From all indications the mission to PSC-911 was a milk run. A quiet little planet with a small farming village located within reasonable walking distance from the Stargate. When the MALP had come through the locals had approached it with more curiosity than fear. When, in a few moments, the Stargate had activated again, they'd watched with interest as four people stepped out of it.
Colonel Jack O'Neill was a little uneasy, but he couldn't pin it down to anything specific. He watched as Daniel stepped forward to do the meet and greet with the natives, and that went unsurprisingly well. Their society seemed to be modeled along ancient Greek lines and Daniel, with the rest of SG-1 following, was taken to village's headman and talks began immediately.
Teal'c did a perimeter sweep as Sam took her samples. Jack remained with Daniel and was soon bored out of him mind with the talk of farming practices. Daniel on the other hand, was in his element, discussing the village customs. The headman, an old white haired man seemed to take to Daniel immediately.
From looking around the village, the people didn't seem to need or want anything from the strangers. Even when Sam reported that there were definite indications of naquada in the area they had nothing to hide. The villagers were more than happy to escort Sam and Teal’c to the nearby hills to show their mining operations.
Jack and Daniel were then escorted around to see how they used the material in their everyday life. It was a simple village on the surface, but the technology and sophistication that lay beneath the surface was startling. They used the mineral to power simple things like the pumps used for irrigating their fields. Sam reported that their mining equipment was quite sophisticated. The quantity of naquada they mined was much more than their needs required.
This sent Jack’s trouble radar spiking into the worry zone. While all appeared hunky dory, there was more to this than it appeared. His team began to notice his unease.
“Jack,” Daniel said touching his friend’s arm as he stood in the doorway of the meeting hut looking out. “What’s bothering you?”
Jack turned to his young archeologist. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” he replied. “Have you asked them about the goa’ulds?”
Daniel shook his head. “Not yet,” he said. “Teal’c said he didn’t see any signs of goa’uld activity. And these people seem rather well adjusted compared to other cultures we’ve seen in comparison.”
“Ask them anyway,” Jack said.
“Because my gut tells me something is up,” Jack replied. Then he looked into the confused eyes of his young friend. “I can’t tell you exactly, but something’s got the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.”
Daniel nodded, trusting his friend’s instincts. “I’ll see what I can find out,” he said and turned back into the hut and joined the headman in the center again.
“Your leader seems uneasy,” the headman said when Daniel sat back down.
“That’s just the way he is,” Daniel said vaguely. “He’s very protective of us.”
“He has questions he wishes you to ask?” the head man asked shrewdly.
Daniel smiled weakly at the old man. “Yes,” he said. “I don’t want to offend you or you village. I am very interested in learning about your culture. Its unique among the many worlds we’ve traveled.”
“Worry not of offense,” was the reply. “Ask your question.”
“Well… we were wondering if you have had any encounters with a race of beings called the goa’uld,” Daniel said carefully.
“The word is familiar,” the headman said. “But that is all. What are these ‘goa’uld’?”
“They are a race of beings that live inside human hosts,” Daniel said warming to the topic. “They claim to be ancient gods from our home world, but that is not the truth.”
The headman shook his head. “We revere and serve only one god,” he said. “Apollo, the god of light and power.”
Daniel felt a shiver go down his back. “Have you ever met your god?” he asked.
The headman smiled warmly. “Many times,” he said. “He is always surrounded by light. His guards are great warriors who bear his mark upon his brow, much as your friend Teal’c bears his mark.”
“What does he do when he comes here?” Daniel asked slowly.
“We honor his appearance with great celebration and he blesses us,” the headman said. “He takes the power stone we do not need. And if we are fortunate, he will select the best of us to join him in his holy light. Those that go are greatly honored.”
Daniel felt his stomach clench. Jack’s gut instinct had been right. Not only was something wrong here but there was no doubt they would need to leave quickly. “How often does he appear?” he asked finally. Any warning was better than no warning.
“We believe your visit is a sign of his coming,” the headman said. “When his sister, the moon, shines down on us this sacred night, he will come through the ring of the Gods. As you did.”
Daniel felt sick and politely excused himself from the headman and his council. He left the hut and began looking for Jack. He didn’t see him immediately, but the saw the sun was low in the sky and the full moon was rising.
He clicked on his radio. “Jack, where are you?” he asked.
Jack hearing the note of urgency in his friend’s voice, answered. “What’s wrong, Daniel?”
“You were right,” Daniel said. “We have to get out of here now.”
There was something in Daniel’s tone that made the hairs stand up on the back of Jack’s neck. “Teal’c, Carter, meet me north of the village,” he said, switching to his command voice. “We’re leaving.”
Jack waited impatiently at the edge of the village. When he had left the villagers had looked at him oddly, but had made no move to get in his way.
Daniel was the first to catch up with him looking visibly upset.
Carter and Teal’c had yet to show. “Spill,” Jack said.
“Their god Apollo is due to make his appearance when the moon is full,” Daniel said, the look on his face saying it all.
Jack looked toward the east at the swollen mass of the world’s moon rose above the hills. “Apollo?” he asked. “As in Greek stuff?”
“Apollo, god of the sun, surrounded by light,” Daniel said with almost a touch of bitterness. “Surrounded by his loyal servants, who wear a mark upon their brow like Teal’c. To take the sacred mineral the villagers don’t need, and if they’re really lucky the god will chose among them to come and join him in his blessed light.”
Jack squeezed his arm in sympathy. It had been too good to be true. Which his instincts had picked up on. Friendly natives, with lots of naquada. Naturally there would be a goa’uld to show up and ruin the party.
Teal’c and Carter showed up the next moment.
“Colonel?” Sam asked expectantly.
“We’re going to have company and I don’t want to be here when they arrive,” Jack said. “I’ll take point.”
He headed back toward the Stargate with a steady, ground eating pace. Sam and Daniel moved into position behind him with Teal’c on their ‘six’, just in case the villagers changed their mind about their abrupt departure.
They quickly left the fields that surrounded the village and entered the forest, following the trail that would take them to the gate. If Apollo visited on a regular basis it would explain why the trail was so well worn. It also explained why their appearance didn’t bring anything more than mild interest from the locals. They were used to visitors through the gate.
Jack felt more comfortable under the canopy of forest. They still had a couple more hours before they reached the clearing that held the Stargate; even at the pace he was pushing the team. Now it was growing darker as the sun set, which turned the evening to gloom. Jack squelched the urge to run. He’d rather not run into a trap.
As night fell more fully, Jack and his team relied on their other senses to keep them on the path. Of course this meant they had to slow down their pace. The moon’s light was unusually bright, making them blink with its intensity when they walked through the random moonbeams, adding to the colonel’s unease.
They weren’t far from the clearing when they heard the sound they really didn’t want to hear. The roaring of the Stargate as a wormhole was established. As one, the four team members dived into the brush to the side of the trail, ducking down beneath the thick foliage.
The night air carried voices in their direction. Jack thought a moment, and then decided there was no other way. He needed to get a closer look to make sure the situation was as bad as he thought it was. His voice was a barely audible whisper in the darkness. “Wait here,” he said.
“O’Neill,” Teal’c began the protest in his voice clear.
“Wait,” the colonel repeated and melted into the underbrush away from them without making a sound. The three hunkered down to wait in silence.
Jack moved carefully through the underbrush, keeping low, ignoring the thorns that snagged at his face and hands. He reached the edge of the clearing, hidden by the thorn bushes that gave him so much grief, but whose thick leaves also gave him good cover.
The clearing was bathed in the light of the still open wormhole and the moon. Between the two, Jack had no problem seeing what was going on. At least two squads of Jaffa had already come through. Jack’s eyes narrowed as he watched them moving around the clearing. He didn’t recognize the markings on foreheads but guessed it had to be Apollo’s. He committed the pattern to memory; sure that Daniel would be able to tell him later.
The Jaffa lined up on either side of the gate and waited patiently. Apparently this particular goa’uld took his own sweet time in coming through. Either that, or he was making sure there were no surprises on the other side. Jack wanted to look at his watch to see how long they were going to stand there, but he didn’t want to possibly give himself away with the glow of the watch face in the darkness.
Long minutes later a new figure stepped through the event horizon of the wormhole. The man, or rather goa’uld, was a tall imposing figure dressed completely in what looked like form fitted golden body armor. Long gold hair and a deep golden tan completed the picture of the god of the sun. Even from this distance Jack couldn’t miss the flash of light behind the golden eyes.
With military precision the Jaffa turned and escorted Apollo to the trail that would lead toward the village. The tromping of their metal shod boots drowned out any sound that Jack might have made as he crept through the underbrush and back toward his team.
The rest of SG-1 had waited silently where he left them, hunching down further beneath the brush as Apollo and his entourage moved past them. Once the sounds of Apollo's group faded away, they all turned to look at Jack.
“Do we head to the gate?” Daniel asked.
Jack frowned in thought. Apollo had left no one guarding the gate and this would be the perfect time to get the hell out of ‘Dodge’. At the same time they knew little of what was going on here.
“Teal’c, ever hear of Apollo?” he asked.
The former Jaffa shook his head. “Only in passing,” he said. “He is considered a minor system lord of little significance.”
Jack frowned again. That may have been true at one time. However, the truth was that Teal’c's information was about five years out of date. They needed more current Intel. It would be risky. With a mental nod he made a decision.
“Carter, Daniel, head back to the gate,” he said. He stopped Daniel’s protest by raising his hand. The archeologist snapped his mouth shut. “You two are to keep watch in case any more Jaffa come through the gate. Or if we need to leave fast. Teal’c and I are going back to the village and see what we can find out about the great god Apollo.”
Sam and Daniel nodded and melted away in the direction of the gate. Jack turned to Teal’c. His friend had pulled on a knit cap over his head, hiding the golden tattoo. In the darkness, even with the bright moonlight, he was nearly invisible. They didn’t need to speak and as one they headed back the way the came toward the village.
Around the village were the fields with minimal cover. Jack and Teal’c hunched low among the tall stalks of a corn like plant as they made their way back to the village. All the activity was in the village, so they were able to make their way unnoticed to the outermost huts.
Everything was now occurring in the center of the village. Moving from shadow to shadow Jack and Teal’c made their way closer to what was happening. Apollo was standing in the center of the village literally surrounded by golden light. Apparently he had modified his personal shield to emit light as well as protect him. Those personal shields were great against energy weapons, but not that great against more primitive, slower moving projectiles. Jack’s hand itched to reach for his knife, but he restrained himself.
They were close enough to hear what was going on without being seen, and Jack’s mouth tightened in anger as he listened. The villagers were all to one side and on their knees. The headman and his council of elders were before Apollo, also on their knees, their heads bowed. It was their expressions of worship that angered Jack. The goa’uld was no god.
“Welcome oh Bright One, whose light bathes us in glory and makes the plants grow,” the headman was saying.
“My time here is short,” Apollo interrupted. “Your people will work to meet your quota.”
The headman actually smiled. “Our quota is ready for you, Bright One,” he said. “When your servants came we knew to be ready.”
Apollo seemed to frown. “What servants?”
“They came a few days ago,” the headman said. “They asked many questions. We knew it was a test. We told them we serve only you. They left for the great ring and you appeared.”
Jack felt a shiver go down his spine. The headman didn’t stop there. He went into detail, including giving Apollo their names. And then it all went to hell. Apollo stretched out his hand, and the device cupped against his palm sent a beam of light into the headman’s forehead. A few seconds later, the headman was dead and the villagers were showing their first signs of fear.
Apollo glared at his first prime. “Find them!” he bellowed.
As the Jaffa scattered to obey the command, Jack knew it was time to leave. He and Teal’c quickly left the village without being seen, but as they raced through the fields for the cover of trees, their luck failed them. A keen-eyed Jaffa had seen them running. Though it was dark, the moon’s silver light had illuminated them running rapidly away.
The air was soon full of staff fire. Jack and Teal’c ran, weaving to avoid being targeted. The shooting didn’t let up once they made the trees. The Jaffa knew where they were heading.
Jack took one hand off his P-90 long enough to reach his radio. “Daniel! Carter! Dial the gate!”
Sam acknowledged his call and she and Daniel left the cover of the brush to race for the DHD. No further Jaffa had come through. If they could dial fast enough, they could prevent an incoming wormhole. While Daniel dialed, Sam took a defensive position, knowing it would take time for Jack and Teal’c to reach them, even running.
The clearing gave her a clear view of the sky. She watched a ball of light seem to fall from a bright star in the sky and straight down to where the village was located. She knew what that was and reached for her radio.
“Colonel, I think they have a ship in orbit,” she said. “I just saw a transport beam come down.”
“Reinforcements,” came Jack’s breathless reply. “Must be how they transport the naquada instead of through the gate. Hold position. If you get company, get out.”
Behind her Daniel slammed his hand on the center of the DHD and the gate burst into life. Nobody would be coming through this way. It wasn’t long before their heard the sound of staff fire. Daniel and Sam took position on either side of the gate.
Jack and Teal’c broke from the cover of the trees into the clearing. Jaffa were too close behind them as they ran, the energy blasts hitting the ground near the gate. Teal’c staggered as a shot slammed into his shoulder, but he didn’t stop moving. Jack was close behind him.
Get out of here!” Jack yelled. His lungs were burning. Sam jumped from her position and leapt through the gate, trusting her team to be right behind her. Teal’c pounded past the DHD grabbing Daniel as he broke cover.
Just before he was pulled through the gate Daniel saw two staff blasts hit Jack squarely in the back and he went down hard face first into the ground.
he shouted as the swirling energies of the wormhole dragged him away. Even
as he was ejected into the safety of the SGC, he knew Jack was dead.
Several days later they reopened the gate. The MALP on the planet had remained undamaged. There was no sign of any activity. Hammond approved the mission that would allow SG-1 to return to the planet. If only to claim Colonel O’Neill’s body.
What they found was a scene of complete devastation. The village had been destroyed. The buildings leveled and the people, men, women and children, dead, their bodies left where they had fallen. But what they didn’t find was the body of Jack O’Neill.
Jack opened his eyes to find himself surrounded by a bright white light. It was warm, pleasant and comfortable. He was also confused. His mind searched for his last memory and with a little effort he was able to recall it. The last thing he saw was Daniel screaming out his name as he was drawn through the gate. That and the vague memory of agonizing pain before darkness claimed him.
His vision cleared, showing him gold colored walls, inscribed with a script that he vaguely recognized. He tried to puzzle it out. Where was he? The answer came sooner than he thought and in a manner that quickly dispelled any pleasant sensations he was experiencing.
The wall split open before him, hands reached in and hauled him roughly out. Sarcophagus, his mind supplied. He had been in a goa’uld sarcophagus. The hands that held his arms in a bruising grip were Jaffa. The symbols he saw on their foreheads brought it all back. Apollo’s Jaffa, to be precise.
As he was pulled along the golden corridor his mind started to function and he put the rest of it together. He was pretty sure he had been dead. He remembered his back being on fire from staff blasts. The cool air against his skin through the ruined remains of his shirt was proof enough of that. The problem with the goa’uld was that if you wanted to remain dead, they wouldn’t let you.
Now that Jack had been revived, Apollo probably wanted a chat with him. He felt his stomach clench in wary anticipation. This was not going to be fun or pretty. All he could hope for that if he died this time, they wouldn’t bother to revive him again.
His captors pulled him into a throne room. Apollo looked down on him from his golden throne. He was still wearing the body armor but had his personal shield down. Jack wished he had taken the opportunity when he had it.
“Kneel before your god,” the first prime said.
Jack raised an eyebrow. “Is he here?” he asked casually.
The response was the butt of a staff weapon being slammed against the back of his knees, leaving him no choice but to hit the floor, his outstretched hands barely keeping him from slamming into it face first. Strong hands clamped on his shoulders, pulling him up but holding him on his knees.
“You are the Tau’ri O’Neill,” Apollo said in a voice as casual as Jack’s had been. “I have heard much of you from others.”
Jack grimaced. “I always wanted a fan club,” he said tightly. There was no point in denying it.
Apollo smiled at him with the confirmation of his identity. “You will be of great value to me,” he said. “Having you is a great prize.”
“Oh I doubt that,” Jack replied. “Bum knees, poor memory. Not worth much.”
“I am sure your memory is much better than you imply,” Apollo said. He seemed more amused by Jack’s defiance than irritated. “When I have plumbed the depths of your knowledge I may keep you alive to continue to amuse me.”
“Sorry,” Jack said. “The depths are kinda shallow. Guess you’re going to have to kill me.”
“What is the code for your Stargate’s shield?”
“The location of the Tok’ra base?”
“I dunno,” Jack replied. “They move a lot. And between you and me, they have lousy taste in real estate.”
Apollo didn’t appear troubled by Jack’s responses. “You may not answer now, but you will,” he said. He gestured and a youngish looking man stepped closer to the throne. “Talan, you may have him for now. I am curious to see if his mind is as strong as others have claimed.”
“It will be as you wish,” Talan said, his voice holding the same reverberating sound as Apollo’s. Another goa’uld. He turned to the Jaffa holding Jack. “Take him to my lab and secure him.”
Jack was jerked to his feet. These two were built like Teal’c so his struggles had little effect against their grip. He was taken from the throne room and down several corridors. After passing a window he realized they were in space, which meant they were in a ship in orbit. In orbit above what world he had no way of knowing.
A short while later Jack found himself strapped to a wall, unable to move. Not only had his limbs been secured but his torso and head had also been strapped down. He was unable to move beyond the ability of just breathing. Now it was time for waiting.
Jack lost track of time. He was familiar with this technique. The anticipation of torture was often as painful as the torture itself. The imagination left to run wild with the possibilities. Jack had plenty of imagination. He also had plenty of experience at being tortured. He took deep breaths and forced himself to relax and focus. Get what rest he could until Talan showed up to start the torture.
He had actually started to doze when Talan entered the room. The sudden pain in his temples woke him to find himself face to face with the goa’uld. Talan smiled as he finished.
“Are you familiar with the memory device, Tau’ri?” he asked.
“Maybe,” Jack answered. “Is it like cable TV? I get about 150 channels on mine.”
Talan frowned slightly at the response, not understanding the reference. Then he shrugged and activated the device. Jack flinched at the pain that seemed to spike through his forehead, closing his eyes for a moment.
“What is the last thing you remember?” Talan asked.
Jack’s eyes snapped open. Talan was watching the screen that revealed his memories. He couldn’t help be recall his last moment on the planet. The sight of Daniel’s agonized face as he vanished through the gate. The only comfort Jack could take from that was that the rest of his team was safe back on Earth.
“And before that?” Talan asked.
Jack frowned in concentration and the scene changed. The most recent episode from the Simpsons. Talan took a surprised step back. “What is this?”
“The Simpsons,” Jack replied sweetly. “Best thing humankind has ever produced.”
Talan turned and glared at Jack. “Do not think you can prevail, Tau’ri,” he said. “You will remember what we wish.”
And so it began. Talan was methodical. It became a battle of wills. Talan constantly questioning. Things would flash on the screen out of context and then Jack would focus on a memory. Television shows. Sports events. His cabin. Sharpening his skates. He was surprised when he saw, not only memories appear on the screen that he knew had happened, but also things he knew never had. He took great pleasure in imagining the demise of Apollo as well as Talan as painfully as possible.
Talan appeared undisturbed by these, as he was able to tell the difference between real memories and imagination from his equipment. He was also patient. Hours became days. Jack wasn’t released from his bonds at any time. The straps chaffed and cut into his skin. He was given a sip of water every few hours, but nothing else.
Regardless of how strong his will, even Jack couldn’t hold his bowels forever and he was forced to soil himself. Talan seemed immune to his suffering. The Jaffa would come and hose him off periodically, leaving him cold and shivering and slowly subjected to exposure.
Lack of food and adequate water was beginning to take its toll on Jack. It was becoming harder and harder for him to focus on specific memories. More than once his mind would drift to happier times.
He only became fully alert when Apollo would come into the lab for a progress report. Talan would play back key memories of Stargate Command. Imagines of the control room and gate addresses. Most already known to Apollo, but the fact that they had gotten them from Jack’s mind seemed to please him. It was just a matter of time before he revealed information they didn’t have. They would just have to sift through the clutter of his mind.
Jack sagged in his restraints in a half doze. He didn’t know how long he had been held here. A week, maybe two. For all he knew it could have been months. The restraints cut into him and he felt the trickle of blood, but he was too weak to stay upright for more than a few minutes at a time. The pain was a distant thing, and his physical condition was so bad, his mind was starting to follow suit. He was starting to hallucinate. Hearing and seeing things that couldn’t be there. While part of his mind was aware that it wasn’t real, the other part would react in either fear or anger or confusion as it often didn’t make sense.
He heard conversations that couldn’t possibly be occurring and didn’t make sense if they were.
“He will not survive much longer,” a human sounding voice said.
“I know,” answered a goa’uld. “But we have little choice. We are as much a prisoner here as he is.”
“We do have a choice.”
“It is a great risk.”
“Are his risks any greater?”
“He is very weak. He could compromise our attempt.”
“If we do nothing, he will die,” replied the human voice. “And all we have done will be for nothing.”
“I tire of this, Orin,” the goa’uld said. “In so many ways.”
“Then we must act,” the human replied. “Now, before the opportunity passes us by.”
Jack decided that was the weirdest thing he had ever heard. A goa’uld and a human having a polite chat. Definitely a hallucination. The presence that approached him wasn’t a hallucination. He struggled to open his eyes and sat Talan standing in from of him, his expression grim.
“You’re not going to get what you want,” Jack croaked. “You might as well give up.”
“Defiant to the end, Colonel O’Neill,” the goa’uld said. “Even so weak, your strength of will is impressive.”
Jack’s dry lip split as he managed a faint smile. “That’s nice,” he said politely.
Talan’s expression became even grimmer. He reached up and undid the strap that held Jack’s head upright. Jack’s head fell forward and he winced in pain. Then his arms were released. But he had no strength to do more than hang there limply. Silently he cursed his weakness. The opportunity was here and there was nothing he could do about it.
His legs were released and he hung by the strap around his torso, the leather digging into his chest. He closed his eyes against the pain. Then they snapped open. Talan had lifted one of his arms over his shoulder and leaned against him, supporting his weight. The next moment the chest strap was released and Jack felt him collapsing into the arms of the goa’uld.
Jack tried to struggle but he literally had no strength. He found he could only shift weakly in Talan’s grip. The next thing he knew he was draped over the goa’uld’s shoulder in a modified fireman’s carry.
“What?” he croaked in protest.
“Do not struggle,” Talan said. “You’ve lost weight but you’re still heavy. We do not have a lot of time to do this.”
Jack went still. Confused didn’t begin to cover how he felt about this change of situation. His mind struggled to make sense of it. Goa’ulds didn’t get their hands dirty. That’s what Jaffa and slaves were for. Yet this one was carrying him over his shoulder like a sack of rotten potatoes. The only thing Jack could do was be still and see what happened next. Although it could easily be something much worse than what he’d endured so far.
The goa’uld moved with more stealth than Jack initially gave him credit for. He moved down the golden corridors, ducking behind pillars when a patrol came stomping down the hall, their metal shod feet drowning out any sound the two of them might make. Jack’s consciousness would slip in and out. He didn’t know how far he was carried, but it was the occasional jar to his sore chest that would force him to open his eyes.
He opened his eyes again as he felt himself gently lowered to a semi hard surface. He was lying on a thin pallet in what looked like the back of a tel’tak. Talan leaned over him. The next moment he was gone.
Jack lay there, weak and confused. He struggled to push himself to see what was happening. He managed to prop himself up on his elbow, but that alone left him panting and his limbs shaking from the effort.
He looked toward the front of the tel’tak and saw Talan at the controls. He frowned in further confusion. There was no one else here. He felt the vessel shudder as it launched from the mother ship and into space.
Times like this he wished he understood the goa’uld language or at least had Teal’c or Daniel nearby to translate what was being said. It sounded like Talan was speaking to someone and the tone was angry and defiant.
The tel’tak shuddered again. This time Jack knew why. They were taking fire. The goa’uld was leaving and apparently Apollo didn’t want him to. Jack felt himself thrown back as the vessel rocked from the blasts. He heard a whining sound from the engine compartment that didn’t bode well.
He felt the telltale sensation as the tel’tak leaped into hyperspace and it smoothed out. A moment later he watched as Talan ran past him. The whining and grinding sound went away but didn’t disappear completely.
Jack dozed off unintentionally while this was going on. He woke to the sensation of water against his lips. Talan was kneeling beside him.
“I am going to remove the memory device,” he said. “It will hurt for a moment.”
Jack winced but didn’t move as it was removed. He felt he’d have a headache from this for a year. Then he frowned up at Talan, his dark eyes hard.
“I don’t suppose you’d care to explain?” he asked after Talan gave him so more water.
The goa’uld seemed to sigh. “I understand you have no reason to trust me, Colonel O’Neill,” he said. “We are Talan and Orin of the Tok’ra.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed as a thought struck him. “I thought it seemed rather easy to circumvent your memory thingy.” He said.
“I allowed you to remember what you wished,” Talan replied. “I only pushed for information I knew Apollo already had.”
“So this is a rescue?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
Jack frowned dangerously. “What is that supposed to mean?” he asked.
“It means the ship took damage,” Talan replied. “I’m trying to get us to the nearest planet with a Stargate. But I’m not certain how effective my repairs have been.”
“So we could crash and die,” Jack said.
Talan made a slight face. “I am afraid so,” he said.
Jack let out a sigh. “Better than hanging out with Apollo,” he said.
Talan smiled and nodded. Suddenly his voice changed to that of a more normal sounding human. “My name is Orin,” he said. “We have not met.”
“Howdy Orin,” Jack replied. “So how long till we reach this planet or blow up?”
“Several days,” Orin replied.
“So what do we do until then?”
“You must heal and regain your strength, Colonel O’Neill,” Orin replied. “And perhaps, we were wondering…”
“Wondering what?” Jack asked cautiously.
“If you would tell us more about this game ‘hockey’,” Orin asked. “We find it interesting. Clearly more than mere violence. And Talan would like to hear more of the Simpsons.”
Jack tried to laugh, but coughed instead. Questions he had never thought he would hear from a goa’uld or Tok’ra.
As a general rule, based upon his experiences, Jack O’Neill hated the goa’uld. His years of encounters with them had done little but to make his hatred more ingrained. He was firmly of the belief that they could not be reasoned with, so there was no point in trying. The only good goa’uld was a dead goa’uld. Preferably one that did not come back to life. For every goa’uld taken out, another seemed to pop up in its place with annoying regularity. Meaner and more vicious than the last.
The there were the Tok’ra. Jack wasn’t terribly fond of them, but he didn’t exactly hate them due to his experience with Jacob Carter. Jacob was alive thanks to the Selmak and the Tok’ra. They had spent centuries working in secret to circumvent the plans of the system lords. But their numbers were few and dwindling. There were no new Tok’ra symbiotes being born. They had no queen to produce them.
Because of the centuries of secrecy their value as allies was limited. They were quick to ask for help, but not very quick to offer aid unless it was of advantage to them. Getting them to share information was much like pulling teeth from an extinct Tyrannosaurus Rex. First you had to find a living one, and then you had to try to hold it down.
Talan and Orin were slowly changing his opinion of the Tok’ra. At least of this one Tok’ra. They, or was it he, cared for Jack’s injuries and made sure he got adequate food and rest in order to recover from his ordeal on Apollo’s ship.
The days also passed with many conversations. Orin was fascinated by hockey. Talan loved the Simpsons. Both of which was a sign of good taste to Jack’s mind. Thus he found himself willingly sharing those aspects of human culture with his shipmate.
Questions about the Tok’ra, on the other hand, were answered with difficultly. Centuries of keeping secrets made it hard for Talan to speak freely. But the fact that he at least tried gave him points in Jack’s book. It also gave him a better understanding of the Tok’ra, whether he liked it or not.
Talan never asked for SGC secrets, but would ask questions about missions that was common knowledge for both sides. Jack found himself enjoying the conversations. And he was developing a grudging liking for both Orin as well as Talan. They shared a single body, but the differences between them were more than evident. The one habit that amused Jack was their tendency to talk to each other aloud. The arguments over little things made for great insight into the personalities.
Three days had passed when the chime sounded that meant they were due to come out of hyperspace. Jack stood behind Talan as he sat behind the controls.
“You’re worried,” Jack said. It was a statement, not a question.
Talan nodded. “Our sublight engines were damaged,” he said. “I am taking out of hyperspace as close to the planet as I dare, but I fear the landing may be difficult.”
Jack nodded. The Tok’ra had learned that being straight and honest with Jack was the best method in dealing with the human. They had built a fragile trust that they didn’t want to jeopardize.
“I would recommend you brace yourself,” Talan said.
Jack grabbed hold of the back of the pilot’s chair and prepared for a rough ride. He would never understand why they didn’t put more seats in these things. They didn’t have seatbelts either.
The tel’tak came out of hyperspace with a jerk. Talan didn’t exaggerate when he implied it would be a rough ride. They were clearly approaching the planet much faster than Jack would have liked. The whine coming from the engine compartment was rising to a level that made Jack’s teeth ache.
The control panel was awash with red lights. “Can you fly?” Talan asked abruptly. He didn’t wait for an answer. Jack slid into the pilot’s seat just as Talan got up. The Tok’ra raced back to the engine compartment. The shaking of the ship making him stagger like a drunk.
The tel’tak hit the upper layers of the atmosphere with a physical blow. If the ride was rough before, it was doubly so now. Jack hung on with both hands while at the same time trying to maintain some semblance of control. Whatever Orin and Talan were doing in the engine compartment, he didn't think it was enough.
He noticed the indicator that told him where the stargate was and he tried to aim for it. “Orin!” he yelled. “We’re coming in too hot! We’re going to hit hard!”
“Do what you can!” Talan shouted back.
They came down beneath the cloud cover to view rocky terrain. They did a flyby over the gate as Jack struggled to circle the vessel in order to slow it down with limited results. The controls were sluggish. Far too soon there was no control at all.
“HOLD ON!!” Jack shouted.
The tel’tak hit the side of the hill hard. Jack was never sure how he got the nose up, but it lessened the impact slightly, sliding up hill and gouging a deep path into the rocks and trees. He felt himself thrown forward and then everything went black.
Jack didn’t know how long he had been unconscious. It was the steady trickle of water against his cheek that slowly brought him around. He slowly opened his eyes. The front of the tel’tak was a crumpled mess, half sheared off from the rest of the craft. He had been thrown through what used to be known as the view screen.
It was raining, and the water was collecting on the edge to drip onto his face. He turned his head and the rest of his body woke up to howl its pain. Jack went still. Mentally he checked each pain, determining its severity. Cuts and bruises. Possibly a cracked rib. His right arm seemed to have taken the brunt of the damage. He bit back a cry as he tried to move it, feeling the bone grinding against bone as the broken edges came into contact.
He took a deep painful breath. “Orin!?” he called. He coughed which made it hurt worse. “Talan!”
There was no answer. He would have to manage on his own. But this wouldn’t be the first time he had to do that. He almost passed out before he got himself sitting upright. His first impression was wrong. It wasn't just his right arm, but his whole right side seemed to have taken the brunt of his impact. Cradling his broken arm carefully he struggled to his feet. He leaned against what was left of the control panel, catching his breath.
The inside of the tel’tak was a wreck. He moved carefully, slowly, around the debris. Progress was made even more difficult with the wreck vessel lying at a steep angle on the hillside. He reached the next room. Here he found their supplies, which had taken a fairly hard hit themselves. It wasn’t easy, but he managed a makeshift split to secure his right arm. That left his left arm free to help him maneuver.
Orin and Talan had been in the engine compartment in the back of the tel’tak. Jack had initially believed that the front of the tel’tak had taken most of the damage. He had been wrong. The engine had exploded, taking a good portion of the compartment with it when it blew. Smoke still rose from blackened crystals, but the rain had kept the possibility of fire spreading to a minimum.
He swallowed hard, looking around the devastation. That’s when his eyes caught sight of an arm seeming to reach out from under the debris. Jack dropped to one knee, his hand brushing the debris away from the hand and hoping to god this wasn’t all that was left of the Tok’ra. The fingers shifted under his touch, and he let out a sigh of relief.
Now came the hard part. Jack’s own injuries were making the task of removing debris from Orin more difficult. It was painful and time consuming. Sweat was dripping down his face when he was finally able to shift enough of the debris to reveal Orin’s upper body. The Tok’ra was not in good shape.
Jack leaned over him, putting his left hand on his shoulder. “Come on Orin,” he said. “Wakey, wakey.”
It took a lot of effort for the Tok’ra to open his eyes. Eyes that were glazed with pain. “Jack,” he murmured.
Jack nodded. “Take it easy buddy,” he said. “Let Talan do his job and then we’ll get out of here.”
Orin shook his head slightly and coughed. “I’m… beyond Talan’s help,” he said.
“Come, those snakes can fix anything,” Jack said. “Look at Selmak.”
“Disease… not the same,” Orin replied. Slowly he reached up and gripped Jack’s hand. “I am dying. But you can save Talan….”
Jack stared at him. What was he supposed to do? Carry him around in a jar from planet to planet. Then his face went even whiter. He knew what Orin was asking him. And he was certain Orin had no idea how he felt about that. “I…I…” Jack began with a stutter.
“Please… for me…” Orin asked. His voice had become weaker; a trail of blood was trickling from his nose. He didn’t have enough time.
As abhorrent as it was to him, Jack knew he would do it. Otherwise he would die here as well. Carefully he lay down beside Orin on his left side. The other man turned his head in Jack’s direction.
“Thank you,” Orin whispered.
Jack nodded gruffly. Then he shut his eyes tightly and opened his mouth wide, bracing himself. The next moment his mouth was full and sharp pain piercing his throat, choking as his body instinctively fought to reject the invader. The next moment it was gone, his mouth filled with the taste of blood as he lost consciousness.
Jack slowly opened his eyes. It was no longer raining and there was sunlight shining through the gaps in the tel’tak’s hull. He took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it out. He paused, and then took another deep breath. No pain. He was sure he had cracked a rib in the crash. Sighing, he turned his head and found himself face to face with Orin’s dead body.
Jack swallowed hard, and then carefully sat up. With his left hand he reached up and gently closed the dead man’s eyes before he looked away. He reached up and rubbed his throat. There was a little soreness. Then it all came back to him hard and fast. Orin’s last request, his agreement, the taste of blood in his mouth.
He took a breath and closed his eyes, trying to feel for the Tok’ra symbiote, wondering if he was just waiting for the moment to take over. After a few minutes, he calmed and focused. It was difficult to describe the feeling. The sense he wasn’t alone, but that was all.
He opened his eyes and looked around. “Talan?” he said aloud.
For a moment there was silence. Then a whisper in his mind that only he could hear. “I am...here, Jack,” came the reply.
“Are you okay?” Jack asked.
“I am weak,” Talan replied. “I am concentrating on healing your wounds. Your arm has a compound fracture. That will take me some time.”
“I can still walk,” Jack said. But he was sensing something else from the symbiote. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked.
“Yes, I….” There was another pause. “Orin… I miss him.”
Jack pushed himself to his feet. Talan had healed most of his cuts and bruises. “How long were you together?” Jack asked.
“Almost two hundred years,” Talan replied. “We have…had been through much together.”
“He was a good man,” Jack said. Cradling his broken arm he began to make his way out of the debris of the tel’tak. His words weren’t just a platitude. In the short time he had known the Tok’ra host he had come to like him. He had been a good man.
“Jack, you must rest if I am to heal you,” Talan said in protest. “It is more difficult if you exert yourself and I am trying to become familiar with your body to properly repair the damage.”
Jack didn’t stop. “How about you take a break and rest,” he said. “I have managed through worse. I’ll wake you when we reach the gate and figure out what we’re going to do from there.”
“Jack, you are still injured,” Talan said.
“And the transfer was no picnic for you either, was it?” Jack said. “So the sooner we get somewhere, the sooner we can both take a nice hot shower and a really long nap. So unless you plan to take over my body, go to sleep.”
Jack felt Talan’s surprise and grudging agreement. It actually made him smile. In his mind’s eye he still saw Talan as if he was still in Orin’s body. A mental picture he could talk to than imagining a snake.
He had a snake in his head. Jack was trying very hard not to think about it too much. After some of his experiences, he’d probably freak out completely. The time that Hathor had put a snake in his head, the thoughts of the thing as it tried to take control.
“Enough, O’Neill!” he said aloud, dragging his mind away from those memories. He could feel his hands starting to shake in reaction to his thoughts. Now was not the time. Talan was only a temporary guest. Once back with the Tok’ra he would leave and they would find him another host and he could go back to his life. He hoped.
The hill where the tel’tak had crashed was steep and the vessel had gouged a long trough up the side until it had torn itself apart. Jack picked his way carefully down through the debris left behind. Broken trees, boulders and the like barred the easy path. He hadn’t been sure what time of day it was, but as he traveled he noticed that the sun was rising higher in the sky, which put it at morning on this world.
Jack sat down on a flat stone when he reached the base of the hill. He was breathing hard from the exertion and his muscles ached from the effort it took to get here.
“Jack?” Talan’s voice came to him.
“If you will rest a while, I should be able to work further on your injuries,” Talan said.
Jack shook his head. “No. Not right now.”
“Because we are in an exposed position and I’d really rather not get nibbled on by the local wildlife or a random inhabitant brandishing a spear,” Jack replied. “Let me just rest a minute and you do the same.”
He could almost hear Talan ‘huffing’ in the back of his mind. “If you would allow me to tend to your wounds you would be better able to defend yourself,” the Tok’ra said.
Jack almost smiled. “I know that,” he said. “But now and here is a bad idea. Trust me on this.”
“Very well,” Talan said obviously displeased.
“Take a nap or something,” Jack suggested.
Talan didn’t answer. Or rather there was a disgruntled murmur in the back of his mind he couldn’t quite make out. Jack levered himself off the hard stone and started to make his way down the valley. He remembered the general vicinity of the Stargate from the flyby before they crashed and didn’t think it was too far from where he was now.
It was mid afternoon when he saw the gate appear in the distance. It was surrounded by ankle high grass and little purple flowers. He made his way slowly around it, keeping to the trees as much as possible, but beyond a few animal trails, there was no sign that anything bigger than a rabbit had been in the area. To one side was a babbling brook and he took a long drink before splashing water on his face.
Jack looked at the gate and then the DHD. Now it would get interesting.
There was a pause. Talan had remained silent through most of the trip and Jack had gotten the impression that the symbiote was indeed napping. Or at least resting as much as he was able to. “Yes, Jack?”
“Found the Stargate,” Jack said.
“I can see that.”
Jack’s eyebrow shot up at that rather snarky response from the Tok’ra. “So where do we go?” he asked.
There was another long pause. This was followed by what sounded like a mental sigh. “I am not sure,” Talan replied finally. “There are contacts that I know of that would enable us to send a message to the Tok’ra, but getting to them is not easy, nor do I know what the situation is at their location.”
“How long were you with Apollo?” Jack asked curiously.
“Nine of your earth years, I believe.”
Jack blinked in surprised. Talk about long term tour of duty. “Ooookay,” he said. “Might not be the best way to go.”
“Nor can we go to your world as you do not have your….uh… GDO?”
Jack was thoughtful of a moment. “Do you know where we are?” he asked.
“Yes,” Talan replied. “The world is called Avira, but it is uninhabited.”
“Then you know the address of this world, right?”
“And the point of origin.”
“Jack, I do not understand,” Talan said a little impatiently.
“Trust me,” Jack said. “We’re going to send a message to Earth.”
General Hammond was standing in the gate room, watching the gate intently. Major Carter was sitting at the controls. Standing behind her was Daniel Jackson and Teal’c. He glanced at his watch, then back up at the gate. Below in the gate room troops stood ready. It was now time to see if it would happen again.
With a thunk the gate powered up, the chevrons glowing reddish orange. “Incoming wormhole,” CMSGT Harriman said. With a roar the wormhole engaged, flinging itself forward before coming to a rest. The guards were on alert and ready, rifles pointed at the event horizon.
For the last three days, twice a day, the stargate would engage. With no incoming IDC signal, the iris had remained closed. At first they didn’t understand what was going on. A series of tapping sounds. Until Harriman had recognized them as Morse code. A simple SOS sent twice, followed by a soft thump, and then the gate would disengage.
Today the general didn’t order the iris closed. They were waiting to see what came through. For a long moment there was nothing. Then, in rapid succession, three small pebbles shot out of the event horizon. Then, barely seconds later, three more pebbles with a long interval, then three more in rapid succession. If they had hit the iris it would have created the tapping sound they'd heard before.
The cycle of pebbles was repeated, hitting the ramp as they came through. Then finally a large rock came through, this one wrapped in paper. Then the gate shut down.
Once the general called for the troops to stand down they all hurried to the gate room. The pebbles were just that. Irregular stone that appeared to have come from a stream or river. The larger stone garnered the most interest. Daniel picked it up carefully and then unwrapped the paper from around the stone.
“What do we have, Dr. Jackson?” Hammond asked.
Daniel looked up at the general puzzled. “It’s a gate address,” he said. “That’s all. Just an address. But…” Daniel frowned.
“I’m not sure,” Daniel replied. “The handwriting looks familiar, but I can’t place it.”
“I’ll run the address through the database,” Sam said and took the paper from Daniel’s hand.
“I’ll have the geology department examine the rocks,” Daniel said. “There might be a clue about the planet these came from.”
Two hours later they had their results. General Hammond sat at the head of the table as SG-1-1 sat on either side of him.
“This gate address is in our database,” Sam was saying. “However, it is one of the addresses that Colonel O’Neill had inputted after he downloaded the Ancient’s library. We don’t think the Goa’uld know about this world.”
“Well someone knows enough to know the address to our gate,” Hammond said cautiously. “What about the composition of the stones?”
Daniel opened the folder in front of him. “The small pebbles are nothing more than common stone,” he said. “However, the larger contains traces of naquada.”
“It would appear as if someone wishes to gain our attention,” Teal’c said solemn.
“Someone who wants our help,” Daniel said.
“Someone who knows how we operate,” Hammond said. “They obviously know about the iris and that is why they haven’t tried to come through.”
“General, we can’t just ignore this,” Daniel said.
Hammond nodded slowly. He turned to Sam. “Have a MALP prepared. Its time to see who is trying to get our attention. Dismissed.”
It didn’t take long for the MALP to be outfitted with basic instrumentation. Once it was ready they gathered again in the control room as Sam dialed the address into their computer. A moment later the MALP trundled up the ramp and through the wormhole. Long seconds passed before it reached the other side.
Sam handled the controls allowing the MALP’s cameras to pan around the area. It was a peaceful glade surrounded by trees.
“I expected someone to be waiting for us,” Sam said.
“Perhaps they are being cautious,” Teal’c said. “They would no know what was coming through the gate when it activated.
The MALP’s camera continued to pan around until they saw something, or someone, moving through the trees. It was obviously a man dressed in ragged cloth and furs. He walked straight to the MALP and bent down to look at the camera, pushing his hood away from his face.
There was a gasp from almost all in the control room as they recognized the face.
“Colonel O’Neill?” Hammond asked in shock.
“Yes, General,” Jack replied. “Any chance I could come home? I’m badly in need of a shower.”
“But you’re dead,” Daniel stuttered. I saw you die.”
Jack smiled without humor. “You know the Goa’uld. They don’t let a person rest in peace if there’s information to be had.”
“How did you escape?” Hammond asked. There was still a very cautious tone in his voice. If Jack had been in the hands of the Goa’uld it was possible he had been compromised.
“A Tok’ra,” Jack replied. “Took a ship which we kinda crashed so our supplies are a little limited.”
Hammond nodded slowly. “All right Colonel,” he said. “Come home. You’ll understand we’ll want to check you out.”
Jack nodded. “Don’t blame you,” he said. “See you in a few. You want the MALP back?”
“No, we’ll just leave it there for the time being.” Hammond replied.
Jack nodded again. “See you in a few,” he said and straightened, moving away from the MALP. The camera panned to follow him. He moved to stand by the DHD with his arms crossed rocking back and forth on his heels. A purely restless Jack mode.
At Hammond’s signal, Harriman shut down the wormhole. It was only a few minutes later when the Stargate reactivated. The light from the wormhole flickered, lighting up the room and a figure slowly stepped through, arms raised and hands outspread. The sound of weapons being cocked echoed through the room.
The wormhole shut down behind Jack and Hammond’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Stand down,” he said.
Jack didn’t relax even as the weapons lowered. Hammond quickly entered the gateroom, closely followed by Daniel, Sam and Teal’c. There was definitely the beginning of a beard on his face along with his tatter clothes and rough cured furs.
“It’s all right son,” Hammond said.
“Not quite,” Jack said with a heavy sigh. “I have a zat on my right hip. You may want to go ahead and relieve me of it.”
Hammond looked puzzled but gestured to Teal’c to relieve Jack of the weapon. Only then did he put his hands down.
“I thought there were two of you,” Hammond said. “You said a Tok’ra helped you.”
Jack seemed to sigh again. “He did,” he replied. “And he’s here. In my head. His host died and I didn’t have a jar big enough.”
“He’s blended!” Sam blurted out, finally understanding what she was feeling.
“You may want to call the Tok’ra,” Jack said. “Talan’s been with Apollo for almost ten years.”
Hammond frowned unhappily. “You know what this means,” he said.
Jack nodded. “Full examine with Janet and her penlight of death and isolation until Talan can be vouched for,” Jack said. “Think you could throw in a hot shower and a real meal into the deal? I’ll beg for real coffee.”
Hammond actually smiled faintly at that. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said. “If I could speak to your… passenger.”
Jack seemed to hesitate. Talan had never taken control since they blended. He had never even tried to, content to heal Jack’s wounds and let him handle things. Finally Jack’s eyes closed a moment. Then they opened. There was a flash of white behind the brown pupils, proof enough in itself.
“General Hammond,” Talan said with a slight bow, his voice holding a deep reverberation which was common to goa’uld and Tok’ra. “I am Talan of Kalaver. Your Colonel O’Neill has briefed me on what would be required for my stay here. I will follow your orders as he does.”
Daniel almost smirked. Jack was known for bucking the occasional order. But he looked forward to getting the opportunity to talk to this Tok’ra.
“First thing is to get you checked out, son,” Hammond said.
Jack seemed to stagger for a moment, then put his hand to his head. “Whoa…. That was weird,” he said in his normal voice.
“SG-1, please escort Colonel O’Neill and his guest to the infirmary,” Hammond said.
Surrounded by his teammates, Jack left the gateroom. General Hammond watched them leave. While Major Carter or Dr. Jackson might hesitate if there was a problem, he knew Teal’c would do what was necessary. He left the gateroom himself, heading toward the control room. It was time to send a message to the Tok’ra and hope for an answer in a reasonable amount of time.
It was ‘team’ night at Jack’s house. The first night of the one week down time they had been ordered to take after diverting an asteroid from the earth. Or more precisely, riding an asteroid through hyperspace and through the earth to the other side. Jack didn’t want to think about it. It made his head hurt.
Beer and pizza had been consumed while they watched the Star Wars trilogy. It was one of Teal’c favorites and fast becoming one of Talan’s as well. Jack had suggested Armageddon but the looks of disgust he had gotten with that suggestion told him how close he was to being mauled by his teammates with cushions from the couch.
They were well into the second movie as the hour grew late. Jack was on the couch with his sock clad feet on the coffee table. Daniel was sitting on the other side of him munching on popcorn he had nuked in the microwave. Sam was curled up on Jack’s other side sound asleep, her mouth slightly open in what Jack called a girly snore. Teal’c had taken possession of the recliner and watching the movie with his usual focused interest.
Daniel turned him. “Jack?” he said quietly.
Jack turned to him and put a finger to his lips. “Jack’s asleep,” Talan whispered.
“When did that happen?” Daniel asked keeping his voice low.
Talan smiled. “Just after Luke reached Dagoba,” he replied. “Jack’s eyes closed and I re-opened them.”
“I hear they found a possible host for you,” Daniel said.
Talan nodded. “Yes, we were notified yesterday,” he said. “Jack thinks I should wait and make sure it’s the right situation for me.”
“Jack seems to say that a lot,” Daniel replied. “It’s been eight months and no ‘host’ has been in the ‘right’ situation.”
“True,” Talan said.
“And you never seem to argue the point,” Daniel said. There was a slight smile on his face.
“So why don’t the two of you admit that you like each other and plan to continue the blending?”
Talan gave him the patented O’Neill look of wide eyed innocence. “And ruin our reputation?” He asked. “People will start thinking I’ve grown fond of this arrogant mammal.”
Daniel chuckled softly and dropped the subject.
“Watch it partner,” Jack’s voice echoed quietly in the back of his mind.
“So it is partner now?” Talan replied back silently in their minds. “I never expected to hear that from you.”
“Shut up and watch your movie” Jack said.
Talan just smiled and settled more comfortably on the couch between their two teammates.
“By the way, when are you going to introduce me to sex Tau’ri style?” Talan asked his host in a rather innocent tone.
The last thing he heard was Jack choking and laughing in his mind.
Prompt: The team are
about to go back through the gate, chased by hostiles when Jack is hit and
falls just as the others go thru. Daniel, Sam and Teal'c go back, after
sending a MALP through, which shows that the hostiles are gone but there's
no sign of Jack. Where did he go?