The Illusion of Justice

by Lizardbeth

Jack still wasn't quite sure how he'd managed to get himself into this situation. Usually he could smell a trap from miles away, but this time, it had clamped on his foot before he even knew it was there. Did President Hayes and Hammond hate him that much? Didn't they realize how completely unsuited he was to the back-slapping and ass-kissing of Pentagon Politics? Apparently not, since Hayes had said that Jack was perfect for it. Clearly his only options had been accepting the promotion or retirement, and given the president's enthusiasm, Jack hadn't been certain that even retirement would have worked. Hayes could be charming and friendly, but he was also a pit bull when he wanted something. And he wanted Jack in Washington.

So now Jack was packing his office for the dreaded transfer to the Pentagon. Not that there was much to pack. Unlike Hammond, his butt had warmed this chair for barely a year. But the changeover wasn't due for another week, so he was still The Man.

Preoccupied with his thoughts, Jack was not really paying attention to what he was doing. Half of his brain was focused on the absurdity of him trying to make politicians understand the dangers of space, while the other half was trying to squish his old, exciting life into a square box. The rest of him was gathering the file folders for his upcoming briefing. Unfortunately the handle of his nine-iron had other ideas.

Out in the briefing room, where SG-13 was waiting for him, they heard a crash.

"General?" Dixon shouted in concern, and ran to the door. His eyes widened, he said a word he'd never say in front of his kids, and he shouted for a medical team.

O'Neill was lying in a heap next to his desk, his silvering hair showing the red starkly.

* ~ * ~ *

"Wake up, Jack."

The voice sounded familiar, so Jack decided he ought to open his eyes. But when he did, his surroundings made him sit up immediately, alert and tense. Because he was not where he should be.

Instead he was sitting in a restaurant booth, upholstered in a truly despicable shade of olive, and the table in front of him was the sort of faux-wood plastic popular in the 70's. He looked up to see a familiar face sitting across from him.

"Jake?" he asked in disbelief. The man certainly looked like Jacob Carter, right down to the brown Tok'ra uniform he was wearing. But the former general couldn't be here because -- well, because there was no here for one thing, and Jacob was dead, for another. "Aren't you dead?" he asked, feeling quite suspicious.

Carter just smiled a little. "Some might think so. But we're not here because of me."

Jack got that funny, bad feeling in his stomach, and he knew what Jacob was saying. "I'm dead, aren't I?"

"Well, no," Carter corrected him. "But your body is currently comatose in the infirmary from a concussion and the question is whether you will wake up again."

So, not dead. But since this was the late Jacob Carter speaking to him, he was likely dreaming or hallucinating. Or, given his track record, it was even more likely that some advanced race was playing with his mind again.

Maybe there was something to be said for going to the Pentagon, after all. He was getting too old for this crap.

Jack bent his head and scrubbed his hands through his hair. It didn't feel different from any other time, which only said that the simulation was pretty good. He looked up at Jacob and asked, "What happened? Last thing I remember, I was in my office getting ready for a briefing with Dixon..."

Carter chuckled slightly. "Now you know the reason I don't play golf. Those clubs are hazardous to your health."

Jack stared at him. He'd gotten beaned in the head by his own club? "You're kidding me."

"Nope. And it gets better," Jacob warned.

Rolling his eyes, Jack let out an aggrieved sigh and folded his arms. "All right. Give me the rest. You are of the glowing jellyfish people now, I take it?"

Jacob snorted with a laugh. "Only you, Jack, would sit in a place full of Ascendants and call them that." He took a sip from the coffee cup in front of him and his face grew more serious as he leaned forward. "I'm afraid the rest isn't funny. There's been, shall we say, a challenge. A certain very powerful member of the Others has demanded that you stand iudaca, a form of trial, in order to win the choice of your destiny."

At this point in his Stargate career, Jack couldn't even be bothered to get mad. For a people who claimed not to interfere, the ascended really did poke around in mortal affairs a lot. He settled for rolling his eyes again. "Trial for what?" he asked.

Carter's mouth was tight as though he could scarcely get out the words. "Genocide of the Goa'uld."

Jack couldn't have heard him correctly. He blinked and stared at Jacob, and finally spoke very slowly, with no more sarcasm than necessary, "I'm sorry -- I thought I heard you say the word 'genocide' and the Goa'uld in the same sentence. I must have missed something, like how killing the Goa'uld was a bad thing."

Despite his intention, his voice rose on the last few words. Jacob rose partly out of his chair, leaning over the table with his hand outstretched. "Jack!" he exclaimed loudly and then abruptly lowered his voice to a hiss. "Hush. This is serious."

"I am serious," Jack protested, nevertheless quieting. He felt rather ridiculous actually, since as far as he could tell, no one had even looked up from their newspapers at his outburst.

Jacob sat back down, but was still leaning forward, intensely meeting his eyes. "No, you're not," he corrected. "Jack, you live or die by this trial, you have to understand that. This is not for show, and it's most definitely not a game."

"I'm certainly not having any fun," Jack muttered. He rubbed at his forehead, wondering if he was feeling a phantom pain from getting whacked on the head or this situation was just that absurd.

But when Jacob didn't say anything for a long moment, Jack finally heaved a sigh. "Okay, fine. I'll play." He looked up and fixed Jacob with a glare. "Since it seems like I don't have any choice."

Jacob just returned it, level and unintimidated. "Hey, don't shoot the messenger. You almost didn't get one at all."

Waving one hand in a sort of apology, Jack said, "Okay. So what the hell is this trial? Is it like the Tollan triad thing?"

Jacob gave a little sympathetic smile and folded his hands back around his cup. "Sort of. But more like one of our regular trials. Each side has representation. There's a jury, and also a judge."

"A glowing jellyfish judge?" Jack asked, imagining all the ways this could go horribly wrong. Annoying, stupid, arrogant, pretentious, interfering ...

"No. But they will be watching," Jacob interrupted his inner rant, catching Jack by surprise.

Jack raised his eyebrows. "Then who? Lya? Thor? All right, c'mon, tell me it's Thor -- " he prompted eagerly.

Carter laughed. "No. The judge isn't Thor. The Asgard and Nox aren't involved at all."

"Then who?"

Jacob smiled. "It's a surprise."

"I hate surprises. Told you that, time and time again, you know."

"You'll like this one," Jacob promised, and his smile shifted to something darker and more ominous. "It'll be the last good one we get for awhile."

"Damn Tok'ra," Jack muttered, and with that, realized something and looked up sharply, "Haven't heard from Selmak yet."

"No. And you won't." Jacob drained his coffee cup and set it down with a thump, to end to the discussion. "Come on. Let's get this show on the road, Jack. Your brain's not going to heal up on its own."

Jack grimaced at the pointed reminder. But he made a mental note to ask Jacob about Selmak at some point. Something was wrong there and he intended to find out what. He reluctantly followed Jacob toward the diner's door.

When the Tok'ra pushed the swinging doors open, a blinding flash of white light washed over his eyes.

When he could see again, they were somewhere else. Jack was tempted to laugh. It really was a courtroom. It looked almost exactly like the room in Colorado Springs where he had spent four excruciating hours of sheer boredom being not selected for jury duty two years ago. Same wooden panels, same limp flags, same audience seating area separated from the court itself by a short wooden railing. The judge's box was straight ahead, raised up a few steps, but the chair was empty. In fact, all the chairs were vacant. There was no one in the whole room.

To the left side was the witness stand, and the chairs for the jury were along the wall. Directly in front of the judge were two rectangular tables, one for the prosecution and one for the defense.

Jacob held open the flimsy wooden gate -- the actual attorney's bar in a real courtroom -- and allowed Jack to pass inside.

"So, Jake, what's your position in all this?" Jack wandered idly up to the defense table, but didn't sit down. "You're my defense lawyer?"

"No," Carter shook his head once. "I'm the bailiff."

"What?" Jack asked, confused. The bailiff? The bailiff was usually the guy who brought in the prisoner, all right, but he wasn't usually the prisoner's friend.

Jacob explained, "This was the only way I could come get you beforehand and try to explain at least a little what this is about. So try to behave yourself, Jack. If you get in trouble, I get in trouble, and I've got enough."

Before Jack could ask him to elaborate, Jacob looked around as if he heard something, then said, "They're coming."

Jack turned around as the door opened. He didn't quite gape like a fish, but he realized he was staring, as Janet Frasier smiled at him, and Charlie Kawalsky shook his head with a grin. "Hey, Jack. Long time no see."

"Janet? Charlie? Is it really you?" he asked, confused and wary. Because while it was good to see them, he'd been pretty sure that neither had Ascended. Hell, Charlie had died before they'd even known there was such a thing as Glowy People, and he doubted that Oma'd been taking vacations from Kheb to visit Earth back in the day.

Janet came close and put her hand on his arm. Her touch felt real. Her smile looked just a touch mischievous and she tilted her head back to meet his eyes. "We are the Janet and Charlie you knew. Whether we're real or only in your mind, I can't tell you."

"Can't or won't?" he challenged.

"Can't," she answered. "Because I don't know."

"I feel like me," Charlie declared with a shrug. The familiar casual attitude gave Jack a pang and he thought that whether it was "really" Charlie or not, wasn't important. Charlie and Janet were here, somehow, and that was the important part.

"So you're my crack defense team?" Jack asked.

"Who else?" Janet replied. "We both know the evil of the Goa'uld and we know you."

"And we weren't gonna let you do it alone," Charlie added. He pulled out a chair for Janet and when Jack stood back to give Charlie room to pull out the next chair for Jack, Charlie just snorted and moved to the third chair to claim for himself.

Jack sat down between his two friends. He was about to ask how long they'd have to wait for something to happen, when there was a flash of light to his left. He turned quickly, to find a man he didn't know standing behind the prosecutor's sole chair. He was wearing a suit over his bulky frame and waist gone to fat that made him look even bigger than he was. Between his thinning grey hair and round, cheerful face, he looked like a public servant who spent a lot of time behind a desk.

Jack leaned closer to Janet and asked in a murmur, "Who's that?"

She tensed and didn't take her eyes from the other. "He's called Jim."

"Jim ..." Jack gestured for her to keep going and finish the name, but she said nothing more, only watched Jim.

Jim turned with a smile toward the defense table, and Jack immediately felt a cold prickle against the back of his neck. The smile was bright, almost sunny, but... something ... wasn't quite right.

"Jack O'Neill," he greeted jovially, "good to meet you at last. I've heard so much about you. Pity about your head and all."

Jack eyed him, made wary by the friendliness. "Right. Thanks. Aren't you, y'know, on the other side?" he asked, waving toward the other table.

"It's just my job," Jim said with an expansive shrug. "No hard feelings, right?"

Behind Jack, Charlie muttered in as hostile a tone Jack had ever heard from his friend, "Sure. 'Jim.'"

Looking into Jim's eyes, Jack felt that prickle turn into a full blown case of the creeps. The eyes were black as empty space, and as cold. Evil. And suddenly he knew who "Jim" had to be and who had wanted this stupid trial in the first place.

Jack sat back abruptly in his chair, eyes widening as his heart leaped for the ceiling. "Anubis!"

Jim's smile changed to something more feral and gloating. It was chilling to see the affable mask of "Jim" fall away and reveal the malice beneath. "Very good, Jack."

"But you're supposed to be fighting Oma," Jack protested. "That's what Daniel said."

Anubis laughed. "Ah, dear little Oma... How much power do you really think I need to spare for this little farce, O'Neill? By the rules the Others themselves set up, you can't win. So enjoy yourself, I certainly will." He chuckled again and addressed the empty courtroom, raising his left hand high. "I call the jury to attend."

He snapped his fingers. More lights flashed, as the jury arrived and took up their seats.

Jack watched them arrive, and felt his heart sink down somewhere past his feet. This certainly wasn't a pleasant surprise.

His jury was largely made up of people who had no reason to feel even slightly positive toward him. There was Alar from Euronda, Reese the Replicator girl, Fifth, two Unas, the really condescending guy from Tollana, and the creepy guy from the Aschen world. There was also one of the bug-like Reetou, which was so freaky to look at Jack wished it would've stayed invisible. The last one in the far chair was one of the weird aliens who had nearly taken over the SGC.

"How can they do this?" Jack pulled the near shoulders of his supposed defense team together into a huddle, and spoke in a loud whisper, "I mean, all of them hate me, and hell, I killed most of them. The Tollan is the only one who might even side with me. How fair is that?"

"Fair? Who said this was supposed to be fair?" Charlie retorted with a snort, and then, after Janet glared at him, he got serious and apologetic, "Sorry. There was only so much we could do under the rules."

Janet added in a whisper. "You're right; they don't like you very much. But that doesn't matter."

"Doesn't matter --?" he burst out incredulously, and she hushed him.

"No, it doesn't," she insisted. "Listen. We only need to sway a majority. The issue is whether you must answer for the deaths of ... " she made a face and imitated Teal'c, "'the false gods." Take another look at the jury, Jack. How many of them are friends with the Goa'uld either?"

He looked again and thought about it. The Tollan wasn't going to be sympathetic to the Goa'uld, was he, not after Tollana was destroyed by Tanith. The Reetou were the Goa'uld's enemy even more than humans'. The Unas had been hosts to the Goa'uld, long before humans came on the scene. And the replicators had been, in the end, destroyed by Anubis, not by humans.

The alien mimic invaders had been defeated, but the SGC had never discovered where they came from and nor had the aliens tried again. Besides, they were alien aliens -- could never know what they thought anyway. That one was definitely a wildcard.

That left the Eurondan and the Aschen, who were both so convinced of their own superiority they'd accept genocide without blinking. They shouldn't have a problem with his actions against the Goa'uld, at least not from a moral standpoint. But his actions against them meant he probably couldn't expect a lot of love from them, no matter what he said here. But if he only needed a majority, they didn't matter.

Jacob took steps forward and stiffened, nearly to attention, "Rise. The iuda comes."

Beside him Charlie and Janet immediately stood up, and Jack followed their lead, watching the large chair for the judge curiously. He wondered who it was going to be. Someone dead or Ascended, it seemed. Maybe Shifu? Or Skaara. Skaara would be cool. Or Skaara's dad.

Even with his eyes on the chair, he didn't see the change. There was a flash and when it was gone, someone was sitting there.

Jack took a step backward in pure shock. The judge was himself. Jack O'Neill. The same guy who looked at him in the mirror every morning. Except that Jack had never worn black judge's robes.

Judge Jack glanced at him and his smile was really a smirk, enjoying Jack's confusion. "This iudiaca. iudicaca," he corrected himself, wrongly, and smirked again at Anubis' irritation, "will start now. You can all sit down." He waved a hand vaguely toward the tables, and the three defense team members took their seats again. Anubis didn't.

Jack leaned into Janet's shoulder again and whispered, "Me? Can't be. What's going on?"

"It's not you," she answered, then frowned, "Well, I guess it is. Mostly. He's the Harlan clone."

"Oh," Jack leaned back, now getting it. He'd been there when his robot double had died in that mess with the robot team and Cronus. It had been extremely unsettling to watch the life drain out of his own eyes.

The robot Jack had all of Jack's knowledge up until the point of his creation, so in that sense he was Jack. Of course if this whole thing was in his head, then they were all Jack, but this one would be the real, inside Jack. And that was probably not a good thing, since innermost Jack was neither forgiving nor innocent.

There was silence in the courtroom and the judge glanced at Anubis, and raised his eyebrows. "Well? This is your show, Anubis, you wanna get going?"

Anubis' lip curled and he glared hatefully at Judge Jack, before getting back to his feet. He said, with enviable smoothness, "As you wish, iuda. The prosecution calls the System Lord Ra."

Jack leaned forward at that, curious in spite of himself. Ra had, after all, started this whole adventure. He'd always felt just a teeny bit sorry for some of the kids on the later teams, who'd only gotten to see losers like Moloc and Mot, not the more impressive and actually frightening snakeheads.

The usual flash of light and Ra arrived, sitting grandly in the small wooden chair of the witness box. He was in the same host, the pretty young man with the long, black hair and black-lined eyes. His formal looking outfit, complete with a golden cloak or robe across his shoulders, had a wide gold and red pectoral in the shape of a flying bird across his bare chest.

"I am Amun-Ra," he stated in that deceptively soft but still Goa'uldish voice of his. "Lord of the sun and the waters, the wind and the sand, father of the gods, and --"

"Yes, we know who you are," Anubis interrupted. "A Goa'uld system lord."

But Ra didn't seem to take offense. He just stopped and gave a very small smile, as if pleased that he'd irritated Anubis. Jack remembered that Ra had been one of those who'd forced Anubis into exile long ago.

Jack was amused. Not even in the afterlife did the old Goa'uld rivalries die.

"Are you acquainted with the accused, Jack O'Neill of the Tau'ri?" Anubis asked.

Ra's gaze seemed to slide over to him languidly, and when he was looking at Jack, it was with the mildly annoyed expression of seeing gum on the bottom of his shoe. "Of course. He came to Abydos, one of my worlds, several years ago. He raised a rebellion against me, inspired my workers to give their lives in a futile bid for independence, and destroyed my ha'tak with a nuclear weapon. It was only by my own foresight that the people of Abydos were not instantly killed by the explosion."

"You were fleeing, you mean," Charlie interrupted scornfully.

"Kawalsky," Judge Jack warned, "You'll get your chance. Quiet."

Anubis ignored the exchange. "And you?"

Ra lifted his chin and now his gaze wasn't mild at all, as he nailed Jack with it. Oh yes, Ra was not happy with him. "He killed me."

"Were you the only Goa'uld killed by O'Neill or those under his command?" Anubis asked.

"No, I was not."

"Objection!" Janet stood, and slapped her hand on the table. "Ra was already dead before any of these ... incidents took place. How is he supposed to speak about incidents he took no part in?"

Anubis turned to face the judge. "In the same way that Doctor Frasier and anyone else on this plane of existence can know of events that occur in the mortal plane: by observation. Ra is prepared to speak of the murders of his children and other Goa'uld as a witness to those events. This will save the court time and effort in procuring each individual Goa'uld victim."

Janet opened her mouth to protest the characterization of the Goa'uld as victims, but shut it again when Judge O'Neill lifted his hand to stop her. "Well, I'm all about saving time and effort," he said, but looked toward the jury, "So I will allow it. But you must all keep in mind that Ra knows no more about these events than anyone else who watched it. His perceptions may not be accurate. But then, I'm sure the good guys -- " he bit his lip as if he'd let it slip accidentally, and corrected himself, "I mean, the defense will correct any... mis-statements that Ra might make. He can't lie -- the Others won't let him -- but he doesn't have to tell the truth either. If you get the difference," that was said looking straight at Jack, who took it as the warning he meant it to be.

Jack leaned back, folding his arms, and prepared to listen to Ra and Anubis twist the truth beyond recognition. He wasn't disappointed either.

"I was only the first of many of my brothers and children to fall to O'Neill and his Tau'ri," Ra said. "My mate and queen Hathor died when O'Neill forced her into a vat of liquid nitrogen. The Tau'ri at O'Neill's command exploded two entire planets, which killed both Sokar and Apophis as well as their Goa'uld attendants and hundreds of Jaffa. O'Neill also killed Ares with the weapons of the Ancients. And there was my son Heru'ur --"

Kawalsky stood up. "Now that is a lie!" he pointed at Ra. "Heru'ur was killed by Apophis. Jack had nothing to do with it."

"Heru'ur would never have been seeking a treaty with Apophis at all, if not for the actions of the Tau'ri in destabilizing the entire Goa'uld alliance," Ra answered, with an expression on his youthful face as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.

"That's irrelevant," Kawalsky shot back. "Goa'uld betray and stab each other in the back all the time, system lords die and others rise, that's just the way it was." He looked at Robot Jack. "We request the witness confine himself for Goa'uld deaths that Jack could at least theoretically be responsible for, not every one that happened to die in the last eight years."

"But it is not merely O'Neill's responsibility at issue, is it?" Anubis asked smoothly. "It is his culpability. As we all know, O'Neill was nearby at Heru'ur's death. Had Apophis not moved so quickly, O'Neill's plan was in fact to kill both Apophis and Heru'ur."

"Tok'ra plan," Jack muttered and turned to look at Jacob, who was doing a pretty good imitation of a statue. Jacob shrugged a little.

Jack, feeling rather disgruntled, turned his head back to his robot double, who was looking none too happy himself. "All right," he said after a moment. "Anubis is correct, this isn't just about direct kills, but about intentions, whether they were carried out or not. But," he pointed at Anubis, "that doesn't mean you get to drag in Goa'uld like Bastet. She died because she crossed Baal, no other reason. So keep the questions and your witness' answers on the topic at hand."

Anubis nodded once shortly, but didn't bother to hide his triumphant expression. "Of course. Please, lord Ra, continue. So far, we have you, Hathor, Sokar, Apophis, Ares, and Heru'ur added to the list of O'Neill's crimes. Are there more?"

"O'Neill is responsible for the actions of the shol'va Teal'c as Teal'c's master," Ra said, with a disgusted twist to his lips as he pronounced the Goa'uld word for traitor. "And Teal'c caused many Goa'uld deaths as well, including Apophis' queen Amaunet, their children Klorel and Tanith, and the system lord Cronus, whom Teal'c shot in the back. Tau'ri under O'Neill's command also murdered the Goa'uld lords Moloc, Mot, and the system lord Nurrti. O'Neill's subordinate, Samantha Carter, killed my brother Seth by her own hand."

Both Janet and Kawalsky squirmed with eagerness to challenge the list, but held their silence. Jack nearly had to bite his tongue to keep from saying something inappropriately gleeful. It was a pretty impressive list when put like that.

"I see," Anubis said slowly and very thoughtfully. Jack snorted. Once a drama queen, always a drama queen.

"But then," Anubis turned his bulky frame back to Ra, "these are all individuals. Individuals may be enemies. But as the other side is sure to point out, killing individual enemies is not the same as desiring the death of an entire race. How can you or any of us know that Jack O'Neill wished the entire Goa'uld race dead?"

"Because," Ra glanced at Jack, slyly, "he made alliances with the Tok'ra and the Rebel Jaffa, who wished nothing more than the death of all Goa'uld. Because the Tau'ri manufactured a poison invented by the vermin Tok'ra in sufficient quantities to kill all the Goa'uld, even larva in their Jaffa pouches, through the entire galaxy."

He paused, to allow that one time to sink in and then added, "But more importantly I know this, because O'Neill himself has said so."

Crap.

Jack fell back in his chair, realizing he was in trouble. Because Ra was absolutely correct. He was sure he'd spouted off "the only good snakehead is a dead snakehead" at least once, and he'd certainly thought it more than a few times. He had also put his approving signature on the request to develop and manufacture large quantities of the Goa'uld poison.

He'd do it all again, of course, because the Goa'uld were evil and deserved to die. But for the first time in a very long while, his conscience piped up from the back of his mind and asked very quietly whether that wasn't exactly what people who committed genocide thought about their victims?

"Don't listen to him," Janet whispered fiercely, her hand grabbing his sleeve. "You were defending us. You are not the bad guy here -- Anubis and Ra are."

Kawalsky leaned in on the other side. "Yeah. What she said."

The pep talk made Jack feel better, at least until he looked over at the jury box. Most were looking inscrutable or just downright alien, but Alar and Fifth looked disgusted, Reese looked horrified, and the Aschen -- well, he just looked smug. Omoc the Tollan seemed bored, and yet maybe also sad when his droopy-eyed gaze crossed Jack's briefly.

"Nothing further," Anubis said and sat down.

Charlie stood up and moved around to the front of the table to go near Ra. "First question, who activated the nuclear device on Abydos that ended up killing you?"

Ra hesitated and wrinkled his nose a little as if smelling something bad, before reluctantly deigning to speak to the human, "O'Neill did. In order to destroy me."

"But you modified the device, didn't you?" Charlie asked. "You added naquadah to it, to enhance the yield, knowing that it would either completely destroy the people of Abydos or fifty square miles around the Stargate on Earth -- over one million people -- if your plan of sending it through the Stargate had worked. Isn't that true?"

Ra fixed him with a proud stare. "You Tau'ri attacked me first. I could have done much worse in retaliation."

Charlie affected surprise. "Really? Worse than a naquadah-enhanced fission bomb?"

"Of course." He sneered, the calm and elegant faade cracking. "I allowed your primitive race to survive after the first rebellion, did I not? And we all see how my mercy has been repaid. I should have destroyed your entire planet."

Charlie let that sit in the silence for a moment, before glancing up at Judge Jack with a barely hidden smile. "No further questions."

Ra disappeared. Charlie returned to the table and sat down. "That got him," he muttered to Jack.

Jack wasn't so sure. He knew that Kawalsky was making the point that the Goa'uld were dangerous and that Jack had merely been defending himself and his planet, which was important. But Jack wasn't sure that it went entirely to the point. Couldn't Anubis just argue that Jack's actions had gone beyond the need of self-defense into revenge-motivated genocide? There were certainly plenty of real-world examples of that sort of thing.

"What now?" he whispered to Janet.

The Judge version of him seemed to be wondering the same thing. He looked to Anubis. "So? What now?"

Anubis looked at the jury, seemed pleased, and stood up behind his table. His voice dripped arrogant sarcasm. "O'Neill's defenders are doing my work so splendidly, I think they should continue. Let them call their witnesses."

Judge Jack frowned at him a little before giving a shrug. "Okay, if that's what you want. Janet and Charlie, apparently Anubis is done airing the dirty laundry. Your turn."

Janet stood up. "Yes, of course. Our first witness is Martouf."

Light flash. Jack leaned forward, finding himself unexpectedly eager to see Martouf. Ever since Martouf had died, the Tok'ra who had come after him had been ever increasingly formal and stiff and humorless, and never let their hosts talk. Plus there was Kanan --

He dropped the thought as Martouf gave him a friendly smile and nod, and then his smile widened at Janet. "Doctor Frasier. It's good to see you again."

Janet smiled back. "You too, Martouf. Thank you for coming. Could you explain what the Tok'ra are, please?"

"Certainly," he answered, with a challenging look at Anubis, who merely looked disgusted. Martouf said, "The Tok'ra are those who rebelled against the Goa'uld System Lords, seeking an end to their enslavement of the galaxy. The Tok'ra followed the beliefs of their queen, including that host and symbiote should live in harmony, and as equals."

Jack couldn't help a snort. Kanan sure hadn't believed in the equality bit.

Martouf added, with an expressive glance at Jack and apologetic face, "Sometimes that intent was not followed, either through desperation or madness, but it was in the main what separated the Tok'ra from the Goa'uld. The Goa'uld sought domination and power; the Tok'ra did not."

Janet asked, "So just to confirm, the Tok'ra are Goa'uld?"

Martouf shifted uncomfortably, but admitted, "Biologically, yes, the Tok'ra and the Goa'uld are identical. Except for a bare handful of converts, the Tok'ra are descended from Egeria, who was herself a system lord before her beliefs changed, some two thousand years ago."

"And during your time as host to the Tok'ra Lantash, you knew General O'Neill?" Janet asked.

That made Jack frown a little, since her question meant that Lantash wasn't with Martouf anymore. Just like Selmak wasn't with Jacob anymore, apparently. Was that by choice or not?

Martouf's blue eyes clouded with some dark emotion, before he pushed it aside, straightening to answer. "We worked together on several occasions," Martouf answered. "He was always friendly to us."

"To you in particular, or the Tok'ra in general?" Janet asked.

"In general," Martouf answered, with a bit of a wry lift of his lips at Jack. "He was often impatient with our ways, I have to admit, but that never prevented him from working with us or assisting us when we needed it."

Jack smiled back at him, in thanks. He had a warm feeling inside from what Martouf had said. It really had been friendly, hadn't it? Man, he missed that.

Janet kept going. "He worked with other Tok'ra?"

"Yes, many of us. Jacob Carter, host to Selmak, most of all." The two Tok'ra finally looked at each other, in complete shared understanding of something and looked away.

"And I know it's ridiculous, but then this whole thing is ridiculous," Janet added as an irritated aside. "So I have to ask, even though the Tok'ra are Goa'uld, General O'Neill never tried to kill one, is that correct?"

Martouf inclined his head once. "It is."

"Thank you, Martouf. Your witness," Janet told Anubis and returned to her chair. Charlie leaned across and very quietly, high-fived her.

Anubis stood. Despite his bulk, he moved gracefully, though that was probably thanks to incorporeality. Jack sneered inwardly -- the big, nasty snake apparently thought of himself as a human. Though why he picked that particular human form was beyond Jack's understanding. Maybe the Others chose it for him?

But all thoughts of Anubis' unimposing human form flew right out of his head when Anubis approached Martouf and asked bluntly, "How did you die?"

Martouf's eyes flared wide and he pushed back in his seat. He took a moment to compose himself before answering in a voice that was not quite as level as he wanted it to be, "Lantash and I had been captured by Apophis. We were made za'tarcs, with a hidden programmed mission to assassinate the Tau'ri president. We did not know of this program. Technology you created I believe," Martouf snapped at Anubis. "Apophis merely discovered and usurped it. The Tok'ra located and destroyed the machine not long after my death."

Anubis ignored the comments and just repeated the question, "How did you die?"

Martouf's gaze dropped to his hands. "Samantha had to shoot us."

Anubis couldn't keep the gleam of triumph from his eyes. "So, in other words, O'Neill's subordinate killed you?"

"She had no choice!" Martouf protested angrily.

"Didn't she?" Anubis purred and Martouf said nothing. Anubis paced away, directing his comment more at the jury, "You had been shot and surrounded by security personnel. Teal'c had already fired the zat'nik'tel once. She saw that. So why did she use the zat'nik'tel again, knowing a second shot would kill?"

Martouf's hands were clenched white on the top of the wooden wall in front of him. "Because I was still armed and I couldn't control myself," Martouf answered, a thread of anguish in his voice. "She did what she had to do to protect the others. I don't blame her. I've never blamed her for what happened."

Anubis seemed to be waiting for something for a drawn-out moment and then raised his brows, "Hm, I suppose you must believe that. I expected the Others to intervene as I sense a definite lie. But whether you blame her is irrelevant -- the point is that, despite the alliance between you, a subordinate of O'Neill's once again killed a Goa'uld. Tell me, Martouf, how many Tok'ra died in the years between Egeria's loss and your meeting with the Tau'ri?"

Martouf bit his lip and looked mulish. "Some," he answered reluctantly, as though the words were pulled from him with pliers.

Anubis asked, "And how many after you met the Tau'ri?"

"More," he answered.

"Many more?" Anubis smiled just a little, his cold eyes glittering. "In fact, so many that several of the Tok'ra declared that being allies with the Tau'ri was turning out to be more dangerous than their insignificant rebellion against the Goa'uld?"

Martouf glared hatefully at him and said nothing, but Anubis didn't press him, knowing when he had won. The Goa'uld looked to Judge Jack, "Nothing further."

Janet stood up, without moving away from the table. "Just one question, Martouf. Did Lantash die when Sam shot you?"

He lifted his chin. "He did not. He survived for some time and took a new host. Samantha didn't kill Lantash."

"Thank you." Janet sat back down, confident that she had turned Anubis' questions against him.

But Anubis wasn't finished yet. "So how did Lantash die, Martouf?"

"In the attack by Zipacna," Martouf answered shortly.

Anubis was like a shark sensing blood in the water. "I think you know more than that. Please, do elaborate."

Martouf clenched his jaw and looked resistant. But he knew, as well as Jack did, where this road was going. "He was dying anyway. So he activated the poison that killed symbiotes, and he died. He sacrificed himself so that Samantha, O'Neill, Selmak and Daniel could escape from the Goa'uld who'd attacked us."

"Very noble, I'm sure," Anubis scoffed. "Yet Zipacna also died. Three of his Goa'uld underlings, died. And over two thousand larval Goa'uld and their Jaffa died on Revanna as well from the poison -- isn't that true?" He didn't wait for Martouf to answer. "One more question, do you know a Tok'ra named Zarin?"

Martouf pressed his lips together and practically spat the words. "Yes. Of course."

"How did she die?"

"From the Goa'uld poison," Martouf answered.

"From poison-tipped missiles sent by the Tau'ri to twelve different Goa'uld worlds, in fact, right? So then it isn't true that O'Neill has never killed Tok'ra, is it?"

"O'Neill didn't kill Zarin! He had nothing to do with it!" Martouf protested.

"He let the perpetrators escape, didn't he? If he was so angry at what they'd done, surely he would have attempted to stop them?" Anubis challenged with poisoned sweetness. Martouf was too furious to speak for a moment, and Anubis looked up at the other Jack. "We're finished here."

Janet stiffened, as though she wanted to say something, but in the end she just shook her head at the judge's inquiring look.

Martouf disappeared.

The Robot Jack frowned at Anubis and then at the defense table. Jack was willing to bet his thoughts mirrored his own. Things weren't going so well for him. All of the humanoid faces in the jury, except Omoc, weren't looking at him any more. "Your next witness?"

"Do we get recess?" Jack whispered urgently. "We gotta talk. Now."

Charlie nodded and stood up, "The defense requests a short recess, iuda."

"Granted," Judge Jack said quickly and vanished in a burst of light, everyone else followed him out, leaving the three alone.

Or as alone as they were gonna get, since Jack was sure there was no shortage of Ascended people listening in. But there was nothing he could do about that, so he got to his feet and moved to the other side of the desk. He tapped his hands on the top of the table and regarded Janet and Charlie. "We're not doing so hot."

Janet grimaced. "I know. I'm sorry. I should've realized he was going to turn Martouf's death against us. I should've brought it out earlier."

He freed a hand to gesture it away. "No, I'm not blaming you, Janet. You guys are doing your best, but the fact is, it's not like I went out of my way not to kill Goa'uld. I just quibble with calling it wrong. So what we need to do is get out the point that everything I was doing and that Teal'c, and Carter, and Daniel did too, was in defense of Earth. Or heck, in defense of all humans through the galaxy. We were justified."

"We were planning to put you on next," Charlie said. "You're the only one who can explain why you did things."

Janet frowned and shook her head once. "I just don't know that it's enough right now. What we really need is a Goa'uld witness, who can testify to an act of compassion."

Charlie snorted skeptically. "Yeah, like who?"

"I don't know," she snapped back defensively. "What about Apophis?" she suggested after a moment. "We did give him sanctuary that one time."

"He died, Janet," Charlie reminded her. "And then Hammond shipped him back to Sokar to get revived and tortured some more. Apophis isn't going to say anything nice about Jack."

"Nope," Jack agreed, but paying only half his attention. Because there had been one occasion... He put his hands down flat on the table, leaning forward. "Cronus. He's our witness."

Janet and Charlie both stared at him. Jack had to chuckle at the fish-eyed looks. He started to tick off the good points with his fingers. "We saved him from Nurrti. And since I still think she was working for Heru'ur at the time, we probably also saved his territory for him. He was also one of the lords who kicked Anubis' ass originally, so there's no love lost there."

"Teal'c killed him," Charlie said, still obviously flummoxed by this whole idea. "You don't think that might make him a bit pissed at you?"

Jack shrugged. "He was torturing Teal'c at the time. Besides, it was a Jaffa revenge thing. Cronus knew it might happen from when Teal'c got in his face during the treaty negotiations." His look was wry as he asked, "C'mon, Charlie. At this point, we need all the help we can get. Even from a Goa'uld."

"Are you sure?" Janet asked doubtfully. He nodded, pretending he was really more sure about this than he was. She went over to where Jacob had been standing and she disappeared as well.

Wasn't this the sort of thing he would mock in someone else? Getting help from a Goa'uld -- like that was ever a good idea.

"It'll be okay, Jack," Charlie murmured and put a hand on his shoulder, giving it a squeeze.

"You know that now that you've gone glowy, or are you just guessing, Kawalsky?" he asked, amused and comforted in spite of himself.

"Guessing," Charlie answered promptly, and Jack had to chuckle.

"Thanks for nothing then, old buddy."

Janet returned then, with Jacob. The older general came over to the table, shaking his head at Jack. "You do like to play with fire, don't you, Jack?"

"Well, if the candle goes out, then there's not going to be supper is there?" he retorted, and when the three of them first looked at each other and then to him with identical 'huh?' faces, he shrugged, "What? I'm sure Daniel said Oma said something like that."

"Whatever you say, Jack," Jacob said, rolling his eyes and stepping back to his place by the wall.

The jury and Anubis returned, followed closely by the Other Jack, who asked. "Is the defense ready to proceed?"

Charlie remained standing. "We are. The defense calls the Goa'uld System Lord Cronus."

Several members of the jury murmured at that, which pleased Jack to no end. Just the mere chutzpah of calling a Goa'uld as a witness had already won him some points.

Cronus appeared in the witness box. He looked the same as the last time Jack had seen him, more or less, the quasi-Greek clothes in white and silver -- they were rather tasteful as Goa'uld clothes went -- and the shoulder-length hair framing a broad, but angular face that looked arrogant without trying. His presence filled the witness box, in a way that neither Ra nor Martouf had.

He narrowed his eyes and sneered when he saw Anubis, and his expression actually became less scornful when he saw the Tau'ri. He leaned back a bit in his chair, very much a lord, and folded his hands together.

Charlie bowed his head very politely. "Thank you for attending, Lord Cronus. We have only a few questions for you."

"As many as you wish, Tau'ri."

"Yes, well," Charlie cleared his throat. "Would you please describe what happened from your perspective when you joined Nurrti and Lord Yu on Earth to negotiate Earth's joining the Asgard Protected Planets Treaty?"

"The humans, including O'Neill, were rude and ignorant," Cronus answered. Jack inwardly winced. This wasn't a good start. "I was not impressed with either their manners or their technology, but it was not surprising after millennia of abandonment by the Goa'uld. I believed the Tau'ri should remain on their planet and not trouble the rest of the galaxy. When I was attacked and nearly killed, I believed they were at fault."

"And were they?" Charlie asked.

Jack tensed, wondering how Cronus would answer. But he was honest and straight-forward, answering, "No, they were not. Nurrti had attempted my death. When the Tau'ri then asked her to use the healing device, she pretended to do so and was prepared to let me die."

"Is that how you died?" Charlie asked.

"No. Samantha Carter used the healing device adequately to save my life."

Jack leaned back and silently let out the breath he'd been holding. That was the important part, and Cronus had just said it plainly, without trying to twist it against Jack or the SGC as Jack had feared.

Charlie went on, clearly learning from Janet's earlier mistake with Martouf, "So after Sam Carter saved your life at the SGC -- with Jack O'Neill's authorization I should add -- how did you die?"

Cronus turned his head to narrow his eyes at Judge Jack, who just smiled. "The iuda's own companion, the android version of the shol'va Teal'c, killed me with his staff weapon. I mistakenly had believed him to be already dead and turned my back to him."

Robot Judge muttered under his breath, but loud enough for everyone to hear, "Go, T."

"Do you know why the other Teal'c killed you?" Charlie asked.

Cronus faced him again, a cold smile on his face. "Because I had executed the real Teal'c's father for failing me, many years before and he wanted revenge. And because Teal'c was dying at my hands at the time," he added as an afterthought, and a look of vicious pleasure crossed his face at the memory. "It was the same way I had killed his father. Teal'c was surprised that I remembered."

Charlie took a step backward, as if the tame kitty had just become a lion, and Jack snorted to himself. There were no tame Goa'uld.

"Yes, well, thank you. Nothing further," Charlie came back to his chair next to Jack.

The two Goa'uld stared at each other, hostile gazes practically striking sparks. Their mutual hatred was much stronger than it'd been between Anubis and Ra. Cronus was clearly spitefully glad that he had screwed up Anubis' little project. "No questions," Anubis said, with a snarl.

Cronus' gloating face was there just a moment, and then he was gone.

Judge Jack rolled his eyes. "Okay, Kawalsky, Doc, what else you got?"

Jack felt his stomach knot. He knew what was going to happen next. He stood up, just as Charlie announced, "We call Jack O'Neill in his own defense."

Jack stood up, inhaling a deep breath to try to settle his insides. He walked across the front, opened the small wooden gate, and sat down in the chair inside the small box. The chair seemed very small and very hard. It was a chair to inspire brevity.

Frasier lowered her eyes for a moment, to gather her thoughts. She tapped her fingers against her skirt and lifted her head, with a gentle smile. But Jack wasn't fooled -- he saw the set look of her jaw and the fierce gleam in her eyes, and he knew that Fightin' Frasier was in the house. Nobody who'd seen her pull a gun on Nurrti would be surprised.

"I suppose we should start at the beginning," she said. "When you and Daniel Jackson went through the Stargate for the first time and ended up on Abydos, were you planning to kill Ra or any other Goa'uld?"

"Of course not," Jack answered. "We didn't even know there was such a thing. They'd all been gone from Earth so long they were just characters in stories to us. Nobody thought it was real. Hell, we didn't even know what the gate did or what we would find or where we were going."

"So why did you go through the gate?" Janet asked, looking genuinely curious.

"To evaluate if there was a threat. And to explore, though that was really more Daniel's department than mine."

"Did you report to your superiors that there was a threat?"

"I did," he nodded. "But I also reported that the threat was gone. When Ra's ship blew up, that seemed like the end of it. Or so I thought. Even then, we had no idea that there were more Goa'uld out there. We didn't learn that for almost another year, when Apophis himself came waltzing through our Stargate and kidnapped one of my sergeants. Apophis killed her," he added before Janet could ask anything more, since he really wanted to get that part in.

He frowned thoughtfully. "Actually, if Apophis hadn't come then, we very well might have not gone through the gate again. It hadn't been used since our first trip to Abydos and it was due to be put into secure storage. But Apophis showed up and we suddenly realized there was a whole lot more danger in the big 'ol galaxy than we thought."

"When did you learn of the other Goa'uld, besides Apophis?"

"We first heard about them from Teal'c, after he joined us. But the first one we encountered besides Apophis was ... " he ran through the early missions in his mind, hardly able to believe now that they'd been so lucky as not trip over some other active Goa'uld's territory in those fragile early years, "um, Hathor, actually. Some idiot archaeologist had released her from her sarcophagus prison on Earth and she came looking for the gate. She got away, that time. The next one was Heru'ur when he went and attacked some friends of ours and we went to help."

"But mostly you and General Hammond thought the main threat was Apophis?"

"Right. He was the one who attacked us with a fleet of motherships. We kicked his ass though," he added with a smirk. Yes, good times.

"Did you personally believe that all Goa'uld were Earth's enemy?" Janet asked.

"Well..." he paused, trying to frame the right words. "I suppose intellectually, yes. Teal'c had told us about all the various evils these Goa'uld had done, and we'd seen the aftermath ourselves -- the slavery, the poverty, that the Goa'uld force their slaves to live in. I mean, here's a fantastically advanced race, able to fly in spaceships across the galaxy, and they force their slaves to mine naquadah with hammer and chisel," he gestured emphatically, miming the slaves chipping ore loose from rocks. "That's oppression. It would've been a good thing to free everyone from their tyranny, from a moral standpoint. But neither me nor General Hammond when he was in charge at the SGC, thought it was our mission to go after all the Goa'uld. We just wanted to keep our world safe."

Janet had been about to speak, but checked her words, thinking. "What about other authorities on Earth? Were they in agreement with you and General Hammond?"

At first he frowned, wondering what she was getting at, because of course the president had been in agreement or they wouldn't have done it. But then, to his left, the other Jack pretended to sneeze, muttering, "Kinsey."

Oh. Right.

"Not all of them," Jack answered. "There were always elements within our upper leadership who wanted stronger defenses and a more aggressive policy against the Goa'uld. These were the people who sent secret teams out to steal technology from more advanced races like the Asgard. Remnants of that group were the ones who stole the stockpiled poison gas and began targeting all the Goa'uld, regardless of whether there were Jaffa there or not. Or even whether they were targeting Goa'uld at all. They were the ones who killed the Tok'ra Zarin."

"Did you condone their actions?" Janet asked.

"No. I was sorry I couldn't go after them, but I had people in trouble and I had to get them home first. I wasn't all broken up about the Goa'uld who got killed," he admitted with a shrug. "But the Trust's complete disregard for whether they were hitting friends or enemies -- not to mention operating completely outside any authority or oversight, and kidnapping my people -- made me stop them. And we did stop them eventually."

He faced the jury and pointed to Anubis, "Whatever that guy's trying to make you think, wholesale slaughter isn't what I'm about. That's his thing -- he's the one who tried to get the Ancients device on Dakara to wipe out all life in the galaxy. All life in the galaxy," he repeated, trying to make sure they got it, paying special attention to the aliens. "Humans, Goa'uld, Jaffa, Reetou, other races, animals, birds... everything."

Then just because it had pissed him off for a long time, and it seemed like it was his chance, he cast his eyes up to the ceiling, "I'd just like to add that if you people were gonna Ascend and all that, fine, but you should've cleaned up all the crap you left behind first! I've had my brain sucked twice, gotten stuck in a damn time loop for three months, and nearly had the entire galaxy scoured clean because of you didn't pick up your toys."

When he looked back down, Janet was grinning and shaking her head at him. It took her a moment to focus again and grow serious. "Tell me, General, what is your opinion of the Goa'uld today?"

"Today? Hmm..." Though tempted to give a flippant answer, he suppressed his first response to think about it. What did he think of the Goa'uld right now?

"Defeated," he said finally with relish. "They're not all gone, but they're no threat to us anymore. Their power's broken, and their Jaffa are now free to screw up their lives all on their own. The Goa'uld did it to themselves, through their arrogance, and cruelty and stupidity."

He straightened in his chair, letting the simmering annoyance bubble over. He'd played along for long enough. "Let's get to the real point here. You," he pointed at Anubis, "and your lackey Baal killed more Goa'uld in your rise to power than me and mine did. So where's your trial thing? Where do I sign up to give you one?"

"Jack --" the other Jack remonstrated, but not as if he meant it, so Jack ignored him, folding his arms and wishing there were some Others visible so he could glare at them, settling for Anubis himself.

"I'm serious. This is stupid. We were just defending ourselves; you were wiping out the competition. Why are you over there and I'm here? Why do you get to keep playing games with mortals, even when you're supposed to be Ascended and beyond all this pettiness?"

This time it was Jacob who spoke his name, "Jack --" The warning tone got to him, and he glanced at the former Tok'ra and saw him looking worried. Jacob shook his head emphatically in the "don't go there" gesture.

Reminded that Jacob had said that Jack's trouble was Jacob's trouble, Jack bit his lip on the rest of what he wanted to say, and finished grumpily. "Well, it's the truth."

Janet nodded and reached forward to touch the front of the witness box once before returning to her chair. "Your witness, Anubis."

Anubis stood up. "You have hostile feelings for the Others?"

"Only for their hypocrisy for not taking care of you," he retorted. "Letting you run amuck. Whatever happened to non-interference?"

Anubis smiled and walked closer to Jack, who wanted to lean away from him, but stubbornly refused. "I happen to agree with you, does that surprise you? They are hypocrites, all of them. I've always used that to my advantage. But I am not the issue here, O'Neill, you are. And you do not lack for hypocrisy yourself."

Jack waited and then said, brows up in mock puzzlement, "Was there a question in there? Sorry, I missed it."

Anubis narrowed his eyes at the insolence and Jack looked back full of innocent helpfulness. "You claim that you attacked the Goa'uld out of self-defense, and yet how many times did you lead or send others out through the Stargate, after you had been warned by our friend Cronus that entering Goa'uld space would be provocative and make the Goa'uld view you as an enemy? Did you in fact not bring the enmity of the Goa'uld upon yourselves?"

Jack wasn't buying into that crap, not for a second. "Apophis started it," Jack snapped. "He invaded us first. He kidnapped and murdered one of my people, and barely six months later attacked us from space. If anyone was being "provocative", he was. We went through the gate after that to look for allies and technology to defend ourselves. When we found some -- as you might remember -- " he smirked at Anubis, even though his own memories of the battle over Antarctica were rather hazy, "we did protect the planet from your fleet, when you attacked us last year."

Anubis' eyes darkened ominously. "Yes, more technology that you primitive Tau'ri use without understanding. Truly, O'Neill, how has your race survived in this galaxy being so reckless and foolish?"

Jack leaned back and folded his arms. "Reckless, maybe. We went through the Stargate without much clue of what we were getting ourselves into, that's true. But not foolish. It's not foolish to watch out for your friends, or want the rest of humanity freed from evil overlords. And so maybe we went out there without much more than a moral high horse and guts, but you know what? We did it. The galaxy is a far safer and freer place now."

"So you're not sorry about killing so many of the Goa'uld?" Anubis asked, leaning close eagerly like a vulture spying a dying buffalo.

Jack was sorry for a lot of things he'd done in his career. In his life. But that wasn't one of them. There was no point in pretending otherwise. "No. I'm sorry the Goa'uld were arrogant, power-hungry weasels out to conquer the galaxy. But I'm not sorry they lost. I did what I had to do, and I'd do it again."

Anubis smiled one last time, the affable mask on his face again. "Thank you, O'Neill. Nothing further," he addressed Robot Jack.

"Redirect, Doctor?" Judge Jack asked and she shook her head. "Back to your chair, then," Judge Jack motioned Jack to get up and go back to the defense table. When Jack was snug between Janet and Charlie, his robot double lifted his eyebrows in inquiry at Janet, who said they had no more witnesses.

Robot Jack then addressed the jury. "You've heard the questions and the answers. I'm sure you've got some opinions. But remember, the only thing you have to decide is whether Jack O'Neill of the Tau'ri is guilty or whether he is worthy enough to be allowed to choose his fate." He added with a half- crooked, wry smile, "in other words, is his hatred for the Goa'uld stronger than his good qualities? You decide. Choose wisely, choose well."

He snapped his fingers and the jury disappeared. The robot clone followed in a flash of bright light, and then Anubis.

Jacob wandered back over to their table. "Well, that was ... interesting. Don't hold back or anything, Jack."

"What was I gonna do?" Jack demanded, letting out just a bit of frustration with a whack of the table. "I couldn't lie, could I? And there was no point dancing around it, when Anubis knew damn well what he was going for the whole time. I though I'd just save everyone some time by saying it straight out."

"You certainly did," Charlie agreed. "But you were honest and that should count for something."

"Yeah, so you'd think, but I don't know. With those people?" Jack waved a hand in the general direction of the jury seats. "I'm not holding my breath."

"You're not actually breathing at all," Janet offered cheerfully, trying to lighten things up. "Since you're on another plane of existence."

He winced. "Save all that for Carter, will you? It makes my head hurt." She just gave him a 'not buying it' look, but she let it slide, for which he was grateful. He stood up and stretched out his back and cracked his neck. All that defiantly refusing to back off from Anubis had tightened him up something fierce. "Okay. Let's say for a second that there's a miracle and the verdict's in my favor. Then what?"

Jacob rolled his eyes. "Weren't you listening? You get to choose what happens next. You can go back to your body and let the docs take care of you, wake up, and go off to Washington."

Jack grimaced in distaste. Oh yes, the promotion, the desk, the Pentagon... Wasn't that going to be fun with a capital "F"? "And behind door number two?"

Janet and Charlie exchanged a look, and Charlie said, turning very serious eyes on Jack, "You die, Jack."

He'd thought as much but it was still unbelievable. "That's it? That's my big choice?"

"And you get to Ascend," Jacob put in, with a frustrated look at Charlie.

"Ooh, really, I get to be glowy too?" Jack asked, barely able to muster fake enthusiasm for the prospect. Yeah, sitting around on his ass and watching the galaxy like it was just one big television show for the rest of eternity sounded fun. Not.

"It's not so bad," Jacob said, but not with heaps of enthusiasm either. He must have realized his selling technique needed work, because he added, "Look, Jack, most people don't get offered the opportunity at all."

That still wasn't all that impressive from where Jack was sitting. "Yeah, well, most people don't get pain-in-the-mik'ta Goa'uld Glowing Jellyfish Wannabe's screwing around in their life, either."

"Point," Jacob agreed, with a glum nod and gave up on the joys of Ascendedness.

So Jack decided to find out what was really going on with him. "So, Jake, what's up with Selmak? And Lantash too, I gather."

Janet reached across the table and patted Jacob's arm.

Jacob answered after a moment, "We all ascended separately and we're not allowed to find each other, at least not yet. Some bull about having to grow as individuals first."

"Sounds like the busybody Ascended we all know," Jack agreed. He was going to ask more, but Jacob stiffened up in that odd way that seemed to mean he was communicating with the Others somehow.

"They're done," he said.

"That was fast," Jack tried for nonchalance and knew he'd failed when Janet took his hand and squeezed.

"There is no time here," she reminded him gently. "No fast or slow. Only as much as they needed."

Which still sounded to him like the jury hadn't been gone very long, but this was some other dimension so what the hell did he know?

Anubis appeared, then the jury, and lastly Judge Jack. Jack's clone had a decided poker face as he looked at the jury, and Jack couldn't tell if he knew the verdict already or was preparing himself to hear it. He said, "The members of the jury are decided. One by one, you must stand and give your decision. First, Omoc of Tollana."

The Tollan who'd gotten killed by his own people for questioning some shady dealings with Tanith stood up. "Not guilty. Though my people abhor violence, we do not question the need for defense against a stronger enemy. Would that my people had defenders of O'Neill's caliber -- Tollana might still exist."

He gave a very polite nod of his head to Jack, who returned it, and he disappeared.

The next to stand was Alar of Euronda. He refused to look at Jack, fixing his eyes on Anubis. His elegantly spare form and voice were just as Jack remembered, as was the hypocrisy. "Guilty. I heard no remorse, only the arrogant assurance that his way was the only true and right way. Those deaths, and many more, lie on his head and should be punished."

He disappeared and Reese stood up. In contrast to Alar, she looked fixedly at Jack, "You killed my toys," she said with a petulant child's voice. "They're all dead, because of you. You and the Goa'uld deserve each other -- you should have all died! Guilty!"

The two Unas stood up in turn, and each grunted only one word in their language and vanished. When there was no translation forthcoming from anyone, Jack leaned into Charlie and whispered, "What?"

"Innocent," Charlie whispered back.

That made it 3-2 in his favor. Jack was on the edge of his seat as Morem the Aschen stood up. He looked down his nose at Jack, who felt another niggling of conscience. Yes, the Aschen had conquered their neighbors no less ruthlessly than the Goa'uld and planned to do the same to Earth, but still, had they deserved getting their homeworld sucked into a black hole?

"Guilty," he said, not surprising Jack at all. He didn't explain why, but no doubt everyone there knew anyway.

That left the Reetou, the weird alien, and Fifth.

The Reetou didn't have to stand up since it wasn't actually sitting in a chair at all. It warbled something in its language and instead of flashing out of the room, sort of shimmered out of sight and was gone.

Charlie translated again, "'Not guilty. The Goa'uld once hunted us; it is proper that they in turn be hunted.'"

Jack wasn't sure that was a ringing endorsement, since it sounded more like the Reetou thought he'd done it, but didn't feel it was a crime.

The other alien unfolded itself from the chair and a very disconcerting pair of eyes landed on Jack. It was like looking into a chasm with no bottom. The alien clicked and hissed for what seemed like forever, and Jack had no idea what it was saying.

Except that in his head he "heard" the translation -- "Of these things we know: Jack O'Neill meant well. He believed in necessity. He believed in defense. He believed truly. Belief is not truth. Truth is not correct. Correct-action is no action." And it disappeared.

Jack frowned, trying to figure it out. But he was feeling very 'huh?' at the moment. What did the alien mean? He hadn't said guilty or not guilty. So what was his vote?

Janet glanced at him and took pity on his obvious confusion. She shook her head in rueful negative.

Jack felt it like a blow. The alien had voted against him? But why?

His eyes settled on Fifth - he of the curly hair and the once-open and eager face on a young man's body, even if that body was made up of gazillion tiny Replicators . Jack's entire insides froze up. The votes were now tied, four to four, and that gave Fifth the deciding vote.

And Fifth hated him.

Fifth slowly got to his feet. He hesitated, head hanging and gaze directed at Anubis' table. He spoke quietly, but with the intensity that Jack remembered from when they'd met.

"Once I was innocent. I was a child. And I trusted in Jack O'Neill and Samantha. They betrayed me." With that he lifted his head and fixed Jack with a cold, but also very hurt glare. Ouch.

"From that I learned hatred and vengeance," Fifth continued. "I created a child of my own, who was tainted with what I had learned. She betrayed me too, and killed me. I thought I could hate nothing more than I hated the Tau'ri in that moment."

Jack swallowed hard. This was sounding worse and worse.

Fifth's gaze now moved to Anubis. "But then I watched the Goa'uld. I watched you. I watched your lieutenant betray you. He allied with his enemy O'Neill to stop your plan of conquest and destruction of all life in this galaxy. From that action I learned that doing the right and necessary thing may sometimes be a betrayal of someone else. I realized that O'Neill and Samantha's betrayal of me was because they needed to protect their people from mine."

He looked at Jack again and there was something like a smile in his eyes, or at least forgiveness. "After some thought, I have decided that O'Neill is guilty of many things, but he deserves the chance to continue to protect his people. That's what he does best." He nodded once to Jack and disappeared.

"All right!" Judge Jack shouted, pumping a fist in triumph and apparently released from any obligation to pretend neutrality. "You win, Jack. Now click your heels three times and say there's no place like home, and it's all over. Congratulations." And he was gone too.

Anubis said nothing, just glared at him, and winked out of the room.

For a moment, Jack just sat there, trying to absorb it all. Then he let out a long breath and collapsed back into his chair. "Well... thank God. I was a little worried there for a second."

"We told you it would work out," Janet said, folding her arms in a huff, but Jack caught the smile she couldn't quite suppress.

Charlie shook his head and chuckled ruefully. "You do realize that he changed his mind because Baal turned on Anubis to work with you?"

"Yeah, I'll be sure to send the snakehead a thank you card when I get back," Jack grumped at him, but his heart wasn't in it. He was still trying to process that Fifth had actually voted for him. Maybe the kid wasn't such a bad guy after all.

But it wasn't really Fifth he had to thank for this, he knew. He stood and reached out to put a hand on Charlie and Janet's shoulders. "Thank you both. All of you," he added quickly with a glance at Jacob, "You were amazing."

"No problem," Charlie answered flippantly, but he reached across and grasped Jack's shoulder and squeezed, saying with the gesture all that he wasn't going to say out loud.

Jacob joined them at the table, shaking his head at Jack again in amazement. "You have more luck than any three people deserve, Jack. I thought for sure the Replicator was going against you."

Jack put a hand over his heart, "You mean ascension doesn't mean knowing everything? Well, damn, now I'm all shocked."

Charlie snickered, and Janet bit her lip, so she wouldn't grin.

Jacob just sighed. "Very funny. But you still have to make the choice, Jack. Do you want to go back or stay here?"

Jack let the levity dwindle away, since he wanted Jacob to understand that he was serious. "I told Daniel no when he offered to help. I meant it then, Jacob, and I mean it now. I don't want this." He looked around the fake courtroom and shook his head. "I couldn't stand around and just watch. It didn't work for Daniel, and it sure as hell wouldn't work for me."

Charlie and Janet shared a rueful and disappointed look. "We thought as much," she said to Jack. "But we were hoping anyway."

"We should get going," Jacob said, apologetically. "We're not supposed to linger after you decide to go."

Jack awkwardly faced Janet, not knowing what else to say. But she knew what to do, giving him a fierce hug. "Remember, we're not gone," she reminded him. "As long as you remember us, we're still watching over you. We'll help as much as we can, even if you won't know it, I promise."

"Janet?" he pulled back to try to look in her face, worried by what she was not saying.

Jacob stepped closer and lowered his voice. "Trouble's coming, Jack. And all of us up here, who still care about down there, will be doing what we can. It isn't much, you're right about that, but you're not alone. Okay? Try to remember."

"You'll be needed, Jack," Janet added. For just a moment, she wasn't the Janet Frasier he had known, but someone beyond her, with knowledge in her brown eyes that shouldn't be there. "The Goa'uld are not the only evil in the universe."

Jack looked from Janet to Jacob, who nodded once, to Charlie, who held up a hand to stop any questions. "No, don't ask. If we leave it at that, the Others might let you remember it. Just... remember, Jack. You're needed."

"And when the time comes," Janet smiled at him, warm and human once again as she let go of his hand with one last squeeze, "we'll be waiting for you. Give Cassandra my love, and tell Sam she better take good care of my daughter."

"I will," he promised.

"Take care of yourself, old buddy," Charlie said, clapping him on the shoulder and then standing away. He and Janet both disappeared in flares of light.

Jack looked into the former General Carter's face, trying to read it. He wanted to ask about the cryptic warnings, but it was pretty obvious that was all he was going to get. "So. Back to the Waffle House of Glowing Jellyfish?"

Jacob shook his head once, half-smiling. "No, straight home for you this time."

"Oh, then, this is it then?" Jack asked, suddenly feeling awkward. There were so many things he wanted to say and questions he wanted to ask, but the words wouldn't come. He settled on a weak effort, "I hope you find Selmak, Jacob."

"Me, too. Thanks." Jacob cast an appraising eye over him, making Jack feel very much like a lieutenant again. "You're a good man, Jack. I don't think being at the Pentagon will change that."

"You're not sure? You've gone glowy and you're still such a pessimist?"

Jacob cast his eyes up to the non-existent ceiling to beg the Others for more patience. "Shut up, Jack. Let's get you home before Fifth remembers how aggravating you are and changes his vote"

As the bright light seemed to fold itself around him, Jack heard Jacob laugh, "Oh, before I forget, the answer to your question is no."

But then there was nothing but light, and as it faded to darkness, Jack's mind went with it, following it into the silent stillness of his body.

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Annoying beeping. Check.

Chemical smell of antiseptic. Check.

Tug of an i.v. in his arm. Check.

Infirmary.

Jack heaved an inward sigh and opened his eyes. Yep, infirmary.

He moved his head, which objected to the motion by pounding at least two nails in his brain. There was Daniel, reading something which he laid aside the instant he realized Jack was awake.

Daniel leaned close and asked in a considerate murmur, "Hey, there. How are you feeling?"

"I didn't authorize construction on this floor, so the pounding must be in my head," Jack said by way of an answer and groaned. "What the hell happened?"

"Concussion," Daniel explained. "Your packing box fell on your head. You've been unconscious for almost two days."

"Oh, that explains it. For a moment I felt I'd been on a trip or something. Weird. I think I was dreaming," Jack said, frowning. He had strange wisps of memory drifting in his mind. But they were slipping away from him, dissolving like snowflakes in the sun. "Something about Jacob, I think. And Anubis. Cronus was there, too, of all people." Looking up at the infirmary ceiling reminded him, and he added softly, "And the doc, too. They were all trying to tell me something. Something important."

"Tell you what?" Daniel asked, as if he was genuinely curious, not just humoring Jack's strange, incoherent dream.

"I don't know." Jack shook his head a little, but whatever it was, was gone. But it left him with a very unsettled feeling that he hoped was the product of his concussion, but which he feared was not.

Yet there was another feeling in there as well, a new sense of anticipation for his promotion that hadn't been there before. Like he'd let go of some things, and he was ready to move on.

He smiled up at his friend. "But I think they were telling me that life is for the living, Daniel. And it's still a pretty good life to have."

fin.




My bunny assignment:

* * * * * * * * * * Time frame: S8 after "Threads" Pairings: No overt ship, no slash. Plot: While hovering on the verge of death, a comatose Jack is visited by a glowy Jacob/Selmak and informed he is to be put on trial to answer for all the dead false gods he & his team have sent to the Great Beyond. His defense team: Charlie Kowalsky and Janet Fraiser. The judge: Jack's duplicate from 'Tin Man'. The jury: Any deceased being from the series who wasn't from the SGC or a Goa'uld (i.e. any of the Tollan, anyone from Abydos, Alar or any of his people (The Other Side), Reece (Menace), any of the replicators (First, Fifth, etc.), an Unas (Thor's Hammer or Demons), etc.). * * * * * * * * * * * *

To the bunny author, whoever you are: I hope I got close, even though I suspect I didn't do what you had in mind.