SamadhiNote: This story first appeared in Redemption 6
"Hello." Daniel stepped away from the Stargate and walked towards the welcoming party. The five who were waiting for them appeared over-dressed for strolling around the countryside. Their gaily-colored tunics and jewellery stood out garishly in the sunny glade.
"I'm Daniel Jackson, this is Colonel Jack�"
"Where is General Ham-mond?" One of the men, whose clothing appeared gaudier than the rest, stepped forward. He was of Oriental descent, with attractive features, and slightly slanted eyes. Like the others with him, he could have been related to the monk from Kheb.
Daniel frowned at the interruption, and glanced at Jack, who didn't look happy. Daniel took a step forward, bringing his hand up and waving back towards the Stargate.
"Um, the general doesn't go offworld. He told you that already before we, I mean, my team and I, came through. That's why we're here." Daniel smiled, hoping to convey friendliness. "To negotiate on behalf of the general, and Earth."
"There will be no negotiations until you help us."
"Well, yes, I know." Daniel turned to his friends for assistance. "We already agreed to help you, and you agreed to allow us to study the�"
"You expect Lord Maur-nok to deal with your general's lackeys?"
"Well, no, I mean... we're not�"
"Listen." Jack brushed past Daniel, who was still trying to find the words to placate this man. "You asked for our help. We're here to help. Now, the way I see it, you can take it or leave it." Jack shrugged, and Daniel cringed at Jack's no-nonsense demand.
But this whole scenario was a total turn-around from what they'd expected. The men, this man, ac-tually, had been polite and almost subservient when talking with General Hammond through the MALP's radio. And the general had been clear when he'd said that he'd be sending a team through the Stargate to try and find out why some of Maur'nok's people had gone missing. Jack suspected foul play; Sam suspected a wild animal and Teal'c had suggested a Goa'uld had landed on the planet.
Apparently these individuals responded to authority better than to politeness, because all five of them had a sudden change in attitude as they bowed their heads after Jack's speech. The arrogant speaker extended his arm and invited SG-1 to precede him, then stepped forward to walk beside Jack as they moved towards a graveled path leading away from the Stargate.
"I am Lon-nis."
"Jack O'Neill. My friends are Major Carter and Teal'c. You've met Daniel."
"My Lord Maur-nok requested myself and the other clerics to show you to the Altar. You will un-dergo the trials of Tsa-tsen, of course."
Jack stopped suddenly and Daniel almost bumped into him. "Trials? What trials?" Jack looked to Daniel for help.
Daniel placed a finger on pursed lips, trying hard to see if he could figure out the word "tsa-tsen." "If I'm understanding this right, he's talking about za-zen, a form of Zen Buddhism which loosely translated, means �silent meditation.' "
"If you wish to approach the Altar of Mars, you must first prove to have attained the serenity nec-essary to enter His presence." The man folded his arms together and stuck out his chin. "There are no exceptions. Even my Lord Maur-nok was required to undergo the trials on the day of his fifteenth year."
"Sir, it must be a rite of passage." Sam moved around Daniel to stand before Lon-nis. "All children must go through these rites?"
"Yes. Of course. They are considered not-adults until they do. Most continue on to achieve Samadhi, but until then, they are accepted."
"Ah. Right." Jack rolled his eyes towards Carter. "So, we have to prove we're grownups. I guess my greying hair doesn't count for much around here, huh?"
"The trials are not difficult, merely uncomfortable. One must simply attain Da-ran'a. Eventually one would continue, to attain serenity. Samadhi."
"And that would be..." Jack started walking again and Daniel hurried to flank Jack's side.
"Tranquility of the mind."
"Meditation?" Daniel glanced at Jack, secretly wondering how Jack would be able to meditate. The man couldn't sit still for more than five minutes at a time.
Daniel looked quickly back at Teal'c and realized that if there were any trials to be undertaken that required meditation, then maybe Teal'c should be their spokesperson. He knew Teal'c still meditated despite the loss of his symbiote. In his rush to look at his friend, he tripped over a hidden root and bumped into Jack.
"Sorry," he mumbled, righting himself, face burning as he hurried to resume his place. "Lon-nis, you mentioned Mars. He's the god of... agriculture?"
"He is the God of fertility and vegetation, and protector of cattle."
"Cattle, huh? Lots of lactose-intolerant monsters around here they need protecting from?"
"Wasn't Mars the god of war?" Sam asked before Lon-nis could answer Jack.
"That was before his name became fused with Ares and he became known as the god of death and war," Daniel quickly answered. "It's very interesting, how when the Roman people became warlike, their wars began in summer and ended when it turned cold in the fall. Since this coincided with Mars' two agricultural festivals, it's speculated that this is when he became associated with Ares and�"
"So... what? We're going to this temple to undergo this trial of Duranduran?"
"Da-ran'a. You must undertake the trials immediately so that tomorrow you may visit the Altar of Mars."
"Tomorrow? How long will this test take anyways?" Jack frowned at Daniel, as if it were his fault. Daniel took several quick steps forward so he could catch Lon-nis' attention.
"So what exactly do these trials entail? What do we need to know or do?"
Daniel was so busy trying to get an answer from Lon-nis that he didn't realize they'd come out of the woods. A beautiful, serene lake spread out before them, bordered all around by lush, delicately-leafed trees burdened with vibrantly colored flowers, except for the small sandy beach directly before them. The water was a turquoise blue, the shade almost unreal.
In the very center of the lake was a small, gilded temple. Tall, golden spires gleamed brightly and gems winked in the sunlight. Overall, the scene before them was a picture of serenity; one of those sceneries that would make a best-selling travel poster for the Far East.
"Wow." Sam's breathless exclamation spoke for them all.
"Please, you may leave your belongings here." Lon-nis walked over to a small gazebo nestled be-neath a tree. He pushed the leaves drooping over the entrance and stepped inside, walking to several wicker chests. He raised the lid off of four of them and waved at the interior. "You may retain your clothing, but you must place all else in here. Weapons are not permitted."
When Jack hesitated, Lon-nis stared him down. "You may rest assured your belongings will not be touched. You have my word."
With a shrug, Jack made the first move towards the chests. As he began divesting himself of his vest and belt, the remaining four priests stepped forward and took them from him and placed them neatly inside one of the chests. Quickly Daniel moved to unclip Sam's backpack and then turned so she could remove his. He quickly shrugged out of his vest, handing it to a freckle-faced man with a gap-toothed smile. He unbuckled his gun, but chose to put it away himself instead of letting the man handle it. In less than sixty seconds, they had stripped to only their BDUs.
"Your shoes and socks, if you please." Lon-nis had stood back during all of this, allowing the oth-ers to aid SG-1. Daniel wondered if he was the head priest. Maybe he'd expected to serve General Hammond personally?
Hopping on one foot, Daniel untied his boot. As he tugged it off, he realized everyone else had sat on some of the closed chests to unlace theirs. Embarrassed, he continued hopping, trying to save face and wishing he could maintain his balance. Red-faced, he stood barefoot, toes digging into the cool sand as he waited for his boots to be tucked away inside the chest with the rest of his belongings.
"Now you may stand by the water's edge. The Samad-hipa will decide the method of trial."
"Did you not say this trial was called Da-ran'a?"
Lon-nis turned to Teal'c, and smiled. "I did. The Samad-hipa is the all-knowing spirit which inhab-its the lake."
As Lon-nis spoke, Daniel spied two bright red objects floating towards them, hugging the shore-line. As he watched, he noted they were boats�long and slim, with enough room to seat all of them. They were empty, moving without any visible form of propulsion. As the boats turned and came to-wards the beach, Daniel glanced around at everyone. All were watching the boats, Teal'c without any expression; Sam, eyes shining with curiosity; and Jack, lips compressed tightly as if he wasn't happy with the situation.
Daniel, on the other hand, couldn't wait for the tests to begin. This was a culture which he couldn't quite get a handle on. Their clothes and the surrounding area showed definite signs of Eastern influ-ence, they worshiped a Roman god, and these Da-ran'a/Samad-hipa tests, he had never heard of.
He watched as one of the boats stopped before him, and the priest who had helped him with his clothes indicated he should get into it. He carefully stepped into the boat; the wood beneath his bare feet was smooth and warm. He quickly grabbed both sides to steady himself as it wobbled in the shal-low water beneath his weight. He continued on to the end so there would be room for everyone to fit.
The younger priest stepped in behind him and to his surprise, the boat began to move the moment the priest had climbed in.
"Ah," the freckle-faced man said as he sat down in the seat opposite to Daniel. "You will undergo the trial of Zapsu." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "I was also chosen for Zapsu. Do not fear; it is not difficult to complete. One simply requires patience and tolerance."
"What about my friends?" Daniel asked as he looked back to shore where everyone was quickly filing into the remaining boat.
"They will be conveyed in the other vessel." Even as he spoke, Lon-nis and one of the priests climbed in and the second boat began drifting behind Daniel's. He waved when Sam turned around to look at him.
Daniel craned his neck and saw they were heading for the small temple in the middle of the lake. He peered down into the water; it was crystal clear and he could make out light-colored sand, inter-spersed with long tendrils of water plants on the bottom. He couldn't make out the depth, but he sus-pected it was pretty deep.
Daniel had expected the boat to stop at the temple but to his surprise, it continued past. He looked around the lake, trying to see where else they could be going, but other than the gilded shrine, there was nothing else in sight.
"Where the hell are you taking him?" Daniel whipped around at Jack's cry. The other boat had stopped at the shrine's marble steps, and although Lon-nis and the other priest had already disem-barked, his teammates were in the process of getting off, distracted as they watched as Daniel's boat continued on.
The rattle of metal brought his attention back to himself and he saw the priest had opened a small compartment in the side of the boat and was removing golden chains. The man straightened the long metallic chains and showed them to Daniel. At one end were thin metallic bracelets, on the other were hooks. The priest bent over the side of the boat and reached deep into the water with the hooks.
Daniel peered over the side and saw the boat had stopped beside a large, submerged rock. The depth was difficult to judge but as the priest leaned over and attached the hooks onto two short chains resting atop the rock and attached to either side of it, it appeared to be close to a foot under the water. Suddenly Daniel got a bad feeling about this trial.
"I'm not�?" He waved towards the rock and the chains.
"You must sit here on the Ard-cholh." He pointed to the large, square rock. "The chains only serve to remind you of your bond to the physical plane. The stone is the earth, the sky the universe and the water, life. You must attain Da-ran'a. When you do, the Samad-hipa will release you from your bond."
"You mean when a meditative state is reached, I'll be freed?"
"You must attain Da-ran'a. It is very simple."
"For you, maybe," Daniel muttered beneath his breath. He stood carefully and lifted a leg out of the boat.
"Now step onto the Ard-cholh, and I will prepare the bracelets. Take care, the Ard-cholh will most likely be slippery with growth."
Daniel gingerly placed his bare foot into the chilly water and stepped down onto the rock. The wa-ter reached a few inches above his knee. He spread his weight along the boat's side and slid over the edge. The stone was slimy with algae and he froze, trying not to move his feet.
With a grimace, Daniel slowly sat on the stone, suppressing a shiver as the chilly water came up to his chest.
The priest held the bracelets into the air, towards the shrine. The bracelets looked to be a solid, round piece of gold, with no visible opening. Daniel wondered if he would have to hold onto them; there was no way they would fit around his wrists, let alone Sam's. He smiled to himself; for a few seconds he'd had visions of being shackled to this rock.
The priest began chanting softly, and two other voices chimed in. Daniel glanced at the temple and saw the two priests who had accompanied his friends in the boat facing them from thirty feet away. Their eyes were closed, their hands clasped together, a picture of serenity if there ever was one.
Jack, on the other hand, looked grim as he stood staring at Daniel. Sam looked worried and Teal'c looked as if he wanted to throw the two priests into the lake. Daniel shrugged, then regretted the action as the water sloshed around him.
The chanting continued, and the other two priests still on shore joined in. Daniel concentrated on the sounds, wondering if he could make out the language. He thought he caught a word here and there, but taken out of context, he still had no idea what they were saying.
He realized the voices were intermingling, echoing softly over the lake. It was soothing, actually, and he closed his eyes, giving up trying to understand and simply enjoying. It actually would have been pleasant if he could have sat high and dry in the boat instead of chest deep on a slimy rock. But then his discomfort faded and he was floating...
Hands suddenly caught his and before he knew it, there were two golden bracelets attached to his wrists. He stared in shock as he raised his drippings arms out of the water. The golden circlets had no seams, there was no way they could have fit.
They had to be some kind of magician's trick. He fingered one of them with stiffening fingers, try-ing to catch a seam with his fingernail. But there was nothing there and he glanced up at the priest, still sitting and chanting in the boat by his shoulder. The man's hands and sleeves were dripping, testament of having just dipped his arms into the water to place the bracelets, or should Daniel consider them as handcuffs now?
The boat began to move away, and the young priest, whose name Daniel should have asked, opened his eyes and smiled. "Remember our words. The bracelets will release you when you have at-tained Da-ran'a."
The man widened his eyes, not understanding.
"How long does it take? To reach Da-ran'a?"
"Moments, hours, time is irrelevant."
"You mean I can be stuck here for hours?" Helplessly, Daniel turned to his friends, who were watching the boat, now carrying the remaining two priests, drift back towards shore. At Daniel's cry, they all turned to look at him.
"You have done so once already; you see, it is very simple."
"Wait! I already reached Da-ran'a?"
Instead of replying, the priest simply nodded, and smiled. He sat there looking serene as the boat continued on.
"Daniel, you okay?" Jack had moved to the edge of the last step and was looking over at him.
"I'm wet, but other than that, I'm okay," Daniel called back. "Maybe a little tied up." He pulled on the chain to show them, noting it had a give of a few feet. He heard Jack's "son of a bitch" and he plopped his hand back under the water. The bracelet was deceptively heavy despite its delicate appear-ance. It was as if it had soaked up the water like a sponge.
He measured out the length of the chain but it was nowhere near enough to allow him to swim to the temple. Just a few short strokes, and he'd be out of the cold and...
He quickly put those thoughts out of his head. "How about you guys?"
"We're fine." Sam had come to stand one step above Jack, and Teal'c beside her. "Lon-nis said that this wouldn't take long."
"Yeah, I was told the same thing."
Okay, he had to concentrate here. He had reached Da-ran'a once, probably when the priests were chanting. The sound had been hypnotic. If he could attain that state once again, he could be out of here in seconds.
He brought his feet up onto the stone before him, wrapped his arms around his legs, closed his eyes and tried to let go. But he couldn't relax because his feet kept sliding on the slippery growth.
He repositioned himself on the rock, crossing his feet underneath him while trying to ease the heavy chains weighing his hands down. He couldn't seem to relax, and was it his imagination, or was the water getting colder?
He could do this; he had apparently gotten it right once already. Once again he closed his eyes, willing the peace and serenity to come over him again despite the shiver that suddenly ran up his spine.
- - - - - -
Jack paced around the small confines, his bare feet making slapping sounds on the marble floor. Every time his route took him to the steps, he would see Daniel sitting quietly on the rock, trying to attain this Da-ran-shit the priests had been talking about.
He couldn't imagine how Daniel was going to get into a meditative state sitting on a submerged rock in the middle of a freezing lake! They'd been here already for over six hours and if Daniel hadn't been able to do it by now, then their chances were getting slimmer by the minute. Jack was afraid that Daniel would become hypothermic. That water wasn't heated and they sure weren't in the Caribbean.
Jack checked his watch and realized it was nearly time. He stopped pacing and moved to stand on the step where Carter sat with her feet in the water.
She pulled her feet out of the water as Jack approached. "I don't know how he can sit still for so long," she said as she ran one foot after the other against her pant legs, drying them. "The water's freez-ing."
"I know," Jack said softly. Then he called out to Daniel.
Their friend raised his head and turned towards them.
"Time for a little calisthenics."
Without a word, Daniel shifted and Jack could see his legs scissoring underwater. Daniel needed to keep moving every twenty minutes to try and keep his circulation going so he could try to stay warm. Jack also knew the cold of the water was sapping Daniel's energy; if they didn't get out of this before long, Jack was afraid that pretty soon Daniel would become too cold and too weak to keep moving.
"There has to be something we can do." Carter slapped the edge of the marble wall in frustration.
They had discussed this to distraction. When they realized that whatever the priests had wanted them to do wasn't going to happen, they had decided to swim for shore and call it a day. That was when Daniel had informed them that there was no unlocking mechanism on the shackles around his wrist, or on the rock. He'd deduced that he'd be released only when he'd reach the meditative state he'd been in when they were placed on his wrists. That was the only assumption they had; and the only choice.
Oh, right. Jack, Teal'c and Carter could swim to shore when they got cold or hungry enough; but that meant abandoning Daniel.
Then again, maybe by abandoning him, they'd officially fail the trial, and those manacles would come off. But it would also mean the end to their mission, which Daniel pointed out each and every time Jack brought the subject up.
Daniel stopped moving and then crouched on top of the rock, trying to get out of the water as far as his tethers allowed him to. The sun was low in the sky and it wouldn't be warming Daniel up for much longer. Jack was afraid to think what might happen should they still be here at sundown.
He could see Daniel shivering as he knelt, hunched over to try and keep body heat from escaping. Jack felt damned helpless and turned away from the sight of his friend's suffering. He concentrated on a large emerald glued to the wall, digging at it with his fingernail. Small, impossibly thin filaments of metal had been wrapped around the stones, teased into designs and painted. He'd seen this before, Sara used to love the stuff. She called it cloisonn�.
The emerald was stuck in there pretty good, as were all the other semi-precious stones. With a sigh, Jack abandoned his fidgeting and turned to stare into the water, at Daniel. And was just in time to see Daniel shift in order to sit down once again, and lose his footing.
As Daniel went under, Jack, without thought, dove into the water. It wasn't until he'd taken several strokes towards the now empty lake did he realize that Teal'c was swimming strongly beside him. He could hear splashing directly behind him and knew Carter had followed.
Teal'c soon overtook and passed him. By the time Jack could see the gray blur of rock beneath the water, Teal'c dove and disappeared. He was a dark blob of moving limbs in the slight distorting effects of the lake water.
As Jack reached the rock, Teal'c surfaced with Daniel in his arms. Daniel was coughing hard, seeming to have trouble breathing. He was wild-eyed, obviously caught up in his panic of near-drowning.
He struggled in Teal'c's grip, not recognizing anyone. It took a few seconds before he realized that he wasn't underwater and no longer in any danger of drowning.
It was obvious that he'd breathed in water and he had no energy or focus left except to try and ex-pel what he'd inhaled. Jack quickly reached out to help Teal'c support Daniel, kicking strongly to stay in place. He tried to pull Daniel higher out of the water, but something was holding his friend back.
"Easy, easy," Jack murmured as Daniel continued to fight to get air into his lungs. Jack put a hand out to hold onto the rock and was surprised at the slimy feel of it. No wonder Daniel had slipped.
"The chain's caught on something," Carter exclaimed. She took a deep breath and went under. Sev-eral seconds later, she surfaced. "Got it," she said as she shoved her dripping hair out of her face.
Daniel continued coughing, his body convulsing harshly every time he dragged in oxygen. They waited it out, until finally, Daniel was able to take in several breaths without a choking cough.
Jack climbed onto the stone and kneeling on the slippery perch, held his hands out to Teal'c. With a heave, Teal'c pushed Daniel up onto the stone while Jack pulled him against his body. Careful not to slip, he sat and wrapped both his legs and arms around Daniel.
"I... I couldn't figure out which way was up," Daniel admitted, teeth chattering from either shock or cold. His body was wracked by deep shivers and Jack pressed his chest against Daniel's back, hop-ing to warm him up.
"Sir, we have to get him out of the water." Carter and Teal'c were floating in the water, holding onto Jack and Daniel's legs to stay in one place.
"Can't." Daniel jerked clumsily, trying to pull away from Jack. "Didn't reach Da-ra... Da-ra..."
Jack pulled Daniel back close against him. "Daniel, it's no use. There's no way you're gonna be able to meditate in these conditions."
"Maybe the people here are used to the cold water." Carter reached for one of Daniel's hands, ex-amining the shackle. "Maybe they've adapted, or had some kind of training before taking the test."
"Perhaps I can attempt to detach the chain from its moorings in the rock." Teal'c grabbed hold of the chain and tugged, hard. The chain didn't budge. Taking a deep breath, Teal'c dove back into the wa-ter. Jack peered into the crystal-clear depths, watching as Teal'c followed the chain down and tried to pull it free from there. Long seconds later, Teal'c broke the surface, breathing hard.
"I regret, it is well attached."
Daniel coughed again, hard and painfully deep.
"Damnit, if you don't catch pneumonia from this..."
Daniel laid his head back against Jack's shoulder. "There still has to be a chance to get through this. They'd have called the trial a failure by now if there wasn't."
"How do you know what they consider failure? It could be the person's death!"
"He said it was easy," Daniel mumbled.
Jack had only been sitting in the water for a short time and already he was uncomfortably cold. He couldn't even begin to imagine how Daniel felt. How close was Daniel to being hypothermic? He had to be suffering from a mild case of it now. His foray underwater hadn't helped and his confession of having been confused was surely a sign of it?
Hell, even if they managed to get Daniel out of the water in the next few minutes, how were they to get him warmed up? They had no supplies, no dry clothes, and it was getting close to nightfall. If the priests didn't show up soon, they were sure to be in for a long and uncomfortable night, whether here, or on dry land. Jack doubted they could find their way to the Stargate in the dark; or find their gear; specifically, the GDO.
"Look, you two get back to the temple. There's no use in all of us staying in the water."
"Let us know when you're too cold, sir. We can take turns and�"
"He said it was easy." Daniel lifted his head, trying to turn to look at Jack. He said, you must attain Da-rrr... Da..." Daniel swore, unable to find the words.
"Da-ran'a," Teal'c provided.
Daniel turned to look at Teal'c.
"Thank you. Da-ran'a. But he said �you'... maybe he didn't mean �me' as in �you,' but �you,' as in �you.' "
Jack immediately raised a hand to Daniel's forehead to test for fever. The skin there was colder than his hand and he swore. What had he been thinking? Daniel was confused, his body temperature was too low, his brain was starting to shut down.
"Daniel," Carter said gently, "I don't quite understand what you mean."
"You. Us. All of us. Not me, you. Us, you. We all have to meditate."
"God damn it," Jack growled. It made sense. At no time had the priests told any of them what they needed to do, but maybe this was the trial. If Daniel was right, they'd been given a hint earlier on, when the chanting had started up and they'd all kind of blanked out listening to it.
"Okay, you two get back up there and try to relax and meditate. I'll stay here with Daniel and we'll try together."
"Sir, maybe we three should go back, if there's a reason for us being there instead of here..."
"I'm not leaving Daniel. If he falls back in when it gets dark, we might not know until it's too late."
"I agree." Teal'c turned and began swimming strongly towards the temple. With a tortured look, Carter turned and followed.
Jack watched them swim away and noted the sky changing color behind the temple. It was going to be a glorious sunset, and he and Daniel would have front row seats.
"Okay, d'ya remember how you felt when those guys were chanting?" Jack shifted his butt on the rock, trying to get comfortable.
"Yeah. At peace. Happy. Warm."
Jack chuckled, then sobered quickly. It would be impossible for Daniel to relax, not with the way his body was shivering.
"Try and relax your mind. Watch the sunset, immerse yourself in the colors."
"Imagine the sun warming my body? Heating the water..."
"Floating back to land on a fluffy white cloud. A nice cold brewskie and a thick, juicy steak..."
"A hot fire, marshmallows, hotdogs, hot chocolate." Daniel coughed harshly, breaking the spell.
Jack squeezed his friend's arm and glanced towards the temple. Carter and Teal'c were both sitting cross-legged, facing them. Their eyes were half closed, and Jack could see Teal'c's mouth moving. He suspected he was coaching Carter in kel-no-reem.
Jack recalled when Teal'c had had no choice but to do the same with Jack when the two of them had traded bodies. He thought back to Teal'c's instructions.
"You've kel-no-reem'd with Teal'c, right?"
"So let's try and do this together."
"Jack, I can't." Daniel shivered violently, as if trying to prove his inability to relax.
"I know. But let's just give it a try, okay? Maybe if we're all sitting quiet, the priests will think we've managed to achieve this Da-ran'a and let us go."
Daniel nodded, and Jack could feel him try to relax, but all that did was cause him to shiver harder. Jack leaned forward, allowing the water to support them, and tucked his head onto Daniel's shoulder as he hunched against his friend and hoped to share his body heat with him.
He watched the sunset, the colors changing every minute. Somewhere behind him a bird called out, and another answered. The sounds were melodious, different, harmonious. Jack realized that the birds had been singing in the background all along, he'd just never really heard them due to his worry over their predicament.
The bird calls reminded him of the priests' chanting, in the way they interlaced with one another. He leaned his chin more heavily against Daniel's shoulder, then suddenly realized that Daniel was sit-ting totally still against him.
He leaned sideways to look at Daniel and saw his eyes were closed to near slits, but he was look-ing towards the sunset. There was a look of peace on Daniel's face, the ordeal of near-drowning and sitting hours on end in frigid waters no longer evident on his face. Jack relaxed again despite himself, allowing the sudden peace to envelop him. He felt sleepy, his body and Daniel's buoyed by the water, and suddenly the chill in the water was gone.
Jack didn't know if he sat there for seconds or minutes, but when Daniel jerked violently, Jack also started and opened his eyes.
The sky was much darker, evidence that he'd most likely dozed off for several minutes. Daniel was shivering again, but he raised his hands out of the water and held them before him.
"Oh," Daniel said in surprise. His teeth chattered noisily together as he stifled a cough.
Jack looked at Daniel's dripping wrists, suddenly miraculously free of their shackles. There was a large bruise on his right wrist, but his left was unmarred.
Immediately Jack pulled his feet up, ready to swim to shore while dragging Daniel along, when Teal'c called out his name.
"Over there." Teal'c was pointing behind them and Jack turned, nearly sliding off the rock in his haste. The two remote-controlled boats were heading towards them and as he watched, one veered for him and Daniel while the other continued on to the temple. The red vessel stopped and Jack wasted no time in shoving Daniel into it. With a strong heave, he managed to push Daniel over its edge, and his friend rolled to the bottom, along with a large amount of water. The moment Daniel was inside, though, the boat began moving forward. Jack leaped after it and managed to climb in.
He quickly moved forward to help Daniel, who was still lying on his back in several inches of wa-ter in the boat's bottom. Once Daniel was sitting on the wooden seat, safely leaning against Jack, he turned to look at his other two team members.
They were sitting in the second boat, which was following in their wake. Jack looked forward and to his surprise, he saw they weren't heading for the same area from where they'd left, but were heading to the far side of the lake.
A tall spire shone brightly through the leafy trees, reflecting the last of the sun's rays. As they neared the shore, Jack could see a trail leading into the jungle, towards whatever building was nestled in there. The boat headed for a small beach directly in front of the trail, and a few minutes later, it came aground.
"Come on, let's get the hell off of this thing." Jack pulled Daniel up and held tightly to him as they both stumbled onto the sand. By the time he'd gotten Daniel halfway up the beach, Carter and Teal'c had landed and had hurried to their sides.
They had no choice but to either camp the night on the beach, or seek shelter inside the jungle, amongst the trees.
"It looked like there might be a building a little farther in," Carter said, taking the lead. Insects buzzed, croaked and sang loudly around them, both familiar and alien in their songs. The sand beneath their feet soon changed to stone, cool and damp in the dark jungle.
Not long after, Jack could see the flickering light of a fire. They entered a clearing and there, be-fore them, was a large pagoda, with a brazier flaming brightly inside.
There was a diaphanous netting hanging from the building's ceiling, surrounding the open-aired pagoda. The building itself appeared decorated similarly to the temple in the lake, with four blanket-covered mats evenly spread on the floor around the brazier. Carter shrugged, then struggled to find the edge of the netting. She held it open while Jack helped Daniel inside and lowered him to one of the mats. Immediately Daniel curled into a ball.
As Jack pulled the blankets off one of the mats to use as a towel, Carter exclaimed, "There's cloth-ing here. And towels."
She quickly knelt beside Jack with a few large fluffy towels and immediately the three of them be-gan removing Daniel's clothes. Daniel was too far gone, too cold and exhausted to be much help to them.
They had a bit of trouble getting Daniel undressed; getting wet clothes off a semi-conscious man wasn't exactly easy.
Once Daniel was naked, Teal'c rubbed Daniel's body briskly, trying to get his circulation going in an attempt to warm him while drying him off.
"This place appears to have been deliberately set up for us." Carter held up a pair of loose pants and tunic. "I'm sure these will fit Daniel. There's something large enough for Teal'c, and small enough for me. The other pair will probably fit you, sir."
Jack quickly snaked the pants along Daniel's legs while Carter and Teal'c tried to get the tunic over Daniel's head. It was like trying to dress a sleepy child. An adult-sized, sleepy child. Daniel tried to help, but his movements were totally uncoordinated.
The moment he was clothed, Jack had him under the blankets. Teal'c grabbed the other blankets from the mats and covered Daniel with them.
Jack stood and quickly stripped. He was aware of his team doing the same thing. He quickly dried himself off and put on the clothes. They were soft and warm against his chilled skin, and the heat from the brazier was starting to make him feel human again.
Teal'c took their damp and sodden clothes and stepped outside the pagoda. He spread them over several bushes and branches to dry.
Jack sniffed, and realized there was food nearby. He stepped closer to the fire and saw a tray. There were four small bowls and a large, stoppered jug. A napkin covered several pieces of herbed pita-type bread and a bowl of what looked like jam. There was cheese, and fruit. He pulled the top off the jug and to his delight, the aroma of chicken soup teased his nostrils. He poured a bit in a cup and tasted it. Not quite chicken, but it was still delicious. And hot.
He poured them each a cupful, handed them out, then brought his and Daniel's to the sleeping mat.
"Teal'c, can you help me sit Daniel up?" Immediately Teal'c pulled Daniel so he was leaning against him.
"Daniel, can you drink this?" Jack placed the cup to Daniel's lips and dribbled some broth into his mouth. Daniel brought his hands up, trying to hold onto the mug. His cold fingers wrapped around the warm cup and Jack encircled them with his own, making sure Daniel didn't spill the soup.
Daniel slurped the warm broth down, and then Jack handed him his share. Carter came by with the jug and refilled Daniel's cup, then placed a napkin with several bite-sized pieces of jam-covered bread.
"Try and eat this, Daniel. It's sweet."
"S'good," Daniel mumbled as he chewed. When he reached for another piece, Carter grabbed his arm.
"What happened?" She gently manipulated his wrist and hand, the bruise standing out darkly in the dim light. "Did this happen when you fell into the water?"
"I think so." Daniel tried to straighten a bit, but he quickly sagged back against Teal'c. "The chain caught somewhere on the rock."
"I think it's just bruised, although you might want to keep an eye for any swelling."
Daniel nodded, and took some more bread when she let go of his hand. He let his head fall against Teal'c's chest, his eyelids drooping. He still shivered, but the soup and the warm clothes seemed to be helping warm him up.
After a bit more broth and bread, Daniel turned his face into Teal'c's shoulder. He slowly slid heav-ily against Teal'c as he drifted off into sleep. Teal'c placed a hand on the back of Daniel's head and the other one was curled around Daniel's chest, holding him securely against him.
The heat generated by the brazier was making Jack sleepy, and he jumped when Carter spoke up.
"Do you think we passed their trial of Da-ran'a?"
"I dunno." Jack swallowed the last of the broth, grimacing at the now tepid, salty taste. "Maybe, if there wasn't a time limit to the test. Or maybe they just let Daniel go because it was getting dark."
"Or perhaps we did attain Da-ran'a. I experienced something, O'Neill. It was similar to Kel-no-reem, but different."
"I think I might have dozed off." Carter ducked her head sheepishly.
"I would have to admit the same thing, Carter. But for a few minutes there, Daniel wasn't feeling the cold. Maybe we did attain that Da-ran-shit these people keep talking about."
"That sunset really was really beautiful. I guess that might have helped put me in a more mellow mood."
"Wait a minute, what sunset? You were facing me and Daniel."
"Yes, sir. But we were facing west."
"No, you weren't. I was facing west. The sunset was at your back."
"Is it possible there were two suns on this planet?" Teal'c spoke softly so as not to disturb Daniel.
"No, we'd have noticed that," Carter said, fluffing her nearly dry hair, then shrugged. "The priests must have orchestrated that for us also." She laughed. "I wouldn't be surprised if the trees around here are full of cages with singing birds in them."
"So, what next? We go to the Altar of Mars that Lonnie guy mentioned?"
"They did speak of trials. Perhaps we must undergo more tomorrow."
"Unless they meant trials in the plural sense since we all underwent the test?" Carter yawned, then apologized.
"Well, no use worrying about it tonight," Jack answered, yawning himself. He motioned for Teal'c to put Daniel down. Jack placed a hand beneath the clothes and blankets, and was relieved to find Daniel's skin warmer than before. He adjusted the blankets around his friend, then crawled onto his mat.
"Should we keep watch?" Carter yawned again.
Jack peered into the dark jungle around them. He had no idea if there were predators out there, al-though he didn't think the people would endanger them needlessly. Still, it was better to be cautious than sorry.
"I think we should."
"I shall take first and second watches."
Jack nodded at Teal'c's offer. "I'll take third. Carter can take the last watch."
With another jaw-cracking yawn, Jack curled up beside Daniel. Seconds later, he was asleep.
- - - - - -
A hand shook him out of a deep sleep. In the dim light provided by the glowing coals in the bra-zier, Jack saw Teal'c bending over him. He ran his fingers over his face, wishing he'd had more hours of sleep.
He sat up with a soft groan, then pushed the blanket that someone, Teal'c, most likely, had spread over him.
Daniel coughed in his sleep. Jack saw from the glowing embers of the brazier that both he and Carter were sleeping.
"All is quiet," Teal'c whispered. Jack nodded, then wrapped the blanket around his shoulders against the damp night air. Teal'c scooped some charcoal from a container beneath the brazier and spread them on the glowing coals. The charcoal quickly caught, giving off light and heat in the small pagoda.
Daniel coughed again, and yet again, but didn't wake.
"How long's he been doing that?" Jack reached over and put a hand on Daniel's cheek. It felt warm, normal. He saw that Teal'c had removed the bundle of blankets from Daniel, leaving him only with two. That must be where his own blanket had come from.
"He has been coughing for the past hour." Teal'c lay down on the mat, covering himself with a blanket. "He does not have a fever."
"Yet," Jack supplied as he leaned back against one of the support poles. He bent his knees and stared out into the dark, listening to the nocturnal wildlife. "He's lucky if he doesn't catch pneumonia from that dunk in the water."
"Shall we attempt to return to the Stargate in the morning?"
"Yeah, I think so."
Jack fell quiet, allowing Teal'c to close his eyes. He was worried about Daniel's cough, and finally couldn't stand listening to Daniel cough and not know. He reached over to double check his friend's temperature when he coughed yet again.
"Wha's wrong?" Daniel turned his head and looked at Jack sleepily.
"Nothing's wrong," Jack whispered back. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."
"Wasn't asleep. Heard you and Teal'c talking." Daniel turned onto his back, then sat up on his el-bows and leaned over to the side as he coughed deeply.
"Ow," he complained softly, rubbing his chest as he lay back down.
"How you feeling? Still cold?"
"Nope. A little tired. Headache. Damned tickle in my throat."
"That's more than a tickle."
Daniel sighed. "What time is it?"
"About two-ish. We'll head for home as soon as the sun's up. Maybe two or three more hours."
"Why?" Daniel turned onto his side, facing Jack. "We've come this far, we passed their tests. And we did come here in order to help the people."
"But we never expected this little setback. And Daniel, you could be looking at a case of pneumo-nia if there were any bacteria in the water. It's better to be safe and get you home, then we can come back when Fraiser gives you the all clear."
Daniel was silent. Most likely the cough was just his lungs not liking water replacing oxygen for those few long seconds, but Jack knew that within twenty-four hours, Daniel could be dangerously sick.
"Get some more sleep."
"What about my watch?"
"Teal'c stood your watch. Don't worry about it."
Jack heard the rustling of material as Daniel shifted to get comfortable. Jack yawned, then heard Daniel yawn in response.
The time passed slowly as he sat there, and finally at the appointed time, he woke Carter up and returned to his sleeping pallet. But sleep was elusive and he ended up lying there listening to the slight rustling sounds as Carter shifted occasionally, and Daniel's worsening cough.
He could even tell each time Carter reached over to check on Daniel. Jack rued the fact that they didn't have any of their gear with them; a couple doses of antibiotics surely would come in handy right about now.
Slowly the sky lightened around them, and Jack watched the forest take shape as the shadows re-ceded. Eventually Jack figured it was time to get everyone up.
The moment he heard Carter's exclamation, Jack smelled food. He sat up in a hurry and saw her staring at an overflowing tray where the remains of their supper had been. Teal'c had also heard her cry and was glancing around for a hidden enemy.
"Sir, I swear, I never�"
No, Carter would never have dozed off on the job. He knew her better than that. Hell, he'd been awake himself and he'd never heard a thing.
"I know," he said reassuringly.
"O'Neill, our clothes are gone."
Jack turned to look outside and found that Teal'c was right. Whoever had snuck around their small camp, was good. Jack hadn't heard a single sound to even hint that there had been someone skulking around. And obviously, neither had Carter or Teal'c.
Jack reached over and felt the outside of the large decanter. It was piping hot, and the liquid inside looked and smelled like strong tea. There was a large selection of food, mainly consisting of stuffed pastries.
Shrugging, Jack poured some into the four cups accompanying the decanter and handed their breakfast around. Carter shook Daniel awake and she smiled a greeting when their friend looked around blearily.
"I'm fine," Daniel replied hoarsely to Carter's inquiry. He accepted a cup from Jack and sniffed at its contents.
Jack took a sip and found the tea to be flowery and strong. Without a word, Teal'c handed Jack a small container and he dipped a finger into it. He smiled. Honey.
He sweetened his tea and handed the honey to Daniel. If anything, the sweetener would help ease the frog in their friend's throat.
The food was delicious, and they all ate with appetite.
"Everyone done?" Jack drained his tea and looked at his team. They all wiped their hands and stood. "Let's head for home."
"No, Daniel." Jack ignored the disappointed look on Daniel's face. They'd discussed this already, and Jack wasn't taking any chances.
Jack pulled back the mosquito netting and stopped. On the ground, neatly placed side by side, were four pairs of sandals, ranging from medium, to extra large. Shrugging, Jack handed them out.
Taking the lead, Jack led them through the jungle, back to the small beach. Somehow he wasn't surprised to find that the boats were gone. He looked along the coastline, hoping to spot the vivid red vessels but all he could see was green.
"We could try walking." Carter shielded her eyes with her hand, squinting towards where they knew the Stargate was.
"Jungle's too thick," Jack stated. He looked back the way they came, and trudging in the soft sand, made his way towards the path that led through the jungle.
- - - - - -
Despite the fact that they were now heading towards what he hopefully believed to be Mars' place of worship, which was where he'd wanted to go in the first place, Daniel was a little concerned about his health.
He felt tired and lethargic, and his chest burned whenever he took a deep breath. He wasn't fool enough to think that that unexpected dunk he'd taken yesterday might not have severe consequences.
Still, they could visit the Altar of Mars, check the place out and then go home to regroup. Of course, in his case, that would mean a visit to Janet's infirmary. And possibly a few days of enforced rest and no �gate travel if he didn't start feeling better soon.
"I see a break up ahead."
Daniel looked up at Sam's words, stifled a cough, and saw an end to the well-kept path they were following. Bright sunshine beckoned and Daniel squinted as he stepped into a large, grass-filled clear-ing.
At the end of the clearing was a large slab of marble, supported by several small, hewn stones. The area around it was decorated with strung flowers and gaily decorated seeds and stones.
Daniel could see many paths like the one they had just come out from leading into the jungle. As he got closer, he could see there was writing on the altar. Shrugging off his sluggishness, Daniel hur-ried to it.
"I welcome you."
Daniel started, then turned to see Lon-nis standing beneath one of the large, droopy-leafed trees, accompanied by the same priests that had attended the ceremony yesterday. The younger one who had served Daniel smiled at him, and then bowed his head with the others.
Lon-nis stepped forward, hands folded together. "As you have attained Da-ran'a, you are now free to wander in the gardens."
"As marvellous as all this is, what we've come here for is to help you discover what happened to your people."
Lon-nis inclined his head at Jack. "This is where three of my acolytes vanished." He waved to Daniel's left. "Through there are the spice gardens. Two supplicants were taken from there, and six from the orchards, behind me."
Daniel remembered the conversations held through the MALP and the active Stargate before they'd gotten an invitation to visit this world. "You told General Hammond that twelve people have disap-peared over the past six days."
"Yes." Lon-nis' face suddenly became unreadable. "The last was taken from whence you sat yes-terday on the Ard-cholh, Doctor Jack-son. My..." He cleared his throat. "Klar-mat was undergoing Tsa-tsen when he was taken. The others in the temple saw him surrounded by bright circles of light."
The man turned away from them, hiding his face. Apparently this person was someone he cared for.
Daniel glanced at Jack, who was looking at Teal'c. He quickly looked at Sam and saw that she'd also picked up on the bright circles of light comment.
"Lon-nis. Have any strangers been seen around here?"
"You must understand." Lon-nis turned to face them. His eyes were red, but he seemed to be under control. "The Altar of Mars is welcome to all. Some travel for weeks to come here. Apart from my cler-ics and a handful of worshipers who come daily, most of the people here are strangers to us."
"You informed us yesterday that all must undergo the trials of Da-ran'a to be permitted here." Teal'c glanced around warily as he spoke.
"That is correct."
"Then how do you know if one has attained Da-ran'a?"
"The Samad-hipa knows, and will not permit entry otherwise."
"So anyone coming by way of the lake is checked out?"
"I do not understand your comment, Colo-nel O'Neill. But the Samad-hipa permits no one entry, either from the lakeside or the bridges and paths that lead to here, or the gardens. There is a perimeter where only the blessed are permitted."
"Blessed?" Daniel placed a hand over his mouth and coughed. "Sorry," he mumbled as he cleared his throat.
"The blessed are those who have attained Da-ran'a. Doctor Jack-son, my apologies." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small bottle. He handed it to Daniel.
"This will ease the cough and ensure that the fever does not come upon you. You must take this dose twice a day for the next four days, otherwise you may become very ill."
Daniel took the bottle, removed the cover and squinted at its contents. There was a slight sour smell emanating from it.
"Thanks, but he'll pass on that." Jack motioned for Daniel to give the medicine back. "We need to head home and our doctor there can give Daniel something that'll stop him from getting sick."
"But you have not yet spoken to My Lord Maur-nok!" Lon-nis stepped back as Daniel held out the small bottle to him, refusing to accept it. "And you have not searched for my son!"
"Lon-nis, I'm sorry." Daniel pocketed the small bottle and glanced at Jack a moment before con-tinuing. "The people who were abducted aren't here."
"Of course they aren't here. That is why they have disappeared." The man stared at Daniel as if he was an idiot.
Daniel ran his hand through his hair, feeling a little lightheaded. "I mean, they're not here, here." He pointed at the ground, then waved his hand in a circle. "They're not even on the planet. They're probably in a spaceship circling the planet up in the sky."
Lon-nis glanced into the blue sunlit sky, looking up for a glimpse of the spaceship.
"You won't see it, it's too far up," Sam said. "From the description of the circles of light, we're pretty sure they were taken away by transport rings. And as they were kidnapped from a variety of places, I'm pretty sure it was done from a ship."
"That ship could be long gone." Jack paced a few steps away from them, and then came back.
"I see." Lon-nis seemed to deflate, looking haggard and tired.
"We'll have a look around, of course," Daniel put in hurriedly. "There has to be a reason why only a few persons were taken." He didn't want to even think about trying to explain about the Goa'uld steal-ing people to become hosts. The man was worried enough as it was.
"Were all the people taken young?" Sam softened her voice. "Like your son?"
"No, he was the youngest. Some of my clerics were older than Colo-nel O'Neill."
"When was the last abduction?"
"Four days ago. There is no discernible pattern between the abductions. But I have a list of dates and times. If you return with me to the Palace, I can provide you with it."
"Look. We'll take a look around, and see what's shaking. Tell Lord Maur-nok that we'll head back to the Stargate after and come back with some equipment that might be able to detect the spaceship."
Lon-nis nodded, but he didn't appear to be convinced. And Daniel wasn't so sure there was much they could do. Not if these Goa'uld, or whoever was using the ring transports, were in a ship. Then again, if they had beamed down first to scope out the people and had given the co-ordinates to those still on the ship...
"What about our gear?"
"Take the path between the two jeelah trees and you will come to the chests containing your equip-ment. Your clothes are also there."
Lon-nis turned and began walking towards one of the paths leading to the jungle, followed by his priests.
"How about we take a quick look at the abduction sites first? He said the orchard was this way?" Jack pointed to his left.
They entered the jungle, but after a few minutes, came out to a large field where lanes of trees grew in abundance. A variety of fruits were ripening on the branches. They slowly walked between the trees, looking for some sign to prove them wrong about their suspicion of the Goa'uld.
There was nobody here; Daniel wondered if maybe Lon-nis had kept everyone away, or if it was too early for workers to be about. Or maybe people were afraid, and were refusing to come to the grounds.
It didn't take long, maybe five minutes into their search, when the familiar tones of a zat sounded behind Daniel. He turned reflexively, hands grasping for a weapon he didn't have, only to feel the pain-ful spasms as his world turned into a pain-filled, quickly darkening vision.
- - - - - -
Daniel groaned between coughs as he harshly returned to the waking world.
"Easy, easy." Someone was rubbing his back and he opened his eyes to see his three teammates crouching over him.
He sat up slowly, Teal'c supporting his shoulder until Daniel nodded that he was okay. His muscles still shook with the overly-familiar after-effects of a zat. Daniel looked around, and realized they were-n't planet-side anymore.
"Who... ?" He cleared his throat, trying to rid himself of some of the congestion that was blocking his airways.
"Dunno. We just came to." Jack stood up from his crouched position and began walking around their small cell.
"They must have zatted us and then ringed us up to the ship." Sam left Daniel and joined Jack in exploring their cell. To Daniel, it looked like the usual holding cell in a ha'tak. Teal'c stayed by Daniel's side a few seconds more before joining Sam in examining the door controls.
"But who is �they'?" Daniel removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, which were burning despite the low lights.
They heard a clattering sound outside. Daniel quickly put his glasses back on.
"Looks like we're gonna find out in a second." Jack held out a hand and helped Daniel to his feet. Seconds later, the door slid open, revealing several armed Jaffa standing before it. Daniel squinted at the tattoos on their forehead, trying to match the symbol to known deities.
The Jaffa stepped aside in unison, and a dark, heavily built young man slowly walked through their ranks. The Goa'uld's First Prime swaggered in, a hard look on his face. For some strange reason, he looked familiar to Daniel.
The man barely glanced at them, but made straight for Teal'c.
"Shol'va. You have disgraced us all." The First Prime spoke in the Goa'uld language, his voice deep and melodic. "You have no shame. It will be my honor to see you die slowly, and painfully."
He spit into Teal'c's face, and the two men stood there staring, unable to tear their eyes from one another.
Caught up in the drama, Daniel stifled the growing pressure in his lungs. He breathed shallowly, somehow afraid to disturb the two. But the heaviness grew, until he coughed harshly.
The first Prime suddenly turned and looked at them.
"My Goddess Anat welcomes you." He smiled, white teeth flashing against his black skin. "Enjoy the short time you have left."
Anat's First Prime turned on his heels and left the room. The door slid shut securely behind him.
"Nice manners." Jack stared at the panel where the door had been a few seconds ago. "I think his parents could have used a bit more discipline with him, don'tcha think?"
Immediately Daniel went to Teal'c, who was standing there looking like he'd seen a ghost.
"Are you okay?" Daniel waited patiently until Teal'c dragged haunted eyes away from the door and met Daniel's gaze. He slowly wiped the dripping spittle from his face.
Teal'c turned and took a few steps away from Daniel, in all essence, pulling away emotionally from him, despite their close quarters. But Daniel wasn't going to let this go. He saw how this younger man had spooked Teal'c, and that, in Daniel's opinion, bode them no good.
"You know him?" Daniel pointed over his shoulder at the closed door.
Daniel could see Teal'c's jaw muscles bunching hard as he held himself together. After a moment, he inhaled deeply. "I do."
Jack had come to stand beside Daniel, and Sam was watching them from across the room. They all waited expectantly for Teal'c's answer.
"He is my son, Dal'bar."
"He's what?" For a moment Daniel was dumbfounded. Teal'c's son was Rya'c, barely a man, still in his teens. He was young, yes, a warrior in his rights, but nowhere near this self-contained, arrogant SOB who had come to gloat. But then he realized that Teal'c wasn't just a man. He was a Jaffa. He may look to be slightly older than Daniel, but whatever made him Jaffa, allowed him to live a longer life-time than normal humans. Teal'c was really nearly three times Daniel's age. It stood to reason that he'd have had other children in that space of time. Daniel mentally smacked himself on the forehead�nobody had asked, because nobody had truly, deep down, understood that Teal'c had had the time to live out more than one of their lifetimes.
In a split second, Daniel acknowledged to himself that it hurt that Teal'c had never confided in any of them that he'd had other children. He saw the same shock on his friends' faces and realized that Teal'c was still much of an enigma to him, despite the fact that they'd known each other for eight years.
It had taken Teal'c a long time to confide the first time that he had a wife and child. And if he had other children in the service of the Goa'uld, and this one obviously loved his job, then that black sheep might be something Teal'c would certainly have wanted to hide from them.
"Um, T, about that comment..." Jack sheepishly rubbed a finger alongside his cheek.
"I have not seen my son since he was chal'ti."
"Apprentice warrior," Daniel supplied at Jack's look for a translation.
"So the kid's come up in the world, huh? First Prime, just like his dad." Jack smiled, but his eyes remained hard.
"Dal'bar and I had many differences." Teal'c's voice was soft, and Daniel had to strain to hear the words. "The times then were different, I was young, and my own doubts were growing in that time. Then his mother died while bearing Dal'bar's sister. Bro'sha's mother tried to raise the boy, but by then he had became a handful."
"Well, we'll talk to the kid, get him to change his mind, like his old man did. Piece of cake."
Despite Jack's flippant words, Daniel was worried. Because not only did the First Prime of this Goa'uld wish to take revenge on his father, there was the Goa'uld itself to deal with.
"Um, guys, we may have a problem."
"Yeah?" Jack went to one of the walls and leaned against it.
"The Goa'uld here is Anat."
Teal'c nodded. "A minor System Lord."
"Well, she's also Ba'al's consort, and she's also known to be a goddess of war."
"She has many forms, Daniel Jackson."
"Yes, yes, I know. Goddess of sex and agriculture, but she's also known for going after Ba'al's ene-mies."
It took Jack only a second before his eyes narrowed in understanding.
"You think this was a setup?" Sam was looking at Daniel expectantly.
"You've hurt Ba'al badly, haven't you?" Daniel's asked Jack. His voice sounded hoarse, and he cleared his throat. Jack hadn't wanted to speak about his capture by Ba'al, and even though Daniel had read the mission reports, he knew there was something that Jack was holding back from him.
Sam had mentioned that apparently Daniel had visited both Jack and Teal'c when he'd been as-cended. Daniel and Teal'c had talked about Teal'c's ordeal. Daniel had occasional fleeting memories of his being there for Teal'c while he and Bra'tac had fought for their lives. But what had happened be-tween him and Jack, Daniel could only guess.
He wasn't sure if the image of Jack throwing a shoe at him was dream or memory; the fact that the shoe had passed right through him and hit the wall behind him drew him towards the memory concept. Add to the fact that he and Jack had been in a small cell and Jack had been fighting Daniel tooth and nail over something... The whole scenario, Jack's being taken over by a love-sick Tok'ra and subse-quent capture by Ba'al, from what Daniel remembered reading, had been a no-win situation and he had a good idea what it was that he had been trying to convince Jack to do.
Hell, he'd accepted the fact now that he'd left Oma's world, either through his own decision or hers, with a stigma of shame attached to it, so why did these feelings of guilt and unworthiness keep hitting him at the oddest times?
"It wasn't my fault." Jack slid down the wall and sat leaning against it, crossing his legs at the an-kles. "I'd never have gone to Ba'al's stronghold if it weren't for that damned snake." Daniel saw Jack trying to look nonchalant but he could see the tension his friend was trying to hide. "So, d'ya think she's trying to get back at her lover for having cheated on her?"
Daniel glanced over at Sam and saw that she had turned her face away from Jack. She was pale, more so than normal. Daniel realized he and Sam had never had a talk about her pushing Jack to accept the Tok'ra symbiote in order to save his life. That the Tok'ra had used Jack's body in order to obtain his own goals certainly wouldn't help to make her feel less guilty about it.
"It is possible." Teal'c had composed himself and had taken up a corner of the cell. Despite his calm demeanour, he still looked shell shocked. "It is also possible that Anat is attempting to gather in-formation to aid Ba'al in his fight against Anubis.
Daniel took the few steps separating him from Sam and touched her arm. She turned to smile at him, and nodded. Daniel stared at her a little longer, making sure she wasn't going to blame herself, then slid down the wall so he was sitting beside Jack. There wasn't anything he could do for any of his friends; their inner demons had risen to the fore and Daniel couldn't think of anything to say to help them through this.
His legs were shaky and he was more than happy to just sit. His body ached and he was pretty sure he had a fever. His head was pounding, deep behind his eyes and in his cheekbones.
"So, we got the obligatory visit by the head Jaffa." Jack turned his head to look at Teal'c. "What d'ya think, three more hours before the snakehead herself comes to make a visit?"
"I would say five. Anat may wish us to quake in fear." Teal'c allowed a small smile to curl the cor-ner of his lip.
"Oh, I'm quaking all right." Jack pulled one leg up and rested his forearm against his bent knee. "Although I will admit that I'd be more comfortable wearing my BDUs, and boots rather than these sandals. These might make running for our lives a little interesting."
"Do you think your son might be convinced to join the rebel Jaffa?" Sam sat down beside Daniel.
"I do not know. I no longer know my son." Daniel could see the tension in his friend's body as he spoke. "I had very little to do with Dal'bar's training. He did not wish to rise in the ranks knowing he may have been chosen because of my position. He chose to serve a minor Goa'uld in the hopes of ris-ing on his own merit. We disagreed, and we have not spoken since."
"This must be a shock, seeing him like this." Daniel stopped talking as a dry cough tickled his throat. The tickle soon escalated into a harsh, wet hacking. His head pounded with the exertion and he could feel sweat pouring down his body.
With spots dancing before his eyes, Daniel finally managed to take in some air without a forceful expulsion, hearing wheezing sounds as he did so. He cleared his throat a few times, embarrassed as his friends watched him with concern.
"You still got the bottle that Lonnie guy gave you?"
Daniel nodded while he patted his pocket to make sure it was still there.
"Then maybe you should take it."
Daniel pulled it out and stared at it.
"Look, we don't have any other meds, and at this point, you probably need whatever help you can get."
"The colonel's right, Daniel. If that stuff can stave off an infection for a few hours, it'll give you more of a fighting chance until we get back home."
Daniel grimaced and swallowed the medicine. It tasted sour and burned a trail all the way down into his stomach. He wished he had water to wash it down with. Instead he swallowed a few times, hoping to get rid of the aftertaste.
- - - - - -
"Wake up, Daniel. Company's coming."
Daniel opened his eyes and raised his head at Jack's softly spoken words. He squinted around him and with a muffled groan, realized they were still in the cell. He sat up as Jack pulled on his arm, feel-ing nauseous and dizzy as the movement escalated his headache. Jack handed him his glasses and stepped away from him.
With a blush, he realized his head and shoulders had been pillowed on Sam's lap. He didn't even remember going to sleep. She stood up as a contingent of Jaffa marched loudly down the corridor to-wards their cell. Teal'c held out a hand to help him up and Daniel gratefully accepted. He was still try-ing to put his glasses on and blink the sleep from his eyes when the door opened.
"This way." Dal'bar stood aside as room was made for SG-1 to walk into the midst of their escort.
Unable to help himself, Daniel glanced back towards Teal'c as he filed out the door, behind Sam. His friend was staring straight ahead, trying to ignore his son. The Jaffa warriors closed in around them and escorted them through the long, curving corridors of the ha'tak.
You'd think they'd get used to this, they'd done it often enough before�but Daniel's heart began racing and his legs started to shake as adrenaline coursed through him. His mind cleared a bit, shrug-ging off some of the fuzziness, but not the pain and discomfort.
The walk seemed interminable, probably due to his lingering weakness. He found himself a little breathless as he kept pace with the cadence of the warriors; he wondered what would happen if they found an opportunity to escape. He was terrified that he'd end up holding his teammates back if such an occasion did occur.
The ornate doors at the end of the hallway opened as they approached, and they were led into a throne room of sorts. He silently cursed the dim lighting inside; it was enough to disorient the visitor while giving the people already in the room the chance to assess them first.
Not that it mattered because within seconds, they were all forced onto their knees and their view obstructed by the Jaffa towering over them. Daniel's head pounded from the sudden jolt more than his knees.
"Bow to my Goddess Anat." Dal'bar's strong voice filled the chamber.
"So these are the infamous Tau'ri." A voice, soft and silky despite the Goa'uld's inflection, came from his right. Daniel turned his head and saw a voluptuous woman wrapped in diaphanous material slinking towards them. Long, black hair, hanging straight down to her knees, framed wide set eyes. A gold circlet around her forehead kept her hair from her face.
"Actually, we're just a bunch of tourists come to visit Mars." Jack ignored the Jaffa who tried to intimidate him by moving closer, and bent his head back to look up at the Goa'uld as she passed by him. "Didn't plan on the side trip, though. I hope this is included in the fee."
She slapped Jack hard along one cheek. "We do not appreciate liars. Who else would be in the company of the Shol'va, Teal'c?"
Jack licked his lip, trying to see if it was bleeding. After a few grimaces, he asked, "Who's lying? We passed all the tests and everything."
As the Goa'uld continued to walk slowly around them, Daniel was surprised to see her feet were bare, her toenails painted bright red. Bangles and rings adorned her ankles and toes. Daniel saw Sam crinkle her nose beside him and he suspected she wore a strong perfume. His nose was too stuffed up for him to smell anything.
She stopped circling them and came to stand before Daniel. He forced himself not to cringe as a long, red-tipped finger came down and caressed his cheek. He found himself staring into the Goa'uld's green-flecked brown eyes. The color was so striking, he had trouble tearing his gaze from hers.
"Tell us about Anubis."
She took her hand away from his face and Daniel resisted the urge to scrub at his face. His skin tingled where she'd touched him.
"What's to tell? He's a Goa'uld."
Daniel acknowledged that Jack was trying to distract her, but he knew he'd eventually get punished if he continued in that vein. He spoke up after clearing his throat. "We probably don't know anything you and Ba'al don't already know."
"Anubis is different than the other Goa'uld. Tell us how our Lord Ba'al can defeat him."
"He can't." Daniel swallowed as her brown eyes glowed in anger. "No one can."
"Then tell us of the ascended and how you returned to human form."
Her question caught Daniel by surprise and his mind raced as he tried to figure out how she'd heard about that. "I... ah... I don't know what you're talking about," he finally said weakly.
"You had powers beyond anything we have heard of. Staff blasts passed through you like mist. You appeared and disappeared at will before Anubis, and you attempted to destroy him yourself."
Daniel cast a quick glance at Jack before staring at Anat's feet.
"Yet you failed, but returned to the world of men after a prolonged absence."
Daniel raised his head and looked at her. "I took a vacation."
"You," she said, turning from Daniel with a contemptuous look at Jack, "handed Anubis the means to destroy us all. Is your life so petty that you would sacrifice everyone so you would live?"
"It's all part of the grander scheme of life. Play nice now so you can beat the crap out of your en-emy later on."
Anat ignored Jack and moved closer to Daniel. He could feel the edges of her wispy dress brush against his arms, along with her hair. Her proximity made her a little nervous. Then his anxiety went up a notch when one of the Jaffa stepped up behind him and grabbed his hair, pulling his head back. He couldn't move his head and he could only watch helplessly as a glowing ribbon device slowly de-scended towards his face.
He could hear Jack cursing, Sam yelling and a scuffle behind him, which must have been Teal'c. Strangely, there was no pain. In fact, the pain in his head receded as did the pressure in his chest. He felt good, sleepy, dreamy, and he watched curiously as Anat held some other device underneath the beam of the ribbon device.
The voices faded, or stopped. He wasn't sure, and he didn't really care. The pressure on his head was released and he swayed until someone, or something, kept him from falling.
"Tell us of the ascended. What powers did you hold? Why did you return? How can we attain those powers?" The voice came from far, silky and smooth in his head. At first he tasted the texture and fla-vour of the sounds as they repeated softly, leisurely, stroking him pleasurably. Then slowly, like burrs, the words stuck themselves into his mind, digging at memories, assaulting his brain for recollections, forcing them out into the open.
Visions quickly flitted before his eyes�Teal'c and Bra'tac lying near death in a battlefield, Rya'c yelling as he was whipped, Jack throwing a shoe at him, Sam shooting out a wall in a subterranean room. Other images came to him, but too quickly, too fleeting to hold. Emotions, feelings, sensations all swept through him, but all without concrete answers to the orders hammering through his head.
- - - - - -
Jack watched in horror as the snakehead used a ribbon device on Daniel. But instead of grimacing in pain, Daniel's face relaxed, his eyes grew dreamy and his body became slack almost to the point that he was being held up by one of Dal'bar's goons.
The Goa'uld ordered Daniel to tell her about his time as an ascended being, and Jack realized then that this torture instrument was being used in a different way than what he was used to seeing.
At first Daniel simply drooped in the Jaffa's hold. But slowly, his body stiffened as he began writh-ing, trying to escape the relentless beam. That he was now experiencing pain was unmistakeable.
Daniel's breathing sped up, wet and phlegmy as he strained to pull oxygen into congested lungs. His eyes were wide open, unseeing, his hands hanging limply at his sides, fingers twitching as if trying to grab onto something to help pull him away from the torture.
Suddenly Daniel began seizing, his body shaking uncontrollably as the Jaffa continued to hold him steady beneath his god's relentless torment.
"Stop it!" Jack yelled out. He knew it was useless, the snake hadn't listened to him the first time he and Carter had made their objections heard. "He doesn't remember anything! You're gonna kill him for nothing!"
"Please!" Carter added to his pleas. "He can't answer you. He doesn't know what you want."
"My queen." Dal'bar's voice was soft, his stance submissive as he stepped forward. "He would have answered you by now were he able to."
Jack suddenly knew that Dal'bar was sympathetic to their plight. The man, although showing sub-servience to his supposed god, was broadcasting concern and anxiety in nearly imperceptible ways, if one knew how to look for them. And Jack knew Teal'c, and Teal'c's son apparently had the exact same mannerisms.
Anat turned angrily towards her First Prime, then with a fluid motion, turned the ribbon device off and signalled for the Jaffa to let Daniel go. With a gasp, Daniel collapsed and slid to the ground, and didn't move.
Jack tried to go to his friend but the Jaffa must have been waiting for him to try to move, because they tightened their holds painfully on his arms, keeping him securely in place. Teal'c, who had re-ceived several harsh blows earlier when he'd tried to get to Anat when she'd produced the torture de-vice, was also trying to shake free of the Jaffa's hold.
Jack suddenly went still when Anat turned her attention to him. "Tell me of the magic of the world from which you were taken."
"We have questioned several of their people. Their God, Mars, is a powerful being, and we wish to study his magic."
"You mean, take his magic?" Jack forced himself to laugh, hoping he'd be able to convince the snake to leave the people on the planet alone. "Sorry, can't help you there. Everything those priests say is magic, is really sleight of hand. That's their all-powerful magic, that they can trick the whole popula-tion into thinking a god is all powerful." He looked up at her and sneered. "Oh wait, you're already fa-miliar with that scenario." He looked down at where his knees met the floor. "You know, the whole �kneel before your god' act gets a little old after a while."
Jack watched the snake's bare feet move to stop in front of Carter.
"Mars is purported to protect his people from enemies. What weapons does he use?"
Jack knew he should shut up, but he couldn't help adding, "He doesn't protect his people, he pro-tects cows."
Carter's mouth quirked, but she took up the slack. "Mars is the people's god of agriculture. He's not a god of war."
Jack remembered Carter and Daniel talking about Mars actually being a god of war, but he sure as heck wasn't going to bring that little tidbit up.
"Return them to their cells. Take us away from the planet's influence so that we may contact Ba'al. Then you may use whatever methods you deem appropriate to extract the information we desire."
Anat's bare feet slapped the marble floors lightly as she exited the room. She had barely turned the corner when Dal'bar issued the first order.
Jack saw Teal'c slowly turn his head to look at his son.
"Pick up the prisoner and convey him to your cell."
The Jaffa holding Teal'c stepped back and allowed him to go to Daniel. Teal'c managed to get Daniel into a seated position, Daniel's head lolling lifelessly in his unconscious state. With little effort, he had Daniel in a fireman's carry and stood waiting while Jack and Carter were allowed up on their feet.
Jack wondered if by allowing Teal'c to carry Daniel, Dal'bar was ensuring that their friend suffered no further injuries. His Jaffa would certainly never be as careful, and at the least, Daniel would have arrived at the cell sporting several new bruises. Then again, it was also a method of keeping a pris-oner's hands full and preventing him from making any kind of escape attempt.
The walk back to their cell took less time than it had to get to the throne room. Funny thing, when moving towards the unknown it always seemed to skew the sensation of time.
Teal'c gently lowered Daniel to the floor, and then sat behind him so that Daniel was propped up against his chest. Both Jack and Carter went to kneel beside them as the door slid shut behind them. Jack reached out and felt Daniel's cheek with the back of his fingers. It was hot and dry to his touch.
"Daniel, can you hear me?" Carter asked as she picked up Daniel's wrist and took his pulse. Jack could see the bruise and slight swelling from where the shackle had bit into Daniel's skin when he'd fallen off the rock yesterday.
Daniel's head moved and his eyebrows rose. His eyes remained closed.
Encouraged that Daniel had heard them on some level of awareness, Jack put his palm to Daniel's warm cheek and called his name.
"Come on, try and wake up," Jack coaxed. The eyebrows went up again, and his eyeballs moved beneath his lids. Daniel's head slowly turned towards Jack, and finally he opened his eyes.
The effort appeared to be too much for him and his eyelids closed again.
"His pupils were reactive and his pulse is a little fast." Carter put Daniel's hand back down. "It's probably best to let him sleep. There's nothing we can do for him anyways, except make him comfort-able."
Teal'c lowered Daniel down, and Jack pulled him so his head was lying against his thighs. Teal'c stretched his legs out and leaned back against the wall, staring at the opposite wall.
"Any chance of our talking to your son without an audience?"
"There is little chance of that, unless he chooses to be the one who tortures us for information." Teal'c spoke in a monotone, apparently still having trouble coming to terms with the idea of his son being in the service of Anat. And by association, Ba'al. "In any case, it will be a waste of time."
"Maybe not. He seemed genuinely concerned back there."
Teal'c turned to look at Jack. "You must have been mistaken. I saw no signs that he would be re-ceptive to our cause."
"I think you're wrong there, T. The man was reacting to what that snakehead was doing to Daniel."
"The colonel's right, Teal'c. He did seem bothered when Daniel couldn't answer."
"Hey, look. Carter and I," Jack said, waggling his hand between the two of them, "know you pretty well. We can tell when something's bothering you, even though you try to hide it. And your son was reacting the exact same way." Jack pressed a hand to Teal'c's arm. "There might be a way to reach him, after all. If we get the chance, we should try and talk to him."
Jack felt the hard muscles relax beneath his fingers. Teal'c inclined his head, a look of relief spreading over his features. "I pray you are right."
"Carter, what was that she said at the end? Needing to move the ship in order to contact Ba'al?"
"I caught that too, sir. There must be some kind of interference from the planet that's affecting their long-range communications."
"Think that's why she thinks there's magic on the planet?"
"No, it could be some kind of natural phenomenon as well as artificial. Another question that comes to mind is how did she know we'd be there? Coincidence? Did we simply walk into a trap meant for the people of the planet? Or was this an elaborate setup of some kind? Was Lon-nis involved? Be-cause honestly, sir, without our uniforms, from afar we look like the native people."
"I know, that's been bothering me also. I guess there's the chance that it's a bit of both scenarios. If she was already here in orbit, checking out the planet, she could have caught some of the transmissions through the Stargate over the last few days when Hammond was hammering out the negotiations with Lon-nis to let us through to their world."
"What about the magic, sir?"
"O'Neill was correct. I did not see any feats that could not easily be explained through technology."
"Remote controlled boats, transportation devices of some kind..." Jack shrugged. "We see those kinds of things just about every second mission."
"There was no obvious power source on the boats," Carter argued. "And the Goa'uld are familiar with these types of technology. There has to be something else here that she wants, something that caught her eye."
"Unless these folks are really good at faking it. Sometimes it's the simplest tricks that are the hard-est to figure out."
They sat there in silence afterwards, mulling over their discussion. So when the door opened, Jack swore, because it caught him by surprise.
Dal'bar stood in the doorway, accompanied by two armed Jaffa.
Teal'c caught Jack's eye before he slowly stood and stepped between the three. Jack knew Teal'c would try to convince his son to help them escape and come join the rebellion. Jack prayed that the problems between them wouldn't stand in their way and color the outcome.
- - - - - -
Teal'c walked behind his son, taking pride in the handsome man he had grown up to be. He fer-vently wished that things had been different, that he had listened to the boy Dal'bar had been years ago, and had not insisted on his way.
He tried to look for the signs O'Neill had mentioned, but could only see the impassive face of a First Prime. Teal'c himself had quickly learned to school his emotions; that his friends could read him was no surprise, his wives had both had the ability to do so.
They turned down a corridor and entered a small room. It was one Teal'c knew well; he had spent many hours himself in such a room on Apophis' ship, questioning prisoners for information.
As the Jaffa shackled his arms to chains hanging from the ceiling, Teal'c's thoughts turned back to Bro'sha, his first wife, as he looked upon their son. He could see her features on him; the shape of his mouth, the angle of his eyes, the sharpness of his cheekbones. Even with his short hair, the resem-blance was there. Dal'bar's build, however, had been inherited from Teal'c. The man's size was impres-sive and Teal'c knew that in combat with his son, he would most likely be evenly matched.
The two Jaffa immediately left the room, the door closing behind them.
The moment they were alone, Dal'bar freed Teal'c's hands. Teal'c stood there, bewildered, until he saw the look of confusion and hope on his son's face. It was then, Teal'c realized, that everything up to that point had been an act. O'Neill had been right.
Teal'c raised both arms sideways, away from his body. "It is good to see you again, my son."
Without a word, Dal'bar clasped Teal'c to him, holding him tightly. Teal'c held his son closely, wishing to erase all those lost years and have his young son back.
"I have missed you too, father." The man's voice was strangled, sounding almost like the young boy Teal'c remembered.
When Dal'bar finally pulled away, Teal'c kept hold of the man's shoulders, not yet wishing to relin-quish his son. "You have done well." Teal'c grinned. "Look at you, First Prime."
Dal'bar grinned back. "It is ironic that I have achieved all that I fought against back then, is it not?"
"And that I have accomplished much of what you wished me to understand." Teal'c squeezed the hard muscles beneath his fingers, then raised a hand to gently cup his son's nape. "Had I only listened to you then, my son. Perhaps we would not have lost all these years."
Dal'bar chuckled. "I was a child who did not wish a prim'ta. I shamed you; I understand that now." He quickly raised a hand, stopping Teal'c from answering. "You believed my dislike of the Goa'uld simply a young boy's scheme to garner attention. In a sense, it was. I missed my mother; you were away so much." Dal'bar's voice gentled as he spoke of Bro'sha. "And I resented you at the time for marrying Drey'auc so soon after mother died."
"I am sorry, Dal'bar." The memories of a young boy standing firm before his parents, refusing the ceremony of the symbiote, shamed him. If only he had listened to the boy; if only he had known then, what he knew now. If only he had acted upon his fears, and not allowed rituals and customs to force his choices. "The irony of this is that I attempted to stop the Prim'ta ceremony for your brother, and was unsuccessful."
"I have a brother?" Dal'bar looked startled, as if the thought had never occurred to him that he might have a sibling.
"Drey'auc blessed me with a son. Rya'c has grown into a fine warrior. You would be proud to call him brother."
His son smiled. "I look forward to meeting my brother."
"He will be surprised, and pleased to finally meet his older brother."
"You have spoken to him of me?" Again, Dal'bar appeared surprised.
"Indeed. I have often told him that it was thanks to you that the seeds of doubt were planted in my heart. It was not until I learned that Master Bra'tac harboured the same doubts and beliefs, did I truly understand the error of my ways in forcing the Prim'ta upon you."
"Perhaps this was meant to be, father. Look at what you have accomplished! Despite the odds, you and your friends destroyed so many of the false gods, and in doing so, have stirred up a J'akrash's nest."
"The Tau'ri's sting is worse than the J'akrash. You will join with us?" Teal'c lowered his hand, the sensation of his son's soft hair still tickling his palm.
"If you would have myself and my men. We are ten strong, having infiltrated Ba'al and Anat's strongholds."
"Then tell me. How does Anat know of these ascended beings?"
Dal'bar smiled. "She has spies amongst Anubis' warriors. They were on the ship when Daniel Jack-son appeared before Anubis and attempted to destroy him. She has also captured a Tok'ra and used that device on him."
"The Tok'ra will not betray their allies."
"The Tok'ra have no way of fighting the effects of the device. No one can. Anat can retrieve any information she wishes with it."
"Then it must be destroyed."
"I know." Dal'bar stepped away from Teal'c, and motioned to the chains. "We have not much time. Anat's guards will become suspicious if..."
Teal'c smiled, and stepped back up to the chains. As Dal'bar affixed the first one to Teal'c's wrist, Teal'c used his free arm to pull his son close to him one last time. Dal'bar returned the hug, then at-tached Teal'c's arm to the remaining shackle.
"I am sorry, I will be gentle�"
"Do not apologize. I know, more than you can imagine, what one must do in your position." Teal'c smiled. "I will give a convincing performance."
"Of that, Father, I have no doubt." With those words, Dal'bar picked up the torture device leaning against the wall and with one more apology, touched it to Teal'c's shoulder.
Screaming in feigned pain, Teal'c realized his son was using the minimalist setting while attempt-ing to make his injuries look worse than they were. Between breaths, he and Dal'bar discussed ways of making their escape.
- - - - - -
Time seemed to crawl when you had a watch when you could just sit and stare at the shifting num-bers. Jack didn't know if not knowing how much time had elapsed was worse than knowing. Daniel was still lying unconscious, his fever was rising, and Teal'c had been gone for what felt like hours.
He was hungry. And thirsty. And he needed to pee. There was that little built-in toilet in the far cor-ner of the room and with a sigh, he gently slid from beneath Daniel and got up and stretched. He used the facilities, wishing there was at least running water in the room. He could have used some to try and bring down Daniel's fever.
When he finished, he turned around to see that Carter had shifted closer to Daniel and was leaning over him. She glanced at Jack when she heard him walking back.
"Sir, I think he's waking up."
Jack hurried over and crouched beside Daniel. She was right. He was moving his head back and forth restlessly. Carter had a hand to Daniel's cheek, and was talking to him, urging him to wake up.
"Yes!" She grinned up at Jack in triumph when Daniel curled his fingers around the hand that she'd kept close to his cheek. He didn't open his eyes but he turned his head towards her. "How are you feel-ing, Daniel?"
"Thirsty. Headache." Daniel coughed, squeezing his eyes tightly. "Damn, even my eyelids hurt."
"Do you know where you are?" Jack sat back on his heels, wishing again that there was water in the room.
Daniel opened his eyes, and looked around. "Oh, don't tell me I really didn't dream all of this."
"Sorry. It's the real thing."
"Damn," Daniel said softly. Then he raised his head in alarm. "Where's Teal'c?"
"His kid's taken him away for questioning."
"What?" Daniel let go of Carter and struggled to sit up. He swayed and Jack put a supporting hand out, holding him steady until Daniel managed to lean against the wall. "Do you think he'll be all right?"
"We hope so." Carter drew her legs together beneath her, facing Daniel. "He seemed genuinely concerned with what happened."
"Um, what did happen?" Daniel squeezed his eyes together, then pressed his palms against his eyes. "I seem to have lost track of events. Again."
"You got ribboned. Again."
Daniel drew his palms roughly down his cheeks before setting them in his lap. "She knew things... she had to have spies on Anubis' ship. I wonder if she suspects that Anubis is half ascended." Daniel waved his hand at chest level. "Of course she must, why else would she be trying to get information on the ascended."
Daniel rubbed at his cheeks again, and Jack wished they had painkillers to give him along with fe-ver-reducers and the non-existent water.
"Well, at least we know she can't get any information out of you." Carter smiled at Daniel when he looked at her. "She was altering the beam of the hand device with another kind of control. It looked like it acted like a truth-telling device. I got the feeling that you wouldn't have been able to resist giv-ing her answers if you'd known them." She smiled again. "Oma Desala probably knew what she was doing when she took your memories away."
"I don't remember," Daniel said softly. "I mean, I remember not remembering, I just don't remem-ber Anat questioning me."
"Consider yourself lucky, then." Jack patted Daniel's arm and his friend blinked sleepily up at him. "Doesn't look like we're going anywhere soon. Try and get some more sleep."
Daniel nodded but before he could slide back onto the ground, the door opened and two Jaffa en-tered, a semi-conscious Teal'c hanging from their shoulders. They dumped him unceremoniously onto the ground, Dal'bar watching impassively from the doorway.
Jack waited until the Jaffa had backed out, then rushed to Teal'c's side. He was bleeding and sweat-ing, his clothes ripped and bloody.
To his surprise, the second the door closed, Teal'c sat up. There was no sign of confusion or agony in his face, and he smiled at them all.
"I am well. My wounds are not as bad as they appear."
Disbelieving, Jack brushed Teal'c's hands away and looked for himself. But he was right. Most of the cuts were shallow, many already beginning to clot. Even without Junior, Teal'c would get over these injuries in a very short time. Jack didn't even think they would leave a scar.
"My son was extremely careful in his questioning." He rose onto his knees and turned to Daniel. "How are you feeling?"
"Lousy. But I'm sure I don't look half as bad as you do."
Teal'c smiled. "Indeed."
"So, didja learn anything?"
"Dal'bar has ten men�some of whom are spies, who have infiltrated both Ba'al's and Anat's strongholds. He will assemble the four who are on this ship and will attempt to undertake an escape."
"Can we trust him?" Daniel was half leaning against Carter, fighting sleep for all he was worth. The question, coming from Daniel, surprised Jack. He'd have expected Carter to ask it first.
What didn't surprise Jack was Teal'c's reluctance in answering. It took him several long seconds before he did.
"I am unsure. He is my son, and I find myself wishing I could trust him, but I do not know the man he has become." Teal'c turned to look at Jack. "I believe we have no other option but to accept his aid. This ship is still in orbit around the planet, and Dal'bar informed me there are still several of Lon-nis' people held captive. They, too, have been questioned, but their answers, as Daniel Jackson's, were un-satisfactory. Anat is displeased and still believes there is something powerful on the planet that she may plunder for her Lord."
"And use against Anubis," Jack mused. "Daniel, any idea what the magic is down there that could wipe him out?"
"How would I know?" Daniel answered drowsily. "I don't remember, remember?"
Jack rolled his eyes at him and sighed before turning his attention back to Teal'c. "So, what's Dal'bar's plan? Or did you not have time to discuss that?"
"It is simple. He will free Lon-nis' people and ourselves, while his men create a diversion. He will take us to the transport rings and return us to the Stargate. He and his men will travel through the Star-gate to another planet and I will contact the rebel Jaffa. They will meet with Dal'bar and bring them to the Alpha Site."
"If they think Dal'bar is trustworthy enough to join them?"
"Too bad we can't use Anat's truth machine on him," Daniel muttered, his eyes closed now and leaning heavily against Carter.
"Yeah," Jack agreed, wondering if they were falling into a bigger trap by following Teal'c's son. The stakes seemed higher this time, because if this Jaffa wasn't what he seemed to be, the truth would probably tear Teal'c apart.
- - - - - -
Jack had half-expected the rescue attempt to come soon after Teal'c's return. But time passed slowly as they all sat there, stiff with tension. Well, okay, all except for Daniel, who had slipped into a fevered-sleep not long after they'd settled down to wait.
"How long has it been?" Jack griped, cursing once more the fact that everything of theirs, includ-ing their watches, were still neatly packed in the wicker chests in the gazebos by the lake down on the planet.
"I'd say close to three hours." Carter spoke softly in order not to wake Daniel, who was stretched out between the two of them.
"It has been closer to four." Teal'c, despite his injuries, looked calm and poised. Jack, on the other hand, was exhausted and was still brimming over with nervous energy. He didn't dare relax his guard; he was too afraid he'd be caught napping when the time for the breakout occurred, and would end up reacting sluggishly. Carter seemed to have the same concern; she was pale and had dark circles beneath her eyes, but she looked hale and hearty compared to Daniel.
Their friend's fever still coursed through him unchecked, sapping his energy and weakening his body further. The lack of food and water was enough to weaken them all; but Daniel would be the one feeling it the most.
Jack hoped Dal'bar came through for them before they were feeling more than the slight headaches and shakiness already plaguing them from lack of nutrients. Teal'c was in a more serious situation be-cause his supply of Tretonin was still down on the planet.
The door opened suddenly, catching them all unawares. Dal'bar stood there, holding zats and a staff weapon in his hands. Four heavily armed Jaffa waited behind him, also heavily armed.
"Well, it's about time." Jack clambered onto his knees and put a hand out to shake Daniel awake.
"Anat delayed our return to the planet. Quickly. We must go now."
Teal'c was on his feet in a flash, taking a zat and handing it to Carter. Jack, on the other hand, was still on his knees, trying to wake Daniel.
"Come on, wake up." When shaking Daniel's shoulder didn't rouse him, Jack resorted to lightly slapping his face. Daniel jerked and opened his eyes, looking around in confusion.
"Come on, we gotta go."
"It's time. We're making a run for it."
Jack grabbed Daniel's arm and hauled him onto his feet. He wrapped his arm around Daniel's waist, anticipating dizziness and weakness. As he'd expected, Daniel slumped heavily against him, and Carter grabbed at Daniel's arm, helping to hold him upright until Daniel managed to catch his balance.
Jack took the proffered zat from Carter, noting that she had two more of them; one in her hand, the other tucked into her pants.
Dal'bar and Teal'c were already in the corridor, and Jack steered Daniel towards them. He saw Dal'bar give them an impatient look and then point down to their right. Two of Dal'bar's Jaffa had gone on ahead.
"The other prisoners are kept there. It is also on our way to the transport rings."
"Wasn't there something about a diversion?" Jack grunted and bent his knees to take on more of Daniel's weight when Daniel stumbled. They had to stop while Daniel coughed harshly, barely able to get air into his lungs. Jack could feel Daniel trembling from the effort of staying upright, his clothes quickly becoming soaked with sweat.
"The computer systems will begin to act erratically in a very short time. We must be on our way by then, or else the malfunction will not mask our escape."
Daniel finally caught his breath and Jack urged him forward. He heard voices, and saw seven men and women milling in the corridor, looking scared and confused, being herded by the two Jaffa. As he got closer, he saw one of the prisoners was a teenage boy. Lon-nis was going to be pretty pleased to discover his son was still alive.
"Weren't there twelve of you?" Jack looked around to see if perhaps he'd missed a few.
"Anat has slain the others." Dal'bar dismissed the murders with an ease that made Jack's hair stand on end. He had to remind himself that this man was First Prime; even Teal'c, when pressed, could kill easily and without remorse. And still, Teal'c had made such efforts to ease the plights of many in his role as First Prime, all without Apophis becoming aware of his actions. Jack wasn't quite so sure Dal'bar was as diligent and considerate�then again, he was relatively young compared to Teal'c de-spite the fact that the man wasn't probably much older than Daniel.
Teal'c, on the other hand, took the news in stride, shepherding the survivors ahead towards their means of escape.
Jack caught Carter's glance, then he and Daniel followed behind the last of the prisoners. They didn't have that far to go, if Jack's memory of a ha'tak's security cells were reliable. Around to the left, down a couple of corridors, up a few floors and back around to the other side of the ship. Five minutes, with any luck.
It took them fifteen, partly because they'd needed to hide from a regular troop of patrolling Jaffa, and because Daniel kept being plagued by coughing fits.
The alarms had just gone off and they'd taken refuge inside a supply room just around the corner from the transport rings. Jack and Daniel were sitting in the corner farthest from the door. Jack was pretty sure the walls were fairly soundproof, but from the looks Dal'bar and his men kept giving Daniel, Jack was beginning to worry that Daniel's coughs would alert the Jaffa outside.
This last coughing fit had scared both of them, and it had left Daniel shaking so badly that Jack wasn't sure he'd be able to get him back up onto his feet.
Lon-nis' people had followed them meekly, not quite understanding what was going on except that they were all trying to go home. Carter had tried to explain to them that the Jaffa were aiding them, but they appeared terrified of the five aliens. They were sitting huddled together against the wall opposite Jack. They, on the other hand, kept giving Daniel glances of sympathy.
Teal'c left Carter peeking through the small crack they'd maintained in the doorway along with one of Dal'bar's men, and came to kneel beside them.
"The corridors are now overrun with Jaffa who are attempting to repair many false alarms. The computer malfunction will soon be detected and repaired, and they will return to their normal duties. That is when we will make our move. If our escape is detected, the others will assume it is another false alarm."
"Can't we fight our way to the rings? We have the element of surprise."
"Dal'bar's plan was to make Anat believe our escape is yet another malfunction. By attracting at-tention to ourselves, we will have ruined our chances of escaping undetected."
Teal'c put out a hand and cupped it around Daniel's cheek. "His fever still rises."
Daniel raised his head from where it was resting heavily against Jack's shoulder to look at Teal'c.
"I'm fine," he croaked.
"Indeed. You will be once we get you home, my friend." Teal'c's voice was gentle as he smiled at Daniel.
Dal'bar came over to join them. "They have been alerted of the malfunction." Jack could hear a mechanical voice making an announcement outside. "The corridors will be clear shortly. Be prepared to leave."
Everyone stood, and Jack, with Teal'c's help, got Daniel on his feet. Unfortunately the movement triggered another cough and he leaned weakly against Jack as he struggled to clear his lungs.
A middle aged man approached Daniel, and raising his eyebrows at Jack, asked silent permission to help him. Jack nodded, expecting the man to help him hold Daniel up by taking Teal'c's place. But to his surprise, the man placed a hand to Daniel's chest, and hummed.
The effect was immediate. The coughing stopped, and Daniel was able to take a breath of air with-out choking.
"What did you do?"
Daniel was still leaning heavily against him, but continued to breathe, albeit raggedly.
"I have simply eased the portion of his brain that controls his cough. It is a temporary effect, but should last for a few minutes."
"Thank you." Jack nodded at the man and was rewarded by a smile.
"It is time." The doors opened at Dal'bar's command and everyone filed out. Daniel stumbled alongside Jack down the corridor and with Carter flanking him, they made it to the ring room without encountering anyone.
One of Dal'bar's rebel Jaffa was working the controls and although not that conversant with the Goa'uld technology, Jack could tell he was calibrating it to take them directly to the Stargate. Carter was standing beside him, double-checking the calculations. Jack stood nearby, waiting impatiently, anxious to get the hell off the ship.
So intent was everyone on watching the corridor outside that when the walls behind them opened up, it caught everyone by surprise. Several zat blasts rang out, downing two of the rebel Jaffa and a couple of Anat's warriors, but from the dozens of Jaffa training weapons on everyone, Jack knew the fight was over even before it had started.
He'd have thought the First Prime would know about the secret entrance. So much for trusting your people.
Anat sauntered out from between the Jaffa, her eyes glowing ominously.
"Shol'va!" she spat out as she approached Dal'bar. The man stood staring straight ahead, knowing full well there was no way out of this situation. She raised her hand and slapped his face, the sound ringing loudly in the room.
She circled him, the hand-device already in place and glowing as she slowly raised her hand, and Jack couldn't help but glance at Teal'c. Jack could see hatred reflected in his friend's eyes, and his mus-cles were bunched tightly, ready to spring the moment the snake tried to harm his son.
It was then that Jack became aware of a faint sound. It permeated the room, the vibrations being felt not only in his eardrums, but in his chest. It was familiar and he looked around in confusion. Then he saw the planet's inhabitants, eyes closed, mouths open. They were humming and chanting. Now that he was aware of what the sound was, he could hear the intertwining melody which was slowly growing in volume.
Jack glanced back at Anat, and the hand that she had raised towards Dal'bar had frozen in mid-air. She blinked, then slowly lowered her hand. She and everyone else in the room, other than himself and the singers, appeared to be in a daze.
Then Daniel's legs gave out and Jack was hard-pressed to keep him from crashing to the ground with him. The man who had helped Daniel earlier left the group and placed a finger to Daniel's fore-head. He sang an off-key note, and Daniel opened his eyes.
He did the same for all of their team, and soon everyone was standing around, looking at the sing-ers in confusion. Anat and her Jaffa, however, continued to stand there, unseeing.
The man began singing in counterpoint to the chanting, as if he was telling a tale in some other language. The man motioned for them to continue with the transport device as he sang, and within sec-onds, they were ready to leave. The chanting and humming eased until only two of them were singing.
The rebel Jaffa transported everyone with practiced ease until only SG-1, the two singers and Dal'bar were left. Jack motioned everyone onto the platform, and just before Dal'bar set the timer and hurried to join them, the singers brought their song to an end.
The rings surrounded them, and the next thing Jack knew he was standing in a field with the sun shining down on them. He blinked in the bright light and then was holding onto Daniel as his friend doubled over, coughing.
- - - - - -
"And so either Maur-nok's people live on another part of the continent or on a different world. I'm assuming the whole elaborate setup was to keep us away from where they actually live."
Jack sipped his coffee, listening with half an ear to Carter expounding her theory of what had hap-pened to them, while he waited either for familiar footsteps to come down the corridor, or for the Star-gate to come to life. He glanced down at the glossy photos spread out on the table before him, and ran a finger over the shell of a small boat wedged between overgrown weeds and sand. Its red paint had faded, but it was still recognizable in spots where someone had pulled the weeds aside to expose it.
Behind the boat was a lake, its waters murky with plants and algae. In the center of the lake was a rusted temple. Part of it had collapsed into the water, the roof lying half in the water and half on the marble stairs.
"We could have been drugged and mesmerized into thinking we were really there where in actual-ity, we were going through the motions of a dream." Carter's voice went on, but Jack could tell that her heart wasn't in her theories. None of them made any sense.
SG-9 had taken this snapshot only hours ago, when they'd returned to the planet at Fraiser's re-quest. She wanted samples of lake water to try to identify the bacteria that was causing Daniel's illness.
But on SG-9's arrival, they discovered the place had long been abandoned; the temples were in ru-ins with no sign of people having lived there for centuries. SG-1's gear, though, had been found, neatly folded and squared away in the remaining structure of what looked like the overgrown remains of a small building. Jack fished that photo out from the pile. He could still envisage the pagoda, the wicker baskets, everything gleaming pristinely in the sunshine. All that was left was a bit of stone, outlining the structure.
But there was something wrong about the photos, something he couldn't quite put his finger on. If only Daniel were here, he'd have made it out in seconds.
But Daniel was in the infirmary with a raging fever and a bad case of bronchitis and a sinus infec-tion. Fraiser had been working round the clock in finding an antibiotic that would kill the bacteria. But they seemed resistant to everything she was throwing at them.
He flipped through the rest of the photos�the overgrown and long-abandoned orchards, a large rock covered with lichen in an overgrown field, more abandoned structures. Jack returned again to the one showing the boat and the lake, scratching his head before taking another sip of coffee.
Faint, rapid footsteps echoed in the hallway and Jack looked up as Fraiser entered the briefing room. She smiled at everyone and took her seat opposite Jack, a folder clutched in her hands. She looked tired. Hell, Carter looked tired also, and he was pretty sure he himself wouldn't win any GQ poster-guy awards today. None of them had slept much since they'd returned home, their worry about Daniel gnawing at them hour after hour.
"And so the introduction of the Goa'uld into our dream was to make us believe there was a threat, and we needed to return home and not come back." Carter quickly summarized her spiel and sat look-ing at Fraiser expectantly.
Hammond cleared his throat. "Any news, Doctor?"
"Yes." Fraiser smiled, and at that moment, Jack knew that Daniel was going to be fine. He felt the tension drain from his shoulders and neck as he listened to her words.
"The water samples SG-9 brought back were full of bacteria, exactly like the ones that are causing Daniel's illness. With a bit of trial and error, we've managed to find a combination of antibiotics that are killing the little buggers. Daniel's already shown a marked improvement since we've started treat-ment."
"So that kinda blows Carter's theory that this was all an induced hallucination since Daniel's the only one who's got those germs in his nose and lungs." He made an apologetic face to his teammate.
"Daniel was immersed in the lake water. That much is irrefutable." Fraiser opened the file folder and quickly flipped through the various test results she'd brought with her. "There's no sign of the bac-teria in any of you, although you did say you remember swimming in the water?"
"We swam, Daniel nearly drowned. Big difference." Jack tapped the table top several times to make a point.
"There's the bruises and swelling on his wrist which also follow your description of his being held prisoner on the rock." Fraiser closed the folder, and clasped her hands over it. "I've found no signs of any type of foreign substances in your bodies�no hallucinogens, no sedatives, no drugs. So I don't have any pat answer as to what happened to you over there."
"There were people on that planet. General, you spoke to them before we �gated over. Isn't what they did to us reason enough to go back and see if whatever they used on us, can be used as a weapon?"
"We still haven't determined exactly what they did to you and your team, Colonel. Not to mention the fact that there might be a Goa'uld ha'tak in orbit around the planet. Until we hear from Teal'c and the Tok'ra, I'm reluctant to allow anyone else near that planet."
Hammond glanced at his watch, then turned to look at them all. "It's late. Why don't you all go get some rest. I know you've all been worried about Doctor Jackson." He stood, the meeting apparently over.
They all stood despite their fatigue, their training taking over, their bodies moving before their minds knew what they were doing. As General Hammond returned to his office, Jack found himself picking up the pictures for later perusal and followed Fraiser back to the infirmary, with Carter follow-ing behind him.
"He's still pretty weak," she said with a smile as she led them towards his bed. "Don't keep him up too long, he needs to rest." She stopped to look at Jack, then at Sam. "And so do you two. Despite the fact you weren't affected by the bacteria in the water, you're both exhausted and your bodies have been through hardship, even if it was lack of food and water."
Jack mumbled something vague about going to bed in a short while, his attention on the person lying in the bed at the end of the room.
Daniel was curled up on his side, his face and hair soaked with sweat. As Jack approached, he could hear the heart monitor beeping at a much slower rate than it had over the past day and a half. That in itself was a blessing to hear.
He situated himself in front of Daniel, wondering if Daniel was sleeping. He tossed the pictures onto a nearby table and pulled the only chair close by and sat in it, using the privileges of rank. Carter took up a spot on the bed behind him and they sat there quietly.
Daniel must not have been sleeping deeply because although neither he nor Carter made a sound, Daniel opened his eyes and looked around blearily. He smiled when he saw them.
"Doc says you're doing better." Jack leaned forward, then moved back quickly as Carter reached over him, handing Daniel a glass with a straw in it.
Daniel sucked on the straw, emptying half the glass before handing it back.
"Yeah, much better. And thanks, Sam."
"How's Teal'c taking it?" Daniel wiped at a bead of sweat that was trickling down his face.
"The explosion." Daniel looked up at Jack, wide-eyed. "The planet exploded, and Anat's ship went up with it."
Jack smiled gently at Daniel, and laid a hand on his friend's arm. The skin beneath his fingers was slick with moisture.
"You were dreaming, Danny. The planet's still there, although we have no idea what happened to the ship but the Tok'ra are looking into it. Teal'c's off with Bra'tac to go get his son and bring him back to the Alpha Site."
"A dream? No, it can't be... it feels so real."
Jack caught Carter staring at him, and he asked, "What?"
"Sir, I've dreamed that, too. That some mysterious force caused the planet to explode. I hadn't re-membered it until Daniel just mentioned it."
A sudden vision of a huge fireball reaching out towards him as he peered through the ship's port-hole, the engines almost overloading as they achieved maximum speed to get away from the quickly approaching maelstrom. Goa'uld engines in a Goa'uld ship.
"You know, I had that dream, too. Funny, though, I also remember ringing down to the planet, which was pretty solid and not breaking apart, by the way, and literally carrying you, Daniel, through the Stargate."
"That I don't remember." Daniel glanced at the glass Carter had put back onto the table and Jack handed it back to Daniel. As Daniel sipped at the water through the straw, Jack raised his eyebrows at Carter for an explanation. She didn't disappoint.
"Remember the chanting on the ship? They must have put some kind of... of, post-hypnotic sug-gestion in their chant�to tell the Goa'uld that they had to leave the planet quickly or else be killed." Her voice rose with her enthusiasm. "That must be what happened to us! They planted those images in our minds and made us think that the place wasn't in ruins the first time we went there."
"Um, guys, what images?"
Jack simply took the empty glass and handed Daniel his glasses, then the pictures. Daniel quickly flipped through them, laid them down on his chest, and took his glasses off. Jack could see how tired Daniel was; they'd need to leave pretty soon and let him rest.
"SG-9 went back to the planet and found no one. They came back with these pictures." Carter moved to take the photographs from Daniel, but Daniel wiped his eyes, then slipped back on his glasses before he flipped through them again. He found the one of the boat and the lake, and held onto it.
"These aren't consistent. If the ruins are as old as they look in this picture, then the boats should have rotted away completely."
That was what had been bugging Jack! He hadn't been able to put his finger on it; trust Daniel to catch it right away.
"And answer me this," Jack added. "If there are no boats, how did we get across that lake and into that thing in the water?" When Carter made to answer, Jack put up a finger. "Yes, we could have been sitting on the shore in a chant-induced stupor, I know. But Daniel had to have gotten onto the rock, and I'm pretty sure he didn't swim back to shore after he went under, because he was definitely in no condi-tion to do so."
"I remember the boat. I remember the feel of the wood beneath my butt, my feet. I remember step-ping out of the boat and into the water." Daniel had closed his eyes, his voice slow and sleepy.
Jack reached over and plucked the photograph from Daniel's fingers and patted his hand.
"Get some rest. I'll see you in the morning."
"Mmm hmmm," Daniel mumbled as Carter slipped off Daniel's glasses and folded them.
Jack smiled at Carter and he let her precede him out of the infirmary.
- - - - - -
Feeling rested and having slept through the night, Jack, freshly showered and dressed, stopped by the infirmary before heading to the commissary for breakfast.
"Hey." He grinned at Daniel, who was sitting up in bed, staring at a tray on a rollaway table before him. Daniel turned to Jack and gave him what should have passed for a smile, but fell a bit short. He was still pale and there were still telltale shadows beneath his eyes, but at least his eyes seemed clear.
"I see you got breakfast already. I was just planning on heading out to get mine."
"You can have mine."
Jack noted the tray of oatmeal and toast was relatively untouched, the glass of apple juice more than half full.
"Something wrong with the food?"
"It's got no taste." Daniel pushed the table away in disgust.
"Sinus infections will do that." Jack reached over for a quarter piece of toast and bit into it. "Tastes fine to me."
"Tastes like cardboard."
"You should still eat something, you need to get your strength back." Jack pushed the tray closer to Daniel and handed him the spoon, then finished off the piece of toast he'd stolen. With a sigh, Daniel pushed at the oatmeal, then spooned a bit into his mouth.
"I was thinking about what you guys said last night." Daniel made to push the tray again but Jack raised his eyebrows at him. Daniel looked sideways at Jack before eating another spoonful of oatmeal. "About the chanting. Now that I'm awake, that dream of the planet exploding isn't quite as strong, but it's still there, like a memory."
"Carter thinks you're maybe more affected by it because you were sick, maybe your defences were down or something."
"Makes sense." Daniel put the spoon down and picked up a corner of toast. "So what if they did that chanting thing to us on the planet? They kept on talking about our passing a test. Lon-nis."
"Lon-nis was the head priest guy. Da-ran'a was the test." Daniel looked at Jack, toast dangling be-fore his open mouth. He caught himself and bit into the toast, and Jack couldn't help but smirk. It was-n't often he caught Daniel mixing up names and words.
"Anyway, they stuck me on that rock in the water as my test and I guess in order to pass, we had to learn how to meditate. At least, that was what I'd assumed since my handcuffs came off and they brought us back to shore."
"Uh-huh." Jack nudged the bowl of oatmeal closer once Daniel finished chewing and swallowing the toast.
"So..." Daniel scooped up more of the oatmeal. "What if all of us were tested? Separately." He waved his spoon over the tray for emphasis. "What if your trial was, um, making sure I survived, or helping me concentrate and relax enough so I could get the shackles off." Daniel finally brought the spoon to his mouth and quickly chewed and swallowed. "Maybe Teal'c's trial was to convert his son to betray Anat and convince him to rebel."
"Isn't that kinda far-fetched? And how'd they know these things in the first place. I don't think they're mind-readers.
"Anyways, what I did back there with you in the water is a no-brainer and certainly not any sort of trial for me. And what about Carter? She didn't end up doing anything but her duty either."
"Oh. Right." Daniel put the spoon down and Jack was glad to see that he'd managed to at least eat half his breakfast. Daniel rubbed at his forehead tiredly.
"Well, I can't believe this was all a hallucination." Daniel coughed several times, then cleared his throat. "Jack, I remember that hand device all too�" He broke off, coughing once more, this time more harshly. "And Teal'c, his son�" This time Daniel doubled over, knocking the tray and spilling the juice and oatmeal over his legs.
He hacked and wheezed, tears streaming down his face, which was growing more and more flushed by the second. Jack quickly looked for an emesis basin; if Daniel continued this way, he was sure to lose what little bit of food he'd managed to eat.
He grabbed the small basin and held it ready, just in case. He kept a hand on Daniel's shoulder and waited for the coughing spell to pass.
Daniel's coughing had alerted Fraiser and she soon joined Jack. After several long seconds, Daniel finally caught his breath and sat back, face red and sweaty, and trembling with exhaustion.
Fraiser brushed a few strands of damp hair from Daniel's forehead. "I'll get you some more cough syrup. I think you're about due."
Daniel nodded, not speaking, trying to catch his breath and constantly trying to clear his throat.
She waved at the wet coverings. "I'll get some clean sheets and we'll get you cleaned." She spoke quietly with one of her nurses and then with an apologetic smile at Jack, pulled the privacy curtain around Daniel's bed.
Jack walked to the nearby table to put back the emesis basis. He noticed the folder with the pic-tures they'd left with Daniel the previous night and grabbed the topmost one. It was the one of the boat remains and the temple sitting in the middle of the lake.
Jack sat down on an empty bed and stared at the photo. He could hear Fraiser talking with Daniel, and Daniel answering her, still coughing occasionally. He turned his attention back to the photo, think-ing back to what Daniel had said. Had Lon-nis and his people used that chanting on SG-1 back on the planet? Which was the dream? Was it what Jack had seen with his own eyes, or was it what SG-9 had observed?
He recalled how he and Carter had seen the food appear in the pagoda with no human intervention. How their uniforms had disappeared only to be replaced with clean clothes. With the ease that those prisoners on the ship had mesmerized the Jaffa and Goa'uld, it wouldn't have been any mean feat to simply have put SG-1 into a daze and walk over their enthralled bodies and deposit their meal in the center of the pagoda, and then walk away, leaving no one the wiser, and making it look like magic.
So was this mesmerism the same thing as the meditation they had all had to try and achieve during their trial? Was this the magic that Anat had been looking for? He recalled how good it had felt when he'd attained Da-ran'a, sort of in that in-between place between waking and sleeping.
He remembered the birdsong and how it had held a melody, just like the priests' chant. He smiled as he traced the edge of the sandy beach in the photo with a finger. His body had been relaxed, not thinking of anything, really. Just listening, tranquil, being.
He inhaled deeply and tried to relax. The sounds of the infirmary faded, his worry for Daniel eased as he heard a wet chuckle come from behind the curtain. His stomach stopped churning, his neck loos-ened and his butt sank deeper into the thin mattress.
The temple in the photo shone brightly, its top spire gleaming in the bright sunshine, no longer broken and rusted. Gems sparkled, evident even from where SG-9's photographer had stood on the path leading to the lake. The water was a brilliant turquoise, the red of the boat almost surrealistically bright as it sat high in the water. Two priests stood on the beach looking towards the camera, and Jack recognized Lon-nis as one of them. Their eyes were half closed, their mouths open in song.
The moment Jack spoke, the picture returned to its former sad image. Jack sat there in shock. He knew he hadn't imagined it. Those people were doing it again�fooling with their minds even from this distance!
Jack heard footsteps and turned to see Teal'c approach. Jumping up off the bed, he waved the pic-ture at the Jaffa.
"Look at this. What do you see?"
Teal'c stared at the photo and then looked at Jack, confused. "Is it not the temple where we awaited Daniel Jackson to attain Da-ran'a?
"Yeah, but SG-9 took this two days ago. The place is in ruins�looks like it's been uninhabited for centuries."
"But I just did that meditation thing and the picture was normal for a second!"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment. At that moment, Fraiser pulled the curtains back and they both turned towards the bed.
"Daniel Jackson." Teal'c quickly moved past Jack to greet Daniel. Jack followed a little more slowly.
"Hi, Teal'c." Daniel's voice was hoarse, and he looked tired. Fraiser had lowered the bed and Daniel was now reclining.
"It is good to see you are recovering. You look much improved."
"Thanks. I feel a little better." He caught Jack's eye, and Jack smiled back at him.
"What happened to Dal'bar? Did you bring him back to the Alpha Site?"
Teal'c's face didn't change expression and he made no overt motions, but Jack immediately knew something was wrong just by the way he seemed to tense up and pull his emotions into himself.
"There is no sign of my son, or of his men. Bra'tac, myself and the other rebel Jaffa searched the immediate area around the Stargate, but could not find them."
"Were there any signs of them at all?" Jack was suddenly afraid that if Carter's theories were right, Dal'bar might simply have been a figment of their imagination. He placed a hand on Teal'c's shoulder in sympathy. Maybe Lon-nis could read minds.
"Five men came through the Stargate. There are signs that they remained there for a short time, but the ground is rocky and we were unable to determine if they returned through the wormhole, or re-mained on the planet. I also have no proof it was my son, although where else could he have gone?"
"Teal'c, I'm sorry." Daniel's voice broke, partly due to emotions and partly due to his congestion.
"As am I." Teal'c straightened, and Jack took his hand away. "I must report to General Hammond as soon as I have seen Doctor Fraiser, showered and changed." He smiled down at Daniel, his face sof-tening for a moment. Jack still couldn't get over how much more... human, Teal'c had become since he'd lost Junior and had become dependent on the tretonin.
Daniel started to yawn, but the action turned into a cough. Jack could see his eyelids were heavy.
"Sorry. The cough syrup makes me drowsy."
"I've gotta go get something to eat anyways. And I got a meeting over in a few, so I won't be back till later this afternoon." Jack shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked on his toes. "How about I drag Carter and Teal'c back here for supper. I have an idea and I'd like you all to try something with me."
Daniel smiled sleepily. "Sure."
"Good, I'll see you later." Jack caught Teal'c's gaze and nodded his farewell before he set off to get started for the day.
- - - - - -
"Okay, everyone take one of these." Jack passed each of his three teammates one of the pictures taken by SG-9, and kept one for himself. He gathered their dirty dishes and piled them up onto a tray, and placed everything out of the way on a table behind them.
Carter sat at the foot of the bed opposite Daniel, Teal'c beside her. Jack chose to sit on the edge of Daniel's bed when Daniel shifted his legs to make some room. He glanced at the photo in his hand: it was the one with the small pagoda and all their gear neatly stowed in a corner.
"Now, I want you all to look at these pictures, and try to fall into that trance that Lon-nis called Da-ran'a."
"Sir, the odds of our being able to do that again are�"
"I know. But I managed to do it this morning."
"You're telling me you just closed your eyes and became one with the world? After the hours I had to spend freezing in the lake and you do this now?"
Jack ignored Daniel's mocking voice and turned to Carter. "I don't know how I did it, it just hap-pened. I was thinking of how nice it felt, how I could hear the birds singing and how it reminded me of the chanting. Look, just give it a try, okay? I'm not asking you to do a headstand or anything, just look at the pictures and tell me what you see."
"I see a rock covered with growth that's supposed to be the Altar of Mars."
"Daniel. Tell me what you see after you've tried to meditate." He frowned at Daniel and shifted on the bed, trying to get comfortable.
"Why, sir? What are we expected to see?"
"I'd rather not say, Carter. This way I won't influence you. Just... close your eyes and think happy thoughts."
Jack glanced at Teal'c, who was holding the photo so tightly that the edge of the paper was crushed between his fingers. "T..." When Teal'c looked up, Jack tapped the photo lightly with the back of his hand. "Relax. Maybe try to kel-no-reem a little first?"
"My meditative approach is dissimilar to what Lon-nis expected of us. Its aim was to attain com-munication with my symbiote. I do not believe I can communicate with a piece of paper."
"Then relax and try to hear the melody in your mind... either the birdsong, or the chanting. I think that might be the key to all of this."
Jack turned his attention to the picture and tried to bring back that feeling of well-being. He shifted when his butt was pinched by a fold in the blanket beneath him. Something in his ankle began to throb, and he rotated his foot, trying to ease the kink.
He tried to hear the chanting; instead he heard Daniel's breath wheeze in and out. He tried to not listen to anything in particular, but found himself waiting impatiently until Daniel coughed softly and cleared his throat.
His eyes were burning so he closed them, trying to think of nothing. It wasn't working; nothing was full of so many thoughts that he found himself tightening up.
He opened his eyes, checking out his teammates. Teal'c had closed his eyes and was doing a pretty good imitation of kel-no-reem. Carter had her eyes half open, her breathing slow and deep. Her gaze was on the picture and her face had a dreamy cast to it.
He glanced over at Daniel, and smiled. Daniel's head was leaning a bit to the side, his eyes were closed, and he was fast asleep. The picture was sitting loosely in his hand, his fingers slightly curled.
Jack turned to see Carter staring at Jack in amazement. "Sir, the picture�it changed!" Her voice was low but it was ringing with excitement. "I saw the orchards. They were in neat rows and well-cared for, just like I remember them. Not like this..." She waved the photo towards him, then pointed to a corner. "There was someone there, and I could have sworn he had his mouth open, just like he was talking."
"Chanting? My God! Sir, do you know what this means? It's one thing if they're able to affect our minds in close proximity, but to continue to do so through a photo? It's incredible! Whatever they're doing, it's affected the film in the camera and it's continuing to convey a false image to anyone who looks at it. Imagine what we could do with that kind of technology."
"Carter, I don't think it's done by machines. I think there's a little ESP mixed up in all of this."
"But they could teach us."
"They could, but would they?"
Teal'c opened his eyes and put his picture down. "If Anat and her Jaffa were not creatures fash-ioned by these people and made to believe they were real, then the threat of being once more invaded by the Goa'uld would be incentive enough for them to attempt to keep strangers away from their planet. It would be a perfect deterrent, unless the visitors to their world were archaeologists such as Daniel Jackson, intrigued by the lost civilization they are attempting to portray. Then they would be forced to change the environment to something less attractive."
"Do you think General Hammond would allow us to go back? We could ask... they were willing to allow us to study their culture in the first place. And we did help them find their missing people."
Teal'c straightened the crushed paper in his hands. "I do not expect General Hammond will give his permission again until the Tok'ra have had a chance to fly to the planet and discover whether the Goa'uld ship is still there."
"If the ship really was there in the first place," Jack said morosely. There were just too many sce-narios going through his mind, Teal'c's son's disappearance foremost in his thoughts. He felt bad for his friend and wished there was something they could do. But other than �gating to the planet where Dal'bar had gone to, their hands were tied. And there was no use travelling there since he was sure Teal'c and Bra'tac had searched diligently for clues.
"It will take the Tok'ra several days at best."
"Or weeks. Depends on how high they place our request on their agenda."
"Dad said he was interested in seeing this place for himself." Carter slipped off the bed and smiled at their sleeping friend. She took the picture from him and replaced it into the folder with hers. Jack threw his on top and stood.
It was late; he may as well head home. With a last glance at his sleeping friend, Jack followed Carter and Teal'c out of the infirmary.
- - - - - -
Daniel yawned, turned onto his side, and contemplated going back to sleep. He raised his arm to check the time but remembered he didn't have a watch. He looked around the infirmary sleepily, and yawned again. Hadn't his friends been with him just a few minutes ago?
One of the nurses noticed he was awake and came to check on him, smiling brightly.
"What time is it?" he asked as she busied herself taking his vitals.
"Just past nine."
"Oh. Thanks." Great, he'd slept for over three hours. Everyone must have left and gone home by now.
When the cursory check was done, Daniel sat up. His nose was still clogged and he fantasized a hot, steamy shower to try and unclog his sinuses.
"Do you think I could take a shower?"
"Doctor Fraiser said you'd be asking for one soon. She approved it, just as long as you're not too dizzy and someone stays in the bathroom with you throughout."
"Great." Sliding his legs over the side of the bed, Daniel took his time getting up. He thumped his feet into his slippers and accepted the proffered bathrobe she'd picked up from a compartment by his bed. Compliments of Jack, he supposed. He had to remember to thank him for bringing these small comforts.
He had been right. The shower left him with a nose that wouldn't stop running, and had loosened some of the congestion in his chest. After going through half a box of tissues and some more cough syrup, Daniel sat on his bed, listlessly leafing through a magazine. The effort of taking a shower had tired him more than he'd thought, but it was better than the short walks he'd taken in the infirmary throughout the day.
He still had a bit of fever, just enough to give him a headache and prevent him from easily focus-ing on anything. He decided he'd just go to sleep. He closed the magazine and reached over to place it on the table, when he saw the small stack of pictures Jack had left behind.
Right, they'd been trying something earlier with them, hadn't they? Daniel recalled everyone sitting around him after supper, and then, nothing. Hell, he must have fallen asleep mid-experiment.
He grabbed the topmost photo, the one of the small building in which they'd slept after Daniel's day in the water. It, like the other buildings, was in ruins. If Daniel were to guess, he'd say the place had been uninhabited for a good three to four hundred years. Of course from what he remembered, the construction had been extremely well done, so he might be off by another hundred years.
He had no energy to try and meditate, so he placed the picture back onto the stack. He wondered if anything had come of Jack's experiment. He figured he'd find out in the morning.
- - - - - -
"So you're saying that you believe the aliens are influencing us even now? That even though I've never been to P6K 355, I'm looking at a picture that is somehow constantly being altered as I speak, so I see something totally different than the actual photograph?"
They all looked up in surprise to see Daniel enter the room. He smiled at them and then threaded his way behind Jack to take the empty chair beside him.
"That has to be impossible, right?" He sat down and looked at the grinning faces around him.
Jack winked at Daniel and poured him a glass of water.
"It's good to see you up and about, Doctor Jackson," General Hammond said affably, ignoring Daniel's interruption of their meeting.
"Thank you. I'm sorry I'm late, Janet was busy and it took a bit longer to get me signed out of the infirmary." Daniel turned his attention to Carter, his hands fiddling with the water glass Jack had pushed towards him.
"I think the aliens influenced SG-9 and the photographs they took are somehow reflecting what they believe they saw." She quickly filled him in on Jack's and her experiences with the photograph.
"But how did they do it?"
"I don't know how they did it, Daniel. But just think of the implications in our fight against the Goa'uld."
"We could make �em think they're flying into a sun, and they'd turn around and fly into a sun." Jack grinned, then straightened when everyone rolled their eyes at him.
"General. If what Sam is saying is true, then we have to go back to 355. I'm sure Maur-nok will speak to us." Daniel punctuated his request by a loud sneeze.
"Why?" Jack waited until Daniel blew his nose, then took up his questioning. "Why would he? He's heard about Anat by now; he and Lon-nis are probably doing everything they can to protect their people. He's learned that not all visitors are friendly, and that they can come from space as well as through the Stargate. And he was reluctant to talk to us at first, why would he now?"
"Because we saved his people."
"You would think that would earn us a few Brownie points for the good guys." Jack doodled on the pad before him before mentioning the one thing that had bothered him since they'd come home.
"Carter, if they had these wonderful powers, why didn't they save themselves earlier on the ship? Why wait until they had been tortured, and some of them killed?"
"So you think the whole scenario was a set-up, sir?"
"To what point? They got nothing from us, no military tactics, no info on the snakes themselves, nothing about Earth. What was it all for?"
"You are mistaken, O'Neill. They did discover our hatred of the Goa'uld, and our vulnerability in our affection for friends and family."
"It's not a vulnerability." Daniel took a sip of water, then glanced quickly towards Jack. "It's a strength." He put the glass back down on the table. "When I was in the water, I don't think I could have gone on much longer without all of your help. Without Jack's encouragement." Daniel drew his finger through the condensation marks on the table. "Your love for your son isn't a weakness, Teal'c, it's a tes-tament to how much you care for family. And how much you loved your son to let him go and do what he thought was best. The Jaffa are passionate, they just show it in ways that are different to what we humans know."
There were several long seconds of silence, and Hammond took a deep breath. Jack turned his at-tention to his CO, waiting for his decision.
"Very well. If we hear from the Tok'ra and there is no Goa'uld anywhere near that planet, I'll sanc-tion a return mission. In which case, it will provide Doctor Jackson with ample time to recover from his illness."
Daniel nodded. "Thank you, sir. But what about Teal'c's son?"
Immediately all eyes turned to Teal'c, who turned to look at Daniel.
"I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do. If Teal'c and Master Bra'tac found no sign of the Jaffa�"
"Yes, I know. But this information puts a different light on things. If�" Daniel's voice suddenly choked up and he coughed, raising a closed fist to cover his mouth. "If the�" He coughed loudly again. Jack knew it was going to be a harsh spell just by the way Daniel was starting to turn a deep shade of red with every breath he took.
There was nothing anyone could do except wait. Jack rubbed Daniel's back as his friend hunched over.
"Sorry." Daniel raised his head once the spell was over, and wiped the sweat with his sleeve.
Daniel nodded, turning to look at Jack with embarrassment.
"As I was saying..." Daniel's voice was hoarse and phlegmy. He cleared his throat. "If SG-9 was fooled into seeing something different by the... gifts... these people have, who's to say that the same thing didn't happen to Teal'c and Bra'tac on the planet. Maybe even Dal'bar himself is being affected and he and his men didn't see Teal'c and Bra'tac when they went there."
Jack realized Daniel's words had caught everyone by surprise. The idea had never occurred to him, and obviously not Carter or Teal'c, either, by the looks on their faces.
Hammond nodded. "Very well. I'll allow SG-1 to return through the Stargate to search for Teal'c's son. But my decision stands with P6K 355. We wait for the Tok'ra."
- - - - - -
Daniel paced from window to window. Wouldn't Jack and the others have returned back from their trek through the Stargate by now? He checked his watch, then peered through the window that over-looked his street. Nothing, not a car nor a truck was moving. He lifted his phone, checking for a dial tone. Yep, there it was. He sighed, then cursed when it triggered a cough.
He flopped down onto his couch, going through the protocols in his head. SG-1 had been sched-uled to go offworld at 11 a.m.. Give them three hours to search for Teal'c's son and his men, another hour to debrief the general... in this case it would be yes, we found them or no, there was no sign of them... plus a cursory check through medical and a shower.
It was now just after five. He badly wanted to call the base but knew that if there had been news of any kind, he'd have been contacted by now. Jack had promised to let Daniel know, so if he wasn't back yet, something had to have gone wrong.
He contemplated going back to the base but to be honest, he was afraid of Janet's wrath. He'd been ordered home by her, instructed to stay there and rest and recuperate, whereas he'd rather have been closer to the action and to any possible news. How could she expect him to relax here when anything could be happening to his friends out there?
But he was exhausted, having been restless the whole day. He hated his team going offworld with-out him, especially now since he wanted to be with them. He'd taken to pacing over the last two hours, when he knew he should have been napping. His body was aching from fatigue, he'd had no appetite.
At this point he didn't care whether or not they found Teal'c's son, he just wanted his friends back home, safe and sound. And that admission made him feel even more guilty, knowing how much it would hurt Teal'c should his son still not be found.
It was just so hard. And complicated.
He closed his eyes a moment before gathering the energy to go look out the window once more.
- - - - - -
Daniel jumped at the soft snick of a lamp. He sat up, blinking dazedly. The room was dark except for the illumination coming from just behind his shoulder. He coughed when the change in position aggravated his chest. He'd been so deeply asleep, it took him a few seconds to figure out where he was.
His friend was standing beside him, two bottles of water in one hand, Daniel's meds in the other. "You didn't answer when I knocked, so I let myself in." He waved the bottles towards the coffee table. "Thought you might be hungry."
There were several cardboard containers and two pairs of chopsticks on the coffee table.
Jack sat down beside Daniel and began to open the containers. Daniel reached for his meds and measured the appropriate dosage, then downed them with some of the water. Jack handed Daniel a pair of chopsticks. The aroma was tantalizing, reminding Daniel he hadn't had much to eat today. Suddenly seeing his friend sitting calmly beside him brought back his appetite.
"Teal'c... ?" Daniel tapped the chopsticks on his leg, evening the tips out.
Jack shook his head. "There were indications that someone had camped near the Stargate for a few days, but no sign of the people themselves. We think your theory is right; Dal'bar and his men waited, then finally when nobody showed up, they left."
"So... what next?"
"Well, according to Teal'c, his son left a message. An emblem scratched into a rock... kinda looked like �Killroy was Here' typa thing... you know, fingers, nose, face. But Teal'c says it's a Chulakian symbol meaning �I'll stay in touch' or �I'll be back soon'. So although he's pretty disappointed, he's still hopeful."
"He's sure Dal'bar left the symbol?"
"Yeah. It was recent, and Teal'c said it was a private thing between them. Teal'c would write the symbol down and leave a small gift for him whenever he had to leave his family and go report for duty. It reached a point that he'd made a game of it, hiding it so Dal'bar had to look for it."
Daniel smiled at the image of Teal'c and his young son Jack's words brought forth. "So Teal'c did the whole tantrum routine when he couldn't find Dal'bar?" Daniel asked with a relieved smile, leaning forward to pick up some vegetables.
"Oh yeah, the eyebrow went up and he sighed really loud."
Vegetable-laden chopstick halfway to his mouth, Daniel grinned. He took a bite and savoured the spicy flavour, happy that he could finally taste again.
"What took you guys so long?" Daniel swapped the vegetables for some beef and broccoli.
"We went farther inland, just to make sure we weren't missing anything. Then we stopped at the Alpha Site to give Bra'tac the news." Jack picked up the vegetables and stuffed some into his mouth. "I just wish Dal'bar had given us a hint where he's gone to," he said with his mouth full.
"Didn't you say he had more men undercover in Ba'al's territory? Maybe he went to retrieve them."
"Could be." Jack handed Daniel some rice.
"You think he's gonna come back? To the coordinates Teal'c had sent him to in the first place?"
Jack shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. Bra'tac's gonna keep checking regularly. I just wish the disappearing people problem these natives are putting us through would... disappear."
"Well, you did see the symbol."
Jack ducked his head and didn't meet Daniel's eyes. "Well, only after doing that bit with the medi-tation again."
"So it's still affecting us."
"Yeah, unless we can achieve this Da-ran'a and walk around in a trance all the time."
"That could be a problem."
"Unless we convince Lon-nis and his guys to stop giving us the Evil Eye."
"Maybe we should start wearing necklaces made of garlic."
Jack laughed. "Maybe you should stop watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Daniel grinned and reached for more vegetables. "It's not my fault Teal'c likes the show."
"Do you think we should try and practice this Da-rana'a?"
Jack nodded, and pointed towards the window with his chopsticks. "Might make things easier for us when we go back to the planet. I'll bring one of the pictures with me tomorrow and you can practice staring at it."
Daniel yawned, then put his chopsticks down, feeling full. "Sounds like fun. I hope I can stay awake for all this excitement."
- - - - - -
Jack stepped away from the Stargate and looked around. P6K 355 looked much different than it had four weeks ago. What had been a sunny glade then was now a small, overgrown clearing sur-rounded by large trees. He, Carter, and Daniel spread out and moved to the edges of the forest. Teal'c headed for the MALP which had remained behind so that the SGC could monitor the Stargate.
The forest was thick and dense, it was going to be difficult to walk through it unless they could see through the facade the inhabitants had painted.
Jack turned and saw Teal'c beckoning him forward. He went to join Teal'c at the MALP.
Teal'c had pulled off the encroaching growth which had covered the piece of equipment, exposing badly rusted metal instead of pristine metal.
Jack grinned. Either Lon-nis, or their leader, had made his first mistake. Jack raised both hands to his mouth and yelled through them.
"Maur-duck! Lon-nis! You guys goofed!"
"Jack, what are you doing?" Daniel hurried from where he'd been peering into the dark woods.
"They have to know we're here by now, the �gate was active a good fifteen minutes before we came through."
"Yeah, well, weren't we going to sit quietly and meditate first?"
"Look at the MALP, Daniel. There's no way it could have gotten into this condition in just a month."
Daniel turned to look at what was left of the piece of machinery. "You're right. But if you're going to start calling them, try using the right name. It's Maur-nok, not Maur-duck."
"Oh, right. Thanks."
Carter had joined them and was examining the damage the centuries had supposedly made to their equipment. "Sir, it's definitely ours, the serial number is barely legible, but it matches the one we sent through."
"Maur-nok, Lon-nis! We know what you're doing. You just proved to us by aging our MALP here that you're fiddling with our minds. We're not buying the old abandoned ruins ploy. So you may as well show yourselves."
Jack stood waiting, hands resting comfortably on his P-90. After a few minutes, he glanced over at his teammates, who were watching the woods attentively.
Jack shrugged sheepishly. "Okay, that didn't work. Let's try Plan B."
As they all sat down in a circle before the Stargate, Daniel muttered, "I thought this was supposed to be Plan A."
Jack closed his eyes and blew out a deep breath. In the past weeks they had all, singly or together, attempted and at times succeeded, in achieving Da-rana'a. But never had they managed to do so all at the same time.
They'd had plenty of occasions to practice while waiting for word from the Tok'ra, and more im-portantly, for Daniel to recover from his illness. They'd used the photographs to gauge their success, discovering that in each one, there had been at least one singer apparent.
There were no birds here today, so Jack concentrated on the wind in the trees. He opened his eyes and watched the branches sway in the wind, listening to the rustle of the leaves.
It was different when he knew they had an audience. He was sure there were people out there; he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck rising despite his attempts at relaxing.
A rock dug into his leg and he sneaked a finger beneath it and plucked it out. His nose itched, and he twitched it. Eventually he had to raise a hand and scratch. He was getting nowhere fast. He just hoped his teammates were having an easier time of it.
He glanced at them, and they were all looking at the trees. Even as he watched, Daniel's eyelids drooped, his face relaxing, his breathing slow and steady. Carter, on the other hand, seemed twitchy and nervous. She glanced at Jack, and her eyes widened when she realized he'd given up trying to relax and was watching her. She shrugged, then tried to refocus her attention.
Teal'c looked like he always did when he meditated, except his eyes were open. Jack thought that Teal'c always attained Da-rana'a through sheer willpower, whereas Daniel always seemed to wilt into it. Carter, when she reached that state, always had a small smile on her face.
"Lon-nis." Daniel's voice caught Jack's attention.
He turned to look at Daniel, who was gazing at someone off to their left. Placing one foot in front of the other, Daniel stood up in a fluid motion, taking a few steps away from the team. "Thank you. I'm feeling much better. It's good to also see you're all fine."
"Daniel?" Jack waited until Daniel turned to look at Jack. "Please tell me you're seeing people and aren't talking to yourself."
Daniel rolled his eyes. "Yes, Jack. Lon-nis and a few others are here."
Daniel turned away from Jack and smiled. "It's not too difficult, but we haven't had much time to practice. Sometimes we can achieve Da-rana'a, many times we can't."
Seconds later, Teal'c was up and flanking Daniel. "Your subterfuge no longer works. It would be wise to cease this and allow our friends to see you also."
Jack caught Carter looking to him for instructions and he shrugged, and stood up. Both men were obviously seeing and talking to someone who was invisible to both himself and Carter. She did the same and they moved to stand behind Daniel and Teal'c.
Jack waved a hand to the empty space in front of him. "Howdy, folks. How you all doing? Nice day, isn't it? But you know what? It would be even nicer if we could actually see you guys... might make talking a little easier."
Daniel gave Jack and impatient look, then turned back to the invisible inhabitants. "No, we came back because we needed a couple of questions answered. And we wanted to make sure your people were all right."
"Plus you did promise us a chance to explore Mars' Altar," Jack said, speaking loudly so his voice would carry into the woods. "We never got around to that, remember? Since we ended up getting ab-ducted, same as what happened to your folks. And you know, if I remember correctly, we did bring those people back. Now, I'm not expecting a thank you party or anything�"
"Jack," Daniel hissed.
"But the least you guys could do is show yourselves so we could talk about this Da-rana'a mind-thing you've got going, and how you scared off the bad guys with it."
"It was Samadhi, not Da-rana'a, which enabled us to change our enemy's views."
"Whoa!" Jack jumped back as Lon-nis appeared right before him, his forefinger centimetres away from Jack's forehead. Another priest was beside Carter, and she was blinking at him in confusion.
"Yes, that's right." Daniel ignored Jack as he made a point of staying away from Lon-nis. "You had mentioned that Da-rana'a was a part of Samadhi."
"Samadhi is the All. Da-rana'a is simply the first step towards perfection."
"So it's a form of meditation that allows you to use certain... powers?"
"Samadhi is the total control of one. In this state, one simply is. Observe."
Lon-nis' eyes turned inward. That was the only way Jack could describe it. Even though he was staring straight ahead, Jack knew he was seeing nothing before him. And he looked peaceful and con-tent.
Carter took a step closer to the priest. She placed a hand before his mouth then turned to look at Jack in horror.
"Sir, he's not breathing!" She grabbed his wrist. "There's no pulse."
"Sam, wait." Daniel was there, gently extracting Lon-nis' hand from her grip. "Gurus are known to have total control over their bodies. They can slow their breathing and heartbeats to almost nothing."
"I have never heard of this manner of meditation." Teal'c stepped forward and walked around Lon-nis, examining him from all sides.
Jack cast a glance at the other priests, who simply stood there, watching them. After a few more seconds, Lon-nis took a breath, and his eyes saw again.
"That was incredible," Daniel breathed.
"Yeah, right." Jack shifted his weight, a little impatient. "So, why the magic tricks? Why make us think nobody lived here?"
"We have seen the forms of beings that live on other worlds. We have no wish to attract their kind."
"But not everyone are like the Goa'uld." Daniel waved his hand towards the sky. "Yes, there is evil out there, but with your... abilities, that shouldn't be a problem in keeping them away. What your peo-ple did on the ship... if we could be taught to do that�"
"But it could help us in our fight with the Goa'uld."
Carter moved in closer to stand beside Jack. "This could be a way of fighting our enemy with less bloodshed. They could be influenced to stay away from certain planets, be made to believe others don't hold any life. It could save thousands of lives."
"And if these Goa'uld learn of our ways? Can you imagine what their power would be like? All these lives you claim would be saved, would live in fear and misery, all within their minds. We have seen what these Goa-uld are like. My people have died to prevent our ways from falling into their hands. They will not have died in vain."
"That's another thing," Jack said, scratching his cheek with his index finger. "Why did your people wait so long before making a move? If they could just... sing their way free, why not do it from the start?"
"The first to be abducted, did not realize they were on a ship. They attempted to escape, and two died a horrible death. The others perished under torture. The remainder were kept drugged, compliant and thus unable to master Samadhi. It was only towards the last that the drugs were not given, permit-ting them to escape.
"Dal'bar." Daniel whispered the word, and Jack saw Teal'c stiffen beside him.
"Lon-nis." Jack waited until the man turned to face him. "The person who allowed your people, your son, the chance to escape, was Teal'c's son. Please, tell me you didn't make him up."
"Then I am in his debt."
"And what, we're chopped liver?" Jack muttered to no one in particular.
"Could you remove whatever spell you're using to make him see and believe?" Daniel had placed a hand on Teal'c's arm. Jack could see the muscles as hard rods of steel beneath the dark skin, so tightly wound up was their friend.
"What we did was done merely to protect him and his men."
"We understand. But it's also kept us from finding him." Daniel looked at Jack with an apologetic look, and Jack knew Daniel was going to say something he was going to be sorry for later back at the SGC. Before Jack could growl a warning, Daniel hurriedly spoke. "We understand you want to protect yourselves, and we respect that. All that we ask, before we leave, is that you remove whatever false memories and sight you imposed on Dal'bar and his men so that we can find them, or he can find us."
Of course, Daniel ignored Jack. "Learning to attain Samadhi would have been an incredible ex-perience, for all of us. But you're right. If the Goa'uld ever learned of this, they would use it, simply because they could. I believe I'm right in saying you never use this gift to harm anyone?"
Lon-nis nodded. "That you had such a difficult experience had been unforeseen. We did not realize your total lack of training. Had we known, we would not have waited so long before aiding you in at-taining Da-rana'a."
"Aiding..." Carter's face suddenly lit up. "You were the birds singing."
Lon-nis smiled. "Yes."
"It was... lovely. Would it be all right if we continued to practice Da-rana'a? In private?"
The smile turned into a grin. "Doing so would be an honor to all things living."
Jack smacked his tongue against his palate. "Great. Now, are you going to get rid of the mumbo jumbo against Teal'c's son?"
"It is already done." Another man stepped forward. Although he was much younger, he stood straight and proud. Lon-nis stepped back subserviently, allowing this stranger to speak.
"I am Maur-nok." He turned to Teal'c, bowing slightly. "Should you meet your son once more, you will recognize him. And he, you."
"Thank you." Teal'c was still tense, but at least now Jack knew they now had a chance of finding Dal'bar again."
"Maur-nok." Daniel stepped forward, eyes shining, a smile on his face. "We appreciate what you've done. And we understand the threat you feel if the Goa'uld learn of Samadhi. You have our word that we won't speak of it."
"And we'd appreciate you not messing with our memories again," Jack piped in. "Just for the re-cord, when we get home? We'll have the �gate coordinates removed from our computer system so if, heaven forbid, we ever get invaded by those snakes, your planet will be safe."
The peoples' leader nodded his head. "That is acceptable. The subterfuge shall remain, however, for future travellers through the Stargate." He waved towards the MALP, which had turned back to its original un-corroded self. "You may wish to retrieve your equipment."
"Yeah. Good idea." Jack motioned to Teal'c to get the robot's controls. He looked over the handful of people standing around. "Well, I can't exactly say it's been fun, but�" He caught Daniel's eye. "We appreciate the help getting off the ship."
Maur-nok inclined his head and Jack turned to face the Stargate. Carter went to dial the DHD and Jack stopped beside Teal'c. He watched Teal'c concentrating on getting the MALP turned around, won-dering what was different about him. Suddenly it dawned on him when he noted that the sun wasn't reflecting off his bald head.
"Hey, is that fuzz you got growing on your head?" Jack leaned over closely and noted the tight, black curls starting to grow on Teal'c's head, barely visible against Teal'c's dark skin.
Teal'c raised a hand and self-consciously rubbed the light growth of hair. "Indeed. It has been many, many years since I allowed myself the vanity of hair."
"Kinda looks like your kid's �do."
Teal'c smiled. "Such would be my intention. I am not quite prepared to allow myself the luxury of hair. But having seen my son, I merely wished to see what it would look like. But perhaps when I find him..."
"The look will suit you fine." Jack slapped Teal'c's arm as they walked beside the slowly moving MALP. "Hey, when we find your kid, I'll even provide the shampoo."
Author's Comments: Thank you, Annie, for trusting in me. And to devra, for keeping me on the straight and narrow - in other words, making sure there are no gaping holes in the story. Love ya, kiddo.
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.