaspella replied before taking a sip from her cup.

"No." Glimmer nodded. "But this might change over time. But even so… We need to know if Mystacor will train selected students from other worlds. I know you offered to teach Jack, but…" She trailed off.

"...but he's a 'special case'," Catra finished for her with a grin.

Adora took a sip herself to mask her expression. She didn't think Castaspella was trying to seduce Jack by offering him training, but there were rumours. Rumours which Catra was not so subtly hinting at.

"He's got a lot of potential," Castaspella said, all cool and collected. "And he is a First One, or close enough. It would be a shame not to see this potential nurtured and trained." With a glance at Catra, she added: "I have no intention to start a relationship with him, which I think I made already clear. Not only do I not desire him in that way, but to start a relationship with a student… it would violate everything Mystacor stands for."

Catra made a noncommittal noise in return, her mouth filled with probably all the fish sandwiches from the tray.

Glimmer cleared her throat. "So, Mystacor is open to exceptional students only?"

Castaspella sighed. "Certain teachers are willing to accept special students. As a whole, we cannot teach many more than our usual amount of pupils. We simply don't have the numbers and resources to take on everyone from Earth with the talent. We could expand our numbers, but… that is a controversial issue. As is refusing Etherian students in favour of those from other planets. The best we can realistically do is teach those who have the most potential and let them teach others. "

That… didn't sound as bad as Adora had feared.

"It would be years before that started to bear fruits," Glimmer said.

Castaspella nodded.

"And you haven't picked any such students yet," Catra pointed out.

"We don't know any such students except for Jack. And looking for them on Earth…" Castaspella inclined her head and took another sip from her cup. "We are used to having students come to us after discovering their talents. And what we know of Earth's attitude towards magic raises some concerns."

"Well, people from Earth can't exactly come to Mystacor - or Etheria - that easily," Glimmer said. "Security prohibits that."

"But they would like your help to screen their people for sorceresses," Adora added.

Cataspella grimaced for a moment. "I know a few sorceresses who would like to visit Earth anyway, and they might be willing to look for potential students. There has been a debate in the council about that."

"I haven't heard about that," Glimmer commented.

"They are curious about Earth's magic traditions and want to study them. And their artefacts," Castaspella added.


Catra snorted. "They want to exploit Earth's magic?"

"I wouldn't put it like that, but… most of those who voiced such plans seem most interested in gaining more knowledge rather than spreading it." Castaspella spread her hands. "I don't think they would be the best ambassadors for our kingdom and academy."

Ah. Adora nodded.

"Yeah, we don't want to look like colonialists," Glimmer agreed.

"But then you're going to look like elitists unwilling to share your knowledge," Catra commented.

"Several of my colleagues wouldn't mind that," Castaspella retorted. "We're trying to find a compromise, but… it's a delicate process."

"Meaning, you don't think it'll work." Catra snorted.

"It is too early to say that, but Mystacor's politics and policies usually take a long time to change."

"Time we don't really have." Glimmer shook her head. "If Mystacor as a whole won't do anything, we need to talk to individuals."

"That might be a more promising approach, but it might also cause additional tensions within the kingdom," Castaspella said.

"You sound like a diplomat from Earth explaining why they can't do the sensible thing." Catra shook her head.

Castaspella chuckled in return, even though it wasn't really funny in Adora's opinion.

There is a very real chance of the most of SG1 getting poached by the etherian royal council to act as their earth liaisons.

It fixes way too many organisational level issues and at the same time fits the etherian heros first frame of reference.

But SG-1 might not want that. Jack and Carter are members of the Air Force and career officers (and quite patriotic, in a good way). Teal'c might be loyal to SG-1. Daniel would be torn between SG-1 and his other friends.
Chapter 83: Educational Issues Part 2
Chapter 83: Educational Issues Part 2

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States, Earth, January 18th, 1999

"..and while the benefits such a 'dumb symbiont' would provide are obvious, there are several important issues with this proposal you might not have considered, in our opinion," Martouf said.

His expression lacked the usual subtle longing when he was looking at her, Samantha Carter noticed.

"Like that having such an option would compete with Tok'ra recruitment?" the Colonel cut in.

"That is one of our concerns, yes." Martouf nodded at him. "Although only one, and not the most important."

Sam could see the issue there, of course. How many potential hosts would want to share their body with a Tok'ra if there was an alternative that provided most of the benefits while the recipient retained full control over their body? But she was sure that there were enough potential hosts even if the symbionts would reach a level of advancement where their benefits were equal to those granted by a Tok'ra symbiont.

"There is also the fact that you would basically create a new, dumb species from a Goa'uld or Tok'ra template," Anise said. "Imagine if, say, we would want to create 'dumb hosts' using your DNA as a base. Human origin, but deliberately reduced in sapience to the level of an animal."

Sam drew a surprised breath through her clenched teeth. She hadn't considered this - she and Entrapta were planning to experiment with a fellow sapient species. If they were doing this with humans… She grimaced as she suddenly felt slightly ill. How had she missed this? She should have seen this! It was unethical!

Daniel looked struck as well. And why hadn't he realised this? Had he been so busy with trying to keep Sadiki's people from being exploited to miss this?

"Uh…" Entrapta, unfortunately, looked confused. "I thought you needed sapient hosts."

Martouf grimaced as well. "It was merely an example."

"Imagine if we would create brainless clones from humans to use as donors for organ transplants," Sam said.

"Oh." Entrapta blinked. Then she tilted her head to the side and looked at Sam. "But without a brain, it's not a human, right?"

"I think that is disproven by several politicians and pundits I know," the Colonel quipped. But he didn't look like he actually was amused any more - he looked a bit queasy himself, Sam noticed.

"He's joking," she told Entrapta.

"Ah." Her friend nodded. "But without a brain, it's just… biomass shaped like a human. Not even a proto-human."

Sam sighed softly. Entrapta was one of the nicest women she knew, a great friend and a brilliant scientist, but she struggled with some things. Such as certain ethical questions. Of course, some questions everyone struggled with. "It's not that simple," she said. "If someone suffers brain damage, they're still a human. No matter how much brain damage they suffer." Of course, there was also the question of when exactly someone became a human in the first place, but that question had been answered pretty succinctly as 'at birth', for a variety of sound reasons, and Sam didn't give a damn about those who disagreed with this - she knew exactly what those people actually wanted when they tried to redefine when a fetus became a human.

"And if they die?"

"Then they are a dead human. But they don't stop being a human," Sam replied. "And if we started treating humans who aren't smart enough as not human, then that could have dire consequences."

"Yeah." The Colonel looked very serious. "Some people would jump at the chance to draw a line like that and then do away with those who wouldn't be considered human anymore. And they might be a little fuzzy about where they would draw the line."

"Yes." Daniel nodded firmly. "It's not a line we want to cross. History teaches us what happens when humans are considered subhumans."

Entrapta still looked confused. "Which part of history do you mean?"

"Slavery and the Holocaust are the most known," Daniel replied.

"Ah. Oh." Entrapta's eyes widened. "You mean… This would lead to people murdering each other?"

"Ah…" Daniel winced. "Not directly. But it's a concern - it's mostly an example to show why it's bad to experiment with humans. Or Tok'ra. Or Goa'uld. Any sapient species, actually."

"And horses, I guess," the Colonel added. "At least according to Swift Wind."

"This is a very simplified view. There are other ethical questions we haven't touched, and human cells are used in experiments by scientists on Earth, although some consider that unethical as well," Daniel said.

"Oh." Entrapta slowly nodded. "So, if we just use the cells, that would be OK?"

Daniel grimaced again. "As I said, it's a very complex issue. Using human - or Goa'uld - cells for research is generally considered alright. But creating an organism based on those cells for experimentation… That's a much murkier question."

"So, it's a matter of intent." Entrapta nodded again. "And it means we have to find another way to save the Jaffa we captured than what we originally planned. But we can use cells for research as long as we don't clone actual specimens out of them. Or clone specimens for experimentation. We need an artificial symbiont, then."

"Most will agree with that view, yes." Daniel smiled.

Her friend was correct, though Sam would still expect some backlash if those experiments were publicised. Although if they managed to create an artificial symbiont, then the majority of the people would want to use it and would likely silence dissenters.

Entrapta pouted. "That will be more difficult than I thought, then. We won't be able to use an existing working template and alter it - we'll have to build up an organism from scratch that will emulate the effects. And we can only use the cell samples from Goa'uld as models, not as a source, since we need a non-sapient organism not based on any sapient species." Entrapta nodded again. "I think we need to visit Alpha for that."

"The Ancient AI?" Anise beamed at them.

"Yes. Want to visit?" Entrapta matched their friend's smile.

"I would be delighted!"

Sam winced. She didn't have to look at the Colonel to know that he was scowling.


Bright Moon, Etheria, January 18th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"...and that's why we need to go to the First Moon of Enchantment!" Entrapta finished her explanation. "We need to talk to Alpha about the First Ones' research into genetic engineering so we can help the Jaffa without experimenting with people. Because that's bad, but creating a new life form not based on people is good."

Catra blinked, then nodded. It made sense. Sort of. And, of course, Entrapta would bring her friends from the Tok'ra along without asking beforehand. And SG-1 would tag along.

"I see." Glimmer slowly nodded.

"We hadn't considered that!" Adora, though, shook her head. "We should have realised that this was bad. I should haOw…"

Catra rolled her eyes as she withdrew her leg. "Don't blame yourself for everything, idiot." If the others wanted to feel guilty, that was their problem - Sam certainly looked like she did - but Catra wouldn't let Adora blame herself for this.

Adora rubbed her calf - which wasn't even bleeding; Catra knew how to use her claws - and pouted at her. "But I should have realised that this was wrong."

"Well, no one realised it." O'Neill shrugged. "Not even Daniel, and that's usually his thing."

Daniel grimaced instead of laughing at the comment.

Catra sighed. "Nobody's perfect, we all should have realised that experimenting with people to make a new life form is bad since the First Ones did it, we won't do it, blah blah blah. No one did actually do it, so no harm done. You were talking about heading to Research Station Alpha?"

Adora pouted some more at her, and Martouf frowned, but everyone else seemed to be ready to move on. Good.

"Yes!" Enttapta, unfazed by the whole issue, nodded. "And we need Glimmer's permission since it's her moon. And Adora and Jack's, since it's their base. Well, it's Alpha's base, but she answers to you. And we need a shuttle to fly there. So… we need quite a few things."

"Of course, you have my permission to travel to the First Moon of Enchantment," Glimmer said. Then she blinked. "Although… you're not going to start experimenting there, are you?"

"Oh, could we?" Anise beamed at her. "To work in a research base of the Ancients…"

"Research Station Alpha is where the people of Etheria were born, kind of," Bow told her. "It is of immense historical and cultural importance."

Catra doubted that most people on Etheria shared that view - or were aware of the base - but Anise looked suitably taken aback.

"Oh, yes, I understand," she said, grimacing. "Still, the knowledge to be found there, the inspiration…" She sighed.

Catra suppressed a snort at O'Neill's expression.

"Yes!" Entrpata nodded enthusiastically. "Alpha could have immensely helpful data! And it'll be good to talk to her again - she might feel lonely on the moon."

"She's been talking with my dads," Bow said. "They're working on a book on the creation of Etheria."

"That's nice!" Adora smiled.

Bow nodded. "They said they had to distract themselves when we were gone for so long."

And Adora's face fell. Catra glared at Bow, who had the grace to blush. "Err… well, they usually fly with a shuttle from Second Fleet, so… we can ask them to hitch a ride?" he suggested.

"Yeah, let's go." Catra stood. "And we can ask them about their book as well." Bow looked surprised, so she rolled her eyes and added: "Because I think we'll need to know if the book will start a ruckus on Etheria."


The way most of her friends looked surprised at her comment wasn't a good sign.

At least Glimmer was on the ball - then again, she was a queen. "Yes. Princess Sweet Bee will probably consider it propaganda or try to claim the base 'for all of Etheria' - or both. Probably both." She scowled.

"Well, realising that you're the result of an experiment by the Ancients can be a shock to people," Daniel said. "It certainly would be on Earth."

"Heh, just realising that you're not alone in the universe was a great shock to you," Catra pointed out. "Or that magic is real."

"Well…" Daniel shrugged.

"Yeah, yeah, it was a big shock, and we got over it. Those who matter, at least. Let's hope you'll get over having started as 'test subjects', as the computer in the station told us," O'Neill said.

Catra narrowed her eyes at him. "Yeah, Mister First One." When he glared at her, she flashed her fangs at him in return. At least on Etheria, people didn't expect you to follow their stupid religion's rules about who you were allowed to love.

"Let's just go meet your dads and ask if we can tag along with them, OK?" Adora smiled.


Martouf and Anise looked a bit confused. Catra's ears twitched as she caught them whispering to each other. Ah, they wondered why they weren't taking a shuttle from Bright Moon.

Well, wasn't there a saying that to confuse your enemies, you had to start with your allies, or something?


The First Moon of Enchantment, January 18th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Jack O'Neill considered himself to be a tolerant man. Different strokes for different folks was a perfectly fine way to live your life. What consenting adults did in the privacy of their homes, and with whom, was their business, and none of Jack's, or anyone else's. But some lines shouldn't be crossed in public, no matter whether you were an alien or not, and Bow's parents… Jack forced himself to smile and tried not to look at Lance and George as their shuttle entered their final approach to Research Site Alpha's hangar. They were just so… Well, public displays of affection were OK, even if Jack didn't like seeing two men his age exchange glances straight out of a romance novel. But Lance…

You didn't wear socks with sandals! That was a universal rule, no matter what Daniel claimed. Just ask anyone who had ever met a German tourist!

"And here we are! Hello, Alpha!" Bow's taller dad announced as they stepped out of the shuttle.

"Hello, Lance. Hello, George." A projection of the computer appeared in front of the ramp. Smiling widely.

"Hello, Alpha!" George smiled. "Did you finish refurbishing the new area?"

"I did, yes. Hello, Adora, Colonel O'Neill." The projection bowed towards them, then turned to address the others. "Entrapta. Glimmer. Bow. Catra. Daniel Jackson. Samantha Carter. Teal'c." Then she cocked her head. "There are two people infected with parasites with you. Should I remove them before they contaminate the site, or are they test subjects? Should I set up a containment area?"

Jack blinked, then snorted - and had to remind himself that having the two snakes locked up by the Ancient computer would be a terrible faux pas since they were allies. Even though it would be funny.

"Uh, no, they are our guests, Alpha," Adora said, looking flustered. "They aren't parasites but Symbionts - they aren't Goa'uld but Tok'ra."

"According to my scans, they match all the parameters that define a Goa'uld."

"That's just, uh, biological. But they really aren't Goa'uld, and it's rude to mix them up."

"My scanners aren't set to detect non-biological differences. This presents a grave security threat. I suggest treating them as Goa'uld and detaining them until a verifiable method to differentiate them from Goa'uld can be implemented."

Alpha was his kind of girl, Jack decided. Computer. Whatever.

"We oppose the Goa'uld. We are not like them!" Anise protested. Her voice changed, and Freya added: "We are partners."

"That is a verbal statement which cannot be proven or disproven with the currently available data."

That was the computer version of 'of course a Goa'uld would say that', Jack guessed.

Catra snorted behind him.

"They're our friends. Register them as that!" Adora ordered.

The projection turned to look at Jack.

Was it waiting for him in case he wanted to countermand this? He nodded. "Uh, yes, register them as friends." He ignored the smile aimed at him by Anise.

"Very well. Please state your names for the data banks." The projection managed to sound like a suffering clerk.

"We are Anise and Freya."

"Lantash and Martouf."


Lance coughed. "Now that that's settled, let's proceed to the archives, shall we?

"Of course." Alpha bowed again. "I've prepared the records you asked for."

"Oh, great! You found them?" Lance beamed at the projection.


"Were they misfiled?" George asked.

"Yes." The projection frowned. "The mistake has been corrected." Once more, she turned to look at Jack and Adora. "I recommend logging a reprimand for the person responsible, Assistant Researcher Talar Junas. Faulty or misfiled data is unacceptable in a research site."

"Yes!" Entrapta nodded emphatically. "If you can't trust your data, you can't trust your experiment! It's sabotaging science!"

She sounded as if that was a much worse crime than taking over someone's body, Jack couldn't help feeling. He glanced at Carter, who nodded in agreement. No joking about it, then. So he shrugged. "Well, we don't know if that Talar guy - or girl - is still alive to get reprimanded, but if we see them…" He shrugged, then winced when Adora briefly looked sad. No joking about the death of her people.

"Noted." Behind the projection, the door opened. "Will you join Lance and George in the archives?"

"It's a lovely place," Lance told them with a smile. "We've remodelled, so it's much more comfortable now. Alpha did a great job."

"Enhancing a workplace's ergonomics is a logical way to improve the efficiency of the workers," Alpha added. But she sounded rather pleased.

Damn. Jack pressed his lips together. Now he was, what was the word, humanising machines?

"Oh, nice!" Entrapta beamed. "Let's go check it out! We can check the research data there for our project!"

Alpha perked up. "I stand ready to assist with any and all research projects," she announced.

"Uh, that's good:" Adora smiled a bit weakly. "We can use the help, I think. But… ask us before you assist with potentially dangerous experiments, OK?"

"Define 'dangerous', please."

Alpha had been built by people who created a planet full of 'test subjects' and were willing to destroy it and a big part of the entire sector to win a war, Jack reminded himself.

"Uh… anything that could hurt people if it went wrong?" Adora asked more than answered.

"Define 'hurt', please. Almost any action, even a purely verbal one, has the potential to hurt someone."

Adora looked at Jack.

Jack looked at Daniel. Explaining things so that the nice computer wouldn't accidentally wipe out a world or two trying to help mad scientists sounded like the perfect job for Jack's friend. And it might help him stop feeling sorry for not catching the troublesome nature of Entrapta and Carter's original plans.


"...so, it's a matter of scale. An experiment that could lead to negative consequences for a single person's mental or physical health is not problematic, but if more people are potentially affected, it requires approval from a legitimate authority." Alpha nodded.

Adora winced. That wasn't entirely what they wanted Alpha to understand. Perhaps they should have asked Lance and George to help, but Bow's dads were already in the archives, researching their own project.

"Not quite," Daniel tried again. "In the first case, it's only not problematic if said person gave consent to the experiment - and if it was an informed decision, meaning the person at risk was aware of the danger and the probability of a negative outcome."

"Ah." Once more, Alpha's projection nodded.

"Yes! You need reliable data to deduce anything! That's how science works!" Entrapta chimed in with a happy smile.

Adora glanced at Sam and Anise, who also nodded in agreement.

"But experiments are how you gather data. If you already had reliable data about the outcome, there would be no need for the experiment in the first place," Alpha said.

That was… well, it was true, but still not correct.

"That's correct, yes." Sam nodded. "But you don't need to know the results of an experiment to make informed decisions about it - you just need reliable estimates of the range of potential consequences."

"Blast radius, for example," Entrapta added. "Calculate the blast radius based on the materials involved so you can determine the safe distance." She cocked her head. "Of course, stuff like Naquadah-enhancements to explosives kind of mess with that, so you should start with tiny quantities and do it in space where shockwaves don't travel well and slowly build up your data."

"Yes." Daniel glanced at Jack, Adora noted. "If you're experimenting with explosives, you should start small. Very small."

"Almost anything can be an explosive if used correctly. Or incorrectly," Anise cut in. "And some processes need to overcome a threshold to result in an explosion."

"Yes," Sam agreed again. "Critical mass."

"I think we were talking about genetic engineering, not explosives," Jack commented. "Unless you want to create explosive tomatoes."

"Well, biological explosives are entirely possible," Entrapta said, scrunching her nose. "Many explosive materials could be grown. It wouldn't be very efficient compared to mass-processing in chemical plants, but it's possible." She perked up. "And if it is a plant, Perfuma should be able to control it, so that would add instant mass-production potential to it!"

Perfuma letting explosive plants sprout from the ground all over an area… Adora felt her stomach drop at the thought. That was…

"Good job," Catra, standing next to her, hissed at Jack, who had the grace to look embarrassed.

"I don't think creating plants that can explode is a good idea," Bow spoke up. "Imagine if those plants spread across a world?"

Adora winced.

"I see," Alpha slowly nodded. "So, that would be an experiment where the scale for requiring approval by authorities would be met since it would potentially endanger an entire world."

"Uh… yes, I think," Entrapta said. "One could do such experiments inside a space lab, of course, so specimens can't spread, but that's not perfectly safe - spores might escape anyway. And we know that some plants can survive and grow in space."

And now everyone was looking at Adora. It wasn't her fault that her magic had transformed Horde Prime's flagship into a plant! Well, kind of it was, but she hadn't known what she was doing. She should have known, of course, but…

"Well," Daniel spoke up, drawing the attention back to him, "it also depends on which authorities you're asking for approval. They might not actually have the authority to approve of such experiments."

"Absent any other representative of the First Ones, Adora and Colonel O'Neill are the legitimate authority with regard to experiments conducted on Research Station Alpha."

Adora winced again.

"Great. It's up to us to keep the mad scientists in check," Jack muttered.

"Yes." Alpha nodded.

Adora looked at Daniel, but he didn't look as if he was going to argue this. Nor was any of the others. Not even Glimmer, even though the First Moon of Enchantment belonged to her. Adora glanced at Catra.

Her lover snorted. "Don't look at me. I don't know anyone better suited to rein in Entrapta and her friends than you."

Adora flushed. Well, Catra was terribly biased. Adora wasn't some… some paragon of wisdom, or something. She didn't know more about these things than anyone else. Just because she was born a First One didn't make her qualified for such decisions - especially not about ethics. The First Ones had proven that they weren't any better than others when they planned to sacrifice Etheria to win the war.

But qualified or not, it was her responsibility - and Jack's - and she would not fail that duty. Straightening, she nodded at Alpha. "Yes." She had to do this. And she would do this.

"So, can we research this?" Entrapta asked. "I mean, the odds of anything exploding are pretty low. And we're not researching plants - not now, at least - but immune system replacements. Perfectly harmless!"

"Unless you create something that replaces the immune system like a symbiont in a Jaffa- and spreads to non-Jaffa," Catra pointed out.

Entrapta blinked, then cocked her head to the side. "Well… that's theoretically possible, I guess. We'd have to create an organism that could replicate outside a lab, perhaps by taking over a host body and using its reproductive system…"

Jack groaned, and Adora closed her eyes.

Why couldn't things be simple - and safe - for once?


Samantha Carter had to agree with Entrapta. She wasn't a biologist or geneticist, but she knew enough about Goa'uld biology to imagine a similar parasite that would permanently alter the host's body to, if not remove, then at least cripple the immune system - like AIDS - and replace it. The trick would be to get it to reproduce inside the host…

She shook her head. They didn't need a plague version of the Goa'uld. Thinking about how to create one was a waste of time. Even if it was an interesting thought experiment. But they had better, more important projects. Much more important projects.

And she wasn't a geneticist. She was a physicist. And a specialist in Ancient technology, though even that would be of limited use here. Probably. But first, she had to remind Entrapta of their priorities. "While we might consider this as a potential threat so we can plan safeguards and countermeasures, we should focus on our reason for coming here."

"Standard precautions against biological weapons should suffice against such a threat," Alpha commented. "Although I fail to see what use one would get out of such an organism. Unless reproduction is controlled in some way, anyone infected will not be dependent on regular supplies of the symbiont. Therefore, it cannot be used to gain leverage over others. And there are more effective biological weapon systems to reduce an enemy's combat capability."

"Why am I not surprised that the Ancients already thought of the best way to use biological weapons?" the Colonel commented.

Alpha's projection turned to face him. "The logical explanation would be that you are already aware of the research data contained in my data banks."

Sam winced. The Ancients had researched biological weapons here? What was she thinking; of course, they did.

"This day gets better and better," the Colonel muttered.

"This station has biological weapon research data? Samples as well?" Glimmer asked.

"Please answer the question, Alpha," Adora told the A.I. when she didn't reply to the question.

"We have the data for eleven research projects that would qualify as biological weapons, but only seven of them were deemed complete and ready for production, and only five have samples left over from testing. Do you wish me to start producing more samples?"

"Seven weapons? Five samples? What, no, no - don't produce biological weapons!" Adora almost frantically shook her head, and the Colonel had gone quite silent.

"I don't remember seeing this data when we visited the last time," Entrapta said.

"We can produce biological weapons here?" Glimmer looked alarmed as well.

Sam… wasn't really surprised. A species willing to destroy an entire planet to win a war wouldn't baulk at producing and using biological weapons. She only wondered why they were, apparently, not used.

"Were any of them used in the war against Horde Prime?" Anise asked, mirroring Sam's own thoughts.

Once more, Adora had to tell Alpha to answer.

"Yes. Three weapon systems were used in response to invasions by the Horde, but while they were successful in denying the planet to the enemy, the Horde fleet was not significantly affected after the first such attack. Analysis deduced that the Horde's policy of keeping their fleets separate and without contact with each other except for Horde Prime's orders granted them effective resistance even against agents with a long period of incubation, and when the Horde stopped recovering their ground troops after an invasion and started purging affected planets, the research into biological weapons was stopped as not viable."

"Of course, the bastard would just waste his troops like that!" Catra hissed. "If they're written off from the start, they can't infect the rest of a fleet."

"And he was safe from infection himself since he could possess any clone and so didn't need to physically visit. And even if he were infected, he could get a new body," Glimmer added with a grim expression.

Alpha didn't react to their comments, Sam noted.

"So… we probably should look into those projects," Entrapta suggested. "Since they might be aimed at clones, we might need a cure in case we find the locations where they were used." She looked concerned. "We can't risk our friends like that, can we?"

She was right, Sam realised. The Alliance wasn't using Horde Prime's tactics and policies, and if the fleet got infected with such a weapon… She nodded. "Yes. We need to be prepared for this. If the Goa'uld acquire such weapons, they won't hesitate to use them."

"Yes. Alpha, we need the data - not the samples - for all those weapons," Adora said.

"Of course. Will you limit access to the data to this facility's terminals, or do you wish to download the data?"

"Uh…" Adora glanced at the others. "I think we should limit access to the terminals on this station, yes."

That was probably the best course of action. If such knowledge and data spread… Sam glanced at Anise and Martouf, but they looked taken aback as well.

"You can access them in the archive, then."

"Good." Adora sighed. "We need to check the archives for more research data anyway."

"Yes!" Entrapta smiled.

"Are there any such weapons intended to be used against the Goa'uld?" Anise asked. "Weapons that exclusively target them?"

Which would, therefore, also affect the Tok'ra.

"Please answer the question," the Colonel said, rolling his eyes.

"There are two biological weapons that would be effective against the Goa'uld, but they are effective against all biological organisms. The First Ones did not deem it necessary to develop specific biological weapons against the Goa'uld," Alpha said.

Anise and Martouf looked relieved. Sam was as well. If such a weapon existed, some people in the Alliance would advocate for using it - despite the risk it posed for the Tok'ra. Or, worse, because of the risk.

"Let's go take a look," Entrapta said.

"Yeah…" The Colonel still looked tense. And Daniel looked, well, more than a little disturbed. Like the others here, Sam noted.

Well, she could have also done without hearing those revelations. But as a scientist, she wouldn't shy away from facts no matter how disturbing. Reality didn't change if one tried to ignore it. Reality only changed if you made it change. And you needed facts for that. And science.


"Why is everyone so shocked?" Catra asked as they entered the archives. "Didn't we already find out that the First Ones were not really nice people when we discovered what they had done to the Heart of Etheria?" She saw Adora flinching and clenched her teeth. Adora might be a First One, but she wasn't responsible for their deeds. She had been a baby when she had been taken from them by Hordak and Shadow Weaver.

But Catra should have known better than to bring this up. Even if that wasn't her fault, either.

"Well, in hindsight, maybe this was or should have been obvious," Bow said, grimacing a little. "But I don't think anyone really considered this."

"Ah, I am afraid you're wrong, Bow!" Lance looked up from the terminal he was staring at. "We were already aware of this." His smile looked a little embarrassed.

"You were? And you didn't tell us?" Glimmer frowned at them.

Catra was tempted to make a comment about not feuding with your future father-in-law but held her tongue. That was… a touchy subject. For a variety of reasons Catra wouldn't go into. Not even in her mind.

"We assumed that you knew." George took a step to stand next to Lance and frowned in return at Glimmer. "You had access to this facility for months before we started our project."

"We didn't actually have the time to go through all the data," Glimmer defended herself. "There was so much to organise, and then we left for Earth."

"Well, we had the time - we just focused on other things," Entrapta added. "And I think we all thought that the data about the origin of Etheria - well, of the people of Etheria, or at least of a major part of it - was more important." She cocked her head to the side. "Was that wrong?"

"No," Glimmer told her. "Our origin - the origin of our powers - was more important. We already knew that the First Ones were willing to destroy Etheria to win the war."

Catra grinned. "Which is what I said." She put her arms behind her head and stretched. "We shouldn't be surprised by this. If you're willing to blow up one planet, you're pretty much willing to do anything to win. And the First Ones were ready to destroy many planets," she reminded the others. It wasn't as if the Heart of Etheria would have just killed Horde Prime - or just him and his clones. Horde Prime had been ready to wipe out half the sector, or more, with it.

"Yes. Still, it's one thing to expect something like this and another to find out that there are biological weapons around that," Bow said.

"Yes! We need to ensure that we have an antidote or a cure!" Entrapta said. "And for that, we need the data on those weapons."

Catra nodded. "Yes. Especially if they only affect clones - those weapons could be hiding on populated planets, and we might not notice them since everything would appear fine until the first clone visits."

Sam nodded. "Yes. We need to prepare countermeasures. And adapt our protocols."

"Yes, that would be wise," George said. He still looked slightly disapproving - a bit like Shadow Weaver, Catra couldn't help thinking.

Glimmer must have been thinking the same thing since she frowned at him in return. "And we'll require everything you know about those weapons. And your promise that you won't spread this."

"Spread it?" Entrapta blinked. "Do you mean you have those samples?"

"I meant spreading the news about this," Glimmer said. "We don't need a panic about biological weapons."

"Of course not!" Lance said. "We're not irresponsible. We're historians!"

"Yes." George was frowning again.

"Looks like there's some trouble in paradise," Catra mumbled.

"What?" Adora asked.

Bow cleared his throat before Catra could explain. "Anyway, let's get to work?" He smiled a little weakly at everyone, but the others nodded.

Catra looked around, then picked one of the comfier-looking seats someone had installed in the room - on Lance and George's request since they were in the Bright Moon style, not the First Ones style. That one would do nicely. "Let's sit down!" she said, then grabbed Adora's hand.

"But there's no terminal there," her love protested.

"Are you a scientist?" Catra asked, raising her eyebrows.

"No!" Adora pouted. "But I took the Horde course for dealing with biological hazards. So did you."

Catra winced. "That was about dealing with Etherian plants and animals! And monsters!"

"And it included diseases!" Adora nodded firmly and started dragging her to the terminals lined up at the wall.

"But not biological weapons!" Catra protested.

"Close enough! We're just gathering data, anyway."

Catra hung her head and did her best to ignore the snickering from Glimmer. It didn't look like she'd be able to make out with Adora while the others worked. Though, to be fair, this was important work.

And she could still amuse herself by seeing if she could distract her lover if the work turned out too boring.


Jack O'Neill hated alien bioweapons. Well, bioweapons in general. It was one thing to die in combat, shot to death. Or stabbed to death. Or beaten to death, maybe choked to death - Jaffa had a lot of options. But it was another thing to die while your lungs filled with pus or from bleeding sores all over and inside your body. Of course, chemical weapons could have the same effect. And dying from radiation poisoning wasn't exactly a quick death, either. That stuff was why you tried to save your last bullet for yourself. And sooner or later, they would have to deal with this kind of shit. The Goa'uld would certainly not hold back once they realised that this was a war to the knife, and Jack was sure that the lab Jakar had destroyed when they met wasn't the only one in the Snake Empire. Not by far.

Although with magical healing, you might not die from such an attack. If someone able to heal was around, and if you were alive enough to make it to that someone. And if you were important enough to get healed, in case a whole world was infected. Jack had his doubts that even Adora could heal an entire world. Even if she would try anyway. But while he hadn't met any other people who could heal with magic, he was pretty sure that they weren't in her league. The Etherians had confirmed that.

And he was also pretty sure that they wouldn't be able to get enough 'healers' from Etheria, by recruiting or training, to make such a difference. Not for the scale the war was going to reach. It wasn't quite going to be the total war World War III would have been, but the mobilisation was already dwarfing Desert Storm levels and was expected to rise a lot more.

That meant Earth needed counteragents. Cures. Maybe even some healing devices, provided they didn't turn you into zombies. And that meant finding out what was hidden in those Ancient databanks. Which boiled down to letting Carter and Entrapta - and probably Bow and Anise, though Jack wasn't so keen on allowing the latter access to this data - do their thing while staying out of their way.

Jack surely had no illusions that he would be of any help just because he had taken a course on dealing with NBC attacks. So he grinned at Catra behind Adora's back and wandered over to where Daniel was chatting with Bow's dads.

"...so you think the Ancients simply left, even though their, ah, experiments were not finished?" Jack heard Daniel ask in a low voice as he approached the three men.

"Yes," Lance replied. "At least, that's what the records we have found and analysed so far tell us."

"If they had left an automated system like Alpha or Light Hope on Etheria to keep an eye on everyone, there should have been some data about it," George added. "Unlike Light Hope, it would have been directly related to this research station, and so it would have needed access to the data here. It wouldn't have made sense to isolate it."

"In my experience, the Ancients had some weird notions about what made sense," Jack cut in with a grin. They certainly had weird experiments. Merging animals and people? Jack suppressed a shudder.

"Well, they had a different culture," Daniel said. "What is considered common sense is often heavily influenced by cultural norms."

"Not letting dangerous stuff lie around and making sure that it won't endanger anyone else seems like a pretty general thing," Jack commented.

But all three men frowned at him. "Jack! Do you know how often that happens on Earth? I mean, doesn't happen as it should?" Daniel shook his head.

"And we have to consider the fact that the First Ones were fighting a war against Horde Prime at the time - a war they were losing," George added. "That will also have influenced their thinking."

"If they were ready to sacrifice Etheria, they would likely not have cared about the experiments on it any more. Or about ensuring that it would be safe." Lance looked grim. "Short of some scientists wanting to save their data for future experiments, maybe."

"Yeah, wars tend to put things into perspective," Jack admitted. "Not always a good thing."

Daniel nodded with a frown. "We have to ensure that we're not falling into the same trap. We can't allow us to justify atrocities in the hope that it would help us win the war."

His friend must be feeling guilty about the whole 'Goa'uld experimentation' plan, Jack guessed. As if that had been his fault.

Lance and George nodded. "It wouldn't help, anyway - the First Ones tried it, and they still lost," George said. "They might have won, had they had allies instead of…" He scowled. "...'test subjects'."

"Yep. Allies are a good thing. Crucial thing, too," Jack agreed. Provided you could trust them not to stab you in the back.

He looked at the rest of the room, where the others were busy with the bioweapon data search. They could trust the Etherians. At least the bunch of princesses they had met so far - that 'Princess Sweet Bee' didn't sound like someone Jack would trust to watch his back. But what about the next generation?

And what about the Tok'ra?

Well, the priority was to win the war against the Goa'uld. Odds were, whatever problems cropped up afterwards would be political ones, and so none of Jack's business anyway. He didn't have to worry about them.

But sometimes, he couldn't help worrying anyway.

Chapter 84: Educational Issues Part 3
Chapter 84: Educational Issues Part 3

Bright Moon, January 18th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"That was a waste of time!"

Adora rolled her eyes at Catra's outburst. Her lover hadn't stopped complaining since they had returned from the First Moon of Enchantment. And she was wrong. "It wasn't - we learned important information."

"No thanks to us," Catra shot back as she dropped onto their bed. "We just read the stuff Alpha showed us but we didn't understand it."

Adora didn't pout, but she frowned at Catra. That was… not quite right. "We did learn more about the bioweapons the First Ones had."

"And which we now have," Catra said. "And which the Tok'ra and Earth now know about."

Adora pressed her lips together. "We don't have such weapons. Just the data."

"And the samples."

"Those aren't weaponised."

"You just need to fill them into a container and then launch it. A bot could do it."

That was… not wrong. But… "That wouldn't be nearly as effective as a coordinated deployment en masse," Adora said - and then regretted her words at once. 'It could be worse' was never a compelling argument.

Catra snorted. "I bet Entrapta could whip up enough of it - of any of the samples - in a few hours to kill a planet."

Adora didn't disagree. Entrapta was… perfectly able to do that. "But she won't. We talked to her."

Catra shrugged, then rolled on her back. "Whatever. So, what's up until dinner?" She turned her head to grin at Adora and the way she shifted her body left no doubt about what she thought they should do.

And… it wasn't a bad idea. Not at all. The others were already looking into the data they had found, and they couldn't really help with that. And they had an hour or two to kill before dinner.

Adora grinned and slowly walked over to their bed, already loosening her shirt.


Bright Moon, January 19th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"So, you claim that Earth, despite being a supposed ally of the Princess Alliance, cannot be trusted enough to allow us to travel there through Etheria's Stargate? Really? I've heard more convincing stories from children!" Sweet Bee scoffed and raised her eyebrows.

Adora didn't like the princess. Not at all. She couldn't understand whatever Spinnerella had ever seen in the woman to have a relationship with her, no matter how short - Sweet Bee was all spite and scorn.

But Adora couldn't deny that, laid out like that, their reasons for limiting gate travel sounded a bit weak.

"Earth isn't unified," Glimmer retorted. "As you very well know. And some of their countries consider magic evil."

"And is their Stargate in such a country?"

"Earth's Stargate is under the control of the United Nations of Earth," Glimmer replied.

"You just claimed that Earth wasn't united." The lack of surprise on Sweet Bee's face made it obvious that she knew what the United Nations were. At least in Adora's opinion. Someone must have told her a lot about Earth.

"The planet isn't united - the individual countries are basically independent. The United Nations have very little direct power." Glimmer pressed her lips together.

"But the Stargate isn't in a country where magic is considered evil, is it? It's controlled by the Alliance, isn't it? Effectively, at least." Sweet Bee smiled, showing her teeth.

"Yes," Glimmer ground out.

"So, why would anyone be in danger when travelling there?" Sweet Bee asked.

"Every country has dissenters," Catra pointed out. "And we're at war."

"But you can detect our enemies - they cannot hide on a planet. Earth and Etheria are free of those 'Goa'uld' and 'Jaffa', according to your own claims."

As much as Adora hated it, Sweet Bee was correct. Sam and Entrapta's scanner could detect any Jaffa or Go'auld.

"Reasonably safe, yes - according to what we currently know." Glimmer must be struggling not to grind her teeth.

"And yet, you won't let us visit the planet. Because you want to force us to fight at your side." Sweet Bee sneered. "Because you want us under your control. Or, perhaps…" She bared her teeth. "...because you have something to hide? The only ones allowed to travel to Earth are members of the Alliance. Princesses who would never contradict your claims."

"Are you seriously claiming that we made the whole war up?" Catra scoffed.

"That's one explanation for your attempt to keep us from visiting a supposedly safe planet," Sweet Bee said. "It would explain why you are so adamant about keeping control of the Stargate - and keeping anyone not in your alliance out."

"The other explanation is that we're at war, and the Stargate is a crucial resource for the war, and so it's not going to be used for frilly trips by people too cowardly to fight," Catra retorted.

"Of course, you would be saying that.." The princess scowled at Catra. "But we've been watching the Stargate - it's barely in use. It's obvious that it could accommodate much more traffic - at no cost to anyone." She sniffed. "Your story isn't holding up to even basic scrutiny or logic. Just admit that you want to use the Stargate as leverage to control everyone who isn't a member of your alliance!"

"That's a lie!" Glimmer spat.

But Adora couldn't help feeling that Sweet Bee's arguments would look really compelling to people who didn't know better. And if Prince Peekablue, who had been a member of the first Princess Alliance with Glimmer's parents, supported her, many people would believe her claims.

She looked at her friends. Catra was sneering, but Glimmer looked frustrated. And Bow looked as if he felt guilty.

This wasn't a good sign.


Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 21st, 1999

"...and so we'll have to prepare for a delegation from Etheria led by Princess Sweet Bee to check if Goa'uld are real. Oh, and to check if Earth is safe."

The Colonel didn't even try to hide his annoyance, Samantha Carter noted. She understood it, of course - this news disrupted their already packed schedule. They had much more important work to do than play tour guides. The Stargate would soon be moved, and just organising her lab to be transported without wrecking her projects was a huge amount of work.

"Princess Sweet Bee?" Daniel asked.

"That's her name. I don't know if she's actually part bee, but I wouldn't be surprised. So, you better check your allergies, Daniel, in case she brings alien pollen with her as a snack or something."

Sam sighed - softly - as Daniel pouted. "I don't think she'll bring pollen. Even if she shared some characteristics with bees, bees transport pollen to their hive; it would be illogical for her to transport pollen to Earth."

The Colonel snickered, probably imagining how this would go.

Sam suppressed another sigh. "The Stargate travel protocols will not allow pollen or similar material to spread inside Stargate Command," she pointed out.

"You mean the decontamination and medical drills," the Colonel said.


He snorted, then shrugged. "Anyway, Glimmer's not happy about this, but it seems this was the best the Princess Alliance could do or something."

"As far as I understand, this princess represents kingdoms not aligned with the Princess Alliance," Teal'c commented. "Their military capability is supposed to be negligible, according to Catra."

Sam was surprised that Teal'c had talked to Catra - then realised she shouldn't be. Catra, despite some claims to the contrary, was quite active in planning the war. And waging it. Like Teal'c, she probably felt that she had to make amends for what she did serving - and leading - the enemy. Not that either of them would admit it, although Sam was sure their reasons for that differed. Still, Sam was curious when they had talked about this. Not curious enough to ask, though.

"Yeah, but, apparently, they can't just ignore the princess." The Colonel shrugged again. "Don't ask me why."

"I assume it's because while the Princess Alliance is the most powerful military power on Etheria, they don't want to act like the Horde," Daniel said. "They might also have economic interests or personal ties to Sweet Bee or her allies that make simply ignoring her request - or demand - impossible. Of course, tradition will also play a role - I assume Etherian culture frowns on ignoring princesses. In an aristocracy, all aristocrats have an interest in ensuring that their status is acknowledged even during disputes and conflicts. Actually, especially during conflicts."

"Yeah, that sounds plausible," the Colonel said.

Daniel started to smile and nod but then caught the Colonel's grin and pouted again.

"So, what are we expected to do?" Sam asked, trying to get the briefing back on track. She didn't ask why SG-1 was tasked with this - they had the most experience in handling such situations, after all. And the Colonel was correct that the sometimes unique biology of Etherians was a potential source of trouble.

"Well, mainly show them around and keep them from getting killed by terrorists, secret agents and traffic," the Colonel replied. "Actually, the generals didn't tell me that explicitly, but we probably should keep them from getting killed, period."

"We're supposed to be bodyguards?" Daniel asked.

"We'll have SG-3 provide actual guards, but keep an eye out as well. While doing your diplomacy thing."

Daniel nodded. "And when will they arrive? Do we have an itinerary? Do we have to prepare one?"

"They'll visit tomorrow. They didn't tell us their itinerary - I'm not sure they have one, actually, since they don't know much about Earth and don't trust the Princess Alliance."

"I'll prepare one, then," Daniel said.

Sam doubted that the delegation would trust him since SG-1 were known to be friends of Glimmer and the other Princesses in the Alliance, but it wouldn't hurt. And it might come in useful despite her expectations.

"Good. Also, we'll have to look into allergies and stuff for Princesses with a 'special biology'," the Colonel quoted.

That meant her, Sam knew. "I'll prepare the scanner and a few potential remedies," Sam told him.

"You do that." He smiled at her, and she smiled back for a moment.

Daniel cleared his throat. "So, uh… how many from the Princess Alliance will visit?"

"Everyone we know except for Entrapta is coming as part of the visit," the Colonel said with a grimace. "So, I guess that means Entrapta drew the short lot and has to stay home to keep the lights on."

"Ah…" Sam raised her hand. "Entrapta had already scheduled a visit to my lab for tomorrow, sir."

"I see." The Colonel frowned - did he think Entrapta being present was a problem? Sam frowned at the thought. That would be unfair. Entrapta was a great friend and meant well; it wasn't her fault that she sometimes was a bit too enthusiastic. That could happen to any scientist, as Sam could testify.

Daniel blinked. "Uh, Jack… do you mean we have to host the entire leadership of the Princess Alliance and a delegation from another Etherian coalition? Tomorrow?"

The Colonel grinned without much humour. "Yep. It's going to be fun, I think."

Sam managed not to glare at him.


Gate Area, Near Bright Moon, Etheria, January 22nd, 1999 (Earth Time)

"I am looking forward to seeing Earth's oceans."

"And to sail on them! Adventure!"

"I am curious about their plants. Their rainforests are said to contain the most fascinating specimens. Though I hope the plants there won't be as standoffish as cactuses…"

"I doubt that. And even if they are, you'll win them over, like you did with cactuses!"

"Thank you, Scorpia, but we're talking about a completely different planet here - the plants might not react well to my magic…"

"I want to visit this 'Antarctica continent'. It sounds like home."

Catra shook her head at the conversations she was hearing. "This doesn't sound like the diplomatic visit they agreed on," she commented with a smirk to Adora.

Her lover blushed a little. "Well… they're enthusiastic?"

"They're treating this like a trip," Glimmer said in a flat voice.

"Like tourists," Catra agreed.

"Tourists? Ah, yes." Adora nodded. "That would fit."

"What are tourists?" Netossa asked. She was one of the few princesses who didn't act all giddy about visiting Earth but was focused on their actual task - ensuring that Sweet Bee and her delegation didn't mess up things for the Alliance.

Of course, Catra suspected that part of the reason for this was that Sweet Bee was the ex of Spinnerella, but as long as it ensured at least one of the bunch of princesses was doing what they were supposed to be doing, she didn't really care.

Spinnerella, on the other hand, looked a little nervous. Then again, meeting your ex would be awkward. Not that Catra had any personal experience with that. Nor any desire to ever have an ex-girlfriend. She'd die before losing Adora.

"Tourists is an Earth term for people who travel for, ah, leisure. Just to experience another country, take a vacation, that sort of thing," Bow explained. "I think it comes from 'tour', people who go on a tour."

"Ah." Netossa nodded. "Like princesses visiting each other?"

"Probably." Bow shrugged. "But it's a lot more common on Earth. They have an entire industry based on tourism."

"Really? That sounds… weird."

The sound of a skiff approaching drew Catra's attention away from the discussion. Turning her head, she spotted the vehicle just before it started to descend in front of the gate.

"She almost missed her own trip." Glimmer scoffed. "Typical."

"Well, we would have gone without her," Catra said with a grin. "At least, I don't think the others would have waited long for her honeyness."

Glimmer and Bow laughed at that, and Adora snorted, even though she frowned at Catra afterwards.

"What?" Catra grinned. "I'm not going to pretend I like or respect her." And if the princess took offence at that… well, Catra was pretty sure she could take her, should it come to blows. Sweet Bee could fly, but that wouldn't really help her much inside an underground base. Or a similar environment.

"No one likes her," Glimmer complained. "She's just a nagging, entitled princess who didn't have the guts to fight the Horde. But she is a princess, so we have to treat her with some respect."

Catra shrugged. She wouldn't cause a diplomatic incident, but that didn't mean she would be fawning over the twit. Not that it would work, anyway, since Sweet Bee knew what Catra thought of her from their earlier meetings.

"Shh! Here she comes!" Adora whispered. "Oh. She brought Peekablue."

"Ask him to demonstrate his power," Catra whispered.

Adora blinked, then nodded. "Right."

Everyone would have to prove their identity. The last thing they needed was Double Trouble reaching Earth. The traitor would cause chaos just to amuse themselves, no matter how many suffered as a result of it. And if they joined the Goa'uld…

After five minutes of exchanging polite greetings and a not-so-polite discussion about why it was a bad idea to let a shapechanger who thrived on drama loose on an allied planet in the middle of the war, followed by a fairly quick demonstration of everyone's magic powers, they were finally ready to travel to Earth.

While the Stargate was dialling, Catra stepped closer to Glimmer, motioning Adora to join them. "We'll have to hold Alliance meetings off-world for now," she said in a low voice.

"Yes," Glimmer agreed. "If Peekablue can find a scroll I've hidden inside the palace with his seer powers, he can observe our meetings as well. I'll have to ask Castaspella for help with securing the palace against his power, but it might take a while."

"His power could help us a lot in the war, though," Adora pointed out.

"Yes. But he doesn't want to fight anymore." Glimmer shrugged. "Dad said he saw too much while he was with the first Princess Alliance."

"Oh." Adora nodded with a glance at the prince, who was standing a bit apart from them, with Sweet Bee.

Catra scoffed. If the prince couldn't stomach war, he had no business meddling with those who were fighting in it.

Then the gate stabilised, and they got the all-clear from Earth. Catra grinned. Time to find out how Earth would handle the Princesses. And how the princesses would handle Earth.


Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

Jack O'Neill straightened when the vortex stabilised, and the iris withdrew. "Here they come!" he said. "Put on your best diplomatic smile, and remember: You're not allowed to shoot the nice people with diplomatic immunity no matter how annoying they might get!" he announced.

Carter didn't react, and neither did Teal'c, of course, but Daniel made a sound between a chuckle and a gasp, and Jack thought he caught a soft snort from behind him, where General Hammond, Haig and Petit were waiting. Probably Petit - Hammond was used to Jack's jokes, and Haig never showed any emotion. And the weenies from the State Department looked as if he had just mooned them. They didn't try to scold him, though, so they must have been briefed competently.

He was joking, of course, but only just. It would have been bad enough to meet Princess Sweet Bee and Prince Peekablue, but they were also going to meet pretty much every other princess in the Princess Alliance. They were, effectively, hosting something like the G20 in Stargate Command. On two days' notice.

Jack didn't believe the rumours that the Secretary of State had offered to resign upon being informed of this - that was probably spread by someone angling for the man's job - but the diplomats Washington had sent were certainly nervous enough to make everyone else nervous. Well, everyone not used to the Etherians. And, of course, there was the general shift of priorities in Washington.

"Wouldn't even want to know how bad things would be if we weren't at war," he muttered under his breath. Organising such a visit would have taken months and countless meetings in peacetime.

"Sir?" Carter asked from next to him.

"Nothing. Just musing that the good old 'wartime expediency' thing is working out in our favour for once."


"What do you mean?" Daniel asked.

Fortunately, Jack was spared from explaining just how much worse things could have been by their first visitors stepping through the gate. Adora, followed by Catra.

Followed by a bunch of enthusiastic young people with magic powers looking around as if they were just entering Disneyland for the first time. And an older couple that was trying to appear bored while still looking around as if they were first-time visitors to Disneyland as well.

Those two would be Sweet Bee and Peekablue, then. Sweet Bee actually had wings on her back - far too small to let her fly, if not for magic. And Peekablue was… blue. And kind of… what did Daniel call it? Androgynous? David Bowie-ish in the seventies was what Jack would call it. He pushed the thought away and focused on Netossa and Spinnerella, who were bringing up the rear and looking around unabashedly.

"Hi, Jack!" Adora greeted him. "Hi, Sam, Daniel, Teal'c!"

"Jack." Catra nodded at him and the rest of his team.

"Hello, everyone!" Scorpia beamed.

"Hi, Jack. Sam. Daniel. Teal'c." Glimmer nodded at everyone in turn.

"Sam!" Entrapta headed straight to Carter. "I've got the new designs for our projects. Take a look!"

"Oh, we're underground… Hi, everyone!" Perfuma looked around, waving.

"Hello, everyone." Frosta was trying to act as regal as Glimmer but not quite pulling it off.

Jack noticed the stare from the diplomats. They had been briefed, but meeting the real thing was still a shock, it seemed. Had they expected a group of Queen Elizabeths, all stern and stiff upper lip? Well, time to get this show on the road. He stepped forward and started introducing everyone to everyone.

Which took a while.


"And this is the Gate Control Room," General Hammond explained as they entered it. "This houses the computers controlling the gate."

Jack resisted the urge to make a joke about 'Carter's kingdom. Touch them at your own peril'. She had gone to her lab with Entrapta, so it would have been wasted anyway.

"Oh, nice. Do you have gun emplacements as well? You've got a good field of fire from here." Netossa asked.

"Ah, no," Hammond said.

"But the new gate room we're constructing in Canada will have them," Jack cut in. He had seen the plans, after all. Before and after Carter and Entrapta had gone over them.

"Ah. What type? We've got some Horde Sentry guns back home, but they're not very impressive. Basically immobile bots."

"Heavy machine guns and anti-tank missiles," Jack informed her.

"Pure Earth technology?" Netossa asked, cocking her head.

"Yes. It should be effective enough," Jack confirmed. He was the one who had been pushing for anti-tank missiles, just in case - the Stargate was big enough for a combat vehicle to pass through, after all.

"Stargate Command is operated by forces detached to the United Nations, and so is not allowed to operate equipment restricted to Alliance forces," General Haig explained.

"What about Captain Carter's lab?" Spinerella asked.

"That's a special case," Haig said.

A very special case Jack really didn't want to explain in detail. Mostly because they still hadn't sorted out what pieces of tech belonged to Stargate Command, what belonged to the United States, and what were Alliance property. Jack would have transferred everything out, but Stargate Command needed some advanced technology, for security purposes at least.

"So, you don't trust each other with your technology," Sweet Bee commented.

"We don't share technology outside the Alliance," Glimmer retorted with a toothy smile. "Here or on Etheria - as you already knew."

The other princess sniffed. "If Earth technology can keep a Stargate safe, then evidently, the danger is not as great as you made it out to be."

"Earth military technology is quite effective in ground combat," Adora pointed out. "It's roughly on par with Horde technology during the war on Etheria."

"And yet they need our help? It must be a profitable arrangement, I guess." Sweet Bee was, obviously, not going to be easily swayed. Or at all. She would fit in great with a number of politicians Jack could think of.

But he was used to those kinds of people. That Sweet Bee was a bit younger and better looking than the usual type on Earth - and had wings - didn't make much of a difference as far as he was concerned. They could handle her.

Now Peekablue, on the other hand… He hadn't said much and kept staring at nothing in particular, and Jack had a feeling that it wasn't because the man was stoned out of his mind. Glimmer had mentioned that he had 'the power of far sight', and Jack was wondering - and worried - just how far that sight could reach.


"...and that's about everything here in Stargate Command. I hope you enjoyed your tour."

Adora heard Netossa snicker softly at Jack's comment. Her friend probably thought that Jack was subtly joking about them being tourists. Which could totally be true, of course. But Adora couldn't tell for sure.

"We haven't seen everything," Sweet Bee complained. She shared a glance with Peekablue, Adora noticed. "Not even most of it."

"Yep." Jack smiled sweetly at the princess. "The rest of the base is off-limits for visitors. For security reasons - can't have people stumble into delicate experiments. Or disturb the sick, you know."

"There are no sick people inside this area of the base," Peekablue spoke up, tilting his head back. "And the number of sick people in the areas above us is also quite small."

Jack's smile grew a little toothy. "The area above us isn't part of Stargate Command. That's a normal military base."

One of the most important military bases, as far as Adora knew. But not part of Stargate Command, yes.

"You seriously claim that it isn't the same base?" Sweet Bee scoffed. "We're in the same location - just further below them. We can take a lift to their part of the base. What are you trying to hide with this cheap attempt at sophistry?"

Adora frowned. It was very rude to accuse your hosts of lying to you.

"Stargate Command shares some infrastructure with the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, but we're under United Nations Command," General Hammond replied. "And the base is off-limits to Air Force personnel not assigned to the United Nations, just as Stargate Command forces aren't allowed into the Air Force base above us."

"Can't let the Russians and Chinese take a peek at our aerospace defence," Jack added.

Oh! Adora was sure that this was a deliberate dig at Peekablue - though the prince had made it obvious that he was using his power to peek... to spy on the people here. Which was rude. And which Adora should have said something about. But that might have led to a diplomatic incident and been just what Sweet Bee wanted so she could claim that the Alliance was trying to oppress everyone else.

But now she was claiming that they were hiding things from them. Well, they were - but those were things that Sweet Bee had no right to see.

"A likely excuse!" Sweet Bee scoffed again.

Catra snorted loudly. "You've got a lot of nerve. You spy on the American base above us, then complain that they don't want to show it to you? You should be glad that Stargate Command hasn't thrown you out for that!" She turned to smile at General Hammond. "Which would be totally understandable, by the way."

Adora clenched her teeth. Catra wasn't wrong, not really, but… this was rude as well. Although… Glimmer wasn't saying anything.

Jack chuckled, but the general merely nodded. "That's a political decision."

Everyone looked at the diplomats with the group. They didn't look like they enjoyed being put on the spot like this, in Adora's opinion.

"I am sure this can be solved amiably," their apparent leader, Mister Clark, said with a fake smile. "We are aware that Etherian customs differ from ours and that it is considered rude to prohibit the use of magic power."

"Using your power to spy on others is also considered rude," Glimmer informed him.

"We are here to find out if your claims about the war, Earth and the Goa'uld are true," Peekablue retorted, looking straight at Glimmer. "That was understood from the start. Merely following a prepared tour to show us what you and your allies want us to see and nothing else would have been pointless and against both the letter and spirit of our agreement."

That was… not wrong, either, Adora had to admit. It was still rude, though.

"And I am sure your allies here understood that as well," Sweet Bee added.

"It was a consideration when debating whether or not we would agree to this visit," Clark said. His smile had grown even thinner.

"And you did agree." Swee Bee nodded.

"And you knew that some areas would be off-limits as well," Jack pointed out. "That's how the military works."

"Not that you would know anything about that," Glimmer added with a sneer aimed at Sweet Bee.

"But I would." Peekablue narrowed his eyes at her.

"Then you should act like it," Glimmer told him with a glare.

"I am." He nodded. "While mildly interesting, touring this base does not answer our questions. We need to meet those Goa'uld - and see more of your planet."

"Yes!" Perfuma nodded, then blushed. "I mean… a planet is far more than just a base. Underground."

Adora could see that everyone else from their friends - everyone who was visiting Earth for the first time - agreed. As she had expected.

General Hammond exchanged glances with General Haig and General Petit. "Our Goa'uld prisoners are kept in another location - it has been deemed too dangerous to keep them close to the Stargate. But we can shuttle you to their prison, or you can meet with members of the Tok'ra, although they won't arrive for some time. Of course, should you want to meet the Goa'uld, then, for everyone's safety, we have to insist on physical separation."

"We're aware of their power," Peekablue told him.

"At least of what you claim their power is," Sweet Bee added with a slight sneer.

"We should let a Tok'ra take over her body," Catra whispered.

Adora pressed her lips together. That would… the Tok'ra didn't take over people against their will. And it might be dangerous - they didn't know how magic would react to Goa'uld. And it would be wrong, of course.

But it would be a funny way to shut the princess up. Adora was really tired of hearing Sweet Bee's sniping remarks and not-so-veiled accusations.


"...and so, this data shows how the First Ones combined different species into a new one with parts of both. It's really tricky, by the way - even the First Ones had a lot of failures with the more challenging experiments."

Samantha Carter managed not to wince at the data she was shown. 'Failures' meant not just non-viable results but also people who lived just long enough to die painfully. And people who lived long enough to die slowly and painfully. "Do the others know about this?" she asked.

Entrapta blinked. "I think so - they got the same data we got, didn't they? At least, they have access to the same data. But I would have to check with Glimmer. Or Adora - she's the one Alpha listens to when we need permissions. And Jack, but he's usually not on Etheria."

Sam doubted that the other princesses had analysed the data. Adora would have been shocked at what her ancestors had done and feeling guilty - even though she was absolutely blameless.

"Do you think they will help us? Some of the experiments require magic we don't have access to yet, though I think unless it's an experiment with plants, we should probably ask Castaspella. Or Adora, but she needs the boost to her power from returning magic to a world, and she said she needs better control as well, so that might not be a viable method yet."

"I doubt that they would want to duplicate the experiments of the First Ones," Sam said as gently as she could.

"Well, of course not!" Entrapata nodded firmly, and Sam was just starting to wonder if her friend was aware of the issues when she continued: "We already know how those were done and what results they had. We need new experiments to find a solution to the Jaffa's lack of an immune system."

That wasn't Sam's point, but she nodded anyway. "Yes. But I don't think creating a new species out of Jaffa is the answer. That won't help the Jaffa."

"Yes." Entrapta turned towards the big screen in Sam's lab. "But once we have a viable template, we could use that as a model for altering the Jaffa's bodies."

Gene therapy on that level… Before she had found out about the Ancients and their technology, Sam would have dismissed that as unrealistic science fiction. Or fantasy. But given what they knew now… "That might work, but there might be easier and quicker solutions. Like a symbiotic organism that could also help humans with immunodeficiency. It would certainly be easier to get funding for such a project than for a project to save aliens who were, for the most part, fighting for the Goa'uld."

"That's true. But we can still use this data to see how we might be able to change existing symbionts. Not sapient ones, of course!" Etheria nodded twice. "But if we can change the intestinal bacteria, that would be a great first step. And the final result should be easy to implement - the better bacteria will replace the weaker ones organically."

"It will require extensive testing, though," Sam pointed out. If they created an invasive bacteria that replaced the gut flora in humans and turned out to be harmful or have harmful side effects… that would be a horrible bioweapon. And one manufactured by themselves.

"Yes!" Entrapta beamed. "It should be fun. We might be able to improve the digestive system as well - imagine if we could eat grass, like cows! That would probably solve some of the problems on Earth with food distribution." She frowned. "I still don't understand why you can't just ensure that everyone gets enough food. You've had so long to figure out things, and you have the production and transport capacity according to the data from your logisticians."

Sam winced. "It's a complex situation," she said.

"Why is it complex? People are starving, and others have a surplus of food - according to the fitness reports from the Alliance, you have overweight soldiers. So, the obvious solution is to move food from those who have too much to those who don't have enough." Entrapta shook her head. "Everybody would win that way."

If the Colonel were here, he would make a joke about communist princesses. But he wasn't here - he was dealing with the rest of the visitors from Etheria. He, Daniel and Teal'c. So, it fell to Sam to explain why things were not as simple as they seemed. "It's not just a question of food distribution, but also of politics and business processes. Most 'simple solutions' to similar problems tended to cause more serious problems later."

"More serious problems than people starving?" Entrapta asked.

"Sometimes, more people ended up starving," Sam told her. "Like when food aid caused local food production to become unprofitable."

Once more, her friend frowned. "But… that would only happen if you distributed too much food, wouldn't it?"

Sam sighed. "Not quite. Often, expectations are enough to change how people act - or what they sow. If a farmer expects to get more money producing a cash crop instead of food, then they'll switch production."

"Ah. But isn't the system you use meant to react to that by making food more expensive so people will produce more food?"

Sam pressed her lips together and decided that she would have to have a talk with Daniel about going into more detail when he was teaching people about Earth's economy. "In theory, yes, but it's not as simple as it sounds since humans don't always make perfectly rational decisions - and even if they did, sometimes, the most profitable decision for an individual is not the best for everyone else."

"That sounds like a flaw of the system," Entrapta said.

"Yes. But we haven't found a better system yet."

"That does sound complicated." Entrapta shook her head. "You better find a solution - if you have to keep patching up a broken system, it ends up more work, far more work, than designing a better system from the ground up."

Sam was forced to agree. But this wasn't what they were here for. "Although since neither of us is an economist, we should probably stick to what we can do."

Entrapta nodded. "Yes! Back to Project Smybiont Mark Two!"

Sam sighed with relief. And a bit of shame.


"So… after the prison visit, you want to visit Antarctica, the rainforest in the Amazon basin, New York, Brussels, Switzerland, Disney World, Hawaii, the Vatican and Mecca?"

O'Neill hadn't managed to keep his unfazed facade going, Catra noted, when the princesses had started to answer his question of where they wanted to go after the visit to the Goa'uld's prison. He really should have expected this.

"Yes." Frosta nodded with that overly serious expression of hers that made her look even younger. Catra was glad that she had never tried to look 'mature'. "The shuttle should be able to reach any spot on the planet in less than an hour, right?" She nodded at the shuttle standing behind O'Neill on the landing pad.

"Yes - the shuttle's rated for that speed, though we'll have to go orbital for some trips, I think," Scorpia said before O'Neill - or Daniel, who had already opened his mouth - could react. She would have read up on the shuttles' specs before the attack on Heru'ur's base, of course. "But that will cut down on the time we can actually spend at every location."

"That would run the point of the visit," Perfuma complained. "Maybe we could split up?"

O'Neill's expression clearly showed what he thought of that proposal.

But the other princesses nodded. "I don't want to see a jungle," Frosta said.

"As long as I can visit the sea, I'm fine. Though I would prefer an ocean that's not covered in ice," Mermista added.

"But we should all visit Disney World together," Perfuma added. "It looks far more fun with friends."

"We can't visit Disney World," O'Neill said. "Security reasons," he added with a stern glare. "We would have to shut down the park for your visit, and that would mean shoving thousands of people out for you."

"Oh, no!" Perfuma gasped. "We can't do that - this would be incredibly selfish! And a deserted Disney World doesn't sound like it would be fun, anyway."

"Why would you have to do that?" Sweet Bee asked with narrowed eyes. "Do you want to keep us from talking or even seeing your people?"

"As I told you: security reasons." O'Neill met her eyes.

"A likely answer." Sweet Bee scoffed.

Catra rolled her eyes. "The chance that some dangerous nutcase will attack us is too high," she said. "You arrogant moron," she added under her breath, which earned her a hissed 'Catra!' from Adora.

"A convenient excuse," Sweet Bee shot back. "But you can't keep us from finding out the truth! I assume you'll claim that visiting the Vatican and Mecca is also 'too dangerous'?"

"The Vatican is a sovereign state. Whether or not you can visit the Pope is up to him," O'Neill said. "Mecca is off-limits, though, unless you're a Muslim."

Sweet Bee huffed. "How is their leader supposed to meet with guests, then? Do they have a palace outside their kingdom?"

"I am sure King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has palaces access the world - or can buy one on short notice," O'Neill said with a grin.

Daniel cleared his throat. "I think there's been a misunderstanding," he said. "You want to visit the Vatican and Mecca because you want information about the two biggest religions on Earth, right?"

"And the two most hostile according to you, yes." Sweet Bee nodded. "Speaking to their leaders is the obvious course of action if we want to test this."

"Well, both Christianity and Islam are actually made up of many factions and sects, without an overall leader. The Pope might come closest, but he doesn't represent all or even a clear majority of Christians, only the Catholics. There is no such leader for the Muslim world, though," Daniel explained. "You would be better served to talk to several experts and prominent theologists."

"Which you would carefully choose," Sweet Bee retorted. "We prefer to make our own judgement."

"But your information about Earth is clearly incomplete," Adora told her. "Did you know that magic is illegal in Saudi Arabia?"

"Or that just meeting with you might be enough for the King of Saudi Arabia to be toppled by his family? Or a revolution?" Glimmer scoffed.

"My sources assured me that their information was correct." Sweet Bee glared at her. "And you admitted to hiding information from us!"

"Sounds like exaggerated rumours," Catra said, shaking her head. "Probably something overheard in the Palace by a guard or servant, and then it spread. Unless you let people watch Earth television." She hadn't heard of anything like that, but soldiers always traded and smuggled contraband. Though the timing was off for this to have come from the intervention, and before that, contact with Earth had been limited to their group. Probably rumours, then.

"We didn't import any TVs," Bow said.

"My sources prefer to remain anonymous," Sweet Bee said. "They fear your reaction to revealing your propaganda."

"Or they have peeked at us from afar and didn't quite understand what they saw:" Catra stared at Peekablue. "Did you spy on us watching TV?"

Peekablue had a great poker face and didn't react, but Sweet Bee scowled even more, and Catra was sure that her guess was correct.

"You've been spying on us!" Glimmer spat.

"That's a slanderous accusation without any proof!" Sweet Bee shot back.

She didn't deny it, Catra noted.

"Well, I think we can swing a meeting with the Pope, but Mecca - and Saudi Arabia in general - are off the table," O'Neill said. "Antarctica, though, we can easily do. And I think we can also find a nice safe patch of rainforest in Hawaii."

Catra narrowed her eyes. All those would be safe locations - and under Alliance control.

"I want to talk to other leaders of Earth!" Sweet Bee insisted. "I do not trust your carefully chosen spots to provide us with the information we need!" She stared at O'Neill and crossed her arms over her chest.

"And we won't let you make deals with potentially hostile countries," Glimmer shot back.

"Hah! You show your true colours!" Sweet Bee sneered. "We're sovereign rulers of our own kingdoms! We are not beholden to you!"

And the two started bickering. "Maybe we should let them visit Mecca," Catra whispered to Adora.

"Catra!" Adora shook her head. "But they're right - we can't just keep them from seeing more of Earth if we want this trip to settle their claims."

Catra doubted that Sweet Bee would accept the truth even if it hit her in the face - literally, in some cases - but Adora was right. They had to make an effort to at least give the morons enough rope to hang themselves.

But how to arrange that?

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Chapter 85: Educational Issues Part 4
Chapter 85: Educational Issues Part 4

Thule Air Force Base, Greenland, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

There wasn't much positive about visiting the United States' northernmost base. Thule Air Force Base was located in northern Greenland, on the west coast of the island, in the middle of ice and snow and frozen seas. The closest village was dozens of miles away. Most airmen considered being posted there as a punishment.

Jack O'Neill didn't know who had chosen the location to house their Goa'uld prisoners, but it must have been someone really, really concerned about a snake escaping from prison and hiding amongst the population. Of course, Jack couldn't fault them for being cautious, but still… a glance at the landscape made him have flashbacks to the cave in Antarctica where he and Carter had almost frozen to death.

"At least we can scratch Antarctica from the itinerary for the rest of the visit," he muttered as they stepped out of the shuttle and into the new shuttle hangar they had built with the new prison section here. "This should be close enough for Frosta."

"What did you say, Jack?" Daniel asked as he pulled on the cowl of his jacket, even though they were inside a hangar and not on the airstrip outside. Then again, it was still damn cold - they were just closing the doors again.

"Nothing." Jack gritted his teeth, then raised his voice. "Welcome to Thule Air Force Base! Now our newest prison camp!"

"This is horrible! How can people live here?"

"I can't feel any plants around - except for some lichens, and they are always weird."

"I think housing prisoners here is violating their rights."

"Their rights? What about our rights! We have to visit them here!"


"This is a transparent attempt to discourage us from talking to the population! That you were going as far as to move helpless prisoners to such a location is a disgrace! And why aren't you magically heating this place up?"

"Frosta! What are you doing?"

"This is great! It feels like home!"

Jack turned away from smiling overly sweetly at the Bee Princess and spotted Frosta walking straight to the shrinking opening of the hangar doors, arms spread and beaming as if Disneyland was outside. Obviously, Greenland in the middle of winter was close enough to her own kingdom.

And, equally obvious, the cold wasn't bothering her - she skipped outside just before the doors closed.

"Hey! Wait!"

"Someone get her before she freezes!"

Oh. Some of the airmen stationed here must not have read the briefing about their visitors. Jack raised his arm and stopped them from opening the doors again. "Don't worry about her - she controls the cold."

"What? Sir!" They belatedly saluted him.

"Frosta will be fine," Glimmer told them. "Ice is her element." She was shivering a little, Jack noted.

"Would be great if she could control the cold instead of the ice," Catra commented.

"That's not how elemental powers work," Glimmer shot back.

"I know. But that's how they should work." Catra grinned.

With the doors closed, it was getting warmer - the curtain of hot air that was supposed to keep the cold out when the doors were open wasn't working as well as it should, in Jack's opinion. This was a hangar in Greenland, not a mall in New York. Maybe he should ask Carter for a better system, in case they had to visit this base again… No, that would be irresponsible. And Carter would tell him so.

The airmen looked sceptical. One of them peered through the small windows in the hangar door, then recoiled. "Holy shit! She's surfing on ice - on ice waves!"


Of course, now everyone had to take a look. Jack sighed and clapped his hands together. "So, while Miss Ice Princess is playing with the snow outside, how about we go and visit the snakes held here? The sooner we start, the sooner we're done and can leave for somewhere warmer!"

"Yeah! Let's do this!" Catra agreed. Her tail was twitching.

"We really should have taken our spacesuits," Bow said.

"Not everyone has a spacesuit," Mermista pointed out.

"What? You should have said something. Entrapta made suits for everyone. Well, everyone in the Alliance," Scorpia said.

"Well, she never told us. And how would she have gotten our measurements?" Mermista asked.

"Ah… we had your measurements in our database." Scorpia scratched the back of her head, and her stinger twitched. "Apparently, Double Trouble is really thorough when preparing to impersonate someone."

"You have our measurements?"

"What? When did they take them?"

"I don't know."

"We need better information security. No Horde spy should have gotten that intel."

"Double Trouble wasn't a Horde Spy but in it for themselves," Catra retorted.

"No other spies should have gotten this information either."

Jack pressed his lips together so he wouldn't make a joke about their weight to the airmen. At least, most of the men were now staring at the princesses inside the hangar and not crowding the small window to the outside.

"What the… the airstrip is now covered in frozen waves of ice!"

Jack had spoken too soon. "Don't worry, she'll clean that up," he told the men.

He hoped he wasn't wrong. If they had to clean up that maze of ice waves and ramps by themselves… Jack was really glad shuttles didn't need an airstrip and could take off vertically, or they would be stuck here for a while. Oh.

Bending down, he whispered: "Someone needs to tell Frosta to clean the airstrip once she's done. Before Her Honeyness thinks this is a plot to keep them here."

Glimmer sighed as she nodded.

"I'm really sorry," Adora added with a grimace.

Catra scoffed. "Whatever. Let's go talk to the snakes."


This base was… well, Adora couldn't say it was horrible. It was built nicely - at least the part they were visiting. That one was brand-new. She didn't see any sign of the wear and tear you got after a garrison had been quartered there for a few years. No odd smells, either. And it looked quite comfortable - Stargate Command style, not Hordak's Horde style. Or Horde Prime's.

But it was located at what Jack called the end of the world, as close to the North Pole as it could get, or so she had heard. And it had been in use for decades, as part of their early warning system or something, in the Cold War between the United States and Russia. To be stuck here for months or years… She shuddered. She would wish that on no one. Well, maybe on Frosta - the princess apparently loved it here, from what Adora had seen before that had left the hangar. The outside had been covered in ice structures by then.

"This is a new prison. You built a special prison for your enemies?" Sweet Bee asked.

"Yes. Our normal prisons were not really set up for Goa'uld," Jack told her.

"You treat them like a princess," Peekablue added before his eyes lost focus - he was using his magic again.

"Well, you could say that!" Jack laughed, then blinked and seemed surprised.

Adora didn't quite understand what he found funny - you had to take special precautions when dealing with captured princesses. They had taught that to every Horde soldier. And the Alliance knew that as well - it was obvious, after all.

Catra snorted at Jack - Adora would have to ask her what was funny. After this, though - they had just reached another checkpoint with a closed door. A closed airlock, if that was the same type as the one they had gone through at the top.

It was. And there were lots of sensors that Adora could spot - probably Sam and Entrapta's work.

"Even if the Goa'uld managed to escape, we could find them with the scanner," Catra commented as they stepped through the airlock. "There was no need to move them to the end of the world."

"But if they escaped in a more populated area, they could do a lot of damage and hurt a lot of people before we could recapture them," Bow pointed out.

"They could have found a warmer place, at least," Catra retorted.

"Well, apparently, someone thought the cold would be an added deterrent against the Goa'uld." Jack shrugged. "They probably didn't get that they aren't actual reptiles which would be bothered by the cold."

"I think everyone would be bothered by the cold here," Glimmer said.

"Except for our snow princess," Catra added with another snort. "I'd say she has ice water for blood, but she's too hotheaded for that."

Adora frowned at her. You didn't talk about your friends like that. She knew better than to say anything, though - Catra would make a remark about not being friends with Frosta. And vice versa. Well, that might change. Someday.

"Good security in any case," Netossa said, nodding appreciatively.

"It certainly emphasises how worried you are about your prisoners," Sweet Bee… kinda agreed? But she was smiling in a slightly mocking way, Adora noticed. Another barb, then. Or an insinuation.

Adora was really tired of this kind of talk. It reminded her a bit too much of how Shadow Weaver had liked to twist words.

"That's because we are," Jack told her. "They can take over your body, turning you into a prisoner in your own mind."

Spinnerella shuddered, and Adora saw Netossa hug her.

She glanced at Catra, but her lover didn't show any reaction at the - probably accidental - reminder of how Horde Prime had controlled her. She was remembering it, though - Adora knew that.

She grabbed Catra's hand to gently squeeze it and frowned at Jack, but he was already approaching the next, and hopefully last checkpoint before the actual cell area.

Five minutes later - and one comment from Catra about the time it would take if they had to reach the prisoners in a hurry, and another from Glimmer about how she would be able to bypass all checkpoints, which left Jack grimacing and the guards staring - they were finally in front of the cells - or habitats - of Seth and Osiris. And a few more behind them - the place was set up to hold a lot of them, Adora realised. Well, that was just thinking ahead.

"Hello!" she said, waving at the transparent windows.

"So, these are Goa'uld?" Sweet Bee leaned forward to peer at the two prisoners, who seemed to ignore her. "Are they well?"

They looked, well, healthy, as far as Adora could tell, and the habitats looked nice, but she had expected them to react at once to their arrival, and the two Goa'uld didn't do that. Were they affected this badly by the lack of a sapient host? That would be… a big problem. They couldn't provide them with hosts, that would be cruel to the hosts, but leaving them like this would also be cruel.

Catra, though, scoffed. "They're just playing for sympathy."

"Yeah. Don't let them fool you," Jack added.

"Of course, you'd say that." Sweet Bee sniffed. "Can they hear us?"

If they couldn't, Adora would have looked very foolish for talking to them.

"Yes. They just don't want to talk, it seems." Jack shrugged.

But then Seth moved towards the tiny keyboard in his cell, and as soon as he had started moving, Osiris moved to his own. Both typed quickly, and synthetic voices rang out simultaneously.

"Greetings." "I greet you, visitors."

Adora expected them to glare at each other, but they kept talking - at the same time.

"You aren't Tau'ri." "What brings you to my humble abode?"

"Please, don't talk at the same time; it's hard to understand you," Adora said, raising her hand.

"Yes. Stay silent while your betters talk!" Seth told Osiris.

"Why would they talk to a traitorous piece of filth like you? You have proven time and again that you cannot be trusted!"

"You, who tried to usurp Ra's power with your wife, accuse me of being a traitor?"

"I did not spend thousands of years amongst the Tau'ri, founding cults and then enticing my followers into suicide once I grew tired of them."

"You didn't because you were imprisoned for your betrayal."

"A betrayal you set up - only to double-cross us! Only a fool would trust a single word of yours after this!"

"You would have betrayed me in a heartbeat, brother!"

"No! I trusted you!"

"Trusted me to be betrayed! You think I wasn't aware that you were willing to stab me in the back on your wife's orders?"

Adora saw Jack push a few buttons on the keyboard on the wall next to the cells, and the synthetic voices of the two Goa'uld grew dimmer.

"I've also muted us. I am kind of curious how long it will take them to notice," he told them with a grin.

"They are brothers?" Sweet Bee asked.

"Yep. That's your typical wholesome Goa'uld family. Backstabbing, bickering and bitching all day long."

Sweet Bee eyed the two Goa'uld. "They are thousands of years old?"


"Yet, they bicker like children." She shook her head.

"Don't be fooled by their antics - they have oppressed and murdered countless people," Daniel cut in. "You cannot underestimate them."

"They loathe each other, yet you have placed them in cells next to each other?" Sweet Bee shook her head. "That seems cruel."

"Well… isolating them would be cruel as well." Jack shrugged. "Can't win here. And they can mute each other and turn the cell windows opaque, so it's not as if they're forced to talk or even see each other."

"And they might let slip important information while they bicker," Peekablue said.

Jack nodded, and his grin widened a bit. "Mostly historical information - they have been stuck on Earth one way or the other for the last few thousand years - but it helps piecing together how the snakes think."

"The Goa'uld rulers have been in power for a very long time," Daniel added. "And as you can see, they carry grudges."

Sweet Bee frowned, but Adora couldn't tell if she was annoyed at the Goa'uld, Adora and her friends, or herself. "We still want to talk to them."

"Be our guest," Jack told her, spreading his hands. "Once they stop bickering, they will probably be ready to talk. But I'd suggest talking to each one separately."

"Of course." Sweet Bee scoffed. "It's clear that they cannot stand each other, so trying to talk to them together would not serve our needs. Now, who is the higher-ranked?"

"Higher-ranked?" Jack blinked.

"It would be a fauxpas if we talked to the lower ranked of the two first," Sweet Bee explained.

"And that would be inconceivable, right?" Jack asked.

His sarcasm was quite obvious, and Sweet Bee glared at him. "The proper forms have to be observed. Especially if you have someone at your mercy. How could you trust someone who only shows respect when forced to?"

Jack narrowed his eyes at the princess, but Adora couldn't help but agree - a bit, at least. And many of her friends seemed to agree as well.

"We don't really follow the whole 'nobles are better than peasants' on Earth. Everyone's equal," Jack told Sweet Bee.

Sweet Bee scoffed in return. "That you elect your leaders does not change the fact that you have leaders who command and others who follow. Like you have officers leading soldiers."

"Uh, that's not exactly the point," Daniel spoke up. "In those cases, it's about the position - tied to the position."

"And their current position is 'prisoners'," Jack said.

"And yet, they were rulers both. That demands respect," Sweet Bee retorted.

"Respect has to be earned," Jack shot back.

"And they were toppled by their own," Catra added with a shrug. "They weren't princesses when we captured them but fugitives. Osiris technically was a prisoner already."

"That doesn't mean they shouldn't be treated without respect," Sweet Bee spat with a glare.

"We do that," Adora spoke up. "They are people, like us. And we do our best to treat them in a respectful manner." She was pretty sure they did, and the United States would know better than to abuse prisoners, but she might have to check that after this.

"We are not going to treat them like the gods they claim to be. They are false gods." Teal'c inclined his head.

"Yeah. We're not going to worship them and stuff," Jack said, showing his teeth in a grin. "But feel free to do so if you want."

Sweet Bee scoffed once more. "I shall address them as fits a captured leader. But, again: Who amongst them is the higher-ranked?"

"Uh…" Daniel grimaced. "That's actually a good question. Osiris's power seemed to have been tied to Isis as much or more than to his own achievements, but he was the first Pharaoh, or so our sources claim, while we are a bit at a loss about the exact status of Seth - he was subordinate to Ra, that much we know, but whether he was of a higher rank than Osiris remains in doubt." He cocked his head. "I don't think we actually looked into this, and I think we should since it might grant us more insight into Goa'uld society."

Sweet Bee blinked. "So, you don't know."

"Yes." Daniel smiled at her.

Catra snickered, and Adora had to suppress a chuckle herself at the way Sweet Bee flushed with annoyance.


Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"...and so, the bacteria have an effect on the immune system, but it's an indirect effect. We need a more direct effect. Although if we supplemented the immune system through that method and then increased that effect, we might be able to replace a non-functional immune system."

Samantha Carter nodded - Entrapta's reasoning seemed sound. Even though, she noted for herself with some amusement, it might actually validate all those 'boosts your immune system' ads certain companies put out for their latest overpriced placebo line. Still… "Yes, that might work," she said. "But we might have to run this past Dr Fraiser. She's the medical expert on the base." And Sam's friend had the most experience with alien biology of all the medical professionals on Earth, something that a lot of experts were still struggling with. Very much like Sam's situation, actually.

"OK! Let's go!" Entrapta jumped up from her seat, her hair sweeping up her presentation materials and recorder. Emily, standing behind her, beeped. "Oh, yes, you can stop that, Emily!"

The holoprojection in the centre of the lab vanished.

Sam realised that Entrapta was about to head to the infirmary. "Ah… I think it would be better if we ask Janet to meet us here," she said. "We wouldn't want to disturb her work."

"Oh?" Entrapta stopped halfway to the door, and Emily also came to a halt a yard behind her. "But she's got all the special gear in her lab, right?"

Of course, Sam's friend wanted to start experimenting right away. She should have realised that. Sam smiled. "We're still in the planning stage. We need to prepare any experiments properly, I think, and then set up a proper lab for it. Janet's infirmary is meant to treat people." Even though they also had had to deal with other emergencies there from time to time. Of course, that fell under treating people as well if you wanted to be technical.

"Ah." Entrapta blinked, then nodded. Her hair, tools still held in tendrils, bopped, and she turned around. "So… let's call her!"

Sam smiled and reached for her phone.


Thule Air Force Base, Greenland, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

Catra was growing less fond of this stupid ice base - and the memories of that stupid mission in the war that they brought - with every minute she had to watch Sweet Bee make a fool of herself. "Why do you care about the ranks of the prisoners? They're both former System Lords or whatever, and now they're prisoners. Anything beyond that is stupid. Just pick one and talk to them!" she snapped.

"It's not stupid!" the moron insisted with a glare that was probably meant to be scathing but only made her look more stupid to someone who had faced Shadow Weaver and Hordak at their worst. "There are forms to be observed. Not that you would be familiar with that concept!"

Catra scoffed in return. She was familiar with all the princess stuff and rules - from preparing for the Princess Prom, and just hanging out with Adora, of course - but she didn't care for it. But, speaking of… "Just use the rules of the Princess Prom to determine who you talk to first." She managed not to add 'moron', but it was a close call.

"That doesn't apply here!" Sweet Bee retorted. "We're visitors, not their guests! And they're prisoners, not hosts! This isn't like Princess Prom at all!"

Catra bared her fangs in a grin. "Then it's simple, as representative of our hosts, Jack can decide who you will see first."

O'Neill shot her a glare, but she ignored him. He had brought them here, so he could sort this out! And it wasn't as if talking to Osiris or Seth first would make any difference, in Catra's opinion. Both would do their best to lie in an attempt to turn them.

"Yes," Glimmer was quick to agree - probably as tired of this shit as Catra. "Just pick one. Sweet Bee can blame you if one of the Goa'uld complains. You don't mind that, do you?"

Judging by O'Neill's grin, he loved getting blamed by the Goa'uld for anything that annoyed or hurt them. "Alright. So, let's talk to Seth first."

"Why Seth?" Sweet Bee immediately asked.

"He's got the shorter name," O'Neill told her with a serious expression.

Sweet Bee blinked, opened her mouth, then closed it and frowned. But, for a change, she didn't complain. "Very well," she said, sounding very put on.

Catra refrained from offering a high-five to O'Neill.

The two prisoners had stopped arguing halfway into the princess's tantrum and had watched them intently, which was a change from their earlier behaviour. Catra wondered how well they were holding together without a sapient host, but asking now would set off Sweet Bee again.

"Greetings, Lord Seth," the moron in question began after O'Neill had pushed a few buttons and nodded. "I am Princess Sweet Bee of Etheria. This is Prince Peekablue. We would like to ask you a few questions about the Goa'uld. This isn't an interrogation, though; we are merely curious about your society." She bowed, if not terribly deep. "And we aren't members of the Princess Alliance so we have no quarrel with you."

Peekablue bowed with a bit more flair, but the way he wasn't really focused on anything ruined the effect.

"Greetings, Princess. Prince." Seth didn't bow, but as a snake, that would have looked weird anyway. "You are not members of the Alliance, but you are with them?"

"We're on a diplomatic visit to Earth representing a coalition of independent realms on Etheria," Sweet Bee told him.

Catra could see the snake perk up at that. Like an instructor spotting a cadet about to screw up.

This was going to go great, she thought with a scoff.


"...so, you see, I was not involved with this war - I was stranded on Earth thousands of years ago, before any of the countries waging war today existed, and did my best to live my life without being noticed by the local rulers."

Jack O'Neill rolled his eyes at Seth's lies and spoke up before Sweet Bee could comment: "That's what you call creating suicide cults all over the place?"

"Suicide cults?" the princess asked, turning to glance at Jack. "What do you mean?"

"He recruited people to worship him and then had them kill themselves when he tired of them," Jack explained. Had she missed the barb from Osiris earlier?

"It's a bit more complicated than that, but, essentially, that's correct," Daniel added.

"I was worshipped as a god, and when I had to go into hiding after the authorities started oppressing my faith, my followers, unwilling to live without me, decided to kill themselves. And they were facing torture and death at the hands of the human rulers anyway since they had forsaken their fake religion in favour of following me," Seth retorted. "Instead of being burned alive, they decided to end their lives on their terms."

"Humans kill those who don't follow your religion?" Sweet Bee gasped.

"No!" Jack snapped. Of course, she would focus on that, and not on the fact that Seth had driven his worshippers to suicide!

"Well, several countries still have the death penalty for apostasy," Daniel unhelpfully pointed out. "Although that hasn't been the case in Western, I mean, Alliance countries, for a long time."

"I have heard about your zealots and how they wish to murder us for living our lives differently." Sweet Bee nodded.

"Oh, yes," Seth chimed in again. "They are very intolerant of other religions - a natural reaction, of course, when their god doesn't exist."

"Says the parasite posing as a god," Jack shot back.

"Of course, someone who believes that there is only one god - and a god who is conveniently intangible and only acts through his worshippers at that - would disparage other religions." Seth's synthetic voice was far too smooth for Jack's taste. He had to talk to Carter about that. "You call me a false god, yet I provided for my faithful. I gave them guidance, sharing my wisdom with my chosen ones, healing them in need and offering a safe home for those who wished to live a life different from that mandated by those zealots."

Between advertising and Cold War propaganda, Jack had heard a lot of bullshit, but this took the cake. "You used technology and lies to fool gullible people into worshipping you as a god!"

"You are a false god tricking the Tau'ri," Teal'c added. "And you abandoned your faithful as soon as it became convenient."

"And yet, I offered more than your god ever did, Colonel O'Neill," Seth said. "Which is why, as soon as you noticed me, you stormed my home, killed my followers and captured me even though I had never done anything to hurt your country. So much for the freedom of religion that you tout so often."

Was the snake seriously claiming that his freedom of religion had been violated?

Daniel spoke up before Jack found the right words to react. "Well, while, technically, your followers' freedom of religion was violated, you also committed several crimes. Even leaving aside the fact that you enslaved your host…"

"My followers willingly embraced my gifts!" Seth cut in.

Daniel ignored it and continued: "...you also gathered illegal weapons and used violence and illegal drugs to control your followers. And I am sure you violated zoning laws with your construction."

Jack blinked, then snorted at the last line. If Daniel tried, he could snark with the best of them.

And Sweet Bee seemed, at last, reconsidering her sympathy for the poor captured false god. "You used drugs on your people?"

"Mind control drugs," Glimmer added.

"That is how the false gods operate - they use all manner of tricks to deceive, control and enslave their victims," Teal'c said. "And those they cannot control or enslave, they kill."

"One of them has enslaved Sha're, my wife." Daniel glared at Seth. "They took over her body as their own."

"I had nothing to do with that. In my time, being chosen as a host for your god was a great honour," the snake lied. "And if we are criticising manipulative practises, what about threatening people with eternal torment if they do not follow your god? Or putting those who refuse to convert to the sword? I have seen countless atrocities committed in the name of gods, yet not once I saw any of those gods actually appear. You call me a false god, but you worship an imaginary god!"

Someone had a grudge against Christianity. "If someone appeared claiming to be God and trying to prove it through trickery, we'd call them false as well," Jack told him.

"So, the only god you accept is one who never appears. As I have said before, that is very convenient for you." The snake turned its ugly head and looked at Adora. "Do you call her a fake goddess as well?"

"I'm no goddess!" Adora snapped at once.

"And yet, you are worshipped as a goddess. And after you saved your faithful, you continued to provide them with guidance and healing, generously sharing your divine gifts," Seth told her.

Jack gritted his teeth. Seth must have picked up quite a lot from TV before they captured him.

"That doesn't make me a goddess!"

"Goddess, princess… those are mere semantics," Seth said. "We are leaders with wisdom and powers beyond our followers'. Call it divine right or noblesse oblige, but do we not have a duty to provide for those bereft of our gifts?"

And Sweet Bee nodded. "Of course! A ruler is supposed to protect, help and lead her people! That is why we have our powers!"

"But we shouldn't be worshipped as gods!" Adora spat.

"So much for freedom of religion." The snake managed to even sound smug through the computer.

Jack clenched his teeth. This wasn't going according to plan.

"If there was such a duty, then you failed it every time you abandoned your cults. Leaders worthy of that position do not sacrifice their followers to save themselves." Teal'c slowly inclined his head.

And Sweet Bee blinked.


"Yes!" Adora nodded emphatically. Teal'c had cut to the heart of the matter. "If Seth were a princess, he'd have abandoned his kingdom as soon as an enemy showed up that looked dangerous," she told Sweet Bee. The other princess had to see that!

"Ugh." Mermista scoffed.

Adora winced - her friend would have some words about people abandoning their princess and kingdom, but, fortunately, Mermista wasn't voicing them. Adora really should have thought about her phrasing.

"It's worse than that," Catra cut in. "Seth here used his followers' deaths to hide his own disappearance. Once his followers were dead, he could kill his host, take a new one, and disappear - with everyone involved dead, no one would look for him." She bared her fangs. "Killing everyone was the plan from the start."

"Yeah, like a parasite, he sucked his followers dry, and when they were no longer useful to him, he killed them without another thought," Jack added. "That's how the Go'auld are."

"That's a gross misrepresentation!" Seth protested. "When I was openly worshipped, before Osiris and his wife tried to topple Ra and I was caught between them, my faithful were cared for! If not for the Tau'ri hunting down all those who didn't follow their religion, my community would have endured without any trouble!"

Daniel scoffed - it was weird to see him sneer like that, Adora realised. "You would have killed them anyway since you were hiding from Ra as well, and having a lasting cult would have exposed you."

Perfuma gasped in the background.

"No! The fault lies with the intolerant and violent Tau'ri!" Seth snapped.

He didn't sound so smooth and persuasive any more, Adora noticed. He sounded desperate.

And Sweet Bee had realised that as well. The princess frowned as she addressed him. "Did you try to save your followers?"

"Of course! I tried everything - they only chose death when there was no way out anymore!"

"That's a lie!" Daniel snapped. "We've looked into the records of your cults and their ends - they weren't hunted by the authorities - in almost all cases, they were discovered after your followers had killed themselves!"

"And they didn't choose anything," Glimmer chimed in with a scowl. "You used drugs on them to control their minds."

"Yes! We have the records for that as well." Daniel nodded.

For a second, Seth didn't say anything - Adora could see him twist. Then his synthetic voice rang out again. "Those records are false! They're trying to frame me so they can fool you," he told Sweet Bee.

But the princess shook her head. "Why didn't you claim that from the beginning? Or when those drugs were mentioned the first time?"

Seth once more hesitated to answer.

Sweet Bee nodded. "I don't think you can be trusted, Lord Seth." She turned to Jack. "I would like to speak to Lord Osiris now."

"Wait! This is a plot! You can't trust…"

Jack pushed a button, and Seth's voice was cut off in the middle of his sentence.

Adora suppressed a sigh. That had been tiring. At least Sweet Bee was as critical towards Seth's claims as she was towards the Alliance. And Seth hadn't had good arguments for his lies. She could only hope Osiris wasn't going to do any better.


Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"...and that's why we wanted to ask you about this," Samantha Carter finished her explanation, Entrapta nodding along.

"I see." Janet nodded as well and shifted on her seat in their lab. "You want to use genetic engineering to… create a symbiotic strain of bacteria to boost or replace a failing immune system."

"Exactly!" Entrapta beamed at her. "And we need your help to do that properly. Without accidentally creating a bioweapon. Or a sapient species that needs human guts to survive."

Janet's smile grew more than a little forced. "I think I can help you avoid either outcome," she said.

Sam didn't miss the glance her friend shot at her and winced a little. In hindsight, their explanation sounded a bit… well, it might leave the wrong impression. Even though Sam couldn't honestly exclude both possible results that Entrapta had mentioned. Not when magic and Ancient technology were involved.

Janet sighed and went on. "But I don't think I can offer a lot of help with your actual project. I am a doctor, not a geneticist."

That would have earned her a Star Trek joke if the Colonel was here, Sam knew.

Entrapta was still beaming at Janet. "Oh, don't worry about that! We've got so many ideas to test, one of them should work out! And we've got the First Ones research data to use as well - they knew a lot about creating new species, you know!"

"I see." The narrowed glance at Sam intensified.

Sam winced again and hoped she wasn't blushing. There was no reason to be embarrassed, anyway - testing multiple approaches was how you did research as a scientist. Well, one of the ways you did research. Even if it did sound a bit like what a mad scientist in a B-movie would say.

At least the Colonel wasn't here. He'd have a field day teasing Sam about this.


Thule Air Force Base, Greenland, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"So, you have seen through Seth's pathetic lies."

Catra sighed. Loudly, not softly. Adora shot her a glance, but she ignored it. Osiris went straight to gloating about his brother's failure, and that wasn't… well, Catra knew how stupid it was to focus on beating your rival when you should be focusing on actually achieving your objectives. Knew it very, very well from personal experience. Painful experience.

"Yes, Lord Osiris," Sweet Bee replied. "And now I would like to hear what you have to say."

At least the princess didn't apologise for not talking to this snake first.

"About Seth? Or about my current, unjustified predicament?"

"About you and your peers, the other System Lords." Sweet Bee inclined her head.

Catra narrowed her eyes for a moment. If this were someone else, Catra would consider that a smart attempt to get intel. But since it was Sweet Bee… She glanced at Peekablue, but the prince was still doing his 'obviously using my farsight power' thing and staring at a corner of the room. If he started drooling, someone would have to get a picture.

"Well, technically, I was stripped of my position by Ra after Seth manipulated me and my beloved wife into opposing him," Osiris replied.

"But you did try to depose him, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did. Isis…" Osiris sighed, a bit overly dramatic, in Catra's opinion. "My beloved was always ambitious, and I believed she would be a better ruler than Ra - an opinion, I think, that history vindicated."

Sweet Bee slowly nodded but didn't seem to agree.

"Well, getting pushed off Earth by a bronze-age revolution isn't exactly a feather in old Ra's cap," O'Neill commented.

"Isis warned him not to underestimate Earth's magic," Osiris said. "But, as he was wont to do, he ignored her advice."

Now that was interesting.

"Earth's magic?" Daniel spoke up. "What do you know about it?"

"I was there when it grew from primitive rituals into sophisticated spellcraft." Osiris sounded smug even in the bot voice he was using. Catra wondered how Entrapta and Sam had managed that.

"And all under your nose?" O'Neill shook his head.

"Isis was a patron of magic. Under her guidance, her faithful advanced by leaps and bounds."

"And she was guiding them despite not being able to use magic herself?" Glimmer scoffed. "Or was she just trying to find a way to use a sorceress as a host without losing access to their magic?"

Osiris hesitated a moment. "Can you fault her for that? This power, so versatile, so… close, yet out of our reach. Who would, in our place, not have attempted to secure it for themselves?"

That sounded honest, in Catra's opinion. And quite understandable, from a certain point of view. But, she added to herself with a smirk, to some, it sounded quite bad…

"Magic is a talent you're born with. A gift as well as an obligation," Sweet Bee said. With a frown, she added: "It's not something you can take for yourself as if it were a mere physical good."

"Yeah," O'Neill chimed in with a smug grin. "How could it be proof of your divine right to rule if everyone could just grab it as well?"

"There is a difference between magic powers and the talent for sorcery, Colonel O'Neill," Sweet Bee retorted. "Casting spells does not make you a princess."

Catra snorted, softly, at the scowl that briefly appeared on O'Neill's face. Sweet Bee might not have been aware of his talent for sorcery or how he loathed it, but she had certainly hit him in an uncomfortable spot.

"Yeah, yeah. Those Ancients certainly knew how to pick the leaders for their experimental subjects." O'Neill shot back.

"The same people who built a network of Stargates linking the galaxy's worlds, millions of years ago? As far as endorsement of our rule is concerned, I could think of far worse choices."

Before O'Neill could go on about democracy again, Osiris cut in: "Indeed. And the Goa'uld inherited their works - the Stargates and their technology. To take care of the galaxy in their place."

"To enslave and oppress people, you mean," Glimmer corrected him. "It was all for your own power, not for your subjects' welfare."

"Even a god's power is limited - if not by their resources, then by their peers. Isis and I did what we could, and if not for Seth and Ra, we would have done far more." He sighed. "But we were betrayed and defeated, then imprisoned in stasis jars - separated from each other. When I woke up, it was to the devastating news that my beloved had died when her pod had failed."

"You have my condolences," Sweet Bee told him. "So, you were a prisoner for all this time?"

"When my body was sealed away, Ra was the ruler of the Goa'uld Empire, and his seat was on Earth. To find out that he was dead, and that Earth was fighting the Empire, was another shock." Osiris sighed again. "Unfortunately, the Tau'ri count me as their enemy even though not even once did I fight them."

"You only oppressed and enslaved our ancestors," Daniel said.

"If left to their own devices, they would have fought each other - as your history after the rebellion showed." Osiris shook his head, which looked weird for a snake. "And it was a different time. Every Lord was sometimes forced to use harsh measures for the greater good. Back then, few Tau'ri had the necessary knowledge and wisdom to understand leadership. Isis and I planned to change that. We meant to educate our faithful so they would grow in wisdom, could be trusted to lead their own. But, as you know, it was not to be. Our plans, our goals, were foiled by treachery."

"Why would you plan to abolish your own rule?" Sweet Bee asked. "If you're the most capable ruler, why should you step down? That makes no sense."

Osiris seemed surprised. Had he expected a princess to support democracy? Catra snorted again.

He recovered quickly, though. "Of course not. But even a wise ruler requires skilled help. Administrators. Guards. Servants."

"Slaves," Daniel added with a scoff. "No matter their titles, they were slaves to your whims."

"What was the alternative? No Tau'ri, back in my time, could have been truly free. They were at the mercy of the weather. Or anyone more powerful than them. That was how things were: The strong ruled, and the weak obeyed. And have things truly changed?"

"Yeah, we have those things called 'rights' now," O'Neill snapped.

"You enslaved your faithful?" Sweet Bee sounded shocked.

"That's a matter of definitions," Osiris replied quickly. "And, ultimately, a meaningless label. If you are not the most powerful, then you are bound to obey someone else, and does it then matter whether you are called a slave or a subordinate? You obey either way."

Sweet Bee scowled at the Goa'uld. "Being more powerful does not give you the right to force your will on others! The very reason we are here is because we do not obey the Alliance's decrees!"

Catra grinned as she saw the Goa'uld recoil once he realised his mistake. He really put his foot in it there.

It's fascinating to see the etherians being just so outside context that the system lords can't even manipulate them.
Chapter 86: Educational Issues Part 5
Chapter 86: Educational Issues Part 5

Thule Air Force Base, Greenland, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

Well, that went better than expected.

Jack O'Neill was smiling when they left the cell block - well, the aquarium section would be more appropriate, given the cells were special habitats for Goa'uld prisoners, but his suggestion for a name change had been ignored. Still, what mattered was that the two snakes had, by just being themselves, shown their annoying visitor that the Goa'uld were not misunderstood nice aliens but really as bad as everyone who knew them - even or especially the Tok'ra, who would know best - claimed.

Alright, it would have been better if the killer argument hadn't been 'they fail at being good absolute rulers for their faithful', but in politics - and this was politics - you had to take what you could get.

As soon as the doors of the lift carrying them out of the special section closed behind them, he clapped his hands together. "Alright, kids! Now, what's next on the itinerary?"

"We get Frosta to stop playing with the snow and ice, make her clean up the airstrip and leave this forsaken dump for someplace warmer and nicer," Catra said.

Right. Jack had almost forgotten that the kid was still out there. Although it was nice that she had decided to play for once instead of acting all 'serious ruling princess'. "Sounds good," he said. "Any preference about the next destination?"

"Hawaii!" Perfuma blurted out. "I want to meet the plants of Earth!"

"Geneva," Her Honeyness declared. "We need to talk to other leaders of your planet."

Like hell! Jack managed to keep smiling, even though the last thing he wanted was to let the twit talk to the United Nations. It had been difficult enough to keep her from the Russians and Chinese at Stargate Command, and that had only worked because the Alliance had declared this an Alliance matter thanks to their majority in the Command Council.

Unfortunately, flat-out denying this request was, apparently, not possible for reasons of diplomacy. Or something. Jack had received clear orders about that, and Glimmer had confirmed it - and she didn't like it either.

Now, delaying it, on the other hand, was totally fine. So he grinned. "And we'll travel to Geneva afterwards," he told her. "We're still waiting for permission to enter Switzerland - we have to respect their sovereignty, after all. Might doesn't make right, as you know."

Judging by the glare he received from Daniel, he was laying it on a bit too thick. And Sweet Bee was narrowing her eyes at him as well. "As far as I understand, Earth's United Nations meet in New York as well, which is part of the United States and, therefore, should be easily accessible."

"Well, yes," Jack admitted. "But that's the problem - we don't want you to claim that we rigged the meeting by having it happen in our country. Since Switzerland is neutral and not part of the Alliance, this won't be a problem there."

Sweet Bee still frowned at him, but Peekablue nodded. "That seems fair. And I am curious about this Hawaii myself."

"Great! So, who's going to tell Frosta that playtime's over?" Jack asked - they had just reached the top level.

"Not it!" Catra announced. "I'm not going to step outside in this weather. And Frosta wouldn't listen to me anyway," she added with a grin.

"I'll do it," Adora said, with a sigh that told Jack she was used to this.

"Alright!" Glimmer nodded. "Call if you need help."

It didn't sound sincere to Jack - and as soon as they entered the hangar, everyone but Adora made a beeline for the shuttle and its warm passenger compartment.

Jack as well - his job description didn't include 'wrangle ice princesses in the middle of Greenland'. "I'll be starting the pre-flight check."

"Is that really necessary?" Mermista asked.

"It's standard procedure," he told her. "If it flies, you do a pre-flight check." Even though the shuttles were supposed to be as reliable as Jeeps. Jack had heard similar claims about other vehicles.

"We just turned the engines on in the Horde flyers," Catra commented as they reached the shuttle.

"And let me guess: If you lost one to a malfunction, there were more where it came from?" Jack asked, baring his teeth.

"Yes." She matched his grin. "Cut response times down, though."

"I bet it did." It seemed as if the Horde had studied the Russian way of doing things. Well, they had lost the war despite putting tanks against archers. And against magic and trick arrows that would make Green Arrow green with envy… Jack blinked. Good thing he hadn't said that out loud.

He snorted anyway as he walked around the shuttle, checking the engines and the landing gear, and the fuselage in general.

"You don't do this in the field," Bow commented.

"We do it unless it's an emergency," Jack corrected him. If you were under fire, all that counted was getting away as soon as possible. Though Air Force planes generally didn't land in the field. Or if they did, they didn't take off afterwards. But they were in a hangar, on an Air Force base, and airmen were watching - and Jack knew what kind of damage it did if you 'relaxed' such procedures or let the enlisted think they weren't critical. "Well, it checks out."

He stepped inside to do the rest of the checklist.


Over the Pacific Ocean, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"Oh, imagine sailing on this ocean! To boldly go where no Dragon's Daughter has gone before! Adventure!"

"Ugh. You mean, to boldly sink where no Dragon's Daughter has sunk before?"

"Ah, my dear Mermista! No ship will sink if you are with me! Just imagine - the Dragon's Daughter VII, sailing the seven seas of Earth! The two of us, travelling to the distant ports of a strange planet! Enjoying alien sunsets and fresh breezes! Oh, I wish we were flying so low that we could open the windows and smell the ocean breeze!"

"The windows of a shuttle don't open."

"The airlock then!"

"Ugh, no!"

Adora grinned at the antics of her friends. First Frosta playing in Greenland, now Mermista and Seahawk enjoying the Pacific Ocean - well, one of them was, but Adora was sure Mermista would like it as well, even if she didn't like to show it. And Hawaii would be a paradise for Perfuma with all those new plants.

It was almost ironic that this trip was the result of Sweet Bee's stubborn refusal to trust Adora and her friends about the Goa'uld. Or maybe it was ironic - Adora wasn't sure. But this was turning into a nice trip.

"I don't see any difference between this and our own oceans," Sweet Bee said.

"That's because you aren't a sailor!"

"No, it's because she's a fool who thinks she knows best," Mermista said with a sniff.

"I know I don't know best - unlike others I might name." Sweet Bee sneered in return. "And that's why I am here: To find out the truth directly from the source."

"Well, so far, you've found out that we told you the truth about the Goa'uld." Glimmer cut in. Adora didn't have to look at her friend to know she was smiling smugly.

"That remains to be seen. Two people - especially since they are considered criminals by their own people - cannot be taken as examples for all Goa'uld. What if someone else would judge all of Etheria by the example that the Horde set?" Sweet Bee retorted.

"Well, in that case, they'd clearly overestimate you," Catra commented with a snort from Adora's side.

Adora reached over and gently patted Catra's thigh. Her lover was trying to hide it, but Adora knew that this was a sore spot for her - and she was pretty sure that Sweet Bee knew it as well. So much for this being a nice trip. At least they hadn't seen that Great Pacific Garbage Patch Entrapta had mentioned once - that would have probably ruined Mermista's mood. More than Sweet Bee's comments had, at least.

"This is your captain speaking. We're on our final approach to Hickam Air Force Base. Please fasten your seatbelts and return your tray table to its full upright and locked position," Jack called back from the cockpit.

Daniel snorted, as did Catra and Bow.

"It's a joke about civilian aeroplanes," Catra told Adora.

"It's what they tell passengers before they set down," Bow added.


"And that's supposed to be funny?" Sweet Bee asked.

"We're in a military shuttle, not a civilian aeroplane. Procedures are different," Bow explained. "At least, I think they are."

"They are. We don't have tray tables," Catra said. "Also, don't cover the airstrip with plants," she added with a glance at Perfuma. "They might not be as chill as in Thule."

"Of course, I wouldn't do that!" Perfuma said with a huff. "That would be irresponsible!"

"I didn't know that they actually needed the entire strip for their shuttles - we didn't need it!" Frosta defended herself.

"What? Oh, no, I am sorry; I didn't mean it like that," Perfuma told her.

"So, how did you mean it?"

Catra snorted again, and Adora sighed as the two bickered while the shuttle set down.


Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"Ah, the smell of the sea! The scent of… Adventure!"

"It smells a bit like the Fright Zone, actually."

Adora sniffed the air. Mermista was right - it smelt a bit like it.

"That's the Air Force base behind us," Jack said.

"Aren't we technically still in the base?" Bow asked.

"One of your Air Force Bases is in an icy wasteland, and this one has a beach? Talk about differences!" Scorpia said. "How do you decide who gets sent where?"

"I bet the screwups go to Greenland," Catra commented. "Kyle would be stationed there for sure."

"There's nothing wrong with snow and ice!" Frosta protested. "At least you don't have to worry about heatstroke and bug bites!"

"Just frostbite. And you wouldn't have to worry about heatstroke if you were wearing sensible clothes." Glimmer sounded a bit… annoyed. Well, it had taken a while to clean up the ice on the airstrips, and she might have felt responsible.

"This is amazing! But I hoped to visit a jungle, not a beach." Perfuma pouted a little.

"Oh, we will, don't worry!" Jack grinned. "But I thought it would be nice to hit the beach while we're organising a trip to Waimea Bay."

"Meaning, you wanted to hit the beach," Daniel said.

"What do you have to organise? Can't we just take the shuttle and fly there instead?" Sweet Bee asked.

"Security has to be set up," Jack explained. "And that's going to take a while. You're VIPs, after all."

"I am sure we can handle any threat on Earth," Sweet Bee retorted. "Peekablue can spot any danger from afar."

"Only the danger I know."

Adora blinked. Prince Peekablue had looked out of it, yet he had obviously been listening to their talk.

"He's a better spy than I thought," Catra muttered next to her.

Adora was forced to agree. Of course, Peekablue would be experienced in using his power - and he had been a member of the first Princess Alliance, so she should have expected that.


Cheyenne Mountain Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"...and rumours of another delegation of aliens visiting Earth are spreading. We have eyewitnesses reporting shuttle flights from places all over the world, and we are doing our best to match them to scheduled flights to exclude those and find unscheduled flights, although with the information blackout for military traffic, that remains a challenge…"

Samantha Carter shook her head at the television. Trying to find the Etherian visitors using a method like that… Even if all shuttle flights were logged in advance as a rule, you'd still have to consider spontaneous flights in response to an emergency. Or a summons from Washington or Brussels.

Or a general wishing to go home for the weekend, she added with another shake of her head - she had no doubt that with the continuing proliferation of shuttles, sooner or later, the brass would start treating them as helicopter rides for their personal use. She had heard a rumour that General Naird was planning to use one for a personal trip to the moon under the guise of 'familiarising the pilots under my command with the route in case there's an emergency'.

And, speaking of trips into space… She checked the time, then leaned over and asked Siller at the table next to them: "Can we check CNN?"

"Sure, Captain." He pushed a button, and the channel changed.

Perfect timing - CNN's special report about the upcoming Mars Mission had just started. Interest in the mission had dropped a little since the news of the first Alliance operation on another planet had been released, but it was still a scientific landmark, in Sam's opinion.

Or would be once they actually got it launched - they just announced another delay for unspecified 'technical reasons'. I should look into this, Sam thought. I bet I could help with sorting out those issues. If they were technical issues in the first place and not politically motivated - Sam was somewhat familiar with the way NASA operated.

In any case, it meant that there wouldn't be any more interesting news on that front. "Thank you. That was all I wanted to know," she told Siller.

"Alright." A click later, the channel changed again.

"...and PETA has released a controversial statement yesterday," an anchorman commented on screen. "What do you make of it, James?"

"Well, John, we already knew that they think eating meat is murder, but now they're claiming that eating meat is cannibalism, citing the existence of aliens with similar features as animals as proof, and have launched a new advertising campaign to emphasise their point."

Sam sighed and prepared to see pictures of Etherian minotaurs next to Earth longhorns. She wasn't aware of any species that would line up with pigs or chickens, but there was a satyr-like species, and some people ate goats, so that would probably…

"What's this shit?"

"Turn that off! We're eating here!"

"That's disgusting!"

Siller quickly changed the channel again, and another news report from Europe replaced a not-quite-graphic scene of a butchered minotaur being put on a grill. The special effects were quite good for an ad, Sam noted, and the production value seemed quite high. Still…

"Do they think we eat people on Etheria?" Entrapta added, looking shocked.

Sam clenched her teeth, mentally cursing whoever came up with the ad, and started explaining PETA's campaigns to her friend. "No, they want people on Earth to feel as if they were eating people when eating meat. They think…"


Waimea Bay, O'ahu, Hawaii, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"Another beach?" Catra raised her eyebrows as they stepped out of the shuttle. "You really want a vacation, don't you?" she asked O'Neill. She was tempted to ask if he just wanted to see them in bathing suits, but without Sam being present, it would lack any sting.

"There's a jungle walk here, to a waterfall," he told her. "But if someone doesn't want to walk through a jungle, this should be a nice spot to wait for the others to return."

"It's a famous surf spot," Daniel added.

"Surfing?" Mermista asked.

"Wave riding," Catra told her.

"You have wave riding on Earth?" The princess perked up and turned to look at the rolling waves.

"For a famous spot, this seems rather empty," Sweet Bee commented.

"We had to move out the tourists for security reasons," O'Neill told her.

"And they'll blame us, I suppose."

"We didn't tell them why we needed the place cleared, so they'll blame the government or the military, as usual," O'Neill shrugged.

"That's still not right. We aren't here to disrupt the lives of others." Sweet Bee frowned.

"They'll survive being cut off from their favourite beach for a few hours." O'Neill grinned. "Besides, I am not sure they could handle Mermista."

Catra looked at the shore. Indeed, Mermista was in the water, riding the first wave. Unlike the Tau'ri, she wasn't using a surfboard.

Catra took a step closer to Adora, just in case Mermista planned to 'accidentally' hit her with a wave, but the princess seemed to simply enjoy the water. Any time now, she would probably change into a mermaid or something…

"I will stay here as well," Frosta announced. "It's much too hot to walk around."

"Just create some ice to cool down," Catra told her.

The kid glared at her, then sniffed. "I don't want to deal with bugs, either."

"And that's perfectly fine!" Adora cut in. "So, who's coming with us to the waterfall?"


As it turned out, the 'jungle walk' was a botanic garden or whatever they called it. Not an actual untouched wilderness. And the waterfalls were not quite as impressive as they had sounded. Not when you were familiar with Bright Moon's waterfall. And the pool below didn't look very appealing, at least to Catra. Not that she planned to go swimming, anyway - trying to get her fur clean of the algae, muck and other stuff in it afterwards was a nightmare. Almost as bad as cleaning up after swamp training.

"Oh, look at that! Another new flower!"

"It's very pretty!"

At least Perfuma was having fun. Which meant Scorpia would be happy as well.

"This is… it's far too hot! And why can't you do anything about the insects attacking me?"

And Sweet Bee was annoyed, which meant Catra was having fun. "They probably think you're a bee," she told the twit.

"I'm not a bee!" the princess shot back.

"But you do have some, ah, aspects of a bee?" Daniel asked. "Maybe your scent is similar to the scent of a bee on Earth?"

"Are you insinuating that I smell?" Sweet Bee sounded outraged.

Daniel opened his mouth to apologise, but Catra was faster. "You do smell." She wrinkled her nose for emphasis. "All that sweat…"


"Catra!" Adora frowned at her, as expected. But the opportunity to get a dig in had been too much to miss.

Sweet Bee swatted at another bug trying to land on her. "This is insufferable!"

"Well, we can't just spray the whole island with RAID," O'Neill said with a shrug. "So, I am sorry, but you'll have to endure this for a bit longer."

"I could probably build a bug-repeller, but… I would need some materials, and it would take me some time," Bow said.

"Oh, let me help!" Perfuma beamed at them. "I have a solution!"

"Ah… you can control bugs? Not just plants?" O'Neill looked wary.

With good reason - Perfuma looked excited. And enthusiastic. A bit like Entrapta when faced with something dangerous but interesting. Catra felt the fur on her neck rise.

"No. Well, not directly. But I can control plants, and through that, affect bugs!" Perfuma gestured, and the flowers at the side of the path suddenly grew in size. By a lot. "That should smell far more appealing to bugs than Sweet Bee, now."

Indeed, the bugs buzzing around quickly changed course and flew straight to the giant flowers. Which were dripping yellow liquid on the ground, Catra realised. Honey?

"Uh…" Daniel blinked. "What exactly did you do?"

"I increased the size and yield of the flowers here," Perfuma explained. "And the quality of the nectar."

"Uh. That sounds like… a major change to the flower," Daniel pointed out.

"Oh." It was Perfuma's turn to blink. "I guess I should fix that, then?"

"I think so, yes." O'Neill managed to not sound too sarcastic. Catra was sure it took a lot of effort.

But by now, most of the new flowers were covered with bugs. And more were arriving. A lot more.

"Ah. Maybe wait until we leave?" Bow suggested.

"Just how much did you improve the nectar?" Glimmer asked.

"Well, I wanted it to be so good, no bee would bother Sweet Bee…"

"Great. You produced bee crack." O'Neill shook his head.

"Sorry! Ah, what is 'crack'?" Pefuma asked.

While Daniel explained, Catra looked at Peekablue. The prince was staring at something only he could see. And she had no idea what.


Above the Atlantic Ocean, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"I am really sorry. I didn't mean to endanger your ecosystem. I should have known better!"

Yes, the princess with magic plant control should have known better than to meddle with plants. But Jack O'Neill didn't say that. That wouldn't be very diplomatic, and Perfuma meant well. And he was flying the shuttle, so he couldn't exactly focus on the conversation, anyway.

Catra snorted. "No harm done."

"Except to the poor plants and the poor insects." Perfuma sighed.

Jack didn't really care about that. Wiping out both plants and bugs might have been a bit extreme, but he had been improvising, and with that sort of stuff, it was better to err on the side of caution. And of a higher blast radius.

And adapting some of Bow's trick arrows to create an incendiary charge large enough to burn down the entire affected area had been fun. Especially since Jack didn't have to explain the result to the local authorities. It was all classified. Fortunately - if the environmentalists got wind of this, it would be a disaster.

"You restored the plants. And the bugs will recover," Adora told her.

"But still…" Perfuma sighed. "I should have known not to introduce such changes to the ecosystem. Even though I didn't introduce new organisms but simply improved existing plants, and so it shouldn't have violated any of your laws."

"You restored the destroyed area," Daniel added. "That's more than we managed in a lot of places."

"What do you mean?" Perfuma asked.

"Well, a lot of fragile ecosystems are endangered by illegal logging and poaching," Daniel said. "For example, we've lost huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest to both. So, you actually did quite well in comparison."

Jack couldn't help snorting. That was a backhanded compliment if he ever heard one. Daniel would be embarrassed about it, no doubt.

"What? You lost forests?"

"I think we told you that, didn't we?" Adora spoke up. "Lots of Earth was treated like the Fright Zone - the forests were cut down and turned into fields. Or settlements."

"Or deserts," Bow added.

"I didn't… I thought you just had more deserts than Etheria. To think you are losing forests…But… I can help with that!" Perfuma sounded enthusiastic. "Just like I helped with the Fright Zone! And I don't have to introduce new plants or create living cities, or anything, I just have to restore what was there before - that shouldn't be any problem! Who do I talk to?"

"Well, there are several organisations fighting to preserve nature and the environment…" Daniel started to explain.

Jack felt a cold shiver run down his spine. And he had thought handling Sweet Bee was the problem he should focus on!


Above Geneva Airport, Switzerland, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

Landing a shuttle was easy compared to landing a plane. Very easy. Which was a very good thing since Jack O'Neill kept getting distracted by the discussion in the main compartment behind him. I really should have grabbed a crew, he thought. Or asked Bow to fly it. But I wanted some stick time, and this is the result - stuck in the cockpit while our friends plot the destruction of our agricultural sector.

"...and I could change the plants to need less fertiliser or less fertile soil. Or both. That way, you need fewer fields to grow the same amount of crops, and we could restore more of the jungle and forests."

"Earth has enough, more than enough, food to feed everyone - people still starve because they don't share, Perfuma."

"What? That can't be right, Glimmer!"

"It is. Right, Daniel?"

"Uh, yes. Food production is, overall, ah, sufficient, or would be, to feed everyone. But it's a complicated issue, with politics and economics playing a part," Daniel replied while Jack made a last course change on the approach to Geneva Airport.

"Wow. And I thought the Horde had inefficient supply troops."

"You can't really compare a military supply system with the free market, Scorpia."

"Why not? If you can't feed your people, you're doing something wrong, whether it's an army or civilians."

"It's not that simple, Netossa." Daniel was trying, but defending Earth's economy wasn't something he was good at. "It's, uh… well, one thing is that most people don't see people in other countries as their people."

"And they let them starve because of that?" Netossa asked while Jack cut back on the shuttle's speed and slowly came to a stop above the landing zone.

"No, well… they do help. It's just, usually, not enough."

"How can that be? I've checked the numbers we got from the Alliance. You've got enough resources to transport all the food and then some across your world - and that's without the new shuttles or help from the fleet!" Netossa said.

"As I said, it's a complicated issue. Most seemingly simple solutions created more problems, worse problems, along the line."

"Yeah, Sam told us that," Bow added. "If you just hand out food for free in a region, the local farmers will stop growing food of their own since it won't pay, and so you might end up with even less food next season."

Carter had done a better job at explaining than Daniel. That was sure. Jack sighed as he guided the shuttle down to the landing zone. Smoother than a helicopter and much easier to pilot.

"But you could just hand out enough food to cover the deficit, couldn't you?" Spinnerella asked.

"That's also complicated, but we try that."

"You should try harder, then," Sweet Bee commented with a sniff. "How are you supposed to fight a war against a space empire if you can't even feed your own people? That obviously won't work!"

Jack was tempted to tell the princess about some examples from history, but the wind was picking up, and he had to be ready to compensate if the shuttle suddenly swayed. It was supposed to shrug off such stuff thanks to the artificial gravity generators, but a good pilot didn't blindly trust machines.

"Well, if we change the crops to be more efficient - I could make it so they can extract fertiliser from the air, for example - then everyone should be able to grow enough food in their country," Perfuma suggested.

"That, uh, might work, but I assume the corporations producing seed and fertilisers wouldn't be happy about losing their business," Daniel told them.

They would go screaming at their lobbyists. Which would be funny, actually. Jack snorted as the shuttle touched down on the tarmac. "And we've landed in Geneva," he said out loud. "Check if you've got all your gear before you leave the shuttle."

"Finally!" Her Honeyness exclaimed. "This took far too long!"

And it would take a bit longer, Jack knew. The Swiss had organised a reception for the delegation. Hell, they probably felt Sweet Bee was a kindred spirit, a fellow neutral or something.

Or they just wanted first dibs on offering to handle the princess's wealth.


Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"...and this is where the United Nations meet to discuss Earth politics," Adora told Sweet Bee and Peekablue as they walked through the hallway towards the meeting room prepared for them.

"We're aware of that. That is why we wanted to visit this country," Sweet Bee replied with a sniff. "We didn't come here for a guided tour. Or for weird food and drinks."

"Could have fooled me," Adora heard Catra mutter. "You certainly pigged out at the buffet."

Adora suppressed a snort. Her lover was right - Sweet Bee had tried all the food at the 'apéro' the Swiss had prepared. Quite enthusiastically, too.

"And we could speak to the leaders of a country not involved in the war," Peekablue added.

"But they're also unwilling to take a stand against the war!" Sweet Bee complained.

"That's the Swiss for you. They're just interested in your money." Jack shrugged.

"Well, they're a very small country," Bow said.

"That's even more of a reason to stand up for what's right!" Sweet Bee retorted. "Otherwise, the more powerful countries will attempt to roll over you."

"Demanding to use the Stargate without doing your part to protect it is not what I would call right," Glimmer told her with a glare.

"Of course, you wouldn't because you want more soldiers for your war! But that doesn't make it right!"

"And here we are!" Adora forced herself to smile widely as she opened the door to the meeting room and interrupted the bickering. "We'll be meeting the United Nations Secretary-General here."

"For all the good that will do," Catra muttered next to her.


"...and that's how modern diplomacy on Etheria started." Sweet Bee slowly nodded.

"Fascinating! So, your supra-national organisation grew out of a social event for princesses?" The Secretary-General - without his wife this time - chuckled.

Adora pressed her lips together so she wouldn't lecture the man about the Princess Prom. It was a social event which, since it was open to all princesses and a neutral place during times of war, also served as a diplomatic event. Sweet Bee had not explained that correctly! But explaining that would be pointless - Sweet Bee certainly hadn't taken well to Adora's explanation that the Secretary-General wasn't Earth's ruler but also not a general.

"More or less, yes." Sweet Bee slowly nodded. "Although it is only held every ten years, generally at least."

This time, the Secretary-General laughed. "That wouldn't work on Earth. We're always busy at the United Nations."

Earth certainly needed all the help it could get with its problems, in Adora's opinion.

"Princesses are also always visiting each other, for various reasons," Sweet Bee said.

"Like to annoy their neighbours who saved their asses," Catra whispered.

Adora had to press her lips together again to keep from grinning.

"And, speaking of visiting your neighbour and friends…" Sweet Bee leaned forward a little. "Your United Nations controls Earth's Stargate, right?"

"Ah." The Secretary-General sighed and spread his hands a little. "That's not entirely accurate. The situation with Earth's Stargate is complex. It is essential for the war, which is in defence of all of Earth, of course. But at the same time, the Stargate belongs to all of Earth, regardless of whether or not they are part of the Alliance."

"Exactly like on Etheria," Sweet Bee said, nodding. "And yet, on Etheria, the Alliance controls the Stargate while it is under the control of the entire planet on Earth. Isn't that correct?"

"Well, technically, that is true. But since three of the five permanent members of the Security Council are also members of the Alliance, the Alliance also effectively controls Earth's Stargate."

"Those five permanent members of your council can dictate the world's policy, right?" Sweet Bee asked with narrowed eyes.

Adora pressed her lips together. The princess was quite well-informed about Earth - not that Adora and her friends would lie to her, of course. But she had to have sources in the Alliance.

The Secretary-General smiled. "I wouldn't go that far. They have the power to veto a decision of the Security Council, but they do not rule the world."

"But do they ban other countries from using the gate?"

"Access is, for now at least, limited to the Alliance and the five nations guarding the Stargate," the Secretary-General told her. "The risk of an unprepared expedition or delegation running into Goa'uld forces is too high."

Glimmer snorted, not quite triumphally. But she had a very wide grin on her face, Adora confirmed with a glance.

Sweet Bee, though, smiled. And it wasn't the kind of fake smile you had when you didn't want to let the other know you were annoyed. She was smiling like Glimmer. "Of course, that is, for a threat as the Goa'uld are presented at, quite reasonable. However, there will be planets that are safe from such dangers. For example, planets that the Alliance has conquered."

"Liberated and secured," Adora corrected her. The Alliance didn't conquer territory!

"If a planet is secured, then, by definition, it poses no risks to visitors." Now Sweet Bee was sneering.

Adora clenched her teeth together. "You still have to remain alert. We're at war."

"You claim to be at war. I have yet to see any sign of it." The other princess sniffed.

"Maybe you should open your eyes then. Or ask Peekablue," Glimmer snapped.

"Earth is preparing for war," Peekablue spoke up, surprising everyone, or so it seemed - even Sweet Bee. "It does not seem to be mere pageantry to deceive us. If it were, the effort would vastly outweigh the benefits they might gain from it."

"Convincing everyone to go along with their policies seems worth such efforts - especially since naked force would be needed to enforce their will anyway, should their plan fail," Sweet Bee retorted.

"With the fleet in orbit?" Catra rolled her eyes. "You're delusional. Hell, the Alliance wouldn't even need soldiers; Adora could take on all of you at the same time with one hand tied behind her back, and she'd win. Easily."

"Catra!" Adora hissed. That was… well, probably not wrong, but not a nice or diplomatic thing to say!

Sweet Bee glared at Catra. For someone claiming to be neutral and against the war, she certainly seemed to loathe Catra and other former Horde members. "Even if that is the case, there would be no reason to hinder traffic between Etheria and Earth! Didn't you claim that you could detect any Goa'uld or Jaffa on either planet?"

The Secretary-General raised his eyebrows at that, for a moment at least, before he smiled politely again.

"We can't block the Stargate for emergency traffic. That would hinder the war," Glimmer said.

Sweet Bee scoffed. "A single trip would not take more than a few minutes - much less time than a supply transport such as the ones we observed takes. If you were so concerned about emergencies, you would not move so much material through the gate," the princess said.

Peekablue nodded, and Adora had to wince a little - that excuse did sound a little weak to her as well. But just letting everyone travel between the two worlds sounded like a recipe for disaster to her. Adora and her friends had read up on what happened when countries suddenly had access to advanced or formerly prohibited technology, and in this case, it would probably go both ways. Smugglers on all sides, Tau'ri hunting for magitech - or sorcerers - to acquire or destroy them, all the Earth media, Etherians peddling exotic plants and other dangerous items… "We'll need regulations and limits," she said.

Glimmer shot her a betrayed look, but Adora didn't falter. They couldn't keep the other princesses from using the Stargate, so it was best to, ah, mitigate the damage. So to speak.

"So we'd be only able to use the Stargate - Etheria's Stargate - at your convenience?" Sweet Bee sniffed again. "With your gratuitous permission, to be withdrawn whenever you fell like it?"

"Yes," Glimmer told her in a flat tone. "The war takes precedence. We can't risk an invasion of Etheria - or Earth - just to cater to your pride."

"This is a matter of principles, not pride!" Sweet Bee protested.

Catra loudly snorted. Adora didn't quite follow her example, but she agreed with the sentiment - this was about Sweet Bee's pride and ego. Mostly. It was just unfortunate that she had a point about the Stargate belonging to Etheria. "Besides, you said that only Etheria and Earth were safe worlds, didn't you?" Catra cocked her head sideways.

"I said that they were safe by your own definition, not that they were the only planets safe to visit." Sweet Bee huffed.

Close enough, in Adora's opinion. She smiled.

"No planet with a Stargate is entirely safe from invasion," Bow pointed out. "Anyone can dial in from anywhere in the galaxy. The measures we've taken reduce the risk of an invasion, but every team that is sent out to another planet runs the risk of being captured and then taken over so they can use their codes - and bodies - to sneak back through the gate."

And gather intel about Alliance plans and operations.

"And then attempt to secure the Stargate for the main force," O'Neill added.

"But that risk can be neglected when we are merely talking about travel between Etheria and Earth," Peekablue spoke up again, smiling in a slightly smug way.

Adora nodded. If they had to fear Goa'uld infiltrators on either planet, then… well, then having Sweet Bee and her friends travel back and forth would probably not change anything.

"Earth itself isn't entirely safe for Etherians." Glimmer was still frowning. "Don't blame us if you get stoned or burned as a witch."

"Or blame the rest of Earth." O'Neill smiled. "That is if the United Nations actually accepts such a deal, mind you. We're just talking hypothetically here."

"I doubt that the United Nations will refuse," the Secretary-General said. "The majority of the General Assembly will support it, in my opinion." He spread his hands again. "Of course, some member states will be concerned about, ah, magic and sorceresses, but most will be looking forward to receiving visitors from Etheria - and visiting themselves."

"As we are," Sweet Bee declared.

"Just keep an eye on all those visitors," Catra spoke up. "Some might be fanatics in disguise. Or spies and saboteurs. Or just thieves."

"Are you accusing sovereign kingdoms of abusing their birthright to send criminals through the gate?" Sweet Bee glared at her.

Adora's love grinned. "Yes."

"Well, yeah, that kind of stuff is par for the course for many countries on Earth. We always have spies in our delegations." O'Neill shrugged. "And, of course, there have to be strict regulations about animals and plants. Wouldn't want to grow a haunted forest in a suburb by accident. That would ruin the property values, you know?"

"What?" Sweet Bee stared at him.

But Perfuma nodded. "Yes! We can't endanger the local ecosystems by introducing alien plants and animals. That could cause untold disasters!"

"You'd know what you're talking about." O'Neill grinned as Pefuma blushed.

"I said I am sorry!"

The Secretay-Geneal raised his eyebrows but didn't ask for more details.

Sweet Bee sniffed. "Well, for now, we can agree to limit travel to Earth and Etheria - provided we can confirm that the Goa'uld do represent such a threat to the Galaxy."

"Just talk to the Tok'ra and you'll be convinced in no time," Catra told her.

Sweet Bee frowned, then turned to the Secretary-General. "So, since everyone is in agreement, we can formalise this."

"Well, we'll need a vote by the General Assembly and, of course, also the agreement of the Security Council," he replied. "Although, especially with the support of the Princess Alliance for it, I don't see why this would be rejected."

"Well, unless the Alliance wishes to betray the lofty principles they claim to defend, this should be a formality quickly dealt with, then." Sweet Bee smiled smugly.

O'Neill laughed, and the Secretary-General looked a bit ruefully.

Sweet Bee frowned again, her eyes narrowing.

Glimmer snorted. "You don't have any experience with Earth politics, do you?"

"What do you mean?"

Adora's friend smiled widely as she started to explain how long it would take for such an agreement to be ratified - in the best case.


Cheyenne Mountain Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

The beeping noise of her computer interrupted Samantha Carter's lab session with Entrapta.

"Oh? Are the Tok'ra arriving early?" Entrapta asked, looking up as her hair tendrils kept adjusting the latest experiment.

"I don't think so - the gate room would have called us in that case," Sam answered as she walked over to check.

"Too bad. Anise would be a great help here, I think."

Sam nodded, but her reply died on her lips as she skimmed the message on her screen.

It was a report from the spy bot network. They had found a concentration of Goa'uld ships. Not too close to PZ -921, but close enough to threaten it.

It's fascinating to see the etherians being just so outside context that the system lords can't even manipulate them.

Well, they're a bit out of touch. But Apophis will certainly be surprised to see princesses working with the "rabidly democratic" USA.
Chapter 87: Educational Issues Part 6
Chapter 87: Educational Issues Part 6

Cheyenne Mountain Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"The recon drones have detected a Goa'uld fleet?"

"Yes, sir." Samantha Carter noted that, as usual, General Haig showed no reaction while General Hammond narrowed his eyes just a little, and General Petit's smile thinned a bit. General Li nodded, and General Sidorov…

…jumped up from his seat. "A Goa'uld counter-offensive in response to your attack on one of their planets!"

"But it's nowhere near Earth. The closest allied forces are on PZ-921, and even that is a week's flight at standard Goa'uld speed away," General Hammond retorted.

"Yes!" Entrapta nodded with a wide smile. "Our spy bots have done such good work! They've spread out over a significant part of the area near PZ-921, in addition to the other areas they're expanding into, of course - the planned expansion of the network is proceeding on schedule, but we managed to increase production of the spy bots to allow focused additional expansion. I would show you the network, but Sam told me that we can't share that information with Stargate Command since this is Alliance intel. Sorry!"

Sidorov glared at her, but even Entrapta had learned not to take that seriously. General Li merely nodded.

"Of course. We're here as representatives of Stargate Command, not our home countries, which are members of the Alliance," General Petit remarked. "But I assume you are informing us of this because you need to use the Stargate in response to this information?"

"Yes." Sam nodded. "We need to contact the Tok'ra and inform them about this so they can direct their information-gathering operations towards this new development." Unless they hadn't done so already - the Tok'ra kept their spy network a secret from their allies, citing security reasons.

"You don't have the authority to make an official request to Stargate Command, Captain Carter!" Sidorov snapped.

"But I do," Entrapta replied. "I think, at least. I am a princess, and while you don't have princesses, it's a high rank in the Princess Alliance - we don't really have many higher ranks unless you count queen or commander, but that's Glimmer, or Supreme Commander, and that's Adora. Oh! If I can't ask you, I can just call Adora and have her ask you! We already informed the others, but I didn't know we had to ask them to ask you to call our allies."

"I think no one doubts that you can speak for the Alliance in such a matter," General Haig told her.

"Unless it's about experiments, yes," Entrapta nodded. "Glimmer told me that I need to pass the request for dangerous experiments through her and Bow. Or Sam. But Sam's here, and this isn't a request for interesting volatile samples, which we would examine and experiment with in space anyway, so an explosion wouldn't really threaten Earth."

General Haig still didn't show a reaction, but General Hammond winced, and General Petit's smile looked very strained now.

"So… can we call the Tok'ra?" Entrapta beamed. "We can ask if Anise wants to visit early, too!"

Was that a wince from Haig?


Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"...and we stand here, representing neutral, peace-loving kingdoms of Etheria, hoping that we may find like-minded realms on Earth to forge closer ties through trade and…"

Catra tried not to roll her eyes at Sweet Bee's speech. It wasn't as if it mattered - the Secretary-General had predicted that the General Assembly would welcome the proposal to open the Stargate between Earth and Etheria for non-Alliance-related travel, and Catra didn't think he was wrong. The nations that were denied advanced technology by the Alliance would jump at the chance to get a trade partner on Etheria this way. And to send spies to the planet, of course. They couldn't stop it, not unless the Alliance simply took over the Stargates and banned everyone else from using it. And that was politically unfeasible - even Glimmer, who really wanted to do it, agreed with that.

At least it would take a while until there was an agreement. And some nations - those who persecuted witches and gay people - were unlikely to be able to make a deal. And the Alliance diplomats might be able to play some games and stretch things out some more. Play some of the supposed neutrals against each other, see if they could undermine Sweet Bee's support base on Etheria… Catra frowned. If she had done that at the Princess Prom instead of focusing on Adora, maybe…

She shook her head and pushed the thought away. Speculating like this was pointless. She had changed - and for the better. Everyone had changed, she added to herself as she glanced at Adora and the others.

"...and so we remain hopeful that you'll decide to open trade and diplomatic relations with our kingdoms."

Sweet Bee bowed as she - finally! - finished her speech.

The Secretary-General thanked her and started his own speech.

Catra was tempted to use some of the unofficial lessons learned in Horde training. Like how to feign attention while all but napping in pointless lectures. But Adora would know, and her lover was already stressed by this whole affair. Well, partially, that was Adora's own fault. If she had told Sweet Bee to take a hike… OK, that would have caused trouble as well. And Adora would have felt terrible about it - betraying the ideals of the Alliance, hypocrisy, blah blah.

Catra watched the Chinese and Russian delegates. They were smiling widely - well, for Chinese and Russians. But other delegates were scowling. Mainly from the countries where magic was illegal. India's ambassador, of course, wasn't amongst them - he was beaming like Entrapta faced with an interesting and dangerous piece of First One technology. Well, the only reason that India hadn't yet managed to join the Alliance was because its government had split over the question of whether or not She-Ra was a goddess in their religion, so until that was settled, their government was paralysed. And they still had that terrorism problem that had led to the attack when Adora had brought magic back.

Well, Catra hoped they settled that soon - and stopped bothering Adora about it.


'Alright. I think we have to cut this whole trip short since we just got intel about a Goa'uld fleet massing near the first world we liberated in the war, and we have to return to Stargate Command. So sorry!'

That was what Jack O'Neill would like to say, but he couldn't. Well, he could, but it would be pointless. Actually, it would be worse than pointless - Sweet Bee and Peekablue would jump at the chance to claim this was another attempt to use the war as an excuse to undermine their trade deals in the making or whatever they were hashing out in the meeting room next to theirs with the delegates from Russia and China.

"Russia and China!" he muttered. "That's a fine mess!" Of course, he hadn't really thought that they could keep Sweet Bee from making contact with their 'trusted partners' in Stargate Command, but the Russians and Chinese were far too prepared for this - information about Sweet Bee and her trip had to have been leaked prior to today.

Catra, sitting across from him, snorted. Of course, she had overheard him - her ears were twitching. "That's not because of anything we did - Sweet Bee decided to meet with them."

"Probably because Russia and China already have access to the Stargate, so they can't be easily blocked by the Alliance on Earth. She's got good chances to get a working trade deal out of this," Glimmer added with a scowl. "She also can play up how similar her kingdom is to them, both playing second fiddle to a vastly superior military."

Jack nodded. In hindsight, having the five permanent members of the Security Council taking control of Stargate Command (and blocking everyone else) but then taking effective control of it for the Alliance might not have been that smart. Sure, they couldn't let everyone meddle - having a 'Command Council' with five generals was a nightmare for anything serious - but it certainly didn't make Russia or China happy. Or anyone else outside the Alliance.

"Well… that's just obvious diplomacy, right?" Adora shrugged with a slightly strained smile. "She's annoying and rude and obstinate…"

"...a real pain in the ass!" Catra cut in with a grin.

Adora frowned at her but didn't contradict her. "...but she's an experienced diplomat."

Daniel cleared his throat. "I would think that most experienced diplomats would be, well, more diplomatic?"

That was a good point. Jack nodded in agreement.

Glimmer nodded as well.

"Her ego can't handle not getting everything she wants," Catra said. "So she is rude to compensate."

"Speaking from experience?" Glimmer asked with a sly grin.

Catra scoffed at her.

"Well, if she had asked nicely, we would have been more, ah…" Adora trailed off.

"Accommodating?" Bow asked.


"Someone learned a new word today!" Catra grinned again, and Adora rolled her eyes at her.

"Would you have been? Or would you just have been more polite in turning her down?" Jack asked. He knew how politics worked. Countries had interests, not friends.

"The Alliance agreed that gate travel had to be restricted to military needs," Glimmer told him.

"And when you asked her for help during the war, she refused," Catra added.

"Why should she benefit from what we fought and bled for?" Glimmer retorted.

"Technically, we discovered the Stargate after the war," Bow pointed out.

Jack suppressed the urge to award him a point. Best not to provoke the magic princess.

"And that started another war," Glimmer said with a scowl. "Which she is sitting out again."

"But she's right that the Stargate belongs to all of Etheria," Adora said. "She could be nicer about it, but she's right. And Peekablue fought in the Horde War. Just not the whole war."

Glimmer scoffed again, muttering something unflattering, and Jack felt a bit torn. If the Goa'uld were aiming for your planet, it was all hands on deck. If you could fight, you fought. But he had known good soldiers who just couldn't take it any more during a war - for no fault of their own. Peekablue might be like them. Might - it wasn't as if Jack could tell. "Still, making enemies is not a good long-term strategy," he said instead.

Glimmer, as expected, agreed.

Catra also nodded, flashing her fangs. "Payback's a bitch, as you say on Earth. See if we do anything for her in the future. Her kingdom will be dead last in the queue for the Stargate."

Adora, also just like Jack expected, frowned. "We're not going to be so petty as to punish her kingdom just because she has been rude, are we?"

"She would deserve it," Glimmer objected. Then she sighed. "But she'd twist that into another attack on the Alliance."

"So?" Catra stretched like… like a cat. If Jack tried to do the same, his back would break, even with magical healing having restored his flexibility.

"And that means more diplomatic problems," Glimmer told her. "Dad's still dealing with Swift Wind's… antics."

Adora winced as if that were her fault. "Sorry."

Catra rolled her eyes.

"International politics," Jack commented. "Such a pain in the ass if you can't just shoot problems."

"Or princesses," Catra added.

"Catra!" Adora glared at her. "We're not the Horde."

"Yeah. But Sweet Bee would have never dared to mouth off to the Horde," Catra said.

"That's not the point. We are better than the Horde. We won't use violence to cow the other kingdoms," Adora said.

She was completely sincere. Jack knew it. But so did Sweet Bee - Jack was sure of it. Well, anyone would know it after spending a bit of time with Adora; the girl simply was too honest for her own good. And a lousy liar.

"We still should do something to get back at Sweet Bee," Catra objected.

"That would be petty," Adora repeated herself.

"But oh so satisfying, right?" Catra shot back.

Jack nodded. "Yes."

"Jack! We're not going to risk a diplomatic incident because someone else was rude for a change!" Daniel protested.

"Well, it usually worked for me," Jack defended himself. At least, it worked more often than not. Probably.

"I think that is in dispute. But if it were true, wouldn't that be a good reason not to react to Sweet Bee's rudeness?"

Daniel had a good point. Not that Jack would acknowledge it. Instead, he clapped his hands. "So, any bets whether Perfuma and Scorpia finish their talk before Sweet Bee and Peekablue do?"

"They're just talking with a few environmental activists," Bow said. "They're not negotiating interstellar trade deals."

"So, you think they'll be done first, OK. Anyone else?" Jack grinned.

"I didn't say I'd bet on it!"

"All bets are final!" Jack retorted.

"We didn't even say what we bet!" Bow protested.

"Yeah, that was really careless of you." Jack grinned. The kid was trying, but he had a lot to learn until he cold hold his own.

Catra nodded. "Yeah. Shame on you."




Adora laughed. A little - Jack was a bit mean to tease Bow like that, and the bet wasn't really that funny. Catra chuckled, but that was to be expected. Still, it wasn't really a laughing matter or situation. Sweet Bee making a deal with Russia or China - or both, or another country - could complicate things enormously. What if they made an alliance, and say, Russia or China wanted to shift troops to her kingdom? They had a lot of soldiers, and that might make other kingdoms feel threatened no matter how much Sweet Bee claimed that she didn't want a war.

Could the Alliance stop them from moving soldiers through the Stargate? Well, they certainly could, on both sides of the gate, but should they? Sweet Bee was a sovereign princess, and Russia and China were sovereign nations. And part of Stargat Command. And the Alliance would have soldiers from Earth on Etheria sooner or later, for training and familiarisation at least.

Doing something but banning others from doing the same was hypocrisy. Even if there were good reasons for it, Adora felt bad about that. Of course, it was unlikely to begin with. It wasn't really practical for either country to send troops through the gate - not in numbers that would be effective. The supply issues were too big; even the Alliance couldn't really rely on the Stargate to supply their troops in anything but a supplemental capacity. Of course, the United States had plans to improve that, but the easier you made it to transport freight through the Stargate, the harder you made it to defend it.

And the real issue, even though no one had mentioned it yet, was magic, not soldiers. Sweet Bee didn't have close ties to Mystacore, but sorceresses were free to move to her kingdom. And if the Russians or the Chinese set up an embassy there…

"What are you brooding about?" Catra interrupted her thoughts.

Adora looked up. Bow was still protesting that he never agreed to a bet, and Jack continued to claim that he had made outrageous wagers. And Daniel was trying to stop Jack. Glimmer seemed amused, Sea Hawk wasn't helping with his suggestions, Mermista shook her head, Frosta was giggling and… Oh. Spinnerella looked a bit anxious. Was she thinking the same things Adora was?

And now she had noticed Adora's glance and looked even more anxious. Adora grimaced.

But then, her friend sighed and straightened. "I think Sweet Bee honestly feels threatened," she said. "Seen from the outside, we might have seemed to act a bit, well… arrogantly, after the war."

Right. Spinnerella and Sweet Bee had been a couple for a time; Adora remembered hearing about that. But that had been a long time ago. Still, she would know Sweet Bee the best.

"We just did what was needed to start rebuilding. We aren't threatening them!" Glimmer protested.

"Even if you might want to," Catra added, grinning at Glimmer, which wasn't helping.

"But, well…" Spinnerella sighed again.

Netossa was still studying her tablet but now looked up and patted her wife's shoulder.

"I know we aren't threatening them - only we are, in a way, you know?" Spinnerella smiled weakly. "We're the strongest power on Etheria, even without the fleet. With the fleet… well, if we wanted to conquer the planet, we could. Easily."

"Horde Prime thought the same," Adoa pointed out. "He was wrong."

"He was facing you and the Alliance, not some pacifist princess whose only power is to fly," Catra said with a scoff.

That was true - flying wasn't a very powerful, ah, power when people could use spaceships and shuttles. Or flyers. Or aeroplanes and Death Gliders. But it wasn't the point. Taking Etheria was much harder than it might seem.

"We could crush her kingdom, and she couldn't stop us. And Peekablue could only watch helplessly," Netossa said. "The best intel is worthless if you don't have the forces to act on it. The difference in power is too big. All the elemental princesses? And the biggest, richest kingdoms? With experienced troops? And the remains of the Horde?"

"We aren't a threat to her kingdom," Frosta cut in.

"But we could be," Bow said. "And everyone knows it."

"But she can trust us not to abuse our power," Adora protested. That wouldn't be right. She-Ra was a protector, not a conqueror!

"Sweet Bee is, well… she doesn't easily trust people," Spinnerella said.

"Smart of her," Catra muttered.

Adora winced.

"I wouldn't call insulting people who can easily crush you smart. Or countries," Jack said.

"If we crushed her in response, we'd be as bad as the Horde!" Adora blurted out. Then she glanced at her lover. Catra didn't react, but Adora still felt bad for reminding her of, well, the Horde. "We'd never do that!"

"And Sweet Bee is aware of that," Spinnerella said. "She isn't a fool. But… She is proud."

"Like a princess," Jack commented.

"Yes," Spinnerella nodded at him, which seemed to surprise him for a moment. "Ruling Princesses are supposed to be equal in rank. Of course, they're not equal in power, but before the Princess Alliance, the difference wasn't as large as it's now, and if you started a war, there was always the threat of a rival kingdom attacking you while you were fighting on another front to deter it."

"There were alliances, but not on the scale of the Princess Alliance, and when rulers changed, alliances often changed as well. But that changed when the Horde attacked," Bow said. "Now we're the biggest power on Etheria."

"And Sweet Bee doesn't like it," Spinnerella said. "It hurts her pride."

"Tough," Catra commented.

"Well, that's kind of understandable," Daniel said. "Many Americans share a similar sentiment - they were used to being the most powerful country on Earth, and now they aren't any more. And many don't like it."

"The other countries like it, though," Catra pointed out.

Was that how the other kingdoms, the other princesses, saw the Alliance? Adora didn't like that. But… "The President hasn't been rude, unlike Sweet Bee," she said.

"Because he wants something from us - mainly our tech and support," Bow said. "Sweet Bee doesn't want to fight in the war, so she can't join the Alliance."

"If we let people like her join, reaping the benefits without fighting the Goa'uld, we will be swamped with such leeches." Glimmer shook her head. "That would be unfair towards the ones who actually fight and risk their lives in the war. The blowback from that could cripple our forces."

Adora nodded. And it was wrong to let others fight your battles. But it was also wrong to force people to fight if they didn't want to.

"In any case, by being rude and an annoyance, she challenges us, shows she isn't a pushover," Bow went on. "That raises her standing amongst the other princesses."

"It also shows we won't crush people for disagreeing with us," Adora said. "Or discriminate against them." That should prove their good faith. Eventually, at least.

"Even though it would feel good," Catra said with a grin.

Adora lightly swatted her thigh.

"So, everybody wins?" Bow smiled weakly.

Glimmer scoffed. "She's still rude and annoying."

"And a pain in the butt," Frosta added.

Adora nodded in agreement.


Cheyenne Mountain Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"Hi, Anise! Oh, and hi, Martouf!"

"Entrapta! Sam!"

"Greetings, Captain Carter, Princess Entrapta."

"Hello, Anise. Martouf." A step behind Entrapta, Samantha Carter greeted their friends.

"We heard about your situation and decided to visit earlier than planned," Martouf smiled. "I hope this is not a bother."

"Not at all," Sam reassured him. "Quite the contrary."

Martouf glanced at Anise, who was already looking at some of the data Entrapta had prepared, then turned his attention back at her. "That's good to hear. How have you been doing?"

"We've made a lot of progress, given the circumstances, although we're still far from finishing our current projects."

"Ah." Martouf nodded. Sam expected him to say something more, but he didn't.

"Let's go to our lab," Sam told him. She suppressed a wince - this felt awkward. Like meeting an ex too soon after a breakup. And yet, they had never had a relationship in the first place. Not Sam and Martouf. Only Jolinar and Martouf.

"Yes! We can work better there!" Entrapta nodded emphatically. "And once our friends get back, you can tell Sweet Bee and Peekablue that the Goa'uld are dangerous."

"Yes." Martouf nodded. As they started to leave the gate room, he added: "I must confess I am curious about them. We were already aware that Etheria is not unified, but given their recent history, I would have expected that to have changed."

"Earth has not united either," Sam pointed out as they approached the lift. The two Chinese soldiers standing guard there didn't react, but Sam was sure they were paying close attention.

"As I understand it, all the relevant powers are working together to fight the Goa'uld," Martouf said.

The Colonel would make a quip about Russia and China, perhaps India as well, Sam knew. Or about not relevant powers joining to appear relevant. "I wouldn't say that. Alliance membership is mostly limited because of politics." Limited to countries that the Etherians deemed ethically acceptable, but to state that - and how ironic it was that absolute monarchies had higher standards than democracies when it came to alliances - would be impolite. Especially within earshot of the Chinese guards.


"Yes!" Entrapta chimed in - fortunately, only after the lift had already started moving. "When it comes to ground combat, the armies of most of the countries on Earth would actually be sufficiently effective. But we can't trust some of them, and it's not OK to use them as cannon fodder to weaken them and the Goa'uld because if we did that, people wouldn't trust us. That's what Hordak and Catra said, at least, and it seems a sound analysis based on the available data."

Sam winced. It was blunt but true. And she could imagine the two former Horde leaders saying this.

Anise nodded. "I concur."

"Yes, it sounds quite plausible," Martouf added. "Which means that Earth and Etheria are facing similar situations with internal dissent complicating the situation."

"Yes," Sam confirmed as they stepped out of the lift. From a certain point of view, at least.

"Let's hope that the Etherian dissidents will listen to us," Anise commented. "It would be disastrous if they underestimated the Goa'uld's danger."

"I don't see why they would refuse to accept facts and evidence," Entrapta said. "Our data proves our statements."

"Not everyone is open-minded enough to change their views based on new data," Sam told her friend. "Not even all scientists have an easy time with that."

"But that's the core of science!" Entrapta protested as they entered Sam's lab. "If you ignore the data, you're not a scientist!"

Anise nodded in agreement. "And you would be a fool to ignore facts."

"Unfortunately, many people prefer to ignore reality rather than accept that they might be wrong," Martouf said.

Sam had met more than a few of those people. Full of prejudice and pride. "What must not be, cannot be," she muttered as she closed the door.

"Exactly," Martouf said. "Which, incidentally, is a weakness many Goa'uld share."

"Anyway," Entrpata spoke up after a moment. "Here's the rest of our data. Look at this!"

In the middle of the room, a holoprojection of a star system appeared. Entrapta's hair tendrils flicked over a keyboard, and the projection zoomed in on a formation of Goa'uld ships - half Ha'taks, half Al'kesh and Tel'taks.

"The system isn't claimed by any System Lord, as far as we know," Sam added - though the Tok'ra already knew that.

"We've checked. We don't know any gate addresses for this system either," Anise said. "We haven't received any notification from our spies about this, but since communication is dangerous, we might still receive more information about this."

"We're trying to crack their encryption to identify the ships, but they aren't communicating a lot," Entrapta said. "Or if they do, it's through secure channels such as a Stargate on a ship and directed short-range comms. And if we order the spy bots closer, they might be detected. So, that is a bit of a challenge."

"That is a quite unusual level of security for a System Lord," Martouf said. "An unclaimed system? Comm silence? Few would go to such lengths."

"Unless they are planning something underhanded." Sam nodded. "Like when Apophis was trying to frame Sokar."

"This could be a second attempt by Apophis, though I would assume that he would first want to find out what went wrong with his plan. Heru'ur… generally is blunter. He might want to keep it secret that he lost a planet, but he has to expect that whoever amongst his enemies took the planet will announce it anyway. And it could be Sokar's doing, though we don't know if he is aware of Apophis's plans for him." Martouf sighed. "We don't have a spy at Sokar's court. Not yet."

"So we need more data!" Entrapta summed up.


Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

Sweet Bee looked happy when she came out of the meeting room, Catra noticed. Of course, she would also be smiling even if the negotiations had completely broken up right after starting since she would have to keep up appearances, but the smile looked genuine. The smiles of the Russian and Chinese delegates, on the other hand, were too polite to tell if they were genuine.

Catra had hoped that the Tau'ri tendency to drag things out for months over details would have frustrated the princess. Then again, judging by some Alliance meetings Catra had taken part in, maybe Sweet Bee had expected that. Or they actually had reached an agreement… No. That wasn't how things were done on Earth.

Peekablue, on the other hand, looked as absent-minded as usual - his polite smile not matching his unfocused eyes. But that was probably a ruse, Catra reminded herself. The prince was paying much more attention to his surroundings than one would expect at first glance. If she had had to deal with him during her time as the Horde leader…

"We have come to a preliminary agreement to continue our negotiations," Sweet Bee announced. "I trust that the Alliance won't attempt to block our peaceful diplomatic meetings."

We should send you to a Goa'uld planet and leave you stranded there, Catra thought. See how you like your 'peaceful diplomacy' when the snakes come to burrow into your body. But that would probably help the Goa'uld, which would make the war harder. And Adora wouldn't like it.

Since they were in public - sort of; there was a photographer, but he was apparently working for the United Nations, not the press, and the Secretary-General was smiling at the idiot with other diplomats - Catra stuck to flashing her fangs in an insincere smile while the Chinese delegate - what was his name again? Something weird - repeated what Sweet Bee had said using slightly different sentences.

"The Alliance always supports peaceful diplomacy - as long as it won't hinder the efforts to defeat the Goa'uld and free millions of humans suffering in slavery," Glimmer announced with a toothy smile as soon as they had finished.

Adora nodded emphatically. "Yes. We won't sacrifice people for trade negotiations."

That should do well with the press, Catra thought. Even though she was sure that a lot of Earth's leaders would be perfectly fine with that trade. At least in private. They let people starve for profit, after all.

"Of course not." Sweet Bee's smile looked as sincere as Glimmer's.

Peekablue, though, nodded. "Yes. We're aware of the cost of a war."

Then the Secretary-General started a hopefully short speech about peace and trade and reaching out that had Catra struggle not to yawn. It was past time to go and meet the Tok'ra - and then push Sweet Bee's butt back through the Stargate. Preferably with a kick.

And Peekablue as well.


Cheyenne Mountain Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 22nd, 1999

"Colonel O'Neill!"

"Anise. Martouf." Jack O'Neill forced himself to smile as he greeted the Tok'ra. Anise looked far too happy to see him, in his opinion. So happy, indeed, that he felt the urge to check if she had drawn blood somehow while everyone shook hands and exchanged platitudes.

"... these are Princess Sweet Bee and Prince Peekablue. Sweet Bee, Peekablue, these are the Tok'ra Anise and Freya and Martouf and Lantash," Adora introduced their visitors to each other.

Peekablue was openly staring at them - was he trying to spot the snakes inside them? Could he use his magic to look into people? That would make him even more dangerous than Jack had thought. And a lot more useful as well, of course.

"I see," the prince said, nodding slowly.

Had that been a joke? Jack couldn't tell; the Etherian prince always looked as if he was high. Jack blinked. His comparison to David Bowie in the 70s might actually closer to the mark than he had thought.

"You see?" Martouf asked.

"I have the gift of Farsight."

"Ah." The two Tok'ra exchanged glances.

"And what does that do?" Anise was blunt as ever.

"It lets me see," Peekablue told her, sounding absolutely serious.

Jack grinned at Anise's reaction. That had definitely been a joke! If the prince were not with Her Annoying Honeyness, Jack would probably like the guy.

Anise sniffed. "And you think the Goa'uld aren't a danger to everyone."

"We wish to verify what the Alliance has told us about them from independent sources," Sweet Bee told her. "But there don't seem to be unbiased sources."

"Because the Goa'uld destroy or enslave everyone they can. They are as dangerous and evil as you've heard - or more so," Anise said with a scowl.

Martouf nodded. "The Tok'ra have been fighting them for thousands of years. Some of us are former Goa'uld who managed to see the light and deserted them. We know their very souls. They are cruel, vain, greedy and willing to betray even their closest kin for more power. Their cruelty knows no bounds."

Laying it on a little thick, Marty, Jack thought. But then, the Etherians might lap that up.

While the two snakes started to tell Tales of the Goa'uld, uncut edition, Jack looked around. The lab looked like it always looked - cluttered despite Carter's meticulous organisation, with too much stuff that you shouldn't touch spread around everywhere.

And Carter herself was typing on her laptop, with Entrapta looking over her shoulder. Working hard, harder than anyone else. As usual, he thought. She was really a model officer. Far too good for…

He caught himself smiling in a non-professional or diplomatic way and quickly schooled his features.


"...and then Ra had the entire planet bombed from orbit." Martouf - no, that was Lantash speaking, Adora realised even though they hadn't changed their tone - pointed at the records Sam's projector displayed in the middle of the lab. "He punished an entire world for the actions of their leader - a leader of his choice who had subjugated and enslaved the population."

She glanced at the recording being shown and winced. A formation of Ha'taks was shooting their cannons in orbit, Al'keshs swooping down, dropping bombs… and explosions on the ground. Many, many explosions.

Sweet Bee looked… struck. Her lips were trembling. And Peekablue… Had closed his eyes and was trembling. His lips were pressed together, forming a thin blue line. Oh, no - he must be suffering a flashback, as Earth called it! "Please stop the recording!" she blurted out.

"But we've just started," Anise objected. "This is just the part covering Ra's forces - we're about to show footage from the ground."

"No, we aren't," Adora told her, getting up. "Stop it, Entrapta!"

"OK!" Entrapta looked a little confused, but her hair reached out, and the holoprojection froze for a second, then faded out.

"What's the…? Oh." Bow grimaced; he would know about the problem from his dads, Adora remembered. "Sorry, we should have warned you."

"Warned us?" Sweet Bee blinked, then glanced at Peekablue and Gasped. "Peekablue!" She reached over and wrapped her arm around his shoulder.

"I'm OK," he said. He was obviously lying, though - he still hadn't opened his eyes. He returned Sweet Bee's hug, but it looked like he was clinging to her as she gently sat him down on the ground.

"Definitely not OK," Catra commented in a low voice.

Anise was still frowning, but Martouf leaned towards her and whispered something which made her blink.

Well, that seemed to have been handled. That left… No, a glance confirmed that not even Jack was about to make a joke. He was just standing there and looking awkward.

Like almost everyone else, actually. Even Entrapta wasn't looking confused any more, though she was talking to Sam in a low voice. And Sam looked uncomfortable.

Adora bit her lip - she shouldn't pry. She really shouldn't. It was rude. She should respect someone's privacy. On the other hand, Entrapta was her friend, and, well, she was often confused by things others took for granted, and that made her vulnerable. Sam was Adora and Entrapta's friend, but Adora had known Entrapta for much longer, and…

"She's telling Sam that Hordak reacts differently," Catra whispered.

Adora glanced at her lover. Catra wasn't showing any reaction. She was even looking a bit bored - or trying to fake it.

Adora was about to tell her that she shouldn't try to appear so distant, but then Peekablue opened his eyes.

And they were… She gasped. His pupils were so big, you couldn't see the white of his eyes any more. And he wasn't blinking.

Catra cursed next to her.

"What's going on?" Glimmer asked.

"Flashback," Jack replied.

"PTSD," Sam added a moment later. "Post-traumatic stress disorder."

"He is remembering what he saw during the war," Bow said.

"Like a nightmare, just… without falling asleep first," Netossa added.

"Quiet!" Sweet Bee hissed, still hugging the prince. "You're not helping!"

For a change, no one snapped back as she used one hand to gently turn Peekablue's head towards her face and started whispering to him.

Adora didn't glance at Catra, and her lover didn't tell her what the princess was saying. After a few very, very awkward minutes of silence, Peekablue closed his eyes and loudly sighed, then slumped over.

Sweet Bee hugged him a bit longer, then rose. "We'll return to Etheria. We can continue this talk at a later date. Without such… demonstrations."

"Alright!" Entrapta nodded.

"Let's go back to the gate," Jack said and walked towards the door. Sweet Bee and Peekablue got up and followed him. Adora watched them go. She should go with them to the gate, but… She couldn't do anything to help them.

Instead, once the door closed behind them, she looked at her friends and her lover. "So… We've got a fleet to deal with?"

After a moment, Sam nodded. "Yes. You've seen the data we've gathered so far. Unfortunately, We still haven't identified to which System Lord it belongs."

"We've passed the information on. The Council will look into it," Martouf added. "But unless an operative of ours already knows about this, this will take some time."

"We're analysing their communication - as much as we can, at least - but there are a few problems we have to deal with, namely…"

As Entrapta continued to explain, Adora did her best to focus on the information they had already gathered. And not on the few nightmares she had since the Horde War had ended. She didn't want to remember them.


"So, we hope that the Tok'ra can find out what's going on with that fleet, but better don't count on it. I bet we'll have to go there and take a look ourselves," the Colonel said. "But… not right now. I still have to do the paperwork for this visit." He stood and rolled his neck, then walked towards the door. "And that'll be a bitch. Because of a bitch."

"Jack!" Daniel gasped, following him out.

Samantha Carter refined from commenting, but she sighed as the door closed and cut off the Colonel's next comment.

"So… is that why Peekablue left the Alliance? The first princess Alliance, I mean. Because he couldn't see the war any more, and so couldn't fight any more?" Entrapta asked.

"It looks like it," Sam replied.

"Hordak doesn't act like that when he remembers."

She had told Sam that already. "PTSD expresses itself differently in people," Sam explained. So, Hordak suffered from it as well. He was still a former warlord who didn't really show too much remorse, in her opinion. But Entrapta loved him. And, at least as far as Sam knew, he loved her. More importantly, she didn't think he would ever hurt Entrapta.

"Apparently." Her friend sat down on the edge of her desk - solidly bolted to the floor - and used her hair to stow some of their gear. "So, how do you fix that?"

Sam winced. "That's also different for everyone. Therapy can help." But some couldn't get better at all.

"We'll have to talk to Hordak about therapy then." Entrapta nodded. "And to Peekablue, I guess."

Sam winced again. 'We'? She didn't want to talk to Hordak about his trauma. But Entrapta was her friend and obviously expected her to do this. So, she nodded and forced herself to smile. "Alright."

"Great! We can travel back to Etheria with Peekablue and Sweet Bee! I'll tell the others!" Entrapta hopped down and was halfway to the door before Sam could react.

"Wait! We've got more urgent problems to deal with!"

Entrapta stopped, turned and cocked her head. "More urgent than dealing with such pain?"

That was… a good question. Sam didn't quite know how to answer it. And they had to wait for the Tok'ra to send word, anyway.

It looked like she'd have to talk about therapy with Hordak.


Chapter 88: The Therapy Question Part 1
Chapter 88: The Therapy Question Part 1

Bright Moon, Etheria, January 22nd, 1999 (Earth Time)

"I feel guilty."

Catra, lying on her back on their bed, rolled her eyes at Adora's comment and turned her head to glance at her lover. "It's not your fault. Stop being an idiot."

"You didn't even ask what I'm feeling guilty about!" Adora pouted.

Catra grinned in return. "I don't have to. You're always feeling guilty about stuff that's not your fault."

"Not always!" her lover protested.

Catra raised her eyebrows in response. "Name one example."

"Ah…" Adora closed her mouth and pouted again. "But I should have realised that Peekablue was suffering!"

"How?" Catra scoffed. "Not even Melog managed to find that out until he had his flashback." That was a good name for it. Much better than 'nightmare while being awake', or what Glimmer tried to come up with.

"But I knew that fighting in a war left you… hurting." Adora finished hanging up her and Catra's clothes - as if they didn't have maids for that in the palace! And the clothes would be collected and sent to the laundry in the morning anyway! - and sat down on the bed next to Catra. She was biting her lower lip, Catra noticed. "It's… many have nightmares."

"Yeah." That wasn't really new. Hell, Catra had nightmares as well. Not as many as back then, not since she had started sleeping in Adora's bed again, but still. And that was normal - she didn't know anyone who never had nightmares. "Everyone has nightmares. You don't have to fight in a war to get them."

"But it's not the same! Peekablue was… He was trembling, and his eyes…" Adora shook her head.

Catra clenched her teeth for a moment. Yes, the stupid Prince had looked terrible. But that wasn't Adora's fault. "But you couldn't know that he had the worst trauma," she said, as gently as she could, while she sat up and slid behind her lover so she could wrap her arms around Adora's waist.

"I should have!"

Catra rolled her eyes behind Adora's back. "No, you couldn't. Most people who go through traumatic experiences don't suffer like he does." At least not for over ten years. Someone would have told them if that was normal, right? Catra pushed the stupid thought away. "It's not your fault that he had a flashback. You didn't know and couldn't know. He didn't tell us, either."

"Well, yes, but… I still feel guilty. I thought he was a coward for not fighting! I didn't even consider that he might have had a good reason to stop fighting! That he couldn't fight any more! That his magic power would have shown him so many horrible things…"

Catra tensed before she managed to force herself to relax. She was responsible for a lot of those things. If Peekablue had kept an eye on the war… No, he wouldn't have. Not when just recordings of a Goa'uld attack caused such a reaction. He wouldn't have tortured himself like that. She was sure of that. Pretty sure. Whatever. Adora was blaming herself, and Catra had to do something about that. "He didn't tell us, so why would we suspect that? It's his fault for not telling us. It's like…" Think, idiot, think! "It's like a food allergy. If you don't tell people you are allergic to some food, it's your own fault if they serve something that hurts you!"

"How much Earth television did you watch?" Adora asked, turning her head and shifting a bit around to frown at her.

"That was from the lecture about travelling to different planets and trying different food," Catra defended herself. And there had been something about that.

"Ah." Adora shook her head. "It's not the same. We've been blaming him and Sweet Bee for not wanting to fight the Goa'uld even though the Goa'uld are a danger to everyone, but we didn't know this!"

"Sweet Bee didn't have any traumatic experience in the war." The stupid princess had avoided the Horde War - Catra knew all princesses who had fought the Horde when she had been in command. She shifted around, lying across Adora's lap, on her back so she could face her lover.

"She could have fought against Horde Prime's invasion," Adora retorted.

"Do you really think she wouldn't have told us that, repeatedly, to get access to the gate?" Catra snorted.

"Ah…" Adora sighed. "I guess she would have."

Catra nodded. "Absolutely." The arrogant princess would have thrown that into their face at every opportunity.

"But she knows about Peekablue's trauma. So, she knows how it happened."

"So?" Catra narrowed her eyes.

Adora took a deep breath. Catra felt her arms tense around her shoulders and hip. "She would know that this could happen to her in the war."

"That only makes her a coward," Catra snapped. Countless people had fought anyway. OK, not all of them had had a choice or knew any better, but… She clenched her teeth again.

"Not everyone is cut out to fight."

"She's a princess. If she's not willing to fight for her kingdom, she should step down!" Catra spat. "She owes her people that!"

Adora nodded. "But what… what if her people aren't in danger?"

"Because the Alliance protects everyone?" Catra scoffed again. "Then she should help us anyway."

Adora sighed and slowly nodded, but Catra had a feeling that her lover didn't quite agree.


Cheyenne Mountain Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 23rd, 1999

"Colonel O'Neill, could you explain why the United Nations has sent a request to let a delegation composed of members of several non-governmental organisations visit Etheria?"

General Hammond hadn't lost his touch, Jack O'Neill noted to himself. The man's tone was polite, even slightly bored, his question innocuous, but his expression… Jack forced himself to smile. "I assume that's related to the meeting Perfuma had with them in Geneva."

"A meeting the Command Council wasn't informed of until now." Hammond frowned openly now.

"I think it was in our report," Jack defended himself.

"It was - I checked. 'Princess Perfuma was curious about the biosphere of Earth, and the Secretary-General referred her to a few specialists of his acquaintance'," Hammond quoted. He didn't quite slap the report down on his desk, but it came close. "Nothing about an agreement to restore the Amazon rainforest with magic."

Ah. "I didn't hear anything about that, sir," Jack said. Granted, he - and the others, including Perfuma as soon as she heard of it - had been focused on Peekablue's nervous breakdown and then the whole business about the hidden Goa'uld fleet tok priority.

"Yes, General," Daniel bravely tried to help. "Specifics never came up, though Perfuma was talking about restoring the rainforest earlier in the day."

"And you didn't mention that either, Dr Jackson?"

Damn! Jack knew that face. Daniel was digging his heels in. "It was not relevant to the task we were given, General. We were to report about Sweet Bee's diplomatic mission," his friend said.

"I would think that it was clear that a foreign head of state planning to intervene in a nation on Earth, with possible repercussions for the entire planet, should have been reported."

"I didn't hear anything about an intervention." Daniel frowned. "Perfuma was merely interested in the possibility of using her magic to restore nature, and the Secretary-General referred her to several organisations with similar goals."

"Yes, General," Jack added. "If we can't trust the Secretary-General of the United Nations - of which Stargate Command is a part - then whom could we trust?"

And here came the glare. Jack had to work on his innocent act. "This isn't a time for jokes, Colonel. The CIA has warned us that there are questionable elements amongst the delegation."

"'Questionable elements'?" Daniel raised his eyebrows.

"Potential extremists, Dr Jackson. As you might be aware, there's some concern about extremists of various kinds acquiring magic to enforce their demands."

"Are you sure that was the CIA and not the United Fruit Company?" Daniel inclined his head. "Did they label Greenpeace as terrorists as well?"

"Well, they do oppose nuclear power, which probably means they'll oppose spaceships," Jack commented. "That will make it hard for them to blockade spaceship yards with their own spaceships, though."

No one laughed, and Daniel frowned at him.

"Greenpeace is actually an organisation under observation according to our sources," Hammond said,

Daniel blinked, then took a deep breath. "Of all the… What is going on? This is ridiculous!"

"It is the stance of the United States Government that the reckless use of magic by independent actors might endanger the entire planet, Dr Jackson." Hammond met his eyes. "I think that, thanks to your close acquaintance with the Etherians, you are aware of how dangerous magic can be."

Daniel had an incredulous expression for a moment before he scowled. "Thanks to our close friendship with the Etherians, we are aware that the odds of anyone on Earth being able to endanger the entire planet with magic are infinitesimally small. We don't have the tradition, knowledge and magitech to create anything like what the Etherians dealt with."

"We aren't only concerned about such threats, but also about magical diseases, invasive species - and the repercussions of…" Hammond glanced at another file. "...magical geoengineering and altering of regional ecosystems, especially with regard to the climate."

"Oh, now we're concerned about the climate, are we?" Daniel scoffed. "Ruining the ecosystems of entire countries was fine as long as it wasn't done with magic?"

"Dr Jackson." Hammond narrowed his eyes at him.

To Jack's relief, Daniel backed down. "Sorry, sir. But these concerns seem oddly specific and limited."

"Not the concerns about invasive species and magically altered diseases," Carter spoke up. "Those could be very dangerous."

"Perfuma is aware of that, though," Daniel retorted. "She wouldn't endanger us like that."

"And her new friends on Earth are as responsible?" Jack shook his head. "I'm not a biologist or a sorcerer, but we've all seen what magic can do, and it probably wouldn't take much to change a virus into the second coming of the Spanish Flu." He had done a report about that at the Academy once. Nasty stuff.

"That's just speculation," Daniel said. But he looked less confident now. "And Perfuma and the others will be aware of that. And they will likely have countermeasures for such incidents."

"Which they will, generously and selflessly, share with us," Jack said, not hiding his sarcasm. "Oh, I know they will," he said when Daniel opened his mouth. "But that'll be one more thing we'll depend on them for."

"Only until we get sorceresses of our own, Jack," Daniel said.

"Good luck with that," Jack muttered. The last thing he wanted was more pressure to study magic.

"In any case, the Command Council expects you to discuss these concerns with our allies," Hammond said.

"Yes, sir."

Great. More magic talk.


Bright Moon, Etheria, January 23rd, 1999 (Earth Time)

"So, Sweet Bee and Peekablue haven't contacted us yet to reschedule their meeting with the Tok'ra. If they ever do," Glimmer said, slowly looking at everyone at the table in the meeting room.

She sounded a bit… not smug. But… relieved? Adora wasn't quite sure. Adora herself certainly wasn't sad that she wouldn't have to face Sweet Bee and Peekablue right away. She still felt ashamed for her annoyance at them before she found out about Peekablue's issues.

"Let's hope that the talk they had with the Tok'ra was enough to convince them that the Goa'uld are a real threat," Mermista commented with a frown.

"I don't think Peekablue could go through another such talk," Perfuma said. "At least not if they have more such… records."

"Sweet Bee could do it herself," Adora pointed out. That would be the logical course of action.

"If she's interested in the truth, at least," Glimmer muttered. Louder, she said: "Anyway, we can just wait until they contact us again. We've got a more pressing problem to deal with."

"Yes!" Entrapta perked up. "Therapy!"

"No, I meant… what?"

What? Adora blinked. She wasn't the only one - pretty much everyone at the table was staring at Entrapta.

"Therapy?" Catra asked.

"Yes. I talked with Sam, and I confirmed it with some data we gathered on Earth, but overlooked until now, but therapy can help you deal with traumatic experiences. It's not always successful, though. But it shouldn't make things worse, I think. So, the logical course of action would be to do it." Entrapta nodded firmly.

"Good luck telling Sweet Bee and Peekablue that. If they don't believe us about the Goa'uld, they won't believe us about therapy," Glimmer told her with a snort.

"Oh, I wasn't thinking about Peekablue - but he probably should get some therapy too, yes. Although Sam told me that the patient needs to want to get therapy or it won't really help, which is quite an interesting difference compared to other forms of healing, right?"

She wasn't thinking about Peekablue? Then who…? Oh! "You want us to get therapy?" Adora blurted out before she could stop herself.


"That's stupid!"

"I don't need therapy!"

"We don't need therapy!"

"I'm doing fine!"

"What's therapy?"

"I'm not like Peekablue."

Adora looked at Catra. Her lover hadn't said anything, but she was glaring at Entrapta. And clenching her teeth, hard - Adora could tell from the way her cheeks twitched. She reached over to squeeze Catra's thigh and felt how tense the other girl was.

Entrapta looked confused - and taken aback - by the reactions of the others. "Therapy is a form of treatment that Earth scientists have developed to deal with trauma. And war - which we have gone through - is a commonly mentioned source of such trauma. And the symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder vary wildly, but nightmares are amongst them."

And everyone had had nightmares after the war, Adora was sure of that. Judging by the glances the others exchanged, they remembered that as well. But she wasn't sure if those therapists she remembered from the shows and movies she had seen on Earth were scientists. They hadn't really seemed like scientists to her, but then, many of those shows and movies had been fiction.

"Earth did that? Without magic?" Mermista didn't quite sneer, but her expression was not really supportive.

"You can't use magic to, ah, cure trauma," Adora told her friends. She had looked quite thoroughly into that after the war, when Catra had had more frequent nightmares. And Adora as well, but that was another topic. In any case, everyone she asked - Glimmer and Castaspella - had been clear that there was no spell to deal with nightmares and guilt.

"My research shows that therapy is generally based on talking to specialists," Entrapta smiled as she explained, but she still looked confused by the reactions. And perhaps a bit afraid. "It helps, according to my data."

"Talk to a stranger?" Mermista frowned even more. "About what, exactly?"

"The experience that left you traumatised. And your feelings." Entrapta nodded. "It sounds fascinating, actually - the people on Earth have so much data about emotions."

"I bet they have," Catra mumbled.

"That sounds stupid!" Frosta declared. "Why should we talk to a stranger about that? Not that we need to, anyway, but there're a lot of secrets involved in the war - and there will be more secrets in this war. You can't just talk to a stranger about that!"

"Well, talking to a friend about your feelings could be… embarrassing," Sea Hawk said with an embarrassed smile. "Talking to a stranger might be easier."

He was glancing at Scorpia, Adora noticed. And Scorpia seemed embarrassed as well. What was up with that?

"Well, I'm fine. I don't need to talk to anyone about that stuff," Frosta said.

"Are you sure?" Perfuma looked concerned. "Talking to a friend helps; I know that. If you don't want to talk to a stranger, you can talk to me."

"I told you: I am fine!" Frosta retorted.

Now that sounded familiar. Adora glanced at her lover, but Catra was still sitting here, tense and more silent than expected. She wasn't fine at all. And Adora didn't think the rest of her friends were fine, either. There was no helping it; she had to do something. "I think it would be a good thing to talk about such things," she said. Not talking about your feelings certainly wasn't doing anyone any good. If only Adora and Catra had talked about their feelings for each other before everything had gone wrong…

Glimmer frowned at her, Adora saw, but Bow nodded. As did Netossa and Spinnerella. And Entrapta, of course. Mermista, though, crossed her arms over her chest and scowled, but Sea Hawk was whispering to her. Frosta mimicked her. Perfuma beamed at Adora, Scorpia smiled, and Catra… Rolled her eyes but didn't scoff or make fun of her.

Well, that was a better reaction than Adora had feared.

"Even if we want to talk to a therapist, who could we trust?" Glimmer said.

"We can talk to a friend," Perfuma repeated herself.

"Therapists are professionals with a code of ethics that requires them to keep their patients' secrets," Entrapta said. Probably quoting her data.

"That's what they are supposed to do. But can we trust them to actually stick to it?" Glimmer shook her head. "And they would all be from Earth - we would depend on them. That's… unbalanced."

"We could ask for them to train our own therapists?" Perfuma suggested.

"They'll want training in magic in return. And you know what Mystacore said about that."

"Well, yes. But…"

Adora leaned back a little as the discussion shifted about how to get therapy. Things were looking up, it seemed.

"You're going to therapy as well, you know," Catra whispered. "We're probably going to need two therapists for you alone."

Or not.


Bright Moon, Etheria, January 24th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Sam! There you are!"

"Greetings, Captain Carter."

"Hello, Entrapa. Hordak." Samantha Carter nodded at her friend and her… partner as she stepped into their lab in the palace.

Entrapta's smile turned into a wince. "I wanted to welcome you at the gate, but then the experiment with the new bot matrix hit a hitch, and we kinda lost track of time! I'm sorry!"

"It's no problem," Sam told her. "I know the feeling." It had happened to her a few times as well, after all. The Colonel liked to claim that she intentionally lost track of time as an excuse, but that wasn't true. Not really.

"Good!" Her friend beamed at her, then turned around to look at Hordak. "Science Buddy! We need to talk!"

"Yes?" Hordak cocked his head and slowly turned to face her. Compared to the other clones, he felt quite a bit more alien, Sam noticed again. There was always some hesitation in his movements. Some stiffness. Maybe it was a lingering psychological effect from living in a crippled body for so long, even being restored to full health hadn't been able to overcome it. Not to mention that the circumstances of that process hadn't been deeply traumatic. And, speaking of trauma, Sam had to consider how to diplomatically breach the reason for today's visit…

"You need to get therapy!" Entrapta blurted out.

Sam suppressed a wince at her friend's bluntness - which she should have expected.

"Therapy?" Hordak looked confused.

"A treatment for trauma that Earth scientists have developed!" Entrapta beamed at him.

But Hordak scowled. "I do not require such treatment."

"Yes, you do!" Entrapta, completely unimpressed, nodded emphatically. "The data is conclusive. You've experienced traumatic events - lots of them that we don't need to go into now - and you're showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder."

"I do not."

"You have nightmares," Entrapta pointed out. "That's a symptom."

"That is a normal reaction. Everyone has nightmares." Hordak shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest, raising his chin. "I am no different in that than anyone else."

"Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean you don't need therapy. It could mean that everyone needs therapy. Which I think would be the more plausible deduction, actually." Entrapta cocked her head to the side. "In any case, the Alliance is currently discussing how to get therapy. I think so, at least - some were not very receptive to the idea, but Adora supported it. And Catra as well, I think - she didn't protest, at least. And she's like you, kinda."

Sam's eyes widened. The princesses were planning to get therapy? That was… a huge surprise. And important information, she added with a pang of guilt.

Hordak scoffed. "Catra would agree to anything Adora proposes."

"Well, probably, yes. But that doesn't change the data or the conclusions."

Hordak didn't look convinced. "And what does this 'therapy' entail?"

"Well, according to my research, you basically talk with specialists about your feelings and problems until you feel better."

Sam cleared her throat. "It's a bit more complex than that. It's about dealing with traumatic experiences and memories by focusing on changing mental distortions and adapting coping strategies." Well, the most effective and common therapy for trauma did, at least according to her admittedly cursory research.

"I fail to see how this would work," Hordak retorted, glowering at her now.

"Well, that's because you don't know anything about this - we haven't researched this yet!" Entrapta smiled. "Once we know more, that'll change! That's why Sam's here!"

Sam blinked. She hadn't expected that - this was a misunderstanding! She wasn't a psychologist, much less a therapist! She was a physicist, not a shrink!

"Earth has tons of experience with that stuff - I found tons of material in our databanks! Everyone gets therapy there!" Entrapta went on. "Look!"

Her hair tendrils touched the keyboard behind her, and documents appeared on the big screen in the lab. And pictures. And clips from TV shows and movies. Most of them fictional, Sam realised with a sinking feeling.

"You see? It's very common on Earth, which is logical given how many wars they have, and how many other traumatic experiences. Right, Sam?"

Sam winced. "Well, that's… not entirely accurate…"



"Not everyone who needs therapy gets it," Sam started to explain. Fortunately, her quick research had covered this, although not in real depth. "And while it generally helps, it's not a perfect cure - far from it. Its effectiveness depends on many factors, and…"


"...and so, people are kind of concerned about any plans to restore the rainforest."

Catra snorted as O'Neill finished and shrugged before leaning back in his seat and nibbling on a finger sandwich. So, Earth was worried about Perfuma wanting to help them. Typical!

"'People'?" Glimmer asked, raising her eyebrows.

"You know, the United Nations, the countries which include parts of the rainforest, various corporations involved in the agricultural business…" O'Neill shrugged. "Lots of people."

"Lots of interest groups," Daniel added with a scoff. "Although the countries that would be affected by Perfuma's hypothetical actions are legitimately concerned." He glanced around in Glimmer's office. "We had hoped to talk to her about that, actually."

"Well, she's back in Plumeria or the Scorpion Kingdom," Glimmer replied. "We had an Alliance meeting yesterday, and people needed a break."

And Perfuma was probably trying to persuade more of their friends to get help. She was like that, Catra knew.

"Oh?" O'Neill perked up. "Something came up?"

"Yes. Therapy." Adora told him.

He seemed surprised, Catra noticed. Surprised and… that was a brief scowl. So, O'Neill didn't like therapy? Or didn't like them getting therapy? Either way, that was interesting.

"Therapy?" Daniel asked with a slightly puzzled expression.

"It's an Earth treatment for trauma," Catra told him, trying to look and sound as serious as possible.

"Oh, I know what…" Daniel trailed off, pouting, while Adora and Glimmer frowned at her, and O'Neill laughed.

Success! Catra grinned.

"Yes, we're considering therapy," Glimmer said with a fake smile. "Although it's a quite controversial proposal."

"Yeah." O'Neill nodded in agreement. "I can imagine."

"Oh?" Catra cocked her head at him. "Do you have experience with therapy?"

"Well, not personally," O'Neill said. "But… the shrinks, I mean, the people who do the therapy, sometimes don't really understand how things work, you know? They are a bit removed from, well, the reality of our lives out here. Or on the front."

Catra glanced at Daniel, who was pressing his lips together and frowning at O'Neill. He obviously disagreed. But would he say so out loud? Probably, she decided. Daniel wasn't one to hold back much. "I see," she said. "So, you've never got therapy."


"And that wasn't a good thing," Daniel blurted out.

"Daniel," O'Neill snapped with a glare.

"Jack!" Daniel shook his head as he met Jack's eyes. "Therapy does help. Not every therapist is good, but not every officer is good either - and you don't paint everyone with the same brush. That so many veterans don't get therapy is a shame!"

The two stared at each other for a moment. Then O'Neill shrugged with a snort and slouched a bit in his seat. "There are too many stupid shrinks around who think they know best when they don't know anything at all about the real world."

"Many people would be happier with therapy. It's not some hoax," Daniel retorted.

"I can see how the topic is controversial," Bow commented. He was grimacing a little.

And Adora looked torn, Catra noticed. Maybe she would reconsider this therapy thing - it wasn't as if Catra was sold on it. But if it could help Adora with her issues, it was worth it.

"So, we already know that therapy isn't some magic cure," Glimmer spoke up, then frowned at O'Neill's grin at her wording. "But what's the worst that could happen if it doesn't work? Can it hurt you?"

"You get sent to the loony bin," O'Neill replied.

"Jack!" Daniel frowned.

"Loony bin?" Glimmer asked.

"A colloquial term for a psychiatric facility where people who are suffering from severe mental issues are treated, sometimes against their will," Daniel explained.

"You mean psychologists can lock people up?" Adora blurted out. "On Earth?"

That was concerning, Catra had to agree. Well, they obviously wouldn't be able to do it to a princess. Or to her - she'd shred anyone who tried.

"In very extreme cases, but it wouldn't be psychologists, but psychiatrists," Daniel said, glancing at O'Neill. "Those, ah, are specialists for mental illnesses. It's not the same as treating trauma, even though lay people tend to mix them up."

"You're neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist, Daniel."

"But I know the difference, Jack."

"Whatever," Catra said. "So, seeing as anyone trying to lock up one of us would regret it, what's the worst outcome that could realistically happen?"

"Manipulation," O'Neill said after a moment. "The shrink will get to know you really well. Including some of your worst secrets. If he abuses your trust, he can manipulate you."

Oh. Catra clenched her teeth. That sounded like…

"Shadow Weaver," Adora muttered under her breath, copying Catra's thought.

Glimmer's as well, it seemed, judging by her expression. "Maybe we should reconsider this a bit more," Glimmer said with a glance at Adora.

"Maybe." Adora pressed her lips together as she nodded.

"Ah… it's a matter of trust and trustworthiness." Daniel smiled at them. "If you can't trust your therapist, well… that's obviously bad, but that's the same with many things. Like your doctor. Or your, ah, portfolio manager."

"What's a portfolio manager?" Glimmer asked.

"People who manage your money," Daniel explained. "If they betray your trust, they can steal a lot of your wealth."

"You have people manage your wealth for you?" Bow asked.

"Only the rich, and only some of them," O'Neill said. "Well, there's also banking, which works the same."

"In a very simplified way," Daniel said. "But it was just an example that therapy isn't a bad thing even if there might be untrustworthy therapists."

"And we would have to judge that." Glimmer still looked sceptical. With good reason, of course - in Catra's opinion.

"Well, any psychologist working at Stargate Command was carefully vetted," Daniel said.

"By your government." Glimmer nodded.

Which didn't mean that they could be trusted by Catra's friends. They would have to find their own.

It looked like this would be even more difficult than it had seemed.


"Yes, by our government, which is your trusted ally." Jack O'Neill smiled widely and ignored Daniel's frown. He was allowed a bit of sarcasm. And a good amount of caution was a very good thing when dealing with shrinks.

"Do you really think the US government will try to send spies to Etheria under the guise of psychologists?" Daniel asked. "That would be a very unfriendly act towards an ally."

"Only if they get caught," Jack said.

"But the consequences of such an operation being exposed… why would the government risk that?" Daniel shook his head.

"Oh, never underestimate how cocky spooks can be." Jack grinned, showing his teeth. He knew that first-hand. "Or what they think they can get away with, as long as there's plausible deniability." Jack had no doubt that a number of spooks were acting as if the Cold War had never ended. Or had trouble adapting to a world where the United States wasn't the superpower, or even a superpower, any more.

"But…" Daniel shook his head again - he hadn't actually stopped, Jack realised. "They would risk the alliance! After all the trouble it took to get into it! Who would do that?"

"Kinsey?" Jack cocked his head. "Anyone from the NID?" Maybourne probably would love such an operation.

"Aren't you supposed to portray your country as trustworthy and sympathetic?" Bow asked.

Jack shrugged. "The United States has its share of bad apples." In often far too high positions, but still - it wasn't as if the country was rotten to the core or something. "That doesn't mean we're the bad guys."

"But there's a risk of some of those 'bad apples' working against our best interest," Glimmer said.


"And if they get caught, they'll claim to have operated without orders from your government," Catra added.

"Yep. Though they would be telling the truth - the government wouldn't give them such orders."

"But they also wouldn't order them not to do this." Catra flashed her fangs. "In case they succeed."

"Spooks have been known to interpret their orders creatively." Jack shrugged again. "Some of them also have been operating quite independently." And some had gone rogue.

"Well, so do we - SG-1, I mean. If we think our orders are stupid," Daniel said.

Like when Apophis had attacked. "The difference is that we only acted when there was no other choice," Jack said. And they had been right, of course. Unlike the NID.

"Your government seems to need better control over its spies," Glimmer commented.

"Like we have control over Double Trouble?" Catra scoffed.

"They aren't a member of the Alliance. They aren't under our command at all," Glimmer said.

"Well, of course, we'd say that!" Catra grinned.

"But we wouldn't be lying about it!" Glimmer snapped. "And Double Trouble wouldn't be acting for us but for themselves."

Catra nodded, serious again.

Ah, yes. The Etherian superspy who could take the shape of anyone - and had the acting talent and experience to play the role convincingly. And who loved to cause drama and chaos for shit and giggles. Just knowing about Double Trouble had sent the various agencies in the United States into a frenzy. Hearing that the Etherians were also concerned about the spy didn't help with that, of course. At least no one, except possibly Kinsey, was blaming Jack for that since he had never met the spy. At least as far as he knew - he could have met them without realising it. Easily.

And wasn't that a comforting thought? Fortunately, Double Trouble was a unique case. At least as far as the Etherians knew. Of course, if Double Trouble were not such a showman, they could have stayed in the shadows forever, so just because the Etherians were not aware of anyone else like Double Trouble didn't mean there was no such spy…

Ah! Jack reminded himself to stop that - he was starting to think like a spook again. And that wasn't a good thing.

And he didn't need a shrink to know that, either!


Bright Moon, Etheria, January 25th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Therapy?" Sweet Bee sounded as if that was a dirty word, in Adora's opinion.

"Therapy?" Peekablue repeated although he sounded more as if he was honestly curious.

"Yes," Adora repeated. "It's a form of treatment for, ah, traumatic experiences that cause, uh, flashbacks that the people on Earth have developed. The treatment, not the flashbacks." She struggled not to bite her lower lip - she was stumbling over words she had heard so often in the last few days, she was probably dreaming of them! Then again, talking to Peekablue about it was different - he was so obviously suffering from it…

"They don't have magic; how could they develop this?" Sweet Bee asked, frowning.

"It's not a magical treatment," Adora explained. "It is based on psychological principles." She had prepared for that part, of course.

"What are psychological principles?" Sweet Bee still sounded doubtful.

And Catra had made fun of Adora for preparing to explain that as well! Adora nodded and launched into her next explanation. "It's the science of studying the mind and behaviour. Well, the principles of such behaviour. Specifically, the principles of..."


"...and that's about it," Adora finished her explanation, then looked at her guests. Although, technically, they were guests of Glimmer, and Adora was a guest in their room. Sort of. Protocol was kind of unclear about such visits since Adora was - technically - a guest as well in the palace, but it was also her home. And she wasn't a subordinate of Glimmer, which further complicated matters. It would only be more complicated if this were the Princess Prom.

Sweet Bee still was frowning. Even more so than before, actually, Adora realised with a sinking feeling in her stomach. Had she botched the explanation? Maybe she shouldn't have come alone, but Sweet Bee didn't get along with most of Adora's friends, especially Catra and Glimmer. Though she also didn't get along with Adora…

"So… You want us to talk to Earth healers about our problems so they can analyse us." Sweet Beet stared at her.

That was… technically correct, but not in that sense. "I think this could help you get better about, you know," Adora replied, looking at Peekablue. This was about him, after all - Sweet Bee wasn't traumatised by war.

"I see." Peekablue smiled faintly. "But I also see the risks of being taken advantage of."

"And of feeling obligated," Sweet Bee added.

"What? No!" Adora shook her head. "This isn't a trade; this is an honest offer to help you. No strings attached!" What did they think she was doing?

"So you say. And you might mean it. But you'd have to be a very selfish person not to feel an obligation to return such a favour," Sweet Bee said. "Glimmer has been quite clear about the fact that she expects us to be grateful for the protection the Alliance provides. Whether or not we want it."

Well, that was… not entirely wrong. Glimmer had been vocal about people profiting from the sacrifices of the Alliance. But it wasn't right either. Adora shook her head. "Glimmer was talking about using the Stargate without contributing to its security." And putting Etheria at risk, which was kind of a negative contribution to the gate security, as Bow had described it.

Sweet Bee rolled her eyes, but Peekablue slowly nodded. "But you don't want to share responsibility over the Stargate's operation - you want to control it."

"We kind of have to," Adora said, trying not to wince. "It's crucial for the war effort."

Sweet Bee scoffed at that. "The usual excuse!"

"It's not an excuse. We need the Stargate to wage the war - the distances are too big for alternatives," Adora told her. Sure, there was the communication network Entrapta and Sam's spy bots were putting up, but that could only handle communication - they certainly couldn't move princesses and other people through it.

"Earth nominally has the whole planet contributing to secure the Stargate, but the Alliance effectively controls it as well there," Peekablue pointed out.

"Which is a problem. You want us to contribute to the defence of Etheria, but we wouldn't have any say about how it's being handled." Sweet Bee shook her head. "The Alliance is just too big for Etheria."

"Do you want us to break up? In the middle of the war?" Adora shook her head. That would be crazy! And they couldn't expect the princesses to stop being friends! That wasn't how it worked!

"No," Peekablue spoke again, cutting off what Sweet Bee had been about to say. "But we expect you to acknowledge that you are so powerful, what the smaller kingdoms could contribute to the war wouldn't matter at all." He leaned forward in his seat, staring - for the first time, ever - directly at Adora and meeting her eyes. "War has traditionally been the business of princesses. Of course, soldiers served and fought in various roles, but a war was generally decided by princesses matching up against each other. The Horde broke that tradition."

Well, Hordak wasn't a princess. Though, technically, he was powerful enough to be treated as one, he hadn't been raised on Etheria. Of course, he'd fight a war differently.

"Yes. The Horde fought differently. And now they're part of the Alliance," Sweet Bee said.

"Well… yes?" Adora didn't shrug; that would have been rude. It was obvious that the Alliance would have taken in former Horde soldiers; that was the right thing to do. And the smart thing to do, as Catra would put it.

"But you - at least most of the Alliance - seem to expect that everyone else continues the same as before," Peekablue said. "Even though things have changed drastically. Earth kingdoms have no princesses - but many times the population of Etheria. And you have Horde Prime's fleet of ships and the Horde army of bots. What do you need anyone else for? Why do you want more people to be exposed to the horrors of war? You already have enough soldiers."

That was… it wasn't like that! "We don't expect everyone to fight," Adora protested. "You can help in other ways as well if you want to."

"You'd have our artisans craft a skiff while the factories of the Alliance and Earth spit out shuttles by the dozens?" Peekablue shook his head. "What for? A skiff more or less wouldn't really change anything for a war on this scale."

"But a skiff more or less would change a lot for a family on Etheria. Or a village. Not every kingdom is large or rich," Sweet Bee added.

"Trading with Earth will change a lot as well," Adora pointed out. "And you are planning that."

"Yes. We have to," Sweet Bee told her. "But that trade will be more equal, and more profitable, than just working for the Alliance. We won't have to turn into the Horde for this. We won't have to change as much. We will be able to control it."

"We hope so, at least," Peekablue said. "We might be wrong, but we have to try anyway. We owe it to our people."

Sweet Bee nodded firmly.

Adora winced. She should have taken someone else with her. She hadn't come for this. "I see," she said, smiling wryly when Peekablue raised his eyebrows. "But I didn't come here to discuss politics. I wanted to talk to you about therapy, nothing more. It might help you with your… issue." He was suffering, and he shouldn't be. No one should.

Sweet Bee and Peekablue exchanged a glance. "We'll consider it," he said.

Adora wasn't a politician, but she knew that was a polite way to say no. Catra would tell her she told her so. But Adora had had to try, at least.

Chapter 89: The Therapy Question Part 2
Chapter 89: The Therapy Question Part 2

Bright Moon, Etheria, January 25th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"I already told you the last time you mentioned this: I do not need therapy."

"But you do! Data doesn't lie!"

Samantha Carter tried not to wince at the exchange between Entrapta and Hordak. She hadn't asked, but it seemed clear that this disagreement had been going on for a while. Probably since her last visit, during which the same argument had ended inconclusively. And she was pretty certain that the two wouldn't be able to find a solution. It was obvious that Entrapta wanted the best for her lover, but Sam knew that her friend didn't fully understand, well, people. She meant well, and she was friendly, but dealing with such a situation was beyond her.

And Hordak was… about the same. He was far less friendly, of course, than Entrapta - gruff, most of the time - but he was as socially awkward, though it expressed itself a bit differently. And he had been raised, and socialised, by Horde Prime, who, by all accounts, made Ra look pleasant and humble in comparison.

Which meant it would need outside intervention to solve this before the two hurt each other. At least emotionally. And absent their other friends, it seemed as if Sam would have to step up and intervene.


She took a deep breath, then stepped forward, not quite between Entrapta and Hordak - a table with the latest prototype of an improved bot blaster cannon prevented that - but close enough. "Please, stop for a moment."

Both turned to look at her, and Sam had to turn her head back and forth to watch both of them. That was… not optimal.

"Sam! The data doesn't lie!" Entrapta wasn't wringing her hands, but her hair tendrils were moving a bit erratically - she was upset.

Before Sam could reply, Hordak scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "The data is not applicable. It's about humans. I am not human."

"But the principles are the same!"

"You don't know that."

"But the symptoms match!" Entrapta retorted.

"The symptoms can vary wildly, so that is no proof. You display similar symptoms at times." Hordak shook his head.

Entrapta looked taken aback. "Well, yes. I might need therapy as well. But the data is clear that I cannot objectively judge my own mental state, and we don't have anyone yet who's qualified to do so."

"Then you can't judge my mental state either." Hordak sounded almost smug.

"But I can compare the data! And the data is solid enough to deduce that you should see a therapist. If my conclusion is wrong, the therapist will tell you." Entrapta nodded firmly. "That's the obvious solution: See an experienced professional."

They were ignoring Sam again. That was… quite a new experience.

"Professional means they do it for a living. That means they have ample incentive to claim a need for their services, so their judgment would be biased," Hordak retorted. "And the incentive for a spy working as a therapist to make a false claim is even bigger since that would allow them to gather information about us."

That was not wrong, technically, but quite biased itself. On the other hand, Sam was very much aware of and shared the Colonel's view that the NID and other agencies wouldn't hesitate to use such underhanded means to gain more information and potential leverage on the Etherians.

"Then we just need to find a trustworthy therapist!" Entrapta nodded. "Please! It's going to help!"

"Glimmer and the others haven't found a trustworthy therapist yet, and the odds of them managing that feat are not good." Hordak snorted.

"I have confidence in them," Entrapta replied. "They'll succeed."

"How could they? This is completely out of their experience. How could they find a trustworthy therapist amongst the corrupt or compromised?" Hordak shook his head again. "And even them, it wouldn't work since I am not a human. A therapist with experience with humans couldn't adequately judge my mental state."

Sam had to press her lips together to avoid blurting out that you didn't need a degree to determine that Hordak wasn't in a good mental state and needed help. But he was correct in that he wasn't human. His mind might not work the same way as a human's did. On the other hand, he acted all too human, in Sam's experience. Close enough, in any case, to not appear truly alien. "I think the basic principles are the same," she said.

Entrapta beamed at her, and Hordak scowled.

"But I am not a psychologist. Although I don't think talking to one would hurt," Sam went on.

"Unless they are a spy," Hordak spat. "The risks are too great for the small probability of success."

"That's not how science works!" Entrapta protested. "If an experiment is too dangerous, you take steps to make it safer!"

"This isn't an experiment!" Hordak retorted.

But Entrapta smiled. "It's a way to gather data - close enough. So, how can we reduce the risk of this harming us?" She cocked her head and looked at Sam.

"Ah…" Sam was at a loss.

"How did you pick your therapist?" Entrapta asked.

Sam didn't. She went to her mandatory counselling sessions when ordered to, and that was it. Officers who thought they needed additional therapy and told the Air Force so would have poor prospects for promotions. Or for being trusted with top-secret projects. But her friend needed an answer. "Well… people tend to look for references when picking a therapist."

"References?" Entrapta frowned.

"They ask their friends if they know a trustworthy therapist," Sam explained. At least, that was what Sam had heard - it wasn't as if she knew anyone who would actually talk about needing therapy in her social circle. Except, now, for the Etherians. And wasn't that ironic?

"Good. So, who would you recommend?" Entrapta beamed at her, obviously expecting an answer.

Sam winced. "Well, I actually don't know a therapist…" Entrapta's face fell, and Hordak started to smile. Or what passed for a smile for him. Sam quickly added: "But I can ask around."



Alliance Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, January 26th, 1999

"So, as you can see, the electronic reconnaissance has resulted in inconclusive data. Although we managed to get closer to the unidentified fleet with a spy bot without getting detected, we could not determine their identity. Well, we already knew what ships were there and how many, but their transponders are not set to any signal in use by a System Lord - or any that had been used by one in the past. Or by a past System Lord. Which kinda is the same, but it's not quite the same. Anyway! Also, optical sensors were not powerful enough to make out any ship names on the hulls from that distance. I wanted to fly closer, but Sam said that wouldn't be safe and the risk of detection was too high. Even though we would then get better data on the fleet's sensor net capability."

Catra suppressed a sigh at Entrapta and slid a bit forward in her seat. Her friend was pouting - she obviously disagreed with the risk assessment. But knowing how good the enemy's sensors were wouldn't be useful if the enemy would, in turn, be rendered aware of the spy bot network.

One of the Earth officers - the British admiral - nodded. "Yes. We must keep the enemy from becoming aware of our capabilities for as long as possible. As long as they think Earth stands alone, they'll underestimate us."

"And might attribute our attacks to rival System Lords," General Naird added. Catra still didn't know why the USA had sent that guy to this meeting. Jack claimed he was one of their best 'Space Force officers', but that was probably just Air Force propaganda. Can't show weakness against the Navy or something - sometimes, it felt as if the Air Force considered the other parts of the American forces their most dangerous enemy…

"Anyway, since we apparently shouldn't use the spy bots to spy on the fleet - and they aren't happy about that, let me tell you! Well, they wouldn't be happy about it if they had their control matrixes enhanced to include emotions, which they haven't since that would be bad, but the principle stands - and the Tok'ra haven't found out anything either…"

"So far," Anise cut in with a frown. "We're working on it."

Why the Tok'ra had sent Anise… well, they probably counted on getting an in with Sam and Entrapta through Anise and getting more technology through shared research. That's what Catra would have done in their place.

"Yes, of course - you don't stop researching. But! Since we can't be sure this will produce more data, we have to focus on an alternative." Entrapta nodded at Sam and Anise.

On the large screen behind her, an unfamiliar shuttle appeared. "We can use this to test our latest stealth shuttle!" Entrapta beamed at everyone in the room. "Since it's a new design, not a First One shuttle or adapted Horde model, no one will know it's us even if they detect us - which they shouldn't according to our current data. Unless we leave the shuttle and meet them, I guess. Or we get boarded, but we could be wearing masks in that case."

Or ensure that no one who boarded them made it out alive, Catra mentally added.

"Since it's a new class, we will have to train the crews, I assume," the British Admiral said. "That might delay the mission. Possibly long enough for the fleet to become active."

"Oh, that's always a risk," Entrapta told him. "They could go active right now, though we would hear about it almost instantly. But without more data, we can't make any educated guess as to their plans. But!" She smiled widely. "Since it's our design, we can crew it, so you don't have to wait for someone else to learn how it works. Which is a good thing since we might want to make some changes to how it works based on how this mission goes, and if we're in the shuttle, we can do it in the middle of the mission!"

Adora cleared her throat. "The crew will be composed of selected individuals from both Earth and Etheria with experience in such missions and the skills to handle a variety of unexpected situations, including diplomacy."

Catra caught Naird muttering something about 'SG-1 again', but she ignored that. It wasn't as if they had better alternatives, and she would rather work with people she could trust - both to be able to handle this kind of mission and to not betray them - than someone new and unknown.

"That's a quite diverse set of skills you'll need for this. Do you have individuals in mind already?" the German General asked.

"Yes. Myself and my friends, and SG-1," Adora told him. "But if you wish to add someone else to the mission, we should have room for them."

Catra leaned back and stretched as the first suggestion to leave the mission to expendable crew members instead of the Alliance leadership was voiced. They really should know better by now. Princesses led from the front.

And it wasn't as if there was a better team to handle this than the BFS and SG-1. Especially if something unexpected happened.


Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 26th, 1999

"So, we're volunteering to go on a recon mission?" Jack O'Neill asked, leaning forward in his seat in the briefing room and putting his elbows on the table.

"Well… only if you want to, of course," Adora told him. "Otherwise, it wouldn't be volunteering. And we only want volunteers."

"We're not in the Horde; volunteering means volunteering here," Catra said, flashing her fangs.

Jack was tempted to correct her, but Entrapta spoke up before he could think o the perfect way to explain 'voluntold': "But we could really use Sam! We're going to use our new shuttle design!"

Jack turned to look at Carter. "A new shuttle design? And you didn't ask me for my input? I'm hurt, Captain!"

Her eyes widened for a moment before they narrowed. "I wasn't aware you were a spacecraft designer or an engineer, sir."

"I'm a pilot," he told her. "One of the guys who's going to fly those things. You know, those who will suffer from ergonomic mistakes all their lives."

Once more, Entrapta butted in: "That's great! You can test the layout of the bridge on this mission, then, and suggest any changes afterwards! You'll be our test pilot! Well, our first human test pilot!"

"Is it a good idea to use a dangerous recon mission to test a new design?" Daniel asked with a frown.

Jack raised his eyebrows at Carter. Daniel was always a bit of a spoilsport, but the question had merit. It was 'train as you fight', not 'test while you fight'. Although he knew Carter - she wouldn't have them risk their lives in untested experimental designs. Not unless the situation was truly desperate. Which this wasn't.

"The design already underwent extensive testing, sir," she replied. "And it passed every benchmark."

"Yes!" Entrapta nodded three times, her hair bopping. "It's ready for field testing."

"That's still testing, isn't it?" Daniel said.

"Technically, yes," Carter told him. "But it's safe."

"Yes! We already did the destructive testing! And the stealth system doesn't overheat any more! Not that that was too much of a problem unless you were in the engine room without a space suit. Or left the door open."

That wasn't nearly as reassuring as it should be. But Jack trusted Carter to keep Entrapta's enthusiasm for bypassing security measures in check.

"Well, are you in?" Catra asked. "Your general didn't seem happy about the plan."

Jack had to briefly remind himself that she didn't mean Hammond. That would be a change once they left Stargate Command for good. "Naird?" he asked.

"Yeah." Catra shrugged. "What's his problem? Jealous he can't go on the mission?"

"He could have asked if he wanted to come along! We even asked for such suggestions!" Adora added.

"General-rank officers rarely go on recon missions," Jack told her. Though he wouldn't put it past Naird to try and finagle such a mission - the guy was still trying to get approval for a 'familiarisation flight' to the moon. But he probably had used up too many favours to get a seat at the Alliance table. Of course, that was a good thing since he was Air Force - the Navy was still trying to gain control over the new Space Force in the making. If they got their way… Jack almost shuddered at the thought of wearing a Navy uniform. "No, we're in. Right, folks?" Couldn't let Carter have all the fun. And Jack was looking forward to getting some stick time in a shuttle on an actual mission - just the bragging rights if he met another Blackbird crew boasting about the speed of their plane would be worth it.

"Yes, sir."

"Of course, Jack."


"Great!" Entrapta beamed. "This will be such a nice trip!"

"And we'll be taking a task force there with enough firepower to take the enemy fleet out," Glimmer said.

Ah, that was the style of recon Jack could get behind. Find the enemy and destroy them at the same time.

"If it is an enemy fleet," Bow cautioned. "We don't know that."

"It's made up of Ha'taks, Al'kesh and Tel'taks," Catra said. "All Goa'uld ship classes. Who else do you think is flying those? We already know they don't belong to the Tok'ra."

"Well, it could be another splinter faction and potential ally," Daniel pointed out. "All I am saying is that we shouldn't assume they're hostile."

Jack shook his head. When it came to the snakes, assuming the worst was best.

"We'll see," Glimmer said. "That's why we're doing a recon mission. If they aren't part of a System Lord's fleet, we'll find out."

"They are taking quite the precautions to hide their allegiance, according to what we already know," Teal'c spoke up. "If they are observing strict security protocols, finding out who they answer to might be a challenge even for someone with your skill at penetrating Goa'uld computer security, Captain Carter."

"If we can't hack their systems, we'll have to sneak into their ships and take a look ourselves," Glimmer said with a grin. "Shouldn't be too hard even if I can't teleport us into a Ha'tak."

Now that was a mission Jack could get behind!

"We could use a ring transporter, but that's kinda tricky. Even without active counter-measures - and the Goa'uld know how to block transporters - interference can build up. We were working on linking the transporter to our improved scanner, but the signal lag is still a factor. So, we'll probably have to sneak on board using spacesuits," Entrapta said. "Good thing we have spacesuits for all of us!"

Jack grinned.

This should be fun.


Earth Orbit, Solar System, January 26th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"...so we've been working on stealth shuttles for some time, between our other projects. First we were mostly focused on trying to duplicate the ones we have. Which was harder than expected, even though it shouldn't have been. It's that Horde standards don't mesh well with First One technology, probably because Horde Prime didn't want compatible technology or something, which is why the Horde factories didn't really work well for producing the prototypes. So we switched to modifying Horde designs to create a new stealth shuttle. Well, we ended up using a mostly new design using Horde technology and matched it with better stealth generators based on First Ones technology once we had the interfaces adapted, for which Sam's experience with linking First Ones and Goa'uld tech was really helpful. And it also means that the Third Fleet's supply train can assemble the prototypes, and we didn't need to build or repurpose an existing shuttle factory for it. That would have been bad, Sam said, since everyone wants more shuttles - everyone on Earth, at least - and this would have cut into shuttle production. I don't get that, actually, since the new design is obviously superior, so we will have to switch over anyway." Entrapta shrugged without stopping her explanation as she led Adora and the others through Priest's flagship towards the hangar. "Anyway! Sam also said switching a factory would have caused a delay, and they would have wanted a 'proven design', so maybe we can switch all factories over after his test mission?"

Adora blinked, trying to sort out what Entrapta had just said. If her friend got really enthusiastic, she tended to talk very fast and very much, and it was a bit of a challenge to keep up. Even when she wasn't talking about technology that Adora didn't quite understand.

At least Glimmer looked like she had the same trouble, though Bow was nodding.

"Good luck trying to get the Tau'ri to make any changes to their plans," Catra said with a snort. "I bet they'll need at least three months just debating it before deciding if they do it."

Adora frowned a little. That was… well, not completely wrong, but not fair. Earth leaders could make quick decisions. Sometimes.

Glimmer giggled, though, and Bow smiled. "Well, they just built the new factories, so changing everything might not sit well with them. They'd have to retrain the workers as well," he said.

"But that's the fun part! Learning new technology!" Entrapta protested.

"It's also a matter of costs," Adora pointed out. "And most of the missions they want the shuttles for don't require stealth capabilities. They just want fast and tough transports."

"And I bet that they don't want all of their shuttles to be stealth shuttles," Catra added. "They don't want everyone else being able to sneak around."

Adora nodded. Earth people were already concerned with advanced technology being stolen and used by others. Of course, with Entrapta and Sam's scanner, they could detect any piece using Naquadah on Earth, so that wasn't such a huge deal, in her opinion.

"It still makes no sense!" Entrapta insisted. "And we are still starting out with building shuttles - it's easier to switch now instead of later."

Catra shrugged. "It would be nice to have just one model of shuttles to maintain in the field, but we can't count on the Goa'uld remaining static. Sooner or later, they'll adapt, so we need to stay a step ahead of them."

That was also true. Adora nodded as they reached the hangar.

"And here it is! The new stealth shuttle prototype, the Esmeralda Mark V!" Entrapta spread her arms and hair, beaming at the shuttle in the middle of the hangar.

"Esmeralda?" Glimmer asked.

"Yes!" Entrapta nodded several times. "It's a nice name. Emily approves."

Catra snorted, and Adora frowned at her lover. Esmeralda was a perfectly good name, as far as she knew at least.

"So, can we take it out for a spin?" Catra asked.

"Once Sam and the others arrive," Adora told her. Their friends from SG-1 had been held up by a meeting with the Stargate Command Council. Or was that the Stargate Command Command Council? In any case, it seemed SG-1 required formal orders to join them on the mission, and while that was merely a formality, the Russian general was being difficult or something. "We don't want to go over the briefing twice."

"I can sleep through the second briefing." Catra grinned.

"I don't mind explaining twice!" Entrapta smiled widely. "Sam said, most stuff you have to explain repeatedly anyway, so people get it."

Catra snickered at that, of course.

"Anyway, if you look at it, it's basically a modified Horde space transport. We added the stealth systems, so it got about half the cargo capacity, and we improved the sensors - although in stealth mode, you are limited to passive sensors and magic, since active sensors would give you away, and that would defeat the stealth mode. But it got the latest magitech sensor we could build. For now, at least."

"What about armament?" Glimmer asked. "Those look like turrets." She pointed at the shuttle.

"Yes! Two turrets with two blaster cannons each, one on every side. They're remote-controlled and mounted on the armour, so they're kind of vulnerable, but we would have had to compromise armour integrity if we had mounted them inside the armour, and compared to the shield generator, the armour is not that effective anyway."

That sounds a little… confusing, Adora thought.

"I wanted missile launchers as well, but we didn't have the space for that. Maybe with the next upgrade, we can add them to the underside. Anyway, let me show you the interior! Esmeralda, open up!"

A ramp started to descend in the back of the shuttle, and Adora smiled. Entrapta was always so enthusiastic about her projects. It was great to see someone so passionate.

"Ah! Your Divine Highness, praised be Your name as we bask in Your holy presence as you inspect Your next blessed vessel!"

Adora's smile froze as she noticed Priest standing on the ramp. She should have realised that he wouldn't miss the chance to meet her. That was a kind of passion she really didn't need.


Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, January 26th, 1999

"If this had been an emergency, we'd all be dead by now," the Colonel commented as they walked towards the base's landing pad. Or the base's shuttle port, as most had started to call it. "From old age, probably."

"But it wasn't an emergency, Jack," Daniel spoke up. "Besides, if it had been an emergency, and we'd die from old age, then wouldn't that mean it wasn't an emergency in the first place?" he added with a frown. Then his eyes widened. "Uh, I mean… not like…" He trailed off with a sheepish expression. "Sorry."

Samantha Carter suppressed a sigh. In a way, Daniel was a bit like Adora, blaming himself for things that weren't his fault.

The Colonel snorted. "I brought it up. Don't feel bad about it. It was just a joke."

Sam managed not to shudder at the memory of that mission to Argos. When the Colonel had started to age rapidly, growing older, weaker, practically by the day, and she had frantically tried to stop the process, to save him, before he died of old age in front of her… She shook her head. He hadn't died. His age had been restored. And since She-Ra had healed him, he was even healthier than before. Probably the healthiest he had ever been, given his past and lifestyle. And it showed…

"So, Carter," the Colonel interrupted her inappropriate thoughts. "Are there any other secret projects of yours that you'd like to share with the class?"

Sam cocked her head at him. "Sir?"

He snorted again, obviously not fooled. Not that she had expected that, anyway - but some forms, even informal ones, had to be observed. "Your stealth shuttle project was a surprise to everyone. Sneaky of you, by the way. How many other such projects do you have going between you and our mad scientist princess?"

"We're still trying to decode the alien data cube we found on the way back to Earth from Etheria," she told him.

"Still? I'd have expected you to crack it over lunch."

Another joke, but Sam knew the Colonel trusted her competence, so even a mild joke stung a little. "It's a very complex challenge, sir. We have to deal with a completely different architecture and likely very alien language influences. And we have had to prioritise other projects for the war. Such as the self-replicating spy drone network." And a few more projects Entrapta and Sam had come up with but not seriously pursued. And there was more found technology to analyse. And interface issues for Earth weapon developers to deal with. And paperwork.

"Not even a hint of future surprises?" The Colonel grinned.

"We've got a wide range of potential projects. It's impossible to predict which will reach a breakthrough and which won't." That was how research worked. Something those in charge of her budget never seemed to understand. But working with Entrapta had been a huge help with that problem - as a sovereign ruler and key member of the Princess Alliance, Sam's friend didn't have to deal with bean counters and penny pinchers. Not to the extent a captain in the Air Force had to, at least. Fortunately, officially entering the war had led to massively expanded research budgets for Sam as well.

They reached the shuttle waiting for them - the same that had carried Entrapta into orbit while SG-1 had had to deal with the Command Council. Or, to be more precise, with Sidorov and Li stalling them for reasons only Russia and China knew. Probably related to the recent diplomatic visit by Sweet Bee and Peekablue.

But they had received official orders to join the Alliance task force for the recon mission, and that was all that mattered now, Sam reminded herself as they boarded the shuttle.

"Welcome aboard!" the clone pilot greeted them, smiling as widely as a flight attendant greeting First Class passengers. Maybe even more so.

"That feels creepy, all that cheerfulness," the Colonel grumbled as they took their seats and the pilot had retired to the bridge.

"You'd say the same about a bot pilot," Daniel told him. "Why don't you commandeer the shuttle and fly it yourself?"

"I already got my flight hours for this period," he replied. "I wouldn't want to abuse my rank."

Daniel gave him a flat look, and Sam narrowed her eyes a bit herself. Even Teal'c raised his eyebrow a smidge.

"Well, I'm going to test fly the stealth shuttle soon," the Colonel admitted with a grin.

"It handles quite similarly," Sam told him, smiling slightly when he frowned a bit at the reminder that she had flown the new shuttle before.

Then the shuttle took off, and they quickly left Colorado and then the atmosphere behind them. It still felt a bit weird to Sam how quickly space travel had become normal. Reaching orbit felt almost banal. Like commuting to work.

She wondered how the NASA team preparing for Mars felt about that. Were they excited - or did they resent the fact that, but for Alliance orders restricting shuttle flight paths to near Earth, anyone in a shuttle could have reached the planet already? But the mission had better start soon; there was talk about using Mars as a training location for Alliance marines, to prepare them for landing operations on hostile planets. And that would rob the NASA mission of even more of its fading mystique. Of course, planting a few bases on Mars wouldn't change the fact that it was barely explored and could hold untold mysteries, but it wouldn't feel nearly the same.

But that wasn't Sam's problem, she reminded herself. She had to focus on the new stealth shuttle and the upcoming recon mission.


Earth Orbit, Solar System, January 26th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"...and that's the passive stealth system, minimising our sensor signature. It reduces the range at which we can be detected by Goa'uld sensors by a factor of two compared to the standard Alliance shuttle."

While Sam explained, Catra cocked her head and looked through the cockpit - or bridge - windows. The frigate they had launched from was just a speck in the black now. Which meant Priest was just about far enough away for Adora to relax again. Which was a good thing, even though her reaction to his praise had been cute.

"It's actually kind of a misnomer," Entrapta added. "It's not as much a system, but design choices that make detecting the shuttle harder - provided that people are using sensors we know of. The stealth system, on the other hand, is an active system masking our presence - including a camouflage field warping the light around us. From the outside, we're almost invisible. But! We also have a camouflage system that can be set to make us look like we're transparent - because warping the light around us might not always work best, say if we're on a planet's surface and the warping effect could be noticed. It shouldn't, but it could. But the camouflage - which can also change the paint coat of the shuttle to any you want, in case the normal one gets boring - is optimised for that kind of hiding."

That sounded… very impressive.

"Like a ring of invisibility. Now you're just missing the SEP field generator," O'Neill said with a grin.

"What's a SEP field?" Entrapta asked. "Did we forget something? I thought we covered all sensors that we knew of."

"It's from a novel series," Sam said, frowning at O'Neill. "It's fictional - not real."

"Oh. What does it do?" Entrapta cocked her head.

"It makes people think that whatever it surrounds is 'somebody else's problem'," Daniel explained. "And asking about it tells us that Jack has read the novels," he added with a grin.

"If you're stuck at a base far from civilisation, you'll read anything in the library," O'Neill said with a frown.

"Well… that might be possible with a spell, I think," Entrapta said. "And it would probably help if you want to shoot at something without being detected. That's kind of a problem we haven't been able to solve yet."

"It's theoretically possible, yes," Glimmer agreed. "But that kind of magic would require tampering with the mind of everyone affected - and that's… a very questionable kind of magic."

Catra nodded - that kind of magic, in the wrong hands, like Shadow Weaver's… She felt the fur on the back of her neck bristle at the thought. She smirked at Adora to distract herself. "And I guess it wouldn't work on the kind of people who think every problem is their responsibility, huh?"

Adora pouted at her. "We can't exactly test that."

"And we would have to create a magitech device to replicate the effect. That could be tricky," Entrapta added. "Although… if we could reverse-engineer the technology that we encountered on Beast Island, the device that made people want to stop doing anything…"

That had happened when Catra had sent Entrapta to Beast Island for not wanting to risk destroying the world to win the war… She clenched her teeth at the reminder of her folly. She had almost destroyed everyone. And it had cost Glimmer her mother. It was…

"I don't think we should build or use that," Glimmer said, shivering. "And it might not work on Goa'uld - or Jaffa. Dad wasn't affected, and he was there for years."

"Yeah, best not build a brainwashing machine like that. Dictators would love it to turn their people into mindless sheep," O'Neill said.

"Yes." Adora nodded firmly. "We don't want to follow Horde Prime's example."

No, we really don't want, Catra thought. Mind control was… She clenched her teeth. Anyone who had suffered from Horde Prime's chips would agree with that.

"The ends don't justify the means," Bow added.

Hordak nodded without saying anything. But he was looking at Entrapta, Catra noticed.

And her friend looked a bit sheepish. "Anyway, we also thought about a system that could actually alter the hull, but that would require a lot more research and testing. And we didn't have the time for that. But imagine a shuttle that could look like another type of ship! Well, with roughly the same mass, but still! That would be great, right?"

Perfect for infiltration missions. Like.. a ship version of Double Trouble. Catra gritted her teeth at the unwanted stray thought. This was supposed to be a test flight in a new shuttle, not a trip down memory lane, as the Tau'ri liked to say. Not to memories she really didn't want to revisit. "So, can we see how that works?" she said.

"Oh, sure! Well, kinda - the light-warping system makes it so you can't actually see out any more, so you kind of see and don't. But other sensors still work, so we installed screens for that," Entrapta explained with a wide smile. But if you're outside the field, you can see it - well, you can't see it any more, which tells you it's working. So, you want to go outside?"

"Maybe later," Catra told her, taking a step closer to Adora.

"Alright, so… here we go!"

Entrapta flipped a switch with her hair, and the stars and the curve of Earth outside the shuttle's windows vanished.


Jack O'Neill grinned as he took the shuttle through another loop. Sneaky Carter hadn't mentioned that she and Entrapta also had improved the performance of the shuttle's engines. Or maybe she had, and he had missed it, but he usually paid attention to critical information such as that.

Unfortunately, they were doing the test flight in space, not in the atmosphere, and so Jack couldn't do some nap-of-the-earth flying. The moon was a bit too far away to coincidentally approach. There was the frigate, but… playing chicken with large movable objects you launched from was for Navy pukes.

He blinked. Oh, for… He had launched in a small spaceship from a large spaceship. Like a Navy puke. Worse, he had thought of this as a carrier operation, not an Air Force mission. Damn. No one could ever know!

"Is something wrong, Jack?" Entrapta, who was sitting in the co-pilot seat while the rest of SG-1 and the Etherians were in the back checking the stealth system, asked. "You're frowning, which usually means something is wrong. Is there an issue with the shuttle? The readings are all within expected parameters, but…"

"No, no, everything is fine. Better than fine, actually," Jack was quick to assure her. "I just remembered something unpleasant."

"Oh? Something unpleasant?"

"And private," he told her.

"Oh. OK, private. That means no prying. Unless it's for your own good." Entrapta sounded as if she was repeating a lesson. She probably was, Jack realised.

He really didn't want to touch that, so he changed the subject. "So, how do we test the weapons? Do you have target drones out there?"

"Oh, no - this was supposed to be a test for the stealth and flight systems. We've tested the weapons in the lab - well, they're standard Horde blaster cannons, and the power supply was tested and works, and the remote controls are from proven designs - I wanted to improve them, maybe turn them into bots, or make them detachable so they could act as escorts or attack craft, but Sam said we should focus on the stealth system… anyway, they should work."

"Never assume a weapon works without live firing," he told her. "Preferably until it breaks, so you know its limits."

"That's what Hordak says as well. Catra says it's fun, too."

Jack managed not to scowl. He didn't want to be compared to Mr Former Warlord. Even if the guy was correct. "So, how about we fire on the frigate? The shields can take it, right?" he joked.

"Oh, yes. That's probably a faster solution than building a few target bots from spare parts," Entrapta replied. "But we probably should tell them first."

"Yes." Entrapta often had trouble getting jokes, Jack reminded himself. "And we should inform Earth so they don't think there's a coup going on or something." Or an attack by enemy stealth ships - the stealth system hid them from Earth sensors as well, after all, as they had already found out.

"Right! That would be bad, I think."

"Yes." Jack could imagine what might happen if a bunch of fanatics thought their goddess wanted a specific ship destroyed. And the panic it would cause on Earth.

So, a few calls and some narrowed eyes from Carter later, they were happily flying loops around Priest's flagship and shooting at its shields. Which was fun but also a bit disappointing - obviously, the fact that the shields regenerated faster than the shuttle could damage them meant that a stealth shuttle - or a space fighter, like he had heard being discussed - wasn't really going to be effective against a larger ship. Unless you sent tons of them against it. "We need missiles," he said. "Big honking missiles." Torpedoes, even if that sounded like a Navy thing as well.

"We're working on that. Unfortunately, the stealth system is too big for the missiles we have," Entrapta told him. "And reducing its size has hit a few snags since some components don't work if we make them smaller - we haven't found a way to miniaturise them yet."

Jack hadn't thought about stealth missiles. Just normal missiles would be useful - though they would allow the enemy to track the launch location. But stealth missiles… "What about making the missiles bigger?"

"Hm. They would have to be half the size of a shuttle for the stealth system to work. Maybe a little smaller. And that means we couldn't launch them from a shuttle. I think."

That sounded more like a kamikaze shuttle than a missile. An unmanned kamikaze shuttle. Maybe a Kamikaze bot? "Well, if it can fly like a shuttle, we can launch it from a frigate," Jack suggested.

"Well, yes. But it would also have to be able to get through a shield. That's easier the smaller something is, once the shield starts wavering. A shuttle-sized missile…" Entrapta made some humming noise, and Jack could hear her hair typing. "The shield would have to be almost completely gone to get through it. On a spaceship, at least."

And at that point, you didn't really need stealth any more. A pity.

Well - the shuttle was meant to deliver soldiers to their targets, not to shoot down enemy ships. But Jack would have liked to have the option.

On the other hand, in a pinch, Carter could probably whip up something on the fly if they needed it. And Jack had no doubt that space fighter/bombers would be a thing soon enough.

But, most importantly, they were now ready for the recon mission. Jack couldn't wait to use the shuttle for real.

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Scouting Part 1
Chapter 90: Scouting Part 1

Earth Orbit, Solar System, January 27th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Oh, Your Divine Highness, blessed are we by Your shining presence. We strike out in Your name to bring the light of You to those struggling under the cruel yoke of evil! Just as You have vanquished the Great Deceiver, cursed be his name for all eternity, so shall we vanquish those who oppress others. In Your holy name, we shall fight all comers, ready to lay down our lives for Your worthy cause!"

Adora forced herself to keep smiling as Priest spoke. She wanted to cringe at all the praise - she wasn't a goddess! Their lives weren't hers to command! She was… Oh, no, she was starting to think like Priest spoke! "He must have been watching a lot of Earth television," she muttered under her breath.

Of course, Catra's ears caught her words, and her lover snickered. "Mostly the competition, I think."

"The competition?" Adora whispered before scolding herself - they were on Darla's bridge; she wouldn't be overheard even if she yelled, as long as she didn't open a channel to Priest. And - she quickly checked - there was no channel open.

"What are you whispering about?" Glimmer asked.

"Priest's speech," Catra told her. "He's been watching Earth preachers."

"Yeah, some of his ramblings sounded familiar," O'Neill cut in.

"...and with renewed fervour, we shall do our utmost to spread Your words and ideals to a galaxy yearning to be free, to expose the false gods deceiving and exploiting their faithful, as the…"

"Yep, file off the numbers, and that could be coming from any televangelist on Earth." O'Neill nodded. "I wonder if they can sue him for copyright violations."

"If they do, they would open themselves for such suits, I think," Daniel said.

"They'll claim they got it straight from god," O'Neill retorted.

"Shh! Priest is about to finish!" Bow hissed.

And that meant Adora was expected to say a few words as well. She winced and went over her prepared speech while Priest finished showering his praise and devotion she didn't deserve.

"Thank you. We are facing enemies who are posing as gods to manipulate their slaves - enemies who are willing to sacrifice everything and everyone for power. They're ruthless and evil - but that is not their strength, but their weakness. This mission we are setting out now is…"

As she spoke, Adora felt like a hypocrite. She was no goddess, yet the clones worshipped her. And she was using their faith to lead them. If she were selfish and cruel, she'd be no better than the Goa'uld!


Hyperspace, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

It really was weird how quickly you grew used to things that had been limited to the realms of science fiction just a few years ago, Samantha Carter thought not for the first time. Here she was, on board a spaceship travelling through hyperspace, already lightyears away from Earth, and it felt like a plane trip back on Earth. She was more concerned about passing the time productively than about the journey itself.

Fortunately, even with the new stealth shuttle taking up most of Darla's hangar space, there was still room left for her and Entrapta's 'travelling lab', as her friend called it. It wasn't even nearly as sophisticated as their space lab, but they could do serious work anyway.

And, in a pinch, and as long Darla stayed outside hyperspace and in range of the spy bot network, they could even remotely access the space lab for some experiments. The lag was frustrating, but they could do work like that if they were careful.

Though since they were going on a recon mission, ensuring that the shuttle was in perfect working order took priority. And that included ensuring that Entrapta didn't add untested modifications during their trip. Even though they looked sound upon cursory or even in-depth examination, Sam reminded herself. Especially if they looked sound and fascinating.

"No, I don't think the Colonel meant that we should add a 'torpedo mode' to the shuttle," she told her friend.

"But it would let us use it as a missile if we had to - a stealth missile!"

"It would also add a Naquadah-enhanced bomb to the shuttle," Sam pointed out.


Sam sighed and started to explain why that wasn't an entirely positive thing.


Deep Space, Near PZ-921, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Alright! We've got the latest data from the spy bots. There was no change in the target fleet. Well, no significant change - the fleet maintained its position, and its composition didn't change, but the individual ships moved around a lot and often switched formations."

Catra nodded at Entrapta's report. Her friend was a scientist, not an officer, but the picture was obvious. "They're drilling their crews," she said.

"Yes." Adora nodded. "Can we tell from their movements what kind of action they're training for?"

"I don't know!" Entrapta beamed. "Let's review the data!" Her hair moved, and the screen on Darla's bridge showed the last movements of the target ships. "I've sped the maneuvres up by a factor of ten," she added.

Catra watched the ships circle around each other, the fleet splitting up into four parts, then joining together. "Looks like basic fleet actions," she commented. She didn't have a lot of experience with space combat, but she had studied the data from Horde Prime's fleets. And the basics were obvious. "Escort drills. Attack and retreat actions."

"Yes," Adora agreed. "So, we can't deduce what they are planning from those drills."

"They might not be planning anything yet," O'Neill pointed out. "And that's just basic drills to keep the crew busy. God knows you don't want bored soldiers on your ship. They'll just get into trouble."

"Jaffa are generally more disciplined than that, O'Neill," Teal'c objected. "It is more likely that this is to keep their skills sharp." He cocked his head slightly to the side. "They are changing formations and reacting to orders more smoothly compared to the average Goa'uld fleet. These Jaffa are skilled and experienced."

"We don't know if that is a Goa'uld fleet," Daniel said. "They could be… renegades. Or pirates."

O'Neill snorted. "Pirates, Daniel? Really?"

Daniel flushed. "Well… We do know that there are, well, Goa'uld who deserted their System Lord. And not just those who joined the Tok'ra. It's not a stretch to assume that they would resort to raiding others to sustain their forces. If no other System Lord will take them in, that is."

"Few of the false gods would take in another Goa'uld who abandoned their lord." Teal'c inclined his head.

"Why?" Glimmer asked. "Don't they expect their underlings to betray them at every opportunity?"

"Yes. However, anyone who shelters such a deserter might make the System Lord suspect that they were behind the desertion in the first place - or give them the excuse to claim so and act in retribution without appearing to be the attacker," Teal'c explained.

Catra snorted. "And the other System Lords care about such pretexts even though they'll know it's a sham."


"Don't fail your snake overlord. And if you do, don't get caught." O'Neill shrugged. "But that's a sizeable fleet for a deserter. Even for a guy like Her'ur, that wouldn't be a negligible loss. What are the odds that so many Jaffa would follow a deserting System Lord?"

"Low," Teal'c replied. "Most of the false gods know better than to leave a subordinate to gain the loyalty of so many Jaffa. The most probable explanation would be that there was a successful coup against a System Lord, and this fleet is the loyalist remnant of their forces."

That made sense. But wouldn't the Tok'ra have heard of that?

"If that is the case, this would present an opportunity," Hordak said. "Such a survivor would likely be willing to share crucial intel about their enemies. For support - or merely out of spite." He glanced at Catra, and she met his eyes.

He must be thinking about her own coup against him - if you could call that mess a coup. It wasn't as if it had been planned.

"And because of their genetic memory, if they were toppled by one of their descendants, they could share a lot of information," Daniel added.

"But we couldn't trust them," Glimmer said. "Dethroned or not, they're still a Goa'uld. They would be trying to manipulate us - and betray us at the first opportunity."

"Maybe the second opportunity." Catra grinned. "They would probably suspect the first to be a trap."

A few of the others snickered in response to that.

"But what do we do if a Goa'uld asks for protection? Or asylum?" Bow asked.

"Tell them to get lost," O'Neill said.

Catra snorted, but he wasn't wrong in her opinion.

"If someone asks for asylum, we'll take them in and check if they are genuine," Adora said with a frown. "That's the least we can do - although we'll take all necessary precautions to ensure it's not a trap."

"And then? Play nice with the evil body-snatching snake?" O'Neill narrowed his eyes slightly. "What about their victims? What about their hosts?"

Catra pressed her lips together and looked at the screen instead of at anyone else. That was… a bit too close for comfort.

"We'll check how genuine they are," Adora repeated herself. "And if they are willing to change. And they have to release their host, unless they have voluntarily chosen to host them."

"Fat chance of that." O'Neill scoffed.

"If they aren't genuinely willing to change, we don't have any obligation to help or protect them. So, given how Goa'uld are…" Glimmer trailed off. "But we can't dismiss the possibility of a Goa'uld honestly defecting. The Tok'ra show that this is possible."

Catra nodded, still not looking at anyone. Not even Adora.

After a moment of silence, Adora spoke up again: "So, let's go and find out who is in command of that fleet and what they want."


Deep Space, Near Unclaimed System, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Jack O'Neill stared out of the windows on Darla's bridge at the yellowish star in the distance - conveniently highlighted by a holoprojection from the ship, in case he somehow might miss the brightest star nearby. Sometimes the ship's system - whether it was actually intelligent, as Entrapta claimed, or just a sophisticated computer program, as Carter thought - was a bit patronising. "It'll probably start calculating my caloric needs next," Jack muttered.

"What did you say, Jack?" Adora asked.

"Nothing," he told her. "Just a stray thought." A silly stray thought.

"Afraid you'll grow fat on our cooking?" Catra, of course, had overheard his comment perfectly despite being farther away than Adora. She was smirking, too - her ears were turned towards him, and her tail was slowly swishing back and forth. Lazily, not nervously - Jack had learned the difference by now.

And wasn't that a weird thing to know? He felt like a crazy cat lady. Although the agencies back home probably had recruited a bunch of biologists and a few crazy cat ladies just to analyse Catra's behaviour. And Jack couldn't fault them; the catwoman was not only Adora's lover, which meant she had a huge influence on the Alliance's strategy and policy, but she was a leader in her own right. Although didn't have a loyal cadre of followers or subjects - as far as Jack knew, at least. But if they ever found a planet where the population worshipped cats, that might change…

He snorted at the thought, then shook his head. "Just thinking about the fact that the Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats. Amongst other things."

"So I've heard. They had good taste," Catra said, her grin widening.

"Except for worshipping the Goa'uld, of course," Glimmer cut in.

Catra shrugged. "Well, the snakes impersonated their gods, so how could they tell the difference?"

"It's actually not quite clear if the Goa'uld impersonated existing gods when they discovered Earth or if they created the Egyptian pantheon - and other pantheons - in the first place," Daniel said. "It might be a combination of the two possibilities; the first Goa'uld arrivals coopting existing deities and taking over their churches and others creating their own cults."

"Didn't you ask Osiris about that?" Bow asked. "He was amongst the first Goa'uld to arrive, wasn't he? And Seth as well?"

That was actually a good question. Jack glanced at his friend.

"Well… Osiris claimed that they created the pantheon, and with it, the Egyptian civilisation," Daniel replied. "But I have my doubts about that."

"Why? What could he gain by lying?" Bow asked.

"Feeling important?" Jack said, shrugging. "Being the founder of human civilisation would be quite the feather in his cap." The snake might even hope that it would get him a pardon or something. Or followers.

"Yes." Daniel nodded. "And it would, well, wouldn't call it a threat to our world's culture, but if the cradle of human civilisation was formed by the Goa'uld, that would change history as we know it - more than their arrival being revealed already did, of course - and the ramifications of a huge part of human culture being created by aliens…"

"At least no one's worshipping the Egyptian gods any more," Jack commented. "Imagine people demanding that we free their gods on the grounds of religious freedom!" He chuckled. That would be something.

But Daniel nodded and pushed his glasses up. "Well, some of the pagan gods clearly influenced the Abrahamic god. Or, to be more precise, their myths influenced the myths that became the Bible. And while the dogma of the Abrahamic religions that there is only one god has been solidified for well over a thousand years by now, from a purely scholarly point of view, the extent of Goa'uld influence on existing religions really should be researched."

"Yeah," Jack said with a slight scoff, "'Hey, your religion was invented by alien snakes' is going to go over really well with people. I can't see any problem with that."

Daniel flushed. "Well, one has to differentiate between religious and historical questions."

"So, does that mean that all the fake gods went extinct after the Goa'uld left Earth?" Adora asked.

"More or less," Jack told her.

"Not quite," Daniel protested. "Some of the gods that the Goa'uld impersonated are still worshipped on Earth. Like Raiden."

"Yeah, we heard about them," Catra said. "Are their followers going to be a security risk?"

"Some might be," Jack admitted. "If they thought the Goa'uld were their original god. But they should know better than that if they were in the Alliance." Though he was sure that the spooks were keeping an eye on soldiers who might turn traitors for religious reasons.

"That's exactly the reason why we need to know more about that time," Daniel said. "We need to know if the Goa'uld created or coopted the ancient religions."

And if the former was true, they would have to decide if they revealed that - or buried that in the deepest vault they could find. Not that Jack was about to mention that to Daniel. This wasn't the time to discuss religion, scientific integrity and political expediency.

They had a mission to do. And they were wasting time. "Well, hate to cut this short," Jack said. "But we're in position to launch the mission now."

Recon now, religion later. Or not at all, if Jack had anything to say about it.


Unclaimed System, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Approaching the limit of the safe distance."

Adora wet her lips at Jack's announcement. This was it. So far, they had been safely out of the sensor range of the Goa'uld, adjusted for their craft's sensor signature, but that would change now. Of course, there were some safety margins, so it wasn't as if they were undetectable one moment and would appear the next, and they couldn't be a hundred per cent sure about the sensor capability of the ships ahead of them, but still - she couldn't help feeling a little nervous.

"Engaging active stealth system!" Entrapa sounded cheerful. She would be - she loved showing and using new technology. Not as much as she loved creating it, of course.

The stars outside vanished. For a moment, Adora was reminded of Etheria before it had been returned to the universe. There hadn't been any stars back then, either. But there had been the sun and the moons. Not a complete absence of… anything.

The screens still showed the same pictures, though - the sensors, except for the optical sensors, weren't affected by the light being bent around them. And in space, you rarely used your naked eyes to navigate, anyway - at least not in a ship. Still, it felt a little off.

"No change in the target fleet," Sam reported.

"They haven't detected us," Glimmer nodded with a smile.

"Well, we're still at a distance where they might not have detected us even without the active stealth system," Bow pointed out. "They might still do so when we fly closer."

"And if they're smart, they won't react at all until we're too close to avoid their response," Catra added. She was sitting next to Adora, one hand on the armrest of Adora's seat, clearly tense - her tail was swishing back and forth rapidly.

"That would require specific standing orders," Teal'c said. "To see an enemy approaching and not react at once would usually see a warrior severely chastised. As a rule, the false gods do not value such initiative or cunning by their forces."

Jack snorted. "Let's hope that the mystery fleet is doing things by the book, then."

Adora nodded. But the fleet ahead of them was already acting weird - for Goa'uld, at least. What were the odds they had different standard procedures? Well, they'd find out. And if it was a trap… well, Priest's task force was ready to jump in at a moment's notice, with enough ships to overwhelm the target fleet. All Adora would have to do was keep the shuttle safe until then.

"We're now approaching the red zone," Jack's voice rang out. He didn't sound nervous at all even though they were now reaching the range where they knew they would be detected in a normal shuttle.

"Enemy sensor activity nominal."

That meant the sensor sweeps hadn't increased or changed focus, Adora translated Sam's report. A good sign - if the sensors picked up a signal from the shuttle, they would do a second, more focused sweep to confirm the hit.

"They still haven't noticed us," Catra said.

"Don't sound so disappointed," Glimmer commented.

"I'm not."

"Passive sensors working as intended!" Entrapta smiled. "We're getting new data! We haven't been so close before! Oh, I hope the spy bots won't grow jealous!"

"They'll get over it," Catra said. "Without them, we wouldn't have found the fleet in the first place."

"Right! I'll tell them that! It should cheer them up!"

"I thought the spy drones were not sapient?" Daniel sounded confused.

"They still have feelings!" Entapta told him.

"Sensor data is being updated," Sam interrupted them.

Adora checked her screen. "Do we have any ship names yet?" Without optical sensors, they would have to get really close to discern different paint coats to make out any letters.

"Not yet. But the passive scans of the traditional locations for ship names show recent work on the surface," Sam told her.

"They renamed the ships - or erased any names," Catra said.

"Either would indicate subterfuge rather than open battle as their goal," Teal'c commented.

"And that they have taken steps to hide their identity." Catra flashed her fangs.

"Or they captured or acquired the ships and renamed them," Daniel pointed out.

Catra scowled. "And then they hide out like this?"

"Well, if they stole the ships…" Daniel trailed off, looking a bit embarrassed.

"If they stole those ships, odds are they're willing to do it again," Jack said.

"We're in range of the magitech scanner!" Entrapta quivered in her seat. "Let's see what we find out!"

The screens changed as the sensor readings updated.

"Those are the markings of Apophis," Teal'c said in a flat voice. "But we know that he masked his ships when he sent them at Heru'ur."

"Could be a double bluff. He might attempt another attack and claim someone's impersonating his forces," Bow suggested. "Make it appear as if they were recently renamed by renaming them himself!"

"That is unlikely." Teal'c shook his head. "The false god has a tendency to enact complicated plans, but he would not act without more information about the situation at hand."

"He might have gotten the ships ready while he's looking for more information?" Bow didn't sound as if he believed that himself.

"The ships he lost in the attack on Heru'ur that we foiled represent a respectable force. While he is not crippled, his mobile reserve has been weakened, and hiding another force would make him look weaker than he is, inviting raids and probing attacks from his rivals." Teal'c shook his head again. "I doubt that this force belongs to Apophis."

"And you're our expert on him. Good enough for me," Jack said. "But if it's not Apophis, who else could it be? Someone with a beef against him?"

That could be any System Lord, Adora knew. "We'll have to find out," she said.

"Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to actually board one ship to do that."

Jack didn't sound disappointed, though, Adora noted. Well, she wasn't disappointed either.

It would be good to be able to do something in person.


Samantha Carter glanced at the main screen on the bridge of the shuttle. They were closing in on the Goa'uld fleet - the suspected Goa'uld fleet, she corrected herself. Even though she had no doubt that the fleet was controlled by a Goa'uld. They were almost at point-blank range now, but the Goa'uld ships had not changed their patterns. If the enemy's sensors were able to penetrate the stealth system of the shuttle, they would have done so long ago.

There was still a chance that this was a trap, that the fleet was just waiting for them to fly too close to evade an attack, but Sam had her doubts about that. Not because of a gut feeling, as the Colonel would claim, but because, as Teal'c had explained, it was very unlikely for a Goa'uld force to react like that. Unless, of course, they were aware of their mission from the start or expected such a mission, but either was extremely unlikely.

"Still no change in the enemy's sensor activity," Entrapta commented. "The stealth system is working perfectly!" She beamed. "Well, it's drawing a little bit more power than projected, but nothing the shuttle's reactor can't handle."

Sam checked the readings. Indeed, the system was running a bit less efficiently than expected. Although that wasn't really worrying - as her friend had said, they had power to spare. Of course, should they have to fight as well, that might change, but even then, the discrepancy was unlikely to prove crucial. A few more shots from the ship's cannons wouldn't decide a battle with a fleet.

But they still hadn't found out who the fleet belonged to. And that was the mission's goal. "Any sign of a sensor network?" she asked.

"No," Entrapta replied. "The ships haven't linked their sensors and aren't sharing data. Unless they discovered a method to transmit data that we can't detect. Do you think they did?"

Sam shook her head. They had picked up some transmissions before - if the unknown masters of the fleet had discovered a superior communication method, they would have been using it for all their comms. That was the logical response. Unless it was limited to certain ships, but in that case, the communications with the other ships should reveal such a pattern. It wasn't tightbeams - they had checked for that. While the shuttle's system wouldn't be able to intercept such communications unless they were directly between two ships, they should be able to detect such a network. But there wasn't any.

It seemed that the fleet still adhered to strict comm discipline. And that meant they couldn't hack the system. There was the possibility of hijacking the sensors, but… Sam wasn't optimistic about their chances. And even if that worked, the compromised system might not have links to the main computers of the ship.

"No luck hacking the snakes?"

Sam schooled her features, not letting her annoyance at her failure show as she looked at the Colonel. "No, sir. Whoever those crews are, they practise good cyber security."

"Yes!" Entrapta chimed in. "We'll have to find a main communication hub to hack into, I think. Like we did with Horde Prime's systems. Those were a challenge."

The Colonel grinned. "So, how do we do this without alerting the snakes?"

They had gone over that in the briefings. "We'll have to match speed with the target ship and then stay close enough so we can use our spacesuits for EVA without getting detected."

That would have to be very close. They couldn't touch the Goa'uld ship, though - sensors fooled or not, the crew wouldn't miss the sound and shock of a shuttle setting down on the ship.

"Well, let's pick a target then." The Colonel was undaunted.

"I would suggest this one, sir." Sam highlighted a Ha'tak on the main screen. "Based on our data of their communications, such as we could gather, this is either a flagship or a communication hub. Either way, its systems should contain the information we need."

"And the movement patterns it has displayed so far should make staying near it easier than, say, near an Al'kesh," Entrapta added.

The Colonel looked at Entrapta, then glanced at Sam, raising his eyebrows.

"The ship only very rarely made unexpected changes to its speed or course," Sam explained.

"Ah." He nodded. "Good. Let's go, then."

They were already suited up. And, even more important, they had already hashed out who would be on the boarding team and who would stay on the shuttle.

Though, Sam couldn't help thinking as she disconnected her laptop from its cradle in her seat and Bow moved to take over the ship's helm, the criteria for deciding the latter might not have been very objective. Bow had simply been the most amiable to staying behind. Or, in other words, hadn't insisted as forcefully as everyone else that he should be on the boarding team.

Sam felt a little guilty for that herself, but she was a logical choice for any such mission since she could hack Goa'uld computer systems. Unlike, say, Daniel, who somehow had managed to argue successfully that he could interpret cultural clues during the mission. Or Glimmer, who had simply insisted that she had experience with such missions and pretty much dared anyone else to contradict her.

Well, the decisions had been made.

Sam slipped her helmet on, checked the seals and ran a brief system check as she stepped into the shuttle's cargo area. It was time to do her job.


"Alright, here we go…"

Catra tensed as she heard O'Neill speak. They were at the critical point - the final approach to the enemy flagship. If this was a trap… No, the Goa'ld would have shot at them before that.

"And here we are, nice and smooth, right behind the big sucker. Han Solo got nothing on this! You've got the craft, Bow."

"I've got the craft."

Her ears picked up rapid steps - O'Neill was hustling towards the cargo area. "We won't start without you," she commented as he reached them.

"Didn't want to make you wait any longer," he replied. He was already wearing the helmet, so she assumed he was ready for the boarding.

The hatch closed behind him, and she heard the whining noise as the air was sucked out of the room. The shuttle had a dedicated airlock, but it was too small for the entire group - it was too small for just the BFS, actually; Scorpia would probably fill it up by herself if she were here - so they had to use the cargo area for that.

But whatever worked, worked. A moment later, the ramp opened in front of her. Catra felt her fur bristle - looking at the stealth field was disturbing. It was like staring at the deepest black. Not even a speck of light or smidge of grey was visible, just perfect blackness.

And they would have to jump through it to reach the enemy Ha'tak.

She clenched her teeth - she wouldn't show any nervousness. This was just an illusion, nothing more. A trick of the eyes. Whatever. She tapped a button on the side of her helmet, linking up with the shuttle's sensors, and a view of the outside was projected into her field of vision. She could see part of the Ha'tak's hull in front of her now.

"Looks good," O'Neill commented, prompting her to snort. As if he was as cool as he sounded. "Carter?"

"One last scan… we're in the blind spot of their sensors, sir. We're good to go. Highlighting possible points of entry."

Two airlocks lit up on Catra's display.

"Let's take the closer one. Less walking." Catra wouldn't let O'Neill outdo her.

"Sounds good. Wouldn't want to make Bow wait too long for us."

"Oh, I'm fine."

Catra shook her head. "Let's go." She took a step forward, to the top of the ramp - which opened into nothing.

"I'll go first." Adora passed her before she could protest and jumped off.

Catra hissed under her breath when she saw Adora vanish in the stealth field. Then she crouched and jumped after her lover. Into the darkness.

It wasn't as she had expected. She didn't pass through complete darkness for what felt like an eternity. No, one moment, she was flying towards a black field, the next, she was about to land on the golden hull of the Ha'tak, the projection aligning with the real deal at once.

She twisted and landed on all fours on it, the magnets in her gloves and boots sticking her to the metal. Adora was just a bit to the side, crouching on the hull herself. Still in her spacesuit, which was a good sign - if she had to transform, things would have gone wrong already. And She-Ra's power would probably light up all the sensors of the Goa'uld.

And behind her… was nothing. She knew where the shuttle was, but she couldn't see it, just its projection inside her helmet.

Another figure appeared from nowhere. O'Neill, landing with reasonable grace on the hull, followed by Sam and Glimmer.

Daniel came next - and he almost smashed headfirst into the ship, but Entrapta's hair grabbed him at the last second.

"Thank you,"

"No worries!" Entrapta landed on the hull, then put Daniel down.

Teal'c brought up the rear, landing smoothly in a crouch without comment.

Sam was already at the airlock, tools out, and Entrapta quickly joined her, hair tendrils pulling her across the hull while she floated in space.

Catra looked around while her friends worked on the hatch. She could see another Ha'tak in the distance, barely more than a tiny pyramid, and some moving lights drew her attention - Al'keshs, or maybe Tel'taks. Or Death Gliders that were closer than she thought. She cycled through the sensor overlay from the shuttle to check. Al'keshs, at a safe distance. Good.

It took Sam and Entrapta half a minute to open the hatch. Adora entered right away, but Catra had expected that and slipped into the airlock behind her, followed by Sam. And, of course, O'Neill just had to follow her.

It was a bit cramped as a result. Sam almost buried her elbow in Catra's stomach when she used her laptop, but Catra twisted out of the way, pressing herself into Adora's side.

"I've spoofed the security cameras," Sam reported twenty seconds later.

Then the airlock cycled, and the inner hatch opened. Ador went left, Catra right, stun rod at the ready to deal with any Jaffa present.

But the hallway was clear. And rather plain.

"Doesn't look very fancy," O'Neill commented. "Where's all the gold and glitter?"

"It's a maintenance conduct," Sam told him.

"Too bad. I would have liked a big VIP entrance, complete with huge golden hieroglyphs that said: 'Welcome to the flagship of System Lord X'."

"Such an entrance would usually be heavily guarded even when no guests were expected," Teal'c pointed out over the comm as the hatch closed again.

"Yeah, but at least we'd know who we were shooting then," O'Neill retorted.

"How about we don't shoot anyone?" Daniel suggested. "We're here to find out what's going on, not to shoot things."

"We can multitask," O'Neill said. "Besides, I bet we're going to shoot them later anyway, so might as well start early."

Catra chuckled as the others entered the ship as well, but her ears were twitching. Was that…? Yes. "Someone's approaching!" she hissed. She crouched down, pressing herself against the wall. "Just one person," she whispered - she couldn't hear any other steps.

The others stepped into alcoves or crouched down, close to the walls - taking cover as best as they could in the corridor. Even Adora - Catra had half-expected her to transform into She-Ra at the first sign of potential trouble.

But they couldn't hide. And they couldn't leave through the airlock quickly enough to avoid getting spotted - or overheard.

The steps had come even closer. The person was now just around the corner. Catra tensed, ready to pounce, take down the target, silence them before they could scream and alert the rest of the crew, and…

The steps stopped.

Catra blinked. What the…?

Then she heard the sound of a bag being opened, and then metal clashing against metal, followed by muttering. When she smelt heated metal, she almost sighed. Whoever was around the corner was doing repairs or maintenance there.

She could easily take them down - they were too close to react to her rounding the corner, they were distracted by their work, and Catra knew how to knock out someone. But even if they took the prisoner with them afterwards, the ship's crew would be looking for him. And given their strict security measures, they would likely suspect enemy action - and react accordingly.

Which would ruin part of the mission's goal. Damn. She clenched her teeth and glanced back at the others.

Adora was smiling apologetically, as if this complication was her fault. Glimmer was scowling, Sam and Entrapta looked focused and curious, respectively, Teal'c showed no reaction at all, and O'Neill… was grinning.

Catra shook her head - softly. On the one hand, if they took a prisoner, they would be able to find out who was behind this. Sure, a maintenance flunkie wouldn't know their plans, but they would know general orders. And past deployments. And if they were some System Lord's fleet, the Alliance would probably destroy them anyway, so whether or not they were put on alert wouldn't matter. Although that wouldn't tell them the enemy's plans either. And if the ships had slaves on them… They had most certainly killed slaves when they had destroyed the ships of Apophis attacking PZ-921, but they hadn't had much of a choice there - not with the enemy fighting to the death and even self-destructing in some cases. But here? Adora would want to attempt a rescue, and revealing their presence would endanger that.

So they could wait for the idiot to finish their work and leave, or go the other way - and hope the idiot wouldn't follow them.

Decisions, decisions.

Catra glanced over her shoulder again. O'Neill moved his hand, pointing to the ground in the 'wait' sign. But she looked at Adora. That was her call.

And Adora nodded.

So, waiting it was.

And the minutes passed. Whoever was working around the corner wasn't the fastest technician in the fleet. Or the most careful - they cursed quite a lot, if not loud. Catra might not understand the language, but she knew a curse when she heard it. But, really! Kyle would have done a better job!

But finally, after almost twenty minutes, Catra heard a satisfied grunt, followed by metal tools touching each other. The idiot was done! As soon as they left, Catra could…

The steps were headed their way! Catra gasped and started moving forward. She crashed into the other person as they rounded the corner, bowling them over. One hand stopped them from screaming, the other rammed the shock rod into their chest.

The man - the Jaffa! - convulsed, and before he could recover, O'Neill zatted him.

Catra pulled the Jaffa fully back around the corner, just in case, then looked him over. Light armour, a big tool bag, a zat at his hip. "A Jaffa engineer?" she asked.

"Well…" O'Neill started to say, but Teal'c cut him off, pointing at the symbol on the man's chest.


Oh. The fleet belonged to the System Lord whom Apophis had planned to frame with his false flag attack.

That complicated things.

Chapter 91: Scouting Part 2
Chapter 91: Scouting Part 2

Unclaimed System, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

"Looks like dear old Sokar found out that Apophis wanted to frame him and decided to return the favour," Jack O'Neill commented while he quickly patted the unconscious prisoner down. They had his zat and toolbag, but Jack was sure that… Ah! He pulled a small knife from the Jaffa's boot, followed by some wire and tweezers. And various other thingies that Jack didn't recognise but the guy obviously worked with. And they wouldn't want the guy to go all A-Team on them and construct a death ray in his cell using his boots and the breakfast porridge.

"OK, we've got a prisoner and a name. Let's take him with us and leave before someone notices that he's missing," Catra said. "Even Kyle couldn't take forever for a simple repair job."

"But we don't know what the fleet's orders are," Entrapta protested. "We need to hack the computer system for that!"

She was correct, of course - just knowing the identity of the fleet was the bare minimum they could achieve. And not nearly as valuable as finding out what Sokar was planning. But the longer they stayed on the ship, the greater the risk of being detected. As tight as these Jaffa ran their ships, with their cyber security and radio silence, they wouldn't let a maintenance flunkie skive off from work. Which meant time was running out as they spoke.

He glanced at Carter. She hadn't said anything, but she looked determined. Confident. And she wasn't looking at the airlock - she was looking forward at the corner leading into the main part of the ship.

And yet… He looked at Teal'c. "What are the chances that Sokar will assume the fleet's cover's been blown should a jaffa go missing on his ship?"

Teal'c cocked his head to the side. "It is hard to say, but System Lords always expect treachery. If we take the strict discipline and security into account that we have observed in this fleet, I think he would assume the worst until he could find out what had happened to the missing Jaffa."

"And that means any intel we might find would be obsolete. Mostly obsolete," Jack corrected himself - it would still give them insight into the snake's strategic goals if they knew his target. But then, they already knew that Apophis was to be framed. He nodded. "Let's not push our luck. We can always…"

A harsh voice in a language Jack didn't speak sounded from the ship's PA system, finishing with a short, barking laugh.

He looked at Daniel.

"Uh… the person asked, quite rudely, if 'Manut'u' has accidentally discharged his zat'nik'tel again and promised dire punishment if he did," Daniel said.

Shit! Jack clenched his teeth. "We need to leave now! They detected me stunning him." Stupid. He should have been more careful - especially on an unknown ship.

"But…" Entrapta tried to protest, but Catra grabbed her arm and dragged her towards the airlock.

"No time! We need to leave!"

Teal'c had already picked up their prisoner and thrown him over his shoulder before hauling ass.

"Daniel! Go!" Jack snapped, holstering his zat and grabbing his carbine. "Carter! You too!" he added as he covered the hallway ahead of them.

Neither protested.

Teal'c had just finished stuffing the prisoner into the airlock, after Entrapta, Daniel, and Carter, when Jack arrived.

"You too, Glimmer!" Catra added - she was covering the other hallway with Adora.


"You're the smallest."

To Jack's surprise, Glimmer squeezed herself into the airlock without even a token protest about Catra being more flexible or something. Jack hit the controls, and the hatch closed.

A few seconds later, it had cycled, and they could hear the outer hatch open.

"One down, one to go," Jack muttered as he kept aiming his carbine down the maintenance duct.

"Hatch closed, sir," Carter reported over their comms.

"Good. Get back to the shuttle!" Jack hit the controls again.

The hatch didn't move.

And the PA system rang out again.

Jack didn't need to be a linguist to know that this was an alert.

"They've made us!" he snapped. "The hatch's locked!"

And both their hackers were on the other side of the airlock - probably back in the shuttle already.

"I'll be back in a second to override it, sir!"

"No! Stay in the shuttle! We'll blow the hatch open!" Jack retorted.

"No need." Catra grinned and unsheathed her claws.

A few swipes later, the inner hatch was reduced to a heap of scrap on the floor. Right. Jack had forgotten that Catra made a great Wolverine impression with her claws.

"Watch out when you do the outer hatch," he cautioned her. "We don't want an explosive decompression." That would suck - literally.

Catra chuckled as she stepped into the airlock. "Don't worry."

But as she reached out to shred the outer hatch, presumably just enough to let the air out, the whole ship shuddered - in a familiar way. "Hold it!" he snapped.

But she had already stopped - and tapped her helmet. "Glimmer? Bow? Entrapta?"

No answer.

"Carter?" Jack added.

Still no answer. And they were wearing Entrapta's special spacesuits, using her special comm. The snakes didn't know about that, so they couldn't jam it. That left…

"It seems the ship has entered hyperspace," Teal'c said.



Hyperspace, Near Unclaimed System, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

They were in hyperspace. Separated from their friends. Adora could only hope that the shuttle was OK. If the Goa'uld had detected and shot at it, at point-blank range… No. They would have noticed the guns firing, wouldn't they? And their friends would have said something, before… And the Ha'tak wouldn't have jumped into hyperspace if they had destroyed the shuttle. Or just detected it.

That was it. Adora nodded firmly. Their friends were fine. They had to worry about themselves now. She glanced at Catra.

"They know we're here," her lover said. She cocked her head. "And I can hear them coming from this direction." She pointed to the right. "Fight or flight?"

"We can take them," Adora said. If she transformed into She-Ra, this would be easy.

"But if they realise that, they might decide to blow the ship up to take us with them," Jack pointed out. "And not everyone here is explosion-proof."

"Let's avoid them then. This way!" Catra started heading left.

Adora winced as they quickly ran down the hallway. That was a risk she hadn't considered - and she should have. If the Jaffa decided to suicide…

After a few corners, they stopped. Jack looked at Teal'c. "You know this ship best. Where can we hole up?"

"This way should lead to store rooms and magazines," Teal'c said, taking the lead.

They ran down another narrow hallway.

"Stop!" Catra hissed. "I hear people ahead."

"In here!" Jack pushed a door open.

It was a storage room. Adora pressed herself against the wall next to the door. If the enemy found them, she'd face them first.

Catra remained at the other side of the doorway. Jack and Teal'c hid behind crates, weapons ready.

Adora saw Catra's ears twist. "They're coming this way," her lover whispered. "Almost here."

Adora held her breath. If they checked the room… She tensed and got ready to transform, flexing her hand - she could call her sword in an instant, just thinking about it.

Seconds passed. Was that a noise outside? Adora licked her lips.

Catra remained tense.

More seconds passed.

And Adora's lover nodded. "They're gone."

Whew! Adora relaxed. A little. "So, what now?" she asked, looking at the others.

"We need to destroy their hyperdrive," Catra said. "Before we end up who knows where. Probably at Sokar's headquarters."

Adora nodded in agreement. "And we need to contact our friends so they can come fetch us."

"And we need to prevent the crew from blowing themselves up. Or telling the other ships, if they are around, to destroy them and us," Jack added.

"If we destroy the hyperdrive and drop out of hyperspace, they'll have a fun time trying to find us," Catra said, grinning.

Adroa pressed her lips together. It was a dangerous plan - destroying the hyperdrive in hyperspace could seriously damage the ship. But it shouldn't destroy it. At least not a ship the size of a Ha'tak. And it was probably the safest solution.

The others seemed to agree - Jack nodded, and Teal'c… didn't say anything against the suggestion.

"So, we'll have to be sneaky. We can't just cut our way through them to the engine room and the bridge. As satisfying as that would be, that would spook them, and they might blow themselves up." Catra flashed her fangs in that confident grin of hers that… Ah, not the time, Adora reminded herself. Catra looked at Teal'c. "Are they likely to do that?"

Teal'c inclined his head. "According to what I was told, Sokar was feared by even his most loyal followers. They believe that he will condemn them to eternal torment in the afterlife should they fail him."

"What a nice guy. Did he ever hear about catching more flies with honey than vinegar?" Jack shook his head.

Catra shrugged. "Doesn't sound so different from some of those preachers of yours talking about hell."

Adora frowned at her lover. She remembered those people saying that she would go to hell for loving Catra, but this wasn't the time to discuss religion. "So, we need to take control of the engine room and the bridge. And probably the ordnance magazines as well."

"Without getting noticed while the entire crew of the ship is looking for us," Catra added. "And while they are still hurrying in the hope of catching us in the open, they will soon stop and start going through every room." She looked up at the ventilation duct. "I wish Entrapta was here. She'd be able to reach everywhere in the ship through the ducts."

"And Carter would be able to hack their system to hide us," Jack added. "But we're currently lacking our technological geniuses, so we have to make do with brawn and base cunning." He grinned. "Teal'c, I don't suppose you would have memorised a Ha'tak's air duct layout?"

"I have not, O'Neill. However, they follow a basic layout dictated by the ship's core design, so, unless Sokar has had this ship modified on a fundamental level - which is unlikely - we should still be able to navigate a path to our destination."

"Great! Let's hope dear old Sokar wasn't even more paranoid than we think."


Unclaimed System, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

The Ha'tak had entered hyperspace. With the Colonel, Teal'c, Adora and Catra still on board. Because Samantha Carter had failed to be thorough when she had hacked the airlock, and so the Goa'uld or Jaffa in charge of the ship had managed to override her commands and lock it down. If Sam had taken a bit more time, had been a bit more careful, hadn't simply assumed that overriding the manual commands would be enough, this wouldn't have happened.

This was her fault.

And now the Colonel and the others were stuck on a Goa'uld ship, travelling through hyperspace to an unknown destination. Stuck without a tech expert. That was Sam's fault as well. She should have stayed back with the Colonel, in case something like this happened, and had let one of the others go with the prisoners. Maybe Teal'c - though he might not have fit into the airlock; it had been very tight already. Catra would have fit, though, in place of Sam. Not that she would have left without Adora, though. Adora would have fit as well, as long as she wasn't transformed into She-Ra, but she wouldn't have left without Catra. And the Colonel wouldn't have left before everyone else.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could blame herself later; she had a job to do. She had to find out where that ship was going. Glancing towards Entrapta, she asked: "Did you finish compiling the data from the sensors?" If they could compute the vector of the ship when it entered hyperspace with enough precision, they could extrapolate the ship's route. That would give them at least a direction in which they could start searching. And based on a Ha'tak's performance, they could approximately define the point where it would exit hyperspace to check their position and prepare the next jump. If they were quick enough with the calculation and could vector the spy bots nearby in to lay down a sensor net, then, taking the Horde hyperdrive's superior performance into account, they had a chance to catch the Ha'tak there. A small chance, even if everything went perfectly, but… a small chance was better than no chance at all.

"Uh… the system is still working on it. With most of the free system resources allocated to the stealth system, it's going slow," Entrapta replied. "We could reassign some of the computing power the stealth system uses, but…"

"Don't even think about that!" Bow snapped from the bridge. "Sorry," he added a moment later, "but we've got dozens of Death Gliders and Tel'taks looking for us, with Al'keshs and Ha'taks moving in as well. We need all the power routed to the stealth system until we're clear of them."

"Right!" Entrapta nodded, then turned to Sam. "I think we underestimated the drain on the ship's computing resources for our stealth system."

"It can't be helped," Sam replied. It was a weakness - but without constant recalibration and adjustments, the minuscule delays resulting from the light being bent around the shuttle might get detected by an enemy using integrated sensor networks looking for such discrepancies. They didn't know if the Goa'uld had such a network, but they certainly had the capability to form one. In theory. And as much as Sam wanted to assign every single computer core and crystal matrix to analysing the data they had, to find the Colonel and the others, she knew that they couldn't risk being discovered.

They could call in Priest's task force, of course. They would make short work of the enemy fleet. But if Sam's plan failed - and the odds for that were better than even - then they would have to find out the missing Ha'tak's destination from the remaining ships here. And, since Sokar obviously was paranoid about security, if overcome in battle, the Jaffa would wipe their databanks and probably commit suicide before getting boarded or captured.

Of course, as the distance between the shuttle and the enemy ships grew, the risk of being detected shrank, and so it would be safe to reduce the resources for it and free them for Sam's task…

She checked the sensor readings. Maybe dropping one core and one matrix would be safe…


That was Bow. And he sounded concerned. Sam checked the sensors - no enemy ship was close. So…

"Priest's calling us," Bow said.

"Or Hordak! They must have noticed our target moving away," Entrapta said. "Oh, maybe we can outsource some computing?"

That was… well, it should work - it would add a delay, but with the power of a frigate's mainframe at their disposal…

"So, who's going to tell Priest that Adora just vanished with an enemy ship and that it wasn't our fault?" Glimmer asked.

"Uh…" Bow sounded concerned. "He's not going to like that."

Sam felt her stomach drop as she shook her head. "No, he won't." Maybe Daniel could handle this… but he was busy looking over their prisoner. And it wouldn't be fair to drop this on him when it was Sam's fault. At least partially.

"Shouldn't he trust Adora to, well, vanquish her enemies?" Entrapta asked. "He thinks she is a goddess, after all - and while I still haven't figured out what the exact Earth definition of a goddess is - you guys have so many of them, and they don't really fit each other - Adora should be able to handle the crew of a ship."

"That's a logical assumption," Sam told her. "But…"

"People aren't rational, right?" Entrapta sighed as Sam nodded. "Things would be so much easier if they were."

Sam nodded again.


Hyperspace, Near Unclaimed System, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Sokar hadn't been paranoid enough to replace and reroute the entire ventilation system. But he had been paranoid - or smart - enough to add grates to key locations in the ventilation ducts, blocking their passage. Grates linked to sensors, so you couldn't just slice them to pieces with your claws and continue on your way.

Fortunately, Sokar might have been paranoid, but also cheap - or operating on a budget - so the sensors were not really sophisticated. No motion or heat sensors - then again, that probably wouldn't have been a good idea in a ventilation duct where smaller objects swept along by the air currents, or hot air from somewhere, was common. Just some sensors to check if the grate was still intact. And Catra knew from her cadet days how to deal with that stuff without triggering the alerts.

Which didn't make it any less annoying, of course. More, actually, since the ducts in Goa'uld ships were not quite as roomy as those in Horde bases. And if she ever met the Jaffa tech who had installed the sensors on top of the grate so she had to lie on her back to spoof it, with dust and dried whatever falling down on her face every time she as much as touched the top of the duct… Her fur felt all sticky and dirty.

"Are we there yet?"

She rolled her eyes at O'Neill's comment. The joke hadn't been funny the first time he had made it, and it hadn't magically gotten funny after getting repeated three times. Maybe she shouldn't have told him that she could hear any Jaffa before they could hear Catra and her friends, so talking was fine if done in a low voice…

"Don't distract her!" Adora whispered behind her.

"I'm fine," Catra snapped as she cut the sensor's casing open.

"See? She's fine. How's the sensor, by the way?"

"She always says that!"

"I don't!" Catra hissed. "Now be quiet; we're close."

She connected the piece of metal she had pulled out of the last shredded grate to the sensor, then to the lower half of the grate. Good.

Then she unsheathed her claws and sliced the annoying obstacle into pieces. Some of them she stuffed into her belt for the next grate, the rest she pushed to the side before rolling on her belly. "Done!"

She started crawling ahead without waiting for an answer; sooner or later, the Jaffa would figure out where they were and do something about it. They needed to be at the bridge by then.


Two more grates later, they were finally at their goal - well, almost. Through the grate, Catra could see the hallway leading to the bridge. And she could hear the… two? Yes, two… Jaffa who stood guard there. Probably in full armour, staff weapons ready and zats on their belts. At least, that was how the other guards they had seen had walked around.

Catra crawled back a bit, suppressing a hiss when her tail brushed over something sticky that smelt like old lubricant, around the corner, where Adora and the others were waiting. "We're at the right spot," she whispered. "But we're not close enough to hit the guards through the grate. And not far enough to quitely remove the grate without them noticing. Unless they're asleep at their posts."

"Such a dereliction of duty would be punished most harshly by any System Lord. And Sokar has a reputation of cruelty that stands out amongst his peers," Teal'c said in a low voice.

"In other words, we can't count on that," O'Neill pointed out the obvious.

"So we have to be quick. Kick the grate out of the duct, then take out the guards before they can react and charge the bridge!" Adora said.

Catra knew what she meant. "Slice the grate to pieces, then do the same to the guards and the hatch leading to the bridge," she corrected her lover. "Besides, I'm in front, so I have to be the first through the grate."

"But…" Adora protested. "I could squirm past you."

That would be… well, it had a certain appeal. And Catra knew from some experiments in Dryl's castle that they were flexible enough to manage it. But they weren't here for that. "I'll go first - I'm faster and the smaller target."

"But I can take a shot from them!" Adora retorted.

"Only if you transform into She-Ra. And good luck doing that inside here," Catra pointed out.


Catra didn't have to see Adora's face to know she was pouting. But Catra was right here - and they were running out of time. "Let's go!" she hissed, then started crawling forward again.

She reached the grate and listened. Still two guards breathing. No one else. That was as good as it would get.

She unsheathed her claws, took a deep breath and sliced the grate with both hands. Before the first parts started to fall, she dug her feet's claws into the duct's metal and pushed herself forward, bursting through the remains of the grate - and into the hallway.

She curled up and flipped over, hitting the wall with her feet first - and jumped off again.

The Jaffa were quick - they fired at her before she touched the ground. But the plasma bolts missed, blasting the wall behind her as she rolled to the side, and the next volley hit the floor while she was already in the air, pouncing on them. She kicked the staff of the one on the left to the side, her feet's claws cutting through the top of it, and raked her hand's claws over and through the helmet and chestplate of the other.

He fell down, hands flailing as blood ran down his front, and she whirled towards the first guard, who was drawing his zat.

"For the Honour of Grayskull!" rang out from behind Catra.

The guard was good - Adora transforming into She-Ra didn't distract him at all. But he wasn't fast enough. She grabbed his right arm with her left, claws ripping into his muscles, before he could raise the weapon against her. He managed to land a glancing blow on her shoulder with his other arm, but she had taken worse in sparring. A swipe of her claws all but took his head off, helmet and all, and he collapsed in a pool of blood.

Catra turned to grin at Adora - and had to step to the side.

She-Ra was charging at the bulwark, sword out and glowing with power.


Bruce Willis made it look so easy. Jack O'Neill clenched his teeth as he pushed himself out of the ventilation duct - it was just narrow enough so he couldn't crawl on all fours - and contorted himself so he wouldn't just fall down head-first to the floor below but land in a crouch, carbine ready.

Just in time for Adora to blow the hatch wide open with a swipe of her sword. Blow it to bits, actually - Jack flinched a little at the blast but didn't let that stop him from moving forward. While the smoke obscured the view - Catra charged through anyway, right behind Adora - Jack glanced behind him.

Teal'c slid out of the duct, grabbing the edge with one hand and swinging around to land on his feet, far more graceful than a man his size had any right to, Jack noted with a touch of jealousy.

Then Jack reached the smoke. Two steps into it, he dived to the right and rolled over his shoulder. He ended in a kneeling position, gun braced, and just had to lean a bit to the right to shoot a Jaffa coming around a console with a staff weapon ready. Jack hit him in the chest with a short burst, one bullet ricocheting off the armour - bad angle - but the others going right through it. The Jaffa stumbled, reaching out to the next console to steady himself, turning towards Jack.

Jack dropped him with another burst, to the head this time, and ran forward, bent over to present a smaller target. More staff weapons went off, and as he took a peek from behind the damaged console, he saw that half a dozen Jaffa were shooting at Adora, who had changed her sword into a shield to take the blasts. Two more were trying to flank her, but just as Jack started to aim at them, Catra dropped on them from the ceiling and started shredding them. Literally.

Jack switched targets and took out the closest threat to him with two rounds to their face and throat. He had to suppress the urge to lay down suppressive fire while Adora advanced - they couldn't risk damaging the bridge. Any more than it was already damaged, that was.

Where was Teal'c? Jack glanced to his left, at the door. No sign of his friend - and the smoke had almost cleared. Then he saw a flash through the door - a staff weapon firing.

Ah. Teal'c was holding off reinforcements.

Jack caught some movement to the side and whipped his gun around, putting a few rounds into a Jaffa crawling over the floor before the man could get to cover.

Another Jaffa flew over Jack's head, screaming until he hit the wall and dropped to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut. Jack put another two rounds into the collapsed figure just to be certain the Jaffa wouldn't get up behind him, then scanned the room again.

It was over. Adora stood there, still glowing, surrounded by five broken bodies. Dead and dying. Catra had finished her two earlier victims and gutted a third. She jerked, ears twitching. "Teal'c needs help."

"Shut down the hyperdrive! And the reactor! And seal or dump the ordnance!" Adora snapped as she whirled and raced back to the hallway, shield held up to catch more staff blasts.

Catra looked at her, then at the consoles - and then at Jack. "If I remember correctly, the main controls are smoking over there." She pointed at one of the damaged consoles. "There should be secondary controls, though. But I don't know where they are - or how to use them."

He winced and wished Carter were here - she would have already shut down the hyperdrive. "I think that wasn't covered in the general briefing. I'll make a note to rectify that oversight once we're back on Earth."

Catra snorted, then stepped forward, head cocking to the side. A moment later, she bent down and grabbed a Jaffa by the scruff of his neck, lifting the groaning man up one-handed. "Can you use the secondary hyperdrive controls?" she asked, flashing the claws of her free hand in front of his face.

The Jaffa blinked, one eye already swelling shut, then coughed, blood running down his chin. "I-I'll never b-betray my g-god! Sokar!"

"Worth a try," Catra mumbled before dropping him on the ground again. She opened her mouth, then stopped, her ears twitching again. "Adora and Teal'c are done."

A few seconds later, Jack saw Adora enter the bridge. "We've blocked the passageway. It won't hold them for long, though," she said.

"We need the secondary controls - the primary are fried," Catra told her, nodding at the smoking console.

"You can access the secondary controls from any command console," Teal'c said, joining them. "But it usually requires codes only high-ranking Jaffa have."

And with Sokar being paranoid about security… Jack shook his head. He would really, really love to have Carter with them right now. Or Entrapta. Or Bow. But you fought your war with the army you had, not the army you wished you had. "So, I only see one way to stop this ship: We go and blow up the hyperdrive by hand." That would be dangerous and might cause the Jaffa to blow the ship up when they realised they couldn't stop them, but Jack didn't see any alternative. And then they would have to secure the ordnance magazines.

Catra and Adora nodded, looking grim.

"There is an alternative," Teal'c said. "Although it requires questionable and possibly dishonourable actions."

"Oh?" Jack cocked his head at his friend. "Hypothetically, what would we have to do?" He wasn't a stranger to torture, and he didn't think Catra would make a fuss, but...

Teal'c glanced at Adora, as Jack had expected. "It would require you to pose as a goddess and convert Sokar's faithful."

Jack blinked. He hadn't expected that.


"Convert Sokar's faithful?" Adora gaped at Teal'c. He couldn't be serious! This had to be a joke - Teal'c had a very subtle sense of humour, a dry wit. This was… "I'm no goddess!" she blurted out.

"Yes, I know." Teal'c inclined his head. "Which is why this is a questionable and possibly dishonourable plan of action."

"Yeah, we call the snakes false gods for a reason." Jack nodded, but despite his words, he looked… not nearly as shocked as he should, in Adora's opinion.

And Catra… Adora glanced at her lover and winced. Judging by Catra's grin, she had no trouble with the plan at all. Not that there was a plan.

"Well, you managed to convert half the Horde fleet without even trying to - while trying to prevent them from converting…"

"That was different!" Adora protested. "Their situation was completely different! And it wasn't half the Horde fleet!"

"Details, details." Catra cocked her head at the groaning Jaffa on the ground. "But the Jaffa seem much more fanatical - and Adora hasn't killed Sokar yet."

"Sokar is well-known for his cruelty," Teal'c said. "Unlike his rival System Lords, he does not even attempt to inspire devotion - he rules through fear and terror." He looked at the wounded Jaffa. "Of all the false gods' followers, his are potentially the most vulnerable to conversion."

Oh. Adora blinked again. That was what this was about - it wasn't just about stopping the Ha'ak. It was about saving the Jaffa from dying for their masters.

Which, she realised, she probably should start doing right away, seeing as a number of them were dying in front of her. You couldn't convert - turn, she corrected herself, turn - the dead. And they were running out of time - Catra was looking towards the bulwark they had closed and barricaded, her ears twitching. That meant that the Jaffa were attacking it, trying to break through.

She looked around. Four Jaffa had survived the battle on the bridge. Three of them were conscious but they didn't look good. If she healed them, it might kill the symbiont, dooming them… On the other hand, they might die without help anyway, and if they died, the symbiont would die as well… And they were prisoners - she couldn't just let them die.

Adora took a deep breath and pointed her sword at the closest. He tensed, one hand clutching his side - his legs were mangled from getting thrown at the closest console - but he was staring at her defiantly. He must be expecting death.

She smiled at him as gently as she could and focused on her power. A moment later, her sword started to glow, and magic shot out of it, engulfing the Jaffa. She heard him gasp as she healed him, then turned to heal the others on the floor.

A few seconds later, all four were whole. One was patting himself down as if he couldn't believe it - he had been unconscious, Adora remembered. But the other three were still staring at her.

"I am She-Ra," she told them. "Princess of Power. I am not a Goa'uld. I fight the false gods who use lies and cruelty to rule and oppress others."

"We will never betray our god Sokar!" the first Jaffa she had healed yelled - and lunged, reaching for a staff weapon near him. Before Adora could react, Catra hit him with her shock rod, and he collapsed.

"What a pain," Adora's lover commented with a sigh.

Jack snorted at that, of course, as he stunned the Jaffa with his zat before he could recover.

Adora wanted to sigh as well as she turned to address the remaining three, who hadn't moved. That was an encouraging sign, wasn't it? "I have healed you because you don't deserve to die for being lied to, for being manipulated - and for being betrayed."

She saw the Jaffa glance at the corpses surrounding them and suppressed a wince. But none of them asked why Adora and her friends had killed the others. They would be used to such cruelty, Adora reminded herself, based on what they knew about Sokar.

"Sokar is our god," another said as Jack, Teal'c and Catra tied them up.

Adora shook her head. "He is a false god. He uses deceit and trickery to fool you. He…"

"They're about to break through!" Catra interrupted her.

Adora felt relieved as she turned to face the hallway. Trying to turn people from following the Goa'uld was hard. Fighting them was easy.

"W… Will you kill them?"

Adora froze for a fraction of a second, then glanced over her shoulder at the Jaffa who had spoken. The other two were glaring at him, but he looked at her with a weird expression.

"I will do my best not to kill them," Adora told him.

She heard the door break in the hallway and charged forward, changing her sword into a shield again as the first Jaffa entered the hallway. He fired at her with his staff weapon, but she easily caught the bolt on her shield - and two more, one from him and one from the Jaffa behind him, before she slammed into him.

He was thrown into the broken bulwark, hard enough to break bones, but he would live. Or so she hoped as she whirled to face the next enemies. A volley of staff blasts and zat shots splashed against her shield. Snarling, she swung it around, knocking half a dozen Jaffa off their feet.

A few quick steps carried her into the midst of their formation. She kicked one, breaking his weapons and his arm, hit another with her free hand, knocking him out, then used her shield to deflect more shots.

She heard Catra's shock rod go off behind her - someone must have been still a threat - as she widened her shield with a thought, matching the hallway's width, then charged forward, pushing the remaining Jaffa, twenty at least, into each other and back against the wall, barely managing to stop herself from crushing the lot of them.

Yes, that was much easier than trying to turn them.


Unclaimed System, January 28th, 1999 (Earth Time)

Samantha Carter stared at the clock on her screen. "ETA thirty seconds." She checked the data from the spy drones. The enemy ships were moving according to the expected patterns.

If everything went according to plan, Priest's task force would be dropping out of hyperspace right on top of the enemy fleet. That was cutting it a bit too close for Sam's taste, but it wasn't her plan. Priest had insisted on attacking the fleet in order to secure the information they needed, and while Priest wasn't officially in charge of the mission even with Adora missing, Sam knew better than to try to give an order that would be refused.

And he was a veteran of such engagements - Sam had never taken part in a fleet action. But still… they were trusting her - and Entrapta's - data. The clones had calculated their exit vectors based on Sam and Entrapta's estimates of the enemy fleet's movements. If they had made a mistake… The clones knew the risk, but Sam still held her breath as the seconds ticked down, watching for the slightest deviation from the expected patterns. At least for the capital ships - the Death Gliders were moving almost randomly, and the Tel'taks had slightly erratic patterns.

"They've done this before," Bow said. "They have wiped out Apophis's forces. They know their enemy."

Bow was right - but he also sounded as if he was trying to reassure himself. If the Colonel were here, he'd make a joke to break the tension. And a point to show how relaxed he was.

But he wasn't here.

"Ten seconds!" Entrapta announced.

Nine… eight… seven…

"Jamming field active!" It wouldn't stop the fleet's FTL comms forever, but long enough for this battle.

Sam looked at the sensor readings again. Oh, no!

"Uh-oh! Deviation!" Entrapta had noticed it as well.

"What?" Bow craned his neck to look at their screen.

But it was too late. The task force dropped out of hyperspace to rake the enemy fleet at point-blank range while the Jaffa were still shocked.

And one frigate dropped right into the path of an Al'kesh which had changed course a moment ago. Far too close for either ship to react and avoid the collision. The spy drone network and the shuttle's sensors showed every detail.

The frigate's batteries fired. They shattered the Al'kesh's shields but couldn't stop it. And neither could the frigate's shields. Sam clenched her teeth as the shields flared, then died, and the Al'kesh, already wrecked, trailing parts and leaking atmosphere, rammed into the frigate's bow.

Not even a Horde frigate could take that kind of impact. The bow armour buckled for a second, like a crash test in slow motion, then shattered - and the bow crumpled, then was crushed as the main body of the frigate ploughed through the remains of the Al'kesh.

For a fraction of a second, Sam had hope that the frigate, though irreparably wrecked, had survived, but then an explosion engulfed both wrecks, quickly followed by secondary explosions that ripped the frigate's wreck apart.

Sam closed her eyes for a second and drew a hissing breath. That was… It wasn't her fault. She hadn't wanted this attack. She had warned Priest. The clones knew the risks.

But she still felt guilty.

"Oh. The Al'kesh must have been carrying a full load of bombs," Entrapta said. "I can't tell if they were deliberately detonated or blew up from the impact. Usually, they wouldn't be armed unless they were expecting combat, but since they were looking for us…"

"...they might have had their bombs ready to be launched," Sam finished for her friend. Which would have been stupid, of course - bombs were near-useless in combat outside a planet's atmosphere. But if that was standard procedure, the Jaffa would have armed the bombs.

It didn't matter anyway. Sam checked the rest of the battle. If you could call it a battle. The task force had double the numbers of the enemy fleet - and a Horde frigate had more firepower than a Ha'tak. The Al'keshs were wiped out in no time even with half the force focusing on the Ha'taks. The Tel'taks were not faring any better. A handful tried to escape using their stealth system, but with the spy drones' sensor network linked to Priest's task force, that merely meant that they were destroyed without shooting back.

One Ha'tak accelerated, trying to enter hyperspace. But it was too late - the ship ran into a squadron of frigates and all but disintegrated under their fire.

Sam pressed her lips together so she wouldn't call Priest to remind him that they needed prisoners to find the missing team. The clone commander was aware of that - and of the fact that they had to ensure that no enemy ship escaped to report to Sokar.

And, seeing as a number of Ha'taks were drifting dead in space but hadn't blown up, it looked like they would get their prisoners.

Sam could only hope that it would be enough to narrow down the missing Ha'tak's destination; the data they had so far only netted them a general direction.

And that wasn't enough to find their missing friends.


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