The Janus Factor
Another untold tale from the diaries of Dr Daniel Jackson
All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Content warning: Minor bad language and one sexual situation, plus the usual Danny whumping.
Extract from Daniel's Diary
Every now and again, I get the chance to do what I'm trained to do. Explore the ruins of ancient civilisations. Track down rare artifacts and lose myself for hours translating half-forgotten languages. In these moments I can almost forget that I'm caught up in a fight for mankind's survival. That somewhere my wife is out there - a prisoner of the goa'uld. But those moments are rare. And too often they are cut short.
Take today. There I am, happily lying on my stomach trying to uncover a half-buried stone tablet in a temple ruin on P6R299. Then the gate fires up and O'Neill appears telling me that SG1 is being recalled to base to receive urgent orders. Seems our fame has reached across the galaxy. The inhabitants of a world SG3 has just visited want to make a treaty with Earth. But they'll only talk to the Tau'ri responsible for bringing down Apophis.
I try to supress a grin at the thought. If only my professor could hear that. I can still recall his words as he told me to pack my things, "Jackson, you'll amount to nothing if you continue with these wild theories. Do us all a favour. Take your ideas and lose yourself somewhere far away from my faculty." Well, Professor. Travelling far from your faculty seems to be a daily occurrence. As for my theories...
"Are you sure it's them?" Wingard asked as he peered down from his vantage point high on a hill. Below him he could see four travellers who had recently stepped through the great circle. They seemed unaware that they were being watched as they busied themselves with various pieces of equipment.
"A woman, two men and a Jaffa." Strabil counted the strangers off on his fingers. "Just as Lord Heu'ra described." He glanced at his second-in-command. "Just as we requested. Is everything in place?"
Wingard nodded. "Exactly as you ordered. But..."
"Enough Wingard. I know what I am doing. This way we will not have to answer to anyone. Goa'uld or Tau'ri." Strabil took one last look at the strangers and then turned away. "Give the signal. I'll await your return."
"So..." Daniel said stretching his aching muscles. "Where are these potential new allies of ours?" He pushed his glasses up his nose and peered into the distance.
Sam moved to his side, her eyes also scanning the surrounding countryside. Hills to the west, forest to the east. "According to SG3 there is a city about 15 miles from here. I guess a welcoming committee was a bit too much to expect. After all they didn't know for sure that we'd actually respond to their invitation. It was kinda weird that they actually asked for us."
"Daniel attended the briefing, Captain," Colonel O'Neill snapped. He didn't like this mission one bit. The fact that the inhabitants of this planet had agreed to a treaty only if the Tau'ri that brought about Apophis' downfall negotiated with them smelled very strongly of trap to him. Unfortunately although Hammond had agreed, the general had decided the Tippe offered enough potential as allies to take a risk.
O'Neill snapped another order. "Let's just get this stuff repacked and start moving." The journey through the gate had been a rough one. Several pieces of equipment had torn lose from the MALP and been spewed across the landscape, including most of the team's rations. Secretly Jack didn't think they were worth rescuing, but with a week-long stay on the cards, he couldn't risk the chance that the locals didn't prove hospitable, even if SG1 were here by invitation.
"Daniel?" Sam pointed at some packages lying towards the forest.
"Sure," he replied following her to retrieve them.
Teal'c followed O'Neill in the opposite direction, towards what looked like SG1's tents.
"One day we'll figure out what triggers the spin cycle," O'Neill muttered.
"Spin cycle?" Teal'c asked.
O'Neill grinned and turned towards the Jaffa to explain just as a loud explosion threw up dirt ten yards to his right. "What the hell?" Another crack. O'Neill threw himself to the ground, reaching for his gun as he did so. Glancing over his shoulder he saw that Daniel and Sam were also under fire. There was no way any of them could get back to the gate. He ducked his head as another volley of fire sounded between him, Teal'c and the gate.
"O'Neill, we must find cover." The big Jaffa jabbed at O'Neill and then pointed to some boulders within sprinting distance.
O'Neill nodded, and together the two men zigzagged across the open ground. As they fell behind the protective rocks, O'Neill caught a glimpse of Jackson and Carter running for all they were worth into the shelter of the trees.
"I thought we were invited, " Daniel panted as he ran behind Sam.
"So did I," Sam yelled over her shoulder. "Perhaps the Colonel was right about this being a trap."
"Great," Daniel called.
Under cover of the trees, Sam paused for breath. The shelling, or what ver it was, seemed to have stopped. She leant against a tree. "I think we're safe here for the time being."
Daniel pulled to a stop beside her. "Now what?"
"We wait until it goes really quiet and then scout back to the gate."
A sound to his left made Daniel spin round. A tall man, clearly a warrior by his rough leather armour, was clearly taking aim at him with some weapon Daniel didn't recognise. He grabbed Carter's arm and pushed her forward. "Run!"
Sam didn't need telling twice. She sprinted deeper into the forest. A blast of energy whistled past Daniel's ear as he took off after her.
Behind the rock Teal'c and Jack tried to figure out where the firing had come from. Now that they were behind cover however it had stopped. Jack slowly slid round the rock, trying to see if he could identify any attackers. As he leaned sideways, Teal'c tapped his shoulder. "Colonel O'Neill, we have company."
Jack spun back to see a group of clearly armed men approaching them. As he lifted his automatic rifle, the leader of the group called to him. "We come in peace. Lower you weapon."
"Peace?" Jack retorted, still holding the rifle ready.
"We did not fire upon you," the leader replied. "That was the Witpre. We managed to drive them away."
"I see," Jack said warily.
"Please," the man continued. "We are the Tippe. We spoke with those who came through the circle before you."
Jack counted the band before him. Eight men, all armed with some sort of weapon he hadn't seen before. The odds for a fight weren't good, even with Teal'c beside him. Cautiously he lowered his rifle and rose to his feet. "Colonel Jack O'Neill. Pleased to meet you."
They felt like they'd been running for hours, although in reality it was only a few minutes. Every time they paused they would hear movement to the side or behind them. Suddenly something whirred through the trees and tangled around Sam's legs. The blonde captain hit the ground hard. "Damn!" she said, struggling to sit upright.
Daniel was with her in an instant. "It's some kind of bola," he said reaching for his knife to cut the rope that was twined around Sam's ankles.
As he cut at the thick swine, Sam pulled her gun from her holster. "Whoever threw it..." Abruptly she pushed Daniel to one side and fired into the trees. Before Daniel could react a blast of energy flashed past him. Sam cried out and then slumped unconscious.
Almost immediately three men stepped from the forest. Daniel transferred the knife to his left hand, and pulled his own gun free of its holster.
"Stay back," he ordered."
The men looked at each other and smiled maliciously. The middle one took a step forward. "Stay back or what?" he demanded.
"Or I'll shoot you!" Daniel yelled. He glanced down at Sam's inert form. No way was he going to allow her to be taken captive.
The men stepped forward. Daniel fired a shot into the ground at their feet, but they simply laughed and kept coming. Desperately Daniel fired straight at them. His jaw dropped in horror as the bullets bounced off some sort of shielding. Goa'uld technology, his brain whispered. He threw the useless gun to one side, transferring the knife back to his right hand.
Daniel had learnt a lot about self-defence in his time with SG1 but he was still no match for three trained warriors. The men were on him in an instant. He had the satisfaction of seeing a streak of red as the knife made contact with flesh. But then a fist contacted with his stomach, knocking all the breath from him. Rough hands threw him to the ground and the knife was twisted painfully from his grasp. A heavy foot pressed against the back of his neck.
A barked order in a language he didn't know, and he was pulled to his feet, his arms pinned behind him by one of the three men. The smallest man stood before him, looking darkly at the blood that was seeping through the rough cloth of his tunic's sleeve. He tested the edge of Daniel's knife with his thumb and moved closer to the anthropologist. Smiling coldly he held the knife to Daniel's throat. "You dare to cut me?" He pressed the knife against Daniel's skin. "Apologise, Tau'ri scum."
Daniel remained silent. Behind him his captor twisted his right arm, making Daniel hiss in pain.
The small man smiled. "The stories they tell of you are true, it seems. You are both bold and stupid." The knife moved away from Daniel's throat, and he allowed himself to breath. But his tormentor wasn't finished with him. Slowly and deliberately he ran the sharp blade across Daniel's chest, pressing hard enough to cut through his shirt and break the skin but without inflicting any real damage. "Blood for blood," he said as he watched Daniel's shirt begin to stain bright red. He turned away and moved towards Sam, standing over her unconscious form. Instinctively Daniel struggled, but his action simply resulted in his arms being pinned more painfully.
"Your woman?" the man asked.
Daniel didn't know how to answer. If he said yes, they might kill him on the spot and then take Sam. If he said no, they might consider that as consent to do as they wished with her. Fortunately his captors had other ideas. "Don't worry, Tau'ri. We would not defile ourselves with your filth." The man leant down and felt Sam's neck for a pulse. Satisfied that Sam was alive his fingers moved to her hair. He lifted a strand as though he had not seen such a thing. "A strange colour," he muttered almost to himself. Despite his harsh words it was clear that he found Sam Carter physically attractive, but almost immediately he remembered where he was. His attention returned to Daniel, and the cold edge crept back into his smile. "Enjoy your silence, Tau'ri scum. You will soon tell me all I need to know." The last thing that Daniel remembered was a fist contacting his jaw.
Strabil greeted O'Neill and Teal'c with warmth. "We are honoured to have such revered people in our midst," he said, indicating they should seat themselves on a richly upholstered bench. "Please eat."
Strabil waved at the platters of fruit and fresh bread that had been laid before the two men.
"Thank you," O'Neill said. "We appreciate your welcome. But right now we're a little bit concerned about our friends."
"Ah yes, " Strabil's face took on a pained expression. "The woman and the Abydonian."
"Well, actually Daniel isn't Abydonian, but yes. Do you know where they are?"
"You were attacked by Witpre - rebels." He virtually spat the last word. "I have patrols out looking for your friends. Don't worry. They will soon be found and returned. The Witpre are bold, but they have few brains and less skill as warriors than a Mootcow."
O'Neill tried to appear suitably grateful, but he couldn't rest without knowing that Sam and Daniel were safe. "We'd like to go out with your patrol."
Strabil smile. "I'm sorry that's not possible. Perhaps, when we have negotiated a treaty between our worlds, we can show you our ways of hunting. But for now..." He left the words hanging, the smile still on his lips.
O'Neill groaned silently to himself. Diplomacy wasn't his strength. If only Daniel or Sam were here.
The sound of his name being whispered urgently broke into Jackson's troubled dreams. He could see Sha're lying unconscious on the ground, only... It wasn't Sha're it was Sam. And then he looked down to see blood on his shirt. No pain, yet the blood flowed...
His eyes jerked open. "Sh... Sam?"
"You were shouting," Sam said her tone apologetic, her hand resting reassuringly on his shoulder. "The guards were threatening to silence you permanently."
Daniel realised he was lying on the floor of some sort of cell. The air smelled foul - damp and putrid, and the ground beneath him seemed to be wet. With Sam's help he climbed to his feet. "You OK?"
Sam nodded. "I think so. Last thing I remember we were out in the woods. Then I woke up here. You've been unconscious for a while." Her hand moved to his chest. "And you've been hurt. There's nothing to clean that cut with."
Daniel glanced down at where dried blood stained the front of his shirt, and shrugged. "It's just a scratch. Skin deep, nothing worse."
Sam looked at him, realising that he already knew that an open wound in a hell-hole like this wasn't good news, skin deep or not.
"So now what?" It took Daniel all of ten seconds to explore the small cell.
It was Sam's turn to shrug. "I guess we sit and wait."
Wingard entered the hall with two other warriors close behind him. The small man bowed low before Strabil. "My Lord."
Strabil glanced at him and then made the introductions. "Colonel O'Neill, Teal'c. This is my second, Lord Wingard. He has been leading the warriors in the search for your friend."
Wingard bowed briefly towards O'Neill and Teal'c, his gaze resting on the Jaffa for a moment.
"Well?" Strabil demanded.
"My Lord, we have not found them yet. But we did find tracks. I have sent two patrols to follow. I am sure we will retrieve our honoured guests very soon."
O'Neill shook his head in frustration, but it was Teal'c who spoke. "These tracks. They indicated Daniel Jackson and Captain Carter are captive?"
Wingard nodded. "It would appear they are with a band of Witpre, perhaps eight or ten strong. But don't fear. The Witpre are no match for my men."
"Indeed," Teal'c answered, his tone leaving his meaning open to interpretation.
Strabil turned to O'Neill. "I suggest we retire for the night. I have had quarters prepared for you. No doubt tomorrow will bring better news, and then we can continue our discussion about the treaty."
Not knowing what else to do, O'Neill nodded. He rose to his feet as a serving boy indicated that he should follow. As he passed Wingard he paused. "What happened to your arm?"
Wingard looked down at his blood-stained sleeve and frowned. "A lucky blow on the part of an attacker." He smiled up at O'Neill but there was no warmth in the gesture. "Trust me Colonel, I inflicted worse in return."
O'Neill nodded. "Glad to hear it," he said.
It was hard to tell how much time had passed in the unlit cell, but it seemed like the middle of the night when the guards threw open the door. Sam and Daniel were hauled roughly to their feet from where they were trying, but failing, to sleep propped against each other in the driest corner. Out in the corridor, bright lights blazed from the walls, making them blink.
"Where are you taking us?" Daniel demanded.
"Silence, Tau'ri scum," the guard responded pushing him in the back with another of the weapons Daniel had seen in the forest.
Moments later they were marched into a small room. "On your knees," the guard snapped. Wearily the two SG1 team-mates knelt. A door at the back of the room opened and two people entered. "My Lord Strabil!" The guard snapped to attention.
The taller of the two men acknowledged the greeting with a slight inclination of his head. Besides him was the small man that had taken them captive in the woods. Strabil moved to stand before Daniel and Sam, weighing them up with a calculating look.
"We are peaceful explorers," Daniel began. "Why are you..." A sharp slap across his face silenced the anthropologist.
"I ask the questions," Strabil said coldly. He looked up at the guard. "We will begin with this one as he is so willing to talk."
Instantly Daniel was hauled to his feet and led to a chair. The guard pushed him into it, pulling his arms around the back of the chair and tying his hands securely behind him.
Strabil stood before Daniel, enjoying the anthropologist's discomfit. "I believe you've already met my second in command." His gaze lowered to Daniel's bloodstained shirt. "I suggest you don't resist him this time."
Wingard walked slowly around Daniel, stopping behind the anthropologist. For a long moment, Daniel could hear nothing except the sound of air being drawn slowly into the man's lungs. Then cold hands touched against his temples. For an instant the feeling was pleasant, like a cool flannel on a hot day. Then abruptly pain shot through Daniel's forehead.
"No!" he gasped, only too aware of having experienced that sort of agony before. "No, don't"
He tried to struggle free, but Wingard's hands gripped him harder. It was as though somebody was driving a knife through his temples. Sharp pains ran down the back of his neck and into his shoulders. Intense fire began to burn along his spine.
As Daniel's protests turned into a tortured cry, Sam tried to climb to her feet. "Stop it!" The guard instantly held her back, forcing her onto her knees again. "Stop it!" she screamed. "You're killing him!"
In Wingard's palms she could see two small flat metal plates. Not goa'uld technology as far as she could tell, but the effect was the same. Tears of frustration ran down her face. "Please! Stop it!"
Wingard glanced at Sam, and then abruptly released Daniel. The anthropologist's head slumped onto his chest. His fair hair dark with sweat. Painfully he lifted his head upright, gasping for air as tears of agony flowed freely down his face. "God!" he whispered hoarsely.
He could hear Sam anguished call, but though he tried to turn to look at her, his traumatised muscles refused to do his bidding. He closed his eyes, and concentrated on breathing, trying to ride through the waves of pain that still buffeted him.
"Why did you stop?" Strabil demanded angrily. "I did not command..."
Wingard's eyes rested briefly on Sam before he looked at his commander. "He knows nothing of use. I can draw you a plan of their base, but it is protected by coded security measures." He glanced down at the breathless archaeologist, his expression one of disgust. "As I suspected this Tau'ri is not a warrior. He knows nothing of the codes. He is..." Wingard paused, "an anthropologist." The word was clearly strange to him. "He studies history. Not war." Now Wingard's gaze moved to Sam. His eyes took in her blonde hair, her beautiful blue eyes - now filled with anguish at the suffering of her comrade. For the first time in his life, Wingard found himself not wanting to follow down Strabil's planned path. What was he thinking? She was Tau'ri scum. And Strabil had promised that this plan would free them all. He took a deep breath and spoke. "She knows the codes."
Strabil smiled. "Then you will read her." He clicked his fingers at the guards. Instantly Daniel was freed from his bonds. The guard dragged him from the chair and pushed him to his knees, but he was too weak to stay upright. With a groan he toppled to the floor. As a guard leaned to grab his shoulder Strabil interrupted. "Leave him." His waved a hand to Sam, who was immediately pulled to her feet.
"There is no point," Wingard said, suddenly very aware that he did not want to do to this woman what he had just done to the one known as Jackson.
"What?" Strabil turned to him.
Wingard did some quick thinking, sifting rapidly through the images from Daniel's mind. "This Tau'ri woman was once a host to a Tok'ra. I will not be able to read the codes from her mind using the Kranta." He slipped the metallic disks from his hands, and laid them on a table with an air of finality.
Strabil glared at Wingard and then at Sam. "Is this true?"
"Yes, it's true" Sam spat angrily. Behind Strabil, she could see that Daniel had curled himself into a ball, his arms protectively wrapped over his head. She desperately wanted to check that he was OK.
Strabil looked from Sam to Wingard and then back again. "You're sure she has the codes?"
Wingard nodded. "The other one was easy to read. It was there in his mind. But she will not tell you. She is trained to resist interrogation. She will die before you gather anything useful from her." That too Wingard had gained from Daniel's mind. He looked up and found Strabil staring at him expectantly. Wingard's face darkened as he realised that he could not end the discussion there, with frowning reluctance he delivered the other piece of information he had discovered. "However, she has affection for the other Tau'ri."
Strabil drew in a deep breath. The image of Sam's anguished face as Daniel writhed in agony brought a smile to his lips. "Then we will have to use an alternative method to persuade her."
He stood in front of Sam, his hand cupping her chin. "A female warrior. These Tau'ri have novel ideas." His gaze returned to Daniel and then back to Sam. "Tell me," he asked cruelly. "Have you ever seen somebody you care for die a slow painful death?"
"Go to hell," Sam hissed.
"My Lord, it is nearly daybreak," Wingard interrupted.
"Yes," Strabil acknowledged. "We will continue this later. Take them back to the cell. I must refresh myself before I break fast with my other guests."
As Daniel and Sam were removed, Strabil turned to Wingard. "You messed up," he said angrily. "This Jackson is the one with whom I should be making the Tau'ri treaty. O'Neill is the one who has the knowledge to trade with the goa'uld."
Wingard glared back at his master. "It was difficult to tell them apart from that distance."
"Fool!" Strabil snapped.
"No!" Wingard responded angrily. "You are the fool. Do you really believe you can play on both sides?"
Strabil smiled at his own cleverness. "Of course. We will supply Lord Heu'ra with the information he seeks from these Tau'ri, but first - once we have the codes - we will use them to take what we need from the Tau'ri world." He smiled. "Or rather the Witpre will take it for us. The Tau'ri will never suspect that the very people they are in allegiance with are the ones stealing from them."
Wingard shook his head in disbelief. He had followed Strabil leadership for many years, convinced that the older man's wisdom had kept the goa'uld from completely taking over their world. But now? Strabil seemed to have been overcome by his own success, confident that he could handle both the goa'uld and the Tau'ri. Wingard watched as Strabil swept from the room, no doubt heading for the golden box he had received from Heru'ra a season ago. Things had changed he thought to himself.
"You slept well?" Strabil asked as Teal'c and O'Neill arrived in his room.
"Not really," O'Neill replied. "But I'm sure your guards have already informed you of that." The tall colonel was struggling with his emotions this morning. Having decided in the middle of the night to go out looking for Daniel and Sam on his own, he had found himself confined to his room by a pair of extremely polite but very insistent guards. He had spent most of the rest of the night trying to sleep while his concern for Daniel and Sam gnawed at him. And above all, the alarm bells of his suspicion that all was not above board were now shrieking at him.
Strabil however, merely smiled knowingly at O'Neill's comment. "Guards? No, I must apologise if you thought you were being guarded. I considered it merely wise to afford you protection. The Witpre know both that you are here and the reason for your presence. I feared they might try to assassinate you."
"Your concern is touching," O'Neill replied. "But we can look after ourselves." He accepted a mug of hot fragrant tea from a servant girl.
"Is there any news about Daniel Jackson and Captain Carter?" Teal'c asked as he too accepted some tea.
"I'm sorry, none as yet." Strabil frowned at the Jaffa and then changed the subject. "Where shall we begin today? Weapons? Strategy? I am most interested in hearing what you can offer us in exchange for our help with the Goa'uld."
"I believe you will find it is you that needs to make an exchange in return for our help," Teal'c commented.
"Teal'c." Jack's reprimand was gentle given that the Jaffa had voiced exactly what Jack himself had been thinking.
"No, Colonel, Teal'c is right. I have forgotten my manners. Let me give you a tour of our city. I think you will find our military barracks most interesting. If we are fortunate there may even be some training going on. You can watch. Or perhaps even participate."
Reluctantly Jack and Teal'c rose to their feet and followed Strabil from the room.
O'Neill wasn't alone in having had an uneasy night. Alone in his quarters, Wingard dragged himself from his bed and slowly began to prepare for the day. His sleep had been haunted by nightmares. No, he corrected himself. Not nightmares - memories. Somehow, the memories of Daniel Jackson had repeated themselves over and over in his mind. The man's love for his wife followed by the anguish of losing her. His friendship with the one known as O'Neill. His respect for the Jaffa, Teal'c. Wingard felt strangely confused - no longer sure what emotions were his and what belonged to the ghostly memories of Jackson.
It was as though the man himself were inside his head. Influencing his thinking. Wingard rubbed at his temples. Jackson. Brilliant. Loyal. Impetuous. Compassionate. There was much to be admired and yet, there was a darker side too. A deep hatred of the goa'uld. Of injustice. A hatred and anger that, when linked to his impetuosity, made Jackson a dangerous enemy.
Wingard's thoughts finally turned to the one member of SG1 he had tried not to think about. Captain Samantha Carter. So many images of her ingrained in Jackson's mind. He could see one now. The captain in a full length blue dress, her beautiful face indignant beneath an elaborate head-dress. And another image - her face animated with excitement over some discovery. Wingard groaned. What was happening to him? She was a Tau'ri for heaven's sake. He needed to get a grip of himself. Get Jackson's feelings for this woman out of his head.
Sam and Daniel were once again huddled together in the driest corner of the cell. Sam had both her arms wrapped around the anthropologist as he shivered. On their return to the cell, Sam had found Daniel's body temperature had dropped unnaturally low. At least he was shivering now, a sign that his body had registered the need to increase his core temperature. Almost absentmindedly she stroked his hair the way she had once soothed Cassie, telling him everything was going to be fine.
"I'm sorry," Daniel whispered.
"Sorry?" Sam responded. "For what?"
"Back in the forest. Those men. Should've..."
"Shhh." Sam soothed. "There were three of them, Daniel. Nobody could've expected you to do more."
Abruptly the cell door opened. "Breakfast!" the guard said tossing some hard bread on to the muddy ground. He put a large earthen jug down beside it, and slammed the door behind him.
Sam released Daniel long enough to gather up the food. With a wry smile she rubbed the worst of the foul dirt off the bread and handed him a piece. Then she sniffed warily at the jug. "Just water I think." Cautiously she tipped the jug to her mouth and sipped. "Well what do you know. It's even clean." She returned to Daniel, slipping one arm round his shoulders as she ate her meagre breakfast.
Daniel peered at the bread in disgust and then shoved it into a pocket.
"You should eat that," Sam admonished. "Who knows when we might get fed again."
Daniel nodded weakly. "I will. Later. I..." He managed a weak smile. "Feel rather sick."
Sam squeezed his shoulder affectionately, and passed him the jug. "Well at least drink something. You need the fluids." Obediently Daniel took the jug and sipped at the water. He barely swallowed more than a mouthful before setting the jug down. Sam frowned, but refrained from nagging him further. Instead she tried to distract him from his nausea with conversation.
"I wonder what Strabil meant about other guests." At Daniel's questioning look she continued. "Just before we were brought back here, he said he had refresh himself before having breakfast with his other guests."
"Who knows," Daniel replied with disinterest.
"I just wondered if it was the Colonel and Teal'c. If they'd come looking for us..." She swallowed the last piece of bread and pulled Daniel closer. At least he didn't seem to be shivering quite so violently now. "No couldn't be. I mean they wouldn't treat us like this and... Daniel?" Sam suddenly realised she was talking to herself. With a relieved smile she realised that the anthropologist had fallen asleep, exhaustion finally catching up with him. She looked down on his face, unexpectedly relaxed and peaceful after the trauma of the past few hours, and couldn't resist brushing his hair from his forehead. Strange how this brilliant yet impulsive man had become such a close friend, almost a brother to her. From the first time they'd met Sam had liked the academic, liked the way his mind often ran ahead of her own, liked his compassion and his outbursts. Liked the gentle way he dealt with people on far off worlds - putting them at ease with his own awkwardness. And now, here he was, almost child-like, curled against her asleep.
The memory of Strabil's threat removed the affectionate smile from her face. How would she cope with watching them torture Daniel in front of her? Strabil had obviously guessed that it would be far worse than suffering the pain herself. Could she really let Daniel die knowing she had the means to save him, even if giving up the codes would have serious consequences for the SGC. Sam took a deep breath, suddenly hating the fact that she was military. No, she whispered to herself, there had to be another way.
O'Neill and Teal'c spent a dull morning touring the city with Strabil. It turned out that the guard weren't training that day, much to O'Neill's disappointment. After admiring the architecture as politely as he could, he was glad when they returned to Strabil's palace.
A rich meal had been prepared in their absence, but O'Neill had little appetite. He pressed the question of Daniel and Sam's absence once more. And again Strabil fobbed him off with reassurances that they would be found and returned.
At last Strabil had retired, suggesting that the two men might care to rest before the evening's discussion on the treaty. As soon as he was gone, O'Neill began to pace the room.
"Colonel. Your pacing will not hasten the return of Daniel Jackson and Captain Carter." Teal'c watched his commander without apparent emotion, but he too was concerned with the period of time that had now elapsed.
"Damn right it won't," O'Neill muttered. Abruptly he marched over to the door of the room. As he suspected two guards were in place. "Protection!" O'Neill cursed to himself. Doing an about turn he walked to the window. The thick glass was embedded directly into the wall with no way to open it. "O'Neill smiled coolly, slid his knife from its sheath and set to work on the soft brickwork.
The glass proved easier to remove then O'Neill had hoped. In barely ten minutes, the two team-mates were able to lift it free. O'Neill peered cautiously into the corridor it revealed. "All clear," he whispered. "Time to play tourist on our own."
Strabil was enjoying having the two Tau'ri on their knees before him. To think that they were part of the team that had brought down Apophis. He smiled at the thought as he studied their faces. Well now they were part of his plan to appease Heu'ra, and maybe even help him to take the technology to free his world from the grip of the goa'uld. The very thought made his blood race in anticipation. Soon, very soon, he would no longer have to pay tribute to anyone - goa'uld or Tau'ri.
He stood before Sam, lifting her face upwards. Behind him, Wingard watched his every move, his eyes transfixed on the blue eyes of the Tau'ri woman. "I have given you time to think," Strabil said. "Tell me the codes and I will not harm either of you."
Sam tried to glance at Daniel, but Strabil's grip on her chin prevented her from moving her head.
Daniel, forgive me, she thought as she replied to Strabil. "I have nothing to say to you."
Strabil's face was expressionless for a long moment, then abruptly he released Sam. "It is as I suspected." He clicked his fingers towards a guard, who immediately brought a small earthen pot forward from a corner of the room. Strabil removed the lid and peered into the dark interior. Suddenly he plunged in his hand and drew out a small black snake, his fingers gripping its head so that it could not bite him. He held it close to Sam's face. "The Widow Maker," he said. "Its poison kills slowly and painfully." Sam swallowed hard, but did not flinch. "The codes?" Strabil continued. The head of the snake came closer. Sam could see its fangs, sharp and deadly. Still she held Strabil's eyes, her expression defiant.
Abruptly Strabil whirled around. "Bring him!"
Daniel was pulled to his feet and dragged in front of Sam. Two guards held him tight as a third ripped the sleeve from his shirt. His right arm was extended so that the flesh of his inner forearm was exposed. Strabil held the snake close to Daniel's wrist. "The codes?"
Daniel's eyes met Sam's. "Don't tell him," he said, his voice rising in pitch with tension.
"Silence!" Strabil screeched. He glared at Sam. "The codes!"
A single tear rolled down Sam's left cheek as she closed her eyes, and slowly shook her head, her lips pressed together in a strained white line.
The sound of Daniel gasping made Sam startle. The anthropologist's eyes were wide in shock at the sight of the snake, its fangs buried in his skin. Strabil held the snake in place long enough to ensure it had injected all its venom, and then pulled it free. The guards released Daniel who instantly put his wrist to his mouth in an attempt to suck some of the poison from the wound. Before he could do so though, Strabil stepped forward and hit him hard across the face. As he fell to the floor, Strabil planted his foot firmly on the back of Daniel's right hand. Handing the snake to a guard, he turned back to Sam. "There is an antidote. If it is given within 12 hours, he will not die. You know the price."
Sam looked in anguish from Strabil to Daniel and back again. She opened her mouth to speak.
"No, Sam!" Daniel's appeal was choked off in a hiss of pain as Strabil put more weight on the back of his hand.
"Perhaps you would like to know the symptoms of the poison," Strabil continued coldly. But before he could continue, a guard entered the room. "My Lord Strabil, the Tau'ri have escaped."
"Tau'ri?" Sam exclaimed. "What the...?"
Strabil shot her a dark look, and an even darker one at the guard. He turned to Wingard. "Return these two to their cell. I will deal with our other guests." He reached into a pocket of his tunic, pulled out a small vial and handed it to Wingard. Then he turned back to Sam. "The antidote," he said. "Don't wait too long. Once damage reaches the internal organs it cannot be rectified."
Trying to hide his reluctance and distaste at his role, Wingard obediently escorted Sam and Daniel back to the sour-smelling cell.
Jack and Teal'c had been skulking about the city for what seemed like hours. Now, hiding in a doorway, Teal'c voiced his suspicions.
"O'Neill, we are achieving little."
O'Neill sighed. "I know. I know. I just have this feeling that..." Abruptly he stopped, his hand resting on Teal'c's chest in warning. "Recognise him?"
Teal'c peered out from their hiding place. "It is one of the men who greeted us at the Stargate."
"Yes!" O'Neill was clearly pleased. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow in question, so he continued. "So we grab him, find out where these Witpre hang out, and then go and find Jackson and Carter."
As the soldier passed by their hiding place he failed to notice that he had picked up two shadows.
O'Neill and Teal'c followed him for a further twenty minutes as he went about his business, calling into shops and chatting briefly to a friend. At last though he turned away from the main area of the city and into a street lined with small houses. He entered the fourth one on the right, clearly going home.
O'Neill and Teal'c immediately skirted around the back of the house. Peering into a window, it seemed the man was alone. On O'Neill's signal, the two men entered the house through the back door and crept up on their victim. Teal'c, knife in hand, moved silently but fast. Before the soldier could even blink, the Jaffa's hand was over his mouth and the knife at his throat.
O'Neill closed and bolted both doors to the house and then did a quick search. The man was indeed alone. Standing before the frightened soldier he spoke quickly. "If I give the word, my friend there will kill, so listen up good. We want information and we want it now. Believe me when I say we'll do whatever it takes to get it. Understand?"
The soldier, his eyes wide, gave a quick nod.
"Good. OK. First question. Where do the Witpre hang out?" O'Neill nodded to Teal'c who eased his hand from the man's mouth enough to allow him to speak.
The soldier swallowed hard before replying. "There are no Witpre."
"Wrong answer!" O'Neill's voice was sharp, his tone deadly. Teal'c drew the knife closer to the man's neck and O'Neill saw a small trickle of blood run down his skin.
"Please!" the man squeaked. "I speak the truth. Strabil invented the Witpre. He had some of his own men pretend to be them."
"What? Why?" O'Neill demanded.
"I don't know. I'm just a soldier. I just do as I'm told. We were told, that day out by the big circle, that we were to tell you the Witpre attacked you and that they took your friends."
O'Neill glared at the man, but his obvious fear assured the colonel that he was speaking the truth. "Jackson and Carter - the man and the woman that were with us. If they're not with the Witpre, then where are they?"
The man didn't hesitate. "Strabil has them. They're locked in a cell beneath the palace."
O'Neill gazed at the man, trying to take in what he had just heard. No Witpre? Strabil? "The double-crossing bastard," he swore. "What game is he trying to play with us? Teal'c, tie this rodent up, and let's get back to the palace."
Daniel's eyes were squeezed tight against the pain that racked his body. His breathing had become more and more shallow as the very act of taking in air caused his chest muscles to spasm painfully. His skin felt as though somebody had wrapped his body in a fine wire mesh and now it was being tightened. Despite himself, he let out a long low groan. "Oh God!" Another breath. More pain.
Sam slammed her fist against the cell wall in frustration. All her attempts to help Daniel had been thwarted. She had tried to suck the poison from the puncture wound herself, but it was too late. The fang marks were so fine, the skin had already closed over them. Then, in desperation, she had tried to make a tourniquet in the hope that she could prevent at least some of the poison from flowing up Daniel's arm. But even the lightest of touches had made Daniel cry out in pain, and she didn't have the stomach or the strength to hold him down.
She turned to face him now, tears of frustration wetting her cheeks. Kneeling before him she reached out to touch his face, holding back at the last moment, knowing that his nerves would simply respond with more agony. "I'm so sorry. So sorry."
"Not... your... fault," Daniel ground out the words. Their eyes met. Blue on blue. Both sets filled with pain. "Tell... Sha're..." Another wave of pain hit the anthropologist. What little colour was left in his face drained away, and he squeezed his eyes shut. Oblivious to anything except the agony, he let out a half-strangled tortured groan that echoed around the cell. Suddenly Sam could stand it no longer. She ran to the door and hammered on it. "I must speak with Wingard," she shouted. "Do you hear me? I must speak with Wingard."
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