Jmas Fan Fiction

Splintered
By Jmas

 

“Fire! Fire!”

It was as if time stood still then began moving again, painfully slowly, ticking seconds coming in flashes of a world gone horribly wrong.

Lya’s sweet smile shattered in a spray of crimson blood. Her alien magic only moments too slow to snatch away all of the weapons from the conflicted SF’s in the gateroom. Weapons now following orders, no matter how insane.

Narim was the first of the Tollan to fall, bright red blossoming from the back of his silver suit. Schroedinger vaulting away to disappear beneath the gate ramp.

Another Tollan fell, then another. Then Omoc, in a futile attempt to shield Daniel from the idiocy of his own kind.

Carter was the first to recover composure, hitting the intercom to call for medics in a voice more panicked than Jack had ever heard from his second.

Maybourne ordered in more SFs with more weapons, making it clear he was in charge and no one was going to question his authority. SG1 and Hammond were blocked at every turn, apologetically turned away at the infirmary doors by their own soldiers. Forbidden to ask if Daniel and the others were even still alive.

It was the same nightmare he’d had every night for going on three months…

Jack shifted his legs and sat up in the bed, raking shaky fingers through his damp hair. The whole situation was just so damn FUBARed….

No one liked what happened, no one. But Maybourne had the President’s backing, and while the Commander in Chief condemned Maybourne’s methods privately, he wasn’t about to call it a mistake and let the Tollan, Lya, or even Daniel go. Armed guards had followed the doctors and patients everywhere, even into the operating theater. Carter had managed to tap into the video surveillance systems and show them the chaos Fraiser and Warner were dealing with. They got one brief glimpse of Daniel… head and chest covered in blood, lying so still on his bed… before Maybourne found them and removed all the keyboards from the briefing room computers.

The other SG teams had been summarily confined to quarters. Maybourne knew them all well enough to realize the more independently minded gate teams were a threat to his shaky authority that the frightened SF could never be. No one had blamed the SFs, not even the two who had actually opened fire on Maybourne’s orders. Jack had seen the men after… he knew no one could censure them more than they condemned themselves. They might not know what the hell was going on, but they knew Daniel and that was enough to make what they’d done wrong.

The last any of them had seen of Daniel and the rest was a flurry of stretchers between a mass of guards. Maybourne had made sure none of them could get close enough to so much as say goodbye…

Which was why Jack was sitting in a dingy motel room in the middle of the night somewhere in the Nevada desert. He was waiting for a message that would give him the final clue as to where Daniel and the others were being held.

Officially, Jack was on extended leave after expressing his very vocal disgust with the service he’d dedicated so much of his life to. Unofficially, Teal’c, Carter and a few others were just waiting for word and doing everything in their power to keep up appearances while Jack pushed his former Special Ops connections to the limit for information.

They’d exhausted official channels early on, being told only that the aliens were being kept in a secure community and Daniel along with them. Daniel’s attempt to help the Tollan had marked him a traitor and he was to be sent to federal prison when he recovered from his wounds, but Jack had learned that the Tollan had refused to cooperate at all unless Daniel stayed with them. They all knew that arrangement would only last as long as Maybourne felt he was getting things of value for his leniency. Daniel was no where near the top of Maybourne’s list of favorite people; his time was limited in more ways than one.

Jack had taken a lot of governmental bullshit for his country and still remained loyal and dedicated. This time, though, this time had been too much, had crossed a line down deep in Jack’s soul that couldn’t be uncrossed. Daniel was the best of them all, they all knew it. Somewhere down in the blackness of his heart, even Maybourne knew it, which was why Jack knew Daniel was only alive by virtue of a little prayer, a little hope, and a little alien ingenuity. Men like Maybourne couldn’t stand in the light of a spirit like Daniel’s very long without either turning toward it… or quashing it out.

Jack was more than a little familiar with the concept of redemption by proxy. Daniel had, after all, turned him without even knowing he’d done it. Some debts could never be repaid, but Jack swore he was going to do his damnedest to try.

~*~

He wasn’t sure how much longer they could protect Daniel.

They had given up a few small technologies, simple things not wholly outside the realm of human ingenuity. But Omoc knew it was only a matter of time before they’d have to give Maybourne more. Already Daniel was being hurt, small things one might pass off if not for the consistent evasion in Daniel’s usually too readable eyes. He and Lya had repeatedly tried to convince the young human to at least pretend to cooperate, to help them bide time until they could devise a plan of escape.

Unfortunately, as special as Daniel was… as humans went… he was also among one of the most stubborn Omoc had met. Deceit was as foreign to his nature as blind obedience. Also unfortunately, he was paying for his independent spirit with bruises and mistreatment when he was still barely recovered from his gunshot wounds.

Despite his best efforts to shield Daniel, the young man had taken two very severe wounds. They’d been rushed away from the SGC so fast he had hardly been conscious and his medical treatment since arriving in this place had been less than adequate. Lya had tried to discreetly heal the boy several times, but they were not allowed to visit long and were monitored at all times.  The best she could do was to lend Daniel energy, help him get through until the next visit.

A touch on his arm brought Omoc out of his reverie.

“Lya?”

The small Nox woman smiled gently, as if she knew where his thoughts had roamed. A significant glance behind them reminded Omoc that they were not free to speak aloud. Fortunately the humans, with the exception of Daniel, were unaware of the fact that Lya was telepathic, able to hear and project thoughts.

Daniel is fine.’

‘Are you sure? He does not appear well.’

Lya nodded, taking Omoc’s arm as if needing his support when in truth touch facilitated her abilities. ‘While he is not completely well, he is stronger than he appears. I have advised him to continue appearing so. He is safer when he is believed too unwell to be a threat.’

Omoc nodded slightly. ‘Wise of him to listen to you.’

A laugh resonated between them. ‘We both know his ability to listen is directly related to his desire to escape. He will listen only so long as he believes he is helping free us.’

Omoc knew it was true. Daniel took the actions of his people quite personally and had sworn not to rest until the situation was made right. Whenever that might be.

‘I believe the evil ones to have dire plans for Daniel once he has fulfilled his usefulness in keeping us … cooperative.’

Omoc was alarmed at this new revelation, but quelled his reaction so as not to alert the guards behind them. ‘What shall we do?’

‘Wait. Procrastinate. Daniel believes his friends will save us, one way or another.’

Omoc nodded shortly. While he did not share Daniel’s faith in his friends, they had worked hard to help the Tollan despite the wishes of their superiors. As long as the situation remained static, he would follow Lya’s plan. If, however, Daniel, Lya, or any of his party became further endangered, then, as Daniel said, ‘all bets were off’.

 

~*~

His head hurt.

Again.

Had for three months now with increasing regularity. Something Daniel had thus far managed to keep from Lya. He knew something was terribly wrong, hadn’t healed properly, had been left unfixed…

And wouldn’t that be just like Maybourne? Kill him without so much as lifting a finger. Slowly. The man was probably taking bets with himself how long Daniel would last.

‘Come on, Jack….’

It was only his faith in Jack and the rest of his team that kept Daniel going. He knew in his heart they wouldn’t just leave them to whatever fate Maybourne had planned. He just knew it. They had to come. And it had to be soon. Before the Tollan were forced to give up something more than innocuous gadgets. Before Maybourne upped the ante to force them to produce something more destructive. Before the threats they all had lived under for months became intolerable reality.

Moving away from the window with its deceptively pleasant view of the mountains, Daniel sat back down on the bed, lowering his head to rest on his hands. Three months without a haircut had given him quite a long curtain of hair he found himself using often to conceal his face from the ever active blinking red lights of the cameras in his room.

He’d studied the layout of their compound every day since he’d been well enough to shakily get out of bed and make his first unaided trip to the bathroom. What was it, six weeks ago now? Not surprisingly, physical therapy to help him regain his strength had come solely through irregular walks with Omoc, Narim, or Lya when they demanded to be allowed to visit. Maybourne’s people had provided only the minimum amount of care to keep him from dying outright. Daniel laughed softly to himself at the realization his watchers must think he had a severe cleanliness fetish… or a very overactive bowel. Since discovering the bathroom had no cameras Daniel had been exercising regularly in the tub. He was strong enough now that he had to be careful how much to resist when his caretakers decided to exercise their sadistic tendencies.

Daniel was well aware of the fact that his life was a bargaining chip, doubtless in more ways than just the obvious. Jack and the rest of the SGC were in all probability being held at bay with poorly concealed threats on his continued existence. Maybourne held all the cards and nothing was going to change that.

For now.

Omoc’s people were secretly working on a few devices during their ‘lab’ time. Lya said they were close to reconstructing a phase shift device, but only one wouldn’t be enough to allow them all to walk through and then out of the many walls of the compound without being discovered. Besides, Daniel wasn’t the only hostage… three of the Tollan who had been gravely injured in the gateroom were also somewhere in the same wing of the building where Daniel was kept.

It seemed hopeless on the surface. Two many people, too scattered around a several acre compound with guard towers and automatic weapons stationed at every corner and entrance. But Daniel couldn’t allow himself to give up. If there was a way, Jack would find it.

Although they really hadn’t been a team, or friends, that long, Daniel just knew Jack O’Neill wouldn’t abandon them to Maybourne. It just wasn’t a part of the man’s character to allow evil to win.

And Maybourne was evil, Daniel had no doubt about that at all. No matter what kind of justifications the man made for his actions, Daniel knew Maybourne enjoyed the dark and dirty side of his job way more than was psychologically healthy. He was a zealot with a cause who would do anything in service to what he believed was right in the advancement of said cause. There was nothing more dangerous, in Daniel’s estimation.

Feeling suddenly drained, Daniel lay back on his bunk and closed his eyes hoping to shut out the constant blinking eye of his unsympathetic jailers and dream of the desert, his wife, and freedom.

 

~*~

It was a damn fortress. Hell, Leavenworth didn’t have this level of security. Jack turned his binoculars to the buildings and increased the gain on the magnifier.

Office, office, medical, medical, patient room, patient room…

Daniel?

It was.

Longer hair, much skinnier, hollow-eyed, with a perpetual squint that told Jack his friend had probably been without his glasses for three long months..

But it really was Daniel.

God….

Jack wished there was something he could do, some way he could let Daniel know he was close. The man looked like he was waiting to walk his last mile to the gallows, the weight of the world resting on an exhausted Atlas.

Jack had seen Daniel in a lot of different moods and states of mind, but he’d never seen his friend look so hopeless.

Jack ducked involuntarily when someone suddenly came up behind Daniel, forcibly turning the man to face him. Rushing to refocus on Daniel’s window, Jack saw Maybourne and some big orderly or nurse standing side-on to the window with Daniel facing them. They were arguing.

‘Dammit, Daniel, you should know better…’ Jack started to berate the other man silently then realized he had no clue what Daniel had been subjected to since he’d left the SGC. Maybourne probably deserved every, knowing Daniel, cutting word and more besides. At the very least a  9 mil bullet in the head.

The big orderly suddenly reached out, grabbing Daniel by the hair and twisting him bodily until Daniel was trapped by an arm across his neck. Only long years of training kept Jack hidden when what he really wanted to do was make use of the sniper rifle lying on the grass beside him.

Maybourne got in Daniel’s face, countenance dripping false concern. Apparently finishing his business, Maybourne disappeared from view as the orderly shoved Daniel into the window frame and followed. Jack could only watch helplessly as Daniel sagged down to lean heavily on the sill, one hand swiping his hair back to reveal an angry red scar on his left temple; no doubt one of the two bullet wounds reported after the gateroom incident.

Unable to do anything else, Jack willed hope and comfort across the ridiculously short but absurdly long distance between them, trying to convey the message for Daniel to hold on a little longer. Jack was here and he wasn’t going anywhere without Daniel.

Reluctantly, he sidled backward out of line of sight of the towers, then took off into the trees. Time to make a phone call.

~*~

“What is this?” Narim demanded, knowing full well what was happening.

Colonel Maybourne and the other man quickly changed their tone and tactics but Narim had heard enough.

The colonel had been threatening Daniel with an “unfortunate accident” if he didn’t persuade the Tollan to “get off their uncooperative asses and produce something useful”. Narim had no doubt that “useful” equated to “militarily destructive”.

Smiling flatly, the colonel’s dead eyes raked up and down Narim’s body in a disturbingly proprietary way before he pushed his way past Narim and his escort, bidding them an insincere ‘good day’ before slipping out the door.  Narim turned back in time to see Daniel hit the wall then sink down to lean his weight on the sill as the orderly also left the room..

To think Narim had believed Earth to be special, so much luckier than the Tollan who had destroyed themselves in their own ignorance. But the comparison wasn’t entirely fair. Men like Daniel and his team, General Hammond and Samantha – they were special. Even Omoc had come to see it. As Lya had said, Daniel’s people hadn’t learned anything, but Daniel himself was a sentry of hope for his kind.

Nodding to his guard, Narim was grateful when the man moved to stand outside the door. This particular guard and a few others had proven to be far less malicious than many others here in this place, capable of small kindnesses not strictly counter to their duty.

Narim touched the sentry on the shoulder, offering what little comfort he could. This place, this place made it very hard to embrace hope, to hold onto it and believe a better day still lay ahead. Daniel smiled up at him shakily, accepting the gesture and the rescue. Narim hated to think what might have happened had he not arrived when he did.

“What must we do, Daniel?”

The other man shook his head, like Narim he could see no answers.

“Keep stalling. Keep….”

“Waiting?”

Daniel shrugged and turned away to sit on his bed. Narim feared the rescue Daniel had hoped for so long became more unlikely each day. Even more, he feared Daniel was coming to realize the same thing.

“You know, before Maybourne came I was standing there at the window thinking. And it almost seemed as if….”

“What?”

Daniel smiled shyly. “As if Jack was nearby. I felt…. Good. For the first time since we got here. I think, if we hold on a little longer….”

Narim smiled. Not because he really believed help was near, but because he knew Daniel needed to believe it.

“We will try, Daniel. We will try.”

~*~

 

“Just what the hell do you people think you’re doing?”

Omoc turned sharply at Colonel Maybourne’s cold intrusion.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Colonel.”

Maybourne stepped closer, tossing a crushed device on the table in front of him. Omoc knew it was a memory device, or had been, but none of their people had been assigned to build one either to keep Maybourne placated or for their possible escape attempt.

“One of your people was making this in his spare time; it was hidden in a file cabinet.”

Omoc sighed. Whoever had done this might have jeopardized everything unless he could convince Maybourne there was no ill intent.

“Colonel. My people have been away from their homes and loved ones for over three of your months. The device is harmless, just a memory recorder. Undoubtedly whoever built it intended to help himself keep his family and emotions near in this strange place.”

Maybourne looked unconvinced. “Right…. “

“I assure you, it’s quite true.” Omoc struggled to maintain a calm exterior, he had no choice.

The other man still looked angry and unconvinced. “These are your people, Omoc. It’s up to you to keep them in line or they will force me to do something very….unpleasant.“

“A threat, Colonel?”

Maybourne stepped closer, so far into Omoc’s personal space the Tollan could smell the man’s pungent breath.

“More than a threat, Omoc. Perhaps it’s time we stopped playing games with you people, made you realize just how serious we’re prepared to be.”

Omoc’s blood ran cold, but he held himself steady. Overreacting could be deadly with this human. “You do not need to be concerned, Colonel. My people are doing the best they can with these rather limited resources. Even you would not penalize a man for missing his family?”

Maybourne’s already cold eyes seemed to harden even further as he stepped even closer. “You have no idea what I would do, Omoc,” he whispered tightly, reaching past Omoc to turn on the monitor on the wall.

The picture jittered a moment then solidified into an image of a man on a bed. Halven, one of Omoc’s injured people who had been isolated from them as a hostage along with Daniel and two others. As Omoc watched, a man entered the room and stood over Halven. Slowly he brought out a syringe in a gloved hand and inserted it into Halven’s intravenous tube. The reaction was almost immediate as Halven’s body spasmed weakly. Once, twice then he was still, his unseeing eyes locked forever on eternity.

Without a word, Maybourne left the room and Omoc finally let his emotions loose from the tight rein he’d been exerting on them. Reaching blindly for a chair, he sank down in horror at what he’d just witnessed. He knew so many of Daniel’s people were still primitive by Tollan standards, but this display was something he had rarely seen. Maybourne was evil, an evil that had nothing at all to do with humanity and its relative age on the cosmic scale. The man had no soul and nothing they could do or say would ever redeem him.

They had to escape, and soon. Halven was gone, nothing they could do now would help him, but Omoc was sure he would not be the last to die.

~*~

 

“Holy shit!”

Jack only barely remembered to keep his voice down as he watched the murder of the man in the room next to Daniel’s.

“Colonel?” Carter was alert for threats, thinking they were in danger.

Jack ran the video back to show her what he’d just witnessed, still too shocked to comment. Carter had arrived a few hours before, bringing the high-tech surveillance equipment Jack requested after witnessing the brutality toward Daniel when he’d first found their friend. He and Hammond had brainstormed an idea Jack could only hope would free the prisoners inside the compound and also get Maybourne sent away for a very long time, if the man managed to live through the next twenty-four hours. Jack wasn’t taking odds.

“Sir, this is….”

A sudden rustling in the brush brought Jack’s weapon up in one hand while the other made a shushing motion to Carter.

The noise repeated itself, closer, but Jack could see nothing.

“Teal’c?”

A slight shimmering of the air two feet in front of him was Jack’s only warning before Teal’c, Feretti, Makepeace, and Antaeus, materialized before them.

Only training kept Jack from shouting so he satisfied himself with a peeved glare toward the little Nox man.

“O’Neill.” Antaeus bowed in that hobbity way he had and smiled tightly. “This is the place where Lya, Daniel, and the others are being held?”

Jack nodded and encouraged the newcomers to squat low against the ridge separating them from the enclosure slash prison. He handed over the binoculars to Antaeus while Teal’c and the others pulled out their own. Jack explained the layout as he’d figured it out so far. Daniel and now two of the Tollan were being held in the smaller medical building while Lya and the Tollan were housed and forced to work in the larger central complex. Offices were in a separate building near the front gate and Jack would bet his eye teeth there was also a video surveillance room there as well. The four guard towers were manned 24/7 with never less than two men and regular perimeter patrols with dogs occurred every four hours like clockwork.

With an entire squad of special forces, Jack would have thought twice. Fortunately, though, they had something better.

“You can… talk… to Lya from here?”

Antaeus nodded. “We can communicate. What do you wish me to convey to her?”

Jack took a deep breath, ready to argue with the pacifistic Nox if necessary. “If Hammond doesn’t get through to the President, we’re going in tonight. You’ll get us past the guards and we’ll release the gas to put them all out. She, the Tollan and Daniel need to keep a cloth handy, something to cover their noses and mouths with until we can get to them with masks. We’ll hit the mountains and go deep, there are vehicles and supplies already in place. Hammond won’t be able to directly help us if we have to run, but we’ll do our best to get all of you home again. Daniel and I will need somewhere to live. We’re the only ones who’ll be identifiable as connected with this escape. Teal’c, Carter and the others might be suspected, but if we’re careful there won’t be any proof that will stand up in court.”

Antaeus nodded tightly, but didn’t point out to Jack the many things they both knew could go wrong. The whole situation was one big gamble and the stakes were the lives of people both of them held dear. But one thing he and Antaeus did agree on was that no one should be forced into servitude or made to endure abuse to force others to do the bidding of anyone.

One more thing occurred to Jack as Antaeus prepared to do…whatever it was the Nox did to speak to each other. “Ask her… Ask her how Daniel is. The last time I saw him Maybourne’s goon shoved him into a wall.”

Antaeus nodded gently then closed his eyes and settled his features while Jack turned back to his evidence gathering. They only had a few hours before Hammond would be meeting with the President; Carter was going to uplink the audio, video, and photographic files via satellite to give Hammond what he needed to prove that Maybourne was not treating his charges humanely or fairly. Whatever else Jack thought of the President, he didn’t believe the man would condone murder.

All that mattered right now was that no one else died in this travesty of a situation and that good people would be free to choose if they wanted to help Earth or not.

~*~

Hammond waited solemnly with his guest in a private outer corridor of the Oval Office. He’d only had a few minutes to review the evidence on the ride from the airport, but what he had seen still replayed itself over and over in his mind. A man had been killed in cold blood, not even made aware of the reason he was murdered. Maybourne threatened lives indiscriminately, telling Omoc that the man killed was only the first, that every day that passed with no appreciable progress would count down the hours of their lives. And Daniel Jackson was one of those lives deemed expendable. One of their own, the man who had given them the stargate in the first place… was considered an acceptable price to pay for advanced technology.

‘Not on my watch he’s not…’ Hammond mumbled to himself. They owed Daniel better, he owed Daniel better.

The man next to him had said very little since coming through the Stargate but Hammond had a feeling his guest was merely marshalling his energies for the coming meeting. He had barely paid attention to anything outside the limousine window, just sat there smiling to himself, lost in thoughts Hammond could only guess.

Hammond’s own thoughts were interrupted by an aide telling him the President was free to see them now. Clutching the files in his hand tightly, Hammond waved his guest before him, wanting the full impact of a real live Nox to hit the President with no dilution. Laying all his cards on the table from the outset was something Hammond thought the President would appreciate. And while the novelty was still fresh, Hammond had every intention of hitting his Commander in Chief with the truth of what had been happening out in Nevada and just how dangerous men like Maybourne, with more patriotism than conscience, could put not only other good people at risk, but could destroy Earth’s intergalactic reputation before it was ever really established.

They’d done some good work out there in the short time the SGC had been open for business, in large part due to the efforts of the man they were currently holding hostage to keep representatives of two of those races of allies in line.

Election year or not, the President had to listen, and Hammond had no intention of leaving until he did the right thing. Nothing less was acceptable.

~*~

“Maybe if Jackson is gone, you people will stop thinking you’re the ones in charge here. “

Lya couldn’t believe the vehement hatred she could feel emanating from the deepest part of Maybourne’s soul. How did one man become so dark, so full of righteous poison that even murder was made right in defense of the cause? While Maybourne’s words were innocuous enough on the surface, she could feel the true desire in his heart to once and for all be rid of Daniel Jackson.

They had to get away. Antaeus had passed on the plan Daniel’s friends proposed to implement if Opher and Daniel’s General Hammond failed to convince their leader what was happening in this place was wrong. She had managed to pass the word on to Omoc who, but was being held at Daniel’s door, denied entry by a very angry Maybourne.

“Is it we whom you wish to control, Colonel? Or Daniel?”

Maybourne blanched, his face closing itself as he looked away and Lya knew she was right. Daniel was more than just a hostage to Maybourne, he was a symbol of something that Maybourne would never understand, the thing that Lya saw the moment she had stepped out of the Doorway…Daniel had learned more than his people could ever begin to realize. Daniel saw the universal rhythm of life and good and rightness. Daniel knew without realizing that there was more to his existence than he was able to touch and see. He knew there was a purpose, a design and a balance that every living thing could see if they opened their spirit to the possibility. Daniel saw outside himself and his own needs and desires to what was right, regardless of whether what was right was also  safe and convenient for himself.

To a lesser extent, O’Neill knew it too. The difficulty was that he questioned what he knew. He fought the order of the universe and tried to be selfish when he knew it was against his nature. He strove to protect, even when protection was not the only or even the best way.

Maybourne coughed, then stood straight. “What you believe is irrelevant. What will be is that Daniel Jackson will be sent to a maximum security facility tonight, somewhere he will be watched the rest of his life and his brain can be put to proper use without the unfortunate weakness of his overdeveloped morals. He’ll be chemically altered to become our pet scientist instead of Hammond and O’Neill’s. No more pesky conscience to get in the way of getting the job done.”

Lya had to make an effort not to let her horror show. She was right about Maybourne, his way was to destroy anything he did not understand or could not use. Carefully, she let her mind seek out Antaeus, sending him her memory of everything which had happened in the past few minutes in a burst of connectedness she knew would leave him with an enormous headache, but he had to know. They had to save Daniel.

“You are mistaken, Colonel. About everything.”

Maybourne just sneered. “We’ll see, won’t we?”

With that the man spun on his heel and headed for the door, but Lya stopped him with a hand on his arm. In a breach of every ethic she’d ever ascribed to, Lya swiftly probed Maybourne’s surface thoughts and discovered Daniel was already being readied for transportation just after sunset. They had only a matter of hours.

Lya realized Maybourne was staring at her and released her hold on him. Thankfully, he misunderstood her gesture.

“You’d do anything to save him, wouldn’t you?” Maybourne stepped closer to her, uncomfortably close.

For a brief moment, Lya feared the man’s intentions. Surely even he was not so….

A knock on the door forestalled what may have happened and Lya couldn’t help but sigh in relief as the guard who came in told Maybourne he was needed elsewhere. The man left with only a brief glance up and down her body that left Lya feeling soiled and unwell.

Reaching behind her to find a seat, Lya sank down in relief.

‘Hurry, Antaeus. Hurry!’

~*~

Daniel knew his time was up. Something had changed in Maybourne. Either he’d been given carte blanche by the President, or was feeling pressure to produce results and was taking the edict as seriously as he took the order to take the Tollans into custody at whatever cost.

 

The orderly who’d come to tell him to get dressed in street clothes was one of the few with a conscience attached to their duty. In all but words, he’d let Daniel know that he was heading into something far worse than the treatment he’d known at this facility. There would be no kind faces of the Tollan or Lya, no small favors of privacy or protection from the conflicted staff members, no chances to escape or just see the blue sky from a window without bars.

Sitting on his bedside, Daniel began pulling on his boots. It wasn’t like he would be allowed to keep them when they got where they were going, but he would be damned if he’d do less than walk out of there under his own steam, fully clothed and holding on to as much dignity as he could manage.

Tying off the laces, Daniel flexed his hand, testing his hard-gained muscle. He was definitely stronger than he had been when he arrived, in some ways he was stronger than he’d been before he was shot. But was he capable of escaping, physically overpowering one or more men then running? He wasn’t sure. But he was sure he wouldn’t want to live with the plans Maybourne had for him.  

This was it then. He’d go with the guards without a fight, but once outside the compound, he’d take any chance he could get to escape. It would be better to get shot outside the gates of this place and know a moment’s freedom, than to die slowly wherever he wound up.

Reaching into his pocket, Daniel took a piece of loose string he’d found a few days ago, walked to the mirror, and tied his hair back into a ponytail. Grinning to himself, he tried to imagine what Jack would say if he saw him now….

“Always said you were a hippy in BDUs…”

Well, that was weird. It was almost like Jack was actually….

A brush across his hair was unmistakably real and so was the voice saying, “The very young do not always do as they are told…”

Daniel barely controlled an elated smile, the cameras were still watching. But he had to know…

“How?”

“Just listen,” Jack’s voice told him. “We don’t have a lot of time. They’re coming to get you soon and you don’t want to know what they’ve got planned for your future. Depending on how successful Hammond has been with the President, we’ve got a dozen canisters spread out all over this place. If they come for you before Hammond comes through, we’re going to blow them and get you all out of here. If Hammond failed to convince the President…. Well, you, me, the Tollan are going to head for the hills until we can get offworld and retire on the Nox world.”

Daniel nodded.

Freedom was within reach, it didn’t seem possible.  Jack had come, just like he’d told Narim and the others. It was all he could do to contain his gratitude, excitement, and relief.

“Easy, Daniel. We aren’t out of here yet.”

“Who..?”

“Carter is out there in the hills, she’s got a special doodad set up that will screw up their cameras and communications when I give the word. Antaeus can’t keep all of us invisible long enough to escape. We knock ‘em out, cut the security systems, walk out.”

Daniel nodded again, covering the gesture with a scratch across his bristly chin. He needed a shave, but razors were only allowed once a day.

“Just a little longer, Daniel. Hang in there a little longer….”

A brief solid touch to his shoulder almost undid Daniel’s resolve, but he cleared his throat and stood straight. Almost over, it was almost over.

The opening of the door made Daniel jump. Maybourne and two other armed men. It was time. Apparently Hammond hadn’t made it in time.

Maybourne didn’t even spare him a glance, just telling the men to handcuff Daniel. Daniel started to stiffen, ready to fight, but the pressure on his shoulder tightened momentarily… Jack reminding Daniel he was still there.

The men started to grab Daniel roughly, but found themselves blocked. Nothing they could do would get them close to Daniel.

“What the hell is this, Jackson?” Maybourne growled.

Daniel just shrugged, as if he had no clue why the men were having so much trouble.

“If this is some Tollan trick, someone will….” A voice over the intercom interrupted him.

“Colonel Maybourne, please pick up on line four.”

Maybourne motioned for the men to cover Daniel with their weapons while he walked to the staff phone on the wall and punched in his code.

“Maybourne!” The man sounded pissed off, but quickly backpedaled. “Mr. President?”

A light snort of breath near Daniel’s ear told him where Jack was.

“I don’t understand, Mr. President, you’re letting them go? Why?”

Maybourne listened intently, his face darkening with ever word coming over the receiver. “No, sir. I don’t understand. I thought…”

Another interruption, the CiC’s voice coming louder over the phone line until Daniel could almost hear what he was saying.

“Yes, sir. I will, of course, do what you want…Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Goodbye, Mr. President.”

And Daniel thought it was over, thought Maybourne was so conditioned to orders that he’d let this be the end, let it be over….

The men had heard Maybourne’s side of the conversation and were already lowering their weapons when Maybourne grabbed the pistol out of one of their hands and shot both men before aiming the weapon straight at Daniel.

“Maybourne? The President’s orders….”

“Came too late for you, Jackson. You tried to escape and killed two good men. I, of course, had to stop you….”

Two things happened at once. A loud squeal of radio noise bespoke a signal sent to Carter, and the pistol in Maybourne’s hand suddenly flew off on its own. Jack was suddenly there, his left fist impacting with a satisfying crunch into Maybourne’s nose. The man went down like a rock, followed by Jack’s weapon right in his temple.

“Jack!” Maybe it was just reflex, maybe it was not wanting to sink to the level of the man currently unconscious and bleeding on the floor, Daniel wasn’t sure. What he was sure of was that he wanted all of this to be over and he didn’t want anyone else tainted by the evil of Maybourne.

Daniel reached down among the fallen guards and picked up the pair of handcuffs, handing them to Jack. After a long deep look, Jack sighed, shook his head then took the cuffs and fastened them securely on Maybourne’s wrists.

Antaeus appeared then, smiling in his knowing way at Daniel, who blushed.

“Two of a kind… “ Jack muttered.

~*~

It was over but the shouting.

And the public apology.

What the President did send was a peace offering video by courier because, although he’d given in to Hammond and his Nox-y sidekick Opher, a President just couldn’t let himself be wrong in front of a crowd.

A tape was better than nothing, Jack supposed. To tell the truth he was surprised it hadn’t self-destructed as soon as it finished. It wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough. Sort of. Maybe.

Now the Nox were heading home, taking the Tollan with them and promising to try and get them back to their people. Jack was betting they’d do it, too. Maybourne was in jail, and would probably never get the full punishment he was due. Another strike against truth, justice, yadda. It was the way of the world though, and Jack knew he really shouldn’t be surprised. Must be Daniel rubbing off on him.

Ah, Daniel. The Nox had healed him when they’d rested a while after getting back to the mountain. Fraiser said Daniel had a blood clot or something in his head that would eventually have killed him. Maybourne’s medics couldn’t have missed it and that was another in a long line of injustices Jack filed in the back of his mind against future opportunity; Daniel hadn’t rubbed off on him that much.

The President had included a little codicil in his apology to the Nox and Tollan, a footnote, as it were. He said he knew that Daniel had been treated unfairly, that he regretted he’d been shot for trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately, there would be no trial for Maybourne, no chance for Daniel to testify against the man who’d tormented him so long, no chance to see his faith in human nature confirmed. It sucked, dammit.

Lya touched Jack’s shoulder and he tried to answer her smile but knew it failed.

“Justice finds its own way, Colonel. Daniel is back where he belongs and your path together continues. Is that not more important in the end than vengeance, even under your law?”

Looking over at Daniel where he was speaking solemnly with Omoc, the old curmudgeon was even smiling like a doting Tollan uncle, Jack realized Lya was right. Maybourne would get his, somehow, somewhere, someday. The Tollan were going home, maybe by the scenic route, but they were safe. And Daniel was back home where he belonged. In need of a haircut, but strong and healthy and miraculously unbroken by treatment no man should have to endure from his own people. As screwed up as it sounded… the balance was back and Jack figured that gave them more than a little bit of an edge on the universe. Now that was something to smile about..

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”
“Everything okay?”

Jack just smiled wider. “Daniel… if it were any more okay I couldn’t stand it.”

Lya laughed aloud in her musical voice and nodded. Jack couldn’t help thinking he’d just passed some kind of test with her. He figured he didn’t really want to know more than that. Some things were better left unquestioned.

Lya was right. Justice found its own way. What really mattered was standing right beside him… and that was enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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