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3.

They did not have to wait for long. A surprisingly short amount of time later, they were all suddenly caught in an Asgard transportation beam.

Having materialized, they looked around, seeing the familiar surroundings of an X-304.

"Yes! Saved!" O'Neill exclaimed, smiling.

"You are indeed safe," a familiar voice said from behind them, in the flanged tones of a symbiote. They quickly turned around.

O'Neill stared at him. "What?"

"Welcome aboard the Egeria - or welcome back I should perhaps say, well, at least to some of you, since you were not all here before," Malek said, smiling a little. "It was indeed fortunate we were close by when we intercepted your signal. You would not have lasted long down there."

"Malek!" Sam gaped at him.

"Eh... what are you doing here?" O'Neill still looked shocked.

"I could ask you the same - Samantha and Daniel disappeared from the ship this morning, and I had only just gotten the report that you, Teal'c, and Vala were missing, when I received your signal. How did all of you end up out here?"

"That is a long story - one which we don't have all the answers to... uh, Commander Malek?" Sam said.

"You're in command of this vessel?" Daniel wondered.

"Yes. It has been my ship for almost a year. Do you not remember?" Malek looked curiously at him. "You were all present on its first voyage - and, as I just mentioned, you and Samantha were assigned to my ship for this mission."

"The Egeria... wait... um... of course, this is part of what has changed!" Sam said.

"That would seem reasonable," Teal'c agreed with her.

"Someone care to explain what's going on?" Vala complained.

Malek nodded slowly. "I would like that as well. We will have a debriefing - however, I believe it may be advisable for the doctors to have a look at you first. This is both for your safety, as you are obviously not well, and to ensure that you... are who you appear to be. I shall go and inform Stargate Command and the Tok'ra Council that you have been found." He turned to some guards standing nearby. "Escort them to sickbay."

"Hey! We're not crazy - or sick - or possessed! It's just that everything went wacko!" O'Neill yelled after Malek.

The guards gently - but firmly - escorted them to sickbay. It was obvious everyone thought they were either crazy or possessed - or perhaps some kind of impersonators. The doctor examined them very thoroughly, obviously suspecting foul play.

After what seemed an inordinate amount of tests and examinations, the doctor was finally convinced they were indeed who they appeared to be. They were taken to a briefing room where they were told to wait.


"So, what do you guys think?" Daniel said.

"We've crossed over into the Twilight Zone?" O'Neill suggested.

"We already knew there were a number of minor changes caused by the 'time fluctuation'. This is clearly another one of those," Sam explained, ignoring O'Neill's comment.

"'Minor changes'?" O'Neill repeated, sarcastically.

"The original change may well have been very small, leading to further - and larger - differences, the further into the future we go... it's possible."

"Jack returning to marry Laira, for instance!" Daniel suggested.

"Yes..." Sam thought for a little while. "Something like that could well have been the original change."

"That's supposed to have caused all of this? Just because he married someone?" Vala rolled her eyes.

"I agree. That's a bit extreme. Don't ya think?" O'Neill said.

"Why?" Daniel touched his necklace. "That could also have lead to Anise and Freya pursuing me directly, instead of Jack first. If, as you think, they're the ones I'm married to."

"And Daniel and me both being married to Tok'ra could well have caused our two peoples to become closer allied..." Sam added. "I think you may be on to something."

"Maybe..." O'Neill looked very sceptical. "I mean, I suppose Freya might've decided to let Anise pick, with me not being available. I might buy that... and I guess that might've made the snakes trust us more... or something, but it still doesn't explain why Carter's married to a Tok'ra too!"

"Um..." Daniel gave first O'Neill, then Sam a quick look, "Perhaps...uh..."

Sam still regretted the confusion she had felt back then, and did not want to discuss the subject any further. "It could just be a coincidence - or caused by some other change," she quickly suggested, feeling her cheeks blush a little bit. "Besides, with the Tok'ra and the Tau'ri being closer..."

Fortunately, Malek entered just then, saving her.

"Doctor Ohlson has convinced me that you indeed are who you appear to be, and that you do not seem to have been brainwashed, nor possessed by anyone or anything. If that is so, why do you not remember anything about... this!" He held out his hands, indicating the ship, himself, all of it.

"It's because we're from another dimension, right?" Vala looked to Daniel for confirmation.

"Reality," Daniel corrected.

"You are saying our version of 'you' are somewhere else? They did disappear..." Malek looked confused.

"No. Not quite." Sam thought for a while how best to explain it. "This is their bodies. Our bodies. We are them... us... so to speak. We believe... what happened is that the timeline was changed while we were already being affected by temporal distortions. Because of this, we now exist in a changed timeline, but still possess the memories we had in the unaltered version. Apparently another quirk resulted in the physical dislocation of our bodies - explaining why we showed up in the place we were in, in the old timeline... I'm not making a lot of sense, am I?" She looked at Malek, who gave all the appearances of a man in pain.

"No. You are just making my and Johan's heads hurt." He sighed deeply.

"Mine too..." O'Neill rolled his eyes.

"Johan?" Vala wondered.

"Malek's host." Sam sighed. She thought for a while longer, then started over, this time from the beginning, carefully explaining everything as they believed it had happened.


When Sam and the others had finished their explanation, Malek nodded.

"I understand now. The end result of all this is that you are the same people, but have had the last several years worth of memories exchanged for the memories of experiences which happened in a timeline which now no longer exists." He sighed. "This is going to be very problematic, but right now we do not have the time to deal with this. The preferred action would be to return you to Stargate Command and let you come to terms with how your life is here, but this mission is too important to be postponed. Worse, Samantha and Daniel have knowledge which is needed, and I am going to have to hope you still retain this."

"What's your mission?" O'Neill wanted to know.

"I believe we first need to ascertain how different this timeline is from the one you remember - if you will indeed be able to assist," Malek began to explain, in as much detail as was necessary.

Apparently much of what had happened on a larger scale was the same, though the details varied. The System Lords - including Anubis - were gone. The last of them, Ba'al, had been killed about a year ago. The replicators and the Ori were history as well. The current threat came from a subgroup of the former 'Free Jaffa'.

Except for Teal'c, Bra'tac, and a few of their friends, as well as the Hak'tyl, the majority of the Jaffa had united under Arkad - a Jaffa who had long held animosity towards Teal'c and who had later joined with the Ori.

After the fall of the Ori, Arkad had managed to convince the Jaffa that he should lead them, by playing into their feelings of superiority. They now maintained that they owed nothing to either the Tau'ri or the Tok'ra for their freedom, and that they were the only true successors to the Goa'uld. They considered the Galaxy to be theirs. The Jaffa were a formidably opponent, and their forces were growing in strength every day.

There was only one thing that stopped them from gathering all the Jaffa under Arkad. Most of those loyal to him did not wish to use tretonin and even wanted those who had begun using it to go back to carrying a symbiote, feeling tretonin 'weakened' them. As a result they were dependent on a supply of prim'tas and needed to either find a queen or ally themselves with one of the multitude of minor Goa'uld who showed up as fast as the Tau'ri and the Tok'ra could remove them. Not just any of those Goa'uld, of course, but one who had a queen. Though as things looked, it might well be that there were no more queens left.

For now, the appearance of these minor Goa'uld were due to mainly two things. The first and largest group came from maturing larvae who usually took over their Jaffa when he or she had not been able to procure another symbiote, and so carried the one they had for too long. The second source were the many insignificant Goa'uld who previously had had no opportunity to rise to power. They had eked out a meager existence mainly as underlings to the minor System Lords, but now they saw their chance and they took it immediately.

If Arkad's Jaffa could procure enough symbiotes, it could well lure the remaining Jaffa to his ranks.

Now rumours had it that the Jaffa had been contacted by one of these Goa'uld - a man called Tikna, who was once a minor underling of Apophis. He had a proposition for them - they needed a queen and he knew where to get one, as unlikely as that sounded.

In return they would be loyal to him and fight for him. They would not serve him, per se, though. It was a mutually beneficial agreement. Tikna did not have the forces to acquire this queen on his own, and the Jaffa did not know where she was. If the information was correct, she could be found in a stasis jar on a planet that was currently one of the most heavily guarded strongholds of the Lucian alliance.

The Jaffa had the manpower for an attack such as that. However, since the planet's Stargate was heavily guarded, they would have to arrive by ship. Unfortunately, the Jaffa under Arkad did not at the moment have access to a fleet that was as large as what the Lucien Alliance had, and they would probably incur heavy losses taking the planet by force. Of course, if the queen was there, it would be worth it to them.

When the planet had been secured, Tikna would arrive with some of his loyal men and get the stasis jar with the queen.

The Tau'ri and the Tok'ra could not let the Jaffa - or a Goa'uld - get their hands on a queen. It could tip the balance of power in the Galaxy and they would again have a large, coordinated army of Jaffa, led by a Goa'uld, on their hands. This must not be allowed to happen.

"One other thing - why does this Goa'uld... Tikna... trust the Jaffa to bring him the queen? Wouldn't the Jaffa just take her for themselves?" Daniel wondered.

"They would... if they knew where to find her. Presumably Tikna knows this, but whether or not he does, our source has not been able to acquire this information. The Jaffa most likely does not know either, and it is probably not in any easily accessible place. They would have to search for a very long time or rely on Tikna. We know that many of the Jaffa will soon need a new prim'ta, so time is of the essence for Arkad," Malek said.

"I understand. OK. I can see why we need to stop these guys from getting their hands on a queen... what do you need our help for?" O'Neill asked.

"I do not need your help. Only that of Samantha and Daniel." Malek gave him a wry smile.

"It's all of us or none!" O'Neill said, angrily.

"Why do you need our help, then?" Daniel said, quickly. "What are we going to do?"

"Yes, I'm interested as well," Sam added.

"Well... Daniel I need to translate. He - and his wives - are our foremost experts in this area. We know there are ruins down there, from the Ancients. However, the ones that lived there spoke a rare dialect. While the ruins would also long have been that way when this queen was hidden - since it is likely less than two millennia ago - there may be clues down there to secret hiding places that could have been used when the queen was hidden. Besides, Daniel has always been very good at figuring out where something is hidden." Malek smiled warmly at the other man.

"Why do you keep calling him 'Daniel'?" O'Neill wondered.

"That is his name - even in the other timeline - is it not?" Malek looked bewildered.

"Yeah, but when did you get all buddy-buddy with him and use his first name?"

"Oh, I see. We have been friends for several years - since shortly after he married Freya and Anise. They live part time in the tunnels, part time on the Tau'ri... Earth."

O'Neill grinned at Daniel and raised an eyebrow. "See? Just like I said! You're married to Anise!"

Daniel gave him a sheepish half-smile. It was obvious he did not really mind.

"Okay, why do you need me, then?" Sam wondered.

"The planet we are going to is Malkshur. We hope you will be able to remember something about it, from Jolinar," Malek said.

"Oh." Sam nodded. "I see... I can't guarantee you I can help you. I remember - or perhaps 'have access to' is a better word - very little of that period of her life. Though going there will perhaps trigger some memories."

"That is our hope as well." Malek turned to O'Neill. "If you really wish to accompany Samantha and Daniel, then I will happily accept your offer. You should, however, know that it will be dangerous, and I will fully understand if you wish to withdraw your offer."

"Of course I'm going with them!"

"As am I," Teal'c said.

Mitchell and Vala volunteered as well. They were all prepared to go.


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