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nightspear ([personal profile] nightspear) wrote2009-06-01 10:02 am
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Archaeology (16/30)

Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Pairings: Gen.

Chapter1 Chapter2 Chapter3 Chapter4 Chapter5
Chapter6 Chapter7 Chapter8 Chapter9 Chapter10
Chapter11 Chapter12 Chapter13 Chapter14 Chapter15

XXXXX

Chapter 16: Preparations

XXXXX

15 January 2001; Briefing Room, SGC; 0900 hrs

Jack drummed his fingers on the table. "So," he said to Teal'c as they waited for the others. "No idea what this one's about?"

"I believe we are to discuss MALP telemetry," Teal'c said, folding his hands on the table.

"You know our opinion's not gonna count," Jack said. "If they're briefing the general, it means they've already checked for safety and they've got numbers and...and translations and things."

"All you have to do is say, 'I agree, General,'" Daniel said, scurrying up the stairs. "I'll wink at you when it's time."

Jack scowled.

"Then you have identified a planet that you wish to explore, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.

"Sam and I have, yes," Daniel said, sliding into a seat next to Jack.

"How's your hand?" Jack said, watching him pick up a pen and tap it against his files.

In answer, Daniel clenched it into a fist a few times. The scar was still vivid on his palm--it might never disappear completely, but considering what it had looked like after he'd yanked the knife out of it, Jack was glad it was as whole as it was. It wasn't a life-threatening injury, but as long as he couldn't grab things well and work a gun, it had kept him completely grounded.

"It's stiffer than I remember," Daniel admitted, "but functional enough, and apparently, it'll improve the more I exercise it. Janet says I'm lucky it'll get better." As if to prove it, he picked up his pen and twirled it between his fingers.

"Sorry, sir," Carter said, coming in from the control room. "I was just finishing with some data. With the DHD up, we're able to screen through potential planets...really fast."

"Then let's get going," the general said, waving them back into their seats. "Major Carter, would you like to start?"

"Thank you, sir," she said, still working on plugging in her laptop. "This is P30-255, the planet Daniel and I have been looking at recently."

The screen changed to a picture of something very...well... "It's purple," Jack said.

Daniel tilted his head at the screen. "Not everything."

"There's a purple tree staring at me," Jack said.

"It's not staring at you, Jack."

"It's purple, Daniel."

"But only the trees," Daniel said, as if that made it better.

"Daniel Jackson, is that not a ziggurat?" Teal'c said.

"Yes," Daniel said, looking relieved. "See, Jack, if you look beyond the purple trees..."

"Wh--wait a minute," Jack said, holding up a hand. "Ziggurats...isn't that Mesopotamia?"

"Well, sir," Carter said, "it's not like a Goa'uld would have had to transplant cultures to places with, uh, matching climates."

"Nor is there any Tau'ri climate that would match with trees of such a hue," Teal'c added.

"In fact," Daniel added, "the climate of this place seems to be a lot friendlier than P2X-388, the planet with Marduk and the Eye of Tiamat. This is fertile enough for a lot of vegetation, with mild temperatures and precipitation comparable to that of local Earth..."

"And the MALP shows no sign of complex life as far as its sensors reach. So it could be abandoned, and on top of that, we don't have to worry about heatstroke like on '388."

"And what are you expecting to find there?" Hammond said.

"Well..." Daniel said, "we don't know. But we've met one Goa'uld so far from the Mesopotamian pantheon--sort of met--and I'd like to learn more. More about Tiamat's race, for instance, or whether Marduk left any other traces behind on this planet, or even information about the Eye of Tiamat and other devices Marduk might have used..."

"It's abandoned?" Jack clarified.

"It may be impossible to know for certain until we explore farther than the MALP was able to see," Teal'c said. "However, it is possible that we may learn about other related Goa'uld and whether they still live."

"But the tree is purple," Jack said.

"I'd like a few samples from that," Carter said, tilting her head at the picture of the purple tree.

"Objections, Colonel?" Hammond said.

Jack thought about objecting to the hours they'd have to spend slogging through another abandoned temple but thought better of it. "No, sir, no good objections. I assume that one's next up for us."

Hammond nodded. "We have a lot of teams already on missions, so I'll send SG-1 to P30-255 as soon as more of our personnel are back on base in case of emergencies. In the meantime...I need to discuss P3X-888 with you."

Daniel looked up. Jack did, too.

"I've reviewed your reasons for wanting to return," Hammond said. "I'm willing to authorize one mission to see whether or not it's safe to pursue relations with the Unas clan you met there. You will all familiarize yourself with the revised protocols to ensure that no Goa'uld infestation is possible, and I'm considering this a highly dangerous planet until further notice. If it weren't for the fact that your presence might be required to establish communications with the leader of that tribe, Mr. Jackson, you wouldn't be going at all."

"Yes, sir," Daniel said. "I understand. Thank you."

"You'll go to P3X-888 with SG-11 following the mission to P30-255, barring any complications. If long-term studies are deemed a viable option, then I will send SG-11 back there to continue those studies."

Daniel stiffened. "SG-11? Sir--"

"Four newly recruited members are being trained right now, and they'll form SG-11 as an engineering and research support team when they're done," Hammond said.

"Oh," Daniel said, looking down at his notes.

"By the time SG-1 finishes on P30-255, SG-11 will have finished their on-base training and orientations. They should be ready for the training tour on the Alpha Site around the same time that Mr. Jackson and Dr. Balinsky are scheduled to finish their second tour of training; I thought we could combine the teams for a joint session. Your mission to P3X-888 will take place after that."

Jack looked around the table. "By 'joint session,' do you mean SG-11 and -13 plus Daniel, or all of us?"

"SG-1 hasn't run any training sessions in over a year," Hammond pointed out. "I thought you might want to oversee this one yourself."

"Yes, sir," Jack said. Daniel turned to give him a considering look, which made him realize he should really talk to Dixon or Warren about what kinds of things Daniel liked to pull in training sessions. Considering Daniel had helped run these kinds of scenarios before...it would be interesting. "But the purple tree planet comes first."

XXXXX

19 January 2001; Temple, P30-255; 1100 hrs

As it turned out, it was a good thing Daniel had insisted on bringing a lot of books with him to P30-255. "It'll just be me this time," he'd pointed out, "not...two people together."

Fortunately, Mesopotamian Goa'ulds weren't too original in the way they locked their doors. At the temple, Daniel tapped one of the bricks experimentally to check that it was, in fact, the same kind of puzzle as the one he and Rothman had solved on P2X-388 and said, "All right. Now I just have to read this, see what myth it is, and figure out what's out of order."

Unfortunately, Daniel wasn't much more an expert on Mesopotamia than he had been back when they'd fished out the Eye of Tiamat, though he claimed that this language was a lot easier to read and matched up much better with Earth dictionaries. Also, Jack still thought the purple trees were weird but they turned out to be oddly charming up close, and Carter was having fun collecting plant life.

Finally, Daniel backed away to open yet another book and said, "Okay. I've got it. It's about the goddess Inanna and her descent into the underworld. Uh, actually...I think she called herself Ishtar, most of the time, except for ritual stuff like this." He waved at the wall.

Jack glanced at Teal'c, who said, "I know very little of Ishtar, but she is indeed a minor Goa'uld."

"Hm," Daniel said absently, still paging through his book. "Well, I need to find the part in this book where she's taking off her clothes..."

Carter's eyes widened and then turned to Jack. Jack could only shrug back at her. Daniel didn't seem to notice anything wrong. "So, uh..." Carter said, clearing her throat. "Who's Ishtar, and why is she taking off her clothes?"

"She's the goddess of fertility, love, war," Daniel said. "Called the courtesan of the gods. Some argue that she wasn't a mother goddess, exactly, but was definitely very associated with sex and...that sort of thing. I'm looking for the myth in which she went to the underworld--the guardians at each stage made her take off pieces of her clothing as a representation of her progressive loss of power."

"Sure," Carter muttered sourly. "Strip the woman and say she's the one who was big on sex."

Daniel didn't seem to notice the comments and went on, "Ishtar was also said to be cruel to her lovers--even Gilgamesh didn't dare to be her lover. She tended to take a man and then kill him. Or send him to Hell, in the case of her husband."

"So..." Jack said, "like Hathor, but meaner."

"Uh...and in Sumer," Daniel said. "Babylon. But Hathor was a System Lord while Ishtar wasn't, which, well, if you're making a judgment of mean or nice... Okay, I found it," he said, cutting off his own discussion and scooting closer again, juggling his books and flashlight so he could see. "First, she takes off the shugurra crown..." He pushed in the first brick. "Then the lapis lazuli rod...the necklace...the beads at her breast...her breastplate, where is it--oh, here it is...her gold bracelets...and her dress."

The stone door crunched and slowly rose. "Nice," Jack said, once it looked like it was clear.

"And no crumbling ceiling this time," Daniel said, sitting back and looking satisfied for a brief second before he ducked his head and began to gather his books.

"Which might mean it hasn't been quite as long since someone came in," Carter pointed out.

Jack grimaced and gripped his gun. "Heads up," he said.

...x...

"No one in the immediate vicinity," Jack said after enough time had passed that it wouldn't feel like jinxing the mission to say it. "Daniel, how's that old stuff looking?"

"Old," Daniel said, frowning at a tablet lying on the ground.

Jack shone his flashlight in his direction.

"Jack," Daniel complained, blocking the light from his eyes. "There's not as much writing here as there was inside Marduk's temple," he explained, "but there are a few tablets and other slabs that look like they were broken off something. We should be able to take them back with us, but last time we went around touching things in a ziggurat, I set off a booby trap, so..."

"Good call," Jack agreed. "Carter, take a good look at whatever Daniel wants to touch before he touches it. When you're done, the two of you load up the FRED and get it ready to send back through the 'gate." She nodded and moved to crouch next to Daniel. "Teal'c, let's take a look around this ziggurat."

Later, as Teal'c followed him through to another chamber in the ziggurat, Jack commented, "Would it kill them to put up some lights in these places?"

Teal'c gave him a look that managed to be expressive despite the darkness.

"Do you recognize any anything?" Jack said. "What do you know about this...Ishy's person?"

"Ishtar," Teal'c corrected. "I know very little of Ishtar's recent activities--only that she was once a powerful minor Goa'uld under the rule of Ra, and it is believed that she retained some of his army after his death."

"Ra?" Jack said. He didn't have to be Daniel to know that was where reality broke from mythology.

"Indeed. Apophis did not know of her most recent whereabouts while I served under him."

"So...not dead," Jack clarified.

Teal'c tilted his head. "I do not know."

"Great," he muttered as they found another chamber. "All we need is--whoa, hold it right there. Dammit, Teal'c, tell me that's not a--"

Instead of answering, Teal'c reached up to his radio and said, "Major Carter, Daniel Jackson. We have found a sarcophagus."

"Uh-oh," Daniel said helpfully.

"We just took the FRED to the Stargate," Carter added, "but we're on our way back."

Jack sighed as they looked at the sarcophagus. "So help me," he said, "if we get trapped in one of these places because of some booby trap again..."

"This one does not appear to be sealed like the one we found in the temple of Marduk," Teal'c noted. "There are controls to allow it to open from the exterior."

"But not the interior?" Jack clarified.

"If I could see the interior," Teal'c said, "I would tell you that, O'Neill."

"Jack, where are you?" Daniel's voice called.

Not turning around, Jack called back, "In here!"

Carter appeared in the corridor behind them, Daniel following. "Should we try to open it, sir?"

"I'll bet there's a Goa'uld in there," Daniel said nervously, pulling out his gun.

"If Ishtar is in that sarcophagus," Carter said, "right now would probably be the best time to take her out--while she's just woken up, possibly a little disoriented, and clearly not surrounded by her armies..."

"Blow it up," Jack suggested.

"Uh..." Daniel said. "Ancient ziggurat...cave in...not to mention wanton destruction of a--"

The sarcophagus creaked.

Jack motioned for the others to take up positions to keep the Goa'uld pinned between them and the wall, then raised his gun. Teal'c crouched behind it, facing Jack but not in his line of fire; this way, at least one of them would be out of the Goa'uld's immediate field of vision.

The doors began to swing open. Jack squinted past the glare of light coming from the interior of the box and--

"Naramu?" a voice said from within. A woman sat up, and her eyes glowed as she surged to her feet and climbed out of the sarcophagus, facing Jack, Carter, and Daniel.

Gunfire rang out. Jack cursed himself a second later when he realized the bullets were bouncing off an energy shield around the woman, and he let go of his gun to pull his knife and whip it toward her.

It caught Ishtar in the side--not fatal, but enough to make her stumble.

Carter kept up her fire, and a single bullet made it through to Ishtar before the Goa'uld could raise her shield again. Daniel scrambled behind a pillar just in time to avoid a concussive blast from the ribbon device.

"Hold!" Jack yelled as Teal'c rose from where he'd been crouching behind the sarcophagus and tackled the woman from the back, slamming her to the ground.

It felt like only a second later when Teal'c was thrown off with a jerk, but when Ishtar stood again and raised her hand, the crystal was cracked.

"Ashtapiru erhu!" she hissed, staring at the broken ribbon device.

"Now!" Jack ordered. Even as he pulled his gun around again, Carter and Daniel opened fire.

Ishtar, goddess of war though she might be, didn't stand a chance under the assault and fell to the ground, bleeding and unmoving.

"Teal'c?" Carter called.

"I am fine," Teal'c said, pushing himself back to his hands and knees. He reached toward her and tested for a pulse. "The Goa'uld is dead," he announced.

"Now, that's what I call a clean strike," Jack said, unable to help feeling a little giddy at the thought that they'd just defeated a Goa'uld, just like that. Daniel was staring at the bullet hole-ridden body with something like both horror and fascination, so Jack added, "Carter, Daniel, make sure there are no more surprises in the sarcophagus and see if there's anything we can salvage."

Jack joined Teal'c at the Goa'uld's side, trying to decide whether to try to strip her of her ribbon device, even if it was broken, and whatever other technology she might have on her person. It was an odd feeling. They said all the time that the Goa'uld were as mortal as anyone--it was the rhetoric they often spouted to Jaffa starting to doubt their gods--but it wasn't often that they saw the proof so starkly like this. Without their armies and their technology--in this case, a little metal glove--Goa'uld were as easy to kill as any human.

"Damn," Carter's voice said. "There's damage to the sarcophagus."

"Well, she was definitely Ishtar," Daniel's voice said. "There's a lion amulet in here and a...a sym-symbol...the star...uh...the--"

"Daniel?" Carter said.

Jack turned around to see Daniel sway against the sarcophagus. Carter grabbed his arm. "What's going on?" Jack said.

"There's something..." Carter said, leaning over the sarcophagus as she steadied Daniel. "It's like some kind of mist--"

Without warning, Daniel's head whipped toward them and fixed on Ishtar's body. "No," Daniel said. "No--my queen!"

"What the--" Jack started, but then Daniel was throwing himself against Carter's grasp in his attempts to reach the Goa'uld. "Daniel, what the hell!" He stood, and then felt the ground start to tilt under his feet. "Whoa."

"Hathor," Carter said suddenly as Jack tried to blink his way back to focus. "We were saying she was like Hathor--Daniel, stop, it's me!" She barely managed to pull Daniel's gun from his hand and toss it out of reach.

A beeping sound came from the sarcophagus. "An alarm," Teal'c said as Jack blinked and tried to think.

"For what?" Carter said. "A trap?"

"Perhaps a call to her Jaffa," Teal'c said.

"Huh," Jack said, shaking his head.

"Teal'c, get Daniel to the Stargate; I'll take the colonel," Carter ordered. "We have to get out of here!"

"I'm okay," Jack said, shaking his head to clear it. "What's--" Carter took him unceremoniously by the arm as Teal'c dragged Daniel out of the room. "Where's he going? What the hell are you doing, Major?"

"Sorry, sir," she said, pushing him roughly toward the exit. Jack turned back to Ishtar, on the ground, noticing for the first time that she was an exceptionally beautiful goddess. "Sir, you have to keep moving. We're in danger here."

"Are you giving me an order?" he asked her, wondering why his feet weren't resisting as she pushed him out of the ziggurat door.

"Uh...s-sure," she said. "Kind of."

"Well, stop it," Jack said, planting his feet. He turned again. "No--we should go back. She's hurt. What happened?"

"Oh, god," Carter said as he made his way back to their queen. "I'm so, so sorry about this, sir."

"About what?" he said, and then something smashed into his head.

...x...

19 January 2001; Infirmary, SGC; 2000 hrs

"...so on one hand," Carter's voice was saying when Jack opened his eyes to a splitting headache, "we killed a minor Goa'uld who may have been in control of some of Ra's former army. We even collected plant samples containing a chemical that seems to be the synthetic precursor to the drug Hathor and Ishtar used to subdue men. On the other hand..."

"Oy," Jack groaned.

"...there's that impending court-martial," she finished.

Jack caught a blurry glimpse of Carter, Teal'c, and General Hammond just before Dr. Fraiser appeared next to his bed. "Ow," he told her.

"I can imagine, Colonel," Fraiser said, shining a penlight into his eyes just to see how much more she could make his head hurt.

"Get that thing away from me," he snapped, batting the light away. "What the--?"

"Jack, shut up," Daniel said from the next to him. Jack turned his head gingerly to see Daniel in the process of covering his own head with his sheets.

Fraiser turned to him. "Stop that, Mr. Jackson," she ordered.

"No," Daniel groaned, clutching the edge of the sheet when she tried to pull it down. "I think...I'm going to be sick."

Jack squinted at his cowering linguist in consternation. "'s wrong with him?"

"How do you feel, Colonel?" Fraiser said, giving up on the sheets and snaking two fingers in to take Daniel's pulse from his wrist instead.

"Like I've got a hangover from hell," he said, looking nervously at the general and wondering why and how he'd gotten wasted and ended up in the infirmary on base, and how Daniel had gotten wasted with him. And then--"Hey, wait, Carter hit me! Why did you hit me?"

Carter glanced at Teal'c. "Sorry, sir."

"Well, as far as we can tell, Daniel got a much bigger dose than you," Fraiser said. "But he didn't get the knock to the head to go with it, so I think you might be about even."

"Major Carter has nothing to apologize for, Colonel," Hammond said.

"Ah, General--sir--" Jack said, holding up a hand. "Not so loud."

Daniel rustled his sheet feebly. "Yes. Please."

"Oh, don't be a baby," Jack said. "Carter hit me." Then he forced his brain to think. "Wait--dose? Of what?"

"There was a drug stored within Ishtar's sarcophagus," Teal'c said.

"Ishtar's love was said to be dangerous even to her lovers," Daniel mumbled. "Told you."

"That's not 'love,'" Jack said incredulously, then winced, closing his eyes.

"She said 'beloved' when she came out," Daniel said.

"Hathor did that with her men, too," Carter put in helpfully.

"They'll be fine, General," Fraiser said. "We know from experience with Hathor that this wears off in a few hours with no long-term side effects."

"Sir," Carter said, looking at Jack, "we think the sarcophagus was rigged with a trap, in a way, and not just with that mist. I didn't have time to take a good look, but I saw something that could have been a transmitter of some sort."

"Uh-huh," Jack said through the pounding in his temples and wondering why she was trying to tell him technical stuff now, of all times.

"We very nearly met resistance as we attempted to escape through the Stargate," Teal'c said. "Someone was attempting to dial into P30-255 even as we dialed the SGC. It is possible that Ishtar planned for her armies to return to her once someone opened the sarcophagus."

"We just redialed," Hammond added. "There are Jaffa at the 'gate wearing Ra's tattoo and tracks suggesting that there are a lot more elsewhere on the planet."

"It seems we have deprived them of their goddess and leader," Teal'c said, smugly happy.

"Yay," Jack said halfheartedly.

"What about the tablets?" Daniel said, pulling the sheet down far enough to open one eye. "We loaded them onto the FRED."

"Yes, Daniel, I got your tablets before the Jaffa got there," Carter said. "They're still in decontamination right now, but I'll have them sent to your office."

"Okay," Daniel said. "Then can people please go away? With due respect and everything."

"Please do," Jack agreed. "Sir."

Hammond chuckled and said, "All right, gentlemen. Consider yourselves lucky: your team's the only one with two members--half of you--who weren't affected by the drug."

Jack decided he'd feel lucky when his head didn't feel like it was going to implode. "If you say so, sir," he said doubtfully.

"Let's let them sleep this off," Fraiser suggested. "Colonel O'Neill, Daniel, I'm going to give you a mild sedative to help you along."

Jack waited patiently for the patter of boots and the clicking of heels away from the bed to tell them that everyone was gone.

He finally dared to open his eyes again--the lights had been dimmed, thank god, and the throbbing in his skull was dimming, too--and found that Daniel had decided on the same and was staring blearily at him.

"We killed Ishtar," Daniel said quietly.

"Yeah," Jack said. "And without major injuries."

"Ishtar was dead in less than a minute, and Apophis has survived the destruction of entire motherships and fleets and...and moons."

"Well, most of them don't lock themselves in sarcophagi," Jack pointed out. "And we still got sprayed, anyway, which would've been bad if we hadn't had Carter and Teal'c." The general was right, he realized--any other team would probably have been lost completely to Ishtar. There weren't many mixed-gender field teams--the only other one currently in operation had one woman out of five members, while SG-1 had had a woman and a Jaffa dealing with one drugged man and a civilian teen. They were lucky, Jack allowed.

"I wonder why Ishtar was in there," Daniel mused. "You don't think someone put her in?"

Jack wondered if Daniel ever stopped thinking, decided not, and said, "She wasn't locked in. She might've put herself in there on purpose."

Daniel rubbed his eyes. "But why?"

"She worked for Ra, right?" Jack said, yawning. "Ra gets killed, she gets a few...what, some stray Jaffa?"

"And maybe some desert or defect to another army...obviously, she didn't even have enough to keep guards around."

"Yep. And then Ra's brother rolls into town with Sokar's army and whomever else he's taken over, because Apophis has taking over a lot of armies lately..."

"So she was alone for some reason and hiding from more powerful Goa'ulds?" Daniel said. "I guess it's possible. Probably figured if it was a Goa'uld who came, she'd be able to get into his or her service, like she did with Ra."

"Yeah," Jack said. "Could be."

After a moment, he heard, "Do you think we could have saved her? I didn't have my zat'nik'tel, but Teal'c had one."

"The host? I think it would have seemed like a good plan until we found out about the drug and ended up with a zatted Goa'uld and two doped-up and armed men to take care of all at once. Then the sarcophagus--a sudden withdrawal from a bad addiction can kill someone, do you know that?"

"I know."

"Well, Ishtar was in that box constantly for...months, years, we don't know how long she was in there. And if she was really old, she wouldn't've survived long without the symbiote keeping her alive anyway."

Daniel was silent for a while. "But we should have thought about it, at least. Capturing her alive. Maybe the Tok'ra could have helped her, even with the sarcophagus withdrawal."

"I thought about it," Jack said. "It wasn't worth the risk, and it happened too fast, anyway."

"I should have thought about it," Daniel amended. "Instead of only thinking about killing the Goa'uld. A year ago, I would have. A few months ago, even."

Which seemed a little foolish--Daniel had had about ten seconds before she Goa'uld had started to come out. Even physically, they probably couldn't have saved her, and that was that. It wasn't something they could afford to take minutes wondering about every time. Daniel hadn't wasted time wondering on the planet, though, which was what counted.

"You helped keep all of us alive by shooting at her," Jack said. "I'll bet she wasted a couple of seconds being confused by the bullets. A zat would've been more familiar and snapped her into immediate action, and any hesitation from us might've gotten us killed. All right?"

"Maybe you're right," Daniel said, sounding only partially convinced.

"I'm always right."

A few minutes later, Jack heard Daniel yawn. "Are you sleepy?" Daniel said.

Jack considered. It took a long time to consider.

"Jack?"

"Huh?" he said.

"Me, too," Daniel said.

"Yeah," Jack agreed.

XXXXX

23 January 2001; Indoor Shooting Range, SGC; 1300 hrs

"I don't know if I feel comfortable with this," Daniel said.

Jack snorted. "Neither do I, but we're not going to '888 without it. Come on, load up again." Daniel glanced to either side at Teal'c and Carter's lanes, then obeyed. Even Teal'c, who still preferred his staff weapon most of the time, was going in with a gun this time. "We've practiced with MP5s."

"Yeah," Daniel said, slotting the magazine into his gun and pushing it into place. "Done."

"Again," Jack said. While he repeated the process, he continued, "The P90 will give you a little more range than what you got with an MP5, but what we're most interested in is the armor-piercing rounds. You'll get higher velocity with these, higher rate of fire, and less recoil than with the MP5's rounds... Now, obviously, that's still more recoil than you're used to with an M9, but you've got your shoulder to brace it against, too, so you've got to make sure you're steady and balanced."

"Right."

"Are you on single-shot?" Jack asked.

"I..." Daniel said. "Where's the, uh..."

Yeah. This was going to be interesting. There was a reason why civilians weren't usually supposed to carry anything more than a sidearm. Then again, civilians didn't usually do what SGC field personnel did, either.

"Here it is," Daniel added, his fingers on the dial under the trigger. "Um, it's on safety now, but I don't know which position is single-shot."

Jack sighed. "Okay," he said slowly. "Then look at it. While it's on safety."

Daniel looked nervously at him, then tilted his head cautiously to bring it level to the trigger.

Frustrated, Jack clapped a restraining hand on the gun. "For cryin' out loud! What is it today?"

Daniel flinched. "Naturu," he muttered, taking a breath and looking quickly at the dial.

"You've never been this jumpy around guns before," Jack said, exasperated, signaling Carter and Teal'c to lower their aim for a moment. "Come on, I've seen you do target practice with submachine guns, and there's no way this is about MP5s versus P90s. What the hell's wrong?"

"Well," Daniel said, twisting the dial firmly to single-shot, "usually I'm not distracted by the image of wounding or killing a friend with armor-piercing rounds from an automatic weapon."

Jack forced himself to lower his voice. "You're not going to shoot one of us. No one's even remotely in your way, and you're better than--"

"I'm talking about Chaka!"

"No one here wants to shoot your friend," Jack lied. "But you're going to learn how to defend yourself against an Unas, or you're not going to '888 at all."

Daniel nodded and carefully considered the floor. "Okay," he finally said, raising his gun and setting it against his shoulder.

"Feet," Jack said. Daniel widened his stance automatically and stilled, staring at the target. His body knew how to stand and hold a gun even if his brain didn't want to, and given the places Daniel's brain went sometimes, Jack was okay with that. It was possible to think too much sometimes. "All right--ready!" Carter and Teal'c raised their guns again. "Single shots. Fire!"

...x...

29 January 2001; Briefing Room, SGC; 1600 hrs

"We know for certain that your P90s are able to penetrate the skin of an Unas at short range," Jack said, looking around the table at his team and the newly formed SG-11. "We also know that not all of our bullets did penetrate, and, even bleeding from about ten bullet wounds to the chest, a strong male Unas at full health was still alive enough to keep fighting."

"If you shoot," Carter added, "and the Unas doesn't stop coming at you, try to put distance between it and yourself, or you might not get a chance to try again. They're faster than we are, but you have a better chance if you don't stand around and wait for them to bowl you over."

"Do we know anything about their vulnerable points, sir?" asked Captain Lorne, second-in-command on the new team.

"Not a whole lot," Jack said. "So aim for whatever you can hit--like I said, the chest is armored but not invulnerable. The neck is apparently soft enough for Goa'uld penetration, but it's a smaller target, too, and a target that the Unas tend to guard. If nothing else, with enough injuries, an Unas will die eventually."

"But don't shoot unless you have to," Daniel said.

"Daniel," Jack said, "if an Unas tries to harm anyone, we will defend ourselves."

"And what happens when you kill one member of the clan?" Daniel said. "Kill one Unas and have fifteen more running after you?"

"So if one of those things is about to kill one of my men, I should stand by and do nothing to avoid aggravating them?" Edwards said.

"We don't anticipate that'll happen, Colonel," Carter said.

"And you could ask them not to kill you," Daniel added. "They're not amoral beasts."

Edwards looked like he wanted to snap something back but instead turned uncertainly to Jack. "You think he's joking," Jack said. "He's not joking."

"Daniel will provide a list of words and phrases he was able to learn during his...stay with the Unas," Carter said. "We recommend you read his report carefully and memorize how to say 'don't kill,' if nothing else."

"For the purposes of Unas relations," Jack said, "Daniel will, obviously, take point. If he says something that sounds stupid, remember that he survived a ritual that was supposed to end with him as dinner and ended instead with his being invited back as a guest."

"Uh-huh," Edwards said, not looking convinced of the wisdom of this. Jack suspected that only the knowledge that SG-11 had never seen anything off-world before and had no idea what to expect was keeping them from protesting more.

"I'll call it off if anything gets out of hand," Jack said. He gave Daniel a stern look and received annoyed raised eyebrows in return. "But until then, take his advice."

Nodding, Daniel said, "Colonel Edwards, if we can convince Chaka not to hurt us, he's the clan's leader now and will help protect us from the others. Perhaps more importantly, he might be willing to help protect us from the Goa'uld."

"And that brings us to the next part of this briefing," Jack said, "because, as big and scary as the Unas are, what we're really worried about on P3X-888 is the Goa'uld."

"As you've probably been told by now," Carter said for SG-11's benefit, "most of the Goa'uld we've met carry naquadah as part of their physiology. This allows them to use certain types of naquadah-based technology, but it also allows people with naquadah in their own bodies to sense their presence. Normally, this means that Teal'c or I can detect a Goa'uld. Daniel or anyone with an artificial naquadah detector can, too, if they get very close. Unfortunately, the Goa'uld symbiotes on P3X-888 are completely devoid of naquadah as far as we can tell."

"So how do we detect them, ma'am?" Lieutenant Devon asked.

"You don't," Carter said, "not without an MRI or an ultrasound. The good thing is that symbiotes can't survive out of water without a host. Stay away from the water, and you should be safe."

"From the symbiotes," Jack clarified. "Safe...from the symbiotes."

"The problem," Daniel continued, "is that one of the other reasons for going to P3X-888 is to examine the bodies of water in order to find out what it is that allows a symbiote to survive outside a host or Jaffa. Anyone within a few paces from the water's edge is in danger of being taken by a Goa'uld, which poses a threat to that person, obviously, and to everyone else."

"A few paces?" Lorne said, looking like he was trying to convert that into more conventional measurement. "So they can crawl out that far?"

"They can leap that far, Captain Lorne," Teal'c corrected. "They will aim for your neck."

"Luckily," Carter said, "a Jaffa carrying a symbiote can't be taken as a host, so we'll have one person who will always be himself. If at any time Teal'c becomes suspicious, command of the mission will be turned over to him immediately. At that point, anyone who refuses to comply with his orders, including Colonel O'Neill, will be assumed to be compromised."

"Also," Daniel added, holding up a finger, "the Unas are proficient at, uh...catching and killing symbiotes. If we can establish successful contact with Chaka's clan first and make it clear that we're working with them against the Goa'uld, I believe they'd be willing to help us, either by providing information about the Goa'uld or by guarding us at the water."

"Even if we end up being able to count on that," Jack said, "anyone who needs to approach the water to refill a canteen or collect a sample will be accompanied by at least one other person, who will stand on guard from out of range with a zat gun. If someone gets Goa'ulded, he'll be zatted and restrained without hesitation, and the mission is over. From there, we head straight to Cimmeria and then call base. Anyone who doesn't know the address for Cimmeria, memorize it today. That's one of the addresses you never want to forget."

"When someone turns into a Goa'uld, there's no way to tell?" Edwards said.

"If their eyes glow or their voice changes, you'll know," Jack said. "When we take you to the Alpha Site tomorrow, we'll show you what the voice change sounds like with some of our artificial voice-change doohickeys."

"Or you can talk to Lantash upstairs and see how it sounds," Carter added.

"But the fact is, they can hide all that and act like normal humans," Jack said. "They gain all the memories and knowledge of the host as soon as they blend. Sometimes there are differences in behavior that can clue you in, but sometimes...they can act so similar that they fool even their own teammates."

"Since the Goa'uld on '888 are more primitive," Daniel said, flipping to a new page in his briefing notes, "we're not sure how adept they are at imitating a host. SG-1 and -2 observed two apparently conflicting examples from our own men, but there wasn't enough evidence to support any hypothesis fully." One of the new lieutenants looked a little creeped out by the notion of seeing their own dead men as evidence. Daniel didn't react and went on, "Another hope for long-term studies on '888 is that we'll better understand the development of the Goa'uld mind, though that would need long-term studies with more experts, which we can't commit to yet."

"If we capture some live symbiotes, we can experiment on them here," Lorne suggested.

Daniel exchanged a glance with Carter. "We're...still debating that possibility," he said.

"We're discussing the ethical implications with Dr. Fraiser and General Hammond," Carter clarified. "But yes, we're considering that option."

Edwards, looked at the two of them askance. "People do experiments on rats and monkeys, and you're worried about experimenting on parasitical snakes who want to kill us?"

"Like we said," Daniel said, with another look at Carter, "that option hasn't been taken off the table yet."

"And the concern, Colonel," Carter said, returning Daniel's look, "is the ethics of conducting experiments--of torturing enemy prisoners whom we know to be sentient and highly intelligent."

"On the other hand..." Daniel said. "Teal'c and other rebel Jaffa might not have easy access to larval Goa'uld in the future, right? If we can have our own...planet full of Goa'uld living in the water, we'd never run out."

Carter seemed interested. "That's an idea, but we'll have to figure out all safety precautions for that before we go fishing for symbiotes. You said they don't seem to swim into the shallows unless they think there's a potential host there, which means they're mature."

"How is catching and enslaving larval Goa'uld to be killed later when they're adults any better than experimenting on them?" Daniel said.

"It would save Jaffa lives and decrease Jaffa dependence on the System Lords," Teal'c said.

"You can't say that symbiotes are animals with no rights for one purpose and are...are prisoners of war for other purposes," Daniel said. "Experimentation could save just as many lives--"

"It's still in discussion," Carter cut him off. "It's not just up to the two of us, and it won't be decided at this table. We'll know more soon."

"Anything else?" Jack said, looking around the table. "Carter, Teal'c, Daniel?"

"Nothing," Teal'c said.

Daniel looked at Carter, then tilted his head in concession. "No, sir," she answered for them both.

"Colonel Edwards?" Jack said.

Edwards shook his head. "We've got it."

"Then get ready. We leave for your training session at the Alpha Site at 0700 tomorrow," Jack said, "and we'll go to '888 once we're done there."

XXXXX

30 January 2001; Alpha Site, P3X-984; 0900 hrs

"...and this," Sam said with the voice distorter on, "is what a Goa'uld might sound like." She switched it off and put it back down on the table. "We believe the symbiote's position in the host causes it to interfere with the host's vocal apparatus in a way that alters the normal timing of human speech. As we said before, however, they're able to speak normally if they make the effort to do so. The Tok'ra, for example, use that as a way to demarcate the difference between host and symbiote."

"So it's not a physical thing that makes happen with the Tok'ra?" Lieutenant Stemler asked.

"Nope," she answered. "It's a...an artificial method they developed to help the host and symbiote keep their separate identities straight after the blending, and now it's become a custom."

SG-11 was listening intently to Sam's lectures, in between looking around the Alpha Site. Jack and Teal'c were off somewhere else with SG-13. Daniel had never heard Sam talk about the equipment here before, so he was happy to follow along with the tour.

"As an engineering and research support team," she continued, moving on to the next building, "this is something SG-11 will become familiar with: a naquadah reactor. Not only is this one of the most powerful portable tools when we need energy, but it's also powerful as a weapon. Lieutenants Devon and Stemler, I understand Sergeant Siler explained to you how to create an explosive from one of these?"

"Yes, ma'am," Devon said.

She nodded. "Obviously, it also means you need to take extra care whenever you're using a reactor. If this one went critical, it could take out the entire Alpha Site and all of our personnel."

As they continued past and into the main control center, Daniel dropped back to tighten his shoelaces and was yanked away by a familiar hand before he could enter behind SG-11.

"What are you doing?" Daniel hissed, shaking Jack's hand off his arm.

"Got an idea," Jack whispered. "Come with me."

He found himself back at the voice modulators. "Jack, I'm actually in training this time," Daniel pointed out. "I'm not supposed to jump out and scare people; that's your job."

"Then think of this as training in following my orders," Jack advised, clipping one of the modulators to collar of his shirt and motioning for Daniel to do the same. "I want to see how the new team reacts to the sound of a Goa'uld voice. Here's the scenario: one of us is Goa'uld and the other is Tok'ra, but they don't know which one."

Daniel paused in the midst of putting his on. "Uh, Jack," he said, "if they do the smart thing, both of us are going to get shot."

Jack gave him a bright smile. "Full marks, Mr. Jackson. Don't worry--Alpha Site training procedures are in effect the entire time we're here. They're only carrying intars."

"Those still hurt, you know," Daniel said as he picked up an intar. Sam and SG-11 were at the other side of the Site by now. Jack picked up another intar, unconcerned.

"Dixon's team is giving us some cover," Jack said. "Wait until Carter takes them into a building and watch for them just outside. When they come out, I'm going to jump you, and we'll be at a standoff--weapons ready, voice modulators on. Both of us claim to be Tok'ra, see what they do. If they screw up, you have permission to shoot as many of them as possible. Got it?"

"So I'm the Goa'uld," Daniel clarified, because hopefully, a Tok'ra wouldn't shoot SG personnel.

"Sure," Jack said. "You should hope they don't shoot you--get in some target practice."

"One day," Daniel said, watching Jack tap the voice modulator as if to make sure it worked, "I'd like to be involved in a training scenario with you guys that doesn't involve my being shot, or electrocuted, or--"

"Let's go," Jack interrupted gleefully, and took off into the nearest bushes.

With a sigh, Daniel joined Cameron Balinsky where he was talking to Dixon. "Hi," he said. "I'm supposed to stand here so I don't look suspicious." He glanced at Sam's group again, where it looked like she was explaining one of the security lockdown protocols. "Am I interrupting?"

"Nah," Dixon said, then reached out and rougly grabbed Daniel's jacket.

"Whoa, sir, uh...what--" Dixon flicked the switch to turn on his voice modulator. "Right," Daniel said, surprising himself with his own distorted voice. "Thanks."

"Go get 'em, kid," Dixon said, pushing him in the right direction as soon as the last member of SG-11 disappeared inside another building.

Daniel made his way to the building and found a half-built fence where he could crouch and not be too obviously in sight. He could hear Sam's voice inside explaining the operations of some of their main computers. A glance across, past the entrance to the building, showed Jack with crouched in the same position.

'Ready?' Jack mouthed at him.

'Guess so,' Daniel mouthed back.

'What?' Jack answered.

'Never mind,' Daniel said.

'What?' Jack repeated, furrowing his brows.

Daniel rolled his eyes. Jack raised his eyebrows. Daniel shrugged in return and adjusted his grip on his intar instead of trying to answer. Jack shrugged back and adjusted the settings on his gun.

The sound of footsteps inside made Daniel shrink back behind fence post.

"...needs two officers to set," Sam was saying as she walked out. Colonel Edwards followed closely behind. Daniel held still and let the others pass his position--

Dry grass crunched behind him. "Goa'uld, kree!" Teal'c's voice yelled.

Daniel whirled around to see an intar staff weapon pointed at him. He raised his own intar and fired before he could be hit and barely registered Teal'c falling to the ground as something heavy hit him from behind, knocking him down. He twisted sharply onto his back, raising his gun--

Jack was standing over him, intar aimed at Daniel while Daniel held his own intar steady on Jack. "Drop your weapon!" Jack demanded, his voice modulator active.

Glancing past him, Daniel could see Sam and SG-11 all aiming intars at the two of them. "Shoot him!" Daniel yelled, looking at Colonel Edwards. "He's a Goa'uld!"

"I'm Tok'ra!" Jack insisted. "Daniel's become a Goa'uld."

"Sir, your orders?" Sam asked. "Colonel Edwards?"

"I'm the Tok'ra," Daniel protested.

"Daniel shot Teal'c," Jack called. "He's gotta be the Goa'uld."

"That was self-defense," Daniel said, thinking fast and silently cursing Jack for omitting Teal'c's involvement in this game. "Teal'c...must have sensed a symbiote and attacked without realizing who I was. But Colonel O'Neill would never agree to be a Tok'ra! He must be a Goa'uld!"

Someone fired. Jack jerked and tumbled to the ground.

"What the hell was that!" Edwards barked, starting to aim his gun at Daniel.

Daniel rolled away and managed a shot at Edwards. He hit Sam and Lieutenant Stemler, too, and clipped Lieutenant Devon's shoulder, before he turned to see the barrel of someone's gun--

...x...

"Ow," Daniel said when he woke. Jack was facing SG-11, his back to Daniel.

"Turn that thing off," Jack said, turning to him as Sam grimaced and picked herself up, too.

Daniel switched his voice modulator off. "You didn't tell me about Teal'c."

"Part of the scenario. You're being tested, too. The point is," Jack said, turning back to SG-11, "no one knew who was the Goa'uld and who was the Tok'ra. But Lieutenant Stemler shot me. Right, Lieutenant?"

"Yes, sir," Stemler said unhappily.

"Why'd you shoot me?"

Stemler glanced at Edwards. "Your...distaste for the Tok'ra is well known, sir," he said. "I thought it was unlikely that you could be a Tok'ra, since they only take willing hosts. Jackson's story seemed to make more sense."

Jack turned around and glared at Daniel. "That's not my fault," Daniel said.

"Don't start," Jack warned him. "You had a clear shot--you only got Carter because she had orders not to shoot, and you left yourself wide open for someone to take you out. Was there something wrong with the fence one foot away from you that you couldn't take cover there?"

Daniel gulped and looked to his left at the fence one foot away from him. "No, sir."

"Colonel O'Neill could have been implanted with a Tok'ra symbiote out of necessity," Sam said. "If, for example, he'd been injured too badly and a symbiote could cure him."

"Over my dead body," Jack muttered. Sam gave him a look. "Unless," he amended for the purposes of the exercise, "it would actually be over my dead body, in which case...it might be possible. To prevent the dead body."

"How sure were you of the identity of the Goa'uld, Lieutenant Stemler?" Teal'c said.

Stemler swallowed. "Not very, sir."

"Colonel Edwards?" Teal'c said.

"If I'd been sure," Edwards said, "I wouldn't've waited."

"For what, exactly, were you waiting?" Jack said. "For one of your men to shoot the Tok'ra and let the Goa'uld start killing people? Because my seventeen-year-old civilian translator took out most your team. If he'd actually been a Goa'uld, he probably would've gotten the rest, maybe even before the captain here had been able to put him down. And an armed Goa'uld loose on the Alpha Site with a Tok'ra ally dead--anyone else have a problem with that?"

Daniel wrinkled his nose, pulling off his voice modulator and not sure whether to be unhappy that everyone was being yelled at or insulted that being seventeen and a civilian translator was supposed to make him a bad shot. Sam held up her hand, and he tossed the device to her.

"Captain Lorne," Jack said. "Why did you shoot Daniel?"

Lorne cleared his throat. "It was clear by then that he was an enemy, sir."

Jack nodded. "So you only start shooting when the rest of your team's dead. Who can tell me what you should've been doing instead of waiting around or shooting friends?"

"Incapacitate them both," Edwards said. "Then contact the Tok'ra and find out who's lying."

"Thank you!" Jack said. Turning again, he added unexpectedly, "And Teal'c, what the hell happened to you?"

"I expected Daniel Jackson to hesitate upon seeing me," Teal'c said. "He has never been trained to fight against me in such circumstances."

"Well, next time," Jack snapped, "shoot him faster."

Daniel decided to keep his mouth shut. Jack was still holding his intar.

"You're dismissed," Jack said. "Everyone be less stupid next time."

...x...

10 February 2001; Alpha Site, P3X-984; 1400 hrs

"SG-13 is guarding the 'gate, and there's nothing but open space in front of them," Edwards whispered. "We need a distraction if we're gonna get past them."

"Set the naquadah reactor to explode," Daniel suggested.

"Hell of a distraction," Lorne said, "'cept being dead is an obstacle to completing a mission."

"There's an alarm, right, when the reactor gets close to overload?" Daniel said. "SG-13 will think it's part of the test, and SG-1 will have to go to fix it and see who tampered because they'll think it's a real alarm."

"And then we'll all blow up," Lieutenant Devon said.

"Are you crazy, Jackson?" Lorne hissed.

"Sam won't let it blow up," Daniel said. "I wouldn't have suggested it if I thought there was any...significant risk of that."

"No," Edwards said, cutting off their discussion. "I don't care how much confidence you have in Major Carter; we are not putting the lives of everyone on this base in danger."

"On the other hand," Stemler said, "we could rig the alarm to go off without sabotaging the reactor. The internal mechanism's just a thermal sensor--as long as there's enough heat on it..."

"How much heat?" Lorne said, rooting through their supplies. He extracted an MRE.

Devon raised his eyebrows. "That would probably do it if I tweak the sensor's settings," he said.

"Do we want heat near a reactor?" Edwards said.

"This can't generate enough heat to detonate the core, sir," Devon said, pulling out the flameless heater. "But I should be able to rig it so the sensor will go off when I set this to heat--I can even get it to cut non-essential power at the same time to make it more chaotic."

"Do it," Edwards said. "Lorne, go with him. Jackson, get close to the 'gate. When the alarm goes off, you're going to run right into them and make a scene, Lorne will double back to make more noise, Stemler and I'll take care of SG-13, and Jackson runs through the 'gate with our artifact. We'll join you once it's clear."

Stemler slapped the fake amulet into Daniel's hand. "Go freak out," the man said.

"Fre--" Daniel sighed as the others took off in their respective directions. "Yes, sir," he said and left their setup to prepare to do his part.

He could just barely hear Edwards and Stemler behind him as they moved into position, too. A soft click came over his radio, and he looked down at his watch. The reactor was set.

He crept closer, closer, slowly, until Dixon's men were in view but just out of earshot, standing in front of the Stargate and guarding the open space in front of it. Daniel stopped there--he wasn't good enough to be as quiet as he'd need to be to keep them from noticing if he went any further.

The alarms blared. The few lights around the Alpha Site flickered and died.

As SG-13 turned in alarm toward the building where the reactor was housed and hurriedly turned on their flashlights, and Daniel stood suddenly, drawing the attention of their guns. "Ah--don't shoot!" he said frantically, looking over his shoulder. "What's going on?"

"Daniel?" Cameron said, lowering his gun. "Was that you guys?"

"No, of course not! Oh, gods, is that the security system? But I thought this planet's location was supposed to be secret," Daniel said, injecting as much panic into his voice as he could.

"No, it's the naquadah reactor's alarm," Captain Martin said.

"Naquadah reactor?" Daniel yelled. "What?"

"Colonel Dixon?" the captain said.

Making his way forward, Daniel called, "Sam! Sam! Who--where's--"

The sound of someone crashing through the underbrush announced Lorne's arrival. "Jackson, where's Devon?" Lorne yelled.

"I don't know!" Daniel yelled back, inching toward their target 'Stargate' in the confusion.

"Martin, let's go," Dixon said, and he and the SG-13 engineer ran toward the reactor.

"Shit," Lorne said. He reached up to his radio. "Devon, where are you?"

"The reactor's overloading, sir!" Devon answered through the radio. "I'm going to see if I can help!"

"This is Edwards," Edwards added. "Abort scenario. I repeat, get down!"

Daniel dropped to the ground and heard the sound of intar fire over his head. As Cameron fell, he crawled quickly toward the 'gate SG-13 was guarding and stepped through to mark their victory.

"I'm through, Colonel!" he announced, turning around to see Cameron and Captain Whall of SG-13 on the ground with Edwards, Stemler, and Lorne holding their guns in their hands. "The amulet has been retrieved and taken to...well, we win, anyway."

Just then, Devon emerged from the other side. "Whew," he said. "Thought they were going to find me. Are we done?"

The alarm stopped. All available lights turned back on.

Jack was stomping toward them. Teal'c and Sam were close behind, the latter holding the ration heater in her hand. Dixon was on his way back, too, and he looked rather angry.

"Uh-oh," Daniel said. SG-11 straightened and stood at attention.

"Do you know how much panic you just caused throughout the entire Alpha Site?" Jack barked.

"Jack--" Daniel started.

"And the worst part," Jack continued, turning to him, "was that we actually believed some of you might be stupid enough to set the reactor to take out the entire Alpha Site, Daniel!"

Defensive and chagrinned at once--because that had been his first idea--Daniel tried to think of a way to answer that without sounding too insubordinate in front of the other teams. "Colonel Edwards wouldn't have allowed a plan that stupid to be implemented," he said.

"So that was the original plan," Jack said.

"Due respect, Colonel," Edwards said, "we didn't set the reactor to do anything but make noise, and if we'd actually been in an enemy stronghold, it's what we would have done."

Jack stared at them a little longer, then, apparently finding nothing else to yell at them about, turned to SG-13. "And that brings us to you," he said. "You're more experienced than SG-11, and you allowed yourselves to be distracted. Maybe the reactor was going to blow--doesn't matter. You shoot the enemy soldier sneaking up on you before you go fix it, no matter how old or how upset he seems to be--it might be a trap!"

"Yes, sir," Dixon said.

"Tomorrow," Jack said, "Daniel's joining SG-13. See if having the extra man advantage helps you as much as it helped SG-11. Dismissed!"

...x...

15 February 2001; Alpha Site, P3X-984; 1000 hrs

"No games today," Jack declared at sunrise one morning when SG-11, SG-13, and Daniel all assembled and waited for the day's assignments. "Conditioning this morning, drills this afternoon. Good thing we got rain yesterday--river's nice and high. We're gonna take a little run, and it'll cut through the river, so you'll get a little swim, too."

Daniel didn't think he'd shown anything outwardly, because he knew that showing nerves in situations like this was the worst way to try to earn respect from a team that still wasn't sure what to think of him. Jack was looking directly as him as he mentioned swimming, though, so he raised his chin and said, "Yes, sir," with everyone else and didn't say another word.

He'd practiced with Jack, of course, between '888 and now. He was a better swimmer than he had been. He'd just never done it at a river like this, the way he'd done with Chaka...

They ran and ran, in a long line that put several paces between each person, and by the time they'd reached the river, Daniel was tired enough to be a little scared, too, because this was what had happened before, wasn't it? He'd been tired from running and maybe a little concussed and bound, and he'd almost drowned--

"Go!" Jack barked, and Daniel realized he was standing at the riverbank, holding his hands in front of him as if they were tied together at the wrist. Jack's eyes met his briefly and then flicked past him, and he glanced over his shoulder to see the half of SG-13 not yet in the water, along with Teal'c, who was watching them from the rear.

Jack was watching from the front of the line, Sam was at the bank on the other side, and Teal'c was behind. Taking a breath, Daniel separated his arms from their awkward, unconscious position and jumped.

Daniel still wasn't the fastest swimmer, but the point was that he reached the other side without drowning or swallowing water or even lagging behind, and when he touched the ground again with his hand, he was breathing hard from the run and the swim...and that was it. He'd made it with the others, and he was fine.

Sam's hand reached down to him, and he grasped it to help pull himself out of the water and onto the shore on the other side. Teal'c emerged just behind him, and even Jack, running on at the head of the SG-11 and -13 pack, turned to check that he'd surfaced.

"Let's go!" Jack ordered, turning back around. Daniel pushed himself to his feet and followed.


From the next chapter ("Personnel"):

"Hold your fire!" Jack shouted.

"Ka keka!" Daniel yelled, lowering his gun and pushing past SG-1. "Unas ka keka!"