"Why aren't you in the lab helping Lee with that new doodad SG-2 brought back?"
Daniel glanced up from his research, holding his third finger on the line of very small print to mark his place, and frowned at Jack. "Because," Daniel drawled, "it's not my area of expertise."
"It had writing all over it. You know, those little squiggly lines and buttons you like so much. You're a linguist and an archaeologist, I might add. You'd think this type of artifact would grab your attention. I'm surprised you're not all over it with a magnifying glass."
"I've got plenty of work to keep me busy for the next five years, Jack. Why are you so inter-ested in what SG-2 brought back?"
"No reason." Jack immediately looked away and grabbed the item closest at hand, which happened to be a very rare, very fragile woodcarving. In a deft move, Daniel plucked the carving from Jack's fidgety fingers and placed it out of reach.
"Could you please explain to me why you come here asking why I'm not working on some-thing I haven't even been briefed on and you—"
Without a word, Jack quickly began flipping through the files in Daniel's in-tray. He pulled one out and tossed the file on top of the pile of open tomes Daniel had been working with. After a brief, searching look at Jack, Daniel pulled the file to him and opened it.
There wasn't much in the file, just a couple of preliminary snapshots and the details of where the artifact had been found, and a link to the mission report, if he should so need it. Daniel un-clipped one of the photographs and examined it carefully. Jack was right, there were plenty of … squiggles and … buttons. And it would take Daniel the best part of the day to even begin trans-lating said squiggles from the photograph, and he had a deadline to meet.
Daniel flipped the file closed and threw it on top of the pile of all the other folders. "Unless Bill specifically asks for my help, at the moment, it's not high on my list of priorities."
Jack took the file and moved it back down in front of Daniel and reopened it. "But these look like they'd be fun to work with."
"Fun?" Daniel peered at Jack over the top of his glasses.
"Yeah, you know, instead of all this heavy stuff you're working on. You could ruin your eyes reading all that fine print."
Daniel removed his glasses, gave them a pointed look before putting them back on then peered at Jack suspiciously. "You have an ulterior motive for me to translate that artifact, don't you?"
"Moi? Of course not. I'm just worried about you working all day in this windowless room and—"
"Every room in the base is windowless, Jack."
"The briefing room isn't."
"You know what I meant. And don't try to change the subject. Why would you care about my well-being all of a sudden?"
"All of a sudden? Your words wound me. I've always cared."
"Uh huh. And of course the fact that you've wagered fifty bucks with Ferretti as to whether I beat Captain Lundie in figuring out what that artifact is, isn't part of the reason why you're here?"
"Daniel, I'm shocked." Jack clutched his heart in mock surprise. "Why would you think that I—"
"Teal'c told me." Daniel pushed the file away, biting the inside of his cheek to stop from smiling at the look of shock on Jack's face.
"Well." Jack smacked his lips and looked around the room nervously. "In that case, you wouldn't mind helping out a friend, would you? You know, have a look at the squiggles so just for the record, we can state that SG-1 figured it out before SG-2 did."
"The squiggles aren't writing, they're simple decorations."
"You already looked at it?"
"Fifty bucks can buy one helluva decent supper." This time Daniel allowed his grin to show. "And the writing is actually carved onto the right side of the artifact." Daniel pointed to the ap-propriate area on the photograph with his pen. "It's not obvious. You don't even know it's there until you run your fingers over it."
Daniel lifted the tomes Jack had earlier mentioned with scorn and pulled out the sheet of pa-per he'd been working on from beneath the open file. "And if you give me another thirty minutes, I'll have your translation ready for you."
"You think you'll be able to get Ferretti's guy beat?"
"Steak, baked potato and cheesecake."
"Eighteen hundred hours sound good to you?"
"Perfect." Daniel bent his head back to his work, trying to ignore Jack. His friend stood there by Daniel's desk for a few more seconds before moving off, and Daniel sighed in relief. To be honest, there was something here in the translations that had him worried. A warning of some sort. He methodically searched through the fine print for the information he'd been reading be-fore Jack had come by.
"Shit." Daniel quickly looked over his work, then reached for the phone, calling up the main science lab. The technician who answered told Daniel that Doctor Lee was occupied at the mo-ment. Daniel hung up the phone and rushed out of his office and hurried one floor below.
He ran into Bill's lab, swinging around the door and nearly knocking into Sam, who had been straightening up from a crouched position near the wall. He grabbed her to steady her, not-ing the laptop she'd just been connecting into an electrical outlet, then looked around for Bill.
The huge relic SG-2 had brought back was center stage in the lab. It was a squat-sized, me-tallic looking tear-dropped shape that stood just over two feet high and a foot wide. It sat on its wider side, the top tapering to a point with a crystal-like bulb set at its peak. There were thick wires leading up to the crystal and snaking down and around the back of the low table it sat on.
Bill was fiddling with one of the wires, some of which were connected to the laptop, others directly to another electrical outlet in the wall. The ease with which Bill and Sam managed to interface computers with alien technology always amazed Daniel. His computer had a few ports he could plug various equipment in, and even then half the time his printer or his scanner would-n't work when he tried to connect them.
Normally he'd be in awe watching them integrate Earthly sciences with alien oddities, but this time, seeing the setup had Daniel wondering if he was too late.
He came to a screeching halt in front of Bill. "Whatever you do, don't turn it on."
Bill Lee looked up from the laptop's monitor and frowned at Daniel. "Wh … what?"
"Don't turn that thing on. Don't power it up."
Sam came to stand alongside Daniel. "We've already started charging the crystal." She pointed to the top of the relic. "We've determined it's a battery of some kind. It was drained of power but it seems to be holding the charge pretty well."
"Well, disconnect it," Daniel ordered. "That thing's some kind of portal, and from what I've just translated, the battery was deliberately drained to prevent it from being used again."
Bill left his computer and joined Daniel and Sam to stare at the relic. "The Stargate's a por-tal," he said excitedly. "So's the quantum mirror. Did the writing say where this thing opened up to?"
"Nowhere good, I'm sure. The writing is a warning, left to ensure nobody turned it on. Sam, disconnect it, now."
"But we don't know what it does," Bill complained as Sam hurried to disconnect the wires leading to the crystal. "And we barely got one percent of the battery charged. Come on, Daniel, just because some people don't understand the Stargate isn't reason enough for us not to use it."
"The warning was very clear. Whatever that thing is, we don't want to turn it on here inside the Mountain."
"What about the area where SG-2 found it? Do you think there might be more information to be had there?"
"I don't know, Sam. I'll have to talk to them to find out. Look, the warning didn't say exactly what would happen if it was turned on, but it did mention it was a hazard. We can't risk it being turned on without knowing exactly what it'll do."
"Come on, Daniel," Bill whined. "There's not enough juice in the battery to light a flash-light."
"Daniel's right. If this thing is dangerous, we have to study it first and go slowly."
"Let's see if we can determine what it does first." Sam pulled a second chair closer to Bill's laptop and sat, leaning over the readings.
"I'll speak to Captain Lundie later, Sam. We'll see if he can shed any light about where they picked it up."
"Let me know what he says."
Daniel stared hard at the innocuous-looking device. Somehow he had a feeling that the steak supper Jack had promised him wouldn't be forthcoming very soon.
He had nearly made it back to his office when the lights in the corridor flickered once, twice, then settled into normal illumination. He eyed them suspiciously as he walked, then stopped moving altogether when they brightened momentarily then dimmed to near non-existence.
Before he could even finish the phrase, the lights blinked out completely. He waited for the emergency lights to kick on, but the corridor remained dark as pitch.
There were cries of surprise all along the corridor and from the various offices. "Great, just great." Daniel took a cautious step to the right and felt for the security of the cement wall. "Oops, sorry." He flattened himself against the wall as someone hurried by, their hand brushing his chest as the person continued on their way. He couldn't help but call out as people stumbled in the dark. "You know, it's probably safer to stay put until someone can find a flashl—"
"Damn it." There had been a small crash and thud and Daniel figured someone else going in the opposite direction had just bumped into whoever had gone by, considering the amount of ex-pletives coming from behind him.
Shrugging, Daniel turned and contemplated trying to get to his office. He'd need to walk to the end of this corridor and turn right, then go down two more doors to get there. He could see the beam of a flashlight coming from the connecting corridor so he decided to chance it. With his right hand running along the wall as the other person had done, Daniel put his left hand out to ward off anyone coming his way.
The closer he got to the corridor, the brighter the flashlight's beam got. After a moment he could see the silhouettes of others in the corridor, many of them drawn by the light. All were staring towards the left. Daniel turned, hoping to ask whoever had the light to help him find more.
To his surprise and shock, the illumination came from the floor. Tendrils of light swirled along the cement floor, climbing the walls to momentarily dance among the conduits and wires like living things, sometimes disappearing through the cement walls, only to briefly shimmer through the open doors before they twirled back out into the hallway. Daniel stood there for a moment, mouth open, before he ran and hit the nearest alarm.
He swore silently when the expected klaxons didn't go off. He tried the phone and ignored the harried tone of the security personnel who'd answered it. "This is Daniel Jackson on Level 18. We have a possible alien security breach on Level 19. Doctor Lee's lab may have been com-promised." He kept an eye on the dancing light show; thankfully the people who were watching were keeping a respectable distance from it.
"We'll send a team as soon as we can but we have a problem mobilizing personnel due to the power outage. The backup generators aren't working and we're waiting to get the portable gen-erators on line to at least power the elevators."
There was a quick aside of voices and the airman came back to Daniel. "Sir, you reported that you're on Level 18? Is the breach on 18 or 19?"
"Possibly both. Look, I'm on 18 standing almost directly over Doctor Lee's lab which is on 19, and I'm sure that's where the problem initiated."
"I've noted both, Doctor Jackson. But as I said, I'm not sure when I can send someone to ei-ther location. We have an incident on Level 22."
"I understand but this is alien tech—" Daniel broke off as the tendrils suddenly moved for-ward in both directions down the hallway. The light seemed to take amorphous shape, almost like it was searching for something. "Get away from them!" Daniel yelled at the few personnel who hadn't moved away from the seeking wisps.
Everyone danced out of the tendrils' way, moving close to where Daniel stood at the juncture of the corridor. The long curls of waving lights swayed from side to side, then moving faster than a striking viper, encircled everyone in their midst. Daniel was aware of a blinding brilliance and then … nothing.
"Daniel? Wake up, Daniel."
The voice was teasingly familiar as it wove through the chasm of Daniel's mind. He tried to latch onto it, realizing on some level that something wasn't right. Daniel tried to wake up, but was only successful when the sharp tap of fingers connected with his cheek, punctuated by the voice calling his name again.
Daniel's eyes sprang open without conscious thought, and he groaned softly as the top of his head threatened to pop off. In the flickering glow of flashlights, Daniel saw Robert Rothman's concerned face looking down at him.
"What the hell happened?" Daniel turned his head to the side and recognized the SGC's cor-ridor. There were close to a dozen people lying on the hard surface, like he was, with other per-sonnel attending to them.
"We're not sure. Apparently those lights attacked everyone around you; they knocked you all out. Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Daniel pushed down with his arm and managed to lever himself up into a halfway-sitting position, leaning against the wall. He fought dizziness and nausea, his whole body feeling extremely weak. "I think so."
"There's a medical team on their way. They should be here momentarily. You sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine." Despite his shakiness, Daniel grabbed Rothman's shoulder and urged the man to help him up. He swayed and stumbled but remained upright, still leaning heavily against the wall as his knees threatened to give way. "What did that thing do to us?" He looked around in dismay at the number of personnel who were only now slowly gaining consciousness. The light display had dwindled to a small section of the hallway, barely a couple feet in diameter. It was quiescent and almost still now. Daniel shivered when he likened it to a predator that had fed and was now dozing.
"We don't know for sure, but the scuttlebutt is that it's coming from Bill Lee's lab."
"Bill, is he okay?"
Before Robert could answer, someone stepped between them.
Daniel squinted at the person standing before him, his face almost distorted by the dizzying flickers of lights from hand-held flashlights. After a moment he recognized Lou Ferretti.
"Lou, is there any word on Bill Lee? I think this started from his lab … he was working on an alien artifact … Sam was with him."
"There haven't been any reports of injuries from Level 19. To be honest, everyone's mobiliz-ing on 22."
"Who's in charge here?"
"Colonel Watts." Lou pointed towards the intersection behind him.
Daniel pushed away from the wall, looking for the colonel. He finally spotted him and stag-gered drunkenly in his direction. He was aware of Robert and Lou flanking him.
"Doctor Jackson." The man's eyes flickered up and down Daniel's body before coming to stare him straight in the eyes. "You should sit and rest, sir."
"I'm fine." Daniel waved his concern away despite the odd way the corridor was rising and falling, as if on gentle ocean swells. "I'd suggest making sure everyone keeps a good distance from those things." He didn't know if the sensation was a residual effect from the attack or what-ever it had been, or was a continuing manifestation of the artifact one level below.
"I agree. We've pulled everyone back to what we hope is a safe zone." Daniel heard a com-motion behind him as an elevator door opened and he heard Janet's voice as she began giving orders the moment she stepped out. "I'll have guards set up preventing anyone from approaching once the corridors are cleared.
"Doctor Rothman, it would speed things up if you could start by getting everyone who was-n't affected by that thing away from here. You can all evacuate to Level 11 for the time being."
Robert nodded at the colonel and went back into the crowd while Daniel moved against the wall as Janet and her team brushed past him to hurry towards the others who'd been knocked out by the alien lights.
Daniel turned away from the colonel. He needed to get down to Bill's lab to check on the ar-tifact, and on Bill and Sam. He began a slow, weaving walk, careful as he stepped over limbs spread along the floor as Janet and her team began assessing the injured. Daniel realized he was the only one who'd been knocked out by that thing who was ambulatory and he was half afraid that if he stopped now to let Janet look at him, he wouldn't have the energy to get up off the floor a second time. He vaguely heard Watts order Ferretti to accompany him, but Daniel kept on walking, trusting that Lou would catch up to him. He doggedly kept on walking towards the ele-vator.
"You really should let Doctor Fraiser look you over," Lou chided.
"I will. Later. Right now I'm worried about Bill and Sam. If whatever that thing did was powerful enough to move through cement, I'm afraid to imagine what might have happened in-side the lab."
Daniel nodded at the SF guarding the open elevator door as he and Lou entered. He asked the airman who was manually operating the elevator to bring them to 19, and the interior doors of the elevator closed and sluggishly began to descend.
"What about the power failure?" Daniel blinked at Lou in the dim emergency lighting of the elevator being fed off the generators.
Lou shrugged. "Something's draining all the energy–looks like it's affected the backup gen-erators, too."
The doors opened and Daniel entered a corridor full of milling personnel, both civilians who had evidently been evacuated to an area far from the lab, and SFs who had been called in to pro-vide security for whatever unknowns the device might be producing. Daniel threaded his way through the small crowd. The shadows from the lights and people were making him disoriented and off kilter.
Once he got away from the crowd, he felt a little better. He continued to the intersection and turned towards Bill's lab. As on the floor above, radiance from the alien device illuminated this part the corridor. But the luminosity was brighter and not constantly shifting like the tendrils of lights had been.
Siler was standing in the entrance, his body backlit with the odd glow coming from the crys-tal. The light was bright enough to make Daniel squint. Already a headache was beginning to bloom behind his eyes.
As Daniel and Lou reached the master sergeant, he looked up from the device he had pointed towards the alien artifact. "Major Ferretti, we need to try to turn the main generators off. That thing is drawing enormous amounts of power and I have no idea why." He turned to Daniel. "Do you have any idea what that thing is?"
"Some kind of portal, that was all the translations said."
"I think the device is accessing the electrical grid, sir."
"But Bill disconnected the hookup to the crystal."
"Yes, sir. But it's still connected to the laptop, which is connected to a power source." He pointed to the electric wires leading from the laptop to the outlet in the wall.
"You mean the thing's draining all the base's electrical power?"
"It looks that way. Although chances are by simply pulling the plug, we could disconnect it from its power source and turn it off."
Lou wiped his mouth with his palm. "Maybe it had to do with whatever's happening on 22."
"Why? What's happened?" Daniel had been so focused on the lab that he hadn't yet pushed to learn what else was going on.
"I don't know for sure," Lou replied as he looked at Siler to see if he had heard anything. When Siler shook his head, he continued. "But I heard some of the guys got ordered down to 22 while the rest of us were sent to 18 and 19."
"When I called in the odd effect this thing was having on 18, the airman said they had an in-cident on 22. Where's Sam and Bill? Did they get hurt?"
"I was told the lab was empty, Doctor Jackson." Siler was still fiddling with the device he was holding.
"Did anyone actually check the office?" Daniel took a step into the office itself, then paused when Lou grabbed his arm.
"We don't know if it's safe to go in there."
"That thing's emitting low level radiation but it should be safe to go in for short periods of time," Siler confirmed.
Daniel continued on his way, going left around the device while Lou went right. He walked to the chair that Sam had pulled close to the table to peer into the laptop earlier. It hadn't been pushed back, as she would have done had she gotten up and stepped away.
Close to the device, Daniel could feel the hairs on his body begin to rise. He glanced at Lou and saw the hair on his head slowly begin to pull apart from one another. He ran a hand over his own short locks and felt the static on his hand.
"Lou, was there anything notable where your team found this thing?"
"All that was left of the building were the dungeons. It'd been hidden in an alcove, but the rock face had crumbled, leaving it exposed. There wasn't any writing anywhere that we could see."
It took them less than a minute to ascertain that nobody was in the lab. Daniel was on his way out, deliberately skirting the table with the artifact when someone called his name. He squinted towards the entrance to see someone standing beside Siler.
"Colonel O'Neill requests you meet him on Level 22." The young captain who'd given him the message also held out a flashlight and Daniel gladly took it and made his way back towards the elevators. Siler went on ahead and Lou hurried past Daniel to catch up to him.
Daniel increased his pace to keep up, twisting and turning to avoid bumping people. There were way too many persons here, in his opinion. If that thing in the lab was emitting any danger-ous radiation or if it, God forbid, exploded, there would be serious injuries incurred.
Lou had already reached the elevators and was talking to one of the SFs by the time Daniel reached him. "… Evacuate this floor and the one above and below. We can't wait for the power to come back on. And have someone search the area for Major Carter and Doctor Lee. Let me know what you find." He turned to Siler. "Open the emergency hatches and send them up through the Jeffries tubes." Daniel stopped beside him, already out of breath. Another SF was talking into a radio, requesting the elevator be brought to this floor.
Again they rode in the slowly moving elevator, descending to the 22nd floor. This time, when they exited, they were greeted by two SFs who were guarding the elevator. The floor had obvi-ously already been evacuated, although it held mainly VIP rooms, isolation rooms and the com-missary.
"Colonel O'Neill is expecting you," one of the guards said. "He's at Isolation Room 3."
There were guards at each junction, and a quick glance towards the closed commissary doors showed no lights beyond the glass windows. As they continued down the corridor, Daniel finally began to feel a little steadier. The first two rooms of the medical isolation area were empty, and the whole feel to the place was eerie despite Daniel having his own flashlight. Their footsteps seemed to echo off the walls and ceiling, disappearing into empty rooms where a quick glance inside only showed reflections, quickly gone once past the open doors.
As they crossed the next junction, Daniel thought the two guards stationed there seemed slightly nervous. He could see their faces clearly and realized reflected light shone in the glass windows of the isolation room across the hall. Isolation Room 3 was the next one around the cor-ner.
He heard the voices and odd sounds even before he turned the corner. Bright light streamed in through the opened door to Isolation Room 3, illuminating Jack, Teal'c, a handful of SFs and a few technicians. The air smelled different. Fresher, moister almost … and there was a touch of something that he couldn't quite place but it was definitely out of place in the SGC.
Then he heard birdsong. He glanced at Lou in surprise; Ferretti's face reflected his own con-fusion.
"Jack," Daniel called out as he got closer. There was a dull, roaring sound that waxed and waned, and he'd waited until there was a lull in the sound before calling out. Jack turned to Daniel, his body seeming as if it were bathed in sunlight.
"Hey, you okay?" Jack stepped away from the light and moved towards Daniel.
"Fine. Why?" Daniel stopped before Jack and gave him what he hoped was an innocent look. He was acutely aware of Lou standing next to him. Actually he did feel better; he'd gotten his second wind and although his legs still felt a little shaky, he wasn't quite as uncoordinated as be-fore.
"You look a little … I dunno, worse for wear."
He heard Ferretti shift beside him. Not meeting Lou's eyes, Daniel replied, "Stumbling around in the dark does that to a person." He waved at the brightly lit entrance. "What's going on?"
Jack stepped out of the way, allowing Daniel and Ferretti to approach the entrance. "Get a load of this." Jack waved towards the opened doors of Isolation Room 3. Daniel moved closer and looked inside.
Instead of the bare, stark room filled with medical paraphernalia, the doors opened up onto a scene of exotic beauty. A jungle filled his sight, bright with colorful flowers and moist with hu-midity. There was a small clearing right before the doors and between several trees, ten feet away, Daniel could see sand reflecting the sun and waves crashing onto a pristine beach. The wa-ter beyond the white caps was the shade of blue that he'd only seen in travel brochures, the one that always made you wonder if it was truly that color.
There was a whir of wings and a red and yellow bird flew across the clearing. A bug droned loudly and to Daniel's surprise, it crossed through the doors, flew around the group staring into the alien vista before them before returning where it had come from.
"The only things missing on that beach are parts of a plane and a bunch of half-naked survi-vors," Daniel mumbled, still staring in awe at the beauty of the shoreline.
"You know. That TV show that everyone's talking about?"
Lou snorted beside Daniel.
"Not exactly." Daniel rolled his eyes at his friend and moved closer to try to see more of the landscape.
"The seashore is indeed reminiscent of the location of that television series, Daniel Jackson. We can only hope it does not contain the unknown quantities portrayed in the episodes."
"Hey, give me a bone here. I watch TV, and I have no idea what you two are talking about."
All Daniel could see of the interior of this … well, he couldn't call it an island because he didn't know if it was one … but all that was visible was jungle.
"Colonel, I hate to break it to you but you've missed a bunch of great scenes with chicks wearing not much of anything." Lou grinned at Daniel and peered over his shoulder.
Daniel recognized Jay Felger as one of the technicians apparently trying to study this phe-nomenon. "Doctor Felger, do you think this has anything to do with the device Bill Lee was studying?"
Felger had been waving some sort of instrument around the portal, but Daniel had gotten the impression the man had no idea what was going on and was just trying to make himself look use-ful. He stopped the waving and looked at Daniel. "There's an incredible amount of energy that's required to open a portal to another planet. We know the Stargate uses the naquadah to—"
"Jack." Daniel interrupted the man before he could start talking about things they all already knew. "Any chance Bill and Sam were transported into there?"
Jack cocked his head at Daniel. "Something you two forgot to tell me?" Jack shifted his gaze towards Ferretti.
"They're missing. They were both in Bill's lab when that thing powered up and—" Daniel reached for the wall as the room spun for a second. He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes, which were suddenly itchy. He leaned a shoulder for support against the sun-warmed cement. "I'm just hoping it's a matter of transference and not …"
"Felger, anything you can tell me about that place?"
Daniel stuck his glasses back on in time to see something akin to fear pass over the man's face as he turned to answer Jack. Felger grabbed a pen from his lab coat's pocket and tossed it through the door. It landed in a heap of green moss. "We know that there's nothing stopping us from stepping out. Or coming in," he added when another bug flew past their noses. "It's differ-ent from the Stargate; we can see through this …"
"Portal?" Daniel supplied.
Felger nodded his head. "So we can watch and see what's going on, on the other side; again that makes it dissimilar from the wormhole."
"Unlike the Stargate, we do not have any idea how long the portal will remain open. If in-deed Major Carter and Doctor Lee have been transported to this planet, if we proceed to attempt to rescue them, we may be stranded on the other side should the device deactivate."
"Do we know it's a planet?" Daniel sneezed suddenly. "Sorry. I mean, it could be like a quan-tum mirror, simply showing us another dimension. This could actually be Hawaii."
"In another dimension," Jack repeated. "Where they're filming a TV show?" Jack raised his eyebrows. "You sure it's not Gilligan's Island? I always had a crush on Ginger."
Daniel ignored his friend and leaned past the doorjamb, thrusting his head and shoulders into the other world. He ignored Jack's words of warning and craned his head to see as much as he could. There were mountains inland - steep, tree-covered looming to his right. Okay, he was go-ing to call it an island, only because it looked so much like the TV show. Farther in, the land re-mained flat and he could see the top of another lone mountain that looked eerily like Japan's Mount Fuji. Even as he watched, a plume of white smoke rose from the crater. He edged in even further, moving past the door jamb.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
A hand painfully grasped his shoulder and pulled him back roughly. Daniel caught a glimpse of his feet and those of the others in the corridor before he was shoved several steps to land roughly against the back wall.
"I believe Sam and Bill are in there, Jack. We can't just stand around gawking. We have to go look for them." He tried to push Jack's hand from where it was tightly grasping his shirt and jacket, the material pulling uncomfortably under his arm.
"In case you weren't listening, Teal'c did say we had no idea how long the portal would stay open. We can't just—"
"And we can't not try. If Sam's in there, she's not armed. We don't know what kind of crea-tures are over there."
"Daniel, I know, but we can't—"
"I agree with Doctor Jackson, Colonel."
Jack quickly let go of Daniel's jacket and straightened. "General Hammond."
"I'm not going to make this an order, but if anyone wishes to volunteer for a rescue mis-sion—"
Immediately Daniel stepped forward. As did Teal'c. And Lou.
"I can vouch for my men, General. If you'll give me ten minutes to round them up and pick up a few things …"
As Ferretti ran down the corridor towards the elevators, Hammond turned to one of the SFs. "Son, I'd appreciate it if you could make sure Doctor Jackson and Teal'c are kitted out properly before they go through that doorway."
"Add me to that list, Captain." Jack stepped forward and leaned heavily against the doorway, staring into the jungle. "Looks like we got some lost people to find."
Twenty minutes later they were stepping through the portal. The corridor they'd waited in had become heavy with heat and humidity, and the equipment and pack he was carrying were dragging Daniel down. He shrugged his shoulders to try to ease the tension in his upper back.
"You sure you're up for this?" Lou whispered to Daniel as he came up on his right.
Daniel nodded. "And thanks," Daniel added, knowing Lou would understand he was grateful for his not having ratted to Jack or Janet about having been knocked out by the alien device's in-fluence upstairs. He sniffled, his sinuses already threatening to block up completely despite the allergy pills Janet had handed to him a few minutes ago. He'd have to suffer for a while yet be-fore they took effect.
He glanced over at Janet, who was SG-1's fourth. SG-2's replacement for Captain Lundie who, like Daniel, had been overcome by the alien device, was Major Rawlins. The major had extensive medical training and Hammond had preferred both teams to be prepared should Sam and Bill need medical aid. Of course they still had no proof the two were actually here but Daniel was trying not to think of what else could have happened to them.
Janet sneezed, wiped her nose with the back of her hand and continued walking. Daniel matched her sneeze, then upped the stakes by sneezing a second time. She looked back at him with a sympathetic glance.
All eight of them walked to the beach. Sweat dripped down Daniel's body and darkened his uniform. They finally stopped by the water's edge and took stock of their position. Finding the portal to go back home wouldn't be difficult. It shimmered brightly through the jungle, but even more noticeable was the rainbow-colored ray that shone straight up for several hundred feet.
"Lou, you and your team take the beach and jungle and go right. We'll go left and—"
The ground shuddered beneath them and a plume of smoke shot into the sky from Mount Fuji. "Any danger of that thing blowing anytime soon?"
Daniel grimaced at Jack and shrugged. Nobody else seemed to have any helpful input.
"Teal'c, you and Fraiser take the beach and surrounding area. Daniel, we'll take the jungle."
Wordlessly, Daniel followed Jack back in amongst the hot and humid trees. The sun pounded mercilessly on the sandy beach but it trapped the humidity underneath the trees' canopy. Within minutes, he could no longer hear the pounding surf, only the buzz of insects and the rustle of creatures amongst the bushes and trees.
"Any idea how far Carter and Lee might have been transported from the entrance?"
"We don't even know for sure if they're here, Jack. I'm just hoping—"
"You told me you thought they were here. Now you're saying you don't know?"
"No, I don't know." Daniel stopped and glared at Jack. His head was pounding, his legs were still shaky beneath him and he was uncomfortable and hot. "Not for sure. But the only other sce-nario I can come up, which I would rather not explore, is that the energy used to open this portal acted like the backwash of a wormhole and disintegrated their bodies. Now I don't know about you, but I'd rather make sure if they did get transported here, we find them and bring them home." He took his glasses off, wiped the sweat from his nose and cheeks with the back of his hand, and put his glasses back on.
They hadn't been exploring for more than fifteen minutes when Jack suddenly stopped.
Daniel, his heart pumping from a sudden adrenaline rush, tried to sidle to Jack's right to see what had caught Jack's eye.
"What the hell is that doing here?"
Jack hadn't drawn his weapon so Daniel took a step forward, brushed away some vines ob-scuring his vision, and gasped.
"It's a wheel."
"Of course it's a wheel." Jack pushed more of the jungle growth to expose the huge tire and piece of metal still attached to it. "It's a wheel of a plane, to be more precise."
"What's a wheel from a plane doing here?" Suddenly Daniel's heart skipped a beat. "Oh God, you don't think that thing caused a plane to crash, do you?" Daniel turned around, looking des-perately for more parts of the plane.
"First of all, we don't know what planet we're on, or whether this is another version of Earth. And from the amount of growth around the wheel, I'd guess this has been here a while, maybe a couple of weeks. So relax, willya?"
"Sorry. It's just a little—" Daniel stopped speaking when gunshots were heard to his right. "That's SG-2, isn't it?"
"Ferretti? What's going on?" Jack asked as he keyed his radio.
More shots were fired, and then ominous silence. The birds and animals had all quieted, star-tled by the noise.
"Some kind of bear attacked us, Colonel. Not to worry, no one's hurt. Well, except the bear, that is."
"Bears don't live in jungles," Daniel said, feeling a sense of déjà vu.
"Alien bears might," Jack countered.
"Colonel, I hate to say this, but this all has a weird feel to it. This is definitely one mother of a polar bear. And bears do not live in jungles."
Daniel raised his eyebrows at Jack.
"Major, stay sharp. We don't know what else is out there. Teal'c, you hearing this?"
"I am. Doctor Fraiser and I are well. I have seen no signs of any large animals or of Major Carter or Doctor Lee."
"Jack, this isn't right. The bear, the plane wheel, the beach and jungle, these are straight out of that TV show I was talking about."
"You telling me we've gone into the Twilight Zone and now we're acting out a TV show? For crying out loud, why couldn't we have gone into The Simpsons instead?"
Daniel leaned against a tree and sighed. "We can't go deeper into the jungle. If this follows the show, there's some kind of monster out there—"
"It's coincidence, Daniel."
"—And there are others out there who won't hesitate to kill us and—"
"This is the reason we can't have team dinners on Wednesday nights? Jeeze, Daniel, get TIVO. In any case, how different is this," Jack stated with a wave of his arm at the plane wheel, "from what we do every day?" He began walking again, going deeper into the jungle.
"Well, you've got a point." Daniel hurried to catch up to Jack, cursing the fact that he was so tired. "But I'm just saying, the scenario is sounding a little fishy. Kind of like it was plucked straight from my brain."
"What about Mount Fuji over there? That from your brain, too?"
"Um, no, I don't think so. If I wanted something big, I'd have thought of the pyramid of Cheops but …" Daniel trailed off, suddenly remembering what one of the archaeologists on his staff had mentioned to him a few days ago.
"One of the guys was planning a trip to Japan and he was excited about seeing Mount Fuji."
"You're thinking this is more than coincidence?"
Daniel clambered over a fallen tree, realizing that his sinuses had cleared up when he passed a couple of bright flowers cascading down a nearby branch. "I don't know, Jack."
They walked in silence from that point on, stopping on an incline twenty minutes later to wait for everyone to check in. As Jack replied to each radio message, Daniel glanced down to-wards the beam of light still visible from his vantage point. The portal had been open for over an hour now; which was longer than a normal active wormhole.
As if reading Daniel's thoughts, the beam winked out. "Umm, Jack?"
Inside the SGC, George Hammond paced in front of the open doors of the now back-to-normal Isolation Room that moments ago, had housed a portal to another world. Siler and two more technicians were going over the place inch by inch to make sure there was no residual en-ergy or radiation. But George's thoughts weren't with those in the room; rather, they were with those who had disappeared along with the portal.
Running footsteps brought him out of his thoughts. He turned to face Walter Davis as the man hurried over to him.
"Sir, another portal has opened on Level 3."
"Any sign of SG-1 or SG-2?" Hammond hurried towards the elevators as Walter half jogged to keep up with him.
"No, sir. Although they were attempting contact when I got the news. But there's a problem …"
"There's a volcano, sir. A very active volcano."
"There!" Ferretti pointed towards the smoking mountain and Jack aimed his field glasses to-wards it. It took him a few seconds but he managed to focus the glasses on the rainbow beam, even making out the shimmering portal near the top of the volcano. He lowered them and squinted. Now that he knew where to look, he could just make out the shimmer with his naked eyes. He passed the glasses on to Daniel, who took them and aimed them towards the Mount Fuji clone.
"If that thing stays open for only an hour, there's no way we can make it there before it shuts off again." Janet sat down on a log, away from the surf, and sighed. They'd abandoned the search and had all met back at the beach, trying to locate the colorful beam.
"No, but if a new portal opens every hour or so, we just have to wait until one opens up closer to us. In the meantime, we may as well continue searching."
"Jack, it's gone again."
"No, it's not," Jack said, biting back his irritation. "You just need to know where to look."
"I was looking at it," Daniel snapped. "And it disappeared."
"Daniel's right, Colonel. It's gone."
"Great. That's just … great."
George wiped the sweat from his face and looked at the heat-charred wall of the accounting offices. The residual heat of the lava-flow was also evident in the corridor. It was a miracle that nothing had caught fire and that they'd managed to shut the door to the office where the portal had appeared before more than a few splatters of molten rock had landed in the room. And shut-ting the doors seemed to have turned the portal off.
George turned to acknowledge Walter.
"It's on Level 13."
"No volcanoes?" Once again Hammond hurried towards the elevator.
"No, sir. Although we may not be on the same planet because now it's opened up onto an ice field."
"Is that what I think it is?" Janet pointed to Jack's left. He turned and saw the rainbow appa-rition to the far left.
"Think we can make it in an hour?" one of Ferretti's men asked.
"I doubt it. At this point we may as well get back to searching for our missing people. We'll worry about getting back once we find—"
Jack broke off when voices sounded faintly in their radios. He quickly reached for his. "This is SG-1 Niner. We hear you, Stargate Command."
"Thank goodness." Hammond's voice, weak and tinny, was full of relief. "We had a situation here with the portal when it changed location. We weren't sure if it had opened up to the same area as before."
"This place is a barrel of laughs, sir. We can't reach the portal from here, not if it keeps jump-ing around."
"It switched spontaneously the first time, Colonel. The second time was, thankfully, a delib-erate action on our part. What's your status?"
"If the time between the jumps is an hour, sir, we can't make it back to you before it shifts again. Suggest we continue with the search."
"Understood. But if you find yourself in a position where you can go through the portal, I suggest you do so."
"Yes, sir." Jack turned to the men who were awaiting orders. "Let's get back out there."
"You heard the man," Ferretti said.
Jack led Daniel back into the jungle, using the airplane tire as a marker. As they walked through the growth, Jack was aware of Daniel's somewhat more than usual clumsiness as he tripped over roots and uneven ground. But Daniel kept up without difficulty; he wasn't out of breath and appeared to be alert, so Jack decided Daniel was simply exhausted. And the heat was-n't helping either of them; it was sucking the energy right out of Jack, not to mention the mosqui-toes outdoing each other for a taste of their blood.
They were moving uphill, into the foothills of the mountains. At times, when Jack looked back, he could see glimpses of the sea between the trees down in the distance. But he wasn't aim-ing for the mountains; instead his goal was the valley between two of them. They weren't equipped to climb and to be honest, the heat, even at this level, was debilitating.
Just as they broke free of the jungle, Ferretti called in to make a report. Jack stood there a moment, staring at the change in scenery before them.
At the foot of the valley, the jungle dwindled into plains. As far as Jack could see between the mountains, there wasn't a tree to be seen. Much of the land was in shadow, the bit that wasn't appeared lush with some sort of crop.
"If Carter and Lee weren't transported close to here, Daniel, I honestly don't think we're go-ing to find them. This place is just too big to search."
"What about a UAV? Couldn't they send one through the portal to make an aerial search? If Sam or Bill saw it, they'd at least try to give us a sign. Like a fire."
"Right." Jack lost no time in contacting the SGC with Daniel's suggestion.
"It's going to take time, Colonel. We'll most likely lose this portal in the next ten minutes so we have to wait until we discover where the next one will occur. Plus we need a generator to power it; give us approximately …" Hammond broke off, then came back on a few seconds later. "Forty minutes, give or take."
"Understood, sir. But if I might add … the sun's getting pretty low. Unless we get lucky and a portal opens up close by, it looks like we'll be spending the night here."
"Will we have time to send the UAV?"
"Yes, sir, there's still about an hour's worth of daylight left, maybe two. We're going to start heading back for the beach to rendezvous and look for a place to make camp."
"I'll let you know when we're ready to fly the bird."
"O'Neill," Teal'c added through the radio once Hammond had signed off, "Doctor Fraiser and I have found a campsite that would be more than adequate for our needs."
The cave Janet and Teal'c had discovered was perfect. Except that this time, perfection cast a shiver along Daniel's spine. Towards the back of the cave was a waterfall; over time the stream-ing water had worn a small pool into the stone, which made it perfect for washing and drinking. There were holes in the ceiling overhead which would act as a chimney and pull the smoke from their campfire away.
He and Jack were the last to arrive; the sun was casting long, thin streams of light into the interior of the cave. Somehow Daniel was reluctant to enter despite his exhaustion and pounding headache. There was something eerie in how much the cave resembled the set from the television series. He dropped his backpack and stood at the cave's entrance, listening to the soft shush of the waterfall and the voices of Ferretti and two of his team as they searched deeper inside the cave.
"Pretty spooky, huh?"
Daniel jumped. He hadn't seen Janet step out of the shadows near the entrance and approach him.
"I guess it's better than sleeping out here." Daniel leaned against the vine-covered rock and made a vague motion towards the darkening jungle.
Janet's eyes skimmed the dark shadows, finally lighting on Teal'c, who was barely visible where he stood guard several yards away except for the patch of sunlight shining onto his shoul-der and arm. "They said the animal they shot was a polar bear, or something similar … big and white. You know, there's this television show where—"
"I know. I've seen the similarities. That cave—"
"Looks just like the one in the show."
"We found a wheel from a plane in the jungle—"
Janet stared at him a long moment. "Whatever this place is, it's reading our thoughts."
"Not us. I mean, I don't think it's happening now. I think it started when we were hit with the weird light above—"
"We?" Suddenly Janet was in Daniel's face. "What's this ‘we'?"
Daniel licked suddenly dry lips and forced a smile. He knew he failed when Janet's eyes nar-rowed. "Are you telling me you were knocked out by that alien charge?"
"That's not what I meant," Daniel stammered as Jack and Ferretti stepped out of the cave and joined them. "… Exactly."
"Just exactly what did you mean?" Jack's glare was almost as harsh as Janet's.
Daniel glanced at Lou, hoping for help from that quarter but Lou wouldn't meet his eyes. He shrugged.
"Daniel, did you or did you not get yourself knocked out?"
"I didn't get myself knocked out," Daniel replied indignantly. "Truthfully, it was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Two pairs of accusatory eyes bored into him.
"Okay, I guess, technically, you could say, yes," Daniel admitted while mentally berating himself for that wee slip.
"Shit. Why didn't you—"
"Do you know how irresponsible you were for not telling anyone and coming out here?" Janet's voice, which cut Jack off mid-sentence, was loud enough that for a few seconds, every-thing went quiet in the jungle. With a glare at Jack, who simply shrugged and gave Daniel a "we're not finished with this conversation look," Janet pulled Daniel away from the cave's en-trance into a small remaining patch of sunlight at the far end of the clearing. He squinted as the light hurt his head.
Daniel gratefully sank onto the moist ground, crossing his legs as Janet knelt before him. He remained silent while she looked him over, her movements controlled and angry as she took his blood pressure. He felt a little guilty for not having said anything to anyone but knew he would-n't have been allowed on the mission if he had. And he was fine; a little tired, maybe, but a bite to eat would help energize him.
Janet shoved her blood pressure cuff back into her pack then pushed a stray lock of hair be-hind her ear. "Your pressure is low, your pulse is rapid and you're most likely dehydrated. You probably have one humdinger of a headache." She took his hand and dropped two pills into it. "I want you to go get something to eat, drink as much as you can and rest. I'll make sure you're off sentry rotations tonight."
"Janet …" He bowed his head, pursed his lips tightly and nodded, closing his fingers over the medication in his palm.
"I can't believe you were this irresponsible, Daniel. That power surge was strong enough to render over a dozen people unconscious and we have no idea exactly what it did to them."
"While we were unconscious, I think it played with our memories. I'm positive a lot of us have been watching that television show. We've discussed it a few times after an episode aired. And I know one of the geologists was planning a vacation to Japan, hence the volcano." Daniel looked up, noting how dark it was getting beneath the jungle's canopy. "We'd better get back into the—"
Thunder roared right over his shoulder. Before Daniel could look up at the sky in surprise, something erupted through the trees. Something huge enough to uproot a few of the smaller sur-rounding trees. The ground trembled as another roar deafened him.
There were gunshots. Daniel instinctively lunged sideways and threw himself over Janet. Then Jack was yelling at them to run. He stood, pulling Janet up with him and began to run for the cave. He yelled at Janet to hurry as the creature took several earth-pounding steps backwards in the hail of bullets.
The next roar, if possible, was louder. Warm, moist, fetid breath blew the hairs on the side of his neck. And that was when Daniel realized there were two creatures out here. He was running and fumbling for his sidearm when he saw something coming at him from the side.
The blow from the creature's tail swept his feet from under him and sent him flying through the air. His lower back and hip exploded in pain as he crashed into a tree trunk. He fell painfully onto his side.
There was another loud roar, another moist rush of air, and something dark and huge hovered over him. Daniel raised his head and stared at the behemoth above him. The last of the sunlight shone on the creature, its huge teeth glinting ominously above him. There was one large fang with a broken tip that caught his eye. He'd seen that tooth on Chris Middleton's desk in the office next to his. The man had used the tooth as an overlarge paperweight.
Daniel tried to push himself to his feet, panic rising in him, but his lower body was numb and unresponsive. He managed to turn onto his back but the movement only gave him a better view of the T-rex standing there watching him.
It huffed once, then opened its maw again, saliva dripping down the side of its jaw. Daniel reached down for his gun, pulled it out and aimed for its throat. The gun's retort was drowned out as the creature screamed in pain, pawing at its mouth as it stumbled backwards.
Daniel became aware of shouts and gunfire, Teal'c's staff weapon booming as tree trunks and branches crashed as the two dinosaurs shook off the bullets. Suddenly Jack appeared by his side, a hand on Daniel's arm as he crouched beside him, his weapon trained on the creature that was still trying to figure out what had hurt it.
Daniel turned to look at Jack, who wasn't looking at him but at the dinosaurs. He moved his legs and this time they obeyed, albeit sluggishly. "I'm not sure," Daniel replied when Jack took his attention off the creatures and looked at him. "My back. I mean, I can move but—" The ground trembled and the creature he'd shot at shifted towards the soldiers in the cave.
"No, stay still." Jack looked around, but Daniel knew there was nowhere to go for safety ex-cept the cave. And there were still two huge T-rex between them and it. "Ah, shit."
The other dinosaur was moving their way. Daniel figured it had had enough of chasing prey and was going for the injured one. Then suddenly he had an idea.
He reached into Jack's vest and grabbed one of the grenades he knew Jack kept there. He pulled the pin, counted silently and tossed it into the beast's gullet as it opened its mouth to roar.
"Holy—" Jack's cry was cut off as he threw himself over Daniel just as the creature exploded before them. Warm chunks of meat splattered over Daniel and Jack, the smell of blood causing Daniel to gag. By the time his ears stopped ringing, the small clearing was eerily silent.
"Gah!" Jack followed the sound of disgust by a couple of choice words that Daniel repeated under his breath as Jack pushed off of him. Jack's back was covered with the remains of the crea-ture, while Daniel's legs were splattered with it. Daniel struggled to sit up, feeling muscles in his back complain as he did so.
"Daniel, stay down. Don't move." Jack put a hand on Daniel's chest but he ignored the pres-sure, following through with the upwards motion until he was sitting. His legs were still a little numb but the pain was worse in his back.
The remains of the dead creature hid his view of the others, but even in his limited view he could see that there was no sign of the second one. "Where's the … ?"
"Teal'c and Ferretti got him."
"Thank God." Daniel curled his legs underneath him in an attempt to stand.
"Damn it, will you stay put." Janet's voice brooked no argument so Daniel instead raised his knees and leaned forward to rest his arms against them as she joined them. "Are you hurt?"
"He hit that tree pretty hard."
"Yes, I know, I saw. Daniel …?"
"My back. I think it's just bruised. Ow!" He shifted sideways as Janet ran her fingers over his back muscles and spine. He forced himself to sit still as she continued her examination.
Something rustled amongst the jungle growth to his right. "Look, can we do this somewhere other than a smorgasbord for anything that might be hungry?" He clipped a piece of bloody meat from his pants leg with his forefinger.
"Daniel, you could have serious injuries."
"I'm fine. Just bruised." He winced as Janet walked her fingers again over his lower back. He shivered, recognizing the signs of spent adrenaline.
Something growled nearby. An answering snarl came from Daniel's left.
"He's right." Jack stood, checked his gun and aimed a flashlight into the jungle. "We should get into the cave."
"Colonel, you think it'll be safe inside there?" Daniel hadn't heard Ferretti approach and he felt frustrated knowing he was keeping everyone out in the open.
"We can keep a fire burning in the entrance. That should deter most of the critters here."
"I'll make sure we have enough firewood." Ferretti was gone and Daniel realized it had got-ten dark very fast.
"You done, Doc?"
"Yes, you are." As more growls came from the jungle, Daniel pulled away from Janet and got onto his knees. "We can finish this inside." He grunted as he managed to bring his foot for-ward and leaned over it. Jack bent down, grabbed his bicep and pulled him up. "And God," Daniel complained as he shook one leg and then the other to rid himself of bits of gore, "I don't know about anyone else but I really need to wash up."
He moved slowly and painfully towards the cave, trying not to look at the bloody mess on the ground as he circumvented what remained of the T-Rex's body. There was a large, dark form to his right and he assumed it was the second dinosaur. He entered the cave and felt a shiver run down his spine. He hadn't realized how exposed he'd felt out there. Now, with rock walls and ceiling around him, with a fire soon to be built, he felt much more secure.
He went to the edge of the pool where the water ran off into the rocks, rinsed his hands, then splashed water on his face. Janet handed him a bar of soap and Daniel got serious about washing. Since bending over was so painful he slowly lowered his aching body to the stony ground and unlaced his boots. He shimmied out of his pants, threw them into the runoff and knelt beside the pool.
Jack joined him a moment later and they quietly cleaned up. Daniel rinsed his pants while Jack did the same for his jacket and tee shirt. The night was hot and humid; there was no danger of catching a chill.
He was peripherally aware of the others talking behind him and soon the welcome blaze of a fire illuminated the interior of the cave. He finished up, stood carefully and awkwardly put on his wet pants.
"I've got MREs, and I guess you never got to take the pills I gave you earlier?"
Daniel shook his head at Janet's question and let her lead him to a corner of the cave where she'd laid a couple of emergency blankets on the ground. He sat down with a short huff of pain, then took the pills she handed him.
"Muscle relaxants and painkillers."
He swallowed the medication then eyed the MRE she held out before her. He wasn't hungry; his head was pounding now and his lower back screamed almost every time he moved any part of his body. But she held the food out adamantly so he reluctantly took the small package from her.
"Eat. By the time you've finished, the pills will start kicking in."
Daniel took a reluctant bite, chewed slowly and swallowed. As the warm stew hit his stom-ach, he realized he was ravenous. He quickly shoveled more into his mouth and almost swal-lowed it whole. He was scooping more stew when Janet caught his hand.
"Eat slowly, or else this will all be for nothing."
Daniel nodded, taking the time to chew what remained in his mouth, swallowed, then made an effort to slow down his eating. Janet smiled at him before she turned to her own supper.
Daniel was almost finished by the time Jack sat down beside him. He grabbed one of the MREs and started the heating process, then leaned back against the rock wall and cleared his throat.
"Jack?" Daniel replied with his mouth full.
"You gonna tell us now why you never reported being knocked out by that thing Lee was playing with?"
Daniel teased the last of the stew into the corner of the container, scooped it up with his spoon and ate it. He chewed slowly, licked the spoon, then put it aside. He used the last of his bread to sop up the remaining gravy.
"Well?" Jack asked impatiently.
"We had a crisis. I woke up, got to my feet, and went to see what I could do to help. I figured there'd be time later for coddling if the need arose."
"It's one thing to go above and beyond the call of duty during a crisis, it's another thing to volunteer to go off-world when you're not at your fittest."
"Ah, that's the catch. We're still in the midst of a crisis, in case you forgot. That thing's still sucking the SGC's power and we haven't found Sam. Or Bill. In any case—"
Jack broke off when Hammond's voice came through his radio.
"I'm afraid the UAV found no trace of Doctor Lee or Major Carter."
Jack's expression became neutral as he spoke into his radio. "That doesn't mean they're not out there, sir."
"I agree, Colonel. Although I think your teams better start trying to return home in the morn-ing. One word of caution, we spotted some large animals that could be a threat to you and your men."
"Thanks for the warning, sir, but we've already had a run-in with them."
"Is everyone all right?"
Jack glanced at Daniel before answering. "Bruises. Mostly."
"Good. We did discover one thing that may be a way home for you if you can't connect with the portal. We spotted a Stargate and a DHD in the valley about ten miles east of the ocean."
"I know the valley you mean, sir. We'll head there if we can't access the portals. General, what's the status with the device. Have you figured out a way to disconnect it?"
"Siler and his team are still working on it. I'll let you know if there's any development."
"We'll report back in the morning, sir."
"Good luck, Colonel."
"Well, imagine that," Ferretti said as he settled close to Jack with an MRE in his hand, "a Stargate and a DHD just a few miles from here."
"I guess that was on everyone's minds," Daniel replied sleepily. He realized he was having trouble keeping his eyes open.
"Huh?" Lou looked at him in confusion. Daniel didn't answer; the explanation would take time and he didn't have the energy to begin.
"Why don't you lie down?" Janet's voice was soft and came from somewhere beside him. She put a hand on his shoulder, and he nodded. He shoved the remains of his meal aside, ruing the cookies that he hadn't eaten and figured they'd be gone by morning. As he stretched out he realized his back was beginning to feel better. Janet had been right; the pills had kicked in by the time he'd finished eating.
As she adjusted the emergency blanket around Daniel, she began telling Lou about Daniel's theory. He listened to her voice as it eventually faded into nothingness and he lost himself in sleep.
When the snarls got louder once again, Jack grabbed his weapon and went to stand near the entrance. There was a lot of activity outside and he'd been second guessing his decision to spend the night in the cave ever since the wildlife had stopped by for dinner.
The fire blinded him to what was going on outside, illuminating only the area closest to the entrance. Which was good enough for now; a few of the larger beasts had gotten a little too close for comfort during the night but the fire had deterred them from coming in. They'd never gotten good looks at most of the critters but some of them sounded like wolves, or dogs.
"The nights appear to be of short duration."
"What?" Jack looked at Teal'c, who pointed to the left. Jack peered past the fire and saw color marking the sky. He checked his watch.
"It's been barely four hours since the sun set."
Jack glanced back inside the cave when someone coughed and shifted restlessly. Nobody had truly slept; both the constant noises outside and their shaken nerves from the attack had pre-vented them from relaxing enough to fall into restful sleep. Except for Daniel. He'd passed out the moment his head had hit the proverbial pillow and hadn't moved from his position despite the growls and snarls over food outside.
When Jack looked outside again, the sky was definitely brighter.
"Okay, folks," Jack said in a loud voice, knowing nobody was actually sleeping. "Gear up and get ready to move out in twenty." Jack stiffened as something moved close to the fire. He glimpsed a red-tinged muzzle on a feline of some sort, then it disappeared with a twitch of its tail. He supposed most of these creatures were nocturnal feeders and hopefully the majority would return to their lairs with the coming of the sun.
If not … He mentally shrugged. They'd just pick ‘em out as they made their way towards the Stargate. He'd already made his decision. Carter and Lee were probably dead by now. They had no weapons and no chance of survival with the types of creatures out there. If they really were on this planet, or dimension, or whatever this place was.
And no more traipsing through the jungle for his two SG teams in the hopes of getting lucky with the portal. If Daniel's theory was correct, then this had to be a functioning Stargate because the device had picked the minds of some of the brightest people on Earth. Although what Jack did find odd was the fact that so far they hadn't encountered any living beings. He wondered if that was a failing of the alien device or possibly it took it a longer time to come up with beings of a higher intelligence.
He clapped Teal'c on the arm and made his way to the only person still sleeping. He knelt beside Daniel and reached out to shake his shoulder. He hesitated, wondering what part of Daniel wasn't bruised. Instead of the shoulder, he reached down and grabbed Daniel's arm and shook it. Daniel mumbled something sleepily and cracked open heavy eyelids to look at Jack.
"We're moving out. You need painkillers or something?"
"What?" Daniel raised his head, winced, then let his head fall back onto the ground. "I'm up," he muttered.
"Grab a power bar before we go. We're leaving as soon as it's light enough to see."
"Yeah, okay." Daniel shifted around, stretching carefully. Jack went to his own pack and grabbed two power bars and sat down near the entrance beside Teal'c. He could hear people mov-ing around in the cave, water splashing and the sound of low conversation as he handed Teal'c one of the two breakfast items.
He reached for his radio and pressed down the call button. "SG-1 Niner to base. Come in."
"We read you, Colonel O'Neill."
"Sun's coming up in a short while. We'll be on our way as soon as we can see enough not to walk into a tree."
"I'll advise the general, sir."
"So, tell me, what lovely scenery are you admiring at the moment?"
"A desert, sir. The temperature's close to freezing so I wouldn't call this lovely."
"Freezing?" Jack wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. The humidity level hadn't gone down at all overnight. "I doubt the temp's gone down below a hundred."
"Colonel. If you step into the desert, may I caution you to be on the lookout for scorpions? We had a couple of dozen enter the base through the portal before we realized what was happen-ing."
"Three SFs, sir. They're going to be fine, but their sting is pretty painful."
"Thanks for the head's up. We'll try to stay away."
"Colonel, you should know. General Hammond is worried about the generators. That thing is sucking so much energy and even though they're reinforced with a naquadah-based reactor, they're saying they might need to try and shut the device down soon. The reactor is close to an overload."
"I understand. We're going to try and head on home."
He heard the sound of laughter, then Ferretti called out to Daniel. "Come on, Doctor Jack-son, up and at ‘em." Jack turned to look and Daniel was lying on his back, asleep once more. "Doctor Sleepyhead," Ferretti called out in a sing-song voice, "last one up gets latrine duty."
"Daniel," Jack barked out, frustrated at his friend. He knew Fraiser had given him some meds but they had to have worn off by now. Jack moved to stand but before he could follow through with the motion, Fraiser was kneeling beside Daniel.
"Come on, wake up." She shook him a little more gently than Jack would have. When Daniel shifted and spoke to her, Jack relaxed slightly and concentrated on eating his breakfast and trying not to watch the animals as they feasted outside.
By the time he ate half his meal, Fraiser finally had Daniel up and moving. Jack decided to let her keep an eye on him for a change; if there was a problem, she'd come tell him. Jack glanced back toward the waterfall where Daniel was splashing water on his face, then eyed the sky. He figured ten more minutes. Already the noises outside had lessened. Maybe he ought to wait twenty more; give the beasties time to get out of the area and go back to their lairs.
Jack turned to Fraiser, who'd approached him and was staring out past the fire.
"I'm worried about Daniel."
Jack felt his stomach drop as he turned to give her his full attention. "What's up?" He fiddled with the wrapper of his power bar, then forced himself to take another bite.
"He's extremely lethargic, more so than the medication I gave him should warrant. I'm wor-ried it's a side-effect of however that device affected him yesterday. At this point I'd recommend bed rest—" She raised an index finger when Jack opened his mouth to state the obvious. "I know it's not feasible, I'm just telling you that it's going to be tough going for him through the jungle. It's possible yesterday he was running on adrenaline which made him somewhat more alert. But right now you should know he's very tired and pretty stiff and sore."
Jack nodded his understanding. "We'll be heading straight for the Stargate instead of trying to chase the portal every which way. With any luck, we'll be home in a couple of hours."
"Thank you, sir."
Jack shoved the last of his meal into his mouth as Fraiser stood, then threw his wrapper into the fire. Daniel was leaning against the wall lost in thought, but as Jack stood, Daniel straight-ened. He gave Jack a small smile as he neared.
"You eat yet?" Jack asked, knowing full well Daniel hadn't.
Daniel blinked at him, then shook his head. Without a word Jack found Daniel's pack and extracted a power bar, tore the wrapping open and handed it to his friend. Daniel looked at it a moment before bringing it up to his mouth.
"You gonna be able to keep up?" Jack asked softly.
"I'll be fine, Jack." He lowered his arm without taking a bite.
"I'm gonna assign Teal'c to stay with you—" Jack began speaking over Daniel as his friend started protesting— "because those things came out of nowhere and you might not be as quick on the draw this morning." Jack pushed Daniel's hand holding the power bar back towards his face. He waited until Daniel had taken a bite before speaking again.
"We're gonna head straight for the Stargate." Jack lowered his voice and softened his tone. "I don't think we're going to find Carter and—"
"I know." Daniel swallowed and stared at his food. "With those dinosaurs and—" Something hissed and snarled outside and Daniel jumped. "What the—"
"Local wildlife. Those are part of the reason why I want to make sure you and the doc are—"
"Me and Daniel are what, sir?" Fraiser smiled apologetically at Jack for interrupting as she joined them.
"Safe from those things out there." He nodded at the food Daniel still hadn't eaten. "Wanna make sure he eats before we leave?"
"Damn it, Jack, I'm not a child." Daniel glared at him and took a large bite, chewing angrily. "I don't need a babysitter," he said with his mouth full, "and I don't need to be spoon fed." Daniel swallowed and took another bite. Jack stood up and decided to make a run for it before he ended up being the cause of Daniel choking to death.
Someone had kicked the burning brands away from the entrance and Teal'c and Ferretti were outside, weapons raised and standing alert. Jack eased his way past the scattered fire and joined them.
"Think you can find the way to the valley?" Jack asked Teal'c.
"Indeed. Although I have doubts as to the authenticity of the Stargate. Should we not attempt to return through the portal instead?"
"We could try chasing that doorway for the next couple of weeks but let's face it. This is a large piece of land and unless we get lucky, we're not gonna get in walking distance of it."
"There is no guarantee the Stargate will work."
"It's got a DHD, hasn't it?" Ferretti looked back at Jack for confirmation.
"Yeah, Hammond said it did. And T, I know where you're coming from but I think we gotta try the gate first. If it's a dud, then we're probably up the proverbial river without the proverbial paddle."
Jack ordered Ferretti and Teal'c to spread out and have a look around. In the meantime, eve-ryone slowly emerged from the cave. Daniel looked shaky and unsteady; his face pale with dark circles under his eyes. Still, he had a hand on his gun while he glanced around.
"Okay, kids, let's move. Teal'c, take point." Jack noted Daniel's surprise as he turned to order Major Dawson to watch their six. He waited as everyone fell in, nodding as Ferretti followed be-hind Fraiser while Jack stepped in front of Daniel.
"Decided I needed a different babysitter?" Daniel waited until Jack had contacted the SGC to advise them that they were moving out. He sounded irritated.
"Actually I figured we should move as fast as possible and Teal'c's our best bet of getting to where we're going in as straight a line as possible."
"How's the back?"
"Sore." There had been a touch of hesitation before Daniel answered; Jack bet Daniel was hurting pretty bad. Although some of the stiffness would probably work itself out as soon as his muscles were warmed up.
Sweat trickled down Jack's back; they'd hardly been moving for ten minutes and already he was soaked with sweat. It wasn't so much the heat as the humidity, and he half-wished for the dry heat of the early morning desert conditions that had plagued the SGC.
Jack estimated it would take them a good four or five hours to get to the valley. Up till now, they hadn't encountered any of the wildlife that had spent the night in front of their camp. Either dead or alive. He couldn't understand how something that honking huge as the dinosaurs had managed to sneak up on them. Obviously whoever's thoughts the prehistoric creatures had been taken from hadn't seen the Jurassic Park movies. Those things rocked the planet when they walked.
The going was hard. The heat and humidity rose with the sun. When Jack called a halt after an hour, he was glad to sit and try to cool off. Teal'c remained standing, keeping watch. Daniel slid bonelessly to the ground and leaned against a tree trunk. The only good thing about walking in the jungle was that they had shade; the bad thing was that there was no breeze as there had been on the beach.
"Almost reminds me of summers when I was a kid." Fraiser wiped her forehead with the back of her hand as she struggled to remove her backpack.
"This bad, huh?" Jack scrunched his nose as a bead of sweat slid down it, tickling as it went. He wiped it away impatiently only to have another take its place. He pulled his canteen from his belt and put it to his mouth.
"Oh no, it was worse." She smiled at him before turning her attention to Daniel, who was sitting, eyes closed, still leaning against the tree. Jack laughed softly before taking a couple of deep swallows of water. Fraiser pulled Daniel's arm into her lap and without a word, began strapping a blood pressure cuff around his bicep. Daniel opened his eyes to half-heartedly glare at her but he didn't say a word. After a moment he shut his eyes again.
"Daniel, how's the pain?"
"I'm stiff but I can manage."
"I can give you something for it—"
With his eyes still shut, Daniel shook his head, his hair rasping against the tree's bark. "I'm tired enough as it is."
"Your pressure's still low; that's probably contributing to the fatigue. And you need to hy-drate." Fraiser took her own canteen and placed it in Daniel's hand. "Drink. And take these."
Daniel peered at the pills she held out to him.
"Doctor's orders. And this isn't as strong as what I gave you last night so it shouldn't knock you out."
The fact that he took the pills without argument was a testament to how Daniel truly felt and with a soft sigh of defeat he took the pills from her, uncapped the canteen, tilted it to his mouth, closed his eyes and drank, then handed the bottle back to Fraiser when he'd finished. "Thanks."
Jack glanced at his watch and figured he'd give everyone five more minutes. He hated not being able to see further than the nearest tree; for all he knew, the portal was only a short dis-tance away. He looked around, wondering if he could climb a tree and have a look over the can-opy.
"Want me to try, sir?"
Jack turned and looked at Fraiser in surprise.
"I used to love climbing trees." She stood and looked up at the canopy. "I assume you want to figure out where the portal is at the moment."
"You sure?" Jack asked cautiously as Fraiser made for a tree that was growing at a slant.
"Yep. Mind giving me a boost?" Jack got up and put his hands out. Fraiser stepped into his cupped palms and he quickly raised her up so that she caught a low branch. Then she was climb-ing up faster than he could ever have imagined. She stopped near the top of the tree, her legs wrapped around the trunk as she looked around. "Colonel? It's in that direction." She pointed to Jack's left, which was in the opposite direction they were headed in. "It's pretty far off; there's no way we can get to it."
"Okay. How about you try that little trick in another hour."
"Sure." Fraiser began descending, moving more slowly than she'd ascended. Once she got close enough, Jack put his hands around her waist and helped her down. "Thanks." She wiped her hands on her pants and grinned at Jack.
"Okay, let's move out." Jack waited a moment as everyone gathered their belongings and stood, then moved over to where Daniel still sat unmoving. "Daniel?"
When Daniel didn't react, Jack knelt beside his friend. He put a hand on Daniel's shoulder and shook him gently.
Daniel's eyes flew open and he looked at Jack in alarm.
"Hey, easy. We're moving out. You okay?"
"Yeah, fine." Daniel stood, grimacing as he did, then grabbed the tree he'd been leaning against as he swayed. He looked at Jack and then gave him a quick smile as he let go of the tree.
The closeness of the jungle seemed to get worse the deeper they traipsed through it. Jack had an irrational urge to climb to the top of the trees just to get out of the humidity, although Fraiser assured him that it was just as hot up there as it was down here.
They were nearing their third hour of walking when Teal'c signaled danger up ahead. Jack froze, immediately signaling those behind him to stop and be quiet. Then something bumped him, hard, almost knocking him over. He turned, ready to fight when he realized Daniel hadn't been paying attention and had walked into him.
He caught Daniel's shoulder to help him regain his balance just as Teal'c motioned them all to get down and take cover. Daniel was still blinking in bewilderment and was trying to stammer out an apology as Jack pulled him down with him.
Jack held back a curse as he slapped his hand over Daniel's mouth in an attempt to tell him to be silent. The jungle itself appeared to be listening, the sounds of their passage along with what-ever wildlife that inhabited the jungle had grown quiet. Silence now reigned in the jungle, even the wildlife appeared to be on alert, listening to whatever danger Teal'c had picked up on.
Listening for it, this time Jack felt the vibrations rather than heard them. He'd been right. The scenario was now right out of the Jurassic Park movies.
Something huge passed nearby. Branches and tree trunks snapped but with less sound than Jack would have expected. He could hear breathing as the creature walked. Then it stopped and sniffed the air. The beast snuffled loudly in their direction.
Jack felt Daniel's body tense beside his as they tried to make themselves as small as possible behind the thick growth. As lush as the jungle was, Jack felt oddly exposed behind the thick leaves and large trees screening him from the dinosaur's seeking gaze. Moving slowly, he reached a hand into his vest and teased a grenade into his palm. When the creature finally moved off, he breathed a sigh of relief.
He signaled that they should stay put for a few more minutes, just in case there was another one nearby. Two of them had attacked the camp last night simultaneously so he wasn't taking chances. He shifted carefully to make himself more comfortable while he gestured for Rawlins and Ferretti to scout the area.
Like the last two times they'd taken a break, Daniel was already nodding off and Jack ex-changed a worried look with Fraiser.
Rawlins and Ferretti had barely taken ten steps away from the group when the attack came from behind. Roaring loudly in the hopes of paralyzing its prey, the T-Rex, which had circled around them without anyone noticing, was now attempting to get at them through the trees.
Fraiser was cornered against a large tree and the thing had zeroed in on her. She'd managed to pull her pistol but the bullets weren't doing much damage. Jack swore as bullets zipped past him. Dinosaurs were made out of blood and bones; this thing wasn't normal. Whatever had cre-ated it had made the creatures into some kind of super-dino.
"Shit. If they're gonna take stuff from our heads, at least make it accurate," he yelled in frus-tration.
With grenade in hand, he waited until he had a clear shot at the open maw and when the di-nosaur roared loudly in displeasure at the sting of Teal'c's staff weapon, Jack threw the grenade.
This time the explosion wasn't quite as spectacular as they were sheltered from the bloody fallout by the vegetation protecting them.
"Let's get the hell out of here," Jack ordered. In silent agreement, they got to their feet and hurriedly left the carnage behind.
They walked in silence for several minutes.
"Hey, look." Ferretti pointed to his left.
"That sort of looks familiar," Jack said as he examined the large structure which rose up past the jungle's canopy.
"It should," Daniel replied after a moment. "P8X 302. We explored those ruins a couple of weeks ago."
"Ah, so this one's one of yours."
"One of my what?" Daniel looked at Jack with a gaze that was almost cross-eyed.
"Memories. You know, one of the things that alien device took from inside your head."
"Yeah, I guess so." Daniel leaned against a tree and tilted his head sideways so it was sup-ported by the trunk. "Although, why would it? The ruins were empty; there was nothing of im-portance there. No people, no aliens, and definitely no dinosaurs."
"Who knows?" Jack clapped Daniel's shoulder and the man straightened. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut a moment before opening them and blinking quickly.
"C'mon, let's go." Jack helped him along with a slight tug on his arm for motivation.
Daniel stumbled as his legs shook with the effort of walking. Everything was a blur, focusing had become too much of an effort so like he'd done before, he kept his gaze on the less dizzying motion of Jack's feet in front of him.
He tripped again and righted himself with difficulty as he staggered against Jack.
"Hey. You okay?"
Without looking up, Daniel nodded, feeling too out of it to experience embarrassment. Jack held onto his arm for a moment longer, then let go. The heat in the jungle was almost unbearable, making his head swim as a cold shiver traveled up his spine.
He shrugged off the weird sensation and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. After a while he realized he wasn't fighting the vegetation any longer. He looked up in sur-prise to see that the green blur of jungle had thinned out and flat land spread out before them. There was some kind of grass growing over the valley and it undulated slowly, rippling as if it were alive.
Sweat dripped down his back but a breeze attempted to tease the sodden material of his tee shirt from his damp skin. The coolness of the wind sent another shiver down his spine. His tired brain connected the undulating field with the movement of the wind.
The people in front of him were stopping so he slowed, then moved to stand beside Jack.
"Ten minutes, kids," Jack said as he pressed a hand over Daniel's arm, squeezing lightly be-fore joining Teal'c. "We're going to be pretty much exposed out there."
"Indeed. But we shall see the creatures before they attack."
"I don't like the looks of that stuff growing in the fields. It could hide anything."
"Major," Janet said in an annoyed voice as she spoke to Rawlins, "I'm sure we've all seen Jurassic Park. If there are velociraptors hiding in that grass, we'll just have to deal with them the way we dealt with the T-Rex."
"And that would be by throwing grenades at them?" Rawlins asked.
"Hell, no. I'm planning to run like hell."
Rawlins and Carmichael's laughter sounded muted to Daniel's ears. "There won't be any rap-tors out there," Daniel said, his tongue and jaw feeling numb and unresponsive as if he'd been out in the cold too long.
"How'd you know that, Doc?" Ferretti took a couple of steps forward so he was standing be-side Daniel.
Daniel closed his eyes, trying to coax the fuzziness away. "There was a tooth on Doctor …" Daniel pressed a hand to the bridge of his nose as he attempted to remember his colleague's name. "Doctor Middleton." He felt like he'd dredged the name up from deep down inside his brain, leaving him with a strange, lightheaded feeling. "It was a fossil … he kept it as a paper-weight."
"A velociraptor tooth?"
"No, the other … the T-Rex."
"Was Doctor Middleton one of those affected by the device?" Janet asked as she moved to stand in front of him. "I didn't get to treat everyone and I don't remember if he was or not." Daniel paused, trying to remember exactly who had been knocked out. Chris' office wasn't far from his own; the chances that he'd been affected were high.
"I'm not sure," he finally admitted as he lowered his hand.
"But if he was, you think we'll only see the T-Rex because Doctor Middleton had a tooth from one?"
Daniel nodded slowly, aware of Janet's gaze on him.
"That might also explain why the dinos were so hard to kill. He might not have known the actual facts about the T-Rex and made them larger than life, like most of us do." Lou clapped Daniel on the back, inadvertently pressing Daniel's pack against the bruises and pushing Daniel off balance. "Whoa." Lou grabbed Daniel's arm as he stumbled. "Sorry."
"It's okay." Daniel tried not to wince as his abused muscles burned in complaint. As Lou moved away, Daniel turned to Janet.
"Do you have any stimulants?"
"Oh, no Daniel," she balked. "I don't think it's a good—"
"Janet, I don't know if you've noticed, but I can't go on like this much longer," Daniel whis-pered quickly, trying not to stumble over his words. "I'm a hindrance to the team and I need something to keep me alert because I feel like I'm a walking zombie."
"I can't in all good faith give you something without knowing what that device did to you."
Daniel knew he needed to explain how he felt but the words were elusive. He tried, grasping at straws as he spoke. "It's reading my mind, Janet. It's got its fingers inside of me and it's trying to pull me into this world."
Daniel jumped in surprise when Janet grabbed his arm and stepped into his personal space. "You mean you can feel it?" Janet hissed. "It's still got control over you?"
"I … what?" He tried to process her words, wondering why she thought the device was still controlling him. He'd woken up from its effects when it had knocked him out, hadn't he? Daniel licked dry lips with a tongue that was covered with thick saliva.
Janet put a hand on his cheek and held his head still. Her eyes bored into his. "Do you think that thing back at the base is still reading your mind?" Janet spoke softly and slowly.
Daniel shook his head, exasperated with his own shortcomings. "I don't know. If given the opportunity I would gladly just lie on the ground and go so sleep, but I know I can't give into that sensation until everyone is safely back at the SGC."
Daniel felt a wave of relief as she dropped her pack to the ground and began to rummage through it. She stood and handed Daniel two pills. He popped them into his mouth and then greedily drained the last of his water. The liquid did nothing to ease the dryness of his mouth and he felt he could have drunk double the contents of his water bottle.
Daniel nodded blindly to Jack's question, fumbling his bottle back onto the holder on his belt. He managed to get to his feet by himself, his legs wobbly as he stood while everyone else sat. Defiantly he forced his body to stay upright, telling himself he'd fight the lethargy when deep down inside he was afraid that if he fell asleep, he might not wake up and that feeling alone was enough to scare the crap out of him.
By the time everyone began moving out, he was definitely feeling a little more alert. Daniel took his place behind Jack as they descended into the field.
This was worse than walking through the jungle; he couldn't see anything except for Jack in front of him as they strode through the path of broken stalks. The stems came up higher than his head and except for the blue sky directly above, his sense of direction was gone. With the pale growth on either side of him, he felt he was the equivalent of snow blind.
Even though he was more alert, his balance was totally shot and he staggered into the stalks on his right. And with no tree trunks to gain purchase, he stumbled for a step or two before forc-ing himself back onto the path. He was breathing heavily, the sound reverberating into his head. The wind rippled dryly through the stalks with an eerie rustle, muffling their footsteps and mak-ing Daniel's head ache.
There was no escape from the wind and the sweat on Daniel's body began to dry. He shiv-ered and wrapped his arms around himself for warmth. He could hear someone swearing about the change in temperature so he was relieved he wasn't the only one who was experiencing the chill.
His sense of disorientation continued as he staggered behind Jack like he was drunk. He reeled off again towards the right and despite what felt like a heroic effort to stay on his feet, he somehow landed on one knee, then continued slipping sideways until his palm hit the dry, sharp stalks which had crumpled as he fell.
"I'm okay," Daniel replied by rote as someone curled fingers around his bicep. He kept his head down, trying not to see out of his peripheral vision, the movement of the stalks worsening his vertigo.
"Quit it. What's going on?" Jack grabbed onto Daniel's other arm and Daniel raised his hands to latch onto Jack's arms. He forced his gaze onto his knees as Jack sat him up.
"Dizzy," he managed past his gritted teeth.
"The dizziness is probably a side-effect from the dextroamphetamine I gave him, although this is a little severe." Janet began taking his blood pressure and Daniel allowed Jack to support him. "Your pressure's a little high, but that's an improvement over what it was earlier."
Jack nodded, then called out over Daniel's shoulder. "Teal'c, how much farther?"
"Perhaps a mile. The Stargate is visible from here."
"Okay, if I hold onto you, think you can make it?" Jack helped him up and kept a hold on his bicep.
"Yeah, thanks," Daniel replied, grateful when Jack pulled him close and wrapped an arm around his waist. With something tangible to hang onto, Daniel's sense of up and down improved considerably.
There was something nagging at Daniel, something that was making him feel like he'd aban-doned someone. Something he'd cast aside while his brain had been trying to go to sleep. Janet's drug was working; because at least his head was a little clearer. He trusted Jack to keep him on the trail as he rummaged through his brain, trying to remember. Then it came to him suddenly. Sam and Bill. They hadn't found them. And it was more than likely they wouldn't.
He stumbled and Jack tightened his hold. "Sorry," Daniel mumbled as he forced his legs to straighten.
He knew they had no choice but to head for home, but damn it, it hurt to leave them. He stumbled again, and Jack slowed so Daniel could get his balance. He swore at his uncooperative body. "You'd think if that thing is accessing our memories, it'd make it easier on us, like a nice, even path to walk on," Daniel grumbled.
"Be careful what you ask for." Jack shifted his hold slightly. "I don't like the fact we can't see anything in here but at least nothing's jumped out at us."
"Yet. For all we know, it's still reading our minds."
"Great. Just keep that attitude up and you'll be attracting all sorts of nasties like flies to mo-lasses."
Daniel squinted up at Jack, ignoring the blur of beige around him. "Are you saying this is my fault?"
"No," Jack said quickly. "I just mean that if you're still … connected to that thing, it could be accessing your thoughts and …"
"Well, we haven't seen Sam or Bill and I've been thinking about them. I wonder why we ha-ven't seen any people yet. You'd think with all the aliens—"
"I noticed. Maybe producing something with any kind of intelligence is a little beyond the thing's abilities."
"You mean you're a figment of my imagination?"
"Hey, watch who you're talking to here. Your imagination may get insulted and decide to drop you."
Daniel smiled and looked away. What he saw in the field beside them brought him to a stop. "Um, Jack, how come we didn't see this coming?"
A large piece of stone was evident right at the edge of the path that had been broken by Teal'c and Rawlins. Daniel looked up at the large block of cut stone, and swallowed. Towering over them was a series of stones. Topped with large lintels, the rocks' formation hinted at a circle as they disappeared into the depths of the field.
"That wasn't here just now, was it?" Daniel asked softly.
"I did not see the stones as I walked past." Teal'c had stopped and was staring at the rocks with a defiant glare.
"Colonel, that's Stonehenge." Janet left the group and moved into the stalks, following the line of stones. "I've been to England, sir. This is … it's like Stonehenge would have been thou-sands of years ago, not today. It's not in ruins."
"Doctor Fraiser, don't go too far." Ferretti quickly followed her into the field, watching her back.
"Were you thinking of that just now?"
"No." Daniel glared at Jack. "Stop blaming all of this on me."
"I'm not. I didn't mean … I'm just trying to figure out what's going on here, and any bit of information might help."
"Well, it wasn't me."
"C'mon, Doc, let's keep moving."
Fraiser quickly obeyed Jack's order and moved back into place on the path. Five minutes later, Teal'c called out. "O'Neill. We have arrived at the Stargate."
Several steps later, they were standing before the large Naquadah rings.
"Anybody see the DHD?" Ferretti asked, looking into the field of giant stalks. "General Hammond did say they saw one here, didn't he?"
Jack led Daniel to the edge of the Stargate, stepped on a large area of stalks to flatten them and urged him to sit in the space he'd created. "Everyone spread out, see if you can find the DHD." Daniel put a hand against the sun-warmed metal and slid down so that he was leaning a shoulder against the Stargate. Jack hesitated, watching as the two teams began beating down the stalks in their search for the DHD.
"I'm okay. Go on," Daniel said after Jack glanced at him. He gave Jack a small smile as he shifted, trying to make himself comfortable.
By the time the DHD was found, a large area had been cleared around the Stargate. Teal'c moved to the DHD and waited as Jack radioed the base.
"SG Command, this is SG-1 Niner."
"Go ahead, Colonel," Hammond answered.
"We've found the Stargate. We're getting ready to dial out."
"Okay, we'll be waiting for you. The moment you return, we'll disconnect—"
Daniel quickly raised himself to his knees. "Jack, wait. We can't dial home."
"Well, first of all it probably won't work … remember the gate in Antarctica?"
"Yeah, well, we don't know if we're actually on Earth."
"That's true," Daniel conceded, making it onto his feet with difficulty as he used the Stargate for leverage. "But there's also the fact we won't know how the power surge of the gate activating will affect that device. Or how the device could affect the Stargate. For all we know, it could cause an explosion."
"Oh, we're Mr. Optimistic today, aren't we?"
"Jack, we can't take a chance. Not until that thing is disconnected."
"Colonel, is there a problem?"
"No, sir. Daniel thinks we shouldn't attempt to dial our Stargate. Request permission to dial the Alpha Site."
There was a long pause before Hammond replied. "Permission granted. We'll contact you the moment the device is clear."
"Teal'c, dial the Alpha Site."
Immediately Teal'c began pressing the glyphs and the Stargate began to whirl. Daniel took a few unsteady steps to go stand beside the others to the side of the kawoosh. The moment Teal'c pressed on the center glyph, a sizzle of energy flew from behind them and crashed against the engaging Stargate.
More bursts from staff weapons came from the rippling crops. A battle horn sounded and Jack motioned everyone into the wormhole. Daniel began to run, immediately losing his balance and stumbling forward. Teal'c caught his arm and pulled him so that Daniel managed to stay on his feet. Then he was through the wormhole, and out the other side.
It was freezing. Literally. The temperature was sub-zero and the cold wind chilled the sweat on his body immediately.
He skidded to a stop near the edge of a stone platform high atop a structure and wind milled his arms to prevent his momentum from carrying him down the narrow steps. Again Teal'c gripped his arm and pulled him back to safety. Daniel gratefully placed his back against the stone wall in the center of the platform. Heart racing and breathing heavily, Daniel's vertigo hit him full force as he viewed the panorama before him. He shut his eyes, then opened them again when Jack spoke.
"Whoa." Jack moved to the platform's perimeter and stared at the numerous steps Daniel had almost involuntarily descended. "I know where this is. I've been here before."
"Colonel, where's the Stargate?" Janet moved past him, staring at the temple Daniel was try-ing not to hug despite his being several feet away from the platform's edges.
"O'Neill, SG-2 did not come through the Stargate with us."
"Teal'c, there's no Stargate for them to come through. I think we passed through that wall over there." Janet pointed to where Daniel was and he reluctantly pushed away from the temple, trying not to look down past the open borders of the Mayan pyramid. There were other buildings to the east, west and south of where they were, peeking past the dying jungle growth.
"I know where this is," Jack repeated as he pressed past Daniel. "Chichén Itzá. Cancun. Sara and I came here for a vacation." Jack quickly rounded the edge of the temple, his voice slightly muffled by the wind. "SG-2 Niner, are you out there? Ferretti, what the hell happened to you?"
There was static on the radios and then they all heard a faint voice come through on their receivers. "Colonel. I don't know what happened; we went through the Stargate but didn't turn up on the Alpha Site. Are you guys okay?"
"We're fine. We have no visual of the Stargate. I'm not sure if—"
"O'Neill." They all turned to look at where Teal'c was staring while Jack turned the corner, having gone completely around the temple's outer perimeter. Barely visible beyond a mountain range was the shimmering edge of the portal.
"Crap. Ferretti, we're still on the goddamned whatever this place is."
"I know, Colonel. We were somehow transported onto Mount Fuji."
"What about the Jaffa?"
"No signs of them either."
"Colonel O'Neill." Hammond's voice cut through, coming in more clearly than Ferretti's. "What happened? I thought you were going to use the Stargate."
"Yes sir, we did, but apparently that didn't quite work the way we expected it to. We're still inside the portal. I, um, thought you were going to shut that thing down?"
Jack pointed towards the stairs and while Hammond was responding to his question, mo-tioned everyone to start down the pyramid. Daniel immediately went down onto his knees, being too dizzy to attempt walking down the stairs. They were so narrow that his foot would only fit on it sideways.
"We've disconnected it from the power source, but it appears to be maintaining enough of a charge in the crystal to keep the portal active for the time being. At the moment, Dr. Felger is try-ing to ascertain how long that charge might last. We're going to attempt forcing it to shift around. We discovered if we closed the doors to whatever area it occupied, it would reappear elsewhere. Maybe this way we'll get lucky and the portal will open near one of you."
"Lou, if you get a chance to get through that portal, take it," Jack ordered. "I guess Felger's got no idea what'll happen when that thing runs out of power?"
Hammond's silence was answer enough for them all.
"Don't worry, General, I'm sure we'll find a way out if the portal doesn't shift close enough. There must be a reason why the Stargate brought us to this place. We'll let you know if we find anything."
"You really think there's something down there that'll get us home, sir?" Janet was having the easiest time of descending, her smaller feet fitting more easily on the steps.
"Or else someone visited this place in the past and is dreaming about it right now," Daniel mumbled. He was lagging behind everyone, going down almost in a seated position. He was leaning sideways, reaching his hands out on the rough stone to keep his balance. His legs were burning with the effort, his arm shaking whenever he moved.
"Don't even go there, Daniel." Jack had reached the bottom and he stood on the last step and looked around. "These ruins aren't old. When I visited, a lot of these buildings didn't have roofs. The observatory was caved in and there was this one place with hundreds of pillars."
Daniel finally made it to the bottom and stood up. He listed then caught himself. The urge to sleep was coming back; Janet's pills were starting to wear off.
"We should start looking in the buildings, see if there's anything here."
"I don't think that'll help us, Jack," Daniel said wearily. "SG-2 is on top of a volcano. It's not like they were sent there for a purpose; or us, for that matter. We need the portal to get back."
"Then you tell that thing to stay put long enough for us to get to it because it isn't playing by our rules. Come on, Daniel. You're the one who's usually chomping at the bit to go and explore. It's not like you to be so pessimistic."
Daniel didn't even deign to answer. Instead he went to stand beside Teal'c. Janet joined them and a moment later, Jack put a hand to Daniel's shoulder and squeezed. Daniel turned to look at Jack, who simply nodded. Daniel nodded back.
"You're right," Daniel ceded. "How about we—"
A bright light surrounded them and a humming noise rang in his ears as transport rings de-scended. Seconds later, SG-1 found themselves inside a Ha'tak.
Before Daniel could blink, Teal'c fired his staff weapon on the Horus guard who had stepped into the middle of the room, staff weapon aimed directly at them. Even as its red eyes went blank as it collapsed, Jack took down its companion at the transport controls. Daniel stood there dum-bly, then mentally chided himself at his slow reflexes as Janet pulled out her weapon and checked out the corridor.
Daniel hunched his shoulders, expecting to hear the stomp of booted feet when the alarm was raised. But the corridor remained quiet and he tilted his head in question at Teal'c.
"Perhaps the majority of the guards are on the planet," Teal'c said with an answering raise of an eyebrow.
"Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. Get back in the circles." Jack hurriedly keyed the controls once everyone was in position, but the rings didn't activate. After trying several times, Teal'c gently nudged Jack aside and tried. Again, the controls wouldn't work.
"Okay, suggestions?" Jack moved away from the controls and kept an eye on the door.
"This is a Goa'uld ship?" Janet asked. "I guess it'd be too much to hope for a Stargate on the ship?"
"No Stargate," Daniel replied, his head beginning to feel fuzzy again. "There'd be death glid-ers, though."
Jack jumped on Daniel's words. "T, any idea where—"
"Two floors above us."
"I say we fly back down to the planet."
"I concur, O'Neill. We should move quickly, before it is discovered we are here or that we have escaped."
Immediately Jack waved them out into the corridor. Teal'c led the way while Janet kept an eye on Daniel. He wanted desperately to ask her for more of the drug she'd given him earlier but knew they couldn't take the time for her to look for it. He'd tough it out; they'd hopefully be down on the planet in a short while and he'd ask her then.
They only encountered one squadron of Jaffa, all of them wearing activated head armor. For some odd reason, seeing the full body armor creeped Daniel out, reminding him of the first time he'd come across Jaffa on Abydos. Even knowing what was inside the armor didn't dispel the sin-ister feeling the memories evoked.
They managed to keep out of sight of the squadron and quickly made their way to the hangar deck. The moment they were through the doors, Jack hurried to the closest glider. "Daniel, you're with me. Doc, you go with Teal'c."
Daniel managed to get into the ship with a not-so-gentle boost from Jack when his legs nearly gave out as he climbed onto the wing. He half fell onto the seat and before he'd righted himself, the canopy was closing and Jack had the ship in the air. Another ship rose to his right and Daniel saw Janet's wide grin as she waved at him through the clear canopy.
Then they were moving forward at a dizzying speed through the hangar bay. Daniel shut his eyes against the nausea triggered by the blurred motion. His fingers began to cramp and his arm muscles burned. He realized he had a death grip on his seat but couldn't seem to make himself let go. Daniel cautiously opened his eyes, trying to avoid glimpsing anything outside. He kept his eyes glued on the back of Jack's seat while finally forcing his fingers to relax.
Then the lights went out. Surprised, Daniel glanced up and gasped loudly. They were in space.
Slowly Daniel raised a shaking hand and touched two fingers to the canopy. The plastic was bitterly cold and he quickly lowered his hand, shoving his chilled digits beneath his armpit to warm them up. For a moment he wished he was back inside the Ha'tak, complete with force fields and thick metal separating him from the deathly cold of airless space.
Daniel shivered at the empty sight before him despite the warmth in the cockpit. He'd been in space before, but never in something this tiny. He felt vulnerable, dwarfed by it all. Seeing this much open space, spread out before him, was disorienting. Apart from the small pinpricks of starlight surrounding them, he and Jack were alone out here, with a Ha'tak somewhere behind them full of their enemies.
He craned his head around, trying to find some point of reference to latch onto. He spotted another glider behind them on his right and nearly yelled out to Jack that they were being fol-lowed when he realized belatedly that it was Teal'c and Janet. He looked farther back and saw the quickly dwindling mass of the Ha'tak. He squinted, trying to see if there were other death gliders following them but his vision blurred.
"I don't believe it." The annoyed tone of Jack's voice had Daniel trying to look past the side of the pilot's seat. The quick motion from back to front made him dizzy.
"What is it?" There was a glow towards the bottom of the glider's nose and Jack was heading straight for it.
"Sonovabitch! We're in orbit around Earth. There's a fucking Goa'uld mother-ship orbiting Earth and nobody knows about it."
The horizon tilted sickeningly and there was Earth, in all her glory, right before them. Daniel leaned frontward and grabbed onto the edge of Jack's seat, trying to hold himself from falling forward. The planet seemed to pull at him despite the lack of gravity. His stomach roiled sicken-ingly, besieged by the disorientation of outer space and the immense planet looming overhead plus the lack of heavy gravity and sense of motion. When Daniel caught a glimpse of the moon to his left, he moaned in discomfort.
"Hey, you okay back there?"
"No," Daniel ground out between clenched teeth. He tried to concentrate on his breathing. In. Out. Slow, regular breaths. He looked down at his feet and tried to ignore the shifting light as Jack steered the ship around the planet.
"Why isn't there anyone on our tails? You think this was too easy?"
Daniel was too busy fighting his stomach than to try and answer Jack. Saliva filled his mouth and he tried to swallow it down. His stomach clenched and threatened to heave so instead he spat on the glider's floor.
"I can't get a hold of the SGC. You having any luck?"
"Wha'?" Daniel raised his head and looked at the controls before him. It hadn't even occurred to him that there would be a communication device among the myriad of knobs and buttons on the control panel in front of him. At this point he was afraid to touch anything; he could just as easily give their positions away to the Jaffa in the Ha'tak as be successful in contacting Earth. He bit back a moan as nausea gripped him.
"I don't know. Maybe that's not a real ship behind us. Could be it's still that thing's doing. Daniel, you get the feeling that there were a couple hundred Jaffa missing from the mother-ship?"
"Nuh …" Unable to speak, his breaths coming in pants, Daniel was unable to hold back the sickness. He heaved, and vomit splattered onto the floor.
"Hey. Daniel? You okay?"
Daniel replied by puking again.
"Okay, never mind. Stupid question."
Jack twisted in his seat as the smell of vomit filled the small cockpit. He tried to look be-tween the confinement of the seats, but all he could see was part of Daniel's shoulder and the side of his head where he was leaning forward. Daniel coughed and gagged, then vomited again.
Grimacing in distaste, Jack breathed through his mouth as he waited for Daniel to get it out of his system. Space sickness wasn't anything new. The panorama outside could sometimes be disconcerting to even the most seasoned pilot and with the problems Daniel had been experienc-ing earlier, it really wasn't any surprise that Daniel ended up tossing his cookies. Jack just wished this thing had ventilation or air freshener or something.
After a few moments of silence, Jack turned his head and spoke over his shoulder. "You know, these things should come with airsick bags. Just in case, you know?"
"Just in case," Daniel moaned softly.
"Don't worry. It happens to the best of us."
Jack waited for Daniel to reply, but other than those three words, Daniel kept quiet. Maybe too quiet as far as Jack was concerned.
Jack trusted the glider to stay on course and raised himself out of his seat to look behind. Again the canopy was in the way but he did see that Daniel was slumped over the rear console. Jack eased back into his seat and spoke into the alien radio affixed to his cheek.
"Teal'c? Can you pull forward and let Fraiser eyeball Daniel? I think he's passed out."
Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw Teal'c's glider approach on his right until they were flying side by side. Jack strained to listen to the man behind him. Despite the thrum of the mo-tors, Jack was sure he could hear Daniel's rapid breaths.
"Colonel, he's slumped over the panel but I think you're right. I think he's unconscious."
"Teal'c, is there any way I can get to him from here?" Jack could see Fraiser leaning close to the canopy, peering at Daniel. Teal'c turned away from Daniel and met Jack's gaze from several feet away.
"There is not. We must wait until we land."
Jack looked at Earth before him and took a sighting. The North American continent was closing fast.
"Okay. We should be down in about five minutes. Let's try for Peterson. If the SGC's still unreachable, we can call an ambulance and take him to the Academy hospital."
Jack keyed the controls and aimed for home. The ship veered down and left, suddenly mov-ing sluggishly. "Hey, T, I think I have a problem." He fought the controls, trying to slow their re-entry, but the ship wouldn't obey.
"My ship no longer responds."
Jack glanced out the window and saw that Teal'c's death glider matched his. Even now he could feel the vibrations as the ship began to fly through the atmosphere.
"Crap." He tried several maneuvers to try to pull out of the descent but the controls wouldn't obey.
"Hold on, I think we're going to land a helluva lot sooner than I said we would."
They were heading straight for a mountain range. Jack kept on working the controls desper-ately even as the ship rushed for the snow-capped peaks. For a split second he envied Daniel, who was unaware of what was going to happen. At the last second he raised his hands in self-preservation and felt himself hit—
He'd expected an impact of some kind but nothing like this. He groaned loudly and turned onto his back. There was cold, hard stone beneath his body. He opened his eyes.
It was all anti-climatic. There was total silence. Peace, quiet. The fear he'd felt at the immi-nent crash was gone, the remnants of adrenaline making him feel jittery but letting him know he was still alive. He grinned in the dark, then squinted as a light flashed over him.
"Colonel? Teal'c? Oh my God! Someone contact General Hammond. Get the medics down here. Now!"
Whoever was yelling was doing a great job of sending lances of pain through Jack's head. He raised a hand and tried to motion the man to keep it down. He became aware of other sounds around him; soft moans, groans and a couple of curses.
Jack raised his head and looked around. There were bodies; more than would have been ac-counted for from the two Death Gliders crashing into the mountain. They were almost lying one on top of the other in a small storeroom. A quick count showed seven of them down and one sit-ting up.
Other than Teal'c, who had recovered more quickly thanks to Junior, Jack couldn't tell who else was in here but he did recognize Ferretti's voice as he cursed loudly. Then personnel were rushing into the room just as the emergency lights came on. Someone crouched beside him and Jack waved them off. He pushed himself into a seated position, trying to ignore the headache and nausea just as Teal'c shifted to kneel beside someone on Jack's right.
Moving forward on hands and knees, Jack scurried to his friend. Daniel was lying uncon-scious on his side, the stench of fresh vomit coming off his pants and boots.
"He is alive."
Jack placed a hand on Daniel's arm as he glanced around the room. Ferretti's team appeared to be recovering, like Jack. Even now, Fraiser was pushing aside an airman's concern as she man-aged to stand up with his help. She looked around, spotted them and rushed over. Ferretti was two steps behind her.
"Colonel. What happened to you guys?"
"We got beamed into a Goa'uld mother-ship. You?"
"Sounds a little more interesting than running from an erupting volcano."
"In all her glory." Ferretti crouched beside Jack. "What happened to Daniel?"
Jack shook his head, not quite sure himself. Before he could answer, several medical person-nel entered the room, followed by General Hammond.
"Over here." Fraiser waved one of the medics over. Hammond looked more than a little shocked. But he latched onto Jack the moment he saw him and smiled wholeheartedly. Within seconds, Daniel was loaded onto a gurney and wheeled out of the room.
"Damn but it's good to see you, Colonel."
Jack stood slowly, and forced a smile. "It's good to see you, too, sir. For a moment there, I didn't think we'd make it. What happened?"
"That device finally disengaged, and the moment it did, the portal disappeared. From what I understand, all eight of you appeared here."
"Eight of us … ?" Jack looked around at the people who were slowly filing out of the room. The general's words were now a death sentence for his teammate. Somehow he'd kept hope alive even when they'd stopped searching for Carter and Lee, but now that they were back at the SGC, he felt the weight of sorrow fall heavy on his shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Jack. If Major Carter and Doctor Lee had been transported to that place, they probably would have …"
"Yeah. I know." He pushed the sorrow aside and tried to concentrate on the here and now. Daniel was in the infirmary; they had no idea what his condition was. The base was paralyzed and would continue to be so until the generators were up and running again.
Hammond clapped Jack lightly on the arm. "Go on, get yourself checked out. Come on up to my office when you're up to it."
"General Hammond. Something's happened on 19, in Doctor Lee's lab."
Hammond turned to the airman who was holding a phone out towards him. He took the re-ceiver and listened. To Jack's surprise, Hammond grinned. "We'll be right there." Hammond hung up the phone and motioned for Jack to follow him. "Major Carter and Doctor Lee are alive."
"They're in Doctor Lee's office. When the device disconnected, it must have brought them back from wherever they'd been transported."
"Kind of like how it dumped all of us back in one spot?" Jack supposed as Hammond swiped his access card through the reader to call the elevator.
"I'm assuming so. I hate the thought of sitting through the actual explanation for it all but to be honest, hearing the major's voice will make up for the headache."
Jack snorted as he silently agreed with the general. The moment the elevator stopped, they both rushed towards Lee's lab.
The medics hadn't arrived yet as they hurried into the room. Someone had placed a lab coat over Carter to keep her warm and a jacket or sweater beneath her head as a pillow. Lee was still wearing his lab coat and he also had a makeshift pillow beneath his head.
Jack ignored the older scientist and went to kneel beside his teammate. He took her wrist, checking for a pulse. It was fast and weak, but at least her breathing was steady. Her skin was cool to the touch. Jack placed her hand beneath the cover of the lab coat when he finished. He pushed a lock of hair out of her face, wondering where the medics were.
Daniel was stuck in that twilight area between sleep and waking. He was comfy, warm and without pain. He knew if he so much as twitched a toe, the pull would be towards waking; but if he let himself go, he'd slide right back into sleep.
Somewhere in his half-asleep mind he knew he wasn't in his own bed at home; there were disturbing background noises that never boded well. Still, the somewhat familiar medical para-phernalia lulled him back towards sleep as they beeped and hissed, as did the soft soled tread of the nurses accompanied by the lowered voices of conversation.
There was a deep ache inside of him–not a physical one but one that he'd experienced too often in the past few years. Friends and loved ones, lost forever. He wanted to sleep, somehow knew that if he chose to move towards waking, the knowledge that was still slumbering inside of him would be painful to bear.
It was an ache that never went away even though it always diminished in time. And now it was there, just past the boundaries of awareness, knocking at the cusp of sleep to allow it in. He didn't want to remember; he didn't want to know why he was in the infirmary. Still the effort of escaping from the pain caused an involuntary deep inhalation, which roused him even more.
And now that he'd slipped more towards the edge of wakefulness, he became aware of the discomfort in his back. Each time he inhaled, his back and ribs stretched and ached. He was lying on his side, for which he was grateful because the mere thought of lying on his back would be agony. The more he thought about breathing, the deeper he inhaled, the more he hurt.
He tried shorter, shallower breaths but the pain remained. And now his head began to pound. Daniel sighed, wondering why just a moment ago he'd been aware of none of this and would happily have slipped back into oblivion.
And the nagging ache in his soul intensified as his memory woke up along with his body. The portal; Sam and Bill; having to abandon the search and return home; General Hammond dis-connecting the device.
A hand touched his arm and he jumped, bringing him to full, painful awareness.
"I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson. I didn't mean to startle you."
He forced gritty eyes open and saw a gray-haired nurse smiling down at him. "Welcome back to the world of the living."
"Oh God, Sam," his soul cried out. He waited for the pain to blossom and envelop him with the return of his memory, but it remained at bay. As if there was still hope; as if there was another solution.
Daniel raised a hand to knuckle his eyes while he racked his brain for why he felt this way. Trying to remember what he'd forgotten. He was surprised at how heavy and cumbersome his arm felt. He coughed and cleared his throat, and was rewarded by the nurse holding a glass of water near his mouth. She slid a straw into his mouth and Daniel sucked greedily at the cool liq-uid.
"How's the pain? I can give you something to take the edge off while I go tell Doctor Fraiser you're awake."
Breathing was becoming almost unbearable. "Yes, please. I'm a little sore."
"I would imagine, with the bruising you have on your back."
Closing his eyes while the nurse moved to inject something into the IV, Daniel went over the blur of his journey through the portal. So much he couldn't remember, so much blended into what felt like a dreamscape. He'd been so tired, walking in a haze most of the time.
The nurse left him with a word that she'd get Janet. Part of him wondered how long he'd been in the infirmary; how long they'd been back. The lights were on, everything seemed to be working normally. Vaguely he wondered if it had all actually been a dream–if the device had caused him to imagine everything. Then he realized that all the beds in his line of sight were full.
So it hadn't been a dream; it had really happened. He shivered, the sheet covering his body seemed to be inadequate to keep the chill of loss away. The portal had swept them away, had re-moved them from the SGC and had transported them elsewhere. It had been sucking the energy from the generators and had threatened to blow them up. And now they were home. Safe and sound.
Then it hit him.
The realization nearly took his breath away. He struggled to sit up, find the call button, then get the attention of anyone who could get in touch with Jack or General Hammond.
"Daniel. Take it easy. It's okay." Janet's voice came behind him. Halfway onto his elbows, Daniel tried to turn toward Janet, then waited on shaking arms as she hurried around the bed. Her hands were warm as she grabbed his arms and pushed him back down onto the mattress.
"Sam, she's not—" Daniel struggled against Janet and was dismayed that he was so weak that Janet managed to push him back on the bed. He grimaced and tried to get back up. "She and Bill, they weren't sent through the portal like we thought." His words were slurred; his mouth felt slimy and there was an awful taste.
"Daniel, stop struggling and lie still."
"Daniel." Despite the tone of annoyance, Jack's voice was ever so welcome. Daniel doubled his efforts and latched onto Jack's arm when he appeared beside Janet.
"That device. It needed more energy than our generators could have produced to create a world like it did. Jack, it probably threw us out of phase somehow, put us into some dimension where it didn't need that much energy. And if it did, there's a good chance it did the same with Sam and Bill. Like the crystal skull, remember? How I was there and you couldn't see me."
Jack reached up and put his hands over Daniel's. "We know. Look, just relax, lie down, okay? Just let go of me and—"
"Jack, if we turn that thing on again, we can figure out a way to get them back!" The effort it took to raise his voice exhausted him and his muscles were beginning to shake in his attempt to stay semi-upright. Jack's hands tightened over his.
Janet reached over and placed her hands on either side of Daniel's face. "Daniel, look to your right." She nudged his head to the right and he turned his eyes in the direction she wanted, his grip on Jack the only thing holding him up now.
In the bed beside him was a sight he had never expected. Sam was lying there, sleeping. Or no, that wasn't right. With the commotion he had just caused, she had to be unconscious, or se-dated. But she was alive.
The relief was too much and he collapsed back onto the bed. When his abused back hit the mattress, he arched upwards in pain, groaning loudly. Someone helped him turn onto his side, this time on his other side, so that he could watch Sam sleep. After a moment, almost embar-rassed that he'd forgotten him, he asked about Bill.
"In a bed at the other end of the infirmary. They're both gonna be fine." Jack quickly glanced up at Janet. "Or so the doc thinks."
Daniel shivered again, this time from reaction. Someone spread a blanket over him and he huddled beneath the warmth. The pain in his back was gone; he wondered vaguely if Janet had slipped him something. No, the nurse had. Or had he dreamed that too? He didn't mind, his thoughts were becoming pleasantly fuzzy.
"Sleep, Daniel. Everything's fine."
Janet rubbed his shoulders then eased her fingers into the back of his neck. He smiled to himself as he felt the siren song of sleep calling him. Sam was alive.
Jack watched as Fraiser lulled Daniel back into sleep. It had been weird; one moment Daniel had been fighting them both and the next, he'd just collapsed as if he'd been drugged, falling back into that deep sleep similar to Carter and Lee's.
Fraiser eased the gentle massage on Daniel's neck and removed her fingers. Daniel didn't twitch an eyelid as she straightened.
"He's sleeping, sir."
Jack knew he was sleeping, that wasn't what he meant. "He's been sleeping for twenty-two hours straight. So have they." Jack tilted his chin towards Carter's form. At least Carter and Lee had woken up after a few hours for a couple of minutes. And in those few minutes, both had ad-mitted that they remembered absolutely nothing of their experience. Daniel, on the other hand, hadn't been rouseable, at least not until now.
"Daniel was in a severely exhausted and drained state, Colonel. His vitals are much stronger now and I'm sure that he'll wake up when we bring him his breakfast. At the moment, food and sleep are what he needs to recover."
Jack waved a hand loosely at the full infirmary. "And everyone here …"
"Everyone who was affected by the device is recovering. They had the chance to sleep through most of its effects; Daniel on the other hand was forced to stay awake, which exacer-bated the device's influence on his body."
"It's funny." As Fraiser moved away from the beds, Jack followed. "What Daniel said just now, about being out of phase. That's exactly what Felger is saying."
Fraiser froze. "They're not planning on hooking that thing up again, are they?"
"Not that Felger hasn't asked. He wants to hook it up to a battery but thankfully General Hammond's nixed that idea. Once Felger's done examining it, it's going to Area 51."
"I'll breathe easier once it's far away from here." Fraiser stopped and overlooked the patients in her infirmary.
Jack didn't blame her; it wasn't often that the beds were all full and Felger playing with that device didn't exactly promote a feeling of confidence. Which reminded him, maybe he'd better take a walk up to the labs and make sure the device was kept away from any and all power sources. "So, breakfast is served at … ?"
"Come back in two hours. I'm sure things will be a little livelier by then."
"Yeah, you can be sure about that. I think Daniel and I are a little overdue for a pep talk."
"Better get in line, sir. What he did was reckless and dangerous not only to himself, but his team. But to be honest, none of us knew the full effects of the device at the time and he did have a motivating factor in his decision."
"He was worried about Sam, Colonel."
"Worried or not, he acted irresponsibly."
Fraiser tilted her head sideways as she stared up at Jack. "You tell me you wouldn't have done the same thing."
Jack rubbed at his eyes, knowing she was right. He was tired and still had too much to do before he could call it quits. He'd gotten a few hours' sleep but had spent a large portion of last night helping put things in order in between finding excuses to visit the infirmary.
"Just remember, he probably knows he was in the wrong. Don't be too hard on him."
After personally overseeing the device packed and placed on a truck on its way to the air-port, Jack took a much needed break at the commissary. He grabbed some food and joined Teal'c, who had already devoured a bowl of fruits and was in the process of eating eggs and bacon.
"I have heard that Daniel Jackson regained consciousness." Teal'c chewed on a slice of bacon and looked at Jack expectantly.
"Yeah, he woke up in a bit of a panic." Jack slurped some of his coffee and stared at his pan-cakes. His stomach growled, reminding him why he was here. "Went straight back to sleep after he saw Carter." He cut a chunk off with his fork, dragged it through the excess syrup and ate it.
"They both remained sleeping when I stopped by the infirmary earlier."
"Yeah, doc says they'll be doing that for a while. Although …" Jack glanced at his watch, then took a huge bite of pancake. "He'll be getting breakfast in about twenty minutes. Wanna come watch the show?" he asked with his mouth full.
"Of what are you—" Teal'c stopped wiping his fingers on his napkin and raised an eyebrow. "You speak of Doctor Fraiser attempting to rouse Daniel Jackson."
"Yeah. I thought it might offer a few chuckles." Jack swallowed some coffee and ate some more pancake.
Teal'c inclined his head regally. "Indeed. It appears you are in dire need of entertainment in order to relax. Perhaps afterwards you will return to your home and get some much needed sleep yourself?"
"Gee, thanks, T. You do wonders for a guy's ego," Jack managed to say after swallowing a bite of breakfast.
"Perhaps you would join me in kel-no-reem. It would assist in relaxing—"
"Thanks, but that one time was more than enough." Jack shivered at the thought. Any time he thought of the word meditation, the memory of Junior shifting around inside Teal'c's body made him uncomfortable. "In any case, the device is on its way to New Mexico, and as soon as I stop by and talk to Daniel and Carter, I'll head on home and catch up on that sleep."
He finished the last of the pancake and swiped a leftover grape from Teal'c's plate. He popped the fruit into his mouth as he pushed his chair back. "Coming?"
"Of course. I wish to impart my greetings to Daniel Jackson and Major Carter."
"Right." And more softly, he added, "And let's not forget about getting some of those chuck-les yourself." When Teal'c didn't disagree, Jack grinned to himself as he hurried to get a coffee to go.
They arrived just in time for the show to start. You'd think Fraiser would have had the whole "waking up Daniel" routine down pat by now, especially with a kid in the house. He put his cof-fee down on a table along with several packets of sugar, leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms to watch the fun.
Fraiser wasn't having much luck. Oh, she'd gotten Daniel awake after a few minutes of shak-ing and calling his name. But by the time she'd raised the bed and placed the tray of food in front of him, Daniel had nodded off again, slowly sliding sideways off his pillows.
Fraiser manhandled Daniel into a more secure position, swearing softly under her breath. Daniel opened his eyes at the second round of shaking, nodded when asked if he was awake, then promptly closed his eyes and began snoring with his head tilted back on the pillow.
Jack's grin faded as Teal'c grabbed the cup of coffee Jack had brought, removed the lid and eased past Fraiser. He held the cup of coffee in front of Daniel, allowing the steam to rise into his face.
"Daniel Jackson. It is now time to wake up."
The snoring stopped mid-snort, and Daniel cracked open one eye. Teal'c raised the cup in front of him in invitation. Daniel focused on the cup, then opened the other eye. He blinked sev-eral times, raised his head, and looked at Teal'c in confusion.
Without a word, Teal'c handed Daniel the coffee.
"Hey, thanks, Teal'c."
Daniel grinned happily as Teal'c inclined his head and stepped back.
"You're just a barrel of laughs," Jack grumped at Teal'c.
"You did state we were here for entertainment, did you not?"
Jack shrugged at Fraiser when she narrowed her eyes at him. In the meantime, Daniel was sipping the coffee while looking around sleepily. As Fraiser moved to wake Carter, Jack pushed the tray holding toast and oatmeal closer to Daniel.
"Janet?" Carter stretched and sat up, smiling at her teammates.
"Good to see you awake, Major."
"Thank you, sir." She ran a hand through her hair as Fraiser placed a similar tray before her.
"Are you okay, Sam?"
"I'm fine, Daniel. Janet told me what happened. Are you okay?"
"You two better eat while the glop is still warm." Jack smiled at Daniel's somewhat baffled look at the tray on the table, as if just noticing it now, but he obediently put the coffee cup onto the tray and took a spoonful of oatmeal, then grimaced at the bland taste.
Again, Teal'c moved faster than Jack. He picked up the three packets of sugar Jack had brought from the commissary and tossed them onto the tray. Daniel smiled gratefully at Teal'c and began spreading the sugar over his breakfast. Carter, on the other hand, ate hers plain.
Jack sucked on his cheek and gave Teal'c one of his patented "I'm the colonel, don't mess with me" glares which as usual, didn't phase the Jaffa. If anything, there appeared to be a twinkle in his eye.
"So, Daniel …" Carter was spreading some jam on a piece of toast, but she looked up to in-clude both Jack and Teal'c in the discussion. "Tell me more about what happened. Janet said that you went through some kind of other world created by the device?"
All signs of sleepiness left Daniel as he leaned forward. "Sam, it was incredible. First off, there was this beach. And then in the jungle Jack and I found part of a plane …"
Jack leaned back as both Fraiser and Teal'c got into the telling of the tale, embellishing the bits that related to that television show they apparently were all addicted to.
At the first lull in conversation, Jack cleared his throat. "You know, considering that you both slept through last evening, you'll both be happy to know that I actually took the time to go home last night and set the VCR."
Two pairs of blue eyes and another two pairs of brown stared at Jack questioningly.
Carter nodded, then waited expectantly, as did the others.
"Last night was Wednesday. Isn't that when …?" Jack made a twirling motion with his fin-ger. "… When that show is on?"
"Oh. Right." The confused looks on everyone's faces suddenly turned to alarm. "My VCR is set to record it automatically, sir."
"Jack, you usually watch The Simpsons on Wednesdays."
"Yeah, well," he stammered. "It was a repeat." He clapped his hands together and rubbed them eagerly. "So, considering I have the show on tape, how about a team night? I'll order pizza, and you guys can bring me up to date—"
Four voices began talking at once, everyone trying to tell him about the show. Jack put his hands out in surrender, trying to get everyone to slow down.
"Wait, wait, I'm so Lost!"
Author's Comments: This fic was originally published in Redemption 7. Many many thanks to Annie for giving me a chance and hosting my story in her wonderful zine
Many many thanks and hugs to devra for her patience, and for all her help.
And yeah, it's pretty obvious this fic was a tribute to the TV show Lost. What can I say, I couldn't help myself. :)
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.