Chronicles of the Wishverse
A Snake Among the Stars
by Michael Weyer

Part three: In which expeditions are made and arrivals are met.

1721 Hours CMT

"Hail Hydra. Immortal Hydra. We will never be destroyed. Cut off one arm and two more will take its place." O'Neill looked up from the file. "They actually say this with a straight face?"

Clint chuckled. "What they lack in poetry, they make up for in ruthlessness." The two teams were once more assembled inside the briefing room. It was the SHIELD team's turn to explain just what the dying soldier's words had meant.

"You're telling me that one of these Hydra people infiltrated our troops?" Hammond asked in disbelief. "I find that hard to believe. We do very intensive background checks for anyone before they come here."

Fury shook his head. "Maybe ya did, Hammond. But Hydra has infiltrated facilities all over the world and a few branches of the military too. They could have turned him but it sounds more like he was a deep-cover agent. Not the first time we've come across one of them."

"How could Hydra have even heard of us?" Daniel asked. "I mean, you guys didn't even know what we were."

Fury took a drag on his cigar. "We've learned the hard way to not underestimate Hydra's intel resources. Maybe they don't know everything and just wanted to find out." Fury's face darkened. "Question is, just how much this guy managed to relay to them about this place."

Hammond's frown deepened. "So an international terrorist organization knows about one of the most secure installations on the face of the earth." He rubbed at his head. "This is not good."

O'Neill scratched his head. "What I don't get is what set him off? What was on that planet that was so important he blew his cover over?"

"Actually, I have an idea on that," Daniel spoke up as he pushed his glasses up on his nose.

"Oh, here we go," O'Neill murmured.

Fisher glanced at him. "Long and mostly incomprehensible explanation?"

O'Neill nodded.

Fisher sighed and glanced at Marshall. "I know the feeling."

Daniel continued. "The tablet they got off Styles' body is reminiscent of some Sumerian writings with a mix of Egyptian as well. It seems to tell of some sort of religion that worshiped a snake-like god."

"Goa'uld?" O'Neill asked.

"Possible," Daniel said. "It also seems to indicate some sort of ancient power that can be accessed by worshipers of the serpent."

Sydney sighed. "And that would attract Hydra."

Daniel nodded. "I suppose so. But there's still a lot I can't tell just from the fragment. If I could examine it in person, I might be able to translate it."

"Ah, good, road trip," O'Neill announced.

Fury held up a hand. "Hold on here. If this involves those snake bastards, my people have first crack. They're going with."

"They are?" O'Neill asked.

"We are?" Barton, Fisher and Marshal chimed. The other SHIELD agents were staring at Fury with various expressions of dismay.  Fury smirked at them. "Think of it as going where no SHIELD agent has gone before." He glanced at Hammond. "I assume you want one of your teams going with?"

"I'd prefer not having your people going at all," Hammond shot back. "This is not a bus line, Nick, travel through the Gate requires...."

Fury waves his hand. "Spare me, George. They're going, that's the long and short of it.  Marshall, you're staying here, the rest of you start suiting up."

Hammond closed his eyes and rubbed his head, wondering at what point he lost control of events on his own base.  Carter was in the women's locker room area, suiting up for the mission as she watched the female SHIELD agents. They had brought along some bags from the helicopter and were donning dark blue jumpsuits with an eagle insignia on them. Each one was also loaded with a variety of small devices and weapons that fit into pouches along their belt and outfits. Carter frowned as she watched Natasha attach what looked like a pair of manacles to her wrists. Each one fit over the wrist neatly with a small growth sprouting up on the upper side. Natasha flexed her hand and from the growths emerged a small but sharp needle that seemed to hum with energy. "What is that?"

"I call it the Widow's Bite," the Russian replied. "I can fire out enough energy to either shock someone senseless or kill them outright, all without making a sound." She smiled. "A little holdover from my KGB days."

Carter's eyes widened in surprise. "You were with the KGB? But...I seem rather young still. How old were you when you left?"

Natasha frowned. "Let's see...I left in '95..."

Carter cut her off. "Wait a minute, the KGB were disbanded in 1991."

Natasha smiled. "Ah, that's what they want you to think."

Carter looked at Nikita and Sydney. "Is she serious?"

"Best not to ask," Nikita said. "I don't."

Carter shrugged and looked at Sydney. "So how long you been at this?"

"About five years," Sydney replied. "Although I've only been working for the good guys for a month or so."

Carter opened her mouth, then closed it, positive she didn't want any more details.

Five minutes later, the women moved into the Gate room where the men were waiting. While the three male SHIELD agents wore identical jumpsuits, Fisher had added a pair of high-tech goggles and a small pouch at his side. Barton, on the other hand, had a quiver of arrows and a collapsible bow slung over his back. O'Neill looked at him and rolled his eyes. "Goa'uld armor may suck against bullets, pal, but trust me, they can hold up to arrows."

Barton smirked. "Not when I shoot them."

The chevrons were locking as Hammond spoke from the control room. "SG-1, be sure to stick with these people at all times."

"And for you yahoos," Fury cut in. "Don't take shit from these guys but also don't ignore them. Yer going to a strange planet after all. Ya need all the help you can get."

"Oh, and, um, could you try to, you know, bring some photos back?" Marshall broke in. "I mean, I just, you know, just really want to-----"

To the relief of the team, the Stargate opened at that moment. Again, the SHIELD team was taken aback at the incredible sight. With a practiced air, O'Neill walked up and vanished through the Gate. Carter followed and Daniel paused to look at the others. "Ah, you might want to exhale first. The first instinct when you come through the Gate is to take a breath." He watched as Vaughn stopped at the Gate and reached out to touch it. His hand cascaded like in water and he felt a chill go through him. Fisher paused next to him, took a deep breath, then entered. One by one, the rest of the SHIELD group followed. Finally, Daniel went in, then Teal'c and the event horizon vanished.

"Wow," Marshall whispered. "They...they're really gone, aren't they?"

Hammond nodded. "Yes they are. And hopefully, they'll be back in one piece."

Fury glanced at him. "Ya expect trouble?"

"No," Hammond said. "But whether I do or not, it usually comes to SG-1."

"I know the feeling," Fury muttered.

Sydney let out a gasp as she exited the Gate. She stood there for a moment, feeling her body settle back from the wild ride she'd just endured. Then, she leaned over and promptly threw up over the platform. She didn't feel much shame seeing as how she had company: Nikita, Vaughn and Natasha were doing the same with Fisher and Barton looking rather queasy.

With his usual tact, O'Neill looked at the new arrivals and smirked. "Made you glad you skipped the buffet lunch, huh?"

Vaughn wiped his mouth and glared at O'Neill. "You could have warned us!"

"We did," Daniel said.

Barton snorted. "Brace for a rough shock is not a warning for that!"

"Ah, you get used to it," O'Neill said. He glanced to his second in command. "Carter, what have we got?"

As the blonde officer checked her compass, the rest of the group had time to check out their surroundings. The Stargate was located in a vast field with a line of trees in the distance and a hill to the left. The sky was cloudy and the air was sharp and clear. Sydney blinked as she took it all in. "Wow...are we actually on an alien planet?"

"We have to be," Fisher said. "I've never breathed air this unpolluted before."

Carter checked her compass and nodded toward the hills. "According to the report, the temple should be a couple of miles in that direction."

"All right, kids," O'Neill announced as he hefted his rifle. "Keep in tight formation and let's get hiking." With that, he led the march toward the hillside.

The SGC was arguably the most fortified installation in the United States. Soldiers patrolled the outside regularly along with security cameras, hidden laser alarm systems and more. 

Overall, there was virtually no chance an enemy force could simply invade the mountain through regular means.

However, the SGC did have one weakness: It was inside a mountain and thus required an outside ventaliaon source. It was located a few yards away from the mountain, next to a shack where a sole guard stood watch. It was a rather dull assignment, nowhere near the amount of danger that the guards inside the base had to put up with and the man wasn't quite as alert as he should have been. He kept his eyes on the monitor now and again but mostly he was busy with a crossword puzzle.

Had he had time for any reaction at all, it would undoubtly had been surprise when a high-impact bullet slammed through the window and pierced his forehead. The soldier slumped back, dead instantly as the door behind him was opened. A man in a dark green outfit stepped in and checked the readouts. He pulled out a communicator from his tunic and spoke into it. "Shack is secure. Units 1 and 2 may move in immediately."

The man quickly went about checking the readouts on the ventilation system as a small group of men in similar outfits stole onto the grounds. They carried a large pair of canisters that they placed next to the air vents. They attached hoses to the canisters and slid them into the vents. One gave a thumbs up to the leader, who nodded. The figures then turned the knobs to send the canisters' contents into the air shafts. The leader of the group spoke into his communicator. "Subduing procedures underway.  You may begin your assault when ready."

Hammond frowned as Fury lit up another cigar. "Can you please put those out?"

Fury sniffed. "You're getting old, Georgie. I remember you liked to puff a few of these things like they were nothing."

"I got enough stress in my life," Hammond told him. "I hardly need more." He, Fury, Marshall and Fraiser were in the main control room of the SGC. Marshall was having a ball poring over the technology and data of the room while Fraiser had arrived to brief Hammond on some new recruits' medical exams. Fury sat in a chair facing the Gate, puffing away. 

Fraiser gave him an ugly look. "Do you know what those things will do to you?"

Fury smirked. "Actually, I don't have to worry about cancer or any of that crap. Lovely little side effect of the same formula that's kept me young."

Fraiser frowned. "Really? That's interesting. Maybe I should examine you----"

"Sorry, Doc," Fury said. "Like most everything else with me, my blood is classified."

Fraiser sighed and rubbed at her forehead. She was struck with a sudden sense of fatigue, as if the last few hours of work were coming to a head at once. "Sir...I still think..." She coughed. "I think..." Her eyes widened as her nose caught a familiar odor. She looked up and saw a thin mist coming through the air vent above. She turned to see a technician slump to the ground, another following. She coughed as she felt herself weaken. She could see Hammond pressing on some buttons on the console even as he fell to his knees. Fury was trying his best but he too was starting to fall. It was the last thing Janet saw before she collapsed on the floor and her mind turned to darkness.

"So are all trips like this?" Vaughn asked as the team continued their march through the forest.

"Be thankful for the dull ones," Daniel said. "A lot of the time we're either in a running firefight or get captured right off the bat. So far, this is about 53% better than our average mission already."

"Daniel, stop scaring the new kids," O'Neill ordered. "How much further, Carter?"

"Over that hillside, sir," Carter replied, pointing before them. 

"What's the layout supposed to be?"

Daniel spoke up. "From what they told me, it sounds like a Sumerian design. A main structure and a few smaller chambers beside it."

"Is that usual?" Nikita asked. "For something to resemble Earth cultures?"

"Well, the Goa'uld kidnaped people from all over the ancient world," Daniel explained. "We've found various human colonies based on all sorts of cultures throughout our travels. Some are advanced, some stick to their old beliefs."

"Amazing," Natasha said. "That must be quite the experience."

Carter snorted. "Oh, sure. Going to meet cultures where women are considered only slightly above slave status is always a treat."

Natasha sniffed. "I've been to a few of those on Earth."

As the group continued the march, Carter glanced to Sydney. "If you don't mind me asking, you seem kind of young for this. How'd you start?"

Sydney removed her cap to brush her hair. "I got recruited in college for what I thought was a secret branch of the CIA." She let out a breath. "Unfortunately, I learned it was actually a secret branch for an international criminal organization and I'd been fighting on the wrong side for
five years."

Carter didn't know what to say to that. "Oh."

O'Neill looked at Barton. "Just what kind of combat experience you guys got anyhow?"

Barton smiled. "Same as you. The quiet little wars no one ever knows about. Trust me, we're all able to hold our own."

"We did take you all down," Nikita observed.

Carter glared at her. "By drugs and surprise."

"Whatever works," the blonde agent responded.

Teal'c was ignoring them all as he marched ahead to the edge of the hill. He stopped and his eyes widened. "O'Neill!" he barked in a voice that indicated trouble. O'Neill quickly moved to join him, dropping down to the ground. The rest followed suit, staring in wonder at the sight before

Above the temple hung a massive pyramid that seemed to float in the air. The area before it was filled with armored figures that moved about, working with various stations from massive guns to a tent-covered armory.

"Oh, shit," O'Neill muttered. "We've got snake action."

"Where did they come from?" Daniel remarked. "The area was clear just hours ago."

"Perhaps they had been planning to come for some time," Teal'c theorized. "The main force must have arrived shortly after the previous team left."

"Damn," Fisher remarked. "Now what the hell do we do?"

"I think we might be better off going back for reinforcements," Vaughn noted.

"Actually, we've got more people than we usually do for these sort of missions," O'Neill noted. "And we do need to know what those marking say."
"I admit that's important, Jack," Daniel said. "But we don't even know who the hell it is we're facing here-----"

There was the sound of a loud horn blowing through the valley. The Jaffa below stopped whatever they were doing and moved to face the temple. A contingent of Jaffa bearing more intricate and designed armor stepped out. Four of them flanked a figure who carefully moved forward before pausing at the steps. She gazed out at the Jaffa who kneeled before her. She smiled, her red hair seeming to flash in the sun as did the gold in her outfit. Carter, O'Neill and Daniel all hissed in anger at the sight of the all too familiar figure and said the same name as a curse. "Hathor."

For the second time that day, Janet felt herself slowly coming back awake with a bad headache. She sat up, wincing as she felt at her head. She looked around, blinking as she recognized her surroundings. She was in one of the various holding cells of the base, laid out on one of the cots. She quickly realized she wasn't alone. Hammond, Fury and Marshall were by the door with two soldiers nearby. She also recognized one of her nurses, Karen Johnston, still unconscious on the other bunk. She stood up and grabbed the wall to steady herself. "God...what happened?"

Fury glanced at her and grunted. "Welcome back. How you doing?"

"Aside from the massive pain in my head, ok, I suppose." Fraiser glanced around. "Again, what happened?"

Hammond sighed. "I'm not sure. We all woke up in here and so far there's been no sign of anyone else. I assume the rest of the base personnel are being held captive as well, no doubt  spread out."

"How?" Fraiser said. "How could someone be able to get in close enough to take us over?"

Hammond shook his head. "I don't know. After all the security upgrades we've made, it should be impossible for any force to take us over-----"

The door clicked and opened to show two men in green robes and hoods aiming rifles at the group. The captives backed up as the two men entered. "Prepare yourselves," one said. "You are now to be given the honor of being addressed by the Supreme Hydra!"

"Whoop de shit," Fury remarked. "What kinda mask is that loser gonna have on this time?"

"No more masks, Colonel," a guttural German accent filled the air. "Not any more."

Fury's eye widened and his face dizzolved into shock. He stared as a new figure strode into the room. He was quite tall, his uniform different than the others. It was green with the massive yellow and black symbol of Hyrda filling his shirt, a deaths-head extending into tentacles. There was a sash wrapped around his throat attached to gold braids. He wore black boots and belt with gloves, his bald head shinging in the light from above. His face was marked by strange colored blotches with a scar along one cheek. His right eye gleamed through a monocle and an evil smile was tight on his face.
Fury's jaw was wide open and for once he was at a loss for words. Stammering, he finally managed to erupt with the only thing he could think of to say.  "BARON STRUCKER!"