Jack wasn't sure if he should be dancing or punching a hole in the wall. Hammond had called him last night, even though he was still on 'vacation', and informed him that Daniel would be on base in the morning to help the new guy figure out some stuff.
Of course. Jack wasn't surprised. It just rubbed him the wrong way. On one hand, he was happy to have Daniel back on base, even if it was just for a day. On the other hand, pulling Daniel back to help the 'new guy' was almost like rubbing Daniel's nose in the fact that he was no longer a member of the SGC and had been replaced.
Jack punched the elevator button angrily. Hell, Daniel's gonna walk into his office... His OLD office, and see the new guy making himself at home, and....
The elevator doors slid open with a ding. Jack pounced inside, then began pacing. This whole thing stinks.
Seconds later, the elevator slid to a halt. The doors parted, and Jack hurried to Daniel's office. When he opened the door, he saw Doctor Cutter hunched over a table, his brow creased as he read over a file. The overhead lights shone harshly down on him, highlighting his graying hair and bathing the room in an artificial light that seemed wrong somehow.
Daniel had kept his office dim, often working by the light of a table lamp.
"Cutter." Jack leaned against the doorframe.
The man looked up sharply. "Oh, Colonel, I...."
"Where's Doctor Jackson. He checked in yet?"
"Uh. Yeah. He said he wasn't feeling too well and went to the infirmary."
"Oh?" Jack frowned. Daniel had lost a lot of blood, and he hadn't been getting the rest that he needed lately. Maybe... "How long ago did he leave?"
"About twenty minutes, I think."
"'Thanks." Pushing away from the door, Jack headed down the hall.
Less than three minutes later, he walked through the infirmary doors and immediately spotted Doctor Fraiser hurrying toward a phone. Glancing around, Jack saw no sign of Daniel.
"Daniel's gone, sir."
Jack stopped in his tracks. "What?"
She stopped at the phone and grabbed the receiver, barking into the mouthpiece. "Security. Medical emergency. Find and detain Doctor Jackson."
Jack's insides turned cold. "Doc?"
Janet repeated her security alert one more time, then hung up the phone and turned to Jack. "He came in here complaining of dizziness. I told him to sit on a bed and I'd be right with him. I stepped out for a moment, and when I came back, he was gone."
"So, he could've just..."
"I saw one of the cabinets hanging slightly open. Its always locked. I checked it out. A bottle of Senacall was missing."
Jack swallowed hard. "What's that?" Like he needed to ask....
"It's one of the plant extracts retrieved from off-world. Place it under your tongue and it dissolves almost instantly. It kills in less than three seconds."
"Shit!" God no. He wouldn't.... Jack spun toward the door just as the alarm claxons sounded.
"Security alert! Unauthorized Gate Activation! Security to the embarkation room. Unauthorized Gate Activation!"
Daniel's heart pounded as he hefted the backpack higher on his shoulders and broke into a run up the ramp. He couldn't believe he'd actually pulled it off. He was seconds away from freedom.... Inches away from being a fugitive.
Something groaned and squealed behind him. He glanced over his shoulder to see the doors to the embarkation room open and admit half a dozen guards, all with their weapons pointed at him.
The desperation in that familiar voice stopped him. Centimeters away from the event horizon, huffing for air, Daniel turned to look at Jack.
"Daniel," Jack walked in front of the armed guards. "Don't do this. We'll find the boy for you. I promise."
Daniel's vision clouded, and he blinked. "Goodbye, Jack."
Daniel turned and leapt into the wormhole just as he heard Jack shout, "Don't shoot!" followed by a volley of gunfire.
Daniel dove as he flew out of the wormhole. Several of the bullets whizzed past his head, and he felt a sting on his left arm as he hit the ground face-first. His arms shot up to cover his head until the volley stopped.
His heart thundered, and he looked back at the open wormhole. "Come on...."
He sighed with relief when the event horizon disintegrated. Scrambling to his feet, he lunged for the DHD, not even glancing at the peaceful, green setting around him or Thor's Hammer towering above. He pressed the symbols quickly. He knew the SGC was even now re-dialing, preparing to send people after him. Jack would probably be number one on that list.
But, fortunately, a DHD could dial faster than the SGC's computer. It was a weakness they really should've fixed a long time ago. As he hit the final symbol, the Stargate rumbled to life, a splash of watery silver erupting from its center.
He hurtled forward and leapt into the event horizon.
"Damnit, I said don't shoot!" Jack yelled at the row of guards, their weapons now silent.
"I want whatever coordinates Doctor Jackson just gated to redialed! Hammond's deep voice caused Jack to turn around. SG-11 prepare for departure. Someone get a MALP prepared to send through the gate. Colonel, how the hell did this happen?"
Jack shook his head. "I don't know, sir. I heard the alarm and got here when Daniel was running up the ramp."
"There was smoke in the corridor outside," one of the guards explained.
Jack eyed the man's uniform, noting the name tag. Lieutenant McAtee.
"We investigated," the guard continued.
"We?" Jack crossed his arms, eyeing the man. He glanced at a pair of medics descending the stairs from the control room, then turned his attention back to McAtee.
"Yes, sir. Lieutenant Ramirez and myself were on guard when it happened. The moment we stepped out of the gateroom, the doors closed and locked. It took us a few moments to override the lock and gain entrance. By that time, Doctor Jackson was heading for the Stargate."
One by one, the chevrons on the stargate began to light up.
"What about the control room?" Hammond huffed, his face a mask of disapproval. "How the hell did Jackson dial out?"
"Siler was unconscious when we found him, General," one of the medics spoke up, a woman obviously in her thirties with short, dark hair. "His pulse and respiration are steady, and he's already starting to come around. My guess is he's drugged."
Hammond sighed. "So, Jackson created a disturbance and drugged the control technician? That's how he managed to bypass all of our security and gain unauthorized access to the Stargate?"
Jack rubbed a hand on the back of his neck. "No one expected it, sir. It's Daniel. He's become something of a fixture around here. He'd be able to move relatively freely, and he knows the system well enough that it wouldn't take him very long to dial and make his escape."
The wormhole flared to life. Jack took a deep breath. "General, I respectfully request that you allow SG-1 to retrieve Doctor Jackson."
Hammond shook his head. "I can't do that, Jack."
"Sir, I realize we have a strong bias here, but you can trust us. I think we've demonstrated that, and we want Daniel back alive and unharmed, don't we?"
Hammond nodded. "Of course."
"SG-1 has the best chance of obtaining that objective. We know Daniel. We know better than anyone else how he thinks, and we've got the best chance of convincing him to come back without a struggle."
Hammond frowned, his lips pressed into a tight line. After a moment, he nodded. "All right, Colonel." He turned to the four members of SG-11 hovering near the ramp. "SG-11 stand down. Colonel, SG-1 has a go."
As soon as Hammond finished talking, a hollow voice echoed over the PA system, calling Carter and Teal'c to prepare for departure and report to the gateroom."
Daniel emerged from the wormhole on to a familiar, lonely beach. A large moon hung in the pale sky, and volcanic vents sat quietly in the sand.
Dropping to his knees, Daniel gritted his teeth as he eased out of his backpack, wincing at the hot pain in his arm. He moved the limb forward carefully and twisted his head to look down at it. Blood coated his outer sleeve, and he probed the area gently with his fingers, moving the fabric aside so that he could inspect the wound.
A small, bloodied hole marred the outside of his upper arm. He pulled the skin forward, stifling a cry as the movement angered the injury, and saw the entry wound a couple of inches back. The bullet had obviously grazed him, penetrating only the outermost layer of his flesh and going straight through.
With his good arm, he rifled through his pack. His fingers brushed over the bottle of Senacall, and he paused, taking a deep breath. That was only one of the drugs hed stolen from the infirmary, but it was the deadliest one. He hoped hed have the courage to use it, even though he knew it would likely be futile. If he were captured by an enemy in possession of a sarcophagus, the lethal drug wouldnt do any good. The Goauld could revive Daniel and interrogate him indefinitely. Hopefully, by then, any information Daniel possessed would be stale, and Earth would remain safe.
Pushing those thoughts aside, Daniel moved past the bottle and grabbed the first aid box. Glancing up at the ocean, he dropped the kit when he saw the distant figure moving through the waves toward the beach. Stuffing the container quickly back into the backpack, he rose to his feet.
Nem was coming.
Jack hopped out of the wormhole, his P90 hanging at his side. The MALP sat quietly by the DHD, having already relayed its information to the SGC and shown them that Daniel wasn't in the vicinity.
Of course, there was always the remote possibility that Daniel had stayed on this planet and simply gone into hiding, but Jack put little hope into that scenario. Daniel was a smart guy. He would've immediately gated elsewhere, making himself impossible to track.
"Damn." Jack eyed Thor's tower, glad that it hadn't activated and snatched Teal'c. Good Ol' Thor had kept his word.
Jack glanced back at Carter and Teal'c. The gate itself was quiet, the wormhole disengaged.
"He's not here. We knew that, sir."
"Yeah. Yeah." Jack walked slowly toward the DHD, eyeing the ground. His stomach somersaulted when he found what he had hoped he wouldn't. He stopped and knelt next to the dark substance that trailed toward the DHD. "Blood." He looked up at his teammate.
Carter's eyes were wide and worried. Teal'c gave no reaction.
Sam stepped forward, looking at the drying liquid. "Well, it's a significant amount, but not enough to indicate a lethal injury. It's hard to say, though." She swallowed and took a breath. "But he's not here, so...."
"Either someone found him, or he was mobile enough to leave on his own."
"Yes, sir." Sam nodded.
"His footsteps track to the DHD," Teal'c announced, his eyes scanning the ground. "They then head back to the gate. No other recent tracks are apparent."
"Okay." Jack took a breath. "So he gated out, and he's injured." Shot . An image of Daniel's body jerking forward as a bullet tore through him flashed through Jack's mind, and he swallowed hard, pushing the mental picture aside and focusing on the task at hand. "Any way of figuring out where he went?"
"No, sir. Not that I can think of. The best we could do is read the heat signature off the glyphs and figure out which symbols he pressed. If that worked, all we'd know is which symbols he touched, not the order. That would leave us with potentially millions of worlds."
"Right." Jack shrugged a shoulder, his fingers tapping on his gun. "Well, it didn't hurt to ask. Any ideas?"
"If it weren't so obvious...." Sam began.
"He'd go to the Abydonians, but he knows that would be the first place we'd check after here. He's not that stupid."
"No," Sam mumbled. "He's not."
"He seeks Sha're's child," Teal'c offered.
Jack nodded curtly. "I know. So where would he begin that search?"
"Ow. Ow. Ow." Daniel gritted his teeth as Nem poured a murky liquid over the wound in Daniel's arm, but he didn't move.
He was soaked and bare-chested, his wet pants clinging uncomfortably to him, but the pain made those discomforts pale in comparison. It felt like someone was shoving a hot iron into his flesh, and he suddenly felt light-headed.
Nem said nothing. He finished cleaning the wound, and Daniel closed his eyes, leaning against the hard, tall back of the thing that looked vaguely like a chair and relishing in the momentary relief from the pain.
Seconds later, the pain flared again when something hard pressed on it. Daniel hissed, and his eyes sprang open. He looked down to see a gray bandage-like material wrapped around his upper arm.
"The wound is clean." Nem took a step back. "You require sustenance."
Daniel nodded. "Thank you."
Nem turned, and Daniel took that as his cue to follow. He scrambled out of the chair and grabbed his pack from the floor, then hurried after the alien.
"You said you have come seeking information?"
Daniel nodded. "Yes, about a place called Kheb. Have you heard of it?"
Daniel broke into a run, moving in front of Nem and forcing him to stop. "You know it? Can you tell me how to get there? The Stargate address?"
Nem tilted his head. "You helped me in my search. I shall help you in yours. Kheb is a myth your people have named."
"No." Daniel shook his head. "It's not a myth."
"You are correct."
Daniel's brow furrowed with confusion, "But you just said..."
"The myth of your people grew from reality. Kheb they named it."
"Okay, so do you know where it is?"
"I do not."
Daniel's shoulders sagged. "Oh."
"You seek Kheb why?"
"Sha're... my mate. She died."
Nem bowed his head. "So now you know what fate Sha're? I am sorry."
"Me too." Daniel swallowed. "She was still being controlled by the Goa'uld when she died. The Goa'uld inside her used what we call a ribbon device on me. The Goa'uld host wears it on the hand and..."
"Yes," Daniel nodded, "but Sha're sent me a message through it. She told me that I had to find Kheb. It's very important."
"The Goa'uld inside of Sha're knew this place?"
"Yes. She sent... Yes." Daniel trusted Nem, but he'd made a promise to Sha're, and he wouldn't break it. Telling Nem about the Harcissus child wasn't necessary. The fewer people who knew about the child, the better.
"The Goa'uld knew of Kheb," Nem continued. "Sha're knew of Kheb. You know of Kheb."
"Only the name." Daniel ran his fingers through his wet hair.
"No. You know." Nem raised a hand and gently batted the side of Daniel's head. "The Goa'uld knew. Sha're knew. You know."
Realization stole Daniel's breath. "The ribbon device has a connection with the mind! Of course!" He spun around. His arm protested, but he barely noticed the pain. "Of course." He snapped back to look at Nem. "Ammuonet knew the location of Kheb, and Sha're must have had that information, whether or not she consciously remembered. Through the ribbon device, I might also have caught a glimpse of that information, especially since Ammuonet was thinking of Kheb when she had me in the grip. It could just be buried."
It made sense. Daniel almost laughed. When Sha're had been free of Ammuonet during her pregnancy, she hadn't remembered everything clearly. Some of her memories had been vague, but they had been there.
"Yes," Nem confirmed. "You know of Kheb."
Daniel straightened. He knew what he had to do. It wasn't his first choice, but the only thing he had left was the promise he'd made to Sha're. He would fulfill it even if doing so took his last breath.
"Your memory machine can help me remember Kheb?"
"Yes." Nem looked almost sad. "I told you. It may damage."
"Two such sessions are dangerous."
"Because I went through an intense session before, this one could be worse? Is that what you mean?"
"Yes. Much damage."
"I don't have a choice. I need to find Kheb." He tapped his temple. "If it's in here, help me find it. Please."
"If you are damaged, you will not find Kheb."
"If I am damaged," Daniel took a breath, "but if the process is successful, then there's hope. If I tell you Kheb's location, and my friends come looking for me... The same ones. Jack, Sam, and Teal'c. The Jaffa. You remember?"
"Tell them where Kheb is. Please. Only them. No one else. Tell them I want them to continue my search."
"As you wish, Daniel Jackson."
The first thing Jack focused on when he rematerialized out of the
wormhole was the stout figure of Colonel Maybourne standing next to General Hammond at the
base of the ramp.
Jack groaned. Loudly. "No sign of Daniel, General." Jack stopped in front of Maybourne. What the hell are you doing here?"
Maybourne stepped forward, his chin held high. "I have orders from the President. Doctor Jackson is to be captured or neutralized, and...."
"Neutralized?" Jack stopped inches from Maybourne. "If by that you mean killed, I don't think so." He looked at Hammond for confirmation, but the General's face was grim. "Sir?"
Hammond shook his head. "I've done everything I can, Colonel. The President outranks me, as you know."
"But, sir," Carter stepped forward, "you can't be serious. Daniel's no threat to the SGC. He --"
"Has information in his head that could lead to Earth's destruction if it fell into the wrong hands," Maybourne interrupted.
"Oh, for crying out loud." Jack threw his hands in the air. "What information? SG-1's GDO code? Changed as of right now. Security codes? Changed. Base layout? Big freaking' deal. Half the Snakeheads from here to... uh... wherever have already seen this damn base, and a lot of good it's going to do them if they can't get through that iris, and if they do get through that iris, it won't matter, anyway. Credit Cards? Well, I think he left home without them."
"Colonel," Maybourne began, "I think your friendship with Doctor Jackson is clouding your judgment."
"I think you're a...."
"Colonel," Hammond interrupted. "I want you and the rest of SG-1 in the briefing room in fifteen minutes."
Jack huffed a sigh. "Yes, sir. Fifteen minutes." With a glare directed at Maybourne, he moved past the armed guards and led his two teammates out of the gateroom.
As soon as he was in the corridor, Sam ran alongside of him. "Sir, what are we going to do?"
Jack stopped. "Not much we can do, Major."
"We can't let them hunt Daniel down and try to kill him."
"Why not? You said it yourself. He'll be virtually impossible to find. They could spend years looking for him, and Daniel's not a dummy. He's way smarter than Maybourne, the President, and just about everyone on this base, excluding you, of course."
"But he's out there alone, with minimal supplies."
Jack swallowed. His gut twisted. "He made his choice, Major."
"He didn't have much of a choice, sir," a note of defiance highlighted her words.
"He did. He could have lived a normal life here on Earth."
Teal'c finally spoke up. "Daniel Jackson is a man of honor. He promised Sha're that he would find her son and keep him safe. He would not break such a promise."
Jack's shoulders slouched, feeling far too heavy all of a sudden. "I know." He rubbed a hand over his face. "I know, damnit, but what the hell can we do about it?"
"I don't know, sir." Carter seemed to deflate, the indignation in her eyes turning to sadness.
Jack frowned, his eyes drifting from Sam to Teal'c. "You know, we've been with the SGC since its beginning. We've made some pretty powerful friends, don't you think?"
A hint of a smile touched Sam's mouth. "Yes, sir."
"Maybe it's time we threw our weight around."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I concur, O'Neill."
"You have a plan, sir?" Sam asked.
"Sort of." Jack glanced at the floor, then back up at his friends. "We'll call it a work-in-progress for now, but c'mon." He gestured down the hall and took off at a brisk pace. "We have a few details to iron out, and only fifteen minutes to do it in."
Daniel followed Nem into the room that had plagued his nightmares for days after his last visit to this planet. He stopped at the sight of the machine sitting quietly near the far wall. His mouth went dry, and his heart picked up its pace, hammering against his breastbone.
Nem walked up to the machine and placed his hand on the activation lever, then turned to stare silently at Daniel.
Daniel took a step back. Oh God, what am I doing? His chest tightened. Breathing became difficult. Could he really go through that again? Last time, the pain had been almost beyond his ability to handle. This time, Nem told him it could be worse. He swallowed hard.
Could he willingly sit in that chair again? What if he was making a mistake? What if it did damage him? Even if it worked, would Jack, Teal'c, and Sam even figure out to come here? Would they get his message? If they did, would they honor his request?
But, if he didn't sit in that chair, how would he ever find Kheb? He'd read all the books he could in the short time he'd had, and now his library was light-years away. All he had to work with was the meager information stored on his palm computer and the slightly less than-meager collection of facts in his brain. Yet, he still hadn't been able to figure out Kheb's location. If Nem was right, if Ammuonet knew Kheb's address, and if she'd inadvertently conveyed that information to Daniel through the ribbon device, then that machine might be his only chance to find Sha're's son and fulfill his promise.
'A big risk is the key to a big gain.' Someone wise -- or greedy -- had said that, and Daniel had to admit the truth of those words. He'd already given up so much. If he turned back now, his loss would have been for nothing. He had to take the risk.
"Okay." He stepped forward and took a breath. "I'm almost ready, but first, I have to do something."
Nem tilted his head. Daniel lowered his pack to the ground and crouched as he rifled through its contents and pulled out his pen and journal.
Jack, Sam, and Tealc sat along one side of the briefing table. Colonel Maybourne sat alone on the other side, and General Hammond occupied his usual seat at the head.
Okay, Colonel. Your report.
Jack nodded, meeting Hammonds gaze and ignoring Maybourne. We gated to Cimmeria. Doctor Jackson was nowhere in the vicinity, but we did find blood, indicating that hed been hit by at least one of the bullets. His footsteps led to the DHD, then back to the gate.
Hammond sat back in his chair. So, Doctor Jackson immediately gated to another planet.
Yes, sir. Jack glanced at Carter. Theres no way for us to track him.
Colonel Maybourne leaned forward. Do you have any idea where he might have gated to?
Jack looked directly at Maybourne. No, I dont.
Would you tell me if you did?
What do you think?
All right, Colonels, Hammond interjected. Our priority remains to locate Doctor Jackson. Hes injured, he added quickly, eyeing Jack and obviously anticipating a protest, and can benefit from medical attention.
Jack nodded. Yes, sir.
With all due respect, General. Maybourne shifted in his seat to face Hammond, Doctor Jackson is no longer considered a friendly. The President has made it clear that our objective is to neutralize Doctor Jackson. We can either do that by capturing him or killing him, but the SGCs primary concern should be Earths welfare, not Doctor Jacksons.
I know my orders, Colonel. Hammond took a deep breath.
Sir, Jack began, glancing at his two teammates beside him, Doctor Jackson is too valuable to lose. With all due respect to the President, he threw a glare at Maybourne, Doctor Jackson is - was -- the only person on this base who speaks over 23 languages, some of which arent even Earth dialects. Next to Tealc, hes the resident expert on the Goauld language. Hes the only one on this planet who can speak fluent Abydonian. He
We are all aware of Doctor Jacksons abilities, Maybourne interrupted. But he was terminated from the program and is now a fugitive. His knowledge has become a threat to Earth.
It would be a shame, Jack continued, to lose someone like Doctor Jackson. It would be even more of a shame to lose an asset like Major Carter or Tealc, and while its no big loss, I suppose I should add myself to that list.
Hammond straightened. What are you saying, Colonel?
Jack went rigid. Sir, if the SGC persists in its objective to neutralize Doctor Jackson; Major Carter, Tealc, and I will resign. We cant afford to lose Doctor Jackson, but if we lost both Doctor Jackson and Doctor Carter, we might as well turn in the towel, now, dont you think?
What? Jack, you cant be serious.
He is, sir, Carter added. Its because of Daniel that the SGC even exists. As a matter of fact, its because of Daniel that Earth even exists. When no one believed him about the parallel universe, he risked his career and his life to save this planet.
You all did, Major, Hammond added.
That is true, Tealc added, but were it not for Daniel Jacksons warning, we would not have gone through the gate to Klorels ship, and Apophis would have destroyed this planet.
What Doctor Jackson has done in the past is irrelevant, Maybourne replied. And I cant believe you would be willing to risk Earth for the sake of one man.
Oh, Daniels past is very relevant. Jack leaned forward, his arms on the table. SG-1 has made some pretty powerful friends, and I wonder if those friends will be as eager to help Earth without our influence.
Maybourne chuckled. Youre overstating your worth, Colonel.
I dont think so, Sam interjected. My father is a member of the Tokra now. He might be concerned, not to mention a bit angry, to find out that Daniel is being hunted like a criminal and his daughter has left the Air Force as a matter of principal.
Furthermore, Tealc added, it is SG-1 who is responsible for forming the alliance with the Tollans. It was Daniel Jacksons actions that freed them from your plans to use them as slaves. I am quite sure that once the Tollans realize that you, representing the Tauri, are hunting Daniel Jackson, they will no longer be willing to associate with the Tauri.
And lets not forget the Ancients language, sir. Carter glanced at Jack. Colonel ONeills experience with that language and with the Asgard are unique.
A tiny smile lifted Hammonds lips. I see. SG-1, if I cant persuade you otherwise
You cant sir, Jack confirmed.
I suppose well just have to approach the President with this information. Hammond turned to Maybourne. I intend to do that right now. This meeting is adjourned.
Daniel struggled to control his breathing as the restraint tightened around his forehead. It felt cool and smooth against his skin but unyielding and harsh. The stiff back of the chair dug uncomfortably against his spine. An odor, like mildew and salt, permeated the air. A subtle humming droned in his ears and tickled his skin, giving him goose bumps, or maybe it was just the cold that puckered his flesh.
"I will begin." Nem said, and that was all the warning Daniel got before the humming increased and a sudden pressure filled his skull, stealing his breath.
Daniel closed his eyes. The pressure wasn't painful...yet. He thought about his last moments with Sha're. Her beautiful, dark eyes staring at him with an empty coldness and a hint of disdain. She raised her hand. The gem against her palm glowed. His own arm came up, the cold, steel of the gun in his hand.
"Don't." His grip on the weapon tightened. "Don't!" He trembled inside. He knew how this was going to play out. He couldn't shoot her. He wouldn't shoot her.
"Fight it, Sha're."
Pain assaulted him, drilling into his skull. She spoke to him, her voice deep and echoing. He dropped to his knees. His fingers went limp. The gun fell to the ground.
"Sha're." God, no. Don't. Please, don't. He looked into her eyes. The inside of his skull was on fire. He searched for a glimmer of his wife in those familiar dark eyes. She was screaming inside, he knew. She was fighting.
I'm sorry. His vision clouded, the pain driving him toward madness. Stop. Please. Stop. Ammuonet was going to kill him, and Sha're would be forced to watch as her own hand delivered the death sentence.
And then, he opened his eyes, and she was there, soft and gentle, her hair pulled back and her dark eyes gazing wide at him. He saw Jack, Sam, and Teal'c behind her.
He felt her touch, warm and solid.
"Think of Kheb," a deep voice intruded, hovering in the air, coming from everywhere.
The boy. Sha're stood before him, in the tent. Her lips moved. "Kheb."
The pressure in his skull exploded, and he screamed.
The ribbon device hammered mercilessly. He felt her. Them. Grief. Horror. Sadness. Anger. Rage. Fear. Arrogance. Love.
A blur of images and sounds spun around him, making him dizzy and digging into his mind like a jackhammer.
A woman with dark hair pulled back, dressed in servant's clothes. A baby, crying, swathed in a blanket and clutched in her arms.
Symbols. One. Two. The pain filled him, coating his face with tears that seared down his cheeks like blood from a volcano.
"You must find the boy."
"Push, Sha're. You have to push."
He stared at her, her belly swollen. "Apophis' child?"
She turned from him, sobbing against her father's chest.
He raped her. That bastard raped her.
No. He couldn't... think. Stop!
He saw himself, kneeling, a glow burning into his brow. His own eyes stared up at him, tight with pain.
"No, Sha're. Fight it."
Pain. Scorching. Searing. God.
STOP! "Please, stop!" Stop! Stop!
Something in his skull popped, and the pressure vanished, snapping him out of the images and leaving a steady throbbing in his head. He found himself staring up through a maze of transparent panels and tubes. He was sobbing, convulsing, a hard coldness holding him down. Wetness coated his face and neck, and he tasted something warm and metallic in his mouth. He swallowed, feeling the liquid snake down his throat. His stomach churned, threatening to revolt.
Hands touched him, slick and clammy. The hard, cold restraints slid away, and he felt himself toppling sideways. He fell, slamming into something else hard, and curled into a ball, trembling and sobbing, and closed his eyes against the pain drumming through his head.
Jack paced the hallway outside Hammond's office. Carter and Teal'c stood more stationary, both quiet. Inside, Hammond and Maybourne were supposedly on a conference call with the President, and Jack eyed the closed door, tempted to stick his ear against the wood and listen to whatever conversations were going on.
"What's taking so long?" With a frustrated sigh, Jack stuffed his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall.
"Do you think this will work, sir?" Carter asked.
Jack shrugged. "I don't know. The President probably won't take kindly to blackmail."
Teal'c tilted his head. "I do not think your President will wish to call our bluff."
Jack grimaced. "I hope not."
His ultimatum had been one of the biggest bluffs of his career. He was pretty sure Hammond suspected it. No way would Jack leave the SGC while Maybourne's goons were on the hunt for Daniel. He wouldn't abandon the kid like that.
But he intended to push the envelope as far as he could. Sam was pretty sure she could get Jacob on the bandwagon, and the Tollan thing would no doubt make the President sweat. The decision to hold the Tollans captive in the hopes of forcing them to divulge their technological secrets was probably an embarrassment the Commander-in-Chief wouldn't want to rehash.
And, of course, the truth was that the SGC couldn't replace Daniel. They could find some pretty good substitutes, maybe, but there was no way they'd find a single person who spoke as many languages with the innate gift for insight and communication that Daniel possessed. No way.
So, no matter what was going on behind the scenes with Maybourne and Daniel's 'suicide', Jack hoped he could push past whatever NID agenda was stacking the deck and bring down the house of cards. He only hoped that Daniel would still be alive if -- when -- that happened.
Hammond's door opened, and the general stuck his head out. "Come on in, SG-1." He opened the door and waved them inside.
With a look at Sam and Teal'c, Jack pulled his hands out of his pockets and entered the office.
Rolls of pain pounded against the inside of his skull like the crash of waves from an angry ocean. He lay curled on something hard, vaguely aware that he was rocking. His hands covered his head, as though he could contain the pain by shielding himself.
His stomach churned. He wanted desperately to vomit, hoping that if he did, the awful nausea would go away, but he seemed to have nothing inside him to expel, and the most he could do was gag, which he had done far too often, and that only made the nausea worse.
He remained dimly aware of his surroundings, but they changed so often. One moment he was lying in his bed at home, the softness of the pillow cushioning his head, and Sha're would be next to him, her ebony hair cascading softly over her shoulders.
"Are you ill, husband?" she'd ask, her voice gentle with concern.
Then, he would wake and find himself sleeping on animal skins in a tent, with Sha're's head resting on his chest.
But through all the changes, the pain remained. Sometimes it would push him to other places, and he'd wake to the sound of screaming. Sometimes they were his own screams. Sometimes they were his parents' as the slab fell, crushing them.
And every so often, he'd open his eyes to find himself alone in a cold, quiet room, lying on a hard slab.
A slick, rubbery hand touched his cheek, lifting his head, and he squinted up at the dark figure above him.
"Drink," the figure commanded.
Daniel felt something press against his lips, and bitter liquid washed over his tongue and slid to his throat. He gagged, and the nausea became almost unbearable. He wanted it to end. Anything to make it end. Please...
The liquid returned, and he choked, sputtered, nearly convulsing inward as he curled into a tight ball and turned his head away.
"It will help. Drink. You will feel better."
Feel better? Oh God, please... He managed a shaky nod and closed his eyes. The cool liquid again entered his mouth, and he forced himself to keep swallowing until there was nothing more to swallow. His stomach churned angrily, and he wrapped his arms around his abdomen and pressed his cheek into the cool slab beneath him.
"He did?" Jack's mouth almost dropped open, and he tossed a smug smile at Maybourne.
"Yes, Colonel. The President is displeased with your ultimatum, but it seems some of his advisors have already brought up a couple of the points you raised, particularly in regard to our relations with our allies and Doctor Jackson's unique level of knowledge. He is prepared to heed your recommendation. SG-1's new mission is to locate and recover Doctor Jackson. If Doctor Jackson resists, he is to be captured with as little force as possible."
Jack nodded. The news was better than he'd hoped for, but it still sounded somewhat ominous. "And then what, sir?"
"I am authorized to offer Doctor Jackson his position back at the SGC, pending a full psychiatric evaluation. If he refuses the offer, we will at that time evaluate options."
"Options, sir?" Carter's eyes were wide with skepticism.
"In other words," Jack grumbled. "If Danny doesn't play nice, good ol' Uncle Sam might just consider him too great a liability and decide to bring charges of treason against him, but..."
"The SGC is too valuable a secret to risk with a treason charge against a civilian. I don't think it'll come to that."
"But they'll use it to pressure Daniel, if necessary," Jack added.
Hammond nodded. "The President wants him back with the SGC."
"Where we can exploit his abilities and keep an eye on him." Jack glared at Maybourne. "The President sounds like your kinda guy."
"The President is making a mistake." Maybourne clasped his arms behind his back. "However, these are his orders. Even if I don't agree with them, I have no choice but to abide by them, which means I'll be leaving."
Jack smiled. "Oh, we're so gonna miss you. Do drop us a postcard every now and then."
"Goodbye, Colonel." Maybourne walked stiffly out of the office.
Jack watched him leave, then turned to Hammond, "Sir, about the psychiatric evaluation..."
"The President is well aware of the circumstances surrounding Doctor Jackson's apparent suicide, but he doesn't hold Doctor Jackson's accusations against Maybourne in credible regard. He's willing to allow us to continue our investigation. However, regardless of what our investigation uncovers, he feels that, given the recent tragedies Doctor Jackson has experienced, including the devastating loss of his wife, it would be prudent to evaluate his mental and emotional stability before allowing him to return to the SGC...especially in light of his recent, criminal actions at the SGC."
Jack shook his head. "No wonder you're so good with the President, sir." He offered a tiny smile. "You can speak just like a politician."
Hammond raised his eyebrows. "It's an acquired skill." He sank into his chair. "Despite the conditions, this is good news, Colonel. I'd expect you to be happier."
"Oh, I'm a jolly good fellow, sir."
Carter spoke up. "It's just... What if Daniel doesn't want to come back to the SGC after everything that's happened?"
"He will return," Teal'c replied. "Doctor Jackson will remain with the SGC until he has fulfilled his promise to Sha're."
"That's assuming we find him before he finds the child," Jack added. "But say he does find the child, you think he's gonna wanna hang around here after all this? After Maybourne tried to kill him? After psychiatric evaluations? After the SGC basically turned its back on him after all he's done for it and for Earth?"
"I do not know," Teal'c admitted.
"Okay, well, it's all moot unless we find him." Jack straightened and looked at the General. "Permission to convene a briefing at 1700 hours, sir. SG-1 would like to renew the search A.S.A.P., and that means we've gotta come up with places to search."
"Permission granted, Colonel."
Carter gave a small smile. "With your permission, Colonel, I'll perform a review of all our prior missions and create a list of potential destinations, going on the assumption that Daniel's two main objectives will be to evade capture and discover the location of Kheb."
Jack nodded. "Get on it, Major. Teal'c, help her out on that."
The Jaffa gave a slight, acknowledging nod.
"In the meantime," Jack turned his attention back to Hammond, "I'd like to send another forensic team over to Daniel's apartment, and this time I'd like to accompany them, sir."
"It's been days, Colonel, and Doctor Jackson returned to that apartment, compromising any potential evidence. I doubt sending a team over there will be useful."
Jack shrugged. "General...."
"But I'll allow it." A hint of a smile brightened Hammond's tired features. "Go ahead, Colonel."
Jack sauntered around the perimeter of the living room, eyeing the members of the forensic team as they conducted their work. One man, barely in his twenties, was crouched on the carpet, apparently engaged by some miniscule fibers, a plastic baggie discarded next to him.
Jack knew the team's chances of finding any evidence to support Daniel's story were slim. Maybourne and the NID gurus were good at cleaning up messes, but Jack could hope nevertheless. Even the best made mistakes. Occasionally.
He tried to picture the scene in his mind as Daniel had described it. Maybourne and two goons had entered the apartment. They'd worn gloves, so prints would be nonexistent. The only real struggle occurred when Daniel had thrown his cup at them and tried to escape. They'd subdued and drugged Daniel, then, Jack imagined, carried Daniel into the bathroom, slit his wrist - sons of bitches! - and cleaned up the evidence before making a quiet exit.
Jack turned toward the kitchen. "Major Benson."
"Sir!" Seconds later, a middle-aged man with graying temples and round, brown eyes stood at attention in front of Jack.
"There's this stuff you can use that will show if someone cleaned up blood, right?"
Benson nodded. "Yes, sir. Luminol. It reacts with --"
"Ah-ah!" Jack raised a finger to silence the man. "All I want to know is, will it find blood that someone tried to wash up with soap and water days ago?"
"Yes, sir. Luminol can detect blood at one part per million, even traces that are years old."
"Good. I want you to use it on all the cups and glasses in this apartment. Every one you can find. Got it?"
The major nodded. "Yes, sir."
Daniel awoke to the blessed numbness. His head no longer pounded, and the queasiness that had plagued him was gone. He opened his eyes and blinked through the dimness. He saw gray walls and an equally gray ceiling. The faint hum of machinery permeated the air, but it was otherwise quiet.
"You are awake."
Daniel lifted his head to see Nem sitting on the floor, his back against the wall. It was an unusually casual pose for the normally stiff alien, and Daniel frowned as he rolled to his side.
"Yeah." He voice was scratchy, and he swallowed. "What happened?"
"You did not remember all."
Daniel's brow furrowed. Images of symbols teased his memory, and he struggled to grab hold of them. "I... I need my journal." He eyed his backpack in the corner and leapt to his feet.
The room spun. He crashed hard and found himself once again staring up at the drab ceiling.
Nem's face appeared above him. "You are weak."
"I need my journal." Daniel closed his eyes. "Please."
"And a pen - the long stick thing that I write with."
Daniel listened to the sound of footsteps shuffling along the floor. Fabric rustled. Daniel opened his eyes and, moments later, Nem appeared again, crouched over him, the journal and pen held in his hands.
"Thanks." Daniel used his arms to push himself into a sitting position and quickly grabbed the items.
He opened the leather book to the first blank page and quickly scribbled down the symbols in his mind. Two no three, but he wasn't sure about the last one. He studied the drawing and tried to grasp the image in his mind, but it evaded his reach.
"Now, what happened? You tell."
"What?" Daniel looked up at Nem.
Nem eyed the bandage around Daniel's arm, then his eyes dropped to Daniel's right wrist.
Daniel looked down, suddenly realizing he was still without his shirt. "Oh." He gently closed the book and tucked his right hand beneath his left arm, hiding the bandage around his wrist. "It's a long story."
Don't shoot! Jack's voice seemed to echo through the room, and Daniel jerked his head up, his heart suddenly racing, and he couldn't help but look around.
The room was empty except for Nem and himself. "I thought I heard..."
"This will happen," Nem stated calmly. "Memories come back."
"Flashbacks." Daniel nodded. "Okay, I guess I can handle that. It sounded real, though."
Nem tilted his head. "Tell."
Daniel sighed. "I'm not sure I know how to explain it all. The short version -- someone tried to kill me. I was kicked out of the SGC, which means I would not be able to use the Stargate. I need the Stargate to find... to keep my promise to Sha're. To find Kheb. I went through our Stargate without permission, and they tried to stop me."
"Sort of." Daniel closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. "I can't go back there now."
"You are afraid?"
Daniel crossed his arms, giving into a small shiver. "Yeah," he answered simply. There wasn't much reason to delve into detail. He took a deep breath and hugged himself tighter. "Could I have my shirt and jacket back?"
"Yes." Nem rose to his feet. "I will return."
"Aha!" Jack jogged into the conference room and tossed a piece of paper on the table. "General, sir, there's your evidence."
Hammond reached forward from his chair and retrieved the paper. Carter and Teal'c were seated next to one another to Hammond's left, and they both eyed the paper.
Carter looked up at Jack. "What is it, sir?"
Hammond answered. "It seems to be the results of a test showing that the team found blood on a glass in Doctor Jackson's apartment... and on some fibers in the carpet."
"Yep." Jack bounced on the balls of his feet, his hands in his pockets. "Daniel said he threw a glass at one of the men. When I remembered that, I had the lab guys test all the glasses in the apartment, and when they came up positive, they then spread the lumi stuff on the carpet about where Daniel said he and the goons were standing. There's the evidence."
The general frowned and looked down at the paper. "It doesn't say that the blood has been analyzed."
"Fraiser's team is working on it now, sir, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that that's not going to be Daniel's blood."
"Let's hope not, Colonel. This could help a lot." Hammond gestured to an empty chair across from Carter and Teal'c. "Now, have a seat, Colonel."
"Yes, sir." Jack trotted around the table and sank into the chair.
Hammond turned to Carter. "Okay, Major. What do you have?"
"Well," she leaned forward and opened the file folder in front of her. "We've reviewed all of SG-1's past missions, and we've come up with a few places we think Daniel may have gated to. I listed them in their order of probability, and I've narrowed the top five suspects to Abydos, Cartago, Machello's planet, Oannes, and Cimmeria."
"Wait. Wait." Jack raised his hands. "Daniel's not gonna go to Abydos or Cimmeria. Those are the two obvious places we'd look."
"You're right, Colonel. Daniel likely won't head to either planet immediately, but he knows that we know those are obvious places. My guess is that he'll avoid them for awhile until he's figured we've given up on those locations, but eventually, he'll return. Abydos is the next home he has to Earth, and if he find's Sha're's son, at some point he's going to want to return to Abydos. I think he'd want Kasuf to know that Sha're's son is safe. He might even search for someone on Abydos to act as the child's guardian. As for Cimmeria, that planet provides access to the Asgard, and they possess a great deal of knowledge. Daniel may return there at some point in hopes that the Asgard have knowledge of Kheb and will share that knowledge."
"Okay, fine. So if he goes there, it's likely not going to be soon. What about the others? Why Cartago?"
Carter shrugged. "It's a place where he could probably get food and shelter for a while."
Jack winced, picturing Daniel scavenging for food and sleeping alone beneath the stars on some alien planet. "Right. Okay, Machello? There's nothing there. The NID swept that place."
"That's true, but there were things the NID could not take with them, and still other things that they considered too great a threat to tamper with. Furthermore, all of Machello's notes were in code, and Daniel hasn't had the chance to work on breaking that code because that stuff went to Area 51. If Daniel's looking for information and potential weapons to defend himself, he might go there."
Jack nodded. "Okay, sounds risky, but Daniel's just the kind of guy to step into the lion's den like that and play with things that could go boom."
A tiny smile lifted Carter's lips. "As for Oannes, Daniel made friends with Nem, and Nem's been around for thousands of years and possesses advanced technology. There's a good chance Nem knows about Kheb or can help Daniel in his quest, not to mention that Nem would likely be another source of food and shelter."
"Yeah, if Daniel doesn't mind getting his brains fried!"
Carter shook his head. "Nem has already gotten the information he sought from Daniel, and you saw how Nem interacted with Daniel when we retrieved him. I think Daniel would be safe there."
Teal'c bowed his head. "I concur."
"Okay," Jack sighed and looked at Hammond. "Sir, I'd love to have SG-1 search all those areas, but time is of the essence. Can we devote five SG teams to the search, including SG-1? Station one team on each planet, with orders not to shoot Daniel under any circumstances?" He stressed that last part loudly.
Hammond shook his head. "I can't spare five teams, but I can give you two, Colonel, not including SG-1, of course. Three teams total."
Jack nodded. "Thank you, sir. I'd like permission to personally brief the teams."
"Permission granted, Colonel. I'll order SG teams three and five to assemble in the gate room in twenty minutes."
Daniel removed his pack from its water-proof container, courtesy of Nem, and slung it over his right shoulder, then carefully eased his left arm through the remaining strap. He'd removed the damp, filthy bandage from his right wrist. The wound was virtually healed, leaving an angry red mark that he hoped would fade to a barely noticeable scar.
He gave an inward, bitter chuckle at that thought. It really didn't matter how the scar looked. Who would care?
He glanced over his shoulder back at the ocean, dripping salt water onto the sand. He hoped he could return some day and properly thank Nem for his help. For now, however, he had to keep moving.
He turned away from the ocean and began walking toward the Stargate, trying to ignore the hot throbbing in his left arm. The bullet wound had been cleaned and dressed, but Nem didn't have much in the way of painkillers other than that awful liquid, and Daniel preferred the pain. Besides, liquid was too bulky to carry in his already stuffed pack.
His pace was slow, the pack heavy on his shoulders. His chest ached with disappointment as he plodded through the sand. He had only managed to remember two of the six symbols he needed for Kheb, not counting the point of origin that should be unique to the Kheb gate. Well, maybe three symbols, but he really couldn't be sure about the last one, and he simply couldn't go through another session in Nem's memory machine. Not again. He swallowed hard. A headache began to flare behind his forehead, and he wondered if just thinking about the pain had brought it on.
And then there were the flashbacks. Nem had told him they could last anywhere from days to months. At least, that's what Daniel interpreted the time frame as, considering Nem wasn't from Earth and time was relative.
Daniel supposed he couldn't complain though. He wasn't a mental vegetable, and that was something.
A short time later, he reached the Stargate and stopped at the DHD. Fatigue dragged at him, and he just stood there, staring at the symbols, trying to grasp that third one that hovered vaguely in his memory. His headache flared, and he closed his eyes, raising a hand to rub at his temple. The symbol continued to elude him, and he kicked at the sand in frustration. It didn't matter, anyway. Having three symbols wasn't much more helpful than having two symbols. He'd still have far too many potential combinations to be of any use.
Taking a breath, he opened his eyes and began dialing.
Jack exited the wormhole, landing on the soil with a small hop. He glanced behind him to see Carter and Teal'c emerge from the event horizon. Looking around, he wasn't surprised to find the place deserted. The Bursan's main defense against the Goa'uld was still evasion. SG-1 had taught them how to defend themselves. They'd mentioned the possibility of burying the gate, but couldn't guarantee that the Goa'uld would not arrive in ships and destroy the Bursans in retaliation. In light of that information, the people of Cartago had elected not to bury the gate. Instead, SG-1 had provided them with zat weapons and taught them a few defense and stealth techniques. In addition, SG-1 had helped relocate the villagers away from the gate. Any Jaffa arriving would have a three-mile hike to the village, if they could even find it.
The strategy was to convince the Goa'uld that the residents had evacuated. After SG-1's run-in with the Jaffa on Cartago, it wasn't a stretch. Now that the Goa'uld knew that Earth was involved, given the SGC's history of relocating Goa'uld victims, they probably expected such a tactic. The reasons the villagers hadn't actually evacuated were that they were reluctant to leave the only place they'd known as home, and the SGC could not yet offer them a specific new home. Instead, the Bursan's would have to be guests of Earth, sheltered in the mountain, until the SGC could find a suitable relocation planet. Because that just wasn't practical, they'd elected to relocate the villagers away from the gate and adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
"Okay, kids," Jack turned to his teammates, "we've got a long walk ahead of us."
An hour later, Jack saw the outskirts of the village. Teal'c had also informed him that a young man had been following their progress for approximately the last twenty minutes. Apparently, the scouting techniques SG-1 had taught the villagers was actually being implemented, although they still obviously needed work on their stealth abilities.
Jack stopped. "Okay! We know you're there! You can come out now."
A young boy, apparently in his mid-teens, dashed out from behind a tree and ran up them. Jack thought the kid looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn't remember the young man's name. The boy stopped in front of O'Neill and bowed.
"You have returned to teach us more?" the boy asked, his eyes wide with hope.
Jack shook his head. "No, not this time. I'm sorry. Can you take us to Hanno?"
The boy nodded. "Yes! He is in the village. I'll show you." He turned and started on a brisk walk toward the village, and SG-1 followed.
A few minutes later, they reached the heart of the village. The natives eyed them curiously. A few smiled and welcomed them. Some whispered among themselves. A tent lay ahead, and their young guide seemed to be leading them toward it.
"Hanno!" The boy yelled. "Hanno! The people from Earth have returned!"
The tent's flap parted, and Hanno stepped out. He smiled at them and hurried to Teal'c, bowing before the Jaffa. "It is good to see you again my friends." His eyes swept over them. "Has Daniel Jackson not returned with you?"
"That's actually why we're here, Hanno." Jack stepped forward and placed a hand on Hanno's shoulder. "Can we talk privately?"
Hanno nodded and gestured to the tent. "Yes, of course. Come this way."
Daniel emerged from the wormhole on to dark world world. P3X797 hadn't changed much since his last visit, with the exception that now at least, members of the population weren't banished to the darkness.
Adjusting the heavy pack on his shoulders, he headed toward the light side of the planet. He wasn't quite sure what kind of welcome to expect. He knew Councilor Tuplo was grateful to SG-1 for curing the Touched, so Daniel expected a warm welcome, but a niggle of anxiety churned in his stomach at the thought of seeing Melosha. He knew, rationally, that neither he nor Melosha was to blame for whatever had happened during their...illness, but he still couldn't help but feel a certain amount of shame that Jack, Sam, and Teal'c had found him acting a little too cozy with Melosha.
And Daniel couldn't remember a thing that happened while he'd been 'Touched', so that left his more than capable imagination to fill in the gaps. He wouldn't have returned to P3X797, but it offered him certain advantages. The people were friendly, and even when they weren't, they'd never been violent -- except for the Touched, and they should be all cured. If the People of the Light offered him their hospitality, as he was sure they would, he could rest and fill his stomach. He could even inquire about Kheb. Odds were none of the natives would know of Kheb, but it never hurt to ask.
But the biggest reason he'd chosen P3X797 was because he doubted the SGC would look for him here so soon. For one, they probably figured he wouldn't want to return, and they were right, of course, which was exactly why he had returned. It was a gamble, of course, but he figured there were more likely suspects for them to waste their efforts on first.
In fact, he'd almost decided to head back to Cimmeria, figuring they'd never believe he'd return there, but he knew that they probably knew that as well, and he just didn't want to take that kind of a risk. However, one of the reasons he'd chosen to initially gate to Cimmeria was because he knew that was a planet he'd more than likely need to visit to get his answers, and that planet would be top on the SGC's list, too. However, if he gated there first, Cimmeria would plummet on their suspect list. Oh, they'd probably put a team on it for a while, but when he failed to return after a suitable amount of time, they'd give up. He only wondered just how long they'd keep up the search. Eventually, if he evaded capture long enough, they'd have to stop expending valuable resources on trying to find him.
He stepped over the boundary separating darkness from light, and some time later, arrived at the town. He headed straight for the building where SG-1 had initially conversed with Councilor Tuplo. Daniel assumed it to be something akin to a municipal building. He was barely halfway there, however, when Councilor Tuplo appeared on the path ahead of him, his robes swirling around him as he walked briskly toward Daniel.
A smile lit the Councilors face, and Daniel forced himself to reciprocate.
When he was close enough, Tuplo stopped and bowed. "It is an honor to see you again, Daniel Jackson." He looked behind Daniel. "Where are the others?"
Daniel took a breath. "They, uh, couldn't come. I'm actually here only for a short time. I've come to visit, and I have a question that I hope your people can answer, but if I'm imposing an inconvenience, I'd be happy to return some other time."
A hint of confusion flickered over Councilor Tuplo's face, but his smile brightened nevertheless. "No, no! It's no inconvenience. We are in your debt and delighted to see you again." He gestured down the path. "May I offer you the hospitality of my home?"
Daniel held his smile. "I would be honored and grateful. Thank you."
Daniel followed Councilor Tuplo to a rounded structure that looked like it might be made out of clay. It was white on the outside with a dark brown roof. The door was made of a deep red wood, rounded at the top with an elegant arch.
Tuplo pushed open the door and gestured inside. Daniel entered. The interior was dim, with light drifting through the open shutters of the windows. There was no furniture other than a few tables. Plush rugs lined the floor, and Daniel recalled that he'd only seen the natives sit on the floor, except for that brief time they had come to Earth to offer the Tollans their hospitality.
Tuplo walked through an archway into another room, glancing over his shoulder at Daniel. "My wife and daughter will be happy to see you."
Daniel's heart picked up its pace, and he nodded, swallowing. "I, uh, will be honored to see them as well."
As soon as he entered the modestly-sized room, he saw Melosha and Tuplo's wife sitting cross-legged on the floor. Daniel stopped, his chest suddenly tight, and stared at the infant held in Melosha's arms. The child looked about two years old. It had light hair. The baby giggled and looked up at him, and Daniel's breath caught in his throat when he found himself staring into big, blue eyes.
"Daniel has returned to visit us." Tuplo stepped forward and sank to the rug next to his wife.
Tuplo's wife - and Daniel couldn't for the life of him remember her name - smiled and looked up at him. "It is our pleasure."
"Thank you." Daniel fidgeted. He could always remember names. Why couldn't he now? His headache flared, and he rubbed at his temple.
Melosha rose to her feet, the baby in her arms, and smiled. "It is a pleasure to have you here. I have the honor of introducing you to my son, Mullac."
Daniel's tongue refused to work. "Uh..." He closed his mouth and swallowed hard.
Melosha tilted her head, confusion lining her brow. "Are you all right?"
Taking a breath, Daniel forced himself to nod. "I... uh..." He couldn't stop staring at the child. It reached toward him with small, exquisite fingers.
"My Beloved, Nemen, should be here soon. I look forward to introducing you to him. Are you staying to eat with us?"
Beloved? Husband? Daniel started breathing again.
The creak of the door followed by heavy footsteps pulled Daniel's attention away from the child. A large man towering about six-foot-three, with broad shoulders, golden hair, and huge blue eyes ducked through the archway.
Daniel released a relieved sigh, his shoulders slouching.
The newcomer looked at Daniel, then at Melosha, and stopped. "Who is our guest?"
Figuring the giant was Nemen, Daniel took a step back...just in case.
Melosha moved forward. "This is Daniel Jackson from Earth." She looked at Daniel. "This is my Beloved, Nemen."
Nemen bowed. "I have heard many great things about the people of Earth. I am honored to meet you."
Daniel nodded. "Uh, the honor is mine."
He wondered just how much, if anything, Nemen knew about what had happened between him and Melosha. Probably nothing. If Daniel couldn't remember, Melosha probably couldn't remember, which meant neither Tuplo nor Nemen would know because Daniel certainly hadn't mentioned anything, and he was pretty sure Jack hadn't, either.
Thank heaven for small favors.
Tuplo rose to his feet. "Daniel has come to visit and to ask us a question." He looked at Daniel expectantly.
"Oh, right." Daniel pulled his attention away from the towering young man. "I, uh... We are trying to find a planet known as Kheb. I was wondering whether you've heard of it."
Tuplo shook his head. "No, I am sorry."
Daniel nodded. That was the answer he'd expected. "Is there a library in this village? Would it be possible for me to review some of your culture's writings?"
Tuplo nodded. "Yes, of course. We offer all our knowledge freely, and I hope you find what you seek."
Daniel gave a small smile. "Thank you."
"And you think Daniel Jackson will come here?" Hanno tilted his head at Jack. "Why?"
Jack leaned against a short table inside the tent. "We're not sure. It's just a guess. He's on his own, and he's going to need to replenish supplies frequently. So, besides hunting and scrounging for food, which is risky, he'll probably visit planets where we've established friendly relations."
Hanno nodded. "We would offer him hospitality should he come."
"Good." Jack glanced at Teal'c and Carter, both of whom seemed content to let him do the talking. "I appreciate that. As I said, Daniel's under the impression that he's not welcome back on Earth. We need to find him and let him know that he can come home. So, what I'm asking is, if Daniel does come here, can you keep him here and send us a signal? We'll give you a device you can use to contact us."
Hanno frowned, skepticism darkening his face. "You wish us to deceive your friend?"
Teal'c took a small step forward. "I have wronged you in the past, Hanno, but I hope I have shown you that I am a man of honor."
Hanno nodded. "You have, my friend."
"I ask that you believe O'Neill. Daniel Jackson will come to no harm from us. We wish to find him and welcome him home. That is all. As long as he remains alone, traveling through the Stargate, he is in danger. Should he encounter the Goa'uld, he would have little means of defending himself."
"I believe you, Teal'c." Hanno took a deep breath. "But why not just let us tell your friend that he is welcome home?"
Jack pushed off the table. "Because he might not believe you, or he might think that's what we told you so you would help us, and if he knows we've been in contact with you, he'll likely make a run through the Stargate, and we'll have very little hope of finding him."
Hanno looked from Teal'c to Jack. Finally, he nodded. "Very well. My people will do as you ask."
Daniel sighed, looked up from the book, and slid his fingers beneath his glasses to rub his tired eyes. After dinner, he'd asked Tuplo to show him the library. That had been.... Daniel looked at his watch. Wow. Since day never seemed to end on this part of the planet, Daniel had had no concept of just how much time had passed.
He'd been poring over books and inscriptions for nearly half an Earth day, and so far he'd found nothing useful. He'd learned a lot about their culture, though, but a lot of good that kind of information would do him now.
Giving in to a yawn, Daniel closed the book on his lap and straightened his legs from their curled positions. Pins and needles started hammering his feet and legs, and he gritted his teeth and forced himself to wiggle his toes.
Minutes later, the maddening sensations faded, and he pushed himself to his feet. Sliding the book back to its rightful place on the shelf, he stooped and grabbed his pack from the floor, almost falling forward from its unexpected weight.
Damn, the thing seemed to get heavier and heavier.
Walking to the door, he pushed it open and blinked from the sudden assault of brightness. Giving his eyes a moment to adjust, he leaned against the doorframe and gave into another, deeper yawn. He couldn't remember exactly how long it had been since he'd had real sleep, and he didn't count his less-than-conscious time spent with Nem as 'sleep.'
He wished he could stay and indulge in some rest, but P3X797 would undoubtedly be on the SGC's top-ten list of planets to search. He needed to gate to some place where he could sleep for as long as he needed without fear that an SG team would take him by surprise. And maybe, when he woke, his headache would be gone.
When the light no longer hurt his eyes, he pushed off the doorframe and made his way to Councilor Tuplo's residence. He'd say his good-byes to Tuplo, his wife, and Melosha, and....
/ The darkness suffocated him. He huddled, trying to protect his more vital members, as they kicked and punched him. There was no way for him to escape. They surrounded him. The men growled and grunted, challenging him, pummeling him. He kept his head down, avoiding eye contact, hoping to convey to the males that he didn't present a threat.
One of the Touched landed a kick to his right kidney, and his body jerked, a cry erupting from his mouth. His reaction must have incited them further, because they increased their efforts, and they pummeled and kicked and punched him until he fell limp into oblivion. /
"Daniel? Daniel Jackson!"
Daniel gasped. The darkness became light, and he saw the concerned face of Councilor Tuplo.
"Are you okay?"
Daniel looked around. He was lying on the ground, trembling, curled into a ball. Villagers stared at him, and he felt his cheeks grow hot. Swallowing hard, he took a deep breath and pushed himself on to shaky legs.
"Yes, I... Sorry, I'm not feeling too well. I was coming to tell you good-bye, but I think I should start back now. Can you say my good-byes to your family?"
Tuplo nodded, frowning slightly. "Yes, of course. I hope you feel better and that you and your companions visit us in the future."
Daniel nodded. He was still shaking, and he turned away from Councilor Tuplo. "Thank you." God, that flashback had been powerful. He could still feel the pain from the blows in his ribs and back. "I'll go now."
Daniel turned to see Tuplo holding the SGC-issue backpack. "You've forgotten this."
"Oh, right." Daniel grabbed the pack from the Councilor and shrugged into the straps. His shoulders ached beneath the sudden weight. "Thank you."
"You are always welcome."
Daniel nodded. "Goodbye, Councilor." He turned away from the man and ignored the stares from the villagers as he made his way slowly out of the village, his feet heavy and dragging along the soil.
The three members of SG-1 made their way to the base of the ramp. Jack stopped in front of Hammond as the guards lowered their weapons.
"Any news, sir?"
Hammond nodded. "As a matter of fact, yes. We'll brief in twenty minutes."
"Yes, sir," Jack nodded, trying to gauge his commander's expression. He couldn't tell whether the news was good or bad.
Hammond offered a small smile. "I believe you'll find it to be good news, Colonel."
Jack offered a relieved smile. "Thank you, sir. You read my mind." He looked back at Carter and Teal'c. "Okay, kids, let's hit the showers."
Daniel stepped out of the wormhole onto a planet brimming with green trees and fern-like vegetation...and sneezed. As the wormhole disengaged behind him, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pants pocket and blew his nose. His last allergy shot had been a while ago, and he hadn't brought any antihistamine pills with him. He'd thought about taking some from the infirmary, but his pack was already overstuffed, and any pills he could take would simply get used up much too quickly and make him drowsy.
Stuffing the handkerchief back in his pocket, he began his hike toward the network of caves he and the rest of SG-1 had encountered months ago on one of their routine missions. The sun, similar to Earth's yellow one, hung low in the sky, indicating early morning. He suppressed a yawn. His circadian rhythm was getting all out of whack. At least this time he planned to spend the night on the planet and catch up on his sleep.
He figured this planet would be relatively safe. Nothing of consequence had happened during SG-1's mission, and there had been no signs of current, intelligent life. The SGC would likely not look for him here for some time, if ever.
However, during the mission to this seemingly uninhabited planet, SG-1 had stumbled across caves. Intricate drawings and writings decorated the interior of the caves, much of it faded, but the writings Daniel had been able to decipher had touched on elements of Earth mythology, from Greek to Biblical. Daniel had taken pictures and video, but the network of caverns ran too deep for a comprehensive exploration. He'd only been able to spend ten hours working before SG-1 had to return to Earth, and once he'd gotten back to Earth, other projects had taken priority over his analysis of the cave writings.
Now, he could take his time, and maybe -- just maybe -- he'd find a reference to the 'myth' of Kheb.
"Okay, what's the news, sir?" Jack slid into the chair next to Sam at the conference table. Teal'c sat alone, opposite them.
"Doctor Fraiser has analyzed the blood found on the glass and carpet in Doctor Jackson's apartment. As you predicted, it's not Doctor Jackson's blood."
"Ha!" Jack slammed a palm on the table, then winced apologetically. "Sorry, sir."
"It's all right, Colonel. I share your sentiments."
"So, we've got concrete proof that someone else was in Daniel's apartment, and that there was a struggle," Carter interjected.
Hammond nodded. "Yes, we do."
Teal'c's deep voice filled the room. "And there can be no further doubt regarding Daniel Jackson's mental faculties."
"Well," Hammond leaned forward, placing his arms on the table, "like I said earlier, the President has ordered that, once we retrieve Doctor Jackson, he is to undergo a psychiatric evaluation regardless of what our investigation uncovers."
"Fine. Fine." Jack waved a hand in the air. "At least the shrinks will know Daniel didn't try to off himself, and this proves there was foul play. So, is the President going to take Daniel's accusations against Maybourne more seriously now?"
"I spoke with the President before your return. He intends to initiate an executive investigation into Maybourne and the incident surrounding Doctor Jackson's apparent suicide attempt, but he has ordered that the SGC remain out of the investigation."
"What?" Jack leaned back in his chair. "That's--"
"Because of the tense relationship between certain crucial members of this facility and Colonel Maybourne," Hammond interrupted, "the President wants to ensure that the investigation is a neutral one."
Jack kicked at the floor beneath the table. "Figures, which means this is all gonna get swept nicely under the rug, isn't it?"
Hammond sighed. "I honestly don't know, Colonel."
Daniel's eyes felt ready to drop out of his skull. He kept blinking in an unsuccessful attempt to clear his vision. The pain lingering in his head had evolved into a steady pressure that threatened to develop into a full-blown migraine. Working for hours in the dark cavern, with only the beam from his flashlight for illumination, wasn't helping his headache, either.
He shined the light on his watch and glanced at the time. When he saw it had been about twelve hours since he'd found the caverns and started his exploration of the writings, he sighed and set the flashlight on the cave floor. He couldn't do anymore. He was exhausted, and his overworked eyes were making any continued attempts nearly impossible.
Another sneeze erupted from him, and he sniffled, wiping his nose on his sleeve. He was too tired to care about hygiene, and since he hadn't brushed his teeth or showered in way too long, he figured any attempt at keeping good hygiene habits would be nothing more than a pointless facade.
Reaching for his backpack, he pulled the string that fastened the lightweight thermal sleeping bag to the bottom of the pack and unraveled the smooth, cool material. Slipping out of his jacket, he winced when his injured arm twinged in protest, then kicked off his boots and, without bothering to undress further, scooted into the bag, zipped it up, and fell immediately to sleep.
"Well, I'd hoped never to set foot on this miserable beach again." Jack huffed, shooting a glare at Carter. "And, although I hate to say this, I damn sure hope we don't find Daniel here."
"Sir, I told you, I honestly don't think Nem will harm Daniel, if he's even here, that is."
"I do not enjoy reliving the memories this planet evokes," Teal'c stated flatly.
Jack patted the Jaffa on the arm before heading toward the ocean. "That's the understatement of the year, buddy."
They had just reached the shoreline when a disturbance rose beneath the surface of the ocean a few meters offshore.
"Look alert, folks." Jack held his gun loosely at his side, casual but prepared.
Nem rose from the water and walked to the shoreline. He stared at them silently for several moments, and Jack eyed the alien apprehensively before speaking.
"Hello." Jack stepped forward. "How are you? That's nice. Look, I'll make this fast. Have you seen Daniel? You know, the guy who was with us before. You and he made nice pictures in the sand, then you kidnapped him and fried his brains. Ring a bell?"
"Sir," Carter stepped forward. "I don't think --"
"He was here," Nem said.
Jack straightened. "What? Was? When?"
"Over one rotation."
"So he's not here now?"
"He is not."
Jack sighed heavily. "I don't suppose you caught the address to wherever he went?"
Nem said nothing.
"Okay." Jack pursed his lips. "Look, we really need to find him."
"He evades you."
"Uh, yeah. Slight misunderstanding. Will you tell me where he went?"
"Okay." Jack's grip tightened on his gun. "You know, I'm trying real hard to be nice about this, but --"
A puff of light and smoke exploded from Nem's mouth, and Jack staggered back, falling to the sand. "Jesus!"
Teal'c held his staff weapon on the creature, but Jack waved his hands. "Easy, Teal'c. I'm okay."
Coughing, Jack rose slowly to his feet, keeping his hands away from his P-90. "Okay, I get the picture." He figured it'd be a good idea to try harder at the diplomatic approach. "Look, I didn't mean to come off so strong. It's just," he sighed, "we're worried about him. We'd really appreciate any help you could give us."
Nem cocked his head. After a moment, he reached into an almost invisible pocket in his dripping clothes and pulled out a folded piece of paper that was remarkably dry. Jack took the paper and unfolded it. The handwriting was unmistakably Daniel's. Glancing up at Carter and Teal'c, Jack took a breath and began to read.
I figured youd look here eventually, so I told Nem to give you this note when you arrived. You know why Im doing this. I made a promise to Share, and keeping that promise is all I can do for her now.
Nem says his memory machine can help me remember knowledge that may have been transmitted to me through the ribbon device - knowledge that Share didnt intentionally impart, but that Ammuonet knew that may have also come through the energy beam. I know youre not sure whether to believe that Share communicated with me through the ribbon device, but I believe it to be true, and I have to act on that belief.
Theres a wrinkle, of course. Nems machine might damage me. Brain damage. It could leave me a vegetable. I suppose it could even kill me. I have to risk it, though. Right now, its my best chance.
If Im dead or a vegetable, Ill have no way to honor my promise to Share. In that case, will you do it for me? Please? Theres an innocent life at stake. If that life falls into the wrong hands you know what will happen.
Please, Jack. This is more important than orders. More important than politics. This is about saving an innocent life, and beyond that, saving the world. Again.
Goodbye, Jack, and thank you. Youve been a good friend. Tell Sam and Tealc . Well, just tell them that Ive valued their friendship over the years. And tell them goodbye for me.
Jack looked up to see Carter and Tealc staring at him.
Well, sir? Sam asked.
Taking a breath, Jack folded the paper and shoved it into his pocket. He trembled, suddenly cold. Anger and sadness battled for dominance inside of him, and part of him wanted to beat the shit out of Nem and his damn memory machine.
He used Nems machine again, Jack told his teammates, then looked at Nem. What did it do to him?
Nem glanced in the direction of the Stargate. He survived.
And? Jack prodded. Did it damage him?
I believe not.
You believe. Jack scrubbed a hand over his face. He left, right?
Nem looked at Jack, apparently studying him.
Please. Jack took a step forward and dropped his voice. Its important that we find him. Things have changed since he left. He doesnt know that. Hes out there alone, with little to no resources, risking his life when he doesnt have to. We can help him.
Daniel opened his eyes to blackness. He blinked, but the impenetrable darkness remained solid. Raising his wrist, he hit the INDIGLO button on his watch. Time didnt hold much meaning, anymore, but the numbers told him that hed managed about thirty minutes of sleep.
God. Dropping his arm, he closed his eyes. Why was he awake? He was so tired; he shouldve slept for a long, long time.
His answer came in the form of a scratching noise that sent his heart into sudden overdrive. He stopped breathing, listening to the sound, trying to localize it despite the tricky acoustics of the cavern. It stopped, and he frowned, slowly pushing himself to a sitting position inside the sleeping bag.
A second later, the sound rose again, seemingly closer. He reached out an arm and felt along the ground, giving into a sigh when his hand found the flashlight. He turned it on, and a beam of light sliced through the darkness. Quickly, he bounced the beam along the cave walls, sweeping the interior, but he didnt see anything out of place.
The scratching noise ceased. Daniel swallowed. Damn. Noises not made by living things didnt stop at the sound of a human voice. His free hand went to the zat at his side, and he scooted backward out of the bag.
Whos there? Im armed. Announce yourself.
He searched his memory. SG-1 hadnt encountered much in the way of animal life on this planet, but they had seen some small creatures that looked like birds and rodents. Odds were that whatever was making that scratching sound was nothing more than one of the native animals, probably a little creature that would be more scared of him than he was of it . Or maybe not, he thought, giving in to a wry smile at the depths of his own fear.
All of a sudden, a terrible screeching filled the air, and Daniel jumped, the flashlight dropping from his hand. A roar echoed off the cave walls, and something hit Daniel square in the face. He cried out and dropped to the ground. The beam from the flashlight gave him a glimpse of dark, small bodies in the air, and he felt a strange current above him. He rolled on to his stomach and covered his head with his hands, identifying the roar as the flap of hundreds of wings as a violent flock of airborne creatures passed over him.
Greetings. Councilor Tuplo bowed in front of Jack, then straightened. I am pleased to see you. How is Daniel Jackson?
Jack glanced at Carter before answering. Uh, actually, we were hoping to find him here.
Tuplos eyebrows rose. He left some time ago. I assumed he returned to Earth.
Jacks shoulders slouched. Damn. When Nem had given them the address to which Daniel had gated, Jack had hoped the search would come to a quick and painless end. Theyd find Daniel, tell him everything was a-okay, and drag his ass back home.
Why couldnt things ever be easy?
Why did you ask us if Daniels okay? Carter asked, grabbing Jacks attention.
Good catch, Major, he praised her silently, even as his stomach churned with the realization that her question evoked.
The councilor frowned. He was ill when he left us.
Jack swallowed. No. No. No. Damnit, Daniel. Tell me that thing didnt fry your brains.
Jack took a deep, calming breath. I take it you dont have any idea where he went?
Tuplo shook his head. As I told you, I had assumed hed returned to Earth. Im sorry.
Thats okay. Jack sighed. What happened while he was here?
He asked about a planet called Kheb. I told him I had never heard of such a place. He ate with us, then spent time in our library.
In what way did Daniel Jackson appear ill? Tealc asked.
He was coming out of the library when he collapsed. He cried out as though he were in pain and covered his head with his hands. I tried to help him. His pain stopped, it seemed, and he looked at me and rose to his feet. He appeared to recover, and then he bade us goodbye and left.
Damn, Jack muttered.
I apologize that I am unable to deliver better news.
Youve been helpful, Sam reassured. Thank you.
Would you care for some food or drink? the councilor asked.
No, thank you. Im sorry, but we cant stay. Thanks for your help, though.
You are most welcome.
Jack turned away from Tuplo and waved a hand in the air. Cmon, kids. Time to head back home.
I look at the date on my watch, and I cant believe its been twelve days since I left Earth, and Im still nowhere near finding K. I think I remember the third symbol, but thats not enough. Its never enough. No matter what I do.
My analysis of the cave writings on P2X-374 yielded a lot of interesting information, but nothing related to K. It hasnt even been two weeks, though. I never expected to find K so soon. I know itll take time.
Im just tired. Its only been twelve days, and Im exhausted. I have a constant headache, and I cant seem to fall asleep for any length of time. My mind wont shut down enough to let me, even though Im dead tired, and when I do fall asleep, the pain usually wakes me. Or a noise.
Or, in the case of P2X-374, a flock of bat-like creatures. Its a shame none of this information is going to the SGC. Whereas our previous missions were often perfunctory, leaving little room for in-depth exploration unless we found something that we could potentially use to fight the Goauld, my current situation allows me more time on each planet. Im trying to make notes of things I come across on the side, even if they dont help me in my search. Maybe Ill be able to leave this information for the SGC somehow. Maybe whoever took my place will find it useful, or at the very least, interesting. And maybe someday, if the secret of the Stargate ever becomes public knowledge, this information will help future archeologists in their explorations.
On a different note, my survival skills are being put to the test. Im not completely sure whats safe to eat on these planets, and I went through my meager MREs over a week ago. Ill need to make a stop on another one of the SGCs friendly planets in search of hospitality. For now, the information I brought with me on edibles from our various planets has allowed me to pick and eat some fruits and plants, but my list is woefully inadequate. Theres only so much information a backpack and a palm computer can carry.
I wonder if the SGC is still looking for me, if they ever were. I hope not. I know its a big universe, and the odds of me bumping into an SG team are remote, but I cant help but count on Murphys Law. What if SG-1 finds me, or I inadvertently find them? I cant let them take me --
Daniel screamed, and the pen and journal dropped from his fingers. He curled into a ball on the ground, his hands covering his head. Rocking back and forth, he rode out the pain and the assault of images. This time it was New York. He closed his eyes, but still the scene played out before him. The slab swung. The chain snapped. His parents screamed.
Daniel sprang out of his curled position and sat up stiffly, shaking his head even as the motion made him nauseous. Enough! Enough! This needed to stop. How long? God, what if they never went away? It was his fault. His choice. Hed taken the risk. Three symbols. Three lousy symbols.
He opened his eyes and swallowed, taking a deep, calming breath. Get a grip! It was time to move on to yet another planet. This time a friendly. He needed a good meal and a warm place to, hopefully, sleep.
Jack dropped his head to the table. It wasnt proper protocol, especially not in front of the general, but he was tired. Too damn tired.
With a sigh, Jack forced his head back up. Another briefing. More planets crossed off their list. Still no sign of Daniel.
The general looked more sympathetic than annoyed. This briefing is dismissed. Get some sleep, Colonel. His eyes drifted to Carter and Tealc. That goes for you two as well.
Were not gonna find him. Jack straightened, surprised that hed actually uttered the words. Theyd just sort of fallen from his lips on their own.
Hammond frowned. Theres still hope, Colonel. Its only been a little under two weeks. Hes out there somewhere.
The possibilities are staggering. Carter leaned back in her chair. Lines sat heavy around her face, making her look older than her years. Its like looking for a needle in a haystack, sir.
And Daniel Jackson knows our techniques, Tealc added. He is a skilled scholar, and his time spent battling the Goauld has made him an impressive warrior. He will likely continue to evade us.
Well, this is just peachy. Jack rose from his chair, his earlier pessimism suddenly turned to anger. Were not giving up. Those NID bastards arent going to win. Were getting him back.
Hammond took a breath. Well keep looking, Colonel, of course, but I can only keep one SG team on the search.
Jacks shoulders sagged. Of course, General. He knew better than to argue. Two weeks was far too long for three SG teams to be tied up on an impossible mission. Request permission
Granted. Ill allow SG-1 to be the team that continues to search for Doctor Jackson, but Im also going to have to insist that we consolidate the search with useful recovery missions.
Jack narrowed his eyes. And that means what, sir?
Youre on stand-down for two days. Your next mission is to P54-983 to follow-up on a Naquada survey. Its also a planet that, I believe, Dr. Jackson had expressed interest in visiting due to some ruins revealed by the UAV.
Jack offered a small smile. Thank you, sir.
Hanno could hardly believe his eyes. He had begun to doubt that Daniel Jackson would ever visit, but as he stared at the figure walking toward the village, accompanied by the young scout Balen, he felt a churn of apprehension. He hoped he was doing the right thing. He trusted O'Neill and Tealc, but he had also been moved by Daniel Jacksons appeal for Tealcs life during the Cor-ai. Daniel was a good man and a loyal friend. Even though Hanno believed Jack and Tealc, he could not help but feel like he was betraying Daniel.
As the figure got closer, Hanno blinked. He had been mistaken. The man was not Daniel Jackson. He wore a uniform like that of Tauri, but he was too thin, and a modest speckle of hair covered the lower half of his face. He walked with a slight limp, his shoulders hunched, a pack carried on his back.
Hanno started forward. It wasnt until he had gotten within reaching distance of the visitor that he recognized the glasses and the bright, blue eyes behind them. He inhaled a sharp breath, his chest growing tight.
He was suddenly very glad that Daniel Jackson had arrived. Jack and Tealc had spoken the truth. This man needed their help. But for now, he was in obvious need of food, drink, rest and a bath.
Daniel forced himself to smile despite the numbing fatigue weighing him down and the headache pounding in his skull. Hello, Hanno.
Hannos face brightened with a broad smile, and his gentle eyes crinkled. It is good to see you again. His smile faded slightly. May I offer you our hospitality?
Daniel nodded. Thank you. Id very much appreciate it.
Come then. Hanno turned a fraction and pointed toward the village. I have food and water, and you are welcome to wash up.
Daniel stifled a yawn. Thank you. He frowned slightly, finding it odd that Hanno hadnt asked him why he was there or where the rest of SG-1 was. I uh God, his head hurt. I hate to impose, but I think Id like a bath first and then, if you dont mind, some sleep. He gave a lopsided grin, squinting through his headache at Hanno. He was hungry, but hunger was a feeling hed gotten used to. At the moment, what he really longed for was a nice, hot bath and a soft, warm bed. I hope its not too much trouble.
Hanno shook his head. I assure you, it is no trouble.
Unscheduled gate activation! the computerized voice blared. Unscheduled gate activation!
Hammond looked over the techs shoulder at the gate read-out on the monitor, waiting for a signal. There were no SG teams due back, which likely meant trouble.
Hammond turned to see ONeill standing behind him. He frowned. What are you doing here, Colonel? Youre supposed to be resting.
Jack eyed the monitor. I, uh
Were receiving a signal. The tech looked up at Hammond. Its from P3X1279.
Jack took a step back, his knees almost caving. Daniel. He blinked, afraid the image on the screen would change, telling them it was only an SG-team, but it stayed steady. Thats the signal we gave Hanno.
A broad smile broke Hammonds face. Have SG-1ready to depart in twenty minutes, Colonel.
Jack nodded, giving in to a grin of his own. Yes, sir!
No, no. Thank you. I can do this myself. Daniel offered what he hoped looked like a genuine smile as he gestured toward the door. Please.
The two women, both with stunningly dark hair and features similar enough to make them sisters, giggled. The one on the left winked at him, then grabbed her companion by the arm and hurried out of the room, closing the door.
Daniel sighed and sank onto the wooden bench. Steam floated from the water inside the tub, which looked very much like a large bucket that appeared to be made from some kind of metal. A small table stood next to the tub, supporting a bowl filled with a murky, gray substance. Daniel figured that to be the soap.
He sighed again as he pulled off his boots, then wiggled his toes. Next, off came his socks. He eased out of his jacket, then pulled his shirt over his head. Eyeing his injured arm, the uncovered wound looked almost healed. It still ached sometimes, especially if he pushed on it, but otherwise, it didnt bother him too much.
Finally, he unbuckled his belt and unzipped his pants. The waistband seemed to be stretching out, and he continually had to tighten his belt. With a groan, he pushed himself to his feet. He ached all over. The steaming bath beckoned him. Letting his pants drop to his knees, he pushed himself to his feet and stepped out of them, then dropped his boxers. Stooping, he grabbed the bundle of clothes and carried them over to his pack near the end of the bench, safely away from the bath water. His clothes definitely needed washing, but hed worry about them later. Right now, the bath called to him, and he walked to the tub.
Lifting one leg over the rim, he set it carefully in the water. Closing his eyes, he gritted his teeth. It was hot, but not unbearable, and he knew it would be ecstasy once he got himself fully in the tub where the hot water would have a chance to soothe his muscles.
Putting his weight on the submerged limb, he pulled his other leg over and crouched into the water, gasping as the heat traveled up his thighs. Bracing himself with his hands on the rim, he slowly lowered himself. The hot water slid over his back and chest, and with a sigh, he laid back and slid deeper into the water.
Oh God, that felt good.
Giving in to a yawn, he opened his eyes and looked down at the murky water. He frowned. The dirt was already pouring off him and darkening the bath water. He hadnt realized he was that filthy, and looking at the clear outline of his ribs, he realized hed lost a lot of weight. But in only twelve days? Frowning, he pushed that thought aside and concentrated on getting himself clean. His hair felt gritty, and he closed his eyes and slid down until his head was under water, then ran his fingers roughly through his hair.
Sliding up again until his head emerged from the water, he leaned forward and scooped his hand into the bowl. He poured a handful of the soap on his head, then worked the lather through his hair. Grabbing another handful, he washed under his armpits, then raised his feet one-by-one and washed over and between his toes.
That accomplished, he ducked beneath the now-dirty water and tried to get as much of the soap out of his hair as he could. When he was satisfied, he pushed himself back up and rested against the wall of the tub, tilting his head back on the rim and closing his eyes. The water, still hot, gave him a warm, tingly feeling all over, and the knot between his shoulder blades that had plagued him for well over a week seemed to loosen.
His headache faded, and he felt himself drifting pleasantly toward sleep.
Okay, kids, lets go. Jack clapped his hands, heartened to see the flicker of a grin on Carters face and the twinkle in Tealcs eyes. Perhaps it was foolish of them to get their hopes up, but damnit this had to be their big break.
Trotting up the ramp, he stepped into the event horizon .
And emerged on the other side, beneath a clear blue sky.
You are here!
Jack eyed the young man running up to them. Yes. We got your signal.
The boy grinned and waved frantically. Come. Come. I will take you to the village. Daniel Jackson is there.
All right then. His own grin blossoming, Jack glanced at his teammates and took off after their young guide.
A knock on the door woke Daniel, and he came to just as he slid into the water. It covered his face, and he sputtered, using his arms to pull himself back up. Tears from the soap stung his eyes, and he blinked and rubbed his hands over his face.
The door opened slowly, and Hanno stuck his head inside. I thought Id ask if youd like me to have your clothes washed? We could provide you with clean linens until yours are dry.
Daniel eyed the filthy pile of clothes next to the bench. He really didnt relish the thought of getting back into them. Uh, yeah. That would be nice. Thank you.
Hanno smiled and stepped into the room. He walked to the bundle of clothes and scooped them into his arms. Is there anything I can get you, he grinned, other than fresh clothes and something to dry off with?
Daniel returned the smile. No. Thank you. I really do appreciate your hospitality.
It is only a minor payment toward the debt we owe you and your people for teaching us better ways to defend ourselves against the Goauld. With a nod, Hanno turned and carried his burden out of the room.
Daniel sank back with a sigh, debating whether he really wanted to get out of the now-cool water. There was another knock on the door, and he snapped his head up, then jerked forward and covered himself with his arms when he saw a young lady carrying a bundle of off-white fabric.
She smiled at him and walked into the room, keeping her gaze discreetly away from the tub. Placing the items on the bench, she turned her back to him. Those are linens for you to dry off with and fresh clothes.
Thank you, Daniel said a bit too quickly.
She nodded and hurried out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Leaning forward, Daniel pulled himself from the water and stepped carefully out of the tub. Wrapping his arms around his torso, he shivered and hurried toward the bench. Sifting through the items, he found what looked like a small sheet and figured it was supposed to act like a towel. Quickly, he dried himself, then rubbed the cloth briskly through his hair before dropping it to the floor.
Next, he inspected the clothes. There was a pair of cream-colored pants and a shirt that seemed to wrap around the waist. He slipped into the pants. They had a draw-string, so he tugged the waist tight and fastened a knot. Then, he slid into the shirt. The fabric was long in the front, with extra material dangling to his knees. He wrapped the excess around his waist and tied it in front. The shirt covered him to his chest, leaving his collar bone exposed. He had no idea how he looked, and he didnt really care. All he wanted was food and a bed.
Dropping to the bench, he slid his boots on to his bare feet. He spotted his glasses on the floor and figured they must have dropped out of his pack. Stooping, he picked them up and put them on, blinking at the sudden change in his vision. Grabbing the backpack, he slung it over his shoulder as he rose to his feet. He grimaced at the stab of pain in his arm from the motion, and it reminded him that the tissue damaged from the gunshot wound hadnt completely healed. Hed still have to take it easy with that arm.
Opening the door, he winced against the sudden onslaught of light, and the pain flared in his head. He raised one hand and rubbed at his brow, as though he could wipe away the pain, and wished desperately for a super-sized bottle of Excedrin.
An open tent with baskets of fruit stood to his left, and he turned toward it, his stomach grumbling. He didnt have much in the way of currency, so he passed it by and scanned the villagers, searching for Hanno. A twinge of guilt turned in his chest. He was beginning to feel like a beggar. Hed have to find some way to repay Hanno for his hospitality. He could offer to do some chores or teach the villagers better irrigation techniques.
On to Part 3