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Offworld Alphabet Soup

Title: Q is for Quitting
Author: antonomasia09
Category: Gen
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Warnings: none
Spoilers: Half Life
Word Count: 1227
Story Notes: This is a missing scene for the Big Finish SG-1 audiodrama, "Half Life." Brief summary for those who haven't listened to it:
Ba’al clones Daniel and swaps the real one for the brainwashed clone without anyone realizing. The clone sees Jack O’Neill, is triggered, and shoots Jack point blank (non-fatally). He is arrested and they discover what he really is, but Vala is more concerned with finding the real Daniel. Since the temporary SGC commander is unwilling to let anyone go offworld, Vala kidnaps the clone and escapes with him through the gate. She brings him to Keto, her former partner, who has a machine that can read memories, in the hopes that it will lead them to Daniel...

Thanks to my beta brinnanza, and to sg_fignewton for hosting the soup!

Summary: Vala has left Earth, and she's not going back. Ever.

Vala knows six ways of escaping from the Tau’ri homeworld. Four by Stargate and two by ship. Three of these methods can accommodate up to ten other willing participants; one can be accomplished with a single unwilling guest. She had never thought she would have to use any of them.

And yet, here she is, spinning around lazily in the copilot’s chair on a rickety tel’tak with a former smuggling partner she hasn’t seen in years, an unconscious potentially homicidal clone of Daniel Jackson, and no concrete plans beyond rescue the real Daniel and try not to die.

Maybe she can go back into business with Keto. They had made an excellent team (if somewhat prone to betrayal). Perhaps she can even convince Daniel to stay with her, be a junior partner. His friendly demeanor and sparkling blue eyes would make him a great distraction while she steals the loot. Keto can fly the getaway vehicle.

It’s probably for the best that she is leaving Earth now, before her skills get too rusty. What was a brilliant con woman like herself doing on a team like SG-1 anyway? Wasting her talent, that’s what.

“So, the Tau’ri?” Keto says a little bit too casually, interrupting her rambling thoughts. She curls a foot behind the base of the chair, stopping her spin to face him. “How did that happen?”

“Long story,” she answers. “Short version: I stole Daniel’s ship. And Daniel.”

He whistles appreciatively. “Bold opening move. You always did have a flair for the dramatic. Must’ve done something pretty special to get them to trust you after that.”

“I did,” she says in a tone that discourages further questioning, not in the mood to discuss the whole sacrificing herself for the greater good thing. Nothing even came of it anyway besides a bit of torture, a fanatical husband, and a new figurehead for the Ori.

She grabs a non-vital-looking crystal out of the panel in front of her, wanting something for her hands to do. Keto glares at her, snatches it away, and stuffs it back into place. She pouts at him until he relents and gives her a shiny metallic bauble from his coat pocket.

“I’ve heard rumors about how much the Tau’ri have been annoying Lucian Alliance lately,” he says. “Apparently, some of the higher-ups would love to get their hands on SG-1.” He nods pointedly to the velcro on her shoulder where her patch would go, and she instinctively moves to angle it out of his line of sight. “I’ve still got contacts. Could get a lot of money even if we just handed over one of them.”

She can’t help darting a glance back at Daniel lying unconscious in the cargo area. He doesn’t look good. Probably has a day left at most before his brain turns to mush, or whatever it is that happens to unstable clones who are subjected to pneumonic scanning arrays.

From Keto’s satisfied grin, she knows her glance gave them away.

“Thought so,” he says, and shakes his head admiringly. “The Tauri’s frontline team. Don’t know how you pull these things off, Vala.”

She has a sudden urge to use the zat in her belt. “We’re not turning him over,” Vala says, her voice cold. “Not him, not the real one.” She slips the bauble into her pocket, in case she needs to punch Keto in the face.

“Come on,” he wheedles. “This one’s not going to live much longer anyway. Might as well make some money off him while we still can.”

She is up out of her chair and standing between Keto and Daniel before she even realizes that she’s moved. Her zat is out, pointed straight at the smuggler, and she’s breathing hard. “You’re not going to touch him,” she growls.

Keto raises his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay,” he says. “It was just an idea. What’s the matter with you, anyway? You’ve never been one to turn down easy money.”

“He’s not easy money,” she says, lowering her zat but not relaxing enough to retake her seat. “He’s my friend.”

Keto is looking at her carefully. “People in our business don’t have friends,” he reminds her.

He’s right, she thinks. There are marks and there are fellow grifters, but a good con artist never gets attached to either. So why does she already miss Cameron’s drawl and Teal’c’s easy presence and Samantha’s quiet competence?

“You’ve changed, Vala,” Keto continues. “You’re risking everything you’ve built just to save one man. You care about things now, big things, like truth and good and evil. Time was you wouldn’t be caught dead thinking about stuff like that.”

“Is that bad?” she asks him, leaning over on the control console between their chairs, hands propping up her chin.

He shrugs. “Dunno. I personally have no use for lofty ideals. They have a tendency to make people miserable and dead.”

“I think I know what you mean,” she agrees, remembering getting burnt to death for heresy and the guilt she’d felt after Adria wiped out Dakara. “Well, it was nice while it lasted, but I’m ready to go back to being the happy-go-lucky and carefree Vala you used to know.” She gives him her widest smile, hoping it doesn’t feel as fake as she thinks it does.

“Really? You’re giving up?” Keto asks, surprised. “That still doesn’t sound like you.”

“What choice do I have?” She’s getting angry at Keto for thinking he knows her. At Daniel for getting them both into this mess in the first place. “I stole Daniel again to get him to that scanner of yours. Broke him out of prison. They barely trusted me before, even if they took advantage of my talents. Made no secret of the fact that they’ve been waiting for something like this to happen. I’ve as good as handed in my resignation.”

“What about him?” Keto nods to Daniel.

“What about him?” she challenges.

“You think he’s just going to let you go?”

“He doesn’t control me,” she says, but Keto shakes his head.

“Not what I meant. I’ve seen the way he looks at you, the way he’s been following you around like a stray puppy. He sat down in that chair, even after I mentioned that the last guy to use the scanner’d had a brain hemorrhage, just because you asked him to. If that’s not trust, I don’t know what is.”

“So what?” she says, bitter. “For all we know, it was all an act and he deliberately showed us a fake memory. He could be leading us into a trap.”

“Do you really believe that?” he asks.

She sighs, her anger draining away. “No.”

“There you go, then.”

“It’s not that easy, though,” she says. “Even if we rescue Daniel and he vouches for me, his word isn’t going to mean much after what this one did.”

“I wouldn’t underestimate him,” Keto says. “If he could make you care about him, he’s got to be pretty persuasive.”

“He is good at coming up with compelling arguments,” she agrees.

Behind them, Daniel groans and stretches, and she hurries over to see how he’s doing. Keto hides a smile and pretends piloting requires his full attention.

Six strategies for escaping Earth, and not a single one for getting back. Well, she didn’t have any plans this weekend anyway.

Notes: If anyone is interested, you can listen to the first 30 minutes of "Half Life" for free here (although I would highly recommend buying the whole series). Keto doesn't show up until afterwards, but his voice sounds remarkably similar to the Tenth Doctor's.