Colonel O'Neill burst out of the trees at a dead run, the other three members of SG-1 right behind him. Enemy fire struck the ground around them, casting clods of earth into the air as they ran. Stopping briefly, Jack turned and fired his automatic back into the treeline, waiting until Sam, Teal'c and Daniel had passed him before resuming his flight. Seconds later, they all reached the Stargate and flung themselves down behind the free-standing stones that surrounded the dais.
"Dial it up, Daniel!" Jack shouted unnecessarily as he, Sam and Teal'c laid down covering fire back the way they had come. No-one had followed them out into the open, which gave them no fixed targets, but hopefully meant they would be able to escape through the Stargate without taking anyone with them. Daniel sheltered behind the DHD, reaching up to punch each symbol in turn whenever a break in the enemy fire presented the opportunity. He had managed to enter four chevrons when something small and spherical came flying across the field in a graceful arc and landed directly at his feet. Before any of them could react, it emitted a sonic blast that hit them all like a physical blow, sending them sprawling.
When Jack regained his senses, there were two enemy soldiers standing over him, their weapons trained unerringly on his head. One of them kicked his gun away, and he saw three other pairs of soldiers doing the same to the rest of his team. Sam and Teal'c exchanged frustrated glances with him, but Daniel lay motionless where he had fallen next to the DHD.
From behind them, another figure approached. This was clearly the leader of their captors, since he barked something unintelligible at the soldiers standing over Daniel and they immediately grabbed the unconscious archaeologist and lifted him up between them. The leader, who was bareheaded and wore elaborate robes rather than helmet and armour, stepped up to the DHD and punched in a destination. Jack craned to see the combination of symbols, but the man carefully shielded the panel from view. Looking back to Daniel, however, he saw that the younger man was aware again and watching the DHD intently, while trying not to let the men holding him realise he was awake. A wormhole formed in the ring of the Stargate with its usual outward surge, then settled into a shimmering wall.
The leader of the enemy group stooped briefly to press something on the stone surrounding the DHD and the whole device suddenly descended into the ground. A slab of stone slid out over it, sealing it from view. Then the man strode up to the event horizon and vanished into it. As the two soldiers started to drag Daniel up the steps to the gate, Jack cried, "No!" and surged to his feet. His resistance was short-lived, however, as one of the soldiers next to him struck him a vicious blow to the side of his knee and he fell back to the ground with a curse.
Daniel was taken through the gate and the remaining soldiers quickly followed, backing rapidly away from their prisoners, and keeping their weapons carefully aimed. As soon as the last one had disappeared, Teal'c launched himself at the gate but, predictably, the wormhole dissipated just before he reached its threshold.
"Well that's just perfect!" Jack exclaimed. "Did either of you see where they went?"
Sam shook her head, then clearly regretted it as the after effects of the sonic blast made her close her eyes against the spinning landscape.
"I did not," Teal'c pronounced in his usual impassive fashion. "Their leader blocked our view most effectively." He crossed back to where Jack was still sitting on the ground and offered him a hand. Once on his feet, Jack tried to put weight on his injured leg and swore again as it gave way beneath him. With Teal'c's help, he limped carefully over to the steps leading up to the Stargate and sat down again. Sam joined them, pulling out her first aid kit and kneeling down at his feet. Jack lifted up his pant leg to see that his knee was already swelling, and started thinking out loud while Sam wrapped the injury.
"Okay," Jack began. "The bad guys have taken Daniel off to an unknown Stargate location and we're stuck here with no DHD so we can't get back home. We won't be missed back on Earth for another twenty-three hours and, even when they send help, the chances of finding Daniel are pretty minimal." He glanced round at the remaining members of his team, both of whom were regarding him with sombre expressions. "Now I've summarised the situation," he continued, clapping his hands together decisively, "let's figure out how to get out of it."
Daniel awoke to find himself in a small cube of a room with no discernible door. He was lying on a cold, stone floor and all his gear had been removed, along with his jacket, his glasses and his boots. He remembered being knocked out by a sonic weapon and waking up briefly when two soldiers had grabbed him but he had passed out again during the trip through the Stargate and had no idea what had happened to the rest of SG-1. He pushed himself slowly upright and then closed his eyes as a wave of nausea washed over him. A tender lump on the back of his head proved to be the source of his discomfort, and he was rather disconcerted to discover that a metal collar had been locked in place around his neck. It fit snugly to his skin and he could feel no join anywhere around its circumference.
Continuing with his careful investigation of his surroundings, Daniel noted that the light in the room was coming from a square panel high in the ceiling. The walls were sheer and did not appear to have any seams in them at all, but Daniel started inspecting them anyway, just in case there was a flaw or opening he couldn't immediately spot. He was half way through feeling his way over the third wall when a sound behind him made him turn to discover that a section of the opposite wall had suddenly slid back to reveal a man. The stranger stepped into the room and was followed by another man, this one clearly a soldier, judging by his armour and the weapon he aimed at Daniel.
The clothing of both men was reminiscent of the ancient Greeks, which fitted with the architecture Daniel remembered seeing on the planet, as well as the language he had heard the soldiers using before they had attacked. The first man spoke and it took Daniel a few moments to dredge up his knowledge of ancient Greek and work out what he had said. "I have a task for you, evil one. If you perform it well, I will send you back to your companions."
Daniel's mind worked fast. Evil one -- the man must think he was a Goa'uld. On the planet, he had attempted his usual peaceful greeting, but the soldiers had attacked them as soon as they had seen Teal'c, so they must have assumed that the rest of SG-1 were Goa'uld and acted accordingly. If they were enemies of the Goa'uld then they might be potential allies of Earth and willing to release Daniel once the misunderstanding had been cleared up. Daniel's Greek was rather rusty, and the dialect spoken by the man was unfamiliar, but he managed to recall enough vocabulary to make himself understood.
"No -- there is a mistake," he began clearly, then indicated himself. "Not evil one. Enemy of the evil ones. If you let me go, we can be friends. My people will help your people fight the evil ones."
The man snorted in contempt and then spat at Daniel's feet. "You think you are so clever, that you will trick us with your lies. Well, we are clever, too. Your `people', as you call them, expected us to sit idly by while they stole away our children to be their slaves. But we waited and we learned and now we have destroyed our masters and taken their world as our own. There is nothing for you now on the world where we met. My men were the last to leave and now we are free from your cruelty."
Daniel spread his hands and put on his most earnest expression. "Please," he said with utmost sincerity. "The Jaffa you saw is not evil. He is a friend to my people, and an enemy of the evil ones. We have suffered at their hands just like you have. We can fight together. We will help you protect yourselves willingly."
"Speak no more!" the man commanded. "I will not listen to your trickery and you underestimate us if you believe we will be fooled." He produced a small device from within his robes. "I had hoped this would not be necessary but you leave me no choice." He pointed the device at Daniel and pressed a button on it. Daniel felt small needles shoot out from both sides of the collar he wore and into his neck. The next moment, his entire world was filled with pain. The agony consumed him completely, blocking out everything else so that he didn't even feel himself fall to the ground. After what seemed like an eternity, it subsided into a pulsing throb that pounded dully in his head. He scrambled to his knees and looked up at his captors, breathing hard and unable to speak.
"The device will weaken the will of the creature inside you," the man told him, "but will leave your mental processes intact so that you may perform the task."
Daniel felt his fear and anger receding, taking his conscious mind to a far corner of his brain where it watched the scene play out as if he wasn't really taking part. "What task must I perform?" he heard himself ask, and the man before him smiled in triumph.
Turning to the soldier still standing guard behind him, the man gave an imperious gesture and commanded, "Bring in the device." The soldier nodded briskly and disappeared from view. "Now you will serve us and help us use your own technology against you," Daniel's captor gloated as the soldier returned, carrying an object that he placed on the floor of the cell. It was about two feet high and cylindrical, resting on a fitted tripod and with various panels of buttons around its sides.
The man reached into another pocket in his robes and brought out a Goa'uld tablet and page turning device, like the ones boobytrapped by Ma'chello. "This device was found during our explorations of this world, but we do not know its purpose," he told Daniel. "You will translate the tablet for us and instruct us in its use." He produced a sheaf of parchment and a writing implement and cast them on the floor in front of Daniel, then turned abruptly on his heel and stalked out of the cell. The wall slid back into place behind him and Daniel was left alone again.
Jack stared at the stone slab as if trying to will it open with his gaze alone. All three of them had studied it at length but had been entirely unable to work out how it functioned. There was no sign of any mechanism, it resisted all efforts at prying it up, and even a blast from Teal'c's staff weapon had left no mark upon it whatsoever. It was covered in carvings that Sam had identified as Greek letters, but her familiarity with them came from the study of mathematics so she had no knowledge of what they meant as a language. Jack was sure Daniel would be able to decipher them in no time at all, but of course he was not there. Jack slammed his fist down on the stone in frustration and tried not to think about what might be happening to Daniel while they were stuck on this now apparently deserted planet.
He pressed the button on his radio and requested, "Report, Major." He had sent Sam and Teal'c off in search of any signs of habitation in the area. The injury to his knee prevented him from accompanying them, so he had stayed behind in case the Stargate was activated from offworld. Despite the importance of monitoring possible Stargate activity, he still felt totally useless and it was driving him mad.
"We've found the remains of a village about half a klick further on than the building where we were attacked, sir," Carter's voice came clearly through the radio, and Jack sat up with interest. However, her next words destroyed all his hopes. "It's been completely abandoned. There's evidence of staff weapon blasts on some of the structures, but it appears the inhabitants planned their departure because all the personal belongings and most of the furniture are gone. There are vehicle tracks heading in the direction of the Stargate but they aren't very recent. Do you want us to carry on further, sir?"
"No," Jack decided resignedly. "It'll be dark before too long so you might as well head back here and we'll make camp." Sam acknowledged the order and signed off. They had discussed their options before Sam and Teal'c had set off and decided that, if no other solution presented itself, they would have to wait until General Hammond tried to contact them via the MALP. Once they made their situation known, they could arrange for a naquadah reactor to be sent through so they could activate the gate manually from the side they were on and get home that way. None of them wanted to think about the impossibility of finding Daniel among the millions of destinations to which he could have been taken. They could only rely on the fact that he had a GDO and might be able to escape.
Jack hated being forced to sit and do nothing while one of his team was in the hands of the enemy, but he had no choice. It didn't stop his mind from going over and over what had happened and trying to figure out what he could have done differently, though. He would have given anything for Daniel to be stuck here with Sam and Teal'c while he was the one dragged off to who-knew-where by enemy soldiers. At least then all of his kids would be safe, and he would know what was going on, instead of having to sit around uselessly, with no idea what was happening to Daniel and no way of helping him.
The unaffected part of Daniel's mind was experiencing a whole range of different emotions. He was hopeful that his captors might make good on their promise to let him go, yet he was also quite fascinated by the Goa'uld device. He was daunted by the task of translating a text from Goa'uld into Ancient Greek, without the resources of the SGC at his disposal, and he was also concerned about the continuing effects on him of a device meant to suppress a Goa'uld symbiote.
He had begun to grow accustomed to the constant pain from the needles in his neck, but it was still very uncomfortable and he also felt rather queasy from the concussion he had sustained when he had been knocked out at the Stargate.
While all these thoughts were running through his mind, Daniel was also watching himself as if from far away, collecting up all the materials he had been given and settling himself on the floor of the cell to begin his task. While he knew exactly what was happening, and had to use all his concentration to make sense of the Goa'uld text, he also knew that he wasn't entirely in control of either his body or his mind, and the whole experience was very strange.
However, there didn't seem to be much he could do about the situation, and his best hope of release was to do what he was told, so he gave himself up to the task at hand. After all, it wasn't as if his captors were trying to get him to relinquish information about Earth. They were a people who had been persecuted by the Goa'uld, and helping them protect themselves would be what he would choose to do under normal circumstances, so he didn't see the need to resist. Daniel resented the fact that they were using force when he would have been prepared to aid them freely, but he could understand their paranoia, given their past experience.
Whatever it was that the collar was doing to him, it did not allow him to rest. His mind and body were kept focused on the puzzle of the device to the exclusion of all else. It was an extensive task, since it involved first translating the Goa'uld text into English and applying the instructions to the device itself to make it function and then rendering a report on his findings into Ancient Greek, which required an entirely different alphabet as well as the recollection of mostly forgotten vocabulary.
Daniel first of all scanned the text contained on tablet, meticulously rendering the words into the language of his captors. As he read and worked, he discovered that the device was a kind of holographic projector, which stored information for display, a bit like a computer. Using the instructions, he turned it on and was rewarded by a shimmering representation of a starfield, which was projected out from the top of the cylinder. Buttons on the object's side allowed him to scroll through many holograms of different areas of space and he discovered pages in the tablet that corresponded to each one, detailing the gate addresses of the planets and various pieces of information about who controlled them.
Daniel worked on, making careful notes on everything, unable to think about anything other than the task that had been assigned to him as the minutes turned into hours and he was given no reprieve. However, the moment he completed his work, the compulsion of the collar released him and the full extent of the ordeal hit him. The control over his mind was now gone, but the pain caused by the needles continued, and Daniel suddenly felt all the exhaustion caused by the mental effort he had expended. His entire body shook with fatigue and reaction to the pain, and the room swam before his eyes. Not caring what his captors might do to him now he had finished their task, he slumped thankfully against the wall and let oblivion take him.
The other three members of SG-1 had resigned themselves to waiting out the night until General Hammond opened the gate from the other side to try to contact them. They had set up a rudimentary camp and eaten a joyless meal in the waning light of evening. Silence had reigned as all of them thought about the loss of Daniel but none of them wanted to voice their feelings aloud, as if by refusing to talk about it they could deny its reality. As the night wore on, they took it in turns to stand watch, though none of them actually slept.
It was just after dawn, still ten hours before they would be missed back on Earth, when the Stargate activated. Teal'c was on guard but Jack and Sam were both up and positioned behind the standing stones along with him before the vortex formed.
Moments later, a figure was catapulted through the wormhole to land heavily on the stone steps, illuminated briefly by the light of the event horizon before it disengaged and the gate was deactivated once more. Teal'c was the first one to reach the figure's side. It was Daniel, and he was out cold. Sam knelt down beside him and briefly examined him, then looked up at Jack. Her initial elation at the return of their missing team member was now clouded by concern for his wellbeing. "His pulse is pretty weak, sir," she told him, "and he's running a fever."
"What's that around his neck?" Jack wanted to know, indicating the silver collar. His fear of losing Daniel altogether was now replaced by the fear of him dying before they could get him home.
"I don't know, sir," Sam replied, "but I can't imagine it's anything good."
Jack joined her, kneeling stiffly on the hard ground. He reached out and shook Daniel's shoulder gently, calling his name in an attempt to elicit some response. Daniel shifted slightly and groaned. Then suddenly his eyes snapped open and he tried to sit up. He started shivering violently and muttering incoherently in a foreign language. He didn't seem to register the presence of his friends and it was clear he was delirious. Teal'c removed his jacket and gave it to Sam, who managed with difficulty to get Daniel into it. Then she held his trembling body tightly and stroked his hair in an attempt to soothe him. After a few seconds, he relaxed back into unconsciousness again.
"Well, this isn't good," Jack muttered.
"No, sir," Sam agreed, grimly. "I don't think we can wait another ten hours to get him back to Earth. He's barely conscious and we have no idea what's been done to him."
"Unfortunately, the only one who's got any chance of figuring out how to get us out of here is Daniel," Jack pointed out. "We've got some medical supplies. Can you give him something that'll make him coherent enough to translate what's on that slab?"
Sam was unsure. "Giving him drugs could be very dangerous, sir," she told him. "It might work in the short term, but the after effects could cause permanent damage. Without knowing exactly what's wrong with him, I'd be reluctant to try."
"Well, Major," Jack replied, "if he's not going to last ten hours anyway, we don't really have a choice, do we?"
Sam nodded bleakly and reached for the medical kit.
Some time later, she called out, "I think I've got him stabilised for the moment, sir!" Jack moved back over to where Daniel lay and knelt down next to him with some difficulty. He laid a hand on the younger man's shoulder and called his name. Daniel's eyes flickered open briefly, this time focusing on Jack's face before closing again.
"Leave me alone," he muttered.
"I can't do that, Daniel," Jack told him firmly. "Carter says that if we leave you alone, you might die."
Daniel made a noise that might conceivably have been an attempt at a chuckle, but his eyes remained closed. "Fine by me," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Well, it's not fine by me," Jack declared, letting some annoyance creep into his tone. "You know damn well that I'm not going to sit here and watch you die so, if you want the chance to die in peace, you'd better get your ass up off the ground and get us home, because I'm not going to leave you alone!"
At that, Daniel managed a faint smile and opened his eyes to see Jack leaning over him. "Okay, okay, I'm up, though I might need some help if you want upright..."
He held out his hand and Jack levered him up off the ground onto his feet. This prompted a coughing fit from Daniel and Jack supported him until it passed. There was blood on Daniel's hands when he took them away from his face and he regarded it with annoyance. "Well, that's a wonderful development," he commented with heavy sarcasm.
"God, Daniel, what did they do to you?" Jack wanted to know.
Daniel grimaced. "Made me translate some Goa'uld text," he replied, then elaborated when he saw Jack's puzzled expression. "They thought I'd need persuading -- obviously don't know me like you do." He managed another small smile, but it quickly turned into a wince as another stab of pain shot through his body.
Jack was about to ask more questions but the look on Daniel's face forestalled him. "We can talk about that later," he said. He motioned Teal'c over with a jerk of his head and offloaded Daniel's weight onto the stolid Jaffa. Then he led the way, still limping from his knee injury, to the stone slab that covered the DHD and presented it to Daniel with a sweep of his arm. "Herein lies the problem," Jack announced, "since our friend from earlier pressed some button on the ground and the DHD disappeared under here."
Sam had joined them and she knelt down with Daniel next to the slab. "Is there anything we can do to help?" she asked concernedly.
Daniel gave her a grateful smile but shook his head. "Just let me get on with it." He surveyed the writing on the stone. "Shouldn't take too long..."
About half an hour later, just as Jack was about to go over and find out how Daniel was doing, the other three heard the sound of stone rasping against stone and looked up to see the DHD rise out of the ground. They all rushed over as Daniel leaned on the device to heave himself to his feet. He looked round at Jack. "Can I go back to dying now?" he asked, and promptly passed out.
Jack caught him before he fell, but he was sent off balance and wrenched his knee again. Teal'c relieved him of Daniel before they both ended up on the ground and Jack turned to Sam. "Dial it up, Carter," he ordered. "Let's go home."
General Hammond was in his office when the offworld activation siren pierced the silence, but it only took him a few seconds to walk briskly through to the control room. The iris was closed over the gate when the wormhole engaged so the usual explosion of gate energy was not visible. He looked expectantly at the Sergeant seated at the computer controls.
"It's SG-1, sir," the soldier replied to his unspoken question before tapping the controls to open the iris at the general's command. SG-1 weren't officially due back for another nine hours or so, but there were many routine reasons for a team to return home early, so General Hammond was not unduly concerned. This changed immediately, however, when the four members of SG-1 appeared through the event horizon.
Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter came through first, Jack limping heavily with one arm thrown across Carter's shoulders for support. Teal'c was moments behind them, carrying a clearly unconscious Dr Jackson. The sergeant at the computer immediately called for a medical team to report to the gate room, leaving General Hammond free to make his way down the spiral staircase and intercept SG-1 as they moved down the ramp in front of the gate.
"What happened, Colonel?" he demanded as soon as they were face to face.
"We encountered hostile forces and Daniel was captured, sir," Jack summarised. "They gave him back eventually but he's in pretty bad shape."
At that moment, Dr Frasier appeared with her medical team and a trolley. Teal'c, who had remained standing stoically on the ramp all the while, relinquished Daniel to their care. With the permission of the general, the other three followed as Daniel was taken down to the infirmary. Once there, Sam left Jack with a nurse to get his knee looked at, then crossed over to where Janet was examining Daniel.
"What can you tell me?" Janet asked immediately.
"He was taken through the gate by the enemy about fifteen hours ago," Sam reported. "When they sent him back about an hour ago, he had that collar on. He was delirious and running a fever, but we needed him to get the Stargate working so we had to give him some drugs to stabilise him temporarily. He lost consciousness just before we came back through to Earth a few minutes ago."
"What did you give him?" Janet wanted to know.
Sam gave details of the drugs she had administered and the two women exchanged a glance, Sam fully aware of the possible consequences of what she had done, and Janet understanding that there had been no choice. Then the doctor got back to work.
Some time later, General Hammond made his way down to the infirmary to find out what was going on. None of the members of SG-1 had come back up to the main part of the base and he found them all still down there, anxiously waiting for Dr Frasier's assessment of Daniel. The nurse who had examined Jack's knee was trying to persuade him that he needed to stay off it for a few days and he was arguing vociferously that it would be impossible for him to sit around doing nothing for that long. When the general walked in, it was evident that the nurse had reached the end of her endurance as she sighed in exasperation and walked away. Hammond sympathised with her, since he knew very well the effect an argument with Colonel O'Neill had on the ability for rational thought. When the nurse returned to her patient, she had a pair of crutches in her hand.
"Will you at least promise me that you'll use these until the swelling goes down, sir?" she asked.
At that moment, Dr Frasier began to make her way across the room to the group, her expression serious, so Jack took the crutches without complaint and waved the nurse away distractedly. Four expectant faces silently interrogated the doctor as she approached.
"I've got him stabilised for now," she told them, "but whatever that thing is, it's very nasty. It seems to be releasing some kind of chemical that's attacking every major system in his body. If we don't remove it quickly, he'll suffer multiple organ failure within a few hours."
"So what's the problem?" Jack wanted to know in his usual straightforward manner. "Just take it off him."
"That is the problem, Colonel," Janet explained with the utmost patience. "I don't know how. There's no obvious join in the metal and it's sealed very tightly with needles inserted into his neck on either side. I can't cut it free without risking serious injury to Daniel, and there's no way of knowing how it might react to interference."
"We can't just let him die!" Sam protested
"Of course not, Sam!" Janet said sharply. "I can try to remove it. I'm just letting you know that the chances of Daniel surviving the procedure may not be too good and, even if he does, there's no telling how much of the damage that's already been done might be permanent."
At that moment, a weak cry of "Jack!" filtered over to them from the direction of Daniel's bed and they all rushed over to him. Even on crutches, Jack made it to Daniel's side first and looked down into confused, pain-filled blue eyes.
"I'm here, buddy," he said softly. "How're you doing?"
"Shit, it hurts, Jack," Daniel muttered.
"I know, Daniel," Jack replied, his anxiety and frustration growing by the second from seeing his friend in pain. "I don't suppose you know how to get this damn collar off, do you?" It was a stupid question, and he knew it -- if Daniel knew, he would have removed it back on the planet -- but Jack was clutching at straws.
"No, but I know a man who does." Daniel groped at empty air. "Pen... paper..."
Janet immediately ran to her office and returned seconds later with a pad and pen, which she laid in Daniel's lap before gently raising the head of his bed so that he was more upright. With shaking hands, Daniel slowly wrote down a rather haphazard gate address. As soon as he realised what it was, Jack said, "This is where they took you? What kind of opposition can we expect?"
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut as another wave of pain wracked his weakened body. Through clenched teeth, he replied, "Talk to them... Greek... misunderstanding... potential allies..." Then he passed out again.
General Hammond forestalled any reaction from the rest of SG- 1. "Briefing room," he announced abruptly. "I want a full report on the situation before we decide how to proceed."
Once Janet had ensured that Daniel was as comfortable as was possible in the circumstances, and left her nurses with detailed instructions regarding his continued care, she joined the other three members of SG-1 and General Hammond in the briefing room. The general's first question was directed to her.
"What kind of timescale are we looking at here, Doctor?" he wanted to know.
Janet sighed. One of the things she really hated about dealing with the medical problems that resulted from gate travel was that she often had far too little information about how they occurred. Add to that the involvement of alien technology and it made her job incredibly difficult. She sometimes felt as if she had slipped back several hundred years to a time when medicine was mostly reactive guesswork, and much of her modern knowledge was completely useless. However, she had never been one to shy away from admitting when she didn't know something, and was usually able to use what she did know to hazard an informed guess in answer to the general's questions.
"As long as the collar stays on and continues to do whatever it's doing, Daniel is only going to get worse. There's nothing I can do about that." Janet caught and held Colonel O'Neill's gaze as she spoke, trying to convey the sense of helplessness and frustration she knew he shared. His answering expression told her he understood what she was going through. "I can slow the deterioration and keep him stable for several more hours at least but, the longer it goes on, the more likely there is to be permanent damage."
General Hammond nodded in acknowledgement of her report and turned to Colonel O'Neill. "What can you tell me about the enemy, Colonel?" was his next question.
"Well, sir," Jack began, marshalling his thoughts into a semblance of order as he thought back to their confrontation on the planet. "They carried zats and staff weapons, but they weren't Goa'uld. The soldiers didn't have symbols on their foreheads and the leader spoke in a normal voice."
"I didn't sense the presence of any symbiotes, sir," Sam interjected, supporting her CO's words. "And Daniel said they wanted him to translate a text that was in Goa'uld, so they obviously don't speak it. Daniel recognised their language when we first encountered them and, judging from the writing we saw, I'd guess it was derived from ancient Greek."
"So, we're most likely dealing with human slaves who have somehow won their freedom and taken the Goa'uld technology as their own," Hammond surmised.
"That would be my assessment, sir," Jack agreed. "Daniel said something about a misunderstanding and seemed to think they might potentially be allies."
Teal'c spoke up for the first time. "I believe it was my presence that caused these people to attack us. Given their assumption that Daniel Jackson would be able to translate the Goa'uld language, it would seem they mistook us for their enemy."
"So you think they might be open to diplomatic relations, like Dr Jackson suggested?" Hammond sounded sceptical and Jack's response confirmed his fears.
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far, sir. Daniel has a tendency to try and make friends with people who kidnap him, and he usually does pretty well," Jack said. "But, given the state he was in when they sent him back, I don't think he made much headway with these guys. If we're going to send a team to the co-ordinates Daniel's given us, I'd say a strong military presence is a must. But I think Teal'c should stay here -- no offence, buddy, but we don't want to get their backs up as soon as we step through the gate." Teal'c inclined his head to show he understood O'Neill's reasoning.
"You're out of action, too, Colonel," Hammond pointed out, ignoring Jack's scowl, "so Major Carter will lead the team." He turned to Sam, who was sitting bolt upright in her chair, as close to attention as she could get without actually standing up. "We'll send a probe through and, if the situation is viable, I'll assign SG5 to your command."
"Yes sir," she acknowledged, then added, "We'll also need someone who speaks ancient Greek..."
Dr Robert Rothman stood nervously in the gate control room, distinctly uncomfortable in full military gear and surrounded by the top brass of the SGC. He watched as a MALP probe was readied on the ramp leading up to the Stargate below them, and cleared his throat noisily.
"I'm not good with people like Daniel is, sir," Rothman muttered anxiously to General Hammond, but it was Colonel O'Neill who answered him.
"For crying out loud, Rothman, all you have to do is translate what everybody says! How hard can it be?" The Colonel's harsh tone bit through the tension-filled air, causing the general to throw a sharp glance in his direction before turning to the cowed archaeologist.
"You'll do fine, Doctor," he reassured Rothman with an encouraging smile.
In the gate room below them, Sergeant Siler signalled that the probe was ready and, at the general's nod, Sam dialled up the address Daniel had given them. They all watched intently as the bulky probe trundled up the ramp and disappeared into the shimmering surface of the open wormhole. Sam counted down the seconds until its arrival, then everyone's attention was switched to the monitor displaying the MALP transmission.
An opulent room came into focus on the screen, with columns supporting the ceiling and tapestries adorning the walls. Two guards reacted to the arrival of the probe by aiming their Goa'uld staff weapons at it and edging slowly forwards. A few seconds later, another figure entered the room, this one a man in robes.
Jack jabbed a finger at the screen. "That's the guy who was leading the group who took Daniel," he informed Hammond.
"Alright, Dr Rothman." The general indicated the microphone on the desk in front of them. "Tell them we are the Tau'ri of Earth and request an audience."
Rothman nodded hesitantly and leaned forwards to speak into the microphone. All the men on the monitor screen jumped as the sound of his voice was transmitted through the wormhole via the probe. The leader took another step closer and drew himself up confidently, calling out something in return. Rothman turned to the general and reported, "He says his name is Andros and he wants to know our intentions."
"Tell him we wish to establish diplomatic relations and would like to visit his planet for peaceful discussions to our mutual benefit," Hammond instructed and Rothman relayed the message. A brief exchange of Greek ensued, resulting in cautious permission from Andros for them to proceed. The communication channel was closed, and Sam got up from the gate controls, coming to attention before General Hammond.
"Good luck, Major," Hammond told her, formally returning her salute. "I don't need to tell you that you're aiming for a peaceful solution to this mess."
"Yes, sir," she said. "We'll do our best, sir." With that, she nodded to Jack and preceded Rothman down the stairs to join the marines assembled at the foot of the ramp. "SG-5, let's move out!" she ordered and led her team through the gate.
When they arrived on the other side of the wormhole, there were several more soldiers in the room waiting for them. Andros took one look at Sam and shouted something that caused all of his men to bring up their weapons. The SG-5 marines responded accordingly, instantly creating a tense stand-off. Sam slowly lowered her gun and ordered her men to do the same, raising her hands in the universal gesture of peace. "Tell him we mean them no harm," she instructed Rothman. "Explain about Teal'c and the misunderstanding. Tell them we just want to know how to help Daniel."
Rothman threw her a fearful look, then visibly composed himself and stepped forward to talk with Andros. Sam listened as they exchanged incomprehensible words, wishing as she had more than once in the last few years that she'd been more interested in languages when she was at school. This situation was worse than usual, because Daniel's life hung in the balance, and it wasn't Daniel who was negotiating with the hostile natives. She knew Rothman would do his best -- he was Daniel's friend too, after all -- but diplomacy was far from his strong point and he was fairly radiating his nervousness. Sam couldn't understand what the two men were saying, but it was clear from the body language that Andros was less than receptive to Rothman's words.
Eventually, Rothman turned to Sam, his expression verging on despair. "They don't believe me, Major," he said. "They think we're Goa'uld and that we're trying to trick them."
"What can we do to persuade them?" Sam asked, wracking her brain for a solution but coming up empty. She couldn't think of anything that would convince a frightened and paranoid people that their intentions were peaceful.
"I don't know." Rothman echoed her own thoughts, then seemed to stop and think for a moment. "Wait -- I think I've got an idea..." He faced Andros again and fired off a rapid stream of Greek before Sam could ask him what he was doing. Whatever it was, it seemed to have some kind of effect, as Andros suddenly looked interested and asked a question in a slightly less suspicious tone. Rothman's voice trembled as he replied, but Andros appeared satisfied, issuing an order that sent one of his soldiers scurrying from the room.
"What's going on?" Sam demanded, desperate to find out what had been said. She felt totally out of control of the situation and did not like it one bit.
Rothman's face was pale but determined as he looked back over his shoulder at her. "I've volunteered to do their version of a lie detector test," he told her, explaining, "Andros says he'll accept what I say if I'll agree to be questioned wearing a collar like the one they used on Daniel."
"What?" Sam didn't like the sound of that. "I can't let you do that!"
Rothman turned to look at her properly. "Once they know I'm telling the truth, they'll take the collar off me and tell us how to do the same for Daniel." His face was set. "There's no other way to save him, Major."
As Sam took in his words, Rothman shot up in her estimation. He was clearly scared of what was about to happen to him, but he was prepared to do it anyway, in order to help Daniel. She knew she would do the same herself, and was only sorry she couldn't volunteer to take his place.
The soldier returned, carrying a collar, which he handed ceremoniously to Andros. The leader of the Greeks held it out before him and stepped forwards to where Rothman was waiting.
Jack sat at Daniel's bedside, watching as his friend faded before his eyes. Daniel hadn't woken up again since giving them the gate address. His breathing was getting more and more laboured and lines of pain were etched deeply into his face even in unconsciousness. Jack looked at his watch impatiently. Carter had been gone almost half an hour, and Jack found himself once more in the hated position of helplessness, not knowing what was going on.
He sensed a presence behind him and twisted to see Teal'c entering the infirmary. Jack took in the expression on the Jaffa's face and realised there was one thing he could do. "It wasn't your fault, you know," he said softly, and knew he'd hit the mark when Teal'c flinched slightly at the words.
"If I had not been there, Andros and his men would not have assumed the rest of you were Goa'uld, and they would not have taken Daniel Jackson," Teal'c pointed out.
"So I'm guessing you're thinking about quitting the SGC just because some stupid natives got the wrong idea." Jack forced his anger and frustration down before allowing himself to continue. "Teal'c, you've had to put up with a lot of prejudice since you switched sides, and I admire you tremendously for the way you handle it. There are always going to be people who react badly to you because you're a Jaffa, but it's not your fault. And you do a hell of a lot more good than harm as a member of SG-1. You know there's no way Daniel will blame you for what happened, so don't beat yourself up about it. Carter'll be back any minute and everything will be fine, you'll see."
As if in response to his words, the offworld activation siren sounded suddenly. Jack reached clumsily for his crutches, but Teal'c's hand on his shoulder stopped him from rising.
"Stay here with Daniel Jackson, O'Neill," Teal'c instructed. "I will find out what has transpired." Jack nodded and watched anxiously as Teal'c jogged from the room.
It wasn't long before Teal'c reappeared, bringing with him Carter, General Hammond, a rather shaky Rothman and, surprisingly, the leader of the Greeks. Andros walked up to the bed and looked down at the pale form of Daniel. Jack made as if to protest, but Sam smiled in reassurance.
"It's okay, Colonel," she told him. "We've cleared up the misunderstanding and he's come back with us to take the collar off Daniel."
In confirmation of her words, Andros produced a small device and pointed it at Daniel's neck before pressing a button on it. They heard the needles snick back into the metal and then the collar fell away. Daniel took a deep, pain-free breath and his face immediately relaxed.
Andros carefully removed the collar and concealed it within his robes along with the remote control. Then he turned to face the others and spoke. Rothman listened carefully for a moment and then translated, "He says he's very sorry our friend has suffered at his hands and hopes we will be able to forgive him and his people for their misguided actions."
Jack huffed indignantly, but was quelled by a look from General Hammond, who instructed Rothman to translate for him before turning to look directly at Andros. "We have a common enemy and would still like our two peoples to be allies."
Andros nodded vigorously when Rothman had finished conveying the general's meaning, and replied with a rapid stream of Greek that their interpreter seemed to have trouble following. While Rothman struggled to translate, a new voice entered into the conversation. It was Daniel, his words hoarse but confident as he spoke in Greek. Jack was up out of his chair and leaning over Daniel in seconds, Sam and Teal'c right behind him. Andros wisely stepped out of their way, retreating to Rothman's side.
"Hey, Daniel," Jack greeted his friend as their eyes met. "Feeling better?"
"Much, thanks," Daniel replied, wearily. "He wanted to know what he could do to repay us for hurting me, so I told him to share the information in the Goa'uld text I translated. It has a whole list of planets, with gate addresses and stuff about who has control of them..."
"Relax, Daniel," Jack admonished him gently. "I think we can take it from here."
Daniel glanced over to where Andros was deep in enthusiastic conversation with Rothman, and smiled. "I guess I can leave the details up to you guys," he murmured, and drifted back to sleep.
The other three looked down at him tenderly. Daniel was back with them again and setting up alliances with new people with his first conscious breath. Jack, Sam and Teal'c exchanged a relieved glance, safe in the knowledge that their archaeologist was well on the way to recovery.
|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama|
|Summary:||A case of mistaken identity leads to suffering for Daniel.|
Author's Chapter Notes: