| Stories by TheOneRing |
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Dark Patches
TheOneRing

 

[Chapter 1] - The Limvris

Deenesh enjoyed her distinguished position amongst the gods. 

Her dark, sultry features added to her natural beauty as did her long curly locks which she either wore up and away from her neck or braided with soft swirls of hair bordering her face.  She had served her god for many years, longer than she could remember. So long, in fact, that she could not even remember which planet was her original home. 

It didn't matter. Now filling her god's needs as the most trusted human slave or Lo'Taur, she received unequaled benefits compared to the others.  Her Master, Nephthys, trusted her completely with the secrets of the gods. Often she attended gatherings where the gods decided which worlds to dominate, who would live and who would die. The power of the gods overwhelmed her, granting her an emotional rush of excitement to be privy to their conversations.

Today, Deenesh escorted her god, Nephthys, to a meeting of the Limvris.  As she understood it, the nine gods comprising the Limvris were plotting the overthrow of the Goa'uld System Lords. There had been many battles for centuries against the System Lord's holdings, several significant enough to acquire valuable assets, both Jaffa and ships. But none of them were sufficient enough to bring the System Lords to their knees…until now.

Nephthys had a proposal for the Limvris. Through an alliance with another very powerful Goa'uld, the husband of Nephthys' sister, Isis, Nephthys had acquired both technology and warriors to fight against the vile System Lords.

As Deenesh followed her Master through the long corridor towards the meeting room, she noticed the intricate gold inlay on the walls representing symbols of some sort. This beautiful structure acquired by her god through the new alliance would be just one of the offerings that Nephthys planned to present to the Limvris. She would also present her formidable powers of invisibility and mind control as powerful weapons against the System Lords and any others that stood in their way.

Yes, this time Deenesh believed the Limvris would prevail in their attempts.

Inside the meeting chamber, Deenesh and her Master waited patiently until the remaining members of the Limvris appeared.  Impressed by the regality of the chamber, she felt admiration for her Master who had designed this chamber especially for this meeting, adding a beautiful, gold inlay design on the floor in its center.  Deenesh immediately recognized it as the Crest of the Limvris. 

One by one she watched the other gods arrive, each one stunning in their beauty and escorted by one human slave.  The meeting began as soon as the final Goa'uld appeared. 

Deenesh carried a stone tablet and handed it to Nephthys.  The gods listened intently as her Master delivered the well prepared battle plan, stunning in its simplicity, yet cunning enough to be successful.  Their human slaves would infiltrate the System Lords' strongholds to learn their secrets. Her new alliance with a powerful Goa'uld would seal their victory.

She reached for the hand device to turn the page…

It was then that Deenesh saw them; nine small, slimy, and evil looking "creatures". They quickly escaped from the hand device, boring into her Master and the other Limvris through their skin. She saw the panic on their faces, the absolute terror, as pain ripped through them like lightening.  She heard someone exclaim "Ma'chello!" while the others grabbed their slaves, tugging them close, holding them next to their bodies.  She presumed they were trying to protect them.

Her Master reached out to her and held her tightly against her chest…

The last thing Deenesh remembered was intense pain, searing the base of her neck. Her screams drowned out those of the other humans in the room.

As the Goa'uld entering her body took over her mind as well, she reached down to its previous host, now lying on the cold floor in the grips of a violent seizure, and removed the ribbon device from its hand.  Running towards the doorway, she exited the chamber with the other Goa'ulds, also in new bodies, and turned suddenly towards the door closing mechanism.  She used the ribbon device to permanently seal the doorway and trapped the now non-Goa'ulded humans in the chamber to face insanity and starvation…

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[Chapter 2] - A Bad Day

He felt the knife pressing against his throat and realized he had very little time left.  If only he could reach Sarah, he knew she would never harm him.  They had been good friends, lovers in fact, but that was many years ago.  Many years before her body had been taken by the Goa'uld Osiris.

Daniel had to reach Sarah; she was his only hope…

"Sarah, it's me. Daniel."

He saw recognition in her eyes. She no longer saw his outward appearance as Yu's Lo'Taur, his human slave. She knew he was Daniel. Briefly, very briefly, Sarah's essence shown through her façade of Osiris and gave him that moment of hesitation he needed to get away.  At that same moment, Yu grabbed the knife in Osiris' hand and Daniel slipped through the Goa'uld's grasp. 

As Daniel made a mad dash to the escape pod he noticed a blur of activity.  A struggle for dominance ensued between the System Lords, Yu and Osiris, the knife blade gleaming. Osiris' interest wavered briefly towards the escaping Daniel, frustrated by her inability to stop him.  With a roar, she broke free from Yu and desperately raced to the control panel.

As the Sarcophagus shaped pod sealed itself around him, he held his breath, hoping, praying actually, that Osiris would be too late to stop him.

The last thing Daniel heard as his the vessel jettisoned into space was the scream.  It sounded like Sarah's voice but he knew differently.  That horrible, caustic cry, seething with an unbridled hatred was controlled by the Goa'uld Osiris.

"Daniel Jackson!"

This was going to be a bad day…

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Sam and the Tok’ra Lantash in the body of Lieutenant Elliott reprogrammed the planet’s sensors to signal for help in the form of a military SOS.  These same devices previously sent an automated message warning all Tok'ra vessels to avoid the planet and assume no survivors after the ruthless Goa’uld attack on their rebel base.

Jacob Carter heard the original Tok’ra warning and diverted the Tel'tak he shared with Daniel away from Revanna.  If he hadn’t shortly thereafter received the revised SOS transmission, he would have never returned to the utterly destroyed Tok'ra base to find the remaining survivors. 

He also wouldn't have crash-landed that same Tel'tak on the planet surface either.

Jacob made a mental note that if he planned to continue working with SG-1 on future missions he would have to insist on adding seat belts on all Tok'ra vessels. The track record for SG-1 staying out of trouble was just too poor.

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"Leave it here with me."

Elliott bravely unveiled his plan to be captured by the approaching Jaffa and allow them to take him to the gate under the premise that he would tell them the formula for the Goa'uld poison.

As Jack listened, he realized Elliott didn't have much of a choice really.  His symbiote Lantash could not repair the damage suffered by the young man during the fall of the Tok'ra tunnels on Revanna.  He was dying and there was nothing that Lantash could do to save either of them.

Jack heard Elliott's calm, confident voice revealing his plan to release the poison once he arrived at the gate and take out as many Jaffa as possible so SG-1 could avoid capture and escape.  Filled with emotion and pain, his voice remained steady. Yet despite his tone Jack knew Elliott was scared, terrified; the fear evident in this young man's, no, soldier's eyes.

"He's happy now. He just wanted you to know how he felt."

Samantha Carter listened tearfully as Elliott told her that now Lantash and his former host, Martouf, would both rest peacefully; their secret feelings for her finally revealed.

She always knew that Martouf cared way more for her than he should, believing his feelings reflected the fact that Sam had carried the Tok’ra Jolinar -- his lover of over a hundred years -- within her body.  A very brief joining time by Tok'ra standards, yet Jolinar’s memories were forever emblazoned within her.  Sometimes Sam imagined the strong, vivid recollections were actually her own, confusing the bonds of love between the Tok’ra with her own emotional need for Martouf.

Then one day it happened.  Subjected to Goa'uld mind control unbeknownst to anyone, Martouf became a Za'tarc. 

The Tok'ra tried to locate this unwilling enemy before it was too late by conducting extensive investigations at the SGC, mistakenly believing that Sam and Jack had fallen victim to the alien technology. 

Finally realizing their error, they tried to pre-empt an attempt by the Za’tarc to kill the President of the United States .  During several desperate moments in the gate room, Sam sadly recognized that Martouf was the one compromised.  As he leveled his weapon on the President's party, Sam made a split second decision; the only decision she could make. 

In that moment when she pointed her weapon at Martouf, emotions and memories swirled through her mind like a whirlpool.  Choice less, her eyes filled with unshed tears as she pulled the trigger and shattered her world.

The Tok'ra saved Lantash but Martouf’s mind and body was no more.  His memories still lived within Lantash but now even those would soon be erased.  Lantash inhabited Elliott's body and the soldier was dying.

A single tear spilled from Sam's eye to caress the softness of her cheek.

"I'll never forget him…or you." Sam's anguish clearly visible behind the warrior’s mask she so often displayed.  She would grieve for three souls; Lantash, Martouf, and Elliott.

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The rag tag group consisting of SG-1 and Jacob Carter took cover from the encroaching Jaffa after traveling about four miles from the Tok'ra long-range sensor where they left Elliott.  The Jaffa would find the injured man and assume no other survivors.  Teal'c believed they would then take the soldier to the Stargate for further interrogation regarding the chemical composition of the poison, leading the enemy away from them.

"Carter, you and Teal'c stay with Jacob here.  Daniel and I will follow Elliott and his band of merry men at a safe distance." Jack O'Neill's weak attempt at humor fell flat.

"Sir, what are you and Daniel going to do?" Major Carter said with an almost dried trail of tears on her face.

"We have to make sure Elliott is successful. I figure it will take us about, oh say," O'Neill looked at his watch, "five hours, give or take, to reach the gate from here. Jacob, how far does that poison spread and how much time does it take to dissipate to safe concentrations?"

Jacob paused for a moment apparently accessing Selmak's knowledge on the subject.  "Selmak says the poison is very potent in a radius of about one mile around the source.  The concentration drops off depending on a variety of factors including wind velocity, number of people inhaling the poison, and ambient air temperature.  A good, safe guess is that Teal'c and I can return to the area an hour after the poison is released."

Jacob looked introspective for a moment and then added, "Oh, and Selmak says that humans in the area will suffer only mild effects from the poison."

"Mild effects?  Mild effects! And you didn't think that important enough to mention until now!" The Tok'ra's legendary propensity to withhold important facts relevant to their missions slapped Daniel in the face.

"We didn't think you needed to know," Jacob stated very nonchalantly.

"Didn't need to know? I…I didn't need to know?" Visibly upset, Daniel glared at Jacob. "Look, I was prepared to release that poison at the Goa'uld convention and you didn't think I needed to know about its effects to humans? Jeez!" Daniel gave Jack a sideways glance. 

Jack returned the glance with a shrug of his shoulders, a shake of his head, and the "ever suffering" look on his face that captured his feelings for the typical Tok'ra subterfuge well.

"We told you it wouldn't kill you," Jacob became disinterested with the humans' need to always be told 'the whole truth and nothing but the truth'.  The Tok'ra always explained the key mission facts, at least as it suited their agendas.

"What kind of effects are we talking about anyway here?" Jack decided he really needed to know.

"Dizziness, slight disorientation, jubilation disproportionate to the situation. Pretty much like consuming too many rum swizzles. Oh, and diarrhea."

"Oh, well, I shouldn't have any problems then, as long as there is a porta-potty near the gate,” Jack stated sarcastically.  “If it was like having too many tequila shots, that's another story! Been there, done that, don't remember!” 

Jack thought for a moment before amending his comment, “Actually, I do remember someone named Lola and…oh, no. Don't want to go there," Jack pulled a face as if he was recalling a bad memory. "Now, Daniel on the other hand is a cheap date! Give him a beer or two and he's laying in your lap…oh, no. Don't want to go there either," he finished with a smirk.

"Jaaack, that is so not true!"

"Yes, it is."

"No, it's not."

"Is too!"

"Is not!"

"Hey, ask Teal'c! He's seen it happen, haven't you big guy?"

"Indeed, O'Neill. I have as well on occasion experienced a drunken Daniel Jackson in my lap," Teal'c deadpanned.

"Oh no, definitely don't want to go there," this time the words were from Daniel.

"So, rather mild effects. Just got to keep Daniel upright," Jack managed a grin in Daniel's direction. "We need to follow Elliott to the gate.  I'm not sure he’ll be strong enough to make it all the way.  We can't take any chances.  If he doesn't get there we may have to go with Plan B."

"And what is this 'Plan B', O'Neill?" Teal'c's strong voice asked.

"Sorry big guy, but if I told ya I'd have to kill ya! We'll check in every 30 minutes."

Teal'c's puzzled look with one eyebrow raised followed O'Neill for quite some time until he and Daniel were out of sight.  Returning his gaze to Major Carter, Teal'c questioned, "Why could he not tell us of this 'Plan B' without penalty of death?"

Major Carter answered with a small smile that touched her eyes. "Because he doesn't have a 'Plan B'…yet!"

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Jack and Daniel walked in companionable silence away from the others.  As much as he hated leaving Elliott behind to face the Jaffa alone, it was even worse realizing that he would have to watch him die, along with all the Jaffa , at the gate. He just wished he could've spared that sight from Daniel but it couldn't be helped. Carter needed to stay here with her dad right now, and Selmak and Teal'c would be killed by the Tok'ra poison released once Elliott reached the gate. They had to remain out of the range of the poison and wait until it dissipated to a safe concentration.

Jack chose a direction taking them off the beaten path towards the Stargate.  He didn’t intend to get ambushed by Jaffa along the way.  It wasn't the most direct route but he figured Elliott would slow the Jaffa ’s pace and he and Daniel would reach the gate long before their enemy.

Shortly into their trek, the two men entered a forested area with many different types of trees but very few bushes.  Daniel supposed the trees' huge canopy of leaves and branches nearly blocking the sunlight from reaching the ground accounted for the lack of low growing shrubs.  

Nearly, but not totally.  Where a few scattered rays penetrated the canopy Daniel could see small, colorful clumps of flowers, seeming to stretch their long, sinewy runners as far as possible to reach past the shady areas to spring up another clump of flowers in the sunlight.  They looked as though they were reaching out to their neighbors, encouraging them to not let the darkness overwhelm them until they grasped the next bit of light through the trees. 

Daniel’s thoughts returned to Elliott and his brave sacrifice for his friends.  Perhaps it wasn't a sacrifice at all.  Perhaps Elliott merely represented that first clump of flowers in the light, extending himself through the dark patches to guide his friends towards safety.

Jack had Daniel take point as they walked, a position rarely held by the archeologist. Knowing that Elliott and his captors would be some distance behind them, Jack watched their six, his hand lightly touching his P-90 at his hip, in case he underestimated the speed at which the Jaffa could travel. 

Slowly, Jack realized something was wrong…definitely wrong.  Confident they were out of earshot of potential enemies, Jack looked around contemplating the source of his unease.  As his eyes scanned the woods surrounding them, he finally honed in on the location of the trouble directly in front of him.

The trouble was his teammate. The man was a bit too quiet for, well, Daniel. He'd hardly said two words since they began their trek to the gate almost three hours ago now and the linguist was never at a loss for words much to Jack's dismay and frequent headaches.  Although thinking he should just left well enough alone…as they say 'silence is golden' and all that, he knew his friend needed to come to grasps with the unfolding events of the past several hours. 

Daniel had volunteered…well, that isn't fair…been coerced by the Tok’ra into attending the System Lords’ summit, posing as Yu's faithful human servant.  Jack knew he didn’t release the Goa’uld poison as planned, surprised to find he still had it to give to Elliott.  Hell, he'd relinquished the toxin without so much as a 'But, Jack?'.

Jack also noticed a slight trembling in the young man's hands.

"Daniel?" Jack hesitantly inquired, not sure he really wanted to open the floodgates just yet.

"Jack?" Daniel took a long time to answer and he spoke sharply. Jack had questions and he saw the concerned look in his leader’s eyes.  On most days, Daniel would welcome the questions but not today. Not this day. He was just too tired to share.

"What'cha thinking?"

"Oh, I dunno, Jack," Daniel replied in an exasperated voice. "Just that life sucks. We suck!  How could we just leave Elliott behind to face those Jaffa and imminent death? I gave him the damned poison so he could commit suicide and take out a bunch of Jaffa in the process, and…and…", Daniel waved his hands in a flourish as if he could grasp the words he was looking for out of the air.

"Save our sorry asses?" Jack paused for several seconds to allow the words to sink in. "Look, Daniel, you know as well as I do that that was the only option."

"Yeah, I do, but …" his voice trailed off as he ducked his head to avoid Jack's eyes.

"It still hurts like hell…I know. It's supposed to.  Keeps you from forgetting about the sacrifices made for you," Jack paused for a moment, remembering how many times in his past he had made the same choices. How many others had died so he could live? Hell, even Daniel had died to save his sorry ass on Abydos , taking a blast that was meant for him.

Daniel's blue eyes caught Jack's brown ones, sharing a lifetime of sorrow without the need for words. 

After several minutes of silence, Jack probed further into Daniel’s recent experiences, curious as to exactly what had happened on that space station.

"So Daniel. Give. What exactly happened at the snake convention?  Never in a million years did I expect to see you come crashing to the ground in a Tok'ra ship! Boy, are they going to be pissed!" Jack's voice trailed off as he realized that a majority of the Tok'ra race had just been annihilated.

"Well, we got together, patted each other on the backs, had a party…uh, and we had some interesting appetizers.  Quite a lot of fun!” he said sarcastically.  “Oh and guess who crashed the party?"

At Jack’s shrug, Daniel continued, "Osiris!"

Jack hadn't accompanied Sam and Daniel on the "Osiris Mission" but he read their reports and attended the debriefing.  He still felt guilty that he wasn’t there for his team.  Throwing his cell phone into the bushes at the lake to thwart communication efforts with the SGC wasn’t the most mature thing he’d ever done.  It also wasn’t the least mature thing he’d done either, Jack mused.

He deeply regretted he wasn’t there for Daniel again this time when Osiris appeared in the body of his old girlfriend, Sarah.  Knowing how difficult the Goa’uld’s presence would be for his friend, Jack used humor to lighten the mood, "Oooh, that bitch!"

"Son of a bitch actually," Daniel smiled slyly.

"What?" Jack's look of bewilderment amused Daniel.

"Uh, Jack. Osiris the snake is male just like the Egyptian god. He just happens to inhabit Sarah's body now."

Jack's eyes narrowed as he deciphered the information from Daniel. "Oh, yeah, I guess that's right. What did she, uh, I mean he, uh, I mean…Oh, for crying out loud, what did the snake want?!"

Jack listened intently as Daniel described the events of the summit. The Goa'ulds were their typically egotistical, gaudy, ostentatious selves and the human slaves seemed quite content to serve their masters without question.  Apparently, a rival Goa'uld had been diminishing their Jaffa armies and mother ships. 

As Daniel continued discussing the ethical and more colorful parts of Goa'uld society, Jack's mind began to wander. Too much detail…way too much detail.

He returned to reality abruptly upon hearing Daniel's words, "They ate larval Goa'uld!"

"Huh? I thought you said something about appetizers?" Jack said with a crooked face accented by his scrunched together eyebrows.

"Larvae, Jack. They ate Goa'uld larvae!  No wonder the Goa'uld population is decreasing!” Daniel became more animated as he continued, “What I can't figure out is why they would do that?"

"Ew! Remind me to decline their next social event!" After a pause, Jack pushed further. "Daniel, why didn't you release the poison?"

"I was about to but they were expecting an uninvited participant to the summit.  I waited until that Goa'uld showed up."

Impatiently wanting to reach the punch line, Jack prodded, "I never liked twenty questions, Daniel!  Cut to the chase, already!"

"Oh, what? You mean who…?" Jack rolled his eyes in his most irritated fashion. "Oh, yeah. Well, Osiris crashed the party."

"Yeah, you said that before Daniel. The question is not 'what' or 'who' but 'why'?"

"Oh, apparently she came as a messenger from Anubis.  It seems Anubis wants to regain his status as System Lord and to show his merit he presented the Goa’uld with a gift…the destruction of the Tok'ra base…here." Daniel indicated their surroundings with an exaggerated wave of his hands. "Future plans are to demolish Earth to put in a super highway."

"Did Osiris recognize you?"

"Ah, yes. And no…and…and yes again.  Osiris definitely recognized me at the summit meeting…definitely.  But for some reason she didn't give me away.  Later, she followed me to Yu's chambers and I used that drug thingy.  You know, the one embedded in the tip of my ring that I used on Yu?  Osiris believed I was his trusted servant."

Jack, his ever patient self, waited about two seconds for Daniel to continue.  Not hearing more from Daniel during Jack's patiently allotted time, he impatiently pressed Daniel further. "Okay, that covers the 'yes' and 'no' part, Daniel. It's the 'yes again' that scares me."

"Oh, right, well... ItriedtocaptureOsirissoIcouldsaveSarah…" Daniel thought perhaps he could defuse Jack by a rapid fire linguistic attack.

Jack already knew his archeologist was touched in the head, a little flaky, 'nutso'! But capturing Osiris…Jack would have to think of another synonym for crazy. Oh.

"You did what??"

"…but the attempt backfired," impressed that Jack actually avoided the linguistic assault enough to shoot back, Daniel continued without losing a beat.  "I was able to reach Sarah briefly as Osiris was," Daniel cleared his throat, "choking me. I had to tell her who I was," Daniel finished looking away from Jack.

"Well, shit, Daniel! Now you pissed off a snake head AND told her who you are and where to find you!  That’s peachy, just peachy!"

"Yeah, well, at least I was able to get off that ship…oh look," Daniel said absently waving his hand in front of him, hoping to divert Jack's attention from his escapades with Osiris. "It's the Stargate."

Jack reached out to grab Daniel's arm as the young archeologist suddenly became weak kneed. The only words that escaped Daniel's mouth were "Oh. My. God!"

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Jack looked ahead towards the Stargate, his military mind scouting the landscape for both offensive and defensive positions. He noticed that the gate sat in the center of a large, sandy area, which looked like an amphitheater, probably used by the original inhabitants of the planet as a sanctuary to worship their "gods".

The ground from their current position to the gate was quite level but very exposed. Jack and Daniel had reached the edge of the tree line. From here forward there were no trees, shrubs, or old fallen down buildings which Daniel would probably call ruins lying around.  Jack figured they were about 500 yards from their current position to the gate. 

The most impressive part of the landscaping, however, was the four Tel'taks, two of which had landed and two were still hovering over the base.  Jack estimated no less than 200 ground troops each displaying a variety of weapons predominantly staff weapons and zat guns. He also located the Jaffa armory, apparently setup outside the ships for instant weapon availability for the ground troops. 

Jack blinked his eyes. The armory resembled a large…no, that couldn't be right…a large surrey without the wheels? Jack looked again…yeah, definitely a surrey. No fringe on top, though.

He really hoped that Elliott would be successful.

"All righty then, let's hold up here for a bit." Jack delivered his best Jim Carrey impersonation. "We should be well hidden from the Jaffa but I can still see the Stargate through my binoculars.  We watch for Elliott.  It'll take a while for them to get this far.  Besides, it's time for another radio check with Carter."

Daniel took in their current surroundings while Jack filled in his position with Carter. They had reached the tree line with nothing but sand, sand, and more sand between them and the Stargate. Okay, it wasn't actually sand. More like mud without the water, dirt. Damn, he really longed for some ruins to explore but he was out of luck this time. 

He noticed deep pits scattered about where the Goa'uld had apparently launched his preliminary air attack, trying to ferret out the Tok'ra from their tunnels.  He saw the Jaffa base camp and, for some strange reason, he began humming the musical Oklahoma .  Well, that was really interesting…

Next Daniel noticed the Jaffa scouring the entire area.  Looking at their situation from a military standpoint, he scanned for escape routes, ground cover, and hiding spots.  Okay, so it wasn't difficult to figure out.  Scouting the area for potential vantage points, he noted very little foliage between their current position and the gate.  His attention was drawn back to their current location still littered with pretty flowers where the sunlight made it through the trees.

Daniel noted ruefully that they had stopped at one of the dark patches.

He listened intently to Jack communicating with Carter through the radios and, after her brief update, the radio went silent. 

The two sat quietly for several more minutes each lost in their own thoughts until Daniel finally broke the reverie, "So now what, Jack?"

"Now," Jack pulled out two MREs from his pack handing one to Daniel, “we wait.”

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[Chapter 3] - Not a Laughing Matter

They didn't have to wait long.  As they finished eating their MREs, Jack spied a large group of Jaffa entering stage left, two of which were carrying a litter with Elliott along for the ride.  Using a rapid series of hand motions, Jack silently communicated the location of the Jaffa and his orders for Daniel to take cover behind a nearby tree.

Daniel complied with the order but not without first silently mouthing to Jack and using his fingers to indicate people walking, ‘Where are they going?’.

Jack’s similarly quiet reply openly displayed his irritation, ‘How the hell should I know?’

Even though their exchange was totally mimed Daniel swore he heard his teammate’s exasperated response without looking at him.  Giving a sheepish shrug in return, he watched as Jack scurried to the same tree and squatted on the ground beside him.

Using his binoculars, Jack monitored the Jaffa talking with Elliott.  They stopped short of the armory.  He imagined the words the kid would be saying. 'No other survivors.  I can tell you the formula for the poison.  It's right here in my vest pocket…'

He saw the soldier pull out the slender vial containing the poison and held his breath, praying nothing would go wrong.

Unable to keep his vow of silence any longer, Daniel whispered to Jack, "He's got to have the strength to break open the vial so the contents will mix and release the chemical."  Jack pondered the comment and winced as when the Jaffa nearest Elliott ripped the tube from his hands, backhanding him across his face. 

He was beginning to think this was a horrible mistake. 

Fortunately, in the enemy’s haste to chastise the young man he lashed out with the same hand holding the vial.  He saw the pained expression on the Jaffa 's face as he fell immediately to the ground, literally dead on his feet from his close proximity to the poison. 

Jack glanced at Elliott, pleased to see the soldier died quickly, quietly, and finally at peace.

Without the binoculars, Daniel couldn’t keep up with all the action, but as the poison spread outward from the source it became readily obvious something was happening.  Jaffa began dropping row by row as the toxin dissipated in a circular pattern like a shock wave.  Warriors near the perimeter didn't die as rapidly as those at the origin.  They fell to the ground writhing in the dirt for some time until their bodies eventually stilled.

The four ships, their inhabitants possibly protected by the ships energy shields, took flight and left the area with screaming speed.

As the outermost Jaffa hit the dirt, Jack grabbed his radio to inform Carter of their situation.

"Carter."

"Yes, Sir."

"Lieutenant Elliott has hit his target.  The poison is spreading rapidly.  All Jaffa are on the ground but not all are dead yet."

"That's good news, Sir."

"Sir?" Carter sounded apprehensive waiting for a reply.  "Sir!"

"Uh, Carter…everything's okay here. The wave has just reached us."

"Are you sure you're okay, Sir?" She thought she could hear crying on the other end of the radio.

"Uh, well, Daniel's in my lap, giggling hysterically. Tell Jacob he's gonna pay for this one."  Still with his finger on the radio call button leaving the line open for Carter to hear, Jack yelled a few choice expletives in Daniel's direction.

"Oh, yeah, Jacob's gonna pay big time!"

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"Daniel!"  Jack hissed. "Sit up!"

"I'm trying to Jack…can't catch my breath," Daniel replied between guffaws.  "I just can't…."  The sentence was cut short as Daniel broke down laughing once again, tears streaming down his cheeks.

"Oh, this isn't funny!" More chuckles followed the comment.

Struggling to regain his composure, Daniel wiped moisture from his eyes with the back of his hand and pushed himself upright against a tree.  Embarrassed at his behavior, he cautiously raised his gaze to meet Jack's, impressed that his commander appeared stoic and quite unaffected by the poison.

Daniel’s gaze was his undoing.  As their eyes met, Jack could no longer contain himself.

"Shit, Daniel!  If you breathe a word of this to Carter, so help me…I'll…" Jack found it very difficult to keep up the conversation as he was rocked with overpowering giggles.  He felt like such a fool.

Witnessing the unexpected breakdown was too much for Daniel who found himself back in the colonel’s lap laughing hysterically.  Jack playfully pushed him down to the ground as he tried to regain his own composure.

Several agonizing moments later, Jack's radio crackled, "Come in, Sir!"

"Yeah, Carter." The fits of hysterics had thankfully passed leaving Jack and Daniel clutching their stomachs from receding pain caused by prolonged laughing jags.

“What’s your status?”

Jack made a quick assessment of the Jaffa base camp as he wiped his eyes.  "All Jaffa at the base camp are dead.  Four ships escaped the area so take precautions."

"Understood, Sir. Dad's feeling much better.  We can probably begin heading towards the Stargate,” Secretly, Sam wanted to check the status of her teammates visually.  “It’ll take us about 4 hours to reach your current position and the poison level should dissipate sufficiently by then."

"Roger that, Carter.  Watch the woods.  There may still be some Jaffa patrols out there.  Radio check every 30 minutes.  Daniel and I will secure the gate."

"Will do, Sir. Carter out."

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"Daniel, you ready to move?" Jack queried, visibly pulling himself together.

"Yeah, I think so.  Not feeling so great, though."  Daniel thought that was quite an understatement.  He felt like he'd been knocked down by a buffalo, stomped on a few times, and kicked in the head as the animal made its retreat. 

He briefly surveyed the base camp area, noting no movement whatsoever.  It appeared the poison worked well.  Score one for the Tok’ra.

They walked wordlessly towards the Stargate as Jack constantly assessed their surroundings for any threats.  Maneuvering around the lifeless bodies, they made their way towards Elliott. 

Upon reaching the young soldier, Daniel surreptitiously glimpsed Jack's expression seeing a mix of emotions pass over the colonel's face; his respect, sorrow, and admiration for Elliott apparent. 

That's when Daniel noticed Jack's physical appearance.  The colonel had obviously been through hell and back during his brief time at the Tok'ra base.  His clothes were worse for wear and quite filthy, and dark stubble on his face indicated he hadn't shaved for a couple of days. 

Daniel stooped to place his thumb and forefinger on Elliott's face, closing his eyes.  The soldier looked peaceful.

Silently, Jack reached out to Elliott and removed his dog tags, cognizant of the "no one gets left behind" military philosophy.  Sometimes the only way to fulfill that promise was to bring back the identification tags. 

Standing up from the fallen soldier, Jack took a good look at the devastation surrounding them. Hundreds of Jaffa lay dead.

"Sweet. You know, I take back everything I've said about the Tok'ra! They and their poison really saved our asses this time!"

"Yeah, Jack, but at what cost?"

"Daniel, I don't care "what cost"!  These Jaffa had every intention of killing us and destroying the Tok'ra base.  They were not 'good people'," Jack made exaggerated quotes with his fingers in the air.

Turning to face Daniel, Jack quickly assessed his teammate.  Daniel still wore the satin garb given to him by the Tok'ra for use at the Goa'uld summit meeting.  The shirt was sleeveless, apparently affording little benefit from the low hanging branches and thorns they had encountered on their trek through the woods.  Several scrapes and abrasions were visible on Daniel's arms.  His pants were quite thin with small pockets at the seams but no means to hide a weapon.  

“You’re out of uniform, Daniel.  Pajamas aren’t standard issue.”

“Very funny…well I didn’t exactly have time to change.”

Jack reached down to retrieve a zat gun from one of the dead warriors.  "Here," Jack said as he planted the weapon in Daniel's hands. "Hopefully, we won't need these but a boy scout should always be prepared."

Continuing to check bodies along the way, they eventually converged on the dais at the base of the Stargate.  Jack surveyed a couple of areas near the gate for use as defensive positions if that became necessary.  Assessing their surroundings and convincing himself there was no present danger, Jack took a seat on the stairs with Daniel following suit.

Jack became introspective as he took a brief respite.  So far, the end of this mission had been a piece of cake.  SG-1 never got off this easy.  Perhaps the gods had taken pity on them for once, Jack mused.  They definitely deserved it after so many occasions where a change of venue from the conference room to the infirmary for debriefings was required.  Now, SG-1 was almost home free and relatively unscathed.

As they continued to wait for the rest of their team to arrive, Jack grew increasingly concerned.  At Carter’s last radio communication she’d reported their position about one hour out.  Checking his watch, he noted ruefully that was almost 45 minutes ago.

"Damn!  Carter missed her last check in.  This is *so* not good." 

Pressing the call button, Jack bellowed into his radio, "Carter!" After a few seconds pause with no response, he tried again, "Carter! Report!"

A breathless female voice responded to him, "Sir, we're under attack!"

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[Chapter 4] - Disappearing Act

Jacob Carter had recovered remarkably quickly from his injuries and, sandwiched between Sam and Teal'c, he kept a wary eye on the woods as they steadfastly continued their trek towards the gate.

Sam strode with increasing confidence, relieved that fears of Jaffa patrols proved unfounded.  She paused regularly throughout their journey to contact her commanding officer, relaying their status.  Glancing at her watch now, she realized her last communication occurred almost 30 minutes ago.  By her estimation, she figured they’d be at the gate in another half-hour or so.  It was time for another check-in. 

As she stopped to make radio contact, her eyes quickly scanned their surroundings and she noticed they had entered a particularly dark area of the forest with several rather large boulders strewn about.  Very little sunlight reached through the trees to light their path.

The ball of fire screaming past her was blinding in its intensity.

"Take cover!" Sam realized the command was totally unnecessary as she saw Teal'c and Jacob dive for the nearby rocks.  Isolated from them, Sam took refuge behind a large tree.  Still rather exposed, she ducked as several more blasts aimed at her narrowly missed their target. 

Seeing his teammate in distress, Teal'c stood up and fired a series of staff blasts to provide Sam with much appreciated cover fire.  She took the opportunity and dashed to a more protected area by her dad.

"How many?" Sam asked breathlessly.

"Probably four to six Jaffa .  It's a small patrol used to retrieve anything of value after the enemy is destroyed.  They weren't expecting company." Jacob grimaced as another blast whizzed directly over their heads.

Teal'c returned to a squatting position next to the others.  "We are out numbered but I have gravely injured two of them.  I believe we are at a 'standoff', as you say."

"What's their position, Teal'c?" Sam knew they couldn't wait indefinitely.

“There are four of them just over that rise,” the Jaffa stated, “there and there,” he finished as he pointed to two separate areas.  Sam nodded in acknowledgement.

A deafening silence ensued for several tense moments as neither side fired, each laying in wait for their opponents to make a mistake. 

"Carter! Report!"  The loud crackle signaled the startling end of the stillness, causing Sam to nearly jump out of her skin.

"Sir, we're under attack!  Radio silence!" Sam whispered into her radio.  She knew the colonel wouldn’t be pleased with her abrupt end to their conversation but she didn't have time to explain their situation now. 

She also hoped the Jaffa would have difficulty locating their position if they remained quiet, however the brief radio communication had destroyed all hope of maintaining their anonymity as another staff blast struck the boulder where they were hiding.

"Damn!  We've got to do something!"  Sam reached inside her vest pockets and pulled out two grenades.

"Dad, take one and throw it to the left side of the group.  I'll launch this one to the right.  Teal'c, you lay cover fire to draw their attention,” Sam gave the orders with confidence while looking at the others to ensure their understanding. 

“We go on three." Sam finished.

Teal'c gave a minute nod to indicate his consent and understanding. 

"Let's blow this joint," Jacob's comment was a bit more to the point.

"Okay, on three. One," Sam and Jacob pulled the pins from their grenades. "two, three!"

Teal'c shot low, not aiming to kill, and allowed the grenades to fly above the blasts. They hit their target, creating an explosion that brought the remaining Jaffa to the ground, lifeless.

Sam quickly surveyed the site of the explosions. "I count four dead from the grenades," she stated matter-of-factly as she turned towards Teal’c.  "How many did you hit?"

"I eliminated two Jaffa in that direction," Teal'c indicated an area south of the explosion.

"That makes six," Jacob finished.  "We've eliminated the immediate threat."

"Excellent,” Sam said with a proud smile.  “Now we just need to avoid any more patrols until we make it back to the gate.  I think now would be a good time to quicken our pace."

"I concur."

"Indeed."

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Damnit!  Jack hated feeling helpless.  He couldn’t help his teammates and he'd just been given the brush-off by his 2IC.

Radio silence!  Hell, he'd used that one a few times himself but it really sucked to be on the receiving end.  Rapping his fingers impatiently against the shaft of his P-90, he stood on the steps and craned his neck for any signs of battle in the woods.

"They'll be fine, Jack," Daniel's comment apparently intended to ease Jack's concern yet he found it difficult to believe his own words.

"Yeah, I know," Jack paused his drumming long enough to push the heels of his hands against his brow, massaging some of the stress from his face.

Their waiting stretched into an eternity.

"Colonel O'Neill, come in." Carter's voice sounded over the radio.

Jack hastily grabbed his radio to respond.  "Yeah, Carter. What happened?"

"We encountered a six man Jaffa patrol.  The threat has been eliminated with no injuries to us.  Dad believes we may run into more patrols so we've quicken our pace to the gate with an ETA of about 10 minutes.” 

The radio went silent for a few moments before Carter continued, “Suggest you begin the dial up sequence in 5.  We may need to make a hasty retreat."

"Understood, Carter.  Daniel will dial out in 5 minutes.  O’Neill out."

Jack turned towards Daniel, preparing to retreat to the defensive positions he'd noted earlier near the gate.

"Come on, Daniel. Let's take cover…"

His voice trailed off as the gate suddenly sprang into life.  The two men turned simultaneously towards the gate and noticed all the chevrons glowed, signaling an imminent wormhole activation. 

At that moment, Jack understood why you should never use the gate steps for a chair.  He needed to spell out the dangers of being too close to the gate in the SGC's protocol as soon as he got back to base.

Daniel looked perplexed as his mind rapidly processed the visual clues his eyes received. "What the hell…?"

"Daniel, get down!" Jack shouted over the roar of the establishing wormhole.

He shoved Daniel in the back hard enough to throw him off the steps to the hard ground below and out of range of the backwash from the gate. 

As Daniel hit the ground, his breath knocked out of him and his zat flew several feet from his hands.  Frantically stretching to reach his weapon, he suddenly felt a heavy weight on his back as Jack fell, none too gracefully, and landed atop the sprawled man. 

As they disengaged themselves the wormhole stabilized and three figures emerged through the event horizon.

"Daniel Jackson!  You've made my mission too easy!"  Jack and Daniel turned towards the familiar voice and immediately recognized it as Osiris.

Jack covertly flicked the safety off his P-90 and regretted it as he felt the electric charge from a zat coursing through his body.  Daniel winced in sympathy at the sound of electrical static and the sight of Jack writhing in agony at his feet.

Daniel rapidly regained his composure and realized he had to warn Sam.  He didn't want her walking into an ambush.  He'd prefer a heroic rescue attempt at this point.

Reaching for the call button on his radio, he relayed his situation as quickly as possible, "Sam, Osiris and two Jaffa came through the gate.  Jack's down and…"

Osiris cut short his transmission by delivering a strong backhand across his face, knocking him to the ground hard enough to dislodge his radio from his jacket pocket.  The pain on his cheekbone radiated through his jaw and he felt blood dripping across his face from a cut created by a rather large ring on Osiris' hand.  Spots of light danced before his eyes as he tried to hold onto consciousness.

One Jaffa was already dialing coordinates on the DHD.  The other moved to restrain Jack's hands behind his back. 

Daniel continued to lie down feigning unconsciousness while keeping a close watch on the dialed gate coordinates.  He scratched the symbols in the dirt beneath him hoping to leave a clue for Sam to find them.  Digging into the hard ground caused his fingers to bleed but he hoped his friends would understand his message. 

If only he could complete the last symbol before that Jaffa reached him to bind his hands…

Too late.  He didn't see the last symbol dialed in time to mark it in the ground before the Jaffa roughly pulled him up from the ground, jerking his left arm severely.  Daniel hissed through clinched teeth, wondering if the force had dislocated his shoulder. 

The Jaffa tightly bound his arms behind his back before shoving him brutally towards the now open wormhole.  Looking back over his shoulder he strained to see Sam and Teal'c come into view.

Yes!  He saw them just at the tree line.  Osiris followed his gaze and angrily rubbed the blue crystal on her ring that had caused Daniel so much pain.  He didn't give the gesture much thought as he silently prayed for his teammates to rescue them.

Suddenly realizing with an enveloping sense of dread that his teammates couldn't see him, Daniel tried to attract their attention by jumping and calling out to them.  He didn’t care if his actions angered Osiris.

Still they couldn’t see him.  How could that be?  They were so close he thought that, if he could extend an arm, he’d be able to touch them.  Then Daniel remembered the blue crystal.

"What have you done to them?" Daniel's words filled with hatred towards Osiris.

Osiris simply laughed and motioned towards Jack.  Both Jaffa sauntered over to the still unconscious man, lifted him by his arms, and dragged him through the gate. Daniel gave a final seething glare at Osiris as she directed him to follow his commander. 

"What have you done?"  He spoke tensely through clinched teeth.

"Why, my dear Dr. Jackson, nothing is wrong with them.  We are merely inside my invisibility screen from which neither light nor sound waves can travel.  It works much like a Goa’uld cloaking device.  Your friends cannot see or hear us.  In fact,” Osiris chuckled, “they cannot even see the DHD since it falls within the range of the field.  Quite a useful invention don't you think?" She waved her zat in Daniel's direction, urging him onward.

"Well, I guess that depends on your point of view," Daniel replied wryly as he reluctantly followed Jack through the stargate.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Perplexed, Sam surveyed their surroundings in the area where the gate was supposed to be; the same place that Daniel claimed Osiris held the colonel and him as her prisoners.  Strangely enough, she couldn’t even find the gate, much less her teammates. 

"Where is it?"

“I do not know, Major Carter.  It should be in this location.”

The wormhole disengaged with a shuttering sigh and three heads whipped around, seeking out the source of the sound.  To their surprise, the Stargate appeared suddenly only few yards away from them.

“Where the hell did that thing come from?”  Jacob Carter questioned.

“Wow, that’s amazing!” the younger Carter said.  “It’s like it was cloaked or something.  Dad, do the Goa’uld have a personal cloaking device?”

“Not that I know of but…” his voice trailed as the group moved closer to the gate.  “That might explain this though.”

“I guess so…Damn!” Sam exclaimed, her frustration with their situation apparent.  “She must’ve taken them through the gate!  How will we be able to find them now?”  She looked towards her dad, hoping for a Tok’ra miracle.

“It won’t be easy if we can find them at all.  It’ll be like searching for a needle in a haystack.”  Jacob said distractedly as he moved to the DHD.

“Indeed.”

Teal'c searched the area immediately surrounding the DHD for any signs of their teammates' disappearance.

"There are footprints, here and here," Teal'c pointed to areas on the ground near the gate.  "Someone was dragged from this point through the gate," he continued speaking as he analyzed the tracks. 

Handing Major Carter a radio and zat gun he picked up from the ground, Teal’c spoke with a grave tone, “I have no doubt that Daniel Jackson and Colonel O'Neill were here."

"Sam!  I’ve got something that looks like symbols marked in the ground," Jacob told the others of his revelation and they approached his location.  “Possibly a portion of a gate address?"

"It would appear so.  I believe someone has left us a clue."

"Yeah, I see them,” Sam squatted beside her dad.  “They must have been made in a hurry.”  She took a few moments to trace the etchings with her fingers, trying to decipher each glyph.  “I'm having trouble making them all out and it looks like the sixth symbol is missing."

"That is unfortunate."

"At least it's something," Jacob Carter contributed.  He stood up quickly at a sound in the distance.  "We've gotta go now, though.  Take a mental note of the markings and let's get the hell out of dodge.  We've got company!" He pointed towards the tree line at several Jaffa heading their way.

"Uh, right!  Dad, you and Teal'c look at the symbols while I dial us home."  Sam returned to the DHD and punched in the necessary coordinates. 

As the wormhole again roared into being, the three reluctantly stepped through to safety. 

Arriving at the SGC moments later, Sam looked over her shoulder at the shimmering passageway as if willing the colonel and Daniel to follow them through.  As the light disappeared, she vowed she would find her teammates and friends. 

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[Chapter 5] - "Aw hell, not again!"

Deenesh ran through the halls towards her Master's ship, unable to understand the sensations assaulting her.  She was running, yes, but she wasn't in control of the movement, feeling disconnected somehow from her limbs.  The voice in her mind grew louder and louder, pushing her conscious thoughts to their subconscious depths.

Appalled by the cacophony of emotions invading her mind, she suddenly realized they were not hers but those of the others running alongside her.  She heard their thoughts, angry and seething with hatred. 

*She* hated…

No.  It wasn’t part of her nature yet the feelings were there, accosting her mind like tiny daggers.  She felt hatred for the System Lords, hatred for Ma'chello, even hatred towards her Master for allowing this summit meeting to be decimated by those who wished to kill the Goa'uld. 

But Deenesh didn’t hate.  She couldn’t understand this abomination.  Battling against the insurgence within her, she tried to suppress the unwelcome sentiments threatening to overtake her permanently and failed.

‘Shut up, stupid girl!’  The voice of her god, Nephthys, resounded in her head.

She began to panic, losing her identity amidst the evilness inside her.  ‘I don't understand.  What's happening?’

’Those vile creatures created by Machello attacked the Limvris.  We had to escape.  You are now my host and under my control.  I will silence your mind, your voice...’

’But I don't understand,’ She knew the thoughts racing through her head were not from her god alone but from many souls.  ‘I hear a multitude of voices. Please, make them stop!’ 

’You hear everyone around us, stupid girl!’ Nephthys growled within her.  ‘Your pathetic race was telepathic but they were too ignorant and simple to use their power.  Your kind served me as slaves…until now.’  Nephthys recognized the ability upon entering her new host’s body and smiled inwardly as she envisioned the possibilities this newfound talent offered. 

With this telepathy she would become omnipotent, enhancing her existing mental faculties and using her alliance with Osiris to provide the physical means necessary to usurp the System Lords’ dominance. 

She would use Osiris as he had used her so many years ago; tossing him to the wolves once her nefarious plan was set in motion.  Her scheme pitted Goa’uld against Goa’uld, brother against brother, fighting a war for power throughout the universe until finally nothing remained.  Nothing except Nephthys…

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Terrified by her Master’s desires yet helpless against them, Deenesh’s body entered the Tel'tak.  Overwhelming silence stood foreboding as the other thoughts in her mind disappeared behind the closed hatch.  Only the voice of her insane god remained and she suddenly feared for the safety of the universe.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As they exited the wormhole Daniel walked out into a dark chamber resembling an underground cavern illuminated only by the flickering reflection from the event horizon.  The desolate room appeared isolated from the planet’s inhabitants, devoid even of any Jaffa guards. 

The cultural ramifications fascinated him since, unlike other worlds they’d visited, this gate seemed to hold no reverence as a center of worship for the gods.  In fact, this place felt like hell.  It was sure hotter than it.

Stumbling down the steep stairs, he shot a quick glance at the still unconscious form slumped between the arms of the Jaffa .  They relaxed their grip on his friend as they reach the base of the steps, allowing Jack's legs and feet to drag painfully along the rock floor. 

Another glimpse around the chamber revealed a rather large, cavernous room with lava pools bubbling their molten quarry and steam billowing upward through vents leading to the surface.  The walls appeared completely natural with large fissures opening into nothingness.  The air smelled distinctly sulfurous.  Definitely not the typical Goa'uld palace décor, he mused.

He cringed as the gate deactivated, expecting to be thrown into total darkness, but instead a faint lighting through an adjacent corridor caught his attention.  As his eyes adjusted he spied a slight bluish hue emanating from the walls themselves.  He scanned his surroundings, hoping to find clues to their location or at least some ancient drawings depicting the lifestyles of the local inhabitants, assuming anyone ever lived here. 

A fierce shove from one of Osiris’ guards forced him to the ground.  Stunned, he glared angrily over his shoulder at the offender.  At the indignant expression on his assailant's face, Daniel reluctantly stood to follow Osiris towards the dimly lit corridor while the Jaffa dragged Jack along behind them.

Wondering what he'd find once he reached the light, his thoughts returned to Revanna where patches of sunlight breaking through the trees rendered mounds of pretty flowers.  He stifled a chuckle at such an absurd idea.  No, no flowers in this place.  Probably just thorns, he mused.

Entering the passage, he realized the glow was iridescent and pulsating; not generator powered but totally natural lighting.  Crystals

He surreptitiously glanced at the ring on Osiris' hand that caused the painful gouge across his cheekbone suspecting that somehow it created the invisibility barrier back on the planet.  The stone on the ring matched the ones in these walls.  As he traveled escorted down the hallway, he speculated on the nature of these crystals, how they were formed and whether the energy they emitted originated from within them or was supplied somehow through the tunnel walls.  Another glimpse at Osiris' ring proved his original hypothesis wrong.  Her ring wasn't glowing.

Continuing down the wide path for what seemed like an eternity, Daniel could tell Jack was awakening by the soft moans coming from his direction.  He knew his friend wasn’t fully conscious though based on his wordlessness.  The man could never resist the urge to antagonize his captors and Daniel took solace in Jack’s verbal spars, his sarcastic wit proving quite entertaining as long as it wasn't directed at him.  A quiet Jack on the other hand was very disconcerting.

Another rough push from behind him kept Daniel moving along.  He assumed they were heading down a main artery from the Stargate to the rest of this complex.  In fact, he hadn’t seen any branches from this tunnel throughout their trek meaning it could very well be the only way to the gate.  Keeping a watchful eye, he memorized key markings they might need to map their eventual escape.  Unfortunately, this route could be easily guarded, almost assuredly preventing an unhindered retreat.

Suddenly, their way forked into two darker and much narrower passages. With a wave of Osiris' hand, the Jaffa hauled Jack down one of them.  Six more Jaffa joined Daniel and Osiris from the neighboring corridor.

"Hey, where are you taking him?" Daniel tried to sound curious rather than worried, unwilling to reveal his true concern for Jack's safety.

"That is none of your concern, Dr. Jackson," Osiris' voice had a lilting pitch. "He will be 'entertained' separately from you…for now.  In fact, I believe *I'll* be joining *you* for tonight's entertainment…just like old times, eh?" the husky voice resonated with sexual undercurrents.  "My host is quite fond of you.  She has some very interesting…memories that I might make useful."

"Go to hell," Daniel's voice oozed defiance.

"Oh, but my dear Dr. Jackson, we're already there!" Osiris gave a calloused laugh.

With a staff weapon pressed to his back, Daniel trudged down the new path and away from Jack.  He wanted to fight, kick, scream, drag his feet, anything to prevent his separation from his friend but he knew that approach would only result in a beating for either one or both of them.  He had to remain clear-headed and calm so he could work out a plan. 

They gained altitude during their trek and the air became noticeably cooler.  Several branches appeared throughout this tunnel and he wondered how he would ever find Jack in this growing maze. 

He also worried about the state of his friend.  Jack should’ve awoken pissed as hell from the simple zat blast, one not unlike so many they had encountered previously; his stamina generally shortening his recovery time but, for some reason, he was taking much longer to come around now. 

He feared Osiris’ goons had given the injured man something to keep him unconscious.  That made sense, sort of.  Logically, it would be easier to transport him that way but Daniel feared the Goa’uld’s true reasons.  And why hadn’t he also been drugged?

Perhaps Osiris realized Jack could play mind games with the best of them.  Daniel took solace in the fact that his friend’s military training prevented the snakeheads from ever having much effect against him, yet something in the back of his mind nagged at him.  Mind control techniques come in many forms with psychotropic drugs and hypnotism as very effective possibilities…

Finally, he spied his prison as they rounded a corner.  Cut sharply into the rock face walls, the room was quite small and rather dank; a shallow cell with no windows, no comforts, and no escape.  Dim lighting filled the enclosure and it appeared man- or rather Goa'uld-made.

In the back corner he saw an overhead restraint system consisting of a mechanical lifting device with dangling chains.  The Jaffa quickly clamped Daniel's wrists to its manacles.

‘Oh great, height adjustable,’ Daniel thought, praying the system design intended to accommodate prisoners of various heights and not to actually lift them off the floor to dangle by their arms.  ‘Yeahsureyabetcha.’

"Where are we?  What do you want with us?" the archeologist spoke as though Jack was still present, refusing to consider any other possibilities.

"In due time, Daniel, in due time," Osiris caressed the young man's cheek. 

He remained outwardly stoic at the touch, although inwardly he shuddered and hoped Sarah could guard her memories of their past experiences enough to delude Osiris.  He didn't want to think about what the Goa’uld could do with some of their more personal moments.  He remembered a few wild, potentially embarrassing events from his college days, usually spurred by the consumption of copious quantities of alcohol.

"Prepare him!" Osiris bellowed at the Jaffa .  Gazing lasciviously at Daniel, her next words filled him with dread.  "He must be ready for the evening's entertainment."

Daniel barely flinched as a rather large guard slowly started removing his clothing.  He mentally focused on an escape plan, trying to distance himself from his current situation and failing miserably.

He felt his shoes and socks tugged from his feet.  The Jaffa rose to stand face to face with his captive, an evil gleam in his eyes, as he stroked the satin tank top and worked it free from his pants.  He slid his hands beneath the soft fabric to caress the Daniel’s firm, muscular chest, stopping briefly to pinch each tender nipple.  The burly man maintained a feral gaze which filled the archeologist with dread.

Suddenly, the hands reached up under the garment clasping the neckline, and with one quick jerk, the fabric split down the center and fell to the ground.  The others in the room leered at the half naked man. 

Another Jaffa replaced the first and reached for Daniel’s belt, allowing his rough hands to slip and contact bare skin.  Those hands slid as far under as possible, sensually touching beneath his waistband and driving downward towards the coarse, pubic hair. 

A small grimace flashed across Daniel’s face and his tormentors chuckled at his distress.

Helplessly, Daniel set his chin and focused his gaze on the cell exit appearing disinterested in the proceedings.  As he watched the doorway, he noticed a dark figure walk past, definitely female. 

Before his mind could completely process the image, he felt his belt pop off and a large hand fondled him.  He squirmed and kicked against the unwanted contact, afraid he might actually be raped.  The offending hand released him and swung wildly to strike his face.  Losing his footing from the force of the blow, Daniel jolted painfully against his chains and the weight of his limp body pulled them taut. 

Through the blinding pain, he felt hands tugging on his legs.  One of the Jaffa pressed a symbol on the interior wall which operated the winch and his shoulders burned as his arms lifted high above his head, the motion stopping just before his feet left the ground.

”You will learn obedience!”

Daniel spit in the man’s face, earning him a swift kick between his legs.  The younger man cried out in obvious agony.

Two Jaffa now surrounded him, one in front and one behind, feigning concern by massaging his groin.  “Is this better now?  Feels like its swelling.  Perhaps we should take a look, huh?”  They laughed.

“Go to hell!”

The men slowly removed his pants as the others taunted with lewd obscenities. 

Daniel felt something rubbing against him, starting at his inner thigh and climbing upwards, lingering.  Anxiously his mind panicked for a time until he recognized the feeling of fingers.  It was the touch of a hand which, in any other circumstance would have been intolerable, now incredibly eased his concern.  He’d feared it had been something different.

As the fingers worked their way into his underwear, Daniel thought he still might lose it but restrained from further struggling, fearing the consequences.  He tried to dissociate his mind from his body, recalling his team leader’s training regarding "preferred" torture techniques. 

One evening after a difficult mission they made a "top ten" list to relieve the tension.   He recognized several of those "top ten" items in his current situation;

1) Degrading by removing the victim's dignity, both mentally and physically,

2) Depriving the victim of those things essential to human existence such as   food, water, clothing,

3) Threatening or attempting sexual relations or other depravities.

Oh, and 4) Actual torturing, either mental, physical, or both.

His memory faltered on the remaining six as he returned to reality.   The invading hand now cupped his balls beneath the clothing.

"Enough!" Osiris, apparently enjoying the show, cut off the entertainment before things got out of hand, so to speak. 

"Come.  Leave him to his thoughts…," Osiris left the room smiling wickedly, the guards retreating after binding his angles together with a thick leather strap.

”Well, at least I got to keep the underwear this time,” Daniel joked even as his body visibly shook.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jack gasped as his mind clawed its way up from unconsciousness.  He felt pain in his legs, unpleasant but not debilitating.  More disturbingly, he couldn't recall how he'd been hurt. 

Rapidly assembling the pieces of the puzzle together, he remembered being on Revanna with Daniel, waiting for Carter and Teal'c to reach the gate.  They were under attack.  He and Daniel moved to open the wormhole to Earth when…

 

Osiris!

"Aw hell, not again!" he exclaimed as he came to full awareness in his cell.  The whole situation was just so typical.

"Stupid! How could I have been so stupid?" Jack muttered to himself.  He relaxed his guard during their final hours on Revanna, complacent after the Goa'uld poison worked so effectively.  His nonchalance had cost them their freedom.

'Their freedom', he thought. ‘Shit! Where is Daniel?’

He remembered hearing voices, HIS voice before being dumped unceremoniously into this room.  More accurately, he heard Daniel’s screams, so close he imagined the archeologist had been with him in this very room.  Looking around quickly he saw no sign of the man now.  He had to find him. 


Jack worriedly paced his small confines.  Nice décor, a bit gaudy, but what else would you expect from the Goa'uld?  The room smelled a bit musty and the lighting wasn't too bright but at least he had a bed.  Not too bad for a prison.

He saw the tray of food placed on a sidebar table and picked up a pear-shaped fruit, tossing it gently in the air.  He took a tentative nibble, wondering if it was safe to eat.  Good flavor, a bit too sweet though.  After his second bite he thought he should be concerned about eating alien and possibly poisoned fruit, but for some reason he just didn’t care.  In fact, he felt quite apathetic about this whole capture thing anyway.  Shrugging, he took another bite.

His thoughts digressed to Daniel, hoping his teammate received the same unexpected yet not unpleasant welcome.  It was nice to be treated well for a change. Perhaps they could stay a while.

Jack jerked towards the sudden movement outside his quarters.  His instincts told him to attack his would-be captor and flee but his mind seemed disinterested.  A beautiful woman with dark features and glowing eyes came into view.

She stepped inside and glanced indifferently in Jack's direction, proceeding to snatch a piece of fruit from the table for herself.  After finishing her snack, she turned her attention towards her prisoner.

"Who are you?" Jack asked the young woman.

"I am Nephthys, goddess of the death which is not eternal, mistress of the gods, sister to Isis ."

"And?  So?  Therefore?" Jack regained his sarcastic tongue, waving his hand with each word spoken.

"And," Nephthys brushed against him as she spoke, "you are my honored guest.

“So," Nephthys' hand moved to caress Jack's handsome features, "you will tell me everything I want to know about yourself and your companion.

“Therefore," she stopped directly in front of him, her face mere inches away, "I will allow you the pleasure of serving me willing in the destruction of Earth."

"Okay, let me think about that," Jack started, his basal instincts driving his responses again.  "No," he quipped in a singsong tone, answering after barely a second's pause.  "This may come as a surprise to you but I'm *so* not honored to be your guest and I'll never help you destroy Earth so I suggest that you bring my teammate to me now before I break your slimy, good-for-nothing, Goa'uldy… "

Nephthys raised her hand and Jack stopped instantly.  She spoke slowly, her tone beyond reproach, and her eyes never wavering from his.  "You are my honored guest."

Jack calmly repeated the words trance-like, "I am your honored guest."

"You will tell me everything I want to know," Nephthys continued.

"I will tell you everything you want to know," the words spilled ominously from Jack's mouth.

"You will assist me in the destruction of Earth."

"I will assist you in the destruction of Earth."  He heard himself speak but had difficulty processing the content.

Nephthys lowered her hand and resumed her casual perusal of Jack's room.  He followed her with his eyes, still confused by his words but convinced he would follow his god’s instructions.

"I trust you are comfortable here." Her inflection implied a statement of fact rather than a question.

"Yes, my Lord.  I am." His own words haunted the deep recesses of his mind but he no longer controlled his conscious thoughts and behavior.

With a satisfied nod of her head, Nephthys quickly left the room.

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"Stop it! God, just stop it!" Daniel's screams came through clenched teeth.  His previously suppressed cries now morphed into a full blown verbalization of his pain, his throat raw from screaming.  Unsure exactly when his persecutors returned, he suspected they'd been with him for about a half hour now.  It seemed significantly longer.
 
After removing his clothing, they left him in this place for several hours without food or water.  Initially, he assumed he was alone here but flashes of memories he couldn’t quite grasp assailed him.  He remembered voices and a woman that always remained in the shadows.  He even thought he recalled Jack’s voice but that couldn’t be.  Osiris held his commanding officer elsewhere within this facility.

Unable to catch enough lucid memories to determine what had happened since arriving on this world, he decided to think back to what occurred just prior to their capture for any clues to the Goa’uld’s intentions.

Osiris had allied with Anubis, representing his interests at the Goa’uld meeting.  Daniel overheard their bargaining points in the deal; the destruction of both the Tok'ra base and Earth.  What he couldn’t figure out, though, was how they planned to accomplish it.  He didn’t realize at the time that Anubis had already launched an attack on Revanna.

Once Osiris recognized Daniel on Yu’s ship, she tried to grab him and luckily failed, eventually tracking him down to the planet’s surface.  She wanted him, Jack, or both from some reason.  Obviously, she hadn’t expected to find them such easy targets. 

So she’d taken them prisoners, but why?  Certainly they provided little consequence to the allegiance between the Goa’ulds.  It didn't make any sense to him.  What could she possibly stand to gain from them, the Earth gate access codes? 

Surely, she knew they’d both die before divulging any information.

His mind grew weaker as hunger and thirst overtook his ability to think clearly.  It became increasingly difficulty to focus his thoughts.  As they strayed back to his teammate, Daniel prayed he was in better condition than himself.  Conscious and alert, Jack could find a way out and free them from this hellhole.  Drugged or worse, they were shit out of luck.

As his thoughts wandered again to the mysterious dark figure he’d seen several times now, Daniel heard the faint sound of footsteps approaching.

‘God, please let it be Jack…’ he silently pleaded.

Two Jaffa entered his prison, one of them carrying an innocuous looking metal rod and three small discs.  One of them immediately walked over to Daniel and began placing the discs all over his body…his temple, his left side, and unfortunately, the base of his testicles.

Without speaking a word, the Jaffa touched a symbol on the rod and the color on its tip changed to deep crimson.  As he held it against the disc on Daniel's side, a searing pain swept throughout his body unlike anything he had ever experienced before.  It originated at the source and radiated outwards through his extremities.  Against closed eyelids he saw starbursts of colors, like fireworks, blinding in their intensity.  He clenched his lips together unwilling to scream and tasted blood as he bit through his bottom lip.

The transitory pain eased as soon as the stick lost contact with the plate.

Daniel gasped for much needed air intending to flail a few accusatory words, but his tormentor raised the device to the disc at his temple before he could speak.  His screams echoed down the corridor.

"Stop it! God, just stop it!" Daniel's plea came through clenched teeth.

The Jaffa detached the bar from his temple but the pain took longer to dissipate this time leaving Daniel with a pounding headache. 

"My dear Dr. Jackson, you had but to ask!  Perhaps this will be more to your liking," Osiris sauntered into the room, her blithe words sounding alarm bells in Daniel's mind.


She nonchalantly reached for the pain-stick and pressed a different symbol at its base.  The tip radiated a foreboding cerulean blue.  Daniel flinched as she made contact and his eyes narrowed in preparation for the pain to follow, surprising shocked at a new sensation. 

He felt warm but not too warm.  His vision wavered at the incredible emotions flooded his senses.  Pleasure coursed through his veins, pumped by his heart to every part of his body in a mind numbing onslaught he could neither describe nor distance himself from.  A dark blue aura entwined within his very being.  The vibrant colors behind his eyelids presented themselves in a swirling, intermixing rainbow of pigments bleeding into each other like a psychotropic haze.  These feelings were pleasant, very pleasant indeed and he enjoyed them…immensely.


"See, we have no wish to harm you.  We can make this easy for you.  Your choice, do you desire pleasure or pain?"

Releasing the breath he hadn't realized he was holding Daniel battled against his true desire for more stimulation, not comfortable with the lack of control caused by the blue glow. 

Quietly and reluctantly, Daniel spoke, "Stop. I can't…take… please, stop."

"As you wish," Osiris removed the rod before the words completely left Daniel's mouth and he immediately regretted the loss.

"What the hell do you want from me?" Daniel tried to regain his vehemence towards Osiris as his mind cleared.

"Answer a few simple questions and I'll reward you appropriately," Osiris spoke while walking in slow circles around Daniel, lightly tracing her fingers across his torso as she moved.

"Correct answers bring pleasure.  Incorrect ones bring…"

Daniel didn’t see the color change on the device before she brought it up between his legs, contacting the disc on his testicles.  He barely heard Osiris as excruciating pain assaulted his body once again.

"…pain."

Afterwards, Daniel was quite certain he would be unable to walk for some time.  Yeah, like that was an option anyway.

"Now my dear Daniel," the vixen pressed her lips lightly to Daniel's ear while her free hand continued its exploration of his body.  "We will talk."

Daniel stood stoically against her touch, staring at the entrance to this room. Once again he thought he saw a shadowy figure pass. 

Of course, he may just be imagining things…

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Pacing again, Jack wondered how long they’d been here.  He’d worn a path from the doorway to his bed, counting exactly eight strides in each direction, as he grew impatient in this waiting game.  Glancing at his watch, he realized they’d been imprisoned here for well over six hours now.

For the past five of those hours, Jack had been yelling for someone, ANYONE, to come to his room.  A couple of Jaffa stood guard outside but, other than them, he didn’t remember seeing anyone since he'd awakened in this godforsaken place.  His last memory was the sting from the zat blast. 

“Shit,” he muttered.  They'd been so close to escaping that damn planet.  At least, Teal'c and Carter should have made it back to the SGC by now.  They’d be searching, not giving up until they found them.  That was something anyway.

"Could someone turn on a damn light?  Jeez!" Jack bellowed through the small opening in the door slamming a fist against it for emphasis.

At least he'd been treated well, receiving food and water at regular intervals.  And he had a bed…well, more of a cot really but better than lying on the rock floor.  He even tried to rest but his concern for Daniel overshadowed his need for sleep. 

Daniel.  Where was the man anyway?  He wasn't even sure Osiris had captured him since he hadn’t seen him around.  True, he thought he heard some very faint cries earlier, screams actually, but that was several hours ago.  It could have been anything.

"Hey, I really need some information here!" Jack's voice reverberated through the small room and down the adjacent hallway.  Eyeing one of the Jaffa through his door’s window, Jack exclaimed, "Would you get your fucking snake-head leader in here now?!"

Receiving only a cold, impassive look in response, Jack flung his half empty water glass towards them, shattering it into a million pieces.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


"Anubis is awaiting word of our progress." Osiris drank deeply from the ornate goblet in her hand.  Her human slave rushed to refill the glass at the snap of her fingers.

"The System Lords are fools!" Nephthys scowled at the thought. "They would dare reinstate Anubis after the crimes he's committed against them?  Preposterous!  Such flagrant, insolent audacity could only be instrumented by him!"

"That may be true but the opportunity now presents itself for us."

"Indeed it does, my love," Nephthys responded.  "We have only to play the humans against each other to set up the destruction of Earth."

"Yes," Osiris chuckled.  "Anubis will assume credit for their annihilation and we will tear the System Lords apart in the process."

Grinning, Nephthys contemplated her plan in silence…

The human known as O'Neill finally succumbed to her after several tedious visits with him.  His strong mind fought admirable against her, able to resist for a while.  But eventually she succeeded in taking over his conscious thoughts bit by bit, twisting his essence to make him willingly serve her needs. 

She laughed, recalling his final breaking point…his companion’s brutal torture.  She forced O’Neill to watch as her Jaffa repeatedly beat and sexually abused Daniel.  Yet even then he maintained his own control until after several days he finally caved, the continual stress working to weaken his mind.  It took a long time but the victory was well worth her efforts. 

Now, his increasingly erratic behavior proved she possessed him.  She no longer needed the drugs to control him so she planned to test her newfound telepathy as an alternate method.  He would be her marionette and she, the puppet master. 

He didn’t remember her visitations either, of that she was certain.  She plucked those memories along with those of his friend’s distress, planting a few new ones in their place, she mused.

"O'Neill is ready," Nephthys commented aloud. "What progress have you made with Dr. Jackson?"

"He is a very strong minded individual.  I have yet to get him to divulge anything of interest, despite my best attempts," Osiris' evil grin spoke volumes regarding the hardship inflicted upon Dr. Jackson.  "He rather seems to prefer the pain to the pleasure."

"He hasn’t yielded to the pas'nel?  Surely, your techniques will achieve *some* results,” Nephthys spoke sarcastically.  “Has he divulged anything of value?”


"He has uttered nonsense!" Osiris stood up waving angry fists in the air.  "It is difficult for me to believe he is the scholar my host claims him to be!"

"Perhaps that is what he wishes you to believe, my love." Nephthys rose placing a hand on Osiris' shoulder, pushing her gently back into the chair.

"Perhaps," Osiris responded indignantly.  "But I believe Colonel O'Neill will be much more successful in retrieving what we want from Jackson ."

"I agree.  We will make the prisoners visible to each other in the morning.  Even though *you* failed to produce the desired results, I am confident that O'Neill will succeed."

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[Chapter 6] - Dark Patches

'When will it stop?  I’ve got to stay alive just a little longer.  Jack will help me soon.'

Daniel had experienced utter torment for the past…how long had it been anyway?  It didn't matter, he had to survive.  He only hoped Jack’s situation was better than his.

His body still hung limply, wrists raw from the manacles.  He felt a trickle of blood or something down his arms and across his chest, his back riddled with small puncture wounds from a torture device with razor-sharp needles.  He probably suffered a few broken ribs as well.  Adding to his distress, he also realized he couldn't open his eyes.

Osiris had foregone using the pas'nel after that last color change to green.  It touched his temple but he had felt nothing.  No pain, no pleasure, nothing, nada.  He prayed it was broken.

Then the physical abuse began.  After expending their stock of pain inflicting instruments, the goons resorted to more primitive behavior, beating him physically and quite severely yet, unfortunately for him, he never lost consciousness. 

He recalled every biting question posed by Osiris and knew he’d disclosed nothing.  Ironically, he actually found it quite difficult to speak at all as the Jaffa ’s blows increased in intensity.

He tried to bring back her questions now and immediately regretted it as a flash of brilliant light passed behind his closed eyelids, his mind suddenly engulfed by an unwanted flashback.

"So Dr. Jackson, are you ready to talk now?" Osiris smiled coyly as she raised her hand, stopping the Jaffa .

"Well," Daniel spoke quietly, his voice raspy, "perhaps you could repeat the questions.  I-I couldn't really hear them over all the screaming."

Daniel knew his sarcasm would eventually cost him, but for now he hoped his wit might forestall further attacks.

"Where is my mate, Isis?"

"Oh, yeah, that.  I-I really don't know."

"Lies!" Osiris spat the words at Daniel but he defiantly remained silent.

"How does this device work?" She indicated the GDO in her hand.  He presumed it belonged to Jack. 

"What are the codes to open the Chaapa'ai to your home world?"

"I can't recall." Daniel adopted the position often used by lawyers in a courtroom. Technically, under oath this response wasn't considered a lie.

"Insolence! Your stubbornness will cost you and your friend dearly."

For a brief moment, Daniel feared Jack would receive the punishment for his stubbornness.  At least one of them needed strength to get them out of here and, by the looks of his current situation, that person wouldn't be Daniel.

Looking pissed, Osiris abruptly turned and left the room giving a slight nod to the waiting
Jaffa .  As the door to his cell closed behind her, Daniel's screams followed as they ruthlessly abused his body and soul.

"God, make this stop!" he yelled. 

For the first time since the green tipped pas'nel touched him, Daniel actually opened his eyes, thrusting himself out of the violent flashback.  He felt dazed like someone awakening from a vivid dream.  Sweat dripped from his hair into his eyes and he panted heavily. 

Remarkably, the pain he so graphically experienced moments ago was nonexistent and he hurriedly searched his body for injuries, surprised upon realizing he bore no sign of his abuse; no bruises, no broken ribs, no blood.

"What the hell is going on here?" Daniel asked the room in general.

"You have finally returned from the visions."

Startled by the unexpected response, Daniel looked to see who spoke and a guard emerged from behind him.

Whispering with a husky voice in Daniel's ear, the Jaffa lightly brushed his face.  "You see, your own mind can provide much more intense torture than any physical beating.  And the mental anguish…well, it's only as limited as your imagination."

A feral grin crossed the man’s face as his hand roamed lower.

"See you in your dreams," the threat made Daniel shiver.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Angry klaxons blared.  Revolving red lights stationed throughout the Stargate Command complex echoed the sirens’ song, just in case the irritatingly loud sound didn't catch your attention.

"Unscheduled off-world activation!"  The voice over the speakers resonated through the corridors in a worried tone, overshadowed by cautious optimism.  Someone, either friend or foe, was attempting to travel to earth.  No off-world SG teams were expected back at this time.

Perhaps, just maybe, possibly…

Sam hit the floor running as soon as she heard the horns.  Heading towards the gate room, she nearly collided with an equally fast moving, much larger object…Teal'c.  They exchanged quick, hopeful glances as they continued their trek to Level 28.

There they found SG-5 returning home early after taking heavy casualties.  The return mission to search for more clues in the disappearance of Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson had gone awry shortly after their arrival.  Anubis' Jaffa appeared in their ships and besieged them as they exited the gate.

Staff blasts hit three of their team members, but fortunately, none of the injuries was life threatening.  The battered group clambered down the ramp as the medical team arrived to escort the wounded soldiers to the infirmary.

General Hammond bore a concerned look, not only for SG-5 but also for SG-1.  Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson had been missing in action for two days now and they were no closer to determining their whereabouts than when Major Carter and Teal'c first arrived back without them.

The pair had worked tirelessly on deciphering Daniel’s markings near the DHD.  But without that final symbol to work with, they could only interpolate and extrapolate potentially viable gate addresses. 

So, General Hammond eventually ordered them home to rest.  Anticipating their unwillingness to leave, he solicited aid from Dr. Frasier and gave them two choices.  They could remain on base and rest or receive Janet’s famous sleep inducing cocktail in the infirmary…their choice.  Janet displayed two loaded syringes for effect.  As expected, they chose the former and retired to their offices. 

That was over six hours ago.

Now standing together in the control room, the older man glanced at Major Carter, noticing a dispirited yet optimistic expression on her face.  He knew she had a plan.

"Sir, the computer is running permutations of possible gate addresses.  If we substitute symbols for the missing one systematically, eliminating those locations that don’t meet certain known criteria, we can narrow the number of possible planets significantly."

"And if we locate potential planets, what do you propose we do then, Major?  I can't authorize sending SG teams to each planet for search and rescue without a clue as to what we would find there." 

He knew there weren't many addresses to search through.  They already had six symbols including the point of origin, missing only the last one in the dialing sequencing.  His true concern, however, was the two men could have been transferred hundreds of miles from the Stargate after their arrival.  Or worse, transported by ship to an even different locale altogether.  It would be like trying to find the proverbial "needle in a haystack".

"We can send a UAV through to perform reconnaissance," her tone insisted.

"And then what?  For all we know they aren't near a gate or even on a planet for that matter.  I need more intelligence before I can support sending troops or equipment through.  Perhaps the Tok'ra can provide some insight to Osiris' purpose and what she might have to gain by capturing Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson?"

"Yes, Sir.  My dad is convening with the High Council right now.  They may have some operatives near Osiris or Anubis that could shed some light on the situation."

"Very well, keep me informed." As he turned to leave, he spared a glance back at Sam.  "We'll find them, Major."

"I know, sir.  We have to," she responded quietly, keeping her final thoughts to herself.  'We just don't know what condition they might be in when we do.'

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This time Jack watched Daniel pace their small confines. 

He'd been present during Daniel’s last round with Osiris and the outcome infuriated him.  He never believed the man would give in so easily. 

Daniel told Osiris everything she wanted; the location of the Alpha site, the death of Isis in the second canopic jar on Earth, the location of the Tok'ra base, the iris codes…hell, the bastard had even taken the GDO from Osiris, showed her how to use the damn thing and gave it back to her, thank you very much! 

And all she did was ask!  No torture, no threats, no innuendo, just goddamned asked for crying out loud! 

He'd always given Daniel more credit than that.  Thought he was strong, stubborn, and immovable.  Well, he’d obviously been mistaken.

"Goddamn it, Daniel!" Jack raged, furious towards Daniel.  Through clenched teeth he exclaimed, "You little shit!  Son of a bitch!  What the hell did you think you were doing?!"

In two long strides, Daniel rapidly closed the gap between them to stand within inches of his commander’s face, his long index finger punctuating his response by jabbing painfully into Jack's chest. 

His next words sent Jack tumbling into his mind’s darkest recesses. 

In that resonant timbre characteristic of the Goa'uld, Daniel responded arrogantly, "Why, I'm going to be with Sarah again, Jack!  Together, we'll rule the Earth!"

Horrified and shaking with anger, Jack looked his friend in the eyes.  They were glowing…

"Ah, God, no!" Jack awoke suddenly from the horrific nightmare to a vision of Daniel shaking him.  He instinctively recoiled from the touch.

"Jack, oh thank God, you're finally awake!  I was getting worried!"  Daniel's voice sounded normal yet concerned for his friend.  It wasn’t the voice of a Goa'uld. 

"Whaaa?  A dream?"

"Yeah, I think so.  Must've been pretty bad by the noises you were making.  Are you okay?"

Jack continued to stare into Daniel's eyes.  Nope, no glow.

"Oh, yeah.  Can't say I've ever had dreams worse than this one though, very vivid and realistic.  Are you sure it was a dream?" Jack tentatively questioned Daniel.

"Yeah, seems to be a frequent occurrence around here," Daniel looked around the room.  "Nice place you got here, by the way."

"Ya think?  How long have you been here?"

"You mean here," Daniel indicated the cell.  "Or…here."  Daniel made a sweeping gesture with his hands to suggest the entire plant.

"I don't know.  I guess I mean here, in this room."

"Um," Daniel spoke absently.  "Several hours now…I guess.  Seems longer though,” he paused, lost in thought.  “They finally gave me something to eat.  Did you know you've got a fruit tray over there?" Daniel nodded appreciatively to the sidebar.

"Yeah.  Quite good.  How long did you say I was asleep?"

"I didn't but you've been asleep the entire time I’ve been here," Daniel sheepishly added, "uh, I mean, here in this room, here."

"But that can't be," Jack furrowed his brows looking confused, as if time was a totally foreign concept to him.

"Uh, why not?" Daniel responded in kind, as if Jack was a totally foreign concept to him.

"Because, Daniel, we've only been on this planet for a few hours and you weren't with me for most of the time!"

"Uh, Jack, I hate to break this to you but we've been captives on this planet, or whatever, for well over two days!"

"No. That can't be…" Jack's voice trailed off as he walked around the room that had been his cell for, what?  Two days now?   Something seemed 'different' somehow.

"What the hell happened to that wall?" Jack pointedly addressed an empty space that had once been a permanent fixture…or so he thought.  Now, he saw an additional cot and a couple of dilapidated chairs, his prison doubled in size.  No wall.

"What wall, Jack?"

"The one that was here, Daniel!  A solid w-a-l-l, not curtains, not bars or a screen, definitely not open space, but a wall!"

"What?" Daniel frowned.

"What?" Jack echoed him, not really knowing what else to say. "Maybe I've been moved…"

"No, I don't think so.  Listen, there's something very unusual going on here.  I just can't quite figure it out yet."  Jack could almost see the wheels turning in the archeologist’s mind.  "Have you had any visitors?"

"No, no one.  Been hollering for someone to tell me what the *hell* is going on, but nobody cares anymore,” he feigned disappointment.

"Hmmm.  Are you sure about that, Jack?"

"Yeah, Daniel.  Pretty sure," Jack said losing patience.

"Well, then how did you get this?" Daniel raised his hand to touch a small silver disc.

Jack immediately reached up to meet Daniel's hand on his temple. "Damn, I have no idea,” he said pensively.  Something strange was definitely going on.  “But it matches the one you’ve got," Jack pointed to his friend’s head.

"Yeah, about that," Daniel raised his eyebrows in question. "Do you have any more of those on your body, say maybe like this one?" Daniel touched his side.

Quickly feeling under his shirt, Jack thankfully came up empty.  "Nope, apparently not."

"Well," Daniel stammered, "how, uh, how about…" Daniel swallowed nervously, his eyes drifting towards Jack's crotch.

"You mean…" Jack started, shocked as realization hit.  "Oh, hell no!  You?"

"Oh, yeah.  Not a particular good place for one of those, I might add."

"Jeez, Daniel!"  Jack whistled softly through his teeth. 

Worriedly, Jack took in the sight of Daniel.  He looked haggard and tired, dark circles under his eyes.  His wrists had large raw wounds encircling them.

"What's been happening to you…and…where's your shirt anyway?"

Daniel looked down at his naked chest and shuddered, recalling the severe pain, and the deep, bloody gashes he experienced through his earlier "visions", or rather waking nightmares.  He hoped they truly were visions.  The only other explanation for his rapid recovery terrified him…a sarcophagus.

"Oh, they stripped me for interrogation.  You know, top ten torture techniques.  Uh, number 2, I think…” he looked at the ceiling.  “Depriving the victim of those things essential to human existence."

Jack beamed, "You actually listened to me!"

"I always listen to you, Jack.  I just don't always do what you want me to," the younger man quipped.

Gathering his thoughts, Daniel continued, "When they brought me here, I found my clothes over there.  The shirt was ripped up pretty badly so…,” he faltered at the memory.  “Guess they didn't want me to be embarrassed around you," he chuckled.

"Um, Daniel," Jack motioned Daniel to join him on his cot.  He didn’t want to discuss this standing up.  “Come here.” 

They sat side by side quietly for several minutes before speaking.

"What did they do to you, Daniel?" Jack surreptitiously checked the man out, looking for scars, burns, bruises -- any signs of torture.  He found nothing, adding to his suspicions about Daniel's whereabouts for the past two days.

"Osiris paid me a visit.  She wanted information…iris codes, Alpha base location, how to operate the GDO.  You know the usual..." Daniel quieted for a while. 

"Uh, I think she asked about Isis ."

Jack abruptly stood up, unbelieving the similarity between Daniel’s comments and the questions from his dream.  He knew he was being irrational.  These questions were the obvious ones to be asked.  But still, he found himself eyeing Daniel suspiciously.

“Why?” Jack queried.

“Why what?”

"Why would Osiris ask about Isis ?  I mean, I understand why she’d want the iris codes, what with her need to destroy Earth and all, but what's her connection with Isis?"

"Oh, you don't know do you?" Daniel replied sarcastically.  "Well, of course you don't.  You weren't there."

"Where? I wasn't where?"

"In Egypt where Sam, Janet and I searched for Osiris after finding the empty canopic jar."  Daniel stared at the back wall as he spoke, a haunted expression crossing his features. 

Jack bowed his head, embarrassed to look at his friend.  He’d read the mission report.  General Hammond allowed them to chase Osiris into Egypt without military guard much to the colonel’s dismay yet he understood the reasons.  It was a covert operation of sorts and needed to be kept quiet; a covert operation that failed miserably.  Daniel almost died at the hands of a friend turned Goa’uld and the snake got away. 

It was a carbon copy of most of their missions except for one problem.  Jack wasn’t there.  He had selfishly distanced himself from his friend, choosing to use his vacation time fishing rather than being with Daniel as the man’s world caved in around him yet again. 

"You want the complete story or the "Reader's Digest" version?"  Daniel was the first to break the uncomfortable silence.

Jack's raised eyebrow answered his question.

"Of course, what was I thinking…?  Okay, Osiris was the brother and husband of Isis ."

Jack waited for Daniel to continue.  And waited, and waited. "Okay, Daniel.  A little too condensed."

Daniel seemed quite pleased with himself and Jack feared he'd walked into a readymade linguistic trap.  So he lay back on the bed, resigned to listening to a long diatribe regarding Egyptology, mummies, and sand worms or other such nonsense.  Maybe he could sleep with his eyes open.

"Right,” Daniel grinned.  “Well, the Egyptian creation myth begins with the emergence of Ra, the sun god, from the ocean in the form of an egg or, in some writings, a flower.  He had four children:  Geb, Shu, Nut, and Tefnut. 

“Shu and Nut became manifestations of air and moisture.  From Geb, the god of the earth, and Nut, goddess of the sky, were spawned four other gods:  Osiris, Isis , Set or Seth as we knew him, and Nephthys.

"These nine gods were known as the ennead which loosely translated means a ‘group of nine’.  Their center of worship was Heliopolis and the Heliopolitan ennead was one of several in Egyptian theology.  Sometimes this grouping was superseded by other sets.  Two notable alternatives were the ennead of the city of Memphis led by the god Ptah, and the ennead of Thebes , with Amon at its head. 

“Not surprisingly, the pre-eminence of these variations coincided with their corresponding cities' political control of Egypt ."

"Ah ah…" Jack enunciated sharply, waving his index finger in the air. "Daniel, your point?" 

"Oh, yeah." Daniel ducked his head, distractedly watching a beetle scurrying near his feet. 

"Well, Isis died in the canopic jar found by the Stewart expedition and, as you know, we killed Seth.  So that leaves Osiris and his sister Nephthys.  Nephthys was often thought of as the twin sister of Isis .  Osiris obviously doesn't know the fate of his mate."

"You know," Jack began, "I think I've heard the name Nephthys before.  What's the story on her?"

"You have…you have?" Daniel replied skeptically.

"Yea, I think so."

A slight chill crossed Daniel's skin.  He turned rapidly towards their door, seeing movement from the corner of his eye.  Briefly, he thought he saw a dark figure standing there, but now it was gone, assuming it was ever there to begin with.  Only darkness remained.

"Daniel?" Jack tried and failed to catch Daniel's eye.

Continuing as his pensive blue eyes resumed their search of the floor, "Oh yeah, Nephthys, um…" Daniel paused, recalling the details on this particular goddess.  "She wasn't as well-known as her siblings.  Like Isis , she was thought to have great magical powers but she was the opposite of her sister in every respect. 

Isis was visible, symbolizing birth, growth…um, development, vigor.  Nephthys was invisible, symbolizing death, decay, destruction, and immobility.  She was the personification of darkness, and her behavior was more passive than active.

" Isis ' consort was the fertility god Osiris, while her sister's mate was the evil, and apparently sterile…by the way…god Seth.  As the myth continues, Nephthys wanted children, got Osiris drunk and took advantage of him.  They conceived the god Anubis.”

“Uh…so Nephthys and Osiris…did it?” Jack added crudely.

“Um, yeah…,” Daniel frowned at Jack’s choice of words.  “Seth brutally killed and dismembered Osiris for his transgressions and Nephthys helped Isis collect the parts of his body.  Together, the two brought him back to life."

"Sarcophagus?" Jack found the conclusion of the Egyptian myth to fit perfectly with the Goa'uld technology.

"Apparently."

“Hmmm…” Jack pondered, his thoughts becoming increasingly erratic as he tried to put the pieces together.  He recalled Daniel's past tryst with Osiris in Egypt and, at least in his own deluded mind, the puzzle suddenly fell into place clearly.

Daniel had LET Osiris leave Earth!  He carried a syringe with enough liquid to keep her unconscious for transport back to the SGC.  According to the mission report, he succeeded in injecting the Goa’uld with it but she remained mostly unaffected.  Her retreat from Earth should have been impossible unless she was aided.  And both Carter and Fraiser were unconscious most of the time. 

Jack glanced over to his teammate curiously.

Come to think of it, Daniel wasn't exactly damaged from his recent ordeal as Osiris' prisoner.  On the contrary, the man looked fine…he sounded…fine.  Jack didn’t believe she would question him without consequence and if he’d truly kept Earth's secrets as he claimed, he would have received strict and severe punishment.

Once again Jack leaned forward trying to catch his companion’s eye, assessing for any signs of deceit. 

And Daniel's most recent encounter with Osiris on the planet led to their capture.  Was it purely coincidental?  Instead of releasing the poison at the summit, the bastard tried to capture her, foiling the entire mission.  He’d even confessed to revealing himself to her on Yu’s ship.

In Jack’s mind, it all started to make sense now.  Daniel was conspiring with the enemy, but for what purpose?

His thoughts wandered back to his earlier nightmare…Daniel as a Goa'uld.  He recalled the many times they’d narrowly avoided just such an occurrence; Hathor's little game, Daniel's trek across a beautiful planet with an aboriginal Unas, affectionately called Chaka.  What if this time the man had been compromised?

Finally making eye contact, Jack thought he noticed a glow…

"You know, Daniel," Jack's voice morphed suddenly, fueled by his suspicions.  He couldn’t stop the angry torrent flowing from his mouth.

"Just where the *hell* have you been since we've been here, *Daniel*?"  Jack punctuated the name sharply.

All of a sudden he stood up, pacing rapidly away from his confused teammate towards the far wall, his face reddened by his growing rage. 

"I bet you told that bitch everything she wanted to know didn't you, *Daniel*?"  Jack swung around to face the other man, leaning against the wall for support. 

Daniel didn’t understand the uncharacteristic change in his commanding officer and he flinched at the cruel, accusing words. 

"I mean, her host was once your lover wasn't she *Daniel*?  Did she convince you to divulge Earth's secrets?”  Jack's voice continued to rise, exhibiting growing anger bordering on hysteria. 

Daniel stood up, unconsciously crossing his arms in a protective stance.  He looked directly at Jack, his expression full of worry for his friend’s behavior.

“What did you get in return, a little quid pro quo, huh, *Daniel*?" 

Daniel wanted to fire back at the harsh words but he reined in his emotions, recognizing something was wrong with Jack.  He ignored the malicious, verbal abuse, and attempted to reach the older man in a calm, non-threatening manner.  He moved slowly towards him and spoke softly, “Jack, please…”

He was totally unprepared for what took place next.  Within seconds Jack stormed forward, closing the gap between them and finally giving in to his anger in all its fury. 

"You little shit!  You told her the iris codes didn't you!"  Jack contacted the archeologist with a sucker punch, knocking him swiftly to the floor.  The stunned man quickly regained his footing and, in a 'fight or flight' moment, made a hasty retreat to the back of the dark cell.

He needed time to understand what was going on.  And he knew Jack could easily kill him if he wanted to.

Trying to reason with the crazed man, Daniel spoke hastily, “Jack, what are you doing?  Wait please, there's something not right here…."

Jack lunged at him, cutting off his words and pinning his sore wrists to the wall with one hand.  His right knee dug painfully into Daniel’s thigh.  The frightened man fought, trying to push the man aside, but he was immovable.  His attacker shoved his full body weight into his thigh, using his pointed kneecap to grind into the muscle.  Daniel cried out in pain.

"Which codes did you give her?" Jack bellowed, the furious response resonating in his ear as he pressed his hard body flat against him.

Daniel tried desperately to displace the older man by bucking and twisting, his motions only adding to the vehemence of the attack.  To quiet him, Jack viciously drove an elbow into his abdomen.

"Did she show you her sarcophagus, *Daniel*?  I always knew you were a spineless, hopeless addict," he growled in disgust.

The brutal attack continued as a fist contacted Daniel's jaw.  He thought he heard it crack, the pain almost overwhelming.  A muffled moan slipped from his lips.

"Was she worth it, *Daniel*?” 

The panicked man squirmed and Jack repositioned himself to prevent his prey from escaping, leaning his free arm into Daniel's throat.

“What did she promise you, *Daniel*?  Sex?  Power?  The sarcophagus?" he spit the words out.

"Jack, stop it!” he begged.  “What the *hell* is wrong with you?"

Tears of pain and frustration poured down Daniel's cheekbones and for a moment he wondered if this was all just another waking nightmare.  But his eyes were open this time and the disheartening reality of his situation finally hit him. 

Something was wrong…with this place…with Jack, possibly even with himself.  He had to regain control if he was going to survive the attack by his best friend.

"Oh it's not me, *Daniel*”, Jack uttered his name in contempt.  “It's you!  You little fuck!  What did you tell Osiris about the Alpha Base?"

"God, Jack!  I didn't say anything!  I would never give away that information!" Daniel realized his own voice was now bordering on hysteria.  Visibly calming himself, he added, “You know that Jack.”

"Like hell you wouldn't.  You've always been a bit libidinous.  Anything for a good fuck, huh?  How many has it been since you left Abydos anyway?" Jack briefly halted his barrage of punches to count Daniel's lovers.

"Let's see, first that ‘touched’ chick in the Land of Light .  Kind of wild and horny, that one,” Jack sneered.

"Then there was Hathor.  'My beloved', my ass.  Your claims she raped you just don't make sense!  You were all over her from the moment she showed up, tagging along like a lost puppy.  And you couldn't wait to get into her!  And from the looks of it, you must've gotten ‘into’ her several times to produce that many ‘off-spring’”, he pressed his lower body roughly against Daniel’s crotch.  “You wanted it, *Daniel*, and that doesn’t exactly count as rape in my book!"

Daniel grimaced as he felt Jack’s erection pressed into his thigh.  The guy was obviously getting off on this and that terrified him.  He had to stop this…now.

Gathering all his reserves, Daniel thrust his body forward and pushed Jack off.  Managing briefly to free himself he realized had no where to run.  Their cell just wasn’t that big so he took a defensive posture against the continuing assault, raising his hands in front of him to ward off the blows.

Jack, enjoying the cat and mouse game, allowed Daniel a respite for the moment.  He played the game well, scuffling forward just to judge Daniel's reaction with a quick jab here, a lunge there, but never truly trying to make contact.

"Okay, third, third… I know there's a third.  Must be Shyla.  'Shyla, is it?'”, he imitated the inflection he used the first time he’d said those words to Daniel. 

“Always thought you enjoyed that sarcophagus a bit too much.  What happens if you fuck inside that thing?  Guess you get a double high, huh?"

He lunged forward, anticipating Daniel's counter maneuver.  Forging left again, Daniel dodged in the wrong direction and, with a satisfied grunt, Jack's torso made contact and the two men crashed to the rocky floor. 

Quickly adjusting his position, Jack once again secured Daniel.

"Jeez, Daniel!  I thought you could fight better than that!  Next thing I know you'll be balling like a big baby!  What a geek!" Jack's feral grin confirmed he wasn’t rational.

Jack continued delivering his physical and verbal assault as he straddled the archeologist, his knees protesting the rocky surface.  Daniel desperately tried to escape but this time he was securely pinned.  He couldn’t even use his arms for protection.

Daniel felt the thick spittle pelting his face as the venomous words continued, "All right, there's more.  Let me think.  Oh, yeah, Kera, 'Destroyer of Worlds'.  God, do you know how to pick 'em!  It must be a thrill to fuck 'em not knowing if you'll survive the experience.

"Who else, who else, who else.  Oh, yeah, your latest fuck, Osiris!  Bet that was something, seeing as she used to have a male host.  Kind of like fucking a man, woman, and snake all rolled into one package!” Jack seethed.

Daniel groaned as another blow made contact.

“You're pathetic, Daniel!  Can't keep it in your pants!  Flashing neon sign, here!  Daniel Jackson sells his soul and his planet for a fucking good time!" Jack punctuated his vicious words by shaking Daniel, carelessly allowing his head to bounce off the rock flooring.

"God, just please stop it!  Jack!"

Daniel's battered face and upper body screamed with each successive blow.  Blood poured from his nose and he feared it was broken. The skin at the corner of his eye split open and his eyelid swelled closed.  The metallic taste of blood filled his mouth from his abused lower lip.  His vision blurred, probably due to the displacement of the contact lenses he'd worn since the Goa'uld summit, or he could have a concussion.

No longer capable of verbalization, Daniel released tears of pain and humiliation.

"I'm sure you never told *her* that did you?  Never told her to stop!” his words meant to hurt.  “Tell me, did you enjoy it Daniel?  Just like old times with Sarah, huh?  Did you fuck *her* in the sarcophagus?"

Daniel's mind reeled.  He knew something was terribly wrong.  Jack would never hurt him physically.  And even though his colonel’s hot temper often resulted in verbal spars between them, his words had never been so biting or morally damning. 

Struggling again, Daniel tuned out the condemnation and focused on freeing himself from Jack's grip.  Another sharp blow struck below his right ear and he fell into unconscious oblivion.

His anger suddenly abated and Jack glanced towards the now open door.  Nephthys stood at the threshold holding a long rod by her side.

"You have done well, my slave," her voice sounded, devoid of emotion.

"Yes, my lord," Jack said as his mind shut down.  From the corner of his eye he noticed a green light moving to his temple, touching him, then he followed his friend into the dark abyss of unconsciousness.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pleased with herself, Nephthys strolled down the darkened hallway to her chambers.

As she reached the entrance to her abode, she greeted her Jaffa guards curtly and silently cursed her host.  This one was strong despite her naïveté.  She should have been able to drive this host's mind deep into her subconscious so it never surfaced again yet it continued to plague her. 

And it vehemently disagreed with the Goa'uld's treatment of her prisoners, lashing out in her thoughts at every turn.  It wielded its way to the surface, affecting her ability to control the minds of her captives. 

Although annoying in its simplicity, it was becoming quite a nuisance.  Nephthys need to focus her thoughts towards silencing her host’s mind once and for all.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

She entered her room and saw Osiris sitting at a lavish table adorned with an assortment of edible delicacies.  Several human slaves attended to her needs.

"How are the Tau'ri progressing?” Osiris questioned.  “Has O'Neill been able to acquire any information from Dr. Jackson?"

"No, none at all.  And he's doing an outstanding job of persuading Jackson , as well." Nephthys' expression displayed the epitome of arrogance.

"Nothing irreparable, I hope?" her companion feigned concern.

"Not at all.  And even if O'Neill succeeds in his assignment, we always have the sarcophagus to revive his young friend." A wicked smile spread across Nephthys' face.  “But, he apparently doesn’t care for it too much.”

Osiris chuckled, understanding Jackson ’s abhorrence of the sarcophagus.

"Excellent.  Just as we'd hoped.  Both subjects are responding to your mind control techniques as planned, then?" she signaled Nephthys to join her at the table.

"They are.  It won't be long now, my love.  We will have the System Lords right where we want them with the Tau'ri as ignorant pawns in our game."

Nephthys sat beside her cohort taking several items of food as the servants offered them.  Continuing, she asked, "Have you heard from Anubis regarding his situation?"

"Anubis is a pompous ass!" Osiris exclaimed. "He has the audacity to imply we are incompetent in our abilities to extract information from the Tau'ri!"

"So, he is falling right into our trap as well then…" a slow grin progressed across Nephthys' dark face.

"He is indeed, my love!" Osiris spoke, her tone immediately arrogant and self-satisfied.  "He is indeed!"
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Jack's mind descended into a tumultuous darkness. 

Violent sparks of images assuaged him following his most recent experience with the green light and he found it difficult to organize them enough to interpret their meanings. 

As he focused his mind on his memory of Nephthys, an intense white light streaked behind his closed eyelids, plunging him into a flashback of her most recent visit to him shortly before he saw Daniel in his room.

"Are you ready to serve me, slave?" Nephthys steely voice revealed no emotion.

"Yes, my lord, Nephthys.  Where is Daniel?" Jack demanded in an impatient voice.  Incapable of controlling the adrenaline surging within him he shifted his weight from side to side.

"Patience.  You will see him soon enough.  You do know he has a rather amorous past with Osiris' host?"

Jack answered the question with a quick nod of his head, his anger towards Daniel building uncontrollably from the moment Nephthys set foot in his room.

“The traitor sold his soul and his planet to Anubis,” she continued.  “He must be dealt with.”

“Yes,” Jack’s quiet response belied his true feelings.

"She is nothing more than Anubis' puppet.  She is luring Dr. Jackson into revealing vital information that she plans to deliver to Anubis.  He was quite easily plied by her affections, telling her everything she asked.”

She walked in front of Jack, lightly touching his shoulder as she continued, “Her torture techniques are well-known throughout the universe.  She always gives her victims two options, pain or pleasure,” she laughed. 

“Your Dr. Jackson most definitely enjoyed the pleasure, wouldn’t you agree?” she gleamed at her prisoner.  “His screams of ecstasy reverberated down the tunnels.  Surely you heard them?"

"Yes, my lord." Jack recalled the earlier screams he had overheard. 

His thoughts turned cold.  How could he have ever believed Daniel was in pain?  And to think he even sympathized with the man, futilely banging on his door in an attempt to rescue him. 

The screams mistaken for pain echoed in his mind.  Not pain but the throes of ecstasy! 

He grew visibly agitated remembering his teammate’s past affairs.  He wouldn't let the little bastard mock his command by fucking someone on every planet!  How dare he compromise their escape by, quite literally, getting in bed with the devil? 

He wouldn't let Daniel's behavior go unpunished.

"He must not be allowed to divulge any more secrets, do you understand?" Nephthys said without feeling.  "You must determine what he revealed during his ‘sessions’ with Osiris and prevent further insolence from him.”

Jack nodded silently.

“You do know what you must do, slave?" she stared deeply into his eyes, awaiting an answer.

"Yes, my lord.  I must kill Daniel Jackson," he replied nonchalantly.

Satisfied with his vow, Nephthys left Jack alone with his thoughts.

Panic seized his mind as he clawed upward from his oblivion.  He was drowning, unable to breathe, as the force of those accusing words held him deep beneath the surface.  His best friend had sold them out.

No, that couldn’t be.  Daniel would never give in.  He knew that for a fact yet he also knew his teammate told Osiris everything.  He didn’t understand these conflicting memories and he feared he was going insane.

Pushing with all his mental strength, he suddenly surfaced, gasping for air in his dimly lit room where he struggled for freedom against his bindings. 

Bindings?  Just when had he been tied to the bed frame? 

He jolted awake and fumbled to move, rapidly concluding that someone had bound his hands together behind him with his belt and secured them through the framework to the legs of the bed.  His back hurt in his uncomfortable, seated position, but his legs remained free and he kicked easily. 

He quietly tested the strength of his makeshift shackles.  Whoever had trussed him up either did it quickly or was a piss poor military man.  Shit!  As the fog in his head cleared, he realized both accusations were correct.  Daniel had tied him up in a hurry from the looks of things, and had fled to the farthest corner of the room.

"Oh, Daaanieel," he taunted.  "What'cha doing?"

"Jack, something's wrong here.  I've got to have time to think."

He tried to hide his anxiousness at being this close to Jack.  He swiped his eyes with the back of his hand, grimacing as he contacted the cut on his brow.  One eye was almost swollen closed and he felt the beginnings of a headache throbbing behind his temple.  Lowering his hand back to rest in his lap, he saw blood stains from the wounds inflicted by Jack.

"Hey, come untie me and I'll overlook the insubordination charges," Jack continued speaking in a very nonchalant, calm, friendly voice.

"No, Jack.  I can't do that."

"Well, why the *hell* not?"

Jack's temperament swung rapidly from quietly composed to openly intense.  He lashed against his restraints, jerking both himself and the bed across the floor towards Daniel. 

‘No, definitely not in his right mind’, Daniel thought as he hastily got to his feet.

"Jack, I think you've been drugged or something.  Your behavior is very irrational," he begged Jack to listen, to comprehend the dangerous situation they were trapped within.

"Damn it, Daniel!  I've been tied to a frigging bed by a member of my own team for crying out loud!  Of course my behavior is irrational!" his roommate yelled.

He continued dragging the bed closer, using his feet to leverage against the hard floor.  It almost looked comical, Daniel mused, except for the very real possibility his commander would be able to free himself.  And he knew he was no match for a black ops trained colonel.

Thump, scrape, “Damnit!”…

Thump, scrape, “Son of a bitch!”…

Closing his eyes wearily, Daniel amended his last conclusion.  No match for a crazed, black ops trained colonel.

Thump, scrape, "Daniel, let me go or I swear to god I'll kill you!"

"That's what I'm afraid of Jack," Daniel sighed.  He had to do something as the bed came closer and closer.

In a daring move, he leapt over Jack to land squarely on the bed, hoping his added weight would stop the forward movement for a bit.

"Goddamn it, Daniel!  What kind of game are you playing here?  Let me go NOW!"

"Um, no,” he commented distractedly.  “Listen, Jack, I've been thinking…"

Daniel dodged the leg kicking swiftly in his direction. 

"…how do you know the name Nephthys anyhow?" he continued.

"What?" Jack resigned himself to communicate with Daniel while he secretly worked on releasing his restraints.

"Nephthys, Jack.  You said you heard the name before."

"I did?  Guess you must’ve mentioned her in your report about Osiris," he stalled.  He knew Daniel could think rings around him.  His only hope was to play the game long enough to get loose.

"No, I've never mentioned her to you, Jack.  Have you seen Nephthys here?" Daniel questioned cautiously.

"Couldn't say, Daniel,” Jack replied flippantly.  “Per your own claims, my mental grasp of our situation is lacking at best,” he added as the belt loosened. 

“Jack, I didn’t mean…”

“Oh by the way, just what have you and Osiris been up to anyway?  Given away any good secrets lately?" Jack quipped, his tone light but his dark eyes obdurate.

"Jack, just…concentrate for a minute, please,” Daniel sighed.  “If Osiris and Nephthys are together here we could be in grave danger.  They would be a powerful force against anything in the way of their goals.  And right now, I'm afraid their goal is to destroy Earth."

"And so, Daniel.  What leads you to leap to this conclusion, huh?"  The belt stretched as he wiggled his hands.  "That intuitive Daniel Jackson logic gets SG-1 into so much trouble on the best of days.  It makes more sense to me that you just sold out the human race to your former lover.  Oh, or is that current lover now?" he jabbed the harsh words out, intending to hurt.

Daniel lay down as his strength ebbed from his body, the physical and emotional stresses from the past hour finally catching up with him.  His beaten and bruised body ached terribly.  And although the pain was bad, the knowledge his commanding officer and best friend had caused it was even worse.  He feared losing Jack to the Goa'uld and, although uncertain if his team leader had already been taken as a host, he knew they now controlled him somehow. 

And he had to stop them from harming Jack further.  Pensively, Daniel played with the silver device at his temple, wondering if it could be affecting them.  Quickly, he made his decision.  He’d remove it and hopefully, it wouldn’t kill him.  But then again if it did, it would just save Jack the trouble.

He tugged on it desperately until it popped out, making a squealing sound.  Sharp, blinding pain ensued and, for a moment, he thought he had passed out.  Well, at least it didn't kill him.

Next, he removed the one on his side, gasping from the briefly intense pain as it disconnected.  Okay, two down and one to go.  Daniel touched the last disc positioned at his scrotum. 

After a very short internal deliberation, he decided to keep that one where it was…for now.

Safe for the moment, Daniel contemplated their situation, trying to fit the pieces together but something still seemed to be missing…something important, something vital…  He really needed to understand what. 

He implicitly believed the Goa’ulds were both here working together.  He couldn’t see any other explanation for Jack’s familiarity with Nephthys.  But why and what did they want with them?

Recalling the ancient myths about these ‘gods’, he reached for a thread…possibly a clue…anything.  Their worship center was Heliopolis …  Not much there.  She was one of the ennead…the nine gods…the Limvris?  Maybe.

He needed more.  Ancient Egyptians believed their gods had strong powers…mental abilities…mind control?  Okay, making some progress.

The stories depicted Nephthys waiting in the shadows while Isis led the way amongst the light.  Shadows…darkness…something.  He pushed himself to remember…

Suddenly, the puzzle started to become clearer.  That mysterious dark figure he’d seen several times just outside his cell must be her.  And it made sense that if Osiris and Nephthys were cohorts, Anubis would be involved as well. 

Well, duh…Osiris had just facilitated Anubis' reinstatement to System Lord.

Still lost in his divergent ramblings, he felt rather than heard the nearby shuffling movement.  With a triumphant cry, his captive released his bindings and rose to stand at his bed looking down at him indignantly. 

Hastily, Daniel scrambled off to make his retreat but Jack held the element of surprise, diving towards him.  He slammed into him, both falling over the edge and onto the hard floor below.  The back of Daniel's knees hit something solid as he went down and he tumbled, hearing the pop of ligaments as his ankle twisted severely. 

Unable to regain his footing, Daniel gazed upward into a wild, demented face.  He tried blocking the impending attack but realized Jack’s legs pinned him securely to the ground.  He desperately fought to dislodge his assailant straddling his chest, bucking and kicking with all his might, but it was no use.  He couldn’t get away.

"Jack, no!  You don't want to hurt me.  Jack!" Daniel pleaded with his commanding officer for his life.

The only sound Jack uttered came from deep within his throat, a guttural moan, as he wrapped the belt around his neck.  Daniel saw turmoil deep within his friend’s eyes even as he pulled the belt tighter. 

As if time stood still, Daniel helplessly watched several opposing emotions vie for dominance in those haunted, brown eyes--hatred, anger, confusion, concern, love, and finally regret--as the room went dark.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Chapter 7] - Flowers Amongst the Darkness

The klaxons sounded once again down the halls at Stargate Command.  This time the alert was expected, however.  Sam Carter and General Hammond patiently awaited the arrival of Jacob Carter from the control room.

"Sir, it's the Tok'ra identification code," the young technician turned to face the general as he spoke.

"Open the Iris," General Hammond responded in a tired voice.  It had now been three days since Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson had been taken prisoner on Revanna.  Soon, he would have to report them as ‘missing in action’.

General Hammond both loved and despised his position at the SGC. 

When a mission went well, he praised the men and women under his command.  They make the program what it is…all of them.  Epitomizing team work and working together as a whole, they accomplished some pretty amazing things.

Almost as often, however, a mission went totally butt-sprung.  These were the times for which he held only himself responsible.  Therefore he carefully weighed the variables presented to him before each and every mission, calculating the risks of failure versus the benefits of success.  If the potential rewards outweighed the dangers, he sent good people to face unknown perils far away from the relative safety of the SGC. 

But in the end, he alone ordered these teams to enter the Stargate never truly knowing if they’d return. 

Making their way to greet their visitor, the general noticed the darkness of the corridor, making a mental note to have Lt. Siler take a look at their lighting system.

The two entered the gate room and Sam dashed towards her father on the ramp.  They immediately fell into an embrace that spoke volumes regarding their current situation. 

The human, er, Tok'ra, contact soothed Sam's frazzled nerves and she released some of the feelings of grief, despair, and frustration she had held inside since her return.  Now, her body prickled with hope that the Tok'ra would have a clue where the colonel and Daniel had been taken.

"I'm sorry, Sam.  We don't have a clue where Jack and Daniel have been taken," Jacob spoke softly as if reading her mind.  "What's left of the Tok'ra has been shuffling to set up a new base and, quite frankly, they’re not too interested in helping you right now.  But I did get some intel on Osiris that might prove helpful."

General Hammond shook Jacob's hand in a strong clasp, covering the back of his friend’s hand in a two-handed grip.

"Let's discuss this in the briefing room.  Major Carter, please ask Teal'c to join us there."

"Yes, Sir," Sam replied as she followed the men through the doorway, a sense of dread returning to fill her heart.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jack looked down at his unconscious friend through eyes blurred by tears. 

“God Daniel, what have I done?”

His initial realization that he strangled his best friend, his teammate, using his own belt for crying out loud, hit Jack like a ton of bricks.  After several harrowing moments spent trying to revive Daniel after he'd slipped into unconsciousness, the shock of his actions settled in.

Daniel was alive, thank God, but knowing he’d almost killed him plunged Jack into a darkness of his own making.  He retreated to the corner, fearing the "other Jack", the Mr. Hyde to his Dr. Jeckyll, would return.  He distanced himself for his friend’s protection.

Daniel slowly awoke to the sounds of quiet sobs.  He tried to place the source but his own pain overshadowed all other thoughts.

His raw throat burned and his head throbbed.  His body screamed in agony from a multitude of injuries.  But more piercing than his physical pain was this incredible spiritual ache he felt.  He’d witnessed such violent aggression carried out against him by someone he cared for so deeply.  It cut him to the core knowing his best friend intentionally tried to kill him and very nearly succeeded. 

His best friend…Jack. 

The one who saved his life so many times he’d lost count.  The one who gave him a place to stay when he needed it, sharing his home and his life.  The one who knows him better than anyone else, including himself.  The one who shares his laughter and his bad jokes with him to lighten him up when times get rough.  The one who helps him through his darkest hours, offering his shoulder to cry on, his ear to listen, and his voice to comfort.  The one whose tears occasionally echo his own. 

The best friend who sits silently weeping in a dark corner of his shadowy cell.

"Jack," Daniel spoke hesitantly uncertain as to Jack's current mental state.

After several long moments, he replied quietly using their standard rhetoric, his head never rising from his hands, "Daniel?"

"How are you doing, Jack?" Daniel rose carefully to a sitting position on the bed.

"Well," Jack said with a slight chuckle.  "I really should be asking you that question, Daniel.  God, I am so sorry.  I don't know what's wrong with me."

"Yeah, well." Daniel repositioned.  He wanted, needed, to see Jack's face, his eyes, to determine whether they currently housed his best friend or his worst enemy.

"Look at me, Jack."

Jack slowly lifted his head from his hands and rose to his feet so the younger man could see him.  As his moist brown eyes met blue ones, he suddenly felt a stabbing pain in his head.  He wrapped both hands around it as if trying to keep it from splitting open as he sank to the floor, his mind plunging into another flashback.

Jack saw his hands tugging at the belt as his anger overshadowed all else.  He felt Daniel gasp for breath but he didn't care.  He knew the traitor created an allegiance with Osiris against him and all humanity.  He knew he couldn't let Daniel live.

As the movement beneath him quieted, Jack gazed into those blue eyes that were the windows to Daniel's soul.  Those expressive eyes displayed anxiety, caring, and absolution towards him even as their shine turned dull. 

He suddenly felt great remorse for his actions and relinquished his grip on the belt, fearing he was too late as his friend slipped into unconsciousness.

"Oh my God, Daniel!  Please, Daniel.  What have I done?" the words poured from Jack's mouth as he desperately felt for a pulse.  Finding none he immediately began resuscitation, an act he’d performed many times throughout his life but never like this.  Not as a direct result of his own horrific actions. 

He tilted his teammate’s head back to clear the air passage and silently prayed his neck wasn't too swollen or, God forbid, broken.  Pressing his lips tight against his friend’s while pinching his nostrils shut, Jack breathed life back into the lifeless form.  He moved to his chest to begin compressions, literally pumping his heart, forcing the trapped blood out to travel throughout the body.

One, two, three… Jack continued the compressions relentlessly…four, five, six…through shear will to bring Daniel back to him…seven, eight, nine…

After another exhale of air, he saw Daniel's chest rise.  He continued several repetitions of breathing and compressing until daring to pause long enough to search for a pulse.  Finding none, he relentlessly carried on as agonizing minutes passed.  He knew he couldn’t stop yet.

“Damnit, Daniel!  Breath!” he begged, praying that, just this once, his teammate would obey a direct order.

As Daniel finally heaved a breath, Jack released the one he'd been holding.  Daniel was alive.

Shaking and in shock, Jack sat back to drink in the sight of the young man.  He looked horrible, a bloody mess from the beating suffered by his hands.  The area around his eyes had small red spots from ruptured capillaries and similar blemishes were visible on his neck just above the crease line caused by the strap.

He gently touched Daniel's neck, palpating the flesh to determine the extent of the damage.  He noticed some edema, minor as of yet, but he knew such injuries from strangulation often became worse over time. 

His hands moved to the dark bruises on Daniel's face, their color harsh in stark contrast to the man's normal skin tones.  He brushed his swollen eye, concerned that the gash above it still oozed blood.

He’d really done a number on the kid and he could never forgive himself for it.

Jack lifted Daniel's body off the floor, cradling him as he would a young child, and repositioned him on the bed.  Tearing a strip of cloth from the bed sheets, he dipped it in a bowl of water from the sidebar. 

With genuine tenderness and care, Jack cleaned the blood from his best friend’s face, arms, and torso.  His eyes grew bleary and tears fell unabashedly, leaving small puddles on Daniel's bare chest.

From the corner of his eye, Jack saw movement at their prison door and, briefly, his rage tried to resurface.

He raised his right hand to strike Daniel but inwardly fought against the impulses and desires raging within him, struggling against his inner turmoil, to overcome these unwanted, destructive emotions threatening to reveal themselves again.  Flinging himself off the bed, he ran across the small room, distancing himself from Daniel.

Cowering in the corner, he wept silently.

As Jack slowly recovered from the flashback, he felt arms encircling him.  Daniel. 

Comforting.  When Jack initially succumbed to the visions, Daniel went to him, forgoing his own safety, and held on until the flashback ceased.  They maintained the embrace long afterwards, sharing a quiet moment, unashamed at the intimacy of the contact.

Daniel caught Jack’s gaze and, for the first time since they’d entered this hellhole, he saw the eyes of his best friend.  Finally, Daniel relinquished his hold and both men immediately regretted the loss. 

The light reflected from the hallway seeped into their small corner reminding Daniel of the last time he’d seen sunlight.  He pondered the similarity between themselves and the flowers.

Battered and beaten, Daniel knew he’d have to be the strong one, the runner between the flowers, helping Jack through this dark patch.  They hadn't quite made it yet but he’d never give up.  Together, they’d reach the light.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Well, I have some bad news and some worse news," Jacob said as he surveyed the group sitting around the large briefing room table, their faces easily readable.  He looked at each one of them in turn.

He saw defeat in his daughter's eyes.  She’d spent countless hours simulating scenarios, desperately trying to find her teammates, and it broke his heart to see her this way…out of options and time, her darkest fears becoming reality.  She believed she’d failed her friends and she hated herself for it.

A glance at Teal'c revealed he’d barely rested since his return.  His eyes mirrored Jacob's own frustration at the loss of teammates, of friends.  The warrior would do everything possible to rescue Jack and Daniel without concern for his own life.  Jacob only hoped he’d have a chance to try.

Turning towards General Hammond, the strong visage displayed failure and remorse.  George knew the highly trained, competent, military and civilian men and women under his command followed his orders without question.  So whenever a team suffered a loss during a mission, it was solely his fault.  He failed his men and their families.  This time he’d failed Daniel and Jack. 

"Go ahead, Jacob," replied General Hammond.

"Okay, first the bad news.  As you know, Osiris has Jack and Daniel but we don't know where.  She was last seen representing Anubis' interest in joining the System Lords."

"Right, Dad," said Sam, her inquisitive expression evident by her raised eyebrows. "What I don’t understand is why they allowed Anubis to rejoin them anyway?  I thought they’d ousted him originally for committing heinous crimes, even by Goa'uld standards."

"Yes, Sam, they did.  We don't understand why they allowed him back, especially since he recently orchestrated the destruction of several ships owned by various System Lords.  And from what Daniel relayed to me from those meetings, only one System Lord voted against Anubis."

"And that would be…?" In his absence, Sam continued the conversation thread as only Jack O'Neill could.

"Yu," Jacob deadpanned the old joke. "The System Lord Yu."

"Jacob, are you saying the System Lords are indifferent about supporting such an untrustworthy ally as Anubis?" the general spoke, disbelieving the Goa'uld would allow an attack without reprisal.

"Well, all System Lords are a bit untrustworthy, Sir," Sam answered.  The System Lords notoriously turned against each other whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Thus, the Tok’ra axiom:  "a single powerful Goa'uld is extremely dangerous".

"They are, Major Carter,” Teal’c responded crisply.  Although never openly stated, Teal'c had a low tolerance for banter.  “Do you have more information, General Carter?"

"Actually, no.  Well, no facts anyway but I have a few suppositions," Jacob glanced around the room, pausing for dramatic effect.  "Why do you suppose Lord Yu opposed Anubis?"

"I'm assuming he has a deeper knowledge or perhaps clearer memories of Anubis' past transgressions?" Sam replied.

"Not really, Sam.  The others know how dangerous Anubis is."

"Hold your friends close and your enemies closer?" General Hammond suggested, although he secretly supposed the System Lords would just as soon kill their friends AND their enemies.

"Maybe George, but I have another suggestion.  Yu was the only System Lord that Daniel touched besides Osiris with the substance isolated from the Ree'al.  He used it on Yu to make him see Daniel as his servant.  Later, he used it again to prevent Osiris from recognizing him.  We think perhaps someone subjected the System Lords to a type of mind control and this substance somehow provided Yu immunity from it."

"But Dad, you said Osiris was also exposed to it.  Wouldn't that exempt your theory?"

"Probably, but if she was privy to the deception it wouldn't matter that she was affected."

"True but, if she is involved as well, what do they need with Dan…?"

"Now, just a minute here," The leader of the SGC spoke, his booming voice effectively halting the discussion.  "Jacob, you're not making sense.  Mind control?  Can the Goa'uld be overcome by something like that?"

"Yes, they can.  A lesser known Goa'uld named Nephthys was once thought to hold the power to control the Goa'uld mind.  She was a member of the Limvris."

"The nine Goa'uld who challenged the System Lords," Teal'c said authoritatively.

"Correct," Jacob gave a slight nod towards Teal'c.

"But they were destroyed by Ma'chello's bugs," Sam recalled.

"Maybe.  All I know is it looks like the work of Nephthys."

"Would she have been at the summit?" Sam questioned.

"She shouldn't have been unless she arrived covertly,” he paused, wondering briefly whether to continue.  “You do know she and Osiris are the parents of Anubis?"

Jacob felt as though he'd dropped the proverbial bomb shell as all eyes immediately focused on him.  Several jaws dropped as they exchanged quick, questioning glances.

"I do," said Teal'c quietly. 

Several seconds passed in stunned silence before anyone could find their voice.

"So, I hear what you're telling me, Jacob, but I'm not sure I understand.  Are you saying that Nephthys and Osiris may be working together with Anubis?  And what does that have to do with my missing men?" General Hammond found the news disturbing but still lacking for answers.

"We think so.  And since Jack and Daniel have been taken by Osiris it is reasonable to believe they are also accompanied by Nephthys and possibly Anubis.  Unfortunately, we have no idea where they might be," Jacob stood up and placed his hands in his pockets, preparing to leave the briefing room.

"Great,” Sam sounded weary.  “If that's the bad news, I'm a little afraid to ask about the worse news?"

"Anubis is planning to destroy Earth as a show of strength to the System Lords," Jacob stated matter-of-factly as he headed out the door. 

Turning abruptly back toward the group, he added, "And before you ask, we don't know how or when.  Just that it will be soon.  Very soon."

A pin dropping could be heard as he exited the room.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Jack, we need to get out of here.  I think Nephthys has you under some kind of mind control." Daniel spoke carefully, his throat still sore.

"Ya think?" Jack said sharply.  "I keep have these feelings like, oh, I don't know…Like I want to kill you!  Daniel, you need to get away from me…away from here."

"I'm not leaving without you, Jack.  We need to think.  What could be causing these feelings you have?  I mean…"

Daniel abruptly stopped speaking, overcome by a painful coughing attack.  Afterwards, he had difficulty catching his breath and stumbled backwards.  Jack quickly caught his arms to prevent him from falling.

Taking time to help his friend sit down, Jack shook his head in answer to the previously asked question.  "I haven't a clue.  Look, you need to rest a bit, have something to eat or at least drink.  Do you think you could handle that?"

"A drink might help," Daniel replied motioning towards the sidebar recently restocked.  "How is it that thing keeps replenishes itself, anyway?"

"I dunno.  I guess I haven't thought about it too much,” he stood and walked to over to the food.

"Perhaps it’s tainted?” Daniel suggested.  “I've had very little food or water since I've been here but you've been feasting on those,” he pointed to the pear-like fruit, “like a king."

Jack felt the tension roiling inside him again and stormed towards Daniel.

"Are you suggesting I've been insensitive to your needs?  Your needs!  He who has been consorting with Osiris!” he snapped angrily.  “Do you really expect me to believe you've been tortured, left without food or water?  You're the new pet around here, for crying out loud!"  Jack didn't realize it but he had balled his hands into fists, his voice rising.

Moving cautiously away, Daniel stretched his hands outward, palms up, in a non-aggressive manner.

"No, Jack.  No.  Just thinking the food might be the problem…or…,” he spoke softly.

Jack visibly struggled to regain his control.

Daniel continued, assured for the moment his commander had calmed down, “Jack!  I feel like we're being watched constantly, like something very strange is going on here.  Remember the cloaking device Osiris had back at the Stargate?"

Jack nodded cautiously, wondering where his archeologist was going with this line of thought.

"What if she is still using that here?"  He limped back towards the bed, his sprained ankle throbbing incessantly.  "Jack, she could be coming and going without our noticing her."

"Damnit to hell, Daniel!  The door is always closed…and locked!  In case you've forgotten, we're prisoners here…well, at least I am!"  Jack vented.

Daniel noted Jack was still very edgy and unstable.  He feared any wrong move on his part could be deadly.  With a wince of pain, he climbed back up onto the bed, staying as far away from him as he could. 

After settling, Daniel continued hoarsely, looking straight into Jack's eyes, "The door has been open occasionally, don't you remember?"

Jack pensively considered Daniel's comment, "Yeah, maybe.  Haven't thought about it too much."

Jack didn't miss the pained expression on Daniel's face as the man tried to find a comfortable position.  "You're hurting."

"Yeah… Have you seen a dark figure lurking outside?"

Daniel intentionally steered the discussion away from his current distress, focusing instead on problem solving.  They needed to understand what was happening and what they were up against so they could plan their escape.

And, quite honestly, he needed to forget his injuries.  He needed to forget that Jack had caused them.

Eventually, they’d deal with Jack’s actions in order to help him heal…in order for them both to heal.  Dealing with feelings and rebuilding trust wasn’t going to be easy, though.  It would take a long time.  But together they could work through it. 

They’d just have to wait until they returned home… 

Jack shuddered as he forcibly tried to subdued his irrational behavior.  "Yeah, now that you mention it.  I have seen someone…Oh God, I remember!" he exclaimed. 

As the words left his mouth, his face twisted in pain and he fell to the ground, clutching his head. 

Flashes of light overtook him as he fought down the emerging feelings of hatred yet again.  He watched as his prey carefully left the bed, approaching him.

In a wink of an eye, Jack bounded to his feet and, with ferocious speed, raged towards Daniel.  The injured man retreated as quickly as he could, only to find himself pinned to the wall behind him.

Jack's face, mere inches from his, displayed a harsh mix of emotions, searing in their intensity and Daniel felt fear.  He knew Jack could easily kill him in hand to hand combat, not that this could be considered combat.  Jack had effectively pinned him to the wall leaving him incapable of fighting back even if he wanted to.

As blue eyes met brown ones, Daniel could see deep into his friend's tormented soul.  Jack raised his fist and he closed his eyes, not wanting to see the evilness directed at him.  An evilness that Daniel knew in his heart wasn’t born of his friend but contrived and manipulated by a demon.

Daniel knees buckled as he heard rather than felt the sickening thud.  As the shock of the vehemence and suddenness of the attack faded, Daniel realized he wasn’t the target of this latest blow.  The wall behind him had suffered this time.

He also noticed his friend lying unconscious at his feet.

A beautiful woman entered his room but he couldn't see beauty.  By now all he saw was evil and those damned glowing eyes.  Her name was Nephthys.

He'd been tortured for several hours now, the primary source of his pain being the silver disc placed at his temple.  He told them nothing, of that he was certain.  He was trained for Black Ops, torture was par for the course and he knew he would never tell them anything. 

He also remembered hearing Daniel's cries from the other side of their cell.  He was double teamed by some lewd, salacious Jaffa who seemed to enjoy more than torturing, copping a feel whenever possible.

And Osiris, her mental torture and mind games infiltrating their way into the archeologist's psyche.  The young man had held up well to the abuse, never giving them any information.  He felt proud of his teammate, his friend, but he also felt worthless and unable to stop his torment. 

Some commanding officer he turned out to be.

This had to end.  He decided to play along with Nephthys, to focus the attention on himself rather than Daniel, casually and quietly selling his soul to the devil.  He grinned and waved at her as she entered the cell.

"So, you are ready to talk with me?"  She sauntered towards him.

"Yes, I am.  How's the weather?  Looks pretty dark in here, no windows you know.  You ever get sunlight on this plant, er, whatever it is?  Hey, I know, let's remodel!  Add some windows, let the sunlight in.  What'dya say?"

"I'd rather talk about Daniel Jackson.  You remember him?"

"Yeah, kinda do.  He's the one making all that noise next door.  Damn neighbors.  Never liked apartment dwelling myself," Jack said, intentionally keeping the banter light, not willing to impart any concern towards his comrade that might later be used against them.

She moved closer, her cold fingers lightly brushing his face near his hairline, near the disc on his temple.

"Daniel Jackson is not to be trusted.  He has already made a deal with Osiris in exchange for his freedom."

"No, he wouldn't do that."

"Oh, can you be so certain?  Osiris' host, Sarah, and Dr. Jackson were once lovers, you know.  Can you trust this man?" Her steely eyes looked deep into his soul.

He presented his best poker face but her gaze bore into him with horrifying intensity.

"Yes, yes I can."

"You would be foolish to do so.  Can you not remember all the times he has betrayed you and your planet?" The pas’nel replaced her hand on his temple, now sporting a green coloration.

"Can you not remember the times he put you and your team in jeopardy in his pursuits of alien women?  The times he argued against you and made secret alliances with your enemies and the enemies of Earth?  Can you not remember, Jack O'Neill?"

The sensations swallowing his mind were powerful and he wrestled against them.  He knew Daniel never betrayed him or his planet, but was he really sure?  Memories of past experiences assailed him…were they all real?  He didn’t know anymore. 

Her voice continued in his ear, a sing-song melody, preventing him from concentrating.  Her thoughts resonated through him, dredging for memories he had long since forgotten.

Daniel couldn’t be trusted.  The memories…his memories couldn't be wrong.  And they were his memories, whether actual or implanted, it didn’t matter.  They were his now.  He couldn't think, couldn't remember, couldn't…

As he slipped into unconsciousness, his shifted to his teammate across the room…and Daniel's eyes glowed.

Jack awoke to the sound of harsh breathing, not his own but Daniel's.  He spotted him lying atop the bed, apparently asleep, but the labored breathing concerned him.  He feared it could be caused by a swollen esophagus or worse, respiratory distress from strangulation.  He prayed neither were true.  Regardless, his companion needed medical attention soon. 

His last flashback convinced him that Nephthys manipulated his mind.  He concentrated on reclaiming control and getting Daniel out of here, but each step closer to sanity brought increasingly horrendous pain for him.

Apparently, he wasn't supposed to want his mind back!

Jack looked at his friend, surprised to see him awake and watching him from his perch on the bed.

"Jack, you need to remove the disc.  I don't know if it's a conduit for implanting images or simply a means for inflicting pain but you need to get it out.  It'll hurt like a son of a bitch trust me, but just briefly.  I pulled mine out several hours ago."

Jack gripped the disc tightly and pulled, trusting Daniel once again and freeing himself of the device. 

"God, Daniel.  Every time I fight this thing, the pain is excruciating.  And I don't mean that, whatever it is," Jack indicated the thin, circular object he’d thrown on the floor.  "Every time I pull my punches to keep from killing you, every time I fill my mind with good thoughts of you to replace the false ones that bitch put in, it…it hurts…like a knife plunging through my head…"

"That's what they want, Jack.  They don't want you to fight it but you have to!"

"I know, Daniel.  I know now…I have to fight this,” Jack’s face contorted.  “Ah…I’ll fight this and succeed.  I won’t hurt you anymore." 

Jack cried out in pain.  As Daniel started moving towards him, Jack raised his hand.  “I’m okay.  It’s…it’s getting better.”

Several quiet moments passed, and then Jack walked towards the bed, towards Daniel.  And Daniel let him, seeing his friend now as a flower amongst the darkness, trusting Jack to lead them home.

He would be safe with Jack now.  He no longer needed to be the runner, the one to bring them out of the darkness.  He could see the light and Jack was standing in it, pulling him towards it.

Together they would be okay.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[Chapter 8] - Runners

"I see you've returned.  How was your little soiree with Anubis?"  Nephthys peered at her companion as she traversed the expansive chamber.  She’d called Osiris here immediately upon her return through the Chaapa’ai, to their spacious abode deep within the tunnel system.

Nephthys claimed this world as her own and named it Heliopolis after her principal sanctuary on the Tau'ri world.  The ungrateful Tau’ri never worshipped her like they did her siblings and she despised them because of that.  Their destruction would ensure they never failed her again. 

She lived beneath the pyramid structure built at the heart of her planet.  She kept her Chaapa’ai well hidden, deep underground, to prevent her adversaries from finding it.  And, since the only access to her tunnels was by way of the Chaapa’ai, anyone on the surface of this world would never find her.

Nephthys was proud of her accomplishments since the fall of the Limvris.  She acquired numerous slaves and Jaffa , ‘rescuing’ them after their unlucky owners succumbed to Ma’chello’s insidious creatures.    She destroyed the surface of this world and took it, building her ornate fortress underground.  She deserved to live in luxury as a god, something she’d been deprived of for too long. 

Using those around her, she continued growing her holdings, secretly destroying anyone in her way.  Even the System Lords had been attacked lately, and she grinned knowingly. 

In this way, she amassed an army of over a hundred Jaffa warriors and planned to increase her numbers by infiltrating Anubis' stronghold. 

Craving control beyond all else, she easily overpowered the minds of lesser beings including her slaves, driving them into passive submission.  She trusted no one outside her control, not the remaining Limvris, certainly not the System Lords, not even her once lover, Osiris.

She'd even expanded her powers at the latest meeting of the System Lords, testing her cloaking capabilities and telepathy against them.  The trial went smoothly as she knew it would.  No one suspected she was there, not even her cohort Osiris.

Ah, Osiris.  What a fool!  She served well as a pawn, unwittingly helping her ascertain her enemies’ weaknesses, honestly believing *she* coerced all the System Lords to accept Anubis back into their fold. 

Well, all but one.  Nephthys didn’t understand why Yu failed to succumb to her techniques, but it didn’t matter.  She considered her operation was a great success.

With a cocky air, Osiris strode to her side, "Anubis grows tired of our little escapades with the humans.  He no longer waits for us to develop them for his purposes.  He plans to destroy Earth as soon as he completes his preparations, taking credit for the devastation himself."

"That is good news indeed, my love.  I trust you acquired the device?"  She reached to stroke Osiris' face but the Goa’uld intercepted her hand impatiently.

"Of course, and they'll never know who took it…but we must move quickly now.  The humans must return through the Chaapa’ai before Anubis completes his plans.  We must get there first."

Osiris took a seat on the garish sofa across from her while servants attended to them.

"And what are Anubis' intentions?  Does he have the means to force the Tau'ri shield to open?"

"I believe he does.  His Jaffa retrieved the device the Tau'ri use to send signals through to Earth.  They will open their shield, believing the incoming travelers are Tok'ra," Osiris' responded smugly.

"I see," Nephthys purred. "So Anubis found and tortured a Tok'ra from their base on Revanna?"

"No.  Anubis already had a Goa'uld operative on that base.  How did you think he was able to pinpoint their location so quickly, my love?"

"How convenient," She raised her glass to her companion before sipping the royal purple liquid deeply.  "My compliments on your acquisition of this information."

"He was quite willing to help me, especially since I coerced the System Lords into returning him to power.  A little quid pro quo, I suppose."

"Of course, my love," she said with a sly grin.  "I knew you could achieve distinction through your actions there," Nephthys stated, intentionally fueling Osiris' egomania.

Nephthys rose and sat next to Osiris on the sofa, continuing her queries, "When do we send the humans back?"

"At daybreak tomorrow.  They must believe they have escaped on their own.  You will take care of the ‘programming’, I assume."

"Anything for you, love," Nephthys again reached to touch her face and, this time, Osiris let her.  "Anything for you."

She continued to play the game, still needing Osiris in her grand scheme.  But she would soon tip the scales in her favor.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"All right.  It's what?  Mid-afternoon?"  Jack checked his watch.  "We'll rest until nightfall and then get the hell out of here."

He hovered in the corner to rest, intending to keep his distance from Daniel as long as possible.  They both agreed to stay apart.  Even in their small cell, the distance from corner to corner still gave Daniel a slight edge for the next time Jack attacked. 

And they knew there would be a next time, had already been a next time.  In fact, Jack had attacked Daniel on at least three separate occasions in the past two hours, remarkably managing to avoid harming him during the first two episodes. 

The last time Daniel hadn't been so lucky.

Jack had caught him off guard and tackled him to the ground, twisting his arms high behind his back.  At Daniel’s insistent plea, he mustered all his strength to fight down the paranoia fueling him on and reluctantly released his prey.

Luckily, Daniel only suffered abrasions to his upper arms this time.  Afterwards, they discussed other ways to diffuse Jack.  It wasn’t easy but they eventually agreed to a course of action. 

Their solution allowed Jack to control his violent attacks without harming Daniel physically.  It didn’t however prevent emotional scarring for either of them.

So when his urges became insurmountable, Jack harangued and humiliated his friend, lashing out with words.  And Jack spewed hurtful words, mostly untruths but Daniel recognized deeper implied meanings behind many of them.  He assaulted verbally with vile abominations intended to seriously debase Daniel's entire being, chipping away at the solid foundation that was their friendship. 

Although acrimonious and threatening, Daniel knew he could survive the words.  He might not survive the alternative.

And Jack hated them, hated himself for saying them, hated Daniel for listening, yet he knew he would continue to deliver the abhorrent words for as long as it took.  Sticks and stones and all. 

But Jack knew words could hurt, wounding the very essence of his friend and their relationship.  He only prayed they could regain that which the words threatened to take away.  Hoping they could rebuild their foundation again.

Since the last physical attack, Daniel saw Jack improving.  His leader didn’t experience as much inward pain as before.  He also noted Jack’s dark periods appeared less frequent.  

"And just when do you think nightfall will be?  I mean, it's not like we can see outside, you know," Daniel tried adding some playful banter back into their conversation, carefully testing Jack's progress.  The older man even added friendly quips of his own again.

"We'll just have to go by the clock."

"So do you have a plan to get us out of here?" Daniel winced as he sat up.

"Not much of one yet, but I'm working on it." 

Jack poured himself and his companion some water from the ever-present pitcher on the sidebar in their room.  He handed one glass to Daniel, and then drank deeply from the other.

"Thanks," Daniel said as he took the proffered drink. "Okay…so, what do we have and what do we need?"

"Hey! That's my line!"

Jack moved to sit at the foot of Daniel's bed as they discussed their plans.  He had to be careful but he’d become quite proficient at recognizing the signs of his rage flaring.  He nodded questioningly towards his intended seat, seeking permission from his friend.  He saw warmth returned in those blue eyes along with the slight quiver of a smile.

"Well, it's not exclusive.  Still waiting for the answer."

"Damn!  I ask the questions, doesn't mean I can answer them," Jack glanced around their close quarters.  "Well, we've got squat… except for a mean son of a bitch colonel, and a bedraggled archeologist."

"Did you just say 'bedraggled'?”  Daniel gave Jack a quizzical look, his eyes squinting painfully.

"Did I?  Guess some junk is still messed up in here," he replied, pointing to his head.

"Yeah, guess so," Daniel took a slow, contemplative breath before continuing, "…the GDO."

"What?" Now Jack sported the quizzical look, eyebrows twisted and raised high.

"What?" Daniel responded but his thoughts seemed elsewhere.

Jack shook his head to clear the cobwebs, "Daniel, we don't have a GDO."

"Exactly.  Keep up with me, Jack."

Jack screwed up his face in an expression that silently screamed, ‘What?’ 

"Jack, we *need* a GDO."

"Oh yeah, right.  And a means to open the door and a map to the gate…yadda.  A yellow brick road might help."

"I think I can find the gate."

"Really?  You remember how we got here?" 

"Yeah…I think so.  Assuming I’ve been with you the entire time…"

"So, we need the GDO and a diversion to get someone to open the door," he started.  “We can do that.”

Jack quietly analyzed his friend’s condition as they bantered.  He hadn't shifted his position for quite a while and Jack suspected it was because he was hurt worse than he let on.

"Daniel, do you think you can run?" Jack already knew the answer but needed to hear it from Daniel.

"Ah, no…but I can walk with help."

’Damn,’ Jack thought, ‘not good.’

Jack moved closer, intending to thoroughly check out him over.

His ankle felt swollen and he saw a hint of blue at the base of Daniel's trousers.  Manipulating the joint, Jack checked range of movement, hoping it wasn't fractured.  He breathed a disappointed sigh as Daniel let out a quiet yelp.

"Damnit!  You really need that ankle wrapped but there's nothing here we can use.  How's your breathing?  Any dizziness or nausea?"

"Jack, I'm fine.  Just need a little help if you want me to run."

"Yeah, right.  Thought you said you needed help to walk."

"Whatever."

Amidst Daniel's weak protests, Jack continued his explorations.  He found a multitude of facial lacerations and contusions but nothing too serious.  The swollen eye would affect Daniel's peripheral vision and Jack didn't like the large lump at the back of his head.

Most disconcerting though, was the sound of Daniel's breathing and the hoarse quality of his voice.  Feeling the base of his neck, Jack found some external swelling, not too bad yet but he’d have to monitor Daniel for any signs of acute respiratory distress. 

Suddenly shaking, Jack stopped his evaluation and clutched his head in his hands.

Daniel realized his teammate suffered psychological trauma and self-loathing for his actions and he reached out to Jack, placing a hand on the older man's shoulder, comforting.  At the touch, Jack raised his head to face him, returning the contact.

After a very awkward pause, Daniel broke the silence, still resting his hand on Jack's shoulder, "So…?"

"So…," Jack swallowed deeply.  He ran his fingers through his short hair.  "Okay, so basically we need to find the GDO.  Last time I saw it Osiris had it."

"You saw it, Jack?  When?"

"Kind of vague…in a flashback or something," he said, shifting his weight on the bed to a more comfortable position.  He actually remembered that flashback quite well but he didn't want to discuss it.  It was the one where Daniel's eyes glowed.

"Oh.  Well, if we can't find the GDO, I'll need to figure out where else we can gate to and work our way back to Earth."

"Yeah, you do that.  Sounds like a plan to me."

He’d started fearing for his friend's health, listening to the painful, wheezing sounds coming from the other side of the room.  Daniel's airway was compromised to some extent and he really didn't want to have to perform a field tracheotomy.  He wanted Daniel back safely in the infirmary.

Jack left the bed to check the exit and realized they were no longer being guarded by Jaffa .  He suspected they were being set-up for some reason but he knew they had to leave this place.  He had to get Daniel home. 

He returned to take a seat on the edge of the bed, not wanting Daniel to raise his voice to be heard.

The room was quiet while both men lost themselves in their private thoughts. 

Daniel broke the silence with a question that had been bothering him since Jack's last flashback, "Do you think we've been in this same room, I mean here together, since we came through the Stargate?"

"What?" Jack sounded confused by the question, unsure where Daniel was leading the discussion.

"You said you remembered hearing me, seeing me, when Nephthys visited you."

"Oh, yeah.  If you can believe my, uh," Jack waved his right hand beside his head, "my deluded memories of the events."

"I think I do, Jack.  We need to be very careful.  I'm still not sure what game Osiris and Nephthys are playing here, but the consequences won't be pleasant…for anyone."

"Yeah…" Jack's voice trailed as scattered memories slowly began to return to him. "Daniel?"

"Hmmm?" Daniel's eyes fluttered closed briefly as much needed sleep seemed eminently approaching.

"Would the Goa'uld ever work together?  I mean, I thought they were pretty much megalomaniacs."

"They are.  An alliance between two of them could be used as an advantage for achieving power, armies…um, slaves, hosts.  But eventually one Goa'uld would get greedy, domineering…the results could be cataclysmic."

"Yeah, that's what I thought.  Get some sleep Daniel.  I'll work on our escape plan…and…staying over here, in my corner, not hurting anyone…" Jack waved back at Daniel as he retook his position across the room.

"Okay, Jack.  I trust you.  Oh, and uh, Jack?"

"Yes, Daniel?"

"If you do decide to kill me, could you do it quietly?  I really need the rest." Jack noticed the twinkle had returned to Daniel's tired eyes, uh, eye.

"Sure.  Wake you in three.  Goodnight, Daniel."

"Goodnight, John-boy."

Jack silently prayed to the god of archeologists to help him get Daniel home safely.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jack jolted at the sound of his watch alarm.  It was time to make their move.

He'd formulated their escape plan before taking a brief, albeit much needed, nap.  Asleep, he wouldn't be hurting Daniel anymore.

He felt ‘damned if you do, damned if you don't’.  When he thought about how much he'd hurt Daniel, he felt self-hatred and guilt at his weakness.  Yet when he thought about *not* hurting him, fighting against the implanted urges, he suffered severe, physical pain. 

But he kept quiet.  He could at least spare Daniel from worrying about his pain too.

Gratefully, his desire to injure his team's archeologist had subsided while he slept, hopefully due to his black ops training conditioning and past experiences.  He feared, however, that whoever had planted the seeds of mistrust already reaped the desired benefits, plucking the saplings from his subconscious before they had time to flower.  

Quickly assessing their situation, Jack glanced through the porthole to the corridor.  Still no Jaffa

‘Damn,’ he wondered, ‘was that a good thing or a bad thing?’

Reaching for the opening mechanism, he twisted the symbol of a bird testing the lock.  Not locked.  Okay, so *not* a good thing.

He headed towards Daniel, intending to awaken the sleeping man when he saw a rectangular device with a keypad on top.  Nearing it, he recognized it as their GDO.  Well, how obvious could the Goa'ulds get?  They obviously wanted them to leave. 

Jack warily placed it on his arm, suddenly feeling a bit like mouse in a maze.  Take the right path and find the cheese.  Choose the wrong one and get eaten by the cats.  He didn’t really like their odds. 

Reaching the bed, he watched Daniel for a time, agonizing over each labored breath, each cut, bruise and abrasion.  Remnants of pain threatened to break the surface as he showed compassion for his friend, but Jack shoved them back, unwilling to let them win. 

He softly shook the younger man's shoulder to awaken him. 

"Daniel, come on, it's time to go," Jack spoke gently.

"Go 'way, wanna sleep," Daniel replied groggily.

"Yeah, I know and hey, if it were up to me I'd say let's take some time off, go to a spa, get a massage, but I think our hosts have other ideas for us."

Jack waved the GDO in Daniel's face.

Sitting up on the bed, Daniel looked at Jack in surprise, "Where, uh, how did you get that?"

"Hey, we don't want to be catching flies here," Jack placed his hand on Daniel's chin and pushed gently upward, closing the younger man’s mouth.  "Looks like we've outstayed our welcome.  Door's unlocked as well.  No guards."

"This can't be a good thing…can it?  I mean, I've been thinking about why Osiris might have captured us in the first place."

Daniel shifted to a more comfortable position as Jack placed his rolled up jacket beneath Daniel's injured foot.

“When?  You were asleep,” Jack commented.

“Yeah…then…”

"And?  Anything come to mind?" Jack said, shaking his head.

"I have no idea," he started.

As the haze of sleep cleared, he continued, "Well, we know that Osiris and Nephthys are both here and Anubis plans to destroy Earth," Daniel paused contemplatively. "Anubis allied with Osiris to regain System Lord status so…"

At Jack's shrug, Daniel continued excitedly, "Jack, what if the three of them are working together, like…like…a…oh, what's the word I'm looking for?"

"A gaggle of Goa'ulds?" Jack smiled inwardly at his intended obtuseness.

Daniel gave Jack his best ever-suffering glare then rolled his eyes heavenward before continuing, "No, more like a triad…or something."

"So…if one is bad and two are worse…"

"Then, three are…worser," Daniel frowned slightly at his choice of adjectives.

"Worser, Daniel?  And I thought *you* were the linguist."

"Sorry, guess some junk is still messed up in here," Daniel pointed to his head imitating a similar motion used by Jack earlier.

"So…they're allowing us to leave and return to Earth…"

"Apparently so.  But to what end…?"

Daniel slowly and painfully began making his way off the bed, concerned his ankle might not keep him upright.

"Well, hopefully not Earth's…end," Jack placed his arm around his waist just as the younger man's legs buckled.  He supported Daniel’s weight, preventing his fall.  "All I know is we better be careful.  Make sure no one and no thing gets through that gate besides us.”

As Daniel nodded his understanding, Jack added, “Okay, let's go!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
General Hammond stood at the base of the ramp anxiously awaiting the travelers.  Jacob Carter and the Tok'ra known as Safdar exited the Stargate, bringing information regarding the means that Anubis would employ against Earth.  

As the wormhole whooshed out of existence, the general addressed the two Tok'ra, "I am glad you were able to get back with us so soon."

"Earth has little time," Safdar's statement was clear, succinct, and disturbing.

"Yes, of course.  Please follow me.  SG-1 is waiting for us."

They entered the conference room and immediately noticed the apprehensive stares from the personnel seated around the large oblong table.  Upon taking his seat, General Hammond introduced Safdar to the group, and then motioned him to begin his report.

"We have just received information from our operative aboard Anubis' vessel.  The Tok'ra were infiltrated by a Goa'uld spy on Revanna.  This spy communicated much information to Anubis regarding the Tok'ra and the Tau'ri, including the Tok'ra Iris codes."

The meeting participants exchanged concerned glances.

"But they're no good to them without a GDO and we can easily modify the codes," Sam commented.

"You are correct, Major Carter, but unfortunately Anubis acquired your ‘GDO’ as well."

General Hammond immediately called the control room, ordering them to first notify the Tok’ra and then lock out their existing code.

"That will take care of the immediate concern, however, I must warn you.  Anubis is persistent AND he has captured two of your men, has he not?"

"Well, Osiris has, yes.  But those men would rather die before giving out any information."

"That may be true…under normal circumstances," Safdar continued.

"And these are not normal circumstances…" Teal'c understood all too well the implications of their current situation.

"No, they are not," Safdar briefly acknowledged Teal'c’s comment before turning to address the entire room.  "With Nephthys potentially involved in their capture, they very well may compromise Earth even without even knowing they have done so."

"Are you saying we can't trust our fail safe device anymore?  I've got three teams off-world plus half of SG-1," he stated, knowing he would have to open the iris eventually.

"You should postpone their return until you ensure the security of your systems," Safdar responded.

Nodding his understanding, the general continued, "Major Carter, get word to those off-world teams to stay put but don't give them any more information…need to know only.  Also, contact our allies that have valid iris codes and tell them their codes will be temporarily locked out…”

"Yes, Sir," Sam replied, hurriedly gathering her belongings.

“Oh, and figure out a more secure fail safe mechanism for controlling the Iris."

Major Carter added, “Yes, sir,” as she scurried out of the room.

"So, what is Anubis planning?" Jacob Carter asked his fellow Tok’ra. 

They hadn’t discussed the details yet.  Jacob had left Earth immediately upon relaying his message to the people gathered around this same table less than a day ago.  He searched for Safdar almost the entire time he was away.  Locating him hadn’t been easy.   But since Safdar supervised the activities of several operatives, Jacob hoped had the answers they needed.

"He will send his operative, disguised as Tok'ra, here using our codes.  They will then activate an incendiary device that Anubis acquired from a recent acquisition,” Safdar began.

“The device is small and can be hidden anywhere but it is very destructive.  The initial blast will destroy the immediate area through explosive forces.  Then various types of radiation particles will propagate outward from the source in extremely high concentrations, killing everything in their path.  

“It is an insidious device which carries explosive particles in the radiation stream.  They will detonate by a predetermined schedule and cause further propagation of the particles.  It is capable of destroying a planet the size of Earth in a matter of days."

"Geez, how many of these devices does Anubis have?" Jacob questioned.

"It is unknown but we suspect he has only a small number, maybe only one.  He accidentally destroyed most of them where they were created, along with the planet and its inhabitants.  We do know one of the bombs disappeared from Anubis' ship.  We do not know where it is now."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
With Daniel leaning heavily against him, Jack peered outside their prison, checking for movement, listening for sounds.  Convinced the passageway was clear, Jack turned to his friend, "Okay, which way?"

Daniel selected the path to their right and Jack pulled him close, supporting most of his weight.  They slowly made their way through the narrow tunnel.

The flooring sloped steadily downward and they slipped several times.  They moved slowly, hugging the wall for support and stopping when the path forked.  

Jack spotted two Jaffa guards at a distance down the intersecting passage and silently conveyed his findings to Daniel.  The archeologist understood his signals, having much experience with interpreting them.  He leaned back against the wall behind him and waved his hand in a back and forward motion, indicating they needed to travel directly across the bisecting passage into the much darker tunnel beyond.

Jack considered their options.  They’d have to cross one at a time to avoid being noticed by the Jaffa .  A lone figure might be able to slip by unseen.  

Daniel had to go first.  Jack hated sending the injured man into an unknown, dark hallway, but he wouldn't risk leaving him alone.  He wanted Daniel across first so, if he stumbled along the way, he could take whatever action necessary to prevent his friend from being recaptured.

Speaking in barely audible whispers, Jack communicated their next move to Daniel, "You go across first.  Get far enough down that next passageway so you're out of sight.  I'll monitor these goons and follow as soon as I can."

Daniel nodded tentatively as he leaned heavily into Jack for support, uncertain if he could walk that far on his own.  

Recognizing Daniel’s reluctance, Jack added, "Can you put any weight on that ankle?"

"I'll be okay, Jack.  Just hurts like a son of a bitch."

Concerned, Jack listened to Daniel’s raspy breathing caused by his brief exertion. 
He saw the pained look on his face even in the dimly lit corridor.  Nodding his understanding, he resumed his watch on the guards.  

When the Jaffa turned away from them, Jack saw an opportunity. "Okay, go!"

Daniel hobbled across the hallway, disappearing into the darkness without a sound.  The guards seemed oblivious to the movement.  As Jack started to cross, however, they abruptly turned back, facing his direction.

‘Damn,’ Jack thought.  He'd have to wait a bit longer.

Daniel recognized this way as the walls glowed with an eerie light.  The crystals!  He wanted to take one back with him for Sam.  She’d be excited at the find.  Knowing her, she'd probably be able to "reverse engineer" it for their use.  Only she could reverse engineer a natural substance that wasn't really engineered to begin with, Daniel mused.

He searched for a loose crystal, finding one in a nearby wall.  He easily removed it from its spot and tucked it into his pocket.  As he turned, a silvery ball caught his eye, protruding slightly from the same location as the now pocketed crystal.  He absently snatched that object as well, adding it to his collection.

He suddenly felt a shiver down his spine and, as he looked around the dark hallway, he thought someone was watching him.  But as quickly as the thought crossed his mind, it passed. 

He resumed patiently waiting for Jack, the silver sphere in his pocket forgotten.

Jack joined him shortly and they resumed their trek to the gate with Daniel again leaning against him.  Finding it increasingly difficult to breathe, he felt dizzy from lack of oxygen and, without warning, he stumbled.  Jack tried to hang onto him but they both wound up falling to the ground in a heap.

Startled from his rapid and unexpected descent, Jack let out a muffled cry, "Daniel, you okay?"

"Yeah, I think so.  It's just so hot in here.  It's difficult to breathe."

Jack reached out to touch Daniel's neck, concerned about increased swelling.

“Damn,” he said, as he lightly pressed the flesh around his throat.  “Swelling's worse,” he added, “and the air smells sulfurous.  Let's rest a minute.”

He helped Daniel into a sitting position and both men leaned against the wall, shoulder’s touching slightly. 

“How far is it to the gate?"
 
"Not far now.  Jack, these crystals…” Daniel started.  “I think they're what Osiris used to make us invisible to Sam and Teal'c back on Revanna."

"Really?  I was invisible?  Cool." Jack quipped.

"Yeah,” Daniel ignored the comment.  “Osiris has a ring made from them.  She rubbed it just before Sam and Teal'c showed up.  They never saw us.  I've got one in my pocket for Sam."

"Sweet.  How do you make it work?  We might need it if the gate is guarded."

"I have no idea," Daniel rolled his eyes upward, wondering why Jack expected him to know such things.

"Right.  Well, we'll just have to cross that bridge when we get there…Ready to go?" Jack patted Daniel's shoulder, prompting the younger man to his feet.

"Yeah, Jack.  Let's go home."

The rest of their journey was brief and uninterrupted.  The Goa’ulds allowed them to escape, Jack was certain of it.  Nothing was ever this easy for them.  There were no guards posted at the gate, everything was quiet…eerily quiet, he thought.

Propped against the DHD, Daniel input the coordinates for Earth.  As the wormhole engaged, the room reflected the bluish hues emanating from the gate like ocean waves on a sunlit day.  

Jack entered the iris codes into his GDO and nodded.

Taking a final look around the cavernous room, Jack said, "Let's go home."

As the men stepped into the wormhole together, they each sheltered their eyes, anticipating the light at the end of the tunnel.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
[Chapter 9] - Reaching for the Light

General Hammond dismissed the briefing participants, intending to see what progress Major Carter had made with locking out iris codes and notifying their off-world teams of their delay in returning home.  

Thankfully, none of the off-world teams were in threatening situations, other than SG-1 of course, and that eased his mind considerably.  

Jacob and Safdar followed him, anticipating a delayed departure.  They joined Sam in the control room just as the klaxons sounded and a disembodied voice spoke over the speakers, "Unscheduled off-world activation."

General Hammond looked questioningly at Sam and she reported promptly, "We contacted all our allies and off-world teams, Sir.”  She looked out into the gate room and added, “I'm not sure who that could be."

"Son?" General Hammond addressed the Lieutenant stationed at the computer.

"I haven't got a signal yet, Sir.  Wait…it's…it’s…SG-1?"  Wide eyes looked upward.

"Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson?" the general directed his question at the two Carters.

"It has to be, Sir," the younger Carter answered optimistically.

"They may have been compromised, George.  I’m sorry Sam but we really have no idea what will be coming through the gate," the elder Carter cautioned.

"But if it is them and we don't open the iris…" Sam's voice trailed off.

After a very brief hesitation, General Hammond made his decision, "Open the iris! And get a security force down there, stat!"

He grabbed a nearby phone to summon a medical team to the gate room just in case, ordering them to remain outside the blast doors until given an ‘all clear’.

A scurry of activity ensued as the base's entire available security regiment converged on Level 28.  Teal'c and Sam waited and watched the events unfolding from the relative security of the control room.  

The lights dimmed in the gate room as was customary for an unscheduled activation.  Better to see the enemy than for them to see you.  With all weapons trained on the center of the wormhole, the tension could be cut with a knife.

Seconds later, a son of a bitch colonel and his bedraggled archeologist spilled out of the wormhole.  

Jack wasted no time in barking out the order, "Close the iris!"  As if on cue, the circular sheath enveloped the gate, sealing the event horizon until it finally shut down. 

Daniel promptly crumpled to his knees on the ramp.

Looking around the room for the first time since his arrival, Jack saw the assorted weapons pointed at him.

"Hey!  Are those P-90s or are you just happy to see us?" Jack O'Neill said in his sharp-witted style.  

Several armed guards rapidly traversed the ramp to surround the two men as a very frustrated Jack O'Neill raised his eyes towards the control room.

"General, what's going on here?  Daniel needs medical attention!"

He acknowledged the colonel's request and, with a slight nod, delivered the order allowing the medical team in.  Shortly thereafter, General Hammond, the two Carters and Teal'c rushed down the stairs.

Entering the gate room, Hammond bellowed above the mayhem, "Colonel O'Neill, we have a situation here.  You will allow the security team to escort you and Dr. Jackson to the infirmary."

Jack opened his mouth as if to speak but stopped as the general raised his hand, "That's an order, Colonel!  Any resistance will be considered a hostile action!  Do you understand me?"

Jack nodded his affirmative and reluctantly held his hands up as the guards frisked him.  

The medical team motioned for the gurney to be brought up the ramp.   Hammond moved to stop the gurney's forward progress, and then waved the security detail over from O'Neill to Dr. Jackson.

"Oh, for crying out loud!  The man's hurt!"

"Colonel, one more comment and you'll be up on insubordination charges!" he spoke harshly.  He wouldn’t allow his base to be compromised by some alien attack, no matter who might be delivering it.

Daniel squirmed, obviously wanting to speak.  Looking directly to General Hammond, he said, "Anubis knows the Tok'ra iris codes."

"We know that, son."

"We do?” Jack hated to be the last to know.  His mind processed recent events but was unable to determine when he or Daniel would have found out that information.  Perhaps his brain was still a bit foggy…

As the security team reached Daniel, a small blue crystal and a silver colored sphere slipped unnoticed from his hands to lay quietly hidden beneath the ramp.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Their short trip to the infirmary proved uneventful.  Jack walked alongside Dr. Janet Fraiser despite the ‘twin towers’ tracking his every move, guns ready.  

He used the time to catalog Daniel's injuries for her; the physical abuse suffered at Jack's own hands -- strangulation, near-death experience, twisting fall that damaged Daniel's ankle.  He also told her he inflicted the injuries to his teammate while under some sort of mind control.

When they reached the infirmary, the doctor ordered a barrage of tests for each of the men to determine the true extent of their injuries and to uncover any residual psychological control that might be present.  That was assuming she knew what to look for.  

Jacob and Safdar briefed Dr. Fraiser on the expected effects on brainwave patterns and behavior, so she focused tests around their assumptions for starters.

Several hours and numerous pokes, sticks, and general aggravation for Jack passed before the test results came back.  Once they did, Janet summoned General Hammond to the infirmary to brief him on the men’s mental and physical conditions.

"Sir, the tests have come back on both Dr. Jackson and Colonel O'Neill with some very interesting results." Janet paused, waiting for permission to continue.

"Go ahead, Doctor," the general responded immediately.

"Well, the test results for Colonel O'Neill indicate increased brainwave activity in the hippocampus," Janet typed on the computer in her office for a moment.  It displayed a colorful slide of the colonel’s brain with a greater concentration of colors centered in one lobe of his brain.  

She pointed to this area as she continued, "Here.  This region of the brain is associated with learning, memory, and possibly, emotion, which could account for his increased hostility towards Dr. Jackson.  His brain chemistry also shows a marked increase in epinephrine, norepinephrine, phenylethylamine, and serotonin levels, any or all of which can result in increased aggression and feelings of paranoia.  

“The good news is his levels have been decreasing steadily for the past three hours since his return and I expect they will return to normal levels by morning.  Until then, sir, I recommend he remain in the infirmary under guard.  I've moved him to a private room which we are keeping locked with two guards posted just outside.  

“I plan to run more tests in the morning and determine his need for future treatment and confinement.  But, if his levels continue improving at the current rate, he should be able to resume normal work activities tomorrow afternoon."

"Very good, Doctor.  And what is the condition of Dr. Jackson?" Hammond prompted.

Janet touched a few more keys on the computer and a similar brain picture appeared showing significantly fewer color differentials than the colonel’s did.  Dr. Fraiser pointed to a section and said, "His brain chemistry and brainwave activity all appear normal.  Based on his test results and reports from both him and the colonel regarding their captivity, I have no reason to believe Dr. Jackson has been compromised," Janet concluded.

"What about his physical injuries?"

"They’re quite painful but should heal without any complications.  We had to give some emergent care for the edema in his neck but it looks like the medications are controlling it.

“He has no broken bones but I had to stitch a cut above his eye and butterfly bandage two others.  He has multiple lacerations and contusions over much of his face and body, and a mild concussion.  His ankle isn't fractured but he has a second degree ligament sprain and it'll take some time for it to heal after the swelling comes down.  I've wrapped it but he needs to keep that leg propped up and stay off the ankle as much as possible for the next two weeks," Janet closed the medical file on her desk.

General Hammond nodded his head, understanding her unspoken medical order to remove Dr. Jackson from active-duty for at least two weeks.

"Sir, I also removed a small silver disc from his, uh…genitals that he claimed the Goa’uld used to torture him.  Colonel O'Neill corroborates his story, stating he had a similar device implanted at his temple.  They apparently removed other similar discs from their bodies while they were on the planet.  I've sent it to the lab for further analysis," Janet cautiously described the physical ramifications but remained quiet about her true concerns regarding the Goa’uld placement of the device.  She didn’t want to speculate what their intent may have been.

"Could those devices have caused any of Colonel O'Neill's erratic behavior?"

"I can't say for sure, sir, but I believe so.  The Goa'uld could use them to intimidate by inflicting pain, perhaps implanting false memories, and brainwashing.  These techniques are quite effective in controlling prisoners as I'm sure you are aware.  Along with the increased levels of brain chemicals that affect mood, aggressive behavior, and delusional feelings, yes…,” she concluded, “I'd say the devices at least played some part in the mind control process, probably supplementing the effects of psychotropic drugs used to alter blood chemistries…" Janet's voice trailed off as she realized General Hammond had become restless.

"Do you think Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson may still have behavioral issues in the future?" Hammond interrupted, needing to know if his men could be considered threats.

"No, I really don't think so, sir, based on the fact that Dr. Jackson hasn’t displayed any behavior abnormalities while on the planet or since his return.  He took the implant from his temple and side out several hours ago and his brain chemistry is already within the normal tolerances.  

“Colonel O'Neill's body is rapidly returning to normal which leads me to believe leaving the planet eliminated the problem.  I don't anticipate any further issues after his levels stabilize.  

“Of course, we'll know more once the results are back on those discs," Janet felt quite confident in her decision.

"Very good, doctor.  So what is your medical prognosis for Dr. Jackson?"

"Well, acute respiratory distress is often a factor in strangulation victims so I think we should continue to watch him in the infirmary for the next 24 hours.  My main concern, however, is his emotional well-being.  He and Colonel O'Neill will both need some counseling to help them deal with what has happened between them."

"I agree, doctor.  Okay, Colonel O'Neill stays in isolation this evening until further testing shows he’s recovered and Dr. Jackson remains under observation until tomorrow evening.  Thank you for your report." General Hammond paraphrased.

"Yes, Sir," Dr. Fraiser replied crisply and she left to check on her patients.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sam and Teal'c were at Daniel's bedside in the infirmary.  It took a moment for him to realize they were there as he awoke from sedation.  He'd been comfortably asleep since their return over fourteen hours ago.

"So, the colonel did all this to you?" Sam empathized with Daniel, knowing it must’ve been difficult to receive such mistreatment at the hands of a friend.

"Yeah, but you should see him when he's really mad," Daniel ducked his head to hide his smile.

"Maybe you shouldn't have taken that last beer away from him at dinner," Sam grinned, recalling the team dinner at Jack's house just prior to their last mission.  They'd been happy, recounting humorous missions, and relaxing together as old friends.  

Jack had invited them over, hoping to relieve his friend’s anxiety over his next mission.  They needed a human who spoke fluent Goa’uld and was not Jaffa .  Daniel was the only choice.  And he had to go alone.

Later that evening, Daniel took Jack's beer away after the man attempted to prove he could speak Goa'uld, spouting all the words he knew in Goa'uld over and over and over.  

Which was quite annoying, Sam recalled, considering he only seemed to know five, 'Kree, me mik'ta tao've'nu, mai'tac!'

Considering the colonel's level of inebriation, she was quite impressed, although she assumed he was speaking gibberish, until Daniel insisted Jack knew exactly what he was saying.  Teal'c, sitting passively nearby and grinning slightly, agreed with him.

She asked Daniel what the words meant and he translated them saying, 'Hey, my ass is unbelievable, damnit!  And he's saying them using the correct sentence structure!'

Jack grinned deviously as Daniel promptly grabbed his beer.  The colonel changed his chant to, 'Ha'shak, kree!'  

Laughing, Daniel responded, 'Oh you are so full of it, O'Neill!', barely catching his friend as he passed out.

"Well, if I hadn't, he would've----," Daniel couldn't contain his grin as he remembered the same events.

"He was concerned about you, Daniel…about your mission."

"Yeah, I know," Daniel paused contemplatively. "How is he anyway?"

"Better than ever.  Pa'kree?" Jack strolled into the infirmary, apparently having overheard their conversation.

Sam looked to Daniel for a translation.  "Oh, uh, he says 'What's up?'"

"Well, that explains the tongue sticking out and the head shake thing then, doesn't it?" she grinned.

"It does not, Major Carter," Teal'c's looked confused.  He found the actions of the Tau'ri an enigma at times.

"Television commercial," Daniel said absently and then, without losing a beat, turned to address Jack, "So you've been released?"

"It would seem so.  When can we spring you from this joint?"

Daniel shrugged as Sam relayed the message, "Janet said he can leave the infirmary this evening but she wants him to stay on base another night.  General Hammond assigned a VIP suite for him."

"Sweet.  Can you get ShowTime in there?  How about ESPN?  Hockey?" a crooked smile crossed Jack’s face as he proceeded out of the infirmary, waving.  

Pausing at the doorway, he looked back at Daniel saying, "See ya at 2100 hours."

"Guess I'm having company," Daniel remarked to no one in particular.

An echo resounded down the hallway, "Yeah, sure, you betcha."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
The VIP room needed more lighting, Daniel thought as he hobbled in on his crutches.  He hit the switch for the secondary panel and jumped as a bulb popped and went out, adding to the darkness. 

‘Great,’ he thought.  ‘Maybe Jack will bring Siler to replace it.’

He made himself comfortable, having already showered, shaved, and donned his favorite plaid shirt and sweat pants from his stash in his locker.  He’d been through this enough in the past to keep spares on base.

Shortly after settling in, Sam and Teal'c joined him for dinner.  The three friends made small talk, keeping their conversation light and intentionally avoiding any mention of Daniel’s ordeal.  He enjoyed their company but the tension in the room fatigued him.  

He looked forward to spending some time with the real Jack O'Neill.  They never needed to walk on egg shells with each other, well until recently anyway.  He hoped his friend left Mr. Hyde back with Nephthys.

Growing weary, he checked his watch.  Sam and Teal’c left him about an hour ago now and he had another hour before Jack showed up.  He lay back on the bed to take a short nap.

As he drifted off to sleep, the flashbacks began.

He screamed.  

How could they keep torturing him like this?  He couldn't take much more.

He watched Jack across the room undergoing extreme torture for the past several hours, never once uttering anything other than his name, rank, and serial number.  They had him attached to an intravenous line which administered drugs directly into his blood stream.  

Thankfully, he hadn’t received any medication himself. 

Knowing the Goa’uld could be very persuasive when they wanted something, he took comfort in the fact that his team leader was trained to resist torture.  He’d never give into them without a fight.

The next thing he heard took him totally by surprise.

Jack's personality changed abruptly when the Goa'uld raised her hand to him.  He listened to the soft words they exchanged and couldn't believe his ears.  Jack told her he would assist in the destruction of Earth.

Satisfied, she left his friend and sauntered towards him. He had experienced pain at Osiris' hand numerous times so far but he hadn't yet been subjected to Nephthys.

"My dear Dr. Jackson," the demon spoke.  "Are you enjoying your stay?"

"Go to hell!" he said baring his teeth.

"Now, now.  You'll only make it worse for your friend.  We can relieve him of this suffering at any time, all you need do is ask."

"And what will you do with him?"

"Oh, we have no use for dead bodies or the desire to waste our time using the sarcophagus to awaken him.  Three shots of a Zat'ni'k'tel will eliminate all traces."

"You wouldn't do that.  You need him." He tried to keep his voice steady, calm.  They had to need Jack for something.  He couldn't bear to think of the other possibility.

"We do not.  He is merely being conditioned to respond to known mind control techniques.  He is nothing but a control subject to us."

"Then, let him go.  Let him return through the Stargate.  I'll stay here with you," he pleaded…pleaded for Jack's life.

"Oh, but we need to test our new methods," An evil smile spread across her face.

"But you said he’s conditioned to respond to 'known' techniques."

"Yes, he is.  But my dear, you are our true experiment and responding quite well, I might add."

"Experiment?  How?  For what?" he questioned.  The thought he might already be under their control terrified him but he outwardly remained calm, not wanting to show fear to his enemy.

Contrary to popular belief, he could play poker.

"You see, we no longer need to control our subjects through fear of punishment and chemical fluctuations in the body.  We can control with simply our thoughts…a 'thought to thought' transfer, if you will.  

“We’ve exposed O'Neill to both types of control techniques, but you, my pet…," Nephthys slowly encircled him, placing warm hands against his bare skin, "you have never received chemicals of any kind.  Yet, you're mind is as pliant as his,” she grinned wickedly.

“And no one will realize you are under my control,” she laughed. “Your blood, your scans…everything about you will appear normal.”

“The thoughts I have placed here," she scratched long fingernails slowly upward from his chest, across his neck and face, finally resting at this temple, "you will believe to be your own.”  

“My desires are now your desires.  My wish, your command…" the demon laughed ominously.

As the demon turned to leave, he questioned vehemently, "Then why subject him to the torture and the drugs if it's not necessary?"

"So your world will believe only he has been affected.  They will believe you to be the innocent victim, never catching their mistake," she gave a short laugh, "…until it's too late."

Nephthys glared deep into his eyes, questioning his allegiance, "Whom do you serve?"

"I serve my lord Nephthys," he replied innocently.

She left the room, fully satiated.

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Jack's knock sounded promptly at 2100 hours, stirring Daniel from his fitful slumber.

"Hey," Jack pulled the door open and poked his head in. 

“Hey,” Daniel waved him in from atop the bed.

“Did I wake you?” Jack smiled knowing full well he had.

“Hmmm,” Daniel grunted, still groggy.

"I brought you something," Jack said as he reached into his pocket. 

He produced two objects, a blue crystal, and a silver sphere.

"Whaaaa?  How?" he asked, surprised that Jack delivered them to him.  He thought he'd have to find them himself.

"I got chewed out by General Hammond while you hid them in the gate room, remember?  Thought I created a pretty good diversion,” Jack stated innocently.

"Oh, I also thought you might need these," he handed his friend three weapons, a knife, a pistol, and a zat gun.

"Yeah…I do,” Daniel said pensively.  After a long pause, he added, “Whom do you serve?"

"I serve my lord Nephthys, as do you," Jack immediately responded, devoid of conscious thought.

Daniel secured the various weapons to his belt and slipped the knife into the wrapping around his sprained ankle, careful to hide it under his pants' leg.

"Yes…,” he stopped to look at his friend.  “Will you help me?"

"That is my intention," he replied quickly.

For a moment, Jack's face showed quiet angst, disgust for his actions.  A part of him despised his role in the forthcoming scheme, while another part continued blindly following his pre-programmed instructions.  

He grimaced, fighting the uncontrollable urges and suffering incredible pain as a result.  His inner turmoil between good and evil roiled within him until finally the good succumbed to the evil.

His pain ceased.

Daniel watched his friend struggle with his feelings and recognized a strength within him that threatened to spoil his mission.  He may have to eliminate the threat.  His Lord must be served.

"Very well, we don't have much time,” Daniel said harshly.  “My lord Nephthys is anticipating the annihilation of Earth to begin at daybreak.  Any later and she will be unable to dominate the System Lords for power." Daniel spoke authoritatively.

Daniel was in charge now.

"Then we must act quickly…ow," Jack doubled over in pain as once again he tried to subdue the evilness within him.  But he couldn’t.  He felt powerless against her control, and even worse, he failed to protect his friend from it.

The thought of losing Daniel drove Jack to try again to surface, to reach for the light. 
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He hated the System Lords and their unseemly audacity.  He hated Anubis in particular, the Goa'uld so loathsome even the System Lords had him banished. 

They believed themselves better than the gods, even more powerful than their own kind.  They reveled in their power, their wealth, their Jaffa and slaves, snubbing other Goa'ulds they termed 'lesser'.

The Limvris.  The Limvris would have dominated and overthrown the System Lords if it hadn't been for that damned Ma'chello and his vile creatures.  

Now, Anubis would be a cat’s-paw for his lord's diversion.  And just as O'Neill served as her pawn, so too would Osiris be an unwitting dupe in the game…His lord Nephthys’ game.

Daniel checked his watch.  It was midnight and the SGC was dark.  

He dismissed O'Neill earlier unsure whether the man's 'training' had been totally successful.  He saw the conflict the man experienced.  It couldn’t be tolerated any longer.  He would have to eliminate him soon.  He was prepared to do whatever necessary to accomplish his goal and if that meant killing O'Neill with his bare hands, so be it.

Daniel raced against time now.  

His lord intended to humiliate Anubis by blocking his destruction of Earth.  The ignorant humans had already accomplished that goal by sealing the iris against him.  Next, he must plant the seed that would blossom into an overwhelming destructive force, weaving a path of death and devastation across the Earth.  

He had to reach the surface to ensure his success.  He couldn’t risk setting off the device inside the base, concerned that the mountain might be effectively sealed and prevent the explosive particulate from spreading.

And the particle stream must be unconfined to disperse properly.  Functioning much like a fireworks display with various internal reactions and explosions, it had to be detonated in an unobstructed, above ground area.  He would ascend to the surface stealthily, through crawlways instead of hallways, avoiding contact with any SGC personnel including Colonel O'Neill.

Laughing haughtily, Daniel imagined how angry Anubis would be when he realized Osiris stole the weapon from his own hands and gave it to Nephthys.  That same small object Nephthys later gave to him in the tunnels as he escaped her world.

And Osiris…She would be outraged when she realized the trick played against her.  Nephthys left her vulnerable and exposed and Anubis would eliminate her and her armies as payment for her theft of the sphere.  

The System Lords would then wage war against Anubis, believing he caused the recent untoward attacks against them and their fleets.  And Anubis would fail them in his promise to destroy Earth.  He wouldn’t succeed… but Daniel would.

Daniel chuckled to himself, knowing his lord had perpetrated those battles covertly, leaving no trail to convict her.  His lord Nephthys controlled them all, superimposing her thoughts to them, manipulating their wrath against Anubis and Osiris.  

The impending struggle for dominance amongst the System Lords will leave them weakened and vulnerable.  His lord will then rise to conquer them, claiming that which was rightfully hers.

Now, it was time for him to complete his assignment. 

Daniel made his way unseen in the darkness to the crawlway just beyond his VIP suite, beginning the long series of vertical climbs to the surface.  He knew his lord would succeed.  He would see to it, intending to perform exceptionally, eventually giving his life before Earth's destruction began.

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Driven from Daniel’s VIP suite, Jack walked aimlessly down the dimly lit corridor as pain assuaged him from all directions.  

Confusion.  His mind twisted and entwined into a confusing mass.  Even his thoughts weren’t his own.  They belonged to his lord…no, the demon Nephthys.

Waging an internal battle for control and blinded by the shear agony of the sensations welling within him, Jack ducked into a nearby storage room trying to regain his composure.  As the door closed behind him, he cried out in pain, sliding down the wall to rest on the floor beneath him.  Searing pain burned his brain and radiated outward through his nerve endings as he cradled his head in his hands.

He'd fought this once already back on the planet, finally overcoming the mind control which pushed him to kill his best friend.  And now, with normal body functions and blood work once again, he didn’t understand why this still tormented him.  Yet somehow he believed Nephthys continued to author this demented mind game.

Why else would he be facing this horrible pain again?  Daniel, his best friend, team mate, soul of SG-1…martyr for the devil…

No!  He suddenly remembered her plan and he couldn’t let Daniel go through with it.  He wouldn't let his friend destroy Earth or sacrifice himself for some Goa'uld bitch!  

He had to fight, had to regain control, push the evilness pummeling his mind deep into his subconscious and keep it there, forever in darkness.  The real Jack needed to resurface into the light so he could pull his friend to safety.  

Despite the incredible pain he remained focused on Daniel, vowing to deliver him from eternal damnation, even if it cost both of them their lives.  With a determination he didn’t realize he possessed, Jack extinguished the pain as it rallied once again, then finally succumbed to his body's overwhelming need for sleep.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Several hours later, a sound in the hallway awakened him.  Instantly he jolted to full awareness, his pain now manageable, and cautiously cracked the door open to peer outside for the source of the noise.

Daniel, damnit.

Daniel limped down the corridor carrying the instrument of Earth's destruction in his hands.  The one Jack had retrieved and delivered to him.

All his years of black ops training returned and he quietly followed his friend.  

As Daniel entered the first crawlway leading to the surface, Jack implemented his tactical plan to intercept him.  

He wouldn't risk sending in security teams.  Spooked, Daniel could detonate the bomb at a moment's notice, blowing them all to oblivion.  And Jack didn't want anyone getting to Daniel before he did.  He simply couldn't live with the consequences if someone else shot his friend.  

Still, a real possibility existed that someone would have to eliminate the threat.  Jack knew the only solution to a stalemate situation would be to kill Daniel.  And as much as he despised that worse case scenario, he'd prefer Daniel be relieved of his torment at the hands of his best friend.

Jack waited until Daniel entered the shaft and closed the door behind him.  None of the shafts went straight to the surface.  Daniel would have to exit several levels up and move into another shaft to continue his ascent.  

Jack would be waiting for him there.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

After exiting the elevator Jack hid in the darkened hallway, waiting for him.  

He had the blue crystal, but Jack knew he wouldn't use it.  That cocky, Goa’uld arrogance would eventually be their undoing and right now, Daniel’s mind mirrored theirs.  The man would believe himself a god, invincible, not needing to use a crutch like invisibility to elude the simple humans.

Jack's visions of Daniel with the glowing eyes weren't too far off, he mused sadly.  His friend didn't have a snake in his head but he just as well may, for his demented thoughts and actions emulated those of the Goa'uld.  

Jack prayed he would see the true Daniel again even as he feared the worst for his friend.  He feared he would lose him forever to the demon.

His plan was simple.  An extensive ladder system existed hidden throughout the walls of the SGC.  From the VIP suite level, Daniel had to climb four levels up, step to another cage ladder and ascend four more levels.  He never had to leave the concealed space.  He just needed to step off one ladder onto the adjacent platform where a subsequent ladder would be waiting within the walls.

Jack decided not to chase his friend through the ladder system if possible, fearing significant injuries and possible detonation of the bomb should Daniel fall.

On Level 6, however, the man actually had to exit into the hallway.  That particular crawl space dead ended at the base of the massive air filtering system supplying the mountain with purified, recycled breathing air.  Daniel had to traverse the open corridor for about twenty-five feet to get to the next access way.  

That's when Jack would make his move. 

Cowering in the shadows, weaponless, Jack waited for what was left of his friend to exit the first shaft.  He knew Daniel would have trouble climbing the cage ladder with his injured ankle and badly bruised hands.  The same hands he used to defend himself against Jack’s ruthless attacks.  So he planned to wait for a while.

He listened for any sign of Daniel approaching this level, silently cursing himself for not grabbing a zat gun earlier.  But he couldn’t waste the time.  He only had one chance at this.

He still suffered severe mental and physical distress whenever he disobeyed Nephthys' will.  And her evil voice continuously assaulted his mind.  Although he didn’t lie to Janet Fraiser when he told her the Goa’uld no longer controlled him, neither had he confessed about the torment he experienced for refusing to comply.  He would fight again now, raging against his pain, to save Daniel; his friend deserved no less.

Startled from his thoughts, Jack heard a soft clanking sound near the crawlway as Daniel approached this level.  He slipped further into the shadows, watching anxiously as the access door slowly creaked open and Daniel stepped out.  

As he looked at Daniel's eyes, those windows to his soul, Jack feared what he saw…pure evil.  Those normally vibrant, shining blue eyes were now dull and lifeless as they reflected the evil wants of a demon.

He waited until Daniel was equal distance between the two crawlway entries before stepping out into view.

"Daniel.  What'cha doing?" Jack asked in an innocent voice, approaching his friend with his palms facing upward in a non-threatening fashion.  

His military mind had already calculated the possible impending scenarios;

1.  Daniel would surrender quietly…not very likely,

2.  Daniel would run to the next shaft and Jack would have to tackle him or continue the chase in the crawlway…not very desirable,

3.  Daniel would detonate the device here, failing his assignment but destroying the SGC, or

4.  Daniel would choose to fight Jack and, unfortunately, Daniel had all the weapons. Jack really was hoping for the first scenario.

"Jack!  Get out of my way," Daniel said with barely controlled anger.

"Can't do that, Daniel.  I need to take you to the infirmary.  You're sick," Jack winced against his inward pain but maintained an outwardly calm appearance.  

He took a small non-threatening step towards Daniel.

"You're not going to stop me, Jack," Daniel spoke in a deep voice.  "Move out of my way."

"Nope.  I don't want to hurt you, Daniel.  You need help," Jack took another step forward, carefully monitoring Daniel’s hand moving every so slightly towards his belt, towards the guns.

Daniel chuckled slyly, "No, I don't think so."

Suddenly, Daniel grabbed his zat gun.  Jack countered using his foot to kick the weapon from his teammate’s hand.  Daniel winced at the impact and the zat went flying down the hallway out of their immediate reach.

Without losing a beat, Daniel brought the pistol to aim directly at his commander’s face.  Jack lunged at his lower legs, throwing him off balance, and he crashed down on top of Jack.  The pistol dislodged enough to fall to the floor a scant few feet away. 

Both men scrambled to retrieve the weapon.  Jack desperately held Daniel back but the younger man's long fingers reached towards the gun, lightly grazing the shaft.  

If Daniel got to the gun, the Goa'uld would win.  He would kill his best friend in cold blood shortly before ending his own life.  Jack couldn’t allow that to happen.  Unable to reach the weapon with his hands, he did the next best thing.  He gave the weapon a swift kick, hard enough to send it sliding down the corridor in the opposite direction from the zat gun.

With an angry roar, Daniel leaped to his feet, running headlong to snag the weapon first.  The shear madness of his friend’s action drove Jack to unleash his fury…his fury at the Goa'uld for turning Daniel into this monster. 

Jack slammed him against the wall catching his flailing arms.  Caught by surprise, Jack wailed as Daniel shoved a knee hard between Jack's legs.  


Daniel broke away, charging at a dead run for the next access door.  

So, Jack mused as sweat fell from his brow, scenarios #2 and #4.  Groaning in misery, Jack regained his feet and chased Daniel into the next shaft.  

Neither man noticed the small silver object that rolled quietly across the floor to rest by a concrete column.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jack entered the dark passageway cautiously.  

Looking upward, he saw Daniel climbing the ladder as quickly as he could, his injured ankle causing him to slip from the rungs several times.  Yet, he continued climbing like a madman.  

Jack knew he wouldn’t be able to reach him.  Daniel was already outside his grasp and gaining distance.

"Hey, Daniel, wait up!" Jack received no answer, nor did he expect one.

Daniel tried to judge how much further he needed to climb.  He'd traveled about twenty feet upward through this shaft with another forty or so to go.  

The exit to the surface was inside the SGC's perimeter and he knew it would be monitored by video camera but once he opened the door, it wouldn't matter anyway.  He'd detonate the weapon, achieving his goal.  

He saw light filtering in at the top of the shaft, seeping in through the manhole cover, and realized that daybreak was upon them.  Single-mindedly, he drove himself towards it, knowing he had to reach it in time and please his lord Nephthys.

Then it happened.  Daniel's battered ankle gave way with enough force to throw his body off balance.  His hands slipped from the rungs.

Jack heard the clanging sound above him and looked up in time to see his archeologist hurtling downward towards him.  Shit.  He reached out with one hand, hoping to slow Daniel's descent.  He received a kick in the head for his trouble as Daniel descended but it was worth it.  He couldn't let Danny die or inadvertently activate the bomb.

He caught the fabric of Daniel's clothing at his waist and pulled him close, holding onto his friend even as the force of his weight threatened to pull them both off.  He pulled him onto the ladder, both men sharing the same rungs.   


Jack never expected what happened next.

Daniel produced the small knife Jack had given him earlier.  With a wild, desperate expression on his face, he thrust it into Jack's side.

"God, Daniel, why?" Jack gasped as he lost his grip on the ladder.

Determined, Jack made his final command decision.  If he couldn't stop Daniel, then they'd both go down together.

As Jack fell, he gripped Daniel's injured ankle as tightly as possible, sending the man into a blinding pain and dislodging him from the ladder.

Both men plummeted down the darkened space, landing hard on the bottom, their body parts entangled in a heap.

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[Chapter 10]  - Pretty Flowers


Something heavy was pressing down on his chest.  

He couldn't quite make out the sensation but he knew it hurt a hell of a lot.  Struggling and failing to open his eyes, Jack relied on his remaining four senses to decipher his situation.

Sense of touch…yeah, unfortunately that one was working overtime.  He felt a heavy weight on top of him, a hard, cold surface beneath him, and a burning pain in his side.  Oh, and his head was throbbing.

Sense of smell…well, he didn’t have much to go on there.  He smelled a musty odor, perhaps sweat, mingled with a more metallic scent.  He recognized that one…it was blood, although whose at this point was uncertain.

Sense of taste…oh, there was the blood.  It must be his after all.

Sense of sound…steady breathing, that was a good thing, right?  And it wasn’t just his own breathing, but someone else's as well.  But why did it sound so close?  Oh, yeah, back to the heavy thing on top of him.  Must be a body, but whose?  

Sense of sight…okay, he could do this one.  He tried to open his eyes again, successfully this time.  Oh, crap.  Now he remembered.  

Daniel.

"Daniel," Jack urged the other man towards consciousness.  He needed Daniel to get off of him; he couldn’t take the added weight on his body much longer.  

Frantically, Jack reached a hand out to shake him.

The other man moaned and slowly opened his eyes, "Jack?  What…what happened?"

"I'd love to tell you but you've got to give me some air here," Jack wheezed.

Seeing the puzzled look on Daniel's face, Jack clarified, "Get off me, Daniel!"

"Oh.  Okay." The younger man shifted his weight to sit beside Jack in the tight enclosure.

"Oh, God!  I don't think I can move, Daniel.  Are you okay?" Jack said hesitantly.

Briefly, he saw the shine return to his friend’s eyes but Jack feared they would turn dull again at any moment.  And there wasn't a whole hell of a lot he could do about it in his current condition.

"I think so.  I grabbed at the rungs when I fell.  That must've slowed us down.”  He grinned slightly at his next words, “I landed on something soft."

Daniel couldn’t see well in the low lighting so he began feeling around to assess their injuries.  Feeling a sticky puddle next to Jack, his mind suddenly filled with recent images.  He tried to escape, running away from Jack, while Nephthys haunted his mind.

He fell and Jack caught him.  He remembered driving the knife into Jack's side…

"Oh, God, Jack!  I stabbed you!" Daniel continued feeling around the floor, frantically searching for something.

"Yeah Daniel, you did.  But it wasn't your fault.  Now, open the door and go get help, okay?" Jack spoke softly.

He noticed Daniel's movements and knew what he was searching for.  He couldn't let him find it.  Desperate, Jack joined in the hunt, hoping to retrieve it first.

As Daniel's hand contacted the knife, the demon in him surged to the forefront.  He raised the knife above Jack's chest, determined to complete what he'd started.

"Daniel, don't!  You don't want to kill me, Daniel.  Put the knife down," Jack spoke calmly, hoping to reach his friend and not the demon that now presented itself.

Jack repositioned himself so he could look directly into Daniel's eyes, those wild orbs terrifying in their intensity.  As the knife came down, he closed his eyes, unable to bear seeing those dull eyes as the demon delivered the fatal blow.

Holding his breath, Jack waited for the inevitable pain…and waited…and waited.  

With his eyes still closed, he felt something wet splash his cheek.  Slowly, he opened one eye.  His friend’s overt struggle against the Goa’uld was difficult to watch, yet he couldn’t tear his eyes away.  Tears streamed down Daniel’s face to fall in small puddles on his own.

A mixture of emotions crossed Daniel's face as he waged an internal war against the evil before finally turning the knife towards himself. 

Mustering every ounce of strength he had left, Jack lunged forward, crying out his own pain as he grabbed Daniel's wrist and pressed against the tendon, forcing his hand to open and the knife to spill to the floor.  Even as Jack heard the sobs begin, he retrieved the knife and placed it under his body in case Daniel lost his fight.

Daniel sat poised over him, staring at the blood on his hands.

"Oh, Jack.  I tried to kill you!  What…" Daniel stopped abruptly, moaning, as pain from failing his lord assuaged his mind and body.

"Daniel, listen to me!  You have to fight this.  It's Nephthys!  Don't let her win, Daniel!"

"It hurts, Jack.  She wants me to kill you but I can't… I won't!"

Jack slid up against the wall and wrapped his arm around Daniel, offering comfort.  He also tried discretely to locate the bomb in Daniel's pockets but it wasn’t anywhere to be found.

As the adrenaline rush disappeared, Jack felt a burning pain in his side.  He feared he might lose consciousness but he fought to stay awake.  Their situation was still very volatile.

"You can do this, Daniel," he said, comforting his best friend while a torrent of tears fell on his shoulder.  Some of them were Daniel's.

They stayed that way for several long moments until the emotional tide subsided and they could talk.

"I'm so sorry, Jack." Daniel said, his eyes downcast, his body trembling.

"For what?"

Cupping a hand beneath Daniel's chin, Jack gently tilted his face upward.  He needed to see those blue eyes, needed to know his friend was truly back.  Those eyes were bright with pain but they were the eyes of his friend.  Daniel continued to struggle against Nephthys' control but it appeared he was finally winning.

"Well, for everything, you know, stabbing you and all."

"Nothing to apologize for Daniel.  Not your fault,” Jack spoke softly.  “How're you doing?"

"It hurts.  I still have these desires that aren't mine.  I don't know if I can continue to fight them," Daniel grimaced.

"Yes, you can, you have to,” Jack saw darkness overtaking his vision.  He wouldn't remain conscious much longer.  “Now…and I've got to trust you here… open the door and sound the nearest alarm.  I think we need some help," he finished.

"Okay, Jack." As Daniel stood to leave, he paused, "Jack, I don't have it anymore."

"Don't have what?" Jack already knew the answer.

"The bomb.  I don't know where it is.  It's not on the floor around us."

"Damn," he cursed. 

So Daniel had still been looking for the device.  And what if he'd found it?  Would he attempt to complete Nephthys' assignment?

"Yeah.  I think that's a good thing, Jack.  I'm not really sure how I'd react if I found it."

"I know.  Go.  Get us some help," Jack trusted him.

Daniel nodded and left the crawl space and Jack behind.  

As he entered the corridor, he saw the cleaning personnel sweeping.  It must be morning.  He slapped the red button that would bring security guards and help their way.

Then he returned to Jack, needing the man as his anchor to himself…his real self.

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When Daniel returned, he left the door open so light could filter in.  

And what he saw horrified him.  Blood pooled beneath Jack and smeared the wall where they’d leaned.  It was bad.  He was glad Jack had finally lost consciousness.

He vaguely heard the horns in the background.  

He felt an incredible urge to take action, entertaining the idea of escape.  Without the bomb he couldn't complete his assignment, but he could end his suffering.  He could comply with his lord Nephthys' final desire.  

He could kill himself.

He decided to leave before security reached them.  Listening for their approach, all he heard was Jack's raspy breaths.  Again, he felt conflicted about his concern for his best friend and his desire to flee.  In excruciating pain, his body made the decision for him and he joined his friend in the darkness of unconsciousness.

He never heard the security and medical teams that escorted them to the relative safety of the infirmary.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jack woke up alone in the infirmary. 

Next to his bedside he saw an IV bag filled with a red liquid, probably blood.  And another bag with clear solution hanging near it was probably Janet's concoction of antibiotics and who knows what else.  

He quickly scanned the room for any signs of his teammate and found the emptiness disconcerting.  He frantically pushed the "call" button several times, summoning both a nurse and an irritated-looking Dr. Fraiser.

"Calm down, Colonel.  You're fine and recovering in the infirmary," she said off-handedly as she began her routine patient checks.

"How…,” he swallowed and tried again.  “How long?" he asked, finding it difficult to speak with his mouth gritty from lack of water.

"How long what?  How long have you been here?" Janet signaled the nurse to bring some ice chips.  

At Jack's nod, she continued, "One hour in surgery to repair the damage, another hour in recovery.  And you've been back in the infirmary now for," Janet pushed the sleeve on her left arm up so she could look at her watch, "about three hours.  

“And before you ask, Colonel, I'll release you as soon as this blood bag is empty and you've had a meal.  You were quite lucky.  An inch lower and the knife would've penetrated your liver.  An inch higher and you'd be breathing through a tube.  As it was, there was no organ damage and, other than being light headed from blood loss, you should be back to your old *congenial* self pretty quickly," Janet grinned.  "What happened anyway?"

"It doesn't matter.  Where's Daniel?" Jack questioned harshly, concerned at his teammate’s apparent absence.

"Don't worry, he's fine sir.  His arms had several superficial scrapes and abrasions.  We bandaged them and released him about an hour after we found you." Janet turned to leave the room.

"No, he’s not okay,” he said, obviously agitated.  “Janet, he's possessed," he started, but his face scrunched up in pain at his words. 

Shoving the sheets off his body, he sat up, not caring he was rather exposed in the standard issue hospital gown that never seemed to have enough material to cover his backside.

"Wait a minute, Colonel.  Slow down.  What are you saying?" she placed her hand on Jack's shoulder to hold him down.

"Janet, he's under Goa'uld mind control,” he said angrily, frustrated at having to explain his concern.  They didn’t have time for this. 

"Colonel, you're delirious from the anesthetic.  Please lie back down and relax,” she replied, keeping her tone soft.  “Daniel checked out fine after your return, remember?  He never was under their control." Janet shook her head at the guard who stepped into the room at the commotion, waving him back.

"No, you're wrong.  It's a different kind of control.  He tried to destroy earth,” Jack looked into her eyes, willing her to understand.  “I stopped him this time but, believe me, he is far from okay.  I'm afraid he'll attempt to…to…," Jack won his struggle against the doctor’s arm and sat up with a grunt, motioning the nurse to help him.

“Oh, screw it!  I need to speak with Hammond , NOW!" Jack barked, easily stepping into his commander mode, expecting his orders to be followed.

"Okay, sir.  I'll get the general to come to the infirmary," she acquiesced.  Once Colonel O'Neill began delivering commands she’d already lost the battle.  

She wondered how Daniel could stand up to the colonel when no one else could. Perhaps he allowed the insubordination from Daniel because he was a civilian.  Or, perhaps he allowed it because he knew Daniel was usually right.

"And find out if Daniel is still on base!" Jack managed to stand beside his bed as the blood bag finally emptied itself.  The nurse rapidly removed the IV line before he pulled it out himself.

"He's not, sir.  I sent him home to rest." Janet moved to the nearest phone to summon General Hammond.

"Shit!  Get Carter and Teal'c here ASAP." Jack turned to the nurse again, grasping the gown behind his back, "And get me some damn clothes!"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jack paced anxiously beside his infirmary bed.  He already explained the situation to Hammond, Carter, Teal'c, and Fraiser and was tiring of answering their questions.

Everything was clearer now as events from his capture fell into place.  He remembered what had happened to them, how Nephthys chose different methods to control him and Daniel.  He remembered his weakness in her presence.  He remembered the torture. 

He remembered Daniel’s screams…

"So, let me get this straight," General Hammond summarized.  "Nephthys brainwashed Dr. Jackson rather than giving him drugs so we wouldn't find the evidence in his system?  Then, Dr. Jackson brought a weapon through the gate and we have no idea where it is?"

"Yes, sir.  And now that Daniel has failed his assignment, he will try to…,” Jack paused trying to find words, “…he was programmed to kill himself after his mission, Sir."

Jack slammed his fist into the bed pillow using it as a punching bag.  The thought of Daniel laying dead somewhere was almost his undoing.

"And are you still affected as well, Colonel?" the general asked, ignoring the colonel’s actions.

"I don't know…I think so.  But I fought it back on that damn planet to keep from killing Daniel.  I think that has helped me to understand and overcome the urges now," he spoke confidently, although his expression masked his true feelings.  

He felt the push in his mind even now from refusing to follow the Goa'uld's wishes, but he knew he could control it.  He had to for Daniel’s sake.

"Look, we're wasting time here.  Time that Daniel doesn't have!"

"Now calm down Jack.  I’ve got teams scouring the base to locate the bomb and find Dr. Jackson as we speak.  We've checked the logs and he never left," he spoke calmly.

"That's fine, sir, but I have to be the one who finds him.  Otherwise, he may not hesitate to pull the trigger."

"Are you saying he'd be willing to kill to escape?"

"Yes, sir, if by escape you mean to the after life.  Daniel will kill himself.  He's already tried once with the knife, after he, um," Jack waved his hands over his own wound, not wanting to say the words.

"How do I know *you* aren't still compromised, Colonel?  I can't allow you to leave this room."

"Teal'c can come with, keep an eye on me while I talk to Daniel," he bargained.  ‘If there’s still anyone left to talk to,’ Jack mused to himself.

The general silently considered the colonel’s request but didn’t grant his approval just yet.

"Sir, I'd like to contact my dad and Safdar.  They indicated the substance Daniel used on the System Lord Yu might counteract whatever Nephthys has done," Sam added.

"I still have a small amount locked up in the lab, but I’m reluctant to use it on Daniel,” Janet contributed.  “We're not sure what the side effects might be."

"Like hell we're not!" Jack started to lose his patience.  "I've already been exposed to that stuff and so have you.  It didn't cause us any problems other than affecting our, uh…minds," he said sheepishly, realizing his argument just lost credibility.

Jack turned to his team’s scientist, "Why would they think that stuff could help anyway?"

"Daniel gave it to Yu,” she shook her head.  “…the System Lord...and he voted against reinstating Anubis.  All the others accepted him which doesn’t make sense based on his history with them.  Dad thinks Nephthys subjected them all to her powers but somehow the chemical prevented Yu from being influenced," Sam explained.

"That's good enough for me.  It’s worth a try anyway," Jack looked at General Hammond.  "Sir, I request permission to search for Daniel."



"I’ll grant permission as long as you take Teal'c with you," the general said. 

Jack nodded and immediately headed out the door with General Hammond yelling after him, "Take a zat gun and a tranquilizer with you!  You may need them!"

"Yes, sir!" Jack shouted back, already partly down the hallway.  At the command, he quickly spun on his heel, changing his direction to head towards the pharmacy, with Teal'c and Dr. Fraiser following closely.

Sam saluted the general as she left to contact the Tok'ra.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jack knew exactly where his archeologist would be.  

Daniel often sought the solace offered by the store room on Level 10 in which they kept the off-world artifacts until they were catalogued and forwarded either to Daniel's civilian archeological team on base or to Area 52.  

He knew Daniel always lost a little part of himself whenever they shipped his ‘rocks’ to the NID.  So his friend spent many hours here committing each find to memory, tucking their secrets away to be recalled at the most critical moments.  

Daniel’s photographic memory had saved their asses many times although Jack would never tell him so.

As they rounded the corner, Jack signaled Teal'c to wait outside.  He cautiously proceeded into the darkened room.  Briefly, a memory of a similar time he’d found a deranged Daniel in a storage room crossed his mind and he shuddered.  That time was bad…but this time was worse.

Jack paused as his eyes adjusted.  He scanned the room, praying he wasn't too late to save his friend.

He carried his zat gun in his hand as he carefully looked around.  He didn’t see his friend anywhere.  Perhaps he'd been wrong about where Daniel would retreat.  Then he heard a quiet sound from the back wall and there he spotted the man curled up in a ball, obviously in distress.

Dropping immediately to his knees beside Daniel, Jack said gently, "Daniel, it's me."  

The futility in Daniel’s face tore him apart, his eyes so vacant and lost.  He couldn’t even tell if his friend realized he was there.  Then Jack heard the soft murmurs, repeated over and over.

"Failed my lord.  I'm sorry, worthless.  Have to die.  I know, I have to die," Daniel said, his tone distraught. 

The words continued and Jack didn't know what to say, didn’t know how to reach him. 

Just then, Daniel cried out in obvious pain.  Watching in horror, Jack saw his friend extract a needle from his thigh.  He hadn’t seen it coming…why hadn’t he seen it coming?

As he pulled Daniel into his arms, he grabbed the empty syringe, calling desperately for Teal'c’s help.  The Jaffa immediately came to his aid.

"Teal'c, take this to Fraiser.  I'm not sure what it is but Daniel just pushed a whole hell of a lot of it into his leg!" Jack's voice trembled slightly.

"I will summon help to this location," Teal’c stated as he took the syringe from Jack, bowing his head slightly.

"Damnit, Daniel!  What did you do?" Jack shook Daniel lightly, trying to get his eyes to focus.

"Had to do it, Jack.  Too much pain, too many desires.  Still want to kill you." Daniel seemed far away, his voice weak and emotionless.

"That's not you, Danny!  You wouldn't…" Jack started.  

"Her will is strong.  Didn't know if I could hold out much longer.  Had to hold on until you got here.  Knew you would save me," Daniel sounded calm and relaxed, as though he’d accepted his fate.  

And that thought terrified Jack.

"God, Daniel!  Stay with me!  What did you give yourself?" Jack pulled his teammate close but only silence answered him as Daniel slipped into unconsciousness.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nephthys successfully brainwashed Osiris into believing the System Lords caused her exile on Earth in the canopic jar so many years ago when actually, she and her husband, Seth, orchestrated the plan to banish Osiris and Isis to that everlasting fate.  

Now, she used Osiris to do her bidding with the System Lords.  They would never debase themselves by dealing a lowly Limvris.  And Osiris ignorantly played her game, never realizing the true danger in which she would find herself.  

After the summit, Osiris contacted Ba’al and Bastet privately requesting a meeting.  Following Nephthys’ will, she lied to them, claiming the traitorous Anubis had intentionally spared the Tau'ri to spark their anger.  As part of the plan, Osiris claimed Earth’s destruction as her own doing, following through with the task Anubis failed to accomplish.  

Nephthys, sure her plan would succeed, told the remaining Limvris she destroyed the Tau'ri and advised them to move against the System Lords.  She would use their war as the diversion to cover her true intentions…

And thus, the trap was set, and to the victor, Nephthys, the spoils.

She never anticipated the Ha'tak that silently made its way towards Heliopolis .

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jack performed CPR on Daniel for the second time in less than a week as the medical team arrived.

"Colonel O'Neill, let us take over," Dr. Fraiser gently pushed Jack aside as she gave orders to the technicians to administer drugs and start an IV line on Daniel.

Jack reluctantly complied, "Doc, he stopped breathing almost as soon as he injected that stuff."

"I can imagine," Janet responded but she focused her attention on her patient.  "I need to tube him!  Get him on the gurney, stat!"

After some scrambling, the medical team placed Daniel gently on the gurney and Dr. Fraiser began to intubate him.

"I need Cricoid pressure," Dr. Fraiser said as the technician moved to the patient's neck, putting pressure in the right location to aid the doctor in inserting the tube.

"Got it!  Now, bag him," she barked the orders and her staff complied. "Okay, that's good.  Sats look better.  Let's get him to the infirmary."

The team pushed the gurney down the corridor but Janet stayed back to talk with Jack.

"He'll be all right, Colonel.  One of the nurses noticed a vial of morphine had disappeared.  She didn't report it at first, thinking she had just misplaced it.  When Teal'c showed up with the empty syringe, the nurse put two and two together.  We ran a quick test to confirm the syringe contained morphine,” she paused briefly and placed her hand on Jack’s shoulder.  “I gave Daniel Narcan which is an antidote.  It should work pretty quickly but he'll still be spending several days in my care."

"He passed out almost immediately after injecting it,” Jack limped alongside her, guarding his injured side.  “He wasn't breathing."

Janet nodded her head, "That amount of morphine can cause immediate respiratory arrest and death if not treated quickly.  I have to put him on a respirator until the antidote can get into his system.  He's very lucky you were there.  If he'd been alone…," she paused contemplatively.

Jack lowered his eyes as they continued to the infirmary, thinking aloud, "He said he knew I would save him.  That he waited until I was there,” they continued in silence for a bit.

“You know, I didn't understand him at the time but I think I do now."

"He didn't want to die," Janet finished the thought.  "Daniel's still in there somewhere.  He'll make it."

"I hope so, Janet.  I really hope so," Jack breathed a cautious sigh of relief for the first time in several days.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jack, Sam, and Teal’c gathered outside the base ICU waiting for word regarding their friend.  

A young airman approached quietly to tell them General Hammond wanted to see them in the briefing room immediately.  With an exasperated sigh, the weary team followed the man down the corridor.

Upon entering the briefing room, Sam smiled at her dad and Safdar waiting for them with news of the Re'ol chemical compound.  

"We think it works on the brain receptors that control short term memory.  Frequent exposure to the chemical is necessary to maintain the illusion of being someone else.  Like the Re'ol used it on SG-1 and Dr. Jackson used it on Yu and Osiris.  The illusion is broken after the contact is lost,” Safdar began.

“Nephthys may have used these same receptors to control her victims.  We think the chemical simply erases the memory of her, thereby counteracting her control," Jacob Carter concluded.

"But you're not sure are you?" Sam could read her dad better than anyone else.

"No,” Jacob shrugged, “but we don't think it can hurt."

"You don't think it can hurt?" Dr. Fraiser jumped in.  Turning to address General Hammond, she added, "Sir, it hasn't been tested for this purpose…or any other purpose actually.  It might cause long term damage.  I don’t…"

"Use it on me," Jack interrupted.  "I still fight Nephthys' thoughts constantly and I’d really like to get that bitch out of my head!"  Jack looked at the general and added sheepishly, "Sir."

General Hammond carefully considered the risks as all eyes trained on him.  

After an extended silence, he finally responded, "Okay under one condition."  He looked from O'Neill to Fraiser and back again.  "I want Colonel O'Neill to remain in the infirmary for at least 24 hours after administration of the drug to ensure that there are no harmful side effects."

"Ah, but sir," Jack prepared to launch a protest.

General Hammond raised his finger to Jack, "No discussion.  That’s my order.  Dismissed."

He left the room followed by the Tok'ra.

A small smile tugged at Sam's eyes as she noticed Jack's open mouth and puzzled expression.

"Did he just slap me?"

"Yes, sir, I think so."

Janet and Sam left the room giggling.  Teal’c failed to stifle a very small grin as he walked beside them.

Jack followed slowly, shaking his head, "Well, I guess Dad just grounded me.  No television, no leaving the house,” he joked, feeling the tension leave him. 

Daniel’s body was safe, his mind would recover, and Jack would have a chance to rebuild the trust between them that the snakehead had tried, and almost succeeded, to tear apart.

“Wonder if I can sneak out the upstairs window after dark…," Jack quipped.

Sam looked back at him, smiling, "I think Mom's going to lock the doors and windows from the outside tonight."

"Damn right!" Janet laughed as they continued down the corridor to the infirmary.

"Doh!" Jack exclaimed in his best Homer Simpson impersonation.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jack O'Neill found himself in the infirmary once again, not pacing this time.  Instead, he sat in bed, happily annoying the hell out of everyone.

General Hammond may have ordered him to stay here but that didn't mean he had to enjoy it.  Actually, it didn't mean anyone had to enjoy it and Jack portrayed his normal obnoxious patient persona amplified twenty times.  

Dr. Fraiser wished she hadn’t agreed with the general on Jack's incarceration.

"Colonel O'Neill, if you don't stop harassing my nurses, I'll have to put you in isolation!" Janet used her best "no nonsense" tone of voice.

"Aw, Mom, can't I have any fun?" Jack felt the air turn icy from her cold glare.

General Hammond strolled into the room and Janet immediately answered his unasked question in an exasperated tone, "The Re'ol substance worked perfectly, General.  Colonel O'Neill is back to his normal, albeit it testy, self with no apparent side effects."

Jack displayed his best 'Who me?' expression.

"Good," the general chastised Jack with a look.  "And Dr. Jackson?"

"We gave him the drug about an hour ago, just after I removed his breathing tube.  He's still a bit groggy from the morphine but I think he'll make a full recovery,” she delivered her report matter-of-factly.  Smiling, she added, “He was lucky, sir."

Looking at his archeologist in the adjacent bed, Jack felt compelled to comment, "And you wouldn't believe the mouth on that man!  Geez, and she calls me 'testy'!" Jack finished with a shrug.

"You are, Jack!" the man in the next bed complained.  "And if you hadn't been giving a 'play by play' of the nurse removing that catheter, I wouldn't have had to say those words!  I mean really Jack…'and it's outta there'?"

"Well, I can't watch 'real' sports in here.  The least you can do is humor my need for entertainment!" Jack pouted good-naturedly.

"Do I look like a television to you?  And the next time you yell 'score!' it better not be because I'm using a bedpan!" Daniel shook his head and rolled his eyes at his roommate.

"Hey, I'm just happy you hit it!  You know, I've seen your bathroom floor!" Jack made a disgusted face at that thought.

"Oh, for crying out loud, Jack!  You are so vulgar sometimes," Daniel griped, punctuating the words with hand movements.

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

Both men turned away from each other like spoiled children.

"Guess we'd better get 'outta here'!" Sam chuckled as she completed the quotations in the air.

"Yeah, while the 'score' is still tied!" Janet added.  The room suddenly emptied except for the two friends in the infirmary beds.

Both men turned back to look at each other, neither wishing to break the reverie of their companionable silence.  

Finally, a quiet voice spoke out, just loud enough for the person in the next bed to hear. 

"Glad you're back, Daniel.  I missed you."

"I missed you, too, Jack.  Oh and Jack?"

"Hmmm?"

"Thanks for getting there in time."

"Yeah sure you betcha," Jack delivered the infamous O’Neill-ism in a very caring tone, understanding exactly what his friend meant. 

"Snook 'ems," Jack completed the sentence with a wink.

His best friend shook his head affectionately and turned to admire the pretty flowers next to his bedside.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Miles away from Stargate Command a small silver sphere lay, tagged and catalogued, in the bottom of a file cabinet located down a long, dark corridor, amidst several hundred identical cabinets.



~The End~

or is it just

~The Beginning~

?



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TheOneRing


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