Jack reached the DHD first. Glancing back to check on the rest of his team, he saw that they were still some way away. Carter was limping manfully -- boy, would she be mad if she heard him say that! -- along, one arm thrown across Daniel's shoulders, the young archaeologist struggling to support her as they ran for the Stargate. Teal'c was bringing up the rear, practically running backwards as he fired his staff weapon behind them in an attempt to deter their pursuers.
Turning back to the DHD, Jack looked down at the alien symbols laid out on the podium. Damn, what was the sequence for Earth again? Jack had never actually dialled home before -- that was usually Daniel's job, but he had offered to help Carter, leaving Jack free to engage the enemy. So, it had made sense, as they approached the gate, for Jack to sprint ahead and set up the wormhole, but now he was wondering if that had been such a good idea. A sequence of chevrons that seemed familiar had popped into his head and he'd entered four confidently, but now -- was it this squiggly one or that squiggly one? They all looked pretty much the same to him -- God, why did he never pay attention when Daniel was explaining this stuff?
A blast of enemy fire struck the ground behind him and he turned to see Daniel and Carter sprawled face down ten feet away. Urgency spurred him into action -- anywhere had to be better than here right now -- and he completed the dialling sequence before running to help his fallen team-mates. He heard a wormhole whooshing into existence and prayed it was the right one. Grabbing a stunned Carter, Jack yelled at Daniel to go through, then lifted the female member of the team to her feet and half carried her to the event horizon, Teal'c hot on their heels.
The force of the wormhole deposited them on the other side... which turned out to be a forest. Daniel's gaze found Jack's, the raised eyebrows asking the obvious question.
"Okay, so I may have dialled the wrong address," Jack admitted testily. "At least we're not getting shot at any more." He gestured at the DHD. "Feel free to show me how it's done."
Daniel shook his head in disbelief and took a step towards the DHD. Before he reached it, however, there came a distant rumbling sound and an unnatural wind rustled through the trees. Then, their eyes were instinctively drawn upwards as a bright, white light illuminated them from above and suddenly the forest vanished from around them and they were standing in a vast, shadowy room. A horribly familiar vast, shadowy room. The beams of light that shone down from the impossibly high ceiling formed a circle of brightness around SG-1, while the rest of their surroundings were lost in darkness.
Before any of them could say or do anything, the detached tones of the female Taldor representative echoed in the air around them. "You have added escaping from prison to your previous crimes of trespassing on ancient ground, carrying weapons on ancient ground and aiding a murderer." The voice paused and Jack looked over at Daniel to suggest he try to reason with their captors, Daniel was transfixed where he stood, his face pale and his eyes haunted by fear.
The relentless sentencing continued, this time in the male voice. "For your crimes, you will be sent through the Stargate to the prison Hadante for the remainder of your lives."
The lights that shone down on Jack, Sam and Teal'c shut off abruptly, leaving Daniel the only one illuminated. The female voice intoned. "You will be questioned regarding the release of the Destroyer of Worlds before being transported to Hadante." The spotlight on Daniel shifted from blue to red. He called out, "Jack!", panic clear in his voice and then he vanished.
Daniel's mind was reeling -- of all the planets they could have gated to by mistake, this had to be one of the worst. It was only through the scientific knowledge of Linea that they had escaped Hadante the last time and, since they had taken her with them, she would not be there to help them again. Thinking about Linea filled Daniel with terrible feelings of guilt; she was the woman referred to as Destroyer of Worlds and not only had they released her from prison but they had also given her knowledge of the Stargate system, enabling her to travel to any planet she wished. There was no telling what kind of suffering she might inflict on an unsuspecting universe, and it was all their fault.
Unlike the last time they had been sentenced by the Taldor, this time Daniel knew they were guilty of at least one of the crimes with which they had been charged, and it was the worst. But, thinking back, Daniel knew he would have done almost anything to escape that awful place and wasn't sure he would have argued too hard even if they'd known Linea's true nature. The only thing that had kept him sane on Hadante had been Jack's constant reassurance that everything would be okay and, at the moment, he didn't even have that. He had been singled out for questioning by the Taldor and would have to face whatever form that took alone.
All this ran through Daniel's mind as he listened to what the Taldor said in the sentencing room and he was so preoccupied with his fearful thoughts that he didn't even notice when Jack looked over at him to prompt a response to the situation. The light above him switched to an angry red and he was transported away from his friends into a much smaller room. It had the same shaft of harsh, blue light projecting down from the ceiling but the room was small enough that the whole of it was lit. The walls were about ten feet apart and perhaps twenty feet high, made from a smooth, seamless grey substance, with no obvious openings.
Looking up, it was impossible to see the aperture from which the light emanated because it was too bright. Daniel felt like a specimen under a microscope and the analytical part of his brain marvelled at the skill with which the Taldor intimidated their prisoners.
Even though he was expecting it, the echoing voice still made him jump when it began. As before, the female spoke first. "You are guilty of orchestrating the release of the Destroyer of Worlds and that crime warrants the punishment of life imprisonment on Hadante."
"Tell me something I don't know," Daniel muttered, his sense of helplessness translating into a bitter sarcasm he had picked up from Jack.
"However," the male voice temporised, "the recapture of the Destroyer of Worlds is of greater importance to us than the detention of offworlders."
"Therefore," the female voice took over again, "revealing the whereabouts of the Destroyer of Worlds to us will grant you and your companions release on the condition that you leave through the Stargate and never return to the island states of the Taldor."
Not for the first time, Daniel wished his captors would show themselves so that he could negotiate with them in person. Their faceless, implacable pronouncements made it extremely difficult for him to formulate reasonable responses, particularly considering that he did not have the information they were demanding.
"I would tell you if I could," he told them honestly, "but I don't know where she is."
"She left Hadante in your company," the male voice prompted.
"Yes," Daniel admitted, "but she deceived us. We didn't know her crime and we trusted her because she aided us, but she stole information from our computer and left through our Stargate. She shut down our whole system so we couldn't follow her and she deleted all record of the co-ordinates she used. She could be anywhere."
"Then you will be punished in her place," the female voice informed him. "You will remain here until morning. Since you cannot provide us with the information we require, you will then be transported to Hadante to join your companions."
The voices fell silent and, a few seconds later, the light above him shut off, plunging Daniel into total darkness. Feeling his way to the wall, he sat down in the corner of the room, cursing his inability to rectify the situation. As on Shyla's planet, Daniel had been kept back and given the opportunity to save his imprisoned friends. However, where on that occasion he had possessed the power to secure their release but had failed to use it, this time he was completely unable to furnish their captors with what they wanted, even though he would gladly help them if he could. And so he would fail his friends yet again.
Then he remembered something that caused his breath to catch in his throat. As before, all the equipment he had been carrying had been somehow removed upon initial transportation to the sentencing room. However, the experience of Hadante had prompted Daniel to try and make sure that capture on another planet would not necessarily lead to total helplessness. Hoping that the darkness and silence in his cell meant that the Taldor were no longer observing him, he leaned over and carefully felt down the sides of his boots. Amazingly, it seemed that whatever was used to confiscate their weapons and supplies separated out only items carried on the outside of their clothing. Carefully strapped out of sight beneath his trousers, Daniel's fingers encountered the familiar shapes of a knife and a GDO. In the lonely darkness, he tried to hold on to the knowledge that their passage home was safeguarded but his mind kept backsliding to dwell on darker thoughts and he found himself sinking into despair.
The entry was rough, like before; Jack, Sam and Teal'c tumbled out of the wormhole and rolled down the steps to land in an undignified heap of bodies on the russet earth. Immediately, a sickeningly familiar whistling filled the air around them, heralding the welcoming committee. Jack's first thought was of the danger to Carter -- he thought back to what had happened on their arrival before, and realised that this time Linea would not be there to declare her protected. She was also injured and so less able to defend herself from attack. Well, she was certainly not going to be "taken by any man" while Jack had something to say about it, and he knew Teal'c would feel the same way.
Jack levered himself to his feet then stooped to help Carter up. She leaned on him gratefully, taking the weight off her injured leg, but she gave him a reassuring smile in response to his unspoken enquiry.
"Stay close, kids," Jack instructed them, receiving a nod of acknowledgement from Teal'c and a light squeeze on the arm from Carter.
As before, a collection of dirty, unkempt men stepped slowly from the shadows to inspect the new arrivals. They formed a loose semi-circle facing the Stargate and stopped several paces from where the three members of SG-1 stood. One man detached himself from the line and strode forwards with a swagger. He was well over six feet tall and his build was similar to Teal'c's, making him an imposing figure. His long black hair hung down in matted strands around his face and his expression was one of calculated interest, as if he was appraising potential new stock at a cattle market. Jack didn't recognise him as one of the prisoners they had encountered before, but he thought it was a safe bet that this guy was the current self- proclaimed leader on Hadante.
Ignoring Jack and Teal'c completely, the man looked Carter up and down in undisguised appreciation. "A lovely new addition indeed," he commented, then chuckled deep in his throat as the two male newcomers stepped protectively in front of their female companion. "And the two of you may prove an interesting challenge to my leadership here. I look forward to the distraction from the boredom of this place."
There was a sudden scuffle from behind him and a scrawny man was thrust inside the circle, sprawling at the leader's feet. This prisoner Jack did recognise; it was the little weasly guy who had offered Carter a necklace from a rather pungent corpse he had been dragging around and had later provided a bowl so that they could partake of the unpleasant slop which passed for food on Hadante.
The leader and spokesman of the prisoners sneered down at him with obvious contempt and sighed. "What is it, Garse?"
The smaller man gestured at the new arrivals. "I know these, Rath. They have been here before."
Rath aimed a vicious kick at the man on the ground and spat on him. "What idiotic drivel are you spouting, you miserable little worm?" he growled. "They can't have been here before!"
"But they have!" Garse protested, coughing and clutching his stomach. "They were here before and then they left. They escaped with Linea. I saw them go through the ring from this side!"
Rath had pulled his foot back for another strike but he stopped mid- motion at the other man's words, instead reaching down to grab his collar and drag him to his feet. He held Garse roughly, so that their faces were nearly level. "Is this true?" Garse nodded rapidly and Rath dropped him again before turning back to where Jack, Sam and Teal'c still stood, watching the exchange warily.
"So," he mused, "you might have better uses than merely alleviating the tedium. If you've escaped Hadante once, you can do it again -- tell me how it is done."
As usual, Jack's mouth reacted to the demand without consulting his brain. "You think I'm going to show a gorilla like you how to get out of the zoo?" he taunted. "Not likely!"
Expecting a physical response, Jack was surprised when Rath merely smiled. The prison leader looked at Carter with an expression that made Jack's blood run cold, then spoke again, his tone light and pleasant. "Oh, I think you'll find it in your best interests to co- operate, my friend. That is, if you want your lovely companion to stay lovely, of course."
Reason finally managed to assert itself in Jack's mind and he replied smoothly in a similar tone. "And I think you'll find it in your best interests to leave her the hell alone, since she's the one who knows how to operate the Stargate."
"Very well," Rath assented. "It seems our needs coincide." He glanced over his shoulder and beckoned to two of the other prisoners. "Kenin, Jabrin, watch them." The two men nodded and stepped forwards to flank the three newcomers. "I expect results, and quickly," Rath informed Jack, then turned and disappeared back down one of tunnels, taking all of the other prisoners with him.
Sam looked at her commanding officer apprehensively. "What are we going to do, sir?" she asked him. "It's bad enough that we've released Linea from this place. We can't let all the other prisoners out as well."
"We'll figure that out later, Captain," Jack told her. "First things first, let's have a look at your leg." He led her over to a convenient rock and sat her down, while Teal'c stayed where he was, glaring at their newly acquired shadows. Exposing the wound, Jack made a quick assessment. "It doesn't look too deep. As long as we wash it out and bandage it securely, you should be fine. I seem to remember there was a pool of water in Linea's quarters. Let's head over there and we can take inventory of that plant and the chemical stuff that switches it on while we're at it." He glanced up to get a response to his plan, but Carter was staring past him at the Stargate, a look of horror on her face. "Carter, what is it?" he asked in concern.
"Sir, the gate..." she replied weakly.
Twisting round, it took Jack a few seconds to realise what she meant but, when he did, he discovered that they were in even more trouble than he had thought. The inner ring of the Stargate was totally blank -- somehow all the symbols had been removed.
Alone in the darkness, Daniel's anger and frustration eventually turned towards Jack for the stupid mistake that had delivered them back into the hands of the Taldor. How was it possible that the commander of the SGC's flagship unit did not know Earth's Stargate address? Daniel thought back to his incensed outburst in the mines on Shyla's world, when he had accused Jack of not respecting him. The words may have been prompted by the effects of the sarcophagus but the sentiment behind them must have been there in the first place. Daniel knew that he and Jack had come a long way in their friendship from the uncomfortable meeting of a suicidal hard-ass soldier and a geeky scientist with allergies, but the events of earlier that day served to re-emphasise the differences between them. If there was one subject in Daniel's expertise that he might have expected Jack to actually be interested in, it was the symbols on the Stargate, since they represented star constellations and Jack was a self-proclaimed astronomer. Clearly, though, he refused to listen to anything Daniel said simply because it was Daniel saying it. And now, Jack's constant dismissal of Daniel's attempts to share his knowledge had landed them all in trouble.
No matter what had befallen them in the past, Daniel had always been sure that Jack would keep them safe and get them home. Now the sense of security that came with being under Jack's command had been shattered and Daniel came to realise how important it had been to him. Without it, he was left feeling fearful, helpless and desperately alone.
When Daniel finally fell asleep curled up on the floor of the uncomfortable cell, his rest was far from peaceful. Carrying over from his waking thoughts, his subconscious filled his mind with disturbing images from the past. He stood by helplessly as the prisoners on Hadante were disintegrated by the surging forces of an incoming wormhole, leaving behind only smoking feet. He felt himself fighting for breath as a large assailant lifted him off the ground from behind and choked him mercilessly. He relived, moment by moment, the worst experience of his time on Hadante, one which even the other members of SG-1 did not know about, and which was the greatest source of his dread at the prospect of being sent back there.
It had occurred fairly soon after their arrival, when they had split up, Sam and Jack heading off to talk to Linea, leaving Daniel and Teal'c to explore the prison and investigate possible means of escape. Daniel had been absorbed in examining the architecture of the obviously ancient structure which housed the prison and so did not notice when Teal'c disappeared around a corner in the tunnel ahead. The first he had known of his sudden lack of protection had been when he felt a hand close over his mouth and the weight of a man press him up against the wall. The other prisoner was shorter than Daniel and overweight, but his greater bulk made it impossible for Daniel to free himself. The rank smell of the man had been overpowering, but the unpleasant leer on his face was infinitely worse. He reached up to run his grubby fingers through Daniel's long hair and then down over his cheek, grinning in blatant anticipation.
"What a pretty, new guest they've sent us," the man whispered breathily, pressing his body harder up against Daniel. "You're going to make life here much more pleasurable..."
..."We do so enjoy the method of procuring the code in your species. It is much more pleasurable than most."...
Hathor's silky voice echoed in Daniel's mind and bile rose up in his throat as the inmate's hand slowly worked its way down his body towards his waist. Seconds later, Daniel had been released and the prisoner was pressed up against the wall instead, Teal'c's arm across his throat. Desperate just for the man to be gone from his vicinity, Daniel had told Teal'c to let him go, and the arrival of Sam and Jack at that moment had distracted the concerned Jaffa, saving Daniel from having to explain what had happened. He had covered his discomfort with a pointless report of his conclusions about the alien gate terminal, and Jack's escape plan had taken over the focus of their attention from then on.
Now, trapped in the prison of his dreaming subconscious, with a terrible sense of isolation suffusing his thoughts, Daniel's memory of the incident mutated. Teal'c never returned to save him and the assault continued uninterrupted, Daniel's revulsion at the awful stench of the prisoner's breath alternating with the different memory of his helplessness under the intoxicating power of Hathor's in an endless cycle of fear, shame and torment.
In the chamber that had been Linea's living quarters and makeshift laboratory, Jack, Sam and Teal'c found everything left just as they remembered it. It had only been a few weeks since their previous `visit' but Jack was surprised none of the other prisoners had cleared the space and taken it over as their own. He said as much to his two companions but Teal'c had a plausible explanation.
"Judging from the fear with which the other prisoners regarded Linea, perhaps they were unwilling to venture here even after her departure," the Jaffa suggested. In support of his theory, he gestured at the two men Rath had assigned as their watchdogs. They had followed SG-1 to the chamber as per their instructions but had stopped at the entranceway and now stood guard just outside.
"Well, whatever the reason, it certainly helps us," Jack concluded, "because all the stuff is still here and it gives us a place to talk without an audience."
Sitting by the pool, her leg newly bandaged with a strip of cloth torn from Teal'c's T-shirt, Sam was less able to see the bright side of the situation. "The tayor root and Linea's activators won't do us any good without the symbols on the gate," she pointed out.
Jack crossed to sit down next to her. "Yeah, what's up with that, anyway?" he asked, hoping to distract her from despair and perhaps kickstart some theoretical thinking that might lead somewhere useful.
He won a small smile for his effort and Sam launched into an assessment of what had happened and what it meant. "I'm guessing the Taldor heard about our escape and decided they had to prevent anyone repeating what we did. They couldn't strip Hadante of all the roots, since that would leave the prison without a power source and therefore no light. Equally, they couldn't disable the gate or they wouldn't be able to send anyone else here. So, they must have erased the symbols from the inner ring somehow so that anyone with enough knowledge to activate the gate would be unable to enter the co- ordinates to get anywhere." At Jack's deliberately obtuse expression, Sam elaborated. "If we don't know where the symbols are, we won't know where to stop the gate during the manual dialling process, sir."
"Ah! Yes, I can see where that would be a problem," Jack agreed. "I wish Daniel were here. He might be able to come up with something -- he knows those symbols better than anyone."
Her explanation complete, darker thoughts once again surfaced in Sam's mind. "I hope he's alright," she said, her eyes on the floor.
They were all worried about Daniel. The last few weeks had been particularly rough on him, what with having to watch his parents die over and over in the Gamekeeper's virtual world, then getting addicted to a Goa'uld sarcophagus and suffering through withdrawal from it. This was their first mission since the return trip to Shyla's planet and Jack was feeling more than a little guilty that his screw-up with the DHD had deposited them back on Hadante when they should have been safely home by now. He remembered how unpleasant the whole prison experience had seemed to be for Daniel the last time and hoped with all his heart that Taldor questioning techniques weren't too strenuous.
He looked up to see Carter regarding him with some concern, evidently disconcerted by his uncharacteristic silence. Attempting to make light of things, Jack gave her an optimistic smile. "Oh, you know Daniel," he quipped. "He's probably persuaded the Taldor to make him emperor of all the island states by now. I know all we've seen of the place so far is trees and moss, but I bet there are a few nicer spots that would be good for a timeshare complex."
Sam didn't have to decide whether or not to laugh at the feeble joke because it was at that moment that Garse appeared in the doorway to the cavern. He stood looking in nervously and shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
"Rath wants to see you," he announced tremulously.
Jack got to his feet decisively, ignoring the messenger and turning to his team. "Okay kids, got your stalling hats on?" Teal'c raised a confused eyebrow at that one, but said nothing, just waiting for the other two to precede him out of the door so that Captain Carter was placed between him and O'Neill as they made their way down the tunnel after Garse.
Rath's lackey led them through several intersections to a particularly large cavern where the prison leader awaited them, his dishevelled followers surrounding him like a parody of a medieval court.
"So tell us," he demanded, "when will we be leaving our current accommodations for finer pastures?"
Jack stepped forwards. "Well, you see, we've hit a slight snag in our escape plan," he began. "Not an insurmountable one," he added quickly as he saw Rath's face twist into an impatient scowl. "We're just going to need a little more time."
"Explain," Rath growled, menace clear in his tone.
"The Taldor have thrown a spanner in the works," Jack continued, his words prompting an angry murmur from the assembled prisoners. "It's not going to be as simple as it was before and we're going to need the help of the fourth member of our team."
"And where is he, exactly?" Rath didn't seem to be buying Jack's explanation.
"He should be arriving sometime soon," Jack maintained.
Before Rath could say anything more, one of the other prisoners stepped away from the wall of the cavern to join the conversation. "There was a fourth when they were here before," he confirmed. "If he is on his way back, I'd like to be the one to welcome him when he gets here." The man threw a sneer in Teal'c's direction. "We've got unfinished business, him and me."
Rath responded with a malicious grin. "Knowing you, Orris, I don't think I want to imagine what that might be. Just so long as he's still able to do whatever needs to be done when you've finished with him, be my guest." He turned back to Jack. "So we'll wait for your friend," he decided. "But if he's not here soon, we may have to revise our agreement. In the meantime you three can sleep in there tonight." He gestured down one of the tunnels to a smaller chamber. "Where I can keep an eye on you."
With little choice but to obey, Jack, Sam and Teal'c made their way through to their sleeping quarters.
"What was all that about Daniel and that guy?" Jack wanted to know.
"I am not sure, O'Neill," Teal'c answered. "I prevented the one called Orris from harming Daniel Jackson last time we were here, but I do not know why he wished to do so."
"Well, we'll just have to hope Danny-boy's got a repeat performance of his last fight here up his sleeve," Jack replied, grimly. "Because we're not going to be able to do much to help him from way back here."
Daniel came abruptly awake as he was cast out of a Stargate wormhole to land roughly on the ground at the bottom of the steps. Trying to gather his wits, he pushed himself to his knees and looked around dazedly to see the dingy underground entry room of the prison Hadante. An eerie whistling pierced the air and his heart sank. Suddenly, there was a figure in front of him and he looked up to gaze straight into the face of the man from his nightmare. The leering visage loomed over him, splitting into a wide grin.
"Ah, so my pretty, young friend has returned as promised," the prisoner remarked, licking his lips. "And look how he kneels before me, ready to perform his duties." There was rough laughter from all around and Daniel could see other prisoners emerging from the shadows, but there was no sign of the rest of SG-1. Disoriented from the rude awakening and still partly trapped in his dream, Daniel reached into his boot and closed his fingers around the hilt of the knife he had hidden there. As the man in front of him took a step forwards, Daniel drew the knife and, in one fluid movement, rose to his feet and drove the weapon into his tormentor's stomach. He saw the man's eyes go wide with shock and felt cloth and flesh give way before the force of the sharp steel in his grasp. Warm blood gushed over Daniel's hand and, in that moment, his humanity and usually boundless compassion withdrew deep inside his mind as rage and primal instinct pushed forwards to take control. Placing one foot behind his victim's ankle, he shoved the man roughly to the ground and pinned him there with one hand while the other plunged the knife into his chest and abdomen again and again.
Jack was alerted to Daniel's arrival when the distant sound of the Stargate filtered down to the cavern in which he and the others had slept, albeit badly. Leaving Teal'c with Carter, he jogged through the shadowy tunnels until he reached the chamber which held the Stargate, and what he saw stopped him in his tracks.
Daniel was kneeling in the centre of the cavern, looking down at the mutilated corpse of one of the prisoners. He was brandishing a bloody knife and his arms and torso were covered in gore. The circle of prisoners around him were backing away in horror, apparently just as stunned as Jack at the scene before them. Several of them looked round at Jack's approach and then, as one, they all melted back into the darkness of the tunnels from whence they had come.
"Daniel!" Jack's cry came out in a strangled gasp as his astonished mind tried to comprehend what his friend had evidently just done. At the sound, Daniel's head came up and he rose to his feet, meeting Jack's horrified gaze without a trace of recognition. Daniel's face was fixed in a rictus of fury, his eyes wild and his teeth bared. "Daniel?" Jack tried again to get through. "My God, what did they do to you?"
Something in Daniel's expression changed and suddenly he was actually looking at Jack, anger clear in his eyes. "They?" When he spoke, his voice was so calm that it sent chills down Jack's spine. "They did nothing to me. It was you -- you did this. This is all your fault." With that, Daniel spared a final glance at the body lying at his feet, then turned away from Jack and ran from the chamber, throwing the knife to the floor as he went.
Completely stunned, Jack just stood staring at the barely recognisable remains of a human being that lay before him. He really didn't want to know what Orris had done that could have provoked gentle, compassionate Daniel to butcher him so violently but he guessed it hadn't been an isolated trigger. He was distracted from his speculation by the sound of someone approaching from behind him.
"O'Neill?" Teal'c's deep voice was tinged with concern. "Was it not Daniel Jackson who was sent through the gate?"
Jack turned slowly to see the Jaffa warrior and Captain Carter entering the chamber. "Oh yeah," he replied. "It was Daniel alright." He gestured at the bloody corpse. "Just not a Daniel I've ever seen before."
Carter's eyes widened in shock. "Daniel did that?" The incredulity in her voice matched Jack's own feelings. Nodding grimly, Jack crossed to pick up the knife from where Daniel had discarded it. Cleaning it rapidly on the clothes of the corpse he then turned back and handed it to Carter.
"I'd better go after him," he told them. "Can you two deal with Rath and his buddies for a while?" They both nodded then watched him disappear into the darkness after Daniel.
Daniel stumbled blindly down the dimly lit tunnel, his mind recoiling from what he knew he had just done but could not believe. Reaching a dead end, his body reacted to what his brain refused to acknowledge; he fell to his knees and was violently sick. When his stomach had emptied itself, he collapsed back against the tunnel wall and stared down at his blood covered hands, forcing himself to accept what they told him was real.
He had killed people before and knew he was no longer the na´ve scientist Catherine Langford had approached that wet day over two years ago. The events on Abydos had changed his life forever, setting him on a path that had led him to commit many acts that he would never have conceived of before he went through the Stargate for the first time. Always before, though, the violence had been a necessary evil, forced upon him in order to safeguard the lives and freedom of innocents. What he had done just moments ago was entirely different, prompted by a level of fear and anger of which he had previously considered himself incapable.
Footsteps heralded the inevitable arrival of Jack, but Daniel did not acknowledge his presence until the older man knelt down beside him and laid a tentative hand on his shoulder. The physical touch, combined with its offer of comfort and solidarity, sparked off another surge of rage, this time directed at Jack as the immediate cause of the situation Daniel found himself in. His fist came round almost of its own volition and connected with Jack's jaw with a resounding thud. Jack was completely unprepared for the blow, which sent him sprawling on the ground and, before he had a chance to recover, Daniel was on top of him, following up his initial attack with a volley of punches to his face and body. Jack didn't fight back; he just lay there and took the punishment until Daniel finally stopped and sagged back against the wall.
Jack slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position and wiped the blood from his mouth. "Feel better now?" he asked, ruefully.
"No," came the sullen reply.
Taking a deep breath, Jack continued. "What do you want me to say, Daniel? That I'm sorry? Well, here it is. I'm sorry I screwed up and we ended up here again because of it. I'm sorry you've had such a rough time these last couple of months. I'm sorry my coming back into your life led to your wife being taken as a host. I'm sorry for all the awful things that have happened to you because of me. Sorrier than you could ever imagine. You don't deserve any of it, Daniel. And you deserve what I'm going to say next even less. But the truth is, I don't have time for you to fall apart on me. I need you rational and I need it right now or we'll likely never get out of this hellhole. So you'd better snap out of whatever funk you're in and get useful again fast." He paused, hating himself for what he was doing to his friend, but knowing he had no choice. "Can you do that?"
The silence stretched for a full minute while Jack waited for a response. Then, slowly, Daniel raised his head and turned to meet Jack's gaze. His eyes were dull and lifeless but his voice was calm and almost normal-sounding again. "What do you need me to do?"
Jack let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding, then dragged himself to his feet and offered Daniel a hand. The younger man ignored it, instead rising under his own power before removing his blood-stained jacket and dropping it unceremoniously to the floor. Then he stood waiting for Jack to precede him back out into the main part of the prison. Jack turned without a word and led the way to the gate. Daniel was clearly a very long way from being alright, but he was functional again and that would have to do for now. They would all deal with the backlash together when they got home.
The scene that greeted them as they came back into the gate chamber told its own tale. Carter and Teal'c stood side by side with their backs to the tunnel from which Jack and Daniel were emerging. Facing them were a frustrated looking Rath and several of his minions. The two men, Kenin and Jabrin, who had been assigned as SG-1's keepers, were standing off to one side, one sporting a quickly darkening bruise around his left eye while the other clutched his forearm, which was dripping blood.
Jack stepped into the middle of the stand-off, leaving Daniel sheltered behind his other two team-mates. "Everyone's getting along well, I see," he remarked, quickly checking that Carter and Teal'c appeared to be unhurt. "What seems to be the trouble?"
Rath responded reasonably, "I'm afraid a few of my men are getting a little impatient about our supposedly imminent departure." His tone darkened to allow a hint of menace through. "I don't suppose you could tell us when you'll be ready to leave?"
Glancing over his shoulder, Jack saw Carter direct Daniel's attention to the Stargate. The younger man's eyes widened briefly in surprise when he saw the lack of chevrons but then he turned to Jack with a look of determination on his face and gave him a slight nod.
Jack addressed Rath with exaggerated politeness. "We just need to collect a few things from Linea's old room and we'll be with you momentarily." Rath nodded his acquiescence and the prisoners parted to let SG-1 through. Mercifully, Orris' body had been removed but Jack saw Daniel flinch as his eyes flicked to the patch of discoloured earth that betrayed where it had been.
Back in Linea's chamber, Jack told Carter to collect up what they'd need, then turned to Daniel. "So, what's the plan?" he asked, struck by the role reversal whereby he was looking to Daniel to get them out of a mess of he had created.
The presentation of an intellectual problem had done a great deal towards restoring Daniel's composure. "As long as nobody has tried to move the gate since we last dialled it from this end, we can get home with no problem," he said, receiving raised eyebrows from all of the other three.
"How do you figure that?" Jack asked, amazed at his friend's confidence.
Daniel explained. "The gate should be positioned with the point of origin at the top, since that was the last chevron we engaged when we dialled. So, as long as that's still the case, I can work out where the symbols for Earth are and tell you guys when to stop spinning the ring."
"But we can't just dial Earth," Sam pointed out. "What about the iris?"
In reply, Daniel put his left foot up on the rim of the pool, rolled up his trouser leg and calmly produced a GDO from inside his boot. The other three just stared at him in astonishment, winning a slight smile from the triumphant archaeologist. Jack could have hugged him but decided this probably wasn't the right moment for that.
"One problem remains, however," Teal'c intoned. "What are we to do about the other prisoners?"
Jack grimaced. "Personally, I'm tempted to make sure we all go through first and then just close the iris and let them all go splat."
"No." The single word was softly-spoken but with a tremendous force of emotion behind it. They all looked back to Daniel, who added quietly, "There's been enough killing."
Jack bit back the sarcastic comment that inevitably sprang into his mouth, instead simply replying," Okay. Any other ideas?"
Sam broke the tense atmosphere between the two men. "Since we're gating straight to Earth, couldn't we just take them into custody and then send them back through to the P3X-775 for the Taldor to deal with?" She directed the question at Jack but, instead of answering, her commanding officer looked at Daniel, who nodded wearily.
"Good plan, Carter," Jack praised her, immensely grateful for her quick thinking, although he wasn't sure what General Hammond was going to say when they turned up at the SGC with a whole bunch of criminals in tow. "Got everything we need?"
"Yes, sir," Sam acknowledged, handing two bundles of tayor root to Teal'c and picking up a nondescript bottle from one of the shelves to carry herself.
"Right then," Jack announced. "Let's get back to the Great Escape."
General Hammond stood at the bottom of the ramp, looking up at the shimmering puddle of an open wormhole. Lieutenant Simmons, who was at the gate controls, had announced SG-1's transmission code and, sure enough, Captain Carter and Dr Jackson emerged through the gate seconds later. However, their appearance was far from reassuring; Captain Carter was limping on a bandaged leg and Dr Jackson sported what looked like bloodstains on his hands and clothing. Before Hammond could say anything, though, Captain Carter shouted at the marines surrounding the ramp, "Prepare to detain approximately thirty hostiles!" Dr Jackson, meanwhile, seemed completely unmoved by her obvious agitation, instead simply sinking down to sit on the edge of the ramp with a glazed expression.
The marines stationed in the gate room automatically readied their weapons, just in time to cover the dishevelled men who came pouring out of the event horizon. They were rounded up efficiently as they came through to form a confused and sullen group underneath the control room window. The end of the stream was marked by the eventual arrival of Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill, who gestured for Lieutenant Simmons to close down the wormhole.
The man who had come through just before Colonel O'Neill took in the scene rapidly, his face contorting with anger. Heedless of the guns aimed in his direction, he emitted a growl of rage and launched himself at the leader of SG-1. However, before he could reach O'Neill, Teal'c stepped forwards and grabbed him, effectively pinning his arms behind his back so that he could not break free. The man spat at O'Neill, who just grinned back at him in triumph.
"Dial up P3X-775, Lieutenant," Captain Carter ordered the young man at the gate controls. Bewildered, he obeyed and, before long, another wormhole formed in the gate.
"Give my regards to the Taldor," O'Neill said to the man who had tried to attack him, as Teal'c marched him up the ramp and propelled him bodily through the opening. The Colonel and the Jaffa then stepped out of the way to allow the marines to herd the rest of the prisoners back through the gate.
When the last of them had disappeared and the wormhole had shut down, a stunned General Hammond spluttered, "Colonel? What the hell just happened?"
Still smiling, O'Neill replied, "It's a long story, sir." Then he glanced at Dr Jackson and his face darkened with a wealth of different emotions. "A very long story."
Epilogue -- by Raven
The water was red. Daniel had tried to keep his eyes closed, but he couldn't stop himself from looking. He watched in horrified fascination as the clear water in the basin rapidly turned a deep, dark red -- the colour of death. He could smell it on his hands and in his hair and on his fatigues and if he tried he could even taste in his mouth. He remembered how it had felt as the blood had pulsed over his hands, forcibly expelled from a living body by his action, and he couldn't suppress a shudder.
"Not a nice feeling, is it?" The voice was soft and faintly enquiring. Daniel turned sharply, and saw Jack, sitting there, watching him.
"What?" he responded, the irritation in his voice masking something that ran much deeper.
"That feeling. The feeling that comes when someone's dead, and it's your fault." Jack's voice was quiet and controlled. The words conjured up a half-forgotten memory in Daniel's mind. Something to do with guilt and blood and washing your hands in the sea, and watching it turn red... Lady Macbeth, he decided, and a little voice in his head asked him, what happened to her in the end?
Jack was still talking. "You want to talk about it?"
Daniel looked first at his friend, then his hands, and then the bloody water in the basin, and felt like he was about to cry.
When he received no response, Jack answered his own question. "Okay, then." He stood up and took hold of Daniel's shoulders, gently steering him towards the bench in the middle of the room. Daniel didn't look at him.
This is not good, Jack thought to himself. Out loud, he said: "Why'd you do it, Daniel? What'd he do to you?"
Daniel stared at the floor. He was sure that if he looked up to meet Jack's kind, honest eyes, he would scream or cry or simply lose his increasingly fragile grip on reality...
"Daniel!" Jack's voice took on a semblance of urgency, as he realised he had no idea what had really happened. "What did that guy do to you?"
Daniel knew that whatever happened, Jack would get it out of him. And he dreaded watching his best friend's face take on a look of disgust and horror, as he knew it would. Why does it always have to be me? Daniel thought bitterly. Why me?
"Daniel," Jack said coldly. "Answer me. What did that guy do to you?"
Daniel couldn't take it any more. Standing up, his blue eyes flashed, and Jack drew back, startled and scared by the unveiled, raw, emotion in them. "He tried to rape me, Jack! He tried to rape me!"
And then he was sitting down again and crying properly, his long hair falling in his eyes, and Jack was there, holding him and keeping him from being swept away by the tide of shame and guilt, and the blood and the pain seemed to fade away until there was nothing left but saltwater tears and a friend who only wanted to help...
After a few minutes, silence returned. Gently, Jack pushed Daniel away from him, forcing the younger man to look at him. "It's over," he said, clearly and seriously. "It's over and he's dead and you killed him."
Daniel didn't say anything.
"But," Jack went on, "you saved my life today, Daniel. You saved my life and Carter's and Teal'c's when you figured out where the symbols were on the gate."
"I killed..." Daniel wasn't going to let it go that easily.
"The guy you killed was a monster." Jack was emphatic about it.
"But..." said Daniel, with the smallest hint of humour, which Jack was relieved to hear.
"But," the colonel said, "if there were more people like you in the world, there would be less murderers."
He stood up then, and stretched. "Hammond's having kittens," he remarked casually. "Wants to know why we can't go anywhere without an entourage of dangerous criminals following us."
"It might be something to do with a certain colonel and his decidedly dodgy DHD dexterity..."
"Over-use of alliteration, Danny-boy!"
"Don't call me that."
"Whatever you say... Space Monkey."
"Jack!" Daniel exclaimed, mock warning darkening his tone. He stood up and accompanied Jack out. Neither of them had noticed the last of the water draining out of the basin. It was clean.
|Genres:||Angst, Drama, Missing Scene/Episode-Related|
|Summary:||Jack's mistake has bad consequences for Daniel. Epilogue by Raven.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Some violence and reference to rape.