Major Samantha Carter completed the task of filming the intricate carvings on the pillars that stood in front of the large, black, stone temple. With a final look around, she assured herself that she had thoroughly recorded everything - twice. After checking her watch, she carefully tucked the video equipment back into her pack and headed into the temple to attempt to carry out the most difficult of her daily duties.
She found her companion, Dr. Daniel Jackson, standing at the center altar with his back towards her, completely engrossed in his work. He was gathering his own array of rubbings, notes, and digital pictures of markings similar to those she had filmed outside.
Sam couldn't help but to agree with the Colonel's earlier statement that these markings looked like nothing more than squiggly lines. Daniel had reluctantly admitted that, in a way, Jack had been right. Usually, temples such as this were covered with pictographs; some of which even the Colonel had to admit made sense. The builders of this place, however, had used their own version of an alphabet to record their religious history. Each squiggly line, swirl, and zigzag stood for a different letter in that alphabet. So far, Daniel had identified over 30 different 'letters'. Translating the sequences of alien letters into a recognizable language would take years, even with the help of the planet's current inhabitants.
Sam stopped just inside the temple door, lowered her pack to the ground, and leaned her back against a nearby wall to silently observe her friend at work.
Daniel had set aside the tools of his trade and was using his hands to study a section of the text. His long fingers gently traced the pattern that had been carved into the rough stone. Time, neglect, and the fact that the temple roof had collapsed years ago, allowing the elements to invade its interior, had all conspired to erode the stone, making it nearly impossible to identify all of the strange markings.
Sam knew that Daniel would not give up on the extremely difficult task he had assigned himself. He was in his element. SG-1 was a first-contact team. It had always been their job to establish the basis for an alliance with new planets and then turn things over to the other diplomatic, scientific, or archaeological teams. Daniel very seldom had the opportunity to take the time to do more than a superficial exploration of a planet's culture and history. In fact, lately, Daniel's gun seemed to have seen more use than any one of his three PhDs.
Sam smiled to herself as she remembered Daniel's passionate argument to be allowed to further study the temple.
Three days earlier...
"But Jack," Daniel pleaded as the two men entered the commissary, made their lunch selection, and joined Sam at the table. "This temple is covered in writing that is totally alien. Nothing even remotely like it has been found on Earth or any planet we've visited. It's...it's...it's..." Daniel waved a hand in the air as if trying to physically catch the proper words.
"Cool?" Jack offered, his head tilting slightly to the side as his eyebrows rose in amusement at the irritation the word was sure to spark in the excited young man.
Daniel closed his eyes and sighed loudly as he visibly deflated. He had 23 languages at his disposal and Jack had just teasingly thrown out the one word Daniel had been desperately trying to avoid using. It was woefully inadequate to describe the extraordinary find, yet it was the only word that he, himself, had been able to think of.
Jack broke in before Daniel could begin his plea anew. "SG-1 is on stand-down until the negotiations with the Kolean people are complete. You're lucky, you have the opportunity to go and have some fun. At our new friends' insistence, I'm going to be stuck in the briefing room, bored to death, for the next week while we negotiate an alliance and trade agreement."
"That's just it, Jack," Daniel was doing his best to prevent his voice from sounding like that of a whining child whose parents had just refused to buy him a new toy. "This IS fun for me and the Koleans ARE friendly. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to check out the temple."
Jack sighed, not out of frustration, but out of regret that he was unable to grant his friend's request. When he spoke again, the Colonel's voice had softened considerably and had lost its teasing tone. "Daniel, I'm sorry," he began, his voice relaying his sincerity and patience. "I wish I could let you go, I really do, but I don't feel right letting a member of my team go off-world alone. With Teal'c visiting his family and..."
Perhaps it was the look of disappointed acceptance that she had seen on Daniel's face far too often recently or the fact that she could tell that the Colonel had sincerely wanted to grant the request. Whatever the reason, Sam was speaking before she realized it. "I'll go, sir."
"...Carter is leaving in the morning to..." The Colonel's argument died on his lips and the two men simply stared across the table at each other for a moment. Then they slowly turned their heads until their eyes locked onto Sam.
"Excuse me?" they questioned in unison. Their brows creased identically in confusion as they wondered if they had heard correctly.
"I'll return to the planet with Daniel, sir," Sam clarified. She smiled as she watched realization dawn on her teammates. She had expected the bright smile that graced Daniel's features, but she was pleasantly surprised when a similar expression crossed the Colonel's face.
Daniel's smile slowly faded as he remembered the plans Sam had originally made to occupy her downtime. "No, no, Sam. I can't let you do this. You have plans to visit your brother, Mark..."
"Those plans fell through," Sam stated matter-of-factly, cutting him off and praying that he wouldn't see through the lie. "The girls have the flu." She sent a silent apology to her brother and made a mental note to call him and reschedule the visit.
It took all of Sam's willpower to prevent her from looking away as Daniel's intense blue eyes captured her own. He was obviously trying to determine the truth of her words and averting her eyes at that moment would be as good as admitting to the lie.
"Alright, permission granted," O'Neill interrupted the stare down and cast a knowing look to his 2IC. "I'll speak with General Hammond and Ambassador Crile. If they agree, you two can head out in the morning and spend five days on Kolea. Agreed?"
"Yes, sir," Sam quickly answered for both Daniel and herself. She reached over and took Daniel's hand in her own, giving it a slight squeeze. He seemed to think for a moment before finally smiling and returning the familiar touch.
As promised, the Colonel had spoken with the General and Ambassador Crile. Both men had agreed to allow the two members of SG-1 to explore the ruins.
Early the next morning, Colonel Jack O'Neill had waved from the control room as Major Samantha Carter and Dr. Daniel Jackson entered the event horizon of the wormhole that would take them to PR2141, AKA: Kolea.
Of course, as Sam had suspected, Daniel had known all along about her little white lie concerning the aborted trip to her brother's house. He had been quite sneaky in the way he'd gotten her to admit it as well. He had caught her just as she was dozing off their first night on the planet and nonchalantly asked how Mark had taken the news that she wouldn't be down to visit. Having been half asleep, Sam had very little control over what she said. She had told Daniel that Mark had understood when she'd explained that Daniel needed someone to accompany him on 'a trip'. As soon as she'd realized what she had said, Sam had bolted upright, suddenly wide-awake.
Daniel's lecture about how she shouldn't have cancelled plans with her family to come play in the dirt with him was cut short as Sam's expression turned from guilty to deadly serious. She had taken his hand in her own, locked eyes with him, and stated in a tone that would clearly allow for no further argument, that he and the rest of SG-1 were her family as well and she was a big girl, capable of deciding for herself how to spend her downtime.
Daniel had seemed to at least tolerate the explanation as nothing more was said on the subject.
Sam smiled and shook her head as she continued to watch Daniel work. He seemed to be oblivious to the fact that she had been watching him for close to 15 minutes now.
"Just five more minutes, Sam."
Okay, perhaps he wasn't quite so oblivious.
"That's what you said over an hour ago." Sam walked around to stand at the altar opposite her friend. He was still absorbed in his work. The fingers of his left hand traced a mark that was nearly invisible to the naked eye while he attempted to draw it on a notepad with his right hand.
"Um hum," Daniel mumbled distractedly.
Sam had once again lost him to the alien text. She loved to watch him work and spending the last three days alone together had given them the opportunity to reconnect and solidify their friendship.
For three years, Daniel's purpose on SG-1...in life...had been simple; find and rescue Sha're. He had finally succeeded in finding her, but the end result of the long search had been her death at Teal'c's hands. Sha're had given the young man another purpose, though. She had asked him to find and protect her son; the son fathered by Apophis. Though skeptical, General Hammond had allowed the search. He had even ordered all teams to be on the lookout for Kheb, the planet to which Amonet had sent the child. SG-1 had found Kheb and Sha're's child after only a few months and Daniel had decided that the best way to fulfill his promise to his deceased wife was to leave the child in the care of 'Mother Nature'.
Since life happily ever after with Sha're was no longer possible and her son was well taken care of, there was nothing keeping the archaeologist on the team. As the missions steered further away from exploring new cultures and more towards finding ways to defeat the Goa'uld, Sam could see that he was beginning to question his role, his reason for remaining with them. He began to withdraw into himself, pulling further and further away from the team. He had even begun to request assignments with other SG teams, anything to get away from the fighting and back to his roots.
This separation of both Daniel's physical and emotional self, however inadvertent, was putting a strain on everyone on SG-1, but it seemed to have affected the Colonel the worst. Unable to recognize why the young man had withdrawn from them, Jack had resorted to some of his old ways. He used sarcasm to hide fear, anger to hide pain, and a misguided attraction towards Sam to hide loneliness.
The men fought almost constantly. At times, it was no more than slight bickering, other times, the fighting would be so severe that Sam feared they would resort to physical blows. After each 'disagreement' the men would apologize and insist they were 'fine', but at the end of the mission, the members of SG-1 would go their separate ways instead of having some sort of team gathering as they had once done.
Sam knew there was no animosity between Daniel and herself. There was just...less. She didn't know, exactly, what there was less of. They still collaborated on projects, still went on missions together, and, on occasion, still joined each other for meals. Somehow, though, the intellectual and emotional connection she had felt since first meeting Daniel on Abydos had weakened.
Sam had vowed that during their time on Kolea, she and Daniel would really talk. And they had. Her little slip-up about changing her plans to visit her brother had opened the lines of communication between them. They had talked about Sha're, her son, Daniel's childhood, Sam's dad, her own childhood, the Tok'ra, the missions, the Colonel...they had stayed awake most of that first night, just talking.
Though there was much more Sam wanted to talk about and she felt Daniel needed to talk about, she could see that a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders just by vocalizing some of his feelings on these subjects.
"Daniel!" Sam's lenient smile did nothing to support her stern voice as she reached across the altar and placed her right hand over his left, effectively preventing any further tactile exploration of the strange mark. "It's going to be dark soon and we still have several things we need to do back at the camp. It's time to call it quits for the day."
Daniel peered at her over his glasses with a mischievous gleam in his eyes and a smirk on his face. "Okay," he said and promptly began to gather his paraphernalia.
"Now, Daniel, I know what you're going to say, but we have two more days here and it's simply not safe to...wh-what? What did you say?" Sam looked at him in surprise with her jaw hanging slightly open.
"I said 'okay', Sam. As in sure, alright, fine, yeah sure you betcha, let's go." Daniel patted Sam's hand where it still rested upon the altar and then turned to leave. "You coming?" He threw the question over his shoulder as he exited the temple.
Sam closed her mouth and shook herself out of her shock. "Yeah sure you betcha," she mumbled under her breath before she picked up her pack and quickly jogged to catch up to her companion.
Sam awoke slowly, feeling groggy and disoriented. She opened her eyes just long enough to note that the red stone ceiling above her was spinning, before an intense wave of nausea forced her to shut them once more. She tried to breathe through the sensation, but was finally forced to accept the inevitable. The stricken woman had just enough time to laboriously roll onto her side before her stomach seized violently.
Feeling slightly better and refusing to remain so near to the mess she had just made, Sam maneuvered herself into a sitting position with her back leaning on what she assumed was a wall. An involuntary groan escaped her lips.
"Sam, are you okay?"
She felt a cold, damp cloth brush against the side of her face and leaned into the welcome touch. She pried her eyes open once more and found herself looking into Daniel's worried face.
He looked exactly as she felt. His skin was pale, his hands were shaking slightly, and he had a light sheen of perspiration on his face as if he had recently lost a similar battle with nausea. Daniel's left cheekbone was darkly bruised and swollen, and judging by the tenderness of her own face, Sam guessed she was sporting a similar injury.
"Here, Sam, try to drink some water. It should help." Daniel had discarded the damp cloth and was pressing a small cup of water to his friend's lips. "I'm so sorry, Sam. They took me by surprise. I tried to fight, but there were just too many of them."
Sam pushed the cup away after only a few swallows, fearful that too much of the liquid would cause her stomach to revolt again. The water did help, though. The fog that her mind seemed to be trapped in was clearing and she began to take note of her surroundings.
She was sitting on the floor of a red stone room. The only things in the room, other than herself, were Daniel, a bucket of water, two cups, and the cloth. Sam's mind had finally cleared enough to recognize the fact that something was wrong. They were in a red stone room. When she had gone to sleep she was tucked into a sleeping bag. Due to the favorable weather conditions, she and Daniel hadn't even brought along their tents. Other than the temple, there had been no buildings in their vicinity, and the temple was completely black. There had been no red stone anywhere to be seen.
Finally, Sam's mind completely engaged and the memories surfaced.
Daniel had convinced her - once again - that he wasn't at all tired and would take first watch. He'd been very good about waking her when it was her turn at watch on the previous two nights, so Sam had agreed and, after setting the alarm on her watch as a precautionary measure, crawled into her sleeping bag and promptly fell asleep. Sometime later, she had awakened at Daniel's shout. In one fluid movement, she had bolted upright and grabbed her weapon just in time to see Daniel get struck in the face by the butt end of a weapon held by one of the unknown men he had been struggling with. They young man had fallen hard and lay motionless on the ground. Sam had shouted his name, aimed her weapon at his assailant, and...
That's it. That was all Sam could remember. She was pulled from her reverie as she realized Daniel was once again calling her name, this time with a slight edge of desperation in his voice.
"Sam? Sam! Are you alright? What's wrong?"
"I'm okay, Daniel. Just trying to remember how we got here. What about you? I saw you get hit. Are you..."
"A little bruised and I feel like I have the worst hang over in history, but other than that I'm fine," Daniel cut in, dismissing her concern. "I woke up about half an hour ago. The door's locked, no windows, walls are solid, and there's no bottle with a genie ready to pop out and grant us three wishes. We're stuck here for the time being. I haven't seen our fine host. Maybe he's too busy digging out the good china for our lunch," he added in an admirable imitation of O'Neill's sarcasm.
"Ya think?" Sam had spent nearly as much time around the Colonel as Daniel had. "Wait a minute. Lunch?"
"Well, I guess it could be an early dinner." Seeing the perplexed look on his friend's face, Daniel realized that Sam had yet to notice how much time had passed while they were unconscious. "Uh, yeah, Sam. It's officially tomorrow. Three o'clock, um, 1500 hours, to be exact, and we've been out for well over 14 hours. We were attacked just after midnight."
Before they could discuss the issue further, the door to their small room swung open and two solidly built men wielding some form of energy weapons entered. The two members of SG-1 obeyed the curt commands and rose to follow as one man exited the room. The second man fell in behind them.
Sam and Daniel were led down a short, nondescript hallway and into what appeared to be a large office. Daniel was tempted to allow his eyes to wander to the rows upon rows of books and small statues that rested on shelves lining every wall, but the years of experience gained while working with the SGC had taught him to keep his attention on the perceived enemy. At that point in time, the alleged enemy was the man sitting behind the desk directly in front of him.
He was an attractive man, probably in his late 40s or early 50s, with salt and pepper hair and a goatee. He was wearing something amazingly similar to what would be an outlandishly expensive suit on Earth.
"Nice suit," Daniel commented dryly and not quite under his breath. "Didn't realize Armani had branched out to this corner of the galaxy."
Sam tried to hide her reaction to Daniel's words. He was in THAT kind of mood. Oh no. She had seen the archaeologist so openly hostile on only a few occasions and on each of those occasions his hostility and defiance had caused him injury. Apparently, being knocked out, kidnapped, and probably drugged had caused him to be a bit cranky. Heaven help them.
After nearly ten minutes of silence and not even a slight acknowledgement from their 'host' Daniel's impatience got the better of him. "Oh, well, we can see that you're busy. We'll just come back another time."
Daniel had barely begun to shift his weight to take a step back when the guard stationed behind him viciously kicked the back of his legs, sending him crashing painfully to his knees. Though she hadn't seen her guard move, Sam felt a similar blow to her own legs. She, too, fell to the floor on her knees.
"Ouch!" Daniel sat back on his heels and rubbed his throbbing knees. "You know, your hospitality leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, isn't it proper procedure to at least introduce yourself before the beatings begin? I think you need to reread the handbook. You've fallen way outside the lines of acceptable captor/hostage behavior."
Sam winced and closed her eyes as Daniel's guard raised his weapon as if to strike him, but the sound of the blow never came.
She cautiously opened her eyes and saw that the guard had reclaimed his position behind Daniel and both were looking straight ahead. Sam looked towards the man at the desk and noted that he was still studying a document that lay on the desk before him, but one hand was raised. Apparently, that simple gesture had been enough to subdue the guard.
Another couple of minutes passed in silence. Just when Sam feared that Daniel was about to say something again, the man finally moved.
With slow, deliberate motions, he closed the folder of the document he had been reading, straightened up his desk, took a sip of water from a glass that rested on the corner of the desk, crossed his arms in front of him, cleared his throat, and, at last, spoke. "Dr. Jackson, Major Carter, how are you feeling?"
The question was so unexpected that neither had an answer readily available.
"I'm sure you both have substantial headaches and some nausea," the man continued. "Most of that is probably due to the anesthetic. Everyone reacts differently to it. I was somewhat concerned that my invention would not be compatible with your systems. After all, it was originally designed based on Kolean physiology. There were a few touchy moments in surgery..."
"What?!" Sam and Daniel questioned simultaneously. This was all just too much. One moment they were making camp for the night, in the next moment of awareness they learned that they had been kidnapped, and now they discovered out that some sort of surgical procedure had been preformed on them. What else could possibly happen?
Considering Daniel's less than diplomatic mood at the moment, Sam decided to take over their side of the conversation. "I'm afraid you have us at a distinct disadvantage. Who are you and what are you talking about?"
"Ah, yes, Major Carter...do you mind if I call you Samantha?" He didn't wait for a response. "Well, Samantha, my name is Ochsner. I am a scientist, much like yourself." Ochsner raised himself from behind the large desk and casually walked to a nearby fireplace where he stood gazing into the flames.
"You and Dr. Jackson have been brought here as a part of an...experiment, if you will." Ochsner picked up a metal poker and, after using it to stir the fire, wedged its sharp end between two of the burning logs. He released its handle and refocused his attention on the two teammates. "You have each been implanted with my latest invention. It is a device which links you to each other." The man paused, apparently for dramatic effect.
"What kind of link?" Sam questioned, suspicion heavy in her voice.
Ochsner pulled the poker out of the fire and frowned at the glowing red tip before returning it to the flames. "Actually, Samantha, I'm not entirely certain of that myself. If it works on your species the same as it was intended to work on Koleans, it will be a link of physical sensation. You will feel each other's pain. Tell me, Samantha, does your cheek hurt?"
"What?" Sam watched as Ochsner nodded and Daniel's guard clamped one large hand around her friend's neck and, with the other, prodded the bruise on his cheek. The moment the forceful hand touched the discolored flesh Sam felt a shooting pain along her own cheekbone and cried out, "AARGH!" Daniel was clenching his teeth, refusing to give voice to his pain.
"I see that it is functioning properly. Good."
Daniel jerked away from his guard and gingerly rubbed his face. "If all you wanted was test subjects for your new invention, why kidnap us? Why not just implant them in your two stooges here? What else are you after?"
"A very good question, Dr. Jackson. Very good indeed. You're right. There is something else I want. Samantha, you will be returned to Earth. In two day's time, you will bring me a supply of...I believe you call it Naquadah."
"Why do you want Naquadah?" Daniel inquired, a sense of unease growing within him. This planet had tested negative for even slight traces of the mineral, so the only thing Ochsner could possibly know about it had come from his contact with the SGC.
"As I said, Dr. Jackson, I am a scientist. That is all you need to know."
Sam understood the dangers that even a minute amount of Naquadah could pose in the wrong hands, but her mind had focused on something else. "You said that I was to return to Earth. What about Daniel?"
"Ah, yes. What of Dr. Jackson? He will remain here, with me. He is my bargaining chip and my way of controlling you. You see, distance has no effect on the link. You cannot simply walk away from him and this planet. Of course, I would never expect you to do that anyway. While on Earth, you cannot remove your device either. The procedure would be relatively simple, but extremely painful. While you would have an anesthetic..." Ochsner trailed off and looked meaningfully at Daniel.
"I'm sure Dr. Jackson and I can find something to occupy our time. Perhaps we will experiment with the link." He flashed an evil smirk towards the young man before returning his attention to the major. "I would advise that you not be late returning, Samantha, I tend to get impatient. I honestly don't know what would happen to one if the other were to perish while still connected by the devices."
Sam and Daniel were filled with impotent rage. This man had just affirmed a hostage situation, complete with demands and death threats, and there was nothing they could do about it.
The two members of SG-1 watched in wary silence as Ochsner once again pulled the poker out of the flames. This time the tip was glowing white and he smiled in satisfaction.
His eyes never left the poker as he once again addressed Sam, "I need you to understand the sincerity of my words, Samantha," he intoned. "Unfortunately, the only way I can assure myself of this is to provide a demonstration."
Following a nod from their boss, both guards restrained their prisoners.
Sam initially assumed that the violence would once again be focused on Daniel, but her guard hauled her to her feet and forced her to take a few steps forward. She tried to pull away as Ochsner approached with the white-hot poker. If the earlier demonstration was any indication, not only would this hurt her, but Daniel would suffer as well.
Beside her, Sam could see Daniel struggling with his guard and it encouraged her to redouble her efforts. It was all in vain, however, and after her guard extended her arm, Ochsner pressed the searing metal into the tender flesh of her forearm.
Sam squeezed her eyes shut and bit down on her lip. It was no use. Soon an agonized scream tore from her throat, followed shortly by Daniel's own scream. Before long, blessed darkness claimed them both.
The first thing that seeped into Sam's consciousness was the smell. It was not the fresh, clean smell she would expect to find if she were at their campsite, but it was also not the damp, musty smell of the small room she had woken up in the last time. This place smelled of antiseptic.
Next, she was aware of sounds. Machines chirped cheerfully somewhere near her head and people were talking in hushed voices. She couldn't quite understand what they were saying.
Sam could feel someone touching her arm, but there was no pain, simply a sensation of movement. She forced her eyes open and looked to the offending limb. She saw Dr. Janet Fraiser using tape to secure the expertly applied white dressing.
"Janet?" Sam croaked, surprised by the weakness in her own voice.
"Sam?" the petite doctor gently lowered Sam's arm and pulled out the dreaded penlight to check her pupil reaction. "Can you tell me your full name?"
"Major Samantha Carter. I'm a member of SG-1. Janet, there's nothing wrong with my head," frustration began to creep into her voice and she batted the doctor's hand away. "Where's Daniel?"
"Let me be the judge of what is or isn't wrong with you. Sam, x-rays show that some sort of metallic disc has been implanted in the back of your neck. It has wires leading into your spinal column. I need to run a few tests to find out exactly what its purpose is and then, hopefully, remove it."
"Yes, yes, I know all about that," frustration quickly changed to irritation. "You can't remove it right now. Where is Daniel?"
"Daniel isn't here, Carter." Colonel O'Neill swam into view. "You were found, alone and semi-conscious, near the gate by some Kolean people. They immediately contacted us and we got you home."
Dr. Fraiser once again took over the conversation. "You have a nasty burn on your arm..."
"The burn!" Sam cut her off. She raised her arm up in front of her and examined it closely. "It doesn't hurt. Why?" she questioned with obvious wonder in her voice.
"That would be because of the pain-killers." Janet indicated the IV line attached to the Major's uninjured arm. "The wound was pretty dirty and I had to debride it. You were beginning to come around by the time we got you here to the infirmary, so I gave you a sedative and some pain-killers..."
"De-de-debride? Did it hurt?" Sam broke in again. Her voice sounded almost child-like, lost.
To say that Janet was confused would have been a major understatement. "Well, uh, without the sedatives and pain meds, yes, it would have hurt a great deal, but..."
"NO!" Before anyone could stop her, Sam had ripped out her IV and vaulted from the bed. "No pain meds! I have to know how it feels. Oh my God! It must have hurt so much. You don't know what you've done. You can't cause pain! You..."
O'Neill reached the distraught woman first and firmly grabbed her upper arms to still her. "Carter, Sam, stay with me here. What's going on?" Seeing that the action failed to gain his 2IC's attention, he moved his hands to cup the sides of her face. He didn't speak, he simply held her head still in an attempt to force her to meet his eyes and hopefully snap out of whatever had gripped her.
Sam was aware of her surroundings and knew that the Colonel was trying to calm her, but the medications in her system and the knowledge that she was somehow responsible for causing Daniel severe pain had eaten away at her self-control and she was in a panic.
She could feel the Colonel's hands on either side of her face, stilling her movements and forcing her to look at him, but it wasn't until she felt a familiar touch on her hand that she began to calm herself.
Sam brought her left hand up before her eyes and simply stared at it. There was nothing making contact with her, yet she felt as if someone held her hand in a firm grasp. After a moment, the pressure on her hand increased and then disappeared entirely.
Sam let out the breath she had been unconsciously holding. A single tear escaped down her cheek and the Colonel wiped it away with his thumb before releasing his hold of her.
"It's okay, sir. He's okay." Sam drew a shuddering breath and began to regain her composure. "Colonel O'Neill, we need to speak with the General and make plans for a rescue operation to Kolea. Daniel's being held captive and..."
"Sam," it was Janet's turn to interrupt the Major, "the only thing you need to do right now is get back in that bed and let me put the IV back in. I need to learn more about that thing in your neck and that burn still requires some treatment."
"No, Janet, you don't understand. That's part of the problem." Sam was visibly frustrated again, but she seemed much more lucid than before. "You can't do anything about the disc or treat the burn. You can't do anything that may cause pain and you can't give me any pain meds. I have to know how it feels." Sam let out a loud sigh and scrubbed her face with both hands. "Look, just contact the General. I need to speak with him. I'll tell you all everything then. Okay?"
Reluctantly, the doctor gave her approval and Colonel O'Neill used the phone in her office to contact the General.
Daniel sat on the floor of his cell cradling his throbbing arm tightly against his chest. He didn't think he'd been unconscious for long. He had fleeting memories of being dragged down the hallway from Ochsner's office and then roughly thrown into the room. The blackness had threatened to engulf him once again, but he refused to surrender to its embrace, despite the pain.
Once the throbbing pain had subsided enough to allow him to think straight, Daniel raised himself from the floor and reexamined the room. The door was still locked, there were still no windows, the walls were still solid, and there was still a distinct lack of a genie-bearing bottle. The only difference to note was the presence of his standard-issue SGC bedroll and pillow.
"Home, sweet home," he murmured as he eased himself onto the material, which did little to pad the hard, stone floor.
Daniel took a few moments to contemplate the situation. If what Ochsner said was true, he and Sam now had an extremely powerful and potentially dangerous connection, the extent of which even he, as the inventor, was unsure.
Daniel raised his left arm to glance at his watch. It was 1800 hours. Wow! Three hours had passed since they had first regained consciousness in this room. The conversation with their fine host hadn't taken more than twenty minutes. Perhaps he had blacked out for longer than he thought.
His eyes were drawn away from his watch to a spot about half way up his forearm. Though the dull throbbing pain seemed to originate form that location, there was no visible injury. The skin was intact and there was no obvious swelling or discoloration. Apparently, at least one thing that Ochsner had said was true. Daniel could feel the physical pain of Sam's injury just as she had felt it when his guard had fingered his abused cheekbone.
Daniel's hopes rose as he remembered another part of the earlier conversation with their captor. Sam would be returned to Earth. Okay, so Ochsner had insisted she return with Naquadah. Well, that was definitely not going to happen, but at least she should be free and able to let Jack and the General know what was happening.
There was a slight prick followed closely by a stinging sensation in his right arm, but Daniel paid it no mind.
Daniel had full confidence in his team. When (not if, when) the others came and got him out of there they would have to remember to look for Ochsner's research on the invention currently residing in his and Sam's necks. There would also have to be an investigation to determine if the Kolean government was involved in or even aware of Ochsner's plans to kidnap and use them in his experiment. They would...
The archaeologist's train of thought was promptly derailed as a blinding pain tore through his left arm originating from the area of the 'burn'. It felt as though someone was using a dull saw to, oh so slowly, amputate his arm. A loud scream was ripped from his throat before he could prevent it. Daniel clamped his mouth shut and concentrated on breathing through the excruciating pain. It wasn't working.
Minute after minute passed agonizingly slowly. The pain never eased a fraction. Tears streamed down Daniel's cheeks as he begged unconsciousness to once again welcome him into her blissful nothingness. She was apparently being fickle today. He had refused her comforting embrace earlier and now she was refusing him.
Finally, the pain began to recede to tolerable levels, leaving Daniel's heart pounding and him gasping for breath. He hadn't even had enough time to calm his breathing and heart rate when he felt...something. It was almost as if he were being watched...well, he knew he was being watched. How else had Ochsner known when he and Sam had awakened earlier? No, this was different. It was almost like a presence. It was almost like...Sam.
A sudden flash of insight struck him. Sam was back on Earth and the pain of a few moments ago must have been Janet tending to the burn. Sam must have been unconscious because he couldn't imagine her allowing such a painful procedure knowing that the link would transmit the sensations to him.
Instead of simply feeling the physical sensations, Daniel could feel Sam's 'presence'.
Before he could consider this development any further, Daniel suddenly felt a slight edge of panic begin to overtake him. It was quickly followed by another small sting in his right arm and then several unbearably painful throbs in his left.
It was strange, but somehow he knew that Sam was panicking for some reason. She needed to calm down and he needed to help her.
Though he didn't think it would be possible to communicate words to Sam, Daniel sat on the bedroll in the traditional Kel'no'reem pose Teal'c had taught him, closed his eyes, and concentrated on Sam; willing her to calm herself. The panic began to slowly recede. He used his right hand to firmly grasp his left and gave it a gentle squeeze. It was a familiar touch for both of them. Hopefully, if she were able to feel it, it would be enough to calm her.
Finally, the last bit of panic dissipated. Sam was still 'there' but much, much calmer. Daniel remained in his meditative state for some time yet. After about half an hour he rose to his feet and began pacing his cell. His mind was racing. Ochsner had obviously not expected this emotional connection. What else was in store for them?
"Now, let me see if I've got this straight." Hammond leaned forward and crossed his arms over the two-toned table in the briefing room. He locked disbelieving eyes onto the blonde Air Force Major. "You're telling us that, while on a supposedly peaceful planet - a planet with which we are currently in trade negotiations - you and Dr. Jackson were attacked, kidnapped, and implanted with alien technology? These discs somehow link you and Dr. Jackson, allowing you to feel what the other feels, and this Ochsner character is using that in an attempt to force you to bring him some Naquadah?"
He looked to Dr. Fraiser for confirmation. Whether he wanted her to confirm the purpose of the discs or the mental stability of Major Carter, Janet didn't know. Nor could she provide a positive answer for either question. She simply shrugged her shoulders before returning attentive eyes towards Sam.
The major was staring straight ahead with a blank expression on her face. Her eyes were unfocused and her lips were moving, as if she was having a conversation with herself. A thick silence settled over the room when the others noticed this as well.
"Major Carter." Hammonds voice carried the strange combination of stern authority and sincere compassion.
Sam jerked her head up and immediately focused on the General. "Sir?"
"What exactly is the location of..." Hammond trailed off when he saw that the major was once again staring at nothing. She appeared to concentrating intently on something.
"Dammit, Daniel! I knew it! I knew you were lying about that. I should have..."
"Sam?" Dr. Fraiser was out of her chair and at the other woman's side in an instant. "Are you communicating with Daniel? Is there something wrong? I need you to tell me what's happening." She reached out and placed her hand on Sam's shoulder.
As soon as Janet's hand made contact, Sam's head jerked up and her eyes instantly refocused on her surroundings. "What? Janet, what did you say?"
"You appeared to be speaking to Dr. Jackson. Are you able to communicate with him?"
"No, it's nothing like that." Sam's eyes darted around to each person in the room, unsure of how to explain the strange sensation to them. "It's almost like... Have you ever been alone in a room when someone else walks in? You don't hear or see them, but somehow you just 'feel' that they're there."
The others nodded in understanding.
"That's what this is like. I think that, somehow, this link is changing. Earlier, it was only relaying physical pain, but now...now it's almost as if a part of him is...here." Sam tapped her temple with one finger.
"You said Daniel had lied about something," O'Neill commented. "What was that all about?"
For the first time since waking, Sam allowed herself a small grin. "It's nothing, really. Just Daniel being Daniel. On our second day at the temple, a step crumbled beneath his foot causing him to fall. When he got up I noticed that he was favoring one leg. He told me, at the time, that he was alright, but he must be up and walking now because I can definitely feel that he has a sprained ankle."
Seeing the horrified look on Janet's face, Sam quickly tried to put an end to the doctor's fears. "Oh, no, Janet. It's nothing serious. In fact, I suggested he return to Earth to have you check him out, but he steadfastly refused and didn't even limp from then on. It's more of a nuisance than anything else. You know how he is. He was probably just worried about the number of needles you would stick in him and that the Colonel wouldn't allow him to return to the planet."
"He was right," Fraiser and O'Neill chorused. O'Neill conceded to the doctor.
"The number of needles just got doubled," she said angrily. "He knows better than to let an off-world injury, no matter how minor, go unattended. There are just too many unknown..."
"People, please," Hammond cut off the doctor's tirade. "Let's get back to the matter at hand. Major Carter, where is Dr. Jackson being held?"
Sam's blood ran cold. Where WAS Daniel being held? She had never even seen the outside of the building let alone its location. "I d-don't know, sir."
"WHAT?!" O'Neill slammed a fist onto the table in outrage.
Sam knew that the Colonel wasn't upset with her. He was angry at the situation. He had never been one who could sit back and do nothing while a member of his team was in trouble. Information was the key element at the moment and they were missing a rather large, important piece of information.
"I'm sorry, sir. We were attacked during the night and knocked unconscious. By the time we woke up, it was 14 hours later, we were already in Ochsner's facility and the discs had already been implanted. When I was released..."
"You were injured and only semi-conscious at best," O'Neill wearily concluded for his 2IC as he ran a frustrated hand through his silver hair. "It's okay, Carter."
"Were you given any instructions as how to make the Naquadah delivery?" Hammond questioned.
"I think it's safe to assume OshKosh has something planned for that, sir," O'Neill interjected, intentionally mispronouncing the name.
"Agreed. He gave you two days to return, correct Major?"
"Yes, sir. Based on the length of the Kolean day and the amount of time that has already passed, I figure we have about 36 hours before the deadline," Carter answered, easily doing the math in her head.
"Very well. A message has been sent to Teal'c and he should return within a couple of hours. Colonel, I want the two of you to come up with some sort of rescue plan. I will question Ambassador Crile. I don't believe that he was involved with this, but we can't take that chance. Perhaps, at the very least, he'll be able to give us some information on Ochsner." Hammond picked up the phone and ordered the person on the other end to have the Ambassador escorted from the VIP quarters to his office.
"Sir, I could help prepare a UAV to..." Sam began after the General returned the phone to its cradle.
"The only thing you're going to do, Sam, is return with me to the infirmary so I can study that disc further. I want to know exactly what I'll be dealing with when you bring Daniel back." Fraiser looked to the General for back up. Seeing his nod, she continued, "You'll also need some antibiotics - which can be given in pill form," she added when she saw that Sam was about to protest any needles, "to prevent that burn from getting infected."
Sam surrendered. She knew a losing battle when she saw one.
Late the next day found Sam still confined to the infirmary being subjected to as many tests as Dr. Fraiser could think of. Unsure of the magnetic properties of the disc and its wires, the possibility of an MRI was quickly overruled.
Sam had kept a mental tally. During the long hours of the day and the evening before - with the exception of the six hours she had managed to sleep - she had had two full-body CAT scans, five CAT scans of her head and neck, 25 x-rays of various parts of her skeletal system, three urine analyses, and a barrage of other tests she didn't even know the names for. She was not positive that the doctor hadn't snuck in a few more tests during the hours she had been sleeping.
Janet had also insisted on a blood sample. After a long and heated debate, Sam had finally agreed to allow one, and only one, needle stick. She'd informed the doctor that she had better make sure she found a vein on the first try and get enough blood to run all of the necessary tests.
Sam knew that Daniel wasn't a pain wimp and that a little stick of a needle wouldn't come anywhere near harming him, but she still didn't like the idea of being responsible for causing him pain or discomfort of any kind.
Just as Sam was sure that Janet was beginning to invent new tests to perform on her, Colonel O'Neill strolled into the infirmary followed closely by Teal'c.
"Major Carter," Teal'c began as he came up beside the bed she was currently sitting upon. "I apologize for not being available to accompany you and Daniel Jackson to Kolea. Had I been there..."
"Don't start feeling guilty over this, Teal'c," she cut him off. "We don't know what might have happened had you, or anyone else, been with us. Perhaps we wouldn't have been attacked, but perhaps they simply would have killed you and taken us anyway. No one can predict the future. We can only deal with what we currently have."
Teal'c bowed deeply at the waist, seemingly accepting the Major's words.
"Hammond's given his approval for a rescue operation. We can depart at 0600 tomorrow," O'Neill informed Carter. "According to Ambassador Crile, this guy's been on the run from the Kolean government for years, but he hasn't been heard from in quite a while. He's your typical psycho head case with illusions of grandeur."
"What's the plan, sir?"
"Well, we figure that OshKosh will assume that you've told us everything and he'll be prepared for us to try something. The only problem is that we don't know where he is. We're going to head for the temple, wait for him to make contact, and wing it from there."
"What about the Naquadah?" Sam questioned.
"We will employ the ruse I have seen in many of your old west movies," Teal'c answered.
Seeing the confusion on Carter's face, O'Neill clarified. "Lead bars, Major. In the movies, the bad guys would paint them to disguise them as gold. We'll put a thin coating of Naquadah on a few lead bars. We'll still try to avoid giving them to him, but should that become impossible, he won't get enough Naquadah to do any real damage."
That part of the plan sounded so simple that she thought it might actually work. It looked as if the only real problem might be escaping with Daniel and then getting the discs removed.
"Now," said the Colonel, seeing the obvious approval in the Major's eyes. "If we can just get that Napoleonic Power Monger to release you..."
"I heard that, Colonel." Janet's voice sounded from behind him, causing him jump. She didn't bother to chastise him for the comment, instead addressing her guinea pig...uh...patient. "Considering the circumstances, Sam, I don't have much choice but to release you. But, before you go, I want to show you what I've found."
The petite doctor led the three members of SG-1 to a wall containing several x-ray view boxes that were covered with Sam's films.
"This," Janet pointed to the first film, "is one of the x-rays that were taken when you were first brought back from Kolea. It clearly shows the tiny fibers," she pointed to an erratic white line, "that exit the disc and travel into the spinal column, interfacing directly with the nerve bundles.
"This film," Janet pointed to the last picture, "is a more recent one. In it, you can see that new fibers are now extending into different areas of the brain. It's my belief that as these new fibers formed, your connection with Dr. Jackson evolved. There's a particularly large concentration of the fibers in the Limbic System. It's a part of the brain that controls emotions."
"That would explain some things," Sam intoned earning her surprised and questioning looks form those around her. "Let's just say that I'm not normally prone to the kinds of mood swings I've been experiencing."
Janet didn't care for the abbreviated explanation but she decided to continue with her findings. She pulled out a new x-ray and placed it on the view box. "This is the most recent film. It appears that the fibers are still forming, but apparently at a much slower rate. I honestly don't know how or to what extent this link between the two of you will evolve.
"I've also been able to determine that the fibers are bio-mechanical. Ochsner mentioned that the procedure to remove the discs was relatively simple?" Sam nodded. "I still want you to try to bring back any information you're able to find on them, but it looks as if we should be able to simply cut the fibers away from the disc. Your bodies will then be able to absorb the remaining fibers. Dr. Warner and I can operate simultaneously to remove them."
"That's great!" Sam exclaimed through a long sigh of relief. "Does that also mean that you're done with the tests for now?"
The hopefulness in her friend's voice was too much for the doctor to resist. "Yes, the Napoleonic Power Monger is finished with you." She cast a reproachful look towards the Colonel who had suddenly found his boots to be the most interesting thing in the room. "I'm sure I don't have to warn you to stay on base, but you also need to stick to the other usual lectures: eat properly and get plenty of rest." Janet handed Sam a small pill bottle. "Antibiotics. Take them four times a day. If you don't want to cause yourself, and subsequently Daniel, any undue pain, then the last thing you want is to get that burn infected. Understood?"
"Yes, ma'am." Sam unconsciously stood straighter and had to fight the impulse to salute. When Janet was in 'full doctor mode' rank was completely thrown out of the equation. Everyone on base, military and civilian alike, suddenly began to act like cadets fresh out of the academy, intimidated into obedience.
Sam had even caught General Hammond calling the tiny woman 'ma'am' on one occasion. He had been suffering from the flu last winter, but due to an off-world crisis (SG-11 had been missing for two days) he had refused to take the time needed to allow his body to fight the virus. After the situation had been resolved and the General still refused to take the necessary time off, Janet had finally been forced, as CMO, to pull medical rank. By that time, his simple flu had transformed into severe pneumonia.
Sam still fought hard to wipe the grin from her face each time she remembered walking into the infirmary several days later and catching the tail end of Janet's lecture. The severity of her voice as she had listed all of the possible complications that could have arisen from letting pneumonia go unattended for too long was a stark contrast to the meek, congested, nasally, and nearly inaudible squeak that was the General's voice as he had simply repeated 'yes, ma'am' over and over again.
The remainder of the evening and night was filled with a flurry of activity. The lead bars were prepared. If Ochsner should happen to get his hands on them, he would have no more explosive power than several sticks of dynamite. Destructive, yes, but it was no more destructive than the bombs that were currently made on Kolea.
Extra SG teams were called in, briefed on the situation, and placed on high alert. SG-1 had 24 hours after gating to Kolea to either return to Earth or report in. After that time, the other teams would be sent in with orders to retrieve SG-1 by any means necessary.
A UAV was launched to search for the red stone building. Unfortunately, that color of stone was not uncommon. Not only were there several buildings in Ambassador Crile's city that were made of the material, but most of the rural structures were comprised of it as well. The plan to head straight to the temple remained unchanged.
Their briefing having taken place an hour earlier, Sam and Teal'c walked along the hallway on their way to the embarkation room after picking up their gear from Supply. Colonel O'Neill had sent them on ahead claiming that Supply had forgotten to pack his sunglasses.
They were nearly to the gate room door when Sam felt a powerful blow to her jaw. Her head whipped painfully to the side and her body slammed against the wall.
"Dammit!" Sam was only able to vocalize the single word before another blow, this time to the solar plexus, stole the breath from her lungs and caused her to collapse to the floor.
"Major Carter!" Teal'c was kneeling at her side in an instant.
"I'm...fine...Teal'c," the Major managed between gasps for breath.
"You are not fine, Major Carter. I will assist you to the infirmary."
Irrational anger flared through her and Sam pushed out against the large Jaffa, causing him to take a few stumbling steps backwards. "Dammit, Teal'c! I said I was fine!"
She just sat there for a few moments, glaring daggers at Teal'c before she realized what had happened. "Oh my God, Teal'c. I'm so sorry."
Colonel O'Neill, having seen Carter push Teal'c, jogged to catch up. "Carter, Teal'c, what's going on?" he questioned, concern clearly showing in his eyes.
"I believe that Major Carter has just reacted to an injury sustained by Daniel Jackson." Teal'c raised an eyebrow as if daring the Major to deny the statement.
"Alright, Carter, let's get you to the infirmary and let the Doc take a look at you." O'Neill reached out a hand to help her stand.
"No, sir!" Sam slapped the hand away.
Surprised by the venom in the Major's voice, O'Neill took a step back. "Excuse me, but do the words Colonel or superior officer mean anything to you?"
Sam clasped her hands together so tightly that her knuckles began to turn white. 'Calm down, Daniel. Just relax. Take it easy,' she repeated to herself. "I'm sorry, sir," she finally said. "It's just..." she trailed off.
The Colonel knelt down before her. "What is it, Carter? I need to know what we're dealing with here."
"It's this damn link, sir," Sam answered while pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Does this have something to do with what Fraiser was saying about those fibers growing into the Limbic System of your brain?"
Sam tried to hide her surprise at both the fact that the Colonel had been paying attention to Janet as well as the fact that he had used the correct pronunciation. "Yes, sir. I can feel that Daniel's a bit, uh, agitated right now. Do you remember what he was like when we met up with Apophis on Netu?"
Jack nodded, remembering all too well how Daniel's anger at the Goa'uld had overridden his common sense. He had been quick to inform the false god of Amonet's death, hoping to return some of the pain Apophis had caused him over the years. That had been one of the few times that Jack had feared what would come out of the young man's mouth next. It was almost as if he had a death wish.
"Well, sir," Carter continued. "I wish he were only that angry now. It's bad enough to see him in that kind of mood, but I can feel it now. It's...distracting, to say the least."
Jack winced then helped his 2IC to her feet. "Okay, I understand," he said as he took an excessive amount of time to straighten the Major's collar. "Are you both alright?"
"Yes, sir. It's just another couple of bruises to add to Daniel's list."
"Fine, then. Let's just get to the planet, defeat the bad guys, and bring Daniel back to the loving embrace of our own Dr. Fraiser." The sarcasm in his voice when speaking of Fraiser's 'loving embrace' earned him a smile from Sam and a raised eyebrow from Teal'c.
"Yes, sir." Sam wiped a hand across her mouth and followed her two teammates into the embarkation room, completely ignoring the taste of copper in her mouth and the streak of red across her palm.
Daniel had been left alone with nothing but his pillow to keep him company for more than a day. With the exception of the two well-armed guards who came in to deliver food and water and empty the...facilities, Daniel had had no contact with the outside world.
He wasn't worried that his team wouldn't come for him. Even though the deadline was drawing near, he had full faith that they would come. Daniel was simply bored. He had counted the number of stones that made up the walls, ceiling, and floor of his room (1,326), he had recited the alphabet forwards and backwards in each of his 23 languages at least ten times, he had mentally calculated Pi to the 35th digit before he lost track (Sam would be proud of him for that one), and he had sung '100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall' until his voice gave out. Daniel was still bored.
Just as he was about to make shadow puppets on the wall to alleviate his boredom, Ochsner and his guards entered the room.
"Breakfast already?" Daniel questioned sarcastically form his seated position on the bedroll. Okay, it was closer to midday on Kolea, but his body was still on Earth's timetable and it wasn't quite 0600 there.
Immediately, he knew that this wasn't going to be a typical visit. For starters, his guards always came alone and would immediately attend to their assigned task, be it bringing food or water, removing the empty trays, emptying the waste bucket, or simply verifying his presence.
The guards (Daniel had yet to learn their names) were much less docile without the restraining presence of their boss, however, and would try just about anything to get a reaction out of the archaeologist. The guards would never physically harm him, but they were well versed in intimidation tactics. Once, when he had refused to give in and show his fear or anger, one of the guards had fired his energy weapon, hitting the wall mere inches from Daniel's head. Daniel assumed that Ochsner had been watching via whatever surveillance system he had installed and disapproved of the action because the next, and until now the last, time the guards came to check on him was completely uneventful. They had simply opened the door and placed the refilled water container in the room before leaving once again. Not a word had been spoken.
This was the first time Daniel had even heard from Ochsner since their initial meeting and he had the feeling that this encounter would be no more pleasant than the first.
Daniel stood, suddenly feeling extremely vulnerable in his seated position.
"Dr. Jackson," Ochsner greeted cordially from his position just inside the door.
"Ochsner. I hope you'll forgive my rudeness for not offering you a chair." Daniel gestured to the empty room with a sweep of his arm while maintaining eye contact with his captor.
The other man ignored the jibe. "It appears that I may have misjudged Samantha's loyalty to you, Dr. Jackson. She has yet to return with the Naquadah."
"She still has time," Daniel stated confidently.
"I was going to be nice," Ochsner continued as if Daniel hadn't spoken. "When Samantha returned with the Naquadah, I was planning on performing a few minor tests with the devices and your connection and then I was going to remove them and release you. After all, it would do me little good to study the devices in humans from Earth, especially since I knew that your planet would most likely sever all ties with Kolea due to my actions. Now, however, I'm not feeling nearly so benevolent."
"There are still several hours until your deadline," Daniel reiterated while clenching his teeth in anger at the imposed threat.
Ochsner picked at an invisible piece of lint from the sleeve of his pristine jacket. When he raised his eyes again, Daniel could see the madness that existed within their steel gray depths.
"Rand, Tylus, please remind Major Carter of the virtue of punctuality." With that command, Ochsner left the room.
Daniel hadn't had any time to revel in the fact that he had learned his guards' names before a meaty fist connected solidly with his jaw. He stumbled backwards several steps and would have fallen had the wall not been there to support him.
"Dammit!" A second blow, this time to his solar plexus, cut off the remainder of the long string of expletives, from a variety of languages, that sprang to his lips. Daniel crashed to his knees. Darkness edged into his vision as his lungs struggled to re-inflate.
"You know, Rand, I, for one, am glad that Ochsner has changed his mind about letting them go."
"Yeah," Rand agreed with a leering grin on his face. "Just imagine the fun we can have with pretty little Samantha should she decide to return for this piece of garbage."
"Oh, she'll return, alright," Tylus stated with certainty. "When she does, I'm sure I can convince the boss into letting us have some time alone with her."
Daniel knew that they were, once again, trying to gain a reaction from him. They were looking for any excuse to deliver another blow. He tried to tune them out as they went into great detail about what they had planned for Sam upon her return. His whole body shook with barely contained fury. He had no doubt that these men would carry out their threats if given the chance. The fact that he was being used as the instrument to ensure Sam's return only fueled Daniel's rage.
Just as Daniel thought he could take no more of the men's words and was about to lash out at them, he felt a strong grip on his hand. It was Sam's grip. That little piece of contact with his friend allowed him to reel in his emotions and restrain himself from saying or doing something that would only cause him further harm. Daniel concentrated intently on that touch until the guards grew bored and left.
After spitting out some blood from where the inside of his mouth had been cut against his teeth, Daniel stood on unsteady legs and took several deep, calming breaths. He bean pacing the small enclosure once again.
Sam had told Jack everything. Daniel knew he could rely on that. Unfortunately, he also knew that Ochsner was nowhere near stupid. Surely he would be expecting some sort of trick. Daniel felt helpless; he was in no position to help his friends in any way.
The hike from the stargate to the temple was as uneventful as it was silent. The three members of SG-1 were each lost in their own thoughts as they plodded across the uneven, verdant terrain.
Colonel O'Neill was concentrating on his number one rule: No one gets left behind. He didn't blame Carter for leaving Daniel. He knew it wasn't her choice and, given the opportunity, she would have fought tooth and nail to keep the archaeologist at her side.
O'Neill adjusted his sunglasses in an attempt to disguise a brief sideways glance at his 2IC. Thanks to his own experience of having no choice but to leave a gravely wounded Daniel behind on Klorel's ship, the Colonel could imagine the tangle of emotions that was surely running through Carter's head.
Major Carter's analytical mind repeatedly dissected every aspect of the situation. She had seen only three adversaries but the leader, Ochsner, was a highly intelligent man. He had, after all, invented the devices that currently resided in her and Daniel's necks. The other two men could be lacking the good sense God gave driftwood, but their physical stature and strength more than made up for any intellectual deficiency.
Another problem facing the team was the fact that they had no clue where Daniel was being held and, at best, they had only a rough estimate for a deadline. The decision to head for the temple was based on the fact that there was little else they could do. They had no idea if it was the correct course of action.
Sam took a moment to study Teal'c's stoic features. She envied his ability to remain calm in situations such as this.
Teal'c observed his teammates. He could easily see what the casual observer could not. Both of his companions were filled with anxiety. They had every right to the emotion. They were walking into an obviously hostile situation with a severe deficit of knowledge. His larval Goa'uld squirmed in its pouch at the thought.
He looked to his commanding officer. For this mission to succeed, they would need a leader who was cunning, able to think on his feet, and fiercely devoted to the cause. He was confident that O'Neill was such a man.
After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually less than two hours, the team finally reached the temple.
Using a series of well-rehearsed hand signals, O'Neill ordered his team to take cover in the brush that surrounded the perimeter of the temple. Instantly, Carter and Teal'c concealed themselves and scanned the area for any signs of danger. Finding none, O'Neill signaled for them to move in.
The team converged on the temple with weapons drawn and ready. A thorough investigation revealed nothing. There was absolutely no evidence that anyone had visited the structure since Sam and Daniel had been there nearly three days before.
"There's nothing here." The Colonel needlessly pointed out the obvious. His posture relaxed only marginally. "You were attacked and captured at your campsite, correct, Major?"
"So, am I safe in assuming that you were able to drag Daniel away from his rocks and squiggly lines or did he convince you to camp right here in the temple?"
The corner of Sam's lips tugged slightly upwards. The Colonel's dry humor, the reference to even a slight bit of normalcy, temporarily eased her own angst. "We made camp in a small clearing about 50 yards to the East." She jerked her chin in the general direction and, after receiving approval from her CO, began to lead the way to the clearing.
As they had done with the temple, each of the team members approached the clearing from a different direction but, once again, no threat was detected.
The clearing was an eerie sight to behold. At first glance, it appeared as if nothing had been removed or disturbed in any way. The only evidence of foul play were some scuffling footprints in the dirt, an overturned coffee pot, and a darkened patch on the ground from where the campfire had apparently escaped the pit before burning itself out.
"One of the bedrolls is missing, but everything else seems to be just as we left it, sir."
The Colonel didn't need Carter's confirmation. He was frozen to the spot. For a moment, the only thought that entered his mind was how he and Sara had left Charlie's room untouched after he died. It was almost as if they had a silent agreement. Altering anything in the room, even removing the dirty baseball uniform that lay across the foot of the bed, meant accepting the unacceptable. Their son would not be coming back.
With great effort, Jack pulled himself away from his morbid thoughts. 'This is not Charlie, this is Daniel,' he mentally scolded himself. 'And this is not a bedroom, this is a campsite on an alien world, for crying out loud.' He knew that Daniel was alive. Carter had confirmed the fact repeatedly over the last two days.
O'Neill inhaled deeply and forced himself to loosen his white-knuckled grip on his weapon. "Teal'c, check out these footprints. See if you can tell where they come from or where they lead. Carter, you and I will sort through this," he swept an arm out to indicate Carter and Daniel's supplies. "Pack up all the weapons and anything essential or even remotely classified. I don't want to leave anything on this planet that could prove the least bit useful to OshKosh."
Wordlessly, Sam assisted Teal'c off with his pack, which was laden with the naquadah covered lead bars. She lugged the canvas bag to a log near the edge of the clearing where the other bags, containing the video equipment and archaeological tools, lay.
As Teal'c studied the footprints, Jack's first course of action was to gather the discarded weapons. He was more than a little surprised to find them still at the site. While Kolean energy weapons were more advanced than Daniel's Beretta or even Carter's P-90, they were still very lethal items.
A slight movement drew the Colonel's attention to something on the fire-blackened earth. As he drew closer, Jack realized it was Daniel's journal. A couple of the pages were lazily swaying in the light breeze. Though it had been caught in the fire and few of the pages were burnt beyond recognition, it was essentially intact.
Jack picked up the journal and ran a reverent hand across the worn leather cover. He toyed with the idea of reopening it to read the last entry, but he quickly vetoed the thought. Not only would it be a violation of his friend's privacy, but nothing could possibly be gained from the action. Even Daniel wouldn't take the time to put pen to paper in the middle of the night, on an alien planet, while being attacked by an unknown enemy.
'Well,' O'Neill amended his thoughts, 'perhaps in the middle of the night and on an alien planet, but he certainly wouldn't make a journal entry while being attacked. Would he?'
Jack tucked the journal in his pack and joined Teal'c. "What do you have, Teal'c?"
"I regret that I have nothing, O'Neill," the Jaffa responded without lifting his eyes from the prints. "The disturbances in the soil support Major Carter's statement of a struggle but I can find no tracks leaving the vicinity nor can I determine the number of attackers."
"Damn. Well, I guess our only option is still to wait for OshKosh to make the first move."
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed with a slight bow of his head, ignoring O'Neill's continual mispronunciation of the name.
"Carter, how long do we have until the estimated deadline?"
When several moments passed without an answer, the Colonel and Teal'c both turned to the Major's last known location. She wasn't there, nor was she anywhere within the clearing.
The men split up to search the surrounding area including the temple. The search revealed nothing.
"Major Carter is nowhere to be found, O'Neill," Teal'c commented upon returning to the clearing.
"Tell me something I don't know." O'Neill's patience was wearing thin.
"My pack containing the disguised lead bars is missing as well."
The Colonel turned a full 360-degree circle to survey the area and confirm Teal'c statement. It was true. Both the bag and the Major were MIA.
Sam awoke slowly, feeling groggy and disoriented. She opened her eyes just long enough to note the familiar red stone ceiling spinning dizzily above her.
"Dj vu," she groaned. With her eyes still tightly shut, she carefully rolled onto her side and placed her hands against the cold stone floor in the vain attempt to push herself into a vertical position.
"Funny, I was just thinking the same thing."
Strong yet gentle hands clasped Sam's upper arms and assisted her with the fight against gravity and her own body's inclination to remain horizontal. As soon as she was upright, Sam's dizziness increased ten fold and an involuntary groan escaped her lips. She decided that she had been much better off lying down and attempted to return to that position.
"Oh, no you don't!"
Unfortunately, those strong hands that had assisted with her earlier goal were now preventing her descent back to the floor.
"Sam? Come on, open your eyes."
The hands had released her arms and moved to gently cup her face. Two fingers from one of the hands began incessantly tapping on her cheek, demanding a reaction. Sam felt as though she had no other option but to respond.
Ever so slowly, Sam opened first one eye then the other and found herself staring into Daniel's concerned blue eyes.
"Are you with me now?" Daniel quit tapping his friend's cheek but his hands remained in position.
"No offense, Daniel, but waking up like this is beginning to get a little old."
Daniel let a small grin grace his features and lowered his hands to cover hers where they rested in her lap. "Yeah, well I'll be sure to complain to the management."
With Daniel's help, Sam struggled to her feet. As soon as she gained her equilibrium, she checked her watch.
Correctly interpreting the motive and understanding the fear behind the action, Daniel offered what little reassurance he could. "You were brought here only about twenty minutes ago. Nothing new has happened...yet."
Sam heaved a great sigh of relief. "Are you okay?" she asked, getting a good look at the vivid bruising along one side of his face.
"Yeah. I've had worse," he answered truthfully.
Sam nodded. Via their link, she could feel that, while the bruising was spectacular, there were no broken bones or other serious injuries. "I don't suppose anything has changed around here. Door?"
"Genie in a bottle?" Sam allowed a slight grin.
"I felt sorry for it and used my only wish to set it free. Sorry." Daniel's smile matched Sam's. "What about Jack and Teal'c? Did you bring them back with you? Where are they?" Daniel asked, all levity instantly gone.
"Yeah, they were with me. We were at out campsite when someone grabbed me. Things get pretty hazy after that but I don't think the others were captured." Sam concentrated on the few memories she had. "I was on the opposite side of the clearing from them. Whoever grabbed me was totally silent. I doubt the Colonel or Teal'c even knew something had happened until I was long gone."
"They don't even have a clue as to where we are." It was a statement, not a question. Daniel could easily add two and two. Even he didn't know where he and Sam were being held and the rescue team had gone to their earlier campsite instead of heading directly towards this location. Another thought occurred to him. "The Naquadah?"
Before Sam could answer, the door to their room opened and the two burly guards entered. Daniel instantly positioned himself between Sam and the men. He glared at the guards, as if challenging them to try something. The guards glared back.
Noticing the silent yet hostile communication, Sam wisely maintained her position behind Daniel and kept quiet. The tension in the room was palpable.
After a few intense minutes, Daniel broke the silence. "Rand, Tylus. It's always a pleasure to see you." Acid dripped from every word and Sam could feel Daniel's dark emotions building. She tried to keep her own thoughts and feelings in check.
The guards never said a word but the captives knew what was expected of them. Daniel took Sam's hand in his own to keep her near him as they followed Rand out of the room. Tylus fell in behind them.
Sam and Daniel shared many of the same concerns. What did Ochsner have planned for them? Would Jack and Teal'c be able to find them? Would they be able to escape on their own?
They each had their own unique fears as well. Sam wondered if Ochsner had discovered the true nature of the Naquadah bars and worried about what would happen when or if he did. Daniel worried about what would happen if Ochsner should decide to hand Sam over to Rand and Tylus. He vowed to do everything in his power to prevent that from happening.
Instead of returning to Ochsner's office, Sam and Daniel were led along a different, yet equally nondescript hallway. Both teammates mentally catalogued the numerous turns, but neither was confident of the advantages it would gain them. The small procession finally came to a halt after entering a large room.
It appeared to be a medical laboratory of some sort. Though it was a single room with no physical barriers, it was clearly divided into two separate sections, seemingly mirror images of each other. Each half contained what appeared to be a medical examination table, a variety of equipment and monitors, and a barrage of wicked looking instruments and tools, the purpose of which neither teammate wanted to guess.
Daniel instantly recalled the numerous Frankenstein movies he had seen over the years and felt an icy chill run down his spine. A glance in Sam's direction confirmed that, whether it was from their unexpected emotional connection or from her own thoughts, she felt the same thing.
Sam's gaze shifted to the side until she locked eyes with Daniel. The moment that blue met blue the two friends came to a silent agreement. They couldn't wait any longer for a rescue that might never come. If they acted now, then, at least, they stood a chance of escaping whatever Ochsner had in mind for them, whereas if they did nothing, it would be as good as granting the madman permission to use them as his own personal guinea pigs.
Each of the guards none-too-gently nudged his prisoner towards the metal exam tables and each of the prisoners used the opportunity to react.
Daniel attacked his guard, Rand, high by quickly taking a step back and slightly to one side and throwing his elbow back, catching the large man squarely in the nose. He felt only a small sliver of pity upon hearing the crack of cartilage breaking and seeing the river of blood instantly begin to pour down the stricken man's face.
Rand took a couple of dazed and stumbling steps backwards and brought a hand up in an attempt to stem the flow of blood from his broken nose. Daniel took full advantage of the opening presented. He used both hands to grasp the end of Rand's energy weapon, easily pulled it from his loose one-handed grip, spun around, and brought the weapon down to connect solidly with the back of the guard's head.
As in many slapstick comedies and old cartoons, Rand continued to stand, swaying ever so slightly, for a moment before falling forward to land in an undignified heap at Daniel's feet.
Daniel looked over to see how Sam had fared with Tylus.
Sam, who was dwarfed by Tylus, attacked low. She firmly grasped the end of his weapon, pulled with all her might, and then quickly pushed back again, jamming the butt end of the weapon into the man's abdomen and forcing the air from his lungs.
Stunned and doubled over in pain, Tylus attempted to draw in his next tortured breath. Sam firmly planted a leg behind his and pushed him backwards, causing him to trip. As he fell, she wrenched the weapon from his hands and used it to deliver a final blow to the side of his head, rendering him unconscious.
The newly armed members of SG-1 looked upon each other with obvious approval, but little time could be wasted with such frivolities.
"So, where do we go from here?" Though Daniel felt obligated to protect Sam as much as he could from Ochsner and his goons, he respected the fact that she more than surpassed him in the area of strategic planning and relinquished the duty to her.
"We need to..."
Before Sam was able to give voice to her idea, an excruciating pain, reminiscent of a close range, powerful zat blast, tore through her and Daniel's bodies. Their muscles seized painfully and their limbs became rigid, forcing them to drop the confiscated weapons and fall stiffly to the floor. As quickly as it descended upon them, the pain dissipated, but it had drained so much of their energy that neither Sam nor Daniel felt capable of so much as lifting their heads.
Ochsner slowly strode into the room. "Did you think that I wouldn't be prepared for an escape attempt?" he chided, obviously pleased with his superior intellect and ability predict his opponents' actions. He used his foot to prod each guard back to wakefulness. "Get up you fools!" he demanded callously.
Rand and Tylus clumsily helped each other to their feet. Once they had cleared their heads, they pulled their prisoners up to stand before their boss.
Ochsner returned his attention to his captives and held up a small black box, which closely resembled a garage door remote. "This device grants me direct access to your pain receptors. It remotely activates the discs that one or both of you have been implanted with and the disc, in turn, stimulates your pain receptors. You have just experienced one of its lower settings, would you like me to demonstrate a higher one?"
"Go to hell!" Sam spat, her own anger, magnified by Daniel's, stripped her of what little self control she would normally have. She was amazed at how good saying those three simple words made her feel.
Ochsner was not amused. He demonstrated his displeasure by delivering a vicious backhand across Sam's face. Her head whipped to the side from the force of the blow and blood oozed lazily from a cut on her cheek made by his large signet ring.
With little more instruction than a slight flick of their boss' eye, Rand and Tylus began to physically maneuver their unwilling and struggling captives towards the tables. As Rand and Daniel passed in front of him, something caught Ochsner's eye.
As soon as Sam and Daniel were secured to their respective tables, Ochsner positioned himself at Daniel's side, clamped a hand onto his jaw, and forcefully turned his head.
"What is this?" he questioned in genuine curiosity.
The side of Daniel's face, which had remained unmarred by the multi-colored bruising that had resulted from previous blows, now presented a single, fresh, oozing cut.
Ochsner turned on his heel to examine Sam's face and confirm his budding theory. Her cut was identical in every way. Her opposite jaw was also beginning to form a light bruise, probably a result of the earlier reminder concerning punctuality.
"Intriguing," he voiced to no one in particular. "You each appear to presenting the physical manifestations as well as experiencing the sensations of each other's injuries. This is a truly unexpected development, one which must be explored further."
The scientist gracefully strode to a near-by computer panel and entered a sequence of commands, which ultimately resulted in a bright blue light engulfing each of the SG-1 team members. The sharp, blinding light dimmed considerably after only a few seconds, but did not extinguish entirely. A three-dimensional holographic representation of their nervous systems was projected above a small table at Ochsner's side.
The man cooed over the images for quite some time, all the while taking notes and occasionally uttering a quiet word of astonishment or approval.
While Ochsner was otherwise occupied and the guards were busily gathering the various implements he called for, Daniel strained against his bindings in an attempt to free himself. Until a stifled gasp from Sam reached his ears, he was unaware that the coarse straps had cut into his wrists and caused fresh blood to flow. Normally, he would have ceased the pain inducing action immediately, but a pointed look from his friend combined with the tremendous sense of approval and encouragement he received over their link spurred him on.
Just as his blood-slicked hand was about slide free from its confines, thanks in part to an unplanned and extremely painful dislocated thumb, a new, blinding pain ripped through his right arm. Daniel's animalistic scream coincided exactly with Sam's.
When the pain had receded somewhat and he was able to think clearly enough to remember the proper thought process required to open his eyes, he looked blearily towards his arm. The sleeve of his jacked was undamaged, but a red stain was quickly spreading over it.
Daniel could hear Sam gasping for breath and directed his attention to her, only to be shocked by the image that greeted him. A large, double-bladed knife was imbedded in Sam's arm, pinning it to the table as if she were the latest addition in some grotesque insect collection.
Ochsner positioned himself between the two tables, obstructing Daniel and Sam's view of each other. He roughly pushed up Daniel's sleeve to reveal a two-inch long, heavily bleeding puncture wound.
"Fascinating," he murmured. "With one stimulus, two physical injuries are formed."
"I'm glad we can provide some amusement for you," Daniel hissed between clenched teeth.
Ignoring Daniel's outburst, the scientist brutally ripped the blade from Sam's arm before returning to his notes. He entered more commands into the panel and watched as the holographic images replayed what it had recorded only moments ago.
For nearly an hour the madman preformed his 'research'. None of the tests, which were preformed alternately on both Sam and Daniel, were as dramatic as the first, but each was painful in its own right. They included small burns, both thermal and chemical, electrical shocks, beatings, and many, many cuts. Two particularly large and deep cuts, one on their collar bones and one on their abdomens, bled profusely and caused them to pass out, but even unconsciousness would not grant them a reprieve. Ochsner was even more intrigued by the responses from unconscious subjects and simply conducted more tests before reviving them. After each test, he would consult the hologram and then write his notes.
Finally, as darkness threatened to descend upon the captives once again, Ochsner deactivated the hologram and closed his ever-present notebook.
"Well," he addressed his test subjects, "as much as I've learned from this little session, I'm afraid it must come to an end. I have much more work to do." With a tilt of his chin, Ochsner indicated the disguised lead bars he had placed next to the control panel he'd been working at.
"Besides," he added with a yawn, "I've promised Rand and Tylus some quality time with Samantha and they're beginning to grow impatient."
The blackness that had edged into Daniel's vision instantly vanished as he was overcome with white-hot rage, an emotion that was only fueled by the fear transmitted by Sam, of what the men would do to her. Daniel would not allow those men to touch her.
With strength born of fury, Daniel pulled a hand from the restraint; mindless of the pain it caused, and clamped it around Ochsner's throat.
Rand came to his boss' aid in an instant by delivering a ferocious backhand, which had the desired effect of causing Daniel to release his deadly grip.
"Dispose of him," Ochsner spat in disgust while attempting to draw breath through his bruised windpipe.
Rand took a step back and pointed his energy weapon at Daniel. Before he was able to fire the fatal shot, he was engulfed by a pulsating beam of blue energy and promptly fell to the floor unconscious.
"Oh, I don't think so," Jack declared, holding the recently discharged zat gun.
Teal'c entered the room as well and zatted Tylus before moving to Daniel's side.
A number of Kolean soldiers bearing energy weapons entered and restrained Ochsner.
"Nice security forces you had out front," O'Neill taunted. "If you'd like, I'm sure we could round up a few kindergarten girls to give them some suggestions for improvement. They didn't even offer much of a challenge."
"How did you find us, sir?" Carter asked as O'Neill released the leather straps that bound her bleeding wrists.
In lieu of a verbal response, the Colonel assisted the injured and exhausted Major from the table and then reached a hand around to the back of her collar. When he withdrew the hand, he held a small, round, electronic device, no larger than one centimeter in diameter.
"A tracking device," Carter stated with obvious awe and approval in her voice. "You suspected all along that we would somehow become separated and you would be able to find us with this."
"Hey, they don't give out these birds for rugged good looks alone." He indicated his own lapel, which, on any other uniform, would normally display the eagle pins that signified his rank of Colonel, however, on BDUs, all indications of rank were removed.
Carter simply smiled at the intentional bumbling humor. At one point in time, she might have accepted the Colonel's act at face value and assumed him to be as incompetent as he pretended. Now, however, she admired the Colonel for what she knew him to be; a highly intelligent and resourceful man who would let nothing prevent him from assisting a friend in need.
Finally, the four members of SG-1 were reunited. Jack looked to his two battered team members. Sam and Daniel were leaning heavily on each other for support and, assumedly, comfort. The Kolean soldiers had everything under control here and his team needed medical attention.
"Well, kids, what do you say to getting out of here?"
Sam and Daniel looked to each other. "Sounds good to us," they chorused.
The team began to exit the room but, upon hearing an enraged yell from behind them, turned back around just in time to see Ochsner attack one of his guards, arm himself with the fallen man's weapon, and fire it at SG-1.
With little time to react, Sam and Daniel could only push off from each other and pray that the shot would pass between them. Unfortunately, they were not so lucky. The shot struck Daniel on his left side, just below his rib cage. Both he and Sam collapsed. Fortunately, Jack and Teal'c were able to catch them before they crashed to the floor.
A Kolean soldier fired on Ochsner. The force of the blast threw him back against his computer panel, short-circuiting it and causing a chain reaction of explosions to rock the room.
O'Neill was perplexed. He knew it was Daniel who had gotten hit. He could even see the smoldering hole in the young man's shirt. The thing that confused him was the fact that Carter, who lay alive but unconscious in his arms, was bleeding.
"O'Neill," Teal'c yelled above the clamor in the room, "the Naquadah!"
He had no time to contemplate the mystery. The explosions were coming dangerously close to the Naquadah. Even the small amount of the mineral that coated the bars would dramatically enhance an explosion.
"Everyone get out of here! Move!" The Colonel hoisted Carter onto his shoulders as Teal'c did the same with Daniel. Just as he was about to exit, something caught his attention. Ochsner's notes. Making a split-second decision, one that he dearly hoped wouldn't cost him and his team their lives, O'Neill hastily tucked the notes into his jacket before departing as fast as he could.
The last man exited the building only seconds before a large explosion caused the whole structure to crumble.
As soon as the Colonel and Teal'c, each with an unconscious team member slung over his shoulders, stepped onto the metal ramp at the SGC, a horde of medical personnel descended upon them and relieved them of their burdens. Jack also gave Janet the stack of papers he had confiscated from Ochsner's lab. Sam and Daniel were quickly and efficiently placed on gurneys and rushed to the infirmary.
"Colonel?" General Hammond questioned as he approached after the flurry of activity had ended.
Jack was unsure of what, exactly, the General wanted to hear, so he decided to stick with what he knew as fact. "Ochsner is dead, sir, and his men who didn't die with him have been captured by the Kolean government. A team will need to be sent through the gate to retrieve our gear. We were promised it would be waiting on the other side within the hour. The Naquadah has been destroyed as well, so we don't have to worry about it falling into the wrong hands."
"That's all very good to hear, Jack," the General's voice had softened, "but you know as well as I do what the primary concern is at the moment."
"They're alive, sir," O'Neill responded after a slight hesitation. "Injured but alive. It's strange though..." he trailed off.
"What's strange?" the General prompted.
"Well, sir, Daniel was hit with a blast from one of their energy weapons, but Carter was injured by it as well."
Hammond was confused. "It had already been determined that Major Carter would feel any injury..."
"No, sir," O'Neill sharply cut him off, not caring that he was addressing a superior officer. "She didn't just feel the injury, she WAS injured."
The General was at a loss for words. There was a long silence before he could think of something, anything, to say. "You and Teal'c head to the infirmary and get yourselves checked out. The debriefing can wait until we've received some word on Major Carter and Dr. Jackson. Dismissed."
Several hours passed before an exhausted Dr. Fraiser exited the operating suite and was confronted by the worried faces of Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c.
"They're going to be fine," Janet reassured the anxious team members. "I want to thank you for bring Ochsner's research on the devices back with you. It gave us an idea of what to expect and saved us from panicking and possibly making a wrong decision during the surgery."
"To what are you referring, Dr. Fraiser?" Teal'c asked with guarded curiosity.
"The research papers indicated that the removal process must be done in the exact same manner at the exact same time," the doctor informed them. "In addition, we found that only three fibers were directly connected to the discs, all others led into them. As soon as we severed the first one, the devices activated and sent a strong signal along the remaining fibers. The result was dramatically increased blood pressure, erratic heart rate, and seizures."
Seeing the blood drain from O'Neill's face, Fraiser quickly attempted to put his fears to rest. "Thanks to the research papers you were able to bring back for me, we were expecting this and simply severed the remaining two fibers as quickly as possible. Had we not been expecting those things to happen, we might have panicked and reattached the first fiber. The result would have been bad."
"Bad?" O'Neill questioned, seemingly in a daze.
"Bad," the doctor reiterated. "It would have killed them."
O'Neill's legs turned to jell-o and he was forced to sit down before he fell down. He covered his face with trembling hands, rested his elbows on his knees, and repeatedly thanked any god that might be listening.
If Ochsner's research had not been out in the open like that... If he hadn't remembered Janet's request for him to return with any information possible... If he hadn't taken the extra few seconds to pick those papers up...
Jack ended that line of thinking when he realized that Janet was still speaking and had said something about his friends' other injuries. "The injury from the energy weapon," he interrupted. "Daniel was the one who was shot, but Carter was injured as well. What's with that?"
"As near as I can tell, it was a manifestation of the injuries perceived by Sam's mind."
"Are you telling me that you think it's all in her head?" Jack demanded in shocked outrage.
"No, sir," Fraiser responded, surprised that he could think she would even suggest such a thing. "It's closer to the idea of mind over matter. The human brain is an amazing tool, capable of unimaginable things. Combined with and enhanced by the alien technology, her brain sent signals to her body that it should be injured and her body responded. It worked the same way with Daniel."
O'Neill's eyes snapped back to the doctor from where they had inadvertently wandered to the operating suite door. "What do you mean?" he questioned.
"Not all of the injuries were originally Daniel's," Janet calmly explained. "The latest of Ochsner's notes indicated that he had just learned of this new development by striking Sam and accidentally cutting her cheek with his ring. He then noticed an identical injury appear on Daniel. I believe he was experimenting with this - on both of them - when you interrupted."
Jack let out the breath he had been holding. "They're going to be alright."
Janet was unsure if it was a question or a statement, but answered as if it were the former. "They're going to be fine. In time, all of their injuries will heal."
"When may we see them?" Teal'c asked.
"They'll be in recovery for a couple of hours. Once they're out you'll be able see them."
The Colonel and Teal'c thanked the doctor. Jack decided to take the opportunity to grab a shower, a fresh change of clothing, and a bite to eat. Hopefully, by the time he returned, he would be allowed to see his friends. Once granted admittance, he would not be leaving their sides until he heard from their own mouths that they would recover.
Sam awoke slowly, feeling groggy and disoriented. She had no desire to open her eyes this time only to find herself staring at the spinning red stone ceiling, so she kept them squeezed tightly shut. She attempted to roll onto her side, but groaned in despair when her aching muscles refused to comply with her demands.
"Sam, can you hear me? Everything is fine."
It took a few moments for the inconsistencies to register with Sam's muddled mind. She was lying on a soft bed and the voice that addressed her didn't belong to Daniel. In fact, the voice was decidedly feminine.
Despite better judgment and an even greater desire to return to sleep, Sam slowly pried her eyes open and was greeted by warm brown eyes that were set into the round face of Dr. Janet Fraiser.
"Glad to have you back with us, Sam," the Doctor said with a smile.
Sam drowsily returned a slight grin. As heavy eyelids slowly lowered and sleep began to overtake her, she suddenly realized that something was missing. She could no longer feel Daniel's strong, reassuring presence. "Daniel!" Sam's eyes shot open and she began to struggle to rise.
Janet was able to easily restrain the major and push her back into the bed. "Sam, I need you to relax. Just lie back and try to get some sleep, okay? Everything is going to be fine."
"He's dead, isn't he?" Sam questioned while trying to hold back a sob. She looked pleadingly at the doctor through tear-blurred eyes. "I can't feel him anymore. He's gone." She closed her eyes and allowed silent tears to fall.
"Sam." The Colonel's voice sounded from her other side and a calloused hand gently wiped her tears away. "Daniel is right here. He's fine."
Sam reluctantly reopened her eyes and looked disbelievingly towards her CO who simply took a step to the side to offer her an unobstructed view of the next bed. Upon that bed rested a bruised, battered, yet undeniably alive Daniel Jackson.
"Dr. Warner and I were able to operate to remove the discs and then repair your injuries..."
Dr. Fraiser continued on to explain exactly what had happened since their return, but Sam heard none of it. She heaved a great sigh of relief and closed her eyes. The meager amount of adrenalin that had kept her awake until that moment fled from her system and Sam surrendered to a deep, healing sleep.
After two weeks, Sam and Daniel were released to half days of light desk duty. Active field duty would be at least another month away.
On their first day back to work, Sam entered Daniel's office and found him at his desk, poring over the information they had gathered on the Kolean temple. She stopped just inside the door and simply watched him work, idly wondering how long it would be before he noticed her presence.
Not long, apparently.
Sam cleared the pile of books from a chair and sat down beside him. "Hey, Daniel. How's the translation coming?"
Daniel sighed and leaned back in his chair, wincing slightly as his still-healing wounds protested the sudden movement. He removed his glasses and rubbed a weary hand across his stinging eyes before returning the frames to their proper place. "Not very well," he finally answered. "The Koleans aren't having any better luck with it than I am. It's a dead language and I'm afraid it's going to remain that way."
"Oh, sorry to hear that."
The two friends sat in awkward silence. Despite the communications break-through on the planet, neither had spoken of their ordeal since waking in the infirmary.
Sam was the first to finally speak. "I miss you, you know."
"Aw, come on, Sam. We just spent a week in side-by-side beds in the infirmary and we've seen each other every day since we've been released," Daniel weekly protested, though he was unable to meet Sam's eyes.
"That's not what I meant and you know it, Daniel." Sam reached across to gently take his hand in her own.
"I know." Daniel returned a slight pressure to the hand holding his before finally looking up and locking eyes with his friend. "I just find it strange to miss the connection so much, considering that we had it for only a couple of days and its sole intention was to cause harm."
"I got a lot more than that from the link," Sam softly stated. "It transmitted the calming effect that you always have over me, a sense of security, and as long as I could feel you here," Sam used her index finger to lightly tap her temple, "I knew there was hope."
"It helped me to feel that I was never alone," Daniel continued for her. "I could feel your strength and determination that we would get through everything okay." He sighed again. "Janet told me that we might feel a sense of loss and even slight depression. I guess she was right."
"But you know that you can always talk to me about it, right?" Sam questioned with an edge of urgency in her voice. She wanted, no needed him to understand that she would be there for him. "You can come to me, Teal'c, or Jack to talk about anything."
"I know, and the same goes for all of you," Daniel answered. He understood exactly what she meant and it heartened him to realize the offer was made in earnest.
The two friends shared a moment of warm companionship.
"Hmmm?" he asked, treating her to one of his rare, sincere, glowing smiles.
"This open line of communication is also meant to include you telling us of any injury, no matter how minor. For example, should you, oh, I don't know, um, sprain your ankle, you should tell someone," Sam teased.
"Oh, now don't you start on that one," Daniel protested with a laugh. "You, of all people, should know that it was an extremely minor sprain. Janet probably wouldn't have even wrapped it. She would have given me some anti-inflammatory pills and told me to take it easy - both of which I was already doing. Thanks to some blonde Air Force Major, who shall remain nameless," he pinned her with a lighthearted glare, "I was treated to an hour-long lecture from Janet in full doctor mode." Daniel gave a mock shiver. "The horror!"
Sam's playful retort was preempted by approaching footsteps.
"Hey, kids," Colonel O'Neill called as he entered the office.
"Hey," both Daniel and Sam responded.
"It's 1200 hours and both of you are officially off duty until tomorrow morning," O'Neill declared in his best radio announcer's voice. "Why don't the two of you join Teal'c and me for lunch and then I'll drive you each home?"
"Sounds great," they chorused.
The Colonel gave them a funny look. "Okay, you guys are going to have to cut that out."
"Cut what out?" they questioned simultaneously.
"That, right there!" O'Neill waved his hands and shouted as frustration and annoyance began to overtake him.
"What are you talking about?" Sam and Daniel asked in unison.
"Oh, for crying out loud! Teal'c and I will be in the commissary. Come on down when the two of you are finished devising new ways to make my hair go totally gray...what little of it I don't wind up pulling out from aggravation, that is." With that, Jack turned on his heel and marched out of the room, still murmuring something under his breath about aging Colonels and mutinous subordinates.
Sam and Daniel turned to face each other. "Was it something we said?" they questioned before dissolving into a fit of giggles.