Airless


"That storm's moving in fast."

Daniel looked up at Jack's pronouncement, wiping beneath his glasses at his itchy, watery eyes. He sneezed several times as he leaned a knee on the ground for balance, then sniffed loudly in an attempt to try and unblock his clogged sinuses.

His nose remained blocked and he only succeeded in triggering several more sneezes for his troubles along with an accompanying headache. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand and squinted in the direction Jack was facing.

Across the sparse growth of the valley below, the Stargate stood starkly against a black angry-looking sky which had been dogging them for the past hour. The sun still shone around the storm clouds, making them look even more threatening. Even as he watched, a small break in the clouds caused a ray of light to illuminate the Stargate, making it appear to glow against the dark backdrop.

Heat lightning shimmered inside the clouds. Several long seconds later, thunder rolled, echoing ominously amongst the mountain ranges behind them. At first it had seemed like the storm was moving parallel to them. Either it had shifted direction or the storm front had widened.

Quick flashes of light, similar to Morse Code, sparkled from the hilltop across the valley from them as the sun illuminated the peak, to be repeated from yet another hilltop to the south. The message was taken up again to the east.

Sam, who had been crouched a few feet away from Daniel as she tested the soil and surrounding rocks for any kind of match on their "to get" list, stood up. "I wish I knew what they were saying," she stated as she trained her field glasses on the person manning the mirror sending this world's version of Morse code.

"Whatever it is, they're sure keeping a close eye on us. At the least we'll have a welcoming committee when we get there."

Thunder rolled again and Sam whistled, lowering the binoculars. "I think we better find some shelter." More lightning shimmered amongst the clouds.

Daniel looked around the rocky hilltop. Other than the wide, bushy and nearly luminous purple flower-filled tree he apparently was extremely allergic to, there was nothing they could use to shelter from the coming storm.

He turned back to the puzzle he'd been examining while he still had the time. The small pile of rocks he'd been examining had been placed here deliberately and he had yet to try and figure out what they represented.

They'd come across the cairn on their way along a well-worn path which followed the hills and valleys of this land, on their way to a mining community which according to the pictures taken from the UAV, was a few miles east of the Stargate. The desolate hilltops so far had sported nothing except rocks and trees; this one had rocks, that large tree, and the cairn beside it.

Daniel sneezed again. And again.

"Bless," Jack said as he moved past Daniel to stare down the trail leading into the next valley. It was steep and narrow, it would take them longer to get down into the valley, and shelter, than the way they had just come.

But from the looks of erosion of the land, either side they tried to descend would turn into a dangerous runoff if they got the amount of rain the storm promised. Deep fissures interspersed the trails; if they took it slow and careful, they might not have a problem. Then again, with a promise of a deluge soon to be pouring down those cracks, accidents were more than likely.

"Any place up here where we can hunker down for a while?" Jack crossed over to the northern side of the hill and stood beside the lone tree. He had taken only a few steps down that side of the hill when thunder cracked loudly.

"The storm is approaching quickly." Teal'c had started towards the southern side. "I believe it would be prudent to return the way from which we came. There does not appear to be any shelter here." He stopped at the edge and waited for Jack's decision.

A cool breeze ruffled Daniel's hair. He sneezed again and turned to face the refreshing puff of air, pushing his long hair out of his face. He hoped it and the rain might help temper some of the pollen that was bothering him so much. He sneezed again, several times in succession. When the fit ended, he found he was gasping and had black spots dancing in front of his eyes.

"Is it me or is it getting hard to breathe?" he gasped, wiping the sweat from his face. The air felt heavy, as if it was too full of moisture to breathe in. He pulled his shirt away from his neck, wondering if the collar hadn't suddenly tightened up. But his jacket was unbuttoned, as was his vest, and tugging the cotton neckline didn't seem to help.

"Daniel, are you all right?" Sam put a hand on his shoulder and looked at him with concern. "Is it your allergies?"

"I don't know. I've taken double the dosage already." He'd put up with the shakiness the extra antihistamines had caused, but the meds hadn't done a thing for any of his symptoms. Daniel wiped his tearing eyes and sneezed again, swearing when he caught the tip of his tongue between his teeth. "This is different, like the air is thick." He dabbed a finger against his throbbing tongue and it came out slightly smeared with blood.

"No, he's right." Jack was walking towards him, pulling at the collar of his own tee shirt. "It's definitely getting harder to breathe." He took his sunglasses off and let them hang across his chest. "We're going back the way we came."

He grabbed Daniel's arm and pulled him along. Daniel followed, stumbling slightly as the black spots continued to dance before his eyes. He realized suddenly that he'd been having to work harder at breathing the past few minutes and had put it down to his allergies.

Sam coughed behind him and Daniel could see beads of sweat shining along Jack's temple. It got dark all of a sudden and for a moment Daniel thought he was passing out until he realized the clouds had blocked out the sun. He blinked in confusion until lightning split the sky, reminding him they had to get away from their exposed position and into shelter.

The breeze suddenly pushed at him with an invisible fist. He shrugged his arm from Jack's hold, his breaths harsh and loud in his ears. He walked past Teal'c, clothes flapping in the wind, his hair whipping into his eyes. His legs weren't steady as he flexed his knees to take that first step down the steep path.

Daniel felt the prickling in his nose again that was a precursor to the inevitable sneezes. But this time when his lungs reflexively drew breath, it felt like there was nothing to inhale. Still his body continued to expel whatever irritants it believed was in his body, causing him to sneeze several times in succession once more.

The dark spots grew larger before his eyes and a hissing sound began to accompany his noisy exhalations. He felt himself fall sideways as the world tilted. He threw his hand back to try and stop from hurting himself. The pebbles burned against his palm as he slid to a stop.

Then his vision cleared to the sight of Jack leaning over him. His mouth was moving but for a moment, Daniel couldn't hear much over the hissing in his ears as he tried to gulp non-existent oxygen.

"Get up." Jack pulled at his arm and someone pushed him from behind and then Daniel was on his feet somehow and walking again. He could hear Jack's laboured breathing and Sam was gasping behind him. They'd barely gone several feet when Sam must have lost her balance because she slammed into him. His legs were swept out from underneath him and he landed hard, just missing landing on her lower body. He slid several inches and came to a stop by digging his feet into the soil. Sam's body came to rest beside him.

Jack fell to his knees next to him while Teal'c crouched behind them.

"O'Neill. CaptainCarter is unconscious."

Daniel didn't think it'd be long before he joined her in oblivion. His head was pounding and he felt sick to his stomach. "Go," he managed to gasp, knowing Teal'c could probably carry Sam to safety if they didn't have to worry about him slowing everyone down.

"Can you...?" Jack made a weak motion towards Sam with his hand. Without a word, Teal'c raised Sam's limp form and balanced her onto his shoulder.

"C'mon. Get up." Jack's voice was hoarse and breathless. There was controlled fear and concern in Jack's eyes, but what made Daniel find that small resource of energy was the determination in his friend's face that Daniel wouldn't be left behind, even if it took all of Jack's flagging energy to carry him off the hilltop.

Daniel made it to his knees as Teal'c continued on with his burden. Daniel was panting now, small, painful inhalations that felt like he was breathing underwater. Jack put a hand out and Daniel grabbed it. The effort of hauling Daniel to his feet nearly overbalanced Jack and they held onto each other while they each found their balance. Daniel's feet felt numb, his legs weak and unwieldy, his head heavy and too big for his body. Still holding onto one another, they made it down a few more feet until Jack lost his footing and stumbled.

Both went down, a jumble of arms and legs, both too disoriented to disentangle themselves when they came to a halt. The pounding in his head escalated as his lungs began to burn. He was suffocating out in the open and couldn't do anything but pray that the next inhalation would bring him air.

He felt hands touching him and tried to tell Teal'c to leave him and save Jack, but the effort was too much for him. The hands were relentless. He was grabbed under the arms and jerked roughly. He felt himself being dragged over the ground. He tried to open his eyes but couldn't find the energy. Lightning flashed through his closed eyelids and thunder drowned out his strident breaths for a few seconds.

A wall of cold water hit him, forcing the last of the air from his lungs in a harsh gasp. He panicked, unable to draw another breath. He wasn't going to suffocate, he was going to drown. His instincts kicked in and he tried to kick away from his captor, to get out of the water and back onto land. He couldn't seem to escape the unyielding grip, and his last-ditch effort to escape was too much for him. He was dumped mercilessly onto the ground as awareness fled.

Daniel lay there for an eternity; the rain pounding ceaselessly around him as the thunder beat its fists on its cloudy chest and announced to all and sundry that it was the master here. His head was leaden and pounded ceaselessly and his ribs and chest ached horribly. Tentatively he opened his eyes and saw damp, green grass around him. His left hand was cold and wet and after several minutes he realized it lay close to the shimmering green waterfall.

He made a fist, then brought his hand to his chest. His other hand was dry, until he rubbed it against his cold, wet knuckles. He blinked at the glistening water, then squinted when he realized it was composed of small needlelike foliage, like pine needles. The small leaves moved independently of one another, and not necessarily in the direction of the rain flowing along its edges. There were tiny leaves on the needles, fanning gently in the flow of the rain. He stared at the living canopy around him which protected him from the storm outside.

Then he sneezed.

That was when Daniel realized he was breathing. In. Out.

"Carter? Daniel? Teal'c? You guys all right?"

With great effort, Daniel turned his head. He and his teammates were lying underneath the canopy of the great tree which had stood alone on the hilltop. Lightning flashed close by and for a second Daniel thought it would hit the tree, but somehow it was deflected away. Thunder ripped through the sky, almost deafening him.

"I'm okay," Daniel answered just as Teal'c replied, "I am well."

Sam, however, didn't move. Teal'c crouched beside her as Daniel tried to turn onto his side. He sat up and his headache escalated by two notches. Unable to do more than sit with his head in his hands, it took his mind a few seconds longer to process Teal'c's words.

"CaptainCarter is breathing well. I believe she is merely unconscious." As if to disprove Teal'c's statement, Sam moaned softly.

Jack had copied Daniel's stance, but he raised his head from his hands at the sound. "Carter, you awake?"

"Sir?" Sam's voice was thick and full of confusion.

"Rest, CaptainCarter. Do not attempt to sit just yet."

"You couldn't have told me that earlier?" Jack glowered in Teal'c's direction before dropping his head back into his hands.

"How did we get here?" Daniel looked at Teal'c, eyebrows raised.

"It was not I." The Jaffa looked down, unable to meet his gaze. "I fear I was unable to convey you to safety. I lost consciousness only a moment after you. My symbiote was also affected by the strange occurrence."

Daniel looked at the leaves again, seeing tiny purple buds where the flowers had apparently closed up for protection against the onslaught.

"There's air now." Sam rolled over and sat up slowly.

"Any idea what happened to the air before?"

"No sir. The only thing I can come up with is that the oxygen was replaced by gas that's heavier than air, thereby displacing the oxygen and forcing it upwards."

"We're on a hilltop, Sam." Daniel reached out and touched a finger against the leaves. He could feel the rain; cool water dripped down his hand, but somehow the tree was keeping the water out, keeping them dry. "You'd think the air would have been pushed at least this high�"

Daniel bit off his words when the leaves were parted and two strangers entered their little sanctuary. Their clothes and hair were soaked, but it was the strands of greenery twisted around their faces that drew everyone's attention. After a moment Daniel realized the greenery was the same leaves that made up the tree they were sheltered under.

He straightened up as much as his headache allowed. "Hello."

The strangers stared down at them. For some strange reason, Daniel got the feeling that there was anger reflected towards them. It was difficult to tell with the leaves hiding their mouths and noses but there was something in their eyes...

Then one of them spoke. Either the tone of their language was normally sharp and piercing, or else he really *was* angry. Daniel tried to concentrate on the words instead of the timbre.

"You getting any of this?" Jack asked Daniel when the man paused for breath. The second stranger barked something at Jack.

"Um, no, not really." Some words seemed familiar, but the pain in his head was preventing him from making out anything concrete. "But I don't think they're happy about something."

"Ya think?" Jack frowned as stranger number two snapped at him again.

"My name is Daniel Jackson." Daniel put a hand to his chest and tried getting up onto his feet. He only made it to his knees when the world tilted and he landed on his butt. His head was pounding worse than ever. "Bad idea." He took a deep breath, clenched his teeth together and resolutely tried again. "We're peaceful explorers. We just came through the Stargate." He looked at them for any signs of comprehension. "Chaapa'ai?"

Either they didn't understand his words or they just didn't care. The one continued to harangue them, pointing sharply to the tree surrounding them.

Teal'c shifted, slowly standing, arms outstretched. He spoke first in his native tongue, then switched the greeting in the several dialects and languages that he knew when that didn't draw a response. Daniel bent his head onto his knees, thankful that someone else was thinking straight.

The strangers ignored Teal'c and continued to give the impression that SG-1 had been caught doing something naughty and were being scolded for it. Daniel wished his head didn't hurt so much; maybe he was missing something.

His nose began to prickle again and he sneezed. Hard. The action made him realize how strenuously he'd worked to breathe earlier and his ribs and shoulder muscles protested. And they continued protesting as he sneezed several more times.

When a piece of greenery was thrown onto his lap, he raised tearing eyes at the stranger standing before him. The man looked at him and then motioned at the leaves with his chin. Daniel picked up the foliage. It was strangely pliable, not rigid at all like a branch.

"You expect us to put those things around our faces? I don't think so." When the stranger cut off a piece of inner branch from the tree and tossed it to Jack, his friend let it fall to the ground.

"Sir, if the conditions outside are�"

"Outside?" Jack turned a skeptical look Sam's way.

"Beyond the shelter of this tree. Whatever atmospheric conditions are occurring due to the storm, these trees appear to have adapted and somehow create a small bubble of oxygen. But there may be a finite amount of air; we don't know how long before things get back to normal and the tree may not be able to sustain breathable conditions for very long."

"It appears these individuals did save our lives." Teal'c held the leaves in his hands, ready to place them around his face.

"Well the least they could have done was warn us *before* the storm hit. It would have saved us a headache, literally."

"Jack, I think they did try to warn us," Daniel said while blowing his nose. "The Morse Code they were sending, they might have been telling us to take shelter. I think we should go with them." Daniel raised the leaves to his face. But one whiff of the slightly perfumed greenery caused Daniel to sneeze again.

"We don't know that. Shit. They took our weapons."

Daniel only realized at that moment that Jack and Sam's MP-5s were gone as was Teal'c's staff weapon. A touch to his holster revealed that his Beretta was gone. How could they have missed this before? Another quick check showed they still had their backpacks.

Thunder rumbled in answer as Jack took his leaves and threw them across the shelter. "No way, Jose."

The repercussions were immediate. Hands grabbed Jack from outside and pulled him halfway out of their shelter. As Daniel lunged forward towards Jack, Teal'c and Sam were hit with some type of energy weapons. Sam went down with a cry. Teal'c landed on his knees but was kept there, helpless, when the rod held by the stranger was placed at his throat.

Daniel cringed, half-expecting to be shot himself while he grabbed hold of Jack's waist, trying to pull him back inside. Jack struggled against his attacker, but whoever was out there had a firm hold on him. Daniel could hear Jack wheezing as he desperately tried to breathe.

Then suddenly Jack was free, and Daniel fell onto his butt. He leaned forward and grabbed Jack's shoulder, pulling him all the way inside.

Jack gasped, breathing long and deep as he curled onto his side. His face and shoulders dripped with water. Daniel wiped as much as he could from Jack's face with the palm of his hand, then put the hand on his friend's shoulder as his breathing slowly eased.

The two strangers who had kept Sam and Teal'c at bay slowly backed up. One of them kicked the pieces of greenery back towards them. Without hesitation, Daniel grabbed one and began wrapping it around Jack's face.

The branch was extremely pliable and he had no difficulty in twining it in such a way that it would stay put. With trepidation he took up his own bit of green and began to wrap it around his face. It was scratchy and rough against his skin while the leaves tickled, acerbating the itchiness of his nose. He held his breath, knowing the inevitable was going to happen. With his head pounding, reminding him his body didn't like being deprived of air, Daniel took a deep breath through the fronds.

Immediately he sneezed. And sneezed again. Eyes watering, he stood, pulling Jack up with him. Jack glared at his two captors but ducked underneath the branches as they held them open. They all warily stepped into the storm. The thunder and lightning seemed to have passed, leaving them only with a strong deluge.

Five other strangers stood outside, flanking them as they exited. Despite the rain pouring down on him, Daniel continued sneezing. At least he could breathe; so he wasn't about to complain. After the example they'd made of Jack, he had no doubts that the air still wasn't breathable outside. His eyes were either pummeled with rain or filled with tears, his glasses were blurred by the downpour. His hold on Jack's arm became a lifeline. More than half-blinded, he was led, along with the rest of his team, down the northern edge of the hilltop where Jack had decreed earlier there was no shelter to be found.

But just beyond the edge was a well-used trail, impossible to see from where they'd stood up above. Even now as he descended the slippery slope, Daniel couldn't make out much of the trail below them. His foggy brain finally figured out that the cairn up above was probably a marker for whatever place they were heading for.

Plagued with sneezes nearly every couple of seconds, one of their captors took pity on Daniel and took his arm to help support him. With Jack on one side and the stranger on the other, Daniel made his awkward way down the hill.

About fifty feet lower, the trail led to a dark hole in the hillside. A cave.

Once inside Daniel made to take off the damned foliage but a hand on his arm stopped him. The stranger shook his head and led him farther within. The deeper they went, the darker it got. For a while Daniel wondered why they didn't light any of the torches that hung every few feet on the stone walls.

Daniel dug in his feet before they got deep enough where they wouldn't be able to see anything. "Flashlights."

"What?" Jack looked at him in confusion over the living mask.

"They need flashlights."

"Why?"

Despite the rough shove to his back to get him moving again, he turned Jack around so he could rummage through his backpack.

"Fire needs oxygen." Sam did the same, going through Teal'c's pack and coming up with a flashlight faster than Daniel. "Obviously there's no oxygen so they can't light the torches." She clicked the flashlight on and after waving it around to demonstrate, handed it to one of her captors.

Daniel did the same and after handing it over, their captor examined the flashlight before waving them forward. This time they walked more confidently and Daniel for one was glad he wasn't going to be bumping into walls. His equilibrium was bad enough as it was with his ears clogged. Still, he took his glasses off and wiped the water from them as best he could with shaking fingers.

The way twisted and turned, merging with more tunnels. There were coloured marks on the walls, probably indications of where to go. After a while Daniel realized they were following a passageway that had a blue circle. Kinda like the coloured lines at Stargate command; just follow the yellow brick road, or the red one or the green one, and they'll lead you to the Gateroom, to Medical, to the Commissary. He wondered where the blue circle would lead them to and where the other tunnels led to.

"This must be part of the mine," Sam said behind him. "You can see how these tunnels were hewed by hand."

"Indeed. If these tunnels lead to the mine, then it must have been quite an undertaking."

One of the men snapped at them, and Sam and Teal'c quieted.

There was a fuzzy yellow glow deep in the bowels of the tunnel. Their footsteps were muted, or maybe that was because of his sinuses and ears. His sneezes were loud enough, thank you. He could hear them echo down the corridor.

Eventually he realized, as the glow got brighter, that some torches were lit. The first two were flickering weakly, but as they moved past, the third was bright and burning strong.

The strangers stopped and began untwining the branches from their face. Immediately Daniel reached for his and tore it off as fast as he could. He dropped it to the ground and rubbed his hands across his face. There was some kind of sticky residue, sap, probably.

"Here." Jack handed him his water bottle and he took a sip, only to nearly choke on the water as a sneeze caught him unaware. He upended the bottle and rinsed his face, then took another sip.

"You gonna survive this?" Jack said as he capped his bottle and hooked it back onto his utility belt.

"I'm not sure," Daniel replied in a whiney voice, feeling miserable enough with just his allergies. The compounding of his headache due to the earlier lack of oxygen was beginning to take a toll on him.

Their captors motioned them forward. The one who'd taken Daniel's flashlight handed it back to him. "Thanks." He stuffed it into a pocket and stumbled on.

Even though the leaves were gone, Daniel continued sneezing, wheezing and sniffling. He contemplated taking another allergy pill; he decided he would do so the minute they stopped and he could surreptitiously do so. Along with a handful of Tylenol. Hopefully wherever they were going involved a bed. Or a mattress. A cot would be nice. Heck, a pile of hay would be heaven. As long as he could put his head down, close his eyes, and stop this damned sneezing.

- - - - - -

When Daniel stumbled and caught himself on the wall, Jack took his arm to help steady him. Jack's own headache had reached migraine proportions and from the look of Carter's pinched face, he was sure she was feeling just as peachy as he was. Daniel, on the other hand, had to be totally miserable for every time he sneezed, his brain must feel like it was bouncing around in his skull. Teal'c seemed to be the only one who'd come out of their ordeal unscathed, thanks to Junior.

Jack paused as Daniel stopped to sneeze again. They were all exhausted, and he hoped they didn't have much farther to go. It felt like they'd been walking for hours. He hated the situation they were in; he didn't know if these people had good or bad intentions towards them. Yes, they *had* saved their lives but conversely, they had taken their weapons away from them. Jack hated not having control of the situation and this could go to hell faster than Daniel could sneeze.

When they turned yet again into another tunnel, it took Jack several seconds to realize that this one was different. The walls weren't stone, they were wood.

"Sir, these look like living quarters."

"What?" Daniel looked around, seemingly dazed, at the tunnel which was now subdivided into small rooms. Curtains allowed a bit of privacy, a few had makeshift wooden doors. Jack couldn't see whether the rooms were occupied or not; it was still daylight outside, maybe whoever used these rooms, the miners, probably, were working somewhere in the bowels of the hilly land.

"Makes sense," Jack said as he tried to casually peer past the edge of a slightly folded-back curtain. But the interior was dark and he couldn't make out anything. "If these storms are a normal occurrence, the folks here would need someplace to live."

"Or else these are simply safe quarters, to be used whenever the storms make it impossible to live outside." Carter looked a little more alert as they continued through. Daniel, on the other hand, had put his head down and was walking through what Jack feared was sheer doggedness.

They stopped before a room that was set apart from the others. This one had a real door, set on hinges. They squeaked as the door was opened. One of the men entered and weak light soon illuminated the room. He motioned for Jack to enter.

Jack held back a moment, looking the man in the eye. They had the upper hand; weapons, manpower and lay of the land, so to speak. He didn't know why they seemed to be upset, but they *had* saved SG-1's lives out there. After several long seconds, Jack pulled his gaze away and peered into the room, making a show of looking around curiously. Two bunk beds filled the room; a lit oil lamp sat on a small table which separated the two beds.

"Five star hotels aren't what they used to be. But I guess it's better than being outside right about now."

The guy answered Jack; too bad nobody could understand him. Maybe later, when they all dosed themselves with Tylenol and managed to bring the bloody migraines down a couple of notches, Daniel might have a clearer head for trying to communicate. But for the moment Jack wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The guy left, closing the door behind him. But as the group's footsteps echoed away from them, he also heard the scuff of leather on stone. They had a guard.

Daniel shuffled over to the nearest bunk and sat down.

"Uh uh, strip first." Jack motioned for Daniel to take his wet clothes off, shrugging off his own jacket as he did so.

The space was small so they had to undress in turns. Jack let Carter and Daniel do so first.

"Lie down," Jack said gently when Daniel was down to his underwear. He grabbed the folded blanket that sat at the foot of the bed and spread it over Daniel as he stretched out with a barely audible moan. Carter took the lower bunk opposite Daniel, already rummaging through her pack. Jack and Teal'c would manage with the top bunks.

Carter had already dug out the painkillers and handed Jack three of them, then downing some herself. He grabbed his water bottle and sat on the edge of Daniel's bunk.

"Here."

Daniel opened red, watery eyes and squinted at what Jack was holding out to him, palm up. He took the pills with shaky hands and drank barely enough water to wash them down.

"Antihistamines," he said in a thick, nasal voice. "I need�"

"I'm on it." Jack found the pills in Daniel's jacket pocket and pushed one out of its blister pack. Daniel swallowed it down again with only a small sip of water.

Jack grabbed the last of the Tylenol and helped himself to three. He took several good gulps of water and then took his clothes off and climbed quickly up onto the top bunk.

They really weren't enclosed in a room. The walls didn't quite reach the ceiling. They'd thrown their clothes over the edges of the *walls* to allow them to dry. Kneeling on the top bunk bed, Jack could easily see over the wooden walls and down into the tunnel. They could have just jumped down the walls if they'd wanted to escape. Except, he had no idea how to get out. And besides, none of them, except Teal'c, were in any condition to think about making a run for it.

"I will keep watch if you wish to rest." Teal'c sat on the bunk opposite him, back straight, legs crossed. Jack nodded, then nodded towards the ground with his chin. "Keep an eye on Daniel," he suggested.

Teal'c inclined his head regally and Jack lay back on the thin mattress. He didn't think he'd sleep, his head hurt too much. But maybe the Tylenol would kick in soon and...

- - - - - -

At least the sneezing had stopped. His throat was scratchy and hoarse, his sinuses alternating between clogged and running like crazy. The few clothes he wore were still damp and he couldn't quite get warm. His head hurt so much he felt nauseous, and the pills he'd just taken weren't sitting very well in his stomach.

He tried to relax but it just wasn't possible. He wanted to sleep; his body craved the rest. And he'd welcome the escape from his allergies and headache. He turned onto his side, searching for that elusive position that was most conducive to sleep. He could hear Jack's soft snores from above him, Sam's occasional mutters. Teal'c must be sitting watch somewhere close by.

As if answering a mental summons, Daniel heard the gentle squeak of springs as someone rose from their bed, followed by a soft thud. He opened his eyes to see Teal'c crouching over him.

"Is something wrong?" Daniel rose onto his elbows.

"You are unable to sleep."

"Antihistamines." Daniel flopped back down, wincing as the movement aggravated his headache.

"You have taken more than your customary dosage."

"Yeah. And normally they don't stop me from sleeping but I feel like I've overdosed on coffee."

"Perhaps if you meditated, you would achieve relaxation."

Daniel shook his head. "I've been trying. It's just... not there. I can't concentrate enough to meditate." The few times he'd joined Teal'c in his quarters he hadn't had a pounding migraine and difficulty breathing through his nose.

"Meditation does not necessarily require concentration."

"Um, right..."

"Perhaps I can help. Would you permit me to aid you in relaxing?"

Daniel closed an eye and looked up at Teal'c sideways, feeling a little nervous at the offer. "Er, what exactly did you have in mind?"

Teal'c sat on the edge of the bed and Daniel shifted slightly to give him more room. "There are areas in the human body that aid in releasing tension and controlling pain. Turn onto your other side."

Daniel obeyed, offering his back to Teal'c. He felt warm hands on his shoulders, along his back, and then fingers and thumbs were pressing into his neck and spine.

"Pressure points," Daniel mumbled as Teal'c released the pressure, only to do so again. It felt odd, yet strangely soothing. He sighed softly as Teal'c switched positions, moving his hands to his nape and skull. His headache seemed to ease and he thought maybe he'd be able to relax a little, maybe not enough to sleep, but at least rest. He took a slow, deep breath...

... and coughed when he heard Jack's voice coming seeming to come from far away as he shook his shoulder.

"Come on, wake up."

There was that tinge of annoyance laced with exasperation in Jack's voice, which Daniel had become well acquainted with over the past two and a half years. He cracked his eyes open, saw they were in a small room with two sets of bunk beds.

"I'm up," he mumbled.

"Good. Company's coming."

As he sat up groggily, he noted Sam was sitting on the edge of the other bed quickly pulling on pants and shirt while Teal'c and Jack were standing, already dressed, in the small space. Multiple sets of footsteps could be heard approaching.

He pushed his feet over the edge of the bed and glanced around for his glasses. He spotted them on a small table and put them on just as his memory came back. Stargate. Suffocating out in the open. Caves. Allergies.

He realized his headache was mostly gone. He inhaled cautiously and although his sinuses were still *heavy* and his throat a little scratchy, he didn't have the constant feeling of needing to sneeze and his eyes had stopped tearing. He didn't remember falling asleep but a quick glance at his watch confirmed it was late evening, so must have slept for at least three or four hours.

He glanced at Jack, noting his bedhead. He realized they all must have fallen asleep. He got up just as the footsteps came to a stop and took his pants from Jack.

The door opened and a man stood there, frowning at them. The other man who had led them here earlier moved to his side and said something and once again, Daniel found the language to be familiar. This time he recognized some words. Greek.

Ancient Greek.

And a dialect he wasn't very familiar with, to boot.

This newcomer was obviously the one in charge. His glance bounced off every one of them as he angrily gave them a piece of his mind. Daniel was quite sure every member of SG-1 would have been properly contrite if only they knew what the man was rebuking them for. He pulled his pants up, embarrassed at being caught without them, the damp material giving him a bit of trouble as it refused to slide against his skin.

"Daniel," Jack whispered, earning a glare for his trouble. "Any idea...?" He waved his hand towards the man, who immediately stopped talking and with an angry toss of his chin, dared Jack to speak up.

"I think he's kinda mad." Daniel grabbed his tee shirt and stepped forward, brushing past Jack and ignoring the 'no duh' expression Jack threw at him. Using every single version of Greek he knew, plus a couple he made up on the spot, he tried a simple greeting and his usual 'we are friendly explorers come to trade' spiel.

The two strangers conferred when Daniel finished, so he turned to face his team while pulling the tee shirt over his head. "I couldn't quite get what he was saying... well, okay, I picked up a word here and there and it's probably all out of context, but what I think he was saying is that we endangered his people by not seeking shelter during the storm."

"Daniel, do you think that marker on the hilltop was to let us know there was shelter nearby?"

Daniel nodded at Sam. "I'm pretty sure that's what it meant." He glanced back at the men when they raised their voices, arguing about something.
"Don't you think the fact we didn't know we could have taken shelter under the tree means we probably didn't understand their signs?" Jack screwed his face up, then ran a hand through his hair.

"They followed our progress through the Stargate," Teal'c added. "I do not believe they are strangers to offworld visitors."

"Goa'uld?" Jack asked as Daniel grabbed his boots and socks and quickly put them on.

"Perhaps. Or possibly one or two other worlds with whom they trade."

Daniel stopped lacing his boots and looked at Teal'c's tattoo. "They didn't single you out as a Jaffa, so I don't think they've dealt with the Goa'uld. At least not in recent history. I'd bet more along the lines of trade. There was a visible track leading to the 'gate and�"

Daniel broke off as the argument ended. The leader apparently had won his case, from the expression on the other man's face. When he looked at Daniel with what appeared to be sympathy, Daniel suddenly grew nervous.

"Jack, I don't think this is good."

They were motioned out into the hallway and the guards moved forward some kind of chains with manacles attached held in their hands.

"Oh no, no way." Jack put a hand out to ward off an approaching guard. "Daniel, tell him. Tell him it was a misunderstanding."

Before Daniel could open his mouth and before anyone could react, one of the guards struck Jack in the back with one of the metallic rods he was holding.

Jack went down with a cry, and everyone else was forced to stay where they were when the other guards waved their own weapons menacingly. Daniel looked to the leader, and softly put a hand towards Jack. "Please?" he asked.

The leader nodded and Daniel knelt beside Jack, whose face was scrunched up in pain as he curled up on his side.

"Jack?"

"Damnit," Jack finally managed to splutter.

"You okay?"

"Other than the fact I think he broke my back." Despite Jack's complaining, he managed to sit up. He brought his left hand up and across, reaching over his right shoulder. He hissed in pain as his fingers touched bruised muscles.

"Can you move your arm?"

Jack moved first his shoulder, then his arm. "Hurts like the devil but I don't think it's serious." He slowly got to his feet, both Jack and Daniel wary of their surrounding captors.

This time when the guards approached with their restraints, Jack didn't resist. Daniel allowed them to chain his feet together, holding his teeth clenched tightly in frustration. This was all just too similar to another situation that had occurred only several short months ago.

Their hands were left unfettered, which meant they were probably going to be forced to do some physical labour. The leader gave the men a final order and they were led down the corridor.

They walked through the labyrinth for a good twenty minutes before they heard the distinct sounds of mining. The clang of metal on metal and thuds of metal on rock had been burned into Daniel's memory; first from the unaccustomed physical hardship he'd been forced to do with his team, and then his imposing their continued enslavement while he lived the good life and got his kicks from the sarcophagus.

He still had nightmares about that; how he'd known deep down he should find a way to get his friends out of there but knowing if he did, he'd lose his only access to the sarc. Thinking himself clever, he'd won the girl over after her father's death, gave her the excuse that he'd bring his friends home, get his affairs in order, and return to her as soon as possible. He wasn't kidding himself; he had been planning to return to the sarc, the girl had been an added bonus. But in all his sarcophagus-impaired ingenuity, he'd forgotten the simple fact that once home, he'd have repercussions to pay for what he'd done, and hadn't done, and had actually forgotten that Hammond held all the cards.

When he found himself positioned before a pile of rocks and handed a mining tool, all the memories of his failure hit him hard. Holding onto the wooden handle with a both hands, Daniel felt himself break into a sweat as he flushed with embarrassment.

"You okay?"

Jack's voice next to him made it twice as worse as he recalled Jack coming to him in the palace and asking him to end all of this.

"Daniel?"

There was a rattle of chains as Jack was pulled a few feet away, and then a sharp nudge to remind him to get busy. With a mining tool of his own, a miner stepped up to Daniel and slammed the sharp edge into the rock. Large pieces fell to the ground. The miner reversed his hold and began pounding on the fallen rocks, breaking up the pieces.

Daniel looked around, noting that some people were assigned to shovel the smaller pieces into carts which ran on rails behind them. The miner nodded at the wall and Daniel gave it an experimental whack.

His arms reverberated painfully, but he dug the tool in and dislodged several pieces of rock. When the miner nodded and said something which Daniel thought was complimentary, he then turned to watch Jack swing his tool. He noted the clenched jaw and realized how much the action was hurting his friend's shoulder.

Teal'c was moved farther down, and Sam was given the job of shoveling the fruits of their labour.

Daniel concentrated on digging out several large chunks while glancing around furtively. When the guards weren't looking his way, he stepped into Jack's space. "Watch it," he warned as he freed several large pieces for him, and then went back to his own pile.

Jack nodded his thanks, concentrating on the less painful process of breaking up the rocks.

Most of the men in the cavern working alongside them were in chains, much like SG-1. Daniel had tried a couple of times to talk to one or two but a guard had quickly put an end to that with a blow to his ribs.

For the next six hours, Daniel was in a state of nervous tension. Swearing not to get caught with his pants down again, he was constantly on the lookout for signs that Jack was going to break them out of here. Added to that was the worry of getting caught helping Jack and hating to see his friend in so much pain whenever Daniel couldn't help with the more strenuous part of their enforced labour.

By the time he and Jack were told to put down their tools and were escorted back to their *room*, Daniel was exhausted and a nervous wreck. Arms shaking with fatigue, back and shoulders burning with strain, his headache which had returned was pounding in sync with his heartbeat, Daniel continued to anxiously await Jack to give them the signal that they were going to make a break for it.

To Daniel's surprise, instead of going straight to their quarters, the guard brought them to a large room where a few dozen men, all in various states of dishabille, stood next to basins and were in the process of washing. He and Jack were each led to two free basins. There was a spigot and when the guard twisted it to the right, water flowed into the empty basin before him. He was handed a bar of soap, and the guard stepped back, arms crossed before him.

Soap and water. Not as good as a long, hot shower but at this point, anything to wash away the sweat and dust would feel like heaven. Daniel glanced at Jack, who was struggling to remove his tee shirt. He figured Jack wouldn't try escaping as they'd been separated from Sam and Teal'c. He struggled to remove his own tee shirt. It was soaked with sweat and his arms were dead tired. He finally managed to get it over his head and draped it on the side of the basin.

There was a wooden stopper that fit the bottom of the basin. As the water filled up, Daniel glanced towards Jack again, who was still struggling to remove his shirt. Many of the men were staring at them and Daniel suddenly realized he and Jack were the only ones still wearing leg irons. He debated going over to help Jack but his friend finally managed to get the shirt off one-handed.

Jack's back had a large bruise running from his shoulder running down towards his ribs. Already promising a wealth of colours, Daniel imagined it had to be pretty painful. He waited to see what Jack would do, and when he began washing, Daniel turned his attention to his own water-filled basin.

He winced as the soap and water stung his blistered hands. But the pain was inconsequential compared to the rest of his body, and just getting clean felt like such a luxury at the moment. Unable to take his pants off due to the chains still affixed to his feet, Daniel concentrated on washing his upper body, casting glances Jack's way every few seconds.

"Daniel, relax, willya?" Jack finally groused. He bent over and ducked his head underneath the flowing water, then stood, shaking his head and spraying water everywhere.

"I'm sorry." Daniel picked up his tee shirt and dropped it into the soapy water. "I guess you're gonna wait till we meet up again with Sam and Teal'c."

"Wait for what?" Jack followed Daniel's example and began rinsing out his tee shirt.

Daniel glanced around furtively before saying in a low whisper, "Escape."

Jack stopped what he was doing and looked at Daniel in surprise.

"Is that why you've been so skittish?"

Daniel nodded. "I'll be ready; anytime you say the word, I'm there."

"Daniel." The word was said softly, on a breath of air as comprehension filled Jack's face. "I promise I'll give you warning if and when we give it a try." Jack turned his attention to his laundry. "I don't know about you, but I have no idea how to get the hell out of here, so it doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon."

"But it might..."

"When the opportunity is right, yes. But not trussed up like this, not separated from the others and not when the guards are on our heels." Jack began wringing the water from the shirt.

"Okay."

Daniel finished with his shirt and following Jack's example, first emptied the basin and dunked his head beneath the flowing water before turning to face the guards. He quickly squeezed the water from his hair as they were motioned back outside into the corridor.

This time the place was teeming with people. Men and women roamed freely; none of them appeared to be in restraints. They were all talking and laughing, stopping only when they noticed Jack and Daniel.

"Get the feeling they don't usually see prisoners?" Jack asked softly.

"They seem happy. It doesn't feel like a prison." Daniel squeezed past a group of four women talking and giggling together. Their conversation quieted once he and Jack went by.

"Where do you think these people were when we came through here earlier?"

Daniel looked at their clothes, noting a lot of them wore a coating of dust, just like he and Jack had before they washed up. "I think they work the mines. They�"

He broke off when he heard the sounds of squealing children. A dozen boys and girls aged between four and ten came barreling down the tunnel, laughing and chasing one another. They ran past Jack and Daniel, intent on whatever game they were playing.

"Not a prison, then." Daniel turned to watch the kids a moment, pushing a strand of dripping hair out of his face, then made eye contact with one of the guards. Again he tried conversing, but the guards wouldn't cooperate. Daniel smiled apologetically to Jack, feeling like he'd let his friend down.

- - - - - -

The first thing Jack noted was that there was food laid out on the small table between their beds. He entered the small space and ignored the soup and bread, choosing instead to rummage through his backpack for some Tylenol after he threw his soaked tee shirt onto the side of the wooden rail at the foot of Daniel's bed. He swallowed two, then handed the pills to Daniel. Although Daniel had more or less stopped sneezing a while back, he had to be experiencing the same headache as Jack. Not to mention aching muscles.

"I wonder where Carter and Teal'c are." Jack took a spare tee shirt from his pack and sat down next to Daniel on the lower bed, both too tired to contemplate food at the moment. He reached for Daniel's pack and handed it to him. As he put the tee shirt on, he figured they had all been worked hard, but fairly. Apart from the one time Jack had been struck, none of them been beaten. Even Carter had been assigned tasks that she could perform without too much difficulty as a woman. Nothing like the time they'd been forced to work in Shyla's labour camp.

He glanced at Daniel, who had put on a spare tee shirt and was leaning a shoulder against the top bed's support beam, eyes half closed.

"Maybe they didn't want all four of us to walk through those crowds together." Daniel took a deep, tired breath and Jack nodded, thinking along the same lines. There was food for at least four so he expected the rest of his team to arrive shortly.

"Better eat while the food's hot." He forced his tired body up and grabbed a bowl of soup. He peered into the thick concoction, then dabbed a finger into it. He hurriedly pulled it out when he discovered the broth was hot.

He licked his finger, noting the soup tasted faintly of chicken. He handed the bowl to Daniel then bit back a smile when Daniel ignored him and leaned past Jack to grab another bowl.

"What's wrong with this one?" Jack asked as he tried to settle more comfortably on the bed.

"I don't know where your finger's been." Daniel looked at Jack over the top of his glasses, then handed him a chunk of dark bread.

"Hey, I washed." Jack watched Daniel break off a piece of bread and use it as a spoon. Jack did the same, finding that whatever meat and vegetables in this soup, they were delicious together.

People walked back and forth outside their room, many of them peering in curiously. Two burly guards stood at the opened door, their shoulders barely visible. So when Carter and Teal'c entered the room shortly after they'd started eating, he'd had no warnings of their approach.

Both had washed up; Carter still wearing her dusty tee shirt while Teal'c had washed his and had put his back on. Without a word, Jack handed over the Tylenol while Teal'c investigated the soup. Carter swallowed the pills and gratefully accepted a bowl. A moment later both were sitting on the bunk facing Jack and Daniel.

They ate without talking, a sign of their exhaustion. Okay, the labour hadn't been of debilitating proportions but after their ordeal earlier, their bodies were taking it hard.

"Anyone get any intel?" Jack put his empty bowl back onto the table, next to Daniel's.

"I noticed the only people in chains were the ones who were with us in that mine." Carter ran the last bit of bread around the bowl, trying to catch the last of the broth. "And they were taken out into another direction altogether. I don't think we're in the prison section."

"But why put us with the local residents?" Daniel eyed the bed longingly and Jack knew exactly how he felt.

"Perhaps our situation is different." Teal'c added his and Carter's bowl to the growing pile of dirty dishes. "There may be a reason why they do not wish us to lodge with those you name as prisoners. They may be convicted felons, forced to serve as punishment."

"But if everyone here is a miner�"

"I doubt that's the case, Sam." Daniel blinked back his exhaustion and straightened up slightly. "There has to be people growing food." He waved his hand at the empty bowls. "Bakers, cooks, farmers. Any civilization needs a variety of..." Daniel suddenly grew quiet, looking over Jack's shoulder. "Hello," he said.

Jack looked up and saw the same guy who'd been responsible for their rescue outside. The man entered their room and smiled at them, then began speaking slowly, his eyes on Daniel. It was more than obvious that he was attempting conversation.

There wasn't much to do except hope that Daniel could learn what was going on. Jack leaned back cautiously, scooting back across the bed and leaning his uninjured shoulder against the wall.

He concentrated on the sounds outside their room; the slow pace of a relaxed setting; people talking, children's laughter, the smell of food cooking. All of these reinforced his belief that they weren't in a prison.

"Jack?"

He turned to Daniel, who was looking a lot more alert than when they'd started eating. "Yeah?"

"From what I can figure out, we're doing community service for a pre-determined amount of time for having put the lives of Prokopios here, and his men, in danger."

"Him?" Jack swung his eyes at the man who was still standing in the doorway.

"Yes. But I think he doesn't want us punished but the other guy, Euclid, is his boss and overruled him."

"How long?"

"Um..." Daniel made a quick grimace. "I don't know, I can't make out the words. It could be a day, a week, a month."

"You tell him we didn't know about the�"

"He said he'd figured that out."

Jack raised an eyebrow at Daniel.

"Well, you have to admit most people don't normally suffocate mere feet from safety. I think our walking away from the tree and collapsing on the hillside kind of gave it away."

Carter leaned forward. "What about whoever's in charge here. Is it a Goa'uld?"

Daniel's eyes widened. "Right, why didn't I... I must be more tired than I thought." He turned Prokopios and their halting conversation started up again.

"Teal'c, you see any signs that may have indicated a Goa'uld reigns here?" Jack asked softly.

"I did not, but I believe we have only seen a small portion of the mines."

"Aether."

"What?" Jack tried to keep his impatience from his voice. He was tired, he was hurting and Daniel's propensity of thinking everyone else was keeping up with his thoughts sometimes made Jack a tad irritable.

"The Goa'uld who ruled here was Aether."

"A minor System Lord," Teal'c quickly clarified.

"Ether? That kinda fits. You think they're responsible for the storms?" Sam asked.

"Ruled?" Jack emphasized the 'd' as he nudged Daniel's leg with his knee. "As in, past tense?"

"I think so." Daniel turned to Prokopios and asked a question. "Their god abandoned them after the storms began getting worse," Daniel replied after Prokopios' somewhat lengthy explanation. "He says according to their folklore, the storms weren't always this bad. They wouldn't kill you, unless you got hit by lightning." Daniel wagged his head, then shut his eyes in pain. He pinched the bridge of his nose as if willing away a headache. "It seems once they started getting worse, Aether abandoned them here when a large number of people died, including Jaffa, when they were caught outside during one of the storms."

While Daniel was speaking, someone arrived at the door and spoke quietly to Prokopios. He stepped aside and allowed the woman to enter and take away their dirty dishes.

"They've continued mining, though? Are they still paying homage to a Goa'uld?" Carter met Jack's gaze. Once she had his attention, she looked pointedly at Daniel. Jack turned to see how pale and pinched Daniel's face was.

More questions. More discussions. Jack's headache was growing despite the Tylenol. As much as they needed answers, they also needed rest.

"They trade with people who travel through the Stargate," Daniel finally said. "I'm sorry, I'm not sure if they're Goa'uld-inhabited planets."

Prokopios seemed to realize they were all tired, and he waved off Daniel's next question. He said a few words, nodded at Jack, then backed out of the room. The wooden doors closed with a sense of finality.

"Daniel, Colonel, are you both all right?"

"Just tired, Carter, just tired. Let's get some sleep," Jack said added for Daniel's benefit as his friend watched him with an expectant air. Jack reluctantly pushed away from the wall, slid his stiffened body across the mattress and stood. As he carefully climbed onto the top bunk, the action made difficult with the chains still affixed to his ankles, he was aware of Teal'c standing behind him, probably making sure he didn't tumble off. The bunks squeaked as they all settled down. Even before Jack managed to find a comfortable position, he could hear Daniel's nasal snores from below.

- - - - - -

Daniel pushed the heavy cart along on the tracks, stopping every dozen feet so Sam could shovel the pulverized rocks into the cart. The people in this particular area of the mine weren't chained, and although they were working as hard as the prisoners Daniel had laboured beside two days ago, they were doing so with more motivation. There was occasional conversation, no guards, only an overseer who occasionally went around giving people orders. Some of the workers even occasionally stopped to talk to Daniel.

Daniel grabbed the second shovel and began helping Sam move the piles of rock into the cart. When they were done, the overseer motioned Daniel to bring the near overflowing cart to him. He jammed the shovel into the pile, put his shoulder to the side of the cart, and pushed. It was heavy and took a lot of effort to start moving. Sam helped him, and after a lot of straining on his part, it began to move.

The overseer grabbed the brake lever, bringing the cart to a stop. Speaking slowly, the man instructed Sam and Daniel to follow the red lines painted beside the rail tracks to where they could empty the cart. Daniel nodded his understanding and they set off again. He'd done this many times already today, moving the rocks from different caves to where they sorted the products.

The cart moved easily once they got it moving. Their guards followed at a distance, and Daniel always had the impression they were afraid of stepping too close to their prisoners and being asked to help out.

"Did you see what's in this load?" Sam pointed at the pile of rocks with her chin. Rocks flaked with bits of gold glinted as they passed beneath lit torches. Yesterday they'd all worked a silver mine, having had to walk nearly two hours underground to get to it. Today they'd been split up again; Jack had been brought to an ore sifting area. Daniel wondered if it was the one where he and Sam were now headed for. Teal'c was back in the cave they had just left.

"I wonder what they trade the ore for?" Sam rubbed at her forehead with the back of her wrist.

"I'd hazard a guess at food, livestock, cotton, anything they can't acquire in the immediate area. It's obviously too dangerous to travel far from the safety of those trees; and any crops or animals would die from lack of oxygen when the storms hit."

"It's a wonder these people have survived for so long."

"They're obviously very resourceful. Did you notice this morning some of the kids were sunburned? They don't live down here full time; maybe they just sleep and work here and spend their free time outside."

The rails up ahead split up into three differing tunnels; the red line they were following turned to the right. Daniel eased up on the brake, then moved forward to trip the switch to allow the cart to change tracks. A moment later he and Sam were straining to get it moving. As the cart picked up speed, Daniel straightened and felt a cool breeze on his face. There was the smell of sunshine and fresh air. He turned to Sam.

"There it is again."

"Yes. I never realized how much I miss fresh air until we walk under one of these."

The torches flickered in the breeze, casting odd shadows in the tunnel. Daniel glanced up and after a moment he spotted several holes near the ceiling which were obviously air ducts.

Daniel enjoyed the fresh air, until his nose began to tingle and he sneezed.

"Shit."

Within minutes his eyes were itching, his nose was running and his sinuses throbbing. He sneezed almost constantly and his steps were erratic as he tried to push the cart along the rails.

By the time they got to their destination, Daniel was miserable. The air in these sorting rooms were well ventilated because of the dust the workers stirred up as they further broke down the rocks. But this was the first time he'd been affected like this. Most likely one of the trees grew near this particular ventilation shaft.

He brought the cart to the unloading area and grabbed his shovel. Amidst sneezes and wheezes, he managed to help Sam unload the ore into smaller containers which were distributed amongst the workers.

He leaned tiredly against the cart, waiting for new directions. An overseer approached them, then peered at him worriedly.

When asked if he was sick, Daniel tried to make him understand that he was suffering from allergies. His voice was nasal and hoarse. He sniffed loudly and wiped beneath his glasses at his eyes.

"We follow the green line again," Daniel told Sam when the overseer decided he was well enough to go on and gave him their instructions. They set off the way they came and turned left at the junction, following the path to the next chamber they were to work in.

- - - - - -

"You look like shit." Jack peered at Daniel's red rimmed and tear-filled eyes. His nose was running and Daniel had sneezed several times just in the few minutes it had taken him to bring the loaded cart near to where Jack was working.

Daniel sneezed in answer and wiped his nose on his forearm.

"The air was full of allergens from the ventilation system," Carter explained as she grabbed a shovel. "He's been like this for the past three hours."

"Antihistamines?"

"In my pack. I didn't think I'd need them underground." Daniel's voice was testy and Jack couldn't blame him. In the two and a half years they'd worked together, Jack had never seen Daniel have such a severe reaction to anything as those trees.

His guard motioned to Jack to get back to work so he picked up one of the smaller containers Daniel had just filled and began distributing them. On his way back he glanced at his watch. They'd been working now for close to ten hours. It was nearly quitting time; hopefully by the time Daniel and Carter finished unloading the cart, they'd be able to call it a day.

As Jack had surmised, quitting time was called just as the cart was emptied. The workers began drifting out while the guards motioned for Carter and Daniel to give Jack a hand. By the time the last of the containers had been distributed to all the work stations, they were left alone in the room with their guards.

Daniel motioned to the small bathroom facilities in the corner, and the guard nodded. Jack followed Daniel, using the facilities himself while Daniel tried to rinse his face and hair with water. Jack leaned against the wall, looking around while he waited for Daniel, who was spluttering away beside him.

There were no lamps in this room, the light coming, instead, from a glow behind a sheet of distorted glass. The first time he looked at it, his gaze passed over it, his subconscious accepting the sight of the advanced technology partly hidden behind the glass. Then something clicked, and he leaned forward to examine the blinking lights behind it.

"Daniel, does this look familiar to you?"

Daniel blinked back water, squinting towards what Jack was pointing at. He put his glasses on and shuffled closer. He peered behind the wooden wall of the sink.

"That looks like pretty advanced technology." He reached his fingers around the edge of the glass and pulled. The glass came away easily and Jack crouched down to look at the symbols.

"Asgard."

"That's what I thought." Daniel reached forward to touch three familiar symbols and suddenly the room was filled with bright light. And it was freezing.

- - - - - -

"What the..." Jack straightened and looked around in confusion. They were in a large room, the dim illumination making it hard to make out. The air smelled stale, and it was so cold it burned the interior of his nose.

"Ooops?" Daniel had his arms wrapped around his chest, steam coming from his mouth attesting to the frigid conditions.

There was light coming from around the corner so Jack took a few steps that way. When he looked into the other room, he saw a large window overlooking the planet.

They were in space.

"I think we were beamed up into a spaceship. Hello!" Jack yelled. "You mind turning up the heat a notch or two?" He shoved his hands into his pockets and scrunched his shoulders up towards his ears.

Daniel joined him, then stepped forward, closer to the window. "I don't think this is a ship," he said. He freed a hand from underneath his armpit and waved to the console before him.

"Well, it's certainly not a weather balloon." Jack peered over Daniel's shoulder, noting what could be a map of the planet. "We're in orbit around the planet, what the hell else could this be?"

"It's a weather balloon." Daniel turned to look at Jack when he huffed impatiently. "A weather station," he said with a slight wag of the head. "All of the writing here has to do with weather. I think this is what used to control those storms. Prokopios did say the storms didn't kill people centuries ago. The controls must be damaged, or maybe the power source is depleted. Life support is barely minimal; maybe it's a power save feature or else it's due to some kind of damage. I wonder if we can fix it."

Jack stared at Daniel wide-eyed.

"What?" Daniel asked after a moment as he held back a shiver.

Jack made a show of looking around before answering. "You know, you sounded just like Carter there for a second."

Daniel's blinked at Jack, his jaw having dropped open for a second before he shook his head minutely. Jack smiled to himself when Daniel turned back to the console.

"Maybe the Goa'uld damaged it when they had control of the planet."

"If this thing is Asgard technology, Daniel, shouldn't this be an Asgard-protected planet? Like Cimmeria?"

"Yeah, that would make sense. Unless the Goa'uld brought the people they harvested here after the fact? Maybe the Asgard were trying to terraform the planet or something, and if this... weather station... is shielded and cloaked, the Goa'uld may not even have known it was here."

Jack turned from the view before them and began looking at the other consoles. It definitely didn't look Goa'uldy. Much more utilitarian and nothing garish about it. "For all we know, this thing is causing those weird storms."

"I wonder if there's anything here that might control the temperature in here. It's freezing."

"Ack," Jack cried out. "Don't go pressing any buttons."

Daniel put a hand to the console and wiped away a layer of accumulated frost from the outer edge. "I wouldn't know where to start. We need Sam. She probably could fi�"

"You're talking like Carter could take one look at this stuff and be able to fix it without an instruction book. I know she's smart, Daniel, but she's not that smart."

Wiping the ice crystals from his palm on the side of his pants, Daniel gave Jack an exasperated look. "That's as bad as saying I could start a conversation with people who spoke a dead language nobody had heard spoken for thousands of years."

"Yes, exactly." Jack snapped his wrist and pointer finger at Daniel.

"The language the Abydonians speak hadn't been spoken on Earth for thousands of years, Jack. How long did it take me to strike up a conversation? Huh?"

"Oh well," Jack turned around and scraped a fingernail on some ice that had formed against the edge of triangular shaped crystal on a matrix of some sort. "That's different."

"How? How is it different?"

"Well," Jack said slowly, stalling. "You knew the written language. You had a head start. Carter can't even read the writing here, let alone figure out what all this technology means."

"I can read the writing. I could help her figure it out and�"

"And we'll freeze to death before either of you can figure out where the facilities are. Come on, let's get out of here." Jack gave the ice a final flick and the crystal, finally freed of the ice, moved several inches to the right.

The console before them suddenly blinked several times, and lights began popping up all over it. Jack pulled his hand back hurriedly and looked at it with worry. The loud hum of machinery starting up filled the room, only to settle into a quiet hum after a few seconds.

"Can't blame me for that one," Daniel said as he cautiously looked in the direction they had arrived. Jack thought it might be a good idea to vamoose; the cold was getting harder to take. He was just about to suggest it when he saw the whole console had lit up.

A holograhic image of the planet rose before it, with several dozen large dots spread out around the planet. Daniel walked around the hologram, leaning closer to see better.

"I think these represent storms. Or to be more precise, thunderstorms."

"They could be anything, Daniel. Human settlements, ore deposits, hell, those dots could mean that there's a crop of daisies the Asgard were particularly fond of."

"Well, those daisies are being bombarded by lightning strikes," Daniel said as he continued to peer at the globe. Jack looked more closely and he saw Daniel was right; small sparkles reminiscent of lightning twinkled inside each large dot.

The humming of machinery changed in pitch and the dots, one by one, began to blink while the lightning sparkled dimmed, and blinked out. Daniel turned to stare at Jack, who shrugged. "You don't think that..."

"Kinda looks like it killed the storm. You think we turned an 'on' button somehow?"

"We'd have to go out there into one of the storms and test it..."

"We'd have to wait until a thunderstorm was right overhead to..."

"It could be weeks..."

"Then again, we don't know how long we're going to be stuck performing our *community service*".

"Could be weeks, could be days."

"Speaking of which, I don't think our jailers are gonna be too pleased that we disappeared on them."

"Yeah, we better go back before we freeze to death," Jack said as he began shivering. He moved towards the controls that had beamed them up here, Daniel following right behind him. "You don't think this... space station... is fully operational, do you?"

Daniel shrugged. "It was offline except for minimal life support. Your guess is as good as mine. Anyways, it's not getting any warmer." Daniel peered at the console near where they'd arrived, and pressed the same three symbols.

The next thing Jack was aware of was heat, blessed, blessed heat.

They were back in the bathroom. Jack rubbed his chilled hands together and contemplated running his fingers under the tap water to warm them up. He was reaching for the faucets when Daniel brushed past him, calling out excitedly to someone. He mentioned Prokopios' name and Jack supposed he was asking the guards to go and get him.

Jack wondered what these people would think of a foreign object circling their world. Did they know it was up there? He twisted the faucet and the tepid water poured into the basin. Before he could dip his fingers into the stream of water, Daniel screamed in pain as one of the guards rammed one of the energy weapons against his sternum. Daniel fell back against the wall and the guard pinned him there as he jerked in agony.

Jack rushed towards his friend but a second weapon waved in front of him in warning stopped him before he could take more than two steps. Daniel's eyes rolled up into his head as he gasped noisily in small, breathless huffs. Jack had received a simple blow to the back with one of those things and it had entailed in painful bruising. He had an awful suspicion that using the weapon in this manner would also affect more than Daniel's muscles. Just the way he was breathing... his lungs � God, his heart!

"Stop it! You're going to kill him!" Stupid. Stupid. For a moment he'd forgotten that the guards would have missed them. They probably had searched the area and thought they were trying to escape.

When he saw Jack wasn't trying to escape, the second guard turned and tugged on his partner's arm, trying to get him to release Daniel. Daniels locked muscles were the only thing keeping him upright, pressed against the wall. When the guard finally released him after some frantic gesturing and persuasion from his partner, Daniel made a wheezing sound as he went limp, collapsing in a heap. Ignoring the influx of guards and onlookers who were now crowding into the bathroom, Jack rushed to Daniel's side and desperately felt for a pulse.

It was there; weak and erratic, fluttering so quickly Jack couldn't count the beats except when it seemed to skip a beat. Daniel's breaths were shallow and rapid, his skin cold and clammy, although that could have been due to the frigid air they'd been exposed to just a minute ago.

Someone was yelling something at Jack while trying to drag him away from Daniel. He pushed the hand away and caught Daniel's shoulders and pulled him sideways into his lap, cradling Daniel's head on his arm. Minute tremors shook Daniel's body while Jack shivered with cold and shock.

The guards didn't seem to know what to do so they stood there, milling around, talking softly amongst themselves until Prokopios hurried into the room. He took one look at Jack and Daniel then ordered the guards back. Prokopios knelt beside Jack and placed a hand on Daniel's neck, feeling for a pulse.

He asked Jack a question.

"Your goons nearly killed the only one of us who can communicate with you guys, how the hell do you expect me to explain what happened," Jack growled. The man must have realized Daniel's skin was abnormally cold, though, because he pressed his warm fingers to Jack's hands, then to his cheek with a confused look on his face.

He barked a question at his men and one of the guards stepped forward and spoke up; it was the one who'd tried to pull Daniel's attacker off of him. When he finished, Prokopios stood and rattled something off, then turned to glare at the goon who'd done this to Daniel. One of the guards hurried out; his footsteps echoed along the tunnel as he rushed away. When two of the guards reached to take Daniel from him, Jack just held on tighter. Prokopios put a gentle hand on Jack's arm and indicated the guards were to take him.

Well, he couldn't just stay here; Daniel needed help. At least a bed instead of the stone floor, some blankets to keep him warm. They didn't have much of a choice so he loosened his hold and the two men hefted Daniel up and slung his limp arms around their shoulders.

It was a quiet procession as they walked along the tunnels. Jack followed, keeping his eyes on Daniel's feet as they dragged on the ground. The chains dangled between his feet, making an odd chiming sound every time they touched the ground that Jack found very disconcerting.

The procession elicited the curiosity of the off-duty workers as they went by. Conversations halted, eyes turned to stare, whispers followed. Jaw clenched tightly, Jack walked on, accompanied by Prokopios and two more guards. He did notice that the goon who'd done this to Daniel wasn't among the pack. He wondered if he was the one who'd gone off; presumably to get the guy in charge of this place.

They seemed to walk forever; the exercise should have warmed Jack up but he continued to shiver. His hands and feet were like ice and he wondered if somehow it had gotten colder here in the mines. He huffed out a breath, half expecting to see steam, but the air remained clear.

"Oh, God, what happened?" Carter's cry pulled Jack out of his reverie and he looked up as the guards laid Daniel down on his bunk. They brushed past Jack on their way out and he stood still by the door, forcing them to turn sideways to dodge him as they exited the room. Then he joined Carter and Teal'c by Daniel's side.

"He's freezing." Carter grabbed the blankets from all four bunks and spread them around Daniel's unconscious body while Jack grabbed three pillows and tucked them beneath his knees to elevate his feet.

"What has occurred, O'Neill?" Teal'c tore his gaze away from Daniel and turned to stare at Prokopios. He was tense, his jaw muscle working hard as he attempted to keep his temper in check.

"A little misunderstanding and Daniel walked right into it." Jack brushed past Carter to stand near Daniel's chest. He eased back a corner of the blankets and raised the tee shirt. He winced when he saw the large bruise right in the center of his sternum.

"Holy Hannah." Carter reached to gently press the edges of the injury. "What did they use on him?" Daniel moaned softly and Carter quickly removed her hand.

"Those energy sticks." Jack turned to Prokopios and saw the man had paled at the sight of Daniel's injury. Jack turned his attention back to Daniel, lowering the tee shirt and bringing the blankets up to his chin.

"His pulse is too fast," Carter said as she laid fingers against Daniel's carotid artery. "I think he's in shock."

"The bastard did this deliberately. He may have done something to Daniel's heart with the weapon. But the skin temperature is unrelated." Jack put the back of his hand against her bare arm and she jumped.

"Sir, you're half frozen."

"We made an interesting discovery right before�" Jack broke off when another man hurried into their small room. He exchanged a few words with Prokopios before approaching Daniel. He had a small leather bag which he placed on the bed beside Daniel and from which he pulled out a stethoscope.

The man examined Daniel, exchanging a few words with Prokopios as he did so. When he saw the bruising, Jack was pretty sure what came out of the man's mouth was a curse. Then he carefully pulled the blankets back up and took a syringe and a small bottle from his bag.

"Sir, should we allow him to...?"

"I don't know, Carter." Jack turned to look at Prokopios for some sort of sign as the supposed doctor began filling the syringe. There must have been a look of unease on Jack's face because Prokopios patted Jack's shoulder and spoke a few words. Jack couldn't understand the words but the tone indicated that he had confidence in the other man.

Jack could refuse to allow Daniel whatever treatment he was preparing, but Jack knew his friend could be gravely injured. This guy could be a quack, or he could be just what Daniel needed. Short of fighting the guards and hauling his friend physically out of the mines and back to the SGC, not to mention their legs were still fettered in chains, it didn't look like a jailbreak would be happening any time soon. So Jack resolutely kept quiet and allowed the doctor to swab the inside of Daniel's elbow and inject the contents of the syringe into a vein.

Jack was aware of Carter and Teal'c's silent vigil beside him. The doctor put the syringe down on the table and sat on the edge of the bed and listened to Daniel's heart. He spoke a few words to Prokopios and to Jack's surprise, a guard came in and unlocked the chains around Daniel's ankles. As he didn't release Jack or the rest of the team, it didn't bode well; obviously Daniel wasn't going to be on his feet for a while.

Daniel shifted slightly, turning his head towards the wall. He sighed, and the next inhalation was deeper, somewhat slower than before. The doctor nodded and removed his stethoscope, allowing it to hang around his neck. He said a few words to Daniel, who turned his head back towards them, only to raise his eyebrows rather than his eyelids in response.

The doctor smiled and stood, and began putting his equipment away. Jack quickly took his place on the bed. "Daniel?" Jack leaned closer to the bed, hoping maybe a familiar voice would bring him back to the world of the conscious. "You awake in there?"

This time the eyes scrunched up before relaxing and opened up just a crack. "Jack?"

"Hey. Welcome back."

"What happened?"

"I think one of the guards thought we were trying to escape."

"Oh. Were we?"

"Do you remember what we found in the bathroom?" At Daniel's blank stare, Jack pointed towards the ceiling.

"Oh. Right. The weather..." Daniel's words fade as he grimaced in pain. He raised a hand and tentatively touched his chest.

"Station," Jack supplied, ignoring Carter as she stiffened and leaned forward in interest.

"We have to tell them about what we found." Daniel raised his head and shoulders off the pillow, only to fall back with a pained gasp. The doctor took that opportunity to step back to the bed, a small container, hardly bigger than a thimble, held between thumb and forefinger.

Daniel looked around blearily, his gaze falling on the doctor, then on the almost-thimble he was bringing towards Daniel's mouth. "Um... hello?"

The doctor spoke to Daniel and eased his head off the pillow to allow the liquid he'd measured to slide between Daniel's lips. As he lowered Daniel back to the pillow, Daniel turned to Jack again.

"That stuff he just gave you..." Jack began.

"Painkiller."

"Bad?"

"Feels like someone hit me in the chest with a battering ram." Daniel brought a hand back towards his chest, but clenched his fist and lowered it again to the bed. "He says I got attacked by one of the guards..."

"That's right. They must have been looking for us and thought we'd tried to escape."

"They have a right to know what we discovered, Jack," Daniel said after a moment. He looked beyond Jack, at Prokopios who still stood near the door.

"I know. But I don't think now's a good time." Whatever the doctor had given Daniel seemed to work fast because his pupils had grown larger and he began having trouble keeping his eyelids open.

Daniel said something to Prokopios, who nodded. With a final glance at each member of SG-1, he ushered the doctor out of the room, and shut the door behind him.

"What'd you tell him?"

"That I discovered something and needed to talk to him in the morning." Daniel's eyes slid shut as he slurred the last words.

"Okay. Get some sleep."

When Daniel didn't answer, Jack turned to his team. "We found something out there," Jack explained as he switched beds so he wouldn't disturb Daniel. "We think it's Thor's people who are responsible for the storms."

- - - - - -

Every breath hurt. His chest and ribs felt battered and bruised and swollen, his lungs burned every time he breathed in. And out. He lay there quietly in his bed, on his side, the almost-embarrassingly now-familiar sensation of residual dopiness from painkillers still dulling the discomfort and making him a little lightheaded. His head ached but at this point he wasn't sure if it was due to the painkillers, or part of the reason he'd been administered the drugs.

Someone was snoring nearby; Daniel wasn't sure if he was on mission or in the infirmary. He was pretty sure it was Jack making all the noise, though; he'd heard those same sounds time and again over the past two years during their offworld jaunts together. Somehow hearing that deep, nasal sound was comforting. If Jack was sleeping that soundly, their situation couldn't be that dire.

His mouth felt thick and pasty, his throat dry and irritated. He cleared his throat softly so not to disturb anyone else around him, and tried to relax and ignore the slowly increasing soreness.

The discomfort began to make him restless so he tried shifting his weight, stretching his legs out. His foot hit something at the corner of his bed so he opened his eyes and looked around. He was in a bunk bed, from what he could make out. Sam was lying in another bed across a small space from him. The snoring seemed to come from above him so Jack must be on the top bunk.

There was something at the foot of Sam's bed and Daniel squinted in the dim light. He stared at the glint of metal for several long minutes before he realized what we was looking at were chains. Affixed to Sam's ankles.

Memory began filtering back; a mine; prisoners; hard back-breaking labour; the need to escape. Recollections of Jack and Sam's haggard forms as they toiled in the mine and his conviction that he was doing the right thing vied with those of labouring alongside Jack as he attempted to relieve Jack from some of the harder tasks. The underlying fear of missing out on an escape attempt filled him with sudden dread and he began to fear he was the reason they were still in captivity, in whichever reality his dopey mind couldn't seem to focus on.

He closed his eyes as he recalled the sarcophagus; the fight to recover from the addiction; the guilt, the shame, the fear and the subsequent need to prove himself to his teammates. He also remembered fighting for breath, the thunderstorm and the feeling of helplessness as they were taken into custody. Somehow he felt both situations were separate, yet similar.

Daniel shifted again as he tried to find some surcease from his thoughts and throbbing chest.

There was the unfamiliar squeak of a mattress, and then Daniel felt a presence close to him. He opened his eyes reluctantly and turned his head back to see Teal'c leaning over him.

"Are you in pain? Do you require anything?" Teal'c adjusted the blanket, pulling it up closer to Daniel's shoulders. His hand lit lightly on his cheek and was held there for a moment. Daniel licked his dry lips.

"Water?"

Teal'c nodded and pulled back, only to return a second later with a metal cup. Before Daniel could try and raise his head, Teal'c had his hand beneath his head, raising it while putting the cup to his lips.

Daniel drank thirstily; raising a hand to tilt the cup so he could drink more quickly. But Teal'c was an immoveable force and despite his attempts, Teal'c only allowed him a few measured sips until the cup was empty.

As Teal'c moved away to put the cup down, he looked at Sam again. "Is everyone okay?"

"They are fine."

Their conversation, even though spoken softly, must have disturbed Sam because she mumbled something in her sleep and turned onto her side, turning so that her back was to them. The chains jingled together as she moved, adding more weight to Daniel's feelings of guilt. There was something he knew he had to do, but couldn't seem to remember. He was afraid he needed to keep up with everyone and he knew that with his injuries, he wouldn't be able to do so anymore.

"What happened?" He raised a hand to his chest, feeling the pull of bruised muscles across his ribs and abdomen and up into his arms. He winced as his probing fingers touched tender flesh.

"O'Neill informed us of your discovery of the Asgard vessel."

His memory came back with an almost physical blow. "It's not a ship, it's a weather station. I have to tell Prokopios about the storms." In a quick move, Daniel got his weight up onto his elbows but as he raised his torso, everything below his neck contracted in agony. He fell back onto the bed with a thump.

His pulse had suddenly sped up and he felt like his heart was trying to force its way out of his chest. "Ah, shit," he managed after the constriction in his chest eased off enough to leave him gasping for air for several seconds.

"You are not yet recovered." Teal'c placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder. The touch was comforting; Teal'c wasn't one to show emotions or affection and this small action was almost as good as a hug. "Do you wish to take something for the pain? Our captors have left us our packs and we still have two hours before we will be assigned our next duties."

Daniel was afraid the pain was going to grow worse as the day... or was it night, sped on. He nodded reluctantly; if he still had a couple of hours, he could maybe try and get control of the pain and hopefully do his share of the work.

He took the pill and gratefully drank down more water. He closed his eyes and tried to relax, waiting for the medication to kick in. After a moment Teal'c moved away and climbed back up onto his top bunk.

"He okay?" Jack's voice was soft, barely reaching Daniel. He hadn't noticed when Jack's snores had stopped. The bunk creaked as Jack shifted his weight.

"He is experiencing some discomfort but I believe he will be able to rest as soon as the medication takes effect."

There was more noise as Jack shifted around on the bed. Daniel opened his eyes, only to see Jack's face hanging upside down from the top bunk. "You need anything?"

Daniel shook his head. "Go back to sleep, Jack. I'll be fine."

"You hungry? You missed supper last night; whatever that doctor gave you put you out like a light. We tried to wake you but you were dead to the world."

His stomach gurgled; the water he'd just drunk moving around in his stomach making him slightly queasy. "Maybe later."

"Okay." Jack pulled away and Daniel heard him sigh as he settled back onto his bunk.

- - - - - -

Jack licked his fingers clean of the gooey residue once he swallowed the last bite of the sticky bun. He wiped his damp fingers on his pants and eyed Daniel's share of breakfast and debated trying to coax him into eating something again.

He looked at his friend who was still stretched out on the bed. The Vicodin Teal'c had given him had eased some of his discomfort, allowing him to doze on and off. But Jack was worried over the way Daniel's pulse was acting; it had smoothed out last night after the doctor had given him that injection but this morning it would still occasionally beat in an erratic tattoo.

Carter's thoughts must have been in line with Jack's because she got up from where she was sitting beside Jack and reached over to put her fingers around Daniel's wrist. Daniel opened his eyes at the touch and pulled his arm away.

"I'm fine, Sam."

"You want to try and eat something now?" When Daniel nodded, somewhat unenthusiastically in Jack's opinion, he grabbed two pillows and stuffed them behind Daniel's back as he struggled to sit up. Carter took the plate of cheese and sticky bun and placed it on Daniel's lap. All three of them watched as Daniel broke off a piece of bun and brought it to his mouth. There seemed to be a collective sigh of relief when he chewed and swallowed, then followed the bun with a bite of cheese. In Jack's book, appetite meant recovery, although he could see Daniel was making an effort to eat, but hey, it was a start.

"Daniel?"

Stopping mid-chew, Daniel raised an eyebrow when Jack called his name.

"Look, maybe you'd better not..." Jack struggled for words, not an occasion that happened often. Normally he loved to tease Daniel and get a rise from him but keeping Daniel calm and quiet seemed to be the best thing right now.

"Better not what?"
"Don't you think it might be a bit strange to suddenly discover you have some piece of alien technology floating in space around your planet?"

Daniel scratched his eyebrow with his index finger. "Don't you it might be a bit strange to come to a planet where thunderstorms suck away all the oxygen around you?"

"They know what the Stargate is for, sir," Carter piped in. "It stands to reason they've experienced more advanced technology by visiting traders."

"Carter, you're not helping me any," Jack grumbled. "Daniel, what if you just tell them what we found and not mention what it does?"

"Why? This could free these people from living underneath tons of rocks. Without the fear of wandering too far away from safety. Of allowing their kids to play in the sun without constant supervision." Daniel picked up a piece of cheese and nibbled on the end of it.

"I know that," Jack said, hearing exasperation in his voice and trying hard not to get worked up. "Couldn't you just... feed it to them slowly, maybe?"

"Okay, what's wrong with me? Am I dying?"

"What?" Shocked, Jack was dumbfounded for a moment. "No. Of course you're not dying."

"Then why are you asking me and not ordering me not to say anything to Prokopios."

"You make it sound like I never give you a choice."

"You usually don't." Daniel tossed the uneaten piece of cheese he'd picked up back onto the plate. "I told Prokopios I wanted to speak to him about something. I'm going to tell where we were, what we found and what we think the technology might be capable of."

Despite Jack's attempts at not upsetting his friend, he could see that Daniel's breathing had sped up and that there was a fine sheen of sweat spreading over his face.
"Look, I'm asking you to not say anything that might get these people upset until you're a little more... stable."

"Stable? What are you talking about?"

Teal'c leaned forward. "The injuries you sustained may have affected your internal organs. Even now, your heart occasionally beats unevenly. O'Neill is concerned if it comes to violence, you will not have the strength to defend yourself."

"It won't come to violence. Prokopios will understand."

"Like he understood that we came here in ignorance about the storms and customs and got locked up and made to work Lord knows how much longer at communal labour?" The sarcasm flowed out of him, leaving him feeling guilty the moment the words were out of his mouth. Jack raised a finger and thrust it before Daniel's face as he opened his mouth to retort. "Yes, I know, it wasn't Prokopios' doing, it was the other head honcho and I know you've got a better command of the language now." He rubbed both palms over his cheeks, hating the feel of whiskers beneath them. "Okay. Tell him. Just..."

"Take it easy on him?"

"Yeah. I�"

The door opened suddenly. Their guards motioned them out of the room. With a raise of an eyebrow and a tilt of the head, Jack bid Daniel goodbye. But when all three of them were in the corridor, the guard barked something at Daniel.

Jack swore softly under his breath; why had they all assumed that Daniel was going to be released from his duties today?

Daniel slid from the bed and stood slightly hunched over, one arm wrapped around his chest, the other one holding onto the frame of the top bunk as he forced his feet into his boots. He stuck the laces into this boot tops and shuffled towards the door.

Jack grabbed Daniel's arm, helping to steady him when he reached him. "Sorry, I thought..."

Daniel gave Jack a quick smile. "Yeah, me too."

They had only taken a few steps down the tunnel when Prokopios called out behind them. They all came to a stop, turning to watch as Prokopios ran the last several feet to them, followed by the doctor who had looked at Daniel last night. Prokopios spoke sharply with the guards while the doctor took Daniel by the arm and pulled him back towards the room.

"Looks like I'm getting a note from the doctor," Daniel called out just before he disappeared behind the door.

Jack turned away, greatly relieved, and once the guards had been chastised, Prokopios waved them on. They were led down the tunnels for close to thirty minutes until they were separated. Carter and Teal'c went right while Jack went... up. The tunnel he was forced to follow climbed steadily. After about twenty minutes the tunnel intersected another tunnel, complete with rails. They followed this one and, to Jack's surprise, he entered a cave which led to the outdoors.

He squinted in the dim light; the sun was just coming up, the sky a bright pink where the sunlight shone against some clouds. There were no storm clouds in sight, but the dread of their possible approach lay against the back of his mind as he was forced away from the mine entrance.

There were several carts parked off to the side, all of them laden with a variety of mined ores. He was put to work with several other men, shoveling the ore into wooden boxes and then loading the boxes into wagons. The work was strenuous and his back protested, but still it felt good to be outside with the wind blowing on his face and the sun giving out warmth and light.

When the carts were emptied, Jack walked over to the mine entrance where there was a bucket of water. He dipped a mug into the water and drank slowly, looking around. To his right, on one of the hilltops, he spotted someone manning the mirrors. Some of his apprehension eased when he realized there were probably always watchers out there; possibly on guard for storms or for approaching visitors.

The loud rumble of approaching carts echoed in the depths of the mine. Jack tossed back the last of the water and when the cart exited the mine, he followed it to the next wagon, picked up his shovel, and began working again.

Not long afterwards, one of the guards motioned Jack to follow him. He put the shovel down, wiped his hands on his pants, and followed the man back into the mine. Immediately Jack missed the sun and fresh air.

They trudged along for nearly an hour, but when the guard turned into the sorting room, Jack knew immediately where they were heading. Prokopios was waiting for him at the entrance of the small washroom along with the guy in charge of the place. He really needed to ask Daniel what the Head Honcho's name was again.

Prokopios waved to the symbols that had been hidden for so long behind the sink. The basin and stand had been removed, exposing the Asgard technology. Jack walked to them and with a shrug, touched the three symbols Daniel had selected to bring them up to the Asgard vessel.

He closed his eyes in anticipation of the white light and frigid cold, then opened his eyes when nothing happened. Prokopios and his boss were still standing there, waiting patiently, surrounded by several other observers.

Jack cleared his throat and chose the symbols again, slowly, careful not to make a mistake. Again, nothing happened. Okay, so maybe he'd chosen the wrong signs. He tried several combinations of what he thought might be the right ones, but still, nothing happened. Resolutely, he tried the original symbols again.

With a small shrug, Jack straightened. "Well, it was working yesterday. You can ask Daniel."

Prokopios' boss said something which Jack was sure wasn't very polite and left the room without a backwards glance. Prokopios looked disappointed and Jack couldn't blame him. He pressed the three symbols again as a last-chance gambit, but once more, nothing happened. "Honestly, I don't know why it's not working. Maybe we used up all the battery power or something."

Prokopios shrugged and motioned Jack to follow. He dismissed the guards and led Jack back to their room himself. There Daniel lay resting on the bed. He opened his eyes when Jack and Prokopios entered the room.

"Hey." Daniel struggled to sit up, wincing a bit as he leaned against the wall. "Did you bring them up to the space station?"

"It didn't work." Jack sat down on the bed beside his friend. There was the remains of a partly eaten sandwich on the table; at least Daniel hadn't been forgotten and had managed to eat during the day.

"What?" Daniel shifted his legs to make room for him.

"It didn't work. I hit the three symbols and nothing happened."

"But yesterday�"

"I know."

"Could the power source�"

"I dunno. Maybe Carter could�"

"You're sure you touched the right symbols�"

"Of course I'm sure. I saw which ones you pressed."

"Did you try other�"

"Yes, Daniel. The transporter thingie just isn't working."

"Damn." Daniel closed his eyes and rested his head on the wall for a moment.

Prokopios spoke up then and Jack waited as he and Daniel conversed several moments.

"He said that the storms cause interference with electronic equipment, which is why they don't rely on anything but brute force and basic equipment. There are thunderheads reported in the vicinity; maybe that's why the equipment didn't work. He said you can try again tomorrow."

"Okay, that might explain it." Jack motioned towards the oil lamp on the table. "There's one thing I don't understand; if they use oil and torches for lighting, why didn't they ever notice that the lighting in that bathroom was different?"

Daniel asked Prokopios the question.

"He said they always thought it was decorative. It probably got covered up centuries ago when they expanded the mine and used that alcove as a bathroom."

Conversation lapsed as Prokopios checked his watch. Jack could see how tired Daniel looked. "So, did the doc do anything...?"

"Gave me an injection. Actually it helped; I don't feel like my heart's trying to jump out of my chest."

"Did he say...?"

"Just to rest. I'll be fine in a couple of days. At least I think what he said was meant to represent days..."

"Okay. Then I should leave you to rest," Jack said smoothly as Prokopios motioned for Jack to leave the room.

"I kind of feel guilty lying here while you guys..."

"Feels almost like d�j� vu, huh?" Jack smiled and winked to take the sting out of his words. "Believe me," Jack said as he stopped just outside the doorjamb. "The situation isn't the same. I'll see you later, okay?"

Daniel's softly spoken "okay" was nearly drowned out by the guards' footsteps.

- - - - - -

Daniel looked at his watch one more time; only three and a half minutes had passed since the last time he'd checked the time. He glanced at the closed door of his cell, and sighed.

He was bored. Just as he began feeling better late last night, his teammates had arrived from their designated duties and had eaten their supper with little conversation between them. Soon after they had gone to bed and despite Jack's words earlier, left Daniel feeling restless and somewhat guilty about their state of exhaustion.

This morning he'd asked to go out with them but Prokopios had been adamant. Okay, so he felt better, and walking the short distance to the communal bathrooms didn't make him feel like he'd run a marathon as it had yesterday. But he knew that the hard labour they'd been sentenced to was more than he could handle but damnit, couldn't they at least have put him out there to hand out water or something? Anything to keep him from going stir crazy.

He stood and began pacing up and down the small space between the beds. All the muscles in his chest and ribs hurt at the movement but he found that he stiffened up more when he remained still. Lunch had come and gone, he'd taken a nap; he'd gone through all of their packs, cataloguing their possessions. He'd written in his journal, but there was just so much one could do to keep oneself entertained.

He eyed the closed door and debated trying to start a conversation with the guards again. Or maybe make up the need to go pee... anything to get him out of here and�

The door opened and Prokopios stepped in, smiling when he saw Daniel was up. Another man entered the room, eyeing Daniel with curiosity.

"I'm glad to see you're feeling better, Daniel."

"Thank you."

"This is Wahibre-Teni. He is the sovereign. He has come from far to visit with the other-worlders."

Daniel inclined his head forward. "I'm Daniel Jackson."

"Yes," Wahibre-Teni said as he looked around the small room. "Prokopios has told me about you and your companions. Come. We can find someplace more comfortable to speak." He strode out of the room, leaving Daniel and Prokopios to follow.

Daniel looked at Prokopios questioningly as they walked slowly down the tunnel. "Your friends have been sent for. Wahibre-Teni wished to see this vessel that circles our planet for himself."

"There's no guarantee that it'll work this time," Daniel said, trying to control his breathing as the exercise began to tax him. Wahibre-Teni glanced back at Daniel. "We don't know why it worked only the one time. There could be a variety of reasons."

"It was the storm," Wahibre-Teni said with finality. "It has passed and the air is nearly breathable. You will attempt to take us to the vessel once the air circulates in the chambers."

"We have to close parts of the mines as the air quality becomes very poor when there are storms overhead," Prokopios explained.

"Right." Daniel remembered the currents of pollen-laden air when he'd last worked in the mines, shortly before they'd discovered the Asgard technology.

Wahibre-Teni led them to a room that looked like a dining area. He pulled out a chair and sat. Prokopios sat beside him while Daniel took a seat opposite him. His legs were shaking; obviously he wasn't as recuperated as he thought he had been. Immediately a man hurried to the table and placed cups before them. He poured a dark liquid into the cups.

Daniel waited for both Prokopios and Wahibre-Teni to take a sip before picking up his cup and sniffing it. It smelled like mint. He figured it was some kind of mint tea. It was actually pretty good.

Plates of cookies and cakes were placed before them. More out of boredom than hunger, Daniel picked up a cookie and took a bite.

Several sets of footsteps heralded the approach of his team. That plus the jangling of the chains affixed to their ankles.

Wahibre-Teni simply motioned towards Sam's feet and the guards hurried to remove the chains from all of them.

"Thank you," Daniel said softly as his friends were set free.

There were looks of concern and curiosity when they all took seats beside him.

"Guys, this is Wahibre-Teni. He's in charge of the mines."

"He gonna discuss terms of our release?" Jack sniffed the cup of tea that was placed before him before dipping a finger into it and tasting it.

Daniel grimaced. "More like he wants to make a trip to the weather station with us."

"Ah."

"Daniel, we may not be able to get back up there." Sam had already taken a cookie and broke off a bite. "Maybe the ship has to be in the exact position in order to beam someone up. If we don't know the angle of its orbit, we might end up playing hit and miss until we get lucky. It could take days."

"Come on, Carter, Daniel and I couldn't have been that lucky. Don't tell me we were in the right place at the right time and managed to catch the ship just as it was passing overhead."

She shrugged. "It is a possibility. Albeit I admit it's a bit of a stretch."

Teal'c had already finished his tea and the person serving them hurried to refill his cup. "There is also the possibility that the transport device may only have enough power to convey two persons at a time."

"That's true. I didn't think of that." Daniel turned to Wahibre-Teni when the man cleared his throat, and told him what they had just discussed. "You do realize we may be wrong about all of this," Daniel finally said when he finished.

The man nodded his head. "But if there is any hope that the stories of my forefathers which state the people lived outside without fear of death may once again be true for us, I must then pursue all avenues to ensure the best for my people.

"You may wish to avail yourselves to our facilities as we wait. Clean clothes will be provided. We shall meet when you are more comfortable."

Wahibre-Teni stood and quickly left the room. Prokopios inclined his head and invited them all to follow him.

- - - - - -

The hot shower had been an unexpected little piece of heaven. In a room that could house at least fifty persons showering at a time, the three of them had simply stood there and allowed the slightly sulfuric scented water to stream over their aching bodies.

Sam had been brought to the far end of the room, allowing her, and the men, a bit of privacy. At first, when he'd removed his tee shirt, Daniel had been shocked at the sight of the bruises that had spread all over his chest and ribs. There were also contusions where the chains had been affixed to his ankles; Jack sported the same marks; Teal'c's had already healed over thanks to his symbiote.
The large bruise on Jack's back was starting to fade, and his movements were no longer hampered by it. He was the first to reach for the soap and suddenly the idea of actually being clean all over had Daniel scrubbing away as enthusiastically as Jack.

As promised, basic cotton pants and shirts had been provided. Slipping into them, Daniel realized he hadn't been this clean in days. He slipped on a thin pair of socks and slid his feet into his boots.

They were then escorted to another room where roughly a hundred persons were seated at tables, eating. The guards escorted them to a corner table and they were quickly served some sort of stew and bread. The guards appropriated a nearby table and let them eat in peace.

"Daniel, Hammond has to have sent an S&R team through the Stargate. How about asking the guards if anyone's come through?"

Daniel nodded and turned around to ask the question.

"They say the 'gate activated twice, but nobody came through." He paused a moment when the second guard spoke. "He said the storms have been pretty active during the past three days. General Hammond must have sent the MALP through and realized the planet wasn't exactly environmentally friendly at the time."

"At least we are aware that no SGC staff have perished or have been imperiled in an attempt to rescue us." Teal'c eyed the untouched bread sitting by Daniel's plate. Daniel pushed it towards his friend. The stew had been filling, and after eating only half the bowlful, his stomach had begun to feel queasy. As he put his spoon down, Daniel wondered if there was internal bruising as well as external.

He was tired. As much as he'd been anxious earlier to do something, anything to ease his boredom, right now he'd give anything to be back in that little room just so he could lie down for a while. The shower had eased his muscles, making him feel relaxed and drained. He couldn't imagine how everyone else felt � they'd worked hard while he'd lazed about.

He took a cookie from the plate when the sweets were placed on the table, broke off a piece and chewed it. The guards had also finished eating and it was obvious they were waiting for someone. They had time to sip some more tea and were working on their second cupful when Prokopios entered the room.

"The conditions outside are similar to those when you discovered the vessel. Come, we shall attempt the transfer again."

They all stood and followed Prokopios into the hallway. Soon Daniel's nose began to itch and his eyes to water. By the time they made it to the small bathroom where Wahibre-Teni was waiting for them, Daniel had begun sneezing. Each sneeze was like a punch to the stomach as his abdominal muscles protested.

Everyone stood aside and allowed Daniel access to the panel. He waited till Wahibre-Teni and Prokopios had joined his team and all were standing around him, then pressed the same three symbols, anxious to get out of the pollen-ridden area.

Nothing happened.

"Okay, maybe we need to narrow this down." Daniel leaned back on his heels. "Jack and I went up without a problem, so maybe Sam was right, we're too many for the system to accommodate. How about just me and Wahibre-Teni?"

"Is that wise?" Teal'c came to stand beside Daniel and examined the symbols.

"Yeah, what if you get into trouble up there?" Jack crowded closer to Teal'c, as if he was trying to block Daniel from getting near Wahibre-Teni.

"That's why I should go. I have the best chance of figuring out how to get us back down."

"If there's something wrong with the machinery, you won't know how to fix it." Sam squeezed in between Jack and Teal'c and knelt beside Daniel. "Let me look at this; maybe I can figure out what's wrong with it. As Daniel pushed himself up, his pulse suddenly sped up and pounded in his head. The room around him faded for a moment and when it came back, Jack was holding his arm tightly.

"You okay?"

Daniel nodded. "Just a little tired," he admitted. He sneezed several times in rapid succession, then ducked his head in embarrassment when Prokopios explained his affliction to Wahibre-Teni.

"I can't seem to get the cover off. Teal'c, could you�"

A white, blinding flash of light disoriented Daniel for a moment. When he blinked away the lingering mirror image of the bathroom, he realized they weren't in that room anymore.

Or on the planet.

"Holy Hannah."

"Carter, did you..." Jack waved a hand at space station.

"No, I don't think so, sir." She stood and looked around in wonder.

Prokopios and Wahibre-Teni appeared a little pale but they quickly seemed to pull themselves together as they all began moving towards the front of the ship.

"Hey, it's warm in here."

Daniel realized Jack was right. No longer glacial, the environmental conditions were more than comfortable. Even the staleness in the air was gone; it smelled... normal. He moved to the consoles and noticed all were lit. Somehow the equipment had become fully functional.

"Sam, do you think by coming here the other day, we might have triggered something?"

"I don't know, it's possible. To be honest, I'm not familiar with any of this." Sam had been wandering from console to console, and she stopped to look at Daniel. "Although I think you're right, this is a weather station of some kind."

"Captain Carter is indeed correct."

They all turned at the slow-speaking, high-pitched voice coming from behind them.

"You're one of Thor's people, right?" Jack stepped forward towards the small alien sitting in a large chair.

"I am Wotan." The alien inclined its head. "This is one of a dozen weather satellites which we programmed to orbit the planet many thousands of years ago."

"You caused the storms down there?" Jack took another step closer.

"Our interest was to control the storms, eventually eradicate them and make this planet habitable for your kind."

Jack leaned forward and spoke in a loud whisper. "You are aware that whatever it is you've been doing, it's not working?"

"When we beamed up here earlier, the satellite was in sort of a..." Daniel scratched his forehead, thinking of the word as he attempted to translate for Wahibre-Teni and Prokopios while questioning Wotan. He took a few steps closer to Jack, then stopped when Wotan sort of shimmered.

"Stand-by mode?" Jack supplied as he waved a hand through the hologram of the Asgard.

"Generations ago, the Goa'uld attempted to conquer this planet. As the Asgard have never laid claim to this area of space, the satellites were programmed to go into hibernation if any enemy ships approached. When the Goa'uld left centuries later, it appears the satellites' systems had been too long unused, and they were unable to restart automatically."

"So let me guess." Sam came to stand beside Daniel. She gave him a small, concerned smile before turning back to Wotan. "When Colonel O'Neill and Daniel triggered the transportation device a few days ago, this ship sent a signal and you came here to fix it."

"Partly true." Wotan turned his chair sideways to look out the window, towards space. "I sent a signal from my ship, which in effect programmed the satellites to re-engage. It was unnecessary for me to make the full journey to this planet."

"So... now what? Wahibre-Teni's people will be able to go live outside in a couple thousand more years?"

"The humans inhabiting this planet may now safely reside on the planet's exterior rather than within the planet's depths. We have repaired the satellites and the storms will no longer be a danger to them. Although it is remarkable how they have adapted throughout the centuries. Yours appears to be a very capable race, O'Neill."

"Yeah, well, that's us. We take a licking but we keep on ticking."

The Asgard turned his chair to face them once again. "I shall transport you back to the planet. Do not bother attempting to regain access to these satellites; the transportation devices are now offline for security reasons. Now that we know the planets are inhabited, we shall monitor them."

"Wait�" Daniel's shout was in vain. There was a flash of light and they found themselves in the small bathroom once again. So much for getting answers to the multitude of questions flashing through his brain. He glanced at the small panel and realized all the lights had been turned off. Immediately he sneezed several times in succession, instantly triggering a headache.

"Did that creature speak the truth? The storms will no longer pose a threat to my people?" Wahibre-Teni asked as they returned to the tunnels.

Daniel nodded at Wahibre-Teni, scrunching his nose to try and alleviate the itch. Somehow up there in the spaceship, all symptoms of his allergies had disappeared. "We can go outside the next time there's a storm and see, but I don't think the Asgard would lie to us."

"Think that Wotan guy told us the truth?" Jack asked out of the blue.

"I told Wahibre-Teni we could go check the air the next time there's a storm."

"It will most likely be many years before these people will feel comfortable enough to reside without the security of these mines," Teal'c added.

"I don't trust him," Prokopios said. "How do we know he speaks the truth? We would send our people outside in a storm and they would surely die without the branches of the Iptha tree."

"You can bring the branches just in case..." Daniel began, beginning to feel slightly out of breath. His legs felt leaden, his body heavy as he coughed as Prokopios answered.

"They only protect for a short period. They will not last the duration of the storm. If there is trickery in that creature's words, our people will die."

"They don't trust Wotan," Daniel explained when he realized the look Jack was giving him was a questioning one. "I guess we can go and..." Daniel blinked when the walls wavered before his eyes and began to blur. "...test the air..." There was a hissing sound compounded by the sound of his heartbeat, which began to beat more and more quickly in his ears. "...for them." The room suddenly went dark.

- - - - - -

Teal'c's quick reflexes stopped Daniel from smashing his forehead into the stone walls. As he first staggered, then dropped forward, Teal'c caught him and slowly lowered him to the ground. Carter eased Daniel's head onto her lap while Jack reached for his neck, and pulse.

It was racing. Daniel's face was flushed and there was a fine sheen of sweat on his face. But after several seconds, his eyes fluttered open and he looked around, looking a little disoriented.

"Don't move," Carter said as she curved an arm around his shoulder to keep him still when he tried to raise his head.

"What happened?" Daniel licked his lips and Jack added his own grip to his other shoulder.

"You fell into a swoon, that's what happened." Jack grinned at Daniel's frown. "Not one of those graceful theatrical faints. Oh no, you nearly went head first. You have Teal'c to thank you don't have a broken nose or black eye."

"I fainted?" Daniel looked up at Teal'c, as if he needed confirmation from the Jaffa that the reason he was lying on the floor wasn't due to Jack's explanation.

"You indeed lost consciousness for a few seconds. It appears you have not yet fully recovered from your... ordeal."

A cup of water appeared before Jack and he looked up to see Prokopios crouched next to him. Carter took the water and let Daniel sip from the cup. His skin was nearing a normal tinge and the sweating seemed to have stopped.

Prokopios said something and Daniel nodded. "Too much excitement for one day," Daniel said in way of translation. Daniel reached out, gripped Jack's arm, and pulled himself so he was sitting. "I'm okay. I just need some rest."

"Can you walk the rest of the way?"

Daniel nodded at Jack's question so they got him up onto his feet. He swayed slightly, then regained his balance. He nodded at Prokopios and Wahibre-Teni, and they began walking again, this time more slowly in deference to Daniel.

Daniel and the two others spoke together while Jack, Carter and Teal'c walked in silence. By the time they neared their 'room', it appeared the three had made plans.

"They'll let us know as soon as a thunderstorm is sighted. We can go out in the storm and show them everything's fine. They'll let us leave, won't they, Daniel?"

"Will it be? Can we trust the Asgard?" Carter's questions nearly mirrored Jack's thoughts as Daniel nodded to Jack's query about being set free. Jack had been the one who'd 'gated to the Asgard home world earlier that year; they had helped him and he had no reason to believe they would lie to him. His mistrust wasn't in their honesty, it was in their technology. Still, they were way more advanced than Earth so if the little guy said the storms wouldn't kill them, he had to trust him.

Still, maybe they could wait the storm out near one of those trees, just in case.

Jack was beginning to recognize some of the landmarks and so he knew they were approaching their room. Which was about time, because Daniel, by then, was visibly shaking and had grown pale. Jack hoped it was just a case of too much too soon and that there was nothing seriously wrong with his friend. Daniel had looked pretty much recovered earlier, but he had to admit they'd done a lot of walking and even after recovering from something as simple as the flu, it would take a few days to get your sea legs back.

They entered their room and the door closed behind them, this time without the telltale snick of a lock being engaged. Jack shared a look with Teal'c as Daniel slid into bed. Daniel allowed Jack to take his boots off and Carter to tuck him in. He lay there for a minute, fighting sleep, but everyone kept quiet and it didn't take him long to drop off.

"I think he's just overtired," Carter whispered as she checked Daniel's pulse and breathing.

"We'll see how he's doing in the morning." Jack sat down on the foot of Daniel's bed and reached for his boots, happy to finally be able to take them off. This was going to be the first time he'd slept without them on; the shackles had gone over his boot tops and had prevented him from slipping them off. Still, despite the padding his boots had provided, the chains had bruised his ankles. He rubbed at the abraded flesh before climbing into his bunk.

With the prospect of going home soon, maybe even tomorrow, Jack stretched his tired body, then curled up onto his side. Hopefully they could get this business with the storms out of the way quickly and haul ass to the Stargate. He smiled into the pillow at the thought of sleeping in his own bed.

- - - - - -

Somehow while contemplating the thought of testing the air during a thunderstorm, Jack had forgotten about other aspects of the storm. He'd been so worried about whether they'd be able to breathe outside, he'd forgotten that they'd be getting soaked in the process.

He lowered his face in a desperate effort not to inhale any of the streaming water and repositioned his gun as he shifted his weight. The rest of his team looked just as miserable as he felt. The rain was cold and fell in a torrent that could give Niagara Falls a run for its money. The sound of the falling rain along with the thunder booming overhead made conversations difficult and visibility near impossible.

Still, they could breathe without a problem, that was, there was plenty of oxygen, you just had to find it between the raindrops.

"I think the storm's beginning to ease off." Carter's voice was muffled in the small depression where they had taken shelter partway down the hill. Jack raised his head and looked into the storm. Yep, the sky wasn't quite as dark and he could see a small ridge of blue sky where the far edge of the storm marked the end of it.

A moment later the rain lessened. It was like a curtain had lifted. The light's intensity was a bit brighter, his hearing perked up and he could almost breathe normally.

The good thing about the rain was that it seemed to wash the pollen out of the air. Daniel had only sneezed a couple of times and Jack hoped that was going to be the case until they got him home.

"Should we attempt to make our way to the Stargate, O'Neill?" Teal'c blinked water out of his eyes as he looked at Jack.

Thunder cracked loudly as lightning snaked its way onto the opposite hilltop.

"Better wait until there's no chance of a lightning strike. We got pretty good cover here." If you figure crouching in half a foot of accumulated water was safe. But the natural depression at least ensured they weren't the tallest things out on this hilltop, should they happen to get a strike. Besides, the water streaming down the path made for dangerous footing; at least here they weren't in danger of having the trail washed out from underfoot.

Jack looked over at the two observers who were cowering beneath the tree's cover over on the hilltop to the east. He figured there might be more on the other summits; but if he couldn't make them out, they probably had no idea if SG-1 was still alive or not. The crowning moment would be when they all stood and made their way down this hilltop once the storm had passed on. Not only would they have survived the storm without any artificial help from the life-giving trees, they'd be breathing oxygen in the hours after the storm passed where it took time for the ecosystem to return to normal.

Jack glanced at Daniel, who grinned at him as water streamed over his face. Damn the man; he was enjoying this.

The rain suddenly eased off to a drizzle as thunder continued to rumble to the north. Jack wiped his face with his palm and snorted water from his nose. He rose up from his cover and waved towards the opposite hilltop. "Okay, let's give it five more minutes and we'll start our way down."

Jack eyed his team as they tried making themselves more comfortable. There was motion near the tree and the branches parted. Prokopios stepped out from the tree's safety and took a few tentative steps away from it. Jack wished he could use his field glasses at this moment; he'd love to see the expression on the man's face. A lifetime of living with the fear of storms and to have everything reversed.

For the better.

"They'll be able to grow crops. Raise animals," Carter said softly as Prokopios' companion joined him. Jack stood and the rest of his team followed. Daniel raised a hand towards the two men and they waved back.

"Let's head on home, kids." Jack stepped out of the small wading pool, made a thumb's up sign towards the men and carefully walked onto the path. Ten seconds later the rain stopped altogether.

"Jack, look." There was a tap on his shoulder and he looked to his right, where Daniel was pointing. A rainbow decorated the sky, the far edge of it seeming to end at the Stargate's center.

"Well if that ain't a sign..." Jack grinned at his team. "C'mon, let's go home."

- - - - - -

"Honest, Janet, I'm fine."

Jack shook his head at the voice coming from behind the privacy curtain and winked at the nurse who was finishing up taking blood from him as Fraiser began scolding Daniel. He pressed a finger to the gauze-covered puncture wound as she turned from him to grab a Band Aid.

"Colonel."

"General." Jack let go of the gauze and looked up at his commanding officer as the nurse covered it with the small dressing. She picked up the damp towels Jack had thrown onto the foot of the bed and picked up her samples, leaving Jack to converse with Hammond in relative privacy.

Hammond's gaze lit on Carter and Teal'c before returning to Jack. "I'm sorry I wasn't available to greet you. I'm glad to see you all appear to be relatively fine."

"Look, it's not necessary. The bruises are beginning to fade already." Daniel's voice rose slightly and Hammond cocked his head towards the sound.

"Doctor Jackson is...?"

"He'll be fine. He had a bit of a rough time back there and I think doc wants to run a couple dozen tests once she heard what he'd gone through."

"I see." Hammond bit back a smile at Daniel's 'do I have to'? "I trust you have an explanation as to why the MALP telemetry showed the planet no longer had a breathable atmosphere."

"It's kind of a long story, sir," Jack quickly said before Carter could begin a detailed explanation right here in the infirmary. "The Asgard sort of got involved, but they did fix the problem with the air."

"And did you get to see what they were mining? Any overtures towards a treaty?"

"Oh, we got to see those rocks first hand. Way too personal for my liking. And exnay on the mining treaty. But hey," Jack said with a hint of passion in his voice when Hammond's face showed disappointment, "that's only because we really didn't get a chance to discuss it."

Carter spoke up from where she sat on the bed opposite Jack's. "There's gold and silver, and some trinnium, but I can't be certain of any of the other ores we mined. You'll need to send a geologist with the next team assigned to return to the planet, sir."

"Mined?" Hammond turned to gaze upon Carter.

"Um, yes, General." Her eyes flicked towards Jack then back to Hammond. "We were forced to work the mines."

Hammond suddenly seemed to take in their blistered and scraped hands.

"So you managed to escape?"

Jack glanced towards the privacy curtain which was now quiet. "Not exactly, sir."

"There was no opportunity to escape." Teal'c had come around to stand beside Jack. "DanielJackson was the one who convinced their leader to release us upon proof that the Asgard had indeed returned their world to a less dangerous state."

"Well, I'm sure it'll be an interesting debriefing." Hammond nodded at Jack. "I'll see you all in one hour, trusting that Doctor Fraiser will have finished her tests on Doctor Jackson by then."

As Hammond left the infirmary, Daniel stepped through the curtained-off area and came to join them. He was bare-chested, his upper body a whorl of blues and blacks with a tinge of brown. He smiled shyly at them, although his eyes looked troubled. "Hey, thanks guys."

"For what?" Carter moved slightly so Daniel could sit beside her.

"For not telling General Hammond that we were stuck down there because of me all that time."

"Ack, Daniel. What did I tell you?"

Daniel turned wide eyes towards Jack.

"That I'd give the word when the opportunity arose. And it never did. I don't know about you, but I had no real wish to go traipsing through miles of tunnels looking for the surface, and then getting back up there and walking into a storm."

Carter shook her head as Daniel's gaze flitted towards her as he shied away in embarrassment from Jack. "It's true, Daniel. Half the time I had no idea where I was and even if I'd found an opportunity to make a break for it, most of those times I was alone and it wouldn't have served any purpose. We were better off waiting, and it worked out for the best, after all."

"I know. It's just that after..."

"Your expertise was invaluable to us." Teal'c placed a hand on Daniel's bare shoulder. "And to the people who live on the planet."

Daniel ducked his head, then jumped when Fraiser called his name. "I gotta..." he pointed in the direction the voice had come from and stood. He took a few hesitant steps her way, his hand coming up to splay across some of the bruising on his chest.

"Ya did good, Danny." Jack winked at his friend and saw some of the haunted expression leave his face. "Go... have fun. Make Fraiser happy. We'll see you in the briefing room in an hour or so."

Daniel nodded then hurried after Fraiser, grinning widely.

 

FINIS!


Author's Comments: Many thanks and hugs to devra for the wonderful alpha. And hugs to my Heartsisters, who are, and have always been, there for me

 

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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.