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Jessie walked down the corridor with Sam and Casey.
"God, I had no idea the Prometheus was this big."
Casey nodded. "Pretty impressive, huh? The next generation of ships will be even better, especially since the upgrades we’re testing out today will be standard issue."
Sam led the way to the lab. "With the naquadah mining operation up and running on Nanda, construction of the new fleet of ships is way ahead of schedule. The Daedalus is a ‘new and improved’ version of the Prometheus, and it’s almost complete."
Entering the room, Sam set the data crystals she had been carrying down at the workstation next to the weapon.
"Now, if I can just get this thing to work, we can look at integrating it into the defense system of the other ships." Sam double-checked to make sure all the monitoring equipment was in place before she inserted the power supply. A slight hum broke the silence, and the components illuminated.
"Okay, let’s start running some tests with the parameters we got from the translations."
Almost an hour had passed, and while Sam was getting good readouts on the monitoring equipment, she had yet to get the device to do anything. Casey was relaying to Sam a variety of calculations Daniel had given her.
"If y’all don’t need me for anything, I’m going to go wander around and check out the rest of the ship."
Casey smiled at Jessie. "If you get lost, just have someone point you in the direction of the bridge."
With a wave to her friends, Jessie set out to explore on her own. The fact that she was getting to do something most people never even imagined wasn’t lost on her. Checking out several different levels, she finally made her way to the bridge, where she found Cam, Teal’c, Jack and Daniel conversing with Colonel Pendergast.
"The Prometheus definitely has advantages with the Asgard beaming technology, scanners and hyperdrive. We’re still tweaking the sensor array, but hope to have it fully operational by the end of this test run. The problem is, the rail guns and nuclear missiles of the Prometheus won’t penetrate ha’tak shields. But, if Colonel Carter is able to get the Destroyer technology to work, we would be able to render the ha’tak shields inoperable, thus giving us the ability to destroy it."
"How are the Prometheus’ shields at withstanding the staff cannons from the ha’tak?" Cam asked.
"We can hold our own for a while, but considering each strike from a staff cannon equals approximately 200-megaton detonations, it’s not like we’d want to sit still and take too many of those."
"That is not taking into account the 24-point defense cannons set around the perimeter of the ha’tak," Teal’c added. "Combined with the death gliders and the al’kesh they can carry, it makes a formidable opponent."
Pendergast nodded. "If our shields go down, ha’taks could theoretically destroy us within minutes. Being able to engage the hyperdrive and jump into hyperspace is vital if we lose our shields." He sat down in his chair before saying, "Marks, take us out of hyperspace."
There was a barely noticeable shift as the Prometheus’ hyperdrive disengaged.
"All readings are within normal parameters, Sir."
"Good. Continue working on interfacing the Asgard sensors with our own, and let me know when it’s up and running."
"Well, gentleman, what would you…"
Whatever else Pendergast was going to say was cut off by a blast that rocked the ship. The atmosphere on the bridge immediately became electrified when the realization struck that they were being attacked. Pendergast began barking orders.
"Sound general quarters! Full power to the forward shield generators."
Looking at the expanse of space in front of them, they were surprised to see a ha’tak suddenly shimmer into view, with death gliders starting to emerge from it.
"Evasive maneuvers! Full military thrust! Return fire with forward rail guns."
Pendergast turned to Cam. "Go! Scramble Blue Squadron!"
Cam and Teal’c took off in a run, heading to the F-302’s.
Jack activated his radio. "Carter!"
After a couple of seconds, the radio crackled to life. "Yes, Sir?"
"You got that weapon working yet?"
"I’m still working on it, Sir."
"Well, now would be a real good time to get it on line, Carter. We’ve landed in a hornet’s nest."
Marks turned to Pendergast. "Sir? We’re being hailed."
"Put it on screen."
It took only a few seconds before the screen activated, displaying the usual gaudy opulence of the pel’tak, along with a familiar face. Jack groaned.
Camulus glanced at the occupants on the bridge of the Prometheus, before flashing a smile. "O’Neill. I must say this is a rather pleasant, if unexpected, surprise. I had no idea you were in the vicinity."
Jessie was trying to stay focused, but the throbbing in her back was growing more insistent, and she couldn’t tell if it was in time with her own heartbeat, or some other rhythm. The sounds were fading around her and her vision was becoming narrowed, centered on the Goa’uld projected on the screen.
Jack gestured with his hand. "Yeah, well, you know, just out for a stroll and all."
"Hmmm. A stroll that seems to have you at a disadvantage."
Reports were starting to come in. Blue Squadron was engaged in a fierce dogfight, and there was already notification of one F-302 having been destroyed.
"Surrender now, and I will consider sparing you and your crew. Look on it as a gesture of goodwill from your god. Which is much more than you deserve, after the problems you created with that depleted ZPM."
"Camulus, now you of all people should know that we just don’t give up and surrender. And you’re a snake, not a god."
His eyes flashed, and a report of another destroyed F-302 came through. "If you don’t surrender, I guarantee I will capture as many of your people as possible, and you will bear witness to their individual tortures before I destroy them."
During this entire encounter, Jessie was struggling to concentrate on what Camulus was saying, but it was getting extremely difficult. Her back felt like it was on fire, and there was a strange humming in her ears, getting louder as each second passed. Completely oblivious to her actions, Jessie walked across the bridge until she was in front of the view screen. Her shirt rubbing against her back was borderline agony, and grabbing the bottom edge of it, she pulled it over her head, leaving her clad in her bra and BDU pants. The sweat on her skin was already running down in rivulets between her shoulder blades. No longer able to stand, she fell to her knees in front of the screen. She gasped, "Oh, God!" as she began shivering with cold.
There were two completely different reactions to Jessie’s actions. Jack was trying to comprehend what the hell had gotten into her. Camulus was staring, shock registering momentarily before an appreciative grin grew across his face.
"Well, well, O’Neill. It seems at least one of your crew knows how to greet her god appropriately." Sweeping his gaze over her, he said, "Interesting. This one might actually be worthy of being a consort." He turned his attention back to Jack. "Send her to my ha’tak immediately, and I will keep that in mind when deciding your fate."
Jack and Daniel were both staring in shock, their eyes fixated on Jessie’s back as images began appearing as if an unseen hand were drawing a tattoo, emanating from the scar where the godstick had been embedded.
Jessie’s senses were being overwhelmed. In her mind’s eye, she could see Cam piloting his F-302, two death gliders on his tail. Even though the death gliders were not nearly as effective for ship-to-ship combat as the F-302’s, the sheer number they faced made it an almost certain death match. She could hear as well as see the exchange going on out there.
Cam was speaking into his radio. "Sweep closer to the ha’tak, see if we can do some damage in close."
"It’s no use, Blue Leader. We’re not getting through."
"Keep at it, boys. Prometheus, request status report."
"Not too good right now, Blue Leader. Shields are down by 50%. Stand by for orders."
The situation of each individual fighter pilot was bombarding her consciousness as well. It was almost as if she were tuned in to each and every person engaged in the battle. To make things even worse, Jessie was also sensing Camulus’ thoughts, and exactly what he planned on doing to her.
The rage that hit her was overwhelming, well beyond anything she had ever experienced. Turning a hate-filled gaze in his direction, Jessie’s voice was almost unrecognizable as she growled at Camulus, "Not even on your best day, motherfucker."
Jack heard Sam’s voice come over the radio. "Sir, something’s happening with the weap…"
At that exact moment, whatever it was that had been building inside Jessie broke free. Her body snapped back, spine arching almost to the breaking point, a blood-curdling scream coinciding with the distinct ripple that emanated from her, as if the air on the bridge was water and a rock had been dropped into it. The next ensuing minutes were total chaos.
"Colonel Pendergast! The shields on the ha’tak are down!"
"Return fire! Blue Leader, the ha’tak’s shields are down. I repeat, the shields are down!"
"Roger that, Prometheus. Okay boys, let’s give ‘em hell!"
Camulus’ smirk was quickly replaced with shock as the reports started pouring in of the 180-degree turn in the battle. With the F-302’s as well as the Prometheus laying down constant fire, it wasn’t long before the ha’tak retreated and jumped into hyperspace, leaving behind any death gliders not fortunate enough to make it back before departure. Those were quickly eliminated.
As the battle played out between the Prometheus, Blue Squadron and Camulus, Jack turned his attention back to Jessie, rushing over to where she had collapsed on the floor of the bridge. Glancing at the now impressive tattoo running across her back, he reached out and turned her over, noting that she was ice cold. Surprisingly she was conscious, her eyes slightly glazed as she looked up at him.
"H-Help m-me, J-J-Ja-Jack," she managed to get out, her whole body shaking from the cold.
That’s when he knew it was bad. She never called him Jack. Ignoring the temperature of her skin, and her half-dressed state, he scooped her up into his arms and ran for the infirmary, with Daniel close behind.
Jack was already yelling at the doc by the time he had hit the doorway. "She collapsed—ice cold, clammy skin, rigors."
He tried laying her down on the gurney, but Jessica’s muscles were seizing up. She had a death grip on his arm, and even he couldn’t pry her hand loose.
"S-s-sorry…c…c…can’t…le-let go," she gasped.
Changing tactics, he moved to the chair that was next to the gurney and sat down with Jessie in his arms.
Dr. Carmichael left the wounded he was attending to do a quick assessment of Jessica, finding a rapid heart beat along with her slurred speech and the symptoms Jack had listed.
"Looks like she’s having a hypoglycemic attack." Dr. Carmichael went and prepared a hypodermic syringe of Glucagon. Returning quickly, he tried to inject it into Jessie. He frowned when the needle broke off, not even piercing the skin. Going back to the supply cabinet, he came back with a jet injector. That, too, failed, the Glucagon dribbling down her arm, her skin unbroken.
"Doc! We need you over here stat!" Two crewmembers had arrived with critical injuries, requiring Dr. Carmichael’s immediate attention.
"The Destroyer of Armies is invincible," Daniel murmured, loud enough for Jack to hear. "The text said when it was activated, for a period of time it was invincible to attack. We thought it meant the weapon…" Daniel stopped speaking as Jessie began to shake violently.
Jack’s eyes were wide as he made a quick mental assessment of the situation. "Son-of-a-bitch," he muttered as he tried to come up with a solution. Suddenly he began patting his shirt with his free hand, digging into the front pocket and pulling out a package of M&M’s.
"Get those open now," he said as he tossed the package to Daniel. Maneuvering Jessie in his arms, he sat her up.
"Jessie. Jessie!" he yelled as he patted her cheek none too gently. He held his hand out to Daniel as Jessie tried to focus on him.
"You need to eat some of these," he said as Daniel poured the candy into Jack’s hand. Another round of tremors raced through Jessie’s body. "Jessie! Damn it, stay with me!" Bringing his hand to her mouth, he slipped a couple of the M&M’s between her lips. "Come on, Jessie. Swallow these for me."
"It’s gonna take more than that," Daniel said, pouring more into Jack’s hand.
"Yeah, I know, but I don’t want to choke her." Jack slipped two more M&M’s into her mouth. "Come on, Jessie, focus. I know you can do it. Swallow for me, Jessie." He reached down and rubbed his fingers over her throat, trying to keep her attention on task as her eyes began rolling back. He felt her throat move convulsively, struggling to swallow the candy.
"That’s it." He slipped a few more into her mouth. "That’s a good girl. Daniel, grab a cup of water for me."
Between Jack’s coaxing and some water, he managed to get enough of the chocolate into her to begin raising her blood glucose. They knew it was working as the tremors started to abate, and Jessie’s muscles began to relax a little. She slumped against Jack, drifting in and out of consciousness, but the color was returning to her face, as well as her temperature coming back towards normal.
Once he was certain Jessie was doing better, Daniel said, "Jack, can you turn her so I can get a look at her back?"
In his rush to get her to the infirmary, Jack had forgotten about the designs that had appeared when they were on the bridge. Realizing that Jessie still had a grip on his arm, Jack decided on the easiest course of action; he stood up, turned her to where she faced him and then sat back down with her straddling him, her upper body leaning against his chest and shoulder.
Jack looked at Daniel, seeing his friend’s expression change to shock as he stared at Jessie’s back. Daniel grabbed his pen and notepad and immediately began sketching and taking notes.
After a couple of minutes, Daniel spoke. "Jack?"
"I , uh…I need you to..."
"Unhook her bra."
"I need to see what’s underneath."
"Geez, Daniel." Jack looked down at Jessie, and realized she was still out of it. Holding her close to him to preserve her modesty, he reached around and deftly unhooked the clasp.
Daniel resumed his writing, noting that the intricate design on her back looked like it was starting to fade. Daniel reached out and slid the straps out of the way so he could see the pattern that ran up her shoulders. He frowned. There seemed to be heat coming from the lines of the pattern itself. Running his fingers over her skin, he realized it was emanating heat. Her skin, though, was smooth. There was no tactile evidence of the design. Daniel’s gaze came to rest on the scar from the godstick. It was then that he began putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Jessie first became aware of voices around her, though it sounded like they were coming out of a tunnel. The next thing she noticed was that she was no longer icy cold; in fact, she felt warm. Realizing her hand was throbbing from being clenched so tightly, she tried to flex her fingers minutely, attempting to loosen her grip. She opened her eyes, squinting against the bright lights in the infirmary. Crap. What the hell was it with her and infirmaries? It had to be her least favorite place to be, yet every time she turned around, that’s where she was at. Trying to get her eyes to focus, she realized someone was holding her. Jack. Oh geez. The man had such a twisted sense of humor; he was never going to let her live this down. Her forehead was against where his neck joined his shoulder, and she became aware of exactly what kind of position she was in. While she was thoroughly enjoying the warmth of his body after her artic frost experience, she was more concerned as to why she was in this position.
"Jack?" she whispered hoarsely.
"Is there a reason why I’m straddling you?"
Jack looked at Daniel, silently begging him to finish.
"When we were on the bridge, some kind of drawing showed up on your back. Daniel’s writing down whatever it is."
Great. That would explain why her back had felt like it had been on fire earlier. Jessie started to shift her position when she felt Jack’s arm tighten around her, keeping her pressed against him.
"Don’t move, Jess."
She frowned. "Why?"
Jack cleared his throat. "Because your bra’s undone."
Stiffening slightly, she repeated, "Why?"
"Daniel needed to see what was underneath."
With her own humor starting to resurface, she replied "Oh, now that’s original."
Jessie tried to turn her head without moving her body.
"Would you please hurry and finish? I really don’t want someone walking in with me half naked on General O’Neill’s lap. I’ve got a reputation to protect, ya know?"
Daniel grinned; he couldn’t ever remember seeing Jack blush before. "Sure thing, Jessie."
"Christ, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. What the hell happened to me?"
Sam and Casey had rushed to the bridge in the aftermath, only to be told that Jessie had collapsed and Jack and Daniel had taken her to the infirmary. Running in that direction, they weren’t sure what they were expecting, but it definitely wasn’t what they found. Entering the infirmary, they saw Daniel busy writing, Jessie lying against Jack, and Jack trying to hook her bra.
"What’s taking you so long?" Jessie demanded impatiently.
"Well, damn it Jessie, I’m a guy—I’m used to unhooking them, not trying to put ‘em back on!"
Jack’s obvious annoyance drew an involuntary snicker out of Sam.
Jessie heard the noise from her friend, and did her best to turn and look in that direction, but she was still fairly weak. "I swear to God, Sam, it’s not what it looks like."
Both of her friends came forward, their eyes riveted on her back.
"Holy Hannah! Jessie, are you okay?" Sam asked.
Jessie nodded. "I’m all right, but if Jack ever asks you, ‘You want some candy, little girl?’ trust me, he means business."
Casey couldn’t hold back her laughter, and Jack was grumbling as he grabbed the blanket one of the nurses handed to him. Tucking it around Jessie, he stood and set her on the chair he had vacated, finally managing to get her hand pried off of his arm. Rubbing the spot, he said, "Watson, one of these days…"
Jessie chuckled weakly. "Sorry, Sir—couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that."
Sam had a twinkle in her eye from watching Jack, but then grew serious as she turned her attention back to the matter at hand.
"Shortly after the Prometheus was attacked, the weapon had a dramatic power build up, but then it shut down abruptly."
"I think we were looking at the translation wrong," Daniel replied. "The whole time it was talking about the focus of activation, we assumed it was referring to the weapon, that the components you were working on was the Destroyer of Armies."
He flipped through his notes. "Given what happened on the bridge, and deciphering the symbols on Jessie’s back, I think the components are just the foundation of the weapon. The ‘focus of activation’ translates more into something that focuses the power." Daniel looked at Jessie. "The Destroyer of Armies isn’t just the components—somehow, Jessie, it also includes you."
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