[take two on the Sparkgate cross. Less elaborate set up, mainly. Since I'm not nearly as strong on SG, criticism of my portrayal of Jack et al appreciated.] Part II Part III Part IV Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII Part IX Part X Part XI Part XII Part XIII Part XIV Part XV Part XVI Part XVII Continued in: Sparkgate: Volume 2 Vol 3 ***** *BOOM* Doctor Tarsus Beetle caught the ink bottle before it overturned. Any Master of Transylvania Polygnostic University developed keen instincts regarding explosions, acid sprays, electrical discharges, and eruptions of more exotic energies. The old Spark proverb about the "quick and the disintegrated" was taken to heart all over Europa. Glancing outside the window of his office, he scanned for the telltale signs of-- Ah. Smoke curled out of the shattered windows of High Energy Metaphysics Lab. Several clanks of the Watch were already pumping a fire-retardant foam onto scattered blazes. Graduate students. Hmmmph. The crisis seemed to be over when Doctor Beetle strolled over to the HEM. Just one casualty--a soot-blackened figure carried out a stretcher by bearers from the medical department. Beetle's heart stuttered in his chest when he spotted the lock of strawberry-blonde hair spilling over a pillow. Agatha! No! He needed her! Rushing over, he examined her for any damage. No obvious detached limbs or massive injuries. Something of a miracle when it came to Spark-inspired scientific disasters. The frames of her glasses were twisted by the force of an explosion. And-- Excellent. The Locket was still in place and seemingly undamaged. The loss of that would have been a disaster. With a wave, he dismissed the bearers. They trotted off to the infirmary. "That idiot!" Another figure staggered out of the building. "Silas." Doctor Beetle raised an eyebrow. "What happened?" "The Clay girl, of course." Silas Merlot's spittle hissed when it landed on a patch of burning embers. "I give her a simple job: tidy up the thesis projects in the basement. The clumsy chit managed to bumble even that. She claimed she had one of her 'spells' before the accident. It's more like her incompetence." "Is anything damaged?" Beetle frowned. The Locket was supposed to suppress her Spark. Still.. "Just this." Silas held up a twisted mass of brass, gears, and wiring. "Somehow, Clay combined these two into-- Well, hardly important, it's not as if she could ever create anything that works." "Hmmm." Beetle peered through his spectacles at the assemblage. "Oh yes, I recognize these. Van Zandt's Etheric Communicator and Helghast's attempt at a teleportation device. Neither worked." "I am going to--" Silas snarled. "You will return to working on the assignment of the Baron's." Beetle's voice took the ominous reverbations of a Spark on the verge of anger. "Do not waste my time." "I--" Silas' Adams Apple bobbed. "Yes, Master. On my way, Master." Doctor Beetle's right-hand man rushed off to work on the Dihoxulator. The Master glared at his retreating back before returning his attention to the...thing. An accident? Perhaps. Or a sign Agatha might be breaking through after all. A few adjustments to her locket's mechanisms while she was unconscious might be in order. He poked the remains of the lab accident. Useless. Handing it to a Watch clank, he ordered to sent to the crusher for disposal. Doctor Beetle considered is no more as he went back to his office. He had more important matters to consider. Especially the artifact that might give him the edge against the Baron. After all, with her Spark suppressed, Agatha Clay was merely a bright eighteen year old girl. Nothing would come of it. And nothing did. In his universe. ++++ Fish darted through the ruins of the temple. The starlight above did not penetrate the depths hiding the ruins. Shattered marble columns and marble statues were scattered about a mosaic floor covered by slime and silt. Skeletons picked clean of flesh were buried in the mire. The sole intact object was a huge ring of grey stone--or at least, what appeared to be stone--standing canted at an angle by the remains of an altar. Whatever had destroyed the temple would not have scratched it a jot. Its builders had constructed it of a material capable of withstanding the fires of a star. If it had been given intelligence, it could have been said to wait patiently for a signal that likely would never come. One did. Sealife died within fifty meters of the Stargate as eerie blue lightning crackled around it. Energies not even its creators could have imagined discharged into the exotic circuitry. Yet, the technology of the Ancients was not so easily damaged. Straining under the load, the Stargate did its best to interpret the information dumped into its pattern buffers. The "ka-woosh" of a stablizing wormhole formed. Then collapsed back in on itself. The radiant blue pool that should have appeared stuttered and flickered in and out of existence. Emergency protocols within the Stargate's programming shut down the device before it exploded with the fury of a localized star going nova. Silence. The Gate waited. So did the energy pattern not wiped from its buffers. ++++ Another planet, another desperate retreat while running from a hail of staff blasts. Just another day, Daniel Jackson thought, in SG-1. "Just once," Jack O'Neill said, going down on one knee to cut down a pursuer with a burst from his P90, "I'd like to meet some nice, friendly Jaffa." "I believe I am your friend, JackO'Neill", Teal'c replied. Another of Apophis' soldiers died as the rebel Jaffa hit him with a staff weapon blast. "Yeah, but you're not what I'd call 'jolly'." O'Neill shifted to suppressive fire. Mail-clad figures dove for cover further down the forest path. "Next time we meet the Jaffa, can't we swap a few stories, share a beer, talk about--do Jaffa have sports teams?" "We may often talk of the latest conquests, " Teal'c said, loosing off another plasma bolt, "of the System Lords." "Must be oodles of fun." A slight, economical gesture. "Carter?" "Peachy, sir." Samantha Carter threw a grenade into a knot of Jaffa trying to flank them. "Standard hasty E&E? Any preferences this time?" "Beach might be nice." A staff blast scorched a tree just to the Colonel's right. "Use one of our agreed-on fallbacks." "Pine trees or desert it is, sir." Daniel Jackson fired at the alien soldiers. After a year of operations, the light recoil of the stubby weapon was second-nature. The part of himself that was still an idealistic archaeologist fascinated by the life of ancient cultures cringed at the death-scream of the enemy. Daniel suppressed the horror of the death of another sentient being, even one sworn to serve the tyrannical Goa'uld. Not now. Perhaps later. The team needed him to be strong. Too often he was the weight dragging them down, a man of learning among warriors. Learned debate did not work against Jaffa. SG-1 charged out into the clearing surrounding the gate of P5C-386. The Jaffa had been sloppy. There was no guard posted by the Chappai. Deprived of cover, the team raced towards the Stargate before Apophis' men could draw a bead on them. Jackson silently thanked the poor ergonomics sense of Goa'uld weapons design as staff blasts narrowly missed them. For once, he was the first to the DHD. Already his fingers danced on the keys. Hasty E&E meant no direct dialing to Earth, no time to hold a gate before a GDO signal could be verified. Before each mission, every SG team member memorized two Gate addresses to planets unlikely to have a Goa'uld presence. The team would ambush anyone coming through the gate until it closed, then dial the Stargate Command's address. It was a new-- Daniel Jackson stumbled when a staff blast slammed into the ground right by the stone ramp. Dazed, he watched the column of shimmering blue energy emerge from the gate. Wait. Had he dialed the right address? They might be heading into an unknown-- Coughing, he strained to warn the others of a possible misdial. O'Neill seized him by his tac vest. Teal'c and Carter had already dived into the watery pool of the wormhole. The archaeologist's last thought before the gate turned him into an information stream of energy was "I hope Jack gets his beach." As it turned out, he was close.