Nor Iron Bars a Cage
by Sheila Paulson
See notes and disclaimer on part one.
"Get the power back," Hammond ordered as the gate shut down. "Now. I don't care what you have to do; if you have to close everything down and reboot, do it, but I want us up and running and I want it now. And I want the system checked thoroughly to make sure we weren't left with any unpleasant surprises. Run a complete diagnostic. Let's make sure we haven't been sabotaged. And somebody check out that threat of explosives." The techs bent over their keyboards and Sam worked with them to restore power, to check out the system.
Daniel Jackson stood there, arms wrapped around his chest, horror flowing through him. Not again. Not someone else he knew trapped by the Goa'uld. Not another loss. And *Jack*. God, Apophis. Could he really be alive? Had Sokar used a sarcophagus on him? Well, that was the implication, even then, that Sokar could resurrect him and torture him endlessly. Not a nice Goa'uld at all. Were any of them?
Worse, had Apophis managed to escape? Was he busy reclaiming power? They hadn't heard anything since they sent his body through the gate to get Sokar off their backs. What if he was out there somewhere, ready to jump in and play galactic power games? He would have it in for Jack in the worst possible way.
"Let me get this straight," Hammond said. "Apophis couldn't be alive, could he?"
"It's possible, sir," Carter said reluctantly. "Even if we haven't heard anything from him in all this time."
"Chulak," Teal'c said quickly. "Ellison took O'Neill to Chulak."
Daniel nodded. "Yes, sir, that's where he went. If Klorel still controls it...."
"If Apophis has returned, Master Bra'tac has not found a way to inform us of his presence." Teal'c frowned.
"Where's Blair?" Daniel asked.
"Restoring power, sir." the tech volunteered. The computer screens in the control room blanked, then they began to come up again. Sam and the tech entered data with flying fingers as the system steadied.
"Has anyone seen Blair Sandburg?" Daniel asked. "He needs to know what happened." The thought of breaking the news to Blair that his best friend was out there with a Goa'uld in his head didn't appeal to Daniel, but he thought he should be the one to do it. He'd know, better than anyone here, how Blair would take it.
Hammond hit the base-wide intercom. "Blair Sandburg to the control room immediately!" He turned. "Shut that alarm off."
Its echoes died. The system finished powering up and the Gate stood empty in mute testimony to Jack's disappearance. Chulak. They had to go after him and get him back. If Apophis were still dead, Klorel might be a threat, and the Jaffa of Chulak were mostly loyal to the System Lords. It might even be a stepping off point. Ellison could have turned around as soon as he arrived and headed for a different destination.
"Sir, if there's any possibility that Apophis is actually alive, the Tok'ra might know it," Sam offered. "I think we should contact them."
It wasn't as if the SGC knew of a way to free Ellison from the Goa'uld, though. Daniel sighed. The Tok'ra had never offered any hope in the possibility of freeing Sha're. On the other hand, they didn't *have* Sha're. Maybe if they found her, or if they found Ellison, the Tok'ra would know something. Maybe Thor would, or the Tollans, or the Nox, or any of those races out there who thought the Tau'ri were little better than children who should be protected and kept safe from important knowledge.
And where was Blair? He'd heard the alert warning. He should have been here by now.
Carter had picked up on that, too. "Sir, Blair should have responded."
Hammond's mouth twisted. He hit the intercom again. "Locate Blair Sandburg and bring him to the briefing room immediately." He snapped off the switch. "The first thing we're going to do is check the rest of you for Goa'uld. You were all on Quich‚, and evidently that's where Major Ellison was infected. It's my theory that Carter's bee sting was part of a plan, that the Goa'uld, either that one or others, knew she had been host to Jolinar and might sense Ellison's Goa'uld, so she was sent home through the Stargate first."
They hadn't even considered that possibility. Mas Tul had seemed so sincere in his desire for a treaty. He might have been part of the overall scheme, playing along, lulling their suspicions, or he might have had a threat hanging over him if he revealed anything. Daniel explained his reasoning.
"SG-1, I want you to report to the infirmary, and I'll send Sandburg along when he turns up," Hammond decided. "Once you're cleared by Doctor Fraiser, report to the briefing room. I'll consider a rescue mission to Chulak. I might send another team with you. It's a pity SG-3 is offworld right now. Sandburg can accompany you. He knows Ellison best. If Ellison can effect any influence over the Goa'uld inside him, it would help to have Sandburg on hand."
"I don't think you could keep him away, sir," Carter offered.
Hammond's mouth quirked in what would, in happier times, have been a faint smile. "What alarms me, SG-1, is that the Goa'uld knew enough to remove Major Carter from the return party, knew she might be able to expose Ellison. Yet it didn't know that Apophis was dead."
"Q.E.D." said Daniel softly. "He *isn't* dead. That's what it could mean, isn't it?"
"Major Carter encountered Jolinar before Apophis' death," ventured Teal'c. "The one assumption does not necessarily follow." Daniel realized that Teal'c had taken comfort in the death of Apophis. Other System Lords and Jaffa might mark him as shol'va, but with Apophis gone, the most personal of the hatred against him was also gone. He would still serve as an example if captured, but Apophis would put so much more into his fate.
"Whether it does or doesn't, we have to assume the threat is real," Hammond decided.
The intercom sounded. "General Hammond, this is Terrence, security. We found Sandburg. He was in Ellison's quarters, bound and gagged. We're escorting him to the infirmary."
Sandburg's filtered voice sounded shaken to the core. "General, there's a Goa'uld in Jim. It wants to get the Colonel."
"Yes, son, we know that." Hammond's voice was gentle, sympathetic. "SG-1 will meet you in the infirmary, then all of you report to the briefing room."
"We've got to get him back, General. We've got to. Both of them."
"I know, son. Go with the security team now, though."
"Yes, sir." He signed off without further protest. Daniel's heart ached with recognition at the sheer misery and desperation in Blair's voice. He knew exactly how Blair felt, and he knew there were no easy answers. Jack was out there, on his way to Apophis, if Apophis were alive after all, and, if not, he still wasn't safe. There might be another Goa'uld for Jack. Daniel wasn't sure he could stand the thought of someone else who mattered to him being turned into a Goa'uld--or killed. *Hang on, Jack,* he thought desperately. *We'll get you back.*
But there might be no way to get Ellison back. And not only would that tear Sandburg apart, it would give away to the Goa'uld the concept of Sentinels and present them with a Goa'uld who had that particular advantage. Bad. This was very bad.
And the Titanic hitting the iceberg was just a fender bender.
Daniel allowed Teal'c to gesture him toward the door, and they all hurried to the infirmary. This needed to be done quickly, or they'd lose all track of Jack and of Jim Ellison.
"We're going after them, aren't we, General?"
Blair Sandburg felt as if he'd been kicked repeatedly in the guts. Jim was a Goa'uld. How could it have happened? Seeing the evil glow in the familiar blue eyes and knowing that the intelligence that looked out at him was not Jim but an inimical alien who controlled his friend's speech and behavior--who had twisted itself into Jim's brain so thoroughly that even surgery couldn't save him--was the hardest experience of his life. Losing his academic reputation and facing the Jim's belief that Blair had turned on him had seemed the pinnacle of despair--until now. What was a guide without a Sentinel? What was a man who had just lost the closest friend he had ever dreamed of having?
And then, Jim's Goa'uld had to take O'Neill with him. Sandburg looked up to O'Neill, respected him, admired him. Teased and kidded him because that was how they interacted best. Now he was gone, too. If anything permanent happened to him, it would eat Jim alive. Blair knew from the report of Daniel's encounter with the pregnant Sha're on Abydos that the host intelligence survived. Jim might not be able to control his actions or his speech, but he was aware inside, trapped, helpless. How had he felt when the Goa'uld made him choke Blair into unconsciousness? Jim had always been Blair's 'blessed protector'. Some protector, he'd think. He'd hate himself because he hadn't been strong enough to fight--but no one was. No one could fight a Goa'uld and drive it out of him, not even a Sentinel.
And, oh, god, now the Goa'uld knew what Jim was. Would that give the Goa'uld who had taken him enough power to dominate, to become one of the System Lords? It would give an edge, all right, and Jim would *hate* that. If only Blair could convince himself that the heightened senses could *help* Jim now. But he couldn't think how.
The remainder of SG-1 looked miserable, too. They'd all been proven Goa'uld-free, but the knowledge hadn't brought about a lifting of their spirits. They'd lost their Colonel; they'd hope to get him back, but life came with no guarantees. Oh, man, this sucked so bad. Look at Daniel. He knew how it felt to have the most important person in his life turned into a Goa'uld. Now, the most important person left in it was a prisoner of a Goa'uld. How many blows could the guy take and keep bouncing back? His eyes were full of unhappiness, but his mouth was tight with determination. He hadn't given up. Daniel never did. He just kept plodding on, even when the weight on his shoulders would have toppled Atlas. In the face of his fierce resolve, Blair couldn't let Jim down by bowing to the despair he felt.
Sam was resolute. She hadn't given up, either. The keen intelligence that shone out of her eyes was busy with fervent mental calculation as she ran scenarios. She'd have some good ideas. Maybe she could come up with something scientific. Maybe the Tok'ra would have a few ideas. Sam had ties to the Tok'ra: Jolinar had been bonded with Martouf's symbiont and Sam felt a residual closeness to the guy. Her father, Jacob Carter now had Selmak inside him. In a way, that bothered Blair, now that Jim had been Goa'ulded. It hadn't before. He'd been fascinated, eager to meet General Carter--and Selmak. This wasn't the way he wanted to meet them.
Teal'c--at least Chulak was his home world. He'd have contacts there, even if most of the Jaffa hadn't dared resist the Goa'uld. They mostly still believed the Goa'uld were gods, Teal'c had said when he was explaining the system on Chulak to Blair. It had seemed no more than an anthropological study to Blair, although he'd sympathized with the big Jaffa for losing everything that had once mattered to him. Even his family was stuck on another planet where he couldn't see them very often. But he wasn't a quitter, either. He'd thrown in his lot with Earth, even knowing he would be vilified and hunted by his fellow Jaffa and the System Lords. He'd thrown over a position of great power and come to Earth, where he was so helpful on missions--and so much a prisoner on the base the rest of the time, even if it wasn't a deliberate imprisonment. Teal'c wouldn't give up on Jack O'Neill, not for a second, and if he had any ideas how to help Jim, he'd follow through with them and never yield.
"Yes, son, you're going after them," General Hammond agreed. Hammond's voice was gentle as he reassured Blair, but his face was hard and resolute. "I sent a message to the Tok'ra while you and SG-1 were being examined, and they should be here soon. It's possible one of them will accompany you to Chulak. We should know shortly."
"But the longer we wait, the more chance Jim has to get away. I mean the Goa'uld." Blair wanted to go *now*.
From the way the rest of SG-1 was champing at the bit, they wanted to rush into action, too. It was Carter who spoke. "If the Tok'ra can help us, if they know how to remove a Goa'uld, then we really need them. It's possible they may even know something of Apophis."
"And didn't tell us?" Sandburg felt his eyebrows arch in surprise. "I thought they were supposed to be on our side. When Jim told me he was gonna turn the Colonel over to Apophis, I forgot that Apophis was dead. I'm still playing catch-up--it didn't hit me till I woke up, before the security guys found me. I don't know how much of a collective unconscious the Goa'uld have; what kind of memories are across the board. I know it can't really be that what one knows, all know. But they do know a lot. They can't know everything, or they'd have rooted out the Tok'ra by now, I guess."
"The Tok'ra don't always share everything they know with us," Hammond admitted. Oops, he didn't like that, and none of SG-1 did, either. Blair could imagine how Colonel O'Neill would have hated that.
"So maybe this Apophis *is* alive and they've kept it secret or didn't know? And he wants the Colonel? And is using Jim to get him." Blair hated that. Maybe he wouldn't like the Tok'ra after all.
"It is possible, Blair Sandburg." Teal'c was frowning. Of course, with Teal'c, who wasn't a smiley kind of guy, sometimes it was a little hard to tell.
Blair opened his mouth to insist how much that sucked but he was interrupted by the warning of an off-world gate activation. Maybe it was finally the Tok'ra and they could take off after Jim. He hoped so.
It was. They all trekked to the control room, where the signal confirmed the Tok'ra, so then they trooped down to the gate room to meet the men who stepped through. Sam's face lit up and she breathed, "Dad," under her breath, and the others relaxed fractionally, too. Jacob Carter was with another man, younger and taller, who smiled at the sight of Sam. Now that was interesting. Had to be Martouf.
"Jacob. Martouf," Hammond greeted and shook hands with Jacob Carter. They were old friends, Blair guessed; well, they were both Generals even if the senior Carter was on some really detached duty. "We're glad to see you," Hammond continued. "We have a real problem here. Come along to the briefing room and I'll fill you in."
Martouf went over to Carter. "Hello, Samantha."
"Martouf." She smiled at him, then turned to her father, and they gave each other a brief, almost casual hug.
Hammond swept them right along--that's what Blair liked about the General, a real sense of priorities--and wasted no time. The minute they were back to the briefing room, the general plunged in. "Gentlemen, we have a major problem. While on P3Q-987, also known as Quich‚, one of our team, Major Ellison, whom you haven't met, was infected with a Goa'uld. He returned undetected. Since then, he hacked into our computer system and took control of the gate long enough to capture Colonel O'Neill and take him through to Chulak."
The Tok'ra didn't look happy about that. "Jack O'Neill just went tamely along with that?" Jacob asked in surprise. So far, neither of the Tok'ra had done that glowing eyes thing that had been so eerie when Jim did it.
"We think he had to have been drugged or influenced," Sam offered. "He was...not like himself. He didn't even say much."
"Definitely influenced," Jacob muttered.
"Yes." Martouf nodded.
Well, they had the Colonel pegged. Blair would have smiled if there had been anything in him capable of it.
Jacob bowed his head and when he looked up, his eyes were doing that number. Blair shivered and tried not to flinch. "It is possible that the Goa'uld that took your Major Ellison could use a Goa'uld healing device to inflict a form of 'hypnosis' on Colonel O'Neill."
"Would he have access to one?" Daniel asked in surprise.
"They are small and portable. The Goa'uld could have returned with it from P3Q-987, concealed in a pocket."
"I didn't know a healing device could do harm," Sam said, then she shook her head impatiently. "But there's no reason why it couldn't, I suppose. It might simply affect the body--or the mind--in ways determined by the Goa'uld. Either that, or he could have drugged Colonel O'Neill."
Blair held up his hand to speak, and the two Tok'ra eyed him. Now Martouf's eyes were doing that number, too. Blair struggled not to flinch.
"This is Blair Sandburg, a civilian anthropologist, and teammate of the missing Major Ellison," Hammond said quickly.
"Hi, guys." Blair tried a quick smile. He didn't think it took very well; Daniel's lifted eyebrow suggested as much. "I think you ought to know that Jim was a medic for a while, when he was in the army before. He might know drugs that could affect the Colonel."
"I did know that," Hammond said with some disgust. "I'd forgotten."
"But that's not the worst part," Daniel interjected quickly, and Blair felt a swoop of panic, afraid that the archaeologist was going to tell the Tok'ra about Jim's senses. But Daniel didn't. "The Goa'uld in Jim Ellison said he was going to take Jack to Apophis."
"He's dead." That was Jacob Carter again, not Selmak. "Apophis is dead."
"Can we really be sure of that, Dad?" Sam asked. "We turned the body over to Sokar, and the implication of that, after the fact, was that Sokar would have a sarcophagus and might resurrect him."
Again with the glowing eyes. "While it is possible Sokar might wish to resurrect Apophis and torture him to death over and over, it is not likely he would allow Apophis to escape him. Had he done so, our undercover operatives would have relayed word of it to us."
"What do you think is happening with this Goa'uld who has taken Ellison?" Hammond asked.
"Perhaps he does not know that Apophis is not at liberty, if he's even alive." That was Martouf. Blair didn't know what his snake's name was and didn't quite like to ask.
"So he took Jack to Chulak, thinking he could find Apophis there, or at least get word to him," Blair suggested. This was bad. The Goa'uld wasn't going to be remotely happy when he found out Apophis had croaked. Maybe he'd take it out on Jim and the Colonel.
"What would he do once he learned that Apophis was dead?" asked Sam. "Offer O'Neill to Klorel?"
Jacob/Selmak frowned. "Possibly, but Klorel lacks Apophis' strength. It is possible that the Goa'uld would try to offer O'Neill to another Goa'uld, one, perhaps, who was the enemy of Apophis. Heru'ur, possibly."
Daniel's eyes were grave. "So he might have taken Jack off Chulak already?"
"He might, but he would pause to consider his options first. The Jaffa on Chulak might have some say in the matter."
"We ought to go after him," Blair and Daniel said in perfect unison, then glanced at each other, startled.
"I'll go with you," offered Jacob Carter. "Martouf will return to attempt to gain more information and can join us on Chulak if it is warranted or return here or send a message."
"We'd be glad of the help," Hammond agreed.
Blair wanted to erupt to his feet. They had to go *now*. Who knew what was going on with Jim. Instead, he turned to Jacob Carter. "You can get the Goa'uld out of Jim, can't you?" he begged. "I know there's got to be a way."
That got the undivided attention of the rest of the team. Jacob and Martouf exchanged a glance. Blair's heart sank. If there was a way, he doubted it would be easy.
"First, we must locate him," Selmak said. "What you ask is...not always easy."
Colonel O'Neill would probably have said that was a lot of nothing, but Blair realized that Jacob and Selmak hadn't come right out and said no. They might not want to share information, but maybe there was hope for Jim. There just had to be. Sandburg couldn't stand the thought that they'd come through so much only to lose everything now.
Chulak. Daniel had a bitter feeling for the place, probably because this was where Sha're had been infected with the Goa'uld, where she had stopped being Sha're and turned into something else. He knew Sha're was still there, still inside; he could remember her on Abydos before she had borne the Harsesis child, and she had still been herself; she hadn't given up, although she had feared that he would hate her for what she had been forced to become. He hoped he'd let her know that he could never hate her, that he would never blame her. And he remembered the look on her face when she had gone away through the gate and had looked back, looked right at him and didn't give him away. Maybe she couldn't control Ammaunet but, for brief times, she could maintain an edge of influence.
Every time he stepped through the Stargate onto Chulak, Daniel couldn't help thinking of Sha're. Now it was more than that. Chulak was the place where Jack had been taken, a prisoner of the Goa'uld that infested Jim Ellison. Was he to lose both of the people who mattered most to him on Chulak?
They stepped through the gate with weapons ready. Jacob Carter had changed into BDU's to be less obviously a Tok'ra on the mission. If Martouf learned anything useful, he might join them here, or he might send a message through the M.A.L.P. they'd sent ahead to test the site and make sure there wasn't an armed party of Jaffa waiting for them. There hadn't been, but that might only mean that Ellison's Goa'uld didn't control any Jaffa on Chulak. Or, as Teal'c had reminded them before they stepped through, that the Jaffa might be waiting out of visual range.
No trace of Jaffa, no trace of Goa'uld. They regrouped around the DHD and surveyed the terrain. Nothing. No apparent booby traps. No sign of Jack waiting for them, either. Daniel hadn't expected that, of course. But he couldn't help wishing.
"Can we tell if the gate's been used to go somewhere else?" Sandburg asked hopefully.
Sam shook her head. "No, if there's a memory function in the DHD, we don't know how to access it."
Daniel cast a quick glance at Jacob Carter but he saw no such knowledge in the Tok'ra's eyes. It didn't mean that the Tok'ra didn't have a means of tracing the last codes entered into the DHD, but even now, with Jack missing, he didn't volunteer it. Maybe he was convinced Jack was still here, on Chulak. Maybe Apophis was alive and still here.
Blair looked around hopefully. Daniel knew he was still new enough to gate travel to find each trip a thrill. Even this time, with his best friend turned into a Goa'uld, he couldn't entirely squelch the excitement. Daniel could still remember when he'd stepped through the gate each time with the hope that *this* world could be the one where he found Sha're. Over the last few years, those wild extravagances of hope had faded. It was still possible, of course--it had to be. But with so many worlds out there connected to the Stargate system, the chance that the world they visited at that particular time actually held Sha're when they arrived was a percentage even smaller than that of winning the lottery.
"I thought there'd be a town here," Sandburg muttered. "Where do you think Jim would go?"
"The town is there." Teal'c gestured in the appropriate direction. His face was expressionless; it often appeared that way, but those who knew him could see the emotions in his eyes and the set of his mouth, and the line of his jaw. Blair didn't know him well yet, but he evidently knew him well enough to sense that Teal'c was not happy. There would be too many memories of his own here, although he would never stop hoping he could come back one day to free his people from Goa'uld domination. He would have stayed here and worked tirelessly to do so if he had believed that would be the best means of helping them. Daniel knew he didn't.
Sandburg stretched out a daring hand and patted Teal'c's arm before he drew back. "Then let's go," was all he said and took a quick step in that direction. Teal'c watched him with surprise and approval for all of two seconds before he moved to catch up. Jacob Carter looked after them, his face thoughtful.
"Teal'c?" Daniel called and moved with them. "Do you think Master Bra'tac can help us?"
The Jaffa didn't stop, so the rest of them had to hurry after him and Sandburg. "We will go to him. He will know if there has been word of Apophis, if Klorel has visited, if any other Goa'uld have been present."
Daniel hated the thought of that. If any other Goa'uld had been here, or if Apophis was here, miraculously restored to life, Jack could be off- world already--or dead.
Or turned into a Goa'uld, like Jim Ellison.
Daniel had himself blasted a tank of larval Goa'uld when last here. The action had shocked Sam and, even now, it still astonished Daniel that he had done that, but the thought that each of those young Goa'uld could mature and take over an unwilling host, as Sha're had been taken, had simply pushed him over the edge. He was certain that there were more here now. That had been almost two years ago. There had to be. Jack had managed to survive a Goa'uld implantation once before, but there was no handy cryogenic suspension process to halt it this time. Even if there had been, it would be too late for Jim Ellison, whose Goa'uld was already in firm control.
They walked quickly, alert for danger. Teal'c had fallen in with Blair and spoke to him in low tones. Sandburg looked stubborn but he bowed his head reluctantly in acquiescence to whatever it was that the Jaffa told him. Maybe it was a warning. Daniel knew he often let his emotions drive him to overreact, even for something as simple as racing off to investigate a promising ruin when there might be danger at hand. Sandburg was like him in that respect.
There could be danger now, Jaffa in the trees, Goa'uld watching them. Daniel didn't feel any sense of dangerous presence, but then he wasn't a trained warrior. It wasn't ingrained in him the way it was in Sam or Teal'c--or Jack. He fell into step with Sam.
"Do you sense anything?"
She shook her head. "No, it's quiet. It's as if no one was expecting us. That ought to set off alarms in my head but it doesn't. I think the Goa'uld that took Jim was acting alone. Maybe it had been stranded on Quich‚ for a long time and was out of touch. Yes, they used their gate, but maybe the Goa'uld was in someone who didn't have ready access."
"Jim didn't have ready access, either," Daniel reminded her.
"No, but maybe it was biding its time on Quich‚, waiting for a good reason to break cover. We don't know."
"I still think Mas Tul wanted the alliance." Daniel shook his head. "Maybe it's naive of me, but I think he was sincere about it. One Goa'uld lurking on the planet doesn't mean it was infested with the Goa'uld."
Sam shook her head and didn't slow her pace. "No. It could have been in hiding among them, the way Jolinar was when she...came into me. But we can't take the chance that it was. We have to deal with Quich‚ as if it was part of a plot until we can prove different. Anything else just isn't safe."
"But if they're innocent, we have to warn them. There might be other Goa'uld out there, and if that bee sting was managed deliberately, there is a conspiracy there, even if Mas Tul isn't involved."
Sam's brow wrinkled. "There was that strange man in the garden. If he could somehow *direct* the bee..." She frowned. "That seems unlikely, but then why should it? We don't know everything about the Quich‚ culture."
Up ahead, Blair blurted out a surprised cry and Jacob leveled his zat gun at the man who had just stepped out from behind a tree to confront them, a staff weapon aimed at them. Sandburg made a quick fumble to raise his own weapon only to halt when Teal'c spoke quickly.
At once, Jacob lowered his weapon. Blair gaped at the newcomer Jaffa, eyes round. "That's Bra'tac?"
"I am. And who are you, young human?"
"Blair Sandburg. We came to rescue Jim and Jack."
"O'Neill?" Bra'tac's face was grim, and at the sight of it, Daniel felt a knot tighten in his stomach. "He is here. He is prisoner of a Goa'uld I do not recognize by sight, although that need mean nothing. I expected that you would follow." He greeted Teal'c with a fist to his chest and an inclination of the head, then looked past him to Jacob. "And who is this?"
"This is Jacob Carter, Major Carter's father," Teal'c explained.
"Tok'ra." Bra'tac and Jacob regarded each other with measuring eyes.
Jacob lifted his head. "I am Selmak," he introduced himself in the deeper voice. "I have heard of you and am honored to meet you."
"I, also, am honored," Bra'tac greeted the Tok'ra. "But we must not stand here, exposed. I came to meet you, expecting trouble. The Goa'uld was garbed as you are," the elder Jaffa pointed out. "At first, I expected a delegation from the Tau'ri, especially when I saw O'Neill. I quickly learned differently."
"You didn't speak to Jack?" Daniel ventured.
"No. I was prepared to venture out to greet the human, but his companion spoke in the square and revealed himself to be a Goa'uld. I remained in concealment, even more astonished when the Goa'uld demanded the presence of Apophis."
"You have had no word of Apophis here?" asked Jacob quickly.
Bra'tac's eyes narrowed slightly. "None but that he was dead, and that from Teal'c and his friends. Were they in error?"
"We don't know," said Sam quickly. "It might be possible that Sokar revived him with a sarcophagus and that he is at liberty, but it is also possible that the Goa'uld that controls Major Ellison didn't know of the death of Apophis. It evidently lived in concealment on a remote planet and switched hosts while we were there on a mission."
"This Major Ellison. He is a stranger to me. He is a member of the command of Hammond of Texas?"
Blair nodded emphatically. "He's my partner, uh, teammate. We're not assigned to our own SG team yet, Master Bra'tac, but we work together. We joined the...uh, command of Hammond of Texas together. I've got to get him back. We can't let the Goa'uld have him."
"The Goa'uld has him already, young human. I do not believe it can cede him except by its own will. Perhaps, even then, it can do much harm to the host."
Blair's face tightened. "There has to be a way. Jim is...he's got...he..." So used to censoring himself where Jim's senses were concerned, he must not want to speak of them in front of either Jacob or Bra'tac. The Tok'ra had not been informed of Jim's heightened senses. Jack had once said that was just as well, that the Tok'ra didn't speak to them of things they really needed to know, so there was no reason to speak of this, when they *didn't* need to know it. Daniel had wondered, at the time, if the Tok'ra were aware of other Sentinels; they existed out there, like the one SG-1 had encountered when they had first recruited Blair to help out the SGC. If the Tok'ra knew of Sentinels, they might have been able to help with Jim at the time or suggest precautions. At the time Hammond had ruled that Ellison's abilities remain classified. This wasn't the time to speak of them. Blair was so desperate he had almost blurted it out now.
"He is your friend," said Bra'tac kindly. "It is possible the Goa'uld will loose him when it realizes it cannot summon Apophis. If we can expose this one publicly, it may benefit my people. Many of them still insist Apophis will return or they yield to Klorel or the threat of Heru'ur. To prove that this Goa'uld is not 'god' enough to know of the demise of Apophis might allow at least a few more of my people to see the Goa'uld as fallible and not as gods."
"We'd like to expose him," Jacob Carter put in. "We'd hate to lose a good man in the process, but there may be no other way to--"
"No! Wait a minute." Blair's voice shot up into a frantic screech. "You're talking about killing Jim just to get the Goa'uld."
"We may have to do that, son," the Tok'ra insisted. "Your Jim would not wish his knowledge to spread to the rest of the Goa'uld. He's a liability to the SGC right now. As long as he's confined here on Chulak, he isn't revealing classified information. Naturally we'll try to get him back, but it may not be possible. Ask yourself what your friend would rather do--live as a Goa'uld and reveal information that could destroy the Earth, or die and be free and give nothing away."
Blair gnawed his bottom lip. "Those don't have to be the only options, do they?" he asked in a small voice. "We can try to get him back. And he's got the Colonel, and I know the Colonel will be doing all *he* can to get away. Even if he's a prisoner, I know he's gonna help us."
Daniel hoped he could. He'd been trying not to think what the Goa'uld might be doing to Jack, and the only consolation he had was that it might want to present Jack to Apophis intact, assuming Apophis might want to take his own revenge. That didn't mean he wouldn't knock Jack around a little, suspecting, and probably rightly, that Apophis would hardly frown on a few bruises, or that it wouldn't use the healing device or drugs or threats to control him. Jack would loathe that.
"O'Neill will do what he can." Bra'tac's voice was kind and understanding but it didn't promise Blair anything, and Blair realized that. He bowed his head, not so much in acceptance--passive acceptance wasn't in is nature--but in realization.
"Then we've got to help him." Daniel heard his own involuntary insistence. He wasn't sure there was any hope for Ellison, although none of them wanted to give up on Jim, but there was hope for Jack. Maybe there was even hope for both of them. "This Goa'uld isn't a System Lord. It doesn't have a power base behind it, at least we don't think so. It had to have help on Quich‚ but it might have been easy to intimidate one or two followers, or possibly a small group."
"We had no reports of any Goa'uld on Quich‚," Jacob acknowledged. "There are many Goa'uld out there who are not System Lords, of course. Many of them serve the System Lords. If this one was in service to Apophis and became stranded on Quich‚ or was sent there undercover, it may have been out of the loop long enough that it lost track of galactic current events."
"Dad, can't we worry about that later? We have to get the Colonel back and see if we can't capture the Goa'uld. If we take him back with us, maybe we can do something for him. Jolinar left me voluntarily."
"Jolinar was a Tok'ra," her father reminded her. "Master Bra'tac, how close can we get to this Goa'uld? And has anyone sent for Klorel or Heru'er or any other System Lords since its arrival?"
Bra'tac hesitated. "Not as of yet, unless it used a long-range communicator to do so. It did not do so at the gate, however. And there is no System Lord on Chulak at this time. Is it not possible that the Goa'uld sent a message while still on Quich‚?"
"I suppose it could have done so, or arranged for one to be sent, if it had followers there, or if the planet were in league with him," Sam concurred. She didn't look happy. "But that means we've got a time limit. We've got to get the Colonel back now, and we can't let them have Major Ellison, either...."
"One way or another," Teal'c concluded.
The look Blair shot at the pair of them accused them of betrayal, but then he called his expression into order. "Jim would...probably rather die than live with a Goa'uld in him," he conceded. "But he wouldn't give up until he was sure there was no other possible choice. Aren't there people out there who might know how to free him? The Tollans? The Nox? The Asgard? They're all supposed to be allies. Maybe it's time they did something to help us instead of just standing back all holier than thou. Jim *deserves* help."
"Yes, he does, son," Jacob told him. "Yes, he does. And we won't give him up unless there's absolutely no other option. But you realize it isn't just the secrets of Earth he has in his head. He knows about the Tok'ra, the Asgard, all Earth's allies. Even fairly new to the system, I'm sure he's been brought up to speed on a lot of things." He nodded at Bra'tac. "We can continue this as we move. Maybe by the time we get there, we'll have a plan. Master Bra'tac, can you recruit allies for us? Other Jaffa who see things as you do?"
They started moving toward the city, every one of them alert. Bra'tac and Teal'c slid automatically into a watchful state, Jacob Carter concentrated on the skills he'd learned over a long military career plus the centuries' experience of Selmak, Sam sharpened her attention, and even Blair and Daniel, without the benefit of real military training, divided their attention carefully. Blair was new to the project, but he'd been through the police academy and had worked with Ellison before that; and he'd shown himself a natural on missions. He hadn't really been under fire yet on any of his missions except the last one with the brief Jaffa attack, but Daniel knew how he must have felt when he realized a Goa'uld was looking out of Jim's eyes. He wouldn't lower his guard for an instant.
"Jim will try to fight it," Blair offered in a doubtful voice.
"Trying isn't always enough." That was Sam. "Sometimes there can be momentary resistance."
"The Goa'uld didn't kill me and he implied that was for Jim." Blair's eyes were grave and shadowed. "He said Jim didn't want to hurt me and that he might indulge Jim in that. I couldn't feel Jim at all when he was choking me." A quiver ran through his body. He looked away quickly, surveying the terrain. Daniel thought, *Uh oh*. That wouldn't be easy for either man if they found a way to free Jim Ellison. Sha're had feared Daniel would hate her, when she had been temporarily uncontrolled during her pregnancy. Ellison would have to go through the same type of guilt. And no matter how relieved Blair would be if they could ever free Jim, he had to remember that it was Jim's hands that had closed around his throat and squeezed until he was unconscious. Bruises were already forming where the hands had tightened. Blair would see them in the mirror and remember the look on Jim's face, even if it hadn't really been Jim.
Blair went on before anybody else could speak. "I still thought he was going to kill me. I thought he'd just said that to make it worse, y'know. Jim couldn't control him when it came right down to it."
"There can be limited control," Daniel replied. "I've seen it with...Sha're. You're alive. That may be a result of Jim, asserting some control."
Blair flashed him a grateful smile, but it was still a sad one. "I hope the Colonel is okay," he offered in thanks for Daniel's consolation.
Daniel nodded. He didn't really want to think about that. "Master Bra'tac, was Jack all right when you saw him?"
"He did not look injured. He saw me, but the Goa'uld did not--at least not to recognize me. He merely saw an old man, no apparent threat to him, supposedly subservient, as all Jaffa are. But O'Neill saw *me*. When the Goa'uld looked away, I signaled to him that I would warn you, and I was on my way to the Chapa'ai when I encountered you. Darkness falls soon. Under cover of night, we might attempt to free O'Neill."
"But not just the Colonel," Blair objected. "We have to take Jim back, too."
"You'd have to immobilize him, for he wouldn't go willingly," Jacob offered. Sam's father didn't seem to think that was much in the way of consolation, but he had Selmak in there, too, and maybe Selmak knew how little chance they had to resolve the situation.
"Then we'll do that," Blair insisted. "We *have* to bring him back. You'll help, won't you, General Carter, uh, Selmak? The Tok'ra, I mean? You won't just let him stay this way?"
"It won't be easy," he replied. "Even getting into the town won't be easy. The Goa'uld will be expecting us, maybe not a Tok'ra, but the rest of you. It will know what Ellison knows, that the SGC will try to rescue their own. What's more, the Goa'uld knew to take Jack O'Neill, and that he had a history with Apophis. All of you did, but Jack was the leader and he could not have managed to take more than one of you. The Goa'uld's information may be somewhat out of date, but it may have known that it was SG-1 that took out the ships of Apophis and Klorel over Earth. And it knew that Apophis survived that battle. Its information need be no more current than that. Believe me, that information went about quickly. It's well known; one of the reasons you have the treaty you have; the Goa'uld would love to confine you to Earth and restrict your technology." He lowered his head and when he raised it again, it was Selmak speaking. "Some of the Tok'ra are uneasy about you, too, as you probably know."
"That does stand out a little," Daniel agreed. "But we've helped you. Jack's done a lot for you."
"We are aware of that. Which is why I am here."
"So, you think this isn't a widespread plot to bring us down?" asked Sam. "More of an individual play for power based on the knowledge of what happened over Earth?" Her brow crinkled as she considered all the implications of her suggestion.
"That would be my guess," agreed Selmak. He turned to the older Jaffa. "Master Bra'tac, we are obviously a rescue party from the way we're dressed. Can you obtain appropriate garb that will allow us to pass unnoticed?"
"That is possible. That is even necessary. You will not be able to carry your weapons obviously, but Teal'c may retain his staff weapon and I may be able to gain at least one other." He eyed them, noting Blair's zat gun. "You may keep your zat'nik'a'tel, young human, but do not carry it as if you meant to race into battle. I understand you would wish to do so, to save your friend. But know that your friend may be beyond the saving, even if O'Neill is not. Caution may save the day."
"Along with a shock grenade or two?" Jacob Carter asked with a crooked grin.
Bra'tak's eyes twinkled. "That is so." He allowed a comradely hand to rest on Blair's shoulder for a moment. "Watch and learn, young human. The young of any species is impatient."
"We get that a lot," Daniel put in when Blair's mouth fell open to make an outraged response. Sandburg calmed himself visibly before he spoke.
"Whether or not I'm impatient doesn't change the fact that Jim and the Colonel are in trouble," Blair said stubbornly. "I won't take any stupid risks, but I'm not going to stand back and do nothing, either."
Daniel found he could sympathize remarkably with that sentiment. He was pretty sure that Ellison wouldn't be able to stop the Goa'uld from taking petty revenge on Jack, even if he wanted to hold him relatively intact until Apophis could come. He was even more certain the Jaffa here who were still inclined to accept the Goa'uld as gods would have broken the news about Apophis to Ellison's Goa'uld already. Balked of his ambition, what might the Goa'uld do to Jack in revenge? Daniel shared a commiserating glance with Blair and then with Sam, who looked every bit as impatient as they did.
They quickened their pace.
Jim Ellison had never felt so trapped before, not when he'd been stranded in the Peruvian jungle, his team dead in the chopper crash, not when he'd felt his senses burgeoning out of control right before he first met Sandburg and believed he was going insane, not even when Maybourne had him locked away in a secret base for experimentation purposes. Those crises seemed minor now, when compared with the horror and impossibility of his present situation. This was as bad as finding Sandburg face down in the fountain and believing he was dead. Like that moment, it felt like the end of everything.
What was really scary was that he was fully aware, here inside his head. He was still Jim Ellison, only he was a strangely diminished Ellison, crammed away into a small corner of his mind. He could control nothing. Unable to allow the very concept of his heightened senses to sneak out past the barrier of his subconscious, he had tried to flood his mind with harmless images but the Goa'uld in his brain had glided easily past then and delved out useful data; how to access the base computers, Jim's password, and had then managed to use some innate Goa'uld ability or a greater knowledge of computers in general than Jim had ever possessed to expand Ellison's clearance. Jim hadn't understood all the Goa'uld had done, but he'd known its intent, to commandeer the gate control systems with the intent of escaping with a prisoner.
When Sandburg had shown up, Jim had been frantic, afraid the Goa'uld would consider him suitable prisoner material, expendable. He'd almost lost Sandburg at the fountain and knew how that felt, and he was terrified it would happen again. The cold, scornful laughter in his mind was matched with silent communication. *He is not worthy. I will waste no effort on him.*
*Don't hurt him.* The thought went out involuntarily. He could communicate with his 'passenger' although it largely ignored Jim's attempts.
*If he interferes with me, I will take great pleasure in hurting him. You continue to fight me. You have yet to learn how impossible it is to resist. You may try, and learn the futility of challenging a god.*
*You're no god. You're a parasite, no more. Without a host, you're nothing. You can't even survive without one. You leave Sandburg alone or I'll find a way to fight you.*
But the Goa'uld's silent laughter rang in his mind and he watched helplessly as Blair chattered away and gradually picked up on how wrong things were. Jim could do nothing, nothing but struggle in vain to resist as his hands--his own hands--closed around Sandburg's neck. The Goa'uld had the effrontery to torment Sandburg, to tell him that it might indulge Jim's concern for his guide, before the fingers tightened enough to take Sandburg down into darkness. The Goa'uld hadn't even allowed him to check Sandburg's pulse while it made Jim's hands bind and gag the unconscious man. Only the sight of Sandburg's chest rising and falling reassured Jim that he hadn't killed his friend, and that was small consolation. Sandburg *knew* he had a Goa'uld in him. Even if he could get the word to Hammond, that didn't mean the SGC knew how to remove one. The attempt to take one out of Major Kawalsky surgically had failed. The physical snake had been removed, but the consciousness still lingered in Kawalsky's mind, still controlled him, and O'Neill had been forced to kill him, to kill his friend.
Jim hoped, when his time came to die, that task didn't fall to Sandburg.
Now he was on Chulak, Teal'c's homeworld, a place he knew little about. He had been careful not to think of Teal'c's friend and mentor, Bra'tac, and he thought he'd managed to conceal his knowledge because the Goa'uld had not reacted to the fleeting thought. Not that Jim would recognize the older Jaffa if he saw him, anyway. O'Neill would, of course, but O'Neill would be too smart to give him away.
The control he'd put over O'Neill vanished on the way to this place, and the Goa'uld hadn't bothered to restore it with the healing device this time. He'd pulled a ribbon device out of Jim's other pocket and used that on the Colonel instead, forcing O'Neill to his knees, face twisted with pain. Jim struggled to stop it, but he couldn't make even a dent in the Goa'uld's smug complacency. It didn't render O'Neill unconscious, but he was groggy and in pain, and although he could walk he didn't have the energy to attempt an escape.
His un-ribboned hand around O'Neill's arm, Jim dragged the commander of SG-1 into the town and up to the nearest group of Jaffa. Jim could tell it had made his eyes glow; there was an eerie overlay to the scene whenever that happened that wasn't as much a brighter color as a sparkle to the scene that would have given him fierce headaches if he hadn't damped his senses down to nearly below normal. The world was hard and bright, the newness of visiting different planets still too strange to Jim to feel quite real. At the sight of the glowing eyes and the deep hollowness of his voice, the Jaffa made humble obeisances to him. Jim couldn't help noticing that his Goa'uld regarded them with scorn and took the humility as its due.
"I am Denlin. Take me to Lord Apophis," he insisted.
The Jaffa cringed and looked as subservient as all hell. "My lord, we have learned that the Lord Apophis...is no more."
"What!" Outrage and fury made Jim's hand shoot up to level the ribbon device at the speaker, who cringed like a whipped puppy. "I am sorry, my lord. I only speak what I have been told. Glad would I be to be proven wrong. Apophis has not come to this place for many days. My Lord Klorel reported the death of Apophis."
"Apophis is your god," snarled the Goa'uld that Jim had become. Denlin? Jim hadn't heard the name before. Weren't the Goa'uld supposed to be based on Earth gods? Was there one called Denlin? Or was it only the System Lords known to Earth that had been believed gods in ancient times? Sandburg would know that--but Jim had left Sandburg bound and unconscious, back at the SGC. Denlin ignored Ellison's speculation. "A god cannot die. You are being tested to prove your worth. Either that or your simple minds have been deceived. I will take my residence in the temple and I will expect better information from you. Until I have what I wish, those who thwart me will feel my wrath."
O'Neill listened to this and muttered under his breath, "Talk's cheap." He definitely wasn't controlled any longer.
The Goa'uld didn't instantly recognize the slang, but it wasn't happy with O'Neill. "Deal with my prisoner, and bring me clothing suitable to my station," it said instead and handed O'Neill over to the Jaffa, who took him roughly and dragged him ahead of Jim.
Now Ellison wore tacky leather armor and a nasty little cap thing that fitted down on his forehead and covered the back of his head. He would have hated anybody from Major Crimes to see him dressed like this, but Denlin seemed to consider it no more than its due.
*You can look as fancy as you like, but it won't do you any good,* Jim thought resentfully. *Apophis is dead and all your complaining can't bring him back.*
*You are ignorant and risk much.* the Goa'uld returned sarcastically. He raised his voice so the Jaffa in the doorway would hear him. "Bring me my prisoner, suitably restrained," he commanded.
Two burly Jaffa hauled O'Neill into the room, and secured his wrists into a set of shackles that hung from the wall so that his arms were outstretched and he had to stand carefully or lose his balance. *Great place, to have shackles as part of its normal equipment,* Jim thought wryly. The Colonel's field jacket was gone and he was sporting a bit of blood at the corner of his mouth and a scraped place on his left cheekbone.
"My lord, the prisoner tried to escape," one of the Jaffa explained warily. "We were forced to restrain him. He is not greatly damaged."
Denlin displayed no annoyance, only casting a fleeting scornful thought at Jim's reaction. "His well-being is not my concern, as long as he is able to stand when he is brought before Lord Apophis."
The Jaffa relaxed fractionally and exchanged wary glances. Evidently none of them was prepared to remind the Goa'uld that Apophis had bought the big one. Jim's Goa'uld didn't have any inside knowledge about that; he'd come here expecting Apophis and found no Goa'uld in residence. The little Jim had been able to pick up from Denlin indicated he'd been stranded on Quich‚ for more than half a year, unwilling to reveal himself in a place where the locals had rejected service to the gods once Ra had been killed. One Goa'uld without a Jaffa power base, no matter his individual powers, wouldn't be able to stand up to a whole planet of renegades. So he had carefully bided his time, picked up on a few locals who still believed in their old religion, and coerced them into his service. It had been far too easy. Centuries of servitude didn't just fade away overnight.
He'd found a reason to get Carter out of the way; he knew about Jolinar and expected she might be able to tell if he was a Goa'uld. The Jolinar incident had occurred before Apophis had croaked, and Sam had encountered the Tok'ra after that. There had been a traitor among the Tok'ra, so the knowledge about Jolinar had probably been leaked then. This Goa'uld, Denlin, must have had access to that information before he was stranded on Quich‚. The plotters there hadn't worried quite so much about Teal'c, although he might have figured it out if he had given it any thought. However, Teal'c hadn't been there either. It had been more a fluke than anything, though, that he'd been assigned to go back with Sam Carter. Or was it? On a planet whose servitude to the Goa'uld had ended less than five years earlier, no matter how lightly they had worn it, a Jaffa was a reminder of their enslavement. They'd said Teal'c was a symbol of hope, but that was only true if the people who saw him thought about it. Just looking at him would remind him of all the bad years. That was probably why O'Neill hadn't instructed Teal'c to stay when he'd brought back word that Sam Carter was all right. Would this particular Goa'uld have known that?
*I knew that,* the Goa'uld told him smugly.
*You couldn't plan for it. Lucky accident,* Jim scoffed. There wasn't much the Goa'uld could do in retaliation; he could hardly hurt Jim without hurting himself.
*No, but I can hurt this one, as I hurt your little friend with long hair,* the Goa'uld reminded him. *Ah, that stings. Forevermore, when your long-haired companion sees you, he will cringe at the sight of you and view you with disdain and loathing.*
Jim ground his teeth. Funny, he could do that. Realizing, Denlin resumed control with insulting ease. *Do not think that a simple involuntary reaction means you can think to dominate me.*
*I WILL dominate you,* Jim returned. *And even if my friends have to kill me to stop you, they won't let the fact that it's my body stop them from doing what's right.*
*Their pain at such an action means nothing to you? I am sure you would rather spare them anguish. They do not know where you are. Even if they could learn it from their instruments, they will come too late. Far too late, for I will destroy the people on your base.*
Something inside Jim froze. *How?* God, Sandburg....
*Ah, NOW he worries. You did not think I would allow the Tau'ri freedom? They will not know when the blow will strike, when the hidden trigger will detonate. They will believe themselves safe, but they will not be safe, for their doom will fall upon them."
Coldness settled into Jim's spirit. Was it true? Had Denlin rigged a self-destruct at the base? Had it already detonated? Or was this simply bluster, a means of crushing Jim's spirit? He couldn't remember everything that had happened in the beginning, and he hadn't understood the computer work Denlin had done. If he'd planted a device, he couldn't recall doing it, but that didn't mean he hadn't. Denlin had blocked him at first, accessing his mind, digging into his thoughts, driving him back from his own perceptions and actions. Maybe the Goa'uld had planted C4 all over the base and Jim simply didn't remember. Maybe it was already too late. He could vaguely recollect going here and there, but he was still too shocked to remember every detail of what he did, as if the Goa'uld could block his observation whenever it wished. If he believed there was no rescue possible, would Denlin expect him to despair?
It wasn't despair that settled over Jim, though. It was grim determination and silent rage. He would find a way to fight Denlin, to oust him, and he would return to Earth through the Stargate. He was careful not to let the concept of Bra'tac and rescue creep to the surface of his thinking. Rescue was possible, though. He knew that.
Denlin started pacing up and down. "I grow impatient," he said to the Jaffa, who looked like they wanted to faint with terror at the rumbling voice. Jim wished it didn't feel like his vocal cords were being sandpapered every time Denlin spoke that way. "Send a signal to Apophis while I question the prisoner."
"I've got nothing to say," O'Neill snarled. Jim was surprised he'd been quiet so long.
"Yet." Denlin's pacing took him up to O'Neill and he grabbed the Colonel by the chin and wrenched his face around. Jack spat at him.
Denlin backhanded O'Neill with wrenching force that caused the Colonel to reel backward against the stone wall. The shackles kept him upright but only just. He had to fight for balance and pain flashed on his face, even though he tried to hide it. Another Jaffa scurried up with a cloth for Denlin to wipe his face.
"My lord Denlin, shall I kill this insolent one for you?"
"No, for he is to provide me with an excellent source of information. I shall question him. Bring interrogation equipment." A Jaffa ran off to obey.
O'Neill lifted his head and his eyes flickered. Ellison could see the concealed alarm on his face; he wouldn't like the sound of that, not for one second. Jim didn't, either. He wished he could communicate with Jack, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn't manage to get a message to him. It was rough to see the contempt in Jack's eyes and know it was meant for him. No, not for him, for Denlin. But Jack knew all too well that the only way to get rid of Denlin was for the Goa'uld to leave voluntarily, the way Jolinar had left Sam. Surgery wouldn't work; it hadn't for Kawalsky. Unless the Tok'ra knew of a means of doing so....
*They do not,* chortled Denlin. *The only way for you to be free is through my choice--and I DO NOT CHOOSE. Your body is fit, if sluggish, and will serve me for now. When I discard it, I will leave it shattered and your mind broken. There is no escape.*
*There will be,* Jim thought furiously. *You know nothing. You didn't even know Apophis was dead.*
*Apophis is NOT dead,* Denlin insisted. *These Jaffa are ignorant and primitive and will believe lies.*
*Ask him,* Jim instructed. *Ask Jack if he's dead or not. He saw the body.*
*Lies.* But Denlin grabbed O'Neill by the shoulders. "Human. You claim you witnessed the death of Apophis. You lie."
"Yeah, I saw the snake croak," Jack returned. He arched one eyebrow questioningly. "You got that from Ellison. If you can read his mind, you know it's true."
"I know that he believes it, but that does not make it true. He is new to your service. You have fed him your lies."
"Boy, are you ever wrong." O'Neill looked slightly groggy, a glazed look in his eyes. They'd probably given him a good beating, the kind that didn't show very much on the surface. He could have internal injuries. Jim didn't think he was bleeding internally, but you couldn't always tell just from looking at somebody, not unless it was fairly bad. With his medic training, he assessed O'Neill. The way he stood so carefully and the cautious way he was breathing could indicate a broken rib or two. There was nothing Jim could do to help him like this, but if he could find a way to keep Denlin from hurting him any further....
*I will hurt him if I choose to do it,* Denlin assured Jim. He shook O'Neill lightly. "The fate of Apophis will matter little in the long run," he said. "There are others who will value what I do. Heru'er will reward me, or even Sokar."
"Wouldn't want to mess with Sokar, if I were you," O'Neill returned. "He had it in for Apophis in the worst way. He thinks you're one of Apophis's boys, you're gonna be tortured and then he'll toss you in a sarcophagus and bring you back so he can torture you all over again."
"If he could bring me back, so could he bring Apophis, or so could anyone with a sarcophagus," Denlin replied. "You do not *know* that Apophis is dead."
Jack looked pretty certain, not one trace of doubt in his eyes. "Use the sarcophagus enough and you won't like what it does to you," he said. "It won't be pretty." Jack's eyes were shadowed with memories that could only convince Denlin he knew what he was talking about. That's right, use of a sarcophagus had done a number on Jackson, hadn't it? Addictive.
"Simply because it can affect a petty human mind does not mean it will do the same for one of us," retorted Denlin.
"Oh yeah, it does." Jack sounded positive. "Turns you into nice little Hitler monsters, that's what it does."
Jim could feel Denlin scrambling around in his mind to seek understanding of the reference. It wasn't a good feeling. He braced himself against it and tried to resist, but it didn't do much good.
"As your Hitler sealed away those beneath him in camps and killed them by the millions, so I will do with the Tau'ri," snapped Denlin.
"Hardly *my* Hitler," Jack scoffed.
"Hitler of the Tau'ri," countered the Goa'uld.
*Sorry, O'Neill. I can't stop him from knowing.* What had Denlin taken from him that could destroy the SGC? What had he done? And even if O'Neill could find a way to rescue and free him, the base could already be destroyed and everyone there along with it. Sandburg....
*Your Sandburg hates you now,* Denlin threw in contemptuously. *He knows you were too weak to save him. He will die cursing your name.*
*You don't know Sandburg,* Jim snapped, furious. *Don't demean him because you don't understand him. He's stronger than you'll ever be. If you think your Goa'uld powers make you the better man you are the biggest fool ever born.*
Denlin didn't even bother to argue. Instead, he slammed one of Jim's fists into O'Neill's stomach. Jack's breath went out in an agonized whoosh and he would have doubled over if the Jaffa and the chains around his wrists hadn't held him upright. He raised his face and the look of sheer loathing in his eyes blasted Denlin. A part of Jim flinched from the look, and he was sure that even Denlin was uneasy about it. If he got too uneasy, he'd just take it out on Jack and insist it was Jim's fault.
"And that is what happens when the host attempts resistance," Denlin informed O'Neill. "So you see, his rebellious thoughts only bring down punishment upon you."
"More power to him," Jack wheezed. "Hang in there, Ellison. We'll get you back."
But both men knew the encouragement was no more than wishful thinking.
Sam Carter had reason to be grateful she was tall and had short hair. Taller than Blair, she could convincingly go into male robes for the rescue attempt of the Colonel and Ellison. She knew, none better, that a Goa'uld *could* leave a host, although she also knew how traumatic the experience was. Jolinar had been a Tok'ra, one who had left her voluntarily, who had sacrificed her own life for Sam. Now that faint memories of Jolinar still stirred in her, she knew that, in a way, Jolinar had not entirely ceased, or at least, she had left a part of herself behind in fleeting remnants of the memory they had, for a time, shared. Sam spent some time each week practicing with the ribbon device and healing device; it had taken Kendra time to learn how to use them, and she had been linked far longer than Sam had. On this particular mission, Carter carried both with her. She had been able to use the ribbon device when they were dealing with Seth. It gave her a sense of power that made her uncomfortable and she would rather *not* know how to use it, but when it came down to protecting her team, she knew she had no choice. Using the healing device on Chronos was better, although healing a Goa'uld wasn't a first choice, but both actions indicated how different she had become. Little Samantha Carter who had wanted to grow up and become an astronaut now went to other planets as a matter of course--but little Sam Carter had never dreamed of becoming...almost an alien--or that her father would actually become a Tok'ra. She would far rather take Selmak as part of her father than to have lost her father to cancer, but now, when she looked at Jacob, as he talked to Bra'tac in an undertone, she was astonished at how far she had come.
Yet here, with SG-1, she fit in. Teal'c *was* an alien, Daniel had married one, and then there was O'Neill, who loathed the snakeheads but who accepted and valued her--and the rest of his unlikely team. They couldn't sacrifice him; they had to get him back. Jack O'Neill was the best commander she had ever had, and he was a friend. SG-1 was more than a team who worked together. They had been through so much together that they had become a family. Sam had made friends with teammates before, but never like this. Never as close as this. It gave them strength; it let them function seamlessly, as different as they were from each other.
The downside was the risk, that one of them might die. Close as they had become, it hurt to even contemplate the thought of losing the Colonel. Bra'tac had said he was alive when he was brought here. The Goa'uld in Ellison would know by now that Apophis was dead; the local Jaffa would have told him. Would he believe them? Would he be so infuriated by the news that he would kill the Colonel in a fit of rage? Or would he plan to turn O'Neill over to another System Lord?
Then there was Jim Ellison. Sam liked him a lot. He was a good man, and once he'd relaxed and come to terms with the fact that everyone at the SGC knew about his heightened senses he had lost some of that wary, defensive edge. Sandburg was his team/family, just as the rest of SG-1 was Sam's, and right now Sandburg had donned the Chulak garb Bra'tac had produced without hesitation, and without the excitement going undercover would normally produce in him. Like Daniel, Blair thrived on new experiences, new cultures. He should have been bombarding both Bra'tac and Sam's father with eager questions. Instead he was grave and uncharacteristically silent. Bra'tac said that was good. He wouldn't be conspicuous that way. His hair was pulled back severely and he was clad much as Teal'c's son, Rya'c, had been the first time Sam saw him. She and Daniel were in robes, and Sam wore a skullcap rather like Bra'tac's. Daniel had shed his glasses to avoid winning notice, and had submitted to Bra'tac's designing a temporary tattoo like Teal'c's on his forehead in a sooty black. Since many of the Jaffa they encountered had them, it made him less noticeable. If only Daniel didn't forget and rub his forehead and smear it....
Ellison was a Goa'uld now, not a Tok'ra who would choose to leave him. It might transfer to another host if it found one more to its liking, but Jim's senses might offer it great temptation. How much of an edge would that give a Goa'uld? Sam tried to prod at the edges of Jolinar's memories to see, but she couldn't access them consciously, not without a great deal of concentration. She sometimes wondered how many of them were really present. She had remembered Martouf when she met him, and she sometimes had dreams that she suspected were a part of Jolinar's experiences, but she couldn't consciously recall anything that tied in to how a Goa'uld would take the realization of heightened senses. In a sense just *being* a Goa'uld had heightened what she'd had. The snake inside had boosted Sam's immune system, as the larval Goa'uld in Teal'c provided his. The world had seemed brighter, louder, much more out of control when Jolinar was inside her. She'd had no control over that; she could only experience it, except when Jolinar permitted her to speak. Would Jim's Goa'uld pick up on his enhanced senses? Would it learn to use the abilities? Would it make the Goa'uld even more powerful, more difficult to oust?
Like Sam and Daniel, Teal'c had a hooded robe. He would be recognized easily, and his face was well known. Considered shol'va, traitor, to his people, he had a price on his head and probably any System Lord would reward the Jaffa who turned him in. He had not once hesitated to come back here to try to rescue O'Neill, though. It would never have occurred to Sam that he would refuse. His knowledge of Chulak was essential.
There were more people about as they walked toward the temple. Bra'tac had insisted they separate and not go in all at once. He had taken Sandburg and Sam's father with him, and now they walked a little distance away, across a wide street. Since it was Blair's first time here, Bra'tac had meant to keep an eye on him. Jacob, as Tok'ra, could handle himself well, but he, too, was new to Chulak. And SG-1 simply worked too well together to separate.
Sam put effort into making her stride as mannish as possible. While she could have walked the streets as a woman, there were evidently precincts inside the temple where only men could pass, and it might take all of them to free O'Neill. She didn't intend to wait passively outside and Bra'tac had no priestess clothing for her to wear. The robe was better. She could cast it off if need be, and it concealed her zat gun and MP-5 and even her backpack.
Bra'tac made a small hand gesture as they approached the square surrounding the temple. Teal'c came to such an abrupt halt that Daniel almost barreled into him. Daniel's face held impatience and anxiety; he was determined not to lose O'Neill to the Goa'uld. He'd lost too many people already; Sam could see it in his eyes. She touched his arm in brief sympathy as she craned her neck to see over Teal'c's shoulder.
The temple was surrounded with Jaffa, ringing it in a defensive line with staff weapons in hand. Interested and wary, the locals watched them and gave them a wide berth. If SG-1 and their allies tried to approach, they would be warned away. If they didn't heed the warning, they would be blasted or arrested and taken in to the Goa'uld in residence.
"Uh...this isn't good," Daniel muttered. "They knew we were coming, didn't they?"
"They guessed," Teal'c replied. "If no Goa'uld was on Chulak when Ellison and O'Neill arrived, Ellison would have taken charge of the Jaffa. They would obey him as long as his orders did not countermand the existing ones of a System Lord."
"Even if they didn't know him?" Daniel asked.
"He is Goa'uld. They would not question."
Bra'tac brought his party to join them. Since small groups had gathered watching the Jaffa, it didn't make them particularly noticeable.
Blair went right to the heart of the matter. "How do we get in?"
"There is a way," Bra'tac replied.
"Indeed," agreed Teal'c. "Underground."
"There will, however, be an equal if not greater number of armed Jaffa inside," Bra'tac explained. "It is possible that O'Neill and your friend, young human, will not be together. They may be, of course. As you say, this Ellison is newly taken. The Goa'uld may be uncertain and insist on keeping O'Neill within his sight."
"Won't the Jaffa know of the underground way?" Sam's father asked. "It can't be that easy."
Bra'tac turned to him. "I did not claim it would be easy, but the way is known to few. Teal'c, as First Prime, knew of it. I know of it. Not all these Jaffa--" he gestured at the guardians of the temple-- "know of it. We must not stand here or we shall be observed. Teal'c, you take your party there." He nodded to the left. "We will go this way."
Teal'c didn't hesitate. He corralled Sam and Daniel and steered them effortlessly in the right direction. Blair hung back a second, but Bra'tac had him in hand. Sam could read the concern in his eyes as he was borne away and understood it. He was afraid that everyone in the rescue party but him would put O'Neill first and that they would abandon Jim Ellison as beyond rescue. Sam could have told him they didn't dare do that. Ellison might be new to the Stargate program, but he still knew too much about it. If the Tok'ra had no way to free him from the Goa'uld, and if none of their allies knew a means, they still had to take him back with them, even if it meant incarceration. Blair wouldn't like that solution but they couldn't let a Goa'uld go free with heightened senses and a knowledge of the secrets of the Tau'ri. Sam chewed on her bottom lip as she followed Teal'c and Daniel, her zat gun concealed beneath her robe. She wasn't even sure they could save Jack O'Neill, let alone rescue Jim.
She was afraid Jim Ellison would have to die.
Teal'c drew away from the temple precincts and led the way to a smaller structure. She didn't know what it was, but it was not locked up. It might have been someone's home, but it appeared deserted; no personal effects anywhere in sight. Teal'c led them to the stone staircase and pushed a section of the wall; it wasn't marked or in any way distinct from the rest of the wall, but when he touched it, a grating sound echoed through the room and a stone doorway swung open. "Inside here," Teal'c directed them.
"An underground passage?" Daniel brightened at the sight of the hieroglyphics adorning the walls, but he quickly shoved aside his interest. The mission was too important to linger. His eyes were busy as he passed the writing, but he didn't slow his urgent pace until Teal'c said, "Wait, Daniel Jackson."
"I just think we might be running out of time here." Daniel hung back reluctantly, his very posture urging them not to slow down. "If the Goa'uld in Jim knows Apophis is dead, he might have sent for another of the System Lords. There are a few of them who would come running if they knew he had Jack. We have to hurry."
"We must have light," Teal'c explained and reached into a shelf just inside the panel, where he brought out several torches and lit them.
"Oh." Daniel blinked. "Do you think we can get Jack free?"
"We can free him, but it will be difficult to return to the Stargate unless we can remove him and Ellison without attracting attention."
"Which System Lord do you think Ellison's Goa'uld would send for?" Daniel asked. He was antsy, anxious to move, and he took the torch that Teal'c passed him and started after the Jaffa at a near run. Sam brought up the rear. Behind her, the stone doorway grated closed.
"Perhaps Heru'er," Teal'c replied. "Or Chronos." Anger at the idea filled his voice. Teal'c had no fondness for the System Lord who had killed his father.
"Whoever it is, it won't be our friend," Sam reminded them. "And even if no one has come yet, Ellison's Goa'uld won't be alone with Jack. He'll have rounded up Jaffa to guard him."
"From us?" Daniel asked. "He'll expect us to attempt a rescue. Maybe he brought Jack so he could lure us all here. He couldn't hope to control all of us at once, so he brought Jack--knowing we'd follow."
"If you mean this a trap, I have suspected that from the first," Teal'c replied. "We know from Master Bra'tac that no other Goa'uld have yet arrived, but we must hurry."
"I agree." Sam had other worries. "He must have used Ellison's clearances to hack into the system; Jim might not have the highest clearance possible, but it wasn't hard for the Destroyer of Worlds to get into our system. The Goa'uld could have done the same."
"We might as well set up a terminal for enemy aliens," Daniel said bitterly.
"The thing is," Sam pointed out, "the Goa'uld was in our system. We don't know what damage it could have done. It could have shut it down long enough to keep us from using it again for hours or even days. It could have blown it up or...." Her voice trailed off.
"Or left a trigger in the system," Teal'c filled in.
"You mean a booby-trap?" Daniel murmured something under his breath in a language Sam didn't recognize. "Maybe if we try to return to the base.... Or even something that could have detonated already."
The two men slowed and turned to face her. Realization spread on all their faces. They might not have a base to go back to.
"I don't think there was time," Sam said thoughtfully. "It had to program in a lock-down control so that it could access the system and shut us out so it could get through to Chulak. Adding something else would have taken time, time the Goa'uld couldn't know it had."
"Can you get a warning to General Hammond?" Daniel asked. "I mean without one of us going back to the M.A.L.P.?"
"I could probably rig a remote, but not underground like this." Sam frowned. "We'll just have to hurry and get the Colonel and Jim out of here. We'll need all of us for that. Anyway, the General ordered the system checked out thoroughly and sent teams to check for bombs. If there's something in the computer, they'll find it, and if it's something else, they'll be looking."
But a bomb could have been planted somewhere.... The teams would start with Ellison's quarter but he could easily have gone further afield. Sam hoped the searches would be enough.
The underground tunnel showed continual signs of neglect. Vines had crept in from overhead and trailed down eerily to tangle about their faces and to risk a fire from the torches they carried. They had to spread out enough to hold the torches at waist level. There were small, stagnant pools no more than an inch deep here and there among the rough paving stones beneath their feet. It made walking difficult. At least it appeared that this entrance to the temple hadn't been used in a long time. The local Jaffa wouldn't expect trouble from this direction. She hoped.
Teal'c put up his hand. "Wait. Be silent."
They froze, listening. A faint scuffle on a stone alerted them to the fact that someone else was down here with them, just ahead in the dark passage.
A voice spoke harshly in a language Sam did not understand. Were they caught? But Teal'c relaxed and responded in the same tongue. "It is Master Bra'tac," he reassured Sam and Daniel, and they hurried forward to meet the rest of their party. Sandburg was bristling with impatience, and Sam's father looked calm--was that Selmak's influence?--but alert.
"Quickly," Bra'tac urged. "This way." The old Jaffa led them into a branching tunnel. "From this point, do not speak except in warning." He cast a pointed look at Sandburg, who grinned sheepishly and nodded. Satisfied, Bra'tac continued in an undertone. "The voices may carry slightly. We go beneath the temple now. I do not believe the Goa'uld is aware of these tunnels, but some of the Jaffa will know."
The party moved as silently as possible, the weight of centuries of stone hanging over their heads. Sam was uncomfortable here, even more uncomfortable than she had expected to be. Had Jolinar once been trapped in such a place, and did those memories prod at her subconscious? Or was it simply the thought of the Colonel a prisoner of the Goa'uld that weighed her down? From the way her father had avoided answering her questions, help to free him might be problematic.
Bra'tac halted them with a raised hand while he stood poised, listening. He urged them forward a few steps, paused again. No one challenged them. Everyone held his breath. Sam could feel Daniel beside her, braced to move, so tightly wound he might spring in several directions at once. Even the ancient, glyph-encrusted tunnels didn't catch and hold his interest. Maybe later, when--all right, if--O'Neill was safe, he'd plump for a mission back here to investigate them, but now the ancient script on the moss-lined walls might have been ordinary plaster for all the attention he gave it. Daniel and the Colonel didn't have a smooth relationship, but they were friends in spite of it. Sam could sense it. Even if they sometimes irritated each other, the trust that lay beneath the irritation went miles deeper than these tunnels. It was a trust that existed between all members of SG-1, but she felt there was a special spark between Daniel and Jack. Sam was glad of it because both men were lonely at the core, and needed to know there was someone they could trust all the way to the soul. It gave each of them someone to serve as his conscience in a crisis, to back him up when everyone else failed to understand. Although Sam couldn't endure the thought of taking a Tok'ra voluntarily, she couldn't help wondering, when she thought of her father, if that was what Jacob and Selmak had. Unequivocal trust. She had to believe that. Bringing her father to the Tok'ra had saved both lives. If that depth of bonding had emerged from it, then she was content with her choice. Daniel and Jack weren't symbiotic, but, at times, she thought they could come damned close. All SG-1 could.
That was why they had to get the Colonel back.
And then there was Blair, so grimly determined it would take twenty Jaffa to stop him. Suddenly Sam realized that the young guide believed that he was Jim's only voice, that he was convinced the others had already written him off and were here only for O'Neill.
The sad part was that was partly true. They'd bring Ellison back if they could. But unless the Tok'ra, the Asgard, the Tollans or the Nox jumped in with a quick fix for Goa'uld possession, they couldn't save him. The Asgard *did* have a way, Thor's Hammer. Not an easy way and maybe not even possible. Kendra's survival could have been a fluke. Like Sam, she had possessed remnants of the Goa'uld in her; she had been able to use the ribbon device and could heal. Sam was learning those things, but she hadn't completely mastered them yet. If they could free Jim Ellison, he would likely have to learn them, too.
Bra'tac halted them once more at the foot of a flight of stone steps. They had once been much used, for the treads were heavily worn, hollowed out in the center of each step, but they hadn't been used in a long time because they were lichen-encrusted and trailing roots had disrupted a few of them and tangled others. They glistened with moisture, making them slippery.
Lowering his voice to a mere breath, Bra'tac said, "None have used this route for many years. I was but a young man when last I came this way. I spoke of it to Teal'c, but never brought him here."
Teal'c frowned. "The way above may be sealed."
"It is sealed," Bra'tac agreed. "It will be possible to open it." He gestured with his staff weapon. "But that will alert the guards within the temple. "From the numbers outside, it is possible that there are not as many within. The temple guardians, the priests and priestesses of Apophis, will not oppose the Goa'uld, not if it claims to be in the service of Apophis. Many of them refused to believe Apophis was dead, even when Klorel came here. They did not openly dispute him, but--"
"We've got to get Jim and the Colonel out of there," Blair interrupted.
Bra'tac favored him with a look of irritation tempered with sympathy. "Do you consider it proper to break in upon your elders, young human?"
Blair didn't give an inch. "Every second we delay, Jim's in trouble and so is Colonel O'Neill. I don't care about the priests' attitude right now, unless they're gonna line up like a human shield--or Jaffa shield-- and stop us from getting our friends back."
"They might do that," Daniel offered gently. He wasn't happy either. His impatience matched Blair's. He jittered around, shifting his feet, his arms wrapped around his chest.
Bra'tac eyed them both. "Young humans are far too impatient," he murmured. "This doorway opens into the room where I believe we will find the one called Ellison. If O'Neill is present, he will be to the right of the door. Prisoners are chained there; the shackles are mounted upon the wall."
"In the time it will take us to enter the room, O'Neill could be killed," Teal'c volunteered. Daniel threw him a reproachful look, but there was pain in his eyes.
"I will, therefore, go first," Teal'c announced. "I will attempt to place myself between O'Neill and any Jaffa in the room."
"What about Jim?" Blair worried. "You can't use a staff weapon on him."
"I shall not," Teal'c replied. "But one of us must use a zat'nik'a'tel upon him. One blast only."
Blair heaved a miserable sigh. "Then let me be the one to do it. I...think Jim would want me to be the one...."
Bra'tac's brows rose slightly, then he clasped Blair on the shoulder. "I like this one," he said to Teal'c, "for all he is too impatient. It shall be your task, young human."
"Blair. My name's Blair, not 'young human'." He raised the zat gun.
"Blair. The Jaffa will protect Ellison. You must still find a way to fire."
"I will." Sandburg's face was rigid. Carter did not envy the Jaffa he would face.
"Daniel, once we get in there, you get to Jack," Jacob urged. "Haul him down from the shackles even if you have to zat them to break him loose. He'll be too tempting a target hanging up there otherwise."
Daniel nodded. "And if he's not there?"
"Then Master Bra'tac and I will fight our way to the cells," Sam's father decided, "while the rest of you immobilize Ellison and the Jaffa."
"Does everyone understand?" Bra'tac asked.
Sam nodded. "Take out the Jaffa, immobilize Ellison, free the Colonel, and out as fast as we can." She slid her hand into the ribbon device. Maybe she'd need it. She drew a deep, steadying breath.
"And then fight our way back to the Stargate," Jacob added. "And remember, he's probably sent for one of the System Lords. I don't think Apophis could be alive. We've had no rumors of it anywhere. But this Goa'uld's got initiative. If not Apophis, he's going to use Jack to advance himself with whatever System Lord shows up. So we go in fast and hit hard."
"Right," agreed Daniel. Gun in hand, he braced himself.
Sandburg's knuckles were white around the handle of the zat. He looked tense and nervous but he wasn't the type to panic under fire. He might have a nasty reaction after the fact, but he wouldn't let anybody down.
They crept up the steps in a tight pack, halting only when Bra'tac raised a hand. His cloak swirled around his shoulders as he raised his staff weapon. Jacob held his torch up to mark the doorway, and Bra'tac studied it. Even from behind them both, Sam could see that a light sealing had been fitted around the door frame to keep it from opening easily. It had been done from this side, and some of it had crumbled away but not enough of it for them to open the door without assistance.
"Jackson." Bra'tac pointed to a wall panel near Daniel. "When I fire, put weight on that panel. Push it very hard. Do you understand? When it opens, you go in fast and low, and locate O'Neill."
"Uh...yes." Daniel rested his palm against the panel. "I'm ready."
Bra'tac raised his staff weapon and fired.
Jack O'Neill was not a happy camper. Never mind he was pretty sure a couple of his ribs were cracked at the very least. If he didn't make sure to stand erect and let himself support his weight instead of dragging on the shackles, it hurt to breathe. Not good. He made a point of balancing carefully. Wouldn't help if his team came to get him out of here if they found him dead of a punctured lung. He was pretty damn sure that would *not* be a fun way to go.
At least Bra'tac had seen him. The old Jaffa had spotted him right away, but he'd given a fractional shake of his head to warn Jack not to recognize him. O'Neill had been careful to give nothing away. Ellison had never met Bra'tac or seen a picture of him. He probably knew Bra'tac existed, but the odds were he wouldn't be able to pick him out of a crowd of Jaffa. Just as well. Bra'tac didn't try anything, either, but then there wasn't much he could do without preparation. He might expect the rest of SG-1 to the rescue, and he'd probably team up with them and they'd get him out of here. Surrounded by Jaffa, fastened up in pretty good restraints--Jack had tested them carefully--there wasn't a lot he could do. He had to appear pretty passive, too, unless he wanted another dose of that sucky Goa'uld mind control that Ellison had pulled on him with the healing device, get trashed again with the ribbon device, or win a session with the torture gizmos. Must have brought the healing and ribbon devices with him from Quich‚, too, because no matter how quick he was at prowling through Ellison's mind, he probably hadn't figured out they had some Goa'uld devices of their own locked away on the base.
And that meant he might have brought back a little Goa'uld bomb and planted it on the base, too. Ellison wasn't any more of a computer hacker than Jack was. He knew enough to do what he needed to at the base, but his clearance probably wouldn't let him mess around in the computer systems. Even if Denlin had wanted him to, Jim probably wouldn't have been able to share much information about computers. Not that it mattered. Denlin had figured out how to get into the system and lock people out. And that was getting pretty damn annoying. Linnea came in and did it, those nasty little guys that took him over from that orb had done it. They might as well put up a sign--'SGC computer. Aliens sign in here. No password necessary.'
The Jaffa had returned with a bunch of nifty little gadgets that didn't look particularly nice. Electronic, probably, or whatever it was that ran their equipment. Naquada, probably. Mind probes? Pain inducers? There they were, laid out on a table, waiting for Denlin to decide to mess with Jack. He didn't want to give the Goa'uld the satisfaction of looking at them, but it was hard not to. Goa'uld torture devices couldn't be fun. Maybe this would be a good time to have some of Machello's inventions to fight the Goa'uld. Of course Jack didn't have a handy dandy torture shield in his pocket. He didn't have a weapon, either, other than the Swiss Army knife that the Jaffa had removed. Even if he'd still had his sidearm, he'd have lost that when he was snatched.
*Well, O'Neill, this is a pretty kettle of fish.*
What now? Teal'c, Daniel, and Sam would want to rush to his rescue. They'd been up there in the control room; they'd have seen which chevrons were dialed up; they'd know he was on Chulak. If they could get access to the gate, they were probably already on the planet--if they weren't already destroyed by some little toy Denlin had left behind. They might come heavily armed with a squadron of Marines, or they might try a covert mission and sneak in. He hoped they would hurry.
Denlin sat sprawled in a seat that was probably intended as a throne for the Goa'uld-in-residence. Very Egyptian. Daniel would like it, just like he'd get a kick out of the fancy writing carved on the walls. It probably said something sweet like, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." *Right, O'Neill. Don't even THINK about things like that.*
Hope. Yeah, he had it. He had hope his kiddies and Bra'tac would haul his ass out of here. They'd have to grab Denlin, too, and hope they could eject the Goa'uld from Ellison's body. Was it too late for him to try that cryogenic number? Jack figured it was. That Tok'ra who had prepared Jack for the cryogenic process when he had the Goa'uld in him had urged him to hold out as long as he could. Meant that if the Goa'uld hadn't got a toehold, it would be history. But Ellison's Goa'uld had a toehold and a mind-hold. Too late for that.
There were four Jaffa here now, guarding him, guarding Denlin. Probably just here to make the Goa'uld know they worshiped him. Sweet. Jack wasn't sure what Denlin was doing. Just sitting around waiting for Apophis? If so, he'd have a long wait. Or was it busy sniffing around in Ellison's mind? Learning every single thing it could learn about the SGC. Learning about the senses thing.
And that was funny. Denlin hadn't had a clue about the heightened senses, at least not that Jack had been able to tell. Maybe it couldn't access them. Maybe working its way around Ellison's mind had zapped the Sentinel part of him. Maybe it *wouldn't* be a major advantage to the Goa'uld. If Denny hadn't figured out yet that Ellison was a Sentinel, the last thing Jack wanted to do was announce the fact. He ran a speculative eye over Ellison's casually sprawled body. Nope, no trace of heightened senses. The pupils of Ellison's eyes would expand when he was doing the vision thing. They looked pretty normal right now--or at least as normal as anybody's eyes could look when he had a snake in his head.
"I grow impatient," Denlin remarked. The Jaffa tensed, and one bowed. "My lord? What would you have us do?"
"I would have you alert Apophis to the presence of this human."
"But we sent messages, my lord."
Nice, obsequious little Jaffa there. He would probably stand on his head and sing the Jaffa National Anthem, assuming there was one, if Denlin ordered him to. He'd certainly zap Jack without the slightest hesitation. Jack tried to pretend he was invisible.
"Then bring me sustenance. I am hungry."
"It shall be done, my lord." The obsequious Jaffa marched off at attention and the others shifted position to better guard Denlin. It wasn't as if Jack could rip the shackles out of the walls and attack the guy, and O'Neill knew from Teal'c's sometime frustration that most of the people of Chulak couldn't be bestirred to resist the Goa'uld.
It wasn't likely that anyone was going to attack Denlin, but he nodded in approval at the action. The smug complacency didn't look right on Jim Ellison's face. Attitude and expression were so different that Jack had no trouble keeping it in his head that he wasn't really looking at Jim Ellison but at the very different personality that inhabited him. Course Ellison was in there looking out, aware of what was going on. Jack knew that from the brief encounter with Skaara when Klorel had allowed him to emerge on the orbiting ship, and from Daniel's encounter with the pregnant Sha're. The host knew what was happening. For a guy like Jim Ellison--for anyone, really--that had to suck royally.
Denlin glanced arrogantly at O'Neill. "Do not expect rescue. Your friends may come for you, but they will not pass through the guards I have set in place outside the temple. If they come with many SG units, then all of them will die--and I will kill you personally before they can get to you."
"Leaving yourself no little present for Apophis?" Jack taunted him. He wasn't inclined to give the Goa'uld the last word.
"You will not be freed. My lord Apophis will come first, or another System Lord will, and you will be my gift to them. But if your people come first, then they will see you die." He made an offhand gesture that was so unlike Ellison's that the impression of a stranger was all the stronger. Jack winced.
"If they come, *I'll* see *you* die," he countered.
"I think not. Kill Ellison? No, you will take me prisoner in hopes of restoring him, but I tell you now, that will not happen. You cannot harm me for you will then kill Ellison. And if you are the one to pull the trigger, then you will suffer for it, suffer in the betrayal you will see in Sandburg's eyes, and suffer in the memory that, once again, someone important to you died because of your weapon."
*Son of a bitch.* The Goa'uld even knew about Charlie. This creep couldn't be allowed to live. He knew too much. Out there, free, he could bring down the SGC, heck, the whole planet. But he was right about one thing. It would half-kill Jack to pull the trigger. It wasn't that Ellison was his best buddy, but he was one of the team, and Sandburg had to be tearing himself up over him right now. The kid's hero worship made O'Neill a little uncomfortable, but he liked Sandburg, and he'd hate to have to break it to him that he'd killed Blair's Sentinel and best friend.
"Ah, that bothers you." The smugness in Denlin's voice made Jack want to rearrange his face. He curled his fingers around the chains that bound him and tugged at them. It was like tugging at the Rocky Mountains. No give at all. "Too much like the little boy. Charlie, is it? Your own son, who died by your gun." He was rubbing it in now. Jack yanked hard at the chains but they didn't yield.
"You're going down, you son of a bitch," he gritted out. "I don't know how, but you're going down."
A section of the wall exploded outward in a wild burst sending the Jaffa ducking to avoid flying debris. They didn't duck long. A sharp command from Denlin had them hopping to attention and forming a protective line between him and the Jaffa that boiled out of the opening in the wall.
Jaffa? Well, the first two out were Bra'tac and Teal'c, but right behind them were Daniel, Carter, Blair Sandburg, and, son of a gun, Jacob Carter. They'd roped in the Tok'ra for the rescue mission. *Way to go, team!*
Bra'tac and Teal'c started blasting away with their staff weapons the second they were clear of the doorway, and one of the Jaffa guarding Denlin went down right away. Warned by the explosion, the other two were ready for the invasion, and the rescue team was forced to scatter to avoid return fire. Staff blasts gouged out chunks of the walls, creating new flying missiles. Sam raised her hand and she had on one of those ribbon devices. She concentrated on it, her face scrunched up with effort, but nothing happened. She wasn't a hundred per cent with the contraption yet, but that didn't stop the Jaffa from ducking at the sight of it. *Come on, Carter, you can do it.* Jack tucked his head down against his chin to protect his eyes, but he didn't have enough give in the chains to duck out of range. *Just call me sitting duck.* He felt the sting of tiny projectiles bouncing off his shoulders and back, but none of them were big enough to do more than sting.
Carter finally got off a blast but the Jaffa eluded it. Her lips moved in a non-verbal profanity and she shook herself out of the effort and tried again.
Sandburg blurted, "Jim!" his face dead white, and he started tenaciously in that direction, only to jump hastily sideways when a staff blast came too close. He didn't look remotely afraid of the Jaffa. He hardly seemed to notice them. Jack suspected his only fear was that he might fail to rescue Ellison--and that was a pretty major one. Carter got off a ribbon blast at the Jaffa that had nearly zapped Sandburg, and the Jaffa lurched sideways, blood on his left arm, but didn't fall or drop his staff weapon. *Way to go, Carter!* Blair tried to zat him--no, he was aiming for Ellison, Jack realized, to take him down, but he missed, thrown off balance by the blast. Denlin brought up a gun--it was a sidearm from back home, not a Goa'uld weapon. Shit. The Goa'uld tried to point it at Sandburg, but abruptly his hand trembled. Ellison, in there pitching, resisting him with all the willpower he had. Skaara had fought like that, on the ship over Earth. Denlin's face contorted with rage and strain as he tried to bend Ellison to his will.
Daniel came right for Jack, while Jacob joined Teal'c and Bra'tac in their battle and Carter struggled with the ribbon device. Another two Jaffa burst into the room and Jack yelled a warning. Jacob whirled and got off a nifty shot that knocked the first one on his keester, and Teal'c hit the other one in the middle of the chest, only to jump backward to avoid a blast from the two guarding Denlin.
"Let's get you free, sir." Carter brought up the ribbon device to blast the nearest shackle--she pulled it off, too--and Daniel started for the other one.
"Took you guys long enough," Jack groused but without malice. He was damned glad to see his people. His left arm dropped as Carter's shot took out the chain. He still had the shackle around his wrist but he could live with that until they had a chance to get it off him. Maybe he could slug a Jaffa with it. "Careful. Denlin's trying to blow us away but Ellison's fighting him."
Daniel glanced over his shoulder at the Goa'uld, and then he let out a horrified cry and flung himself sideways--directly between Jack and the Goa'uld. Unable to force Ellison's body to blow away Sandburg, Denlin had cut his losses, and the gun was aimed right at Jack. The Goa'uld's eyes were cold and malicious as he pulled the trigger. The gun went off, the sound sharp and fierce in the room, cutting through the sound of staff weapon blasts. Sandburg yelled, "No! Jim!" at the top of his lungs and finally got a clear shot with the zat. Denlin/Ellison jerked and writhed, and fell over, and Sandburg hurled away the zat as if it were too hot to hold, scrambled past the two Jaffa, and flung himself down on the platform at Ellison's side. He had handcuffs out and ready.
All that barely registered to Jack. He'd seen the look in Denlin's eyes as he fired, the hot fury, the determination to fulfill his promise. He'd meant to kill Jack, but he'd missed.
No. He hadn't missed. Daniel jerked at the sound of the shot, but it wasn't the sound but the impact that produced his reaction. His eyes came up to Jack's, shocked and relieved at the same time, when he saw O'Neill hadn't been hit. He gasped out, "Jack... Y'okay?" and then his knees folded up and he fell forward, grabbed O'Neill around the waist for balance and then let go, his arms dropping away. He slid to the marble floor to lie face down at Jack's feet. He'd been wearing a backpack under the Jaffa robe, so there was no blood readily evident, but he'd been hit. God, he'd been shot in the back!
"Daniel! Oh, shit!" Jack blurted as he tugged furiously for freedom so he could get to Daniel.
Carter abandoned the ribbon device and used her gun to take out the shackle that held his right wrist, and he was free. Ignoring the jangling fragments of chain that whipped about at his movement, he ran his eyes over the scene to make sure there wasn't any more threat.
Sandburg had the handcuffs in place, Ellison's hands forced behind his back. The Goa'uld was starting to stir. Jacob went over to join them while Bra'tac checked the downed Jaffa to make sure none of them would revive and attack again, then he headed for the door, probably to seal it or stand guard. Teal'c registered Daniel's fall and plunged toward them and Carter's face lost all trace of color. Jack saw all that and registered it automatically, a conditioned reflex, but the main part of his attention was focused on the sprawled body at his feet. He landed painfully on his knees and jammed urgent fingers into the side of Daniel's neck, feeling for a pulse. Carter dropped opposite him and Teal'c skidded to a stop behind her, his staff weapon at ready as he prepared to stand guard.
"Don't you do this to me, Daniel," Jack gritted out. "Damn it, don't you do this."
"I'm sorry, Jim," Sandburg babbled in the background. "I had to. We'll get it out of you. I promise. There'll be a way. I know there will." The Goa'uld twitched and struggled and spat curses at him, but the cuffs were secure.
Beneath Jack's fingers, Daniel's pulse beat, faster than normal, but there. O'Neill's breath went out in a loud whoosh. He raised his eyes briefly to meet Carter's worried gaze. "He's alive," he reassured her. "What the hell were you trying to prove there, Jackson?" he muttered. Carter sucked in her breath at the question.
"...couldn't let him...shoot you..." Daniel's voice was faint and shaky, but the determination in it was far stronger than he was right then. Conscious. He was conscious. He moved weakly and stilled under Jack's restraining grip.
"Where are you hit?" Carter asked hastily.
"Uh...shoulder?" He sounded doubtful, as if he wasn't sure. "Back?"
Jack worked the concealing robe away as carefully as he could. Still no blood. "Let's get this backpack off. Can you move?" God, what if he was paralyzed?
"We must *all* move," Bra'tac urged in the background. "I do not know if we were heard outside the temple, but there is no time."
"There's time to stop the bleeding. What the hell good is it to get away if he bleeds to death?" Jack demanded, outraged.
"What good will it do him if all die?" the older Jaffa demanded.
"Two minutes, damn it. Round up Ellison and I'll be with you." He worked the pack free, and there was blood under it, more blood than he liked to see. Shoulder wounds could be awfully messy, but this was lower; god, it could have taken a lung. A little far to the right side, thank god it hadn't got him in the spine. Jumping in to take a bullet meant for Jack... Shit, shit, shit.
A lot of blood, this wasn't good. Not high enough for the shoulder, but right in place to slam into a lung. Blood on his back and around to the side. Better than the staff blast he'd taken on Klorel's ship, but maybe just as deadly. Jack's stomach was a cold, hollow, twisted mass. He tried to pull away Daniel's jacket.
Teal'c's hand came into Jack's view, holding a folded pad of cloth to use as a dressing. No time to do more than slap it into place, only how to bind it? Jack snatched up the discarded robe, looking for a sash or tie to fasten it into place.
"They are coming!" warned Bra'tac from the doorway. "We must move--now."
"Try this, Jack." Jacob Carter passed over a strip of duct tape. "Have to say even the Tok'ra think a lot of duct tape."
O'Neill grabbed it gladly and taped the bandage in place over the long, bleeding wound. No time to do more than that, no time to rip open the shirt and assess the damage. They had to haul ass out of here, and that was the bottom line.
"I shall take him," Teal'c volunteered. Okay, that worked. Teal'c was the biggest and the strongest and he could make the best time. Jack would have carried Daniel himself in spite of his own ribs, but Teal'c would do it better, and that was the bottom line. He allowed the Jaffa to gather up the groggy archaeologist.
"You hang on, Daniel," Jack told him. "Jumping in front of me, for crying out loud..."
The blurred blue eyes found his and their gazes locked. "I couldn't...let him...kill you."
"Damn it," Jack muttered. How could he be grateful if it killed Daniel? They had to get him back to Fraiser as fast as they could.
"It's okay, Jim," Sandburg chanted in the background. "I'm here. I know what's happening. It's okay. I'm sorry I had to zat you, but it was the only thing I could do." Denlin swore at him savagely in an unfamiliar language.
Bra'tac went over and helped Sandburg haul Ellison/Denlin to his feet. The zat effect had him groggy and twitchy, but he was conscious and hot resentment glittered in his eyes. Hand on one arm, Sandburg hung protectively at his side.
Carter scrambled up and helped adjust Daniel in Teal'c's arms so the Jaffa's grip didn't press painfully against the wound, then she stretched out a hand to Jack and helped him carefully to his feet. "Are you hurt, sir?"
"Nah, I'm okay," he dismissed her concern. She eyed him knowingly but didn't dispute him. There was no time for that.
"Then let's blow this popstand," put in Jacob Carter. Latest Tok'ra slang. Jack felt not the slightest urge to smile, but he did quirk an eyebrow at the older man.
Someone started pounding on the door.
"Let's *go*, campers," Jack insisted and they plunged into the panel that led to the getaway tunnel. 'Course if the Jaffa broke in and found it, they'd know to cut them off. "They'll see where we went..."
Bra'tac paused, reached under his cloak, and came out with a shock grenade. His face held smug satisfaction. "Go," he said. "I will stop them."
"Don't look at the light when the grenade goes off," Carter said hastily to Sandburg. "It can put you right out."
"And blind you," Jack added. Probably play havoc with Ellison's senses, even safe in the getaway passage.
They plunged into the tunnel and down the stairs, Jacob in the lead, armed and ready, and Bra'tac holding back, in the doorway behind them. Daniel was slack and white in Teal'c's grip, but his eyes were at half- mast; he was conscious but halfway out of it. In pain; the twist of his mouth showed that all too well. But he was holding himself as quietly as possible to make it easier for Teal'c, and he looked satisfied. He'd saved Jack, who couldn't have ducked. O'Neill hated seeing him like that. Unable to shoot Jim Ellison, who was a friend, Daniel had...sacrificed himself? Tried to distract the Goa'uld? Acted totally without thought? Probably all of the above.
Denlin didn't struggle. Maybe he was trying to lull them, or maybe it was just tough to struggle with his hands bound behind his back. Probably he figured somebody would zat him again if he gave too much trouble.
"Now!" hollered Bra'tac behind them, and Jack squeezed his eyes tightly shut. He could still see the light through his eyelids, and Sandburg let out a cry of surprise, but they all reached the bottom of the stairs without trouble. Denlin didn't stagger, although he shut his eyes at the warning. Maybe he didn't know how to access Ellison's sensory protection, or maybe he was just used to shock grenades. Jack could hear Bra'tac clattering down the stairs in their wake.
"Others will come quickly," he cautioned. "We do not stop, not until we reach the Chapa'ai."
"It's okay, Jim. It's okay, Jim." Sandburg's mantra paced their steps as they stumbled through the tunnels. Lousy place. Roots brushed his hair and rank puddles made walking tough. Carter held a flaming torch to guide their way and Jacob Carter had another one. Bra'tac passed Sandburg his zat.
"You dropped this, young human."
"Blair," Sandburg corrected automatically. He eyed the zat with sheer loathing, but he accepted it and tucked it into his waistband like a kid with a Saturday night special on his way to hold up a liquor store.
Jack's ribs ached, and he could hear himself wheezing like a bellows with every step he took. Each breath stabbed his chest like knives. Fraiser would have him in the infirmary so fast his head would spin. Not good. Not good. But there was Daniel, stoic in Teal'c's arms, his teeth working hard on his bottom lip, his face too white. He wasn't complaining. He'd saved Jack and he wasn't complaining. O'Neill bit back any grumbles of his own. Had to be a way to yank Denlin out of Ellison so he could do nasty things to the snake--put it on a Goa'uld version of the rack and stretch it till it popped. Yeah, that would do it and, failing that, a fist in Denlin's face would feel damn good if only Ellison wouldn't be the one to suffer for it.
Bra'tac worked his way past the others to take the lead and steered them down the dark stone passageways. Jack couldn't help noticing all the carving and ancient writing on the walls and wondered what it was for when, from the overgrown state of the place, nobody had probably been here in years. All those trailing roots gave a sense of age to the place and even warped out some of the panels. Daniel ought to be advocating to stop and study them, but he didn't seem to notice. He must have noticed them on his way in. He'd probably want to bring them back to Chulak when he was recovered--or probably even before--with an archaeological team. No way, Jack decided. He wasn't in any big hurry to come back here, and anyway, the planet would be in an uproar for weeks. Wouldn't be safe. Jack would have to get around Hammond and keep him from authorizing any such mission.
The tunnels went on forever. Jack knew because his lungs reminded him of each step. Carter asked a surprised question of Bra'tac. "We didn't come this way before?"
"Do you think I would lead you out into the city?" Bra'tac asked in mock disbelief. "This passage will take us into the trees, where we will not be observed, close to the Chapa'ai."
"That's...good," Daniel managed. His voice was too faint, but he was too stubborn to pass out. "Teal'c, I think...I can walk."
"Not yet, Daniel Jackson. Only if we must run." Over the head that pressed against his shoulder, Teal'c caught O'Neill's eyes and shook his head. He had no intention of allowing that.
Teal'c's staff weapon in one hand and a torch in the other, Carter paced herself at O'Neill's side. She knew he was a little hurt and was watching him to make sure he was managing. She'd probably have Jacob or Bra'tac haul him along if he needed it. You could always count on Carter. Jack waggled an eyebrow at her, and she smiled, but it was an abstracted smile.
They emerged from the tunnel into thick forestation and thickening twilight. Sweet. All this undergrowth would make running through the night *so* much fun. Jack looked over his shoulder and saw that they'd emerged from what looked like a cave with trailing vines cloaking it. It didn't look man-made--Jaffa made?--and the growth around it suggested it hadn't been used in a long time. Good.
"We wanna seal that up behind us?" he suggested.
At once, Bra'tac raised his staff weapon, then he lowered it. "If there is a search, the sound will draw others to us. Leave it."
"No talking, just move," Jacob suggested and set the pace. They had to pay close attention to their steps; the light was going fast, and they didn't dare use flashlights, but an injury from a fall would hold them back.
Denlin struggled a little and opened his mouth to yell, but Sandburg saw it and slapped a hand over the Goa'uld's mouth. Denlin's eyes burned with outrage. "You shut up," Sandburg said fiercely. "I can't zat you again, but we'll keep you from talking."
"You would not hurt your friend," Denlin mumbled around the hand.
"I'd do anything to save him, and that means getting him home safe," Sandburg insisted. "If I have to hit you over the head, then I'll do it. I mean it." He sounded dogged and protective, and his mouth was tight. "Jim, I'm sorry, but I have to."
Ellison would have told him to go for it. "He gets it," O'Neill said. "Keep him quiet without bopping him if you can. We've got enough to carry." Too much, really. Daniel's eyes were shut, but he was awake. There was pain on his face. The hurried pace jarred him, but he wasn't the type to complain. *Damn it, Daniel, why do you do these things to me? I'm getting too old for shocks like this.*
The Stargate was just over the hill when they heard the yells of pursuit, warning calls, and even the blast of a staff weapon in their general direction. Spotted. Maybe the light was going too fast for the Jaffa to get a clear shot, but they'd have a great one once the gate powered up. O'Neill forced starch into his sagging knees and put on a burst of speed. They plunged over the top of the hill and down into the shadows of the valley where the gate stood. Kawalsky had set mines along this ridge the first time they'd come to Chulak. Jack's mouth was tight as he ran with Carter at his side. Teal'c didn't seem even slightly impaired by Daniel's dead weight in his arms--*don't think 'dead', O'Neill*--and Bra'tac and Jacob played rear guard, both of them keeping an eye on Denlin.
No one waited at the gate. First time things had gone right all day. Guess it was true that the Jaffa needed a Goa'uld to tell them what to do. As the escaping party neared the gate, Carter put on a burst of speed and flung herself at the DHD, where she punched in symbols as fast as the system allowed. It was nearly dark, but there was enough light for that. Jack stuck with Teal'c, although his feet wanted to wobble and pitch him off balance. He could feel the point of impact of every blow he'd been struck, but none of them hurt as much as the sight of Daniel, eyes shut, his face still against Teal'c's shoulder, his lips pressed tightly closed to still any sounds of pain. Probably still bleeding like crazy.
They saw Jaffa outlined against the fading light of the sky before they plunged down toward the Stargate, firing their staff weapons. They were out of range--but getting *in* range too damn fast.
"Come on, come on," Jack muttered under his breath. Sandburg dragged Ellison/Denlin to the foot of the ramp, and O'Neill saw that he had the gun Ellison had used on Daniel in his hand, aimed at his friend. His hand didn't shake, but his eyes were full of pain. Jack grimaced. He never wanted to see that gun again.
Behind him, close enough to help if Denlin made a break for it, Jacob and Bra'tac laid down cover fire at the Jaffa that flowed over the hill. Dozens of them and probably more coming. Not good, not good.
Carter already had the GDO out as the gate kawooshed open. She sent the identification signal quickly then ran assessing eyes over Jack. Must have decided he could make it up the ramp, because she gave him a quick nod before she grabbed Ellison/Denlin by the arm that Sandburg didn't have. They hauled the sullen Goa'uld up the ramp between them and stepped into the gate.
Jack nodded for Teal'c to precede him and fell in behind the Jaffa only to halt as Teal'c turned to his mentor.
"Master Bra'tac? You will come with us."
"I will remain. I can elude them in the darkness."
"That's nuts," Jack blurted. "Those guys have seen you. They'll have you for breakfast. Come on. You'll never lose them now. We can send you back once they relax their guard."
"If you stay, then I must stay," Teal'c added.
"Whatever you do, hurry," Jack exploded. "Those Jaffa aren't gonna wait around while you discuss it." A staff blast exploded against the dirt of the ramp not a meter from Jack's foot.
Bra'tac said something in his own language and Teal'c returned it. Then Bra'tac turned and marched up the ramp at Teal'c's side. Jack made urging gestures for them to hurry while Jacob laid down covering fire. He and Jack went up the ramp together after the two Jaffa and the unconscious Daniel. Blasts chased them the entire way.
When the wormhole spilled Jack out at the other end, the gate room was full of Marines and every one of them had a gun leveled at Jim Ellison. Sandburg had jumped between them and Jim, his arms outstretched. "Don't shoot him. We've got him restrained."
"Close the iris," Sam warned the second Jack and her father came through, and General Hammond, in the control room overhead, seconded it. Behind Jack, the iris dopplered shut. Not three seconds later there were several unpleasant thumps against it. Splat. Splat. Splat. You'd think the Jaffa of Chulak would have learned by now not to chase SG-1 home. Bugs on the windshield time.
"Doctor Fraiser and medical team to the gate room," Hammond ordered over the P.A. system. Reminded of Daniel, not that he'd forgotten for a second, Jack hastened down the ramp to Teal'c's side.
"Daniel? You with us?"
Jackson didn't stir.
"Shit, Daniel, don't do this," Jack growled under his breath. "Don't you dare do this."
Carter wiggled in under the arm Jack had outstretched and curled her fingers around Daniel's wrist. "He's alive, sir," she said. "His pulse doesn't feel too bad."
"I got your word on that, Carter?"
She lifted her eyes to his. "You do, sir."
Daniel stirred faintly in Teal'c's grip as the gate disengaged and the iris opened. "Ja-ck?"
"Right here, Danny boy," Jack told him, and then the stresses of the day finally caught up with him. The room swirled dizzyingly around him and he pitched over in a dead faint. He didn't even feel Bra'tac and Jacob Carter leap to break his fall.
Continued in Part Three...