Connections Part
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Fan Fiction Main

Connections Part Six
By Tammy K
tkukuk@netscape.net
 

RATING: PG-13
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.
URL: http://www.crosswinds.net/~latlk/connectionsone.html

***

 “What are you planning to do, Colonel?” General Hammond watched SG-3 critically.  Each man looked desperate.

“We must leave here.”  Makepeace sounded distant and confused.

“You are not going anywhere, son.  You must realize that.”  The General’s voice was soothing.

The members of SG-3 seemed to be affected by Hammond’s certainty.  They hesitated for a moment.

“Think this through, Colonel.  The installation is filled with soldiers.  You and your men won’t get far.”

Makepeace moved to the door, his men followed.

“The key.”  He looked at Doctor Frasier.

“Give it to them, doctor.”  The General ordered.  Better to get them into the main base and away from the patients.

Janet complied, watching as Makepeace and his team left the room.

General Hammond frowned knowingly as he heard the click of the latch.

They were locked in.

***

Daniel followed Solomon back into the large arena complex.

“Tomorrow you and Colonel O’Neill will help me become the most heralded Chairman in history.”

“How?”  The linguist asked as they entered the control room above the arena floor.

“You will see tomorrow.  Now enjoy our newest performer.”

Jackson looked down into the arena where he gasped at Garan.  The boy was being forced to climb out of the pit just as he and Jack had two days before.

“Would you like a visor.  It can be most exciting to see how each race performs in the pit.”

“You said he would be clearing debris at the crash site.”  Daniel scanned the room, desperate to find something to help his friend.

“Come now, Doctor, I thought I had made it perfectly clear.  You are powerless against me.  Enjoy the show.”

“The show!  You’re playing with people’s minds.  You could kill him!”  Daniel exclaimed.

“You are mistaken.  The pit has failsafe mechanisms to protect the performers.  I am sure you noticed how slowly you and the Colonel fell as you approached the bottom.”

“We were never in any real danger?”  Daniel did notice his slow descent, but to think it was all rigged for maximum suffering was disgusting.

“No, you were not.  It would not be profitable to let our star attractions die now would it?”  Solomon smiled at his captive’s surprise.

Daniel watched as the boy struggled in the pit.  He scanned the faces in the audience and their rapt attention made him sick.  “How can you people call this entertainment? His suffering is real.”  He was indignant.

“That is why they love it so much.  The emotion touches them in ways their dreary, ordinary lives cannot.”

Daniel had nothing more to add.  He turned his attention to the arena.  There were guards everywhere, but they were watching the drama being played out in the Box.  Maybe that was the kind of exploitable weakness he and Jack were looking for.

***

“We have to get out of here, sir.”  Janet was unnerved.

“We will.”  Hammond calmly looked around the room for a lock pick.   His gaze stopped on the doctor’s hair.

“Tell me those are hair pins, doctor.”  He smiled.

“They are.”  She removed a black, metal pin from her hair, ignoring the long strands that fell to her shoulders.

General Hammond jiggled it in the lock.

***

“Don’t look so sad Doctor Jackson.  You and Colonel O’Neill should be honored.  You have conquered the hearts of an entire society.

Daniel shook his head.  “We’re nothing more than toys to you.  What’s so flattering about that?”

“You’re wrong.  You misunderstand our culture.”  Solomon turned to the control panel in front of him.

Jackson saw an opportunity to gather intelligence.  “I may never understand your people, but I am interested in your technology.”

The Chief smiled.  He was always happy to boast.  “We have spent many cycles developing our mind transfer techniques.”

“It is all much more advanced than anything we have on Earth.  How do you power your machinery?”  Daniel was genuinely interested.

“The Crystal absorbs electrical impulses from the air.  The power it generates is perpetual.”

Jackson looked at the large sphere glowing above the arena and nodded in admiration.  “One crystal powers the entire complex?”

“Yes.  It provides unlimited energy.”

“Amazing.”  Daniel saw that Garan was climbing back up the side of the pit.  “Where did you find it?”

“We created it, actually.  It was an accidental byproduct of some energy experiments my partner and I were conducting over thirty years ago.  We tested the orb and found that it was capable of magnificent things.”  Solomon remembered the incredible sense of accomplishment he and Marcus had shared at their discovery.

“I didn’t think such a thing was possible.  But then looking around I see that you have gone so far beyond our technology that I shouldn’t be surprised by anything you show me.”  Daniel was laying it on thick, but not entirely without merit.  Their technology was so far ahead of Earth that there were very few common elements.

Solomon nodded with supreme ego

“And how have you created all this?”  The linguist continued to probe.

“We’ve perfected the ability to manipulate matter.  This console breaks it down to a molecular form and reassembles it as we have programmed.”

“So everything around us has been created by the machine, even the arena?”  Jackson didn’t have to pretend to be impressed.

“Not everything.  We constructed skeletal forms for safety purposes, then we added what you see here.”  The Chief explained.

Daniel stood next to Solomon examining the machine. “All that from this small device.”  He gushed, drawing him out.

“This cell has unlimited capabilities.  It fuels the machine that links every citizen to the minds of the performers.  That is its’ greatest achievement.”

“So there is one of these cells in the complex where Jack is being held?”  The archeologist probed.

“No.  This machine is one of a kind.  Small units are attached to each chair.  But they all draw their energy from the crystal as well.”  Solomon was enjoying the opportunity to explain his work to another scientist.

“Simply amazing.”  Daniel breathed a sigh of relief as Garan pulled himself out of the pit.  Thank goodness he was all right.

Solomon saw his attention diverted.  “Do not worry about him.  Young men are very highly prized here on Nekara.”

Jackson frowned.  He didn’t like the sound of that.

“We admire their spirit and their fresh outlook.  It is a status symbol to have a young man to carry your consciousness to parties and the like.  Garan will stay with me until he ages then I will choose another.”

Jackson took a deep breath.  He couldn’t let his indignation undermine the rapport he was building with Solomon.  “Are there any side effects to all this transferring of consciousness?”  He asked evenly.

“None.  Both subjects join and separate without harming either mind.”  Solomon answered flatly.

 “Last night Colonel O’Neill was having a hard time distinguishing between the past and the present.  Was that a side effect of his time in the Chair.”  Daniel tried to play it cool.  Now was the time to pump his captor for information he could use later to get them out.

“The Chair is much more powerful than the Consciousness Sharing Device.  It actually enters the brain and controls individual thoughts.  Therefore the side effects are more severe.  As the subject’s brain is forced to experience past events as present day reality it becomes more difficult for it to distinguish between the two.  Over time the conscious mind becomes permanently confused.  But that in no way affects the unconscious mind, so visits can continue indefinitely.”

“But the subject is left as a vegetable?”  Daniel’s anger bubbled to the surface.

“You are a melodramatic man, Doctor.  Your friend will merely become rooted in the past.  He will have no concept of the separation between memories and reality because his mind travels through time constantly.  His senses will be dulled and the process will no longer upset him.”

“How long does that take?”  Daniel whispered.

“With constant exposure he should become contented in a few days.  The smaller the exposure the longer the adjustment period.”

“That’s why there are so few escapes, men lose their free will.”  ‘Damn, we are running out of time.’  Daniel cursed under his breath.

“Correct.  They become satisfied with their lives.  Your friend will no longer suffer.  Surely that’s what you want.”

Jackson’s mind was reeling.  “What about me?”  He asked.

“I wish to share in your mind alone, so you will become my personal servant.  Your adjustment period will be longer I’m afraid, but in time you too will be contented.”

Daniel shivered.  For the first time he felt like he and his friend were totally at the Chief’s mercy. He could see now that his captor couldn’t conceive of the Tau’ri as anything more than cows or household pets. There was no way to appeal to his sense of decency or compassion because as far as he was concerned they were his to do with what he pleased.

***

General Hammond beamed with pride when he heard the click of the lock.  “See, Doctor, easy as pie.”

“Impressive.  I won’t ask where you learned how to do that.”  Doctor Frasier smiled.

“Good.”  George answered as he slowly opened the door.  “We may need to tranquilize those men.  Can you get something and meet me in the gate room?”

“Of course.  Good luck, sir.”

The General nodded and hurried toward the embarkation room, knowing SG-3 would be waiting.

***

After Teal'c and the Major cleared their heads, they returned to the computer nerve center.

“Do you feel better?”  Dayna asked.

“Yes, I guess I just needed a few minutes of your clear air.  This is a beautiful community.”  Sam’s head was still pounding.

“It certainly is.  It takes a few outings to get used to the Chair.  But then the headaches will disappear.”

“Good.  I’d like to learn more about the process.”  Major Carter stood over Dayna’s shoulder watching her manipulate the controls.  “This technology is amazing.  You can actually tap into the brain waves of another mind.”  Sam mused.

Dayna was proud.  She could sense that the other woman had a keen interest in technology as well.

“We evaluate and target certain signals that travel from one part of the brain to another.  By splitting them while they are in transit we can access any part of the subject’s mind and route it here for our enjoyment.”

“That’s the hard part for me to understand.  Why would you want to experience other people’s memories?”

“The rush.  I feel so alive when I share that incredible depth of emotion.  Colonel O’Neill has seen many incredible things.  I want to experience them too.  The only way I can do that is through the machine.”

“You could pursue your own adventures, create a life for yourself.”

Dayna was amused.  “You think we are sheltered because we do not explore or create the way you do.  Yet our achievements far outweigh yours.”

Sam couldn’t argue with that, but all the technology in the world was no match for the rush of discovery when they traveled to a new world, or the heart pounding pride of a narrow escape under weapon’s fire.  She felt sorry for Dayna because she would never know those things.

“I’m certainly not saying that.  It’s just so different from our way of life that I’m trying to understand.  I hope you’ll forgive me.”  Sam put on her best ‘forgive my naivete’ face.

“Of course.  I know it is a new experience.”  Dayna’s smile was condescending.

Sam nodded slightly, letting the woman treat her like a child.  “Thank you for your patience.”  Carter knew she had to make a decision about whether or not these people could be trusted.  It was time to start asking the tough questions and in order to do that she would have to confess her true identity.  The people of Sarafeen had extended their hospitality to them and that spoke volumes about their character.

“I have to ask you for help.”  Major Carter looked to Teal'c.  The Jaffa knew what she was asking and he nodded.

“Maybe you’d better go find Marcus so he can hear this too.”  Teal'c had no difficulty tracking down the leader near a large meeting table in the courtyard.  Soon both men were standing before Sam and Dayna.

“What is it, Sarren?  Teyrll said you have something to tell me.”  Marcus was puzzled.

“I do.  First of all, we have not been totally forthcoming with you.  I am Major Samantha Carter of the SGC, and this is Teal'c.”  They removed their disguises.

“By the gods, you work with O’Neill.  I’ve seen you in his memories.”  Dayna was shocked.

“You lied to us…why?”  Marcus was saddened.  He had begun to like the strangers.

“We have been searching for Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson since they were kidnapped a few days ago.  We had no way of knowing what we would find here, so we decided to conceal our identities.”  Carter explained.

“Why are you revealing yourselves now?”  Dayna asked.

“We need your help to free our friends.”  Sam stretched the wig back over her head.

“Free O’Neill?  He is the best new acquisition Nekara has seen in years.  His mind is filled with so many wonderful adventures.”  Dayna was torn.  She had spent many hours in the Chair since the Colonel’s arrival.

“But he is here against his will.”  Marcus added.  He would like to free everyone trapped in that dreadful machine.  But he knew he was no match for Solomon because he had the support of the Nekaran people.

“So are all the rest of them.  The weak have always been the victims of the strong.” Dayna was raised with the Chair.  She couldn’t understand the resistance of older people like Marcus.

“You have shared many of the Colonel’s adventures.  He is far from weak.”  Teal'c said bitterly.

“But he must have been mastered by the Nekarans because he is here now.  That is our legacy.  I will not help you destroy it.”  Dayna wouldn’t budge.

“OK, so you won’t help us rescue him, but what about communicating with him?” Sam reasoned.

“What do you have in mind?”  The Nekaran was suspicious.

“I need to get a signal to Colonel O’Neill.  Can we do that from here?”  Sam asked.

Dayna perked up.  She loved a challenge.  “Hummm…I think we could send a small message to him.  There is a ten-second period of time at the end of each session that the subject’s connection is open, but the Nekaran has disengaged.  No one would be paying attention.”

“And you could reverse the memory collector to collect my brain waves and send them to the Colonel?”  Carter could see the possibility of success for the first time.

“I’ve never tried it, but it should work.”

“How long will it take to make the adjustments?”  Sam asked.

“Not long.  The programming is elementary.  But that’s all I’m willing to do.”  Dayna was a scientist at heart.  Besides, she couldn’t imagine how such a small gesture would help the Colonel escape.

“Thank you.  I won’t ask for any more.”  Sam smiled.

Marcus smiled too.  He was relieved to see a crack in the woman’s resistance.

Sam sat next to Dayna and watched, absorbing all the information she could about the system.  She understood the concept, but the manipulation of brainwaves, that was incredible!  Doctor Samantha Carter, physicist, was in full control.

“I am reversing the targeting information so the receiver that has been intercepting signals from inside his brain will now send our message to the same location.”  Dayna explained as she moved her fingers over the control panel.

“Amazing.”  Sam marveled at the simplicity of the concept.  “How do I send Colonel O’Neill my thoughts?”

“You will be waiting in the Chair for the Colonel’s current session to end.  Then when the paying customer is disengaged we will quickly make the adjustment.  You will have about five seconds to contact him, that is all.”

Sam nodded.  “I just want to let him know we’re here.”  Sam knew she would not be able to use that time to do anything more than that.  But after experiencing his feelings of isolation and loss on Edora she needed to let the Colonel know they were with him.

“It will be approximately five minutes before we are ready.”  Dayna finished her last calculations.

“Alright.”  Carter moved aside Teal'c.

“It will ease O’Neill’s mind to hear from you.”  He said.

Sam smiled, grateful for his unwavering support.  “I hope so.”

Soon, she sat strapped to the Chair thinking about what she would say to her commanding officer.

***

General Hammond found three soldiers unconscious on the floor outside the gate room.  He took one of their rifles and headed slowly into the chamber.

Makepeace, Johnson, and Collins were waiting by the gate while Whitaker stood in the control room forcing Sergeant Davis to dial the address for Nekara.

“Stand down, Colonel.  Let us help you.”  The General gripped his gun, considering how far to let his officer go before he would be forced to use it.

There was no response.  They all seemed to be in a trance.

“Can you hear me, Bob?”  He asked.

Silence.

“Damn it, Colonel, answer me.  That’s an order!”  General Hammond switched to his best base commander growl.  But nothing changed.

Suddenly the gate came to life.  Hammond hurried up the ramp and stood before his men, determined to stop them from leaving.  All four Marines marched toward him, their faces blank.

***

Jack came out of it, sobbing again.  He felt the unbearable heartbreak of losing his son just as he had the first time.  “I killed my son.”  He muttered.

O’Neill wondered why he was strapped to the Chair, his head buzzing.  Must be in the hospital.  The death of his son had hit him hard.  He really needed to talk to Sarah.

Suddenly, he thought he heard a familiar voice inside his mind.  ‘Colonel, it’s Carter and Teal'c.  Hold on, sir.  We’re here.  Tell Daniel too.’

Carter?  Teal’c?  How could they be at the hospital when he hadn’t even met them yet?  In fact, if this was 1993 and he had just rushed his son to the emergency ward then how did he recognize his second in command’s voice at all?  His mind was a jumble of the past and the present, but hearing the Major’s voice helped him focus on reality.  Their friends had found them!  Thank you, God!

***

 “There’s no way to know if he heard you.”  Dayna said as she ended the transmission.  “But the theory is sound.”

“He did.”  Carter’s intuition told her as she was released from the Chair.

“I believe the Colonel heard you as well.”  Teal'c moved to her side.  She touched his arm.

“Thanks.”  Sam touched her friend’s arm.

“Would you two like some nourishment?”  Marcus stepped back into the group, as gregarious as before.

“That would be great.”  A little of the pressure had been lifted from Carter’s shoulders.  Now Colonel O’Neill would not feel so hopeless and alone.  Even if he could not speak to her, she had let him know she was on the way.  Hopefully that would ease his mind.

***

The General raised his weapon.

“Stop right there.”  He commanded.  But again the men ignored him.  Hammond would have to fire soon or it would be too late.  But to shoot at his own men would be unconscionable.  There had to be some other way.

Suddenly Doctor Frasier and three other medical officers hurried into the room.  They moved quickly to inject each marine with a strong tranquilizer.  Colonel Makepeace whirled to defend himself and knocked Janet to the ground.

But the drug acted quickly and he was incapacitated before he could do any further damage.  All four members of SG-3 sank to the floor, unconscious.

General Hammond let out a sigh of relief as he helped Frasier to her feet.

“Well done, doctor.  I was afraid I was going to have to shoot.”

“I’m glad you didn’t, sir.”   Janet smiled.

The General looked up to Davis, who was also smiling with relief.  “Shut it down, Sergeant, and close the iris.”

With the protective shield closing behind them, General Hammond and Doctor Frasier watched as a medical team took all four men back to the infirmary.

“They will have to be restrained of course.”  Janet said.

“Yes.  Run those tests and bring the results to my office.  I’ll have a 24 hour guard posted to avoid any more trouble.”

“Thank you, sir.  I’ll contact you as soon as I know anything.”

Hammond nodded as the doctor left.  Suddenly exhausted, he walked slowly back to his office.  Hopefully the medical team would be able to find out what was wrong with his men.

***

Sam and Teal'c followed Marcus to a large table in the middle of the courtyard.  Carter catalogued the surroundings.  People seemed contented with their simple lives.  Some had the metal triangle on their foreheads marking them as either victims or addicts of the Chair, while others did not.

Teal'c watched too, looking for threatening movements, ensuring their safety.  He concentrated on his role as sentinel, confident that Major Carter would lead him well.

Sam stopped when she recognized some young men working in the vegetable fields just outside of town.  It was the group that had attacked them on their way to the mountains.

Marcus followed her glance.  “As I said, they are being punished.  The young men will work in our fields until I feel they understand the severity of their crimes.”

Carter nodded.  “I’m glad to see they are learning their lesson.”  With the nagging ache in her shoulder as a constant reminder, the Major would have preferred a chance to give them a little personal instruction.

“Sit here and eat with us.  Our food is simple, but it fills our souls.”  Marcus motioned them to two benches on his left.  Then he took his seat at the head of the table and all began to eat.

“So share some information.  How do you know O’Neill and Jackson?”  Marcus smiled looking to Carter.

“We travel together as explorers.”  Carter answered, no entirely happy about the question.

The Nekaran was impressed.  “You must be fine soldiers to travel with the heroes of Abydos.”

“We try.”  She smiled.  “Now you can answer a question for me.”

Marcus nodded.   “You would like to know about the city?”

“Yes.  Anything you can tell us would be helpful.”

“Lacitta was constructed many years ago to provide its citizens with a care free environment in which to thrive.  It is climate controlled and pollution free.  Each concentric circle is filled with all the amenities of a prefect life.”  Marcus’s words were filled with regret.  He had helped to engineer their sterile society many years before, sure that the easy life would give the citizens of Lacitta more time to engage in noble pursuits.  Instead they had become addicted to the worst kind of meaningless existence.

“Not too perfect for the people strapped in the Chair.”  Carter frowned.

“No indeed.”  Marcus continued.  “But when our work first began, we used each other as subjects.  It was fascinating to see life through another person’s eyes.  I felt like we were creating a better understanding among our people.  Unfortunately I was wrong.  Soon people tired of the minds of their friends and neighbors so they turned away from us.  But Solomon had tasted power and he could not live without it.”

“That’s when he started kidnapping people to use as subjects?”  Sam asked.

Marcus nodded.  “From the very beginning of our experiments, Solomon had been massing his own personal army.  He told me it was to keep the planet secure from outsiders. And I believed him.  Soon a group of alien explorers came through the Stone Ring and his army captured them.  He used the mind scanner to gather information about the ring and began sending troops to other planets to find new subjects.  When the people of Nekara first experienced an alien mind in the Chair all of society changed.  We had been such an isolated community that our citizens quickly became addicted to the excitement and diversity of other peoples.  Solomon saw their growing hunger as an opportunity to solidify his power and now he controls all the most important things in our city.”

Sam was disgusted, how could they feel they had a right to kidnap people from other worlds?  “Where do you and your followers fit in?”  She asked.

“I wouldn’t call them followers exactly.  Partners I hope.  But I had been a happy member of Nekaran society.  I enjoyed working in Solomon’s laboratory for many years, helping him to develop the early mind experiments, but that was with volunteers.  When he began using unwilling subjects I resigned and moved here.  Many have followed.”

“And Solomon hasn’t tried to take over your settlement and add it to his own?”  Sam took a bite of a strange green vegetable.  It was delicious.

“He and I were good friends.  We still are to some degree.  I do not think he would try to force me to return to Lacitta.  We share an odd respect.  Besides, he knows we are no threat to him.”  He passed them more food, then turned to the Jaffa.  “Teal'c, you have been quiet.  Why are you here?”

“Colonel O’Neill and DanielJackson are my teammates and my friends.”  He was enjoying the vegetables as well.

“They are lucky to have such good friends.  I hope you can free them.”

Sam smiled and thanked him.  They had found an ally.

***

Jack almost fell when Arik pulled him up out of the Chair.

He was mentally and physically exhausted from the day’s ordeal.  Tears stained his face from the last session.  Another trip through Charlie’s death.  He cautiously looked down at his clothes, relieved to see that they were not soaked with his own son’s blood.

“Now you see the fate of those marked for the Chair.”  Arik said as he supported the Colonel until he could stand on his own.

“Yeah, it’s swell.”  Jack rasped sadly, no strength left for posturing,

Arik only nodded as he took control of his captive.

Manacled again, O’Neill was dragged back to his cell where the linguist was waiting.

Jackson stood by the force field, smiling encouragement to his friend.  “You finally made it.  I was getting worried.”  Daniel said as he watched Arik manhandle the Colonel again.

 “I would have called ahead, but I was so busy sharing my brain with the whole damn planet that I lost track of time.”  Jack added with a mild grin, happy to see his friend again.

Suddenly Daniel’s face seemed to go blank.  Before the Colonel could think about it though, Arik threw him to the ground again and the force field was reactivated.

“See you tomorrow.”  Jack quipped softly as the Nekaran turned and left without a word.

“This floor is not getting any softer.”  The Colonel grumbled as Daniel helped him into his usual spot, propped against the wall.

“How are you doing?”  The linguist asked.

“How do I look?”  The Colonel grumbled as he shifted to a more comfortable position.

“Terrible.”

“There you go.”  Jack was having a hard time focusing on the here and now. “I know this is going to sound crazy, but what year is this?”  He asked, confused by the seeming overlap of Carter’s voice and Charlie’s death.

“Why?”  Daniel asked.

“It’s all a little fuzzy.  I could have sworn I just heard Carter’s voice in my head.  But it was right after Charlie’s…” Jack closed his eyes.  Was he still in the hospital?  What was Daniel doing here?  Where was Sarah?

“Are you sure it was her?”  Jackson was suddenly interested.

“Yeah.  She said something in my head right after I opened my eyes.”

Daniel shook his head sadly.  “The Chair must be having an effect on your mind.  Chief Solomon told me it would blur the lines between past and present.”

“Maybe.  But I feel like she was real.”  Jack was getting more and more concerned.  Where was Sarah?

Jackson sat next to O’Neill.  Something was off about the young man, Jack just couldn’t put his finger on it.

“How about you?”  He asked.

“I’m fine.  Solomon wants me to be his own personal slave so he treats me pretty well.”

“Personal slave, huh.  Some guys have all the luck.”  Colonel O’Neill scrubbed his hand over his face and back through his graying hair.  His mind was beginning to clear.  Sarah wasn’t here.  Heck, she wasn’t even on this planet.

“You don’t look too good, Danny.  Are you sure you’re alright?”  Jack asked again as he saw that his friend’s blank stare had not changed.  Something was definitely wrong.

 “Would you stop that, Colonel. I said I was OK.”  Daniel’s voice had a casualness his face didn’t show.  Weird.

“Colonel?  Did you enlist while I was gone?”  Jack’s alarm bells were ringing. The linguist hadn’t called him that in a long time.  On this planet where they could stick an orb in your head and use you like a remote control airplane, he wasn’t sure he could trust anything.  In fact, he was beginning to wonder if the man in front of him was Daniel Jackson at all.  “What the hell is going on here?  Whoever you are…” Jack slid away from the figure before him.

“You are very perceptive, Colonel.  I am not Doctor Jackson.”

“Where is he…?”

 “He is here.  I am merely borrowing his body to visit with you.  I wanted to tell you what an impressive addition you’ve made to the Chair.  Tickets have been sold for cycles in advance.”

“Solomon?  Is that you in there?”  Jack’s eyes were burning with anger.

“It is.  I have the ability to transfer my consciousness to any body.  Even yours.”  Daniel’s voice was flat and lifeless.

It made the hair stand up on the back of the Colonel’s neck.  He had just told Solomon that Carter and Teal'c were on the planet.  Damn it!

“Don’t do me any favors.  Say your piece, then get out of there.”  O’Neill growled.  Mad at himself for being fooled so easily.

“I assure you, Doctor Jackson is fine.  I wanted to see how you were doing.”

 “How sweet.  I’m touched.  But don’t kid an old man, I’ll bet the real reason you’re here is to threaten me with your infinite power or something like that.  Am I getting warm?”

Daniel’s voice was filled with delight.  “An impressive insight.  My power will be infinite after tomorrow’s presentation.  So I expect your cooperation.”

Jack laughed as he sat back against the wall.  It must be one hell of a show.  “Don’t hold your breath.  I may be stuck here, but I’m not going to make it easy for you.  Now get out of my friend’s head and leave us alone.”

Solomon was amazed by his captive’s bravado, but he could see the pain and exhaustion etched in the man’s face.  He was satisfied that O’Neill realized he was no longer in control of his own destiny. His strength to challenge the chief was fading.

“As you have already seen, I will not negotiate with you, Colonel.  You will put on a good show tomorrow, or the doctor will take your place.  It is as simple as that.  Farewell.”

Suddenly Daniel’s body went limp and the linguist fell forward into a heap.  Jack rushed to his side, helping him to a seated position.

“Can you hear me, buddy?”  He whispered, careful not to broadcast their weakness to the other prisoners.

“Yeah…Jack…. I can…” Daniel’s voice was choked with emotion.

“Thank goodness for that.  How do you feel?”  Jack moved back to the wall as his friend regained his strength.

“A little fuzzy.  Otherwise I’m fine.”

O’Neill let out a sigh of relief.  “That Solomon is quite the kidder.”

“I could see what was happening, but I couldn’t do anything.”  Daniel looked at the floor, still shaken by his helplessness.

Jack only nodded.  He had felt the same lack of physical control in the Chair.  It took away everything that he was.

 “All this won’t matter soon anyway.”  The Colonel announced, grinning wildly.  “I don’t know if you heard me tell Solomon, but Carter spoke to me today.”

Daniel focused on the Colonel’s desperate face for the first time.  His friend looked old and frail.  But this newest announcement really worried the archeologist.  Sam’s voice…. What if Jack was losing touch with reality?

“I was concentrating so hard on communicating with you that I didn’t really hear what you were talking about.  You heard Sam’s voice?”

“That’s what I said.”  Jack was irritated.  He could see that his friend thought he was crazy.

“It was only for a few seconds, at the end of one of those damn sessions.  She tapped in somehow, there wasn’t time to explain.”

“OK…What did she say?”  Daniel was still skeptical.

“She told me to hang on.  That she and Teal'c are here and to tell you they were coming.”

Jack looked at Daniel defiantly, challenging the young man to dismiss what he was telling him.

“Ah, have you heard anything else?”  Jackson asked slowly, afraid for his friend’s sanity.

“No, I haven’t been visited by the ghost of Elvis or the tooth fairy.”  O’Neill’s eyes flashed with anger.  “She was as real as you are.  Maybe more.”

Great, Jack was hearing things!  Solomon told him that anyone forced to use the Chair would lose the ability to distinguish the real world from his memories and here it was.  He had hoped Jack wouldn’t be permanently affected so soon!

O’Neill watched the archeologist critically, gauging his reaction.  His friend’s hesitation made the Colonel waiver for a moment.  What if Carter’s voice had been a dream or a delusion?   He was so happy to have heard it that he had not even considered the possibility.  Damn it, Daniel, why did you always have to question every little thing!

Neither man spoke for a long time.

“I’m not hearing things.”  Jack broke the silence, he thought back to Carter’s voice.  It was warm and clear and real.

“It wouldn’t be surprising if you were, though.  Given the circumstances.”  Daniel said
softly, hoping to be supportive but not enabling.

“The circumstances suck!  You don’t have to tell me that!”  Jack raised his voice then remembering where they were, fell to a forced whisper
.
“I’m the one sitting there hour after hour while I watch my son die.”  He took a deep breath, devastated by the mention of the word.  “And I’m the one reliving every rotten thing that has ever happened to me so some sick bastards can get their jollies.”  His face was flushed.

“I know, and I’m so sorry for that.  But it has to be taking a toll on you.  Don’t forget about last night.  You didn’t recognize me.”

Jack only glared at his friend.

“Solomon told me the Chair permanently changes its’ victims.  I’m just trying to make sure you’re still OK.  Maybe you heard Sam because you needed to hear her.”  Daniel’s tone was soothing.

“Psychobabble bullshit.”  Jack almost spit the words at him.

“Maybe.  But what about Edora?  It’s only been a little over a week since you were rescued.”

“So What?”

“So...what if this is one crisis too many for your brain to handle.  Could that voice be wishful thinking?”

Jack wondered about it for a moment.  Daniel was always the little scientist.  He didn’t blame him for being skeptical.

“Danny, you’ve known me for five long years now.”  Jack held his friend’s glance in his strong eyes.

“Off and on, five years.”  Jackson returned the glare.

“Right-And I’m telling you I’m not imagining anything.  I know what I heard.  Carter and Teal'c are here.  That’s the end of it.”

 Daniel saw total confidence in O’Neill’s eyes.  How could he argue with that?

“I hope you’re right.” He said softly.

Jack smiled.  He knew he was.   “Good.  Now that that’s settled, tell me about your time with Solomon.”  Jack closed his eyes, his head pounding.  “Did you learn anything useful?”

Daniel had almost forgotten about his own news.  There was no way to make it any more desirable, so there was nothing to do but blurt it out.  “We found a sarcophagus.”

Jack’s bloodshot eyes snapped open.  “Son of a bitch!  So that’s the big show.”

“Probably.”  The linguist looked at the ground, ashamed of his role in the chamber’s restoration.

“Swell.  I know I won’t like it already.  You can bet we’re gonna end up inside that damn thing.”  O’Neill growled.

Jackson only nodded.  They always did.

***

Solomon rose from the conscious sharing device vaguely concerned.  Had O’Neill really been contacted by a member of his team?  The chief knew that Lacitta’s defenses were impenetrable.  But he had seen the memories of many daring escapes imprinted in the Colonel’s mind.  Perhaps it would be wise to take him seriously.  There was no way he was going to lose his prisoners the night before his greatest triumph.

***

Sam hadn’t realized how hungry she was.  Taking another serving, she ate enthusiastically.  “What do you use to grow these vegetables?”  She asked between bites.

“The soil and the sun grow them.  We add only water and attention.”  Marcus answered, amused by her excitement.

“Well it is certainly successful.  They are delicious.  Better than anything we produce on earth.”  Carter continued to eat as she spoke.

“Then you must take some with you when you return to your home.”  Marcus smiled again.

‘You are a charmer.’  The Major thought.  “I’d love to, but if I know the Colonel and Daniel we’ll probably be running back to the stone ring with half of Nekara behind us.”

“Yes, I have heard tales of your adventures.  Now with the Chair, people are seeing Colonel O’Neill’s bravery first hand.  I hope it will inspire our people to grow braver as well.”

Sam nodded.  “There must be a way to take control of your government.  You seem to understand Solomon’s tactics well enough to mount a counter attack.”  Sam pushed her plate aside to give full consideration to their thoughts of rebellion.

“It is true that I am familiar with Solomon’s evil ways.  But too many of our citizens are content to live through the mind links.  We do not have your courage.”  Sometimes Marcus was frustrated by his fellow Nekarans and their lack of self-control.

Teal'c shook his head.  “Everyone must decide when it is time to fight.  They need someone to show them the battle can be won.”  Teal'c still thought of the moment on Chulak when he knew he had to turn his back on Apophis and help O’Neill and the Tau’ri.  O’Neill’s strength had shown him that there was another way.

“Courage comes from determination.  Your people must decide it is time to change their destiny.”  Teal'c continued.

“You don’t say much, but when you do speak you get to the heart of it don’t you.”  Marcus smiled again.  Watching the man, Sam wondered if he ever frowned or got angry.

“I only share what I am certain of.  A people rising up can defeat any enemy if they are resolute in the struggle.”

Marcus nodded.  He just didn’t think his people would fight for freedom because they loved their vicarious existence.  He would never say so, but he wondered if they would let O’Neill leave.  He was the most valuable person they had ever captured for the Chair.  The citizens of Lacitta would fight hard to keep him.

***

Chief Solomon stood behind a two-way mirror watching the new prisoners in their living quarters.   O’Neill and Jackson seemed to be feeling more confident again and that worried the leader.  He had hoped to bully the Colonel into agreeing to a trouble free presentation.  But the earthman had been emboldened by contact with Major Carter so that was impossible.   He would have to use other methods to ensure his success.

The Giant joined Solomon at the window.  “Greetings, Chief.”  He said with respect.

“Hello, Cade.  I see your prisoners are doing well.”

“Yes, sir.”  Cade wondered what his leader was asking.

“I have a special interest in the new Tau’ri.”

“They are difficult.  O’Neill is especially troublesome.”  The Giant frowned.

“As I expected he would be.  That’s why I’ve come to deliver your special instructions in person.  It is essential that the Colonel be more cooperative tomorrow, so I want you to hurt him, nothing too severe of course, just enough to mute his defiance.

The Giant nodded with a smile.  “It will be my pleasure to comply, Chief Solomon.”

“Good.  Be careful not to cause any permanent damage.  The Colonel is integral to my plans.  If you fail me here you will take his place.  Do you understand.”  Solomon was definitely not kidding.

“Yes sir.”  Cade deferred to his leader without a moment’s hesitation.  He would have to be very careful not to injure O’Neill too severely.  The big man certainly did not want to face what was waiting for the Tau’ri inside the arena.

***

Damn the Goa’uld!  As if he didn‘t have enough problems.  Now that bastard has his own sarcophagus.  Jack could picture those weak-minded fools lining up to watch him die-or to feel his last breath.

Daniel saw his friend grow pale again.  “You look like death warmed over.”

“Funny you should put it that way.  I was picturing all the great times we’ll soon be having with the sarcophagus.”

Daniel nodded.  “I’ve been learning as much about Solomon’s technology as I can.  Hopefully we can use it to escape.”

“Give me a run down.”  Jack marshaled all his concentration to listen to his friend’s report.

“The whole society is built around that arena and the Chair.  Everyone is employed by the corporation.”  Daniel explained.

“Doing what?”  Jack couldn’t imagine.

“Before I answer that you have to understand the crystal.”

“That huge hunk of rock we saw floating over the arena?”  This was already getting too complicated for the Colonel’s liking.

“Right…it powers the entire civilization.”  Daniel folded his legs under him as he shifted on the cotton material. “It provides energy for the matter manipulation machines that created everything.”

“You mean all this isn’t real?”  Jack looked around, amazed at the thought.

“I’m not sure about this building.  But matter manipulators have created the arena and all the housing units.  Builders erected a skeletal structure, but all the details have been added by machines.”  Daniel paused to let it sink in.

“Holy crap.  No wonder they’re so screwed up.  So what kind of work do the good citizens do?”  Jack went back to his original question.

“They keep the machines working.  That’s what makes the society run.  Everyone takes turns using the manipulators to create all the necessities and luxuries of life, so they can spend the rest of the day enjoying things like the Chair.”

O’Neill considered the new information.  “Now there’s the kind of intelligence I’ve been waiting for.”  He grinned.  Destroying that crystal is our ticket outta here.  It’s just a question of how to get to it.”

Just as the Colonel prepared to continue, he heard the now familiar clanging of dinnertime.  He really didn’t want another oatmeal bath but he knew they needed something to eat.  It would be especially important to get some food in them before the big show.

Soon the banging stopped and the crackle of the force field told them it was safe to leave their cell.

“Keep your eyes open.  Again.”  Jack was resolute.  He would get that food just as he had the two previous nights.  But it would not be pretty.

“Where is our star?”  They heard the Giant’s yell echoing throughout the room.

“I’m on.  Whatever happens, don’t get involved.  I may need you to drag me back to our cell.”

Daniel hesitated but finally nodded under the Colonel’s insistent glare.  “You don’t know how hard it is for me to stand by and let them do that to you over and over again.”

“I appreciate the sentiment.  But who’s going to carry us back here if we both get our butts kicked?”  O’Neill answered.

“Good point.”

“Every now and then, Danny.”  Jack patted his friend’s shoulder then he walked toward the front of the group on his own this time.  An occasional kick or punch made him falter, but he kept going, focused on getting that food.  One prisoner split Jack’s lip with a hard slap to the face.  Another sent him to one knee with a kick to the shins.  All the while he forced himself to keep walking.  O’Neill knew they were trying to provoke him into a fight he couldn’t win.  So he ignored them and limped to the trough.

“You rang?”  The Colonel smiled defiantly, tasting the blood on his lip.

The Giant ignored his statement.  More babbling he didn’t understand.

“You may take a bowl tonight, Tau’ri.”

Colonel O’Neill was surprised and suspicious.  “Why?  Kinda growing on ya, huh?”

No one spoke.  Jack filled a dish with oatmeal as he tensed for an attack in the silence.

“Pleasure doin’ business with you.”  He smirked and cautiously turned to leave.

O’Neill cursed when he saw what awaited him.  Twenty men lined the walkway, ready for a fight.  ‘Crap.  So that’s the game.’  He thought as he took a deep breath and faced them.

“Come on guys.  Be nice.”  Jack said as he approached the first prisoner.

The large, dark man pushed Jack to the ground, spilling some of his food.  Letting the dish on the floor, the Colonel lashed out with a kick to the man’s side.  That was good enough to send him to the ground.

Cradling the silver bowl like a football, Jack doubled over from a punch to the stomach by man #2.  Breathing in gasps he threw an uppercut to the chin and his opponent was out cold.

On and on it went.  The Colonel stumbled from one attacker to another, each time defeating him while working to save as much of their food as possible.  When he finished with the last man he had about half a bowl left.  He was out of breath, bleeding from more cuts that he wanted to count, and had at least one broken rib.  Not one of his better days.

Cade stepped over his fallen men deliberately and stood before the Colonel.  “Now me.”  He smiled.

Jack’s face fell.  The giant man was the last person O’Neill wanted to lock horns with, even in the best of times.  But after days of punishment and malnutrition he didn’t stand a chance.

Daniel could only stand by helplessly, compelled to follow the Colonel’s orders.

O’Neill sat the bowl down again, his fists clenched for a fight.  “Alright, Ali, let’s see what you’ve got.”

Both men circled each other, looking for a weakness.

Cade grabbed Jack by the shoulders and shoved him hard to the ground.

Pulling himself up on his elbows, Colonel O’Neill shook off the pain and looked at his friend, who stood eager to interfere.  He met Daniel’s eyes and made it clear that the answer was no.  Then he turned to the big man and got to his feet.

“So that’s the best you’ve got.”  He smiled defiantly.  Jack landed a right hand to the man’s jaw.  It staggered him, but not enough.  Cade returned the blow and O’Neill saw stars.  Then the big man slapped him hard across the face.  The force sent him reeling back to the ground.

Seeing his opportunity to follow Solomon’s orders, Cade lifted a huge foot and slammed it down on the unsuspecting Colonel’s left hand.  Jack screamed in pain.  He cradled his smashed hand and staggered to his feet, shaking his head to focus his mind.  In the meantime, his attacker moved in, grabbing O’Neill in a bear hug.

Jack gasped for breath.  He was running out of time and he knew it.  The large arms squeezing the life out of him.  Finally Cade threw him to the ground and walked away, satisfied that he had fulfilled his obligation to Chief Solomon.

The Colonel hit the ground hard.  He struggled to a crouching position, ready for another attack.  But when it didn’t come he picked up his metal bowl and stumbled backward to Daniel’s side, still primed for a fight.

“I guess we can go.”  Jack growled as he handed the bowl to his friend.
Daniel nodded and led the injured Colonel back to their cell.  Jack had made a point of walking on his own, but he was relieved to have Daniel help him sit back in his familiar corner.

The linguist watched as his friend cradled his hand in his lap.  “Ah…Damn that hurts.”   Jack whispered through clenched teeth.

Daniel started to tear sections from their blankets, grimacing at the unnatural position of the Colonel’s fingers.

Looking at his hand for the first time, O’Neill cursed at the gruesome sight.  His fingers were crushed, each one twisted and mangled.  There was a small bone protruding from the bottom of his thumb, blood dribbling down his leg.  Steeling his jaw, the Colonel pushed the bone back beneath his skin and applied pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding.  Tears streamed down his face at the incredible pain.

Daniel soaked a strip of cloth with water and handed it to his friend.  Then Jack cleaned the wound and wrapped the material around it.

The linguist moved to help, but O’Neill pulled away.  “Leave it.  There’s nothing here to set it with anyway.”  He growled.  Jack knew his hand would be useless now.  All he could do was deal with the pain as best he could.

Jackson drew back.  “Alright.  But I could help clean you up a little.”  The linguist said hopefully.  Jack nodded, closing his eyes.

Daniel grabbed the water bottle and his blanket.  “I’m getting good at this.”  He said with extra enthusiasm as he wet the cloth and wiped the blood from Jack’s face.

The Colonel winced involuntarily as Jackson touched an open wound under his left eye.  “I’m so sorry.”  Daniel’s eyes were wet with tears as he looked into his friend’s pain filled face.

“I know.  There was nothing you could do.  One of us had to stay in one piece.”

Daniel only nodded.  He felt guilty for not intervening before Cade could crush the Colonel’s hand.  If only he had yelled or something…maybe Jack wouldn’t be crippled.

“Now what about your ribs? You took some pretty hard hits.”  Daniel said as he finished cleaning the cuts on his friend’s chest.

“At least one maybe two are cracked.  But they’ll have to keep.  I don’t see any ace bandages around here, either.”

Daniel started to measure out his blanket, but Jack waived him off.  “Negative.  You’d better keep it.”  The Colonel rasped.

“You should let me take care of that.”  Jackson didn’t want to take no for an answer.

“I know, but we may need it later.  We have no idea what else will come up.”

The Doctor sighed.  “Alright.  Then I guess that’s all I can do for you.”  He sat next to his friend, amazed at his inner strength, but worried that it might not be enough to defeat the entire city.

“At least that’s over for today.”  Daniel added.

“Yeah.  It’s only gonna keep getting harder, though.  He’s pushing me toward a real one on one.”  Jack said through clenched teeth as he reclined gently against the wall.

Jackson looked down, filled with dread.  “I know.”

“And I’m gonna get my butt kicked.”  Jack smirked.  As his injuries had begun to mount, he doubted he could defeat the large man.  But now with the broken hand it was probably out of the question.

O’Neill saw Daniel’s face fall and regretted having said anything.  “It’s time to start making some plans.”  He added, hoping to keep their spirits up.  Hearing Carter’s voice had reminded him that they had a lot of work to do before they could go home.  It was time to get to it.

“What do you have in mind?”  Daniel was relieved to see his friend starting to sound like himself again.

“From the conversation I had with Solomon when he was vacationing inside your body I think he’s planning to put me in the Box tomorrow.  So we’re gonna need to find a way to open it during the performance.”

“The Chief’s control panel raises and lowers the walls.”  Daniel said.

“Alright, then we’ll need access to it.  That’s the first step, then I have my eye on the crystal.”   O’Neill continued.  The Colonel would destroy that hunk of glass if he had to jump up there and tear it apart with his bear hands.

“I’ll keep working on Solomon.  He likes me.”  The linguist couldn’t help but show a little pride.

Jack’s eyebrow rose playfully.

“Not like that.”  Daniel protested.  “At least I don’t think so anyway.  He wants me to respect his accomplishments so he’s always showing me things.  I think I can get up into the control room with him.”  Jackson knew it was a long shot, but Solomon certainly seemed to have embraced him as some sort of companion.

“Finger’s crossed.  And if that doesn’t work, we’ll think of something else.  I’ve had it with this planet.  We’re leaving.”  Jack met Daniel’s gaze with the old determination and they shared a smile.  It was the first time in days the archeologist allowed himself to be hopeful.  Maybe they really could find a way out of this mess.

***

Sam and Teal'c thanked Marcus for his hospitality as they left the table.  Their host showed them back to their quarters.

“Feel free to explore our compound, both of you.”  Marcus said.

“Thank you again.  I would like to learn more about the Chair and Solomon’s other shared consciousness experiments.”  Sam answered.

“Of course.  Dayna will be more than pleased to talk to you.   She has so few opportunities to share her knowledge.”

With that he left them alone.

Sam sat on one of the wooden chairs scattered around the austere room.  “What do you think of him?”  She asked Teal'c.

“He is a skilled host.  But he is also a skilled politician.”  The Jaffa answered.

Sam nodded.  “I’d like to think we can trust him, but with the Colonel and Daniel’s lives at stake, we have to be certain.”

“Indeed.”

“We’d better do some investigating for ourselves.  Check the parameter.  Look for anything out of the ordinary.  I’m going back to talk to Dayna.  The more we can learn about the mind transfer device the better.  It could be important later.”  Major Carter added.

“Very well.  I will return here when night falls.”  Teal'c was happy to have something to do.

Sam nodded and they both left together.

***

“Our food is getting cold.”  Daniel smiled wryly as he handed the silver dish to Colonel O’Neill.

“How can you tell?”  Jack wrinkled his nose at the unappetizing bowl.  Balancing it on his lap, he dug into the bitter gruel with his good hand.

“Oh boy…that really hits the spot.”  The Colonel frowned.  But just eating anything was a relief.  It had been a long 24 hours since their last meal.  After he finished his half, O’Neill handed the bowl back to Daniel, who took it eagerly.  The young man had never been so enthusiastic to eat such lousy food.

“Rest well, Jack.”  Jackson said quietly as he watched his friend sink against the wall.

The Colonel nodded, his eyes heavy.  “Take the first watch tonight, will you.”

“Sure.”  Daniel said with his mouth full.

“Wake me in a few hours.”  O’Neill leaned back and closed his eyes.  The stillness made him fell the pain of his injuries anew.  Jack listened to the sound of his own breathing and it comforted him.  As long as he was still alive he would get them off this planet.  He knew he couldn’t let the pain eat away at his resolve, so he catalogued it, experienced it, and finally mastered it, drifting off to sleep.

After the linguist finished his food he joined O’Neill against the wall.  Curled up in what was left of his blanket, Daniel watched the silent room.  Tonight he felt calmer, more in control.  Had Jack really heard Sam’s voice?  He didn’t know, but he felt better just thinking it was possible.

***

Sam spent the better part of the evening learning everything she could about the transfer process.  Dayna spoke eagerly, happy to find someone else with the intellect to understand the theories involved.

At the same time Teal'c had learned the layout of the entire community.  He located their food supply and even a weapons cache.  The citizens seemed totally independent of Lacitta.  He marveled at their resilience.

When Sam returned to their hut she found her teammate mediating.  The Jaffa opened his eyes when she entered.

“Welcome Major.”

“Hi, did you learn anything?”

“The community appears to be independent and successful.  There is a weapons cache that could prove useful.”

“That’s good news.  We’ll need more than a pistol and a knife to break the Colonel and Daniel out of Lacitta.  I spent the evening with Dayna and I think I can complete the entire transfer process myself.”

“What are your orders?”  Teal'c asked.

“It’s time to make our move.”  Sam said.  “Let’s go talk to Marcus.”

Teal'c followed Major Carter to the Nekaran’s cabin.

The leader of Sarafeen was sitting at a small table repairing a broken storage bin.  “Are you finding everything you need?”  He asked with a smile.  He liked the off worlders. They seemed genuinely committed to their friends.

“Yes.  Thank you for your hospitality.  I know you offered to allow us to accompany you to tomorrow’s performance, but we’re going to need more.  Will you help us rescue our friends?”  Sam whispered forcefully.

Marcus hesitated.

“Please.  We’ll need a transport to get back to the gate, and some weapons to engage Solomon’s guards.”  Sam tried to reason with him, but she did not have much patience these days.

“No one can just shoot their way into the arena.  There are too many guards.”  Marcus said slowly.  He didn’t know what to do.

“I’m planning to find a way to get into the compound before the performance and talk to the Colonel.  Then we’ll formulate our escape.  But in order to reach our friends, we’ll need a guide.  Can I count on your help?”  Sam was not as nice this time.

“I can’t…”

“What do you mean you can’t?  You sit here in your perfect little community while your people use our friend’s most intimate memories as sick entertainment.  All the while you’re too noble to participate yourself.  You might not realize it, but by letting it go on here you ARE participating.”  Carter was getting louder and angrier until Teal'c touched her gently on the shoulder.

She nodded to thank him for pulling her back from another embarrassing scene.  Taking a deep breath, Major Carter regained her self-control.  “Marcus, let me tell you about Colonel Jack O’Neill.  He lost his son several years ago in a terrible accident.  A shooting in his own home.  That tragedy changed him.  It ripped out his heart.”  Her voice cracked with emotion.  “Have you ever experienced something so horrible that it left you feeling empty inside?”

Marcus closed his eyes.  “I have…my wife.”

“Then think about how you would feel if you were forced to relive that incident over and over again while someone shared your mind for the purposes of entertainment.  Imagine the horror of having to experience that every day for years with no way to stop it.”  Carter paused to let her words sink in.  “Not only have you looked the other way all these years, but you helped create the technology in the first place.”  Sam growled low.  She had to convince him to help.

Marcus turned away, ashamed of his complicity.  He couldn’t conceive of the pain the Colonel must be feeling.  After all these years of looking the other way, maybe it was time to do something.

“When we created the Chair it was meant to provide Nekaran’s with a way to better understand each other.  But it has not served that purpose for many years.  And I have ignored that fact much too long.  I am sorry for the pain our invention has caused.  What can I do to help you?”

Sam smiled and patted him on the shoulder.  “Thank you.  We need a transport to get back to the gate, any weapons you can spare, and one of your citizens who is familiar with the arena to help us find our men.”

“The vehicle and the weapons are yours.  As for the guide, I will be ready to leave after breakfast.”  Marcus felt better already.

Carter smiled wide.  “Thank you so much.”  This was the break they needed.  Tomorrow she and Teal'c would take their friends home.

***

“There, look at his body language.”  Solomon moved in closer behind the technician.  A recording of Colonel O’Neill’s day in the Chair had been playing in the command carrier throughout their trip to Sarafeen.  The Chief had ordered his best technician to search the record for any indication that the Colonel had been contacted by his friends some time during the day.  And now as he looked at the image of the hapless man, shaking with grief after another session and he knew that what the Tau’ri had told him was true.

“The subject’s demeanor changed in an instant.  First he was sagging, his body drained as it had been after every memory link, but then suddenly the Tau’ri stiffened, as if he heard a noise.”  The technician froze the image and turned to his leader.  “Sir, in my opinion, this is the moment of contact.”

Solomon continued to look at the view screen, mildly irritated by his opponents’ ingenuity.  “Very well.  Thank you for you analysis.”  He returned to his seat considering the implications of this new information.  In order to contact O’Neill while he was in the Chair, Carter would have needed access to a mind link.  The Chief knew no one had entered his facility in Lacitta, so the resourceful Major would have needed to find another source.  The only available communications equipment was housed in Sarafeen.  Had Marcus betrayed him?

***

“Sir….”  Janet whispered.  She hated to wake the General.  But he had ordered her to report any test results she received, so she had no choice.

Hammond’s head rose from his desk slowly.  “Doctor?”

“The preliminary examinations have all been completed.  You’d better come with me to see the results for yourself.”

General Hammond followed Janet silently.  He couldn’t begin to guess what she had found.

When they were in her office, Frasier closed the door and turned out the lights.  General Hammond watched as the doctor put an x-ray on the viewer.

“This is a picture of Colonel Makepeace’s cranium.”  She pointed to a dime-sized dot on the screen.  “There is an object lodged in his brain.”

“My god…can you tell what it is?”  The General asked, horrified.

“No I can’t.  But upon examination of the surrounding area, I can see that the disk entered his auditory canal through the ear and traveled to the brain.  Amazingly the tissue is healing around it.”

“And this influenced his behavior.”  It wasn’t really a question.  The General knew that must be the answer.

Janet nodded.  “My guess is it was implanted on Nekara.  We would have had no reason to look for something like that during the post mission exam.  Then they went to see Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson.”

“And implanted these things in the heads of our people?”  Hammond added.

“Judging from what Sam told me about SG-1’s behavior as they disappeared through the gate and my own observations of SG-3 when they attacked us in the infirmary, I’d have to say yes.  Certainly both sets of men seemed to be controlled by outside forces.”  Janet changed the x-ray to Johnson.

“Can it be removed?”  The General saw the same round spot in the lieutenant’s brain.

“I really don’t know.  I want to show you something we found in the Colonel’s pocket.”  Janet went to her desk and pulled out a small cylinder.

“What in the world is that?”  The General asked taking the object from the doctor.

“I have no idea.  But it certainly looks alien.  Maybe this is related somehow.”

“I’ll get some researchers working on it.”  Hammond wished Carter were there.  She had an uncanny instinct for alien technology.   “Good work, doctor.  Keep looking for a way to get those things out of their heads.”

“Yes, sir.”  Janet walked him out and went back to work.

General Hammond returned to his office shaking his head.  He never felt comfortable with all this alien technology.  Damned dangerous.  The Gate had brought them amazing opportunities for exploration.  But it had also exposed them all to unbelievable risks.
 
 
 
 
 

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