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Lost and Found

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Author's notes: This deviates heavily from canon. However, this whole series was started just after Meridian aired, so what is now canon didn't exist when I started it. Many thanks to Ali for the sterling job for once again betaing for me.


Lost and Found

Lost and Found

by Athene

Date Archived: 02/23/03
Website: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/athenic.scribe/
Status: Complete
Category: Tokra Flats, Team, Drama, Story, Adventure/Action, Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Gen story
Characters/Pairings: Col. Jack O'Neill, Teal'c, Dr. Daniel Jackson, Maj. Samantha Carter, Dr. Janet Frasier, Gen. George Hammond, Other Characters   Anubis. Anise.   Team, No Pairing      
Rating: R
Spoilers: Hint of an echo from FiaD. Post Meridian.
Permission to archive: My own Website http://homepage.ntlworld.com/athenic.scribe/, TheBoy, Heliopolis, the Cartouche, stargatefan.com
Series: Ascended Daniel - Part 3. Sequel to Salvation. Prequel to The Sleeper
Notes: This deviates heavily from canon. However, this whole series was started just after Meridian aired, so what is now canon didn't exist when I started it. Many thanks to Ali for the sterling job for once again betaing for me.
Warnings: bit of violence, medical stuff, tiniest bit of language
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. I have merely borrowed them, and promise to give them back the way I found them � well, more or less, anyway! Rats � TPTB want Danny back � I wasn't quick enough there, although I've had lots of fun playing<g>! The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
Summary: On a mission to assist the Tok'ra SG-1 find more than they bargained for


SG-1 inched their way through the Goa'uld fortress, weapons at the ready. They moved silently, constantly rotating their formation so each took a turn on point, eyes peeled for Jaffa.

A Tok'ra representative had arrived in the SGC a week ago, full of how the Tok'ra had managed to infiltrate Anubis' inner circle of confidants, and discover the location of Anubis' science lab.

"Of course," began Innik, the host, "you must understand that this will be for our mutual gain. We do not have the facilities to examine the devices. You do."

The symbiote, Relar, took over. "Since the destruction of Vorash and Revanna, we have not maintained a single, large base of any significant size. It is too dangerous. This means that we no longer have laboratory facilities in which to study anything we may obtain. We can provide both equipment and scientists to assist you in your studies."

Innik resurfaced. "If a team from the SGC was to make a raid on the base, they may be able to obtain enough of the technology to be able to analyse it. There is a single Tok'ra operative in the base, who will make themselves known to you should the opportunity arise. Otherwise, you will be on your own."

"No change there then," muttered Jack, earning a glare from Hammond in the process.

Now, on the strength of the information given to them, SG-1 continued their careful progress down the corridor, until they encountered a T-junction with a second corridor. Teal'c, who was currently on point, stopped and listened, then indicated that they should take cover. They ducked into a doorway as two Jaffa marched past. "Which way?" whispered Jack, after the Jaffa had gone.

"The Tok'ra said it wasn't far from the ring room, sir. I think it's this way," replied Sam.

They moved out again.

After a while, Teal'c indicated a door on the left. "I believe this may be it, O'Neill."

"How?" replied Jack, disbelief on his face.

"The writing on the door indicates that this is laboratory one," responded Teal'c, his face deadpan.

Jack did a double take. The guy wasn't serious was he? Oh no, there was the merest hint of a smile on Teal'c's face, but if you didn't know him, you'd never spot it. "Funny Tee - not." He glanced both ways down the corridor.

Teal'c produced the device they had been given by the Tok'ra to open the door, but it took him a few attempts to actually get the door to open. Jack checked that the room was empty, and then waved the others in. "Okay kids, let's go."

Entering the laboratory, Sam let out a small, choked exclamation. The room was packed full of various bits of apparatus and devices, all laid out at various stages of construction.

"Carter, don't touch anything," warned Jack.

They moved round the room, checking things out. Jack pocketed a couple of the `glow detector' devices, and Sam spotted the pain device that they had seen Osiris use on Daniel the last time they had encountered him, so took that. Opening a cupboard door, they found shelves full of boxes of items that were totally new to them.

"Any ideas?" Jack asked.

"No sir," replied Sam.

Jack glanced at Teal'c, who gave the items a cursory look. "I have no recollection of these devices either O'Neill. They are not items that have been used by the Goa'uld that I have associated with."

"Well, let's grab what we can and figure it out later. I don't want to be here any longer than we have to."

They stuffed various items into their rucksacks, and continued their tour of the room.

Jonas, who was near the door watching the corridor, pointed across the room at a strange frame like object. "Colonel O'Neill. Have you seen that?" All eyes turned to view the device, which was humming slightly, like overhead power cables do.

"What is that?" Jack walked over to it and looked closer. He shrugged. "I got no ideas. Carter, Teal'c, Jonas, take a look and see if you can figure it out. I'll keep watch." He swapped places with Jonas, who joined Sam and Teal'c by the device. The three of them began trying to work out what the device could possibly be.

"What does this say, Teal'c?" asked Sam, indicating some markings on the frame.

"This dialect of Goa'uld is unfamiliar to me," the big man replied. "These markings here are numbers, but the others are a mystery to me. However, I believe this may be similar to a dialect that Daniel Jackson had been trying to translate for some time."

Sam and Teal'c both looked at Jonas. "Can you read it, Jonas?" she asked. "You've read all Daniel's work."

The younger man shrugged. "I'll try." He moved closer to the area on the device where the markings were, and studied them in silence for a while. "They just appear to be labels for using the various controls, as far as I can tell." When the others didn't respond, just continued to stare at him, he elaborated a little. "You know, on, off, up, down. That kind of thing."

"But what does it do?" asked Jack from the doorway.

"I have no idea," replied Jonas. In response to the disgusted look he got from Jack, he added, "Well it doesn't have anything written on it saying this is a device to cook your enemies."

"Oh for crying out loud! I just wanted an idea of what it might do, not an instruction manual!" he stopped, realising that everyone was staring at him. "What?"

Before anyone could respond to Jack's outburst, an all-too familiar noise echoed down the corridor. Jack signalled to Teal'c who used the Tok'ra device to close the door, and the four of them quickly ducked out of sight within the room. They listened intently as the sound of marching feet grew louder, and then faded away as the Jaffa moved down the corridor.

SG-1 waited a moment before emerging from their hiding places. "That was close," whispered Sam.

Jack glanced round the room doing a quick evaluation of what was there. "Okay, let's take what we can and get the hell outta here." He located what he believed was the symbol on the wall that opened the door. Nothing happened.

Teal'c stepped up to try to open it. He tried the Tok'ra device on the door, but the door remained closed. The big man studied the markings on the walls for a while, and then found the correct symbol on the wall that controlled the door, and tried it. The door stayed shut. Teal'c studied the door and surrounding walls more closely for a moment before turning to Jack, one eyebrow raised. "O'Neill. I believe the door is locked. I cannot unlock it from this side. We are trapped."

"Damn! Trust the Tok'ra to give us something faulty," cursed Jack. "So...what now?"

"The chances of us being discovered here are currently very great, O'Neill. We need to find an alternative exit." Teal'c's ability to state the obvious was becoming legendary at the SGC.

"Okay. Any bright ideas? Carter? Jonas?" The four of them spread out through the room, trying to spot anything that might lend itself to `an alternative exit'. The search proved fruitless.

Jack stood in front of the large frame that they'd previously been puzzling over. He tapped it lightly with the muzzle of his P90. "Any chance that this is some kind of a teleportation device?" He looked at Teal'c. "Beam me up Scotty?" Teal'c raised one eyebrow in response.

"Sir!" Sam called from one corner of the room. "I think I've found something."

"Whatcha got Carter?" Jack joined Sam who was staring at a very faint circular pattern on the floor of an alcove. It was just about large enough for one person to stand in.

"Sir. I think this might be a ring device. Look at the markings on the floor; it looks like the ones you see on ships. If it is, we may be able to use it to get out of here."

"It looks a little small. Besides, how would we turn it on?" Jack looked around for a button.

"One moment O'Neill." Teal'c stepped forward and examined the faint line on the floor. "That is indeed a single-man ring transporter. However, these only ever go to one place."

Jack waited for Teal'c to elaborate. When he didn't, he asked, somewhat impatiently, "Which is?"

"A Goa'uld's private inner sanctum. It can only be operated by the device worn by the Goa'uld himself. Unlike the main ring devices, even those devices worn by Anubis' Jaffa will not operate this transport device." Teal'c looked at Jack. "It will not be useful as an alternative means of escape."

As they moved away from the alcove, the familiar sound of the rings warming up came to their ears. Jack looked at his team. "Well if that is only able to be used by one person, then that must be...."

"Anubis!" Sam finished Jack's sentence for him.

SG-1 hid as best they could in the lab. There weren't many hiding places, and Jack psyched himself up for yet another round of question and answer interspersed with Goa'uld torture, although with any luck, Daniel would sweep in and save them all again.

The rings activated and deposited Anubis in the alcove. He swept into the main part of the lab and moved over to the mystery frame. Having checked a few of the settings on the panels, he adjusted one or two, and then pressed a switch. The gentle hum grew louder and a faint glow emanated from the device. Anubis made some further adjustments, made few notes on a Goa'uld writing tablet, changed the setting once more, and made further notes. He read through what he had written on the tablet then activated a communication device nearby. Having spoken his orders to whoever was on the other end, he switched the device off.

Anubis moved close to Jonas, who found he was holding his breath as the Goa'uld started examining various bits of equipment on the workbench behind which the Kelownian was hiding. Anubis suddenly placed his hand on an empty spot where Sam had taken one of the hitherto unidentified devices. He appeared confused, and looked around the lab, as if looking for the device that had been taken. SG-1 shrunk back into their hiding places, desperate not to be discovered.

Anubis then strode away from Jonas towards Sam's hiding place. He searched through a pile of objects there, and then found what he was looking for. Now satisfied, he went back to the rings, and disappeared back to his private quarters.

After a brief pause to assess the risk, SG-1 left out a collective sigh of relief, the result of involuntarily holding their breath, and emerged from their hiding places.

"What was that all about?" Sam asked Teal'c.

"I do not know, Major Carter, but I believe he requested that someone come and collect the device," replied the big man.

"If that's the case, then we'd better get out of here before we get caught." Jack scowled. He was really uncomfortable with this situation, and was annoyed that, once again, SG-1 were taking extreme risks to aid the Tok'ra.

Teal'c, who was near the door appeared to be listening intently to something. He looked up at the others. "We must hide. There is a Jaffa patrol approaching."

The four of them quickly took cover just as the door opened. Six Jaffa and a Goa'uld entered the room. The Goa'uld gave the Jaffa some orders, and they moved to pick up the frame device. As the Goa'uld stepped back to get out of the way, SG-1 got a look at her face. It was Anise.

The Jaffa carefully manoeuvred the device through the door and out into the corridor. Anise followed them to the doorway, barked an order, and the Jaffa headed off down the corridor carrying the device carefully between them. She then returned to the room and went to the bench near Jack's hiding place to pick up a couple of items that were lying on it.

"Pssst!" hissed Jack.

Anise looked up startled, unable to identify the source of the noise.

"Hey! Anise!" he whispered.

Anise spotted Jack where he was hiding. Her eyes widened briefly, she went to the door, checked that there was no one in the corridor, then touched a device on her arm. The door slid shut. Turning back to Jack, she spoke, "Colonel O'Neill. I was not expecting you."

"Likewise, Anise." Jack stood up from his hiding place. "We've gotta get out of here." The rest of SG-1 stood up and revealed themselves.

Anise nodded at Sam and Teal'c and raised her eyebrows slightly as she looked at Jonas. Then she bowed her head, eyes closed, and Freya surfaced. She glanced around the room, and then spoke quietly, but earnestly. "You should return to Earth, but first, there is something you should know." She glanced around her nervously. "It is not safe for you to remain here. I know a place where we can talk in safety. "

She touched the device on her arm again, and the door opened, she checked the corridor again, and motioned that they should follow her. Leading the way, she took them to a room a few corridors away. Looking at the furnishings and dcor, Sam suspected that this was Anise's own private quarters. Closing the door behind them, the Tok'ra punched a code into a panel on one side. "No-one can enter without my permission now," Freya said. "Please, make yourselves comfortable."

SG-1 sat down on the couches and seats that she indicated.

"Anise...Freya...how come you're here? I thought you were a scientist, not a field operative," asked Sam.

"It is because I am a scientist that I am here. The Tok'ra numbers have been so severely depleted that none of us can afford the luxury of remaining at a home base. Also, for this assignment having scientific knowledge and skills was considered to be essential," Anise replied. "It has taken me many months to gain enough of Anubis' trust to be allowed to work closely with him."

"So what do you want to tell us?" asked Jack, impatient to get out of the base while everyone was still in one piece.

This time it was Freya who answered. "Anubis has finally developed a method of capturing and restraining the Arash'kna."

"Arash'kna? Isn't that what Osiris called Oma Desala and her friends?" Jack looked at Teal'c for confirmation.

"Indeed O'Neill. You are correct."

Jack looked back at Anise, concern on his face. He had a nasty feeling he knew what was coming. "Go on..."

The Tok'ra looked slightly uncomfortable. "Anubis has been determined to catch one of these beings since he managed to get the technology functional. He has finally managed to achieve this goal. He has this very day captured an Arash'kna, and holds it prisoner within this stronghold. The device that was being moved when we met is... a device created solely for the purpose of torturing these beings. It will have no effect on you or me, or most other life-forms, but for the Arash'kna, it is extremely effective."

"How do you know this? Has he been using the device?" Sam frowned at Anise.

"Not on his prisoner, yet. No, Anubis has been testing the effectiveness of the device on himself."

"What...? How...?" Jack stared at Anise, confused.

"Anubis is partially ascended. He is also insane. Although the device cannot inflict the same pain or injury on him that it can on a fully ascended being, it does still hurt him. He has been testing it knowing that whatever he experiences, it will be a hundred times worse for the Arash'kna." Anise looked at SG-1. "He has now captured one, and wishes to complete his trials of the device."

Jack opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again. He looked at Anise quizzically. When she spoke again, it was Freya who spoke. "Colonel O'Neill. Anubis wishes to find out whether this device can actually kill an ascended being."

"Whoa!" Jack held up his hands. "I thought the glowing people were immortal."

"They are very powerful, and could be considered immortal as under normal circumstances they do not die. However, it seems that they are not, apparently, invincible. Anubis has used his knowledge of the Arash'kna to devise methods of hurting and destroying them. Colonel, if we allow him to continue then he could upset the very balance of the galaxy."

"How?" Sam asked.

"The Arash'kna act as universal guardians. They help to maintain the equilibrium between good and evil."

"Oma Desala," muttered Teal'c.

"Excuse me?" responded Jack.

"Oma Desala. Did Daniel Jackson not state that this was the name given to the forces of nature in some cultures of the Tau'ri?" asked Teal'c.

"Oh, I see." Sam looked at her CO, who still looked very confused. "Sir, if you think about it, it makes sense. The Arash'kna are nature - Mother Nature - although to do that for the whole universe would take a lot of them."

Jack shook his head. He was having problems getting his head around the whole concept. "Wait a minute. Are you telling me that Oma Desala and her kind are making sure that the universe doesn't descend into evil - that everything stays as it should? The Force be with you? That kinda thing?"

"The force?" Jonas and Anise both looked very confused.

"It's a sci-fi thing." Jack waved his hand dismissively. "Just let me get this straight... there's good and there's...not good - evil if you like, and these Arash...na guys are making sure they stay in balance?"

"That's it exactly." Anise looked at Jack. "Colonel. I could use your help in releasing this member of the Arash'kna before Anubis starts his tests."

"Can't you just help them escape?" asked Sam.

"No. It would not be prudent for me to break my cover just yet. I am aware that there are other devices that Anubis is working on, but at the moment I do not know what or where they are. I need to find this out before I can end this operation."

Jack stared at the Tok'ra. "Can you give us any help in this rescue?"

"I can show you where the prisoner is being held, and give you the combinations for the locks. I can also show you the safest escape routes where you will encounter least resistance. Other than that I cannot assist you." Anise pursed her lips slightly, a frown on her face. "Have you been anywhere other than the laboratory I just found you in?"

"Only the ring room which is what we used to get in here. Why?" Jack's early warning system leapt into action and he was instantly suspicious.

"So you have taken what technology you can?" Anise still wasn't giving much away.

"We've taken bits of everything that we can carry," replied Sam. "Why?"

Anise looked nervously around before she spoke. "Anubis is not just working on the technology you have seen. There is a second lab where he is working on other projects."

"What other projects, for crying out loud?" Jack was getting quite annoyed with Anise's cloak and dagger act.

"He's developing some biological agents."

Anise looked decidedly shifty, Jack decided. "What biological agents?" His voice was hard. He'd been on the receiving end of one too many of the Tok'ra's minimalist-style of briefing - the expression `need to know' was an understatement where this supposed ally was concerned.

Anise looked nervous again. "As the Tok'ra developed an agent that would kill a symbiote but not the host, Anubis is developing something that will do the reverse - kill the host but leave the symbiote alone."

"Why would he want to do that?" Sam was incredulous.

"Should a symbiote find itself in a difficult host...." Anise shrugged.

"It still doesn't make much sense - the symbiote could just leave the host once a more suitable one arose..." Sam struggled to get her mind round she had just been told.

"I believe that Anubis may have devised a method of crushing the Jaffa rebellion." Teal'c interjected at this point.

"Teal'c may be correct." Anise responded. "Anubis was most clear in his objectives - the host or Jaffa carrying the symbiote was to die, but in such a way that the symbiote could continue to live within the corpse until it could be recovered." She shuddered, and when she next spoke, it was Freya. "Please excuse us - we find this whole concept abhorrent to us."

"Really?" Jack glowered at her. "My heart bleeds..." Both Sam and the Tok'ra shot him a sharp look. He shook it off with a dismissive wave of his hand.

Anise spoke again. "It would be most beneficial if you could obtain a sample of this agent. We might then be able to develop either an antidote or a vaccine for this agent. I would not be able to accompany you as my presence would be questioned in that area. Anubis controls his scientific staff by strict segregation of duties and responsibilities. I only found out about this because the Goa'uld working on this project was somewhat uncomfortable with what was being done. He confided in me."

"You didn't expose yourself?" Sam voiced Jack's concerns. If Anise had given rise to any doubt as to her trustworthiness then they might be in serious trouble.

"No. I advised him it would be extremely unwise to question our Lord Anubis' motives or methods, and no matter what his personal feelings on the matter it was not his place to raise those concerns with anyone." Anise positively bristled with indignation that her abilities as a field agent were in question.

"Okay - so we have two things that Anise wants us to do for her. Rescue this glowing person, and grab some nasty poison that could kill us all." Jack scratched his head. "Carter? Teal'c? Any thoughts?" He glanced at Jonas who was sat silently absorbing most of what was being said. "Jonas?" he added as an afterthought.

"Sir, Anise has said that she can guide us to where the prisoner is being held, but cannot assist in obtaining a sample of the poison." Anise inclined her head towards Sam in assent. "I would suggest that two of us go and get the poison, while the others go with Anise and try to rescue the prisoner."

"I'm not sure about splitting us up with this one Carter." Jack frowned.

"The problem is that the longer we remain in this base the likelihood that we will be discovered and captured is greatly increased, O'Neill. If we were to divide our efforts, we could achieve both goals in a shorter time." Teal'c offered his opinion in his usual understated manner.

"I agree with Major Carter and Teal'c, Colonel." Jonas added.

"Okay, it seems I'm the only one here with an issue about splitting us up." Jack frowned as he mulled over his options and the risks therein. Splitting the team was the quickest way to achieve these goals, but they would have to maintain radio silence throughout, and that was something he was not comfortable with. In fact, did they even need to achieve both goals? The poison one, he could see the benefits of that, but rescuing the glowing person - that was something that was so outside the original scope of the mission he really wasn't sure they should even consider it.

Suddenly, to his amazement, he could hear Daniel's voice in his mind. "You have to help the Arash'kna, Jack. Of all the races we've encountered, these could be Earth's single most powerful ally. These are the ones who could help to defend the Earth against evil. Jack, you have to do it. Please Jack. Do it for me."

Jack closed his eyes. All he could see was Daniel's face, determination etched all over it. "Do it for me Jack. I need you to do this." Jack looked back at his team, inwardly cursing Daniel's ability to override his better judgement yet again. "Okay, we'll split up. Carter, you and Teal'c go and try to get this poison, Jonas, you're with me on the rescue. We rendezvous at the ring room in one hour. Maintain radio silence. If either party is more than thirty minutes late, the others go back home, tell Hammond what's happened." Rubbing his forehead with the heel of his hand to try and ease some of the tension, he looked at the Tok'ra. "Okay Anise, let's go."

*

Sam and Teal'c followed the directions given to them by Anise. Having gone up two levels from the one with the transport rings on, it took them considerably longer than they thought to reach the corridor with the bio labs on, mainly due to having to dodge various members of Anubis' staff. Now they were crouched in a doorway watching the door that they believed to be the entrance to the lab where the poison was being developed.

Sam looked up at the big man at her side, and hoisted her weapon higher on her shoulder. "Ready Teal'c?" she whispered.

He nodded silently, and the two of them crept forward towards their goal.

*

Meanwhile, Jack and Jonas followed Anise down a level to where the prisoner was being held. The three of them paused briefly in a recessed doorway near a T-junction where Anise spoke to them in a whisper. "The holding cells are down the corridor to your left. I will take as many Jaffa away with me as I can, but a guard will no doubt remain."

Jack nodded. "What about the lock combination?" he whispered.

Anise handed over a small Goa'uld tablet with five symbols on it. "Enter the combination twice, the first time disarms the alarm system, the second unlocks the door." She closed her eyes briefly, and Freya now spoke. "Good luck, Colonel."

With one last nod at the two men, she left their hiding place and marched down the corridor in the direction that she had indicated. Sounds of commands barked in Goa'uld drifted back to Jack's ears. He made himself as small as he could within the recess, and pulled Jonas back with him. Shortly, Anise marched across the junction away from both the holding cells and Jack and Jonas' hiding place. She was accompanied by two Jaffa. As she passed the corridor she drew her right hand up into a fist leaving two fingers extended.

Jack realised she was trying to let him know how many Jaffa were left guarding the cell. Using hand signals, he managed to pass this information onto Jonas. He waited till the echoes of the warriors' boots had died down, and then unsheathed his Zat gun. Jonas followed suit, and the two of them crept silently towards the holding cells.

Pressed as closely to the wall as he could Jack surveyed the situation. Two Jaffa were stood either side of a door, each holding a staff weapon. Jack silently indicated to Jonas that he would take the one on the left, while Jonas should take the other, but just as they were about to launch their attack the door to the cell flew open, and two more Jaffa came out with the prisoner between them.

Jack drew his breath in sharply at the sight of the Arash'kna in question - it was Daniel.

Daniel was bound hand and foot in what appeared to be manacles and handcuffs made from light, and these seemed to be preventing his escape. The two Jaffa standing guard joined the others in transporting the prisoner. They were using pain-sticks to steer Daniel.

Jack scrutinised Daniel carefully. He looked unhurt, but decidedly unwell - very tired and almost in soft-focus. However, as he was steered down the corridor in a manner normally reserved for animals, he seemed to become more alert. He moved his head slightly, a questioning look in his eyes.

Jack sensed that he was aware of them, and a small glance in their direction confirmed his suspicion. He caught Jonas' attention and mouthed "He knows we're here."

"What?" Jonas mouthed back.

Jack mouthed again, pointing at Daniel as he did so. "Daniel - knows we're here." Jonas smiled and gave Jack a thumbs-up signal to indicate that he now understood. The two men followed their quarry down the corridor at a safe distance. After about five minutes, the party ahead disappeared into a room. Jack crept up to the doorway. Like so many Goa'uld rooms they'd encountered in the past, there was no door, just a partition that served to provide some privacy.

"Keep watch," he whispered to Jonas, and peered tentatively round the edge of the partition. This chamber was one of the largest that Jack had seen in this particular base. It was much more in keeping with the style normally found on a Goa'uld mothership, with lavish carvings on the wall. There was very little in the way of furnishings, other than a bench with all kinds of unpleasant looking devices laid out on it, and right in the centre of the room was the strange frame-like device that had been removed earlier from the lab. This was obviously Anubis' torture chamber.

In the meantime the Jaffa had steered Daniel to the strange frame and pushed him into the middle of it. Anubis adjusted a couple of the controls, and the whole area within the frame lit up with a strange blue, almost fluorescent light. It was the same light that the ties binding Daniel's wrists and ankles appeared to be made from. As the light came on, Daniel's features contorted with pain.

Jack watched in horror as Daniel appeared to crumple to his knees within the confines of the frame. He readied his weapons, P90 in one hand, zat in the other. Glancing over his shoulder at Jonas, he saw the other man had followed his example. Jack slipped back to join Jonas in the doorway. In a low voice he brought his companion up to speed.

"They're torturing Daniel. If we take them by surprise we might be able to get him out. There's only the five of them in the room, and if we can release Daniel he may be able to help..." Jack scrutinised Jonas' face. Was he really ready for this?

Jonas nodded. "Just say the word, Colonel, I'm ready."

"Okay, I go left, you go right. Take out as many as you can with the zat-gun. We don't want to attract too much attention."

Jonas nodded, and re-holstered his sidearm. He looked at Jack, and the two of them crept to opposite ends of the partition. Each looked round the edge briefly to work out where the Jaffa were, and then after a quick nod at each other, they burst round the corner zats firing as they did so.

The two Jaffa nearest Jack fell quickly. Jonas managed to hit the third Jaffa with his first shot, but missed the last one twice.

Anubis turned, raised his hand and blasted Jonas with his ribbon device. The Kelownian was flung backwards into the wall, and fell in a dazed heap to the floor. Jack fired his zat at the fourth Jaffa, who staggered but remained on his feet. Not expecting this, Jack had already turned the weapon on Anubis who unsurprisingly turned out to be using a personal shield.

"Fool!" hissed the Goa'uld, raising his be-ribboned hand again. "You cannot defeat me!" A flash of light, and Jack too was flung backwards against the nearest wall. The room swam for a moment, and then everything went black.

*

Within the confines of the device, barely able to move, Daniel could only watch in horror as Jack and Jonas attempted their foolhardy rescue. The pain was overwhelming, but all he could focus on was Jack, who was being strapped to the wall in one of the sets of manacles. For some reason the Goa'uld ignored Jonas' prostrate form, perhaps believing him dead.

As soon as the two Jaffa had finished attaching Jack to the wall, Anubis told them to leave the room. He turned back to his captive. "Does it hurt, Arash'kna?" His voice was cold, disinterested.

Daniel didn't respond, but merely glowered at his tormentor.

Anubis touched one of the controls on the device. "Believe me, the pain you feel now is nothing in comparison to the agony you will feel as you die." He moved his hand on the control and Daniel's pain increased. It was now so intense that he was losing awareness of where he was and what was going on. Blackness faded in and out for a moment, and then overwhelmed him completely.

Suddenly the blackness dissolved into bright light and Daniel felt the pain lift from him.

"Thank you," he said, to his invisible benefactor.

"You are not free of your torment. Not yet."

"But..." he stuttered, confused. The pain was lifted, he felt like he could move.

"We cannot extricate you completely from the device that holds you. Anubis has created the ultimate weapon against us. We are powerless against this technology. If it cannot be destroyed, then it will destroy us, and ultimately the galaxy."

"What can we do?"

"Nothing. Only those of flesh and blood will be able to withstand the power of this device."

"My friends..."

"SG-1 could help you, could help us, and could help to save the galaxy. This was foreseen. This was your destiny."

"My...destiny?"

"Yours, but not yours alone. It was foreseen that SG-1 would be the key."

"But Jack's in trouble and I don't know where the others are..."

"There are many paths. The choice is yours."

"But how will I know? Can you help me?"

"We will give you what help we can, as we can, but we cannot promise much, Daniel - this path is yours to walk alone."

"But..." Blackness closed in once again.

Daniel's next sensation was one of extreme pain.

*

Inside the biology lab, Sam and Teal'c grabbed as many test tubes and phials as they could, not being entirely sure which actually contained the agent that Anise had told them about.

"I hope these are all completely sealed," muttered Sam, wrapping the phials up in a spare t-shirt she'd retrieved from her backpack in an attempt to minimise breakage. "I've no idea what this stuff could do to us if we get exposed."

"Indeed. We must be careful to ensure that there is no risk of breaking the containers, Major Carter, as we have no indication of what any of these agents are." Teal'c helped Sam to wrap the glass tubes so they weren't in direct contact with each other.

"Right. Let's get back to the rendezvous point." Sam set off in the lead, Teal'c behind her.

It took them a while to get down to the original level where they had entered the base. Huddled together in a secluded doorway, Sam suddenly tensed. "Did you hear that?" she whispered.

"I heard nothing Major Carter." Teal'c said, and cocked his head like a puppy listening for any sound.

"Wait...there it is again..."

"I believe I also heard it this time Major Carter."

"Daniel?"

"Indeed, I do believe I heard Daniel Jackson."

"So, we both heard Daniel shouting that the Colonel was in trouble?" Sam doubted her own mind.

"I believe you are correct."

"Okay - then we need to find Anise." They set off towards Anise's quarters, to find out where Jack and Jonas had gone.

*

In the torture chamber, Daniel was struggling to stay focused on the scene in front of him.

Jack had come round and was now being taunted by Anubis, who was telling him in gory detail about what this device was going to do to Daniel and the other Arash'kna.

"Go to Hell!" snarled Jack in response. This earned him a slap across the face.

"You fool!" sneered Anubis. "All insults will earn you is a million deaths. You are at my mercy. I will destroy you and your planet, and you cannot stop me. I am your doom, Tau'ri."

Internally, Jack shuddered at the memory of the last time he'd undergone endless Goa'uld torture at the hands of Ba'al.

Anubis was so absorbed in tormenting Jack that he hadn't noticed that Jonas was starting to recover on the floor behind him. Daniel realised that Jonas was the key to getting them out of this situation. He tried to move, to attract the Kelownian's attention, but every movement was both extremely slow and excruciatingly painful. It was like trying to move in electrically charged treacle.

In desperation, Daniel focused on Jonas's mind. It was much harder for him to find Jonas's wavelength than it was for him to reach any of his friends. Daniel decided it had to be due to the fact that he didn't know the man as well. He broadcast a simple message over and over again, "Jonas lie low".

After a moment, Jonas exchanged a brief look with Daniel, and then put his head back down as if he were still unconscious.

Anubis stopped torturing Jack who hung limply from his bindings. He wasn't unconscious, but he could barely lift his head. Anubis turned back to Daniel. He moved closer to the frame, and then paused. He looked from one man to the other and back again. "Intriguing. There appears to be some kind of a connection between the two of you. What does this Arash'kna want with the Tau'ri? Are the Tau'ri allied now with the Arash'kna?" He placed his hand on one of the controls. "Perhaps we can use this connection to our advantage..." He began to twist the control, causing Daniel to cry out as the pain increased.

Jack closed his eyes tightly. He couldn't bear to watch, and as far as he could see there was no way out of this one. Not unless Carter and Teal'c disobeyed orders, but right now, he didn't even know if he and Jonas were late at the rendezvous or not. "Sorry Daniel..." he whispered. With the last of his strength, he lifted his head and stared at the scene in front of him.

Anubis had his back to Jack, adjusting the controls on the device. Inside it, bathed in a blue light, Daniel was bent over clearly in agony. What Jack could see was that Jonas was crouched behind Anubis, poised, ready to pounce.

Suddenly Jonas leapt up and pushed Anubis hard on his back. Caught completely unawares, Anubis stumbled forward into the field of light created by the device. He let out a scream of pain and anger. Before he could escape, Daniel reached out and grabbed onto the Goa'uld, hugging the Goa'uld to his chest with what little strength he had left, holding him within the confines of the device.

Anubis struggled desperately, but somehow, Daniel managed to hang on, refusing to let him go. He stared in desperation at the two men in the room, his eyes pleading for assistance.

In frustration at his current predicament, Jack yelled "Do something, help Daniel!"

Jonas stared at the writing on the device in front of him, muttering the words on it aloud as he tried to fathom out what it said. "I know what it says. I learnt it from the textbook Dr Jackson was writing on Goa'uld dialects. This says power... that's up, that's down..."

"Jonas... no!" Daniel yelled.

"I think I know what to do!" Jonas smiled at Daniel. "I know what it says."

"Jonas! Leave it!" shouted Daniel. "You're wrong! That's not right!"

"Jonas! Listen to him!" yelled Jack, but Jonas took no notice. Over-confident that he knew what the answer was Jonas grabbed a lever on the side of the device and pulled it towards himself, hard.

A flash shot out and engulfed him. The scream from the man echoed around the chamber, and Jack's blood ran cold at the sound. Tethered as he was all he could do was watch as Jonas fell to the floor with a sickening thud. He didn't move, and Jack thought that the man was dead. Jonas suddenly groaned and coughed slightly. A sense of relief overwhelmed Jack; there was an outside chance that one of them might get out of this alive.

Tearing his eyes away from the prostrate form in front of him, he turned his attention back to Daniel and Anubis. They were both engulfed in the strange light that seemed to have trapped them within the device.

Daniel was holding tight to Anubis his face was a mask of pain yet he clung to the figure in front of him as if his life depended on it.

"Come on Danny, you can win this," murmured Jack, "you have to." He couldn't tear his eyes away from the battling figures within the light, and yet he really didn't want to watch. It was like driving past the scene of a horrific road accident - you just had to look, even though you didn't want to.

As he watched, something changed. Daniel, who had appeared to have the upper hand, suddenly seemed to lose...something...momentum? Enthusiasm? Jack couldn't tell, but whatever it was, it quickly became clear that Anubis was beginning to fight back.

"Come on Danny, you can't let him win.... please!"

Within the confines of the device Daniel was trying to maintain his hold on Anubis. When Jonas pulled the lever it had reduced the intensity of the pain and restriction that he was feeling slightly, but not enough to really make much difference to him. The time he had spent in the full force of the device had already taken its toll, and he was exhausted.

In desperation, he sent out a mental cry of help, to anyone who might hear.

*

Sam and Teal'c reached Anise's quarters. They knocked on the door, waiting to see if the Tok'ra was within. As they huddled together in the doorway, weapons at the ready, two Goa'uld and a number of slaves rushed past, but surprisingly paid them no attention.

"That was close," murmured Sam. "Where do you think they were going?"

"I do not know, Major Carter. It is most curious behaviour."

At that moment, the door slid open and Anise beckoned them inside.

"Anise, what's going on? Two Goa'uld just went passed us and didn't even notice we were there." Sam frowned at the Tok'ra. She seemed agitated.

"Word is spreading in the base that Anubis has lost control. Many of the less senior Goa'uld in the base are leaving in order to escape whatever may happen. They will no doubt ally themselves with a different system lord."

"Anise. We need your help. I know this sounds crazy, but we thought we heard someone shouting that the Colonel and Jonas are in trouble. Where did they go?"

"I left them on the level where the holding cells are. But they are not there now. I went down there not long ago, and both they and the Arash'kna were gone. I did find out who the Arash'kna was, however." Anise looked at them solemnly, and the expression on her face filled both Sam and Teal'c with foreboding.

"It's Doctor Jackson."

*

"Daniel. We hear you."

Daniel didn't so much hear the words as instinctively know what was being said to him.

"Daniel, you know what to do. You must descend. Return to mortality. It is your, and our, only hope."

He struggled to think about what was being said. The pain was so intense it was clouding his judgement. "How? Descend?"

"Daniel, you know what to do." The voice in his head remained calm and quiet.

In a flash, it came to him, what he needed to do. It was just one step further than appearing solid. He started to focus on being solid, and in doing so he relaxed his hold on the Goa'uld slightly. Seizing the opportunity, Anubis started to work free from his grasp. In response, Daniel tightened his grip drawing Anubis back towards him. As he began to descend, Anubis came with him.

In the split second that the two figures returned to flesh and blood, there was a huge flash of light. It swept through the cell twisting the frame that surrounded them, exploding glass and charring wood. Sudden heat on his wrists forced Jack to look up at his bindings. They were blackened and smoking, as if they'd been burnt. He pulled against them, and one disintegrated. With one hand free he managed to unfasten the other, and then turned back to the scene in front of him.

The heat hit him like a physical force, knocking him off his feet and singeing his eyebrows. The air was hot, and trying to breathe it hurt his chest. Jack's face felt like it had been overexposed to the sun, tight and sore, but he ignored the pain. Squinting through the smoky air he could see Jonas lying to one side, and then two more bodies lying on the floor in front of him. Alarms were going off all over the place having been triggered by the explosion.

Suddenly finding it impossible to stand he fell to his knees. He dragged himself over the floor to Jonas. The man was lying on one side, probably less singed than Jack himself, as he'd been facing away from the frame when it exploded. Jack checked for a pulse, and was pleased to find a strong regular beat under his fingertips. Jonas was just unconscious.

Jack now turned his attention back to the others. He crawled towards the first body. Blackened and charred, it was lying face down, smoking slightly. Turning it over, Jack recoiled in horror. The man in front of him was so badly injured and disfigured it was impossible to tell who he was or what he might once have looked like. Given the extent of the injuries and disfigurement it was no surprise that he was dead. Fighting the desire to vomit, Jack looked over at the other figure praying that this one in front of him wasn't Daniel. To his relief the other man looked familiar.

Jack crawled over to the other man lying on the floor. To his immense relief, it was Daniel. He was naked, so it was easy to see that he was badly burnt. Fortunately he was not burnt as severely as the other man. At first Jack thought he must be unconscious so when Daniel tried to speak he jumped with a start. Daniel was lying on his back, holding his arms up at a strange angle, and was muttering so quietly that Jack had to strain to catch it.

"The vowels were wrong. My fault... the vowels were wrong..."

"Daniel...Daniel... what?" Jack wanted to touch Daniel to comfort him, but wasn't sure where wouldn't hurt him. "What vowels?"

"The...the textbook...I got the vowels wrong..."

"Textbook?" Jack had no idea what Daniel was talking about.

"Jonas...I...wrong..." He struggled to get the words out.

"Daniel...it wasn't your fault. You didn't know that Jonas was reading your stuff." Jack put his hand on the top of Daniel's head in an attempt to comfort the man. It was about the only place that he could see that was free from burns.

"Wasn't... finished..." The words came out as a whisper.

"Daniel. What happened here was not your fault. Jonas read everything you ever wrote, and assumed that reading it in a book is the same as really knowing stuff. You hadn't finished it. He didn't know that, but he used it anyway. It was his choice. Daniel, he's not dead, he's just out cold." Jack stared closely at his friend's face, trying to ascertain if the expression was pain, guilt or anguish. It was hard to tell under the burns. "Daniel?" There was no response. "Danny?" `hang in there Daniel,' he thought. `Carter will come soon. Maybe.'

There was a small gasp from the stricken man on the floor. Then Daniel half opened his eyes. "...'nubis?"

"He's dead Daniel."

Daniel closed his eyes again.
"T...worked...then..." he murmured. He seemed to go limp.

"Daniel..." Jack said in a warning tone, his heart sinking. "Don't die on me now...Dammit Daniel!"

The sound of distant gunfire and staff weapons came to his ears, punctuated by the odd Zat. "Hear that Daniel... they're on their way. Hang in there... Carter's coming."

For what seemed like an age, he could hear the gunfight in the distance. There were one or two more staff weapon blasts, and then silence. It was in such stark contrast to the earlier noise, Jack felt like he had gone deaf.

The sound of running feet broke the silence. It didn't sound like Jaffa, more like USAF issue boots. Jack really didn't have the heart or energy to fight if it wasn't Teal'c and Carter. Despite this he noticed a Zat on the floor nearby, and went to pick it up - it was so hot it burnt his hand, and he dropped it.

The footsteps were so close now; and Jack braced himself for the worst. Here he was unarmed with two injured team-mates. If this wasn't a rescue then they were all dead, he thought. He found himself subconsciously holding his breath as the owners of the feet entered the room...

"Sir!" Sam's eyes widened in horror as she surveyed the scene before her. The room was a mass of charred fragments and twisted bits of metal. All the walls were blackened with smoke. Jonas lay to one side, unconscious, but otherwise he appeared uninjured.

All the damage seemed to radiate out from a central point, and in the epicentre of what must have been a not inconsiderable blast lay two bodies on the floor. Jack was hunched over one, the other was completely unrecognisable being nothing more than a blackened mass in a vaguely human shape.

Sam went and crouched down next to Jack, while Teal'c went to check on Jonas. "Oh my God, Daniel! Is he...?"

"I think he's alive, just."

"Sir, we'd better get you out of here. When all the alarms went off, everyone in the base panicked. We had a bit of a fight to get here, but most people are leaving." She scrutinised her CO's face closely. He'd obviously been caught in the blast as the skin on his face was reddened and peeling, with one or two blisters beginning to form. It didn't look too serious in itself, but Jack looked dazed and shocked. "Come on sir," Sam helped Jack to his feet. "Can you help me with Daniel?"

Jack stared at the man on the floor, and nodded silently.

Due to her assessment of her CO's current state of mind, Sam assumed command. "How's Jonas, Teal'c?" she asked, trying to assess how they were going to cope.

"Jonas Quinn is unconscious Major Carter. However, I do not believe that his injuries are as severe as those experienced by Daniel Jackson." Teal'c reassured her.

Sam and Jack lifted Daniel as carefully as they could. All the burns were confined to the front of Daniel's body. As Jack stood supporting his unconscious friend, his nakedness suddenly seemed much more obvious. "Clothes," whispered Jack. "We can't take him back like this."

Sam looked around the room frantically, there wasn't anything they could use to cover Daniel's modesty. Her gaze fell on the corpse on the floor. For some reason, Anubis' cloak hadn't been completely destroyed. She pulled the corner. As it came away, the body within it disintegrated into ash.

"You're not putting him in that," growled Jack.

"Sir, that's all there is. We take him back naked, or we use this." Sam's blue eyes met the Colonel's brown ones. For a moment his anguish was evident, then he closed his eyes.

"Okay, we'll use it," he whispered.

Sam draped the cloak over Daniel's shoulders, and then moved to the door. She peered out into the corridor, as Anise appeared, carrying a zat.

"Major Carter we need to leave now. The auto-destruct has been set. There's not much time."

The four of them carried the two injured men between them, heading for the room containing the ring device. They met no resistance whatsoever, the base having been deserted by the majority of the personnel.

*

"Receiving SG-1 IDC, sir."

"Open the iris." Major General George Hammond ordered, and went into the gateroom to greet his premier team, impatient to find out how their latest mission had gone.

To his amazement, instead of the four people he expected, six came through the wormhole event horizon, three of them much the worse for wear.

As medics were summoned to the gateroom, Hammond walked up the ramp to join Sg-1. "Colonel? What happened?"

"Sir?" Jack still looked somewhat dazed.

Hammond looked at the burns on his 2IC's face, and decided that the questions would have to wait. The medical team arrived, and Jonas and Daniel were placed onto gurneys. "Colonel - is that Dr Jackson?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes sir, it's Daniel." Jack stared after the rapidly disappearing trolleys.

"Is he - flesh and blood?"

Jack, Sam and Teal'c stared at each other for a moment. With their preoccupation with the situation and their escape, none of them had actually registered that Daniel had descended, that he was once again flesh and blood.

"Colonel? Major?"

Sam answered. "Yes sir, Daniel's descended."

*

Three hours later, Jack, Sam and Teal'c had undergone all the usual post-gate protocols and debriefed General Hammond. Jack's burns had been treated and declared no worse than a severe case of sunburn, so he was free to go home. Anise had joined them in the debriefing and then returned to the Tok'ra to bring them up-to date.

SG-1 returned to the infirmary to the news that Jonas had come round. Like Jack, he had a severe case of sunburn, but he also had moderate burns to his hands where he had grabbed the lever Janet was giving him yet another once over when SG-1 arrived. She made notes on the record sheet, and hung it back up at the end of the bed. She then went to meet them by the door.

"How is he, Doc?" asked Jack, indicating the Kelownian's bed with his head.

"He'll be okay," smiled Janet. "I want to keep him here for another twenty-four hours observation, but then he'll be free to go."

"What about Daniel?" asked Jack.

"I won't beat about the bush - it's not good. He's got full thickness burns over about 40% of the front half of his body. He's in intensive care at the moment, but we are looking into moving him to a specialist burns unit."

"Can we see him?" asked Sam.

"Not at the moment. There's a lot we need to do with him before we can let you see him. Go talk to Jonas, I'll let you know as soon as you can see Daniel."

Jonas was lying back on the pillows, his eyes closed. As his team-mates appeared, he opened his eyes and smiled weakly.

"How are you?" asked Sam.

"Very tired. I've got a terrible headache. Doctor Frasier says I can get out of here tomorrow."

"That's good," smiled Sam.

"Yes." Jonas closed his eyes again. "How's Doctor Jackson?"

Jack tensed, before replying in a low voice. "He's not so good."

"I'm sorry."

There was an uncomfortable silence before Jonas spoke again. "I've decided to ask General Hammond to grant me a leave of absence. I've been thinking while I've been lying here. I want to go travelling for a while. See something of this planet that I've been living on. I gather Egypt is interesting"

At first, Jack didn't grasp what the man was saying. "Travelling?"

"Yes Colonel, travelling. See something of Earth."

"Oh." Jack scrutinised the man in the bed in silence for a moment. "How long...?"

"I don't know. I just want to go away from here for a while."

Just then Janet appeared and pulled Jack away, she spoke quietly to him. "Sir, Daniel's asking for you. You can see him if you want."

Jack nodded and the two of them walked towards the intensive care unit, leaving Sam and Teal'c talking to Jonas.

Jack stopped just outside the intensive care room where Daniel was. The bed was in the middle of the room, surrounded by monitors and equipment. A nurse was busy attending to Daniel. Jack stepped into the room, his heart pounding.

He waited until the nurse finished changing the wet dressings on Daniel's arm, and then sat down next to the bed. He winced at the sight of the bandages and burned skin. This brought back too many memories, he wasn't sure he was going to be able to handle it. Same room, same bandages, same man in the bed. He was damned if it was going to be the same conclusion! That was just not going to happen this time.

A quiet voice interrupted his thoughts. It was barely louder than a whisper. "Dja vu..."

Jack stared at the figure in the bed. He'd thought Daniel was asleep. "Dja vu."

"Dja vu..."

"Daniel, don't. Please. This is..."

"Just like last time. Dja vu." Daniel opened his eyes as far as he could under his swollen lids and gave Jack a knowing look.

Jack swallowed the lump in his throat. Unable to speak he nodded. Daniel closed his eyes again.

"Except that my death is not a foregone conclusion this time. It's highly likely, but not a foregone conclusion." Daniel's voice was calm and quiet, just like it had been when he'd been lying there dying of radiation poisoning.

"Daniel, you're not going to die. We're doing everything we can to get help."

Daniel moved one hand and winced. "Jack. Janet told me how bad it is - full thickness burns over 40% of the front half of my body, third degree burns over most of the rest. That doesn't offer much hope..." He shifted slightly in the bed and gasped in pain. "Do you think you could say what you really mean this time?"

Jack caught a glimpse of blue under the swollen lids. He grimaced slightly knowing that Daniel was referring to his extremely crass `I admire you' statement the last time Daniel had been lying in this bed, swathed in bandages. Even now, knowing that Daniel knew how much Jack hated that he'd not been able to tell a dying man how much he cared, he couldn't say it. There was a nurse in the room for crying out loud. "Daniel, you are not going to die. The Tok'ra owe us one - they're on their way."

"Jack...they... won't make... it... in time." Daniel seemed to be struggling to form the words.

"Where's Doctor-never-say-die-Jackson gone? Come on Daniel. You are going to make it."

"Jack... can't... do... it any more...I'm so...tired...please let me go...." He definitely seemed breathless.

At these words Jack's heart broke, and his barriers collapsed. "Danny, I can't let you go. I...don't want to let you go...not this time. You're.... important to me."

"I...knew...you...cared..." Daniel's voice got quieter with each word, until Jack could barely hear him. Leaning forward, Jack strained to hear what Daniel was saying. He appeared to be gasping for breath between each word. The beeps from the monitors changed tone and rhythm slightly. The nurse pushed Jack gently to one side and checked Daniel over. Obviously unhappy with what she saw, she grabbed the phone and summoned Janet.

"Tell...Sam...Teal'c...tell..." Daniel was really struggling now. Jack realised with horror that what little intact skin he could see was tinged with blue. The monitors started to beep with a frantic urgency.

"Doc!" Jack yelled, as Janet and a second nurse swept into the room. They pushed him roughly out of the way, and began to resuscitate Daniel. Janet suddenly shook her head.

"This isn't working. Pass me the scope." A nurse handed her the equipment. Janet opened his mouth and shone the light down his throat. "Damn, his throat's swollen. We'll have to intubate!"

The second nurse wheeled a trolley into place, and opened a sterile package. Jack watched in silence from the sidelines as the breathing tube was positioned in Daniel's throat, and then connected to an oxygen supply.

Satisfied with what she had done, Janet took her stethoscope and listened to the stricken man's chest. "Okay, he's breathing properly now. We'll need to keep a close eye on him." She looked at the nurse. "I want him under constant observation." The nurse nodded. Janet then turned to look at Jack, who stood to one side, looking as helpless as he felt. "Colonel? Are you okay?"

"How is he Doc?" Jack hadn't taken his eyes off the figure in the bed.

"He's not good. We nearly lost him then. The burns had caused swelling in his throat and he was suffocating. He's able to breathe again, but he's not out of danger yet. If help doesn't come soon..." she didn't finish her sentence. She didn't need to.

"How long, Doc?" Jack's face was expressionless. He'd closed down again, clamped down on the turmoil of feelings that threatened to overwhelm him.

"I honestly don't know," sighed Janet. "Anyone else would already be dead..." She frowned.

Jack sat back down at the bedside. Leaning on the edge of the bed, he put his head in his hands. "Can he hear me, Doc?"

"He's unconscious, but he might. It doesn't do any harm to talk to him. He wouldn't be able to speak, even if he was conscious, but he might be able to hear you..." Janet shrugged. "I'll leave you two to it." She indicated the nurse in the corner. "Joshua will stay here, and I'll be in my office if you need me."

Jack spoke without looking up. "Doc, can you tell Carter and Teal'c...what's happened?"

"Of course I will." She smiled at him, then patted him on the shoulder, and left the room.

Jack lifted his head from his hands and placed one very gently over Daniel's bandage wrapped wrist. Daniel looked more like one of his precious mummies than Jack's best friend, but he was still in there somewhere - he had to be. "You still in there?" whispered Jack. "Please don't...not this time... You have no idea what this is doing to me. I won't let you go this time."

"He has yet to choose which path he wishes to follow." A voice behind him made Jack start.

Looking round, he found a woman smiling enigmatically at him. "Who...? What...? How did...?" Realisation suddenly dawned on him. "You're Oma Desala."

The woman inclined her head slightly and gave a small smile. "That is correct."

"You're not going to take him are you? Please. We've only just got him back."

"He must choose which path he will take from here. Whether he stays here with you and resumes the journey he left behind, or whether he chooses to once again walk the great path. He must weigh up whether the cost outweighs the reward."

"Cost? What cost?" Jack didn't like the sound of that too much.

"Only he can decide. Neither you, nor I, can influence his choice."

"When will we know? Whether he stays here or..."

"Once the choice has been made, all will become clear to you."

Jack looked at the man in the bed, and then back at Oma Desala. "He'll die if you don't do something."

"Then he will have chosen to end his journey."

"Can't you heal him?" Jack felt desperation rear its ugly head.

"Sometimes there are none so blind as those who will not see." Oma smiled once more, and then disappeared as silently as she'd appeared.

Jack pondered what he had just been told for a moment or two. He glanced at Daniel's face, and then suddenly peered more closely at the edges of the dressings. Daniel's lips appeared to be normal - no blisters, no swelling, not even slightly reddened. He lifted the edge of one of the dressings on the hand nearest to him. The skin underneath was normal. Excitement mounting within him, he began to unwind the bandages.

"Colonel! What do you think you're doing?" Janet came rushing in, and grabbed Jack's hands to stop him from undoing any more.

"He's okay. He's better. There are no more burns." Jack was grinning like an idiot.

"I'll be the judge of that, Colonel." Janet frowned at him, and turned to inspect Daniel's hand for the first time since she came in. She moved the loosened dressing to one side, her eyes widening in amazement as she did so. "Oh my God... I don't..." she started to unwrap the dressings as fast as she could revealing healthy skin as she did so. Looking up at the nurse she barked out an order, "Get me the scissors, now!"

The requested implement was placed into her hand, and Janet began to cut away the bandages. She started with his arms and chest, for some unknown reason leaving those on his face until last. As she cut the last of them away, Sam and Teal'c rushed into the room. They all stared at Daniel - there wasn't a mark on him. His skin was just as it always had been - no injuries, no scars. There was no sign that he had ever been burned.

"He's fine, he's just...fine," murmured the doctor in disbelief.

"So why isn't he awake?" demanded Jack.

"I don't know." Janet shook her head. "What happened, Colonel?"

Jack was suddenly aware of everyone's eyes on him, even though he hadn't yet taken his eyes off Daniel's face. Without looking up, he told them how Oma had come. "She said he has to choose, between us and them." He looked at Sam and Teal'c. "We have to wait for him to decide."

"Decide? Decide what?" Sam looked really confused.

"Whether to continue his journey as before or to...go back to Oma and her cronies, I guess. She went on about the great path, or whatever it is she calls it."

"So how will we know, sir?"

"She said it would be clear which route he's picked." Jack shrugged. "I guess we just wait it out."

In the meantime, Janet had been performing various checks on Daniel. She had stuck various sensors to his head, and was now hooking him up to a monitor. After she switched it on the group watched the screen in silence. Janet finished her tests and then took a deep breath.

"Okay. He's in a deep coma. He's not brain dead; there are some brain wave patterns present, but he's very, very deeply unconscious."

"So - what now?" asked Jack.

"As you said Colonel - we wait it out. There's nothing we can do. I'll keep him intubated until he's more responsive, but there doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong with him - he's just...unconscious." Janet looked really perturbed by what she's just told them. "I'll need to perform more tests, of course, but..."

SG-1 moved closer to the bed as a unit. Jack sat back down in the chair he'd so recently vacated. He grabbed hold of Daniel's hand and held on to it, tight. Sam sat down on the opposite side of the bed, and held Daniel's other hand, while Teal'c stood at the end of the bed like a guardian angel.

*

A week later, Janet walked into the ICU where Daniel lay, still unresponsive. SG-1 were in with him in almost the same positions that they'd been in for the entire week. Janet and her staff had literally had to throw the three of them out of the room to go and eat, take showers and sleep, if only to enable them to take care of Daniel properly. Today General Hammond accompanied her.

"Good morning people." Hammond broke the silence in the ICU.

The three of them rose to their feet at the unexpected sight of the CO in the infirmary

"General."

"Sir."

"General Hammond."

"To what do we owe this...unexpected pleasure, sir?" asked Jack.

"I'd like you to listen to what Doctor Frasier has to say first, Colonel."

Janet looked through the papers on her clipboard, moved over to the bed, and checked Daniel's drip. "It's about Daniel.."

"You want to switch him off..." growled Jack.

"No. Absolutely not, Colonel. He's only on the ventilator because he's so deeply unconscious. It's just to reduce the likelihood of him swallowing his tongue; he would still breathe without it. He's now in what we call PVS - Persistent Vegetative State. He's not brain dead, but there's very little brain activity either. If we took him off the ventilator he would continue pretty much as he is now." As she spoke, Janet was stroking the back of Daniel's hand automatically, she wasn't even aware she was doing it. "I'm afraid we're going to have to move Daniel to the USAF hospital."

"What?" Jack was aghast.

"Why? Why can't he stay here, with us?" Sam looked really upset.

Janet didn't look much happier as she replied. "Daniel needs a more intensive level of care than we can provide here on a long-term basis. The number of the nursing staff based here who are ICU specialists is too small to care for Daniel on a long-term basis. Besides that, he needs intensive physical therapy to maintain his muscle tone, and the therapists who work here are actually based at the hospital, they only come here on a part time basis. I'm sorry Colonel, we just cannot give Daniel the care he needs if he remains here, and the welfare of my patient has to be my primary concern."

Silence fell over the group as they absorbed what they had just been told. Jack scowled at Hammond. "What about the security risks, General? Daniel might reveal something that he shouldn't - he talks in his sleep, sir."

"Colonel, Dr Frasier will remain in charge of Dr Jackson even if he is at the hospital, and we will be checking the security clearance of everyone charged with caring for him. There will be no risk." Hammond didn't give the impression that he was any happier with the situation than anyone else. "Besides Jack, I really need SG-1 to resume normal duties."

"But we're a man down, sir. Jonas wouldn't be fit for a while...if he even wanted to come back..."

"I appreciate that Colonel, but I'm not asking you to resume your field duties just yet. However, we don't know just how long Dr Jackson will remain in this state, and I can't afford to have my best people pretty much idle any longer. Major Carter has some research to complete, and the translation teams require Teal'c's assistance. I'm sorry Jack, but you will have to fit your visits to Dr Jackson around your workload." Hammond felt awful doing this to the three of them, but Janet had told him that Daniel could remain in this state indefinitely, and he really couldn't allow SG-1 to spend their days just sitting at Daniel's bedside, much as he appreciated the pain and anguish that the team was going through.

"When?" Jack's voice was flat, expressionless.

"We'll move him tomorrow." Janet checked the readings on the monitors as she spoke.

"Jack, I need you for a meeting with the Pentagon tomorrow afternoon," the expression on Jack's face made Hammond feel even worse than he already did. "I want to brief you in the morning."

Jack opened his mouth to protest, but Janet spoke before he could say anything.

"Colonel, we don't have regimented visiting hours for patients in intensive care. You can come anytime that's convenient for you. Besides, it will be better for Daniel if he doesn't have any visitors straight after he's been transferred - all that idle chatter can wear him out you know."

Jack frowned before he realised that Janet was smiling at him. "Tomorrow."

"Yes Colonel, tomorrow."

"So I'm free to spend today as I wish?"

"Yes Jack," replied Hammond.

"Right. If you don't mind, I'm going to spend today with my friend before he has to go away." Jack sat back down in the chair at Daniel's bedside.

"Of course." Hammond patted Jack's shoulder. "I'll see you at 0800 tomorrow morning Colonel." He turned and left, accompanied by Janet.

After a brief muttered conversation, Sam and Teal'c reached an agreement. "Sir, if we're back to normal duties tomorrow there are things we have to do. If you'll excuse us we'll leave you and Daniel to it."

Jack nodded. "Okay Carter, see you later."

Sam smiled, then leant over the bed and gave Daniel a small peck on the cheek. "I'll see you later Daniel. If he's bugging you just tell him to go away," she whispered in the unconscious man's ear.

"O'Neill, Daniel Jackson..." Teal'c gave a small bow, and the two of them left the room.

Jack sat in silence at his friend's bedside for a while. He grabbed hold of the hand nearest to him, and squeezed it tightly. A lone tear escaped from under his closed lids, and tracked down his cheek. "Daniel, you choose us, you understand. You come back to us..."


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