"Trojan Horse" by Ilexa Thorn
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Chapter 1

The Nemhain, 11:30 hrs

"Excuse me, General Farr?"

General Cat Farr looked around into the worried face of her Senior Research and Development Officer. 'Oh no,' Cat thought to herself. 'I don't want to deal with another complaint about General Coup breaking into the research area and harassing the lab rats, I really don't.'

"Ah, Colonel Thorn," she said hurriedly. "I have all your memos about General Coup logged, and I will be dealing with him shortly, and I really don't have…"

Lt. Colonel Ilexa Thorn squinted perplexedly at her CO, then she broke into a grin. "I wanted to ask if you had received my memo about the briefing for the new set of experiments we are about to start. You didn't send me a reply about it, so I wanted to make sure I had a seat for you." She raised her eyebrows expressively, "Not all my e-mails are complaints about Coup you know. Some are about the food."

Cat relaxed from her braced stance and grinned back. "I think we all have a complaint about the food. Even Coup complains about the food. And yes, please do save me a seat. I am very interested in this new batch of tests. Oh, and what is this about loud music coming from your lab? I wouldn't want to receive a complaint about it," Cat deadpanned.

Thorn wrinkled her nose apologetically. "The lab rats have learned to recognise Coup's walk. Whenever he comes down the hall they try to hide under their food bowls. For now the only thing I have found to calm them down and cover the sound of his footsteps is music. The biggest problem is that they seem to like honky-tonk country music the best." She brightened, "At least it's Patsy Cline and not Dolly Parton!" Thorn hesitated and added thoughtfully, "but I think I'll have everything worked out in a couple of days. Anyway, I'll see you at 1300 in the Ready Room."

'Patsicline, doll y'parton and honkytink? Hankytank? Honky-tonk. May the Force be with me, what have I allowed on my ship? Speaking of bad food…' Cat turned the corner into the mess hall.

The Nemhain Ready Room, 1300 hrs

"As you all are aware, we have been able to use generic Goa'uld technology with a large degree of success. Zat guns, ring transport, the Stargate itself—this technology is well understood." Thorn motioned to the two-way vid-screen broadcasting her image to the Briefing Room at the SGC. "Major Carter has made significant steps recently in Stargate research with the information gathered from the Adrian Conrad Goa'uld and the mini-Stargate in her basement." She paused in her monologue as her mouth twitched at the thought of a Stargate in the basement. So cool!

"What we have had very little success with is understanding the higher functioning devices. The devices that work only when a Goa'uld is using them. As we have only a few of these devices we have been loathe to take them apart for the basic fear that we will not be able to put them back together again." She turned to the small group assembled in the Nehmain's Ready Room. "But now we hope to be able to gain some insight into the working of these devices with the help of a few members of Rogue Squadron." She gestured to a young lady sitting near the front of the presentation area. "Colonel Halcyon, would you like to explain your part in these tests?"

Lt. Colonel and Jedi Knight, Sharr K'nee Halcyon stood to address the group. She was poised and relaxed, feeling the curiosity of the room swing toward her. She opened her mind and felt the presence of her friends and fellow Rogues. She even recognised the sceptical mind of General Coup in the room, and wondered briefly if he had been dragged by the ear to this briefing, and by whom?

She turned her attention to the vid-screen. "I realise that some here have only a basic knowledge of how a Jedi is able to focus the power of the Force to gain, what I believe the people of Earth term it, Extra-Sensory Perception. I, and other Jedi, am able to extend my awareness to link to another person's mind: to observe the active and latent thought processes of that person's mind and use my observations for analysis."

"As those in my unit know," she nodded to her unit commander, "for the past few weeks I have been back and forth to the SGC. There, Major Carter, Colonel Thorn and I have been practising mind linking. It is our theory that Colonel Thorn and I will be able to observe the underlying thought processes that allow Major Carter to use the Goa'uld devices. We will also be monitoring the Major's life signs and physical activity through the mind-link and by conventional means."

Sharr caught a flurry of thoughts from around the room, all asking the same question. "No, we will not be using the Ribbon device in these tests, you all will just have to wait." She flashed a light smile as she heard groans from various areas in the room as a loud "Ahh, come on…" sounded from the speakers of the vid-screen. It did not take a Jedi to know whose groan that was!

"As healing is my speciality and we do have several ways of causing harm to the enemy already, General Hammond and General Farr have already decided that we will focus our tests on the healing device. We also think we will have more volunteers this way." Another, softer murmur ran through the group. "Do you have anything to add, Major Carter?"

Attention swung from Halcyon to the vid-screen. In the depths of Cheyenne Mountain Major Carter straightened in her chair. "Just two points. First, we decided that we would conduct these tests on the Nemhain. Not only does this allow Colonel Halcyon to have access to her responsibilities within her unit, it also allows us to have Jedi Talpeer Sorius and her apprentice CelesTae Rinalya as independent observers and backup in case anything goes wrong. Most importantly, we will be taking volunteers from the crew of the Nemhain. So if anyone has a headache up there, as of 0900 tomorrow you will want to report to Colonel Thorn's research area."

The Nemhain Research Lab, 0845 hrs

"Nice place you have here, Ilexa." Samantha Carter scanned the well-equipped lab and cocked an eyebrow. "As much as I like being on the front line with SG-1, I definitely would be tempted by this set-up. If you ever get homesick for Earth just let me know and I will swap you labs in a heartbeat."

"Hah, not!" Ilexa Thorn fiddled with the sound dampening controls she had set up around a series of cages in the corner. "New Republic technology to learn about, Goa'uld technology to fiddle with, zero-G testing for some of our friends at NASA, I am in Heaven!" She gave one of the emitters a technical tap and snorted. "Take for example this series of sound dampening equipment straight from X-wing overstock. This puts up a dampening wall that helps block any residual engine noise and vibration from interfering with the pilot's communications." She waved a screwdriver at the three emitters. "I spent half the night setting up this system but the rats still duck and cover whenever Coup turns down the hall. There is no way we will be able to concentrate if I have to crank out Conway Twitty at level 6! I think I just ha…"

Carter glanced up in surprise. Although she could see that Thorn was still talking, she couldn't hear her anymore. Thorn caught her look and mouthed, "can you hear me?" Sam shook her head and laughed as Thorn gave a big thumbs up and stepped towards her.

"Okay, how about now?"

Sam nodded as Thorn wiped her forehead dramatically. "Thanks goodness! Oh wait, better give them something to listen to…" Thorn stepped back toward the cages, flicked the power on to the small player and dialled the sound control down to .07. She then stepped out of the sound dampened field, stepped in, stepped out, stepped in, and stepped out.

"Ah, technology."

Just then Padawan CelesTae Rinalya stepped into the lab. She was almost calm, but not quite, the excitement of being involved in this new experiment was overcoming her Jedi training. As she walked over to Carter and Thorn she concentrated on relaxing her stride, letting her extra energy flow out through the soles of her boots.

"So how are the rats, Colonel Thorn? I brought them some banana and pelico, can I give it to them?

Thorn looked over CelesTae's offering. "Banana yes, pelico no. The last thing I need is a rat with a stomach-ache. I don't know how well they would take to off-world food and I am not about to start tests right now." She turned to Sam, "have you tried pelico? It tastes like mango, um, sorta." She blinked as she thought about this. "Could Major Carter try some of that?" She asked CelesTae. They split it three ways and each spent a moment trying to eat while not dripping juice on their uniforms.

Carter finally had to ask the question that had been pestering her all morning.

"You don't have any research that involves animal testing, do you? So what's with the rats?"

CelesTae was surprised to feel a wave of guiltiness radiate out from Thorn. The researcher looked around the room for any eavesdroppers hiding behind lab equipment, and even made a motion to look out in the hall for any potential lurkers.

"Well, it's not so much animal testing as critical lab support."

"Huh? Wait a moment," frowned CelesTae, "Critical support?"

"Well yeah," Thorn motioned them over to the cages, "lets formally introduce you." The three of them stepped into the dampening field and the whisper of a slow country ballad could now be heard. She pointed at the three cages, "This is Wink, this is Blink, this is Nod." CelesTae began to feed the rats bit of banana.

"They are great to have around," Thorn explained. "They let you know when anyone is coming into the lab so no one startles you into dropping a test tube. They remind you to eat when you're busy working on an experiment—when you feed them, you feed yourself—and best of all you have something to talk to when you run into problems, instead of talking to the wall or yourself." She leaned against a table and grinned sheepishly at them. "I don't know about you Sam, but these guys keep me from becoming the 'mad scientist' out of a sci-fi story. I don't know what I am going to do if I have to keep this dampening field up. These guys won't be able to warn me if anyone comes in or—"

Suddenly the rats let out one combined screech and dove to the far corners of their cages as a voice boomed in her ear.

"Got a live one for you here ladies, seems Captain Phillipe had an argument with a door and the door won," said General Coup. "What's the matter?" As two of the three women jumped. "Oh, you got a dampening field working, sorry to startle you! So does Phillipe here fit the bill for your first guinea pig? Or is that lab rat?"

"Well, lets check out the injury and make a basic assessment first," stuttered Thorn as her heart returned to its normal position. She cast a meaningful glare at CelesTae and whispered, "why didn't you warn us?"

"I forgot we were in the dampening field and you couldn't hear anyone enter the lab! Sorry!"

The four of them walked from the main lab to one of the many smaller labs on that level. General Coup waved the three ladies through first then entered himself and leaned against the wall.

'Hocus pocus and mystical auras, give me my P-90 any day. Or Jo-Ann here.' He rested his hand lightly on the butt of his New Republic service blaster. General Farr did not like the thought of projectile weapons on her ship and had issued Coup his own blaster first thing. He immediately christened it after his wife and hated to leave it in his quarters when he had to go Earth-side.

Sharr and Talpeer were already in the lab with a young officer sitting on an exam table in front of them. Sharr was examining the officer's hand calmly while Talpeer took his general stats.

"I don't know what I tripped over, but my hand slipped between the hatch and the seal just as it was closing." Captain Phillipe looked worriedly at the two of them. "How bad is it? What can you do about it? Is it going to keep hurting like this?"

Sharr nodded at the four entering the room, and noted to Talpeer, "two bones broken though not severely, both hairline fractures." Her eyes narrowed slightly as she focused her attention. "Slight tear on a tendon and general bruising over back of the hand and palm. Lets get a scan of this hand for the records."

She smiled at Phillipe's worried look, "usually this would take a couple hours in a bacta hand-bath, but hopefully we can have you out of here in an hour." Sharr leaned closer and whispered confidentially, "and we can clear up that little hang-over for you." She leaned back and said more loudly, "I think we can tone down the pain a bit, we want to experiment on you, not let you suffer."

CelesTae rolled a cart over to the exam table while Thorn scanned notes and turned on a recording device mounted to the far wall. Facing the recording device, Ilexa noted aloud the experiment number, date, time and then introduced the first case.

"Captain Phillipe, hairline fractures, tendon tearing and bruising to the right hand." Her voice sing-songed as she read the information. "Headache and mild stomach discomfort, though not related to the actual accident." She gave the device a knowing look. "Starting out nice and simple," Thorn squared her shoulders at the camera, "OK, let's rock. And uh…" she shrugged, "may the Force be with us."

She turned and picked up the small wireless electrodes that would monitor her vital signs. Sam and Sharr had already stuck theirs to the appropriate places. Sam turned to the cart and picked up the instrument that rested on it—the Goa'uld Healing device.

"It's a good thing Farr found this device on one of her digs, it would have been a pain to do all the paperwork to get the device we have out of the SGC," said Sam.

She slid it onto her hand and checked the fittings.

"What does it feel like to use this device?" CelesTae asked as she pushed the cart to one side.

"Well, have you ever seen any perspective puzzles? When you look at a picture a certain way and all you see are spots, but if you relax, and then focus, all the sudden you can see a picture? It's kind of like that." She ran her hand over the focusing stone. "Hopefully Thorn and Sharr will be able to pick up on how this device knows a Goa'uld when it sees one."

Sam turned to Sharr and Thorn. They nodded to her in unison and she stepped to the exam table. Sharr stood behind her and a little to the right. Thorn had silently pulled up a chair behind the both of them and sat, trying to remember Sharr's lessons on breathing. Let the tension out, breath deep, seek peace. Wait, that was in a book somewhere, hey focus here…

She looked up as Coup waved a hand slightly at her, "Should I be in here?" He asked softly.

"Of course. Our biggest concern is that the device will not function while we are mind-linked to Carter. We think the device just won't work, but since this is the first test having an extra observer around helps. You should be able to tell if something is going wrong by watching Tal's face. If she looks worried, you look worried."

Coup relaxed back against the wall as Thorn felt Sharr's mind brush hers. Then she was there, attached to Sharr's mind, who was attached to Sam's mind. Thorn felt like she was mentally looking over Sharr's shoulder, which in a way she was. She heard Talpeer explaining to Phillipe what would happen through three sets of ears.

"Major Carter will raise the device about six inches above your hand. A soft light will come out of it, so don't let that worry you. We didn't want to give you too much pain medication because I want you to describe what you are feeling. What it feels like when the bones knit, what does your torn tendon and the bruising feel like as the swelling goes down. Let us know if you feel any discomfort, alright?"

Thorn and Sharr felt Sam held the captain's hand in her left hand as she raised the healing device in her right. They felt Sam's mind reach down into the device, recognising it and summoning its power. The focusing stone began to glow a soft gold light down onto the bruised hand. The colour of the light increased in intensity.

Talpeer spoke in a low voice to Phillipe. "What do you feel, is it warm or cold?"

Phillipe looked at Talpeer nervously, "it feels a little warm, but just like holding your hand to a bright light, is that right?"

Sam stirred faintly, she was aware of a resistance to her mind from the device. She could not remember feeling this before, was she trying too hard? She felt Sharr try to nudge away some of her worry. Just relax and fix this man's hand, she told herself.

She took a deep relaxing breath and didn't have time to react as a surge of power rushed out from the healing device into her mind. It sparked across her mind-link to Sharr even as she gasped out a warning.

Sharr felt the strength of the surge slap into her mind. She fought to shield Thorn, but the surge seemed to draw power from Sam and her mind combined, then roared down the mind-link attaching her to Thorn.

Thorn made to stand up when she heard Sam gasp, so she was unbalanced as a bright light came rushing toward her. It knocked her back over her chair and across the floor, where she slammed into another exam table with her back. She held that pose for a moment, her head tilted back toward the ceiling in a contemplative gesture. Then her body decided that was enough for one day and she scraped down the side of the table to the floor.

The Nemhain Research Lab 3, 0948 hrs "Woah, is she going to be okay?" Coup held Thorn gently down to the decking as Talpeer and Sharr tried to examine her. Thorn sucked in a huge chest-full of air through her clenched teeth and found her eyes wouldn't focus.

"Thorn, relax! That's an order! Ilexa!" Thorn realised she was still trying to sit up, all of her muscles were tensed and shaking. They began to shake even more as she realised she could not get her muscles to respond. It was hard to breathe, it was hard to think, she tasted ozone, just like after a thunderstorm. She vaguely heard Sharr say, "all right Thorn, rest. Ilexa, calm down, breathe." She felt a hand touch her temples and then she didn't feel much of anything.

"Talpeer, could you take over? I'm drained." Sharr sat back on her heels and looked around the room, checking to make sure everyone was being seen to. A wave of dizziness made her reel slightly and she felt a hand steady her. She looked up into Phillipe's eyes. He was pale and was holding his injured hand curled to his chest, but with the other he gripped Sharr's shoulder firmly until she could gain her equilibrium.

"Did I do that?" Phillipe asked half-joking as he helped Sharr stand.

"No," she decided against shaking her head. "No, but are you all right? You didn't feel the surge at all, did you?

Phillipe walked her over to the exam table where he had been sitting a few moments before. "No, I just watched this ball of light bounce from Major Carter to you, then whack into Colonel Thorn. It looked really painful," he added helpfully.

"Very descriptive, I'm sure."

CelesTae was hovering around Sam in one corner while Talpeer leaned over Thorn, who now looked to be breathing normally, her body relaxed. Everyone jumped and Coup spun on his heel as the door burst open and various ship personnel skidded to a halt just inside the doorway.

"What happened! A surge knocked out half the sensors on this level!

"Out, out, out! Yes, we had a major energy surge; no, you cannot work on it right now; yes, you can contact medical and get a team down here double-time! Move!" Coup herded the techs out into the hall and did a second assessment of the situation.

"The lab next door is set up as a triage ward for any patients, so we can move Thorn in there as soon as Talpeer gives the okay. Sam and Sharr are in various stages of shock and the rest of us are shaken, not stirred." He ran a hand through his short-cropped hair. "And it's only 10 o'clock in the morning."

"General," Talpeer called out. "If you could get some of those techs to help me move Thorn to lab four, they can get to work in here."

Two technicians ducked back into the lab and helped move a now calmly sleeping Thorn onto a gurney. Sharr and Phillipe were already moving into the next room and Sam and CelesTae were following.

"Um, Major Carter?" Sam turned toward Coup as he knelt to look at something on the floor. "What should we do with this?" Sam looked down at the remains of the healing device and groaned. The casing was blackened and cracked open, allowing the focusing stone to roll free like a new-born hatchling out of its egg.

"You're the demolitions expert, what do you suggest?"

"Well my first suggestion would be to dump it out the nearest airlock, but in the name of science I guess we have to hang onto it." He motioned to a tech. "Here, let me see that scanner," he scanned the healing device on a number of settings. "It seems to be completely inert—no power readings at all." He thought for a second, then grabbed a data pad and gingerly slid the device onto it. "I'll put this in the main lab area, you go ahead and have a medic look you over."

Sam moved slowly to lab four. She paused at the door and watched the room for a moment. The medical team had arrived. CelesTae was busy observing a medic put a bacta patch over Phillipe's bruised hand. Sharr was resting on one of the small cots while Major Jenna, Chief Medical officer of the Nemhain, hurried toward Sam.

"There you are. How do you feel?" They moved to an exam table.

"Actually, other than a pounding headache, I'm not too bad. Except for this scrape." She motioned to a welt on the back of her hand. "I wasn't too gentle trying to get the healing device off."

"Hmm, I think all we need is a big bacta Band-Aid. For the headache I am going to suggest another earth phrase: 'take two aspirin and call me in the morning.' Extra-strength aspirin, of course…" She sensed Sam's attention turn to the other cot in the room and turned to look herself.

Every few seconds one of Thorn's hands would spasm, then relax. She lay still on the cot, but both women could see that her eyes were open. Major Jenna and Sam moved to either side of the cot. Eventually Thorn's eyes focused on their concerned faces. She swallowed, clearing her throat.

"That was painful. Is it possible for your hair to hurt?" Sam and Jenna glanced at each other in sympathy. "Is everyone okay? Where's Sharr?" Thorn turned her head and noticed Sharr on the next cot. "So, what was that all about?"

"I have a few ideas about that," Sam said as she relaxed against a nearby table. "I think our mind-link caused some kind of feedback loop in the healing device. I think that as it moved along the link Sharr and I were like transformers, relaying and doubling the strength of the surge, so that when it hit you it was like a blast from a ribbon device."

Sharr shook out of her reverie and turned to address the group. "I believe that as well. The surge moved through me and gained strength as it went, but I am relatively unharmed. As Thorn was the last in line, the surge has nowhere else to go."

"So I was the ground? Well it's nice to think it was nothing personal." Thorn shoved herself up into a sitting position and raised her hand like a student asking a question. "Have either of you ever seen a power surge travel through a mind-link before? I mean, did the surge jump between us because we were standing close and mind-linked, or would it have come after me if I had been standing across the room? Also, don't you think that—"

Major Jenna loomed over Thorn's cot, "We are not about to go into a breakdown of what happened right now. You have severe bruising, a nasty burn where an electrode tried to melt into your skin and you probably glow in the dark. You are taking the rest of the day off and so are the rest of you, okay?"

Thorn should have known not to argue when Jenna used earth slang to make a point.

"Yes Ma'am, but can't I—"




"What about—"

Coup had been monitoring the technicians working in the hall, but decided to break the deadlock. "Thorn, she is the ranking medical officer here, you better follow her orders."

"How can I relax? When I talk, my teeth spark!"

"Then I suggest you don't talk."

Talpeer stepped in to smooth things over. "I'll bring you your data pad so you can make some notes, but since you are allergic to bacta, you need to give yourself some time to heal. The data isn't going anywhere.

"OK, alright, as long as you bring me a data pad, I'm down for maintenance."

"Under supervision."

"What! Grrr… Under supervision."

Sam headed for the door, "I am going to make a preliminary report to the SGC. Then I am going to call it a day. What do you do up here to relax? Besides playing Sabacc, I mean?"

The rest of the group headed for the hall while an orderly policed the lab. Coup paused at the door and looked back at Thorn.

"Can I get you anything else?"

Thorn watched her hands spasm for a moment. "Yeah. How 'bout a surge protector?"

Chapter 2

The Nemhain Research Lab, 1030 hrs

Captain Phillipe poked his head into the main research area, looking for his flight jacket. His hand still smarted, and he was not looking forward to the ribbing he was going to catch about his little accident. He scanned the room and spotted the rats' cages in the corner. The surge had knocked both the dampening device and the sound system off-line. He stepped toward the cages thinking he could at least get the…


The burned out Healing device lay on the table. The focusing stone lay amid the blackened bits of casing. The deep crimson was etched with black tracings and inclusions. It must have gotten really hot. Phillipe leaned closer, following the tracing with his eyes. Really hot…


Phillipe did not notice how the rats watched him, quietly, intensely. Black eyes like obsidian chips, they did not chitter to each other, they just watched.

Phillipe scooped up the stone and clutched it tightly. With a preoccupied air he strode from the room, forgetting the rats, forgetting his jacket. He needed to get to the bridge. Now.

The Nemhain, level 6, 1041hrs

Colonel Snow was checking patrol schedules when he was almost run down by Captain Phillipe.

"Phillipe, hey! What's the hurry? Hey!"

Phillipe blinked, stared, and spun on his heel. "What am I doing on level 6? I was headed for the mess hall. Oh, 'scuse me Colonel." Phillipe hurried back down the way he had come, shaking his head and muttering.

Colonel Snow shook his head in bafflement. As he bent to pick up his data pad, his eye caught a flash of light from a stone lying on the floor. It looked like a bellen stone from his home planet, deep red with black inclusions. He wondered where Phillipe would have gotten it.

"Phillipe—" But the captain had turned the corner and was out of earshot.

"I'll give it to him at patrol briefing." He tucked the stone in his pocket.

The Nemhain Ready Room, 1230 hrs

"Okay, so you can travel across the galaxy, fight the Empire and the Goa'uld, blow up a space station so large people mistook it for a small moon, and you feed yourselves this?" Sam was never one to complain about food before, but still. "I thought you said this had pelico in it?"

"It does, it just doesn't taste like it," CelesTae said. CelesTae and Talpeer frowned down at their plates. "I don't want to think about what it does taste like."

"Look at these reading, they don't match at all!" Sharr appeared out of nowhere and thrust a data pad at Sam for inspection. "Look, I had the SGC send me power readings from the last time you used the Healing device. I compared them to this morning's readings and they don't match at all."

"Not even at the beginning of the test, before the surge?" Sam compared the two lines of spikes. "Did you take into account the low sensitivity of our sensors?"

"Yes, I correlated the sensor levels. But that's not all, check this out." Sharr poked the data pad and a third spiky line appeared. "This is a power reading from a ribbon device."

Talpeer inspected the readings over Sam's shoulder. "None of the lines match each other—but our test circumstances do not match the circumstances when these SGC readings were taken. Perhaps a device never gives off the same reading twice."

"No," said Sam slowly. "From what little I have been able to experiment with both devices, the readings for each device matched previous uses. The Healing device would sometimes sustain peak energy discharge depending on the injury, but it never rose above this level"—she pointed at the SGC readings.

"I have a feeling I had better run some tests on our Healing device."

The Nemhain Research Lab 4, 1250 hrs

"No, listen to the slower beat, the switches to minor key, and of course the words are the biggest difference." Thorn hit the play button of her MP3 player again. The orderly bent his head toward the speakers. They both jumped as Sam burst through the door from the main research area.

"I thought Major Jenna told you to relax. What are you doing out of bed?"

Thorn frowned at her, "I am just helping this orderly understand the difference between Jazz and the Blues. It's a distinction all newcomers to Earth should know."

"You were told to relax, not sink into depression."

"Depression is listening to Loretta Lynn one more time. The rats now like jazz, thank goodness."

Sam looked at the MP3 player in Thorn's hand. The case had an odd bulging attachment held on with electrical tape. "What happened to your player?"

"Oh, I tweaked it out with the Republic's version of flash memory."

"How much memory did it have before?"

"About 3 hours."

Sam raised her eyebrows, "and how much does it have now?"

"Uh, enough to hold all my favourite songs."

"What does that translate to in days?"

Thorn grinned, "About sixteen. Like I said, I love technology."

Sam's face tightened in worry. "We were comparing sensor readings between some tests I ran at the SGC and our fried friend in there. Here, look these over." She handed the data pad to Thorn. "As you can see none of the readings match. I thought I would run a few tests on whatever is left of the Healing device."

"Do you want to do that now? You were supposed to take a break too, you know." Thorn glanced at the orderly, who still had his ear cocked intently to the small speakers. "I think we can mosey over to the main lab without disturbing our music critic here."

"Actually, I just wanted to ask you where the focusing stone went."

"What?" Thorn jumped up and immediately grabbed for the nearest chair, "Oh my aching back!" She forced herself to the doorway as the orderly remembered what he was supposed to be doing and came after her.

"Who brought the device in here this morning?" Thorn asked.

"Coup did, I watched him put it on the table here. He didn't want to touch it."

"No, Coup would not have messed with it. I'm surprised anyone would touch it, let alone take the focusing stone. I have a bad feeling about this."

The Nemhain, Flight Lieutenant's office, 1400 hrs

Colonel Viper was not a harsh man. He used discipline when he had to, but right now he was mad enough to be very harsh indeed.

"Technicians saw you enter the main research area. They saw you exit it only a minute later. The recording devices were brought back online just after you left. According to these devices no one else entered the lab except Major Carter, when she noticed the focusing stone missing. So I ask one more time before I toss you in the brig and weld the door shut. What did you do with the stone?"

Captain Phillipe hunched in his chair and tried not to bite through his lip. He hadn't touched the stone, he had just looked at it, right? Or did he? It was hard to remember. Any hangover was better than this grilling.

Talpeer moved behind Viper. "Let's speak out in the hall."

With one last glare at the mournful captain, Viper joined the rather large group now gathered in the hall.

"I think I can say with a large degree of certainty that the captain did not take the stone intentionally. He is not lying when he says he did not pick up the stone."

"I concur with Talpeer," agreed Sharr. "But there is something that worries me, he honestly cannot remember what he did between the time he entered the lab until he bumped into Colonel Snow. I do not know what would cause this."

Thorn winced as she straightened up from leaning against the wall. "Where's Colonel Snow? Maybe he noticed something when he bumped into Phillipe." She sighed, "Has anyone searched that corridor? Maybe he dropped it and it's lying there waiting for us to pick it up?" She didn't look too hopeful about it.

Suddenly everyone's comm beeped. "Research team, get to the bridge. Colonel Viper, this involves you too. Double-time everyone."

Bridge of the Nemhain, 1406 hrs

Glåntry Fett, Captain of the Nemhain, was not a happy man at the moment. He glared at the screen in front of him, "I do not believe this! Check it again, Airman."

Airman Delboy checked the reading for the fifth time. "The computer confirms, sir." Delboy hadn't been with Rogue Squadron long, but he knew that when your Captain is ready to chew a bulkhead you do what you are ordered.

Fett swung around as Thorn, Sharr, Sam, Talpeer, CelesTae and Viper entered the bridge in a rush. "Oh Colonel Thorn, so glad you could stop by. I believe you have been looking for a little trinket. A red stone with black markings, about this big?"

'Oh-oh, now what?' "Yes Sir, do you happen to have it?"

"No I do not, but I will introduce you to the person that did. Lieutenant Natalie, I believe these people need to ask you a few questions."

Fett stepped aside to reveal a young second lieutenant, looking shell-shocked and pale.

Casting an apprehensive glance at the Captain, Thorn asked, "Lieutenant, what did you do with the focusing stone?"

Sam interrupted the lieutenant before she could begin to speak.

"Let's rephrase that question, tell us everything that happened since you bumped into Colonel Snow."

"Colonel Snow? I didn't bump into him. No, General Fel gave me the stone! He asked me to take it to the bridge. I don't remember anything until the Captain shook me—it was like I was sleepwalking!"

Captain Fett nodded. "She walked in and stood by the navigation computer. Then she and General Farr talked for a moment. Then she just stood there, staring into space. She wouldn't respond until I shook her."

Sharr stepped forward, "where is General Farr now?"

I haven't been able to reach her on her comm, and I have people checking for her now. She was due for a briefing with the Chief Engineer, but never showed up." The Captain's voice became even sterner, if such a thing were possible. "But that is not the worst of it. While the Lieutenant and General Farr were standing here, the entire contents of the navigation computer were downloaded. All our charts, all of the Republic's fleet information, the works."

Thorn's eyes glazed over for a moment. 'This is worse than the time the Goa'uld technology on the X-301 malfunctioned and tried to take the long way home with Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill along for the ride. But that was caused by a piggy-packed recall device—oh-'

"We need to find that stone fast!"

"We are looking for General Farr now—" Fett began.

"No, that will take too long! Agh! It will try to return any way it can!"

"What in Wild Space are you talking about, Colonel?" Fett barked.

Sam grabbed the Captain's arm, she knew what Thorn was talking about, "Captain, you have to stop all transport off this ship! Ring system, cargo ships, the works!"

Thorn whirled on Colonel Viper, "When does the next patrol leave? Block it, do not let a single fighter leave this ship. Lock down on all pilots - all pilots - and keep them away from their ships! Now!"

General Fett and Colonel Viper stared at each other in mute surprise, then ran for the nearest comm systems. "This is the Captain speaking, all pilots report to the briefing room. All those with pilot training report to the briefing room. This is not a drill!"

Viper was busy talking to his flight staff. "Yes all patrols! No, I do not want anyone near any space worthy vessel, clear the hanger and keep everyone out!" He turned back to the research team. "Someone better explain what is going on."

"That focusing stone is a plant. It is able to somehow control a person's mind, guiding them here to the bridge and letting it access your databases." Sam explained.

"Now it has to be trying to get back to whomever planted it, and that means either a space-worthy craft or the Stargate." Added Thorn. "Have we been able to raise the Ring shuttle yet?"

Lieutenant Natalie turned from the comm desk and looked bleakly at her. "You are not going to like this. The crew of the shuttle just called in, Wedge Antilles just tried to disable it! They barely made it back to the hanger. Security is holding him there."

"Sorry I'm late, I think I am coming down with something…" Cat Farr looked into the surprised faces and stopped in her tracks. "What?"

"Uh, we'll explain as we go, General, just follow us!"

The Nemhain, 1430 hrs

The entire group took off like the start of a marathon. They pounded down the corridors and entered the hanger in a rush. They almost fell over each other as those in the front faced a ring of blasters. First, security had been ordered to keep all personnel out of the hanger, and now the Chief Engineer had sabotaged a shuttle? Safeties off.

"Hold up!" Major Phil, head of security, recognised General Farr and looked to her for direction.

"Major, we need to talk to General Antilles right now." Ordered Farr.

"And question the crew of the shuttle," interrupted Thorn.

"And see the shuttle crew," Cat added.

Surrounded by security, Wedge Antilles scowled more in desperation than in anger. 'What did I think I was doing? We could have been completely adrift.' He amended that thought. 'We could have been dead.'

Thorn faced the shuttle crew. "Okay, what happened?"

The crew commander stepped forward, "General Antilles boarded with General Coup. He seemed distracted and said he wanted to check some system relays. We reached the Ring transfer point and General Coup was sent down to the SGC. Then Antilles pulled a bunch of engine relays! Half the systems went off-line! I can't believe we made it back to the ship, let alone manoeuvred into the hanger. The Chief here was back in the engine room, he can tell you what happened there."

Chief Master Sergeant D.L. Thirteen stepped forward. "Antilles wasn't selective about what he disconnected, he just yanked all the relays he could reach. Then he jumped back and started yelling. He was able to reconnect our basic manoeuvring thrusters in time, otherwise we would have been splattered across the side of the ship."

"Did Antilles and Coup talk? Did he hand Coup anything?" Thorn knew the answer already, but she had to ask.

"Yes, they talked a bit, but they seemed really formal about it. Then Antilles handed Coup something, Coup was transported down, we turned for home, then everything went nuts."

"Oh, no!" Thorn rolled her eyes back in her head. A detonator-happy demolitions expert controlled by an unknown force. This day couldn't get any better.

Colonel Viper came up to her. "The comm officers haven't been able to get through to the SGC. We don't have any way of warning them about General Coup."

The rest of the research group gathered around.

"How long would it take to fix the shuttle?" Sam asked a now exonerated Wedge.

"Twenty minutes? Forty? I don't remember what I did, so I can't fix anything without a major systems diagnostic."

"Can we sneak an X-wing down to the surface?" Sam queried.

"Technically, NASA and Norad would look the other way, but we have no cloaking devices. An X-wing would be hard to disguise as a planetary craft to any civilian. It would be a big risk." Viper mused.

"No. We can get down to SGC immediately," Thorn looked at the disabled shuttle. "We just have to have the guts to use it."

"Oh, no. No way," responded Cat. "I cannot allow you to try a Ring transport from this distance, it is three times as far as any test we have run. Risking your lives is one thing, but suicide is definitely out."

"General, there is no way, on this earth or any other, that I am going to allow such damaging information to get into the hands of a System Lord. I will never be able to live with myself. And we don't know what that focusing stone is programmed to do. If it orders Coup to destroy the SGC - and this is Coup, mind you - Cheyenne Mountain is going to look like the Bingham Copper Mine. I am not asking, I am not arguing, I am going down to the SGC via the Rings, right now."

Thorn and Farr glared at each other. Then Thorn turned and began to walk over to the shuttle as the crew stood there, unsure what to do.

Cat clenched her jaw in exasperation. 'Is our motto, "doing the impossible is our stock in trade," or is it "doing the idiotic?"' Then she made a decision. She caught the eye of the Chief Master Sergeant and jerked her head toward the shuttle. The Chief broke into a jog to catch up to Thorn.

Sam ran after them, "if anyone needs my help more than you do right now, I don't want to know about it."

Sharr fell in behind Sam, "as a Jedi, I am committed to see this through, though it is taking all of my training to be calm right now."

Thorn grinned at her, then turned back to setting the co-ordinates. Sam explained to Cat and the rest of the group assembled their narrow window of opportunity.

"Right now The Nemhain is near the edge of the zone between the far and near sides of the moon. Because of the libration of the Moon in its elliptical orbit, the Nemhain is in the position to 'peak' around the Moon a bit at the Earth. Hopefully we will get a shot toward Earth. The Ring's counterpart system in the SGC should compensate for our bad aim and draw the matter stream down to it."

Sam looked up from her calculations. Cat and the rest of the group were looking at her with funny smiles on their faces.

"Major, none of us are Colonel O'Neill," Cat chuckled.

"Oh, yeah, right."

"General Farr," Thorn called out, "um, you may want to scramble an X-wing, just, you know, in case."

"Done, now get outta here before I change my mind."

Sharr, Sam and Thorn moved to the middle of the large red circle marked on the floor of the shuttle. Sam signalled to the Chief. He nodded back. The Rings appeared, the Rings disappeared. They were gone.

"May the Force go with them," Cat glanced around the hanger, "and be with us."

"How do we know if they made it?" Asked Viper.

"We don't. Not until they have a chance to contact us." She motioned to the Flight Lieutenant, "get an X-wing out of here and into close orbit. We may just have to blow our cover."

Chapter 3

SGC Ring Transport Room, 1507 hrs

"Wuff," grunted Thorn, as she and Sam fell on their rumps. The three had materialised in the SGC, but at a 60° angle. Thorn glared at Sharr, who had managed to remain upright. Then she realized they had made it. "Whoohoo, I love technology!"

Sam had other concerns on her mind. "We should have been met by a guard, someone is always posted to this room." She hurried over to a red phone in the corner and got the base switchboard, "Get me General Hammond."

After a few moments Sam heard the General's voice on the line.

"This is Hammond and it better be important."

"Sir, it's Major Carter. I don't have a lot of time to explain, but we have to find General Coup as soon as possible. He may be headed for the Stargate."

"Major, according to what little information I have, General Coup sealed off all corridors leading to the Stargate and stunned anyone that got in the way. He sealed the section doors closed, and where he could not do that, he set off explosives and dropped the ceiling in!" The phone practically vibrated in Sam's hand. Thorn and Sharr could hear every word.

Thorn turned to the terminal next to the phone and logged in as Sam explained to the General what had happened on the Nemhain. Sharr looked over Thorn's shoulder. A General Alert symbol was flashing in the corner of the monitor. Thorn tapped away on the keyboard and pulled up a layout of the SGC. The layout was marked with a number of red triangles; some of the triangles had secondary boxes surrounding them. Thorn pointed at the monitor, "these triangles show where the corridor has been blocked by the sealed section doors." She pointed at two of the triangles. "These boxed ones must the corridors blocked by the roof collapsing! He's completely ringed himself in and blocked all access to the Stargate."

"Major, I assume you are in the Ring Transport Room," General Hammond continued more calmly. "Now, that room is within the blocked area." Sam stared at the map with a start and realized the General was right; they were just down corridor 42 from the Stargate. "Major, it is up to you to stop Coup trying to access the Stargate. Sergeant Davis has locked himself in the control room, but he is not going to hold Coup off for long. At least try to slow Coup down until we can get through these doors."

"Understood General. We will be in contact." Sam looked at Thorn and Sharr, "We have to somehow keep Coup from the Stargate until reinforcements can get here."

Thorn groaned, "Ah great. How do you sneak up on a covert ops specialist? I'm a researcher for crying out loud! All they taught me in my self-defense class was to throw up on an attacker!"

"Maybe we can distract him," Sam pondered a moment. "He should be pre-occupied trying to get into the control room, we can use that to our advantage. What else can we use?"

Sharr snapped her lightsaber off her belt. "I can turn down the heat emitter so it will not burn, but I wish I carried a blaster. We could stun Coup and this would be over."

"I think I have an idea on how to distract him," Sam said slowly. "We give him what he wants." Sam picked up the receiver and contacted Hammond as Thorn and Sharr stared at her in alarm. She began to explain her plan to the General as they listened with growing comprehension.

"It's simple, really." Sam explained. "When Coup enters the Control room we will be able to come down the corridor. I am going to risk the assumption that he will enter a series of co-ordinates and then come back down to the Gate room. When he tries to enter the Gate room we jump him. Surely between the three of us we can get the focusing stone away from him. Then he should snap out of it before he breaks any bones."

"Oh swell. What a poignant image," Thorn murmured.

"Major, are you absolutely sure about this?" Asked Hammond.

"Sir, he is going to get through that door any second, and we don't know what he might do if he can't get through the Stargate. As long as he thinks he can accomplish his primary objective, maybe he won't focus on any secondary objectives, like bringing this base down around our ears."

"Alright, I can't say I'm happy with this, but I don't see that we have a choice. Good luck."

The three slipped out the door and down the hall. They reached the junction and paused as Sharr stretched out her awareness and felt for Coup through the Force.

"He is setting some kind of charge to the lock on the control room door. I…I can feel the influence of the focusing stone on his concentration." She shuddered, "the stone is not just directing his actions, but his thoughts. Coup's thoughts are completely focused on getting that door open. We could probably get most of the way down the corridor without him even noticing us."

"I would rather he not notice us at all. Hold on, I'm going to take a peak." Sam leaned around the corner slowly and watched Coup for a few seconds, then withdrew. They backed up into a side room and Sam phoned Hammond once more.

"If you are in position I will tell Davis to open the door. I don't need Coup to do any more damage to this base. Hammond out."

Sam, Sharr and Thorn eased back to the corner and waited.

SGC Control Room, 1430 hrs

"Sir, are you absolutely sure about this?" Sergeant Davis ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. "You want me to let General Coup in?"

"Just stay out of his way. When he tries to enter the Gate Room you can help Major Carter try to get that stone away from him. But use any means to keep him from going through the Stargate."

"Yes, Sir." Davis gazed around the control room at his one obsession: the SGC's mainframe computer. He had already separated the mainframe from the base's network. The backups were in a secondary systems room on another level. Coup could do as much physical damage as he wanted, but he couldn't destroy the data. Davis sighed. Some orders are much harder to obey than others. He hit the lock release and then raced for the darkest corner, wedging himself between two computer banks. He heard the door roll back, heard Coup's footsteps, then Coup was in the control room. Hammond had not been able to explain much about what was going on, but Davis had been with the SGC a long time and knew to be prepared for just about anything.

Coup scanned the room, he could see the sergeant back in the shadows. He assessed the threat as minimal and turned to his task. With the focusing stone directing his thoughts, Coup was able to remember the dialling sequences he had never paid much attention to before.

He could hear the machinery that turned the inner disc of the Stargate begin to warm up. Everything was ready, he had almost reached his objective. 'One last thing to do here in the control room…' Coup pulled out his tactical knife and walking along the row of terminals, systematically cut all the cables to each of the keyboards. He also cut the cables running to the touch screens. 'Dang,' thought Sergeant Davis, 'I hoped he would miss those.' Coup turned and scanned the room again, then he was gone.

SGC Corridor 42, 1430hrs

Sam, Sharr and Thorn listened intently as the door to the control room rolled open. Sam peered around the corner again.

"Okay, coast is clear—" They ran down the hall and moved into position beside the doors. Thorn signalled to Sam urgently.

"I just had a bad thought, a really bad thought." She whispered, "Listen, Coup and Antilles got on the shuttle together and Coup was still wearing his blaster. He never brings it down here, he always locks it in his quarters. When Coup left with the Stone, Antilles was still under its control. The Stone must have been controlling both of them. And, it was able to maintain control without physical contact!"

Echoing down the hall, they could hear the machinery that ran the Stargate kick in. Sam rolled her eyes in frustration. She shook her head. "It's too late to try to figure out the strength of that stone. We will have to fight off the control as best we can. Sharr, can you block the effects?"

"I don't know, it is incredibly strong… He is coming."

They sank back against the walls. Thorn could feel her heart beating in her ears. 'Come on, you weren't fifth of seven kids without learning a few things. Besides, it's hard enough to get permission for a research program without a zombie mind-control device messing with the research subjects. If I ever get my hands on the Goa'uld that planted this thing, he is going to need a Healing device!'

They could hear Coup's boots clang on the metal tread of the staircase coming down from the Control Room. Then suddenly, he turned the corner in front of them. Sam jumped from beside the door and wrapped her arm around his neck, and her other under his left armpit and around his shoulder, pulling his head back and making his back arc. Thorn saw the bulge of the stone in the left front pocket of Coup's fatigue jacket and leapt for it.

Sharr had abandoned the idea of using the lightsaber and grabbed Coup's right arm, throwing her body weight into dragging it behind his back, keeping his hand from his blaster. All three could immediately feel the influence of the stone weighing on them, telling them to relax, to let this man go. But the stone could not deal with so many minds at once and the three held on. Coup slammed back against the far wall, jarring Sam's headlock loose.

Thorn desperately yanked at the stone, its bulk jammed into the pocket and refused to move. Coup shoved back again, crushing Sam against the wall. She whacked her head against a conduit and saw stars. But as Coup jerked back, Thorn wrenched on the stone and it popped free. She spun on her heel to get the thing away from him. He reached out and grabbed her collar, dragging her back toward him. Thorn pushed off with her heels, shoving her whole weight back against him, and slammed the Vimes elbow into his gut. It was one of the few really good moves she had learned in that self-defense class, and one part of her mind noted that it worked quite well as Coup bent over in agony, shoving her away from him and through the door to the Gate Room.

Tripping in her anxiety, Thorn lurched against the door controls, punching at them desperately. The door began to close as Sharr tried to keep Coup from following Thorn into the Gate Room. Coup lunged past Sharr at the narrowing gap, and so did not see Sergeant Davis bring a computer keyboard down on the back his head. Then the door was closed and Thorn was alone in the Gate Room with the focusing stone, while the Stargate's inner disc spun behind her.

SCG Gate Room 1437hrs

Thorn turned and faced the Stargate dazedly. It had just engaged Chevron Five and was rolling on to Chevron Six. It felt as if somebody had turned up the gravity, she could only move her arms with an effort, and she swayed slightly as she tried to keep her balance. She watched as Chevron six engaged and ignored the pounding on the door. 'I just have to do one thing, just one.'

Sharr fell to the side as Coup collapsed in a heap. She stood swiftly and bent to examine the fallen General as Sergeant Davis helped Sam to her feet.

"He's all right, he's fine," Sharr straightened, her eyes going wide at her next thought. "Thorn is in the Gate Room alone with the focusing stone!"

Davis ran headlong up the flight of stairs to the Control Room, trying to think of any way to stop the dial out sequence. Sharr was thinking of a more headlong approach and unclipped her lightsaber from her belt. Cranking the intensity to full strength, she slapped on the power and shoved the blade through the thick metal. But at the same time she reached out with her mind, trying to lock on to Thorn, to block the influence of the stone.

Reaching Thorn's mind was like sticking a hand in honey and searching for the spoon at the bottom. But then there she was.

Sharr gasped and pulled the lightsaber blade completely free from the door, pushing past Sam she ran to the stairwell and yelled to Davis, "Close the blast shield, close the shield! Get down!"

Chevron Seven engaged. Thorn's jaw was clenched and sweat was running down her back, cool trickles running over her bruises. 'Just a moment more.' She balanced the stone in her hand.

The event horizon formed and the great arc of energy and light fountained out. Just as it was reaching its peak, Thorn skimmed the focusing stone at it, letting it roll off her finger like she would skip a stone across a pond. Then she threw herself behind the bulk of a MALP as a fireball of light and heat filled the room.

Sharr reached the Control Room as the shielding slid over the windows. A small gap still remained when an intense light shot through. Sharr dropped to her knees and covered her head, prepared to mentally ward off the glass shards that would rain down on the sergeant and her. But then the shield was closed and she could feel the tremor of the explosion through the concrete floor.

"Wow," breathed Davis. "What caused that?"

Sharr used the back of a chair to help her stand. "Thorn was somehow able to keep a part of her mind from the control of the focusing stone. She hoped to destroy the stone by throwing it at the event horizon as it formed. I think it worked. See if you can get through to General Hammond and find out how much longer they are going to be." She turned and hurried down the stairs she had just come up.

Sam turned from the controls for the door and grimaced. "Damage on the other side has jammed the mechanism."

"If General Hammond has to cut through all the other section doors, he is not going to notice one more." Sharr once again switched on her lightsaber and slid the blade through the metal. She slowly moved the saber, melting a hatchway through the two-inch thick barrier.

Sergeant Davis joined them at the door. "I can't get the control room shielding to move either." He watched as the opening formed. "I have got to get me one of those," he breathed, watching the lightsaber.

"What would you do with it?" Asked Sam.

"Who cares!"

"A total boy-with-a-toy attitude if I ever heard one."

"Ma'am!" The Sergeant looked hurt. "Like you don't want one too."

"Of course I want one! Are you crazy, look at how cool it is!"

"If you two don't mind," Sharr said. "My training with a lightsaber started when I was three. And according to my calculations, I am about 86 earth years old."

"So, the Sergeant and I are both quick learners."

A groan came from the corner where General Coup had been pulled out of the way. Sam went over to check on him.

"Major, what's going on? How did I get down to the SGC? Ugh," Coup rubbed the back of his head. "What hit me?"

"We will explain everything in a moment. Right now I suggest you lean back and give your head a rest."

Coup lay back and Sam joined the two at the door.

"Are you going to tell him he was taken down by a computer keyboard?" Davis asked.

"No way."

"Me neither. General Hammond did say to use any means available."

"Just kick the keys and bits out of the way, okay?"

"Everyone stand back!" Called out Sharr. The large metal piece she had cut fell with a clatter into the Gate room. "Watch out for the edges, they are still hot."

She stepped through to the Gate room, with Sam and the Sergeant right behind. The room wasn't so much of a mess as it looked like someone had tried to shove everything up against the walls. Sam could even see where the Stargate itself had been pushed back on its moorings. The ramp to the Gate was crooked and the three MALPs were tipped over on their sides.

"Over here, she's over here!"

The MALPs had tipped against each other, creating a triangular hollow. They could see the heel of a boot sticking out from the gap between the second and third MALP.

Black bereted security forces surrounded them and more were coming through the cut in the door. Mindful of a room full of people not briefed on her special talents, Sharr was careful to only use the Force to assist the group in rocking the MALP back onto its treads. Everyone stepped back as Dr. Fraiser and Sharr assessed Thorn's injuries.

"She's okay, banged around a bit, but she's going to be okay."

A voice rose from between the MALPs. "Is it destroyed? Did it work?"

Sam leaned over the side of the MALP. "Yes, the stone was destroyed."

"And I'm still in one piece. Thorn let her head sink back against the floor. "Well, hooray for our side..."

The Nemhain Main Research Lab, three days later

"Seriously? I'm glad the SGC was able to get through to the Nemhain in time. Otherwise every conspiracy theory web-site out there would have had a field day."

Thorn turned from her contemplation of the remains of the Healing device as Sharr and Sam entered the room. CelesTae stepped back from the rat cages as Thorn asked quizzically, "What's this? What are you talking about?"

"The X-wing General Farr sent out was just about to enter the atmosphere when the SGC was able to wave it off," explained Sam. "Seems the pilot was put out a bit, he wanted to be the first official extra-terrestrial welcomed by the people of Earth."

"He said he was all set to 'buzz Roswell,' whatever that means." Added Sharr. She and CelesTae exchanged puzzled glances as Thorn and Sam burst out laughing. CelesTae shrugged, "Earth humour."

"Oh, don't mind us Earthlings," said Thorn, wiping tears of laughter out of her eyes.

Sam smirked. "What do you think he would have said as he landed? Na-noo, Na-noo?"

"Oh, no! It would be the classical 'Klaatu, borada nikto!' Who was the pilot?"

"Captain Phillipe was in his flight suit so fast, I think he got into it backward."

"That explains it." Thorn held her sides, her ribs ached from laughing. "I warned them not to set up a satellite receiver in the break room. Phillipe knows more Earth idioms and trivia than I do." She sighed and leaned gingerly back against the lab table, careful of her bruised back. Her sleeve brushed against the handle of the Healing device.

"On to a much darker subject, come look at this." Everyone gathered around the table as Thorn showed them the inside of the Healing device, the moulded area that had held the focusing stone. The inner surface was smooth, with faint etchings similar to a circuit board. But they could all see what had really caught Thorn's attention. In the centre of the hollow a stylised eye had been burned into the casing. The black lines of the eyebrow curved up, giving it a sinister look.

"Ra." Sam swallowed. "At least the information carried by the stone wouldn't have gotten to any of the system lords."

"You think not? I am afraid I am a bit more pessimistic than that. When it comes to Ra, I am not going to write him off so easily. He may be dead, but his influence seems to have a very wide reach." Thorn put the remains of the Healing device back on the table.

"You don't think this was specifically planted for us to find, do you?

Thorn sighed. "No, I think the System Lords fight too much. I think this was left like a land mine. Only a Goa'uld could use it, so it didn't matter who set it off. It would only benefit Ra, one way or another."

"I don't understand, how did you shake the effect of the stone?" Asked CelesTae.

"Simple. The synapses in my brain were still overloaded by the power surge. The stone couldn't get a grip. Hammond wasn't too happy about my choice of destroying the thing, though. Seems in actual dollar amount for repair work, Coup and I were pretty much even. They are still making sure the iris wasn't compromised in the blast."

"Well, at least Coup got what he wanted out of all this," Sam said. "Hammond and Farr had a long talk about him and have re-assigned him to Covert Ops, where he can use his demolition techniques on the bad guys, not us."

"And my rats won't have any more anxiety attacks. But whoever came in here while I was stuck in sick bay better run for cover quick."

"Why?" CelesTae asked nervously. She had been in to check on the rats a number of times.

"That someone got my rats hooked on Reggae! And I am going to make that person suffer!"