In Harm's Way
Summary: SG-1’s investigation of the planet identified by Blair and Daniel goes horribly wrong. Part of A New Direction series; continues on from Rumors and Legends; crossover with Stargate SG-1.
Author’s Note: Un-beta’d as usual. Warning: Once again, if you like Naomi, you might want to give this one a miss…. Words in brackets [..] indicate speech in Goa’uld.
Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, Simon, et al, and The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, UPN, and Paramount. Jack and the gang belong to MGM, and the other Stargate Powers That Be. No copyright infringement is intended.
Exchanging their usual good-natured banter, SG-1 entered their locker room after having enjoyed an early breakfast together in the canteen.
“So, it’s a desert planet, right? No trees?” O’Neill asked Carter hopefully as he opened his locker.
“Sorry, Sir, looks more like a rainforest. The MALP shows trees – lots and lots of trees,” Carter told him with a grin.
“Darn it! Why does it always have to be trees?” O’Neill moaned as he pulled his uniform from the locker, his standard complaint eliciting the usual snorts of amusement from the rest of the team.
“Hey, Sam?” Jim stood unmoving in front of his locker, staring at the hook where his mission dog tags usually hung when he was not offworld.
“Yes, Sir?” Carter came over to stand beside the tall Sentinel.
“You didn’t take my tags to do some work on them or something, did you?”
“What? No, Sir. And I wouldn’t do that anyway without checking with you first,” Carter told him, eyes wide with surprise that the tags were missing.
“I know you put them back there after the last mission, Jim,” Blair stated with conviction. He was always incredibly relieved when Jim swapped the explosive-rigged dog tags for his normal ones once they came back from their offworld missions, and it was something that he always checked on.
“And I saw them there last night when we were getting changed to go home,” O’Neill added, frowning.
“Looks like the locker’s been searched, too,” Jim noted softly. “Nothing else seems to be missing, but everything’s been moved around a bit.”
“Same with mine!” Blair exclaimed, having looked more closely at his own locker.
A quick check showed that only Jim and Blair’s lockers had been tampered with.
“Only one set of pints – probably mine from when I opened it a few minutes ago,” Jim said after carefully examining the locker doors. “Same with Blair’s. They’ve been wiped clean sometime between when we left last night and when we got here this morning.”
“What else can you pick up, Big Guy?” Blair asked, one hand resting lightly on the small of Jim’s back to ground him while he used his senses.
Leaning forward, Jim sniffed almost delicately at his locker, then moved over to do the same to Blair’s. “Aftershave. It’s kind of distinctive – I’d know it if I smelled it again.”
“Can you tell which one it is?” Blair prompted gently as the others watched, fascinated as always when witnessing the Sentinel and Guide at work.
Closing his eyes, Jim ran through the many aftershave scents he had catalogued over the years.
“Um, expensive. Not something you’d generally expect on a military base.” Jim’s eyes opened suddenly, a triumphant gleam in them as he identified the scent. “Chanel Antaeus.”
“Good one, JJ, Blair,” O’Neill filed the information away for when it might be needed.
Naomi Sandburg’s eyes narrowed with suspicion as she studied the man who’d asked to meet her at the small cafe near the retreat where she was currently staying. The note she’d received had said that it had something to do with Blair. “Who are you? What do you want with me?”
“You can just call me Frank, Ms Sandburg,” the man smiled easily. “And what I want will help you with what you want.”
“What I want? What would you know about what I want?” Naomi asked haughtily.
“I know that you want to get your son away from Colonel Ellison’s influence. And what I want is to know everything you can tell me about Colonel Ellison,” Colonel Frank Simmons took a sip of his coffee.
“And how will that help me to get Blair back, Frank?” Naomi wanted to know.
“You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours, Naomi. I have friends who would be able to help you deprogram your son. It’s more than obvious that Ellison has done something to him, influenced him in some way, for him to throw away the ideals that you taught him and make him work for the military. And I have a score to settle with Ellison,” Simmons lied without batting an eyelid.
“You can help me with that?” Naomi looked pleased. It was clear to her that Blair must have been brainwashed in some way, and Ellison was obviously to blame.
“I can, and I will,” Simmons nodded.
“Then we have a deal,” Naomi’s smile was not pleasant. She would get even with Ellison for turning Blair against her, and get her son back. Perfect.
“So, what can you tell me about Ellison?” Simmons asked.
“I can do better than tell you, Frank, I can show you,” Naomi relaxed back into her chair. “I have a copy of Blair’s original dissertation.”
O’Neill and Jim had headed to General Hammond’s office to inform him about the missing dog tags, and the search of Blair and Jim’s lockers.
“I think it’s safe to say that this incident is directly related to the unauthorised access of your records on the base computer,” Hammond stated grimly.
“Yes, Sir, that was our interpretation as well,” Jim nodded.
“This seems to be getting somewhat more serious, Colonel,” Hammond said with a frown. “I hope that you and Doctor Sandburg have followed up on our last discussion and taken steps to ensure your safety when not on base?”
“Yes, Sir, we’ve done that. There are alarm systems being installed at our homes this week – Sergeant Siler is overseeing that – and we’ve worked out some contingency plans with the rest of the team,” Jim informed him quietly.
“Given what’s happened, I guess you’re off the mission, JJ,” O’Neill told Jim.
“General Hammond, Sir, if P22-401 is the planet that Teal’c mentioned, then I have to be there. We don’t know what we’ll come up against, but from what Teal’c told us, it’s obvious that a Sentinel will be needed to access whatever facility is on the planet. The team could be placed in danger if I’m not with them,” Jim aimed his argument at the General rather than O’Neill.
“But you won’t have any protection, JJ,” O’Neill pointed out.
“No more than the rest of you every time you go out there,” Jim agreed calmly.
“If anything happens – ” O’Neill tried again, but Jim cut him off.
“Then it will have been my decision to go,” he stated firmly.
“No, Son, it will have been my decision to send you,” Hammond corrected him gently. If something did go wrong, there was no way that he would allow anyone but himself to shoulder the blame. “Unfortunately, we’re under a great deal of pressure to show tangible results for the money that’s being spent on this project,” the General sighed. “I’m afraid that, given the current political climate, we can’t put off the exploration of P22-401. If there’s anything there that we can use against the Gao’uld, or even some other advanced technology that we can employ here on Earth, then we need it, and we need it now. Given that it took over a week to have the dog tag device manufactured last time, once you and the others came up with the design, I’m afraid that’s time we can’t afford right now.” The General stood, signalling the end of the meeting. “You leave for P22-401 in thirty minutes, gentlemen.”
“Yes, Sir,” O’Neill and Jim chorused before standing and heading quickly from the office.
“Okay, Jack, get it off your chest now, before we rejoin the others,” Jim stopped walking and turned to face his friend.
“I don’t like the idea of you heading offworld without protection, JJ,” O’Neill said angrily. “Hell, if I’m going to be honest about it, I hate the idea that you need special protection, and I especially hate what form that protection takes!”
“And if the General suddenly pulled me and Blair off the mission, people would be asking why, which would only convince whoever’s snooping around that we really do have something to hide,” Jim pointed out.
O’Neill’s shoulder’s slumped in defeat. “I just so hate when you’re right about stuff like this, JJ,” he sighed.
“Yeah,” Jim smiled slightly, “me, too.”
A final check via MALP and UAV showed little change from the original survey of the planet.
“SG-1, you have a go,” Hammond’s voice over the speakers had the team adjusting their packs and striding up the ramp toward the gate.
As usual, O’Neill paused briefly to snap off a loose salute before leading the team through.
Carter immediately moved to check the DHD while Teal’c, O’Neill, and Jim cautiously surveyed the area surrounding the gate platform.
“Let’s head for the village, campers,” O’Neill drawled the instructions even as he continued to scan the clearing. “T, JJ, you have point, I’ve got the six.”
As they were heading away from the gate, it began to spin.
“Okay, I’m thinking this can’t be good news,” O’Neill said as he watched the inner circle of the gate spin. “Everyone to cover, now!”
“What about the MALP, Colonel?” Carter asked even as she headed for the treeline.
“Can’t be helped – it moves too slowly for us to get it out of sight before whoever it is finishes dialling in,” O’Neill shrugged, knowing that there was nothing they could do about it now.
SG-1 watched from cover as twenty Jaffa came pouring through the gate once the wormhole was established. Two more people, one male, one female, and obviously Gao’uld judging by their extravagant attire and the way the Jaffa deferred to them, came through a few moments after the Jaffa had finished securing the area around the gate. While the male was old and seemed infirm, the female was young and beautiful.
The team could only watch helplessly as the two Gao’uld examined the MALP.
“Tau’ri!” The male Goa’uld looked suspiciously around the clearing once he had identified the source of the machine he and the female had been studying. Producing a small sphere from within the folds of his robe, he quickly ordered reinforcements. There was a pause of several minutes before an additional thirty Jaffa came through the wormhole, which shut down after the last Jaffa stepped through.
The two Goa’uld gave instructions to the Jaffa before they redialled the gate and departed, leaving the Jaffa behind.
“What the hell was that all about?” O’Neill wondered aloud.
“They’re looking for potential new hosts for the male Goa’uld,” Jim said grimly as they watched thirty Jaffa head along the trail that the UAV had shown led to the village. The lessons he and Blair had had from both Daniel and Teal’c had given him enough knowledge of the Gao’uld language that he’d been able to pick up the gist of what had been said. “The Jaffa have been instructed to round up potential candidates from the village, and to capture any male Tau’ri they find for the same reason.”
Twenty Jaffa remained guarding the gate, deployed in such a way as to eliminate any possibility of a quick attack so that the team could dial out and get back to the SGC.
O’Neill was torn. While he wanted to help the villagers and stop the Jaffa from kidnapping potential hosts, he couldn’t risk his team. They were outnumbered and cut off from the gate, so there would be no opportunity to call the SGC for reinforcements. To just stand by and allow the Jaffa to raid the village went against everything he believed in, but he had no choice. Tactically, there seemed to be little they could do but wait for the Jaffa to leave and then return to the SGC, but given that the Jaffa knew that there were Tau’ri somewhere on the planet, he doubted that it would be that simple.
“Okay, here’s the deal. Since they know we’re here somewhere, I doubt that they’ll just collect whoever they want from the village and leave,” O’Neill stated. “I think our best bet of making it home is to set charges at various locations around the gate clearing and deeper into the forest. That should draw some of the Jaffa off, and hopefully it will provide enough of a distraction that at least some of the people they gather up will have a chance to escape and hide. Suggestions? Objections?” he glancing at his team to judge their reactions to the plan.
Carter nodded even as she checked her vest pockets for C4 and detonators. “I think it’s the only way, Sir.”
There were murmurs of agreement from the others.
Jim, who had been tracking the movement of the group of Jaffa who had headed for the village while O’Neill outlined the plan, also nodded. “There are three groups of five Jaffa who’ve spilt off from the ones headed for the village. They’ve been ordered to search for us.”
O’Neill nodded. The news wasn’t unexpected. “So, we’ll have to be sure that we keep out of their way. Maybe even leave them a few little surprises to distract them and slow down the search,” he said with a wolfish grin.
The team split up into pairs and scattered into the jungle, Teal’c with Carter, O’Neill with Daniel, and Jim with Blair. The three pairs worked quickly, with O’Neill, Carter, and Jim setting charges around the trail to the village and deeper in the jungle, before moving back closer to the gate clearing, all the while keeping an eye out for the three search parties.
The plan was proceeding fairly well. The group of Jaffa returning from the village with a group of captives passed close to one of the devices that O’Neill had set. When he detonated it, more than half the captives managed to break free and run into the forest. The explosion had taken out five of the Jaffa, and the remaining ten obviously decided to cut their losses. Regrouping quickly, they herded their captives down the track toward the gate at a quick trot. Several of the Jaffa guarding the gate went to investigate the explosion. The team opened fire, constantly changing their positions so that they Jaffa had less chance of pinning them down.
Teal’c and Carter were spotted when they had to move to avoid one of the search parties. The closest of the others, Jim and Blair fired on the search party, distracting them long enough to give Teal’c and Carter time to fade back into the jungle.
It was a vastly reduced group of Jaffa who left through the gate with their remaining captives. Any small sense of victory died a quick death when they spotted several Jaffa, one of whom carried an obviously unconscious Jim over his shoulder, come sprinting across the clearing and dive through the wormhole moments before it shut down.
None of the team were close enough to do anything to stop them. Once they had accounted for the Jaffa who hadn’t returned through the gate, the team regrouped near the DHD. Blair hadn’t answered any of O’Neill’s attempts to contact him, leading the others to fear the worst.
“Sir, I’m getting something on the tracking channel,” Carter broke the silence that had fallen over the team. “The homing signal on Blair’s radio must have been activated.”
Jim sat with his back against the wall, surveying his fellow captives, all of whom were male. He was unable to communicate effectively with them due to the language barrier, but there was no mistaking the terror in their eyes. When he closed his eyes and leant back against the wall, all he could see was Blair, lying injured in the forest, having been hit in the shoulder by a lucky shot from one of the gate guards’ staff weapons. He’d dragged him under cover and activated the homing beacon on his radio before heading off through the jungle in an attempt to lead the Jaffa away from Blair. Unfortunately, concentrating on trying to hear what was happening behind him and trying to monitor Blair’s condition, he’d headed straight into where another of the Jaffa search parties had gone to ground when the fighting had started. He hadn’t even had time to bring his weapon to bear before he’d been zatted.
Sighing, he adjusted his position slightly, vainly trying to get more comfortable on the cold stone floor. He could only hope that the rest of SG-1 had gotten away and found Blair. Given that none of the others were among the group of captives, he had to hold on to that hope.
Hammond watched grim-faced as SG-1 came through the gate minus Colonel Ellison. Teal’c carried an unconscious Doctor Sandburg over to the waiting gurney while the rest of the team slumped to sit dispiritedly on the stairs at the bottom of the gate ramp.
The cell door clanged open loudly and Jaffa streamed in, followed by the two Goa’uld that Jim had seen at the gate. The Jaffa forced the captives to their feet, and lined them up. Jim was easily a head taller than most of the others, and obviously in better condition. His uniform clearly marked him as different from the other captives, although he tried to slouch down and not draw any more unwanted attention than he had already.
The Goa’uld couple walked slowly down the line, inspecting their captives, halting when they came to Jim.
[And what of this one, Our Mate?] The female asked, her eyes roaming appreciatively over Jim’s tall, muscular frame.
The male stared up into Jim’s eyes, as if daring the tall Ranger to meet his gaze. Mentally bracing himself, Jim stared back impassively.
[More promising than the others] The male stated, before turning to his First Prime. [Bring the Tau’ri. Kill the rest.]
Jim easily understood what they said and felt himself go cold inside. The similarities to the report from SG-1’s mission where Skaara had been chosen as a host did not escape him, and now he had been chosen to be host to a Goa’uld. Momentarily shocked into immobility, he failed to react initially when two huge Jaffa grabbed his arms and began to drag him from the cell.
Lulled somewhat by his initial lack of resistance, the guards were unprepared when Jim managed to free one of his arms, slamming his elbow into the Jaffa’s face. He was rewarded by the guard’s exclamation of pain, but before he could take further advantage of the situation, the second guard released his other arm an instant before Jim was engulfed by the blue lightning of a zat discharge. The sounds of staff weapon blasts and the screams of the dying captives followed him down into unconsciousness.
Awareness returned slowly. Alert enough to realise that he had been taken aboard a Goa’uld ship, but still reeling from the effects of the zat, Jim offered little resistance as he was quickly stripped and bathed before being dressed in a loose, pale blue robe woven through with golden thread before being hauled from the bathing room and down a gilded corridor to another, smaller room by two Jaffa.
The two Goa’uld looked up at the entrance of their captive and the Jaffa who held him.
The zat’s effects had nearly completely dissipated by the time he was dragged forward and forced to kneel at their feet. Unable to break the hold of his guards, Jim could only glare defiantly up at the two monsters before him.
[Does this Tau’ri still please Our Mate?] The female Goa’uld’s asked, a sinister smile on her face.
[Yes, this one will be Our new host.] The male Goa’uld said as he stood and walked slowly around until he stood directly behind where Jim knelt. [Prepare him.]
At the Goa’uld’s words, a third Jaffa stepped forward, grasping Jim’s head and forcing it down, exposing the back of his neck. Held so tightly that he couldn’t even begin to fight his way free, Jim struggled to remain silent when all he wanted to do was scream in horror as he felt the Gao’uld rip the robe to allow greater access to his neck.
Desperately dialling down all his senses, Jim could nevertheless still hear the nauseating sound of tearing flesh, followed by slick, wet noises as the Goa’uld emerged from the body of its soon to be former host. The snake-like creature emitted a piercing, high-pitched squeal as it leapt eagerly toward its new host.
Despite knowing what was about to happen, and bracing himself as best he could, Jim was unable to hold back a scream of agony as the Goa’uld tore through the skin at the back of his neck.