One may not reach the dawn save by path of night K. Gibran
"Later," Daniel called over his shoulder. He continued jogging to the area of the most recent excavation at the Antarctic base, moving through corridors of ice littered with cables, and watching his breath hang in the chill air. The tech who'd come to dig Daniel out of his office had been too excited to give Daniel a coherent explanation. All Daniel knew was that it was "way cool" and good lord, when had the Air Force started recruiting kids straight out of junior high?
"What've you got?" he called as he entered the central room of the complex.
"This," McKay said, waving his hand at a something that looked like a high tech version of an Adirondack chair.
"That's...that's it," Daniel said, moving to the middle of the room where the chair sat. He was stunned. The vague image of the machine had teased him even when he still had his Ascended memories. He leaned over to study the chair more closely. It was made of some grayish-brown material that stood in stark contrast to the gleaming blue-white of the surrounding ice.
"Yes, but *what* is it?" McKay asked.
"It's a control interface of some sort," Daniel said. He skimmed his fingers along the arm of the chair, as if the tactile stimulation would somehow once again unlock his memories.
"Yes, but what does it control?"
"Um...the base, I think."
"Life support? Weapons?" McKay asked. "Plumbing?"
"I think it controls all the major systems, but I don't remember for sure." Daniel looked up at McKay. "Let's try it."
"Because we don't know what it does," McKay said.
"And we never will know what it does if we don't try it," Daniel pointed out logically.
"Maybe, but we need to run some tests first," McKay said. "I'd prefer not to unleash some end of the world virus/monster/weapon if it can at all be avoided. Especially not when I'd be one of the first in line to encounter it."
"It's impossible to test for everything." Daniel argued. "We can't even guess at what Ancient technology might encompass--how could we possibly test for it?"
"O'Neill was right--you do have a death wish," McKay sniped.
"Do," McKay insisted. "Only an idiot would go rushing blindly into using alien technology."
"Jack was right--you are a very annoying man," Daniel said. All the more annoying because he couldn't find a way to like the guy. Daniel didn't usually have any trouble liking other scientists. He understood their obsessions, their drive, yes, even their arrogance. But even though he could understand those things about McKay, he still couldn't like him.
"Annoying maybe, but I've been continuously alive for the last several decades," McKay said, apparently unfazed by Daniel's, or Jack's, opinion of him. "Which is something you can't claim."
"We're scientists. It's our job to experiment."
"Within established safety guidelines. We still haven't uncovered everything in this room. If this is the central control then most, if not all, of the other systems must connect to it." McKay pulled Daniel along to a panel set flush in the wall at chest height. "For example, can you tell me what this is?"
"Um," Daniel peered at the panel for several minutes, trying to fix a rough translation in his mind. "I don't think this is directly affected by the control chair per se. It's more of a power relay, or a network substation."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, I don't recognize some of the symbols, but this writing here seems to be a reminder for the maintenance crew."
"You're kidding, right?"
"I wouldn't kid about that," Daniel said. Which wasn't entirely true. He would kid about it. Especially with McKay. It just happened that this time he wasn't.
"For the maintenance crew?"
"Yeah, the alien equivalent of 'For your safety be sure device is unplugged before attempting repairs'," Daniel said.
"Unplugged? How do we know if it's unplugged?"
"We try it," Daniel said, heading for the chair.
"Hey--hey!" McKay said, running after Daniel. McKay pulled up abruptly when Daniel sat down in the chair.
"Anything?" Daniel asked, looking around the room for some sign that the device was operating.
"Thankfully, no. Now get out of there."
Daniel settled himself farther back in the chair. He placed his hands on the armrests and closed his eyes. The Ascended memories were gone, wiped from his mind for a second time, but he could almost sense them lurking somewhere deep in his subconscious. It frustrated Daniel beyond words to know that he had the answers but couldn't access them. Suddenly he sat up and looked down at the floor, still partially buried under ice and snow.
"The floor," Daniel said, getting up from the chair.
"What about it?"
"Finish clearing this off," Daniel ordered two airmen who'd been assigned to grunt duties. They glanced over at McKay, clearly uncertain from whom they were supposed to be taking. Daniel made a curt gesture. "Now."
"What do you think is under there?" McKay asked as the airmen began chipping away at the ice.
"I don't know. But call me when you find it."
Whistling, Jack strolled down one of the endless corridors that wormed their way through the rock at the bottom of Cheyenne Mountain. All was right--more or less--in Jack's corner of the world. He didn't expect that state of affairs to last, but for the moment there were no major or minor off-world crises. Carter was happily and secretly turning astrophysics on its ear, Jack's arthritis was taking the day off, and, thanks to Hammond's kind permission, Daniel was thousands of miles away driving the other geeks on the Antarctic expedition out of their collective trees. Granted, Jack would've preferred to have Daniel a little closer, like within arm's reach, but he was safe and happy and Jack could live with that. For the time being.
Then there was Teal'c, who was also safe, possibly happy, and who, rumor had it, had brought something special back from his meeting with Bra'tac. Jack made his way to one of the isolation labs, bounding up the stairs to the observation room. Entering the room, he found Sam and Teal'c sitting in chairs in front of the window, engrossed in the activity below. Jack walked casually up behind Sam's chair.
"Hey, Carter...whoa--what is that?"
"*That* is the soldier Teal'c and Bra'tac captured," Sam said, her eyes glued to the creature laid out on a gurney in the lab below them.
"Teal'c, I know I asked you to bring me a souvenir," Jack said. "But really--I was thinking a t-shirt. Maybe a nice refrigerator magnet."
"We believe this being is a superior form of warrior created by Anubis," Teal'c said, ignoring Jack's jibe.
"I believe it's butt ugly," Jack said. He leaned over Sam's shoulder, peering at the creature and grimacing.
"Dad thinks it may be artificially engineered," Sam said, nodding toward the lab where Jacob and Dr. Fraiser were performing an autopsy.
"Yeah, but *what* is it?" Jack asked.
"We're going to perform a DNA analysis to try and determine that," Janet said, looking up toward the observation window. "But for now all I can say is that it's a Goa'ulded creature."
"The host has been engineered for greater strength," Jacob added. "It's meant to be the perfect soldier."
"Hammond said this thing just up and died," Jack said to Jacob. "Doesn't sound like a perfect soldier to me."
"Bra'tac and I fired upon it many times," Teal'c said.
"Sorry, Teal'c, but there's absolutely no sign that this thing was ever hit. The armor is pristine," Jacob said.
"So why's it dead?" Jack asked.
"It would appear that the alterations to its physiology compromised the creature's long term health," Jacob said.
"It appears to have compromised its *short* term health," Jack said.
"Why create a creature with superior strength but limited life span?" Sam asked.
"There may not have been any choice," Janet said, diving back into what Jack could only describe as extreme ickiness. The soldier looked less like a higher life form and more like some kind of alien slime mold. "Genetic manipulation is tricky at best. It would require incredible precision to affect a single gene. The problem is that genes interact with each other. Change the protein produced by one gene, and that may affect how another gene expresses itself. And that may affect another gene, and so on. And given that this thing couldn't have been created without changes to multiple genes, I think the changes almost certainly had unavoidable affects on other aspects of its health."
"And Anubis considered the payoff worthwhile?" Jack asked.
"Presumably," Jacob agreed.
"Huh." Jack pondered the possibility. "How do we know this thing came from Anubis?"
"That is what the creature said," Teal'c said.
"How convenient," Jack said. A little too convenient as far as Jack was concerned.
"It wished its victims to know the identity of the System Lord responsible for their deaths," Teal'c explained. "Bra'tac and I overheard it announcing its purpose to the Jaffa it intended to slaughter."
"So obviously Anubis hasn't done anything to eliminate that bragging gene," Jack said.
"The key point is that we know who made it, and where it came from," Sam said. "The creature was dialing out just before it collapsed. Teal'c and Bra'tac saw the address. The Tok'ra are going to check it out."
"Bottom line it for me--how bad is this?" Jack asked, scratching at his chin. The stubble reminded him that it was well past five o'clock.
"Well, assuming that Anubis has the capability to continuously replenish the ranks of these soldiers--very bad," Jacob said. "They're faster, stronger...."
"Better?" Jack muttered.
"And their armor is impenetrable to any of our weapons," Jacob concluded.
"Not to mention they have really big codpieces," Jack said. Jacob rolled his eyes and bent over the soldier again. "Compensation issues?"
"Should I get out the ruler, sir?" Janet asked acerbically.
"I'm just saying," Jack said. It was one of those things he knew he should ignore, but he just couldn't leave it alone. Because it was a really, really big codpiece and it looked silly. Jack wished Daniel was there, because Daniel would've understood the silliness of a big codpiece.
"It's an engineered soldier, sir," Sam said, mildly exasperated. "Why would it care about how big its...codpiece was?"
"Maybe Anubis has issues," Jack said.
"Maybe you do," Jacob suggested, not quite under his breath. Sam coughed and turned her face away from Jack in an attempt to hide her amusement. Teal'c grinned broadly, and didn't bother to hide it.
"Don't...and that's all I'm going to say on that subject," Jack said with as much dignity as he could under the circumstances. "I'm just saying there's something fishy about those things. You should check it out."
"The codpiece?" Sam asked.
"All of it," Jack said, waving a hand at the armor.
"Don't worry, Jack. We'll be giving everything a thorough going over," Jacob said.
"Just make sure I get the report," Jack said.
"Yes, sir," Janet said without pausing in her work. Jack knew a dismissal when he heard it, and he wasn't inclined to debate the point. It was past time to call it a day. Jack gave Teal'c a pat on the shoulder to get him moving, and headed for the door.
"O'Neill, I believe this is the same type of creature we discovered on P8Y," Teal'c said as he followed Jack into the corridor.
"P8Y? Was that one the former H.Q. for Anubis?"
"It was," Teal'c said.
"Creatures? You mean the mummies in the pit?" Jack asked, turning back. "Are you sure?"
"I cannot be certain, but there are similarities."
"If that's true, what does it mean?" Sam asked.
"At the very least it would indicate that Anubis has been developing these soldiers for some time," Teal'c said.
"That can't be good."
"The Tok'ra have been able to determine that the warrior came from a planet called Tartarus," Jacob said. He brought up a projection of the planet before taking a seat at the briefing room table. Jack, Sam, Teal'c and Hammond all studied the image carefully. "It's a previously unknown stronghold belonging to Anubis."
"How strong?" Jack asked.
"Both the stargate and the planet are guarded by an energy shield."
"Then how do you propose to gain access?" Hammond asked.
"We've been studying the armor," Jacob said. "One of the things we've discovered is that it's wired."
"Wired?" Teal'c said, puzzled.
"The entire suit has a low level electrical field flowing through it. We're not entirely certain what the purpose is, but I suspect it's for networking," Sam said.
"Networking with what?" Jack asked. He looked down at the doodles he'd been making along the margin of his report and realized that the doodles had turned into Daniel's name.
"Presumably other soldiers."
"How does that help us?" Hammond asked.
"We think that one possible purpose for the wiring is that it sends a signal which allows the soldier to pass through the barrier around the stargate," Jacob said.
"How does *that* help us?" Jack asked. He finished scribbling out any hint of Daniel's name and closed his folder to eliminate any further mental meanderings.
"I'll wear the armor, gate to the planet, and disable the planetary shield so that the rest of you can arrive by ship."
"Bad plan," Jack said, frowning at Jacob.
"You have a better one?" Jacob shot back.
"Hyperspace," Sam said suddenly, startling the others.
"Hyperspace?" Hammond asked.
"Yes," Sam said, nodding her head. "We make a short hyperspace jump and pass right through the barrier."
"Is that possible?" Jack asked.
"No one has ever been daring enough to attempt such a maneuver before," Teal'c said.
"Don't you mean that no one's ever been *crazy* enough?" Jacob interjected.
"So it's not possible?" Jack asked, wanting confirmation one way or another.
"It's possible," Sam said.
"No, it isn't," Jacob said firmly. "Even if you could calculate position and course down to the nth degree, you'll come out of hyperspace at too great a speed and too close to the planet's surface to avoid crashing."
"Not necessarily," Sam argued.
"And you've been piloting hyperspace vessels for *how* long?" Jacob asked sarcastically.
"Long enough," Sam said, fixing her father with a defiant look.
"Could I just say...?" Jack began.
"You're overreaching again, Sam," Jacob said. "This is way beyond anything the SGC has done before."
"We have performed short hyperspace jumps close to planets on prior occasions," Teal'c said.
"The asteroid," Jack said, agreeing. "We jumped through Earth."
"You didn't have to worry about course or maximum hyperspace time. That jump only required that you calculate the minimum time spent in hyperspace," Jacob said.
"Actually, not even that," Sam admitted hesitantly. "We were so low on power that we put almost everything we had left into making the jump. And hoped that it would be enough."
"Well, there you go," Jacob said, sitting back in his chair.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sam asked. "Just because we haven't calculated this type of hyperspace jump before doesn't mean that we can't do it now."
"It's suicide," Jacob said flatly.
"I don't think it is."
"Hey!" Jack waited until Sam and Jacob were both looking at him. "Enough with the dueling Carters."
"Sorry, sir," Sam said, but the look she gave her father didn't indicate any sense of regret at all.
"Major, what makes you think that this is even possible?" Hammond asked Sam.
"Dad's right--if we went straight in we'd almost certainly crash," Sam admitted. "But if we angle our course so that our entry is at something less than a ninety degree angle, we should have sufficient time to slow down and make a safe landing. Essentially we'd put ourselves into a low, and unstable, orbit."
"Jacob?" Hammond asked.
"Theoretically it's possible, but it would be incredibly difficult to plot a hyperspace flight precisely enough to both clear the shield and achieve a safe landing. And to be honest, my ship isn't in the greatest shape."
"What's wrong with it?" Jack asked.
"Nothing major. The engines and life support systems are fully functional, but the interior inertial dampeners are kind of hit and miss."
"So it could be a little bumpy?"
"A hyperspace jump like this? Could be a lot bumpy," Jacob said.
"Teal'c?" Hammond prompted.
"I believe it may be possible."
"General?" Jack asked.
"Colonel?" Hammond said, throwing the ball right back to him.
Jack groaned inwardly. He really wished that Hammond would accept the fact that Jack was innately unfit for higher command and stop giving him 'opportunities' to hone his skills. Jack believed that he was fully capable of performing the functions, but he didn't want to. And if he didn't want to, that alone had to make him unfit. Didn't it?
"Carter--do the calculations," Jack said finally. "Run simulations. *Prove* to me that it has a reasonable chance of working."
"Yes, sir," Sam said eagerly. She jumped up out of her chair and headed for her lab.
"Why do you let her talk you into these crazy ideas?" Jacob asked, dividing his disbelieving look between Jack and Hammond.
"Partly because I have to. We're expected to accomplish the impossible, and it's her job to find a way," Jack said. "And partly because I've learned that Carter has a knack for making crazy ideas work."
"She never used to be this reckless," Jacob said, shaking his finger at Jack.
"Don't blame me," Jack said. He waved his hand, easily dismissing Jacob's attempt to make him feel guilty. "She learned that from Daniel. And if you think it's bad dealing with her, try handling both of them."
"Then imagine having all four of them on your hands," Hammond told Jacob dryly, gesturing to include Jack and Teal'c.
Daniel stared at his notes, then turned his head slightly to stare at the phone. With a sigh he turned back to his notes, but he just couldn't work up any enthusiasm for the endeavor. With a decisive nod of his head, he put down his pen and reached for the phone.
Daniel whistled tunelessly as the signal crept through multiple relays or bounced off satellites or rode the wings of carrier pigeons--whatever it was that calls from secret Antarctic bases did. He'd almost forgotten who he was calling by the time a gruff "Yo?" echoed down the line.
"Yeah," Daniel said, smiling. Jack's voice sounded like it was coming from inside a tin can, and it sounded wonderful.
"Do you have any idea how expensive it is to call from Antarctica to Colorado?"
"As a matter of fact, Jack, I do. So maybe you'd like to stop wasting the taxpayers' money by asking me stupid questions," Daniel said, rolling his eyes. He knew as well as Jack that their conversation wasn't being relayed by any commercial carrier. But then again, for all he knew the government was docking his pay at the rate of five dollars per minute. Someone had to pay for those six hundred dollar toilet seats after all.
"Geez--get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning or what?"
"I'm...." Daniel bit off the rest of his words. He looked around his work room. It was just as cluttered as his lab back at the SGC. But it wasn't his lab at the SGC. And it was cold. "I'm...here. It's always the wrong side of the bed."
"Ah. I hear ya," Jack said. "The NID guys aren't giving you any trouble, are they?"
"There are only good witches here, Jack."
The Area 51 personnel who were responsible for the day to day operation of the excavation didn't seem to have any political agenda. They didn't seem to have any agenda at all, other than getting their hands on whatever lay beneath the ice. In fact, most of them were unaware of Daniel's history with the darker side of the NID.
"Okay. So what's new?"
"Well, we found the control interface."
"The command chair," Daniel said. He refused to call it a La-Z-Boy. He knew that Jack knew exactly what he was referring to and he wasn't going to be goaded into using sloppy terminology.
"Nope, doesn't ring a bell. Could you describe it?"
"Bite me," Daniel muttered. Jack's laugh came clearly through the line. "Is Sam there?"
"Yes, she is."
"How would you know?"
"Because Sam is always there," Daniel said with assurance. "Put me through to her lab."
"We can't get the device to work," Daniel admitted. "I need to have Sam come down here and...fiddle with it."
"Afraid that's not possible right now. Carter's already tied up with something."
"Is it important?"
"Could be. Probably. Can't say for certain just yet."
"This is important so maybe she could take a break...."
"No can do, Daniel."
"Why the hell not?" Daniel snapped. He rubbed fretfully at his forehead. Jack was the last person he wanted to be arguing with, but Jack was also probably the safest target given that he was more than five thousand miles away. He was certainly safer than Rodney McKay at the moment.
"Maybe you should come home."
"I can't leave until we get the device working and since you won't let me even talk to Sam that could take a while."
"What about McKay?"
"What about him?" Daniel asked, wondering if Jack had somehow found out about Daniel's latest run in with Mr. Personality. Daniel wouldn't put it past him; Jack seemed to have ears in the unlikeliest of places.
"He's supposed to be some kind of genius." Jack paused. "At least, that's what he claims."
"I need Sam," Daniel said, refusing to get into an argument with Jack about Dr. McKay. He definitely wasn't going to admit that McKay was driving him nuts. "You know--if Hammond had just let me join the expedition while I still had my memories...."
"You still might not have been able to get it to work."
"But I would've had a better chance than I do now."
"Hammond wasn't in charge of the operation. You know that."
"But he could've made a recommendation," Daniel said stubbornly.
"He made the best choice he could given the circumstances at the time."
"I know. I just.... We need to get this base back into operation," Daniel said.
"We'll get there."
"It'll happen when it happens."
"How very pseudo-Zen of you."
"A: bite me. B: chill out."
"I'm at the South Pole; 'chill' is a given," Daniel said.
"You're not anywhere close to the South Pole," Jack said. "Which reminds me: I've got a question and you're just the guy to answer it."
"Yes?" Daniel said, wary.
"Everyone knows that Santa lives at the North Pole, but who lives at the South Pole?"
"I do," Daniel said.
"I'm speaking in mythological terms."
"Nothing but penguins live at the South Pole. It's a godforsaken barren wasteland of ice."
"So's the North Pole, but the elves seem to like it just fine."
"Jack, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the elves aren't real. Neither is Santa. He's an artificial construct designed to entice or intimidate gullible young children into behaving in a socially appropriate manner."
"Well, bah humbug, Dr. Scrooge. Let me guess--Santa didn't visit the Jacksons."
"Are you going to help me or not?" Daniel asked sharply. He didn't feel deprived by the fact that he hadn't grown up believing that a jolly fat man delivered presents to good boys once a year. And he wasn't going to let Jack convince him that he should feel otherwise.
"Relax, would you?"
"Is that your answer for everything?" Daniel asked.
"I find it works for a variety of situations," Jack agreed. "It might work for you, too. You're sounding a little tense."
"I'm not tense."
"I'm not. I'm...frustrated," Daniel said, hoping that Jack would understand that he was frustrated in more than one way.
"Can you bring this doohickey back to the SGC?"
"No, it's completely integrated with the base systems. Removing it would render it impotent at the very least, and probably damage it beyond our ability to repair."
"Well, you're going to have to come home soon. We've got missions waiting."
"So I should just forget about this?"
"No, but you're going to have to let someone else worry about it. Let McKay play with it. Or bring back whatever information you can and Carter will take a run at it," Jack said. "Maybe we can free some time up for her to go to the Antarctic base later."
"You're very annoying when you're reasonable," Daniel said.
"Screws with the natural order of the universe, doesn't it?" Jack said sounding pleased.
"I have to go," Daniel said, smiling to himself. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"Well, damn, that leaves the field wide open," Jack said just before hanging up.
"You know if this doesn't work Daniel's going to be pissed," Jack said, staring out the forward screen of the tel'tak.
"Because he missed it?" Jacob asked from the co-pilot's seat, clearly confused.
"Well...yes," Jack said, aware that that wasn't the most rational sounding thing he'd ever said. Of course, it wasn't the most irrational thing he'd ever said either.
He couldn't explain it. He simply knew that if the jump went bad and they didn't make it back, Daniel would feel guilty. He'd regret that he hadn't been with Jack in his last moments. Or Sam or Teal'c for that matter. And as much as Jack understood those feelings, he was gladder than ever that he'd made the decision to leave Daniel in Antarctica, safe and completely unaware of what his teammates were planning to do.
"You guys really are crazy," Jacob said, completing his check of the navigation computer.
"I wasn't aware that was ever in question," Jack said dryly.
"Ready, sir," Sam said.
"Jacob?" Jack asked.
"We've made the necessary calculations. Now it's up to the ship, and Teal'c."
"So no pressure there, Teal'c," Jack said.
"I am prepared, O'Neill," Teal'c said. He was seated in the pilot's chair, his attention fully focused on the ship's controls.
"Okay, so...." Jack hesitated, needing just one last little bit of reassurance. "Carter?"
"It'll work, sir," Sam said firmly.
"Right. Okay, then, whenever you're ready, Teal'c."
"Prepare for jump to hyperspace," Teal'c said.
"Prepare...?" was the only word Jack got out before he was thrown on his ass by the sudden acceleration. Sam was gripping the back of Jacob's seat, holding on while her dad stared, jaws clenched, at the readout.
"Okay, that was a little bumpier than I expected," Jack said as he got to his feet.
"Now!" Sam told Teal'c. Jack slammed forward into the center control console as the ship came out of hyperspace. He wrapped his arms around it and stared through the windshield as their ship hurtled through the atmosphere way too fast and way too close to the ground. To his great relief, Teal'c was able to slow the ship, finally bringing it to hover just alongside a stone outcropping.
"Damn fine flying," Jacob said.
"Great job, Teal'c," Sam said, grinning as she released her death grip on the back of Jacob's seat.
"Way to go, T," Jack agreed. He unwrapped himself from the console, rubbing gingerly at his hip. "However, next time, a little more warning would be nice."
"Now what?" Sam asked Jacob.
"Now we go to Anubis' fortress."
"In the *ship*?" Jack asked.
"Anubis thinks his planetary shield is impenetrable. He won't be expecting anyone to approach on land. As long as we keep the ship cloaked to avoid visual discovery, we should be fine."
"Does anyone else think this is too easy?" Jack asked, feeling apprehensive again.
"We just made the first known successful intra-orbital hyperspace jump," Jacob said, staring at Jack in disbelief.
"Well, sure...but aside from that...."
"Lovely," Jack said as he, Jacob, Sam and Teal'c moved stealthily into an unoccupied lab. He leaned over, peering into one of the many tanks in the room. "Sort of Sea World meets Star Wars." Jack stopped dead in front of a tank containing a bloated, white, larval appearing creature. "Or Creature from the Black Lagoon."
"It's a Goa'uld queen," Sam said, grimacing at the sight.
"Her appearance may be distasteful to you," Selmac said. "But she is a mother to our race."
"And keeping her in a fish tank is your way of showing respect?" Jack asked as he walked all the way around the containment tank.
"No," Selmac said. "This queen is not here willingly."
"How can you be certain?" Teal'c asked.
"These readings indicate that her brain function is severely depressed."
"Yeah, well, we all have days like that," Jack muttered, watching Sam as she wandered around the lab.
"Colonel," Sam called softly when she reached the other side of the room. Jack, Jacob and Teal'c all joined her next to a series of smaller tanks that were brimming with immature Goa'uld larvae.
"So Anubis is breeding more offspring," Jack said. He shuddered as a bad mental image flashed through his brain. He hadn't been able to get Anise's attempt to breed with Daniel out of his mind. More accurately--Anise's attempt to have sex with Daniel, because Jack didn't think she'd been planning to actually *breed*.... And, okay, that was an even more disgusting thought than just the snake jumping Daniel's bones.
"He's breeding *drones*," Jacob corrected.
"How do you know?" Sam asked.
"When the queen's brain activity is depressed like that there's no way she can pass on her knowledge," Jacob explained. "These larvae probably have only rudimentary personalities at best."
"Then most likely these are the symbiotes meant for the new warriors," Teal'c said.
"I'd say that's almost certain," Jacob agreed.
"What kind of numbers are we talking here?" Jack asked.
"There must be several hundred in these tanks alone," Sam estimated.
"As long as she's kept in the breeding state, a queen can produce significant numbers of larvae in a relatively short period of time," Jacob said as he walked back toward the queen.
"Yeah, and speaking of that," Jack said sotto voce as he followed Jacob. "You're giving dating advice to the Tok'ra now?"
"Anise," Jacob chuckled.
"Yeah, Anise. And what's up with that?"
"She asked," Jacob said.
"You didn't have to answer," Jack said. "Daniel was almost completely freaked."
"Somehow I doubt that Daniel is that psychologically fragile," Jacob said dryly. He looked at Jack with a raised eyebrow. "I have to admit, I was curious to see how fast you'd run if Freya decided to make a move on *you* again."
"Ew," Jack said, shuddering.
"Colonel?" Sam looked at Jack with just the hint of a twinkle in her eye. Jack had to wonder how much she'd overheard. "What do you want to do about these symbiotes?"
"If we eliminate the queen then we'll stop Anubis' ability to make these drones, right?" Jack asked.
"That should work," Jacob agreed.
"A little C4 would do the trick," Sam said.
"It would also notify the entire base that we're here," Jack said. He gazed around the lab, looking for an alternative. "Is there any way to disconnect these monitors without setting off an alarm?"
"That shouldn't be a problem," Sam said, studying the set up.
"Sir? I'd like to get a sample of the liquid first," Sam said, gesturing at the tank that held the queen.
"I have a hunch," Sam said. "But I'll need to analyze the fluid to confirm it."
"Sure, knock yourself out. Then get those monitors disconnected." Jack turned to Jacob. "Is there anything in this lab that we can use to kill it...her?"
"I think I can find something that'll work," Jacob said, looking slowly around the lab.
"As soon as Carter, Jr. gets the alarms shut off, you take care of the queen. Then let's go see what else Anubis is hiding."
"What? Oh, sorry--just thinking," Daniel said, smiling at the real estate agent. He turned his head away to sneeze. The Antarctic had far less pollen than Colorado, and he'd gotten careless about taking his antihistamines over the last six weeks. Now he was paying for the lapse.
"Bless you," she said in a distracted tone. "I was just saying that the owner had to relocate rather quickly due to a job transfer. He'd probably be willing to take less than the asking price, especially given that you're already approved for the mortgage and wouldn't be placing any conditions on your offer."
Daniel nodded. Funny, but it turned out that being dead for a year could actually be good for your bank account. Jack had left his investments alone and they'd continued to earn a reasonable return. He also had a year of back pay to play with.
"And the owner is willing to allow immediate possession," the agent said with a speculative gleam in her eye.
"Really?" That definitely had Daniel's interest. His quarters at the Antarctic base had finally exhausted his patience with living on military bases, and he couldn't go on 'visiting' Jack for much longer. Well, he could, but not without the risk of arousing suspicion.
And it was a nice little house. Nothing fancy, but suitable for Daniel's needs. Most importantly it would be the first permanent residence he'd ever had. Even before his parents died, they hadn't had one single place they called home. They'd spend too much time traveling for their work. And Daniel had never considered his foster homes permanent. Permanent for the foster families, maybe, but not for him. Then it had been college dorms and apartments.... Never anything permanent. Never anything that had belonged to him.
"Offer him the asking price," Daniel said, making an instant decision.
"I'm sure we could trim a few thousand...."
"It's okay. He needs it and I can afford it." Daniel smiled to himself as he looked around the house again, this time imaging himself living in it, possessing it, making it all his own.
"Forgive me, Dr. Jackson, but that doesn't make very good economic sense."
"Sometimes it's not about economics."
"Look out," Jack ordered, bringing his gun up. They'd entered a dimly lit storage room of sorts. Row after row of capsules, vertically stacked, filled the room. Thin cables snaked from the end of each pod to a monitor on the wall. Each capsule contained one of the new Goa'uld warriors.
"I don't think these soldiers are a threat," Sam said, slowly approaching one of the pods. She leaned over cautiously and stared through the transparent lid at the drone soldier inside.
"Are they in stasis?" Jack asked. He hovered just behind Sam, his eyes still scanning the room.
"I don't think so."
"They are all dead," Teal'c said. He was standing next to a pod in the next row, staring at the monitors.
"No, not dead," Jacob said, looking over Teal'c's shoulder. "They're just not alive."
"And the difference would be?" Jack asked.
"They're not alive," Jacob repeated. "They've never *been* alive."
"They're waiting to be implanted with the symbiotes we saw in the other room," Sam guessed.
"Can a symbiote bring one of these things to life?" Jack asked.
"No, not by itself," Jacob said. He started to wander around the room, running his hands along the various monitors and control panels, searching.
"So what would be the point of implanting a symbiote in a dead-- excuse me: not alive--body?" Jack asked.
"Obviously there's another step to the process," Jacob said.
"Obviously," Jack sighed.
"As soon as I get you three back to Earth I'll need to meet with the Tok'ra High Council," Jacob said as they walked through the corridor toward the exit, their movements swift but quiet.
"Why?" Jack asked, glancing back at Jacob.
"I'd rather not say just yet. I have a hunch, but I'd like to confirm it before I go spreading panic."
"Panic?" Jack asked. "What? Goa'uld secret fortresses and unbeatable, undead drone warriors aren't bad enough?"
"Don't go borrowing trouble, Jack. It'll only turn your hair gray."
"At least I *have* hair," Jack muttered to himself.
Sam's quiet sound of astonishment was almost unworthy of notice. But the drone soldier that stood in their path wasn't.
"Go for the ship," Jack shouted.
Teal'c ran, not for the ship, but straight at the drone. Apparently the drone wasn't used to targets running toward it, which was the only reason Jack could think of to explain why the drone didn't shoot Teal'c down. Instead, Teal'c hit the thing with all the speed and force he could muster. Which was just enough to knock the drone back several feet, leaving their path clear.
"Go!" Jack said, urging Teal'c after Sam and Jacob. All four of them pelted down the hall, running through the unguarded exit just as an alarm began to sound. Jacob led them unerringly in the direction of the cloaked ship. As Teal'c sprinted past him, Jacob sent the signal to uncloak.
"Teal'c, get that baby fired up," Jack said. He turned his head slightly to look behind him. Drones were beginning to spill from the doorway now, but only the first one was close enough to have a chance of catching up. Jack turned forward again and willed his legs to pump a little harder. He wanted to believe that covering his team's six was the only reason he was last. Unfortunately, he couldn't. He was losing a few steps every year, and the only thing that kept him ahead of the pursuing drone was sheer stubbornness and stark fear.
"Go, Teal'c!" Jacob shouted as Jack threw himself through the hatch, sliding a short distance on his belly across the smooth floor. Jacob and Sam began firing over Jack's head almost immediately. Jack got to his knees and looked over his shoulder.
"Son of a bitch," Jack muttered when he saw the drone standing just inside the hatch.
The drone fired at Jacob, then pivoted to aim at Sam. Jack launched himself at Sam, knocking her against the bulkhead. Jack fell back to his knees and the shot went over him, hitting Teal'c in the back of his shoulder. The drone and Jacob continued to trade fire even as the tel'tac began to rise into the air.
"Teal'c, can you get us out of here?" Jack asked, trying to distract the drone by adding his own fire to the mix
"The drone has blocked the door mechanism. I cannot leave the atmosphere as long as it remains open," Teal'c called back.
"That could be a problem then," Jack said.
"Maintain your positions," Teal'c said.
"Wh...?" Jack slid across the floor, which had suddenly become more of a wall, slamming into the wall, which was apparently now the floor.
Jack looked up to see Sam holding on desperately to the back of the copilot's seat as Teal'c turned the ship completely on its side in an attempt to dislodge the drone.
"He's still there," Jacob called to Sam.
"Hold him," Sam shouted. "I've got an idea."
"Sure, no problem," Jacob said dryly. He was on the opposite side of the cabin from Jack, holding on to one of the escape pods by one hand while still trying to aim his zat with the other. His shot went wild when his free hand swayed with the movement of the ship.
"Hey!" Jack ducked as the shot lit up the panel just above his head.
"Sorry," Jacob said. The ship wiggled even more violently, Teal'c continuing to try to shake the drone loose as they sped along just above the ground.
"Just a minute," Sam called out.
"We don't have a minute," Jack shouted back.
The ship suddenly righted and Jack rolled into the entryway...right at the drone's feet.
"Holy...!" Jack reacted instinctively, kicking out and up. It was like kicking a small mountain--he'd tripped over rocks with more give. Nevertheless, Jack kicked again, then rolled to his feet. He reversed his direction and threw his shoulder into the drone's midsection. An instant later the drone's resistance weakened and Jack's momentum nearly carried both of them out of the open hatch. Just as Jack realized that he was going to follow the drone out the door, a hand grabbed the back of his vest.
"I got him," Jacob called to the cockpit. He patted Jack on the shoulder before reaching around him to activate the exterior hatch. Jack let out a relieved breath when the door closed. "We're good, Teal'c. Get us out of here."
Jack turned to see Sam standing a few feet behind Jacob, a frown of concern on her face.
"I'm good. I'm fine," Jack said. It was going to take a minute, or two, for his heart rate to drop back below one hundred, and his shoulder was distinctly unhappy about being used as a battering ram, but otherwise he was peachy.
"Some hand to hand technique there," Jacob said, bending over to pick something up. "Or should I say foot to groin?"
"You do what you have to," Jack said. He turned to Sam. "And what did you do?"
"I was able to boost the radio...." Sam shook her head with a chagrined smile when Jack stared blankly at her. "Simple version--I fried its circuits."
"And that was enough to kill it?" Jack asked.
"Not kill, just disable," Sam said. "I suspected that they're dependent on that electrical field for more than just communications, and apparently I was right."
"Yes, you were," Jack said. "Good work."
"Like I said--interesting technique," Jacob said, handing Jack a piece of shiny, black armor.
"What's that?" Sam asked.
"I think it could be part of its codpiece," Jacob said, grinning as he walked toward the cockpit.
"Ew," Jack said. He handed the piece to Sam before following Jacob. Well, she was the one who always wanted to play with new tech, after all. Sam made a face, but slipped the piece into a pocket before following Jack to the flight deck.
"I've got it, Teal'c," Jacob said as he slid into the co-pilot's chair.
"Teal'c?" Jack asked, assessing Teal'c's shoulder.
"I will be fine, O'Neill."
"Let Carter take a look," Jack said. Teal'c's jaw tightened as it usually did when he had to accept that he was not super human. Then he relented and turned to allow Sam to give him first aid.
"You know, we really need to have one of those Goa'uld force field things," Jack said.
"Sir?" Sam asked, glancing up while she worked on Teal'c's shoulder.
"I'm serious. If our weapons aren't any use then we need a way to confine these super special undead types."
"Goa'uld force shields aren't exactly convenient, Jack," Jacob said. "They have to have a set point and established parameters to determine the volume of the field. How much help is that going to be on a field mission?"
"Well," Jack said, thinking it over. Okay, so not much help out in the field. "Ships? It would've come in real handy today."
"And how many ships does the SGC have?" Jacob asked.
"Large enough to make a force field practical?" Sam asked. "One--the Prometheus."
"Well, there you go," Jacob said.
"I still think they might come in handy," Jack muttered.
"Jack, you said you wanted a little warning?" Jacob said.
"Prepare for hyper-launch."
"So you couldn't wait for me?" Daniel asked as soon as Jack, Sam and Teal'c stepped onto the ramp after the three day return trip.
"You were busy making snowmen or something," Jack said, unable to hold back a grin. Pissy Daniel--a joy to behold. And just plain hold, preferably as soon as possible. After all, Jack needed to make sure that none of Daniel's appendages had suffered frostbite.
"Or something," Daniel said, smiling.
"How did the mission go, Colonel?" Hammond asked, walking up to join Daniel at the foot of the ramp.
"Teal'c needs to visit the infirmary, sir," Jack told the general.
"A minor injury," Teal'c said. "It is of no consequence."
"Nevertheless, you should get checked out. All of you should," Hammond said. "We'll debrief after Dr. Fraiser has cleared you."
"So...aside from Teal'c's 'minor injury,' is everyone else okay?" Daniel asked. He followed SG-1 as they walked toward the infirmary. Jack grinned again as Daniel tried to pretend that he wasn't checking Jack out thoroughly. That didn't bother Jack a bit. In fact, Jack was doing a little checking of his own.
"A little black and blue, but okay," Sam said.
"Did you have a run in with one of those soldiers?" Daniel asked with concern.
"Had a run-in with the colonel."
"Jack?" Daniel raised one eyebrow.
"Hey, I was trying to save her life," Jack protested, ignoring the conspiratorial wink Sam gave Daniel.
"He's been playing with codpieces, too," Sam said.
"Er...what?" Daniel said, stumbling over his own feet in surprise. He gave Jack a sideways stare, wondering just whose codpiece Jack had been getting into.
"Gotta know where the enemy's most vulnerable," Jack said, strolling away.
"What's that?" Jack asked, picking up an alien something or other from the corner of Daniel's desk.
"*That* is a battery."
"No, not really, but that's what you're going to call it so I figured I'd save myself a headache and cut to the chase."
"Well, it's not as impressive as the souvenir Teal'c brought me, but it's the thought that counts, right?"
"Right," Daniel said, taking the power module away from Jack. "Speaking of drones, I watched some of the video from the autopsy and I have what may be an odd question."
"You may get an odd answer, but shoot."
"Do those things ever take off their armor?" Daniel asked. "I mean-- *can* they?"
"See! I knew you'd be thinking the same thing I was thinking," Jack said.
"What thing were you thinking?"
"How do they go to the bathroom?"
"That's not what I was thinking," Daniel said.
"Yes, it was."
"No, it wasn't. Although...now I probably won't be able to stop thinking about that."
"What's the battery for?" Jack asked, grinning to himself.
"Sweet," Jack said, grinning smugly at Daniel.
"Don't push it," Daniel warned. The last thing he needed was for Jack to get the idea that Daniel was easy. Not when it came to his work anyway. Daniel finished packing the device away in a padded box. "How's your shoulder?"
"Just bruised," Jack said, rotating his arm to prove the lack of serious injury. "A hot meal, a hot shower and I'll be good as new."
"I need to drop this off in Sam's lab, then I'm headed home."
"I'll go with you. I already stopped by the infirmary and checked up on Teal'c," Jack said.
"Is Janet keeping him prisoner?" Daniel asked, picking up the case by its handle.
"Apparently," Jack said. "And how come you get away with saying stuff like that? If I even think the wrong thing Fraiser's on me like white on rice."
"That's because I'm sweet and innocent."
"Oh, you so are not!"
"True," Daniel admitted easily as he shut off the lights in his office. "But she thinks I am."
"She should know better by now."
"You'd think," Daniel agreed.
"So," Jack said as they started down the corridor. "How much do you think the Fox network would pay for that alien autopsy footage?"
"Colonel. Daniel." Sam looked surprised to see both of them in her lab.
"Hey, Sam--got something for you," Daniel said, setting the case on her lab table.
"Really?" Sam asked, her eyes brightening.
"Tomorrow, Carter," Jack said. "It'll wait."
"Er...yeah, I was just getting ready to leave," Sam said.
"Sure you were," Jack said, gesturing both of them toward the door. Daniel smiled at Sam before walking out into the hallway.
Oh, sir," Sam said as she followed Jack and Daniel out of the lab. "I was right about that fluid sample."
"What fluid sample?" Daniel asked.
"Anubis was keeping a Goa'uld queen in a sort of mindless breeding state," Sam told Daniel. "On preliminary tests the fluid in the tank appears to be the same substance that was in the Isis jar."
"And that's fascinating because?" Jack prompted.
"Well, if nothing else it proves that Daniel's right," Sam said. "Anubis probably is the one who sealed Isis and Osiris in those jars."
"Which is probably neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things," Daniel said.
"It means Anubis has been making long range plans," Jack said.
"I take it that you didn't find any obvious way to undo any of his long range plans," Daniel said.
"Well, we eliminated the queen," Jack said as he punched the button to call the elevator. "That'll slow down production of his spiffy new soldiers, at least for a while."
"Dad, or Selmac, seemed to have something on his mind."
"But will he share?" Jack asked.
"I think so," Sam said, nodding. "He said he'd be back tomorrow. There wouldn't be any reason for him to come back if he wasn't planning to tell us what he knows or suspects."
"So we wait," Jack said. "In the meantime, Daniel and I are thinking something spicy for dinner. Mexican?"
"I'm kind of in the mood for Szechwan," Daniel said as they entered the elevator car.
"I can do Chinese," Jack said. "Carter, want to join us?"
"Ah...love to, sir, but I can't."
"Can't?" Jack asked.
"Because...." Sam's voice trailed off.
"Because?" Daniel said, nudging Sam with his shoulder.
"Yeah, Carter. What's with the 'because'?"
"It's nothing," Sam said.
"That's a something nothing if I ever heard one," Jack said.
"What?" Sam asked.
"Come on, Sam. You can take one night off," Daniel said as they exited one elevator and walked down the hall to the one that would take them to the surface.
"I am taking the night off," Sam insisted.
"Not buying it," Jack said.
"All right, fine, I have a date."
Jack and Daniel both stopped dead in their tracks. Sam continued on for a few more steps before realizing that she'd lost her escort. She turned back to face them, hands on hips.
"You don't have to look so surprised."
"No, we're not...it's not surprise," Daniel said, glancing at Jack.
"Yes, it is," Jack said. He grunted when Daniel elbowed him in the side. "I just mean that it's...unusual."
"But not impossible," Sam said. "I *have* dated before."
"You've been engaged before," Jack said.
"Don't remind me," Sam said.
"So who is it?" Jack asked.
"You don't know him, Colonel."
"Now how do you know that?"
"Because I don't know him," Sam admitted.
"That doesn't necessarily preclude Jack from knowing him," Daniel said. Sam and Jack both stared at him. "Well, it doesn't."
"He's a cop. From Denver. So unless the colonel is hiding the odd misdemeanor from us...?" Sam said looking at Jack.
"And exactly what crime did *you* commit to attract the attention of a cop from Denver?" Jack asked.
"It's not like that. My brother knows him. He fixed us up." Sam shrugged, embarrassed, as she took in Jack and Daniel's reactions. "Bad idea, huh?"
"That depends," Daniel said.
"On whether your brother likes you or not," Jack said.
"Uh oh," Sam said, suddenly looking panicked.
"The floor?" Daniel protested breathlessly.
"Is that a problem?"
"It's hard," Daniel complained, trying to maneuver Jack down the hall.
"And so am I."
"Mr. Subtlety strikes again," Daniel muttered. Jack's house wasn't all that much larger than Daniel's, but it seemed to take a whole lot longer to get from the front door to the bedroom.
"You should feel flattered. I *wanted* to do you in the truck," Jack said, still trying to wrestle Daniel's clothes off.
"You'd never risk your precious upholstery," Daniel said.
"I brought towels."
"I should've known," Daniel said, realizing that he had seen towels tucked under the seat.
"Yes, you should have," Jack agreed, struggling to get a grip on Daniel's belt.
"Shouldn't we be able to show a little more restraint?" Daniel asked. He managed to twist away from Jack, tugging off his shirt as he spoke.
"What would that prove?"
"I don't know," Daniel admitted. He decided that convincing Jack to wait was a lost cause, so he simply made a break for the bedroom knowing that Jack would have to follow. "Just seems sort of uncivilized of us."
"I'm not uncivilized," Jack protested, shoving Daniel toward the bed. "I think I showed remarkable restraint by *not* jumping you in the gate room."
"I take it back. You're a bastion of strength, a pillar of...."
"Love?" Jack suggested.
"Not unless you've grown in the last six weeks."
"What time is it?"
"About nine-fifteen. Why?" Daniel asked. He walked into the living room with a bowl of popcorn. Jack was sitting on his couch, the TV remote firmly in his grasp.
"Perfect," Jack said, grabbing his cell phone from the coffee table. He dialed while Daniel watched in puzzlement.
"Major? Do you need an excuse to bail?" Jack listened for a minute. "Are you sure? 'Cause I'd be glad to.... Okay, but you know we'll want the details. Details, Carter. Like does he prefer velvet or fur-lined handcuffs? And just how big is his nightstick? Carter? Carter!"
Jack switched the phone off, grinning broadly.
"What was that?"
"Rescue call," Jack said, tossing the phone on the coffee table. "In case the guy was a total loser."
"I take it he isn't," Daniel said.
"Carter sounded giddy."
"Strange, I can't really picture Sam being giddy," Daniel said thoughtfully.
"And Fraiser can't picture you being a slut."
"Good point," Daniel said. He knelt on the couch, straddling Jack's thighs.
"It is?" Jack asked, grabbing some popcorn from the bowl.
"Our interpretation of a person's behavior in any given instance is based on our established perception of that person," Daniel said. "I have a hard time believing that Sam is acting giddy because I haven't seen her that way. And Janet doesn't see me as a sexual being because...." Daniel paused, frowning. "Actually, I don't know why Janet doesn't see me as a sexual being."
"It's 'cause you're Daniel," Jack said, tossing popcorn into the air and catching it with his mouth.
"What?" Daniel asked sharply. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"I don't know," Jack admitted. "But it's true."
"Sorry, too hard?" Jack said, easing the grip his free hand had on Daniel's assets.
"No, that's not.... Janet doesn't see me in a sexual manner because she's my doctor," Daniel said, strangely relieved that he'd been able to come up with a reasonable theory. It wasn't that he *wanted* Janet to view him as a sexual being. He didn't really want anyone viewing him as a sexual being, other than Jack, but at the same time it was somewhat disconcerting when one person was so obviously resistant to the idea.
"So as a doctor she sees hundreds of naked men...."
"And naked women," Jack pointed out.
"Yes, but I don't think Janet's a lesbian."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Nudity is often associated with sex," Daniel said.
"Works for me."
"But Janet is a doctor. She has to divorce nudity from sex in order to maintain a professional relationship with her patients."
"In that case, I have to say I'm extremely grateful that I'm not your doctor. Although I don't mind *playing* doctor...?" Jack looked hopefully at Daniel.
"Haven't you had enough for this evening?" Daniel asked, smiling.
"You've been gone for six weeks," Jack pointed out. Daniel leaned forward and kissed him. Daniel tasted buttery and salty and...eager.
"Did I tell you how glad I am that you're home?" Jack asked as Daniel's tongue traveled up to and around his earlobe.
"Um hmmm," Daniel hummed.
"And did I mention that it's been six weeks?"
"You don't like it," Daniel said defensively as Sam and Teal'c began exploring his new house.
Jack had already made his opinion very clear. It might have been more diplomatic of him if he'd waited until he'd actually seen the inside, but there were times when you really could judge a book by its cover and this was one of those times.
"It's got potential," Sam said, turning in place as she studied the living room.
"Potential," Jack muttered. Daniel shot him an angry look and Jack took that as a hint to make himself scarce.
"Really, Daniel. It needs work, but it's not bad," Sam said.
"Really?" Daniel sounded so relieved that Jack felt guilty for trying to squash Daniel's aspirations of home ownership. But if Jack didn't have a problem with Daniel living with him then Daniel shouldn't have a problem with it either.
"Definitely paint," Sam said. "This color is just...ick."
"Ick?" Daniel asked, frowning.
"Told ya," Jack tossed over his shoulder before wandering down the hall to the bedroom. The very small bedroom. Tiny. Totally unsuitable for two grown men with healthy libidos.
"What do you think, T?"
"This house gives me a pleasant feeling," Teal'c said. He was gazing around, apparently soaking up the ambiance. "It is most inviting."
"Sheesh," Jack muttered.
"See?" Daniel said as he brushed past Jack on his way into the bedroom.
"Like you should take the word of a man who lives under a mountain?" Jack said. He turned to Teal'c. "No offense."
"So you say," Teal'c said, arching an eyebrow at Jack.
"I like it," Daniel said stubbornly, crossing his arms over his chest, his lower jaw set in determination.
"Have you at least had the wiring and plumbing checked out?" Jack asked. He knew that look, and that look meant Daniel was determined to go ahead with his plans.
"The building inspector was here yesterday afternoon."
"I like it, Daniel," Sam said, resting her hand briefly on Daniel's arm. "It's got character."
"Character? Who wants a house with character?" Jack asked. "I've got a house and it doesn't have any character."
"Your house has you; it doesn't need character," Daniel said. Jack frowned, trying to work out the insult/compliment ratio in that statement.
"It's very...Daniel-like," Sam said.
"Precisely my reaction," Teal'c said.
"Three to one," Daniel told Jack.
"Ah, but which one is more important?" Jack said. Because he certainly thought his opinion should carry a little more weight than Sam's or Teal'c's. He was the one who was going to be playing musical beds after all.
"*I* would be the one who's more important," Daniel said.
"I knew these delusions of grandeur were going to be a problem."
"Try Thorazine," Daniel suggested as he walked back toward the living room. "You'll feel much better."
"I meant *your* delusions, smart ass."
"What more do we know about these new soldiers?" Hammond asked, taking his customary seat at the head of the briefing room table.
"We know they're drones," Jack said.
"We know that they are the same creatures we found in the mass grave on P8Y," Teal'c said.
"We do?" Jack asked, staring across the table at Teal'c.
"I am now certain of it," Teal'c said.
"But why so many of them dead in one place, at one time?" Daniel asked.
"Maybe they were all made at the same time so they all died at the same time," Jack suggested.
"Isn't that kind of stupid?" Daniel asked. "What would be the point of breeding an army if you know they could all drop dead in the middle of a battle? That's incredibly stupid and short-sighted, even for a Goa'uld."
"Dr. Fraiser suggested that the shortened life span may have been unavoidable," Teal'c said.
"There has to be something else going on," Daniel insisted.
"There is." Sam flipped rapidly through her folder of reports, pulling one out and skimming the summary. "Dr. Fraiser's final report said that she never found a definitive cause of death for the drone Teal'c and Bra'tac captured."
"No, she thought it was some kind of heart attack," Jacob said. "She said something about an irregular heartbeat, which apparently doesn't leave any physical evidence after death."
"It didn't die of a heart attack," Sam said, looking up.
"Then it did succumb to our weapons?" Teal'c asked.
"Not directly, no."
"If it didn't die of natural causes or injuries, then what?" Jack asked.
"Kill switch," Sam said. Jack frowned in puzzlement. "Sir, we know that the armor these things wear is wired. Now some of that is certainly for communications or other benign reasons."
"But you think it's also wired to kill?" Jacob said.
"A jolt of electricity could cause an irregular heartbeat, and wouldn't necessarily leave any physical traces," Sam said.
"Why not just pull the plug like you did to that one on the ship?" Jack asked.
"That's not enough to kill it outright," Sam said. "I merely disrupted the electrical field, which made it more vulnerable, but didn't kill it."
"And the soldier Teal'c and Bra'tac brought back?" Hammond asked.
"Had no sign of injury, and as far as we can determine the electrical field in its armor was intact."
"So...Anubis killed it?" Daniel asked.
"Maybe the kill switch was preprogrammed to trigger if the drone didn't return to base within a certain amount of time," Jack said. Sam nodded agreement.
"What purpose would this kill switch serve?" Teal'c asked.
"Teal'c, Bra'tac told us that a System Lord is more likely to be challenged by his offspring than by his enemies," Daniel said.
"That is true."
"Well, these new soldiers could be considered Anubis' offspring. They are most likely the greatest threat to him."
"They're only drones, Daniel," Jacob said.
"Yes, but they aren't completely mindless," Daniel argued. He tapped a finger against his temple. "There has to be something going on up here or they'd be useless in combat."
"Even so, I doubt they have the mental capacity to organize a coup," Jacob said.
"Maybe not now," Jack said. "That doesn't mean they didn't at some point in the past. If Teal'c's right and those mummies we found on P8Y were the same breed, then Anubis has been developing these soldiers for a long time."
"His earlier attempts may not have suppressed their mental abilities as severely," Sam said, agreeing with Jack.
"Of course," Daniel said.
"Dr. Jackson?" Hammond said.
"That explains the mass grave," Daniel said. "Those drones must have done something, or attempted to do something, that Anubis considered a threat to his personal authority."
"So Anubis hit the kill switch?" Jack asked.
"No, I think that rebellion may have been what led him to install a kill switch." Daniel paused, thinking. "Anubis was still fully ascended at that time so he could easily have killed those soldiers. But even as an Ascended he couldn't be everywhere at once. If he intended to use these soldiers in battle against the other System Lords, then he couldn't risk the possibility that they'd turn on him, or that they could be captured and turned by another System Lord."
"And now that he is without the full powers of the Ascended, it would be even more important that he have a means of control," Teal'c said.
"Yes," Daniel said.
"Does this information give us any kind of edge? Is there any way for us to kill these things?" Hammond asked.
"Apparently kicking them in the nuts works quite well," Jack said. Hammond gave him an exasperated look.
"At least we know there *is* a weakness," Sam said. "The armor, and possibly the drones themselves, are dependent on the electrical field. What we need is a way to send out a small electromagnetic pulse."
"Is that possible?"
"HERF guns are a hot topic on some government conspiracy bulletin boards," Sam said.
"I'm not even going to ask how you know that," Jack said.
"A what gun?" Daniel asked.
"A high energy radio frequency gun, and it's a valid concern, Colonel. We all know what a large EMP can do. A small one could be just as bad. It could disable a car, melt your computer hard drive, generally cause all kinds of problems."
"Are these HERF guns real?" Hammond asked.
"Supposedly a man built one with parts he bought at Wal-Mart," Sam said.
"But can *we* build one?" Jack asked. "I mean--we are talking about the government here."
"It wouldn't be very powerful...but I think we could make a portable one," Sam said. She turned to Hammond. "In fact, I'd like your permission to check on other classified D.O.D. projects. It's entirely possible that someone is already working on something similar."
"Can you say 'conspiracy theorist'?" Jack said dryly.
"Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you, sir," Sam said.
"Do we really need to worry about that?" Daniel asked. "You killed the queen, right? So there won't be any more drone soldiers."
"Anubis could conceivably find a new queen," Jacob said.
"And there are already hundreds, possibly thousands, of these soldiers already in existence," Sam added.
"She has a point, General," Jack said. Hammond nodded slowly, thinking over the information.
"Is it possible to create a big EMP? I mean--without detonating a nuclear device?" Daniel asked.
"Depends on how large an EMP you're talking about. Why?"
"Ships," Teal'c said. Daniel nodded his agreement. "When Anubis comes he will do so by ship."
"Goa'uld mother ships are too well shielded," Sam said. "I really don't think we can deliver a sufficiently large pulse *and* penetrate the shields. The best we can do is to disable the soldiers once they leave the ship."
"Major, find out what you can from the D.O.D.," Hammond said. "If there isn't any current research, write up a summary of exactly what we'll need to develop a usable weapon."
"In the meantime...Jacob, do the Tok'ra have any information we might be able to use?" Hammond asked.
"I sensed a particular type of energy in the chamber where the drones were being stored," Selmac answered. "I have discussed it with other Tok'ra and we agree that Anubis is most likely using some variation of the Telchak device to bring these beings to life."
"Telchak device? What's that?" Daniel asked.
"An extremely powerful healing device created by the Ancients," Selmac said. "Telchak was a Goa'uld. The story is that he found this device on Earth and used the technology to create the sarcophagus."
"Are you saying that the Goa'uld didn't have sarcophagus technology before coming to Earth?" Sam asked Selmac.
"Exactly," Selmac confirmed. "The Unas are naturally longer lived than humans anyway. The Goa'uld simply changed hosts when the symbiote could no longer sustain the old one. The sarcophagus is what allows them to remain in one host indefinitely."
"And they found the technology on Earth?" Daniel said.
"Yes. Telchak used it to develop the sarcophagus, but he kept the original Ancient device to himself. He and Anubis actually went to war over it." Selmac shrugged, an oddly human gesture for a Tok'ra. "Telchak won, but I suppose that is a moot point now. I am assuming that Anubis gained the knowledge of this technology when he became an Ascended."
"What happened to the original device?" Hammond asked.
"No idea," Jacob said, taking over from Selmac. "Telchak more or less vanishes from Goa'uld history at that point. We're pretty sure that he found the device somewhere in Central America."
"Central America?" Daniel asked. His head snapped up, his notes temporarily forgotten. "That's it."
"The giant invisible aliens," Daniel said.
"Dr. Jackson?" Hammond said as everyone stared at Daniel in confusion.
"Nick's giant aliens," Daniel said. "The crystal skull was found in Central America, and the giant aliens were part of, or at least familiar with, the Mayan culture. And we know that the giant aliens consider the Goa'uld their enemy." He turned to Hammond. "General, I think we should go visit them."
"For what purpose?"
"Because they may know about this Ancient device," Daniel said. "And even if they don't, Nick knows more about Central America and Mayan culture than I ever will."
"If the device still exists, studying it could help us find a way to battle the drone soldiers," Jacob said.
"Sounds reasonable to me, sir," Jack said.
"Very well, but Teal'c is on light duty until his injury heals," Hammond reminded them.
"It will not impede my performance," Teal'c assured them.
"Teal'c can't go anyway. Remember? The skull doesn't allow a Jaffa to...to be...changed," Daniel said. "They won't interact with him. So this is a good time for us to go. It'll give us something useful to do while Teal'c recovers."
"Sir, if I may?" Sam said, looking first at Jack, then at Hammond.
"Well, I'd kind of like to have some time to work on that power source Daniel brought back from Antarctica."
"Actually, *I'd* like Sam to have some time for that, too," Daniel said.
"Daniel and I can handle this one alone. We're probably as safe with the giant aliens as anywhere," Jack told Hammond.
"Very well. Colonel, you and Dr. Jackson have permission to visit the...giant aliens."
"Hey, Teal'c, what's up?" Jack signed off on Sam's report and turned to Teal'c.
"While you and Daniel Jackson are visiting Nick, I would like to return to Bra'tac and apprise him of what we have discovered about these new soldiers."
"Fine by me," Jack said. "As long as Hammond and Fraiser sign off on it."
"Thank you," Teal'c said, bowing his head.
"Something else?" Jack asked when Teal'c remained standing before Jack's desk, looking uneasy.
"I find myself questioning my future," Teal'c said.
"How so?" Jack asked, leaning forward.
"I have pledged my service to the Tau'ri. To you, to General Hammond and the SGC."
"Something that I, personally, am grateful for each and every day," Jack said. "However, I'm sensing a 'but' here."
"The Jaffa rebellion grows stronger with each passing day. Our numbers increase, as does our determination."
"And you want to be part of it?" Jack guessed. "I guess I can understand that."
"I do not regret pledging my service to the Tau'ri," Teal'c said, finally sitting in the chair across from Jack. "We have battled well together."
"We give it our best shot." Jack paused, playing with his pen as he considered his next words. "Of course, there's the fact that you missed most of Ryac's childhood."
"True, and yet I do not regret that either," Teal'c said. "Had I remained as the First Prime of Apophis, Ryac would even now be serving in the ranks of a false god. My son did not have his father, but he has freedom. That is the greatest gift I could have given him."
"For what it's worth, I agree with you," Jack said. "So what exactly prompted this uncertainty?"
"Master Bra'tac grows old."
"Yeah, well, he's doing pretty damn good for an old guy," Jack said.
"Indeed he is," Teal'c said, with a small smile. "But even Bra'tac cannot live forever. He no longer has the strength to lead the rebellion alone."
"So you want to go back and take over the rebel movement," Jack said. As much as he hated the thought of Teal'c leaving, there was an undeniable rightness to the idea of Teal'c taking on the mantle of Jaffa leadership.
"Rak'nor has already gained trust and respect. He assists Bra'tac in all matters."
"Ah." Jack ran a hand through his hair, thinking that he needed to tread lightly here. "Do I detect a hint of jealousy?"
"Such feelings are unworthy," Teal'c said, tacitly accepting Jack's assessment.
"Aw, c'mon, Teal'c. It's a natural reaction. You and Bra'tac have been together a long time. The two of you *were* the Jaffa rebellion. If it weren't for you, all Jaffa would still be kneeling before their assorted false gods."
"This is true. But I relinquished any right I may have had to assume Bra'tac's place when I chose to join the SGC." Teal'c smiled warmly. "Do not misunderstand me, O'Neill. I fully believe it was the right choice to make. And Master Bra'tac respects my decision."
"But he was left with no choice but to groom someone else to take over for him."
"Yes," Teal'c agreed.
"So...where does that leave you? And us?" Jack asked.
"This is the matter about which I am uncertain," Teal'c admitted. "I no longer have any sure knowledge as to which path I should take. If, indeed, I am meant to take either."
"I see," Jack said. He really did see, he just didn't know what to do about it. "You know...I'm not very good at this cosmic karmic crap. Have you talked to Bra'tac about it?"
"I do not wish to burden him."
"What about Daniel? He's got a knack for this 'path' stuff."
"Neither do I wish to burden him any further."
"You *do* know that neither Bra'tac nor Daniel would consider it a burden?" Jack said. "I mean, you're like a son to Bra'tac. And Daniel...you know Daniel would do anything for you."
"I am aware."
"And let's face it--I'm just no help at all."
"I disagree. You have been most helpful."
"Perhaps I should say that you have been as helpful in this matter as it is possible for anyone to be."
"Right," Jack said, no closer to understanding how his inane questions could've been any help.
"I thank you for your time," Teal'c said, rising from his chair and bowing slightly before leaving.
"Sure. Always glad to be of assistance."
"Could you talk to Teal'c?" Jack asked Daniel as he slid into bed.
"I talk to Teal'c all the time."
"About a problem," Jack said, swatting Daniel's ass. Jack decided that he liked the feel of Daniel's ass under his hand so he left it there, stroking and then massaging that ass.
"Problem?" Daniel prompted, rolling onto his stomach to give Jack full access. He turned his head to the side so that he could watch Jack's face.
"He's got path difficulties."
"It's that pesky Jaffa versus Tau'ri question."
"Teal'c could be a great leader for the Jaffa," Daniel said. "He's already something of a legend, but he could become a truly historic leader. The kind that Jaffa children will be learning about in their history lessons hundreds of years from now."
"So we're keeping him from his destiny or something?"
"I don't know." Daniel's shrug made his muscles jump under Jack's fingers.
"Well, that's helpful."
"Every man must walk his path alone," Daniel said.
"What about Jaffa?"
"Them, too." Daniel shivered when Jack bit his ass. He relaxed and spread his legs when Jack went back to massaging his ass, pulling slightly as he kissed then bit down again. "Are you starting something back there or just messing around?"
"Haven't decided yet."
Daniel stretched, reaching his hands toward the headboard and spreading his legs further. There was something decadent about simply lying there and allowing Jack to please him, about allowing Jack to use his willing body. Jack's tongue probed between his cheeks and Daniel decided there was absolutely nothing wrong with decadence, not between two consenting adults.
"Oh, whoa," Daniel groaned when Jack's tongue darted inside.
"Decided I'm starting something back here," Jack said in a matter of fact tone.
"That's fine, just as long as you plan on finishing," Daniel said.
"Move up," Jack said, nudging Daniel with his shoulder. Daniel got to his knees and reached for the top of the headboard. Jack immediately moved between his legs and entered him. Daniel relaxed as much as possible in the awkward position and let Jack do the work. It was a game, a challenge to see how long he could remain passive, simply accepting the stimulation of his body before he had to respond.
Finally, Jack's hands reached around, threading along Daniel's ribs before they crept up and pinched both nipples. Daniel choked back a grunt, determined to hold out even though the muscles in his arms and shoulders were bulging, burning from the pressure with which he was gripping the headboard. Jack's hands continued moving, scraping across his belly and pressing into his groin. But slowly.
Jack knew. He was trying to push Daniel over the edge, but not too quickly because the game was a much fun as the goal. Jack's hands slid through the crease at the top of Daniel's thighs and captured Daniel's balls, one in each hand. He squeezed and pulled and Daniel slammed back, his ass slapping sharply against Jack's skin.
"Fuck," Daniel groaned when Jack finally gripped his cock in a tight fist. Daniel capitulated with a vengeance. He rocked himself hard between two points of pleasure, Jack's hand and Jack's cock, until every muscle in his body seized. A moment later Jack exploded inside him, his shout muffled against Daniel's back.
"Gonna fall down now," Daniel mumbled. His arms were shaking with the strain of holding his own, and now Jack's, weight up.
"Wimp," Jack muttered, sliding out and collapsing flat on his back.
"Just because I don't want to talk to Teal'c?" Daniel said. He dropped to the mattress and sprawled out on his stomach, convinced he wouldn't be able to move for several hours.
"Yeah," Jack chuckled. "That's it."
"I'm sure we're talking the pre-classic Mayan era," Daniel said as he followed Jack across the narrow walkway that led to the crystal skull.
"Why?" Jack asked even though he wasn't really interested.
"Because Anubis ascended approximately twenty-five hundred years ago and that puts us in the late Pre-Classic period at the latest," Daniel explained.
"It had to be before Anubis ascended because he wouldn't have needed the device once he...glowed," Jack said.
"Yes, exactly," Daniel said, looking at Jack with a mixture of surprise and delight. "And here I thought you'd slept through that debriefing."
"I did, but Teal'c took notes," Jack said, downplaying the possibility that he ever paid attention to the geek stuff. "Do you think Nick's really going to know where to find this thing?"
"Nick spent a lot of time wandering around the Yucatan chasing after...."
"Giant invisible aliens?" Jack prompted.
"Nick had a lot of ideas that seemed pretty crazy," Daniel said. "Except it turned out that they weren't so crazy. He just didn't have enough information to prove his theories."
"Which is probably just as well for us."
"But not so good for Nick." Daniel shrugged. What was done was done. "My point is that I don't know anyone with as much knowledge of the Mayan civilization as Nick."
"And this Quetz-a-what-l, he's Mayan?" Jack asked.
"Quetzalcoatl is something of a ubiquitous presence in Mesoamerica. He's commonly identified as Aztec, but he's older than either culture," Daniel explained. "His Mayan avatar is known as Kulkulcan."
"So...will he know about Mayan history?" Jack asked, more confused than enlightened.
"I would think so. He spoke to us in Mayan last time. That suggests that this particular individual identifies with that culture."
"Maybe he's multi-lingual like you."
"I think that's almost a certainty," Daniel said, approaching the pedestal. "But the fact remains that he chose to greet us in Mayan." Daniel turned to look at Jack. "Ready?"
"To be bombarded with huge amounts of alien radiation? You bet."
Daniel shook his head at Jack, then turned to stare into the eyes of the skull. The process worked just as it had the previous time: a moment of increasingly intense wind and light before a large, misty being appeared.
"Oo ya waaling waaling wey tayil"
"Yes, we're all enemies of the Goa'uld here," Jack said, giving the giant alien a respectful nod of the head.
"You have been here before."
"Yes, several years ago," Daniel said. "We came with my grandfather, Nick."
"Why have you returned?"
"We need to talk to Nick. And to you or one of your people."
"What is it you seek?"
"We found out about a machine, possibly a weapon, that the Ancients left on our planet," Jack said.
"Er...the Uchben," Daniel said.
"Yeah, them," Jack said. "We're hoping that you or Nick know something about it."
"To use against the Goa'uld," Daniel said.
"We have no weapons to use against the Goa'uld."
"No, but you may have information that will help us find a weapon." Daniel hesitated. "We need to know about Telchak."
The alien regarded both of them sternly, before making a commanding gesture.
There was an instant of blackness that felt both vastly empty and suffocating at the same time, but it was over before Daniel could react to the unpleasant sensation. He and Jack found themselves standing in a plain stone room, Jack patting himself as if unsure that he was intact. The floors and ceiling were whitewashed, the floor bare stone. A stone pedestal stood in the middle of the room, crowned by a crystal skull just like the one back on the planet they'd just left. Or maybe it *was* the skull from that planet. Daniel couldn't be sure. He had no idea how these transport things worked.
"Welcome to Home."
"Thank you," Daniel said. Jack just nodded at the giant alien who, as it turned out, wasn't quite so giant. Quetzalcoatl stood next to the pedestal, his hand resting on top of the skull. He was big, a good three feet taller than Daniel, and massive. He wasn't quite as intimidating as the huge creature they'd met in the cavern, but still not someone Daniel would want to run afoul of.
"Er...home?" Jack asked.
"No, Home," Daniel clarified.
"This place," Quetzalcoatl said, spreading his arms in a gesture that indicated he was speaking about more than just the room they were in.
"Doesn't that get confusing?" Jack asked. "If someone says they're going home, how do you know whether they're talking about home home or Home?"
"There is no confusion," Quetzalcoatl said.
"Why don't you leave the linguistics to me?" Daniel suggested.
"Fine. Just trying to help," Jack muttered.
"I will take you to your grandfather," Quetzalcoatl told Daniel. "Then I will seek out Chac."
"Chac?" Daniel asked as he and Jack followed Quetzalcoatl out of the building and into the heart of a large city. The streets were lined with paving stones, and clean. The buildings were two to four stories in height, closely spaced. The glare of the midday sun reflecting from the gleaming whitewash on the walls was so bad that Daniel had to squint to make out any details.
"Of all my people, Chac is the one who came to know best the evil you call Telchak."
"Then Chac would be the one we need to speak to," Daniel said.
In the distance he could see forested mountains surrounding the city. Even within the city there appeared to be numerous copses filled with what Daniel assumed were native trees and flowers. Quetzalcoatl led them into one of the small groves located just a couple of streets away. Tables and benches were scattered throughout the cool shade of the tall trees. An elderly man sat at one of the tables, engrossed in a book.
"Nicholas Ballard, you have a visitor," Quetzalcoatl said as he led Jack and Daniel forward.
"Daniel." Nick rose from the table and walked toward them eagerly, embracing Daniel in a surprisingly hearty hug. "I was not expecting to see you again so soon."
"So *soon*?" Daniel asked.
"Colonel O'Neill," Nick said, reaching around Daniel to extend his hand.
"Nick," Jack said, shaking Nick's hand. "You're looking good."
"I am having the time of my life," Nick said, grinning broadly. He took Daniel by the arm and led him back toward his table. "Now, you must tell me everything: all your travels through the stargate, all the alien cultures you have encountered...."
"All the new planes of existence you've inhabited," Jack said under his breath. Daniel threw a warning look over his shoulder.
"Yes, Nick, I'll be happy to tell you all about it," Daniel said. He wished that, for once, Nick would be happy to see Daniel because he was family, and not treat him like a colleague. Daniel knew Nick wasn't a bad man. Selfish, maybe, but not truly bad. As a child, Daniel had been bitterly disappointed by Nick; as an adult he couldn't help but see that the old man had never intended to hurt him. He simply didn't have the ability to relate to anyone about anything outside his work.
"I will seek Chac," Quetzalcoatl said with a slight nod before walking toward the far side of the grove.
"Chac?" Nick asked, looking at Daniel.
"Yeah, we have a small problem back on Earth and we're hoping that you or Chac can help us," Daniel said, taking a seat at the table next to Nick.
"Which Chac?" Nick asked.
"Which?" Daniel asked, puzzled.
"There are four Chacs," Nick said.
"Yes, of course," Daniel said with a nod. "There are four aspects of the god Chac."
"In mythology, four aspects," Nick agreed. "In reality, four separate individuals. Of course there are only three left now."
"Only three," Daniel repeated, trying to wrap his mind around the concept of four--minus one--living Mayan gods.
"I hope it is not Ek Xib Chac." Nick leaned into Daniel, as if sharing a confidence. "He can be very moody."
"A moody god," Jack said. "Well, go figure."
"They are not true gods, Colonel O'Neill," Nick said.
"No, but they're not human either," Jack said. After assessing the garden for potential threats and escape routes he took a seat across the table from Daniel. He took a moment to study the aliens moving through the garden. Quetzalcoatl's build seemed to be typical: most of the aliens were about nine to ten feet tall, and muscular. Also like Quetzalcoatl they wore minimal clothing; the women wore simple white shifts, and the men white kilts. Most wore sandals, although Jack noticed a few who were strolling through the garden barefoot. A few of them, men and women alike, wore jewelry whose forms and colors were copied from the forms and colors of the natural world around them.
"No, not human," Nick agreed. "But not so different from us even so."
"Except that they're way more advanced than we are," Jack said.
"In some ways," Nick said. "They are not so much interested in technology."
"Yeah, I noticed that there doesn't seem to be much in the way of machinery," Daniel said, gesturing vaguely back toward the street. He'd seen no sign of motorized vehicles, no wires or antennas or even the smoke stacks that were typical heralds of industrial development.
"They have such machines as are necessary," Nick said. "But their true advancement is in the understanding of nature."
"Given the close relationship primitive cultures had with the nature, I suppose that makes sense. Their 'gods' were often associated with natural phenomena." Daniel turned to Jack. "Chac, for example, was the Mayan god of rain and thunder."
"Really? Big fan of his work," Jack said. "Nothing like a good thunderstorm for entertainment."
"He was a benevolent god, one the Mayan people worshipped for his ability to bring rain to nourish their crops."
"All four of them?" Jack asked.
"They all served the same function." Daniel paused. A little knowledge could be a dangerous thing with Jack. On the other hand, arming Jack with a little knowledge could also be amusing for Daniel. "He was also called Ah Hoya."
"He who urinates," Nick translated.
"A pissing god?" Jack asked, his eyes widening. "You gotta love that."
"I knew you would," Daniel said.
"Oh, it is Kan Xib Chac," Nick said. Daniel raised his eyes. Quetzalcoatl approached from the far end of the garden, accompanied by another of the aliens. Chac was slightly shorter than Quetzalcoatl, and more slender. Which still made him much bigger than any human Daniel had ever encountered.
"And that's good?" Jack asked.
"A very reasonable man," Nick assured him.
Jack settled on bench not far from the intergalactic conference going on between Daniel, Nick, and the not-so-giant aliens. He'd made an honest effort to participate in the discussion, but the aliens had a tendency to slip into their native language when they got excited. And apparently they got real excited about the Goa'uld, especially the one named Telchak. Even Daniel was having a difficulty keeping up, so Jack had slipped off to the side, leaving Daniel and Nick to handle the questioning.
Jack nodded and smiled as one of the aliens handed him a bowl. It was meant to be a mug, but in Jack's hands it was definitely more bowl sized. The alien smiled and nodded back before leaving. Many of the aliens had apparently learned some English from Nick, but aside from the few involved in the discussion, none were anywhere close to fluent The aliens had been using a lot of nodding and smiling to communicate with Jack. Which was better than screaming and killing any day, so Jack wasn't complaining. Much.
He raised the bowl, holding it just under his nose and taking a sniff. When the fumes didn't knock him out, he took a tentative sip. It was...different, but not too bad.
"You might want to take it easy with that."
"That so?" Jack asked, looking up as Daniel joined him on the bench.
"That's baal-che'. It's fermented honey."
"Honey? Geez, some people must be desperate," Jack said, but he took another sip of the brew before offering the mug to Daniel. Daniel smiled and waved it off. "So what do we know?"
"They hate the Goa'uld."
"We knew that," Jack said.
"Yes, but we didn't know why."
"Telchak, who did in fact take on Chac's religious authority-- something he's really pissed about by the way--made himself the ruler of the early Maya," Daniel said rapidly. "He drove these beings out and enslaved the humans."
"Drove *these* guys out?" Jack asked, eyeing a particularly muscular specimen walking by.
"You have to remember that as physically impressive as these beings are, as advanced as they are, they're not particularly fond of technology."
"They kind of remind me of the Nox," Jack said. He leaned over and set his mug on the ground. "Only way bigger."
"I think there are certain philosophical similarities," Daniel agreed. "The bottom line is that the Goa'uld had superior numbers and weapons."
"No, the bottom line is do they know where to find the device?"
"Well, they know about the Telchak device, at least what they think is the Telchak device."
"Think?" Jack asked.
"Telchak, which probably isn't his real name by the way, had already found the device before the giant aliens moved in."
"How did these guys move in if the Goa'uld were already there?"
"Because the Goa'uld weren't here. Not in the sense that they were physically present at that moment."
"Daniel," Jack said, his tone making it evident that his patience was being taxed.
"The Goa'uld didn't hang around Earth all the time," Daniel explained. "They had other planets to occupy, other Goa'uld to fight for territory. Earth's only real importance was that it was the source of the human race.
"Telchak discovered the Ancient device and he took it back to wherever it was he would have access to the right technology and raw materials. Someplace where he'd have privacy. It was some time later that he returned to Central America, possibly thousands of years later."
"By which time the giant aliens had moved in," Jack said.
"Yes," Daniel said. "When Telchak originally discovered the device there would've been little to no population in that part of the world. That may have been part of the reason he didn't stick around-- there were no slaves to exploit. However, there were humans when the giant aliens arrived. And they seem to have had a positive relationship."
"And then Telchak came back, kicked out the good false gods, and set himself up as the new bad false god," Jack said.
"Basically," Daniel agreed.
"So they *don't* know where the device is now?"
"From what little I was able to tell them about the technology, they think Telchak brought it back with him," Daniel said. "Telchak usurped Chac's primary temple along with his authority. They think that's probably where it is, and I think they're probably right."
"Where's the temple?" Jack said.
"That's the problem," Daniel said. "We don't have a common language."
"Gee, I hadn't noticed."
"No, I mean in a deeper sense. It's not just a matter of different words; it's a different way of thinking." Daniel smiled at Jack's blank expression. "Nick and Chac are trying to find a way to mesh their knowledge of the physical Mayan world on Earth."
"I'm not following," Jack said, and he was fairly certain he didn't want to follow. He just wanted a straight answer. He looked over Daniel's shoulder as Nick approached. Noting the shift in direction of Jack's gaze, Daniel turned to look behind him.
"We have narrowed it down," Nick said, taking a seat next to Daniel. "But only to an area that encompasses southern Honduras and possibly northern Nicaragua."
"Not entirely helpful," Jack said as gently as he could.
"I am aware of that," Nick said with a wry grimace. "If only I had my diaries. I have forgotten so much over the years, but I believe I may have been to the site that Chac describes. I simply cannot remember the exact location."
"I have your diaries," Daniel said.
"You do?" Nick asked.
"I have all of your work: your diaries, sketchbooks, maps."
"Then we must return to Earth."
"Can we?" Daniel asked. "I mean--can *you*?"
"I do not see why not. I am not a prisoner," Nick said, apparently surprised by Daniel's question.
"Right. Well, I want to ask Chac a couple more questions. Then I'll see about getting us home," Daniel said, getting up from the table.
"There's something different about Daniel," Nick observed as Daniel walked back toward the gathering of aliens. Surprised, Jack glanced at Daniel before looking back at Nick's smiling face. Nick had an almost childlike...even child*ish* demeanor. He reminded Jack of the term the doctor had applied to his paternal grandmother in the later years of her life: "pleasantly demented." Nick, however, was anything but demented. A little odd, granted, but there was still a very sharp mind hidden behind those guileless eyes.
"Daniel's...he's been through some changes since you last saw him," Jack said.
"He seems happier," Nick said thoughtfully.
"I'd say content," Jack said.
"Content," Nick repeated, nodding his head. "That's a good description."
"He'll be happy to have you back on Earth," Jack said.
"For a while at least."
"You don't even have a spare bedroom," Jack said, glancing back into Daniel's kitchen. Nick was sitting at the table, a box at his feet, his nose in a journal, and completely oblivious to Jack and Daniel's presence.
"Yes, I do."
"With a bed?" Jack asked, knowing full well that the answer was no.
"Nick can have my room. I'll sleep on the couch."
"Couldn't you sneak out for a while at least?"
"Nick just got back to Earth. And, let's face it, he wasn't doing the greatest job of dealing with the world before he left," Daniel said. "I'm not going to leave him alone."
"Fine," Jack muttered. "Guess I know where I stand."
"You stand right in the middle of my living room," Daniel said, slapping him sharply on the ass.
"I was speaking metaphorically," Jack said, doing his damnedest to project an air of wounded pride.
"Well, don't. It just makes us wonder where you hid the pod."
"And we need to talk about your house issues," Jack said.
"I don't have house issues; you do. Namely that I have one."
"How are you going to take care of a house?" Jack asked.
"How do you?"
"That's not the point. You know you're going to have to mow the yard and wash windows and dust and...."
"The boy across the street has already been by and his rates for mowing are very reasonable," Daniel said. "As for the rest--that's why I have a maid come once a week."
"You have a maid?" Jack asked, incredulous.
"It's not like she's *my* maid," Daniel said. "It's a service."
"Well la de da, Dr. Jackson."
"Would you rather I spend my free time cleaning or with you?" Daniel asked.
"That's exactly my point. There's no need to make a choice. We have the perfect excuse to live together."
"Had, Jack. *Had* a perfect excuse. But I'm now among the officially living again."
"I don't suppose I could talk you into going back to being partly dead?" Jack said.
"Not voluntarily, no."
"Jack," Daniel said before turning away from his front door, leaving Jack standing on the doorstep.
"Good morning to you, too," Jack said, puzzled by Daniel's curt greeting. Jack stopped when he entered the living room and saw Janet sitting on the edge of the couch, taking Nick's blood pressure.
"Colonel," Fraiser said, acknowledging him with a brief nod.
"Nick, how're you doing?" Jack asked.
"I am fine," Nick said, looking extremely annoyed with Janet's presence. "These young people, they worry too much."
"Yes, Daniel's well known for panicking," Jack said. Janet tossed him an irritated look while Nick frowned. Jack left Janet to her business and headed for the kitchen where he found Daniel pacing restlessly. "So what's up with Nick?"
"I don't know," Daniel said, his entire body tense. "His breathing started to sound bad early this morning. I wanted to take him to a doctor but of course he wouldn't listen to *me*. I didn't know what to do short of throwing him over my shoulder and physically carrying him to the infirmary, so I called Janet."
"She'll take care of it. Even Nick wouldn't dare cross Fraiser. Not twice anyway." Jack grabbed Daniel by the shoulder to stop his restless movements. "He'll be fine."
"He's eighty-five years old, Jack. He could have all kinds of problems."
"He's looking pretty spry."
"He was," Daniel said. "Back on the planet he looked great, but he's been looking more and more frail in the two days we've been back on Earth."
"Maybe it's gate-lag," Jack suggested. "It can be a shock to the system if you're not used to it."
"I'll admit he's been looking a little peaked, but don't you think it's a bit much of a coincidence that he'd happen to get sick at the very time he comes back to Earth?"
"Maybe it's not a coincidence," Daniel said. "Maybe there's a direct correlation."
"I'm wondering that myself," Janet said, joining Jack and Daniel in the kitchen.
"He needs to come into the infirmary, Daniel," Janet said. "I'm fairly certain he's gone into congestive heart failure but I need to confirm that. Then we need to start him on medication."
"I knew it," Daniel said. Jack firmed his grip on Daniel's arm before he could pull away.
"Is that something he'd develop overnight?" Jack asked.
"I suspect it's been developing for some time. My gut feeling is that these aliens have been treating it. And quite effectively, too."
"Why didn't they warn us?" Jack asked.
"They may have assumed that we knew," Janet said. She threw up her hands. "Hell, for all I know they don't have to treat it. There could be something in the air or water or food on that planet that acts as a natural medicine."
"Do we need to take him back?" Daniel asked.
"We may not be as advanced as giant aliens, but we do have ways to manage the condition," Janet said. "We just have to convince Nick to come in so that I can treat him."
"This should be fun."
"Nick, there are no more journals," Daniel said for what had to be the umpteenth time in the last quarter hour.
"There is one more," Nick said stubbornly. He took the last journal Daniel had handed him and slapped it down on his infirmary bed in a dismissive manner. "You must have lost it."
"I didn't...." Daniel gritted his teeth and made himself count to ten. "I have everything that was in your apartment when you went into the hospital. Notes, sketches, photos: I kept it all."
"I remember," Nick said, tapping his finger against the cover of the discarded journal. "There was a sketch of a temple in it."
"*Most* of these journals have pictures of temples," Daniel said, quickly losing the battle to hide his exasperation. "It was almost thirty years ago, Nick. Isn't it possible that you don't remember every single sketch or note you made?"
"I am old, Daniel, not senile."
"I never said you were senile," Daniel said. He had to choke off the observation that Nick had spent twenty years in a psychiatric hospital being medicated and had been known to suffer hallucinations in the past and that all of that just might've had some effect on his memory.
"Obviously it is gone," Nick said, his tone implying that he still thought Daniel was to blame for the missing journal.
"I'll go through the boxes one more time," Daniel said. The effort might appease Nick and besides, a break would probably be a really good idea right about then. He got up from his chair and pushed it away from the bedside.
"No, don't trouble yourself. I will simply have to try and remember where the temple was without my notes."
"Fine, you do that," Daniel said. "I'll...be in my office if you need me."
Daniel pushed through the privacy curtain around Nick's bed. Once out of Nick's sight, he took a deep breath and reminded himself that this behavior was nothing new. Nor was it aimed at him personally. Nick was...well, he was just Nick, and that wasn't ever going to change. With a small shake of his head, Daniel headed for the exit.
"Janet?" Daniel asked as Janet caught his arm just before he reached the door. "What's up?"
"I just wanted to bring you up to date on Nick's condition," Janet said. She tugged on Daniel's arm, leading him on out into the corridor.
"He's not worse, is he?"
"Not exactly," Janet said. "But...I thought we'd gotten him regulated on his meds."
"You said he might be able to leave soon," Daniel said. And if Daniel were being honest with himself he was of two minds about that development. He wanted Nick to get better but he had some serious doubts about how well the two of them would get along sharing the same living space for any length of time.
"He can't. He's decompensated again," Janet said.
"I don't understand."
"We don't 'cure' congestive heart failure with drugs, we compensate for what the heart can no longer do," Janet explained. "That means we have to find the right balance between drugs and the person's current physiology."
"Like treating diabetes with insulin?" Daniel asked.
"Close enough," Janet said. "The problem is that I thought we'd found that balance, and then Nick's cardiac function decreased. Now we have to adjust his meds again."
"Is that unusual?"
"Not necessarily," Janet said. "CHF patients can and do experience fluctuations, but I'm concerned at how rapidly this has developed from the very beginning."
"Does he need to go back to the planet?" Daniel asked.
"I'm not saying that. Not yet anyway," Janet said. "I do want you to be prepared for the possibility, though."
"Daniel, I'm not nearly out of options yet," Janet said, giving Daniel's arm a reassuring squeeze.
"I appreciate everything you're doing," Daniel said, giving her hand a squeeze back. "But now I'd better go look for the phantom journal before Nick's blood pressure gets any higher. Or mine does."
"Take your time," Janet said with a wink. "I'll give him something else to complain about while you're gone."
"Stubborn old man," Daniel muttered as he dug into the first carton of Nick's belongings. His aggravation had resurged as he tucked his concerns for Nick's health away as being something he could trust Janet to handle. "Impatient, imperious, pig-headed...."
"You wouldn't be talking about me now, would you?"
"Do you know how to knock?" Daniel asked, embarrassed that Jack had caught him talking to himself.
"The door was open," Jack said. He strolled across the room and came to rest leaning against the corner of Daniel's desk. "What are you doing?"
"Looking for Nick's journal," Daniel said. He shoved the first box away impatiently before diving into the next one.
"There would appear to be a lot of Nick's journals."
"Yes, there are."
"Not the right ones?" Jack guessed.
"Of course not. Why would it be that easy?" Daniel stopped, sitting back on his heels. "I love the old.... I really do."
"Of course," Daniel said, looking at Jack suspiciously.
"That's what I asked you," Jack said.
"He's my grandfather."
"So?" Jack said. He began to dig aimlessly through the debris pile on Daniel's lab table.
"So? What do you mean, so?"
"Yes, he's your grandfather. But he hasn't been a very good one, has he?"
"That doesn't matter now."
"Of course it matters, Daniel. Look, I understand why you'd want to have some kind of relationship with Nick. I respect that. But you don't have to force yourself to love someone just because he's related."
Daniel stared at the cover of one of the notebooks while he considered Jack's statement. Finally he allowed it slide onto the stack of the other journals that weren't the right journals.
"That's not really the point, though, is it?" Daniel said. "No, Nick didn't give me what I needed as a child, and yes, I was angry and hurt. But what good would it do me to go on being angry and hurt?"
"Are you trying to tell me that you're not still angry at him?"
"No, I'm really not."
"Then why were you calling him names just a minute ago?"
"Because...because he's just an extremely annoying old man sometimes."
"Okay, I'll grant you that," Jack said with a chuckle.
"Is that weird?" Daniel asked, looking up at Jack. "That I love him but I don't always like him?"
"Hell, that's the way I feel about half of my relatives. And probably more than half of them feel that way about me."
"That's understandable. You're an annoying old man sometimes, too."
"Hey, watch it with that 'old' stuff," Jack warned.
"This is impossible," Daniel said after checking the cover pages of several more journals. "I've already been through all of these. It just isn't here."
"Is there something special about this particular journal?" Jack asked.
"It looks just like all the rest of these," Daniel said, holding up one of the journals so that Jack could see it. "But Nick swears that there's one that has the location of the temple."
"Like this one?" Jack said. He pulled a journal from under a stack of papers on Daniel's desk and held it up.
"Should I take that as a yes?" Jack watched as Daniel got to his feet and stalked over to Jack, snatching the journal from his hand.
"I don't understand. How did it get over here?" Daniel said as he flipped through the pages. "I didn't.... Sam."
"Sam called when I was going through the boxes the first time and I got distracted and...and apparently I left it lying on my desk and it got buried under everything else."
"So is it the right one?"
"I don't know, but I'm going to go find out."
"When are we leaving?" Jack asked as he breezed into Daniel's office.
"Bill Lee and I are leaving in a couple of hours," Daniel said, looking up with a wary expression.
"Couple of hours?" Jack made a show of thinking it over. "Guess I can be ready by then."
"You're not going and you know that. You would've gotten your orders from Hammond long before now if you were."
"You and Dr. Geek...."
"What I said," Jack agreed. "You surely don't think you're going into former Goa'uld territory after an Ancient machine without some kind of back-up?"
"It's Honduras, Jack, not Chulac," Daniel said, stuffing a few more reference books into his backpack. "And who better to find and handle an alien machine than Bill and me?"
"You, me, Carter and Teal'c," Jack suggested.
"Which would only make it obvious that it's a military operation," Daniel said. "The last thing we need to do is attract attention. I've been on digs in the Yucatan before. Bill and I have the right kind of academic credentials. No one is even going to notice us."
"You have a way of being noticed whether you like it or not," Jack said.
"We'll be fine," Daniel said firmly. He set his loaded pack on his lab table and turned to face Jack. "This is one of those times you're just going to have to back off and let me do my job."
"Don't you want my help?" Jack sighed when Daniel stared at him with a knowing look. "Okay, maybe 'help' isn't the right word. Don't you want *me*?"
"Bitching about the bugs and trees and humidity?" Daniel shook his head. "This isn't personal, Jack. I'm an archaeologist; finding old things is what I do. It's not what you do. Besides, I need you to keep an eye on Nick for me."
"Isn't that Fraiser's job?" Jack said.
"Yes, but if worse comes to worst, she'll respect his right to make his own decisions."
"And you don't think I will?"
"I'm counting on it. I need to know that someone--namely you--will drag him back through the gate if necessary."
"You'll stay in touch?" Jack said with a resigned sigh. He'd known it was unlikely that he'd be able to convince Daniel to let him tag along, but he'd had to try.
"We'll be checking in every twenty-four hours," Daniel confirmed.
"Bring me a souvenir?"
"The Telchak device isn't enough?" Daniel asked.
"That's more of a Carter kind of souvenir," Jack said.
"T-shirt? Key chain? Snow globe?"
"Tell you what," Jack said. "Bring your ass back here in one piece and we'll call it good."
"Do you really trust that map?" Dr. Lee asked. He whacked at some vines that were impeding their progress. He didn't have the easy rhythm with a machete that Daniel had, but so far he was managing to fight his way through.
"Yes, and no," Daniel said, checking his compass before comparing a topographical map to Nick's sketch again. "I'm sure the map is an accurate representation of what Nick remembers. My only concern is that it's been so long since he was actually here that his memory may not be as accurate as his map."
"Is it always this hot here?"
"Pretty much," Daniel said absently, intent on searching the forest for features that would indicate that human hands had once shaped part of the landscape.
"And green?" Lee asked, hacking at another vine.
"Green? Yeah, I guess it is," Daniel said.
"It's very green. Intensely green," Lee said.
"Do you have issues with green?" Daniel asked, amused.
"No, not normally." Lee stopped to wipe the sweat from his forehead. "But then normally I'm not dealing with such intensely green green."
"You don't do much field work, do you?" Daniel asked, glancing back at Lee.
"I'm a tech guy," Lee said.
"Right," Daniel said. "And I guess you don't normally find advanced technology lying around in the jungle."
"Not unless it's alien technology."
"Wow," Bill said. He stepped back to try and determine the full size of the temple. It was a difficult task when most of the structure was hidden under dense vegetation.
"Just where Nick said it'd be," Daniel said. Nick may have sucked bilge water as a grandfather, but he'd been a damn good archaeologist in his day. Daniel chopped and pulled at some of the vines that crisscrossed the entrance.
"How do we get in?" Lee asked.
"This platform is for offerings to Chac," Daniel explained, waving a hand at a pedestal off to one side. It was about waist height, and the top surface was slightly concave, forming a shallow bowl. "I think we have to make an offering in order to get into the temple."
"What kind of offering?"
"I don't know. Nick didn't get that far." Daniel picked some of the bright red flowers scattered among the other vegetation and placed them in the bowl. He stepped back and watched as absolutely nothing happened.
"I don't think it likes your offering," Lee commented. Throwing a frown at Lee, Daniel crouched down to read the Mayan hieroglyphs at the base of the pedestal, in case Nick had missed something when he made his notes. "Well?"
"Give me your canteen."
"Why?" Lee asked.
"Just...." Daniel made a sharp 'give me' gesture. Rolling his eyes, Lee handed Daniel the canteen and watched as he poured a small amount in the bowl. Again, absolutely nothing happened.
"I was afraid of that," Daniel sighed.
"Afraid of what?"
"My translation seemed to indicate the need for a blood sacrifice," Daniel explained.
"Excuse me?" Lee exclaimed, taking several steps back. "What? Are we supposed to rip someone's still beating heart from their chest? Because, honestly, I'd have to object to that."
"I don't think it has to be anything that extreme." Daniel pulled his knife from his belt. He held his hand over the basin and quickly made a shallow cut on the pad of his little finger. They both watched expectantly as Daniel's blood dripped slowly into the bowl.
"C'mon," Daniel muttered, glaring at the stone doorway.
"I suppose we could kill a bird or something and...."
The rest of Lee's words were lost in the grating, rumbling noise of the door beginning to open. The jungle fought its efforts, but the massive stone slab tore apart and uprooted the vines that had encased it.
"You're good," Bill said when the door was fully open.
Daniel responded with a wry grimace before pulling out his flashlight and leading the way into the temple. The roughly finished limestone of the entrance gave way to still coarse but more finely finished stone on the interior. The walls were covered with painted Mayan hieroglyphs from ceiling to floor. The first two chambers were empty, but in the third chamber a lone pedestal stood in the exact center of the room. On top of the pedestal was rather benign appearing box, dark colored and heavily carved.
"Could this be our Telchak device?" Bill asked. He approached the pedestal, reaching his hand toward the box.
"I wouldn't do that," Daniel said, his eyes roaming the walls.
"It could be booby trapped," Daniel said. Lee jerked back, holding his hands out to his sides.
"Well, is it?" Lee asked with exasperation.
"No idea. It's just a possibility."
"So what do we do?"
"Well, first I'm going to try to translate this writing," Daniel said, waving his hand at the hieroglyphs.
"Do you really think they'd put a warning right there for anyone to see?" Lee asked.
"Actually, they might," Daniel said, unperturbed by Lee's skepticism. "A number of ancient cultures placed warnings on temples and tombs in an attempt to scare off the more faint hearted thieves."
"But those were usually just warnings, right? I mean--there really is no such thing as the mummy's curse."
"Not usually," Daniel agreed. "But we're dealing with a Goa'uld here, and they do use booby traps."
"Okay. Well, while you're reading the walls, I'll look around the rest of the temple," Lee said.
"Just don't touch anything," Daniel said, already scribbling notes.
"Very funny," Lee said as he left the chamber.
"It wasn't a joke," Daniel said to himself.
Jack walked quickly through the SGC corridors, dressed in jeans and sweatshirt. He'd gotten used to middle of the night calls over the years, but he'd never gotten blasé about them. In his experience, doctors never called you unless it was bad news. And they never called you in the middle of the night unless it was really bad news.
Jack turned one last corner and found Fraiser waiting just outside the infirmary door.
"What's up, Doc?"
"Nick's heart failure is out of control," Janet said. "I've maximized his meds but they're not working anymore."
"You still think the giant aliens were keeping him going?" Jack asked, peeking around the door at Nick's bed.
"Pretty sure," Janet said. "Given what I'm seeing on all his tests, I can't see any way he could be still alive if they weren't doing something to keep him that way."
"So he has to go back," Jack said.
"Yes, sir. But he's resistant to the idea."
"Well, of course he is," Jack said. "Where do you think Daniel got his stubborn streak?"
"Then it should be easy for you to convince Nick, seeing as how you've mastered the art of sweet talking Daniel into doing what you want."
"Right," Jack said, staring at Janet. "Of course you realize there's a huge difference. I got my hands on Daniel while he was still young and trainable."
"Yes, sir," Janet said with a soft snort.
"Okay," Jack said, taking a deep breath and firming his resolve. "How much time do I have?"
"The sooner, the better."
"As in tonight?"
"I wouldn't have called you at home if there wasn't some urgency to the matter," Janet said.
"Who's in charge tonight?" Jack asked.
"Colonel Evans, and I've already notified him that we may need to use the gate."
"So it's all up to me."
"Good luck, sir."
"She put you up to this," Nick said suspiciously.
"Dr. Fraiser called me," Jack admitted. "You need to go back. You really don't have any other viable options right now."
"I won't go," Nick declared.
"Daniel wants you to go," Jack said.
"He's a good boy, my grandson, but he does not tell me what to do."
"Oh, for...." Jack ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "Listen, if you don't go back soon, Doc says you'll die."
"I must know if Daniel finds the temple," Nick insisted. "If he does not, he may need my help."
"Well, consider this: you won't be able to help if you're *dead*." Jack returned Nick's insulted glare.
"I am stronger than you know," Nick said, his chin jutting out. Jack sighed. There wasn't any doubt left in his mind as to the source of Daniel's stubbornness.
"You know what? I believe you. You are one tough old man," Jack said. "That doesn't mean you can't die. So let me take you back, where you'll be safe, and Daniel will fill you in when he gets back."
"Daniel is a very busy man," Nick said.
"He is," Jack agreed. "But Daniel will never be too busy to share a discovery. *He'll* never be too busy for *you*."
"You think I have treated Daniel poorly," Nick said, staring directly at Jack.
"I think...." Jack closed his mouth and considered whether there was anything to be gained by telling Nick the truth about what Jack thought of him. "I think that what I think doesn't matter. What you think really isn't my concern either. It's what Daniel thinks that matters to me. And before he left, Daniel made me promise to drag you back through that gate if it became necessary."
"How dare he?" Nick said indignantly.
"Because he cares," Jack said. "He cares, and he wants you to be safe. And the only way for you to be safe is to go back to the giant aliens."
"Perhaps you are right," Nick said reluctantly. He seemed to deflate, his frailty more obvious than ever.
"We both know I am," Jack said kindly. He really didn't want to bully the old bastard, but he also didn't want to let Daniel down. He wasn't going to be responsible for the death of anyone else that Daniel cared about, not if he could help it.
"When shall we leave?" Nick asked, apparently resigned to his fate.
"Dr. Fraiser will get you ready to go while I change into my uniform."
"No sense taking any chances," Jack said. "If you want to take any of your books, say so now and I'll have an airman box them up."
"No, I will leave them here," Nick said with some regret. "They will be more useful to Daniel."
"The mummy's curse?" Lee asked.
"More like the Goa'uld's curse, but same general idea," Daniel agreed. They both stood in front of the pedestal, staring at the Telchak device. Daniel had spent most of the night and into the next morning translating the chamber walls. He'd finally reached the point where he'd deciphered enough of the writings to feel confident in making an attempt to remove the device. Reasonably confident, anyway. "Remove the 'holy' box from Chac's presence and the power of the god will hold you prisoner."
"The pedestal is pressure sensitive?"
"It's the only thing that makes sense," Daniel said. "I haven't found anything else in here, have you?"
"No, but I'm not completely up on Goa'uld tech," Lee said.
"The device rests on a pressure sensitive plate. If you remove it, you'll be trapped in this room until Chac--Telchak--or his followers come for you."
"I admit, it makes sense," Lee said. "But you can't be seriously considering *that*."
"It worked for Indiana Jones," Daniel said, hefting a bag of rocks in one hand.
"Er...actually, it *didn't* work for Indy."
"Right," Daniel said, pausing. Then he shrugged and leaned toward the device again. "Whatever."
"Wait!" Lee grabbed Daniel's arm. "How do you know how much the device weighs?"
"I don't. I'm just guessing."
"And if you're wrong?"
"Then things could get very bad, very quick."
"Just hang on a minute," Lee said. He walked around the pedestal, studying the device from all angles. "What's it made of?"
"No idea. If it was Goa'uld technology I'd say naquada, but...."
"We don't know what the Ancients used," Lee said. "Even the Antarctic team hasn't been able to fully identify materials they've found at the base. We do know that it's a little lighter than naquada, but not as light as the typical naquada/trinium alloy."
"Hollow or solid?" Lee asked, measuring the box with his eyes.
"Really?" Lee asked, turning to Daniel with a surprised expression. "How do you know?"
"I don't," Daniel said. "I just think that it's probably solid."
"Oh, for...." Dr. Lee paused for a moment, thinking. "Actually, I think we're better off overestimating the weight than underestimating. So we'll assume it's solid."
"And?" Daniel asked, holding up the sack of stones.
"And...yeah, that's probably heavy enough," Lee admitted.
"You know, now that I've thought about it, it would probably be a good idea if you waited outside," Daniel said. "If I'm right the trap isn't meant to be fatal. But with Telchak and his followers gone, if we both get caught in here it'll eventually become fatal thanks to dehydration and starvation."
"Okay, I'll stand just outside here," Bill said, moving toward the chamber door.
"No, outside," Daniel said. "In case the trap seals off the entire temple."
"Oh." Lee looked around again. "Okay, well--good luck."
"I got it," Daniel called, the Telchak device firmly in his grasp. Now *this* was the kind of thing that really got his blood pumping. Finding and retrieving some ancient, and in this case--Ancient-- artifact was the payoff for lots of hard work and study. And yes, Daniel loved doing the tedious research, too. As far as that went, the artifact itself would need more tedious research before they knew the full extent of its importance. But this...this was fun.
"Bill, I got it," Daniel called again, jogging out of the temple.
"Uh oh," Daniel said. He stopped dead in his tracks, taking in the five strange men waiting just outside the temple entrance. One of them shoved Lee toward Daniel.
"ÀC—mo te llamas?" The man, apparently the leader of the group, waved his pistol at Daniel. It was pretty clear that he wasn't interested in just making friendly conversation.
"Me llamo Dr. Daniel Jackson," Daniel said. He jerked his thumb at Lee. "Se llama Dr. Bill Lee."
"Si," Daniel said, figuring there was no point in lying. Their passports clearly identified them as Americans.
"Bueno," the man said with a malicious smile. "You may call me Rafael."
"Couldn't I just call you later?" Daniel asked. His nonchalance faded under Rafael's glare. "Apparently not."
"Daniel," Lee said quietly. "This may not be the best time for wise cracks."
"Over there," Rafael ordered, waving Daniel and Lee away from the temple entrance. As soon as they'd moved several feet the temple door closed. Frowning, Rafael walked to the door, poking and kicking at it in an effort to open it. When his efforts went unrewarded he turned on Daniel and Lee.
"How does it work?" he demanded.
"Don't really know. It just...opened," Daniel said. He wasn't about to tell these men that the temple required a blood sacrifice because he was certain that he or Dr. Lee would become the designated donor.
"How?" Rafael repeated.
"We. Don't. Know," Daniel said.
"We really...really don't," Lee added.
"Does this open it?" Rafael asked, taking the Telchak device from Daniel.
"No, it's just an artifact," Daniel said.
"What kind of artifact?"
"Don't know. I haven't had time to study it."
"But you came here looking for it," Rafael said.
"Looking for it?" Daniel said, glancing at Lee. "No, we weren't looking for *it*. We were looking for...anything. Anything old. I'm an archaeologist; it's what I do."
"Archaeologist." Rafael said the word like a curse. "So where is the rest of your expedition? All your helpers and assistants?"
"Well, you know, research funding has been cut drastically in recent years," Daniel said with genuine displeasure.
"Funding," Rafael said with a derisive snort. He gestured to one of his men and the guerilla walked over and began tying Lee's and Daniel's hands.
"Er...what are you doing?"
"You will come with us," Rafael said before ordering two of his men to stay at the temple. "We will discuss your 'funding' difficulties."
As soon as the blindfolds were taken off, Daniel's eyes immediately swept the guerilla's camp. It wasn't much more than a few squat, mud brick buildings and broken down machinery. Not very impressive, but then it didn't need to be. The guerillas had the numbers and the weapons, and Daniel was duly impressed by their apparent willingness to use them.
"Bring the archaeologists," Rafael ordered, marching at the head of the line.
"I'm not an archaeologist," Bill said. Daniel groaned as Rafael stopped and turned to look at Lee. Bill seemed to recognize his error...a little too late. "I mean...I, myself, am not.... I'm his assistant."
"Told you funding was bad," Daniel said when Rafael turned his disbelieving stare on Daniel.
"Lock him in there," Rafael said. Two of the men grabbed Bill and dragged him to one of the shacks. Rafael grabbed Daniel by the arm. "You will come with me."
"Sure, no problem," Daniel said as Rafael pushed him into another, larger shack. "You've probably never hear of my work but I'm a huge proponent of cross-cultural relations."
"No, Rafael isn't familiar with your work," a man said as Daniel was shoved down into a chair. "Fortunately, I am."
"Havelock," Daniel said as the man turned toward him. Damn. He'd really hoped that Area 51 would be the last he'd ever see of the NID agent. The major smiled and walked over to stand directly in front of Daniel. "Well, I guess that explains why political rebels were waiting at a temple that probably hasn't been seen in twenty-five years."
"Rafael and his men are very versatile," Havelock said in apparent agreement.
"Not to mention ruthless," Daniel said.
"You had the opportunity to share your knowledge of the Ancients voluntarily, Dr. Jackson."
"This has nothing to do with the Ancients," Daniel argued. Havelock gave a meaningful nod at the artifact Rafael was placing on the wooden table in front of Daniel. "Okay, yes, *that* has to do with the Ancients, but we got the information from the, um...good snakes. I didn't know anything about it."
"Snakes?" Rafael asked Havelock.
"Nothing for you to worry about," Havelock said in a dismissive manner. Rafael glanced at Daniel, then back to Havelock, regarding both with suspicion. Daniel wondered just how strong the spirit of cooperation was between them, because if it was based purely on money....
"Do you enjoy pain, Dr. Jackson?" Havelock asked as he strolled around to the other side of the table. He stopped, standing directly across the table from Daniel.
"Er...*no*," Daniel said, confused by the apparent non sequitur.
"Just can't help it, can you? I understand--stubbornness is a difficult personality trait to break."
"I'm not trying to be stubborn. Nothing has changed from before--I can't tell you what I don't know."
"Fortunately, my friends here have developed ways of dealing with stubbornness," Havelock continued, ignoring Daniel's protests.
"Oh, I'm guessing they've got nothing on you," Daniel said, although he was keeping a wary eye on Rafael.
"I'll admit we have been comparing techniques, but you of all people should welcome that," Havelock said with a malicious smile. He placed his hands on the table and leaned toward Daniel. "After all, you *are* a strong proponent of cross-cultural relations."
"Colonel, I take it you were successful?" Hammond asked as Jack walked down the ramp.
"Quetza--something assured me that they'd fix Nick right up. I thought I should stick around long enough to be sure the big guys had the situation under control. He seemed to perk right up so I booked."
"That's just as well, Colonel. We have a situation."
"Daniel?" Jack asked with a familiar sense of dread.
"Apparently he and Dr. Lee are being held hostage by guerillas."
"The kidnappers haven't offered anything in the way of proof that they're holding our people."
"But Daniel's missed his check-ins," Jack guessed.
"Afraid so," Hammond said. "Our people are handling it from Washington for the time being."
"General, you know as well as I do that 'our people' have a policy of not negotiating with kidnappers."
"And you know why that policy exists."
"Hell, I even agree with it," Jack said. "But we can't afford to dilly dally. I know how guerrillas operate, and I can guarantee you that Daniel and Lee are not having fun."
"We're playing for more time, Jack. Time for us to try and develop some intelligence on this group."
"And when we have the information--then what?"
"We're assessing the situation on an ongoing basis." Hammond paused. "I've made it clear that Dr. Jackson and Dr. Lee are vital concerns for this organization. I also made it clear, through unofficial channels, that we will take action to protect those concerns if it becomes necessary."
"It *will* be necessary."
"You'll need to make preparations," Hammond agreed.
"Sir," Sam said. She glanced up from her work with a worried look. Jack shook his head, reminding himself that no news was good news. Except that he knew it wasn't. Sam's shoulders slumped and she began doodling idly around the edges of the papers in front of her.
"So...what are you working on, Carter?" Jack asked, wandering around Sam's lab.
"You *are* the only Carter currently in evidence."
"Right. Um...actually I was just reviewing some results," Sam said. Her tone indicated that she was less than enthralled with the task.
"What about that battery thing Daniel brought back?"
"Afraid it's cashed," Sam said with a grimace.
"No way to recharge it?"
"Not that I can figure out."
"Come on, Carter. You always figure something out."
"I appreciate the vote of confidence, sir, but not this time." Sam stared at the power unit, standing on the corner of her lab table. Then her expression suddenly brightened. "Actually, Colonel, I do have something you might like to see."
"Big honkin' space gun?"
"Sorry, fresh out," Sam said with a smile. "But I think you'll like this."
"Lead on," Jack said, waving Sam through the door. He fell into step with Sam as they made their way toward the test labs. The silence between them, unusual and uneasy, made Jack antsy. He needed a distraction, and Sam biting at her lower lip with worry wasn't it. "You know--I still haven't gotten the details about your date."
"And you're not going to," Sam said.
"Aw, c'mon, Carter--dish."
"Because I'm old and don't get out much," Jack said.
"Yeah, right. You've been getting out plenty," Sam said with a snort.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Jack asked, eyeing Sam warily.
"I saw the back of your neck in the locker room the other day," Sam said, with a sly sideways glance.
"I cut myself shaving," Jack said instantly. Sam gave him an incredulous look. "What? The back of my neck is hairy."
"Right. And your razor has teeth?"
"I.... That...." Jack paused, wondering if there was any believable way to explain away a hickey as being something else. He thought there probably wasn't. "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours?"
"I don't think so, sir," Sam said, laughing. She walked a few more feet down the hall before giving Jack a speculative look. "Although...."
"What?" Jack began to get nervous. If Carter had changed her mind about show and tell, there were some of his that he really couldn't reveal to her, not without revealing a whole lot more than he was comfortable showing his female second in command. And damn Daniel anyway for having a predilection for Jack's....
"Yes?" Jack said, jerking his thoughts back to the present.
"If you were willing to dish a little about Daniel's love life...."
"Daniel?" Jack asked. "*Our* Daniel?"
"Are you just playing stupid or is Daniel not telling you about it?" Sam asked.
"What makes you think there's anything to tell?" Jack asked, because he really wanted to know.
"The fact that he's started leaving the base before midnight every night is a clue," Sam said.
"Maybe he finally got himself a life," Jack said. Sam gave him a knowing look. "That doesn't necessarily mean he's got some hot babe on the side."
"And he seems more...content," Sam said, unconsciously echoing Jack's own assessment. "You remember what he was like when he first came back--smiling all the time, but he had this kind of manic energy. He's more like he used to be now. He's more like...Daniel."
Jack couldn't suppress a shiver running down his spine. He was as happy as Sam to see the Daniel he knew--the rescuer of damsels in distress and slayer of dragons. But he never wanted to see the Daniel he knew from shortly before his glowing. The Daniel who died a little every time he failed to save a damsel or kill the dragon.
"It was big adjustment--coming back from the dead, no memory of who he was.... Maybe he's finally settled back into his life now," Jack suggested.
"Maybe. And maybe he's just found a way to work off that energy."
"Carter!" Jack said, scandalized.
"So...what's the new gizmo I'm going to like so much?" Jack asked. He wasn't going to go anywhere near a conversation that dealt with how Daniel worked off his energy. Certainly not with Sam.
"Okay, fine--don't tell me about Daniel's new woman," Sam said with a haughty sniff.
"Trust me--Daniel doesn't have a new woman. Or even an old woman," Jack said.
"If he did, would you tell me?"
"Yes. Probably. But there's nothing to tell. Hell, you don't have to believe me, just ask him." Daniel was a lousy liar. Most of the time. The only time he was any good at it was when he was telling lies that were, strictly speaking, the truth. It was a skill Jack admired greatly.
"I can't just ask him."
"Yeah, why not," Sam agreed after thinking it over. "Oh, here we are."
"Isn't this the lab where you...?" Jack began as he followed Sam through the door.
"Ah," Jack said, looking around. "Cleaned up better than I would've thought."
"Carlson," Sam called to a young airman working at the far side of the lab.
"Ma'am. Sir," Carlson said, coming to attention.
"At ease, Sergeant," Jack said.
"Colonel O'Neill would like to see the new personal armor Dr. Lee's been working on."
Jack watched with mild interest as the technician went to a storage closet and pulled out two headless mannequins, both wearing black vests. Jack started to move closer.
"Colonel, this is PANSIE."
Jack stopped dead and stared at the mannequins before raising his eyes to the tech's face.
"Dr. Lee names his dummies? How...odd."
"Personal Armor/Naquadite/Surface Integrated Electronics," Carlson said. He waved at the dummies. "PANSIE."
"Naquadite?" Jack asked Sam.
"Yes, thank you for that, sir," Sam said in a dry tone. "We needed a name for the new variant and I happened to let slip that you had called it naquada-lite. That turned into naquadite, and it stuck. "
"Cool," Jack said, wondering if Sam had ever named a mineral. Then it occurred to him that that was an incredibly geeky thing to think. "So tell me about it."
"We started out simply trying to use the new mineral like we would any other bullet proof material, depending on the mineral's unique properties to enhance performance. Then Dr. Lee got the idea to incorporate some of the information we're starting to develop by studying the drone soldier's armor," Sam said. "Namely the use of a small electrical field."
"It's electrified?" Jack asked, jerking his hand away before he actually touched the vest.
"It's not powerful enough to hurt you, sir. But it does increase the material's ability to deflect weapons fire."
"But what happens if someone starts aiming one of those NERF guns at us?" Jack asked.
"It would knock out the electrical field, and decrease the armor's effectiveness."
"What would happen to the person wearing it?" Jack asked.
"Nothing," Sam said. "We're not dependent on the armor like the drones are."
"And even without the electrical field, this armor is better than anything we have right now," Carlson added. "It's about as thick as Kevlar, but lighter. And much stronger." Sergeant Carlson motioned Jack closer to one of the dummies. "These two blasts here were from distances of twenty and thirty feet. The damage is obvious on the exterior of the vest, but inside...."
"Not a scratch," Jack said, impressed despite himself.
"You'd feel the kick," Sam said. "The staff blast might very well knock you down, but you wouldn't suffer any significant injuries."
"Unfortunately, it's not quite as good at really close range," Carlson said, stepping next to the second dummy. "This one was from ten feet. As you can see, the vest has been penetrated, albeit in a survivable way. And from five feet...."
"Ouch," Jack said, surveying the scorch marks on the otherwise smooth surface of the dummy. "You've run it through more trials than this, I hope?"
"Yes, sir." Carlson hurried to a desk, grabbed a thin binder and presented it to Jack. "All the trials, with and without the electrical field, are in there. There's a table--here--that gives a quick visual summary of the data."
"It's really this good?" Jack asked after skimming the pertinent data.
"I thought you'd be impressed," Sam said.
"How soon can we have this available for the off-world teams?" Jack asked.
"We just need authorization, and a larger supply of naquadite, and we could conceivably have enough vests for all teams in about a month. Maybe six weeks," Carlson said.
"So authorize it," Jack said, handing the binder back to Carlson.
"I don't have the authority to do that."
"Fine. I'm ordering you to do it."
"Er...Colonel, you don't have the authority either," Sam said in a small voice.
"That's my problem," Jack said, waving dismissively at Sam. Carlson looked back and forth between them with the expression of a man who heard the ice creaking under his feet.
"Do it," Jack told Carlson. "I'll clear it with Hammond."
"I told him," Lee confessed shortly after being returned to their prison shack.
"What?" Daniel asked. He was still lying on the ground. Movement-- any kind of movement--hurt, and he felt very strongly that he'd filled his hurt quota for the day. Possibly even for the week.
"I...I told him."
"What did you tell him?" Daniel asked sharply.
"What the device is. Where it came from. How to get into the temple." Daniel closed his eyes, unable to stop a groan from escaping. "I'm sorry. I know I'm not supposed to tell him anything but...."
"Forget it," Daniel said sharply. He pressed his fists against his temples. He hadn't known that electric shock could cause migraines on top of everything else, but he knew it now. In fact, he was getting all kinds of practical knowledge on the subject. There was just one problem--he'd never asked for knowledge on this subject. "Just forget it. It doesn't matter."
"Guess you're wishing you'd agreed to let Colonel O'Neill come along," Lee said.
"No," Daniel said slowly. As reassuring as Jack's presence would be right now, Daniel found he was more comforted by the fact that Jack was still out there, free and able to come to their rescue. "Jack would've pissed Rafael off so badly by now he'd probably be dead. And that's assuming that he and Havelock wouldn't have killed each other on sight."
"He's not the most tactful man, is he?" Lee asked.
"Depends," Daniel said, a faint smile on his lips. "When he wants to, Jack can charm the green off of the leaves."
"Really," Daniel confirmed.
"So apparently he doesn't want to very often," Lee surmised.
"Tact isn't high on his list of priorities," Daniel agreed. "Killing Goa'uld, beer, fishing--those are right up there. Tact...is not."
"He'll come for us, won't he? I mean...SG-1--they'll come?"
"They'll come." Daniel didn't know when or how, but he knew that they would. "But we can't sit around and wait for help. We need to be prepared to take advantage of any opportunity."
"Can't say that I've seen a whole lot of 'opportunity' so far," Lee said.
"I know. It's a long sh...." Daniel flinched hard when the door to their cell was slammed open. Lee had been the last one taken to the fun house so that meant it had to be Daniel's turn. And he really, really didn't want to go. Rafael and his men only wanted the ransom they thought Daniel and Lee would bring, but they had no compunction against helping Havelock with his interrogations in the meantime.
"Let's go, Dr. Jackson."
"You know, given all that we've been through together it seems silly to stand on formality," Daniel said, looking up at Havelock.
"Sorry, Doctor, but I don't have the same fondness for cutesy nicknames that your buddy, O'Neill, has."
"I wouldn't call Jack's nicknames cutesy," Daniel said. "Insulting. Annoying. Even downright bizarre, but not cutesy."
"I'm waiting, Doctor," Havelock said, making an impatient gesture at the door.
"I don't have a problem with that."
"If you were half as cooperative as your 'assistant' here, it wouldn't be so hard on you."
Daniel could almost feel the shame coming from Lee. He empathized. He'd had a few moments like that himself since joining the SGC. But he couldn't give Havelock what he wanted in order to protect Lee any more than he could give in to protect himself.
"I haven't noticed you treating Dr. Lee particularly well," Daniel said.
"It's all relative, isn't it? Dr. Lee will most likely walk out of here alive. You...are unlikely to be walking anywhere if you continue to be uncooperative," Havelock said. "Now--let's go."
"No." Daniel figured what the hell. What were they going to do if he refused? Beat him? They were going to do that and more anyway.
"Fine," Havelock said, rolling his eyes. He waved a couple of Rafael's men in and they grabbed Daniel by the arms and started dragging him out of the shack.
"Daniel," Lee began.
"They'll come," Daniel told Lee as he was jerked upright.
"Who? SG-1? I happen to know that General Hammond's request for a rescue mission was denied." Havelock gave a snort of amusement. "Something about pursuing a diplomatic resolution."
Daniel saw the panicked look on Lee's face, and gave a tiny shake of his head to reassure him. Daniel didn't care who had denied what. He knew SG-1, and SG-1 would never abandon him.
"I'm going after Daniel," Jack said. He didn't pause in his packing, grabbing objects from his locker with single minded determination. The kidnappers had finally offered proof of the identities of their victims. Jack supposed he should be grateful the proof hadn't involved the mailing of severed body parts, but the picture had been distressing enough. As he'd suspected, Daniel and Dr. Lee were not having a good time.
"I guess I missed that memo," Sam said.
"I'm going alone. This has to fly so far under the radar that it's nonexistent," Jack said.
"I can do low key," Sam said. Jack finally turned and looked at her. Sam stood in the doorway: feet planted firmly, her arms folded defiantly across her chest. "Permission to join the mission, sir."
"Teal'c," Jack groaned as the Jaffa joined Sam in the doorway. He turned away, slamming his locker door shut.
"You will require assistance in retrieving Daniel Jackson and Dr. Lee."
"Look," Jack said, turning back to face them. "I would *love* your help. But this is a covert operation."
"I am quite capable of performing a covert mission," Teal'c said.
"I don't doubt your ability, Teal'c. It's just that you'd be a little hard to explain if we run into any natives."
"How will you explain Major Carter's presence?"
"I won't. She's not going either."
"Yes, I am," Sam said. Jack glared at her. Sam glared right back. "Sir."
"What kind of cover story is going to explain the two of you?" Jack asked her.
"I'm...your girlfriend?" Sam suggested.
"Like anyone's going to believe that," Jack snorted.
"There have been stranger couples," Sam said without a lot of conviction.
"Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett." Sam paused, thinking. "Mr. Burns and Smithers."
Jack stared at Sam for a second, then shook his head. "And Teal'c?"
"He's my brother."
"Brother?" Jack asked.
"I was adopted," Teal'c said.
"Oh, for...." Jack shook his head, as much amused as exasperated. "So I, my girlfriend, and her adopted brother are backpacking through Central America because...?"
"We are herpetologists," Teal'c said.
"It refers to people who study snakes, sir."
"I know that," Jack snapped. "But what kind of cockamamie story is that?"
"We are searching for a very rare breed of snake," Teal'c said, emphasizing the last word.
"You're good," Jack admitted after considering the idea for a moment. "But can either of you speak Spanish?"
"Two years of German," Sam admitted with a shake of her head.
"I guess I don't even need to ask you," Jack said to Teal'c. Teal'c responded with an offended look. "Okay, fine--Teal'c, can you speak Spanish?"
"Really?" Jack asked, stunned. "Let's hear it."
"Hasta la vista. Yo quiero Taco Bell. Mi casa et su casa."
"Great. If we run into the Terminator you can invite him home for a meal," Jack said sarcastically.
"We *will* accompany you," Teal'c said, implacable.
"What he said," Sam said.
"Thirty minutes," Jack said, not in the least sorry to be 'forced' to accept their help. "If you're not ready by then you get left behind."
The guerillas marched Daniel and Lee into the center of the camp. Daniel gritted his teeth against a groan as his clothing rubbed against raw skin. One of the men grabbed his shirt, forcing him to make an abrupt stop as Rafael sauntered out of the shack that acted as his command post. Daniel watched silently as Rafael approached, smiling.
"Your government has refused to pay ransom," Rafael said when he stood directly before Daniel and Lee.
"I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so," Daniel said.
"You said that important people would see to your safety."
"Yes, well, they will," Daniel said. "They won't bother with ransom, though. They'll just come here and hurt you. Possibly severely."
"Bah!" Rafael said, dismissing Daniel's claim without a second thought.
"It's your funeral," Daniel said, hoping he sounded a lot more confident than he felt.
"No, amigo, it is yours." Rafael walked around Daniel and Lee, grinning. "Only one of you has any value to us now."
"Um...which one of us would that be?" Lee asked nervously.
"That is up to you. One of you will continue to provide us with the necessary key to opening the temple door."
"And the other?" Daniel asked.
"Dies." Rafael pulled his gun out and smiled.
"So...slow death versus quick death," Daniel said, although he wondered just how slow the 'slow' death would be. The sacrifice required only a very small amount of blood, but Daniel doubted that the guerrillas would show the same restraint as the temple builders.
"I suppose you could look at it that way," Rafael said carelessly. "Of course, the more useful you are, the longer you will live."
"Useful?" Lee asked. "To you?"
"What about Major Havelock?" Daniel asked.
"Yes, what about Major Havelock?" Havelock said. He strolled out from behind the rusting wreckage of an old truck, his gaze fixed on Rafael. Rafael stared back, defiant. "I don't recall giving you permission to eliminate one of them."
"I don't need your permission," Rafael said. "And if your government is not going to pay the ransom, then they are little more than a liability now."
"Not to me."
"Fine," Rafael said with a casual shrug. "I will keep the archaeologist; you can take the other."
"The archaeologist is mine."
"Um...excuse me," Daniel interrupted. As the archaeologist in question he felt he should have some say in his future circumstances. The fact that he didn't find either Rafael or Havelock an appealing choice was something he was going to have to work around.
"Shut up," Havelock and Rafael said in unison. Havelock turned his attention back to Rafael. "If I leave, I'm taking *both* of them."
"No, I need an archaeologist."
"Well, doesn't everyone?" Daniel said. Havelock and Rafael looked at him. "Right. Shutting up now."
"What possible use is Jackson to you?" Havelock asked.
"Diego is having difficulty finding a way into some of the temple rooms," Rafael said.
"That temple and anything it may contain are none of your business," Havelock said.
"That temple belongs to my people," Rafael argued.
"Statistically speaking, you're probably more closely related to the Spanish invaders who destroyed the Mayan civilization than to the Mayan people so from a cultural viewpoint you probably have no more 'right' to the temple than Major Havelock does," Daniel said. Rafael turned on him, raising his gun. "I'm just saying."
"I strongly suggest that you *stop* saying," Rafael said. Before Daniel could respond one of Rafael's subordinates ran out of the command post, waving a walkie-talkie.
"Do not interrupt me!" Rafael shouted, turning on the man. For a moment Daniel genuinely expected Rafael to shoot the man, but then the voice on the walkie-talkie captured everyone's attention.
"What...what did he say about Diego?" Lee asked Daniel, trying to make out the hysterical voice on the radio.
"That's good, right?" Lee asked hopefully.
"Silence!" Rafael shouted at them.
"Jack," Daniel whispered back. He couldn't be absolutely certain, but dead bad guys did seem to be Jack's favorite calling card. Lee nodded, seeming to take heart in the possibility. In truth, Daniel, too, was feeling a whole lot better than he had just seconds ago. He'd known without a doubt that Jack would be looking for them. He just didn't know how long it might take to find them. Daniel had had nothing more than the hope that Jack would find them before it was too late.
Rafael started screaming epithets into the walkie-talkie as the report he was receiving became more bizarre. At the same time he motioned several of his men toward the eastern edge of the camp, in the direction of the temple.
"Oh, that is *so* not what I wanted to hear," Daniel said under his breath.
"Why? What...?" Lee's words cut off instantly when Rafael turned on them, his gun raised.
"I want them alive," Havelock warned. Rafael turned a thoughtful gaze on Havelock, then he swung his gun around and shot Havelock in the head. The NID agent was dead before he hit the ground.
"Holy...!" Lee yelped. Rafael was just turning back to Daniel and Lee when the men he'd sent off to the temple came running back into camp, shouting. Lee and Daniel watched, stunned, as a large, reptilian creature followed the guerillas into the camp.
"Unas. It's an Unas," Daniel said tersely. Rafael and his men began firing wildly at the creature, screaming and cursing.
"Go," Daniel said sharply.
"Go." Daniel shoved Bill with his shoulder. They both stumbled toward the west side of the camp, crouching over slightly and trying to avoid notice in the confusion. Just before Daniel entered the forest something blasted a clump of earth into the air just inches from his feet. He didn't look back. No matter who was firing at them, the jungle was their only chance.
"Less than three klicks from the reported guerrilla camp," Sam said after verifying their position with GPS. "Not much further than that from the temple location."
"Take five," Jack ordered. "Drink, eat, do whatever you need to do now. From here on in we don't stop."
"We're going to target the camp?" Sam asked, crouching down at the base of a large tree.
"That's where they are," Jack said.
"How can you be certain, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.
"Gut feeling," Jack said. "Well, that and a CIA spook was able to get a fix on some radio chatter. My biggest worry is that they could've separated Daniel and Lee--one at the temple, one in camp."
"Is that likely?" Teal'c asked.
"No, probably not," Jack said. "They'll try to use them as leverage against each other."
"Sir," Sam said as she pulled out her canteen. "We may be outnumbered."
"Yeah, I know. We'll need to get a firm head count when we get there. And I want to get a visual on Daniel and Lee. If they don't appear to be in immediate danger, then we'll wait until dark to make our move."
"One or both of them may be injured," Teal'c said.
"I know that, too," Jack said. "And if they are, we'll just have to eliminate the threat."
"How?" Sam asked.
"By practicing a little guerilla warfare of our own," Jack said. He checked his ammo clip for the third time. "Look--there are some government types who want these SOB's alive, but as far as I'm concerned--dead will do just fine."
Daniel groaned when the bullet tore through his leg, slamming him into the tree trunk directly in front of him. He slid to the ground. Even without the bullet wound, he was in no shape to be running a foot race through the jungle.
Daniel turned awkwardly, putting his back to the tree. He heard the sounds of his pursuers crashing through the undergrowth and looked around desperately for something to use as a weapon. He froze when the guerillas broke into the clearing. Rafael never stopped moving, charging straight at Daniel. Daniel threw his hands over his head, cringing, when bullets started singing through the air.
Daniel let his hands fall from his face and stared at Jack.
"Hey, you okay?" Jack asked, gripping him by the shoulders.
"Jack," Daniel breathed. He closed his eyes and sagged into Jack's hold.
"Yeah, it's me," Jack said as Sam knelt down behind him. "Hey, listen--are there any more?"
"More?" Daniel asked, opening his eyes and giving Jack a puzzled look. He could see Sam's face just behind Jack's, wearing the same concerned expression.
"Bad guys," Jack specified. "Are there any more?"
"No," Daniel said. "Well, just the...."
Jack looked up just in time to see an Unas crash into the clearing, cradling a box in one arm and holding the other hand out toward them, the ribbon device glowing. Teal'c began firing immediately. Sam rolled to a firing position away from Jack and Daniel. Jack threw himself over Daniel, shielding his body until the chatter of automatic gunfire ceased.
"Colonel?" Sam called.
"We're good," Jack said, pulling back so that Daniel could sit up again. Jack motioned for Daniel to stay down, an order with which, for once, he didn't seem inclined to argue. Jack joined Sam and Teal'c in staring down at the Unas.
"Who the fuck is that?" Jack asked. He prodded the body with his toe but it was undeniably, indubitably dead. Teal'c had nearly cut the creature in half with his gun.
"That, I believe, is Telchak," Daniel said.
"He was still here after all this time?" Sam said incredulously.
"He must've been sealed in one the temple chambers," Daniel said, his voice strained with fatigue. "Bill and I didn't have time to do much exploration of the temple, but the guerillas figured out how to get inside. They must have found Telchak and let him out."
"Where is Dr. Lee?" Teal'c asked.
"Oh, God," Daniel muttered.
"Daniel, is he...?" Sam asked.
"I think he's okay. I hope he is," Daniel said, struggling to get to his feet. Jack hurried back over and put his arm around Daniel's waist. "He couldn't go any further. I told him to find some cover, and I left him."
"Let's go find him then," Jack said.
"The device," Daniel said quickly, waving at the box that the Unas had been carrying.
"Carter," Jack said, nodding for Sam to take responsibility for the alien machine.
"Make sure it's off," Daniel said, resisting Jack's efforts to guide him away from the dead bodies.
"Er...how can I tell if it's off?" Sam asked, turning the box over in her hands.
"Is it glowing? Buzzing? Vibrating?"
"I'm sorry," Lee said, offering a water bottle to Daniel. He looked around the guerrilla campsite, clearly uneasy about lingering there.
"For what?" Daniel asked, settling himself gingerly on the bench next to Lee.
"For giving them what they wanted," Lee mumbled.
"Doesn't matter," Daniel said, shaking his head wearily.
"Yes, it does," Lee said, rubbing his hands on his jeans. "You toughed it out for nothing, thanks to me."
Lee jumped off of the bench at the sound of Jack's voice. Daniel looked back over his shoulder at Jack, who was staring angrily at Lee. Lee stepped back a few feet and turned apprehensively to face Jack.
"Er...Colonel, I can...."
"Explain?" Jack said in a cold voice. "Please do."
"It's none of your business, Jack," Daniel said, running his hands through his sweaty hair.
"A classified mission was compromised--it damn well is my business," Jack asserted.
"I'm sorry," Lee said, looking between Jack and Daniel. "I really.... I didn't want to but they had the battery and I just...I couldn't."
"Battery?" Jack snapped. "What battery?"
"Get out of here, Bill. I'll handle it," Daniel said.
"Stay," Jack ordered.
"Go," Daniel said just as firmly.
"I'll, er...I'll just go help Major Carter," Lee said, backing away as if afraid that Jack would shoot him if he turned his back.
"What fucking battery?" Jack asked, turning on Daniel. Daniel took another drink of water, studiously ignoring Jack. "What am I going to find in that shack?"
"Nothing if you don't go looking," Daniel said in a weak attempt at flippancy.
"Damn it, Daniel."
"Back off, Jack. He did his best."
"Well, it wasn't good enough," Jack argued.
"Bill's a scientist, not a soldier," Daniel said. "He's not trained for this."
"Neither are you but you didn't crack."
"Technically I may not be a soldier, but I've had some experience with torture," Daniel pointed out. A lot more experience than he'd ever bargained for. And to think that he used to believe that Professor Wilkes was a sadist. Well, he was, just not on the same level as the average guerilla. Or the average Goa'uld for that matter.
"He could've gotten you both killed."
"He didn't. So cut the guy some slack."
Daniel took a deep breath and let it out again quietly. Everyone else seemed to have been lulled into sleep by the drone of the plane engines, but now that he had the opportunity to rest, Daniel couldn't get his mind to slow down.
He didn't know exactly where the plane had come from. It certainly wasn't official or military. He'd overheard some bits of conversation about a 'private citizen' and the 'loan' of the jet, but Daniel knew there was more to it. He wasn't asking too many questions, though. Having a private jet all to themselves meant that he could stretch out, prop up his leg, and get some of the pressure off of the bullet wound in the back of his thigh. Even if he asked the questions, he wasn't sure Jack would tell him the answers. Daniel wasn't sure he wanted to know the answers.
Daniel winced, trying not to groan as he shifted position. First aid had been exactly that: bandages and pain killers. And that just wasn't enough to take the edge off.
"Do you require anything, Daniel Jackson?"
"Jeez, Teal'c," Daniel gasped, staring in to Teal'c's face directly above his. "Don't sneak up on me like that."
"I was not sneaking. I have been here for the past hour."
"Why? Is it your turn to watch me?" Daniel said irritably as he struggled to sit up.
"Jack and Sam?" Daniel asked, allowing Teal'c to help him raise his seat to a sitting position. He didn't have the energy to fight off Mother Teal'c.
"Resting. As is Dr. Lee," Teal'c said. He cocked his head as he looked at Daniel, his expression one of concern. "Do you require pain medication?"
"I'm okay," Daniel said, closing his eyes and letting his head drop back against the seat.
"Sufficient time has passed if you feel that you require another dose," Teal'c said after checking his watch.
"Um...in that case...."
Teal'c got out of his seat and headed for the rear of the passenger compartment. Daniel stretched out again, knowing that no position was going to be comfortable no matter how much pain medication he'd had. A moment later, Teal'c returned, handing Daniel two pills and bottled water.
"Thanks," Daniel said, craving the cool, clean water as much as the pills.
"Is there anything else I can get you?"
"No, please, just sit down," Daniel said. "With any luck the pills will knock me out pretty soon anyway."
"Rest is the best thing for you right now."
"I'm working on it. So...how's Bra'tac?" Daniel asked.
"He is well," Teal'c said, apparently willing to allow Daniel to deflect attention away from himself. "The rebellion grows daily."
"That's great. Really. You and Bra'tac have done an amazing job."
"We have done only what needed to be done," Teal'c said.
"You've changed the course of Jaffa history," Daniel said. "That's no small achievement."
"It is not changed yet, merely in the process of changing," Teal'c corrected. "We must succeed or all our efforts will be meaningless."
"I understand what you're saying, but regardless of what happens in the future, you have accomplished something." The drugs, as well as the pain, were beginning to dull his mind, and Daniel's hand was clumsy when he reached out to grasp Teal'c's forearm. "Teal'c, don't ever regret your choices. You *have* made a difference. Maybe it's only in our lives, but it is a difference."
"O'Neill has spoken to you," Teal'c said.
"Yeah, well, you know how he is about meaning of life stuff," Daniel said sleepily.
"Indeed," Teal'c said with a smile.
"Colonel," Hammond said as soon as Jack walked into the briefing room. Sam, Teal'c and Jacob were already seated at the table, waiting. "How are Dr. Lee and Dr. Jackson?"
"According to Dr. Fraiser, Dr. Lee's dehydrated and exhausted," Jack said, sinking slowly into a chair. "Doc's cleaning up Daniel's injuries right now, and he's got the dehydration/exhaustion gig going, too. But, assuming no nasty surprises, they'll both be out of the infirmary in a day or two."
"That's good to hear," Hammond said. "And the camp?"
"Sanitized," Jack said. "Major Carter secured the doohickey and Teal'c eliminated all the bodies with a zat."
"Including Major Havelock's?" Hammond asked, glancing at Teal'c for confirmation.
"Major Havelock was probably the one pulling the strings on this entire operation," Jack said angrily. "My only regret is that he was already dead when we found him. I certainly don't think he deserved any special consideration."
"He was employed by our government," Hammond reminded him.
"Yeah? Well, maybe next time they'll think twice before kidnapping and torturing our people," Jack said.
"Doubtful, but I take your point," Hammond said.
"So Jacob," Jack said, swiveling his chair so that he could look directly at the Tok'ra seated diagonally across the table from him. "Didn't take you long to come calling."
"The faster we get to work on the Telchak device, the sooner we're likely to figure it out," Jacob said calmly.
"You could've given us a couple of days to work on it ourselves," Sam said.
"You can't," Jacob said. "Sam, you can't even turn it on without risking serious consequences to anyone within fifty feet of the device."
"Oh. Right," Sam said, looking chagrined.
"The truth is that this device is something even the Tok'ra are leery of having too much exposure to," Jacob said. "It's very powerful, and therefore very dangerous."
"But you will be sharing whatever you learn, right?" Jack prompted.
"Of course, Jack."
"No," Jack said, shaking his finger at Jacob. "Not 'of course, Jack.' I mean it, Jacob. These slimy, snakey...."
"Super soldiers?" Sam suggested.
"Really?" Jack said.
"I thought it had a certain ring to it."
"It's not bad," Jack said equivocally.
"Colonel," Hammond began.
"Sir, please," Jack said, putting his hand up in a request. Then he looked back at Jacob. "These...super soldiers are mindless killing machines. Right now they're targeting the Goa'uld, but sooner or later they'll be coming after us. And this machine got people killed, nearly including Daniel."
"And Dr. Lee," Teal'c added.
"And him," Jack agreed. "So we don't want to get dicked around on this."
"I understand, Jack. I'll keep tabs on it myself," Jacob promised. "As soon as we know something, you'll know."
"Okay then. That's all I'm asking." Jack watched as Jacob left the briefing room, their best hope for defeating Anubis tucked under his arm.
"So...now what do we do?" Jack asked.
"I have a couple of suggestions, sirs," Sam said, looking at Hammond and Jack.
"Let's hear it," Hammond said.
"We could go back to P8Y...."
"No," Jack said immediately.
"Colonel, if Teal'c is right and those mummies were the original super soldiers then they might provide valuable information," Sam said.
"I said no," Jack repeated. "Am I the only one who remembers that the last time we went to P8Y Daniel got his mind scrubbed? Again?"
"So we don't take Daniel with us this time," Sam said.
"Are we also forgetting that the Grand High Glowy Poobah erased all of our data?" Jack asked. "Every note, every recording--all of it."
"We'd have to move fast," Sam agreed.
"You can't outrun the wind, Carter." Jack grimaced when Sam, Hammond and Teal'c all turned to him with strange expressions. "You know what I mean."
Sam glanced at Teal'c, struggling to find a rebuttal for that part of Jack's argument.
"Is it possible that the Ancients don't maintain constant surveillance on the planet?" Hammond asked.
"There's no way for us to know. I'm sorry, sir, but I don't believe the risk is worth the slim chance of a significant payoff," Jack said. "Even Daniel admitted that it was unlikely that we'd find much there. The base has been abandoned for a long time. It was simply one of the very few options we had at the time."
"Very well, we'll continue to hold that option in reserve," Hammond said.
"Okay, well, we still haven't resolved the issue of the power source for the Antarctic base," Sam said, moving on to the next item of concern. "And we still have some addresses Daniel gave us during the time that he had his Ascended memories."
"Do you think we will find information on one of those planets that might help us to fix the power source?" Hammond asked.
"That, or maybe just another--functional--power source."
"It's worth a try, sir," Jack said.
"I concur," Teal'c said.
"Very well. While Dr. Jackson is recovering let's start sending probes to these other planets and see what there is to see," Hammond said.
Daniel walked out of the bathroom to find Jack sitting on his bed, holding his medicine.
"You need to put this on the burns," Jack said, holding up the tube of ointment.
"I know," Daniel said, watching Jack with a wary expression. "I was just coming to get it."
"Lay down. I'll do it for you."
"Um...no," Daniel said, unconsciously wrapping his robe more tightly around his body. "I can do it myself."
"You planning to stay covered up until they're gone?" Jack asked. He made himself remain seated on the bed when Daniel walked to his dresser without answering. Jack could wait him out. He would, if that's what it took.
"You don't need to see," Daniel said, turning around. His tone was mild, but his body language was still full of tension.
"I think I do," Jack said, matching Daniel's calm tone.
"Did you let Sara see your...?" Daniel broke off with a frustrated wave of his hand.
"No," Jack admitted. Daniel made a 'so there' shrug and motioned for Jack to hand over the ointment. "I'd hoped that it wouldn't have to be that way with us."
Daniel closed his eyes and grimaced, his hand frozen in the act of reaching for the tube.
"Trust me on this," Jack said, holding the ointment just out of Daniel's reach. "It doesn't help either of us to pretend that it didn't happen."
When Daniel remained silent, Jack had to admit that he wouldn't be able to force Daniel to reveal the evidence of what he'd gone through anymore than Sara had been able to force Jack. He sighed and started to lean forward, extending his arm to put the medicine in Daniel's hand. Instead of taking the tube, Daniel untied the belt and shrugged the robe from his shoulders.
Jack stared, the examination brief and almost businesslike. He knew that Daniel was uncomfortable with the scrutiny, but Jack needed to see. He needed to understand the scope of Daniel's experience. When he'd taken it all in, the bruises, cuts and burns, Jack stood up.
"Lay down," Jack said in a quiet voice, twisting the cap off of the ointment.
"Let's get you taken care of," Jack said, nodding at the bed. "Then we can both get some sleep."
"Are you okay with this?" Daniel asked. His eyes remained fixed on Jack as he climbed on the bed and settled himself on his back.
"No," Jack said calmly, shaking his head. "I'll never be okay with this. But I'll learn to live with it."
"Listen to this, Jack. Around 280 B.C. there was monk in southern China who was described as 'having the glow of enlightenment' in his eyes." Daniel stopped to await Jack's reaction.
"Uh huh," Jack said. He was hunched over his desk, peering fiercely at a quarterly report. He squinted and tilted his head as if that would make the numbers balance. Daniel smacked him on the top of the head with the small, tattered pamphlet he was holding. "Hey!"
"Glow in his eyes," Daniel repeated.
"Whose eyes?" Jack said, rubbing his head. Daniel raised the pamphlet again and Jack quickly held up his hand. "Ah! That's no way to treat a book."
"Pamphlet, but you're right." Daniel lowered the pamphlet. "Thing is- -I think I found Anubis. Listen to this...."
"I can read," Jack said, snatching the pamphlet from Daniel's hand. He stared at the densely packed ideograms for a moment before handing it back. "I can't read that."
"I know. That's why I was going to read it to you."
"You love doing that to me."
"No, but I love watching you do it to yourself," Daniel said.
"Not now, Carter." Jack sat back in his chair and looked at Daniel while Sam idled in the doorway. "So you found some ancient text about Anubis?"
"Not exactly. I found one brief mention of someone who *might* have been Anubis."
"And this helps us how?"
"In a minute, Major," Jack said, his eyes fixed on Daniel. Sam crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the doorframe. "Daniel?"
"Well, in and of itself it's not very useful," Daniel said slowly. "Not at this time."
"So?" Jack prompted.
"So...sorry I bothered you."
"Seeing as quarterly reports are much more important than defending the Earth against Anubis," Daniel muttered under his breath.
"Is *that* going to help us defeat Anubis?" Jack asked, pointing to the pamphlet in Daniel's hand.
"It's a start. Maybe. I need to do some more research."
"So go. Research." Jack gave an irritable wave of his hand as he returned to his reports. "Be sure to let me know what you find."
"I need authorization."
"For certain expenditures," Daniel said.
"Your expense account?" Jack asked, looking up at Daniel again. Daniel nodded. "Why the hell didn't you just say so? In fact, why the hell didn't you just forge my signature like you usually do?"
Jack and Daniel both startled at the high pitched whistle emanating from Sam's vicinity. Their heads swiveled in unison toward the door. Sam stood with hands on hips and an annoyed look on her face.
"I don't know what set you guys off--again--and frankly I don't care," Sam said.
"What?" Jack said. "Set off? I'm not set off. Daniel, are you set off?"
"I'm fine," Daniel said.
"Whatever," Sam sighed. "I just came down here to tell you that I just talked to General Hammond and he said we're a go for the first of the Ancient addresses."
"A real mission?" Jack asked, perking up noticeably.
"Good. Great," Daniel said. "I think I could use a mission."
"Me, too," Jack said.
"Ya think?" Sam muttered as she left.
"Oh, Daniel," Jack called.
"I know," Daniel said, his shoulders sagging. He was sitting on the floor in the main room of the ruins. It was the same plain, gray marble that they'd seen in the Ancients' ruins on the last two planets. And the same precise writing that translated into the same obscure allusions.
"It feels so familiar," Daniel continued, waving his hand at the inscribed wall. "I should know this. I *did* know this."
"Do you have it all recorded?" Jack asked.
"Yes," Daniel sighed and began shoving his notes back into his pack.
"We still have a few minutes before we have to meet Carter and Teal'c," Jack offered.
"No point," Daniel said with a resigned shrug. "There's nothing more to do here. I can translate the writing just as well at the SGC. It's just so frustrating."
"You've got time."
"But that's the point--I don't," Daniel said, looking at Jack.
"As far as we know, Anubis is still busy trying to consolidate his position over the other System Lords," Jack said. "He won't be knocking on our door tomorrow."
"Not tomorrow," Daniel agreed. "But soon."
"You know this?"
"Strong with the Force you are," Jack said.
"Fuck off," Daniel said, smiling. He swung the strap of his pack over his shoulder. "I knew it was a bad idea to let you watch those movies with Teal'c."
"You're the one who's always complaining that I'm culturally deprived."
"I think the word was 'depraved,' and I was thinking of something more enlightening than pop culture."
"Snob," Jack said, following Daniel out of the ruins and onto the barely-there dirt path that led back to the stargate.
"I'm not a snob," Daniel said. He trudged along, fatigue evident in every step he took. "There's nothing wrong with pop culture as long as it's not the sum total of your cultural experience."
"Are you sleeping okay?" Jack asked when a huge yawn overtook Daniel. Normally he would know the answer without asking. He *should* know the answer, but Daniel had suddenly grown reluctant to spend the night with him. And despite all Daniel's reassurances to the contrary, Jack couldn't help but think that it had something to do with them. With him. Every night that Daniel chose to spend alone only added to Jack's unease.
"I'm sleeping. I just don't seem to be sleeping well," Daniel said.
"You'd sleep better in my bed," Jack said in a low voice.
"Jack," Daniel protested.
"Sir?" Sam and Teal'c emerged from the underbrush to their left and started jogging toward them.
"You done?" Jack asked as he stopped to wait for Sam and Teal'c to catch up.
"Yes, sir," Sam said. "We were just doing a little scouting."
"Find anything?" Daniel asked.
"Nothing of significance," Teal'c said.
"Let's pack it in then," Jack said. "Daniel here needs a nap."
"Bite me," Daniel said, setting off in the direction of the stargate. Sam fell into step with him, leaving Jack and Teal'c to follow.
"Are you unwell, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.
"No, I'm fine."
"You do look a little tired," Sam said.
"I keep having...dreams," Daniel said. "Weird dreams."
"What kind of weird dreams?" Jack asked.
"Uh...sir, maybe we don't want to know," Sam interjected.
"No, nothing like that," Daniel said with a faint smile for Sam. "Just.... It's always the same one, more or less. I'm back in Chicago, at the Oriental Institute, and I'm talking to Sarah. She's asking me about my work."
"A memory perhaps," Teal'c said. "Revived by your concern over Sarah Gardner's fate."
"That's just it. It can't be a memory," Daniel said. "After the first few months, Sarah wasn't interested in my work. Or maybe I should say that her sole interest in my work was to convince me to stop doing it."
"So in your dreams you finally get to tell her that you were right all along." Jack stiffened when he saw the disbelieving looks from the rest of the team. "What? It makes sense."
"It does," Sam agreed. "We just didn't expect it from you."
"Maybe," Daniel said before Jack could respond to Sam. "But why is it so strong? And why now?"
"You're under a lot of stress, Daniel," Sam said.
"I've been under stress before. I've never had trouble sleeping."
"That's not entirely true," Sam said. "When you first came back from Abydos you lived on coffee purely in an attempt to avoid sleeping."
"Yeah, okay, that's true," Daniel admitted. "But that was different. I'd just lost Sha're. The SGC was under constant attack by the Goa'uld. It was beyond stressful."
"Still, maybe Carter's right," Jack said. He kind of hoped she was. It might even help explain Daniel's withdrawal from Jack's bed. "We all get pushed to our limit from time to time, but you seem to be a favorite target for galactic whumping."
"It's not stress," Daniel said. "I wonder...maybe it's one of my Ascended memories trying to surface. Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something that I need to know."
"And maybe your subconscious is telling you to just relax for once."
"No idea what it does?" Daniel asked.
Sam and Daniel were sitting at her lab table. Both had their elbows leaning on the table, both were resting their chins on their folded hands. And both were watching a fist-sized purple and green ovoid object spin slowly, hovering just a few inches above the table top.
"Dr. Lee thinks it's a bomb," Sam said.
"Really?" Daniel's eyes widened as he straightened up.
"It's not," Sam said.
"I'm sure. With all the poking and prodding we've done it would've gone off by now."
"Right," Daniel said, his head sinking back down onto his hands.
"I think it's a probe," Sam said, cocking her head slightly as she continued to stare at the object. "Some kind of remote sensor maybe."
"The colonel thinks it's...an aid."
"Aid?" Daniel asked, frowning.
"You know...in the bedroom. For...."
"Yeah, that," Sam said.
Daniel stared thoughtfully at the spinning object for a few moments. "No, I'm just not seeing that."
"I didn't either, but you know the colonel."
"All too well," Daniel agreed. "What's the pool up to?"
"About fifty dollars last time I checked."
"It's a toy."
"A toy. A child's plaything," Daniel said. He sat up so that he could pull a few crumpled bills from his pocket. He took a five and tossed it on the table in front of Sam.
"A toy?" Sam said. She picked up the money and tucked it in her breast pocket. "Okay, it's your money."
"Yes, it is," Daniel said with a satisfied smile.
"You know something," Sam accused.
"I know *that's* a toy," Daniel said. He stood up and stretched, pulling out the kinks in his spine.
"Anyway...how's your research going?"
"In terms of practical application--nowhere."
"What about theories?" Sam asked, swiveling on her stool so that she could watch Daniel wander around her lab.
"Theories," Daniel said with a snort. "Yeah, I've got theories up the wazoo."
"And nothing," Daniel said. "It's all pure speculation."
"What about that monk in China?"
"That's the only mention I could find of Anubis. If it even is Anubis," Daniel admitted. "But I was thinking...."
"I think I know what happened, why someone helped Anubis to ascend. You know how we always think of the Ancients as having these...rules?"
"Rules for ascending, or for being ascended?"
"Er...both, really. But I was thinking specifically about how selective they are about who they'll help ascend."
"And how could people so picky help a Goa'uld."
"Exactly," Daniel said, turning to Sam with an excited expression. "We keep forgetting one thing. When this whole Ascension business started they weren't picky. They didn't choose who got to ascend. They took their entire population--what was left of it after the plague."
"They ascended the bad guys along with the good," Sam said. Daniel nodded. "And one of them wanted something more than ascension."
"Oh, yeah," Daniel said. "I'm not sure.... The Ancient writings are pretty obtuse...."
"Obtuse is your thing," Sam said with a smile.
"Thanks. I think," Daniel said. "Anyway, if my interpretation of what I do know is anywhere close to being right then the host Anubis took was an Ancient."
"I thought all the Ancients had ascended by the time the Goa'uld showed up," Sam said.
"They had. But one of them descended. I think he did it purely for the purpose of blending with a symbiote. Then he re-ascended and the rest, as they say, is history."
"Wish I was," Daniel said with a rueful smile. "No, one of the Ancients wanted more than their vast knowledge and technology could give him, and he thought he could get it from Anubis."
"Wow," Sam said. "Must have been a hell of shock when he realized what being a host really meant."
"I would imagine. And it must've been a hell of a shock when the other Ancients realized what had happened."
"Is that why they've stopped us from killing Anubis? Do they think that this ascended being still exists?"
"Maybe. A little. I don't know how two separate identities could exist within one ascended being, but stranger things have happened," Daniel said "Unfortunately, I still think the main reason they haven't done anything about him is that they *can't* do anything about him."
"I have to say I'm not crazy about that particular theory of yours," Sam said.
"No, neither am I."
"Jack?" Daniel called out as he closed the front door.
"Teal'c." Daniel bent down to retrieve the keys he'd dropped when Teal'c's voice startled him. "Er...hi."
"I am pleased that you will be joining us this evening."
"Joining?" Daniel asked, puzzled. Jack hadn't mentioned anything about joining. At least, not one that involved Teal'c. Daniel shook his head to drive that image from his brain. He was having enough trouble keeping his thoughts in order; he didn't need random weirdness adding to the problem.
"Hey," Jack said, sticking his head out of the kitchen.
"Hey," Daniel said. He tossed his jacket onto the couch before following Teal'c to the kitchen. "What's up?"
"Well, T and I decided that some good home cooking was in order," Jack said.
"And we're here because?"
"Ass," Jack said, tossing a dish towel at Daniel's face. Daniel snatched it out of the air and set it on a nearby counter, out of Jack's reach. "Burgers. Big, thick, juicy burgers hot off the grill. And beer."
"Is Sam joining us?" Daniel asked. Jack muttered something unintelligible as he returned to slicing the onions and tomatoes.
"Major Carter is spending the evening with her policeman friend," Teal'c explained.
"Really? Good for her," Daniel said.
"Good for her?" Jack said. "How can you say that?"
"I don't know," Daniel said, giving Jack a puzzled look. "I just opened my mouth and out it came."
"We don't know anything about this guy," Jack said, rattling through his drawers until he found a metal spatula.
"I didn't realize that *we* needed to know anything about him."
"How can we protect Carter without a full threat assessment?"
"Threat? What threat?" Daniel asked. "Sam's a grown woman and a military officer. She doesn't need protecting."
"Obviously you haven't been paying attention," Jack said, shaking his spatula at Daniel.
"To what?" Daniel asked. He opened the refrigerator door and started collecting the condiments they'd want for the burgers.
"All of Major Carter's previous paramours are deceased," Teal'c said.
"Yeah," Daniel said slowly. He glanced back at Teal'c before digging deeper into the fridge in search of the pickles. "But that's them. Sam's fine."
"And we'd like her to stay that way," Jack said from right behind Daniel. Jack nudged his hip and pointed at the plate of beef patties on the top shelf of the fridge.
"Sam can take care of herself," Daniel said, handing the plate to Jack.
"Ha," Jack said with a derisive snort. "This is a woman who let her brother fix her up."
"Which seems to be working out well," Daniel said, emerging from the fridge with his hands full.
"Give it time," Jack said ominously.
"O'Neill, is there any way I may assist?" Teal'c asked, watching Jack and Daniel's kitchen choreography with a slight frown of concentration.
"Yeah, you can make sure this cop knows who he's messing with," Jack said. "Do that looming thing you do so well."
"I was referring to the meal preparation," Teal'c said.
"Right. Er...beer. Fridge out in the garage," Jack said, jerking his head at the connecting door to the garage. Teal'c nodded and went into the garage. Jack watched while Daniel started gathering silverware from the drawer.
"Hey, sorry about this," Jack said, waving vaguely in Teal'c's direction.
"It's your house," Daniel said, setting the plates on the table.
"No, I.... I don't even know how it happened," Jack said. "Teal'c and were just talking and.... It seemed like a good idea."
"It is a good idea."
"But I probably should've asked you first. Or at least warned you."
"I'm fine, Jack," Daniel said. "Although, Teal'c may think it's a little weird that I just walked in and made myself at home."
"Nah," Jack said after thinking it over. "Teal'c thinks everything we do is weird. This is nothing new."
"What happened?" Jack asked, staring at the slab of unmoving Jaffa on his couch.
"He doesn't have a symbiote anymore," Daniel said. "He doesn't have any protection from the alcohol."
"Even so.... Look at the size of him," Jack said with a sweeping gesture. "A guy that big should be able to handle his booze better."
"He's never developed a tolerance. And he didn't eat much for supper."
"Hey!" Jack said sharply. "There was nothing wrong with those burgers."
"Jack, you know Teal'c prefers his meat rare." Daniel groaned when Jack gave a dirty snigger. "You're drunk, too."
"Nah, just slightly buzzed," Jack said. He gave another dirty snigger. "Speaking of rare meat...."
"And on that note I think I'll be leaving."
"Aw, c'mon, Daniel. He's out for the count. He won't hear a thing."
"No, he probably won't," Daniel agreed. "I was more worried about being somewhere else when he wakes up with a Jaffa-sized hangover."
"Oh," Jack said, taking a step away from the couch and the solid mass of unconscious alien lying on it. "Maybe we should move him to the spare bedroom."
"I don't know about you but getting a hernia was not on my to-do list for tonight," Daniel said. "Just throw a blanket over him."
"He'll wake up with a hangover *and* a crick in his neck. He's going to be one very cranky Jaffa."
"Yeah, well.... Teal'c is over one hundred years old," Daniel pointed out. "It's about time he learned about the perils of overindulgence."
"Hi ho, hi ho," Jack said in a bored voice.
"We can't have all the fun, sir," Sam said. She glanced back to where Jack and Teal'c were hiking along, following behind her and Daniel as they headed for the rendezvous point on M7X. "We have to give other teams the chance to save the planet once in a while."
"Sure, fine. But send us off to sample soil or analyze snotites or something," Jack said.
"Snotites?" Daniel asked, his head whipping around to look at Jack. "You made that up."
"Did not," Jack said. "And it's a measure of my utter lack of enthusiasm that I'd rather spend time with snotites than fool with these people."
"We're meeting with the Tok'ra and the Jaffa," Daniel said.
"And if, by some small chance, diplomacy should happen to break out, I'm sure you'll rectify the situation immediately."
"And the horse you rode in on," Jack said affably.
"I'm just saying that tensions are apparently running very high between the Tok'ra and the Jaffa right now, and I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't fuel the fire."
"Would I do that?"
"Colonel, he's right. Dad said the Tok'ra have been edgy lately."
"As opposed to their usual warm, fuzzy personalities?" Jack asked.
"Look at it this way," Daniel told Sam as she stared at Jack in exasperation. "If all else fails we may be able to unite the Tok'ra and the Jaffa via their mutual annoyance with Jack."
"It is my honor to serve," Jack said, tipping his hat. Daniel and Sam gave the exact same huff of exasperation.
All four members of SG-1 spun around to see Jacob emerging from a thicket and heading in their direction.
"Hey, Daniel, Teal'c," Jacob said when he'd caught up to them.
"Jacob," Jack said with a nod. "Are you the official welcoming party?"
"Strictly unofficial, I assure you," Jacob said, giving Sam a quick hug.
"Why? What's up?" Sam asked.
"Not sure, to tell you the truth," Jacob said.
"Jacob?" Jack said.
"There are the obvious issues that brought us all here, of course," Jacob said. "But there's something else going on. The Tok'ra are being very secretive."
"Well, there's a surprise," Jack said.
"With me, Jack," Jacob said. "They've been very distrustful of me lately."
"For what reason would the Tok'ra treat you as unworthy of trust?" Teal'c asked.
"I have no idea. Other than the fact that I am, by their standards, a little too friendly with the SGC."
"Surely not," Sam said. Jacob simply shrugged, obviously at a loss to explain. "Besides, that's nothing new. You and Selmac have been our allies from the beginning."
"I know," Jacob said. "But whatever it is, whatever is causing the tension with the Jaffa, no one's letting me in on it."
"Well, that should make the meeting...interesting," Daniel said.
Jack shifted restlessly in his seat and glanced around the large tent. The discussion between the Tok'ra, the Jaffa and SG-1 was going about as well as he'd expect a discussion between those three groups to go, which was to say--not very.
"Why should we do as the Tok'ra command?" Rak'nor asked. "By what right do they rule the Jaffa?"
"We do not seek to rule the Jaffa, but *someone* must lead."
"Again I ask--why you?"
"Because you act without thinking," Van'eu, the head of the Tok'ra delegation, accused. "You strike wildly, selfishly, without thought of the consequences."
"We know well the consequences of *not* acting!"
"Van'eu has a point," Daniel interjected.
"Of course you would agree," the Jaffa said.
"Hey!" Jack said. "Just hear him out."
"The Tok'ra are right; we've all been waging separate wars against the Goa'uld and that just isn't going to work," Daniel said. "We have to work together or the Goa'uld *will* ultimately win."
"But why should the Tok'ra be given the authority to decide which battles we should fight?" Teal'c asked.
"I'm not suggesting that the Tok'ra should have unilateral control," Daniel said. "We need to decide *together*."
"Which I thought was the whole point of this shindig," Jack said.
"The Jaffa have been plagued by traitors," Van'eu said.
"As have the Tok'ra," Rak'nor said, returning Van'eu's suspicious stare.
"Okay, we get it," Daniel said before either side could escalate the accusations. "Nobody trusts anybody. The Tok'ra don't trust the Jaffa, the Jaffa don't trust the Tok'ra, and neither of you trust us."
"And we don't trust either of you," Jack said, waving his hand at the assembled representatives.
"Yes, thank you, Jack," Daniel said through gritted teeth. He focused on the Tok'ra and Jaffa leaders. "We've all had trouble with spies. Which is all the more reason to work together."
"The Jaffa are not willing to surrender our hard won freedom, little though it may seem to you," Rak'nor said.
"I understand that. You feel like you've finally gotten a taste of independence and you don't want to give that up," Daniel said. "But if you aren't willing to work together, then a *taste* of freedom is all you'll ever have."
"We have made great sacrifices," Rak'nor pointed out.
"The Tok'ra have also made sacrifices," Van'eu said immediately.
"Hey!" Jack snapped. "We've *all* made sacrifices. Daniel is *trying* to find a way for *all* of us to stop making so damn *many* sacrifices."
"And you have a way to do that?" Van'eu asked.
"I have a suggestion, yes," Daniel said. "My proposal is that we form a sort of war council, a committee whose job it is to develop a plan of attack. That plan would then be taken back to our respective leaders for approval."
"And who would be on this council?" Rak'nor asked.
"One Tok'ra, one Jaffa and one Tau'ri," Daniel said. "I would also suggest that Jacob Carter be assigned as a sort of committee chairperson."
"Why?" Rak'nor and Van'eu demanded.
"Jacob is human, Selmac is Tok'ra," Daniel said. "He understands both viewpoints. And he's a warrior."
"Jacob was general in our military," Jack said, understanding the point Daniel was trying to make. "He's a warrior, like the Jaffa. He understands strategy. He understands discipline and honor. He also understands sacrifice."
"I must confer with my fellow Tok'ra before agreeing to this proposal," Van'eu said. "I would ask for a short break at this time."
"We, also, must discuss Dr. Jackson's proposal," Rak'nor said immediately.
"Great," Jack said. "So everybody take five and...confer."
"Daniel Jackson speaks wisdom," Teal'c said to Raknor. He, Rak'nor and Daniel stood in front of Rak'nor's tent, his temporary quarters, while small groups all around them argued over the meaning and intent of the discussions thus far.
"Agreed. But wisdom is a rare commodity," Rak'nor said with a wry grin.
"You know that working together is the only way," Daniel told Rak'nor. "It won't be easy. It's *never* easy, but isn't the ultimate goal more important?"
"You must understand, Dr. Jackson, that for many Jaffa, asking them to submit to the Tok'ra is no different than asking them to submit to the Goa'uld."
"I'm not asking you to submit to the Tok'ra. I'm not even asking you to trust them," Daniel said. "I'm just asking you to work with them."
"A true alliance between all three races would likely shorten the time necessary to achieve our goal," Teal'c said.
"And lessen the losses in battle," Rak'nor agreed. "But how can we ever achieve a true alliance without trust?"
"That'll come with time," Daniel said, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. "We have to try, and with each success, with each mission that *doesn't* go wrong, we'll build a little more trust in each other."
"I believe it may be the only way," Teal'c said.
"It will not be easy," Rak'nor said.
"Did Bra'tac offer any counsel on the matter?" Teal'c asked.
"Bra'tac said that he would trust in us to make the right choice," Rak'nor said with a knowing smile.
"On Earth," Teal'c said. "That is referred to as 'passing the buck'."
"Jacob...," Jack began, glancing across the camp to where Daniel, Teal'c and Rak'nor were huddled together.
"In case you hadn't noticed, Jack, I'm not in charge here," Jacob said.
"Can't you do *something*?" Sam asked.
"No. That's what I was trying to tell you earlier. Apparently they don't trust me any more than they trust the Jaffa."
"Not even Selmac?" Jack asked.
"Not even her."
"I thought she was one of the oldest and wisest among the Tok'ra," Sam said.
"She is. Doesn't seem to make any difference at the moment."
"All right, what do we do if they agree to establish the war council, but refuse to accept Jacob?" Jack asked.
"Personally, it won't bother me if they prefer to appoint someone else. My ego will survive," Jacob said. "My concern is with the underlying reason for all the suspicion."
"I don't know of anyone else with the balance that Dad and Selmac have," Sam said. "But it might not be so bad to just leave the council with three members, one from each of the factions."
"No, I don't see a problem with that either," Jack said. His eyes swept the compound, noting who was talking to whom. "But I'm with Jacob. There's something going on behind the scenes and it's making me nervous."
Sam's words were drowned out by the screech of a low flying death glider. All conversation ceased immediately, all eyes turning to the sky.
"What the...?" Jack asked just as another glider buzzed the camp.
"Go!" Jacob shouted as he started to move toward the Tok'ra area of the encampment.
"Get to the gate now or you may lose your chance to get out of here," Jacob said, waving wildly for them to leave.
"What about you?" Jack asked.
"I'll be fine. Now go."
"Daniel, Teal'c," Jack shouted as he started to run across the camp. "Let's move."
Daniel crashed through the dry underbrush, keeping one ear open for attacking Jaffa, and the other on his teammates' whereabouts. He stumbled over a tangle of dead weeds. The clumsiness probably saved his life. Daniel allowed himself to drop to his knees as two Jaffa broke through just to his left. A staff blast--Teal'c, obviously-- took care of the first Jaffa. Daniel gunned down the second before he had the chance to take aim.
Daniel clambered to his feet again, not really needing Jack's bellowed orders to motivate him.
"Daniel, you dial," Jack shouted as they emerged into the clearing surrounding the gate.
Daniel ran straight to the DHD, only subliminally aware of Jack setting defensive positions for the other three. He took a deep breath and started punching the glyphs. Daniel's hand faltered as he reached for the sixth symbol. The alien sound of staff weapons ripped through the air behind him, met by the less alien sound of Jack and Sam's P-90s. He punched his hand against the sixth symbol just as Jack shouted Sam's name.
Daniel looked over his right shoulder. Sam was down and Jack was moving to cover her position, firing at the Jaffa as he moved.
"Got it," Daniel called back. He turned back and punched the last glyph before slamming his hand on the center crystal. Before the vortex stabilized he was already halfway to Sam's position. He hesitated just long enough to send the IDC before kneeling down next to Sam.
"We're clear," Daniel told Jack.
"Go," Jack ordered, glancing over his shoulder at Daniel and Sam.
Daniel slung Sam across his shoulders. Against the back of his neck he could feel the residual heat from the blast she'd taken. He could also hear raspy, wheezy breathing in one ear. Daniel decided that was a good sign. Not that it was raspy and wheezy, but that it was breathing of any kind. He tightened his grip and plunged into the wormhole.
Daniel staggered slightly as he emerged on the ramp in the SGC; the slight disorientation of gate travel was compounded by the burden of Sam's weight. And boy, he knew better than to ever describe Sam's weight as a burden. At least, not in her hearing.
"Medical team," Daniel shouted as he walked down the ramp, and Hammond's voice echoed his request over the P.A. He heard Jack and Teal'c arrive, their feet clattering on the metal ramp behind him.
Startled by the words gasped into his ear, Daniel began to lower Sam to the floor. Janet and one of the medics arrived in time to help shift her off of Daniel's shoulders, lowering her into a sitting position on the concrete floor.
"Sam?" Daniel said, crouching down in front of his teammate.
"Okay," Sam said breathlessly.
"You're supposed to be dead," Jack said, his eyes fixed on Sam as he walked to the bottom of the ramp.
"Sorry, sir, next time I'll try harder," Sam said, still struggling to catch her breath.
"Doctor?" Hammond asked Fraiser, obviously as surprised as Jack.
"The new body armor absorbed the blast," Janet said. She sat back on her heels, shaking her head in amazement. She pulled the side of Sam's vest aside so that they could all see that the blast hadn't penetrated through the body armor. Beneath the vest her t-shirt was untouched.
"Major, are you *sure* you're all right?" Hammond asked.
"Feel like I've been kicked by a mule," Sam said, her breath beginning to come more easily. "But yeah, I'm okay."
"Well, let's get you to the infirmary and make sure," Janet said, offering Sam a hand up. Janet and a medic sandwiched Sam between them and helped her from the room.
"Guess I owe Dr. Lee a thank you," Jack said.
"Not to mention an apology," Daniel said as he brushed past Jack and followed Sam out of the gate room.
"Sorry I'm late," Sam said. She draped her leather jacket across the back of an empty chair and sank into it with a groan of relief. "I was just leaving the SGC when we got a message from Dad."
"Is he all right?" Daniel asked while Jack waved over the waitress and ordered another round for all of them.
"He's fine. Dad didn't know the final casualty count, but he seemed to think the losses were minimal," Sam said. "But apparently the Jaffa are accusing the Tok'ra of setting them up. They say that the Tok'ra asked for the break at that time because they knew the attack was coming. And the Tok'ra say the Jaffa set them up. That they were planning to blend in with the attacking Jaffa and make their escape."
"Oh, for chrissake," Jack snapped. "They're acting like two year olds."
"Well, you do have to wonder," Daniel said, idly rolling his bottle of beer between his hands. "The alliance was already on shaky ground. The ambush was all it took to break it completely."
"Do you believe that either the Jaffa or the Tok'ra betrayed our alliance?" Teal'c asked.
"No, I don't," Daniel said. "However any of us feels about the others, the Goa'uld are far and away our most important enemy. I don't think either group would sabotage the alliance and risk a Goa'uld victory."
"I'd have to agree," Jack said, taking a sip of his beer. "Setting up an ambush by the Goa'uld would be stupid, and the Jaffa and Tok'ra are not stupid. Pig-headed and arrogant, yes. Stupid, no."
"Whoever is responsible, it would seem that they've achieved their goal," Daniel said. "The Tok'ra will go off in one direction, the Jaffa in another, and we're left hanging somewhere in the middle."
"Teal'c, you know...," Jack began.
"I have made my choice, O'Neill. I will remain with SG-1."
"Good. I'm glad," Jack said. "I just wanted you to know that I...we'd understand if you wanted to go back to the Jaffa."
"Rak'nor is wise as well as brave. He is a good leader," Teal'c said. "In truth, I am not sure that my presence would be welcome by some. Like Jacob, I am considered to have been changed by my association with the Tau'ri."
"That's not true," Sam said indignantly.
"Respectfully, I must disagree, Major Carter," Teal'c said. "I have changed. However, I do not consider this to be a bad thing."
"Neither do we," Jack said, saluting Teal'c with his beer bottle. "In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's a good thing."
"Oh, yes," Daniel said in a dry tone. "It's much better that you're here, where you can learn about jello wrestling, internet porn, and...." Daniel turned a sharp look on Jack. "Disco."
Jack's eyes widened in indignation and he immediately pointed his beer bottle at Sam. Sam responded by blushing and grabbing her purse to begin a search...apparently for something to change the topic of conversation.
"The truth is, Teal'c, that we're all better people, better representatives of our world because we've gotten to know people like you and Selmac," Daniel said. "I honestly think that your knowledge of us and our ways will be a good thing for the Jaffa...one day."
"That is indeed my hope," Teal'c agreed.
"You keep saying it isn't me," Jack said.
"It's not," Daniel said.
"Is it the sex?"
"No. The sex is fine. It's great."
"Too much of it? All you have to do is say no."
"Not enough? You want to top more? You want to bottom more?"
"Daniel, you *have* to give me a clue here," Jack said, desperation plain in his voice.
"I can't." Daniel didn't understand it himself. He wanted to be with Jack, ached for it, but when the moment arrived Daniel felt compelled to send Jack away. Even when he'd spent hours thinking about what he was going to do to Jack the minute the bedroom door closed behind them, he'd suddenly be overwhelmed with the need to be alone, an almost tangible desire for solitude.
"I don't know what it is but it isn't you or sex."
"I knew this house was going to be a problem."
"Would you just get over the house?" Daniel snapped.
"Dr. Lee," Jack said.
"Where?" Daniel's head whipped around to look out the back window of the truck.
"You're still pissed that I came down on Lee in Honduras."
"I still think you were being unreasonable, yes, but that has nothing to do with whether or not you can spend the night."
"We're fine at work. We're fine hanging out after work. But the sun goes down and you close up shop on me. Are you some kind of reverse vampire or something?"
"That would explain a lot," Daniel said. He shook his head, feeling defeated by his own behavior. "I don't know, Jack. I want to be with you, but I feel like I have to be alone."
"Maybe we need counseling."
"You mean maybe *I* need counseling," Daniel said. He'd heard the slight hesitation before "we." And wondered if Jack seriously thought there was any way Daniel could discuss his affair with an Air Force officer with anyone without causing a far more serious problem.
"Does it make a difference?" Jack asked. "All I'm trying to say is that if there's a problem, then we need to deal with it."
"There's no problem, Jack. I just need a little...space."
"Then *that's* the problem." Jack stared out the windshield. "It's not normal. We shouldn't need so much 'space'."
"You mean *I'm* not normal. That *I* shouldn't need so much space," Daniel said.
"You are normal. Or as close to normal as I can lay claim to," Jack said. "But you're acting...."
"You just have to give me time."
"How much, Daniel? How much time?"
"As long as it takes." Daniel hesitated, deciding that maybe it wasn't fair to ask Jack to put up with his seemingly endless need for solitude. Daniel got out of the truck without looking at Jack. "As long as you're willing to give me."
As he closed the door he heard Jack slam his fists against the steering wheel, cursing.
Jack sat in his truck staring at Daniel's house. Again.
He'd gone home for a while, but he hadn't been able to settle down. Daniel had asked for time, but he'd had weeks of it already. Jack felt the need to resolve the issue soon. No, he felt the need to resolve it *now*.
He also felt guilty that he'd left Daniel with the idea that he was likely to give up, move on, if Daniel didn't get with the program. It wasn't like that. Jack could be as patient as he needed to be. If Daniel needed time to deal with a problem then Jack could do that. What he couldn't do was sit around and wait for Daniel to admit that there even *was* a problem.
Jack got out of the truck and approached the front door, keys at the ready. Normally he wouldn't let himself in when he'd already been sent away once that evening, but Daniel had been tired lately. Jack didn't want to wake him if he was finally getting some sleep. And if he wasn't sleeping...well, they had plenty of things to discuss. His invasion of Daniel's privacy would be just one more topic to add to the list.
Jack let himself in, his senses alert for any sign of Daniel's presence. The lights were off in the living room, but as he moved farther into the house he could see a faint glow from Daniel's bedroom door, standing ajar at the end of the hall. That didn't necessarily mean anything. Daniel had been known to fall asleep with the lights on before.
Jack slipped down the hall. He eased the bedroom door open, not wanting to startle Daniel if he was awake...and stopped dead in his tracks.
Daniel was lying on his back, sprawled across the bed. Osiris was leaning over Daniel, her ribbon device glowing faintly as she moved it over Daniel's face. Hearing Jack's exclamation, she turned on him with an angry expression.
"Get away from him," Jack demanded, wishing desperately that he had a weapon of some kind.
"We should have expected you to show up," Osiris said, raising her hand toward Jack. Jack ducked the blast from the ribbon device, using the opportunity to move closer to the bed. Just then Daniel opened his eyes, looking up at Osiris.
Osiris looked angrily at Daniel. Jack saw her press something on her ribbon device before reaching down to grasp Daniel's arm. Going with his gut instinct, Jack threw himself at Daniel, grabbing onto his ankle just as a flash of bright light blinded him.
Jack woke up to find himself somewhere...Goa'uldish. He didn't know where exactly, but it was gold and cold and that was enough to remind him of Osiris' presence in Daniel's bedroom. He immediately sat up and looked for Daniel, who turned out to be sitting on the floor about ten feet away. Daniel gave him a small, resigned smile when he realized that Jack was awake.
"How long have I been out?" Jack asked.
"About five minutes longer than I was," Daniel said.
"And how long were you out?"
"No idea," Daniel said with a shrug.
"Goa'uld ship?" Jack asked. He got to his feet and started to walk toward Daniel.
"I wouldn't do that," Daniel warned.
"Why n.... Damn!" Jack yelped when he ran into a force field.
"That's why," Daniel said, waving a hand at the invisible wall surrounding him. Now that Jack knew to look for the telltale shimmer, he could see that there were two small 'cells' keeping them separated. Jack stepped cautiously back to the center of his cell.
"You know--I was just telling Carter that we need one of these force field things," Jack said, rubbing his arm to ease the painful shocks still fizzing through his nerves.
"What did she say?"
"Not much really. Except that apparently we can't have one."
"Oh. And to answer your question--it would seem that yes, we're on a Goa'uld ship."
"Oh, good," Jack said. "As long as we know exactly where we stand."
"I'm a little curious as to *which* Goa'uld it is," Daniel said.
"That I do know," Jack said, turning in place to study the room carefully. "It's Osiris."
"Osiris?" Daniel got to his feet. "My dreams...."
"Were not dreams," Jack agreed. "Seems she's been sneaking into your bedroom at night and doing some kind of mind whammy on you. You had one of those Tok'ra memory things on."
"Why?" Daniel asked. He touched his temple, wincing when his fingers brushed over a small sore spot that seemed to confirm Jack's report.
"I was hoping you'd know."
"Information," Daniel said, nodding to himself. "That's why I was 'dreaming' that she...Sarah was interested in my work. There must be some piece of information she wants. Something about the Ancients."
"Sounds logical," Jack agreed.
"Well, I guess we know now why I was so 'eager' to sleep alone," Daniel said with a rueful grimace.
"Very good, Dr. Jackson."
Jack and Daniel both startled, instinctively backing up a step, as Osiris entered the room. A single Jaffa, roughly the same mass as Jack and Daniel combined, accompanied her.
"But then you always were a clever boy, weren't you?" she continued. She walked slowly around Daniel's cell, looking him over from head to toe.
"You put some kind of suggestion in my head," Daniel said, watching Osiris warily. "Some sort of compulsion so that I would go home alone."
"It was the only way to gain sufficient time alone with you." Osiris threw Jack a disgusted look. "You were far too distracted otherwise."
"What do you want?" Daniel asked.
"We want many things."
"Could you be a little more specific?" Daniel asked.
"As attractive as this host is, we have missed the feel of a male body," Osiris said, gazing directly at Daniel. Daniel stared back, his face a careful blank.
"Nobody wants to play hide the snake with you?" Jack asked, deciding that someone had to take up the conversational slack.
"Amusing," Osiris said in a tone that conveyed a complete lack of amusement. "We meant, as you well know, that we wish to *be* male once again."
"Well, if it's the host with the most you're looking for--I'm your guy," Jack said.
"You?" Osiris said with a sneer.
"Don't let the gray hair fool you. I'm way more macho than Daniel is," Jack insisted. He threw out his chest, suppressing a wince when his back twinged at the strain.
"But then...you would need to be, wouldn't you?" Osiris said, a smile of superior amusement on her lips.
"Don't worry, Colonel," Osiris said. She walked slowly toward Jack, stopping just outside the force shield. "We have plans for you as well."
"Plans?" Jack asked.
"Lord Baal was most disappointed that the two of you were unable to finish your...conversation," Osiris said, looking at Jack with eyes full of malicious glee.
"Big regret of mine, too," Jack said, his chest deflating slightly. Inside, his gut clenched at the memory. He didn't think he could go through that again. Not just the torture, but the endless resurrections. Certainly not without Daniel to keep him sane.
"What about me?" Daniel interrupted.
"Lord Anubis wishes to converse with you," Osiris said. "And when he has finished...you will be ours."
"Not willingly," Daniel said.
"By the time Anubis has finished you will have no will," Osiris said with a casual wave of her hand.
"What if there was another way?" Daniel asked.
"Consider this--what good does it do *you* to give me to Anubis?"
"I serve Lord Anubis."
"Surely not by choice. You were once one of the most powerful of the System Lords, second only to Ra. Even Apophis had to kneel before you." Daniel shrugged as if amused by Osiris' change in circumstances. "And now you're the flunky of some second rank Goa'uld."
"How far the mighty have fallen," Jack agreed. He was keeping one ear on the conversation as he checked out Osiris' Jaffa. The warrior didn't bear Anubis's tattoo on his forehead, but that didn't mean much anymore. The armies of the System Lords had been divided and reformed so often in recent years that it was a wonder how they knew who the enemy was in the heat of battle.
"We will rise again," Osiris said.
"That's what they all say," Jack said. "But I gotta tell you--I'm thinking that Old Hefty Bag probably isn't going to need you much longer. He's just about whipped the rest of the System Lords, and he's got those spiffy new soldiers to do his dirty work. Why would he keep you around?"
"Anubis knows the value of my service."
"You could take power for yourself," Daniel suggested. "Reclaim your position among the System Lords."
"None have the power to defeat Anubis," Osiris admitted.
Osiris was silent, considering Daniel's words. For the moment, Jack stayed silent, too, because he had no idea where Daniel was going with this line of conversation.
"I'll give you the information Anubis is looking for, the information you need to defeat him, if you let Jack go," Daniel said. Osiris and Jack both stared at him. "Let both of them go, Jack and Sarah, and I'll give you want you want. A new host and knowledge of the Ancients."
"Daniel," Jack warned. He knew Daniel was bluffing. He *had* to be. But Jack still didn't know to what end, and he couldn't work with a game plan he didn't know.
"We could take what we want with or without your agreement," Osiris said, walking over to face Daniel.
"No, you can't."
"Always so sure of yourself, Dr. Jackson."
"Not always, but this time.... I can lock that information away in my mind and no one will ever be able to access it."
"Anubis has methods of extracting information."
"Won't work on me," Daniel said. "I was Ascended. I know how to seal off a part of my mind in a way that no amount of force can penetrate. The only way you'll ever get to it is if I share it willingly. I won't do that for Anubis."
"But you would do this for us?" Osiris asked, prowling around Daniel warily.
"In return for Jack and Sarah's freedom, yes."
"How could we trust you?"
"Trust *him*?" Jack said incredulously.
"You have access to Sarah's memories. You should know that I wouldn't give my word unless I intended to keep it," Daniel said. "The truth is that we both know you're more likely to screw me than I am to screw you."
In more ways than one, Jack thought.
"You will give me complete access to your mind if I allow O'Neill and this host to live?"
"Yes," Daniel said.
"Forget it, Daniel," Jack said. This little ploy of Daniel's had gone far enough. Too far for Jack's comfort. "You are not letting a snake in your head just to save some bitch you used to date."
"No! You told me yourself--Gardner never gave a damn about you. All she cared about was what you could do for her."
"It's true, you know," Osiris said, obviously amused by the direction the conversation had taken. "She only loved the person she thought you should be."
Daniel closed his eyes, refusing to look at either of them. "It doesn't matter."
"What the hell are you doing?" Jack asked. He didn't care, at this point, that Osiris and her Jaffa were listening. He had to know where Daniel was going with this insane idea, because it *couldn't* be where Jack thought he was going.
"You know the old cliché about what to do when life hands you lemons?" Daniel said. "Well, I'm trying to make lemonade."
"By offering yourself as a *host*?"
"We don't have a lot of options here, Jack. If becoming a host gets you and Sarah home safely, then I think that's a reasonable trade off."
"I don't," Jack said angrily.
"Do you have a better idea?"
"Yes." Jack turned and pointed at Osiris. "Tell that bitch where to shove it."
"She'll turn me over to Anubis and give you to Baal. How is that better?"
"Give in to her now and it's over. End of game. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, go straight to hell."
"Game's already over, Jack."
"Don't do this for me," Jack said, shaking a finger at Daniel.
"What about for Sarah?"
"So help me god, Daniel, do this and I will hunt you down and kill you myself," Jack said angrily. He only caught a glimpse of Daniel's eyes as Daniel looked away, but that was all he needed. "You son of a bitch."
"As amusing as this is, we do not have time for lover's quarrels," Osiris said. Jack glared at her, wanting nothing more than to wrap his hands around her skinny neck and hear the snap of cartilage twisted beyond its limits. Osiris nodded at Daniel. "We agree to your request."
"It's not a request," Daniel cautioned. "It's a demand."
"You are hardly in the position to be making demands."
"Actually, I am. I have something you want."
"And we have something you want."
"Call it a mutually beneficial arrangement then," Daniel said. "Let's just get it over with."
"We are flattered by your eagerness," Osiris said dryly. She pressed the top of the ribbon device and the force field surrounding Daniel disappeared with an electric crackle. Immediately the Jaffa grabbed him from behind and pinned his upper arms. Daniel struggled to break free, turning an angry look on Osiris.
"I have to be willing," Daniel warned as he squirmed in the Jaffa's grasp. "Or you get nothing."
"Release him," Osiris ordered. The Jaffa complied, stepping away from Daniel as Osiris approached. Daniel put out his hand to prevent her from getting too close.
"He will be released when you have fulfilled your part of the bargain."
"I can't leave yet," Jack said. And if anyone thought he was leaving at all without Daniel, they were sadly, possibly fatally, mistaken. "Gardner will need someone to help her get home."
"He is correct. The host will be weak and disoriented without our guidance."
"Turn off the force field at least," Daniel said.
"He will interfere."
"No, he won't," Daniel said, the tone of his voice a clear warning to Jack.
"He cannot be trusted."
"Not as dumb as your average Goa'uld," Jack said.
"Jack," Daniel pleaded, frustrated by Jack's refusal to play along. Jack sympathized, but he wasn't about to go along with a plan that, as far as he could tell, would inevitably end with Daniel as a host. Jack would take Gardner home if that's all that was left for him to do. But he wouldn't sit back and just let it happen.
"Enough," Osiris said curtly. "We have heard much of O'Neill, and we would not consider releasing him under any circumstances."
"Once again my reputation precedes me," Jack said. God, he wanted to kill someone, maybe even Daniel. Instead, Jack had to force himself to stand still, his hands clenched in fists at his sides, as Osiris reached out. She slid her hand up Daniel's chest and cupped his face in her hand.
"Just do it," Daniel said through gritted teeth.
Osiris leaned in to Daniel. Smiling, she stroked his face. With her own face just inches from his, Osiris turned to look at Jack.
"Lied?" Jack said, confused.
"Jack...." Daniel broke off when Osiris raised her hand, holding the ribbon device before his face in an unvoiced threat.
"We have been in his mind," Osiris told Jack. "We know that you were not the one of whom he dreamed, never the one for whom he longed."
Jack knew she was lying. He knew it was just another twisted Goa'uld mind game, another way to inflict pain. He *knew* that. But for a second, just a second, Jack's deepest insecurities, heightened by too many nights of rejection, whispered agreement in his ear. Osiris smiled in delight at Jack's stricken expression.
Daniel chose that moment of distraction to act. With one hand he grabbed her wrist, using the control to shut down the force field that confined Jack. With the other hand he thrust a knife into Osiris' chest. Her hand clenched convulsively, her fingernails digging into Daniel's shoulder. Osiris pulled him closer as her mouth dropped open.
"Daniel!" Jack shouted as the Goa'uld symbiote shot from Sarah's mouth. Daniel shoved her away with a shout of horror.
The real and very immediate threat to Daniel's life jolted Jack into action. He kicked out, thankful that Jaffa men had the same vulnerable genitals as their human ancestors and that they didn't wear big silly codpieces to protect them. When the Jaffa doubled over, Jack ripped the zat from his hand and discharged it twice. He whirled around just in time to see Sarah slump to the ground.
Daniel had both hands wrapped around the symbiote, trying to pull it away from the back of his neck. The Goa'uld flexed its fins, driving the spines into the unprotected flesh of Daniel's palms. Blood slicked his skin, making it more difficult for Daniel to keep his grip.
Jack ran across the room, grabbed the symbiote with both hands, and ripped it away from Daniel's neck. He followed through the motion, cracking the snake against a bulkhead. He knew instantly that it had died, but that wasn't enough. Not nearly enough. Jack threw it to the ground and stomped on it. Then he kept stomping until it was nothing more than a slimy, blue smear on the floor.
"Stop." Daniel grabbed Jack's shoulders and pulled him away from the Goa'uld. "It's dead. You can stop."
"Are you okay?"
"I...yeah," Daniel said, sounding uncertain. Jack pulled him close and looked at his neck. There was an ugly bite mark, but it was only superficial. The snake hadn't managed to fully penetrate Daniel's body.
"God," Daniel gasped, breathing hard as the adrenalin started to ebb. Jack kept his hands firmly on Daniel's upper arms, steadying him as he sagged back against the wall.
"You're fine," Jack reassured him as he pulled Daniel's hands up, inspecting the damage there. Daniel just nodded. "Knife?"
"Got it off the Jaffa when he tried to put me in a headlock," Daniel said. Jack shook his head. Daniel showed a surprisingly acute sense of self-preservation at the most unlikely moments. Not everyone would have the presence of mind to steal a weapon at the same moment he faced becoming his worst nightmare.
"Sarah?" Daniel asked, looking at Jack.
Jack glanced behind him. The position of the knife told him everything he needed to know; Daniel had learned his hand to hand training well. Jack pushed lightly against Daniel's chest, silently telling him to stay put, before walking over to Sarah. He knelt down and pressed his fingers against her neck. He looked back at Daniel and shook his head.
Daniel slid down the wall until his butt hit the ground, covering his eyes with one hand. Jack knew better than to say anything. There wasn't anything *to* say. It was the right thing to do, Sarah was free now, she was better off, and a Goa'uld was dead. And Daniel already knew all of that.
Jack walked back to the Jaffa and used the zat to disintegrate him. He looked down at Sarah for a second before tucking the zat away. She wasn't a Goa'uld anymore and somewhere, Jack knew, she had family who might get some small comfort from seeing her one last time. He took the cloak Osiris had been wearing and draped it over her body. With a sigh, he turned his attention back to Daniel.
"I figure there's a couple more Jaffa at most," Jack said. He held out his hand. "What d'you say we see about getting home?" Daniel made a quick wipe of his eyes as he lowered his hand from his face. He glanced over at the shrouded body, then reached for Jack's hand.
Jack followed Daniel onto the bridge, taking the pilot's seat while Daniel made himself familiar with the co-pilot's area of the controls.
"So now what?"
"We go home," Daniel said. "Don't we?"
"Like the plan. Not sure how to execute it."
"Can't you fly this thing?" Daniel asked.
"Flying, I can do. Navigation is another story," Jack said. He shut down the engines and brought the ship to a halt somewhere in the middle of a whole lot of mostly empty space.
"Oh." Daniel turned his attention to the control panel in front of him. After a minute he pushed several buttons. "Here."
"What is it?" Jack asked as a heads-up display appeared in front of him.
"It's a star map."
"I can see that. Which stars exactly?"
"No idea," Daniel admitted. After a moment of study he pointed to an area of the map. "Okay, this is where we are."
"How can you tell?" Jack asked. None of the configurations were familiar to him, which was frustrating although not surprising.
"Because the ship's computer says 'you are here'," Daniel said.
"Does it say where 'here' is in relationship to Earth?"
"No," Daniel said, his mouth twisting as he puzzled over the read out. "We need Sam or Teal'c."
"Radio," Jack said, his eyes searching the control panel.
"There," Daniel said, pointing.
"Got it." Jack punched a couple of buttons. "SG Command, this is Colonel O'Neill. Do you copy? Repeat, this is Colonel O'Neill calling SG Command. Come in please. Over."
"Are you sure you have the right frequency?" Daniel asked after a few moments of silence.
"I'm sure," Jack said, not entirely certain. "There could be a time lag. I mean, I have no idea how far we are from Earth."
"Carter," Jack said. He gave an impatient huff when he realized that he was going to have to wait for the response.
"Colonel, what happened? Is Daniel with you?"
"Yep, he's right here," Jack said as soon as Sam's voice made it to their corner of the cosmos. "Listen, Carter, we need a little help. We're on an al-kesh somewhere, um, well somewhere that isn't our solar system."
"Sam, we need help with the navigation systems," Daniel said. "The ship's computer is telling us where we are, but we don't know how to tell it where we need to go."
"Above and to the left of the radio there is a transmitter which will allow you to send the ship's data directly to the SGC," Teal'c said, his voice arriving several minutes later.
"Got it," Jack muttered, pushing the indicated button.
"Okay, just a sec," Daniel said as a screen appeared.
"What?" Jack asked.
"I have to tell it which data to transmit." Daniel worked the control panel for a moment, his fingers hesitating before pressing each button.
"That it?" Jack asked.
"Should be," Daniel said with an ambiguous shrug. "Guess we'll know shortly."
"Receiving the information now, sir. As soon as we figure out where you are, Teal'c is going to plot your return course. We'll upload it directly to your ship's computer."
"If all these superior aliens out here can figure out a way to make ships go faster than the speed of light, why can't they do the same for communications?" Jack asked, slapping his hand against his thigh impatiently.
"Because...." Daniel hesitated, frowning. "Actually, I don't know why. But then, I don't understand how they do the faster than light travel thing either."
"Maybe I'll ask Carter." Jack grinned at Daniel's pointed look. "Or not."
"Preparing to transmit," Sam said. "Sir, what happened?"
"Long story, Carter," Jack said, glancing at Daniel. "For now let's just say that Osiris is dead, we've got a couple of Jaffa hog-tied in the hold, and a ship we don't entirely know how to operate."
"I...see." There were muffled noises in the background. "Transmitting coordinates now. Lock them into the navigation system. You should come out of hyperspace somewhere close to Saturn. You shouldn't have any trouble bringing her in from there."
"We should be able to handle that," Jack said. "Thanks, Carter, Teal'c. We'll see you shortly. Over and out."
"Argh," Jack groaned the moment he'd closed his front door behind him. He ripped off his tie and tossed his cover at the dining room table. Daniel walked straight across the room and slumped down on the couch.
Jack was wearing his class A uniform as a gesture of respect. Daniel was in his treaty signing/funeral/Presidential visit suit. As an honor guard they might not have been impressive, but at least they'd been sincere. They'd accompanied Sarah's casket to Peterson A.F.B and seen it loaded onto the plane bound Denver, then for the U.K. Then they'd made the drive to Jack's house in complete silence.
"There's something I have to know," Jack began hesitantly.
"You don't know what I was going to ask you."
"I would've gone through with it," Daniel said, staring at the dark fireplace. "If I hadn't been able to get my hands on the knife, I would've let her...it...."
"Why? You had to know that she would never have kept her end of the bargain," Jack said.
"There's a few moments, right? A brief time before the symbiote has total control."
"Yeah...," Jack said slowly.
"I was going to try to take out the Jaffa," Daniel said. "That might have given you enough time to...."
"To kill you?"
"I was kind of hoping for a simple zatting, but if push came to shove...."
"Dangerous plan, Daniel."
"It was a plan." Daniel looked at Jack with a small, grim smile. "It worked."
"Sheer fucking luck," Jack said. He sat down on the couch and put his arm around Daniel's shoulders. Daniel leaned into him, rubbing his hand on Jack's thigh.
"I shouldn't have killed her."
"We didn't exactly have a lot of options," Jack said. "You had one chance to act. And I don't mind telling you that the only way I want to see Baal again is dead."
"We both know how strong those damn snakes are. Anything less than a fatal injury and she would've had enough strength left to kill you. Or worse." Jack glanced at Daniel. "There was no other way."
"I suspect there was, but I can't think of it. I didn't have time to think of it." Daniel suddenly realized he was picking at the bandage on his neck. He jerked his hand away and stuck it under his thigh, as if to restrain it. "And she's not a bitch."
"Sarah. She isn't...wasn't a bitch."
"She wanted you to be something you're not."
"And I wanted her to be something she wasn't," Daniel said. "So what does that make me?"
"I already know you're a bitch," Jack said. Daniel's hand moved slightly as he took a threatening grip on Jack's inner thigh.
"We had a thing and it didn't work out," Daniel said. "It happens to everyone all over the world a hundred times a day. It doesn't make either of us a bitch. Sarah thought she was helping me, and most people would've agreed with her. They did agree with her."
"If she really loved you then she would've stood behind you. She would've tried to help you prove your theories."
"Sarah worked harder at the relationship than I did. I don't blame her for breaking it off."
"I do." Jack paused. "On the other hand, I'd have to admit that I'm glad she broke it off."
"For what it's worth, I am sorry that it went down the way it did," Jack said, rubbing his hand up and down Daniel's arm. "Even ex- girlfriends don't deserve a Goa'uld."
"No one deserves a Goa'uld."
"Almost no one," Jack agreed. They sat in easy silence for several minutes while Jack continued to analyze recent events. "When you told Osiris that you could lock stuff away in your mind...."
"The Ancients did that for me. I have no control over it."
"See, I knew you were bluffing."
"You know, there's something fundamentally wrong about the fact that this planet is depending on people like us who are out there bluffing with genocidal aliens," Daniel said.
"I know," Jack said. "It does seem vaguely...suicidal to entrust us with the fate of the planet. But they keep doing it anyway."
"But why do *we* keep doing it?"
"'Cause it's a great way to meet chicks?" Jack said after a moment. A soft huff of laughter warmed his neck. "For the fame and fortune?"
"Jack," Daniel admonished, giving Jack's thigh a gentle squeeze.
"We do it because we can't *not* do it," Jack said.
"Yeah, I figured it was something like that."
"Is it working yet?"
"Um...no," Daniel said. The screen on the laptop was showed nothing more than the blinking cursor. Blinking. And blinking. And.... "Can't we just take it back to the SGC?"
"Just give me a minute."
Sam was head first under the control console of the al-kesh. Daniel leaned over and watched Sam's butt wiggle as she tried to find the right connections. If he was a different man he might be tempted to reach out and goose her. He might...if he was a different man.
"Ow! Damn it." Sam backed out from under the console and crouched in the narrow space between the pilot's chair and the instrument panel, rubbing at the back of her head. Daniel looked toward the back of the cockpit where Jack was standing with a puzzled look.
"What are you doing to my ship?"
"*Your* ship?" Daniel asked. "I thought it belonged to the SGC. Or the Air Force or something."
"Well, if you want to get all technical about it," Jack said, still staring at Sam. She rolled her eyes and burrowed back into the console. Jack's eyes dropped to Sam's butt. And yes, he was the 'different man' Daniel had been thinking about.
"Don't expect any sympathy from me," Daniel warned. Jack stared at Sam for another moment, obviously torn. Then he sighed and turned on Daniel.
"So what are you doing?"
"Sam's trying to interface the ship with.... That's it." Daniel leaned over again. "Sam, it's up."
"About damn time," Sam said. She backed out and plopped down into the pilot's seat.
"Carter?" Jack prompted.
"We want to download information from the ship's computer," Sam explained. "Previous destinations, orders: anything that might tell us what Osiris or Anubis have been up to lately."
"What about audio transmissions?" Jack asked.
"I don't think the actual messages are stored, but I may be able to find a log that will tell us who was talking to whom, and when," Sam said.
"And you're here because?" Jack asked, turning to Daniel.
"Had nothing better to do," Daniel said. That wasn't strictly true, but it hadn't been his idea to accompany Sam. The events on this ship were still a little too recent for Daniel's comfort. Jack gave him a stern look. "Sam's hoping something will look familiar. That I'll remember something."
"Ah," Jack said with a nod. "Well, carry on then."
"Thank you, sir," Sam said absently, engrossed in her work.
"Um...what are you up to?" Daniel asked as Jack backed away with a casualness that was a little too studied. As far as he knew, Jack hadn't been scheduled to be at the hangar at Peterson A.F.B., where they occasionally hid their little alien secrets. And Jack's surprise at his and Sam's presence made it obvious he hadn't expected them to be there either.
"Then what are you hiding in your hand?"
"This hand?" Jack asked, holding up his right hand while keeping his other hand out of sight.
"No, the hand you're hiding behind your back."
"Not hiding my hand," Jack said, backing carefully toward the exit.
"Are," Daniel insisted.
"Not." Jack shifted his gaze. "Carter."
"What?" Sam looked around when Jack's sharp tone broke through her concentration.
"I'll let you borrow my ride but there are a few ground rules," Jack lectured. "No hot-rodding, no necking in the back seat, and most of all--I want this baby back just the way I left her."
Sam and Daniel watched Jack saunter out of view.
"He's really...very...," Sam said, turning back to her laptop.
"Couldn't have said it better myself," Daniel said. Sam looked over at him with a grin. "So, how long is this going to take?"
"It'll be a little while," Sam said, checking the readout.
"Coffee?" Daniel suggested.
"Sure, why not. It's not going to go any faster if I sit here and watch it," Sam said.
"And maybe we can catch Jack before he leaves and find out what he's really up to," Daniel said.
"You surely don't suspect the colonel of ulterior motives," Sam teased.
"Jack? Ulterior motives? Never," Daniel said, waving Sam through the door before him.
"He probably is afraid we're going to damage his girl," Sam said, patting the exterior hull of the al-kesh. She stopped, cocked her head and began to walk forward along the ship.
"Sam?" Daniel followed along until he saw what had attracted Sam's attention. He stepped around Sam and stared at the elegantly simple black letters that sat just behind the port windshield.
"I guess the colonel named her after his ex-wife," Sam said, studying the name with a bemused smile.
"No," Daniel said. He reached out to trace the scrolling 'S', but stopped short of actually touching it, fearing it might not be dry yet. "She spelled her name without the H."
"What the hell?" Jack snapped. He'd been jerked from his slumber by a sudden movement to his right. He looked at the other side of Daniel's bed and, sure enough, Daniel was sitting straight up. His body was so tense Jack was surprised he couldn't hear the hum of Daniel's nerves firing.
"We have to go back to Vis Uban."
"Say what?" Jack asked, rolling to his back so that he could see Daniel better in the dim moonlight filtering through the curtains.
"I didn't know what it was. Well, of course I didn't. I didn't even know my own name at the time but later.... I should've realized."
"Once again, without the shortcuts," Jack said, reaching out to tap Daniel on the shoulder. For the first time Daniel seemed to be aware that Jack was awake.
"Got that. Why?"
"Because there's something that can help us."
"There's nothing there, Daniel. We looked."
"You were looking for the wrong thing."
"We were looking for the Ancients. For the Lost City," Jack said, rubbing at his gritty eyes. "It's not there."
"No, it's not."
"On the other hand, we found you, so in my book it was not an entirely wasted trip," Jack said. Daniel looked down at him with a smile, then leaned over and kissed him.
"There's something there more important than me," Daniel said. He laid down on his side, his gaze fixed on Jack's face.
"If I say that's not possible, how much action would that get me?" Jack asked.
"It's the middle of the night."
"Hey, you woke me."
"Fine," Daniel said with an affectionate roll of his eyes. "Hear me out and I'll give you all the action you can handle."
"Really?" Jack asked as Daniel ran his hand through Jack's chest hair. He was fairly certain he could handle quite a bit of action. As much as Daniel could give him. Probably. "Okay, shoot."
"There's a repository of Ancient knowledge on Vis Uban."
"Are you sure you weren't just dreaming?" Jack asked skeptically.
"No," Daniel said with confidence. "I mean, yes, I was dreaming just now, but the repository is real. I saw it while I was living there, but at the time I didn't know what it was. It didn't mean anything so I...forgot."
"Why are you remembering it now?" Jack asked.
"Today when Sam and I started going through the data from the al- kesh we found out that Osiris, or the ship at least, had made several trips to Vis Uban. I guess thinking about Vis Uban, wondering what Anubis wanted there, triggered my own memory."
"What would Anubis want?" Jack asked, accepting the repository as fact. Daniel's seemingly out of left field ideas had been proven right too often for Jack to deny. He still argued, of course, just on principle. But not when it was the middle of the night and he'd been promised some action.
"I don't know," Daniel said, his forehead wrinkling up in concentration.
"Whatever," Jack said, pulling Daniel to him. "You can think about it later."
"These are the planets visited by Osiris' ship," Sam said. She pointed the clicker and a list of planetary designations rippled on the screen.
"Any of them Anubis' main base?" Jack asked.
"There's a couple we're going to check out," Sam said, retaking her seat across from Jack. "The interesting thing is that there are at least two trips to Vis Uban."
"Perhaps Anubis still believes that the false tablet we used to bait him is real," Hammond suggested.
"I think he's looking for something else," Daniel said.
"The Ancients' repository you say is there?" Hammond asked.
"Why would Anubis need such a thing?" Teal'c asked. "Does he not already possess the knowledge of the Ancients?"
"Not all of it.... But I think it was Osiris anyway."
"Why?" Jack asked.
"What's the one edge Anubis has over the other System Lords?" Daniel asked.
"His ascended status," Teal'c said.
"More specifically--his Ancient knowledge," Daniel said, nodding at Teal'c.
"And, if she could find it, the repository would give Osiris the knowledge of the Ancients," Hammond said.
"Actually, it wouldn't because she's a Goa'uld. She wouldn't have been able to use it, but she may not have known that," Daniel said. "I think she was looking for something that would level the playing field a little."
"What would we use it for?" Hammond asked.
"Well, aside from all the other knowledge contained in there, I think it's our best shot at figuring out how to get the Antarctic base up and running."
"It might tell us how to fix the power module," Sam said. "Or where to find another one."
"I'd like to point out that I, personally, have no desire to stick my head in the brain sucker again," Jack said, raising his hand and looking around the table at his teammates.
"No, I don't think anyone wants that," Daniel said. Jack scowled at him.
"We can bring back to the SGC," Sam said. "Interface it directly with our computers."
"Were you not unsuccessful in your last attempt to access the repository?" Teal'c asked.
"We were able to access the database," Sam said. "The problem was that it was empty. It had downloaded everything into the colonel's mind. That won't be a problem with the one on Vis Uban."
"Unless someone else has already used it," Daniel pointed out.
"Thank you, Mr. Positive," Jack said. Daniel just shrugged at him. "This *is* your idea."
"I know. But I don't want anyone to get overly optimistic."
"We'll need back up," Sam said.
"The geek squad?" Jack asked.
"No, we can handle the device ourselves, but we can't ignore the fact that at least one Goa'uld has been sniffing around the planet," Sam said.
"SG-3?" Jack suggested to the general.
"Agreed," Hammond said.
"It's not here," Jack said just loudly enough that Daniel couldn't fail to hear him.
"It's here," Daniel said, undeterred by Jack's skepticism. But then-- he never was.
"I'm not picking up any energy readings," Sam said. She stood in the middle of the unfinished city on Vis Uban, holding her monitor out to the four cardinal directions. She looked at Jack and shook her head.
"It's inside," Daniel said.
"Inside what?" Jack asked. He threw his hands out to his sides, gesturing at the ruins. There were many possible 'insides' available.
Daniel paused and looked around before heading out an arched doorway and down a rough dirt path that led away from the ruins of the Ancient city. With a sigh, Jack followed. As he ambled along behind Daniel, he wondered if he could've convinced Daniel to wear those blue robes again. Then he wondered if the nomads had adopted the blue color scheme just because it played up Daniel's eyes so well. It made perfect sense to Jack. It's certainly something he would've considered doing, had he been a nomad who'd stumbled across a naked and confused Daniel. Not the *first* thing he would've done, but....
"There," Daniel said, his pace quickening as they approached a squat stone building. Jack gestured at Teal'c, sending him to sweep one side of the building while Jack made a quick check of the other.
"Daniel?" Sam asked after taking another negative reading.
"It's inside here."
"I don't see a door," Jack said, returning from his reconnaissance.
"There isn't one," Daniel said, concentrating on the tracery of lines carved into the stone. "Stay close to me."
"Why?" Jack asked even as he waved Teal'c in closer. Daniel reached for a spot on the stone and a brilliant flash of light washed over them. When Jack blinked the after-image from his eyes, he saw that they were inside a small room.
"Because otherwise you might get left behind when that happens," Daniel said, finally answering Jack's question.
"D'oh." One of these days Jack was going to learn to stop asking why.
The room was bare save for the round sculpted piece set in the far wall. Sam had already slipped the pack off of her back, preparing to remove the repository from the wall. Daniel wandered around the room looking for anything else, but Jack was pretty sure that the one and only purpose of the room was to shelter the repository.
"How long?" Jack asked Sam.
"Thirty minutes, give or take," Sam said, glancing up at Jack as she pulled the necessary tools from her pack.
"Need any help?" Jack asked, anticipating thirty minutes of boredom.
"Eventually," Sam said. "When it's time to actually pull it out of the wall."
"You mean when it's time for the heavy labor."
"Yeah," Sam agreed easily. "I've got three big strapping guys here. Why would I risk my own back if I don't have to?"
"We've got company, Colonel."
"What the...?" Jack grabbed at his radio as the rest of his team turned to look at him. He'd known this trip to Vis Uban was going too smoothly. He hated being proved right. "Goa'uld?"
"Death gliders," Colonel Reynolds confirmed.
"Damn it. Can you hold the gate for ten minutes?"
"We'll do our best."
"Don't push your luck. If it gets too crowded, head back. And let Hammond know that we may be coming in hot."
"We've got to go," Jack said in response to Sam's unasked question.
"But we don't have the repository yet," Daniel protested.
"The Jaffa are here, Daniel. What do you suggest we do?"
"I do the brain zapping thing and you let me," Daniel suggested.
"Over my dead body," Jack said. "Which, if we hang around here much longer, is a distinct possibility."
"We need this knowledge," Daniel said, trying to push past Jack. Jack shoved him back, one hand planted firmly on Daniel's chest.
"Carter, can you get that thing out?" Jack asked.
"Not in the next couple of minutes."
"O'Neill." Teal'c gestured toward the device. Jack's eyes widened as he saw a familiar figure standing in front of the machine.
"Skaara?" Daniel said.
"Great timing, kid," Jack said. He turned toward the Abydonian while still keeping a hand on Daniel. "We could use some help here."
"You must leave," Skaara said.
"Exactly what I've been saying," Jack agreed.
"We can't leave without the information contained in that device," Daniel said.
"That is not possible."
"Skaara, we really are going to be in trouble without that information," Sam said.
"You must go," Skaara said, apparently unaffected by their entreaties.
"Not without the device," Daniel said.
"It's too late," Jack said.
"Not yet," Daniel said. He moved quickly, and Jack was totally unprepared for the maneuver Daniel used to break his grip. Recovering, Jack lunged toward Daniel but Skaara was already blocking his path.
"You can't stop me," Daniel told Skaara quietly.
"I can, my brother. And I will."
"You," Daniel said, his eyes widening as he stared at Skaara's resolute expression. "You...you...."
"He what?" Jack asked.
"You erased my memories the second time," Daniel said to Skaara.
"Skaara wouldn't do that," Jack protested automatically.
"I did," Skaara admitted. "But only because Daniel left me no other choice."
"It was done to protect him from the other Ascended," Teal'c said.
"Yes." Skaara smiled sadly at Daniel. "You would not give up. I had to stop you."
"I can't give up," Daniel said. "Anubis is going to destroy Earth. I can't just walk away from what may be our only chance at finding a way to defend ourselves."
"You will make the Ancients angry," Skaara said.
"I don't *care*," Daniel said.
"Daniel...," Jack said, reaching for Daniel.
"I'm sorry," Daniel told Skaara, ignoring Jack's hand on his arm. "I screwed up. I didn't do a very good job of protecting Abydos but don't punish millions of people on Earth because of my failure."
"This is not punishment, Daniel," Skaara said gently.
"Yes, it is," Daniel insisted. "You're angry with me, the Ancients are angry with me, Oma's angry with me.... Fine. Be angry with me. Punish *me*. But don't take it out on a whole lot of innocent people who don't even know that I exist. Who don't even know that the Goa'uld exist."
"Skaara," Jack said, firming his grip on Daniel's arm in case he tried to make a break for it again. "We need help. Please."
"You do not understand, O'Neill."
"No, we don't. But we're trying."
Skaara stared at Jack and Daniel for a moment, then he suddenly turned and waved his hand at the wall. Six symbols glowed brightly for a moment just above the repository, then faded as if they'd never existed.
"It's a...," Sam said in a low voice.
"Daniel?" Jack said.
"Got it," Daniel said, closing his eyes to fix the address firmly in his mind.
"That is all I can give you," Skaara said. "And it is more than I should have done."
"Thank you," Jack told Skaara. "Now--how do we get out of here?"
Seconds later all four were crouching on the ground outside the repository as a death glider began firing on the building. Jack threw his hands over his head as the glider completed its strafing run. When the smoke began to clear, he glanced back at the building.
"Go," Skaara said just before vanishing.
"Good advice." Jack climbed to his feet, tugging on Sam's pack to get her up and moving, too.
"O'Neill, what of the device?" Teal'c said.
"It's not a problem," Sam said. "It won't work for anyone carrying a symbiote. The Goa'uld can't use it."
"What the fuck was that?"
"What?" Daniel asked, giving Jack a confused look.
"All the 'I'm not worthy' crap," Jack said.
"I was trying to look at it from their perspective," Daniel said. He pulled his shirt off and dropped it on the chest at the foot of Jack's bed. "And from their perspective, I'm not exactly the best thing that ever happened to Abydos."
"They're not angry at you," Jack said. "Hell, Skaara was trying to *protect* you."
"I know. I just...." Daniel threw up his hands in a gesture of frustration. "Short of asking Pharren if he has any spare consciousnesses lying around, I don't know what to do."
"Pharren?" Jack asked.
"Maybe downloading a few extra personalities would stir things up again," Daniel said, waving a finger at his temple.
"You don't even know that you still have the memories," Jack said. "They may have done a complete wipe this time."
"Do you understand how frustrating it is?" Daniel asked. "To know that I should know--that I *did* know--and I don't now?"
"I have an idea."
"I really don't think you do."
"Maybe not," Jack conceded easily. "But hey--we've got an address."
"Do we?" Daniel asked. "Sam hasn't been able to get a lock with the gate."
"Skaara wouldn't give us a bogus address."
"He might, if he thought he could protect us that way," Daniel said.
"No," Jack said confidently. "It's real."
"I thought I was supposed to be the optimistic one in this relationship."
"You're having a bad day, and someone has to take up the slack."
"Even assuming it's real, how are we going to get there if Sam can't get the gate to connect?"
"We've got a slightly used al-kesh just sitting around gathering dust," Jack said with obvious enthusiasm.
"I want Teal'c in the pilot's seat," Daniel said immediately.
"You don't trust me?"
"With my life, my heart, and my ass," Daniel said. "But you're a lousy driver."
"Am not. And what's that got to do with my piloting skills?"
"You drive too fast."
"Danny, Danny, Danny," Jack said with mock regret. "How many times do I have to tell you--there's no such thing as too fast."
"Okay, are we *sure* this is the address Skaara gave us?" Jack asked. He used his finger to write "Jack was here" in the thick layer of dust that coated everything in the empty gate room.
"It's obviously of Ancient design," Daniel said, shining his flashlight down a side corridor.
"Ancient or ancient?" Jack asked.
"Both," Daniel said.
"Well, this explains why we couldn't get a lock," Sam said, poking around at the gate on the far side of the hall. "The gate's been deliberately disabled."
"You know, for superior beings these Ancients were not terribly sociable," Jack said. He motioned for the rest of them to follow him as he started down the largest hallway leading out of the gate room.
"I'm sure they were trying to prevent their knowledge from falling into the wrong hands," Daniel said, a few steps behind Jack's right shoulder.
"Are they not also keeping it from the right hands?" Teal'c asked.
"Yes, they are," Jack said. "That's exactly my point."
"Sir, you can't really blame them. I mean, would you leave a loaded...." Sam's words cut off abruptly.
Jack froze as Sam's muttered "damn it" reached his ears. He turned around, aware that Daniel and Teal'c were staring at him. Sam's eyes were fixed on the floor, unable to meet Jack's gaze.
"Sir, I...," Sam began when the silence became uncomfortable.
"Point taken, Major," Jack said, careful to keep his tone neutral. Sam raised her eyes, looking miserable. "Relax, Carter. It's just an expression."
Jack took a long, slow breath before turning back to his exploration, aware that Daniel had dropped back in order to talk to Sam. Jack knew she hadn't meant anything by it; it was just a slip of the tongue. And Jack had no right to hold it against her, not given the frequency with which he stuck his own foot in his mouth.
Jack waved for Teal'c to check out the door on one side of the hall while he shone a flashlight through the door on his side. The circular chamber was as dark and dusty as the rest of the complex, but the object in the center of the room looked an awful lot like something he'd read about in one of those lovely little mission folders.
"That's just like the one in Antarctica," Daniel said, his eyes wide in wonder as he followed Jack into the chamber. He walked straight to the chair, studying it in the beam of his flashlight.
"How does it work?" Sam asked, circling behind the chair.
"You sit in it," Daniel said.
"No, really?" Jack sniped. He unclipped his weapon and handed it to Teal'c.
"What are you doing?" Daniel asked suspiciously.
"I'm going to sit in it," Jack said waving at the chair.
"Because it's my job," Jack said, sitting gingerly on the alien throne. "If it does the zappy thing, then it's my job to be the zappee."
"Sir?" Sam asked after Jack had settled himself fully back in the chair.
"No zappiness yet," Jack said with an expectant air. After all, alien technology did have a tendency toward zappiness, usually when you least expected it. Just as he started to relax the chair, the platform and the entire room lit up. "Okay, was that me or...?"
"No, I think that was you," Daniel said, eyeing the chair with concern.
"That would seem to confirm that the power source is still viable," Sam said.
"O'Neill?" Teal'c asked, stepping closer to the chair.
"This is...weird," Jack said, sounding distant, distracted.
"Sir?" Sam asked, staring hard at Jack.
Sam turned toward Daniel. He was staring at the walls, transfixed. Every inch of the walls was covered with constantly changing pictures and writing, like movies projected onto overlapping screens. Each section of the wall revealed something different, images racing by too quickly for any of them to attempt to identify.
"Colonel?" Sam said, unable to tear her eyes away. "Can you slow it down?"
"I'm not even sure how I'm making it work to begin with," Jack said.
"Sam, is there any way to access the data?" Daniel asked. "Any way to take it home with us?"
"Maybe. But it could take a while."
"Is it not possible that the same information is stored in the Antarctic base?" Teal'c asked.
"Good point," Daniel said. Teal'c was probably right. Still, he felt a sense of loss when the walls went blank again.
"Power module," Jack said, pointing to a spot on the floor to his right. "It's more than half charged, which is plenty for our purposes."
"Yes, sir." Sam immediately went to the spot and pried up the floor panel. Teal'c went to assist, holding open a padded case made specifically for transporting the power source. Daniel turned to observe Jack as he stumbled slightly stepping out of the chair.
"Jack?" Daniel asked, instantly concerned.
"I'm fine," Jack said, straightening up.
"Jack," Daniel said quietly. He stood close to Jack's side.
"I'm fine, Daniel." Jack gave him a quick smile. "A little headache but there was no zapping involved, so I'm good."
Jack startled out his half-slumber at the urgent sound of Teal'c's voice. He rolled up from the makeshift bed he'd fashioned out of a couple of blankets and his jacket and walked quickly toward the cockpit.
"Oh, boy," Daniel said quietly.
"It looks like we may be too late," Sam told Jack.
"It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, Carter," Jack said, nudging Daniel out of the co-pilot's seat. Daniel allowed Jack to take the seat, then took up a position right behind Jack as he scanned the sky above Earth.
"What's your assessment, Teal'c?"
"It does not appear that Anubis has begun the battle," Teal'c said.
"But when he does...." Daniel's voice trailed off. They were all painfully aware of the size of Anubis' fleet. And the size of Earth's.
"SGC, this is SG-one-niner, please respond," Jack said, his eyes never leaving the scene.
"Colonel, this is Hammond. What's your status?"
"We're just beyond the Goa'uld ships you're probably looking at right about now."
"Colonel, were you able to retrieve anything of use?" Hammond's voice said.
"We have a power module," Jack confirmed. "We *were* hoping for a little time to figure out how to operate the technology."
"Afraid time is one thing we're a little short on at the moment," Hammond said.
"Yeah, we noticed." Jack paused, thinking. "General, the minute we head for Antarctica...."
"Are the Goa'uld aware of your presence yet?" Hammond asked.
"I do not believe so, General," Teal'c said.
"Give me fifteen minutes," Hammond said. "I'll send the Prometheus to rendezvous with you at the Ancients' base. They'll provide cover."
"Understood," Jack said, noting the time on his watch. "We'll rendezvous at...1550 hours."
"Good luck. Hammond out."
"So...what exactly are we going to do?" Daniel asked.
"Improvise," Jack said. He walked over to the jumbled heap on the floor and started sorting out their gear. He tossed Daniel his vest as Sam jogged back to join them. "Teal'c, can you use the rings to get us down to the Antarctic base?"
"Good. Do it. Then see if there's anything you can do to help the Prometheus."
"As you wish, O'Neill."
"And Teal'c--watch yourself," Jack said. "Because I'm kind of fond of...this ship."
"I shall do my best," Teal'c said with a smile.
Jack, Sam, and Daniel ringed into the middle of a bunch of startled scientists at the Antarctic base.
"It's this way," Daniel said, pointing toward the central corridor.
"Where's your C.O.?" Jack asked the gawking scientists.
"What the...?" McKay said, the first to recover his voice.
"Colonel O'Neill?" Lieutenant Colonel McBride pushed through the knot of people surrounding SG-1.
"Colonel, I'm taking command of your base," Jack said.
"Earth is under attack," McBride said uncertainly.
"Exactly," Jack agreed. "You need to get your non-combatants into the safest area of the base."
"Most of our people are non-combatants."
"Then get most of your people to the safest part of the base," Jack said as he started to follow Daniel toward the control room. "The rest.... Carter, deploy whatever assets we've got."
"Yes, sir," Sam said. She immediately turned and began collecting any one whose uniform bore military insignia.
"We need communication with the SGC, the Prometheus and Teal'c," Jack told McBride. "Can you do that?"
"Um...sure. I mean--yes, sir."
"Excellent," Jack said, motioning for the commander to go. McBride peeled off and jogged down a side corridor. Jack headed down the hall Daniel had taken.
"Daniel?" Jack called as he entered the circular room.
"Just a sec." Daniel placed the power unit into the floor, then hurried to a panel on the left side of the room. After pushing a few buttons, the room began to glow with a dim light.
"We've got power," Daniel confirmed.
"How'd you do that?"
Jack and Daniel both startled. They turned to find McKay standing in the doorway.
"I thought I said all non-coms were to get to a safe place," Jack said.
"Long story, no time," Daniel said as he approached the control chair.
"Go," Jack said, making a shooing motion at McKay. He unclipped his weapon and held it out to Daniel.
"At this point I have more experience with this thing than you do," Jack said, gesturing at the chair. "Go give Carter some back up."
"You sure?" Daniel asked, reluctantly accepting Jack's gun.
"Positive." Jack glanced at the seat, then back at Daniel. "I'm counting on you guys to protect my ass."
"Well, you know I'll be right on that," Daniel said as Jack lowered himself into the chair.
"Yeah," Jack said with a lopsided grin. "Just don't forget to take care of your own."
"I thought conventional weapons didn't work against these drones," McKay said, trailing behind Daniel.
"They don't," Daniel said tersely. "But we may be able to slow them down a little, buy some time for Jack."
"Ah," McKay said, nodding his head. "So we're doing the noble self- sacrificing thing?"
"Well, personally I'm hoping to avoid any kind of sacrifice, but... yes." Daniel quickly checked that the safety was off and he had a full clip. "I just wish we had one of those EMP gadgets Sam was working on."
"A HERF gun?"
"Yeah, that," Daniel said, keeping his eyes fixed on the far end of the corridor. Sam was already positioned there. She turned, gave Daniel a quick nod to acknowledge his arrival, then refocused her attention on the cross corridor that led to the rings. She raised two fingers, and Daniel brought his gun up into firing position.
"What?" Daniel asked, turning to see McKay scurrying away down the hall. "Wait--where are you going?"
McKay disappeared around a bend without answering. Daniel turned his attention back to the oncoming drones, shaking his head. He couldn't worry about why McKay wasn't staying when he wasn't supposed to have been there in the first place.
Daniel squeezed off a couple of shots before glancing behind him to see McKay holding an unwieldy conglomeration of...stuff. Daniel thought if he looked hard enough he might actually see the kitchen sink.
"It's a HERF gun," McKay explained. "I've been tinkering in my spare time since I read Major Carter's report. It's basically a prototype. Admittedly kind of thrown together, definitely a last minute thing...."
"Sam!" Daniel called. She looked back from her post at the end of the corridor. Daniel jerked his thumb back at McKay.
"Bring it here!" Sam yelled.
"Go on. I'll cover you," Daniel said.
"What? No, I don't think so," McKay said, taking a step back.
"Go!" Daniel said, giving McKay a shove. All three of them froze as the ice seemed to shudder around them. "Sam?"
"I don't know," Sam said, perplexed.
"We have a successful launch," a voice said over their radios.
"Launch of what?" Sam asked, grabbing at her own radio.
"We...don't really know. But whatever it is, it's headed right at the Goa'uld ships."
"The colonel must've found something," Sam said to Daniel.
"Apparently he...." Daniel jerked his weapon up and started firing as a drone soldier rounded the corner.
"McKay!" Sam shouted.
The drone fired down the corridor. At first, Daniel thought it had been aiming at him. Then he realized the drone had been trying to eliminate McKay and his weapon. And apparently that was exactly the motivation McKay needed.
"It's neutralized," McKay shouted. Daniel didn't need the update. The fact that their weapons were now able to penetrate the drone armor was proof that the electrical field had been disabled.
"Sam?" Daniel called when the sound of weapons fire faded and no new drones appeared.
"I don't know," Sam said, listening intently. The base was almost silent now. Sam grabbed her radio. "Teal'c, this is Carter. Do you copy?"
"The Tau'ri have fought well this day," Teal'c's voice responded. "The enemy is defeated."
"Really?" Sam said. Her face transformed into a surprised smile. Daniel felt his own face shifting from apprehension to amazement to delight. They'd done it. Jack had done it.
"Jack, did you hear that? You...." Daniel's face fell when he ran into the command chamber. The lights had dimmed, and Jack was slumped over in the chair. "Jack!"
Daniel felt Sam join him as he gently lifted Jack's head. Jack's eyes were open but he seemed to be having trouble focusing.
"Jack, do you hear me?" Daniel startled when Jack's left hand grabbed for Daniel's shirt, twisting it, fingers clenched into the fabric. Daniel looked over at Sam, standing on the other side of the chair.
"I'll get the base doctor," Sam said, watching Jack with concern.
"I'm right here, Jack," Daniel told him. He rubbed Jack's hand where it clung to him. "I'm here."
"Janet?" Daniel asked sharply. He jumped out of his chair when Dr. Fraiser appeared in the doorway of the Antarctic base's infirmary.
"How is he?" Sam asked, moving to Daniel's side. Teal'c took up a position just behind Daniel's other shoulder.
"He's...." Janet shook her head and Daniel's heart stuttered. "I'm sorry. He's had a stroke."
"A stroke?" Teal'c asked. Daniel turned away and walked across the room. No particular reason, he simply couldn't stand there and do nothing more than listen. When his knees bumped against a chair, he turned and sat automatically. They couldn't have brought Janet all this way for nothing.
"An injury to the brain," Janet explained. "In this case, he's suffered a hemorrhage."
"Can you treat it?" Sam asked.
"There are some things I can do," Janet said. "But I can't fix the damage that's already been done. The best we can do right now is to try and prevent further damage. Then we'll just have to wait and see how much the colonel can recover."
"How did it happen?" Sam asked. "He's in great shape, as healthy as any of us."
"It's impossible to know if there's small vessel disease without the kind of tests we don't normally perform without a reason to suspect vascular disease," Janet said. "And there's always the possibility that the Ancient device caused some or all of it."
"Headache," Daniel said suddenly.
"What?" Janet asked.
"Jack said he had a headache after we went to address Skaara gave us," Daniel said, looking up at the other three.
"After he used the machine?" Janet asked. Daniel nodded. "That could be it."
"Is there nothing we can do?" Teal'c asked.
"Wait," Janet said, shaking her head.
"Can we see him?" Sam asked.
"Only for a minute. I'm going to take him back to the SGC."
"Is that safe?" Teal'c asked.
"His vital signs are stable, and the SGC is much better equipped to deal with this kind of problem." Janet smiled at Teal'c. "Besides, General Hammond has authorized me to commandeer both the al-kesh and you as a pilot, Teal'c. We'll have the colonel home before he knows it."
"You'll keep us informed?" Sam asked.
"Of course," Janet said. Sam gripped Janet's hand in thanks, then led Teal'c into the small room.
"Can I go with him?" Daniel asked when Janet sat down next to him. "Back to the SGC?"
"No, sorry," Janet said. "The orders are to debrief everyone here."
"I need to go with him," Daniel said.
"You don't understand."
"Yes, Daniel, I do." Janet held Daniel's gaze, and he realized that she did know. Or at least suspected. "But unless you're prepared to go public, there's nothing either of us can do about it. Even then I'm not sure that they'd allow you to accompany Colonel O'Neill."
"So...what do I do?"
"Finish up your business here as expeditiously as possible. The sooner you're done, the sooner you'll be on your way home."
Daniel stood in front of the window, his back to the briefing room. He heard Sam's question, but his attention was fixed on the room below him. The stargate was quiet, the iris closed. There was something fundamentally wrong with the scene. There should be movement. Activity. People should be busy doing...something.
"I'm not sure," Janet confessed.
"The stroke...?" Sam began.
"The hemorrhage isn't very large, certainly not large enough to explain his symptoms," Janet said. "I thought the primary insult was an infarct--something that wouldn't have shown up on the less sophisticated equipment at the Antarctic base. But nothing's showing up here either."
"Then why has his condition worsened?" Teal'c asked.
"Apparently it's the result of the Ancient device that he used," Hammond said.
"Somehow it was connected to the colonel's brain," Janet explained. "I think it caused the damage. I'm afraid it may *still* be causing damage."
"Colonel O'Neill did not appear to have difficulty in interacting with the machine," Teal'c said.
"That may be, but it *is* an alien machine. It was never meant to be used by our species and I can't even begin to understand what it did to his brain. I can tell you that his PET scan is highly abnormal."
"Is there anything we can do?" Hammond asked.
"All I can do is treat him symptomatically," Janet said. "We're doing what we can to reduce the intracranial swelling but I don't know how to stop whatever it is that's causing the problem to begin with."
"He'll recover, won't he?" Sam persisted.
"There's no way for me to know, but.... He's getting worse. At this point I'd have to say the odds aren't good."
"Sam, call Jacob." Daniel finally turned from the window to face the others. In turn, they all looked at him in puzzlement.
"Call Jacob and tell him we need the Telchak device."
"You don't know what that could do to the colonel," Janet protested.
"It's an Ancient healing device," Daniel said, walking up to the foot of the table. "Jack is sick because of Ancient technology; Ancient technology should be able to fix it."
"Daniel, it's too dangerous for us to operate," Sam said. "That's why we let the Tok'ra have it in the first place."
"I'll do it."
"*You* are especially vulnerable to that type of device," Janet said.
"I don't care," Daniel said, looking Janet straight in the eye. "I'm willing to take that chance."
"Daniel," Janet said gently.
"I will do it," Teal'c said.
"No," Daniel said. "Without a symbiote you're no more protected from the side effects of this technology than the rest of us."
"Maybe I could do it," Sam said. "Maybe Jolinar left me with something that will help protect me."
"I doubt you'd be any more resistant than Teal'c," Janet said.
"Let me do it," Daniel said. "Please."
"It's not your fault, Daniel," Sam said.
"I know that." Daniel knew he wasn't directly responsible for Jack's condition. He wished that he'd made better use of the brief time he'd recovered his memories. He wished he'd done something while he was still Ascended so that none of this would've been necessary in the first place. Okay, so he did feel that it was somewhat his responsibility, but that wasn't why he wanted to be the one to use the device. He wanted to be the one because Jack needed help and there was a chance that Daniel could give it to him. That was it, pure and simple.
"Dr. Fraiser, do you have any other treatment to offer Colonel O'Neill?" Hammond asked.
"No, sir." It was clear to everyone that Janet hated making that admission.
"Then we'll contact the Tok'ra," Hammond said with a decisive nod. "And I want the three of you to get some rest in the meantime."
"Actually, General, there's still one other problem," Daniel said before Hammond could dismiss them.
"What's that, son?" Hammond asked.
"Anubis is dead," Teal'c said.
"No, he's not."
"Daniel, his ship was destroyed. It was completely annihilated by the Ancients' weapon," Sam said.
"This ship was; he wasn't." Daniel put his hand up to forestall the inevitable arguments. "The Ancients, with all their power, couldn't descend Anubis. Do you really think an old weapon they left lying around Earth could kill him?"
"Are you sure, Dr. Jackson?" Hammond asked.
"Then how are we to defeat him?" Teal'c asked.
"I have a...vague idea. But first we have to find him."
"How?" Hammond asked.
"Well, the shields he used to contain and hide his 'ascendedness' would've been destroyed in the battle."
"We can scan for his energy signature," Sam said, understanding immediately. "General, I'll need data from Antarctica and the Prometheus. I should be able to identify Anubis' unique energy signal. Then we can scan the debris field for traces."
"Do it, Major."
Daniel sat at the side of the infirmary bed. Jack hadn't moved voluntarily since they'd returned to the SGC. Not a twitch. He just... laid there. Daniel looked up at Teal'c, standing at the other side of the bed.
"I have a bad feeling that the Tok'ra won't want to help," Daniel said.
"Then we will give them no choice."
"I wish it was that simple, Teal'c." Daniel turned at the sound of conversation. Sam marched into the infirmary; her father followed. Jacob pulled up short when he saw Jack lying in the bed.
"What happened?" Jacob asked, walking to Jack's bedside, his expression sober.
"An Ancient machine happened," Daniel told him. "We need the Telchak device."
"Jacob, it's our only option."
"The Tok'ra aren't going to give it up willingly."
"Then you must convince them," Teal'c said.
"They aren't going to listen to me," Jacob said.
"No, probably not," Daniel said. "But you can take us to them."
"You do realize what you're asking me to do?" Jacob asked.
"Frankly--not really caring right now," Daniel said bluntly. They could worry about Jacob's status with the Tok'ra later. *After* they knew that Jack was going to be okay.
"Dad, he's dying."
Jacob looked over at Janet. She nodded a confirmation of Sam's statement.
"Can he be moved?" Jacob asked.
"I'd prefer we didn't have to," Janet said.
"I highly doubt the Tok'ra will allow the Telchak device to leave for any reason," Jacob said. "Our best chance would be to take Jack to the device."
"Then Sam, Teal'c and I will go and arrange the treatment first. Then Janet can bring Jack." Daniel paused to look down at Jack. "We really don't have a lot of time."
"What do you think you are doing bringing them here?" Van'eu demanded the moment Jacob, Daniel, Sam and Teal'c exited the stargate on the Tok'ra planet.
"We need the Telchak device," Daniel said. He heard Jacob, standing to his left, sigh. Daniel didn't care. He'd never been in a less diplomatic mood in his life.
"Did you say...?" Van'eu began.
"He did," Teal'c said flatly.
"Yes, I did," Daniel said, nodding. "Now, we don't have a lot of time so if you'll just hand it over."
"Incredible," Van'eu said. "You dare to come here and demand that we give you our technology?"
"Er...excuse me? *Your* technology?" Daniel said. "It's Ancient technology. And I'm the one who found it. It was my butt getting shot at in the effort to retrieve it. We simply loaned it to you."
"The agreement was that we'd allow you to take the device for study and you'd share your findings," Sam added. "So far we've heard nothing."
"Our research proceeds. As yet there is nothing to report."
"That's not really the point," Daniel said. "Jack O'Neill is sick... dying. We have reason to believe that the Telchak device could save him."
"That is...unfortunate news," Van'eu said.
"And in the interest of preventing the unfortunate from becoming tragic--let us have the device," Daniel said.
"It is not so simple."
"You're not really refusing to let them help Colonel O'Neill?" Jacob said, staring at Van'eu in disbelief.
"We cannot simply 'hand it over.' The device is crucial in a number of ongoing experiments."
"You know, I'm a huge proponent of experimentation," Sam said. "But this is a life we're talking about."
"The life of your ally," Teal'c said.
"I understand. But only the Council can make this decision."
"So what are you waiting for?" Jacob asked.
"Very well," Van'eu said with a sour expression. "I shall call the council together. You may wait here until our decision is reached."
"Something's not right here," Daniel said quietly.
"I know." Sam looked around the small room they'd been given to use while they waited on the decision of the Tok'ra Council. Like all rooms in the crystal-built Tok'ra complex, it had no doors. It had little else either, other than the small, round table at which the three of them were sitting. "They're all acting...."
"Goa'uldish?" Daniel asked.
"That's a little extreme, isn't it?" Sam said.
"Anyone else notice that we haven't heard from any of the hosts?"
"You're right," Sam said, her expression suddenly growing more concerned.
"I, too, have noticed that," Teal'c said.
"I think I know why," Daniel said, his voice dropping. "It's the Telchak device."
"How is that possible?" Teal'c asked.
"The sarcophagus is part of what makes a Goa'uld evil, right?"
"It is partly responsible," Teal'c agreed.
"And the Telchak device is a more powerful, more concentrated form of the energy in a sarcophagus."
"You think they've been affected by it?" Sam asked.
"I'm sure of it," Daniel said.
"I find it hard to believe that all the Tok'ra are being affected by such limited exposure," Sam argued.
"Not all the Tok'ra, just the ones who spend most of their time at this base," Daniel said. "That's why Jacob, or Selmac, doesn't seem to be affected. The Tok'ra High Council has been keeping him busy elsewhere. In a way, their distrust of Jacob may actually be working to his benefit."
"Still, if what you say is true then the Tok'ra must be extremely sensitive to this device," Teal'c said. "Otherwise it would seem impossible for them to be affected by such limited exposure."
"That would be true if their exposure really was limited, but it's not. The machine is on all the time," Daniel said.
"*All* the time?" Sam said skeptically.
"It's on right now."
"I don't feel anything," Sam said, glancing at Teal'c.
"Nor do I," Teal'c confirmed.
"You're probably not as sensitive to it as I am," Daniel said. "I didn't realize what it was at first, but it finally hit me that it felt like...like sarcophagus addiction."
"But why would they leave it on?" Sam asked. "They *know* better."
"Because it makes them feel good," Daniel said. "It's like any addiction. It's seductive. It's insidious. You feel good and you don't think a little more could possibly hurt and then you're caught and you don't even know it."
"Daniel, if you're right...."
"Then what are we to do?" Teal'c asked.
"First we have to take care of Jack," Daniel said. "Then we have to destroy the device. It's too dangerous to keep around."
"Is it possible to destroy it?" Teal'c asked.
"Maybe. A staff blast will destroy a sarcophagus; I think it'll take care of this thing, too."
"I don't think the Tok'ra are going to stand back and just let us blow it up," Sam said.
"No, we're going to have to come up with a plan to get it away from here, then destroy it."
"Hey, guys," Jacob said, stepping into the chamber. Daniel's posture stiffened, concerned that Jacob may have overheard them.
"Dad," Sam said, surprised by his sudden appearance. "Has the Council made a decision?"
"Not yet," Jacob said. He made a questioning gesture and Sam nodded an invitation for him to join them. Jacob sat down between Sam and Teal'c.
"How much longer must we wait?" Teal'c asked.
"Hard to say," Jacob said. He gave a frustrated shrug. "They're acting weird."
"Weird?" Daniel asked warily. He really didn't think that Jacob or Selmac had been adversely affected by the Telchak device...yet. But he was leery of saying too much because there was no way to know at what point Jacob would become affected.
"Selmac is uneasy," Jacob said. "And so am I, to be honest. Have any of you noticed anything...odd?"
"You mean other than refusing to help the colonel?" Sam asked.
"Look, I know you think the Tok'ra are arrogant and condescending," Jacob began.
"On a good day," Daniel muttered. Jacob stared at him. "Sorry."
"But they're not needlessly cruel," Jacob continued. "They shouldn't be hesitating to help Jack. And I don't understand why they are."
"We do not understand their reluctance either," Teal'c agreed.
"Something's wrong, but I've been kept so far out of the loop that I have no idea what it is."
"Jacob, we need you to keep working on the Council. I don't intend to leave here without getting Jack the help he needs."
"I know," Jacob said, nodding his head. "And I'll do what I can, but you have to realize that the more I push, the less likely they are to listen."
"Just...try. Please," Daniel said.
"I'll do my best," Jacob said, getting to his feet. "You guys okay? Need anything?"
"We're fine," Sam said. She got up and walked with Jacob to the door. "All we need is a chance to help Colonel O'Neill."
Jacob gave Sam a quick hug, then waved to Daniel and Teal'c before turning down the corridor. Sam stayed at the doorway, watching, until she was certain that he was out of earshot.
"Was it necessary to conceal our plans from Jacob?" Teal'c asked as Sam returned to the table.
"We can't be sure of him," Sam said, clearly hating the thought of plotting behind her father's back. "Of Selmac. He'll be just as vulnerable to the device as the rest."
"We're on our own on this one," Daniel said in agreement.
Daniel sat on the floor. His legs were drawn up, his chin resting on his knees as he watched. A deep hum filled the chamber, and a buttery yellow glow emitted from the Telchak device surrounded Jack in a sort of cocoon of light.
Daniel rolled his shoulders, trying to release some tension. It'd only been an hour since he'd activated the device, and he had no idea of how long it might take to do its work. He'd had a hell of a time convincing Sam and Teal'c to put some distance between themselves and the active device. Daniel understood their reluctance, but it was pointless to risk addiction in all three of them. Besides, if the Tok'ra were focused on this room and what was happening in it, they might not be watching Sam and Teal'c as closely as they would otherwise. Sam and Teal'c *might* have a chance to find out what the Tok'ra had been doing under the influence of their own addiction.
Daniel peered over the top of his glasses. A Tok'ra stood guard across the room, leaning back against the wall. He was supposed to be a scientist, observing, but Daniel knew a guard when he saw one. That was okay, actually. He was only one guard and that meant the Tok'ra didn't perceive Daniel as a significant threat. Hopefully that meant that they wouldn't be watching him too closely.
The Tok'ra straightened up as the warm glow faded from around Jack's body. Daniel shifted onto his knees and crawled over the stretcher Jack was lying on. He paused to check the Telchak device, but it had shut itself off. Daniel turned to Jack, reaching out to check the pulse in his neck. Daniel nodded when he found it strong and even.
"Would you mind?" Daniel asked, nodding his head at the tunnel outside the room. The Tok'ra hesitated only a second before crossing to the door and hailing one of his fellows.
"Jack?" Daniel said softly. He touched Jack's face, then laid his hand against his chest.
"Did it work?" Janet asked, bustling into the room followed closely by Sam and Teal'c.
"I...I don't know."
"Well, his vitals are strong," Janet said, making a quick check of Jack's heartbeat and respiration. "That's a good sign."
"Shouldn't he wake up?" Sam asked, hovering just behind Janet.
"Did it work?" Jacob asked, hurrying through the door.
"It...did whatever it did," Daniel told Jacob.
"We won't know until we take him back to the SGC and I can run some tests," Janet added.
"We shouldn't waste any time then," Sam said. She gave Daniel a sideways glance. He answered the silent question with a tiny nod. "Teal'c, can you take the head of the stretcher? I'll get the other end."
"Indeed," Teal'c said. He leaned over and grasped the stretcher, waiting for Sam to move into position.
"You guys just go," Daniel said, reaching for his pack. "I'll get our gear gathered up and catch up to you at the gate."
"Don't be long," Janet said. Sam and Teal'c lifted the stretcher and headed out the door, Janet at their heels. Jacob followed along, a concerned expression on his face.
Daniel stayed crouched on one knee, his hands deep in his pack, as the Tok'ra guard watched the others file through the doorway, then turned back into the room.
"May I assist you?"
"Um...actually, if you wouldn't mind...." Daniel motioned the guard over with a jerk of his head. As the Tok'ra leaned over, Daniel pulled a zat from his pack and dropped the man.
"Sorry about that," Daniel said, tucking the zat inside his jacket and zipping it closed. "But all's fair in love and war...and politics. And...sorry."
Daniel dragged the guard to the side of the room where he wouldn't be in the direct line of sight to anyone passing by. Then he crouched down and reached for the Telchak device.
Daniel froze at the sound of Selmac's voice. He surreptitiously finished sliding the Telchak device into his backpack and reached inside his jacket for the zat before turning to face the Tok'ra.
"What are you doing?" Selmac asked, his gaze moving from Daniel to the zatted guard and back again.
"Where is the Telchak device?"
"I'm taking it," Daniel said, still holding the zat just inside his jacket, concealed.
"We did not agree to that."
"No, you didn't. But...." Daniel got slowly to his feet, slinging his backpack over his left shoulder. "Selmac, this machine is what's making the Tok'ra act so strange. It's affecting their minds. Or, rather, the minds of the symbiotes."
"There are strict protocols in place to prevent such an eventuality."
"Well, the protocols aren't being followed. This thing has been on continuously since we got here."
"How can you be certain of that?"
"Because I can feel it. Look, you know about my sarcophagus addiction."
"Samantha related the story to us, yes," Selmac said.
"I'm very sensitive to that type of energy now. I can feel it. I...I crave it," Daniel admitted. He fought it, but he did crave it. "And I'm absolutely certain that this has been on the entire time."
Selmac bowed his head briefly.
"What are you going to do with it?" Jacob asked when his eyes met Daniel's again.
"Take it. Destroy it. Something," Daniel said. "All I know is that if I don't take it now, the Tok'ra will become just like the Goa'uld."
Daniel watched, wary, as Jacob headed toward the door. Under normal circumstances he wouldn't hesitate to trust Jacob, but these weren't normal circumstances. Daniel had no idea how much exposure was necessary to start turning the Tok'ra symbiote darkside. There was no way for him to know if Selmac had changed. The fact that Selmac had--apparently--given control back to Jacob was encouraging, but not conclusive proof.
"You coming?" Jacob asked, pausing in the door to look back at Daniel.
"Right behind you," Daniel said after only another moment's hesitation.
"I sense a disturbance," Per'sus said, frowning.
"If anyone says 'in the Force,' I'm gonna shoot'em."
"Colonel," Sam said, looking over her shoulder with a delighted smile. "Good to see you."
"Likewise I'm sure." Jack blinked blearily at her. "What the hell is going on?"
"Just going home, sir."
"Good," Jack said. "Er...from where?"
"Where is Dr. Jackson?" Per'sus asked suddenly.
"Right here," Jacob said, nudging aside one of the Tok'ra guards so that Per'sus could see him. Daniel trailed behind Jacob, trying to look like he'd been there all along.
"Thank you for your assistance," Daniel said. He made a small bow as he approached Per'sus. "We had no other way to save Jack's life."
"Yes, of course," Per'sus said, distracted. He nodded at two of the guards, motioning them back toward the Tok'ra base.
"We'll just let you get back to...whatever it is you were doing," Daniel said. He gave a sharp nod to Teal'c. In response, Teal'c and Sam lifted the stretcher again.
"Yes, Jack?" Daniel said, stepping next to the stretcher as they walked up the steps to the gate.
"Carter says we're going home."
"She's right. We are."
"I didn't know we'd left," Jack said with a puzzled expression.
"Dr. Jackson, I thought that the Tok'ra had refused to allow the device to be brought back to Earth," Hammond said. He was clearly puzzled by the presence of the device sitting in the middle of the briefing room table.
"They did," Daniel admitted. "General, we need to make sure that this device is kept under guard."
"Just a moment--they *didn't* agree?" Hammond asked.
"No, I took it."
"Stole it, if you want to get technical," Daniel said. Hammond's lips tightened before he looked at Sam and Teal'c.
"Sir, the device was affecting the Tok'ra," Sam explained while Daniel retrieved the device from the table. "In fact, it's probably been affecting them for a while. We think that's why they started distrusting everyone, including Selmac."
"Doesn't that make them even more liable to retaliate for the theft of the object?" Hammond asked.
"The Tok'ra numbers are relatively small," Teal'c said. "It is unlikely that they could muster a force sufficiently large enough to pose a significant threat to the SGC."
"We don't have to worry about the Tok'ra," Daniel said sharply. He closed his eyes tight against the throbbing pain in his head.
"You can't be certain of that," Hammond argued.
"Yes, I can," Daniel said. He had to clench his jaws to prevent himself from yelling at everyone to just shut the hell up. "They're too busy going through withdrawal."
"I didn't think the Tok'ra could be affected like that," Hammond said.
"They certainly won't affected as severely as humans, but the Tok'ra haven't used sarcophagus technology for thousands of years," Daniel said.
"That's true," Sam said. "The Tok'ra have adapted to life without the sarcophagus. It may take a short time for the symbiotes to adjust to the sudden addition, and equally sudden withdrawal, of the effects of the device."
"A very short time," Daniel agreed. "But we don't need to worry about them for a day or two."
"How can you know that they're in withdrawal now?" Hammond asked.
"Because I am," Daniel admitted. "Now, could someone please put this machine away somewhere safe, and then--if it's not too much trouble-- put me in a very dark, very quiet room somewhere?"
"Major," Hammond said, nodding at the Telchak device.
"I've got it, Daniel," Sam said, taking the machine from his hands. Teal'c grasped him by the upper arm.
"Get him to the infirmary," Hammond ordered.
Daniel took a moment after waking to establish where he was. And why.
"Aw, crap," he muttered.
"Sam?" Daniel rolled his head to the side to find Sam sitting in the chair next to his bed.
"How do you feel?"
"Um...pretty good," Daniel said, feeling just as surprised as he knew he sounded. When he'd crawled into bed in the VIP suite the previous night he hadn't expected to get a lot of sleep. The fact that there was a guard outside his door had emphasized the potential for trouble.
"Good," Sam said, smiling. "Janet said your labs were nowhere near as bad as they were with the sarcophagus addiction so she was hoping you wouldn't have too rough a time."
"Improving," Sam said. She grinned. "Enough to piss Janet off."
"If Janet's mad then he can't be too sick," Daniel agreed. Janet had infinite patience with the sick and injured...until they were out of serious trouble. Then she expected them to behave. An expectation Jack worked very hard at failing to achieve.
"Hungry?" Sam asked as Daniel slowly dragged himself into a sitting position against the headboard.
"Sacrilegious wench," Daniel muttered, reaching for a glass of orange juice. Sam just smiled and pushed the meal tray closer to him. "So, any irate calls from the Tok'ra?"
"No, just Dad," Sam said, sitting back in her chair as Daniel slowly worked up some enthusiasm for his breakfast. "He contacted some of the higher ranking Tok'ra who'd been off-world. They've taken charge until the rest come to their senses."
"Why didn't Jacob just take over?"
"He was concerned that Selmac might've been at the base long enough to be affected. He didn't want to take the chance. Apparently it isn't a happy place right now." Sam rolled her eyes. "But you won't believe this, given the situation with which they're dealing."
"They want the Telchak device back," Daniel said around a mouthful of toast.
"That's addiction for you," Daniel said. "What did Hammond tell them?"
"He used a lot of diplomatic language," Sam said.
"Promising them everything and nothing," Daniel said. "Good. That'll buy us some time."
"Time for what is the question," Sam said.
"Were you able to locate Anubis?"
"Yes, I think we did."
"I still have that idea, but I need you to tell me whether it'll work."
"Get the fuck away from me, Daniel."
"And to think that two short days ago we were afraid your language skills wouldn't come back," Daniel said dryly.
"Bite me," Jack said.
"Later." Daniel groaned to himself when Jack finally fought his way to a sitting position on the side of his bed. "Would you please just go back to sleep? I have to go to the SGC. I've got work up to my eyeballs. Janet will stop by in a couple of hours to check on you, and I'll be home by lunchtime."
"I'm going too."
"Excuse me?" Daniel asked with an incredulous look.
"I'm going to the SGC," Jack insisted.
"You can't even get your own underwear on," Daniel said. In truth, Jack *had* managed to get one foot through the leg hole on his boxers. But since it was the wrong leg hole, Daniel felt that the odds of Jack successfully dressing himself were slim to non- existent.
"You're not going anywhere without me," Jack said stubbornly.
"Jack." Daniel let out an exasperated sigh as he knelt down next to the bed and got Jack's underwear straightened out. "I'm not going anywhere except to the SGC to do some nice, boring paperwork."
"Then it won't hurt me to go with you."
"You should take advantage of the opportunity to rest," Daniel said.
"I thought that thing was supposed to fix me," Jack complained.
"It did." Daniel got up from the floor and sat down next to Jack. "It fixed whatever was messing up your brain anyway."
"But I still feel like I got run over by a truck."
"I'm sorry. I don't know how to work the technology," Daniel said.
"I'm not blaming you."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm blaming the Ancients. Again. You--I'm thanking."
"Thanking? By pissing and moaning and generally making it impossible for me to get any work done?" Daniel shook his head. "Janet's right; you are the worst patient in the history of the world."
"Uh uh," Jack said with a lopsided grin. "Carter is."
"Now I know why you didn't want me to be here," Jack said. He stared at the rest of his team with disbelief, and just a touch of admiration, for their latest crazy plan.
"What?" Daniel asked, turning to face Jack.
"Only you and Carter could come up with a plan this nuts, and you thought you'd sneak it through while I wasn't looking."
"We have to do something about Anubis," Daniel said.
"So nuke him," Jack said, with a careless wave of his hand.
"We can't detonate a nuclear weapon in Earth's orbit," Hammond said.
"Besides, I can't be sure that Anubis wouldn't be able to use that energy," Daniel said.
"It's a *nuke*," Jack said. "He'd be incinerated."
"Not necessarily. If he were still fully ascended he'd definitely be able to not only survive, but use the energy from a nuclear blast," Daniel said. "Because he's only semi-ascended I don't really know what his capabilities are."
"So instead you want to put him in a cage...."
"A containment field," Sam interjected.
"Whatever," Jack said. "Cage him and...and then what?"
"We have someplace to take him," Daniel said, fixing his eyes firmly on his notes. "Someplace no one will ever find him."
"And where is this mystical place?"
"P8Y," Teal'c said.
"What?" Jack yelped. He turned on Daniel, who was even more determined to avoid Jack's eyes. "Are you nuts?"
"Am I the only one who has a problem with this plan?" Jack asked.
"I'd like a few points clarified," Hammond agreed.
"We've figured out how to make a containment field based on the same principles as the Goa'uld force shields," Sam said. "Fortunately, in his present state, Anubis can be contained within a relatively small volume."
"We have decided to use the Telchak device to sustain the field," Teal'c said.
"We have?" Hammond said. "Why?"
"What he said," Jack said, nodding at Hammond.
"The only thing more powerful than the Telchak device is the power module at the Antarctic base, and we want to keep that handy," Sam said. "Fortunately, the Telchak device is more than powerful enough for our purposes."
"And when the power runs out?" Jack asked.
"Jack, we're talking thousands of years. Possibly tens of thousands," Daniel said.
"But Anubis won't die, right?"
"No, he won't die," Daniel admitted. "But in the meantime we--or someone else--may be able to come up with a more permanent solution."
"I thought we wanted to study the device," Hammond said.
"I think it's become obvious that the Telchak device is much too dangerous to keep," Sam said.
"By sending both the device and Anubis to P8Y we will eliminate two threats at once," Teal'c said.
"What if someone goes through the gate on P8Y and starts poking around?" Jack asked.
"P8Y isn't on the Abydos cartouche or in the Ancients' database," Sam said. "The odds of anyone stumbling across it are exceedingly small."
"The Ancients already stumbled across it," Jack said pointedly.
"They won't do anything," Daniel said.
"How do you know that?"
"I just...I do."
"Just like that?"
"You're going to have to trust me on this," Daniel said.
"I trust you, Daniel. It's the rest of the galaxy I wouldn't turn my back on," Jack said. He ran his fingers through his hair, clearly tired and frustrated.
"Colonel, if you have serious reservations about P8Y...," Hammond said.
"I have serious reservations about the entire plan, sir. It's just that the other elements of the plan are unproven; we *know* that we're not welcome on P8Y," Jack explained. He looked across the table at Sam. "Couldn't we just toss him into the sun?"
"We know the sun would destroy the containment field; we don't know that it would destroy Anubis," Sam said.
"He's like a damn cockroach," Jack said. "No matter how hard you stamp on him he squirms away."
"A very dangerous cockroach," Hammond said. "Knowing how dangerous, and given the lack of any other viable plan, I'm inclined to allow this mission to proceed."
"Fine," Jack said, throwing his hands up in defeat. In truth he'd known he was beaten from the beginning. Daniel and Sam had both had that "I can do this despite all logic and reason to the contrary" look. It was a look Jack had come to fear. And--sometimes-- respect. "But I'm officially requesting at least a week of leave when we return. If we return."
"Granted," Hammond said. "Now I believe you all have some work to do."
"I'm starting to believe you really do have a death wish," Jack said, staring at their reflections in his bathroom mirror.
"You know better than that," Daniel said. He stood behind Jack and wrapped his arms around his bare waist.
"You made the call to go back to P8Y."
"We have to do something," Daniel said. "And let's face it--if I'm wrong, I'm not the only one at risk. We all are."
"All the more reason to not go."
"So we just wait for Anubis to find a way to regain his power?"
"No, we find another way," Jack said.
"There is no other way," Daniel said. "We don't have the ability to destroy him. And even if we did, the Ascended would stop us."
"Just like they'll stop us on P8Y."
"I don't think they will."
"Damn it, Daniel."
"If you don't want to...."
"I don't have a choice, do I?" Jack said angrily. "Hammond says we're going, so we're going."
"Of course I'm afraid. I'm always afraid when we go through the gate. That's what keeps me alive."
"No, I mean you're really afraid." Daniel's lips pressed against the back of Jack's neck. "I'm sorry."
"I don't think I can keep doing this," Jack said, his voice a whisper. "I've done it before, but I don't think I can do again. I think there are only so many times you can lose love before you lose the ability *to* love."
"I'll always love you," Daniel said, his breath warm against Jack's shoulder.
"It's not enough," Jack said. He felt Daniel's arms tighten around him. "I want you *here* to love me. Preferably as often as possible."
"It'll be all right."
"You can't *know* that."
"But I do know. It's entirely possible that one day one of us won't return from a mission, but it won't be this one."
"Come to bed."
"You can't distract me with sex," Jack said, following Daniel's gentle urging toward the bed.
"I think you'll find that I can."
"Why are we waiting?"
Jack drummed his fingers along the back of the co-pilot's seat on the al-kesh. He hadn't been able to shake his bleak mood all night. Not even achingly intense sex had been enough to do that. He didn't even know what had triggered the sense of impending doom. He never did. It just hit him sometimes.
But the minute he put on his uniform his personal issues dropped into the background. Maybe it was his training, maybe it was just the way he was, but the job came first. He didn't want to think too deeply about that because while it might mean that he was a good commander, he wasn't sure what it said about him as a human being.
"I have to pinpoint Anubis' location before we can attempt to capture him," Sam explained.
"I thought you'd already done that."
"We narrowed it down to this part of the debris field, but I couldn't get a more specific fix." Sam gave Jack a pointed look. "There was too much background noise."
"Noise?" Jack said, raising an eyebrow.
"Jack." Daniel grabbed Jack by the arm and pulled him to the back of the cockpit. "Why don't you just let Sam do what she needs to do?"
"Because I'm not crazy about *any* of this," Jack said in a low tone.
"Okay. I understand that."
"I think so. You don't understand how we can possibly hold something as powerful as Anubis in a...."
"Plexiglass box," Jack said.
"A containment field," Daniel corrected. "The box is just a convenient means of setting the field parameters."
"You're going to have to have faith in us."
"I know you believe in us," Daniel said with a smile. "But...."
"Give me a Jaffa with a staff weapon any day," Jack agreed. Smoky squids and invisible force fields weren't certain enough.
"We can do this," Daniel assured him.
"Teal'c," Sam said, drawing Jack and Daniel's attention back to the front of the ship.
"I have it," Teal'c said. The al-kesh began to glide through the debris field. Sam left the cockpit, headed for the small ring room. Daniel went forward to the center console and prepared to activate the rings. And Jack sighed and followed Sam, pulling out his zat.
"We're ready," Jack called out once Sam was set.
"Approaching target now," Teal'c said. He finessed the ship into perfect position before nodding to Daniel.
"Ringing up now, Sam," Daniel called out. Jack turned his head back to the ring room, watching apprehensively. Seconds later the rings rose, then fell, leaving a small piece of twisted metal in the box. Sam turned on the Telchak device and backed away from the box, staring at the monitor in her hand.
"Sam?" Daniel called. Sam ignored the distraction, intent on her machines.
"Carter?" Jack demanded. Suddenly Sam turned to him with a smile.
"We got him, sir."
"We got him," Jack yelled just as Daniel stepped next to him. Daniel grimaced and made a show of rubbing his ear.
"Setting course for P8Y," Teal'c reported. "Engaging hyperdrive engines."
Daniel's soft exclamation drew Jack's attention back to the box. A purple-black cloud filled the interior, obscuring the small piece of wreckage. Sparks of light flashed, like lightning in a storm cloud.
"Oh, yeah," Sam said, sounding pleased. "He's definitely not a happy camper."
Jack stood in the main thoroughfare, evaluating. P8Y had a stark beauty he couldn't deny, lit by the never fully risen sun just beyond the horizon. And it left him cold.
The soft thwup of a closing book brought Jack's attention back to more mundane matters. He turned around to see Daniel stuffing a notebook and digital camera back into his backpack.
"Anything interesting?" Jack asked.
"Oh, not really," Daniel said, dusting off the knees of his pants as he stood up. He waved at one of the more prominent inscriptions on the wall. "Basically it's a lot of 'Hail Anubis, Conqueror of the Universe' type of stuff."
"Conqueror of the Universe? A little premature, wouldn't you say?"
"Maybe it was meant to inspire," Daniel said. "Most likely the Goa'uld are just inherently megalomaniacs."
"But we didn't miss anything when we lost all the data on the last mission?" Jack asked.
"Not from this area. But...." Daniel pulled Jack along with him to a building at the center of the complex. The same building where Sam and Teal'c were settling Anubis in what Jack sincerely hoped would be his final resting place. Daniel grabbed Jack by the sleeve and dragged him just inside the door, pointing to walls filled with small, neat script.
"So?" Jack asked.
"So this talks about the drone soldiers."
"That figures," Jack said, disgusted. "If we hadn't been stopped on our last trip, we would've known that they existed."
"We would've known that they *had* existed," Daniel said. "Chances are we would've recognized what they were when they did show up. And we would've had an idea of how to fight them."
"All done, sir," Sam said as she and Teal'c emerged from a dark hallway.
"I still think we should've tried a nuke," Jack said, leading the way back into the street.
"Not in Earth's orbit, I know," Jack said as they walked toward the al-kesh, sitting on a small rise just outside the complex. "But why couldn't we haul him out to the back of beyond somewhere and nuke his ass?"
"Because we don't know that it would've worked."
"We never tried," Jack said. He glanced at the burial pit as they walked past it. "Fitting, though, that Anubis will spend the rest of his existence looking at the grave of some of his victims."
"Actually, I don't think Anubis can perceive anything beyond the containment field," Sam said.
"I was speaking metaphorically," Jack said.
"I see," Sam said. "Please don't do that. It's confusing."
"Told ya," Daniel said under his breath.
"It just makes my neck itch," Jack said, staring at the desolate landscape. "Knowing that he's still out here just waiting for a chance to get free."
"I do not believe we have any method that would be successful in destroying Anubis," Teal'c said.
"The only way to win is to deny it battle," Daniel said quietly.
"What?" Jack said as he, Sam and Teal'c all turned to stare at Daniel, lagging just a few steps behind the other three.
"Oma was right. We couldn't defeat Anubis, not through force," Daniel said. "If the Ancients and Ascended couldn't do it, then we certainly couldn't. But I kept looking for a way to...for a way, *any* way."
"We've all been looking for a way," Jack said.
"Yeah," Daniel agreed. "And then I remembered what Shifu told me."
"Shifu spoke of the evil within him," Teal'c pointed out.
"Inside, outside: evil is evil." Daniel shrugged. "And sometimes the only way to win is to refuse to engage it."
"That's how you knew the Ancients wouldn't interfere," Sam said.
"It's their own philosophy," Daniel said. "They could hardly argue with it."
"You play a dangerous game, Dr. Jackson," Jack said.
"Sometimes that's the only game in town."
"We ready to go?" Jack asked Sam, glancing at their ship.
"Good," Jack said. He turned to look out across the plain, bright sunlight evident just beyond the rim of the crater.
"I've always wanted to ride off into the sunset," Jack said, waving his hand at the horizon.
"Technically it wouldn't be a sunset," Sam said, her words faltering when Jack turned on her. "Waxing metaphorical again, sir?"
"Don't ruin the moment, Carter."
"Sorry." Sam gestured toward the ship. "I'm...I'll just go make a last pre-flight check."
"I am unfamiliar with this saying," Teal'c said as Sam hurried away.
"Westerns," Jack said. "They were always riding off into the sunset in westerns. The Lone Ranger. Roy Rogers. John Wayne. Not sure about Zorro."
"It signifies an ending," Daniel told Teal'c.
"I think I'll save it for my last mission," Jack said. "Make a really dramatic exit."
"And if there is no sunset on your last mission?" Teal'c asked.
"There's always a sunset, Teal'c. Sometimes you have to wait for it, but there's always a sunset."
"Not if it's raining," Daniel said as he brushed by Jack on his way back to the ship.
"Well, then, you just have to wait for the rainbow," Jack said to himself.
The End. Finally.
|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Established Relationship|
|Series:||By Path of Night|
|Summary:||Once again without his ascended memories, Daniel and SG-1 continue to search for the meaens to defeat Anubis. Sequel to "By Path of Night".|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Language, sex and violence.