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The sky is an ocean of alien stars. The treetops are black against it, making strange archipelagos against the brightness. Daniel stares upward, refusing to think. The moons will rise soon—there are seven of them—or maybe it's eight—to make a long ellipsis across the sky. The moons are tiny, barely large enough to show visible discs. They give less light than the starfield itself. The brightness of the nights is a constant here. Daniel knows that now.

He has been here—alone—for three days now.

His name is Daniel Jackson. He is Dr. Daniel Jackson, PhD. Peaceful explorer. Member of SG-1. Member of Stargate Command. Since he was twenty-five years old, his life has been a serial progression of guises from crackpot to castaway to widower, diplomat, commando. Tilter at windmills. Champion of lost causes. Hero and villain, sometimes of the same story.

He's been lost before.

Not like this.

A month ago, his life was what passed for normal: Jack was an Asgard spaceship, Sam was a prisoner of the Replicator Fifth, they were all about to die. But they didn't, because SG-1 is the architect of the impossible. They defeated the Replicators (if locally and temporarily), got Jack back, got Sam back, went home.

Only home (as usual) wasn't quite where they'd left it, because President Henry Hayes had decided that the SGC's leader pro tem, Elizabeth Weir (locum tenens; Daniel had known that long before she had), would be of more use in Antarctica than at the SGC (the Goa'uld had come knocking at the door frequently enough in recent months that The Powers That Be decided to rethink the whole "civilian head of the SGC" thing), and the Air Force had decided Jack O'Neill would be of more use to it as a General (or maybe they were just trying to figure out some way to make him stay home), and with one thing and another, Jack became General O'Neill of Stargate Command and SG-1 became SG-1 Minus 1.

Jack, Daniel knows, does-and-doesn't want to be General O'Neill of the SGC. And Sam... Well, field command is good for your career (so he's told), and Jack's made sure to give SG-1 to Sam (along with a nice promotion; RHIP). Daniel's pretty sure he did it at least partly because misery loves company—now Sam feels the need to prove herself all over again, just as (Daniel suspects) Jack does. And President Hayes will be dropping by to say hello now that Jack's in charge: if everybody at the SGC wasn't twitchy before that, they would be now.

Not him, though. For him, all this is business as usual, except for the vague irritable feeling that Jack orchestrated all of this (apotheosis, freezing, defrosting, transformation, and elevation) so that Daniel couldn't follow Elizabeth to Antarctica, because the Antarctic Outpost is the (eventual) gateway to the Lost City of the Ancients. Atlantis. And if they find a way to get there—when they find a way to get there—Daniel intends to go with the Atlantis Mission. That will be a lot easier to manage if he's with the research team at White Rock—except for the fact that if he were there, he wouldn't be here, and leaving SG-1 the moment Sam gets command of it would look...pointed. (It wouldn't be. It would have nothing to do with Sam, or Daniel's faith in her, but—he's long known—people see what they want to see, especially if it isn't there.)

Maybe in a few months. (Maybe never, if he doesn't get out of here.)

It all started so normally. Or perhaps "typically" would be a better word, considering that normalcy is just a suggestion at the SGC (one frequently ignored). Some new recruits to Master Bra'tac's faction of the rebel Jaffa sent Teal'c a Gate Address and a "device" (such a nice neutral word, suitable for covering up an amazing depth of ignorance) that would provide access to a lab/stronghold/theme park to be found somewhere on beautiful P2X-887. 887 is part of Anubis's domain, and since Anubis is dead and Ba'al is currently looting his holdings, Sam wanted to go immediately to see what was there (in hopes that Ba'al had not yet seen what was there and grabbed it).

Maybe that was where the trouble started.

Daniel holds his hands out to the fire, less for warmth than for comfort. He doesn't know where he is. He doesn't know where Sam or Teal'c (or the Gate, or SG-3) are. He doesn't know how he got here. He thinks that he's still on 887, that it's only a matter of time until SGC search parties—or his friends—find him, but those are only hopeful guesses. All he really knows (no radio, no tac vest, no glasses) is what's within the reach of his hands and eyes: this alien campsite and these unfamiliar stars. (Pity they didn't go to 887 at night so he'd have some standard of comparison.)

Since he arrived here, he's explored for several miles in every direction (box search; that's Jack's legacy, and if Jack had only been with them would none of this have happened?). He's left signs he hopes a UAV will spot. Or maybe whatever disgorged him on this cold hillside (so to speak) has left some kind of trail that Sam or Teal'c will find.

He has faith in them. He knows they'll never stop looking. And Jack's in charge of the SGC now—something Daniel's never imagined he'd find all that comforting. They'll come for him.

But it's been three days already.

#

0800 is their scheduled departure time for the 887 mission, which means he was up at four this morning and at the Mountain by five (nothing unusual there). Even so, Daniel's not sure he's beaten Jack here today—he's not really sure Jack's managed to get home any time this week (or last week, or maybe all month). Six a.m. is breakfast in the Commissary (without Jack, and that feels strange; Jack says Generals aren't like ordinary mortals, a joke Daniel can decode in far too many ways), and Sam's still brooding over the fact that SG-3 will be accompanying them to 887 (she lost that argument yesterday) and whether or not it means Jack is hedging his bets, has no faith (no firm foundation, a voice whispers in memory) in her leadership skills. Daniel thinks it's more likely that Jack just thinks the universe hates him, because he won't be there, and really, how much leadership ability—of the Marine sort—would actually be useful in assessing a Goa'uld stronghold? (There's no point, Daniel knows, in using logic of any form on Sam: old losses, old scars, and it took him far too long to realize he wasn't the only one to come to SG-1 trailing a coffle of losses and lies and betrayals. All of them had them, in equal measure.)

It's Sam's briefing, not his (aside from a sidebar on the shifting factions of the Jaffa Alliance(s) and what the cooperation from Anubis's former Jaffa means—is this a true shift in the political weather or an airing of grievances over having been supplanted in their (former) god's affections by zombie clones, and how will either possibility come back to haunt the Tau'ri?) Sam looks tense. Jack just looks tired. Teal'c looks (as usual) inscrutable, and is it just Daniel's imagination, or is there some shift in the political weather there, too? A decade ago Teal'c came to Earth because (having chosen mercy and freedom) he had nowhere else to go: now freedom is the flavor of the month (the millennium) among the Jaffa (mercy will have to wait its turn as always), and Teal'c might be of more help to them there, not here. Daniel wonders if he should ask, suggest (but oh, not now, not with Jack and Sam so delicately balanced on the limbs they're respectively so far out on). Maybe later.

(There turns out not to be a later. He should have remembered that lesson from days gone by.)

#

In Jack's absence (or present absence, as he's down in the Gate Room itself to see them off, babbling cheerfully about the buffet menu for the upcoming Presidential visit), the presence of another team seems intrusive, even though they (SG-1-as-was) have worked with Colonel Reynolds et al. since the beginning. Sam looks suspiciously cheerful; Teal'c looks more inscrutable than usual. Daniel isn't sure how he looks, or what his own face and body might be saying; since his death (what an odd life in which he can frame such phrases in complete honesty) the world doesn't seem to fit as well as it used to (or he doesn't fit it; now there's a thought). It's one of the reasons he'd lobbied so hard to go with the Atlantis Mission. New galaxy, new memories, no ever-present reminder of who he might have been (peaceful explorer) once upon a time. He can't exactly remember when it was he came to wholeheartedly endorse Jack's hunt for "big honking space guns". Maybe it was after Anubis went to Abydos. (Hey, there's a thought.)

Crossing the Event Horizon is still the same.

#

887 looks very much like at least half their destinations down through the years, another Köppen Cfb—or moderate oceanic climate (sans ocean) with extensive old growth forests (as if the Goa'uld worlds ever offer anything new) of mixed pine and hardwoods. As usual, the Gate itself is in a clearing-cum-meadow, though that clearing is reassuringly overgrown. The MALP they sent through yesterday (and if only General Hammond were still here, Daniel imagines, SG-1 would have gone with it) is right here waiting for them, a proof that 887 is still deserted (at least for now). The structure he can see a couple of hundred yards away isn't their destination—it's a ruin; little more than a scatter of cyclopean blocks and pillars that might once have been a colonnade—but he starts toward it immediately, at least partly to reprove Jack (who would never have allowed him to take point) for his absence.

He's only gone a few steps before he learns the reason for Sam's unlikely good cheer in the Gate Room. Daniel doesn't know whether to watch or look away—which will make matters worse?—as she orders Reynolds and the rest of SG-3 to remain here to secure the Gate. It's make-work, and Sam and Reynolds both know it, but this is SG-1's mission, so Sam gets to give the orders. (He guesses he isn't the only one arguing with someone who isn't here.)

Looks like the three of them are going to be investigating Anubis's lair alone after all.

#

Anubis's Secret Volcano Lair (the wish for Jack's presence is sudden, hard, and sharp) is either invisible or well-concealed. They're following its energy readings (or at least Sam is), while at intervals Teal'c tries the device they got from some of Anubis's former (very former, pace the Kull Warriors) Jaffa. Teal'c says he "obtained" it; Daniel isn't really sure he wants details and Jack didn't ask for any. Regardless of its history, it isn't working. (Or else they aren't in range. Or this is a trap. Pick one.) The meadow is edged by second-growth forest; nothing unusual there, though Daniel's imagination paints a picture of a ha'tak descending from the sky on a pillar of fire, scouring the forest to ash, clearing a space for...whatever came next. At least they have something to follow, and this mission is no different than a hundred others, but he's disturbed all out of proportion to the circumstances, and it isn't hard to figure out why.

There's no road. No road, no path, no beaten track for their destination to be off of. If Anubis's Lair is here at all, it's just here, like Dorothy's farmhouse (and isn't that particular simile confirmation of how thoroughly they've all come to inhabit one another's skins down through the years?). Dragging cyclopean blocks across a landscape leaves (as any archaeologist knows) marks—he knows he'd find them around the temple ruins if he looked—and the Goa'uld are far too fond of slave labor (the Pyramids were built by hand).

Only Anubis isn't like all the others, is he? He's different. (I should know, Daniel thinks to himself. He took me as a host. Less than a month ago, in fact. But I don't remember anything. Neither does anyone else he inhabited. Neither did Alexi.)

Suddenly Teal'c stops and crouches down, peering at the ground. When he rises to his feet, Daniel already knows what he's going to say. There are signs of recent Jaffa activity in the area. They've been moving less as a group than as three individuals wandering vaguely in the same direction, but now he and Sam close up with Teal'c. They're already too far from the Gate for SG-3 to get here in time if the "recent Jaffa" turn out to be "Jaffa right here right now".

Sam tells Teal'c to try the wrist device again. Daniel hears the edge of sharpness-verging-on-anger her voice only gets when she's scared (it would be more tactful to say "worried" or "nervous", but Daniel sees no reason to bowdlerize his interior monologue). He has his back to both of them (telling himself he isn't watching for ambush), so he doesn't know whether Teal'c does.

Sam says something else, but it's lost as the transport rings descend.

#

Daniel stares up at the stars, shivering. He'd be even colder in his uniform, but he still wishes he had it. He isn't as fond of playing dress-up as Jack thinks. If Jack were here (if only Jack were here), Jack wouldn't concern himself with all the possibilities. He'd be focused on two things: Find the others. Get home.

Daniel has never been able to summon that kind of pinpoint concentration. His entire life has been spent considering the whole. The way everything fits together, even things that don't seem to have any relation at all. Right now he has too many questions to pick just one (or to sleep, for that matter): Was there ever a base here on 887 at all? Did Anubis's "former" Jaffa deliberately entrap them? Was he the only one taken, or were all of them separately marooned? What about SG-3—ignored, killed, teleported here to Camp Runamuck (he really has to stop listening to Jack)? Is this actually a trap, or just some slightly-more-benign extra security precaution? Is Anubis's deserted base nearby and he just hasn't found it? (Is Anubis's base deserted at all, or has some other Goa'uld already claimed it?) What about the camping equipment and the box of dress-up regalia? Why were they here? What do they mean?

He has no answers to any of his questions. What he knows is this: the rings came down, the rings went up, and when they vanished again he was...pretty much where he'd started from.

Naked was annoying, but—unless he stepped on a rock or some other hazard to barefoot travel—not much more than that. He'd thought at first that the rings simply hadn't worked (in which case, Doctor Jackson, where are Sam and Teal'c?) since he was (still) in a meadow surrounded by trees. That happy thought had lasted until he'd retraced his steps (he's no tracker, but anybody can navigate by the sun) and not found the Stargate (or Colonel Reynolds, or the rest of SG-3, or...much of anything). By then he was annoyed (not afraid, not yet), mostly because this meant Sam's mission had gone toes-up, and once Jack found out...well, Jack has never been restrained when placing blame where he thinks it belongs. (Though Sam can certainly hold her own, and Daniel sincerely hopes their argument is happening right now, since that would mean Sam and Teal'c are home and safe.) Annoyed at himself, too, since if he hadn't been focusing so hard on the fact he'd been separated from the others, he might have noticed he wasn't in the same place he'd been a moment before. There's no way he can find that location now—not exactly and not reliably—so if finding it is important, he's pretty screwed. The only thing the afternoon of searching got him was another mystery.

He'd been aching, sunburned, and footsore when he found them—he'd actually been searching for a water source, and the sight of the jumble of crates and bundles was almost a footnote to the discovery of a stream of clear cold potable water. (Almost). For a moment he'd been overjoyed—it's a supply cache, people are searching for me, everything's going to be okay—but then he'd realized these things didn't come from the SGC. (No help. No rescue.) He drank before he examined them (carpe diem), once more cursing the fact that none of them had come to 887 geared up for a lengthy stay—no MREs, no shelter halfs, and most of all, no canteens.

He'd hoped the crates held something he could use, but...not so much. The largest one held a suit of black armor with a jackal's head. Jackal. Anubis. Ornate enough that it was probably intended for Anubis himself, even though they've never seen him wear anything but that Grim Reaper robe. The other held a variety of weapons, torture devices, and liquids in small bottles—since they were all unlabeled, he had no idea whether they were poisons, medicines, or Anubis's liquor cabinet—and a jeweled bracer (more ornate than the one Teal'c had been using) that was useless to anyone without naquadaah in their blood. The cache was either meant for Anubis's use, or was loot that the Jaffa formerly loyal to him took from the Secret Lair before passing the key on to Teal'c. He liked the first explanation better than the second, really—naquadaah is the standard of value in the galaxy at large, and any looters would have taken that instead of the regalia belonging to a "False God". The items looked more like the Goa'uld equivalent of a "go bag" (which begs the question of why the transport rings would strip him naked and dump him next to it) than they did like anything else.

Something must have happened to him between the rings and here, but what? (Good question, Danny.)

The bundles were more useful—clearly intended for minions, they held clothing, rations, shelters, firestones, and—best of all—knives. With a weapon and clothes, he felt a little better about being marooned (it would be so much less embarrassing than being either rescued or captured naked). It looks as if Anubis had meant his Jaffa to come here and wait for him. It's probably a bolt-hole put into place before Anubis met his end over Antarctica, and long before he switched to using Kull Warriors.

He put up a tent, gathered rocks, gathered sticks, ignited the firestones, made himself a lovely dinner of Purina Jaffa Kibble and tried to stay hopeful. He was sure he'd figure everything out tomorrow.

And thus ended Day One.

#

As Sam tells him once she and Teal'c find him, she thinks he was separated from them by some kind of security device Anubis linked to the Rings, since he's the only one of the three of them who doesn't have naquadaah in his blood. Why Anubis would want to separate out mere humans is a question for another day; Daniel has been locked in a small lightless closet banging on the door for at least an hour before Teal'c gets him out and is in no real mood to either hypothesize or stick around by that time.

He doesn't have the luxury of leaving, though, since apparently the door of the room Sam and Teal'c arrived in sealed itself the moment they stepped out of it and there isn't a ring platform here in the closet. There is a second door opposite the one Sam and Teal'c broke open, but it's sealed too (too bad, as apparently there's a whopping energy source on the other side).

(Oh, and none of their radios work, meaning they can't alert SG-3. Or talk to each other: Daniel hadn't even been able to raise Sam and Teal'c while he was immured. Terrific.)

Sam thinks they didn't spot the place during recon because it's underground. Teal'c doesn't disagree, but he thinks it's unusual—Goa'uld prefer to build on the surface. (Maybe that's why the Tok'ra build underground. Who knows?) Daniel usually finds Sam's exterior monologue (so to speak) interesting or at least soothing, but not this time. Today he has a sense of being caught up in a clandestine disaster, one so vast he isn't sure whether he wants to know what it is or not.

They head back to the transport ring chamber (Teal'c can find his way around in here easily) and spend a couple of hours trying to get the door open (or blow it off its hinges). Finally Sam says they might as well search the place—there has to be a second platform since Daniel was separated from them. Or they might find a way to activate this one. Or maybe there's a ladder to the surface. Regardless, they've found the secret lair, so now they're going to search it. (Adherence to protocol seems to be the new order of the day.) Aside from the three of them being trapped here (but at least Colonel Reynolds is looking for them), the mission is proceeding pretty much as planned. That's something, anyway.

It takes them about six hours to do a 'knock on doors' search of the secret lair. Most of the compartments they find aren't locked. They also don't look particularly Goa'uld-like: small, stark, cheerless (or large, stark, and cheerless) without a throne or a brazier anywhere—just a clutter of disassembled alien hardware, broken record crystals, and empty storerooms. As they search, they identify barracks, training rooms, and a mess hall; Teal'c says the place would have held about five hundred Jaffa (back when Anubis still used Jaffa, which implies the place was abandoned long before Anubis's recent death). The armory is still full, but the purpose of SG-1's mission was to find something a bit more useful than zat'nik'tels and ma'toks, of which both the SGC and Area 51 now have an extensive supply.

By that point they're ten hours out of the Gate, so Sam declares a rest break. Daniel shares his stash of chocolate; they're all carrying ration bars, but they came to 887 geared up for a preliminary survey, so they weren't even wearing packs, much less canteens.

"Water is our first priority," Sam says, tucking the wrappers into her vest, and that's when Daniel realizes exactly how screwed they are, because she wouldn't be talking like that if she didn't think they were about to experience an...extended stay.

How extended? And what happens if a new tenant shows up while they're here?

#

The problem of water is quickly solved—the base was abandoned, not shut down—and Teal'c is the one who identifies the "on" switch for the mess hall faucets. He also finds several crates of (powdered) rations. Sam does her best to act cheerful about it and Daniel really doesn't have the heart to gripe (or to mention how much he wishes Jack were here).

They go back to the ring chamber again, and Sam rigs a couple of blocks of C4 (grinning, saying it's a girl's best friend) to blow open the doors. But even when they can get inside, the rings are unusable—there's no control panel and no power source. Finally Sam says they should call it a night: they'll start again tomorrow with the room where Daniel was trapped.

And that's the end of Day One.

#

On Day Two Daniel breakfasts (the minion rations are a reconstitutable powder; not as bad as Tok'ra concentrates, but close), and goes back to searching. He spends the day—or at least the part of it that has light enough to see—covering an area about ten miles square centered on his campsite. Nothing. (At least the knife he now has makes it possible to mark the trees so he can find the camp again easily.) He doesn't find the Gate, Sam and Teal'c, SG-3, a path, or any sign of current habitation. When he doesn't even find more ruins like the ones near the Gate, he starts wondering if he's still on the same continent. Or the same planet. If the SGC needs to use a ship to search for him, Daniel has no doubt Jack will make it happen. (They'll come. Of course they'll come.) But...how long will it take?

He misses coffee. He misses his glasses. God help him, he even misses Jack's micromanaging nagging (not a new look on Jack at all, but worse now that he can't enforce his whims). He gathers brush to add to the firestones (he knows he should start stockpiling firewood so he can keep the fire going once the firestones give out, but doing so is preparing for a longer stay, and Daniel is still clinging to the hope that won't be necessary). Despite his weariness, he sits up late into the night. Staring up at the alien stars. Wondering where he is. Wondering about the mechanics of what has happened to him.

#

On Day Two Sam decides the first priority is tracking down the power source behind the "closet". Daniel says he's going to look through the records to see if he can find any information about where the Door Open button might be located. Teal'c elects to go with Sam; they set up a series of check-ins. The lack of radio contact is only a minor inconvenience—even Teal'c thinks this place is safe. What isn't safe is the fact that eventually they'll run out of supplies, though Daniel's pretty well convinced that they'll be rescued before that happens (if they don't manage to rescue themselves). Still, danger is danger, and the interesting thing about being in danger is that it's so often actually boring and involves hours of mind-numbingly tedious research.

This occasion is no different. All he can figure out is that this was one of those secret labs so many of the Goa'uld have (in defiance of Tok'ra propaganda), and they already knew that. What was being researched, or what progress was made, remains shrouded in mystery. (Meaning he can read the Goa'uld lab notes, they just don't make any sense to him.)

At about 1500 SGC time Sam sends Teal'c to find him. She's gotten the back door to the closet open.

#

"I wish I knew what this was for," Sam says plaintively.

Daniel looks around the chamber. It's lit by a weird purple glow, and contains not only another set of transport rings (though no control panel for them), but a number of other...things. Boxes, control boards, blinky lights...

"It kind of looks like the inside of Loki's ship," he says slowly.

Sam gives him a startled glance. "But this is one of Anubis's hideouts. The Asgard would never cooperate with the Goa'uld. Not even Loki."

"Indeed," Teal'c rumbles. "The Goa'uld and the Asgard have been enemies since before the First World was discovered."

Daniel keeps himself from laughing out loud with an effort. Considering what Loki thought was okay—the wholesale cloning and murder of humans, just to start with—he's pretty sure there isn't much Loki would draw the line at. He supposes Earth's just lucky Loki never allied himself with Nirrti. "It doesn't really matter, does it?" he says instead. "Anubis is dead, Loki's in jail, and we're still stuck here."

"Don't worry, Daniel," Sam says staunchly. "This chamber has power, and that means it has to come from somewhere. As soon as I find the power room, I'll be able to find the controls for one of the ring platforms." She gives the chamber a last mournful look. "I wish I knew what he'd been doing here."

Daniel's just as glad not to know, considering that it would probably have been him it was being done to. The room where the rings dumped him has some kind of relationship to this one: they just don't know what it is.

They spend the rest of Day Two taking apart as much of the Purple Lab (they have to call it something) wall panels as they can and taking painstaking readings with Sam's MuSE. (It stands for "Multi-Spectrum Energy detection device", proving the Air Force will make an acronym out of anything.) As they work, Sam expounds her theories of why there were two sets of rings practically side-by-side. It's clear that the entrance rings are designed to shunt humans to the lab's anteroom; Sam thinks the platform in the Purple Lab itself is meant for the disposal of failed experiments. (If Anubis was dabbling in biology, it explains why Daniel couldn't read any of the material he found, too.)

Listening to her, Daniel remembers something he should've thought of earlier: around the time he died (yeah, that's never going to sound normal), the rest of SG-1 rescued Thor from Anubis, who had found a way to extract information from Asgard brains. So...yeah. It makes sense that the Purple Lab reminds him of Loki's lab. (He wonders what Jack's clone is doing these days.)

Sam's confident they'll be out of here soon. Daniel can't bring himself to feel they're hopelessly trapped, but he can't share her optimism, either. Something about the Purple Lab is nagging at him—at least when he's not being utterly frustrated about being stuck here because they can't find the "exit" sign.

#

Day Three is a re-run of Day Two. Daniel can't search farther from his campsite than he already has—not and get back to it by dark—so today he builds signal fires in the main clearing and lights them. Pillars of smoke rise into the sky, and he hopes someone—Sam, Teal'c—will see them. He digs up stones and lays them in patterns in open areas—arrows pointing toward his campsite. Building cairns—and larger arrows—will take several days, especially since he won't be able to devote all the daylight hours to the work. He's running low on food, so part of his time will have to be spent on foraging.

No sign of anyone from Stargate Command.

There are fish in the stream.

That night, despite his weariness, he lies awake for hours, still trying—on the basis of absolutely no information—to figure out what happened. Where are Sam and Teal'c? Were they dumped somewhere too? Is it coincidence that he stumbled upon the cache of supplies? Was this supposed to be Anubis's escape route? Did the rings send Daniel here because he'd been Anubis's last host? (And if so, why couldn't they have sent his clothes with him?)

Too many questions. No answers.

#

It's Teal'c who finally calls a halt to their work (for somebody who came to the concept of "sleep" a century late, Teal'c's an expert on it). He bullies both of them into resting, saying they can continue when they're "unwearied". (Personally, Daniel doesn't feel this place is restful at all, but there's no arguing with Teal'c.)

Daniel spends the night dreaming about clones. Loki cloned Jack (Jack's clone is still out there somewhere). The Goa'uld are always looking for the perfect hok'taur. Niirti ran a breeding program and a genetic manipulation program. Anubis did something to Thor. The Asgard continue their species by cloning. Did Anubis figure out how to clone someone as well as how to build a better ha'tak?

Even if he did, any clones he might have made are long gone now, though.

Daniel doesn't sleep very well at all.

#

Day Four, morning, and Daniel feels an odd desperation, as if some deadline has been crossed (as if a deadline is something like a dateline) and he's somehow more cast away now than he was before. (At least he's almost through caffeine withdrawal by now. Small mercies.) He's being pulled in so many directions by everything he doesn't want to think about (Where's Sam? Where's Teal'c? And where are my clothes?) that his only possible refuge is in movement; conventional wisdom says you should stay in one place when you're lost, but when the Stargate and all of Stargate Command are what's lost Daniel thinks movement may be the only recourse. He goes through the available supplies to make up a traveling pack and straps the gauntlet to his wrist. Maybe it will be of some use. (Maybe he'll find something to unlock with it. Maybe Sam can trace its energy output. Something.)

They're searching for me. I know they are. Something must be wrong with the Gate, or surely he'd have seen a UAV by now. There's probably a really good explanation for everything, and he's sure he'll find out what it is once he's home.

He's going to go home. He refuses to consider any other possibility.

#

On Day Four Sam finally manages to unlock the ring platform interface (by now Anubis's Secret Lair qualifies as the Most Thoroughly Investigated Goa'uld Lair in SGC history). They fill their pockets with as many of the intact data crystals as they can—not as good as "big honking space guns," but at least they have something to show for the mission.

(Daniel suspects that the SGC is going to be spending a lot more time justifying its existence now; not Jack's fault, really, but the inevitable consequence of the creation of an oversight department, even if it's General Hammond at the helm of Homeworld Security and not some random bureaucrat.)

They step cautiously into the rings and Teal'c activates the gauntlet. The rings go up, the rings go down, and to everyone's relief, they're back where they started from (so Teal'c says; one patch of meadow looks pretty much like another to Daniel). They can't raise Colonel Reynolds on their radios, but after three-and-a-bit days, that's only to be expected. ("Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do," Daniel mutters under his breath.)

Naturally that's the last thing that goes according to plan.

#

The Jaffa cadre ambushes them just as they reach the Gate. It happens so fast that Daniel's reaction is pure reflex: he dives for the DHD and uses it for shelter. He knows the Jaffa won't fire at the DHD for fear of damaging it—not without specific orders to do so and there's only one way to find out if they've been given. Sam is sheltering behind the MALP (why did Reynolds leave it behind?) and Teal'c is crouched in back of part of the ruins. (Once upon a time Daniel would have wanted to know the secrets the remains of these walls contained. Now he just hopes their fallen pillars will shield him from incoming fire.) He can hear the steady chatter of Sam's P-90 and the whine-and-boom of Teal'c's ma'tok as they manage to push the attackers back far enough, and for long enough, for Daniel to dial home.

He sends his IDC and goes scrambling for better cover. Energy blasts criss-cross the air around him, but the ma'tok isn't a precision weapon, thank god. When he can take the time to look at his IDC, it isn't showing green-for-go. The three-number code it displays is unfamiliar—it takes him a few seconds to remember it's the code for 'Hold Position'. Sam is shouting into her radio—her voice on the tac freq echoes through the radio in his vest—the firefight is too loud for him to be able to hear her directly.

"We're under heavy fire, Sir! Open the iris!"

Daniel empties the clip of his Beretta at the attacking Jaffa. The slide locks back and he pops in his last clip. After that he might as well throw rocks; he'll be out of bullets. He can hear Jack, his voice distorted by the radio, refusing to let them through, asking if they can re-dial. Daniel breaks into the staccato exchanges. What the hell is going on at the SGC?

"You've been in enemy hands. You know the protocol. We have no way of knowing if your iris code is secure."

Jack sounds mildly exasperated, as if he's lecturing them on basic operating procedures. It's a weird disconnect between reality and reaction, and Daniel finds himself mirroring it as he snipes back—bickering has always been their default setting, and Daniel falls back into it with the ease of desperation. Jack thinks (for some reason; no time to get an explanation) that they've been captured by Ba'al.

"We were trapped in Anubis' secret base!" Daniel yelps indignantly, knowing that his word against Jack's belief isn't enough (to save them, to open the iris), because any time a Gate Team disappears and then reappears you have to imagine they've been in enemy hands, reprogrammed, infested, turned, and Jack is talking about "protocol" and Daniel thinks that words are dangerous but ideas are the things that kill you.

Sam says the Gate is about to shut down and they won't be able to dial out again when it does. It's as close to begging as she can bring herself to come. Daniel knows that, just as he knows it isn't enough.

But somehow it is, because Jack tells them they're clear.

He hears himself screaming, "Go! Go! Go!" as they run for the Gate, but the next thing Daniel really registers is that he's back in the Gate Room, they all are, they're safe, and Jack is playing the whole thing for laughs, as if thirty seconds ago they weren't moments from death with Jack as their executioner.

It doesn't matter now. They're home.

#

Daniel lingers at his campsite until he realizes he's just stalling. If a rescue party were going to find him here, it already would have.

Before he goes, he spreads one of the tents out flat on the ground and writes a message on it with a piece of charred wood. His name. The date. The words "Find Me"—half invocation, half plea—and an arrow pointing in the direction he's chosen.

And then there's nothing left to do, so he begins to walk, following the stream. Streams become rivers and rivers reach the sea. And maybe none of it will matter, because they'll find him.

His name is Daniel Jackson. He is Dr. Daniel Jackson, PhD. Peaceful explorer. Member of SG-1. Member of Stargate Command. He's been lost before.

No one gets left behind. They'll look for me. Jack will look for me.

They'll find me.

###