Games People PlayNote: This story first appeared in Yum@'s Foundations 6
Jack leaned against his Jeep, keeping an eye on the five cadets as he talked with Siler. The trainees gathered their gear from the back of the M923 which had transported them here to the middle of nowhere. Siler had driven the large five ton truck and was now patiently waiting to return to Cheyenne Mountain.
"Looks like rain," Siler said conversationally, eyeing the overcast sky.
"Weather reports say duck weather for the next two days. Gonna be chilly, too."
"Could be worse, could be snowing."
Siler smiled and shrugged. "You never know up here in the mountains. I'm glad I'm heading back to the base. It's warm and dry down there."
"Well, I asked permission to take the kids offworld to some nice paradise-type planet, but no, seemed that would have been too harsh on them," Jack laughed. "Coming back home to this drizzle and all. So instead we'll be getting some nice planet right smack in the middle of the rainy season."
"Boy, that's tough." Siler grinned back at Jack. "Kids know they're going off planet tomorrow?"
"Nope, we're keeping it a surprise."
Jack's own equipment was already stowed in the back of his vehicle, as was the rest of SG1's. The youngsters, though, were heavily laden with their tents, camping equipment and other paraphernalia, whereas Jack's team, although they were still carrying some of their gear, were much less burdened at this point. Once everyone was ready, Jack slapped Siler on the shoulder as the man climbed back into the truck.
"Don't forget, forty eight hours," Jack called as Siler started the engine. The master sergeant waved as he slowly backed the large six wheel vehicle onto the narrow country lane. Daniel closed the gate behind the departing truck and locked it. There were 'no trespassing' signs as well as 'Property of the US Air Force' posted every few feet along the barbed-wire fence. Hopefully all were enough of a deterrent to keep curious folks away. Not that there was anything for them to see, but the land was mainly used for military games and training and thus a potential danger to any trespasser.
As Daniel passed by him to join the others, Jack said in a low voice, "Wanna keep me company?"
"Only if you invite everyone else to ride with you," Daniel replied, not even looking at Jack.
"You're a civilian. You don't have to trek in with the rest," Jack argued. He knew Daniel had been a little upset when he'd realized Jack was going to use the privileges of rank to get his own private transportation. They'd had this argument earlier this morning, but Jack had felt the need to keep up appearances for this training session.
"And you don't have to alienate yourself from everyone either," Daniel countered. He shouldered his packsack and moved off to join Carter and Teal'c.
"Hey, it's a gift," Jack replied at Daniel's retreating back. "Okay, cadets, fall in," Jack yelled as he pushed away his growing anger with Daniel and climbed into his Jeep. As he started the motor, he suddenly wished he was trekking in with the others and hadn't decided to go with protocol.
The trainees, two women and three men, quickly moved in behind the vehicle. Teal'c took point while Daniel and Carter brought up the rear. Jack led the way up the narrow dirt road leading into the woods and tried shake the feelings of loneliness caused by his friend's decision to walk up the muddy road.
- - - - -
Jack stepped on the gas as the Jeep cleared the woods and rode through the field to park in the shade of several trees. He got out and began shouldering his equipment. The others joined him a few minutes later, winded and mud-splattered.
"Look at you," Jack yelled as the trainees finally began breathing a little more slowly. "You're supposed to be in the best shapes of your lives, and here you are, huffing and puffing like little old ladies." Of course, the fact that they'd been climbing steadily for the past mile in very slippery conditions wasn't being taken into consideration. "Look at Teal'c, he's much older than you are, and he hasn't even broken into a sweat."
The cadets stood at attention, staring straight ahead as Jack gave them the expected dressing down/pep talk session. They schooled their emotions, and Jack could so well picture what was going through their minds at the moment. 'Yeah, you old fart, you drove up here, nice and warm and comfy. See how you'd like walking in our place. And Teal'c's built. He's almost an athlete. How can you compare him to us? Or you'?
"Okay, listen up." Jack felt their attention focus on him again instead of over him as they'd dealt with his insults. "We're going to take a little ten klick hike into these woods, set up camp, get some shut eye, and tomorrow we'll begin the training. There's more gear in the Jeep. You can separate it between you. We move out in five."
Daniel moved in first as Jack stepped away. He glared at Jack as he picked up, along with his own gear, the large command tent Jack had requisitioned for himself. Jack had been intending to carry the tent himself, but if Daniel wanted to play martyr, he wasn't about to argue, not in front of the cadets. When everyone had taken their turn by the Jeep, Jack checked to make sure the vehicle was empty, then locked it up and pocketed the key.
He took point, setting the pace. He ignored Daniel as he passed the small group, shrugged his right shoulder to stop the pinching from the pack's strap, and set off through the trail he'd hiked through only a few days ago when reconnoitering the site.
The going was nearly as bad as the drive up; the small path in the woods still headed uphill and was fraught with sodden dead leaves and slippery mud. He used the branches and tree trunks for balance, his footing awkward at times as he slipped backwards on the uneven ground.
He finally came to a break in the path and took the time to look back down the trail. The cadets were spread apart, each having a difficult time due to their heavy loads. Cadet Barnett was in the process of sliding backwards and cadet Bolton had to reach up and stop her descent by placing his hands on her back. He pushed her up, helping her along as she finally made it over the worst part.
Jack watched as all the cadets fought their way up that particular spot, and noted that Carter, Teal'c and Daniel all stepped off the trail and made their way up a section that offered better footing. He smiled; ah, the wisdom that came from experience.
- - - - - -
Daniel lowered his gear with relief when Jack called a rest and he immediately headed into the woods to find a tree to water. Bladder finally emptied and feeling much more comfortable, Daniel decided to adjust his sock inside his boot before joining the others. He was sweating and the material had bunched just enough that if he didn't fix it, it was sure to cause a blister.
He put his boot back on and stood, took several tentative steps, and nodded to himself when the sock remained in place. As he started to make his way back, he heard voices approaching, talking in low whispers.
"No, I mean nothing will appear to be what it seems," Susan Kirby was saying. "Just when you think the training is over, the *real* training begins."
"You mean this is all a set up?" Rita Barnett asked.
Daniel froze, listening to the conversation as the two cadets stopped. He could hear material rustling, and realizing what was happening, he waited patiently, not wanting to embarrass the young women as they took care of bodily functions.
"Yes. The colonel will work us hard, make us think we did really lousy, then something will come up to interrupt the training. Or so we're supposed to think. But be ready because that's when everything will really start to count."
"How do you know this?" Barnett asked.
"Bolton and Chung were talking about it. Seems Bolton's cousin's friend's boyfriend went through this last year."
"Holy shit," Barnett said, no longer whispering.
"Yeah, the guy got in, and then he died in a mission not long after. Tough luck." The voices began to fade as the cadets made their way back to the path. Daniel began trailing them, walking softly so as not to alert them but listening as best he could.
"But damnit, Sue," Barnett said. "Now that we know, isn't this cheating? We're not going to react the way O'Neill expects us to when he tries to pull the switch on us."
"Of course it's not cheating. Aren't we always told to be prepared for every circumstance? Well, I consider us suitably prepared for this one."
"I don't like it."
The two women stopped, and Daniel stilled also.
"Hey, I was just trying to warn you. Next time, Rita, you're on your own."
The cadets continued down to the trail and Daniel moved off a little ways before joining them so they wouldn't suspect he'd been listening to them. He grinned to himself. Trust Jack to never do the expected.
- - - - - -
Sam dropped the load of wood in the growing pile and wiped the leaves and debris from her chest and arms. She shook her head at Daniel who was standing beside her holding a similar armful of wood. He was staring at the cadets who were still struggling to put up the colonel's larger tent. She looked around the campsite. Her own tent, which she would share with the two women, was up and ready for use. All she needed to do was go to the nearby stream and get some water for cooking and washing in the morning.
Daniel had already set his two-man tent up, the one he'd be sharing with Teal'c. The boys hadn't gotten around to putting their own up yet.
Daniel dropped his load of wood, and Sam handed him one of the collapsible buckets while she took another.
"Rawlins," she yelled as the dark head poked out of the tent. The young man looked up at her, startled.
"Daniel and I are just going down to the stream for some water."
He nodded, then said, "Yes, ma'am," before crawling out all the way to read the instructions on how to set the tent up once more. She smiled when her back was turned. They were simple to put up, really. She wondered why the cadets simply didn't just ask for help.
"Sam, why can't we help them?" Daniel asked once they were out of earshot of the camp. "It's getting dark, and the guys have their own tent to put up."
"You know as well as I do they'll have put their own tent up in seconds, and can do it in the dark just as easily as we can. The colonel chose that tent on purpose," she added. "There's a piece missing, and he wanted to see if they could figure it out. Plus it'll get their tempers up, and they'll go to bed grumpy."
"And this is a good thing, how?" he asked as he knelt by the fast flowing stream and allowed the water to fill his bucket. He looked up at her, and she shrugged.
"It keeps them off balance, gets them riled at some stupid, ridiculous thing while they could be sitting in front of the fire right now, relaxing."
"I still don't understand why Jack had to make this big production of his being a colonel," Daniel grumped as he set the now-full bucket by her feet and took the other one from her. "He didn't need to drive up that road like some big shot. That's not Jack, at least, not the Jack O'Neill I know."
"You're right. That isn't the man you know. This is the man the Air Force built. *Colonel* Jack O'Neill, who has all the privileges of his rank, and today he decided to use them."
Suddenly Sam knew why Daniel was so upset. The colonel never flaunted his rank, rarely took advantage of it, and somehow it had just shocked Daniel today. Their commander always pulled his weight on missions, and their training sessions had never been like the one he was planning now.
"Daniel," Sam said as she crouched down beside her friend, who was simply allowing the water to flow over and around the bucket. "Cadets are not considered real people to the military yet, and won't be until they've graduated. You know that, and they know that. They expect to be treated the way the colonel treated them, and if he had done anything out of the ordinary, something as simple as offering to take their packs in his Jeep, he might have ended up losing faith in their eyes. I've been a cadet. I remember how it felt, and so has the colonel. It's just something that has to be done."
"I understand," Daniel said, finally raising the dripping bucket. "It's just I remember also how it felt to be yelled at and picked on, even though I was trying my best to behave and fit in."
"But you never signed up for that kind of treatment." She placed a hand on his arm and squeezed. He turned towards her, and she couldn't see his eyes clearly due to the sunset's reflection in his glasses. "Destiny signed you up, and you really can't compare your childhood to this."
She felt taut muscles relax beneath her fingers and he nodded. "You're right. I'm sorry, I should be used to this. It's not like it's the first time we've worked with the cadets. And I guess I'll need to apologize to Jack." He stood and he offered her his hand, helping her up. They each took a bucket and began to make their way back to the camp through the shadowy woods.
"You know, the kids know the deal now," Daniel said as he walked behind her. Water sloshed out of the bucket and wet the front of her leg. She bent and brushed the drops away before they could soak the material. "I heard the girls talking, seems like Elliot told someone the details about his training."
"The colonel expected this to happen sooner or later," she said, turning to look at Daniel over her shoulder. "This is why we'll be taking the training offworld and see if it's viable to continue doing so. It'll certainly make it a bit easier that way instead of putting the Stargate on hold every time a training session comes around." She smiled to herself at the last time this had happened. Cadet Haley had been in on the act and all cadets had passed with flying colors. She frowned at the memory of Elliot's death. He had sacrificed himself during the training to save Haley's life and had ended up dying for real on his first mission, doing exactly that. Saving a life.
Suddenly the next few days took on a whole new meaning for her as she mentally went over these trainees' various strengths.
- - - - - -
Jack made his way through the darkening woods, following the sounds of voices and the accompanying thuds of earth being shoveled and thrown aside. He'd finished his perimeter walk, he and Teal'c having split up an hour earlier to make sure there were no signs of trespassers in the area.
He stopped a moment to watch Daniel, Kirby and Chung digging out the latrine. He shook his head, he'd ordered Kirby and Chung to do the job; trust Daniel to jump in and offer his services. He'd let this slide by. He didn't need to hassle Daniel. He had plenty enough time to hassle the cadets in the next three days.
Kirby was looking downright guilty when she spotted him, Jack thought to himself as he passed by the young brunette. He nodded and kept on walking, entering the camp and glancing around. The remaining cadets were sitting around the campfire with Carter and Teal'c, and something that smelled like stew was simmering in a pot. The tents were up, including his own. He just hoped however they fixed the tent, it wouldn't collapse on him in the middle of the night.
Teal'c had reached camp before him, and he nodded at Jack when their gazes met. Good, at least Jack wouldn't have to worry about civilians getting in the way tomorrow. Not that Intars would injure anyone severely, but they could get a good scare from them.
Jack walked to his tent and removed his gun from its holster and slid it into his sleeping bag which had already been laid out, ready for use. The kids had been told the only weapons on the training session would be Intars, but Jack and Carter both had their 9mills, just in case. One never knew what sort of wildlife one could encounter. He buttoned up his jacket against the chill of the night and glanced at the branch that had been used as a makeshift support piece. He shook it for good measure, and the tent held. As he went to join the group for supper, he wondered if Carter might have had a hand in its MacGyvering.
Daniel, Kirby and Chung were washing up, obviously having finished one of the more onerous duties. He met Daniel's gaze and promised himself he'd try and talk to his friend again soon, hopefully a little more calmly, about the need for him to put on a show for the benefit of the trainees.
Cadet Rawlins handed Jack a bowl of stew and a bun, and he took both gratefully, thanking the young man as he sat down on a large piece of deadwood that had been hauled before the campfire as a makeshift bench. The sun had set by now and only a small smear of blue was evident above the trees in the west. The rest of the sky was already speckled with stars and a crescent moon.
Jack dug into the hot, steaming meal, enjoying the canned stew, knowing that tomorrow they'd be relying on MREs. He shifted over to make room for Daniel as his friend came towards him, food in hand. He watched Daniel sniff his bowl and then dig in with appetite.
Jack wished he could put off going to bed, hating the large tent and missing the camaraderie of sharing with his friends. Funny how he had the privilege of sleeping alone, and he actually preferred sharing. He actually envied Daniel and Teal'c, for some strange reason.
He smiled to himself at the thought of Carter with the two teens. He wondered if they'd be talking about guys and what Carter did during 'that time of the month' when on mission. He nearly snorted out loud at some of the imagined conversations flitting through his mind.
"Something funny?" Daniel asked as he sopped up the gravy with the last of his bun.
"No, just wondering if Carter's gonna be bitching again about her roommates," he answered. Daniel stared at him and Jack saw his friend's lips curl slightly into a smile. They'd both been on the receiving end of Carter's good-natured complaints the last time she'd bunked with cadets.
They both handed their dirty dishes to cadet Bolton as he came for them, and Jack idly watched the young man walk to the edge of camp and begin washing them. Jack listened to the companionable talk around the fire. Kirby was asking Teal'c about a certain fighting move she'd heard of, Carter, Chung and Barnett were talking weapons, and Rawlins appeared to be listening to both conversations, his head swiveling from one to the other.
"About this morning�" Daniel started to say at the same time Jack said, "I hope you understand why�"
"You first," Daniel offered, fiddling with the sleeve of his jacket. "After all, you *are* the colonel." He smiled, taking the sting out of his words.
"Oh, okay," Jack said in a voice that wouldn't carry to the others sitting across the fire from them. "Just that, I know you weren't happy with�"
"I wasn't. But I understand now."
"I talked with Sam, and she helped me realize a few things."
"Good. So you're okay with this?"
Daniel nodded and smiled again. "Just so long as you don't make a habit of it."
"What, afraid I'll be ordering you to carry my tent on our next mission?"
Daniel laughed softly. "You wish. And speaking of tents, you do know you'll be the one carrying that monstrosity back?"
"Hey, did Carter�?"
"I don't think so. They had it fixed by the time we got back from getting water."
"Crap. How am I expected to sleep not knowing if it's gonna collapse on my head?"
"You're the big man here. Deal with it."
"You know, just for that, I should order you to sleep in there."
"You wish," Daniel said with a laugh.
Jack checked the time and decided it was late enough to send everyone off to bed. He stood, and all conversation died.
"Kirby, you've got first watch. Rawlins, Barnett, then Chung. We'll be leaving at 0400, so make sure you call room service and ask for a wake up call." He heard his people shuffling around as they banked the fire and went off to their respective tents. He entered his own and lit the small Coleman lamp. He spent several minutes writing in his log and then turned the lamp off and quickly stripped and slid into his sleeping bag. Sleep didn't take long in coming.
- - - - - -
"There are three things you need to know for this mission," Jack was saying to the cadets, who were standing at parade rest before him. Daniel watched their faces in the early morning sunrise, wondering why they had all signed up for this, knowing they'd be going to be treated this way beforehand.
"One: there will be two factions you need to deal with � Goa'uld and Tok'ra."
Thunder growled off in the distance, and Daniel knew they'd end up playing in the rain before long.
"Two: You won't know which is which, that's your job to find out.
"Three: There is a traitor in the fold. It might be the snake, it might be the Tok'ra, and it might be one of your own. Questions?"
"Yes, sir," Susan Kirby said in a loud carrying voice. "Are we to assume that SG-1 will be divided into the Tok'ra and Goa'uld."
"That's correct," Sam answered.
"Are there two of each?" Theodore Bolton asked.
Jack smirked. "Might be, might be three and one. Like I said, the information we received was skimpy, you'll need to figure it out. Find the Tok'ra, dispose of the Goa'uld, and try to stay alive. There will be clues along the trail, which you'll find a half klick due south from here in a clearing with a tree split down the middle. All dead players will return to camp and make sure supper is ready when we get back."
"So one of us might be the traitor?" Rawlins asked, looking at his teammates. They all glanced at each other, and Daniel could bet they were all wondering if one of them had been given a separate assignment as the turncoat.
"How are we supposed to discover the traitor?" Rita Barnett asked. Daniel thought she looked a little worried.
"Watch your back and use the buddy system," Bolton answered her. Daniel thought it was a good answer unless your partner ended up being the bad guy.
Jack stood watching them, and he obviously decided they had no more questions. "Cadet Bolton, take your team and move out. We will not begin to follow for another twenty minutes."
"You heard the man," the blond cadet ordered. "Move out." The two girls and three men quickly slipped into the wooded area and Daniel sighed. He poured himself another cup of coffee and settled down to wait.
- - - - - -
Rita Barnett jumped as another crash of thunder boomed. This second storm had been long in approaching, threatening for the past two hours before finally exploding overhead. The rain had poured heavily all day long, and even in the thick woods their wet weather gear wasn't doing a great job in keeping them dry.
"Over there," Matt whispered to Rita. She glanced to where he pointed but couldn't see anything through the driving rain. She wiped her face and squinted beyond the drops of water hanging from her eyelashes and finally saw movement. Bolton signaled her to move forward, and she did so in a crouch. She moved quickly but cautiously, knowing the sound of the rain would drown out any noise she made.
She took cover behind some bushes and saw the approaching figure was Doctor Jackson. He was alone and seemed to be following some kind of trail. He wasn't wearing his glasses, and she realized they'd be totally useless in this weather.
From the various clues Colonel O'Neill had left them, the cadets had come to the conclusion Doctor Jackson was one of the Goa'uld. She glanced back at Bolton, put her hands to her eyes, making circles with her thumbs and forefingers. He nodded, and ordered her to shoot. She took careful aim and fired her Intar.
A crack of thunder deafened her, followed immediately by a bolt of lightning and another clap of thunder. She was blinded momentarily from the flash of light, and her ears rang from the thunder, but still, she'd seen Doctor Jackson go down. She knew those Intar blasts stung, and she felt sorry for him. He lay still on the muddy floor, playing 'dead' until her team had moved away. She felt a pang of jealousy for a moment, knowing as soon as they were out of hearing, he'd have the luxury of returning to camp, drying off and changing into warm clothes to sit inside the comfort of a nice, dry tent.
She sighed as her team leader signaled they were to go around the fallen 'Goa'uld' and be on their way, continuing along the trail marked earlier.
- - - - - -
Matt and Susan were still arguing over the last bit of information they'd found, and Rita was frustrated. She was cold, wet, hungry, and to be honest, bored. Other than Doctor Jackson, the rest of SG-1 had kept well out of their way, and she knew the more experienced team was probably running circles around them.
"Maybe we missed a marker," she finally said, mainly hoping to stop their bickering. She wondered why Roy was allowing them to argue, and she realized he probably didn't know what to do either.
Four confused faces stared at her, the sudden silence overwhelming despite the continuing downpour.
"Well," she said, shrugging and then regretting the movement when water dripped down the back of her neck. "This one doesn't make sense so maybe there's another one."
"Or maybe the traitor stole it," Theo added.
Roy shook his head and ordered them back the way they'd come. Rita dutifully checked along the path as they sloshed through the mud, hoping she was right so they could just end this game and return to camp. They quickly came to where they'd found the last marker, and Roy ordered them to spread out and begin searching.
As she looked around, she realized she was nearing the spot where she'd "killed" Doctor Jackson thirty minutes ago. Wryly she envied the man, who was probably drinking hot coffee right now, and at the same time she realized as a civilian, it was probably natural he be the first one to go down. She smiled as she mentally congratulated herself for being the one to take the first shot at SG-1.
Her smile quickly faded when she saw a form lying crumpled in the brush before her. Quickly she keyed her radio as she crouched in the brush, looking around for the rest of SG-1. This had to be a trap, hadn't it?
"Team leader, this is Barnett. I've just reached the position where we'd discovered Doctor Jackson, and he's still down."
"Roger that. Any sign of the Tok'ra or the Goa'uld?"
"Negative. Roy, he hasn't moved. I think something's wrong."
She heard Bolton give the order to meet up at her position, and within minutes, her teammates had joined her.
"Should we go and check on him?" Theo asked, crouching beside her.
"It's a trap. Everybody stay down. Nobody move."
"Roy, he hasn't moved the whole time I've been here. He's hurt." She turned to look at her team leader who was searching the woods around them. Susan kept checking behind them and Theo and Matt looked worried.
"Barnett, weren't you told that nothing is going to be what it appears to be? This is all a set up, to make us think Doctor Jackson is hurt. Now, we have a possible missing marker. I want everyone to resume their positions and continue searching."
As the others stood and began moving away, she added, "It's pouring rain, and he's been lying on the damp ground for over thirty minutes. I don't think anyone in their right mind would do that no matter what game they're playing."
"He's probably got a wetsuit on underneath," Susan said. "That way he won't feel the cold." Her friend turned her back on the crumpled form on the ground and moved off, the rest of the team following her. Rita stood and took a few steps after them, then stopped and turned back to look at the man who could possibly really be injured, or simply playing possum.
Making the decision and acting before she could change her mind, she changed radio frequencies to the one she knew SG-1 was communicating on, which protocol and honor prevented her from using during the games.
"Colonel O'Neill, I think Doctor Jackson might be hurt. He's been lying on the ground and�"
"What the hell are you doing?" Roy yelled as he grabbed her radio from her hand and threw it into the woods. "You little�you just gave away our position. Everyone, move out, now!"
Despite the order, Rita ran into the brush and retrieved her radio. Colonel O'Neill's voice was demanding she answer him. Her team leader stood there glaring at her, the other cadets at his side, backing him up. With trembling hands, she defiantly keyed the mic again.
"Sir, I got him with the Intar about thirty minutes ago. He went down, but he hasn't moved since. I'm sorry, this might be part of the game, but I felt I had to report this in case it wasn't."
Colonel O'Neill's voice suddenly came from behind them. "Stand down. The training session's over."
They all looked at one another uncertainly, everyone indecisive in making any kind of move. Finally unable to bear the glares cast her way, Rita lowered her head and put her radio away. Major Carter and Teal'c brushed by her as they hurried forward to Doctor Jackson. The injured man was lying on his stomach, and Teal'c turned him over. Suddenly Rita saw the blood pooled with the rainwater underneath the unconscious man.
"And the games begin," Susan whispered in Rita's ear. She was biting her lip so as not to smile, and her friend's earlier warning about things not seeming what they appeared to be suddenly warred with the picture she saw before her.
- - - - - -
"He's been shot."
It took Jack several seconds before Carter's words registered, and he quickly signaled everyone down. As Jack crouched in the thick cover, he noted that at least the cadets had reacted quickly to his command. Although it was sort of a useless action at the moment since Daniel had obviously been wounded a good while back, and the perpetrator was probably long gone; still, it was best to play it safe.
None of the cadets were armed with a gun except for himself and Carter, and she'd been by his side the whole time as they'd followed the cadets through the false trails he'd laid out days earlier. That meant there was another player in the ranks, one that had managed to keep out of sight of the nine personnel traipsing through these woods today.
"How bad?" Jack whispered once he'd carefully made his way to Daniel's side. As he moved past Teal'c, Jack handed him his gun. He motioned to Teal'c to make a circuit of the area. As Jack turned next to order Bolton to keep a watch, he saw Cadet Kirby nudge Cadet Barnett. He frowned at the woman's action, noting they were both watching Teal'c. They must have seen Jack hand him the gun. What, did they think he'd shot Daniel? He signaled the commands and when the young man began gesturing to his cadets to stand sentry, Jack turned his attention back to Daniel.
"He's been shot in the shoulder," Carter said as she tore his tee shirt after having opened his jacket. She probed the gunshot wound, which was still bleeding. Daniel moaned softly and moved his leg restlessly. He was shivering, and Jack could see why. The ground was cold and wet, and Daniel had been lying on it for a good long time.
"He also hit his head on that rock, probably when he fell. He's most likely got a concussion. But I think right now the biggest problem is blood loss and exposure."
"Barnett," Jack said in a stage whisper into his radio. She clicked once to acknowledge. "You said you saw Doctor Jackson go down, what, forty minutes ago?"
"Yes, sir," she answered.
"Did you hear a gunshot?"
"No, sir. It happened during a clap of thunder, sir."
"Or the person used could have used a silencer," Carter added as she placed a pressure bandage to Daniel's shoulder. Jack fished through the pockets of his utility vest and came up with a bandage. Leaning over Daniel to prevent the rain from streaming into his face, Jack held the bandage to Daniel's bleeding forehead. Despite the downpour, several slimy leaves clung to Daniel's cheek, and Jack brushed them aside. His friend's face was cold beneath Jack's chilled fingers.
"Can we get him down to the Jeep?" Jack asked, trying to figure the distance they'd need to travel.
"We should get him back to camp first and warm him up," she said with a frown. "We're only a kilometer or so from there. The Jeep's about three."
"Yeah, right," Jack said as his own calculations came up the same. Plus his cell phone was in his tent; he'd need to call for an ambulance to meet them at the road.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said as he returned a few minutes later. "The area appears secure, but there is too much cover to be certain there is no one watching."
Jack nodded, knowing anyone wanting to stay out of sight would simply have needed to climb a tree and enjoy the show. "Can you carry Daniel?" Jack asked. Teal'c nodded, handed Jack back his gun, and bent down onto one knee to take Daniel in a fireman's carry.
- - - - - -
"Put him in my tent," Jack said to Teal'c once they reached the campsite. Jack unzipped the tent and held the flap open while Teal'c entered with his burden. Jack then went straight to his gear and removed a towel and a blanket. He heard Bolton ordering his cadets to guard the perimeter and for the moment, Jack decided he'd let the youngster dispatch his men. Carter and Teal'c quickly stripped Daniel of his sodden clothes, and Jack first used the towel to remove most of the moisture from Daniel's chilled skin, then the blanket to finish the job.
Daniel didn't react to their ministrations, lying limp except for the tremors shaking his body. They put dry socks on his feet and slid him into Jack's sleeping bag. Carter changed the bandage on Daniel's shoulder which had become soaked with both blood and rain. Teal'c went to get Daniel's sleeping bag, and they covered him with it for added warmth.
"Take care of the kids," Jack told Teal'c when they'd done all they could for Daniel. Jack pulled his cell phone from the bottom of his pack and turned it on. Nothing. He smacked the phone several times and tried again. Still nothing. Carter took it from him, and opened it up. The chip was gone.
"Sir, are you sure�"
"Yes. Yes!" he snapped as he threw the useless phone into the corner of the tent. He took his cap off and ran a hand through his damp hair. "Sorry, yes, it was working fine yesterday." Jack looked around the tent and noted that nothing appeared disturbed. "Someone must have come in here and gone through my things."
"Bolton," Jack said into his radio. "Any of your people sneak a cell phone?"
"My phone's been sabotaged, and we need to call for an ambulance. I want to know if anybody has any means of communicating with the outside world. Tell them no repercussions."
"Yes, sir. I'll ask."
He sat down on the canvas floor opposite Carter and placed a hand on Daniel's shivering form while he waited for the cadet to question his team. When the answer came back in the negative, he shook his head.
"Think it could be one of the cadets?" he asked Carter. Her narrowed gaze as she looked from Daniel to him told Jack she'd already contemplated the question. She grimaced before answering cautiously.
"It's always a possibility, sir. But by sabotaging your phone, it means the action was premeditated which also means a motive, and I honestly can't think of one. None of cadets are connected to Daniel. Was he shot because he stumbled onto something? Or because someone wanted to get even for some reason we haven't discovered yet? Was Daniel even the target? And whoever shot Daniel could probably have shot any or all of us."
Daniel stirred, then jerked, gasping in pain. His eyes fluttered open as he moved restlessly.
"Easy, easy," Jack said softly as he grabbed Daniel's shoulder, making sure it was the uninjured one. At the sound of his voice, Daniel turned, squinting at him.
"Yeah, it's me. Lie still, okay? You've been shot." Daniel's eyes were glassy with pain, and Jack could tell he was having trouble focusing.
"Yeah, I know. You got a little wet; it's raining outside."
"We're on Earth. Training session, cadets, remember?"
Daniel's eyes closed, and he fought to open them again. "Cold," he repeated as shivers wracked his body.
"Did we bring any heaters?" Jack asked Carter, also feeling damp in his sopping clothes. She shook her head sadly. Now that they were no longer moving around, he knew they needed to change into something dry soon or risk getting sick.
Daniel lapsed into unconsciousness once more, and Jack stood up with a sigh. He'd need to take care of the cadets first. He stuck his head out into the rain and told Bolton to allow the troops to dry off and change one by one. Also, he'd permit a small cooking fire. Whoever was out there knew they were here, so they may all as well have the opportunity to eat and drink something hot.
When Carter went off to change, Jack took the opportunity to do so himself, using the blanket he'd used on Daniel to dry himself off. The dry clothes felt good, and he grabbed another blanket to wrap around his shoulders.
Carter returned after fifteen minutes, a cup of coffee in her hand. Jack took it gratefully, wrapping his still-chilled fingers around its metallic warmth. He sipped and didn�t complain when he tasted the sweetness. He figured he could use the extra energy at the moment.
Jack looked up to see Cadet Kirby at the tent's opening. "It looks like the rain is easing up, sir. Teal'c said that it might be a good time to start moving down to the clearing."
Jack nodded and ordered the cadets to be ready in ten minutes. He'd take Daniel in the Jeep back to the mountain and then send someone to pick up the rest of his people. He gulped the rest of the coffee and stood, wondering the best way to transport his injured teammate.
"Do you think we could make a stretcher?" he asked Teal'c when the big man entered the tent a few minutes later.
"It will hamper our way in the woods. It would be easiest were I to carry him as before."
"Let me strap his arm first," Carter said. She quickly did so, and with her help, they got Daniel dressed in dry pants and jacket, sliding his uninjured arm into the sleeve and pulling the jacket closed over his injured one. They finished by wrapping him with two woolen blankets. Then they got him up and balanced on Teal'c's shoulders, eliciting only a small whimper of pain from their friend at the movement. Jack grabbed his pack and quickly rolled one of the sleeping bags up. Daniel would need the added heat in the Jeep.
"Sir, if I might ask," Rawlins said as they began moving out. Jack had allowed Bolton to dispatch his men, two in front with Carter, the rest behind, with Jack bringing up the rear with the young man. He could see Daniel's back from where he walked, his uninjured arm swinging slightly with each step Teal'c took.
Jack grunted and looked at him, encouraging him to go on.
"It's ten kilometers to the Jeep. Wouldn't it have made more sense to send some of us for help instead of moving Doctor Jackson?"
"You're right. It's ten kilometers the way we came, over the mountain. But it's only one and a half klicks around it." Jack smiled as he saw the man's understanding. They could have made it here in much less time and with less wasted energy, but Jack had led them to the campsite in a roundabout way.
The rain had turned into a slight drizzle, and Jack wished it would just plain stop. They were going downhill, and the trail was slippery. Jack watched in trepidation as Teal'c cautiously made his way down some of the more difficult spots.
It took forty minutes to slip and slide along the trail, and when the clearing was finally in view, Jack passed everyone and jogged to the Jeep. He unlocked the door, started the engine, and put the heater on full blast. Maneuvering in the rain-soaked field was difficult. Jack gunned the engine several times over the muddier areas, the vehicle slipping and sliding as he drove to meet the approaching group. He was almost there when the engine suddenly coughed and went dead. Swearing, he tried to coax the engine back to life, but it simply wouldn't start.
He stepped out of the jeep and spread his arms in confusion.
"I didn't do anything, I swear," Jack said as he popped the hood.
"Let me," Carter offered as she leaned in to start fiddling with the engine. He moved aside, and Chung joined her.
"Bolton, set your men around the perimeter," Jack ordered as he opened the passenger door. "Teal'c, get Danny out of the rain."
Bolton ordered his cadets into the edges of the woods around the clearing, and they quickly obeyed.
When Jack went to help Teal'c sit Daniel into the passenger side of the vehicle, Jack had a sneaking suspicion the Jeep had gone the way of his cellular phone.
They were sitting ducks out here in the middle of the field. Then again, as in the camp, had anyone wanted to take pot shots at them, they probably would have done so already.
Jack slid into the driver�s seat as Daniel slumped, still unconscious, still shivering. Jack put a hand to hold his friend upright, trying to balance him without jarring his shoulder.
"See if he's still bleeding," Jack said as he held Daniel steady.
Teal'c pulled the blanket down and unbuttoned Daniel's jacket. "He is." Teal'c fished a bandage from a pocket and placed it over the one already in place. He closed the jacket up again and pulled the damp blankets up to Daniel's chin, tucking them behind him.
Finally Jack allowed Daniel to slide against him, holding him steady with an arm held around his waist, letting Daniel use Jack�s shoulder as a pillow. Teal�c wrapped their friend in the sleeping bag Jack had carried, and still Daniel shivered. Jack eyed the inoperative heater and hoped Carter could get the engine going soon. Teal�c shut the door, leaving him alone with Daniel.
The windows quickly steamed up with their combined breaths, turning the outside world into a blur. He could hear voices as Carter and Chung tried several things with the motor, shadows shifting as they moved past the windows and around the Jeep. When Carter finally opened the door by the driver's side, the blast of cool, damp air sent a shiver down Jack's back.
"Sir, I can't see anything wrong," she reported as she stuck her head inside. "If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say there's water in the gas tank." She looked at Jack a moment, then her gaze quickly moved to Daniel.
"Send three of the cadets back for our gear � tents, food, as much as they can carry," Jack ordered. "It'll be dark soon," he said, glancing at his watch. "First thing tomorrow I want Teal'c to walk down to the main road and get help." He knew they'd have to hurry to get the gear back to the clearing before nightfall. And there was no way anyone could make the trip down to the road in the dark for help. It was more than twenty miles to the nearest house, the land on both sides of the road mostly property of the Air Force.
Carter nodded. "I'll go with them to get the gear," she offered, and shut the door before going off to choose the three who were to accompany her.
The Jeep was cold and damp, but at least it was drier than outside at the moment. He slid a hand beneath the blankets and Daniel's jacket, placing it on Daniel's abdomen. Jack's fingers were cold, but his friend's skin felt colder; Jack suspected he was hypothermic due to the time spent lying in the cold rain. Of course the blood loss and concussion weren't helping matters either.
He settled the blankets again around Daniel and tucked his chin over his friend's damp hair. They needed to warm him up.
Daniel coughed, stirring slightly and then coughed again. He made a slight noise deep in his throat as he tried to pull away from Jack.
"Shhh, don't move," Jack said, trying to hold Daniel still. But his words didn't seem to get through to his friend. He fought the blankets, pushing and kicking as his breathing quickened. His eyes were open, and to Jack, it looked like he was trying to find a way to escape.
"Daniel," Jack said, raising his voice. Daniel stilled, his gaze meeting Jack's.
"Sick," Daniel managed to gasp before he began panting.
"Okay, hold on." Jack reached over Daniel and unlatched the passenger door and pushed it open. Daniel lunged for the edge of the car as he began to retch. Jack grabbed him around the middle, holding him inside the car as the younger man heaved, splattering the partly open door and the running board.
Suddenly Teal'c was there in the doorway, helping to support Daniel so he didn't fall out. When Daniel seemed finished, Jack went to pull him back up, but Daniel shook his head. His breathing sped up, and he was sick again.
When the heaving finally stopped, Jack pulled him back inside. Daniel sat there with his eyes closed, his head leaning on the back of the seat. Rain had fallen onto Daniel's hair and face, and Jack wiped the moisture away with his hands before finishing up with the corner of the blanket.
"That was gross," Daniel finally said in a weak voice.
"Do you wish some water?" Teal'c asked. Daniel nodded, the movement very faint. Teal'c uncapped his canteen and held it to Daniel's mouth. When Daniel made no move to open his eyes or take it, Teal'c touched the mouth of the canteen to Daniel's lips. Obediently, Daniel opened his mouth, and Teal'c dribbled some water into his mouth. He allowed Daniel several sips before taking the water away.
"Thanks," Daniel sighed.
"How are you feeling?" Jack asked as he pulled the coverings aside to get a look at Daniel's wound. The second bandage didn't appear blood-soaked so Jack figured Daniel's struggle hadn't worsened the bleeding. Jack could still feel him shivering beneath his hands.
Daniel cracked his left eye open and turned to look at Jack, then down at his shoulder. Jack tucked the blanket again around the trembling form to shield him from the damp wind blowing into the Jeep from the open door.
"You have to ask? What happened?"
"You were shot, and you hit your head when you fell." Jack examined the soaked bandage on Daniel's forehead and decided it needed changing. He carefully peeled it off. It was wet enough to not take any of the clotting scab with it.
"Who?" Daniel began, then opened his other eye, squinting while looking around the Jeep in confusion while Jack removed a dry bandage from his vest. "Where are we?"
"In my Jeep. Remember the training session? The hike over the mountain?"
Daniel shook his head, again the movement slight so as to probably not worsen the headache he must have been suffering from. When Jack placed the dry bandage onto the wound, Daniel hissed.
"I don't," Daniel began, then stopped. His eyes opened fully, and he winced. "Yes. I remember hearing a voice," Daniel said. "It was raining and thundering, and it was talking to me�"
"The person who shot you?" Jack asked
"I don't know. I just... I don't know." He closed his eyes again. "Damn, it's so cold." He slumped sideways, and Jack pulled him close against him in the confines of the Jeep, allowing Daniel to take the bit of comfort he could offer, his body heat.
"Did you see the person who spoke to you?" Teal'c asked.
"I don't know," Daniel answered, his voice muffled against Jack's chest. Jack met Teal'c's gaze and shrugged, raising his eyebrows in question. He wondered whether Daniel had really heard someone, or if the head injury or possible hypothermia was making him a little confused.
"Perhaps if I return to the site where DanielJackson was injured, I might be able to find some indication of who did this, and why," Teal'c offered.
"Won't the rain have washed the tracks away?"
"Indeed. But there may be other signs we may have missed. We did not take the time to examine the area in our rush to bring DanielJackson to cover."
"Fine, but be careful," Jack admonished. Teal'c nodded and shut the door softly.
"Daniel?" Jack said softly. When Daniel didn�t move, Jack hoped his friend was merely sleeping and not unconscious.
- - - - - -
"Take down the colonel's tent first," Sam ordered the two cadets, "then the rest." She cast an eye at Rawlins, who was on guard duty, before she moved towards their gear. She began going through the packs they had abandoned, making sure they had enough medical supplies and food to keep them provisioned at least up until tomorrow afternoon.
As she worked, snippets of whispered conversation between Chung and Barnett made their way to her.
"...telling you, it's all a show... Colonel... high and dry... laughing... supposedly on� lookout... attempted murderer."
"Doctor Jackson looked bad..."
Sam placed the readied packs aside and then went to join the cadets, who were struggling to fold the tent into its once-neat and compact bundle.
"... good shot... civilians..."
"But *I* shot him with my Intar," Barnett was saying. "What if Doctor Jackson got shot because we left him there?"
The conversation stopped suddenly as Sam walked by, both parties looking slightly guilty. They threw themselves into their work with gusto, trying to pretend they hadn't been discussing Sam's teammate.
"I think that, actually, you might have saved Daniel's life," Sam said, picking up the conversation as she unrolled the recalcitrant tent and made short work of folding it properly. "I bet he was shot the same time as you hit him with the Intar, and as he went down, the bullet missed his heart and hit his shoulder instead."
"Do you really think so, Major?" the young woman asked hopefully.
"You weren't to blame, Cadet," Sam said, putting a hand on her arm.
"Thank you, ma'am," Barnett replied. "But still, I should have checked to make sure he was okay. I should have realized there was something wrong because he was out in the open. We hadn't seen any signs of SG-1, and suddenly there he was."
"What was he doing?" Sam asked, hoping this might shed some light as to what had happened.
"He was moving slowly, as if he was following something, tracks maybe, or some sign."
"He was looking at the ground?"
"Yes and no. He was looking around but moving cautiously. I knew none of my team was in that direction, so I thought maybe he was looking for our tracks."
The information didn't help much, except that maybe Daniel had gotten wind of something or someone and had been investigating. It was strange he'd been in the open; their orders had been to remain out of sight at all times. With a sigh, she put the colonel's tent aside and set off to finish taking down the other tents.
They made their way back within thirty minutes of their arrival.
- - - - - -
It didn't take Teal'c long to find the cause of DanielJackson's 'voice'. Hidden in the brush near where he'd been shot was a miniature tape player. It was connected to a small device. Teal'c examined the device, and after ascertaining it wasn't anything dangerous, he pressed the on button. When nothing happened, he realized the tape had played to the end and so he pressed rewind. The cassette began to rewind slowly, more slowly than it should have. Teal'c realized the rain might have damaged it so he turned it off in case he might damage it further. He pocketed it, intending to hand it over to MajorCarter.
- - - - - -
Short-handed as they were with half the cadets on guard duty, Jack decided to go out and help the teams set up camp. But when he moved to try and push Daniel back onto the seat, Daniel jerked, his head coming up quickly before falling back down onto Jack's chest almost as fast. He gasped, then moaned in pain.
Jack placed a hand around Daniel's nape and gently massaged the tense muscles, waiting while Daniel breathed through his discomfort.
"I'm going to give the kids a hand," Jack said when Daniel appeared to have gotten over the worst of it and raised his head, much more slowly this time. Jack hadn't expected the look of panic on Daniel's face at his words. He glanced around, and Jack could see him taking stock of the vehicle before squinting at the condensation-blurred windows.
"Where are we?"
"In my Jeep. The cadets are setting up camp, and if I go out there and give them a hand, we can get you nice and comfy in a sleeping bag that much quicker."
"Think forty eight hours, mountain, rain, training, cadets," Jack said patiently. He used his sleeve to wipe the condensation again from the window, and realized his tent was already up. He saw Carter coming towards the Jeep with something in her hand, and he opened the door, cursing windows that didn't work without an engine to power them.
"Daniel's boots," she said, holding said items towards him. "Can he walk? Or will we carry him?" "I can walk, Sam," Daniel huffed. Her smile lit her face up as Daniel raised his head to look at her.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, leaning over into the vehicle.
"Like I've been shot," Daniel answered.
"Here, let's get these on," Jack said. Carter shut the door and circled the Jeep, opening the passenger side door and helping Jack put Daniel's boots on, lacing them up loosely.
The daylight was fading fast, and Jack could see the flicker of a lantern in his tent, beckoning him towards comfort. Daniel turned towards Carter and lowered a foot out into the mud. Jack got out of the jeep and hurried around to the other side as Daniel got his other leg out. Carter was holding Daniel steady, and with his uninjured arm holding onto the Jeep door, Daniel stood.
Jack had kept a loose hold on Daniel and felt him start to go down as his knees buckled. Both he and Carter caught him and steadied him, waiting until he managed to get his balance. Pale, shaky, still shivering, his face pinched, his lips clenched tightly against the effort and pain, Daniel made his slow way towards the tent.
A damp wind blew misty air, and Jack felt Daniel begin to shiver convulsively.
Jack was aware of the stares from the cadets. Some appeared worried, others uncaring. Just before he bent over and entered the tent, he saw Teal'c step out of the woods and begin to cross the clearing.
Someone had spread a sleeping bag on the ground, and in a moment, they had Daniel sitting on it. Jack pulled Daniel's boots off and eased him until he was lying down. His friend was still shivering, his teeth chattering now.
"We need to warm him up," Carter said to Jack as she moved to a pack near the entrance and took out some pills. She turned to Daniel and held them out to him. "Antibiotics," Sam explained.
Daniel blinked and tried to sit up. Jack bolstered his uninjured side while Daniel took the medication. As Daniel settled back down, Teal'c entered the tent.
"I believe I have discovered the source of the voice DanielJackson heard," he stated as he took something from a vest pocket and handed it to Carter. It looked like a small, fancy tape recorder.
"This is an expensive model," Carter said as she looked it over.
"It may have been damaged in the rain," Teal'c explained. "I attempted to play it back, but it was sluggish, and I feared to ruin it."
"Okay, I'll see what I can do," she said. "But I might need my lab if it is damaged."
"Where'd you find that?" Jack asked, peering over Carter's shoulder.
"It was concealed in some bushes near where DanielJackson had been shot," he answered.
"What's the other thingie?" Jack asked.
"I'm not sure. It looks like a remote control," she said before pocketing the devices. She turned to Daniel. "Do you think you could manage to drink broth if I heat some up for you?"
"I'm not hungry," Daniel replied as he curled up on his side. He winced as he tried to get comfortable.
The ground was cool underneath the tent's bottom, and Jack figured Daniel wasn't going to warm up quickly, even lying inside the sleeping bag.
"Just a few sips," Jack encouraged as he gathered a couple of backpacks and stacked them behind the sleeping bag. "It'll help warm you up."
"I shall prepare a hot beverage," Teal'c offered as he backed out of the tent.
"And speaking of which, maybe this will help," Jack said. "Here, sit up," he suggested, scooting over to sit on the sleeping bag in the space behind Daniel, leaning against the stacked packs. He shifted Daniel so that he was half sitting, half lying between Jack's legs, leaning back against Jack's chest. Carter covered both of them with a second sleeping bag and Jack supported his still trembling friend with an arm wrapped round his chest.
"Carter, rotate the cadets. Keep half of them on sentry duty. Let the other half get some rest." Jack shifted a little, reaching behind him and adjusting one of the packs digging into his hip.
"Kirby, Rawlins and Bolton are standing guard, and Barnett and Chung have just finished putting up the last tent," she informed him. "I'll rotate the shifts along with myself and Teal'c. It might be best if you stay here with Daniel, if only as a bodyguard."
"You don't need to�" Daniel started to say when Jack interrupted him.
"If that tape recorder was set to lure you to a certain spot so they could take a shot at you, then this was a deliberate act," he said. "If that gunshot was meant to kill, then whoever did this might just try again. So no, Daniel, we're not leaving you alone."
"Do you remember what was on the tape?" Carter asked Daniel.
"No, it's just a blur, like a dream," he answered tiredly.
"I'll go set the rotations and then see if I can get the tape to work," she said. As she slipped out of the tent, the sound of the rain intensified.
"Well, this is embarrassing," Daniel said after a moment.
Jack smiled. "What, you don't like your personal radiator?" he teased.
"No, you feel good," Daniel answered. "It's just, weird, you know?"
"This is the best way to warm up someone who's suffering from exposure."
"Isn't that supposed to be skin to skin?" Daniel's voice was fading, and Jack knew Daniel would be asleep in a matter of minutes.
"Skin to skin? God, please, don't go there," he said with a laugh. When Daniel didn't answer, he shook his arm. "Hey, stay awake a few minutes longer. Teal'c will be here with that soup."
"I'm awake," Daniel said after a few seconds, the slurred tone indicating he wouldn't be for long.
Teal'c arrived at that moment, water dripping from his rain gear. He handed the broth to Jack and quickly left, stating he would start a perimeter check of the area. The smell of chicken soon permeated the confined enclosure of the tent.
Jack coaxed Daniel into taking several sips, and then ended up drinking the remaining broth when Daniel fell asleep. He had almost stopped trembling, and his skin was beginning to feel warmer to Jack's touch.
- - - - - -
"How's it going?"
Carter jumped and nearly dropped the small screwdriver she was using to close up the tape recorder.
"Colonel." She tried to compose herself and not make it obvious that she'd been so focused on her work she hadn't heard him approach. "I'm almost done." She gave the small screw two more twists. "How's Daniel?" She put the screwdriver down and put the batteries in.
"Sleeping. And his body temperature's back to normal." He sat down beside her and threw a couple of twigs into the campfire.
"That's good. But I thought you weren't going to leave him alone." She looked at her commanding officer, his face partly in shadow in the flickering firelight. He accepted a cup of coffee from Rawlins, who had been helping Carter clean and dry the tape recorder. She had instructed him how to dry the tape and meticulously rewind it by hand. It had been a long, meticulous process, but hopefully they had been able to salvage enough from it to find out what Daniel had heard. When the cadet waved the coffee pot in her direction, she picked up her empty cup and held it up while he refilled it.
"I had to go take a... anyways, Barnett's sitting with him."
She sipped her coffee gratefully, its warmth temporarily chasing away the chill of the damp night air. She waved the tape recorder at the colonel once she'd put her cup down.
"Well, here goes nothing," she said as she pressed the play button.
At first there was no sound, and she increased the volume. Static came from the speakers, and then garbled sounds, too broken up to make sense of them. She glanced at Colonel O'Neill. His lips were pressed tightly, his eyes narrowed as he concentrated on the playback.
Suddenly, the sounds coalesced into words, a little distorted, and she wondered if this had been done deliberately to disguise the voice, or was simply due to the damage to the tape. It was impossible to even tell if it was a man or woman's voice.
"... too spineless to do the right thing. You caused his death, Doctor Jackson. You, who had been handed the key to destroying the Goa'uld, could not bring yourself to release the poison and free Earth from their continuous menace.
"Lieutenant Elliot proved to be a much braver soul than you ever were. Patrick fearlessly sacrificed his own life in order to save a handful of others. He died, so you could live. He died because you failed your mission. He died because the System Lords are still alive. He died because he was taken over by a snake.
"I wonder if you can sleep at night, Doctor Jackson. Do you ever wonder how much pain Patrick Elliot experienced before the poison killed him? Before it killed the creature that inhabited him? You don't deserve�"
"Damnit! The colonel swore when the playback broke up once more. He got up and started pacing, and she glanced up to meet Rawlin's frightened look over the campfire. She looked around and saw Bolton several feet away, a shocked look on his face. It was pretty much obvious Daniel had been deliberately attacked.
- - - - - -
"He's a little restless, sir," Barnett said when Jack stepped back into the tent. He glanced at Daniel, seeing that he was still sleeping but had kicked off the sleeping bag and was lying with only a jacket for protection from the chilly air.
"Thanks, you can go," he said as he moved to sit beside Daniel.
The dismissed cadet stood gracefully from her seated position, one that Jack knew his aging body wouldn't permit him to hold for long periods anymore. He took his pistol and placed it on the ground beside him as she settled her Intar more comfortable in her arms as she walked towards the tent's exit. When she paused and turned back towards him, Jack looked up at her questioningly.
"He's really hurt, isn't he?" she asked in a soft tone. "We thought that..."
"This was part and parcel of the training?"
"Yes, sir." Even in the dim light, Jack could see her face darken as the blush enveloped her neck and cheeks.
"Be prepared for anything, huh?" Jack said. "The real training session would have been a supposedly unscheduled trip through the Stargate to an uninhabited planet," Jack confessed. "Wouldn't look much different than this place," he continued as he stretched his legs out before him. He was tired and stressed, and his body was starting to feel the effects. He looked up at the young woman. "You never know; it might still happen, one day." He reached for the sleeping bag and pulled it over Daniel.
"He keeps kicking it off," she warned. True to form, Daniel grunted a few seconds later and pushed the covering away with his legs. With a frown, Jack reached over and touched the back of his fingers to Daniel's face and wasn't surprised to feel the skin hot and dry.
"Just make sure everyone knows this is the real thing and not a game," Jack ordered. "I need everyone out there to be alert and ready for anything. We have someone who's got a grudge against Daniel, and he might just try again."
"Yes, Sir," she said, "I will." She hesitated again, and Jack looked at her patiently. "Colonel, I... I need to apologize," she said in a rush. She was looking at a point past his shoulder, unable to meet his eyes. "If I hadn't shot him with the Intar, he might have been able to defend himself, or seen or heard the person who shot him."
"Cadet, there's no need to... You were following orders, plain and simple. And up until that point, you were, all of you were, doing a damn fine job of it. And you might have just saved Daniel's life by reporting to me there was something wrong despite your commanding officer's orders. You should be reprimanded for that one," Jack said with a wry smile, "but I think we'll let it pass, just this once."
A touch of a smile graced her face as she turned to leave. Before she left the tent, he asked her to have Carter join him. He glanced at his watch. The sun would be rising in less than two hours. At least the rain had stopped shortly after ten and Teal'c had found some deadwood dry enough to burn. As Carter entered the tent, Jack wondered for the hundredth time how someone had managed to get wind of this training mission. Obviously it was a leak within the SGC. The recording had proved that much.
"He's burning up," he told Carter as she knelt beside him. She felt his face and then picked up Daniel's wrist, taking his pulse.
"His shoulder's probably infected," she said. "We need to bring his fever down." She put her hand back to Daniel's face and turned it towards her. "Daniel, wake up."
- - - - - -
Daniel opened his eyes, looked at Sam, and shut them again with a curse. His head hurt. His shoulder hurt worse than his head, and his stomach was threatening to turn inside out once more. He was hot, and he knew he was in trouble because he wasn't in the infirmary.
"Not feeling that great, huh?" Jack said gently.
"I've felt better," Daniel answered testily.
"Here, Tylenol. These will help with the fever," Jack said, offering him three pills and water. "Might even help the headache some." Daniel went to sit up when his shoulder erupted in pain at the movement. He gasped, the agony driving him back to the floor. He clutched his shoulder with his hand, trying to claw at the pain and make it stop.
Someone pulled his hand away, and he could hear Jack telling him to breathe. He tried to concentrate on his voice, and slowly the pain began to ebb.
"Shit," Daniel said after he was able to take a few deep breaths as the pain subsided a bit more. He saw Sam cast Jack a worried look before she unbuttoned Daniel's jacket. She pulled the edge of the bandages aside and he could see the bullet wound was inflamed. Sam buttoned the jacket up again and used the edge of the sleeping bag to wipe the sweat from his face.
When Daniel felt he could swallow some water without puking it back up, he nodded at Jack. His friend helped support his head and shoulders while he swallowed the pills. Sam gave him two more, antibiotics, and he took those with a grimace.
"How's the head?" Jack asked as he put the canteen aside.
"It still hasn't fallen off, but at this point it would be a blessing," Daniel mumbled as he placed his arm over his eyes.
"Look, it'll be light in a couple of hours and Teal'c will be going for help," Jack said as he fiddled with the edge of the sleeping bag. "We'll have you in Fraiser's clutches before you know it."
"Do you think it's safe to send Teal'c alone?" Sam asked.
"I can send one of the cadets... Kirby, isn't she a long-distance runner? She shouldn't have any problems keeping up with him."
"Safe, why?" Daniel asked, suddenly fearful for Teal'c. "What happened?"
The only sound was the hissing of the lantern as Jack looked everywhere but at him. After a moment, his friend cleared his throat and told Daniel what had been on the tape.
"But who could know about Revanna?" Daniel asked in confusion. "There aren't that many people who knew Lieutenant Elliot well enough to blame me for what happened." The failure of that mission of several months ago had haunted Daniel, but the looming threat of a new Goa'uld had taken precedent. He'd had to back off and not poison the gathered System Lords and hence literally hand over the control of the galaxy to Anubis. That, plus the fact that he'd come this close to rescuing Sarah...
"It has to be someone who was close to him, a teammate or�"
"Damn," Daniel said when he remembered a vague detail in one of the personnel files he'd read several days ago. "Damn, damn, damn." He hit the floor with his fist at each expletive until Jack grabbed his hand and held it tight, forcing him to stop.
"Rawlins. His sister was engaged to Elliot."
"Crap," Jack said as he met Daniel's eyes. "Carter, go get Teal'c and round up our suspect.
- - - - - -
"Colonel O'Neill," Theodore Rawlins pleaded, "you're making a mistake. I didn't shoot Doctor Jackson."
The young man was seated before the bonfire, hands secured behind his back. Jack steeled himself against the man's expected excuses while he watched Carter remove his personal belongings from his pack. There were only one or two items left and although Jack didn't expect to find a gun, one never knew.
Carter took out the last items and she suddenly looked up at Jack. Concealed inside a pair of socks was a small plastic device.
"Remote control," she said as she tossed it to Jack. He caught it, ignoring Rawlins' cries that 'it wasn't his'. Jack held it up to the firelight; it looked as unfamiliar as the gadget that had been connected to the tape recorder. He pointed it towards the tape recorder and pressed a button. Nothing happened. He pressed another, and the tape began playing. He hit several others until he found one that turned it off.
"You're in a lot of trouble," Jack told Rawlins as he put the remote beside the tape player. "You may as well come clean."
"What's the use?" the accused man said, staring at Jack angrily. "You've already made up your minds, haven't you? No matter what I say, you think I'm guilty."
"Sir," Barnett said timidly. "Theo's right." She cringed visibly when Jack turned to glare at her, but she kept going nonetheless, her voice gaining a bit more confidence as she spoke. "If someone else is guilty, he or she could very easily have planted the remote in Theo's belongings. Maybe you should search everyone's stuff, maybe the gun is in my bag. Or Bolton's, or yours," she said, turning to look at Carter. "Just because Theo's sister killed herself because of what happened to Lieutenant Elliot�"
"What?" Jack exclaimed, turning to look at Rawlins, who was finding the ground near his feet very interesting. Jack turned back to Barnett and snarled, "She killed herself?"
"You didn't know? I thought..." Jack could see the emotions warring on the young woman's face, realizing she had just incriminated her friend further. She glanced at Rawlins then looked away. Jack could see she was trying to keep her emotions in check. "They were engaged," she finally said.
Damn, this was a sorry business.
"I'm so sorry."
Jack spun towards the voice, irritation and concern coursing through him as Daniel stood swaying behind them. "Daniel," he chastised, then swore when he saw Daniel standing in stocking feet in the still wet, muddy ground. He was holding his arm close to his chest, and Jack could see how the action of merely standing was costing him.
Jack stood up to take Daniel back to the tent, but Daniel moved unsteadily away from him, towards Rawlins. Nevertheless, Jack reached for his friend, and Daniel grabbed onto his arm, but only to maintain his balance. His gaze never left the accused man's.
"You have no idea how hard it was for me to not release the poison," Daniel admitted. "But there were other circumstances, reasons for making my decision. Anubis..." He tightened his hold on Jack's arm, and for a moment, Jack thought Daniel was going to pass out. Daniel lowered his head, breathing fast and deep through his mouth. Jack put a hand around Daniel's waist, ready to catch him should Daniel falter.
"I didn't do it. I didn't shoot you," Rawlins said quietly and firmly. "I understand why you did what you did. It wasn't me."
"Daniel, come on. Let's get you back into the tent." Jack could feel Daniel shivering.
"Elliot was a good man." Daniel raised his head to look at Rawlins. "He gave his life so we could get home and warn everyone, not just Earth, but all of our allies, about the threat Anubis had become. We need to work together on this, not fight among ourselves. I'm sorry about your sister; I know how you must feel. But he was dying already, Lantesh couldn't save him. Even if I had poisoned the system lords, Elliott would have died anyway, and we'd all be in a lot more trouble."
"What's the use!" Rawlins exclaimed, slamming a foot down angrily into the mud. "You're not even listening to me!"
"Daniel, come on, not now," Jack said gently. "You're in no shape to get into a yelling contest." He could see sweat beading on Daniel's forehead in the growing daylight, and he pulled gently on Daniel's arm. "Carter, can we give Daniel something for the pain?"
Carter had come up to stand on Daniel's other side, and she said, "Morphine, not enough to knock him out, but just enough to take the edge off."
Daniel allowed Jack to lead him back inside the tent. Jack knelt to remove Daniel's wet, muddy socks when Teal'c entered behind him.
"O'Neill, it is time for me to leave."
Jack rummaged through a pack for clean socks. He could see Kirby waiting outside the tent, ready to accompany Teal'c. Jack stood and clapped Teal'c on the shoulder. "Report every thirty," Jack told him.
"We shall endeavor to bring medical aid as quickly as possible," Teal'c said with a nod and a glance towards Daniel. As he and Kirby turned to leave, Jack began pulling the socks up Daniel's chilled feet while Carter approached with a pre-filled syringe filled with pain killer.
- - - - - -
Teal'c glanced back at the young woman. She was keeping up easily with his pace and did not appear to be winded. Although he would have preferred to travel alone, he was pleased with her progress.
They were making good time and would soon be nearing the gate leading to the country road. They hoped to flag down a passing vehicle, even though their initial plan was to make it to the first occupied building and call for assistance.
When Teal'c heard the sound of a zat gun, he was confused. He turned quickly towards the attacker, only to feel the world exploding around him in a riot of color, pain and disorientation.
He fought for consciousness, but the added shock of his symbiote experiencing the same debilitating shock and muscular spasms pulled him towards oblivion. As he lost the battle, he realized Kirby had been taken down, and they had made a grave error.
The killer was still on the loose, and Teal'c was unable to warn O'Neill.
- - - - - -
"He's sleeping," Carter whispered when the morphine finally allowed Daniel to relax enough to do so. "If you'd like, I'll make you breakfast," she said with a smile. Jack knew she was as tired as he was, her worry over Daniel matching his.
"Nah, get one of the kids to make it. Make them feel useful," he added quietly.
"It'll be a few hours before we get out of here," she supposed as they quietly left the tent.
"Let's feed the troops and send them to bed. They deserve their rest," Jack said. They joined the small group sitting around the campfire and gave them the good news.
- - - - - -
Disorientation, discomfort and cold assailed Teal'c as the world came into focus. He realized his hands were securely tied, and he was tethered to a medium sized tree.
"No, please, don't!"
Kirby's cry was followed by two muffled gunshots, the nearby wildlife barely reacting to the sound. Teal'c listened intently, hoping the gunshots hadn't been aimed at the cadet, but the ensuing silence began to confirm his suspicions.
He expected to be next, but to his surprise, he could make out the faint sounds of someone traveling through the woods, away from him. He struggled with his bonds, fighting to free himself.
"Cadet," he called out when he hoped the killer had moved out of hearing distance. "CadetKirby, are you injured?"
He continued his struggles, ignoring the rawness around his wrists, calling out to his companion every so often.
- - - - - -
"Come on, Theo, don't."
Urgent whispered conversation near his tent intruded into Jack's subconscious, drawing him from sleep. He checked his watch. He'd been asleep for nearly two hours. He rose onto his elbows and reached over to Daniel, putting his fingers on his throat and taking his pulse. His heartbeat was slow, his breathing even, his skin still hot. Daniel didn't stir, and Jack was grateful for the continued effects of the morphine which permitted the injured man to get some rest.
"I don't know what else to do, Rita."
The murmured voice reminded Jack the prisoner wasn't supposed to be spoken to, and with a sigh, he stood up to reprimand the cadet. To his surprise, Rawlins was standing near the edge of the woods, his hands and feet very clearly free. Barnett was beside him, talking urgently.
"Hey!" Jack yelled. Both turned to look at Jack, their faces expressing their shock. In a flash, Rawlins turned and bolted into the woods.
"Damnit," Jack swore as he lost sight of him in seconds. Swearing again as he realized he didn't have his boots on, nevertheless Jack rushed out into the clearing.
"Theo, don't! Come back!" Barnett cried. She spread her hands as Jack approached at a run. "I was trying to talk him out of running," she pleaded. Jack glared at her before examining the trail the escapee had just made. Carter, Bolton and Chung ran up to him, obviously awakened by Jack's yell.
"You were on guard duty," Jack said, turning to accuse the female cadet. She stood at attention, her eyes pooling with unshed tears, but she kept her composure as he brought himself up to his full height and towered down over her. "You let a prisoner escape, cadet."
"No, sir. Respectfully, I had nearly convinced him to stay. *You* spooked him. Sir." She added the honorific after a two second pause.
Carter moved to the area where Rawlins had been tied. She returned with the plastic bands in her hand, showing him the ends.
"They were cut," she told Jack.
"He said he woke up and found himself free," Barnett explained. "He didn't know what to do, whether to run, or stay and try and prove his innocence."
"Running certainly isn't proving to me he's innocent," Jack snapped. "I want everyone ready in two minutes. We're going after him. You," Jack said, turning to Barnett, "will sit here and guard Daniel." He stomped back to his tent to dry his feet and get his boots and gun.
- - - - - -
"Please, Doctor Jackson, wake up."
The insistent voice and the hand shaking his arm forced Daniel to open his eyes. An unfamiliar face with brown eyes, blond hair and freckles, looked down at him. The visage before him wavered a moment, and then Daniel recognized Rita Barnett.
"... awake," he muttered, feeling his eyes closing again despite wanting to keep them open. He was floating now, the pain in his shoulder completely gone instead of the dull ache he'd had since Jack had given him something... morphine, the first time. He'd felt the pinprick of another needle earlier, the discomfort not quite rousing him from his rest.
"Please, don't go to sleep. You need to take these to bring your fever down."
The hand shook his arm again, then slapped his cheek. It didn't hurt, but it was irritating. He managed to get open his eyes again. At least he thought they were open because he everything was blurry now.
"Here, take these." Something was placed in front of his face, and he raised his hand and tried to pick up the small white blurs. But his fingers were numb, and he couldn't get a grasp on the elusive objects. Tired, he let his hand fall back and let himself float away. This time he managed to ignore the shaking. He was just too exhausted to listen.
- - - - - -
"Where the hell did he go?" Jack asked himself once again as he searched for any sign that Rawlins had gone this way. They'd lost the trail early in their search and had been looking without any luck for the past three hours.
He heard someone moving to his left and raised his gun, only to see Carter coming towards him. She shook her head, indicating she'd had no luck either. Neither Bolton nor Chung had seen anything, so he'd sent them off to the north and south while he and Carter had searched west of the camp.
"Sir, something's been bothering me since Rawlins escaped," she said as she paced behind Jack. He glanced back, encouraging her to continue and wondering if it was the same thing that had been nagging at him also. "Someone had to have cut his bonds because he didn't have a knife."
"I know," Jack agreed as Carter echoed his own sentiments. His bet was on Barnett. She'd been the only one up and about, and she *had* been on guard duty.
"But there's the small matter of the remote control device attached to the tape recorder. It's something that's easy to make *if* you know how to do it. I took it apart, and it's much more elaborate than I had suspected." She came to a stop, and Jack turned to look at her, waving away a deerfly buzzing around his head.
"So the remote wasn't store bought?"
"No, it's definitely homemade. But there's only one person here other than myself with the knowledge on how to make one. I think that�"
"Colonel O'Neill, please come in."
Barnett's voice sounded worried, and Jack made a face at Carter as he told her to continue.
"Sir, it's Doctor Jackson. There's something wrong. You have to come back, quick."
Without a word, they quickly turned and began running back towards camp. The whole time Jack kept wondering whether Rawlins had managed to circle around them and had gone back to finish off the job. The cadet's voice had sounded worried, and Jack thought it was ironic she had ended up twice being the bearer of bad news about Daniel.
They burst through the edge of woods. As Jack ran for the tent, he noticed no one else was around. He slowed just before arriving at the tent. The flap was open, and he could see Barnett kneeling beside Daniel.
He entered quickly, his gun drawn. Barnett was startled, but she held her ground. When Jack saw she was alone, he lowered his gun and looked at Daniel.
His friend was sweating and breathing rapidly, almost gasping for breath. He was asleep, or unconscious. He placed a hand to Daniel's sweaty skin, noting the fever and rapid pulse. Carter came in a few seconds later.
"Camp's clear," she announced, glancing once at Barnett then looking at Daniel.
"I tried to get him to take some Tylenol for his fever, but he wouldn't wake up," Barnett explained. "Then he started breathing like this. I didn't know what to do, sir."
"Calling me was the right thing, Cadet. Carter, call the others in. There's no use letting them run around without backup out there. Barnett, go and take a break."
"Yes, sir," she said as she scrambled out of the tent.
"What's wrong with him?" Jack asked Carter as she put her radio back into her vest pocket.
"I don't know," she answered. She put her fingers to Daniel's neck, then looked at Jack. "His fever's really high. We need to get it down." She went to the first aid kit and suddenly Jack saw her go still. She took a syringe out and held it towards Jack.
"It's empty," she said.
"Morphine?" Jack asked, knowing she was going to say yes before she nodded. He glanced back at Daniel. "Who the hell�" He got up and yelled for Barnett. She came running to the tent, skidding a little as she stopped by the entrance.
"Tell me you never left Daniel alone, even for a minute?"
She opened her mouth to answer, then shook her head. She avoided his gaze, staring at the ground, then suddenly remembering her training, raised her head proudly and stared beyond his shoulder.
"I needed to use the facilities, Sir. I went into the bushes behind me. But I never took my eyes off the tent."
Jack turned and went to the end opposite the doorway, then examined the fabric walls on either side. There, to his left, the fabric had been cleanly sliced and repositioned so it wasn't noticeable.
"God damnit, I'll break his frigging neck myself if I catch him," Jack swore. He hated that this man always seemed to have the upper hand. "Carter, shouldn't Teal'c have gotten help back here by now? He hasn't contacted us since the first hour. I hate to say this, but maybe something happened to him, too."
"How could Rawlins have gotten to Teal'c so fast?"
"Because it wasn't Rawlins who shot Daniel. Like I was saying earlier, sir, there's someone with the knowledge of creating a device because he worked for his father's electronics firm for several years.
The details he'd glossed over in the cadets' personnel files suddenly popped into his mind.
"Yes, sir. I'm thinking he planned on putting the blame on Rawlins with the tape recording."
"Or else they were in cahoots. Maybe�"
Surprised, Jack popped his head out of the tent, looking at Rawlins, who had entered the clearing and was standing with his arms out at his sides, to show he wasn't armed.
"Rawlins?" Where had he come from, and where had he been hiding?
"I didn�t do it, sir."
"Where the hell were you all this time?" Jack demanded as he began walking towards the young man.
"In a tree, sir. Over there." Rawlins swallowed and pointed behind him, then watched Jack approach, keeping still. "I saw him sneak into camp. He went into the tent while Rita went into the woods. It was�"
"Bolton, yeah, we know," Jack said, coming to a stop. Rawlins' mouth dropped open in surprise. Jack was tired, and he wanted that murderer caught and put away before he lost his control and beat him up on sight. He clicked his radio. "Bolton, Chung, ETA?"
"Five minutes from camp, Colonel." Bolton's reply echoed in the small clearing. Chung answered two seconds later, stating he'd be there in several more minutes.
"Rawlins, get into your tent, and stay out of sight. I don't want Bolton to see you when he comes in. Barnett... you're my backup."
Jack walked back to the tent and checked on Daniel. His breathing was slower, but Jack didn't like the looks of it. Jack picked up the remote control and put it in his pocket.
"Colonel," Barnett warned. Jack stepped outside and with her at his side, moved to intercept Bolton. The moment he reached the approaching cadet, Jack drew his gun and placed it against the man's temple.
"Tie him," he ordered Barnett, handing her plastic ties with his free hand. "Quiet," he told Bolton as the man asked what he'd done wrong. Safely secured, Jack patted him down, divesting him of his Intar and knife. There was no gun on him.
He grabbed him by the arm and roughly pulled him along and shoved him down on the ground in the middle of the camp. Chung arrived a moment later, and Barnett went to him to explain what had happened.
"Fancy toy I got here," Jack said, pulling the remote from his pocket. "The funny thing about it is there's only one of the five of you who has the ability to build one."
Bolton glared at Jack and remained silent.
"How much morphine did you give Doctor Jackson?"
Bolton continued to stare at Jack and didn't answer.
"Rawlins," Jack bellowed. The cadet quickly exited the tent and came to join them.
"You are going to sit right here and not move." Jack pointed to a log in plain view from his tent. "I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt you're not an accomplice. You're in enough trouble as it is so don't make it look worse. Chung, you and Barnett keep an eye on both of them. There will be no talking to either one, understood?"
He turned and left the two and returned to the tent.
"Sir, I think Daniel's in trouble," Carter said as he knelt beside her. "His breathing is slowing, and I'm afraid he might go eventually into respiratory arrest."
"Damn it, where the hell is Teal'c?"
- - - - - -
The sounds of a car horn echoed through the woods. Belatedly, Teal'c realized the time to meet with Siler had come and gone. He began yelling, hoping his voice could carry far enough for the master sergeant to hear.
He was in luck, and within minutes the familiar visage of the grey-haired man came into view. He knelt to free Teal'c.
"You really did a number on your wrists," Siler said as he carefully cut the plastic bands.
"I will heal." He glanced at the raw and bloody skin on his arms. "DanielJackson has been shot. We need medical evacuation." He stood with Siler's help, unnecessary but welcome nonetheless. "CadetKirby," he said, moving towards where he'd the sound of the gunshots earlier. To his dismay, her lifeless body lay concealed in the brush several feet away from him.
Siler immediately went to her and checked for a pulse. "She's dead," he announced.
"I must warn O'Neill," Teal'c said, patting his vest and noting his radio was gone. "We are camped in the clearing at the end of the road." Teal'c turned and began jogging back the way he came while Siler rushed to the truck and his cell phone.
"I'll get a chopper to you," Siler called back.
Teal'c ran all the way, his wrists stinging, despite his symbiote's presence. He had been gone for many hours; anything could have happened. Worry for his friends plagued him, and he wondered if he would find them all dead in the camp, just like Kirby.
When he neared the end of the dirt road, he slowed and moved into the woods. He made his silent way to the edge and peered at the camp.
Two cadets were seated, under obvious guard by the remaining two. He searched the camp for his team, and deduced they must still be in the tent. He noted the two cadets were armed solely with Intars; there was no sign of a zatniketel or a pistol. He took a chance and walked into the clearing.
He had only taken three steps when Cadet Chung noticed him. Teal'c heard him calling for O'Neill and his commanding officer quickly stepped out of the tent.
"Teal'c, where the hell is our rescue?" O'Neill demanded as he came to meet Teal'c.
"Siler has requested a Medivac helicopter," Teal'c informed him. "I regret that CadetKirby is dead."
O'Neill stopped in mid stride, then moved to Bolton. "Why?" he commanded. The young man remained silent, and Teal'c spoke up.
"I believe she saw his face," he said. "He murdered her in order not to be identified. I was rendered unconscious. I had no knowledge of the assailant's identity."
"You are so going to pay for this," O'Neill snarled as he turned back towards the tent.
- - - - - -
"Come on, breathe," Carter was saying as Jack entered the tent. Daniel's breathing had deteriorated over the past hour until now he was barely able to draw breath. It seemed to help to talk to him. Maybe Daniel was aware of their voices, but he didn't appear to be conscious. Maybe just beneath the surface, Daniel was fighting and was trying to listen to them.
"Bolton gave Daniel an overdose of morphine," Jack explained when Teal'c knelt beside their friend.
"Oh my God," Carter exclaimed, taking one of Teal'c's mangled wrists. "What happened to you?" Jack hadn't noticed the damage earlier and winced, realizing Teal'c must have struggled to get free from whatever Bolton had done to him.
"The wounds are minor," Teal'c said, pulling his hand away from Carter. "CadetKirby and I were incapacitated with zatniketels. I awoke and found myself bound."
"They may seem minor to you, but they could still get infected. Let me at least disinfect them and bandage them up." She got out the first aid kit and began cleaning Teal'c's wounds.
Daniel's breath wisped out, and Jack waited anxiously for the next one. It didn't come.
"Damnit, Daniel." He slid his legs beneath Daniel's shoulders and raised the younger man onto his lap in a semi-reclining position. "Come on, breathe," he coaxed, lightly slapping Daniel's hot cheek. Daniel inhaled, and Jack relaxed a little. He listened with half an ear as Teal'c explained what had happened, having to remind Daniel twice to breathe during Teal'c's account.
"Colonel." Siler stood at the tent's entrance, out of breath and sweating. "The chopper's on its way, ETA is about twenty minutes." He stood breathing heavily for a few seconds and then asked, "How is Doctor Jackson?"
"Gunshot wound, infection and morphine overdose. He's having problems breathing."
"Sir, the chopper can land in the clearing, but we'll need to move the tents and the Jeep to make room for it."
"Get Chung to help you," Jack suggested.
"I will assist," Teal'c said as Carter finished wrapping up his wrists.
Jack heard the men push the Jeep to the far edge of the trees and quickly dismantle the tents. When Jack's tent was the only one up, Teal'c and Siler picked Daniel up and carried him into the shelter of the narrow dirt road. Jack sat down on a sleeping bag with Daniel half sitting once again in his arms.
Before long he heard the distinct whup whup of a helicopter. As soon as it began landing, Jack bent over Daniel and raised the sleeping bag's edge over his friend's face in order to protect him from flying debris.
The chopper landed without difficulty. In seconds, Fraiser was climbing out, and Teal'c was pointing her in his direction. As she ran towards him, Teal'c took the heavy medical case from her and jogged alongside her. The pilot followed more slowly, carrying a stretcher.
Fraiser took one look at Daniel and grabbed the case from Teal'c. Within seconds she was removing an oxygen mask from it. Jack held Daniel's head steady against his shoulder as she placed the mask over Daniel's mouth. After a cursory examination, she also started an IV.
"His blood pressure is dangerously low," she said as she drew some medication into a syringe. "I'm giving him Narcan. It's a narcotic antagonist," she explained as she injected the drug into the IV line. "It prevents the opiates from binding to the brain, interrupting the effects of the drug."
"He's having problems breathing," Jack said as Daniel gasped weakly despite the oxygen.
"I know. The Narcan will help. He should be waking up in a minute." Fraiser then took a look at Daniel's shoulder and shook her head. "He's got a pretty good infection going there," she said as she replaced the bandage.
Daniel moaned and took a deep breath. Jack could see he was breathing a little easier.
"I know it hurts," Fraiser told Daniel as she finished replacing the bandage. "I'm almost done."
Daniel moved restlessly against Jack, moaning once more. Fraiser waved the pilot over with the stretcher. Jack shifted to grab Daniel beneath the arms as Teal'c grabbed his legs. As they lifted, Daniel yelled and writhed. Jack was hard pressed not to drop him before he got him onto the stretcher.
Daniel's eyes were open, and he was gasping, but this time from pain.
"Shit, Daniel, I'm sorry," Jack said as he knelt beside his friend. "Doc, he's in a lot of pain."
"The Narcan counteracts the morphine, Colonel. Which also means no pain relief."
She bent over Daniel and placed a hand to his cheek, turning his face so he was looking at her. "Daniel, it's going to hurt for a while, but I need to keep you awake until you're stabilized. Just hang on, okay?"
Daniel nodded, his face white and pinched. Carter placed a blanket over Daniel while Teal'c and Fraiser began strapping him in. "Hey," Jack said, placing a hand on Daniel's face like Fraiser had done to get his attention. "You're safe," he told his friend. "We're getting you out of here and to the hospital."
"... happened?" Daniel asked, licking his lips.
"Bolton got to you again. He tried to overdose you. Don't worry, doc took care of it. You'll be fine."
"Don't remember," Daniel slurred, looking at Jack worriedly.
"It's okay. It'll be fine." Jack reached for the lump beneath the blankets that was Daniel's fisted hand and squeezed it.
"Carter," Jack said as Fraiser buckled the last strap. "Go with him. He'll rest easier if one of us..."
"Yes, sir," she said as she picked up the IV solution. Jack let go of Daniel's hand and took one end of the stretcher while Teal'c took the other. They quickly carried him to the helicopter and secured the stretcher inside.
"I'll see you at the base," Jack said as the two women settled themselves into their seats.
The rotors began turning, the noise from the motors drowning out further speech. Jack gave Daniel a thumb's up and jumped out of the helicopter. He ran several feet away and then watched as his friend was flown to safety. He turned around and sat down to wait once more. SFs were coming to take Bolton away, and others would be needed to do a search for the hidden weapons. It was going to be a long night.
- - - - - -
It hurt Sam to see Daniel in such pain again. They had kept him lightly sedated with the morphine over the past day, and she had forgotten how much agony he'd be in without the opiate. Speech was almost impossible without a radio set, and they weren't about to put one on Daniel with the oxygen mask in place. She dug her hand into the side of the stretcher beneath the blankets and took hold of Daniel's fingers. He latched onto her hand, squeezing in response.
The pilot informed her they'd be at the base in twenty minutes. She nodded, watching either Janet or Daniel throughout the trip. It seemed to go on forever, but that was because she knew Daniel was in such pain.
Shortly before the time was up, Daniel's grasp on her fingers began to weaken. She saw his eyes start to close, and she looked at Janet in alarm.
"The Narcon's wearing off," Janet told Sam as she prepared another syringe. "His BP is still too low; I'll need to give him another dose. Hopefully by the time we're ready to get him into OR, he'll be more stable."
Daniel squirmed despite his restraints as the pain hit him again when the morphine's effects were negated once more. Sam squeezed his hand to remind him she was there and then took a cloth Janet had been using and wiped the sweat from his face. The chopper began descending, and she thanked God they were finally at the hospital.
- - - - - -
The entrance to Cheyenne Mountain loomed before Jack as the M923 turned towards the underground complex. He was more than ready for a shower and impatient to find out how Daniel was doing.
He'd spoken to Carter once during the area search, and she'd informed him Daniel had been taken to surgery. That had been... he checked his watch, well over four hours ago. Hopefully by now Daniel was in recovery, and all was well with his friend.
God, he'd hated having to stay behind for the cleanup, but he knew Daniel would appreciate a friend's presence with him on the trip back to the hospital. He rubbed a hand through his hair. He needed a shower, bad.
At least they'd found both the zat gun and the pistol, complete with silencer. They'd been stashed not far from the camp, and with any luck, there would be incriminating fingerprints on the weapons. Bolton was going to pay for this. If he had to, he'd get the Tok'ra to bring their memory devices and get the bastard to *show* them what he had done if he wouldn't talk.
Hell, if it was good enough for the Tok'ra, it was good enough for him.
The truck came to a stop and Jack slid out of the cab. The SFs jumped out from the back, showing way too much energy for his liking. Teal'c exited last, waiting for Jack. He thanked them and the driver before making his way to the locker room, Teal'c following along behind him silently.
Shower first, Hammond second, Daniel third.
As expected, there was a message waiting for him from the general. He wanted to see Jack in thirty minutes.
The hot water felt good, and he just stood there for several minutes, letting it pound into his sore and tired body. He heard Teal'c finish with his own shower and with a sigh, began lathering up.
Carter was waiting for him when he exited the locker room. She and Teal'c were talking, and they both looked up at him as he joined them.
"How's Daniel?" he asked.
"He's out of surgery. Janet said his wound's badly infected, but the bullet didn't damage anything major. He's sedated. She said he'll sleep for several more hours. He's going to be fine."
"So she threw you out?" Jack said as he began walking towards Hammond's office.
"Yes, sir," Carter said with a wry smile. "She said she didn't want to see any of us before visiting hours tomorrow morning."
Jack figured it was for the best. He was dead on his feet, but if Fraiser said Daniel would be fine, then he didn't doubt her word.
Jack left his teammates at the elevator. He got in, wishing this whole debacle had never happened. He made his way to General Hammond's office on auto pilot, suddenly surprised to find himself standing outside the door. He rapped on it, waiting for the command to enter.
"Jack," Hammond said when Jack opened the door. "Sit down." Jack did so, grateful to be sitting.
"You look tired," Hammond said solicitously. "I hear Doctor Jackson will be fine." Jack nodded, relieved to hear the news also from his commanding officer. Still, he'd like to have seen Daniel with his own eyes. He could still feel his friend lying against him, struggling to take a breath. "So, I've heard Major Carter's report on the incident." Hammond's words brought him back to the present. "I'd like to hear your take on it now."
Jack leaned forward in the chair, composing his thoughts. He pushed aside his worry over Daniel and became the soldier once again.
- - - - - -
He couldn't breathe. His lungs were heavy, unresponsive, preventing him from taking in life-giving oxygen. His head ached. His chest burned. His shoulder throbbed. He gasped, forcing air into his chest. There was someone after him, someone who'd been trying to kill him. Was killing him now. Poisoned him with morphine. Sweat poured down his face as he waited to hear the voice that had kept encouraging him, telling him to breathe whenever the effort became too hard.
He woke up coughing, gasping for breath that hadn't been available in his nightmare. He could hear a rapid beeping sound nearby as he looked around wildly, trying to look for hidden danger.
"Easy, easy." He felt a hand on his arm, and Jack's voice was near his ear. He turned his head, the movement taking nearly all his strength. "It's just a dream." Jack smiled at him as he leaned back in a chair.
Daniel looked around, trying to figure out where he was. The room was light and airy, sunlight streaming in through the curtained window.
"It's okay. You're in the Academy Hospital," Jack informed him. "Doc said you're gonna be fine."
"Water?" Daniel croaked, his mouth and throat feeling terribly dry.
"Here." Jack spooned some ice chips into his mouth. They were refreshing and wet, but not enough to soothe his thirst, barely enough to bring saliva back into his mouth.
Dutifully Jack spooned a bit more until Daniel's thirst was slaked.
"Thanks." Daniel closed his eyes, feeling extremely tired.
"Get some sleep," Jack said, his hand resting on Daniel's arm once again. The heat and weight of Jack's hand reassured him, and he felt safe. Unable to prevent himself even if he'd wanted to, Daniel slipped into healing sleep once more.
- - - - - - -
"It was the NID." Hammond handed Jack a manila folder which he dutifully opened and read its contents. It held Bolton's confession, how he had been approached by the NID in order to dispose of Daniel, with the promise of a prestigious position on one of the SG teams.
Jack had always known Daniel had been an enemy of the NID ever since he'd permitted the Tollans to escape but was surprised they'd made a move now, almost five years after the incident. He supposed they had been waiting for the right person to approach to do the job.
"So our hands are tied?" Jack said, throwing the folder onto the table in disgust.
"In a way, yes," Hammond said. "But the person Bolton named was found floating face down in his swimming pool two nights ago, an apparent suicide. It looks like he was working on his own, without the full sanction of the NID. I think they've cleaned up their own scum. At least scuttlebutt has it sounding that way."
"A little gossip around the water fountain, sir?" Jack asked with a smirk.
"More like a couple of cheap drinks in a sleazy bar," Hammond countered. "But my source is reliable, and I'm convinced that Doctor Jackson's life is no longer in any danger from the NID."
"What about Bolton?"
"With any luck, he'll be too old to father any children by the time he gets out of jail," Hammond said as he picked up the discarded manila folder and put it aside. "Rawlins' black mark against him will prevent him from joining the SGC, but he will be accepted into the Air Force. Barnett and Chung will be sent to that nice little planet we picked out when we have a couple more suitable candidates to accompany them."
"Whoever gets the job of watching these kids," Jack said with a grin, "warn them to keep an eye on Barnett. She's managed to save Daniel twice, and she kinda, sorta knows, she might have been going offworld."
Hammond's stern look had Jack searching for interesting patterns in the briefing room table. Waiting for a reprimand, he was surprised to hear the older man laugh.
"Get out of here, Jack," he said with a smile. "Enjoy your downtime. I don't want to see your face for the next week."
"Yes, sir," Jack said with a grin as he slapped the table, getting up with a bounce. He had a friend being discharged from the hospital today, and the rest of his team was already there, waiting for him.
- - - - - -
"You really don�t have to stay with me, Jack," Daniel said as he made his slow way into his sunken living room. Jack didn't miss the way Daniel's legs trembled on the last step and how he nearly fell onto the couch when he reached the bottom of the stairs. He didn't know why Daniel had insisted on coming to his apartment. This place was a veritable obstacle course to someone not yet steady on their feet. He just knew he'd be sweeping up broken glass and clay before the day was over.
Daniel leaned back and rubbed his arm, which was supported in a sling. More gently, he rubbed at the area on his chest where Fraiser had operated to remove the bullet.
"I still don't understand, if I was shot in the shoulder, how did the bullet make its way into my chest?" Daniel asked for the twentieth time.
"That's one of the things about high powered weapons," Carter said. "The bullet can bounce around in someone's body before it comes to a stop."
Daniel massaged his forehead, a sure sign to his friends indicating he was tired. Jack looked at Carter, and she pointed towards the bedroom.
"Here, why don't you get comfortable," Jack said as he sat on the coffee table before Daniel. He leaned over and untied his friend's shoes.
"Do you wish any refreshments, DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked.
Teal'c inclined his head and set off for the kitchen.
By the time Jack pulled Daniel's shoes off, Carter had returned with a blanket and pillow.
"Here," she said as she placed the pillow against the edge of the couch. Without complaint, Daniel lay down on the couch, and Carter covered him with the blanket. Daniel shifted to get comfortable, and Jack got up and sat in one of the recliners.
It was good to finally relax, to get the past several days behind them. They'd all been jumpy. Even with the knowledge there was no longer any danger, their subconscious had a hard time letting go. Daniel, also, despite the medications he was on, had a tendency to startle at the slightest noise. Hopefully now that he was home and on the way to recovery, they could all forget about the attempts on their friend's life.
Daniel reached for the bottle of water Teal'c had placed before him on the coffee table. He struggled one-handed to open it. Carter took it from him and twisted the cap off, and handed it back. He smiled his thanks and sipped at the liquid.
Jack was pretty sure Daniel would be asleep in the next ten minutes. He'd dozed on and off in the truck on his way home, finally sliding sideways against Teal'c and using him as a pillow until a car horn had woken him up. He'd valiantly fought the need to sleep the remainder of the way, and his fatigue was obviously catching up to him by the way his eyes were half closed.
Jack glanced at his teammates, who were all sitting quietly, waiting for Daniel to fall asleep. Jack smiled to himself, knowing they still all needed to make sure he was safe and would rather sit here quietly for an hour or two rather than move into another room to talk.
Daniel's quiet question confused Jack. His friend was staring at him from the couch, still half asleep, waiting for an answer.
"Why did the NID operative go after you?"
"His background check showed no connection to Elliot, so Bolton obviously used that as a ploy to frame Rawlins. Obviously, that wasn't the reason. I don't know, Daniel. Maybe the guy was jealous of your accomplishments, maybe the guy got chewed out because of something you did to thwart his plans. Maybe he just chose you out of the blue, instead of me, or Carter, or Teal'c."
"If he'd gone after Teal'c, he'd probably have tried to kidnap him instead of having someone kill him," Daniel said sleepily. "I guess in a sense it's a good thing he chose me, then. There are way worse things that can happen than simply dying." His words were lost in a yawn, and he closed his eyes.
"Nevertheless," Teal'c said softly, "I am grateful you did not die, my friend."
Daniel opened his eyes to look at Teal'c.
"And I am grateful you are alive," Teal'c continued, "but believe me, I would rather be taken as a guinea pig by this faction of your government, than see you die in my place."
"We all would," Carter added. "And I'm glad it's over."
"Amen," Jack said softly as Daniel's eyes closed in sleep.
"He really doesn't realize how important he is to the program, does he, sir?" Carter whispered after a moment.
"Indeed." Teal'c reached over and adjusted the blanket slightly as it began to slip from Daniel's shoulder. "It seems we must protect him on your world also, as well as when we travel through the Stargate."
"No, he doesn't realize it. And that he's important to us, too."
"I heard that," Daniel mumbled as he shifted again on the couch. "And I love you guys too."
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Yum@, who trusted me enough to add this story in her wonderful zine, Foundations 6.
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.