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A Matter of Timing

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Disclaimer: Highlander: the Series, the concept, characters, and all related events are the property of Rysher Television, Panzer/ Davis Productions and their respective creators and producer, none of which belong to me, but you already knew that, right? The same goes for Stargate SG-1 which is the property of Gekko Films Limited, MGM Studios. La Femme Nikita belongs to USA Network and UPN. Notes: Some references to the episode "Shadow Plays."

Note: Picks up where "A Matter of Timing" ended, with a good interval taken into consideration.

"Pipe Dreams" by Karen

Prologue

More than 48 hours after the attempt on General Hammond's life found Major Sam Carter in the diagnostic lab running a systems check on the base's security protocols. Leaning back in her chair, she brushed a tendril of hair away from her eyes and twisted the knob on the lit up display panel. Distractedly watching it cycle through programmed subroutines. Playing in the background, an obscure Bach fugue, aside from his musical genius; Sam had to admit that the German composer had a talent for incorporating a lot of hidden mathematical theories as well, if you listened to it backwards. In the back of her mind she thought, with some irony, that it fit her present circumstances as well, going back through the computer records, retracing the steps of their intruders.

"Now if there were just more clues to follow before the trail goes cold. Whatever or whoever Section is: rogue organization or it was an independent organization like the Navy's NID, the less said about that the better."' She shuffled her feet to restore circulation in her legs that were slowly going numb, She had to give their pair of operatives, Michael and Nikita, if those were their real names, credit. They had left slim to none trace of their presence, no obvious tapering, no electronic fingerprints, no obvious glaring security breaches or missing files, not even the more obvious traces of a human presence.

Carter couldn't say which was the more alarming, the electronic presence or the lack of a human presence. Everything was clean, efficient in its clinical ruthlessness. Now that she had to deal with damage control, she realized what a large task it would prove to be. Carter cleared the screen and leaned back in her chair, hands resting on the keyboard, fingers laced together in a rough tent-like shape. "There is still a key piece of the puzzle, if I could just determine what it was." she said aloud. Nothing quite fit's the way it should.

"I'm sorry? Daniel Jackson said, from where he was absorbed in another report, "Did you say something?"

"Yes, and No," Carter replied. "I think I'm close to solving the mystery, but every time it just slips out of reach."

"Any progress is better than nothing, " Daniel offered her a tired smile.

"You've been at that for hours. How about taking a break. I don't know about you, but I'm hungry."

"I could eat, " Carter smiled. "Has Jack commandeered the chef's kitchen?"

"Yes, " Daniel smiled. "But he won't tell us what he is cooking up. It's supposed to be a surprise. You how 'he' gets."

"Well, I'd hate to disappoint him. Maybe I do need a break. Come back to this on a full stomach, a fresh perspective." Carter smiled. "After you."

"Hey, at this point, I'll use any excuse to get out of here," Daniel replied.

"I'm sorry I haven't asked this before," Sam replied, running a hand through her tangled mop of blond hair, "but how's that cataloguing project going?"

"About the same rate as before, but I think I'm about half way through," Daniel replied. "Let's go."

Scene 2 At Section's headquarters

"What have we got?" Madeline asked.

"I wish you wouldn't sneak up on people, it's rather disconcerting," Birkoff, startled, shaking the module he had let drop onto the floor when he sensed the presence looming up behind him. Not expecting an apology or a response that she had acknowledged the incident, he turned his attention back to his monitor.

"There are any number of ways I could answer that question," he replied, 'but once I had the various algorithms solved, "our friends in Colorado are either very clever or making things harder than they need to be."

Madeline tapped a ruby-painted fingernail on the desk's reflective surface where it made a muffled ringing sound in counterpoint to the hub and whine of the machinery in the Operations room and muted conversation. "They have something to hide. Go on."

"Well, at best its that definitely a legit operation. In fact, it's funded by Uncle Sam by way of the United States Air Force."

"The Air Force? Now, that is interesting. I wonder what the price tag of such an undertaking would be? Never mind that now," Madeline said.

"It's all very top secret, the security clearances along must have cost a small fortune."

"You were able to decrypt it?" she asked.

"Of course," he replied, rather insulted that after all the time he'd been with Section, and even after the death of his twin brother, that she would even consider questioning his skill with databases, encryption codes and the like. "Without those clearances our filed operatives would have never infiltrated their base."

"I'll contact them after I'm finished here," Madeline said.

"A lot of the data and the files have to do with theoretical physics, matching logistics and various other scientific disciplines, " Birkoff said, unaware that he had the end of his ballpoint pen caught up in the sleeve of his angora sweater, the sleeves rolled and ink blots staining the elbows. "What puzzles me is why they would bother using Egyptian hieroglyphics as a from of encrypting their data."

"Hieroglyphics? No one uses that form of pictographic writing anymore, and the only cultures that did have long since died out." Madeline replied. "Does this project have a name?"

"The Star Gate Project."

"How romantic," Madeline sneered, arms folded over his chest. "How did learn about this project?"

"You know the answer to that one better than I would, I'm just the resident tech geek."

"Let me think for a moment," Madeline said, smiled, a thin narrowing of her lips, brows narrowing in concentration. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, she snapped her fingers. "If memory serves, I recall a report submitted by one of our Russian field agents. A group of scientists had uncovered an ancient artifact buried beneath the ice in Antarctica. They claimed it was some kind of alien gateway."

"Gateway? To what?" The Ice-Age." Birkoff gave himself a quick little shake, like a duck sloughing off water from it's back; he could imagine how it would feel to descend meters down into freezing water with ice closing over one's head, gasping for air. "Definitely not for me. Give me the tropical sun every single time."

"I thought it a bunch of errant nonsense at the time, but maybe it isn't." Madeline interrupted, breaking his train of thought.

"Isn't what?" he asked.

"Nonsense," she replied.

"During WW II the Allies codes were continually broken by the Axis and valuable information was getting into the wrong hands. So they brought in the ideogram language of the Native Americans, a language that was impossible to crack."

"So what you are saying is that all those Egyptian hieroglyphs must mean something, otherwise why use them for an encryption code. What we need is a universal translator."

"I can check with local universities, see if they have any available linguistics with a specialty in ancient Egyptian," Birkoff replied.

"Do it," Madeline decided. "It stands to reason that our friends in the Star Gate project already have an expert of their own, I don't like playing catch up with anybody. I'll admit to a certain curiosity, but I we have to know more. Get on it right away."

Scene 3a INTERLUDE

Methos: Never a firm believer in an appropriate hour of the day to drink himself into a drunken stupor, Methos paid no attention to the blinking readout of the alarm clock. He had been tossing back his stockpiled collection of beer all night and had no intention of stopping any time soon. Given an Immortal's general high tolerance to almost everything and his own ability to drink large amounts of beer, Methos felt very relaxed He had his booted feet propped on the console, disturbing the stacks of carefully sorted documents, cheerfully ignoring the mess it made. He sipped at the foamy liquid and let it swish around in his mouth, before swallowing, enjoying the sensation going down his throat. In the back of his mind, he blessed whatever primeval gods/demons had given mankind the secret of fermenting in order beer, but 'bully for them', he thought.

"Better the devil you know," Methos muttered aloud, wiping the foam from his lower lip and wondering what vapors of the air had hidden the last of his beer cans. "I'll go question the prisoners, I'll get to bottom or the top as the case may be of what Section really is. Call it curiosity, but I can't let this go that easily."

Meanwhile, his fellow Immortal, Thoth was in the Palestra, or the base's gymnasium, along with the new Immortal, Teal'C.

Thoth had his hands full, literally. It was obvious that the man knew how to handle himself in a fight, and he had plenty of experience if the scars that criss-crossed his coffee-brown skin were any indication. Thoth knew he had once been a Jaffa, even a first prime to one of the more prominent Gouald's , Apophis, so he he'd been a warrior long before he'd become an Immortal and had his parasite removed, and he knew how to fight. What Thoth was having difficulty wrapping his mind around, was how to develop a training routine that would make sense to both himself as an Immortal who admittedly had never been in an actual combat scenario since he'd emerged from stasis. "Damn, Damn, and for good measure, damn again, why isn't Methos doing this training? I'm no good at this."

Teal'C, standing with feet spread apart and staff with a snake's head perched ungainly on top of it, waited a few feet away, browed furrowed in concentration.

"I would concur," Teal'C replied, brow furrowed in concentration.

Thoth sighed, and readied his quarterstaff in a defensive posture, "Attack me."

"I would not wish to harm you."

"You will and you won't, it's all very muddled. You see Immortals can be harmed, even killed, but we don't die unless you remove our heads from our bodies. Damn."

Thoth swore, letting off a long stream of invective in languages that the former Jaffa must be intelligible to only a handful in the mountain base, Thoth, his counterpart, Methos and Dr. Daniel Jackson. When he paused for breath in between curses, Thoth looked, red-faced and an sheepish look on his narrow face. "I can't believe Methos has let me live this long. You see of the rules governing immortals, this one has been around as long as anyone can remember, 'There can be only one.

"Meaning?"

"Meaning, one left in the end, it's all part of some cosmic game that began millennia ago, "Thoth cocked his head to one side, thinking it through, carefully choosing his next words: "You see, 5,000 years left in on a abandoned alien world, gave me plenty of opportunity to think.

"And what did you conclude?" Teal'C asked.

"I decided that the entire game is a colossal waste of time. It's part of some plan by Guls or whomever you want, to get Immortals to fight amongst themselves." Thoth exclaimed, raising his legs and breaking his quarterstaff over his knees, throwing the splintered pieces to the ground, unaware that several had broken his skin. Thoth idly watched the blood clot and the skin heal over in a matter of minutes, leaving the tell-tale fine white scars.

"Then they could you use your race as potential slaves/hosts for the gul larvae." Teal"C found the entire incident fascinating, wondering, not for the last time, now that his own gul parasite had been removed, if such a thing would also occur in his own body when he sustained a energy, fatal or otherwise.

"Exactly." Thoth murmured. "You do not need me to teach you how to fight, you knew that already. I guess the conclusion of this lesson, watch your head., Teal'C, you'll need it.

"I shall take your lesson to heart, Ancient One," Teal'C replied.

Scene 4a

Meanwhile inside the brig, Michael sat on the floor with his legs crossed tailor fashion. His eyes were closed and his breathing was the required breaths per minute of one of his favorite meditation techniques. He hadn't moved or said anything in the last 48 hours since he and his partner had been apprehended and brought to the brig. The fact alone, irritated the duty officer assigned to act as guard.

Nikita paced the narrow room like a caged cat, aware that not only made her guard nervous, it also irritated Michael, even though he affected to be meditating and oblivious to what happened around them, he really had all five senses of high alert, and when broke out of his heightened awareness he would lecture her for wasting energy. "Let me yell all he wants, sometimes I get to do exactly as he want, no rules, no secrets, no pretenses. Section does not rule my life, well, not completely, I've got some latitude to be myself, come hell or high water. So, let me choke on that. Even if he is incredibly handsome; brooding dark eyes, sensual lips. Hell, listen to yourself Nikita, going on about a man your barely know outside of the department, and you're carrying on like a sappy romantic heroine. Get it together.'

Scene 4b Methos/Nikita/Michael

Michael stood, stretching to relieve the tension of his self-imposed meditative state. Aware as he was unaware of the guard's shifts, the condensation on the metal walls from where the heating and plumbing was uneven, and Nikit'as constant pacing. He had an acid comment to make to her on the futility of pacing. She had been with Section long enough to know better than that, but he knew her better than anyone and sometimes her pacing resembled that of a caged panther, it help her restlessness, help clear her thoughts,' Michael decided that for once, he would let it slide.

"What do you want?" Nikita demanded when she the man who had once tried prevent her attempt on General Hammond's life. Unarmed and dressed only in bath towel, he had wrestled her gun out of her hand. Either he was insane or over-confident, Nikita still had determined which alternative was better. For her own peace of mind she would have preferred to write off the incident and forget about it, but those dark eyes and features kept haunting her, as if she had seen them somewhere before, but the memory proved elusive, like she was trying catch snow-mice while wearing mittens.

"What do I want?" Methos mused, pausing half-in and half-out of the open doorway of the brig, shouldering aside the guard. "That could cover a whole range of possibilities."

"You're drunk," Nikita observed, not impressed.

"I am not, but I wish I were," Methos sneered. "Not all problems can be washed away at the bottom of beer can, I should know. I've had lots of practice at it."

"Misery loves company, " Michael observed. "Care to share some of that beer?"

"No. I only share my beer with people I like, and that's a very short list compared to the list of what I want." Feel like talking?"

"Not really," Michael replied.

"Too bad. I'm not going away until you do, " Methos replied, closing the gap between the door and the cell in a swift strides. He wrapped one hand around the bars. "You see, something doesn't add around here. Your so called mission and this affiliation of yours, Section, were entirely too pat. I don't like easy answers."

"Too bad. We don't like easy answers either," Nikita replied, shrugging.

"What is Section? Is it legal?"

"Oh, it's legal all right. The only difference is that the people who run it, the powers that be, work from the assumption that the ends justify the means," Michael replied.

"Why did they leave you here, if you're some of their best operatives?"

"That isn't the type of question I'd expect from a military officer if you're really operating with the approval of the United States Air Force," Nikita said.

"How do you I'm not?" Methos smirked.

"So it's going to be like this? A game of 20 questions? I've been interrogated before, some where good, some were downright pathetic, you're just crazy," Nikita said.

"Humor me," Methos smiled, and it wasn't a pleasant one.

"What is the Star gate project?" Michael said.

"A fancy title for a research and development project?" Methos replied.

"Too easy, try again," Nikita said.

"Why was Section interested in it?" Methos asked, ignoring Nikita.

"Curiosity. And what makes you think our people will just leave us here locked up in your brig?" Michael snapped.

Scene 5 Back at the SGC Plans

In the briefing room, Hammond stood with his hands laced behind his beck, his mouth in a firm line. The scar that puckered the left side of his face now nothing but a thin white line after Dr. Frasier had treated it and it pronounced it 'not serious.' He supposed after all his years of military serious he should be used to such things as coming with the territory, there had probably other attempts on his life, but he honestly could not remember them. In the back of his mind, he thought; 'Dodged a bullet there, literally. I should thank my lucky stars for that.'

Colonel Jack O'Neil came in then, looking rumpled and alert as usual, his uniform sleeves rolled up to the wrists, Major Carter and Dr. Jackson following along on his heels. Teal'C came in moments later in the company of Thoth. Methos, or as he preferred to be called, Adam Pierson was conspicuously absent.

"Where is he?" Hammond demanded of everyone in the room as they took their seats at the rectangular conference table. "Last I checked he was in general quarters getting roaring drunk," O'Neil replied.

"Drunk?" Hammond echoed, the practical military side of his mind unable to quite grasp the idea that any one of his personnel would deliberately drink them selves into oblivion, while on duty. First off it was a completely foreign concept to him, on his off duty hours maybe he save a swig or two of whiskey or perhaps gin for a special occasion, and while the rule of the base didn't expressly forbid his officers and enlisted men from indulging in strong drink, not while on duty or on a mission. With these thoughts running through his head, Hammond glared at Colonel O'Neil. "I don't care what condition he's in, just get him in here."

"Yes, Sir," O'Neil saluted and went to carry out his orders.

"While Colonel O'Neil rounds up our 'missing link', Major if you could open this meeting with a summary of your findings thus far. I for one, would rather deal with the damage control before the NID or anyone else gets wind of our 'break in."

"Understood, Sir." Carter replied. "Section is good, very good. I'm still entirely certain that their a legitimate outfit, but they certainly have an agenda, and that agenda seems to be information gathering for the purpose of securing their position so that they are almost untouchable."

"That isn't exactly reassuring?" Jackson muttered.

"Anything else?" Hammond pressed.

"As far as any lasting damage, we didn't lose anyone, the attack on you, General, while it may have been pre-motivated, now was merely a distraction. One member of the infiltration team would draw away all attention, while the other member, in this case, Michael, posed as one of the junior officers, hacked into our database and downloaded as much usable information as they could. Before they were discovered."

"Any idea what they want that information for?" Hammond asked.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Carter shrugged. "Taking a wild stab in the dark, somebody out there leaked intelligence about what we're doing on this mountain and it attracted Section's attention. Now, I guess they're trying to figure out how it benefits them."

"Will this Section make another attempt on Hammond's life?" Teal'C asked.

"I doubt I," Thoth murmured. "I'd have to guess, is that we are dealing with the type of people who need to keep their identity and activities secret. They either don't tolerate or can't risk failure.

Carter smiled, a thin narrowing of her lips. "I agree with Thoth."

"What are our options?" Hammond asked.

"Question our prisoners again." Carter nodded.

"I doubt they will be any more forthcoming than they were before, " Jackson said. "It's worth a shot."

At that instant the door to the briefing room banged open and a young soldier with Colonel O'Neil all but tripping on his heels burst into the room.

"Our prisoners have escaped." The young officer clenched his fists, his face turning red. "It was my watch. I'm sorry, General. I should have done more to prevent this from happening."

Scene 6a Flashback Methos/Silas/Nikita

The Naquda Reactor Project

The rapid movement of the vicious liquid in the vat was mesmerizing. The mirror of its surface broken at regular intervals by bubbles rising to the surface, lingering for a short time before the air pressure caused them to pop. A blonde woman wearing a white lab coat and goggles found it as fascinating as she had been led to believe. The room that house the project was circular and kept bare of clutter. Nikita or rather the alias she had assumed for this mission, Sarah Greeley, combed her considerable memory for the name given to the project "Quicksilver' sounded right, but it didn't quite fit. Compared to other metals it would serve as a poor conductor of heat, but a better one for electricity. "Mercury is the only common metal that is liquid at room temperature, and this stuff is hot..

Monitors hooked up by wires and cables monitored the progress and made sure that all systems where within the program's specified parameters. Any change, no matter how slight, would be recorded in the session logs. The program was currently house inside of a large building whose location was not on any map, and given the highly sensitive nature of their research and the high likelihood of reactor's exploding, it was best that way.

At that instant Nikita could feel the fine hairs on the back of her neck bristle, and turned around in time to see another of the project scientists enter the room. He was medium-built, skinny as a switch and tall, with lank red-hair constantly falling down into his big green eyes.

"Sara," he greeted, 'how are you?"

"Hello, Aaron. I'm fine," she replied.

The red-head wiped his brow, unaware that it left a dirty streak on the skin, his hands were ink-stained and the skin below the nails were filthy. "No change, in case you were wondering about the 'old man. He's just the same as he ever was. I've been with the project from day one and Dr. Silas was always considered eccentric by his colleagues in the scientific field of theoretical physics, but never like this."

"I feel a little like I came in the middle of the third reel of a movie," she replied. "Could you fill me in?"

"Oh, Sara, I'm sorry. It had completely escaped that you were just brought in, You see Dr. Silas had worked in the field for many years, and it was only recently that he felt he had truly made a breakthrough," Aaron replied.

"Let me guess, he presented his discovery along with documented research and when he presented to his colleagues they shouted him down and told him he Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, right?"

"It's an interesting analogy, that's all," Aaron said, nodding his head. "Like all scientists determined to prove that he'd been right all along. Doctor Silas went looking for outside sources to provide the funding and the lab in which to conduct his experiments." Aaron sank down into a nearby chair, picking up a pitcher of water that was half-full and drank down the contents in one gulp. Looking around the round like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, he looked up her, the lines around his green eyes deepening," You think he can hear us in here?"

"Relax," Nikita coaxed, coming over to sit beside," It's a sound-proof room."

"Then what happened?" she prompted.

"We lucked into funding from an interested third party that came through a university in the Northwestern United States," Aaron said.

"Quite generous, our anonymous donor, then?" Nikita asked. "What that part of the agreement in order to get the funding, or did that come later?"

"I'm sorry, I'm exhausted, " Aaron muttered. "I don't why I said that, or why I said so much, it must be nerves."

"Get some sleep," Nikita suggested, smiling at Aaron. "I am just finishing the end of my shift, and I don't need much sleep and you do. So I'll take yours as well. Deal?"

Aaron mustered up a tired smile of his own, "Okay, Sara. Deal." Then offered his own hand to shake, which she returned. "See you around."

Scene 6b

Nikita was up at the crack of dawn engaging in her morning routine, a series of tai chi stretching and breathing exercises followed by a light jog around the park surrounding the facility, then a shower followed by breakfast in the communal kitchen.

Aware that none of the other inhabitants stirred until the sun was high in the sky she fully intended to use the time to her advantage. She took her plastic tray to the kitchen sink and sloshed it around in hot water before placing it back on the high shelf above where she had found it. She toweled dried her hands and straightened the loose sleeves of her white lab coat.

Leaving the kitchen she headed for the psych ward, making notations of the clipboard that she carried with her. She did not spend any time analyzing her motives for going to see an announced crazy man, and even her colleague, Aaron., had all but said as much. In the back of her mind, she thought to herself, 'Is it simple curiosity or is it duty, just part of the fact-finding mission, or do I really want to find out if he's insane, and if he is, what caused it?"'

She found Doctor Silas huddled in the center of the narrow room, bedraggled and hunched on the top of his bed, his white lab coat in a bundle at his feet. He was a tall, angular man with black hair and glasses that he wore attached to a plastic cord. Several days of going unshaven had left with a heavy beard that shadowed most of his face.

She keyed in the access coded and entered the small room, ready for anything. Silas looked up at her, and all she saw in his dark eyes was the look of a man, a man with nothing left to lose. Nikita was reminded of her days on the streets as a young girl, even as an adult, if she had seen that look in the eyes of anyone, her first instinct would either have been fight or flee. Nikita felt odd, the fine blonde hairs at the base of her neck prickle and a tension head ache make itself known.

"Dr. Silas," she began quietly. "I've come to talk you."

He looked up at her, his moving, trying to form words but something was gravely with his larynx or he had gone so long without speaking to anyone except the nurses and doctors that had forgotten. He surprised her then, uncurling and sitting up street. "You wish to know if I am insane. Am I correct?" They also wish to know this, to know if the naquada material has driven away my senses? Well, the answer is both yes and no. Water."

Nikita looked over and saw a pitcher of water on a small table along with white paper cups, she filled on for him and one for herself.

"Here you go. When did it happen?" Nikita found it hard to believe that this man had lost his senses, he sounded surprisingly lucid to her.

"Like all experiments, we'd had our share of setbacks," Dr. Silas nodding in acknowledgement of her giving him water. "You see, I really felt I was on the verge of a breakthrough, but something went wrong."

"What?" Nikita prompted.

"We did. We could not contain the solvent and it got out," Silas snapped, and refused to say another word.

*end flashback"

Scene 7a Interlude Methos/Nikita

Present Day

Methos gunned the motor of the car he had found in one the Cheyenne's mountains cavernous underground motor pools, it was a gray coupe and shiny with a recent wash like it had just come off the assembly line. He had lost his quarry's trail a turn or so back, given the nature of the mountain side road, it switched back and forth, and he couldn't risk hurtling down the road or driving on the shoulder. He had made the mistake once already of looking out the passenger side window and staring down into ravine. As soon as the guard had announced that the prisoner's were gone, Methos couldn't have said how they got away when he had been in the adjacent room stewing over what they had revealed, or more accurately hadn't revealed. Before he could blink or yell, a canister of gas had been tossed negligently into his vicinity, it took longer, but it achieved its purpose, knocked unconsciousness, maybe it would have taken longer to kick in if he had been sober. It was no fun being sober.

Methos couldn't afford to give the problem the proper attention at that second; when his senses warned of approaching danger, an 18-wheel rig approaching from the direction he was currently facing. Methos yanked on the wheel, making the car's tires screeching with the sound of animal in mortal agony. Methos would have laughed if wasn't so concerned with keeping himself and the car in one piece.

Once more in the clear, he saw the license plate numbers of the car Michael and Nikita used as their getaway vehicle.

"This breakaway is Not going according to plan," Nikita muttered, her hear hammering in her chest and the adrenaline in her system making the seatbelt feeling constricting and as confining as the cell they had escape from only hours earlier.

Michael drove like a madman on a straightaway, all too aware that Methos had not only recovered from the exposure to the knockout gas, but had the wherewithal to get up, follow them, and continue to pursue. And Nikita had the sneaking suspicion that that 'one' was not doing so out of a sense of loyalty, duty, or for the sake of a job well done, no, it was a instinctive need to chase down his prey. Hell, he'd make a could Section operative, 'Maybe we could recruit him.' she thought idly, then tossed the thought aside. "No."

Encounter

"We should abandon the car," Michael said. "It was the only available option at the time, but it's one of theirs. I'll lay even odds that it will be tracked either by the plate or the registration number."

"Madeline is going to be really ticked off about this," Nikita replied, unlatching her seatbelt and levering open the passenger side door.

"Let her," Michael sneered. "She's as much responsible for the fiasco this mission turned out to be as us." Michael got out as well, leaving the car in idle and watching as the car spun into a nearby ditch, where the back end wheels spun for a seconds before grinding to a halt.

"You really believe that?" Nikita muttered, getting at a pile of rocks with one booted foot.

"Doesn't matter now." Michael scanned the nearby scenery, the stand of pine trees along the edge of the road, the scraggly brush still clinging to the bare rock and paved tar, snow blanketing the area is light patches. "I'll give him credit. He's persistent."

"You don't happen to have any concealed weapons on you?" Nikita asked, more for something than anything else.

"I was counting on the neuro toxin gas to get him out of the picture, and when don't know if had time to warn his superiors. If he did, then it will take them some time to scramble a search and retrieval unit. By that time, I want to be well away from Colorado or anything in the vicinity."

"How do you think he recovered so quickly from the gas?"

"I don't know and I don't care," Michael tossed over his shoulder, trying to make a much distance as possible from the car wreck as possible. "Just keep walking."

"We'll call for back up," Nikita suggested, and fell into step beside him.

Later

Methos found the car in the ditch and cursed, shaking a fist up at the cloudless blue sky. His curses were drowned out in the unmistakable grinding sound of a helicopters' blades cutting through the crisp winter morning air. "Just about bloody perfect. He dodged out of the way, the wind from the backlash of the choppers' blades ruffling his dark hair, sand and grit getting into his eyes.

The copter landed and the members of the SG-1 team disembarked.

Colonel Jack O'Neil looked at him, looked at the scene of the car crash. "I like initiative from members of my squad as much as next command officer, but not when they run off on half-baked suicide mission. Don't ever do it again."

"Come again?" Methos sputtered.

"You heard him," Carter smiled. "

Doctor Daniel Jackson stood behind and slightly to the left while the Jaffa' Teal'c remained seated in the copter. "Consider yourself lucky, Methos. I think you're getting off pretty easy. Jackson cocked his head to one side, thinking something through. "Considering everything we've been through, I got thrashed worse than that for some of stunts I've pulled. Just wait until this is over and we get you back to the base."

"I'm ecstatic," Methos muttered.

"Get every one onboard. I want these people caught, and I want answers," O'Neil said.

Scene 8a Confrontation

Meanwhile

"We're within visual range of our quarry," Carter announced, a note of finality and satisfaction in her voice. "I'd see we should have them in a matter of minutes."

"About time," Thoth said, fingers clenched around the arm rest of his seat. "

"At last, something we agree on," O'Neil replied.

"I want first crack at the woman," Methos demanded, folding his arms over his chest.

"Why,"At that instant Carter gave a shout of mingled excitement and surprise. "We found them! But they have friends in high places. Incoming hostiles."

"Some kind of energy pulse interfering with the electronic guidance systems." O'Neil muttered, looking up from the readouts on the console in front of him. "I'll evade them, no problem."

Jackson's gaze wasn't on the conversation taking place inside the helicopter, rather he had been staring out the landscape rushing by in patches of dark gray and green blurs. They had flown for unmarked length of time, and passed over the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Then across the bread-basket of the Midwest, from an altitude high enough to be above most radar detection systems, but not too high to risk losing track of the escapees. He couldn't put his finger on exactly what was making the fine blond hairs on his nape prickle, but he could have sworn they were missing something, 'But what," he muttered aloud.

O'Neil landed the helicopter a small distance away from the series of buildings that Michael and Nikita had pulled up to and then disappeared inside.

The building, a dull metal gray, was blocky and situated on rocky hill with a commanding view in all directions. By mutual consent, under the circumstances it was better to approach on foot. Going armed sounded like an even better idea.

**
Inside the complex, it was dim, but enough light came through the windows to allow them to see the hallways that branched off from each, leading to still more hallways. Either the place had been built for strictly one purpose, with no frills in mind, or someone had hired an architect with no blueprints and just with strict geometry. The place looked deserted, but they were aware that appearances could be deceptive.

They moved down the hallways in pairs with Teal'C and Thoth acting as rear-guard.

The unmistakable crackle of a gun prepped to fire sounded, and Methos snarled and shoved Teal'C out of the way. "Yeah you're big and strong, but sometimes you just make a big dumb target."

Teal'C nodded and calmly slid the snake-headed staff and prepped, the red sockets of the snake head glowing in the dim lighting. "I shall remember that. Turning to Thoth, "Was this one of things I should remember, Ancient One?"

"Stop calling me that," Thoth snapped.

"We've been made," O'Neil shrugged the incident aside. "Hey, given our luck so far with Section, they probably had us pegged before we even landed." As if to emphasize the point alarms shrilled through out the complex.

"I would still like to know how they scrambled the copter's systems," Carter remarked.

At that instant Michael appeared from behind a sliding door panel, emerging from the shadows. "Shall we play another round of 20 questions? If I recall, from our brief acquaintance that you were found of that game."

Methos ground his teeth, "Should have killed that bastard when I had the chance."

"I'm 'not' disagreeing with you," O'Neil muttered. "And in case you didn't notice, we outnumber you."

"Don't feel like playing anymore," Methos added.

"Neither do I," Nikita stated, tilting her head to one side, and the sizzle of powering up electrical systems filled the close air with ozone and sweat.

O'Neil braced for the opening salvo, crouched in a hunter's stance, his own gun ready to fire, so when the hot red ribbons of laser appeared, the bullet hit the laser beam and disintegrated. "Figures," he muttered and kept firing off shots until the clip was empty. Tapping Teal'C on the shoulder, "Bit of on obstacle here. Would you mind clearing a path?"

"Of course, O'Neil." Teal'c pressed the trigger on his snake-head staff launching a hot white stream of laser energy, aiming it at the grid of laser beams. Upon collision the beams sizzled, contracted and disappeared.

"You've seen too much and heard far more than is strictly health," Nikita said. "I feel it's only to inform that we have been authorized to use lethal force."

"Hey, no fair stealing my thunder," O'Neil snapped, "That's my line. Seriously, though if your superiors are pulling strings and targeting government officials in positions of authority, that grinds my gears."

"Someone is going to pay," Carter nodded.

"Now we're getting somewhere," Jackson said.

"You're angry about what happened back on your base, and you have a right to be. If it's any consolation, it wasn't personal. It was just part of the mission." Nikita glided away to a nearby wall panel and hit a button that activated an explosive device.

The shock of the explosion knocked the small group off their feet. Carter was thrown up against the wall, the impact causing a small gash to open out on her forehead right below the hair line. Jackson staggered into her left side at the same instant that she raised a hand up to wipe the blood flowing into her eyes. Daniel blue eyes were glassy, and understood in a matter of seconds when she saw the small black needle of a poison that had been inserted into his left arm. She couldn't keep herself upright and keep him from collapsing to the metal floor, and they both went down in an ungainly heap.

Meanwhile Thoth, feeling much like a third well, stood over the prone bodies of Carter and Jackson, doing his best to try and revive them. Methos sneering in the back ground. "You could help?" Thoth glared up at Methos, dropping Carter's limp wrist where had just checked for a pulse. It was there and steady, she just wasn't responding to anything he tried.

"We don't want you dead," Nikita remarked, "just incapacitated.

"I feel 'so' much better now," O'Neil snapped, crossing the distance to where she stood, swinging his arms in a roundhouse punch and feeling the blow blocked by Michael, they locked and O'Neil surprised by the coiled strength of the other man. Breaking the lock and taking Michael out of the picture was not going to be as easy as O'Neil thought it would be. Michael countered the stalemate but hitting O'Neil in the kidneys, and O'Neil crumpled to the ground. Groaning more than was necessary, O'Neil returned the favor by introducing his booted feet under Michael and knocking him down, grabbing the loaded gun.

Nikita, meanwhile, had taken shelter behind a half open doorway, muttering under her breath, and cursing how nothing during this entire mission and its aftermath had according to plan, while she dodged and weaved to avoid the energy blasts from the snake-headed staff carried by the large black man, Teal'C. "We are so dead." she whispered.

Scene 9a Conclusion

On the other side of the hallway Doctor Silas waited, as he had been doing for a very long time. Longer than even he could remember. He watched the exchange of fire, the angry heat wave of emotions coming from the small group in exterior hallway, and shook, the eyelid of his left eye twitching uncontrollably. An submerged memory came to the forefront, he 'knew' one of the man, a tall, angular man with narrow cheekbones, dark hair, and eyes. He once called this man' Brother' and the memories associated with that relationship had nothing to do with science, and chemistry, and secret societies, and alien energy reactors: they were of place of wide open spaces, and mountains, and riding on horseback clad in leather battle gear. Silas, was insane, these thoughts going through his head were the products of his particular insanity, brought on by seeing a stranger as a brother.

The insane had their privileges, even by all lights most of those, like creature comforts, food, clothing, shelter were provided. One of the benefits of being thought by all those he had trusted, those who had been with him on the naquada reactor project from the beginning and those who had been brought in later, thought his madness was irreversible, at least someone, knew he had lucid moments. Silas did not know or care what Section was, but when that women, she called herself Madeline, arranged his escape from the asylum, he was grateful, and a little surprised, but he would take what he could get.

"Doctor Silas," Nikita said, in tone not of inquiry but surprise at recognizing the disheveled man in the white coat, much less that he had been brought into Section and was running around loose.

Methos gazed at the madman, feeling the vaguest stirrings of recollection. Had he ever met this man before. After 5,000 years a lot of memories blurred into each other. In the back of his mind, he shuffled all the separate pieces of his memories and his experience when he stored them in neat compartments. Nikita had called him Dr. Silas, not a unusual name, but still. While these thoughts went through his head, Methos shoved the man aside, he found disagreeable to have a certified lunatic hurl himself bodily at him, call him 'brother,' and proceed to fawn all over him. Aside from that, it was embarrassing, and everyone was staring at him. "Just what is everyone's problem. Is insanity contagious?" I don't know or care what's he's talking about, just forget about it? Okay?"

"The reactor," Silas babbled, grasping onto the hem of Methos' uniform pants, sweat coating his face. "It's hear. It got out, but Section contained it. The possibilities are endless. Brother, don't turn away from me…" Silas's stream of inane chatter ended on a choked gurgle, as Michael placed a dagger in between the lunatic's ribs. "He's expendable."

O'Neil turned to face Carter and glancing sidelong at her, "Did he say 'reactor'.

"He did." she whispered.

"Refresh my memory, the only reactor that has anything to do with our project specs, a naquada reactor. Well, come hell or high water, we're screwed."

"So they have a reactor?" Methos shrugged. "So what?"

"That's classified," Carter replied, feeling a bit groggy but otherwise alert after the

"We're not your enemy. You may not agree or condone how Section operates, but that's tough, " Michael replied, "and even if you do manage to kill or otherwise incapacitate the two of us, you won't shut us down. It's like a weed, it keeps on going."

"I hate this guy," Thoth muttered.

"How could you?" Jackson yelled, crossing the gap, unaware of his own continued safety. "He was crazy, but that's no reason to kill him!"

"No reason that you are aware of, but he's served his purpose."

"We had a go ahead?" Nikita

"I feel sick," Thoth whispered, pleased that Carter and Doctor Jackson had recovered, but also shocked by how cold-bloodedly Michael had dispatched the unfortunate Doctor Silas.

"Oh, stop whining, Thoth. I am beginning to understand these people," Methos said, "As much as it pains me to say this, one rule above all, 'success by any means possible. And I think that whatever they're stated intentions, all their protestations to the contrary, they're fanatics."

"They bring you along to psychoanalyze your enemies?" Nikita snapped, out of patience.

"No. I'm just good at reading people," Methos replied.

"Damn, and just when I thought we really had a chance to win this one." O'Neil snapped. "I hate that."

"At last something we agree on, Colonel," Nikita replied.

"Why do I get the feeling that short of killing you and carting you back to base in a body bag, you'll won't let us take your prisoner," Carter asked.

"I will tell this much," Michael smiled, showing all his perfect white teeth. "As man sows, so shall he reap. In novels such men are sometimes converted, in real life, they do not change their natures until they are converted to dust."

"I really hate this guy," Thoth stated, but was ignored.

. I wanted to find out the answers to all these questions," O'Neil said, "Now I just want to leave." O'Neil said.