The Limits of Trust
by Sheila Paulson
Summary: A crossover novella with Stargate SG-1; sequel to Sentinels. Following TSbyBS, when trust issues separate Jim and Blair, Blair winds up at Stargate Command. When Jim follows, he is captured by the NID, while Blair helps SG-1 deal with a crisis. Rated PG.
Author's Notes: The Limits of Trust is available as a print fanzine from Agent With Style, who also sells its sequel, Nor Iron Bars a Cage.
Disclaimer: Jim and Blair and the Major Crimes team do not belong to me, nor does the SG-1 team. I just borrow them to put them through the wringer.
Blair Sandburg heaved a regretful sigh and glanced over at Jim Ellison, who was sitting in front of the TV set watching a pre-season Jags exhibition basketball game with every evidence of concentration. What Blair had to say would probably shoot his concentration to hell, but Blair had been putting it off for weeks now, hoping something would change, and it hadn't. He didn't think it was going to. He didn't think it could.
It had all seemed so exciting a few years back when, working toward a doctorate in anthropology, he had discovered a living embodiment of his dissertation--a full Sentinel. Studying the writings of the Nineteenth Century explorer, Sir Richard Burton, Blair had learned of the concept of primitive tribal guardians with enhanced senses. His eager research had unearthed a number of subjects with one heightened sense, even a few with two, but not until he met Detective Jim Ellison did he find the real thing. Jim's senses were all suddenly enhanced, and he was totally confused by the experience. Blair had teamed up with him, working with him as a police observer and consultant so that he could be at hand to help Jim use his senses to the best of his abilities and not be overcome with the influx of sensory data. It had been the most exciting time of Blair's life and he'd loved every moment of it--well, *almost* every moment. There had been a few real downers...
"Jim?" he ventured tentatively.
Ellison started to mutter an absent response and then caught himself. He turned away from the screen and stared at his partner, the full effect of his senses turned on the younger man. "What's wrong, Chief? Your heart's racing like crazy. Are you sick?"
"No, just a little freaked, man. I hate to say this. I wish I didn't have to, but I do." His hands tightened into fists, his fingernails digging painfully into his palms.
Alarm edged into Jim's blue eyes. "Say what?" he challenged warily, bracing himself for bad news.
"I can't do it, Jim. I can't be a cop." He held up hasty hands to prevent his partner's expected outburst. "I've tried. I wanted to, after all the strings you and Simon pulled, and everybody at Major Crimes trying to help. You know I've loved working with you as an observer. I thought it was a real high, that I couldn't go back to being just an academic after working with you--and I can't. Well, even if I had that option any longer, I couldn't. But I'm not sure I can be a cop *without* being an academic. When I was doing both, working with you and at the university, I had the best of both worlds."
It still hurt, being thrown out of the university, losing his credibility to his scholarly peers. That he had made a conscious choice that had led to his being ousted and that, given the same options, he would do it all again, didn't stop it from hurting. He hadn't let his upset show as he struggled to fit into his new career, but he was sure Jim knew. Jim had been as understanding as possible, but he would never be able to understand what Blair had given up, just as Blair would never quite understand how difficult it was to be a Sentinel. He could imagine it, he could empathize, but he couldn't live it.
"No, let me finish," he persisted when Jim opened his mouth to interrupt. "I've tried. I've given it all I've got. I qualified with weapons and took the classes and I know I could do it--except it's just not in me, not to sign on officially and be a cop. It's not even that I'm afraid of how it'll feel if I have to shoot somebody--I've thought about that a lot, and I know I'd feel bad if I had to, but I'd be doing it to protect innocent people. I could live with that. I know a lot of cops go their entire careers without even drawing a gun. Believe me, I've thought about the whole thing from every angle. I've tried to fit myself into the mold but it's just not in me, Jim, and I'm so sorry, man."
Ellison's face held an expression Blair could not readily read--but that was not uncommon. Jim's face could be the most unexpressive in the universe. Even though he was a 'people' person, Blair had never been able to read Jim completely. Simon Banks, Jim's boss, said that Blair came closer than anybody he'd ever seen, but at a time like this it wasn't enough.
"You've been a great cop, Sandburg. You're already one. You bring a whole new perspective to every investigation. You don't panic under fire. You back me up all the way," Jim insisted urgently. "I *know* you can do this."
Blair heaved a sigh. "But this'll make it official, Jim, and I can't. It's not just the way Naomi raised me, either. It's..." His voice trailed off. Oh, man, this was so hard to do.
"It's me, isn't it?" Jim countered, face darkening. "Knowing that cops trust their partners, they have to. And you don't trust me, not after the way I acted toward you when Naomi sent your dissertation to that publisher, Graham, in New York and the whole world found out about me."
Blair's head shook vehemently. "No way, Jim. It's...more the other way around. I know we've been through it a hundred times, but a part of me just can't get past it. You honestly believed that I'd sell you down the river for a chance to publish and rake in the bucks. You wouldn't even *listen* to me. I gave up everything for you, man, to prove you *could* trust me but, the next time, it could be just the same, and if I'm a cop, it could mean innocent lives on the line. You didn't trust me over Alex, you didn't trust me that time you read that draft of my dissertation, and you didn't trust me when Naomi e-mailed my dissertation to her publisher buddy, Sid. Here I'll be, a brand new rookie cop, and every time you need me to watch your back out there on the streets, I'll be thinking you don't trust me, that you were expecting me to let you down--and I've *never* let you down on purpose, Jim. Never."
"My god, Chief, you think I don't *trust* you?" Ellison burst out, totally astonished. "I've trusted you with my sanity every day since I met you. You know a hundred times more about me than my ex-wife ever did. Me, Jim Ellison, the ultimate loner, and I've let you in where even I rarely go. I know we've had some rough times, but it was never about trust. It was about my *life*."
Blair heaved a sigh. "Jim, I know you've given it all you could. But every time the chips are really down, you *prove* you don't trust me. I've thought and thought, to see if I was screwing up, and the only thing I could see was that I trusted Alex too easily and didn't try hard enough to tell you about her, that I trusted my mom not to read the dissertation. I never thought she'd do what she did. I even had a couple of ideas how I could publish it without exposing you and if they didn't work out, then I knew I wouldn't have done it. I was gonna read it over and then talk to you about it and see if you thought there was any way it would work, but Mom jumped in first. No matter how much you say you trust me, Jim, you're always gonna wonder, because that's the way you're made. And I'm always gonna get into trouble, because that's the way *I'm* made. You've called me a trouble magnet, and I am, but I've never once let you down, Jim, not in any way I had control over. I never would. I'm human, I make mistakes, but I never, ever intended to let you down."
"I know you haven't, Chief. It's just that when it comes to these senses of mine, I panic. I'm only out here, sane, free, and working until somebody finds out. When all that happened and I was all over the papers and jerks I arrested were wanting my autograph, I was positive I was going to spend the rest of my life a prisoner in somebody's lab. I-- it...scared me. I panicked, and I took it out on you."
Blair knew how hard it was for Jim to admit he had been scared and he was moved that his friend would try so hard. In a way that made this so much worse. "I know. I've thought of that, too, that there might be people out there who didn't believe it when I said the research was fraudulent. The minute I become a cop and I'm partnered with you, those people will *know* I lied at the press conference. I don't have any academic credibility now. They canned me because I 'faked' the information about you. The whole world thinks I'm a phony--and then the *police department* hires me? How's that gonna look? It'll be a sure sign to anybody paying attention that you really *are* a Sentinel. All those covert ops departments will want to get their hands on you. If I take off, they'll think everybody's just been nice to me until I left, but if I stay, they'll *know* it's true. Don't you see, Jim, it's better that I go. It's the only real way I can protect you, and the only way you won't have to be afraid that I'll turn on you, the way you always expect to. If I stay, you'll always wonder about me, and I'll keep proving myself and proving myself, and it won't work. And at the same time I'll be jeopardizing you. I can't do it, Jim, I just can't."
Ellison looked stricken and it made Blair's stomach knot up tight. "But what about me?" the Sentinel demanded. "What about my senses?"
Blair stared at his friend. "Jim, I'm *doing* this for you. You've got a handle on them now. You really have. Simon knows, Megan knows, and I've got a feeling all the other guys at Major Crimes didn't believe me at the press conference either, especially Joel Taggart. They'll all watch your back. I've talked to Megan. She's done some research on Sentinels since she found out about you. I think she can partner you. I wouldn't take off and leave you without backup. You know I wouldn't."
"You went behind my back and talked to Connor about it?" Jim's voice rose, his eyes hardening.
Blair's heart sank. "See, Jim. You *don't* trust me. You never really did. I don't think it's deliberate, I just don't think you *can*. Connor found out about you on her own, I never told her. She's halfway suspected I couldn't stay and she came to me a few weeks ago and volunteered to help you, to be my backup. I didn't seek her out. Joel wasn't surprised either. He told me a lot of things made sense once he heard about it. I am so sorry that happened, man. I wouldn't have done it like that for all the money in the world. But it happened. I did what I could to save you, and I'm still trying to protect you. But you deserve a partner you can trust--and it's not me, Jim. Be honest with yourself. You know it isn't."
"So what are you gonna do?" Ellison demanded sourly. "Just walk out on me?" He was on his feet now, prowling restlessly around the room, the muscles tight in his jaw. He looked like an explosion waiting to be detonated, and the resultant boom would shatter everything.
Blair gazed at him sadly. "It's always about you, isn't it, Jim? You think I *want* to do this? You're my best friend, man. You always will be. You're *family*. I want to stay more than I can ever say. But I think it's better for you if I'm not around any longer. I don't want to go. But I can't be a cop, and I can't be your partner, not when you're always going to wonder about me. I gave up my whole life for you, man. Not that I expect you to do the same--that'd be crazy. What you've got is so special. All I ever wanted was your trust. I can't be your partner without it. I just can't." He felt his emotions rise up and threaten to choke him, and he whirled around and started for his bedroom. "I'll go in the morning."
"What makes you think I'm gonna let you do this, Sandburg?" Jim demanded, the anger muted but not entirely gone. A thread of desperation ran through it that tore Blair's heart apart. He couldn't bear to leave but he had to. He just had to.
Blair turned back to him, his heart breaking. "What makes you think you can stop me?" he countered. "I'm sorry, Jim. I'm so sorry. I just...can't stay."
"Where are you going?" Jim asked stiffly, standing like a statue. Behind him in the background the game's commentator screamed excitedly about a fast break.
*Fast break*, Blair thought miserably. *Yeah, it's a fast break, all right. My whole life is broken, and Jim's too*. "I'm going to go and visit a friend in Colorado," he said, although his plans hadn't really crystalized until that very moment. "I have to get right away." He hesitated. "Once I get settled in, I'll send you my address. Then, if your senses ever get out of line, I can come back and help. I'll leave you all my research. It's no good to me now." He hadn't dreamed of how important academia was to him until he'd lost it. He'd told Jim once that he couldn't go back to that safe life after living on the edge with Jim--but it seemed a part of him craved it so much that being a cop here, where he had once been a teacher and a scholar, would only remind him of what he had lost. He'd lost it for his friend, in a good cause, and he couldn't regret what he'd done--but he regretted what he had lost. If he stayed, if he tried to work with Jim, he might even come to resent *him*, and that was the one thing he couldn't bear to happen.
"I think you're running away," Jim accused coldly. It was a desperate thrust, one meant to provoke Blair into choosing to stay and fight. But in Blair's present state of mind, all he could think was that Jim was once again corroborating the fact that he didn't trust him.
"Then I guess that proves I'm the coward you must already think I am," he said and went into his bedroom and shut the door.
Out there in the living room, Jim threw something viciously across the room and it smashed against a far wall with a tinkle of breaking glass.
Blair sat down on his bed, put his hands over his face, and let tears flow. He felt like his entire life was over. *Was* he a coward? Was he running out because he just couldn't take it any longer, the endless need to walk on tiptoes so Jim wouldn't misinterpret him, so Jim wouldn't think he'd betrayed him? Or was a quick, clean break the only possibility? He knew Megan could work with Jim. He'd sounded her out, very carefully, when she'd approached him a few weeks ago. He'd even talked to Jim about letting her work with him--as a backup, he'd said. "What if I wind up in the hospital or something and can't watch you. You need backup. Megan can do it, or Joel. They both know. You'll be in the field with them while I'm at the academy." Jim had agreed, and they'd run some tests. He wasn't leaving Jim hanging out to dry.
Of course he was banishing himself, separating himself from the best friend he ever had, from a life that had been a glorious roller coaster ride. Could anything be that good again or would there always be a hole the size of Jim Ellison in his heart?
"I have to," he whispered to himself. "I can't stay."
Somewhere out there in the rest of the world, there had to be a new life. Somewhere he could be useful, somewhere he could feel the thrill of an academic challenge mingled with the excitement of living on the edge. It would never take the place of what he'd had, though. It never could.
"I'm sorry, Jim," he whispered softly, knowing that Ellison could hear him out there if he chose to listen. The thought that there would be no one to take the trouble to listen for him in future made him feel hollow and empty, but it was the right choice. It had to be.
Dr. Daniel Jackson completed his entry about the excitement on P2R 555 and set aside his journal. Since he had returned from Abydos and joined the Stargate program, he had been over a large part of the known galaxy, and he chose to record it by hand in notebooks, although his official records were on computer at the base deep within Cheyenne Mountain. Even after living for a year among the people of Abydos, his journeys through the Stargate still caught him and filled him with a sense of wonder that all he had to do was step through the circle, into the event horizon of the stable wormhole that connected Earth to another planet, and walk out the other side beneath an alien sun. It was a vast and inhospitable galaxy out there, full of dangers including the Goa'uld, an ancient race that had come to regard the humans of Earth as their particular enemies. But it was exciting, too. All those cultures they met, some of them transplanted from Earth... It was an archaeologist's dream.
Daniel had written up a lengthy paper that would never be published about cultural drift, using the people of Abydos and those of modern Egypt in comparison. Writing it had been incredibly exciting. It was logged into the permanent, classified records of the Stargate Command, there to help the various teams who traveled on missions through the Gate. Not all the teams had anthropologists or archaeologists on them, so the report and others like it were required reading for each new team member, even the strictly military ones.
When he was a boy, Daniel had gone through a period of enjoying science fiction books, particularly those that dealt with first contact with an alien species. It was his interest in ancient cultures that had drawn him to such works. He could never meet the ancient Egyptians, he had thought. But then, he had gone to Abydos, and there were living remnants of an ancient culture. They even spoke a version of the ancient Egyptian language.
The work he did with SG-1 was the most meaningful thing he had ever done in his life, the most exciting.
And of course there was Sha're, beautiful, loving Sha're, his wife, lost to him, inhabited by a Goa'uld, trapped helplessly inside her own body. She was out there somewhere, on the other side of the Stargate. Some day, on one of their missions, he would find her.
While he searched, he had SG-1 at his side, his teammates, his new family. In spite of the losses he'd faced in his life, he knew he was lucky because, after his parents died, he had found two new homes, the one on Abydos with Sha're, and the one he had now.
Jack O'Neill... It was hard to believe that the stiff necked, cold hearted soldier he had met when they first went to Abydos had grown to become the closest friend he had ever known. Could there be two men more different? Of course, Jack had mellowed, and Daniel himself had changed, too. He wasn't such a 'geek' these days, at least he didn't think he was. He'd fought to defend his team, even to defend the planet Earth. He could handle himself on missions, maybe not as well in battle as combat- tested soldiers but well enough that his inexperience wouldn't jeopardize his team. He didn't need to be baby sat on missions, just reined in occasionally when he got too carried away with the thrill of discovery.
Someone knocked at the apartment door. That was odd. He wasn't expecting anyone, unless it was Jack dropping by for the evening the way he did sometimes, maybe hauling Sam and Teal'c along for the ride. Teal'c didn't get out of Cheyenne Mountain nearly often enough but General Hammond had approved him to go out for social evenings with the team as long as he went to Jack's house or Daniel's apartment and not to a public place where someone might notice him and remark upon his differences, or remember any mistakes he made that wouldn't have been made by Earth-born humans.
Company would be welcome right now. Daniel snatched up the journal and stuck it onto a shelf before going over to open the door.
Instead of his teammates, Blair Sandburg stood there, and a more miserable specimen of human being Daniel couldn't remember seeing, unless it was himself on Oannes when Nem had held him prisoner and he didn't think he'd ever see his friends again. Holding two duffle bags, Blair said, "Hey, Daniel."
Blair Sandburg, anthropologist, guide and shaman to a full Sentinel, had gone on a mission with SG-1 six months earlier, a mission to a planet with Sentinels of its own. Jim Ellison, Blair's partner, was indeed a full Sentinel. Yet, a few months ago, news of Ellison's nature had broken nationwide. Daniel remembered a miserable Blair, voice breaking, calling a news conference to 'admit' that his research involving Jim had been falsified. The hullabaloo had died down quickly, but when Daniel had called to sympathize, realizing Blair had made his statement to protect Jim, Blair had confessed that the 'recanting' had cost him his position at the university--and probably at every other respectable school, too. He'd explained that his mother, in an attempt to help him, had e-mailed his dissertation to a publisher friend of hers without realizing its subject and that everything Sandburg had tried to do to get it back had failed. He wasn't even sure he'd have been able to publish it without compromising Jim. When the news broke, he'd done the only thing he could to salvage the situation. He was going to try his hand at being a police officer, he'd said.
Had the police department been forced to disclaim him, too?
"Blair. Come on in. You look terrible. Are you sick? Hurt?"
"No, I'm okay." Daniel had never heard a more halfhearted and unconvincing claim. "Listen, Daniel," the anthropologist continued, "can you put me up for a few days?"
"Of course. But I've got a mission coming up the day after tomorrow. That doesn't mean you can't stay here, of course. Just that I'll be away for a day or so." He snatched one of the duffle bags and guided the long-haired man into his apartment. Blair lugged the other one in after him then paused to stare around in approval.
"Hey, great place, man." His eyes traveled from artifact to artifact, over the bookcases jammed with books and journals, to the comfortable state of clutter that represented the work Daniel was doing and the reference material he liked to have handy. Daniel had given up tidying up when the rest of SG-1 came by. He liked to have his work around him, and they were used to that by now, although the other three were all neater than he was, and Teal'c was tidy to a fault. He'd gradually acquired a few possessions to take the stark bareness out of his base quarters, but nothing to personalize it.
"It'd be your thing, wouldn't it?" he asked Blair. "Reference material handy, artifacts from your fieldwork."
"Oh, man, if I kept my stuff like this, Jim would have a cow...." His voice trailed off unhappily and he snatched up a book at random and flipped through the pages as if to cover a blunder.
"Is Jim all right?" Daniel ventured tentatively. He hadn't spent much time with Detective Ellison when Blair had temporarily joined SG-1 on a rescue mission to the Second World, an Incan-based culture, just enough to know that the man was probably not as flexible and willing to go with the flow as Blair was. He must have *hated* it when the press had claimed he was a Sentinel. Of course it was his life at stake. Did some stubborn journalists still persist in spite of Blair's press conference? Sandburg had sacrificed his academic career without hesitation for his friend. Daniel had watched him on television as he claimed his research was fraudulent and, as a man who had also faced academic ridicule, he'd probably known better than most people how the anthropologist had felt.
"Oh yeah, he's fine," Blair said casually with an unconvincing dismissive gesture. "Hey, are you sure this isn't a bad time? If you've got a mission coming up I could find a motel or something...."
"My friends don't stay in motels," Daniel proclaimed, worried. "It's okay, Blair. Besides, the others will want to see you. Even Jack admitted he thought you were okay--and you know how hard it is to impress the Colonel."
A shadow flashed across Blair's face, but he found a hasty, artificial smile. "He sooo didn't want to trust me," he admitted. Those words brought pain to his eyes. "How is he? How are Sam and Teal'c?" he asked hastily to cover his reaction.
"They're all fine. I can call them and have them come over if you'd like."
Tempted, Blair hesitated, then he let his shoulders slump. "Not tonight, if you don't mind. I'm a little tired. Jet lag..." He let that thought trail off. A transition across one time zone didn't usually produce major jet lag. As an excuse, it didn't have a leg to stand on.
Daniel waved him toward the sofa and gestured him to sit down. "Do you want to talk about it?" he ventured carefully.
Blair's face tensed. Jackson pretended to concentrate on feeding his fish to give him a break.
After a minute, Blair said in a flat, dead voice, "I had to get out of there. Jim needs a guide he can trust."
That answer was so unexpected Daniel nearly dumped the whole container of fish food into the tank. Catching himself in time to prevent a feeding frenzy, he set it aside and whirled back. "Come on, Blair, even Jack knows how trustworthy you are. Look what you did for Jim a couple of months ago. Any man should be glad of a friend like you."
Wary, at bay, Blair faced him. "You *know* about that?" He must have forgotten Daniel had phoned. He'd probably been too shaken at the time to register what was going on around him.
"It was all over the news. I'm sorry. That had to be rough. I know what it's like to lose academic credibility. Even if you had options, it had to be ...bad. But--if Jim couldn't trust you after that..."
"He couldn't trust me before that," Blair groaned, raking his hands through his long hair. "He wouldn't even listen when I told him that I didn't do it, didn't sell him out. He believed I'd capitalize on him, man. He believed I wanted the brass ring more than I wanted his friendship."
"You're kidding." The words slipped out involuntarily. Daniel remembered how horrified he'd been on the mission with SG-1 when he'd realized the team knew Jim was a Sentinel. Of course all their preliminary research had made it a sure bet. Yet Blair had cried, "Jim will kill me." Daniel frowned, eyeing the miserable anthropologist. "I can't believe he doesn't trust you."
"He does, most of the time--just not when the chips are down. Then it's easier for him to believe I screwed him over." Blair raked his fingers through the tangle of long hair again. "I know he can't help it. He just isn't very good at trust."
"Neither was Jack at first," said Daniel reminiscently, "but he came around. God, Blair, after you shot down your career, he has to know he can rely on you. I mean, I don't know you as well as he does but I wouldn't hesitate to put my life in your hands. Neither would anyone in SG-1. Even General Hammond was impressed with you when he saw the press conference. He said your friend was lucky to have somebody like you on his side."
Blair's eyes were too bright. He snatched up a small Egyptian figurine and ran his fingers over its surface without realizing what he was doing. "Oh well, I had to get out of there. They said I could be a cop and I went to the police academy, but it just didn't work out. I could have been a cop--but it's not in me. I told Jim once that I could never go back to being an ordinary academic after working with him but I couldn't be a cop without the science angle either. Things were perfect before...."
"I know the feeling," Daniel replied. "If I got offered a cushy post at a university tomorrow, I couldn't take it. I couldn't give up what I do now."
"No, but you've got the archaeologist's dream," Blair responded wistfully, setting aside the statue. "Weird new cultures all the time and your friends...approve of you."
"Well, Jack doesn't always," Daniel replied with a twinkle in his eyes. "He wants to get on with the mission. He thinks I talk too much and that I'm always picking up rocks--they're artifacts but he doesn't see it."
Blair gave a sputter of laughter. "You love it anyway," he proclaimed. "And so does he."
Daniel nodded. "I never thought Jack would turn out to be my friend," he said. "Or that he and Sam and Teal'c would turn out to be my family."
"I thought Jim was mine," Blair said wistfully, then he cut it short. "I couldn't stay. There are still suspicious people who are sure Jim *is* a Sentinel. They think back and remember things that happened and him being a Sentinel makes them understandable. If I join the police, I'll just confirm it. If the press conference was true, the police wouldn't want me either. I can't do that to him. And I can't have him wondering if I'm gonna betray him again."
"You won't," said Daniel without hesitation. "You never did."
"The thing is, he thought I did. I'm just better away from there."
"But you're his shaman. When we were on the Second World, I saw how Topec and Manca Lana were a real team. They claim it's a life bond. Can you really walk away?"
"Don't you think I haven't been through it in fifty different directions? Oh, man, I didn't want to take off. I *had* to. I found him backup before I left, people he works with who know the truth. I wouldn't leave him in the lurch." He lifted eyes full of desolation and emptiness. Then he smoothed the look over and said brightly, "So, does the SGC need an anthropologist?"
Daniel started to grin, then he caught himself. "You're serious. Of course you are. That's why you're here."
"It's not like I've got a lot of choices, Daniel. No major university would touch me with a ten foot pole. I can't be a cop. It's not inside me--it would be like shutting the door on what I am--and it would endanger Jim. But being a police observer taught me how to think on my feet and even how to handle guns and the academy qualified me on the firing range. I'm more into living cultures than you were when you started here. I've lived with primitive tribes, been accepted by them. I can't think of anywhere else that I could use my skills half so well."
Daniel realized it was true. Blair Sandburg had proven himself on his one mission through the Stargate, proven that he was adaptable and could think on his feet, that he was knowledgeable and undaunted by threat. He was an ideal candidate for the SGC. Even Jack O'Neill, that most stubborn of judges, had praised him after the fact, although he'd been itching to chase Blair with a scissors and clip off his hippie locks the whole time. Blair joining the SGC just might work and it would bring the Stargate mission a bright, intelligent, qualified team member who could think on his feet. But was it fair to him to encourage him to take a position that would separate him from his Sentinel?
"You sure?" he asked.
Blair nodded, although his eyes held a flash of uncertainty.
"Then I'll talk to General Hammond in the morning. Why don't you come in with me? You can talk to him yourself."
"You do realize the non-disclosure statement you signed before is still in effect, Mr. Sandburg?" General George Hammond looked across his desk at the forlorn anthropologist who stood at Daniel's side. It didn't take more than Dr. Jackson's hasty explanation that Sandburg had felt that leaving Cascade was the best way he could protect his former partner to understand the sadness in his eyes. He sat there, small and forlorn, his eyes moving automatically over the room, taking it in, because, like Dr. Jackson, he was a scientist and used to registering his surroundings. His eyes lingered doubtfully on the red telephone that was Hammond's link to the President of the United States, comparing it with similar hot line phones he must have seen in the movies. A momentary interest crept into his eyes then tiptoed away again.
"I do, General. I never gave away one thing about what happened on that other planet, not even to Jim." That had evidently hurt him, keeping a secret from his partner, but he had done it. "Jim knows about security clearances. He never asked. Really."
"I believe you, Mr. Sandburg." It was probably better to keep it from the young man that he and Ellison had been under loose surveillance for a month or two after Sandburg's participation in a mission through the Stargate, a surveillance that had tightened up when all that Sentinel news had broken a few months earlier. Experts had gone through each press release to make sure that the security of the Stargate project had not been compromised, and it never had. The worst Hammond had been required to face was the abrupt arrival of a hotly suspicious Col. Maybourne, who had demanded information on Ellison as a Sentinel. No matter how much the reports and the SG-1 teams's statements insisted that Sandburg was an expert on Sentinels in history and not in reality, Maybourne was convinced he was being conned. Not even Col. O'Neill's laconic comment that if Ellison had been one of the legendary beings, he would have been a lot of help on P4K 621, yet he had not gone through the Stargate, had mitigated Maybourne's wrath. It was doubtful that the Colonel could discover that Sentinels were territorial and reacted adversely to the presence of other sentinels from the limited source material available.
Maybourne had satisfied himself by chewing out the whole team for taking a fraud like Sandburg on a mission. Only O'Neill's reminder that the mission might have failed without the 'fraud' had silenced Maybourne, and none of them believed he had given up on the idea. If he learned Sandburg had returned, he might climb on his hobby horse again, even though the press and the general public had dismissed the concept of Ellison as a Sentinel, all the more determined that he wasn't one to cover their embarrassment. Hammond was reminded of the way people were said to have reacted after they had fallen for Orson Welles' radio hoax about invading Martians back in 1938.
"General, Blair is here because he'd like to join the SGC," Dr. Jackson announced.
Well, that would throw the cat among the pigeons, all right. Hammond grimaced. Why was nothing ever easy?
Further proof of that fact was demonstrated when the door behind the two scientists opened and Col. Jack O'Neill breezed into the room. "Hey, General," he said in casual greeting, then he turned to the other two. "I see you brought us a hippie again, Daniel," he teased.
"Hey, Colonel," Blair said in a near match of Jack's tones. "I see you're still stuffy."
Delighted amusement came and went in O'Neill's eyes so quickly Sandburg probably hadn't noticed it, but the General did and so did Daniel, who grinned widely. O'Neill was in one of *those* moods. There was no telling what he'd do under such circumstances, except that it would probably fall--very roughly--within the bounds of military protocol. Hammond had learned how far he could let the Colonel go, and Jack had learned to put one toe over the line every single time. If he wasn't such a damned fine officer, Hammond would have to rake him down--more than he already did.
Sandburg snapped a very military salute. "Blair Sandburg reporting for duty, *sir*!" he barked.
"Are you kidding?" O'Neill rolled his eyes at Daniel. "Is he kidding?"
"I'm not kidding, Colonel," Sandburg insisted. "I've come to volunteer to join the SGC. I think I can meet your qualifications. I'm not in the service, but then Daniel isn't either. I've qualified with weapons through the Police Academy. I've been in tight situations more times than I can count. I have a lot of experience living with primitive cultures. There must be times you'd need a cultural anthropologist like you did when I came with you before."
"I think he would be good at it, General," Jackson insisted. "He handled himself very well on P4K 621. He proved he could go in cold and work with an unfamiliar team, that he could keep his head in a crisis, and that he has a basic knowledge base that would prove useful out there."
O'Neill nodded warily as if he could not refute Jackson's defense of Sandburg but still had a few doubts. "Sandburg, you've been all over the newspapers and TV since the last time I saw you. Daniel said you were going to become a police officer. What are you doing here instead?"
Blair pulled himself to his full height and looked up at the Colonel steadily. "If the Cascade Police Department hires me as an official police officer, they'd only confirm that Jim Ellison is a Sentinel, maybe not to the man on the street, who would never know anything about it, but to some criminals and maybe to covert agencies and disreputable scientists. If I stayed there, working with Jim, it wouldn't take long before the wrong people would start wondering if I'd claimed my research was a fake in order to protect him. I'm sure some people think that now. I arranged for someone who works with Jim regularly to take over my guide duties."
"Whoa, hold up. Back up there, junior," O'Neill objected. "I remember that sentinel and shaman we met on that mission. They were talking things like life bonds, and I could swear you and Ellison were pretty tight. What's he got to say about this?"
Sandburg winced. "They don't live in a culture where the knowledge of their existence could have endangered Topec, Colonel," Sandburg objected earnestly. "Don't you think I'd have stayed if I could? The best way I could protect Jim was to leave. I didn't want to go but he'd be safer if I did, and that has to be the bottom line, man. He didn't like it, but he'll be glad in the long run."
Hammond shook his head. While he honestly believed Sandburg could be a real asset to the SGC and that he could do the job well--and there were plans of creating an additional two teams so a place could be made for him--there were problems to deal with, too. Not the least of them was Maybourne. On the other hand, if Sandburg showed up here without Ellison, it might protect the Sentinel from Maybourne, too.
"You do realize we'll have to do more extensive clearances, son, if we take you on permanently?" he asked. "And put you through a testing process, both physical and psychological. We require it of all our teams. Even scientists have to qualify on the firing range."
"The way I had to," Dr. Jackson confirmed. "I'm willing to sponsor him, General." His offer won a gratified smile from Sandburg.
"I'll take that under advisement, Dr. Jackson. I'd like to speak to Mr. Sandburg privately." He turned toward O'Neill. "And that means you, too, Colonel," he added, shooing the two men toward the door with a hand gesture. They paused, eyed Sandburg measuringly, then went out together, falling into step automatically. All of SG-1 did that without even thinking of it. They were the best team he had, so accustomed to working with each other that their awareness of each other was automatic. What skill or tidbit of knowledge one of them lacked, the other possessed, creating a well-rounded first-contact team that could be trusted in a major crisis--such as finding themselves on a Goa'uld assault vessel on its way to destroy the Earth. If Sandburg joined the SGC, he'd have to learn more background. Would it intimidate him?
"Sit down, Son," Hammond encouraged kindly. When Blair dropped uneasily into a chair and sat perched on the edge of the seat as if he meant to spring up at an instant's notice, the General continued. "Col. O'Neill makes a good point. I got the impression, too, that your Sentinel/Shaman bond with Detective Ellison was a relationship not easily severed. If we take you into the SGC and you change your mind because you couldn't function without your Sentinel, we'd be wasting our time and the taxpayers' money on your training. Every man and woman on the SG teams must be fully committed to the project. I'd need to be convinced that your mind was here, not out there regretting what you lost when your mother gave away the secret to that publisher in New York."
Sandburg threw himself to his feet. "You *know* about all that, General?"
"Project security is ultimately my responsibility," Hammond replied. "We have to be aware of potential threats. Sit down again, son. It's all right."
Sandburg nodded, understanding the need to check out a possible threat to base security, and subsided into the chair again. "I hear you, General. Okay, so a part of me's always going to be with Jim. You're right about the bond between a Sentinel and his shaman, and I found that out when I met Topec and Manca Lana. I always thought it was true, once I realized that Jim was a friend and not just a research subject--and *that* didn't take very long. But I can't endanger him. Don't think I won't give all I've got to the Project. I will."
"Dr. Jackson says that it's in your nature to give 110% in everything you do. I'll be frank with you, Mr. Sandburg. I think you'd be an asset to the Project, too. I'll sign you up to undergo preliminary testing, but you've just come away from a bad situation. If you qualify, I would be inclined to use you to fill in at first, where anthropological expertise would be needed, since not all teams have an anthropologist and Dr. Jackson, who's basically an archaeologist, can't be two places at once. We'll see how you do. If that works out and it becomes obvious that you mean to commit to us, then we'll consider assigning you a permanent place on an SC team. Does that sound fair to you?"
He started to bounce up again and consciously restrained himself. "Fair? It's *great*. Wow, thanks, man. Uh, I mean, General, sir."
He was even more gung ho than Jackson was. Hammond concealed a wince as he reached into his desk drawer. "I'll arrange for your testing to start while SG-1 is away. Here's an application form I'd like you to fill in for the sake of formality--there are ways and ways to do things here, and our way is at least in triplicate." He passed a multi-page form to Sandburg. "Do the best you can with it. I'm sure you'd like to spend some time with them first and become reacquainted. They can give you lunch, then Col. O'Neill will take you somewhere so you can complete the form. Don't think we always work a seven-day week, but Teal'c lives on the base, and Major Carter is here doing some preliminary survey work on an upcoming mission. If you get taken on here, you'll discover your schedule will be quite fluid." He smiled benevolently at the young anthropologist. A part of him was certain that he and Ellison would resolve the differences that brought shadows to Sandburg's eyes. In the meantime, Sandburg had nearly completed his course at the police academy, which meant he'd likely qualify with weapons. He had proven himself on a mission already, and if he could continue to be as flexible and think on his feet, he'd be an asset to any team he traveled with. Even if they only gained use of him for a few missions, it would be worth it. He hadn't given the Project away, so he could handle the security parts. No one from his former life knew where to find him. The only cloud on Hammond's horizon was the thought of Col. Maybourne's reaction to the SGC's newest recruit.
Jack O'Neill grinned at Daniel when they emerged from Hammond's office. "So, Daniel, now you've got another wild and crazy scientist to hang with." His smile broadened. His first thought when they'd met Blair Sandburg a few months ago was that the long-haired man was Jackson to the Nth power, someone who possessed all of Daniel's worst features and none of his redeeming qualities. He'd quickly learned that Sandburg was not a stereotype but a man who could think fast and who *knew* things like Daniel did. Career military, O'Neill was used to scientists like Carter, who obeyed orders without questioning them, who respected the chain of command. Daniel was apt to argue with Hammond at the drop of a hat. Sandburg probably would, too.
Okay, to be fair, Jack argued with the General himself, because he was something of a maverick officer, but the bottom line was that he had to obey in the end because that was the way it was meant to be. Hammond was pretty damned flexible for a general, and he *listened* when Jack pushed him, or when Daniel did. He never came to briefings or meetings with a closed mind. Sometimes he had no choice but to toe the line and insist his teams did the same, the way he had when Jack had wanted to take an armed force back to Byrsa when Teal'c had been taken prisoner there and been forced to endure the Cor-ai for his 'war crimes'. That Teal'c would not have approved of his actions and had been prepared to stand trial for what he had done didn't mean that Jack hadn't wanted to rush in, if not with guns blazing at least with a show of force. Hammond couldn't condone that and had not allowed it and, in retrospect, Jack had been forced to agree, privately, that Hammond had been right. Had Jack taken armed Marines back to Byrsa and blasted Teal'c free, it would have made the humans, the Tau'ri, as they were known on the other side of the Stargate, as bad as the Goa'uld.
"Think he can make it?" he asked Jackson. Another case in point where first impressions had been proven wrong. When Jack had been recruited by Hammond's predecessor, General West, to take the first trip through the Stargate, he had been firmly and utterly convinced that Daniel Jackson was a geek who could only endanger the mission. Yet, without him, they would have all died on Abydos. Still full of bitter grief, guilt, and depression over his son's death, Jack wouldn't have minded so much for himself, but the rest of his team did not deserve to die. Yet Daniel had helped him so much that, by the time he was ready to return to Earth after defeating their first Goa'uld, Ra, Jack had come to believe he had the strength to go on.
Daniel smiled enthusiastically. "Isn't it great, Jack? I think Blair would be a big asset to the Project. He's used to living among primitive peoples and he's good at going with the flow. He's got a lot more experience in fitting into primitive tribal cultures than I did before we went to Abydos."
"Is it true what he said, that he's been through the police academy and qualified with weapons?" Jack asked. He had several valid doubts about Sandburg. Like everyone on the base who had met him when he was here before, Jack had heard the public flap over Jim Ellison and seen a tape of Sandburg's press conference. "And anyway, I thought the one thing we picked up when we went to the Second World was that this Sentinel and guide thing is sort of like being married--you're in it for life." He grimaced. Yeah, right. His own marriage, the one he'd intended to be a part of for life, had died just as finally as his son, Charlie had. Maybe Sentinels and their shamans were just as prone to 'divorce' as anybody else.
"They had a bad stretch, Jack." Daniel looked distressed, but that was the way Jackson worked. He could agonize over situations and crises that O'Neill had learned to shrug off. Still, if the Colonel had ever seen a pair of buddies he'd thought would hang together for the duration, it was Sandburg and Ellison. Life had a way of dealing out bad hands.
"Yeah, lousy break. I saw some of it on TV. You really think the kid would work out here?" Okay, so Sandburg had handled himself well when he and Jack had been taken before the Inca, but that was just one time. He could stand up for himself, but he'd never come face to face with a dozen Jaffa armed with staff weapons or a Goa'uld who was hot for his blood.
Daniel's head moved emphatically up and down. "I really do, Jack."
"What's the conference?" newly promoted Major Samantha Carter joined them, accompanied by Teal'c, the Jaffa who had joined SG-1. Both were wearing fatigues.
"We were told that Blair Sandburg had returned," Teal'c announced. "Is this so? I would enjoy meeting him again."
"You liked him, didn't you, Teal'c?" Daniel asked, sharing a quick glance with Jack.
"I did," Teal'c replied without hesitation. "He proved himself able to ponder while walking."
"Uh, that's 'think on his feet', Teal'c," Jack corrected, concealing a grin. The big Jaffa had made great strides in learning about Earth culture, as much as a man who was essentially confined to the base deep within Cheyenne Mountain could manage. It was true that he sometimes emerged into the 'real' world outside, but generally with escort, a hat pulled down low over his forehead to conceal the golden snake tattoo on his forehead that had signified his service to the Goa'uld, Apophis. Teal'c often came to Jack with questions after another dose of American television. Sometimes, such mistakes in slang were honest ones, but occasionally Teal'c did it deliberately, joking. Even yet, Jack wasn't always sure which was which.
"He would prove an excellent asset to the team," Teal'c continued, inclining his head in response to Jack's correction, quick to memorize the proper phrasing.
"Tips the balance a bit toward the science side," Sam added. "I hear the new teams being planned will be geared toward scientific investigation. With the government budget surplus, the President is more inclined to fund research."
Jack was not always comfortable around scientists--until recently, he had actively disliked the breed. But Daniel had become, against all odds, his closest friend, and Sam, the best second-in-command he'd ever had, was an astrophysicist as well as an officer. O'Neill had gradually come to realize the advantage of having a mixed team, especially with all the weird scientific problems and need for first contact that SG-1 faced on a regular basis.
"They'll still want us to bring back weapons." Daniel was not exactly disapproving, but his interest slanted toward technology of a different sort. He'd been utterly fascinated with the mirror device that had sent him into a parallel dimension. Even Jack had been reluctant to believe that one, but Daniel had been on the money and his stubborn insistence that he had really hopped around between dimensions had ultimately ended in the saving of Earth from an attack by Apophis. Without Daniel's dogged persistence, SG-1 wouldn't have gated to Apophis' ship and managed to destroy two vessels in orbit over Earth. Maybe he had a point about non-weapon technology, but they needed both.
"Well, hey, when I'm out there on the front lines, I kinda think a zat gun is a pretty nice thing to have," Jack replied. "And now that Sam is finding out that she can use the Goa'uld weapons, not to mention the healing device, we've got a lot more advantages."
"I still don't have that quite down, sir," Sam replied. Temporarily possessed by a Goa'uld, she often came up with flashes of lingering memory from the link with Jolinar, and a byproduct of the experience was the ability to use the Goa'uld mind weapons and the healing device. As she perfected the abilities, it would help them out a lot, although Jack realized it would be a strategically bad idea for her to wear the ribbon weapon on missions. With a Jaffa already on the team, she might be mistaken for a Goa'uld and that would send the wrong message to the people they met. Still, there might be times when it could be an advantage.
The door to Hammond's office opened and Blair came out, shaking hands with the general, a folder tucked under one arm. Spotting them, Hammond steered Blair in their direction before closing the door. Sandburg turned, spotted them, and his face lit up. "Sam! Teal'c!"
Sam met him halfway and hugged him, and Teal'c gripped his upper arms and announced, "It is good to see you again, Blair Sandburg."
Emerging from Sam's welcoming embrace and the Jaffa's greeting, Sandburg looked around at SG-1 and his eyes glittered with momentary brightness, although his smile stretched from ear to ear. Maybe after the debacle with his dissertation, he was surprised to find himself in a place where he was welcomed and respected. Jack remembered how Daniel's academic career had been in the toilet when he first came to SG-1. Look how he'd turned out.
"Hey, guys. It's good to see all of you, too." Yep, Sandburg was clearly moved. It would turn into one big emotional scene any second now.
Jack spoke hastily. "I shudder to think of the trouble we'll be in with the two of you," he groaned. "I have a hard enough time reining in Daniel when he wants to race off and look at every rock on the ground and jump into mysterious buildings before they've been checked out."
"You love it and you know it," Daniel teased back. "Don't listen to Jack, Blair. He just doesn't go around enjoying himself. After all, he's the Colonel."
"Ya think?" Jack gave Daniel a slap on the back. "Lunchtime, kiddies. I think we ought to show Sandburg here the culinary masterpieces they serve us on the base so he'll know what he is getting into."
"You often say they are *not* culinary masterpieces," Teal'c returned so drily that Jack realized that he was in excellent humor and willing to take part in the kidding around. To those who didn't know him well, Teal'c appeared stoic and humorless, but it wasn't true. Okay, so his sense of humor was major league weird, but the rest of SG-1 were used to him.
"So maybe we'll have a good day," Jack replied. "With the budget this place has, you'd think we'd get something decent to eat once in awhile."
"What have you got there, Blair?" Daniel asked as the team led him toward the mess.
"Application to join the SGC," Blair replied, waving the folder in their faces. "In triplicate."
"At least triplicate," Jack replied. "Take away the paperwork and this place would collapse in on itself. Hey, Sandburg, you any good at paperwork?"
Blair cocked his head and regarded O'Neill warily. "Not so bad, why?"
"Maybe we should put in a bid for you ourselves."
"Come on, Jack, just because you hate paperwork..." protested Daniel, grinning. "We work in a bureaucracy. Live with it."
O'Neill stopped walking and stared at his friend. "Next mission, you do it all, then." Of course it wouldn't be that way. They were all very conscientious about reports; they had to be. The Goa'uld threat loomed large in spite of treaties and the alliance with the Asgards. Jack couldn't wait till Sandburg got his first look at Thor.
For a moment, Blair looked sad and lost, as if he had awakened in a strange bed, in a strange house, in a strange world, then he put on his brightest expression and started to complain about how he'd wound up filling out forms for half the detectives in the Major Crimes unit. "Just because I'm better than they are with computers...."
"There we go," Jack said. "I *knew* this was a good idea...."
"Ellison! In my office. Now!"
Megan Connor and Joel Taggart, who had been standing at Jim's desk commiserating over the departure of Sandburg, glanced at Captain Simon Banks then back at Jim. "Been a bad boy, have you?" Taggart asked under his breath.
Jim shrugged. Blair had departed on Saturday morning with a couple of duffle bags and a promise to send for the rest of his possessions as soon as he was settled. Now it was Monday morning and Ellison was back at Major Crimes after a weekend off--a long, frustrating, annoying, empty weekend. Damn it, he missed Sandburg. He missed the kid's flagrant infractions of the 'house rules', missed his clutter, his weird, chanting music, his banks of scented candles, his suggestions for tests of Jim's senses. Because he missed him so much, Jim was angry, simmering over with rage. He knew Sandburg would tell him he was mad because it was easier than other emotions, and that made him still madder--because he knew it was true.
Connor had phoned him at home on Saturday night and had come over to talk to him about the Sentinel thing. Angry and betrayed, Jim had flung Sandburg's notes in her face and told her to make the best of them, but she had not taken offense. Instead she'd dropped down on the couch and flipped through the pages while Jim wandered out into the kitchen and poured her a drink. He hated this whole situation. How could Sandburg have put him in such a spot? Even if he saw the kid's point, he couldn't help being angry. This whole mess wasn't *all* his fault. Sandburg had his share in it, too. Ellison scarcely responded to Connor the whole time she was there, but Megan had endured his bad temper without a single complaint. She talked a little about how meticulous 'Sandy' was on his research, and even her pet nickname for the kid stung.
Did it feel like this to have a limb lopped off, a weird, aching pain in a part of him that didn't exist any longer? Stomping down the fanciful thought, he flung himself to his feet and pushed past Joel and Megan as if they hadn't even been there.
He headed for Simon's office and the Captain closed the door behind him. He looked stern, very Captain-ish. It was clear from the expression on his face that he hadn't called in Jim, his friend, but Ellison, the detective. With a gesture at the chair he said tightly, "Sit down."
"I'll stand, sir."
"I said you'll sit." Simon waved him to the chair, and Ellison sank into it, tense and braced to jump up again, seething with resentment that was aimed at Simon only because he was in the way. The look on Banks' face convinced Jim he did not want to hear this.
"I'm sitting," he growled, aware of how surly he sounded and not even caring.
"What's this I hear about Sandburg taking off?" Banks demanded.
It hadn't taken long for the word to spread. "Who told you about Sandburg?" he countered. There was something too personal in the question. It should have been asked of Jim, not of Detective Ellison. His teeth ground together, the muscles tight in his jaw.
"Captain Wilson at the Academy. He phoned Friday night and said Sandburg had dropped out. What's that about? I called you Saturday to ask but you didn't answer the phone."
"Maybe I didn't hear it," Jim returned. He'd heard the phone--Sentinels didn't overlook loud, unwelcome noises--and ignored it, finally grabbing up the receiver when exasperation drove him to it, the time that Connor had rung up.
"Anybody else I'd believe that of, but not you." Okay, now Simon was wearing his 'friend' face. It dawned on Ellison that he wasn't the only one who was going to find a large gap in his life. Sandburg had made a place for himself at Major Crimes. It would probably thrill him no end to realize that Simon missed him. Ellison could picture the delight on is face as he gloated about it. "He likes me, Jim, Simon likes me." The words rang in Ellison's mind and they only served to irritate him still further.
"Jim, what went wrong? *Why* did Sandburg quit? Did you two have a fight? Where is he?"
"No, we didn't have a fight," returned Jim tightly. "As to where he is, your guess is as good as mine. He took off, Simon." Jim found the arm of the chair particularly fascinating. "He's not going to be my guide any longer." The words stung. Putting them out for all to see made him feel as if he were confessing a shameful secret. He was furious with Sandburg for taking off, but a part of him, a part he wanted to banish to the darkest regions of his mind, wondered if he hadn't finally driven Sandburg to do it, if he had finally pushed too hard, let him down once too often. Sandburg didn't understand how it was with him, how hard it was to wake up each day with heightened senses, to know he would always be different. No one could understand.
Sandburg had come closer than anyone else could ever come. Damn it, the one person who could guess at how he felt with any chance of accuracy, who could understand, who could help, and he was gone.
"He *took off*? What the hell?"
Drawing in a deep, sustaining breath, Jim explained Sandburg's reasoning about becoming a police officer, how Blair had claimed it would protect Jim if he tossed in his hand and left because to stay would confirm to those who might already suspect that he had lied about Jim's abilities in his press conference. About how Sandburg insisted it wasn't in him to be a police officer. He didn't touch on Sandburg's claim that Jim didn't trust him because he wasn't sure he did--now. Sandburg had left him in the lurch; he'd taken off when the going got tough, and Jim Ellison felt as if he had been sold out, kicked in the gut, betrayed. How could Sandburg have done this to him?
A part of him, a small, cautionary part that he didn't want to acknowledge asked in a small voice if he hadn't just proved Sandburg was right by feeling that way. He shoved that fleeting thought back into the dark recesses of his mind, not quite ready to take it out and examine it.
Simon heard him out in silence, although a multitude of expressions passed across his mobile features. When Jim finished and sat slumped in the chair, too aware of all his senses--the texture of the seat pressing against his buttocks and thighs, the steady swish, swish, swish of traffic racing past outside, the aroma of Simon's coffee and his aftershave, the too-bright glitter from the overhead flourescent light, the voices of the detectives in the bullpen, gossiping like old women about Sandburg's departure. If Blair had been here, he'd have realized how high the senses were and reminded Jim to turn it down. But Sandburg wasn't here, wouldn't be here again. With an effort, Jim adjusted his senses to normal. He'd have to learn to do that on his own from now on.
"I gotta tell you, Jim, I think he's right about the police thing," Banks admitted at last, reluctant honesty in his voice. "The word filtered through to me that there had been some covert types lurking around Cascade for the last month or two since the kid's press conference, maybe even further back. I've even been told you and Sandburg were under surveillance. Did you ever pick up anything like that?"
Jim shook his head uneasily. He'd wondered a couple of times but nothing had come of it. If covert agencies believed him a Sentinel, the surveillance would have been distant and wary, staying outside of what they would perceive his normal range. Since the news of Sandburg's dissertation had broken on the world, Jim had toned down every sense he had, using them only when essential on the job. He was sure the slightest accidental usage would bring suspicion back.
"Then last night, I got a call." Simon pushed his coffee cup around on his desk, leaving a circular trail of moisture in its wake. "I can't tell you who it was from, Jim. All I can say is that it was classified."
This was it, the beginning of the end. Once the news had come out, once he'd been all over the papers, he'd known it would come to this. Had Sandburg *known*? "About--my senses?"
"About Sandburg. The person who called me wanted to know if I would give him a character reference."
"What!" Jim bounded to his feet. "A job reference?" He hadn't expected that, not so soon. A part of him had held out, he realized, hoping that Sandburg would see the error of his ways and come back. They could work it out, somehow, keep him as an observer in a different way, maybe. But if he was out there applying for a job--and what kind of a job could Sandburg apply for that was classified? Did he mean to give Jim away....
Even as he thought that, Ellison gave himself a mental kick. That kind of doubt was the reason Sandburg insisted Jim didn't trust him. Damn it! Maybe he had developed heightened paranoia in addition to heightened senses.
"A job reference. Evidently a position that will require him to use his anthropology. I don't know what it is, but it's obviously not with a university." He looked up at Jim and his eyes flashed with sympathy behind his glasses before he controlled the look. "I'm sorry, Jim. I know that's the last thing you wanted to hear. Whatever he's into, they evidently have no problem with the dissertation thing."
Jim tensed still further, turning away from Simon and moving to stare out the window. "Then they have to suspect it's true. A classified source? You know that if you give him a good reference, Simon, it'll be the same thing as telling them I'm a Sentinel." He looked away from the traffic below and waited to see what Banks meant to do.
The African American frowned, his brow lowering. He gave his glasses an impatient shove into place on the bridge of his nose. "I know that. If I confirm that he's an honorable man, I'm confirming that he lied when he said he made up the report about you. It's a double bind. If I say he lied, then I shoot down his chances, and we both know he didn't lie. There's no easy choice here, Jim. I have to protect you; even if you weren't my best detective, you're my friend, and I *know* what kind of trouble you could get into if the wrong people suspected that you had Sentinel abilities. On the other hand, we've already managed to destroy Sandburg's career. Give him a bad report this time and there's not a hope for him for the rest of his life. Wasting his mind is a crime, but I can't throw you to the wolves, either."
"I know you can't tell me who called," Jim said tightly, returning to the desk and resting his palms on it. "But they must have given you some information. What do you think? Is it likely to cause me trouble?" He didn't want to screw Sandburg over, either. He could still remember Blair's broken voice and tear-bright eyes when he confessed on television that his dissertation was a fraud. If Jim denied Sandburg a second chance at a scientific occupation, how could he look himself in the face again? Sandburg had thrown away his career out of loyalty and friendship. In retrospect, Jim could remember how hard Blair had worked to repress the knowledge, how horrified he'd been at what he'd done to Jim so inadvertently. He'd said his faults were trusting too much, trusting his mother not to look at the dissertation. Trusting Jim to understand about Alexis Barnes. Maybe Jim hadn't been able to understand then, but all that meant was that they hadn't known enough to deal with that situation. How many more problems might arise that Jim would have to deal with on his own?
How could he let Sandburg hang out to dry?
"All I can say, Jim, is that it's military," Simon confirmed. "I can't even give you a location."
"*Military*?" Jim lifted his head, frowning. Pacing back to the window, he gazed unseeingly down on the street below. How could Blair have found a job with the military in a couple of days? He'd said he was going to stay with friends in Colorado, but who
Omigod. Suddenly it made sense. Where could Blair go where the people knew he hadn't lied on his dissertation, where they had already promised to protect Jim's secret, where he might be valued completely and be given a job that he could do? Jim didn't know the ins and outs of what had happened that time a few months back when Blair had been summoned to NORAD. Blair had been restricted from speaking of it, other than to say he'd encountered another Sentinel on his mission and that it had been great. Even now, Jim didn't know where he had gone on the mission where he had wound up poisoned by an enemy faction. Some militia group in the Rockies was the closest he could come, and that didn't explain that Teal'c character who apparently had a symbiotic life form inside of him. Jim had theories, each wilder than the next, but he had no answers.
"Simon, was the guy who called you General George Hammond?" he asked.
"You know I can't tell you that," Simon replied, but Ellison had seen a minute contraction of the pupils of his eyes, an involuntary response that none but a Sentinel would have noticed. Jim's guess had been right. That military project at NORAD. So that's where Sandburg had run to.
Damn it, it was a good choice for him, too. The people on the base knew he hadn't lied about Jim's abilities when he gave his press conference. They'd been aware of the Sentinel factor from the beginning and had evidently kept it confidential as promised because no one had ever sprung it on him until Naomi did her e-mailing to her publisher buddy. There had been a time or two when Jim had vaguely suspected he was under surveillance after that mission, and he'd identified two men who could have only been military, who might have been watching them for the first few weeks after Sandburg's mission. He didn't understand how Sandburg could help them on a regular basis, since the one time he'd been recruited had been to deal with another Sentinel, and he doubted the Air Force went around looking for them, or they'd have done something with Jim himself.
"Right," he admitted. This would take some thinking. "Simon, if it's Hammond, go for the honest reference, without mentioning me, of course." He owed Sandburg so much that, even now when he was annoyed, betrayed, he couldn't deny the kid a chance to make it. But the thought of setting Blair up in a job that was far away pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn't be back. Jim felt his temper building, but he reined it in. Could he teach himself how to tone down the 'temper' dial? Or would that be too much to ask?
"Chevron 7 engaged."
The Stargate settled into its final configuration as the last chevron locked in place. With a swoosh of power, the stable wormhole thrust out of the gate in a burst then drew back to form a glittery surface like a pool in a light wind, its surface rippling with energy. No matter how many times he saw the gate open a door to a new world, Daniel never found it boring. Who could guess what they would find on the other side? Excitement, danger, lost cultures? Sha're? He exchanged a quick grin with Sam who, as a fellow scientist, could be expected to feel some of the same wonder he always felt at the start of a mission. She grinned back.
"All right, kiddies." Jack gathered them in and started them up the ramp. He wouldn't be thinking of the excitement of discovery; he'd be preparing for threat. The military mindset: Daniel couldn't understand it. He didn't always understand Jack himself, but that didn't stop him from liking the man. After all, they needed that mindset. Daniel knew he was inclined to rush into certain danger without stopping to think that it *was* danger. Jack had saved his life on those occasions, or Teal'c had. Teal'c had the military mindset, too, in a different way. Being First Prime of Apophis had taught him to go through the Stargate expecting trouble and prepared to defend his team. Sam, also military, was split, somewhere between Daniel and the other two. Maybe that was why SG-1 was such a good team, because they went to new worlds with a variety of attitudes.
Stepping through the wormhole always took a second of resolution. Even though the team had seen the M.A.L.P. images of P3R-123, they had been produced during one moment of time, revealing a deserted ruin, heavily overgrown with tropical vines. Who was to say that, ten minutes after the images were transmitted, hairy tribesmen bearing spears or soldiers bearing staff weapons or ray guns hadn't come to investigate and set up camp there to guard the gate. The atmosphere had been conducive to humans, but maybe ion storms from an unstable sun swept the planet periodically. Plagues didn't always show up on the M.A.L.P. scans, either. The disease that had turned them all but Teal'c to savages on the planet of the Touched hadn't shown up ahead of time, either.
Daniel knew all those things, but he also felt the thrill of discovery, and those ruins had appealed to him. The angle had been bad for the M.A.L.P. to display much of them, just enough to see a corner of the building with massive, hand-hewn fitted stones, not enough to tell whether the deserted structure could match any of Earth's ancient civilizations. Daniel couldn't wait.
When they walked up the ramp, he stepped through the gate eagerly, excited. The wild roller-coaster ride that was the transition between worlds never failed to awe him, although he could take it in his stride. New teams always babbled about what a rush it was to step across the event horizon, ride the spiraling path between planets, and end up under a brand new sun.
The sun on P3R-123 was warm but not too hot, although the humidity was high enough to suggest the day would grow unpleasant as the sun rose higher in the sky. Gentle breezes stroked Daniel's cheek, not hard enough to lift the brim of his hat. Jack slid on his sunglasses at the brightness of the green morning. Before them stretched a rolling meadow with an occasional cow--an actual Earth cow--grazing here and there. Well, maybe not quite Earth cows. They were fat and content; the grass must provide all the appropriate nutrition required for their survival. But they were longer and taller than Earth cattle. A native breed? A primitive one brought through the Stargate long ago? A mutant strain?
Beyond the clearing, the trees closed in, not quite tropical but thick and vine-laced. The growth rate must be high enough to suggest the clearing was maintained because it would have vanished into the near- jungle without some effort. The grazing cattle wouldn't be enough to hold it back on its own, not unless there were usually a great many more of them.
Daniel turned his head and saw the ruins. They were ancient and overgrown, and vaguely pre-Columbian. The structure was pyramidal, not like the Egyptian pyramids of Abydos--or Giza--but closer to those at Chichen Itza, perhaps. Mayan rather than Aztec, maybe a blend of the two but closer to the Mayan style. Ancient stones, set with all the precision of ancient Incan architecture gave the pyramid an almost modern feel, although creepers and lianas had nearly enveloped it in growth that had been at its job so long that some of the stones were sprung. Beneath the vines, the stones were thick with moss. These ruins looked ancient, abandoned.
"Domestic cattle? Or wild?" Sam asked, gesturing at the grazing beasts. Daniel shrugged.
"D'you see any sign of people?" Jack had his gun in his hand, ready for trouble.
"I do not." Armed with his Jaffa staff weapon, Teal'c, too, was braced for trouble.
Daniel started toward the ruin, realizing it was a primitive structure about half the size of the main pyramid at Tikal, but not nearly as majestic. *Blair Sandburg would like this*, he thought fleetingly, glad that it looked like the young man would join the team.
"Not so fast, let's check it out." Jack caught him by the arm to restrain him. He was good at that. "Somebody could be waiting in there to blast us. Let's not paint targets on ourselves."
"It doesn't appear that anyone has been in the building in a long time, Jack," Daniel suggested, waving at the doorway that was nearly blocked with woody vines. Nothing disturbed their leaves and no twisted path led through them to suggest people routinely entered that way. There might be a better door on the other side.
"Someone clears this ground," Teal'c objected, gesturing at the clearing with his staff weapon. "The grazing beasts alone could not do so."
"That's what I thought," Sam agreed. "Maybe there's a cultural taboo about entering the pyramid."
"It's not a Goa'uld pyramid, is it, Daniel?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"It's not Egyptian, if that's what you mean. It's pre-Columbian in design, like those of Central America, more Mayan than anything. It's incredible. We never found any evidence of a Gate in Peru, in spite of Blair's mention of a possible capstone there, but those Incans on the Second World definitely came from Earth. Now here's a structure from another pre-Columbian culture."
"A temporary Gate?" Sam theorized. "Brought by ship and taken away again? The Antarctic gate? I wouldn't think it would have been accessible, but you never know."
"Possible for them to bring a Gate by ship," Daniel decided. "After all there was a Gate on Klorel's ship, so we know they can be transported. Once his ship was in orbit around Earth, I was able to use Earth as the point of origin, so evidently they don't have to be set specifically but depend on location for the chevrons. It's possible that a Gate was brought down to Earth after the Egyptian Gate was buried and transported here and there to shift people to give the Goa'uld a slave base and then taken away again. That doesn't seem to have happened in a long time; there would be historical evidence of entire populations vanishing in modern times." He hesitated frowning. "Well, some have disappeared. Roanoke..."
"Can we save the theoretical history lesson until after we've checked out the pyramid?" Jack asked. Although he was frowning, it wasn't necessarily so much at Daniel's theories as at their implications. The Roanoke settlers had disappeared much too recently for him to be happy about such a possibility. Daniel hadn't studied that field but he was sure there were more reasonable theories to explain that disappearance. Next thing he knew he'd be claiming the Goa'uld had taken the people on the Marie Celeste--or Jimmy Hoffa.
He stepped back for Jack to lead the way to the pyramid.
They approached the ruined structure cautiously. At least Jack and Teal'c approached it cautiously, and so did Sam. Daniel was anxious to go inside and see what awaited them. Possible natives had done nothing to the M.A.L.P. that sat undamaged at the foot of the ramp and no one had been lying in waiting for the team's arrival, unless they were concealed in the building and just hadn't pounced yet. If so, there had to be another entrance. This one hadn't been touched in generations, maybe even centuries.
After consultation, Jack nodded at Teal'c and he blasted the vines back, leaving only a little knife work to clear away the remnants to allow the team access to the structure. They stepped into cool, green dimness, traced here and there with filtered sunlight from spots where the inexorable growth had forced stones apart and from several concealed openings high overhead. It gave enough light to make the interior visible without the need of flashlights and to show them a floor that was dust and dirt encrusted without a trace of a recent footprint. Some vines had crept in through the holes in the stone and through the doorway, but the entire room was not overgrown.
Jack peeled off his sunglasses and looked around the great, shadowy chamber for evidence of trouble.
"Don't go too close to anything yet, Jack," objected Daniel, driven by a gut feeling the hollow, echoing space produced and by his knowledge of ancient pyramids. "This place might be booby trapped. I've seen similar pyramids that had traps in them. I don't think we'd better touch anything until we can make sure."
"Booby trapped?" Sam cast an uneasy glance over her shoulder. "That might explain why any possible natives don't come in here. If they ever triggered any traps, they might consider the place taboo and go out of their way to avoid it. If the cattle are theirs, they obviously are in the neighborhood, but this looks like nothing's been touched for generations."
"They maintain the clearing, though," Daniel objected. "Or, someone does. Whoever built this place can't still be around, though. No one's been in here for ages." He gestured at the dusty floor. Apart from their own tracks and the scuttling marks of small animals, there was no evidence of human visitation. And yet...
Finally noticing the contents of the room, Daniel stared about him with the dawn of joy and delight. The place was a treasure trove, full of artifacts; rows of urns lining the walls, boxes of treasure, golden coins, jewels, small figurines. A giant vaguely Mayan statue of a figure in a tunic stood at each of the four corners of the room. They had eyes inlaid with colored gemstones, creating the eerie sensation that the team was being watched.
"Oh, wow, look at the statues," Daniel cried, gesturing at them. "These must be the Bacabs. This place *is* Mayan."
"The Macabres?" Jack misquoted him. "Well, yeah, they do look kind of macabre, now that I think about it. Spooky eyes."
"Who are the Bacabs?" Sam asked, amusement poorly concealed in her face.
"They were four Mayan giants whose job it was to hold up the sky." He pointed to the raised arms that held symbolic pieces of sky that jutted out from the walls of the pyramid. "See, this one's Cauac."
"You know them personally, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked. The question was meant to encourage him. Teal'c often did encourage him to explain things, if the team wasn't in the heart of a crisis. The big Jaffa soaked up knowledge and retained it well. He was always coming up with some bit of Goa'uld esoterica that saved the day.
"Well, Cauac was the one designated to the South, and he was red. Notice his eyes are red. And this one over here to the east is Kan. Yellow eyes. Ix has the west and his eyes are black, see? And Mulac is the north and his eyes are white. The colors were symbolic of the four, and I think they were painted in those colors once, but the paint's faded except here and there in the decorative whorls."
"So, is that all they did, stand around holding up the sky?" Jack scratched his head. "They're big enough. Boring job, though."
"Well, jobs were tough to come by in ancient times," Daniel teased. "This proves that the pyramid was Mayan. I think it was built by descendants of the original group transported here, adapting to the conditions on this planet. That would explain any slight diferences." He looked around to see what else was present.
Golden statues lined the walls. Primitive busts of men and women sat along a shelf along with icons of primitive deities. A large Chac Mool like the one in the vast Court at Chichen Itza sat in the middle of the room. The day-to-day tools of the natives were displayed on shelves. It was as if someone had considered what might appeal most to archaeologists and had arranged it for their pleasure and delight. Daniel couldn't restrain himself from running to one display, then another, although he watched where he stepped and was careful to touch nothing. The figures in the statues were definitely pre-Columbian. Daniel had seen statues and small figures from various Central American sites that matched these. And then, on the far table he saw a box that looked like something he'd seen once before and his eyes widened with joy. One of the most rare of archaeological finds had been a Mayan codex, a pre-Conquest Mayan book. He'd read of one found in a box of about that size, a decorated box with an incredibly carved lid of a figure vanishing into the mouth of a giant serpent. This box might not hold a codex--other similar boxes had served as burial containers, although this one was too small to hold a body--but if there was a remote chance of it...
"This is *incredible*," he burst out. "I haven't seen anything like this all in one place before. And I think that box might be a codex..." He trailed off, too breathless with excitement to jinx the possible discovery by going on about it.
"It's like a museum," Sam agreed, putting out her hand to touch a golden figurine that looked vaguely like the large Chac Mool statue, then, remembering the possibility of triggering a trap, she drew her fingers back before she could actually brush its surface.
The vines that had crept into the pyramid, too, and coated most of the interior walls, covering some of the artifacts. Daniel couldn't help wondering if the booby traps were blocked by vines. Maybe nothing would happen, but they needed to be careful. This was his turf, not Jack's.
"Museums have alarms," he reminded them. "Just be careful. Remember the trouble Indiana Jones had in Peru. The movie's fiction, but those kind of things do happen. All this wealth, and the possible locals haven't taken any of it. That says something."
"Worth a lot of money?" Jack asked, pausing before a golden statue of a squat, big-bellied little god that stood on a platform directly in a beam of sunlight that highlighted it and made it glow with an almost inner radiance. About the size of a loaf of bread, it gazed out with its jeweled eyes at the vine-encrusted ruin of its former glory.
"The objects here are priceless, Jack," Daniel replied. "To any archaeologist they're worth more than money. Just to study this place..." He couldn't hold the awe out of his voice.
"Then we better take back a sample to whet their appetites back home," Jack began and started to pick up the statue.
"No!" yelled Daniel even as the Colonel caught himself, a disgruntled expression crossing his face as he tried to replace the figurine. Daniel threw himself at Jack across the space that separated them. As the statue rose from the table, something deep within the building groaned, the sound muted and rumbling. Beneath their feet, the ground quivered faintly. Not good, not good. Memories of Indiana Jones in the jungle temple ran through Daniel's head and he knew that some ancient ruins were dangerous because the builders had protected their artifacts with a series of complex traps. Daniel had once been in an Egyptian tomb where the crushed skeletons of grave robbers had marked their failed attempt to steal the treasure in antiquity. Although he had no proof of such danger, they didn't dare touch anything here until they could be sure it was safe. This wasn't.
He hit Jack hard, knocking him out of the way, sending the statue flying. O'Neill's breath went out in a whoosh, the only thing that stopped him from yelling in furious protest.
Then, with a thunderous rumble, the floor dropped away beneath Daniel's feet and he fell endlessly into darkness, feeling the descending floor beneath his feet tilt and pitch him sideways. The lower floor came at him too fast to do more than put out his hands to break his fall, forcing himself to go limp and prepare to roll with it when he hit. He landed hard in an explosion of pain as something huge and heavy rushed up past him to cover the glow of light from overhead. The grinding sound of the overhead floor sliding into place was the last thing he heard before consciousness slid away.
The pyramid shuddered with vibration, deep, grating sounds of shifting stone, and the huge, ceramic statues that marked the corners of the main chamber suddenly lost their heads--literally. As Jack stared in disbelief, the Bacabs flung their heads into the air. They descended with appalling speed straight at SG-1.
Unable to speak because the wind had been driven from him, Jack waved a wild hand at the approaching heads. Teal'c followed the gesture, saw the attack, and blasted the nearest one with his staff weapon. It shattered into fragments that pelted them, much less painfully than the head itself would have. A second head hit the floor not far from Carter and exploded in dancing stone pellets. She ducked, crying out. The other two came crashing down and only Teal'c grabbing O'Neill by the arm and yanking him out of range saved him from being pulverized. Urging him and Carter toward the door, the big Jaffa watched the room, ready to blast any other flying missiles or to duck away from any new traps.
Cursing himself as a total idiot, Jack held back, looking for Daniel. He wasn't there.
He sucked air into his lungs. "Daniel!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs.
"The floor opened beneath Daniel Jackson." Teal'c paused near the doorway, making sure with his eyes that O'Neill and Carter were intact and that nothing else in the room intended to take flight at them. "And then it sealed up again. Are you injured, Major Carter?"
"No." She brushed aside the question, although she was bleeding from a cut on her forehead that had probably been caused by a rock fragment. There were smaller ones in her dusty hair. "What do you mean, the floor opened?" she demanded, fingering the cut cautiously.
Drawing in painful breaths, Jack yanked free of Teal'c's restraining grip and forged his way back through the maze of shattered statue fragments to the stand where the golden statue had sat. Glittering in the rubble, the jewel encrusted eyes of several statues watched him pass. On the stone floor in front of the statue's stand was marked a circular pattern in the dust, highlighting the scuffed bootprints where Jack had stood and the marks of Daniel's landing. Of the archaeologist, there was not a trace.
"What the hell--" exploded Jack. *Dammit, dammit, dammit*.
"The floor dropped away beneath his feet and he felt into the pit beneath this room," Teal'c explained. "I have seen such things before."
"So, how do we get him back?" he challenged the Jaffa. "Do you know how to do it? Trigger this thing again?" He pushed down on the little stone platform where the golden statue had sat. It was like pushing the Rocky Mountains. Nothing happened. He leaned his whole weight upon it and let go. Still nothing.
"Daniel!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs, raising a hand to warn the other two to silence. They listened, but all they heard was the faint, fading echoes of O'Neill's own shout. "Damn it," he muttered under his breath.
"Perhaps it needs to be reset." Carter scrambled after the stone god and placed it carefully on its pedestal. They held their breaths, waiting, but nothing happened.
"I shall disturb it again," Teal'c volunteered. Careful not to stand on the booby trap circle, he plucked up the statue. They waited, but nothing happened.
"Maybe you have to stand on the actual spot," Carter offered.
"I'll do it." O'Neill plucked the statue from Teal'c and set it on its platform again, resuming his place on the circular stone. "It's my fault he's gone. He said to touch nothing. I wasn't really paying attention. I didn't think the place could be booby trapped, not one little statue like this. We didn't see any bodies who'd been trapped or anything like that. It didn't dawn on me what I was doing until I actually touched it, and then it was too late." He felt like an utter idiot. Always warning Daniel not to rush in without thinking, always complaining about his fascination with artifacts, he had fallen victim to exactly the same trap. Daniel hadn't *known* that the statue might be a rigged, but he'd guessed and acted. Now he was paying the price of Jack's carelessness. The place had just felt so empty, so overgrown. He had honestly not quite believed in the booby traps, although he'd been wary and would have pulled them out in a heartbeat at the first sign of trouble. *You screwed up good, Colonel*, he told himself.
Lifting the statue, he waited. No good. Whatever had set the trap wasn't reset simply by replacing the statue, and he had no knowledge of primitive architecture or hydraulics or whatever made it work. They needed an expert.
Or they needed a path to the chamber that must be below this one. "Okay, kiddies, let's look around for another way down to Daniel," he instructed. "Whatever you do, don't touch *anything*. This reminds me of that Indiana Jones movie like Daniel said, so watch where you step, too. Anything that looks suspicious, avoid it. But we're gonna find Daniel."
"We'll find him, sir," Carter encouraged. She had mopped at the blood on her forehead, leaving her face sketchily streaked.
"We better bandage that before we go any further." He didn't want to delay, but they could take time to slap on a couple of band-aids. Digging a first-aid kit from his pack, he cleaned the cut quickly and applied a dressing. While he worked, Teal'c prowled the corners of the vast room, peering behind boxes of artifacts, prodding the floor ahead of him with the tip of his staff weapon. Nothing gave, nothing reacted, and, worst of all, nothing opened up to a lower chamber. As Jack finished the dressing, he returned, shaking his head.
"I have found nothing, O'Neill," he admitted reluctantly. "If there is a stairway to an underground chamber, it is well concealed. "A 'booby trap' of that nature would be of little use were the victims able to return quickly to the surface."
"Maybe there's an entry outside," Carter theorized. "Something that would lead the intruder out away from the pyramid."
"I don't think the people who built this place wanted to make nice with intruders," Jack ground out. He had a sickening mental image of Daniel lying below, impaled on a row of spikes, or crushed beneath the stone of the floor that had dropped with him. '*Here perish unbelievers*', he thought bitterly.
"That doesn't mean Daniel is dead, sir," offered Carter in an attempt at consolation. "You know it doesn't. He might not have fallen very far."
"No, but, at best, he's trapped down there in the dark and there's no way down to him. I don't know enough about primitive cultures and pre- Columbian civilizations to figure this out." He got up and started to prowl around the structure, investigating every nook and cranny. There had to be a means of retrieving Daniel. Yet the thought that future explorers might come here one day and excavate *his* skeleton made Jack's stomach roil with bitterness. He, of all people, should have known how risky it was to take such a stupid chance. He'd done what he'd always accused Daniel of doing, rushing into action without taking time for caution, and he'd done it with the knowledge that this place might be booby trapped. One careless moment might have cost the life of his friend. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Sure, everybody made mistakes, but most people didn't have the bad luck to have the mistakes kill their best friends.
Sam moved in beside him. "I have an idea, sir," she offered. He could see the strain in her eyes. Daniel was part of their family, and she and Teal'c had to be as worried as he was. The difference was that they weren't to blame for it.
"I'm all for ideas, Carter. Spit it out."
"We need another expert," she said quickly. "I know Blair Sandburg is an anthropologist rather than an archaeologist, but he knew a lot about the Incan civilization and he's lived among primitive cultures. Our archaeological team are half a day's walk from the Stargate on P3K-910. Blair has a wide background and he's been on an archaeological dig or two. I think we should go back and get him--and anyone else on any team who might have any ideas. Background in architecture might be nice, too."
Carter was brilliant. She was always coming up with good ideas. This was a good one, too. They couldn't wait too long. Even if he was alive, Daniel might be hurt and need rescue right away. There had to be a safe way to get to him. The colonel didn't want Teal'c to try to blast away that round stone; if Jackson lay unconscious beneath it, it might fall through and crush him. It might trigger a bigger booby trap, bring the whole place down on their heads.
"Sounds like a plan," Jack admitted. "Teal'c, I want you and Carter to wait here and keep checking it out. I'll go back." He assigned them the tasks because Teal'c could handle almost anything, and Carter might even figure out an answer on her own before he could return. He wouldn't leave either of them here alone. This way, they could watch each other's backs.
Leaving the pyramid felt like he was deserting my team and he hated that. *Hang in there, Daniel*, he thought as he stepped out into the brilliant sunshine of P3R 123, sniffing the fragrance of nearby flowers. "I'll be right back."
Continued in Part Two...