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A Matter of Timing

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and related characters, events and history belong to their respective creators and producers, as do the characters from Highlander: the Series and La Femme Nikita. They are borrowed for the purposes of the story and will be returned. No profit is made from this, at all. You know the drill.

Notes: Follows shortly after where the previous story "Pipe Dreams" left off.

"The Quick and the Dead"

"I can't stand all the whistling!" Jack shouted to be heard over the noisy confusion of broken concrete, metal and the report of exchange gunfire. Pausing a few precious seconds to reload his gun, Jack thought in the back of his mind, that he might be hearing things, but an internal monitor kept saying 'nothing is ever as easy as it should be.' Section is bad news, write off is a loss and get your team the hell outta here.' Aloud he said" We're leaving, now."

"No one is whistling, Jack," Daniel whispered as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, then dodged a bullet as it whizzed directly over the space his head had a been a second before. Daniel ducked behind a conveniently situated cart of cleaning supplies that a janitor had left behind in the corridor. "You'll get no arguments from me, Jack, I am wholehearted agreement, preferably with our skins intact." Daniel shuddered, and nervously took off his glasses and cleaned the lenses with a wad of paper from one of his pockets.

"Sir," Sam added, "Might I point out that the structural integrity of this entire areas is about to go the way of leisure suits and 8 tracks." She kept up a steady stream of counter fire with the persistent Section Agents, covering the rest of the team as best she could while the others finding a way out of this mess.

Methos, had experienced a little bit of difficult dragging Thoth out of the chamber that held a giant tub full of what Major Carter called a naquada reactor, and Thoth had proved balky. Methos, considered, not for the first time, shoving the other Immortal into the line of fire and being done with the other man. If nothing else it would provide a useful distraction. He was jolted out of his gloomy thoughts by the sound of metal giving way under extreme pressure. Thoth dropped to the floor and covered his head with his hands. "Bloody useless, idiot," Methos griped.

"Meaning, Major Carter?" Teal'C raised one of his thick expressive eyebrows in

Seeing that Sam was otherwise occupied Jack answered for her, "Meaning, Teal'C that something is about to go boom, and that something would probably be the spot we're standing on."

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when the whistling noise intensified in whine and pitch, the floor shuddered like a whale breaching through the surface of an ocean, and entire flooring gave beneath their feet.

They fell for what felt like an interminable length of time, the free fall oddly relaxing after the intensity of the fire fight, the landing however came as a shock. Instead of hitting something hard as Jack expected, they landed in ankle length standing water and the smell of corroded water pipes and damp wafted to their nostrils. "Wonderful smell, I've discovered."

"As long as you don't take a sample back and bottle it," Daniel replied, feeling slightly better to be away from the line of fire.

"Not a bad idea for once, Doctor Jackson," Methos said.

"Ignore him," Sam replied, shrugging her shoulders and taking charge of the limping Thoth who gave up rubbing his shore ankle where a bullet had lodged right before the floor gave way. "It's nothing. Just a flesh wound."

"We can't sit around waiting another miracle," Sam replied.

Scene 2

Topside, staring down in into the gaping hole where the floor used to be, the Section agents stared at the destructions and exchanged a significant glance with each other.

Michael debated jumping down there and double checking to see if the unexpected intruders had survived the fall and if so going to the trouble of retrieving them for interrogation later. Most visitors to Section's facilities usually didn't make it past the preliminary security measures. Whatever else, these officers and what appeared to a couple of civilians were, they were resourceful and determined: Michael could almost respect that, almost being the operative word. The tunnels below the bunker did not contain anything critical to the existence of the shadowy world of espionage that he and his partner, Nikita inhabited, but still it would be troublesome to have them wander around down there, they know too much as matters stood, and they would have to be terminated.

Standing beside with a speculative look in her eyes, Nikita glared at that spoke volumes that she held him to blame for the malfunction time delayed explosive. 'Talk about overkill." he thought to himself. Not to mention it would like receive a reprimand in both their files from their case manager, Madeline. If only for the damaged sustained by the facility.

"This is all your fault," Nikita muttered under her breath, pivoted on her hell and stalked back to the entrance, took the stairs two at a time and disappeared from sight, leaving Michael flatfooted in her wake. "The boys in documents will never believe me when they read the report I'll have to submit after this little escapade." Yelling at Nikita wouldn't do him a whole lot of good it might relieve some of the tension, failure was not an scenario he was familiar to and it tasted like cotton balls in his mouth. Shouting, knowing even if he couldn't see her, she would be listening in the shadows, "You have got a lot of gall to pin this one on me!"

Scene 3

Meanwhile, moving along seemed a sensible idea, so picking up the pieces of their gear and weapons, Jack picked a direction at random and set off at a decent marching pace. "Anybody want to chock this up to a miracle? Because I'll take my miracles any way I can get them."

"Who knew they had tunnels situated directly below the bunkers," Sam remarked. "They might be a legit operation and we would have no way of determining if that was so."

"Yeah, like the NID is a legit operation?" Jack muttered, wringing the tail ends of his clothes of the layer of water it had accumulated from soaking in the standing pool.

"Jack just because we've had differences with the folks that run that branch of the SCG operation and they've, to put it mildly, difficult and balky in their dealings with General Hammond, doesn't that they're the enemy." Sam added rummaging in her bag for flashlights. "It's dark down here, we'll need to be able to see where we're going."

"Good idea," Daniel said.

"We have enough enemies," Jack nodded. "Too bad we didn't pump more information out of these Section operatives when they were our 'guests."

"Not very good manners," Daniel muttered, plodding along, sandwiched in between Methos, Thoth and Teal'C who acted as rear guard. "Let's go."

"Then let's find a way out of this mess," Jack said. "Once we're in the clear we'll reestablish radio contact with home base and arrange for a pickup."

"You think our ride has been confiscated?" Daniel asked.

"I honestly don't know, Daniel," Jack replied.

Scene 4


"Welcome back," General Hammond greeted the retune of the SG-1 team, freshly sc

scrubbed and cleared for duty by Doctor Fraiser. Everyone took their seats around the briefing table while Hammond sat back in his chair and made a tent of his stubby but powerful fingers. He cleared his throat and got right down to business.

"A bit worse for wear, Sir, but glad to be back," Jack replied.

"Good to hear it, because we have a problem."

"I can only deal with one crisis at a time," Jack said.

Hammond chose to ignore the sarcastic comment from Colonel O'Neil and continued, "I just received a coded message from the members of the Tok'ra Council, priority one. It seems that they have a case of a missing person."

"Not Tannith again?" Sam asked, worried that the rogue parasite that had so terribly fooled everyone including the members of SG-1 and the Tok'ra elders, by revealing himself as a double agent and betraying them was stirring up trouble again.

"No. In this case, it's more a case of a missing larva. Somehow or other during the Tok'ra dealings with as they call the Tauri, they managed to misplace one."

"And what do they expect us to do about it?" Sam asked

"They are still our allies, and we will honor the pact of mutual alliance and assistance, I don't like the idea that a larva, tok'ra or gou'ald could simply go missing like that. It doesn't add up." Hammond said.

"Agreed, Sir," Jack replied.

"I've arranged a time for you to meet with the Tok'ra Council to discuss matters further." Hammond glanced down at the folds in his uniform and grabbed a handful of the starched fabric, twisting it into small knots. Looking up again at faces of those waiting on his next instructions, he said firmly and confidently: "Apparently Jonas was pressed for time and could only briefly outline the situation in his communiqué."

"Do they have a ideas of the location of the missing larva?" Carter asked, frowning. It was not in the nature of their Tok'ra allies to misplace something of such vital nature, especially if the Gou'ald got their paws on either the larva or the technology.

"It's last known location was here on Earth." Hammond replied, bringing up a map of the United States with a grid of diagrammed colored lights indicating possible search locations.

"Great, just great." Jack muttered.

"Hope it's not another case of a Gul starting up a cult, that was one mess I wouldn't wish to revisit," Sam said.

"We'll find out more once the Tok'ra representative arrives with additional information." Hammond nodded and glanced around the table. "Until then we will just have to be patient." Hammond sighed. "I expect the meeting to take place in approximately four hours, until then, you are off duty, take some time to recuperate."

Scene 5

At Section Headquarters

Madeline stood hovering over the shoulder of the technicians overseeing Section security, monitoring the live feeds from the video surveillance cameras. A line of both disapproval and concern creased her normally smooth forward. Only so much leeway and resources could be expended on the current mission op and she knew that they were missing something critical that touched directly on the current mission op with outfit running a top secret operation in Colorado at the Cheyenne mountain base. Not to mention, the damage to the bunker facility where an untimely and unfortunate pre set explosive had gone off permitting the escape of the officers from Colorado.

Birkoff, the tech specialist for Section sat ramrod straight in his chair, pretending to ignore the tension of having her hover over his shoulder and concentrate on his work, but it was proving very difficult.

Madeline tapped her perfectly manicured nails against the cardboard backing of a clipboard where sheets of paper were tapped with a outline breakdown of every scrap of information that had been collated by both the staff and the field agents on the Stargate Project. While it was through and told her that the US military had a vested interest in the project, and one of the most top secret operations she had ever seen, a lot was still filed under the category of the unknown. Such as way the Navy branch of the military would be interested in not only astronomical and archeology research and development, but why they should encourage and entice linguists experts from the civilian population. By her reckoning it didn't make much sense.

Michael sat equally erect in the chair in the reception room, where he could be seen on the opposing side of a two-way mirror. Those inside the security room could see and hear his every move, while they were inside a sound proof area.

Michael half expected to have either a written reprimand in his case file or to hear directly from Madeline about disaster the Stargate project had become. He did not tolerate failure as much as Madeline did and it was a matter of personal pride to complete each and every mission with a modicum of fuss and with utmost efficiency. To lose the 'intruders' from Colorado due to a mishap with a time delayed explosive stung and Nikita would not speak to him, except for what was necessary to file the report.

"Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable," Michael observed to no one in particular. "But there it is, nevertheless, calmly licking its chops." He smoothed back a stray lock of dark brown hair from his forehead and waited for the inevitable. "What will be, will be. I should be used to this by now."

Scene 6a Meeting with the Tok'ra

Over the base's public address system, Gate Operator Davis' buzzed came through loud and clear. "Incoming gate transmission, activation code confirms that of the Tok'ra."

"Looks like they're coming to us, now that's polite," Jack commented to the room in at large, rushing out of the briefing room and running towards the Gate Room, the rest of the team following in his wake. Hammond trailing behind, and then mounting the viewing platform in the enclosed operations chamber where he had 1805 degree view of the equipment and personnel. Armed soldiers took up standing and kneeling positions at the foot of the ramp, weapons aimed and loaded, prepared for the worst should the new arrival not be one of the off world teams or a authorized guest.

"Usually it's not a social call, Colonel O'Neil," Hammond reminded everyone Methos and Thoth squeezed in behind him. Thoth fidgeted, Methos by contrast, was a iceberg; not for the first time Hammond wondered what the two Immortals had against each other, for it was obvious they were not comfortable in each other's presence. Hammond toyed with the idea of taking them off the SG-1 team and assigning them to a different division, but then focused his attention on the gate iris and the team assigned to its operation.

Anticipation was high, Samantha Carter wasn't certain how she felt about seeing Jonas Quinn again. While he had been a valuable member of the SG-1 team during his brief stint, while Daniel had 'departed' for the beyond, it wasn't the same as the bond she shared with the others, especially Daniel and Colonel O'Neil. Given her own history with being a host to a Gul parasite and the members she retained from Jolinar, all that history did make from some uncomfortable tension. Still, Jonas was a good man, and if he believed that this situation merited a significant threat to both parties, she was for one was willing to hear what he had to say.

The gate iris opened, spilling forth its white blue light and two figures emerged out of the light and descended the access ramp. Hammond stepped down from the observation platform and planted himself at the foot of the ramp to greet the new arrivals.

Jonas Quinn had brought a female Tok'ra council member with him, at least that was Jack assumed she must be. It was difficult to tell with the blended hosts, ones who had voluntarily chosen to be bounded to a gul parasite. As far as he was concerned a snake was a snake, and it was not a stance he was likely to back down from.

An astonishingly beautiful young woman, with ice blue eyes and shoulder length blond hair was brought forward by another member of the Council, her body language speaking louder than words that she was not present voluntarily.

Jack's first glimpse of the woman was in dim lighting. It was her utter stillness that unnerved him the most; the way her hands lay folded in her lap, the way her head and shoulders never seemed to move, but those ice blue eyes kept tracking the movements of everyone else gathered in the meeting chamber, traveling back and forth over their faces. For a moment, Jonas entertained the fond thought that she was physically attracted to him, but then discarded the notion as wishful thinking. He came to the conclusion that she was deciding the best way to kill him should the need arise.

Hammond didn't care for unpleasant surprises, it rubbed against his nature, but outwardly he projected confidence and shook Quinn's left hand and assumed that when the time was right Jonas would level with them. He strode forward and made a sweeping gesture with his forearms to dismiss the armed welcoming party assembled in the Gate room, to dismiss them back to general quarters, the piercing noise of the alarm siren silenced, and with brisk strides led the SG-1 team and the new arrivals to the nearest conference room.

Inside the room, Quinn sat down, the woman introduced only as Nikita beside him. Sam studied the body language of the two Tok'ra and Quinn's pale, smooth skin hada slight a coating of perspiration that made his high domed forward gleam in the low lighting. Whatever the nature of the security leak the Tok'ra was taking this very seriously. At the time she had first met Jonas Quinn she never would have imagined he would have been the type to hold up under the pressure of a combat scenario, let alone high pressure situation, however, he had surprised many times over, she just hoped that whatever the damage, he wouldn't crack. Sam studied the female Tok'ra, and right off the bat they were a number of things about that Sam found unusual.

When she had heard that the Tok'ra were sending a representative in person as opposed to having the SG-1 team come to them, she had been half hoping that the representative in question would be her father, the blended Tok'ra member, Jacob Carter. It had been a very long time, and the prospect of seeing him again had been exciting. The blond woman sat still, in the back of Sam's thought a suspicious warning voice said, 'Nobody is that cool and collected unless they think that they have everything under their control. I can't put my finger on it, but I think the trouble starts here,' Sam thought.

"Let me get right to the heart of the matter, and the reason why I felt it necessary to come in person," Jonas began, fidgeting in his seat. " General Hammond, as you know, received the coded message at 0400 hours Earth time. "I hate to admit this, but it's my opinion that we've allowed ourselves to become too complacent which led to the security breach, and allowed our enemies to lose the potential gul larva."

"Not to sound rude," Jack sighed," But speculation won't do us much good at this point, any idea who stole the gul parasite?" Jack shrugged, exchanging glances with Sam and Doctor Jackson, "I hate to speculate, but if we're talking worst case scenarios, the Guls don't have, do they?"

"I understand, Colonel O'Neil," Jonas sighed, making a tent of his fingers as he brought his hand level with his eyes and stared through as if hoping the solution to their problems within them. "My visit in person, is not all of a social nature. In fact, the council's vote on the matter was split almost down the middle.

"Easy, son, and tell what needs to be told," General Hammond said, reassurance and confidence in his voice, and nodded at the younger man.

Jonas took a deep breath and rallied. "You see, one of the difficulties of the case is that the gul's last known location was here on your planet, the Tok'ra were careless.

"It's not my father's fault," Sam exclaimed, worried about Jacob Carter's safety and continued good will with their Tok'ra allies.

"No, Major Carter, Jacob is in good health and sends his love," Jonas smiled. "I misspoke, the parasite had gone missing when I contacted General Hammond, but we conducted a through investigation, and the gul located, but not before it chose its host."

"Not to second guess the council members," Daniel said, "Why didn't you inform of us the problem as soon as it occurred?"

"Probably more of that the 'need to know, and the council divided on how much we need to know," Sam replied.

"Wonderful," Jack muttered, not liking the sound of this latest bit of information, "Some unsuspecting civilian could be walking around right now anywhere on Earth with a snake in his or her belly and never know. I want to go on the record as saying, this is not good. And if they are, that about narrows it down to almost every healthy woman, child, and adult."

"Colonel O'Neil!" Hammond said, a warning note in his voice.

"I do have some good news," Jonas said, ignoring Colonel O'Neil's sarcastic comments, "The gul's chosen host has been located."

Jack leaned forward in his chair, ignoring the look in Teal'C's eyes, sitting in the chair next to him, so far, aside from the quizzical raised eyebrow, the former Jaffa had ventured an opinion on the discussion. "You work fast. So why do you need our help?"

"Frankly, Colonel," Jonas sighed, "We don't know how to proceed. You see the host the gul parasite chose accompanied through the Gate. "I would like to introduce to you, Nikita."

Nikita heard the tension, and throughout the discussion had listened with only half her attention, the rest centered on the faces and body language of those gathered around the conference table. She had been in many different situations, many times throughout her stint as field agent for Section where matters were not entirely under her control, where her life had been in danger, and almost every time she had emerged from those dangers unscathed.

The living presence lodged firmly in her gut dragged at her consciousness and fought for control. She had never been placed in a situation before where the person she could rely on, herself or sometimes her fellow Section agent, Michael, was the person she could not afford to trust. The voice she heard stir her thoughts like a cook with stirring thick soup with a ladle, spoke to her, telling her that being 'blended' would be the most wonderful experience in the world, that it meant her no harm, that it would help guide, protect and welcome her. Nikita hated the voice, she detested the way it made her feel, that had been divided into two very different people. It was one thing to adopt varying personalities identities, it like playing a game, a masquerade: Nikita thought, she only did was what required to perform the mission; get in, get out, and be done with it.

Nikita's memories of the last 72 hours were hazy. She recalled leaving the Section's bunker facility after the disastrous encounter with agents from Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Nikita could recall every bitter word she had hurled at Michael, blaming him for the failure it had become. She remembered retuning to Section headquarters to file the report and returning to her flat, for a long soak in her bathtub, but everything after that had become a hazy blur in her mind.

"I really don't understand," Nikita said aloud, trying to sort through her responses, wondering why she felt a sudden conviction to let almost a lifetime's worth of reserve slip. She extended her trust to a very narrow circle of people, but the voice in her mind said that she could afford to take the chance with these people, in the back of her mind she told the voice to shut up. She should be accustomed by know to turning her conscience on and off when the need arose.

"If she is or she isn't," Daniel said, "We should be able to tell, it's in the eyes."

"Doctor Fraiser can run a full medical scan, but I'm sure."

"She's blended?" Sam asked, "We don't need another disaster like what happened with Tannith."

"I understand," Jonas replied, "And to answer you're question, yes we are certain that she's a blended host, the gul's name is Cernak."

Scene 7 Revelations

"What about Thoth, maybe we can exchange him for Nikita. At least she, symbiote or no symbiote, she can handle herself in a fight." O'Neil said.

"You're kidding, right?" Daniel asked.

"I would be agreement," Methos nodded.

"Methos, be quiet, that's an order," Jack said.

"I realize that, O'Neil, but the offer still stands," Methos said.

Jonas Quinn stepped forward with the intention of making a tactful intercession when he caught a glimpse of the man introduced as Methos' profile in the reflection of glass mirror hanging on the wall behind the assembled members of SG-1. Methos had remained silent throughout the opening stages of the discussion, under orders to keep his opinions to himself from General Hammond.

In the back of Jonas Quinn's mind, and the memories of outcome of the trust the Tok'ra had extended to Tannith he couldn't help be but struck by the uncanny likeness. Tannith is dead, he did in the fireball of the death glider crash, so who the hell is that? Genneral Hammond and the SGC where present when Tannith betrayed everyone, they know he's dead. Must be the stress and the lack of sleep that's making me see things that aren't there, and then having to run damage control on the current situation. That's it, it must be." Jonas thought and tried to ignore Methos' unsettling resemblance to the dead Tok'ra.

Jack nearly bolted out of his seat at the very instant that Nikita's eyelids rolled back in her head, the whites showing. In the back of his mind, he kept thinking that's when they tell you to shoot during basic training in the arming. That's also when the snakes eyes glow. Damn, why do these things always happen to us? And what the hell do we do about it.? Aloud he managed to whisper an understated warning to Carter and Teal'C seated to either side of him. Teal'C leaned over the table like a hawk about to pounce on its prey. The former Jaffa hatred of his previous masters the Gou'ald was well-known, respected and well documented.

The voice of the gul symbiote was a startling contrast from that of the blond woman. A richer mellow contralto that Daniel Jackson felt sure would not be out of place in some Italian or perhaps German opera hall.

I have vital information that will shed light on the matter at hand, and help to resolve the concerns and questions of the parties involved.

"Why should we believe you?" Teal'C demanded, a soft undercurrent of both hope and anger shading his words.

"I am Tok'ra symbiote. Whether you believe me or not is a decision that you must make on your own," the host, Cernak, continued, using the hold that she/it had on Nikita's muscles to shrug her slender shoulders. "The host current involvement with the organization known to you as Section did not come about voluntarily. She was coerced into it. In the Tauri vernacular, she was 'framed' for a murder she did not commit, sentenced to a life in prison. Come work for Section One or spend the remainder of her natural incarcerated."

"I hate to bring up a time honored cliché, but are you saying they played a mafia movie move on her, 'no matter how much I try to get out, the more they pull me back in?'" Daniel asked.

"I am not familiar with the cultural reference," Cernak replied. "However, if I must guess at your implied meaning, then the answer is yes."

"I'm not sure I want to contemplate the implications of what we've just heard," Diel said. "If she's telling the truth about Section, and so far everything we've learned about it which is minimal, means they can't be trusted. It's scary, really. Why go to all that trouble to run a counter intelligence/espionage agency and keep it under wraps."

"Is Nikita your real name or is it identity you were grafted with once you completed your training as a field agent?" Hammond asked the self-assured blond woman.

"At this point, it hardly even matters any more," Nikita felt her control over the situation and what was happening insider her own mind and body rapidly slipping away. At first she thought she was going to be sick, then decided that anger was by far the stronger emotion.

"The question, my friends,' Jonas said, "we must ask, is whether we have the right to force her to have the symbiote removed."

"Then we're in agreement that she is blended, and it was by choice?" Hammond said. "If prior experience is any guide, then that choice is not one that can be made easily, both parties have to be in agreement."

"You can remove the parasite?" Nikita murmured, not sure if this was a better option, then having a snake in her belly. Then thought of what she might do to Section, how she get revenge for their manipulation of her life. "I'm not sure I want that."

"There is another option," Jonas said, to break the uncomfortable lull in the discussion. "As much as it would anger certain factions of the Tok'ra council, we could provide Nikita with the training and help she needs to acclimate to being blended."

"Wouldn't that put a strain on the already tense situation?" Hammond asked.

Jonas nodded. "It would, but I'm willing to take responsibility for her."

"How valuable to the guls is her snake?" Jack asked.

"Valuable enough to warrant this meeting," Jonas nodded.

"We could take her into SGC, although I doubt that would be a long term solution," Hammond replied.

"There's no cut and dried solution to this one, folks," Colonel O'Neil, said, his composure regained, 'and not to sound rude, but to be honest I am not comfortable with having a gul host here, no matter the circumstances."

"If I make you uncomfortable, Colonel," Nikita snarled, "I'd be happy to terminate you at any time of your choosing."

"That's not what I mean," Jack said, uncomfortable again.

"Whatever we decided, we had best do it soon," Jonas said, "I am expected back within the next 48 hours. With or without Nikita. And given what we have learned about Section they are not going to take the disappearance of one of their highest ranking agents lightly."

"I hadn't thought of that," Sam said.

"We'll deal with it when the time comes," Jack replied, trying for a smile and ended up with something that looked like a man shaving his worst enemy. He hated that feeling and decided he wanted to engage in action, to hit someone or something, it would make him feel better.

Nikita glanced around the table, studying faces, body language, analyzing what they were saying and what they were not, and decided, she did not want to undergo a surgical operation to have the symbiotic removed, aside from personal interest in the matter, among the available options, the one proposed by Jonas Quinn seemed to best the best as matters stood. She stood up and with the most confidence she could muster she announced. "I've made a decision, I'll join the Tok'ra. Cernak is in agreement. So you all can stop worrying."