By Kaz and Scribe
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.
This story was written when the first spoilers for Summit hit the Internet, and Kaz and I indulged in a flurry of speculative e-mails about exactly what might happen to result in Daniel becoming a slave (not to mention various comments about exactly how slave Daniel should dress<g>). New spoilers and new episodes have since surfaced which have taken the real SG-1 universe down a different tour. We hope you'll still enjoy our version of what might have been.
Rated - PG-13
Spoilers - Need, Fire and Water
As Daniel walked into the 'gate room, the wormhole splashed into life. The escort party of four Jaffa marched up to the open portal. His escort...
His first thought as he looked over at the line of people waiting by the ramp was that Janet hadn't made it after all. The untimely arrival of SG-2, all suffering with nasty looking insect bites, had tied her to the infirmary. He was glad he'd managed to say his goodbyes down there, even if they had been said on the short walks between patients' beds.
He steeled his expression and began to move with purpose to the meshed metal slope. How many times had he done this? Never really knowing where they'd end up or what they would encounter, despite the MALP's and the UAV's best efforts to inform them. He tried to tell himself that this was no different.
Just another step into the unknown.
He crossed to the first in line.
General Hammond took the offered hand and began to shake it as befitted a senior officer to a member of staff. To hell with that. He pulled Daniel into a hug, crushing the young man against the plethora of medals on his dress uniform. Medals that supposedly he'd been awarded in recognition of a multitude of traits and deeds... courage, setting an example to his subordinates, jobs well done, doing what had to be done for the good of his country... for the good of the world. They meant nothing anymore... not in light of this day's events... What little he'd done in the name of saving humanity was nothing compared to what they were asking Daniel to do for them now.
Somewhat reluctantly, he let Daniel slip out of the embrace. A shy smile was thanks enough for his unusual display of affection.
How could he not have grown to like the archaeologist? Daniel put many a hardened military man to shame for his bravery, resourcefulness and tenacity. They owed him a great deal... even before today... The world would never know (at least not in any near future Hammond could see) just how much it was indebted to him.
Every tough moment had been a learning curve in the rudiments of the thought processes of Daniel Jackson. Again and again he had battled for answers, in order to avoid confrontations. This time, his only option was surrender. His life for thousands.
It seemed a small sacrifice logically. Humanely, personally, it was far from easy to give up one and for some reason, this particular one, no matter what the cost.
The choice was made for them. Daniel had at least taken a few seconds to comprehend the simple realization that there was no alternative. His expression had moved through a gamut of feelings; before settling on the only one he could with any hope of keeping his soul in tact. Acceptance of his fate.
"God go with you, son."
Teal'c bowed his head respectfully at his young friend. "I will honour your memory with every breath I have left, Daniel Jackson."
"Thanks Teal'c," Daniel replied quietly, returning the head bob and for his Jaffa friend's ears only added, "Tek usan'at me toh'canu."
Looking down at Daniel, the words ploughed a deep furrow in Teal'c's consciousness. He would endeavour to carry out his friend's wish. Smiling and bowing once more, he agreed to the request to keep everyone safe.
It was Daniel who broke with the formalities this time. He stepped forward and put his arms around the big man. Teal'c laid a hand on Daniel's head... almost in a gesture of absolution... he forgave the archaeologist for leaving them.
Sam didn't bother with pleasantries at all. As Daniel side-stepped to her position of next in line, she practically jumped on him.
Sobbing quietly into his neck, she apologised for making his collar wet. There was no point in saying 'Don't go'. With what he was doing now, she doubted if even Sha'uri could have stopped him.
"You'll always be in my heart." She sniffed and sought out his eyes with her tear-filled ones. The piercing blue irises were just as watery as her own.
"You too," Daniel whispered, burying his face in her hair as he rested his head on her shoulder. He inhaled deeply, he wanted to remember this, the fresh camomile fragrance was calming and comforting, just as it had been in other times of sorrow, too many of them, before.
"Don't forget to change my password," he reminded her as he pulled away.
Sam simply nodded, her mouth twitching into something resembling a grin as she tried desperately not to cry again.
And then there was one...
Jack and Daniel regarded each other. Neither able to say the words they wanted to say, not that any words needed to be said.
"Com'ere." Jack held his arms open wide and welcomed Daniel between them. As they broke apart, Jack ruffled the younger man's hair with all the affection he could muster.
What he really wanted to do was blow his stack... big time.
But this wasn't the time for anger, or hatred, or frustration at the unfairness of it all.
How could they be doing this? Sending Daniel off... no, worse than that... a hundred times worse than that and then some... selling Daniel off into what amounted to be slavery. The price? Tollana. A whole planet... thousands of people, allies.
That was Daniel's worth to Osiris. The Goa'uld would spare the world in return for handing Daniel over to him... her... it... to enter into its service, as it had so innocently put it.
Jack laughed at the memory of Aris Boch telling Daniel his value was no more than a day's rations. The bounty hunter had retracted that statement later, but, he wondered... would the price on his young friend's head have been as much as it apparently was now, back then? He doubted it...
Daniel hadn't exactly endeared himself to any of the Goa'ulds they'd previously encountered. Except, maybe, Hathor... and that kind of endearment, they could well do without.
They all suspected that the interest in Daniel had something to do with Osiris's host, Sarah. Although Daniel had never gone into great detail about his past with the woman, it was obvious that at some point they had been 'an item', for want of a better way of saying it.
The Goa'uld must know all that had passed between them... it had direct access into her brain, after all. Would it use Daniel's feelings for the host in some sort of mind games? Duh! Of course it would.
His thoughts drifted back to the briefing room... was it really only an hour ago? They'd sat and watched the holographic images from the communication orb, transmitting the Goa'uld side of the summit to them.
All the while, Daniel had slouched in his seat, looking fixedly at the papers on the table in front of him. His frown had deepened when the ultimatum was made and his bottom lip was quickly captured by his teeth.
When he finally raised his head, his eyes had been clear and focussed. It was they that showed he agreed to the demand, but Daniel never uttered a word.
Jack's mouth started to work, but he gave up on the idea of saying what he'd said to Daniel when he'd left him on Abydos, a little memory that only they shared, in the hope of seeming more upbeat than he actually felt... it wasn't the time for humor either. Besides, those words sounded so final and he really wanted to believe that this situation was going to be turned around, with any luck... soon.
Jack tried to smile in reassurance, but he knew it wasn't working very well. Unable to do anything else under the weight of raw emotion tearing him apart, he put his hands on Daniel's arms. "Dammit!" he said loudly, cursing his inability to counter his feelings.
"Jack, it's okay." Daniel appeased him, softly.
"No, it's not... God, of all the things this, this, this... crappy deal is, it's anything but okay!"
"Jack...please, not now."
Impressed as always by Daniel's unflappable nature, Jack sighed heavily and just gripped him tighter. He didn't want to let go.
Apparently tired of the goodbyes, one of the Jaffa came up behind Daniel and bent down. There was a jangling noise and then a couple of savage clanks as the Jaffa fettered him.
Daniel knew there was nothing he could do to avert this, the price was too high. He had already told Jack on the way down to his office after the summit. He'd thought he might as well try to tidy up a few loose ends while awaiting his escort to who knew where...
"We'll get you back..." Jack said, determined.
"No, you won't, Jack." Daniel protested. "You can't come after me. You know what's at stake here. I can't have that on my conscience... I won't."
Daniel winced as he was manhandled out of Jack's grasp and spun roughly round to face the Jaffa. Metal cuffs were snapped around his wrists. Another heavy chain, similar to that between his ankles ensured there was little separation of his hands.
The Jaffa gave him a shove, making him stumble up the ramp. "Hey!" he shouted back at the armored guard, swinging round in annoyance and ready to strike out. The other three Jaffa waiting by the open Stargate raised their staff weapons at the line of his friends. Daniel backed down from his show of defiance and walked up the ramp as well as he could, given the shackles hampering his stride.
Reaching his long fingers forward to touch the event horizon, he was once again amazed by the sight. The water-like effect rippled around his fingertips. After doing the same only a few years previous, about to step into the greatest adventure of his life, here he was now, standing on the edge of his own personal abyss.
He knew he shouldn't have... It would be painful for him and the others, but he couldn't resist a brief glance back at them. His gaze inevitably found Jack's, sorrow and apology all too apparent in those dark, smouldering depths.
Not your fault, Jack.
A sentiment of Aris Boch's suddenly sprang to mind. Choiceless.
Daniel closed his eyes and stepped through.
Fire and smoke. Blood and death. God! What had his life become?
Daniel peered warily from behind the shelter of a stone pillar, watching the battle rage around him. His gaze continually flicked towards the dark doorway of the Mayan-style temple. Somehow he had to get there.
A voice hissed in his ear - the feminine tones harsh. She... no, it was watching him. Even now, after all he'd been through, there were still times he had to remind himself that there was another being inside the body with which he had once been so intimate. It was not Sarah. He glanced upwards and caught sight of the brilliant light in the sky that indicated the position of the mother ship, hovering like a vulture above the planet - waiting to swoop down on the kill. His stomach churned at the thought.
How long had it been? Days. Weeks. Months. What did it matter? This was his life now. Daniel Jackson. Slave. Try not to think about. Perhaps he could become an automaton - eating, breathing, observing - yet feeling nothing. A wave of despair crushed the air from his lungs.
Stop it! He had to move. Had to get to the temple.
His gaze swept over the writhing, battling bodies before him. The brightly patterned cloaks of the indigenous people disguised the blood that was being spilt. He could see it on the ground, though. Hot and red against the pale sand.
He felt sick, but he forced his nausea away. He had a job to do.
There! A sudden lull in the fighting - a corridor in the bodies as the two sides momentarily pulled apart in the chaotic flow of the battle. Pulling in a deep breath, Daniel set off at a sprint, weaving between the fighters. Heart pounding, adrenaline rushing, he concentrated on nothing except reaching the sanctuary of the temple. An arrow whistled past his left ear and embedded itself into the leg of the Jaffa in front of him. The man spun round, staff weapon at the ready. For one stomach-wrenching moment Daniel believed the Jaffa was going to fire at him. Not that he wouldn't welcome death if he thought it offered him true escape. Damn the sarcophagus.
Brown eyes met with blue, then recognition flared. The Jaffa nodded at him then turned away, his face a mask of pain as he folded his fingers around the arrow shaft and snapped it off.
Daniel closed out the sound of breaking wood. The scream of agony. Lungs almost exploding, he covered the final few yards and burst into the cool, dark interior of the temple.
The complete and utter emptiness of the building was like a slap across the face. For a moment Daniel felt as though he had stepped through the Stargate into a completely different world. Yet bare yards from the doorway, full battle still raged. He shook his head, trying to adjust to the cloying silence and the cool air. Sacred ground. The words buzzed in his head. Osiris had told him it would be like this, but Daniel hadn't believed the inhabitants of the world would respect their own taboos so closely in the heat of battle.
The voice hissed in his mind again - telling him to move. Irritably his fingers brushed the small metal disc imbedded in his temple. It hadn't taken Osiris long to get his hands on that particular piece of technology. Nor had the goa'uld hesitated to exploit its uses - both as a communication device and as an instrument of torture.
Daniel's hand subconsciously drifted to his chest - rubbing at the flawless skin, a legacy of a quick spin cycle in Apophis' sarcophagus a couple of years back. Osiris had quickly discovered he had no need to inflict actual physical punishment on Daniel. He could simply tap into memories that hurt as much, if not more. And four years working with SG-1 had ensured there were plenty of memories with which to torture Daniel - from the physical agony of a fatal staff weapon blast to the emotional pain of reliving the death of his wife at the hands of a friend.
Reluctantly Daniel began to weave his way through the torch-lit corridors, heading towards the inner sanctum and the prize Osiris had sent him to collect. A left, two turns to the right, another left. He stepped between two richly embroidered curtains, heavy with gold thread and encrusted with jewels. Despite himself he couldn't help but gasp in amazement at the sight before him. The inner chamber seemed to be on fire as the glowing torchlight danced across a million multi-faceted crystals.
"So beautiful." The words escaped Daniel's lips, but almost instantly his hand flew to his temple, as a tiny shimmer of pain skittered through his skull.
//Oh God, he killed her!//
Damn it! Daniel's memories of Nem had recently become Osiris' favourite method of control. As his breathing settled back down from the sharp gasps induced by the recollection, he mumbled an appeasement to his alien voyeur, "Okay, okay. I get the message. Walking..."
Teeth gritted, he stepped forward. In front of him was an altar-like structure covered with a richly embroidered cloth. The cloth was silk, soft and smooth to his touch, but he barely paid it any attention as he pulled it away and revealed the hieroglyphs beneath, etched into the golden surface of the altar. He frowned slightly as he began to translate - the characters familiar yet tantalisingly different. This was why Osiris needed him so badly. The constant evolution of language over thousands of years meant that the written word of many cultures had changed beyond recognition since Osiris last stalked the universe.
His frown deepened as his index finger traced the raised symbols, his lips moving in silent speech. Suddenly he straightened up. He'd got it. Confident now, he pressed a sequence of glyphs and was rewarded by the vibrating tone of an inner mechanism awakening.
Daniel took a step backwards and watched as a panel in the front of the altar slowly opened, revealing a spherical object the size of a large orange. Cautiously Daniel retrieved it. It's weight screamed of naquadah, but it was the inscription on it that worried Daniel. He had to know if this innocent looking device really could be....
A voice sounded behind him, the tone achingly and yet unbelievably, familiar, "Danyel?"
He spun round and his jaw fell open. "Oh my God. Nick?"
His grandfather looked dazed. A trickle of blood ran down his face from a split just above his eyebrow and his face was ashen. He was dressed in the same type of clothing as the local people - the bright colours making him look unnaturally pale. And he was breathing heavily as though he had just been running. For a moment the two men stared at each other in complete amazement.
Nick was the first to recover. "What are you doing here, Danyel? Have your army friends come to help us?"
"I..." Daniel shook his head not knowing where to begin.
Nick's eyes narrowed as his gaze moved to the object in Daniel's hands, and then back to his face. "Danyel?"
"Oh, God." Daniel's nausea returned as he recognised the disapproving look on Nick's face. He suddenly felt like he was six years old again - caught stealing cookies from the kitchen. "It's not what you're thinking."
"People are dying out there." Nick's voice was filled with distress. "My people..."
"I know. I know. It's Osiris." Daniel's own tone was desperate as he held up the object he had just retrieved. "He wants this and I can't do anything to stop him getting it. You have to believe me."
He saw Nick's gaze sweep him from head to foot and he flushed with shame. The slave uniform he wore was an embarrassing affair of soft leather, designed to reveal the muscles down his thighs and across his chest. He hated it with a vengeance, and being seen wearing it by someone he cared for. Oh God. Why the hell was he worrying about his dignity when people outside were dying?
Nick's shook his head. "I don't understand, Danyel. You're here yet..."
Daniel cut him off, aware he had very little time. "Nick, listen. You have to get a message to Jack O'Neill for me."
"A message?" Nick was still staring at him as though he wasn't real.
"Yes. You have to tell him - the threat to the Tollan was a bluff."
"What?" Nick's expression was blank.
"Tell Jack... Arrggghhh!" Pain seared through Daniel's temple, driving him to his knees.
"Danyel!" Nick took a step towards, but Daniel waved him back.
"No don't!" He gritted his teeth, determined to force the words out. "Tell Jack. It...was... a... arrrggghhh!" He fought against the pain, knowing he had mere seconds. "A bluff!" He fell to his knees, bowing over with his weight on his forearms. The artefact dropped from his grasp as he pressed his palms to his forehead, trying to block out the pain.
Light exploded into the room. Daniel forced his head up, his eyes widening with panic.
"Nick! Run! Get out of here."
Ignoring Daniel, the old man merely turned to the source of the light. There was a sudden rushing sound as a set of goa'uld transportation rings materialised in the chamber.
"Nick, please!" Daniel pleaded.
At last Nick turned towards him. Too late. The rings vanished and Osiris stepped forward, the beautiful face of Sarah twisted with anger. Two Jaffa flanked him. Ignoring Nick, the goa'uld moved towards Daniel.
"I am disappointed with you, Daniel."
A flick of the head set the two Jaffa in motion. With five brief steps they covered the distance between themselves and Daniel, each grasping an arm and pulling him to his feet. The Jaffa to his right snatched up the artefact. Osiris smiled coolly as Daniel was dragged closer and forced back to his knees. Thoughtfully Osiris ran one glove-clad finger along Daniel's cheekbone.
"You did at least retrieve the weapon. Perhaps I will not punish you too severely... this time." Another nod at the Jaffa. "We will return to the ship."
As Daniel was hauled to his feet again, Nick stepped forward, one hand raised in protest.
As though noticing him for the first time, Osiris turned and casually raised his gloved hand. The force of the blast lifted Nick from his feet, carried him across the chamber and slammed him into the crystal wall.
"No!" Daniel yelled, desperately trying to break free from his Jaffa escort. Leather-clad hands ground into his biceps, holding him fast.
As the rings descended around him, his view was of Nick's motionless body, sprawled on the floor of the temple.
Jack O'Neill was in no mood to celebrate.
He stood in the middle of the 'gate room somberly watching airmen draping flags, positioning chairs and overseeing all those other prissy details required in preparation for a VIP visit.
The President was going to receive a gift from their friends, the Tollans. Maybe this time they would lower themselves to grant Earth full 'Ally' status. They were after all going to offer some technology in lieu of Daniel's sacrifice for them. How generous.
Hey, you've lost one of the best men ever in the history of human kind, here's a doohickey in replacement.
To add fuel to his blazing resentment toward the Tollan, he thought of how it had been Daniel who had petitioned so eloquently on Earth's behalf to attain access to their technology in the first place. Only to find that his hard work and heart-felt presentation was no more than part of a scam to prevent the NID from acquiring their stuff.
Damn them. Damn them all to Hell!
He kicked the podium at the base of the ramp. The very same one he had stood at to deliver his tribute to Daniel Jackson when he had been presumed dead, courtesy of Nem and his funky memory machine. He recognised the details of the wood, every knot, each joint, the ring of faded varnish where it had been damaged by someone's careless placement of a hot mug. The features had become ingrained in his mind as he'd eulogised over his apparently lost colleague, team-mate, friend.
They had all been certain as they commended Daniel's spirit to the Universe that he'd opened up for them, that he was gone. He'd died right before their eyes, hadn't he? Yet, there had been something telling them it wasn't right, their memories tainted and confused.
This time they all knew Daniel wasn't dead, or at least he hadn't been the last time they'd seen him. He'd walked through the 'gate knowing full well that Osiris was waiting for him on the other side. Why? Silly question. Jack knew why. Principles. The Tollans had never done anything for them, but they were threatened with extinction and Daniel agreed to hand himself over to a Goa'uld to save them. Why did he have to be so... so... nice? Damn him!
Where was Daniel now? What was Osiris doing to him?
Jack's mind could fill in very imaginatively an answer to his second question, much to his consternation. Despite many nights trying to induce a deep sleep by means that neither Hammond nor Fraiser would approve, the nightmares continued to seek him out. Daniel's tortured voice called to him from across the galaxy, as it had before... "Jack!" Fire all around, no way to get to him.
A dreadful realization turned Jack's stomach. Thinking of Daniel as dead was better than knowing that he was alive and in the clutches of the Goa'uld.
"Jack!" Daniel's scream persisted. If only he'd put his foot down earlier, he might have been able to keep a tighter rein on the actions of their errant archaeologist.
In your dreams, O'Neill...
Dreams... "Colonel." Daniel called to him again. No, that wasn't him... Jack swayed as he pulled himself back from the depths of his memory.
Wha...? He turned to see General Hammond striding briskly toward him, dress uniform pristine, cap already in place.
"Is everything in order, Colonel?"
"Yes, Sir, we're all set. Just waiting for our illustrious guests to arrive," Jack replied caustically.
"Colonel O'Neill, I understand your feelings in this matter, but please try to stay civil this afternoon."
"Can't guarantee it, Sir." Jack was nothing if not honest. "But I'll try." He paused. "They'd just better remember why they're here... anywhere, for that matter... if Daniel..." He could feel his fists clenching, blood draining from the knuckles as the tightness intensified.
"We're all well aware of what Doctor Jackson did for the Tollans, Colonel. As are they."
For a moment, Jack felt his temper flare at Hammond's formal tone, but as he saw the general's eyes flicker towards the lower ranks in the room he realised they were being scrutinised. Of course Hammond knew how he felt. Daniel's friendship had been special to the general too. The man no doubt felt as helpless as he did about this whole, God-awful situation.
Carter, Teal'c and Lieutenant Craig Morten entered, ready to help greet the Tollan representatives.
"General Hammond," the 'gate technician's voice echoed around the vast room. "The Tollans should be arriving shortly, Sir."
Both Hammond and Jack glanced at their watches, confirming the airman's words, just as the Stargate erupted into life.
The iris stayed open. There wasn't much point in closing it as the Tollans could walk through right through the barricade anyway, but a token presence of armed personnel formed an arc in front of the ramp, in case the visitors were not those expected.
Three women appeared through the silver-blue ripples. Jack stepped forward to the first of them, who he recognised as being High Councillor Travell, giving the other two, presumably her aides, cursory glances. He was surprised that they didn't appear to have brought anything with them. "What no box? I was expecting... oh, you know, a little gift wrap... a ribbon maybe... a fancy bow would've been nice..."
"Colonel." Hammond stopped Jack's sarcastic outburst in its tracks.
"It's alright, General Hammond." Travell faced Jack. "Colonel O'Neill, I think you will be satisfied with what we bring."
Suspiciously, Jack apologised, then moved to his team. "You remember Major Carter and Teal'c?"
"I do." Travell briefly took each offered hand.
"And this is Lieutenant Craig Morten, he's..." Suddenly Jack's mouth went dry and the words stuck fast in his throat.
"Lieutenant Morten has replaced Doctor Jackson on SG-1." Hammond spoke for him.
As Travell took the new member's hand, Jack couldn't help but notice how Carter had turned her head and appeared to be blinking furiously, causing her face to contort unflatteringly.
He knew what she was going through, apart from the stomach churning feeling of his own, she had revealed her pain yesterday. He'd caught her staring at the Stargate through the briefing room's window after the meeting outlining the details of the presentation.
Carter had told him how hard it was to face going into the 'gate room now... told him of the image that haunted each step toward the Stargate... Daniel... being manhandled by Jaffa, his ankles and wrists clapped in chains, shoved toward the waiting wormhole... and how ashamed she felt that she hadn't had the courage to catch his eyes as he'd taken a final look back at them.
This whole deal really sucked!
Hammond showed Travell and the other Tollans to their seats. "The President will be down in a few moments, High Councillor."
Jack winced as shifted his attention to the new member of his team, wondering if he had missed anything profound from the Tollans, while his mind had been elsewhere. When Hammond had introduced Morten to Travell, the words had cut through him like a dagger... 'replaced Doctor Jackson'... how could anyone do that?
Morten was smart enough and quick with it, even tempered, a good officer, and there it was, just what you'd want in a team - someone who obeyed orders, without question, not like Daniel. He wasn't Daniel.
The guy had majored in languages at college, but he had nowhere near Daniel's impressive tally, which grew with virtually every new sentient species they encountered. Daniel'd even deciphered that one that was all clicks and whistles... eventually. Jack remembered joking with Daniel how they sounded more like a herd of dolphins than anything of human origin
Two missions they'd been on together now. Two uneventful, routine, run of the mill, boring missions. Jack had ordered, Morten had complied... no 'whoa, guys, look at that!', no 'I really need more time to study this's, no 'but, Jaaaack'.
It had gotten easier over the last few weeks, back in the rotation and Hammond had involved him more in the day to day running of the facility, but he couldn't forget. He knew from previous losses that he should be able to, occasionally, he'd even told Daniel once that sometimes he could forget. This was different, not a loss per se, more of a misplacement. Could you have a deliberate misplacement? Or was there some other multi-syllable word that covered it? Daniel would know.
Jack missed his friend.
The ceremony went smoothly. As hoped the Tollans welcomed Earth as its new Ally, although not against any particular enemy. Even under Osiris's threat, they did not perceive the Goa'uld to be their enemies. There had been no actual attack, after all.
Travell passed one of their small wrist devices to the President and promised that Major Carter and a team of her choosing would be allowed to examine it and use the plans stored in it for the betterment of mankind. They still blatantly refused to offer any weapons technology, but there were plans for a defence system contained within the device.
Daniel's name hadn't been mentioned at all and Jack couldn't make up his mind whether he was annoyed about that, or glad that he'd been spared the hypocrisy of the sentiments that might have accompanied the reference.
It was all phrases like, 'for their aid in events which could have had disastrous consequences...' and 'in recognition of the great sacrifices that the people of Earth have made, yadda, yadda, yadda...' He'd seen Travell glance across at him and his team then. Was that regret in her eyes?
He followed her gaze.
His team... What the hell was Morten doing sitting there? He hadn't made any sacrifice. He didn't even know Daniel. Worse still, he had an open contempt of civilians and how they performed under military command. He was only sitting there with them because he was now a member of the prestigious SG-1. A reputation more due to Daniel's involvement than the rest of them, or did it just feel that way?
Why had they given in to the demand so easily? Why had Daniel? What had the Tollans ever done for them? The bitter accusation repeated again. This... presentation... whatever it was... a token of their gratitude, wasn't enough. Could never be enough. Hell, if they'd done this before, when they'd asked the Tollan for some way of defending against the Goa'uld, they could probably have avoided this situation altogether.
And then maybe not. For all their holier-than-thou 'you'd be better off without the kind of weaponry we could supply you with' attitude. It seemed as though their stuff wasn't so great after all... or else why would Osiris's threat be so dangerous? Crap!
They'd handed Daniel over to a Goa'uld for Christ's sake. Didn't they know what that meant? Easy for them to say 'the Goa'uld are not our enemy, Colonel', but they damn well were Earth's enemy and SG-1 had pissed them off royally in the past. Daniel even more so for reopening the 'gate.
After fighting so hard for the last couple of months to dampen his feelings, this farcical show of friendship and exchange had brought it all back to the surface. The anger, the resentment, the sorrow, the fear. The wound was too fresh, the scab had barely dried and now he was itching to rip it off and let it bleed some more.
After all the treaty signings and pleasantries, the parties began to mingle, while refreshments were handed out.
In one small group, Jack, Carter, Teal'c and Fraiser were trying to appear interested in the conversation that Morten was managing to hold mostly with himself. About how well the ceremony had gone, and that to finally have access to some worthwhile alien technology was an answer to all their prayers, and wasn't it great to meet the President, and how he bet Carter couldn't wait to get her hands on that bracelet.
From the look on her face, Jack surmized that at that precise moment, alien technology was about the furthest thing from Carter's mind. Tollana's technology had lost its appeal and not just because it now seemed that the Goa'uld had a way to beat their defences anyway.
Jack wanted to tell Morten to shut the hell up and that he was only on the team to make up the numbers until...
Suddenly, the alarms began to wail. "Unscheduled 'gate activation," came the call over the tannoy.
Guests scattered away from the ramp as a platoon of SFs stormed through the gathering. General Hammond and his secretary quickly ushered the President and the Tollans behind one of the screens that had been put up to hide some of the unsightly pipes and cables, ensuring that they were well out of the way of any possible action.
"Can't close the iris, Sir." The voice from the loudspeakers had risen in pitch, panic evident as the airman tried various commands to try to shut off access to the SGC via the now open wormhole. "Incoming traveller!"
A dishevelled figure stumbled through the 'gate, managing a few unsteady steps before falling on his face.
Jack raced up the ramp and turned the ragged bundle over. It took a moment for the face to find a name in his brain. "Nick?"
The old man's eyes popped open. He coughed wearily and Jack noticed the smudges of grime and dried blood across his face, the acrid smell of smoke ridden clothing.
"Danyel..." Nick began, but coughed again. "I-I saw him... He..." His eyelids slammed shut and his body went limp in Jack's arms.
"What?" Jack shook Nick's shoulders. "Where?"
* * * * * * * *
"Nick!" Daniel cried out as the rings deposited him on the floor of the transportation room. His struggle against the two Jaffa still holding him tightly by the arms ceased as he succumbed to the futility of it and allowed his legs to fold beneath him. The Jaffa lurched with the sudden shift in Daniel's capability to support himself.
He'd been shocked to see Nick in the temple and an old adage sprang to mind... 'Be sure your sins will find you out'. The old man had been on P7X 377 when they had left him with the 'giant aliens', what was he doing down there? And now Daniel didn't know whether his grandfather had survived Osiris's stunning blow. Nick couldn't be dead, he just couldn't... If he told himself enough times, he might just believe it. Please, Nick, we've not had chance to...
Now what? Daniel looked up and saw Sarah's face staring down at him, menacingly.
"Who was that old man?"
Daniel remained silent, as much brooding on what had happened to Nick as in sheer defiance.
"If you do not answer I will just take what I desire." Osiris raised the gloved hand toward him.
The left side of Daniel's face scrunched up as he felt the prick of the silver disc lodged in his temple. Knowing that Osiris could do whatever it wished with his memories, Daniel decided to conserve his energy for once and tell the Goa'uld what it wanted to know. It wasn't like it was a national secret. "My grandfather."
"Interesting." Osiris drawled, pacing to and fro before the submissive archaeologist. "Still, it is of no importance now. He is dead."
No, dear God, please... no. Daniel felt himself shiver slightly. Osiris couldn't know that for sure. It was just one more mind game to quash his hope. The Goa'uld enjoyed toying with his emotions and Daniel's life could provide more than enough fuel for Osiris' callous amusement.
"You want to believe that isn't true?" Osiris stopped directly in front of him and lifted Daniel's head with a secure grip on his chin. Daniel recognised the vacancy of Osiris' eyes, the Goa'uld was probing its host's mind. "Why do you care for him, when he abandoned you?"
Daniel's whole being stiffened. How much had he told Sarah? He gave his answer, deliberately avoiding any personal information that Osiris could use against him later. "Family is important. It helps to make us strong, knowing that there is someone there for us."
"But he wasn't there for you, was he?"
Daniel's head dropped.
"Was he?" Osiris pressed.
"No," Daniel whispered.
Sarah's head tossed in satisfaction, long curls whipping around her face. "You see how family can be used against you, to make you treacherous, to taunt you, to dent your spirit." Osiris leaned in closer to Daniel to whisper meanly in his ear, "The old man is dead. I saw him quake in fear as he drew his last breath."
"He... he's not dead." Daniel said quietly, trying to reassure himself.
"What difference would it make to you if that were so?"
Stubbornly, Daniel didn't reply.
"Ah!" Osiris exclaimed triumphantly. "You're hoping he will send someone to rescue you."
Daniel nodded in spite of himself. Was he really that transparent? Damn.
"Do you really think the Tollans would let themselves be jeopardized for the sake of rescuing you."
"Jack would find a way." Daniel couldn't resist a touch of defiance. Osiris had been getting the better of him for far too long.
"Ah, the infamous Colonel O'Neill..." the dual toned voice hissed sardonically. "Let him come. He would make a fitting addition to my collection of Tau'ri." Osiris gave Daniel's chin a sharp jerk as the hold was broken. "And when I tire of him, I could make a handsome profit from the proceeds of his sale. There are many who would like to have their revenge on him."
Daniel wanted to reply with some sarcastic comeback, but he couldn't think of anything just now, except how foolish he'd been to try to initiate a rescue. He suddenly hoped that the Tollans would quash any attempt to get him back. He didn't want Jack to fall into a trap of his making.
"He wouldn't let himself get caught just to free me." Daniel retracted his earlier wish and willed the words to be true.
Spurred on by the emotion invoked by the exchange, Osiris continued with the assault on Daniel's guilt. "It matters not. The weapon will soon be ready and I can make good my threat -whether you are here or not."
That was what Daniel had been dreading, proof that the Tollans would be wiped out, despite the sacrifice he had made. Although it had always been in his mind as a possibility, there was a chance that Osiris would keep the promise to spare Tollana. It was a chance he'd been willing to risk his own freedom for.
"The other System Lords will retaliate if you attack Tollana."
"When I have the weapon, no one will be able to defeat me."
"Care to bet on that?" Daniel provoked.
His outburst earned him a vicious backhand that sent him sprawling on the cold metal floor. Daniel swiped at the blood trickling down his cheek from the gash caused by one of the golden glove tips of the hand device. It wasn't the first such injury he'd acquired and he received some satisfaction from the fact that he had actually enraged Osiris sufficiently to lash out at him. Jack would be proud of him.
A Jaffa stepped forward to pull him back up.
"You will be silent." Osiris commanded.
Daniel obeyed, biding his time for another dig at the Goa'uld.
When he had first been delivered into Osiris's care he had wished for nothing more than to instigate his own death, until he found out that there was a sarcophagus on board the ship. There was no point in dying after that discovery. The more he annoyed Osiris, the more likely it was that he would be brought back to life merely to meet another torturous end.
Then Osiris had revealed the true purpose of Daniel's enslavement. Sarah's mind had revealed to the Goa'uld that Daniel's talent for languages was exactly what it needed in order to build the weapon of mass destruction it wanted.
The threat to annihilate the Tollans could not be carried out until that weapon was complete.
Daniel had become determined not to die after he discovered that. He hoped that somehow he could prevent the weapon's construction, or at least delay it long enough to get word out that the whole thing was a bluff and that Osiris could be attacked without fear of retribution. Had he achieved that? If Nick could get a message to SGC, would they be able to act on the information?
Osiris was peering at him, waiting. Daniel righted himself, unsuccessfully trying to shrug the Jaffa's grip from his biceps. He guessed he must've looked pretty dazed for a while.
"Here." Osiris placed the stolen object in Daniel's hands. "Tell me if it is the piece I seek."
Daniel turned the weighty sphere over in his grasp. The glyphs were small and he had to hold it right up to his eyes to make them clear in his vision. His glasses had been smashed long ago in another one of Osiris's fits of rage.
"These symbols aren't like the ones on the altar it was stored in."
"Is it the piece I need? Tell me!" Osiris demanded, advancing on the young man.
"I'll have to do some more work." Daniel braced himself, sensing what would follow his obtuse answer. Osiris had already had the gratification of inducing pain by actual physical contact for today. It was no use fighting, the Jaffa just gripped his arms tighter.
The Goa'uld placed the gem of the hand device against the disc embedded in Daniel's temple and retrieved what it wanted, a new memory to torture him with.
No, not that.
Nick was fresh on the surface of his mind after the events in the temple. He could feel fingers of energy seeping into his brain, seeking out the deeper memories connected to the old man.
With a bolt of light and heat that ripped through his consciousness and made him start, the image appeared before him, agonizingly real. He was eight years old again. Sitting in Mrs Hannay's office, the social worker about to deliver the news of what his grandfather had said to the request for Daniel to go and live with him.
This revelation of Daniel's anguished early years was obviously greatly amusing to Osiris, judging by the way he was now being taunted over his supposedly pitiful display of weakness.
Daniel hung his head, furiously gnawing on his bottom lip in an effort to keep the tears at bay. Nick didn't want him. Of course the letter Mrs Hannay read out didn't say it quite as bluntly as that, but for all the regret filled words, the meaning was the same.
His only living relative cared more about his work, his obsession, than he did about the lonely, frightened little boy he had just condemned to a life of transient homes, families paid to take him in and not always with kind-heartedness at the root of their apparent generosity.
It hurt. It hurt so deep, the bottom was unreachable.
Osiris laughed, a sound that penetrated the memory and brought Daniel back to reality with a cruel jolt.
There was never any acknowledgement of his name after the device was activated. It added to the torture, instilled a greater understanding that he was truly alone. Daniel struggled to prevent his eight-year-old self from humiliating him with tears as he desperately tried to blot out the bitterness of past memory with current hope.
"I believe it is the piece you require," Daniel conceded, shakily.
"Good." Osiris was satisfied. "Study it further. I need to be sure it will work."
Daniel nodded. He thought of all the occasions he'd had to badger Jack into allowing him more time to examine some artefact or other. What he wouldn't give to be back with the old frustrations again.
Osiris spun away, the dazzling gown sweeping the floor in a wide arc. Most of the Jaffa trooped after the Goa'uld, but three remained -Daniel's personal guards.
Although he found it embarrassing and annoying to have every single minute of his day under their watchful eyes, he couldn't help but feel a little pleased that after his few early attempts to escape, Osiris deemed him worth such close scrutiny.
In the middle of the triangle of his guards, he was led back to his quarters.
Once inside the small, sparsely furnished room, he vaguely toyed with the idea of pretending to examine the sphere, but his mind was no longer his own.
The memory device jabbed at his psyche and he drew in a hasty breath, Osiris was treating him to another of his grandfather's great disappearing acts.
//You've only just come back into my life.//
Nick's impressive stature was retreating. The old man ready to start his life anew with Quetzalcoatl and his kind.
Nick was leaving him again and the grief came as a crushing blow.
Grinding the heels of his hands into his eye sockets, Daniel tried to banish the image and the accompanying sorrow from his mind.
"Okay, only kidding, of course I'm going to look at it." There really wasn't any need to say it out loud, but it made Daniel feel more part of a conversation rather than knowing that Osiris was tapping into his thoughts.
He had learnt quickly and very painfully that Osiris could access his mind via the disc, even from a distance. Sometimes he wished he could stop thinking altogether. The Goa'uld always seemed to know when he was trying to be obstructive to its cause, or derogatory in some way and he usually paid dearly for his perceived insolence.
The hand device was needed to grab the memories from the recesses of Daniel's consciousness, but once accessed, the images could be played back to him, complete with every emotion and every sensation that had gone with them. Added to that,Osiris could transmit commands and receive Daniel's immediate thoughts through the disc whenever it wanted.
The control worked well. Daniel dutifully went to work on the artefact.
In almost any situation other than this, Daniel would have been fascinated by the hieroglyphics inscribed on the sphere. Now he felt only sadness that this wonderful piece of technology was going to be used in a way that its' designers would find abhorrent.
Osiris had told him of this device and how it could be linked with the other items the Goa'uld had collected since its release from the stasis jar. Some of the pieces of the weapon had been sequestered before Osiris's imprisonment. Which was a direct result of the other system lords discovering how powerful Osiris was about to become.
The orb was the key to the weapon's success. Whoever owned the orb would have the power to rule the universe.
The 'giant aliens' had no such ambitions. The orb was revered and its power used to build their world and keep it regenerated. Without it their planet would die... and they with it.
Daniel mourned for them. And for all those who would be destroyed in the wake of Osiris.
Please God, no. Not the hospital.
The air was heavy with the smell of antiseptic. And he could hear the gentle murmur of voices. Their tone was hushed with the mis-placed reverence one gives to the sick. Or the crazy. Had it all been a dream? Had he never left...
"Dr Ballard?" The voice was female, medical authority leeching through her concern.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking him gently. Not yet. He wasn't ready to wake and face the reality of insanity. Besides his head hurt. It felt like somebody was trying to drill through his skull just above his left eye.
"I'm sure I saw him stir." A male voice, raw with impatience and strangely familiar.
"You can't rush these things, Colonel."
Colonel? Distant memory fluttered.
"I know that doc, but if he really does have information about Daniel..."
Oh, my God. Daniel!
Nick's eyes flew open. "I saw him." He'd intended the words to come out loud and urgent. Instead his voice sounded as though someone had been sandpapering his tonsils. He found himself being scrutinised by two pairs of brown eyes. His gaze flitted past the woman and rested on the man. Now he remembered. Colonel Jack O'Neill. Daniel's friend. He tried again. "I saw him. He needs your help."
"Take it easy, sir." The woman, a doctor from her white coat, was frowning at the monitor at his bedside.
He ignored her, but he still couldn't seem to get his tongue to work properly. His gaze fell on the water jug on the bedside table and he gestured urgently.
Jack exchanged a questioning look with the doctor and as she gave a small nod, quickly filled a waiting glass. As the woman slid another pillow behind his shoulders, Jack held the glass for him to drink. He swallowed two large mouthfuls, then tried again.
"There was a battle. I ran into the temple and there he was. My Daniel..." His tone sharpened with disapproval as memory returned. "Dressed like a gigolo and stealing from the altar like a two-bit grave robber. I barely recognised him."
"Dressed like what?" Jack's eyebrows virtually left his forehead. "Okay, let's back up a little here, shall we? Now, where exactly did you see Daniel?"
"He was in the temple." Nick leaned forward, searching Jack's face.
Jack shook his head, his impatience clear. "I meant which planet?"
"Oh." Nick frowned and slumped back into his pillows. "I have no idea."
"So exactly what do we have, Colonel?"
George Hammond studied his second-in-command's face. The arrival of Nick Ballard seemed to have blown life back into Jack O'Neill. Not before time. Since Daniel Jackson's departure barely a day had gone by without George fearing he'd find Jack's resignation sitting on his desk
"Well, we know Daniel's alive and well." Jack hesitated on the last word, a frown crossing his face.
George didn't miss the concerned look that jumped between Jack and Carter. Jack was still speaking, though.
"And we know the threat to the Tollan was a bluff."
"A bluff?" George said in surprise.
"That was the message Daniel asked Nick to deliver to us." Jack's face was suddenly animated. "Which means, Sir, we can go and kick Osiris' ass and get Daniel back." He muttered something under his breath that George was sure sounded like 'And get him the hell out of that gigolo costume'.
Before he could pursue the issue, thought, Morten cleared his throat. "With all due respect, Colonel O'Neill, can we really take Ballard's word on that?"
Jack shot the man a dark look. "Yes, I think we can."
A muscle quivered to one side of Morten's jaw. "Even though he has a history of mental illness?" Morten turned his attention to George. "Sir, I read the file. Nicholas Ballard, by his own admission, frequently had hallucinations involving Doctor Jackson."
Jack's fingers folded into a fist on the table top. "I don't think is the time for a history lesson, Lieutenant."
Morten didn't so much as flinch. "All I'm saying, colonel, is that it's a little premature to be planning a rescue mission given the unreliable nature of our source."
Teal'c was now giving Morten a look that could've freeze dried coffee. George decided it was time to interrupt. "I'll be the judge of what is and isn't premature here, gentlemen. Colonel O'Neill, assuming Doctor Ballard's information is correct, do we know Doctor Jackson's current whereabouts?"
"Well, sir... " Jack grimaced. "Not exactly."
Major Carter leaned forward in her seat. "After Nick left here, the giant aliens transported him to another planet with an indigenous population. From what I could gather from him, these people had roots in the Mayan civilisation of Earth and the aliens have been protecting them from the goa'uld."
Jack interrupted. "Unfortunately Nick's friends didn't seem to be around when Osiris' Jaffa turned up and started blasting the hell out of everyone."
"I see," George said quietly. "So you think Osiris may have taken up residence on this planet?"
"Actually, no sir," Carter replied. She shot Jack a quick look. "We think this may have been a case of hit and run."
Jack fidgeted in his chair. "Nick said Daniel took something from the altar."
Morten made an exasperated noise. "Took? As in stole?"
Another glare was exchanged across the cherry wood. Jack continued. "Nick doesn't think Osiris was interested in the planet, sir. He thinks it was the artefact that Daniel *took* which was the target. Which means our tombraiding goa'uld has probably slunk back to his lair, taking Daniel with him."
"So we're no better off then," George said. "We still don't know where Doctor Jackson is."
"No, sir," Jack admitted. "But the Tok'ra might. And now we know the threat to the Tollan is a bluff, there's no reason not to ask them."
George considered for a moment. He wanted Daniel Jackson back as much as any of the people sitting at the briefing table. A flicker of hope ran through his veins, but he determinedly ran through the facts, weighing each one. Finally satisfied he nodded at Jack "Well then. What are you waiting for colonel?"
Jack was on his feet in a second. "Yes Sir!"
Daniel was worried by the inscription on the orb. If what he had translated was correct, the people on that planet were soon going to be in serious trouble.
A sudden ironic laugh convulsed him. They weren't the only ones then...
He regarded the orb in awe. How could something so small be so powerful? It was the last piece Osiris needed for the super-weapon. Then there would be nothing to stop the Goa'uld decimating the universe for its own ends.
He had to do something. Anything!
As he rose from his work place, all three Jaffa twitched to attention.
"Easy guys..." Daniel placated, while a plan was formulating in his brain. "I need to see the other artefacts." He began walking toward the door.
"Osiris sleeps." One of the Jaffa stepped sideways to block Daniel's way.
"I know." He had never been allowed access to any of the pieces without Osiris's express permission, and never to more than one piece at a time. "I'd just like to be able to give Osiris the answer as to how this works."
"You must wait."
"Osiris wants this working as soon as possible and I can't guarantee that the pieces will work together unless I can do some cross referencing. You don't want me to tell Osiris that you've been obstructing my work, do you?"
The Jaffa was silent. Daniel could almost feel the tension rising in the big man as he wrestled with the right thing to do.
"Tell you what... if it will put you more at ease, I don't need to take this with me. I'll leave it here." He set the orb down carefully on the end of his bed, making sure that it wasn't about to roll off. "This is the only piece that's irreplaceable. So, can I go now?"
"We will accompany you."
"Of course you will." Daniel had anticipated that. In fact it was entirely necessary to his plan.
* * * *
It wasn't going well. Not well at all.
Jack leaned back in his chair, blew out an exasperated breath and cut across the inconsequential babble coming from Aldwin's mouth.
"He said it was a bluff. Exactly what is it you're finding so difficult to comprehend?"
The Tok'Ra stopped and turned his attention to Jack.
"Apart from the fact we have no idea whether Doctor Jackson has been compromised..."
"Daniel hasn't been compromised," Jack threw back angrily.
Jacob Carter shifted in his seat next to Aldwin. His voice was sympathetic. "Jack, I know how much Daniel means to you..."
"No," Jack interrupted again. "You don't."
God, he was sick of this. His feet itched to be on the ramp and setting off to rescue Daniel, and here he was playing nice with the Tok'Ra.
Aldwin turned back to George Hammond. "I'm sorry, but the Tok'Ra are not prepared to risk the lives of an entire planet on the word of one man."
"Well see there's the rub," Jack said. "We're not asking you to risk anything. All we want is the location of Osiris new base. We'll do the rest."
"Colonel O'Neill, the situation is very delicately balanced at the moment. Osiris is growing in strength, but with the demise of Apophis many other system lords are also coming to the fore. The news that Osiris may not have the ability to destroy the Tollans merely supports our decision to wait and see."
Carter leaned forward to catch Alwin's eye. "Surely that's all the more reason to attempt to get Daniel back. He's been..." She hesitated, clearly still struggling with the concept. "'Living' with Osiris for months. Chances are he has a wealth of valuable information." She raised her eyebrows as Jack shot her a sour look. Her non-verbal response telegraphed loud and clear she didn't like arguing Daniel's worth in cold, hard currency any more than he did.
Jack gave a slight nod, hoping she realised he knew what she was doing and why. He was just about to back her line of attack when Morten waded in.
"With all due respect, how would we know if we could trust anything Doctor Jackson told us." Morten's eyes turned towards Teal'c. "After all, we know the goa'uld are skilled in mind control."
Teal'c inclined his head. "There are many things we do and do not know. I do not see the purpose of speculation. As you would say, 'Let us cross that bridge when we come to it.'"
"Teal'c's right," Jack said. "We're just wasting time trying to second guess everything. General, SG-1 are ready to go through the 'gate now. So there's a delicate balance out there. Well I say let's go and do something to swing it in our favour."
Aldwin shook his head. "I'm sorry, Colonel. If you do decide to go after Doctor Jackson, you must do so without the assistance of the Tok'Ra."
Jack stared at him in disbelief. "You're not going to give us the address."
Aldwin rose to his feet. "General Hammond. I believe this meeting is concluded."
Her heart heavy, Sam accompanied her father to the gateroom.
She couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice. "You know, Daniel deserves better than this."
Jacob gently squeezed her shoulder. "I know how much he means to you, Sam."
The sudden affection speared through her. Oh God. She wasn't going to cry now. Not in front of the general and Aldwin. And most definitely not in front of her father. She chewed her bottom lip and pulled herself together.
"Do you, Dad?" She looked him in the eye. "I think maybe the colonel was right. That actually you don't understand at all."
Jacob looked away, apparently embarrassed. "Yes well, maybe I'll surprise him one day." He looked back at her and abruptly changed the subject. "Talking of surprises, I have something for you." He pulled a small gift-wrapped package out his pocket. His gaze flickered towards Aldwin, who was in conversation with the general, as he added. "I didn't forget your birthday."
Sam frowned. Her birthday was months away. She opened her mouth to make some comment, but Jacob pressed the gift into her hand. "I brought you something special."
There was something about his tone that made her fall silent. Turning the package over, she began to slip one finger under the seal. Jacob's hand folded over hers.
"No, don't open until I'm gone."
"Oh." Totally mystified, Sam nodded obediently. "Sure." Reaching up she kissed him goodbye. "Take care, Dad."
"You too, Sam."
She watched as he walked up the ramp with Aldwin and disappeared into the shimmering blue event horizon.
"Birthday present, Major?" Hammond asked, as she turned the package over in her hands.
"I'm not sure, sir." She slipped her finger under the seal again and hurriedly undid the package. Inside the paper was a small wooden box. Sam lifted the lid. "Oh, it's a necklace." She lifted it out and held it up to the light. Six emerald-coloured beads were threaded onto a fine gold chain. "It's lovely, but I don't understand why Dad... I mean, it's not my birthday for months."
She dropped the necklace back into its box and closed the lid.
"If you'll excuse me Sir?"
"Yes Major." Hammond began to turn away, but then hesitated. His eyes sought and held hers. "Doctor Jackson had made more miraculous returns than any man I know. We will get him back."
Sam nodded. "I hope so Sir."
She made her way back to her laboratory, feeling the absence of Daniel as keenly now as when he'd walked through the 'gate knowing Osiris was waiting on the other side. She hadn't realised how much she'd come to rely on him being there to bounce ideas off. Even though he wasn't a scientist in the sense that she was, he had the essential knack of coming at problems from a different angle, an angle that often stretched her own thinking. God, she missed him.
Back in her lab, she put her father's gift on the desk and tried to drum up some enthusiasm for the project she was working on. Two hours later, her backside complaining at the hardness of the bench stool she was sitting on, she was relieved to see Janet strolled through the doorway.
Janet flopped into Sam's desk chair. "I need food. I need coffee. And I need intelligent conversation."
Sam smiled. "SG-3 back from a mission?"
"How did you guess." Janet rubbed at her temples. "So, can I tempt you to the mess hall?"
"Sure - just give me a couple of minutes."
"No problem." Janet's gaze fell on the box. "Whoa. Very nice," she said, lifting the necklace out. "Secret admirer?"
"Birthday present from my father." Sam frowned at the memory. "I still haven't figured out what got into him. My birthday is ages away."
"Well he doesn't get to see a lot of you," Janet replied, holding the necklace up to Sam's desk light to show the beads off. "That's odd."
"I thought I saw something flicker inside one of the beads."
"Really?" Sam was off her seat and at Janet's side in a moment.
Holding the beads back to the light, Janet twisted and turned the necklace. "There! Did you see it? Looks like some sort of hologram. You have to get the angle just right. Damn, gone again."
"Let me try." Sam took the necklace and mimicked Janet's action. For several seconds she saw nothing but the attractive green crystal, then suddenly...
"Oh my God." She turned wide eyes to Janet. "I think it's a 'gate symbol."
Her fingers shaking with sudden excitement she manipulated the necklace so the light caught the other beads. "There's another... and another. Janet, pass me the phone. I think Dad's given us the address for Osiris' base."
The route to the locked and guarded artefact room took Daniel and his Jaffa escort past Osiris' quarters. Daniel wasn't sure if he had really heard the faint hum emanating from the room, or whether it had been imagined. Some memories lived to close too the surface. Daniel shrugged away the warmth that had crept through his bones at the thought of the sarcophagus. He was dreading Osiris discovering that particular part of his life. If the goa'uld realised what a hold the sarcophagus could have over him, how it could change him... Oh God. He had to keep that memory buried as deep as possible.
They reached the artefact room. The Jaffa consulted with the guards and some heated words were exchanged along with more than a few irate glares in Daniel's direction. Finally though he was inside and the strong box containing the weapon pieces was opened.
Daniel knelt beside it and spent a few moments carefully examining the devices, considering which of the artefacts to choose, while the Jaffa settled back to observe him.
Reviewing his plan, Daniel knew it probably wouldn't delay Osiris for long, but it would be a moral victory, if nothing else. Assuming it worked...
He chose a small device, as far as he knew it was a rarity, if not unique. He was pretty certain an electric charge would stop it working. Holding it tightly, he prayed he was right about the orders Osiris would've have given the Jaffa concerning his welfare. A spin cycle in the sarcophagus following a staff weapon injury definitely wasn't what he needed. Right or not, he was about to find out. Daniel jumped to his feet and bolted for the door.
Four staff weapons swung round, ready to take him down. To his relief, his personal guard immediately yelled, "No! Osiris wants him alive!"
He heard the chitter of a zat being primed, and gritted his teeth in expectation. He had only made it as far as the door when he felt the first wave of energy begin to surge outwards from a point in the middle of his back, rapidly heading for his extremities.
As the shock reached his left hand where he was holding the device, he vaguely heard a sharp popping noise. Yes! With luck whatever technology was contained within the metal tube was short circuiting.
And then he was falling. The sensation barely registered above the millions of prickling spasms that tortured his nerves and the cramps of his muscles being painfully contracted. Suddenly, he could feel heat in his hand. Oh, god. That possibility hadn't actually crossed his mind. Unable to release his grip on the device, he managed to close his eyes, so that he didn't have to endure the sight of the artefact exploding in his hand. Any second now...
Oh God! Oh yes! Thank you. Thank you. The disabling convulsions diminished enough for him to uncurl his fingers slightly. The device rolled free of his fingertips just as it exploded.
Fresh agony bit into Daniel's consciousness as his hand and arm were caught in a searing burst of flames. He writhed on the floor, the skin on his arm blistering as he watched in morbid fascination.
He dared to look at his hand and had to swallow back the bitter bile that rose at the hideous sight of his charred fingers, still smoking.
The door was flung open and Osiris stormed in, demanding, "What is the meaning of this?"
Fawning their excuses, the Jaffa stumbled over themselves trying to back away from the wrathful glare of Osiris.
"You fools!" Osiris lambasted them. "The device is destroyed!" The Goa'uld glanced unsympathetically at the suffering archaeologist. "You are more guileful than this host would give you credit for." Osiris laughed. "I am impressed. However, you have upset my plans. I would let this be your lesson, but I have need of your hands."
Daniel couldn't answer. Blackness teetered on the edge of his vision and he willed it to obliterate his pain. As it drew him in, he heard Osiris say to one of the Jaffa, "Bring me the healing crystal."
* * * *
Jack held the beads up to the light on General Hammond's desk. "Jacob Carter's a good man sir."
"That he is." George took the beads from Jack and scrutinised them carefully. "We're damn lucky Doctor Fraiser noticed, though."
Jack nodded impatiently. He was all for giving credit where credit was due, but right now he was more interested in getting a rescue mission off the ground. "So can we gear up?"
"You're sure these coordinates are for Osiris' base, colonel?"
"What else could they be?"
"What if Jacob wasn't aware they were there? What if he genuinely thought he was buying a gift for his daughter? For all we know he could be an unwitting player in a setting a trap. And even if it's not a trap, we can't risk sending a MALP in case we tip off Osiris. You'll be going in blind, Jack."
"With all due respect, sir, we're prepared to take our chances."
"I appreciate that, Colonel. But it's my job to ask these questions."
"And I appreciate that, General. But Daniel is still out there in the hands of that son-of-a-bitch, and, without wanting to step out of line, we're wasting time." Jack took the beads back. "This is the best lead we've had in over three months. We can't let it pass."
He held his breath as Hammond leaned back in his chair, clearly contemplating the risks. "We may well be putting the Tok'Ra alliance on the line."
"Screw the Tok'Ra!" The words burst out of Jack's mouth before he could stop them.
George merely shook his head. "On this occasion, Colonel, I think I agree with you. Screw the Tok'Ra. Go get the boy back."
He watched them gearing up. Analysing. Studying them. Looking for their strengths and weaknesses.
Teal'c. A turncoat Jaffa who had denounced the goa'uld as false gods and now served at O'Neill's side. Morten couldn't fault the man for his loyalty - he'd left home and family to join the SGC. He guessed having the Jaffa at his back in a fight would be a very comforting feeling. Sometimes, though, it would seem that loyalty cost his friends dearly. Wasn't he responsible for killing Daniel Jackson's goa'uld-invested wife. What was her name? Shy- something. Shyla?
No, that was the alien princess Jackson had played house with while his team-mates were dying in some godforsaken naquadah mine. For a guy who claimed to be so devoted to his wife, Jackson didn't bypass too many opportunities to get his leg over. From what Morten had heard, the man's wife had barely had time to turn cold before he was making out in the VIP suite with some blonde. And then there was that Hathor. Morten had to admit Jackson was smart - who else could not only get laid on company time but earn everyone's sympathy at the same time?
Damn. What was her name? Odd he could recall all those other women, but not Jackson's wife ... Wait... Sha're. That was it. Beautiful woman according to the gossip. Beautiful and dangerous once that snake got in her head. Apparently would've killed Jackson if it hadn't of been for Teal'c.
Morten's eyes narrowed. Guess the Jaffa carried a whole shovel-load of guilt over that one. Probably explained why he didn't raise so much as an eyebrow at this ridiculous scheme to take on Osiris.
Then there was the lovely Samantha Carter. Beautiful if you liked the blue-eyed, blonde look, and frighteningly smart. Not smart enough to have a life outside the SGC though. And she was too soft-centred to be a really good soldier. Morten had seen her tear up on more than one occasion over the past couple of weeks. For Christ's sake, Jackson had been gone for nearly three months. Time to move on, lady. Unless of course he was more than just a team-mate. Hey, wouldn't that be a laugh. Carter and Jackson bonking each other's super-smart brains out right under the nose of Jack dense-as-oatmeal O'Neill.
"You nearly done there, Morten?"
Talk of the devil. He looked away as O'Neill shot him a sharp look.
"Yes, sir." The reply was automatic. Neat, precise, military. None of the 'sure, Jack, just give me a minute' crap Jackson dished out. So why the hell did he get the feeling O'Neill struggled to give him the time of day, while being willing to drop everything - hell, willing to put the Tok'ra-Tau'ri alliance on the line - to go rescue the geek?
God. He'd tried so hard to be everything he thought O'Neill wanted. He followed orders to the letter. He went above and beyond the call of duty. He said yes sir, no sir in all the right places. He did his job in making first contact go smoothly. Not that anyone had shown him any gratitude for the fact they'd gone two whole missions without getting into any trouble thanks to his linguistic skills. He really didn't know what else he had to do to get accepted. Hell, he'd even tried to make nice by bringing along a handful of Fifth Avenue bars to liven up mealtimes. He was still smarting from the effect that'd had on O'Neill. As if he could've known that was Jackson's favourite form of desert.
O'Neill banged his locker door shut. "Let's move it out, kids."
Morten watched as Carter straightened her back and moved towards the door only to suddenly stop at Jackson's locker. There was a rumour O'Neill had been overhead threatening to kill the admin person who dared reassign it. That had been enough in itself to ensure nobody had yet to broach the subject with him.
Oh, she was going to get it now. Standing there like a rabbit in headlights, holding up the team. Couldn't she see O'Neill was itching to go? He waited for the sarcastic remark from O'Neill's direction as Carter reached out a hand and brushed her fingertips against the grey paint of the locker door.
"I'm glad you didn't let them reassign this, Sir." She turned towards O'Neill as Teal'c moved to join her.
"As am I," the Jaffa agreed, also reaching out to touch the locker.
Carter shot Teal'c a quick smile. "I know it's crazy, but seeing his name here makes me feel like he's still part of the team."
O'Neill opened his mouth. Morten waited with barely concealed anticipation for the put down, for O'Neill to act like the leader he was and tell the pair of them to cut it with the over-sentimental crap and get their butts out the door.
"He is still part of the team, Carter."
What? Disappointment sliced him like a knife.
He could barely believe his eyes as O'Neill joined the other two in this sick homage to a lump of metal. Somebody pass a bucket; he was going to puke on sugar overload.
"And we're going to get him back." O'Neill's voice was sharp with determination.
O'Neill smiled grimly. "Okay. There's a goa'uld out there just begging to have its ass kicked. Let's go!"
Morten hung back as his three team-mates headed out into the corridor. As the door closed behind them, he turned his attention to Daniel's locker.
"He's still part of the team." He mimicked the words with distaste. God. It was like he hadn't even been in the room with them. His anger suddenly boiled over and he pulled back his right arm, smashing his fist into the locker door, relishing the sharp pain as the metal buckled beneath his knuckles.
"I'm the linguist on SG-1 now, you hear me?" He flexed his bruised fingers and then reached up to trace the letters on the embossed name plate screwed to the door. "So do us all a favour Doctor Daniel Jackson." He felt his lips curl into a cold smile, as he added. "Go rest in peace."
His head was swimming. A cool draft wafted across him. He could feel it playing with the fine hairs on his body. There was a soft click and the flurry of air ceased. Someone had entered the room. Which room? Where was he? Reluctant to open his eyes just yet, Daniel listened intently. He could hear the soft footfalls of someone pacing.
Why was he laying here? Wherever *here* was. The last thing he remembered he... Oh, God!
Heart hammering rapidly inside a chest that suddenly felt so tight it thwarted his efforts to breathe; he shot upright, gasping and lifted his left hand to his face. Squinting in the half-light of the darkened room, he could see new pink flesh. He gently stroked along the surface of his arm, amazed at its softness.
Relief washed over him. Osiris must have been feeling uncharacteristically benevolent to have healed him so quickly. Flexing his fingers, he found they were still quite tender as the regenerated skin was stretched for the first time. It tingled, almost unpleasantly, but it was better than...
"Aaargh!" Daniel screamed. Looking back at his arm, all he could see was a blackened, smoldering stump. Agony... from the burns... and his head... Why? His uninjured hand flew to his temple to find the source of the pain. He plucked at the memory device, unsuccessfully trying to dislodge it.
"So, slave, you would dare to cross me," Osiris gloated evilly. "Your recklessness will cost you dear."
In his distress, Daniel had neglected the fact that there was someone else in the room. The image of the roasted limb began to waver, gradually replaced by the reality of his newly repaired forearm and hand.
"You should be kneeling before me in gratitude," Osiris hissed. "I could easily have left you to suffer."
"I'm sure you had your reasons for healing me," Daniel ground out, breathlessly.
"Quite so. I will need you to steal me a replacement for the device you destroyed." Osiris came out of the shadows to sit on the bed beside Daniel, languorously running the back of one long well manicured finger up and down the overly sensitive skin of his left arm.
Daniel cringed. Gooseflesh crept across his bare chest and stomach at the unwanted attention. He wanted to back away, but the narrow bed was set against the wall and left him nowhere to go.
Concentrating hard, he tried to visualize the serpent-like creature controlling the lithe figure he knew so well, denying Sarah's face, her curves, her touch, her scent, to his consciousness. He couldn't afford to let his own body betray him.
Laughing deeply, Osiris lightly rested a hand on Daniel's flushed cheek. "Still unwilling, slave?"
"Slaves, by definition, are not willing."
"Slaves should endure what is required of them, " Osiris replied, moistening Sarah's lips with a seductive flick of the tongue and leaned in.
Daniel braced himself for the assault. It wasn't the first time Osiris had played this game and on each occasion, the inevitability of the situation was made abundantly clear. Was this the time Osiris would push it to the limit?
Osiris pulled away. "There would be no satisfaction in taking what I can. One day you will come to me. Then I shall savor the delights of my victory."
"Never, " Daniel was about to tell Osiris what to do with its satisfaction, when the ship shuddered. He glanced around nervously wondering what had just happened.
"We have arrived." Unconcerned by the ship's movement, Osiris got up and walked to the door, looking back at Daniel before leaving the room. "Dress. I have work for you."
* * * *
Nick was waiting at the foot of the ramp as Colonel O'Neill led his team into the Gateroom. The colonel's face was set with determination, but there was a flicker of hope Nick hadn't seen before. He could almost feel the emotion sparking off O'Neill, reaching out to fan his own flame of desire. If anyone could bring Daniel back alive and well it was Jack O'Neill.
Behind O'Neill was Major Carter and the Jaffa Teal'c - Daniel's friends. Nick knew both of them would gladly die for his grandson, and he couldn't help but offer up a prayer that such a sacrifice would be needed.
And finally there was Morten, Daniel's replacement. Nick knew little about the soldier, but if Jack O'Neill trusted him, that was good enough for him.
He stepped forward as the team pulled to a halt at the base of the ramp.
"Nick." The colonel seemed surprised to see him. "Does Janet know you're out of the infirmary?"
"I am quite well, I assure."
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement from General Hammond.
"Doctor Ballard has requested to accompany you Jack. I've already told him that isn't possible."
Nick flinched as O'Neill turned a sympathetic gaze on him. The colonel's hand waved towards the Stargate. "We may be heading into a battle. It's no place for an old man."
Old man! Nick bristled. "Daniel is my grandson. And he is in trouble. You must let me help him."
His appeal fell on deaf ears. O'Neill shook his head. "I'm sorry. Not this time."
The colonel reached out and squeezed his shoulder. Angrily Nick shrugged him off. "You think I'll be a hindrance, but I can take care of myself." He gestured towards Jack's revolver. "I can shoot one of those as well as anyone in this room."
O'Neill's eyes widened slightly at the claim, but almost as quickly he shuttered down any emotion. "That's not the issue, Nick. I'm sorry, but you can't come." He glanced over his soldier. "Open it up, technician."
Defeated Nick moved to O'Neill's side as the Stargate began to spin. It was magnificent. And to think his Daniel had solved the riddle that made it all possible. His heart lurched at memories of all the harsh words that had been spoken between them over the years. There was so much to regret...
Beside him he was vaguely aware of O'Neill and Hammond in conversation, words on encouragement offered, received and reciprocated. Nick chewed at his bottom lip. He had never crossed his mind that Daniel wouldn't be here, waiting at the SGC for his return. It was only in these past couple of days that he'd fully comprehended what a dangerous job Daniel had. And now he was out there, believing himself enslaved for the rest of his life...
He caught O'Neill's gaze, saw the look of apology in the man's eyes as he led his team up the ramp. 'It's no place for an old man'. O'Neill was right of course.
The team was at the event horizon now. There was the briefest of hesitation as, almost as one entity, they pulled in a breath. Then they were gone.
Something snapped inside Nick. Suddenly he was running. Running up the ramp towards the shimmering blue light. Somebody yelled his name. Military boots pounded behind him, shaking the metal beneath his feet. With as much effort as he could muster, he simultaneously threw himself at the event horizon and sent an appeal to any deity who might be paying attention.
Daniel hated having to do this. His whole life had been dedicated to the preservation of history and diverse cultures and it tore at his soul to desecrate the monument in the middle of the town's square.
Osiris had dispatched a tel-tak to transport Daniel and a platoon of Jaffa to the remote community, one of several hundred on the planet that Osiris had chosen for a base.
The towering statue of Pluto held two devices similar to that which had been destroyed when Daniel was zatted. He had figured that he wouldn't be able to buy much time with his actions, but he hadn't realized where the artefact was from or just how plentiful the supply of it would be.
Upon landing, Osiris had revealed why this planet had been selected as the base for operations. The weapon would need a new one of those devices after only a few uses. Here, nearly every sizeable settlement had a similar symbol of the god they worshipped, all equipped with the devices.
Daniel had not been able to determine properly what the purpose of these artefacts were in their correct housings, but for Osiris' weapon they apparently provided some sort of power source. They had a finite life, hence the need to replace them so often and Daniel wondered gloomily just how many times Osiris intended to use the weapon.
He berated himself for having picked the one artefact that Osiris could readily find any number of replacements for- give or take a brief battle or two with the locals.
Scratching irritably at his newly healed skin, Daniel considered his move.
He wandered into the square, unchallenged, but for a few quizzical looks at his odd apparel. The people here were very well covered in long gowns and robes and Daniel couldn't help but envy them. Apart from the obvious embarrassment factor of his skimpy outfit, the place was cold and he shivered as a light drizzle began to fall.
After circling the statue's base once, reading the inscription carefully, he stood back and studied the sculpture, searching for a safe route up. He shook his head to loosen the damp hair sticking to his forehead in clumps. It was quite a while since he'd worn it this long and it was beginning to get on his nerves, especially now as it channelled the rainwater to drip in his eyes.
Shivering again, this time more in anticipation than from the cold, he leapt onto the base. Ignoring the angry shouts that started to reach his ears, he continued to climb.
Staff blasts began to zing past him as the Jaffa broke cover to fire at the townsfolk that were now running toward the crazy young man daringly ascending their shrine.
Daniel balanced himself precariously on the arm of the statue, mindful of the fact that it was becoming slippery. He took an instrument from the pouch slung round his shoulder and started to pry one of the eye-pieces from the roughly carved face.
A stone hurled up from an irate man that had managed to dodge the advancing Jaffa hit Daniel's thigh and threatened to knock him from his perch. Another caught his shin and his foot slipped. Sucking in a huge gulp of air, he scrambled frantically to renew his tentative purchase on the treacherous surface.
Daniel managed to reach his trembling arms around the statue's head and he clung to it gratefully. He closed his eyes to the horizon see-sawing unnervingly in his vision and waited for the vertigo to pass.
He didn't want to fall. Although, it wasn't so much the idea of his body meeting unsympathetically with the ground from such a dizzy height that forced him to hang on tight, as the thought of what the gathering mob might do to him, if he suddenly found himself down there with them.
A voice in his head hissed at him reproachfully to complete his task.
Cracking his eyes open, he was thankful to find that there were now very few people below capable of launching anything in his direction. The main body of the crowd was being held in check behind their dwellings, as they sheltered from the Jaffa's weapons volleys.
'Do your work, slave.' Osiris screamed again in his mind.
Daniel pulled himself upright and was rather surprised to see the tool still clenched in his right hand.
'Do it!' Sarah's impatient tone, entwined with the deeper one, was sinister in the extreme.
"Okay!" Daniel yelled back. "Whatever happened to asking nicely?" A sharp twinge in his temple dulled his bravado. "Alright." He conceded. "I'm on it."
With a snap, the eye came out of its fixings in the stone. Daniel quickly stowed it in the pouch and started to clamber down.
He jumped down from the base, the wet earth cool to the soles of his bare feet. Scampering back to the tree line, he was grateful for the escorting Jaffa covering his hasty evacuation from town's square. With the retreat of the raiding party, the townspeople dared to restart their campaign, but only a few of the various objects being utilized as missiles by the agitated crowd made the distance to thump near his feet.
His heinous crime complete, Daniel leaned back against a tree to catch his breath. He'd done it. Run the gauntlet. Whoa, what a rush!
The Jaffa began to march past him on their way back to the tel-tak. One of the last warriors to reach the cover of the forest gave Daniel a rough shove in the direction of the ship. The bruising blow grounded his thoughts. Oh God, what had he done?
Daniel gazed sadly over his shoulder at the bodies of those who had been brave enough to be within striking distance of him. How could he have been glad that they'd been cut down? Had he really come to that? All those innocents slain, just to allow him to steal from them. He wasn't merely taking their property, but their lives and their faith.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Osiris was waiting for them to return.
The small craft landed in the designated bay and the raiding party exited to file past. Two Jaffa were missing, a small price to pay.
"You have it?" Osiris held out a hand as Daniel approached.
"Yes." Daniel said quietly as he handed the bag to the Goa'uld. He came round to stand at Osiris' side.
"It pleases me that you have finally accepted your place."
Daniel stared back, resignation rather than acceptance in his eyes, but Osiris smiled. His patience would pay off. He had no doubt of that. Bit by bit, he was grinding the young man's spirit down. The subliminal messages he passed to Daniel suggesting that he had already given in to him would work, he just had to bide his time... one day.
Soon he would have the weapon complete and then he would show them all the supreme power of Osiris - the Tollans, the Tok'Ra, the Asgard, the Tau'ri and all those back biting System Lords that would challenge his position.
After all that there would be one final conquest to make. Daniel Jackson.
"What the hell?" Jack blew out an exasperated breath as a fifth, entirely unwelcome member of the team tumbled out of the Stargate and went head-over-heels down the stone steps. He took four strides and then bent down and hauled Nick to his feet by the back of his jacket.
"God damn it! What the hell do you think you're doing?" Behind him the Stargate deactivated.
Nick brushed the dirt from his clothes and turned steely blue eyes on Jack. "He's my grandson."
Jack shook his head, before turning away and muttering under his breath. "Well at least I know where Daniel gets that suicidal stubborn streak from now."
Dismissing Nick as an argument he didn't have time to hold, and would most like not win, his thoughts turned to more immediate problems.
"Heads up, people. Just because Osiris hasn't seen fit to post guards on the 'gate doesn't mean we're not about to be knee deep in shit."
A glint of gold in the distance caught his attention and he clambered up the steep dusty slope of the earthwork that encircled the Stargate. Dropping onto his front at the top of the rise, he pulled out his binoculars and let out a long low whistle at what he could see.
The Jaffa encampment was vast. It completely surrounded the pyramid-shaped ship, save for a strip a few metres wide that formed a path to the entrance of the huge vessel.
"Holy Hannah!" Carter exclaimed, as the rest of the group dropped in alongside Jack on the ridge.
"I thought Osiris had been out of the game for a while, how'd he accumulate an army that big so quickly?" Jack pondered aloud.
Teal'c offered him an explanation, "Osiris' name holds much reverence and fear. There are many Goa'uld, even of system lord status that would allege themselves with him for their own ends. I would expect that these Jaffa have either been given as a gift, or simply taken from defeated Goa'ulds."
As they surveyed the movements of the warriors below, a tel-tak exited the mother ship and flew past, heading toward a low mountain range not far behind them.
"I believe that Osiris is on board that tel-tak." Teal'c informed the rest of the team.
"How do you know?" Morten enquired scornfully.
"There is a crest on the front of the tel-tak usually reserved for use by the Goa'uld."
Morten seemed unimpressed with the explanation.
"Do you think Daniel would be with him?" Jack asked.
"It is possible." Teal'c replied.
Silently, they all watched as the tel-tak descended slowly, onto what looked like a flat topped peak. It was soon out of sight.
"They hold about twenty Jaffa, right, Teal'c?" Jackchecked with the big man.
"Correct, O'Neill. Though there may be fewer if it is transporting cargo."
"Well, one thing's for sure, we'd have a lot better chance against twenty, than that lot down there," Jack said, indicating the hoards of Jaffa around the mother ship, "and even if Daniel isn't with them, maybe we can get to Osiris and use him to free Daniel."
"You've gotta be kidding, right?" Morten gasped.
"Look, we came here to get Daniel back and I'll use whatever means I have to, to do it. You gotta problem with that?" Jack berated him.
"N-no." Morten stammered.
"So, Nick," Jack called. "We're going to have to move at quite a pace. Though I don't suppose there's a snowball's chance in hell of convincing you to wait here, if you'd rather *not* go, I'm sure Morten would volunteer to baby-sit." He threw the Lieutenant an intolerant glare.
"I'll be fine, Colonel," Nick answered firmly, giving Morten his own version of Jack's expression.
"Okay then," Jack swung round, giving the team his orders. "Teal'c take point; Carter watch our six; Nick," he clapped the old man on the shoulder, "You're with me. Let's move out."
He had deliberately left Morten out of the list. The younger soldier had been bugging him with his attitude ever since Nick had crashed through the 'gate back on Earth. Jack gave Morten a cursory once-over as the man fell into step behind him, curious at the evident preoccupation clouding his face. He hoped that the Lieutenant would be able to get a grip on himself before the action started.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Standing at the observation window of the tel-tak, Daniel's gaze wasn't on the teeming Jaffa encampment below, but on his own reflection. He closed his eyes, trying to blot out the leather-clad image of himself as Osiris' slave. He suddenly realised he'd become accustomed to the feel of the animal skin against his own. It had softened and moulded to him over time, but the sudden sight of himself had brought him back to reality.
God. He'd failed. A few more hours and the weapon would be complete. Then Osiris would carry out the threat to destroy the Tollan and, Daniel swallowed as emotional pain threatened to overwhelm him, turn the rivers of Earth to blood.
Ever since he'd returned with the final piece of the jigsaw, the piece he'd paid a painful yet futile prize to destroy, he'd been racking his brain, trying to come up with some new way to foil the goa'uld. The only thing in his head, though, was Osiris' voice softly taunting him with his defeat, and an even quieter voice murmuring words he couldn't quite catch.
He felt so tired. So much fighting, so much resistance and what had he achieved? Nothing. Perhaps he should just give up.
Perhaps he already had.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jack was glad their luck was holding. The tel-tak had not returned to the mother ship, so he guessed that Osiris was still on the mountain. It had taken them three hours of hard hiking to get to a decent vantage point.
"Nick?" he asked quietly, helping the old man to sit before he fell down.
"I am alright, Colonel." Nick assured him.
Unconvinced, Jack kept one eye on him while doing a quick recce of their position.
The mountain looked like it had once been a volcano. In his mind Jack crossed his fingers that it was indeed extinct.
The team crouched along the rim of the crater watching the activity about twenty metres below them on the flat, hardened surface, where presumably a well of molten larva had once steamed and bubbled.
"Looks like they're assembling something, Sir. Best guess would be a weapon of some sort." Carter whispered while peering through her binoculars at the objects the Jaffa were shuttling from the ship and piecing together in the center of the hollow.
She scanned the site. Excitedly, she began tugging on Jack's jacket. "It's Daniel, Sir."
Jack squinted in the direction the major was pointing and spotted a figure emerging from the tel-tak. He did a double take. Geez, now he understood why Nick had been so fixated about Daniel's attire. The thought of Daniel running around dressed like that was like a blow to his solar plexus. The minute the two of them got back to the SGC they were going to have a very serious conversation about Daniel's virtue, which had better, damn it all to hell, still be intact.
He looked over at the old man, who was sadly shaking his head. It was impossible to tell whether Nick's disapproval was at the shameful sight of his grandson's clothing or the fact he was walking alongside the being responsible for the dreadful decimation on the planet where Nick had been treated with such kindness.
Time to put a few things straight again. "Right, here's what we do. Carter, you and Morten... Morten?" He glanced around, making a head count - Carter. Teal'c. Nick. Mo....? "Where the hell is...?" he started and then his eyes fell on the rocky outcrop a few metres below them.
Oh, crap. He could just see Morten, peering over the edge of the overhang, scandalously close to the enemy. What was the man doing?
Laughingly, he pondered what he'd done to deserve it, he'd lost one impulsive linguist come archaeologist and had gained two, a headstrong Nick inviting himself along on the hazardous mission... and now Morten had apparently abandoned his good little 'Yes, Sir,' soldier routine in favor of the reckless hero act. Daniel's legacy obviously lived on.
"Morten." Jack hissed as loudly as he dared. He tried again, more urgently, "Morten." The Lieutenant either couldn't hear or was ignoring him.
Jack was about to try the radio, when he suddenly realized what Morten was about to do.
Christ, that wasn't heroism, that was stupidity.
Not caring if he alerted every Jaffa on the planet to his position, Jack screamed, "Noooo!" as he propelled himself down the slope in the direction of the younger soldier.
"Sir!" Carter's cry sounded no more than a whisper above the roar of the scree subsiding beneath his boots as he disappeared over the rim of the crater and scrabbled down the perilous scarp. Locking his eyes on the scene below, he could only watch in horror as Morten's index finger curled into the ring.
He could almost hear the screech of metal rasping against metal as the lieutenant wrenched the pin free of its clasp.
A rock slid from under Jack's feet, sending him plunging down the rough bank on his rear. Shit! He wasn't going to make it.
Why the hell was Morten doing this? They hadn't weighed any options yet. It was completely out of order. At least when Daniel bypassed protocol it was with everyone's welfare in mind. Jack wondered why he hadn't seen the possibility of this type of behaviour before, but then all of Morten's psyche evaluations had been perfect... and he'd never so much as questioned a command until today. Then there were those odd comments of resistance in response to their plans, so how come he was so keen to get in the thick of things now? And didn't he realize who was down there?
Fighting to bring his clumsy slide under control, he gauged the distance to his target. Morten was drawing his fist back, preparing the launch.
Desperation and hope spurred Jack on. In a slick movement that many a gymnast would envy, he rolled onto his stomach to bring his knees up under himself and managed to regain his footing. He stretched his long legs in a frantic dash across the last few metres.
Just a couple more seconds...
Morten's arm was starting its forward motion, ready to throw. Jack leapt at the younger soldier, colliding with him just as the grenade left Morten's hand.
The two men grunted loudly as they tumbled into the scrubby bushes, both landing heavily. Twisting, to locate the object against the bright sky, Jack quickly picked it out as it flew gracefully, arcing up and out over the crater. From of the corner of his eye, he could see Morten watching it too... a sick grin plastered on his face, as the grenade seemed to sail through the air in perfect slow motion, towards Osiris... and Daniel!
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