Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Chapter 14: The Curse of Osiris
18 December 2000; Chicago, Illinois; 0730 hrs (CST)
The phone's ringing woke Jack the next morning. Daniel slept through it and barely stirred when Jack shifted on their bed to answer the phone. Rustling from the other bed told him that Teal'c and Carter were awake, too.
By the time Jack hung up, Teal'c had switched on the light and Carter was almost finished dressing. Jack leaned over to shake Daniel's shoulder. "Come on, get up," he said. Once he was sure everyone was at least awake, he repeated, "Get up. Get in gear. Everyone carry your handguns and keep your zats out of sight."
"What happened?" Daniel said, rolling stiffly out of bed as Carter pulled out and distributed gear for them all.
"That was Captain Lasair, head of the security team we brought here--they found Steven Rayner," Jack said.
Daniel sped up and pulled on his boots. "Where is he? Where's he going?"
"He was found in the radiology building, and he's going nowhere. Ever again."
Carter stopped in the middle of strapping on her sidearm. "Rayner's dead?" she said. "I thought he made a run for it and escaped before the--"
"Yeah, so did we," Jack said. "Guess who's the one person who saw him run, because everyone else who should've seen him conveniently died in a lab accident?"
"Dr. Gardner," Daniel said, his eyes wide. "Then she's..."
"They checked--there's no symbiote in Rayner, and no scar other than the one that killed him," Jack said. "He's not our Goa'uld. There's a team on the way to Gardner and Jordan's homes now. We're going to meet them in their lab, pick out whatever else they've got stashed away in the museum, and figure this thing out right now."
"But I should have noticed if there had been enough naquadah..." Daniel started, and then, "I never got close enough. She was upset, and I kept my distance."
"So here's the situation," Jack said, finishing quickly and passing out zat guns. "We've got one Goa'uld, probably named Osiris and probably in the body of an Egyptologist named Sarah Gardner. The bad news is that it knows everything she knows, and that's a hell of a lot about the Goa'uld artifacts that got fished out of the ocean. Did anyone ever find that inventory?"
"No," Teal'c said.
"We'll have to find that when we get there. The good news is Gardner has no clue about the Stargate or the Goa'uld, so if she's Osiris, that means Osiris is probably assuming no one on this planet knows anything. We should be able to take her by surprise."
"She knows I recognized the Goa'uld writing," Daniel said, tying his laces and tucking his zat gun away. "Dr. Jordan mentioned it, and...yi shay. It caught her attention, too. She must know that some of us--at least you and me, Jack--know something about the Goa'uld."
Jack closed his eyes for a second, not sure whether to berate Daniel for not picking up the clues sooner or himself for having been fooled, too. "We'll just have to shoot her before she can run or shoot us back," he said finally.
"With a zat," Daniel said.
"With a zat," Jack agreed, but he handed a loaded pistol to Daniel even so. "Unless you're forced otherwise. Our number one priority is to get rid of the Goa'uld."
Daniel paused in the middle of strapping the holster on, but he stayed silent and looked away. Jack just hoped no one would end up having to kill another Goa'ulded archaeologist today.
"Teal'c and I have never seen this woman before, sir," Carter said as she pulled the door open and waited for them to follow.
"She's...blond, uh...thin," Jack said, but beyond that, he didn't remember much about the woman.
"About my height, a little more with tall shoes," Daniel filled in. "She speaks some non-rhotic dialect of English--"
"She's British," Jack said, stepping into their car as the rest of them piled in behind him. "But no one make any assumptions--the snake could've jumped at any time, or we could be wrong, so if in doubt, use a zat or shoot to incapacitate and we'll sort it out later. Teal'c, Carter, I don't want my naquadah detectors standing next to each other, so spread out--as soon as one of you senses something, say it."
"O'Neill," Teal'c said as they pulled out of the parking lot, "if I can sense the Goa'uld, then surely the Goa'uld will also be able to sense my symbiote."
"And she'll be stuck in a closed lab," Jack said. "Just say as soon as you sense it, and we'll run in and finish it off. Daniel, go for your weapon if you have to, but otherwise, stay out of the action and handle the civilians if they give us any trouble."
18 December 2000; Chicago, Illinois; 0800 hrs (CST)
Jack wasn't particularly fond of standing around here playing solve-the-riddle with a bunch of archaeologists, and he wouldn't have had a problem with packing up everything in Jordan's lab and shipping it all back to Colorado until they knew for sure what was Goa'uld and what wasn't.
Still, they arrived to find a wide-eyed archaeologist with his hands in the air and two SG security personnel guarding him, so Jack let himself feel just a little bad for the man. "Teal'c?"
"He is not," Teal'c said succinctly. "It is nowhere in this vicinity."
"Stand down," Jack ordered. The airmen lowered their weapons. Dr. Jordan looked only slightly relieved. "Where's Gardner?"
"They can't find her, sir," the airman said.
"What?" Daniel blurted from behind.
"We've been too focused on Rayner," Carter muttered.
"They said that Steven's dead," Jordan said, looking pale and too shocked to be upset yet. "They closed the building for the day, for investigation, and--"
"Yeah," Jack said, frustrated, but managed enough composure to add, "Sorry for your loss, Doc. Look, does anyone have any idea where Gardner went? Car, credit card...hell, footprints..."
"They're working on it now, sir," the airman said.
"Jack, T...Murray and I need to look at the other artifacts," Daniel said. Teal'c turned to him, a cap still fitted over his head to cover his tattoo, and raised an eyebrow.
Jack glanced at the closed door, then gestured to it, saying, "Dr. Jordan, you've got a key, right? We need to get in."
Dr. Jordan stood slowly. Jack was tempted to tell him to stop stalling, except that it really wasn't the archaeologist's fault so much as it was the fault of idiots who went around telling him out of the blue that his assistants were killed or killers. "We won't damage anything in there," Daniel promised. "Unless anything's related to these incidents, and then we'll have to take them to another facility for analysis, but that'd be better for you, anyway."
"Right," Jordan said, opening the door for them.
Just before they went in, Daniel said, "Don't touch anything, Jack."
"Excuse me?" Jack said, indignant.
"Don't touch," Daniel repeated sternly, then followed Jordan to a lab bench. Jack turned to Carter, who shrugged minutely.
"Dr. Jordan," she said, while Teal'c and Daniel sniffed around the mess of stuff that had been dredged up from the ocean. "I'm Major Samantha Carter--you already know the colonel and Daniel, and that's Murray. Do you have a record, or an inventory of the artifacts found with the, uh...the Steward expedition?"
"Um..." Jordan rubbed the bridge of his nose, then said, "Yes, I do. We have a print copy here, but a lot of items were mislabeled or misplaced, so we're still sorting them out."
She accepted a packet of paper, but, after quickly skimming over the top sheet, said, "I don't know where to start." Jack looked over her shoulder to see a list of items with descriptions that he didn't find particularly descriptive. He thought there should be pictures next to them. "Daniel," she said, "can you take a look at this?"
"What?" Daniel said distractedly, moving to another bench. "Sam, hold on. Where's the--Dr. Rayner's notebook mentioned an amulet of some sort. Remember? I said it probably wasn't...what it seemed to be? I don't see it anywhere."
"The Osiris amulet?" Jordan said, frowning and joining the search.
Jack's eyebrows shot upward. Somehow, he was getting the feeling that this wasn't going to be a coincidence.
"Yes, I think so," Daniel said. "From the photograph in the lab book, it looked like a gold amulet depicting Osiris, wearing the Atef crown and carrying the crook and flail. You've done C-14 dating on it and found it to be...very old."
Jordan paused. "Robert Rothman's thesis topic was on artifacts that seemed older than they were thought to be," he said. "He switched topics when we couldn't get the funding or committee approval, but three years later your organization recruited him. And now he's dead, and I have a student dead and another missing, and you're looking for a ten thousand-year-old amulet?"
Daniel's back was to the man, but he looked up at Jack. "Um," he said.
"Dr. Jordan, we really need to find this item and anything else that you think is out of the ordinary," Carter said. "As you said, your student is missing, and you know now that this is a matter of life and death."
"A matter of...yes," Jordan said, sounding rattled. He looked down at the table where all the other artifacts were. "Of course. It should be...right here. We definitely left it here--in fact, I...I remember seeing it last night."
"So it's gone missing since then," Daniel said, turning to Jack with wide eyes.
Jordan shook his head. "I'll go to the archives to see if it's just been placed there by accident." He hesitated at the door.
"We'll stay here," Jack said. "Major Carter will go with you." Carter reached into her pocket, turned on her handheld naquadah detector, and followed.
Later, after no one could find any amulets or figure out why the hell and what the hell, Jack's phone rang.
"Sarah Gardner boarded a plane to Cairo, Egypt four hours ago," Hammond's voice said when he answered.
"Crap," Jack said. He covered the mouthpiece and told the quiet room, "Gardner's on a plane to Cairo with a head start." Daniel frowned, snatched the expedition inventory out of Teal'c's hands, and flipped quickly through it.
"...good thing is that you might be able to get there faster than her commercial flight will take if you leave now," Hammond was saying. "There's a plane waiting for you, but we have no idea where she's going once she gets there."
"The amulet and the canopic jar were found at a dig...this is close to Cairo, I think," Daniel said. "We--we'd have to find out where those temples are and how to get there--"
"I've been to those locations," Dr. Jordan spoke up. "I can tell you where they are."
"We might know where she's going, sir," Jack said. "We're leaving now."
"I'm alerting the Egyptian authorities," Hammond said. "The airport will be expecting your team, but past that, keep this as low-profile as we can. Good luck, Colonel."
Jack hung up and said, "Doctor, we need location, coordinates, whatever you can give us."
"I don't have coordinates off-hand," Jordan said, "and I can think of two different places where they might be--"
"Can you tell us on the way to the plane?"
Jordan's eyebrows shot up, but he said, "I--yes. I can."
"Let's move it," Jack said. "Don't worry," he added to Dr. Jordan as they hurried to their car, "someone will drive you back here from the air base."
18 December 2000; Chicago, Illinois; 1400 hrs (CST)
As always, Jack had underestimated the complications.
"I'm coming with you," Jordan said.
"You're joking, right?" Jack said, even as he thought about how much Hammond would yell at him for that particular low-profile way of doing things. The man wasn't exactly in his physical prime, either. "Doc, this isn't an excavation. People are dying--"
"And two of those dead people used to work for me," Jordan snapped back, "and you're acting like a third one of my assistants is...I don't even know what you think she is. If you're wrong about where Sarah was taken--or if I'm wrong--then you'll need my help to find out where she did go. Unless you know your way around Ancient Egyptian dig sites?"
"The danger is far too great, Dr. Jordan," Teal'c put in.
"Well, the need is too great to ignore me as a resource," Jordan retorted.
Jack glanced to the side, where Carter was sitting. She looked torn, which, considering the danger, meant she thought the need might be pretty big, too.
"Robert trusted him," Daniel said. Jack looked into the mirror again to see him sitting stiffly in his seat and not looking at anyone. "Maybe we can, too."
"Well," Jordan said. He faltered a little, then said, "And Robert spoke highly of your character before as well, and right now, Sarah Gardner is my responsibility."
"Dammit," Jack swore, then said, "Gardner's involvement doesn't give you any rights except a guard to make sure something doesn't happen to you, too."
"And if you need a guide?" Jordan said. "It can be hard to find those places unless you know what you're looking for--there aren't road signs pointing to them. And unless the Air Force wants to be seen tearing through the Egyptian countryside, you'll need someone who can talk to people and sound like a tourist or a local researcher, not a foreign military officer."
"Daniel can--" Jack started.
"Jack," Daniel said desperately. "I can speak the language, but I wouldn't know what to do."
Jack wondered if it was an archaeologist thing, sticking their noses into things, or if it was just something about archaeologists whose students were missing. He wondered if he was about to get this one killed, too. But if they screwed this up, a Goa'uld loose on Earth was going to be a hell of a lot worse than a bunch of dead archaeologists.
"As a guide," he finally said. "You can come with us only as a guide, and when we get back to the States, you're going to sit through the longest debriefing you've ever imagined. When we get to Cairo, you obey my orders, or Daniel will restrain you."
"I will?" Daniel said warily.
"Which doctor cleared you for duty, again?" Jack said pointedly. Daniel didn't answer. "And no deliberate participation in hostilities yet--"
"--so you guard Dr. Jordan and keep the two of you out of trouble. Take it, or I'll leave both of you here in Illinois."
Another glance back showed Daniel and Dr. Jordan exchanging a wary look. "Yes, sir," Daniel said.
Jack shook his head. "The general's going to kill me," he muttered.
The plane was cramped and noisy, and no one but Jack and Carter seemed to understand how anything about what to do on aircraft like this, but it was just the five of them and a pilot, too. Jack found himself grateful for the noise. Privacy made it easy to forget that there was someone with them without proper clearance, but at least the engines' roar covered it up when they slipped--enough, for instance, to pretend Daniel had just said 'T' and not a funny, alien-sounding name like 'Teal'c' ("It's a...an inside joke," Carter said to Dr. Jordan as Daniel looked apologetic for slipping. "Long story.").
"The amulet and the jar were found in different temples," Jordan said once they were in the air. "Which one are you looking for?"
"Temples to whom?" Daniel said. "Osiris and Setesh?"
Jordan looked surprised at the guess but answered, "The amulet was found in a temple to Seth, actually, yes, and the canopic jar was in a temple to Osiris. Most of the artifacts were from one or the other of those sites. But the temples are a good distance from each other, so I'd advise you to decide now where you're going."
Jack opened his mouth to say something, but, following procedure or not, he didn't think he should make things any worse by blabbing every single one of their secrets. The others seemed to have the same idea and were being quiet, too. Then Teal'c said, "I believe the substance in the canopic jars has served its purpose. We must concern ourselves with the stolen amulet. Such an item could be extremely valuable."
"Sarah wouldn't have taken it for money," Jordan protested.
"No, she wouldn't," Carter agreed, because a Goa'uld wasn't going to be worrying about paying the bills. "But she knows about it, and it's probably valuable to her...kidnapper."
"So...she's been kidnapped?" Jordan said, looking confused.
"We don't think Gardner's acting under her own will," Jack said. "But the point is...are we going with Seth's place, where they found the amulet?"
"No, I don't think so," Daniel said. "Think about what we know about these...people. Things might have been taken and...and moved around."
What we know about these people. They'd killed Seth, and apparently, Osiris got stuffed in a box...ah, right--by Seth. Which meant Seth might have grabbed some of Osiris's loot after the box-stuffing incident, including the amulet.
"Since the amulet depicts Osiris," Dr. Jordan added, looking interested, "I'd been suspecting that someone had shifted that and a few other artifacts from one place to another. It happens sometimes, via grave robbers or trade or other factors."
Or a Goa'uld, Jack thought. "I see," Carter said slowly. "And from what we know, Dr. Gardner's probably heading for Osiris's temple. Because it...okay."
"Murray?" Jack said, just to make sure they had agreement.
Teal'c thought, then said, "That is not unlikely."
"Then we should go to Osiris's temple," Daniel said. "I think." Carter shrugged.
"Okay," Jack said, really wishing everyone were more certain. "Carter, you and Dr. Jordan put your heads together and figure out where we're going and how to get there once we land. We've got just under ten hours before that, so everyone grab some sleep while you can."
"I don't suppose there's coffee anywhere," Daniel said, continuing to flip through the list of artifacts, as if hoping to find another clue somewhere.
"Did you hear me say 'sleep?'" Jack said, exasperated. "How are you so addicted to caffeine? We're not going through coffee at the house any faster than I used to by myself."
"Our...my..." Daniel faltered but pressed on valiantly. "The office is always stocked, and the commissary's just downstairs."
"He keeps an extra bag of coffee locked in his drawer at all times," Carter added, not looking up from her GPS. "It's inside a binder disguised as version 1.0 of his Egyptian dictionary."
"Sam picks my lock when she runs out," Daniel explained when Jack raised his eyebrows. "But it's okay, because I know where she keeps her cookies."
"Indeed, you do not," Teal'c said smugly.
Daniel looked up from the Steward expedition inventory and scowled at Carter. "You got him to hide your cookies for you?"
Still without looking up, Carter replied, "If you go away for three weeks, don't expect to know where my stash is when you come back."
Then she froze, as if just remembering what had happened at the end of those three weeks. Jack watched Daniel carefully, but he only cleared his throat and said, with barely a pause, "Well. Then I suppose I shouldn't expect that bag of coffee to be there when we get back, yeah?"
"Murray hid that, too," she said with a sigh.
"You are most welcome, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
"Thanks, Murray," Daniel said, smiling briefly.
Dr. Jordan leaned back in his seat, looking like the all-too-real surreality of their situation was starting to break through the facade shock he'd been wearing. "You're insane," he informed them, beginning to look seriously concerned about sitting in a plane with them. "I have no idea what you're doing except that it's supposedly killed a few people and kidnapped another, and you're talking about coffee?"
If it weren't for the fact that Jordan's assistant had been found dead a few hours ago, Jack would have had a good response. As it was, he only said, "They're just...trying to keep it calm."
"But you're right, Doctor," Carter said. "Sorry. If it bothers you, we'll tone it down."
"All right," Jack decided. "Everyone not working on something specific, get some rest." Daniel peeked out from behind his packet of papers. "That's not 'specific.' You didn't sleep much last night. Go on."
"I'm not tired," Daniel said, turning irritable again without a distraction. "And how do you know how well I slept?"
Jack suppressed a spike of frustration, torn between the impulses to leave Daniel somewhere safe and quiet to recover--mentally and physically--or to yell at him to get his head in the game, since there was no time. "You really want to go into this now?" he said instead, because of course he knew how all of his people slept and what they were like when they weren't sleeping.
"No," Daniel said, more quietly. He pulled his feet onto his bench seat to curl up and lean against the wall, then stopped and set his feet back on the floor. "Okay. What about you?"
Jack checked his watch. "Our ETA's nine hours and forty-some minutes. Everyone relax--that includes you, Professor. There'll be a car ready for us when we arrive, and once we find the temple, Daniel and Dr. Jordan stay with the car until we've taken out the target."
"The...target's not Sarah, is it?" Dr. Jordan said. "Because I don't know what's going on, but I swear to you that she'd never--"
"Would she have opened the canopic jar to see what was inside?" Daniel spoke up. "If she was curious, maybe?"
Jordan stared at him, then said, "She was frustrated that we only had the artifacts to study for a few weeks, just like the rest of us, but I don't think she'd actually..." He trailed off. "You're saying there was something inside that someone...wanted?"
"It could have been an accident," Carter said calmly. "We consider Dr. Gardner to be a victim in this, and we're going to do what we can to bring her back safely and apprehend the guilty party."
19 December 2000; Cairo, Egypt; 0900 hrs (EET)
Daniel had known, on some level, that Sam could be a scary driver. However, he'd never experienced her driving on sand in a place that had no roads, with time against them and one very anxious Egyptologist giving her directions.
The first thing Jack said about the temple when they saw it was that it looked like a hole in the ground, and that, okay, maybe Dr. Jordan had been right that it was a little hard to find. The second was that there were faint tracks from the other direction, as if someone had driven there before them, but no vehicle actually parked there.
"The tire tracks appear to return," Teal'c said, peering out as Sam stopped their jeep a short distance away, out of sight, "but the footsteps are in only one direction. Perhaps Dr. Gardner hired another to drive her here."
"Well, let's hope she's still inside," Jack said. "Daniel, you have your orders." He gestured to Sam and Teal'c and nodded toward the temple.
Daniel pulled out his zat'nik'tel and held it as Jack and Sam climbed out of the car and made their way into the temple, Jack and Sam both with pistols in one hand and a flashlight in their other. Teal'c followed just behind, standing guard with his zat at the entrance until the others were inside.
"What is that?" Dr. Jordan said, frowning at Teal'c before he disappeared inside the temple and craning around to see what Daniel held in his hand.
Moving his zat away and more out of sight, Daniel said, "We'll have to answer your questions later, Doctor."
To his relief, Dr. Jordan fell silent.
A single gunshot rang out from inside.
The radio sitting in the car seat crackled briefly, then stopped. Daniel reached for it and waited for one of them to say something, but it stayed silent. He clicked it twice, waited, then clicked it again... Nothing.
If SG-1 had already succeeded, then there was no harm in going in to help them clean up. If they'd failed, then they were all vulnerable now. Either way, he had to go in. Daniel left the radio where it was and climbed out of the jeep.
"Stay here," Daniel said. Dr. Jordan seemed to be frozen, so this didn't seem like it'd be a problem. "If anything happens--if anyone starts to come out of there besides one of us, even if it's Dr. Gardner, get out of here--do not try to make contact with her. Drive back to the airport and contact"--he pulled out his cell phone and handed it over--"General Hammond. Or any number in that phone, actually--just call and give our names. If anything happens, get out of here."
Without waiting for a response, Daniel ran down the sandy slope and primed his zat'nik'tel.
He squinted into the temple, then crept down the stairs until he could see the interior. It was dark, but three flashlights were scattered on the floor, and by their light, Daniel could see Sam and Jack lying on the ground, tangled together in one corner. At the other end of the chamber, Teal'c was lying facedown, and bending over him was a woman, dressed in white with blond curls visible where they spilled out of her hood.
Sarah Gardener--and Osiris.
Standing so close, Osiris had to know Teal'c had a Goa'uld in him, no matter that he still wore a hat that covered his tattoo. Even as Daniel shifted his grip on his weapon, she pulled Teal'c onto his back, ripped his shirt up to expose his abdominal pouch and plunged her hand in.
Without another thought, Daniel stepped out, aimed his zat'nik'tel, and fired--
Osiris whirled around, and a force shield shimmered into place around her. The zat energy dissipated uselessly.
She pulled her hand out of Teal'c's pouch and deliberately raised her other hand to show the active ribbon device she wore. "Daniel Jackson," she said, her voice distorted and her eyes glowing. "How very interesting."
He took a step back. "Osiris," he said. He glanced once more at Teal'c and saw the symbiote had been pulled partially out of the pouch and was squealing, squirming desperately to find its way back in. Teal'c was making no move to help it; Daniel hoped that didn't mean he was too badly injured, or worse.
No. No 'or worse.' They were unconscious. They'd wake up soon.
She stood and walked deliberately toward him. At a loss, knowing the zat'nik'tel's energy would be useless, Daniel retracted it and gripped it tight in his fist as he aimed a punch at her, only for Osiris to catch his arm with inhuman strength and toss the zat'nik'tel away.
"You," she said, grabbing him tightly by the throat, "are you a mystery to me." Daniel's hands flew reflexively to her arm, pulling vainly as he fell to his knees. "Barely more than a child, but you know much of the Goa'uld, more than my host knows--more than any other human I have encountered since my awakening."
Daniel tried to inhale and felt a tiny breath wheeze into his lungs. She must have knocked Sam and Jack out quickly, then, if she didn't know how much they knew.
Stupid--of course she had. Only time for a single gunshot and all three down...he should have been expecting a hand device.
"My host believes herself intelligent," Osiris continued, easily holding him in place. "A scholar. Yet she knows nothing of these things, nor of the chaapa'ai, not even that it is possible to travel to other worlds. And you, Daniel Jackson, travel with a Jaffa and human warriors, and you even claim to know the language of the gods."
Sucking in another breath, Daniel managed, "Tau'ri...ne Goa'uld ya daru."
Surprise flitted across Osiris's face but was quickly overtaken by anger. "Insolence," she spat, then threw him to the floor. "Humans will always bow to their gods."
Gasping, Daniel looked up at her as she towered over him, and a movement beyond her caught his eye. Jack was stirring.
"Not anymore!" Daniel rasped, desperately drawing her attention back to himself to give someone--anyone--time to wake up and act. "Look--look around at your temple. Nothing is left of the Goa'uld on this planet but ruins and...and inaccurate stories in books."
She narrowed her eyes. "So there is no Goa'uld who rules on this planet," she said. "Then there will be no...competition."
"No Goa'uld will ever rule us," he snapped back. "The Tau'ri are strong--we have killed Ra, Hathor, and...and Sokar. And Setesh--the one who defeated you and your queen--"
"My queen," she said, latching immediately onto that. Eyes flashing again, Osiris raised her ribbon device, its central crystal glowing. "Where is she?"
Hurry up, Jack, Daniel thought, and said, "I don't know."
"You lie," she said. The ribbon device began to glow, and Daniel shrank back in instinctive fear.
"I really....don't know," Daniel said, only realizing he'd been leaning away when his back hit the altar behind him. She started to turn and he added, "Maybe she's dead! A lot of the Goa'uld are."
He glanced involuntarily away for an instant and saw Jack pulling himself to his feet, his knife in his hand.
"Impossible," Osiris said, moving the hand device closer, and Daniel gasped when he felt the familiar pain stab into his head, for just a second. She pulled her hand back again. Against his will, he sagged in relief. "Do you know what I can do with a djera'kesh, Daniel Jackson? You will tell me what I wish to know."
"No, I...I don't think so," Daniel said, his head already pounding and his heart racing--he knew how it felt to be subjected to the full power of a ribbon device.
Her lips twisted. "Tell me--"
Jack's boot scraped on the floor.
Osiris turned at the sound, just in time to duck away when Jack threw his knife. Daniel covered his head as the knife bounced harmlessly off the altar near him, missing Osiris.
Infuriated, she raised the hand device and threw Jack against the wall, where he slumped again on top of Sam. Daniel pushed aside the ache in his head and crawled to the side, reaching for the knife, when a hand grabbed him by the shirt and jerked him around.
He only had time to see Osiris's face and the bright red light of the ribbon device before pain erupted in his head.
"Where," she hissed, each sound ripping into him like a nail, "is my queen?"
His eyes were squeezed tight against the excruciating pain, but the fingers of his right hand closed over something metal. Feeling himself weakening with every moment, he ignored the sharp bite of the blade on his skin and closed his fist over it, tightening his grip when he felt his hold slipping.
"Speak!" Osiris roared, and Daniel bit his lip to stop from screaming. "Tell me what you know of Isis and the chaapa'ai!"
With a final effort, he swung his hand up and felt the blade catch and tear through something. Warm liquid flowed over his skin, and the agony in his head diminished as he felt himself drop to the ground, the impact jarring him again.
"What--how dare you!"
Daniel forced his eyes open, squinting past the jagged spikes of pain to see Osiris, hunched over, a hand pressed to her side and blood flowing from between her fingers. She turned to face him, her expression pinched with pain and fury. "You will pay for this impudence," she said tightly, even as she stumbled toward the wall.
Daniel moved to get up, but even the tiniest movement, and the answering ache that lanced through his hand and his head, made him stop. Get up, a voice yelled in his head. Get up, get up!
"No," Sam's voice gasped. "Colonel!" Daniel tried to stop his eyelids from drooping shut as the sound of footsteps reached him.
And then the ground shook. He dragged his eyes open to see rings spring from the floor and surround the wounded Goa'uld. He didn't realize he'd closed them again until he heard gunshots, and a zat'nik'tel, and Jack cursing as Osiris hissed, "Make no mistake--Osiris will return. And the rivers of the earth will run red with blood."
"Sarah?" someone said, and then some sound--something familiar, like an airplane but different, too...
And then it was gone.
Daniel wrapped his arm--the one it didn't hurt to move--around his throbbing head.
"Dammit!" Jack yelled. Daniel heard himself groan as the sound rumbled into his head and curled tighter, squeezing his eyes shut. "Shit," Jack said, more quietly. "Teal'c, are you--"
"I will...be fine," Teal'c said breathlessly.
"Dr. Jordan," Sam said. "You shouldn't be--"
"Oh my god," someone said, and Daniel thought he should know who it was, but all he could think was that the person wasn't on his team, and it hurt.
"Doctor, go back to the car."
"Yes, sir, on it."
Then Teal'c's voice was next to him. "Daniel Jackson," he said.
"Teal'c," Daniel said, raising his head and trying to push himself up, but then pain flared from too many places for him to define, and he slipped back down.
"Daniel," Jack said. "Are you--ah, geez, your hand..."
"I s-stabbed her," Daniel said.
"I know," Jack said, sounding more upset than he should. "Let go. Daniel, open your hand, now. Can you move your fingers?"
It took a moment's thought, but Daniel finally concentrated hard enough and felt his fingers uncurl. He bit his lips hard as Jack jerked something out of his hand. "It's not my blood--"
"No, most of it is," Jack said, and Daniel finally blinked his eyes clear to see him and Teal'c both looking the worse for wear but relatively alert. "You were grabbing the wrong end of the knife, kid--didn't you feel it?"
Had he felt it? Daniel tried to think and gave up. "I...don't know."
"All right. It's okay. Can you get up? We've gotta get back to somewhere we can treat whatever needs treating."
"Think so," Daniel said. Jack had pulled off his jacket and now pressed it in a wad against Daniel's hand. "Ah--"
"Hold that there," Jack said, pulling Daniel's left hand around to cradle the right, and then Teal'c was helping him to his feet. "Whoa," Jack said, when he almost crumpled again, feeling lightheaded, gods, his head hurt. "Steady--just need to get to the car."
"Osiris?" he said. "Where's Sam?"
"You didn't see?" Jack said as the three of them made their staggering way out of the temple. "Osiris ringed onto her ship. Dr. Jordan must've seen something and came to take a look--he saw...way too much. Carter's sitting on him now."
"I told him to drive away if anything happened," Daniel mumbled, clamping down on a whimper as they emerged into bright sunlight. "Naturu...my head..."
"Close your eyes," Jack said and kept talking, quietly, calmly. Daniel closed his eyes and followed as Teal'c herded him in the right direction. "And it's a good thing you didn't specify 'ships' as a reason to run, or we'd be stranded here, huh? All right--you're gonna want to open your eyes for a second and hop in...no, Daniel, don't hop, just step up here--there we go..."
"Sir," Sam said as Teal'c helped Daniel climb into the back of the jeep, "I need to go and collect our equipment."
"Go," Jack said. "Dr. Jordan, are you all right?"
There was a pause, and then, very calmly, "No. No, I don't think so."
"Well, I'm guessing we're not going to have any choice but to explain a whole lot of things to you, so just...hold off on the questions until you can talk to someone who's not bleeding or concussed. And don't talk to anyone but us until you've been debriefed."
"You're...bleeding and concussed?" Daniel said, squinting at Teal'c.
"You're bleeding, we're concussed," Jack retorted, his face suddenly appearing above Daniel's, which made Daniel realize he was lying down as much as he could in the space available. It was hard to tell if Jack was swaying or if Daniel's vision was. "Your brain's always been scrambled, anyway. Teal'c, how's it looking?"
Cloth pulled sharply away from his hand. Daniel looked at it for the first time and saw a deep gash across his palm where he must have been holding the knife, blood covering his hand and still flowing, the bandage that had been around his palm torn apart. If he'd grabbed the wrong end and not truly registered it at the time, he supposed he should be thankful he'd managed to hit Osiris with the pointy part. As he watched, someone squeezed water onto it from what looked like an IV bag of saline. He thought it might hurt more if his head weren't occupying most of his attention at the moment.
"It is bleeding too heavily," Teal'c said, and then mashed a clean wad of gauze back onto the hand. Daniel sucked in a breath and squeezed his eyes shut again.
Eyes still shut, Daniel raised his left hand until he felt it touch Teal'c's stomach. "Is it okay?" he said. He could feel the symbiote moving slightly, though whether it would heal...
"It is healing already," Teal'c assured him. His glasses were pulled away, and a large, warm hand dropped to cover his eyes, blocking the sunlight much better than his eyelids did on their own. The engine rumbled, the vibrations jolting through his head.
"I don't really want it to die," Daniel whispered. "Not if it kills you, too."
"I know," Teal'c said, and gently took Daniel's hand away and replaced it on the floor of the jeep.
The next time Daniel woke, Teal'c's hand was gone from his eyes. It was louder, too--not the sounds of wind through sand, but mechanical whirrs of noise. The pain in his head had diminished to a steady but unrelenting pressure, and as long as he didn't move, he thought he would manage to keep it like that.
"How's he doing?" Sam's voice whispered. "Is it still bleeding?"
"Very little," Teal'c answered. "He continually moves and pulls the wound."
"Sam," Daniel said without opening his eyes.
"Hey," she said, still talking softly. "I called Janet--she's concerned about the ribbon...you know...most of all right now. So she wants us back as soon as possible in case that needs looking after. Not the most comfortable, but we've got medical supplies--it should hold us. All right? If you think you'll need to see a doctor sometime in the next several hours, you have to tell me right now before we're in the air, and I'll get you to a hospital. Don't be brave now."
"I just wanna go home," Daniel mumbled, relatively sure he would stay in one piece during the plane ride back.
"Okay," she said. "I'm gonna help the colonel on board, so Teal'c will help you climb out of there. Can you walk?"
Daniel chose not to answer in favor of keeping his head from bursting as he was half-dragged out of the jeep, but once he'd found his feet and his balance--mostly--he managed to make it to the plane by leaning on Teal'c.
"Where's Jack?" Daniel said once he'd made it halfway up the stairs, because Teal'c seemed steady to him, and Sam was apparently okay, but Jack had been knocked out twice.
"Right here, Daniel," Jack's voice said. Daniel squinted to see Jack settle into a seat at the end of one bench, leaning against a wall, with some help from Sam. "Dr. Jordan's okay, too."
"Lie down," Sam said, and Daniel obeyed readily, sprawling over the bench next to Jack and pulling his good arm back over his eyes. He hoped someone had taken his glasses, because that had been his spare pair already and he had no idea where they'd gone.
"Is everyone gonna live?" Jack said. "Least until we get back to Colorado. Dying on a plane...the paperwork...you know..." He sighed, apparently too tired to finish the joke.
"Mm," Daniel managed. His right hand had something wrapped tightly around it now, too tightly to move at all, and the pain there had settled into a fiery throb too insistent to ignore. Someone tapped his chin and pressed what felt like a pill against his lips, and he opened his mouth to let Sam tip a mouthful of water in to wash down whatever it was.
"Major Carter and I will be fine," Teal'c said.
"Colorado?" Dr. Jordan's voice said. "Not Illinois?"
"You know that debriefing I mentioned before?" Jack said. "It just got more complicated."
It occurred to Daniel that they should just recruit him and get it over with. Robert had respected the man, and said that Dr. Jordan had helped him write grant applications to work on theories about artifacts that were too old for Egypt, even if none of them had been accepted. He'd seen too much for any story to really cover, and the SGC needed a real Egyptologist who knew what he was doing, not just someone like Daniel who knew things that he'd learned from family anecdotes and textbooks. And then, they could tell him what had happened to his students--that Robert had died to save a friend, that Sarah Gardner was an innocent victim, that Steven Rayner had been killed by a Goa'uld and not by her. They should hire him.
"What?" Jack said, making him realize he'd said the last part aloud.
"Robert wanted to," Daniel said. He swallowed hard, not opening his eyes as the plane began to move. "He would have tried to recruit him except he wouldn't have left his lab." Too many pronouns, he thought. Robert would have told him he needed clearer antecedents and should really think before he opened his mouth and spoke. Something started to leak from his eyes, and he was glad he was covering them with his arm, because he was too tired to make himself stop. Keeping his breathing even was taking all of his energy.
"We're...gonna have to wait and see about that," Sam said. "That's up to a lot of people, and it's not fair to ask that of Dr. Jordan right now."
"I can't take his place," Daniel whispered.
"God, we so need a break," Jack said. A hand patted Daniel's leg. "Almost home. Hang on."
A ringing phone woke him briefly again. He stayed where he was and heard Sam's voice say, "The Enkarans? What happened, sir?"
Daniel opened his gritty eyes to see Jack and Dr. Jordan both dozing while Sam was rubbing her eyes, clearly trying to wake up more fully. Teal'c might have been in kelno'reem but had opened his eyes to watch her as she stood and moved a little farther away from the rest of them to talk.
"What?" she said into the phone, frowning. "What's the timeframe?" Daniel started to sit up, quickly regretted it, and stayed where he was. "And they can't reason with ... Well, yes, sir, theoretically, it's possible. If they create a feedback loop, the energy will build up in the reactor and eventually explode. But with all due respect, I don't think that's ... No, sir, but--"
She stopped, listening, then looked at her watch. "Two hours. Yes, sir ... The blast will be messy, and it'll have to be placed carefully to protect the people, but it should work... I know, sir. And I wish I had another choice to give you." She glanced back at the rest of them. "Our ETA is six hours. There's not enough time--you'll have to ask Sergeant Siler to set it up... Yes, sir."
Daniel waited until she had hung up and was walking back to her seat to ask, "What happened to the Enkarans?"
"We're not sure," she said, sitting back down. "They contacted base using their Sagan box. It's some sort of aerial attack."
"I don't know," she said, rubbing a hand over her face. "All we know is that they're poisoning the air, but we can blow them up. God."
"We brought them there and said they were safe," Daniel said.
"I know. And hopefully, they will be." She stood once more and moved toward him, taking his uninjured hand. "How're you holding up? You probably don't feel too good, but Janet says not to give you anything stronger than Tylenol until she can examine you."
"Last time I felt like that I ended up dead in a sarcophagus," Daniel remembered, squinting past the sharp spikes of light to see her worried face. "But I think...if I were going to die this time, I'd have done it already." Sam's hand tightened around his for a second. "How's Jack?"
"We'll all be fine," she whispered. "Now close your eyes. Go back to sleep."
He sighed and closed his eyes again.
19 December 2000; Infirmary, SGC; 1700 hrs
Daniel left the other three to be checked over by Janet while he was led into a side room, where Dr. Warner made him lie down. He fell asleep again, but by the time he woke up, over an hour had passed, his entire body had faded to a mass of muted aches, and his hand had been wrapped snugly.
Janet bought him back out to the main infirmary, explaining that there were stitches under the bandage holding together his hand and the things inside his hand. The others had apparently taken Dr. Jordan into a closed conference room to figure out what to do with the man, but Sam must have taken his glasses earlier, because she'd left them in the infirmary for him.
"Are you having any trouble breathing?" she said as she finished giving him a tetanus shot and pushing water at him.
Daniel frowned, fighting against the familiar feeling of pain medication making him fuzzy. "Breathing? Why?"
Her fingers touched his neck, tilting his head up gently. "Were you strangled at some point?"
Oh. That. "Maybe a little," he said.
"A litt..." She sighed and get go of his chin. "Let someone know right away if you start having trouble breathing or if it starts hurting. At all."
At this point, he didn't think his neck was what he'd worry about hurting. "What about...?" He held up his thankfully numb hand.
Janet pulled it back down. "I don't want you using it at all for a day or two. That means no use until I say so, and then just a little at a time. If it doesn't heal properly--if the wound opens, if there's too much scarring--you could lose some mobility. That's no little scratch." Daniel felt his eyebrows shoot up in alarm. She held up a finger. "We think you'll be okay, but that means following my directions exactly and no overdoing things if you want full strength back."
"Yes, ma'am," he said. He twitched the fingers of his hand--one of his fingers felt reluctant to move when he told it to, but he couldn't tell if that was because of the wrapping or whatever they'd sewn up. He stopped when it started to feel vaguely, disconnectedly uncomfortable.
"Now, Teal'c uses very strenuous physical therapy regimes," she went on. "I know you still train with him, but your body isn't like his. You have to trust me in this over his advice." Daniel nodded. Teal'c hadn't even let him train before; it would be days, at least, before he returned to the gym. "How's the pain, in general?"
"Fine," Daniel said, because for the moment, it was.
"One to ten?"
"Three," she repeated, sounding skeptical.
He rubbed his eyes. "I don't know. I can't feel my hand." He wasn't sure he could count to ten now, either. Besides, the last time he'd graphed something between one and ten, it had turned out to be on a logarithmic scale and Robert had sighed at him when he'd done it wrong, so how was he supposed to know where one step ended and the other began without some relative measures?
Janet tilted her head and made a notation on his chart. "Under the circumstances, that's probably a blessing. You'll want to come back here before you go to bed, though. And I want you to take your meds this time when it gets bad."
Daniel nodded and let her run her fingers over him for a final check. It took a while to notice that she was still holding his hand, even after she'd finished with it. "I'm okay," he said.
"Are you?" she said. "It's been a...a nasty few days."
"How many days has it been since SG-11 died?" he said. "Three--four? It feels like it's been just...one long..."
"I know," she said. "SG-1 has been so busy lately, and with this Osiris business so soon after P3X-888...it's hard. But--"
"It'll get better," Daniel said, looking at his hands in his lap. "I know. We see people die a lot. I know what it's like by now."
"Doesn't make it easier," she said gently. "I'm a doctor. I see plenty of people die, and that doesn't make it any easier to lose someone--a friend, a colleague, someone you respect."
Daniel took a deep breath, and then another. "At first," he said, "I thought..." He stopped. "I'm not really sure why I'm here anymore."
"Here...where?" she said carefully. "At the SGC?"
"I wanted to learn and...and study, and I was always insisting to Robert that I was, but..." He shook his head. "I don't do that, either, most of the time. Mythology, language, and guns--that's what I know. Robert hated that."
"Robert Rothman was very proud of you," Janet said.
Daniel didn't say anything about the dream he'd had just a few days ago, wherein he'd seen his parents and they hadn't recognized him. His parents didn't haunt his dreams all the time anymore, but when they did, it was almost worse. "He wanted me to go to school or...or something. And I go around hunting and stabbing his old friends instead."
There was a long silence. Finally, Janet said, "You've done what you've had to, better than I ever thought you could when I first met you. Anyone would be proud of who you've become."
He wanted to tell Janet that he had met a mother two years ago--Oma Desala, Mother Nature herself--and she'd told him that his hatred would bring death. He wanted to tell her that he hated the Goa'uld even more now than before, and that he couldn't even bring himself to want to stop hating them, and what did that say about him?
"Did you hear anything about what happened to the Enkarans?" he said instead.
"Yes," she said. "I'm a little short on details, but SG-4 was able to stop the attacking ship."
"The naquadah reactor worked?"
"Well...no. The ship beamed the reactor away before it could go off, but Lieutenant Marchenko found a way to get himself beamed onto the ship. He detonated some explosives there, enough to destroy it from the inside. There's a lot of cleanup and rebuilding to do, but the Enkarans are safe."
Daniel had never even met Lieutenant Marchenko. Now, he supposed he never would. "Oh," he said.
He found his way into the conference room near the surface where Jack and Teal'c were talking with the general. General Hammond saw him approach, looked him over, and nodded, so he walked in. Jack looked worried and Teal'c's eyes lingered on the bandaged hand, but since Jack had been knocked out twice and Teal'c had had his symbiote pulled out, Daniel thought they didn't have any room to criticize.
"Mr. Jackson," General Hammond said, "are you all right?"
"How's the..." Jack waved his own hand.
"I'm okay," Daniel said, finding his way carefully to a seat with some help from the wall. "I'm off active, uh...field duty for a while longer, though."
"Y'think?" Jack said. Daniel supposed he'd probably agree once the anesthesia wore off.
"It's good to know you're okay," the general said. "Dr. Jordan's agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so Major Carter is helping him finish that before we tell him anything else."
"Yes, sir," Daniel said, wondering what story could possibly explain all of this.
"First, I hate to put this on SG-1, but we need to know what happened on P5S-381 with the Enkarans," the general said. "Not only did we lose a member of SG-4, but we have to be sure something like that won't happen again, and that the wreckage left by the ship that attacked the Enkarans will not pose a danger to the inhabitants."
"That just happened a few hours ago, didn't it?" Daniel said. It was incredible to think how much had happened in the past few hours--few days.
"Yes, and SG-4 is still there. They'll stay and guard the Enkarans until SG-1 takes over from them tomorrow to run some analysis. Once we know more, I'll assign another team to finish it up, but you're the team most likely to figure out quickly what went wrong."
"Not you," Jack added to Daniel. "You're in no condition; you'll stay on base while the three of us go to P5S-381, and then the whole team'll be on stand-down after that. We don't have a mission for a couple of weeks."
"You were both hurt," Daniel said. "Sam, too."
"Teal'c's practically fine already," Jack said. "And Carter and I will be okay for a quick trip to take a look around. Even Dr. Fraiser said so."
Daniel doubted Janet had been happy about it, but for once he wasn't going to complain about being left behind or coddled. He wanted nothing more than to go to sleep right now, which was an uncomfortable feeling for a meeting, but he was a little grateful that he couldn't think about much at once. "What about Dr. Jordan?"
"Given the exposure he's already had," the general said, "nothing in his experience would make for a sufficient story. There will be no mentions of the Stargate itself, but we can acknowledge that there is a method--containable within one of those canopic jars--of drastically changing someone's personality the way he saw with Dr. Gardner."
"Perhaps a chemical or a disease," Teal'c said.
"Do the Tau'ri know of a chemical or disease that can do that?" Daniel said doubtfully. "Maybe a...strange hallucinatory drug of some sort, like the story we gave for the nish'ta programming..."
"Sounds like programming in her brain more than a disease to me, for something that exact," Jack said. "Not that we have the technology to do that, either."
"We don't care what conclusions he draws," the general said bluntly. "All he needs to know to reconcile what he saw yesterday and today is that there is science beyond what he believes to exist, and that he needs to stay quiet about it."
"General," Sam said. Daniel turned to see her at the entrance with a file. "Dr. Jordan's finished with the non-disclosure agreement."
The general nodded, taking the papers from her. "Give us ten minutes, Major, and then bring him over."
As she walked away, he said, "We need to figure out what it is we're trying to hide from him at this point. Obviously, the existence of the Stargate and the exact nature of the Goa'uld must remain a secret, but beyond that, I'm starting to think he's seen it all."
"There's nothing that screams 'aliens,' is there?" Jack said.
"Osiris?" Daniel said. "The ship?"
"A centuries-old mothership such as the one we saw is still far beyond the capabilities of any aircraft I have seen on this planet," Teal'c said.
"Did it enter hyperspace?" Daniel asked.
"And did he see Osiris ring up to the ship?" Jack added.
"I believe he may have seen that," Teal'c said.
"So we can say that it was..." Jack started. "Dammit. Do we know exactly how much he saw of her, as Osiris?"
"Enough," Daniel said. "I heard him say her name just after Osiris...said something. The thing about blood."
"Jordan was already standing at the temple entrance by the time I woke up again," Jack said.
"The same is true of me," Teal'c said.
"And I...didn't see much after Jack was knocked out," Daniel admitted. "He knows there's something significant about Goa'uld script, too, and is already starting to suspect that whatever we're doing has something to do with what Robert was studying, about the age of the pyramids."
"And he might've seen her eyes, definitely heard her voice..." Jack said.
General Hammond sighed. "This is a mess."
"Yes, sir," Jack said, sounding chastised.
Hearing his tone, Daniel said, "Sir, this isn't Jack's fault. I was the one who suggested we--"
"I made the call," Jack interrupted. "It was a mistake, General."
"It was not, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "Osiris may have been moments from leaving the temple when we arrived. Without Dr. Jordan's help, we would not have found the temple in time, and she might have been among the general population of this planet already."
"I don't care whose fault it is," General Hammond snapped. "Dr. Jordan knows there are things we can't divulge and there are lives at stake. Each of you knows a number of stories that could cover some or most of what we need to say. Luckily for us, the truth sounds more unbelievable than any story we could spin. Step carefully, and we should be able to hold it together."
"Uh...there's more, sir," Daniel said. "The artifacts?"
Jack made a face, but Teal'c said, "Major Carter retrieved the Goa'uld amulet that Osiris used as a key to activate the devices in the temple."
"Well, we've got that in our possession now, too," the general said. "We'll make sure it stays in our archives and any of their data on it is erased."
Daniel looked down at the table but couldn't stay quiet. "It's not ours, sir."
"For cryin' out loud," Jack snapped, "you know what it is, Daniel! If someone got curious and took it to the temple, we'd have a Goa'uld control panel sticking out of the wall or worse."
"I know! But...there's a...an ethical..." He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "It doesn't belong to anyone in this country," he said more calmly. "I'm just saying that Dr. Jordan said it belonged to the Egyptian government, and I don't know what you told them about why we went there today, sir--or yesterday--but...I assume there's a diplomatic issue, too."
"He has a point, Colonel," the general said. "And rest assured, Mr. Jackson, I'll make sure it's--"
The door opened. Daniel turned to see Sam and Dr. Jordan in the entrance.
"--handled through the proper channels," the general finished. "Dr. Jordan, I'm Major General George Hammond. Please have a seat--I know you're confused and I hope you understand we won't be able to answer all of your questions, but we'll do what we can."
"All right," Dr. Jordan said cautiously. "I don't know where to start, except to ask...who exactly you are"--he gestured around at SG-1--"and how that relates to my work."
Daniel looked down toward his hands. No one else answered, either.
"I suppose that's part of what you can't tell me," Dr. Jordan said, sounding almost resigned. Daniel knew the feeling of knowing one wasn't in control anymore.
"Yes and no," General Hammond said. "These four make up one of several specialized units who are based here. I believe you've been introduced to them already."
"Specialized," Jordan repeated.
"For example," Jack said, "Major Carter is a physicist and a computer whiz. Mr. Murray is a foreign liaison and strategic expert, and Mr. Jackson is a foreign liaison and language analyst."
"And what are you, Colonel?"
"I have the surprisingly rare talent of making all three of them listen to me at the same time," Jack said. "Most of the time. Well, some of the time. Honestly, it's a crapshoot, but--"
"Jack," Daniel hissed.
"See?" Jack said, but despite the levity in his voice, he was sitting still and stiff; if he was joking, it was on purpose and to divert and distract Dr. Jordan from digging deeper into the question or into the team.
It worked, but only somewhat. "Speaking of language analysis..." Dr. Jordan started.
"We can't explain that writing, Doctor," Sam said. "But you've seen for yourself that it's connected to a lot of violent events. I know you're not going to want people disturbing your hard work, but we have to send someone to examine the other artifacts from the Steward expedition."
Fortunately, Dr. Jordan didn't argue. Unfortunately, he said, "You mean like the Isis jar."
"The what?" Jack said.
("Speak!" Osiris demanded. "Tell me what you know of Isis and the chaapa'ai!")
"Ay," Daniel breathed.
"Mr. Jackson?" the general said.
"Isis," Daniel said, turning to Dr. Jordan. "You mean Isis, the sister-wife of Osiris?" He glanced at the general, knowing they would hear that and understand 'Goa'uld.' "His queen?"
"Yes," Dr. Jordan said. "There was another canopic jar shipped over to us depicting her."
"Dammit," Jack muttered. "There's another one?"
"Are those same symbols written on that jar, Dr. Jordan?" Teal'c said.
Looking intent, perhaps because he'd now seen what had happened with the Osiris jar, Dr. Jordan shook his head. "I don't know. We've looked but haven't found it yet--like I said, quite a few things were mislabeled from the start. There simply hasn't been the time to find it."
"General," Daniel said.
"I know," the general said. "Doctor, will anyone study that jar before you return to Chicago?"
"No; even if they'd found it, they'd wait for either me or...well," Dr. Jordan said, looking down. "Just me, now. Why--is it dangerous?"
"If no one opens it, it shouldn't be. Airman," the general called. The door opened. "Excuse us, Doctor; could you wait outside for just a minute? This won't take long."
Dr. Jordan sighed, but stood and followed the SF out the door and into the hall.
"General," Daniel said once they were alone, "Osiris was very insistent on looking for her--his--its queen. She even mentioned Isis by name. The chances that this canopic jar contains a..." He glanced at the door, knowing it wasn't soundproof if an airman could hear from the other side. "...a snake are too high to ignore."
"Unit 1 has a joint project with Unit 4 to finish," General Hammond said. Daniel narrowed his eyes to think, then realized he was talking about the Enkarans. "That remains an extremely high priority until we can determine how dangerous that situation is."
Daniel glanced at Jack, then said, "I wasn't going to go to '381 anyway, right? I could--"
"You weren't going to go, Mr. Jackson," the general interrupted, "for the same reason you will stay firmly in Colorado. You're not to participate in any mission that requires you to get out of your chair until further notice from Dr. Fraiser."
"Which, given history, isn't going to do much good," Jack muttered, but without heat or blame. This last time, they'd gone to pay their respects to the dead and ended up concussed and bleeding in an Egyptian temple.
"Still," Sam said, "this Isis jar might not be dangerous now, but all it would take is for someone to drop it or crack it by accident. We have no idea how Osiris was released; it could be triggered by radiation of some kind for all we know. It was in a scanner at the time, after all. If it's not us, sir, someone needs to find the jar and bring it back before it happens again."
"Is Unit 3 available?" Daniel said.
Jack stopped knuckling his temple long enough to raise his eyebrows. "Marines? Really?"
"Major Wade speaks and reads some of the relevant language," the general said. Daniel nodded. "But they're away on a mission. What about Unit 5?"
Daniel squinted at the table as he thought of the people on SG-5. "Captain Jameson knows his mythology, and Captain Lithell does artifact analysis regularly," he said. "As for the language...well, I can give them a dictionary, but..."
"I'll send them tonight with a few others from your department," the general said, "and hopefully we'll have the jar here by tomorrow so we can deal with it."
"We've got a problem here, General," Jack said. "First Hathor, then Britki's tablet, now this. We have no idea whether there are other things out there that archaeologists are stumbling on."
"We look for these things in journals and people hear from their former academic colleagues," Daniel said, "but often there's just no way to tell until something's been publicized."
"Which is a problem," Jack repeated.
"Well, sir, unless we start planting operatives everywhere like the rogue NID..." Sam said.
"Maybe we can find some middle ground," the general said. "Teal'c, please call Dr. Jordan in."
Daniel dropped his head into his uninjured hand, tired and wishing this day were over.
"Dr. Jordan," the general said once the man was back, "the agreement you signed means you cannot speak of this to anyone. Knowingly publishing or disclosing anything we tell you will result in criminal charges. If traces of this are found in your future work in any way, you will be prosecuted. Do you understand?"
"I understood when I signed the agreement," Dr. Jordan said, folding his hands on the table.
"The purpose of this command is to combat an organization whose existence is not common knowledge to the general public," General Hammond said. "The danger is in how subtle their influence is--as you saw with Dr. Gardner, they have been known to abduct ordinary citizens and use them to carry out horrific deeds."
Dr. Jordan made a short exhale that might have been a laugh if anything about this had been funny. "How is that possible? What I saw wasn't--"
"That's not something we can tell you," Sam said. "But you were there in Egypt. Ask yourself whether the people who designed the things you saw just might be able to create a method of using innocent people for their own ends."
He looked around at each of the people at the table. "You're serious?"
"Count the bodies, Professor," Jack said bluntly. "How serious do you think we are?"
Daniel scowled at the table but didn't speak. This wasn't the time to argue about politeness.
"The part that makes me think this is a joke," Dr. Jordan said, "is that you're looking for clues about...about terrorists among ancient artifacts that have been submerged for decades."
"If you were tracking a person or a group of people, Doctor," the general said, "you wouldn't think to look somewhere like that for clues, would you?"
"It's why we were suspicious of you at first," Jack said. "We didn't know who'd had contact with the jar between the ocean floor and your lab. Anyone could have planted something."
"It was by starting to look in those unlikely places that we've begun to make headway," Sam said. "In fact, that's what the archaeologists and linguists here do--like Dr. Rothman did."
"We aren't sure whether these...people are using actual relics of ancient cultures or are planting things in their midst," Daniel picked up, "but there are ways to tell what's genuine and what's been tampered with. That script, for example; unexplainable data on the age of an artifact; the presence of certain materials that have no cause to be on the artifacts..."
"...the end result of which," Jack took over smoothly, "is that we deal with supposedly ancient cultures and very modern criminals with advanced methods, all at once. Don't underestimate how serious this is."
Dr. Jordan looked like he wanted to say something, but nothing came out when he opened his mouth to speak.
General Hammond cleared his throat. "That's why we're going to give you a list of things to look for if you find such anomalies in your research, and someone to contact if you do find anything. It'll help us, but it's for the protection of people you work with, too."
"What's going to happen to Sarah Gardner?" Dr. Jordan finally said. "Is she still alive?"
"Sarah Gardner is assumed dead," the general said.
"But she's not!"
"You need to understand: people in her position have contributed to massive tragedies. In our experience, it's nearly impossible to capture them alive, and we will try but cannot make any promises. If we manage to capture her, there is a slight chance that she can be cured."
"Then it's possible?" Dr. Jordan pressed. "Or are you just saying that?"
"We've seen people infected and cured," Daniel said. "It's possible. But Robert Rothman was also infected and couldn't be saved in time, and we would have done anything to--" He stopped.
"The chances are not good," Jack finished.
"So that's it?" Dr. Jordan said. "What now?"
"Now, I'll assemble a team who will escort you back to Illinois and make sure you get home safely," the general said. "They'll look around the museum for anything that could be dangerous and they'll try not to disturb more than they have to. In the meantime...Mr. Jackson?"
Daniel patted his pockets and realized he didn't have any paper on him, much less a pen. Sam reached across the table and tapped his hand, reminding him he'd have a hard time writing anyway, and held up a pen as if to say she'd write.
"All right," Daniel said, defaulting to the things they told researchers tapped for recruitment, "If you see the following in your work or in a colleague's, you should contact us. Sam's writing down how to do that. You can contact Dr. Roth--you can contact me with questions as well, but keep in mind that I might not be able to answer, and that the communications won't be secure and must not violate the terms of the agreement you signed. Things to report include: symbols like the ones you saw on the Osiris jar..."
He let his mouth continue talking, familiar enough with characteristic marks of Goa'uld artifacts that he didn't need his brain fully awake to list them. He didn't realize he was done until Sam nodded firmly, clicked her pen shut, and pushed a sheet of notebook paper toward Dr. Jordan.
"Thank you for your time, Doctor," General Hammond said. He stood up. "I'm sorry about your losses. Major Pendleton is waiting outside with his team and will escort you home."
Dr. Jordan left and returned to Chicago, escorted by SG-5 and accompanied by Nyan--who would see an airplane for the first time--and one of the other translators who spoke Goa'uld, in order to cover ground more quickly as they searched the museum archives for the Isis jar and any other Goa'uld artifacts. By then, Daniel found that he was ready to fall asleep right where he was sitting.
"Infirmary or your room?" Jack said.
It took a moment to realize the question was aimed at Daniel. "Are those my only choices?"
"You got ribboned pretty bad," Jack said. "Remember the last time that happened to you?"
"Pretty sure I'm not going to die this time," Daniel said. Sam ducked her head slightly as he said it. Daniel thought she was laughing at first, but then, he blinked his eyes clearer and saw she was a little more upset than that. A lot of people had been dying lately. "Sorry," he sighed.
"Did you mean what you said on the plane?" Sam said.
Daniel blinked at her. "What?" Jack said, speaking for them both.
"You suggested that Dr. Jordan should be hired into your department," Teal'c said.
Oh. "Did I say that aloud?" Daniel said, remembering that in a hazy way.
"Yeah," Sam said. "There's the issue of public scrutiny if someone as high-profile as he is in the academic community is suddenly hired into a classified project after the other members of his lab died unexpectedly--in fact, their deaths have probably sparked a few conspiracy theories and completely incorrect rumors on campus already."
The general was watching him, as if for a reaction. "If you're asking about hiring people," Daniel said, feeling silly, "I don't have the authority to do that. Where--what time is it? You should ask Dr. Reeve if--"
"Dr. Reeve has been the head of your department for all of three days," the general said. "He's already pointed out the necessity of more personnel, given the way we've been expanding as well as Dr. Rothman's recent loss. You've said that yourself, in fact."
"Well, he was in academia in this world for longer than I've been alive," Daniel said, feeling oddly defensive, though of what he didn't know, "so my advice is to take his advice about new research personnel over whatever I said when I was semi-conscious in a plane."
Then again, now that a large chunk of Dr. Jordan's lab was dead or Goa'ulded, and another two funerals were on the horizon for him, and everyone including the university must know that military investigators were and would be searching through his research even if they would be instructed not to ask... Daniel didn't envy what the man was going to face once he went back to work. How could they expect someone to go back after getting a glimpse of this?
"Did you have a reason for mentioning it before?" the general said.
"Excuse me," Jack interrupted, "Daniel's on medical leave, and isn't some other guy in charge?"
Daniel rubbed his eyes. "Well, I guess it's only fair to help as much as possible for now, since everyone's gotten so much dumped onto their plates--"
"It's time to lay off, sir," Jack said sharply, still looking at the general.
"Jack!" Daniel said, shocked.
"No, it's all right," General Hammond said, holding up a hand. "You're right, Colonel. I'll speak with the people in charge, and we'll ask you if we need anything, Mr. Jackson."
"Actually, sir," Daniel amended, "maybe...if he passes background check and everything, whether or not he's physically here, if we take Dr. Jordan on as a consultant from the outside, it would help in terms of...academic connections and things like that. He'd be another set of eyes watching the journals for Goa'uld activity. And then we'd have him to consult for advice and be able to tell him the truth about the Goa'uld, and about Robert and Dr. Rayner and Gardner..."
"I'll take that into consideration, Mr. Jackson," the general said gravely. "We'll look into it and, if everything checks out, we'll approach him again. Now, Colonel O'Neill, I believe you're to stay on base tonight; in fact, I'm told all of you got battered by Osiris. Get some rest. Tomorrow, we'll deal with the Enkarans and whatever's left of this."
"I was going to go home," Daniel said to the floor. "Just for a few days. Already asked the general. So I can check on Skaara and Sha'uri. You know. "
"Sure," Jack said easily. "Sounds like a good idea."
"Do you want to come?" He glanced up. "I mean, I know it's near Christmas, so maybe you have plans. But I thought I'd ask."