Connections Part Eight
By Tammy K
WARNINGS: Violence, some profanity
CATEGORY: Hurt/Comfort, Drama, Angst
SPOILERS: A Hundred Days, Stargate the movie, minor references to Brief Candle, The Broca Divide, Children of the Gods, Cold Lazarus, Need, Solitudes, The Serpent’s Lair
TIME FRAME: Immediately after A Hundred Days
PAIRINGS: A little Jack/Sam UST
SUMMARY: The team’s efforts to deal with the implications of what happened to Jack on Edora are cut short when a highly advanced society with the power to read and control their victims’ minds targets the Colonel and Daniel.
DISCLAIMER: This story has been created for entertainment purposes only and is in no way intended to infringe upon any copyrights associated with Stargate or Stargate SG-1.
All original characters and situations are the property of the author. Please do not archive without permission.
Sam gasped as she saw the ship in the distance. Even though it was nothing more than a pile of rubble, she could feel evil emanating from the site.
Using the information Marcus had given her, Carter gained access to the force field by pushing a combination of images on the control panel.
“Where are the guards?” The Major wondered out loud as she reviewed the parameter looking for any sign of life.
“Perhaps they feel Garan is no threat to escape and does not warrant supervision.” Teal'c suggested.
Sam didn’t know what to think. “Maybe, but you’d think there would be someone here watching him as a precaution.” Judging from the way Daniel and the Colonel were locked in those metal chairs, she doubted they took anything for granted. She stopped the vehicle.
Garan stood quietly in front of the ship, bracing himself for another trip back to the city. The young man’s eyes filled with tears when he saw the familiar members of SG-1.
“Major Carter, Teal’c! Are you prisoners too?”
Sam laughed and held him in a welcome embrace. “No, believe it or not we’re here to take you home.”
Garan didn’t know what to say. He had hoped to be rescued for so long, but now that they were here he couldn’t believe it.
Teal'c had quickly entered the wreckage, salvaging two staff weapons from a hidden compartment inside. He threw one to the Major, who caught it on the fly. She turned to Garan, who watched his rescuers in shocked silence. “Don’t just stand there, get in the transport.” Sam smiled.
Carter took one last look around the area, her intuition still not satisfied. But with Daniel and the Colonel counting on their return, there was no time to look into it further. So she followed the boy aboard and they rushed back toward the city.
Jack felt the vibrations building under his feet. He steeled himself for anything.
“I see you’re not wearing a headband either.” Daniel said to his captor.
“Not this time. I want to watch the whole show.” He answered cryptically.
Daniel jumped as the floor under his friend started to rise. Ascending higher and higher, Jack soon stood alone over one hundred feet in the air.
The Colonel tried his manacles again, but they were as strong as ever. And even if he could break free, where would he go?
Back in the control center, Solomon activated the matter manipulation program he had designed for this particular event and the platform disappeared, leaving Jack suspended in mid air.
‘At least the manacles are gone.’ Jack thought as he looked at the empty air below him. His heart was in his throat. He knew he would not survive the fall onto the floor below.
“What are you doing?” Daniel yelled. His voice filled with panic. He tried to remind himself of the failsafe device that was supposed to protect them from being killed in the Box. He wished he could be certain that it would be enough.
“Calm yourself, Doctor. The Colonel will be fine.” The chief smiled at his captive’s emotional outburst. It made the event all the more dramatic to have Jackson here to react to his friend’s suffering.
“You told me there was a failsafe device that would save anyone inside the Box. Is that still in place?” Daniel looked deep into his captor’s eyes hoping to see any indication of a lie.
“It is. Remember, I have no intention of losing my most valuable acquisitions.” Solomon was smug.
Jackson listened to the words, but somehow he was not reassured. Chief Solomon was hiding something.
As Jack began to fall he saw the floor changing below him. What had been hard ground was now filling with water.
Colonel O’Neill turned his body to dive just as he penetrated the surface. Luckily the pool was deep enough to support him and soon he had turned and was swimming toward the light.
Daniel breathed a sigh of relief when his friend broke through.
Letting the air fill his lungs as he floated, O’Neill looked for a way to get back on land. Since the pool was bordered on all four sides by the transparent box, he was left treading water.
“Now what!” He yelled up to Solomon.
“A wonderful dive, Colonel. Now a little suspense before the big finish.” He yelled back.
Jack smirked and looked around at the crowd. ‘Pathetic losers.’ He thought as he watched their anticipation. He could feel them inside his head. It was a faint buzzing like an open channel. They were watching his life like a bad TV show and it made him mad. O’Neill wondered why anyone would want to experience his life when they could live a much more fulfilling one for themselves.
How long had he been in the pool? The Colonel had lost track of time. He took a deep breath and let himself sink beneath the surface for a moment. Jack was getting tired.
‘Get on with it!’ He thought. The waiting was wearing on him. Truth be told he was starting to feel fear creeping in around the edges. O’Neill wondered if Solomon would simply let him drown in front of all these worthless people. The rage generated by that possibility gave him the energy to kick hard to the surface, breaking through with a crash.
“I’m not dead yet.” He yelled to an unseeing crowd.
Solomon nodded his regards as Jack turned in the water to face him.
“You are quite an impressive specimen, Colonel. It will be a pleasure to see how much fight you have left.”
“I have to warn you that I won a blue ribbon at my elementary school swimming meet.” O’Neill spit water from his mouth as he spoke. He looked for his friend and met his eyes with a smile.
Daniel tried to return the encouragement even though he certainly didn’t feel that way himself. He saw Solomon hit more controls and suddenly the calm pool began to rage.
Jack cursed as he felt the water churn around him. ‘Here comes the big finale.’ He thought as the current built to dangerous levels. The water threw him from side to side and pulled him under. Thrashing with all his strength, O’Neill used anger to power his fight. Not just at Solomon but also at every worthless spectator sharing his struggles from their comfortable chairs. If they wanted a good show he would give them one, before he ripped out their hearts! Finally he managed to master the sea, floating on his back, he worked hard to catch his breath, shivering from exhaustion and the chilly water.
“He’s won. Now turn it off!” Daniel demanded as Solomon laughed.
“The Colonel’s instinct for survival is impressive, but a few surprises remain.” The Chief was enjoying his presentation, but it was time to unveil the true nature of his prize.
Right on cue, a new churning began. The room was filled with a monstrous roar. Jack looked into the distance as the Box expanded. What he saw made his heart sink. “My God.” He whispered as he watched a giant funnel cloud tearing through the water.
Daniel gasped as the huge cyclone smashed through the water. How was his friend going to make it through that? “I’ll do anything you want, just stop this.” He begged his captor.
Solomon swept his hand out over the audience. “And deprive my people of the adventure of a lifetime? What could you offer me to compete with that?”
The linguist was silent. He really had nothing to give that Solomon couldn’t just take by using the Chair. He turned back to the Box just in time to see the funnel touching down a few feet from Colonel O’Neill.
Jack surveyed his prison and came to the same depressing conclusion as before. There was nowhere to go. The cyclone’s incredible wind pulled him out of the water. O’Neill slammed into the clear wall of his cell. Struggling to regain control of his body, he felt himself being sucked into the center of the storm. Left with nothing to grab hold of, he was consumed by the raging water.
Daniel wanted to look away as he saw his friend beginning to lose the battle for his life. But he couldn’t let Jack struggle alone. Just in case the Colonel looked for his support, he had to be sure he was ready to give it.
The linguist thought Solomon seemed to be waiting for something. He was examining the console in front of him, watching Jack’s every move. Whatever he had been hoping to see must have happened, Jackson thought, as the Chief began to push a new sequence of panels on the console.
The young man froze as Solomon deactivated the failsafe device.
“No! What are you doing!” Daniel lunged forward to reactivate it. Two guards grabbed him before he could reach the console.
“I’m creating the ultimate shared consciousness experience.” The Chief’s face darkened.
“By killing him!” Daniel was indignant.
“Yes. By letting every member of the audience share in his final moments. Imagine the thrill.” Solomon smiled as he raised an arm to all the enthusiastic spectators who were gripped by the Box. Some even cried out in terror at the water pulling them under.
“But that’s not the real highlight is it?” Daniel said sadly.
“Of coarse not, no one would pay a small fortune just to experience death-but resurrection, that’s the real prize.”
Daniel’s heart raced-the sarcophagus! In all the excitement he had forgotten abut the evil Goa’uld device.
“I’m not even sure it will work!” He pleaded.
“You are the foremost expert in the universe. Don’t think I went to all the trouble to find you and the Colonel without the confidence that you could rebuild it successfully.”
Daniel saw Jack crash against the clear wall again. Then he disappeared into the spinning storm, arms thrashing.
“I need to test it first. It’s alien technology.” The linguist continued to look for a way to halt the spectacle.
“I knew you would do everything in your power to stall any testing I authorized. But with your friend lying dead in the Box, I am sure you will make it work.”
Jackson struggled again, he saw that O’Neill had not come up. “Come on, Jack…” He whispered, tears welling in his eyes as he waited desperately for his friend to resurface.
Colonel O’Neill knew he was drowning. As the powerful currents sent him tumbling head over heals into the darkness he had lost all sense of direction. His muscles cramping and his consciousness dimming due to a lack of oxygen, Jack was going down for the last time. Maybe the sarcophagus could bring him back to life, but the fact of the matter was, he was dying.
As water started to enter his lungs, O’Neill silently said goodbye to all the people he cared about. He wished Daniel were not being forced to watch. After all they had shared, he didn’t want his own death to be the last thing between them. He hated leaving General Hammond with the task of telling his parents some hollow story about how their son had died serving his country. And Sara, how could he make her face the death of another member of her family? Even though they’d been divorced for years, he still thought of her as his wife. Odd since he had just spent three months with another woman. Laira…her beautiful face filled his mind, did he really love her? Even he couldn’t answer that one. And Sam…there had been a spark between them since the moment he first saw her. Why had he stormed out of his own Welcome Home celebration? He thought of Teal'c as a brother. The Jaffa would encourage him to fight on, but there was nothing left for him to do, the water was filling his lungs, his strength totally gone. Janet would be really pissed if she could see him now. Even she wouldn’t be able to patch him up this time. The fear passed quickly as he sank farther into the whirling water. After all, a part of him had been waiting to die since he found his son lying in a pool of blood on the bedroom floor. Charlie…would they finally be reunited? God, he hoped so. That thought comforted him as his consciousness grew dim and he faded away.
“Have you learned anything about that device, doctor?” General Hammond walked slowly into the infirmary. He was exhausted, but he couldn’t stay away.
“The research team’s evaluation was inconclusive. But I have a theory that I was just going to test.” Janet took the small device and held it to Colonel Makepeace’s ear. She could feel it vibrating to life.
“It’s self activating?” The General was impressed.
“It seems to be generating some kind of power. I just hope it knows how to move that device out of the Colonel’s brain and back down the auditory canal.” Doctor Frasier added.
“Won’t that leave permanent damage to his hearing?” The General watched it hum to life.
“I don’t think so. Judging from the scarring around the point
I think it repairs tissue behind it, so I’m betting that it will do the same as it exits the around the device. Suddenly Makepeace shook, his back arching in unconscious agony. Frasier regretted the pain, but there was no other way.
A moment later the small metal cylinder was attached to the alien device, like metal filings to a magnet. Colonel Makepeace was free.
“Bravo, doctor. Now what?” The General was grinning from ear to ear. Something was finally going their way.
“I’d like to revive Colonel Makepeace and run a few tests on him. If they’re conclusive I’ll remove the devices from the other men. Another round of x-rays should show if there is any permanent damage.”
“Very good. Carry on. And keep me appraised.” George Hammond let relief wash over him.
“I’ll bring the results to your office, sir.” Janet smiled, proud of her accomplishment. Finally she could actually do something to help the men.
Daniel sobbed as he saw the crowd go silent. Each in a deep sleep, their mind believing they were dead-like Jack…He prayed that he would be able to make the sarcophagus work.
“Now it gets interesting.” Solomon motioned to his guards and they released the archeologist.
“Come with me Dr. Jackson and we will see if your skills match your reputation.”
Daniel hurried behind his captor. Solomon controlled the only device that could save Jack so the linguist had no choice but to follow his orders.
The raging water had disappeared and now the Colonel’s lifeless body was all that lay inside the Box.
Jackson felt the blood rushing to his head, he wanted to scream, but he knew he had to stay calm. His best friend was counting on him.
Solomon grabbed the silk sheet covering and pulled it towards him in dramatic fashion revealing the large sarcophagus. It sat on a mobile platform, guided by one of the buttons on the Chief’s portable controller. He guided it to the Box.
“Go save your Colonel.” He instructed as the transparent wall began to rise.
Daniel followed the coffin inside. Then watched blindly as the Box closed again, now they were both at the mercy of their captor.
With no time to lose he quickly turned the red jewel on the lid and nothing happened.
Jackson’s eyes filled with tears and his hand was shaking. ‘Please, God, make this work.’ He prayed silently as he looked at his friend’s corpse. He was so still it was unreal. Jack O’Neill was a lot of things, but still was not one of them. He was impatient, rude, impulsive, heroic, selfless…. And dead.
Daniel closed his eyes as he turned the stone again. This time it glowed bright red and the alien device rumbled to life, the lid splitting open in three parts.
After thanking God he dragged the Colonel’s dead weight to the side, heaving him into the ancient coffin.
It was no easy task and it left him breathless. He laid Jack on his back, folding his arms over his chest.
He couldn’t help but clear the soaked, grey hair from his friend’s eyes.
‘This has to work.’ He thought as the lids closed again, sealing the Colonel inside.
When their transport stopped outside the arena Sam turned to Garan. “Listen carefully, I need you to stay here. We will probably need to leave in a hurry, so you have to be ready to go. Do you understand?” She was firm. There won’t be any time to look for stragglers with all of Solomon’s guards on their trail.
“Yes, Major. I will be here.” Garan answered sincerely.
“Good. Now let’s go.” She and Teal'c hurried toward the entrance.
“Halt.” They heard behind them. It was Arik.
“We are late for the presentation.” Sam smiled her best airhead smile.
“I’m sure you are. But I recognize both of you from Edora. Members of Colonel O’Neill’s SG-1, I presume.”
Sam’s shoulders fell. They were caught before they even made it into the building.
But suddenly Arik slumped to the ground. Carter and Teal'c turned quickly to see Dayna standing over the unconscious man with a tool from the transport.
“You are so right. That was exhilarating. I need to get out and do some of this myself and forget about the Chair.” Dayna laughed, surging with adrenaline.
“I thought you weren’t going to help us?” Sam asked, smiling.
“I wasn’t. Everything was exciting and perfect when I could sit in the Chair miles away from my victims. But when I looked into Colonel O’Neill’s eyes I saw what was really happening to him because of people like me and I knew I had to do something to stop it.”
Dayna felt liberated. “Now what are we going to do with him?” She asked.
“I have an idea.” Sam smiled examining the fallen commander.
Daniel heard the hum of unknown machinery as the device surged with power. It seemed like an eternity, but finally the audience began to stir. Jackson held his breath as he waited for the chamber to open.
Jack O’Neill awoke with a start. Gripped by momentary panic, he clawed at the sides of the metal coffin. Where the hell was he? Gradually the Colonel began to remember what had happened and his breathing calmed. Recognizing the Goa’uld device that had saved his life, he sighed, irritated to owe his resurrection to the sarcophagus. But since Solomon went to all that trouble to bring him back, O’Neill vowed to do his best to put an end to the chief’s little pleasure planet.
Outside in the arena, Doctor Jackson said a silent prayer as the top of the golden machine began to separate. To his relief, it opened to reveal a fully healed Jack O’Neill.
The archeologist grabbed his friend and helped him to his feet.
“Whoa there, Danny, don’t break my arm! I’m fine.” Jack couldn’t believe it himself as he held his weeping friend.
“You did good, Daniel. Thanks.” He whispered.
“I was so afraid that you were dead.” He whispered back.
“I was.” Jack clutched Daniel. He had come back from the dead…what a rush!
The Colonel saw his own reflection in the refracted wall of the Box. “Why didn’t it get rid of the grey?” He frowned, running his fingers through his hair.
“What?” Daniel was still overcome with relief at his friend’s resurrection.
“Nothing. Just thinking out loud…” Jack answered absently. Looking down at his gloved hand he flexed it without pain. ‘At least one good thing had come out of all this.’ He thought as he pulled off the glove and threw it to the ground.
Solomon strutted to the middle of the stage. He was glowing with success. “Ladies and Gentlemen, now you have seen my newest acquisition. It will allow you to experience the power of resurrection. As many times as you wish.”
The crowd erupted with applause.
“Can you believe these guys.” Jack laughed with disgust.
Daniel just shook his head. He had a sinking feeling as he considered the real meaning behind Solomon’s words. Jack would be killed over and over again. Then he could drag his friend’s lifeless body to the sarcophagus and bring him back every time. The thought was unbearable.
“Our next performance will be later this afternoon. Be sure to come early because the tickets will disappear quickly.”
Jack shook his head. “I wouldn’t count on it King Solomon. You and your arena full of blood suckers are just about out of time.” Jack stood in the center of the Box, looking at everyone there.
“You know if I didn’t hate you guys so much I might feel sorry for you sitting here getting your jollies by watching my rotten luck.”
Solomon laughed. “But you only live now because of the sarcophagus.”
“True. But when my life flashed in front of my eyes down there it was real.” He turned to everyone again. “Can any of you say the same? Or did my life flash in front of your eyes too?” Jack laughed again.
“This machine must be destroyed. Can’t you see what you’re doing is wrong.” Daniel implored them to reconsider.
No one was convinced.
Jack had seen enough. Whatever happened now was on their heads.
“Forget about them, Danny boy. The party’s over.” He turned back to the control room, where Arik and another guard moved behind Solomon.
“Carter. Now!” He yelled.
Arik came forward and moved his hands over the console. “Ready Colonel.” Sam yelled from inside the soldier’s body. The Box began to lift around O’Neill and Jackson. Soon it was gone.
Daniel smiled as he looked up at Arik. Sam made it right on time!
The other guard removed his headdress to reveal himself as Teal'c. The Jaffa quickly tossed Colonel O’Neill a staff weapon retrieved from the crash site.
He caught it with one hand. “Thanks you two. Now it’s time to take care of these jokers. Danny, take Teal'c and get us some reinforcements.” Jack said as he saw Solomon’s guards gathering around them.
“Where?” The scientist asked.
“Use your imagination!” O’Neill yelled over the commotion.
“Be careful.” Daniel touched Jack’s shoulder. Then he and Teal'c met by the exit.
“You too. And make it quick! This is gonna get nasty!” Jack smiled as they ran toward the exit.
Then the Colonel turned back to the middle of the arena. He looked around the large room as the crowd was beginning to understand what was happening below them. Many of them were running toward the doors, blocking the entryway. That was a lucky break, Jack thought. No more guards could get in. It was time to put an end to the whole damn thing.
“Now my good people. Could I have your attention please!” O’Neill yelled above the chaos, quickly silencing the crowd.
Daniel turned as well. It was something he had to see.
“The Show’s over. It’s time for all of you to GET A LIFE!” Jack yelled with a wicked smile as he aimed his staff weapon at the large crystal sphere powering their entire society.
It took three hits to shatter the incredible device, but finally it exploded. Sparks and hot cinders rained over the arena. Jack didn’t care. The buzzing in his head was finally gone.
He was free!
Daniel smiled sadly as he watched the ball burst into flames. He regretted helping to bring about the end of the Nekaran way of life. But it had been long overdue. Relishing his newly cleared head, he and Teal'c pushed their way out of the arena.
Marcus held his breath as he watched O’Neill destroy the crystal. He thought back to when he and Solomon had discovered the power source. Those were days of such promise. The two men would build a perfect world together. So how had they gotten to the point where he would be gratefully watching an alien destroy the foundation of their society? He couldn’t imagine.
Tears filled Dayna’s eyes. She loved the mind sharing technology. It had been her all consuming obsession ever since she met Marcus. But now with the destruction of the crystal, she knew there could be no more time in the Chair. If that had happened yesterday, she would have been ready to kill O’Neill for his attack on their way of life. But after seeing what her entertainment had cost the heroes of Abydos, her whole worldview had changed. Looking up at the flaming remains, she was sad, but not devastated. It was definitely time for a change.
Yelling at the top of his lungs, O’Neill leaned back with his arms outstretched as the sparks fell down on him like a cleansing spring rain. He could hear panic erupting all around him and it felt great. The citizens of Nekara were getting a much-needed lesson in retribution.
When he stood, the Colonel reached up and tore the metal triangle from his forehead. Ignoring the pain, he threw the bloody object at Solomon in the control tower. The Chief of Zencorp stared at the chaos in shocked disbelief. How could everything have collapsed so quickly?
Jack wiped the blood from his forehead with a wide smile. Now it was official!
Before he knew it, Carter/Arik was beside him, weapon drawn. She saw the blood flowing down her CO’s cheek. “Are you alright, sir?”
“I’m Great. Thanks to you. Carter, if you weren’t a man right now I’d kiss you!” He yelled over the noise.
“Maybe later, sir.” She laughed.
Now that he was free of the mind-sharing device, he surveyed their situation. Severely outnumbered, they needed help fast.
“Get some reinforcements he says! Leave it to Jack to give me another impossible mission.” Daniel said looking up and down the street.
“We must hurry. The Colonel and MajorCarter will soon be overrun by Solomon’s guards.” Teal'c said following Daniel’s worried glance.
“I know! But where are we going to get a sympathetic group of men on such short notice?” Jackson tried to calm down and think. The only large group of men he had seen was back in the stalls…
“That’s it!” He yelled and started running.
“Where are we going, DanielJackson?” Teal'c yelled as he followed closely behind his friend.
“Our living quarters. They should be ready to strike back against Solomon and his guards.”
Teal'c nodded. He hoped others would have the same reaction to the Tau’ri that he had back on Chulak.
Jackson froze when they arrived at the large structure. There was no way in.
“Damn, I forgot about the wrist band.” Daniel felt the panic rising. “We’ll need one to create an entrance.
“I have secured such a device.” Teal'c showed him the wristband he had grabbed from Arik’s guard when Carter and he entered the arena.
Daniel beamed with joy. “That’s the one!” He put it on his wrist and pressed the green button, as he had watched the guards do many times over the pervious days. A doorway appeared.
Taking a deep breath Daniel entered the prison as confidently as he could. No one paid any attention to him. He was a regular now.
‘How am I going to reach them?’ Jackson thought as he looked at the haunted faces. Finally he stopped near the center of the room. “I need to speak to all of you! I have good news!” He yelled.
Some prisoners turned to look at him so he continued. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the buzzing in your head had stopped. Colonel O’Neill has destroyed the power crystal. You’re free!”
The men began to stir with uncertainty. Was it true, or just more false hope?
“I know it’s hard to believe me, but Jack is fighting for his life in the arena right now and we need your help to save him!”
“Where am I?” Robert Makepeace whispered as he regained consciousness.
“It’s good to see you, Colonel. You’re in the infirmary. How do you feel?” Janet smiled as she took his pulse and listened to his heartbeat.
“Other than one hell of a headache, not bad.” He didn’t sense any broken bones or gunshot wounds. And the last thing he remembered was going home with a headache after returning from Nekara.
“Good. I’ve taken some x-rays of your right ear and after I see those I’d like to do a full physical.” Janet said as she stood beside him.
“What happened?” The Colonel asked. Why all the fuss? He wondered.
“You and your men were implanted with a mind control device on Nekara. We’ve just removed it and I need to be sure you’re alright.”
“What about my men? Are they ok?” He was worried.
“They should be fine. At this point they’re still under sedation but I’ll have them awakened after we confirm that your test results are satisfactory.”
“Thank the lord.” The Colonel closed his eyes as memories flooded his brain. “O’Neill. I feel like I did something to O’Neill.” Makepeace remembered a compelling need to get the rest of his men and go visit Colonel O’Neill. But he wasn’t sure what had happened next.
“We believe that you were forced to implant the Colonel and Doctor Jackson them with these same devices to compel them to go to Nekara.”
Makepeace was stunned and angry at himself for his weakness. How could he and his men have fallen under enemy control without even a fight?
Janet sensed his emotions and stroked his head gently. “Don’t beat yourself up over this, Colonel. It wasn’t your fault.”
Robert was silent.
“Doctor Frasier’s right, Colonel. You and your men were as much victims as O’Neill and Jackson.” General Hammond said as he entered the room.
“Thank you, sir.” Makepeace snapped to attention, even in a hospital bed.
“At ease, Colonel. Get some rest.”
“Yes sir. Are O’Neill and Jackson alright?” He asked.
“Unfortunately we don’t know. They disappeared. But we will find them. Now get some sleep Colonel. That’s an order.”
The General followed Doctor Frasier to her office to examine the latest x-rays as Makepeace drifted off to sleep.
“I was getting impatient in my office, Doctor. What have you found?” Hammond asked as they entered the dark room.
“The cuts and abrasions appear to be healing. Even the eardrum is prefect.” Janet marveled at the Colonel’s quick recovery.
“Thank goodness. So you’re saying we can successfully remove this thing?”
“Yes, General. I am.”
As laser fire erupted all around them, Jack and Sam ducked behind the sarcophagus. The alien metal made a great shield. ‘At least it was good for something.’ Jack thought as he shot into the crowd.
“They’d better get back here soon or we’ll be extra crispy.” He yelled to Carter/Arik who had been returning fire of her own.
“Carter, why aren’t you back in your own body? I destroyed the crystal thingee.” Jack yelled above the noise.
“Residual power buildup I guess. The device must possess some residual storage capacity.” Sam answered as she ducked a blast that just missed Arik’s left ear. “I don’t know how long we can take this sir!” She yelled as she got back to her feet.
“As long as we have to.” O’Neill knew Daniel would return with a creative solution. All they had to do was hold on until he did.
“Listen to me! If you come with us and help defeat Solomon’s army you can all go free.” Daniel was getting worried. No one seemed at all interested in helping them, and they were running out of time.
Teal'c stepped forward. “I too was a prisoner.” He began. Then he ripped off the bandanna covering his forehead. Men gasped as they looked upon the mark of Apophis.
“Apophis imprisoned me for many years. But the Tau’ri showed me that a slave can defeat his master. Let us help you do the same.”
Daniel nodded. “We will lead you out of this hell, all you have to do is help us!”
“And help yourselves.” Teal'c added.
“Ah…Damn it!” Jack fell backwards in pain as a staff weapon blast grazed his elbow.
“Are you alright, sir?” Carter/Arik yelled, unable to stop firing for fear they would be overrun.
“No, I’m not! Son of a bitch! Where the hell is Daniel?” He crawled back to his haunches and continued firing. Suddenly a guard landed behind the injured Colonel.
Jack used his staff as a club, knocking the guard back, but he had exposed their weakness and other guards began running toward him. Soon he was pinned against the sarcophagus by half a dozen Nekarans.
“Get out of here!” O’Neill yelled through the pile. Sam hesitated, not sure whether she could fire into the Nekarans without hitting her commanding officer. Either way she wasn’t going anywhere. ‘Why did he always do that?’ She thought with irritation. ‘How can I leave him behind? How could any of us?’ She ignored his orders and fired over the guards’ heads.
“Get off of him, NOW!” She yelled, using Arik’s commanding baritone.
Carter/Arik fired again, this time hitting one of the Nekarans in the back. The small group grabbed their fallen comrade and grudgingly retreated. But she knew it wouldn’t last. The Colonel scrambled to his feet, brushing off what was left of his torn clothes.
Sam noticed her commanding officer’s tight gold lamee bodysuit for the first time. “That’s some uniform, sir.” She smiled through Arik.
“Nice and comfy too. I may have to ask Hammond to make these standard issue for all SG units.” He smirked as he picked up his staff weapon and fired into the group that had attacked them.
Sam laughed. It would certainly add a new layer to the standard good will mission.
Suddenly Carter/Arik moaned and fell backwards. The smell of blood and burned flesh choked Colonel O’Neill before his mind could process what had happened. His left side slick with blood, Jack turned to see the familiar red fluid pouring onto the floor all around him. Arik’s body lay in gory pieces, cut in two by a massive laser blast. Solomon’s chief of security had been killed instantly.
“Damn it, Carter!” Jack cursed as he looked at what was left of the man’s corpse. Was the Major dead, too? He didn’t know, but he desperately ripped the metal device from the man’s forehead, hopefully that would break the link and send her back to her own body.
Either way, now he was alone. The Nekaran guards had regrouped in front of him. Their weapons primed for a final charge. His back pressed against the cold metal of the sarcophagus, there was nowhere left to go.
Suddenly Solomon’s voice filled the room. “Surrender now, Colonel, or you will be killed, and I promise you it will be permanent this time.”
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be, you moron. Death is permanent and that’s why people should get their hands dirty and live while they can, not sit in a room pretending to be alive by invading someone else’s mind.” He fired his staff just above Solomon’s head.
“Surrender,” Jack laughed with new vigor borne of acceptance. “Don’t count on it!” If he had to die, at least he would die fighting. What more can a soldier ask?
As the guards began to move in on him, O’Neill fired into the crowd. The blast slowed them for a moment. But the Colonel was outnumbered and outgunned. He knew he would soon be overwhelmed by the charging troops. Attacking as efficiently as he could, Jack ducked to avoid the searing lasers.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t move quickly enough and a blast hit him square in the left arm. He dropped to his knees, cradling the useless limb against his chest.
Damn! Jack’s heart sank. He had just run out of time.
Solomon’s guards had him right where they wanted him. The Chief watched with great satisfaction. Maybe he would bring the Colonel back one more time with the sarcophagus just to watch him fight for his life again. Even without the mind-sharing device, his struggles would provide great entertainment.
Jack braced himself for one final battle. Soon a laser blast would end his life for the second time today. That had to be some kind of record.
Suddenly the Colonel heard a mass of men just outside the stadium. He smiled when Teal'c burst through the doorway, followed by a hundred prisoners.
The thundering captives let out years of frustration on the hapless guards. Within a few minutes none were left standing.
“Way to go!” Jack cheered as he sat back on his knees in pain. Saved again! He must have been living right.
Solomon cursed as he saw his guards overrun by the very men they had been trained to subdue. The broken remains of the power crystal hung sizzling in the air. All his dreams were burning with it. Without the energy created by the marvelous device the city itself would soon disappear. Already he could see the matter manipulator’s work dissolving before his eyes. The grand columns that had lined the arena were fading. Even the walls of the great showplace were dissolving, exposing the scaffolding beneath them. He had maintained the perfect society for over 30 years and O’Neill and Jackson had destroyed it in only a few days.
Cursing the fates for abandoning him, Solomon decided there was nothing left to do but run.
“Going somewhere? Daniel asked as he blocked his former captor’s exit.
Solomon gasped in surprise. “Haven’t you done enough?” He asked enraged.
“Excuse me? You kidnapped US.” The linguist was indignant.
“A serious mistake. I should have had you both killed.”
Daniel smiled. He was enjoying the chief’s anger more than he would care to admit. “But you didn’t. Instead you tried to use us to have yourself declared King for life. Now that’s noble.” He smiled as Solomon moved to pass him.
“You’re not going anywhere. No, I’m wrong, you’re going to jail where you’ll be tried by your peers. Frankly, that’s more than you deserve.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Doctor. I have no peers on this planet. Look at them running for their lives. None of them have ever had to do the kinds of things I’m capable of.”
Suddenly Solomon grabbed the zat gun Daniel had shown him how to use and blasted him with it. Jackson fell against the control panel unconscious.
Several minutes later, Marcus and Dayna found the linguist lying on the floor.
“Where’s Solomon?” Daniel rasped as he regained his senses.
“He’s gone.” Marcus answered, helping the young man to his feet.
“We have to find him.” Dayna urged, afraid the chief would find a way to reestablish control of the city.
Marcus nodded, turning to check on the archeologist.
Daniel waived them away. “Go. I’ll be ok.” He shook off the cobwebs in his head as he watched the Nekarans hurry out the door.
Jack smiled painfully as Teal'c helped him to his feet. “Thanks, where’s Carter?” He said through clenched teeth.
“I’m here, sir.” She said as she hurried to his side through the chaos.
“Are you alright?” Jack asked, remembering Arik’s bleeding corpse.
“I’m fine sir. When Arik was killed our link was severed.”
“That’s a relief. I didn’t know if that would work because my death didn’t affect the audience link in here.” Jack said.
“It must have had something to do with the nature of the consciousness sharing technology versus a direct mind link.” Sam explained, secretly relieved that she had not been forced to witness the Colonel’s death and resurrection. “We should have an opportunity to study their science more closely back at the SGC.”
“Even that sounds interesting as long as we do it at home.” Jack felt his balance wavering.
“You don’t look so good, sir.” Sam placed an arm on her CO’s shoulder to help steady him. Then she noticed the blood oozing down his entire left side. “My God, is that yours?” She examined his side looking for a large wound.
“No, Carter, actually it’s yours.” O’Neill cocked his head to one side as he spoke, a devilish smile crossing his face. “Arik’s I mean. He kinda blew up all over me back there.”
Sam sighed with relief. She had feared the worst.
“I’ll be OK. I’ve had bigger booboo’s from slipping in the shower.” Jack smiled. He looked around at the prisoners. They were holding their own against the remaining guards. Some had already dispatched their jailers and the fighting had spilled over into the crowd. O’Neill had no sympathy for the parasites. They deserved what they got.
For the first time they noticed that the arena itself was disappearing.
“This whole place is falling apart around us.” Jack announced gleefully.
“Yes, sir. But I think we’ll be safe. It looks like there’s enough support scaffolding to keep everyone from falling through the floor.” Carter had been studying the ground level construction as she ran back into the arena. Many areas of metal reinforcement beams were already exposed.
“Cool.” O’Neill answered, watching the remnants of the box fade away before his eyes.
Daniel struggled through the brawling masses. He dodged a punch here, pushed away a falling man there and generally just tried to stay out of everyone’s line of fire.
Finally he joined his friends.
“It’s like a war zone in here.” He said, breathless.
“But the good guys are winning for a change. Where’s Solomon?” Jack looked up at what was left of the empty control room. Only scaffolding and glass remained.
“He slipped away. I doubt he’ll get far.”
“When the prisoners are done in here I’m sure they’ll be happy to go get him. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when they catch up with him.” Jack said smiling. He looked around the arena, taking in all the fighting with satisfaction. He didn’t get to burn it all to the ground, but this was good enough. “Well kids, I guess our work here is done.” He announced as they all turned to leave.
“Not so fast. You’re not finished with me.”
Jack cursed his luck when he saw who had spoken. It was Cade and he looked very unhappy.
“You’re free. Go enjoy it.” Daniel said as he eased in front of Jack.
“Maybe I liked things the way they were!” The large man’s voice boomed.
“Reign in hell on your own time. Everybody else here is over this prison crap.” Jack said, moving forward to face him.
“We have unfinished business.” The Giant said.
O’Neill thought for a moment. “You know, you’re right. I should have kicked your oversized butt the first day we met.” The Colonel said as he clenched his good fist in a fighting stance.
“Come on Jack, let’s get out of here.” Daniel touched his friend’s elbow, hoping to reason with him. But O’Neill’s glare told him the answer.
“We have to finish this.” He said motioning the others away.
“He could kill you.” Daniel whispered. “Maybe you should let Teal'c fight him.”
Jack was getting mad. “What!” He whispered harshly, fire in his eyes. “I didn’t see Teal'c picking oatmeal out of his hair every night.”
“Teal'c doesn’t have hair.” Daniel sighed. There was no way he could win this argument. Jack had suffered so much at the hands of the large man. Maybe he did deserve the chance to get some satisfaction. Jackson moved out of the way as the two enemies faced each other.
“It’s just you and me this time. No force fields and no goons.” Jack said as they circled each other.
“You will regret challenging me.” The Giant growled.
“Now that’s the problem right there. I never challenged you. What you really need is a shrink. You have issues.” O’Neill smirked just before he lunged toward his adversary.
The warriors locked arms, struggling for position. Jack groaned at his opponent’s strength. He needed to find some way to minimize Cade’s size advantage or this was going to be the shortest one on one in Nekaran history.
While the two men were fighting for their lives in the middle of the failing arena, the rest of SG-1 worked to keep the Giant’s goons at bay. Teal'c grabbed the first man who came forward. Sam kicked another man who tried to storm the arena. Daniel used Jack’s staff weapon to fire warning shots over the heads of five more men waiting to charge the scene.
The Colonel yelled as he hit the far wall hard. He seemed to go right through the wall, hitting the bone crunching metal scaffolding behind it. The impact jarred his senses, but it didn’t stop him. Jack scrambled to his feet and charged the Giant again, hitting him hard in the throat.
That rocked the big man giving Jack a momentary advantage. O’Neill stepped closer following up with a fist to the midsection and another chop to the Adam’s apple. But the strength of his adversary was overwhelming and when the Giant countered with a powerful right to the stomach, the Colonel felt a rib crack. He doubled over, desperate to catch his breath.
Cade slammed a fist down on O’Neill’s back, driving him to his knees. Cradling his ribs with a burned left arm, Jack grabbed Cade’s right leg behind the knee, sending him tumbling backwards to the ground.
The big man shook his head, surprised by O’Neill’s skill. It was time for a new plan. Cade rolled forward and grabbed his enemy’s charred arm. Jack screamed at the pain, struggling to pull free.
Daniel and Sam turned at the sound of their friend’s suffering. They wanted to help, but Jack waved them away.
“My fight!” The Colonel growled, gouging his fingers into Cade’s eyes until he let go. Jack looked at his bleeding, throbbing arm and grimaced. The searing pain only made him madder.
O’Neill yelled with determination as he leaped at Cade. The large man turned just in time to grab his opponent in mid air, slamming him down onto the sarcophagus. Pinned on top of the stone coffin, The Colonel wriggled to get out from under the large man’s grasp, but he was too heavy. O’Neill was trapped.
Then Cade squeezed one large hand around Jack’s throat, choking him. The Giant had all the leverage and O’Neill quickly began to lose consciousness. He knew he had to do something to break the hold soon or it would be all over.
Desperately groping for any available weapon, Colonel O’Neill found a piece of the shattered power crystal lying aside him on top of the lid. With all his energy, he smashed it into the Giant’s face.
But nothing happened.
Sam and Daniel couldn’t wait anymore, they knew they had to do something before it was too late. Daniel aimed his staff to fire, but one of the Giant’s men grabbed the linguist from behind, pinning his arms at his sides. Sam rushed to help him.
Meanwhile, O’Neill smashed the metal into Cade’s face again and again, each blow splattered blood from the Giant’s nose and mouth into Jack’s eyes making it hard for him to see. The Colonel blinked fiercely to clear his vision as he continued the assault. Finally the large man collapsed, releasing his strangle hold. Jack coughed and gasped, trying to catch his breath.
Soon the Giant began to rise, his face covered with blood. He had a jagged shard of metal of his own and he shoved it into Jack’s left thigh. The Colonel screamed in agony.
“Stop!” Marcus yelled as he watched a familiar figure hurrying toward a vehicle at the edge of town. Solomon turned to see his former partner running in his direction. The chief waited until Marcus and Dayna were standing before him.
“Coming to join me, friend?” He asked, smiling slyly.
Marcus frowned. “You must return with us to face your victims. Answer for your crimes.”
“OUR crimes. You and I started this community together.” Solomon corrected.
“That is true. We did share the same dream many years ago. But what you call Lacitta now in no way resembles what we had envisioned. Try to remember what we thought about back then. We wanted to improve the lives of our people. Turning them into lethargic parasites was the farthest thing from our minds.” Marcus desperately wished he could get through to his friend before it was too late.
Solomon laughed. “The years have made you soft. We wanted to give our people a new way of life and that is exactly what we did. I will not apologize for that.” The chief turned to board his transport vehicle. There was nothing more to say. “Go back to Lacitta and preach to your people. They will need a new leader now.”
Marcus knew the only way to stop his friend was to shoot him, and he could not do that. He watched silently as the man boarded his transport and disappeared.
“We should have done something to detain him.” Dayna spoke for the first time.
“I know.” Marcus answered as he turned to walk back to the arena. “But now we have more important things to worry about.”
Dayna nodded. Her friend was the only person who could help the citizens of Lacitta make a fresh start.
Carter had subdued Daniel’s attacker with a blow to the head and they turned just in time to hear their friend scream. Sam wanted to run to him, but she knew the Colonel needed to prove something to himself. He had been subjected to every level of indignity here on Nekara and this was his way of taking back his self-respect. She felt it was her duty as a fellow soldier to honor his wishes. She would have to stand by and watch, no matter what happened.
Daniel stared at the giant man as he twisted the metal shard deep into the Colonel’s leg. Cade had made their lives a living hell for days. He could still feel the large man on top of him, hear the sound of his voice as he proclaimed that he could take anything he wanted from them.
Someone had to stop him.
The linguist knew that someone was Jack O’Neill. After all, the Colonel was right, he had been the star of Cade’s sick nightly rituals. But Jackson worried that his friend was too weak from days of torturous captivity to do it alone. And Jack was too proud to ask for help, so he would have to give it to him whether he wanted it or not.
Having made up his mind to intervene, Daniel hurried into the battle, staff weapon drawn.
“Now we will finish it!” The Giant smiled as he moved toward Jack, carrying a large piece of the crumbling power crystal. O’Neill fell back against the sarcophagus like a rag doll. He was exhausted and out of options.
“Stop or I’ll shoot!” Daniel yelled.
“Get out of here, Daniel!” Jack gasped through clenched teeth. He wondered how the linguist had managed to live this long without any sense of self-preservation.
The Giant turned towards Daniel. “Well, well, well, who do we have here.”
“I said stop!” Daniel prepared to fire. He hoped the Giant couldn’t see his hands shaking.
“No.” The Giant was supremely confident. “You are of no concern to me. O’Neill protected you from the moment you arrived here, little man. You are not a warrior.”
Suddenly the Giant hurled that large object at Daniel. The young man scrambled out of the way as quickly as he could, dropping his staff weapon in the process. As he tripped over a rock, the large projectile bounced harmlessly behind him. Sam quickly rushed to her friend’s side. The Giant laughed as he examined his two new victims.
Jack recovered his senses just in time to see what was happening to his teammates. The sight enraged him. “Hey Andre, remember me?” He yelled as the Giant focused on Sam and Daniel.
“Chew on this!” Jack ripped the bloody shard from his own leg and hurled it at his enemy’s head. The sharp metal lodged in the Giant’s forehead right between his eyes, sending him toppling to the ground, unconscious.
O’Neill collapsed, sliding down the side of the sarcophagus to the ground. Seeing the giant lying in a pool of his own blood left the Colonel cold. It was over.
“Jack!” Daniel hurried to his friend’s side, embracing him warmly.
O’Neill examined the linguist through an exhausted haze. “What were you doing?” He whispered harshly, his eyes closed.
“Keeping him busy. I knew you’d come up with something.”
Jack laughed, grimacing as his ribs protested. “Right.” He embraced Daniel’s neck, smiling.
O’Neill turned his attention to his second in command as she examined his bloody leg. “Ow! Major, you’d better take that refresher course in first aid before you kill me.” The Colonel complained with a twinkle in his eye as Carter wrapped his wounded leg in a piece of her sweater.
“Yes, sir.” She returned his grin.
Finally Teal'c was at their side, having subdued most of the Giant’s men.
“There you are.” Sam said noticing her friend didn’t even seem to be breathing hard.
“You’re a regular one man army, my friend.” Jack smiled.
The Jaffa nodded modestly.
“Thanks, all of you.” He gripped Daniel’s shoulder. The four members of SG-1 shared a moment of sheer joy. O’Neill and Jackson were free, and they were all going home!
“Now get me out of here.” Jack said, feeling drained. Teal'c and Daniel helped him to his feet.
“Something on your mind, Major?” O’Neill asked, afraid his brainy second in command had found a flaw in their escape plan.
Carter looked back at the Sarcophagus. “Sir, you have some pretty serious injuries...”
Jack followed her gaze and his face hardened. “You can’t be serious.”
Sam looked at the floor, suddenly embarrassed to have even suggested it. “No sir, I was only trying to help.”
Jack nodded. “I know. Just don’t do it again.” Even though Carter’s suggestion had made him mad, it did remind him that there was still that little bit of unfinished business in the arena.
He turned to Daniel who nodded his agreement. Both men knew what had to be done. They could not leave such a powerful instrument of evil behind for the dubious citizens of Nekara. They would certainly use it to subjugate more innocent people. The linguist raised Jack’s staff weapon and fired at the golden coffin. The first blast short-circuited it and the second turned the once grand device into a steaming hulk of useless metal.
“There’s the only thing that oversized coffin is good for, target practice.” O’Neill said as he nodded to Sam for emphasis.
Carter had to agree. “Should we move out, sir?” She asked.
“Definitely. Major, lead the way.”
The Colonel took in the chaos that filled the arena one last time. He had outlived the sickening spectacle. A promise kept.
“O’Neill, Jackson, you did it!” Krel and Jenna hurried to their side, brimming with enthusiasm.
“Krel! Good to see you made it.” Jack stopped to pat him on the shoulder.
“I knew you would be the ones to free us from Solomon.”
“Just make sure it stays that way. If anyone starts to rebuild this place, shoot’em.” Jack wasn’t kidding.
Daniel frowned at the dubious advice. “Or at least make sure they don’t get a chance to enslave you again. The prisoners and the townspeople will have to find some way to work together here.”
“And we will.” Marcus added, joining his new-found comrades.
“Good. And as for you little lady,” Jack shook off his protectors and leaned in close to kiss Jenna on the cheek. “Thanks.” He whispered.
“Take care, O’Neill.” She smiled as Jack turned to let his friends support his tired body.
“Oh, I always do. Don’t let any of these Nekaran playboys take advantage of you now.” The Colonel shot a warning glance to his new-found friend. “She’s a real beauty. You treat her right.”
“I sure will.” The young Nekaran touched Jenna’s hand and she blushed.
“Well good.” Jack gave a short bow to the happy couple.
“You didn’t catch up with Chief Solomon?” Daniel asked Marcus, looking around the arena.
“We spoke for a moment, then he boarded a transport and escaped.” Marcus did not regret letting his friend get away. He was not interested in retribution.
“Don’t worry about him, he’ll turn up. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes if any of these big guys find him. It could get ugly.” Jack mused. Solomon had made his bed, now his victims had every right to make him lie in it.
“I’d almost like to see that.” Daniel added. He too believed the chief would get his just desserts.
Marcus surveyed the hapless crowd. Dazed by the destruction of their power crystal, they didn’t know where to turn. The citizens of Nekara were in need of a leader. “Now it’s time for us to move forward without him.”
“You are just the guy to make that happen.” O’Neill warmly shook hands with the Nekaran.
“The planet is in good hands.” Daniel added and gripped the man’s hand as well.
Teal'c nodded a silent farewell. “Still the quiet one, Teal’c. Marcus smiled. “Many thanks to all of you. Be well.” Marcus bid good-bye to the Colonel, Daniel and Teal’c before turning to Sam Carter. “You have good friends, Major Carter.”
“Yes I do.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“I owe you a debt of gratitude.”
“It was my pleasure. You’re a good man.” Sam smiled her warmest smile.
“Be well, Major.” Marcus knew he would miss her.
“Be well, Marcus.” Carter answered.
“Maybe you could return in a cycle or so to see how much our society has changed.” Dayna suggested as she and the other citizens of Sarafeen joined them.
“I’d like that. I know it will be something special.” Sam said as she and Dayna shook hands and exchanged a smile. Then the major rejoined her team.
Dayna and Colonel O’Neill exchanged a momentary glance. Jack nodded his thanks as the Nekaran bowed her head out of respect and admiration. She was satisfied to see that the light had returned to her hero’s eyes. The young woman hoped she could create some adventures of her own without the Chair.
Marcus turned to address the crowd. “Listen to me, people of Nekara.” He spoke with the bearing of a leader. But few heard him over the booming chaos.
Jack shook his head at the unruly crowd. “Give me that.” He motioned to Daniel for his staff weapon.
The linguist hesitated. “Why?” He had no idea what the Colonel had in mind, and that scared him.
“Don’t worry, I’m not gonna shoot anybody.” Jack answered as he took the weapon and pointed above the heads of the crowd. It took four blasts of the powerful staff before he had their undivided attention.
“You’re on.” Colonel O’Neill said to Marcus as he handed the weapon back to Daniel.
The new leader nodded his thanks and turned to the frightened spectators. “Our civilization as we have known it is gone forever. With the crystal destroyed there is no going back.” He paused for effect. “So it’s time to ask ourselves ‘What do we do now?’ ‘How do we go forward?’ It will require some self-examination. We will have to look for new meaning in our lives. I think we can do it. And I hope you will join me as we work to transform Lacitta into a home filled with pride. A civilization that includes slaves and masters alike.”
The crowd was looking to Marcus in earnest now, considering his words. It would not be easy, but the new leader of Nekara was hopeful.
“It looks like they may have a chance here.” Daniel smiled, helping to support Jack as they walked, satisfied that they had set change into motion.
“Maybe. But it’s gonna be tough.” Jack said, wondering if such a parasitic people could really change.
“Marcus will do all he can.” Sam added, her attention turning to their own future. It was time to get back to Earth and she couldn’t wait.
Staff weapon drawn, Major Carter guided the rest of her team toward the transport that waited for them a block away.
Jack looked down the deserted main street of Nekara. The tubes that had covered its’ homes and businesses were almost melted away, exposing the scaffolding and platforms that had been the true heart of the city. They were the remnants of structures that had enslaved not just people like him and Daniel but the entire population. They would have to learn to build their own future, without computers and artificial intelligence. Maybe the struggle will make them better people, maybe it won’t. It was up to them now. He turned and left the citizens of Lacitta and Sarafeen to shape their own destinies.
It only took a few minutes for the team members to make it to their transport vehicle.
“Can either of you do anything about these bracelets?” Jack asked holding out his wrists to show the metal bands.
“I believe I can, O’Neill.” Teal'c touched a button on his wristband and all their manacles fell away.
“Fantastic! You’ve earned your pay today, my friend.” Jack rubbed his wrists gratefully.
Together Daniel and Teal'c helped the Colonel into the rear of the transport. He smiled warmly at his young friend from Edora. “Good to see you, Garan. Are you OK?”
The boy nodded with a hint of fear in his eyes.
“Great! Let’s get the hell out of here.” Jack said as he eased himself into a seated position against the wall.
The Edoran sat by him. “Are you injured?” He asked, worried for his friend.
“I’m a little banged up but that’s all. It takes a lot more than this to hurt Jack O’Neill.” He smiled with bravado for the boy’s benefit.
Garan returned the smile, relieved. Soon they were moving toward the Gate.
“Are you sure you know how to drive this thing, Carter?” Jack asked as he shifted his weight off his sore leg.
“Yes sir. I watched Jenna operate the controls while I was sharing her body.” She answered without turning to face him. “Actually the vehicles command system is fully automated. All I have to do is input our desired destination.” The Major thought it was more like driving a computer than a car. She monitored their progress on several view screens spread across the wall in front of her.
Daniel sat in the co-pilot’s seat, watching the power levels and learning all he could about the technology. After everything that had happened, he still couldn’t help but be fascinated by the amazing inventions of the alien culture. He wished they could have had an opportunity to learn more about them. “So why does this thing still work?” He asked absently. “Shouldn’t it have stopped functioning when Jack destroyed the power core?”
“I think there must be a certain level of stored energy in all the Nekaran devices. Sam just hoped the vehicle had enough power to get them all the way back to the gate.
Jack leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. His burned arm and injured leg were agonizing, and it took all his concentration to stay focused on their current situation. It was important to consider all their options as they traveled toward the gate. This was not the time for them to let their guard down.
Teal'c watched the Colonel’s internal struggles as they played out on his face. The Jaffa knew his commanding officer’s wounds were painful and he felt it was his duty to protect him until they reached the SGC.
“How’s it goin’ Teal'c?” Jack opened his eyes, smiling.
“I am well.”
Jack always loved his friend’s short but sweet responses. “Good to hear. I was just thinking, we’ll probably have a fight on our hands at the Gate.”
Teal'c nodded. “There may be guards to prevent our departure.”
“Between you and me, Teal'c, a herd of wild elephants couldn’t stop me from getting off this miserable rock.” This planet had definitely gotten old.
Jack felt Garan suddenly fidgeting next to him. “What’s up?” The Colonel asked, worried about the boy’s blank stare.
“Garan, talk to me.” O’Neill turned to face the young man. Something wasn’t right.
Suddenly the Edoran grabbed Jack by the hair and pushed him aside. In the process he snatched the Colonel’s staff weapon. O’Neill rolled painfully onto his side, reopening the stab wound. Then he pulled himself into a crouching position and lunged at the young man with all his strength. Both pulled the weapon between them.
Teal'c tried to intervene, but the size of the transport made it difficult for the large man to get between them.
Garan whacked Colonel O’Neill across the face with the large staff. The older man fell back, giving the Edoran a moment to aim and fire the weapon into the vehicle’s control panel. The blast singed Sam and Daniel as they dove out of the way just in time to avoid a direct hit.
After firing the staff, Garan suddenly dropped it and blankly took his seat. Teal'c grabbed him across the chest just as the boy regained his senses.
Jack was up on one elbow, rubbing his bruised face. “Is everybody OK?”
The others nodded. “At least that’s something.” O’Neill frowned as he struggled back to a seated position.
Daniel hurried to check on the Colonel’s bleeding leg. “How about you?” He asked, looking at the new bruise on his friend’s face.
“I’m great. Another black eye for my collection.” O’Neill examined Garan’s confused stare, then glanced back at Daniel. “He looked just like Makepeace when he blew.” He whispered.
“Maybe Solomon had an orb put in his head to prevent our escape.” Daniel guessed.
“It was pretty easy for Carter and Teal'c to break him out. I bet that son of a bitch set him up to stop us from getting off this rock.” Jack winced as the linguist tightened the bandage on his leg. “We have to get that thing out of his head. I saw Arik use a little metal thing-a-majig to take one out of your ear when we first got here.”
O’Neill turned to Sam. “Carter, did you happen to find anything like that on him when you jumped inside his head?”
The Major was still putting out the fire on the control panel. “We did retrieve a thimble-sized device of some kind. I didn’t have an opportunity to probe his mind to find out how it works.” She yelled back.
“That’s just what we’re looking for. All you do is point it at somebody’s head and the orb pops out. Now let’s get out of here before anything else happens.” Jack eased his battered frame to the transport door. Daniel hurried out first, helping his friend get his feet to the ground. Teal'c was next with Garan still tightly clutched in front of him. Sam followed, carrying the small removal device.
“Major, you’re on.” Jack balanced against the side of the vehicle.
Sam took the device and held it against the boy’s ear. It began to vibrate. Garan screamed in pain as the orb dislodged from his brain and traveled out the auditory canal until it was stuck to the device. Then he collapsed into the Jaffa’s arms. Teal’c lowered the Edoran to the ground in front of their vehicle.
Colonel O’Neill could feel his anger rising. Damn that son-of-a-bitch, using an innocent boy against him! His mind drifted to another young man, lying on the floor, covered with blood…
“Earth to Jack…” Daniel tried again to get his friend’s attention.
“Huh?” His own name startled the Colonel back to reality.
“What are your orders, sir?” Sam asked.
Jack shook off his haze. “Well, I guess you should hold that thing up to all our heads so we don’t have any more surprises. Then if everything is hunky dorey you’d better check out the damage to the vehicle.”
Sam checked all the other members of the group and to her relief no one else was carrying an orb. After Daniel checked her and found nothing, they went to evaluate their transport vehicle’s condition.
Teal'c explored the immediate area while Jack sat next to Garan on the ground.
The boy suddenly stirred, looking around with confusion. “What happened?” He asked.
“Nothing much. We’ve just had a little setback.” Jack smiled his best optimistic smile.
“I do not remember any of it.” Garan was scared.
“I didn’t remember any of what I did when that thing was in my ear either. As if there aren’t enough things on this rotten planet to give a guy a headache, they have some kind of mind control thing they stick in your ear. It makes you do things you wouldn’t do otherwise.”
“I had one inside my ear?” Garan began to remember the fear when one of the guards held him while another stuck something inside his head.
“Did I do something bad?” He asked, looking at Jack’s black eye.
“It wasn’t your fault. They programmed you to stop us from escaping so you shot up the vehicle, that’s all. Nobody was hurt.”
“What about your eye? Did I do that?” Garan’s eyes filled with tears.
“It’s nothing.” Jack pulled the boy to him as he broke into sobs.
“It barely even hurts.” The Colonel continued. “Don’t let those clowns get to you. Carter removed the orb. You’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine.” Jack whispered soothing words to the young man. He thought about Charlie. He would have been about the same age by now.
Garan and O’Neill sat together in soothing silence. Finally Daniel returned with news. The boy wiped his eyes and hurried away.
“How is he?” Jackson asked, concerned.
“Upset. How should he be?” Jack was not happy. He got to his feet and stumbled around to the back of the vehicle. He was so mad he felt like he was going to explode.
“Sam and I checked out the vehicle and it’s not good.” Daniel followed him at a distance. He watched silently as the Colonel ran a trembling hand through his grey hair.
“Filthy bastard.” Jack’s voice was deep and guttural.
“I know.” Daniel added.
“That kid deserved better.” O’Neill couldn’t stop shaking. All the pressure and tension of the past week was flowing toward the surface and he didn't know if he would be able to stop it.
Silence engulfed them for a long time. Daniel waited patiently while his friend pulled himself together. “What about the truck?” Jack asked finally, still staring into the forest.
“It’s not going anywhere.” Daniel said finally.
The linguist watched with admiration as O’Neill’s sagging shoulders suddenly rose to a square. Then the Colonel turned with new enthusiasm, ready to take control of the situation.
“What now?” Daniel asked, frowning.
“We walk.” Jack moved back around to the front of the vehicle. Everyone was waiting there for his orders.
“Garan, I’m afraid we’re going to have to do a little walking. Wait here for a few minutes while I talk to my team.” Jack put on his most confident smile for the Edoran.
Using the staff weapon as a walking stick, O’Neill led SG-1 to the other side of the vehicle. “OK, so here we are. Another fine mess…” He smiled. “How far do you think we have to go before we find the Gate?” He asked no one in particular.
“Approximately ten miles.” Teal’c answered first. Sam and Daniel nodded their agreement. Jack grimaced. It would be a long, painful walk on one leg.
“How many weapons do we have?” Colonel was ticking off items from a checklist in his military mind.
“Teal'c and I each brought a laser weapon from Sarafeen, two zat guns and that staff weapon that we retrieved from the crash site. That’s it.” Sam reported.
“What’s the plan?” Daniel asked, worried.
“Carter, Teal'c, I want you to go on ahead of us. Your job will be to make sure the gate is clear when we get there. The rest of us will move as quickly as we can, dragging me along of course. And we’ll all rendezvous at the gate.” Jack leaned on the staff weapon.
“How are you going to walk ten miles?” Daniel asked, gently skeptical.
“Slowly and very painfully.” O’Neill was so tired. He didn’t have the patience for the archeologist’s usual arguments. “What other choice do I have? I would rather stumble through ten miles on one leg than stay here one minute longer than I have to.”
Daniel couldn’t argue with that.
“I’ll use the staff, and if it gets too bad I’m sure Garan won’t mind helping me. Now let’s go.” There would be no more debate. Jack turned his attention to Sam. “Carter, could I talk to you for a minute.”
The Major nodded, waiting until she and her commanding officer were alone.
“We both know I might not be able to make it back to the gate.” Carter shook her head, but Jack continued despite her objections. “I just wanted to be sure we understood each other, Major. Get that kid back to Edora, whatever it takes.”
“Sir…” Sam tried to interrupt again, but he waived her off.
“Getting Garan home is your top priority.” Colonel O’Neill was suddenly formal. It was an order.
Sam fought back surging emotion. “With all due respect, sir. We did not come all this way to leave you here. I’m taking you home.”
Jack smiled. She was a good officer. “Dismissed.”
The Major saluted and turned to leave.
“Yes, sir?” Sam stopped and turned.
“Be careful.” He smiled.
“You too, sir.” Sam returned the grin and left O’Neill alone.
Jack was hopeful as he limped back to the others.
Carter and Teal'c gathered their supplies from the disabled transport and prepared to leave for the gate. Daniel joined them. “Do you think we’ll run into any trouble?” He asked, clearly distracted.
“I don’t know. It all depends on what happened to Solomon suppose.” Sam looked at her friend. “What’s really on your mind?”
“He’s not going to make it ten miles on that leg.” The linguist whispered.
“Don’t underestimate the Colonel.” Sam said as she took one zat gun along with her laser weapon.
“I know all about Jack’s iron will. But I’ve seen that leg. It’s bad.” Daniel continued.
“Then we’ll have to get him home as quickly as possible.” Sam was determined. She wasn’t about to lose anyone. “Take care of him.” The Major added as they turned to leave.
Daniel nodded. “Good Luck.” He watched as his friends disappeared down the road, leaving him to find a way to get the Colonel back to the gate.
“OK troops, let’s talk.” Jack sat on the ground motioning to the others to do the same. When Daniel and Garan were seated, he spoke. “We are going to have to walk about ten miles to the Stargate. Because there could be enemy forces in the area we’re gonna have to have to be careful. Garan, I’ll be counting on you to help me stay on my feet. Together we’re gonna have to keep an eye out for any goons trying to sneak up on us. Daniel, you’ll have to take point. You’ll be looking for anyone who gets by Major Carter and Teal'c.”
Daniel nodded, zat gun in hand. He was scared to death. “Alright, Jack.” He answered, seeing Garan’s apprehension. “I know what you’ve been through over the past few days. It’s a far cry from the things you’ve seen back on Edora. But now we have to concentrate and work together.” He hoped to soothe the young man.
“We can do this, just follow my orders, and I promise you, I’ll get you through.” Jack looked at each one in turn, capturing their eyes. Their faces brightened.
“Now be sure to stay alert. No mistakes.” Jack struggled to his feet, trying not to grimace.
Daniel saw his friend’s eyes fill with pain. He couldn’t help but worry. “Can I get anything for you before we go?” He asked.
“Do you have a motor scooter in that bag?” Jack smiled hobbling past his friend.
Daniel didn’t answer. It was going to be a long trip.