Jmas Fan Fiction

Title: The Hunting Fields

Date: December 23, 1999

Status: Complete
Author: Jmas
Category: drama, angst, h/c…various other things….

Rating: PG-13 for language

Archive: Stargate Fan, Heliopolis, Belle, Place of Our Legacy
Disclaimer: Characters are property of MGM, etc.
Spoilers: Most every ep to date
Summary: A piece of writing found in modern in Egypt leads the team to a far off world to settle an old debt

Author's note: This began with the title, all else followed....


Chapter 1

It was a similar and as different as the dozens of other worlds they had visited through the Stargate. The desert sands, the scruffy trees, the monumental ruins themselves could belong to countless other planets they had come across in the past few years.

The only difference was...this world was Earth.

Dr. Daniel Jackson smiled to himself there in the bright sunlight, wondering when his perceptions had so changed that his so-called home world would become one of many, no longer the singular miracle it had once seemed. Daniel felt a vague sense of gratitude that he alone in this academic grouping truly understood how close Earth had come to sharing the fate of many of those other worlds on the other side of the 'gate.

Daniel could see his companion and team leader, Colonel Jack O'Neill, standing at the back of the small crowd, trying unsuccessfully not to look bored by all the hoopla centered around the discovery of an unknown, at least in the experience of the archeological community of Earth, example of ancient writing. Daniel knew that his friend was more than a little intolerant of the bluff and bluster surrounding them, especially considering the fact that Daniel had been forced to come here under an assumed persona, complete with the necessity to speak a foreign language, because two of the men involved in the discovery had also been instrumental in getting Daniel discredited among his peers nearly four years ago.

Daniel had followed the discovery of the writing through television and Internet reports, and had shamelessly used his unique status as a valued member of Stargate Command to gain access to reports less public. After scrutinizing photographs for several days...and nights...Daniel had confirmed his initial impressions that the writing was Goa'uld in origin. Again Daniel found himself in the unique position of being the only living expert on Earth when it came to the language of Earth's greatest enemies, another fact that could never become generally known.

Jack had, quite surprisingly, supported Daniel's decision to come to Egypt; had initiated it in fact, by insisting to General Hammond that Daniel had to get a firsthand look at the writings. General Hammond hadn't so much as questioned Jack's request, personally seeing to the necessary arrangements, providing the necessary clearances and identities required to get Daniel into this elite gathering.

Daniel was still a little dazed by it all; it had taken some very upper-level maneuvering to get him here, and he couldn't entirely comprehend exactly how he had managed to earn such trust.


From his vantage point at the back of the group of stuffed shirts, Jack could make an educated guess concerning the thoughts behind his friend's expression. He knew Daniel well enough by now to know that he would probably never fully comprehend how valuable he was to SGC; it simply wasn't in the younger man's character to conceive of his multitude of talents and contributions, not to mention his intrinsic courage and commitment, as worthy of any extraordinary merit. Thanks to the denigration of his former peers, among other things, Jack knew that Daniel found it difficult to accept the admiration and respect of his new peers. Jack was more than a little relieved that, over time, and at least with them, Daniel had come out of that reticence to a very large extent.

Jack couldn't read his friend's expression as clearly as he would have liked, partly due to the beard Daniel had grown as part of this new persona provided by the CIA...along with the blessings of the real Cultural Attaché to the Canadian government. Jack had teased the younger man mercilessly about the new look, but had to admit that with the shorter hair and the beard the man he'd traveled here with bore little resemblance to the shaggy, and hopelessly geeky, scientist he'd met nearly four years ago.

Daniel had grown, and Jack knew it wasn't just a matter of getting older. Life had taught his friend more than a few hard lessons, and Daniel was a very apt pupil. Jack knew that a lot of the credit for his team's strength rested on Daniel's shoulders; although Daniel, in his usual self-effacing way, would never fully grasp how vital his presence had become to the team. Jack remembered once referring to Daniel as the voice and conscience of SG1 and that hadn't changed, but the intervening years had brought with them the realization that Daniel was also the empathetic soul of their group; always taking that extra step, always offering the hand of friendship, always feeling the successes and the losses with such an unrestrained depth that Jack often wondered how Daniel could function so effectively and still maintain an even keel.

Watching Daniel as he listened intently to the posturing windbag who'd found the writing they'd come here to see--one of the two who could possibly recognize Daniel, Jack realized that even without the extra precautions these men would never see the long-haired theorist they'd laughed off the stage so long ago.

That man no longer existed.


Watching his former colleague at the makeshift podium, Daniel couldn't help but feel a twinge of impatience at the stodgy man's self-important speech. Association with a certain Air Force Colonel had rubbed off on Daniel to the extent that he found the academic blustering of his former peers designed more to foster that same self-importance than to advance knowledge. Association with SGC and all the wonders he'd encountered in his time there had taught Daniel that increasing knowledge was the only true motivation; something he'd always known, but had rarely been allowed to exercise in academia.

Finally, it seemed like the speaker was winding down and they would get their first look at the wall that contained the writing. Daniel felt rather than saw Jack fall into step beside him as they moved into the dig site. A portion of Daniel's brain randomly and automatically deciphered the purely Earth-bound hieroglyphs they passed; it had become second nature to Daniel to interpret things on the fly and he'd had more than a little practice at it. As the small group finally arrived at the central chamber, a sheet that had been dramatically draped over the opposite wall was dropped.

Daniel felt his jaw drop a little and was aware of Jack's eyes watching him behind the ever-present sunglasses. Long acquaintance with Jack's protective nature had taught Daniel to expect, and occasionally even welcome, the vigilance Jack extended toward those he considered his family--SG1. Although at times Daniel found this particular tendency to be a bit stifling, he had adjusted to it; coming to accept that he rather enjoyed the feeling of belonging. Daniel shook his head, acknowledging his friend's worried expression, but Daniel knew that this was neither the time nor the place for him to share with Jack the fact that they were all in very deep trouble.

Chapter 2

Jack had known they couldn't be lucky enough to get away from the dig site without incident; he'd been right. He'd no sooner seen that light of discovery and impending trouble appear in Daniel's eyes than he heard a voice behind him.

"Professeur Paquette?"

Luckily Daniel wasn't so deeply in thought as to forget his assumed name, but even as his friend turned to confront the speaker Jack knew from Daniel's expression just who it had to be. The posturing windbag. The one who knew Daniel from before.

"Oui?" Daniel's attitude changed instantly into one of bored disinterest. The posturing windbag...Jack couldn't remember his name.... obviously expected Professor Michel Paquette, Cultural Attaché to the Canadian government, to recognize him. Jack didn't know much French, just enough to order a drink and to tell if he was being insulted, but it was obvious that Daniel wasn't giving the self-important archeologist much ground.

"Et vous êtes?"

"Jonathan Rosenthal. J'étais un des premiers à decouvrir le nouvel système d'écriture."

Jack had heard enough French to recognize the fact that Rosenthal spoke it badly. Daniel's expression grew ever more detached.

"Et puis...?"

Rosenthal looked flustered, "Votre reputaton vous precède, monsieur. Je voulais savoir si vous avez eu des impressions au sujet de la présentation?"

"Ma impression, monsieur, est que vous n'avez aucune idée de que vous avez ici et selon toute probabilité, vous ne sera jamais."

Jack nearly laughed as whatever Daniel said caused Rosenthal to go red, literally and figuratively.

"Et je suppose que vous le savez?" The man's tone was indignant. Daniel gave him a long hard look. In Jack's opinion they were treading on very shaky ground here, Rosenthal could put two and two together at any moment...but Daniel was obviously throwing himself into his role, and Jack trusted the younger man not to push things too far.

"Plus qu'un cul ignare comme vous-même irez avoir jamais." With those final words, Daniel turned on his heels motioning with an imperious hand for Jack to follow. Jack looked at the deflated...angry...windbag for a moment. "He gets that way..."

Jack trotted after Daniel, playing the good sycophant, and asked, "What did you just say to him?" Actually, Jack was pretty sure that at least one of the words involved a body part...or a barn animal.

Daniel just shook his head, smiling just a little "The truth. He doesn't know what he's got here...and he never will."

Daniel kept walking, leaving Jack confused...and with little choice but to follow.

By the time they reached the hotel, Jack had given up trying to get Daniel to reveal what had been said at the dig site. It was obvious Daniel had already put it out of his mind in favor of something more important.... the writing. As they packed and made their way to the airport, Daniel remained stubbornly silent and distracted. Jack maneuvered his friend through customs and onto the plane with the ease of long practice with Daniel's focused concentration, but Jack had very nearly exhausted his limited supply of patience waiting for Daniel to reveal whatever it was that had caused his face to drain of color and the pupils of his unusual blue eyes to dilate to near total blackness. But Jack had learned to read Daniel's eyes the hard way, through life and death experiences, and infinitely painful situations. Jack had learned all he needed to know about his friend by watching those eyes, and right now Daniel's eyes were telling Jack that something big was coming...something bad. And that same long experience had taught him that pushing Daniel wasn't going to bring answers any faster.

Daniel was staring blankly through the window of the small jet that Hammond had commandeered for their use, part of the cover story designed to lend authenticity to Daniel's assumed credentials. But even now, thousands of feet above the ocean, Daniel refused to talk about what he'd read on that wall and Jack knew that nothing he could say would force Daniel to speak until he was ready.

Jack pulled out a couple of the prepared meals the pilot had stowed in the cabin for them and watched Daniel pick absently at his food; his friend's body was present, but his mind? It sure wasn't on the clouds passing by the window. Jack knew very well that Daniel wasn't even seeing the clouds; Daniel's mind was hard at work, churning over whatever he'd learned in Egypt...and what it meant for all of them. Daniel never stopped thinking. By some means inaccessible to most of them, Daniel processed information on multiple levels and arrived at conclusions that, more often than not, proved correct...and to Jack that was the bottom line.

Daniel finally fell asleep, still looking out of the window, and Jack draped his coat over the younger man. As he settled in to get some sleep himself, Jack realized that the past few months since Sha'uri died had been particularly difficult for Daniel, and it didn't look like things were going to be improving much in the near future.


Daniel was dreaming...

// A desert landscape stretched before him, the heat rising in distorting waves. Amidst the shimmering horizon, a figure approached. As Daniel watched the figure came closer, coalescing into features both familiar and alien. Ra. But, somehow, not. The too perfect features softened and sympathetic, as they had never been in life. The not-Ra came closer; smiling in an expression that was almost kind and handed Daniel a scroll. As Daniel unrolled the parchment, he realized it was written in Goa'uld, a warning, just like the one he'd read on the wall. When Daniel looked up the image of Ra was gone. As Daniel started to read the words again, the scroll ignited in his hands.... //

Daniel woke up suddenly; biting off the outcry that almost escaped his lips. He sat up in the darkened cabin, trying to control his shaky breathing. Jack was apparently undisturbed on the lounge a few feet away; the worry lines from earlier still etched on his face. Daniel laughed at the sudden thought that while he couldn't stop thinking in his sleep, Jack couldn't stop worrying.

Daniel knew in his heart that both of them would be getting a lot of practice at those particular idiosyncrasies in the very near future.

Jack had awakened instantly when Daniel had come awake, the stifled gasp had been more than enough to alert the older man.

Jack had observed over time that Daniel had multiple levels of dreams: the come-awake-screaming kind that required steady, and sometimes forcible grounding to reality; the take-a-few-minutes-to-ground-himself kind that usually didn't require more than a steady presence and a little talking afterward; the get-up-and-move kind that generally just needed them to keep him from getting lost in the dark while his mind cleared, and then there were the too-hard-to-talk-about-so-don't-even-ask kind of dreams that Jack had yet to find a way to help his friend through. Jack realized this was the get-up-and-move kind as he heard Daniel rise and start pacing the small cabin.

If this problem was invading Daniel's dreams, then Jack knew it, whatever it was, was worse than he'd originally thought. He only hoped that when it did come, they would be ready.

Chapter 3

Major Samantha Carter knew something was up with her teammate from the moment Daniel stepped out of the elevator at the bottom of Cheyenne Mountain. Sam was almost as adept at reading Daniel's expressions as the colonel was. The tight-lipped intensity combined with Daniel's reluctance to look any of them directly in the eye told her that the young scientist was onto something big.

Daniel had walked into the SGC, snagged Teal'c with a distracted wave of his hand and disappeared within his lab. Sam had turned to look at the colonel, but received only a minimal head shake which told her that the colonel was as much in the dark as she was.

Sam had tried to stay away, but after twelve hours without so much as a trace of Daniel or Teal'c, she'd had enough. If Daniel wasn't coming out, she was going in. Stopping by the mess hall along the way she grabbed a bag of sandwiches and some juice. Daniel seemed to live under the illusion that coffee and candy constituted an acceptable diet. As she approached Daniel's door, Sam wasn't entirely surprised to see the colonel approaching from the opposite direction, pizza box in hand. They stopped, each taking note of what the other was carrying and laughed ruefully.

Over time the pattern of taking care of Daniel's physical needs when that incredibly focused brain took over to the exclusion of all other thoughts had been established early on. They all had a tendency to be rather over-protective of the youngest member of their team, and it certainly wasn't something that Daniel fostered or encouraged; the scientist was almost compulsively self-reliant. There was just something about him that inspired them to look out for him, something beyond maternal...or paternal in the colonel and Teal'c's case...something beyond friendship, something deeper and more instinctive. Sam had long given up trying to analyze it, accepting it as just another characteristic of her second family...a characteristic that had grown even stronger since the death of Daniel's wife. They were his only family now.

Sam met the colonel at the lab door and started to knock when the colonel stopped her with a headshake. It was better to surprise Daniel at times like this; if they weren't invited in the first place, Daniel couldn't very well throw them out...

The colonel opened the door quietly and they were both a little surprised to see Teal'c motioning for them to remain silent. There amid stacks of books and papers was Daniel, head bowed over crossed arms...asleep.


Teal'c had been watching his young friend sleep for quite some time. It still weighed heavily on the Jaffa's mind that he had been the one who had been forced to kill Daniel Jackson's wife in order to save the young man's life. Although Daniel Jackson had spoken the words of forgiveness and had continued to treat Teal'c in the same accepting manner, Teal'c had yet to forgive himself and found himself analyzing Daniel Jackson's every word and action in the light of his own self-recrimination. Not once, but twice he had been instrumental in separating the Daniel Jackson from the woman he was a fact that Teal'c found extremely difficult to reconcile within his own mind...

Teal'c had been more than a little pleased when Daniel Jackson had enlisted his help in this new translation. For hours he had watched Daniel Jackson work tirelessly, double-checking and refining the words that so disturbed them both. Gradually, Teal'c had watched the young scholar's energy flag. Teal'c had continued speaking on the subject they were discussing, carefully modulating his voice in a way he knew to be soothing. He'd been rewarded by the slow dip of the scientist's head finally coming to rest on his arms and the deepening of his breath into sleep. For some strange, unfathomable reason, Teal'c felt extremely gratified to have been able to perform this small service for the young man he'd caused so much pain. It was a small measure of payment towards the much greater debt Teal'c still felt he owed.

When Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter entered the small lab, food in hand, Teal'c had only been surprised that it had taken them so long to come. O'Neill had looked duly impressed and settled on the small sofa to wait. They all knew that Daniel Jackson wouldn't allow his mind to rest for long.

Within a few minutes of the others' arrival, Daniel Jackson stirred and woke with a start...looking around as if unsure of his location. He came to awareness quickly, taking in the fact that he had new 'guests'.

"Teal'c? How long...?" He asked in confusion.

"A matter of only minutes," Teal'c found himself replying evenly, cringing inwardly at the 'white lie' he had just told with impunity. Any length of time under an hour could be described as minutes...


Daniel looked around the small room at the concerned faces of his closest friends. He had been acutely aware of their increased protectiveness toward him since Sha'uri's death, subtlety was *not* a strong suit for any of them. Part of him was slightly irritated that they felt he needed taking care of, while the other, more honest, part of him recognized that just now he did...

It had been a long hard road to finding Sha'uri, a road filled with heartache and pain; but also a road which had brought him to this new odd mix of people he had come to recognize were very important to him, in a lot of ways.

They had been there for him through the long search, the close calls and the final, tragic ending...and he'd been more than a little glad that they were.

Tomorrow it would fall to him to be the one to tell them that possibly the worst trial they'd ever faced was coming, but tonight...just for a few hours...he wanted to be with his family.

Chapter 4

As SG1 waited for General Hammond's arrival in the briefing room, Jack found himself growing more concerned by the moment. Teal'c had taken on a much more restrained version of Daniel's disturbed expression, an expression that had gotten worse rather than better since their return. It was bad enough that Daniel was acting so nervous, but if this thing was bad enough to also upset Teal'c, then Jack knew they were in serious trouble.

None of them had gotten any sleep; Daniel had seemed to need their company, a rare enough occurrence in itself, and had made an effort to put aside the worried distraction that had plagued him since Egypt. Daniel had seemed to simply enjoy their company and that, more than anything else, had caused Jack to worry. He hadn't missed Daniel's tenseness, and the way the younger man had merely picked at the food they'd brought. Jack knew beyond question that Daniel had been putting on a front for them...trying to deny the problem they were about to discover for as long as possible.

Jack noted that Daniel had fallen back into that studious avoidance of direct eye contact and realized the young linguist was trying to steady himself before the revelation of what he and Teal'c had learned. Jack could see that Daniel either expected an argument...or he expected not to be believed.

General Hammond arrived and moved quickly to his seat, looking expectantly at Daniel, "Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel took a deep breath and stole a steadying glance at Teal'c before starting into a brief history of Ra; outlining the timeline of Ra's history on Earth and the approximate time he was believed to have been 'cut off' by the ancient Egyptians when they buried the Stargate.

Jack tried to restrain his impatience, he knew that Daniel had to get to his point in his own unique, roundabout way, but Jack's strongest suit...and possibly his greatest failing...was his strong desire to get to the bottom line, to find out the problem so he could start working on a solution. Sometimes though, in his haste to get to that bottom line, Jack knew he missed the finer points, the often important details, that later proved to be key to a resolution. He really was trying to work on that...

In this case, Jack's answer came more quickly than he expected...


Daniel took a deep breath, sensing Jack's impatience and concern. Daniel knew he was right...he just hoped his friends and commander would see this as the very real threat that it was.

Daniel licked dry lips before continuing, " Millennia ago Ra made a bargain with the Pal'noor," he began, "a race of very aggressive aliens who live in another galaxy...we have the 'gate coordinates and astrophysics is working on the exact location. They're feudal, from what I've been able to gather, even more so than the Goa'uld."

Teal'c was nodding, " I have heard them spoken of many times. It is very important to the System Lords to remain on good terms with the Pal'noor, although I am unsure of the reason why this is so."

Daniel nodded in agreement, "Anyway, Ra made some sort of 'deal' with them...I don't know the details, it wasn't explained in the writing...but payment is due...within three weeks."

Daniel waited for the reaction he had been expecting, but it never came...They believed him. Hammond looked concerned, Jack alarmed, Sam fascinated, but none of them looked at the young linguist in disbelief. Jack was the first to speak; "Do you think they know that it?"

Daniel shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know, considering the distance's possible, but...."

"We can't count on it, " Sam completed the thought.

Hammond was holding up a hand, "Was there any other information given in the writing?"

Daniel nodded, looking once again at Teal'c, "Teal'c and I both are sure there is a reference to a message to be sent through the Stargate...outlining terms...And it should come through, two days. I need to get back to work on the rest of the translation, try to get more details."

"All right then, Dr. Jackson." Hammond hesitated before continuing, "I know that you and Teal'c have been working on this non-stop since your return; I want you to take twelve hours and rest...."

Daniel started to protest, but Jack cut him off. "Daniel. Rest, then get back on it. When this message comes through, we're all going to have to be at our best to figure out a plan."

Daniel started to open his mouth to protest once more, but found himself looking at Jack's raised hand. Argument over.

Jack smiled suddenly, "And while you're at it, shave off that really isn't you."

As Daniel got up to leave, his friends directly behind him, he realized that Jack had said when...not if...the message came through....

Daniel smiled; ducking his head quickly to hide the gratitude he knew was showing in his eyes.


General George Hammond was concerned. He'd learned the hard way to trust his lead linguist/archeologist/anthropologist. Too many times they'd all dismissed Jackson's theories out of hand, only to have that lack of trust thrown back in their faces...often at a very large price. Hammond hadn't gotten as far as he had in the military by repeating mistakes too often. They were quite likely in very deep trouble here...

Hammond hadn't over-looked the frown on the young man's face...Jackson hadn't really expected to be believed. But somewhere under the reticence that Jackson had developed in the past couple of years there was still something of the idealistic maverick...a shadow of the passionate sureness that had always seemed so much a part of Jackson. A part it had taken Hammond a long time to get used to, but he would admit, if only to himself, that it was a part he sometimes missed seeing more often.

Hammond dreaded what he had to do now. As dedicated as he was to his work with the SGC, it just seemed sometimes that he was always picking up the red phone on his desk to deliver more bad news....


Jack knew where he'd find Daniel.

Ever since Sha'uri had died, Daniel had gotten into the habit of disappearing up to the mountaintop. Long stretches when they were confined to base, or sometimes when things just got too real, Jack would find him up there. Sometimes Daniel would welcome his friend's solid presence and sometimes he'd wave Jack away, asking to be left alone. Tonight, he didn't wave so Jack moved forward to join Daniel under the trees.

Daniel looked over, nodding to Jack...a welcome, an acknowledgment ...something deep and unspoken...

Jack didn't need to ask whether Daniel had gotten any sleep; Jack had never been one to waste words on questions with obvious answers. At least Daniel had showered and shaved that damnable beard off. Daniel was looking at him with a mix of curiosity and dread. Jack knew his friend expected Jack to yell at him for being up here when he should be asleep, but Jack couldn't find it in him to yell at Daniel right now. The curiosity, though, that Jack couldn't quite fathom.


Daniel shook his head, "Nothing...."

Jack just looked at him.

Daniel smiled that same slight smile Jack had seen as they left the briefing room earlier. "Just...thanks..."

Jack wasn't entirely sure just what Daniel was thanking him for, but... "Anytime."

Chapter 5

Teal'c watched his friends closely. They had gathered together in the control room to await the message that he and Daniel were certain would come this day. That had been nine hours ago. Teal'c had watched their mood go from anticipatory to concerned, and had begun to observe the shadows of defeat in the eyes of Daniel Jackson. Not long ago it would have taken much more than this to put those shadows there. Teal'c was sure that Major Carter and O'Neill had noticed this as well, and shared his grief at the changes that had come over the younger man.

Daniel Jackson was sitting apart from them, his eyes staring blankly through the observation window, lost in thoughts that they could only begin to guess at. Teal'c feared that if this message did not arrive, Daniel Jackson would slip further away from them, down the long path of self-doubt and self-recrimination that had so recently begun to plague him. Teal'c privately felt that this new aspect of their usually, and sometimes nearly fatally, optimistic friend was a direct result of his failure to rescue his wife.

For all his own assumed guilt over the events surrounding Sha'uri's death, Teal'c was certain that Daniel Jackson's perceptions were as much or more clouded by his own failure than the fact that Teal'c had killed her...


Sam tried to carry on as if this were a normal day, as if they were waiting for UAV or MALP results and not waiting to see if the fate of Earth itself would hang in the balance by day's end, but it was getting more difficult with each passing moment....

The colonel was ostensibly oblivious to all the tension in the room, but Sam knew better. The small hand movements and the not-so-subtle glances at Daniel told her that. Teal'c was also studying the young scientist with an intensity that gave Sam a very good clue as to where the Jaffa's thoughts were traveling. And Daniel...was worried. Sam could see the white knuckles as Daniel's hands clenched again and again as his head rested on his crossed arms. Daniel was right, they all knew it. It seemed like the only one who doubted it, or doubted himself, was Daniel.

Sam had a bitter flashback to the events surrounding Apophis' attempted attack on Earth; none of them had truly believed Daniel then when he'd tried to convince them that an attack was coming. In the end it had been Daniel's own conviction and persuasiveness that had gotten them to go through that gate. Sam wondered to herself why they hadn't learned their lesson then when it came to believing in Daniel. But it had taken Machello's machines to finally teach them that, and they had resolved as a group to never allow that sort of thing to happen again...and then came the thing about the child...the Harseisis. Sam was inclined to believe it; she'd recognized the word from Jolinar's memories as soon as he'd spoken it. How else could Daniel have known about the things the Harseisis might know? But the colonel...well, they still had a long way to go.

For all that might come as a result, Sam wished the message would come through...and soon.


Jack knew what Daniel was thinking. He knew the doubt, the frustration, the need...that drove Daniel on the best of days. And lately Daniel hadn't been having very many of his *best* days. Daniel was a thinker...pure and simple...and beyond that particular talent and all it encompassed, he was a very insecure young man. For all they'd been through together, for all the many ways that Daniel had repeatedly proven himself...that was Jack's bottom-line analysis of his best friend.

For now, Daniel was back in shutout mode...and Jack hated seeing the younger man torture himself that way. He believed Daniel, more importantly...he believed in Daniel. Sam, Teal'c, even Hammond believed Daniel. Why couldn't Daniel...? Even as he thought it, Jack knew the answer, and berated himself once again for being the cause of it. It had been such a little thing at the time, Daniel had finally told them about Sha'uri's message...Jack had wanted to believe it, tried to believe it, but his doubting nature had gotten the better of him and he'd let that disbelief show....

Jack just wanted to get to the part of this that would let them take action, waiting was a long way from being his strong suit. Whatever was going to happen...he wanted it to be now, if only to take that frown off Daniel's face....

As Jack watched, he saw Daniel's eyes close. Jack knew that, despite orders, Daniel hadn't gotten more than a few hours of troubled sleep in nearly a week. His friend was exhausted; mentally, physically and emotionally...and when this all came to a head, that was *not* the condition he wanted his team scientist to be in....

The incoming wormhole alert sounded then and Daniel's head snapped up, his eyes blinking blearily at Sergeant Harriman, the technician on duty at the central computer. Harriman looked over at Daniel directly. "Incoming wormhole...." The pause seemed to linger endlessly. "Unknown origin. Transmission coming through...."

As all the others gathered around Harriman, Jack was the only one to see the pained relief on Daniel's face and to hear the immense sigh he released before going to join the rest of them.

Chapter 6

Sergeant Harriman looked at Doctor Jackson in triumph and was rewarded by one of the slight, shy smiles that all of the support staff strived to receive from the brilliant scientist. It wasn't any one particular thing that made them all so eager to please their favorite civilian SG team member; it was a lot of things. They all knew how difficult things had been for Dr. Jackson and they certainly knew that he'd recently lost the wife he'd searched so long for, but it wasn't sympathy they felt for him.

Harriman knew very well that Dr. Jackson was held in a certain amount of awe among the staff. While most of them were military, they were also largely technically oriented and often regarded as invisible by the field officers, but never by Dr. Jackson. He knew them all by name, took the time to thank them, took the time to *see* them in ways the others didn't. And in return they took it upon themselves to take care of him...sometimes in ways as simple as making sure he had a fresh supply of pencils so he wouldn't have to ask.

For all of his brilliance, Dr. Jackson always treated them as equals. The man almost died saving the planet, for goodness sake, and two days later he was asking after Simmons' sick mother. In Harriman's estimation the SGC was darn lucky to have Dr. Jackson and it pained him to see the sad shadows in the young scientist's tired eyes.

Harriman looked at Dr. Jackson again and could see his lips moving silently as his mind automatically started translating the message as it came through. Harriman passed over a pen and pad, and received another...albeit slightly Whatever this message meant, Harriman was sure that Dr. Jackson and SG1 would take care of it. They always did.


Teal'c had not been surprised when Daniel Jackson had requested his presence for another round of translation. Transcribing the spoken Goa'uld from the audiotape had been a tedious task. Interference had blurred the words in many places, and completely obliterated them in others. By transcribing what they could make out and going back to fill in the blanks, they were fairly certain that they had come as close as was possible to an accurate translation.

They had worked well into the night and Teal'c found himself growing more and more concerned about Daniel Jackson. The young scholar had always been the sort of person to focus on a task to the exclusion of all else, but Teal'c could see that this time it was different. Daniel Jackson was literally driving himself to exhaustion, refusing to yield to the needs of his tired body. Teal'c knew as well as Daniel Jackson how important this was, but they had time. They knew that now.

It seemed to Teal'c that Daniel Jackson was once again avoiding sleep. It was a pattern the team had come to recognize at the very beginning of their association. It had started with Sha'uri's abduction and continued well into the first year. Eventually it had seemed to get better, but each new trauma had brought a return of that pattern...sometimes lasting only a few days, sometimes longer. Now Teal'c was certain that this was a return of that pattern and his thoughts brought him directly back to what he believed was the cause...Sha'uri's death.

O'Neill had spoken only briefly of the events on Netu, mentioning that somehow Apophis had manipulated their memories in an attempt to gain information. None of his teammates had offered more than a general description of that experience, but Teal'c knew that all of them had returned to Earth very disturbed by it. Given what he knew of Apophis' cruelty, Teal'c knew that his former master would have spared SG1 nothing...and Daniel Jackson even less. When Daniel Jackson had revealed his knowledge of Apophis' child and its whereabouts before Apophis' 'death'...none of them had ever guessed that his passing would not be a permanent condition. Daniel Jackson had made a grave enemy on that day. Teal'c could only guess the sort of nightmares that being in Apophis' control had caused his young friend.

Teal'c rose to leave, reminding Daniel Jackson of the hour and that he should rest before the briefing, less than six hours away. A bare nod and a tight smile made no promises, a subtle point that was not lost on Teal'c. Teal'c could not bring himself to argue further with Daniel Jackson, but he knew someone who could...and would.


Daniel wasn't entirely surprised by Jack's arrival at his lab in the middle of the night. Daniel hadn't missed Teal'c's concerned looks...or the looks he was getting from the rest of the team lately. He truly appreciated their concern, but....his mind simply refused to shut down. He would try to rest, but couldn't seem to stop thinking, and the few times he had actually slept...he'd come awake in terror at the dreams that didn't seem to want to go away. Dreams of Sha'uri, of Amaunet, of Apophis...and lately dreams of Ra, trying to tell him something, some subtle message that he couldn't quite grasp...

Lying there on his office sofa, Daniel knew it was Jack at his door, even without looking. Years of practice had attuned his hearing to Jack's unique stride.

"C'mon in, Jack,"

The exasperated sigh behind him told Daniel that his team leader was not happy to find him awake. Moments later Jack's face appeared in Daniel's fuzzy field of vision and, even without his glasses, Daniel could see the concern on Jack's face.


Daniel nodded acknowledging what he already knew Jack was going to say.

"What's going on, Daniel?"

Jack's tone was almost casual, but Daniel knew better than to be deceived by Jack's tones. Jack could speak volumes with a single word. Daniel shook his head and looked over at Jack, sitting across from him in the desk chair.

"It's nothing, it's everything...." Daniel waved a vague hand upward.

"This is going to be bad, Jack."

Jack let out a deep sigh. "It's already bad, Daniel. If you don't get some rest before all of this...." Jack waved a hand of his own toward Daniel's paper-strewn worktable, " I don't know if I can let you come along on this if you aren't up to par...."

Daniel had expected that particular threat; this wasn't the first time Jack had used it. "I know, I'll go see Janet tomorrow..." Jack looked at Daniel in disbelief. "And you'll take whatever she gives you?"

Daniel looked up with a small smile of concession. "Of course I will. You're going to need me on this one, Jack."

Jack looked down at him for a long moment before standing. "We always need you, Daniel. Don't you know that by now?" Daniel could only lie there, blinking in shock, as Jack's footsteps faded away.

Chapter 7

"The message gives us three things: a set of gate coordinates, a date and time they expect Ra's representatives, and the terms for the meeting." Hammond had been dreading this briefing and hadn't slept very well. Looking at the bleary faces around the table, he guessed he hadn't been the only one. O'Neill was blinking heavily, Carter was on her second cup of coffee, even Teal'c looked particularly hollow-eyed...though Hammond still wasn't sure if Teal'c actually slept. And Jackson...

A concerned glance at Colonel O'Neill told Hammond that SG1's leader was aware of the problem and dealing with it.

Jackson was continuing, "Major Carter's team is working on the coordinates, the time is five days from now, and, um, the terms for the meeting...." Jackson seemed to hesitate a moment before continuing. "They said Ra could send one Goa'uld aide, two Jaffa, and, um, two 'attendants'."

Colonel O'Neill held up his hand in question. "Attendants as in..."

Teal'c rescued the obviously embarrassed Jackson by interposing, "Slaves."

Colonel O'Neill seemed strangely amused at the thought. "Well, I'm not going to go as a offense, Teal'c."

"Understood," Teal'c, almost, smiled.

Colonel O"Neill started summing up, "So Daniel, I guess that makes you the boss Goa'uld; Carter, we need to find out what the stylish Goa'uld 'attendants' are wearing these days, and..."

Jackson jumped in when O'Neill trailed off, "And we're one Jaffa short of a pair."

Colonel O'Neill traded glances with Hammond. "Connor? Johnson? They're big enough, strong enough to pass for long as they don't do a Junior-search. Connor's more even-tempered though and we've worked with him before."

Hammond nodded. "I'll pull him immediately. We've got five days, people. Figure out what we're going to need and let's get going on it."


As the meeting broke up, Jack made his way to Daniel, a question in his eyes. Daniel nodded and pulled a bottle of pills out of his pocket. Jack smiled in smug satisfaction at having this particular order followed. "Then I want you to take one now and go get some sleep."

Even as Daniel started to protest, Jack stopped him. "Daniel, we have five days. We've got your notes, we know what we need; by the time you wake up we'll have it all here. *Then* we can get to work on getting ready to go."

Daniel nodded, but hesitated a moment as if another thought had occurred to him.

"Uh uh," Jack stopped him. "Later. Do I have to come and tuck you in?" Daniel shook his head ruefully, mumbling something as he turned to leave. To Jack it sounded like, "Night, Mom."


Connor was more than a little shocked to be asked to accompany SG1 on a mission, but also rather pleased. They'd really come through for him during that whole mess with Hanson and he'd never forgotten it. He liked O'Neill's style, Carter's dedication, Teal'c's quiet competence and Jackson's unexpected courage. He'd never forget the way that whole team had worked together to get them out of the mess Hanson had made on that planet. Connor had been somewhat at loose ends since leaving SG-11, pretty much acting as support staff for other teams. This was going to be a bit more of a stretch, but Connor found himself looking forward to working with SG1 once again.

When General Hammond had come to inform him of the role he'd be playing in this mission, Connor had been a little dubious. Him? As a Jaffa? It looked like he'd be spending a lot of time with Teal'c in the near future. He just hoped they weren't going to try to put on one of those gold tattoos...

Chapter 8

// Ra approached through the waves of heat, holding out the scroll in his hand. As Daniel reached to take it, Ra smiled...almost sympathetically. The boy-god was no more. This was just a young boy, once painfully innocent, whose soul had remained untouched corrupted by the demon that was the Goa'uld. His eyes were full of a haunting pain, as if he remembered the boy he had once been, but could no longer fully touch him.

Daniel tried again to read the scroll and again watched it disappear in a flash of fire. Looking up at Ra again, Daniel tried to ask what it meant. Ra just shook his head, smiling that sad, secret smile and disappeared. //

Daniel woke up suddenly, unsure of where he was until he saw the light beneath the door. His quarters at the SGC. He reached out and turned on the bedside lamp, automatically looking at his watch. Thirteen hours...? He hadn't had this much sleep in... He couldn't remember ever sleeping this long at a stretch unless he was unconscious or ill.

He raised up slowly, feeling somewhat light-headed; possibly a side effect from the tranquilizer or, more likely, hunger. Daniel realized he hadn't eaten anything more substantial than cookies in nearly two days...a fact he didn't intend to share with his teammates. His stomach growled suddenly as he put on a reasonably fresh shirt, and he laughed at himself as he went off in search of what passed for real food inside Cheyenne Mountain.


Sam saw Daniel as he entered the break room and headed straight for the coffeepot. By the time Daniel had settled at a table, Sam had a stack of cellophane-wrapped sandwiches ready for him. One or the other of them had been stationed here for the past four hours. Sam had almost laughed when the colonel 'suggested' someone should check up on Daniel to see if he was still alive. After peeking into Daniel's room long enough to assure himself that their friend was, in fact, still breathing, the colonel had parked himself in the break room. When Daniel finally stirred, he would have to pass the open door. Sam had returned two hours later to take over the Daniel-watch.

Daniel gave her a yawning smile of gratitude and sipped at his coffee before reaching for one. Sam sighed a little to herself as she noted that some of the dark shadows had faded beneath Daniel's eyes; the shadows within his eyes...well, she wasn't expecting miracles after one day's sleep. As Daniel selected his next culinary victim, Sam noted that the faint exhaustion tremors in his hands seemed to have disappeared. Unwrapping the sandwich, he looked up at her almost apologetically and asked how the preparations were going. Sam shook her head at the apology...only Daniel would feel the need to apologize for starving himself...and launched into a rundown of what they'd been up to while he slept.

They'd sent to the Tok'ra for the appropriate costumes. Teal'c was teaching the finer points of a Horus guard's uniform, as well as proper protocol. The colonel and Sam had been working on ways to conceal as many weapons and other necessary items in their things and on themselves as was possible. Daniel nodded at each new item, interposing a few questions between bites.

As Daniel absently reached for another sandwich, the colonel entered the room. When his dark eyes took in the fact that Daniel was not only awake, but also eating with obvious enthusiasm; he grinned broadly at Sam before joining them at the table.

"Oh. Hi, Jack," Daniel smiled briefly before continuing with his previous topic without missing a syllable.

Sam tried to control her own bright smile, just enjoying the fact that Daniel was acting more like himself than he had in a long time.


Jack had been on his way to relieve Carter when he had heard a familiar voice in the break room, a familiar tone and inflection that had been missing for a long time. Looking in the door, he had seen Daniel reach for what was obviously his third sandwich, so caught up in his conversation that he didn't even seem to realize he was doing it. As he joined half of his team at the table, Jack was pleased to see the difference in the younger man; this was what he wanted to see.

Daniel's part in the coming mission would be the most stressful of all. Only Daniel and Teal'c could speak the language, and only Daniel could do any real talking once the negotiations started. Jaffa...and definitely not attendants... were not in the habit of joining in on important conversations. Once things got underway, Daniel would be virtually on his own.

Once again, fate had conspired to put the fate of the Earth in Daniel's hands. Jack knew that Daniel could, and would, handle it. Not long ago, Jack had said that he believed in Daniel...and that hadn't changed. If anything the events on Netu and the mess with Linea had affirmed that declaration. It still irked Jack that once again Daniel had been forced to give up something important to him in order to do what was right; but his willingness to do exactly that was one of the many things Jack respected about Daniel. Jack just wondered at the cosmic injustice that seemed to have decreed that Daniel would always be the one doing the giving up.

Watching Daniel smile at Carter's story about Connor and the tattoo Teal'c had promised, Jack was struck by the level, reserved gaze of his friend. In the past few months, something in Daniel had pulled back...hopefully just to regroup...but whatever it was, Jack missed it.

Chapter 9

Connor watched SG1 as they made their final checks. In less than 24 hours they would be on their way to Pal'noor. Connor had been exceedingly relieved to discover that the tattoo Teal'c had promised would be one of the inked on variety, not the inked in sort. As Teal'c had almost haughtily informed Connor, only the First Primes to a Goa'uld were honored with the gold variety. Connor was beginning to suspect that Teal'c had a definite...albeit subtle...sense of humor beneath that reserved exterior. Colonel O'Neill was complaining once again, loudly, about his wardrobe...and his status. Dr. Jackson...Daniel, as the young scientist had insisted...made an offhand remark about 'eunuchs' that caused O'Neill to look at him strangely, before breaking into a laugh that seemed to ease the tension in the entire room. Even General Hammond smiled.

After working with SG1 for several days, Connor was amazed at how this seemingly mismatched group of people worked together so seamlessly. Even back in the early days, SG1 had been pretty tight, but now...

They were like extensions of each other, finishing each other's thoughts, eliciting a smile with a word or a glance. When one of them hurt, they all hurt...Connor hadn't missed the concern for Daniel.

From what Connor understood the younger man was the focal point of this mission; they were support for him. Daniel would be doing all of the talking in these negotiations. Watching Daniel check off his list of items for the ornate Goa'uld traveling case, Connor found himself all the more confidant that, once again, Earth was in good hands with SG1.


Teal'c was as certain as possible that they were prepared. For days now, he and Daniel Jackson had been speaking in Goa'uld to one another whenever possible. Teal'c was as impressed as always with Daniel Jackson's acuity in the ancient language. The young man's accent was minimal, barely detectable even to Teal'c who was alert to such nuances. A great deal of pressure rested on Daniel Jackson. General Hammond had informed them at he last briefing that the 'higher ups' had ordered the preparation of a the event that they failed. Should they not return within a week, the bomb would be sent through...ostensibly to remove the Pal'noor threat. Teal'c doubted that possibility and had voiced that doubt at the briefing. If the Goa'uld feared the Pal'noor, then they were a very formidable enemy, indeed. Daniel Jackson now had not only the fate of Earth on his young shoulders, but also the fate of the innocent people who undoubtedly resided on the planet they were going to. It was a heavy responsibility and Teal'c was glad to see that his friend appeared to be bearing up so well under it.

O'Neill was doing everything necessary to alleviate that stress, as well as ensuring that Daniel Jackson was rested and well-fed. The hollowness of Daniel Jackson's eyes had faded somewhat, now replaced by a concerned resolve. Teal'c was sure that resolve was based on more solid ground than it had been a week ago.

None of them knew if this mission would end here or if this was only the beginning. But Teal'c knew in his warrior's heart that his team, his friends, would prevail. There was no other possibility.


Sam was glad that the deadline was growing closer. As she put the finishing touches on her costume, she stuck her tongue out at her reflection in the mirror. She had her own opinions about the function of female 'attendants' based on the costume the Tok'ra had provided. She wished once again that her father or Martouf had been available for this mission; she didn't feel disloyal for the thought, even Daniel had expressed the possibility...but both were on missions of their own. No one wanted to place something this important in the hands of an unknown Tok'ra. Aldwin had done a lot of damage to their faith in the Tok'ra as a whole with his actions above Netu.

Sam knew that Daniel was as capable and prepared as anyone could be. His confidence level was vastly improved from a week ago and Sam was sure that the hesitancy and doubt they'd witnessed then had been as much a result of needing them to believe, once again, something that sounded unbelievable.

Sam knew that the colonel had made every effort to show that his natural disbelief in things not seen, touched, tasted or felt in his experience would always be his first gut reaction; it was in no way reflective of a lack of faith in Daniel's formidable abilities.

Sam wondered if it all hadn't been a matter of exhaustion. None of them had been given much of a respite since Sha'uri's death. And Sam knew from personal experience that grief was a life-long process. Maybe when all of this was over they'd have time to get away...just the four of them...and ease some of the stress they'd all been feeling.


Daniel laughed outright at the spectacle Jack was making of himself in his 'attendant's' garb. The silky material was cut to be open at the chest and very short in length.

"Maybe I should have been a Jaffa," Jack groused again. "Didn't anybody tell the Tok'ra I'd be the one wearing this?"

"I believe Garshaw knew it," Daniel couldn't help chiming in as he studied his friend's outfit. "Look at the bright side, at least the cloak will cover...most of you."

Jack's return glare was withering and Daniel tried, unsuccessfully, to hide another smile as he turned back to finish dressing. His own clothing was of the form-fitting variety the Goa'uld seemed to favor, leggings, boots, and tunic...all in a rich blue material complete with gold and jewels. Daniel would be wearing Sam's ribbon device; he couldn't use it, but if necessary, he could pass it off to Sam. The healing device had been sewn into his cloak and, hopefully, wouldn't be needed.

Staring at his reflection in the mirror, Daniel had to fight down a surge of revulsion. The clothes he wore represented the only thing he had ever truly hated in his life...the Goa'uld, but he forced his mind to focus on the task. Looking up, Daniel caught Jack looking at him in concern and shook his head.

"It's okay, Jack, it's just...."

Jack nodded in understanding. "I know, kinda makes your skin crawl."

Daniel smiled a little, turning away from the mirror. "Something like that..."

Jack gave Daniel an appraising look. "Well, you look...covered."

Jack's grin was infectious and Daniel returned it with a self-deprecating smile.

"The military isn't the only place where rank brings privileges, Jack." Daniel sidestepped the good-natured slap he knew was coming and headed for the door.


Jack felt something inside of him loosen up at Daniel's teasing. It had been a long time since they'd been able to be this relaxed together. He felt like he could safely say that Daniel was as ready for this mission as he could ever be. Between the four of them...Connor included, the guy was really learning fast how things worked with SG1....they'd managed to force Daniel to rest and eat at fairly regular intervals. Daniel had admitted to Jack that he was still having some bad dreams, but Janet's little pills had made a great difference in the amount of actual sleep he was getting.

Jack was ready to get the show on the cosmic road, and as he entered the gate room, he could see his team was, too. Connor and Teal'c had taken up positions on either side of Daniel as the wormhole honor guard in every sense of the word. Jack and Carter picked up the traveling case and, as a unit, they turned back to look up at the control room. Hammond raised a hand in a gesture of luck, smiling that worried smile they'd come to know so well. Even Harriman was looking at them with a hopeful expression.

Looking around at his team, Jack had to resist the instinct that would have put him in the lead.

"After you, Big D."

Daniel shook his head and, taking a deep breath, stepped through the gate.

Chapter 10

Jack's first impression as he exited the wormhole was that Pal'noor, or wherever this was, was depressing. Everything around the Stargate, not that there was much to see beyond the high stone wall surrounding the gate on all sides, was a dull, dirty gray. The air itself, under the swirling clouds, was thick with despair.

A chiming noise caught their attention as footsteps approached from behind the stone wall. A group of...people...came forward slowly. They were vaguely humanoid, slightly shorter than any of them on average, but solidly built and well muscled under a layer of coarse fur that seemed to cover their entire bodies. Slitted eyes looked out from furred faces that revealed nothing but haughty distrust. One of them stepped forward to greet Daniel in Goa'uld.

Jack recognized a few words, but was more caught up in the change in Daniel's aspect. Goodness knew, Daniel had more up close and personal experience with the head Goa'uld than any of them...Ra, Apophis, Heru'ur, Hathor, Amaunet. In a very real way, Daniel had done more than his share of homework when it came to the capital-A attitude that was the Goa'uld. He had the look, the mannerisms, down to a fine art.

The head Pal'noor was obviously following the pleasantries that universally attended such occasions as this. Daniel was looking around and nodding in a perpetually bored and unimpressed way. He waved a hand negligently back in their direction and the Pal'noor nodded, indicating that they should follow.

Beyond the wall was a city much like many of the others they had encountered in their travels. Except for some subtle differences in architecture, even Jack could see that this city could have belonged to any Earth city, circa 1700. The stonework, the heavy timbers all spoke of a somewhat simplistic society. Of course they knew better than to accept things on face value. The main street they were being led down directly faced what could only be called a castle; high stone parapets overshadowed even the tallest buildings of the city. Jack had a distinctly uneasy feeling that everything on this planet was built for function, not aesthetics. There were no decorative touches, nothing to indicate character or individuality...and in Jack's experience that could mean big trouble.

They were escorted to the second floor of the castle and shown to a suite of rooms on the second level. The Pal'noor who had done all the talking so far indicated the bedrooms and facilities, as well as an assortment of odd-looking food. He bowed slightly to Daniel and left them alone.

Jack started to speak, remaining silent for so long had stressed his natural proclivity to lead with his mouth, but Teal'c raised a hand in warning and began to search the room. Connor found the first device, obviously some sort of listening device, and a more thorough search turned up four more. Daniel opened the bottle of amber liquid on the table and dropped them all into it, replacing the bottle on the table.

Teal'c nodded approval. "It is an expected component of such negotiations."

Jack smiled, tightly, "You mean we just got one up on them?" Teal'c looked confused, but Daniel nodded. "Something like that. They may look rather primitive, but they are definitely technologically advanced."

"What makes you think that? " Connor asked curiously. Carter waved a hand toward the windows, the gray skies over the dirty city. "Pollution."

Daniel moved to sit on the low, leather-covered sofa. "The one who brought us here is Tel'nat, He's the leader of this faction of the Pal'noor. It's what we thought; they're very feudal...only coming together against greater common enemies. I don't trust him."

It was quite a statement for Daniel, who tended to come down on the too-trusting side of any encounter. Jack looked more carefully at Daniel and noted the tight-lips and the tense way he was holding his hands. This Tel'nat had made Daniel extremely uncomfortable...without knowing what had been said, Jack couldn't know why...but if this guy made Daniel nervous, Jack knew they'd have to be all the more wary around him.


Teal'c hadn't missed the things Daniel Jackson had chosen not to reveal about Tel'nat. If forced to make an assessment based on the overheard conversation, Teal'c would characterize the Pal'noor as calculating, probably cruel, and possibly possessed of what passed for honor among his people. Tel'nat had spoken of Ra only briefly, but with no real interest. Several poorly concealed attempts had been made to elicit information, all neatly evaded by Daniel Jackson. Teal'c had been unexpectedly disturbed by the young man's too-perfect imitation of his hated well as the way that the younger man had tricked the Pal'noor. Deceit was not a characteristic Teal'c was comfortable associating with Daniel Jackson. From Daniel Jackson's ill expression when Tel'nat had finally left them alone, Teal'c was sure that it did not sit well with his young friend either.

Several comments on the long walk toward the castle had given Teal'c the impression that the Pal'noor operated under some variety of a code of honor, but those same comments made Teal'c doubt the likelihood that it resembled any form akin to his own, or that of the Tau'ri.

Teal'c had noted O'Neill's observation of Daniel Jackson's reactions to the initial meetings with the Pal'noor leader. O'Neill was well aware that something was not quite right about the conversations that had taken place between Daniel Jackson and Tel'nat. Teal'c expected to be questioned later on the subject. He was not disappointed.


The actual negotiations were not expected to start until the next morning and Sam was glad they'd have this chance to settle into their assumed roles. She'd seen how uptight Daniel had been after the first encounter with Tel'nat. Maybe the extra time would help him to process those first impressions.

Teal'c had reported to the three of them after Daniel had retired for the night, complaining of a headache after spending the evening in a particularly gloomy mood. The colonel had ordered their friend to bed and the rest of them had gathered to talk to Teal'c.

Teal'c told them about his perceptions concerning the alien leader and affirmed that Daniel had done an excellent job...which they all had fairly well suspected. They'd also been equally aware of Daniel's discomfort with the part he had to play, but as the colonel was too late now to do anything about it. Sam knew Daniel would continue to perform as expected, but she was equally aware that they owed Daniel a big one when they got back.

Sam had been heartened to see the deep concern in Connor's eyes. The colonel had been right about Connor. The young captain fit into their tightly knit group almost seamlessly, what he lacked in experience with them...he more than made up for with his competence and big heart. Sam had held a special liking for Connor since the mess with Hanson, although she'd had to fight down an occasional case of the tremors immediately following the creepiness surrounding Tonane's spirits. If they had to be stuck in this mess with anyone other that themselves, she was glad it was Connor.

Chapter 11

Daniel had an irritatingly familiar feeling that he was walking into a trap. Tel'nat had insisted that these meetings were to be private, strictly between the two of them. One of the Jaffa would be allowed to stand guard outside the door, but only the two of them would be inside. Jack had rankled at the idea, but realized in the end that they had no real choice in the matter. It was what they had come here to do, Daniel had argued...even as his own sense of trepidation grew...and they weren't really in a position to argue with Tel'nat.

So Daniel had left with Teal'c and separated from him at the door with a long look. Teal'c would be alert for any sign of trouble; at the moment it was all they could do. As the doors closed heavily, Daniel tried to compose himself, sitting down at the table across from Tel'nat. The Pal'noor leader looked at Daniel with an expression as unreadable as ever. The physiognomy of the Pal'noor didn't lend itself well to the subtle facial clues and body language that Daniel had come to read so well in the more humanoid species they'd encountered.

"What then does Ra expect to pay us?"

Daniel had attended enough diplomacy classes to recognize this sort of leading question. Tel'nat hoped to gain some clue as to what Ra was willing to pay in order to see how far they would go to appease the Pal'noor. Daniel countered with a question of his own.

"What do the Pal'noor expect as payment?"

Tel'nat nodded. This was part of the game; haggling was an age-old, and apparently universal, tradition. They bandied about for awhile, neither of them giving any ground.

Tel'nat nodded again, his expression changing slightly. "And how does Ra expect to pay at all...when he is dead?"

Daniel opened his mouth to respond, closing it just as quickly as his brain processed the fact that Tel'nat had spoken in English. Daniel felt his breathing stop for a moment and tried to school his expression not to reveal his surprise.

"I do not understand," he answered in Goa'uld.

Tel'nat snarled in sudden derision, asking again, "How can a dead man repay this debt, De'nall?" There was a long pause in which Tel'nat stared deeply into Daniel's eyes. "Or should I call you Daniel Jackson?"

Daniel only had time to register the fact that the word 'trouble' didn't begin to cover their situation before he felt a sudden shooting pain in the back of his head and the world went black.


Jack was pacing the room with increasingly agitated strides. Daniel had been gone nearly six hours and the waiting was beginning to wear thin. A dozen times Jack had started for the door, only to stop and mentally restrain the impulse to march to the meeting chamber and just barge in. Regardless of diplomacy and protocol, Jack was beyond the point of concern for Daniel and edging into full-fledged worry. Only the consideration that such an action might place his friend in even greater danger made him turn around and resume his nervous pacing.

Jack knew that he was beginning to get on Carter and Connor's nerves, but was past caring. Inaction was a foreign concept to Jack, and he was starting to get that itch that told him this situation was about to go from bad to worse. Hearing steadily approaching footsteps outside the door, Jack felt his nerves steel and alerted Connor to cover the door.

To their collective relief, Teal'c entered the room...but Jack tensed again when he realized Daniel wasn't with the big Jaffa.

"Teal'c?" Jack didn't have to ask the question.

Teal'c's expression told Jack all he needed to know. Even as Teal'c began to explain that Daniel was missing, Jack was moving. Gathering the few weapons they possessed, Jack headed for the door knowing full well that his team would follow. As they made their way down the oddly empty corridors, Teal'c quietly explained that he'd heard nothing from his post outside the meeting room door, but when a Pal'noor female had entered the room with food...they'd discovered it was empty.

As they approached the heavy wooden doors, Jack noted with a distracted edge of pride that his team deployed themselves carefully on either side. Teal'c turned the latch carefully and they stormed into the room, weapons at the ready.

There on the table, laid out almost dramatically under the blue cloak, was Daniel.

Motioning for the others to cover him, Jack went over to check out the still form. Daniel was breathing. His face was bruised along the right cheekbone and blood ran freely from numerous cuts on the back of his scalp.... he'd obviously been hit by something breakable. Moving the cloak aside, Jack hissed quietly. It was pretty obvious from his torn and dirty clothing that Daniel had been beaten...thoroughly and for some length of time. Jack could see several knife slashes along Daniel's arm, nothing too deep or life threatening...just enough to draw blood and inflict pain. Jack tapped the younger man on his uninjured cheek and was relieved to hear Daniel moan as he struggled to rouse himself.

"C'mon, kid. Time to go."

Daniel's eyes flew open at Jack's voice and he sat up, too quickly, falling against Jack's supporting arm. Daniel steadied himself, gathering his strength and his thoughts as Jack tried to help him to the door.

"Jack...Tel'nat knows...."

Jack stopped at Daniel's tone. "Knows what?" Daniel finally looked up at Jack then, his eyes reflecting pain and more than a little fear. "Everything."

A voice from the back of the room froze all of them in place. "Daniel Jackson is quite correct, Colonel O'Neill.... I do know everything." Tel'nat stood behind them with two other Pal'noor. Jack barely had time to raise his weapon as a burst of white light assailed his senses and he felt his grip on Daniel slip, even as he fell.


Connor woke up slowly, aware first of being cold. As more of his thoughts cleared he realized the coldness was probably due to the fact that he was lying on a damp hard surface. The ground. He opened his eyes carefully, realizing the room was quite dark, and sat up, waiting for his eyes to adjust.

A flash of gold to his left was his only warning before Teal'c spoke.

"Are you well, Captain Connor?" The tone was low, but tinged with concern. Connor felt himself oddly touched to be included in what he knew was Teal'c small and exclusive list of people to be concerned about.

"Yes, sir. I'm fine. Where are the others?" Teal'c motioned with his head. The rest of SG1 was still unconscious, though Major Carter was shifting restlessly already. Connor remembered that Colonel O'Neill and Daniel had been closer to the source of the strange light and would probably suffer more from the weapon's effects.

Connor tried to rise and felt Teal'c's hand reach out to help him. With a nod of thanks, Connor moved around carefully to clear his head before moving to check on the major. She was still a bit dazed, but waking quickly. He anticipated her questions before she asked and informed her of their status. Even in the dimness, Connor could see Major Carter's smile as he helped her up slowly and together they moved to where Teal'c was trying to rouse the colonel.

Colonel O'Neill came awake with his fists in motion, obviously unable to see clearly yet. Major Carter and Teal'c spoke quietly to let him know that although they weren't exactly safe, they were together. Connor watched the relief visibly settle over the colonel, to be just as quickly replaced by concern as he spoke Daniel's name.

They all moved to the last member of the team. Even in the dim light they could see how pale Daniel was, the scrapes and bruises only served to heighten the impression. The colonel moved to raise Daniel's head into his lap while the major checked out the younger man's injuries. Connor knew that Daniel had something of a reputation for accumulating more than his share of injuries...and it certainly seemed like SG1 was pretty practiced at taking care of them.

Even as Major Carter was wrapping up the bloody gashes across Daniel's arm with a piece of cloth torn from the colonel's cloak, Daniel stirred.


The colonel sighed in relief. "We're here, Danny. What the hell happened?"

Daniel blinked rapidly, trying to raise up...finally managing with only a little support from the colonel. "Tel'nat...he knew..."

"Yeah, you said that." The colonel said, almost gently. "What exactly does he know?"

Daniel sighed deeply, pulling himself together with a visible effort. "You, me, Ra."

"You, me, Ra...? As in...He knows we were the ones who killed Ra?" The colonel looked alarmed. Connor wished he knew the rest of that story.

Daniel nodded. "He knew us by name. Knows about Sha'uri...Apophis..."

The colonel sighed in exasperation. "Like he said...he knows everything." Daniel nodded agreement, reaching out a hand to use the colonel's shoulder to pull himself up. The young scientist wobbled a little, but started pacing...even Connor knew this was a good thing; Daniel did his best thinking on his feet...especially if they were moving.

"He's either had contact with one or more of the Goa'uld all along.... or he has a source of information...about us. When they were...questioning me.... they seemed more interested in how we'd managed to kill Ra than anything else..." Connor could see Daniel's burst of adrenaline flagging. "I didn't tell them anyth...."

Evidently the colonel had seen it, too...he was in a perfect position to catch Daniel as he swayed and nearly fell. As Colonel O'Neill, helped Daniel to sit down on the cold ground again, he said, "I know you didn't, Daniel. But what I wonder is...where did he find out about us?"

They were all startled by a soft moan from the furthest corner of the cell. The colonel and Teal'c moved forward toward the sound. Connor could hear a soft intake of breath from the colonel, followed by a curse.

"Colonel?" The major asked.

"'s Thor."

Chapter 12

Sam felt Daniel's sharp intake of breath under her supporting hand. Thor? Here? In the few times they'd met, the little alien had seemed so...untouchable. How did he wind up here, in the none-too-gentle hands of the Pal'noor? Teal'c gently picked up the small, gray alien and moved him into the lighter area where they were. Daniel removed his cloak and Sam used it to blanket the still, cold form.

The odds were good that Thor had been here for awhile. As far as Sam could tell, there were no obvious injuries...and she simply didn't know enough about the Asgard's physiology to make any sort of guess as to his life signs; the tripping rhythm at the alien's throat could mean anything.

"Guess that answers a few questions..." The colonel observed with a dry concern. Sam knew the colonel was especially fond of this particular Asgard, and she knew that the light tone masked a deep anger at what had likely been done to the gentle alien. Tel'nat had a lot to answer for.

"So, the gang's all here. Now what?" The colonel asked of no one in particular.

As if on cue, a voice from outside the barred door answered coldly, "Now, we shall see exactly what it is about the Tau'ri that the Asgard find so redeeming."

It was Tel'nat.

Sam could see a fresh rush of anger ripple through Teal'c, Connor and the colonel. Tel'nat's actions so far had been right in line with Teal'c's earlier analysis and Daniel's unease. Tel'nat had proven himself both cruel and calculating. Sam could only hope that Teal'c's impression that the Pal'noor possessed some alien form of honor would also prove true.

It could be their only chance of getting out of this thing alive.


As he supported Daniel down the long hallway back toward the conference room, Jack could feel Daniel trying to gather his strength. Jack had a feeling that Daniel was hurt worse than he was letting on; his lean frame trembled with the effort of putting one foot in front of the other and Jack could see beads of sweat forming on Daniel's forehead. Jack looked at Daniel in concern, receiving a shrug and a headshake that told him Daniel would tough it out; now was not a good time to bring attention to any weaknesses. Thor, still wrapped in Daniel's cloak, was being carried by Teal'c. Carter and Connor brought up the rear, followed closely by two Pal'noor with those weird-looking energy weapons. Jack could see his team was alert, searching for any possible means of escape.

Once inside the conference room, Jack helped Daniel into a chair and sat beside him. Teal'c lay Thor near the fire and took up a guarding stance beside him. Tel'nat allowed it and motioned for Carter and Connor to also sit; as an act of passive resistance, both soldiers looked first to Jack for permission before being seated.

Tel'nat seemed amused by their actions and turned to Jack. "Your 'team' is quite loyal to you, O'Neill."

Jack was hardly new at 'cat and mouse'...and two could easily play that game. "That surprises you?"

Tel'nat shook his head. "Not really. You are hardly the first humans we've encountered...although you are the first of the *modern* Tau'ri. Thor seems to consider you most unique among even those."

Jack spared a glance toward their alien friend, then looked at his team.

"Hear that, kids? We're unique."

Inwardly Jack was pleased at the thought, the little Asgard was kind of a favorite of his as well...but Jack also wondered just how much Thor had been put through before revealing so much about them. Jack remembered Thor mentioning an enemy more dangerous than the Goa'uld...could the Pal'noor be the ones? A glance from Daniel told Jack that his friend was thinking along the same lines, and if Jack knew Daniel...which he did....he figured the scientist had probably reached that conclusion long before now.

Tel'nat had watched Jack closely and hadn't missed the subtle messages flashing between the two men. "You are the two that killed Ra and Hathor. You also nearly destroyed Apophis. You, Major Carter, killed Setesh. It seems the Pal'noor owe you something of a debt. The Goa'uld have never posed us much threat, but they are a rather consistent irritation."

Jack decided to play it cool. "Great, you owe us one...Can we go now?"

Tel'nat laughed, a harsh barking noise. "One wonders what it is in you that brings about such success...even against opponents so obviously more technologically advanced?"

"Just lucky, I guess..." Jack offered with patently false modesty.

"I do not believe that good fortune would account for such consistent victory," Tel'nat offered, almost benignly. "We shall have to see just what it is."

Jack didn't know what the furry alien meant by that statement, but he was sure he wasn't going to like it.


Thor had been awake and quietly listening to the exchange between O'Neill and Tel'nat for some time. He felt a heavy remorse that it had been his mind that had betrayed the Earth team to Tel'nat. Pal'noor technology had been geared toward defeating the Asgard for centuries and Thor had been shocked to discover Tel'nat possessed a means of forcibly intruding on Asgard thoughts and memories. Obviously the device did not function on humans, or Tel'nat would simply take the knowledge he desired. Undoubtedly, that had been the purpose of Daniel's beating; the device hadn't worked on the young human so Tel'nat had resorted to more primitive means.

Thor's race was empathetic, as well as somewhat telepathic...even now Thor could feel Daniel's pain, a pain more deeply rooted than the merely physical; obviously a great deal had occurred since their last meeting on Earth. Thor had the lingering impression of an untended physical injury, which was consuming the young human's precious energy. O'Neill's blunt voice asked Tel'nat what his intentions were. Thor knew before it was spoken that his human friends were about to pay dearly for his personal weakness.

Tel'nat's voice came quickly, full of barely concealed amusement and curiosity. "I believe we shall send you hunting."

Chapter 13

Daniel felt Jack's hand grab for his arm as white light filled the room. There was long moment of nauseating disorientation and Daniel felt a sensation akin to weightlessness. Then he hit the ground to the accompaniment of a blinding flash within his own head and the crush of warm weight on his back that sounded suspiciously like Jack.

"Dammit...I wish he'd quit doing that..."

Daniel was too busy trying to breathe beneath the pressure of Jack's weight and the resulting rush of heat and pain to respond verbally, but he managed to free an arm and swipe backward, catching Jack's ear.

"Ow...What? Daniel?"

The weight disappeared immediately followed by gentle hands on his shoulders, helping him to turn over. A wash of nausea returned, and Daniel's world nearly faded to black again. Jack seemed to realize what was going on, the hands guided Daniel's head down.

"Deep breaths, Danny...Hang on to it...."

Daniel could feel Jack's weight shifting on the...ground?....and heard his voice calling out for the rest of the team. There was no response. As the blackness faded a little, Daniel tried to look around. They were somewhere....else....

It was very dark, but somehow Daniel doubted that it was night. Two deep-gold moons bathed the rocky landscape in a sickening glow that resembled the orange-y cast Daniel had sometimes seen at sunset after a summer storm.

There wasn't much to see. Hilly ground, rolling off into the gloomy distance. A cool breeze brought the sickening scent of decay, what life there was in this place, Daniel was sure, didn't thrive.

Jack looked searchingly into Daniel's face, "You okay?"

Daniel nodded, not exactly lying. ...and they had more important things to worry about.

"Where are we? And where are the others?"

Jack shook his head, scanning the distant hills. "I don't know...and I don't know." Jack smiled wryly, "What do you think that Tel'nat guy meant about sending us on a hunt?"

Daniel shook his head slightly, closing his eyes as the cool breeze eased the nausea he'd been feeling. "Wish I knew..."

"You sure you're okay?" Daniel opened his eyes to see the stark concern in Jack's eyes.

Daniel nodded again and reached out a hand, asking Jack to help him up. Jack sighed, but took the hand. Daniel was pleased that he managed to stand without swaying too much, and nodded again at Jack.

"So what do we do now?"

With that irritating sense of timing that was becoming increasingly familiar, Tel'nat's voice 'spoke' again. Daniel realized it was originating from a nearly invisible device imbedded in the rocks behind them.

"Now the hunt begins, Daniel Jackson."

Jack was obviously getting tired of the games the Pal'noor leader was playing, asking with bad-tempered irritation, "Hunt for what?"

That barking laugh sounded again. "The proper question would be 'who',

Colonel O'Neill. Your teammates have been placed elsewhere, that is your first objective. The second phase of the hunt involves the Asgard known to you as Thor." A beam of light shot out of the device, coalescing into an image of Thor in a small room, lying on a bed of straw still wrapped in the blue cloak. "If you can find one another, and if you can reach Thor and free will be sent back to your world with no repercussions." Tel'nat's voice revealed heavy doubt as to that possibility. "This place is a self-contained world. You are no longer on Pal'noor. Your only escape is to succeed in the hunt...or die in the attempt. This world has food, water...the potential to produce weaponry. As an added 'convenience' we have provided more suitable clothing and one knife for each of you...a simple tool. Few have survived the hunt...but it has been done."

"That's it? We find our team, we find Thor...we're outta here?" Jack sounded guardedly optimistic, but Daniel didn't trust Tel'nat anymore now than he had the moment he'd met the alien leader.

"There's more to it than that, isn't there?" Daniel asked, tiredly.

"Just one minor detail...This world does have certain varieties of animal life...among other dangers...that you will have to avoid. The hunting fields were designed to provide a challenge. We shall see if good fortune was indeed the means for your success against the Goa'uld."

The light faded, the image dissipating into nothingness.

Daniel felt a sudden chill. He knew Tel'nat. If the Pal'noor said this place was a 'challenge', Daniel was sure that word was a massive understatement.


Jack sighed loudly as he changed into the simple black jumpsuit Tel'nat had provided...anything was preferable to the skirt he'd been wearing since he'd gotten to Pal'noor. He'd known this mission was going to be trouble...but he'd never expected anything like this. He didn't like the look in Daniel's eyes...hell, he didn't like how Daniel looked...

Even in the weird light of the twin moons, Jack could see the lack of color in his friend's face, the creases of pain between his brow as he returned from where he'd been changing behind the rocks.

As if aware of his team leader's scrutiny, Daniel turned away quickly.

"So where do we go from here?"

Jack allowed himself to be distracted; for now there was little choice, they had to get moving. If...and Jack had no doubt there was very little 'if' in this situation....there were hostile creatures on this planet, they needed to find a way to defend themselves, as well as find the rest of the team. Jack was a firm believer in the tenet 'safety in numbers'...and if those numbers consisted of SG1, then their odds would improve greatly.

Jack knew they were flying blind right now, and he didn't like the feeling. They didn't know where they were, they didn't know where Thor was, and they didn't know what threats they might encounter on their way to that unknown destination...or even what direction to start out in.

"Any ideas?" Jack asked, admitting indirectly just how hopeless the situation seemed.

Daniel paced around the rocky ground, moving rather stiffly Jack noticed.

"I don't think this is just a test of physical strength. Tel'nat is assessing everything about us."

"So you think there'll be clues?"

Daniel shrugged, wincing at the motion. "I dunno, Jack. We don't have much to go on. I don't even know enough to guess whether Tel'nat will keep his word when all of this is over."

Jack didn't miss the fact that Daniel was avoiding the "if" word. Jack wondered if it was a matter of faith..or denial. Things looked bad, but Jack knew his generally pessimistic nature could often cloud his perceptions...just like Daniel's optimism could often pull him too far in the other direction.

"One thing we can't do is nothing..." Jack offered.

Daniel smiled a little at that. "Yeah. So we just...pick a direction?"

Jack nodded with a grin. "Works for me."

Chapter 14

Sam was worried.

She could only assume that the colonel and Daniel had received the same message they had. Connor and Teal'c agreed with her that it made fairly good sense to head for the largest visible landmark...a stone out-cropping shaped rather like one of the statues Daniel kept on his desk. Sam hoped that, sub-consciously or otherwise, their missing teammates would gravitate in the same direction.

Sam had been almost as pleased as Connor that clothing had been provided for them. It seemed the Jaffa uniform chafed in some uncomfortable...and apparently unmentionable...places. Sam had laughed at Connor's obvious, but very welcome, attempt to lighten the mood. She had played along, responding that it explained a lot about Jaffa temperament. Teal'c had merely raised what Sam would swear was an amused eyebrow, offering only that it was an 'acquired talent'. Sam refrained from asking whether Teal'c referred to the uniform or the temperament.

As they walked, Sam worried. She hadn't missed noticing how heavily Daniel had been leaning on the colonel as they'd been marched to Tel'nat's conference room. Her brief examination in the darkened cell, had revealed numerous cuts and bruises, but there hadn't been time for much more than a cursory examination. Sam just hoped that, wherever they were, Daniel and the colonel were okay.


Connor was feeling rather optimistic. In spite of the seemingly hopeless situation, he felt like SG1 would see it through. Didn't they always? Connor had watched Major Carter and Teal'c quickly assess their predicament and formulate a plan based on as much of an advantage as they had ever needed...their knowledge of their teammates.

Connor had been heartened by the major's willingness to join in on his small proved that she wasn't one of those officers who let command swell their heads, turning them into hard-assed martinets in the blink of an eye. Even Teal'c had joined in, confirming Connor's belief that a very keen wit resided under that gold tattoo.

He hadn't exactly followed the major's line of reasoning, but knowing SG1, he was confident that they knew what they were doing. If he had to be stuck in an apparently hopeless situation, Connor was glad it was with this particular group of people.


Teal'c was certain that O'Neill and Daniel Jackson were well. There was no other alternative; they had been through too much together to allow any other possibility. The resiliency of their missing teammates was well known, and well founded.

O'Neill was one of the most resourceful leaders Teal'c had ever known. The brash colonel's inventiveness and determination had won Teal'c's loyalty long ago. O'Neill's dedication and caring had burst through barriers Teal'c had held since his earliest days as a Jaffa-in-training. Emotional closeness was neither encouraged nor tolerated among the Jaffa ranks. The closeness Teal'c felt for Bra'tac had only begun to prepare him for the open acceptance of O' well as the rest of SG1.

Daniel Jackson had confused Teal'c from the very beginning. Knowing what Teal'c had been, Daniel Jackson nonetheless came to accept...and even rely...on the same Jaffa who had cost him so much. Teal'c had learned a valuable lesson from Daniel Jackson...a lesson he would carry all his life; forgiveness. Teal'c had never contemplated the concept until he'd seen it embodied in Daniel Jackson. For all of the pain Daniel Jackson had gone through due to Teal'c's actions...all of the nightmares, the waking horrors, the deep depressions...Teal'c had never seen anger in the young man's eyes. Since Sha'uri's death, Teal'c had seen many emotions pass through his young friend's eyes, but never anger. Teal'c frankly believed that a measure of honest anger might be the best thing for Daniel Jackson, but he could not help but admire the intrinsic strength of the young man that did not allow him to succumb to it.

Teal'c wished that they could rejoin their teammates, and soon. It had become second nature for Teal'c to protect his friends..he could not protect them if they were not together.

Chapter 15

As they pressed on toward the weird looking rocks Daniel had arbitrarily chosen as a possible destination, Jack couldn't help but notice that Daniel seemed to have an increasingly hard time keeping up a steady pace. More than once, Jack had caught the younger man holding his side as if hit by sudden pain. When they'd reached a grove of stunted trees, Jack called a halt and they'd taken the time to turn one of the knives into a spear. Jack had cannibalized his attendant's garb to fashion a quiver, using braided golden threads for a bowstring. Daniel had fashioned the arrows, and done an impressive job considering how little they had to work with. Jack had kept the cloak intact, the thin material didn't offer much protection but it was a choice of that or sleeping on the he rolled it up and tied it with some strips from his tunic.

Daniel's clothes had suffered as much as he had; they were too ragged to offer much in the way of useful material. Jack had surreptitiously checked the outfit, noting several stains and tears in the back of the tunic that they'd missed before. Jack wondered what sort of damage Daniel was trying so hard to conceal...and wondered if he should insist on looking. Daniel was so damnably, stubbornly independent; this wouldn't be the first time he'd concealed an injury to keep Jack from worrying...or yelling. And, Jack knew, he would was a reflex. They'd been hours away from Netu before any of them had realized how high a price Daniel had paid to get that communication device and save their hides; it was just part of Daniel's nature not to complain when he was hurt. In the end, Jack had decided to let things ride.

They walked for hours, but had no real way of knowing exactly how long. The moons didn't seem to move, they or the planet...or whatever...they were on obviously didn't rotate. When Jack felt like they'd walked enough, he called a halt and started a fire in the tried and true Boy Scout way...he rubbed two sticks together. Jack had never been able to master that skill as a boy, but this time it worked like a charm. They had gathered some nuts and berries along the way and Jack divided them up. Daniel nodded thanks and picked at the strange food with an openly distrustful expression.

"C'mon, Daniel...They might even taste like chicken." It was a bad, running joke, and Jack knew it was, but it was worth it to see Daniel smile. Daniel tasted one of the nuts and looked up at Jack, nodding, "They do..." Jack laughed obligingly and ate some himself. They really did. "Must be some weird universal decree..."

Daniel smiled again, and got up to put more wood on the small fire. Jack didn't miss the wincing expression or the stiff movements, or the sharp intake of breath as Daniel stood up.

"Okay, that's enough. Let me look at it." Jack ordered. It was better to know what they were dealing with now, rather than later when they ran up against one of those creatures Tel'nat had warned them about. Daniel sat down, with a deep breath...and no arguments...pulling down the coverall top and turning his head away from Jack.

Jack moved around to get a look...and cursed. Daniel had been...'branded'...was the only word Jack could come up with. Large, angry tracks of burns dotted the young man's back. Tel'nat had clearly taken his time trying to get Daniel to talk. Jack felt a fresh surge of anger at the alien leader, a nearly blinding flash of rage that he swiftly forced down before he really did yell at Daniel.

"Daniel...why didn't you say anything?" Jack tried to keep his voice gentle. Daniel didn't need anything to add to the pain that he'd carried with him all day.

Daniel shrugged as Jack started ripping strips of the tunic for bandages. Burns were prone to infection and Jack hated to think what they'd already been exposed to. Daniel cursed himself as Jack wrapped his back as carefully as possible. By the time Jack finished, Daniel was white and trembling. Jack helped him get the jumpsuit back on and wrapped him up in the cloak.

Daniel sighed shakily. "Thanks...I think."

"So...when did you plan to share...that....?"


Jack asked it almost casually, but Daniel knew his friend was still raging, nearly as angry with Daniel for not telling him as he was with Tel'nat for doing it. Daniel wasn't sure he could answer Jack. Until they'd gotten here, there hadn't really been the time or the opportunity, after that....he just wasn't sure. It just hadn't seemed necessary. Besides showing the burns to Jack would have meant explanations, like the one Jack was so obviously waiting for now.

"I don't know, Jack. It was...bad. I just..." Daniel didn't want to explain it. It was just one more thing he would learn to live with...or without....

Daniel closed his eyes against Jack's searching glare. He knew Jack wasn't going to let it drop.

"Daniel...." Jack's voice was unexpectedly gentle, surprising Daniel enough to make him look up. "What is this?"

Daniel was caught off-guard by the question, but didn't have to ask what Jack meant.

"It's...I dunno, Jack. Since...It's just hard to care what..." Daniel trailed off, recognizing the feeling he couldn't put into words...and knowing Jack did, too. He'd recognized the same thing in Jack back on Abydos four years ago. Apathy, a lack of interest in going on...Daniel knew he'd never seek it out as actively as Jack had...but he just wasn't as sure as he'd once been that it was all...worth it.

"It is, you know." The quiet admission stunned Daniel. Jack was getting too good at reading his mind lately.

Daniel nodded, "I know...In my head, I know...."

Jack gave him a long look, opening his mouth to say something else when they heard a sound in the bushes. Jack stood up quickly, slipping an arrow into the bow, and Daniel grabbed the spear, moving to stand at his side. There was a low growl and something large and furry shot out of the shadows.

Chapter 16

Thor watched the holographic images Tel'nat was transmitting with growing concern. He was uncertain of what had just passed silently between Daniel and O'Neill, but the communication seemed almost telepathic in nature. Thor felt in himself an unfamiliar emotion...anger...upon seeing Daniel's injuries. Such senseless torture was so foreign to the Asgard's nature that he could not entirely fathom the concept.

Many centuries had passed in Asgard history since such barbarism had been an option. Thor knew that such things existed in the history of every world, but it had never been more than a remote theory to him...something that had been, but was no more. Until now. O'Neill had once made an impassioned plea on Thor's homeworld, arguing that the Tau'ri were even now fighting a battle against such barbarism as the Goa'uld were capable of. The Asgard Council had been duly impressed by O'Neill's words, but had not really let it affect their policies. The Tau'ri were a race to be observed, but other than the mediation of the treaty, the Asgard had no real intent to interfere in Earth's plight.

Watching the two men in the projection, Thor couldn't help but notice the lines of pain and wisdom on both faces. Earth's struggle was taking a toll on the humans. Daniel's deep eyes spoke of much loss, and O'Neill's reflected an understanding of that loss that could only come from having experienced it himself. For the first time in many years, Thor questioned the wisdom of the Council.

The sudden growling from the bushes caused Thor to back up involuntarily and he could only watch helplessly as the two humans prepared to do battle with their primitive weapons...


Teal'c's head jerked up suddenly at the distant sound of growling. His sense of hearing, enhanced just as were his other senses by the infant Goa'uld he carried, was far more perceptive than his human companions'.

Teal'c continued wrapping the stones to create the 'bola' as Captain Connor had shown him. It appeared to him to be a strange weapon, but Connor assured him that it would be highly effective at long range. The sound increased in pitch, but did not seem to be moving any closer to their encampment.

"Teal'c?" Major Carter had noticed his listening stance.

"A creature, still quite some distance away," he replied quietly, still focusing part of his attention on the possible threat.

"We'll take turns at watch," Major Carter ordered, receiving a nod of agreement from Teal'c and Connor. They had established a fairly defensible encampment, started a fire and scavenged some strange looking fruit; the only physical need of great concern was yet there had been no indication of any.

An impossibly familiar noise in the same general direction as the animal's growl caused Teal'c to stand, the bola dangling from his hand.

"Teal'c? What is...?"

Teal'c raised a hand for silence and listened again.

The distant voice was unmistakable.



Sam and Connor had no hope of keeping up with Teal'c's running form, but they managed to keep the big Jaffa in sight and followed as quickly as they could. They were close enough now to hear the animal's scream...then there was silence. Trading glances as they ran, Sam and Connor increased their pace.

Tearing around the rocks, Sam was shocked to see Daniel kneeling on the ground next to the body of a very large cat-like creature. A spear, much like the ones they had fashioned, protruded from the animal's side. As she came closer, Sam could see the colonel lying on the ground in front of the animal, his arm was scratched but it didn't appear to be deep. Teal'c was assuring himself that the animal was dead. Sam motioned for Connor to check on Daniel while she went to help the colonel.

"You okay, sir?"

The colonel nodded, peeking beneath his fingers to check the damage.

"Yeah...looks worse than it is..."

Sam helped him to his feet.

"Daniel?" The colonel was looking over at where Connor was helping the younger man to sit near the fire.

Daniel nodded, still breathing deeply. Sam could see the color draining from Daniel's face even now.

"Daniel, did you...?" She pointed in the direction of the animal.

"Save my ass?" The colonel finished with a grimacing smile. "You bet he did."

Daniel looked up with a bit of a smile, then slid to the ground in a dead faint.

Chapter 17

Connor had looked away from Daniel for a moment. By the time he looked back, the scientist was hitting the ground. Major Carter ran over quickly.

"Is he hurt?"

Connor couldn't see any visible wounds and stated as much.

The colonel spoke from behind them, "Daniel was hurt...before."

They didn't have to ask when. Connor had figured there was more wrong with Daniel than he'd let on to back in that cell.

They decided to return to the other campsite. There was no way to know if the dead creature had a family, but if it did...they didn't want to be around to meet it. Teal'c picked up Daniel with infinite care and a look of raw guilt that puzzled Connor. There was something going on there...

As they walked, the colonel explained about the wounds on Daniel's back, he didn't go into detail about their source...he didn't need to. Major Carter walked alongside Teal'c for a moment, checking their unconscious teammate for fever. One look at her face was enough to tell all of them that Daniel Jackson was very sick.

"The healing device is..." Teal'c began hopefully.

"Sewn into Daniel's cloak..." Major Carter added.

"Which is with Thor." The colonel finished with his usual pessimistic growl.

Connor caught himself doing a little double-take, sometimes these people were downright eerie.


Teal'c laid his burden down carefully on one of the thick Jaffa cloaks that Major Carter laid over some soft grass.

Daniel Jackson was very hot. With Teal'c's help Major Carter removed the young man's upper clothing to examine the wounds O'Neill had spoken of; there 'was' infection there. Major Carter wished aloud for water or a medkit or the healing device; all of which were beyond their reach...for the moment. Major Carter re-bandaged Daniel Jackson with clean strips from her slave garment and they bundled him under the remaining cloaks.

Connor had done his considerable best with O'Neill's wound, reporting it to be a lengthy gash but not too deep, and had given him a piece of the fruit they had found. O'Neill moved to Daniel Jackson's side, reaching out with his uninjured hand to touch the younger man's forehead. Something passed over O'Neill's face that Teal'c could only call rage...Teal'c guessed that it was directed at Tel'nat. Although O'Neill had refrained from explaining how Daniel Jackson had been injured, Teal'c had been a Jaffa too long not to recognize the signs of torture when he saw them. Teal'c knew there was much more to that story than they had been told.

Teal'c had felt very helpless when he'd heard O'Neill shout Daniel Jackson's name. He'd known they were so very far away...

As he'd run he had envisioned many possible scenarios of what he'd find, but he'd never expected to see Daniel Jackson standing over an alien creature leaning into a spear with all his strength as the animal itself strained toward O'Neill. When Daniel Jackson had finally fallen to his knees, Teal'c had run forward to the animal...making certain that it was, indeed, dead. Major Carter and Captain Connor had arrived only seconds later, sparing Teal'c the necessity of choosing which of his friends to help.

Teal'c was more than a little relieved that they were all finally together. It eased his mind considerably to know that, whatever may come, at least they would face it together.


Jack was worried.

Daniel hadn't been in the best of condition when this thing had started and fighting that creature had taken even more out of him.

Jack was still amazed by the vision of his gentle friend wielding the makeshift spear like a cat-toy as he tried to distract the animal from its clear intent to have Jack for a midnight snack. When he'd fallen under the powerful animal's onslaught, Jack had been as afraid as he'd ever been in his life...

But Daniel had come through.

Jack hadn't realized just how much he'd come to count on that quality in Daniel, that can not-will not-dare not give up stubbornness that had brought them all through hell, figuratively and literally, time and time again. It was a quality they all shared to some degree.

Daniel was growing restless in his sleep and Jack reached out a hand to touch his friend's shoulder. He was still so hot. But that same stubbornness that had saved Jack's life a few hours ago would keep Daniel with them. It had to.

But Jack knew now that there were things churning inside Daniel's head that were all too familiar. Daniel had lived for Sha'uri; three years of searching hadn't dimmed that ever-present hope of someday finding her. That hope had pushed Daniel to keep coming back, pushing him on when a lot of other people would have quit. But she was gone now, leaving only a vague promise of a hope for humanity in its place. Jack knew it was a poor substitute, he'd seen that cold reality in Daniel's eyes across the campfire. He could only try to help Daniel come to the realization that had taken Jack himself so long to recognize...that there *were* still things worth living for. None of those things would ever replace what had been lost, but they did, eventually, close the open wound that was your soul. Jack remembered the kamikaze idiocy Daniel had exhibited when facing Apophis on Netu. At the time, Jack had chalked it up to too-fresh memories and that self-same stubbornness that wouldn't let Daniel give an inch to a Goa'uld.

Now, though, Jack wondered if he shouldn't be keeping a special eye on Daniel. This new attitude was both frightening and infuriating: frightening because it ran so contrary to everything he'd come to know about what made Daniel who he was...and infuriating because Daniel just did *not* deserve it.

Jack had never known a better person than Daniel. He'd watched his friend grow and change over these few years into someone he respected and cared very much about. Some of those changes had been good ones, some just...sad, but necessary ... but some were tragically *wrong* in that larger cosmic sense that Jack had always had so much trouble grasping. Life wasn't fair, Jack knew that better than most; but Daniel had been more than shortchanged when it came to receiving that very same quality of fairness that he showed to almost everyone he met.

And Jack was getting more than a little ticked off at those astral powers that be who kept piling it on....

Chapter 18

// Ra appeared through the desert heat, once again holding out the scroll. Some part of Daniel watched as if from far away, aware that it was a dream, but also aware that it was important. Ra smiled that same inscrutable smile and the scroll disappeared in a flash of fire in hands that seemed very far away.... //

Daniel awoke with a sharp cry, becoming aware of the pain in his back in a rush of sensation. Hands helped him roll over, touched his forehead with a coolness that sent a chill through his body.

"It's okay. Go back to sleep."

Jack. It was always Jack. The one remaining certainty in his life. If Daniel hadn't stopped that thing....

Daniel felt another shiver that had nothing to do with cold. He hated himself for feeling this way, hated allowing his emotions to *need* that anchor, hated knowing that by feeling this way he might also might feel that loss again if something should happen to Jack...

Daniel shivered again, he didn't feel very was hard to think. He opened his eyes to see Jack looking down at him. Daniel tried to speak, but had to lick dry lips before he could manage it.

"Jack? Y'okay?"

Jack shook his head, laughing quietly.

"Fine. And you?" The words were casual, but the tone told Daniel so much more. Jack was okay. Jack was grateful. Jack was worried. Jack could say a lot with a few words. Daniel almost laughed at his own absurd thoughts, but settled on a slight nod.

"Not so hot..." Daniel hadn't meant for that to slip out, but it was true. His back was on fire, his head throbbed unmercifully and sweat was pouring off of him.

"I know it, Danny. Not much we can do about it right now, though. Teal'c and Connor are scouting around for water right now."

Daniel nodded. "How long have we been here?"

Jack shrugged, and looked away. "Not too long...."

Daniel knew Jack was lying and sat up quickly. "Dammit, Jack, I'm not an invalid ..."

Even as he said it, Daniel felt the darkness gathering around him, but fought past it. "We have to get going..."

Jack pushed him back down easily, "Hey, we're not on a time limit here, Danny. We can afford to take a break."

Daniel shook his head. "No, Jack. We can't. Have you forgotten about the bomb?"


Sam had been listening from her place on watch. She could tell from the colonel's face that in all the excitement, he had let it move down his list of priorities. The people of Pal'noor, beings who no doubt were as mistreated by Tel'nat as they had been, did not deserve to die. Of course, Sam reflected, there was also the not insignificant fact that their way home was the Pal'noor Stargate ... if they could get back there. Trust Daniel to be thinking ahead of them all... even when he was so sick.

Sam was worried about him, the infection had set in quickly...too quickly. Who knew what sort of alien bacteria could have invaded Daniel's system that he'd have no immunity to. It was a constant concern for the SGC, but rare enough considering how many worlds they visited on a weekly basis. What concerned her in this case was the fact that this was a totally alien environment. They'd been on very few worlds that had not in some way been touched by a human presence and therefore human viruses and bacteria...they'd been lucky so far. But Sam was afraid that in this particular instance, even if they got Daniel home...Earth means might not be sufficient. They had to get that healing device.

Sam watched as the colonel finally gave in to Daniel's irrefutable logic and helped the younger man to stand, wrapping one of the Jaffa cloaks around his shoulders in a gesture both solicitous and defeated. They both knew that Daniel belonged in a hospital, but Sam seriously doubted if there was a hospital on Earth that could help Daniel. Looking up to meet the colonel's gaze, Sam realized he knew it, too. This hunt had taken on an entirely new objective; it wasn't just about saving Earth anymore. That grand and noble purpose was certainly their ultimate duty and priority. But they both knew that saving Daniel's life coincided with that first duty...and Sam didn't even want to consider failing at either of them.


Jack and Carter packed up their spartan camp while Daniel paced around slowly, leaning on one of the spears for balance. Jack could see his friend gathering his energy for the undoubtedly long trek ahead of them. Daniel was moving far more steadily than Jack would have given odds on just a few hours ago, although he remained ghostly pale. In those fever-bright eyes, Jack could see the determination building in Daniel. He'd make it...because he had to.

Jack sighed again as he tied up the last of the bundles and moved to stand beside Carter.

"That's it. As soon as Teal'c and Connor get back, we can move out."

Carter nodded, glancing over to where Daniel was still pacing. "We've got to find Thor, Colonel."

Jack knew what she wasn't saying. "We will, Carter. We have to."

Chapter 19

Connor wasn't entirely sure what was going on with his teammates, but he knew it was serious...and that Daniel was at the center of it. Connor was more than a little impressed that Daniel was plodding steadily onward...despite the increasingly obvious effort on his face. There was a lot more to Doctor Daniel Jackson than Connor would have ever expected. This curiously gentle, intelligent man possessed a core of iron that would not let him give up.

They still had no idea where they were going, but Connor couldn't help joking that they were making good time. The colonel looked up with a sardonic smile, the major actually laughed and even Teal'c raised an eyebrow that made Connor wonder just how lost the Jaffa actually was when it came to Earth humor. Daniel nodded, a smile barely touching his eyes, and kept walking. To Connor it seemed that all of Daniel's energy was focused on the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other. Connor realized suddenly that it probably was.

The terrain had been changing gradually as they walked; the sparse rocky landscape giving way to sandy soil and finally a sloping plain of bluish grass. Connor hoped the comparatively healthier vegetation was a sign that they were nearing a water source. They'd all been too long without water. The moisture-rich fruit helped, but Connor knew that it would soon become a more pressing need...especially for Daniel...


As Teal'c walked slightly behind Daniel Jackson, he couldn't help but notice that the younger man was growing more ashen by the moment. He could not continue much further without rest. Teal'c traded a glance with O'Neill, who nodded and gave a little head shake ... He saw it as well, but they would continue for a while longer.

Teal'c's thoughts were interrupted by a low sound, a whisper-soft gurgle that seemed to be fairly close. Water. Teal'c was sure of it. He held up a hand to stop the others, asking in the same gesture for silence.


Teal'c moved forward a dozen paces, listened, moved again....

There, amidst the tall grasses...a small spring, barely more than a trickle but it was water.

Motioning for the others to join him, Teal'c bent to touch the surface of the water, sniffing gently, then tasting it. Major Carter started to protest, but he had only to look at her to still her protests. He was the only logical choice to test the water, if something was wrong with it... his symbiote would likely protect him. None of them mentioned the possibility that his infant Goa'uld would not let any potentially harmful substance affect him in the first place. The situation was far too dire, they would have to take the chance.


As they all settled on the grass to wait, Jack looked over at Daniel. His eyes were half-closed, masking the pain Jack knew resided there. Carter had pulled out some of the cloth left over from their servants' garb. If the water was deemed safe, she intended to clean Daniel's wounds ... and Jack's own. The possibility that the same bacteria that had infected Daniel might also take hold of him had crossed Jack's mind more than once.

Jack watched as Daniel's eyes widened and he rose unsteadily, making for something in the distance. Jack jumped up and started after him.


Daniel raised a hand, motioning Jack forward. "Do you see it?"

Jack strained his eyes in the direction Daniel pointed.


"Don't you see it, Jack?"

Jack peered at the copse of scrubby trees Daniel indicated. He still didn't see ...

Daniel made a sound of impatience and strode unsteadily toward the trees, Jack following in frustration. As the neared the spot, Jack caught up to Daniel ... a protest on his lips that Daniel was fevered and likely seeing things. Then he saw it, too.

Imbedded in a tree trunk, barely visible amidst the tree's own color ... was a small round disk with a symbol on it. Jack looked at Daniel, the question in his eyes.

Daniel took a ragged breath, his fingers outlining the symbol carefully.

"It's the symbol for the Asgard." Jack heard Daniel's deep sigh, heard it cut off in the middle, and turned to see Daniel hit his knees.

Chapter 20

Sam and Connor came running at the colonel's shout, helping Daniel back to the water and forcing him to sit down despite his protests. Sam figured it had been long enough since Teal'c drank the water. Teal'c had been bending one of the pieces of metal they'd saved from the Jaffa armor into a cone-shaped cup. Sam dipped it into the water and raised the cup to Daniel's lips, breathing a small prayer that they were doing the right thing. Daniel sipped at the water slowly, as if sensing her trepidation, then passed the cup off to the colonel. Sam dipped her cloth strips into the water and advanced on Daniel. He protested half-heartedly, but finally gave in. As Daniel gingerly removed the top portion of his coverall, Sam unwound the bandages gently. And gasped at what she saw. The infection had spread; raw angry lines connected the spots of the original wounds. Sam made Daniel lie down on his stomach and warned him to take a deep breath, before draping the rags over his back. Daniel hissed at the coldness, but didn't move.

Sam looked over at the colonel, shaking her head a little to let him know that Daniel's condition wasn't good. Dipping another cloth into the water, Sam moved to the colonel and removed his bandages as well. She heard the colonel sigh as they saw that the wound was clean. She washed the wound carefully before re-wrapping it with fresh strips.

Together they moved to Daniel, who seemed to be asleep. The colonel sat down beside the younger man, checking his temperature reflexively. Daniel stirred, but didn't open his eyes.

"We're on the right track, aren't we, Jack?" Daniel almost whispered. "Looks that way, Danny."

Daniel's head moved in a slight nod, "Good..."

"Just rest, Daniel," Sam cut in. "I want to let the wounds soak for awhile."

" Okay, just for a minute...." Daniel's voice trailed off and Sam was fairly confident that he was asleep. She gently laid one of the cloaks over his shoulders and motioned for the others to join her a short distance away.


Daniel could hear the distant mutters of his friends. It didn't take a Ph. D., any of them, to know they were talking about him. Just like he didn't have to see his back to know it was bad. The burning pain had grown from a background annoyance to a constant, insistent companion. The heat of his body seemed to generate from that point outward and it was growing worse.

Daniel didn't want to sleep, there was no time. As closely as Daniel could calculate, they'd left Earth nearly three days ago. That left them two more until the bomb was sent through. Two days to find Thor, return to Pal'noor and go back through the Stargate. That was if Tel'nat kept his word. Daniel still had a few suspicions in that area. Tel'nat said they would be returned through the gate ... not necessarily that they would be sent through alive.

Daniel had been replaying his dream about Ra over and over in his mind. He knew it was important, perhaps vitally so.

If only he could figure it out...

// Ra smiled, that same unfathomable smile. The scroll was offered and taken. The scroll ignited in Daniel's hand. Daniel tried to shout out a question, before Ra disappeared, but was too late... //


As Major Carter explained the seriousness of Daniel's condition, Connor noticed the trio of concerned looks that turned toward the sleeping form on the ground. Connor had glimpsed the young scientist's back, he knew it was bad.

Connor was all the more impressed with SG1's caring and determination. If they ever decided to add a fifth, Connor knew he'd be first in line. This team was something special. Connor had been a part of a lot of squads in his military career, there was always a special closeness that came with being a part of a group that risked life and limb on a daily basis. But Sg1 was unique, even more so than Connor had originally suspected.

Their concern for their teammate was only part of it. They knew each other, felt each other, believed in each other ... without reservation. And in Connor's book, that made SG1 a team in a million...

The colonel called for a break ... as long as Daniel needed to ... and asked Connor and Teal'c to search the nearby trees for food and further clues. Connor watched the colonel's eyes promise vengeance for the pain their friend was going through ... and Connor really did feel as if Daniel was becoming a friend. Connor traded a glance with the colonel that promised any and all assistance to achieve it.

Part 2








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