"I don't like this."
Daniel rolled his eyes at his friend and sighed as he double checked the contents of his pack. "Yes, Jack, I know. You have mentioned that a time or two in the past hour."
"It was different when I thought the sacred temple you were going to visit was at the other end of town. This is at a whole n'other village. That changes the logistics a smidgeon."
"You knew I was going to be gone three days. Did you think I was going to sit through all these religious ceremonies for three days straight? Even I have a limit, you know." Distracted by Jack's venting, Daniel gave up trying to figure out if he had everything, and closed his backpack. "Anyways, I told you where we were going."
"You said you were going to Wot Head with No Hair."
"Wot Hedwitt Naiheyre," Daniel corrected automatically as he opened the door of the room he'd been allotted in the village's inn. "And that's not where I'll be. That's the temple at the other end of town."
"Then what's the other one called?" Jack followed him out, bumping him with the butt of his MP-5 when Daniel slowed to sling his pack over his shoulder.
"Wot Hedwitt Muthheyre."
"Great. Wot Head with Much Hair. Like there's a difference there."
"Actually yes, there is. Wot Hedwitt Muthheyre was built about two hundreds years before this village was even founded. I'm hoping to find evidence that the ruling Goa'uld of the time had—" Daniel stopped talking when he saw Jack's face harden at his words. Of course, Daniel had missed the mark once again, misinterpreting what Jack had said. He suddenly realized what the colonel had meant. You'd think working with him for over a year now he'd remember Jack had no interest in the details that fascinated Daniel. "No, I guess to you, one would sound the same as the other."
"I can't believe you kept that little detail from me, Daniel."
"I didn't hide anything, Jack. You just chose not to listen. I explained everything in detail to General Hammond when I asked his permission to go on this expedition. It's not my fault you were flirting with the women." Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration but Jack had been eyeing the women, and the kids, who had followed them from the village back to the Stargate.
"I was not flirting."
"Well, you obviously weren't listening."
"Maybe if you'd given me the details before asking Hammond, I might have had a clearer picture about what was going on."
"Right. I'll make sure to spell everything out next time." Anger added impetus to Daniel's steps, making him walk more quickly through the dusty main street. "Not that it'll make any difference since you can't tell a bald head from a hairy one."
Daniel rolled his eyes at himself, realizing how stupid this conversation was getting. "Never mind. Look, if you'd listened to me in the first place, you could have gone through the ritual blessing with me this morning and then you'd be permitted to go to the temple. But since the thought of sitting through three days' worth of prayers was so abhorrent to you, you'll just have to wait for me here, along with Sam and Teal'c."
"Jack, I'll be safe. There's no longer a Goa'uld on this planet. There are no wild animals and the people here are eager to learn about their past as well as becoming our allies." Not to mention the possibilities for trade; medicines, seeds and a powerful explosive that had caught both Jack and Sam's interests.
"I still don't like this."
They were approaching the town's plaza, where more than half the population had gathered.
"Admit it." Daniel eyed the young women who were balancing colorful baskets full of food and flowers on their heads or carrying them on their backs. "You're just mad because most of the women are coming along." He flashed Jack a grin as he nodded to a few familiar faces in the crowd.
"Not all. I'll be stuck with Carter and Teal'c."
"Visiting the farms; checking the crops. Talking weapons. Some nice, friendly competition to see who can shoot more accurately. Going hunting. Didn't I hear you mention fishing? Yep, sounds like a hardship for you."
"Daniel, I'm serious." Jack grabbed his arm and pulled him a few feet away from the crowd. "I don't like the fact that you'll be several hours' away and if something should happen—"
Sighing loudly, Daniel moved closer to Jack so his voice wouldn't be overheard. "You do know that by following the procession, you would be breaking a very important taboo? You haven't been blessed and that could create problems. I'll be fine, Jack. I'll just walk all day with these lovely people, attend the ceremony tomorrow, study the temple and I'll be back the day after tomorrow. Now you, on the other hand, try to keep out of trouble. Let the men win once in a while so they don't hold a grudge."
"It's not me they have to worry about, it's Carter. You know how competitive she gets when it comes to weapons." Jack shifted his eyes towards Daniel and gave him a lopsided grin. "Okay. But any trace of trouble, you call for backup."
"I will. If I see a squirrel armed with an MP-5 or a cow carrying C4, I'll radio."
For a moment Daniel wasn't sure if the expression on Jack's face was anger or laughter. But then his lips twitched and he shoved Daniel towards the assembled villagers. "Go. Have fun. I'll show you my trophies when you get back."
"I bet Sam will have more than you." Daniel grinned at Jack and hurried away before the swat Jack was aiming for the back of his head connected.
- - - - - -
Jack had been right in that there was no way even Daniel could have sat through the intonations of prayers for three days straight. He shifted uncomfortably amongst the mass of people kneeling on the rocky ground, wishing he'd thought to situate himself closer to one of the pillars so he could study the inscriptions and pass the time.
Itirah, the head cleric who'd eagerly taken charge of Daniel, shifted nervously once again. The little man's attitude had changed shortly after they'd arrived at the outdoor temple early this morning. Once again Daniel looked around, trying to ease his boredom and attempting to figure out what had put the man on edge.
Daniel spotted someone moving amongst the decorated pillars of rock. Itirah noticed him too, as he stood quickly. To Daniel's surprise, he turned to catch Daniel's eye and motioned for Daniel to follow.
Standing slowly and ignoring the looks of annoyance, Daniel followed Itirah, threading his way through the praying people.
"Come, come." Itirah grabbed his arm and began pulling him away from the temple.
"Where are we going?" Daniel looked back, trying to see if whoever he'd spotted was still there. But there was nobody on their feet except for himself and the short cleric. Several of the women were watching them with a frown on their faces. Daniel experienced a slight pang of alarm at what appeared to be an unusual break from tradition, and then the congregation disappeared from view as they moved through a small copse of trees.
"I wished to show you something and this will be the only opportunity to do so." Itirah came to a stop in a small clearing.
"Show me what?"
Before Itirah could answer, Daniel heard the crack of a broken branch behind him. He whirled in alarm, then gasped as three Jaffa stepped out from where they'd been hiding behind trees.
"What's going on?" Daniel tried for the innocent approach, hoping he could bluff his way out of this. Though he realized that if he'd been singled out, the Jaffa had to know who he was, or at the least, know where he was from.
Okay, the Goa'uld who'd delicately stepped out of the woods and was staring at him with hatred in her eyes definitely knew where he was from. There were too many for him to try and shoot his way out of this situation. From the corner of his eye, he saw Itirah scuttle away, going back the way they'd come. He was pretty sure the man wasn't running for help. For a moment he hoped that Jack hadn't listened to him and had followed him here after all, but he was fairly sure his friend hadn't.
So the only choice he had left was to try and talk his way out of the situation. But before he could open his mouth, someone else spoke.
"He requires being dead."
Daniel got a glimpse of grey, pebbled skin as the alien moved through the trees, coming to a stop beside the Goa'uld.
"Very well." The Goa'uld waved languidly to one of her Jaffa and he instantly powered up his staff weapon.
"Wait, can't we talk about this?" Daniel yelled, cringing at the expected pain.
The shock of the zat took him by surprise, his muscles contracting painfully as he collapsed to the ground. Barely conscious, he forced his eyes to the alien, who had the weapon still trained on him.
"Your Jaffa would have left a physical mark."
"I could have cured the injury," the snake sniffed with disdain. She waved her hand to the alien. "Finish it."
Daniel only had time to wonder why this Goa'uld wasn't crowing about her plans, leaving time for Daniel to think of a way to escape, when agony hit him and all thoughts disappeared.
- - - - - -
Jack waited until he spotted Daniel's camo's amongst the villagers' more earthy tones, then hurried to position himself in a spot where Daniel couldn't miss him. He leaned against the wooden building, hands in pockets, very much aware of the rough necklace around his neck sporting the dozen hand-carved "trophies" from his wins.
He nodded at Carter as she settled beside him. Her several victories were nothing to scoff at either, as were Teal'c's. The men and handful of women who had competed against them were good. Just not quite as good as himself and his team, he thought smugly. He puffed out his chest as Daniel approached and grinned widely, waiting for acclamation.
To his astonishment, Daniel walked by, barely giving Jack and Carter a glance. There was a look on his face that Jack had never seen before. Cold. Hard. Something he'd never expected to see on Daniel's face.
"Hey. Wait up." Jack straightened and hurried after his friend. Daniel stopped, turned, and then with a blink, gave Jack a confused expression. "Was the ceremony all that boring after all?"
Daniel blinked at him in confusion once more, then shook his head. "No, it was all very... interesting." He turned away from Jack and continued walking down the street.
Jack jogged the few steps to catch up with him, one hand holding down the bouncing wooden medals. "So, notice anything?"
Daniel turned to give Jack a quick once over, glanced over at Carter who'd hurried to catch up to them, then shrugged as he squinted at her. "You did something to your hair?"
Jack eyed Carter's hair and hoped Daniel had addressed that comment to her and not him.
"Something wrong with your eyes, Daniel?"
"No. Well yeah, sort of. I have a headache."
"Are you okay?" Carter put a hand on Daniel's arm in concern as they headed down the street where they were being housed.
"Yeah, I forgot my clip-ons and the glare was a killer. I'm fine. I just need a couple of Tylenol."
They continued on silence for a few moments until they approached the inn. They walked into the building and down the hallway.
"So, how'd it go out there?" Jack shifted his weight as he waited impatiently for Daniel to take out his key. "No squirrels packing any serious armaments?"
"What?" Daniel squinted at Jack before unlocking and opening the door to his room.
"Did you see anything suspicious out there, Daniel," Jack said in a slightly irritated voice as he and Carter followed Daniel inside. Daniel paused, dropped his pack beside the door and headed for his belongings which were strewn on the bed, exactly where he'd left them three days ago.
"No, nothing suspicious." Daniel grabbed the Tylenol and forced two pills out of their protective sleeve. "No cows carrying explosives." He tossed the pills into his mouth and took a long swallow of water from his canteen. "No squirrels carrying MP-5s. No aliens, no Goa'uld, no Jaffa. Just a long walk and a lot of kneeling and chanting and nothing worthwhile to see." Daniel sat heavily on his bed and removed his glasses, knuckling his eyes with his other hand. "I should have stayed here and gone fishing and hunting with you guys." He sighed deeply and lowered his hands, glasses dangling from his fingers. "So, what's left to be done here?"
"Well, unless you have more temples you want to visit, as soon as Teal'c returns with the sample of explosives we've traded for, we can head home." Jack waved at the bed Daniel was sitting on. "He won't be back for at least an hour so if you wanna lie back and let those pills work..."
Daniel nodded silently and rolled back onto the bed, pushing his belongings aside with his arm. Jack shrugged and fingered his trophies dejectedly as Carter moved ahead of him and held the door open.
- - - - - -
"So, Doc? We free to vamoose yet?" Jack slid off the infirmary bed as Fraiser walked back into the main ward and headed straight for them. There was a look on her face that Jack didn't like. She usually tried to hide her concern over a business-like attitude. Her facial expression definitely came across as professional at the moment. Jack thrust his hand into his pants pockets and nervously fiddled with the small trophies he'd shoved there before returning to base.
She cast her eyes towards Jack a moment before stopping at Daniel's bed, next to him. "You're all free to leave, except Daniel. I want to check your eyes again and see if it's necessary for you to be seen by an Ophthalmologist. I'd also like you to stay on base until we get your blood work back. Actually, I'd prefer if you all stayed on base until I get your results back, just in case something is brewing."
"Janet, I'm fine. I told you, it's just a case of eyestrain. There's no need for me to see an Ophthalmologist."
"Let me be the judge of that, please."
"I spent hours fighting glare while trying to make out very tiny script. It's no wonder my vision is blurry and my head hurts."
"I thought you said you didn't find anything." Carter moved closer to Fraiser.
"I didn't, Sam. Just a lot of tiny carvings that looked like flowers and trees." Despite the dim lights, Daniel narrowed his eyes as he looked at her.
"What did the writing say?"
"Nothing. It was just carvings that looked like flowers and trees. Like I said, there was nothing of interest out there."
"Do you get eyestrain fairly often?" Fraiser flipped through Daniel's chart, looking over her notes. "You've never complained about it before."
"Yeah, it happens a lot. I'm just so used to it I never mentioned it before."
Jack frowned at Daniel, knowing this was an outright lie. They'd talked about Daniel's eyesight before and the man had even joked about how lucky he was that he didn't need bifocals considering the amount of reading he did. The only time his eyes got tired was if he didn't wear his glasses.
"Okay. I'll tell you what. I'll check your eyes out one more time, and then I'll let you go, on the condition you do not engage in anything that could worsen your eyestrain. Which means no reading or working on your computer, Mister."
"How about you meet us for supper, Daniel? I'm sure Teal'c's starving and pie sounds mighty good right about now." Jack cocked his head at Teal'c, who merely raised an eyebrow at Jack. He stared at Teal'c a moment longer, wishing he could master his poker face, then acknowledged that Teal'c had had double his lifetime to perfect it. "Carter?"
"Supper sounds pretty good. I just need to make sure the sample of explosives have been secured and get the authorization code for it."
"Ack, no playing with the dynamite before supper."
Carter grinned. "Yes, sir. I can restrain myself until after I've eaten."
He turned to Daniel and was surprised at the look of indifference on his face. It was close to the expression Daniel had worn when he'd walked back into camp. It didn't make sense. He'd seen Daniel in pain, in agony, drunk, doped up, angry, upset, happy and overjoyed, and at no time did he ever see anything remotely resembling this look on his friend's face.
Then Daniel blinked and smiled weakly at Jack. "I'll see you there as soon as Janet lets me go."
- - - - - -
Jack watched Daniel enter the room, walk across the commissary, pour himself a cup of coffee then stop and look around. He spotted them after a moment and gave a small smile as he sat. Jack glanced at his own half-eaten meal then stared pointedly at the cup of coffee Daniel had his hands wrapped around.
"I'm not hungry," Daniel said with a look of defiance as he stole half of a roll of bread from Carter's tray.
Jack nudged his slice of pie closer to his plate and away from Daniel on the off chance that his non-hunger might tempt him to seek something sweet. Considering it was the last piece of pecan pie, Jack had no intentions of sharing. "So, the doc say anything?"
Daniel shook his head, chewing on the bread. He swallowed, then took a sip of coffee. "No. Just that I shouldn't leave the base." Daniel slipped his glasses off and threaded one of the plastic arms into the collar of his tee shirt. He lowered his head and rubbed his eyes, sighing.
"Why don't you go get some rest? You look like you're pretty wiped."
"Huh?" Daniel popped his head back up and looked at Jack. There was an unfocused element in Daniel's gaze which faded as he squinted.
"Go. Get some rest."
"Yeah, maybe I will. As soon as I finish my coffee." Daniel took a sip and turned towards Carter. "Did you get the explosives all tucked away for the night?"
"Yeah. It's on 16." Carter pulled out a piece of paper with the code written on it. She smoothed out the crinkles in the paper with a finger. "I might just start a preliminary analysis on a sample tonight. This stuff is incredible and makes our C4 look like a match in comparison."
"You're not gonna end up blowing up the base with the stuff, are you?" Jack raised his eyebrows at Carter, knowing that she always took the greatest caution in her work but if this stuff was as dangerous as she'd said...
"CaptainCarter is extremely vigilant. I have utmost confidence that she will not destroy Stargate Command."
Jack grinned as Carter thanked Teal'c. Leave it to the big guy to miss the mark of his joke. Jack turned to Daniel and his smile faded as he saw the expression on Daniel's face once again. If he didn't know better, he'd have said Daniel had been furious. Then the expression disappeared as Daniel ducked his head, his eyes darting towards Jack as if he knew he'd been watched.
"You okay?" Jack shoveled the last of his Shepherd's pie into his mouth.
"I think I'm going to take your advice and go lie down for a while." Daniel upended his coffee cup and drained it before standing. "I have a few things to clear in my office, then I think I'm gonna hit the hay." He leaned sideways and in a quick move, swiped Jack's pecan pie. "Thanks." He raised the pie in a salute and took a bite as he walked out of the commissary.
Jack stared at the crumbs remaining on his plate and sighed. Daniel was acting like Daniel but there was something off that he couldn't quite put his finger on.
- - - - - -
Jack had spent enough time lingering over his coffee, trying to avoid the paperwork awaiting him in his office. With a sigh, he looked over at Teal'c, who'd stayed to keep him company. "Guess I've put it off long enough. I better get to my office."
Teal'c pushed his chair back as Jack stood. "I believe I shall spend time in the gymnasium."
Jack winced; not that he was sore from the mission but he did admit to being a little tired. The last thing he felt like doing was working out and he envied Teal'c his Junior-induced energy.
"You do that, Teal'c." Jack slapped Teal'c lightly on the back as they headed for the exit doors, walking to the elevator in silence.
They stepped inside together, and on the spur of the moment, Jack punched 18 instead of his own floor, then did the honors for Teal'c.
"You are going to check on DanielJackson?"
"Yeah. I think he... did he seem a little off to you since he got back?"
"If you mean did I find DanielJackson to be suffering discomfort, I did. But I did not recognize anything out of the ordinary."
"Maybe it's just me." Jack shrugged as the doors opened. "But I figure it won't hurt to make sure he's all right."
"Do you require assistance?" Teal'c had stepped partway out of the elevator, keeping the doors open.
Jack turned around and shook his head. "Naw, I'm just making Fraiser's job easier. You know, making sure Daniel's not reading his emails or gotten lost in one of those tomes of his that requires a magnifying glass to read. Go and have fun."
With a quick head nod, Teal'c backed into the elevator and the doors closed. Whistling tunelessly, Jack strode down the hallway and into Daniel's office.
Only to find it empty.
With a feeling of satisfaction that Daniel had actually done what he'd said he'd do, Jack turned to leave. But the sight of the contents of Daniel's backpack upended on the desk caused Jack to pause.
He approached the desk, staring at the mess. A space had been cleared near the table lamp which was still lit. Jack spotted a couple of pliers, wire cutters and a few pieces of stripped wires. There was no way to know for certain when Daniel had used the tools last but by the way things had been pushed around Jack thought it had been recent, as in the short time since he'd left the commissary.
What the hell had Daniel been doing? He picked up a piece of discarded wire and grabbed one of the magnifying glasses on Daniel's desk. He looked at the filament and except for the odd translucent sheen to it, it just looked like a regular piece of wire.
With a shrug, Jack left the office and decided to give Carter a visit instead. Once inside the elevator, he went to punch in the next floor below until he remembered she'd been heading for the 16th floor.
The door leading to the secure storage area was open, so Jack stepped inside. "Carter?" He glanced down the first short corridor, which was empty. So was the second but in the third he found Carter.
On the ground, unconscious, or dead.
The door to the room where the explosives were stored was open. Extremely conscious that he was unarmed, Jack debated whether to check inside the room or call for help. The realization that he was vulnerable without weapons or backup made the decision for him. He turned and hurried towards the closest phone.
A heavy weight hit him from behind and he fell to his knees. He turned reflexively, only to give his assailant the opportunity to plunge something into his side. Pain exploded along his ribs. The suddenness of the attack and the agony in his side paralyzed Jack for a moment. He saw a boot coming for his face. He managed to pull back just enough so the foot connected with his shoulder. He fell back, his head banging against Carter's shin.
He heard footsteps and looked up just in time to see someone run out of the corridor. The look of hardness was back in Daniel's face as glanced back at Jack as he shut the door.
- - - - - -
Groaning loudly, Jack attempted to get up onto his knees. He pressed a hand against the wound on his side, feeling the warmth of his blood as it dripped between his fingers. He staggered to the barred door and looked around. The alarm button and phone were only a few feet away, except he couldn't reach either one.
Swearing, he fiddled in his pocket for his access card. Shock and adrenaline made him clumsy and he dropped the card. He lowered himself to one knee and picked it up. Holding onto the bars for support, he stood. Keeping an eye on the red light of the door's electronic lock, he thrust the card into the slot.
The light remained red.
"C'mon, c'mon." He grasped the card and pulled it out and shoved it in again. The door didn't unlock. "Damn." Jack glanced at the security camera and only then noticed that the record light wasn't on. "Aw, ya gotta be kiddin' me." Whatever Daniel had done to the door, he'd done to the security cameras, too. Eventually someone would come to investigate, but in the meantime, Daniel had come here for a purpose and he was loose on base with what could be a dangerous weapon. And Jack was slowly leaking blood.
Carter moaned softly behind him, reminding him that he wasn't the only one injured. He turned around and hurried to kneel beside her. He checked her out as best he could, extremely grateful that Daniel hadn't stabbed her. But from the bruising on the side of her face, he'd hit her pretty hard.
Jack stood again, swearing under his breath at the pain the movement caused. He stepped into the small room Daniel had been hiding in and looked inside the open drawer. It was empty. The paperwork stated it had contained the sample of explosive they'd brought back from P0H-871 earlier today.
Jack slammed the drawer shut, venting his frustration on something other than himself. He should have pushed; he'd known something wasn't quite right with Daniel and he'd let it go. Hadn't he learned his lesson with Kawalsky?
The noise must have gotten through to Carter because she moaned a little more loudly. Jack stumbled out of the room and knelt beside her once more. She opened her eyes as he leaned over her, then raised her head as awareness came to her. She winced as she spoke. "Daniel."
"Yeah, I know."
"He attacked me." There was hurt in her voice, and Jack knew it wasn't due to her battered body.
"I don't think we were dealing with Daniel. He must have been Goa'ulded and somehow the snake got through our defenses."
"No, Teal'c would have noticed." She raised herself onto her elbows and Jack gave her a hand so that she was sitting up. "He came after the explosive."
"Looks like he got it."
"Not all of it, sir." Carter shoved a hand into her pants' pocket and pulled out a tiny container. "I'd managed to get my sample before he hit me."
"That's great. We can use this to blow the door." Adrenaline surged through Jack once more and he made it to his feet with more ease this time than the previous ones.
"We need something to ignite it."
"We don't need a detonator?" He wiped his bloody fingers on his pants and then pried the top of the small container open. There was maybe two teaspoons of black powder inside.
"Not in the powder form, sir."
"Okay, then I got that covered." Jack stuck his access card partway into the key slot and then poured half the container onto the card. He eased the powder into the slot and then shoved the card back into his pocket. He pulled out his trophies from his other pocket and broke the string they were threaded onto. "How much do you think we'll need?" Jack asked Carter as he contemplated pouring the remainder of the explosive powder into the lock.
"About a tenth of the container should do it."
Jack rubbed the corner of his eye and stared at the powder filled slot. For a moment he thought about blowing some of the powder out of the slot. Instead he took the twine and began easing it into the small opening. He needed to not only get them out of here, but to put out an alert ASAP. The ensuing explosion would surely do both. "So, any ideas what Daniel might want the explosive for?"
"If he's a Goa'uld, he has to be planning on destroying the SGC. He could make a bomb and use the explosive to blow up the Stargate. The Naquadah inside the Stargate would make the force of the bomb such that it would blow up the—"
"Yeah, I know, I heard all of this a long time ago. Got any matches?" Jack patted down his pockets uselessly.
A box of matches slid down the corridor to come to a stop beside his boot.
"Better take cover inside."
"How much did you—"
"Enough." Jack leaned against the wall and with fumbling fingers, took out a wooden match. He waited until he heard Carter moving and then struck the match. He held it to the end of the twine and waited until it was well caught. Then, moving as quickly as he could, he half ran, half stumbled to the room and shut the door.
The explosion was loud. The alarms it triggered weren't quite as loud, but the dullness of the alarms Jack attributed to the fact that he'd be hearing bells ringing inside his head for a couple more hours. He opened the door cautiously. The door that had been preventing their escape just a few seconds prior was gone, as was a huge part of the wall. The floor and ceiling were scorched. There was smoke, but thankfully no fire.
Jack hurried to the nearest phone and picked it up. There was no dial tone. "Great." He stumbled out into the hall and ran for the closest phone. He picked it up and dialed security.
"This is Colonel O'Neill. I want security out looking for Doctor Jackson. Proceed with caution. Doctor Jackson is presumed to have been taken by a Goa'uld."
SFs rushed into the room and Jack waved them towards Carter, who was moving slowly. He heard someone radio for medical personnel, but he ignored them and continued giving orders.
"Doctor Jackson may also be in possession of a bomb. I want a security detail to the Gateroom, the generators, the Control Room, the science labs, and I want extra security placed near General Hammond."
He waited for acknowledgement of his orders, then dialed Hammond. He quickly repeated what had happened when the general answered, then allowed the phone to drop from his hand. The exhaustion and pain was overwhelming, but the knowledge that he'd lost his friend was even worse.
- - - - - -
Getting to the infirmary had been an exercise in frustration and futility, both on his part and Fraiser's. He, on the one hand, had wanted to go after Daniel. Fraiser, on the other hand, had taken one look at him and had ordered him straight to the infirmary.
Jack hated not knowing what was happening. There was the usual activity in the infirmary; nurses coming and going around his bed and Carter's. Thankfully no new patients had been admitted during his examination which meant Daniel hadn't injured anyone else yet.
He was afraid the next person brought in would be Daniel himself. Or rather, his body would be brought down to the morgue because a Goa'uld loose on the base was not going to be given any leeway. Which was why Jack desperately wanted to be there when they found Daniel.
"You're very lucky, Colonel."
"Yeah," he sighed as the doctor continued to stitch up his innards.
"It could have been worse, much worse. But the blade was deflected by your ribs and there's no organ damage."
Jack wished he could feel the pain, that Fraiser hadn't numbed the injury before working on him. He wanted to scream his rage out loud instead of lying here with his fists balled up, listening to every little creak and whisper beyond the privacy curtain that had been pulled around his bed.
When the sounds came, they were louder and more sudden than he'd expected. The squeak of gurney wheels, the tread of running feet, the call for assistance and orders being given, had Jack squirming on his bed.
"Colonel?" Fraiser stopped working, her blood-splattered gloves held away from his body.
"Is that Daniel?"
Fraiser nodded to a nurse who'd been assisting and the woman quickly left the small enclosure. She returned a few seconds later. A simple nod and Jack closed his eyes in despair.
"He's alive, sir," the nurse replied as she quickly removed her surgical gloves and put on a fresh pair.
"I need to—" Before he could even try and push himself away, the curtains moved and Teal'c peered inside.
"How is he?"
"He left me no choice but to shoot him."
"He was injured in the leg and shoulder."
"What about the snake?"
"To what do you refer?"
"The Goa'uld. Daniel was taken as a host, wasn't he?"
"He was not."
"Then why did he...?"
"It is yet unclear why DanielJackson undertook the actions he did. The situation is serious, O'Neill." Teal'c turned his attention to Fraiser. "Master Technician Siler wishes to know how soon CaptainCarter can assist him."
"Carter?" Jack exclaimed? "What the hell did Daniel do?"
"I don't know, Teal'c." Fraiser finished with the stitches and was checking her work. "Doctor Warner was examining her." She stood and waved the nurse over. "I'll go and check, while Debbie finishes up here."
Teal'c nodded as Fraiser left. "DanielJackson has placed an explosive device on the Stargate. I was successful in stopping him from detonating the device but it is unclear whether we will be able to remove it without causing it to discharge."
"So you need Carter's expertise." The nurse placed a bandage over Jack's abdomen and ribs and taped the edges down.
"We have also summoned Doctor Lee but he had already left Stargate Command. He is on his way back."
The curtains wavered slightly as Fraiser entered his cubicle, then rasped loudly as she pulled them aside. "Sam's fine. She's got some bruising and a mild concussion, Doctor Warner can release her now if you need her."
"Her presence is required immediately." With that, Teal'c stepped away from Jack's bed and hurried down to where he could see Carter's blond hair a few beds away.
"What about Daniel?"
"They're trying to stop the bleeding before taking him to surgery."
"Doc, if it's not a Goa'uld, then something had to make him..."
"There wasn't anything in the blood tests... no wait, that's not right. Daniel's results were flagged. I was just starting to look at them when I got the call."
Jack waited until Fraiser had hurried away and then maneuvered onto his elbows. The medical staff hadn't pulled the curtains around Daniel's bed and Jack caught glimpses of his friend's body between the nurses as they moved around the bed. What was very plain to see, though, were the heavy straps affixed to Daniel's arms and legs.
Doctor Warner moved aside and Jack finally got to see Daniel's face. Even from where he lay Jack could see it was shiny with sweat. Then Daniel turned his head to look at Jack, and smiled.
If sharks could smile, then that was the look Daniel gave him. Predatory. Confident. Hungry.
Jack lowered himself back down, not wanting to see this side of Daniel. He looked down the ward to where Fraiser had gone, craning his neck to see past the open doors. She appeared a moment later, papers clutched in her hand. Instead of returning to Jack, she went for the nearest phone.
A minute later she was standing beside his bed. "I just called General Hammond. I'm going up to see him but I wanted to let you know..." She glanced over at Daniel a moment before continuing. "Daniel's blood tests have come up positive for nanocytes."
"What? You mean he's gonna start getting old?"
"No. I'm not sure yet what their purpose is but I'm betting they're behind Daniel's violent behavior."
"Something happened on P0H-871. We have to go back and find out what the hell they did to Daniel."
"I'll mention your concerns to the general." She waited a moment as Daniel was moved out of the room, heading for surgery. "If you'll excuse me, General Hammond is expecting me."
- - - - - -
Jack's Spidey sense suddenly began tingling. Or rather, the hairs on the back of his neck began to rise as he got the distinct impression someone was watching him. The manner in which the sounds of the infirmary came to him in a rush told him he'd been dozing. But even knowing where he was didn't dissipate the feeling that there was someone nearby.
The memory of the look on Daniel's face and what he'd done to Jack and Carter had him opening his eyes in a rush instead of trying to lie there and figure out what was going on. To his surprise, it wasn't Daniel standing over his bed with a knife in his hand that greeted him. Instead, Teal'c, Fraiser and General Hammond had surrounded his bed and were quietly waiting.
Jack cleared his throat, wondering when they'd gotten here and even worse, how long they'd been watching. He wondered vaguely if he'd been snoring and tried to unobtrusively pass his hand over his mouth, checking for drool.
"I'm sorry. I hate to disturb you, Colonel."
"That's okay, sir." Jack squirmed on the bed, looking for a comfortable position. Whatever Fraiser had injected into the wound was wearing off and his side was beginning to throb. "I needed to move anyway."
"There are pain killers if you need them, sir." Fraiser indicated a small paper cup sitting beside a glass of water to his right.
Jack didn't really need them quite yet but he knew from experience that if he didn't get the medication inside him before he started hurting, then the hurt would take that much longer to fade. He reached for the pills and water and swallowed them.
"I'm guessing you've got bad news."
"The Stargate has been taken offline until we can dismantle the bomb." Hammond inhaled deeply, his chest puffing out in almost exaggerated movement as he clasped his hands behind his back. "Captain Carter believes any attempt to use the 'gate will cause the bomb to detonate. She and Siler and Doctor Lee have begun studying its makeup but it's apparently of alien design so they're proceeding with extreme caution."
Jack winced, realizing how much of a crimp this was gonna put in their program. "Sure can't blame them for that." Then he realized how much of a crimp this might put some of the people associated with the program. "What about our teams? Aren't there a couple still offworld?"
"Four teams. With the President's permission, I've contacted Area 51 and the Antarctic Stargate is being taken out of storage so we can get our offworld teams home."
"What about Daniel?" Jack glanced towards the empty beds and wondered how much time had elapsed.
Fraiser followed Jack's glance. "He's out of surgery and is recovering in Isolation."
"We're still doing tests, sir. So far we've ascertained that the majority of the nanocytes are located inside Daniel's brain. But we still don't know what they're—"
"What about using sound frequencies on him to turn them off? Like you did on the ones inside me when they made me old?"
"We're working on that, sir, but so far we haven't had any luck. I'm sorry." She glanced up at Hammond, looking uncomfortable for a moment. "With Sam working on the Stargate, it's a little slower going on my end," she finally admitted.
"You're gonna let those things just sit inside of him? General Hammond? Permission to return to P0H-871 and—"
"I'm sorry, Colonel. Permission denied. We have no guarantees that whatever team I send back to '871 won't end up infected like Doctor Jackson. Our priority right now is getting our teams back and trying to figure out who programmed those little devils inside of Doctor Jackson to attempt to destroy Earth."
"Oh, let me guess." Jack stared up at the ceiling as if he was thinking hard. He snapped his fingers. "I got it. Starts with "g" and rhymes with 'fooled'.
"You reported no sign of the Goa'uld on the planet."
"Yeah, we did. Fooled us, didn't they?"
"We have no proof the Goa'uld are behind this, O'Neill."
"Pelops fooled around with nanites, Teal'c. Who knows how many more snakes have their fingers in that pie." Jack shifted again as his side throbbed. "I'd like to see Daniel." He turned to look at Fraiser.
"I'd recommend against it but I acknowledge this is an extreme situation. Give him another thirty minutes to wake up completely and that'll give the painkillers you just took a chance to kick in. I'll have a wheelchair waiting for you." She raised a finger before Jack could voice a complaint. "It's my way or none at all. Sir," she added with a touch of a smile.
"I hope you have better luck than we did, son." General Hammond glanced at Teal'c. "We attempted to interrogate him before Doctor Warner operated but he wasn't talking."
Teal'c lowered his gaze. "I regret I was unable to convince DanielJackson to instruct us on how to deactivate the explosive device."
"Don't knock yourself out over it, Teal'c. I'm pretty sure he won't tell me either. I just want to..." Jack clenched his fists, a wave of anger rushing over him. "The bastard had me fooled. I..."
"I understand, Colonel." Hammond was looking at him with what Jack hoped was understanding and not sympathy. "I'll let you get some rest. If there's any news, I'll let you know."
Teal'c waited until Hammond had left. "If it is any consolation, I did not mistrust DanielJackson upon his return."
"That's just it. I did. I mean, nothing that would indicate any of this going on in his head, but there was something... off. I'm sorry, that's the best I can explain it."
"I regret I did not accompany you earlier when you first mentioned your concerns. DanielJackson is a man with great passion. It is most likely that whoever is responsible for this knew that we would trust him implicitly and not raise an alarm until it was too late."
"You think they've been watching us?"
"Perhaps. Or have been in contact with some of our allies."
- - - - - -
Daniel watched him as he was wheeled into the room. Jack tried to shove away the slight feeling of discomfiture he felt, as if having admitted to weakness he'd allowed whatever was in control of Daniel to see he'd gotten the upper hand. He shook away that feeling; he wasn't the one strapped to a bed, was he?
There were signs of heavy sweat on Daniel's face and body, the medical gown was soaked through in places. Fine lines around Daniel's eyes and mouth told Jack this man was in pain.
Although Jack knew the drill - causing discomfort to the enemy and later waving the offer of painkillers before him as a carrot to a horse in the hope of enticing him to talk – he knew Daniel and if there was any vestige of his friend left inside this body, he would probably hold out for the pain instead of giving in.
The eyes that watched him, though, weren't Daniel's. Oh, they were blue and they were in a familiar face, but the intelligence behind them wasn't someone he knew. They were slightly crossed, as if he were having trouble focusing. A slight smirk appeared on Daniel's face before it grew hard again.
"Like my handiwork?"
"Depends on which job you're talking about." Teal'c rolled the chair beside the bed and Jack heard him take a step back. "You sorta messed up this one." He waved towards his injury.
"I was in a hurry. If I'd realized you were so resourceful, I'd have made sure you'd have been more severely handicapped before leaving you."
That comment caught Jack by surprise. He'd assumed that whatever was in control of Daniel had access to his memories. So had it really underestimated him, or did Daniel not trust in Jack's abilities?
"From my point of view, you kind of screwed up. Twice."
Daniel nodded and his skewed gaze went to Teal'c. "Yes. Just a couple seconds more and I'd have set the timer. Next time, Teal'c, don't take quite so long before shooting. You could have stopped me from placing the bomb on the 'gate if you hadn't hesitated."
"I do not believe my actions are at fault. Your feeble attempts at making us doubt in ourselves will not work."
"Can't blame a guy for trying, eh?" Daniel's right cheek curled in a lop-sided grin as he turned his attention from them and looked towards the observation room. Jack looked up and saw General Hammond watching them. "You know, I'm not so sure I didn't set the timer on that bomb after all. I mean, I was right there when you shot me, Teal'c." Daniel strained the fingers on his uninjured arm open in emphasis, moving them as far away from the bed as the restraints would allow. "I keep replaying what I did over and over in my mind and I'm pretty certain I activated the timer when you showed up."
Daniel made a small shrugging motion with his neck and uninjured shoulder. Still, despite his insouciant attitude, a drop of sweat beaded on his temple and ran down the side of his face at the motion. "I didn't get a chance to punch the numbers in," he added, wiggling the fingers of his hand, "but you know, I'm positive the countdown has started." He smirked outright this time, staring up at Jack. "Boom," he said softly.
Jack chanced a glance up at Hammond, who was already on the phone.
"So, you get those other teams back yet? Did Area 51 get the other Stargate up and working? I'm thinking not yet, considering all the really smart people are here in the mountain and only the low life are sent to 51.
"How's the side, Jack? Not hurting too badly, I hope?" Daniel glanced down at his own bandaged shoulder. "You know, they're very stingy with the painkillers around here. Think you could put in a word to the good doctor? I don't think Janet likes me very much anymore."
Jack had had enough. He gripped the sides of his wheelchair and whispered Teal'c's name, wishing he could force the chair to move by willpower alone. A second later he was being pulled away from the bed and they were heading for the exit.
"Aw, don't go. Was it something I said? Don't worry, the gunshots won't hurt for much longer. We'll all be a pile of space dust before you know it. I don't think dust feels any pain, does it?"
- - - - - -
"I don't know!" Carter spat out, her voice tinged with aggravation and frustration.
"But isn't there anything that remotely looks like a timer?" Jack moved slowly and carefully so he could peer over her shoulder to get a better look at the bomb without straining his injury. The area around the device was littered with wires and two laptops, with a variety of tools spread out on a nearby table.
"Except for the explosive Daniel stole from me, there's nothing there that even looks like a bomb." Carter slowly jiggled a wire that she'd connected to the bomb and checked the reading.
"Doctor Jackson mentioned he was in the process of setting the timer when Teal'c shot him." Hammond was watching from the side, and although Siler and the other scientists had stepped aside to let him through, he'd taken one look and had waved the men back to their work. "Has anyone reviewed the security tapes to see what he might have done."
"I thought of that, General." Siler waved to a VCR and computer set up in the back corner of the Gateroom. "Although we can clearly see Doctor Jackson's movements, nothing he did actually tells us anything."
"What about a detonator." Jack pointed at the clear glass full of explosive dust sitting right smack center in the device, surrounded by a long filament of translucent wire, similar to what he'd seen on Daniel's desk earlier. "You said the powder form needed a detonator. I don't see anything that could set it off."
"It's not sitting in glass. That plastic is highly flammable. The whole container is the detonator."
Hammond motioned Jack away. He moved slowly, careful of pulling his stitches.
"The President has already put in a plan to evacuate essential people to other worlds. I need you to come up with a list of SGC personnel and then start mobilizing supplies to Area 51. The 'gate should be up and running anytime now."
Jack turned to look back at Carter, Siler and Lee, plus the other scientists he hadn't yet taken time to get to know. He felt a wave of sorrow as he knew these people would probably work until the moment the bomb went off. "They'd be my first choice, sir." He tried not to think of Daniel, lying strapped to the bed, knowing there'd be no way in hell he could be whisked away to safety.
"I know. Mine also."
Jack and Hammond turned to leave when the sound of metal vibrating on metal caught his attention. He turned to see the tools on the table next to the Stargate vibrating.
"Holy Hannah!" Carter threw herself at the bomb and wrapped her hands around it, trying to hold it steady. Jack looked around desperately, his mind going blank for a moment. "It's the other Stargate," Carter said, her words rushing out, "I forgot it would cause this one to resonate when it activated."
Jack knew Carter's attempts were futile and they'd just have to ride this through until the Antarctic Stargate finished dialing. Hammond, on the other hand, was running out of the Gateroom, Jack spied him rushing up into the Control Room.
By the time the rattling ended, sweat was pouring down Carter's face. She let go of the bomb with care, then sat down heavily in the closest chair. Nobody said a word until Hammond hung up the phone.
The general moved to the window overlooking the Gateroom. "Area 51 has made contact with SG-2. I've ordered them to instruct SG-2 to contact the other teams from their offworld Stargate and to meet on P3X-974 instead of all the teams coming through to Earth individually. They'll attempt to come through to Area 51 in two hours. Once they're safely home we'll take that Stargate offline also.
- - - - - -
"You should rest."
Jack ignored Fraiser and double-checked the last items on the printed list with that on the laptop's screen.
"At least eat something."
"I'm not hungry." Jack initialed the printout, placed it on top of the growing pile, and attached the list to the email he'd already prepared. He double checked the email addresses, then checked them over a third time before hitting send.
Before he could compile yet another list of acquisitions to be ordered, Fraiser pushed a tray before him.
I know, sir. But ten minutes isn't going to make that much of a difference. You've been at it for four hours straight. I think you can take a break."
Seeing the food reminded Jack that he really was hungry. He picked up the sandwich and took a bite, ignoring the coffee for the moment. He'd had more than enough caffeine during the time he had spent sitting at the briefing room table going through the lists he and Hammond had discussed.
Hammond, Walter and two clerical staff were at the far end of the room, on different phone lines, all of them doing their utmost to get things moving. People, supplies, airlines, the whole situation appeared monumental. Even worse was they had no idea what sort of time limit they were working with. The whole planet could blow in the next five seconds, or not at all. Not knowing was playing havoc on all their nerves.
He'd finished half the sandwich when Fraiser placed three pills beside his plate. Without a word, he picked them up and washed them down with a sip of coffee. Pain killer and antibiotic. Amazing how he already recognized the varying types of medications by the shapes and sizes of the tablets.
"How is he?" Jack finally asked.
"Exhausted, in pain and running a fever. I hate this. I just can't..."
"I know," Jack said softly, swallowing bread that had suddenly turned the consistency of sawdust in his mouth. "The Daniel we know would never talk under these conditions. Those things have his memories so... there is still part of him in there, isn't there?"
"I would say definitely say so, sir. They have access to his memories and his personality, considering how he fooled us when he came back. What they've done is somehow altered his thoughts, his..."
Fraiser laughed softly despite the topic of their conversation. "You watch way too much science fiction, sir. But that would be a pretty good description. They've taken Daniel's basic beliefs and overwritten them—"
"So they've brainwashed him."
"I guess that analogy works, too. Except they've added something nasty to the wash water."
"A hundred to one odds there's a Goa'uld behind all of this."
"I know better than to go against those odds, sir."
"I'll speak to Hammond. There's no use making Daniel suffer for nothing." Jack looked at his empty plate in surprise. Even the coffee cup was half empty. He pushed the tray aside and opened yet another email.
"Thank you, sir." Fraiser took the empty tray and left the room.
- - - - - -
Carter had given up doodling with the device. She and Siler were sitting at the VCR, watching the security tape over and over. Jack sauntered over to them on wobbly legs. He'd been sitting for far too long and fighting sleep he should have given in to hours ago.
"So..." Jack trailed off as he watched Daniel walk up to the Stargate and place the bomb on the edge of one of the glyph. Teal'c appeared in the doorway and spoke to Daniel just as the device stuck readily to the frame.
The two SFs on duty hurried forward as Teal'c ordered them to stop Daniel, but they hesitated, drawing a smile from Daniel. He reached forward and placed his fingers on the side of the bomb.
Jack winced as Teal'c strode forward, plucked the pistol from one of the SFs' hands and shot Daniel in the shoulder. The shock of the bullet forced Daniel back a step as he grabbed his shoulder. A moment later he let go of his injured arm and reached forward with his uninjured one.
His legs crumpled as Teal'c shot him in the leg. Seconds later he was taken in custody by the SFs.
"See, Daniel didn't do anything except to touch the bomb there." Carter pointed to the side where Daniel's fingers had been. "There's no touchpad, no switches, no wires. Just the plastic casing."
Jack wrinkled his nose as he stared at the frozen image of Daniel on the ground, blood seeping onto the cement around him. Jack couldn't help but turn his attention to where Daniel had fallen, looking for traces of blood. "This might be a little farfetched, but what if some of those things in his blood sort of shifted into the bomb itself." He was relieved to see Daniel's blood had been cleaned from the cement floor.
"You mean the nanocytes are also programmed to trigger the bomb?" Carter's eyes were bloodshot, and there were dark smudges underneath them. A bruise on her cheekbone stood out starkly against her pale skin.
"They made Daniel set the bomb. Is there any reason why they couldn't be in the bomb also?"
"I don't see why the hell not, sir." Suddenly infused with energy, she rushed to the nearest phone and punched in a set of numbers. Jack continued staring at the image on the monitor as Carter ordered more equipment to be brought to the Gateroom.
"How's the evacuation going, sir?"
Jack jumped, not realizing Carter had finished her phone call. He shrugged, feeling the pull of injured flesh as he did so. "We got people flying into Las Vegas. The President has commandeered a few hotels there where most of them can hole up for the time being."
"At least they'll enjoy their last day on Earth," she said, smiling tiredly.
"There's not enough room at Area 51 to hold everyone."
"You're not moving them out right away?"
"We're waiting on supplies and equipment. So far, we've only got enough MRE's to keep them going a few weeks."
"That many?" Carter exclaimed.
"It's not enough... if this thing blows..."
There was a moment of awkward silence before Carter spoke. "How much longer before you think they can be moved?"
"Janet Air has already begun flying them to Area 51. The military transports will drop their loads at 51 and then come pick up the rest of the people in Las Vegas. Things will start moving in earnest in about three or four hours."
Something was wheeled into the Gateroom. Carter excused herself and hurried away. Jack watched as she used some new doodad to examine the bomb. Finally she sighed as she stepped back, running her hands through her hair distractedly. She looked at Jack with a tight smile on her face.
"You were right. There are nanocytes in the plastic. Not many, only a few hundred at most. But most of them have clustered together. There's some sort of chemical reaction going on. Right now it's very weak, if I didn't know to look for it, I wouldn't have caught it. But my guess is when all the nanocytes merge together, they'll be the bomb's detonating trigger."
"And that'll happen in..."
"Honestly? I don't know. Due to the makeup of the plastic, it's probably making it difficult for them to travel through it as opposed to a human body. But they're definitely moving. I think if Daniel had had more time... if Teal'c hadn't shot him, he'd have transferred more nanocytes into the container and the detonation would certainly have occurred faster. Possibly already. But as to how much more time we've got?" She made a face. "A few more hours. Four, maybe five."
"So we have to figure out how to turn those little buggers off."
"We don't have the time, sir." Carter sat down heavily. Jack could see how exhausted she was as she put her head into her hands.
Jack stepped around her and walked to the bomb. "So the plastic container is the detonator. The nanocytes will cause the plastic to ignite, and that'll make the powder blow, and that'll trigger the Naquadah and—"
A shiver ran up Jack's spine. Carter had said the same word with the exact intonation as Daniel had. Except she'd said it out of dejection, Daniel had said it to taunt.
He stared at the bomb, an idea beginning to form. "So if we can't stop the nanocytes from setting off the explosion, can't we do something to the explosive itself?"
"What do you mean?" Carter raised her head, her hair mussed as she squeezed her scalp with her fingers.
"The powder form of the explosive will be set off by heat, right?"
"Can we get to the powder itself?"
"We thought about prying the top of the cover off and siphoning the powder out. The setup is such that things can be placed into the container. Any attempt to remove the powder could set the device off."
"Too bad Daniel used the powder form. I remember on 871 we saw 36 different uses for the stuff." Jack turned and watched Carter, hoping his little mental nudge might work. He was rewarded several seconds later when her eyes lit up.
"That's it, sir!" She stood quickly and began gesturing as she spoke. "If I can add some hoipi to the explosives, it'll render it into a paste that will simply burn rather than explode."
"Great." Jack held back a sigh of relief that his idea had worked. "What's hoipi?"
"It's made from a plant. I'll need to go back to 871, though. I have a small supply but not nearly enough to—"
"No way. There's no way in hell you're going back to that place. In any case you'll never make it to Nevada and back in time to stop this thing from going off."
"Then can't someone at Area 51 go? It'd save half the time."
"Don't you have anything here you can use?"
"I don't know. I don't have enough of the powder to begin testing. And I don't have the time. Our only recourse is to have one of the teams still at Area 51 go through and bring the hoipi back."
"Will that thing withstand an extra shake, rattle and roll if we dial the 'gate again?"
Carter shrugged. "The vibrations haven't affected it the two times the Antarctic 'gate has activated so I'm fairly sure a couple of extra times will be okay."
With a hand held against his side, Jack hurried as quickly as he could out of the Gateroom. He bypassed the circular stairs, heading instead for the elevator as he didn't have the energy to even attempt going up on foot.
The moment he entered the briefing room, he began speaking even before Hammond acknowledged him.
"General, I have good news and bad news."
- - - - - -
They all sat around the briefing room table, slouched, slumped and drooping. There was nothing on the table itself except for a telephone in front of the general and multitude cups of coffee.
Hammond's aid entered, pushing a cart holding several carafes of fresh coffee and trays heaped with sandwiches. Jack caught Fraiser's glance and nodded. He'd eat, if only to keep up his strength until such time as the damn bomb had either been dismantled or had detonated. And if the latter happened, it wouldn't matter how tired he was.
They all accepted the food. Carter chewed slowly while the other scientists ate with gusto. Jack picked at a piece of cheese and ate it before taking a large bite of his ham and cheese.
He missed Teal'c's presence, but the big guy had chosen to sit with Daniel. Jack suspected he was both playing jailer and friend; if there was any part of Daniel not affected by those little bugs, hopefully he'd know his team still cared.
Then everything in the briefing room began to vibrate, the coffee in his cup trembled as the table shook. Everyone turned to look at the Stargate. Jack instead continued eating. If the thing blew, whether he watched it or not, it'd probably happen so fast he'd never have time to register the explosion anyway. He prided himself on his calm, and even picked up his coffee and took a sip while everyone else froze and waited.
But when the phone rang several minutes after the vibrations stopped, Jack jumped, nearly dropping his sandwich from suddenly nerveless fingers. Hammond put his half-eaten meal down and calmly picked up the receiver. Jack put the remains of his own sandwich down as nerves made his mouth dry. After a moment Hammond reached over and hit the button for the speakerphone.
"Go ahead, Major."
Ferretti's voice filled the room.
"The docs here say there's no sign of the nanocytes in us so we're clear to go. " There was the sound of a motor in the background. "We're on our way to the runway as we speak, sir. Tell Captain Carter we've got the hoipi. With any luck we'll be at the SGC in two and a half hours."
"She heard you, Major. Good work."
Hammond glanced at Carter and she nodded with a slight smile. She glanced at her watch, then looked over at Jack. Her expression said it all. It was going to be tight.
"General Hammond. There's more. A few of the inhabitants came up to us and told us they were shocked about what happened to Daniel. It seems the nanocytes are something these people use to cure people who have mental problems. The nanocytes are programmed to take over those parts of the brain that don't work right, or have been injured in accidents or illnesses. "
"Programmed?" Jack leaned forward, impatiently wiping bread crumbs off the table.
"Yes. Specifically for whatever ailment the patient has. Whoever did this to Daniel had it planned beforehand. "
Fraiser spoke up, her tightly clenched hands the only thing betraying her frustration. "Did you find out who's responsible for this? Which doctor? Is there a cure?"
"It's not that simple, Doctor Fraiser." The motor ceased and Ferretti's voice came in more clearly. "The nanocytes are obtained through trade with aliens from another planet. The aliens come and examine the patients and then return a few days later and inject the patients with the nanocytes. Apparently they're cured within the hour. "
"So I take it nobody's tried to reverse the process."
"Not deliberately. But we did find something. Oh wait, just a second." Ferretti's voice was muffled for a second, then became clearer. "Sorry. We're taking off in about five minutes. Doctor, one patient actually fell into a river and drowned. They managed to pull him out and resuscitate him, but when the guy woke up, he was retarded again. "
"Major," Hammond said as the sound of the plane's engines reverberated in the speakers, "you're saying that if Doctor Jackson were somehow... killed, the nanocytes would no longer have hold of him."
"Yes, sir. That's what I was made to understand."
"Did you learn who was behind this?"
There was a pause. "Some of the priests' families were threatened. From the description, it was a Goa'uld."
"Damn, I knew it." Jack slammed his palm on the table in frustration.
"General, we're taking off now. I need to go."
"I understand. There'll be an escort waiting for you at Peterson."
"Thank you, sir. See you in a couple of hours."
- - - - - -
Siler managed to wedge a small surgical blade between the seams of the plastic. Carter had placed the hoipi into a syringe and was maneuvering the tip of the needle into the opening. A technician was busy placing more of the hoipi into a second syringe while Lee was monitoring the nanocytes inside the plastic itself.
"Air Force One has landed at Area 51, sir."
"Thank you, son," Hammond called up to Davis. He and Jack shared a worried look as Carter began injecting the liquid into the bomb. "Please inform Area 51 that we've begun our attempt at dismantling the bomb."
"Sir, the nanocytes have begun a chemical reaction." There was sweat pouring down Lee's face, his eyes were wide with fear.
"How much time do we have?"
"I don't know. Minutes. Seconds."
The reaction was immediate. When the hoipi came in contact with the explosive powder, it crumbled into large crystalline hunks. Within seconds half the container was no longer composed of the powder.
"Area 51 is advising that they're getting ready to dial the Stargate. Everyone is in place; they're just waiting for the President to arrive.
The contents of the second syringe fully transformed the explosive into something much less volatile. Carter nodded at Siler, who eased the blade from the device. Together Siler and another technician lifted a large piece of trinnium that had been shaped to fit around the explosive. They latched it into place on the Stargate.
"Better take cover, sirs. If there's any powder residue left, the explosion could still be pretty nasty."
Quickly following Siler's advice, everyone fled the Gateroom. Jack was several steps away from the exit when there was a loud bang behind him. He raised his arm in reaction and then jumped to shield Hammond with his body as they cowered against the wall.
When the expected annihilation didn't come, he cautiously raised his head and looked back at the Stargate. Everything looked exactly the way they'd left it, except for a small puff of smoke escaping the edges of the trinnium shield.
Hammond fidgeted and Jack moved away, grunting in pain as he realized he'd moved more quickly than he should have. He hadn't felt anything in the fear of the moment but now he was afraid he might have pulled a stitch or two.
"Contact Area 51. Tell them that the bomb has been dismantled and they can stop the evacuation!"
"Yes, sir," Davis replied to Hammond's order. Jack waited for the telltale vibrations that the other Stargate had begun to dial as Siler and Carter approached the Stargate. Donning gloves, Carter hurried to the trinnium shield and began taking it down. Siler joined her scant seconds later and soon the remains of the bomb were revealed.
The mixture of explosives and hoipi had scorched the surrounding shield and had blackened the glyph where the bomb was attached to the 'gate, but no damage was apparent to the Stargate itself. The plastic cover was gone, and the container inside had shattered with the force of the explosion.
Carter grabbed the edges of the bomb and tugged. It fell into her hands.
She grinned as she raised it in triumph.
- - - - - -
Jack walked slowly as he entered the Isolation room. His side throbbed mercilessly despite the pain killers Fraiser had given him. He was dying to lie down. He just needed to get the next few minutes out of the way.
"Wow, you look terrible, Jack." Daniel smiled at Jack, his grin slightly lopsided and goofy and probably caused by the medication, his slightly-crossed eyes making him look even sillier. The look would have endeared him to Jack but at the moment it simply angered him.
"Janet," Daniel yelled, moving his head brusquely towards where Fraiser and her nurses were busy gathering supplies. "You should stop worrying over me and take a look at Jack. He looks like he's gonna keel over or something."
Jack caught Fraiser's eye, and she nodded. She moved over to Daniel's bed and began easing a thick blanket beneath his body as Daniel continued to speak.
"You want him to feel human for the last few moments of his life, don't you? We give a prisoner a last meal before executing them. It's the least you can do for my friend here."
"Is that what this is, Daniel? An execution of the human race?"
Daniel smiled. One that finally reached his eyes. And that was even scarier than the coldness he'd portrayed recently. "Oh yes. The Tau'ri scum will finally be exterminated and the Goa'uld will rule the universe."
"You forget that you're one of the so called scum yourself and that you'll be just as dead as the rest of us."
"Oh, but I've been sanctified." He nodded, still ignoring Fraiser and her nurses as they finished adjusting the cooling blanket beneath Daniel. He laughed softly. "I'm going to die, along with just about everyone else on this planet. But I'm going with the knowledge that I've accomplished my goal. Hey, what're you doing?" Daniel turned his attention to Fraiser as she placed a cold pack on his groin. "That's cold."
"You betcha." Fraiser smiled at Daniel, her smirk feral and satisfied and looking close to the one Daniel had given Jack earlier. "And it's going to get a helluva lot colder." She jammed an ice pack beneath Daniel's armpit. A nurse did the same on his other side.
"That's fine, I was a little warm anyway. So Jack." Daniel turned his attention from Fraiser back to Jack. "Figure out how much time we got left? Things are gonna go up in blazes pretty fast." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "Tick, tock, tick, tock."
"Put a lid on it, will ya?" Jack said, pulling the remains of the bomb from behind his back. "It's your number that's up, asshole."
The look of shock and surprise on Daniel's face was satisfying for a moment. Then Jack's elation faded when Fraiser spoke.
"Give him the Succinocholine and Fentanyl."
"What are you doing?" Daniel screamed as the medication was inserted into his IV. He struggled frantically for a few seconds, then lost the battle. Fraiser quickly intubated him, speaking quietly as Jack moved closer to the bed.
"The process is going to take several hours, sir."
Jack took his attention off Daniel to nod at Fraiser, then turned back to watch, wincing, as she inserted a naso-gastric tube down Daniel's nose.
"What's with the...?" Jack motioned at his own nose.
"We can flush iced saline into his stomach to start cooling off his insides." She placed a hand on Jack's arm and tugged gently. "Go and lie down, get some sleep. I'll come and get you when Daniel's temperature has reached 93 degrees."
"That's when you'll..." Jack couldn't bring himself to say the word.
"Inject Potassium to stop his heart."
- - - - - -
Jack didn't fall asleep so much as pass out. He closed his eyes and then someone was shaking him awake two seconds later.
"Teal'c?" he mumbled groggily, seeing the familiar face above him.
"What're ya doin' in my house?"
"You are in the infirmary, O'Neill. DoctorFraiser has lowered DanielJackson's body temperature to 92 degrees. The time approaches when she shall attempt to rid him of the nanocytes."
Memory came with a rush. Unfortunately the groggy, sleepy feeling didn't leave with the recollection of the past hours. "How long was I asleep?"
"Exactly seven hours, twenty-two minutes."
"Crap." Jack turned onto his side, his body stiff, his wound even stiffer. "Feels like I've only slept two minutes." He pushed himself upright with a loud groan.
"You are not well. I shall call for assistance."
"No." Jack made a motion with his hand as Teal'c reached for the call button beside the bed. "Just stiffened up a little. Give me a sec."
Jack stretched slowly before sliding off the bed. He looked around the infirmary, vaguely remembering walking here after he'd left Daniel's side and climbing onto the first bed he'd seen. Someone must have placed a blanket over him because he had no memory of having done so.
"Do I have time to splash some water on my face?"
Taking small, shuffling steps at first, Jack searched out the closest washroom. All the coffee he'd drank was clamoring for a way out.
Five minutes later he felt slightly more refreshed. Instead of leading him into the Isolation room itself, Teal'c brought him to the observation platform. Hammond and Carter were already there. Jack took a seat, nodding his thanks as Carter handed him a cup of coffee.
All kinds of equipment had been pulled near the bed and there were way too many nurses for Jack's liking. Both Warner and Fraiser were standing around, looking like they were waiting for something.
"They're going to stop his heart when his body temperature reaches 91 degrees," Hammond supplied before Jack could ask. Jack suppressed a shiver at the thought. Then he peered at Daniel and realized he should have been shivering if he was that cold.
"Why isn't he shivering?"
"Janet's given him muscle relaxants to prevent it."
Several long seconds later, something beeped and a nurse confirmed that Daniel was halfway to becoming a Popsicle.
Fraiser reached for a syringe and looked up at them.
Hammond nodded and Fraiser turned to look at the syringe in her hand.
"I'm going to inject the Potassium now. Hopefully the nanocytes will think he's dead and deactivate within the next few minutes." She moved to the IV and began injecting the contents of the syringe into the IV port. "Much more than five minutes and Daniel might suffer brain damage." She dropped the IV and stood, waiting. "Remember, he may still suffer brain damage. There are no guarantees and we don't know if the nanocytes themselves might have caused—"
An alarm screeched as Daniel flatlined. Jack felt his heart skip a beat. His body tensed up despite knowing this would happen. One of the nurses disconnected the ventilator while another removed the ice packs and turned the cooling blanket off. Jack closed his eyes and began praying.
"Janet, what happens if the nanocytes don't deactivate within five minutes?"
"Damnit, Carter," Jack mumbled beneath his breath. That was something he was trying not to think of.
"I'm confident they will, Sam," Fraiser answered. "If the nanocytes stopped working after one of the victims drowned and he survived without any further noticeable brain damage, then he had to be dead for that minimum amount of time."
They all mulled the doctor's words, then watched anxiously as a nurse gave a one minute warning. Blood was drawn from a line in Daniel's wrist and placed under a microscope. The image showed up on computer screens, visible to everyone in the room including those in the observation room.
"No change," Warner declared. "Draw another sample at the three minute mark."
Jack had his hands wrapped around the coffee cup, trying to absorb its warmth into suddenly cold fingers. There was no way he could drink the stuff right now; even the few sips he'd already taken were burning in his stomach.
They all watched silently again as a second blood sample was taken and examined. The picture on the screen didn't seem to have changed from the previous one; Jack squinted at the many small octagonal shapes squirming around on the screen. Legs or antennae waved rapidly in the liquid, occasionally touching if they came close to one another then moving on.
"Try again at the four minute mark."
Jack took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Carter's hands were clenched tightly around one another; Hammond was leaning forward, his fingers drumming softly on the ledge, while Teal'c sat unmoving, his jaw tight, his body nearly strumming with tension.
"It'll be fine, big guy," Jack said, nudging Teal'c's arm with his elbow. He inadvertently jostled the cup and coffee sloshed over his fingers.
"I have every confidence," Teal'c said, his voice low and rumbling in the small space as Jack wiped the coffee on his pants.
The four minute mark came up fast and Jack stared down at his watch, watching the minute hand go around, feeling his body tense up even more. He could feel sweat begin to trickle under his arms and down his back.
By rote, the nurse pulled blood from Daniel and carried it to the microscope.
"Damn," Fraiser exclaimed. Again, there had been no change.
Fraiser was beginning to look harried and Jack knew there was nothing she could do. Like him, she simply had to wait.
Time had inexplicably sped up. Blood was drawn again and rushed to the microscope, only to have the bugs seemingly waving their tentacles mockingly at them.
"Draw some more."
Jack was leaning forward, alternating between staring at his watch and glaring at the critters on the screen. When blood was drawn again as the clock ticked on close to six minutes, he waited anxiously for the image to shift. This time, the shapes appeared to be lying still in the liquid, their little tentacles drifting limply in the current. Jack felt hope begin to surge through him.
"That's got it." Suddenly the room became a flurry of activity.
"Injecting D50W and Insulin." Warner grabbed two syringes and injected them into Daniel's IV.
"Beginning CPR." Fraiser began chest compressions. A nurse detached the ventilator from the tube and bagged him. Together, they began to pump oxygen and the medication throughout Daniel's body.
A few minutes later Fraiser stopped the compressions and turned expectantly to Warner, who was watching one of the medical monitors. "There's no electrical activity. Give him an amp of Epi," he ordered as Fraiser started the compressions again.
After several more minutes, Fraiser stopped and this time Warner's words caused an immediate reaction. "Looks like fine V-Fib. Let's try shocking him."
The crash cart was immediately pushed closer to the bed. As the defibrillator charged, another nurse pulled down Daniel's gown and bared his chest. "Clear," Warner called out when the machine was ready.
Jack averted his eyes, staring instead at his friends faces. There were tears slowly sliding down Carter's cheeks and Hammond looked pale. The noises coming from the medical area were enough to make Jack want to puke. He turned to Teal'c instead and watched the faint lines of pain in the Jaffa's face.
After two attempts to restart Daniel's heart, the decision was made to continue CPR. Fraiser hopped on top of the gurney and began chest compressions while a nurse continued to manually ventilate him.
Warner took a moment to address those in the observation area. "This isn't uncommon with a hypothermic patient. We'll allow his body to warm up a little more before attempting the defibrillator again."
After several minutes, Fraiser changed places with a nurse. Fraiser was out of breath, but she looked up towards the observation area for a moment as she tucked loose hair behind her ear. Her attention turned to Warner as he spoke with her for a moment. She nodded and Warner returned to the defibrillator.
This time they shocked Daniel several times before they were finally rewarded with a heartbeat. He was immediately placed back onto the ventilator and a shiny, light blue blanket was spread over Daniel.
"We're going to warm Daniel up slowly with the Bear Hugger to try and prevent rebound cerebral edema and cardiac dysrhythmias," Fraiser explained as a hose was connected to a hole in the blanket. A small motor began to pump air into the blanket, blowing it up like a puffy sleeping bag. "It'll take ten to twelve hours to bring his core temperature back to normal. Right now his heart is bradycardic, but it's beating on its own, which is the important thing. His heartbeat will slowly increase as he warms up."
Jack reached for the mic and cleared his throat. He was surprised when his voice came out normal. "So... everything's good?"
"As good as can be expected, Colonel. As a precaution, we'll continue monitoring the nanocytes as Daniel warms up. Like I said, this will take a while. It's late. You may all want to go get some rest and come back in several hours."
The general pushed his chair away and stood. "Thank you, Doctor Fraiser. I'll inform the President that your treatment worked. Good work, people."
Hammond turned to SG-1 and spoke softly. "I'd suggest all of you go get some more sleep. It's been a rough day and you've all been through hell of one kind or another."
"Yes, sir." Carter was struggling not to cry, her face red with her efforts, her eyes pooled with unshed tears.
Chuckling softly, Hammond said, "I don't envy the President explaining to everyone that this was just a drill to see how quickly the Nation could rally in case of an emergency. Good thing we didn't get around to evacuating any other countries."
Hammond left before Carter could embarrass herself. She sniffled loudly when the door closed behind him. "Sorry, sir," she said after a moment, seeming to get herself under control.
"Hell, I feel the same way, Carter." Jack gave her a lopsided grin. He couldn't blame her, he knew she was exhausted and had to still be hurting from the battering Daniel had given her. "I'm just too tired to cry."
She giggled softly, her fatigue making her a little giddy. "I think I'd better go to bed." She looked into the Isolation room again, biting her lip.
"I will remain here and keep watch. If there are any changes worth reporting, I will awaken you both."
Jack nodded. "Thanks, Teal'c." He rose slowly, his hand against his ribs, and walked out slightly hunched over as healing muscles prevented him from straightening.
- - - - - -
Someone was calling his name. The sound of the voice was coming from far away, down a long tunnel. Even as he recognized Jack's voice, he realized his friend had been calling his name for a long time now.
He wanted to tell Jack to let him sleep another five minutes, but the effort was too great. Then there was an insistent tapping on his cheek. He tried to bat it away but only managed to hit his chin with his hand.
"C'mon, open your eyes."
If talking to Jack wouldn't work, then maybe glaring at him would. He opened his eyes, found Jack amidst the blur of upside down faces surrounding him, did the glare thing, then shut his eyes again.
He drifted off to sleep amidst soft laughter and a ruffle of his hair.
- - - - - -
"I don't think he's quite ready to wake up yet, sir," Carter teased as Daniel's eyelids slowly fluttered closed.
"So today it's because he's pumped full of sedatives. What's his excuse for a normal day?" Still, Jack couldn't help but grin when Daniel had opened his eyes and searched him out. "This is a good sign, right?"
"It's still too early to tell, sir." Fraiser fiddled with the blankets covering Daniel. "We'll know if Daniel's suffered brain damage when he's a little more alert. The good thing is that he's nearly weaned from the vent. We'll take that out as soon as he's wide awake."
They'd taken out the tube going down his nose a couple of hours ago, and the air-pumped sleeping bag had been turned off a half-hour ago. Jack touched Daniel's arm and felt warm skin beneath his fingers. He'd been half afraid to touch Daniel earlier and had been relieved to feel normal skin temperature when he'd tapped his cheek.
Jack sat back in his chair, settling down to wait some more. At least he was feeling no pain at the moment. He'd slept nine hours straight, getting up only when Teal'c had come to wake both him and Carter. They'd had time to wash up and eat breakfast before coming down to the infirmary. At the rate Daniel was waking up, Jack could have had an extra hour of sleep.
By the time General Hammond joined them, Daniel was beginning to move around in the bed. Jack leaned forward, getting ready to tease Daniel into wakefulness until Fraiser cleared her throat threateningly behind him.
"Let him wake up on his own," she said with a warning arch of an eyebrow.
"Yeah, sure." He curtailed the idea of tickling Daniel's nose with a piece of cotton he'd swiped and looked for something to keep him occupied in the meantime. He stared at his fingers and began to beat out a song on his thighs.
Jack looked up to see Carter lean over Daniel, smiling widely. Daniel's eyes were open.
"Well, it's about time." Jack spoke a little more loudly, trying to catch Daniel's attention again. Daniel's gaze shifted, meeting his. Suddenly Jack stiffened. That off-kilter, unfocused look was back in Daniel's eyes. The one the other Daniel had worn all along; the one who'd been changed by the nanocytes in his brain.
"I see it, sir." She leaned over Daniel and gripped his chin, moving his head so he was looking directly at her. Suddenly Daniel began fighting her, his breathing speeding up until the ventilator took over and thrust air into his lungs.
Daniel's eyes grew wider and he struggled harder. Teal'c leaned across Jack and held Daniel's shoulders down against the bed while Carter jumped on his legs until an orderly could take over.
"Daniel, relax. You have a tube in your throat that's helping you breathe." Fraiser leaned directly over Daniel and repeated her words. "You have to relax. I'm going to take it out in a short while but until then you need to stop fighting. Just try to breathe normally."
Daniel appeared to relax, his gaze shifting all around, his body growing looser as he obeyed Fraiser. She motioned to Teal'c to let him go as she slowly straightened. The ventilator kicked in again, startling Daniel once more. He closed his eyes, squeezing them tightly shut, and attempted to take deeper breaths.
"Good, Daniel, that's very good. Just relax and keep breathing normally. If you start to panic and breathe shallowly, the ventilator thinks you're in trouble and it'll force a breath for you. If you breathe nice and slow, it won't kick in.
"Can you open your eyes, Daniel? I'd like to do a couple of tests?"
Daniel obeyed, staring at her with that odd, unfocused look. Fraiser held the penlight in her hand and told him to follow it with his eyes only. He began tracking the pen but almost immediately his eyes rolled up into his head and he squeezed them tightly shut.
Fraiser gave them all a worried look, then placed her hands on Daniel's cheeks. "Want to try it again?" she asked softly.
Daniel opened his eyes slowly, squinting as he tried to keep track of the penlight. A second later he slammed his eyes shut again. Then suddenly, despite Fraiser's warnings, his breathing began to hitch and the ventilator went off. Daniel kicked out while reaching up with his good hand for the cords holding the tube steady. He wrestled with the bindings, trying to pull the tube out.
"Okay, okay, Daniel, stop it. I'll take it out now."
Both Teal'c and the orderly struggled to hold Daniel down while Fraiser grabbed a pair of scissors and quickly cut the cords. In a deft move, she pulled the long snake-like tubing out of Daniel's mouth.
She waved to the men to let Daniel go. With a harsh cry, Daniel turned onto his side and buried his face in the pillow.
Fraiser's face told it all. There was definitely a problem. Either they'd made a mistake and the nanocytes weren't dead after all, or else Daniel had suffered brain damage.
- - - - - -
Daniel tried to curl up on his side. Opening his eyes had caused horrendous nausea. However, with the tube out of his throat, he felt a little more in control. At least he wouldn't have air blown into his lungs without warning. But his throat was scratchy and his chest ached. His right arm appeared to be strapped to his body and his left thigh was throbbing with pain. None of these discomforts was as bad as the shock of what he'd seen.
"Daniel?" Janet's voice sounded slightly behind him and close to his ear. "I'm going to give you a sedative, okay?"
"No." His voice was muffled by the pillow, so he wasn't sure if Janet heard him. He turned his mouth away from the obstruction and with his eyes still tightly closed, repeated, "No."
"Okay. But it might help you relax." He heard Janet's footsteps walk around the bed and stop in front of him. "Can you tell me if you're experiencing any pain or discomfort?"
"I can't see."
Someone had been rubbing his back. He hadn't even been aware of it until the moment the person stopped. Daniel stiffened. The hand began its soothing motion again.
There was a rustle of material and fingers touched his cheek, startling him. Daniel tried not to flinch but he couldn't help himself.
"Do you see absolutely nothing or is your vision blurred?"
Daniel shook his head. "It's upside down."
"Daniel, I'm not sure I understand."
"Everything's upside down."
"You're sure about this? Sometimes the medication can make you a little groggy, a little confused. Can you open your eyes and tell me how many fingers I'm holding up?"
Daniel didn't want to open his eyes. The disorientation and dizziness he experienced from what he saw was horrible. But maybe things had settled now. Maybe it had been the drugs. He turned so he was lying half on his side, half on his back and opened his eyes. The hand that had been rubbing his back shifted to hold onto his bicep for a moment before letting go.
Nothing had changed. All the angles were wrong. Lines were curved and curves were straight. It was as if Daniel was hanging upside down on the bed and looking up – everything was different. Desperate, Daniel searched for Janet, biting down hard on his bottom lip to try and stay in control. Janet was holding up a hand with three fingers raised.
"Three." Daniel shut his eyes quickly. "Three fingers," he gasped.
"Okay, good." She touched his hand, which was squeezing the life out of the pillow. "Try and relax," she said gently. "Tell me what you're feeling."
"Dizzy. Nauseated." Daniel took quick stock of his body. "My throat's sore and my chest hurts. And my shoulder. And my leg."
"Your throat's sore due to the vent. Do you feel disoriented with your eyes closed?"
"No. Just when I try to see."
"I'm going to order more tests, and there's an Ophthalmologist I'd like to have examine you. Doctor Molinari is a good friend. I'll speak to the General to see if I can get him clearance." She touched his shoulder gently. "Try and relax. Do you want some water?"
"Yeah. Please? Can you tell me what happened?" Daniel raised a hand and rubbed at his chest, feeling the ache of bruises beneath the skin. There was the clink of glass on glass and the unmistakable sound of pouring water.
"I'll take it."
Daniel recognized Jack's voice, and suddenly memories came flooding back. Oh God, he had to warn them. "Jack!"
"I'm here." A hand caught his flailing arm and held onto it. "Careful, I've got your water."
Ignoring Jack's words, Daniel tried to sit up, opening his eyes in his panic. "There's a Goa'uld." Disoriented, he grabbed at Jack, trying to figure out which way was up. He heard a pained grunt as he smacked Jack in the ribs and Jack's face, upside down and somewhat twisted, unmistakably winced. Then Jack caught his arm, holding Daniel steady as he was forced to shut his eyes.
"Yeah, I know. We... it's okay, you're safe."
"Did it hurt you? Are you okay?" Forcing his eyes open again, Daniel tried to lean over to check on his friend and found himself moving in the wrong direction. He nearly toppled over the edge of the bed when his strength gave out. Strong arms caught him as he was forced to close his eyes once more.
"I have you, DanielJackson. Do not be alarmed."
Daniel nodded as Teal'c eased him back to safety.
"We're fine, Daniel. A couple of scratches and bruises. Nothing serious." There was a short pause. "Do you want the water?"
He wasn't sure if his stomach could take the liquid but he was dying to ease the irritation in his throat, so he nodded slowly. Jack took his hand and curled his fingers around a glass. Together, they brought the glass up to his mouth. He managed to sip without bumping his teeth against the edge.
Water sloshed onto his fingers, making Daniel realize he was shaking. Someone took the glass away while other hands helped him back down onto the pillow. The mattress dipped as someone sat beside him, pulling a blanket up close to his shoulders.
"Do you remember what the Goa'uld wanted, Daniel?"
Sam. That was Sam sitting beside him. He reached out, touched her leg and then his hand was caught in hers. His fingers were chilled compared to hers.
"No, not really. He zatted me. No, wait, it was the other... the alien." Memories of the pain and apprehension and the realization that he was a goner exhausted him. "He's the one who zatted me. Twice."
- - - - - -
It might have been the residue of whatever drugs Janet had given him when he'd been on the ventilator, or she might have slipped a sedative into his IV. In any case, Daniel ended up dozing through a myriad of tests, waking only when they moved him from gurney to table to gurney to room. By the time he was settled in a bed again, he was grumpy and wanted nothing more than to be left alone to sleep.
He thought he was alone until he heard Janet speaking.
"You may as well go get some rest, sir. He'll probably sleep for a while."
There was a slight chuckle. "Yeah, he looks kinda out of it."
That was Jack. Daniel felt a small surge of annoyance that Jack was here. Not that he didn't appreciate Jack worrying about him, but now he felt obliged to wake up and entertain his guest. Still his comfort was taking precedence over his guilt and he half hoped Jack would give up and let him sleep.
"You look pretty beat yourself."
"Yeah. I could do with a nap."
"How's the wound? Has anyone changed your bandage?"
"I was due to come by in a couple of hours."
"Well since you're here, let me have a look and do the honors."
It took Daniel a few seconds to register what Janet had asked. Wound? The Goa'uld had injured Jack?
All thoughts of sleep fled as worry for his friend hit him. He opened his eyes, searching the sea of turmoil for Jack. Distant objects were even more difficult to focus on, so it took him several unnerving seconds to find Jack. He was sitting on a bed, torso exposed as Fraiser removed a bandage from his ribs. Daniel saw the line of stitches and then the vertigo hit and he needed to grab a handful of mattress to stop from falling off the bed despite the fact that he was lying flat on his back. Somehow having only one working arm didn't help matters any.
"So, what's the verdict?"
"There's no sign of infection. Does this hurt?"
"Not me, Daniel. Have you figured out what's wrong with him?"
"You didn't answer my question, sir."
"You didn't answer mine. Uh, what was the question?"
"Does this hurt?"
"There's no trace of nanocytes in his bloodstream. Just like you, they were probably destroyed by his immune system when they became inactive. But that doesn't solve the problem with his sight."
"What about the deep freeze? Could that have caused..."
"It's unlikely but at this point I'm not ruling anything out. But the other... Daniel... seemed to have the same cross-eyed look so I'm assuming the same disorientation affected him but the nanocytes probably helped him cope a little better. There you are, sir. Go and get some sleep."
"I will. Thanks."
For a long time there was silence. That's when Daniel realized he was alone. Jack and Janet's conversation had been confusing and he tried not to dwell on it. His yearning to sleep had gone and he had the uncommon urge to not let go of the bed in case he fell off and couldn't find his way back onto it. His spatial orientation was telling him he was lying safely in bed but he was afraid of needing to use his eyes to try and orient himself.
"Hey, what's with the grip of death?"
Daniel jumped. He could have sworn Jack had gone. He laughed self-consciously as he forced his fingers to let go of the bed linen. "Sorry. Slight panic attack. I keep thinking if I fall out of bed, I'll never find my way back up here."
The bed bounced slightly as something clicked into place. "The bed rail behind you is already up and I've just put this one up too, so you won't fall out."
Daniel raised his hand and felt for the metal rails. His knuckles banged painfully against them and he lowered his hand, satisfied.
"You gonna be okay here?"
"Yeah. What about you? What's with the..." Daniel motioned blindly towards his own ribs, then moved his hand back to the rails, looping his fingers around the metal bar.
"That looked like more than a scratch."
"It's not serious. It could have been much worse but the enemy was just toying with me."
"Carter got roughed up a little. Teal'c's fine."
Knowing everyone was okay, Daniel relaxed a little more. His hand suddenly felt heavy and keeping it up on the bar felt like too much effort. He let it drop back to the bed.
"Go to sleep."
"Mmm hmm," Daniel mumbled.
- - - - - -
He couldn't keep the smile from his face as he easily held the knife in his hand. His prey moved closer, spotting the victim he'd already dealt a knockout blow. His quarry hesitated, then decided to turn tail. He made his move then, hitting the man from behind and stabbing him. His instincts told him to finish the man but his pride wanted him to live long enough to know what was happening. With his loot firmly in hand, he hurried to the door. He shut it firmly behind him, knowing it would lock and not open easily from the inside thanks to his tampering. Schooling a puzzled frown on his face, he began assembling the bomb as he walked. The corridor's walls and ceilings were disconcertingly unsettling, their angles at odds with what this body was accustomed to. He compensated for the abnormal viewpoint, walking by rote to his destination, using this one's memories and knowledge of the base. He nodded abstractedly to whoever greeted him, his attention wholly on whatever puzzle he appeared to be working on, when in fact he was completing the last portion of the explosive device. All that was required was to set the timer. He easily walked into the area he'd targeted and nodded to the guards on duty. He gave them a preoccupied greeting and moved deeper inside, all the while searching for a place to set the bomb where it wouldn't be discovered. Inwardly he laughed at the ease with which he accomplished his goals, despite the disorientation he had to constantly fight. Rooms and corridors were navigated with both ease and perplexity, his timing slightly reduced due to his constant fight with this one's ocular discrepancies. He was in the process of setting the timer when he heard this one's name being called. He looked up and saw the Shol'va near the entrance. He smiled. He was too late. Concentrating on setting the timer, he was shocked when pain exploded in his shoulder. His arm fell uselessly to his side, and he staggered from the shock. He looked past his goal to see the Shol'va walking slowly towards him, flanked by several of the Tau'ri security force. All of them had weapons trained on him. No matter, it would only take another second to send the last burst of instructions. He reached his other arm up. It was with a sense of shock that he fell to the ground, his left leg giving out on him, the pain matching the one in his right shoulder. He had set the timer. He just had no idea how much time was left before the bomb exploded. It didn't matter. It would be entertaining watching these humans attempt to dismantle it before the explosion—
Daniel jerked awake, the satisfaction of a job well done and the knowledge that the home world of the Tau'ri known as Earth was soon to be blown up confusing him with the horror of what was going to happen.
"Jack? Teal'c? Sam?" Somehow Daniel got over the raised railing, feeling something rip out of his hand while wires flew off his chest. He got several feet past his bed in his initial panic with alarms ringing around him when he realized he had no idea where he was going. Then the pain in his leg hit him.
Daniel turned towards the voice, taking a limping step forward on a floor that his eyes told him was above his head.
"I need to see someone. General Hammond. Colonel O'Neill."
"The Colonel's asleep. I'll tell him you were asking for him when he wakes up." The nurse wrapped an arm around his waist. "Let me just get you back to bed and—"
"No, I need to see someone now. It's urgent." He pulled away from her and stumbled a couple of steps to his left, banging into a metal table. Hurrying down the hallway and turned into the corridor and came up hard against a wall, jarring his shoulder. The pain left him gasping. He had no idea where he was and he was going to fall down in just a second—
"Doctor Jackson, please—"
"Jack." Daniel pulled away from the nurse who was trying to drag him back the way he'd come. He managed to lean his back against the wall, taking the weight off his injured leg and looked blindly around for his friend.
"Here." There was movement to his left and he turned towards it. "What the hell did you do to yourself?" Jack grabbed his hand and held it up. There was a red smear all along his arm and fingers.
"Doctor Jackson pulled out his IV."
"You're bleeding like a stuck pig."
"What?" A hand came into view and held something white over the red.
"Did you fall out of bed? I thought I'd pulled up the railing to stop you—" Jack and the nurse began leading him away from the table. He walked with a heavy limp, trusting them to lead him in the right direction.
"No. I dreamed—" Daniel dug his feet in and stopped all forward movement. "Jack, there's a bomb. We have to—"
"Whoa, Danny. We know. We disarmed it. It's okay, everything's under control."
"You... you did?"
"It was kinda touch and go before Carter figured out how to disarm it but everything's cool now."
Daniel blew out a breath, feeling some of the tension leak out of him. He allowed himself to be led back to the bed, needing their support to walk, when he realized his vision had improved. Everything was still upside down and disorienting, but at least the angles looked right. Walls were straight and curves were arched.
Jack lowered the rails to his bed and Daniel lay down gratefully. He squinted, watching as the nurse placed a bandage on the torn skin of his hand. He waited until she'd cleaned up the mess around his bed and reinserted the IV before turning to Jack.
"I stabbed you."
"You remember that?"
Daniel nodded, regretting the movement when his balance teetered. He made a grab for the mattress and hung on for a second. "And Teal'c shot me. Twice." He winced at the remembered pain from the dream. His leg and arm were throbbing, making him shift uncomfortably. "How bad was it?"
"You were bleeding pretty bad but they got you up to surgery and—"
"Not me. You."
"It's not that bad. You didn't hit anything I actually needed to survive."
"Mild concussion and bruises. She's fine. She's sleeping, which is what you should be doing."
"The nurse said you'd been sleeping..."
"Yeah. I was using one of the infirmary beds until I heard someone yelling bloody murder and woke up to see you walk into a wall."
Daniel raised a hand to gingerly touch his injured shoulder. "My eyesight's a little... off."
"Still seeing upside down?"
"Yeah. But it's gotten a little better."
"I'd suggest waiting until it gets a lot better before you start wandering the base again."
"In my defense, I was trying to warn you."
"True. But like I said, the bomb's gone, the Stargate's secure and—"
"Why'd you mention the Stargate?"
"Because that's where the bomb was."
"No, it wasn't."
"Yes, it was."
"Daniel, I saw it with my own eyes. The bomb discharged in the Gateroom, right on top of the Stargate. They're checking it out now to make sure there was no damage to the—"
"Jack, the bomb's not on the Stargate." He sat up in alarm. "It's in the 'gate generators."
"No, Daniel. You put it on the Stargate. Teal'c shot you to stop you from setting it off."
"Then there must be two—"
Both of them stopped arguing and turned as Teal'c hurried into the infirmary.
"CaptainCarter has ascertained that the explosive powder in the incendiary device contained more than the sample she brought back from P0H-871. She fears the powder DanielJackson took from her may have been used in a second—"
"The 'gate generators," Jack and Daniel yelled in unison.
At Teal'c's look of confusion, Jack barked, "Trust me on this." Teal'c quickly turned and ran to the nearest telephone.
"Bastard had us playing the fool. He probably realized we'd figure out how to disarm the bomb on the Stargate when all the time he set another bomb to go off on the generators. If he couldn't destroy the planet, he'd damn well destroy the mountain. And get his kicks watching us gloat that we had one over him when all this time... Damn." Jack smacked the bed with his fist, making Daniel jump.
"This is my doing, isn't it," Daniel asked in a small voice.
"No!" Jack's face softened, the anger draining from his body. "No," he said more softly. "Not you. They used you. The Goa'uld used you."
"CaptainCarter is on her way to the generators with the hoipi. I would go and assist."
Teal'c nodded at Daniel and ran out of the room. A moment later the alarms sounded, making Daniel wince even though the level of noise was muted in the infirmary.
Daniel hated lying and waiting. He felt helpless and responsible. He squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again. Somehow seeing upside down wasn't quite as disconcerting as it had been a few minutes ago. Maybe it was the adrenaline surging through his body. "What did happen to me? Nobody's said anything..."
"Nanocytes. You know, like those little buggers that Pelops infected the people on—hey, you okay?
"Oh God, no! Get them out. Did you get them out? Get them out." Daniel realized at that moment that the thoughts he'd had while dreaming had been a consciousness not of his own making. The thousands of invaders inside of him had taken over his body, his brain, had forced him to hurt his friends and threatened to destroy them all.
Just the thought of something alien inside of him had Daniel wanting to tear his skin and bleed them out. The feeling was akin to the time he'd waded into a pond when he was a child and had found himself covered with leeches. He couldn't seem to catch his breath. The idea of the nanocytes was suddenly worse than the possibility of being blown up.
"Easy, easy. They're gone." Jack grabbed Daniel's hand, stopping him from trying to tear his hospital gown off. "Fraiser deactivated them and said your immune system ate them up."
"You're sure?" Daniel shivered, terrified that there was still something inside of him, waiting for a vulnerable moment to take him over again. It was not unlike a Goa'uld. He was terrified of suffering the same fate as Shau'ri.
"Positive, otherwise you'd still be strapped down to the bed. Trust me, after what I've seen the past several hours, those things have got to be dead and gone." Jack signaled to someone. Daniel turned to see a nurse hovering close by. "It's okay, he's fine."
Daniel took a deep breath, trying to ease the tension and fear that gripped him. "I don't remember... well, okay, except for the dream I just had, things are a little upside down, pardon the pun." Daniel knuckled his eyes, feeling a headache looming on top of all his aches and pains. "Where's the switch for this thing?" Daniel looked around, found the bed's control near his pillow and raised the head so he was sitting up. "So I'm guessing these aren't the same kind of bugs you were infected with, huh?" He reached for the blankets one-handed, then realized he was sitting on them.
"No, not exactly." Jack pulled the blankets from beneath his hip and injured leg, spreading them over Daniel's lower body. "These were programmed to take over parts of your brain while leaving your memories intact."
"They caused me to do things... Jack, I—" The power went out, leaving them in total darkness for a second before the emergency generators kicked in. Daniel tensed and glanced around, expecting to feel or hear an explosion of some kind.
"Relax." Jack placed his hand on his good shoulder. "They probably turned the power off as a precaution."
"We'd have felt something if there'd been an explosion, right? We're only four floors above the generators."
"Daniel, if that thing blows, the whole mountain blows. The stuff's pretty powerful. Makes C-4 look like a match compared to dynamite."
Daniel's headache increased with Jack's words. The stress plus the odd red cast to the emergency lighting wasn't helping, not to mention everything he saw was still upside down. He closed his eyes, trying to ease the discomfort, but opened them a moment later when he heard the familiar tap, tap of Janet's heels.
"Doesn't look like many of us are going to get any sleep tonight." She smiled down at him, then frowned when she saw his bandaged hand. "I heard you had a little excitement. How's the pain?"
"It's not so bad." It wasn't if he didn't try to move. His shoulder and leg were throbbing, out of synch with one another.
"Do you want something for it?"
Daniel hesitated; he wanted relief – he wasn't some kind of idiot who thrived on pain, but at the same time he was afraid the medication would dull his reflexes and if they needed to try and evacuate... then he realized what Jack had said. The mountain would be destroyed if that bomb blew. Maybe he'd be better off not knowing when it happened. Before he could make up his mind, Janet must have taken his indecision as a yes.
"I'll get you some relief. Be right back."
He watched Janet walk to the supply room. "What was Teal'c talking about? He mentioned something called hoppy?"
"Some stuff Ferretti went back to the planet to get that'll make the powder a little less volatile..."
With one ear Daniel listened to Jack recount what had happened while he tried to match Jack's visuals to the memories in his dream. Some things fitted, others he'd have to figure out later. Daniel feared they'd never find out which Goa'uld had been responsible. Most likely even the priests, or Itirah himself, wouldn't be able to shed much light. Not that Daniel wanted to return to the planet to find out; the memory of the fear he'd experienced when the alien had aimed the zat at him a second time was more than incentive to stay away.
Jack kept talking as Janet came back and added the medication to his IV. Shortly thereafter, the throbbing and the headache eased considerably. With the lessening of the pain, he felt he could deal with whatever happened.
Until he found himself nodding off a few seconds later.
He glanced quickly at Jack, who had stopped talking and had an amused look on his face. Quickly Daniel looked for something to say, to show that he'd been paying attention. For a moment he couldn't think of anything.
"I thought you'd said Sam was asleep."
"Yeah, I did."
"She can't have been sleeping if she just realized there was a problem with the explosives."
"Obviously Carter's idea of sleeping isn't quite the same as mine."
"How long..." Daniel cleared his throat, uncomfortable in asking the next question. "How long did it take to dismantle the bomb on the Stargate?"
"Barely a minute. If this is the same setup, Carter should be just about finished with—"
The room suddenly brightened as the regular lights came back on. Daniel raised his head in anticipation and dread.
"See?" Jack sounded way too sure that this was a good sign.
A second later the alarms stopped. "That's my girl."
Daniel laid his head back against the pillow in relief.
- - - - - -
When Daniel woke up, he found someone had lowered his bed back to a flat position and pulled the blankets up to his shoulders. He didn't remember falling asleep; the last thing he did remember was the lights coming back on and knowing someone had stopped the mountain from blowing up.
He stretched slowly and turned his head. "Hey, Sam," he said when he saw who was sitting next to him.
"Hey, yourself." The dark bruise on her cheekbone was livid but it didn't stop her from grinning at him. Daniel raised his hand towards her face, touching the back of his fingers to the area just below the injury.
"I'm sorry about that."
Sam caught his fingers with one hand and held them against her face a moment before wrapping her other hand around them. She lowered his hand so that it rested against her knee, still nestled between her palms. "Don't. It wasn't you. There's no need."
Daniel nodded then looked around his bed. "Seen my glasses?" he yawned.
Sam leaned back, reaching into the drawer of a nearby table, she removed his glasses from one of them. He pulled his hand away from hers and took the glasses. When everything came into focus, he sighed. "That's better."
"You can see?" Sam asked, surprised.
Daniel blinked, looked around the room and realized his vision was back to normal. "Yeah." He grinned up at Sam. "I think the nanocytes did that to me." He twirled a finger near his eyes. "I remember having a hard time with my vision when trying to plant the bombs—"
"You remember what happened?"
Daniel frowned. "Um, not really. I had this dream where I think I remembered some of what happened..." He raised his hand to rub the back of his neck. "So, you fixed the bomb? I mean, I know you disarmed the one on the Stargate, Jack told me. But you stopped the second one?"
Sam nodded. "I just hope that's the last of them. Siler's going through security logs and tapes to see if you made any other side trips but we don't think you..." She broke off and gave him an apologetic smile.
"I don't remember any more than two of them. I dreamed about taking the explosives from you and hurting both you and Jack, setting the first bomb, then getting shot by Teal'c. Someone said I got shot beside the Stargate so I hope that's—"
"Colonel Maybourne, Doctor Jackson is under my care and I will not have you barging in here disturbing him until I say—"
Daniel glanced at Sam worriedly as Janet, General Hammond and Colonel Maybourne strode into the infirmary, with Janet two steps in front of Maybourne as if trying to deter him. Maybourne caught sight of Daniel and made a beeline for him despite Janet's tirade. Sam immediately stood at their approach.
"I'm not going to disturb him, my dear Doctor. I'm just getting a sample of his blood." Maybourne stopped by Daniel's bed and opened up a briefcase. Daniel felt the blood flow from his face as Maybourne took out a small case, removing a syringe and a long rubber band.
"General." Janet turned to General Hammond, frustration and anger in her voice.
"Doctor, my hands are tied. The President himself has sanctioned the tests. Area 51 has been authorized to study the possibility of using the nanocytes ourselves."
"But Daniel's body has absorbed all of them. There's no trace of the nanocytes in his blood. This isn't necessary."
Maybourne motioned to Daniel to stick his arm out. Instead, Daniel held his arm close to his body in defiance.
"Don't make this more difficult, Doctor Jackson. I haven't done this very often and I certainly wouldn't want to accidentally hurt you." The grin on Maybourne's face indicated just the opposite.
"General Hammond? If you don't mind, I'd feel a lot better if you let Doctor Fraiser stick that in me. Trust me, she's had a lot of practice the past few hours." Daniel glanced down at his arm where the bruising and healing punctures were testaments to his observation. And if General Hammond's hands were tied, then there was nothing Daniel could do to stop Maybourne from getting his blood, but he could make this less painful for himself.
With a grand motion, Maybourne handed Janet the syringe and rubber band. She expertly drew Daniel's blood, capped the needle and handed the sample back to him with a closed look on her face.
"Now, I need all the remnants of whatever samples you took from Doctor Jackson over the course of the last twenty-four hours." Maybourne picked up the rubber band Janet had left on the side of Daniel's bed and added it to the case.
"There aren't any." Janet crossed her arms and raised her chin.
"Doctor Fraiser. Doctor Jackson was shot. Twice. He had to have bled all over the floor, all over your sheets, all over your bandages, all over the operating room. I'm sure you have those scraps of bloody materials somewhere waiting to be disposed."
Janet grinned. "Yes, he did bleed. And the moment we discovered his body was teeming with nanocytes, we incinerated everything. Up to and including the bedding Daniel was sleeping on until his blood tests came clean. I'm sorry, Colonel, the only thing you have that holds any bit of Daniel is in that syringe. And it'll contain nothing but the usual things found in a human being."
Maybourne turned to Hammond in outraged shock. "Incinerated?"
"SOP, Colonel. You wouldn't have wanted any of our staff to have become infected, would you?"
Maybourne gave Daniel a scathing look before snapping the small case closed around his blood sample and placing it back into his briefcase. He turned on his heels and left without a further word.
Hammond nodded at Fraiser in thanks, gave Daniel a quick smile, then hurried after the departing colonel.
"You're not going to put the cost of the blankets on my tab, are you, Janet?"
"No, but you're going to owe me dinner for this one."
"It's a date. I think I owe all of you guys dinner." He looked at Sam, smiling.
"I'm sure as heck not going to refuse a free meal. I'm sure the Colonel and Teal'c won't either."
"Is it my imagination, Daniel, or is your eyesight slightly improved?" Janet leaned closer to the bed and Daniel grinned.
"Let me be the judge of that." She slipped out her penlight and Daniel's smile faded. Sam patted his blanket-covered leg. Waving goodbye, she left him alone with Janet.
- - - - - -
Daniel hobbled carefully into O'Malley's, Teal'c was by his side should he falter, Jack behind him with Sam and Janet leading the way. He was conscious of people watching his slow progress as he used his cane for support. He was still weaker than he'd like thanks to the fact that he hadn't been able to get around with crutches because of his injured shoulder. At least now he was out of the wheelchair and somewhat ambulatory.
"I haven't been here in ages." Janet turned to give Daniel a wide smile as she pulled out a chair, waiting for him to make his careful way to the table. Teal'c took his cane as he sat. He and Jack flanked Daniel, with the women taking seats at both ends of the table.
Leaning back, Daniel took in the sights and smells of the noisy restaurant. Sam and Janet were already eyeing the pool tables. When the waitress came, they ordered their steaks and drinks. The moment they got their beers, Janet winked at Sam.
"C'mon, Sam, let's see if you remember what I taught you. We've got time to play a game or two before they bring the food."
"We could have gone somewhere a little more quiet, y'know," Jack said to Daniel as he leaned back into his chair while the two women headed for a free pool table.
"Nah. Nothing beats the steaks here. Anyways, the girls look like they're having fun." Daniel waved his water in the direction of the women and Jack turned around to see, chuckling. "Didn't waste much time, did they?" he said as they watched two men join the women at their game.
Daniel waited for Jack to turn around then grinned, motioning towards Teal'c with his chin. Their Jaffa friend was watching the men with a dangerous gleam in his eyes.
"Easy, big guy." Jack pushed Teal'c's water closer to him, wordlessly inviting him to sit back and relax. "They're fine. They can take care of themselves."
"I do not care for the manner in which these men are looking at DoctorFraiser and CaptainCarter." Teal'c picked up his water, draining half of it in one large gulp.
"Janet and Sam seem to be enjoying themselves." Daniel took a sip of water, watching Sam laugh at one of the men as she missed a shot. She looked over at their table, caught Daniel's eye, and winked at him.
A waitress approached, Jack motioned to her to get him another beer. Daniel shifted in his chair, easing his injured leg underneath the table in a gentle stretch and nursed his water.
"Y'know..." Jack said softly, planting his elbows on the table and speaking softly enough that only Daniel and Teal'c would hear his words. "I should have gone with you to that Wot Head with Much Hair place."
Daniel simply raised an eyebrow and waited for Jack to go on.
"We might have avoided all of this if I'd been there with you."
"I don't think so," Daniel said just as softly after a moment of thought.
"DanielJackson speaks the truth." Teal'c's voice was just as level, although his gaze was still on their friends. "If DanielJackson wreaked havoc after having been infected by the nanocytes, the damage would have been twofold had you also been caught and returned to us in the same condition."
"Maybe more than twofold," Daniel said, suppressing a shiver. "It used my memories. I can't imagine what kind of damage you could have incurred with your training."
"I was thinking more that maybe you wouldn't have gotten caught in the first place if I'd been there."
"They were waiting for me, Jack. They could have zatted you just as fast and then who knows what would have happened."
"What are the chances of this happening again? We go off on what we think is a cakewalk and end up facing a Goa'uld with a bunch of nanocytes waiting in ambush?"
"Extremely unlikely." Teal'c drained the last of his water, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "Once they have realized their plan did not work, they will not attempt it again."
Daniel smirked as the waitress brought them fresh beer and water, then turned serious as Jack addressed him.
"You sure you can't remember who the snake was?"
Daniel shook his head. "It happened too fast. The Jaffa had symbols I didn't recognize and I really didn't get that good a look at them."
Sam and Janet took that moment to join them. They sat down laughing as Sam slipped a $10 bill into her jacket pocket.
"Been practicing over at the doc's pool table, Carter?"
"Janet's shown me a thing or two," Sam answered, blushing lightly.
"Enjoying yourself, eh Doc?"
"Yes, sir. It's nice to know my ex's vice is coming in handy."
"Your mate taught you to play this game, DoctorFraiser?"
"Yeah. That baby was his pride and joy. He'd spend hours playing pool with his buddies."
"And you acquired one of these billiard tables as a method to remember your mate by?"
"Hell no, sugar. I acquired that pool table thanks to a great divorce lawyer."
Daniel nearly snorted water all over the table at Janet's words and Teal'c's confused expression. Thankfully at that moment their dinner arrived and they began to eat. Still chuckling, he picked up his knife and began cutting his steak. Without much success.
"Want me to cut it for you, Daniel?"
"No." Daniel glared at Jack over his glasses and continued his struggle. He'd been left with residual weakness in his right arm but PT was taking care of the problem. He hadn't needed his food cut up in over a week, and he sure as hell wasn't going to suffer the humiliation of having it done in public.
Finally he managed to more or less tear a bite of steak off and he speared it with his fork. He chewed quickly in frustration, then slowed as he realized none of his friends were eating. He looked up to see them looking at him, amusement on their faces.
"You might have an easier time if you used this." Jack was holding up a steak knife and Daniel glanced down at the butter knife he held in his hand. He felt his face flush red until he realized he didn't have a steak knife. And that Jack had two.
"Give me that," he growled, snatching the knife from Jack's hand. This time the meat was much easier to cut. He glared at Jack, who picked up his beer and hid behind the glass for a moment. Daniel ate amidst giggles and snorts, but those stopped when the others resumed eating.
Daniel finally pushed his empty plate aside and leaned back, sighing contentedly. Feeling mellow from a full stomach, he watched his friends as they talked amongst themselves and finished their meal.
"You know," Daniel said, eying the pool tables and the competition between the players, "didn't you three go on a hunting contest back on P0H-871? Who won?"
Jack had been bringing a bite of potato to his mouth. He stopped with his fork halfway there. Clearing his throat, he continued eating.
"The colonel did," Sam finally said. "He's got quite a collection of trophies."
"How did you do?"
"Teal'c and I tied for second."
"I'm surprised you didn't parade your winnings, Jack." At the look of sadness on Jack's face, Daniel was suddenly worried he'd said something wrong.
"Believe me, I was planning to," Jack said. "Then things kinda went to hell in a handbasket before I could show them off."
"I'm sorry. I—"
"Remind me to bring them out next time you come over. I got them somewhere around the house."
"Really? That's great. I'd love to see them. They could be important artifacts about the culture the hunters follow. I didn't get to study much more than the clerical side and—"
"Y'know, one of 'em's a stick figure with no hair. Maybe I should give it to you as a talisman to stay out of trouble."
"Yeah, well, maybe you better keep it since your track record isn't much better than mine." Daniel's feeling of relaxation fled as frustration took its place.
"Hello. Who got themselves shot – twice I might add – never mind all the other fun stuff the doc's had to put you through to stop those creepy crawlies inside of you."
"If memory serves, you've had a version of those creepy crawlies inside you, too."
"Gentlemen, please." Janet pushed her plate away and leaned her elbows on the table. "I think dessert and coffee would be nice right around now." She glared at them, causing Daniel to fiddle with the spoon beside the dinner plate.
"I have an announcement." Jack leaned back in his chair and looked at his team. Daniel didn't miss that he didn't include Janet in his gaze. Then he looked pointedly at Daniel.
"From now on, no matter how much you beg, whine or complain, you are not going off alone to play."
"Let me finish, Daniel." Jack tapped his index finger on the table. "You are not going off to play alone without another member of SG-1 with you. The purpose of four," Jack paused a moment, and again met the team's gaze, "is that we are divided equally."
"Jack, that's ridiculous. There are plenty of times when one of us have gone off alone and—"
"Daniel? Still talking here."
Sighing loudly, Daniel made a 'go ahead' motion with his hand.
"Two plus two, equals four." Jack made a rolling motion with his hand. "Do you see where I'm going with this? Three plus one equals—"
"That still equals four."
"No, Daniel. That equals trouble."
Author's Comments: This story first appeared in Yum@'s Foundations 7
Many many thanks and hugs to devra for her patience, and for all her help. There are times I'm sure one of my fics would never get finished if it weren't for her waving pompoms in my direction, and this fic was definitely one of those that nearly found a life on my hard drive.
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.