Date: 46:3:4 (11 years after the Battle of Yavin)
Part One: Embarkation
Cheyenne Mountain Facility, Earth, Unknown Regions
"Chevron One engaged."
"I still insist this is a bad idea, General," Hammond said, looking up at his counterpart from the New Republic.
"Chevron Two engaged."
"I know, sir," General Nick Fel said, staring out of the control room onto the dialling Stargate, "but I think the risk is worth it."
"Chevron Three engaged."
"I don't want to have to explain to your Admiral Drayson why you won't be coming home."
"Chevron Four engaged."
"You won't have to," Nick said, still not looking him in the eye. His orders were to take the USAF major general's advice very seriously, even if he wasn't under his direct command. In theory, he should have scrapped this mission.
"Chevron Five engaged."
"Don't expect back-up if you get into trouble, General," Hammond warned. "I'm not willing to risk my teams to save you."
"Chevron Six engaged."
"I wouldn't expect you to, sir."
"Chevron Seven locked!"
Hammond sighed. He wouldn't convince this man otherwise, he was almost as stubborn as Colonel O'Neill. "As you wish, General." He forced a smile. "May the Force be with you."
"Thank you, sir." Nick gave him a quick salute and walked out of the control room. Hammond turned to a sergeant on his left.
"Tell SG-1 to be in the briefing room in ten minutes."
Nick looked on at his special ops teams with pride. They were all well trained, the best the New Republic had to offer. Some of them had served with Lieutenant Page's famed Katarn Commandos, with honours under the Devaronian Kapp Dendo, or with Bren Derlin at Hoth.
They had been training heavily recently. With so many deserted worlds with so many different environments only seconds away by Stargate, they had plenty to go at. Nick was confident that they could return to known space more versatile than any other troops in the galaxy.
The SGC guards in the room looked uneasily at some of the more exotic members of the team. A Twi'lek with fleshy appendages trailing from his head, a towering, fur-covered Wookiee, an elegant, fish-like Mon Calamari female and a vicious-looking, fanged Quarren were amongst the most noticeable. These humans had encountered very few species that weren't descended from this planet. Asgards, a colony of mute humanoids, Rhi'tu, Unas, Goa'uld larvae, and these few guards might not have seen all of them, if any.
The Earthlings claimed that all human life they had encountered had originated here, from the Tau'ri, and had been moved to other planets by ancient civilisations like the Goa'uld. The humans found all over the galaxy had existed for tens of thousands of years, though. Human life on this planet had existed for a far shorter period. Perhaps this world wasn't the origin of the species at all. Or maybe by some freak of evolution, near identical species had evolved here and elsewhere in the galaxy. So many cosmic mysteries, he thought, so little time to solve them all.
If anyone was likely to solve any of these mysteries, it would be Cat Craig. His executive officer and galactic archaeologist, her knowledge of ancient cultures was invaluable here, studying races that were the past come to life. She had already managed to equate several known System Lords to Gods from various religions from cultures near Wild Space, the edge of known space. The former commanding officer of a research outpost in Wild Space attacked by the Goa'uld, Nick's starfighter squadrons had come to her aid. She nodded to him, her fiery hair trailing behind her. Like him, she was dressed in Rogue Squadron's combat gear. A tough combat suit under light plasteel armour that had been compared to stripped-down Stormtrooper armour, it was available in a range of colours for camouflage—deep green in this case. She also wore a sleeveless, padded and pocketed jacket over the top for extra equipment.
His other officers wore the same. Major Ash Morgan, systems, administrative and security officer rolled in to one, personal assistant, an intelligent and capable officer—and incredibly beautiful to boot. She had also worked at the Wild Space outpost before moving to Coruscant with Nick as a member of his personal staff—and often more.
Commodore Mike Burn had been an Imperial starfighter pilot along with Nick before they defected to the Alliance and the pair had flown together at Hoth and Endor. When he moved to Fleet Command his Star Destroyer had led the force that defended Cat's outpost a year or two ago. Previously, he had been the captain of Rogue Squadron's Mon Calamari Cruiser Ashleigh. Now he had once again changed post to Director of Intelligence for Rogue Squadron.
Captain Amaya Karrde, former smuggler, current captain of Ashleigh and Mike's wife since they married during the celebrations after Endor, was tall with dark hair and an angry fire in her eyes. It usually stayed in her eyes, unless you got on the wrong side of her.
Last, Colonel Anton Moore, tactical genius, stood talking to the commando team leaders. Tall and muscular, he had been a commando himself, as well as a frigate captain, leading the defence of the Wild Space outpost.
Nick had personally requested all five of them when the unit was formed and hadn't been disappointed yet. While they each had their own talents, all were trained to operate like one of Earth's SG teams, a small group that could infiltrate hostile planets or explore new worlds. He let them settle down and register his presence before he spoke. "You've all been briefed, you know what to do," he said, glancing around at the troops. "This is a dangerous mission, but we can complete it. Good luck and may the Force be with you."
He led the team up the ramp and through the event horizon.
Part Two: Scouts
Stargate Area, P7R-982, Unknown Regions
P7R-982, or Jannron to use the name given to it by the Goa'uld, was a cold planet. The thick forests collected frost and grew pale in the long night, then struggled to rejuvenate themselves during the chilly day.
The forests were not important at the moment. Important was the Goa'uld bastion over its massive naquadah mines. Important was the intelligence delivered by spy satellites that Ashleigh had begun distributing over the Unknown Regions. The intel showed that this planet, close to the edge of Wild Space and the known galaxy, had recently been visited by Imperial forces. The Empire and the Goa'uld co-operating was not something the New Republic wanted to see.
More important than anything right now was the group of Ja'ffa standing at the edge of the clearing. "Take cover!" Moore shouted into his microphone, relayed over the tiny speakers in each officer's ear.
Nick pulled up his standard-issue BlasTech E-11 rifle and started pumping blaster fire towards the metal-clad Ja'ffa. "Hold the rest of the team back!" Nick called. With the gate still open, even an incoming wormhole would transmit his message back to the SGC. The commandos stopped coming through the gate.
Mike had taken up a position behind the circular Dial Home Device, poking his blaster over the edge and letting the minute fibre-optic camera flash images back to the tiny screen over his eye. Nick and Ash took up similar positions behind either side of the Gate. The Ja'ffa's metal armour didn't last long under a combined onslaught from nine troops. Three of the four never managed to lift their staff weapons, the leader pulled a zat weapon and fired at Moore, but the specially designed electromagnetic grid built into the armour dispersed the blast.
"Get the rest of the team through and shut down the Gate," Nick said into his mike and turned to Cat. "Good start, huh?"
"Okay, teams! Split up, take your designated routes through the forest!" Moore, tactical director, took command of the special ops teams. He had briefed many of them personally on this mission. Secrecy was critical. They needed to scout out the bastion and find out if any Imperials were on-world. If they were, the mission was to destroy any ships and trap everyone on the planet, at least temporarily. An aerial strike later could remove the threat permanently. "Ready when you are, sir." Moore returned to the others after dispatching the teams.
"Let's move out!" Nick ordered.
"Took long enough," Amaya said.
Forests of Jannron, en-route to the Goa'uld Bastion
Through heavy infrared goggles, the team of Nick, Cat, Anton, Mike, Ash and Amaya stared into the black night. They hurried across the hard, uneven dirt, covered in thick rotting foliage from the dying trees. Luminous fungi were the only patches of dim light in the forest, bright green in their vision from the heat they produced compared to the cooler trees.
Nick, along with Mike, scrambled along behind, angled backwards to guard the rear. Across the speaker in his ear, followed by a faint whisper carried across the air from the front of the group, Amaya called for them to halt.
"What've you got?" Nick asked.
"A group of very big green things," she said.
"What?" Mike asked, looking across at Nick with a look of confusion on his face, invisible on their infrared screens.
Ash sighed. "People, Mike."
"Ten of them, in a clearing ahead," Moore said, tapping the side of his goggles to activate sensors. "They're carrying standard weapons, not Goa'uld stuff."
"One of our teams?" Cat asked.
"No, none of the teams should be here and I'd get a transponder reading from them."
"Stormies?" Mike asked anxiously.
"Could be..." Moore said slowly, moving in.
"Anton, Cat, head straight on," Nick ordered, "Ash, Mike, circle round the left. Amaya, follow me right. We'll take them on from three sides."
"Copy, sir," several members of the team acknowledged, before departing through the forests. They needed to be quick. Stormtrooper helmets, Nick knew from his time as an Imperial starfighter pilot, contained built in infrared optics. If they could see the stormies, they could see the team.
As they reached the edge of the clearing, Nick reached into one of the many equipment pouches on his jacket and pulled out a fragmentation grenade. Setting the timer for only a few seconds, he threw it into the middle of the group. It exploded a moment later, spreading deadly shrapnel across ten meters, cutting through stormtrooper armour and flesh alike.
"Fire!" Nick shouted into his mike, pulling the trigger on his rifle and sending the first crimson blasts across the night. Beside him, Amaya did the same and split second later and fire erupted from two other points across the forest. The confusion caused by the grenade lasted only a moment before the survivors returned fire.
The air grew greenish in his infrared sight as blaster bolts heated it slightly, zipping back and forth between the teams. The stormtroopers were vastly outnumbered and fell fast.
"Well I guess that's mission objective one accomplished," Nick said. "Now to destroy any ships."
Goa'uld Bastion Perimeter, Jannron
"Sentinel-class landing craft," Moore identified, although the entire team knew the ship anyway. The team crouched down behind a cluster of mossy rocks, looking down towards the fortress below. It glowed in the darkness with its lighting and the floodlights illuminating the ground around it.
The bastion rose from the forest, a grand ziggurat that wouldn't have looked misplaced in Central America or Yavin 4, but for its size. Each level of the stepped fortress could probably have accommodated such a temple on its own, and the entire building would have swallowed a small skyscraper. It gleamed with gold decorations and bristled with heavy weaponry. Around it, squads of Ja'ffa guards marched around under the command of their Goa'uld leaders and Death Gliders sat ready to launch alongside the single Imperial craft.
"What I wouldn't give for an X-wing..." Mike muttered.
"Or a planetary turbolaser..." Ash replied.
"If wishes were fishes," Cat shut them both up, "we could go live on Mon Calamari."
Amaya was impatient. "Can we please..."
The landing craft exploded.
"Fel to team leaders! Report!" The explosion spread outwards form the landing craft as the drives combusted, detonating Death Gliders around it. Secondary explosions set off more Gliders, spreading the destruction out around the pad. More explosives went off around the edge of the pad, incinerating Ja'ffa that had rushed inwards.
"Alpha Team reporting, sir." The comm crackled with static as firefight ensued in the background. "Met heavy resistance in the forest..."
"Primary mission objectives complete, Major," he told Alpha group. "Return to the Stargate!"
"Beta Team here, General," a second voice continued. "We have destroyed the spacecraft, we're escaping to..." His voice was replaced with a sudden fffwip, followed by a short scream.
"Goa'uld weapons fire," Moore interpreted, pointing to flashes of light that had erupted halfway down the slope.
"Let's go get them!" Nick called, leading the team down the rocky terrain towards Beta Team, blasters ready.
* * * * *
Blaster bolts and naquadah weapons fire lanced across the night sky. Beta Team were already dead before Nick and the others reached them, cut down by a legion of Ja'ffa. Moore fired angrily, letting his rage for the dead troops flow from his barrel as red bolts of energy, tracing across rows of Ja'ffa warriors. Next to him, Cat had pulled one of the captured zats she carried on missions, sewing the air with blue lightning, using only two shots per enemy and then moving on. Mike and Amaya had both taken up positions behind thick tree trunks, firing with blaster rifles or throwing grenades at the Goa'uld servants. Ash had moved in close on one Ja'ffa, letting loose a high kick that smashed his nose and jaw. She scooped up his falling staff weapon before it hit the ground, twirling it like a quarterstaff and driving it into more Ja'ffa.
They fought like a true team—the battle was over as quickly as it had begun. They turned to escape, spinning straight into an Imperial officer, weapon drawn, his slim face twisted into a sneer, flanked by a stormtrooper squad.
"Freeze, rebel scum!" he snarled. Moore, Cat, Mike, Ash and Amaya lowered their weapons and prepared to surrender.
Part Three: Rescue
Stargate Area, Jannron
Colonel Jack O'Neill shivered as he stepped through the gate on P7R-982, the cold night stinging his face. Behind him, Major Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson and Teal'c followed.
General Hammond had dispatched them with orders to find and, if necessary, assist Rogue Squadron. With luck, they would not be needed and could return home without Nick or his team ever knowing.
"He's a madman!" Jack grumbled. "Coming to a cold dark world full of Goa'uld and for what?"
"Err... we don't know, sir," Sam said. "He never shared the mission goals with the SGC."
"Not even you?" Jack asked.
"No, why me?"
"I think he likes you."
"I doubt it, Colonel," Sam laughed. "He's busy, I hear."
"That he's got someone, I mean." Jack said, a little too quickly.
"Cat's been spending a lot of time hanging around my office," Daniel interrupted. "She scares me."
"I have had no contact with any of these people," Teal'c added.
"Well thanks for sharing that," Jack muttered as he stalked off into the night.
Forests of Jannron
"Get down!" Jack hissed the order, raising his MP-10 as he saw life-signs on his infrared goggles, creeping slowly towards the Stargate. They apparently saw him too, as they ducked and pulled their own weapons.
"Who's there?" the leader called.
"This is Colonel Jack O'Neill, SG-1!"
"Major Conwy, Rogue Squadron. Hold your fire!"
"Copy." Jack stood up from his hiding place and waved to the major. "Where's General Fel?"
"Back at the bastion, last time I checked, sir," Conwy gasped. Clearly his team had been moving at speed. "Mission complete, he sent us back."
"Get back home," Jack ordered, turning to his team. "We'll go find them."
"Colonel, let me come with you," Conwy said. "I can track them on my wrist-comp." He pointed to the screen and controls wrapped around his wrist.
"Fine, follow me." Jack turned to run through the forest.
"Lieutenant, take the rest of the team home."
Goa'uld Bastion Perimeter, Jannron
Crouched down, SG-1 and Major Conwy surveyed the ruined landing pad. "Is this Rogue Squadron's work?" Sam asked.
"I think so. Looks like thermal detonators were used to cause a few ships to explode, which set off the fuel cells of other ships," Conwy confirmed.
"Made a real mess out of it..." Daniel mused.
"Where's the team?" Jack asked.
Conwy consulted his computer then looked up. "I can't find the general's tracer, but Colonel Moore appears to be inside the bastion."
"This is not good," Teal'c observed. "The Goa'uld will be merciless if they are captured."
"The Empire isn't best known for compassion either," Conwy said, visibly worried.
"Empire?" Jack shot him a questioning look.
"The Galactic Empire that the Alliance rebelled against," Conwy explained. "They've been here with the Goa'uld."
"So that's what this mission was about," Jack said. "We need to get inside."
Goa'uld Bastion, Jannron
Slipping into Goa'uld fortresses was something SG-1 had plenty of experience with. They slipped past the Ja'ffa, energy cannons and force fields quickly and quietly, letting Major Conwy lead them towards Rogue Squadron.
Several times they had to duck into small corridors as they heard the rhythmic pounding of metal boots on the ground, moving closer towards them. The guards passed by, never bothering to check any side rooms. The patrols were a show of force only.
"I've got him, sir!" Conwy called. "He's right..." A gut-wrenching scream interrupted him, as if queued by his pointing to a sealed door.
"Get that door down!" Jack shouted. Conwy reached into a pocked and pulled out a detonite charge, fixing it to the door and setting the timer.
"Back!" he shouted, running past SG-1 and into a side corridor. Moments later, the detonite exploded, sending the metal door flying into the locked room, twisted and melting.
The scream was Colonel Moore. He was locked onto some kind of torture bed, which lowered him down onto a set-up of tubing, spikes, hissing vapours and humming instruments. The device sparked and glowed as his face pressed against it, sending extremes of heat, cold and pain through his nervous system. Two stormtroopers and a gaunt Imperial commander stood beside it, along with one high-ranking Ja'ffa operating the controls. All four looked up with expressions of shock.
The commander barely finished his startled outcry before a hail of bullets pierced his chest. The Ja'ffa fell to one of his own weapons, fired by the experienced hands of Teal'c. Both stormtroopers ducked, their armour protecting them from bullets and one stray blaster bolt, and fired back before they were overwhelmed. Conwy fired once into the control panels, and they sparked and hissed as the Imperial torture device turned off and Moore's arched body relaxed in sudden painless bliss.
"Colonel," Conwy unstrapped him and helped him into a sitting position on the floor, "where are the others?"
Too weak to speak, Anton simply reached out for Conwy's wrist comp and tapped in Cat's tracer code. His own computer was gone, along with his armour and weapons. He wore only a ripped body suit.
"Further down this section," Conwy showed Jack. "Looks like a detention block."
"That is correct, Major Conwy," Teal'c said. "I have been in a fortress such as this before."
The team sprinted down towards the holding cells, no longer wasting time with stealth but simply shooting down the Ja'ffa ahead before they had time to react. "In this one!" Conwy pointed to one door, which opened easily. Inside, Cat, Mike, Ash and Amaya sat on hard benches, looking hopeless. They brightened considerably when they saw a familiar uniform.
Conwy rushed inside—and rebounded on a hidden force field. "Stang! That hurt..."
"Should've seen that one coming..." Jack said, firing his weapon into the force field controls and sending a shower of sparks outwards. A heavy blast door slid down and locked them out. "...and that one."
"Sir, I might be able to bypass it," Sam said, kneeling down and pulling the beaten casing from the control panel. "If you haven't damaged it too much."
A few minutes and several dead Ja'ffa patrols later, the blast door slid open and Rogue Squadron stepped out of the cell, looking worn down. "Where's Fel?" Jack asked straight away.
Cat looked at him, then down at the floor. "We have no idea."
Communications Room, Rogue Squadron Headquarters, Cheyenne Mountain Facility
They had searched all the cells. All were empty, or filled with other poor souls captured by the Goa'uld. None of the wrist-comps could pick up Nick's tracer signal. He wasn't waiting near the Stargate. He wasn't waiting back on Earth.
Cat stepped into the transmission field and opened the HoloNet link to Coruscant. It wasn't a report she looked forward to giving. She had spent several days putting it off already, claiming she didn't want to disturb Ash. Only Nick could activate the communications pod, and as systems officer, only she could over-ride that.
The real reason was she didn't want to speak to Coruscant.
"Doctor, this is a welcome surprise." Admiral Drayson's translucent blue hologram flickered to life in front of her. The human who had taken responsibility for Rogue Squadron since Ackbar's retirement kept a neutral expression. "I wasn't expecting a report for several days."
"This couldn't wait." Cat took a deep breath, "Admiral, it is my sad duty to report that General Fel is missing in action."