Hollow Hostilities
by Eleri McCleod

*******

"Will you halt that infernal pacing?"

"Will you just drop dead?"

Two sets of eyes glared into each other as the words reverberated into silence. Stone walls surrounded the two figures, one seated, one standing. One immaculately groomed and clothed, one a little scruffy and wrinkled.

"There is no way out of here. Pacing will not help. You are only wasting energy."

The pacing started once again, deliberate, steady. "If it bugs you it's worth the effort."

Sullen silence filled the tiny space, broken only by the scrape and fall of boot against stone.

******

"Sir, SG-1's ready for you."

"Thanks, Walter." Jack sighed quietly, running a weary hand across his face. The past few months had been hard. It seemed every time he felt like he was starting to get the feel for his new job some new crisis reared its ugly head and proved him wrong. What had Hammond been thinking in recommending him for the job? All he'd been able to do was bounce between the rock and the hard place uncontrollably and piss a whole lot of people off. His eyes stole over to the three waiting in the briefing room. What he wouldn't give to be back with them, risking his neck, covered in dirt, sand, or whatever else the universe had to throw at him.

Another sigh escaped as he squashed those thoughts ruthlessly. This office was his front line now and it was high time he stopped daydreaming about returning to his old one.

"Sit down, Carter," he ordered for the umpteenth time as he entered the briefing room, two familiar blue folders gripped in one hand. He was all for respect to the right people, but he wasn’t one of them. "What have you got, Daniel? And please," he held a finger up in warning, "in five minutes or less this time."

Aiming a dirty look his direction, Daniel flicked on the view screen behind Jack's chair. A pleasant-looking vista appeared, leafy trees and ferns in the foreground opening to reveal a formation of ruins blow. "SG-5 took these photos yesterday. They found no sign of indigenous life and nothing else in the area." The pictures cycled closer and closer to the ruins, revealing a strangely familiar grey architecture. While pitted and worn from either time or weather, the final image was unmistakable.

Jack stared at a duplicate of the chair he'd almost died using in Antarctica not even a year ago. So much for brief. Anytime Daniel found an Ancient anything it turned in to a doctoral treatise. "I take it you want to go check it out." The complete emptiness of his tone warned him his face had turned to stone, that blank mask he used to shield his thoughts and emotions. Letting a quiet, deep breath out through his nose, he forced some animation back onto his face as he swiveled back to face the table again. He wasn't in the chair or the stasis pod anymore. And he had no intention of being near either ever again.

"Sir," Carter began, leaning forward intently. "We're hoping to find some indication of where this group moved. It could lead to a ZPM. Or who knows what else."

God help him from overeager scientists. "Teal'c, did you see anything in the area recon photos that hinted at a Goa'uld presence? Inscriptions, artifacts, dropped shoe laces?"

"I did not," he said. "I have never known this area of space to be heavily explored by the Goa'uld. It is too distant from anything to be useful to a System Lord. Even a minor Goa'uld would be hard-pressed to reach this far."

Before Daniel could continue in exhausting detail about why SG-1 simply had to go, Jack flipped his blue folder closed. "0800, tomorrow. Basic recon. Twenty-four hours. If there's enough worthwhile information, I'll consider a longer trip."

"Thank you, sir," Carter responded, climbing to her feet. "We'll take full advantage of the time."

"Take lots of notes," he returned. Watching silently as the three disappeared down the stairs, he pulled the second folder to the front. SG-10 was headed out in two hours and their final mission brief was due to start in just a couple minutes. Idly flipping through the pages within, Jack's mind kept returning to SG-1. He really missed his old job.

******

Awareness seeped from the blackness in stages. Cool air drifted across his face, teasing the short, grey hair. Light pierced his closed eyelids, emphasizing the pounding in his head. Where the hell was he? And how had he ended up lying painfully on some hard surface? The last thing he remembered was standing before a control panel, the echoing of Death Glider afterburner filling his ears. And then there was nothing.

Easing one eye open just enough to take in his immediate surroundings, he stifled a curse. Ba'al lay beside him, face slack in unconsciousness. Without hesitation, Jack rolled away and up to his knees. He ignored the furious pounding in his head, pushing stiffness to the side. P90 quickly coming up to bear on one of his most hated enemies, he held still. Ba'al didn't move, didn't react at all to the weapon aimed steadily in his direction.

Okay. That was weird.

Easing to his feet, Jack crept closer to the seemingly unconscious form. With one foot, he prodded the Goa'uld. "Wake up." Still no reaction. Frowning, he prodded a little harder. "Wake up."

Either the jab to the ribs or the commanding tone broke through. With a startled jerk, Ba'al awoke, eyes immediately focusing on Jack and the trained weapon. Neither man moved, each waiting for the other to break the stalemate.

"I see you have me at a disadvantage," Ba'al finally spoke, keeping his hands perfectly still at his sides.

Blood pounded in his ears as he stared down at the figure before him. Trigger finger tightening ever so slightly, Jack's jaw clenched with the effort to not end his problem that instant. "Just give a reason. Just one." The only sign Ba'al didn't appreciate the threat was a slight tightening of his dark eyes. At Jack's nod the Goa'uld slowly got to his feet, elaborate robes rustling. "Any idea where we're at?" Jack asked, not pleased to be letting Ba'al know so quickly his lack of information.

"None." He scanned the small room, hands still carried carefully at his sides. With a grudging nod, he continued. "The last thing I remember is standing before an unusual panel in a set of ruins. Alone."

With a sinking feeling, Jack straightened slightly. "Where were the ruins?" He listened intently as Ba'al perfectly described the planet, the ruins and the panel Jack himself had touched just before waking in the tiny cell. "I think we've been had."

"Had what?" Ba'al asked suspiciously, eyes narrowing. "I feel no different."

" 'Had.' It's an expression." Jack let a smirk cover his face. "It means duped, tricked, used. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept." Ba'al straightened, apparently offended at Jack's insinuation. The smirk grew slightly. It was so good to be on the giving end for once.

Too soon the arrogance came back. "If you're finished with the childish recriminations, can we move on to why we're here? I can see no reason to keep us within these walls."

Silently, Jack had to agree with the assessment. Yes, both men could be used for ransom. Yes, both were acknowledged leaders in their respective little realms. But that was the only connection between them. Well, there was the issue of extreme dislike on both parties. Somehow Jack didn't think that was the reason for their incarceration. Their eyes met in uncomfortable camaraderie. Looking away quickly, Jack lowered his weapon. Ba'al didn't know anything. He was too conceited to not lord any knowledge over the mere human. Another searching look around the cell confirmed it.

They were screwed.

*****

Shimmering blue light flickered over his face and burned in his eyes. The three members of SG-1 moved confidently up the ramp leading to the Stargate below him. How he wished he could be with them right now, pack and weapon weighing him down.

The MALP had gone through just a minute before revealing nothing more threatening than the possibility of hay fever from the wealth of rich grasses and bright colored flowers dotting the expanse around the 'Gate. He'd given SG-1 the go ahead with no outward emotion. But something didn't feel right. He couldn't isolate the feeling, it was just a vague sense of, well, something. So he'd called down for them to have fun and was now watching them travel where he couldn't anymore.

The 'Gate shut down with a ringing susurration as Jack turned back toward the stairs. Chatter followed him up the spiral staircase leaving him wondering if he was going crazy. Where was his usually accurate bat radar now? Had it taken the week off? Or maybe he should be asking if it was taking the year off. There was no other explanation for his acceptance of the promotion that had turned his life upside down.

Quietly closing the door behind him, he looked over to the stack of reports sitting neatly on his desk. Walter had been efficient as always. Every time he managed to clear the pile down to nothing, the sergeant had another stack waiting for him. And he was avoiding the issue, like always.

Jack sat, easing back into the leather cushions. What was the real issue? Certainly not the paperwork inherent in the running of the SGC. Nor was it the fact that he was trapped in an office and not leading a team. Hell, it wasn't even the responsibility of hundreds of men's and women's lives in his questionably capable hands. If what Daniel and Carter suspected turned out to be fact, he wasn't going to be able to hide anymore, hide from himself or from his friends.

The Ancients' device had done something to him, something that hadn't gone away when Thor had taken the knowledge from his brain. He'd been avoiding even thinking about what had happened. He hadn't dealt with it years ago and he hadn't dealt with it last year. He'd simply shoved it to the back of his mind where all the other 'don't think abouts' got shoved and left it there. He wasn't going to be able to ignore it this time. He was going to have to face it. And he wasn't sure he could do that.

Muted sounds filtered up from the control room as Jack sat in silence, contemplating fate and where it had led him.

*******

"You think I had something to do with us being here?" The furious tone was at odds with the perfectly still body, the coldly frozen face. "Do you really think I want to be stuck *anywhere* with you?"

They'd been dancing around each other for two hours, each barely taking his eyes off the other. Jack forced his hands away from his weapon, unsure how they'd gotten to the P90 in the first place. He certainly hadn't told them to grab hold. Who knew what he'd do with it? He'd tried to keep his anger, his fury in check, but the situation and his companion were wearing his already thin control down to the snapping point.

"I can see no other explanation," Ba'al reasoned, voice beginning to show the slightest sign of testiness. "You say that my Jaffa arrived after you and your team," the subtle stress on the last word raised Jack's hackles, "therefore you had to be the one who activated the device that sent us here. It is perfect logic."

"Screw your logic! I'm saying I didn't 'activate' anything." Jack couldn't look at him anymore, not and keep from smacking the smug smile from the bastard's face.

He didn't know what told him to turn around, to check on his enemy. But a tingling at the back of his neck had him whirling, eyes going to Ba'al, hands reaching for the P90. The Goa'uld had raised the ribbon device, a look of disgusted rage contorting the arrogant features. Without conscious thought, Jack crossed the distance, weapon separated from its clip in one quick, practiced motion. The eyes locked on his widened ever so slightly, intent beginning to turn to focus. But it was too late. Jack was already there.

His right arm swept high, knocking Ba'al's arm, and the ribbon device, out of the way. The P90 followed through, sweeping butt-first to slam into now unprotected ribs. Ba'al dropped like a stone, his surprised cry ringing in the small space. Grim satisfaction filled Jack for all of two seconds.

Then the pain hit.

Sharp, biting and exactly where he'd just struck Ba'al. The unexpectedness of the pain dropped him to his knees. Lungs frozen in shock, Jack gaped, trying to draw in air. He hadn't expected it, hadn't been able to prepare his body and mind against the awful sensation. Brown eyes lifted to meet equally dazed and confused ones across the small room.

Jack's lungs decided to work again and a heaving breath pulled a sharp wince as his ribs protested the sudden movement. What the hell had that been? He'd struck Ba'al, not the other way around, but they both were cradling ribs on their left sides. Both had pain-caused sweat beading above their lips and on their foreheads.

"What was that?" Ba'al gasped, fighting yet failing to not show the pain. "I've never witnessed such a reaction before."

"Yeah, well I've never felt it before," Jack grudgingly admitted. Damn. He hadn't realized he'd struck with that much force. At least Ba'al wasn't jumping up instantly either. Even with his snake the Goa'uld was still down. Gently, Jack probed his own side, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from flinching away. Nothing felt broken, but he'd definitely bruised a rib or two.

Ba'al was climbing to his feet, left arm gingerly cradling his side. "I suppose it's too much to hope that was a one time reaction." He didn't sound convincing.

Mirroring the Goa'uld, Jack reattached the rifle slowly. "I don't think my luck's that good," he agreed, suspicions swirling like smoke through his brain. "We need to test it."

"And you believe I will meekly sit by as you attack me? To use one of your so-clever phrases, I don't think so." He leaned back against the wall, either no longer in pain or hiding it really well.

"Don't I wish," Jack muttered under his breath, a minute adjustment to his rifle sling masking the comment. Summoning what little patience he had, he forced his voice into submissive calm. "I was thinking more along the lines of pinches on the arm and hair pulling, but if you really do want to get beat down," he trailed off suggestively, unable to stop himself. What could he say? Ba'al just brought it out in him. When the Goa'uld didn't answer, Jack closed his eyes with a sigh. "Look, you don't like me. I really don't like you. We already know this. But we do need to figure out what's going on and this connection," he gestured between the two them, "is a part of it."

Ba'al held his eyes in silent contemplation for a moment before stepping away from the wall. "I agree," he grudgingly admitted. Holding out one arm, an eyebrow raised. "You said 'pinch'. I'll hold you to it."

The threat didn't need to be acknowledged as Jack moved to meet the outstretched arm. One quick look told him Ba'al was ready. Gripping the embroidered cloth between two fingers, Jack pulled it back to expose a muscled forearm. If they really were connected somehow, this was going to hurt. There was no point in stalling. He twisted the piece of flesh and started counting.

He made it to two before the sharp pain exploded in his right forearm. Damn, that hurt. "Well, that's that." Ba'al didn't respond to the quip, just folded himself back against the wall. Taking two long steps back, Jack stared across the short distance to his enemy turned uneasy ally. How were they going to get out of this one?

*****

"We think it's active."

"I'm sorry?" It wasn't really a question, but Daniel had caught him off guard with the comment. "What's active?"

SG-1 had returned half an hour earlier practically bubbling with excitement. Even Teal'c had openly displayed more enthusiasm than normal. Their post-mission briefing wasn't scheduled for another hour, but Daniel had made his way to Jack's office as soon as Dr. Brightman had declared him clean of Goa'uld and any other contaminates.

Setting aside the report he'd been drafting, Jack focused on his friend. "This can't wait until the briefing?"

"I know, I know, you're busy. But I wanted to give you some time to think about this before hand." Daniel stood before the desk, papers clenched so tightly in one hand the knuckles showed white. "We think the chair is active, along with everything else in the ruins."

Silence surrounded them. Daniel didn't have to say anything more. Jack knew what was coming next. 'Ever again' hadn't lasted anywhere near as long as he'd thought it would. If there was the smallest chance the ruins had a usable power source, they had to find out. And since everyone they could find with the Ancient gene had been sent to Atlantis with Weir, he was the only possible guinea pig. Fighting to keep his expression even, Jack forced the words into sound. "Thanks for the heads up. Get the rest of the pertinent information together for me as soon as you can. If there does turn out to be an active power source, we're going to need some help."

With a grin and a nod, Daniel swept from the office, leaving an empty stillness behind. While SG-1, and maybe a couple of others, knew that he was uncomfortable around Ancient technology, he'd revealed to no one his true feelings on his ability to use the stuff. Just the idea that he could operate a ship with only his thoughts was terrifying. And ever since he'd done it consciously, he hadn't taken the time to work out the implications. Actually, he admitted to himself, he'd run as fast and as far as he could every time the thoughts came to the surface. Oh, he'd told everyone he didn't remember a thing from his time with the Ancients’ database stuck in his head and it was mostly the truth. Actual, concrete information he couldn't remember. Ideas, concepts, images, feelings, those all continued to bombard him when he let his guard down. They even pushed through his considerable walls whenever he was around any Ancient tech. And here was Daniel telling him he was going to have to spend time in the company of everything he was trying to avoid.

The next hour Jack remembered only in a hazy fog. He completed the report for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approved maintenance's request for more supplies, and started the draft for SG-12's annual evaluation. He could only hope what he wrote was appropriate because none of it penetrated the fog.

The chair loomed in his sight, silent and haunting. Flashes of memory filled him. Activating the first chair on Proclarouch Taonas. Pulling up the map of the Solar System. Healing Bra'tac. Destroying the ships.

Emotions attempted to choke him. Fear, as he once again lost the ability to communicate. Agony, as he took Bra'tac's pain, made him whole. Resignation, as Carter stood over him, pleading with him not to die.

And then nothing. A blank greyness that overrode all senses. No sound, no sight, no touch. No air blowing over his face. No sun to dazzle his eye. Just nothing.

A clatter from the briefing room snapped his head up, eyes searching for the source. Daniel was picking up the cap to the coffee carafe, laughing at Carter's comment, which was probably something about Daniel being a klutz. Scrubbing a hand over his face, Jack tried to push the intruding, latent pieces back into their place. It had happened. It was over. He had to move on.

With a quick glance at the clock, Jack grabbed his own coffee cup and headed out to meet SG-1. "Give me some good news, Daniel." Taking his chair quickly, Jack reminded himself not to be short with his friend. This was important information.

Daniel's face lit up with a huge grin. "That I can do. According to the inscriptions, the Ancients lived on the planet simultaneously with another people, possibly a whole new race. That's where the second set of writings come from. I haven't been able to get much from those yet." He shot an apologetic glance around the table as if it were his fault he couldn't read an alien language he'd never seen before. "But the Ancients speak about a people from far away. I think they're referring to a different galaxy. These people got stranded on the planet when their way home was destroyed. Unfortunately, they don't specify what happened." Glancing down at the notepad on the table before him, Daniel flipped a page. "The 'wise friends', if I've translated correctly, helped build the city, incorporating their own technology into the Ancients'."

"That's why we saw so many differences in the architecture and tech design," Carter added, pulling the first image from her folder. Two red circles highlighted a panel into sections, each distinctly different, yet strangely meshed into one design. "We couldn’t get any of the controls to operate even though I found traces of an energy source."

Jack stared at the image, knowing what Carter wasn't saying. None of them had had the gene necessary to operate the technology. The symbols squirmed in his vision, a sense of vertigo overtaking him. Power levels and scanning controls, that's what the symbols designated.

"Jack," Daniel called, breaking into the blank-eyed trance he seemed to have fallen into. "You okay?"

But the moment passed and he was pulled once again into the symbols. Defense screen operation, internal sensors, 'Gate surveillance. Understanding flooded his mind, filled his gut with terror. Thor had taken it all away. He'd sworn it was gone and wouldn’t return. The flashes he'd had were supposed to be all that remained, not this total immersion. He could feel his heart pounding roughly, his lungs dragging in deep, gasping breaths, but only as a secondary awareness. He struggled to pull away, to go to the voices he vaguely recognized.

"O'Neill!"

Jack slammed back in his chair, chest heaving. One shaking hand covered his eyes, sweat uncomfortably cool on his face. "Thanks, T." That uneven voice couldn't be his, could it?

"What was that?"

"General, what just happened?"

"I, uh, I had a flashback. Sort of." Avoiding the incredulous looks shot in his direction, Jack pointed to the symbols circled in red. "I know what these are. And what they do."

*****

"Since we can't kill each other, why don't we pretend we want to escape and instead focus on that?" Barely restraining himself from crossing the room and throttling his unwelcome companion, Jack forced an insincere smile to his face. Even he had to admit it was barely more than a baring of teeth.

Ba'al leaned more firmly into the wall at his back, arms moving to cross his chest. "And just how do you propose to get us out of here? Wave your hand and watch the locks magically fly open?" The familiar sardonic, self-superior smile covered his face as Jack continued to stare across their small cell. "Unless you think your precious Asgard friends are going to show up and whisk you away from all of this."

"No, I don't think the Asgard are going to show up. I doubt they even know I'm missing." Jack sat opposite the ornately dressed Goa'uld, struggling to hold his temper in check. He'd had enough of the consequences for letting it out to last him a lifetime. "I was thinking that between the two of us we probably have enough grey matter to figure it out on our own."

Either Ba'al took exception to the suggestion that they work together or to the implication that Jack thought he was an idiot. "What makes you think they will let us escape? We have already witnessed technology to outpace even the Goa'uld."

"Which you stole," Jack couldn't help interrupting. Shrugging innocently at the ferocious glare aimed his direction, he defended himself easily. "It's the truth, isn't it? Nothing to get your panties in a twist over."

"What I mean is," Ba'al continued, teeth ground together tightly. "They can clearly observe anything we do, at any hour. How else could they inflict the reciprocal damage as they have?"

"Okay. I'll give you that one," he admitted grudgingly. "But that doesn't mean we can't try. I've made it out of worse places than this on my own." The glare fired in his direction gave him a fleeting sense of satisfaction. Jack hadn't even been thinking of Ba'al's fortress. His mind had been more focused on escapes on Earth that he shouldn't have lived through. But he'd take the tiny victory where he could. Ba'al could glare at him all day long. They both knew nothing could come of it, at least until they did manage to escape.

Ba'al's arms crossed his chest arrogantly. "I stand prepared to be amazed by your," the pause was deliberate, "brilliance."

"Well, you're going to have to wait a little longer," Jack hated to admit it. "I don’t have a plan. Yet. I was merely trying to point out that if we can stomach the idea of working together we can get out of here before we both die of old age."

Ba'al stared in silence for a long moment before turning away in disgust. "Why am I not surprised."

Before Jack could form a scathing reply, a shimmering sense of movement from one corner caught his eye. He had his rifle up and aimed before thought followed. Two small, square dishes filled with a cream colored substance sat innocently side-by-side on a round tray. An awful thought floated through his head as both he and Ba'al stared at the newly appeared items. A low rumble from his stomach underscored the unhappy thought. Seemed it was feeding time at the zoo. A bitter smile covered his face at the too close to the truth thought. Silently taking one dish from the tray, he sniffed it cautiously. It smelled like oatmeal. With a shrug he dipped the utensil hanging over the edge of the dish into the mush. A tentative swipe with his tongue confirmed his initial thought: oatmeal. Well, it probably wasn't really made of oats, but it was close enough.

When a few minutes had passed and he felt neither nausea nor a strange lassitude overtake him, Jack settled himself on the ground, back firmly against one wall. He ignored Ba'al's incredulous stare as he scooped out a spoonful. Or a whatever-it-was-ful, he thought with a grimace. It certainly wasn't like any kind of spoon he'd ever seen.

"Are you actually going to ingest that?" Ba'al asked, sounding both horrified and fascinated at the same time. Like a twenty car pile up on the highway, he simply couldn't look away.

"I'm hungry and if they, whoever 'they' are, want us dead all they have to do is not feed us." Even though he strove for a reasonable tone, he heard the sharp edge making its way in. "It's just oatmeal. I haven't keeled over yet. We need to keep our strength up if we're going to get out of here." And away from each other, he tacked on silently. See? He could be diplomatic.

Ba'al crossed to the tray as Jack continued to slowly lift the food to his mouth. It wasn't the best tasting meal he'd ever had, but it was filling. Muttered comments reached his sharp ears as the Goa'uld moved to mirror Jack on the opposite side of the cell. Quiet sounds crossed the short distance as Ba'al also took advantage of the sustenance. Unfortunately, the running denigration of the meal didn't stop as the mush disappeared from both dishes. Jack started counting and he didn't bother to stop at ten. Since he couldn't back up any of the threats coming so easily to mind, he had only one option.

He had to get out of there before it ceased to matter what kind of damage he'd cause himself in the process of acting out those threats.

*****

Breathing deeply in the crisp air, Jack felt every muscle relax, the tension vanishing as if never existing. How he'd missed traveling off-world, having his team and only his team to worry about.

The warm sun shone merrily down on the four as they made their way down the ramp leading from the Stargate and into the knee-high growth of greenery surrounding it. Slipping easily into their old grooves, the temporarily reformed SG-1 make good time over the gently sloping hills to the ruins.

Jack's first glimpse of the Ancient structures was a disappointment. While he'd known from the pictures both SG-5 and Daniel had taken that the ruins were just that, he'd secretly hoped for a little more intactness. Vaguely pentagonal in shape, the remains of the village, if it could be called that, focused inward to a central structure. This building stood taller than the surrounding ones even in its dilapidated state. Without Daniel's running commentary, Jack would have known that was the place he had to get to.

"Let's secure the perimeter and then get to work on those control panels of yours." With only a mumbled comment that they weren't 'his' panels, Daniel headed with Teal'c around the right section of the structures.

A grin tilting his lips, Jack headed in the opposite direction, Carter falling in behind, a smile of her own covering her face. Yep, it was great to be off-world again.

Searching thoroughly around the perimeter of the ruins, SG-1 found no trace of any recent habitation or visitors. Just the way Jack liked it. "Okay, Daniel, show me where this control panel is."

"SG-5 made a detailed search of the structures themselves and found only the one panel intact," Daniel said, leading them through the rubble-strewn paths. "None of them could activate the panel or even read the inscriptions. As you already know, the language is just different enough to make it difficult for anyone not thoroughly versed in the Ancients' language to figure out."

Jack let him prattle on, soaking up the sun and the breeze. Something was familiar, too familiar really, about the layout of the village, but he couldn't put his finger on where or when he'd seen it. As Daniel stepped around a fallen wall, Jack knew what he'd see before clearing the rubble. A green, overgrown canopy let a filter of dappled light through the broken remains of walls and ceiling. The panel itself stood alone in the center of the tall ruins, splotches of light illuminating particles of dust stirred up by their movement through the village.

"The panel's set in the exact center of the layout," Daniel continued as Jack moved into the structure, eyes drawn to the controls. "SG-5 took a series of measurements. From all angles the panel is central."

Daniel's voice continued in a murmur of indistinct syllables. One blink and Jack was suddenly before the panel, hand brushing lightly through the dirt built up on the edge. Eyes traveled quickly from one scummy symbol to the next, automatically cataloguing the unusual ones from the ones he recognized.

The caked-on dust and grime from who knew how many millennia of abandonment filled him with an anger and a sadness he'd never felt before. The small part of his brain still able to process independent thoughts let out a warning. Danger, Jack, it called. This is wrong.

Bu the rest of him ignored the warning, the intense focus on the panel never wavering. There were the two controls he'd recognized before. And now he saw weapons, atmosphere control, lockdown implementation. Every control called to him, telling him the function, the name, the reason. Just like the chair in Antarctica had done.

That thought jerked him back from the panel to find the rest of SG-1 staring wide-eyed, nervous, confused, worried, at him. "Sorry," he said before any of them could voice a word. "It happened again."

"Perhaps you should move farther away from the panel, O'Neill," Teal'c suggested, moving to place himself between the man and the object.

"Right," he agreed, taking another long step back.

Daniel took his place at the panel, carefully not touching the surface. "That's the second time this has happened, Jack. You've never displayed any recognition of Ancient symbols before. Why now?"

Opening his mouth to tell Daniel it had been happening for months, in quick flashes, he stopped before any sound could leave. Something inside him didn't want to admit it aloud. Yes, he'd told them he'd recognized the symbols in the picture, but telling them about the other times, actually speaking the words, scared him to his toes. "I don't know, Daniel," he finally answered. And that was the truth, if not all of it.

"What can you tell us about the panel, sir?" Carter asked, the look she gave him unreadable.

"This is the central control panel for the entire city," he said slowly as if the words were unsure of themselves. As he spoke they gained confidence and speed until they flowed smoothly, easily off his tongue. "Someone who knows how to use it can do anything. Turn power off and on, use the transport tech, communications, defense systems, city shield, climate control."

Daniel raised an eyebrow as Jack spoke, exchanging a look with Teal'c and Carter. " 'Knows'?" he asked. "As in present tense?"

Blinking quickly, he mentally reviewed what he'd said and what it meant. "Yeah, 'knows'." Jack stepped back to the panel and one finger hovered over an oblong button, strange squiggly lines bisecting each other across its surface. "This will activate the city communication network allowing every building and inhabitant to locate and speak with anyone else."

"Can you make it work, sir?" Carter asked, eagerness and just a touch of concern in her voice. Why concern he had no idea, but it was there nonetheless.

With a shrug he nodded. "I can try." But before his skin could get anywhere near the dirty panel, a familiar whine filled the air and all four were scrambling for cover.

Two death gliders shot overhead not a moment after Daniel flung himself behind a pile of wall rubble. Jack swore quietly, eyes following the gracefully deadly craft. "Damn. Why do they always show up?"

"O'Neill, you said this place has defenses. Is there anything we can use?" Teal'c was also staring after the gliders, staff weapon suddenly menacing.

"If I can get it to activate, yeah." Looking back to the panel, Jack took a deep breath. He was both curious and scared. He was in control, no database was taking him over. And yet a strange reluctance held him captive. Something inside him didn't want it confirmed. But the Jaffa wouldn't simply go away. They'd seen the ruins in the fly-by. They might have even seen one of them in their mad dash for camouflage. Choices weren't something he had a lot of at the moment. "Here goes nothing."

A tingling shot up his arm the instant he made contact. Three different cries assaulted his ears, but he couldn't seem to make sense of them. Black crawled over his vision, the tingling now shivering through his entire body. He struggled to pull his hand away to no avail. Panic seized his heart, a feeling he barely recognized. The sounds reached his ears once more.

And then there was nothing.

******

Jack kicked the wall in frustration, steel-toed boots protecting his toes from being smashed in. After finishing their meal, they'd combed every square inch of the small cell, both men impatient to be out of the other's presence. But they'd found nothing. Nada. Not one damn thing that could help them escape. According to his watch they'd been searching for over four hours. Four hours of listening to Ba'al mumble pointedly over the indignity of a god on his hands and knees feeling around the base of some walls.

Jack had nearly shot him numerous times.

Only the painful pulling of his ribs kept him in check. The reminder of their predicament set his mouth in a grim line. They had to get out of that tiny cell before Jack decided the pain was worth it and shot Ba'al anyway.

"Well, that was a waste of time," Ba'al's sardonic voice cut into Jack's thoughts of masochistic violence. "We found no way to escape and still have no idea as to why we are here." The eyebrows were raised in arrogant assurance, arms crossed over the elaborately embroidered jacket.

Jack tried, he really, honestly did, but the words had a life of their own and came pouring out. "I can and will hurt you, you know. A little pain can be handled." He took a small sense of satisfaction as the eyebrows lowered into a frown. Oh, the simple things in life. "Now, one last time, what have we got?"

"We've 'got,' " he emphasized, stepping away from the wall. "One ribbon device, one rifle, one pistol, three knives, various articles of clothing, my intellect and your sarcasm."

"Ha, ha," was all Jack allowed himself, glaring across the distance. "We've already tried voice activation. There aren't any visible panels or control devices, hell, there's not even a seam for the door," he added, frustration talking over his voice. He was going to be stuck with Ba'al, the haughty overdressed one, until he died. He just knew it. Of course, they were both assuming there was a door. The food hadn’t been shoved through any type of slot. What if there wasn't a door? He shook the discouraging thought away as Ba'al ran one hand over his carefully trimmed goatee.

"We have not attempted to use our weapons on the walls," Ba'al said, eyeing the smooth surfaces contemplatively.

"I don't think that's such a good idea."

"And why not?"

Jack suppressed a smile at Ba'al's offended tone. "Because we don’t know whether the ammo will bounce off the surface and ricochet back at us. We've seen it before." He couldn't keep the smug tone under wraps.

"I am willing to take the risk," came the quick reply.

So Ba'al didn't want to be stuck in there any more than he did. That was a thought to treasure on a rainy day. However …. And this one hurt more than his still achy ribs. Ba'al was right. They did need to try their weapons. They were an asset and couldn't be overlooked. Jack's smug feeling left in a rush. Even if it killed them both they had to try. "All right," Jack said, resigned. "Let's try the ribbon device first. That has a little less chance of permanent damage from a ricochet."

Ba'al looked surprised at the change of heart as well as the suggestion. "I agree," he stated slowly, wariness in every line of his body. "Is there any particular area you think I should try?"

"Well, the food appears over there." He waved a hand in the general direction. The trays of sustenance had simply shimmered into existence. No flashes of light, no openings appearing. Just suddenly there. It was an impressive display of technology. And after all he had seen, alien tech wasn’t that impressive anymore.

Ba'al nodded, left hand rising to aim toward the area. Jack took several long steps away, giving himself room to dodge when it all sent south. With no outward effort, a flash shot out from the jeweled device, streaking for the wall. Tensed for action, Jack let out a grunt when the flash of energy hit the surface and disappeared, instantly absorbed. "Huh." The Goa'uld was a bit more articulate.

"That was ineffective."

The bark of laughter escaped before he knew it was coming. He met Ba'al's assessing gaze, mirth fading quickly at the mirrored amusement. He had not just had a moment of perfect understanding with a Goa'uld, especially not this particular one.

"Why don't you try your weapon now?" Ba'al's voice didn't sound as calmly arrogant as it had moments ago. Without meeting Jack's eyes, he moved back against the far wall, arms hanging loosely at his sides.

Well that didn’t last long, Jack thought of their short-lived shared moment. The idiot hadn't listened to a word he'd said earlier. "Lay down."

"What?"

"Lay down," he repeated, not bothering to life his eyes from the weapon he was checking. "This is probably going to ricochet and you don't want to be standing when it does." A moment's thought brought a hint of a grin to his face. "Then again, please, stay standing." He didn't have to see the angry glare aimed in his direction, he could feel it. Sometimes it was just too easy.

Carefully calculating the distance between walls, Jack knelt down on the floor against one wall. If aimed correctly, he could get the bullet to go where he wanted it. Yes, it'd probably ricochet as he'd told Ba'al, but he might be able to direct it for maximum effect and minimal, preferably no, blood loss. A single glance confirmed that Ba'al was still glaring from his now-prone position. Another quick mental calculation of angles and trajectories and Jack was ready. At least he hoped he was.

Sighting carefully down the barrel, he let the spot on the wall he'd chosen fill his gaze. Nothing existed but that one clean, perfect spot. Breathe in, breathe out, pause, squeeze gently. The moment the round went off was almost a surprise, so intense was his focus. The deafening rapport jolted him into action. He dropped flat onto the floor, arms cradling his head, rifle as meager a cover he'd ever used.

Every breath he expected to feel an impact followed by the shockingly intense pain of lead ripping through flesh.

Echoes of the round's explosion was joined by sharp cracking sounds as the bullet skidded off the first wall and flew out across the room, just as Jack had suspected it would. He had no idea how long he held perfectly still on the ground, ears ringing painfully. Finally, the echoes stopped and he chanced a look up.

Two inch wide chunks were missing from every wall, dotting the smoothness like chicken pox. The round had bounced from wall to wall almost four full times if the number of holes was any indication of both the force of its velocity and the strength of the material surrounding the two men.

"That's a start," Jack found himself saying lightly, not waiting for Ba'al's mouth to utter a sound. "I can work with that."

"And what are we to do with it?" the Goa'uld asked, coming up to his knees. "We still can't get out of here. It will take far too many of your projectiles to make a large enough hole to escape, if you can even manage to penetrate to the outside of this cell."

Drawing a deep breath, he slowly counted to ten. Then he did it again in Spanish. Then again in Latin. And finally once in Ancient he hadn't been aware he'd known. He couldn’t shoot Ba'al, he really couldn't. It wasn't worth it even if he only winged him. "But I can make a large enough hole that we can chip with our knives. The walls can't be that thick. It's not efficient." The last was said with a pointed look in the other's direction.

"Then fire your little projectiles so we can get out of here," he practically growled, laying himself out flat once again.

"Fire your little projectiles," Jack mimicked under his breath with a sneer. The next time he and Ba'al met outside of this cell, the arrogant snakehead was in for an unpleasant surprise. Shaking down his fury, he studied the wall and its chipped out bits and picked the next inch of target. He calmed his racing heart, evened out his breathing and took careful aim. One last breath and the round went off.

Like the last time, it ricocheted wildly around the cell, chipping more chunks from the pockmarked walls. Once the echoing stopped, he fired again after a quick warning for Ba'al not to move. The chips got bigger as the bullet slammed over and over into the adjoining spots of wall, raining down on both prone men. The ringing didn’t leave his ears as he squeezed a third time. Then a fourth. He was prepping to fire the fifth round when a sharp cry broke through the high pitched whine in his ears. Looking over, he barely caught Ba'al's sudden grab at his left leg before a jagged pain ripped through his own calf.

Reaching down, he yanked the leg of his BDUs up to watch a deep red liquid color his leg above the black sock. Not good. Ba'al must have been hit by the final ricochet of the round which transferred itself to him. The wound throbbed angrily as he yanked a field bandage out of a pocket of his vest. After wrapping it quickly around his leg, he hauled himself to his feet and over to where the Goa'uld lay, clutching his own wound.

"We have to clean your leg up."

"We have to do nothing," Ba'al forced between clenched teeth, sweat beading his forehead and upper lip. "You're not touching me."

"I'd love to take you up on that, but I'm guessing they didn't teach first aid in Goa'uld 101." Ignoring the other man's feeble attempts to keep his hands away from the bleeding appendage, Jack took a long look at the damage. The flow of blood matched his almost perfectly, but the bullet was stuck in Ba'al's leg not his. Grunts of pain came from the other man as Jack checked the neat hole, manipulating the flesh to feel the hardness of the round still lodged in the muscle. There was no way to dig it out without causing even more damage. "You're not going to like this."

"And that is a surprise how?" Ba'al ground out, hands gripping his thigh above the dripping wound. "What am I not going to like?"

Grimacing at the suspicious tone and the words that would have come out of his mouth if the situation were reversed, he touched the knife strapped to his vest lightly. "We need to remove the bullet. You heal too fast to leave it in. It'll be stuck inside your leg by the time you can get to a sarcophagus." He watched the idea float through Ba'al's eyes. He didn't like it any more than Jack, but the familiar choiceless feeling was creeping back.

The Goa'uld propped himself against the wall, hands steadying his leg. "Just work quickly."

Jack didn't wait for either of them to change their minds. Knife held confidently in one hand, he held the wound still. With one last deep breath, he steeled himself for the pain. And then he cut.

*****

Sweat dripped down his forehead and ran over his cheeks. A shaky hand wiped the salty fluid from his eyes, leaving red tracks along his cheekbones. That was one experience he never wanted to relive. He'd felt every slice, every movement, every millimeter the round had traveled until it fell to the ground with a quiet clink. Blood had soaked through the bandage he'd placed around his leg earlier, dripping over his boot to make a messy puddle on the clean white surface of the floor. Silence broken only by their ragged breathing filled the distance between the two men. Jack pulled the last field dressing from his vest, concentrating on his smallest movement to keep the pain at bay. Ba'al held another of the sterile bandages to his bleeding leg, for once having no smart remarks on hand.

Swiftly untying the original bandage, he tossed it aside to assess the damage to his own leg. A neat X cut slashed across the hole, the same X cut he'd put into Ba'al's flesh minutes - long, hellish minutes - ago. He tossed the heavy, soaked fabric aside where it slapped wetly against the floor. Pressure against the wound sent a deep throbbing up his leg, but he held both hands firmly against the pain until it dulled to a tolerable level.

"So much for your plan," Ba'al said breathlessly, mirroring Jack's position on the floor, hands cupping the bandage to stop the flow of blood.

"If I remember correctly, it was your idea and no," he paused, wincing, when a stab of pain shot up his leg, "we're not done with it just yet."

After a disbelieving glare in his direction, Ba'al pointed with one finger at their matching wounds. "We're not? It would seem it lost its effectiveness when it got us injured."

"It was only one. And if we can get just a couple more rounds out it'll mean less we have to dig." He avoided Ba'al's eyes by checking the seepage beneath the bandage. Still oozing slowly, but it would stop on its own now. He tied the tails off sharply around his leg and steeled himself to make his way back over to the opposite wall.

"Only one!" It burst from the Goa'uld and rang in the silence. "It will only take one of your projectiles to kill us both. One! I'd rather remain here indefinitely."

"I wouldn't!" Jack glared across the short distance, hands clenching around the rifle he'd recovered. "I'd rather take the chance this is going to work, take the very small chance one of us will get hit again. I'm not going to stay trapped. You're welcome to remain behind after I'm gone. Now get on the floor." He didn't wait to see if Ba'al followed his order before he lowered himself carefully back to one knee.

He'd never be able to say later why he didn't feel it coming, why his danger alarm didn't start shouting loud and clear. Maybe it was blood loss. Maybe he was just tired of fighting. Maybe …

When the concussive wave slammed into his back it took him off his feet, hurtling him face-first into the unyielding surface of the pockmarked wall. His unprotected head made a sharp crack as it slammed into the wall. Spikes of pain radiated down his neck and spine a split second later. The P90 dug into his chest as his ribs compressed briefly before he bounced back to lie gasping on the floor. Lungs strained to fill while black spots danced across his vision. "What the hell was that for?" he squeezed out, sorry he'd managed to speak when the sound reverberated in his head, sending more hammers dancing.

"Call it a lesson," came the equally strained reply.

A lesson? In what? "Screw you. I just saved your life, you over-dressed, arrogant, wanna-be." If he could have glared in Ba'al's direction, he would have, but the jagged bursts of agony jumping around his head when he tried to move stopped him cold. Jack concentrated on breathing slowly, letting each exhale take the pain down a notch. Definitely a concussion, he thought quietly, not positive a thought wouldn't add to the pain. His ribs made a protest as he took another deep breath. And more bruising there as well, he added to the mental list. If he got out of there with all his parts intact, he swore Ba'al wouldn't remain in one piece the next time they met.

Silence answered his insult, which was reason enough to force himself to move. He bit the inside of his cheek as his head and chest argued violently with the motion. Making it slowly onto all fours, he looked over at the Goa'uld. Ba'al lay still, the subtle movement of his torso the only sign he was alive. Jack's mouth opened to form a scathing remark, but the words died before they left his throat. It wasn't worth it. Maybe Ba'al was as tired of the endless bickering as Jack was. "Let's just get out of here before we kill each other on accident."

"Fire your projectiles," Ba'al said, barely audible. "I'll simply lie here and wait for the impact."

Then again, maybe not. "It's not worth it," he repeated quietly to himself like a mantra as he searched the divots for the one most likely to punch through to the outside. Wherever the outside led to. And there it was. A deep hole that looked to have been expanded once or twice as the rounds flew through the cell. "I'm firing." It was only fair to give him a warning.

The report was just as deafening as before even without the concussion adding to the effect. When the echo died away and no extra holes appeared in either of the men, Jack crossed mental fingers and fired one more time. Chunks of wall and dust covered his hair as the bullet bounced off the wall above his body. But it finally lodged itself into a corner, joining a mate from earlier.

Shaking the dust carefully from his head with one hand, Jack looked around the line of pockmarks. And then again. Was that a pinprick of light?

Refusing to let himself hope, he got carefully to his feet, eyes never leaving the spot of lightness. He leaned close to the wall, using both hands to support himself.

Crisp, clean air puffed into Jack's face. The hole was small, barely big enough to deserve the name, yet it held the promise of freedom. "I made it through," he whispered, hope pushing at the lock he'd placed around it. Adrenaline started pumping through his muscles, pushing back the pain kicked back up by standing and moving. They were almost out. A scuffling behind him pulled his attention for a moment before he went back to breathing the unsoiled air.

"So now we dig?"

It was the only concession he'd get, he knew. Pulling the knife at his hip, Jack offered it to Ba'al hilt first. "Now we dig."

*****

Jack quit keeping track of time after the first hour. He and Ba'al dug side by side without words. The substance was dense, very dense, more like kevlar than concrete. Every impact of the knife against the gradually widening hole shot up his arm and reverberated throughout his entire body. The wall turned out to be almost six inches thick, a six inches that was beginning to feel like three feet. If either of the two men had been less broad-shouldered, they could have squeezed through to the other side. But as it was, they still needed a good two inches more before they could attempt an escape. Jack was pleasantly surprised they'd made it as far as they had without getting stopped. The bowls from their earlier meal had disappeared in a silent shimmer and two more bowls had appeared in their place. They'd both ignored the food despite growling stomachs in favor of getting themselves out of the cell and away from each other.

Jack wondered if their enforced truce of non-violence against each other would last much longer than his first step on the grass he could see below the waist-high hole.

With an abrupt snap, a large chunk of wall tumbled free and crashed to their feet. Both men froze, staring at the opening while fresh air blew over their faces. Jack swiftly unhooked the P90 from his vest, heart pounding in relief and a sudden, undeniable tension. "Let's get out of here."

"What are you doing?" Ba'al demanded, hand shooting out to grab Jack's arm in mid-motion.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" he returned with an unhealthy yank on his arm. Ba'al didn't release him, sending a twinge through his side. "I'm getting the hell out of here, that's what I'm doing. I thought you wanted to get back to terrorizing innocent people."

"If you exit first, how do I know you won't turn around and shoot me?" Ba'al asked, utterly serious. They stared at one another, Goa'uld and Tau'ri, neither blinking nor giving the other an inch.

"You'll just have to trust me."

Ba'al's eyes narrowed, suspicion heavy in the sherry color of his irises. Wind tunneled through the oval shaped hole, rustling their hair. Releasing his hand slowly, he stepped back with a nod.

Moving quickly before Ba'al could change his mind, he sent the rifle into the grass. He stripped off his vest and jacket and tossed them out to land next to the P90. The unfortunate height of the hole made going through face first a risky prospect. After a second's contemplation, Jack turned and gingerly placed his hands on the floor. Ribs and head protested violently as pressure increased on the damaged parts of his body. This was going to hurt, no two ways about it. Stuffing first one, then the other foot through the hole, he started pushing his body with his hands, wriggling his legs back and forth to ease their passage over the rough surface. Calves and thighs went through without a hitch. He dropped his legs, searching for the ground with his toes. The edge of the hole dug harshly into his stomach before his boots found purchase. His eyes closed for a moment, resting half in, half out of the cell.

Now for the hard part: his ribs and shoulders, the widest parts of his body. If he couldn't shimmy all the way out, he'd be stuck with his back half exposed to any and all threats that happened by.

He took another deep breath, then emptied his lungs in one long, smooth exhale. At the very end of the breath, he pulled against the outer wall, pushing with hands barely able to reach the ground. His torso slid six inches or so along the hole, sternum aching slightly from the pressure exerted from both above and below him. The next breath was half the depth of the last, but he couldn't reach the floor to push with his hands. Heart picking up speed as the image of how he looked to any passing Jaffa flashed through his head, he never saw Ba'al move.

Strong hands gripped his firmly, giving Jack the leverage he needed to shove himself another few inches. His eyes flew up to meet Ba'al's. The Goa'uld's face was stone, unreadable, yet there was a hint of understanding lurking in his eyes. Jack nodded slightly, hoping he was giving away as little as his unwilling ally. "On three. One. Two. Three."

Exhaling swiftly, he pushed against Ba'al's hands and the wall of the cell simultaneously. His shoulders popped free of the hole with a tear of cloth, knees hitting the soft ground with a quiet thud. He was free.

Survival instincts kicked in mere seconds later. Jack reached for his vest and rifle, scanning the immediate area. The same knee-high grasses that surrounded the Stargate filled the clearing he knelt in. The ruins rose above the trees not far in the distance. "Hold a moment," he called back into the hole, for the first time seeing the cell that had held them.

Or rather, he didn't see the cell.

Grass, trees and sky reflected back at him from the outer surface of the cell he and Ba'al had occupied for far too many hours. He ran a hand along the edge of the hole, feeling the smooth surface, but unable to detect it visually at all. "You're not going to believe this," he said to the face peering out from the hole floating in nothing.

"I'll believe it better from the outside," Ba'al replied, hands already stripping the ornate coat from his shoulders. He shoved it through carelessly and started his legs through the hole.

Jack grabbed the radio from his vest, one eye on Ba'al and the nonexistent cell, the other on the tree line. "Sierra-golf-one, this is sierra-golf-one-niner, over," he said calmly, radio crackling slightly. "Carter, you there?"

Static snapped briefly before her voice came through loud and clear, relief evident in every syllable. "General, we're at the Stargate. Where are you?"

"About a klick from the ruins, I think. Can you hold position?" Sparing a brief thought of thanks for military training and its efficiency, he caught Ba'al's flailing legs with one arm, steadying him.

"Yes, sir. We're good for now. Do you need assistance?"

"No, I've got things under control here," he stated with a wry grin. Setting his rifle against the invisible wall, he gripped Ba'al's calves. "Head back to the ruins. I'll meet you there. O'Neill out." The Goa'uld shifted restlessly as Jack tossed the radio back onto his vest. Two tugs later, Ba'al's abdomen was clear of the hole. Jack sensed movement behind him a split second before the staff weapon charged with a threatening whine.

Raising his hands slowly over his head, he turned to face a squad of six Jaffa. Ba'al's Jaffa. Ba'al's Jaffa that he'd forgotten all about. How had they snuck up on him? Relief at being out of the cramped cell must have dulled his senses more than he'd thought. "I can explain this, really."

The First Prime didn't respond, merely gestured with his staff weapon for Jack to move to the side, away from the legs now kicking against the ground. One of the Jaffa took his place, tugging powerfully as Jack sighed ruefully. He had no luck. He really didn't.

"Kneel," the First Prime ordered, clearly expecting instant obedience. When he didn't get it, the frown on his face deepened.

"I'd rather not," Jack couldn't stop the quip from coming out. "Bad things happen when I kneel in the presence of Jaffa." A staff weapon connected with the small of his back, sending him staggering to his knees anyway. The throbbing started up in his head once again as he lifted his eyes to look up at the First Prime. Jack had finally escaped one trap only to fall into another one. How was that fair?

The First Prime leveled the staff weapon at Jack's face, the frown turning into a sneer. "Pathetic Tau'ri scum. You believe your insolence will be tolerated? My lord will remind you what happens to those who show disrespect to their gods."

Steeling himself for the expected blow, Jack's ears heard the sound seconds before his brain deciphered the meaning.

"Stop."

The voice was the last one Jack thought he'd ever hear speaking that word. Ba'al strode forward limping slightly, the wound in his leg already beginning to heal. "Let him go."

"My lord?" The First Prime sounded as confused as Jack felt.

Ba'al simply looked at the Jaffa, his raptor-like gaze one Jack had seen many times before. "Do you question your god?"

Dropping immediately to one knee at the dangerous tone, the First Prime lowered his head to bare his neck. "Never, my lord. I was merely surprised."

He left the armored Jaffa kneeling with one long look and turned to face Jack who still knelt in the tall grass. "You did not have to bind my wound nor remove your projectile," he said contemplatively. He pulled the heavy, embroidered coat back over his shoulders. "For that I will grant you two days. Any Tau'ri remaining on this planet after sundown two days hence are forfeit. Agreed?"

The throbbing in his head increased slightly as Jack pushed himself to his feet. Ba'al had him over a barrel and they both knew it. Jack was Special Forces trained, was very good at his job. But he wasn't good enough to take out six armed Jaffa and a Goa'uld single-handed starting without any weapons. "Agreed."

Their eyes held for a long moment, wind rustling the grass around their calves, before Ba'al turned abruptly and motioned to the Jaffa. "To the hatak." The Jaffa scrambled to catch up to the Goa'uld's ground-eating stride. The First Prime gave Jack a final threatening scowl before moving to take up a rear guard position.

"Hey!" Jack called, then waited for Ba'al to turn. "How do I know you won't just get back up to your ship and shoot us from orbit?" Even from fifteen meters away he could see the arrogant smile cover Ba'al's face.

"You'll just have to trust me."

An unconscious grin covered Jack's face as Ba'al used his own words against him. The group strode quickly toward the tree line, as if anxious to get away from him. Trust a Goa'uld? Never. But a fellow prisoner? Yeah, he could do that for two days.

The thought brought his attention back to the cell they'd been trapped in. Who were 'they'? The ones that had monitored them, fed them. Why had he and Ba'al been chosen and not Carter or Teal'c or Daniel? The chamber gaped emptily open from the hole he and Ba'al had torn in its side. Would it repair itself? Would it disappear under its perfect camouflage once the breach was gone?

Jack put a halt to his whirling thoughts. His ribs ached, his head was pounding, and his leg was going to protest every step of the way back to the 'Gate. He had enough to worry about without all those other issues. There would be time enough later for questions and what ifs.

Right now he had a team to get back to.

*****

<fin>

*****

Plot bunny assigned -
Time frame: S8 after "Reckoning"
Pairings: None
Plot: Jack gets trapped in the same room as Baal. They have no way to call for outside help. Aggression toward the other is punished by their captors, which frustrates them both, since Baal is no more fond of Jack than Jack is of him (not at all). They must work together to escape. Set preferably after Reckoning, but any time after Abyss is fine.
Note: It can be just the confrontation, or can be the whole story of how they got into that situation and how they get out again.