1440 hours, August 12

O’Neill scrubbed at eyes gone sandy from staring at the computer screen for the past two hours. They’d finally held the memorial for SG-10 yesterday, after which he’d tried to be as productive as possible. It had been an uphill battle, though, as his mind kept returning to the situation with Frank. Losing Henry Boyd and his team had been bad enough, but being stuck here when he wanted to be on P2A-870 looking for his buddy was driving him up the wall.

He’d spent the better part of today in his office, again trying to accomplish something useful, but his heart just wasn’t into paperwork. Well, really he didn’t have much patience for it under even the best of circumstances, but right now was probably the worst time to be tackling it. Funny how we still call it ‘paperwork’ even when so much of it’s supposed to be electronic now, he mused. Then again, it isn’t like the military’s going to cut back on its appetite for dead trees anytime soon.

Even as he formed the thought it struck him how much it sounded like something Frank would say. No use denying the extent to which his friend’s habits had rubbed off on him over the years they’d served together. The two of them seemed to have had an effect on each other ever since they’d met in their first week of Special Ops training, to the extent that even eight years of estrangement hadn’t managed to erase Frank’s mark on him. He wondered whether the converse also held true.

Well, if these damned storms on P2A-870 ever let up, maybe he could find out.

As near as he could figure, what was happening there must be something along the lines of a monsoon or maybe a derecho, with multiple cells of storms — some severe — spread out over a long path and passing over the same spot. To have something like that continue for more than two days was unusual, at least on Earth, but who could tell what a normal weather pattern might be for an unexplored alien planet? For all he knew, that storm might be a hurricane, or maybe something like one of New England’s infamous nor’easters, storms that could last for days and dump enormous amounts of precipitation over the landscape. The MALP’s telemetry had indicated increasing winds over the past several queries, which fit any of these profiles.

The thought made him shudder, and he glanced at his watch. 1440 hours. Twenty minutes to go before the next check-in with the MALP left behind at the planet’s storm-besieged gate. C’mon, let the weather have cleared by then. He itched to get on with the search. Frank was somewhere on that planet, and he was going to find him come hell or high water. Actually, high water was probably a given, in the wake of the storms, but no matter. Properly-equipped, he and his team and any others the general saw fit to send along as backup would be able to conduct search-and-rescue operations even under extreme conditions if necessary.


O’Neill looked up to find Ferretti occupying the doorway. “Lou. How was P4X-293?”

Ferretti ambled into the office and dropped into one of O’Neill’s visitor chairs. “Pink.”

O’Neill raised an eyebrow. “Pink?”

“Yeah. The grass had pink speckles. Weirdest damn thing I’ve seen in a while. Pink leaves on some of the other vegetation, too. Some things that looked kind of like miniature dinosaurs running around. We didn’t see any people, though, or any buildings either. Nothing but nature for miles around, all in pink and green.”

O’Neill shook his head. “Strange. I suppose there’s bound to be a few places like that, though.” He picked up his coffee mug and frowned at the cold half-inch of brown liquid in the bottom before looking back at Ferretti. “Hammond give you any idea where he’d be sending you next?”

Ferretti sat forward in his chair. “To P2A-870 with you, once the weather there clears. We’re gonna help you find Cromwell, Jack.”




Cromwell sat up, uncertain what had awakened him from troubled dreams.

He glanced around at the sleeping forms of his men, then checked his watch. 0537, still long before dawn at this time of year. Not, he reflected, that dawn’s light would penetrate this hiding place even once the sun made its appearance.

The air in the cavern was chilly despite the still-glowing embers of the fire his team had laid the previous night, and his breath misted before his face as he unwrapped himself from the cocoon of blankets in which he’d slept and got to his feet.

A dim shape crouched on the other side of the firepit resolved itself into Armagil, poking at the remains of the fire with a stick. He looked up as the colonel approached. “Good morning, filwriad.” Using the stick, he drew a small tin pot from the coals. Its spout steamed gently. “Tea?”

The colonel sat down beside him, gratefully accepting the cup that Armagil poured for him. “Thanks.” His eyes swept the cavern again, counting sleepers. “Who’s on watch at the entrance?”

“Issui. Brioc is due to relieve him in just over an hour. And Tathan is on comm watch, up above in the brush.”

Cromwell nodded, inhaling the fragrant steam from his tea. Last night, by the wan light of Tir Awyr’s smaller moon, they’d identified a spot in the brush covering the hillside above their lair, a space large enough for one man to sit concealed from the road. With any luck, posting someone there with the Tok’bel communication device would allow them to receive signals, though the shifts were of necessity brief due to the winter cold.

Armagil sipped at his own cup before asking, “So the cadlywydd says we have a friend among the Goa’uld visiting Tir Awyr, then? Do you think he’ll succeed in getting Coll free without our needing to take action?”

Cromwell considered this. Surely, if Sabar’s Tok’bel operative were as highly-placed and respected as Cadogan seemed to think, he ought to be able to command Coll’s release — provided he could do so without risking his own cover, of course. “I hope so,” he replied cautiously. “Still, it won’t hurt to be ready, just in case.”

His lieutenant regarded him over the rim of the mug, visibly processing this statement. After swallowing a mouthful of tea, he nodded once. “Right, then. We’ll need to keep a sharp eye out for General Kasol’s party to pass by. At least we’ll know when they reach the mine.”




Tesni glanced across the table at Sorcha and hurried to swallow the last of her porridge as the bell sounded to signal shift change. After sleeping fitfully most of the night, she’d awakened to the sound of Eiluned announcing that their team would be assigned to the sorting-house that morning rather than to the mine galleries belowground. She found the thought appealing, as it might afford her the chance to learn who else might have seen what had happened with Coll or knew his current status. Workers in the mine tunnels were sorted into small groups who had little opportunity to converse with anyone beyond their own half-dozen or fewer workmates. But aboveground, in the sorting and packing areas, it was possible to mingle more freely. She would also find it easier to break away and make contact with Ceinwen if need be.

For that matter, Eiluned herself might well have useful information. The woman was, after all, a rebel agent under deep cover as one of the chief human overseers of the mine complex, and in her cover role was likely to be privy to matters of discipline. As a rebel, surely she would take care to keep abreast of developments that could potentially affect the Am Rhyddid. Since virtually anyone might be tied to the rebellion, it made sense for her to assume that any of the miners could be a member, and to work to mitigate any chance of that fact becoming known to the Jaffa. Tesni promised herself that she would seek out a few moments alone with her before the day was done.

Benches scraped the floor as their occupants rose and began to exit the dining hall. “At least we don’t have to spend the day underground,” Sorcha commented, raising her voice to be heard over the din as she stacked her bowl on the counter beside the door. She dropped her spoon into a tub beside the stacked dishes. “That’s some relief, at any rate.”




Cadogan fought off a sense of gweld yn barod as he looked up from his desk. “Another group of Jaffa?” he asked, echoing the words of the scout who’d hurried into the study to stand nervously before him.

The young man nodded, brushing a lock of flaxen hair from his forehead. “I counted eight, cadlywydd. They set off along the northern road.”

{They’re likely headed for the mine,} offered Sabar.

That’s what I’m afraid of. Cadogan regarded the scout. “No Goa’uld with them?”

A shake of the fair head. “No, sir.”

Cadogan sighed. “All right. Thank you for bringing the news. I trust you notified the guard captain to send another sentry to take over while you reported to me?”

A nod this time. “I did.”

“Very well, then. Have a meal and a rest, then report back to the captain. Dismissed.”

As the scout made his way from the study, Cadogan massaged his forehead. This was not the sort of news with which he’d hoped to begin the day. We should warn Neirin.

{Indeed we should} Sabar agreed. {I’m concerned over what exactly to tell him, though. Even we don’t know what’s going on at this point.}

It was vexing, to be sure. Why would Bel send a second squad of Jaffa to Tir Awyr when Sholan — Kasol, Cadogan corrected himself — and his team were already here? Unless… A chill ran down his spine. You don’t suppose Sholan’s been found out, do you, Sabar? And that this second group of Jaffa are here to deal with him?

{Anything’s possible.} Sabar’s tone indicated the symbiote was unconvinced, though prudently willing to entertain the idea. {Granted, I shouldn’t think so, given how long Sholan has been under cover in Bel’s service. He’s had time to dig himself in pretty securely, and he’s one of the best operatives we’ve had — the Tok’ra, I mean, not just the Tok’bel. But we can’t afford to rule anything out.}

I always suspected Bel might not believe the rebellion was dead and the Tok’bel disbanded, no matter how thorough we’ve been in fabricating the evidence. Cadogan scrubbed a hand through his hair, the nervous gesture one he’d retained since his youth. We’ll have to warn Sholan somehow.

{We haven’t any way of getting a message to him. By this time he’s on the road, somewhere between Bren Argoed and the mine. We don’t know for sure that there’s anything to warn him about, and there’s no natural reason for anyone on this world to approach a Goa’uld willingly, nor a Jaffa squad.}

Cadogan stood up and began pacing the room in frustration. Perhaps Neirin and the Wolves can find some way. We should alert him to the presence of these new Jaffa, regardless.

{We shall, but I can’t think of anything he could do to warn Sholan.} Sabar’s own frustration was apparent from his tone, although he remained calmer than his host. At times, Cadogan found himself envious of the symbiote’s ability to maintain his composure, a skill surely resulting from a lifespan measured in millennia. For all that he’d never developed Selmak’s level of detachment — or even the average Tok’ra’s — Sabar was cooler in the face of crisis than any human.

Their circuit of the study brought them back to the desk, and Cadogan reached for the communication device. Let us at least hope we can get through to him this time. Ceinwen did say she’d advise Neirin to post one of his men outside the cave system with their communicator.



The candle flickered as Coll shifted on his bunk, making shadows dance crazily on the cell’s far wall. He’d lost all track of time, but surely it had to be long past the point when his workgroup would have returned to Llanavon. He wondered just how long the Jaffa were planning to keep him here, and what they’d do with him after that.

He was mildly surprised that there’d been virtually no questioning, no threats and no torture. The Jaffa had simply carted him off and tossed him in here, then done nothing further with him. Other than the occasional visit from a Jaffa guard who brought him meals and emptied his slop bucket in silence, he’d seen no one.

One Jaffa in particular seemed to have been assigned to this duty, as Coll had seen the same individual on all visits but one. He was notable only for the fact that one of his eyes was bright green while the other was brown. He never touched Coll nor made any threatening motions, instead merely carrying out his tasks efficiently before leaving again. Based on everything he knew about Jaffa, Coll had expected far worse treatment, but these silent encounters were all he’d had since being thrown roughly into the cell by the original pair who’d hauled him bodily from the mine gallery. The physical aches from that experience had begun to fade, another indication of how long he’d been here.

Either do something with me or let me go, he thought to himself. It’s this waiting that’s killing me.