Chapter 17 summary: The asteroid enters Earth's Solar system, just as O'Neill, Teal'c, and Daniel arrives in a teltac, hoping to somehow deflect the threat. Sam and Martouf/Lantash are still Korra's guests, waiting for news about Earth's fate.
[ Chapter 1: Pain, Sorrow, and Joy | Chapter 2: Escape and Rescue | Chapter 3: A Pleasant Surprise | Chapter 4: Escaping Together | Chapter 5: Waiting for News | Chapter 6: Lurking Danger | Chapter 7: Hallucinations | Chapter 8: Uncontrollable Emotions | Chapter 9: Happier Times | Chapter 10: They are not Gods | Chapter 11: The Trees of the Forest | Chapter 12: Collision Course | Chapter 13: Travel | Chapter 14: Enemies at the Gate and Land of the Light | Chapter 15: Another Option | Chapter 16: Undercover | Chapter 17: Going Home ]
"If I'm reading this correctly, we've got about three and a half hours to the, uh, fail safe position - after that we'll be too close to Earth to be able to deflect the asteroid," Daniel said, looking at the display.
"Okay, then let's get this bomb in place, then. Since Teal'c is piloting the ship, you'll have to go EVA, Daniel," O'Neill said.
"Yeah, I remember. I'm not looking forward to it, but I can do it."
"McKay informed us we would pass through a cometary trail and that you should be ready to take cover," Teal'c reminded them.
Suddenly, the ship groaned loudly and began to shake.
"What was that?" O'Neill wondered.
"I am having difficulty with the sub-light engines," Teal'c informed him.
The ship shook again, and there was a loud rumbling.
Daniel looked up and at Teal'c. "Yes, you are."
A light on the panel came on and a beeping sound was heard.
"We are receiving a signal from another ship...it is the Tok'ra." He pushed a button and a Tok'ra appeared on the electronic viewscreen.
"I am Jalen of the Tok'ra. We received your distress call and came as fast as we could. According to our readings, you are building up an overload in the control systems. Can we render assistance?"
"Ah..." O'Neill looked unsure. "Yeah, sure, render away."
Jalen rolled her eyes. "You are being pulled towards the asteroid too fast. Can you slow down?"
"Negative. Sub-light engines just went out and maneuvering thrusters are not functioning," Teal'c told her.
"Anise will be transporting over to assist you. Prepare to receive ring transport."
"It was fortunate Jalen was able to pick me up on the way here." Anise closed the drawer with coloured crystals quickly, after replacing those that had burned out. "And that we had spare crystals." She walked over to the control panels and studied the displays intently.
"Yeah, yeah, we're very fortunate..." O'Neill said sarcastically.
Anise ignored him, straightening up. "Our speed is much too great."
"Thrusters are at maximum reverse," Teal'c informed her.
"May I have the controls?"
"Of course." Teal'c inclined his head and got up, allowing Anise to slide into the seat.
She manipulated the various levers and controls for several moments, frowning at the read-outs. "I have slowed our decent as much as possible, and I am going to try to land in that crater. Hold on!"
The cargo ship moved down into a deep crater, slowly decreasing its speed until it came to rest, hovering just above the surface at the bottom of the crater. Everyone made a sigh of relief they had not crashed.
"The asteroid will block transmissions to Stargate Command, but Jalen will relay information to them that we did not crash," Anise said, again frowning at the numbers on her displays. "I know why this ship was approaching the asteroid so rapidly. It also explains the strong energy signature from raw naquadah I am sensing. I should have realised earlier, but the entire core of the asteroid must be composed of naquadah." She entered several more commands.
She nodded. "According to my calculations, it makes up about forty-five percent of the total mass."
"Of course it does," Daniel said.
"And, so, what?" O'Neill demanded, getting annoyed. "We need to get out there and set the bomb!"
"This must be a Goa'uld setup - there are no naturally naquadah-rich meteors in this solar system," Anise stated.
"A setup to circumvent the Protected Planets Treaty with the Asgard. It's almost unthinkable." Daniel looked shocked.
O'Neill looked at him. "What?"
"The Goa'uld brought the asteroid here and set it on a collision course to make it look like a natural disaster," Anise concluded.
"And they knew the only way we could stop it would be with a nuke," Daniel added.
"So, what happens if that bomb goes off?" O'Neill said.
"The explosion will be enhanced by the Naquadah...presumably enough to resemble the force of a small nova. This close to the planet, it would be enough to set the atmosphere on fire and boil the oceans," Anise told them.
"If we don't activate the bomb and the asteroid goes past the fail safe point, there's no turning back. Are you absolutely sure about this?"
"Yes, of course. You cannot use your nuclear device."
"The presence of the asteroid itself may be sufficient evidence of a treaty violation," Teal'c suddenly said.
"Right. The Asgard can intervene," Daniel looked relieved.
Anise nodded. "I will tell Jalen to send a signal to them." She checked the chronometer on the panel. "We still have just over two hours before the asteroid hits Earth, but that may not be time enough for them to arrive here." She activated the communications. "Jalen, we have determined the asteroid's presence is the result of tampering from the Goa'uld. The core is made of pure naquadah. Contact the Asgard about the treaty violation and ask them to send a ship as fast as possible."
"Understood. Jalen out."
"So, now we wait?" Daniel said.
"Yes. We wait," Anise confirmed. "There is little else we can do."
O'Neill groaned. This was what he hated the most. Waiting for other people to do something.
"Jalen, here. There has been no reply from the Asgard."
"Understood. Anise, out." She looked at O'Neill, then Daniel and Teal'c, frowning.
"They must be too busy," Daniel said, looking worried. "They'd surely help us otherwise."
"How long to fail safe?" O'Neill asked.
"Just under one hour," Anise said. "It may be prudent to consider lifting off soon."
"You mean giving up? Letting Earth be flattened?" O'Neill exclaimed, angrily.
"I do not enjoy the prospect, but there is little left we can do."
"Then think of something! You're supposed to be a scientist, aren't you?"
Anise made the long blink she usually used when changing control, and Freya looked at him. "Given the situation, your anger is understandable, but uncalled for. We are doing our best to help you."
O'Neill looked only marginally mollified, but he did not say anything further.
"The Goa'uld must have towed the asteroid through hyperspace by ship," Daniel said.
"A mothership," Teal'c added.
The communications system beeped, and O'Neill hit the receive button. "Yes?"
"This is Jalen. I just received a communication from an Asgard ship. They were not in our Galaxy when they received our signal, but they are coming as fast as possible. They estimate arrival in 40 minutes."
"That's cutting it a bit close..."
"Too close. It is just under 38 minutes to impact," Anise informed them.
"We passed fail safe."
She nodded. "Yes."
"So, that's it? Earth's doomed? I won't accept that!" O'Neill exclaimed.
"Perhaps not..." Anise looked thoughtful. "We do not have an ha'tak, but we may not need one. The effect only has to last a few seconds."
"What only has to last a few seconds? What?"
"We could expand the teltac's hyperspace field to encompass the entire asteroid. This enables us to take it out of normal space for long enough to avoid the collision with the world of the Tau'ri, given it is done at exactly the right time."
Daniel looked at her, somewhat doubtful.
"Err...no offense, but that sounds a bit desperate..." O'Neill said.
"It is somewhat unconventional, but the idea is sound," Anise looked miffed.
"You want to ride an asteroid through Earth?" O'Neill still looked disbelieving.
"To the outside observer, it would disappear on one side and reappear on the other. Beware that there is some danger. In order to expand the field so far beyond its usual envelope, we will have to drain the power of this ship completely. It could cause the engines to explode."
"Yes, however, only one of us would have to remain aboard this vessel in order to pilot it, the rest should transport to Jalen's teltac, and move to safe distance. I estimate there is a fifty-fifty chance of succeeding, and avoiding a fatal engine overload. An explosion of the engines may not cause a chain reaction in the naquadah in the asteroid, but it is a risk."
O'Neill sighed, thinking it over. "You think this is the best shot we have at stopping this rock?"
"Yes, I believe it is our only chance of doing so."
"Well, that's the plan, then."
Anise nodded and began working rapidly, making calculations.
"Well? We're getting awfully close..." O'Neill said, looking out the porthole.
"Almost ready, you should transport up to Jalen's ship now."
"Ah - no. You transport up with the others, I'm piloting this ship the last bit."
"Teal'c has already made the same offer, but I believe it would be best if I pilot this vessel at this point. Can you even fly a teltac?"
"Well, Teal'c's shown me some..."
"As I expected. I will be the one remaining here. It is important we do not engage the hyper drive too soon, or we could reappear inside the planet."
"Oh, for Christ's sake! Just show me!"
Anise looked up. "The offer is well taken, but your heroics is not needed this time. I will do this. Please transport to Jalen's teltac with the others now."
"Come on, Jack. She's right." Daniel said, pulling on his arm to get him to follow.
Grumbling, O'Neill followed Daniel and Teal'c.
"Good luck," Daniel called out, as the rings descended around them.
They materialised on Jalen's ship, which jumped to hyperspace the moment they were aboard. They hurried to the fore of the teltac, to see if Anise was successful.
"Engaging hyper drive...now!" Anise informed them over the communications system.
The ship entered hyperspace and disappeared, only to reappear on the other side of Earth a few moments later.
"Anise here. The plan was successful."
"Understood. Congratulations," Jalen said, sounding relieved. "I will arrive to pick you up in a few minutes."
O'Neill smiled, also looking very relieved. He then noticed a signal beeping on the console. "What is that?"
"An Asgard ship has arrived and is hailing us." Jalen pressed the button, and Thor appeared on the viewscreen.
Hey, Thor, old buddy!" O'Neill smiled at him. "Thanks for coming, but you're a little late for the party - we've already solved the problem."
"So I can see, O'Neill. I apologize for my tardiness, but the war in our home Galaxy is not going well. It pleases me that your planet was not destroyed."
"Thanks, same here! Now, could you please sue the hell out of those lying snakeheads? They've clearly broken the treaty! That asteroid's full of naquadah!"
"I have scanned the asteroid, and can confirm its composition. I agree it is likely to be the work of the Goa'uld, and if you so wish we will assemble a commission of inquiry consisting of equal numbers of Asgard and Goa'uld representatives. Your people and your allies, the Tok'ra would be allowed to state your grievances, but the Goa'uld would most likely deny all charges."
O'Neill looked defeated. "I'd think the mere presence of that thing in our solar system was enough!"
"Regrettably not, O'Neill. However, we will contact the Goa'uld and inform them we are aware of this event, and that any further subterfuge against the Tau'ri will call for stringent measures from the Asgard."
It was still early in the morning of the fourth day of Sam and Martouf/Lantash's visit to Khepri's palace, when Korra came into their chambers, smiling excitedly.
"I have received a communication from the Tok'ra, and it is good news!"
Sam and Lantash both looked relieved. "That is good to hear, Korra," Lantash said.
"Earth's okay?" Sam asked.
Korra nodded. "Yes, though the danger was great at one point, but it is safe again now."
He gave them a quick summary of what he had been told about the incident with the asteroid.
"The Goa'uld tried to destroy Earth with a naquadah-filled asteroid?" Sam shook her head, disbelieving. "Any idea which Goa'uld?"
Korra shook his head. "No, but the Tok'ra are currently trying to determine this - and also how none of our operatives learned of it beforehand. It cannot be one of the usual Goa'uld, but there has been much turmoil in the ranks of the System Lords, and the power is shifting. The Tok'ra net of operatives is also very thin right now, with many killed and more on the run. The Council is working to rearrange our undercover agents, but it takes time for an operative to be trusted by any Goa'uld who's court they insinuate themselves at. It may be a long time before our network is as reliable as it has been in the past." He looked unhappy.
"We should leave for 'the Land of the Light'. I realise the gate at the SGC may be kept fairly active for the next several days, with all those returning from the alpha site, but we should be able to contact them soon, at least."
"You do not have to go there. I got information that a number of smaller outposts and bases have been built, though it has been decided to keep them small so as to minimize the loss from any future attacks. I have the coordinates for Malek's base, so you can go there if you want."
"That sounds good." Lantash nodded. "Thank you."
Sam smiled, relieved. They were going home very soon!
They had just eaten lunch and then Lantash had taken an official - and very polite - goodbye of the Goa'uld, Khepri, so as to avoid any future problems for Korra. Khepri was still none the wiser and merely happy to see Lantash leave without any attempts to try to ingratiate himself and gain a position.
Khepri's Jaffa had followed them - and the small group of servants they had bought before coming there - to the Stargate, and Lantash had entered the address of a random world. There he had told the surprised and very grateful slaves that they were free, and that he would let them go wherever they wanted.
Finally, the last of them had been sent through the Stargate - either to their homeworld, if the name they gave was for a planet Lantash knew the address to - or to another, safe world.
Lantash walked over to Sam and put his arms around her, giving her a long, loving kiss before he gave control to Martouf, who had not been able to come fore during the time they had pretended to be a Goa'uld. He quickly kissed Sam again.
"Ready to go to Malek's base?"
Sam nodded. "Very ready."
She smiled and leaned against him while he entered the address. The wormhole flared to life and they walked through - hand in hand. They were finally going home. Together.