SENTINEL

BY

ANNIE

FEEDBACK TO: Annie

DISCLAIMER: Stargate Sg:1 and its characters belong to Petfly et al. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thanks to Lyn for all the hard work betaing this for me, especially as Anubis (the evil PC) decided to eat half of it, not once but twice

"What just happened?" Jack asked as he and Daniel stepped through the event horizon on P3X7843. He glanced around, looking for Carter. She was the team member who was usually able to explain what was going on with the Gate. "Carter?" he called loudly. "Teal'c?" Daniel moved to stand closer to O'Neill as they both turned to face the Gate, waiting for Carter and Teal'c to step through.

"Um, Jack!" he said, pointing as the Gate shimmered out of existence and left them standing on the flat terrain. O'Neill immediately lifted his weapon and swung it in a wide arc around them. Daniel pulled his gun from its holster and did the same, making sure to keep a step behind Jack as he did so. If Jack had to pull the trigger on that assault rifle of his, Daniel certainly didn't want to be standing in its way. There was no sign of anyone nearby, just the two of them, standing in front of the vanished Gate.

"Well," Jack began, "This is interesting. Any ideas, Daniel? You picked this planet after all."

"Not yet, Jack. I felt a weird sort of sensation as we stepped through, almost like a beam or something scanning me, then just the Gate disappearing. From what I know of this planet, it's pretty innocuous. I mostly wanted to come here, as I explained at the briefing," here he took a moment to fix Jack with a hard stare, "because of the opportunity to study a people that seem to mimic the native tribes of Peru. The MALP showed indications of temples that looked a lot like the ones the Incas built."

"I know that, Daniel. I was at the briefing, remember?" Jack reminded him.

"Well, you don't always take a lot of notice of what I say at briefings," Daniel remarked.

"Do so," Jack retorted.

"Do not."

"Do so!" Jack snapped with finality. He brought his radio to his mouth and tried to contact the SGC.

"Jack, that's not going to work if there's no Gate, no wormhole, no DHD, no... nothing!" Daniel waved his arm about them in frustration. If he'd walked them into a trap... He decided it was better to try to find a way out of the predicament before piling blame on himself. He was pretty sure Jack would give him a hand with the piling on when... if, they got back to the SGC.

"I know. Just thought it was worth a shot. Come on, let's see if we can find any non hostile natives for you to make friends with," Jack said, moving off toward the hills in the distance, motioning for Daniel to stay behind him.

They'd trudged on for at least an hour before Jack called a halt to rest. They still hadn't seen any signs of civilization; not even Daniel's purported Inca temples. The flat terrain started to edge upwards into the hills. Jack could see the beginnings of a forest covering the slopes before them. "Daniel, you okay?" he called back over his shoulder.

"I'm fine, Jack. Let's keep going. Those temples the MALP picked up have to be around here somewhere," Daniel answered.

"Okay, just keep up with me, alright?" Jack started through the undergrowth ahead of them. It was fairly easy going at this point though the gradient of the hill had Daniel wishing he'd put in more time at the gym before they'd left. Jack pushed on, ignoring the ache in his knees from the steadily increasing incline, shoving his way through the thickening foliage.

He stopped suddenly as he felt Daniel stumble into his back. "Daniel?" he asked, turning quickly, grabbing the archeologist in his arms as he fell. He lowered him as gently as possible to the ground and stood, his weapon trained on the forest behind them. Glancing down at Daniel, he saw a small dart protruding from his chest. He reached down to snag it out, eyes still fixed on the surrounding forest. As he straightened, he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder. He grabbed the projectile between his fingers, attempting to pull it free. But his fingers had turned to lead and the numbness spread up his arm and then his chest and finally to his brain. He collapsed to the ground, vaguely seeing a shadow looming over him, in the brief moments before his consciousness fled.

O'Neill woke in almost darkness, his head aching throbbingly. He lay still, attempting to get his bearings, waiting until the blurred shapes in front of him began to take on recognizable images, before lifting his head. The movement caused lights and pain to flare in his head and he settled back on the ground, groaning at the nausea roiling in his gut. He closed his eyes briefly then opened them again as he heard Daniel calling him, his voice soft.

"Jack, take it slowly, okay? Wait a few minutes before you try to get up."

He could feel Daniel's hand pressing on his shoulder, keeping him flat, his eyes finally focusing on the archeologist's concerned face hovering above him. "Danny, are you alright?" Jack husked. "You look terrible."

"Thanks. You don't look so hot yourself," Daniel smiled faintly. He reached his arm around Jack's shoulders and helped him to a sitting position. Once Jack was more or less upright, Daniel stood, allowing him to get a better look at their surroundings.

They were in a clearing, encroached by forest on all sides. It had obviously been dug out of the forest as some form of camping site. A small fire burned in the middle of the clearing, a spit arranged over it containing pieces of some sort of small creature. Jack didn't even want to think what it might be. His stomach still rolled sickeningly and he could taste bile in the back of his throat. He took deep breaths, willing himself not to throw up.

"Whatever was on that dart wasn't conducive to my health," Jack said, looking Daniel over appraisingly. The archeologist looked a bit pale and there was a small abrasion on his face that looked as if like it might have been made when they'd been dragged here.

"Yeah, the dart was still in you when I woke up. I guess that's why it had more of an effect on you than me," Daniel replied. "I'm not sure how long I was out for, maybe an hour. I came to about 45 minutes ago." He reached down and helped Jack to his feet.

Jack was surprised to realize they were both still armed. Hearing the crunch of footsteps approaching, he lifted his rifle and pointed it in the direction of the sounds.

"Aah, Jack, you really don't need to do that. Remember those friendly natives you wanted me to meet? Well, this is one of them. In fact, there is only one of them. Now, that is. There were more but they've gone somewhere else and..."

"You're babbling, Daniel," Jack said sharply, weapon still raised.

"Right, well... ah, here he is now," Daniel replied, turning toward the man striding into the clearing. Daniel put a welcoming smile on his face. "Jack, put the gun down, please. I really don't think he means us any harm."

"Oh for crying out loud, Daniel. He drugged us. That kinda qualifies as harm in my book!" Jack shouted.

At the sound of O'Neill's raised voice the man's hand moved to the bag of darts at his hip.

"If he really wanted to hurt us he wouldn't have left us armed, would he?" Daniel responded in a reasonable tone, reaching his hand behind him to grasp the end of the weapon and push it down. "Are you sure about this, Daniel?" O'Neill asked, concern for their safety warring with his faith in Jackson's instincts.

"Pretty sure. You just scared him, that's all." Daniel continued to smile at the man as he approached them. O'Neill sighed. It always bothered him when Daniel jumped right in with his "let's all be buddies" routine on every planet they went to, but he had to admit that the archeologist was making some sort of sense this time. He bent slowly and placed the rifle on the ground at his feet, making sure it was still close enough to grab in a hurry if he had to. As he straightened up, he smiled faintly; baring his teeth in what he hoped was an echo of Daniel's friendly grin.

He looked their 'host' over carefully. The man was about 6 feet tall and had the appearance of an Amerindian. His hair was black and reached below his shoulders. Around his neck he wore a necklace made of beads; the same beads made up the armlets that encircled his muscled biceps. There were thin scars lacing across his bare chest, (perhaps the remnants of some form of initiation ceremony, Jack thought). He wore no clothing save a loincloth wrapped around his hips. His eyes, almost black in the brown of his face, wrinkled at the corners as he drew his lips upward in an imitation of Jack's smile. He reached out his hand and grasped Jack's arm near the elbow in what appeared to be some form of ritual handshake, then did the same to Daniel.

"Jack, this is Manco. Manco, Jack," Daniel said, pointing to O'Neill.

"Hey, how you going, Manco? Daniel, any time you want to tell me what's going on, I'm ready to listen."

"I will, well, as much as I know anyway. Manco doesn't speak English, by the way." Daniel frowned at Jack's muttered, "Ya think?" before continuing. "The original Incans spoke Quechua which is what I've been using and we seem to be understanding each other okay."

"Well, that's just peachy, Danny boy. I'm glad you found a friend. But, we really need to get out of here. We still don't know what happened to Teal'c and Carter or the Gate, " Jack growled, frustration evident in his voice.

"I haven't forgotten any of that, but it seems to me the best way of finding out what's going on is to see if Manco can tell us anything more." Daniel smiled at the man as they were ushered over to the campfire. "Oh, I think he wants us to eat with him," he said as Manco made signs indicating that they were to sit down.

"No, no, that's fine. I'm really not hungry. I ate at the office." Jack motioned away the pieces of meat on a stick that Manco was offering him. His stomach rumbled alarmingly. Somehow, he didn't think it would be good manners if he tossed his cookies all over their host's bare feet.

"You should just try some, Jack. Most cultures see the sharing of food as a welcoming ritual, even our own society..." Jackson was about to embark one of his interminable lectures on the similarity of Earth and alien societies, Jack realized.

He put up a hand to ward off the flow of words. "Look, Daniel, if you want to risk food poisoning or something, that's up to you. But I'd just as soon avoid the local equivalent of road kill, if you don't mind. I'll stick to rations if I get hungry, and anyway do I need to remind you what happened to me on Kynthia's planet because I partook of the local cuisine."

"Fine, Jack, whatever," Daniel said as taking the proffered meat from Manco. he bit into it and smiled his approval. This is good, it tastes like..."

"Let me guess? Chicken?" Jack asked sarcastically. "Look, Daniel, try to find out what's going on, will ya? I'd just as soon get home and eat real chicken."

Daniel turned to Manco and began speaking slowly. After 10 minutes or so of intense questioning, he turned back to O'Neill and said, "Okay, here's what I've been able to glean so far. Manco's people were brought here by their God a long time ago, many years before Manco was born. He apparently left them pretty much alone but with some form of technology to protect them from the "evil Gods". Maybe the Goa'uld?"

"Whoa, slow down, Daniel. A Goa'uld brought them here to protect them from the Goa'uld? Doesn't make a lot of sense."

"Well, we don't know that he was a Goa'uld. Maybe he was an Ancient. Manco calls him Inti, who was traditionally known as the protector of the Incas. Or, if he was a Goa'uld maybe he just wanted to keep them for himself to use eventually as slaves or hosts. Either way, Manco was told in a "vision" to activate the "Word of God" in one of the temples and send his people through the gate to where they'd be safe."

'A vision?" Jack's eyebrows lifted in a quizzical expression.

"Well, I'm guessing it was probably a hologram activated by the stargate somehow when a Goa'uld tried to come through."

"Does he know what happened to Teal'c and Carter?" Jack asked.

Daniel questioned Manco briefly.

"He believes they would have been sent back to their home world. Inti told them no one would be killed. They would just be returned. Then when the last of his people had gone through Manco was to stay behind and bury the gate. He's their sentinel."

"Like their watchman, right?"

"Yeah, sort of. Manco told me he has heightened senses which is why he was chosen to do this," Daniel replied.

"What, you mean like Superman?" Jack asked incredulously.

"Well, no, not exactly." Daniel stifled a grin. Trust Jack to come up immediately with a television reference. "All ancient societies have had sentinels. They protect the tribe, watch out for enemies, movement of game, weather conditions and so on. Usually they were those who showed a genetic predisposition to having at least one or two heightened senses, though, I guess it's feasible for someone to have all five. Anyway, those chosen would be placed in isolation for long periods which apparently had the effect of bringing their senses "on line" so to speak."

"So he was going to stay behind by himself after the gate was buried, with no way to leave here?" Jack shuddered inwardly at the thought of spending the rest of your life completely alone.

"He told me that there are children among the tribe that he and his Shaman were training to be sentinels and guides. These children will take their place to guard his people in their new world."

"His shaman?" Jack asked, "Like a medicine man? Where's he now?"

Daniel translated Jack's question and listened carefully to the answer, a look of sadness crossing his face. He reached out to place a gentle hand on Manco's arm before turning back to Jack and telling him what the sentinel had said.

"His shaman died, Jack. That's why he chose to stay here. He has no guide anymore, and the children they trained are ready to take on the roles of Manco and his guide. He says, without his guide he cannot function as a watchman for the tribe, but he can be a sort of...I don't know how to translate this... a early warning alarm, I guess. I get the feeling now his guide is gone, he feels his job is pretty much completed anyway. It's time to pass it on to the next generation. So he'll stay here, where the body of his shaman is laid to rest and keep an eye on things till he dies himself."

Manco interrupted with a rapid flow of words, then waited silently till Daniel interpreted them to Jack.

"He says he will take us to the "Word of God" tomorrow. He wants to help us get home. He is sorry for any harm he may have caused us. He knows we are not the enemies his God spoke of or we would have been sent back through the gate too. But he says we must travel with him. His people are a hunting tribe and there are many traps and snares to avoid. He suggests we rest and set out early in the morning."

Jack nodded his thanks to Manco. "Okay, tell him we appreciate his help. Then let's try to get some rest. I'd really like to find out for sure that Teal'c and Carter just got sent back to the SGC and find a way to get out of here."

O'Neill woke to the dawn gradually lighting the sky. He didn't remember falling asleep and guessed the drug from the dart was still sedating him. He recalled asking Daniel about taking turns at watch and the response that Manco would keep guard. He apparently needed little sleep. Jack had tried to stay awake as long as he could, but eventually his eyelids became heavier and heavier and he drifted off, carrying into his dreams the image of Manco upright and alert beside the campfire.

They set off in the early morning light, Manco having told Daniel that the native animals of his world would soon be on the prowl, hunting for food. He'd put out the fire and led them out of the camp.

They walked for about two hours before Manco called a halt. Grabbing Daniel's arm he pointed up to the crest of the hill. "My God, Jack! That's what the MALP showed," Daniel exclaimed, his eyes fixed on the intricate buildings above them. "Look, they're exactly like the Inca temples. That must be where "The Word of God" is. In one of the temples." He pushed ahead, lengthening his stride to keep pace with Manco, firing questions at the sentinel as he went. Jack lagged behind, his knees aching from the steep climb. He found himself wandering off at a tangent behind Daniel and Manco, choosing a path that looked less precipitous. The undergrowth here was thick and difficult to push through, but he plodded on, making his way through the inhospitable grasses and vines.

He saw the trap before it snared his leg but by then his foot was already on its downward step into it and he had no chance of pulling back. The slight pressure of his foot on the trigger mechanism caused the claws to bite into his calf and he fell to the ground, screaming in agony, his hands reaching down in a futile attempt to release his leg from the spikes impaling him. He heard the crunch of breaking bone as the trap snapped shut and the pain flared white in his brain. Then, mercifully, all the world blinked out.

"Jack!" Daniel pivoted about as he heard O'Neill cry out. He headed back down the hill at a sprint, Manco at his heels. He felt the sentinel grab his arm and pull him back, indicating another trap in their path. Daniel had seen no sign of it until it was pointed out to him. He trod warily around it, his heart pounding, wanting only to find Jack.

"There!" he heard Manco say in Quechua, as he grabbed Daniel's arm and pulled him along in his wake, pointing out the safe path for him to follow.

Jack was unconscious, his lower leg snarled in the trap, blood flowing freely from the wounds caused by the snare. Daniel knelt at his side, his hand automatically reaching for the pulse at Jack's neck. He breathed an audible sigh of relief as he felt it bounding under his fingers. It was too fast but at least it was there. He bent his head to look closely at Jack's leg. He could see the white gleam of bone through the terrible gashes torn by the spikes. Manco crouched beside him, grunting as he saw the damage the trap had inflicted. He picked up Daniel's hand and placed it over Jack's limp one. Daniel realized what he needed to do and grasped Jack's hand firmly in his, leaning across his chest, pinning him to the ground. Manco reached down to the trap, and pulled with every ounce of strength he had, until the spikes pulled loose of Jack's flesh.

At the pressure, Jack tried to rear up, attempting to tear Daniel's restraining grasp free. Daniel heard him gasp in pain, felt his hands trying to reach down to his leg to stop the agony."Jack, it's okay. Don't move. I know it hurts but we're going to get you out of this," Daniel said soothingly, raising his free hand to hold Jack's head down, massaging gently along the pain filled brow. "Please, Jack, just lay still. We're almost there. We'll have you free in no time."

Jack tossed his head, groaning, not appearing to hear the words. But as the trap released his leg his head dropped back to the ground limply and his eyes closed. Daniel cast about for sticks to use as a splint, breaking off some straight ones from a nearby tree. He raced back to Jack and hurriedly pulled bandages from his pack, wanting to get the damaged leg splinted and bandaged before Jack regained consciousness. Manco seemed to understand what was needed, his strong hands providing traction on O'Neill's foot as Daniel placed the sticks and dressings firmly in place. That done, Manco indicated that the archeologist should take Jack's legs while he supported his head and shoulders, and slowly and laboriously, they made their way up the hill to the temple.

By the time they reached the temple doorway, Daniel was breathing heavily. They placed Jack gently on the floor, turning his head to the side and checking to make sure his airway was clear. Daniel placed his backpack under Jack's foot to elevate the injured leg. Jack moaned softly, but did not waken.

Daniel straightened up, gazing around in wonder. The Temple, from the outside looked like any he had read about in archeology books, but in the center of this one, rather than the traditional stone altar, was a gigantic electrical interface. Circular in shape, it had varicolored lights dancing across its many surfaces. Daniel noted the strange symbols on the control panel. He guessed this was the "Word of God" Manco had spoken of. He hoped for Jack's sake that either Manco knew how to operate the device or, failing that, that he could work out the symbols for himself and get them home. He watched as the sentinel approached the computer and knelt before it. Then he stood and turned to Daniel, his arm sweeping in an all-encompassing arc around him. Smiling proudly, the sentinel proclaimed, "Inti."

"Daniel?"

Daniel swiveled on his heel as he heard Jack mutter his name. He crouched beside him, noticing the sweat-drenched pallor of O'Neill's face and the barely focused eyes. He reached his hand to Jack's, pressing it firmly in his, and summoned every ounce of reassurance he had at his disposal into his voice. "It's okay, Jack. Try not to move. Do you remember what happened?"

"Trap," Jack whispered, his eyes struggling to focus on Daniel's face.

"Yeah, your leg's pretty badly broken and gashed. You need to stay calm and still, Jack. We got you out of the trap and Manco helped me carry you up here to the temple. Jack, it's amazing. There's this huge computer and I think I might be able to find a way to get us home." Daniel sighed, seeing his friend's eyes waver shut. He checked his pulse again. It was still too fast but he knew there was little else he could do for Jack at the moment. His main chance lay in finding a way home. He murmured gently, "You just get some rest, Jack. I'll get us back, I promise."

He went back to where Manco still stood in front of the interface. "Manco, do you know what these symbols mean? How to bring the Stargate back?" he asked. He knew that Manco must have operated the computer in order to get the address of the world to which his people were sent, but he had no idea whether the sentinel would remember the right steps to take.

Manco simply nodded and swept his hand across the keys in front of them. The huge machine hummed with power as the lights began to flash randomly. "Inti left this knowledge with us, so we could escape the evil ones," the sentinel said, stepping away from the console. "Come, we must take your friend and go quickly to the stargate before the evil ones know that it is open. You must return to your world so I can bury the gate as Inti has asked me."

Daniel nodded and hurried back to Jack's side. O'Neill had not regained consciousness. He murmured incoherently as Manco and Daniel lifted him between them and as carefully as their haste would allow, made their way from the temple.

It took them over two hours to get back to the gate. They'd stopped to rest several times but even so by the time they were within visual distance of the gate, Manco was taking more and more of Jack's weight. Daniel's breath was coming in short gasps, his legs ached and his arms felt ready to collapse from the strain. Jack's head lolled loosely on his chest. He had long since ceased to make any sound at all.

Daniel punched in the coordinates for Earth and then took Manco's hand in his. "You could come back with us, Manco. We could find another way to close the gate so your people would be safe."

Manco shook his head. "No, this is the destiny given to me by Inti. My shaman is dead but I will still be a sentinel for my people on this world, even after the gate is buried. The evil ones may find another way to find my people. And I must wait on Inti's commands." He lifted Jack to his feet and helped Daniel to take his weight. The archeologist pulled the GDO from Jack's pocket and sent SG:1's code through, then reached and pressed the center of the DHD. As the event horizon appeared Manco and Daniel carried Jack to the entrance.

"Goodbye, friend," Manco said, raising one hand in a farewell gesture, as Daniel stepped through the horizon, dragging Jack with him.

~oo00oo~

"Jack, you awake?"

O'Neill reluctantly opened his eyes. The blur above him wavered in and out of focus. Gradually it metamorphosed into Daniel's worried face.

"Daniel? Where..." he swallowed, trying to form words through the dryness of his mouth.

"You're home, Colonel. Just relax."

"Carter?"

"Yes," she said as she took his hand.

Jack glanced around. He could see now that he was in the infirmary at the SGC. Teal'c, Carter, Hammond and Daniel stood at his bedside. "Manco?" he asked.

Daniel shook his head. "He wanted to stay there, Jack. He felt he could be a sentinel to his people best by remaining behind."

"Hell of a guy," O' Neill said, quietly. "How did we get back here?"

"Colonel O'Neill needs to get some rest," Dr. Frasier interrupted as she stepped up and injected something into his IV. "You can all come back tomorrow and fill him in on the rest of the story."

For once, Jack didn't argue with her. He felt astonishingly tired and his leg was beginning to throb painfully. He closed his eyes as he felt the narcotic flooding his system, then suddenly snapped them open.

"Hey, Daniel," he called plaintively as they turned to leave. "When you come back, bring me some of the Colonel's chicken, will ya?"

The End

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