He crouched behind a tree, trying to slow his pounding heart by force of will alone, certain that the enemy could not fail to hear its resounding thud. Glancing from side to side, his piercing gaze picked out two heads, one light, the other dark, partially concealed in the foliage surrounding them. Two, there were only two - his heart lurched again as the memory rose unbidden to the forefront of his mind, momentarily blocking out the present with its painful intensity. A burst of fire, a horrible scream, blood slicking the ground, the light fading from a friend's eyes.
Angrily, he shook the images from his mind and forced his sluggish brain to focus. The unthinkable had happened - they had lost a member of their team, but there were still three of them left and it was down to him to get them home. The weight of the naquadah in his backpack hardened his resolve. They were moments away from achieving their mission objective, and he was determined that the rest of them would make it back unharmed so that the one they had lost would not have died in vain.
The means of their escape rose up beyond the treeline in all its majesty. It was mere feet away, beckoning with the promise of home, but mere feet could prove fatal without cover. He did not know how close their pursuers were, but they would surely know the team's destination. The remaining three would have to move fast.
Raising his left hand, he executed a rapid series of gestures to alert the other two that it was time to make a break for it. Then, as one, they burst through the trees and made for the ring at a dead run. He and the darker of his two companions took up positions on either side, weapons at the ready, while the fair one started to punch in the symbols that would send them home. Before the sequence was complete, however, the lights around the ring lit up, signalling that somebody had activated the device from the other side.
As the forces of energy surged out from the ring, the other two automatically looked to him for instructions, but all he could do was stare back at them in frustration. The enemy couldn't be far behind and they were dangerously exposed, but their only escape route had just been cut off and there was no way of knowing whether those who were about to appear through the ring were friend or foe.
Jack led the way up the ramp to the event horizon of the open wormhole. He had serious misgivings about the mission upon which they were about to embark but, since they were based on personal opinion rather than hard evidence, there was little he could do.
Jack's problem was that the mission had been set up based on information from the Tok'ra and he still had trouble fully trusting them. It wasn't that he thought they were insincere in their enmity toward the Goa'uld or their desire to be allies with Earth, it was just that their means to an end were often hard to accept and the whole blending thing still made Jack cringe. He knew from conversations with Jacob that Tok'ra hosts shared control equally with their symbiotes, but even the benefits of perfect health and long life would never persuade Jack O'Neill that it was a good idea.
Undercover Tok'ra operatives in the ranks of more than one System Lord had heard rumours about a minor Goa'uld, who was conducting secret experiments on a largely uninhabited planet in an out-of-the- way corner of the galaxy. Details were sketchy - as they always seemed to be where the Tok'ra were involved - but there were apparently varying levels of interest among the System Lords with regard to these experiments. The Goa'uld in question, named Ephraz, was far from powerful but had thus far been left alone while the bigger players waited to see how valuable his work might prove to be.
Thus, the Tok'ra had suggested a recon mission to gather further information and make a threat assessment, and General Hammond had volunteered SG-1 for the job. It was meant to be a simple spying mission - they would go in, take a look around, try to find out what was really going on, and then report back so that a decision regarding further action could be made. According to Tok'ra intelligence, there would not be many Jaffa in residence, since Ephraz was not in a position to recruit large numbers, relying instead on anonymity and isolation to cloak him from attack.
As far as Jack was concerned, it all seemed too easy. However, the general had given him and his team orders to act on the Tok'ra intelligence, and Jack was prepared to do the best he could to follow them. With the other three members of his team right behind him, Jack stepped into the wormhole and let the pull of the vortex take him.
The other side greeted them with a familiar landscape of rough moorland and the inevitable trees. What was unexpected was the group of people standing by the DHD. Two men and a woman, who certainly didn't look like Jaffa, and appeared to have been in the process of dialling. Weapons were brought to bear on both sides, creating a confused stand-off. However, before introductions could be made, there was movement from the treeline and a spherical object came sailing through the air towards the Stargate. Jack had just enough time to recognise it as a Goa'uld sonic grenade of the sort Bra'tac had shown them, before it emitted a blinding flash of light and everything went black.
Five hours earlier on another world..
Commander Mikar Ravell strode confidently down the corridor towards the room at the far end. There was a distinct spring in his step and he had to fight to keep an inane grin from spreading across his handsome features. This was the day he had been waiting for; this was the day when his five years of intense training would be put into practice. He felt like a small child whose parents had succumbed to many months of begging and finally agreed to take him to see the monster exhibit at the capital.
As he passed an intersection in the maze of corridors that made up Sub-Level 2 of the Galian Exploration Complex, Mikar nearly collided with a woman coming out of the other passageway. Recognising his team-mate, Katra Penthar, he could no longer hold back his excitement and beamed at her.
"Bright day, Kat!" he exclaimed heartily. "Can you believe we're actually going at last?"
"Bright indeed, Mikar," she replied with a smile of her own, although hers was more amused at his enthusiasm than excited at their imminent departure. "I can certainly believe it, since we received the official confirmation two days ago and all our equipment has been transferred from the Storage Level to the Preparation Deck."
Mikar ignored the jibe, unwilling to let even Kat's teasing ruin his mood. "Have you seen Jayven or Krand?" he asked.
"I think they're already in there," she replied, gesturing at the door before them. "And that's Team Leader Krand to you."
"In that case, you can call me sir, Officer Penthar," Mikar teased back with mock authority in his tone. "Come on, we'd best not keep them waiting."
"Yes, sir!" Katra bowed elaborately. "After you, sir!"
Struggling to assume an expression of appropriate seriousness, Mikar opened the door and stepped through into the room beyond. As Katra had predicted, the other two members of the First Galian Exploration Unit were already standing before the ancient and mysterious ring that had been the centre of their lives for so long.
Team Leader Hiran Krand nodded to the two newcomers. "Ravell, Penthar, bright day." Krand was some years older than the other three, all of whom were in their mid-twenties. Well, Mikar didn't actually know how old Jayven was; the enigmatic alien had never divulged that information, but he had the appearance of relative youth, as did most of his race. Krand looked like the epitome of the military veteran - close-cropped greying hair, steely gaze, muscled frame and stern expression - until he caught Mikar's eye and his face split into a wide grin that matched that of the younger man.
"Well, team," he said genially, "we've been ready for this for some time and now we have our chance. Let's get it right." He turned to the group of people who stood to one side of the ring, next to the circular pedestal that controlled it. "We are ready to depart," he announced.
One of the group, a woman with long silver hair, who wore elaborate robes, stepped forwards and raised her hands in the traditional gesture of a ceremonial speaker. "As you all know, the Galaya Research and Investigation Consortium have been searching for a valid set of symbols for some years and have finally been successful in activating the Portal. The information we have gathered regarding the world we have discovered is as follows. The planet is rich in naquadah, which suits our needs perfectly. There is a settlement there and you can expect hostile contact since it is controlled by a Goa'uld, but the enemy forces are few and their presence does mean that there is a working mine so there should be naquadah deposits readily available for acquisition."
The woman paused and looked at each team member in turn. "The best wishes of your two peoples go with you on your mission. Good luck, and may the spirits guide you to success."
Inclining her head to one of the men standing at the pedestal, the woman gestured expansively with one hand and the man began punching symbols on the circular display. Mikar watched in eager anticipation as the lights around the ring lit up one by one, until it was suddenly time and he followed the rest of his team through the shimmering blue light and onto another planet.
Mikar woke to darkness. Instinctively, he knew that this was due to visual impairment rather than a lack of light in his surroundings and he fought back rising panic. He was lying on a smooth surface with nothing in immediate reach. Something moved off to his left and he whispered an enquiry. "Kat? Jayven? Are you there?"
"We're both here," a familiar female voice replied. "Mikar, I can't see."
"Don't worry, it'll wear off in a few minutes," an unknown voice told them, casually. "Trust me, we've been through this before." Then the stranger voiced an enquiry of his own. "You okay, kids?"
Three other voices responded.
"Yes, sir." Female, confident, respectful.
"I am, O'Neill." Male, deep, reassuring.
"As okay as can be expected in the circumstances, I guess, Jack." Another male, but light and younger, with a hint of irreverence.
Mikar's mind made the connection with the earlier image of the three men and one woman who had emerged through the Portal just before they had all been knocked unconscious. He noted the affectionate mode of address used by the original speaker and the way the other three had each responded with a different moniker. The first was obviously a formal acknowledgement to a superior, the second sounded like a reply to a respected equal, while the tone and wording of the third spoke of the easy familiarity of friendship. An interesting range of relationships, to be sure.
There was a brief moment of silence, then the original speaker of the strangers announced, "I suppose we should wait on the introductions until we can actually see who we're talking to. In the meantime, anybody got any thoughts on where we might be?"
"We are probably in some kind of holding cell while our captors await our recovery so that we may be questioned." That came from the deeper male voice, which Mikar associated with the remembered image of a large, dark-skinned man. He sounded as stolid and imposing as he had looked and Mikar was glad when his vision began to return so that he could take stock of their predicament and evaluate their new companions.
As each of the prisoners regained precious sight, they automatically delineated into their original groups, shifting towards those they knew in search of security in an uncertain situation. The two groups regarded each other warily, nobody quite sure what to do next.
On SG-1's side of the room, Daniel had been analysing the state of affairs with interest and now took the opportunity to play his usual role. "How about those introductions?" he said lightly, then proceeded to identify each member of SG-1 in turn, ending with the explanation, "We're explorers from a planet called Earth."
That certainly got the attention of one of the other group. He had been leaning against the far wall of the cell with his eyes closed but, at Daniel's words, they snapped open and he leaned forwards with interest. His appearance was startling; he looked to be quite young, but his hair, which grew long over his ears, was silver. Not the peppered grey of age but a bright, vibrant silver which Daniel now saw matched his eyes - eyes that had no iris or pupil but shone brightly with an inner light.
"You are of the Tau'ri?" he asked, his voice low and lilting.
"Yes," Daniel replied simply. "You've heard of us?"
The strange young man nodded and his other male companion prompted him. "Jayven?" The new speaker was also young, but with perfectly normal colouring of short brown hair and brown eyes.
"Earth is the first world," Jayven elaborated, "from which all humans originated. I have heard that the Tau'ri are formidable warriors at war with the Goa'uld."
"We try our best," Jack interjected, with exaggerated modesty.
"Then how come one of them is a Jaffa?" Completely ignoring Jack, the female member of the group spoke up, her suspicious tone matching the tension in her whip-thin body. Already hard features were made more so by the severe way in which her raven hair was pulled back from her face into a tight braid and Daniel realised her eyes had been on Teal'c the whole time.
He quickly explained how Teal'c had renounced his service to Apophis in order to join them and, when he had finished, he met the intense silver gaze of the strange young man levelly.
Without breaking eye contact with Daniel, Jayven pronounced, "He speaks truth, Mikar," and his two companions relaxed visibly.
At this point, Jack interjected again. "Okay, so now you know all about us, how about returning the favour? Who are you guys and what were you doing running away from the resident snakehead's Jaffa?"
It was the one called Mikar who acted as spokesman for the other group. "My name is Commander Mikar Ravell," he began, "and these are Officer Katra Penthar and Jayven Melawei. Our world is called Galia, and we are the first Exploration Unit to venture through the Portal. We came to obtain naquadah from the mine here, but we were seen on our way out and forced to flee. Our leader." A brief expression of pain flashed across his face, quickly suppressed before he continued, his voice flat and unemotional. "Our leader was killed during the retreat but the rest of us would have made it had you not activated the ring and cut off our escape."
"Hey," Jack said, indicating their surroundings, "we're as upset about that as you are. Talk about bad timing."
"The fault is not theirs, Mikar," Jayven said quietly. The Galian commander looked across at his team-mate and something unspoken passed between them. After a few seconds, Mikar nodded, then turned back to Jack. "What was your intended purpose here?" he asked.
It was Sam who responded, speaking up for the first time. "We were hoping to find out what the Goa'uld here is doing," she informed them. "Do you know anything about his experiments?"
Before a reply could be given, Teal'c, who had been standing by the solid-looking door throughout, suddenly announced, "Someone approaches."
Jack immediately scrambled to the other side of the door, but their embryonic plan was thwarted when the metal sections slid apart to reveal two Jaffa with staff weapons directed diagonally into the room. From between them, a tall man stepped forward. He had Scandinavian colouring, a thick mane of blond hair and sharp blue eyes that took in all seven prisoners in turn. Then he rubbed his hands together, gave them a wide smile and spoke in the unnatural rumbling tones of a Goa'uld.
"Excellent! I don't know who you are or what you were doing sneaking about on my planet, but you have presented yourselves at just the right time to be test subjects in my research." He swept the room with his piercing gaze once more before bringing it to rest on Daniel. He pointed and ordered, "That one first."
A third Jaffa stepped into the cell and took hold of Daniel's arm, hauling him to his feet. As he was dragged to the door, throwing a helpless glance at Jack on the way past, Jayven stretched out unexpectedly and grasped Daniel's hand briefly. Then, the door slid inexorably shut and the remaining six were left alone once more.
Jack watched the door close with a feeling of intense frustration, his mind so focused on what might now be happening to Daniel that he hardly noticed Jayven quickly push himself away from the wall to sit cross-legged and straight-backed in the centre of the floor. It wasn't until the young man spoke that Jack's attention was brought back to his immediate surroundings.
"I will follow and protect," Jayven announced enigmatically, then rested his slender hands on his knees and closed his eyes.
"What does that mean?" Jack demanded, looking to the Galian commander for an explanation.
Mikar managed a brief smile. "Jayven isn't human," he started to explain.
Jack looked from Mikar to Jayven and back again with exaggerated incredulity. "You're kidding!" he exclaimed.
"No," Mikar replied in all seriousness. "You see, when our ancestors were brought to Galia by the Goa'uld to be slaves, it was soon discovered that there was an indigenous race already there. The Galaya are few and had hidden themselves from the Goa'uld but they formed an alliance with the transplanted humans, an alliance that eventually overthrew the Goa'uld and freed the planet from their rule. The Galaya allowed us to remain and we have lived and worked together in peace ever since. They don't tend to tell us much about themselves, but they have powerful mental abilities. Jayven has established a link to Daniel Jackson and will be able to tell us what happens to him. He may also be able to help him in various ways." He forestalled further questions. "I don't really understand how it all works, but I believe your friend will be safe under Jayven's protection."
Daniel was pushed and manhandled down poorly lit corridors, past several intersections until the group of three burly Jaffa, one imperious Goa'uld and one apprehensive prisoner reached a door similar to that of the cell from which they had just come. Daniel noted that they didn't pass any other Jaffa on the way and that the whole complex seemed very quiet. Through the door was a large room, the stacked shelves and cluttered worktops revealing it to be some kind of laboratory.
Along with the strange machinery and collections of unfamiliar gadgets was a large adjustable platform with restraints attached to it. Daniel was hardly surprised when the Jaffa dragged him over to it and strapped him down securely before bowing to their master and marching from the room. In a horizontal position, the platform would extend out from the back wall of the room so, at its current forty- five degree angle, Daniel had a good view of all that was going on. He wasn't sure if that was an advantage or not. Countless ideas of what sort of experiments might interest a Goa'uld ran through his mind and all of them were far from pleasant.
What if Ephraz was trying to create an enhanced host like Nirrti had attempted with the children of Cassandra's planet? Daniel's stomach clenched at the thought of becoming the next vessel to house the parasite that was Ephraz. He hoped that Jack would have the strength to kill him if that nightmare became a reality. At the thought of Jack, Daniel experienced another sharp stab of fear. Even if Ephraz wasn't planning to turn him into a host, it was likely he wouldn't survive long as a Goa'uld test subject. He would never see Jack again, never have the chance to tell him how he felt. That single thought was worse than any contemplation of what might be about to happen, and Daniel squeezed his eyes tightly shut against the despair that washed over him.
The sound of Ephraz approaching brought Daniel back to his immediate surroundings and he opened his eyes again to see the Goa'uld standing before him. "I was going to send my Jaffa to capture some slaves from another world for my tests," Ephraz commented conversationally, "but your presence renders that unnecessary."
Partly through a morbid desire to know what was about to be done to him and partly in an attempt to gain the information they had come for, in case he did somehow manage to escape his imprisonment, Daniel asked, "What is it that you're trying to achieve here?"
Ephraz smiled. "Oh, I have many research projects," he replied, "and you and your friends will assist me with several of them. But if I told you what result I was expecting, it might contaminate my results." He stepped up next to the diagonal platform and produced a small transparent container, which held some kind of thick blue liquid.
"First, the preparation stage," Ephraz announced.
Attaching a needle to one end of the container, he gripped Daniel's arm with one hand and injected the liquid into him with the other. It burned with an intense heat as it entered Daniel's bloodstream and he could feel its agonising progress up his arm as the frantic pumping of his heart pushed it further round his body. He opened his mouth to scream, but was forestalled by a calm, reassuring voice that suddenly sounded in his mind.
I am here. Do not be afraid. I will help you through this.
Dimly, Daniel recognised it as Jayven's voice and he gave in to the soothing words. He could still feel the pain as the injected liquid spread through his body, but he was somehow detached from it and able to ignore it.
You will not come to harm while I am with you.
Daniel found himself believing Jayven's words without questioning how he came to hear him or what power he had to help him. Something in his tone inspired absolute trust.
Ephraz had turned away again, absorbed in something else while he waited for the liquid to take effect. While the Goa'uld was distracted, Daniel found himself scanning the shelves of the laboratory, taking careful note of each object as his eyes rested upon it. He didn't know what he was looking for but, suddenly, recognition flared in his mind and he identified a selection of the tiny weapons used by those the Goa'uld made into za'tarcs.
Focus on the object and will it towards you.
The instruction took Daniel by surprise but he attempted to follow it and was amazed when one of the small objects lifted itself from the shelf and floated gently through the air into his open hand. Selecting a second weapon, he repeated the process so that, when Ephraz turned back to him, he had one za'tarc gun concealed in each fist. By this time, his entire body was afire from whatever it was that had been injected into him, but the pain remained somehow unimportant, as if it was being inflicted on someone else.
Daniel started to open his right hand in preparation for firing the weapon hidden there, but a sharp command from Jayven stopped him.
No! Do not shoot him. I am not strong enough to undo your bonds at this distance. Be patient - I have another idea.
Ephraz looked his prisoner over and smiled again; it struck Daniel briefly that he had never come across a Goa'uld who smiled so much. It certainly wasn't a pleasant smile, but he supposed it made a change from the usual frowns and glowers.
"Excellent!" Ephraz exclaimed. "I believe you are now ready for the next stage."
This was when Jayven made his plan known to Daniel.
I cannot prevent any injury his actions may incur. I believe, however, he needs you to be awake for whatever procedure he is planning. I can render you unconscious in the hope that he will then return you to the rest of us. It will hurt, but is surely preferable to the alternative.
Closing his hands tightly over the concealed weapons, Daniel tried to broadcast assent in his mind, unsure of how to communicate his opinion to the presence in his thoughts. Either his attempt worked or Jayven decided to implement his plan anyway; pain exploded briefly in Daniel's head and he slipped gratefully into unconsciousness.
Back in the cell, all eyes were on Jayven, two pairs watching him anxiously in concern for his own welfare and three pairs in concern for their absent team-mate. As the minutes went by with neither sound nor movement from the strange young man, Jack felt his frustration building. He knew there was nothing he could do to help Daniel himself, and he believed the Galians were willing to work together with them for mutual benefit, but all this talk of mental links and telepathy seemed rather farfetched. He had no idea what Jayven was actually doing and he hated being a helpless observer .
Jack couldn't bear the thought of Daniel alone at the mercy of their Goa'uld captor. He knew Daniel was far stronger than most people gave him credit for, but Jack had experienced torture more than once himself and hated the idea that Daniel might be suffering. He would never want any of his team to be injured, but Carter and Teal'c were born warriors, trained to expect violence in their daily lives. Daniel was a civilian and an idealist and, as such, Jack felt an extra dimension of protectiveness towards him. Jack had watched Daniel's innocence and enthusiasm for life being savagely ripped away piece by piece over the years he had known him, and this was likely one more experience to add to the archaeologist's already overflowing store of nightmares. Jack would do anything to spare Daniel that, and he found himself hoping fervently that the strange silver-haired alien really could somehow protect his friend from harm.
When Jayven did finally move, it took them all by surprise. It had been perhaps thirty minutes since Daniel had been taken away, when Jayven's features contorted suddenly in pain and he collapsed bonelessly to the floor.
The woman, Katra, cried, "Jay!" and scrambled over to his prone form, gently lifting his head onto her lap.
"So what does that mean?" Jack asked harshly, but Mikar just spread his hands in confusion.
"I really don't know," the young commander admitted. "We're all fairly new at this and we've certainly never been in this situation before."
Not long afterwards, footsteps approached from outside and the door to the cell slid open. A limp Daniel was thrown roughly inside by two Jaffa, who then turned back to face Ephraz. The Goa'uld was standing behind them, his face creased in puzzlement.
"Do you wish us to bring another, Lord?" one of the Jaffa asked, but Ephraz shook his head.
"I must re-examine my research first, to discover where I went wrong," he told them. With that, the Jaffa left the cell and the door was sealed shut once again.
Sam reached Daniel's side first and carefully rolled him over. Jack watched anxiously as she checked his pulse, letting out a relieved breath when she evidently found one. There were no obvious marks on Daniel, though his hands were clenched into tight fists. Jack was about to ask Sam's opinion of his condition when Daniel and Jayven both emitted a soft groan and slowly opened their eyes.
Daniel looked over at the silver-haired alien and gave him a weary smile. "I hope you never have to save my life again," he croaked, "but thanks."
Jayven smiled back. "You are entirely welcome, my friend."
"Daniel? You want to tell us what's going on?" Jack was impatient for an explanation.
Sitting up with Sam's help, Daniel announced, "Thanks to Jayven, we now have a decent chance of getting out of here." He opened his hands to reveal the two miniature weapons and the other five gaped at him in amazement.
"How the hell did you manage that?" Jack exclaimed.
Daniel glanced over at Jayven again and replied, "I honestly don't have a clue, and I'm not sure an explanation would help." He tossed one weapon to Jack and the other to Mikar, relinquishing responsibility for them to the two commanding officers. Then he manoeuvred himself to the side of the cell and leaned against the wall, closing his eyes.
"You okay?" Jack's voice radiated concern, despite the brevity of his enquiry.
Keeping his eyes shut, Daniel waved dismissively. "Oh sure," he replied lightly. "Being used as a guinea pig for Goa'uld experiments is a wonderful experience. Thanks to Jayven's intervention, he didn't really get started, though." It was clear to Jack, however, that Daniel was far from alright, despite his attempt at levity.
Jayven's voice floated softly across the small room. "My use of your mind as a conduit for telekinesis has probably not aided your wellbeing, I'm afraid."
At that, Daniel did open his eyes, looking over to where Jayven was propped up against the opposite wall in a similar state of discomfort. "I think the end far outweighs the means in this case," Daniel commented with a smile, "but it doesn't look like it did you much good, either."
"Are you two going to be able to keep up when we get out of here?" This time it was Mikar who expressed his concern.
The alien and the archaeologist both nodded.
"Just give us a few minutes while you guys come up with a plan," Daniel elaborated. "We'll be ready when the time comes."
Jack looked crosswise at Jayven, and asked, "Can't you use that teleki-whosis to open the door?"
The youthful alien smiled and said, "Telekinesis," as if correcting a small child. Then he shook his head, sending his silky hair flying about. "I can only move things I can see, either physically myself or mentally through someone with whom I am linked."
"So link with one of snakeboy's Jaffa out there and get us out that way," Jack suggested, unwilling to give up until he'd explored every avenue of escape.
"I'm afraid it's not that simple, my friend," Jayven replied, with regret. "I can only link with others through physical contact, as I did with Daniel. I have not had the pleasure of touching any of the guards," he concluded with a wry smile.
There was a brief silence while everyone assimilated what Jayven had said, and applied it to their current situation. Then Daniel suddenly sat up, his face alight with what Jack recognised as inspiration. Completely ignoring whatever residual discomfort he might have been feeling after his outing with Ephraz, he scooted closer to Jayven.
"You may not be able to see the outside of the door," Daniel began, his voice full of excitement, "but I have." The alien started to say something, presumably about to dismiss Daniel's idea before he'd even heard it, but the archaeologist held up a hand to forestall him. "I know I'm not outside the cell any more," he continued, "but I'm wondering if you could use my memory of the door to create a strong enough image to open it with your mind."
Jack had to hand it to the civilian member of his team - only Daniel would try and teach an alien he'd only known ten minutes how to use his own powers. Jack expected Jayven to come back with another explanation of what he couldn't do but, instead, the silver-haired youth merely looked thoughtful and said nothing. Daniel waited expectantly and his patience was rewarded as a slow smile gradually spread across Jayven's startling features.
"It's just possible that might work, Daniel," he announced, to Jack's surprise. "Come sit next to me and we'll try it."
Daniel shuffled eagerly over to where Jayven was sitting and placed himself, cross-legged, in front of the alien. "I wasn't really paying much attention to the door when they took me out of here," he admitted, "so I can't remember any details of the mechanism, I'm afraid."
Jayven placed a reassuring hand on Daniel's knee and said, "No matter. Just think back to the moment and I may be able to isolate the appropriate part of the image in your mind." Then he turned to address the rest of the group. "This is rather an experiment, and I can't guarantee success, but I suggest you ready yourselves in case we do manage to open the door."
Jack immediately slipped the tiny gun Daniel had given him over his fingers, holding up his hand to demonstrate its use to Mikar. The young commander followed his lead, repeating the action with his own weapon. Then they took up positions on either side of the door, motioning for the others to move out of the line of sight. Daniel and Jayven dutifully shifted up into the corner of the cell and resumed their positions facing each other.
Jayven reached out and laid one hand against the side of Daniel's face, looking deeply into his eyes. "Relax," he instructed, "and cast your mind back to when Ephraz selected you and the Jaffa took you from us."
Both men closed their eyes simultaneously, and silence reigned in the enclosed space as their companions watched them anxiously. Concentration was evident in the tightening of Daniel's face, but Jayven's voice remained clear and calm.
"That's good, Daniel. I can see the outside of the door. There is just a simple panel that needs to be pressed. I will make the attempt. Maintain your focus, Daniel."
There was a long moment of tension, and then the click of the mechanism sounded loudly in the silence and the door slid smoothly open. With military precision, Jack and Mikar swept both sides of the corridor outside and found it empty. Inside, Daniel was gazing at Jayven in open admiration.
"That was amazing!" he enthused. "Have you really never tried that before?"
Jayven grinned back. "Never. Your mind makes an excellent conduit, Daniel. It is very clear and your memories are extremely precise and vivid."
"Can we leave the mutual appreciation society till later, please?" Jack hissed from the doorway, an unexpected wave of irritation washing over him at the evident closeness between Daniel and his new friend. "In case you haven't noticed, there are more pressing issues at hand!"
Everyone got up and joined the two leaders at the door, SG-1 on the left hand side and the Galian Exploration Unit on the right. Jack and Mikar exchanged glances.
"We need to find our gear if we're to get home safely," Jack revealed to their new-found allies.
"And we would re-obtain the naquadah samples we came for," Mikar replied, "so that Hiran's sacrifice has not been for nothing."
"I'd like to get a look at Ephraz' lab, sir," Sam said. "We could still complete our mission, too."
Jack thought for a moment. "I suggest we split up," he said, looking at Mikar. "You take Teal'c and go find the gear and your samples, since you know the layout of the complex better than we do. Daniel can take us to the lab."
"We can remain in contact through my link with Daniel, and co- ordinate our movements," Jayven pointed out.
Mikar nodded in agreement to the plan, and Teal'c stepped across to join the other team.
"Okay, let's go," Jack said. "We'll meet back at the gate when we've all done what we came for."
With that, he led Sam and Daniel out of the cell, heading off to the left at Daniel's indication. They proceeded down the corridor, stopping at each corner and intersection to check for the presence of the enemy. Jack felt even more responsible for his team than usual, as the only one with a weapon, but it seemed that the Tok'ra intelligence had been accurate for once because they met no opposition.
Eventually, they reached another corner, and Daniel motioned that the lab was just around it. The three of them flattened themselves against the wall, and Jack quickly peered around to see two Jaffa standing guard at the door. It took only a matter of moments for him to disable them both with the tiny weapon he carried; one swift shot to the head of each Jaffa and the way was clear.
As they approached the bodies, Sam bent down to pick up a staff weapon from one of them, tossing a zat-gun to Daniel as she got back up. Jack collected the other zat, then instructed Sam to open the door to the lab, while he aimed the stun weapon inside. As the door slid open, Ephraz looked up from his work, but he had no chance to save himself before a zat blast from Jack rendered him unconscious.
Then Daniel spoke up. "The others have found all the gear," he announced suddenly. "They've taken out the rest of the Jaffa and are on their way out."
"Okay, hurry up and take what you need," Jack instructed, keeping both his guns trained on the prone form of the Goa'uld.
Daniel helped Sam select various samples of the things Ephraz was working on, throwing them into a bag they found on one of the worktops along with a couple of electronic notepads that were also lying about. Soon, they had quite a collection to take away with them and signalled to Jack that they were ready to go.
"Are we just going to leave him here?" Daniel asked, gesturing towards where Ephraz still lay on the ground.
"The Tok'ra didn't want us to kill him, Daniel," Sam reminded him. "They want to know what he's up to. Depending on what it is, they might want him to finish his research so that they can make use of it at a later date."
"Damn Tok'ra are almost as bad as the Goa'uld sometimes," Jack muttered, throwing Sam an apologetic smile, but he made no move against Ephraz. It rankled more than a little that they were leaving an enemy alive to perform unknown experiments on innocent victims, but Jack knew he would have difficulty in explaining how he came to kill an already unconscious Goa'uld accidentally. He hoped what they were stealing would set Ephraz back in his research, giving them time to analyse what he was doing and perhaps mount another operation to put him out of business permanently.
"Come on," Jack said to the other two. "We'd better get out of here before he wakes up."
The three Galians and Teal'c were waiting when they arrived at the Stargate. Once they'd sorted out all the gear, Jack gestured at the DHD and said to Mikar, "After you."
As Mikar began punching in symbols, Daniel exclaimed, "Wait! Shouldn't we at least figure out a way to contact one another so we can discuss an alliance between Earth and Galia?"
Jayven stepped up to him and took hold of both his hands. "You will always be welcome on our planet, Daniel. You have given me much to think about and to research with the other Galaya." Then he added enigmatically, "We have protections on our Portal, as I am sure you do on yours, but you will find you know how to reach us when the time is right."
He didn't step away immediately, and Daniel heard the now familiar voice sound once more in his mind.
I must just say something to you before we part, Daniel. You waste yourself yearning after one who is oblivious to your charms or your interest. I do not wish you to be unhappy - perhaps I can help to open his eyes.
Before Daniel could even acknowledge Jayven's assessment of feelings he barely admitted to himself that he had, the handsome young alien took his face in his hands and kissed him. Jayven's lips were warm and sweet, sending a pulse of desire rippling through Daniel's body, but it was Jack for whom he burned, not the new-found friend who wanted to help him.
After a long moment, they broke apart and Jayven backed up the steps to the Stargate, his gaze lingering on Daniel until he abruptly turned and followed the rest of his team through the wormhole.
Daniel stood, staring through the empty Stargate, astounded by Jayven's revelation and more than a little embarrassed by his subsequent action. Then he glanced nervously over at Jack, and couldn't help the grin that spread across his face at the sight of his friend's expression. Jack was staring at him, open-mouthed in astonishment at what had just happened, but Daniel could have sworn he saw outright jealousy in the dark eyes that bored into him.
Then Jack's face suddenly snapped back to its familiar smirk, and he teased, "What exactly was the link you had with this guy, Daniel? Is there something you aren't telling us?" His tone was light, but Daniel wasn't fooled. Beneath the nonchalant exterior, he knew Jack was reeling.
Pretending to ignore the suggestive jibe, Daniel turned to the DHD and dialled home. They had completed their mission, found a new race with whom to ally themselves, and Daniel felt for the first time that his desire for Jack might not go unrequited forever.
All in all, it had been a pretty good day.
|Series:||The Galian Alliance|
|Summary:||Bad timing brings about new friendships and a revelation for Jack.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Not a death fic, despite the opening scene.