by Loui

Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Showtime/Viacom, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. Earth: Final Conflict and its characters are the property of Alliance Atlantis, Roddenberry Productions and some others that I canÕt remember... No infringement of these copyrights is intended by this story.
"Gateways" is copyright © Loui.
Author's Notes: Story is an AU set before the S3 finales for both series - no spoilers past that.

The ID Portal suddenly flared into activity. A sigh reverberated around the spartan chamber as the guard lowered his cup of coffee to the console in front of him. Punching in a few commands he viewed the results on the screen - the origin of the traveller was from an authorised ID Portal - no need to re-route. Absently, he slapped his palm down on another console and a distinctive three-tone signal rang out through the complex; he could almost hear the doors slamming and blinds twitching shut.

The traveller emerged, recognising the frowning face the guard hurriedly brought himself to attention. "Ms. Palmer, my apologies, I had no notification that you were coming, I'd have had the staff ready to greet you."

"It's quite all right, Sanchez, this is an unexpected trip. Mr. Doors called me and asked me to come down. Is he in the main lab?"

"Yes, Ms. Palmer. I'll get someone to..."

Renee waved a dismissive hand. "Don't bother, Sanchez. I know the way."

Sanchez breathed an explosive sigh as soon as she was out of earshot. He touched the comm unit in his ear and sent out a warning to the security staff, "Heads up, people. The Ice Lady is here."

Renee tugged at her suit jacket, straightening an invisible crease. This new working situation still wasn't comfortable, the memories were still too fresh, too vivid. Pulling her face into a neutral smile, she called out, "Joshua, are you in here?"

An abstracted voice replied. "Over here, Ms. Palmer."

"Joshua, how many times to do I have to say this? Call me Renee."

Joshua Doors, looking tired and frustrated, emerged from behind a huge workstation. Renee eyed him assessingly. Since he had assumed control of his late father's projects; Joshua had aged. There was a tightness about his mouth now, as well as more lines developing around his eyes. Quietly, he said, "I need your help, Renee. These hieroglyphics aren't making any sense. I've had a team of three specialists here for over a month now. They've got nowhere - fast. Is there anyone you can think of, I'll pay any cost. This was 'his' final project, Renee. This one I have to solve... I have to." The last sentence was said while staring fixedly at the objects arranged at the far side of the lab.It was at these objects that Renee was looking at when she responded to Joshua's plea.

"There is one person, one of your father's Resistance associates. He's an expert - well, he's an expert hacker - but he is the best person I can think of for solving problems. He'll dig, he'll search. If he can't find the answer himself, he'll probably know of someone who can. Can I call him and arrange for him to come here?"

Joshua just looked at her and said, "Whatever it takes."

He couldn't swear to it, but he could have sworn he heard Renee muttering, "It'll probably take a Van Gogh, if I know Augur..."

Renee excused herself to make the arrangements and Joshua just stood and looked at the artefacts taking up over half the space in the lab.

The next day found a highly intrigued Augur accompanying Renee down an anonymous corridor in an anonymous complex. A complex that he'd reached by travelling from an ID portal in the HQ of Doors International; a portal he would bet money that Liam knew nothing about. That was another thing, Renee had been specific - tell Kincaid nothing. Augur had been reluctant - then she'd told him the payment bonus for his help. If successful, the Van Gogh study was his - he could already imagine where he would hang it.

He followed Renee into a lab and was just about to say 'hi' to Joshua Doors when he just stopped dead in his tracks and stared. Augur could feel his mouth opening in shock, he tried to say something but, for one of the few times in his life, words failed him.

Suspended from the ceiling, huge - was that sandstone? - sheets of stone, which were covered in hieroglyphs, were placed on display. There was a windowed wall behind these immense artefacts and an astonishing sight was just visible through those windows. Of their own volition, his feet carried him forwards. He stood at the windows and stared into another, more secure, lab. In that lab, another artefact stood suspended. This one... this one staggered belief. It was a huge, beautiful, metal ring. Awed, he asked, "What are they? What is that?!"

Joshua appeared at his left shoulder. The other man said, "This was my father's final project. The artefacts were removed - secretly - from the Giza plateau, two months after the Taelons arrived. They were put into storage at that time. Four months ago, my father had them moved here.

"We don't know what they are. The hieroglyphs have been translated by experts using all the recognised sources and texts. The translation makes no sense. As for our metal friend through there, the ring is made of an unknown metal. Nothing - not even in the Taelon databanks - matches it, or even comes close.

"That's what caught my father's interest. Somebody made it and it wasn't the Taelons. There was, or is, another technologically superior race out there. Dad wanted to find out all he could about them.

"Will you help, Augur?"

Staring at the artefacts in front of him, Augur smiled. This was going to be interesting, he could just feel it. "Of course, I'll help. Are you kidding me? Let's get started."

Ten hours later, Augur gave an irritated yell and flung his glasses down on a table. He massaged his temples, thinking hard. Joshua and Renee eyed him curiously. Joshua had been impressed by what he'd seen. The hacker had started fresh, not looking at the results of the previous team of experts. He'd watched, amazed, as Augur - almost as an afterthought - had written a program to translate the hieroglyphs using all possible reference materials that he could find listed. Augur had analysed the metal ring top to bottom, from the sides, at the molecular level...

The list went on.

He'd arrived at the same conclusions as the previous experts and had taken hours rather than weeks to do it. Renee was right - he was good, he was better than good - in fact, he was amazing!

Augur growled, "The damn translation is the same. I don't get it... it's nonsense!" Wearily he pinched the bridge of his nose as he paced and thought. Then the idea came to him. Of course! Why hadn't he thought about that in the first place?!

"Palmer, there is one person I can think of that might be able to help."

Impatiently, Renee sighed. "Well why didn't you say so sooner, Augur?"

Augur gave her one of his patented 'give me patience' looks. "Because you told me not to tell him where I was going or what I was doing, that's why!"

Renee said, "No!"

Joshua looked on in confusion as the argument was waged back and forth before, finally; much to his surprise, Renee admitted that Augur might be right. It was entirely possible that 'he' might have some ideas. Joshua couldn't remember the last time he had ever heard Renee back down like that. Highly curious, he asked, "Who's 'he'?"

He definitely wasn't expecting her answer.

"Liam Kincaid."

It was almost forty-eight hours later before Liam could quietly slip away from his duties. The meeting between Liam and Joshua was awkward. Joshua still felt responsible for the acts that he had carried out. Renee, Liam and others had tried to make him accept the fact that it wasn't his fault - he just couldn't do it, though. Then he had found out that Liam had assumed his father's place as leader of the Resistance and Joshua had felt even more awkward when he remembered his past attitude towards the Major.

Liam had arrived and given Renee and Augur looks that spoke volumes. This secrecy was going to be dealt with later, his face promised a future confrontation. Then he'd spotted the artefacts. The Major had walked forward, an unreadable expression on his face. He'd glanced at the monitors displaying the translation of the hieroglyphs and almost absently, he said, "The translation is wrong."

Intent, Augur motioned Renee silent with a wave of his hand. She shut her mouth, reluctantly, but she too eyed Liam intently.

Augur said softly, "What should it say, Liam?"

Softly, so softly that they almost didn't hear, Liam said, "A million years into the skies... Ra, Sun God... Sealed and buried for all time... Stargate."

Renee and Joshua eyed each other. She raised her eyebrows and mouthed the question, "Stargate?!"

Augur ignored them. He focused his whole attention on Liam. The other man had walked forward to stare through the windows into the other lab, at the metal ring it housed. There was an undefinable sort of hunger in Liam's eyes. Augur said, "Do you want to have a closer look?"

Joshua ordered all the technicians out of the other lab and the four entered its deserted space. The Major walked forward and brushed his hand over one of the symbols on the ring, his eyes full of shadowed thoughts a million miles away from where he was.

Augur brought the Major's attention back to the ring by saying, "My translation program couldn't match the symbols with any known language."

Kincaid said simply, "They aren't a language, they're just symbols. To be precise, they're representations of constellations."

Enough was enough. Joshua turned to Renee and demanded answers. "How does he know this? Why did Augur know to ask him? Why didn't you want him here? What aren't you telling me?"

Joshua's questions reverberated around the lab. Renee opened her mouth to respond, but no words emerged - what could she say? What should she say? She turned and cast an appealing glance at Augur and Liam. Augur, at least, appeared to be as concerned as she was about what she should say. Liam, on the other hand, appeared completely distracted.

Feeling uneasy and off-balance in the situation she found herself in, Renee lost patience with Liam. In an aggrieved tone, she said, "Well, Kincaid, do you want to tell him or will I?"

Liam finally turned and acknowledged the rest of the people in the room, gazing at them assessingly. Renee appeared - to his eyes - scared and off-balance; that equated, as usual, to annoyance at him. Augur looked concerned; and Joshua - poor Joshua - just looked bewildered.

Rubbing tired hands over his face, Liam sighed. He needed time alone - time to think. Time to decide what information he should reveal about the artefacts and their origins. One thing at a time. Joshua first. It was past time to make a decision on whether or not he trusted Doors' son enough to tell him the truth.

For a long moment he did nothing, and then he sighed. Turning to Augur and Renee, Liam said, "Tell him... and Augur, this time, tell all of it. Ha'gel, my father, my mother, how I was conceived, where I was born... all of it." Liam then turned to address Joshua. "You're about to hear the story of my life, Joshua. Everything you are about to be told is true, that I promise you. In fact, it's the reason for the underlying friction between your father and I. I am too tired to deal with your reaction right now. I've been working non-stop to clear my schedule because Renee said she needed my help. If you have questions, and I'm sure you will, they'll have to wait until tomorrow. Is there some place I can rest up?"

Joshua, looking even more confused and slightly worried, gave Liam directions to the dormitory wing of the complex.

Liam nodded his thanks and headed quickly out of the lab. The visions had drained him more than he wanted to admit - if he didn't rest soon he'd probably collapse. As he reached the door, he heard Augur say, "Joshua, you're going to want to be sitting down while you hear this. Shall we take this talk to your office?..."

Later that night, Liam tossed and turned in a restless, dream-haunted sleep. Images filled his subconscious; horrifying images of slaughter, wanton cruelty, terrible destruction, strange humans with eyes that glowed, and then... Oh merciful heaven!

Liam started from his sleep, sitting bolt upright in horror. He staggered from the bed and into the small washroom adjacent to the dormitory room that he had appropriated for himself. With shaking hands, he ran some cold water and splashed it over his face. Liam pressed his forehead to the mirror above the sink, willing the images from his mind.

For a few minutes, he just stood there. Finally, he made his way back into the room proper. Resigned to getting no more sleep, he found his bag and pulled out a pair of jeans and rummaged about for a clean T-shirt. At least Renee had warned him about the fact that he'd be here overnight. He just wished that she had warned him about what he was going to be shown!

Disdaining socks or shoes, he climbed on the bed and slumped into a sitting position, nestled at the foot. For long moments he just sat there, massaging his temples, replaying over and over the one conversation he had ever had with Ha'gel. Sighing, he murmured, "I know, father... my unconscious contains the collective memories and experiences of countless races. If they're all like this then I don't want them! You never gave me the choice, though, did you?"

Liam sighed; he didn't know what to feel. The hieroglyphs had touched something buried deep within him; their translation had been effortless. As soon as he'd seen the glyphs for Ra and for the Stargate, the visions had begun to rise to the surface. These aliens that possessed humans were horrifying. He'd watched them forcibly take their human hosts, disgusted at the sight of their true parasitic form.

Liam shut his eyes tight, but he could still see these hosts ordering the maiming and slaughtering of thousands, their own family and friends included. Entire worlds ravaged; his heart cried out at the carnage. The memories of Egypt stopped suddenly. Obviously, the ancient Egyptians had rebelled and buried the Stargate; it was the only explanation that fitted the facts. Without the Stargate, no aliens had come; unfortunately, this meant that no news of the other humans taken off-world got through either. The ancient Egyptians had never found out that they were safe. The visions showed that, in this dimension at least, these aliens were wiped out. Hunted across the galaxy and completely eradicated - by Kimera vessels. That didn't make sense! The Taelons had wiped out the Kimera long before human life had evolved. How could the Kimera have eradicated these aliens? It raised some startling questions. Had the Kimera really been wiped out? Had some of the race survived? Was Ha'gel not the last of his kind? If not, where had these Kimera come from? And more importantly, where had they gone?

These Kimera - whoever they really were - had known nothing about the true nature of these aliens and their human hosts. Not until, that is, one of the aliens died but the host lived on for a few more hours before succumbing. Appalled at what they had unknowingly done, the Kimera took great pains to free the hosts before the last few aliens were killed. The human hosts were treated with every courtesy and respect for the remainder of their lives, their knowledge and memories joined with those of the Kimera so that they would never be forgotten.

Liam sat there and mulled over what he had seen. The Gate had triggered the visions - but these visions showed the Kimera wiping out an alien race, something that they would never do! Not to mention the fact that the Kimera were supposedly wiped out long before these events had taken place - if the dateline of Ancient Egypt was to be believed. Something just didn't add up.

Remembering Maiya's dimension, another thought came to Liam. The Taelons were 'the same but different' in the two dimensions. Did that mean that these other aliens - both the Kimera and the other ones - could still be out there somewhere? Maybe existing in another dimension?

Finally, there was the matter of the Gate itself. Liam had lied to the others when he'd said the symbols on it weren't a language. They were... just not one anybody but him would recognise. It was an extremely archaic Kimera dialect; old even by Kimera standards. Should he tell the others?

After a moment, he decided to do so only if it became absolutely necessary.

Liam was just about to leave the room to rejoin the others in the lab when he received a message asking him to join the others there.

Upon arrival, he found Augur, Renee and Joshua huddled together in a little group, talking quietly. Silence fell as they noticed him. Liam stood there, tense and wary, a neutral expression on his face. He wouldn't make the first move, not this time.

Joshua eventually ended the tense moment by walking forward, hand outstretched, to Liam. As he firmly shook Liam's hand, he said, "I see no reason for this to change the nature of our relationship, Major. I promise you I will keep your secret. Someday, I hope you might even consider me a friend.

"Now, I think it's time to get back to work. Shall we?"

Liam gave a shy smile and nodded. All four congregated around the console that Augur was working from. The hacker was running more detailed scans of the Stargate. Liam, distracted by a question from Renee, didn't notice that Augur had multiple scanning devices actually attached to the Stargate, devices that were being powered by some extremely powerful generators. "Sorry, Renee, I didn't catch all of that. What did you say?"

Renee sighed. She said, "I asked what the Stargate was. What are the constellation symbols for?" Augur and Joshua stopped what they were doing and turned to hear Liam's explanation.

Liam paused for a second, deciding what they should be told - at least for now. He began, "As I'm sure you all know, in order to find a destination within any three-dimensional space, you need six points to find an exact location." Liam trailed his fingers over the monitor, over the images of the seven symbols carved into the sandstone coverstone. "That's what these symbols represent."

Joshua and Renee both interrupted at the same time, the exact same question in their minds. Joshua motioned for Renee to continue. She said, "You said six points, Liam. Why seven symbols, if you only need six?"

Liam cocked his head at Augur, indicating that he should explain. The hacker smiled and said, "Think about it, guys. Six points for a destination, yes. In order to chart a journey, you would need a seventh point, a point of origin." His eyes widened as he realised what he was saying, and he turned to Liam with a stunned and incredulous expression, saying, "You're not seriously suggesting that..."

Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by a new sound in the lab. It took Liam a moment to recognise it for what it was. Swearing, he pushed the others away to the side wall of the lab, and quickly called out to Joshua to tell him the code sequence to lock down the lab. Confused but willing to trust Liam, Joshua called out the code. Liam hurriedly punched it into the console before sprinting over to join them. Every point of access in the lab was sealed, but nobody paid any attention. Instead, all eyes were fixed on the Stargate.

The small group watched as symbol after symbol activated and the Stargate spun of its own accord. Liam watched and waited for the seventh symbol to lock. The wormhole flared into life, and the others now realised why he had pushed them away to the side. The wormhole settled and even Liam - who knew what it was - stared in wonder at the shimmering event horizon.

Then it happened. Four figures emerged, as if by magic, from the event horizon, and dropped to the floor in shock for a moment. Rapidly overcoming their shock, the four moved in concert, forming a defensive perimeter, weapons raised. Liam watched, impressed. This team - and it was very definitely a team - was obviously a very tight-knit, cohesive unit.

He watched as the leader of the team, an older man with slightly greying hair and a pronounced military bearing, surveyed the lab. This guy turned to another younger, bespectacled man and said, in a wry tone, "Toto, this doesn't look like Kansas."

Liam, deciding it was high time for introductions, stepped forwards. He was relieved to note that while the group still had weapons to hand, they were at rest - at least for now. He moved forward as unthreateningly as possible and said, "My name is Major Liam Kincaid. We mean you no harm, I assure you. This planet is called Earth; welcome."

The older man stepped forward. "Colonel Jack O'Neill, commander of SG-1. These are Dr. Daniel Jackson, Major Samantha Carter and Teal'c. Did you just say Earth? Carter, what the heck?"

The blond woman stepped forward and Liam caught sight of a scar running down the side of her neck for the first time; it looked new. She appeared... concerned. Liam listened as she said, "Sir, unknown at this time. If I were to speculate, I would have to say that the Goa'uld energy cannon managed to fire one more blast before the explosives we planted detonated and obliterated it."

O'Neill rolled his eyes and Liam stifled a grin. He had the feeling that these exchanges went on quite frequently amongst this team. He watched the Colonel make a gesture that clearly said, 'And? Go on.' Carter continued, "If that blast connected with the Gate just as we entered the wormhole... well, sir. Remember when the wormhole jumped to Antarctica?"

Liam watched both O'Neill and Jackson flinch at whatever that memory was. Jackson turned to Carter and said, "You mean we're not on our Earth? Not only has the wormhole jumped to another Gate but to another parallel Earth too?! Sam, come on!"

Joshua, Renee and Augur had joined Liam by this time. Each group of four looked at the other, assessingly. O'Neill sighed. He put away his gun and stepped forward, hand outstretched. He said, "I get the feeling this is going to take a while to figure out. I hate to impose this early in our relationship, but have you got a medic that can take a look at Carter's neck? Carter, don't argue!"

Liam turned to Renee. "How soon can you have Dr. Park here?"

With a perplexed expression on her face, Renee said, "Why would we need Dr. Park, Liam? There are several more than competent physicians here in the complex."

Liam, eyeing Teal'c, said softly, "Not all our guests are human, Renee. I want a doctor that has treated non-humans before; a doctor I trust. Now how long will it take to get Melissa here?"

Renee gave Liam a look that clearly said, 'Any more little announcements that you want to make?' but sighed and said that she'd contact the doctor and make arrangements to have her here within two hours. Liam shook his head at this and Renee, irritated, snapped, "What's wrong now?"

"No globals, Renee. Nothing about our visitors must be transmitted outside this complex. Can you go get her yourself? Please? Trust me on this, Renee..."

Shaking her head and muttering under her breath, Renee stalked from the lab. Kincaid would have a lot of explaining to do when she got back. She'd see to it personally.

The entire conversation had been watched with great interest by the other occupants in the lab. Augur and Joshua had winced more than once; nobody talked to Renee like that, not if they wanted to live very much longer.

SG-1 had been fairly curious themselves. This little group that they'd encountered were a strange mix, and that was understating things. Several comments had raised questions, as had the equipment in this 'complex' that they found themselves in. Stepping forward, O'Neill took the initiative. "Um, is there somewhere we can rest up until this doctor gets here? We've had a long couple of days before we even got here."

Augur quickly stepped forward and volunteered to take them to the dormitories. The cyber wizard was still having a hard time processing all that he'd seen in the last day or so - was it really that short a time? One thing he hadn't missed though, was the exchange of glances between Liam and Joshua. They obviously had things to discuss privately; that left him to baby-sit. What else was new?

Joshua eyed the other man cautiously. Their new relationship was still fragile at best, but there were undercurrents going on here. You'd have to be blind not to notice them, and one thing that his father had taught him was to notice the details and not get lost in the big picture. Sometimes, just sometimes, it was the small things that turned out to be the most significant. Now, how to do this?

"Um, Liam, are you all right? You look less rested than you did when you first got here."

Liam sighed. "I'm fine, Joshua, really. This - all of this - was not exactly what I was expecting when Renee and Augur called for help..." His voice trailed off as Joshua gave him a pointed look.

"Yes; about that help. You seem to know a lot about this Stargate and our guests. How?"

Rubbing a hand over the back of his neck and easing the tired muscles, Liam gave Joshua an assessing look. The other man seemed genuinely interested and blessedly unaggrieved - which was certainly a welcome change from Renee. Liam decided to test the waters a little. See how far Joshua's acceptance could be pushed. "I've been having visions about the Gate since the minute I walked into the lab, Joshua. They've triggered some latent memories from my Kimera heritage as well. To be honest, I'm still working through them."

Surprised at Liam's openness, Joshua wondered what problems Renee had found in coping with his alien heritage. He didn't realise that his willingness to keep an open mind was something that Liam didn't have a lot of experience with. He didn't realise that he was one of the very few people that found out about Liam's alien heritage 'afterwards' and didn't treat him differently.

"All right, Liam. Don't take too long, though. Now, about our guests. How much of a potential threat are they to this facility?"

Liam looked fairly astonished at the question. "Joshua, they're no threat to us. We should treat them with respect and honesty.

"That reminds me. If there's any surveillance in the dormitories, then turn it off. Now. Unless I'm completely off the mark, these people have got problems of their own to work through. Let them."

Liam sighed. "Oh, one more thing. I'd be prepared to answer some questions, though, if I was you. They scanned the lab and the equipment pretty thoroughly while Renee and I were having our little discussion. Also, you might want to have Augur arrange a secure terminal, independent of the lab network. They'll probably believe us when we say that we're the good guys. If they request to verify that themselves, then we're going to have to demonstrate good faith. We just need to make sure that they cannot betray the location of the lab or its occupants to the outside world.

"My instincts say that it's an unnecessary security measure, but it's better to be safe than sorry."

Augur returned shortly after to find Liam poring over the results from Augur's scans, and Joshua awaiting him with an unreadable expression on his face and a request.

Carter checked the corridor cautiously, and then returned to the room and joined the rest of her team. She flopped down on the bed with a whumph as her tired muscles protested their recent severe workout. The Colonel barked out a "Well?" from the opposite side of the room.

"We're definitely not prisoners, sir, not in the strictest sense of the word. There are several surveillance cameras visible in the corridor, along with a few others we probably can't see. There is no surveillance in this room, however.

"I think Augur was telling the truth, sir. It's obviously a highly advanced complex. We won't get out of here easily if we try to leave. They're treating us as guests so far and extending as much courtesy and freedom as they can for now."

O'Neill nodded and said, "Daniel, Teal'c, is that your assessment too?" When they nodded their agreement, he moved right on to the next topic on the list. No sense in wasting time. "Okay kids, comments. What have we dropped ourselves into this time?"

That caused a short silence, and well it might. They'd gone from recon for a rescue mission to the middle of a pitched battle with several squads of Jaffa and one particularly nasty Goa'uld. As per usual, SG-1's David versus Goliath act worked and they'd won - or at the very least escaped - only to find that they hadn't emerged from the Gate to the welcome sight of the SGC. Instead, they found themselves in an anonymous and obviously secret complex on a parallel Earth and face to face with a strange bunch of people; one of whom knew entirely too much about both them and the Gate for comfort.

Surprising all of his team-mates, Teal'c spoke first. "The one called Major Kincaid, he knows of my kind. He recognised me as Jaffa the moment he saw me."

"I agree, sir," said Carter. "He knows more than he's letting on."

"Anything else, Carter?"

"Yes, sir. From what I could see of that lab, their level of technology is definitely advanced, and it's different from our own. They might be more advanced than us, but I can't tell by how much, not with such a cursory visual inspection. I'd love to get access to some of those computers in there."

That last statement was made with a familiar mix of wistfulness and eagerness that had both Jackson and O'Neill grinning. Some things never changed. O'Neill eyed Jackson. His favourite archaeologist / anthropologist / linguist had been uncharacteristically silent.


"Hmh? Oh! Jack, did you see it?"

O'Neill sighed. It was going to be one of 'those' conversations. Daniel had spotted something, catalogued it away for reference in that encyclopaedic brain of his, and now the rest of them would have to play twenty questions to catch up with him. If it hadn't been for the fact that he didn't realise what he was like when he did this, he could have been quite annoying. As it was, SG-1 had learned to cope with his eccentricities and use them to their advantage. They had saved thousands of lives by doing so.

"See what, Daniel?"

"The translation. Didn't you...?" At O'Neill's patented exasperated 'For cryin' out loud, Daniel' glance, he quickly realised that the others didn't know what he was talking about. "There were some monitors set up to the side of the lab. They showed the coverstone hieroglyphs... Jack, you know the ones I mean! The translation that Catherine that brought me in to the program for in the first place.

"There were two translations side by side. The wrong one - Budge is apparently universal - and the right one; the one I made. Somebody knew about the Stargate before we came through it."

The other three members of the team looked at each other and they all nodded. Simultaneously, they said, "Kincaid."

True to her word, Renee was back just over two hours later with an extremely irritated Dr. Park in tow. She'd been enjoying her first afternoon off in God knows how long when Renee had barged in and demanded she accompany her to an undisclosed location to assess and treat some people. Reluctantly, she'd agreed.

Dr. Park had been less than polite to Liam and Augur; even Joshua had received a frosty look. Then they'd shown her the Stargate. Once again, its sheer size and appearance quashed her complaints. SG-1 had been summoned back to the lab at that point in time by Joshua. Dr. Park had taken one look at the fresh scar on Carter's neck and issued a short command that had Augur scurrying to fetch her medical kit from where she'd dropped it at the door. Carter found her to be surprisingly gentle and O'Neill and Jackson looked on, grinning quietly. Apparently feisty female doctors were also a universal constant.

Melissa Park eyed the small group before her in fascination. To travel through a wormhole, voluntarily; it defied belief! These people were either some of the most foolhardy or some of the bravest people that she'd ever met. She wasn't sure which yet. God, she'd love to get a closer look at a full blood work-up. The stresses and balances these people put their bodies through...

And one of them wasn't human. Teal'c. Liam said he was different - she'd have to take him at his word. For now.

The two groups eyed each other cagily. Each of them had a myriad of questions. Who would make the first move?


"I think it would be fair to say that we all have questions that we want answered. Yes? Liam has suggested that we provide you some background about this world that you find yourselves in. If you've no objections, I'll give you that background and explain who and what we are and the reasons for our security measures. Then you can do the same, and we'll take it from there. Agreed?"

O'Neill eyed his team and nodded. Just then, a beeping sound filled the room. Liam moved to the door and flicked open his global. Augur heard him telling Da'an that he'd be there as soon as possible. Augur rolled his eyes; as always, the Taelons had impeccable timing.

Liam excused himself apologetically, saying he'd be back as soon as he could. Joshua nodded his understanding, and began his explanations for SG-1.

Four Hours Later

Joshua's hoarse voice finished his last answer to the many questions asked by SG-1. To say that O'Neill and the others had been surprised would have been an understatement. O'Neill had thought nothing much could surprise his team - they'd seen so many things in their years together. This, however, was a surprise.

Not only was it a parallel Earth, it was about 2008 going by SG-1's calendar. In one step through the Stargate, SG-1 had travelled in time to a parallel Earth - an Earth which was in contact with a race of seemingly benign but actually treacherous aliens - and found themselves in a secret complex of the Resistance against said aliens. Even for SG-1, that had to be some kind of record!

At Joshua's suggestion, SG-1 were allowed the run of the lab as long as they agreed to only access the secure terminal set up for their use. Joshua was forthright about admitting it was set up to prevent any chance of SG-1 revealing the location of the complex - either by accident or design. O'Neill was impressed with the man's candour.

SG-1's story would wait for the return of the Resistance leader. Kincaid's true role in the Resistance had come as something of a surprise. They'd agreed to wait on him, though; SG-1 had some questions of their own to ask him.

Renee stood impatiently at the security console. "Well?" she snapped at the guard.

Sanchez, once again on duty at the ID Portal, muttered a silent prayer for patience and said, "Traveller left from the ID Portal at Doors HQ, Ms. Palmer. It must be him."

Seconds later, Sanchez was proven right at Liam Kincaid once again materialised inside the complex. Renee was about to let fly with a barbed comment about how nice it was for him to finally join them; then she got a closer look at him. "Liam! What the hell happened to you?"

Liam winced; he knew she was just concerned, but did she have to be so loud? Meeting her gaze, unaware of the lines of pain etched round his eyes or his shell-shocked demeanour, he murmured, "There was an attack on a Volunteer recruitment office. Haven't you seen the news? A bomb detonated just after it opened for the day. Fourteen are dead, dozens more injured. Sandoval and I have spent the last thirty-six hours co-ordinating the investigation, identifying the bodies and reporting to a less than happy Zo'or. We rounded up the culprits four hours ago; that's the only reason I was able to get away.

"Renee, can this wait? I need to get some sleep."

Touching his arm in genuine concern, she murmured, "Of course, Liam. Go rest. I'll tell the others not to expect you till tomorrow morning."

"Thanks, Renee."

In The Lab

Everyone looked up expectantly as Renee returned to the lab. Liam's absence was quickly noticed and questioned. Motioning everyone to silence, Renee called up the latest news on the main monitors. Liam hadn't been far wrong. In the time since he'd left to answer Da'an's summons, SG-1 had been with them in the lab using the terminal they had been given access to in order to learn more about the world they had ended up on. Joshua, Dr. Park, Augur and Renee had been fixated on two things: Augur's scans of the Gate and monitoring SG-1. Nobody had had time to access the news.

The news reports were full of the aftermath of the attack. Footage was shown of Liam and Sandoval combing the wreckage with teams of Volunteers. More footage showed them visiting the injured Volunteers in the hospital. Finally, the reports finished with the capture of the culprits. The group - called The Brigade - was made up of ex-military personnel who hated the Taelons, the Volunteers and everything they stood for. The only good thing about the entire horror story - as far as Renee was concerned - was that The Brigade had no Resistance ties.

Renee switched off the monitors and addressed the silent lab. "He got here a few minutes ago; he's exhausted and resting. He'll answer questions tomorrow." Nobody questioned her announcement. He'd more than earned the rest.

O'Neill had stood silent for a split second longer than anyone else. Daniel was the only one to notice. He approached O'Neill and laid a gentle hand on his arm. "Jack, are you OK?" Daniel watched as O'Neill shivered and came back to the present.

Softly, Jack said, "Yeah, Daniel, I'm fine. Just memories; too many people lost under my command. I know that feeling. It eats you up." Seeing Daniel eyeing him with concern, Jack attempted a smile. "I'll be fine, Danny. Really. I just hope Kincaid will."

Daniel gave Jack a tentative smile, letting him see that he was there if Jack needed to talk. Jack acknowledged the offer with a nod of his head. The moment passed and they went back to see what Carter had found for them to look at now.

The next morning, Liam dutifully put in his appearance in the lab. To Renee's eyes, he looked more rested than the day before, but his eyes had not lost their haunted look. Quietly, she crossed the lab and handed him a mug of coffee. He caught at her arm as she turned to walk away and said a heartfelt thank you. Not for the coffee; for her understanding the day before. Equally as quietly, she said, "You're welcome."

Liam joined the little group of Joshua, Dr. Park, Renee, and Augur and dropped into a seat at the temporary conference table that had been set up. All eyes turned to SG-1, waiting.

Taking a deep breath, Major Carter began. "Okay, then, from the beginning. The Stargate network in our dimension is - at our most conservative estimate - at least fifty thousand years old. It was built by a race known simply as the Ancients. The Gates are scattered all over the galaxy, and if you know the address for a planet - by address I mean the six symbols that are used to identify it - and your own Gate's symbol for your planetary point of origin, you can basically dial the Gate up and go there.

"The Ancients left our galaxy thousands and thousands of years ago. The Gate network has been scavenged by a race of parasitic aliens called the Goa'uld. These aliens forcibly take humans as their hosts. They dominate that human's mind and body completely, and do what they will with it. They live for hundreds of years. They have lots of highly advanced technology - most of which was taken from other races. One of these pieces of technology can restore any injury; even reverse death to a certain extent. The Goa'uld are practically immortal, evil and totally ruthless.

"They came to our Earth thousands of years ago and took humans as slaves or hosts. They adopted the cultures of ancient Egypt and the other civilisations of that time. Basically, they assumed the personas of gods and forced these slaves to worship them as such.

"The ancient Egyptians finally rebelled and buried the Stargate, putting a huge coverstone over it. Without the Gate, there was no way for the Goa'uld to get to Earth. Over the next few thousand years, humanity evolved."

Dr. Jackson took over at that point. "In the 1920s, on an archaeological dig in Egypt, the Stargate was rediscovered. Nobody knew what it was, only that it was made of a substance not found on Earth. The Gate found its way to the United States, to the custody of the Air Force and under the supervision of the daughter of the man who found it in Egypt.

"I was called in some time in the mid-1990s because of some 'extremely far-fetched' theories that I professed about ancient Egypt's real history. I was a laughingstock in academia, but Catherine - the archaeologist's daughter - believed me. I was recruited to translate the message on the coverstone. I did that in about five minutes. It took another fourteen days for me to figure out the correct symbols to make the Gate work.

"Jack was in command of the original team that went through the Gate. We encountered a few problems, not the least of which was Ra. He was one of the Goa'uld Sam mentioned. Umm, there was kind of a pitched battle on the planet. With the help of the local population - the descendants of the original slaves taken from Earth - we won. We killed Ra. I stayed on the planet - it was an anthropologist's dream. Jack went back to Earth.

"As far as the Air Force was concerned, I was dead. At my request, that was what Jack told them. His report was written in such words that nobody went back to the planet.

"At that time, we had no idea about the Gate network. As far as we knew, it could only go to one planet. So the Gate stood idle."

O'Neill picked up the narrative at that point. "Idle until a Goa'uld incursion through the Gate resulted in one abduction and several fatalities. I was recalled from retirement, and eventually it was decided that I would take a team - including Carter, who was one of the resident experts on the Gate, an Air Force officer and a gifted astrophysicist - back to the planet where I had left Daniel.

"In the time that I had been gone, he'd found a huge map chamber in a pyramid on the planet. This chamber contained thousands of hieroglyphic Stargate addresses. Using that and some scientific hocus-pocus, Carter said she could figure out how to use our Gate on Earth to go to these other planets.

"Unfortunately, while we were in the pyramid, the Goa'uld came through the Gate on the planet. They killed some of my men and took Daniel's wife and her brother as captives.

"Daniel came back with us. One of my men had seen the Gate symbols that the Goa'uld had used. We knew where they had gone. Two teams were dispatched to that planet.

"Teal'c, here, was the First Prime of Apophis, the Goa'uld that ruled that planet. He saved our lives and with his help, we were able to rescue a bunch of people from Apophis' prison cells. Teal'c joined us. Daniel's wife and her brother, Skaara, were taken as hosts.

"Back on Earth, the new system of teams to explore the galaxy - through the Gate - was beginning to take shape. I assumed command of SG-1. Daniel, Carter and Teal'c round out the team.

"Our Gate is protected with a custom-designed 'iris'. If you don't transmit the correct security code, then the iris is not opened - and I'll leave it to your own imaginations what that does to unauthorised travellers trying to breach our Gate.

"Teams from Stargate Command explore all over the galaxy. We look for signs of civilisation, technologies we can use in the fight against the Goa'uld, allies in the fight. We've been together as a team for about three years now and in all modesty, we're the best."

Carter took over again. "We've been involved in an incident where energy weapons fired at the Gate during transit have made it jump to a different Gate on the same planet before closing; we've also used it - inadvertently - to travel in time. We travelled back to the 1960s, and I can assure you it took some very creative thinking to get us home. We knew there were alternative realities out there, alternative Earths. We've travelled to them and we've had visitors come to our Earth.

"This is the first time we've done all three at the same time. We were doing reconnaissance on a planet for an extremely urgent rescue mission. As per usual, we stumbled into a whole heap of trouble. We did manage to get the information we need, and were retreating back to the Gate when all hell broke loose. We ended up in a fire-fight with a nasty Goa'uld and his Jaffa soldiers. We managed to sabotage one of the energy cannons - unfortunately, not in time to stop it firing at the Gate as we escaped through it. We ended up here."

Joshua was the first of the stunned group of listeners to recover. His heartfelt "Unbelievable!" was a sentiment echoed by the others.

Eventually, all eyes turned to Liam. He raised his gaze from the table where his fingers had been nervously fidgeting with his empty coffee mug.

Daniel asked the questions that were burning in everyone else's minds. "Liam, how do you know so much about the Stargate? How did you recognise Teal'c as Jaffa?"

Liam said nothing. He stood up and walked away from everyone - towards the Stargate. For a few minutes, he just stood there looking at it, his back to the others. Then he turned and looked at the expectant faces waiting for his response. "If Joshua did as we discussed, you've been told about our world, the Taelons, the Jaridians, and the Resistance. You'll also have been told that I lead the Resistance.

"What you won't have been told is that I'm not entirely human. I'm two-thirds human, one-third Kimera."

Carter jumped in with questions. "Who are the Kimera? Why weren't we told about them?"

"Please, Major, save your questions. I've lots more to tell you. The Kimera were an old, advanced race supposedly wiped out by the Taelons millions of years ago. My Kimera father, Ha'gel, was imprisoned in a capsule that was set adrift in space. That capsule eventually made its way to the bottom of an ocean here on Earth. It was found during a salvage expedition and brought to the surface. Ha'gel was released and quickly assumed the form and memories of one of the men involved in the expedition. The Taelons found out about him and had their Protectors hunting him down. Ha'gel switched forms a couple of times before assuming Agent Sandoval's. I assume you were told about him?"

At Joshua's nod of assent, Liam continued, "Using Sandoval's form, Ha'gel joined with another Protector, Siobhan Beckett. She became pregnant and I was born nine hours later. Ha'gel was killed in a battle with another Protector, Boone, who is also dead now. I grew into the body that you see now in the space of no more than thirty minutes. Like the Taelons, the Kimera are born with full genetic knowledge of their parents. I was born with the full genetic knowledge of all three parents.

"Neither of my two human parents had any recollection of the events that occurred; that is one of the effects when the Kimera assume the form of another being. They take the memories, but return the body unharmed. The only memory loss is for the length of the 'possession'. My mother's CVI was re-programmed by Liberation personnel so that she had no memory of me, nor of any of their members.

"I took Boone's place as Da'an's Protector. That was a little over a year and a half ago."

That caught SG-1's attention. Teal'c tilted his head to the side and eyed Liam a little more closely. Daniel gave an astounded blink, O'Neill and Carter shot astonished glances at Joshua and the others - they didn't even blink. It was true!

"To answer Major Carter's question, the Kimera were a race of celestial anthropologists. With their ability to assume the form of a being without harming it physically, they recorded and stored the memories of countless races throughout the galaxy for thousands of millennia. All that knowledge is stored in my subconscious.

"The Kimera, like the Taelons, also have greater control of their psychic senses. I don't fully understand it myself, how I know what I know about the Gate. The minute I first walked into the lab, the Gate started triggering visions and memories. The translation was effortless - instinctive, even.

"These visions included images of what I assume are the Goa'uld; glowing eyes, purely evil in nature - sound familiar?" The expressions on the faces of SG-1 were an answer all by themselves. "The Goa'uld don't exist in this dimension anymore; they were wiped out. By the Kimera.

"Now, that doesn't make sense... for two reasons. According to what we've been told by the Taelons, they've all been dead for millions of years, except for Ha'gel. The other reason is even more convincing. The Kimera - in this dimension - wouldn't kill! As Daniel will attest, no anthropologist would interfere with a race's development to such an extent. The visions say they did it, though.

"This leaves us with two alternatives. Either the Taelons have lied to us - it wouldn't be the first time. Or the Kimera in the visions are from a different dimension. Personally, I'm leaning towards the latter explanation."

"Why?" asked O'Neill.

Liam looked at his friends with an apologetic expression as he said, "Because I didn't exactly tell the whole truth to Augur and the others when I said that the symbols on the Gate aren't a language..." Daniel's eyes whipped up, stunned, to gaze at Liam. So did everyone else's. "It's an extremely ancient Kimera dialect. I can read it, though..."

Renee's, "Damn it, Liam! You should have told us!" shattered the silence that had fallen over the lab. Liam sighed as he looked around. His friends looked disappointed in him. Why had he expected anything different? Talking about his heritage made the people that knew the secret uncomfortable around him. On the other hand, if he didn't mention things like this then he was given looks of reproof for keeping secrets - he couldn't win!

I'm not taking this any more! thought Liam. He looked at Renee and snapped, "Because every time my heritage is mentioned you look like you'd like to be anywhere else but near me, that's why!"

The members of SG-1 looked like nothing could surprise them any more. The scientists of the group, Carter and Jackson, looked like they had a million and one questions to ask him. The Jaffa member of the team maintained his stoic expression and Liam idly wondered what it took to shake that stoicism from him.

At first glance, O'Neill had just appeared lost in thought, but then Liam looked more closely. The Colonel's eyes were calculating, considering. Stunned, Liam realised what O'Neill was doing. He's sizing me up! Deciding if he trusts me or not. It came as quite a shock to Liam as he discovered that deep down, he wanted O'Neill to trust him.

Then the Colonel added another twist to an already bizarre discussion. "Well, that's wonderful. I'm sure if I had the time, I'd spend a good few days being astonished and amazed at the things we've learned about each other. I don't have that luxury, though. We were on an extremely urgent mission when we fell through the rabbit hole and ended up here. We have to get back - soon. There are lives at stake. Now, much as I know my entire team and I would like to stay and chat. We can't.

"Can you help us get home?"

The Colonel's comments brought an abrupt halt to the questions being tossed back and forth across the lab. Carter and Jackson, abashed, brought their minds back to SG-1's prime concern - getting the information they had collected back to their own Earth. No rescue could be attempted without it.

Renee, curious, asked Major Carter what was so urgent that SG-1 had to leave so quickly. Carter sent a look to her C.O. requesting permission to divulge the information. He nodded his permission. Anything to get things moving!

Samantha Carter eyed Renee and the others and said, "You'll remember earlier that I talked about the race of beings in our dimension called the Ancients. Like I said, they're completely gone from our galaxy. Some of their allies are still with us, though. Two representatives from these other races had been attending a meeting with the Tok'ra. The Tok'ra are a Resistance movement too - the Goa'uld Resistance. The Tok'ra are different from the Goa'uld. They don't take hosts by force. Any blending done between these symbiotes and their human hosts is a mutual choice. While on occasion the symbiote can and does control the human's body, control is always relinquished; the host always maintains their free will..."

Sighing, O'Neill interrupted, "Carter, give them the lecture later. Get on with the briefing. We don't have all day!"

"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.

"This meeting was important to us, to Earth, for several reasons. We are on friendly terms with all three of these groups and have some treaty ties with them too. We need their support in case Earth ever again comes under direct assault by the Goa'uld. We've already pulled off one miracle stopping such an attack. We don't want to take any chances with our future.

"The meeting was attacked by a Goa'uld System Lord, seizing this opportunity to take hostages and upset the balance of power in the galaxy. The three representatives were taken and transported via Stargate to his stronghold. The Tok'ra Council sent out teams to gather intelligence on where this stronghold was located. The SGC was contacted to aid in this intelligence gathering.

"We - I mean SG-1 - located someone who knew this location while on recon on the last planet we visited. Unfortunately, as we've already told you, we encountered some trouble on planet and emerged here instead of the SGC.

"This information makes a rescue attempt possible, if we get it back in time. If the security breach is discovered by the System Lord, he will move his prisoners and we'll lose our only chance at getting them back. Their strategic knowledge of our galaxy's current politics and preparedness cannot be allowed to be abused in this Goa'uld's hands."

"Does this System Lord pretend to be a God, like the others you told us about?" asked Liam. "And who are the hostages?"

Polishing his glasses, Daniel looked up and answered Liam's question. "The Goa'uld has assumed the persona of Hades and basically turned an entire planet into a recreation of Tartarus. The hostages are Lya, representative of the Nox; Garshaw, the Tok'ra representative; and Sif, the Asgard representative. Sif is the mate of one of Jack's personal friends, Thor."

Carter rolled her eyes and O'Neill grinned. "What can I say, the little guy likes me." Joshua, Renee and the others - even Liam - exchanged confused glances at that statement.

Liam eyed O'Neill and said, "You want us to help you get back home so that you can launch a rescue mission against the God of the Underworld. You want us to help you go home so you can go to Hell?"

O'Neill gave Kincaid a laconic grin as he said, "It wouldn't be the first time, Kincaid. It wouldn't be the first time. So, will you help?"

Extending his hand to O'Neill, Liam said, "If I can, Colonel."

After the revelations of the past hour or so, everyone had split into little groups. Dr Park had cornered Teal'c and begun a serious conversation about the larval Goa'uld that he carried. Carter and Augur had begun talking at a great rate of speed about simulations, scans and tests, Renee occasionally throwing in a desultory, less than helpful suggestion here or there.

O'Neill and Jackson had struck up a conversation with Joshua and Liam. Daniel was practically overflowing with questions for Liam; O'Neill's long-suffering expression couldn't hide his affection, or the smile on his face. Joshua eyed him and tilted his head, obviously questioning whether or not Dr. Jackson was always like this. The twinkle in the Colonel's eyes was the only answer that Joshua needed and he too began to grin.

Suddenly, Liam gave a muffled gasp and clutched at Daniel's arm in an unsteady manner. Concerned, Daniel asked if Liam was OK. Liam abruptly let go of the other man and, muttering something non-committal, excused himself and quickly left the lab. Daniel, confused, turned to Jack, a puzzled expression on his face. O'Neill just shrugged. Joshua excused himself and he too left the lab. Intending to question Liam on his abrupt behaviour and even more abrupt departure, Joshua didn't watch where he was going and practically walked straight into Liam.

"Liam! Are you all right?"

Resigned to the fact that he wasn't going to be allowed to handle this alone, Liam grabbed at the hand that Joshua had placed on his arm and used it to steady himself. Shakily, he let go of his hold on the wall of the corridor. At that point, it had been the only thing holding him up.

"Get me out of here, Joshua. Please."

Joshua opened his mouth to suggest that he should go get Dr Park; the pleading look in the Major's eyes silenced him. With the Major leaning heavily on his shoulder, they made their way slowly down the corridor. Once they reached a vacant room, Liam staggered forward and collapsed on the nearest chair, raising his hands to shield his eyes.

Joshua, in a concerned tone, said, "That's it! I'm getting Dr. Park."

In a pained voice, Liam said, "No, Joshua. I'll be fine. It's just another vision. Just give me a minute. Please..."

Against his better judgement, Joshua pulled up a chair and waited. Ten minutes later, Liam levered himself out of the chair and ran his fingers through his hair, trying to shake some energy back into himself. He said to Joshua, "I know what I need to do. We need to get back to the Stargate."

Their return was greeted with curious expressions all around. Liam, ignoring them, told Augur to detach all the monitors and equipment from the Gate. Perplexed, but willing to trust Liam, Augur complied.

Liam motioned for Dr. Jackson to come with him as he approached the Gate. O'Neill followed along, his expression daring anyone to disagree. Joshua went with him.

"Dr. Jackson, can you write down everything I say phonetically?" Dr. Jackson nodded his head and Liam gave him a smile, saying, "Good."

Abruptly, Liam stepped forward and touched the metal that made up the Stargate. A shudder seemed to run through him and he clutched at the Gate with one hand. He began to speak, a strange - almost lyrical - language. Dr. Jackson scribbled furiously on a notepad that he had produced from one of the pockets of his military fatigues. This recitation went on for about five minutes, and then it suddenly stopped. Liam let go of the Gate and would have crumpled to the floor in a dead faint had Joshua and the Colonel not leaped forward to catch him.

He was lowered down gently, O'Neill offering his jacket for a pillow. Dr Park stepped forward, but Joshua shooed her away with a wave, saying, "He'll be fine. Just give him a few minutes." Dr. Park tried to argue, but both Joshua and O'Neill had taken up a protective stance by Liam, and their faces indicated that they would not be moved from his side.

Renee broke the tension by asking if Dr. Jackson had recognised the language that Liam had been speaking. Daniel sighed and shook his head, no.

A faint voice said, "It's Kimera. I think I know how to get you back..."

Carter's "How?" brought a wince to Liam's fatigued face, and Joshua glared a warning at her.

Liam held out his hand and Joshua pulled him to his feet. He made his way over to the others and said, "I think that it's the only way to get you back to your own dimension; at least, the only way that will get you there in time.

"Dr. Jackson, can I see your notes? I need to see what I said. I caught most of it but I want to make sure I've got it all straight in my head." Daniel handed his notebook to Liam who scanned it, absently tapping the fingers of his other hand on the console as he did so. He looked up and said, "There is a place in this dimension - ancient, beautiful, - it's on a planet called... The closest translation would be 'Primus'. If what I saw was right, then there is a chamber, kind of like the one Dr. Jackson found in the first planet you went to. The difference is, however, that this chamber contains addresses for dimensional Gate trips as well as planetary jumps. We can dial in your Earth from there."

In a wary tone, Augur asked, "How do you know?"

Colonel O'Neill also barked out a question. "And what do you mean, we?"

Liam shrugged and addressed them both. "I just do. I'll have to go too. I'm the only one who'll be able to read the symbols."

Joshua locked gazes with Liam and said, "You can't go alone. These visions take too much out of you. With all due respect to our guests, you are too important to the Resistance for us to let you go with them alone and just hope that you are allowed to come back."

Liam said softly, "I had no intention of going by myself. Do you want to come with me - I mean, with us?"

Renee's loud outburst of, "Wait a minute. What about me?" nearly drowned out Joshua's answer of, "Yes."

Liam, under his breath, muttered a prayer for patience. He looked at Renee and said in a firm tone, "You're staying. Someone has to look after the Resistance while I'm gone. The cells all know to take orders from you, they know that you speak for me. Besides, you and Augur are going to have to come up with an explanation that we can use to explain my absence to the Taelons.

"I'm on leave, true, but I'm subject to recall. You're going to have to come up with a contingency that will explain why I'm not there. As well, you'll have to come up with a believable excuse for the board of Doors International to explain Joshua's absence.

"I trust the Colonel. We have to help them; and I have to have some answers as to whether or not the Kimera really were wiped out. Joshua and I will be fine; you just have to have faith."

Liam turned to O'Neill. "Colonel, I know you're working to a deadline, but I recommend that we wait till tomorrow morning before we try this. I suggest that as soon as we're sure that Major Carter and Augur can get this Gate working properly, we all turn in and get some sleep. We're going to need it."

Liam then turned to gaze at Joshua. "Josh, if you have any arrangements to make before we go, I suggest you do so now."

Surprised, Joshua gave a start at the shortening of his name. Liam didn't seem to realise what he had said; O'Neill did, however. He sent a speculative glance between Liam and Joshua, wondering. The nuances between these two were contradictory at best. If he was right, a new and tentative friendship was forming; and blondie over there was beginning to realise it too, and resent it. Well, we'll just see about that! The kid could do worse.

Letting the thought go - for now - he turned his attention to the technical whizzes of the group. Time for Carter to work her magic. Liam seemed to have the same faith in Augur. It better be justified. They had to get this Gate operational and get home!

Two hours later, Augur gave a cry of triumph, and Carter looked at O'Neill and grinned. She said, "Gate is fully operational, sir. We're going home."

"Sure, Carter. If an untried system works and Liam can figure out how to make the chamber on Primus work and if..."

The elbow being nudged in his arm by an irritated Daniel Jackson abruptly curtailed the Colonel's wry comments.

Liam, upon hearing Major Carter, turned and left the lab, calling, "I'll see you all in the morning." They were going. He needed to go find a bit of solitude, away from the still furious Renee, and clear his head. He had to process the latest visions - while he still had the time to do so.

Joshua Doors sat in the darkened main lab. He was staring at the Stargate and thinking wistfully of his father. Before the whole nightmare of the fake assassination attempt and the hell that had been One Taelon Avenue, he had enjoyed a wonderful reconciliation with his dad. The mistakes of the past - on both sides - had been acknowledged and, finally, they'd moved past them. Jonathan Doors had relished the opportunity to talk to his son about life, his projects and his vision for humanity's future. Then the manipulations of the Taelons had pulled them apart again. Only at the end had they had that last moment of connection. It was absolutely devastating to be holding a parent in your arms as they died.

Joshua had no doubt that Renee grieved - she had loved Jonathan too; and he knew she'd had her own griefs that she carried. This was different, though. Had he handled things differently, made some different choices, his father might still be alive. How could anyone know what that was like?

Thinking back to the day of the funeral and his visit to the Flat Planet Café, Joshua remembered the look in Major Kincaid's eyes as the little group had sat, talked, and raised a glass in memory of his father. He'd still been too shocked by events to realise it, but Liam's eyes had reflected the same emotions as his now did; maybe someone else did know this feeling.

Sighing, Joshua brought his mind back to the present. Tomorrow, he was going to another world. His father would have loved this, he was sure. Well, if nothing else, he'd take the memory of his father through the Gate, he owed him that much.

Joshua started upright in surprise as he heard footsteps in the corridor outside the lab. He hadn't thought that anybody else was still awake. He was about to announce his presence in the lab when, through the half open door, he heard the topic of conversation. He sat back in his seat and was as silent as possible.

"Look, Liam, I just want to make sure that you've thought this through. I'm not denying that we need you to get us home; but do you really think that it's a good idea for you both to come back with us to the SGC?"

"Colonel, you might need more help. Anyway, I want to see what these friends of yours, the Nox and the Asgard, can tell me about the Stargates, these Ancients of yours, and why the heck the writing on the Gates is Kimera!"

Sighing, O'Neill scrubbed a hand over his hair in exasperation. This was not exactly going as he'd planned. He had intended to talk the younger man out of his plan to accompany his team as they returned to the SGC. He had the sneaking suspicion, though, that he'd just been talked into taking him. He made his final appeal. "What about Joshua? Have you considered him in all this? When we go after the hostages, we're heading into dangerous territory - very dangerous. Do you really think that he can handle it?"

Joshua tensed. How would Liam answer? He'd been surprised - no, he'd been astonished - when Liam had asked him to accompany him. He'd fully expected Renee to be the one he'd take. Liam's assertion that Renee had to look after the Resistance made sense. With his father gone, the Resistance really couldn't afford to have both Liam and Renee out of reach at the same time. That left Augur, Liam's trusted friend. Still, he'd been asked instead. A man who had betrayed the Resistance, a betrayal that had paved the way for mass round-ups of Resistance sympathisers during the crackdown. That he hadn't been acting of his own free will was irrelevant in the scheme of things. It certainly couldn't undo the damage he'd done. Why had Liam picked him?

Liam sighed. How did he rationalise a gut feeling? Joshua had caused a great deal of damage to the Resistance and even though it had been not of his own doing, Liam got the feeling that the others were still wary of him, even though he was continuing to fund the movement and had taken over his father's projects. If he tried to say to Augur that it was a gut feeling, the hacker would no doubt bring up the subject of his last gut feeling, Da'an. Better not to go there.

Looking at the Colonel, he said, "Don't underestimate him, Colonel. I know you look at him and see a businessman, but he's far more than that. He put a Taelon on trial for murder and won. He's a skilled businessman and fiercely independent. He's been manipulated, he's been hurt, but he's survived and emerged even stronger."

"I'm not arguing about that, Liam. We're heading into a fight. I need to know if he can handle it. Am I going to have to be concerned about him? Will he do something stupid and get himself or some of my people killed?"

Liam looked O'Neill straight in the eye and said, "I trust him with my life. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking rich kid, pampered, bodyguards.

"You'd be right. Think about it, though. He was the heir to a thirty-two billion dollar empire. Do you really think that he wasn't trained how to defend himself? And, in this day and age, and the world we live in, do you really think that he's never faced death? If so, you're deluding yourself.

"He'll be fine. If it will make you feel any better, though, I'll be responsible for him too. He doesn't need a watcher, but if it'll make you happier..."

O'Neill gave Liam a stern look. "The first time he endangers the mission..."

Joshua hadn't heard the end of the conversation; they'd resumed walking and gone out of earshot of the lab. He sat there and his shoulders straightened almost imperceptibly. Liam trusted him. That was something he hadn't dared hope for. Not considering the way his previous actions had affected the Resistance. Silently, Joshua Doors made two promises. No matter what, he'd make his father proud. And, no matter what, he'd do all that he could to ensure that he never did anything to betray Liam's trust.

The Next Morning

Joshua took a deep breath and entered the lab. He noticed quickly that he was the last to arrive. He saw Liam look up from the console that he was working at with Augur and grin. He grinned back slightly nervously. He had taken Liam's advice and was wearing black combat fatigues and sturdy boots. Liam was similarly attired.

On the table, two Taelon designed energy blasters were sitting, waiting. Joshua walked toward the table and hefted one of the weapons in his hand. Quickly, efficiently, he checked it was operational and, when satisfied, he attached it to the clip on his belt. He looked up and saw that he was the focus of attention for the rest of the occupants of the lab. He kept his face impassive, but his eyes did hold a challenge as he met O'Neill's gaze.

The other man nodded slightly, the nod saying that he was being judged on his actions, at least for now.

Augur called out, "We're ready."

The atmosphere in the lab suddenly got a lot more tense. Augur punched in the command that started the Gate dialling. SG-1 looked on calmly as each chevron locked into position. They were certainly more calm than the other occupants of the lab, Liam excluded. They all watched in awe as the Gate spun round. Gasps of astonishment were quickly stifled as the wormhole burst into existence and the event horizon shimmered into shape.

SG-1 and Joshua quickly said their goodbyes to the others.

That just left Liam. He gave Dr. Park a brief hug and shared some jokey repartee with Augur before he pulled him into a quick embrace too. That just left Renee. She had still not fully accepted the fact that, this time, Liam was leaving her behind. Their goodbyes were a bit stilted and Liam's final admonishment about showing restraint while in charge of the Resistance didn't go down too well.

Carter and Teal'c stepped through the Gate first, expressions calm - well, this was the norm for them, after all.

Daniel and Joshua followed. Joshua's expression was a mixture of anticipation and terror. Jackson grinned at him and used one of SG-1's stock phrases in such situations. "It's a piece of cake." Joshua's look clearly said, 'Yeah, right,' but, steadfastly, he stepped through the Gate at Dr. Jackson's side.

That left Liam and O'Neill. They had turned toward the Gate when they heard footsteps behind them. They turned and saw Renee Palmer. She had a wistful look in her eyes. She still couldn't believe that Liam had chosen to leave her behind this time. They'd gone through a lot together in the short time that they'd known each other. He was still a friend, though. There was no way that she was going to let him leave without saying anything.

She stepped forward and pulled him to a quick hug and murmured, "Be careful." She turned and levelled a glare at O'Neill. "Look after him." Resolutely, she walked back to Augur and Dr Park, her back to the Gate. By the time that she turned round, they were gone.


Liam and O'Neill emerged from the Gate on Primus and looked around for the others. Seeing that everyone was accounted for, they relaxed.

Primus was, in a word, serene. In the distance they could see a huge structure, reflecting a dazzling array of light. Carter and Jackson's faces lit with anticipation as Liam confirmed that, yes, that was their destination. Joshua looked like a kid on Christmas morning, one with a huge pile of presents to open. He shot Liam a delighted grin and Liam returned it.

Teal'c took point, Carter, Jackson and Joshua following. Liam and O'Neill took up the rear.

O'Neill took a final assessing gaze of his surroundings; from their glittering destination, to the pristine landscape, to the azure sky with its sun and two moons overhead. He pulled his sunglasses on and fitted his cloth cap on his head. He said two words. "Pretty planet." Then they headed off after the others.

It took about forty minutes to walk toward the huge structure that was their eventual destination, and in those forty minutes Liam learned a lot. He had accepted - in abstract - that what SG-1 did was visit other planets and explore. At least he thought he had. After all, he and Joshua came from a world that had made contact with an alien race, a world forever altered by daily interaction with that race.

As he witnessed the ease with which this team treated a completely unknown and alien environment, he realised that he hadn't been quite as prepared as he'd thought. SG-1 treated this as the norm; he supposed that, for them, it was. With the ease that comes from long and trusted association, SG-1 had fallen into what was obviously a set routine; Teal'c on point, Carter and Jackson in the middle and O'Neill bringing up the rear.

O'Neill spoke suddenly, startling Liam. "Tell me about your friends. Not their roles in the Resistance, them personally."

Perplexed, Liam asked, "Why?"

O'Neill shrugged. "To pass the time. Start with Joshua."

Liam gave a funny look that indicated that he thought the question a bit bizarre, but he complied.

As Liam spoke, O'Neill paid close attention to the tone of his voice. He listened as Liam had spelled out the awful truth behind Joshua's supposed betrayal of the Resistance and his own father and the tragic cost of that truth, Jonathan Doors' life. As he heard Liam describe the sight of Joshua holding his dying father in his arms, O'Neill recognised the pain in Liam's voice. He wasn't just talking about Joshua now; he was talking about himself too. Maybe that was part of the reason he trusted Joshua - similar experiences. It wasn't the sole reason for the friendship that was unwittingly being forged, but it was a part of it. More than likely, it was a case of two people that needed a friend. They were a strange mix; but considering that his closest friend was - let's face it, a geek - who was he to comment? He could no longer imagine a life where Jack O'Neill did not have Daniel Jackson as a friend. If Liam and Joshua were beginning to forge a friendship that was as strong, then they could only benefit from it. He had.

O'Neill's attention was brought back to the task at hand as they arrived at the structure. It was immense. O'Neill's eyes narrowed as one thing quickly became apparent. He saw the same concern on the faces of the other members of SG-1. The walls of the structure were seamless. There was no way in. "Kincaid, I thought you said this was where we needed to go?" barked O'Neill.

"It is, Colonel. Just wait." Joshua's expression was not one of concern, rather it was one of expectation. He trusted that Liam knew what he was talking about. He had so far.

Liam stepped forward to stand beside him and said, "We just need to wait till it recognises me as part Kimera." Liam stepped forward and placed both palms on the surface of the wall. The structure had been - up till that point - reflecting various shades of pinks and reds. As soon as Liam touched it, the colours changed. Blues of every shade and hue broke forth in a flurry of dazzling light.

Joshua gave an amazed gasp that was quickly echoed by Major Carter and Doctor Jackson as an opening seemed to melt into the surface of the wall.

Liam, his eyes practically glowing, turned and said, "This way. Stay close."

Joshua stepped forward unhesitatingly. His father would have given practically anything for the opportunity to see this.

SG-1 followed Liam and Joshua inside; this was their way home.

The interior of the structure was even more amazing than its exterior. There was a huge chamber inside and in the middle of that, there was a huge sphere with alien writing on it. Daniel gave an awed cry. "What is that?!"

Liam said, "It's a repository of information." He was scanning the walls of the chamber. Major Carter was doing the same, only in her case; she was using a digital recorder. The walls shimmered with light, covered with glowing symbols that seemed to ripple as the light passed round the chamber.

Suddenly, a single bright light burst forth from the ceiling and surrounded Teal'c. O'Neill instinctively raised his gun, but Liam quickly jumped forward to reassure him. "No, Colonel, wait. It's all right. The chamber's secondary sensors just re-scanned him because the initial scan as we entered identified him as a different type of alien than the rest of you. That's all. It's not harmful."

O'Neill reluctantly lowered his weapon, visions of Thor's Hammer in his mind. Teal'c had the unfortunate knack of triggering defence systems on alien planets. It was his Jaffa jinx. No matter how often they explained that he was a good guy, they'd just get one planet to accept it when the next one would have its own security system that reacted to the presence of a Jaffa.

He hid his anxiety the same way he always did. He gave an irritated sigh and demanded an explanation for something. The look in Liam's eyes seemed to indicate that - like Daniel - he could read the emotion behind the question. "Well, how do we make this chamber work?"

Liam gave a grin and said, "Simple. We ask." He stepped forward and passed his palms over three of the symbols on the repository sphere.

As he stepped back, waiting for the sphere to respond he heard O'Neill muttering, "Now why didn't I think of that?"

The eyes of the rest of the group widened in astonishment as the sphere opened and a glowing figure emerged. Liam respectfully asked that the symbols for the dimension that was home to beings like those that accompanied him be displayed. The figure waved a hand and the symbols that had been displayed on the chamber walls vanished and new ones appeared. Then, the figure retreated into the repository and it re-sealed itself.

Carter eyed the thousands of symbols with a baffled expression on her face. "How did that help us? All that's done is switch one set of symbols for another." Liam sighed. SG-1 were an awfully impatient bunch. Then again, he supposed that if he had been transferred to an alternate dimension and stuck there for a couple of days, he might be a little anxious too.

He pointed to the wall on his right and said, "That wall has the symbols for all Stargates in your Earth's quadrant of space. There's only about ninety to look at. I'll find the right symbols in a couple of hours. Just be patient."

The others left him to it and began a detailed investigation of the rest of the chamber. SG-1 would never come back to this planet; this investigation was purely out of scientific curiosity. The footage they shot would have the linguistic and anthropological divisions of the SGC in raptures for months.

True to his word, Liam found the correct symbols in just under two hours. At that announcement all gear was stowed and the return journey to the Stargate began. Arriving at the Stargate, Liam punched the symbols into the DHD. The wormhole stabilised and he was about to step forward when Teal'c reached out and placed a restraining hand on his arm.

"Stop! Major Kincaid, you must not proceed until the code has been transmitted to open the iris."

Perplexed, Liam looked at the Jaffa member of SG-1. They hadn't actually had the chance to talk much yet. Teal'c's admonishment to him to wait until the iris code has been transmitted was the longest uninterrupted sentence that the Jaffa had addressed to him.

His confusion gave way to a dawning understanding. The initial briefing that Carter and Jackson had given during the talks at the Doors International complex had mentioned that SG-1's gate had an iris. He watched as Major Carter used a remote device to send the code. He thought he heard her mutter, "I hope this works," before stepping through the Gate.

Dr Jackson and Teal'c followed, leaving only O'Neill, Joshua and Liam on the planet. Liam asked, "What did she mean, 'I hope this works'?"

"Iris codes are locked out when a team is considered 'lost'. It's entirely possible that the code will have been discontinued. In which case, it's been nice meeting you. Now, shall we go?"

Liam and Joshua eyed each other apprehensively as the meaning behind the Colonel's statement sunk in. They followed him through the Gate anyway. They'd come this far.

They stepped out onto a metal ramp and a huge chamber in what was obviously a military base. A commanding voice could be heard over an intercom. "Close the iris. SG-1, I presume there is an explanation for why you have returned less than an hour before your codes were permanently locked out. Who are these people with you?"

O'Neill gave a grin. Hammond was relieved, concerned and curious, all at the same time. They were home. "Sir, this is gonna take a while to explain..."

Joshua and Liam eyed the armed guards at the bottom of the ramp with some concern, but they followed O'Neill down the ramp.

SG-1 were the recipients of some hearty grins and teasing welcomes. Joshua muttered to Daniel, "They seem rather laid back about your return. Considering that announcement said that your code was less than an hour away from being permanently locked out, aren't they taking things rather lightly?"

Daniel had a faint blush on his face and an abashed air as he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Not really. SG-1 does this all the time. We've got kind of a reputation for getting ourselves into 'situations' and then extracting ourselves from them - usually just in the nick of time."

Joshua and Liam both chuckled softly at that.

The staccato sound of multiple footsteps was heard approaching. An older man with the rank tags of a general was accompanied by a younger man, a major. The third person in the group was a small, dark-haired female officer wearing a white coat. O'Neill's laconic, "What's up, doc?" was met by an exasperated sigh.

Carter, Jackson, and even Teal'c winced slightly. Did the Colonel have no sense of self-preservation at all?

Dr. Janet Frasier eyed the two men with SG-1 with wary curiosity. They didn't seem to be hostile; Jack and the others certainly weren't treating them that way. Nevertheless, she ran a thorough gaze over SG-1. They were the team that caused most of her worries. Their ability to find trouble was the stuff of legend at the SGC and it was her responsibility to patch them up after each escapade.

"What, no holes?" she queried the Colonel with a sweet smile. "Sir, you're slipping. Are you trying to tell me that SG-1 has gone on one of their little adventures and returned without an injury?"

Colonel O'Neill made a show of being outraged at her implication, but that show was shot down in flames when he gave a startled burst of laughter at her murmur of, "I'll have to check the pool. The odds for no injuries incurred must be astronomical. I wonder if anyone actually took them?"

Studiously ignoring the grin he was wearing, General Hammond said, "SG-1, report to medical. Your guests will join you in due course." He made a move to wave the security team forward to escort the two strangers to isolation until SG-1 had been checked out.

He never got the chance. O'Neill and Jackson moved to stand protectively in front of Liam and Joshua. O'Neill said, "Sir, they're friends."

General Hammond, less than pleased with the little manoeuvre that SG-1 had just pulled, relented - for now. "As you say, Colonel. I assume that they will have no objections then to participating in the standard tests that Doctor Frasier needs to run.

"Dr. Frasier, I want SG-1 and their 'friends' tested immediately. Assuming everything checks out, I'll expect them for debriefing in two hours. Dismissed."

Liam and Joshua watched and grinned as Dr. Frasier put SG-1 through a battery of tests. It had been quite funny. As soon as they'd entered the medical section, SG-1 had split up and automatically gone to four of the beds and sat down. Dr. Frasier, her head down, nose in some charts, had navigated the room from memory. She hadn't looked up as she walked towards one of the beds and said, "Dr. Jackson, you know the drill. Blood first, then the MRI." She looked up then to see Liam and Joshua's astonished gazes. She shrugged and said, "This is SG-1's home away from home, gentlemen."

Tentatively, Joshua brought up a question. "Why do they need an MRI when they have no injuries?"

Dr. Frasier didn't know quite how to respond to that; what did their guests know? Carter took care of the answer for her. She said, "It's standard procedure, Joshua. We've had more than one incident of Goa'uld infestation. The MRI is a security measure. Anybody that goes off-planet gets one when they come back. No exceptions."

"Is that what the General meant by standard tests?" asked Liam. At Carter's nod, Liam turned to the doctor. "I take it we're suspect until you've cleared us, doctor?" At Dr. Frasier's nod, Liam said, "What do you want us to do?"

Dr. Frasier relaxed a little. SG-1's guests seemed to be reasonable. She looked at the taller of the two and said, "And you are?"

"Major Liam Kincaid, doctor."

"Well, Major, first I'd like some blood for testing." The Major sighed and held out his arm. Dr. Frasier didn't miss the flash of suppressed fear that passed through the man's eyes. Why would blood tests unnerve him?

She drew blood from both of the guests and then turned to SG-1. "I'll be taking Major Kincaid and Mr. Doors for their MRIs now. You know the drill. Nobody leaves until you've all been scanned. Considering the unusual circumstances of your return, the guard has been doubled. Please do bear that in mind."

Once she had left, Liam and Joshua in tow, SG-1 started talking quietly amongst themselves. The consensus they reached was that - this time - General Hammond and Dr. Frasier had given them up as lost. They were obviously relieved to see them, but were unnerved by SG-1's atypical behaviour about the treatment of their guests.

"They'll be more convinced after the tests, sir," said Carter.

Daniel responded to that. "Yeah, Sam. But did you see the look on Liam's face when she drew the blood? I think he's worried about what her reaction is going to be."

"Ya think?" drawled Jack. "He's spent his entire life hiding who he really is. Now he's having to take - on faith - our word that revealing himself as part alien to a bunch of complete strangers is not going to result in him being sliced and diced."

Jackson and Carter winced at the unpleasant picture that the Colonel's caustic comment had conjured up.

Teal'c's face remained impassive. The Jaffa member of the team turned the topic of conversation back to something that they had first discussed on Liam and Joshua's world. "I ask again. Are we going to mention Aldwin to Joshua Doors?"

Carter, O'Neill and Jackson looked at each other with uncertainty on their faces. Daniel was the first to venture a suggestion. "How about we wait to find out the Tok'ra reaction to our information? We'll wait and see whom - if anybody - they send to deal with the situation. Agreed?" The others sighed and nodded. That plan would have to do for now.

Just under two hours later, SG-1 reported to give their debriefing, Joshua and Liam accompanying them. Already seated at the table in the briefing room were General Hammond, Dr. Frasier and Major Davis - who'd been called to the SGC from the Pentagon when SG-1 had been listed as missing. It was getting to be a regular trip for him.

Dr. Frasier eyed Liam with some curiosity. She now understood the expression on his face when he'd held out his arm so that she could take a sample of his blood. It had some distinct abnormalities. She'd only had the opportunity to run some cursory tests, but she had her suspicions as to why.

Hammond sat his customary seat at the head of the table and said, "Well?"

Colonel O'Neill glanced at Carter; his look indicated that she should begin. Samantha Carter took a breath, focused her thoughts and said, "While on P2X-658, we encountered someone with information on the location of the hostages. As per standing orders, we discontinued our exploration of the planet and were heading back to the Gate to report our findings. We ran into trouble - a Goa'uld and a couple of squads of Jaffa. We did manage to reach the Gate and dial home. We had just sent the GDO code and gone through when - and I'm only speculating - an energy blast from the Goa'uld energy cannon must have hit the Gate and overloaded it. Like when the Colonel and I ended up in Antarctica...

"Anyway, we came out of the Gate somewhere else entirely. We ended up in a complex owned by Joshua. He and a group of his acquaintances had just decoded the Stargate there. Their Earth is in another parallel dimension; and by our calendar, it's about ten years in the future.

"Liam - I mean Major Kincaid - knew the co-ordinates of a world in his dimension that could help us get home. It has a repository of addresses that can be used for dimensional Gate trips. And, well, here we are."

General Hammond's expression was beginning to show its normal reaction to an SG-1 debriefing. One part disbelief, one part 'only them', and one part 'what else' are they going to say?

Major Davis asked a question. "How could Major Kincaid have known the co-ordinates of the planet you needed to go to if the Stargate on his world had just been decoded?"

Dr. Frasier interrupted the response that Dr. Jackson was going to make by saying, "Because Major Kincaid is not entirely human. Are you, Major?"

Liam flinched noticeably. Joshua placed a reassuring hand on his arm while, of all people, Colonel O'Neill glanced at Dr. Frasier and said, "Nice, doc. Real subtle approach." She had the good grace to blush in embarrassment as she witnessed the reaction her statement had caused. Major Kincaid - Liam - had dropped his gaze to the table and was refusing to look up.

Joshua spoke for his friend. "As Major Carter has already explained, we're from another Earth. According to what SG-1 have told us, this is not the first alternate Earth this command has encountered. Our Earth had first contact with an alien race in - by our calendar - the year 2004. This race of aliens is called the Taelons. They assumed the personae of benign visitors, but in actuality their reasons for making contact with Earth are purely self-serving.

"My father founded a Resistance movement against these Taelons; he questioned their true agenda. He's gone now. Liam has assumed the leadership of the Resistance in his place.

"Liam is unique."

That statement caused Liam to raise his gaze from the table and look at his friend with a shy smile. Liam finally met the gazes of the General and the others and found fascination and not fear to be their reaction to Joshua's explanation.

Joshua continued. "Over a year ago, the last survivor of an ancient alien race escaped from the prison that the Taelons had sealed him in and escaped into the population of Earth. He could assume human form without injuring his hosts, and he utilised this ability to hide until he had accomplished his goal. While in an assumed human form, he 'joined' with Liam's mother in an effort to preserve his race. He succeeded, but never lived to see the result of the joining. He was killed by a human agent of the Taelons moments later.

"Liam's mother came to term and he was born in the space of nine hours. He matured to full adult form in about thirty minutes. He's been a member of the Resistance ever since. He works as a deep cover operative and is actually Protector to the Taelon that has assumed the role of North American Companion.

"He lives with the knowledge that if his identity as the only Human/Kimera hybrid in existence is ever revealed, the best he can hope to receive from the Taelons is a quick death." Joshua's final statement was met with a profound silence.

Samantha Carter spoke up then. "Liam's Kimera father was the last survivor of a truly amazing species. They were celestial anthropologists and their knowledge of - well, everything - is almost unbelievable. Liam carries that memory within him. It's how he decoded their Gate and it's how he knew what planet to visit to get us home."

General Hammond sighed. "SG-1, this has to be a record, even for you.

"Important matters first. Major Carter, Teal'c, signal the Tok'ra. Tell your father and the Tok'ra council that we have a location on the hostages. SG-1, you and SG teams 2 and 5 will stand by for deployment on the rescue mission.

"Everyone else is dismissed. Colonel, wait a few moments. I'd like to talk to you."

A resigned expression on his face, Colonel O'Neill sat down. He called out to Daniel before he left, "Daniel, why don't you show Liam and Joshua around. Give them the ten-cent tour."

"So, Jack, one question. Do you trust these two people?"

"Yes, sir. I do." Sensing that O'Neill had made one of his gut decisions and that he was not going to be swayed, General Hammond let the matter drop. He trusted O'Neill's judgement. Instead, he switched the topic to the subject of the hostages and the upcoming rescue mission.

Liam and Joshua had been the subject of some curious stares as they'd followed Daniel around on his tour of the SGC. They had come back through the Gate with SG-1, and that meant something big was about to happen. SG-1 was going to fling the SGC into the middle of things - again. That was one thing about working on the same base with SG-1 and the Stargate. Life was never dull.

The tour finished in Daniel's lab. With a sheepish expression, he headed straight for his coffee pot. Joshua and Liam both said a fervent, "Yes, please," when he asked if they wanted some too.

As Daniel pottered around the lab looking for extra mugs, Liam and Joshua eyed the accumulated 'stuff' in the lab. An apologetic Daniel explained that the numerous artefacts had been gathered by SG teams on planets all over the galaxy and that he was supposed to be cataloguing and studying them.

"We - by we I mean SG-1 - keep getting distracted by other missions, though. I'm about two months behind here."

Accepting with thanks the mug of coffee that Daniel had handed him, Liam said, "Can I help?"

Confused but curious, Daniel said, "Of course." Liam wandered over to one of the overflowing tables and picked up a half-finished translation that Daniel had not had the time to complete. It was cuneiform and unfortunately, while Lieutenant McKee was on maternity leave, Daniel was the only other member of the linguistics team that understood cuneiform. He was so swamped with other work that he just hadn't got round to it.

Sipping at his coffee, Liam searched around until he found a pen. Then, sitting at the table, he began making neat notes and translating the tablet that Daniel had been working on. He and Daniel soon became so engrossed that they didn't see a bored Joshua Doors wander out of the lab.

He had only made his way down a couple of corridors before he found himself face to face with an immovable mass. "Joshua Doors, it is inadvisable for you to wander this facility unescorted. The personnel here are unfamiliar with you. You could easily find yourself under close confinement before they realised that you are not a threat."

"Oh, sorry, Teal'c. I just needed to stretch my legs and do a little thinking. Liam and Daniel are in the middle of translating stuff and I was beginning to feel like a bit of a fifth wheel."

That explanation confused Teal'c. He motioned for Joshua to accompany him and they headed back towards Daniel's lab. As they did so, Teal'c said, "Joshua Doors, explain 'a fifth wheel' to me."

An hour and a half after the debriefing, Liam had helped Daniel translate several pieces that were covered in various ancient languages. Teal'c and Joshua had been having their own conversation about colloquialisms. Teal'c had seized on the opportunity to expand his vocabulary of such expressions. Joshua stopped in mid-explanation as he saw that one piece of translation had made Liam give a sad smile.

Joshua murmured a question to Liam. "Are you all right?"

Liam looked up, an echo of an old pain in his eyes as he said, "My mother believed in the runes. She'd have loved this piece. It tells the story of a Celtic legend."

The work going on in the little lab was interrupted by a call requesting that they return to the Gate room immediately. The Tok'ra were on their way.

On the way out of the lab, Liam noticed a picture that Daniel had stuck to the inside of the door. It was a stone circle with an inscription on it. Absently, Liam muttered to himself as he followed Daniel out into the corridor, "We are the Ancients..."

Liam and Joshua watched from the control room as the Tok'ra representatives walked down the ramp from the Stargate. They saw Major Carter hug one of the older men and say, "Dad, it's good to see you."

In the briefing that followed, Jacob Carter/Selmac eyed the two strangers present with some curiosity; one of them was the mirror image of Aldwin. He opened his mouth to say something, but Colonel O'Neill gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head and stopped him.

Jack said, "Jacob, these are some friends that will be coming with us."

Jacob looked astonished at that, but the expression on his old friend George's face said 'don't argue'.

Jacob addressed the matter at hand. "With the information that SG-1 brought back, we have been given one chance to get the hostages back. Selmac and the other members of the Tok'ra council have approved a rescue attempt.

"Martouf is waiting with two teams of Tok'ra operatives on a staging planet that we use as a base of operations for missions against Goa'uld strongholds. I'll escort whatever SG teams you have ordered to join the rescue to the planet. We'll launch the attack on the stronghold on Tartarus from there."

The mood of the room suddenly became a lot tenser. Hammond addressed O'Neill and said, "Colonel, you have a go. I want SG units 1, 2 and 5 ready for deployment in twenty minutes." He then turned to Liam and Joshua. "Gentlemen, this is your last opportunity to change your minds."

Liam eyed Joshua, even though he was sure of the answer. At Joshua's firm nod, Liam said, "Thank you, General. We will go with our friends."

Exactly twenty minutes later, Jack gave the order that started the mission. "All right, people. Let's move out." The teams matched resolutely through the Gate and towards the fight that lay ahead. The solemn figure of General George Hammond watched from the control room. This was the part that he hated. The waiting.

Liam and Joshua blinked as they emerged from the Stargate and into a desert. The SG teams and the Tok'ra representatives appeared completely unfazed to find themselves in the middle of a desert. Liam leaned close to Joshua and whispered in a wry tone, "The next time you hear me complain that my life is too complicated - hit me with something."

Joshua grinned. He shared the sentiment; how could these people consider this 'a normal life'?

SG-2, under Major Ferretti's command, took point; SG-5 brought up the rear. That left SG-1 and the Tok'ra in the middle. Daniel quickly moved up to join Liam, the light of a hundred different questions shining in his eyes. Surprising O'Neill, Teal'c fell into step with Joshua. Soon the pair were engrossed in conversation. Jack looked on in astonishment. Since when did Teal'c talk that much? Watching Teal'c in a conversation like that was almost hypnotic... he heard a snatch of the conversation and he couldn't help smiling.

"...our earlier discussion in the SGC. I have some more questions. Joshua Doors, explain the phrase 'screaming meemies' to me."

Sighing, Joshua replied, "Teal'c, I thought I told you to stop that. It's disconcerting. Just call me Joshua; you don't need to say my full name. Now then, it means..."

Bringing his attention back to the matters at hand, Jack looked over at Jacob - who had been quietly catching up with family gossip with his daughter - and said, "Jacob, you mentioned that Martouf is waiting for us with some of your Tok'ra buddies. Does that include Aldwin?"

Jacob smiled and shrugged. "To be honest, I don't know. Martouf was making final selections on the make-up of the teams when I left. Why? Personally, I think it might be quite interesting to see Aldwin and your friend - Joshua, is it? - together."

Sam sighed, "No, dad. It'd be very bad, very dangerous for them to meet."

"What? Why?" asked a confused Jacob Carter.

Jack tuned out Sam's explanation about entropic cascading failure and dimensional alternates - just thinking about it gave him a headache. Instead, he called for Daniel and Liam to join him. "Daniel, talk to me about Tartarus. If this Goa'uld that is playing Hades has stuck to the myths, what can we expect?"

Fidgeting with his glasses, Daniel moved into full lecture mode. Jack relaxed; this was normal. This felt right. He caught Liam fighting a grin as Daniel began to talk animatedly about the River Styx, Charon, Cerberus and the three realms that made up the Underworld. Jack did actually pay close attention to his friend; he'd learned long ago that ignoring Daniel's ramblings was a very unwise thing to do. More often than not, he knew what he was talking about - and considering SG-1's recent sojourn in Sokhar's version of Hell, he knew fine well what a crazy Goa'uld was capable of.

The Elysian fields seemed a safe enough prospect. Tartarus was a realm of torture and suffering - been there, done that; and the Plain of Asphodel didn't sound too hot either. Drinking from the Pool of Lethe was supposed to wipe all memories from the souls that inhabited that realm, leaving dead souls wandering aimlessly from one day to the next, sometimes re-living scenes from their past, sometimes not. Jack didn't even want to think about how a Goa'uld might twist that particular myth, or the tools they would use to do so. In his heart, Jack was wishing fervently for a nice, simple rescue mission. He had the sneaking suspicion that his wishful thinking was just that, wishful thinking.

His musings were interrupted when Ferretti signalled that the Tok'ra welcoming committee was within sight. Jack trotted up to join Ferretti. He gazed across the open plain to the two waiting Tel'tacs. Jack sighed softly; he was beginning to hate the sight of those ships. There was no option, though; the Tartarus Gate was bound to be guarded. To get on to the planet they would have to use ships. Getting off planet again was going to be more challenging...

Ten minutes later, they were face to face with Martouf's two Tok'ra teams. The SG teams eyed the aliens warily, and vice-versa. Nine times out of ten, a small group of Tok'ra would arrive at the SGC and work with SG-1. This level of contact was decidedly unusual.

Martouf eyed Liam and Joshua with a mixture of shock and great curiosity. The ease with which these strangers were interacting with SG-1 was surprising. Even among the Tok'ra, SG-1 were acknowledged as a close-knit unit. To see them interacting so easily with two other humans - obviously not SGC personnel - was an unusual sight. Then there was the fact that the smaller of the pair was a mirror image of Aldwin.

Martouf was about to comment on this fact when Aldwin emerged from the interior of one of the two Tel'tacs and the matter was taken out of Martouf's hands. Aldwin warily approached SG-1. His actions the last time they had worked together had never been openly commented on but he seriously doubted that they had ever been fully accepted. Those thoughts fled from his mind as he eyed the other humans in the contingent from the SGC. No - that was impossible. That human looked like...

SG-1 said a collective, silent, 'Oh, hell' as they saw Aldwin. Carter opened her mouth to warn Liam and Joshua about the possible effects of two dimensional alternates being in such close proximity. She never got the chance.

Liam took one look at the man staring at his friend and instinctively stepped in front of Joshua, adopting a protective stance as he said, "Stay away from him." With a reproachful glance at SG-1, Liam said, "Why didn't you tell us? Do you know how dangerous this is?"

Carter sighed. "Yes, we do. How do you?"

"In my world there were two women, Isabel and Maiya. Maiya was from another dimension, an alternate Earth. She came to our dimension. At that point we didn't know about Isabel. By the time we did, it was too late. They were both undergoing periods of phasing; the universe was reacting to their presence in the same time and space."

Liam, eyes full of pain, still blaming himself for what had happened, didn't move from his protective stance in front of Joshua. He continued, "They were both dying. The only thing we could do was allow them to merge. We knew it would only save one of them... Maiya survived with the addition of Isabel's memories." He eyed Aldwin and added, "He's going to have to leave. Now. You know that."

O'Neill looked at Jacob and Martouf and said, "Liam's right. We've seen something similar. You're going to have to send Aldwin away. It's just too dangerous."

Martouf appeared shocked at O'Neill's suggestion that it should be Aldwin who left; however, he obeyed Selmac's command. Aldwin was absolutely furious, but he bowed to Selmac's wishes in the matter.

Carter took Aldwin aside and explained the effect of Joshua's prolonged presence in this dimension, and warned him about the possible seizures - or phasing, as Liam had called it. Aldwin's ire faded. Making him stay behind was the right thing to do, for both his sake and this man Joshua's.

Less than an hour later, Aldwin was lone witness to the departure of the two ships as they set course for the planet of Tartarus. On board ship, Joshua cornered Major Carter and asked who or what the Tok'ra were. Her reply left him lost in thought. That guy that looked like him had a 'thing', a symbiote inside of him. Joshua shuddered. Not him. Not ever. He couldn't handle that.

Fifteen hours later, Jack O'Neill emerged from his pod, his head spinning. Those things had to be absolutely the worst way to travel. Still, they were here. Quickly, efficiently, the teams moved out. Next stop, the stronghold of another crazy Goa'uld - he really had to think about getting into another line of work...

Doors International HQ

Renee Palmer sighed. She had been her office for less than four hours and already it felt like four years. It had been just over two days since Liam and Joshua had stepped through the Stargate and into God knows what, and she and Augur had been scrambling to cover for them ever since.

Renee jumped as her assistant buzzed her. "What?!" she snapped.

"Ms Palmer, I have Agent Ronald Sandoval on hold. He wishes to speak to you. Shall I put him through?"

Renee closed her eyes. Oh hell. Resigned to the inevitable, she sighed. "Put him through." Silently, she thought, Augur, plan B had better work... "Agent Sandoval, I'm afraid I'm very busy right now. To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"

Sandoval frowned slightly. Ms Palmer's tone was too nice - she was up to something. Perfect. As though he didn't have enough to be thinking about right now... "Ms Palmer, I'm trying to locate Major Kincaid. I was wondering if you had seen him. He is not responding to any messages. I'm starting to get concerned."

Renee blinked, surprised. Sandoval actually did sound genuinely concerned. Interesting. Sending a silent prayer out to anybody that was listening, she said, "I was just about to call you, Sandoval. I'm afraid there's been an accident."

"What sort of accident? Does this have something to do with Li-- I mean, Major Kincaid?" asked a clearly worried Sandoval.

"I'm afraid so," said Renee. "Yesterday, Joshua Doors requested Liam accompany him on a tour of one of our Co-Ventures labs in Colorado; there had been a report of a security breach. Liam agreed, considering he was off active duty for the next few days anyway. Oh, by the way, very nice work on dealing with those Brigade lunatics... where was I?

"Oh, yes. Joshua and Liam. There was an accident at the lab while they were there. Nothing too serious, I'm glad to say. However, there was a chemical spill that has contaminated the lab. The quarantine seals took effect instantly; here at Doors International, we pride ourselves on our safety protocols for such eventualities.

"Joshua and the Major are both fine; however, they are currently being contained behind four different sets of quarantine shields. They will be there for the next three days - there is no way to lift the quarantine. It is for their protection while suitably equipped teams clean up the spill.

"I can certainly patch through a message if you need me to. If you need to actually physically speak to Liam, however, then I'm afraid that you are going to have to wait." Renee held her breath. Was Sandoval going to buy that nonsense?

His eyes said 'no', but his mouth said, "Very well, Ms Palmer. Keep me apprised. I will let Da'an and Zo'or know of this unfortunate accident. Please inform the Major that I expect him to be in touch the minute he is out of quarantine."

Smile fixed on her face, Renee said, "Certainly, Agent Sandoval." As he broke the signal, Renee sat there, thinking. What is Sandoval playing at? Why is he going on with this ludicrous charade? Liam, you are going to have some tap-dancing to do when you get back...

Meanwhile, on a distant planet in an alternate dimension, the object of her thoughts was in the middle of a firefight.

The rescue party had made its way to the Goa'uld's stronghold with surprising ease. They knew why the minute they had gained access to one of the underground tunnels that would lead them into the heart of the stronghold. Jaffa had appeared from everywhere at once - or so it had seemed - and the rescue party had had to make a hasty retreat down a side corridor.

The fight was short and brutal but the SGC personnel and Tok'ra were used to it. O'Neill had eyed Liam and Joshua with concern. Joshua coped well enough, he and Daniel were watching out for each other. Liam was good; Liam was very good! Distracted by an energy bolt from a staff weapon, Jack turned his attention back to the fight.

Things appeared to be under control when suddenly, Joshua yelled, "Liam, look out!" Liam heard the distinctive sound of a blaster from his own world. He looked round to see a Jaffa soldier lying crumpled at his side and Joshua Doors slowly lowering his arm, blaster in hand; a look of shock on his face. He'd just killed someone.

Liam called out, "Thanks, Josh." Joshua gave him a fixed smile. Liam sighed, maybe he shouldn't have asked Joshua to accompany him. He'd never wanted Joshua to be forced to kill...

Liam brought his attention back to the here and now and heard Martouf cry out that he had found an exit. As quickly as they could, all the members of the rescue party headed down the side tunnel that Martouf had found.

The last two to move were Liam and O'Neill, who had taken the responsibility for guarding the escape route. Liam motioned for O'Neill to go next. The older man frowned; he didn't want to leave Liam alone. However, because of his position, he was the next logical one to move. Sighing, he did so. The sooner he went, the sooner Liam could follow.

Short moments later, Liam's final blast dispatched the last of the current batch of Jaffa. Quietly, carefully, he made his way down the corridor and through the door that the others had used. He stepped inside and looked around, horror in his eyes. Every member of the rescue party - every one of them - was standing in the chamber and not moving. Their gazes were locked on the mirrors that covered the interior of the chamber; their eyes turned inward at images only they could see.

Liam whispered, "The Plain of Asphodel." They were all trapped in their own memories, re-living past events with no recollection of their reason for being there. Liam had no idea why he was not being affected, or what on earth he was going to do now.

For a few moments, Liam just stood there, hoping that he'd receive a flash of inspiration. No such luck. Typical; now that he needed a convenient vision explaining what he should do - nothing. Well then, try the obvious first.

He approached Colonel O'Neill first and waved his hand in front of his face - no reaction. Shaking O'Neill's shoulder had no reaction either. Wincing, Liam firmly slapped the Colonel's face - still nothing. Frowning, Liam sighed. Now what? Well, first things first. Caution indicated that he should take the Colonel's finger off the trigger of his 'zat' gun. No sense taking chances. If Jack suddenly snapped out of this trance he didn't want combat reflexes kicking in, somebody could easily get hurt.

Gently, Liam began to prise Jack's fingers from the trigger, but as soon as he touched the Colonel's hand he quickly let go again. What was that?! Tentatively, he reached out and grasped at the Colonel's hand and tried again. Liam shuddered and reflexively let go again. He raised a hand to rub at his aching temples. God that hurt!

Taking a few deep breaths to steady himself, Liam reached out and grasped the Colonel's hand in his own. This time though, he fought the urge to let go as the wave of pain rushed through his head. Instead, he concentrated and, ever so slowly, the jumbled images began to become clearer.

Alone. No rescue. Abandoned. A cell. Heat, torture, pain! Name. Rank. Serial number. No other information ever passed his broken, bleeding lips.

A house in the suburbs on a glorious sunny afternoon. Sarah - his wife - smiling. Then, a gunshot shattered the idyllic scene. Liam could feel the terror and horror as he watched Jack racing into the house and taking the stairs two at a time. Bursting into the room and - oh, God! - the grief and guilt. His son, Charlie... Dead. His fault, his fault, his gun...

The scene shifted and suddenly, he was in a huge chamber somewhere with a staff weapon being aimed at him. A blur as it was fired and then he saw Daniel's crumpled form, the geek had taken the shot to save his life!

Flames, screams, General Hammond's voice saying, "Colonel, where is Doctor Jackson?" Jack's voice replying, "Daniel's dead, sir."

Remembering Daniel, lying in the corridor of Apophis' ship - bleeding and dying. Sending him on his way. Lifting his weapon to guard him as he left him to die - alone. Absolute horror as he saw his team member, his friend - Sam! - eyes glowing, Goa'uld voice speaking through her.

Fear, terror, his voice screaming as he was forcibly taken as a host. Hathor's eyes glinting with evil pleasure...

Liam tried to steady himself as Jack's emotions threatened to spiral out of control, taking him with them. Concentrating, Liam tried to reach his friend.

Jack! Jack, stop this. You have to listen to me. It's the chamber. It's focusing on your bad memories, the ones that hurt you. Don't forget the joy! Fight, Colonel! Look!

Liam forced the Colonel to look and felt the black, spiralling darkness begin to lift as Jack looked past the horrors of the past.

Nem's planet - a wet, bedraggled but very much alive, Dr Daniel Jackson, breaking through the surface of the water and swimming to the shore.

SGC - Daniel; shy, smiling, alive! Jack reassuring himself that his friend was real by pulling him into a hug and dubbing the anthropologist/archaeologist as 'the space monkey' of the SGC.

Sam's eyes - normal. Not Goa'uld, Tok'ra. The symbiote died to save her. He didn't lose her...

Himself waking up from his deep freeze in the cryo-pod, human, Goa'uld dead. He wasn't a host. He was still Jack, not a monster. He hadn't hurt his friends or betrayed his world.

Liam stopped; he could feel Jack resuming control of his own mind. The determination, courage, vulnerability and humour that made the Colonel what he was... Jack was taking control again. Releasing the Colonel's hand, Liam stepped back.

O'Neill blinked and inhaled. His gaze focused on the concerned face of Liam Kincaid. The younger man gave a relieved smile. "Welcome back, Jack."

Unsure of what had just happened, O'Neill sent his gaze round the chamber and took in the sight of the others standing there, unmoving. "What the--"

Liam interrupted his question, saying, "The Plain of Asphodel, Colonel. They're trapped in their own memories. Just like you were."

"Why weren't you affected? How did you wake me up? How long was I out? What are we going to do about the others?"

Taking each answer in turn, Liam replied, "My best guess is that my Kimera heritage is the reason I wasn't affected. I figured out how to get you back when I was moving your finger off the trigger; I didn't want you waking up and accidentally doing something stupid. I touched you and saw what you were seeing. By directing your focus away from the bad memories that the chamber was making you re-live and turning your attention back to happier memories I was able to bring you back.

"All in all, it's taken almost ten minutes. I think I can get the others back the same way. We're overdue for another appearance by Jaffa though; you're going to have to keep them off me while I do this."

Jack blinked. Too much information, way too fast. Assessing the 'statues' in the chamber, the mirrors everywhere and the open entrance to the chamber, Jack winced. Guarding this place was going to be fun.

Liam had been heading over to Joshua when O'Neill placed a gentle hand on his arm, restraining him.

"Wait, Liam," said Jack. "I understand that you want to get your friend back. I do, really. But if you are the only person that can wake the others then I'm going to need help guarding both you and the chamber. The rest of my team first, then Joshua."

For a moment, Liam longed to refuse. The Colonel was right. Bowing to the military logic, Liam said, "Which one of them do I wake first?"

"Teal'c, Carter and Daniel in that order." Jack hesitated and then said, softly, "Liam, thanks."

Liam gave the Colonel a slight nod and said, "It's unnecessary but you're welcome."

Going to Teal'c, Liam firmly prised the staff weapon from the Jaffa's hand and held it out to O'Neill. Jack took it and watched as the other man placed his own hand into contact with Teal'c's. Jack literally saw a shudder race through Liam's body and watched as the pupils of Liam's eyes faded to the merest pinprick. Tearing his gaze away from the pair, Jack turned back to the job at hand. Watching out for more Jaffa.

Liam watched and witnessed hundreds of atrocities carried out by this man that he called friend.

Teal'c was lost in the memories of his actions of First Prime of Apophis. So many dead.

He watched as one particular dark haired beauty was taken as a host. Why was that one memory so painful? Another memory replaced it, a later one. He shot the woman to save Daniel Jackson. The woman that had been Daniel's wife. Oh, dear Lord! His own son, dying. Having to shoot him with the 'zat'.

The scene switched again, some memories the same as O'Neill's. Daniel dead in a blaze of fire, Samantha Carter behind bars, eyes glowing... Waking up in the SGC infirmary to hear that his three teammates were presumed lost.

Once again, Liam took up the task of redirecting thoughts. All the while unaware that a very bored Jack O'Neill had moved from where he was guarding the entrance to the chamber to stand in front of Daniel Jackson pulling faces - muttering about 'magnets for trouble anywhere in the known universe'. Liam shifted his stance slightly, causing Jack to start nervously. He quickly made his way back to the entrance and resumed his sentry duty.

During this time, Liam was showing Teal'c the happier memories that the chamber was trying to block, forcing the Jaffa member of SG-1 to recall his oath to fight the Goa'uld. The welcome and acceptance that he had found amongst the Tau'ri that lived and worked within the SGC. The friends who fought a silent and unacknowledged war on behalf of their planet and any others that needed help.

Liam gave Teal'c a reassuring smile before turning and walking towards Major Carter. In the background he could hear the Colonel briefing Teal'c on the situation.

Liam took a deep breath, hoping that Jack couldn't hear the pain he was trying to hide. It hurt. To free the others from the memories that the Asphodel chamber was inflicting on them he had to experience the memories that they were re-living and then break the cycle. It was the only way to draw them back.

Fire again. Did Daniel have any notion of how hard his supposed death on Nem's planet had hit the rest of his team?

O'Neill dying, trapped in an icy cavern. Why wouldn't the Gate work?!

Looking down at Earth - saved - why wasn't she happy? Daniel was gone, that was why. Killed on one of those damn ships. Nobody had believed him but he had been right. His determination had won over his team. They had gone with him and stopped Apophis' invasion of Earth.

Silent screams as she felt her own body being taken over from within. Her horror at the realisation that she had one of those 'things' inside of her. Her gradual acceptance of the fact that Jolinar was different. Incredible loss and grief as Jolinar died to save her.

Terror, this feeling Liam recognised. A father ill and dying, was there anything that could scare a child more?

Watching the Colonel being made a host at the order of Hathor...

Learning that her father was being held captive by a Goa'uld feared by his own kind. One that had assumed the persona of the devil. Learning that the only way to save your father was to voluntarily visit Hell.

Once again, Liam made Samantha re-live the good memories. Daniel alive, Earth saved, her father cured. One of her happiest memories was actually of her father in a hospital bed - strange as that was. The reason being, it was the day that she and General Hammond had told her father her 'real' job. His astonishment and wonder; her relief at finally being free to tell him the truth.

"Thank you, Liam," said Sam as she pulled herself back into the present and away from the memories.

He gave her a shy smile. Sam looked at Liam more closely and her eyes filled with concern. Lines of pain and exhaustion were becoming clearly defined around his eyes and mouth. She opened her mouth to say something but the pleading expression in his eyes stopped her.

Liam turned to Daniel. From the memories of the others, this was not going to be easy.

Mom, Dad! Absolute horror as the accident unfolded in front of his eyes.

A lecture hall full of colleagues with disapproving faces. Laughing at him, decrying his work as nonsense.

The Gate chamber on Abydos full of the injured and dead. Sha're and Skarra missing. Sha're and Skarra - hosts! Cruel eyes - uncaring - evil. No! Surely something of the host survived. He'd get them back.

Nem's planet: the others think I'm dead? No-one to attempt a rescue. Alone. Why won't he listen to me? Take the memory! Pain!! She's dead. I'm so sorry...

Jack and Sam are not dead! I won't let them be! They're out there somewhere and I will find them.

SGA - this is wrong. General O'Neill? Come on Jack, it's me. You're best friend. Smile and tell me this is a joke. This isn't an alternative reality and the Earth really isn't being overrun.

Senator Kinsey is an ass! Even if he doesn't believe me, why don't the others? Their trust in my wild ideas is one of the things that keep me going - don't they know that? This isn't a wild idea though; this is real.

God, that was hard! I thought Jack wasn't going to leave for a minute. They have to go, there's work to be done. I'm sorry, Jack, I know you think that you've left me to die. Maybe you have, I do have an idea. I might make it out. Knowing you you'll blame yourself for not thinking of this yourself. You're a little busy right now, though. Saving the world and all that. This time, the geek will have to save himself. There's a sarcophagus on this ship. All I have to do is reach it...

No! Not Sam! I will not lose someone else to these 'things'!

Sha're - pregnant. No, it's not her fault. The hosts have no control. Ammounet and Apohis, they are to blame.

Sha're - dead! At least she's free. Why does my heart feel like it's shattering into a thousand pieces?

What do you mean it's seventy years in the future and that everyone I know is dead? No! I don't believe you.

Don't! God, no! Hathor, don't you dare! You cannot put one of those things inside Jack!

Liam, unaware of the fact that he had tears streaming down his cheeks, slowly began the task of getting Daniel Jackson back. His grief, while never completely forgotten had begun to ease. The friends and 'family' of the members of the SGC had seen to that. He was strengthened by the trust, acceptance and belief that the personnel had in him.

They respected him and his knowledge; they trusted him with their lives. Then, there was SG-1. In Sam he had found a kindred spirit. Her interests may be in the scientific disciplines but he had found someone that could keep up with his crazy leaps of logic, someone who understood that sometimes it was necessary to spend twenty hours straight in a lab to get something done.

Teal'c - a pillar of strength to rely on. Willing to shoulder the blame for Sha're and Skarra. It wasn't his fault; he had not known any alternatives to Apophis existed. Now, Daniel couldn't imagine a life without Teal'c's steadying presence.

Then there was Jack. Complete polar opposites - Daniel was the living personification of an absent-minded scholar. A geek, for lack of a better term. Why then, had they instinctively known that they could rely on each other? Even as far back as the first mission to Abydos, Jack - the person who had cut himself off from everyone that cared about him - opened up and talked to Daniel.

Best friends. Daniel had never had a best friend. As a child, his intelligence had always set him apart as different. University had been the same; he'd had no real friends. The only people that had hung out with him had done so because they wanted answers or help with assignments.

All that had changed on the day that he had accepted Catherine's job offer. He met Jack and the rest was history. A little more than a year later Jack agreed to let him become part of SG-1 and he became part of something special. He became part of a team. The others would give their lives to save him and he'd do the same for them. Above all else, Jack was there for him. Whether it was as a shoulder to cry on or as someone to yell at him and make sure he ate when he got too engrossed in his work - Jack was there.

Daniel opened his eyes and focused a concerned gaze on Liam. It was obvious that the other man was on the verge of collapse. He saw Liam's anxious eyes gazing at Joshua and he understood Liam's silent plea. 'Not yet. Don't say anything yet. Joshua first.' Daniel's eyes must have shown his answer because Liam gave him a relieved smile and moved over to his friend. However, his stifled moan of pain as he walked to Joshua did little to reassure SG-1.

Joshua's thoughts were chaotic. They jumped about from unhappy childhood memory to unhappy childhood memory. Liam sighed. How could Jonathan have been so stupid? Liam knew damn well that he had loved his son but as a child, Joshua had never been sure of that.

His mother's death had hit him hard. This Liam understood as he still missed his own mother, Beckett.

Then the Taelons came. He felt Joshua's pride that his father had been the one to openly challenge them, his hurt that his father had never tried to contact him - not even after the Rho'ha trial when his son's sympathies had become apparent to all.

Working on his father's Presidential campaign had been one of the best times of his life. The closeness they'd shared. Finally working together towards a shared goal - as a team.

The memories of the reconciliation were good but became distorted as the effects of the mind control of the Taelons became apparent. His cruel words to his father in the empty campaign HQ were heart-rending. Then came One Taelon Avenue.

Liam witnessed the building's growing control over its workers. Joshua's actions against his father as viewed through Joshua's eyes. He felt the building warp Joshua's long held bitter feelings about his father's past actions and override the reconciliation that they had slowly been building. Then Liam witnessed the moment when the control was broken. The double shock for Joshua of watching his father push him out of danger before then plummeting to the ground himself. The horrified few seconds that it had taken for Joshua to reach his father's side only to have him die in his arms.

The disbelief when he realised that Liam forgave him, Liam accepted him. The terror when he realised that Liam didn't see the Jaffa aiming at him. The disbelief when he realised that he had just killed someone.

Liam fought hard to get past the barriers of guilt that Joshua had shrouded himself in. He reminded Joshua of the few happy memories of his childhood and showed Joshua his own memory of Jonathan's plea to Renee and Liam to help him get his son back. The smiling one in the photo, not the ruthless one currently working in One Taelon Avenue.

Liam showed Joshua how much his father had loved him. He also made Joshua realise that it wasn't out of some misplaced sense of loyalty to his father that Liam had decided that he wanted Joshua for a friend. It was because he recognised in Joshua things he admired. Intelligence. Determination. Courage. That, like him, Joshua had suffered the grief of having a parent die in his arms, unable to prevent it. In essence, Liam showed Joshua that whatever actions he had committed in the past were not his fault and that he trusted him.

Finally, Liam sent out one final thought. His thanks to his friend for saving his life and his sorrow that Joshua had been forced to take a life. That feeling, he wouldn't wish on anyone, especially not a friend.

Joshua came back to the moment just in time. Pushed past all endurance, Liam collapsed. Joshua caught him in his arms, staggering.

Daniel appeared at his side, he'd been waiting for this. Between them, they manoeuvred Liam to the side of the chamber. Joshua took up position on the floor of the chamber, his back to the wall. Liam lay beside him, head pillowed by Daniel's combat jacket. Daniel sat at his other side, the concerned gazes of the rest of SG-1 on the trio.

Liam was as pale as a wraith. His rest was not a quiet one; he fidgeted and muttered under his breath. Daniel and Joshua watched and worried. Joshua absently soothed Liam by brushing a gentle hand through his hair. That stopped abruptly when Jack recounted Liam's explanation of how he was bringing everyone out of the trances.

"He's what?! Oh, no wonder."

Seeing the blank gazes of SG-1 - well, everyone except Daniel - Joshua tried to explain what Liam was doing based on the explanation that Augur had given him on the various aspects of Liam's heritage. He wasn't doing too good a job, but thankfully Daniel caught on quickly. Then again, the history and legend behind the chamber was in his area of expertise.

Daniel said, "Jack, you said that he says that he is re-directing us to happy memories. He's doing more than that. He is re-living the memories with us. He's feeling the pain and torment with us. It's the only way that he's able to direct us away from those memories to the happier ones and as a result, back into our bodies."

The rest of SG-1 looked grim. They'd had a feeling it was something like that. Jack's eyes took on a familiar glint of worry, a worry usually reserved for one of his team when they were injured. As a group, he and his people had some truly bad memories; Liam had obviously just lived them all at once, as well as Joshua's.

Joshua, relieved of the burden of explaining what was going on, looked around the chamber with a resigned expression in his eyes. This was far from over. They still had to revive the Tok'ra and the other SGC personnel and Liam was the only one that could do it. The fact that it would weaken him further would be deemed irrelevant. The stubborn heroic side of Liam's nature that Joshua secretly admired would not allow him to act in any other manner. Liam wouldn't set foot outside this chamber until the others were back amongst them. Joshua sighed and met the gazes of SG-1. They knew it too.

They were right. Liam regained consciousness and listened to all the lectures as the others gently rebuked him for pushing himself so hard. For not telling them how much pain he was enduring. Surely there had to be another way to revive the others.

He let them debate the matter while he ate some MREs and drank some water under the stern gaze of a truly concerned Joshua Doors. As soon as he was finished, he stopped the debate by heading over to Jacob Carter and starting again. The others sighed, watched and worried.

The best they had been able to do was make sure that Liam rested after every 'session'. He was not allowed to help more than two people at any one time.

It took longer and they'd had to fight off another small Jaffa patrol. That was one of the most intense fights that SG-1 had ever participated in. Joshua stood guard over Liam but that left SG-1 the task of stopping the Jaffa patrol without getting the rest of the incapacitated rescue team injured in the crossfire.

Liam - oblivious to all this - brought everyone out of their trances and then he collapsed again.

SG-1 would have liked to stay where they were and let him rest, but they didn't have that luxury. The Jaffa had to know there were hostile forces in the enemy stronghold. They had to get moving.

Jack opened his mouth to give the order to move out. Teal'c anticipated his next order and gently picked up the unconscious form of Liam Kincaid; his posture clearly indicating that he would carry his burden as long as was required.

Jacob Carter/Selmac moved up to walk with O'Neill. "Colonel, we must speak with you.

"Your young companion should never have been able to defeat the forces being manipulated in that chamber. He should have been affected the same way. What he did has long been considered impossible.

"Who are these two people that you have brought with you? Where do they come from?"

Jack sighed and replied, "It is not my story to tell, Selmac. My team and I trust them with our lives. You're just going to have to trust that."

About twenty minutes later, Liam began to come round. Luckily, the teams had moved into a series of corridors and antechambers that seemed to criss-cross the complex. They moved into one of the chambers, Ferretti's team guarding the entrance and monitoring the corridor with aid from some of the Tok'ra personnel.

Teal'c gently lowered a blushing Liam Kincaid to the floor. Liam was absolutely mortified - having to be carried like a baby! God, what would Jack and the others think of him? Hesitantly, reluctantly, he looked up. Once again, he started blushing - the looks of respect and admiration were something he hadn't been expecting; as far as he was concerned he had done nothing to earn them. Doing what was necessary wasn't especially heroic - it was simply what needed to be done.

O'Neill took the opportunity provided to lay out a strategy on how to proceed now that they were starting to get the lay of the land. Liam focused his attention on what the Colonel was saying. "As I see it, we have two prime objectives. We need to locate and rescue the hostages and, just as importantly, we need to secure the Stargate - without that then this mission is for nothing and we'll never leave this godforsaken place.

"The Goa'uld Hades, we deal with if we have to. The hostages are more important."

Quietly, Liam put in his two cents worth and once again found himself the subject of the intensely curious gazes of the Tok'ra, Selmac in particular. "Uh, Jack, the Gate is one level up and in the north-west sector of the complex."

Selmac spoke. "How can you possibly know that?"

Liam shrugged and said, "I can feel it."

Jacob Carter looked at O'Neill, fully expectant that the pragmatic leader of SG-1 would dismiss this nonsense for what it was. Instead, much to his surprise, O'Neill turned to Major Ferretti and said, "Ferretti, take your team and half of the Tok'ra with you, find the way up to the next level. Locate the Gate and assess the level of resistance that we are likely to face. If you can take and secure the Gate safely then do it. If not, keep out of sight and wait for support.

"Do not get creative on me. Is that clear?"

Ferretti grinned and said, "Yes sir, Colonel." He motioned to his team and several of the Tok'ra to follow him and they set off on the search for the Gate.

O'Neill allowed another fifteen minutes of rest before they set off again to search for the hostages.

Teal'c and one of the Tok'ra took point, Jacob and his daughter brought up the rear.

Liam, now refreshed, found the concerned gazes of Jack, Daniel and Joshua a little irritating; they nodded at his reassurances that he was fine, but he had the resigned feeling that they didn't believe him. Sighing, he moved up to the front with Teal'c and his companion, only for Teal'c to gaze at him in concern too. He couldn't win!

Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks. The corridor branched off in three different directions. Without hesitation Liam pointed to his right and said, "That way."

Teal'c glanced back at O'Neill. O'Neill nodded and they took the corridor to the right. Almost immediately, the encountered two Jaffa. Reacting even quicker that Teal'c, Liam brought up his gun and fired. The Jaffa guards were dead before they hit the floor.

Liam increased his pace and blasted open a sealed door. On the other side of the door, the corridor they found was dimly lit and seemed to be empty. Liam ignored three doors before stopping outside one, saying, "There's someone in there."

Quickly blasting the lock, one of the Tok'ra opened the door and stepped carefully inside and frowned. It was empty. She looked at Liam and said, "You are mistaken. There is no one here."

Liam pushed past the confused woman and addressed one of the empty corners of the room, saying, "It's all right. We were sent to retrieve you and your companions. There are SGC and Tok'ra personnel in the complex. Please, show yourself."

Before the stunned gazes of the Tok'ra and the slowly dawning expressions of understanding being shown by SG-1, a small form appeared as if by magic. The slender woman spotted Daniel standing in the doorway. She inclined her head in a regal manner, with a soft smile, she said, "Hello, Daniel."

Smiling his relief that she was unharmed, Daniel replied, saying, "Hello, Lya."

Liam offered his arm to Lya. Expression curious, she took his arm. As soon as she touched him, she gasped. Instinctively recognising Liam for what he was, she bowed her head in respect and murmured, "It is an honour to meet you."

Unsure what she meant by that, Liam kept silent. He could have sworn he heard O'Neill muttering something that sounded like, "God, I love those people."

The search continued. There were two more hostages to find.

Ferretti eyed his 'merry little band' and thought wistfully of his old friend Kawalsky. This entire gig was quickly becoming reminiscent of the mess on Abydos, in that the mission was a last ditch effort against a seemingly overwhelming foe.

Irrational as it was, he wasn't worried. Why? Other than the fact that O'Neill and Jackson could seemingly accomplish miracles on a regular basis - especially now with Carter and Teal'c included in their dynamic - it was the fact that this mission was so crazy it had to work. Another factor to be considered was SG-1's new best friends - particularly Liam Kincaid; there was a story there, he was sure, and it promised to be a good one. SG-1 trusted them and that was good enough for him and the rest of the SGC personnel. SG-1 were legendary for falling into trouble at every opportunity, but they were also legendary for getting out of it too.

Calling his attention back to the task at hand, Ferretti gave a hand signal that sent two of his own team sweeping the latest corridor that they were traversing on their path to the location of the Stargate. The all clear was passed back, so the rest of them continued on. Finding a secured door, the Tok'ra used one of their nifty little high-tech gadgets and silently opened it. Carefully, quietly, they made their way inside and blended into the background as much as they could.

Doing a quick but thorough visual sweep of the chamber, Ferretti frowned. There were only four Jaffa guarding the Gate - why? This was too easy.

His eyes swept the chamber again and this time widened as he realised what was missing - he'd missed the obvious the first time because he'd expected it to be there. It wasn't. The reason the Gate only had four guards was now patently obvious. The red crystal dome at the centre of the DHD was missing - there was no power source! How were they supposed to make the Gate work?

Ferretti swore under his breath. Not good! Not good at all! He keyed his radio gear and hit the emergency frequency. Breaking radio silence was risky, but it was unlikely that Hades and his Jaffa would be monitoring frequencies so technologically 'primitive' - he hoped, at least!

The Colonel was less than pleased with him for breaking radio silence, but when Ferretti explained why, he accepted that it had been necessary. Grim as the situation was, Ferretti still had to stifle a grin at the Colonel's initial comment about his news. His exasperated, "What?! Oh, for crying out loud! What next?" was vintage Jack O'Neill. "Understood, Ferretti. We'll work on it. In the meantime, secure the Gate. One thing at a time."

"Yes, sir. Ferretti out."

Five minutes later, the four Jaffa were dead, the Gate was secure and a two man team - one SGC and one Tok'ra - were guarding the chamber entrance. Now all they had to do was wait on the rest of the rescue team doing their bit and securing the hostages.

Washington DC, Sandoval's Apartment

Agent Ronald Sandoval moved into his private office, carrying a steaming mug of coffee. He sat at his desk and began reviewing the communications that he had been sent during the course of the day. It was a cursory examination; his mind was on other things... Major Kincaid in particular. It was a feeling he couldn't shake and he'd had it for days. Ever since Kincaid had disappeared on his leave in the aftermath of the Brigade bombing incident.

The feeling that Kincaid was in the middle of something dangerous had been so niggling that he'd even approached Renee Palmer for information. Her dance round Kincaid's absence was obviously fabricated, but he'd let it slide - for now. He needed more information first before planning a course of action.

His attention was caught by a flag indicating a high priority message. His eyes widened - that was Kincaid's emergency cipher. For use in extreme situations only. He entered the code to decrypt the message, eyes intent.

Kincaid appeared, dressed all in black - dressed for combat. Sandoval's eyes grew concerned.

"Sandoval, this is a delayed message. It's set to arrive four days after I've sent it. By now, you've probably tried to reach me at least once and have figured out something is going on.

"Something is up, something big. Joshua and I - Joshua Doors, that is - have had to go away for a while. Renee has been asked to cover for us, but I know you better than to think that you're going to buy whatever plausible explanation she gives for our absence.

"I can't go into details, not even over secure communications. What I will say is that there has been an incident of more 'alternates' like Isabel appearing in our dimension. As you well remember, it is far too dangerous for them to stay. There's more to it than that, but there are far too many lives at stake for me not to help them.

"Joshua and I will be back as soon as we can, and - I know this is asking a lot - I'm asking you to let this go and please don't tell the Taelons. Especially Zo'or.

"I realise that you have no reason to do this for me but I hope you'll accept my word that this is the right thing to do. I know it's a great deal to ask you to take on faith. I'm prepared to make you a deal. You keep this a secret, cover for us if necessary, and I'll give you something you want.

"I'll give you the identity of your son.

"Yes, I know how you recovered from your 'illness'. I'll tell you who he is and give you corroborating proof. Doing this could be dangerous for him, but if it will buy your help in this situation, I'll do it. Potentially, it's one life against billions.

"Wish us luck. Kincaid out."

Quietly, lost in thought, mulling over the implications of Kincaid's message; Sandoval murmured, "Good luck."

Hades' Stronghold

Liam had again taken point with Teal'c and the Tok'ra agent - anything to get away from the curious gazes being directed at him! The Tok'ra wanted to know how he knew the things he knew and how he'd freed them from the Asphodel chamber. The remainder of SG-1 were curious about why Lya had said what she had - about it being an honour to meet him.

To be honest, he was curious about that one himself.

Joshua moved forward to talk to him and Liam dropped back a few steps and matched strides with the young billionaire. Talking with Joshua calmed him somewhat... even though he too was only a recent initiate into the secrets that made up his friend's heritage, he at least treated Liam as a normal person.

No, that wasn't fair; SG-1 did too - it was just that his abilities were manifesting themselves so fast now that he was being overly sensitive.

Daniel watched Lya as she gazed at Liam, gaze even more mysterious than normal. Plucking up his nerve, he said, "Lya, what did you mean when you talked to Liam in your cell?"

For a long moment he thought she wasn't going to answer, but then she sighed softly. Gazing at the Tok'ra personnel around them, she lowered her gentle voice to a soft whisper. Daniel's eyes widened at what she said. He saw Jack's face radiating his, 'Well, what's going on?' expression and moved to match pace with his friend. Answering Jack's unspoken question, Daniel murmured, "She said that she had never thought to be the one to meet the legend come to life. The Avatar. The last child of the Ancients."

"Oh, this is beginning to give me a headache," moaned Jack.

Just then, Teal'c signalled a stop. They had arrived at another branching of corridors. Teal'c gazed at Liam. The young hybrid said one word, "Left."

They came across another sealed chamber and once again, the Tok'ra 'dealt' with the door. Inside, the scene was not a pleasant one. Garshaw was being tortured. The Tok'ra in the group looked on in horror and quickly aimed their weapons, but a fuming SG-1 had already begun to act. The entire team had become quite fond of Garshaw during their last brief encounter, and they didn't like anybody hurting their friends - as the Jaffa soon discovered, to their detriment.

Jacob Carter/Selmac and two other Tok'ra rushed to free her from her restraints and Jacob brought out a healing device and slipped it over his hand. They had to heal her quickly, and this time her symbiote was in no condition to help.

Joshua and Liam watched, fascinated at the sight of the healing taking place. Jacob and Garshaw's glowing eyes reminded them that not all their allies were human. Jacob stopped with a gasp, clearly drained of energy. Carter moved to her father's side, saying, "Dad, let me."

Joshua gasped as he saw her work the device as easily as her father. Daniel answered the unspoken question in his eyes and gave a brief history of Samantha Carter's encounter with the Tok'ra called Jolinar. Once recovered, Garshaw was able to direct the team to the main chamber where Hades was holding Sif, the Asgard hostage.

As they tentatively approached the entrance, the doors swung open from the inside. Jack winced. Not good. They were obviously expected.

They entered the chamber and came face to face with their enemy. Well, not quite. He had about twenty Jaffa blocking the way to his throne. An energy field shimmered to his left; the small and delicate Asgard body trapped within it had to be Sif.

O'Neill heard a muffled gasp to his left and quickly cast a concerned gaze at Liam and Joshua. Liam was holding Joshua in place; his steady arms around him seemed to be the only thing preventing the other man from collapsing to his knees in shock. Joshua was pale and literally shaking, and Liam looked absolutely horrified. Liam saw Jack's concerned gaze but for the moment, he was too shocked to speak. Hades had a familiar face... Hades was Jonathan Doors.

Pulling himself together, Liam - still holding on to Joshua - turned to Jacob Carter with fury in his eyes and said, "Why the hell didn't you warn us?!"

Glowing eyes indicated that it was Selmac that was speaking. "We had no way to know for sure..."

"You obviously had suspicions, though," hissed Liam, keeping a wary eye on the Jaffa soldiers in front of them. They seemed to be content with fanning out and expanding their defensive perimeter around Hades. Hades himself seemed to be uninterested for the moment - a ploy, obviously - but it allowed him time to vent his anger at the Tok'ra so he was going to take advantage of his chance.

The Tok'ra members in the room shifted restlessly where they stood, clearly uncomfortable; SG-1 looked on, bewildered.

In a sarcastic tone that his team recognised as anger contained but ready to explode, Jack O'Neill said, "I do hate to interrupt, but we are about to face off against this snake-head. What haven't we been told this time?"

Liam answered for his friend. "Your Goa'uld, Hades, is the dimensional alternate of Joshua's father."

"What?!" exclaimed O'Neill.

Something else had occurred to a frowning Daniel Jackson. With a look of dawning horror, he said, "Then wouldn't that make this guy Aldwin's father?"

Garshaw answered him. "Yes, Dr. Jackson, you are quite correct. Aldwin and Janoth - his father - lived on a remote outpost long forgotten by the System Lords. The Tok'ra used it as a site for one of our emergency bases, and it is to our eternal shame what happened to the people of that world.

"One of our people was captured by the System Lords and revealed the location of the world. Twenty Jaffa strike teams and Hades' then-host led the assault on our forces on the planet. We did our best to save as many of the nearest settlement's population as we could, but casualties were high. Hundreds were taken as slaves.

"Aldwin and Janoth led what resistance their people offered. Aldwin fought and seriously injured Hades, suffering crippling injuries himself. Hades' host was dying and he had no time to reach a sarcophagus. In a final act of viciousness, he ordered that Janoth be brought before him.

"A dying Aldwin watched - unable to do anything to prevent it - as Janoth was taken as Hades' new host. As soon as the symbiote had assumed control, the monster with his father's face turned his back on his dying son and ordered the withdrawal of all Goa'uld forces from the planet.

"Barely in time, our people reached Aldwin. They stabilised his injuries enough so that he could be transferred to a safe world and he was offered the opportunity to become a host. At first he refused - he wanted no part of what had happened to his father - but in the end, he changed his mind. He viewed it as his opportunity to fight back against those that had perpetrated such a horror against his world.

"He has become one of our best, but it is a cold and hard master that drives him to action. He will never rest until the System Lords are no more - even if that means he has to kill his own father..."

Garshaw's voice trailed off as her horrified audience looked at her. In an aside to Daniel, Jack murmured, "If we live through this, remind me that I owe Aldwin an apology for the way we've treated him in the past."

Daniel nodded his acknowledgement. Aldwin's story was as horrifying as his own and there were probably countless other similar tales spread throughout the galaxy. The System Lords had to be brought down and held accountable; the balance of justice in the galaxy demanded it.

Though it seemed like this tale had taken hours, it had in fact taken mere moments to recount. Liam loosed his grip on Joshua, though he did stick close to his friend. The Tok'ra and SGC personnel fanned out in front of the Jaffa that stood guarding their God. Daniel glanced over at the man most likely to be affected by the story and said, "Are you okay, Joshua?"

Joshua's gaze was riveted to the face of his father's doppelganger. With one softly spoken phrase, he caused both Daniel and Liam to look at him in concern. He said, "How could he turn his back on his own son?"

For a few long moments there was... nothing. Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. All it would take would be one spark and hell would be unleashed.

A booming voice echoed throughout the chamber and both Joshua and Liam flinched. It was Jonathan's voice... never had they heard such an evil tone to it, though. "Who dares to challenge me?!"

Jack glanced at the Tok'ra and the hostages. Nobody seemed to want to say anything. He sighed. Same as usual - let the Tau'ri handle the fun part. He stepped forward, arms crossed, cradling a zat gun in one hand, saying, "I guess that would be me - us... Colonel Jack O'Neill. Commander of SG-1. My team and I - along with our friends - were made aware of the fact that you had taken some very good friends of ours hostage. We came to take them back. We've got two of them; if you'd just give us number three; we'll be on our way."

Despite the inappropriateness of the situation, Liam had to fight a grin as he saw Carter roll her eyes as a 'here we go again' expression crossed her face. Daniel sighed and murmured, "Oh, real subtle, Jack. Why don't you just go kick him on the shin while you're at it!"

Hades gave them a smile filled with malice. "Ah yes. The Tau'ri and their exploration teams. Chronos mentioned you the last time we met. One team in particular, the team with the Sholvah member." Hades' glance flitted briefly to Teal'c, and then back to O'Neill. "He said you were the most dangerous of your kind and that your team should be dealt with most severely.

"If you have already managed to retrieve two of my three new pets, then obviously he was correct in his assessment." Hades' gaze then finally acknowledged the human that had been staring at him since the stand-off had started. Eyes glowing, face echoing profound contempt, he said, "I recognise that one. This host's son, I do believe."

He turned to his Jaffa and said, "Kill them all except for him. I think I'll make a new pet out of him; better yet, I'll make him a host. Fitting punishment for the injuries he inflicted on me in the past.


The battle that followed was brutal. Joshua and Daniel hustled Lya out of the line of fire, protecting her as best they could. The Tok'ra fought with grim determination, but many suffered severe injuries. Liam split his focus between helping the SGC forces that were doing most damage to the Jaffa and moping up any strays that got too close to Joshua and Daniel.

Spying a Jaffa that was getting too close for comfort to where Daniel and Joshua were currently battling two opponents of their own, Liam sent off a reflex snapshot to distract him before sweeping the Jaffa's legs out from under him with a classic karate move. Face grim, he quickly regained his feet and fired a shot that disposed of his opponent once and for all.

Jack spared himself a second to nod his head in acknowledgement at Liam for a job well done. Liam's efforts allowed himself and the rest of SG-1 the peace of mind they needed to press the assault forward, sure in the knowledge that he was there to protect the non-soldiers of the rescue team.

Hades' smug expression slowly faded from his face as he witnessed the systematic destruction of his elite guard. He sat on his throne and watched as the Jaffa fell one by one. The last to fall landed at the foot of his throne, face half gone as the result of Garshaw's blast. Hades' fists clenched on the arms of his throne as he realised that he was alone.

SG-1, the Tok'ra leaders, Joshua and Liam moved to stand in front of the fuming System Lord. Lya, aided by the rest of the SGC personnel and the other uninjured members of the Tok'ra, took this opportunity to tend to the wounded as best as she was able.

Jack stood and stared at the defeated but still dangerous Goa'uld in front of them. In a conversational tone, he said, "I'd appreciate you dropping the force-field thingy that you've got Sif in."

"Never!" stated Hades.

"Oh, come on! You've lost. Accept it like a man... snake... whatever! Turn off the damn field!"

Hades raised his gauntleted hand and fired a defiant blast at O'Neill. Carter instantly raised her zat gun and fired at the Goa'uld, crying, "Colonel, look out!" as she did so. The zat blast shimmered against Hades' personal shield, but did not penetrate it. She turned her head, expecting to see a critically injured Colonel O'Neill on the floor of the chamber. She didn't.

There was a sort of unbelieving silence in the air. Everybody - and that included Hades - looked on in complete disbelief at the sight of a very much alive Jack O'Neill and the person that had saved him. Face grim and eyes determined, Liam Kincaid stood in front of O'Neill. His raised arm and the hand that had caught the energy blast were slowly lowered to his side.

"What are you?" demanded Hades.

"Angry," replied Liam. He walked forward, ignoring the warnings of the Tok'ra to stop. He stepped right up to stand face to face with Hades. The Goa'uld - still astonished by the sight he had witnessed - made no move to stop him. Liam calmly extended his right hand and pushed through the energy shield. It flared brightly, and then seemed to buckle.

Hades flinched as he felt Liam's hand touch his arm. Liam's hand slipped down the System Lord's arm and he calmly removed the gauntlet from the hand that wore it. Hades seemed to crumple in on himself as all the fight went out of him.

Liam turned to Jacob Carter and said, "You can take him back for questioning. Let Aldwin deal with his demons." Hastily, two of the Tok'ra stepped forward to restrain the Goa'uld. O'Neill and the others breathed a sigh of relief. It was over.

Hades' eyes flared for just a moment and he struck out at one of the Tok'ra that had moved to place him in restraints. He grabbed at the zat gun that they carried and aimed it at Liam. A shouted warning alerted Liam and he fell into a headlong roll, narrowly missing the blast. Another sound had him spinning back to his feet as fast as he was able. The sound of an energy blaster being fired. One from his world.

He looked to see Joshua lower his trembling arm to the ground and the near-dead form of Hades sprawled against his throne, a smoking hole in his chest. The Tok'ra quickly resumed their task of placing him in restraints. The wound was serious, but given enough time, the Goa'uld symbiote could heal it. Best to take no chances.

Lya took this opportunity to step forward from the rear of the chamber and take action. She stepped round the crumpled form of Hades with simple grace and moved to his throne. She studied it for a second and placed one hand on the left arm. Whatever she did, lowered the forcefield surrounding Sif. The small form of the Asgard hostage crumpled forward at the release of the field that had been her prison. Lya quickly moved to assist her fellow hostage.

She looked up into the concerned eyes of O'Neill and gave a reassuring smile. In a soft voice, Lya said, "Sif will be fine. I would, however, strongly recommend that we leave this world as soon as possible."

O'Neill smiled his relief, but that smile quickly died as he swept an assessing gaze around the chamber. A couple of his SGC personnel had some wounds that needed attention; his team seemed to have come through without a scratch, though - for once. The Tok'ra had several people that obviously needed treatment soon. Then there was Liam and Joshua. Joshua Doors had a look of self-loathing on his face. Circumstances aside, he had just shot someone that looked exactly like his father. Liam was talking quietly to his friend and whatever he was saying seemed to be getting through.

"That's the second time," murmured Joshua.

"Second time for what?" asked Liam in confusion.

"Two times now. Two times I've held a gun on my father. I shot him, Liam!"

Voice soothing, memory going back to the stand-off in One Taelon Avenue, Liam did his best to turn the tide of misplaced guilt that he sensed building up within Joshua. This was not the same thing! "Don't even go there, Joshua. Remember, he's not your father... he's not really Aldwin's father any more, either. The Goa'uld don't allow their hosts any freedom, you know that.

"You fired on a monster that has caused untold suffering to God knows how many and in doing so, you saved my life. I know the image will haunt you - I know that. The sight of your father - or an alternate of your father - dying in front of you is something nobody should have to see. When we make it back home, remind me to tell you about a man called Jason.

"What I'm trying to say - and not very successfully, I know - is that feeling bad is all right, but please, please, don't feel guilty. You did the right thing. Under the circumstances, you did the only right thing."

As he spoke, Liam had placed a comforting hand on Joshua's shoulder, gazing in concern at his friend's bowed head. Joshua looked up at him with a wan smile and nodded. "I know that, Liam. My heart is going to take a little longer to accept that fact, though. You might have to remind me a few times..."

Liam shrugged. "I'm fine with that. I warn you, I may lapse into being extremely sentimental in an effort to get through to you." Joshua rolled his eyes. Liam grinned slightly; he'd figured that'd get a reaction.

Jack, watching anxiously, breathed a sigh of relief as Joshua smiled at whatever it was that Liam had just said. He watched as the young billionaire took a deep breath and stepped away from his friend. Keeping his gaze firmly averted from the Tok'ra and their prisoner, Joshua moved back to assist with the injured.

O'Neill met Daniel's eyes and nodded at the unspoken statement in them. Time to get out of here.

Jack gazed at Jacob Carter and Garshaw. "Are we done?" he asked. At their nod, he said, "Well then, I've had enough of this place, thank you very much. Let's get out of here." Samantha Carter stepped forward, a worried look in her eyes. Jack sighed inwardly. That look was never good. "What is it, Carter?"

"Uh, sir. Haven't you forgotten something?" O'Neill looked at her in confusion for a moment before he suddenly realised what she was referring to. In unison, they said, "The DHD has no power source!"

Ferretti and the others were very happy to see the rest of the rescue team. As per Ferretti's expectations, the Goa'uld had been dealt with and the hostages had been recovered. SG-1 had done it again. Well, apart from the little matter of the DHD...

The discussion about what to do about the DHD problem quickly grew very loud and very vocal. The Tok'ra said that the planet was in disputed space. Even if they called for a rescue, none would be forthcoming. Lya said that there was nothing she could do, and a weakened Sif insisted that this sector of the galaxy was - by treaty - off-limits to the Asgard.

"So now what are we supposed to do?" demanded an irate Jack O'Neill. "This place is huge and heaven knows how many booby traps there are in it. Do you really mean that we have no other option than to tear this place apart and look for wherever Hades - the currently comatose God of the Underworld - has stashed the power source of the DHD?!"

Both Sif and Lya stared at Liam, and Lya said, "Unless Liam does something."

"What?" exclaimed O'Neill.

"He has the ability," she said.

This announcement was met with heated debate by the Tok'ra, and even Sam got in on the act. Yes, Liam had unusual abilities; but to make a Gate work without a power source?!

The rest of the SGC personnel stood silently. SG-1 would figure something out. They always did. Ferretti never took his glance off the Colonel and Daniel. Along with Joshua Doors, they had remained silent, their gazes fixed on Kincaid. Yup. There was definitely a story there.

In the furore of the debate, the softly spoken words of Liam Kincaid were almost drowned out. Almost. "What are the symbols for the Tok'ra base that you want to be transported to, Jacob?"

Confused, Jacob listed the symbols. Liam nodded. He then said, "Everybody out of the chamber except for Joshua and SG-1."

Jacob Carter opened his mouth to protest, but O'Neill spoke first. "Ferretti, take everyone outside and wait for us. Post guards at either end of the corridor in case we missed any stragglers out there."

"Yes, sir," said Ferretti. He motioned the rest of the people in the chamber to get moving.

Once the chamber had cleared, an expectant silence fell. What was Liam going to do?

Something that none of them expected. SG-1 had seen some very unique ways to open Stargates. The Nox method was still their personal favourite. This was something else again.

Liam walked to the Gate and extended his splayed hand into the empty centre of the Gate. Where the words came from he didn't know. The symbols on the Gate were constellations - but they also had sounds. Calling on knowledge that he didn't know he had, he spoke the sounds for the symbols. Each time he spoke, the Gate whirled round of its own accord and the chevrons locked. After the sixth symbol had locked, he moved to the side of the Gate and out of the path of the wormhole. Hand touching the outer ring of the Gate, he spoke the seventh symbol. The Gate spun, the final chevron locked and the wormhole shimmered into life.

Silently, Liam walked back and stood beside Joshua, wrapping his arms around himself, eyes downcast. Teal'c moved to call the others back into the chamber. The Tok'ra gaped in astonishment at the sight of the shimmering Gate. Sif and Lya smiled mysteriously, and the SGC personnel grinned. SG-1 always found a way; their new friends were obviously cut from the same cloth.

Garshaw ordered the Tok'ra through the Gate. She inclined her head to the SGC personnel and their friends and offered her thanks for their aid. Eventually, the only Tok'ra left to go through the Gate was Selmac. Selmac clearly wanted to ask questions of Liam, Sif and Lya, but none of them looked like they were willing to answer any. SG-1 remained silent; as O'Neill had said before, it was not their secret to tell. Lya and Sif stated that they were staying with the Tau'ri for the time being. Accepting the dismissal for what it was, Selmac walked unhappily through the Gate, curiosity unsatisfied.

Once the Tok'ra had gone, Liam felt free to ask the question that had been burning in his mind since he had talked to Lya in her cell. "What did you mean when you said it was an honour to meet me?!"

Lya and Sif exchanged a glance. Sif spoke. "It might be better if we spoke alone."

Liam grimaced in irritation. "I trust the SGC personnel and I trust Joshua with my life. What did she mean?"

"You are the Avatar, Liam Kincaid. You are a legend brought to life. You are the last child of the Ancients and there is much you need to see..."

The words seeming to reverberate in his mind, Liam remained still - staring at the two slight figures addressing him. They recognised him. They wanted to show him some things. He might finally get some answers. The question was, was he ready to deal with what those answers might be?

He could feel the assessing gaze of every person in the room. Well, after all, the announcement from the representatives of the two ancient and powerful races had been a little dramatic.

Liam sent a searching gaze round his friends, SG-1 and Joshua. Nobody spoke, but their quiet support was evident in their eyes. They'd back whatever he decided to do.

The only problem was, how long was this new little jaunt going to take? He and Joshua had been gone for about four or five days now - he was beginning to lose track. Renee would do her best to cover for them, and, by now, Sandoval would have received his message. He was fairly confident that his father would be intrigued enough to cover for him if it became necessary. As for exactly what that aid would end up costing - well, that still remained to be seen.

There wasn't really a question of him saying, 'No, thank you'. The chance to finally get some answers was one of the reasons he'd agreed to step through the Stargate with SG-1 in the first place. With a sigh, Liam said, "Where do we need to go?"

Lya asked for something to write with. Daniel Jackson searched frantically through the pockets of his combat trousers and produced a dog-eared notebook and a pencil. She gave him a gentle smile of thanks and quickly sketched out a series of symbols on the paper. She handed it to Liam, saying, "This is the first place that we need to visit."

Lya then turned to SG-1 and addressed their CO. "O'Neill, it will not be possible for all of your comrades to accompany us to all of the places that we shall be visiting. Your team has had the most dealings with the Asgard and the Nox; your presence is permissible - but I must request that your comrades return to your homeworld. This is not for their eyes."

O'Neill frowned, but nodded his reluctant agreement. He turned to Ferretti with an apologetic shrug. Ferretti gave a reassuring smile - he knew the score. It wouldn't do to upset such powerful friends as the Asgard and Nox. He did mutter something under his breath to his former CO, something that had Jack fighting to control a sudden outburst of laughter. "We'll go, Colonel. It's typical, though. You and the rest of SG-1 always get to do all the fun stuff."

Still fighting laughter, Jack retorted under his breath, "Oh yeah, Ferretti. Metal bugs the size of footballs, Goa'uld by the sackful, two trips to Hell. We have a regular party when we go through the Gate!"

Ferretti, lips twitching, looked down at his feet until he regained his composure. He listened to the instructions that O'Neill gave him as to what to tell the General about what SG-1 was up to now, and answered with a crisp, "Yes, sir."

Liam, meanwhile, handed the notebook back to Daniel and said, "All right, then. The SGC personnel first." He went to the Gate and this time the rest of the SGC personnel saw exactly how the Gate had been opened to facilitate the departure of the Tok'ra.

Ferretti locked his jaw firmly back into place. He motioned the rest of the SGC personnel to precede him and snapped a salute at SG-1, his eyes clearly indicating that he wanted details when they got back. Lots of details.

While this had been going on, Daniel had been staring absently at the notebook that Liam had handed back to him. His brain suddenly realised what he was looking at; and, his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Gate addresses of the planets SG-1 had previously visited kicking in, he muttered, "Oh, my..."

Jack turned instantly. Daniel's tone was one part disbelief, one part concern, one part excitement. He barked out, "What is it, Daniel?"

Daniel looked up at him and swallowed nervously. The Colonel had been the one most affected the last time that they went to this particular planet. Quietly, Daniel said, "Lya's given Liam the co-ordinates for P3R-272."

Sam's eyes widened. Was Daniel saying what she thought he was saying?

Jack's expression clearly indicated that he was still in the dark. "Jack, we've been there before. It's the planet that houses the archive of the Ancients' knowledge."

Joshua watched, bewildered, as the Colonel flinched slightly and Daniel placed a soothing hand on his arm. He turned to Teal'c, confused. The Jaffa had become his source of answers to the peculiar reactions of his team-mates to the most baffling variety of different but seemingly normal announcements.

The Jaffa's voice rumbled with his own memories of the incident. "On our previous visit to this planet, Colonel O'Neill inadvertently had the database archive containing all the knowledge of the Ancients downloaded into his brain. It caused him considerable difficulties and it was only through the assistance of the Asgard that he was returned to his normal condition."

Joshua's eyes narrowed at what he heard. And this is where Lya and Sif say they need to take Liam? Why did he suddenly have a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach?

Liam had missed this entire exchange; he was busy opening the Gate again. Lya and Sif had retreated to have a private discussion of their own, glancing frequently at Liam as they did so. Once the Gate was ready, they stepped towards the wormhole and towards Liam. They found that SG-1 and Joshua quickly intercepted them. There was nothing overtly threatening in their actions; they just moved to stand beside Liam. It was an instinctively protective gesture on their parts and, unbeknownst to them, was met with silent approval by the pair.

The group stepped through the Gate and entered a chamber - an all too familiar one, as far as Jack O'Neill was concerned. This was not one of his better memories of Gate travel. This place, this planet itself, was not too bad. The effects that it had had on him? That, he hadn't liked. True, the Asgard had returned him to normal, but for that day or two when he had had no way to communicate what had been going on, he had been more terrified than he had let on. If it hadn't been for Daniel's support, he didn't think he could have held on to the faith that he'd had that the rest of his team would help him fix things. Which was why, when Sif said that Liam had to look into the archive, he stepped forward instinctively to block Liam's way as he turned to say, "Uh uh. No way in hell is he looking into that thing!"

Lya said simply, "He must."

"No!" said Jack. "That thing scrambled my brain, and the only way I got myself back was because the Asgard were able to remove the information it dumped in it! I was told then that the physiology of the human brain was not ready to handle that kind of information."

"What you were told was correct, Colonel O'Neill," said Sif.

Jack's face took on an exasperated, annoyed expression; one his team recognised all to easily. He said, "How can you stand there and contradict yourself like that? You just said the human brain can't handle it, and yet you expect Liam to look into the archive! That makes absolutely no sense!"

Sif's voice was gentle as she said, "Liam is not completely human. It may not be as easy as one might expect, since he does have human heritage to deal with, but the archive was built for him. For the Avatar. He needs its knowledge if he is to accomplish his task."

Liam groaned silently to himself. There just had to be a task for me to do, didn't there? Why the hell is my life never simple?!

He stepped forward. "Colonel... Jack... It's all right. I'm willing to do this. I think I need to do this. It's the only way that I'm ever going to get answers to some things I need to know."

Jack's face showed that he was still not too enamoured with the entire idea; nor was Joshua, from the looks of things. Liam smiled at them both and said, "I appreciate the concern. I really do. This is the reason we came here, though. Let's just do it."

Jack resolutely turned his back as Liam looked into the archive. He couldn't stop him; that didn't mean he had to look. Daniel took his place at Jack's side and did his best to distract him; after all, he was Jack's friend, and he remembered all too well the emotions that had been shining out of Jack's eyes as his world had come crashing to a halt because of that particular artefact.

Sif and Lya stood to one side, yet again; expectation hovered over them like a veil. Sam split her attention between gazing at them in curiosity, and gazing at Jack and Daniel with concern. Teal'c was where she had expected. The Jaffa had adopted another lost soul to look after. Daniel still received the brunt of Teal'c's concern and always would, but another charge had been added to Teal'c's group of protectees: Joshua Doors.

The young billionaire stood with his gaze fixed on his friend, the clenched fists at his side clearly indicating that he was not happy with this latest development in the journey that they had made through the Stargate.

Liam Kincaid staggered back from the archive and fell to his knees with his hands clutching at his temples, crying out as his mind tried to cope with the massive amount of input rushing through it. Joshua beat the members of SG-1 to his side by the narrowest of margins. Gently, he tugged at Liam's shoulders and pulled him from the crumpled position that he had fallen to on the chamber floor. Joshua fell back as he took the brunt of Liam's weight and found himself sitting on the floor, Liam cradled against his chest, with SG-1 kneeling around them.

Liam opened his eyes for just a minute and the pain there made them all gasp. Jack almost growled under his breath; Liam was supposed to be the person that this thing had been designed for... why was it causing him more pain than he - a human - had suffered?! "Joshua. It hurts..." hissed Liam, before his eyes rolled back in his head and he lapsed into unconsciousness.

"Liam... Liam!"

"Do not concern--"

Joshua's head snapped up and he glared at Sif, interrupting her. "What the hell have you done to him?!"

Sif repeated herself. "Do not concern yourselves. This was expected."

"No it wasn't!" yelled Jack. "Nothing like this happened to me!"

"Because the archive was not meant for you, Colonel," said Lya. "Your mind barely scratched the surface of the information contained within it. It did what was needed to get you help. No more. Liam's mind, however, is capable of far more. This is no reflection on you or your species. It is his heritage. His birthright. His burden. He needs to see what this archive contains. It is the only hope for success that we have. There is much there that he will not want to see, and that it is what is causing him pain. It is regrettable, but unavoidable."

Placing a steadying hand on Liam's chest as he began to mumble under his breath - in God alone knew what language - Joshua hissed, "You should still have warned us. Warned him."

"What purpose would that have served?" asked Sif. "None of us has a choice about what happens now."

"What's that supposed to mean?" demanded Daniel Jackson. He rose up and began to pace about the chamber. His team watched him in concern; his subconscious mind had caught on to something and, as usual, the rest of his brain was racing to keep up. They watched as he stopped dead in his tracks and turned to stare directly at Lya. "What did you mean by 'his burden'? How can Liam have a burden in this dimension? He doesn't belong here!"

Lya and Sif exchanged a wordless glance. Eventually, sighing, Lya turned to them and said, "The Avatar has a task. His appearance has been awaited for millennia. The Ancients are gone, but not all of their technology went with them. The other races in the ancient alliance have guarded and protected the remnants of the Ancients' civilisation since their departure from the galaxies they inhabited. All except for one planet. No one goes there. No one. Even the Goa'uld and the Replicators leave it alone. No one that goes through its Stargate ever returns. No ship that has landed on it has ever left its surface."

"So, what's the problem?" asked Jack.

Lya sighed sorrowfully. "The problem, Colonel, is that for centuries the central power source for the structures left behind has been in the process of breaking down. We know this from long range scans down from high within the planetary orbit."

"So, it blows up. Problem solved," said Jack.

"No, Colonel. Nothing could be further from the truth. The power utilised by the Ancients on a routine basis is something that no other race, not my own or the Asgard, can even come close to comprehending. If it 'blows', as you have put it, so will the planet. It will have a serious impact on its closest neighbour, and there are approximately forty million sentient life forms on that planet. They are technologically primitive and have no knowledge of the danger they face.

"There are too many to be evacuated - even if there was enough time. We've always known that there was one branch of the Ancients unaccounted for. Our Ancients were not from this dimension. We've waited for one of the children of those Ancients to come - a child that was given the title of the Avatar. The Avatar is the only being with a chance of surviving the planet's defence system and reaching the power core. That core has to be repaired. There is no other way. Liam is the only hope for those forty million.

"First, though, he must learn the knowledge and history of our Ancients. It is the only way for him to unlock the secrets of his own heritage. It is his only chance to succeed in the task that lies ahead. We must hope his mind is strong enough to endure all that he is being shown."

All eyes turned to Liam's prone form. Sam was the first to see it and a startled gasp escaped her lips. Liam's left hand was draped carelessly on the floor, palm lifted towards the ceiling of the chamber. It was glowing...

"Of course, Zo'or. I understand. I'll inform Major Kincaid." Sandoval shut his global absently, but his mind was racing furiously. Whatever adventure Kincaid was up to was about to get shot down in flames.

Sighing, for there was not a lot else he could do, Ronald Sandoval decided to share the misery. He opened his global and placed a call of his own. The antique clock on its shelf in his apartment displayed a time of one a.m. "Ms. Palmer, I do apologise for calling you at this time of the night, but I'm afraid it's a matter of some urgency."

The gleam in the woman's eye clearly indicated that she didn't for a minute believe his half-hearted apology. Sandoval sighed silently to himself and fought a grin. Sometimes he was so misunderstood... But not this time. This time, he had no qualms about sharing the unwelcome news.

At Renee Palmer's rasp of, "What the hell do you want, Sandoval?" he smiled slightly and said, "I just wanted to let you know that Kincaid and I have been ordered to report for duty in three days time. No excuses will be believed. You'd better hope that he and Mr. Doors get back from their jaunt in time."

At the stunned and horrified glance Renee Palmer gave him as she realised that he knew the truth behind her cover story, Sandoval smiled. His job here was done.

"Good night, Ms. Palmer. Sleep well."

Sandoval closed the communication channel and set about turning in for the night. Lying in his bed a scant thirty minutes later, two thoughts occupied his mind. What are Kincaid and Joshua Doors up to? And, Nothing had better happen to Kincaid till I get some answers about my son.


It took almost twenty minutes before Liam began to stir and in that time, no one had spoken. All eyes - even those of Sif and Lya - had been riveted to the sight of Liam's glowing palms. Nobody had expected that, not even Sif and Lya; they knew the legend of the Avatar, but it had been many millennia since their races had interacted with any of the Ancients. That information about them had been lost was now abundantly clear.

SG-1 had watched the sight with a mixture of wariness and wonder. Glowing alien beings to them usually meant the glowing eyes of the Goa'uld, but, in this case, their overriding feeling was one of wonder. Liam had displayed alien qualities, true, but this was the first time that his physical body had manifested any sign of his alien heritage. Surprising them, SG-1's most prevalent emotion was one of awe.

As for Joshua, he bit his lip as he watched the man who was quickly becoming one of his closest friends, his mind ranging back to the conversation that he'd had with Augur and Renee only four - or was it five days ago now? He was beginning to lose track. He remembered Renee's uneasiness in talking about Liam's status as a hybrid. One thing clearly stuck out, though. She had mentioned something called the 'shaqarava'. A vestigial organ that apparently Liam had claimed was gone. Augur had disagreed. His opinion that Liam's 'shaqarava' were only dormant was obviously correct.

Joshua thought about the reasoning Augur had given at the time. The hacker had said he believed that, like any youngster alone in a sea of strangers, Liam had decided to try and conform. Liam had been beginning to feel that his alien heritage was getting him into more trouble than it was worth. Losing Julia's trust and the aftermath of her disobeying orders during the Presidential debate that had resulted in the 'assassination attempt' had been the final straw.

Joshua still flinched at that memory. What he had done to his father and the country on that day... His actions may have been controlled, but he would still never forgive himself.

Neither would Liam. Augur believed that Liam blamed his inability to trust Julia with the truth of his identity for her dissatisfaction and the loss of her personal loyalty to him. The hacker had briefly mentioned the incident with the Jaridian replicant and the fact that Liam had shielded him with his own body as he acted to prevent the replicant from doing any harm. To Augur's knowledge, that had been the last time Liam had used his shaquarava. The hacker's voice echoed in Joshua's head. "After that, I think his subconscious just blocked the thought of using his shaqarava from his mind. I think that they're only dormant. The problem is, I'm not sure he even wants them back, and I don't think he's going to have a say in the matter."

Well, they were back now. Would Liam be able to deal with it? They were about to find out. He was waking up.

Liam's eyes flashed open, and then immediately shut again, unaccustomed to the light in the chamber. Slower and infinitely more cautious, he opened them again. He looked into the worried gazes of SG-1 and Joshua and made a half-hearted effort to lighten the atmosphere, saying, "Did anybody get the number of the bus that hit me?" Groaning, he began to gingerly sit up and catch his breath.

Carter's lips twitched slightly, but his jibe did not have the effect he had hoped. Apparently, he could rule out a career in comedy after his stint as Protector/Resistance Leader was done. Every eye was still on him with an unsettling intensity. What on earth was going on? It wasn't the first time he'd collapsed on them, after all; he'd done his dying swan impersonation after the trip through Hades' Asphodel chamber, so what was the problem?

An itching in his left palm caught his attention. An all too familiar sensation, one he thought he'd seen the back of a long time ago. Steeling himself, he looked at his palm and at the glowing fire that was his shaqarava. Damn, damn, damn... he didn't want this! Without control they were more trouble than they were worth. Go away! Just go away!

Surprisingly, they did. Eyes suddenly intent, he forgot all about the concerned gazes of his friends and focused his attention on his shaqarava. Concentrating, he got them to activate faintly, nothing too excessive, just like the gesture he had made to the alternate Da'an in Maiya's dimension. His own voice echoed in his ears, saying, "...The mark of the Kimera, as it is written here..."

He concentrated and they flared to incandescence; another moment of concentration and they vanished into nothingness once again. A slight smile graced his features. Whether or not he was this Avatar that Sif and Lya insisted he was still a matter of debate as far as he was concerned. To him, that depended on whether or not he could successfully deal with the Ancients' base and out of control technology. That had been peculiar! As his brain had the information pumped directly into his cortex he had been able to hear the conversation going on around him. What mattered to him right now was that the pain he had suffered here might actually be worth it in the long run. It would seem that he had control of at least one part of his heritage. Somewhere deep inside, he felt something fall into place. Maybe, just maybe, he could successfully bridge both his human and Kimera heritage without one overwhelming the other. For the first time, he had some hope that it might be possible.

Twenty minutes later, having been forced under the watchful gazes of Jack, Daniel and Joshua to eat something and drink a little water - he hadn't even attempted to protest, three against one was too much even for him - he settled back for the barrage of questions that had awaited his recovery.

"What did you see?" demanded Daniel Jackson in an endearing mix of fascination and wonder.

Gently and fondly, Jack smacked the back of Daniel's head and murmured, "Give the man a chance to get his breath back before you pester him into insanity, Danny."

Liam chuckled. "It's all right, Jack. I saw... I saw... What I saw was more amazing than anything I ever dreamed possible. I don't really have the words to describe it. I have an idea on how I might be able to show you, but that will have to wait until we've dealt with the task at hand."

At that statement, Sif spoke up. "How are you aware of the 'matter at hand', as you put it?"

"I heard you all talking."

That statement brought a moment of silence before Sif continued. "Do you believe that you are capable of the task that needs to be done, Avatar? Can you regain control of the technology so that the planet is safe once again for the races to visit?"

Liam was silent for a long moment and everyone held their breaths as they waited on his answer. He sighed heavily. "I think so, yes. I'm by no means certain." Liam looked at them as he said, "Jack, Daniel, Sam, Joshua... I can't guarantee your safety if you come with me. I'll do my best to see that you are not harmed."

Jack opened his mouth to speak - there had been one glaring omission in that statement. Liam beat him to it. He turned to look at the Jaffa member of SG-1, apology clearly written on his face as he said, "I'm truly sorry, Teal'c. You will have to stay behind."

"May I ask why, Liam Kincaid?" Teal'c said, in his gentle but commanding voice.

Liam shrugged ruefully, face still apologetic. "The Ancients of the time had never encountered a friendly Jaffa. The automatic defences would 'neutralise' you the minute your presence was detected. It should be with non-lethal force, but I'm not about to use you as a guinea pig to find out. I need you to stay behind with Sif and Lya. Please? Trust me?"

Teal'c displayed his usual impassive expression, but it didn't take a genius to figure out that he was reluctant to let his team-mates head off into danger without him. This time, however, he had no choice. He nodded his acceptance. He would have to trust that his new friend Liam would keep the remainder of SG-1 and Joshua safe, which he did.

Joshua asked a question, beating Daniel to the punch by mere seconds. "Why aren't Sif and Lya coming with us? Won't we need their help?"

"We're going to have to move fast, Joshua. They wouldn't be able to keep up." Neither Sif nor Lya looked all too pleased with that assessment, but they bowed to the Avatar's wishes in the matter. Liam caught Jack looking at him with a guarded expression. He had expected no less from the man. The commanding officer of SG-1 knew Liam had another reason. His expression also indicated that he wouldn't push the matter - for now, at least.

Fifteen minutes later, they were ready to depart. Teal'c stood off to one side with the silent pair of Sif and Lya. Sam, Jack, Daniel and Joshua stood ready to depart. They were taking their personal side-arms, but, at Liam's insistence, no weapons were being carried in their hands, in either an overtly aggressive or defensive manner.

Jack O'Neill had been reluctant on that matter, but had backed down as a result of two little words by Liam Kincaid. "Trust me." His pleading expression was nearly as good as Daniel's, and Jack had found himself giving in far too easily. His old Covert Ops teams would never have believed it if they had seen it. Over the past four years, a select group of four or five people had mellowed 'O'Neill the hard-ass' to 'O'Neill, the walking ball of mush'. It was a sad thing to behold. Even worse was that he was happy that way.

Liam once again displayed his own unique approach to opening Stargates, and stepped through, carrying Jack's hat in his hand. He'd been absolutely adamant that he had to go through the Gate first - alone. That there was a shield around the entrance on the other side that was keyed to the energy signature of the Ancients. Anybody else going through it would find the experience profoundly unsettling.

He'd looked at Jack and said, "I'll deactivate it and send the hat back as soon as it's safe for you to come through."

Jack and Joshua both paced nervously back and forth in the chamber as they waited for the Gate to re-activate. It was taking too long. Joshua's mind was full of unwelcome thoughts about the fact that Liam was a hybrid and not pure Ancient. Maybe the field didn't recognise hybrids? Joshua ruthlessly banished that thought from his mind. Liam would be fine. If he weren't, Joshua would kill him himself.

After a period of about twenty minutes, the Gate re-activated and the hat appeared, sailing through the wormhole. "Thank God," sighed Daniel. It was a sentiment echoed by everyone else in the chamber. Jack, Daniel, Sam and Joshua stepped through the Gate, leaving a silent trio behind in the shape of Teal'c, Sif and Lya.

Stepping out onto the planet that housed the Ancients' research complex, the first sight that greeted the four was the apologetic face of Liam Kincaid, hand glowing unnoticed at his side. "Sorry about that," he said in abashed manner. "Took a little bit of persuasion for me to get to the shield's interface long enough to deactivate it for you four to get through. It's back up and running now."

"Why didn't you just leave it down?" asked Joshua.

In a grim voice, Liam said, "Because under no circumstances will I allow anyone else to gain access to this place. That's why." Liam looked at his four companions and said, "Could you all come here for a minute?" He took them to a pedestal about twenty metres away from the Stargate and said, "This is the control mechanism for the shield. It will have to be deactivated before anyone goes through back to - what did you call it - oh yeah, P3R-272. If for any reason I am incapacitated, this is how you set the shield to deactivate and then reactivate behind you. Remember this. Please."

Joshua opened his mouth to argue the fact that anything might happen to Liam to prevent him from dealing with the shield himself. The look on Liam's face, and the plea in his eyes, silenced the words in his throat. Instead, he applied himself to what Liam was teaching them and felt rather than saw some of the tension ease out of Liam's frame.

Once that was done, Liam took a deep breath, saying, "All right, then. It's about two kilometres to the edge of the complex. We'd best get started."

They'd been walking for about five minutes before Jack moved up to walk on Liam's left side. In a quiet tone that brooked no nonsense, Jack said, "What was the other reason that you didn't want Sif and Lya to come with us?"

The other three looked startled at that. Liam hadn't wanted Sif and Lya to come? When had that happened and how had they missed it?

Liam sighed. He'd hoped not to have to get into this till later. "There may be technology here that I don't want them to see."

"What?!" exclaimed Daniel. "The Nox and the Asgard were the Ancients' allies. Why would you want to keep anything from them?"

"The Ancients were the most advanced member of the ancient alliance. Not by much, I'll grant you, but they had some technology that the others didn't. From what I was shown by that archive, the reason for this is that it was technology from outside this dimension. It was deemed too dangerous by the Ancients' ruling council for it ever to be allowed to fall into any other race's hands - friend or foe."

There were a few moments' silence at that. Finally, Sam put voice to the point that all the others were thinking. "If it's too dangerous for even the Nox or the Asgard to be entrusted with, then why are we here - the human race, I mean? We're far less advanced than them."

Liam smiled at that. "True, Major. Very true. The technology might not even be here at all, in which case I took the extra precautions for nothing. It's one of the most ancient laws of the Ancients, though, and I won't break it.

"As for the rest... yes, I know both in my dimension and in your own the human race is far less technologically advanced than some of the others. The difference is, in both dimensions, we've at least travelled to other dimensions. Usually by accident rather than by design, but at least we've done it. If the technology is here and we can't restore stability to the complex, then we'll have to either remove or destroy it. I trust you all to help me because you've experienced how dangerous messing with alternate dimensions can be.

"And that's the other reason you're here; I'm going to need help. People I trust. Delightful as they are, I don't trust Sif and Lya. I don't know them well enough. You, I do. My only regret is that Teal'c's not here.

"Now, if I've answered your questions, I suggest we get moving. This is not going to be easy. Not by a long shot."

Companionable silence followed as the disparate group of five made their way into an unknown situation. All they knew for certain was that, if they failed, upwards of forty million beings were more than likely doomed.

Silence was the only response offered by the little group when they reached the edge of the Ancients' complex; it seemed to be the only appropriate response to make. It was... majestic. They stood at the edge of a shimmering, translucent force field.

Liam kept his eyes firmly fixed on the field as he said, "All right, here's what I've put together from the information in the archive. Sorry if it sounds like a lecture. Bear with me.

"This research complex follows a standard pattern for sites that housed samples of the Ancients' technology that had potentially lethal uses. There will be security systems in place - these systems were designed to outlive their designers, but after this length of time, I have no idea how reliable they are, or even if they're still working. We'll expect the worst and hope for the best.

"The complex should follow a standard pattern of concentric circles linked by covered walkways. There is an internal system of transportation that resembles our world's ID portals more so than the ring system used by the Tok'ra and the Goa'uld. Again, whether or not that's working is something we're going to have to figure out when we get in."

Slowly removing her sunglasses, eyes dancing as she gazed at the field in front of her and considered the wonders to come, Major Samantha Carter was nonetheless all business as she said, "Liam, where will the power core be?"

Liam turned his gaze back to his companions and said, "Not quite the centre of the complex. It'll be in the ring of buildings closest to the centre and at least ten levels down."

"Peachy... just peachy. I hope this internal transport system of yours is working, Liam. Otherwise this could turn into one hell of a long walk," said Jack.

"Well, Colonel, there's only one way to find out.

"Ready, everyone?" At the nods he was offered by Joshua and the others, Liam turned and faced the field again. He'd brought them to the edge of a walkway. All they had to do was get in to it. He knew what he had to do - he just hoped it worked. Otherwise this was going to have been a long walk for a short, messy death. He probably shouldn't mention how risky his next actions were going to be.

"Okay, this should be the only force field of this type that we have to face. As far as the Ancients were concerned, if you were inside a complex, you must have had clearance to be there. The fields were never breached - at least not according to the data in the archive."

"So, how do we get in, then?" asked Daniel in confusion.

Maybe if I say it quickly it won't sound so risky. "I walk through it and deactivate the control mechanism on the inside."

"What?!" demanded Joshua and Jack, almost in concert.

"I walk through it and deactivate the control mechanism on the inside," repeated Liam, and then, before anybody could stop him, he did just that. The field flared intensely as he walked through it and everyone else instinctively flung up an arm to shade their eyes.

For the split second that it took for their eyes to re-orient themselves, Liam was not clearly visible. There were several relieved breaths released as they saw him give a grin and a wave as he punched some commands onto the console situated on the outside edge of the walkway that started about two feet away from the opposite side of the field.

"I'm gonna kill him," growled Jack under his breath.

Eyes showing his own feelings on the matter, Joshua Doors said, "Get in line." The field shimmered and dissipated so they stepped through.

Joshua glared at Liam and Jack growled out, "Kincaid..."

Liam gave a shrug. "I knew what had to be done. I knew what your reaction would be. I didn't see the point of arguing with you. We are on a deadline. Joshua and I are going to have to get home. Soon. We've already been gone longer than we anticipated. Shall we get on with the task in hand?"

In an aside to Jack, Daniel said, "He's been hanging around with us too long. He's starting to sound like you."

Glaring at the two men who kept trying to give him heart failure by running headlong into danger 'because it was the thing to do', Jack O'Neill said, "By all means, proceed... We wouldn't want to keep the temperamental alien power core waiting. It's been waiting a long time to blow up. Now that we're all here, it's got an excuse."

Everyone bit back a grin at that, though Sam and Daniel both ruefully thought to themselves that the Colonel was probably right. SG-1's proclivity for being at the right place at the wrong time was legendary in the SGC. A power malfunction that had lasted hundreds of years probably would decide to turn into a full-scale meltdown now that they were here. It was the type of luck that they had...

Liam and Joshua walked together down the myriad corridors of the complex, with Jack, Daniel and Sam bringing up the rear. The translucent walls of the complex were not too alien to Liam and Joshua. They had lived on a world that had quickly become accustomed to organic technology and translucent alien designs. These Ancient walls of Kimera design were not quite the same, but the 'feel' was there.

For all that SG-1 had explored and visited more planets and cultures, this was probably the more amazing to them. They had seen a great deal in their four years together, some of it more impressive, but not much more alien. Most of the cultures they had seen were of human evolution. This clearly wasn't. As on the Nexus world that contained the repository of information that Liam had used to get them home in the first place, the walls once again shimmered with strange alien writing. Writing that seemed to shift and change its form as the human eye looked at it.

Liam suddenly stopped at the entrance to a seemingly empty room, holding out an arm to act as a barrier to prevent Joshua walking any further. SG-1 halted behind them, with Jack moving to stand at Liam's other side, saying, "What is it, Liam?"

Liam's eyes moved to the side walls of the room and he stared fixedly at the glyphs that decorated the walls. "I've seen a chamber like this before... on a Kimera repository ship. It's not safe."

"What do you--?" asked Daniel.

"Somebody give me something to throw," said Liam softly. Wordlessly, Joshua handed him a pen from one of the pockets in his fatigues. Liam made ready to throw it and then said, "Watch your eyes!"

The pen sailed into the seemingly benign chamber and energy bolts fired at it from the glyphs on the walls. Multiple intersecting blasts hit the pen and it vaporised before it hit the floor.

"Sweet," said Jack in a sarcastic tone that spoke volumes. "So, how did you get past this thing last time?"

Liam shrugged. "The Jaridian prisoner that Lili and I were with used his infra-red vision to spot where the blasts were going to come from a split second before they did. He dodged. I memorised the pattern he took, when to walk and when to pause, and Lili and I followed him."

O'Neill grimaced, showing exactly how enthusiastic he was for that plan. Liam said, "All right, I think I should be able to..."

"Wait, Liam," said Samantha Carter. She had been staring at the floor of the room the whole time that the others had been talking. "I've no idea how your previous experience parallels to this, but have you looked at the floor? I think it may be simpler than you think to get past this."

Confused, all eyes turned to the floor and what had been staring at them in the face quickly became apparent. The floor was decorated in a grid pattern, each grid containing a shimmering glyph design. "I think there's a key code to get across the floor without triggering the defences. What do the glyphs mean?"

"It's just letters of an alphabet, Major. That's all."

Daniel, frowning slightly, said, "Would there be anything like a key phrase or ideal that the Ancients or the Kimera would adhere to?"

"You mean like a belief system?" Daniel nodded. Liam frowned and shrugged. "My father's branch of the Kimera could best be described as celestial anthropologists. I can't see how that helps us."

"Maybe it does," said Daniel with a grin. "What do anthropologists believe above all else?"

"That they should never interfere with the natural development of a species..." Liam's head turned and he scrutinised the floor even closer. His head whipped back up and he grinned at Daniel and Sam. "It's there! There's a simple message about non-interference!

"Okay, I'll go first. Single file behind me. Step where I step... and be careful... I don't want to lose any of you."

Liam stepped slowly on to the first square on the grid, and everybody held his or her breath. Nothing... no energy blasts. He went another couple of steps in and still nothing. He called out, "Colonel... you next. Everyone make sure to step only where the person in front of them steps..."

Slowly, painstakingly, they made their way across and to safety. Liam smiled at SG-1 and said simply, "Thank you."

Joshua - who had been behind Colonel O'Neill on the way across - had moved to gaze out of the exit to the chamber to see what was ahead. Two things caught his eye and he called out, "Liam... look!"

Liam moved to stand at his side and see what had caught the young CEO's attention. The first thing he saw made him grin. It looked like they had found their transport down to the lower levels. The other thing in the chamber made him gasp and before anybody could stop him, he stalked out into the room and headed straight towards the objects that lined the far side of this new chamber. With eyes that could best be described as haunted, he laid his hands on one of the objects, and leaned forward so his head was touching the smooth metal surface. "Why, why, would they have these things too?" whispered Liam.

SG-1 looked at Joshua for an explanation, but he just shrugged his shoulders, eyes mirroring his own confusion. Daniel Jackson stepped forward hesitantly, hands buried deep in the pockets of his combat trousers as he said in a soft tone, "What's wrong, Liam?"

The young hybrid straightened up and took a deep breath that they all heard. He turned his face back to meet their concerned gazes and offered a half-hearted smile. Squaring his shoulders and trying to get things back on track, he said, "It's not relevant. Just a piece of my past that I hadn't expected to find in a Kimera complex..."

He moved to head towards the transport platform, but his companions would have none of it.

In a gentle tone, Joshua said, "Tell us, Liam. Please."

Liam shrugged. In a toneless voice that nevertheless managed to convey the deep emotion he was feeling, he said, "My father was imprisoned in a pod like that by the Taelons. It's how he was kept alive millions of years after the rest of his race was wiped out. The pod was sent off into deep space and ended up on the ocean floor on Earth. He was released and I was created...

"I just never expected to see pods like that in a research complex that belonged to the Ancients. I didn't want to believe that they would imprison a member of their own race in such a manner. I have enough problems dealing with the fact that the Taelons did it to my own father..."

Liam shook his head in an effort to clear away the unhappy thoughts and said, "Let's see if we can get that transport platform working."

Jack looked at the thing in question and said, "It's not gonna scramble my atoms and spit them out somewhere else, is it?"

That actually produced a grin from Liam as he said, "This from a man who steps through a Stargate on a weekly basis and gets his body flung about the galaxy."

Jack grinned and said, "What can I say? I'm fickle that way..."

Liam looked at the console and punched a few random commands in. A pod lowered from the ceiling and he said, "Relax, Colonel. Think of it as a very advanced elevator, one that does more than just go up and down. It can travel at angles; it can even travel in circles. It uses anti-gravity and gentle, computer controlled manoeuvring thrusters. It'll get us to the correct level in minutes."

"If you say so, Liam," said Jack with a resigned grin. He turned to the others and said, "All right, kiddies. Let's not keep the temperamental power core waiting... I'm sure it wants to blow up soon."

Casting apologetic glances at Liam and Joshua that seemed to say, We know... we know... he's... well, you get used to it... Sam and Daniel stepped into the pod and grasped what seemed to be hand restraints designed to hold you in place.

His expression making it obvious that he had seen the expressions on his friends' faces, O'Neill showed artful innocence on his own as he too stepped into the pod, closely followed by Joshua and Liam. Liam said a single word in an alien language and the pod began to glide. Travelling faster and faster, the inhabitants of the pod watched in awe as the interior of the complex flashed by at an astonishing rate.

All too soon, though, it came to a gentle halt. Stepping out, they could hear the powerful humming coming from what was obviously an unbelievably immense power source. Wordless glances were exchanged between the small group and, as one, they began to jog quickly down the corridor, heading for where the sound was loudest. They burst into the vast control room for the power core and five jaws literally dropped.

"Holy hannah!" breathed an astounded Samantha Carter, a reaction shared by her team-mates.

Liam and Joshua's reaction was one of disbelieving recognition. It was an ID core... a hundred times more massive than anything they had ever seen employed by the Taelons. Liam stared at the core in speechless horror. Any other time he would be astounded and amazed at the sheer power that the thing could expend or the technology needed to control it. Right now, though, the only thing that was in his mind was the massive rupture in ID space that would be created if this thing blew, and the forty million lifeforms that it would extinguish in the split second it took to destroy whatever planetary bodies happened to be in its immediate vicinity.

In a quiet voice, he said, "It's an ID core. The biggest I've ever seen. I don't know if I'm going to be able to shut it down..."

Forty minutes later, they still had not made a lot of progress. What they knew - according to the readings - was that the core was producing too much energy and that its regulators were approaching tolerance levels at a frightening rate. It wasn't there yet, but give it another fifty years and it would blow. It was that simple.

Liam and Joshua had examined the control mechanisms that regulated the core and found them to be similar enough to the systems that the Taelons used to be fairly confident that, if Liam could solve the problems of the excess power being generated, Joshua could power it down. It was bitterly ironic to Joshua that the nightmare of One Taelon Avenue might actually have had a hidden blessing. He now had enough of a grounding in how portals worked to be able to be of use here.

Jack and Daniel had kept quiet; they were out of their areas of expertise, and right now all they could offer was moral support. Samantha Carter sighed and said, "If it were any system that I'd seen before," she said in exasperation, "I'd expect there to be an emergency release or venting system. Something that could be used to prevent a build up like this."

"There should be," said Liam, frowning. "There's obviously been a glitch in the main control routines at some point since the complex was abandoned. Power output should never have been allowed to reach such dangerous levels."

Wrapping his arms around his waist, Liam stood and stared at the contained fury that was the core. Two words kept ringing in his mind, release and vent.

Daniel piped in with a question. "I don't want to be the voice of doom here, but just say you do figure out a way to power down the core. How will that affect the rest of the complex? It's not going to set anything else into motion, is it?

"What I'm getting at is... are there any experiments still running that are drawing power from that thing - and what happens if it's shut down?"

Distracted from his thoughts, Liam murmured, "Good question." He turned and went back to the main control console that they had found. He quickly ran a sweep of the archived files and said, "I can't see anything."

Jack frowned. "Check again. Why leave the core running for no reason?"

Realising the sense in that question, Liam found and accessed the main system files and ran a second search. "Damn it! Why can't things ever be simple?!"

"What?" demanded O'Neill.

Liam sighed and looked at O'Neill and the others, saying, "The complex was abandoned when the Ancients left this region of space. All the other sister complexes like this were shut down. This one couldn't be. The reason they actually built a complex here in the first place was to protect the planet now in danger. The core of this world has an instability in it. It would have eventually shifted a couple of degrees on its axis and the resultant gravitational forces on the other planet would have resulted in massive tectonic disturbances. The planet would have become unliveable.

"We have to get this ID core back on line and functioning properly."

"But how?" asked an anxious Joshua.

"I'm not sure we can," said Liam heavily. He moved to slump against the chamber wall, and brought his knees up to his chest, absently wrapping his arms round them as he stared at the core, lost in thought.

Several hours had passed, and the others had left Liam to his silence, hoping that there had been something in the archive to help him.

When Liam moved for the first time in an hour, Joshua jumped, startled. Soon every eye was focused on the sight of Liam staring at the glowing shaqarava in the palm of his left hand.

Liam was lost in memories - but not of the archive. Strange as it seemed, he was thinking about a girl. A very specific girl; a girl who had almost destroyed the world. Joyce Belman. Joining with him had convinced her not to go through with her plan, but what he was remembering was what she had said to him. That he would be able to access his heritage and the knowledge it contained when he needed to; that when he needed it - it would be there. The other thing he was remembering was her 'trick' of transporting herself wherever she wanted to go with a simple thought. The knowledge of how to do that was one of the things she had shown him when they had Joined. Up until now, he just hadn't believed he could do it. It might work...

"I think I may have a way..."

"How?" demanded four voices in unison.

"I'm going to need your help. Joshua, when the power level drops to within normal operating parameters, I need you to drop the power output by fifty percent. Daniel, Jack, Sam... whatever happens, do not touch me. Right now, just watch and wait."

"But what are you going to do?" demanded Daniel.

"The only thing I can. Take the power into myself."

"No!" said Jack.

"It's the only way. That's why this has to be done by one of their own race." Taking a deep breath, Liam ran towards the huge ID core and jumped... and, before the disbelieving eyes of his companions, he vanished.

Joshua whirled to focus on the indicators on the control console. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the core flare an intense bright blue, a light that just kept getting brighter. He saw Jack and the others quickly turned their heads away from the intensity of the light, and he quickly re-focused his attention on the indicators. In a shaking voice, he said, "Whatever he's doing, it's working! The power levels are dropping!"

Two minutes later, Joshua punched in the commands to drop the output level by fifty percent. As soon as he did so, the blue light diminished back to the normal light that the core produced. But where was Liam? Just as they began to fear the worst, the hybrid appeared in the air and dropped heavily to the floor of the chamber.

Jack and Joshua moved to go help him up, but before they could reach him, he snapped out, "Don't touch me. Get back!" He pushed himself to a sitting position and the sight of him caused the others to all take an instinctive step back. Liam was glowing. Tendrils of blue energy literally ran across his skin and his eyes were unseeing, burning with blue fire. Gasping, he activated his shaqarava, and just before he pressed his palms to the floor, he hissed, "Hang on!"

As soon as his palms touched the floor, the entire complex began to shake. Joshua and Sam collapsed to the floor, holding on to each other for dear life. Jack and Daniel did the same. The energy being expended from Liam raced across the floor, in brightly glowing waves emanating from Liam's palms, and flared up the walls; but each 'wave' left a wide, untouched area around Joshua and the members of SG-1. Then, drained, Liam collapsed; and as he lapsed into unconsciousness, the tremors stopped.

It was almost three hours before Liam revived enough to tell them what had happened. In a monotone, he had said that he had taken the excess energy into himself and then dispersed it throughout the complex. It was built to absorb energy from outside sources, like the planet's sun; it had seemed feasible to feed the energy from the core back in to the complex. At the fifty percent output level that Joshua had programmed in, the core would be stable for another thousand years.

In a commanding tone, Liam said that the Asgard and the Nox would be told - via Sif and Lya - to monitor the planet. Sometime in the next thousand years, if they didn't discover space travel on their own, the planet's occupants were to be evacuated. There was a guaranteed deadline now. He'd done his part; as the Ancients' allies, it was time they did theirs.

The complex was now secure. They could leave.

Liam took them back to the pod and spoke a command. He turned to Jack and said, "This'll take you back to the top level. I've read the schematics; it'll bring you out so that you don't have to go through that chamber again. You should have a clear run to the exit." Then, having delivered that piece of 'alarming' reassurance, he lapsed back into unconsciousness.

Getting Liam's unconscious form from the pod and through the walkways to the shield took some doing. Keying in the code that he had given her, Sam deactivated the forcefield that protected the complex long enough to get them through it, and then they had a 'lovely' jaunt back to the Stargate carrying his still unconscious body. Daniel operated the pedestal as they had been shown, while Jack dialled in the co-ordinates for P3R-272. Joshua supported Liam - half-conscious by this point - through the wormhole with an arm firmly wrapped around his friend's waist.

Back in the chamber that housed the archive of the Ancients, Jack glanced at Teal'c, Sif and Lya, and, while the others settled Liam to the floor, he said, "Well, did you miss us?"

"Are you sure about this?" asked Liam, his face still expressing concern. It still seemed... well, rude, to be leaving them here like this.

Sif regally inclined her head at him. "I am sure, young Avatar. We sent a message to my people not long after you and your companions left us. A ship is on the way even now. Lya and I will await transportation on that vessel. We must brief our peoples on recent events. Much has happened, not the least of which is your arrival.

"We must also initiate plans to find a suitable new home for the inhabitants of the planet that neighbours the Ancients' complex. You have laid this task on us, and, as our last living reminder of our ancient allies, we will honour the obligations that you have given us, as you have honoured those left to you."

Lya looked into Liam's green-eyed gaze, her own serene, and said, "Go. Our blessings go with you, as does our profound respect and gratitude."

Liam nodded his head in acknowledgement of their well wishes and turned to address the CO of SG-1. He shrugged and said, "Well then, I guess we go."

Finally, thought Jack. He gave a quick concerned glance to his expanded team... they looked exhausted... the adrenaline rush of the past week was beginning to take its toll. Turning to Daniel, he said, "Dial home, Daniel."

Using the DHD, SG-1 and their friends used the traditional method of gate activation and - after a long few days - finally arrived back at the SGC, all missions accomplished.

SGC, Three Hours Later

The silence around the briefing table was finally broken when General George Hammond said, "I... see. Are you sure that's everything?"

Glancing briefly at his currently expanded team, Colonel Jack O'Neill turned his attention back to his commanding officer, shrugged slightly, and said, "Yup. That's more or less everything in a nutshell.

"Sir, can we go now? Daniel really needs his coffee..."

"Ja-ack!" exclaimed Daniel, aiming for 'disgruntlement' but having to strive not to laugh aloud at the artfully innocent expression his friend and CO had adopted.

At the half-teasing/half-pleading undercurrent in his second in command's tone, General Hammond quickly assumed an abashed look on his face, saying, "Of course. SG-1, Major Kincaid, Mr. Doors... dismissed.

"Congratulations on a job well done."

SG-1 and their friends quickly left the briefing room before anybody could ask them anything else. Once they had left the area, General Hammond looked at Major Davies who looked at Dr. Frasier who looked at Major Ferretti - who had been included in the debriefing at Colonel O'Neill's request. Nobody spoke, nobody moved - in fact, they barely breathed - for a long moment.

Much of what had happened - at least the stuff about the rescue of the hostages - had been covered when SG-2 and the rest of the SGC personnel had been debriefed upon their return home. It was the latter part of SG-1's latest adventure that had rendered them speechless. Eventually, deciding to lighten the atmosphere a little, Janet spoke. "All right, then. I think I can safely say that nothing in the betting pool even comes close to this... Agreed?"

The three men sitting at the table chorused, "Agreed."

Janet sighed. "I'll pass the word. The current pool is to be donated to... whose turn is it...?"

Ferretti chimed in with, "Carter's. It was Dr. Jackson's last time."

"Oh, right," said Janet. "The pool gets donated to the local animal rescue centre.

"Anything to add, sir?" she added, addressing General Hammond.

George Hammond stood, flanked by Major Davis; they had a few calls to make to people about the long-term effects of this mission and its affect on the Earth's relationship with its allies.

"No further orders, doctor. As to the 'betting pool' that I know nothing about, the same as usual.

"The new pool starts the next time SG-1 go through the Gate, usual categories apply. In the event of another 'nobody got close to guessing it' result, Colonel O'Neill's favourite charity will be the lucky recipient.

"Good day, people."

Two hours after their release from the briefing room, freshly showered - and freshly coffee-ed - Liam, Joshua and the four members of SG-1 congregated in Daniel's office. It was a little crowded, but Liam felt comfortable there and he wanted to talk.

There was a companionable silence in the office. The ties of friendship might have been formed only recently, but they were strong. It was very rare for one person - let alone two - to breach the strong, protective ties that bound the SGC's premier team together, but Liam and Joshua had earned their trust and their respect.

It was Liam who spoke up first. "I still have one thing I want to do before Joshua and I have to leave, and that is to share with you all at least part of what I learned from the Ancients' archive. I know - at least, I think I know - how to go about that. I only have one small problem."

"Which is?" prodded Jack.

"Teal'c's symbiote."

"Ah..." breathed Jack. "That is more than a 'little' concern, Liam. They're kind of a 'two for one deal'."

"Not necessarily, Jack."

Teal'c's eyebrow rose in confusion and an expression of obstinacy appeared on Jack's face. "There is no way we're taking it out of him! I don't care if they can both survive for a short while without the other - it's not happening again. Not if we can help it."

Making a gently reproving face, Liam said, "Jack, I would never suggest any such thing! I can put the symbiote into a kind of sleep - just for a little while - that is, if Teal'c doesn't object. Doing so will cause him some initial discomfort, but, what I want to show you all, I will not allow a Goa'uld symbiote to see."

Jack looked at the Jaffa and said, "It's your call, Teal'c."

Teal'c nodded his head in acknowledgement of O'Neill's comment, and said, "Proceed, Liam Kincaid."

Liam rose from his perch on Daniel's desk and walked towards the part of the room where Teal'c and Joshua were sitting. Face calm, he said, "Could you raise your shirt please, Teal'c?"

Wordlessly, the Jaffa complied.

Tone gently warning, Liam said, "This is the bit that's going to hurt." Then, before anyone could say or do anything, Liam stuck his right hand through the pouch in Teal'c's stomach and grabbed the larval Goa'uld.

Teal'c hissed at the sensation, but it was less than a minute later that Liam withdrew his hand, and said, "Done. Thank you for your trust, Teal'c."

Daniel Jackson rummaged around in his overflowing desk drawer and pulled out a faded old T-shirt that looked to be about ten years old, and wordlessly handed it to Liam to wipe off his hand. Eyes burning with curiosity, Daniel asked the question that everyone wanted to know the answer to. "What are you going to do, Liam?"

"A multiple Sharing."

"A multiple 'what'?!" said Jack.

Liam sighed and shot a look at the Colonel. "A multiple Sharing. I'm going to draw you all into my mind, into an altered state of awareness, and show you as much of what I was shown as I think you'll be able to understand."

There was a noticeable silence at that announcement.

Liam looked at his friends. Teal'c looked - well, Teal'c looked the same as always; Daniel, Joshua and Sam looked like they were in a competition to see who could do the most 'excited bouncing'; and Jack looked... wary.

Knowing instinctively what was troubling the older man, Liam murmured, "It's not harmful, Jack. To you or your team. Nor will it be a security problem for you. You've told me about the memory recall devices that the Tok'ra and the Goa'uld have used on you, but this won't be a problem. What I'm about to show you, those devices won't be able to see. This is just between us. I promise.

"I'm showing you this because I trust you, and because you are your planet's best first contact team. You'll carry some of this with you always; other stuff will be buried just out of reach - unless you come into contact with more technology left behind by the Ancients.

"This information is to help you and your people; it will not cause any harm to befall your world."

Jack sighed and nodded. "Do it... before I change my mind."

Liam grinned shyly. "All right then. Form a semi-circle in front of me."

Shifting around till they all had enough space, everyone obeyed his directions. Liam took a deep breath and activated his shaqarava. Eyes widened once again at the hybrid's glowing palms. Liam moved to brace his back against Daniel's desk and made ready to place his hands palm to palm.

"When I touch my palms together, everyone take a deep breath and then place your left hand on mine. Teal'c as the anchor, then Sam, then Joshua at the heart, and then Daniel and finally Jack to act as the guardian.

"Jack, when you feel it is enough - and you will know - simply take your hand from the top of the pile and the connection will be broken."

Taking a deep breath, Liam then joined his palms together in a blaze of light. Acting in concert, his five friends did as they had been bid, and their minds were drawn into wonder...

Heart and mind reeling, Jack O'Neill felt a wordless connection with Liam. Understanding what he was being told, Jack followed the instructions he had been given and broke the link.

His conscious mind returned to the confines of Daniel's office and his companions. The other four were breathing as fast as he, eyes still shining with wonder. Liam was on his knees in front of them, head bowed. Daniel and Joshua quickly moved to help him to a seat and Teal'c fetched him a glass of water.

Nothing was said, nothing needed to be said; they were tied together now with bonds that could never be broken.

Smiling his thanks for the water, Liam murmured, "One last thing..." He got up, walked to Teal'c and placed one palm on the front of the Jaffa's T-shirt and one on his forehead, over the mark of Apophis, and said, "Wake."

Liam looked at his friends and said, "Now it is finished."

An hour later, General Hammond, Major Davis, Janet Frasier and all the SG teams currently on base were assembled to bid their guests farewell.

Liam did not want the Earth Gate Control System to be used to dial the Primus world, so the rest of the SGC finally got to see his own method for Gate activation. It was greeted with some rather amazed faces from the SGC personnel.

Official goodbyes had been said, but SG-1 stepped up to the ramp with their friends, stopping at the edge. Liam and Joshua walked its length, turned their heads back for one last look, and, with a smile and a wave, they stepped through and were gone.

Finding the correct dimensional Gate co-ordinates on Primus, Liam and Joshua dialed home. They stepped out into the secret complex that housed the Doors' Gate, and found themselves facing the raised weapons of Renee Palmer and Augur.

"We're home," said Joshua simply.

"And about damn time," hissed Renee. "We've got problems."

"What do you mean by 'problems'?" demanded Joshua.

Augur - who had breathed a sigh of relief on seeing both men safely returned - raised an eyebrow at the CEO's tone. There was a strength there that hadn't been present when he and Liam had gone on their crazy adventure. Things had happened. Important things. And, as per usual, Renee - for all her intelligence - was seemingly oblivious to the changes in her two friends and the way they were carrying themselves. Observing the nuances in a situation was obviously not her strong point.

Renee, not following the body language being displayed in front of her, and oblivious to Augur's musings as he stood beside her, looked at Liam and said one word. "Sandoval."

Frowning slightly, Joshua looked at Liam to see how he had greeted this particular announcement. There was a minute tightening of his lips, almost imperceptible, but other than that, nothing. Liam was not surprised by this announcement. Not at all.

At Renee's sarcastic, "Apparently, he was well aware that you and Joshua were up to something, and I needn't have bothered with the ruse that Augur and I came up with. I wonder how that happened."

Eyes widening as he slowly began to put together what was going on, Joshua gasped and murmured, "God, Liam... what have you done?"

"What I needed to." Gently squeezing his friend's shoulder, Liam murmured, "Don't worry about it."

Looking up into Renee's blazing eyes, Liam said, "Look! I'll handle it." She snorted her assessment of that particular comment.

Ignoring the staring session going on, Augur stalked forward to the pair. He gave Joshua a friendly pat on the shoulder and then grabbed Liam in a huge bear hug, saying, "Glad you're back in one piece, Kid."

Laughing quietly, Liam returned the hug. Easing out of the hacker's grasp, he turned to the Stargate and said, "Before I deal with Sandoval, we have one other thing to take care of."

Joshua looked at the Gate, understanding what Liam was getting at. The Gate couldn't be left as it was, with no iris, it wasn't safe. The likelihood of the Goa'uld or some other race coming across the dimensional co-ordinates to their world was a slim one at best, but they had enough problems to deal with right now.

"What are you going to do?" he asked Liam with curiosity. Liam just smiled.

"Can you get me a kilo of the nanite synthetic polymers and two kilos of titanium?"

"Of course," said Joshua. "It'll be here within the hour," and headed over to the nearest computer terminal to make the call.

Liam looked at Renee and Augur and said, "Can I have a secure global?" Wordlessly, Augur unclipped his global from his belt and handed it to him.

Liam punched in Sandoval's secure Protector frequency. "Sandoval, it's me. Do we have time to do this before we have to report in?"

Augur and Renee exchanged uneasy glances when they heard the familiar voice of the Implant say, "Yes. We do. We don't have to report for duty till first thing tomorrow morning.

"How soon till you get to Washington?"

"Give me an hour. Your apartment or mine?"

"Mine, Kincaid."

"Fine. I'll be there."

Liam shut the global and handed it back to Augur. "Not a word from either of you. I know what I'm doing.

"I'm going to freshen up. Give me a call when the stuff I asked for gets here."

Forty minutes later, dressed in black jeans, a green T-shirt and a pair of comfortable sneakers, Liam stood directly in front of the Gate. In his hands, were three kilogram blocks of material sandwiched together; the nanite polymer block sandwiched on either side by the titanium ones.

Taking a deep breath, Liam activated his shaqarava. Under the disbelieving gazes of Augur and Renee, and the quietly expectant gaze of Joshua, the blocks seemed to explode into a fine mist. Liam gestured with his hands and the mist swirled outwards to coalesce into a shimmering curtain in the inner circle of the Gate. Liam stepped back and clenched his open hands into fists, deactivating his shaqarava. Seemingly taking that as some sort of signal, the shimmering mist hardened before the stunned and disbelieving gaze of Liam's audience.

The Gate was now blocked with a single, seamless piece of metal.

"There. Done. Nothing can get through that barrier."

That said, Liam turned to head out of the room and towards the complex's Portal. Joshua cast a silent glance at the concerned gazes of Renee and Augur before moving to catch up with Liam and accompanying him out of the control room; the concern he himself was feeling, easily visible on his face.

Liam smiled. "It'll be all right, Joshua. You'll see."

Joshua sighed. He had to trust that Liam knew what he was doing. Just before the Portal was activated, he said, "Call me afterwards and let me know that you're okay. Please."

Liam nodded and then disappeared into the ID stream as the Portal activated.

Fifty-eight minutes after talking to him via global, Liam Kincaid stood outside his father's apartment door. Taking a deep breath, he knocked on it. It was quickly opened from the inside, and he stood face to face with Sandoval; the Implant's eyes giving no hint of his feelings away.

Wordlessly, Sandoval stood to one side and gestured for him to go in to the apartment. Liam complied. For better or for worse, things were going to be settled soon. The door closed behind him and Liam followed Sandoval in to his living room.

It was time...

A strained silence fell almost before the apartment door finished closing. Absently, Sandoval punched in the code to secure the door and set the alarm system. Taking a deep breath, he turned to face his guest... the person that held the key to the one thing that - for all his supposed power and influence - he had never been able to find. His son.

"Have a seat, Kincaid. Would you like something to drink? Coffee, juice, something stronger?"

He watched as Kincaid removed his black leather jacket, noting absently that it was the short one today and not the leather duster, and sank boneless onto the couch. It was amazing how such a tall man could make himself so comfortable so effortlessly. It would be nice to be able to relax so easily.

"Thank you, Sandoval, but no. Let's just get to the matter at hand."

"As you wish, Kincaid."

Sandoval moved to sit in the seat opposite the couch, face to face with the long-time thorn in his side. He watched as the other man ran a restless hand through his hair, an expression of... indecision... anticipation - resignation? - on his face. Surely it couldn't be that complicated a thing to do? All that the major had to do was tell him his son's name and where he could be found.

"Major," he said softly, "is something wrong?"

Sandoval felt his body tense as Kincaid's silver-green eyes met his. He couldn't fully comprehend the myriad emotions he saw in them, but he recognised that something was buried in their depths. Something directed at him.

"You may as well call me Liam. What I have to say is too personal to us both to rest on formalities."

Sandoval couldn't stop an eyebrow from rising in surprise. Both of us? What did he mean by that?

"All right, Liam. Now, what do you have to tell me about my son? I kept our agreement. The Taelons were never given any reason to doubt Ms. Palmer's cover story. They fully expect to see you tomorrow morning returned to duty, no questions or recriminations about what you did since our assigned leave after apprehending the 'Brigade' fanatics."

A genuine smile graced Liam's face as he said, "Thank you for that, Sandoval. Truly."

Curious, Sandoval said, "Did everything go off all right there?"

Grinning, Liam nodded and said, "Hostages rescued, imperiled saved, bad guys' butts kicked, good guys home safe."

A more companionable silence fell once again until Sandoval softly prodded, "Liam?"

"I know, Sandoval," Liam sighed. "I know."

Getting up, Liam began to pace. Gods above, this was hard! Still, Sandoval had kept his word... and it was past time that this issue was settled once and for all. He turned to look at his father's face.

"Every word I'm about to say is true, I promise you that. If you need proof, blood will be drawn from your son while he is in your presence and you can have Dr. Curzon - or whichever other doctor you want - do whatever tests you deem necessary to satisfy you of the truth. Till then, you keep silent and only answer any questions I ask you. Okay?"

Frowning his confusion, Sandoval gave his colleague a nod of acquiescence.

"Okay then," said Liam softly. "First things first. The blood you were given. Dr. Curzon probably told you there was genetic abnormalities or something to that effect. Am I right?"

Sandoval nodded and said, "She said something about abnormalities that the gene sequencer couldn't identify."

"And that would be because your son is a hybrid."

There were a couple of moments of silence before Liam said, "I take it from the fact that you are not screaming in shocked horror that you had more or less come to that conclusion?"

Sandoval sighed and began to rub gently at the wrist that didn't host a skrill, saying, "Well, it seemed like an option until I remembered that the gene sequencer uses Taelon tech and would therefore have recognised a Taelon energy signature. I didn't see how it was possible that the blood came from a hybrid."

"That should be obvious enough. Your son isn't a Taelon hybrid."

"What?!" gasped Sandoval.

Liam sat down and said, "Being a Human/Taelon hybrid would be dangerous enough in this day and age. Because of his alien heritage, your son has lived in mortal danger since the moment of his conception. If Zo'or ever gets his hands on him..."

"Other than the fact that Zo'or is psychotic, why is it so dangerous for him?"

Liam shut his eyes for a second. Moment of truth time. "Your son is a Kimera hybrid. The last scion of a race exterminated by the Taelons millions of years ago."

"How?" breathed Sandoval... and then understanding dawned. With certainty, he said, "Ha'gel."

"Yes, Sandoval. Ha'gel."

"It happened when he assumed my form?"

The question was more a statement than anything, but Liam said, "Yes."

Sandoval got to his feet and took his turn to pace, frowning. He didn't notice the strain and worry being suppressed by his colleague. Nor did he see the inadvertent flinch at his monotone response of, "Then it wasn't by choice. I had no say in the matter of my child's conception."

"No, you didn't," said Liam in a quiet voice. "You don't have to know anything more if you don't want to. Your son knows that you had no idea of his existence, and he knows why. He won't put you in danger and he will respect your wishes if you'd rather not know any more."

Sandoval didn't answer that. Another question had come to mind. "Who is his mother?"

This time, he did see the flinch that Liam gave. The answer provided was almost inaudible. "She's dead. She's been dead for over a year."

There was the echo of a long held grief in Liam's tone. Sandoval said, "You knew her."

Liam nodded.

"Who?" was the simple demand made by Sandoval.


"Siobhan Beckett?" said an incredulous Ronald Sandoval. Then he smiled. He couldn't help it. The Irish sprite and her runes had obviously not been that wrong after all. 'Destined to come together', indeed.

"Did she know?" he asked quietly.

"I told her about her son just before she died. It gave her peace to know about him, I think."

"I'm sure it did," said Sandoval with a sad smile. Siobhan had been a powerful presence in both their lives. A much-missed presence.

"You told her," he said quietly. "Will you please tell me? Who is my son?"

A hush seemed to fill the room. For a long moment, Sandoval held his breath as Kincaid just looked at him.

"It'll change everything, Sandoval. This is your last chance to stop this."

Sandoval shook his head and said, "I appreciate your candor, Liam, but I have to know.

"Who is my son?"

Sandoval rocked under the intense gaze of the man opposite him and the naked emotion visible in his silver-green eyes. The quiet response of "Me. I'm your son," left him reeling.

He dropped back into his seat and dropped his head into his hands. Liam Kincaid was his son! His subordinate. The man he had tried to kill on numerous occasions! A man whom he was ninety-nine percent certain held a high-ranking position in the Resistance... Liam was his son?! No!! There must be some other explanation! If it were true... with the things he had done - or ordered done - to the Major... had he acted that badly towards his own family? Looking up to Kincaid's face, he saw the answer reflected in the other man's eyes.

"Oh, hell!" was Sandoval's initial and involuntary response.

Liam looked at the shocked and horrified face of his father and, inside, he felt his heart break. His father's reaction said it all. He wasn't wanted.

"I'll go now," said Liam quietly. "If you decide to turn me over to the Taelons, please - at least give me a few days grace. I know better than to try and run, but I do have arrangements that I'd need to make."

He was half way to the door before Sandoval fully took in the fact that he was leaving. Staggering to his feet, he called out, "Wait! Please."

Liam stopped in his tracks but made no move to turn and face his father. His back tense, he said, "What would be the point? Your reaction was plain enough. Just let me go."

Sandoval winced. His reaction had been a knee-jerk one, but it hadn't been fully reflective of his true feelings on the matter.

"Liam, I don't want to let you go. Not like this!"

Liam whirled and said, "You didn't ask for me and you don't want me. It seems plain enough to me!"

"You saved my life, Liam! You've told me the truth, fully expecting a bad reaction, and, sorry to say, I gave you one. What did you expect? I've just found out that the son I desperately wanted to find is a man I've spent the better part of two years trying to kill!

"My reaction?! Anger... and shame."

"You're ashamed of me," said Liam in a dull voice, his shoulders slumping.

"No! Don't be idiotic! I'm ashamed of me! I knew right from the start that I sensed something different about you. I let time bury that 'awareness' but it was always there.

"You're the only person I've ever been glad not to kill. I've hidden relieved sighs many a time when you've stopped my machinations in their tracks, and now I know why.

"Somewhere deep down, I knew I needed you to survive."


"But nothing, Liam. I have no right to say this and I'm not even sure if you want to hear it, but I'm proud of you. You're a good man. Loyal. Decent. Courageous. Compassionate. Everything that I'm not.

"How things are going to work out at the Embassy and with the Taelons, I have no idea. We each have our reasons for doing what we do. More often than not, that puts us at odds; but I can't carry out an order that could eventually lead to your death or capture. Not any more."

Tension easing from his shoulders, Liam said, "So what do we do?"

Sandoval gave a wry laugh. "I have absolutely no idea, Liam. Do you?"

The shrug Liam gave his father was eloquent in its simplicity.

Running his hand through his hair, Sandoval said, "Well, how about for now we do nothing different? At least at work. Off duty, maybe you'd like to come for dinner one night? We could at least 'talk'?"

Liam looked long and hard at his father but saw only earnestness in his face. "We try friends first?"

"Sounds like a plan."

Liam nodded and said, "Okay, we give it a try," and then turned to head back to the door.

"Do you really have to go?" asked Sandoval quietly.

"Yes, I'm sorry, but I have to. I said I'd check in with Joshua."

"Oh, okay."

Sandoval walked with him to the door. Stopping Liam with a soft "Wait," he placed a gentle palm on his son's face and said, "Thank you for telling me the truth."

Liam sighed and instinctively turned his cheek towards the gentle caress of his father's hand. "You're welcome... father."

"Till tomorrow, then," said Sandoval.

"Till tomorrow."

Once out into the open air again, Liam unhooked his global and called Joshua.

"It's me. Everything's all right. I just thought I'd let you know."

Liam made a move to shut his global but the sharp command of "Don't!" stopped him in mid gesture.

"If you think you're getting away with leaving it at that, you are very much mistaken my friend. You and I are going to talk."

Liam grinned at the peremptory commands coming from the other end of the global. Joshua certainly didn't mince words when he was concerned about his friends.

"All right, Joshua. If you want details, I'll give you details. When?

"...I'll be there in ten minutes. Remember, I've got to report for duty tomorrow morning. I can't stay too long.

"See you soon."

Liam shut the global with a smile. He had a new and valued friend and had made a start at peace with his father. He'd saved a world, rescued some hostages, come to terms with some of his alien heritage and met some really amazing people. Not bad for a few days off.

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Last modified August 5th, 2002.
Trudy A. Goold/