Connections Part Four
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.
A flurry of activity caught Jack’s attention. The clanging of large pots and pans seemed to be coming from the far end of the room.
‘Must be suppertime.’ He thought idly. A good thing too, because he was getting hungry.
The air around his cell crackled again and the humming stopped. O’Neill tried to touch the force field and smiled when nothing happened. He watched cautiously as the other captives filed out of their cells, then he followed at a distance.
The Colonel looked ahead to a large group. “Chow time, huh.” He said to the man walking next to him. The inmate scowled and moved faster. ‘Not a friendly bunch.’ Jack thought as he watched his unpleasant roommates pass him on all sides.
O’Neill hesitated when he saw the size of the crowd. If he got trapped in the middle of that mass of men it could be real tough to get back out. But he and his friend would soon need something to eat. They had not had anything all day.
“It is time for nourishment.” He heard a voice yell. It sounded like his new friend Cade. Jack frowned. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Daniel gasped for breath. He had been dead, hadn’t he? Suddenly the lid of his prison opened, sliding to both sides. Pulling a silky scarf from his face, he sat up and saw the sarcophagus for the first time. The linguist quickly reached down to touch the burn on his chest, but it was gone. How was that possible?
Solomon smiled greedily. It was all he had hoped it would be. Satisfied with his first trip through Doctor Jackson’s mind, he removed the headband and deactivated the device.
Daniel slumped in the Chair, his mind slowly clearing. “What did you do to me?” He asked, his voice small and afraid.
“You will learn more about our memory device in time. Now you must rest.” Chief Solomon freed his prisoner from the Chair. Then two guards dragged him to an adjacent room where the drug helped him quickly drift off to sleep.
“You! Do you think you have earned the right to eat with us?” The Giant yelled as he pointed at Jack. The Colonel looked around, hoping someone else was the big man’s intended target. But he knew better. Suddenly O’Neill wished he were somewhere else, but it was too late to run now.
“Me, nah. I’ll just wait over here until you guys are finished. No rush.” Jack smiled his most charming smile.
It didn’t work.
“The new one thinks he should eat too. Let him go first then.”
After a nod from their leader, two of the Giant’s men grabbed Jack from behind and dragged him to the front of the group.
He saw a large trough of grey, slimy oatmeal. At least, he thought it looked like oatmeal.
“Don’t hurry on my account.” O’Neill fought to stop himself, but they kept pulling him forward. This was not good! Suddenly his head was forced into the trough. The sticky oats clogging his nose and mouth. The Colonel struggled to break the prisoners’ iron grip before he ran out of air.
Just as suddenly Jack was pulled up out of the gooey muck. It stuck to his hair and his face, but he shook off as much as he could until he managed to open his eyes.
“Needs salt.” He quipped. The Giant laughed out loud, amused by his new victim’s nerve.
O’Neill returned a smirky smile just before he found himself in the oatmeal again. It seemed like an eternity before they let him up this time. The Colonel spit the contents of his mouth toward the large man.
“You are not enjoying your nourishment?” Cade laughed.
“It’s great, if you like eating wet cement.” Jack said as he turned to wipe his eyes on his shoulder. He breathed as deeply as he could, preparing his lungs for the next round. Within a moment he was under again. He wondered how far the big man was planning to let this go. Would he actually be drowned here in a vat of oatmeal? Not if he had anything to say about it. He decided it was time to try an old trick.
The Colonel let himself go totally limp. The men eased up on their grip just a little and that was all he needed. Jack rose quickly out of the trough, oatmeal flying everywhere. Freeing his left arm and chopping hard across the man’s windpipe, he used his right arm to whack his other opponent hard under the chin. Both men fell to the ground, gasping.
Jack quickly wiped the food out of his eyes and grabbed a metal bowl from one of the piles on the ground. Using it first to strike both men across the face as they attempted a counter attack, he then filled it with oatmeal and hurried away. The Giant only smiled, motioning to his men to let O’Neill pass. It had been an impressive first night.
“Now we eat!” He motioned the hungry men forward as the Colonel disappeared into the distance.
Solomon reviewed the information he had gathered from Daniel Jackson’s mental scan. The doctor had seen some amazing things over the past three years. He hoped to have time to share some of those experiences for himself.
Arik appeared at the Chief’s door. His clothes were dirty and he was out of breath.
“You look like you were in a fight. What happened?” Solomon was concerned.
“We encountered resistance on Edora.” He said quietly.
“Resistance…from those farmers? I find that to be unlikely.”
“There were others. Tau’ri. They carried weapons, used military strategy.”
“So you were taken by surprise.” Solomon was not happy.
“Yes. They were looking for O’Neill and Jackson.”
“Interesting. They are retracing the Colonel’s steps in hopes of figuring out why he was taken so easily. Totally useless information, but a strategy not entirely without merit.” Solomon mused.
Arik nodded in deference to his commander and continued softly. “We were only able to bring one new acquisition from Edora.” The soldier braced himself for Solomon’s wrath.
“Maybe I should contact the Tau’ri and ask them for a new commander for my armies. Clearly they are more skilled than you.” The Chief was irate.
“But there is one piece of good news. View the scan. You will find it to be most interesting.” When Arik returned from Edora he knew he was going to have to find a way to save face, so he viewed the boy’s scan before he made his report in hopes of finding something he could use. He believed he had.
“It had better be more than interesting. Your position may depend on it.” Solomon took the identity disk and dismissed his second in command. He loaded the information into the terminal and smiled with satisfaction at what he saw.
Jack sat in their stall catching his breath as he wiped his face the best he could. Then O’Neill ate with his fingers as he watched for hostiles. Not that he expected to be overrun. Cade was playing a game with him. Serving up a side order of humiliation with the evening meal. He knew he would have to deal with the big man later, but for now he had food.
Even though it tasted more like the muck in the pit than any oatmeal he had ever had, he was too hungry to care. Jack ate half the bowl’s contents, putting the rest aside for Daniel. Then he reclined against the wall, pulling more of the goo out of his hair. As a soldier he knew how important it was to rest whenever he got the chance, so he gradually closed his eyes for an uneasy sleep.
Sam felt like she was going to scream. They had been studying the mission reports for days with nothing to show for it. Her eyes burned and her head pounded. Getting only a bear minimum sleep and nourishment, she felt like she was at the end of her rope.
The Jaffa was napping when Major Carter burst into tears. All her frustrations had finally exploded. She whipped the useless file across the room and stormed out. From there she went straight to the parking facility and drove off with no destination in mind.
Anything to get away from the mountain. Everyone expected her to come up with some grand solution, but how? There were no leads, nothing to work with to form even a simple hypothesis. And the pressure was crushing her.
Carter was still reeling from the time she spent working to rescue the Colonel from Edora. At least then she knew exactly what she had to do to bring him home, this time she had to find out where they were before she could even plan a rescue. It was unbearable to be left behind again.
Her car speeding through the empty roads at 90 mph, she screamed into the night air at the top of her lungs. It was a scream of desperation and loneliness. She missed them so much. What if she never saw them again?
Finally, the Major found herself pulling into the driveway in front of Janet Frasier’s home. Surprised at her subconscious destination, she rang the bell, tear-soaked and shaking from the cold. A few moments passed as the house lights flickered to life.
The door opened and Janet answered wearing a long robe.
“Sam, what are you doing here?” She asked, surprised to see her friend.
“I didn’t know where else to go.” She whispered, sorry she had disturbed the doctor.
“You know you can always come here. I’ll make some hot cocoa. You look like you could use it.” She helped Carter take off her coat and motioned her to a stool in the kitchen.
“That’s my best talking stool.” Janet’s bedside manner kicked in as she offered her friend a seat. The Major sat down, at ease for the first time in days.
A few minutes later the doctor reappeared with two steaming cups of hot chocolate.
“Now take a sip and tell me about it.” Janet sat across from Sam.
“I don’t know how I’m going to find Daniel and the Colonel. Teal'c and I have been pouring over all the mission logs for days now and there’s nothing there.” Carter’s voice was small and weak.
“The search teams are still looking.” Janet tried to sound enthusiastic.
“It would be like finding a needle in a haystack.”
Doctor Frasier was silent.
“So with no leads and no idea what to do next, they’ve all turned to me expecting a solution. Just like before.” She started to cry uncontrollably.
“I don’t have the answer. I don’t know what to do.” She sobbed.
Janet came around the table and held her. “You’re putting too much pressure on yourself. Everyone knows you’re doing the best you can.”
“They’re waiting for me to find them, I’m letting them down.”
Janet looked into Sam’s wet eyes. “Jack and Daniel have so much faith in you. They will hang on until you find them because they know that you’ll be leading the cavalry to the rescue.”
Sam closed her eyes again. She couldn’t help but think of Edora. Colonel O’Neill had been so lucky that the environment was not hostile. If he had been trapped at the Antarctic Gate for three months while she worked to rescue him he would have been dead long before she ever arrived.
“What if we never find them.” She whispered, afraid to say it out loud.
“We will. You have to hold on to that hope. Believe it.” The Doctor was firm.
“I really want to. But I keep seeing them hurt or worse, waiting for us to come but we never do.” Sam’s voice was small, even to her own ears.
Janet shook her head. “That’s not going to help you find them. Remember, you’re trying to solve a mystery as quickly and efficiently as possible. Emotions don’t have a place in that equation. You can’t let yourself think about what’s at the other end or you’ll never get there.”
Doctor Frasier saw her friend wavering. “Have you ever wondered how someone like Jack could be such a great military man?” Janet asked.
“Because he’s learned how to master his emotions. When someone needs him he blocks out everything except his objective. That’s what makes such an unlikely officer the best colonel in the Air Force.”
Sam thought about that. Discipline always seemed to be Jack’s biggest weakness-he was frivolous, arrogant, even dim at times, but when he had to get down to business no one could focus more completely on the task at hand.
“Try to follow the Colonel’s example. Concentrate on finding the right address. Then worry about what’s waiting on the other side. If you don’t, you’ll break down and no one will be able to find them.” Janet leaned back. That was the best advice she could give. The rest would be up to the Major.
Sam sat quietly sipping her cocoa.
“I just can’t lose them.” She whispered.
“You won’t. But you’ll have to focus on the job. Keep your emotions out of the picture.”
“Easier said than done.” Sam looked into her mug.
“Isn’t everything.” She stopped for a moment, sensing that her friend needed to say more. “This house is a military-free zone. Vent at will.”
Sam laughed. It felt good. “Alright. I’m sure you heard about what happened on Edora.”
“I read the General’s report in the logs. It didn’t go so well.” Janet urged her friend to open up.
Sam laughed humorlessly at the understatement. “I wanted to strangle her. I know it’s irrational, but seeing their perfect little farming community made me so angry. I wanted to burn it down or something. Isn’t that pathetic?”
“It’s human. As long as you don’t go back through the Gate with a can of gasoline, you’re allowed.” Janet waited for more.
“This whole thing is just too soon. I didn’t even really get a chance to talk to him. Now he’s gone again.” Carter continued.
“I think I know what you’re feeling. Maybe it’s time you did something about it.” Frasier remembered when Sam had confided in her back at the lab. Then she had said that her feelings for O’Neill would not be a problem. But matters of the heart were not so easy to control.
Sam looked at the doctor, a little irritated. “Like what, Janet? In case you haven’t noticed, we are both officers in the US Air Force. I can’t have it both ways.”
“I know…you would have to make a choice.” Janet gently pressed.
“I already have. It’s just not so easy to live with sometimes.” Carter looked down, a little embarrassed. The notion that she had improper feelings for her CO made her feel weak.
Janet smiled. Sam would never give up her career to be with the Colonel, but she would also never stop wishing she could.
“It’s been a long day. Why don’t you just stay here for the night.”
“Thanks.” Sam smiled.
“It’s a comfortable couch.” Frasier said as she turned to put the empty mugs in the sink.
“No, I mean THANKS. No one else knows me like you do.” Carter took a seat on the couch.
Janet nodded. She was afraid there were going to be a lot more long nights before their co-workers were found. She brought the Major some blankets and a comfortable pillow.
Sam took them gratefully and soon she drifted off to sleep.
Daniel Jackson opened his eyes slowly, afraid of what he might see. The last thing he remembered was waking up in the sarcophagus. But he knew that was impossible. It had been over four years since Ra resurrected him…hadn’t it?
He was in a small room, no furnishings except the bed and one metal folding chair. The walls were white. It looked institutional. His heart was racing. ‘Oh God, no, please don’t let this be…’ he couldn’t even think it. The scattered memories…not another breakdown!
He tried to focus on the past 24 hours. It was difficult at first, the remnants of last night’s drugs still fogging his mind. But soon the events of the previous day started flooding back into his brain. He remembered Solomon, the pit, and Jack. Unfortunately, he knew very well what their situation was. At least the confusion was gone. Daniel said a silent prayer of thanks. No breakdown here!
He stood slowly, feeling out his physical condition. To his relief he found no new bumps or bruises. Jackson tried the door, but it was locked of course. Surveying the room, he saw no windows or vents and no tools to use to escape. So he sighed with resignation and lowered himself into the chair to wait for Solomon’s inevitable return.
The door opened about 30 minutes later. Daniel looked up and gasped. It wasn’t Solomon at all. Instead it was Laira’s son, Garan, from Edora!
“What are you doing here?” He was shocked, no, stunned.
The young man wore a black suit like his. Daniel noticed the same metal triangle on his forehead. “Garan, it’s me, Daniel, Dr. Jackson. Say something.” He was getting worried. He saw no recognition in the young man’s eyes
“You are a fascinating man, Doctor. I had this boy brought to me after viewing his memory scan and finding you in it. It’s quite a coincidence don’t you think?”
Daniel didn’t know what to say. “What’s going on here?”
“This boy, Garan as you called him, is serving as a vessel for my mind.”
Daniel could not comprehend what was happening. Garan’s voice, but Solomon’s words. “Is Garan alright…is his mind alright?” He asked, sputtering. The concept of mental transfer was amazing.
“He is unharmed. We have spent the last one hundred cycles perfecting the transfer of consciousness. My mind merely supercedes his. He is still here, just unable to act independently.” Garan slumped suddenly then the cold stare changed to the scared face of a young boy.
“Dr. Jackson…Where am I?” Garan looked around, unable to comprehend.
Daniel smiled in relief. “That’s a good question. We’ve both been taken prisoner and brought to a planet called Nekara. That’s all I know.”
The boy seemed so helpless. It made Daniel angry.
Suddenly Garan slumped again and the cold blank stare returned. “Are you satisfied? He is unharmed.”
“You call that unharmed! He’s terrified!”
Solomon laughed at Daniel’s indignance. “You call yourself a scientist. I’ve shown you one of the greatest discoveries in the annuals of the universe and you’re worried about the feelings of one boy.”
Being reprimanded by the chief in Garan’s voice made Daniel’s skin crawl.
“Does he have awareness while you’re in control?” The linguist asked, calmer.
“Yes. He can see and hear everything. But he is unable to act or communicate.” Solomon explained.
Daniel sighed. Not a pleasant thought. He tried to imagine the feelings of helplessness but it was too much to bear. “Garan, if you can hear me, try not to be afraid. You’re going to be fine.” He looking into the blank eyes and smiled a reassuring smile.
“Enough!” Dr. Solomon was losing his patience. “It is time to begin your work. Follow me.”
Daniel watched as another burly guard moved behind him, pushing him forward as Garan’s body led the way outside the complex to a waiting vehicle. The transport resembled a large rectangular box, hovering above the ground. More of the Nekaran’s advanced technology.
“Sit.” The guard pushed him into a metal chair. Again he was manacled to its arms. They left nothing to chance.
Daniel looked around the interior of the vehicle, smooth panels relayed information, and a viewscreen displayed a 360-degree landscape around them. There were no windows.
“Where are we going?” He asked, surprised that they had left the building. “I thought you had the artifact in your office.”
“I am afraid it is much too large for that.” Garan’s voice answered. Clearly Solomon was eager to present his prize. “We’ll be there soon.”
Daniel struggled with the manacles, but they wouldn’t budge. All he could do was wait.
The phone rang, waking Sam. She checked the wall clock to see it was 7:15a.m. Damn, she needed to get back to the mountain.
A night away from the crushing pressure of the base had helped her regain some perspective. There had to be something in those mission files that would lead them to their friends. She and Teal'c would just had to keep pouring over them until they found it.
Carter could hear Janet on the phone in the kitchen. “Very well, how are the headaches? …Good. I guess a little R&R was what they needed.”
Sam’s stomach tightened. Headaches…something had been gnawing at her since the day of the mission and that was it-Daniel and the Colonel had complained of pounding headaches!
At the time, she had assumed they were hungover-she could only imagine what kind of night they had after the disastrous BBQ. But Daniel with a hangover was strange. And now that she thought about it, they didn’t seem to have any of the other symptoms: no red watery eyes, no sweating, no dizziness.
Janet issued her orders and hung up. “Sorry about that. How do you feel this morning.” She asked.
“Who had the headaches?” Major Carter asked anxiously.
“It was Makepeace, Johnson, Whitaker and Collins from SG-3. Why?”
“Give me the details please Janet. It could be important.”
The doctor hesitated, wondering if the strain had finally gotten to her friend. “They came back from their last mission with severe headaches so I prescribed some aspirin and sent them home. It happened several days ago.”
“Before Jack and Daniel disappeared?” Sam asked. This could be the break they were waiting for.
“I think so, it’s been so hectic, I’d have to check the records to be sure.”
Carter sprang to her feet, grabbing her jacket. “I’ll meet you there.” She hurried out the door, feeling hopeful for the first time in five days.
Frasier wasn‘t sure what her friend was getting at, but at least she seemed more enthusiastic this morning. She called up the stairs for Cassie to get ready for school. Then she packed daughter’s lunch and readied her own briefcase. Soon the young girl bounded down the stairs.
“I heard Sam.” She said, scanning the room for her friend.
“She had to leave.” Janet answered as she finished putting her daughter’s breakfast on the table.
Cassie’s face fell. She hadn’t seen much of Major Carter lately.
“I wish she would come to see us more.” Cassandra said as she sat down to eat her cereal. “Maybe we could have a party soon and invite SG-1.”
Janet smiled. She hoped that with all her heart. “Maybe we can. Now eat. We have to leave early today.”
The young girl nodded and 10 minutes later they were ready to go. Janet dropped her off at school and soon she was on her way to work.
Jack groaned, suddenly alert and awake. He felt sick. That lousy oatmeal and the buzzing in his head were a dangerous combination on an empty stomach.
‘It’s like a hangover without the booze.’ He thought as he rolled over on his back. He considered opening his eyes, but his mind rebelled, his head swimming. ‘Well you’re gonna have to take the plunge sooner or later, O’Neill. Better just get it over with.’ He opened his eyes all at once. The light was blinding.
“Damn it!” He snapped them shut again quickly, then gradually let in the light.
“It gets better.” A voice said softly. Jack turned, ready for a fight. He was relieved to see Krel standing in front of him.
“So the food’s always this good?” Jack asked, running a hand through his hair as he sat up slowly.
“Yes. It is only for sustenance.”
The Colonel tried the force shield again and pulled his hand back when it crackled-still alive.
“How come you’re out and about?” He asked, suddenly suspicious.
“Not all are active. Only the most dangerous.” Krel sat on his haunches outside the stall.
Jack frowned. “Great. Have you seen Daniel?”
“I have not.” Krel seemed to be waiting for something.
“We saw you on that mountain thing. Are you ok?” Jack asked him, impressed by the man’s good spirits.
“I am. Each of us goes into the Box every 10 cycles. It is not so difficult after a time.”
“If it’s all the same to you I’d rather not stick around long enough to get used to it.” Jack frowned.
The small man smiled and watched O’Neill silently for a long moment.
“What?” Jack asked with his usual diplomacy.
“You defeated RA.” Krel looked on hopefully.
Jack wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement. “I know I don’t look like much now. But you should have seen me in my prime.” He smiled, pulling dried oatmeal out of his hair with as much dignity as he could muster.
Krel watched silently again. Jack didn’t like it.
“Am I boring you?” He asked, more annoyed at the sticky clumps in his hair and the memory of being dunked in the first place than the excited young man.
“Can you defeat Solomon as you did RA?”
He stopped and looked up at the man before him. “That is the $64,000 question isn’t it? He laughed humorlessly. He looked into the young man’s eyes with all the sincerity he could muster. “You bet we can.”
Krel nodded, satisfied that Colonel O’Neill could do just that. Then with a smile he got up and walked away.
Jack watched the Nekaran go, wondering how long he had been here. Sure they would beat Solomon, ‘but’ he thought as he resumed the unpleasant task of picking the food out of his hair, ‘it could take awhile.’
Sam hurried into the underground headquarters and straight to Teal'c’s room.
She banged on the door. “It’s me, Teal'c.”
Teal'c had been lying on his bunk, waiting. He had spent his life serving others. Apophis, O’Neill, and now Major Carter. Waiting was among his primary duties. But this time it was especially difficult because he knew O’Neill and DanielJackson needed him.
He jumped to his feet with the Major’s knock on the door. It was a relief to hear her voice. After the Jaffa had awakened to an empty conference room, he feared that she had succumbed to the pressures of their current situation. But out of respect for her standing at the SGC, he had not notified anyone of her disappearance. “I am glad to see you are well.” He said as he opened the door quickly.
Sam hurried past him, too deep in thought to return his greeting. “Headaches! We didn’t really think about it at the time, but they both had headaches!” She was out of breath.
Teal'c was puzzled. He motioned to her to sit. “Yes. Both men seemed to be experiencing painful headaches on the day of the mission. What is the relevance of that fact, MajorCarter?”
Sam smiled. “I spent the night at Janet’s house and she received a call earlier this morning updating the condition of four members of SG-3 who all had complained of severe headaches the same day the Colonel and Daniel disappeared. I think there could be a connection.”
Teal'c nodded. “Then we shall investigate.”
“Doctor Frasier is going to meet us in her office after she drops Cassie off at school.” Carter said.
Teal'c’s heart rose. Maybe the waiting was over. “What are your orders?”
“I have some research to do, then I’ll meet you in the infirmary.” Sam was grateful for the Jaffa’s support. If they were going to find their teammates they would need to work together.
“Yes, Major.” Teal'c prepared to change into his uniform.
Sam smiled and left. She wanted to run to her office as fast as she could. But in the interest of maintaining military decorum, she only walked briskly through the corridors of the SGC.
When the Major arrived, she got right to work. First, she pulled the mission logs to find the address of SG-3’s last mission. The Nekaran glyphs were on the second page. ‘It had to be on the list!’ The Major thought as she booted up her computer and referenced those symbols. Then she initiated a search program, praying that the address would be one of the 238 items on their tentative working list.
She had no choice but to watch and wait as the computer did all the work. Why did these searches always seem to take so long! Unable to sit still any longer, Carter looked through some of the unresolved issues littering her desk. She couldn’t remember the last time she had a chance to do a regular day’s work.
Finally the computer beeped. Sam turned back to the monitor and let out a cry of relief. There in plain black letters was the confirmation she had prayed for. Nekara was on the list!
Jackson felt the vehicle stop. Soon a guard grabbed him again and pushed him outside.
“Walk with me, Daniel.” Garan’s voice was mild. Daniel’s skin crawled at the use of his first name by the usually formal Solomon. They traveled down a long path, newly cut through the brush.
The linguist glanced back to see that they were outside the dome. “What is this place?” He asked, making mental notes of the strange new trees and plants.
“My corporation is always expanding, we were exploring land for a future construction project when we uncovered what you are about to see.”
As it came into view, Doctor Daniel Jackson couldn’t help but gasp. He had not seen such a craft for several years, but that time had done nothing to dull his memories of its’ power. Before him lay the wreckage of a Goa’uld pyramid ship.
Teal'c came to Janet’s office just as the doctor arrived.
“Good morning, Teal'c. I suppose Sam has shared her suspicions with you.”
“She has.” The Jaffa took a seat across from the doctor’s cluttered desk.
“Well then, I’ll get the mission file.” Frasier came back quickly with SG-3’s last mission report.
Major Carter hurried into the room clutching a sheet of paper. Janet noticed that a single tear ran down her cheek. “Nekara is one of the 238 remaining possibilities on our working list. This just might be the one.” She announced breathlessly.
“I hope you’re right. SG-3 traveled to Nekara to complete a simple survey mission. When they returned all four men complained of severe headaches. I sent them home with a few aspirin and they reported for duty the next day with no problems.”
“What day was that?” Sam asked, searching for a date in the pages of the file. “Their mission ended the day before we left on ours.” Her eyes grew large with recognition. “I remember passing Makepeace in the hall that afternoon. He was definitely preoccupied with something because he plowed into me and kept going like he didn’t even realize I was there. The Colonel could have been under the influence of whatever affected our men even before he left the base.”
“It is possible. Perhaps they contacted O’Neill and DoctorJackson later that evening.” Teal'c added.
Sam nodded. That was exactly what she was thinking.
“And what-gave them some sort of illness?” Doctor Frasier was having a hard time believing all this was more than a few coincidences.
“Maybe.” Carter continued. “All I know is that Daniel and Colonel O’Neill were fine when we left them at the Colonel’s home, but when they reported for duty the next morning, they both had splitting headaches, just like SG-3.”
“It’s pretty thin.” Janet frowned slightly. She was eager to find the men, but they had to be careful not to waste time on wishful thinking.
Sam knew that she was grasping at anything she could find. “Janet, with all of our research we have only been able to narrow the possible gate addresses to 238. Any lead is like a needle in a haystack. I’m going to have to pick one either way.”
“You’re right.” Frasier closed the file and handed it to the Major. “I’ll support you when you present this to General Hammond.”
“Thanks.” Sam touched her friend’s shoulder. She felt like this was the break they had been looking for. Then she turned to Teal'c with a nod of encouragement. “Let’s go see the General.”
Jack sighed. Where the hell was Daniel? O’Neill hadn’t seen the linguist for more than 12 hours and he was getting worried. What if that maniac had taken him to be part of another sick spectacle like the one in the pit? Although the boss seemed to be interested in picking Daniel’s brain, so it was more likely that he was not in any physical danger.
The Colonel saw Arik and two guards coming toward his cell and his stomach tightened. This could be his chance to make a move.
“It is time, O’Neill. You will be coming with us to the Chair.”
“I’ll pass.” Jack didn’t get up. Let them work for it.
Arik deactivated the shield, and his two men yanked the Colonel to his feet, pulling his arms behind his back.
This time Jack quickly fell to one knee, catching them off balance. He thrust his hand hard into the man’s throat, staggering him backwards. But before he could face the other guard, the large man had grabbed his arms again from behind.
Solomon’s chief of the guard watched his prisoner’s fight with mild interest. This Colonel O’Neill could be a difficult man to master. But many others had been the same, and they had all succumbed to the Chair sooner or later.
Jack continued to struggle, stomping on the man’s foot as hard as he could but that didn’t loosen his grip. By then the first guard had recovered, slapping him hard across the face.
A hard punch to the abdomen sent O’Neill to his knees, giving his captors enough time to fasten his wrists behind him and reattach the humiliating leash.
When the Colonel was subdued again, Arik pulled him to his feet by the hair. Jack struggled, but the Nekarans had done this thousands of times and they knew exactly how to keep a prisoner under control.
“Why do you waste the energy, O’Neill? You will need all of your strength to survive the Chair.” Arik couldn’t help but smile at the thought. The overzealous Colonel will not be so smug when he was strapped to the Chair.
“I have all the energy I need, thanks.” He returned the wicked smile. “You guys would make great bouncers.” He gasped as they pulled him out of the stall and past the other prisoners.
Some of them smiled as he passed, hoping the Tau’ri would be do the same thing to Solomon he had done to RA. Others were not so enthusiastic. They knew that everyone struggled for awhile, but the Chair had a way of taking the fight out of even the strongest warrior.
Major Carter knocked on the General’s door, her heart pounding. She had to find to a way to convince him to let them go to Nekara.
“Come.” Came the General’s familiar response.
Sam took a deep breath and opened the door.
“Good morning, Major, Doctor, Teal'c. Good news I hope.”
“Sir, I believe we have located the Colonel and Daniel on P5X272, a planet named Nekara.” Sam began.
“That is good news. What evidence have you found?” Hammond asked.
“This may be difficult to explain.” Carter continued. “Before we left for our last mission both the Colonel and Daniel complained of severe headaches. That didn’t really surprise me in the case of the Colonel. I assumed it was a hangover. But Daniel is not a heavy drinker. It struck me as odd at the time, but that’s all. But this morning I heard Doctor Frasier on the phone discussing the fact that SG-3 had experienced severe headaches when they returned from their previous mission.”
Frasier stepped forward. “That is correct. I prescribed some painkillers and sent them home. That was the night before Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson disappeared.
“Alright. I’m with you so far. So you believe that the symptoms are related somehow? What else?” The General listened patiently.
“Sir, I passed Colonel Makepeace in the hall the day before the Colonel and Daniel disappeared. He was definitely distracted, and now reevaluating his behavior in light of this new information I believe he could have been the victim of a similar kind of mind control.” Major Carter looked at the base commander, trying to gage his response.
“So you believe whatever happened to SG-1 also happened to SG-3.” He asked.
Doctor Frasier nodded. “Yes sir, it is possible. I examined all four members of SG-3 at the time of their return and they were fine. In fact they just completed another mission this morning. But our post mission exams are not designed to detect anything so advanced as mind control.”
“Then I suppose we need to bring the team back in for a more in-depth physical examination.” The General answered.
Carter’s face fell. She wanted to leave right now, not wait for the results of another physical.
“I was hoping to prepare for a reconnaissance mission to Nekara as soon as possible, sir.” She said anxiously.
“I know, Major. But I’d like to speak to Makepeace first. Then we’ll decide on a course of action.”
Sam was silent. Adrenaline pounding in her head.
“But sir…” She began, but the general raised a hand to cut her off.
“You’ve been spending too much time with Colonel O’Neill, Major. That was an order.” General Hammond was stern. But Sam wouldn’t be so easily dissuaded.
“With all due respect, sir. I have not spent any time with the Colonel lately. Correction-I spent about an hour at his home three days ago at which time I accused him of not having enough faith in my ability to rescue him to stay away from Laira. So I’m sorry, but I need to get to work as soon as possible.” Sam was hot.
“Nevertheless, I am still your commanding officer and the decision is mine. I’ve given you a lot of leeway due to your inexperience in these situations. But enough is enough. I’m ordering you to get yourself together.”
Sam opened her mouth to speak but Janet stepped forward to stop her.
“You’ve had a long couple of days, why don’t you go back to your office and lay down.”
Sam shook her head, her eyes flaring. But Janet wouldn’t take no for an answer. She put her arm around Carter’s shoulder and steered her off to the side. “As your friend I’m telling you that if you don’t get out of here the General is going to have your head.”
“But he’s wrong. We should be going to Nekara, not interviewing SG-3”
“I’m not so sure. Maybe we’ll find something important. You don’t want to jeopardize the first good lead we’ve had in days by rushing forward without knowing what’s ahead of us.”
Sam’s resolve was weakening. Maybe they were right. Her outburst had only taken time away from the real investigation. “Alright. I’ll be in my quarters.” She turned to leave without looking at the General.
Hammond and the doctor watched silently until Carter had rounded the corner.
“You were a little hard on her, weren’t you, sir?” Janet said quietly.
“It was time. The Major’s been too close to the edge lately. If she doesn’t regain her perspective soon, this could break her.”
Janet nodded. “I’ll keep an eye on her. Hopefully this new evidence concerning SG-3 will lead us to our men.”
“From your mouth to god’s ear, Doctor.” The General added as he left for his office.
“You just found this here?” Daniel was stunned.
“Do you know what it is?” Solomon asked, excited by the archeologist’s emotional response.
“It was a Goa’uld ship. Are you familiar with that race?” Daniel examined the body of Garan, wondering what Solomon’s real motives were.
“We have only experienced the Goa’uld through the memories of others. They seem barbaric.”
“That’s an understatement.” Jackson was still bracing for the other shoe to drop.
“But their technology is intriguing.”
There it was…Solomon had seen all the Goa’uld weaponry in the minds of his captives-in his own mind-and now the power hungry fool hoped they would find those weapons on the ship.
“Goa’uld technology destroys anything it touches.” Daniel hoped to reason with him.
“On the contrary, Doctor.” Solomon’s voice turned dark. “Goa’uld technology transformed their race into Gods.”
Jack stumbled down the empty road for almost ten minutes. Unfortunately his new uniform did not come with socks or shoes and the stone covered walkway cut his bare feet. The group finally came to a stop in front of another clear tube bright with neon lights. A flashing sign above the doorway read ‘SHARE A UNIVERSE OF ADVENTURE’.
As he entered the structure, Jack could hear the chattering of hundreds of enthusiastic voices. Excitement was definitely in the air.
Taken to another shower room, O’Neill gladly washed the sticky oatmeal out of his hair and stood under the cold water for a long refreshing moment until the shower automatically stopped. The liquid was replaced by a burst of warm air that quickly dried his body. ‘I need to get one of these.’ He thought as he scrubbed his hands through his dry hair. The locked shower stall door popped open, and the Colonel gasped in surprise when he saw Jenna waiting for him outside.
“I wish you’d stop doing that! I’m too old for all this sneaking around. I could have a heart attack, you know.” Jack babbled with nervous energy.
“You do not look old and weak.” Jenna allowed herself to smile at the man’s protests.
“Thanks, I think. Now don’t you have some clothes for me or something?” Jack’s face was bright red. “And why aren’t you embarrassed? You do realize I’m naked over here?” O’Neill wished he had something to hide behind.
“I have seen many naked Lareos. It is my duty to prepare acquisitions for their daily presentations. To do that I must provide bathing and clothes.” Jenna said as she handed him a folded uniform. The young woman could not admit that seeing him standing there in the nude had stirred her blood. She wanted to touch him, but both would be killed if she even expressed such a desire out loud, so she worked to ignore his arousing presence.
“Well it bothers me.” Jack said as he struggled into his new skin-tight black bodysuit.
“Very well. I will endeavor to avert my eyes as you dress in the future.” Jenna couldn’t help but smile at the Colonel’s haggard expression.
“Thank you, I appreciate it. How did you end up with this great job, anyway?” Jack asked as he finished getting dressed.
The outer chamber door opened suddenly, revealing Arik and his guards. They restrained Colonel O’Neill again as Jenna watched, her expression blank. Inside she wished there was some way to help the man, but there was nothing she could do. The entire society was built around the use of aliens in the Box and the Chair. What could one discarded woman do to change that?
“I’ll see you around, Jenna.” O’Neill smiled as he was pulled away by the leash.
The young woman nodded, sad to see him go.
Still inside the same complex, Jack was dragged past several corridors until he reached a long hall lined with black doors. Aside each portal was a comfortable chair.
“What’s this, the world’s largest waiting room?” O’Neill asked, winded from the hurried walk.
“This will be your new home, You should get used to it.” Arik smiled at the Colonel’s silence.
“Yeah, sure, whatever.” The man’s posturing did not impress O’Neill. He continued to look around the room, trying to understand what awaited him.
“I’ll leave you in the care of my men.” The Nekaran turned and left, satisfied that the Colonel was under control.
“So it’s just the three of us. Cozy.” Jack said to the stone-faced men standing in front of him.
The guards didn’t answer.
“You know, I’m beginning to think you guys don’t like me.” He tried again.
“I enjoy our little talks.”
No reaction again. Jack couldn’t help but smile at the irritated scowls on the guards’ faces. He was getting on their nerves and he loved it.
Orson hurried down the hall, waving a timepiece. “You are running behind schedule.”
“He resisted, and the old man is slow.” One of the guards growled at the attendant.
“Old Man-excuse me.” Jack was indignant. That one hurt.
“I’ll have you know I’m in my prime.” O’Neill stood up straighter, but no one answered, ignoring him again.
“Am I invisible here? No one seems to hear a word I say. What’s going on?”
Orson finally turned to him. Jack was unnerved to see a hint of sadness in his eyes.
“You are about to experience our mind-sharing technology for the first time, Colonel.”
“Maybe then I’ll finally get some answers.” Jack asked.
“It is a wondrous device that links two minds. But it is also an invasive procedure that can hold some danger to both parties. That is why we monitor the subjects’ vital signs. In the event of any danger the link can be broken.” Orson spoke mechanically. He had given this unnerving warning to many acquisitions. It was one of the hardest parts of his job because he could see the fear in each subject’s eyes.
Jack listened grimly. He had so many secrets locked in his brain, Earth’s defenses, Asgard technology, the strategic capabilities of dozens of worlds. He could compromise his home planet and all its allies in the blink of an eye, and there would be nothing he could do to stop himself.
General Hammond knocked on Colonel Robert Makepeace’s apartment door. Due to the irregular nature of the situation and the uncertainty of the Colonel’s condition, he had decided to deliver the request personally.
“General.” Makepeace snapped to attention immediately.
“At ease, son. May I come in?” Hammond liked the Colonel. He was a soldier’s soldier.
“Of course, sir.” Makepeace led his commanding officer into his home.
As they walked through the entryway and into the kitchen, George took in the military paraphernalia that adorned each room. Makepeace enjoyed collecting all manner of Marine regalia, paintings, uniforms, old weapons. It was like visiting a Marine Corps museum. Soon they were sitting at the kitchen table.
“How are you feeling?” Hammond asked.
“OK, I guess. Is something wrong, sir?” The Colonel shifted in his seat.
“Dr. Frasier told me that your team experienced headaches upon your return from Nekara. Is that true?”
Makepeace hesitated. Generals rarely made house calls, and when they did it was never to deliver good news. “We did. The doctor sent us home with some extra-strength aspirin. That took care of it.”
“Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson both had headaches when they went through the gate. Major Carter feels that there may be a connection.” The General continued calmly.
“With all due respect, I’ve known O’Neill to have a few hangovers in his day. Maybe he just took the scientist along for the ride.”
“Perhaps, but I’d like you to accompany me back to the SGC for a few tests just to be sure.” Hammond ordered.
Something deep in the Colonel’s head commanded him not to go. But a direct request from the General could not be ignored, so he nodded.
“Let me lock up and I’ll be ready. What about the rest of my team?”
“They’ve been recalled as well. Since this is so irregular I wanted to speak to you myself.” George smiled. It had been much easier than he feared it would be to convince the Colonel to cooperate.
“Thank you, sir.” Makepeace locked up his home and followed the General to his car.
The ride back to Cheyenne Mountain was a quiet one. Robert wondered if something had happened to his men and him on their last trip. He searched his mind, but he couldn’t remember anything out of the ordinary. Even so it would be good to be sure. But there was something calling to him from the deepest recesses of his brain. It was telling him that there would be no detailed examination, no matter what the cost.
“Dr. Jackson, you and the Edoran will search the wreckage for any valuable items. I want you to catalogue each piece you find. Then you will show me how to use each item or your friend Garan will die in the pit. There is no room for argument. Do you understand?”
Daniel looked at the wreckage, resigned to his fate. He would have to work at the site. But Solomon would soon see that most Goa’uld devices only worked for the race itself. Then he wondered what would happen.
“I’ll do what I can.” He said slowly.
“I know you will.” Solomon’s voice was smug as he deactivated the force field and led his captive inside. “You will be allowed to move freely inside the field.” He touched a button and the chain holding Daniel’s manacles disappeared. The linguist stretched his arms over his head and smiled, grateful to be rid of the restraints.
“Now it’s time for you and your friend to get to work. I want to know everything about this site.”
O’Neill watched silently as the black door nearest him opened to reveal a large metal chair. His heart sank. Grey and ominous, it didn’t look like it was going to be a lot of fun.
“So that’s the Chair. Doesn’t look so bad.” He lied.
Orson nodded and the guards released their prisoner. Jack sighed and sat defiantly, offering no resistance.
The Nekaran stepped forward and positioned O’Neill’s wrists on the armrests, his manacles melting into the steel. Jack looked straight ahead stoically as the technician strapped his ankles to the Chair legs and placed a thick strap across his chest.
Without meeting his eyes Orson took the Colonel’s head into his hands and placed it against the back wall. Suddenly a metal band covered his forehead, connecting to the embedded triangle. Jack couldn’t move.
He looked to Orson. “What now?” He asked softly.
“Images will fill your mind so quickly that you will be unable to process them all, but that will pass. Try not to resist.”
“Beautiful.” Jack took a deep breath. He would have to just get through it.
Orson smiled weakly, he felt strangely compassionate looking into the man’s sad eyes.
“Why gives you people the right to do this?” O’Neill asked, looking into Orson’s face and seeing his hesitation for the first time.
“I’ve never asked myself that.”
Jack held his captor’s gaze. “Maybe you should.”
Orson didn’t know what to say as he closed the door on his newest captive, leaving Colonel O’Neill alone in the pitch dark.
Daniel had begun the task of cataloging the pyramid ship’s crash site.
“The craft seems to have hit the ground at a tremendous speed.” The voice of Garan said.
“Yes…we’ll have to clear away some debris before I can get inside.”
“Very well.” Solomon decided that he wanted to be at the site himself when the real excavation took place. The body transfer was useful to maintain discipline but because Dr. Jackson seemed to be under control, he felt he could take the chance and come there in person.
“I will be leaving for now. Take care to follow my instructions and everything will be fine.”
Daniel only nodded. He would excavate the ship in hopes of finding something to use against the chief and his people.
Suddenly Garan’s face changed. The boy’s eyes were wide with fear as he wobbled on his feet. Daniel helped him lower himself to the ground. “You’re back.” He said with an enthusiastic smile.
The young man nodded slowly. He couldn’t fathom what had happened to him. “I am happy to see you, Doctor Jackson.”
“I am happy to see you too.” Daniel couldn’t blame the young man for shaking with fear. He was pretty scared himself. “I know you’re afraid, Garan. I am too. But Colonel O’Neill is on the planet with us and together we will find a way to get out of here. But it may take some time. As you probably heard Solomon wants me to clear out this ship, so that’s what I intend to concentrate on for now. I need you to help me. Can you do that?”
There was silence, gradually Garan nodded, trusting Daniel and O’Neill to save him.
“Great. It’s going be a lot of lifting, but we have to remove the debris from the ship’s entrance.” He smiled his most encouraging smile and Garan’s face lightened. Then the two men walked towards the wreckage, ready to work.
Jack took another deep breath to calm himself. Trapped in the dark, unable to move, waiting for an unknown assault. It was almost more than he could bear. Isolation was the worst kind of torture. It gave a man time to think. Add to that a touch of claustrophobia picked up years before and it was definitely not O’Neill’s idea of a good time.
Suddenly a blinding white light exploded inside Jack’s head and his brain was on fire. He tried to close it off, but it invaded his entire being. His mind swelled with all the images of his life, each overlapping and flashing by as quickly as it appeared. Finally his consciousness settled on one scene -and it was the worst possible destination.
More than a memory, Jack’s mind was transported back to the home he had shared with Sara. He could feel the joy of their life as if it were real. They sat in the yard laughing. Then the sound silenced them. Jack knew what it was immediately. The chill that ran through him changed his soul, leaving a darkness that would never disappear.
He ran to Charlie’s room-blind with terror. There he saw his son. His face unrecognizable, lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood. Jack screamed his name and ran to his side. Soon Sara hurried to them, hysterical.
“We have to get to the hospital!” Jack screamed over his wife’s bloodcurdling cries.
Moving as quickly as he could, the Colonel wrapped his son in a blanket and carried him to the car. Sara cradled the little boy in her arms in the backseat as her husband drove. O’Neill was in full military mode, he mind focused on traffic, concentrating on the road through streaming tears. He could hear the gunshot echoing over and over in his mind. It had been his own gun…his own damn gun…
Finally they were at the emergency room door, Jack running with his son’s limp body and his wife hurrying behind them.
“I need a doctor!” He yelled, his voice cracking with panic. “I need a doctor now!” This time he wasn’t kidding.
A nurse stopped them, taking Charlie to an examination room.
Jack and Sara held each other as the nurse asked them questions. O’Neill felt disconnected. This had to be a bad dream. Charlie knew better. Damn it, my own gun.
Then the doctor was standing in front of them. He looked grim.
“I’m sorry, there was nothing we could do.”
Jack exploded. “What the hell do you mean there’s nothing you can do! You’re a doctor for Christ’s sake! My son…” his voice trailed off to a whisper.
He embraced Sara, holding on for dear life as she screamed into his chest. Both husband and wife were sobbing.
Later, the O’Neill’s were permitted to go into their son’s room one last time. He looked so fragile, Jack thought. Not at all like the athletic little boy who had been growing into a young man. Sara held Charlie’s cold little hand and the Colonel watched his family silently, his heart shattered. Unable to bear the sight a moment longer, he finally bolted into the hall.
There he broke down. Wracked with grief, Jack O’Neill sank to the floor. “I killed my son. Dear God, I killed my son…”
Jack’s brain was suddenly his own again. He was sobbing as he slowly took in the blackness of his prison, realizing the memory was gone.
The Colonel breathed softly, regaining control. He was still strapped to the Chair, alone in the dark. ‘Charlie, I’m so sorry…’
Battling fear and confusion, he cursed himself. ‘No! It’s been years. Don’t go down that road again!’ O’Neill lowered the wall back over the past as best he could.
Daniel stopped to wipe his brow. The morning sun was hot and a great deal of rubble had settled over the ship. Removing it was hard work.
He and Garan had almost finished clearing the entry. After a brief rest they pulled away the last of the debris.
“Well done, men.” Solomon had returned while they were working. Daniel was relieved to see the leader in his own body this time.
“Are you ready to enter?” He asked.
“I think we are. Would you like to go first?” Daniel offered.
Solomon smiled. He fancied himself an explorer and had dreamed of such an opportunity.
He entered the ship with a light generating device that Daniel assumed was similar to a flashlight.
The linguist scanned walls covered with hieroglyphics. It would take months to decipher them all. He squatted to examine two decomposing corpses.
“This ship must have crashed months ago.” He said to no one in particular. Maybe it was the advance guard for an invasion of this planet. Not that he would ever wish the Goa’uld on anyone. But he couldn’t help but wonder how Solomon would feel as a slave to Apophis.
“Amazing.” The chief muttered.
He turned to Daniel. “Have you ever flown in one of these vessels?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Even here with your sick society you have no concept of the evil that takes place on board a ship like this.”
Solomon ignored him. The naïve archeologist would soon help him harness the ultimate power. For that he could say whatever he liked.
Daniel frowned as his gaze fell on a metal object lying by one of the corpses. ‘Was it a zat gun?’
Solomon saw it too. He picked up the weapon cautiously. “Interesting. Tell me what it is.” He commanded.
“I don’t know.” Daniel hoped he was convincing.
Solomon laughed. “Dr. Jackson. I don’t think you understand your situation. Maybe we need to take a trip back to the city.” He handed the gun to one of the guards accompanying them.
“I understand too well. I won’t help you hurt people.” Daniel wrapped his arms around his chest.
Solomon’s gaze hardened. He would not tolerate defiance. “You will do whatever I tell you to do. I thought you understood that. I suppose we will have to go back to the city for another demonstration of my authority.”
The Chief moved everyone out of the wreckage. “The boy will remain here. Dr. Jackson put out your wrists.”
Daniel followed instructions obediently and soon he was manacled again. He sighed as he was led away. What now?
Jack fought to maintain his focus on the here and now. He was a prisoner, Daniel was a prisoner, and Charlie was…hell after all these years he was still gone.
Suddenly his brain was on fire again. He fought as hard as he could, anything to stop himself from going back to that awful day. Using techniques he had learned more than twenty years before, he tried to focus on the disciplines that had gotten him through years of black ops and worse. But this wasn’t like any mind control he had ever experienced. It was invading the very core of his brain, leaving him defenseless to fight.
Soon he was back in the yard laughing with Sara. He felt the sun on his face. The warm breeze. He was teasing her when the sound came that silenced them. Jack knew what it was immediately…
After the horror had run its’ course again, he found himself weeping uncontrollably. At first he couldn’t make the connection, had he gone insane? Certainly he had been on the brink many times.
He was trapped in the darkness, unable to move. Maybe the truth had finally become too much to bear. Charlie…Sara…was that yesterday, or years ago?
Suddenly he wasn’t sure.
Daniel silently watched Solomon examine his new prize as they rode back to Lacitta. The zat gun could provide the kind of advantage he and Jack needed, but if the Chief had it at his disposal they would be in big trouble. He almost laughed at his own ridiculous thought. ‘Look around Jackson, we are already in big trouble.’
“Now I am going to show you the heart of Nekara.” Solomon said as the vehicle stopped.
Daniel let himself be led out onto the street and inside another huge complex. It was filled with eager people, pushing and shoving to keep their place in line. The linguist looked down a long corridor lined with black doors. Solomon turned and walked next to him along the sterile white hallway.
“Several centuries ago a technological revolution eliminated all manner of suffering on our planet. Now the ordinary Nekara leads a perfect life, no disease, no crime, no poverty. But that also means nothing to add the spice of life to the average citizen’s existence. As the years of peace and tranquility passed with no new challenges they found themselves starving for mental stimulation.”
“How many citizens are there?” Daniel asked.
“Over five hundred thousand. Each one yearns for something to add excitement to his or her day. So desperate in fact was their desire that a large-scale search for something to satisfy them became a citywide obsession. It was clear that whoever could create the right technology to satisfy those needs would become the leader of Lacitta.”
“About thirty years ago, my partner and I were the winners of the race. We developed the Pit first. The large-scale adventures brought everyone together as a community. But there was still a call for something more intimate. Personal contact with minds from other worlds was at the heart of our citizens’ yearning.”
As they moved closer, Daniel was surprised to see a young woman weeping in the first chair next to the black door. Her eyes were closed and she seemed far away.
“That woman doesn’t look too entertained. What is she doing?” He asked.
“You will see soon enough.” He led the linguist to another empty seat. Daniel sat with hesitation. His heart sank when he saw Orson coming toward him. The little man was speaking to an eager Nekaran walking by his side.
“Have you ever experienced the Chair before?” He asked.
The man nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yes, I come as often as I can. It is incredible.”
Orson stopped when he saw the group waiting before him. “Chief Solomon! This is highly irregular.”
Solomon took him aside. “Dr. Jackson will be taking a turn in the Chair. Use 'The Accident', it’s our biggest seller.”
Orson saw that the young man was seated next to his friend’s chamber. “Are you certain you wish to use this subject, Chief?” He asked, knowing how difficult it would be for one friend to experience the personal tragedies of the other.
“Is that not what I just said?” Solomon growled.
“Of course, sir.” Orson apologized to his client profusely. He would have to allow the other man to go first. The customer frowned, but bowed to Chief Solomon and returned to the waiting room.
Orson turned back to Daniel, who was waiting silently.
“Hello, Dr. Jackson.” Orson placed the familiar headband on the linguist’s forehead and fastened his wrists to the armrests.
“Do not worry, the restraints are for your own safety.” Orson saw the fear in the young man’s eyes. “The first time can be rather severe.” He said softly, wishing he would not have to expose the young man to his friend’s most intimate memories.
“Thank you. Have you seen Jack? Is he alright?” Jackson whispered.
Orson couldn’t bring himself to answer. He would be reunited with the Colonel soon enough.
When Daniel was secured, Solomon stepped forward. “Relax, open your mind and you will experience sensations unrivaled anywhere in the universe.”
Daniel could feel a power building in his mind. His consciousness was expanding outward, reaching beyond his physical body into the mind of another. Soon the being that was Daniel Jackson had merged with the being that was Jack O’Neill. Both men living the same life, experiencing the same emotions. Each believing the past was real.
Jackson was sitting with his wife in the yard when the gun went off. The horrible sound echoed through his mind as he saw his son’s bloody body lying on the bedroom floor, the victim of his own gun. Then came the heartbreaking rush to the hospital. Finally he collapsed to the floor outside his son’s room, weeping uncontrollably as he realized that Charlie was really gone.
Suddenly Daniel’s mind seemed to contract, leaving the other man’s body and returning to his own, the horrible tragedy coming with him.
He wept as his eyes snapped open. “I killed my son. Dear God, I killed my son…”
Orson was removing the headband when Daniel’s head cleared and his own memories came flooding back.
“What is your name?” Orson asked. It was a routine he followed with all customers of the Chair. But this time it was different. Solomon’s use of one friend against the other had been cruel and for the first time Orson was ashamed of his job.
“Daniel…Jackson. I remember it all, Orson. Thank you.” The linguist answered quietly. He was overwhelmed by the torment his friend must be living with every day.
“Good. There are no lasting side effects of exposure to the Chair, so do not worry.” Orson smiled reassuringly.
“What about Jack?” Daniel asked.
“Colonel O’Neill now has a new role as a tool of Nekaran society. He will adjust to it over time. It is always difficult at first, but the rewards are so great that it’s well worth the effort.” Solomon smiled, moving past Orson and dismissing him with the wave of a hand.
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re not sitting here.” Jackson stretched as he was released from the manacles. But the freedom was short lived as the chain was reattached after he was standing on his own.
“How noble. You have to admit, the power of the Chair is amazing.”
Daniel said nothing.
Solomon smiled at his captive’s submissive posture. “Now that you have experienced it for yourself, let me show you how it works.” The Chief proudly led him to the left, down a short hall and then left again until they were directly behind the entertainment center.
Daniel was surprised to see a large room filled with individual monitoring stations. Each consisted of two computers and one technician making notes.
“Here is the nerve center of our civilization. Keeping people happy and satisfied is our mission.”
“And of course it allows you to maintain your power.” Daniel added.
“Yes it does. The people reward me for satisfying their needs by making me rich and supporting me as leader of our community.”
“How does it all work?” The archeologist asked, hoping desperately to gather information for a future escape.
Solomon smiled proudly. “We have perfected our daily operations. Each customer browses our extensive mental scans for an adventure they would like to share. Then they reserve a seat.”
They stopped in front of a workstation. “The monitor on the left shows the subject’s mental activity. We can see the entire adventure as it unfolds. Of course this one is black because we are between customers. On this screen we monitor the vital signs of both parties. A visit to the Chair can be very emotional, as you now know. Our technicians have the authority to terminate any adventure for the sake of the health of either party.”
Daniel shuffled anxiously, still haunted by the site of Charlie’s dead body.
“We are ready for go.” The technician announced as he made some last minute adjustments to the control pad in front of him. The left screen came to life. Daniel felt his heart breaking all over again. It was Sara.
Unable to bear witness to the scene again, he turned to Solomon. “You’ve made your point, turn it off.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. A customer has paid to experience Colonel O’Neill’s memories. In fact this particular adventure is gong to be a best seller.”
Daniel flinched when he heard the shot again. It was all so fresh in his mind. He wondered how Jack had moved on after such horror. He remembered the shell of a man he met all those years ago and felt guilty for the way he had treated him. No wonder O’Neill had been ready to die.
Solomon silently examined the emotions on display across Daniel’s face. He was satisfied that the man would be easier to control now that he had experienced the alternative first hand. “Powerful theatre, wouldn’t you say, Doctor.”
“How much does the subject know?” Daniel took a deep breath.
“Therein lies the secret to our success. The customer and the subject are taken back to the incident as it is imprinted in the acquisition’s brain. Both experience everything as the subject did at the time the memory was created.
“My God…You mean Jack is being forced to relive his son’s death every time someone selects that memory!” He was choked with anguish. He imagined the horror of having to experience Sha’re’s death over and over again. He didn’t think he could survive that.
“Now do you see why you will cooperate with me?” He asked.
Daniel whispered, felling small and helpless. “If I don’t, you’ll just hook me up to the machine and take what you want.”
“Exactly.” Solomon was happy to have made his point.
The monitor went dark again. Daniel silently willed Jack to hold on until they found a way home.
“Now let us return to the crash site.” Solomon led Jackson to the vehicle and back to the wreckage.
The archeologist said nothing during the trip. With Jack trapped in the Chair and Garan’s arrival from Edora, he felt overwhelmed. On top of that he would be forced to show Solomon how to use the zat gun and the staff weapon. Everything was lost.
Solomon smiled smugly. He saw the slump of his captive’s shoulders
and he knew he had won. With O’Neill under control and Jackson broken
nothing would stand in his way.