Main ~ Authors ~ Production Crew ~ Promotion ~ About Chrysalis
~Sue Corkill & Wendy Parkinson~
"If I were a superstitious man, I would feel obliged to dismember you, Major Carter." Bra'tac rubbed his arm irritably as he spoke. "It could be considered that you are stealing my life force. However…" he paused and frowned slightly. "…I trust that these 'blood tests' are necessary for my wellbeing." He stared at Sam Carter meaningfully, implying that if they weren't, he may well consider the dismemberment option.
Sam smiled, not fooled by the Jaffa's prickly exterior in the slightest. "They are completely necessary, Master Bra'tac. Doctor Fraiser has changed the strength of the tretonin and wanted to see what effect it had on you. The easiest way of checking that was blood tests taken over a few days. You'll be pleased to know that there won't be any more. Teal'c and I will take the samples back to the SGC for analysis now and we'll get back to you with the results in less than a week." She tucked the vial into her backpack and heaved it up onto her shoulders. "We'd better get going."
Teal'c nodded and turned to his mentor. "Farewell, old man. I will return in a few days."
Sam watched as Bra'tac grabbed her colleague and gave him a crushing hug. "Send greetings to O'Neill and Jackson. I was disappointed they did not come on this mission."
"So were they," Sam said quietly, remembering the vast quantity of paperwork the Colonel had been about to tackle and the large array of medical tests Janet had lined up for Daniel. The Doctor was still trying to find out if 'ascension' had any long-term effects on the archaeologist's health. She said that even after months of research, her findings had been inconclusive, hence the continuing tests, but Sam was beginning to wonder if her friend was engineering things to spend more time with Daniel. After all, they had both come back from the dead, it was natural Janet would want to talk to someone who would understand. Sam raised her voice a little, adding, "They weren't needed for this one. I was only collecting a few blood samples, after all. Teal'c only came because he wanted to and General Hammond doesn't like arguing with him."
Teal'c's face split into one of the rare smiles that lit up his face. "Indeed," he intoned.
"Go!" said Bra'tac. "Go, before Hammond of Texas finds a reason to argue with you!" He grinned. "He is a most formidable leader."
Smiling, Sam and Teal'c took their leave and began walking down the track that led to the Stargate. The silence that Sam expected fell immediately. Teal'c had opened up and relaxed a little over the years but he was still nowhere near talkative. She reflected that the other two members of SG-1 were much more interesting conversationalists, then realised they were about to follow a bend in the path that would take them out of sight of the settlement. She turned to wave at Bra'tac, who was still standing patiently watching them. Sam smiled to herself and shook her head when she noticed he was still clutching his arm where she'd taken the final blood sample. The big baby! The greatest Jaffa warrior and still squeamish about needles!
Teal'c stopped suddenly and, lost in her thoughts, Sam almost walked into him. Her reflexes immediately tensed. The Jaffa might not be a great talker but there was no-one she'd trust more in combat and if he thought something was wrong, she wasn't about to argue with him. She drew her weapon as quietly as she could and looked questioningly at Teal'c. He pointed into some bushes with his staff weapon and began to move towards them slowly, indicating she should follow him.
Then her world exploded in an instant. There were Jaffa all round them, not just in the bushes… staff blasts… zat guns… but too many Jaffa… they were pinned down… Teal'c was hit… she saw him fall… then there was pain… the familiar agony of a zat blast tensing all her muscles beyond endurance… then the blessed relief of nothingness.
And a final wish that the Colonel and Daniel would find them.
"Incoming wormhole!" shouted Sergeant Walter Davis from his position in the control room. "It's Master Bra'tac's code."
Immediately the control room sprang into action and within moments, armed guards were in place in the gate room and General Hammond rushed through the door, slightly out of breath, closely followed by Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neill. "Why is Bra'tac coming through?" asked the Colonel, worry evident on his face. "Carter and Teal'c should be coming back now."
Hammond nodded tersely and turned to watch the Stargate as the wormhole stabilized, its blue surface shimmering and shifting. Then it rippled and the familiar figure of Bra'tac emerged. The Jaffa marched purposefully down the ramp and bowed to the General. "Hammond of Texas, I bring bad news. Major Carter and Teal'c have been captured by Ba'al."
"What the…" muttered Sam Carter, as her world slowly came into focus. She lay on a cold, hard stone floor and every muscle in her body screamed with pain. Recognizing the signs of the aftermath of a zat blast, she tried to relax. The pain subsided a little, allowing her to glance round and take in her surroundings. Things didn't look good. She was in a windowless cell with plain stone walls, a little straw on the floor and no furniture. A dark wooden door loomed in the far corner. The place had the unmistakable air of a Goa'uld prison.
Then she began to remember what had happened. Where was Teal'c? She struggled into a sitting position but all that achieved was the confirmation that she was alone in her cell and that the pain in her head was excruciating. The smell wasn't too good either - the sanitary arrangements appeared to consist of a small drain in the corner of the room.
But which Goa'uld had the Jaffa been working for? She couldn't remember getting near enough to any tattoos to identify them. But whoever he was, he'd obviously wanted her alive. She shuddered. The reasons why a Goa'uld would capture her weren't good - she guessed it would be either to torture her for information or to use as bait to capture one or more of her friends.
Shaking her head in an effort to clear her mind, she pulled herself to her feet and contemplated shouting to see if Teal'c was nearby. Almost immediately she discounted the idea. It wasn't a good idea to let her captors know she was awake. While they thought she was asleep, she had an advantage, albeit a very small one. She had valuable time to think and plan her escape.
Sam looked round her cell and sighed. Escape? No windows, only one heavy and presumably guarded door, thick walls and probably dozens of Jaffa just outside. No, she was going to have to wait for someone to come to her, like the Goa'uld always did. If they had one fault, apart from their inherent evilness, it was their pathological need to gloat. Someone would be along soon, she was sure of it… that was when she'd get a chance…
"All right, people. Let's get started."
Daniel looked up from his note pad as General Hammond entered the briefing room from his office. Jack finally left his post at the large bank of windows that looked down at the gate room and took his customary seat at the General's right, across from where Daniel sat. Daniel studied him curiously. He knew the situation was serious; Sam and Teal'c captured by Ba'al for as yet unknown reasons. But there was something else going on, something he could sense in the concerned looks that Hammond kept directing towards Jack. Jack looked even grimmer than usual. And Daniel couldn't forget the brief look of panic that had flashed through the other man's eyes when Bra'tac had delivered his news.
"We have to get them back, General."
"I know that, son. And we will. But we have very little to go on right now."
"We know that Ba'al has them."
"And we also know that Ba'al has abandoned his last known location."
"Why would Ba'al want Sam and Teal'c?" Daniel pushed his glasses up on his nose, looking curiously at each man. This just didn't make sense… he couldn't shake the feeling something had happened that he didn't know about. "Why would Ba'al want either of them?"
Jack's face lost what little color it had and he stood abruptly, once more going to stare out the window at the silent Stargate. Daniel felt like he had walked into the middle of a play already in progress, a play where there was no one to fill him in on what he'd missed. He'd felt like that more than once since his return, but this time...this time was different. Hammond sighed and Daniel tore his eyes away from Jack's rigid back.
Jack's low voice interrupted. "Revenge."
Hammond nodded slowly. "Teal'c and Major Carter provided Lord Yu with the necessary intel for him to attack Ba'al's fortress. The Tok'ra report that Ba'al barely escaped with his life and was forced to leave behind the gravity generators with which he'd been experimenting."
Daniel frowned, searching his memory. "I don't remember reading any mission report related to that."
"That mission is classified as 'need to know'."
Daniel felt a mild sting at the reproof from Hammond. He would have thought he'd have the 'need to know'; now that he was back on Earth and back with SG-1. But he could tell by the look on Hammond's face that he wouldn't learn any more from him. And given the total shutdown he sensed from Jack, it seemed unlikely he'd be filling him in on the details. Daniel suddenly realized Hammond was still talking.
"I've already had word sent to the Tok'ra regarding this situation. Hopefully the message will make its way to Jacob, and he will be able to tell us where Major Carter and Teal'c are being held. Until then people, we wait."
"There's something going on, Janet. I can feel it! Something they're not telling me." Daniel paced Doctor Fraiser's small office. "It's just so frustrating. I feel like someone who's woken up from a yearlong coma. Life went on without me and I can't get caught up!"
Janet smiled in sympathy at Daniel. She could identify with what he was saying. She was still catching up in many ways herself. But maybe she could help him with this...and still not betray the 'need to know' classification Hammond had placed on that particular mission to protect Colonel O'Neill. "I know how you feel, Daniel. It is frustrating."
"You know what happened."
She nodded, her eyes and face suddenly grave. "Yes, I know. And I can't tell you everything. You'll have to ask Colonel O'Neill." He opened his mouth and she held up her hand. "What I can tell you is that Colonel O'Neill became gravely ill on a mission to Antarctica. And to save his life, he accepted a Tok'ra symbiote."
Daniel's jaw dropped and he held out an unsteady hand, groping for the back of the nearby chair. Janet rushed to his side and helped him as he sank heavily into the extra chair in her office. "Jack accepted a symbiote? I don't believe it."
She nodded. "It's true." Daniel shook his head, looking dazed and she could tell he was trying to absorb the news that Jack O'Neill had done the one thing he had sworn he would never do. Janet knelt down and took hold of Daniel's cold hands, gazing earnestly at him. "Something happened during that time, something bad. But that's all I can tell you. You'll have to ask the Colonel the rest."
"Door's open." Jack didn't look up when the door opened. He knew it could be only one person.
"Ah, hi Jack."
Setting the mission report he'd been unsuccessfully trying to write aside, he looked up. Daniel stood in the doorway, looking both determined and confused. Not a good look on the young archaeologist. But then, he'd been seeing that look a lot lately on the other man's face, whenever something came up regarding events that had occurred while he'd been ascended.
"Something I can do for you?" He knew damn well why Daniel had come to see him. He just wasn't sure he was ready to talk about it-or if he ever would be.
Uninvited, Daniel sat down in the chair opposite his desk. "I know Hammond says it's classified. And Janet won't tell me much more. But I need to know what happened, Jack. What happened to you last year when you were with the Tok'ra?"
Sam's ears pricked up at the sound of approaching footsteps. There had to be two guards, maybe more, but as the heavy door muffled the noise she wasn't certain. This could be her chance. As quietly as she could, she stood up, crept across the cell and flattened herself against the wall by the door. The footsteps stopped. She tensed involuntarily, holding her breath, waiting for the guards' next move. She heard muffled voices, then jumped at the scraping noise of a bolt being drawn back. Sam balled her fists, ready to strike as soon as she had the opportunity.
The door flew open and Sam sprang forwards, only to find herself face to face with the bruised and bloodied body of Teal'c, supported by two Jaffa. Her heart fell and she stopped dead, only aware of the blood pounding in her ears. She instinctively took a step back, her mouth instantly dry and her stomach churning at the sight of her good friend beaten and covered in wounds. Was he alive? There was no sign of movement; his body sagged lifelessly between the guards. The fleeting thought crossed her mind that they must be incredibly strong to hold him like that, with no apparent effort.
Trying to fight mounting nausea, she said, "Teal'c," quietly, her voice catching in her throat. The Jaffa's head moved a little in response. Sam's heart leapt with relief. Thank god he was alive. He raised his head a little more, making a faint noise that could have been her name, and the sight of his face tore at her heart. He was beaten and bruised almost beyond recognition, his eyes swollen and blackened, and blood seeped from several wounds. She reached out, but before she could touch him the guards leered evilly at her, apparently enjoying her discomfort, and thrust Teal'c past her into the cell, letting him fall heavily to the floor. Sam winced at the loud crack when his head hit the flagstones. Without thinking she crouched by his side and put her hand over his, unconsciously willing him to recover.
"Very touching," snarled one of the guards. "Let's hope he's as concerned for you when it's your turn." Their captors marched out of the cell, slamming the door behind them. Sam felt anger rising inside her. She would hunt down who had done this and make them pay. She flinched at the sound of the bolt being dragged back into place. Any hope she might have had of Teal'c rescuing her had gone. They were both trapped. It was up to the Colonel and Daniel now.
She looked down at Teal'c, who was sprawled awkwardly on the stone floor. He was muttering to himself, but she couldn't make out what he was saying - the only word that made any sense was "O'Neill". She didn't know if he was calling for help or hallucinating… and at this moment it didn't really matter. Sam realised she needed to make him more comfortable. He couldn't stand, and she certainly couldn't lift him, so after some maneuvering, she settled for resting his head on her lap and murmuring soothing words, in an effort to calm him. He lapsed back into unconsciousness and left her alone with her thoughts.
She shuddered. In the silence, the guard's words echoed in her head. "When it's your turn." Her blood ran cold. How long did she have? What would they do? What did they want? Who were they? Would she be able to withstand the torture? Would anyone rescue them or was she going to die on this godforsaken planet and never see the Colonel again… or her father… or Daniel… or Janet… or General Hammond. Tears threatened to well up. She harshly rubbed her hand across her face. No, she had to be strong… Teal'c was depending on her. Soon he would need tretonin… if he survived that long.
Jack stared at Daniel. What had happened to him when he was with the Tok'ra? The inevitable question had come. His stomach twisted. "None of your damn business," he snapped, looking back at the report on his desk.
"I think it is," said Daniel.
"And why exactly would that be?" Jack knew he was being rude to his friend but he'd talked about his experiences at Ba'al's hands to no one except the bare minimum to Doctor Fraiser and General Hammond. He had no intention of starting now - it dredged up too many nightmarish memories.
"I…" A frown creased Daniel's brow, "I know you had a symbiote."
"Yeah, another one of Carter's 'fixits'." Jack surprised himself by how bitter he sounded. Deep down he knew it wasn't his second in command's fault but sometimes he still blamed her for the symbiote… for not letting him die. He shook his head. "No, sorry, that was out of line, Daniel. Carter asked me to take the symbiote. It was a no win situation… symbiote or death… death or symbiote." He shrugged.
"But you always said…" began the archaeologist.
"That I'd rather die than become a host?" Jack finished for him. "Yeah, well, when presented with the stark reality of actually dying or doing something I abhorred, my natural lust for life came to the surface." He looked closely at Daniel. Jack hoped that would be enough.
The archaeologist thought for a moment, then pushed his glasses back up his nose. "There's something else you're not telling me Jack, something to do with Ba'al. You weren't there when Sam and Teal'c pissed him off. Where were you?" Daniel gazed levelly at him, as if daring him to answer.
"Ba'al had captured me," Jack stated baldly. "He does a nice line in torture."
Daniel's mouth fell open. "Oh God, Jack, I'm sorry." He took a deep breath. "What happened to the symbiote?"
"He made a run for it when it realised I was about to be captured. I guess he's dead now." He waited for the archaeologist to answer, wishing that Daniel would be mollified by his oversimplified explanation. There was no way he was going to tell his friend that he'd begged him to end it for him… there was no way he was even going to tell him he was there.
"I see," said Daniel carefully. "And Sam, Jonas and Teal'c rescued you?"
"They gave Yu the intel he needed to mount an attack and I escaped. Got back by Stargate."
The archaeologist nodded. "I see. Thanks, Jack. Everything's a whole lot clearer now." He glanced at the stack of papers in front of O'Neill and stood up. "Well, you're obviously busy… I'll leave you in peace."
Jack felt the relief wash over him as Daniel left his office. Now all they had to do was rescue Carter and Teal'c. He didn't want to think what might be happening to them at Ba'al's hands.
Biting back a groan, Sam slowly got to her feet. Her muscles and joints ached from sitting on the hard floor and she was cold. Swinging her arms and gingerly flexing her knees, she took a few halting steps, trying to get her blood flowing again. She'd lost track of time, her watch had been taken from her along with her vest and anything she could have possibly used as a weapon. They'd only left her with her jacket, which was currently under Teal'c's head as a pillow.
She glanced down at her injured friend and hoped he was able to rest. She'd sat with his head resting in her lap for nearly an hour she figured, before a flask of water and a bowl of some kind of thin broth had been pushed through the door. It had taken some coaxing, but she'd finally managed to arouse Teal'c enough that she was able to feed him the broth and to drink some of the water. She'd finished off the water, which had been a nasty experience, but she knew she couldn't pass it up. Teal'c had also told her who held them captive and she shivered, a chill deeper than the one she felt emanating from the cold stones of their cell filling her.
"Do you know who's holding us?" she asked quietly, using a strip of cloth she'd torn from his tattered T-shirt to clean some of the blood from his face.
She could tell it was a struggle, but he managed to open his badly swollen eyes. "Ba'al," he whispered.
Trying to keep the sudden terror she felt out of her voice she asked, "Do you know why?"
He didn't speak, merely shook his head and closed his eyes. She didn't press him for further information; she merely tried to make him as comfortable as possible in their stark cell.
Ba'al had captured them. That he would hold a grudge against SG-1 didn't surprise her. And if revenge was his motive for capturing them, then why weren't they already dead? Unless he just planned on torturing them...over and over again. She shivered again and wrapped her arms protectively around her. She knew what had happened to the Colonel. Shallan had told her and she hadn't told him or anyone that she knew the horrors that had been done to him by Ba'al. It was her own private burden to bear, given that if it hadn't been for her asking him to take the Tok'ra symbiote, none of it would have happened to him. But if Ba'al planned on killing them and reviving them repeatedly, why hadn't he used a sarcophagus on Teal'c?
The sudden opening of the cell door interrupted her grim thoughts. She moved quickly, placing herself protectively between the door and Teal'c. She needn't have worried though, for this time the guards weren't after Teal'c. One of the guards grabbed her cruelly by the arm and pulled her out of the cell. Her hands were bound behind her back with some kind of metal restraint and the working end of a staff weapon was pressed roughly into her back.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked defiantly.
The guard holding the staff weapon prodded her and she almost fell. The other guards laughed and then one finally answered. "To your Lord."
Forcing herself not to panic, Sam tried to ignore the guards and concentrate on her surroundings. She was guided down a long corridor lined with doors similar to the one on her and Teal'c's cell. When they finally reached a large intersection where at least six different corridors met, the Jaffa shoved her into the middle of the area. They stood away from her then and she looked around in confusion until she heard the familiar sound of a ring transport device activating and the sudden whoosh of the rings surrounding her.
The rings deposited her in another chamber. It took her a moment to orient herself, the elegant and sumptuous décor telling her she had to be in one of Ba'al's personal chambers.
"Ah, you're here." The voice, low and amused, came from behind her.
Sam spun around and saw the form of a man suddenly emerge from the darker shadows at the far end of the chamber. The room was lit with the obligatory torchlight and candles, so it was several long moments before she could see him clearly. He was a handsome man, though the hardness in his features and the cruelty she could sense detracted from any appeal he might have held. Not much taller than she was, he moved with an almost feline grace. She was almost relieved to note that he wasn't dressed as ostentatiously as most of the system lords they'd encountered, though the lace dripping from his cuffs seemed a bit much. Oh god, she bit back a hysterical laugh, here she was critiquing the fashion sense of the man who was about to torture her!
She forced herself to stand tall and proud as he drew close, defiantly meeting his eyes when he paused just at the outside of the rings. He chuckled again, the sound not at all pleasant. "You are not as I imagined, Samantha Carter."
Sam couldn't stop the small gasp when he moved suddenly, spinning her around and unfastening her hands. Rubbing her wrists she looked at him warily. He was already walking away from her. She stood there and he finally stopped, turning towards her.
"Please, come and join me." He gestured towards a low table she hadn't noticed before. "I'm sure you must be hungry."
Fighting the urge to run in the opposite direction, Sam forced herself to follow her captor. When she reached the table, he was already lounging at one end. A servant almost magically materialized and was busily pouring some liquid into the two goblets on the table. Ba'al gestured with an elegant hand to the cushions next to him and Sam reluctantly sat down.
"Have some wine." He handed one of the goblets to her and she took it, sniffing gingerly at the contents. "I'm sure you'll find it a pleasant vintage. It's from grapes grown on a planet similar-"
"Why have you brought us here?" she interrupted, not really caring where the wine had come from.
"Such impatience! That seems to be one of the main weaknesses of your species."
"If it's to learn about Earth-"
Her words were cut off when Ba'al reached out as quickly as the cat she compared him to and grasped her chin somewhat cruelly with one strong hand. "You possess nothing that interests me, Samantha Carter. Whatever great discoveries you've made or wonderful knowledge you claim to possess is nothing compared to my power and knowledge."
"Then what?" she asked. The hand holding her face loosened and she forced herself not to flinch when he caressed her cheek.
"You're not an unattractive woman." She did react then, batting his hand away which only served to amuse him more. "But that isn't why I have brought you here." He sat back then and took a long drink out of his goblet before continuing, the servant once more magically at his side refilling the glass. "While it is true that neither you nor your Jaffa companion possess any information that is of value to me, one of your colleagues does. It was merely your misfortune-and that of my former First Prime-that my information was incorrect."
"I still don't understand."
"If your entire team had been on that planet, we would not be having this conversation." Ba'al paused, reaching for what looked like an orange-colored strawberry. "However, it was only you and the Jaffa. Fortunately, your race is so predictable." He popped the fruit into his mouth, making her wait while he chewed, his expression mockingly indulgent. "So predictable in fact, that even now your SGC is being given your location so that they may mount a rescue. And I have no doubt that amongst those coming to your rescue will include Doctor Daniel Jackson."
Daniel? Ba'al wanted Daniel? But what for? What possible information could Daniel have that could be of use to Ba'al? Her mind finally clicked on the only reason that made sense-Ba'al wanted information from when Daniel was ascended. But he obviously didn't know that Daniel had virtually no memory of the time he'd been gone.
She laughed derisively. "Daniel won't tell you anything."
Ba'al merely smiled. "He doesn't have to tell me anything. His mind will be mine for the taking."
Sam shivered, the cruel certainty in his voice filling her with dread. Ba'al snapped his fingers then and two burly servants materialized. Before she realized what was happening, the two men roughly grabbed her and hauled her to her feet. "What?" she gasped, her fear for Daniel turning into fear for herself when she was thrust face first against the wall and her hands shackled high over her head.
She tensed when she felt a large hand at the neck of her T-shirt and then the garment was ripped from her back, the tattered edges hanging from her shoulders. Hazarding a look over her shoulder, she saw one of the servants handing Ba'al what looked like a cat o'nine tails. Closing her eyes, she pressed her cheek against the cold stone of the chamber's wall. Ba'al's voice sounded like it was coming from a great distance when he spoke.
"Of course, I wouldn't want to disappoint your rescuers." She flinched when she felt the first, soft caress of the leather strands across her back. "So we must make this look realistic."
Sam braced herself and even though she was prepared, she couldn't stop the cry of pain that tore from her when the first blow struck cruelly on her back. She didn't have time to recover from the first blow when pain ripped through her again. Sagging against the wall, the metal shackles digging into her wrists, she was only dimly aware of Ba'al's surprisingly sympathetic voice. "I truly am sorry my dear...."
Daniel fastened his pack and stole a furtive glance at Jack. The older man's face was tired and drawn, his jaw set into a rigid grimace. The archaeologist knew there was a lot missing from Jack's meager description of his experiences with Ba'al, and he knew better than to push his friend where he didn't want to go, but he was worried about what Jack might do to ensure the release of Sam and Teal'c. In Daniel's mind, it was clear that Jack had suffered unimaginably at Ba'al's hand, and because of that, the Colonel knew all too well what was happening to his friends, so he would do anything to rescue them, even if it put his own safety at risk.
About an hour before, Jacob had sent them a message revealing the location of Ba'al's base, so now they were getting ready to leave as soon as possible. They'd been lucky that the message had got through to him as he’d been lying pretty low since the breakdown of the alliance but as soon he'd heard, he’d immediately given them the information they wanted. Daniel knew the Tok'ra council wouldn't have divulged the intel and he didn't want to think what trouble Jacob might get into for helping them, but he was certain of one thing -- Jacob would do anything for his daughter, no matter what the cost to himself.
There would be just Jack and himself on the mission, with SG-12 as backup. Jacob had said the base was about ten miles from the Stargate, and Ba'al didn't bother leaving a permanent guard there, so they should be safe to gate to the planet. Then they had to find the entrance to the tunnels which would be their way in to Ba'al's fortress.
Daniel shuddered. There were too many things resting on what Jacob had told them. The fact that the gate wasn't guarded, the way in via the tunnels… it all felt too easy, too contrived… He had a bad feeling about it that he just couldn't shake. It worried him that no one else seemed concerned. He glanced over at Jack again. His friend was pulling on his cap, his face grim and determined. Daniel decided he had to say something. "Jack, don't you think…"
"Yeah?" O'Neill snapped, swinging round to look at Daniel.
"Don't you think it's all a bit too easy? Don't you think it could be a trap? Doesn't it worry you?" His words tumbled out, almost spilling over each other.
The edge in Jack's voice was unmistakable. "If you're scared, stay here. You'll be a liability to me if you freeze."
Daniel flinched as if he'd been struck. The look in his friend's eyes was chilling. It was almost as if Jack blamed him for something… as if he hated him for something.
He shook himself and turned away. No, that had to be his imagination. Whatever Jack had gone through at Ba'al's hands, it had nothing to do with him. It was just his nerves wound up so tight they were almost ready to snap. He was seeing danger where there was none. Jack was the professional soldier - he had to trust his judgement on things like this, no matter how wrong it felt. Daniel tried taking a couple of deep breaths to steady himself. It didn't really help much. But he knew Jack was right about one thing. If he froze, he'd be no use to anyone.
The tunnel was damp, dark and narrow and Jack had to stoop slightly to avoid banging his head on the low ceiling. Their footsteps echoed eerily down the passageway, announcing their presence to anyone who cared to listen. He was glad they'd left SG-12 outside - with them as well it would have sounded like a herd of elephants charging down the tunnel - and he'd wanted it this way, just the two of them. It was less obtrusive. They stood a better chance of getting in and out without being caught.
He glanced quickly behind him at Daniel. Jack felt guilty at how he'd spoken to his friend back at the base, but knowing Carter and Teal'c were probably being tortured and brought back to life over and over again was almost too much for him to deal with. The memories of death and pain he tried hard to repress had come flooding back, as had the memory of him begging Daniel to end it all for him. Deep inside he hadn't forgiven the archaeologist for refusing to put him out of his misery, but he'd rationalized the feeling away by thinking that was another Daniel, an ascended Daniel, who behaved and thought differently to the man following him down this tunnel. After all, he knew the younger man had no recollection of his time on that higher plane of existence… wherever that was.
A glimmer of light in the distance brought him back to the here and now. He raised his hand in warning and stopped, flattening himself against the tunnel wall, indicating Daniel should do the same. The archaeologist followed his lead and looked at him expectantly, waiting for his next order. Jack pointed down the tunnel and put his finger to his lips. Daniel nodded and crept after him as he began to move quietly down the passageway.
They moved almost silently until they were within fifty feet of the light, which came from a large candle positioned in a niche carved into the rock. Jack stopped again, straining his ears for the sound of footsteps, but all he could hear was Daniel's breathing and his own heart hammering in his chest. No sign of any guards. By their absence, they were worrying him. Daniel's words about this whole thing being too easy came back to him but he pushed them away; they had to concentrate on rescuing their team mates. They crept forward again, and a door came into view on their left. A dull murmuring came from behind it. Very carefully, he approached it and pressed his ear to the dark wood. Still no guards. His heart constricted in his chest.
The voice was muffled but unmistakable. It was soft and gentle, and asked, "How are you feeling?"
His heart leapt. It was Carter! Jack swung round to Daniel and pointed at the door.
"It's Carter!" he mouthed.
"And Teal'c?" asked Daniel.
"She's talking to someone, so I guess so." Jack tapped gently on the door. The murmuring voices instantly stopped. "Carter!" He tried to pitch his voice loud enough for her to hear, but not loud enough to attract unwanted attention. He hoped he'd succeeded.
He heard a shuffling from inside the room, then the familiar voice again. "Sir, is that you?"
"Yeah. Is Teal'c with you?"
"Yes, sir, but he's in pretty bad shape. He's injured and needs tretonin."
Jack shuddered at her words. He didn't ask how Teal'c had got in such bad shape, he didn't need to. It was Ba'al. God, how he wanted to make that bastard pay. But now wasn't the time. Now his job was to get Carter and Teal'c out of there and back to the SGC. He examined the door. It looked solid enough, no chance of breaking it down. Daniel tapped him on the shoulder. "Jack, I don't like this. I've got the feeling we're being watched. And it's too quiet. Why aren't such valuable prisoners being guarded?"
"Hey, buddy, let's not look a gift horse in the mouth, shall we?" Though he didn't say it, Jack agreed with Daniel. The longer they stood outside this cell door with no one shooting at them, the more he was convinced this was a trap. And the more he was convinced Ba'al wanted to finish the job he'd started on him months ago. He turned back towards the door.
Carter's voice came again, more urgent this time. "You should leave us, sir, it's a trap."
"Tell me something I don't know, Carter."
"Ba'al wants Daniel."
Jack swiveled to face Daniel, who shook his head in disbelief. "Okay, we'll try and work that one out later. Let's get them out of there first." Fishing in his pocket, he turned back towards the cell and said urgently, "Carter, I'm going to blow the lock. Get away from the door, will you?"
"Yes, sir," came the muffled reply.
Jack set up the explosives, and pulled Daniel back down the passageway before he set it off. The blast echoed up and down the tunnel, reverberating off the walls. There were still no guards. Jack's stomach twisted. What on earth could Ba'al want Daniel for? And when was he going to come?
Running through the smoke, in a few seconds the two men were back up the tunnel and through the door, which now hung drunkenly on its hinges. Sam Carter sat in the middle of the stone floor, cradling Teal'c's head in her lap, staring up at them. Jack felt sick to his stomach at her appearance - her clothes were ripped, she was dirty and covered in blood, and the fear in her eyes chilled him to the bone - but in comparison with Teal'c, she seemed to have emerged relatively unscathed. The Jaffa was barely conscious and stared sightlessly at Jack when he crossed the room and crouched down next to him. "Hey, T, we're going to get you out of here. But you've got to help us. Can you get up?"
The Jaffa nodded weakly, and, finding some inner reserve of strength, and with Jack's help, lurched unsteadily to his feet. Jack and Daniel supported him between them and guided him towards the cell door. "You okay, Carter?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. But Daniel ought to get out of here."
"No!" said the archaeologist firmly. "You won't get Teal'c out of here without my help; I'm not going to run away."
Jack nodded curtly. He could understand how Daniel felt, didn't mean he liked it. The longer they debated who was or wasn't going to stay or help, the longer Ba'al and his troops had time to get to them. "Right then." Momentarily releasing his hold on Teal'c, Jack handed his 9mm to Carter. "Watch our six."
She nodded and he was relieved that she seemed to look a bit more confident with the gun in her hand. It wouldn't lessen what had happened to her, but anything that helped her feel more in control during their current situation would help them all.
Holding his P-90 in one hand and grabbing Teal'c with the other, the three men staggered out into the hallway, Carter right behind them. The corridor they had just come down was still eerily empty, but Jack forged ahead. They had no other option now. Momentarily distracted when Teal'c stumbled, Jack barely heard Sam's soft gasp of shock. And then he heard the voice that still haunted his nightmares.
"So, you have arrived at last."
The fear in his gut almost overwhelmed him, but he ruthlessly fought it down. His team was depending on him. Not even pausing to question the consequences, he raised the P-90 and immediately started firing. The bullets merely bounced off Ba'al's personal shield, the Goa'uld's amused laughter taunting them...him. Jack kept firing, even when Ba'al raised his right hand and a blinding flash of white light filled the chamber. The gun dropped out of Jack's hand and he lost his grip on Teal'c as well. His last thought before the pain overwhelmed him and he dropped to his knees wasn't for himself and the horrors that he knew awaited him, but for his team.
Jack groaned. His head was pounding. He felt like he'd been on a weeklong bender. Someone was pressing a damp cloth to his forehead and he struggled to remember what had happened. His eyes flew open and he tried to sit up, only to groan again as the movement sent more pain through his head.
"Don't try to move yet, sir."
Carter, it was Carter. He should have felt relief at hearing her voice but for some reason he didn't. Maybe it was the fact that he was now aware enough to realize he lay on a cold, hard floor and not a nice, somewhat hard infirmary bed. Opening his eyes, Jack slowly focussed on the concerned face of his major. The dim light in wherever they were didn't hide the concern in her eyes, or the tight lines of fatigue and pain on her pale face.
"What happened?" he asked, gingerly laying his arm over his eyes, the dim light in the chamber almost too bright.
"I think you took the brunt of whatever...device Ba'al used on us."
He shifted his arm and squinted up at her. "Device?"
"I didn't get a good look at it, sir. When I woke up, we were back here, in the cell."
Jack moved his arm and tried raising his head this time, with more success. She was right, they were definitely in a cell. "Teal'c?" he asked.
She turned her head and he followed her gaze. Teal'c lay curled on his side against the opposite wall. "He's in pretty bad shape."
Jack could tell, even in the dim light he could see that Teal'c looked almost ashen, his breathing labored. He looked back at Carter then. "Daniel?"
Her voice quivered slightly when she answered. "He wasn't here when I woke up."
Jack closed his eyes, feeling helplessness and despair start to fill him. His great plan to rescue Carter and Teal'c had turned into a huge disaster. Instead of just two prisoners, Ba'al now had four. And he didn't even want to think about what was currently happening to Daniel.
"So much for Plan A."
"What's Plan B, sir?"
"There is no Plan B, Carter," he answered wearily. "If we don't make contact with SG-12 in six hours, we will be presumed missing or dead and they will gate back to the SGC."
He could see the mixed acceptance and despair on her face. But she didn't say anything more, merely looked at him. "So, what's next?"
He grunted and struggled to a sitting position, Carter helping him get situated as comfortably as possible against the hard stone wall. He was breathing a little too heavily for such mild exertion, he really hoped he started to feel better soon-or at least before his next encounter with Ba'al. But first things first. His vest and weapons were gone, of course; his fingers felt huge and clumsy as he struggled to unzip his jacket and reach into the inner pocket. His hands closed around the small metal case. Thank god he still had that. "Here," he said and handed it to Carter, hoping she wouldn't notice how bad his hand shook.
Her eyes lit up briefly and her voice was filled with relief when said, "Tretonin."
She was already halfway across the small room to Teal'c when he answered. "Yeah, Fraiser figured she better send some along."
She knelt next to Teal'c and Jack watched, his mind racing while she prepared the injection. He needed to come up with some kind of plan, his team was depending on him. Not only the team that was currently with him-but their missing member as well. He closed his eyes, letting his head fall back against the wall. If Carter was right and Ba'al had only wanted Daniel, then chances were good he was still alive. Which didn't explain why they were still alive. But then Ba'al was one twisted dude and given the condition of both Carter and Teal'c, he probably still planned on 'enjoying' all his guests for a bit longer.
Daniel groaned and opened his bleary eyes. He looked around curiously, somewhat surprised at his current location given his last location. He was comfortably cradled in the middle of an extremely large, feather bed situated in a sumptuously decorated chamber and if it weren't for his pounding head and the fact that the last thing he remembered was being hit by some energy device wielded by Ba'al, he might feel okay.
There was a sudden movement in one corner of the room and he tensed, sitting up and looking around anxiously for some kind of weapon, only to stop in surprise at the sound of the feminine voice. "You are awake, my lord."
"Ah, yes," he said, more than a little perplexed by her form of address. She drew closer and he finally got a good look at her.
"I am Tamitha." She bowed. "My lord Ba'al has requested that I tend to your needs."
The woman gasped softly and dropped to her knees, bowing low. "My lord." She kept her head bowed, her whole posture radiating submission.
"I thought I told you to notify me when our guest awoke." The man who spoke finally came into view and Daniel knew by his arrogant manner and dress that it must be Ba'al. He stopped in front of the servant and gripped her chin, forcing her head up.
"He has only just awoken, my lord."
She spoke confidently and Daniel couldn't help but admire her courage...and watch in outrage when Ba'al slapped her, the blow knocking her to the floor. "That is for your insolence." She kept her head bowed as he continued. "Now, bring our guest some refreshment before I change my mind and punish you further."
"Yes, my lord," the woman whispered, rising slowly to her feet and leaving the room.
"That was unnecessary." Daniel stood, coming face to face with his captor.
"Ah, Doctor Jackson." Ba'al looked at him, amusement on his handsome features. "Always the champion of the weak. Too bad there won't be anyone here to champion you."
Tamitha felt Sharonnah bristle, furious with Ba'al's casual attack. Tamitha sighed and, ignoring her stinging cheek, she hurried down the stairs that led to the kitchen, all the while attempting to soothe Sharonnah. She marveled again at the contrast in their personalities, she always calm and composed while Sharonnah was wildly passionate and impulsive. Tamitha felt Sharonnah finally smile and some of the excess energy she had generated started to dissipate.
*You must learn to control your temper,* Tamitha chided her symbiote.
*I know...I know.*
*We have worked too long and too hard to achieve this position.* Tamitha knew Sharonnah would do nothing that would endanger their mission, but she could certainly use less of her attitude. Ever since she had discovered that Ba'al's latest prisoners were Samantha Carter and the Jaffa Teal'c, Tamitha had been torn between helping them and maintaining her position in Ba'al's household.
Both she and Sharonnah were well aware of the state of the alliance with the Tau'ri. But the presence of Doctor Jackson and the potential repercussions if Ba'al were to actually obtain secrets of the Ancients from the man's mind had over-ridden any remaining uneasiness about helping SG-1. Tamitha knew her desire to help Doctor Jackson, Samantha Carter and the rest of SG-1 would not be condoned by the majority of the council. However, both she and her symbiote owed Selmak more than they could ever hope to repay—even in a Tok'ra's lifetime—so she was willing to incur the displeasure of the council.
*And you would risk it on the Tau'ri?*
*They are important—you know that.*
*They are trouble,* Sharonnah retorted mildly.
Tamitha chuckled. *Indeed. However, we must not let the knowledge that Daniel Jackson may possess fall into Ba'al's hands.*
*Perhaps it would not be such a bad thing. It would certainly annoy Anubis.*
*Possibly,* Tamitha answered. *However, two Goa'uld with the knowledge of the Ancients?* She felt Sharonnah shiver delicately and knew she'd made her point.
Finally at her destination, Tamitha opened the door of the surprisingly modern kitchen. For all of Ba'al's penchant for large, brooding fortresses, he always had the best in whatever technology he'd 'acquired'. The busy kitchen staff stopped at her entrance. Tamitha approached the head cook. "Our Lord requires refreshments for himself and his guest." The cook nodded tiredly. "And he is not in a patient mood today."
Tamitha heard someone mumble "When is he ever" but chose to ignore the comment-and Sharonnah's chortle of laughter.
*There is still some fight left in these people!*
*Let's hope it's enough to carry out our plan.*
*'Our plan'? So we have a plan now?*
Tamitha picked up the tray the staff had assembled, nodding in approval. Ba'al should be pleased with the delectable selection of fruit, savories and sweets. Tamitha left the kitchen and turned down the short corridor that led to the wine cellar. Setting the tray down, she felt in the folds of her gown for the chatelaine she always wore.
*Your plan, dear sister?* Sharonnah prodded again.
Tamitha allowed herself a satisfied smile and shook the chatelaine, the large array of keys rattling impressively. *You've never approved of my little hobby of collecting keys,* she teased her symbiote. *However, this time I believe it will prove extremely beneficial.*
Daniel sat on the edge of the small settee, unwilling to relax and be lulled into a false sense of security by his host. The maid who had been there earlier had returned with a tray full of tempting food-which would have been more tempting if he didn't have this sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Ba'al lounged in the chair across from him. And though he seemed relaxed and in a good humor, Daniel could sense the tightly leashed energy in the man. The maid's eyes were sympathetic as she poured the wine, leaving the bottle on the table and departing with a low bow.
"Please, Doctor Jackson," Ba'al rumbled, taking a sip of the wine. "Try this wine. I think you'll find it pleasing, even if Major Carter did not."
Daniel knew Ba'al was just toying with him, but decided to play along. He took a cautious sip of the deep, red wine. It was surprisingly good, but he couldn't let himself get sidetracked. "So your whole plan was to lure me here?"
Ba'al nodded nonchalantly, a pleased smile on his face.
"So let my friends go. You have me."
"Ah, if it were only that simple." Ba'al gave what Daniel thought was a somewhat dramatic sigh and stood. "To release your comrades would be seen as a sign of weakness, particularly after my last encounter with your Colonel. He and I have unfinished business." Ba'al's voice had hardened and a look of pure hatred filled his face until he visibly relaxed and his voice once more became genial. "They may prove useful. And besides, I can always use more workers at my Naquada refinery. But right now, Doctor Jackson, you and I have business together."
Daniel watched apprehensively as Ba'al crossed to the nearest door and tugged on a bell pull. Moments later a woman he'd never seen before and two Jaffa appeared in the doorway. The woman was one of the most stunningly beautiful women he'd ever seen. Her skin so pale it appeared almost translucent, her face framed with raven black hair that fell to her shoulders. She wore a black cat suit and the only color present anywhere on her was her bright red lips and fingernails. She held out her hand to Ba'al, her red nails glistening menacingly in the candle light and he kissed her hand.
"He is all yours, Melisande." The woman looked over at him, an expression of complete indifference on her face. "Call me when you're ready to start the interrogation." With those words, Ba'al left the room and Daniel found himself hauled forcibly to his feet by the two Jaffa.
"Hey!" he protested, stumbling a bit as the guards roughly hauled him down a side corridor. "Ba'al won't be too happy if you damage me." One of the guards snorted in derision and then he was jerked to a halt when Melisande stopped.
The door they were in front of was surprisingly modern, compared with the rather medieval construction of the fortress. Melisande's fingers flew over the combination pad on the door, the door silently swinging open. She paused in the open doorway and spoke, her voice low and chilling. "You may bring him in."
Daniel immediately noticed a change in the Jaffa. The guards didn't want to enter the room, they're whole demeanor had changed and he would have bet that only their fear of Melisande gave them the motivation to enter the room. The three of them hovered almost uncertainly just inside the doorway while they watched Melisande stroll casually into the room. One slim hand ran along a stainless steel table set in the middle of the room, her nails clicking along the surface. "Strap him to the table."
Daniel began to struggle in earnest and even though he knew it was useless, he wasn't going to give in without a fight. It was worth the wrenched shoulder and punch in the gut, though, when he managed to inflict some damage on one of the guards. However, he was quickly subdued and forcibly bound to the table. He was panting and tugging at the leather restraints on his ankles and wrists, but they held fast.
The Jaffa stepped back from the table and Daniel could almost feel their relief when Melisande said, "Depart."
Helpless to do anything to prevent what was going to happen, Daniel instead focussed on Melisande. Her hands were quick and efficient when she cut his T-shirt off and he couldn't help but flinch when she applied the cold electrodes to his chest. She attached electrodes to his forehead next and then fastened a strap across his forehead, anchoring his head in place.
Taking a stab in the dark as to why Ba'al might want to interrogate him, Daniel commented dryly. "It won't do you any good, you know. I don't remember a thing about the time I was ascended."
Melisande didn't say anything, merely pressed what Daniel thought was another electrode patch to his temple, only to cry out in sudden agony when the disc attached and sent an incredible stabbing pain through his head.
"What was that?" he panted, flinching away from her cool hand when she grabbed his chin, turning his head to the right and attaching a second disc. He cried out again when a similar pain shot back through his head, leaving a dull throbbing behind his eyes.
"That is to help you remember, Doctor Jackson." Ba'al, not the enigmatic Melisande answered his question. Daniel forced his eyes open, squinting because the light in the room was suddenly too bright...or maybe his eyes were too sensitive now.
"But I don't know anything," he protested. He was vaguely aware that Melisande had stuck a needle in his arm; he could feel the coolness of some kind of intravenous fluid flowing through his veins. What were they going to do to him?
He must've spoken out loud, because Ba'al answered. "Melisande is quite a genius when it comes to the vagaries of the brain-human or otherwise. She has developed a new technique for memory extraction that may prove beneficial." Daniel finally managed to focus on Ba'al, who twirled a thin cable with his fingers before handing it to Melisande. "You've experienced something similar before, I believe. This is a variation of the Tok'ra memory recall device. However Melisande has made some improvements. Improvements that practically guarantee that you will remember, Doctor Jackson, that you will remember everything."
Daniel didn't even get a chance to try and reply. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Melisande approach and barely managed to brace himself when she attached the cable Ba'al had been holding to one of the discs embedded in his temple. "It is ready, Lord Ba'al."
"Then let us begin."
There was a low hum of machinery powering up and then Daniel screamed as unbearable agony poured through his entire body.
He couldn't think, he couldn't focus, his mind assaulted with an ever-changing barrage of images. He didn't know if he was awake or dreaming...he wasn't even sure who he was. Some of the images he recognized, faces and places, but none of it stayed long enough in his consciousness for him to name them. He was aware of his body lying on the cold, metal table and the two people standing over him. But he didn't think he was there, it was almost as if he had travelled out of his body. And it was a disturbingly familiar sensation.
He heard someone speaking, but couldn't understand the words. And then the images slowed down, almost like snapshots in a slideshow...before PowerPoint. Grainy black and white images on celluloid. Planets, Stargates, DHDs, gate addresses, aliens he didn't recognize, cities he didn't know. And then ever so slowly he began to recognize places, people...and he was filled with dread as the pain of remembering overpowered the pain from the devices. For in the remembering he recognized a face and the desperate plea of a man pushed to the edge and beyond...a friend who had asked for his help to only be denied.
Guilt and remorse flooded through him and he surrendered to the pain.
"His heart is failing. We must stop." Melisande's hand hovered over the controls, waiting for Ba'al's command.
Ba'al frowned, his voice whip-like when he finally answered, but she wasn't worried. He needed her and the services she provided more than he needed to vent his temper on her. "Very well." With a final glance at his victim, Ba'al left the chamber.
Switching the device off, Melisande efficiently and dispassionately disconnected the cables and electrodes from Daniel Jackson's limp body. His will was stronger than she had anticipated, which made her nervous. And she couldn't afford to be nervous. Running a medical scanner over him, she was satisfied that his physical condition had stabilized. Pressing the call button, she waited for her assistant.
She gazed at the unconscious man, his face still twisted in remembered pain. Perhaps certain safeguards had been put into place to prevent his memories from being tapped. It would certainly explain his reaction to their initial interrogation. In all the other subjects she'd used the device on, she'd been able to access their memories almost immediately. His reaction had been unexpected and she hated the unexpected. Her mind was already racing over the changes she would need to make when Nasier appeared.
"Take him to his room," she ordered, already turning back to her calculations as Nasier wheeled the unconscious man from the chamber.
"I'm sorry, sir. Even after months of tests, I can't say for certain what physical effects ascension has had on Doctor Jackson."
General Hammond looked up at Janet Fraiser from behind his desk. He raised an eyebrow quizzically. "In your opinion, does it affect his ability to do his job?"
The Doctor nodded. “No, sir. His memory is almost completely back now. He just has a blank for the time he was ascended." Janet was about to add that she suspected that had been blocked deliberately by whomever sent him back from that other plane of existence, when the alarm klaxon sounded.
"Incoming wormhole." Walter Davis' voice came over the tannoy. "Unscheduled gate activation."
"Who's out there?" asked Janet, as she followed the General out of his office and into the control room.
"SG-1 and SG-12 are the only teams off world," stated Hammond grimly.
The Doctor felt her stomach clench. Why did it always seem to be SG-1, the team she knew best, and the team who she counted as friends, who got into trouble? But of course, Sam and Teal'c were already in trouble and O'Neill and Daniel had gone to rescue them. Who would rescue the rescuers?
"Receiving an iris code," said Walter Davis, as the Doctor and General stopped either side of his chair, staring at the shimmering surface of the event horizon. The control panel bleeped and the Sergeant turned to face Hammond. "It's SG-12, sir."
"Open the iris," ordered the General.
Davis obeyed, as a squad of SF's entered the gateroom and took up defensive positions. Janet's stomach clenched even tighter. If SG-12 were coming back, something had gone horribly wrong with SG-1's mission. She glanced across at Hammond. Judging by the look on his face, the General was thinking the same thing. Another low bleep focussed her attention back onto the control panel in front of Davis. "Incoming audio message, sir," he said quietly.
"Let's hear it, Sergeant."
The faint, crackling voice filled the control room. "Major Rice here, sir."
"Go ahead, Major."
"SG-1 did not meet us for the scheduled rendezvous. Things seem to be livening up here, sir. There was no Jaffa activity for hours, but we've seen three patrols in the last thirty minutes. Don't think we've been spotted yet. Request further instructions, sir."
Hammond's expression was grim as he replied, "Get out of there before you're compromised as well, Major. We have to assume that the increase in Jaffa activity is because SG-1 has been captured. I'm not going to risk any more men."
"Understood, sir." There was a static filled pause, and then Rice's voice came again. "Oh hell, they've seen us… We're taking fire… Coming through now, sir."
The connection went silent. The SF's in the gate room raised their weapons. Janet held her breath and noticed Davis' hand hovering over the blast screen control, waiting for an order from Hammond. She stared at the shimmering surface, willing someone to appear. Suddenly, the four members of SG-12 emerged through the event horizon at a run and immediately threw themselves down on the ramp to avoid the staff blasts that followed them. "Close the iris!" yelled Rice from his position on the ground.
Davis obeyed and then they heard the sickening sound of something hitting the closed barrier. Four somethings. Janet shuddered and tried not to dwell on the fact that four Jaffa had just died, then followed the General to the gate room.
Jack wasn't sure how long they'd been in the cell. As there was no window, he had no idea if it was night or day, and he'd lost track of time when his watch had vanished after they were first captured. He glanced round the cell, trying to project an air of calm authority, and trying to mask the panic that was beginning to grow inside him.
He studied his team-mates. Teal'c was sleeping peacefully in the far corner. Hopefully the tretonin was doing him some good - it just had to help, otherwise he couldn't see any way they'd ever get the big guy out of this hellhole. Of course, that was assuming they got the opportunity to escape. Carter sat leaning against the wall, staring at her boots. His jacket hung loosely on her, he'd given it to her to help cover her hopelessly torn shirt and maybe protect her injured back. By the look of the livid welts and deep abrasions on her back, he knew she had been whipped and had to be in a lot of pain, but she never complained. Jack had been shocked to the core when he'd first seen them both but that shock had now grown into a lust for revenge and a desire to tear Ba'al limb from limb.
And he didn't want to even start thinking about what Ba'al was doing to Daniel. Carter had speculated that the Goa'uld wanted the knowledge of the Ancients that the archaeologist would have been privy to when he was ascended. Knowledge that would give Ba'al an advantage over the other system lords. Jack knew Daniel remembered nothing about that time. But would Ba'al take Daniel's word for that? Or would he just think Daniel was stalling and keep torturing him until he talked? Jack balled his hand into a fist, closed his eyes and tried not to think about Ba'al killing him and bringing him back to life, over and over and over and over…
"Sir!" Carter's whisper brought him back to reality with a bump. "I think someone's coming."
He listened. She was right. Sure enough he could hear the sound of Jaffa marching down the passageway towards the cell door. He stood up and signaled Carter to do likewise. She nodded and followed his lead, moving carefully and positioning herself behind him. There was the unmistakable sound of a key in the lock, and then a loud scraping noise as it was turned. Jack tensed, ready to pounce, as the door swung slowly inwards.
Before he had chance to move, a Jaffa stepped into the cell, swung his staff weapon at Jack, and sent him flying backwards across the room. He heard a sickening crack as his head hit the wall, and then icy needles of pain shot through his skull, blurring his eyesight and threatening to rob him of consciousness. Vaguely aware of Carter being pushed roughly back out of the way, he forced himself back to his feet, but could only manage to stay upright by leaning heavily against the wall.
It was at that point he noticed a woman walk into the room carrying a tray. On it was a large bowl containing something that looked like porridge and a jug of cloudy liquid? "Room service," he muttered, to no one in particular, as he struggled to focus on her.
The woman set the tray down near the door, her robe sweeping along the floor as she did so. As she straightened up, she stared into Jack's eyes, as if willing to him to understand something, and then she looked down at the porridge, looked back at Jack, then again looked back at the porridge.
What was she trying to tell him? The food was poisoned? He thought that was unlikely as it wouldn't be any fun for Ba'al if they died here in this cell where he couldn't gloat over them. But it could be some mind-altering drug… to make them talk. Quickly checking the guards weren't looking at him, he looked at the woman and mouthed, "What?"
"You need to eat," she said out loud, her voice echoing in the bare cell. She glanced quickly back at the two Jaffa guarding the doorway, then apparently satisfied they weren't paying her much attention, she added, "There is much goodness in the food. You will find it beneficial."
"Enough chattering!" said one of the guards sharply. "Leave them. You have to serve the other prisoner as well, and he is much more important to our lord."
The woman nodded meekly, turned and headed out of the room. Jack watched the door swing closed and, as soon as he heard the key turn in the lock, he staggered across the room to the bowl of food. Carter was already sitting on the floor next to it. "What do you think, sir? Poisoned?"
Jack couldn't pin down why, but he knew he trusted the woman who'd brought the food. He'd have to say it was a gut instinct. "No, I don't think so." He pushed a finger tentatively into the porridge. It was cold and slimy. Bringing his finger up to his mouth, he muttered, "Well, here goes nothing." He winced at the taste. Bland, gluey and totally disgusting.
He noticed Carter was following his lead and had dipped a finger in the porridge too.
Suddenly her eyes widened. "My god… there's something in here, sir."
"What?" Jack watched as she plunged her hand into the sticky morass and felt around.
The look on her face was triumphant as she grabbed hold of something and pulled it out. She wiped it hurriedly on the hem of her T-shirt and held it up for his inspection.
"Sonofabitch!" exclaimed Jack. "A key." He gestured towards the door. "And I'm betting it fits that lock."
She grinned. "I think we've got a plan B, sir."
He grinned back. Things were certainly looking up. Then he had a thought. "Check there's nothing else in there, will you, Carter?"
She picked up the dish and began to feel around in the porridge, and then she suddenly stopped. Grinning, she flipped the dish over, depositing its glutinous contents on the floor with a loud plop.
Jack watched in amazement. "Hey, we might need to eat that!" he protested.
"I don't think we will, sir. Not only do we have a key but we also have instructions!" She carefully peeled a piece of paper off the bottom of the dish.
"What does it say?" he asked, consumed with curiosity.
"Meet us by the entrance to the tunnels in thirty minutes." She looked more carefully at the note. "It's signed 'Tamitha of the Tok'ra'."
"Well, that's a bit of a surprise. I thought we weren't on speaking terms with most of the Tok'ra?"
Sam frowned and looked at him. "It is unexpected, sir, I will grant you that. But I don't think we should look a gift horse in the mouth."
"Then it's Plan B+, I think, Carter." For the first time since he'd begun this mission, Jack actually felt optimistic.
Daniel groaned, burrowing his head deeper into the pillows, trying to shut out the quiet voice that wouldn't let him rest. He didn't want to wake up, he didn't want to face whatever was going to happen to him next...he didn't want to remember anymore.
"Please, Doctor Jackson, wake up."
The voice was more insistent and this time accompanied by a gentle touch on his forehead. It was a cool, damp cloth he realized, she was wiping his forehead with it. He'd also recognized the voice. Daniel rolled to his back and opened his eyes to find Tamitha looking down at him. She smiled, a look of relief filling her face.
"I was afraid she might have damaged you."
Daniel closed his eyes again, trying to shake the lingering pain and dizziness that filled him. "I'm not sure she hasn't," he muttered.
"No," Tamitha interjected, "her other 'subjects' did not have the light of awareness in their eyes when they awoke after a session."
He opened his eyes again. "What are you doing here?"
Tamitha wrung the cloth out in a bowl that sat on a table next to the bed. She lay it back across his forehead before answering. "My Lord Ba'al has instructed me to watch over you," she announced in what seemed to be an unnaturally loud and formal tone. But then she leaned closer, making a show of stroking his face with the cloth. "I am Tamitha of the Tok'ra."
Relief mixed with some confusion flooded through him and Daniel opened his mouth, only to stop when she laid a finger across his lips. "Please, we are being observed at all times," she whispered. He nodded in understanding and relaxed back against the pillows.
"But, I thought the alliance was all but over?" Daniel whispered. And then another thought struck him, "Aren't you Ba'al's lotar?"
"No, I am in charge of the household." She wrung out the cloth again before leaning close and speaking. "And yes, it is true that the alliance between the Tok'ra and Tau'ri is not what it was. However that does not mean that I will stand by and do nothing while you and your friends are tortured. My position here allows me some freedom that will assist in your escape. I have provided your colleagues with a means of escape from their cell. However I believe they will not leave without you, Daniel Jackson."
Daniel opened his mouth to disagree but then realized Tamitha was right. Jack would never leave without him. Jack would help him...Jack wouldn't let him be tortured over and over with no hope of release. His memories still felt like so much Swiss cheese, but he had very vivid memories of that time now...of Jack being repeatedly tortured and revived. Memories of wanting to help but being completely impotent and unable to help, before finally offering Jack the only thing he could.
His fragmented memories of his ascended self seemed so far removed from the man he always thought he was, that he couldn't even begin to reconcile them with the man that he felt he was now. A kinder, gentler and less arrogant man. He groaned, so lost in the misery of his thoughts that he couldn't even focus on what Tamitha was saying, but the urgency in her voice finally penetrated his anguish.
"Please, Doctor Jackson, we don't have much time." He felt a gentle hand on his cheek and he forced himself to open his eyes and look at her. "I want you to sit up and then I'm going to help you to the washroom. Once there, we will have access to a secret tunnel that not even Ba'al knows about."
Daniel nodded dully, he didn't really matter, but if he didn't go with Tamitha, his team would come looking for him. And he'd already caused all three of them enough pain for any lifetime.
Sam Carter pressed her ear to the cell door. All she could hear was her heart hammering in her chest; no sounds at all from the tunnel outside. Either their cell wasn't guarded, or the Jaffa was standing extremely still and had been for some time.
"Well?" asked O'Neill impatiently from his position on the floor beside Teal'c. "Time's almost up. We have got to go."
She turned to him and shrugged. "I can't hear anything, sir."
The Colonel turned to Teal'c, whom, thank god, finally seemed to be showing some signs of improvement. "You ready, T?"
"Indeed." The Jaffa began to push himself up into a sitting position, aided by O'Neill.
Sam was relieved to hear that simple but familiar word. A few hours before, she had been doubtful her friend would ever speak again. It would be some time before Teal'c was back to his formidable self, but for now, she was more than happy that he could stand and walk slowly towards the door. She looked away from the Jaffa, straight into the Colonel's eyes. He smiled, appearing to think the same thing. "Now we just need to find Daniel and we can get back to Earth."
The Colonel carefully inserted the key in the lock and turned it. Sam sucked in a sharp breath at the loud scraping noise and waited for what she thought was the inevitable appearance of their captors. O'Neill looked at her and raised his eyebrows, again apparently sharing her thoughts. It was strange how often that seemed to happen - she supposed it came with years of working together. He whispered, "Here goes nothing," and slowly opened the door.
It was immediately obvious why there had been no sounds from outside the cell. A Jaffa was sitting, slumped against the wall, fast asleep. He didn't even stir when they walked over to him. "Do you think he's been drugged?" asked Sam quietly, bending down and peering at him. She resisted the temptation to give him a prod. She however didn't resist the temptation to slip the Jaffa's staff weapon out of his lax hands.
The Colonel nodded in agreement, taking the staff weapon when she handed it to him. "Yeah." He pointed at a discarded tankard lying on its side by the sleeping Jaffa. "It must have been in his drink."
"I'm betting it was our Tok'ra friend."
"Yeah. You know, she kind of reminds me of Shallan."
Sam looked at him quizzically. She didn't remember him volunteering any kind of information about his time in captivity before. Sam knew this mission had to be doubly difficult for him, considering his history with Ba'al. And now the system lord had captured her and Teal'c… and Daniel.
Melisande marched into the room, closely followed by her Jaffa, ready to take the human away for more interrogation. She was looking forward to this. He was a most interesting and challenging subject. He put up more resistance than the usual run of the mill victims. She stopped dead, then swiveled round. Where was the human?
She swung round to her Jaffa. "Find him!" she roared.
The Jaffa scuttled out of the room, leaving Melisande alone. She bristled with anger, both at herself for allowing this to happen and at the human for escaping. When they found him, she would have her revenge. He would learn the meaning of suffering.
Her stomach clenched. She didn't want to think what Ba'al would say when he found out. Her lord was not a forgiving god. Her heart fell when she heard footsteps behind her.
"Melisande, where is Daniel Jackson?"
She turned to face her god.
Daniel crawled along the passage behind Tamitha, trying to ignore the insistent pounding in his head. Before they'd entered the passageway, he'd tried to pull the implants out of his temples, but just touching them had produced excruciating pain that fired hot needles into his eyeballs and shooting pains all through his head and neck that made his head spin. He'd slumped to the floor, fighting the urge to vomit, until Tamitha dragged him to his feet. "It would be wise to leave the devices alone for now, Doctor Jackson. They are not easily removed. We must leave now."
He'd nodded in agreement and decided to let Janet deal with them when they got back to the SGC. These seemed similar to the recall devices implanted by Hathor's scientists several years before, if considerably more painful, but of course that could be because there were two of them, not just the one employed by Hathor. All of which left him with a nasty headache and extreme photosensitivity, but at least the light was pretty dim in the tunnel. They seemed to have been in there for ages, but he suspected it really wasn't all that long. To break the silence, Daniel asked, "How much further?"
Tamitha stopped and craned her neck round to face him. "Not far. We have to keep moving though. Are you feeling ill?"
Remembering what Jack had gone through at Ba'al's hands, and more recently, how Teal'c had suffered, Daniel said, "No, I'm fine. Just curious." After all, in comparison, he'd emerged relatively unscathed, and in any case, after the way he hadn't been able to help Jack, perhaps he deserved a little suffering. The guilt came over him in waves. How on earth could Jack look him in the eye? How could he behave as he'd always done knowing how Daniel had stood by and watched him suffer? If they got out of here in one piece at least he could apologize. It wasn't much… in fact, considering what Jack had been through it was hardly anything, but it was a start. And he had to start somewhere.
Tamitha stopped and murmured, "We're at the door. I will open it."
Daniel knelt back and watched as the woman pushed gently on the wooden door in front of her. It gave silently and swung open, flooding the tunnel with blinding light. Instinctively, he raised his hand to protect his sensitive eyes. It was so bright, they had to be near the outside world. Tamitha climbed out and offered a hand to help Daniel. He shook his head. "I can manage, thanks." Squinting, he clambered out into the daylight and stood up straight then stretched, trying to work the stiffness out of his back and legs. He had been right. They were in the passageway that Jack and he had walked down earlier, about twenty yards from the entrance. He wondered if SG-12 were still waiting for them, then dismissed the idea almost immediately. They would have gone back to the SGC long ago, when SG-1 had failed to make the planned rendezvous.
Tamitha carefully closed the door they'd just come through and it disappeared right before his eyes, its contours blending completely into the stone wall of the tunnel. Daniel blinked a couple of times. The illusion was total. He couldn't see it and he knew exactly where to look. Walking over to it, he ran his hand over the surface. It felt like solid rock. The door must be faced with stone and fit perfectly into its doorway, leaving not so much as a crack around it. While he was marveling at the workmanship, Tamitha coughed gently and when he turned towards her, she beckoned him towards a hollow carved out of the tunnel wall. "Come, we will not be so obvious here. Your friends should arrive soon."
Daniel followed her lead and concealed himself as best he could, leaning against the cool stone wall. If only they could disappear like the door.
Jack led Sam and Teal'c down the corridor, hoping and praying they wouldn't be discovered. He couldn't see any signs of Daniel and the Tok'ra woman, Tamitha. Their progress was frustratingly slow because of Teal'c's injuries; the big man was bravely struggling on but Jack was beginning to wonder if he was going to make it all the way to the outside. His footsteps were slowing and his breathing was becoming labored as they moved along the corridor towards the enticing daylight.
Then suddenly from out of nowhere, the Tok'ra woman appeared in front of them, closely followed by Daniel. The archaeologist grinned at them. "What kept you?"
Before Jack could reply, a chillingly familiar voice echoed down the corridor from behind him. "You will not escape me a second time, O'Neill."
Even in the flickering torchlight, the momentary panic Daniel saw flash through Jack's eyes was visible. But his hesitation was only momentary as he immediately swung around and began firing the staff weapon. Tamitha pulled Daniel down behind a column when there was answering fire, Sam and Teal'c flattening themselves along the wall.
"The rest of you, get out of here now!" Jack instructed, looking back at them from his position just in front of Sam and Teal'c.
"That is an order, Major. Get Teal'c and Daniel out of here!"
"Yes, sir." She rose cautiously, pulling Teal'c with her.
Daniel started to protest, but Tamitha was already urging him down another corridor, away from O'Neill—and their escape route. Sam had an arm around Teal'c and they were right behind them. They rounded another corner, the sounds of the firefight fading and then falling ominously silent. They only went a few more yards before they came to a door set into the corridor. Tamitha hurriedly pulled out a key and unlocked the heavy wooden door.
"We can't leave Jack!" Daniel protested, even as Tamitha urged him through the door.
"You heard the Colonel, Daniel." Sam's voice was firm, but her eyes were wide and worried. "We won't leave him here, I promise."
Daniel finally stopped protesting and followed Tamitha, the fierceness in Sam's voice somehow reassured him. The door opened into a small, dark stairwell. They seemed to climb up the narrow staircase forever, Daniel was panting and his head was throbbing even more by the time they came to another landing and a door, this one set above them. Tamitha used yet another key and, with his and Sam's help, they managed to push the trapdoor open. Tamitha scrambled up first, Daniel followed. Between the two of them--with Sam pushing on the other end--they then managed to haul Teal'c out, quickly followed by Sam.
Daniel crouched down and looked around, catching his breath. They were in a small wooded copse, the trapdoor concealed by shrubbery and undergrowth. The massive expanse of Ba'al's fortress still loomed dangerously close.
"Where to now?" Sam panted.
"Follow me," Tamitha instructed. "I know a place where we may take shelter."
"Our escape was too easy." Sam's restless energy filled the room as she paced. Daniel nodded in agreement, though the movement restarted his headache.
"Ba'al believes that our capture is inevitable." Tamitha, or rather, Sharonnah, never paused while she moved the healing device over Teal'c. "He will take his time."
"We have to rescue Jack. We can't leave him there to be tortured again by Ba'al."
Sam looked at him sharply. "How do you know about that, Daniel?"
"Because I remember! I was there the first time and didn't do a damn thing to help him. I won't do that again."
"Daniel, I don't understand. You say you were there with the Colonel? How?"
Daniel stood; taking up the pacing Sam had stopped. "I visited him during his capture, while I was ascended. These things," he gingerly touched one of the implants on his temple, "are part of a means of extracting information. Ba'al has this woman-"
"Melisande," Sharonnah muttered.
Daniel glanced over at her. "Right, Melisande. She was trying to extract my memories from when I was ascended. And I remembered."
Sharonnah stood then, pocketing the healing device. "Your friend is healed."
"Teal'c, how do you feel?" Sam asked.
Teal'c stood effortlessly. "Greatly improved." He nodded somberly at Sharonnah. "I am in your debt."
Sharonnah gracefully inclined her head, before turning to Sam. "Why would Ba'al wish Melisande to interrogate your Colonel?"
Daniel watched the silent interplay between Sam and Teal'c with interest, before Sam finally answered. "Colonel O'Neill was once a host to a Tok'ra."
"Ah," Sharonnah nodded, comprehension showing on her face. "Kanan?"
Sharonnah looked thoughtful. "Ba'al has only recently acquired Melisande and her technology. He will undoubtedly use it on O'Neill." She looked at him. "And on Daniel Jackson again, if we are captured. He must not be allowed to succeed."
Sam sighed, sitting down on a bench that ran along one wall. "Sharonnah, your position with Ba'al has been compromised, you know that, don't you?"
"Yes," Sharonnah replied. "I have no doubt that he saw me with Doctor Jackson in the tunnel." A slight smile lit her face. "After his experience with his last lotar, he will be most eager to find me."
"You said he's not likely to send anyone after us right away?"
"No, his confidence is such that he will track us at his leisure. And right now, the majority of his troops are deployed elsewhere. He maintains only a small group here."
"Then perhaps we can use that to our advantage," Teal'c said.
Sam smiled and for the first time since they'd left Jack behind, Daniel felt hope.
Jack didn't even try to struggle against the restraints that fastened him to the cold, metal table. The sickeningly familiar feel of the tight leather around his wrists and ankles telling him it would be useless. He instinctively jerked his head away though, when firm hands held his head in a place, fastening his head down with another leather band.
"I still don't remember anything," he ground out between clenched teeth, figuring that Ba'al was going to torture him again for more information about Kanan. Just out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ba'al's figure emerge from the shadows.
"It does not matter." Ba'al's voice had taken on the tone of mock patience, as if he were explaining to a particularly slow-witted individual. "Any information you may have is undoubtedly hopelessly outdated by now." Ba'al had moved closer to the table and Jack could see his face clearly. The pure malice gleaming in his eyes chilled him to the bone. "This is merely an experiment, if you will. A test to see whether Melisande's machine is more effective than my more old-fashioned methods."
Ba'al smiled and waved his hand in the air. "Do as you wish with him." Jack heard the swish of his coat as he walked away. "Let me know if you learn anything of interest." A door slammed and then those cold hands were once more on his face and Jack felt a stabbing pain in his left temple.
"What was that?" he gasped, jerking his head against the restraint.
"Be still," an unfamiliar woman's voice commanded.
He couldn't see what she was doing, but when he felt her hands on his head again, he braced himself. "Sonofabitch," he ground out when pain shot through his right temple.
"What the hell are you doing?" Jack managed to turn is head a little, in spite of the restraint and finally got a good look at his torturer. Dominatrix was the first word that came to mind. All she needed was a whip to make her black leather outfit complete. She had her back to him and when she turned around Jack knew he'd find no help from her, the empty look in her eyes somehow more chilling than anything he had ever seen in Ba'al's.
He had to try though. "Look...whoever you are," he finally muttered. "You don't have to do this. I can help you."
"Why would you assume I need help, human?" She had some type of fine cable in her hand that she fastened onto one of the devices on his head.
"So you're a Goa'uld then?"
"No. Be quiet," she snapped. "I will not help you. No one here will help you."
"That is where you are mistaken." Jack heard the male voice murmur just before a zat fired and the woman collapsed to the floor.
There was a flurry of movement and then Daniel's voice sounded right next to him. "We're here, Jack."
"This will hurt." A man Jack had never seen before was leaning over him.
"Who the hell are you?"
"It's Melisande's assistant, Nasier." Daniel stated, already working on unfastening his wrist restraints.
Melisande must be the unconscious woman on the floor, Jack concluded, yelping at the sudden pain when Nasier detached the implants. When Nasier removed the head strap, Jack struggled to sit up. Somehow Teal'c was there, helping him as well.
"That was a quick recovery," Jack quipped to the obviously recovered Jaffa, before closing his eyes on a wave of dizziness. "Whoa...what was that?"
"It is only the after effect of the device," the man called Nasier commented. "It will pass."
Jack opened his eyes and this time Carter was in the room, a zat in her hand. "We have got to go. Colonel? You okay?"
"Yeah," he hopped off the table, glad for Teal'c's unobtrusive support when his knees almost buckled. "I thought I gave you an order, Carter." He tried glaring at her but knew that he'd failed miserably when she merely grinned at him.
"You did, sir. And I followed it."
"You did not, however, order us not to return," Teal'c commented.
Carter nodded, still smiling. "He's got you there, sir."
Jack let their impertinence pass, finally letting the relief of seeing his team and knowing they would all soon be on their way out of Ba'al's fortress wash through him.
Carter looked to Nasier, who was now kneeling beside the body of his mistress. "Are you sure you won't come with us?"
"No," the man murmured, smoothing back a strand of dark off the unconscious woman's face. "I will take care of her. But you must hurry--go!"
Where were all the people coming from, Jack wondered grumpily, when the Tok'ra woman suddenly appeared. "He is right, we must leave at once. The effects of the drug will wear off soon and the outside patrol will return at any moment."
Totally confused, but sensing the urgency in her voice, Jack took a deep breath and shook Teal'c's supporting arm loose. He held his hand out and someone--Daniel he noted--shoved a zat into it.
"Sweet." The familiar feel of the zat in his hand infinitely comforting. "Let's blow this pop stand."
Daniel warmed his hands around the cup of hot tea Tamitha brought him. He looked over at Jack, who sat propped up in the corner on the bench, his head tilted back and eyes closed. Daniel didn't think he was asleep. Not like Sam, who lay curled up on the narrow bed along the far wall of the hut. Sharonnah had offered to use the healing device on Sam's back and Daniel was still appalled by the raw and bloody mess that her back had been. And she had gone through their whole escape without complaining. It made his ordeal at Ba'al's hands seem almost mild in comparison. At least physically mild, anyway. His fragmented memories still haunted him--as well as the memory of how he had failed Jack.
Teal'c was standing guard just outside the door to their hut and Tamitha was fussing over the fire, putting together some kind of soup. Their hiding place was secure and Jack had agreed with Tamitha that they could all use some rest. Tamitha had contacted her Tok'ra base and they had reluctantly agreed to send a ship in the early hours of the morning, when they'd be able to make their escape undetected. When Jack had questioned her regarding the arrangements, she had merely smiled enigmatically and replied that 'losing' SG-1 to Ba'al would not benefit any of the Tok'ra.
Daniel walked over to where Tamitha had just finished adding some vegetables to the large kettle simmering over the fire. "You don't have to wait on us, you know."
Her smile was gentle as she straightened up, wiping her hands on a rag she had tucked into the waist of her gown as an apron. "I am used to this. And it's good for Sharonnah. Besides," she nodded towards O'Neill and Sam, "they need their rest. As do you."
"I can't sleep," he murmured quietly, not wanting to disturb Sam or Jack. "I keep remembering."
"You do not wish to remember?"
"Yes...no...I don't know," he finally muttered. He wasn't really sure how to answer her question. He thought he had wanted to remember what had happened, what he had done while he was ascended. But if this was an example of his activities, he wasn't sure he wanted to know anymore. Oma Desala had led him to believe he could make a difference in the universe. He looked back over at Jack, who still sat with his eyes closed, fatigue and the events of the past days evident in his pale and haggard face. "I wanted to make a difference, Tamitha. And now it looks like I couldn't even help my best friend when he needed it the most."
"Go, talk to him."
"Ah, Jack isn't the easiest guy to talk to."
"You will never know unless you ask."
Daniel sighed. She was right, of course. And there would be no better time to talk with Jack than right now.
Setting his tea down, Daniel walked over to where Jack sat, his booted feet resting on the wooden bench. Daniel sat down.
God! He always hated it when Jack did that. He hadn't even opened his eyes and Daniel really disliked talking to someone who wasn't looking at him.
"Ah...how are you feeling?"
Jack opened his eyes then. "Fine, Daniel. I'm feeling just fine."
Daniel looked at his friend, the tightness around his mouth, a bleak look in his eyes in spite of the fact that they had--hopefully--escaped Ba'al once again. "I ah..." he stammered, feeling unaccustomedly awkward and tongue-tied. He rubbed his temple where one of the devices had been—thankfully removed earlier by Nasier—and knew how to start. "So...Ba'al had that woman use that machine on me."
"Did he now?"
"Yeah." Daniel glanced at Jack, who still sat with his head back against the wall, but at least his eyes were still open. "It wasn't very pleasant."
"Torture never is."
"Ah, right. I guess you'd know that better than most."
"Get to the point, Daniel."
Daniel ignored the irritation in Jack's voice. "I remembered, Jack, what happened when you were captured by Ba'al a year ago, while I was ascended."
"That's nice, Daniel."
"Dammit, Jack! Don't be that way!"
"What do you want me to do, Daniel? It happened, I escaped, I survived. End of story."
"I want you to say you understand."
"Is that what you want? You want me to 'understand' why you didn't do anything to help me while Ba'al tortured me to death, over and over again?" Jack sat up then, swinging his legs around so he sat up on the bench. "I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now."
Daniel took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. The response was typical Jack, he wasn't even sure now why he persisted in even trying to explain. "I still don't remember a lot, Jack, least of all why I wouldn't help you. I think that being ascended wasn't quite all I expected it to be." He laughed wryly, slipping his glasses back on. "Or else I'd still be ascended."
"You must've done something to really piss them off."
"Probably," Daniel agreed. He knew the basics of what had happened on Abydos and the vague memory of confronting Anubis hovered just at the edges of his mind. He evidently hadn't been cut out to be an ascended being. But right now, he just hoped he hadn't ruined his chances of being a trusted member of SG-1. "Jack, I don't know if I'll ever completely remember or understand what happened to me while I was ascended. I just want you to know that I won't let you down again. I promise, you—and Sam and Teal'c—can count on me."
Jack studied him for long moments and Daniel forced himself to not look away. And then the older man finally nodded. "That's good enough for me."
Jack stood then and stretched, the subject apparently closed because he asked Tamitha, "That soup ready yet?"
Daniel watched while Tamitha dished out a bowl of the steaming soup and handed it to Jack, who sat down with her at the table by the fire. Was regaining Jack's trust going to be that simple?
"Hey, Daniel," Jack called softly, interrupting his thoughts. "Soup's pretty good, better come get some."
Daniel instinctively knew Jack's invitation wasn't just for soup and as he crossed the short distance to where his friend sat, Daniel silently promised that he wouldn't do anything to jeopardize Jack's trust again.
Written by: Sue Corkill & Wendy Parkinson
Producers: LauraJo & Vicki