Part I: Fear
She’s been reduced to dread. Somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, where her education now resides, she remembers dread being a tertiary emotion. It’s the only emotion she’s conscious of feeling anymore.
Heavy footsteps echo down the hall. The loose bits of metal on the wall jingle together as the footsteps draw closer. Armor clinks and she feels the sound down deep in her marrow. The tap of a staff weapon on the stone floor makes her gnash her teeth.
A Jaffa, broad and dark, pierces her with his eyes. He reaches for the bars that imprison her and she can’t even find what it takes to be frightened.
It’s going to happen again.
Metal cuffs bite into her wrists. It doesn’t exactly hurt anymore. Blood drips down the side of her head and tickles her ear. A giggle bubbles up from within her but she wouldn’t call it anything. An autonomic response, maybe. Nothing more. She can’t even remember the last time she giggled.
She sobers. No giggling. Right.
She hears footsteps again and despite everything she sighs with relief. She’s been hanging by her wrists for a while and her shoulders are beginning to ache.
She doesn’t really sleep anymore. She closes her eyes, her breathing slows, and she pushes thoughts of anything –thoughts of home – down into whatever safe place might yet be inside her. She might even stop thinking. It’s not like she’s thought of anything of consequence in…she’s not sure how long. She’s not even sure how long she’s been here.
Food doesn’t come at any sort of regular interval. Water neither. There’s no light to be had save for firelight sconces in a dank hall she can almost see down from the front corner of her cell she doesn’t venture to anymore.
He comes at any time. So no, she doesn’t sleep anymore. Sometimes she finds she blinks out for a moment but it’s usually when she’s strung up on the wall. When she’s comparatively comfortable? No. Sleep is a weakness anyway. And she learned long ago that weakness is punished with a stronger hand than pride.
The smell makes her think she might be underground. It smells like dirt where she is. Or maybe it’s her that smells like dirt. She’d never know – he’s always got the same scowl on his face like he’s smelled something awful. Except when he makes her bleed.
He’d have a nice smile if only she could see it without a haze of blood over her eyes. It makes his teeth red and that leaves her feeling vaguely unsettled.
When she’s lying on the floor with her cheek against the cold, hard-packed clay, the smell of earth is so strong she can’t imagine she’s anywhere but underground. Which seems awfully fitting. She wonders how far it might be.
She tries to make the most of her lucid moments – the odd moments when things make sense and she remembers she’s trained to get the hell out of situations like these.
She seems to remember having had help but she can’t imagine who that might have been. She remembers someone called Carter. She remembers Teal’c most often, but that’s because the Jaffa reminds her so much of him. She remembers a Daniel. She remembers a Jack. But she can’t remember why she knows them.
Sometimes when the light reflects from the hall, off Jaffa armor, onto the wall of her cell, the green of the moss there makes her think of home. But she can’t remember living anywhere but here.
In one corner of the cell is her hill. It’s not much, but it’s important when the water comes. At first, when the water came, she’d be under it or desperate to keep her nose above it. It took forever and ten bloody fingernails to fashion her hill but at least now her face is above the water and all she has to do is lie there.
That’s good because she doesn’t feel much like doing anything but lying around anymore. He still strings her up from time to time, but mostly now he does what he needs to do while she lays prostrate on the floor.
That’s good – because she can’t even think about moving her shoulders without having to swallow down bitter bile.
Sometimes the pain stick makes her fingers itch for the trigger of an automatic weapon. She has vivid memories of an automatic weapon and a firing range. And her father. She can’t remember a single thing about her family except for the vivid image of her father in a blue uniform taking a rifle out of her hands and pulling her into a hug.
She remembers the feel of heavy clothing, which is strange because she can’t even remember the last time she had clothing. It’s been so unimportant for so long she can’t even imagine why she would have been wearing it.
It doesn’t stop anything from happening. It doesn’t stop anything from hurting. It doesn’t even stop anyone from looking. And since she can’t really use her arms or hands anymore, she’s pretty thankful that she doesn’t have any to contend with.
Besides, the layers of grime that cover her provide her more modesty than any clothing ever could.
She hears something that sounds like thunder. She can’t even remember the last time weather meant anything to her. Blue light bounces down the hall and it puts her in mind of lightning. Strange that a storm would be happening underground.
Then she hears voices that speak the same language she speaks in her head. She hasn’t heard words like that from another voice in so long.
But hanging back up on the wall, this time by more useful ankles, she figures that it doesn’t really matter what words the weather might be throwing around down here. He’ll be back eventually, and no amount of rain could solve anything.
Her eyes slip closed and she lets the thunder of the voices wash over her and she thinks of a place that might have been home.
Her eyes spring open when cool hands fasten around her calves and warmer hands tickle her feet as they try to remove the shackles. The only things in her field of vision are combat boots – eight of them. She remembers having had combat boots but can’t imagine why she would have.
The hands continue to tickle at her feet and ankles and she tries to jerk away from the feeling.
“Easy, we’ve got you now.”
“I think there’s something wrong with her arms.”
“She needs fluids.”
“She needs to be down from here.”
“I believe she is conscious.”
She slams her eyes closed. It’s always better when they think she’s unconscious. But then her feet are free and instead of falling she’s laid down gently so her feet rest on her hill.
Fingers press against her neck. “Her pulse is very weak. She needs fluids immediately. We’ll need a stretcher.”
“She going to be okay going through the gate?”
“She’ll have to be.”
“It is unwise to remain here any longer.”
Cautiously she opens her eyes again. These people can’t possibly mean to hurt her. Her eyes meet worried brown ones.
“Can you hear me?”
“Good. We’re going to move you now.”
Eight hands lift her off the ground and the pain is so intense she can’t help but sleep. Finally.