The Journey Back
Summary: Blair and SG-1 are determined to bring Jim home. Part of A New Direction series; continues on from Descent Into Darkness; crossover with Stargate SG-1.
Author’s Note: Un-beta’d as usual.
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.
Daniel and Blair had finally finished translating all the inscriptions from the temple on P22-401. Most of the Goa’uld writing was useless, extolling the virtues of the God and warning of the penalties for disobeying them. The Ancient writing, however was more cryptic, presenting riddles and hidden instructions for accessing ‘a store of great value’. Now that the basic translation was completed, they would begin work on what the riddles meant.
“How goes it, campers?” O’Neill asked, entering the office just as they were starting on the first riddle.
“Hi, Jack,” Blair smiled at the tall Colonel.
“Hey, Jack,” Daniel smiled wearily at his friend. “We’ve done the basic translations, now we just have to try and figure out what it all means.”
“Cool,” O’Neill nodded. “But it will have to wait. We’ve been summoned to a meeting in the main briefing room.”
“What’s the meeting about?” Blair asked curiously.
“No idea,” O’Neill shrugged “I just got told that SG-1 were to report as soon as possible.”
“Maybe there’s news about Jim!” Blair exclaimed, jumping up from his chair.
“I hope so, Blair,” O’Neill told him soberly, “but it might be best if you don’t get your hopes up. It could be anything.” The Colonel had been worried about the young anthropologist since Ellison had been taken. While he hoped that Blair was right, he didn’t want to see the kid hurt if the briefing turned out to be about something unrelated to the search.
“We’ve got him!” Carter burst into the briefing room, followed somewhat more sedately by Teal’c. “Bra’tac received intel from several Jaffa loyal to him. We have the location of Hal’ruut’s main base of operations!”
“When can we leave?” Blair asked excitedly.
“Hold on, Son,” Hammond laid a calming hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “We need to find out more about it first, and devise a plan before we can think of sending anyone offworld.”
Frustrated at what he saw as yet another delay, Blair slumped back down into his chair. “I know, Sir, I just – time’s running out, you know? I can feel it…”
“We all feel the same way, Blair,” O’Neill agreed with Blair’s sense of urgency, “but we won’t do JJ any good if we charge in unprepared and end up captured or dead.”
Blair nodded glumly. He knew that Hammond and O’Neill were right, but he also knew that if they didn’t do something soon, Jim might be lost to them forever.
“What can you tell us about the planet, Major?” Hammond decided that it was time to get the meeting back on track.
“The address doesn’t appear on either the Abydos cartouche, or in the list of addresses that Colonel O’Neill input after the download of the Ancients’ repository,” Carter said quickly, with a sympathetic smile for Blair. “I’d speculate that Hal’ruut probably relocated a gate from another planet, thus remaining under the radar of the System Lords.”
“It seems likely,” Teal’c agreed. “To my knowledge, Apophis also relocated several gates for similar reasons.”
“Bra’tac advises that the gate is heavily guarded, so the only practical way to approach the planet would be to gate to a nearby planet and continue on by ship,” Carter continued. “He’s already organised a scout ship to be available for us on P39-011 in twenty-four hours.”
“It seems to me that taking on Halibut and Meerkat on their home turf would be a suicide mission,” O’Neill observed quietly, not wanting to dampen the excitement around the table, but needing to point out the obvious flaw in the plan.
Carter rolled her eyes and stifled her smile at the Colonel’s characteristically deliberate mangling of the Goa’ulds’ names.
“We need to lure him somewhere where we have more of a chance of taking him on,” Daniel said thoughtfully.
“P22-401,” Blair said immediately. “It makes sense that the Goa’uld would want to go after whatever’s hidden there, and we could have teams there, already in place before the Goa’uld arrive.”
“That might work,” O’Neill nodded slowly, picturing the area around the temple, “but how do we get Halibut there in the first place?”
“We don’t,” Blair stated firmly, “I do.”
The debate that Blair’s statement caused went on for the better part of an hour, but ultimately, Blair dealt with every objection, and it was reluctantly agreed that he, along with Teal’c in the guise of one of Hal’ruut’s Jaffa, would bait the trap to lure Hal’ruut to P22-401.
O’Neill was less than happy with the plan. It wasn’t that he doubted Blair’s ability to fulfil his mission – the kid had proven himself even before he’d joined the SGC. But O’Neill had given his word to JJ that, if anything happened to JJ, he would look after Blair. Somehow, he doubted that JJ would view delivering Blair into Hal’ruut’s clutches as living up to his promise. Not that there was really any other choice if they were to have any chance of rescuing JJ, but he didn’t have to like it. It was a given that the alternative – infiltrating Hal’ruut’s stronghold and killing the Goa’uld, and therefore killing JJ – was not an option that they would consider, despite Hammond’s orders.
One other important decision had been reached.
If – no, when, Blair corrected silently to himself – they succeeded in capturing Hal’ruut, they would take him to Cimmeria, and hope that they could use Thor’s Hammer to free Jim from the Goa’uld. Despite the Tok’ra’s position as allies, none of them felt that it would be wise to let them know about Jim’s Sentinel abilities – the temptation might just prove to be too much for them.
Blair paused in the shadows before entering the audience chamber, studying Hal’ruut closely. It gave him no little satisfaction to realise that the Goa’uld was obviously not in control of Jim’s senses. Jim was obviously still fighting the Goa’uld, at least on some level. And the Goa’uld’s difficulties gave him the perfect opportunity to approach him.
Hal’ruut shook his head in irritation as a dull throbbing sound invaded his hearing.
“Looks like you need some help there,” a soft voice said from the entrance to the audience chamber.
Hal’ruut immediately lifted his left hand, the jewel in the centre of the hand device already glowing as he aimed it at Blair, who merely stood, staring steadily at the Goa’uld as two Jaffa moved in and grabbed his arms. Dressed in rags similar to what many of Hal’ruut’s slaves wore, it had been a relatively simple matter to make his way into the palace.
“Guide,” the Goa’uld whispered even as his hand began to shake. His eyes widened as he suddenly identified the throbbing sound he heard as the Tau’ri’s heartbeat. “My Guide,” he said, his voice firming as he allowed his hand to drop. “Why are you here, Guide? How did you get here?”
The Goa’uld cocked his head in such a familiar manner that Blair had to fight the tears back. Jim was in there somewhere, and he would do whatever it took to free him.
“I followed my Sentinel,” Blair said simply. “Where he goes, I will follow. It isn’t all that hard to hide aboard a ship.”
“You will help Us,” the Goa’uld commanded imperiously.
“I will help Jim,” Blair said flatly.
“Nothing of the host survives,” Hal’ruut sneered, leaning back in the throne.
“Which we both know isn’t true,” Blair refused to allow the Goa’uld to intimidate him.
The two stared at each other in silence for a long moment. Interestingly, it was Hal’ruut who looked away first.
[His attire offends Us. Have him dressed appropriately and returned to Us,] Hal’ruut ordered his Jaffa, turning away from Blair dismissively as he was led away by the Jaffa..
[And what will you do with this Guide, Our Mate?] Mel’tak asked, curious about Hal’ruut’s reaction to the diminutive Tau’ri.
[We will allow him to instruct Us in the use of the Trak’tah’s senses, and then We will dispose of him,] Hal’ruut shrugged, unwilling to reveal to Mel’tak how much the presence of the Guide had disturbed him. And yet, he found himself looking forward eagerly to his return.
Trapped within his own mind, but vaguely aware of what was happening, the sudden reappearance of his Guide’s heartbeat and scent brought Jim back from the blue jungle with a jarring mental thump.
He alternated between despair that Blair was now a captive of the Goa’uld, and joy that his friend had indeed survived the staff weapon wound. He very carefully avoided thinking about what Blair’s presence here in Hal’ruut’s stronghold might mean, focussing instead on the fact that Sentinel and Guide were meant to be together.
Having been forcibly dressed in somewhat more elaborate clothing, Blair was dragged back to the audience chamber by two huge Jaffa. He stood defiantly in front of the dual thrones, refusing to kneel. Mel’tak was surprised that Hal’ruut allowed even that small defiance, but remained silent.
“What do you know of the hidden treasure?’ Hal’ruut demanded.
“I know that, whatever it is, the secret to finding it is in the temple on the planet where your Jaffa took Jim,” Blair shrugged, as if the information meant nothing to him.
“You will help Us with control of Our senses,” Hal’ruut told Blair flatly.
“I will help my Sentinel,” Blair responded just as flatly.
“We are your Sentinel.”
“No,” Blair shook his head, eyes sad, “you inhabit my Sentinel’s body, but you are not my Sentinel.”
Jim made no attempt to conceal his pride in Blair from Hal’ruut.
The Guide’s welfare is important to you. You will cooperate or I will torture him. Hal’ruut told Jim gleefully.
If you harm him, you will never be able to control the senses. The Guide is the key to control. Jim countered immediately, allowing the Goa’uld to feel his belief in his words.
Watching Hal’ruut closely, Blair saw the slightly unfocussed look to his eyes, and guessed correctly that the Goa’uld was communicating with Jim. From the anger in Hal’ruut’s expression, he could only surmise that the talk wasn’t quite going the way the Goa’uld had expected.
Dismissing his host for now, the Goa’uld returned his attention to Blair.
“You will accompany Us back to the planet and you will assist Us in finding the treasure, or you will die.”
“Whatever, man,” Blair shrugged again, barely suppressing his satisfaction at the way things were going.
The trip back to P22-401 took a little over four hours by ship. Hal’ruut had decided to take one of his smaller ships. Larger than a scout ship, but still considerably smaller than a mother ship, the ship landed in a large clearing about two hundred yards from the temple.
SG-2, SG-3, SG-13, and the rest of SG-1, concealed in the jungle surrounding the temple, launched their attack as the Goa’uld and their Jaffa approached the temple steps.
[He has betrayed Us!] Mel’tak spat, pointing at Blair. [Kill him!] she snapped the order to the closest Jaffa, who immediately brought his staff weapon to bear on Blair.
“No!” Hal’ruut threw himself between Blair and the staff weapon just as the Jaffa fired, taking the blast meant for the anthropologist on his upper chest and shoulder.
Enraged by Hal’ruut’s apparent betrayal, Mel’tak turned, aiming her hand device at the nearest SG-3 Marine, who barely managed to duck behind cover in time. Unreasoning in her rage, Mel’tak neglected to activate her personal shield, and went down in a hail of bullets. Seeing their Gods fall, the remaining Jaffa quickly surrendered.
“She’s dead, Sir,” Ferretti advised O’Neill after checking the female Goa’uld.
The Colonel nodded that he had heard as he knelt beside Jim.
“Well, that was a little unexpected,” O’Neill observed as he quickly stripped the hand device from JJ’s left hand and patted him down, searching for any other weapons while Carter quickly placed a dressing over the wound to JJ’s chest and shoulder.
“Not really,” Blair disagreed quietly, moving to kneel next to where Jim lay. “The Sentinel has an innate imperative to protect the Guide. In the instant that Mel’tak ordered the Jaffa to shoot, that imperative took over, forcing Hal’ruut to act before he could override the impulse.”
“Chief?” Jim’s eyes flickered open, immediately seeking out his Guide.
“I’m here, man. We’ve got you,” Blair bent lower, positioning himself so that Jim could see him more easily without having to move, but keeping a careful distance between them in case Hal’ruut decided to try and jump hosts.
“Whatever it takes, Chief…” Jim’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Can’t live like this… don’t want to… Whatever you need to do to end it…”
Blair gently patted the hand that he held, using his bandanna to wipe the sweat from Jim’s forehead. “We’re not going to give up on you now that we’ve got you back, Big Guy.”
“Please, Chief…can’t fight him anymore…,” Jim told him. “Nothing left to fight with…”
“Then we’ll fight for you, JJ,” O’Neill told him firmly, resting his hand lightly on Jim’s uninjured shoulder. “Right, Sandburg?”
“Always, man,” Blair smiled through the unshed tears in his eyes. “Always.”
Exhausted by the effort required to speak, Jim only nodded slightly before he lost consciousness once again.
It took several days to reach the gate. Jim slept for much of the journey. O’Neill ensured that the men rotated through the duty of carrying the stretcher on which they’d secured Jim. He was securely restrained, making movement virtually impossible, and was only allowed up to relieve himself as the need arose. Teal’c guarded him closely during those times, zat at the ready in case the Goa’uld regained control and tried to escape. For the most part, it seemed to be Jim in control, and Daniel theorised that Hal’ruut was too fully occupied healing Jim’s body to spare the time or energy making trouble.
It seemed that Daniel had been correct.
By the time they reached the gate, Jim’s injuries were completely healed. And Hal’ruut had once again assumed control, threatening his captors which what he would do to them when he was freed. It had not gone unnoticed that, while the Goa’uld railed at each of them in turn, not once had he directed his diatribes at Blair.
Having sent the other teams back to the SGC to report to Hammond, O’Neill made the decision to continue to keep Hal’ruut restrained and immobile on the stretcher for the trip to Cimmeria. While it meant that he and Teal’c would have tyo carry him through the caverns once they’d been transported there, it also meant that the Goa’uld would have less opportunity to fight them or escape.
Stepping through the gate to Cimmeria, O’Neill, Teal’c, and Blair made sure that they were all in contact with Jim as the beam from Thor’s Hammer swept over them, detecting the Goau’ld in Jim’s body and transporting the four of them to the underground caverns within moments of their arrival. As they’d agreed earlier, Daniel and Carter were about to head off to the cave which gave access to the caverns when several Cimmerians, Gairwyn among them, rode up to the gate.
“Greetings, friends,” Gairwyn greeted them with a smile. “What brings you to our home? Did I not see the Hammer activated moments ago?” she asked with no small measure of concern.
“Greetings, Gairwyn,” Daniel smiled and gave a small bow of respect. “We brought one of our team here in the hope that we could free him from the Goa’uld who holds his body captive.”
“O’Neill has fallen victim to the Ettin?” Gairwyn was obviously dismayed by the thought.
“No, another of our number – Colonel Ellison – was taken as host by a Goa’uld, which is why we are here,” Daniel was quick to reassure her. “Teal’c, Colonel O’Neill, and the sixth member of our team. Blair Sandburg, have accompanied Colonel Ellison into the caverns.”
“Then you will need transport to ensure that you are waiting for them when they have freed your friend from the Ettin,” Gairwyn stated. “I will accompany you,” she quickly motioned for two of her people to dismount and give their horses to Carter and Daniel.
“We’re in your debt, Gairwyn,” Daniel smiled as he and Carter mounted up.
“Friends do what they can for each other, Daniel Jackson,” Gairwyn smiled. “There is no need to talk of debt among friends.”
“Still, you have our gratitude, Gairwyn,” Carter told her sincerely.
In the underground caverns, Blair stopped in surprise when a Viking suddenly appeared in front of him. “Whoah!”
“I am Thor,” the Viking intoned, “Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet – ”
“It’s just the answering machine,” O’Neill shrugged the hologram off and hefted his end of the stretcher while the holographic message continued. “So, T, do you remember how to get to the Hall of Myellnar?”
“I do, O’Neill,” Teal’c nodded his head at one of the passageways. “It is this way.”
“Let’s get moving, then.”
“How have things been since our last visit, Gairwyn?” Carter asked as they rode into the foothills.
“We have been well, Samantha Carter. The Asgard have not visited us again as yet, but we have hopes that they will do so soon. Several Ettins have dared the gate, but the Hammer has taken them on each occasion. Unfortunately, only one of the former hosts survived the Hammer, and he lives now in one of the more remote villages.”
Teal’c and O’Neill set the stretcher down to take a quick break once they’d reached the Hall of Myellnar. Hal’ruut began to thrash violently against his bonds when he saw the archway that guarded the exit to the caverns.
“Help Me, Guide! You must protect Me! I am your Sentinel!”
“No! You are not my Sentinel. You’re a parasite who thinks he’s a God!” Blair spat back angrily.
“Chief! Don’t let them do this!” Hal’ruut switched to Jim’s normal voice, trying to play on Blair’s sympathies for his friend.
“Don’t call me that! You don’t have that right!”
O’Neill had had enough. He and Teal’c carried the stretcher over to the archway. Both men then shifted position, lifting the stretcher until they could manoeuvre it into the archway and prop it against one of the upright beams.
As soon as they entered the opening, it began to glow. Hal’ruut screamed obscenities at them as Teal’c continued on through the arch while O’Neill backed away to rejoin Blair inside the cavern.
“I will kill him rather than release him!” Hal’ruut snarled, targeting Blair in a desperate attempt to escape his fate.
“Better that than the alternative,” Blair said coldly, barely managing to conceal his fear for Jim from his tone and expression. “I made a promise to Jim, and nothing you say will make me break that promise!”
O’Neill moved quickly to stand beside Blair, one arm going around the anthropologist’s shoulders in tacit support.
Moments later, Blair was glad of the support when Jim began to convulse.
“Receiving IDC. It’s SG-1, Sir!” Harriman could barely contain his excitement.
“Open the iris, Sergeant,” Hammond instructed as he made his way quickly down to the gate room.
The iris swirled open, and the occupants of the control room and gate room waited tensely to see who would come through.
First to appear was Daniel. “We need a medical team!” he called, although there was a lack of urgency in his tone that told those waiting that whatever the injuries were that required a medical team, they weren’t life threatening.
Carter and Teal’c were next through, moving quickly down the ramp to stand with Daniel while they waited for the rest of the team to arrive.
Hammond found himself holding his breath, only to release it explosively when three figures stepped through the event horizon. From the sounds around him, he realised that he hadn’t been the only one holding his breath. He eyed the three new arrivals, noting that Ellison was pale and obviously relying heavily on O’Neill and Blair to keep him upright.
The three men made their way carefully down the ramp until they stood facing the waiting General.
“Welcome back, SG-1, and welcome home, Colonel Ellison,” Hammond said gravely, his eyes warm and welcoming.
“It’s good to be back, Sir,” Jim’s voice was barely above a whisper, but the relief on his face left no one in any doubt as to how he felt.
“I believe that Doctor Fraiser has a bed with your name on it, Son,” the General smiled as Jim rolled his eyes. “Depending on how your physical goes, we’ll debrief tomorrow at 1000 hours.”
“We’ll see, Sir. A lot will depend on how cooperative the Colonel is,” Fraiser said with a smile as she and the medical team entered the gate room, making a beeline for where Jim stood, swaying slightly, still supported by Blair and O’Neill.
“I’ll be good, Doc, I promise,” Jim said, with a weary smile for the tiny doctor as she had the others help him on to the waiting gurney.
“Very wise, JJ. Very, very wise,” O’Neill had spoken softly, but it was obvious from the mock glare Fraiser directed at him that he had been overheard.