Angelic Paranoia

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[Stargate] Protector
Thursday 5th June 2003

Rating: G
Beta: Judith
Spoilers: The Sentinel
Summary: AU version of The Sentinel - how would it have ended if Greaves and Kershaw had not gone along?

O'Neill screamed. Light shot forth from his mouth and eyes. His hands were manacled to an iron bar chained to a collar around his neck. From this position he was unable to do anything but accept whatever torture the Jaffa chose to inflict upon him.

Beside him, also bound and kneeling, Sergeant Grogan flinched.

The pain must have been intense, O'Neill is a trained warrior and he would never give the enemy the satisfaction of hearing him cry out. I am familiar with these Goa'uld pain-giving devices; I have even used them myself when under command of the false god Apophis. There is no shame in crying out under these circumstances.

"Lower the force field or your friends will be killed," said the Jaffa with the pain stick.

I could have told him that he was wasting his breath. Colonel O'Neill would die before he gave them access to the Sentinel, as would any member of SG-1. Whoever controls the Sentinel has the power to destroy their enemies on this planet. The System Lord, Svarog, would not be allowed to succeed in his conquest of this world.

"Sir?" Major Carter asked. She is a soldier. She would never obey such an order unless it was endorsed by her commanding officer.

"Don't do it, Carter. That's an order!"

He barely completed his words before being struck again. Only one who knew Major Carter well would understand the extreme nature of her distress. As I commented before, she is a professional. It does not do to let the enemy know of a weakness.

In some respects the issue was academic. Neither Major Carter nor Doctor Jackson had been able to determine how to repair the Sentinel. However, the Jaffa were unable to know they were demanding access to a device that would neither function for them nor destroy them.

I observed Major Carter as she examined the alien device. For one so young she has extensive analytical abilities. Her capacity to evaluate non-Goa'uld technology is far in excess of my own. The education of humans is far more broad-ranging than that of Jaffa.

The Sentinel resembled a human child's construction kit in appearance, being composed of rectangular glass blocks of many different colours. The Major removed several blocks in turn, examined them in detail and then replaced them. On Chulak, no woman would be trained in such a field. The very idea that a woman could be either a scientist or a warrior would be laughed to scorn. And yet, do we not entrust our women to educate our sons? Will not a female protect to the death those she loves?

While the Major studied the Sentinel, Doctor Jackson was examining the alien inscription and frantically scribbling notes. He, no less than Major Carter, was aware of what hung on their ability to make the Sentinel operational. It was strange, indeed, for them both to be working in full view of the enemy, and yet for the Jaffa weapons to be unable to hurt them through the force field. As Doctor Jackson worked, his eyes frequently flicked towards O'Neill. Doctor Jackson is a man of deep feelings.

O'Neill screamed again, his voice rough and raw.

We turned as one, only to see the Colonel struck in the back by a staff weapon and fall forward to the ground. Major Carter took an abortive step forward, "Colonel." She hesitated as he struggled awkwardly back to his knees, fighting to regain his balance against the impediment of the iron bar that passed behind his back and in front of his elbows.

"Carter." He spoke no other word but she responded to his unspoken command and returned once more to her work on the Sentinel.

"Bastards," muttered Doctor Jackson under his breath. He was probably not aware that I had heard him, but then I have exceptional hearing. He flicked rapidly through the pages of his notebook, comparing symbols there with those on the inscription.

"Teal'c, do these look similar to you?"

I could see no obvious resemblance, but then I have difficulty reading Doctor Jackson's handwriting at the best of times. His script is only slightly more legible than that of Colonel O'Neill.

"There is a possibility of a resemblance, Daniel Jackson."

He looked mildly reassured at this comment and pushed his glasses back into position on his nose.

"I think there may be a resemblance to the script used on P2A 463."

"You believe the two planets may have been visited by the same ancient civilisation?" I asked.

"Yes," he said excitedly. "The level of technology represented by both is far beyond anything the natives of the planets could produce themselves."

"And the technology certainly isn't Asgard," said Major Carter, looked up from her examination of a set of photographs.

We were all of us intensely aware of the suffering of O'Neill and also of Sergeant Grogan, however, it did not behove us to let our concern interfere with the execution of our duty. Major Carter kept her back towards the prisoners, doubtless this made it easier for her to concentrate. Daniel Jackson was talking to himself in some archaic tongue. I have occasionally speculated as to whether he does this to enable him to swear without anyone else understanding.

Colonel O'Neill's language is always far more direct and to the point.

Out of the corner of my eye, I observed one of the Jaffa raise his pain stick. He had obviously concluded that O'Neill could not easily be forced into giving the order to lower the force shield, because he turned his attentions to Sergeant Grogan.

Grogan's agony was obvious and as I had feared, was clearly having an effect upon Colonel O'Neill. Part of what makes the Colonel such a good commander is that he has a strong loyalty to those under his command. However, there are occasions when this loyalty can be used against him.

The Colonel clenched his fists and arched his back in agony as though the torture was being inflicted on him personally. His eyes closed for a few moments, shutting out the scene, then he relaxed and opened them once more.

"Why don't you try picking your teeth with that thing," he said. "With teeth like yours you need all the help you can get."

That earned him a boot in the ribs, but also distracted their attention from Grogan, which I am sure had been his intention. I will not describe precisely what they did to him, suffice to say that it looked extremely painful. The Colonel bore it as well as he could, but the reaction of my companions to his suffering was as painful to me as the injuries of the Colonel himself. SG-1 are closer to me than my own family. It is the nature of the life of a Jaffa that he is frequently away from home. Because of this, tight family bonds are rare among us; this is another reason why I seek to liberate my people from the oppression of false gods.

"There's nothing wrong with this." Major Carter gesticulated violently. "I've read all of Kershaw's notes. This is exactly how it was when they found it." She flung her hands out in exasperation. "It should work!"

"Perhaps you have overlooked something," I suggested.

"I checked everything against the original description. Nothing is damaged or broken and everything appears to be as it was in Greaves' and Kershaw's photographs."

"I think I've found something," Doctor Jackson interrupted. "Here, come take a look at this." He waved animatedly at one of many symbols written in greens and blues on a pillar.

Major Carter and I looked where he directed.

"This one's related to the symbol for life energy and this one, if I've understood it correctly, represents the concept 'two as one'."

"But," Major Carter said, "that could-"

"Lower the force field," the Jaffa with the pain stick demanded, "or this one dies." He prodded at Grogan to emphasise his meaning.

Grogan arched in agony as the stick electrified the metal collar around his neck.

"Give the order," hissed the Jaffa at O'Neill.

"When the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup."

"Now!"

O'Neill met Grogan's eye. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.

Grogan nodded. "Sir. Just avenge my team."

The pain stick touched metal again. Light burst forth in bright streams as Grogan screamed his last. He slumped to the ground, his body still bound by the heavy chains. If there are any true gods may they take his soul into their keeping.

"The Caretaker," O'Neill said suddenly. "The Caretaker is missing. He-"

A sharp blow to the head caused him to pitch forward. O'Neill caught one hand to the ground to slow his fall. Head hanging low, he gasped out, "The Caretaker guarded the Sentinel."

"Two as one," Doctor Jackson breathed. "The Caretaker and the Sentinel."

"Lower the force field," demanded the Jaffa, "or he dies too."

Major Carter turned, desperation in her facce. "Wait. I'll do it."

"Carter!" the Colonel shouted. "I'm giving you a direct order. Do not deactivate the force field."

"I'm sorry, sir." She walked over to the Sentinel. "Two as one. Man and machine," she said softly. She stretched out her hands to embrace the machine. "Colonel, it was an honour."

The Sentinel glowed in rainbow hues, the field embracing Major Carter even as she embraced the machine. For a second, she was outlined in a living halo, then the halo collapsed inwards and she was gone.

As brilliant light shot out from the Sentinel destroying the two Jaffa outside the force field and consuming every enemy within its path, the image that was branded upon my mind was that of Colonel O'Neill. Face raised to the heavens he screamed, "No!" to the uncaring gods with greater agony than any inflicted upon him by the Jaffa.

From that day to this, I have wondered about Major Carter. Was her sacrifice a humanitarian act solely to save the people of this planet or was it the action of a loyal officer to save her CO, or was it simply the determination of a woman to save the man she loved?

I have never been able to decide.




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