Author: Ecolea 
Title: Changing of The Guard 3: Be All That You Can Be
Email: ecolea@wt.net
Rating: PG13 for adult themes and language.
Status: Complete
Spoilers: Nothing is sacred.
Keywords: Highlander: The Series, Stargate SG-1, Crossover, AU
Characters: HL: M DM JD C w/ too many others to name. SG-1: JO SC DJ
T GH JC and others. Various and sundry original characters. One
historical figure.
Sequel: Third in series.

Feedback: Comments, flames, superfluous remarks and vicious character
assassination may be cheerfully sent to: ecolea@wt.net

Archive: Heliopolis (http://www.sg1-heliopolis.de) All others: Go for
it.

Disclaimer: Okay, so a few of the characters in this story actually
belong to me, but I'm still not making any money off the others. But
please, go ahead and sue me anyway. If fact, I'll make you a deal. You
help me gain fame and notoriety -- and I'll help your lawyers spend
all that retainer money!

Summary: When super advanced alien weapons technology falls into the
hands the Goa'uld, SG-1 and the Tok'ra need all the help they can get.
Can an Immortal strike force really make a difference, or will Basic
Training bring them to their knees?

Author's note # 1: This story was completed just prior to September
11, 2001. I was at a loss as to whether to release it at all, but
given my personal affinity and longtime affection for those in the
military I've decided to offer it now as a show of support to my many
readers in uniform. I hope in some small way it helps to at least
alleviate some of the tension between rounds.

Author's note # 2: This is the third volume in an ongoing series. For
those of you who'd like to read books one and two (recommended), they
can be found at Heliopolis (http://www.sg1-heliopolis.de/series/e.html
) or with all the rest of my work at Ather's
Fiction Library (http://www.athersfictionlibrary.co.uk/main) and in
the Files section of my update list
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ecolea).
 
Personal note: Many thanks to Arameth, for diabolical and fiendish
torment of the author, guidance and without whom none of this would be
possible -- and for once again volunteering to defend the sovereign
soil of the United States and of her allies. His Gracefulness Charles,
for wonderfully supportive comments when I needed it most and for
helping to save so many lives at ground zero. It meant a lot to me
knowing you were there when I couldn't be at home. My thanks to
Captain Average, for flying to my rescue and doing a superb job of
beta-ing this story. And to Karoshi, too busy to nit pick, but always
an inspiration. Ditto Astrochick for just the facts. Thank you, ma'am.
 
Note to canon junkies: This is a crossover and an alternative
universe tale of derring do. It's a good bet you'll find something to
get annoyed over.

Dedicated to Master Sergeant W. R. J. Bearcatt, U.S. Army, Ret., for
being such a good sport and indulging a lowly civilian. And to all
those brave men and women who serve in the Armed Forces. Some of us
have always loved you.



Changing of the Guard 3:
Be All That You Can Be


Prologue

The fighting seemed to go on forever. There were too many of them.
Jaffa and their Goa'uld master, all firing simultaneously down into
the ruins. There was no place to escape and no one had as yet figured
out how to use the alien weapons, if that's even what they were, to
defend the site. It might have made a difference, but the team would
never know. Eventually there was silence and the bodies lay scattered
on the ground.

Lord Zipak'na smiled thinly. "Take them all," he ordered his Jaffa.
"Revive them in the sarcophagus, then bring them to me."

The men saluted and did as he bid then Zipak'na strolled around the
cavern, nodding thoughtfully to himself. The Tau'ri were useful for
many things. Not least of which was as hosts. But this... He grinned
evilly, running a hand over a small pile of hoarded weapons. A mere
fraction of the vast cache that filled the underground chamber.
Certainly the Tau'ri were useful. Especially when it came to finding
things no one knew had been lost...


Part One
Chapter One

"So what do you think?" Jack asked as Methos closed the last file and
laid it aside.

The ancient Immortal leaned back in his chair and glanced up at the
two other men seated at the conference table. "I think General Hammond
is right," he nodded briefly to the SGC's commanding officer. "None of
these Immortals are suitable."

O'Neill frowned, but nodded for him to continue.

"I'm sorry, Colonel, but being Immortal and willing to fight on the
say so of one man does not a soldier make," Methos explained.
"MacLeod's intentions are honorable, and I've no doubt the men on this
list are equally honorable, at least to his mind, but they are still
very much involved in the Game."

"What has that got to do with anything? They won't be involved in it
here."

"But they will be involved in it on the outside," General Hammond
quietly pointed out. "We can't train a team to be held in reserve as a
strike force just so that one or more can go out and get themselves
killed while waiting for orders."

"Exactly," Methos agreed. "It's risky enough just giving them the
knowledge of the Stargate, but what if they were to fall to an
unscrupulous Immortal and that knowledge was passed on through their
Quickening? What you need are men and women who are for all intents
and purposes out of the Game. Those whose lives are essentially
stable."

"And who are mentally stable," O'Neill added with a sigh.

Methos smiled wryly. "There aren't many of those," he stated softly.
"We live on the knife's edge, Jack. Forced to kill whether we want to
or not just to stay alive. And when any day could be your last every
day becomes a battle to survive. That has a tendency to make for
unstable personalities. Short fuses, quick tempers, violent reactions
to seemingly innocuous events. The men on this list are too willing to
fight."

"What you're saying is that there's really no chance of putting
together an Immortal strike force," O'Neill stated resignedly.

"Not through MacLeod's recommendations, no."

General Hammond raised an eyebrow. "Then whose, Captain?"

Methos sighed wearily. He really didn't want to do this. Put together
a team of Immortals who would fight at the behest of mortals. It went
against everything he'd ever believed to expose others of his kind,
but the complete loss of two SG teams in the last week had given
everyone something to think about. Both teams had been working on a
project to excavate what appeared to be a repository of weapons and
technology left behind by an obviously advanced civilization. The
Goa'uld had shown up and a fight had ensued. What those at the SGC
hadn't known when the teams seemingly escaped through the Stargate was
that they were infested with new Goa'uld symbiotes. It had been a
simple twist of fate which had brought one member of SG-1 to the gate
room only moments before the others arrived. Major Carter, by dint of
having been possessed by one of the Tok'ra on a mission long before
Methos had joined the team, had been able to sense the naquada tainted
life forms hiding within her colleagues to sound the warning.

They'd lost twenty good people, along with a find of tremendous value
and nearly been invaded. A circumstance which could have been avoided
if an Immortal team had been available to both secure the site and
defend the mortals excavating it. At the very least the Immortals
could never have been taken over by the parasitic Goa'uld. Their
Quickenings would have perceived the symbiotes as foreign bodies the
instant they tried to invade and destroyed the creatures. Even Methos
could now see how Immortals would be better suited to some missions
than the more fragile mortals. Especially when the Goa'uld had no clue
as to the existence of Immortals or of what they were capable.

Finally Methos responded to the general's question. "I suppose I can
come up with a few names. Older Immortals mostly. Like Ramirez and
Ptahsennes. They're perfect examples of what I mean. They're well past
the hunting stage of the Game and they have a stake in the future of
this world -- not because they believe in some nebulous Prize, but
because this is the only home they've known for thousands of years."

The general nodded thoughtfully. He'd never met the pair of
Immortals, but he'd liked what he'd read in their files. Steady men
with a mature mindset. Just what a strike force needed.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Jack asked quietly.

Methos shook his head. "No. But I can see it needs to be done."

Hammond cleared his throat. "Very well, Captain. You put together
your own recommendations and I'll look them over. We'll discuss it
further then."

"I can't do that, sir," Methos said quietly. "Not without first
discussing it with them. Just because they're out of the Game doesn't
mean they won't take my head if they feel I've threatened them in any
way."

"I see," Hammond responded faintly annoyed. What Methos was
suggesting was so far outside of protocol as to be considered
treasonous.

"No, sir. I don't think you do. Ramirez came into contact with
Tok'ra, and through him, Ptahsennes did as well. But they are
exceptions. Men willing to believe because they saw the proof with
their own eyes, or implicitly trust those who did. Immortals are by
nature secretive and wary. Especially in an age where we can so easily
be identified and exploited if our existence should be discovered. To
come out in the open they will need to feel absolutely secure in the
knowledge that what we are will not be used against us. That means
there will have to be a trade off.

"The individuals I have in mind," Methos went on carefully, "are
older and more stable, true. But they are survivors of more dangerous
upheavals in the history of humankind than you can imagine. It will
make them distrustful. If not of your intentions, but those of your
successors. I can pretty much guarantee their acceptance -- if we do
this my way. But they won't appreciate being targeted first. They'll
feel betrayed and laid open. And because they are older they need to
be handled the old fashioned way."

"And what way is that?" Jack wanted to know.

"With great respect and honesty," Methos explained. "Secret for
secret. Risk for risk. You've got just as much to lose by telling them
your secrets as they have in your knowing theirs. They'll feel honored
rather than hunted and be obligated to help."

"MacLeod didn't have any such problems," Hammond pointed out.

"He wouldn't," Methos agreed. "But MacLeod is young and passionate
about many things. He wants to fight the Goa'uld and believes everyone
should want to as well. I concur, but not at the risk of making an
enemy out of a friend. That these men," he pointed to the files on the
conference table, "don't know they've been investigated is immaterial.
If they ever find out they'll come for MacLeod's head -- regardless of
whether he's their friend and did it for all the right reasons.
MacLeod hasn't seen that what he's done will be perceived as a
betrayal, but they will feel it is. And I would like to avoid that."

Hammond nodded once. "I don't like it," he said firmly. "But I'm
willing to test your theory with one Immortal. To start," he clarified
as Methos frowned. "You'll take Colonel O'Neill with you. He'll
determine just how much information can be safely given out. If it
works, I'll decide then whether or not you may approach the others in
the same manner. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," Methos agreed as the general rose, dismissing them both.

Better than he'd hoped, Methos thought smugly as they left the
conference room, immediately deciding just whom to approach first. He
hid a smile from O'Neill as the other man stopped to talk with the new
commander of SG-6. 

Poor Jack, he thought, bemused. The colonel was definitely in for a
few surprises.

***

The rain tapered off to an annoying drizzle just as they pulled into
a parking space outside Le Blues Bar. It was early evening and as they
stepped inside Methos noted only a handful of patrons besides the
regulars nursing their drinks.

"Well, look what the cat dragged in," drawled Joe Dawson as Methos
and Jack ambled over to the bar. Dawson poured a couple of drafts and
O'Neill nodded his thanks as he took a sip. "So, what brings you to my
humble tavern?" he addressed the Immortal.

"I'm looking for someone," Methos explained. Joe glanced at the man
beside him and raised an eyebrow. "Joseph Dawson meet Jack O'Neill.
Colonel Jack O'Neill."

The Watcher nodded warily. "A pleasure."

"Nice place," O'Neill commented, glancing toward the small stage
where the band was just beginning to set up.

"A little booze, a little blues," Joe shrugged. "What more can a man
ask for in life?"

"Not much," O'Neill agreed then nodded once to Methos.

"Like I said," the Immortal began again. "I'm looking for someone."

Dawson frowned, perplexed. "MacLeod's at the barge."

"We know that," O'Neill said tersely and Joe's frown deepened as he
figured out the obvious.

The Watcher looked from O'Neill to Methos. "Telling tales out of
school, Adam?"

"Not me. Youíre the one with the old wartime buddies," Methos
shrugged. "Iím just interested in the whereabouts of an old
acquaintance of mine."

"Yeah, right," Dawson muttered, ignoring Jack as the colonel reached
over the bar and grabbed a napkin, pulling out a pen to doodle on it.
"Look, Adam. Like I said. The chronicles aren't your personal Rolodex."

"This isn't about the Game, Joe."

Dawson nodded and leaned forward on his elbows. "Then you won't mind
telling me what it is about then, will you?"

"He can't," O'Neill interjected, signing his name with a flourish and
handing the folded napkin to Dawson. "Not yet, anyway."

"What's this?" Joe asked, eyes going wide with astonishment as he
read his full name and serial number on the cover.

O'Neill said nothing as he grabbed a handful of peanuts and sat back
with his drink.

With another frown Joe opened the napkin, noting a long series of
citations from what looked to be his old rules and regulations manual,
then read:

"By Order of the President of the United States, Joint Chiefs,
Department of Defense, Joseph P. Dawson is hereby Reactivated into the
United States Armed Forces, United States Marine Corp, Rank of
Sergeant; Pursuant to the above referenced regulations in a matter of
National Security until such time as said services are no longer
required."

"You gotta be kidding me!" Joe yelped lowering his voice to an angry
whisper when several patrons turned to look their way. "This isn't
legal. It isn't signed by the President. And besides, it's written on
a damn napkin!"

"Got a fax machine?" O'Neill asked casually.

Dawson rolled his eyes. "In the office," he twitched his head toward
the rear of the bar. Without a word O'Neill headed back, leaving
Methos alone with the indignant Watcher.

"What the hell are you trying to pull, Methos? Bringing him here!"

"Hey, don't shoot the messenger, Joe. I'm just following orders."

"Yeah, thatís what they said at Nuremberg." Dawson shook his head
disgustedly and went to serve another customer. A few minutes later
O'Neill emerged from the rear of the bar looking happy and relaxed. He
tossed a sheet of paper to Dawson, who stared at it and paled.

"But it's a damn napkin!" he repeated, dumbfounded.

"Signed, sealed and delivered," O'Neill grinned. "Now, you wanna get
out that Rolodex, Sergeant?"


Chapter 2

It was midmorning when they landed at the airfield outside of
Seacouver, Washington. Keeping a low profile, Jack commandeered an SUV
from the local National Guard and headed inland. While Methos drove
O'Neill studied the file Dawson had provided. The Senior Watcher
hadn't been exactly thrilled at being reactivated, but Jack could tell
some part of the older man was pleased with the idea. The part that
had felt frustrated and betrayed when he'd been mustered out on a
disability rating from active duty when he'd lost his legs back in
Viet Nam. Standard procedure in those days. In these more enlightened
times Dawson would have been given the option of continuing in service
to his country as a civilian, albeit with a less physically demanding
assignment.

With a frown O'Neill flipped another page in the thinly filled folder
labeled A. Philipson. Not much in here, he thought, and what there was
didn't seem all that noteworthy -- militarily speaking. No date of
first death either, though Methos claimed that was very common with
older Immortals. 

According to the Watchers Philipson had first been identified in
China during the 7th century while living as a recluse in a remote
mountain region. The next entry was almost two hundred years later.
He'd moved on to India, then over the next few hundred years wandered
haphazardly across Europe, Arabia, and Africa; mostly studying at
various monasteries, universities and mosques. Then in the early 17th
century he'd left Europe for the Americas, worked his way around the
newly formed colonies as a fur trapper and guide, eventually crossing
the continent as a surveyor with the Lewis and Clark expedition. He'd
been in America ever since.

There were more entries. Brief notations on Philipson's whereabouts
and activities over the last three hundred years. Wanderlust seemed to
be a strong personality trait. That and a desire for hard work,
O'Neill determined. The man had been everything from a farm hand to a
cowboy -- he'd even helped build the Hoover dam. In addition, he was
also a brilliant scientist who'd taken degrees in both Biology and
Botany during the past forty years. Currently, he was employed by the
National Forestry Service as a Park Ranger, stationed on Fire Watch
duty for the summer somewhere out in the back of beyond while keeping
an eye on the local flora and fauna. The only military activity listed
anywhere in his file was a brief stint in the Navy during the Second
World War. He'd fought as a gunner aboard an aircraft carrier during
the Battle of Midway and several other major conflicts then served in
the Aleutians after the bomb was dropped until he was discharged from
active duty. As for his presence in the Game that was negligible. When
challenged he fought, but never actively hunted and there were no
Immortals listed as known associates. 

Not an impressive resume -- except for maybe the Lewis and Clark
thing being pretty cool, O'Neill thought with a mental shrug. But
Methos insisted Philipson was the man to see and since they were still
working on the ancient Immortal's trust issues O'Neill decided to let
him run with it. They were working on other things too, like the six
thousand three hundred and fifty push ups Methos still owed him, Jack
thought hiding a smile as they turned into the North Cascades National
Park entrance, but that was a trust issue as well.

Several hours drive from Seacouver, the park boasted some of the most
spectacular scenery O'Neill had ever seen. Beautiful mountain vistas
and crystal clear lakes just perfect for fishing, kayaking and
anything else one could think of. They drove past the Visitors Center
and deep into the forested hills until they had to leave the car in
one of the designated parking areas and hike the rest of the way in.
It took two days just to reach the northernmost Ranger station only to
discover that it was another three days march to the remote fire tower
where Philipson was stationed.

"Is this guy paranoid or what?" O'Neill asked on the morning of the
third day as they were breaking camp.

"Alex?" Methos chuckled. "Nah. He's okay. Just likes the great
wilderness. And exploration. He's fanatical about that. The last time
I saw him was back in the sixties. He was big into the space program
then. Moved to Cape Canaveral to watch all the launches for a few
years. Worked as a welder on the Saturn 5 rockets, too, for a while. I
swear, if he could have figured out a way to get into the astronaut
program he'd have done it. But security was so tight back then..."
Methos shrugged. "Triple checks on everyone down to the janitors. You
know the drill. The closest I could get him was that welding job and
even that was a squeaker."

"That's not in his file," O'Neill commented as he doused the remains
of their camp fire with water.

"He's not high on the Potential Winners list," Methos explained,
gathering up his pack. "Although he should be," he grinned. "The
Watchers can't be everywhere, you know. And Alex isn't really high
profile enough to warrant a full time Watcher. Actually, the only
reason they keep anyone on him at all is for training purposes. He's
considered an easy first time field assignment. The only danger he
represents to a Watcher is falling down a mountainside if they try to
follow him when he's rock climbing or doing something equally
adventurous."

"Sounds like fun duty," Jack nodded appreciatively, recalling his own
early training in covert ops.

"So I've heard," Methos agreed.

"Where'd you meet him?" O'Neill asked as they, once again, set out
for the fire station. 

"Egypt," Methos stated, pushing back a branch as he found a deer
trail leading in the right direction. "364 AD. His body was secretly
being moved by a group of worshippers to save it from the latest
Christian depredations going on at the time."

"Worshippers?" O'Neill asked confused.

"Yeah. Poor guy had been entombed for centuries in some local shrine.
Real hero worship stuff. That was kind of a big deal back then. Every
town had a couple of shrines dedicated to some local war hero where
you went to pray for bravery and courage in battle. But when they
removed his body from all the preservatives and let the corpse dry
out, his Quickening finally had a chance to heal him from the
mummification process. He'd just revived and was trying to fight his
way out of his new sarcophagus when I felt his presence and let him
out."

"Bet he was grateful."

Methos looked back over his shoulder and grinned. "Extremely. But he
took it really well. At first I thought he'd go nuts with the Game and
all, and he did for a little while. But Alex has a unique point of
view when it comes to fighting. If you're good enough to fight you're
good enough be his friend. The better the man, the better the warrior,
the better friend they make. And once he calls you friend he's your
friend forever. There's nothing he won't do to help."

"I like that," O'Neill murmured, nodding slowly. "Anything else I
should know?"

Methos shrugged. "He's got a violent temper, especially when he's
drunk. But," he added at O'Neill's frown, "Alex has been clean and
sober for nearly seventy years."

"Don't tell me. He was a charter member of Alcoholics Anonymous."

The Immortal nodded vigorously as they picked their way across a
narrow stream. "He was an alcoholic when he died, so of course the
need to drink stayed with him. But I've never met anyone so capable of
setting aside his own needs and sticking to his goals. Once he
realized he had an addiction he put the bottle down and never looked
back. A difficult thing to do, especially when you're raised in a hard
drinking, hard fighting culture like he was."

"You admire him," O'Neill surmised.

"His determination certainly," Methos agreed. "But I'm also kind of
partial."

"Sure. He was your student," O'Neill nodded.

"Hardly," Methos snorted. "He didn't really need a teacher when it
came to arms, just a few instructions in the rules of the Game and a
social guide to reacquaint him with the world for a few years. By the
way," Methos added hurriedly as he suddenly stiffened feeling another
Immortal presence. "He doesn't know me as me, but as Metopholus, or
Pierson."

Methos started to reach for his sword then quickly slid his hand away
from the hilt. There couldn't be more than two Immortals in this
ridiculously remote area. And since he was one of them the other had
to be...

"Alex?!" he called. "Adam Pierson here! With company!"

There was a tiny rustle in the leafy canopy above and Methos and
O'Neill looked up to see a small, slim figure with a shock of bright
golden hair drop to the ground.

"Adam! What the hell are you doing here?"

O'Neill stared as the two Immortals greeted each other. Philipson
wasn't just small, he noted, cautiously assessing the man, but tiny.
If he measured even five foot tall in dress shoes Jack would be
astonished. Still, that miniature frame was perfectly formed,
compactly built and neatly, if not heavily muscled.

Brilliant blue eyes turned to observe him with an equally assessing
stare as the younger Immortal's head cocked to the side and with a
slow blink seemed to come to a decision that he liked what he saw.
Philipson held out a hand and O'Neill shook it.

"Any friend of Adam's," he said in a light almost sweetly high-
pitched voice.

"Jack O'Neill," he greeted the man, a sudden sense of familiarity
coming over him as he stared into the deeply tanned, sun seamed face.
Worry lines crossed the broad brow and the Immortal's clean shaven,
boyishly good looking features seemed eerily reminiscent of something.
Still, he knew for damn sure he'd never met this man and the Watcher
file hadn't contained either a current picture or much of a
description. 

"So, what the hell are you guys doing out here?" Philipson asked again.

"It's great to see you, too," Methos grinned.

"Sure it is, but I know you, Adam," the other man nodded, head
remaining tilted to one side as he gazed up at his old friend. "These
days you wouldn't hike five days into the deep woods unless your life
depended on it."

"Not true," Methos disagreed amiably. "I was in Seacouver visiting a
friend when Jack here said he was interested in doing a little
fishing. Figured you'd know all the best places, so here we are."

Philipson pursed his lips knowingly then spoke in Greek. "You're an
excellent liar, Metopholus. But I've been targeted by the best." He
glanced at O'Neill who was fumbling with his pack, ignoring the
conversation and went on. "The mortal knows what we are, doesn't he?"
Methos nodded affirmatively. "And he isn't your shield mate. I'd take
an oath on that," Philipson smirked.

"Yeah, body language is all wrong," Methos agreed. "In fact, I think
he'd kick my bum from here to Athens if I even suggested it."

"More like he'd kick you out of this man's army," the other man
grimaced wryly, "if I'm not mistaken."

"Close enough for government work," Methos nodded with a rueful
smile. "Air Force actually."

"Really?" Philipson's eyes widened with excitement then grew serious.
"He's not one of those Watcher fellows, is he?"

"No," Methos told him. "But he does have a reason for being here --
other than the great fishing. And," Methos sighed. "I really would
appreciate it if you'd talk to him. In a professional capacity, if you
take my meaning."

Philipson's eyes narrowed in understanding. "Anything for you, old
friend," then he switched back to English. "I'm done checking my
experiments for the day," he said lightly. "My tower's a couple of
hours hike up that way," he pointed to a nearby peak. "Fresh fish for
lunch okay?"

***

O'Neill watched the new Immortal effortlessly move through the forest
-- nimble, quiet and utterly self-confident. As a first stage
evaluation the colonel had to admit he liked what he saw. The
interesting exchange between Philipson and Methos had also been
enlightening. The man was both clever and astute, seeing through
Methos' admittedly weak cover story with an ease that was surprising.
He'd pretty much summed up his mortal companion at a glance too. And
with great accuracy, O'Neill thought with pleasure. Skills like those
were rare and valuable commodities even in the Armed Forces. 

They reached the base of the fire tower, a newer one made up mostly
of concrete, stone, metal and glass. It stood above the tree line
providing a clear view of the surrounding timberland. Philipson led
them inside past the ground floor laboratory and sub-basement storage
areas, where food, fuel, extra fire fighting and medical equipment was
kept. Stairs led to what was nominally the second floor living area --
a basic one-bedroom apartment that was relatively clean and neat. But
it was at the top of the tower where the lookout and station offices
were that Philipson had really made his home and Jack could see why.
The view was spectacular from all sides.

Philipson left them up there while he went to prepare lunch and
O'Neill took the opportunity to examine his surroundings more closely.
Around the spacious room books, CDs, note pads and the occasional
piece of clothing littered the area. Along the walls was the station's
monitoring equipment. Radios, measuring devices for the weather and
other necessary items. There was also the more personal gear of
television, VCR and a state of the art stereo. Methos made a beeline
for the stereo, checking out the recordings with a smile.

"Mahalia Jackson," he said, holding up a CD case for Jack's
inspection. "Alex loves gospel music -- and Blue Grass apparently," he
added, wonderingly, as he picked up another pile of discs.

"This guy doesn't do anything by halves, does he?" O'Neill asked as
he stared at the CD cases stacked against the wall. There must have
been at least a few thousand. He peeked into a small side room where a
narrow bed and a low round table took up most of the space. Along the
walls were stacked books of every color and size in languages O'Neill
couldn't even identify.

"Halves?" Methos repeated. "I don't think Alex even knows what the
word means. He's practically the embodiment of the 'seize the day'
philosophy."

O'Neill nodded, turning as the younger Immortal came bounding up the
stairs. For a moment he looked as though he'd sail over the arm of the
couch and leap into the cushions, but pulled up short with an air of
purposefulness and sank gracefully into an overstuffed leather chair.
His feet dangled childishly above the floor for an instant then he
tucked them up resting with his chin on the back of one badly scarred
hand to stare thoughtfully at Jack.

O'Neill stared back, not the least bit flustered by Philipson's
evaluating look. The colonel was far more interested in what he could
now see of the other man's physique. Alex had obviously taken a few
moments to change out of his Ranger uniform and into a pair of raggedy
bleached cutoffs and a worn tee shirt. Comfortable warm weather
clothes. The scars on the backs of both hands where it looked as
though he'd smashed the knuckles in hand to hand fighting were matched
by other even more telling scars. They were everywhere. Cuts and
puncture wounds on his legs, on his arms, even along his collarbone.
This man had fought long and hard before his first death, O'Neill
thought with silent admiration -- of that he was certain.

"So," he began. "Where you from originally, Mr. Philipson? Or is it
Dr. Philipson?"

"Alex is fine," the Immortal smiled. "And I'm originally from what is
now called Albania."

"Been there," O'Neill nodded. "Too many goats."

"Too many guns now," Philipson smiled a little wistfully. "Although
there have been times, lean times, when I would have given my eye
teeth just to see one goat -- even three days dead on the side of the
road."

"I thought you said we were having fish?"

"Patience, Mr. O'Neill," the Immortal grinned. "Or is it General
O'Neill?"

Jack raised an eyebrow, deciding in favor of honesty. "Publicly? It's
still Colonel. On paper, well that's another story."

Methos looked up from the book on native flora he was glancing
through with an expression of sudden understanding. "Of course you
were promoted when Carter got new rank," he murmured. "You would've
had to be."

O'Neill said nothing. Protocol had demanded it and anything less
would have been seen as a vote of no confidence in his abilities. But
making General would have taken him out of the field permanently. Even
Colonel was pushing it. But on paper... Well, paper generals got the
perks without the brass and that was just fine with Jack. It had been
fine with his friends at the DOD as well, and for the same reason. In
the field was where he belonged and they knew it as well as he did.

A timer bell sounded from the floor below and Philipson rose to see
about lunch.

"You want to get the table, Adam?" he asked as he paused by the
stairs. "There's dishes and stuff in cupboard by the desk."

Methos nodded as Jack followed Philipson. 

"I'll give you a hand," O'Neill said and the Immortal shrugged,
ignoring his shadow.

Back on the lower level O'Neill realized he was only in the way and
wandered off to look more closely at the wall display on the far side
of the room which he'd missed on his way up. Lots of arms and armor in
racks along the back wall. Several swords, a few shields, and--

Jack stood stock still as he stared at the centerpiece of the
exhibit. A magnificent gold chased helmet, greaves and a breastplate
with a jeweled gorget which had to be worth a small fortune in and of
itself. Beside it hung a small round shield also overlaid with gold
and a sword of such astonishing quality for the period it represented
it could only have been commissioned by a king.

"Albania?" O'Neill whispered, clearing his throat as bits and pieces
started clicking into place. A part of him must have known, he
decided. Couldn't help but have known given the face and the clues
he'd had all but dropped in his lap. Hell and damn, he had a Masters
Degree in Military History and he'd still missed it! And yet, it was
that part of himself which still did not want to believe. "Albania was
-- is -- Macedonia."

He turned to look at the tiny little powerhouse of a man calmly
standing by the stairs with an over laden tray of steaming fish and
vegetables in his arms. "Alex Philipson," he muttered as the Immortal
cocked his head and waited patiently. "Alex. Philip's son," Jack
intoned, cautiously sounding out the words. "Alex for Alexander?" A
little nod and a wry smile topped by laughing blue eyes. "Alexander,
son of Philip. The Macedonian Alexander. Alexander the..."

"Great. Yes," he hefted the tray. "Lunch is getting cold, by the way.
Or would you prefer to eat crow?"


Chapter 3

"Just figured it out, did you?" Methos grinned as he playfully
flipped a knife and carefully laid it on a napkin.

O'Neill still looked a little shell-shocked as he sat down across
from the ancient Immortal. Alexander put the tray in the center of the
table and gestured for everybody to dig in.

"Just? No," O'Neill shook his head, a little amazed at himself. "I
knew the face," he glanced at his host. "Can't not know it if you're a
student of military history. It just took a while for my brain to
catch up with my gut. Then I remembered what I was dealing with."

"Immortality does have that effect sometimes," Alexander commented as
he sat. "It shouldn't be possible. Can't be possible. But it is."

"True," O'Neill nodded, loading food onto his plate. "But in my own
defense, I've always been more of a Hannibal the Carthaginian fan.
Gotta love those elephants."

"Mmm," Alexander grunted, pointing west. "That'd be the next tower
over."

O'Neill glanced up sharply, eyes wide as he turned to the window. He
grimaced ruefully at Methos' bark of laughter, while Alexander
snickered. "Good one," he admitted with a touch of chagrin. "And
Genghis Khan runs a Chinese restaurant in Ohio."

"Chinese? No," Methos shook his head. "Although he swears Mongolian
will be all the rage once the taco craze is really over with for good."

"Yeah," Alexander chimed in. "Look at Julius. He was dead on with
that Caesar salad thing."

"It was the croutons," Methos nodded sagely.

O'Neill rolled his eyes and went back to his food, listening to the
two Immortals as they ate, chatting amiably about current events and
Alexander's latest projects until O'Neill at last put aside his fork
and sat back to look at the man. Really look at Alexander and complete
his evaluation.

"So, are you finally happy now?" he asked softly when Alexander
pushed his plate away.

The bright golden head tilted a little further in its almost
permanent cock and the eyes widened in surprise. "What makes you ask
that?"

"Reading your history," Jack said quietly. "I always got the feeling
you weren't happy being the world conqueror. That you'd rather have
been doing something else with your time, like exploring, or
cataloguing plants and animals."

Alexander smiled with just a touch of sadness. "Very perceptive,
Colonel. But I was born to be who I was and I did what I felt I had to
at the time. But was I happy?" he shrugged. "At times perhaps. More
proud than anything else really. Proud that I'd survived. Proud in all
the ways a man was supposed to be back then. It was a hell of a
responsibility to suddenly be King of Macedonia and Protector of
Greece at seventeen. Happiness wasn't part of the bargain."

"And now?"

Alexander nodded slowly. "Yeah, I'm happy now. Happy as I can be.
Responsible only for myself. Exploring and cataloguing to my heart's
content. It's a good life," he glanced at Methos and smiled. "This
gift of Immortality."

"It suits you," the elder Immortal said. "Not to denigrate your skill
at arms, but you've a warrior's heart and a scholar's mind."

"That's good to hear, Captain Pierson," O'Neill suddenly interjected,
having finally come to a decision.

The former general sat back in his chair all business now as Jack
abruptly reminded them of why he and Methos were there. "You wanted to
speak with me even before you knew who I was," he said simply. "Adam
indicated it was as one war monger to another. Before you begin,
Colonel, let me just state for the record that I'm no longer in the
conquest business and I have no plans to return to it anytime soon --
if ever."

"Good," O'Neill nodded briefly. "But you are a soldier and you have
served this country in time of need. Is that correct?"

"Sure. I signed up when they waived the height requirements in World
War II. And I've been here long enough to consider myself a citizen.
But we're not at war and I'm not really comfortable," he looked hard
at Methos, who didn't flinch, "with the military knowing about
Immortals."

"The military as whole doesn't know," O'Neill ceded diplomatically.
"But as to the question of are we at war... Let me ask you this. If
you knew of a threat that might one day annihilate the world as we
know it -- for mortal and Immortal alike -- would you be willing to
fight it?"

Alexander's brows rose in consternation, the deep creases above his
eyes drawing tight. "If there were such a threat," he glanced at
Methos, "then I would certainly be willing. With everything I have,"
he insisted passionately. "And you say there is such a threat?"

"There is," O'Neill quietly acknowledged and Alexander turned to
Methos, who nodded soberly.

"Not just the cold war heating up again, or something mortals can
handle?" Alexander asked.

"Not the cold war, or even a world war," O'Neill explained calmly.
"And we've been handling it up until now. But we need all the help we
can get. And Immortals possess more than a few capabilities that we've
come to realize might be essential in overcoming the opposition."

"Is it aliens?" Alexander asked curiously.

"What?!" O'Neill blurted.

"You know, space aliens. Is it an alien invasion?" he repeated,
eagerly leaning forward in his chair. "I mean if it isn't a threat
from here then it's gotta be from there, right?"

"Uh..."

"Hey, I watch the X Files like everyone else. I've seen Independence
Day. You don't think I have the same fears as the next guy? Big eyed
bug people trying to take over the planet. It could happen."

O'Neill looked to Methos for help, but the ancient Immortal merely
shrugged. It was his call. Besides, Alexander on an alien conspiracy
theory kick was a new one for him.

"Well, they're not exactly bug people," O'Neill explained
uncomfortably. "More like these snaky parasite creatures that take
humans as hosts and control most of the galaxy."

Alexander sat back in his chair looking stunned. 

"He isn't kidding, is he?" the Macedonian asked softly.

Methos shook his head, much bemused. Clever, he thought. Drawing the
truth out of O'Neill when it had been obvious the colonel wasn't very
willing to talk despite what Methos had told him.

"No," O'Neill said coldly, knowing he'd been had. "I'm not kidding."

Alexander nodded slowly. "I know my friend here isn't insane and you
don't strike me as the least bit crazy -- not enough to make up a
story like that and still hold any kind of rank. So, unlikely as it
sounds, logic dictates it must be true. Besides, Adam trusts you and
that's good enough for me. Count me in, Colonel. What do you need?"

O'Neill held up a hand. "Ah, could you just give me a minute? I gotta
make a phone call."

Methos grinned as O'Neill wandered downstairs. No doubt the colonel
hadn't really expected his plan to succeed.

"You need to be careful around that one, Metopholus," Alexander
commented as he leaned back in his chair and tucked up his feet.

Methos raised an eyebrow. "How do you mean?"

"On the way up with lunch your colonel was muttering something about
some minion of his doing push ups until he was pushing up daisies." 


Chapter 4

"Yes, Colonel?" General Hammond answered as soon as the call was put
through. "What can I do for you?"

O'Neill glanced over his shoulder toward the stairs then reached out
to delicately run a fingertip over the hilt of Alexander's sword.

"Uh...yeah," he muttered distractedly.

"Colonel O'Neill, you have something to report?" the general's voice
reminded him of duty and he reluctantly turned his back on the display.


"Yes, sir. Sorry. I need a chopper for three. North Cascades National
Park. Tower twenty."

There was a pause at the other end. "Then I take it Pierson's plan is
doable?"

"Oh yeah," he grimaced. Methos would be impossible to live with for a
few days, but he could handle that.

"Care to explain?"

"Not much to tell, sir. I only just recruited Alexander the Great."

"YOU WHAT?!"

O'Neill pulled the phone away from his face, switching sides as he
rubbed the offended ear. "I recruited--"

"I heard you the first time, Colonel," General Hammond interrupted.
"Are you sure?" he asked. The voice at the other end of the line held
more than a slight hint of awe.

"I'm lookin' at his armor now, sir. And it's the real deal. At a
guess I'd say he stole it back from the Romans. Goes by the name Alex
Philipson, if you can believe it."

"Well I'll be..."

O'Neill waited as Hammond digested the information. Not an easy task,
he knew, but well worth the effort.

"All right, Colonel," the general finally spoke. "Tell Pierson good
work and I'll send transport. ETA..." O'Neill listened to the muffled
conversation in the background. "One hour. Anything else?"

"Yeah, we're gonna need someone to cover Philipson's position here.
He's a Park Ranger. Better yet, make it a full team with a botanist
and a biologist."

"I'll see what I can do, Colonel."

"Oh and, sir?"

"Yes, Colonel?"

"We don't have a height requirement, do we?"

***

"You have forty minutes to pack," O'Neill said as he topped the
stairs to the observation deck.

Alexander looked up from where he and Methos were clearing the
dishes. "I can't leave now," he insisted. "It's the middle of fire
season."

"We're sending a team in. Biologist and botanist too. As far as the
rest of the world is concerned Alex Philipson will still be on his
mountaintop working."

Alexander glanced worriedly at Methos. "It's that serious?" he asked
quietly in Greek.

Methos nodded. "We've had a few setbacks recently."

Without another word Alexander tossed the dish he was holding back
onto the table and started packing. Thirty minutes later he joined
O'Neill and Methos outside the tower carrying his pack.

O'Neill looked him over carefully. He'd changed again. Faded blue
jeans, nondescript work shirt, and a hip length black leather jacket.

"Where's your sword?" the colonel asked staring at the pack.

Alexander raised both brows. "Down my back, why?"

"One of 'em, anyway," Methos muttered, ignoring the glare he received
while Jack simply shook his head.

"Okay. Rules of the road," the colonel explained curtly. "Swords and
military installations. Rule One. Edged weapons must be carried in
secure cases at all times and clearly marked as such when traveling.
Rule Two. Said weapons will reside either in storage or in a clearly
visible display rack or case within the owner's quarters. Rule Three.
Weapons may be removed from said quarters for practice purposes only
in a duly designated area; must be carried to and from said area
within a secure clearly marked case, and practice guards must be in
place at all times when in use. Rule Four. Failure to follow any of
these regulations constitutes a violation of orders and all weapons
will be confiscated from the owner under our No Receipt No Return
policy. No exceptions."

"And if I'm challenged?" Alexander demanded. "What do I do then?"

"You won't be," Methos told him. "Cheyenne Mountain is holy ground."

"It is?" O'Neill asked, surprised.

"Yeah, MacLeod told me. Besides," Methos looked to his old friend.
"None of the Immortals we're assembling are interested in taking
heads. It's a prerequisite," Methos grinned. "I've rather liked the
last few months not having to look over my shoulder every other
minute."

Alexander sighed and nodded slowly. "I'll just be a moment," he
muttered heading back to the tower.

A short time later he was back, a pair of sword cases strapped to his
pack, staring in astonishment at what he saw then grinning as he
listened.

"Three thousand four hundred twenty six," Methos called out as he
completed another pushup. "Three thousand four hundred twenty
seven..." All the way up to three thousand four hundred and fifty
before he stopped and asked for permission to recover.

O'Neill looked like he was debating the issue and after a long moment
finally gave the order. "Next time, Captain," he said sourly as Methos
stood. "You remember to tell me things like the base is on holy
ground. I need to know stuff like that to protect my people."

"But you had to know!" Methos exclaimed. "MacLeod found it in the
base guide. Besides, all military bases are built on consecrated
ground."

"Did you know for certain I knew that?" O'Neill inquired archly. "Or
did you just assume? Didn't you think that maybe, just like you, I
didn't bother to read that handy dandy little guide? Or that I was
unaware that having a chaplain say a few prayers before we laid the
first stone made a place holy ground. Or," he added. "Did you think it
just didn't matter whether or not the mortal was apprised of the
facts?"

Methos looked away clearly annoyed. Sometimes Jack was just too damn
smart.

"I don't like surprises, Pierson. The holy ground stuff, or who
Philipson really was."

"Now, that's not entirely fair, Colonel," Alexander interjected. "No
one but Adam knows who I am and it might have colored your evaluation
of me. And to be honest, I wouldn't have told you if you hadn't
figured it out. What I was has nothing to do with who I am."

O'Neill frowned. "It would have colored my perceptions for all of
about a minute. Then I would have discarded the information as
irrelevant. What is relevant is that who you were indicates a skill
level I can use -- immediately. If I had known I wouldn't have
bothered to waste five days trekking through the forest. I'd have come
in with a chopper, made you an offer, and we'd have taken it from
there. I'm fighting a war here. I'm not interested in clever games
played by people who should really know better."

Alexander stared at him with open respect then smiled appreciatively.
"Colonel O'Neill is absolutely correct, Adam. You wasted his time. If
I had been your commander you would not have gotten off so lightly as
a mere fifty push ups."

"Fifty extra push ups," Methos muttered disgustedly. He'd done his
daily set first thing this morning before they'd even broken camp.
"And as you very well know it wasn't my secret to tell. Certainly not
after making you swear that you'd never reveal the truth to anyone."

"Why is that?" O'Neill interjected. "Why the need for secrecy?"

Methos' eyes widened in astonishment. "Methos is a myth and still
they hunt for him. Alex hasn't anywhere near the power of a Quickening
that ancient, but he'd be hunted all the same. Just for the bragging
rights."

"Okay. We'll keep this on the QT for incoming Immortals," O'Neill
nodded. "And in one sense you're right. I do want his head -- but only
because it's a goddamned tactical database. And you knew I'd want him,
which brings us right back to where we started. Trust. You knew he
trusted you enough not to be pissed when you brought me here. You knew
I trusted you enough to make the hike. But you couldn't bring yourself
to trust either one of us without controlling the situation. Which is
why, when we get back to the base, you are going to hand me a list of
all the Immortals you planned to approach in a clandestine fashion and
why I am going to determine how best to approach them now. Is that
clear?"

Methos nodded abruptly.

"Good. Because I'm tired of playing these games with you, Pierson."

"It isn't a game to me," Methos growled. "It's how I've survived."

"That doesn't make it right," O'Neill pointed out. "And your survival
isn't in question here."

If there was anything else to be said it would have to wait. The
sound of the approaching helicopter ended the conversation. After a
quick briefing by Alexander they exchanged places with the team. Forty
five minutes later they were landing at the Naval base outside of
Seacouver. They caught a flight already headed east to Great Lakes
which O'Neill detoured to Colorado Springs and a few hours later were
turning up the road into the SGC to be met by...nobody.

"What gives?" Methos asked Jack after they installed Alexander in one
of the VIP suites and were finally alone in O'Neill's office. "No
reception committee? I'd thought for sure General Hammond..."

Jack's face was expressionless as he took his seat at the desk.
"You're assuming, Captain, that Mr. Philipson is going to be treated
as anything other than what he is. A recruit. Granted, he's got some
excellent skills," Jack admitted. "But like every other Immortal he's
going to have to learn how we do things here."

"You're sending them through Basic Training?" Methos asked
flabbergasted as O'Neill simply nodded. "But... You didn't do that to
me."

Jack sighed deeply and nodded leaning back in his chair and putting
his feet up on the desk. 

"You got me there," he agreed. "But... You're my special cross to
bear," the colonel grinned cheerfully. "Now, Captain, drop and give me
fifty."


Chapter 5

Paris by night was always an experience. Beautiful, elegant, a gem of
a city General Hammond thought as his plane landed. Months before he'd
made this journey to see an old friend under less than optimal
circumstances. Now, the circumstances were no less dire, but he had
time for more than a brief visit. Not much time, he admitted as he
disembarked and climbed into the car that was waiting, but enough not
to have to come like a thief in the night and steal away before dawn
rose over the city.

Le Blues Bar was busy with the trendy late evening crowd when Hammond
walked in dressed in casual clothes as if he were no more than any
other patron come to hear the blues and have a drink. Joe noticed him
first from his place on the stage catching Duncan MacLeod's eye with a
practiced look. The Highlander half rose and turned to offer the
general a seat.

"Hammond," he nodded as the other man sat and MacLeod signaled a
waitress to take his order. "They're just starting another set," he
explained as he glanced toward the stage.

The general nodded. "Then I'm just in time," he smiled, shifting his
chair to get a better view of the band. His beer arrived and the house
settled down as Joe launched into a raucous and raunchy rendition of
"Baby, What You Want Me To Do," one of Hammond's favorites. An hour
later the band said goodnight and Joe joined his friends at the table.

"Hey, George," Dawson drawled as he settled into a chair, "or is it
Sir now?"

"I don't see any uniforms here, do you?" he responded quietly.

"Yeah, well..." Dawson shrugged.

"We'll talk about it later," Hammond promised, glancing at MacLeod.

"Feel free to talk about it now," the Highlander said, staring hard
the general. "Joe's already told me about his little visit with
O'Neill."

Hammond stared back. "It's a private matter, Mr. MacLeod. And we have
other things to discuss at the moment."

MacLeod nodded slowly. He couldn't deny that it made sense for the
military to use the Watchers. They were already an established
surveillance operation with quite a few ex-military men and women in
their ranks. A surveillance operation they didn't even have to
infiltrate because just like Joe, they could call on already
established loyalties and demand cooperation under the National
Secrets Act. He might not like it, but it made sense.

"I thought you weren't interested in the Immortals I suggested?"
MacLeod asked warily.

"That's correct," Hammond agreed. "But we are interested in these." 

The general held out a small piece of paper to him and MacLeod
accepted it cautiously. He read the names, his jaw hardening as he
recognized the handwriting. "Adam give you these?"

"Captain Pierson suggested them, yes."

"He's out of his mind," MacLeod said, handing back the paper. "Gina
and Robert de Valicourt aren't suitable for this."

"From all accounts, I'd say they were perfect," Hammond responded.
"Intelligent, capable at handling weapons, not interested in the Game
and stable."

MacLeod sighed and shook his head. "Robert I can see, but Gina?"

"Are you aware that Mrs. de Valicourt served with exemplary courage
in the French Resistance?"

"Sure, but..."

"She's more than capable, Mr. MacLeod. And they have good reason to
join us. They have something more important to fight for than most of
those whose names you proffered. A world where they can live and love
for another three centuries."

And fight they would, MacLeod knew. And for just that reason. He
nodded slowly. "All right, I'll see what I can do," he agreed. "This
may take a little while. They're on their honeymoon."

"Honeymoon?" Hammond asked, a bit startled. "But I thought..."

Joe smiled. "The de Valicourts retake their vows every hundred years.
It's sort of a tradition."

"I see," Hammond nodded. "Well, do the best you can."

"I can maybe help you there," Joe grudgingly admitted, pouring
himself another whiskey. "Get a hold of their Watcher just to tie up a
few loose ends about that mysterious Immortal that tried to take
Robert's head last year then showed up at their wedding."

"Find their Watcher and you find them," MacLeod grinned. "Thanks, Joe."

"Hey, no problem. It's the least I can do for my country," he muttered.

"Yeah," MacLeod said uncomfortably. "So, uh, just how much can I tell
them?" he asked the general.

"How much would you need to tell them?"

MacLeod stared at his drink thoughtfully. "Not much, I suppose," he
admitted. "They're friends. They'd come as a favor to me and..." He
sighed disgustedly. "I can always say that Adam asked for them. They
owe him one." 

Hammond nodded in understanding. "Good. Then I'll leave it in your
hands, Mr. MacLeod. As soon as you can locate them have them meet you
in Colorado Springs. I'll see you there."

MacLeod grimaced and finished his drink. He knew when he was being
dismissed. Not that he really minded. Joe and his friend had a lot to
talk about. He stood, shrugging into his coat though the night was
warm and slightly muggy. "See you in a few days, Hammond. Joe," he
nodded.

"Yeah, Mac. I'll call as soon as I know anything."

MacLeod's departure seemed a signal for a number of other customers
to leave. When a few came by the table to tell Joe just how much
they'd enjoyed the night's entertainment Hammond waited patiently as
Dawson made a little small talk then asked if there were somewhere
they could talk privately. Joe nodded and led the way to his small
office. He poured each of them a fresh drink then pulled a slightly
crumpled napkin and a folded piece of paper out of his shirt pocket.

"You mind telling me what this all about, George?" he asked, tossing
the items onto his desk.

Hammond didn't have to look at them to know what they were.

"It's a little irregular," he agreed. "But it's all quite legal."

"Legal my ass!" Joe groused as he took a seat and set his cane aside.
"Look, I don't know about you, George, but doesn't it strike you as a
little peculiar that the Marines are sending Air Force colonels to
reactivate fifty year old bartenders who haven't seen action in thirty
years?"

"Well...no," Hammond admitted, having seen far stranger things in his
career.

"Okay," Joe nodded. "How about fifty year old bartenders without any
legs?"

"You got me there," Hammond agreed. "But there really is a point to
it."

"Which is?"

Hammond held up his hands in acquiescence. "I'll get to that, I
promise. But first I need to ask you something."

Joe sighed and rolled his eyes. "Sure, lay it on me, pal."

"Do you remember an Army Drill Sergeant name of Bear?"

Joe looked vaguely confused and more than a bit surprised by the
question. "Army? No," he finally answered. "Marine Drill Instructor,
yeah. One of the Montford Marines. Way, way back when they were still
segregating. He was legendary. One tough son of a bitch, or so the
stories said. Why?"

"I was at a dinner party last week in Washington," Hammond explained.
"A few of us got to talking about old times. You know, the usual
stuff. A couple of guys mentioned they'd gone through Basic back in
'67 under a Sergeant Bear. Most intimidating Drill Sergeant they'd
ever seen."

"So? Maybe it was his kid," Dawson shrugged.

"Could be, but I remember my granddaddy talking about a Drill
Instructor Bear back when he enlisted for the First World War.
Granddad was three quarters Cherokee and they put him with the 25th
Infantry."

Joe's eyes narrowed. "You're thinking Bear's an Immortal?"

Hammond nodded. "I did some checking. Like you said a Drill
Instructor Bear shows up in the Marines during the Second World War.
Got a reputation for being one mean son of a bitch. After the war he
floats from base to base then disappears. Shows up again in the Army
in '63 and does it all over again until about ten years ago when he
retires and again just disappears."

"Looks like you figured it out for yourself," Joe shrugged. "What do
you need me for?"

"Well, funny thing is, there are only a handful of computer records
for him in every case and the hardcopy files have no ID picture."

Joe nodded as if expecting this. "He's Immortal all right. Nobody's
better at messing up a paper trail than they are."

"I'm beginning to see that," Hammond sighed ruefully. "What I need is
for you to find him for me."

"Do I wanna know why?"

"I'm thinking of hiring him."

"Hiring?!" Joe sputtered then a light seemed to go off inside his
head as the pieces started falling into place. First Methos, then
MacLeod, then the de Valicourts and who knew how many others the
military was recruiting. He didn't know why and right now he didn't
really care, it just seemed like...poetic justice. For all the hell
Immortals sometimes put their Watchers through. A Drill Instructor who
couldn't die -- though by the time he was done with them they'd
probably want to kill him. Dawson smiled as he opened his laptop. 

"Just give me a minute, George. I'll see what I can do."

***

"Got it," Joe looked up from his computer perhaps an hour later.
They'd been interrupted when he'd had to close the bar. In the
meantime, Hammond had made good use of the break to contact O'Neill
and get an update on the situation back at the base. He'd left for
Paris almost as soon as the colonel had confirmed Pierson's plan would
work. Alexander had been settled in -- Hammond shook his head still
trying to comprehend that fact -- while Ptahsennes and Ramirez were on
their way.

"You know where he is?" Hammond asked coming to stand behind Dawson.

"I do. Even got a bio for you," the Watcher smiled. "Seems this guy
Bear is military start to finish," he leaned back. "Real impressive
resume," he whistled. "He first shows up in 1862 with the 54th
Massachusetts Infantry. We think that's where he had his first death.
At James Island where the first 'colored' troops of the Civil War saw
action."

"Nothing before that?"

"Sorry," Joe shrugged looking somewhat embarrassed. "The, uh, Watcher
who saw him was on the Confederate side. Although he did look the
other way when Bear revived and let him get away. That's saying a lot
for him though," he added at Hammond's look of distaste. "We had one
guy during the war liked to kill any Immortal in the Union Army he
came across. His defense was that the North already had an unfair
advantage in arms and men. We executed him by the way. I've got the
transcript of his trial somewhere if you're interested."

"Maybe later," Hammond sighed. "Anything else?"

"Some," Joe told him. "He turns up again in 1864 at the Battle of
Honey Hill attached to the 35th United States Colored Troops where he
dies again. He's off the radar for a while after that until he's
spotted in Montana in 1873 working as a Buffalo soldier helping to
tame the west. He transfers from fort to fort every few years then
settles down with the 25th Infantry after the Spanish-American War as
a Drill Instructor which is where your grandfather met him. Retires
from the Army in '29, teaches for a while at a Boston military academy
then re-enlists in '35 where he's recruited by the Marines to be a
Drill Instructor for the first black regiment in '42. You pretty much
know the rest of his active duty. In between stints it seems he likes
to teach. Always at a military academy." Joe glanced up, smiling.
"Guess he likes the discipline."

"A lot to be said for that," Hammond agreed. "And he seems to be just
what I'm looking for. Have you got a current location on him?"

"Sure do," Joe nodded. "He's at the Bronzeville Military Academy in
Chicago. Now, you wanna tell me anything?"

"Actually, Joe, I have a very special assignment for you if you're
willing to accept my offer. It's a little extraordinary, but I believe
the Watchers serve a useful purpose in documenting the activities of
Immortals. Would you be interested?"

"I might be. Depends," he added. "What would I have to do?"

"Just take notes and serve drinks."

"In Colorado Springs?"

"Not exactly," Hammond admitted. "That's where you'll be briefed. And
you will have the right to refuse even after we've explained the
situation. Of course, everything you do learn will be classified --
even your chronicles until we give the okay. But in the meantime, Joe,
you'd be the only Watcher keeping a record of this. I can't spare the
manpower, nor would I to keep tabs on these people. But they are
important and for the sake of history I will authorize you to do it."

Joe nodded thoughtfully then finished his drink. "What the hell," he
grinned. "I'm MacLeod's Watcher and I'd probably follow him there
anyway. At least this way, I can get the real skinny."

"And without violating national security," Hammond agreed. "So you'll
do it?"

"Sure, George, count me in."


Chapter 6

The unexpected sense of Immortal presence alerted Methos just as he
and Daniel were bringing their empty dinner dishes to the kitchen.

"Something wrong?" Daniel asked as he saw the other man stiffen,
hurriedly lay his plate in the sink, and move quickly across the
kitchen to where he'd left his sword by the back door.

"Company," Methos muttered distractedly as he retrieved the weapon.
"Stay here."

The door bell rang and Methos relaxed just a little. Most headhunting
Immortals didn't announce their presence by politely waiting to be let
in. Still, ever vigilant, he held his blade ready as he went to peer
through the side window that gave him a clear view of the front
entrance.

"It's MacLeod," he called out as he put his sword up and unlocked the
door, throwing it open. "And Joseph!" he grinned at Dawson, stepping
back so his guests could enter.

"Adam," the Watcher nodded, glancing around the fairly open space of
Methos' latest apartment. "Nice place," he smiled. "It's you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Methos asked as he closed the door
and led them toward the living area.

MacLeod chuckled. "Typical Immortal living space," he explained,
nodding to Daniel who'd joined them. "Wide open, abbreviated walls,
ceilings high enough to swing a blade."

"Don't forget the good sturdy flooring," Methos muttered. "Can I get
you a drink?" Both men nodded. "Danny?"

The archaeologist shook his head. "I'm fine thanks. Hi," he said
holding out a hand as he introduced himself to Dawson. "I'm Daniel
Jackson. I work with Adam. You must be Joe."

"Yeah, hi," Dawson nodded, shaking hands before maneuvering himself
into one of Methos' more comfortable looking chairs. MacLeod found a
seat on the sparely cushioned sofa as the older Immortal brought a
bottle of whiskey and a pair of shot glasses over to the coffee table.

"Help yourself," he told them, going back to fetch a beer while
MacLeod poured.

"So, you work with Adam." Dawson looked the younger man over as
Daniel took a seat. "Funny, you don't look very military."

"Me? No," Jackson grinned. "I'm a civilian. An archaeologist actually."

"An archaeologist," Dawson repeated with a little shake of his head.
"Sure, why not. Historians, married couples, disabled, blues playing
bar owners... Guess Uncle Sam is really hard up these days."

"Come on, Joe," MacLeod grinned as he handed the man a drink. "It's a
little more complicated than that."

"Says you," Dawson muttered as he sipped his whiskey. "This all
strikes me as just a little too weird. And I haven't seen anything yet
to make me think different."

"Relax, Joe," Methos said taking a seat on the arm of his chair. "And
stop fishing for information none of us will give you. Tonight, all
will be revealed."

The buzz of an approaching Immortal, quickly followed by another
startled Methos into standing.

"That would be Robert and Gina," MacLeod announced.

"Would it really?" Methos looked shocked as the door bell rang yet
again. "What did you do? Give out my address to every passing Immortal
in the street."

"I tried," MacLeod smirked. "Couldn't find any takers."

"Hey, you asked for them," Joe called to their Immortal host as he
went to get the door. "Fair's fair, Adam."

"Well, if it isn't the honeymooners," Methos grinned widely as he let
them in. The tall blonde man and the delicate, dark haired beauty
which accompanied him.

"Pierson."

"Adam!"

Robert shook his hand while Gina stood on tip toes to kiss his cheek. 

"How are you?" Gina asked taking Methos' arm as he ushered them in.
"Duncan said you needed us."

The warm tones of her rich French accent flowed over him like a
familiar friend. "I'm fine," Methos told her, installing Gina in his
favorite seat. A tall, high-backed solid green marble chair which
looked too much like a throne for most peoples' comfort. "But I have
some friends who need to speak with Immortals who can be trusted."

"Pierson!" Robert hissed staring at Joe and Daniel.

"It's all right," MacLeod explained. "I've known Joe for years and
Dr. Jackson's an old friend of Adam's."

"Calm down, Robert," Gina chided. "Duncan and Adam are our friends.
They would never do anything to hurt me."

"Of course we wouldn't," Methos smiled, taking her hand and gently
placing a kiss on the back of it.

The four Immortals suddenly went silent as yet another pair of
Immortals came within sensing range.

They looked to Methos who rose and went to the door with a sigh.
Before he even reached it someone suddenly started pounding and Methos
drew back a little startled.

"Come on, you lazy, indolent, shit eating goat fucker! Hurry it up!"

Methos laughed and flung the door open wide. "Ptahsennes! You dung
sniffing drinker of camel piss, come in."

The old Egyptian priest hugged him close while O'Neill merely shook
his head in disgust as he moved past them. Behind him came another old
friend and Methos smiled warmly to see him again. "My humble abode
welcomes you."

Ramirez grinned and reached out a hand to gently pat his cheek.

"It is good to see you as well. Are we all here?"

"Almost," Methos explained. "We'll meet the others elsewhere later."

"Good. Very good," Ramirez said as he entered the room. "Greetings to
you all," he bowed formally. "I am Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez
and soon we will all have wonderful adventures together!"

"We will?" Robert asked curiously as MacLeod and Dawson both sat
looking stunned.

"But..." MacLeod shook his head as he stood. "You can't be Ramirez.
Ramirez is dead."

"Yeah," Dawson nodded. "The Kurgan took him out almost four hundred
years ago."

"And were you there my young friend?" Ramirez asked MacLeod. "Or
you?" he nodded to Joe. "I admit he came close," Ramirez absently
rubbed his neck. "But I assure you, I am Ramirez."

"If you're Ramirez, where have you been all these years?" Dawson
demanded.

"Joe. MacLeod," Methos interrupted what looked to quickly become an
interrogation. "I know this seems strange, but he is Ramirez. I can
vouch for him."

"So can I," Gina interjected, holding out her hand to Ramirez. "I
remember you, you wicked man!" she laughed as he kissed it. "You came
to Court with the Emissary of the Spanish king. His Chief Metallurgist
weren't you?"

"Indeed I was, my dearest Angelina. And you are still as gracious and
lovely as ever. But who is this stern man beside you? The one who
looks so fiercely at me."

"Oh," she waved a hand in dismissal. "That is my just my husband,
Robert. Baron de Valicourt."

"Just your husband?!" Robert demanded. "Just?!"

She gave Robert a sweet little moue by way of apology, blowing him a
kiss. With a sigh he shook his head. "For you, darling, I will be just
anything," he admitted going to the small bar set out on a ledge along
the wall to pour himself a drink. "Can I get anyone something?" he
inquired with an affable grin.

A few requests were called out and Methos heaved a sigh of relief as
he edged past everyone to stand beside O'Neill who slouched
comfortably against a wall.

"Thanks for the warning," Methos muttered, watching as the others
made their own introductions.

O'Neill looked at him innocently. "Did I forget to mention I told
everybody to meet here?"

"Must have slipped your mind."

"Sorry," Jack grinned unrepentantly.

Methos nodded and let it go. Fair was fair, he supposed. O'Neill was
obviously still smarting over the whole Alexander thing. On the other
hand, seeing Jack come to that moment of revelation was well worth any
minor annoyance it might have earned him. In truth, Methos silently
admitted, he didn't really mind the pushups or O'Neill's little
lessons. If he were completely honest, he actually encouraged Jack's
fits of pique. It certainly made things interesting.

He shrugged away from the wall to get Jack a beer then went to
retrieve his own, allowing the impromptu little party to play itself
out. Finally, when the small talk began to die down O'Neill cleared
his throat, ambling into the center of the room to gain everyone's
attention.

"Since nobody bothered to formally introduce me, I guess I'll just
have to fend for myself," he began, looking at each of their faces.
"I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill of the United States Air Force and I'm here
to invite all of you to a very important meeting. Some of you," he
glanced at MacLeod and the two Egyptians, "are nominally aware of the
current situation. You've agreed to be here and for that I and my
superiors are extremely grateful. Mr. and Mrs. de Valicourt," he
nodded in their direction, "I'm afraid we've been forced by
circumstances to place you in a somewhat awkward position."

"It's beginning to seem that way, isn't it?" Robert said tightly as
he moved closer to his wife, glancing with a fair amount of anger at
both MacLeod and Methos.

"I apologize for that," O'Neill went on. "And if you'd both like to
leave I'll be disappointed that we didn't have the opportunity to talk
further, but I will understand."

"Talk about what?" Gina asked warily.

"The security of this planet and all those who live on it. Mortal and
Immortal alike."

The only one not surprised by that response was MacLeod. While Gina
and Robert might be completely ignorant of the facts, Methos silently
acknowledged, Ptahsennes and Ramirez were nearly equally so. Learning
about a malfunctioning alien artifact which had allowed the members of
SG-1 to travel back in time and with which the Air Force was
experimenting was not the same as knowing about the fight against
Goa'uld hegemony. That of course had been the cover story Methos had
provided the two men. One that satisfied both their curiosity and
O'Neill's demand for secrecy.

"What are you saying?" Gina demanded. "That we are all in danger?
From who? From what?"

"Captain Pierson," Jack nodded to Methos who registered the surprised
looks he received from the de Valicourts with a wry smile.

"I'm sorry for the deception," he offered quietly. "But most of you
know me as someone who really isn't interested in fighting. More to
the point," he added. "I'm also not one to get involved in anything
that doesn't somehow give me an advantage in life. Well, I tell you
now, this thing I'm involved in -- and yes it is with this country's
military," he nodded assent at the frowns he received. "Well, it's
bigger than the whole mortal versus Immortal issue we've all worried
about from time to time. It's bigger than us, bigger than them and in
my opinion supercedes any imperatives of secrecy or the Game. Now, I
know it's asking a lot and most of you have no reason to trust me, but
the truth is we need your help. Your skills and your abilities as
Immortals might one day save billions of lives. Theirs and ours."

"MacLeod?" Robert looked to the Highlander, a deeply worried
expression on his face.

"He's telling the truth," MacLeod said quietly. "You know me, Robert.
I would never risk either you or Gina if I didn't believe without a
doubt that what we're doing is the right thing."

"But what is this danger?" Gina repeated. "Where does it come from?"

There was silence as all eyes turned to Jack, who stood, suddenly
looking very uncomfortable, at the center of everyone's attention.
"Well, it's... It's.... Couldn't I just show you guys?" he asked
hopefully.

There was silence until Joe finally spoke up. "Hell, I don't know
about you folks, but I'm goin' just to see what could get him," he
pointed to Methos, "off his duff and out of civvies. That alone has
got to be worth the price of admission."

Ramirez laughed while Ptahsennes nodded appreciatively. "It is true,
old lion," the priest grinned up at Methos. "You have never been one
to exert yourself overmuch on behalf of anything that didn't have
something to do with your own comfort. So I shall join you -- for
now," he amended cautiously.

"As will I," Ramirez added simply. "Though you told me, Colonel," he
frowned at O'Neill, "that this had to do with...exploring other
places."

"Well it does. Sort of. On the side," Jack muttered.

"Gina?" Robert asked. "I'll go, but...it's up to you, darling."

She stared at him thoughtfully then looked to O'Neill. "Where will
you take us?" she asked curiously.

"The base isn't far from here," Jack explained.

"A military base?" her eyes went wide. "You want us to willing walk
onto a military base?"

"It's not that bad, Gina," Methos interjected. "Really. I've been
living there off and on for a while now. Actually, it's pretty nice --
for a hole in the ground."

"Living," she whispered utterly shocked. "And they know what you--
What we are?"

"Only a handful of us know," Daniel said intensely, leaning forward.
"And none of us wants anyone else to find out. Adam's my friend. So is
MacLeod. And I swear to you, on my honor, that nothing bad will happen
to you or your husband."

"Not by our hands," O'Neill added. "Word of honor."

She stared at them thoughtfully for another long moment. "All right,"
she finally agreed. "Robert and I will come."

"There's my brave girl," Robert smiled.

"Not brave," she admitted. "Fascinated. I have always dreamed of a
day when I would not have to hide what I am from mortals. It would be
nice," she smiled wistfully, "to hope that one day we could all live
peacefully."

"Maybe someday," O'Neill agreed just as wistfully. "Maybe..."


Chapter 7

Three large sedans came to retrieve the nine people who were waiting.
And while Methos found himself comfortably ensconced with his old
friends Ramirez and Ptahsennes, and Daniel traveled with Dawson and
MacLeod, Jack ended up trying to make small talk with the de
Valicourts.

"So, ah... Pierson tells me you used to be a pirate, Robert. What do
you do now?"

"Corporate raider," de Valicourt answered cheerfully. "Same thing --
just without the sea."

"Nice," O'Neill smiled painfully. "And do you still teach Sociology,
Gina?"

"Not really," she admitted. "We've both taken a sort of leave of
absence. We're honeymooning."

"They usually give you time off for that, don't they?"

 "We like to take our time," Robert confided. "Sail round the world.
Spend a decade or so on a deserted island somewhere. I know some
really hard to find places. Off the beaten track so to speak. We were
in Barbados just having a few repairs done and stocking up the yacht
when MacLeod reached us."

"A decade or so... Nice," O'Neill smiled even more painfully.

"And you, Colonel O'Neill?" Robert asked politely. "What do you do
exactly?"

"Oh... Nothing special. A little black ops, the occasional war, a lot
of traveling. Really a lot of traveling," he muttered disgustedly.
"Nothing as exciting as corporate raiding or making a difference in
the lives of young people."

"Nice," Robert smiled -- painfully.

***

"So, what do you think?" Methos asked O'Neill as he gave a final tug
to his uniform jacket before tucking his hat under his arm. They were
all going to be part of General Hammond's formal presentation to the
Immortals waiting in the visitors lounge in the above ground portion
of the facility. A small conference room had been prepared and while
they waited the prospective recruits would be served food and drink.
It was Hammond's idea really, a friendly gesture to keep their guests
from feeling trapped and endangered. 

Not surprisingly, Methos had agreed. He'd come to the SGC already
feeling trapped and endangered, but for entirely different reasons.
And no one had even suspected he was different. The waiting Immortals
had no such luxury. Hammond had felt that since they had no reason to
trust a military with which they were unfamiliar -- and one which had
been demonized so completely by the media -- they might be a bit more
open-minded if they were not immediately stripped of their weapons,
marched into a missile silo surrounded by armed soldiers and asked to
"cooperate" because aliens were invading.

"What do I think?" O'Neill finally responded as Major Carter joined
them. "About what?"

"You know," Methos nodded toward the locker room ceiling. "About them."

"They go well with the decor."

"What?!"

"Come on, Pierson," O'Neill chided as they headed toward the
elevator. "We've got Alexander the Great, a pirate, a French Lady in
Waiting, a Highland warrior, an Ancient Egyptian high priest and the
Chief Metallurgist to the King of Spain. I'm beginning to wonder if
I'm really trapped in the worst science fiction novel ever written."

"Alexander the Great?!" Carter stopped dead in her tracks.

"You didn't get the memo?" Jack raised an eyebrow, but showed a
suspicious lack of regret. 

"Colonel, you don't write memos," Samantha responded beginning to
move again.

"Well, not to you," Jack said defensively. "I can just call you."

Methos grinned as they reached the elevator and he picked up the
thread of their previous conversation. "You forgot to mention the
other character in the fantastical little melodrama we're living,
O'Neill."

"And that would be?"

A sudden announcement over the loudspeaker interrupted them. "Colonel
O'Neill, Captain Pierson, please report to Guard Station AG-1
immediately."

"That would be Amanda," Methos smiled winningly as the elevator
opened and the announcement repeated. "The world class jet-setting
jewel thief."

***

"Darling!" Amanda called as she stepped out of the stretch limousine
sent to retrieve her from the airport. One arm held a bouquet of long
stem yellow roses, the other a tall fluted champagne glass -- still
half full.

"You sent champagne and flowers?" O'Neill muttered sotto voce as they
approached.

"She'd have bolted at the first guard post otherwise," Methos
responded between tightly clenched teeth held in a polite smile.
"Amanda," he said warmly as she leaned in to give him a quick kiss.

"Have you lost your mind?!" she hissed angrily against his cheek.

"You're perfectly safe," he whispered back. "Would I be anywhere the
danger is?"

"This had better be good, Methos!" Amanda raised her brows as she
stood back, looking him up and down. "You do clean up nice though,"
she said in a normal tone, grinning at the uniform.

Behind them Jack cleared his throat and Methos turned to make
introductions. "Amanda...Darieux ?" he said questioningly and received
a slight nod from the lady. "Meet Colonel Jack O'Neill, U.S. Air
Force."

Amanda shoved the flowers and her glass at Methos nearly spilling it
on him in the process then offered her now free hand to the colonel.
"Charmed," she smiled warmly as he took it.

O'Neill smiled back trying hard not to stare but with Amanda that was
almost impossible. The skimpy black sheath dress she wore set off her
tall, feminine figure to perfection. And her dark hair framed her face
in a short blunt cut that made her eyes seem twice as large as they
actually were.

"Welcome to Cheyenne Mountain, ma'am," O'Neill responded falling back
on protocol when all else failed to get his mind off the woman's long,
seemingly endless bare legs. Distantly he wondered how she managed to
walk in a pair of six inch spiked high heels. Very nicely, he had to
admit a moment later as she took his arm, ignoring Methos as he
polished off her wine and tossed the flowers and glass back into the
limo before leading the way inside.

"So," Amanda asked with a touch of forced gaiety. "You're a friend
of...Adam's?" She glanced back at the other Immortal who gave her a
tight nod.

"Actually," O'Neill responded gently disengaging her arm as they
reached the guarded entrance to the conference center. "I'm Captain
Pierson's Commanding Officer."

"And how commanding you are, Colonel," she cooed softly.

O'Neill coughed, ignoring the gleam in the Airman's eyes as the
soldier opened the door and stepped aside to let Amanda pass. Beside
him, Methos didn't even bother to hide a smile. 

"Amanda?!" 

MacLeod had turned with the others as the door opened. He scowled
darkly at Methos, who merely shrugged. Of course MacLeod would be
annoyed Methos thought as he moved into the room. He tended to think
of women, especially Immortal ones, as precious objects in need of
protection. But Amanda was clever, inventive and had skills that could
only be an advantage at some point. And as a fighter... Well, she'd
survived for more than 1200 years and that was no mean feat for an
Immortal, let alone a female.

The woman in question briefly surveyed the room as she moved toward
MacLeod, abruptly coming to a complete halt as another Immortal came
forward. Her mouth opened but no sound came out as the other man
silently took her hand, kissed it then held it comfortingly between
his palms.

"My deepest sympathies for your loss," Ramirez told her gently.
"Rebecca was an extraordinary woman. She is truly missed by those of
us who knew her."

"She-- We--" Amanda choked, tears welling up in her eyes. "Damn you,
Ramirez!" she finally shouted, suddenly throwing her arms around his
neck. "I thought you were dead!"

"There, there," he patted her back soothingly as Amanda sniffled and
at last pulled away. "I am sorry, but when one is asked by a god to
remain silent, one can do nothing more than keep his promise. I hope
you will forgive me, my dear."

"Of course I forgive you," she said, carefully wiping at her eyes.
"But you aren't making any sense. What does God have to do with
anything?"

There was a stir at the door as someone entered. "We shall talk
later," Ramirez told her as they were asked to be seated and MacLeod
came forward to take Amanda's arm. The old Egyptian bowed graciously
and moved aside to find a seat beside Ptahsennes.

Methos glanced around the room, finally spotting Daniel, who looked a
little paler than usual.

"You all right?" Methos asked as he joined Jackson and Carter near
the door where the general would soon make his entrance.

"Yeah, fine," Daniel muttered, flushing as Alexander waved in his
direction. "Just feel like a fool," he said, raising a hand and
wiggling his fingers in tepid response.

Methos stifled a chuckle. "What'd you do? Tell him he looked just
like a bust of Alexander the Great you'd recently seen?"

Daniel grimaced. "Worse. I told him his Ancient Greek was flawless."
Methos burst out laughing. "It's not funny!" Daniel insisted. "And you
could have warned me before I made an ass of myself!"

"What, and give you preferential treatment?" O'Neill murmured as he
joined the group and overheard the last comment.

The young archaeologist's eyes widened eagerly. "Pushups?"

"Over two hundred," O'Neill confirmed.

"Thanks, Jack. I feel better now."

Carter tried not to smile as Methos frowned. "You guys are no fun
anymore," he grumbled, coming to attention with the rest of the troops
as the general entered.

There was a pause as Hammond came to the podium and O'Neill quickly
introduced him to the assemblage. With a few formal words the general
thanked everyone for coming then began to reel off the standard VIP
tour speech.

"Now, ladies and gentlemen," he suddenly broke off from the
accustomed formula. "I realize that I'm about to ask a great deal of
you. And I would like to offer you my trust by revealing our little
secret. In order to do that I need for you trust me -- by laying aside
your weapons for the time being."

There was a small stir among the participants and for a moment it
looked like Ptahsennes and Robert de Valicourt were going to lead most
of the group in revolt and walk out the door. 

"If I might have your attention for a moment," Hammond said with
quiet authority. "First, I would like to point out that the only
mortals on this base who know your secret are standing in this room --
unarmed.  Second, as with all military bases the only folks carrying
weapons here are authorized personnel guarding secure locations. And
lastly, this is holy ground. I for one would not like to stand before
my Maker on the day I am judged and try to explain how I butchered
unarmed civilians on land consecrated to His Glory."

There was a small titter of laughter at this last and MacLeod rose
silently to remove his still sheathed katana.

"Pretty lady," O'Neill nodded appreciatively as he opened a small
weapons locker and stood back while the Highlander placed his sword.

MacLeod grinned and went back to stand beside Dawson. Then one by one
the other Immortals got up until only Alexander and Amanda remained.
The first hadn't carried a weapon since he'd set foot on the base and
the second... Well, if she was armed O'Neill was going to start
instituting strip searches.

"Now, if you'll please follow me," General Hammond began, leading the
way to the elevator which took them down to the main guard station
where they were processed through security. They were quiet for much
of this, the occasional whispered conversation taking place as most of
those who had never seen the inside of a high tech, high security
installation avidly took in the details of the operation. Most
especially Amanda, Methos noted.

"Stop that," he murmured into the tiny shell of her ear as he slid
into the elevator behind her.

"Stop what?"

"Planning," he told her.

"I'm not planning," she muttered. "I'm... I'm taking a professional
interest."

Methos chuckled low in his throat. "Trust me, little girl, there are
only two things of any real value in this place. The first is so big
you'd need a crane to lift it. The second..." Methos thought about the
larval Goa'uld Teal'c carried. The thing that kept him healthy and
alive as long as it remained inside him. "The second would be worth
your life if you tried to remove it."

She stared at him for a long moment as the elevator made it's way
down. "I'll remember that."

"You do."

The elevator finally came to a halt and they disembarked, waiting as
the other half of their group was escorted down. Finally, they all
trooped off in the direction of the Stargate, General Hammond
launching into his 'discovered in 1928' speech which was quickly
followed by the tried and true show and tell method of letting his
visitors see the gate in action.

"But this is wondrous," Gina whispered as those who hadn't seen it
already stared in awe. "A gateway to other planets? Perhaps one day we
will answer the question of whether or not we are truly alone in the
universe."

"Actually," O'Neill said uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck.
"We got that one on the first try. Meet Teal'c," he waved the Jaffa
over. "So Teal'c, tell us where you're from and what you do for a
living."

The big man looked over the Immortals assembled in the gate room. "I
was born on Chulak, a world many light years from this place. For many
years I served as the First Prime of Apophis, a false god who enslaved
my people and those of many other worlds. Now, here on the world of
the Tau'ri, I fight against the tyranny of the System Lords."

"That'd be the aliens?" Alexander asked from where he stood not far
from MacLeod.

"Excuse me," the Highlander interrupted, "but do I know you?"

Alexander shook his head. "Don't think so, but then I'm told I have
one of those faces. Al Philipson," he nodded then winked at Joe whose
mouth suddenly dropped. "Now, if you don't mind, I'd really like an
answer to my question."

"Yeah," O'Neill nodded. "That'd be the bad guys."

The small group seemed to waver between disbelief and dismay.

"They call themselves Goa'uld," General Hammond explained as he held
their attention. "A race of sentient parasitical beings who exist by
taking humans as hosts. Ten thousand years ago they came to this world
and made it their home. They enslaved mortal man sending thousands as
slaves through the Stargate to serve their needs in a variety of ways.
Eventually, the people of this world rebelled and they were forced to
flee. Now they control most of the galaxy, taking who they want and
what they will with virtually no one to stand against them."

"You said 'mortal man'," Robert commented. "Not," he looked at the
others, "us?"

"Captain Pierson," Hammond nodded.

"We're immune," Methos told them. "They can't harm us at all. But,"
he added. "That doesn't mean we're safe. For a long time this world
has been like a bad taste in their mouths. One they were willing to
try and forget because there is nothing here they cannot find
elsewhere. Unfortunately, human curiosity being what it is," he smiled
ruefully, "has caused them to take notice again. Which makes us a
thorn in their side. And I'm afraid," he looked to Alexander, "that
they no longer wish to conquer this world. They simply want it gone."

"Good god!" Robert breathed, holding Gina close.

"They're coming?" Amanda asked, looking nervously at the gate. "When?"

"To tell the truth," O'Neill responded. "They've been and gone. But,"
he added. "They'll be back. You can count on it."

"They will not rest," Teal'c interjected, "until they find the means
to destroy this world and end any chance for freedom humans may have."

"And Immortals?" Ramirez asked gravely. "What would happen to us
should they succeed?"

"It would be unpleasant at best," Teal'c acknowledged. "At worst,
they would find the means to annihilate you as a threat to their
power. For while they may claim to be gods, you possess that which in
the eyes of the people would make you truly gods."

"They aren't immortal," Alexander stated, nodding slowly in
understanding.

"As if," Jack snorted. "Of course they do have these sarcophagus
things they use to keep their hosts young and healthy. With them they
can live in the same host for... Well, forever. Without 'em," he
shrugged. "They've got some healing abilities but they can be killed.
Believe me, I've snuffed enough of them to know."

"But if you can kill them," Ptahsennes spoke up. "Why have you come
to us?"

"Because something has them scared," Joe murmured and the others
silently nodded.

"It's true," Hammond agreed. "Recent events have proven to us that
the benefits of having more than just one Immortal in our midst would
be to our advantage. To all our advantage. What we'd like to do is
assemble a strike force. A small, tightly knit unit of men and women
who could be called upon only in the most dire of circumstances.
That's why youíre here."

"It's never been done," Alexander murmured, openly shocked, but like
the others clearly intrigued.

"Yes, it has," MacLeod responded, staring at Methos who refused to
acknowledge his glance. "But this time it'll be different."

Ramirez smiled broadly. "Indeed."


Chapter 8

"Look, Joe!" Amanda crowed as she waved the little card in her hand.
"An honest to god legit ID -- and I didn't even have to pay for it!"

"Ain't it amazin'," Dawson grinned at her delight, watching as the
other Immortals lined up to receive their documents. Signed up, sworn
in and with papers to prove it. And to an Immortal they stood gazing
at the proof of their identities, never to have to worry -- at least
in this lifetime -- about their legal status. "Kinda nice, huh, Mac?"

The Highlander nodded, caressing his new passport. "Yeah," he said
softly. "It's been a long time since I didn't have to pay under the
table to be considered a person."

"Why'd they do it?" Amanda asked quietly. "I mean, I'm not
complaining, but..."

"Wouldn't do to have your operatives stopped at customs, now would
it?" Robert grinned as he came over.

"That and the fact that you're now legally bound to them," Dawson
supplied and the others stared in astonishment. "What?" he chuckled.
"You thought this was a free ride? You talk now and it's treason."

"Whatever the cost," Gina said as she joined them, "it's worth it.
You remember the old days, Duncan. Everywhere we were stopped and
asked for our papers. And everything had to be in order or face
arrest."

"And a man's life is in his name," Robert held up the thick envelope
that contained his documents. "What are we without the ability to
prove who we are?"

"These days? Nobody," MacLeod agreed. 

Nearby, the older Immortals were vastly amused by the younger ones.
Oh, certainly it was convenient to have these new papers, but the need
to prove one's lineage or attachment to a piece of land had long since
been burned out of them by time and circumstance. Still, it was good
to be 'real' if only in the eyes of the law.

This bit of necessary business done they were given their uniforms,
allowed to change then brought to the conference room to await orders.
A few minutes after their arrival the sound of warning klaxons
filtered into the room and they crowded around the window overlooking
the gate. They watched, still awestruck by the sight of the huge
maelstrom of light which exploded outward only to come to rest in the
center of the ring looking for all intents and purposes like an
innocuous pool of rippling water.

 "Adam doesn't look too happy," Joe murmured to MacLeod a little
while later after the members of SG-1 and General Hammond had arrived
to talk to the two men who had come through the gate.

MacLeod hummed a brief agreement. "The older guy," he explained
quietly. "That's Jacob Carter. Used to be General Carter before he
blended with a symbiote named Selmak. The other guy," he shook his
head. "I've never seen. But from the way he's dressed I'd say he was
one of the Tok'ra."

"The good aliens," Joe nodded, still inwardly amazed by the whole
concept which had been outlined to them by Daniel Jackson.

"Pretty good," MacLeod sighed. "Adam's got issues with them. For some
reason they seem to think he's the best thing since sliced bread."

"You're kidding?"

MacLeod grinned. "Ask him sometime. Cussing in Chinese can get pretty
vivid."

Down below, Jacob and the other man turned their gazes toward the
conference room window. A few minutes later they were climbing the
stairs and all eyes turned to the door.

"Incredible," Jacob absently murmured as he stepped inside and got
his first good look at the group.

"My apologies for keeping you waiting," General Hammond said as he
entered. "As you can see we have some guests who've come a long way to
meet you."

"You have told them of us?" Ptahsennes' voice was edging into anger.

"No," Jacob interjected. "The Tok'ra have always known about the
existence of Immortals, we just never expected to find any."

"And you are?" a soft voice from the back of the room inquired. The
Immortals parted to allow the smaller man to been seen.

"I'm Jacob Carter. My symbiote's name is Selmak. And y-- Holy
Hannah!" Jacob's eyes went wide as he got his first really clear look
at the Immortal. "You're... You really are him, aren't you?!"

"Jacob!" Methos hissed.

"No," Alexander held up a hand. "Enough is enough, Adam. I have to
work with these people and you can't build a relationship of teamwork
and trust based on a lie. At some point I have to have faith that my
head will be worth more to them on my shoulders than as a trophy on
someone's wall." The eyes of everyone were on him now and he shrugged.
"As some of you may have guessed," he nodded to Joe. "My real name is
Alexander. And I wasn't that great. I just did a lot of interesting
stuff."

The silence was deafening until the man who'd come through the
Stargate with Jacob interrupted.

"And I am Martouf," he said, a little taken aback when the others
looked at him as if he'd desecrated a shrine. "Is this not the proper
time for introductions?"

Methos laughed and every eye turned to him instead. "It's the perfect
time," he grinned. "Especially after that noticeably pregnant pause.
Not to worry, Martouf," he added at the man's confusion. "They're just
a little surprised. Alex has a bit of a reputation here on Earth and
they didn't know he was alive."

"But you did," Joe said with a hint of annoyance and Methos merely
shrugged.

"I know a lot of things you don't, but that's not what's important.
What's important is that the knowledge of his existence never goes any
further than us. You all know," Methos stared hard at the others,
"just how Alex would be hunted."

"They'd go through hundreds just to get to the one," MacLeod nodded.

"Exactly. And no record of who he was must ever be made," he added
pointedly.

Dawson snorted in disdain, nodding slowly. "You culled his chronicle,
didn't you? That's why there are no pictures or drawings."

Methos didn't bother to deny it. "He doesn't deserve that. No one
does," he stated simply. "Now, do I have your cooperation?" The others
nodded. "Good. Joseph?"

"Yeah, yeah," Dawson agreed. "I'll keep my mouth shut."

"Thank you."

Jack suddenly interrupted, an acidic grin marking his features. "If
the Immortal Appreciation Society is done with its meeting, maybe we
could get back to business?"

"Thank you, Colonel. I can take it from here," General Hammond said
calmly. "The Tok'ra have expressed some interest in your training," he
explained. "They would like to help, though I personally can't see how
the presence of one man could possibly be of any real assistance to
you. Be that as it may, Martouf has asked permission to join you in
the hope that it will promote greater understanding and cooperation
between the two groups."

There were no objections and Hammond went on. "Now that's settled."
He took a deep breath. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you will kindly
follow SG-1 to the gate room they will take you to your next
destination."

"We're going someplace else?" Amanda looked startled. "Dressed like
this?"

Methos and MacLeod snickered as Joe merely shook his head and O'Neill
stepped forward pacing slowly around Amanda. He came to a stop in
front of her. "You look fabulous -- Airman. Now, GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR!"

Instead of jumping to attention Amanda merely looked bored. "I've
been executed by scarier men than you, Colonel. But," she sighed. "If
you insist."

Half the Immortals in the room winced, while the other half tried not
to look. 

O'Neill stared at her thoughtfully. "Do you like goats, Amanda?"

She gazed at the colonel as if he'd lost his mind. "Goats? No. Why?"

"Good!" he smiled cheerfully. "Because for the next two weeks you're
going to be on Goat Guard."

"Goat Guard?! As in...guarding a bunch of goats? Whatever for?"

"Because I said so," O'Neill responded quietly.

Before Amanda could protest MacLeod grabbed her arm and dragged her
out the door as the others quickly followed.

"Uh, Jack," Daniel said quietly as he came up beside him. "There
aren't any goats on P3W184."

"That's okay. I'll requisition some."


Part Two
Chapter 9

It was cold and raining. Miserable weather for training. Perfect
weather for it too, O'Neill thought as he strolled to the little
canteen everyone had taken to calling Joe's. It was definitely not
regulation for a training camp, but when your youngest recruit was
over four hundred years old and had served in nearly every major
conflict during those last four centuries sometimes you had to be
flexible.

He passed the little corral where the goats were kept, returning
Amanda's salute without smiling. Of all the Immortals she was perhaps
the most intractable. Independent, narcissistic, and devious. He
wondered vaguely why she and Methos weren't married.

"Morning, Colonel," Joe called out as he entered. The place was empty
and O'Neill pulled off his rain poncho, carefully hanging it on a peg
near the door.

"Same to you, Sergeant," he grinned as he went to fetch himself a cup
of coffee. "Lovely weather we're having."

Dawson chuckled. "Somehow I thought being on another planet would be
different."

O'Neill took a seat at the same table where Joe was reading the day's
paper. One of the small luxuries the SGC provided the half dozen
training camps scattered throughout the area. 

"You'd think," he agreed, sipping his coffee. "Most of  'em are dirt
balls. Too hot, too cold, too many snakeheads popping in from time to
time."

"Yeah," Joe sighed. "I guess it was too much to hope that things
would be different out here," he nodded toward the universe in
general. "Nice, friendly folks -- maybe a little different in looks
than us, but hell, willing to be sociable."

"They're out here," O'Neill admitted. "Lot's of 'em, too. But they
have their own problems and their own agendas. If life's taught me
anything," he added with a hint of bitterness. "It's that you can't
count on the kindness of strangers."

Joe nodded sadly. "So," he asked, changing the subject. "What's on
the menu for today?"

O'Neill grinned. "Marching. Lots and lots of marching. And then out
to the firing range."

"They're gonna love you."

O'Neill shrugged. "To be honest, I'm really surprised at how little
most of them know about modern weapons technology. I thought... I
thought Pierson was pretty typical, but I guess I was wrong."

Joe had to smile. "Methos is about the most atypical Immortal there
is. Usually Immortals find a niche and just stick with it. Methos... I
suppose he doesn't like to limit himself. And he's lived long enough
to figure out that it's dangerous to be predictable."

O'Neill simply nodded. "Actually," he began. "I've been meaning to
ask you something." Dawson raised an eyebrow, sipped his coffee and
waited. "You ever hear of an Immortal named Ku'ahktar?"

Joe nearly choked on the hot liquid, hurriedly setting down the cup
before he spilled it. "How the hell--?" And then it dawned on him. The
only place O'Neill was likely hear that name was from an Immortal. A
really, really old Immortal. "Yeah," he muttered. "I've heard of him.
Every Watcher has. He's part of the training manual, listed under
worst of the worst. Even dead he's a prime example of just how bad an
Immortal can become. And," he added with a sigh. "One theory has it
that he invented the Game. Out of boredom."

"Boredom," O'Neill repeated and Dawson nodded.

"We don't have anything on him earlier than 1800 BC, but he was old
even then. Maybe by several thousand years according to one chronicle.
He was a warlord who liked to hunt the most vicious animals he could
track."

"And he liked to train Immortals to hunt them later," O'Neill prompted.

Joe sighed and nodded. "Yup, that's about the size of it. By all
accounts his training methods were pretty brutal. Death by whipping,
boiling, crushing for making even the smallest mistake. One chronicle
claims he even walled an Immortal into a cesspit for ten years because
the Immortal dropped his sword during training."

"I take it sanity wasn't high on his list of desirable qualities."

"Doesn't seem that way," Dawson agreed. "And he didn't have much use
for mortals either. They were just so much cannon fodder for his
trainees."

O'Neill nodded. "So any Immortal coming out of his training program
was likely to be psychotic no matter how sane they were going in."

"Probably."

They were quiet for a long time as they each contemplated one
particular Immortal and what they knew of him until O'Neill rose to
leave.

"So, uh, Adam coming back anytime soon?" Joe asked casually.

O'Neill shook his head. "He and Daniel are working on a backlog of
translations. And there's not much either of them needs to be here
for. In fact, in a couple of days I'm going to be pulling out."

"You think Bear can handle 'em?"

O'Neill smiled grimly. "I think Drill Sergeant Bear can handle just
about anything."

***

"AND WHAT ASS BACKWARD SHIT HEAP DID YOU CRAWL OUT OF THIS MORNING?!"

MacLeod winced inwardly as Bear focused his ire on Gina. Like the
rest of them she was aching and exhausted, looking the worse for wear
in a uniform none of them seemed to be able to get clean. On the other
hand, the man in charge of their training looked fresh as a daisy even
dripping with rain and muddy. Still, like the rest of the Immortals,
MacLeod respected the sergeant, who pushed them harder than any mortal
ever would have knowing their lack of limitations. Needless to say,
Alexander practically doted on the man.

The dressing down went on as each Immortal and finally Martouf,
though he was technically just an observer, were the recipients of a
few choice words and some not so choice comments. It was to be
expected of course, and they all understood the purpose of it. Having
been raised in strict if not down right brutally disciplined
households -- and equally harsh societies -- they each came to this
with the knowledge that they were in fact being treated quite
humanely. Pushups as opposed to lashes. Goat guard instead of time in
the stocks. Infractions once punishable by violence and degradation as
a matter of course were now corrected through repetitively annoying
jobs like cleaning the latrine or doing KP -- and no one escaped any
of those particularly onerous chores. The process was designed to
break them down and build them up into a team through shared hardship
and camaraderie. Except, MacLeod thought worriedly, it wasn't really
working.

"Look at yourself, Darieux !" Sergeant Bear shouted. "Two weeks and
you still can't even dress yourself properly. DON'T YOU WANT TO BE THE
BEST?!"

"Now that you mention it," Amanda growled back. "No!"

Beside MacLeod Robert snorted and Bear whipped around to face him.

"You think this is funny, de Valicourt?"

"No, Drill Sergeant!"

"Well, I do!" Bear yelled. "I think it's fucking hysterical! You got
a problem with that?!"

"No, Drill Sergeant!"

"I think she's a laugh a minute!" he shouted getting into the man's
face. "I think she's so goddamned funny you could take lessons in
funny from her! In fact, you can find out just how funny she is while
you're both cleaning out the latrine!"

"Yes, Drill Sergeant!"

"Anybody else got a pithy comment to make?" The Drill Sergeant stood
back, frowning in disgust while looking them over. "You are the
sorriest bunch of recruits I've ever seen!" he repeated for what must
have been the hundredth time since they'd arrived. "Someone ought to
take your heads just to save the world from your ineptitude! But for
some reason the Air Force wants you! And whether you like it or not
you are going to be THE BEST! You are going to be PERFECT! You are
going to be SOLDIERS! Do I make myself clear?!"

"Yes, Drill Sergeant!" they shouted in unison.

"I can't hear you!"

"YES, DRILL SERGEANT!"

"Now MOVE OUT!"

They turned as one and started marching, Sergeant Bear setting the
pace with a frighteningly warped cadence that began, "OAK! Lahoma!
Where the heads go rollin' down the plains..."

Halfway down the line MacLeod grimaced. It was going to be another
long hard day in the field and he didn't know whether he ought to
thank Hammond for finding Bear, or curse the day the mortal was born.
Still, whatever happened, he hoped the sergeant succeeded. Because as
things stood now the only mission they'd likely ever be going on would
be extended leave.


Chapter 10

The immediate sensation of an Immortal in the vicinity startled
Methos from his late night reverie. Putting aside his journal he
reached for his sword and moved with alacrity to take a position where
he wouldn't easily be seen. With nearly every Immortal he called
friend a quarter of a billion light years away this midnight caller to
his home in Colorado Springs wasn't likely to be someone with which he
wanted to party.

The door bell rang and he frowned in puzzlement. "Captain Pierson?!"
a man's voice called out to him. "It's Drill Sergeant Bear. Colonel
O'Neill sent word I'd be coming."

An Immortal Drill Sergeant? he thought, grinning widely. Wherever had
they found him?

Not yet comfortable putting aside his weapon in the presence of a
strange Immortal, Methos held it with the blade resting against his
shoulder as he went to answer the door. He unlocked it and stepped
back as it swung open, his body tensed defensively.

"Evening, sir," the man nodded, ignoring the blade as he stepped
inside. "Thank you for seeing me on such short notice."

"You're welcome," Methos responded, mildly amused at the fearlessness
of his guest. Most Immortals would have gone through the "we have no
quarrel," song and dance before getting anywhere near him. Either Bear
was absolutely certain he wouldn't swing or he really didn't care.

"May I offer you a drink, Sergeant?"

Methos sheathed his blade and padded into the living room as Bear
followed.

"No thank you, sir. I have to get back fairly quickly."

"Of course," Methos murmured taking a seat as his guest found a place
on the sofa. "What can I do for you, Bear?"

"I need some information. Information I've been led to believe you
might be able to share with me."

"And that would be?"

"You've known most of the men and women I'm training for quite some
time, is that correct?"

"At one time or another, yes," Methos agreed cautiously.

"I'm guessing that makes you pretty old."

Methos shrugged. "I've been around a while," he answered
noncommittally.

Bear nodded as if confirming something he'd already suspected.
"Personally, Captain, I don't care how old you are. The Game doesn't
interest me in the least. What does interest me is making a real team
out of my trainees."

"How can I help?" Methos asked curiously.

"I'm not sure if you can," Bear admitted. "But it's been implied that
you might know something about a similar situation. Or at least the
idea of making a team out of a group of strong willed, independent and
idiosyncratic Immortals."

Methos shook his head and rose to get a drink. "Trust me, Bear, you
don't want to go there."

"I need to go there, Pierson," he insisted. "It's been over three
weeks. They should be gelling by now. Focused on achieving a unified
goal. But they're not. They do the drill. They work together when
needed. But there's no emotion in it. No bonding. No sense of...of..."

"Brotherhood?" Methos asked over his shoulder as he hurriedly
swallowed a shot, pouring himself another just as quickly.

"Exactly," the Drill Sergeant nodded. "No sense of camaraderie at
all. It's as if they were still acquaintances forced by circumstances
to work together. "

"We're Immortals," Methos reminded him returning to his seat. "We
don't get too close, remember? Not when we spend our recreational
hours training to kill each other."

"But you somehow managed to do it," Bear stated with absolute
certainty and Methos wondered to whom he'd been talking and just what
he really knew. "How?"

Methos took a deep breath and finished his drink. "You have to get
them past the Game," he said quietly. "When who wins and who loses
becomes irrelevant they'll begin to see each other as something less
than possible opponents."

"Is that how you did it? Convinced your...team that the Game was
irrelevant?"

Methos chuckled with bitter amusement. "No," he shook his head. "We
swore a blood oath to never raise a blade against each other. That for
one to kill the other meant whoever was left would take them down. No
challenge, no quarter. Just death."

Bear nodded slowly. "You took the Game out of the equation by making
the consequences disagreeable."

"You could say that," Methos smiled wryly.

"So what was the goal? I mean," he added at Methos' questioning
glance. "What was the point of becoming a unit, and what was the
unit's ultimate objective?"

"You want to know why we became allies?" Methos asked incredulously.

"It might help," Bear explained. "A direction to point them in maybe."

"I don't think so," Methos smirked. "You want to create a sane, well
balanced team of equals. I don't think the power and freedom to
pillage and plunder without having to watch your back would
be...palatable to your trainees."

The sergeant simply stared at Methos no doubt reassessing whatever
earlier assumptions he'd made. And Methos stared back, almost daring
the man to question him further.

"You knew Silas," Bear said quietly and Methos nearly leapt from his
seat.

"How do you know that name?!" he demanded angrily. 

Bear didn't even blink. "Met him during the Second World War. He
liked killing Nazis and we liked him."

"And he obviously liked to brag," Methos murmured sadly, leaning back
without relaxing.

"I always thought he was a little crazy," Bear admitted. "Methos. The
Four Horsemen," he shrugged. "Myths and legends. I thought it was all
nonsense."

Methos neither confirmed nor denied it. "If you want them to bond,"
he stated tersely as he stood and moved toward the door. "Give them an
enemy they can sink their teeth into."

"And the Game?" he was asked as the sergeant followed.

"Talk to MacLeod and Ramirez. They know the truth."

"Which is?"

"It's a lie. All of it. There's no Prize and no point to any of it."

For the first time Drill Sergeant Bear actually smiled. "That's good
to know."

Methos nodded. If MacLeod and Ramirez could convince them that the
Game wasn't part of the equation Bear might get them to let down their
collective guard and let each other in. At least it would be a start,
he thought, surprised as the man held out a hand and thanked him for
his assistance.

Wordlessly, Methos accepted the friendly gesture for what it was
worth then shut his door with a sigh. It wouldn't be enough, he knew.
The Game, the Goa'uld. The first would ease the way, but the second...
The second was an abstract and negligible, especially when they felt
no personal fear from the creatures. What they needed was something
closer to home. Something more immediate. Something on which they
could focus all their attention.

With a quiet snarl Methos locked the door and went to pour himself
another drink. He knew what he had to do and the thought infuriated
him. He hadn't wanted a damn strike force of Immortals in the first
place but, he admitted slamming back his drink as he flung himself
into a chair, they were necessary. At least in the short term. Damn
them all for putting him in this position!

With a sigh of disgust Methos rubbed the bridge of his nose. He
needed to talk to Jack, he realized. Needed to outline his own plans
for the strike force. But Jack was off world and Hammond... Well,
protocol said he was supposed to talk to O'Neill first and O'Neill
would then talk to the general, but in order to talk to Jack he would
have to talk to Hammond and get permission to go through the gate.
Which of course meant explaining what they needed to discuss outside
of protocol in the first place.

Methos laughed softly and shook his head. Protocol. The bane of his
current existence and the answer to his prayers.

"Oh, this is going to be fun," he murmured with a wry grimace. He
rose and stretched, putting his glass in the sink as he passed the
kitchen on his way to bed. Tomorrow, he thought. I'll worry about it
tomorrow. After all, the darkest plans were always best laid out in
the bright light of day.

***

"You want to what?!" O'Neill asked looking thoroughly stunned.

Methos sighed. He hadn't even needed to bother Hammond this morning
about sending for O'Neill. He'd found the colonel ready and waiting
for him in his office when he'd reported for work at the SGC.

"Look, it's not that difficult a concept to grasp," Methos explained.
"I'm an officer. Recruits despise officers. Why? Because it's our job
to be annoying."

"I know that," O'Neill responded as if speaking to a child. "What I
don't get is why you want to be the one being despised. That's not
like you, Pierson."

"Because it won't work any other way," Methos frowned slumping back
in his chair. "Honestly, Jack.  Every last one of them has dealt with
the military in some form or another over the last three thousand
years. And every last one of them knows that officers are supposed to
ride new recruits. It keeps them on their toes, teaches them to be
prepared for anything at any hour. But they're already prepared.
They're Immortal. They have to be. But what they aren't prepared for
is me."

"You?"

"Yes, me," Methos reiterated. "They all have mixed feelings about me.
Even Alex to some degree. They know how annoying I can be and most of
them find it amusing. But only because they are capable of giving as
good as they get or walking away. And right now, they can't do that.
They're a captive audience."

"But why does it have to be you? I can send half a dozen junior
officers through to do the same thing."

"Sure you could," Methos agreed. "But they won't get results and I
will." O'Neill shook his head and Methos doggedly went on. "You aren't
looking at it from their perspective, Jack. Mortals ordering them
about are something they're used to even in civilian life. But another
Immortal -- especially me..." he shrugged. "That goes against the
grain. Look, Sergeant Bear could order MacLeod to clean the latrine
and he'd do it without so much as a murmur of complaint. Can you
imagine him taking that same order from me?"

O'Neill grinned at the thought. "I never looked at it that way. God,
it'd make him crazy."

"It will make them all crazy," Methos answered grinning back.
"Imagine Robert's face when I order him to sew all the buttons back on
his jacket because just one is loose. Or Ramirez when I send him back
to run the confidence course for absolutely no reason. And Amanda
doing countless pushups because she can't be bothered to memorize the
regs."

O'Neill nodded slowly, finally raising one hand in benediction. "It
is a good plan, my minion. Your request is granted. Go forth and be
irritating."

Methos smiled and inclined his head. "About the other thing?" he
asked as he stood to leave.

O'Neill rubbed his neck. "It's a good idea, but I need to run it by
Hammond first. See what he thinks."

"I know, but I do think it's necessary. We hit them from all sides
and don't let them stop to think. Getting Sergeant Bear was a
brilliant idea. He's damn good from what I've seen. But if what Teal'c
says is true... "

"Yeah, I know. I promise, I'll see what I can do, Pierson."

And that was all he could ask for, Methos thought, steeling himself
for the inevitable as he headed for his quarters to retrieve his gear.
It wouldn't be easy and he doubted he'd have a friend left among them
by the time he was finished. But as he'd told O'Neill, it had to be
done. He only wished he wasn't the one having to do it.


Chapter 11

"You have a smudge on your boot," Methos stated softly as he stepped
close to Ptahsennes. The old Egyptian's eyes held anger, but he
ignored it. Morning inspection was supposed to be a difficult time and
he meted out the punishments accordingly. "You will clean that boot
until it shines, Airman. And tonight, you can clean everyone's boots --
including mine."

"Sir, yes, sir!" Ptahsennes responded struggling to keep the ire from
his words. That would cost him more lost sleep and he knew it.

Methos went down the line nit picking everyone. Martouf's bed had one
tiny fold out of place which meant he'd be remaking it along with
every bed in the barracks -- even the extra ones. A bird had taken a
dump on the window sill outside Robert's bunk so this morning they all
had to scrub their sills again and police the area before they were
allowed to eat. Ramirez' collar was slightly dirty so he'd be cleaning
-- and ironing -- every uniform in here. And so it went until nearly
every man in the barracks seemed to be quietly seething. His job done,
Methos turned to look down his nose at them.

"You are a disgrace!" he hissed, putting a healthy amount of venom in
his voice. "Drill Sergeant," he nodded politely, turning on his heel
as he strolled back outside.

Alone on the stairs Methos slowly let out a breath. Behind him, he
could hear Sergeant Bear shouting out more orders. With a sigh he
relaxed his shoulders and moved on. He hadn't realized just how
difficult this would be. But at least they were no longer laughing at
him. He'd expected that of course. After all, he was their friend, why
should they take him seriously? "Yeah, right," had been MacLeod's
response when, good to his word, he'd ordered the Highlander to clean
out the latrine. Two days in the field with half rations, no tents,
and no rain gear courtesy of Sergeant Bear had finally convinced them
to pay attention -- and they still hadn't earned back the privilege of
going to the canteen.

Methos rubbed his eyes, vainly trying to relieve the constant
headache he'd had since arriving. In the span of a single week he'd
managed to alienate almost every Immortal in the camp. Only Alexander
seemed to have figured out what he was doing, though it hadn't saved
him from a week of KP. Thankfully, the Macedonian had had a word with
Bear, who'd had a word with Methos to say that Alex promised not to
tell anybody. Not surprising really, given Alexander's personal
history. What did surprise Methos was how easily MacLeod had assumed
he took some delight in this. Of all the Immortals here he should have
"gotten it" sooner. Of course, Methos' irritating little punishment
duties were cutting into their normal sleep time, though technically
they were only entitled to four hours a day. That might have something
to do with it. Already exhausted by their regular training schedule
which went on regardless, they were now struggling with extreme
fatigue. A state which no doubt muddled their already debilitated
thinking.

All par for the course, Methos thought as he saluted Major Carter who
was just leaving the women's billet. She smiled at him, both dressed
in their Class A uniforms and looking as brightly polished as the
others looked drab and forlorn.

"That was truly inspired, Pierson," Samantha grinned as she joined
him on the way to breakfast.

"What was?"

"Making Darieux and de Valicourt do your laundry."

"They could have objected," he responded cautiously.

"They did," she laughed. "After they'd read the regs."

"Which I gave them," he smiled, finally relaxing.

"Which you gave them," she nodded approvingly. "While barring them
from reading anything else while they were doing their washing. That's
what makes it brilliant," she sighed. "They'd finished your stuff and
were starting on their own when they figured out it was an illegal
order and complained to me."

Methos had to laugh. "And what did you tell them?"

"That the purpose of having regulations is to be able to defend with
evidence against such orders. Or to know which orders are legitimate
and why they are given."

"I take it they were livid?" he casually asked, wondering if he had
any clothes left.

"Amanda was," Carter nodded. "But Gina got it. Didn't make her happy
but she understood the lesson. Oh, and you can stop worrying," she
added with a grin. "Your stuff is safe. I dropped it by your quarters
this morning."

"Thanks," he sighed. "Even with extra uniforms it's bad enough having
to put up with the snickers at the SGC every time I go through the
gate and run to the one hour cleaners."

She rolled her eyes. "God, that brings back memories. If I hadn't
grown up in a military household I'd have thought my officers had some
kind of magic formula to stay clean when I was in Basic. And thanks
for running my stuff in yesterday."

"Anytime. After you, Major," Methos said as they reached the mess
hall entrance and he held the door.

It was shortly after 0500 when they entered and sat down to
breakfast. By 0700 they were lingering over coffee as they waited for
Sergeant Bear and his disgruntled recruits to appear. At five past the
hour the team marched in to find the trays of sausage, eggs, bacon,
pancakes and other foodstuffs already gone back to the kitchen. There
were rolls and juice or coffee and tea, but nothing substantial, not
even a sweet pastry to be seen. Of course it was deliberate, forcing
them to miss breakfast -- again. But Sergeant Bear knew what he was
doing. Privation of the mind and body for mortals and Immortals alike
was the only way to clear the slate, so to speak. Level the ground in
order to build a new foundation of teamwork. And it seemed to be
working.

"Only five minutes late today," Carter nodded as Bear joined them.

"Yes, ma'am. They're pulling together more and with less grumbling.
They've got a long way to go, but it's a pleasure to see."

Methos nodded at that. "I hear you'll be getting some help later."

"Yes, sir," the sergeant said with relish. "And I'm looking forward
to meeting him. And thank you, Captain Pierson, for all your help. I
know what this means to you."

Samantha glanced down at her coffee and reports as Methos looked
uncomfortable. Not because of the man's gratitude, but by the
acknowledgement of what his actions had cost. He didn't have many
friends and no matter what happened, even if they came to understand
Methos' current behavior, he had irrevocably changed their perception
of who he was and what he was capable of doing to them.

"No problem," Methos forced a smile. "I'll see you both later," he
said, getting to his feet, feeling the anger at his back as he left
the mess hall.

"Hey, Adam!" Daniel called as Methos wandered toward his quarters to
change into more suitable clothing for the day ahead.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, surprised to see the
archaeologist.

"I came with Jack."

"They've arrived?" Jackson nodded. "So what are you doing here?"
Methos repeated as they started walking.

Daniel shrugged. "Hammond figured your one two punch was a really
good idea, so he decided to apply it to every aspect of their
training. I'm supposed to give them a solid grounding in the history
of the Goa'uld hierarchy and it's current alliances."

"Can't Teal'c do that?"

"He's going to be assisting in their weapons training."

"Ah," Methos nodded, pleased to hear it. He'd only run across a few
Jaffa in his time with SG-1 and he hadn't as yet met a Goa'uld, but
that according to O'Neill was only a matter of time. And it would be
good for all the Immortals to have as much experience in Goa'uld
tactics and training as possible since they were more than likely to
be the enemy they faced most frequently.

"So," Daniel asked a little too casually. "How goes the, uh... You
know, the..."

"Nit picking?" Methos smiled sardonically and Daniel nodded. "About
what I thought," he sighed. "They hate me, but that's to be expected.
Most of them thought of me as the laid back ambivalent scholarly type."

"Which you are," Daniel insisted.

"I suppose," Methos shrugged. "They've never seen me take charge of
anything really. Now they think the power's gone to my head and I've
become some sort of hide bound rule obsessed disciplinarian."

"But that was the plan."

"Yeah," Methos sighed. "That was the plan."

Daniel laid a hand on his arm squeezing gently. "They'll get over it
once they understand. I know they will."

"Maybe. In a few hundred years," Methos agreed.

Jackson nodded slowly. "Well look, if you need anything just ask. Sam
and I..." he trailed off leaving the words unspoken. "Just remember,
you're not alone in this. Okay?"

"Thanks," Methos smiled. "I can handle it. But," he added, cocking
his head as he looked the younger man over. "There is one thing you
can do for me."

"Name it."

Methos grinned widely, ushering him into the officers quarters. "It's
simple really. Trust me on this, Danny. It's right up your alley..."


Chapter 12

They were marched to the training grounds -- a leisurely ten minute
walk for Methos, Carter and Daniel -- an hour for the Immortals and
one very exhausted Tok'ra led by Drill Sergeant Bear via the scenic
route. Their first lesson for the day was in hand to hand combat.
Offensive combat against multiple opponents armed with superior
weapons. The kind of dirty tricks that most Immortals disdained to use
and which the military taught as a matter of routine. War was war,
after all, and nothing was beneath a soldier when the goal of any
mission was to remain alive in order to accomplish the task at hand.
As Sergeant Bear reiterated, it was not the duty of the soldier to die
for his country -- but to make the enemy die for theirs.

This particular exercise rankled MacLeod and Robert more than it did
the others as far as Methos could tell. The older Immortals might
understand honor, but they had not been raised to the "gentlemanly"
pursuit of war. As for the women, they'd learned long ago that playing
solely by the rules would get them killed and they took to the
training with far more enthusiasm than he'd originally hoped for.

For nearly an hour this went on as various groups engaged each other
until someone angrily called out from the edge of the field and strode
forward.

"No! No! No!" the stranger shouted. "You must do this." He knocked
MacLeod back a pace with his staff across the back of the Immortal's
knee. "Then strike just so. Here." Another thump to his ankle. "Then
here!" A last blow to the opposite hip and the Highlander fell,
completely unbalanced with the man's staff holding him in place
directly over his heart. "That is how it is done."

Methos tried to hide a smile at the Scot's sullen expression. But the
stranger was right. MacLeod had been fighting too cleanly and their
visitor had the better strategy with which to end the match quickly
and decisively.

"Thanks for the tip," the Highlander muttered rubbing his side as he
finally got to his feet.

"You are welcome," the old man nodded and stood back to survey the
gathered Immortals. "I am Bra'tac!" he told them as O'Neill and Teal'c
joined the group from their earlier vantage point. "For many years I
was First Prime of Apophis. I led his warriors in battle. I trained
their sons to be Jaffa. Now, I will instruct you." He waited as they
absorbed this, moving back and forth before the assemblage, giving
them an opportunity to observe his battle armor as well. A kind of
high tech chain mail coat with a solid metallic chest protector.

"I do this," he went on. "Because the wise General Hammond of Texas
has asked it of me. I have been told that you are among the best and
most able of the Tau'ri. Willing to fight the Goa'uld and spend your
lives for the sake of your people." Bra'tac nodded slowly. "This
pleases me. But first you must know the face of your enemy." With that
he reached into his clothes and removed the nearly mature Goa'uld he
carried within his belly.

Even Methos was appalled by the sight of the thing. Not the thin,
wriggling, immature snake-like creature Teal'c had once shown him, but
a black, evil looking serpent which twisted and twined about its
keeper's hand hissing venomously as Bra'tac strode along the line
letting each Immoral look into its eyes. The others held their places,
though even the knowledge that it could not harm them was not enough
to keep the fear from their eyes. This...thing... This parasite was
sentient and they all knew it.

"This is what calls itself a god," Bra'tac told them quietly as they
all stared in round eyed horror. "In a few years time the prim'ta you
see before you will be ready for implantation. It will seek out a
human for its host. Take that life and suppress it. Use that body to
commit acts of greed and atrocities without number. This is the enemy
you must know. The face you must see when you gaze upon its human
host. Feel no pity," he warned them all. "For they feel none for you
or for each other." There was silence and an almost imperceptible
release of tension as Bra'tac replaced the Goa'uld in its pouch. "Now,
come. Let us practice, that we may one day obliterate this evil."

"Whew! Nifty little pep talk," Methos breathed as O'Neill stepped
over while the others, shaken and uncomfortable, formed into pairs
under the direction of Bra'tac and Sergeant Bear. "He always that
intense?" Methos asked and Daniel nodded.

"He's been a slave to the Goa'uld for nearly a hundred and forty
years," the younger man responded. "I'd say he's pretty upset about
it."

"That'd screw my day," Jack interjected as he turned to Daniel.
"Don't you have a class to teach?"

"Not for another hou-- Oh, right," Jackson nodded, trying not to
glance at Methos. "I gotta go...uh...set up the tables. Read my notes.
Do stuff. Later, Adam."

Methos grinned as the younger man hurried off. "You need something,
Colonel?"

"Just wanted to tell you it's pay day."

Methos blinked and nodded. "Yes?"

"It's sort of customary. A half holiday for the troops. Just thought
I'd mention that."

"Right," he nodded, smiling a little. "They can have their canteen
privileges back too."

"Atta boy!" O'Neill grinned.

"After Daniel's class."

"You're in charge," Jack agreed.

"Yeah," Methos sighed, suddenly feeling again the weight of that
responsibility. "I'm in charge."

The colonel stared at him for a long moment then squinted off into
the distance. "I gotta go take care of some things, Pierson. Make the
rounds of all the other camps. You up for a couple of rounds at Joe's
later?"

"Sure," Methos nodded. "I'll see you there."

For the sake of the others Methos saluted his superior officer, who
returned the gesture with a knowing grin before taking off. Not that
they noticed, Methos thought wryly, so taken were the Immortals by
what Bra'tac was showing them. With a disgusted sigh he watched
MacLeod intently observing the old Jaffa Master demonstrate a basic
move that was part of Chel'no'reem. The martial side of the deep
meditation technique. And a move Methos had performed at least a dozen
times in the dojo under MacLeod's incurious gaze -- even before he'd
known the alien origins of his routine. But then when he did it the
Highlander no doubt thought it quaint and dated. Nothing to get worked
up over. Now it was a strange and fascinating thing because Bra'tac
was teaching it.

"Ah, hell," he muttered under his breath. "Kids."

He made his excuses to Carter and left. She could ride their asses
for a couple of hours while he did other things. Maybe warn Joe about
the coming invasion. Or just catch up on his reading. What did it
matter anyway? It wasn't like anyone really needed him for anything.

***

Music drifted from the doors and windows of the canteen and Methos
nodded to the Immortals casually sitting around the half dozen tables
scattered around the big room before striding confidently to the bar.

"Little shit," Robert muttered sotto voce to MacLeod. Beside him sat
his wife, looking very put out as she glared in Methos' direction.

"And I thought he was our friend," Gina complained. "Do you know what
he did? Has Robert told you?" MacLeod nodded, hoping to stem the tide
of her ire, but Gina seemed determined to vent. "He deliberately
followed us! Told us we were on report for...for... Fraternizing! And
then the bastard had the nerve to tell us it was our own fault we
couldn't have any fun. And why? Because we hadn't brought along enough
sexual partners for everybody!"

MacLeod snorted with laughter, unable to help himself even as Daniel
choked on his drink. "Well, he does have a point, Gina," the
Highlander finally sighed. "It's in the regs. If he let you two...you
know, he'd be guilty of gross negligence."

"Gross is right," Robert muttered.

"Now, that's unfair," MacLeod insisted, feeling a bit more rested and
therefore magnanimous. "He's only doing his job. And it's not like he
hasn't had to put up with all this either."

"He hasn't."

They turned to stare at Daniel, who held his breath as he waited for
the moment to play out.

"Well, not specifically this," MacLeod shrugged. "But I know Adam
went through Basic. He had that awful haircut last year."

Daniel shook his head, trying to look as innocent as he could. "Adam
lost his hair from a bout of radiation poisoning. He never went
through Basic. He got rank almost as soon as he joined up." There was
a deadly silence at the table. "And he isn't just following orders,"
Daniel doggedly went on. "He asked specifically for this assignment."

"Did he now?" MacLeod murmured softly, glowering toward the bar.

***

"I wouldn't leave here alone tonight, Adam."

Methos glanced up from his drink to look questioningly at Dawson
wiping down the bar. "How's that?"

"The natives don't look too happy," Joe sighed and shook his head.
"Man, you are playing one dangerous game."

Methos casually turned to face the room and caught Daniel's eye.
Jackson nodded slightly and Methos turned away with a small sigh. It
was done. A little sleep, a little R & R and he knew they'd start
thinking again. Find excuses for his behavior -- especially MacLeod.
And a week was not enough time to get them to really bond. First
chance they'd gotten they had separated into their established forms.
Ramirez and Ptahsennes. MacLeod and the de Valicourts. Though Amanda
and Martouf was a bit of a surprise. No doubt the little vixen was
trying to pry the secrets of the Tok'ra's nonexistent cache of jewels
from the young warrior. At another table, Bra'tac, Teal'c, Drill
Sergeant Bear and Alexander were animatedly discussing fighting styles.

"I should have known you'd figure it out," Methos smiled wryly.

"Yeah, well... I've been in," Dawson shrugged. "I know the whole
dynamic. And to be honest," he added. "I didn't think they'd ever make
it work. But you..." Joe shook his head and refilled Methos' glass.
"Took a lot of guts."

"And you didn't think me capable of it," Methos stated quietly.

Dawson grimaced. "Can you blame me? Self-sacrifice isn't one of your
more obvious traits." Methos didn't bother to respond. "Look, man,
just... Watch your back, okay?"

The moment passed as Dawson went to get another round of drinks for
Amanda, who stood well away from Methos at the other end of the bar.
He didn't even have the heart to call her on it. Technically, they
were required to be polite. To greet him civilly and speak to him
without rancor. It was the military way to have at least the illusion
of respect and cooperation. Maybe another time, he thought, having no
desire at the moment to force the issue.

A short time later Methos heard Sergeant Bear call the room to
attention as Colonel O'Neill made his entrance.

"Go back to what you were doing," Jack told everyone. "Just pretend
I'm not here."

Methos hid a smirk and turned back to his drink. By giving the lower
ranks the option of not noticing a superior officer, he'd neatly given
himself the option of ignoring them. He'd also, much to Methos'
surprise, publicly aligned himself with their hated tormentor by very
deliberately joining him at the bar.

"That might not have been so smart," Methos told him after Jack had
ordered a pitcher of draft, grabbed a couple of tall glasses, and led
Methos over to a table in the corner.

"I'm not here, remember? Besides, nobody's ever accused me of being
too bright."

"They should have," Methos grinned, relaxing back into his chair as a
little of the weight was lifted off his shoulders. "You've got more
going on upstairs than most. So, what was your doctoral thesis in?"

"Shh!" O'Neill hissed, looking nervously over his shoulder. "You'll
blow my cover!"

"Well?" 

The colonel maintained his stony silence. 

"And after I've told you all my deepest, darkest secrets," Methos
pouted.

O'Neill sighed disgustedly. "Philosophy, if you must know."

"Waste of time," Methos sniffed, being deliberately provocative.
"Even Socrates thought so. He just did it for the free meals and
parties he would never have gotten an invite to."

"Really?" Jack grinned, leaning back in his chair, looking
inordinately pleased with himself.

"Really," Methos nodded, letting the gentle, easy going nature of
their friendship soothe away the pain of the past several days.
"Anything to avoid going home to the wife and kiddies. Hoo! They had
some big blow outs, I tell you. 'Socrates, finish that statue! The
rent is due!' 'Phistia, bugger off! I'll hit up one of those rich kids
for the loot!' And then the crockery would start flying." Methos shook
his head sadly as Jack laughed. "I think he was happy when they
finally condemned him to death after being under house arrest with
that shrew."

Around the room a few heads were surreptitiously turning, perhaps
wondering what the normally taciturn colonel found so amusing. But the
two men never looked up -- deliberately ignoring the rest of the
room's inhabitants to concentrate on the simple pleasures of
companionable conversation.


Chapter 13

The days seemed to drag on interminably for Methos. O'Neill came by
regularly, though not often enough to make the others feel as if he
were double checking Methos' orders. They knew he filled out regular
reports, just as Major Carter and Sergeant Bear did, but they never
suspected they were being manipulated. And if they did... Well, Methos
soon found things to divert them. 

With a sigh Methos finished the last of his reports and saved it to
disk. In the morning it would be transmitted to the SGC with the rest
of the daily reports via the Stargate. He stretched in his chair then
slowly stood up, going to the door for a breath of fresh air. From the
vantage point of the officers' quarters he could see most of the camp
and he smiled a little wistfully as he watched Sergeant Bear, Bra'tac
and Teal'c leaving the canteen. He still went every night to spend a
little time with Joe, but he never stayed for long. It was painful
enough during the day to be the recipient of cool Immortal glares and
stilted politeness, it was even more depressing at night. 

He started to turn from the door, thinking of a shower before bed
when the sound of a jeep coming up the camp's only road caught his
attention. He glanced at his watch. This world had a twenty six hour
day and was about eight and half hours ahead of Colorado time which
would make it early afternoon there. Jack usually dropped by either
first thing in the morning his time or after work. Unscheduled late
night visits definitely meant something was up.

"Quite a set up you've got here," Jacob Carter said approvingly as he
climbed out of the jeep a few minutes later and looked around.

Methos nodded absently. He had mixed feelings about General Carter.
On the one hand, he admired the man's will to live. The choice to
blend with an alien parasite could not have been easy. Humans, even
Immortal ones, had a difficult time opening themselves to others,
especially when it endangered their unique individuality -- the very
thing that made them human. Just one of the reasons which made
enduring a Quickening so difficult. But to spend one's life, even an
extended, cancer-free existence sharing one's every thought with a
creature capable of suppressing that existence without warning and
taking over the host's body without hope of escape required a leap of
faith Methos couldn't even begin to imagine.

On the other hand, Jacob's objectives had become somewhat less than
"human" over time, at least according to O'Neill. He was as closed
mouthed and not the least bit forthcoming about the Tok'ra's plans and
goals as the rest of the blended ones. Which made him suspect. As far
as O'Neill was concerned Jacob had been compromised and he felt in no
way obligated to enlighten the other man about anything which did not
directly concern the Tok'ra, including Earth's long term goals and
objectives. Methos tended to agree.

Jack climbed out of the vehicle to stand beside Carter and quickly
ushered Methos back inside.

"What's up?" he asked as they went into his office and Jack took a
seat at the desk.

"Jacob?" O'Neill deferred.

The other man nodded, moving to sit in the only other chair as Methos
remained standing. "We have a little problem," Jacob admitted. "It
was...suggested that you might be able to help us out."

"Really?" Methos responded noncommittally. He certainly didn't care
to be viewed by anyone as the fount of all wisdom and knowledge, least
of all by the Tok'ra, who seemed to think he'd inherited his father's
heroic sense of duty.

"Actually," Jacob went on, unfazed by Methos' obvious ambivalence.
"The Council ordered a complete review of all the archives related to
the origins of the Tok'ra and any reference to Ancients and Immortals.
There isn't much, but there was something that we thought might help
in the current situation."

"And that would be?"

"An ability or talent similar to the Tok'ra's ability to project
thoughts telepathically."

Methos' eyes went wide. "And you think I might have this ability?"

"Well, it was worth a shot," Jacob shrugged.

"Sorry to disappoint you," Methos shook his head, crossing his arms
as he finally relaxed, leaning one hip against the door frame. "No
such talent here. But, just out of curiosity," he added. "What makes
you ask?"

Surprisingly, it was Jack who responded. "They caught a Goa'uld," he
said quietly.

Carter nodded. "Goes by the name Kabra'kan. Intelligence says he's
Lord Zipak'na's brother. The Goa'uld we think is responsible for
wiping out the SG teams assigned to recover those alien weapons your
people found. With so many of the Goa'uld alliances in disarray we
believe Zipak'na is holed up somewhere trying to figure out how to use
them. If he does, he'll have a major advantage in any upcoming
negotiations. We'd like to keep that from happening."

"I thought Zipak'na was dead. Didn't the report say he'd failed to
secure both Klorel and the Tollan home world for Heru-ur?" Methos
asked, referring to SG-1's first meeting with the Goa'uld. A time when
Skarra, Daniel's brother-in-law, had sued for release from the
parasite which held his body prisoner and Zipak'na's subsequent attack
on the peaceful world of Tollana.

"Lord Zipak'na was sentenced to death by Heru-ur," Jacob agreed. "But
on the way to his execution Kabra'kan intervened and they got away."

"That answers one question," Methos nodded slowly. "But I repeat,
what's the problem?"

"Zippy's little brother won't talk," O'Neill supplied. "And we need
that information."

"Normally," Jacob interjected. "We'd simply try to ferret out their
location from other sources and send in an operative, leaving us free
to extract the Goa'uld and save the host before executing the
symbiote. But Zipak'na's been off the radar for a while now which
leads us to believe he and Kabra'kan have been working alone. No one
seems to know where they are, or for that matter what size force
they're able to command."

"I see," Methos finally nodded in understanding. "And you think some
kind of Vulcan mind meld might do the trick."

"Like I said," Jacob sighed. "It was worth a shot. But if Immortals
aren't capable of it..."

"I never said that," Methos smiled tightly. "I only said I wasn't."

O'Neill's brows shot up. "Are you saying someone here can do that?"
he glanced nervously toward the window.

Methos hurriedly shook his head. "No. No one here can thought
project, at least not that I know of. It's a rare talent, even among
Immortals. But I do know of someone who can."

"What did I tell you?" O'Neill smiled widely. "Now this really
justifies hiring the elderly."

Methos gave him a thin smile. "I'm old, Jack, not decrepit. And," he
sighed tiredly. "It's not going to be as easy as all that. The only
Immortal I know of who has this ability would sooner take my head than
listen to me. At least that was the impression I got the last time we
met. I doubt she's changed much, though I have my hopes."

O'Neill frowned confusedly. "You wanna be a little less than cryptic
right now, Pierson."

Methos closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Cassandra and I go
back a ways and," he finally met Jack's eyes with a sad and serious
gaze. "Let's just say she has good reason to want me dead. You'll have
to send someone else to convince her."

O'Neill nodded slowly and Methos was glad when the colonel didn't
push him for details in front of Carter. "Okay," Jack agreed. "Who do
you suggest?"

Methos rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Well, she knows MacLeod, but
I'm not sure she'd be willing to talk to him either. He didn't exactly
take sides last time we were all together, but he did make it clear
that he considered me worthy enough to live."

"Worthy to live?!" Jacob sputtered obviously surprised by the
comment. "Who the hell does he think he is?"

Methos said nothing and Jack held his silence. The Tok'ra knew next
to nothing about him and he'd just as soon keep it that way -- as
would Jack apparently.

"It's a long story," Methos finally shrugged. "And," he added
spitefully. "None of your damn business. But getting back to the point
of this discussion... As I recall, Ramirez knows her. Or," he amended.
"Knew her fairly well at one time. Her chronicle says they crossed
paths in Scotland while he was searching for the elder MacLeod. Her
Watcher reported that they appeared to be rather friendly. Not
surprising given their ages."

"Exactly how old is she?" O'Neill asked curiously.

"Three thousand two hundred and forty-one," Methos responded without
thinking.

The colonel brows shot skyward and Methos winced inwardly. He had
supposed he and O'Neill would be talking later -- now he was sure of
it. Still, Jack didn't pursue the matter and for that Methos was
grateful.

"Okay, Pierson," he finally ordered. "Tell Bear to send Ramirez over
and we'll take it from there."

At that Methos nodded, not knowing whether he ought to be relieved to
have escaped a confrontation so easily or upset by what this might
mean for his future at the SGC. It was one thing for Jack and the
others to know about his past in general, quite another to come face
to face with one of his victims. He paused abruptly as he left his
quarters, squeezing his eyes shut and clenching his fists as a
desperate sense of loss suddenly assaulted him.

Oh god! Methos thought. He was going to lose them over this. O'Neill,
Carter, Teal'c, Daniel. All of them. He didn't think he could bear
that now after alienating almost everyone who'd ever cared about him.
Nevertheless, he had to go on. He might not have Tok'ra's strong sense
of duty, but he did have a selfish desire to live. And if they could
find those weapons... 

Who knew? He might leave the SGC a few friends short, but at least
he'd have a world of possibilities to which he could return. And
that's what he was in this for, right?

Taking a deep calming breath Methos opened his eyes and squared his
shoulders. Reflecting on the consequences was for those who had
choices -- which he didn't. He raised his chin and moved on. 

"Best just get this done," he muttered. He'd worry about the
friendless state of his existence at some future time.

***

Methos watched from the shadows as the jeep containing Ramirez, Major
Carter, and her father headed back toward the Stargate. If O'Neill had
been surprised by his recommending the Carters accompany the Egyptian
on his mission to recruit Cassandra he hadn't shown it. She might
listen to Ramirez, but that didn't mean she'd believe him. Major
Carter in the company of her father, a representative of the Tok'ra,
probably stood the greatest chance of convincing her.

He turned and headed down the path that led to the small chapel which
served the half dozen camps scattered throughout the area. The
chaplain, a pleasant fellow whom Methos had briefly met at the SGC,
was always there during the day, but at night made the rounds offering
soldiers an opportunity to speak with him during their time off. And
the chapel allowed him solitude when he couldn't sleep, or the safety
to meditate without the unconscious, lingering fear of being
challenged. Tonight it would likely serve a different purpose -- that
of confessional.

As usual the chapel was unlocked and dimly lit. With a quiet sigh
Methos slid into a pew, waiting for long minutes as he tried not to
think about how O'Neill might react. Normally, he found the atmosphere
soothing. Tonight it merely reminded him of another church and another
conversation where he'd been forced by circumstance to discuss the
very same subject. He could only hope Jack would be more accepting
than MacLeod had been.

"Sergeant Bear said I might find you here."

Methos inhaled deeply, sitting a little straighter as Jack stepped
inside, taking a seat in the pew behind him. 

There was a long pause as he waited and then, "Did you kill her?"

Methos smiled to himself, not looking back. That was Jack. Straight
and to the point. No messing about. He'd always liked that about the
man.

"No," Methos admitted, glad he didn't have to lie. "Kronos did. But I
helped to slaughter her village." He imagined Jack nodding slowly as
if confirming something. "But that's only part of why she hates me,"
he suddenly added.

"Only part?"

The tone was neutral, giving away nothing. Methos swallowed hard.
"Cassandra was..." He stopped, seeking better words, but found none.
"She wasn't the first Immortal woman I'd ever seen, Jack. But she was
close. And in those days they were rare. Very rare. They hardly ever
survived their first meeting with another Immortal. She didn't either,
but she did still have her head when she left us. I suppose that's
something."

There was a whisper of moving cloth as O'Neill shifted uncomfortably.
"I take it she was forcibly invited to join the party?"

"You make it sound like she was an unwilling guest." Methos shook his
head. "You're far too kind, O'Neill. I took her for my slave because I
had the power to do it," he whispered, staring blindly at his hands.
"And..." he sighed. "I used her when I wanted because I could."

The jury remained silent for a long time, until he finally heard Jack
clear his throat. "Yeah...well... I've seen that world and you weren't
the only one. Not by a long shot."

"True," Methos agreed, feeling hopeful. "And not the only Immortal
here whose ever owned a slave."

"Just the only one with a victim still alive."

He winced visibly. Straight and to the point his Jack.

"So how bad was it?"

The question startled Methos, though it shouldn't have. "You want
details?" he asked rather shocked, turning suddenly to face the other
man.

O'Neill grimaced. "Keep the X rated crap to yourself. I just need to
gauge damage control."

Methos flushed and leaned back in his seat again. "On a grand scale,
not that bad," he admitted, swallowing his unease. "I killed her
several times to keep her from running and to convince her that
obedience was better than pain. Her...training was brutal but
mercifully brief. Cassandra learned fast not to piss me off and even
faster how to please me. Which is where most of the problem comes
from, I think."

"Stockholm syndrome," Jack commented knowingly and this time Methos
wasn't surprised. The military trained their personnel not only to
recognize the symptoms in themselves should they be taken prisoner,
but in others. And O'Neill had his own personal experience to draw on.

"Classic case," Methos said shortly. "For both of us."

Behind him, O'Neill chuckled dryly. "Seems fair. She pleased you and
you felt obligated to please her. So what went wrong?"

You are far too clever, Methos thought wryly. "Well, as you've
guessed she quickly went from spoils of war to concubine. At least in
my mind. Kronos had other ideas. We--" Methos stopped abruptly, again
seeking the right words. With an angry shake of his head he went on.
"Off the battlefield Kronos never interfered with our lives. We were
free to marry, have friends, buy slaves, whatever. He would never have
questioned my loyalty or harmed her. But Cassandra was loot and we
shared everything we took in battle. I forgot that law. My mistake,
not hers. And he called me on it. Demanded his share when he finally
realized I'd gone over the top where she was concerned. Cassandra..."

"Hates you for not protecting her," O'Neill nodded and Methos grunted
in assent. "Okay. How long did this go on?"

"It didn't," Methos responded, again feeling that hint of wonder at
Cassandra's audacity. "I never got the whole story out of Kronos, but
she somehow managed to stab him in the groin and run."

"Good job," O'Neill muttered with a smile in his voice and Methos
turned to smile back.

"Very," he agreed. "I saw her go and didn't stop her, then high
tailed it to the river for a nice long soak. Kronos figured I'd been
there the whole time. I pretended to be angry over the loss of my well
trained slave, but secretly I wished her well. At the time, I suppose
I thought I'd taken a war bride. More than a little unwilling, true,
but also a fairly common occurrence for the times. Especially when a
man spent years in the field. I'd never planned on her becoming the
Horsemen's Whore."

O'Neill frowned as he suddenly thought of something else. "And this
was thousands of years ago?" Methos nodded. "I can understand her
holding a grudge. But she knows what things were like back then. What
folks did to each other because that's the way things were. So... I
don't get it. You're not that man anymore. Why does she still want
your head?"

"I didn't get it at first either," Methos sighed. "I had the chance
to talk to her about Stockholm syndrome but she wouldn't listen at
all. It was as if... As if she'd repressed all the anger, all the rage
she should have felt three thousand years ago. In the normal course of
time she should have worked through all that. I know I've worked
through mine. You can't help it when you live as long as we do. Other
things happen, just as bad or worse, or good memories take the place
of others and the immediacy just fades. Her reaction, her fury wasn't
normal.

"Her vengeance should have been measured," he added, thinking of how
Kronos had stalked him, killed him, and not, surprisingly enough,
taken his head on the spot. Even he'd worked through his anger over
Methos' betrayal and the thousand years of imprisonment his elder had
left him to. "Her attack should have been well planned and precise if
she wanted to make the Horsemen pay for what we'd done. 

"Even by the standards of this time," Methos went on. "Cassandra has
the right to seek justice. I'll never dispute that. But her anger was
all out of proportion for the amount of time which had passed. The
immediacy was still there. So much so it clouded her actions."

O'Neill took off his cap, roughly rubbed his scalp and shoved it back
on, shaking his head the whole time. "It doesn't make sense," he said
after he thought about it.

"But it does," Methos corrected, "if Cassandra repressed the emotions
but not the conscious memories surrounding her first death. Learning
that Kronos was alive -- then me, as she eventually did, probably
brought it all back. With the same power and intensity as if it had
only happened months or even weeks earlier."

O'Neill looked appalled. "That poor woman."

"That's what I thought after I'd had time to think about it," Methos
nodded sadly.

O'Neill stared at him for a long moment then inhaled, breathing out
in a deep cleansing breath. "If you thought about it, Pierson, then
you must have had a plan. You obviously didn't take her head, and I
know you well enough to guess that you didn't want her coming after
you again. So, 'fess up. What did you do?"

Methos grinned widely. Sometimes it was good to be known. "I found
her a competent therapist. Someone skilled in working with trauma
victims and prisoners of war. Someone who'd lived through similar
times and could relate to her."

"And she accepted?" O'Neill looked surprised.

"My help?" Methos laughed. "Not on her life. But MacLeod's... I stole
some of his personal stationary and forged his handwriting," he
shrugged. "Sent a letter to her and the therapist -- a woman MacLeod
also knows -- and tricked them into meeting each other at a church in
London. From what I could see they seemed to hit it off."

O'Neill nodded thoughtfully, finally relaxing enough to stretch out
his legs and sprawl in his pew. "So she's had some help. Good work.
The Great Satan is proud of you. That was a nice thing you did for
her."

Methos frowned and looked sideways at the colonel. "I didn't do it
for her," he insisted. "I did it to keep my head comfortably attached
to my neck."

But O'Neill only smiled and stood up. "You just keep telling yourself
that, Pierson," he patted Methos' shoulder then headed for the chapel
door. 

"Marshmallow," Methos heard him mutter as he wandered off. "...all
soft and squishy on the inside..."

cont....