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nightspear ([personal profile] nightspear) wrote2009-06-05 10:34 pm
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Archaeology (19/30)

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
Chapter16 Chapter17 Chapter18

XXXXX

Chapter 19: Indirect Orders

XXXXX

17 April 2001; P31-4X8; 1100 hrs

Daniel ran after Sam through the system of tunnels. So far, it seemed that the Jaffa scouting party they'd met hadn't discovered this place before them. Jack was insisting they were almost there, and any minute they'd come out and see the 'gate.

And then light appeared at the exit. "There," Jack whispered, his voice echoing on the rock. "The 'gate should be just beyond there. Carter, get to the DHD--we'll cover you."

"Stop!" Teal'c hissed from behind. Daniel froze in place, as did the others. "Voices."

He strained his ears in the sudden silence, and, sure enough, he could just barely hear an order being called out in the open land ahead of them. "Someone's waiting for us at the 'gate," Sam whispered.

'Fall back,' Jack signaled, but before they could move, the sound of footsteps came from one of the winding tunnels from which they'd come. "No! Never mind," he whispered. Daniel stopped in his tracks and turned around to face him again. "Keep coming this way--who's got a grenade left? Carter--here... Move out as soon as you hear them go off."

Inching along, pressing himself against the wall, Daniel gripped his zat'nik'tel and hoped they'd get out into the light before they had to try shooting anyone. From ahead, he heard the sound of a pin dropping, and then, "Down!" Sam said, turning to cover him as well as she could with her body.

"Now!" Jack called, running out even as twin explosions sounded.

Daniel emerged into dim light just as the first of the Jaffa began to recover from the blast, and he barely had time to count three, maybe four figures still standing before Teal'c followed him out and turned to fire on the men approaching from behind. Daniel stayed pressed against the wall, raising his gun to shoot as soon as he was sure he wouldn't hit Jack, and saw Sam crouched beside the DHD, raising her head every few seconds to hit another glyph.

One of the Jaffa in the open fell to Daniel's zat, and Jack's gun took the other two. "Go, go!" Jack ordered, turning around to help Teal'c. "Everyone back to the 'gate!"

The Stargate kawhooshed to life. "GDO sent," Sam's voice said through the radio, but then she turned around and ducked back under the DHD as another team of Jaffa emerged from behind the 'gate. "SGC," she continued, "this is SG-1. We're under fire!"

"Colonel O'Neill, this is General Hammond," another voice said as they made their way back to the 'gate, a line of Jaffa approaching from behind them and another from ahead. "Your status?"

Jack dropped to the ground to duck a staff blast. Daniel squeezed his trigger over and over until his zat hit the one who'd shot it as Jack radioed back, "We're pinned down. Carter was able to dial the 'gate. We're trying to get clear to come through."

Sam rose over the top of the DHD and fired at the approaching soldiers. "We have to go now!" she yelled.

Daniel ran out from behind Teal'c, then had to duck back behind a tree on his way there as several staff blasts headed that way. He leaned out around it and returned fire, hoping to cause a mess of energy blasts more than he was expecting to hit anyone. "Jack, Teal'c, come on!" he called back as he saw the other two still crouched near the tunnel entrance, covering their backs.

"Colonel O'Neill, we're taking fire. Report."

"So are we!" Jack yelled as he made a dash toward some cover closer to the 'gate. "Daniel, you're clear--we're right behind you!"

As he said it, he rose over top of Daniel's head and fired. Daniel ran for the 'gate, turning back to shoot as he went and watching as Teal'c followed after him, Sam and Jack each peeling away from their positions--

XXXXX

17 April 2001; Briefing Room, SGC; 1130 hrs

Daniel reflected, as they sat around the briefing room table, that it wasn't a good mark of their sense of self-preservation to feel so normal when Jack said, "So, essentially, we were ambushed on the way back to the 'gate."

"We almost didn't make it out," Sam added.

"If you'd delayed much longer, you wouldn't have," General Hammond said, looking out the window at where people were cleaning up the embarkation room. "I was about to close the iris."

"Well," Jack said, "considering the SGC was taking fire...kinda glad you waited as long as you did, sir."

"Strictly speaking, if I'd followed procedure, you'd all be dead right now."

There was something odd in his tone. Daniel leaned sideways very slightly, trying to see the general's expression in his reflection on the window. "Well, sir, every time we go through the Stargate it's a calculated risk," Sam said.

The general nodded, still not looking at them. "I realize that, Major. But frankly, I'm getting tired of sending good people out there, never knowing if they're going to come back. I've had enough."

Daniel felt his eyebrows shoot up. "Sir, what are you saying?"

Finally, the general turned around. "I wanted you all to be the first to know," he said heavily. "Effective immediately, I'm stepping down as commander of the SGC."

"What?" Jack said.

"You heard me, Jack," the general said, and somehow, the use of Jack's name instead of his rank--in front of the rest of them, no less, not in private--made the statement feel more real.

"General Hammond," Teal'c said, "I have never served under such a commander as you. You have been essential in the victories we have so far achieved against the Goa'uld."

"Thank you, Teal'c," the general said with a brief smile at the Jaffa. "I've also been essential in the losses we've suffered."

"But--" Daniel started.

"No, I'm sorry," the general interrupted. "I've said all I intend to--I've done more than I ever intended to when I took this position. I'm almost done packing. It's time for an old man like me to step down and let someone fresh take over. Thank you all for your...your outstanding service. It's been an honor."

General Hammond turned away and walked into his office, closing the door behind him.

"But," Daniel said.

"That's a load of crap," Jack said.

"Sir," Sam started.

Jack looked down at her. "You don't believe that, do you? Come on--so we ran into a little trouble out there. We've been in--hell, Daniel's been getting into worse trouble for years."

"Perhaps he has been considering this for some time, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "He spoke of more than simply the danger to us." Jack turned to him this time. "And perhaps," Teal'c said more quietly, "there is another reason for General Hammond's departure."

"Y'think?" Jack said, sitting back down and lowering his voice, too.

"However," Teal'c said, "it is not my place to question his reasons."

"But," Daniel said.

"You're right," Jack said.

"But," Daniel said again.

"Everyone go clean up and get changed," Jack said decisively. "I'll talk to Hammond."

Sam nodded, standing, but she said, "Sir, if General Hammond wants to retire, it's his choice."

"Well, let's just make sure General Hammond really does want to retire," Jack said. "None of you argue with him. I'll talk to him and see what's going on. And if he leaves...still, nothing changes, you understand? We still have the job, and we still have the team."

XXXXX

18 April 2001; Carter/Martouf/Lantash's Lab, SGC; 0900 hrs

Except they didn't.

Daniel greeted their new commander--General Bauer--with the rest of the somewhat befuddled SG personnel and then followed Sam to her lab, mostly because he wasn't really sure what was going on. They met General Bauer waiting for them there.

"Sir," Sam said, snapping back to attention.

"At ease, Major," Bauer said immediately. Daniel glanced past him to where Martouf was sitting at a bench with a frown, then turned back to the general. "I've been going over your research into naquadah reactors. Very impressive."

"Well, large-scale application is mostly theoretical right now," she said, "but the mineral does show incredible potential as an alternative power source. Martouf and I have been--"

"It also shows some interesting properties when used in conjunction with nuclear ordinance," Bauer interrupted.

"W--" Sam's eyebrows drew low. "It does tend to increase the explosive effect, yes, sir."

"As I have attempted to explain to General Bauer," Martouf said, standing up, "the SGC does not have adequate facilities, equipment, or material for what he is proposing. The Tok'ra do not even have a weapon like the one suggested, simply because there has been no feasible way to--"

"The Tok'ra have dallied for thousands of years," Bauer said. "If we move at their pace, we're going to lose this war long before we get anywhere."

"General," Daniel said, thoroughly unimpressed, "the Tok'ra have spent thousands of years accomplishing things we can't even imagine, and if one of their top people"--he gestured toward Martouf--"believes a proposal isn't feasible--"

"Their top people believed until a few years ago that no human efforts were feasible, Mr. Jackson," Bauer said, not looking away from Sam. "The Pentagon feels that the Stargate project, while exposing Earth to considerable danger, has yet to produce any practical returns. Now--"

"Sir," Daniel said, incredulous, "that's absurd! I can name--"

"Daniel," Sam said sharply. "I apologize, General."

Bauer turned away from her long enough to give Daniel an assessing look, then turned back. "Now," he began again, "we've been working on a device designed specifically to take advantage of this naquadah-enhancing effect. I'd like you to take part in the operation, Major."

Daniel glanced again at Martouf and saw his eyes flash. He almost wished Lantash would come out to yell at Bauer, because 'device' could only mean 'dangerous weapon' when combined with nuclear ordinance, except Lantash rarely did that anymore these days, and it probably wouldn't help their case.

"What about my duties with SG-1?" Sam said.

"You've been reassigned," Bauer said.

"What?" Daniel blurted.

"As have you, Mr. Jackson," Bauer added. "A civilian--a minor--has no place on a frontline unit. From now on, you'll work as a linguistics consultant and as our liaison with Abydos, as you were originally intended to do. I anticipate our relationship with your planet will be very useful over the course of this project."

Daniel shut his mouth.

"General Bauer, with...with all due respect..." Sam started

"The decision has been made, Major," Bauer said. "Now, I suggest you get to work." Bauer turned and walked from the lab.

"I--" Sam started once he was gone, then stopped. "Martouf, what exactly did he say he wants us to do?"

"I do not think he trusts me fully," Martouf said, looking disappointed. "But he left the file for you, and from what little he said to me, I believe he plans to build and test a naquadah-enhanced explosive as a more powerful weapon against the Goa'uld."

"Because attacking the Goa'uld with a huge bomb couldn't possibly hurt the enslaved people in the area," Daniel said, folding his arms.

Sam looked over her shoulder, then picked up the folder to look at what the assignment was. "A naquadah-enhanced nuclear bomb... There's nowhere on Earth we could test something like that and ensure...oh," she said.

"There is no need to use Earth," Martouf reminded her.

"And they need naquadah," Daniel said. "Sam, Sha'uri said my people just found a store of weapons-grade--"

"We have some weapons-grade material right here on base," Sam said. "It's probably enough to finish this project without even having to find more. Don't worry about Abydos."

Teal'c appeared in the doorway. "I have been reassigned," he said.

"For God's sake," Sam said, slapping the folder back down on the bench top. "So have we, both of us. Colonel O'Neill's going to blow his top. What are you now, Teal'c, the on-base Goa'uld strategic consultant?"

"I was transferred to SG-3," Teal'c said. "They lost a man in battle two weeks ago."

"So what do we do?" Daniel said, suddenly lost without General Hammond to lead them and without their team.

"We have our orders," Sam said.

"Sam--" Daniel protested.

"No," she said firmly. "Changes in leadership happen, and if we start picking and choosing who we want to obey, then we're no better than Maybourne's crowd. We follow our orders." Daniel glared at the floor. "Look, I know how you feel. Maybe the colonel will convince General Bauer to put things back the way they were."

Daniel winced. Jack was going to be angry, at the very least, and Bauer didn't seem like the kind of person who'd be as indulgent of Jack's temper as General Hammond had been.

"Something is not right," Teal'c said in a low voice.

"I don't know, Teal'c. But there's nothing we can do about it," Sam said. "Not here and not now. Everyone get back to work."

...x...

Daniel had stopped noticing all the time how quiet the archaeology office was. Now, it seemed more stifling than ever. It wasn't just that Robert was gone, though that was part of it--even now, there were two people in the room, looking for reference books, but there was a sort of distance with them that hadn't existed with Robert.

Mostly, though, it was the prospect of being in here all the time now, with no need or excuse to go anywhere but next door to Nyan's office when he had a question about some artifact, or across the hall to Dr. Reeve's office when he had to hand something in. There had always been an SG-1, and even when Daniel himself hadn't been on it, even when Colonel Makepeace had been briefly in charge, there had been General Hammond. They hadn't been trying to build a weapon then.

"Hey," Jack said.

Grateful for any noise, Daniel looked up to see him standing in the doorway, dressed, oddly, in civilian clothes. "Jack," he said. "You heard? About...us?"

"Yeah," Jack said, then walked in and said nothing more.

"Jack?" Daniel said. "What's going on?"

"I'm going to be on leave for a while," Jack said. He glanced at the lieutenant who was pulling a book from the shelf, then at the captain who was using a spare stool as a table to scribble down some notes. And then Jack turned back to Daniel and held himself so still and his eyes so steady that something was wrong, something he didn't really want to say in front of the others, and Daniel just had to figure out what--

"Do you need something?" Daniel said quietly, knowing that Jack could be overly paranoid at times but that there was often a good reason for it. He starting moving toward the door, an excuse to go somewhere they would be alone--

"Nah," Jack said, and didn't move, though he glanced again at the two translators. And, oddly, he didn't tell them to leave--Jack wasn't normally shy about ordering people around when they were annoying him, which meant something wasn't normal. "Didn't want to bother you guys before I left, but I had to tell you, since you're not going to have a ride home until I'm allowed to come back to work."

"Jack..." Daniel repeated, wondering what exactly the man had said to the general.

"I don't want you wandering around to get to the bus stop at all hours," Jack went on, "so it's best for you to stay on base for now. You need anything from the house?"

"Uh...no," he said. "I guess. But--"

"I'm really sorry about this," Jack said, staring hard at him. The lieutenant, looking awkward, took his book and left the room. The other man in the room didn't seem to notice. "You shouldn't get punished just because I was out of line."

"Jack--"

"You gonna be okay staying here?"

Daniel frowned at him, thoroughly confused now. "Of--of course. But Jack--"

"Daniel," Jack interrupted. "Remember what we said in the briefing room after the last mission?"

"That we still have the job?" Daniel said sardonically. "The team?"

"Before that."

("Perhaps," Teal'c said, "there is another reason for General Hammond's departure.")

"Yeah," Daniel said, suspicious now. He looked at the captain, who was gathering his notes together, and turned back with an exasperated sigh for show. "I know, I know."

Jack gave him a false, bright smile. "So, chin up. Keep an eye on the kids while I'm gone," he said. Daniel forced a short chuckle. "And don't worry about me--I just need to work some things out, and then I'll be back. I'll call and check on you; let me know if you need anything."

"Okay," Daniel said, nodding, concerned but a little relieved, too, now that he knew something was wrong. If something was wrong, and if Jack was working on it, then it could be fixed. "I'll be okay. We'll be good, Jack."

"You'd better be," Jack said. "That's an order--I always rely on you guys to be good so I get to screw around."

...x...

At lunch, Daniel found Sam and Teal'c sitting together, eating in companionable silence. "You heard about Jack?" he said, sitting down with them.

"Yeah," Sam sighed.

"Does it not seem odd?" Teal'c said.

Sam looked up at him. "What do you mean?"

"Jack thinks something's wrong," Daniel said into his coffee mug.

"He talked to you?" she said, looking a little hurt. "I found out from a memo."

"I was the only one he had a really good excuse to talk to, since he's usually my ride home." And Daniel would get it, too, and wouldn't argue. Jack must have known that.

She narrowed her eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"He said he's going to be working on it," Daniel said.

"But what's he going to do?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "I'm not sure he knows. But he needs us to give him time."

"Daniel," she said warningly, almost a whisper, "are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure."

"Are you talking about defying direct orders on a...a hunch?"

"No," he answered. "And I'm passing along Jack's orders, and if I were going to trust anyone's hunches, it would be his. Sam, he's on forced leave just for being annoyed that they took his team apart without consulting him. And we don't have to defy. Directly."

Sam stared at him. "You're always talking about morals. 'Directly' or 'indirectly' shouldn't make a difference."

Daniel bit his lip, then said, "Morally, maybe not. Legally, on the other hand..." He trailed off suggestively. "And there are times when 'moral' and 'illegal' overlap."

"This isn't right," she said, but she was wavering.

"Perhaps it is more right than what is happening now," Teal'c said. She gave him a pained look.

"Look, what about that project you're working on?" Daniel said. "General Hammond leaves, and his replacement suddenly takes us all apart, kicks out the one person who dares to say anything, and wants you to build a nuclear bomb?"

"Well, what do you think we could do short of...something really stupid?" Sam said. "Without Colonel O'Neill, we're just three people. No offense, but we're a scientist and a civilian who've been taken out of the field--a woman and a kid, and regs don't strictly allow people like us into combat positions anyway--and a turned enemy."

"And we're the most well-known names on base," Daniel reminded her. "We're not entirely without clout--we have influence with at least some people in every division of the SGC."

"Your project will already see delays," Teal'c said pointedly, "because the SGC does not have sufficient quantities of weapons-grade naquadah."

She frowned and opened her mouth to correct him, then closed it.

"Is that not correct, Major Carter?"

"Teal'c," she said. "If I do anything, I could be court-martialed."

"And Teal'c and I don't exist on this planet unless they say we do," Daniel said. "How many of our problems have come out of the Pentagon? The first time we dealt with them here, they wanted to take Teal'c and study Junior in a lab."

"Do you understand how much power is in the Pentagon?" she countered quietly.

"Then do nothing, Major Carter," Teal'c added. "All we ask is that you remain on your guard and work carefully."

She took a bite of a sandwich and didn't answer for a few minutes. And then, "If Bauer suspects anything, I'll be taken off the project. And I can't trust the next person will follow Colonel O'Neill's orders over General Bauer's on your word alone, Daniel."

"You don't have to tell anyone," Daniel said, "but you're in charge, right? And if you think someone would help you, tell them. Martouf would help--you saw he's concerned. The scientists trust him. And...and make people run...quadruple checks, whatever takes most time."

"Time for what?"

"I don't know," he repeated. "Something. Wait until Jack calls and we know more. It's a nuclear bomb, Sam. No one would find it suspicious that you want to be careful."

Sam played unhappily with her Jell-O. "The kinds of shortcuts he wants to take on this project..." she said. "It could be really dangerous. The timeline he's set is pretty harsh if we want to do it safely. Martouf and I aren't the only ones worried."

"So stall," Daniel said.

"He's got a full set of plans and loads of data from research done at the Pentagon," she warned. "We're mostly just checking over calculations and providing the naquadah and the hardware. They've already done the bulk of the work--delays will look more suspicious than you realize."

"Then be very cautious in whom you place your trust," Teal'c said. "Listen and watch carefully."

Finally, she nodded. "I'll do what I can. Both of you watch out and keep your heads down." She stood and left. Daniel glanced at Teal'c, then looked down and continued eating in silence.

XXXXX

22 April 2001; General Hammond's Office, SGC; 1100 hrs

"You wanted to see me?" Daniel said, standing at the door to the office days later.

"We need to talk," Bauer said.

Daniel stepped in. "Okay."

Bauer held out a packet of paper until Daniel reached out and took it. "Does this look familiar?"

"It...it looks like Major Pendleton's original survey report from the planet P48-3K8," Daniel said, wondering if he'd already stepped too far in opposing the project.

"You do recognize it. Somehow, I'm not surprised."

"Yes, sir. Like many, I make a habit of reading all mission reports from all teams unless they're sealed for some reason, and, since this planet was chosen to be the test site for the, uh, the weapons testing, it seemed like relevant reading material for our current situatio--"

"The head of your department was here a few minutes ago," Bauer said. "He had concerns about the fitness of this site for the test, but when I asked him why, the only reason he could give me was that some people had concerns. Can I assume that, if I asked you, you could tell me exactly why you think P48-3K8 is an inappropriate location?"

Daniel swallowed. "Yes, sir, it was my... I'm the one who brought up those concerns with Dr. Reeve, if that's what you're asking, and if you'll hear me out, I'm sure you'd agr--"

"If you have concerns," Bauer cut him off sternly, "you can tell me instead of hiding behind another researcher."

"He's my direct supervisor now that I'm not on a team," Daniel said. "I was trying to follow the chain of command, sir, but if you'd like, I'd gladly skip past that formality."

"Furthermore," Bauer went on, "you're not involved in this project."

"There's evidence of an abandoned naquadah mine on that planet!" Daniel said, flipping to the right page in the report and pointing. "There's probably still some naquadah there, and besides, there's clearly plant and animal life, which means there could be intelligent life beyond the area that SG-5 searched. And the reports were misplaced in the archive and SG-5's currently off-world, so it could easily have been missed by Major Carter and the scientists working on the--"

Bauer stood. "When I want your opinion on a subject beyond your skill and understanding, Mr. Jackson, I'll ask for it."

Daniel stopped with his mouth still open.

"If I find out that you had anything to do with the recent delays on this project..."

"It's beyond my understanding, sir," Daniel said stiffly. "I couldn't have had anything to do with it. In fact, I went to Dr. Reeve today because I couldn't get access to the lab when I tried to speak with the scientists involved."

The project was proceeding alarmingly quickly. Sam said the plans from Washington were very, very complete, and even with a few people purposely dawdling, there were more who were moving forward with all the typical efficiency of the SGC. Sergeant Siler was the one who'd destroyed half of a nearly-completed model after the first day. Daniel wasn't sure if that had been an accident and hadn't asked. The man usually played strictly by the book, but he knew and trusted Sam, too; it was hard to tell with him, as with so many of the other personnel here.

Bauer gave him a sharp look. "You, Major Carter, and Teal'c--I've seen the three of you with your heads together just about everywhere outside of your work areas."

"We're just... You can't be saying we're not allowed to talk just because you disbanded SG-1," Daniel said, quashing some panic because they had been discussing Bauer and Jack's occasional phone calls every chance they could get in the commissary or anywhere else too public to hear their private conversations.

Technically, even disregarding the fact that they were deliberately obstructing orders, they were in contact with and trying to help a man who was with a convicted traitor--at least, Daniel was pretty sure that was what Jack's meandering conversations with him meant. Jack said the President was on their side, but since it involved Colonel Maybourne, the orders must be very secret and very unofficial, which meant someone had even more power than the leader of the country. At the moment, it was possible that someone was General Bauer.

Head down, Sam had said. Be good, Jack had said. Daniel tried very hard to look very innocent and had the feeling he wasn't doing a good job.

"Of course I'm not saying that," Bauer said, because they both knew that if he did anything as authoritarian as that, people would start to whisper more than they already were. "You're dismissed, Mr. Jackson."

...x...

"Martouf," Daniel said, relieved to find the Tok'ra in his quarters, fiddling with a mathematical puzzle at his desk. "Are you still working on the bomb project?"

"Yes," Martouf said. "Although I am not certain whether to be glad I was not taken off the project or disappointed that it has not yet been discontinued."

"Yeah, um...I really need to tell Sam something, but I can't get into the labs where she is right now," Daniel said. "It's about the test site General Bauer picked. Martouf, there's an abandoned naquadah mine there. Now, I'm not an expert on Goa'uld methods, but..."

Frowning, Martouf said, "It is likely that there is naquadah otherwise present in the soil if there are records of a large deposit there."

"Isn't that dangerous?" Daniel said. "For testing a bomb like that, I mean."

"Very," Martouf said, picking up a notepad on his desk and jotting something down. "I will go to the lab and tell Samantha immediately."

"Tell her to look at SG-5's UAV data from their first mission to '3K8 if anyone's not sure," he added, watching Martouf add that to his notes. "The evidence is clear."

...x...

"He knew all along," Sam said, marching into the archaeology office, looking furious. "He lied about the geological data to us! The reports he gave us said there was no naquadah in the soil, and all along he knew there were trace amounts everywhere on the planet, which is extremely dangerous. Dammit."

"But now you'll have to find another site, right?" Daniel said.

Sam shook her head. "I told you--he knew from the start. This doesn't change anything, except that now no one's hiding the fact that they're trying to start a chain reaction that could potentially destroy the entire planet--"

"The entire planet? But we can't be sure there's no one anywhere on the planet!"

"A risk assessment has been made," she said bitterly. "We'll proceed with the plans, even though that plan includes leaving Earth connected by an open wormhole to a planet that'll be full of radiation and...god. I guess I should be glad he didn't take me off the project for protesting. And glad a lot of people heard when Martouf came in to tell us about that UAV report. Thanks for that, by the way."

Daniel sat back in his chair. "But..."

There wasn't even anyone to go to for help. No Hammond, no way to tell whether Bauer was NID, since Jack said even Maybourne didn't know, no way to know whom to contact when everyone who knew about the SGC could potentially be NID, too, an organization powerful enough to threaten General Hammond's grandchildren without repercussions. And even here, anyone who wasn't acting with them could act against them if they suspected people were stalling or opposing General Bauer.

"Why didn't you come to me as soon as you found it?" Sam said.

"You were in the lab," Daniel said. "I'm not 'authorized personnel.'"

She gave him an odd look. "Since when aren't you authorized to go into my lab? People come and go--it's not just the scientists on the project."

Daniel scowled. "Well, my card doesn't allow me into the area anymore, and the SF outside told me I wasn't authorized, so..."

"What? Is it just you?"

"I don't know, but he says he's seen us talking," Daniel said, "which... I mean, of course friends talk, but I don't know if he thinks we're...I don't know. He thinks I'm the one delaying the project." Which he was, admittedly, if only in some minimal and frustratingly indirect way. Reluctantly, he added, "I hope you're not in trouble because I was digging around."

"Well, he can't make us stop talking," she said, though she looked disconcerted, since Bauer wasn't exactly wrong about what they were talking about. "I'll get as many people as I can to have doubts about the bomb. He has data that says it's safe, but if he gave us false data once..."

"Right," Daniel said. Surely, others would be just as unwilling to overlook dangerous discrepancies in data.

"Don't do anything," she said.

"Sam--"

"Don't," she repeated. "He's been giving me funny looks, too. Keep your nose clean. That's...an order." She looked a little embarrassed as she said it, but she was the second-in-command and there was nothing Daniel could do anyway, so he sighed and went back to work as she left.

XXXXX

23 April 2001; Briefing Room, SGC; 1300 hrs

SG-12 was already in the briefing room the next day when Daniel stepped in. "Major Ferretti?" he said warily. "What's going on?"

"Apparently..." Ferretti started, then cut himself off as the team stood. Daniel turned around to see Bauer enter from General Hammond's office.

"Be seated," Bauer said. Daniel hurried to find a seat. "Major Carter tells me that we need about seven-hundred grams more of weapons-grade naquadah to complete the bomb to specifications. I understand a small supply of high-purity material was recently found on Abydos, and SG-12 is one of the codes that hasn't been changed since their iris system's last update. I want you to retrieve that naquadah."

"You mean you want to ask the Abydons if they'll let us retrieve some, knowing what it'll be used for," Daniel corrected, straightening. "Sir, I have to protest--"

"I'm giving you an order, Mr. Jackson," Bauer said.

"And the SGC-Abydos treaty says that the SGC cannot take naquadah or anything else from the Abydons without their permission, and my primary job now is to act as the voice of Abydonian interests," Daniel said. "By your orders."

"Or," Bauer said, "I can send a team to P3S-452 to find the naquadah instead. I'm told it has to be very refined and that it's very rare."

At that, the rest of SG-12 sat up. "General, isn't that the Goa'uld stronghold SG-3 found?" Captain Dertram said.

"Yes, it is," Bauer said. "I'm confident a well-armed strike force can get the job done, but I don't want to risk lives when we have a peaceful solution. Frankly, Mr. Jackson, I'm surprised you'd put pride ahead of our people's lives. Or...we can ask the Abydons."

"We'll ask the Abydons," Daniel said, subdued. Otherwise, SG-3 would probably be sent to a Goa'uld stronghold again, and this time with Teal'c. If he remembered correctly, that was the mission where SG-3 had recently lost one of its members.

"Good," Bauer said. "You ship out as soon as you're ready."

...x...

23 April 2001; Stargate Room, Abydos; 1330 hrs

Tobay met them when they landed on Nagada, warning, "Sha she'a taiyu."

"A storm," Daniel said, relieved and apprehensive all at once. "Major Ferretti, we can't go out in this until it passes."

Before the wormhole could deactivate, Ferretti flipped on the MALP switch and said into the camera, "General Bauer, this is Major Ferretti."

There was a long pause, and then finally, Bauer answered, "What's the hold-up, Major?"

"There's a sandstorm out there," Ferretti said. "It'll be some time before we can go out and get to the village."

"Should I SG-3 to P3S-452?" Bauer said.

"No, no, wait!" Daniel said, moving toward the MALP. "General, it won't last more than a day at most. Surely you'd prefer such a brief delay in testing a nuclear bomb instead of unnecessarily endangering the lives of the good men by sending them to a Goa'uld stronghold."

He held his breath, waiting for an answer as Major Ferretti gave him an incredulous look. Daniel hoped there were a lot of people in the control room listening. A general could tell them all to shut up and obey, but only an idiot would want dissent in the ranks when some people were muttering already; choosing a Goa'uld base over Abydos was stupid and wasteful and could do nothing but cause dissent.

"All right," Bauer said a moment later. "If you don't come back within twenty-four hours, I'll assume you were either unable to complete your mission or unwilling to do so, and I'll have to look elsewhere for the naquadah. SGC out."

The wormhole flickered out of existence.

"Geesh," Dertram muttered. "What was that?"

Daniel quashed a sigh of relief and said, "Let's go down here. It'll be safer." He pointed to the start of the catacombs, where many of the Guards were staying, too. "I'll keep watch with the Guards and let you know when the storm's let up."

To his relief, no one argued, and SG-12 settled down to wait, out of sight of the night outside. He hoped the sandstorm lasted just under twenty-four hours, so they'd be able to take as long as possible.

He wondered what was taking Jack so long. He wondered what Jack was doing.

"There are many sandstorms in recent days," Tobay said, once they were sitting in position to see when the storm stopped.

"Really?" Daniel said, not really paying attention.

"Yes. One in every few days for the last half moon cycle."

That caught Daniel's attention. "What? That many?" he said.

"Some believe the gods wish to tell us something," Tobay said.

"I do not think that can be so," Daniel said, but it was rare for sandstorms to come that rapidly."There must be an explanation. I will ask our scientists if they know what could be causing it. Perhaps we can help."

Tobay nodded. "But that is not why you came today." He gestured back toward SG-12, in the catacombs. "Do you need something from us?"

"Mineral," Daniel said. "From Ra's stores that were found earlier."

"I will take you myself once the storm has passed," Tobay said easily. "Earth is always welcome to it."

Daniel grimaced and looked down. The Abydons didn't usually question what the SGC did with the naquadah--SGC mining operations were kept as low-key as possible so no one was disturbed, and no one used the mineral here, anyway. Only if Daniel told them something was wrong would they have reason to think they should question it.

"Dan'yel?" Tobay said, frowning. "Something is wrong?"

But lying about why they needed it--or omitting--was better than a risky military strike that could take more lives. "No," Daniel lied, smiling. "I am a little tired; that is all. Nothing is wrong. Thank you for your help."

XXXXX

24 April 2001; Embarkation Room, SGC; 0800 hrs

The storm died completely seventeen hours after they'd arrived on Nagada. Daniel allowed himself another moment to worry--so many sandstorms that lasted half a day at a time was unusual and would soon begin to hinder life on Abydos. With the bomb heaviest on his mind, though, he didn't allow himself to worry much longer, at least for now. Imminent danger came first; environmental survey later.

With the trip toward Nagada, through the mine, into Ra's old storage room, and back, they returned to the SGC just in time for Bauer to say, "Good. We should be able to proceed with the testing today."

In the men's locker room, Ferretti said, "Well, someone doesn't like the new general."

Daniel glanced up to see Ferretti's eyes on him, watching him sharply. "I'd rather have our old general back," he said frankly, toeing his locker shut. "The one who wouldn't have started a nuclear weapons project and insisted on testing it less than a week later without running any small-scale tests or simulations first."

"Hey, Jackson," Haller said, lowering his voice, "I'm on the project, too. Is it true what Martouf said, that they're trying to blow up the whole planet?"

"That's what Sam told me," Daniel said. "You've all seen the report now, right, the one that says there's a naquadah mine there?"

"We've seen it," Haller said. "We really should do another survey of that site first."

"Yes," Daniel agreed. "In fact, maybe you should suggest that to General Bauer before he starts the test. Or to the other scientists. Or ask why he gave you false data to begin with."

"Whoa, whoa," Ferretti said, grabbing Daniel's arm. "Hold it. What are you saying?"

"What?" Daniel said defiantly. "I'm just saying they might want to ask some questions. It's not against regulations to want clarification when you have conflicting information, is it?"

"The general can just tell us to go to hell and that it's not our concern," Haller said.

"Or tell whoever asks to look for reassignment," Ferretti added as they finished changing and started to head out. "Before you start playing games, even if you're right, think about what'll happen if you put your word against his--"

"And Sam's word--"

"Major versus Major General," Ferretti insisted. "You need me to draw you a picture? This is her career, Jackson. Watch where you step."

"Well, if she and Martouf are right," Daniel said quietly, "then we're not just worried about the other planet; it could affect us, too. It could take out this mountain, maybe more. And since Sam pioneered this area of science and Lantash has been doing things like this for millennia--"

"Daniel?" Nyan's voice said. He stopped and turned around to see Nyan standing nervously in the hallway. "Major Carter said to tell you that you have to come right now and call the colonel and tell him to hurry, because they're starting."

Daniel wished he hadn't said that in front of SG-12, who were looking even more confused than before. "Right," Daniel said. "Okay. Um. Thanks."

"You're welcome," Nyan said, and went back toward the elevator. "Come on."

"The colonel?" Ferretti repeated. "As in O'Neill? What the hell are you guys doing now?"

"I'll explain later," Daniel said nervously, then escaped into the elevator with Nyan.

...x...

He found Sam, Teal'c, and Martouf in his office when he and Nyan arrived. "We were taken off the project yesterday," Sam said tightly. "They can't stall any longer. It's happening--the MALP's probably going through to the test site now. I've been trying to reach Colonel O'Neill and see if he can...I don't know, step on it. Or if he's got anything at all we can use."

Daniel picked up his telephone and dialed, not wanting to waste time asking any other questions. If it weren't for the fact that Sam seemed to be the ringleader here, it would have looked a bit like an alien conspiracy. Since they were largely aliens and conspiring against their current Tau'ri commander, Daniel supposed they couldn't even deny that.

"Nothing?" Sam said after he'd hung up once and tried again.

"Answer your phone, Jack," Daniel muttered, waiting until he heard Jack's automated voice-mail message to hang up again. Nyan perched on Robert's old desk, watching him and looking nervously at the closed doors, while Sam lingered in the doorway. "Yi shay. I don't know what to tell you, Sam--I don't have a better way of reaching him than you do. He's been calling me, not the other way around."

"The test will begin soon," Teal'c said. "There must be something we can do to stop it."

"General Bauer has evidence that he is correct," Martouf said.

"But it is false," Nyan protested.

"Doesn't matter," Sam said, indignant--falsifying data in a case like this was, to her, a crime worth disobedience to a superior officer. Daniel wondered what reprimands Bauer had put into her file for it. "There are too many people who believe the numbers, and my word doesn't hold up well enough against a general with data from who-knows-where in his hands."

Daniel hung up for the third time. "Maybe we can try..." he said. At a loss, he dialed one of the few numbers he kept along with Jack's and Sam's.

"Hello?" a familiar voice answered.

"General Hammond," Daniel said as Sam perked up, "it's Daniel Jackson, and I'm sorry, I don't know who to call. But there's a...a...a test happening right now, and...and I was hoping you knew how to get in contact with--"

"Mr. Jackson," the general cut him off. "I shouldn't be hearing any of this. As far as you're concerned, I don't have the clearance."

"No, no, no, sir," Daniel said desperately. "You don't understand. We have to talk to Jack, so if you know where--"

"I can't do anything," the general said. "I don't know where Colonel O'Neill is, and you should not be talking to me. I'm very sorry, but I'm not your commander anymore."

Daniel stopped, staring at the clock. They'd probably started already. "I don't know what to do," he said.

"And I wish I could help you, son, believe me. Don't do anything--"

"Major Carter to the control room," Sergeant Harriman's voice said over the speaker. "All other personnel commence immediate evacuation of the base."

"Repeat--immediate evacuation, by order of General Bauer," Bauer's voice added. "This is not a drill!"

"Oh, gods," Daniel breathed, still holding the phone.

"What's wrong?" General Hammond said.

"They're evacuating the Mountain," Daniel said as Nyan stood up. The other three had already dashed out the door. "Sam was right. Sir, I have to go see what's happening--"

"No!" the general barked. "Daniel, follow evacuation procedure. That's an order!"

With a silent apology, Daniel hung up the phone and said, "Nyan, General Hammond says to get out. You remember the evacuation drills? You have your ID? Names, contacts, numbers..."

"Yes," Nyan said, already pulling the door open. "But...Daniel--"

"We'll meet on the surface. Find an officer you know and stay with him, and don't talk to anyone you don't know when you get up there," Daniel said, pushing him toward the elevator and heading the other way toward the stairs, squeezing past the people running past him in the opposite direction.

Teal'c, Sam, Martouf, and General Bauer were all in the control room when he arrived, along with Sergeant Harriman, who was leaving even then on Sam's order.

"What happened?" Daniel said, looking out into the 'gate room, where a wormhole was clearly still active behind the iris.

"Apparently, the 'gate on the other side wasn't destroyed in the explosion," Sam said with a glare at a stunned-looking Bauer. "The radiation's coming through the wormhole, and if the iris breaks down, there'll be no way to stop the radiation from bombarding the whole base and spreading farther from there."

"We can't disengage from here?" Daniel said, looking out the window.

"The DHD override isn't working," she said, glancing down at the console. "We can't even stay up here safely much longer--"

"I will disconnect the DHD," Teal'c said. "If that is what continues to power the Stargate, the loss of power will cause the wormhole to disengage. My symbiote will protect me from radiation."

"Yeah, for a bit," Sam said, raising her voice as he started down the stairs, "but Teal'c, even you'll be affected by that much--"

"I will go and help him," Martouf said, then, without waiting, he brushed past them and headed down the stairs. "I know how the DHD works. None of you can remain here!"

"Dammit, he's right," she said angrily, not bothering to hide her glare at General Bauer. "We can monitor from the security station on Level 16. Go, now!"

Daniel turned and ran toward the elevator to reach the sixteenth level.

"And what do you think you're doing here?" Sam snapped, turning to him as they rode up. "You had orders to evacuate with everyone else!"

"Oh, please, you didn't really expect me to leave," Daniel snapped back, because neither Teal'c nor Martouf had left, either. She didn't argue or even repeat the order, though, making him suspect she was just channeling Jack's irritability under stress.

They entered the sixteenth level security station together. Daniel flipped on a light switch while Bauer turned on another, and Sam quickly brought up the camera from the 'gate room. "Iris is still holding, but it's starting to heat up," she said. "If it loses integrity..."

"I don't see Teal'c or Martouf," Daniel said worriedly.

"They might be getting equipment," she said.

"We have to set the autodestruct," Bauer said.

"Why is blowing things up always your solution?" Daniel burst out, frustrated. If only Bauer had listened to them when it mattered. "It didn't work on the other side; why should it work here?"

"At least the 'gate would be buried under a million tons of rock," Bauer said.

"That wouldn't stop it from pumping out radiation," Sam said, still watching the screen. "Eventually the heat is going to melt through that iris."

"And nothing good can come of being connected to planets that are melting and radioactive," Daniel said.

Sam flipped one of the monitors to display one of the side rooms, searching for Teal'c and Martouf. "We have to hope they can disconnect the power source and that that will disconnect the wormhole. If we turned that planet into a ball of superheated plasma, that much energy could be enough to power the wormhole indefinitely, even from the other side."

"There!" Daniel said when the side blast door open on the monitor.

"They're going to cut the connection?" Bauer said in disbelief as Teal'c and Martouf ran inside toward the DHD, each holding a hefty pair of wire cutters in his hands.

"Apparently, sir," Sam said. "Literally."

Martouf pointed at the wires connecting the DHD to the Stargate, then wavered--Teal'c caught and steadied him, though it looked like he was leaning on the railing of the ramp himself. Once they were both standing straight again, at the same time, they each cut through one of the wires. Teal'c threw Martouf out of the way and covered him as sparks flew from the cut ends of the cable--

The wormhole deactivated.

"Thank god," Bauer said, staring.

"Thank Teal'c and Martouf," Sam countered, then looked closer at the screen. "They're not moving; I don't think they're going to make it out on their own. They need medical attention."

"I'll go to the surface and alert the medical personnel," Bauer said.

"And radiation teams--no one else come down until we're clear!" Sam called after him, then started out of the room as well. Before Daniel could head downstairs, she said, "Daniel, this way. Radiation suits."

Daniel started to ask something and then realized with a burst of frustration that he didn't understand enough about radiation to know what to ask.

"Here," she said, scanning her card quickly and opening a door. "The wormhole was one-way, but until a thorough survey has been done, treat that room as potentially radioactive--I didn't get a chance to see exactly what was going on, and secondary radiation could still--"

"I get it--wear the suits," Daniel said.

"There were high-energy gamma rays coming through, which these suits wouldn't stop completely, but we just need enough time and protection to make sure Teal'c and Martouf get out, or even their symbiotes won't be able to save them."

...x...

The lower level was sweltering. The blast door was open and Teal'c and Martouf were both lying just outside when they arrived at the 'gate room, Martouf apparently unconscious and Teal'c close to it. "Pull them out!" Sam called, her voice muffled by her mask.

Daniel pulled Martouf over the boundary as Teal'c crawled out on his own. The door began to slide closed, the alarm began to sound all around them, and Sam moved away from the controls and squeezed quickly through the opening to join them outside.

"Teal'c, can you walk?" Sam said, pulling Teal'c's arm over her shoulders and pulling him to his feet with some effort. "Daniel--Martouf."

Daniel shook the Tok'ra gently, but he only moaned and turned his head away. Bracing himself, Daniel dragged Martouf upward, pulled an arm and leg over his shoulders, and staggered upright, catching himself against the wall before his knees could buckle. "Elevator," he managed, and stumbled forward beside Sam and Teal'c.

Teal'c collapsed before they could arrive, nearly taking Sam with him. With a grunt, she began to drag him the rest of the way. Daniel deposited Martouf clumsily in the elevator and went back to help her with Teal'c, and she barely waited for Daniel to swing Teal'c's legs inside before she punched the button to go up.

"Can we take these off?" Daniel panted, waving his gloved hands. He could barely see anymore, between the fogged mask and his fogged glasses.

Breathing hard as well, Sam said, "There's enough steel and concrete between us and the 'gate room by now and the wormhole's closed. Anything that got through that won't be stopped by suits like this."

He was pretty sure that was a 'yes' but wasn't quite sure until she pulled her mask off and stripped off a glove to check over Teal'c.

Daniel followed suit and bent over Martouf, who still wasn't stirring but at least had a steady pulse and was breathing. "Are they okay?" he said.

"Breathing," she offered. "Teal'c was awake for a while earlier--I don't think his exposure was too much worse than that crystal skull planet, and he recovered fine. Hopefully, their symbiotes can take care of them." She paused, said, "You okay?"

"I think so."

The elevator doors opened. Daniel bent to drag Martouf out before returning to help Sam with Teal'c. "We can't drag them all the way," he said, shaking his head and brushing stray strands of hair out of his eyes.

"We just need to get to the isolation room," she said, taking Martouf under the arms and pulling him along the corridor as Daniel tried to do the same with Teal'c. "They'll--"

The other elevator opened, and a team of people in suits came out. "We'll take them from here, Sam!" Janet's said, muffled behind her mask. "You two get into Iso 3. Sergeant," she added, pointing to someone else, "radiation check, basic workup, now. Good work, you two."

Daniel helped shift Teal'c onto a gurney and then backed away into the isolation room with Sam, dropping onto the side of the nearest bed in relief.

XXXXX

25 April 2001; Infirmary, SGC; 1000 hrs

"Hammond's back," Jack said the next day.

Daniel whirled around to see him. "You're back!" and then, "Hammond? Really? How? Because of yesterday, or...?"

Jack shrugged, hopping onto the empty gurney next to Teal'c's bed. "Almost getting Earth fatally irradiated against the advice of key voices here after falsifying evidence? That gets Bauer out. But we got a powerful NID agent to stop everyone from threatening Hammond, so that gets Hammond in."

"That is good to hear," Teal'c said from where he sat in a semi-reclined position.

"If we could have held on one more day..." Daniel said.

"Hey, I'm surprised you guys held on this long," Jack said, nodding to Sam, who was sitting by a sleeping Martouf. "I hear we have to thank a couple of symbiotes for not going up in flames yesterday. You two gonna be okay?"

Teal'c nodded. "Dr. Fraiser has said that we will both recover without permanent damage."

"With rest," Daniel added. "Jack, what about General Bauer? Was he...?"

"Just a gung-ho patsy, we're pretty sure," Jack said. "Someone was feeding him exaggerated information and orders from people linked to the NID--"

"Who?"

"I don't know everyone who was involved."

"Still?" Daniel said, wondering what it would take for someone to be able to do any real damage at all to the NID.

Jack made a face. "Hammond's back. For now, that's all I'm asking for. There was a senior senator in this, Daniel--a man running for President with powerful people backing him. Kinsey's the only one in the Senate who can cripple the SGC just by shutting down our budget, and he was helping them. We can't shut them all down, and if we try, they'll just pull something else."

Daniel frowned. "But..."

"We'll get them," Jack said. "But we need more information. And we need someone like Hammond in charge, not their goon. One step at a time."

"Speaking of that..." General Hammond's voice said as he appeared at the doorway to the infirmary.

"General!" Daniel rose to his feet, and he heard Sam do the same behind him.

"It's very good to have you back, sir," she said, walking forward to join them around Teal'c's bed.

"It's good to be back, Major," the general said. "Mr. Jackson, you disobeyed my direct order yesterday."

Daniel rocked backward slightly, slipping his hands into his pockets. "You said yourself you were no longer our commander at the time, sir."

Smiling, the general said, "Well, now I'm back, I trust you'll all be a little better behaved than you've been over the last week."

"Don't count on it, sir," Jack said happily.

"Teal'c," the general added, ignoring the quip, "not for the first time, we're indebted to your bravery. I'll have to come back and thank Martouf when he's awake, too."

"I am simply pleased for your return, General Hammond," Teal'c said, smiling back.

The general nodded, then said, "I'm looking forward to this debriefing. Colonel O'Neill, I'd like to speak to you."

"All right, sir," Jack said, and followed the man out.

Sam let out a breath. "So. Back to normal, huh."

"Indeed," Teal'c said.

Daniel nodded and sank back into the chair by the bed. "Now we just have Apophis and the equivalent of about five Goa'uld armies under his control to deal with," he said.

"Not today," Sam said decisively. "We'll work on that part later. Today, we win."

Still, Daniel thought as he watched the quiet bustle of the infirmary, it was an odd day when not eradicating themselves was their great victory.

XXXXX

26 April 2001; O'Neill/Jackson Residence; 0200 hrs

Daniel woke with a start and, for a moment, couldn't figure out where he was. Then he recognized the small bookshelf Jack had moved into this room for him and remembered they were done now--he was at home, General Hammond was back, Jack was back, SG-1 was back, the SGC was safe, Teal'c and Martouf would heal with time...

And the NID was powerful enough to take two little girls from under a major general's nose. Someone was so eager to create a weapon to kill the Goa'uld--and some people were so eager to follow--that they'd almost created a nuclear disaster right at the center of the SGC. And then there was Maybourne, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

He rolled over restlessly in bed, wondering if they'd ever go back to the days when his job was to translate and find places with new people to talk to who weren't trying to kill them, or whom they weren't trying to kill.

Ironically, he was pretty sure that P3X-888 was the last time he'd been somewhere like that, aside from a side trip or two to Abydos, and he still considered '888 a nightmare, friendly Unas relations or not.

The sound of glass clinking from downstairs, though, told him Jack was awake, too. Deciding that he wouldn't mind some company, he pulled himself out of bed.

"Jack?" he said when he found the kitchen light on.

"What are you doing up?" Jack said, sitting at the table.

Daniel's eyes flicked to the beer in his hand. "Wondering what you're doing up."

Jack made a face.

"Jack," Daniel sighed, descending the rest of the way down the steps, "we have work tomorrow. Today," he amended, squinting at his watch.

"We don't have a mission coming up," Jack pointed out. "They just finished clean-up, and Carter needs to fix the DHD and hook everything back up."

"Is that your first one?" Daniel said, nodding to the bottle.

"I'm not..." Jack started, then scratched his head. "Yeah. First and last."

Daniel pulled out a chair and joined him at the table with a yawn. "It won't take long to reconnect things. And we could always update the Abydos iris again if there's no mission. By the way, they've been having trouble with sandstorms. More than usual--once every few days. There's talk that it's a message from the gods."

Jack dropped his head onto the table. "For crying out loud," he mumbled tiredly. "Really?"

"Really," Daniel said, poking at his head and receiving no response. On a whim, he reached out and took a gulp of the last of the beer before Jack could snatch the bottle back.

"Hey," Jack said halfheartedly.

The taste of Tau'ri beer surprised him, and he choked on the mouthful. "You drink this voluntarily?" Daniel said, coughing again.

"Give me that," Jack said, putting the bottle back down on the table. "Go back to sleep, Daniel."

"I can't fall asleep," Daniel said.

With a sigh, Jack sat up straight. "Something wrong?"

"I asked you first." Daniel set his chin down on the table. "Are you upset that Maybourne got out? Because whatever you ended up doing, you were acting on the President's orders, and it got General Hammond back and now we know about Senator Kinsey."

"Maybe," Jack said. "I just don't like being that person."

Daniel snorted. "I think a lot of us don't like being...whoever we've been recently."

Jack stared at him, frowning. "What's that mean?"

"Something good came out of what you did, Jack. The rest of us... We almost killed ourselves bombing a planet. We don't know if there was anyone alive there. At the very least, we wiped out an entire planet with plant and animal life; at most, we committed genocide and...and disrupted some...astronomical balance of the...you know what I mean."

Jack was silent for a while, turning the bottle around in his fingers. "Everyone had orders."

"We could've found a way to prove it was illegal," Daniel said. "We could've refused on moral grounds. Somehow."

And he'd lied to his own people to take their naquadah. It didn't matter that it hadn't been much, it hadn't harmed Abydos, and things had turned out okay. He'd wondered briefly, at first, if the Tau'ri would abuse the Abydons' trust--it wasn't unheard of for the more powerful of two allied societies. He was pretty sure, though, that he was the first who had deliberately hid the SGC's intentions from Abydos for fear that Abydos wouldn't cooperate otherwise.

"I set Maybourne free and got Kinsey on the road to the White House," Jack countered. "Imagine the SGC under Kinsey."

"You think Kinsey will win?"

"Ah, election's years away. We've got plenty of time left to dread that."

Daniel sighed. "Whatever happened to being a translator?"

"You translated the bomb with the Phoenician," Jack said.

"It's always bombs these days," Daniel said.

Seriously, Jack asked, "You need a break?"

"I've had too many breaks from my job lately," he said, straightening again. "I just want to go on a mission. Where we learn something that isn't considered 'intelligence.'"

Jack narrowed his eyes but didn't say anything.

"Not that...that I don't want to know more about what's happening with Apophis or..." Daniel rubbed his eyes. "But I can wish, right?"

"Is there really a mission lined up?" Jack said.

"I think there's a list of...three we had lined up from a week or two ago," Daniel said. "But nothing we specifically need to do. Unless you know what causes sandstorms, and we can go find out if Abydos is in danger of imploding."

"I don't think sandstorms have anything to do with a planet imploding," Jack told him.

"Or something," Daniel amended.

"Ask Carter," Jack said. "If she doesn't know, she'll know someone who knows, and, who knows--maybe she'll want to measure...electromagnetic...dust... something."

"Maybe."

"We have no idea what we're talking about."

Daniel smiled at his hands. "No."

"Hey, go to bed," Jack said, this time reaching out to tap him lightly on the top of the head. "It's late."

"Early," Daniel said.

"Wee hours," Jack said.

"I'll go back to bed if you will."

Jack stood up. "Yeah, okay. Try to stop thinking, all right?"

"All right," Daniel said, even though he thought his problem lately was that he didn't get the chance to think enough about the things he'd like to think about.


From the next chapter ("Shifu"):

"I am Shifu," the boy said, looking at SG-1, then turned around and looked up at Sha'uri, who stood behind him. "I am Harsesis."


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