Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Chapter 3: With Great Power
15 September 2000; Isolation Room, SGC; 1100 hrs
Jack had never felt so incredibly alive.
He was a realistic guy--he knew he was a man past his prime on a team with a Jaffa First Prime, a sharpshooting genius about five times smarter than himself, and another genius who was just starting to enter his physical prime. But now...now, he was pretty sure he could take on the Goa'uld and their armies even without weapons and win. If he missed a couple, Carter could type up her book with one hand and finish off the rest with the other.
Which was pretty sweet.
It was a struggle not to run ahead of the SFs as they were led toward lock-up. How had he ever stood the boredom of walking this slowly all the time? Frankly, he thought it was pretty controlled of him and Carter to stay at this snail's pace. Who said their judgment was impaired?
Well, okay, so he did sneak off on the way down, but it was just once to the commissary, and he was really hungry. No one noticed, anyway, except Carter, who took two of his cookies.
"Dismissed," he told the SFs once they'd arrived at their isolation room. Carter was already heading for the computer on the table. Jack showed his impressive restraint again by waiting for the door to close before joining her. "Let's have a look," he said.
By then, she was already in the system and looking at an image of the ship, schematics rolling onto the screen once the computer caught up to her typing. His second-in-command was the best.
"The 'gate will be heavily guarded," she said, "but we should be able to handle them. Wormhole physics dictates that you exit at the same velocity that you enter. They'll never know what hit them."
"We just have to run in really fast," he summarized. Ooh--he'd grabbed a bar of chocolate in the commissary. He opened it and took a bite.
"Exactly," she said. "The facility, however, will be more of a challenge."
Jack took a seat on the chair, propping his feet up on the table. "Can't we just zip in, plant C-4, and zip out?"
Carter shook her head. "Won't do it, sir. The power core of the ship is completely sealed in trinium. That's what we have to take out...hang on. The power core is linked directly to some kind of liquid cooling system that's based in the facility. These pipes lead into it."
"So," he amended, "we zip in, blow the pipes, and zip out?"
Still looking at the schematics, she nodded. "The core will overheat and explode. The only problem is there are force shields protecting this restricted area."
"Those aren't the ones you can pass through if you move slowly enough, are they?" he asked.
"Uh...no, sir," she said, wearing her 'are you stupid, sir?' expression.
"That'd be a stupid shield," he acknowledged.
"These aren't dependent on kinetic energy. They operate on a frequency oscillation principle, and..." She stopped.
"And..." Jack said. "That's...bad?"
"Actually, no, sir, it's not," she said. "If we're moving fast enough, theoretically we should be able to see the oscillation interval and run right through."
Jack would freely admit he didn't know what she'd just said. Something about oscillating and moving fast, but he was pretty sure he could move fast enough to oscillate as frequently as they needed, so he shrugged and said, "We'll need snacks."
15 September 2000; General Hammond's Office, SGC; 1100 hrs
Teal'c turned General Hammond's computer around to examine the ship depicted on the display.
"So you think we have a problem here?" General Hammond asked.
This was no simple battleship. This was an entirely new class of hatak vessel. Even without the rest of the plans, Teal'c could see that there had been improvements made to the section that housed the hyperdrive and other controls. The docking bays were better constructed, and a common flaw in hatak weapons systems seemed to have been repaired in this new design. He had no doubt that there was also much more that was not immediately visible.
"This new vessel has several advancements over the Goa'uld motherships we have previously engaged in battle," he confirmed grimly. "We must stop its completion."
"I can't send the rest of SG-1 on such a dangerous mission knowing their judgment is impaired," General Hammond said. He appeared very frustrated. Teal'c understood the sentiment intimately and planned to make that clear to O'Neill and Major Carter as soon as it became possible.
"I will go alone, then," he said.
"According to the Tok'ra intelligence," General Hammond said, "the 'gate on that planet is heavily guarded. I doubt very much even you could make it through."
Teal'c reexamined the image and acknowledged silently that such a forthright attack would be impossible. However... "We must not allow Apophis to complete this vessel."
"Let's say I agree, Teal'c. Prove to me it isn't a suicide mission."
Standing, he bowed to his superior and left the room to seek a plausible way in which to complete the mission. It was still unbelievable to Teal'c, at times, that General Hammond would risk a mission to protect his men's lives, but knowing that, Teal'c would work all the harder.
Almost immediately, however, alarms began to sound, and he whirled around toward the embarkation room, sliding under a blast door just before it slammed shut. Teal'c did not often have cause to wish that Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter were less capable than they were, but as he ran through the closing side door of the embarkation room to find both of them standing on the ramp before an open wormhole, he found cause.
"O'Neill!" he called.
Colonel O'Neill turned to see him. Major Carter did not even look away from the event horizon. "Not this time, Teal'c," he said, then disappeared through the Stargate without another glance.
From above, he heard General Hammond's voice calling for a medical team and wondered what damage his friends had caused in the control room. Thinking quickly, he ran back through the door and up the stairs to the control room.
"General Hammond," Teal'c said, noticing three people unconscious on the floor while another attempted to break through whatever program Major Carter had left on the base computers. "Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter will easily defeat the Jaffa standing guard. If I leave now and remain behind them, I may be able to aid them in completing the mission and also ensure their safe return."
General Hammond looked up from where he was crouched over one of his fallen men. "Do it," he ordered. "Hurry."
15 September 2000; Vorash, SGC; 1100 hrs
"So," Lieutenant Astor said, as they trudged together through the sand of the Tok'ra homeworld toward the ring platform, "I heard about those armbands Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter are wearing. Must be pretty cool to have one of those things."
"Dr. Fraiser thinks they'll both be dead soon," Daniel said, surprised at how calmly it came out.
All of SG-14 stopped in their tracks, amusement dropping off their faces. "What?" Captain Blasdale said. "Did you just say...?"
"Oh, god," Sergeant Lewis said. "Is this why--General Hammond said to be unyielding with the Tok'ra when we meet them today, and to follow your lead. That's what that was about?"
Daniel broke off from the group to walk to a boulder that he always used to remember where the rings were, then counted six, seven, eight steps in the direction of the setting sun. "This is the center of the platform," he said, pointing at his feet. "I suggest you keep your hands away from all weapons as soon as we reappear below so they don't shoot you."
"Jackson," Major Graham said as they took position, "I need to know what's going on."
"It's not just about SG-1," Daniel said. "It's about not knowing whether we can trust the Tok'ra. It's..." He wondered whether or not there were Tok'ra around them--they were masters of hiding, after all--and said, "The general's having doubts about the risks of this alliance. We need to have some very frank discussions before we further our cooperation."
Graham raised his eyebrows but said, "O...kay. We'll--whoa!" He backed away as the flap of his sleeve was caught on one of the rings and they were transported below.
Daniel had hoped to see Jacob Carter's face among those greeting SG-14 but found instead Martouf, with several other Tok'ra guards near the periphery of the room.
"Martouf," he said, stepping forward, "I was told you were on a mission; I hadn't realized you were back."
"I returned only hours ago," Martouf said, nodding politely to him.
"This is SG-14: their commander, Major Graham, and Captain Blasdale, Lieutenant Astor, and Sergeant Lewis."
"It's nice to meet you," Graham said, stepping forward with a hand extended. Martouf recognized the gesture and shook his hand politely.
"Major," Martouf said. "It is good to meet you as well, and your team. Let us proceed into the meeting room. Daniel, will you be accompanying us?"
"For a while," Daniel said. "General Hammond asked me to pass on a message. I'm glad you're here, Martouf--there's something you'll want to hear yourself. Is Sam's father here?"
As he'd known it would, this made Martouf pause. "He is away. Has something happened?"
Daniel said opened his mouth, and suddenly the thrill of horror swept through him again as he remembered what Janet had told the general. He cleared his throat, and said, "Dr. Fraiser believes that, at the current rate, Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter's hearts will fail before the end of the day."
"What?" Martouf said, his eyebrows furrowing. "Why?"
"You didn't hear about the effects of your Atanik test? Right now, Major Carter and Colonel O'Neill are both exhibiting...signs of...multiple organ failure..." He stopped, wishing more than ever that he was back at home with his friends instead of here describing how Janet thought they were going to die. SG-14 was silent behind him now.
"But..." Martouf started, looking bewildered. "Surely this is a mistake."
There was a pause as a woman appeared in the chamber--Daniel recognized her as Ren'al, a member of the High Council--and said, "Martouf, what is the delay?"
"Councilor Ren'al," Daniel said, "I was explaining that, as we see it, the Tok'ra were unable to complete a mission, so they sent a representative to Earth, drugged Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter, and infected them with a virus without telling us, in which state their impaired judgment has already caused at least ten people to be injured, in and out of the SGC. And then you told them to complete a mission for you."
Martouf shook his head. "The timing... It must be coincidental. Daniel, you know us--"
"We do know the Tok'ra's methods pretty well," Lieutenant Astor spoke up in support.
Unyielding, the general had said. He had no problems with that right now.
"You know me, certainly," Martouf continued, still to Daniel. "You know I would never do something like this, and that SG-1's lives are...very important to us. I assure you we would never force General Hammond to--"
"No," Daniel agreed. "You just ensured first that Jack and Sam would be physically unstoppable by our personnel. You know them, Martouf--do you think we don't realize the Tok'ra took advantage of their sense of duty and...and lowered inhibitions to put their lives at risk for a task your people failed to complete?"
For a moment, Martouf looked more confused than Daniel could remember ever seeing him, and Daniel felt bad for a moment, certain Martouf really didn't have a clue what was going on. Then Martouf bowed his head, and Lantash emerged. "What is it you expect us to do?"
"Nothing," Daniel said. "General Hammond is considering that a relationship with the Tok'ra might be more trouble than it's worth, but SG-14 can discuss it further if you'd like. When Jacob asks, please tell him on our behalf what happened to his daughter."
Daniel turned and started back toward the rings, eager to go back now that he was done. He was pretty sure General Hammond had intended this largely as a bluff, but his orders were just to say his piece and let the diplomats handle the rest. He hoped he hadn't said more than could be fixed.
Before he could step onto the platform, however, the rings shot from the ceiling, and Anise stepped out.
"Mr. Jackson," she said, surprising him by dropping her eyes for a moment. "Martouf. Councilor Ren'al. I have...news to impart."
"What is it?" Ren'al said.
"We have uncovered the mystery of the fall of the Ataniks," Anise said. "It seems the body of the wearer of the armbands creates antibodies to the Atanik virus, neutralizing the effects and eventually releasing the mechanism. We have noted traces of antibodies in the latest data from both Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter."
Relief overtook Daniel. "So it'll just wear off?" he said. She nodded. "Wait...you said this caused the fall of the Ataniks?"
She nodded again. "The immunity must have spread among the warriors until they suddenly lost their enhanced abilities, perhaps even in the midst of fighting a battle."
Oh no oh no... "But my team is on base, yes?" he said.
"They left," Anise said, "to destroy Apophis's new battleship. Your personnel were unable to stop them. We believe they are there already."
"This is that Tok'ra mission," Major Graham said, turning around to Ren'al. "So the Tok'ra tricked our people into using technology that was not only mind-altering but may also physically incapacitate them in the middle of heavily-guarded enemy territory."
Anise nodded once. "That...may happen, Major, but this was not a Tok'ra trick--"
"Give us one reason to trust you," Blasdale said.
"We are at war," Ren'al said. "There are risks we all take. We cannot predict the consequences of every action."
"I must return to Earth," Anise said before anyone could respond. "The data that I am continuing to collect may aid Dr. Fraiser if SG-1 is able to return."
"SG-1?" Daniel repeated. "You mean...just Major Carter and Colonel O'Neill."
"Teal'c has also gone to that planet in an attempt to recover them," Anise said.
"Perhaps," Martouf said, reclaiming control over his body as Daniel silently began to panic, "we should discuss this further once we know the fate of SG-1."
"Oh, I think we have a lot to discuss with the High Council," Major Graham said. "Mr. Jackson, are you sticking around?"
Daniel looked at Anise, then shook his head. "No, sir, I'll go back to base. I'm sure Anise will return if we ever hear back from my team."
"Daniel--" Martouf started, stepping forward.
Understanding more than ever why Jack hated playing politics, Daniel took a breath and said, "The SGC is grateful to the Tok'ra and what you've accomplished. But don't expect us to accept lies and manipulation, and don't make the mistake of seeing this treaty as a way of gaining an army of lesser beings to use as cannon-fodder or test subjects. We'll sign this treaty as equals or not at all."
Without looking at anyone, Daniel joined Anise on the ring platform, and they were transported silently to the surface to return to Earth.
15 September 2000; PX9-757; 1130 hrs
Sam Carter had never felt so alive before.
She supposed this was an ironic thing to feel while killing Jaffa by hand--she was pretty sure she'd broken at least one man's neck just by holding her arm out and running at him--but they were the enemy. She and the colonel were doing Earth a service. The fact that it felt kind of good was just icing on the cake.
Now, she was a realistic woman. She knew she'd never be the strongest or the fastest on this team, not with a CO who'd been black ops while she'd been sitting in physics class, a Jaffa who spent most of his time slowing himself to let the rest of them catch up, and a boy who was already physically stronger than she was and whose brain seemed to have no limits.
At the entrance to the mothership, there was another group of guards. She glanced at the colonel. He held out a hand, saying, "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Jack and Sam over..."
She laughed aloud. But the colonel was grinning, too, and their tandem clothesline took out all of the Serpent Guards, armor and all, so she was definitely allowed some laughing.
"This way," she said, pointing down the hallway, excitement pumping through her veins. They were unstoppable. "We'll set the C-4 on a five minute timer. After the cooling system goes down, it should take at least ten minutes, no more than twelve, for the power core to go critical. That gives us about fifteen minutes to get back to the Stargate after planting the--"
Footsteps sounded ahead of them.
On reflex, Sam shrank back against a wall and peered carefully around the corner. It was just two Jaffa, though, which they could take out easily, and they were carrying...
Ooh! Wow--was that...?
"It takes two guys to carry that?" Colonel O'Neill was saying, looking out from behind her.
"That's weapons-grade naquadah, sir," she whispered eagerly. "It's extremely dense. Do you know how many naquadah reactors a single bar like that could power?"
"No," the colonel said.
"A lot," she breathed. "Sir...I'd like to--"
"Give me your C-4," he said, waving her along. "We'll meet back here. Which way do I go?"
"Down this hall, sir," she said. "The force shield should be near the end there." Grinning, she tossed him her blocks of C-4 and sprinted down the corridor.
Just for fun, she ran circles around the two Jaffa and their bar of naquadah first. They dropped the bar and turned, looking for her--in vain, of course, because they were moving like snails. She stopped for an instant to wave at them--
--and swayed, suddenly dizzy. "Whoa," she said aloud.
But then a fist headed toward her face--which was unacceptable--and she dodged easily, shoving the two Jaffa toward the wall of the ship. They both made crunching noises as they hit the wall, but they stayed down.
Sam took a second to wipe sweat from her face. When had it gotten so hot?
Never mind--the colonel was probably planting the C-4 right now, or maybe even done already. She regarded the litter the naquadah had been sitting on and forcibly bent it around the bar, hitching it up so she could carry it like a sack. To her relief, it still felt...not light, certainly, but nothing she couldn't handle.
She gritted her teeth and gripped her load more securely. This was ridiculous--she'd been benching hundreds of pounds easily last night, and that had been only about six hours after the start of the experiment. Even ultra-high purity weapons-grade naquadah shouldn't be a problem.
Another Jaffa appeared around the corner. With an effort--why was this so hard?--she hefted the entire load of naquadah and swung it into the side of the Serpent Guard's head. He went down hard.
The colonel zipped into sight just as she reached their rendezvous point. "Uh...sir," she said, breathing harder than she'd realized, and then, once she started thinking about it, she realized she was getting kind of lightheaded, too. But they were almost done--just needed to get home and get a snack. Her blood sugar must be low. "I got...the..."
"All right," the colonel said. "Fifteen minutes, Major. Let's go!"
"Y-yes, sir," she said, but then the sack of naquadah slipped off her shoulder. "Wait...sir--"
He was already off. Sam staggered into the wall of the ship, the sack slipping through her fingers. Focus, Carter--just go! With a final effort, she pushed away and took a step.
The world spun around her. She heard a thump, and it was only when she opened her eyes that she realized she was lying on the ground, that she'd been the one who'd made that thump--oh, god, everything was aching, like...like when she was sick, or...
Sam tried to raise her head. She failed.
"Major Carter!" The colonel's face appeared over her. "What's going on?"
She strained every muscle she could strain and finally managed, "C-can't move..."
She raised her arm a few inches as he held out a hand to help her up. As she watched, a pressure on her arm released. The armband fell to the floor.
The last thing Sam heard was the sound of the colonel calling her name.
15 September 2000; PX9-757; 1130 hrs
Teal'c stepped into the mothership and looked cautiously around. His symbiote was still, perhaps sensing that they were in the midst of a battle, while strength flowed through his veins.
It had been years now since he had been forced to fight a battle on his own, without his friends at his side or without knowing that they were doing their own part, in concert with him. It was strange to discover that he was no longer accustomed to facing enemy Jaffa without his Tau'ri brothers and sisters at his side, but the knowledge of how to do so resided in his very bones.
O'Neill and Major Carter had been brutal with these Jaffa. As Teal'c stepped over a broken body, he wondered whether his friends knew what they were doing at all. The manner in which these Jaffa died was irrelevant--if they succeeded, all of the Serpent Guards here would be dead soon enough--but this was not their usual way.
Filling their roles in their place, Teal'c crept quietly through the halls, following the path of bodies and twisted limbs to locate his friends.
Ahead, the familiar sound of armored footsteps made him slow. Teal'c primed his zat'nik'tel and rounded a corner.
"Hak kree!" someone called, still some distance away.
Knowing that the Serpent Guard could be challenging no one but O'Neill or Major Carter, Teal'c sped toward the voice.
"All right," O'Neill's voice responded. "You got us--don't kree!"
Running around another corner, Teal'c finally saw two Serpent Guards standing in the intersection, their staff weapons aimed down another corridor. Teal'c raised his zat'nik'tel and fired. The first fell immediately. He aimed for the second and hit, but not before the other Jaffa had had a chance to fire his weapon.
Teal'c ran forward to see what damage had occurred. He stopped when he found Major Carter lying on the ground with O'Neill bent over her, but a closer inspection showed that she had not been shot; her armband had been removed.
"It seems my assistance is required after all," Teal'c said, feeling abruptly that his friends were truly young indeed. The tables had been thoroughly rotated upon them now.
"Yes," O'Neill said, straightening. "Thank you."
Major Carter stirred. Teal'c noted that O'Neill still wore his armband, then quickly bent to help her. "What happened?" she said weakly.
Teal'c turned as he heard the sound of footsteps approaching.
"Your armband came off, Major," O'Neill said briskly. "Talk later--we gotta move. Teal'c, get her out of here, back to the 'gate. I'll hold them off and meet you there."
Major Carter began to sit up. Teal'c reached down and dragged her up, pulling her along with him before she had time to find her footing. He looked back as they rounded a corner and saw Jaffa falling faster than he could follow, O'Neill merely a blur. "Come," Teal'c said, pulling Major Carter along with him when she stumbled.
"Teal'c," she said, holding tightly to him and pulling herself along with him. "God, I'm so sorry--we must have been--"
"Enough," Teal'c said. "We must run quickly."
"Oh, god," she said, even as she found her footing, "if we hadn't met up with you--the mountain's gonna explode, and you wouldn't have known, Teal'c, we almost--and we killed--"
"Enough!" he repeated sharply. "You are a warrior, Major Carter--remember it now!"
She gripped his arm tighter for a moment, then straightened fully and took more of her own weight from him, breathing hard as she ran. She stumbled again, and he wrapped an arm more securely around her waist.
Major Carter glanced back as they reached the open entrance. "I see him," she said. Teal'c turned as well to see a blur heading in their direction through the emptied corridor. "Let's go."
They stopped, and Teal'c turned around to see O'Neill collapse to the ground. Letting go of Major Carter, he returned to assist, only to be repulsed by a barrier less than a single pace from O'Neill's unmoving form. "They must have raised the defenses only now," Teal'c observed, pressing experimentally against the barrier in a fruitless attempt to find an opening. "O'Neill!"
"Colonel!" Major Carter added, running to join him. "Sir, you have to get up--no, no, Teal'c, his armband's come off. Colonel, wake up!"
With a groan, O'Neill raised his head slightly, and then rolled over onto his back. "Oy," he said.
"Sir, we've got--about three and a half minutes before the C-4 goes," Major Carter said anxiously, crouching near the ground. "If you don't get up, you'll die!"
"Why?" O'Neill said, sounding as though he were still partially asleep.
"Because you have been unwise," Teal'c snapped. "There is a control panel near you. Can you reach the crystals within?"
Finally, O'Neill forced himself to his feet. At the same time, Major Carter moved away and toward the wall as well. "Colonel, if you can get it open, Teal'c and I can talk you through--"
"Don't think that's gonna happen, Carter," O'Neill said, pulling on the panel covering the internal circuits. He used the butt of a fallen Jaffa's staff weapon to beat at the covering, then shook his head, saying, "There's not enough time. Get out--both of you get out."
"Sir, no," Major Carter protested.
"Major, that's an order!" O'Neill barked.
"No," Teal'c said. When O'Neill's gaze turned angrily upon him, he said, "You have been relieved of duty. Until General Hammond restores you to your positions, I am in command of SG-1 and you will do as I say. Open the control panel, O'Neill!"
O'Neill growled wordlessly, then redoubled his efforts at the panel. "Dammit, Teal'c!" he snarled even as he swung the weapon at the casing.
"Carter, get out of here!"
"No, sir!" she yelled back.
Finally, part of the panel slipped out of place. Immediately, O'Neill grabbed the edges with his fingers, snapping it open and pulling out the drawer of crystals within. "All right, what the hell do I do with this?"
And because O'Neill had, in the words of General Hammond, become stupid and had not yet regained his senses, he aimed his weapon as if to shoot the crystals.
"Sir, no!" Major Carter shouted, just in time. "Just find the power regulator and pull it out--if there's nothing feeding it, it'll have to collapse. Or...well, possibly blow up, but, but--" she added as O'Neill whirled toward her in alarm--"it's the best chance at destabilizing the circuit sufficiently and safely without trying to determine--"
"A-ah! Just...which one is--"
"The blue one!"
O'Neill grimaced and reached in to pull out the correct crystal. The entire panel sparked violently as he moved away, and O'Neill reeled back, covering his eyes with one arm. As he did, Teal'c saw a flash of energy in the space separating them, and the shield fell. "O'Neill, you are free! We must leave immediately!"
As they ran through the tunnel in the mountain that would lead them out and toward the Stargate, Teal'c heard footsteps behind him. As he raised his zat'nik'tel to fire upon two approaching Serpent Guards, a shudder rolled through the mountain around them. O'Neill staggered to his knees and Major Carter steadied herself on the wall of the tunnel. The two Jaffa pursuing them had fallen. Teal'c dragged O'Neill to his feet, and they continued onward before their pursuers could recover.
"Nine minutes," Major Carter panted as they ran through the brush and toward the Stargate.
"Uh-huh," O'Neill managed.
Teal'c looked back and saw both of them staggering with exhaustion. "Hurry," he said. Major Carter raised a hand as she ran as if to say they were trying. "When we near the Stargate, cover yourselves and wait for my order." O'Neill looked up at the wording but did not correct him, perhaps because he did not seem to have any additional breath with which to protest.
Five minutes, then four, then three...
He left O'Neill and Major Carter behind ruined stone pillars for protection and ran toward the Stargate. A priming staff weapon sounded from the side, and Teal'c ducked around the DHD. Immediately, he raised his zat'nik'tel and shot two the Jaffa easily, but he knew now that reinforcements would be arriving soon.
As he began to dial the address of Earth--two minutes--he glanced around to make sure his friends were still safe. Both of them had held their position and were watching him cautiously. Teal'c finished quickly, opened the wormhole, and dialed the SG-1 identification code.
He took Major Carter by one arm and O'Neill by the other. He could feel the ground beginning to tremble as they fled toward the Stargate--
15 September 2000; Embarkation Room, SGC; 1150 hrs
Jack and Sam tumbled through the Stargate and collapsed onto the ramp. Teal'c stood watch until the wormhole disengaged behind him, then turned back around to nod to General Hammond.
Daniel started up the ramp, the general beside him. He held out his left hand to help Sam to her feet, wincing when she also pulled on his still-sore right arm. Before he could ask if they were hurt, Jack, still lying on the ramp, said quickly to the general, "Just remember, I retired! You wanted me back!"
"Are you okay?" Daniel asked her, deciding that Jack sounded just fine.
"Will be," Sam said breathlessly. She looked rather shaky but very much alive.
Teal'c looked around smugly. "I am very well," the Jaffa said.
Still holding one of Sam's arms, Daniel looked at it, then pulled the other arm around, searching both for any sign that the armband had left anything behind--puncture marks, bruises, scratches, anything. He sighed aloud in relief when he couldn't see anything. She stood still, her expression apprehensive, and let him pull her limbs this way and that without resisting. Daniel let go.
"The damn armbands fell off!" Jack said angrily.
And then the relief turned into something a little less steady, because they'd only beenon the planet for less than a half-hour, and if the armbands had fallen off, that meant that his team--all of them--had almost suffered the same fate as the Atanik warriors. Daniel turned around to Anise, who said, "I am sorry."
"Were you successful in destroying the ship?" General Hammond asked. He was talking to Teal'c, Daniel noticed, not to Jack or Sam.
"Indeed we were, General Hammond," Teal'c answered.
"You left the armbands behind?" Anise spoke up. Several eyes darted toward her.
"We had other things on our mind," Sam said.
Daniel watched to see Anise's reaction, but she only said, "Understandable. And Colonel?" Jack paused in pushing himself to his feet. Freya took control and continued, "Anise and I both hope we can work together again in the future."
"Both of you?" Jack said, his voice just barely less than scornful, and then only because he sounded too tired to give it more emotion than that. "Can't wait."
"Report to the infirmary," the general said.
"Ah...General," Jack said as he and Sam started down the ramp, "about that...impending court-martial..."
"You were under the influence of an alien technology, Colonel," the general said, looking more relieved than annoyed. "That's a pretty solid defense."
"Even so," Jack insisted, looking as contrite as he ever had, "I'm sorry."
"Me, too," Sam said.
Daniel glanced at Teal'c, who stood straighter and walked down the ramp. "I have no need to apologize," the Jaffa said.
"Teal'c was following orders," General Hammond told Jack, pointing again toward the side door, where Janet stood waiting, as if to make sure they didn't take any detours on the way to the infirmary.
"Right. Of course," Jack sighed, following Teal'c out of the 'gate room.
When it was only Anise and General Hammond left standing in the 'gate room with him, Daniel started to shuffle sideways down the ramp. Before he could escape, though, the general said, "Mr. Jackson, wait for me in my office. I'll be with you as soon as I send Anise back to Vorash."
"Yes, sir," Daniel said, resigned to seeing his friends later.
As it turned out, though, Teal'c was waiting there, too. "It was close, wasn't it?" Daniel asked quietly as he heard the Stargate begin to spin in the distance.
"Extremely," Teal'c said simply.
Daniel nodded, sitting and clasping his hands in his lap. "Thank you, Teal'c."
"There is no need for thanks. What of the Tok'ra High Council?"
"I didn't really deal with them; Martouf met us." He pushed his glasses higher and admitted, "I might have messed up. A lot. I was...angry, and I might have gone too far."
"That's why I sent you, Mr. Jackson, instead of simply briefing SG-14," General Hammond said, entering and waving him back into his seat when he started to stand, "in addition to the fact that I didn't have time to brief SG-14 fully, or I wouldn't have had you wrangle with them by yourself. I trust you didn't tell them outright that we were cutting off relations?"
"No, sir, I--I didn't," Daniel said, "although..." He winced. "I think I came pretty close."
The general nodded, taking his seat. "Well, since SG-14 hasn't come back quite yet, I'll assume negotiations are still in progress."
"We really need this alliance, General," he said. "There's a lot they can do that's way beyond us. Just in terms of intelligence alone...we don't want to lose their friendship." The war they'd inadvertently started with the Goa'uld a few years ago was escalating alarmingly, and they would need every ally they could find.
"And they need us at least as much, judging from recent experience," the general answered. "But I was perfectly serious--I will not enter into an alliance as the lesser party for them to use." When Daniel opened his mouth again, he continued, "Teal'c, the first time SG-1 met the Tok'ra, what did they say about us?"
"They did not believe unblended humans could be of any service to the Tok'ra," Teal'c said promptly. "They thought humans were neither strong enough nor advanced enough."
"I understand that's almost word-for-word," the general said. "They've spent thousands of years thinking we're nothing but potential Goa'uld slaves or people not even fit to be 'of service' to them. I'm not about to let this relationship slip back down that slope, and if I have to be harsh to ensure it doesn't happen, I'll do it."
Daniel nodded. "Okay, but with respect, I just don't think it would be a good idea to try to...to strong-arm them like this often in the future. I think I caught Martouf off-guard just by mentioning Sam, but next time they'll push back if we push them."
General Hammond considered him thoughtfully, then said, "I agree. Now, what about the mission? The Tok'ra still deny it was planned?"
"Yes, sir. If you want my opinion..."
"I do," the general said.
"Councilor Ren'al might have known about it beforehand, and maybe other members of the Council, too, but I only spoke with Ren'al," Daniel said. "I don't think Anise or Freya knew."
"Based on what?"
"Well, I spoke to her several times concerning her work on the Ataniks, including some methods of data retrieval that we'd consider potentially unethical. She's very unapologetic about her methods; I don't think she'd lie outright."
The general's expression didn't reveal whether or not he agreed, but he said, "All right. And the others?"
"Martouf didn't seem to know"--and Daniel preferred to think Martouf wouldn't have let it happen--"but he's also just returned today from a long mission. It's possible only a few people were involved in the...uh...manipulation."
"We'll see what SG-14 says when they return. I want you in that meeting, Mr. Jackson--just for today," he added when Daniel felt himself make a face. "Now. Go ahead and visit Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter. Teal'c, I need the full story from you first."
So Daniel stood and left while Teal'c stayed to recount whatever had happened with Apophis's ship. Daniel was just happy about the part in which it had blown up without his friends inside.
15 September 2000; Level 25 Guest Room, SGC; 2000 hrs
Janet let them leave the infirmary by evening, though they were stuck on base for at least the next day or until everything in their bodies was back to normal. Sam found Daniel inside the room she'd been assigned for the night. At first, she thought she'd walked into the wrong room, but then he said, "Are you going to bed?"
"Yeah," she said.
"I just wanted to check that you're okay," he said.
"Oh," she said.
He stood chewing his lip for a moment, and then said, "So...are you okay?"
"Oh!" she said again. "Uh, yeah."
"Mm-hm," he said. "Well. Janet says you'll be really tired for a while, so if you need--"
"I'm fine, Daniel!" she snapped.
Daniel paused on his way out and tilted his head, studying her. "Okay," he said.
"Oh, god," she groaned, moving to sit on the bed. "I'm sorry. I'm just..."
Her eyes were drooping closed already. The part of her mind that wasn't asleep yet told her that Daniel was still there somewhere, because she'd have heard a door close otherwise. The part of her mind that was already trying to sleep was winning out, though, and she leaned sideways, intending to flop into her pillow.
She couldn't even do that right, because Daniel was sitting right next to her and her head landed on his shoulder. "Oh, you must want to sleep now," Daniel said, shifting away. "Sorry, I should've realized--I'll move."
Sam opened her eyes and grabbed his arm. He stopped, staring at the hand on his wrist but not moving. "If I'd done that this morning," she murmured, looking at her fingers as they curled around his arm, "your bones would have been crushed."
Daniel started to peel her fingers away--well, now he could, since she wasn't strong as hell anymore--but then stopped and covered her hand with his instead. "You didn't do anything wrong, Sam," he said. She huffed a weak laugh. "Well, okay, but it wasn't your fault."
"Mea culpa," she said, recalling the words from ritual, from church, years and years ago.
"Culpa tua non est," Daniel said after a pause. He looked puzzled about why they were speaking in Latin, but he continued anyway, "Fortasse propter te, sed sunt Tok'ra qui in culpa sunt. Tok'ra ne quidem, quod--"
"I lost you at the first 'culpa,'" she told him tiredly.
"Oh," he said, and he shut up but didn't let go of her.
"I haven't gone to confession in a long time," she said aloud, remembering the wet, squelching sounds her arm had made as she destroyed a Jaffa's ribcage even through the armor to crush the organs within, the scream of terror as she'd pushed a man over the bar in O'Malley's while she and the colonel laughed. Daniel didn't say anything for a while, so she explained, "That's a...I grew up Catholic, and it's like a...a kind of ritual in--"
"I know what it is," he said, because he did things like reading religious books for fun. She wasn't looking at him, but she could hear guilt in his voice and was too tired to try to figure out why. "Sam, you don't need to... It's okay. Okay? Just go to sleep. You'll feel better when you've rested and the...the chemicals in your blood aren't all over the place."
"We could have killed you," she said. "By the end...God, I would've killed anyone who got in our way and barely even felt bad about it."
"You could have died, too," Daniel said. "Don't forget that. You were drugged, okay?"
"It felt really good," she said, dropping her head back onto Daniel's shoulder and wishing despite all reason--and she had about ten logical reasons--that she still had that armband.
An arm wrapped around her back. "Well...I guess it was a very...happy drug, then. But that doesn't mean you were more at fault. Maybe it just feels worse now because it felt good before."
"I'm a scientist," she said.
"That doesn't make you omniscient, Sam; you know better than that."
"But I should've known to...to wait until we had more data. I should have questioned it."
Daniel wasn't looking at her. She suspected that meant that he agreed. Sam sighed, closing her eyes again. She was almost asleep on his shoulder when she felt a light press of lips on her head and heard him say softly, "Te absolvo a peccatis tuis pro fratribus tuis. All right?"
Her first thought was to wonder just how much of the specifics of Earth religions Daniel was learning, but then she realized he hadn't said it right. She might not know Latin, and she might not have gone to church or prayed to that one God in a long time, but she'd heard the formula enough during her childhood to know what it was supposed to sound like. "What happened to in nomine patris et filii--"
"Well, I'm not speaking on behalf of your god, Sam."
"But then I don't know what you said," she complained.
"Just...if you feel that you need to confess something, then I forgive you, and everyone else who matters forgives you, too."
"All right," she settled.
"It sounds pretty in Latin."
He let out a laugh. "Okay," he said. A moment later, he squirmed a little and said, "Do you, uh, want to get off me now?"
"Mmph," Sam said into his arm. "'Night, Daniel."
"Get off me, Sam."
"Okay," she said, sliding forward. That was the wrong direction, though, and she landed with her head in his lap, then blinked up at him. "I'm really...really tired." It took far too much effort just to say those words without slurring them.
"Yeah," Daniel said with an amused smile. "Janet said you would be. Um." He picked up her head and deposited it on the pillow, slipping out from under her as he did.
"Don't suppose you'd take off my boots, too," she mumbled into the pillow, only half kidding.
After a moment, she looked up to see him looking at her feet in consternation. They were all rather unapologetic when they needed to change or wash quickly in the field--especially Daniel, who had once been used to running around in little more than a loincloth on Abydos--but as soon as they were on base, he became more modest than even the Tau'ri, at least around women. He was such an odd mixture of clinical objectivity, the taboos and morals he'd been raised with, and the ones he'd absorbed on Earth.
Still, he bent, undid her laces, quickly pulled the boots off, then backed away. "Okay, but I'm not undressing you any more than that," he said, setting the shoes down on the floor.
Sam began to giggle uncontrollably.
"What?" Daniel said, turning bright red.
"Yeah, let's not do that," she agreed, getting a grip on herself. He reached the door and started to pull it open but hovered uncertainly. "Good night, Daniel," she said.
That seemed to be the signal he was waiting for, and he gave her a quick smile, then flicked off the light and left.
15 September 2000; Level 25 Guest Room, SGC; 2000 hrs
Teal'c was waiting when Jack found his way into his assigned room. "So," Jack said.
"O'Neill," Teal'c answered.
He didn't say anything else. Jack pulled open a drawer, just because it was there, then closed it again since there was nothing interesting inside. "So..." he repeated, stalling before he had to get yelled at by a Jaffa. "What's happening with the Tok'ra?"
"SG-14 has reported that they were successful in strengthening the language of our proposed treaty," Teal'c said. "Anise sent a message with them to say that she was sorry for the effects of this experiment and considers herself to be in our debt."
"Really," Jack said. "The Tok'ra--in our debt?"
"I believe Anise was speaking on behalf of herself, not the High Council. She is willing to make herself available to us should we request aid from the Tok'ra."
Jack wished she would just make herself scarce, instead, but debts to them were good in his book. Still, he was pretty sure he'd be happy if he never saw her again. He stuck his hands into his pockets, hoping he could just go to sleep and put off the rest until tomorrow...
Actually, no--he had something to say to Teal'c, too. "What the hell was that, out there?"
"Of what do you speak?" Teal'c said with his unbearable calm.
"You know perfectly well of what I speak," Jack retorted.
Teal'c didn't deny it. "I was preventing Major Carter from being forced to disobey a direct order," he said.
"You should've ordered her to get the hell out of there!"
"She would not have obeyed."
"You should've gotten the hell out of there--she would've obeyed if it meant keeping you alive!"
Teal'c didn't bother answering that. Jack glared at him for a moment, then decided to save what pride he had left and sit down on his bed before he fell down on the floor. "You would not have known how to disable the shield without the expertise of Major Carter," Teal'c said. "We could not leave and allow you to die needlessly."
"You could've died," Jack snapped.
"We did not," Teal'c said.
Which wasn't the point.
"That is the point, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
"For cryin' out loud," Jack sighed, flopping backward on the bed with his fists over gritty eyes. After a moment, he dropped his hands away. "Look, Teal'c," he said. "I know yesterday and today I was sort of being an asshole--"
"Would you let me finish!" Jack said, exasperated.
Teal'c stopped and waited.
"Well, now I lost my train of thought," Jack said.
"There is nothing to forgive, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
"Who says I was gonna ask for forgiveness?" Jack said halfheartedly.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "You were not going to ask," he said.
Jack rubbed his arm where he'd already gotten used to the feel of the Atanik armband. It was different for Carter--if he screwed up, he was the commander who'd put his own people at risk and needed his people to pull his ass out of the fire because he'd been too busy grinning like a madman while killing Jaffa barehanded.
"Nonetheless," Teal'c said, "you are forgiven."
"I thought you said there was nothing to forgive," Jack said.
"Do you feel that there is?"
Jack sighed. "Thanks," he said quietly. "You're not gonna make me call you 'sir' from now on, are you?" he added, because, while he knew it had been reasonable, it had stung to hear that he'd been removed from his command, even for less than an hour.
"You are known already among the free Jaffa as my disciple," Teal'c said, then turned and walked out the door.
"Wh--wait," Jack said indignantly. "Hey--Teal'c!" Teal'c turned around and raised his damn eyebrow again. Jack considered getting up and...something. Except that, at the moment, Teal'c would probably just pound him into the floor if he tried anything, and he really didn't feel like getting up right now anyway. "Whatever," he said.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed, and turned off the light as he left.
"Sparkage?" Daniel repeated, looking confused. "What does that mean?"
"Old flames," Jack tried. "Carrying a torch...never heard those?"
"Can you people not gossip about Teal'c's sex life in my office?" Rothman said, making a face.
Daniel's Latin: rough translations
1. "Culpa tua non est. Fortasse propter te, sed sunt Tok'ra qui in culpa sunt. Tok'ra ne quidem, quod--": "It's not your fault. Because of you, perhaps, but it's the Tok'ra who are at fault. Not even the Tok'ra, since--"
2. "Te absolvo a peccatis tuis pro fratribus tuis.": "I forgive you your sins on behalf of your brothers." (A play on the very traditional absolution, in which 'pro fratribus tuis' would have been replaced by 'in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti,' 'in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit')