Author: Alli Snow
Series/Spoilers: No specific spoilers. This is part of a series -- the three previous stories are on my website.
Dedicated to all the people who have harassed me about this story over... well, however long it's been. I hope this is worth the wait.
In the darkness, it seems like everything is possible.
When the lights are out and your eyes are closed, anything could be happening beyond your shut lids. That thought has been the genesis for a million zombies and monsters and imaginary boogie-men in children's rooms around the world. One night, however, the boogie-men came for real.
He had been in Minnesota, not at his cabin because they might look for him there, but at a hotel in the northeastern part of the state. Jacob had gotten him a job there. Jacob, who had found a disheveled Jack coming out of his daughter's hospital room, who had understood the danger she was in and how close Jack was to completely unraveling. Jacob, who even after so many years with the Tok'ra, still maintained the friendships and connections to get Jack a job at this hotel in the north, repairing and maintaining the boats guests took out on the lake.
At night, duty completed, Jack would take a thermos, a flashlight and an astronomy book out into the nearby woods and watch the stars. On his days off, he'd go camping so far out into the wilderness that it was easy to believe he was on a forested, uninhabited alien planet.
It was on one such trip that the boogie-men had come. Jack still remembers that last peaceful night, an unseasonably warm night in late August, 2007. He remembers lying on his sleeping bag, staring up into a cloudless sky and thinking of her. He had wondered what Jacob would tell her, or if he would tell her anything. When she had woken up in that hospital room, would she even remember his being there? Would she pass it off as a dream? Would she know...
And then he had drifted off to sleep.
The next morning he had started back for the hotel, packed up his things and cleaned up his fire pit. The second he trudged back into civilization and saw the chaos, saw the frightened look on every face, he knew what had happened. No natural disaster or man-made horror could put that panicked gleam in the eyes of all humans.
The Goa'uld had come, Anubis had come, and in a way it was a sick relief. Suddenly the NID didn't matter anymore. They wouldn't care about him anymore, not with civilization crashing down around their ears. Certainly they wouldn't have time to make his life hell anymore. For one brief moment he actually felt younger, lighter, and happier than he had in years.
Then he heard that Cheyenne Mountain had been turned into a smoking crater.
He went there anyway. He had to; there was no other place for him to go, no other purpose for him to have, no way to return to the monotonous work that had been his safe haven for half a year. He got in his truck and drove through the madness that had become his world. A trip that would have taken a few days before took almost a month.
Jam-packed freeways were clogged with abandoned cars. Crime and violence was widespread as the social contract crumbled. On the way he encountered Jaffa squads, stole quite a lot of food and gas, and saved seven people - and one dog - from death.
But that's another story.
Not thinking, not able to think, he goes to her house first. The streets here are empty, the lights are off and there's nobody home. The neighborhood, always quiet, now harbors the silence of the dead, of morgues, of graveyards. All the lawns are yellow and dry. When he tries her front door, it's unlocked. Even though he knows all he can find is a body, he takes a quick look anyway. Nothing. Of course there's nothing. When the ships started coming, she would have gone to the SGC.
So he drives there next. Still nothing. Not a soul in sight, not human or Jaffa or Goa'uld. At least here most drivers pulled to the side of the road before fleeing from their vehicles; he's able to make his way in the truck with a minimum of side-scrapes and fender benders. He feels bad for not leaving a note on the damaged cars, and then he laughs at his own foolishness. The former occupants of these vehicles have been rounded up and taken away. They're either dead, slaves, or worse, hosts.
He knows that if she lived, Anubis would love to make her a host. Her knowledge of the Tok'ra is a little outdated, yes, but could still be important. And how many former hosts, living former hosts, are there out there? Not many.
Besides her and him.
Where there was once a mountain, there is now a hole in the earth. It extends for miles and the bottom is too dark to be seen. If the Stargate survived, it was taken away. No person could have survived this, though, and he thinks of all those people. All of them. Although he hasn't prayed since Charlie's death, he says a prayer now, nothing of his own words because he can't put words to this, but instead the words of others. Words from his childhood.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil...
He hasn't seen a living soul since entering Colorado Springs, and come to think of it he hasn't seen a dead body either. Anubis seems to be a remarkably tidy invader, no doubt taking those he could use and vaporizing those he could not. Jack tilts his head and stares up into a bright sky, and wonders if anyone is looking down on him.
When he isn't blasted into dust by an unseen enemy in orbit, he decides not.
He's low on supplies. He has to leave, has to go somewhere, can't stay in this ghost town, but he needs food and water. His truck is low on gas again, too. The solution to both problems presents itself as he leaves town, headed south. A gas station and a nearby convenience store. It's an older place, none of that fancy 'pay at the pump' stuff, but he doesn't plan on paying anyway, so it doesn't matter. He walks across the empty lot towards the store, tries the door - unlocked - and goes inside. While his truck fills, he loads up two plastic baskets with water, proteins bars, and chocolate chip cookies. They might be a little stale, but apocalyptic survivors can't be choosers.
Without paying, without anyone asking if he would prefer paper or plastic, Jack takes his consumables outside and back to his truck. It's finished filling up; he takes out the nozzle and closes the compartment.
Where now? It's all the same, really. The Jaffa have infested the big cities, the small cities are inhabited only by things that crawl with their bellies near the ground, and the less-populated areas are feeding grounds for criminals and thugs. This, at least, is the case between Minnesota and Colorado, and he has no reason to believe that things are any different in the rest of the country. Maybe the world. Maybe the only realm of civilization still remaining is Afghanistan, where Anubis is sitting down with Osama Bin Laden for tea and cucumber sandwiches.
The solitude and the sadness haven't been kind. He wonders if he's going insane.
Those dark thoughts are, if nothing else, a distraction. The proof of this is that he suddenly realizes that someone is standing about twenty feet away, between the store and the gas pumps. He's a young guy, a stranger to Jack, with red hair, a nervous expression, and a handgun. "Don't move," he orders, although it's not much of an order because his voice sounds even younger than his face looks. But there's also steely resolve in his eyes, which narrow as he studies Jack. "Are you one of them?" he asks.
Jack doesn't move, not because he fears the gun itself but because he fears the unsteadiness of the kid holding it. He has a gun of his own in the cab of his truck, but the driver's side door is closed. He holds out his hands to show that they're empty. "No, I'm not a Goa'uld."
The kid starts, his eyes widening and then returning to suspicious slits. "How do you know what they're called?"
Fair enough question. "How do you?"
The kid hesitates but continues pointing his gun in Jack's direction. Finally he asks, "Do you have a weapon?"
Jack nods towards the truck with his head. "Shotgun in the backseat."
The kid moves closer and then - just as he puts the truck between himself and Jack - lunges for the passenger's side door. Jack watches as he climbs in, rustles around, and comes out with the loaded shotgun. Meeting Jack's eyes over the roof of the cab, he says, "C'mon, get in."
Even unarmed, Jack knows that he could walk away. He can look into the kid's eyes and see that he isn't a killer, probably isn't even out of high school. But that would leave him without protection or transportation, and besides that, he's intrigued. If something bad was going to happen, it probably would have happened already. And what if this kid is going to take him somewhere where there's other people? Survivors?
He gets behind the wheel.
The kid says his name is Phil, and he gives Jack directions that lead him back into town. He tells Jack to stop under an overpass, and then he says to wait.
While they wait, they talk. Well, Phil talks and Jack listens. He's originally from Virginia. Alexandria. He came here to live with his uncle and escape city life. The last thing he heard on the news was that the DC area had been blasted, that the destruction hadn't come from the Middle East or Asia, that it had come from space. "Then my uncle came home from work, he works for the Air Force, and he told me to get in the SUV and drive to... to a meeting place. Then he left again. I don't know where he is. Not Cheyenne, that's for sure."
Jack looks up sharply. "Your uncle worked at Cheyenne Mountain? What's his name?"
Phil looks reluctant but answers anyway. "Steve Siler. Why? You know him?"
Resisting the urge to laugh, Jack just shakes his head. "I used to work around here is all."
"Oh." The kid sounds disappointed. Then he looks up, and his manner changes. "Ah, there they are. C'mon, out of the truck."
Jack looks through the windshield and sees a small group of people walking towards them. The one in the front is a tall, slender blonde woman.
"She'll be able to tell if you're one of them or not," says Phil in an admiring tone. "Then we're all going to get together and kick their... their snaky asses. That's what she said, anyway. And maybe it's crazy, but I believe her. We all do. She's amazing."
"Yes," said Jack, slowly getting out of the truck. Over the door he can see Sam slow, stop, stare... and then start to run. "Yes, she is."