Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Chapter 12: The Unas
14 December 2000; SGC; 1330 hrs
Jack stormed into the locker room. Teal'c was already there, dressed and staring at SG-2 as if it would make them gear up faster. "Hurry the hell up," Jack growled, looking them over, making sure he knew who each man was.
Coburn was by-the-book, solid, not the kind to take risks, and Pierce was an SGC veteran. Griff would swear first, shoot at the same time, and screw asking questions, but he'd have a good reason for it. Freeman was faster to act and to jump in--too fast, maybe, but he had experience, and too fast wasn't fast enough this time, not with Daniel already missing for more than three goddamn hours and an Unas dragging him around.
Maybe more importantly, SG-2 had volunteered for the search-and-rescue. Jack suspected they felt bad for being the first team apart from SG-1 to have let the underage civilian get wounded off-world, but if residual guilt made them fight harder, so be it.
"Ready, sir," Coburn said, and Jack didn't wait another second to push his way out the door, Teal'c's presence behind him and the patter of SG-2's boots on the floor.
Carter was already in the 'gate room when they arrived, and the event horizon shimmered in the 'gate. "UAV has launched, sir," she said, standing stiffly, only her wide eyes betraying how worried she was.
"Listen up!" Jack barked, stepping to the top of the ramp and squashing his own terror into enough fury to fuel them through what was going to be a long trek and possibly a long fight at the end. "This is going to have to serve as your mission briefing. Daniel Jackson has been dragged off by a creature called an 'Unas.' This is search and rescue. Any questions?"
"Uh--" A familiar and unwelcome voice came from the side door as Dr. Rothman strode in, carrying a vest and pack in his arms. "Yes, I have one. When exactly were you going to tell me when we were leaving?"
Jack was still stuck on the thought that he'd let Daniel leave with Rothman and Rothman had lost him, so he said, very clearly, "I wasn't."
Rothman looked surprised at first, and then just as indignant as he said, "Oh."
But then Jack remembered that Rothman had sprinted for three hours to get word back to them, so he nodded to Hammond in the control room and included the archaeologist in his glare when he ordered, "Move out!"
14 December 2000; SGC; 1600 hrs
Daniel decided that that was definitely an Unas.
He experienced a moment of insanity in which he regretted the fact that this was clearly not a Goa'ulded Unas, because then he'd at least have been able to talk to it. Then he realized that a Goa'uld symbiote would have made the Cimmeria Unas stronger, and even then, according to the reports, Teal'c had kind of--almost--been able to push it around. After it had been shot, anyway.
The point was that this Unas might be less strong. Daniel tested his theory by tugging on the rope the Unas was holding--
Breath fled his lungs as he was yanked forward to sprawl on the ground. "Never mind," he wheezed once he regained enough breath to speak, because it might be stupid to waste his breath on talking, but he was being dragged by the hands behind an incredibly strong monster and he had no idea how long he'd been unconscious or where Robert and SG-11 were, so--
"Do you...want to talk?" Daniel said, still panting. "Please?"
The Unas growled, lunging toward him. Daniel curled back up and raised his hands as much as he could over his head. When nothing struck him, he peeked out to see the Unas baring its teeth, looming but not touching him.
"That's aggressive body language," Daniel informed it, settling back into what he hoped counted as a submissive posture. "But that was, uh...probably your intention." He turned his head slowly around to see what was behind him--trees--and around them--trees--then turned back to the Unas.
The Unas made a sound low in its throat. Daniel thought it sounded like a trill originating somewhere that might be physiologically impossible for humans to produce.
"Grrr," he tried. The Unas was unimpressed. Trying to work moisture into his dry mouth, Daniel cleared his throat and trilled as low and as far back as he could.
He didn't manage anything past his uvula aside from an odd, gargled sound, but the Unas backed up a step, its eyes opening wide and its mouth forming what, in a human, Daniel would have called an expression of surprise.
Daniel ended in a cough. "I'm thirsty," he said defensively when the Unas narrowed its eyes at him. "And I can't walk this fast and still...have enough breath to sustain that kind of...pressure in my oral tract. I'd try for...epiglottal if I were better rested and...not thirsty."
The Unas blinked at him.
"Can we rest here?" he said, raising his hands slowly, palms down as far as he could turn them while tied so tight his wrists hurt, and gestured down toward the ground. "Rest. Sa'djiri. Rest."
The Unas growled again. Daniel growled back. The Unas looked shocked.
Daniel thought belatedly that it might be a bad idea to growl at someone stronger than he while tied up by the hands, aching all over from being dragged however far he'd been dragged, and unable to see clearly. The Unas only tilted its head, though, and stared at him. It reminded Daniel of the way Robert had studied him when they'd first met: like some odd, never-before-seen specimen.
Then he looked back down at his hands, which were not only bound by sturdy rope (one could buy rope on Earth, but they made what they needed on Abydos, so Daniel knew it wasn't simple to make rope like this) but also fastened with a complicated knot that he wouldn't have thought the Unas's strong fingers could tie, especially with one of its hands bleeding.
"I know you're intelligent," Daniel said, looking at the Unas's necklace and clothes. "Why haven't we met before? Oh! Uh, actually, I have friends who'd like to meet you..."
Making sure to keep his eyes slightly lowered from the Unas's stare, he slowly reached a hand into his pocket. As his fingers caught on something and he struggled to pull it out, he said, "It's not a weapon. I'm not threatening you. It's not a weapon."
The Unas leaned slightly closer to him but didn't move to stop him as he finally extracted the radio. He fumbled with the buttons until he depressed the right one.
"This is Daniel Jackson," he said as calmly as he could while his heart tried to pound its way out of his chest. "If anyone can hear me, please respond and"--he glanced at the Unas, who was hovering over him--"um...come shoot my companion. Over."
He released the button and stared intently at the Unas's foot, still bent over. The Unas was starting to growl again. A line of sweat made its way down Daniel's neck.
"Please respond," Daniel said again, and he heard fear rising in his voice, so he took a deep breath and tried again. "This is Daniel Jackson. Over."
"Daniel! Where are you? Are you okay?"
Daniel straightened. "Robert! I'm--"
The Unas's knee crashed into his chest, the radio crashed into a tree, and Daniel crashed back to the ground. His captor's face hovered an inch from his own and growled something that probably meant 'shut up.' Daniel would have answered, but he was concentrating too hard on making his lungs inflate again and his head stop spinning and his stomach stop churning.
The Unas rose to its feet and jerked the leash. Daniel scrambled up again, struggling to find his footing and horrified at the thought that he might be dragged the rest of the way if he didn't get his feet under him.
They emerged at the banks of a river and came to a halt. Daniel dropped gratefully to the ground when the Unas crouched by the riverside, still holding the leash but looking like it was planning to rest.
He lay back down flat, closing his eyes for a moment simply to catch his breath.
How had they not known about the Unas here? They'd been here before--in fact, many of them had come right here or nearby to replenish water supplies--and there had been no traces of anything like an Unas anywhere. Surely they would at least have seen something? Did the Unas usually live farther away, and was that where they were going now?
It made sense, though. He and Robert had speculated that some host, perhaps an Unas, had come through the Stargate and been taken as a host. But the hosts hadn't come through the Stargate; they'd already been here and had just left through the Stargate. Why would they have thought, anyway, that an Unas on its own would have figured out how to use a device as complex as the Stargate--
Then again, Daniel remembered, opening his eyes and pulling himself up to sit, the Unas weren't exactly unintelligent animals.
Now, the Unas was squatting in a posture that reminded Daniel eerily of Teal'c when he meditated, back completely straight and eyes closed with hands resting on the knees...except that, unlike Teal'c in kelno'reem, the Unas was saying something.
"Cha'kaa," Daniel said aloud, listening closely, because he was starting to understand now--this was a language, and that was something Daniel could work with. "Cha'ka."
The Unas stopped, and its--his--head whipped around to Daniel.
"Cha'ka," Daniel repeated, louder. He raised his hands, pointing toward himself. "Daniel." Slowly, he extended his hands toward the Unas. "Chaka?"
When the Unas only continued to stare at him, it struck him that, if he hadn't realized the Unas were an intelligent species, why would the Unas believe he was an intelligent species? Maybe the Unas was surprised that he was trying to communicate, the way he'd have been in its place.
"Not your name," he decided. "Is it--"
A familiar whirr sounded from overhead. Daniel looked up to see a UAV, tempted to jump up and hope someone was monitoring its video feed, but before he could, the Unas leapt to his feet, calling, "Shesh. Shesh!"
"Shesh," Daniel repeated, standing as the slack in the leash diminished. "What is that--shesh?"
The Unas glanced at him, then back up, pointing into the sky. "Shesh! Chakaa...keka!"
Daniel followed his finger to the UAV, then back to the Unas's face, and suddenly, he realized the Unas was scared.
"It's okay!" he said, stepping in front of the Unas and keeping his voice low, as soothing as he could make it while standing in front of an agitated Unas. "They're friends. Well, not your friends, but...it's just a machine. Shh--it's okay."
The Unas didn't look away from the UAV, even as it started zooming out of sight. Hoping to distract it, Daniel held his hands together like a UAV and made a sound that he thought sounded very stupid, but it held the Unas's attention until the UAV was out of sight.
Only when they'd both quieted and the Unas was staring at Daniel did he realize he'd just watched the UAV fly overhead and pass again out of reach. If anyone was watching, he'd missed his chance to be seen.
"I'm going to call you Chaka," he said, because he couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Chaka," Chaka repeated.
"Yes, I realize it's not your name, but it's that or 'the Unas,'" Daniel said. "So tell me now if I should call you something else."
"Unas!" Chaka said, his eyes widening again. He stepped back, and from this perspective, Daniel could clearly see the chin horns that looked only partially grown out.
Remembering Robert's comment about fin spines that weren't fully grown out, Daniel said, "Are you a...an immature Unas? I'm a human. Unas. Human."
Chaka stared at him, then narrowed his eyes.
"I don't mean 'immature' as a derogatory term," Daniel clarified, taking a step back, only to be jolted forward again. "Ow. I mean...you're not an adult, are you?"
Chaka growled at him. Since this seemed to be their most productive mode of communication so far, Daniel growled back. Chaka seemed satisfied with this answer and picked up the leash. Daniel moved forward quickly to avoid being jerked, but the Unas only watched him for a moment, then turned and began walking again, tugging gently each time when he slowed.
By the time they came out of the woods, some lengths down the river, Daniel's head was throbbing, and he wasn't sure whether it was from whatever he'd hit on the way to unconsciousness, from tripping and falling too many times, from exhaustion, or from dehydration.
But he could see the river full of water, and in his desperation, he forgot again to be the submissive captive. "Hey," he croaked. Chaka kept walking, apparently used to hearing him talk by now. "Yakhai! Kree! Water! Stop!" When that failed, he dug his feet into the ground, grabbed the rope in his hands and pulled as hard as he could.
This made Chaka stop, turn around, and pull back. The rope slithered through Daniel's hands, and the burning across his palms made him drop it with a hiss. The insistent tugging started again, and, hoping to stop their inexorable movement away from the riverbank, Daniel said something that sounded like "Grrr," but considerably more pathetic.
Chaka turned again, tilted his head, and demonstrated a real roar.
Undeterred, Daniel said a firm, "No," and yanked back on his rope.
Chaka yanked him forward hard enough to bring him to his knees with a painful jolt. Then he made a sound that was suspiciously like a snort, and Daniel looked up in surprise to see what could have been a smile.
Stupid, he thought. Who was to say that an Unas's labial movements meant the same thing as a human's?
Still, on a hunch, he stood, gingerly picked up his slack of rope again, and pulled, growling loudly as he did.
This time, he let go fast enough to avoid more rope burn on his palms, and he was only jerked forward, stumbling, though his wrists complained bitterly about the preferential treatment his hands were getting. Chaka made the same sound again, and when Daniel looked up, he saw the Unas ducking his head, glancing up at him almost timidly between--
"A violent rope game," Daniel said, managing a sickly smile when Chaka looked back up at him. "Of course. You couldn't have picked something easier on the one tied up?"
Chaka tugged again, more lightly, then stopped, as if to tell him it was his turn. Daniel huffed in disbelief and reluctantly picked up the rope again, but this time, Chaka started to pull too soon, and Daniel dropped his end just fast enough to make Chaka stumble back against the unexpected lack of resistance.
"You cheated!" Daniel said, indignant before he remembered that he didn’t really want to play this game. Chaka narrowed his eyes. "I know, I cheated, too, but you cheated first."
"Unas tak," Chaka said.
Daniel had no idea what that meant, but, intrigued, he took in the slight hunch in Chaka's shoulders, the dipping of his head until he was looking up almost tentatively through lowered eyes. Taking a chance, Daniel scowled and repeated sternly, "Tak."
To his relief, Chaka didn't seem offended and instead seemed to find the answer--and the variation in the game--clever. This resulted, unfortunately, in more rounds of the game. Daniel was almost glad his hands were going numb and wished his wrists would kindly do the same.
Soon, though, even Chaka tired of it and the insistent tug came again, the one that said he was supposed to follow Chaka to wherever he was being taken.
"No, no, wait!" Daniel called desperately, and maybe the tone was enough, because Chaka stopped and turned around. Daniel pointed his hands toward the water. "Water," he said, then licked his lips and mimed drinking out of his hands. "I need water."
Chaka finally understood and led him to the riverbank.
Daniel dropped eagerly to his knees and lowered his mouth to the surface, only to find Chaka pulling him back by a shoulder. Not in the mood to play more games, Daniel looked up and saw Chaka doing just what he'd been doing before: miming drinking out of his hands.
A definite sign of communication--mimicry, but also clear comprehension and clever mimicry, using the signs that Chaka knew Daniel knew. Daniel wished he had his notebook. That made him wish his hands were free to write and use the notebook, so he held out his bound hands, hoping Chaka was a little stupider than he seemed to be and would untie him.
Unfortunately, Chaka was not that stupid and did no such thing. He did, however, drop the end of the leash to allow enough slack to drink.
Daniel had gratefully gulped a handful of murky water before he registered that Chaka had let go of the leash. The Unas was looking over the river, as if watching for intruders, and Daniel's heart sped up as the prospect of freedom loomed. He just had to get away, and then he could follow their tracks back to camp, meet up with SG-11, and report back to the SGC.
Bent over the bank, he moved his hands back down as if to scoop more water--
--then yanked the leash away and leapt to his feet, sprinting away, back into the woods.
But the woods looked the same in one direction as they did in another. Without his glasses, he could barely see the branches whipping out at him from all directions and the brush he was tripping over, much less any tracks. And Chaka was roaring--oh gods, he was angry, and Daniel's legs found strength to run and run and run, until--
He stepped out of the woods to find himself farther again down the river.
There was nowhere else to go except back to the woods or across the river, and he could swim well enough to pass Jack's requirements, but he wasn't a strong swimmer even when his hands weren't tied and his lungs and limbs weren't screaming for him to stop. Better to rely on the ground.
Then, rustling made him turn to see Chaka run out just behind him.
Running wasn't an option anymore. Between an Unas and swimming...
Daniel stepped into the river, breathing fast as much from fear as from the run. Chaka started to follow, then shied back, away from the water.
Were Unas afraid of water?
Daniel took a deep breath and kept going, backing into the water and trying not to lose his nerve when the cool water rose above his knees and reached his waist.
Then the ground dropped out from under his feet, leaving him to plunge into the water.
The shock didn't hit him until his head dipped underwater, and then he panicked. He kicked up as hard as he could, but without his hands, and wearing his boots and gear, he only reached the surface long enough to sputter for a tiny mouthful of air before his own weight pulled him back down, and every time he moved his arms, he was only pulled down more.
With every instinct telling him to go back, Daniel pressed his lips together and pushed forward, up, forward, knowing there was a shore on the other side, and he just had to reach it before he drowned.
Another brief moment at the surface--but he opened his mouth too soon and choked. His legs kicked frantically against the water to bring him to the surface while his brain urged him to go forward forward and he forced himself not to open his mouth, even when he felt himself trying to breathe.
And then his mouth opened and the river water hurt, searing into his lungs. He couldn't breathe, and now every fiber of his body was telling him to breathe again, no matter where he was, and he tried, even knowing he was in the water, he tried, and his throat wouldn't open, but his mouth did, and oh gods, he was going to die at the bottom of a river running from an Unas because he couldn'tswim well enough, and--
Something brushed past him. Still flailing to reach air, to get across, to breathe, Daniel felt his hands push something aside, and the something pushed back, nudging, nipping sharply at his shoulder, his neck, and what was that thing, there were teeth, and he couldn't see--he couldn't breathe, he couldn't see, he couldn't move move move...
And then the thing's teeth were gone, and a hand closed around his arm with crushing strength and yanked him up.
Daniel felt himself being dragged through the shallows and thrown to the ground, and he didn't care who or how or where, but there was air and a ground, and he lay trying to suck in a breath, but it was like his throat had closed and he still couldn't, couldn't breathe--
"Ka! Ka keka!"
Something lifted him up from the back and slammed him back to the ground, a hard pressure pounding onto his back as he crashed back down. Daniel jerked as air flowed though his throat, then coughed water and retched more water and choked on that until a hard grip pulled him up, flipping him over onto his side and holding him in place as his body convulsed miserably and tried to expel everything that could possibly be inside him.
Then he was shaking and too tired for the coughs still ripping through his throat, cold and faint from not breathing and then breathing too much.
Chaka's face dropped down next to his and roared, "Ka! Tak!"
Daniel dragged in another breath and let his eyes fall shut, exhausted. The hand on his arm tightened until he opened his eyes again.
Chaka's other hand was holding something near Daniel's face. It took a moment to focus on the squealing thing, but finally--
"No," Daniel choked, struggling against Chaka's grip as a Goa'uld symbiote squirmed in front of him. "Onak--na nay!"
The Goa'uld was whisked away, out of sight, and as Daniel's lungs tried to empty themselves of more water, he imagined Chaka holding the squealing symbiote at his neck, no no... He pulled again against the hand holding him in place, trying to stop coughing and crawl away--
There was a sharp crack, and the squealing stopped. Chaka pulled him roughly to flop flat on his back, and he squinted up blearily to see the Unas holding a dead symbiote, one half in each hand with thick, blue blood dripping from the rent ends.
"Ka," Chaka growled, pointing at him with a twitching Goa'uld tail.
"N-no," Daniel said faintly between gasps. "Ka. Ka. No."
"Onak," Chaka said, pointing out over the river with a Goa'uld head.
Daniel turned his head and looked, and as he watched, he saw something snake-like leap into the air, another shape behind it, until they both landed back in the water with a splash and the waters churned furiously.
The primordial Goa'uld were predators, but these were parasites, too, and they were aquatic organisms. They were still here, but the Unas knew and stayed away, and Daniel, thinking he'd learned so much about the primordial Goa'uld, had waded into their water and almost lost himself.
"Onak," Daniel heard himself say. "Goa'uld."
Chaka held half of the dead Goa'uld to his face. Daniel would have flinched if he'd had the energy. "Keka," Chaka said.
"Kek," Daniel said. There were Goa'uld words in this language. He cleared his throat and latched onto that thought, that they were communicating and he understood. "Keka. Death. Onak k-keka."
"Ka!" Chaka grabbed him by the chin, then dragged the bloody end of the symbiote across Daniel's cheek. "Onak ka keka! Unas ko keka onak!"
"Ko," Daniel said, once his face was released. "Ko keka. Ko keka...'give death.' Goa'uld not...kill. Onak ka keka Daniel. Unas ko k-keka onak."
Perhaps it was the full sentences, but that made Chaka stop, rearing back again. Daniel rolled himself back onto his side and vomited again, fighting the desire to wipe the thick Goa'uld blood from his face. He had disobeyed. He had cheated. Chaka had saved him. Now Chaka could mark him as he wished.
Those were the rules.
Chaka pulled on the rope. Daniel felt himself slide bonelessly along the ground, scrabbling weakly at the rope and the ground to push himself to his feet. Chaka growled and pulled harder. Daniel found his way up, staggered forward, caught the rope, swayed, stayed upright.
He'd gotten another chance. Chaka had saved him and marked him. He'd play by the rules. Every second he was alive was a chance.
14 December 2000; P3X-888; 2230 hrs
"They came this way," Teal'c said, bent over tracks on the ground.
Jack's anger was fading, leaving fear to start settling into his stomach. Three of SG-11 were dead, Hawkins was so screwed up he didn't even know Loder was dead when he was standing next to the body, and Rothman was running out of steam, even if he wasn't saying it. Carter had to notice his wheezing first and say, "Sir, I think we should rest."
It took a reminder that the flagging archaeologist was freaking out about Daniel just like the rest of them for Jack to agree, "All right, go to ground. Boots on, no fire. I'll take first watch."
As they walked toward the woods to set up camp, Teal'c joined him at the river's edge and said, "Did you see the tracks, O'Neill?"
"Yeah," Jack said, looking at the sets he'd labeled 'Unas' and 'Daniel.' "They were both here."
"The tracks indicate a flight. Daniel Jackson's footprints lead into the river. The Unas did not follow directly but most likely pursued by means of a land bridge not far from here."
Jack nodded stiffly. "I noticed that."
Teal'c didn't move.
"He can swim," Jack said.
"Daniel Jackson has told me that--"
"He made it across," Jack snapped, and sat down to watch over his people.
Teal'c stared down at him. Jack waited for him to point out that Daniel had grown up in a desert, the kind where they were lucky if yearly floods brought the closest river waist-high, that Daniel had learned to float in a pool and could make his way from one side to the other because Jack had made him learn enough not to be afraid of deep water...but after walking for hours at this pace, not to mention who-knew-what injuries he might have, and with an Unas on his trail...
"We will rest tonight," Teal'c said finally. "We must increase our pace in the morning and be prepared to render aid when we find Daniel Jackson."
"Yeah," Jack said, grateful for the pragmatism and not wanting to imagine what state Daniel would be in when they found him. He found he couldn't care much at the moment, as long as that state wasn't 'dead.' "Go kelno'reem. We're going to need your strength when we catch up to the Unas."
Teal'c disappeared into the woods.
He checked his watch. They'd been on the planet two hours when they'd gotten a frantic voice on the radio, which had been maybe six hours ago, and Rothman had made the run from the dig site to the SGC in three hours...
Too much time had passed.
Rothman said night here was short in this season--it'd be dark for about six and a half hours. Hawkins hadn't confirmed or disagreed, but Hawkins couldn't confirm his own first name right now. Six hours. They'd be up and on their way as soon as the sun came out again.
14 December 2000; P3X-888; 2400 hrs
Daniel wondered if he was going to throw up again. His stomach assured him it was willing to do so, despite having thoroughly emptied itself at the river. His head threatened to fall off if he moved another inch. His brain thought he should move and not sit shivering against the wall of a cave. He told his brain to shut up.
Chaka wasn't holding his leash anymore or even sitting close by as he flicked sparking stones together and coaxed a fire to life. Daniel tried to imagine grabbing his leash, getting up, and running. His imagination didn't get past the 'getting up' part. He supposed Chaka knew that.
In the end, he didn't have a choice. Chaka threw wood onto his fire until it was strong enough that Daniel was considering crawling toward it, just a little. He'd just unfolded his legs from in front of himself and was starting to think about how to get up without moving his back too much when Chaka walked toward him, picked up his leash, and pointed to the fire.
"Yeah," Daniel rasped through a throat that still felt raw. "I was just thinking that." He hoped Chaka would drag him over.
"Ka cha," Chaka said, tugging with a force that was probably gentle for an Unas. Daniel fell over and reflected that he was about half a body-length closer to the fire now.
Chaka grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him upright, then half-carried him to sit next to the fire. Daniel leaned close to the wonderful heat and closed his eyes, thinking that falling asleep right here wouldn't be so bad, even though he knew it was a bad idea.
But leaning close made him smell something far too familiar, and he peeled open his eyes to discover that roasting Goa'uld symbiote flesh smelled a lot like burned human flesh.
Nausea was rearing its head again. He hoped Chaka wasn't cooking the Goa'uld because he wanted to eat it. Of course, there weren't many other reasons to cook a Goa'uld.
"Nan," Chaka said, tossing the symbiote's head at his feet.
Daniel stared at it. 'Onak' was the same in the Unas language as it was in the Goa'uld, and Chaka wasn't there to give him vocabulary lessons, so 'nan' was probably an order. And since the symbiote head had just been cooked...
"Not hungry," Daniel said. He leaned back and was glad to find a wall behind him. "Ka. Daniel ka nan." He was still thirsty, though, which was ridiculous after he'd almost drowned himself.
Stupid. He should be thankful Chaka had saved him.
Chaka didn't like that answer. He picked up the symbiote head and held it close to Daniel's face, where its scent wafted unfortunately close to Daniel's nose. "Nan!" he repeated.
Daniel tried to take a breath to repeat his answer and choked on a cough instead, his chest still aching and his throat still remarkably dry for all he'd done to drown himself today. When he recovered and looked up, the symbiote head was on the ground and Chaka was gone.
A sudden, irrational panic swept over Daniel at the thought of being left here alone, bound and tired, without Chaka to watch over him. It wasn't until Chaka's reappearance in one of the tunnels brought a sense of relief that he realized he'd never even entertained the notion of running and had thoroughly mixed up something in his priorities and alliances.
"Not," Daniel told Chaka, "that I'd have gotten far, anyway."
Chaka gave him one of the narrow-eyed looks that seemed to mean he was trying to understand what Daniel was talking about.
"Never mind," Daniel sighed. "Where were you? Kel?"
In answer, Chaka held out his hand, which was holding a small stone bowl. "You made that? It's nice," he said, then saw the water inside. "Is that for me? Please say it's for me."
"Ko," Chaka said, pushing it toward him.
Daniel raised his hands to accept it as well as he could with no slack in the rope and his hands cold and almost unfeeling by now. One of Chaka's hands stayed around the bowl. "I'm not really comfortable with this," Daniel said before he tried to take a sip. "Are you going to eat me? Because if you are, this is a very odd--"
The bowl was lifted to his lips. Daniel grabbed it tight to make sure it didn't tip back too fast into his mouth and start choking him again. He'd had enough of that for one day.
The water disappeared before he could take a second sip. He heard himself actually whine when Chaka pulled it away and set it down out of reach. Chaka whipped back around and growled disapprovingly at him for being a baby. Daniel shut up.
But then the symbiote head was back. "Naan," Chaka insisted, picking up the other half of the symbiote and biting a chunk off.
Daniel grimaced and picked up the hot, roasted head, noting that the jaw structure of this one was much closer to modern Goa'uld than what they'd seen in the fossils. It had the same eyes as the System Lords, though, and they were staring at him, so he turned the symbiote head around and looked at the ripped end instead, which wasn't much of an improvement.
"If I weren't so appalled at the thought," Daniel tried to explain to Chaka, "I'd be interested in the symbolism--the Goa'uld have preyed on people like us for years, and now you eat Goa'uld."
Chaka spat out what looked suspiciously like the vestigial pelvic spurs of his symbiote.
"Right," Daniel said, staring. "Then again..."
"Dan'el nan!" Chaka snapped, then pointed at the bowl of water, as if to say he'd given Daniel some water and now he expected to be obeyed.
Follow the rules. New situation, new people, new rules. Daniel was good at adapting. He just had to try harder, that was all.
It was just an animal, really. Daniel had eaten many different animals. That he could potentially have had a conversation with this one didn't mean anything; right now, it was just meat.
And...the longer he stared at it, sitting by the fire in a cave with Chaka, the more intrigued he was. There was something perversely tempting about it--not the meat itself, because his stomach had wrung itself out too much to be hungry, but the idea. What was more powerful than actually eating someone to signify dominance? And okay, it was kind of horrifying, too, but still, it was a pitiful god who could be caught, roasted on a spit, and fed to a pet.
"I don't suppose you know the story of King Unas of Egypt?" Daniel said. "The part about eating the gods, and...you know..."
"Ka," Chaka said, looking confused. "Unas?"
"Of course not." He took a breath and raised the back of the symbiote head to his mouth. "Well, so much for gods," he said, feeling lightheaded and brave and disgusted, and bit off a piece.
As it turned out, the roasted symbiote head was perhaps the most revolting thing he'd ever tried to force down his throat. He forced another bite down, anyway, and tried very hard not to gag.
"Mmm," he lied, shifting his seat to find a polite way to put the Goa'uld head down.
A crinkling sound came from his pocket as he moved.
"Ih," he said, remembering he had food with him, too. He put down the gnawed symbiote head and reached into his pocket to pull out a squashed power bar. Chaka put down his symbiote tail and watched curiously as Daniel peeled back the wrapper. "Nan," he said, holding the power bar to his nose and sniffing it. "Mmm."
"Ka," Chaka scoffed in disbelief. Daniel pushed the bar toward him again. Still, Chaka only poked it with a claw, then repeated, "Ka nan."
Daniel picked up the symbiote head and determinedly ripped another tiny piece off and swallowed it, imitating the way Chaka moved his head as he ate, mostly because it helped him avoid the taste buds on his tongue as the meat was tossed down his throat. "Daniel nan onak," he said, then took a bite out of the power bar, hoping it would wash the taste of Goa'uld away. "Mmm," he said more sincerely, then offered it to Chaka. "Unas nan...uh, chocolate?"
Chaka took the power bar. Daniel finished chewing and watched as the Unas licked the bar and ripped a cautious bite from it.
A rumbling noise came from Chaka's throat. Daniel wondered if he'd made a mistake--or maybe accidentally poisoned his friend--but then Chaka took another bite, and he realized he wasn't the only one trying to imitate sounds.
"Mmm," Daniel repeated, pointing to his sealed lips and indicating the direction of airflow through his nose to make the sound. "Mmm."
"Rrrr," Chaka answered, some kind of trill deep in his mouth.
"That's close enough," Daniel decided, then settled back against the cave wall to let the fire dry and warm him.
The sound of crinkling plastic woke Daniel from his doze. He started, but, seeing Chaka swallow the last bite of power bar and discard the wrapper, decided that it hadn't been long.
"Don’t litter," Daniel scolded him sleepily, because they weren't supposed to leave Tau'ri garbage to contaminate the local environment any more than they had to. He leaned forward to pick up the offending trash.
It wasn't until Chaka picked up another stray piece of plastic and pressed it into his hand that he realized he'd fallen asleep next to the Unas who had tied him up, dragged him around, and fed him a Goa'uld and was now helping him pick up garbage.
"Thank you, Chaka," Daniel said, awkwardly stuffing the whole bundle of plastic into his pocket.
His fingers brushed against something else, though, and he recognized the feel of buttons on the side of his tape recorder.
"Can I get up?" he asked, even as he began to stand. Chaka stiffened, snapping alert. Daniel stopped, halfway upright, and held out his hands, lowering his head.
Chaka eyed the end of the leash, then deliberately put it down on the ground and turned to sit facing the fire.
Daniel's footsteps echoed in the cave, but he didn't try to quiet them. Chaka knew where he was, and they both knew he wasn't trying to go anywhere. The cave, though...this must be why no one had noticed the Unas in the initial planet assessment. He made his way toward one of the tunnels, the farthest he could see by the light of the fire, and found scratchings on the wall.
"Wow," he said aloud, then reached into his pocket for his tape recorder, this time pulling out the waterproof, plastic bag where he'd been keeping the recorder, along with a small brush and a pair of forceps he hadn't had the time to take out.
He pretended he wasn't aware that he'd probably never use the brush or forceps again and stuffed them back into his pocket, just in case.
The first figures he saw on the wall showed what looked like an illustrated life cycle of a parasitical Goa'uld. Daniel thought even the biologists on base would be impressed. Making sure to keep his voice even, he began to record.
"P3X-888. This is Daniel Jackson. I don't know how much time has passed and my watch is broken...so, uh, I think it's December fourteenth, 2000. I'm in a cave with an adolescent Unas. Un-Goa'ulded. Male, I think, if those gender labels are valid."
Chaka looked up. Daniel ducked his head until Chaka turned back to watch the fire.
"I'm calling him Chaka. I don't think that's his name, but he doesn't seem to mind, and I can't figure out what the word means or why he says the word, and I'm not about to wait and let Jack name him. Not that you'd probably name him, Jack, but the--anyway.
"Chaka's very intelligent. He talks and responds to my attempts to communicate and has even engaged in what I think was a game with me. I've only learned a few of his words so far, but we're getting to know each other through that and a lot of, uh, demonstrative body language. If...if you find this, Robert Rothman, remember what I said about communicating without knowing the spoken language. It's been helpful in this case."
Daniel paused. If he thought of this as a last recording--if he started thinking that way--it would be bad for his state of mind if he tried to escape. Still, just in case...
It was a matter of collecting data. Eventually, when the UAV didn't show anything, the rest of his team would know he was missing. They'd come looking for him, and at least this way, they wouldn't lose valuable data, that was all.
"Ka," he said, "means 'no.' Unas...well, 'Unas.' Nan...'eat.' Keka...'death.' Onak...'Goa'uld.' Ko is give, and ko keka is 'to kill,' but the negative of that seems to use 'ka keka' instead of the full 'ka ko keka.' It's also possible ko acts as a...an affirmative particle of some sort. Kel is a question. Tak is something he says when I try to cheat or break the rules. Oh, uh...neither vowel length nor glottalization seems to be contrastive, but that's based on a word I don't understand--chaka--so I could be wrong.
"Note the lexical similarities to Goa'uld. With the difference in morphological complexity and the strict SVO sentence structure of what I've heard of Unas, it's possible that the Unas and Goa'uld languages are genetically unrelated, but they almost certainly influenced each other. This relationship is supported by how well the Unas understand Goa'uld society and biology, which may be the reason why the un-Goa'ulded Unas live in caves, away from...water...oh."
On the wall, there was a drawing. The drawing was not ambiguous.
Eyes fixed on it, Daniel cleared his throat. "There are pictures on the wall. I think Chaka is undertaking a ritual--maybe a rite of passage--which explains why he's dragging me everywhere and making efforts to keep me alive and mostly unhurt, instead of killing me outright--"
A shadow fell over the wall, and he whirled. "Chaka," he gasped, surprised at the sudden proximity.
"Wok tah," Chaka said, pointing to Daniel.
Daniel raised the recorder. "I don't know what that means," he said. "But now he's calling me that, even though he's called me an approximation of 'Daniel' before--"
Then Chaka grabbed him by the shoulder and pressed him against the cave wall. "Wok tah!" he growled into Daniel's ear, and then a sharp claw pierced his cheek, dragging a line down Daniel's face.
"Ka!" Daniel cried, struggling to pull himself away. "Ka, Chaka!"
He was released, and he leaned against the sturdy wall for a moment until the sting started to fade and he heard a scraping sound. Looking up, he saw his own blood smeared on the wall. Chaka's body was in the way, and he was still scratching something, so it wasn't until after he backed off that Daniel could see what the picture was.
Swallowing hard, he said aloud, the recording still active, "Th-there's a picture of an Unas dragging another figure--probably a human--next to a streak of my blood. I think 'wok tah' means 'sacrifice.' Or, you know, 'future murder victim.' Something like that."
"Dan'el wok tah," Chaka said, bringing his face close to Daniel's and huffing once before he returned to sit by the fire.
"See," Daniel said once he'd stopped being too petrified to speak. "He knows my name."
He slid down the wall until he was sitting. "Whoever finds this, don't get caught. And. If you do, don't get in their face and threaten them, and don't run into the water, because there are Goa'uld there, and Robert, you know there's no naquadah in them, so no one can sense them.
"I hope you find this. Or not, because it's kind of morbid, but...actually, I hope you do, because there's data on Cleopatra and Julius on here, too. Chaka and I are friends. Don't roll your eyes, Jack. He's never seen a human before. I mean, he wants to kill me, but we're working on it. And I ate half a Goa'uld head, and he ate my chocolate, so I don't know what that means, but it has to be a good thing, the, the...the trading. He pulled me out of the river and gave me a vocabulary lesson. Please don't kill him. He has a sense of humor. It's kind of weird, though. I'm starting to ramble. I'll leave this here. Maybe you'll find it. Um. That's it."
Daniel stopped the recording and set it on the ground.
Next to the recorder, he found a small, sharp rock, and he looked up thoughtfully at the wall. Pushing himself to protesting feet, he checked to see that Chaka wasn't paying attention and carefully began to scratch a message onto the wall.
Eventually, whether it was in a day or a week, SG-1 would find this cave. He had to give them something to find.
15 December 2000; P3X-888; 0400 hrs
When the sun came up, Teal'c said, "Come no further. These waters abound with Goa'uld. Any of you who has ventured near the edge may have been compromised."
Jack's first thought was that SG-11 were all idiots for calling this planet clear of hostile activity. Then he remembered SG-11 was all dead or traumatized or freaked (or Goa'ulded, god, how did you miss something like that?) and didn't say it aloud.
"Bind their hands and feet tight with those," Teal'c said, tossing a bundle of cable ties at Jack's feet. "I will then do the same to you, O'Neill."
"Oh, come on," Griff said, "we don't have time for this!"
Jack wanted to agree, but Carter said sharply, "Enough, Captain. There's no other choice. Colonel, Teal'c's right--he's the only one we can be sure of, including you and me."
She looked deadly serious. Jack bent and picked up the cable ties, then made his way angrily down the line, starting with Pierce as Teal'c held his staff weapon ready.
"Colonel," Rothman said when it was his turn, even as he sat down and held his hands out to be bound, "I'm not a Goa'uld. And Daniel's still out there!"
"I know he is," Jack snapped, pulling the restraints tight and moving on to Hawkins. Hawkins was showing the first signs of life beyond walking since they'd found him. Jack glanced up at the man's face, saw anger smoldering in his eyes, and added a second restraint to his wrists. Griff looked pissed, but Griff often looked pissed.
It was Carter who made him pause, her expression so full that he could barely separate out the 'it's-okay-I-understand' from the 'oh-god-Daniel.'
Jack finished, plopped down next to Carter, and tossed the rest of the ties to Teal'c. "My turn," he said resentfully. As Teal'c crouched close to tighten the ties around Jack's hands, he whispered, "I'm telling you, it's gotta be Hawkins."
"Trust in me, O'Neill," Teal'c said calmly, the Teal'c-calm that meant he was ready for battle.
Still annoyed, because he knew he didn't have a snake in his head, Jack said sarcastically, "What if I'm not O'Neill?"
Teal'c looked into his eyes. "Then I was not talking to you."
Teal'c stood and looked down at him.
"You'd better find him," Jack said.
In answer, Teal'c said, "I will begin immediately."
As the Jaffa ran away, leaving them trussed up like animals to be slaughtered, Griff pointed out, "What if one of those Unas come by? What do we do then?"
Carter snapped out again, "Teal'c didn't have any other choice, Captain!"
"Yeah?" Griff scoffed. Jack didn’t call him on insubordination, mostly because he agreed.
"This is ridiculous," Rothman's voice said. Jack glanced over and saw him squirming, obviously uncomfortable in the restraints. He hoped the man didn't need his inhaler anytime soon. That could get awkward. "I'm not a Goa'uld!"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Well, then why didn't you just say so? We could've straightened this whole thing out."
"So which one of you is it?" Hawkins spoke up for the first time in hours.
"All right," Jack called, resigned now to sitting here until Coburn and Freeman got their butts over here and dragged them all back to the SGC. "Anybody with a snake in their head raise their hands!"
There was a snapping sound.
Hawkins raised his hand.
Jack stared at the man, realizing belatedly that this was a very, very flawed plan. Hawkins leaned forward and easily ripped apart the restraints around his ankles, then stood slowly, eyes glowing.
"Damn," Jack said, looking around and wishing Teal'c hadn't taken off so fast. Hawkins was making his way toward their pile of weapons. "Uh...Teal'c!" Hawkins bent down, picked up a P90 and aimed it at him. "Teal'c!" Jack yelled, turning his head in the direction his friend had run off. "Teal'c!"
Two staff blasts sounded. Hawkins' eyes glowed bright again, and the gun dropped from his hands as he fell to the ground.
Jack tore his eyes away from the dead man--Goa'uld--in front of him and saw Teal'c approaching from the woods. "Well, that took you long enough!" Jack called, relief and shock at Hawkins' death both helping to refuel his annoyance.
"You are welcome, O'Neill," Teal'c said, crouching to cut Jack's restraints. "I knew if there was a Goa'uld among you he would be strong enough to free himself."
"You had to wait long enough to make to make sure Hawkins wasn't the only one," Carter said in understanding as Teal'c began to free her.
"Are you satisfied now?" Griff said, a little less pissed off than before.
Teal'c smiled briefly at Carter and cut Griff loose. "I am," he said unapologetically.
Jack stood and picked up his gun as he heard Rothman's voice said, "I'm glad that's over with."
He moved away from the pile to let Carter retrieve her weapon, then checked to make sure his gun was loaded and ready to fire before starting to loop it over his shoulder.
Then a wordless, Goa'uld roar sounded, and Jack whirled around to see Rothman knock Teal'c away and grab the staff weapon, his eyes glowing. Griff was just turning around at the commotion when a staff blast threw him back.
Jack had time to think Goa'uld-armed-man-down before he aimed and squeezed the trigger.
Dr. Rothman tumbled backward. His eyes flashed once more before he died.
15 December 2000; P3X-888; 0700 hrs
Chaka spent hours staring at Daniel while Daniel sat under the words he'd scratched on the wall and carefully didn't stare directly back, constantly aware of the scrutiny. And then, Chaka went to sleep.
Daniel had thought, at first, that it was some kind of meditation, maybe even a ritual thing--perhaps one had to meditate before killing one's wok tah--but then he heard a snore and realized his violent friend-murderer was sleeping.
Daniel rubbed his gritty eyes. He was tired. He should sleep, like Chaka. But he really shouldn't--the SGC would tell him not to. He didn't think Chaka would kill him in his sleep, though. Chaka wouldn't do that to him; it would be like cheating.
He'd been left unguarded, and he was pretty sure it was mostly because Chaka liked him, but still, Chaka was an Unas who had marked him for death, and Daniel shouldn't be thinking it was friendly that he'd been left to wander instead of being tied down somewhere for the night.
Jack said he was always supposed to resist. Obligated to resist, especially since he couldn’t pretend anymore that Chaka was planning anything other than to kill him. Shouldn't he try?
The Unas was sleeping. There was a rock at Daniel's feet. It looked heavy. He picked it up. It was heavy. He didn't think he'd be able to kill an Unas, but he might be able to give one a concussion, and Daniel was pretty sure he could outrun a concussed Unas. He raised the rock over his head and stood over his friend--captor, murderer; not friend.
But Chaka would call 'tak' because he'd cheated. Tricky, and not in the good, clever way, because he'd broken the rules and been spared, and now he was about to break the rules again. And Chaka was sleeping.
Daniel wondered if he had parents.
The rock almost slipped out of his grasp. Panicked at the idea that he might kill Chaka after all, by accident, Daniel shifted his grip and then lost it again, so the rock landed with a loud thump a foot from Chaka's head.
Chaka woke with a start, staring straight at the rock, then turned to Daniel and snarled angrily.
Frustrated, out of hope, finally resigned that he was about to be punished and then he would die and was going to let it happen and wasn't going to fight it, Daniel held up his hands and dropped to a seat. "It's okay," he whispered past the tightness in his throat. "Ka keka."
He wasn't even watching anymore, expecting to be disciplined now, so it was a surprise when he heard a whine that sounded like someone was in pain.
Afraid he'd dropped the rock onto Chaka after all, he looked up and saw the Unas cradling the hand that was still oozing a bright green blood. Someone--Loder--had shot Chaka, Daniel remembered vaguely. He looked more closely and thought he saw something in the open wound that might be a bullet, or part of one.
"Ko," Daniel said, then cleared his throat and held out his hands. "Give me. Let me see?"
When Chaka looked suspicious, Daniel held up his bound hands to demonstrate his helplessness, then gestured again, pointing to his own hand. "Maybe I can help you."
In the end, Daniel had to reach his hands out so far that he was practically touching. Chaka hadn't moved, except to blink at him. Daniel tapped the injured hand with a finger, making Chaka jerk away, and then held himself still.
Finally, Chaka crept closer again and held his hand out. Daniel glanced up at intent, wary eyes, then carefully looked at the wounded hand, still without touching.
He winced just looking at it--a piece of the bullet was definitely still lodged inside, almost between two of Chaka's fingers. Daniel slowly drew his hands back toward his pocket to extract his forceps and returned to the same position, waiting for permission. Whether or not having a bullet in the body was dangerous to an Unas, it had to hurt every time Chaka moved his fingers.
"Okay," Daniel said when the injured hand was placed into his. "I'm not a doctor. And my hands are kind of numb and I would really like to go to sleep, so that's not good. And I lost my glasses, but that's probably your fault. But I think I can help."
Chaka's hand tensed when the forceps first touched the open wound. "It's okay," Daniel said, not looking away, because slipping would be bad. His hand was shaking badly enough already. "I can't...it's closed a little, so I have to--wait, hold on. Ka!" he said. "Cha!"
To his relief, Chaka obeyed and stayed still. Daniel dug deeper. Finally, he hit something hard. "Ka," Chaka growled.
Daniel tightened his grip with one hand and searched for a way to get a firm grip on the bullet with the other. "Almost," he said, gritting his teeth in concentration. "Hold on. Okay...okay..."
A piece of lead, covered with green blood, came free. Daniel dropped it on the ground and squinted at Chaka's hand, looking for anything else that might be lodged inside. "Better?" he said, looking up, and it was then that he saw the Unas staring at the bullet, looking astounded.
Then the look transferred itself onto him. "Chakaa," the Unas said.
So it definitely wasn't his real name. Daniel sighed. "What is chakaa?" he asked. "Kel chakaa?"
Chaka looked away, pulling his hand toward himself.
"Are we even now?" Daniel said without much hope. He held up his bound hands and looked back the way he'd come. "Look. Unas ka keka Daniel. Unas ko keka onak. Daniel...wants to...ko keka onak."
"Ka--Dan'el ka keka onak," Chaka scoffed.
"I could ko keka onak," Daniel said, "if you'd untie me." Conversation was difficult when all he could say was some variation on you-no-kill-me and you-kill-Goa'uld and I-kill-Goa'uld. He thought about saying something about I-no-kill-you as a sign of good will and an offer of friendship, but decided he'd just get laughed at.
But then, Chaka stood again.
They were in the caves. This was probably where the Unas lived. That meant they were getting close to the end. When they got to there, he was going to be killed, and no one would ever know unless he showed them where to go. Somehow, he thought being labeled MIA forever would be worse than at least letting people know what happened to him.
Daniel picked up his writing stone from the ground just in time as he was jerked to his feet. He stumbled on the way up until he was leaning against a wall, then drew an arrow before Chaka could turn around to see what he was doing.
15 December 2000; P3X-888; 0800 hrs
"Daniel Jackson was here," Teal'c said.
Jack turned away from the extinguished fire and hurried to see what Teal'c was looking at. As it turned out, he was looking at a cave drawing, with words scratched in above it that said, 'DANIEL JACKSON WAS HERE.'
"You're good," Jack said, though he was distracted by the sight of something red smeared right under Daniel's name. Blood--not much, though, and it looked deliberate. Better than a puddle or a splatter, at least.
"This has to be Daniel's, too," Carter said, bending to pick up what Jack recognized as a tape recorder, a chalked-in arrow pointing down at it.
"Think he left us a message?" he asked her as he and Teal'c continued looking around. She rewound obediently, although how the hell Daniel would have managed to tape record a message while being dragged around by an Unas was beyond him.
"...of morbid," Daniel's tinny voice said, shaking audibly even in the recording, "but...actually, I hope you do, because there's data on Cleopatra and Julius on here, too. Chaka and I are friends. Don't roll your eyes, Jack. He's never seen a human before. I mean, he wants to kill me, but we're working on it. And I ate half a Goa'uld head, and he ate my chocolate--"
"He's delirious," Jack said.
Carter stopped the recorder and pocketed it. "At least we know he was alive, sir," she said.
There were tunnels leading in four directions from here. Jack didn't think they had time to search them all. He returned to the cooling fire and squinted harder at the ground, willing tracks to show up somewhere in the unyielding stone floor.
"This way," Carter said. Jack directed his flashlight toward where she was looking and saw an arrow drawn on the wall, with another one several meters down.
"Nice," Jack said, then ran down the tunnel, following the arrows.
They'd been stopped at two more forks--at one, they'd had to go down the wrong one until they decided Daniel wouldn't have waited that long to draw another arrow and doubled back to take the other path--before they heard an angry, inhuman growl ahead of them.
Jack picked up the pace. The tunnel narrowed, and then widened and widened until--
There he was.
Daniel stood with his back to them, and in front of him were two Unas, one of which must have been half again as big as Teal'c and a lot nastier. Daniel seemed frozen in place, but the other, smaller Unas was standing in front of him, and if Jack hadn't known better, he'd think that one was trying to protect him.
Their boots must have scuffed against the ground, because Daniel jumped and turned to see them. Jack raised his gun, knowing Daniel would know to get down out of the way, but instead, Daniel raised his hands--tied together at the wrists--and stepped in front of the smaller Unas.
"Don't!" Daniel shouted, his voice hoarse but urgent, firelight casting an odd shadow over his face. "Don't shoot!"
Delirious. No other explanation.
Carter and Teal'c took up defensive positions. Jack dropped to a crouch but didn't lower his gun as he looked quickly around the chamber. There were tunnels leading off in three directions--one back and two forward, and forward meant past the Unas, so back was the best option. He waited for Daniel to do something reasonable, like run away from the scary monsters.
It didn't happen.
The big Unas--the one that looked like he wanted to eat Daniel--threw his head back and roared. The two far tunnels disappeared as escape options as more Unas--geez, how many were there?--scampered out and stood around the back, looking like they wanted to eat Daniel, too, though at least they weren't doing anything aside from general menacing.
Without turning around, the smaller Unas shoved Daniel in the back with one hand, making him stumble two steps away from the Unas and toward SG-1. Even with that push, Daniel held his place and didn't keep going. "Cho'ee'che," the Unas said.
"Daniel..." Jack said when the bigger, uglier Unas didn't look impressed.
"I'm okay," Daniel said, even as he swayed on the spot.
Gritting his teeth, Jack said, "What the hell is going on?"
"Tok," the younger Unas was saying. "Chaka...ka nan!"
"Oh, good," Daniel said faintly before he turned his back to SG-1 and faced the Unas. "He's telling the alpha male not to eat me."
"Why?" Carter said as Jack boggled over the fact that Daniel was actually translating monster-speak for them.
"He likes me," Daniel said, sounding far too pleased about that. "We're friends."
Oh, this...this was unbelievable. "Friends?" Jack repeated.
Movement caught his eye, and he shifted his aim to another Unas approaching with a club.
"Ka!" Daniel's friend yelled at the Unas.
"Don't!" Daniel yelled at SG-1. "I think he...Chaka doesn't want to kill me anymore. He brought me here because he wants me to stay and...and, and be friends, don't you see?"
"And they're buying that?" Jack said, because he wasn't quite buying it.
Daniel swallowed and turned around unsteadily to look at the alpha male. "Uh...maybe not."
The Unas moved closer, looming threateningly. Jack held his position in frustration, knowing he couldn't take a shot without risking Daniel, unless Daniel would move the hell out of the way...
The alpha male swung an arm back, and finally Daniel did something normal and ducked his head, yelling, "Ka! Ka keka!"
Well, this was new.
The Unas seemed to think so, too, and backed off slightly. "Daniel?" Jack repeated.
"I said 'don't kill me,'" Daniel said, but the alpha was already regrouping, and now even Daniel was taking a step back. "Uh--" The younger Unas stepped in front of him, but was swatted away.
"Kree--yahs!" Teal'c barked.
Finally, training overcame whatever idiocy Daniel had simmering in his brainpan, and he dropped to the ground. Jack wasted no time in opening fire on the alpha alongside Carter.
And still, with green blood oozing from a dozen bullet holes in his chest, the Unas was still alive and angrier than ever. Daniel was on his knees on the ground now--he made a move as if to scramble awkwardly backward--
The younger Unas launched itself at the alpha, knocking it away. Jack shifted his aim to the blur of battling Unas and almost pulled the trigger again, because he didn't care if he killed them all, as long as none of his team got eaten. But Daniel was struggling his way back to his feet and in the goddamned way, so Jack eased his finger off the trigger.
There was water splashing, and the distinctive sound of something being pounded hard against something else, and then--
Daniel had made it to his feet and was staring at the mess of dead Unas and the victor standing over it. Jack couldn't even tell in the dark who'd won, until Daniel said, "Chaka killed the alpha male. He's their leader, now."
Even as he said it, the young Unas emerged from the shadows to a crowd of silent Unas. It lunged halfway toward one, who backed off, then roared at the rest of them until they retreated again, back down the tunnels and out of sight.
Then the young Unas turned around to face them. Jack didn't even consider letting his gun waver. Until--
"Dan'el," the Unas said.
Only a lifetime of training kept the gun from slipping out of Jack's hands in surprise.
The Unas was pointing toward the back of the chamber, where the tunnels were, and hunching its back in something almost like a bow. Daniel looked that way, and for a moment, Jack thought he was actually going to follow.
And then he said, "Ka. Daniel ka cha." He raised his bound hands to point in the vague direction of Carter and almost overbalanced just doing that. Moving closer, Jack finally found that the shadow he'd seen earlier wasn't a shadow at all, but rather some kind of blue paint swiped messily across Daniel's cheek--some kind of ceremonial thing, maybe?
The Unas growled. Daniel growled back. Carter dropped her aim and her jaw at the same time. Jack thought Daniel sounded like a baby bear with a head cold, and apparently the Unas did, too, because it laughed. And then Daniel snickered, so Jack decided they'd all just gone insane.
"Chakaa," the Unas said, then turned and disappeared behind the rest of its clan.
Jack finally lowered his weapon and reached Daniel in time to stop him from pitching forward by wrapping a hand around his arm. "What was that all about?"
"He likes me, did you see?" Daniel said, and now that Jack was so close, he could feel Daniel shivering. "That's not actually his name, though. I just call him that." He leaned back toward Jack, then winced and straightened.
Jack glanced back to see Carter and Teal'c give each other worried looks. "Uh-huh," he said agreeably, pulling backward and hoping Daniel would pick up one of his feet and move. "What's not his name?"
"Chaka--that was in your recording," Carter said.
Daniel's eyes widened as Jack steered him away from the cavern, following the arrows backward to make sure they came out in the right place. "You found my tape! Good--Robert would have killed me if I'd lost all our notes from the last couple of days."
Carter's step faltered.
Teal'c's chin rose. He glanced at Jack, who was still holding onto Daniel with one arm, and shook his head very slightly, his eyes flicking back toward where the Unas had just come out. Get out of the monsters' lair first.
"Let's get this off you, huh?" Jack said, pulling his knife and touching the rope around Daniel's wrists, because he was not dragging Daniel outside on a leash.
"It's really good rope, isn't it?" Daniel said vaguely, standing passively as Jack slipped the blade under the rope. He gasped, though, when Jack started to saw through. Jack concentrated and decided on speed rather than trying to be gentle, at least until they were out of these damn caves. By the time he'd cut all the way through and started to pull the rope away, Daniel was gritting his teeth with pain.
"I know, I know," Carter murmured, taking his hands and rubbing them gently between hers as Jack pulled the last bits of rope away from Daniel's wrists, picking a few stray strands away from the abrasions. "Give it a minute--some of that's the blood going back into your hands. We'll look you over and dress whatever we can once we get outside, where it's light."
Even in the dim light of the cave, Jack could see that the rope had broken skin all around Daniel's wrists. He tossed the strands out of the way and wondered how the hell Daniel had decided this was someone with whom he should become friends.
"Jack, you can't litter," Daniel said as they started away again. "Jack..."
"Daniel, leave it," Jack said, quashing anger at the inanity of that statement.
"But I told Chaka he couldn't," Daniel insisted, pulling his hands away from Carter and actually walking away from them. "You can't just break the rules. He'll think you're cheating, and...and...and he hates it when people cheat."
"Look, we have--"
Daniel bared his teeth and snarled at him.
"Daniel!" Jack snapped, a little scared now. He moved so he was standing in Daniel's path and making him look up in surprise. "Listen. Are you listening to me?"
"What?" Daniel said, his eyes wide. "Yes. You found me. Where did you...?" He frowned, looking past them. "I thought you weren't going to--"
"We found you," Jack said, pulling him back so they were eye-to-eye again. "We have to get out of here and go home. Got it?"
Daniel blinked at him with the lethargy of someone on the verge of either falling asleep or passing out. Jack counted back the number of hours--they were going on twenty-four hours since his capture--and thought, fatigue, dehydration, minor injuries... "I want to go home," Daniel said, then repeated, "How are you here?"
"We followed you," Jack said. "Now. Let's go home. The--Chaka said we could go, right?"
"I don't know," Daniel said. "I only learned how to say 'no-eat-Daniel' and 'Unas-kill-Goa'uld.'"
And just like that, Jack remembered the Goa'uld.
He didn't take his gaze from Daniel's but he waited only until he saw Teal'c toss his staff weapon out of reach before he stepped quickly away from Daniel, putting his own gun out of range. Surprised, Daniel stumbled back into Teal'c, who clasped him to his chest with one arm.
"Teal'c," Daniel said, looking down at the arm around his chest. "What are you doing?"
Carter's hands were on her weapon, though she wasn't aiming to shoot. "Doubt it, sir," she said, kicking the frayed rope with a foot. A Goa'uld might have tried to break free. Then again, like Daniel had said, it was good, strong rope, and in a fight between a Goa'ulded human and an Unas...Teal'c was raising the eyebrow that meant he wasn't sure.
There was a cut on Daniel's cheek, though, still fresh. There was at least one bruise on his face, one knee of his trousers was ripped and the skin under it scraped, his wrists were a mess, and if the little flinch before was anything to go by, he was pretty banged up elsewhere, too. Jack didn't think a Goa'uld would still have those. Still, he hadn't thought a Goa'uld would escape Teal'c or Carter's notice, either, and a lake-full of them still had. There was no way to know for sure until they stuck Daniel in an MRI.
"What?" Daniel said, confused. He saw them holding their guns, and said, "Oh. Are you a Goa'uld? Teal'c, are they--uh-oh. You can't sense them, can you."
"Uh-oh?" Jack repeated. "You think we might be Goa'ulds and all you have to say is uh-oh?"
Daniel stilled, his eyes becoming a little more alert (and not glowing, thank god). "Are you?" He looked to Jack, then Sam. "Did you go near the river?"
Daniel was tired, Jack told himself. Dazed, confused, tired, freaked--that was why he wasn't acting quite like his normal self. Except Hawkins had been dazed, too, and confused and tired and freaked--"What would you do if we were Goa'uld?" Jack said.
They were scaring him. He was starting to tense up, his arms twitching ever so slightly in the way the Jack knew from experience was his way of testing someone's hold on him. Then he said, "Stay as close as I could to Teal'c and...do you have a zat? Why don't you have a zat?"
Good question. Jack didn't answer. He wished they'd had a zat, too.
"Okay," Jack said, mostly convinced now. He couldn't trust himself to be objective on this, though, not with Daniel, so he waited for Carter's nod and Teal'c's raise-eyebrow-tilt-head to lower his gun. "We're not Goa'ulds, Daniel. And I don't think you are, either, but you know we're still gonna have to be careful on the way back to the Stargate."
"How do I know you're lying?" Daniel said. He squeezed his eyes shut for a second and blinked them back open. "I mean. Not...lying. How do I know you're--"
"I have tested them, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
"You can't," Daniel said. "HSLR shows zero naquadah for all bone sample concentrations up to 500 milligrams per milliliter reagent, Teal'c, there's no naquadah, not even in Cleopatra!"
"Trust in me, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said calmly as Jack shared a look with Carter, because some of that sounded like science stuff Daniel might know and some of it just sounded crazy. "I devised a way to determine whether O'Neill and Major Carter were infested with Goa'uld. They are not."
Jack picked up Teal'c's staff weapon but didn't give it back. This wasn't the time to be taking risks, not when they'd had to kill two of their own men today. If Daniel had a Goa'uld in him, they were not going to find out because he'd gotten at a weapon. It would be fine. Jack was going to tell himself that until they got home and found out how not fine it all was.
"We've gotta go," Jack said. "Daniel, I know you're tired, but Teal'c's going to stick with you if you need help. Carter and I are going to watch your back until we get outside."
The look in Daniel's eyes said he knew they were watching Teal'c's back as much as Daniel's. "Okay," he said quietly, looking more shaken, but more awake, too.
They finally reached the mouth of the cave. Daniel tried to collapse there, right in the open. Teal'c stopped him and moved a little farther away, where there was at least some minimal cover and the caves were out of sight, then let him sit against a tree.
"Teal'c, can you...?" Carter said, unhooking her P90 and holding it out. Teal'c accepted it--and held out his hand until Jack gave him his staff weapon back--and stood guard while Carter was dropping to her knees to check Daniel over.
"Why did you come?" Daniel said again while she pulled a canteen from her waist. "We weren't supposed to check in for--" He stopped, sucking in a sharp breath as she trickled clean water over his wrists and hands.
"Two days, yeah," Jack said, knowing what was next, but it was going to come out, anyway. He waited for the question, but Daniel had closed his eyes and was leaning back against the tree.
"Dr. Rothman returned with news of your capture," Teal'c said. "We came here with SG-2 upon his request for help in finding you."
Daniel's eyes popped open. "Robert? SG-2? What happened to SG-11? They were at the camp when Chaka came, and--"
"SG-2 is okay, Daniel," Jack said. "We should meet up with them on the way to the Stargate. But...Daniel, I'm sorry. The others didn't make it."
"What do you mean?" Daniel said, watching Carter work.
Jack bit back the impulse to yell, 'what the hell do you think I mean?' because there weren’t many ways to interpret that. Instead, he said, "They were killed in action, Daniel."
"You're saying my name a lot," Daniel observed. "That's one of your tactics, Jack."
"Dan--" Jack exhaled sharply. "Did you hear what I said?"
"But we never finished packing up Cleopatra," Daniel said, frowning.
What the hell was that, all this Cleopatra business? "Cleopatra?" Jack repeated.
"She's my queen," Daniel said, rubbing his eyes with a newly-bandaged arm. Teal'c shifted, lifting his staff weapon with one arm. "Robert wanted to call her Cleo, but I found her, so I got to name her."
Jack thought for a horrifying moment that he might have to decide whether or not he could point a gun at Daniel and shoot, but then Carter said, "Oh, Cleopa--you mean the fossils. He means the fossils, sir," she said, glancing back for a second, relieved. "Like Julius. So you found a...a fossilized queen Goa'uld?"
Daniel didn't answer. He closed his eyes, and Jack thought he was avoiding the question until he realized Daniel was slumping over so far his blue-streaked cheek landed on Carter's shoulder.
"Hey," she said, pushing him back up so she could finish checking him for injuries. "Not yet."
"Sam," he mumbled.
"Perhaps we should rest, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
Jack looked at his watch, then up at the sky. They had almost sixteen more hours of daylight, but he really didn’t want to waste that and be stranded again for the night.
"It took us over ten hours, sir," Carter said, gently probing the back of Daniel's head, "not counting the night, and at a fast pace. He's not going to make it there without a break, anyway."
"All right," Jack conceded. "Do we need to get him back to base?"
"Nothing critical that I can see."
"Fine. Boots on," he said, and the familiarity of that order made him look over his shoulder, as if he might see a Goa'uld leap out from behind him. No water nearby. Fine. They were fine. "Three hours. Carter, get him settled, get some water in him; Teal'c, first watch."
Neither Jack nor Carter lay down. Teal'c was watching Daniel; the rest of them would watch for whatever else was planning on jumping out at them. After the last day, Jack wouldn't be surprised at much of anything anymore.
Jack was on watch last, and he sat down with his leg stretched out against Daniel's back, tucking the emergency blanket tighter around Daniel's still-shivering form.
The movement seemed to wake Daniel, who opened his eyes and whispered, "You said...SG-11."
"Yeah. I'm sorry," Jack whispered back.
"And Robert? He's...he's dead?"
Jack nodded, even though Daniel wasn't looking at him. "Yes."
Daniel stared at his own knees. "Why?"
Teal'c was watching the woods some distance away. Carter was closer, though, and listening, but she looked away when Jack glanced at her. "You said...you know there are Goa'uld in the--"
"Ay," Daniel breathed, squeezing his eyes shut. "No. No, Jack..."
"I'm sorry," Jack repeated. "We don't know when it happened, but by the time we realized, it was too late, and..." ...we shot him? I shot him? There was no choice but to kill him? Sorry, but I pulled the trigger?
"And," Daniel said, then took a breath. "The Goa'uld--they took him? As a--"
"A host. Yes. I'm sorry."
There was a long silence, but Daniel's eyes were still half-open, staring at nothing. Needing something productive to do, something useful instead of platitudes that he maybe didn't have the right to give, Jack said, "You're exhausted. Catch a few minutes of sleep. We've got a long trip back."
"I went to sleep with Chaka," Daniel mumbled, already halfway there. "He was eating and he let me sleep for a few minutes."
Jack still didn't know how any of these things were supposed to be connected but didn't ask; they could worry about that later, when they weren't worried about Goa'uld or Unas or hostages. There was a smear of blue on Daniel's cheek that hadn't gotten wiped off completely--they hadn't wanted to waste too much water on something that didn't look all that important--and, curious, Jack touched a finger to Daniel's face to try to wipe it off.
"What--?" Daniel said, curling away.
"I'm just..." Jack said, pulling back and frowning at a dried, blue flake on his thumb. "What is that?"
"What?" Daniel repeated. He turned around and squinted at Jack's hand. His eyes widened, and he swallowed hard. "Oh. That's...the symbiote...blood--"
He pushed himself halfway out of the blanket and threw up what little was in his stomach.
"Crap," Jack said, then shifted to pull Daniel away once the brief spasm had passed, automatically checking Daniel's temperature, even though he knew it wouldn't be accurate given the physical exertion.
"Colonel," Carter said, hurrying to them to see what was wrong.
"Carter, gun," Jack snapped, and she stopped partway to her knees.
"I'm n-not a Goa'uld," Daniel said, shaking so violently in Jack's grip it felt like he might fall apart.
Teal'c had returned, too. Jack glanced up at him long enough to shake his head, then pulled Daniel farther back, untangling him from the blanket. Daniel kicked feebly in an attempt to help free himself, then stilled and lay his head back against Jack's chest.
"I could have escaped," Daniel whispered. "I didn't even try, and Robert--he was on base and he came back, and he gods he's dead he died to--"
"You tried," Jack said. "You tried, Daniel, we saw the tracks at the river. You kept yourself alive, you didn't piss off the Unas. It's not your fault."
"He saved me," Daniel said, gripping the back of Jack's hand. "I was going to drown, and there was a Goa'uld, and he saved me. He fed me and...and protected me. I couldn't just kill him."
"Okay," Jack said, deciding they could figure out that bizarre loyalty when they got home and suppressing the terror that came with the image of an almost-drowned Daniel. "Okay. It's okay. You can tell us about it when we get home."
"But how can they all be dead--"
"Daniel," he warned, looking uncomfortably at the woods around them and the caves behind, "I'm sorry, but this is not the time. We can't do this right now."
Daniel shut his mouth tight but shook his head and shivered harder, curling his legs into himself, and in his state, the last thing he needed was to drop off into shock or start really panicking.
Bracing himself, Jack ordered, "Get up. Stand up. Jackson, get up, now!"
"Sir!" Carter protested.
"We're getting out of here," Jack said. He stood and dragged Daniel up with him, then moved to face him. "Daniel. We are going to get you home, but you have to listen. Your orders right now are to stay calm, is that understood?"
Daniel swayed when Jack let go and reached out to grab onto an arm again. "Yes, sir," he whispered. "Understood. Stay calm."
Carter's eyes were wide and accusing. Jack just wanted to get off this damn planet, and if he had to use the tone and words that made some conditioned part of Daniel say 'yes, sir' and snap to, he would do that. He'd rather Daniel felt safe, too, but with safety came complacency. Daniel functioned best when they weren't safe, which they weren't now.
Jack reached for his canteen. "Here--water," he said briskly. "Swish. And take another sip--not too much, but you need to stay hydrated."
Daniel obeyed, took a sip, two, three, tried to gulp more. Jack took it away. "Teal'c, take point," Jack ordered. "Carter, watch our six. Daniel, you're with me. Let's go."
A gentle prod on the back was all Daniel needed to start forward. Teal'c picked up Jack's P90 and his own staff weapon, tried to catch Daniel's eye and failed, then led their way off.
"We met up with Griff and Pierce at the dig site," Major Coburn's voice said over the radio. "We can wait for you here. Sir--we're glad you found him."
"We might need a little longer than we took getting here," Jack answered as they walked. "But we should make it before dark--give us a couple of hours. Stay sharp, Major."
"Yes, sir. SG-2 out."
As soon as the radio quieted, Daniel said, "Were they all taken by Goa'uld?"
There was a moment in which Jack hoped Carter or Teal'c would answer, but being responsible for Rothman's death didn't make him any less responsible for telling about it. "Major Hawkins and Dr. Rothman were," Jack answered. "We don't know about the others. Sergeant Loder probably wasn't; he was killed in the initial attack."
"I saw that," Daniel said. "I never even considered Loder might have been killed, and not just..." He stopped.
"Still think Chaka's your friend?" Jack said.
"No, it's not..." Daniel said, frowning. "Jack--he just didn't understand--"
Fighting off a burst of anger, Jack interrupted, "We can talk about it later." If they talked about it now, Jack wouldn't be able to stop himself from saying something cruel.
"The Goa'uld living here are parasites," Daniel said calmly after a pause, "but, when they don't have hosts available, they're probably still predators, too, probably first and foremost. And I think they're cannibalistic or at least very competitive. Did they kill each other?"
It took a while to sort out who the last they was before Jack said, "We don't know about the other--about Lieutenant Sanchez and Captain Hatley. Hawkins just told us they were dead."
"We all had to make water runs a lot. Major Hawkins and the others might have... I don't know if they'd been Goa'ulded already, but Hawkins might have killed them himself. Not Hawkins," he amended. "The Goa'uld in him."
Jack hadn't thought there was anything worse than being a Goa'uld. Apparently, there was. Being a Goa'uld and watching himself kill his own men would be far, far worse.
"But if Hawkins told you," Daniel said, still piecing it together, "who killed him? And Robert?"
"I fired upon Major Hawkins when he attempted to kill O'Neill," Teal'c said from the front of the line. "He died quickly."
"I had to shoot Dr. Rothman," Jack said. Daniel tripped. Jack caught him, and they kept going.
No excuses. Jack wasn't about to make excuses to absolve his actions, right or wrong. But Daniel needed reasons for everything, and he said, "Why did you have to shoot him?"
"He had Teal'c's staff weapon," Jack said. "He'd shot one man already. I made the call."
That made Daniel halt in his tracks. Jack braced himself, but Daniel's response was, "Shot whom? Did he--is he--"
"Captain Griff was shot in the arm. He's okay, and the rest of his team is with him. Keep moving, Daniel."
Daniel kept moving. "Do you think Robert knew he was fine?"
Probably not, Jack thought. It had been too fast, and Rothman, if he'd been awake in his body at all, would probably have seen that shot and only registered shot. Even someone trained in weapons might not have known, not with the kind of time they'd had. "I think it happened too fast," Jack said.
"It w-was..." Daniel pressed the back of his hand to his mouth.
"It was quick," Jack promised.
"Okay," Daniel breathed, except it wasn't.
It was dusk when they reached the dig site. "Major Coburn!" Jack called, in the lead this time while Teal'c stayed with Daniel.
Major Coburn and the rest of his team appeared from behind some of the tents SG-11 had set up. "Colonel," he called back. "What's the plan, sir?"
"A few more hours and we'll be at the 'gate," Jack said as they approached. "Let's try to make it all the way--we'll just keep careful watch as we go. Griff," he added when he spotted a man with a sling. "You good?"
"I'm all right, sir," Griff said, looking a little pale but steady enough on his feet. "Nice to see you in one piece, Jackson."
"Is that them?" Daniel said instead of answering. Jack turned and followed his squinting gaze to a line of mounds, visible just beyond the perimeter of their camp. They'd carried the bodies back, then, to be buried together. "Two, three...that's only four. There should be five of them."
Coburn looked questioningly at Jack, who nodded. "We haven't found Captain Hatley," Coburn said. He pulled short lengths of chain out of his pocket--dog tags. "The three of us are willing to stay and continue the search, with your permission, sir."
"You said Major Hawkins said they were dead," Daniel said dazedly. "He'd have no reason to lie about a prey and then wait to be caught."
Jack stepped in front of him to shield him from raised eyebrows and said, "We should go back to the SGC, Major. Whether or not Hatley's still alive, whoever comes back to search is coming back with zat guns."
"Jack--" Daniel started.
"That's final, Daniel."
"I brought a zat'nik'tel to the dig. You signed off on it."
And he had--Daniel's usual full set of weaponry was a pistol, a bayonet, and a zat gun. Jack resisted asking why the hell he hadn't been carrying it at the time and instead said, "Where? Show us."
Jack let Teal'c follow as Daniel led them to one of the tents, then stepped in close to SG-2. "We don't think Daniel was Goa'ulded, but he's been...a little... You saw. And we can't be sure until we get to base. No one get close to him with a weapon he can take from you."
"Yes, sir," Coburn said. "And about Hatley...?"
"If the zat's here, you can stay and look for him. If you don't report back within twenty-four hours from when my team leaves this site, we'll assume something happened to you. Don't go anywhere near water, and watch each other's backs. It's gonna be dark soon."
Without waiting for an answer, Jack hurried to where Daniel was kneeling in front of one of the tents. It was hard to tell if he'd sat down there or if Teal'c was stopping him from going in. When Jack was close enough, he could see a notebook on the ground that he assumed was Rothman's, by dint of the fact that the handwriting wasn't Daniel's. Daniel was staring at it and looking like he wasn't sure whether to pick it up.
"Carter," Jack said, jerking his head toward the tent, and she ducked inside. Before the flap fell closed, he saw two bedrolls and a stack of books inside and decided Daniel and Rothman must have shared this one.
She reemerged moments later, zat gun in hand. "It was at the bottom of Daniel's pack," she said.
Jack nodded, took it from her, and passed it to SG-2. "Good luck," he said. "Twenty-four hours starting now. Griff, you're with us."
"Wait--our... We're coming back, right," Daniel said as they set off again, SG-1 with Griff in tow. "Jack? We're coming back?"
"I don't think so," Jack said, meaning not a chance in hell.
"His things--all of our things are here--" He was clutching Rothman's notebook. "And the--we never got to finish. There's...Cleo is still here, Jack--"
"We can do that later," Carter said. "Someone will bring Cleopatra back."
"Cleo," Daniel said.
Daniel looked around the infirmary, then pulled an arm out of his blankets to see the bandage that covered his wrist and part of his palm. "I don't suppose," he said, touching the bandage on his cheek, "that P3X-888 was just a dream, too?"