Champions Gate
By Elizabeth Carter

Chapter Nineteen

Realm of the Reaper

There is a saying: It was the calm before the storm. Maybe it originated with people who lived close to the water and learned to read its rhythms and moods. Maybe those people had to get smart enough to read the world around them, the changing wind, air pressure and light, in order to predict what was going to happen next. In order to survive.

Maybe some bard first said it just that way, "It was the calm before the storm," talking about how once disaster hits, people tend to look back and remember just how peaceful everything seemed before. Even if, in reality, things were never really calm at all.

Regardless, it was the calm before the storm. Again. Because when you are a member of a military/scientific exploration organization, there's pretty much always a storm just waiting to crash down upon your head. The calm is never more than temporary.

They were a fellowship of warriors stretching across the vastness of the universes that came together in a united force to stand against ranting, juvenile false gods bent on dominating the galaxies. It was a battle that had lasted for sixteen years.

Janet screamed and screamed and screamed. She heard her own cries and she heard the animal terror of her beloved wife, her jabbering, babbling cries of horror.

Sam was on her knees. 'Stand up! Run! Run, Sam!' cried Janet, but Sam couldn't stop screaming. A sound she surely couldn't make came from deep within her. Couldn't? Could she? That hideous nightmare howl? Was that from Sam…

She was dead. She was death itself.

Her flesh was the color of raw concrete. Grey. Ashen. But with spots of color like contusions: yellow, green and purple. Her eyes were empty sockets, dark as a cave. Her once beautiful angled nose was eaten away, gnawed down to the cartilage. There was a rip in her cheek, revealing rotting gum less teeth in her mouth. Like in a horrible time-lapse movie Sam's body showed the awful ravages of death and time. A dark mist ate at her, poked in and out of her skin. Tendrils of baleful green smoke formed foul pockets of feverish activity within her very flesh.

As her beauty had been too bewitching, now her demise reached too deep. It destroyed all attempts to come to grips with it and squeezed unfiltered terror from Janet's brain. And yet, here was the true mental destruction; the desire to protect her, to love her didn't lessen. As Sam screamed and moaned in fear, Janet craved to protect her and yet could not. Even as Janet reached for Sam, her wife became more and more transparent. The Fading! Samantha Carter was lost in the Fading!

Sam yelped.

The blonde woke to find that her tiny wife had somehow in her sleep wrapped her body so tightly around Sam's lanky form that the blonde was finding oxygen a very difficult commodity to acquire.

"Jan.... et..." she gasped.

The arms wrapped tighter.

Sam had to wiggle to even move from under Janet's sleep induced bear hug so that she could indeed breathe. "Janet, Babe, you have to let up a little. I can't breathe."

"Don't let go..." whispered from Janet's mouth.

"Okay... I won't. Turn so I can hold you."

"...won't let go.."

Sam shifted once more and inhaled deeply the precious air the constrictive grasp Janet held on her had prevented. "Oh Hon... you're talking in your sleep," came a soft tender whisper. "Baby... come on, wake up you're having a nightmare... Janet..." Sam nuzzled her wife, trying to roust Janet from the locked dream that she was held in as hostage. "Baby... come on… Sweetie wake up."

Sam felt something wet upon her chest and for a moment she didn't know what it was. A beat later, it dawned on her, Janet was weeping in her sleep. Sam's heart broke. "Oh Hon... come on, Janet... whatever it is, it isn't real... wake up."

"SAMMY!" Janet bolted up, her deep brown eyes disorientated as her sleep-laced mind struggled to come to the waking world.

"Honey, I'm right here," Sam wrapped her arms around Janet's tinier frame, allowing her wife to find her peace. "Right here. I'm safe. You're safe. Our girls are safe."

"Sam?" Janet blinked.

"Yep." A full Cheshire grin that had enough brightness to light up the room, or at last the darkness that had covered Janet's mind for the last few minutes, greeted Janet's question... "That must have been one hell of a nightmare. You want to talk about it, babe?"

"No." Janet turned, staring into the deep ocean blue eyes of her wife. "No, I just want to be here for a minute. Lay down."

Sam obeyed without question. Her arms opening wide, knowing without ever being told what Janet wanted. To be made love to. Not intercourse, but the lovemaking that comes from simply holding your lover, until your hearts beat with the same rhythm, and drawing in each other's breath.

"I feel stupid." Janet said at long last.

"Why? Because you had a bad dream? Now you ARE being silly. Janet, Hon, how many times have you played the 'teddy bear' for me when I've had horrid dreams? Huh? I love being your 'Sammy bear', you know that." Sam of course was referring to the nickname she had somehow picked up when Janet was pregnant with Rebecca. The blonde didn't mind the nickname, in fact only Sam and Janet knew about it. The large plush four-foot polar bear in the corner of their bedroom proved to be enough cover if the name slipped out. It too bore the name Sammy Bear. It had been won at a carnival by a baseball and milk jug game. The bear was nearly as tall as Janet and Sam thought the whole thing rather cute.

Janet snuggled deeper into the arms that held her, feeling safe. Not from the jejune terror they were facing at the hands of the Goa'uld but rather from the terror of her own imagination. Samantha Carter wasn't slipping into the Fading. She was solid, very real and very much alive. So intent on making sure Sam was alive and well, Janet didn't realize that her hands were wandering in a most sensual way until she heard Sam's sharply intaken breath that had nothing to do with lack of oxygen. Janet inhaled the heady scent of her wife's arousal. Or was it her own? It didn't matter and she didn't care. Her body responded and from the Nox- enhanced bond shared between them she knew Sam's body was waking to heed the call of Janet's.

She could feel Sam's fingers starting to explore her oh-so-well-mapped-out body as if it was the first time they made love. Familiar touches but never tiresome, they would make love to one another until their bodies were weary beyond reason. Sam fought, oh she struggled to remain awake after her third orgasm but sleep simply would not let her. The blonde fell asleep with an apology half uttered.

Janet snickered as she kissed the sweaty brow. Their climaxes were evenly mated but Janet had remained wakeful even after her fourth release. Not because she had been denied, but no matter how oft their love was reached, the nightmare still lingered ever dauntingly on the fringes of the diminutive woman's mind. Sam had no way of knowing that Janet's quest to make Sam feel real was the motive behind their impromptu lovemaking, the blonde only knew that her wife needed to be touched, to be loved and so, without hesitation, she willingly complied.

Janet looked at her wife as the blonde was sleeping soundly once more, and felt the corners of her mouth turn into a smile. Here in this light of faded synthetic moonlight, Samantha Carter looked so innocent, as she had that first day Janet had met her in Graystokes by happen-chance.

"I should really thank Kat for that night. If it wasn't for that slut-puppy I doubt I would have had the courage to even say hi to you, Sammy-bear." The whisper was as soft as a kittens purr. "I'm so worried for you Sam...."

Indeed, Janet Fraiser had several reasons to worry for her wife. Rich reasons to dread the upcoming battle that Samantha had no right being in. This war could spiral Sam into a void in which not even Janet's love could reach her.

Since Sam's return three months ago Janet had had dreams that woke her sweating. Now she dreamed more and more of Sam slipping into the Malakim's Fading. Of Sam running. Running toward something, but running away from something, too. Janet banished the nightmare from her mind, she hadn't time to think of dread fancy when real life was only hours away. Safety was only yesterday's memory, in seventeen hours they would engage the Goa'uld and the army of Drones.

Feeling terrible for having wakened Sam from her slumber an hour ago, Janet had no desire to further disturb her slumbering wife. And so it was that she found herself dressed in a silk nightgown and flannel robe wandering the corridors of the Samantha Carter. Better she be restless here than in bed with her wife. And it was here that her eldest daughter found her.

Having left the Observatory with Boudicca, a woman who in Cassandra's eyes was beautiful but as yet a woman who she was undecided if she wanted to peruse a relationship with. In the sight of her mother's state of attire and expression of face, Cassie turned to her companion and touched the long white wing, her expression apologetic. "Bodi, um... I'll check you out later okay?"

Boudicca lifted her silver eyes to what or rather who had distracted her date and found her wings pressing against her body of their own accord. She was in the presence of the Liege Healer, whether the tiny mortal knew so or not she had a magnificent impact upon the Malakim race, as was given evidence of involuntary pressing wings.

"Until the morrow then," Boudicca said as a typical parting salutation. But it would not be her parting farewell. Before Cassandra realized it she found herself being kissed by a seven-foot angelic woman.

It wasn't a clumsy kiss but it did hold the awkwardness of a teenagers' first attempt of kissing. Teeth clashed together as lips sought to press against one another. Boudicca for her part struggled not to fold her wings around her smaller partner, she would have to keep the embrace as chaste as a first kiss would allow.

Cassandra felt her heart stop. One...two...yep it stopped. 'Good thing Mom is a doc because I may need medical attention very soon,' Thought Cassie. As soon as Cassie got the hang of kissing Boudicca her lips had pulled away.

"May melody find your slumber, Cassandra." Murmured Boudicca in the Malakim way of saying sweet dreams.

"Um... you too, Bodi." Cassie felt like such an idiot. 'You too? Sheesh! Gods it's like I'm saying goodnight to a buddy not my date. I am such a nit!' thought Cassandra. Yet before the young Fraiser woman could find the words of a more personal parting goodbye the white winged beauty was away. 'Okay so... not a real date... I went to her because of some stupid dream... and we ended up meandering the ship... so okay...not a nit...'Cassie found herself trying to justify the very platonic parting, especially after such a kiss that she could still taste upon her lips.

Turning, Cassie spotted her mother leaning up against a railing in the observation deck, her dark eyes steady upon the starfield zinging past them at a speed only Sam knew from the top of her head. 'Maybe I am not the only one with night terrors lately.'

Janet saw the younger woman's reflection in the dark glass and so it was no great surprise when her daughter approached her.

Cassie stepped up behind her mother, wrapped her arms around the smaller woman's upper chest and placed her chin on the small shoulders. "Can't sleep, Mom?"

Janet reached up across her body to cover her hand over Cassandra's arm. "I have a few things on my mind. I didn't want to disturb Sam again by tossing and turning."

"You're worried about her." It wasn't a question. Her of course meaning Sam.

"I worry about all my girls, Honey," came Janet's answer.

Cassie placed a daughter's kiss on her mother's head. "Do me a favor Mom. Don't go down there," the girl whispered. "None of us can go through that again."

"'That' meaning PX3-666."Janet surmised. "Sam didn't put you up to this did she?"

"No," Cassie shook her head. "I...woke up from a nightmare, Mom, a few hours ago. A dream where Sam couldn't bring you back and you died. I can't lose you... not like that, not ever."

Janet turned and embraced her eldest daughter as if she were a mere child once more. "Oh Honey, I am so sorry you had a nightmare," with her slender hand she feathered back the auburn bangs as she had done countless times in the past. "I am not dead, I am right here." She sucked in a great breath of air. "My fear is the same for you and Sam. Hon, I am accustomed to Sam going into the field and doing what she must, but I'm afraid I'll never get used to my little girl trampling off following her hero's footsteps."

"Heroes, Mom...heroes. I went into medicine because of you," Cassie smiled. "After PX3-666, I thought I'd better because someone in our family had to be there to pick up the pieces when you and Sam got into trouble."

That gained her a mother's laugh.

"Seriously Mom, just don't go down there okay? I have a gut feeling it's not going to be good."

"Cassie, listen to me. With the forces of the Malakim it might not be necessary for any of the humans to deploy. In fact our best service to the success of this mission is to remain aboard the ship, rather than to go to the surface. I doubt we will be going down."

"Then how come you are worried, Mom? You wouldn't be wandering the halls of the ship if you thought Sam would remain on board."

Janet didn't have an answer. 'The calm is over,' the doctor thought. She too had had a nightmare. One where she lost her wife. Not because the Goa'uld had slain her, but because the blonde had retreated so deeply into herself there was nothing left for the outside world. Just as she had done with Jolinar. Just as she had done only three months ago. Only this time, in her dream, there was no coming back. The Goa'uld had finally won in their lust to destroy Samantha Carter. She had simply Faded.

Sleep didn't come easy for anyone aboard the Science Flagship Samantha Carter. Within the halls of the ships conservatory several Wings lifted their voices in the hymns of war, attesting to their collective restlessness. It didn't stop t there. In the reaches of the auditoriums, within surrounding ships of the Malakim fleet, more and more voices lifted in one single harmonious psalm of battle.

The shadow at the edge of night crept forward, taking with her the peace of serenity leaving behind the wasteland of anticipation of the unknown. The calm before the storm was indeed vanquished.

Sam rose when she felt coldness next to her in the bed. Of course the first thought that entered the Colonel's mind was that Janet had been called into the infirmary. Often, when the tiny woman disappeared during the night, it was because the SGC needed her. Sam would find a note on or near to Janet's pillow explaining where she had gone off to.

Dragging her hand over the feather filled pillow the blonde could find no such note. 'Of course not... Not in the SGC...on a ship..." Rubbing the pads of her palms in her eyes, Sam forced herself into the conscious world.


The room was silent.

"Hon?" Sam sat up now looking about the bedroom, but there was no sign of her wife. Throwing back the covers, the Colonel got out of bed and headed directly for the common room. Janet might be on the holo-vid communicating to Rebecca to see how their daughter was doing.

But the rest of the quarters were just as silent as the bedroom had been.

Worry now filled the colonel's heart until she felt the sweet gentleness of her wife's thoughts caress her. Nefrau had given Sam and Janet the ability to share an empathic bond. Though not telepathic, at times it felt as if they could share thoughts. From the touch Sam knew Janet was safe and sound.

The harmonics of the bond sang within Sam's heart and she could at least relax her guard a little with the knowledge Janet wasn't in danger. From the bond Sam could feel the tension and the worry but she could also feel the presence of Cassandra. Each girl had an affect upon her mother that the other woman could detect. It was the mother's love for her child. And though loved equally there was a difference in the love. Sam relaxed further. Both her girls were safe and in each other's company.

There were other dangers that lingered in Samantha Carter's mind. Half of her life had been spent in the Air Force, sixteen of them as a member of SG1. The years had taught Carter that field operations like this were dangerous. Dangerous to the participants. Dangerous to those who gave the orders. Dangerous to the governments that sponsored them. It was easy to become mesmerized by the glamor and renown of field ops, so much so that even professionals could become caught up in a Mission Impossible Syndrome.

Sam Carter had no such delusions. The one belief she held to without wavering was that she could not die… Not because she was quasi-immortal, but because, if she died who would protect her beloved family? Rebecca Carter the senior had died and there had been no one to care for the family and it had shattered. Like a quantum singularity the Carters had fallen into a black hole of disparity. One that, to this day they had never fully recovered. For Sam, Janet WAS the soul of the Carter-Fraiser family. And someone had to protect it, that somebody was Sam herself. She had to defy death to protect the soul of her family.

This was Special Operations. With any military unit "Special" in its name was unique by its very nature. It was an adjective with any number of definitions. 'Special Weapons,' most often meant nuclear weapons, to avoid offending the sensibilities of those for whom 'nuclear' connotated mushroom closed and mega death: change the wording and you change the effect of the substance. Special Operations, on the other hand meant something else. Denoting covered business, getting people into places they ought not to have been in, in the first place and extracting them when the job was finished. Special Ops was used in exciting not only assassination, prisoner extractions but also what was termed wet works. Wet because after Special Ops was finished with its work, nothing much was left but blood. A lot of blood. Dawn would bring forth a new definition of Wet Works. Tomorrow would not be the first time that the SGC carried out covert insurrections against the System Lords. This would not be the last time the Goa'uld would come to understand Tau'ri Wet Works.

Colonel Samantha Carter turned back to the bed; her blue eyes caught hold of the photo of her little family. Janet, Cassandra and Rebecca all huddled together with large bright smiles.

"I am not going to let you guys get hurt. I am not going to let you die. Osiris called me out. She threatened my family." Her face showed her strengthened determination. "She wants war? I'll give her war!" she exclaimed, practically spitting out those last words.

The command chair aboard Malakim vessels was upon a dais, not because of anything as trite as ego, but because those who were in command should lead her people into battle, not follow. And so all bridges, aboard all Malakim ships, had the captain's chair slightly elevated and in the front of all other duty stations. No one but the captain of the ship may sit in the command chair. The XO of the ship had their own chair directly beneath and to the right of the Captain's, indicating their position as if in flight. Should the captain fall in battle the first officer would swiftly take the headwinds, as it was when the ships would fly in formation.

On this mission however it was not the Queen leading her people into battle but Colonel Samantha Carter. Her ship was the forerunner of the armada. To her starboard side the Gwaihir, to the Port sailed Prometheus; beyond it the Thor and so on forth became the armada.

The Diabolicals were the enemy of the Mortals, the Kull Warriors hunted the Nephalim and so it was not out of the ordinary that it should be the Liege Commander to lead the battle rather than the Queen. After all it was Samantha's right to strike first against the enemy that had challenged her. Not even the Queen would deny Samantha.

Purple eyes lingered upon the Nephalim's aquatic stingray shaped vessel and to it Novalis whispered perhaps more to herself than the bridge crew, though they heard her words clear enough. "The hour approaches, and within this all our hope shall be revealed, and the Great Song shall awake. Shall we leave the notes of the World Symphony desolate and full of evil? Shall our song linger in the Dark while they take the Light? Nay, let us make war swiftly! Have we not rested from strife overlong, and is not our strength now renewed? One alone shall not contest the Dark forever. Lift your eyes of blue, Samantha, for you are the Nephalim, but you are not alone. To the Malakim ever shall you call at need, and take solace we are within your wingtips."

Usiel felt his heart pounding. He was tense. Ever since the coming of the Nephalim he was particularly aware of the change of harmonics in the World Symphony. Now, for some reason, the Great Song allowed him a hint of some vast indefinable shifting. He couldn't put a feathertip upon it but something was brewing within the firmaments.

"Oh, this can't be good," the dark angel muttered. "I know I am not high anymore, not drunk, not so much as a hangover form last night's binge, so why am I so paranoid?"

Walking from his chambers to the balcony and back again. He would do this several more times before he paused to look up at the night sky unable to shake the impression a storm was about to break. Resuming his pacing Usiel in all vanity tried to still his mind.

"Okay think. Half digested bit of venison? No. Saw Osiris naked last few nights? No... okay, yes I fucked her in a weak Nishta-drunken moment... but that isn't it. Stupid strumpet thinking she can be impregnated to create whatever a Hok'tar is. Besides I think the word is hybrid.... Won't work. Two different species, hello!...But I digress...What in the Dark is wrong? The whole World Symphony is out-of-tune."

"What are you mumbling, Usiel?" Osiris grumbled from the bedchamber.

Usiel looked over his shoulder to the nude form of the delicately framed blonde. In that instant she actually looked innocent. And for a brief moment Usiel felt a vertigo wave within his soul as he felt two district minds.

'Sara... Hmm, a beautiful soulful Song she is... good enough to rot your brain.' Usiel flinched as if struck with a white-hot iron poker. '… and then there's Osiris. Ugly looking Song, but yummier none-the-less. So much more fun to play with. Or at least fuck.' Fanning out his dilapidated useless black wings, Usiel thought for a moment that perhaps the shifting he felt in the World Symphony was none other then waking from a Nishta listlessness, and hearing two distinct Songs from one body. Yes it was disorientating but it was not the shifting of harmonics he was looking for.

"A storm is coming," he said quietly.

Osiris rose from the bed a bit disgruntled from the evening's activities. For the last four days she had been able to control Usiel, at least partially. It wasn't easy, but she had laced all his food from the time he had feasted after the sparring match with the drone until now with liquid Nishta. The Goa'uld had wanted to get the host Sara pregnant in order to create a Hok'tar. It had not worked. All that time wasted. But at least it was a pleasurable waste even if Osiris did hate her bedmate.

"There is no storm." The blonde System Lord snarled. She was now on her feet and padding up to her black winged companion to look out over the site that had so transfixed him. She rolled her sapphire eyes; the air could not be more still. Storm indeed! The dark angelic must still be swimming from the last traces of the Nishta in his system.

Usiel turned his attention from Osiris back to the evening sky just in time to see a falling star. And smiled. "Oh you clever little minx."

Half a breath later the ground shook with a great and terrible explosion of noise and light.

To the Malakim anything other than friendly was a target; their orders were to fly in low, strike down enemy encampments, engage unfriendly fighters in the air and swarm the mother-ships. They were not easily frightened, for the angelics were a warrior race. Battle was a Song they knew well and answered the call willingly.

Cassandra knew the reputation of Malakim warriors better than anyone. In formation with the Amethyst Wing. all flying Imperial arrow-wings, the young Fraiser was doubtless of their success. 90,000 warriors all in fighters descending upon the objective, Osiris would not stand a chance. The Kull Warriors would be obliterated.

Even if the System Lord managed to send up her own squadrons of Death Gliders, there would be another 50,000 Grigori fighter pilots escorting the Samantha Carter, Prometheus and the Thor, not to mention the Gwaihir, who had her own escort of 70,000 fighters. The Prometheus and the Thor each had fifty 302's surrounding them. Enough to fight to win.

Captain Jennifer Hailey was orbiting two hundred thousand miles above enemy territory in one of the many 302 fighters. The young captain had been assigned to be a part of the Ebony Wing one of the dozens of wings now blanketing orbit the drone planet. Her Wing flew in racetrack pattern, their engines throttled down to below sub-light speed to loitering speed. It was the task of her Wing to secure the perimeter from enemy fighters.

"Command, this is Ebony One, do you read, over?" Her radio crackled.

*Ebony One this is Command. We read you five by five.* Colonel Carter's voice came over load and clear. The radio channel was encrypted on constant cycling algorithms; still radio chatter was kept to a minimum. If an enemy tried to listen in all they would hear was the warbling rasp of static.

"We have targets on profile, bearing one-nine-six, range two-one-zero your position. Angles two. Course zero-one-eight. Speed two-six-five. Over."

*Roger that. Standby for copy, over.*

"Standing by for copy." Hailey responded. Looking to her port side she saw Lieutenant Cassandra Fraiser in formation with the Amethyst Wing, also waiting for orders.

*We are at Objective Drone, bird is in the nest. Will deploy all ordnance. Fighters engage the enemy at will. All BARCAP Wings go in Loose Deuce stay clear of Command firing solutions. Smoke the Bird. Beware this will become a FURBALL after we incite the ELE.*

Those of SGC recognized Air Force terminology: Barrier Combat Air Patrol. A fighter operation intended to prevent enemy aircraft, or in this situation spacecraft, from passing through a defined airspace. The BARCAP of this operation had been established along the orbit approach of the drone planet, involving relays of fighters that were continuously relieved in place.

A Furball was a confused dogfight with a large amount of fighters on either side: it was a word derived from a cartoonists drawing of a cat and dog fight. Those of the USAF would understood the wording, and the Malakim too would soon enough, especially after the Extinction Level Event the armada generated.

"Roger Command, Ebony One out. You heard the Colonel smoke the bird!" Hailey yelped in her excitement. The Captain moved her stick left. The proper course and speed for her intercept sprang into her mind unbidden. She was not going to let her colonel down and she had the supreme confidence in her Wing, they would cover her six, and they would go to their deaths for Colonel Carter and Doc Fraiser that was all Jennifer Hailey had to know.

The sky could not be seen from the crimson haze on the coming inferno.

Smoke thick and choking burned the eyes, fire rained from above unceasingly. Blasts burst into explosive fireballs ripping the earth entwine. Structures unable to withstand the onslaught tumbled into heaps of rubble sending up more clouds of dust and debris smothering the air. Hot wind flew into the ragging infernos spreading the fire as a disease across the drone city.

A deep boom rumbled though the Kull Warrior camp like thunder running the clouds. The wind would carry screams not of the dying but of the hailing fire rain. It was if the very earth was trembling in peril of the walls of inferno. The Kull Warriors could not quell the flames; this was not their objective. Flames were irrelevant, deactivated Kull Warriors were irrelevant. All that mattered was the objective: slay Colonel Samantha Carter leader of SG1.

A drone warrior took in the scent of copper, an odor it was well familiar with. Blood. It pooled around its black booted feet in puddles. Something crunched under its next step. If it had bothered to look it would have found one of the Goa'uld keepers laying face skyward with sightless dead eyes watching the hail-fire raining down. The master's internal organs slipped out into a visceral rope of gore. Without thought, the drone stepped upon his master's chest further crunching the cage of ribs in splinters. It was more efficient to walk upon obstacles r than go around it. And so it picked up its boot from inside the chest cavity with a slurp of wet suction.

Usiel and Osiris both witnessed the great blasts falling from the sky as the death gliders streaked through the sky. The phaser fire was less ruinous but more horrible. As each blast found a target there was a momentary silence broken by the sound of the explosion and crumbling of the compound. The city lay in ruin. The battleships, descending and roaring through the upper atmosphere, converging upon the widening battlefield, followed the Malakim gliders. Plasma and ion cannons shrieked, explosions of sound and fire erupted, flinging bodies of hapless Kull Warriors and their keepers into the cascade scorching destruction. The carnage was a spectacular sight of destruction. It gave the observers a sense of complete and utter domination and despair.

Screams of the dying rose above the cacophonous explosions and through the oceans of black smoke the surviving warriors flew to take up arms. They were desperate, so desperate, to hold back the enemy. It was futile to back the wave of genocide now sweeping the planet.

Osiris raged, not only had her city been smote to ruin but also three of her grounded Kel'teshs had been destroyed in the onslaught of enemy fire. Ion waves flooded the compound leaving nothing in its wake.

"Jaffa Ren Tel Nok. Kree!" The Goa'uld roared the order for the warriors to protect her.

The Jaffa pilot hesitated at his post. He had no desire to protect the blonde false god, but a quick look to Usiel told him to comply. There would be enough time to turn the guns back upon the debouched system Lord. The dark angel glimmered a hidden smile. The Nephalim was using the Goa'uld's own vanity against her. It was an ancient yet simplistic maneuver. Samantha was striking hard and fast, provoking Osiris into overextending her reach of power. Osiris would rise up and empty her cache of weaponry, as the enemy would appear to fall back in seeming fear and panic. Osiris couldn't resist the urge to follow and conquer her prey. Samantha would then swoop around from either flank and strike Osiris with forces the Goa'uld would never see coming. Osiris would be surrounded and cut to shreds.

The earth shook again.

Usiel dropped his mouth, astonished as his black eyes turned to Osiris. "That was no impact tremor. That was the World Symphony."

Osiris spun around, opened her mouth to retort but closed it as once again the earth shuddered under their feet.

"We should exorcize a little prudence in our retreat." Usiel said not masking the concern in his voice.

The sky now roared the wind-beats of thousands of angelic warriors. The Malakim were all around.

"Now would be a good time!"

Osiris turned, watching dumb with awe as the winged warriors descended as if the clouds did give birth to them. Where had they all come from? How? How had they come? And their voices. Oh their voices pure in harmony, pure in melody. And they sang of death.

"I feel like I've been cast in The Battle of Britain' only this time the Luftwaffe have snakes in their guts."

"Difference between reality and the movies, girl," Hailey joked back as she lifted her eyes to the HUD. "We have Bandits ...zero, zero mark two!"

"Roger that." Cassie answered her wingman. "I see the Bogies." the young pilot yanked hard on the stick driving her fighter 'upward', so fast and hard the inertial dampers screamed in protest nearly stalling. Her finger lay heavy over the trigger waiting for the HUD to confirm a firing solution on the squadron of Death Gliders banking for her.

Hailey primed the thrusters into overdrive of her own starfighter as she shot past her wingman and rode into a new swarm of combatants. "Fox-Four-Two!" she punched the button releasing ion lazars mounted on the 302's wingtips.

The Death Gilder went down like a metal comment, the hull fatigue around the canopy too much for integrity to hold. If sound was heard in space the screeching of metal against metal would have torn through one's eardrum. The whole fuselage imploded, splintering the ship into a dozen bits of unrecognizable chunks of metal. The scream of the pilot died in the vacuum beyond.

A squad of four Gliders plummeted toward the Samantha Carter's command center, plasma cannons firing, but the science vessel's deflector shields turned the attack aside effortlessly. Two more Death Gliders were hit by cannon fire and exploded into ash. The remaining two broke off the attack.

Cassie was on them. She jammed the thruster bars forward and sped forward intending to neutralize her prey. The Jaffa pilots would not be so easily won. They banked their ships hard and to the left and brought their fighters back toward the BARCAP blockade and the swarming fighters. Cassandra followed pursuit, her starfighter twisting and turning keeping pace with the Bandit. Her targeting screen bleeped incessantly.

"Fox-Four-Two!" She announced over the radio, just as she dropped her ordnance. Her payload ripped through the hull of the Death Glider, severing wings from the main body. Its ricocheting debris struck Cassie's ship with minimal damage.

Hailey's voice roared in the radio. *Ebony-Two you've got one on your tail!*

*I can't shake it . I can't shake it!* The voice of a young warrior yelped in her panic.

*I am on it.*

*Where is it? Radar's jammed!* Ebony-Two's Arrow-wing went into a wild series of evasive maneuvers but the Jaffa behind the stick was a master and stayed with the Malakim.

Cassie looked back over her shoulder of the clear canopy of her fighter, just in time to see an Arrow-wing catapulted into the hull of the Gwaihir, cannon fire from the glider chasing after it in a stream of deadly white fire. She winced in what she saw next, as the Malakim starfighter erupted into bits of nothingness.

Lasers firing rocketed toward targets in a pinwheel patter scything into enemies with a vigor, it was indeed a FURBALL.

*We lost Ebony Two.* Hailey said her voice filled with self-reproach. *Razzle Dazzle, don't let the SOB's get a lock!*

Razzle Dazzle. Meant no true formation, confuse your enemy in swarm attack, and that was exactly what the armada of fighters employed. The first death of a friendly fueled the passion in the Malakim and Mortal pilots alike and they struck back in a vengeance.

Three Wings of starfighters roared forth directly into the squadron of Death Gliders. Thirty-two Malakim Arrow-wings opened fire simultaneously with a ferocious roar.

"Amethyst Wing," Cassandra addressed her squadron. "Adjust your selectors and check in. Approaching target zone at one point seven..." Grim determination showed in young Fraiser's expression as she flipped several switches to her left and began adjusting her computer target readout. "Accelerate to attack velocity."

The Death Gliders dove directly for the bulge of the Allied Armada, while another squad curved down and northward over the Amber Wing.

Around her, hell-flowers bloomed. That was all Cassie's Wing needed to start their own attack run. Putting her fighter into a twisting dive, young Fraiser sliced across the vertical horizon. Hailey and Ebony Wing followed Cassandra on a similar run, even as Jaffa pilots prepared to engage their own gun-solution.

The first three Jaffa didn't know what struck them, before it was too late; their ships mushroomed in the stratosphere. So too it was the next squadron. By the Third they realized what was happening and vectored to retaliate against the 302 fighters.

"Gotch-ya you son of a bitch," came Cassie's cry of triumph over the com-unit. Bolts jumped from the Death Glider in steady succession until the enemy craft blew in half sending leaf-like glittering metal fragments flying in all directions.

*Way to go Fraiser!* Hailey commented.

*Watch it, here they come.* Amber-Four, better known as Khurdad, warned. *They coming in at eleven' o'clock.*

*Maintain visual scanning.* Cassandra's voice came over the headset. *Remember, like Teal'c once said, they can jam every instrument on your glider except your eyes.*

*I have a visual.* Amethyst-Three said.

Cassandra watched helplessly as Amethyst-Three's ship shot away from her flight path and out into clear air, closely followed by the Jaffa. The enemy vessel fired steadily at her, each successive bolt seeming to pass a little closer to Amethyst-Three's hull.

*He's on me tight,* said the voice in Cassie's cockpit, *I can't shake him.* Twisting and spinning into a spilt-ass maneuver Amethyst-Three looped back toward the dogfights, but the pilot trailing her was persistent and showed no sign of relinquishing pursuit.

"Hang on, Amethyst-Three," Hailey called, wrenching her ship into a roll out turn so sharply and so steeply that straining gyros whined, "I'm coming in."

So absorbed in his pursuit of his prey the Jaffa pilot didn't see Hailey, who barrel-rolled her own ship, flipped out and dropped in behind him. Electronic crosshairs lined up according to the computer-readout instructions, and Hailey fired repeatedly. There was a small explosion in the sky and the Jaffa was vaporized with his ship.

Cassandra said. "Lets do some flying." She shot a ray of energy over the hull of the lead ship, challenging him. She banked a hard right veering for the cannons between the three massive command ships. Young Fraiser put her starfighter through a wild series of dips, circles and turns, then finished with a straight out run while uncapping a firing trigger and squeezing the plunger. Lasers ripped into the hull of the death Glider causing it to spiral back even as Ebony-Two let loose four torpedoes into the enemy squadron.

Disrupter bolts burst from Hailey's 302, tracing lines all around a second Death Glider, which cut a snap-roll to the right and down. Hailey stayed with it, trying to line up another shot, but the Jaffa pilot was elusive. Jennifer snap-rolled one after the other, each time coming out near one of her comrades in hopes to confuse the Jaffa.

The Jaffa pilots chasing the Allies were among the best in the Goa'uld Empire. To follow the rebels was pure lunacy but they had no choice but to do so. They undoubtedly would be better off perishing in a dog fight then reporting failure to Osiris or worse their true god Usiel.

Cassandra having learned a few tricks from her blonde mother made a daring banking maneuver that brought it swirling out of the narrow gap between command ships. She urged her starfighter into a fast dive, then a barrel roll back up, and banked to the right to avoid any stray phaser bolts of hostile forces, and let lose her ordnance into the fray of enemy ships.

Hailey glimpsed the pursuing ships through the windows of her cockpit as she spun her craft around, speeding under the low belly of the Thor, then bringing the glider back to its right side up position. With expert precision, the young Captain, steered her ship toward Prometheus summoning all the skill that had made her reputation known through out the Air Force as a master pilot. She maneuvered the 302 so that the other only object between it and the other fighter was the deadly blockade of Malakim starfighters. Ambush was inevitable.

There was only a brief, brilliant flare of light, then nothing but the shattered remains of the two Jaffa fighters as they pin wheeled into explosive plumbs of metal shards. Two more wings of Jaffa pursued Amber wing trying to mimic their every move as they fired their deadly cannons.

*Watch your back Amber-Four* Amber Leader voice sounded over the speakers, *fighters above you, coming in.*

Amber-Four continued his dive even as he looked back and spotted the object of his commander's concern close on his tail. Reluctantly Khurdad pulled up and away from his flight path, abandoning his target. His tormentor was good, however, and continued closing on his.

*I cannot shake him,* he reported.

Something cut across the sky toward both ships. *I'm on him, Amber-Four.* Shouted Amber-Leader. *Hold on.*

Young Khurdad, didn't have to wait for very long. His commander's gunnery was precise, and the Death Glider vanished brightly shortly thereafter.

*Thank you, Wing-Leader.* Khurdad murmured, breathing a little more easily.

The God's eye view in combination of radio chatter gave those aboard the three command ships a sense they were engaging in a video game. Only the stakes were higher than beating a contender's score. The Samantha Carter shuddered as it was wracked by a series of explosions off its starboard side. Huge chunks of Death Glider shrapnel tried to tear away at its hull.

"Liege, incoming Bandit." It was young Pumba announcing from Tactical. "It's a Ha'Tac."

"Find a firing solution." Sam ordered, her voice a lethal calm. "Blow it out of the stars."

"Yes Liege." The gunner of the Samantha Carter shifted in her chair hands dancing over the kiosk in front of her bringing up the HUD.

"Helm plot an intercept course, we can't let them jump to hyper space." Carter commanded.

"Course 5777 mark 2 locked in." Malachi answered

"I've got a firing solution." Pumba said

To her gunner, Sam cast over her shoulder. "Arm four naquaddrah torpedoes and ion cannons and fire at will."

"Executing." Tactical responded

Sam studied the viewer intently, as her namesake's disputer array fire upon and destroy four Death Gliders deploying from the Ha'Tac's shuttle bay, at the same time four torpedoes were away.

Two warheads slammed into the shields rocketing it but no damage. Another spiraled into the pyramidal hull. Sam held her breath and watched the torpedoes streak toward the enemy ship. It was as if their impact solidified the ship while simultaneously blasting a section of it away. The Goa'uld vessel spun, illuminated by firelight, spewing debris as she struggled to regain her position.

In the back of her mind, Pumah was stunned by the Diabolical's hubris; the enemies ship had never attempted to raise shields. The vessel was critically damaged, another hit and it would surely blow apart. As bees swarming a disputed hive Death Gliders zipped along trying to engage the Samantha Carter. They were not so unprotected after all. But it would not be enough against the Malakim armada.

Malachi hands moved swiftly over the controls as they steered closer to the Goa'uld ship like a gnat circling a great beast. There was an excited and yet controlled energy to his movements that was unmistakable.

Carter fully expected the Ha'Tac vessel to open fire. The Goa'uld would not like their prey escaping; moreover they were loathed to be humiliated. Almost as if reading her thoughts the Ha'Tac vessel opened its aft bay doors expelling three more Death Gliders.

Malachi's enthusiasm overrode his good sense, and he whipped the Samantha Carter toward the center of the mothership. All that mattered now was comply with the Liege Commander without killing themselves in the process. Malachi seized the controls and flipped the power feed, and jammed the thruster bar to the left. To her surprise and everlasting gratitude, the Samantha Carter banked sharply in response and they shot past the triple fighters and rose into the ion trail of the Prometheus.

An enemy fighter drifted into her sights, it was Pumah that barked the order not Carter. "I've got this Songless slug" Her slender dark hand trailed over the phasers and stuck the Ha'Tac vessel with disrupters.

At the same time the Malakim released the phaser banks, Malachi yanked hard on the steering, shooting past the lumbering Ha'Tac and her 'cub' fighters in a series of evasive actions. The enemy ship was behind them again and closing. Malachi banked the smaller ship hard to starboard and brought it back toward the swarming starfighters. Phaser blasts ripped past the Samantha Carter, barely missing.

Pumah's control over the weaponry was perfection. She was a warrior avenging her Liege Commander and her family. It was proving to be a very bad day to be a Goa'uld. The enemy vessels had no time to respond to the maneuver and exploded into red starbursts of sparks and debris.

It was then that Prometheus and Thor swooped in like an avenging angels. Their own ion-phasers opened up and struck the three squadrons of Death Gliders simultaneously in precision The Malakim Wings admired.

Unexpectedly two Jaffa dropped out of formation. One of them even sparked as it grazed the walls with its metal hull of Thor. Twisting and banking and turning her ship, Hailey pressed through the narrow gap between Thor and Prometheus. The young captain glanced backward as she spotted a Jaffa fighter slipping in behind her. She tried losing the enemy ships by going into a steep dive toward the company of Malakim starfighters, to avoid a burst of offensive fire from yet another ship below her. Neither maneuver shook the pursuit.

*I see you, Hailey,* came a reassuring call from Cass. *I got your six.*

The Captain looked up above, below and to the sides, but there was no sign of her friend. Meanwhile energy bolts from her trailing assailant were passing uncomfortably close.

"Cass, where the hell are you?"

Something appeared not to the sides or behind, but almost directly in front of her. It was bright and moving incredibly fast, and then it was firing just above her. Taken completely by surprise, the Jaffa fighter came apart just as the pilot realized what had happened.

"Shit Cass. You're frigging Carter junior." Hailey praised her friend even as she leveled off, let go of full weaponry as she descended upon another wing of Jaffa fighters. A series of sequential explosions hopscotched across from one ship to the next as the fuselage of the middle ship mushroomed.

*Been there done that,* young Fraiser gloated as she twisted her ship violently to avoid the fire from below. She hove into view over Hailey's shoulder and executed a victory roll. *Come on we're not done yet.*

Amber-Four torched his ship up finding a new target... his glee turned to terror as he realized he couldn't swerve his craft in time to avoid laser fire striking her hull.

*Amber-Four, pull up! Pull up!* Jennifer bellowed over the comm-unit having witnessed the plight of the fellow warrior.

But despite commands to shift course, the automatic pressures wouldn't allow the necessary centrifugal force, her fighter was stalling, plunging for the planet below.

Amber-Leader took control. She spiraled in her lasers locked on target, finding the gun solution hunting the ship behind the younger pilot.

Khurdad, was through and clear, on the other side. *I'm hit. Not too bad.* A rapid check of his controls caused him to frown. *I've got a bad malfunction...* he uttered trying to sound in control. He was a new pilot. Born to fly did not make a combat pilot out of a Malakim. Khurdad, was still a green flyer behind the stick.

"Khurdad, listen to me." Cassandra had to calm the young Malakim down as Sam had done once for her. Her mind raced desperately for what her Mama had once told her in this precise circumstance. "You fed too much fuel from the stall, the engines can't handle all that power at once. Pull back on the stick, ratchet the switches to the feeder dump and clear the lines, then seal them anew."

Sweat beaded on his forehead as Khurdad tried to comply with the orders. A quick glance at the main and sublevel control panels revealed all the indicators light were still red. The systems were overheated. He jammed the stick back, to cut the power, jettisoned the stabilizer, and switched to an auxiliary mount, pushed the ignition causing the straining ion engines to whine as it zipped up in time to avoid becoming apart of the spiraling masses of debris. He pulled back hard on the stick causing his starfighter level out.

*It worked!*

There was a new set of singles coming in hard and fast.

*There are more of them.* Red-Leader interrupted and banked a hard left trying to entice the hunters to go after him. He started his attack run-staying low and waiting until he was right on top of the squadron. His maneuver avoided most of the volley of attack of the Jaffa assault. He took a direct hit on his main power cell; black hateful smoke billowed from the ion engines a millimeter closer and his fuselage would have blown. *My ship is losing power... *

Plasma energy bolts from the pursuing Jaffa began to streak close about them. Both Hailey and Cassandra crossed in rolling scissors repeatedly, striving to present as confusing a target as possible. Red Leader was fighting with her controls when several small flashes and sparks lit her control board. One small panel exploded, leaving molten slag behind. Somehow she managed to retain control of the ship. Another burst of energy rocketed her ship.

Something flared brightly, hitting even closer and the interior of the now open cockpit became a mass of flames.

*I am Pedeal of the Grigori. I die for the Nephalim this day.* A loud desperate cry sounded over the speakers, blending into a final agonized scream of flesh and metal as the starfighter burst into flames, careening to the void.

In the next instant, a slash of pulsing light swept past Cassandra. She glanced over her shoulder and saw a swarm of gliders bearing down on Red Leader, a wake of an explosion struck her ship. The starfighter and Red leader were gone.

*We lost Red, lost Amber lost Green wings.* Cassandra heard Ebony-Three announce.

"Oh Great Song in the Dark!" Usiel breathed in a stunned whisper as he was hurled against a bulkhead as the Goa'uld ship lurched; his eardrums resonated painfully as the sound of a massive explosion echoed throughout. It was a sound of an internal blast, the shock waves pulling stabilizers off operation mode. The room's axis swung ninety degrees; the port bulkhead became the floor.

Those on the Pel'tak were caught in an insane tumble of arms, legs, and furnishings---all outlined against the pulsing amber light of alert. The momentum bashed Kull Warrior drones, Jaffa, System lord and Fallen against the bulkhead forcing the air out more than one pair of lungs. For an instant, no more, the ship hovered on its side, and then righted itself with a cold metal groan. Gathered warriors were flung back against the metal floor upon the softer, more forgiving surface of other crewmembers.

The Goa'uld ship wouldn't be stable for long. Already the environmental controls were down seventy-five percent. It had been the best Ga'rak could do in the short amount of time he had to correct the problem with auxiliary power. The acrid stick of melting conduits choked the air on the Pel'tak. Osiris could feel the heat of several console fires warming her face. The Pel'tak, based on the reports coming from the engineering controls, was coming apart around her.

"Shields are now at ten percent my lord!" Ga'rak at the helm was loath to report.

Cursing, Osiris eyes flared gold as she attempted to reclaim the command throne, "Evasive maneuver! Destroy them."

"Our weapons are still off line, my Lord, we have no targeting ability, and we could hit Death Gliders."

"Acceptable losses. Fire!" the Pel'tac was quickly becoming uninhabitable and functionally useless. None of the weaponry systems were working, the hyper drive was off line, and helm wasn't answering.

Ga'rak turned to his lord; this was the last time he would send his brothers to their doom because of the false gods. He stood back for a moment staring at her. Smiled boldly knowing in a moment he would die. "No. I will not."

"Shak'ti'qua! Hakoor kra terak shree!" Osiris bellowed.

'What do you think you are doing? Obey me or I will send you to oblivion!' Usiel translated mentally.

Ga'rak snorted, "Dal Shaka mel" proclaiming he would die free.

"Di'dak'dida?" Osiris couldn't believe the Jaffa would dare openly challenge her, so much so she had to ask him if he was defying her.

"Stimulating conversation. It's just so hard to find good help these days... I guess that is why you're resorting to breeding these Songless abominations," Usiel flippantly gestured to the Kull Warriors.

Osiris rose, her hand igniting the Ribbon device. To her astonishment, Usiel ripped open his tunic and smacked his lips. "Place it anywhere you desire snaky-poo, I'll shake it off."

"Not before you blow up with this ship!" The blonde System Lord was at the end of her tether.

"Not an option," the dark angel laughed. "I've got a contingency plan. Yoo-hoo Jaffa boys" Usiel hissed, "the Ha-whatitzit is all yours. Me and mine. Gotta fly!"

Ga'rak had prepared himself to die at the hands of the false god, he had not envisioned the God Usiel to wrap his mangled black wings around Osiris and vanish with the ten drone Kull Warriors that had been idle upon the Pel'tak. He looked down at the screaming council realizing shields were gone.

"Dal Shaka mel." he said before the operations council in front him exploded, ripping his torso from his legs. He had died free.

Part 20

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