Sergeant Walter Harriman paused outside the General's office with his hand poised to knock. This would be his last opportunity to back out. He lowered his hand and took a step back, as if deciding to do just that, when his inner voice stopped him. This was the first time such an opportunity had arisen in his years with the SGC. When would he ever have the chance to do this again?
Having finally made a firm decision, Harriman raised his fist once again to knock on his commanding officer's closed door. He was caught off guard when the door opened before he was able to make contact and the General emerged.
General George Hammond had to stop abruptly to avoid running into an obviously nervous Sgt. Harriman, who quickly snapped to attention. "Sergeant." The General acknowledged the formality with a nod of his head. "I was just on my way out. Did you need to speak to me about something?"
"Oh, General, sir, uh..." Harriman stumbled over his words. "If you need to get going, I could, uh..." His voice trailed off as he gestured over his shoulder in the general direction of his regular duty station in the control room, indicating that he would return to his assigned tasks.
"No, not at all, Sergeant. Things are just so calm around here for once that I decided to cut out early to play a little golf. It's nothing so important that I can't spare a few minutes for one of my men. Please, come in." The General motioned for him to enter the office and take a seat. He then settled himself into his own chair and folded his arms on the desk. "Now, what can I do for you?"
Once again, Harriman found himself grateful for having a commanding officer who was more concerned for his people than bureaucratic red tape or military protocol. Through the years, he had become very comfortable with Hammond, stopping just short of calling the superior officer by his first name. While this style of leadership was not a favorite of the Air Force, it was extremely effective at the SGC. There wasn't a man or woman on base who wouldn't crawl to Hell and back on their knees if the General asked it of them.
"Well, General," Harriman began, his courage and confidence returning. "I'd like permission to accompany SG-1 when they return to PCX1100 tomorrow."
Two weeks earlier, SG-1 had visited the planet on the far side of the galaxy. It was one for which the coordinates had been downloaded into the SGC computer when Colonel O'Neill possessed the knowledge of the Ancients. The planet appeared deserted but there were old abandoned shelters a few miles from the stargate. Dr. Jackson had found some scrolls in one of the shelters that, once translated, told the story of a small group of human slaves rescued from the Goa'uld by a 'magical force'. The scrolls described the slaves being enveloped by a strange while light and suddenly finding themselves standing on this new planet.
The last entry found in the scrolls spoke of the slaves awaiting their Master's arrival. There was no evidence that the Goa'uld ever came for them. The people seemingly just vanished. Jackson and Carter had speculated that the 'magical force' was the Asgard and perhaps that they had returned to take the former slaves to another world.
While PCX1100 had nothing to offer from a technological or cultural standpoint, preliminary soil samples showed an abundance of Naquadah and other minerals highly coveted by Earth and its allies, as well as a strange, unknown substance. SG-1 would be returning the next day to take more soil samples.
The days on PCX1100 were much shorter than on Earth, lasting only about 18 hours. While SG-1 would be spending over two days on the planet, they would return to Earth after only 38 hours.
General Hammond sat back in his chair, steepled his fingers, and contemplated the younger man sitting before him. He had been expecting such a request from Sergeant Harriman for some time now. It was no secret that the sergeant hoped to someday travel through the 'gate. It was also no secret that he still had the infamous O'Neill/Jackson Kleenex box in his on-base quarters.
Harriman, a 42 year old technical sergeant, wasn't someone he would normally place on an active team, but each member of the SGC was hand-picked and well trained to travel through the 'gate should the need arise. Even the General himself had been through the 'gate, and he was glad to have the experience under his belt. If the opportunity presented itself, he saw no reason to deny any member of his staff the same experience.
"Have you spoken to Colonel O'Neill about this?" he asked.
"No, Sir," Harriman responded. "I felt it best to come to you first."
There was a short tension-filled pause before the General spoke again. "Very well, Sergeant, permission granted. I'll inform the Colonel. I'm sure he won't have a problem with you accompanying them on this mission. Briefing is at 0400 sharp." With that, the General stood, indicating the meeting was over.
Harriman stood as well, a large smile spreading across his face. "Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir." The man was so excited he almost skipped out of the office.
The briefing passed quickly, taking less than 15 minutes to fill Harriman in on the lay-out of the area around the 'gate on PCX1100 and to review the information from the latest UAV that had been launched an hour earlier.
After being dismissed, the newly expanded team gathered their gear and made their way to the embarkation room. They entered the room just as the wormhole engaged and the MALP disappeared through the event horizon.
"MALP readings show the area is secure," the general announced over the intercom from the control room. "SG-1, you have a go."
"Yes, Sir," O'Neill responded to the General. He then turned to face his team. "Alright, kids, let's head out so Carter and Daniel can find more dirt and rocks to play with."
The major and Daniel corrected him simultaneously.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," the Colonel groused.
Teal'c was first to enter the event horizon, followed closely by Major Carter and Dr. Jackson.
Harriman stopped at the top of the ramp and raised a hand to run it along the liquid blue surface of the ring. It felt very similar to the water it resembled, but with the tingling of a slight electrical charge.
"It's a bit different from being on the other side of the control room glass, isn't it, Sergeant?" O'Neill remarked as he walked up the ramp to stand beside the other man.
"Most definitely," Harriman whispered, awestruck. "This is amazing!"
"Well, Harriman, welcome to our world." With that, O'Neill laid a hand on the Sergeant's back and gently pushed him through.
Traveling through the wormhole was like nothing Sgt. Harriman had ever experienced before. Like a roller coaster ride, it was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Deafening sounds and a dizzying display of lights surrounded him as he was hurled through space towards his destination. The journey seemed agonizingly long yet incredibly short all at once.
After what was actually only a matter of seconds, Harriman found himself on the new planet. His eyes were wide with the shock of 'gate travel, but he was unable to see his new surroundings through the ice that had formed on the lenses of his glasses. Icy tremors coursed through his body and he found himself literally frozen to the spot.
'I will not throw up. I will not throw up. I will not throw up.' The words repeated over and over in his mind like a mantra, as if saying the phrase often enough would quiet his rebellious stomach.
Following standard operating procedure, Colonel Jack O'Neill, Major Samantha Carter, and Teal'c spread out to do a visual sweep of the area immediately surrounding the stargate.
After checking the DHD, Daniel noticed Sgt. Harriman' stunned reaction to the trip and approached him. He removed the other man's glasses and cleaned the rapidly melting ice from them with a Kleenex he had retrieved from his own pocket.
"I'm sorry," the younger man began with a small smile on his face as he replaced the lenses on the bridge of Harriman' nose and took a step back to study them with a critical eye. Satisfied that they were indeed straight, he continued. "I should have told you that it's better if you close your eyes while in the wormhole. You don't get quite so overwhelmed and disoriented."
"Yes, th-thank you, Dr. Jackson. I-I'll try to remember that." Harriman responded as he was finally able to pull himself out of his daze.
"Also, if you check your pockets, I'm sure Supply packed some anti-fog for you." Daniel demonstrated by reaching into one of the many pockets on the front of his vest and pulling out a small bottle of clear liquid. "Jack suggested it after I ran into him a few too many times because I couldn't see clearly."
Harriman broke into a smile as he pulled an identical bottle from his own vest pocket. "I was just wondering how you dealt with that."
The archaeologist made an exaggerated show of swinging his head around as if checking to see that no one was near, then he leaned towards the other man and lowered his voice to a mock whisper. "You would be amazed by what you can find in these pockets. I have to wonder what Supply thinks we do on missions."
Harriman joined in the joke. "Well, I once heard a rumor..." The two men turned to face the Colonel as the team leader's voice interrupted their conversation.
"Okay, kids, Carter wants to head towards those hills to take her samples." O'Neill gestured with a sweep of his right arm to the rocky hills that were just barely visible from their current location. "It's mid-day here, so if we maintain a steady pace, we should be able to reach our destination and make camp before dark. Carter can pick up her dirt tomorrow and we can be back home in time to catch the Avalanche game on TV."
Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack's mention of watching the hockey game on TV. Everyone knew that some events, ice hockey among them, were much better viewed in person. He smiled to himself as the team headed out across the grassy plain. Little did the others know that, before leaving on this mission, Daniel had purchased tickets to the game for everyone on the team. He had also made sure to get three extra tickets for Harriman, General Hammond, and Janet.
Approximately one hour before they estimated the twin suns would set, SG-1 reached their destination. Once again, with little more than a nod or a slight hand movement from the Colonel, each team member spread out in a different direction to secure the area.
"Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c's deep bass voice boomed from his location to the Colonel's left. "I believe I have found an appropriate location to set up base camp."
The rest of the team joined the big Jaffa and saw that he had indeed found the perfect spot. The area was protected on two sides by the steep rocky hills. The ground was slightly elevated, which provided an excellent extended view in the other two directions. The stargate was barely visible in the fading light, but it would be easily seen if it were activated during the night. A short distance away, a grove of trees lined a small fresh-water pond.
The Colonel gave his approval and, with the ease born from years of working closely together, SG-1 set up camp. Harriman assisted the Colonel and Daniel with clearing rocks and sticks from the area, gathering wood, and spreading out the bedrolls. Teal'c started the fire, and Carter gathered the equipment to prepare their MRE dinner.
Sunset found the team sitting around the fire eating the MREs. Daniel noticed Harriman giving his a meal a curious look following his first bite.
"Is something wrong, Sgt. Harriman?" he questioned.
"Well," Harriman began, picking up another spoonful of his meal to examine it more closely. "This is supposed to be beef stew."
"But..." Daniel prompted. The young man tried, and failed, to keep an innocent expression on his face.
"It tastes like chicken."
Daniel finally allowed the smile to spread across his face as he began to laugh softly. Jack and Sam, having overheard the conversation, were also laughing. Even the normally stoic Teal'c was smiling.
Harriman was confused by his companions' reaction. "What's so funny?"
"It's a running joke with us. Daniel and the Colonel started it during their first trip to Abydos," Sam responded after she had regained her composure.
The team members finished their meals while telling Harriman some of the mission stories that didn't appear in any of the official reports.
"Okay kids, that's enough bed-time stories. It's time to turn in," Colonel O'Neill interrupted when he realized Daniel was about to retell one of Jack's more embarrassing moments. After all, the Sergeant didn't need to know exactly how he had found the equivalent to poison ivy on P3X141. "Harriman, I know this is your first trip off-world. Feel comfortable with taking a turn at watch?"
"Alright, Daniel, you take first watch. I'll relieve you in about two hours. Harriman, you're after me."
With the assignments made, Harriman and three members of SG-1 retired to their sleeping bags.
Approximately three and a half hours later, Harriman awoke. He fumbled for his glasses in the pack beside him. Putting them on, he glanced at the lightly glowing face of his watch. Only 30 minutes until he was due for watch.
Colonel O'Neill was just finishing a perimeter check when he noticed movement near the fire. He raised his weapon but quickly lowered it again when he realized it was the Sergeant.
"Harriman," the Colonel said in greeting as he returned and added more wood to the fire.
"Colonel," Harriman returned the greeting. "I woke up a little early and figured there was no sense in going back to sleep. I thought I'd offer to take watch now."
"You know, I think I'm going to let you do just that. I was up a little early myself. Just follow normal procedure. Keep the fire going, perimeter checks every 15 minutes, and alert us if something happens." The Colonel paused for a moment, looking over his shoulder at his sleeping teammates, and then continued in a hushed voice, "We also like to keep a pot of strong coffee on the fire. It usually comes in handy." Having said that, he clapped a hand on Harriman' shoulder and turned in.
Approximately 90 minutes into his watch, Harriman heard one of SG-1 stir and a soft male voice floated towards him. He assumed the person would soon still again, so he ignored the sounds. Suddenly the voice became louder, more urgent.
"No...listen to me...Ma'chello..."
The Sergeant suspected that the voice belonged to Dr. Jackson and his suspicions were confirmed when the language changed to the distinct broken tones of Goa'uld, then to the softer Abydonian language, finally returning to English. The young man was obviously having a nightmare, and from what little Harriman could hear, he was dreaming about his recent incarceration in Mental Health.
SG-1's encounter with Ma'chello's Goa'uld killing invention had begun nearly a month ago, but no one at the SGC would soon forget it. It had been hard for everyone to watch the brilliant young man with three PhDs to his name seemingly go insane in a matter of a few days. Once the true cause had been identified and defeated, Daniel had still had the physical side effects from the drugs given to him to deal with.
The emotional fall-out, however, was the worst. Each member of SG-1, Drs Fraiser and Mackenzie, and even the General had their own personal guilt to deal with. Even now, there was a slight tension in the air, especially between Daniel and Drs Fraiser and Mackenzie.
Harriman was pulled from his thoughts as the voice once again increased in volume and the distraught archaeologist began to thrash about in his sleeping bag. Unsure of what to do, but unwilling to leave the younger man to his nightmares, Harriman began to make his way to where the others slept. He halted in his tracks when he saw that Colonel O'Neill was already kneeling at Jackson's side, speaking to him in soft, reassuring tones.
The Sergeant returned to his post and watched as Daniel bolted upright only to be caught and steadied by O'Neill. The two men spoke quietly to each other for a few minutes before Daniel ran his hands through his tousled sandy hair, got up, and began to make his way towards the fire. Harriman now understood the Colonel's puzzling comment about the coffee and had a cup of the bitter brew ready when Daniel sat next to him by the fire.
"Thank you," Daniel replied automatically as he was handed the tin cup.
Harriman glanced in the direction of the remaining team members and was not surprised to see that they were all awake. Teal'c was still in his traditional Kel'no'reem position, but his eyes were open, Major Carter was trying to feign sleep, but she kept turning her head to look in their direction, the Colonel was still sitting up on his bedroll. He caught Harriman' eyes and nodded as if silently telling the Sergeant that it was his job to take Daniel's mind off his nightmare. Harriman nodded back and the Colonel lay down. He got the distinct impression that no one would be returning to sleep until Daniel did.
Both men sat in silence by the fire for a long time. Harriman didn't know what, if anything, to say, and Daniel wasn't offering any clues.
"You know," Daniel finally broke the silence and gestured to the sky with his coffee cup. "That's one thing you never get used to."
Harriman looked to the night sky, half expecting to see little green men in flying saucers, but he found nothing. "What do you mean, Dr. Jackson?"
Harriman nodded in acknowledgement.
"The constellations," the young man answered. "They're different on every planet. Sometimes you can identify a couple of them, but usually they're so distorted by the planet's position in them that it's impossible to pinpoint anything."
Something in the night sky caught the Sergeant's attention. Pointing to a cluster of stars he asked, "Is that Orion?"
Daniel set his now empty cup on the ground beside the rest of their gear and looked to where the other man was pointing. The pattern was easy to distinguish. "Yeah, it sure is."
"Wow! It's backwards!"
"If you think that's strange, just wait until the other four moons rise in about an hour." Major Carter's soft voice brought the men away from their stargazing. She walked around the fire to stand next to Daniel, reached down and tapped him on the shoulder, and then jerked her thumb in the direction of his sleeping bag.
"Yes, Ma'am." The archaeologist brought his right hand up to execute a perfect military salute. He then stood and made his way back to his temporary sleeping quarters.
Harriman caught a glimpse of a sorrowful look on the blonde Major's face as she watched the young man settle back into a comfortable sleeping position. The look quickly disappeared and was replaced with a neutral expression as she returned to the business at hand.
"Let's do a quick walk of the perimeter and then you can turn in."
Dawn brought the reappearance of the twin suns. The team made quick work of breakfast and then broke camp. No mention was made of Daniel's restless night.
"Here's the plan," O'Neill began as he shouldered his pack. "Carter, you and I will head to the East. Teal'c, Daniel, and Harriman, you head towards the West. Check in every 30 minutes. Soil samples are the priority, but if anyone sees any further signs of civilization, contact the others immediately. Do not attempt to investigate on your own...Daniel, this means you." He pinned his friend with a glare that promised dire consequences if he so much as approached a local spider to step on it. "We'll meet back here in five hours and head for the gate. I want to be at least half way there before we have to stop to make camp again. Any questions? No? Well then, let's head out."
The group divided into the assigned teams and departed in their respective directions.
The morning passed quickly. Harriman had just finished packing away a small glass vial with the last soil sample and Teal'c had just contacted the Colonel to inform him that they would soon be returning to the rendezvous point when they heard Daniel calling out to them. His voice sounded strange and far away. Teal'c and Harriman visually swept the area, but were unable to see the errant archaeologist. After several minutes of calling to each other, they were finally able to track his voice to a particularly dense cluster of rocks and brush. Almost hidden amongst the foliage was a cave entrance.
"Teal'c, Harriman! You've got to see this!" Daniel's excited voice urged from inside the cave. The two men turned on the flashlights hanging from their vests and entered the cave cautiously. They followed the walls of the narrow cave for a short distance until it opened up to a large room. As soon as they entered the room both men halted abruptly, their eyes growing wide with the shock of the sight before them.
"What the...?" Harriman was at a loss for words. The room was glowing! On every wall, the floor, and even the ceiling, rocks of all shapes and sizes were emanating a soft yellow light. The sheer number of the glowing rocks made the room as bright as day. Harriman realized that his flashlight was superfluous and followed Teal'c's lead in turning it off.
"Isn't this amazing?" Daniel remarked as he walked up to stand beside the other men. He was holding a baseball-sized piece of the glowing rock, studying it, and turning it over and over in his hands to view it from all possible angles. He began to theorize, speaking rapidly to no one in particular. "I wonder what causes them to glow. Is it some sort of chemical reaction? What kind of energy do they produce? Perhaps this could be used as an alternate clean energy source. We need to have Sam take a look..."
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c's voice was firm as he interrupted. "This may indeed be an important find, however, it was most unwise to enter this cave without first informing me."
The archaeologist had the decency to look duly chastised. "I'm sorry, Teal'c." Try as he might, however, he was unable to keep the smile from returning to his face.
"There was no harm inflicted due to this incident. Please refrain from such impulsive actions in the future. I do not wish to have to inform Colonel O'Neill that your actions caused you to purchase rural crop land."
"Uh, that's 'bought the farm'." Daniel corrected, a confused look creasing his brow. Was that a joke? From Teal'c?
The indulgent smile that replaced the Jaffa's stern expression went unnoticed by Daniel as he and Harriman returned to examining the strange glowing rocks. "I will radio Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter. They will wish to examine your discovery."
"I already tried that," Daniel interjected as Teal'c's attempts to contact their teammates failed. He waved a hand in the air. "Something in here must be blocking the signal."
"Indeed. I will return to the cave entrance to contact them." Teal'c turned and began to retrace his steps. After only a few steps he stopped and called over his shoulder. "Daniel Jackson, do not touch anything."
At first Harriman assumed this was another of Teal'c's attempts at humor. Everyone at the SGC knew of Daniel's tendency to focus more on any object that caught his eye than on his own safety. Many times this blind ambition would cause harm to one or more of the team. The look the Sergeant received from Teal'c before the large man resumed his journey to the cave entrance assured him that it was no joke and it was up to him to see that this order was carried out to the letter or he would suffer the consequences. No one in his right mind would want to suffer the wrath of Teal'c if they allowed harm to come to one of his friends, especially if that friend was Daniel.
It was easy to see for anyone who took the time to look, that Teal'c's natural desire to protect his new allies raised a notch when dealing with the young scientist. Many might assume that this overprotective streak was due to the fact that Daniel was the only non-military member of SG-1. Harriman speculated that the real reason had more to do the Teal'c's involvement in the kidnapping and subsequent Goa'uld possession of Daniel's wife and brother-in-law.
Harriman was pulled from his thoughts by a sudden sound coming from the back of the room. "Do you hear that?" he questioned, but Daniel had obviously heard the noise and was already searching the area to isolate its origin. "Dr. Jackson...Daniel, perhaps we should wait until Teal'c..." He was cut off mid-sentence as Daniel raised a finger to his lips for quiet.
They were nearly at the back wall of the room and the sounds had become slightly louder. They sounded like metal impacting rock. Some sort of mining operation perhaps? But the MALP and UAV had shown no signs of life on the planet and there was no other exit from this room. Who or what could possibly be making those noises and where could they or it be?
Neither man had the chance to even venture a guess at the possibilities before the sound of a muffled explosion reached their ears and the entire area began to shake. Dust and small rocks rained down on them from above. They both threw their arms over their heads and made a futile attempt to reach the cave entrance. It was too late, however, and the last thing either man noticed before being engulfed by darkness was the floor giving away beneath them and the sensation of falling.
Teal'c had just finished informing Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter of their find when he heard the explosion and felt the ground move beneath his feet. He was unable to maintain his balance and fell forward down a small incline and landed in an undignified heap. He quickly righted himself and rushed to the mouth of the cave, immediately choking on the thick dust that had yet to settle. It eliminated any chance of seeing into the room he assumed his friends still occupied.
"Daniel Jackson! Sgt. Harriman! Can you hear me?" Teal'c received no answer. The nearly overwhelming desire to rush into the cave to aid his comrades was halted by the knowledge that the radio did not work inside. He had to notify his team leader of the situation.
"Colonel O'Neill, please respond."
O'Neill and Carter had found very little of interest to them in their chosen direction, so they had made quick work of gathering their samples and then decided to join up with the rest of their team. They had already passed the previous night's campsite and were following the path the others had taken when they received Teal'c's initial message about the cave Daniel had found. The directions the Colonel received indicated that the others were less than half a mile ahead of them.
Jack and Sam were forced to stop and grab onto near by trees to steady themselves when the ground beneath them began to shake but the intense tremors lasted only a few seconds. The Colonel caught his 2IC's gaze and saw his own concern reflected back in her blue eyes. Without exchanging a word, the two air force officers resumed their journey towards the rest of their team at a dead run.
"Colonel O'Neill, please respond." The radio in Jack's ear crackled to life. He could clearly hear the sense of urgency in Teal'c's voice.
"O'Neill here. What happened?" he said into the radio, never slowing his pace.
"I am unsure at this time. There appears to have been an explosion from somewhere within the cave Daniel Jackson and Sgt. Harriman were exploring."
"Are they alright?"
"I have yet to enter the cave as the radio will not work from within. Neither Daniel Jackson nor Sgt. Harriman has answered my calls."
"We'll be there in two minutes. Assess the situation, but be careful! O'Neill out." The knowledge that members of his team could be injured caused Jack's worry to increase ten fold and he urged his legs to move faster. 'God, Danny. What did you touch this time?' he thought as he ran.
True to his word, almost exactly two minutes later, the Colonel ran up to the entrance of the cave, with Carter close behind him. They took no time to catch their breath before they stepped cautiously inside.
"Teal'c?" the Colonel called, his voice barely above a whisper in the fear that too much noise might cause the walls to collapse in on them.
"Here, O'Neill." Teal'c's voice was not much louder.
O'Neill and Carter made their way to the Jaffa's side just as he was attempting to clear the last piece of rubble that had partially blocked the entrance to the larger room.
"Have you heard anything from Daniel or the Sergeant yet, Teal'c?" Sam questioned, still slightly out of breath from her run.
"I have not." Teal'c's voice was strained as he struggled unsuccessfully to move a large boulder. The other two immediately joined him in his efforts but they were still only able to move the boulder a short distance. Fortunately, it was enough for them to pass the obstacle and enter the room beyond.
"Oh my God." Sam was completely frozen to the spot after seeing what was in front of her. Normally, she would have instantly been drawn into unraveling the secrets of the strange glowing rocks, but now she was focused on the distinct lack of the men she expected to find and the very large hole in the center of the floor.
"Crap." O'Neill brushed past Carter and made his way to the hole, carefully trying to avoid causing it to collapse further, potentially burying their missing comrades. He lay down flat on his stomach and inched forward until he was able to peer over the edge. Some of the strange rocks had fallen into the pit, which was nearly 30 feet deep. They provided just enough light to make out that there were two bodies at the bottom, but he was unable to tell what condition they were in.
Jack took a few deep breaths to regain control of himself and ease the tightness that had settled in his chest before speaking. "Get me a spotlight."
The Colonel heard all the questions implied in that simple one-syllable word. Unfortunately, he only had the answer to one. He locked eyes with Carter as she handed him the flashlight. "They're down there, Major. That's all I know right now."
Sam nodded, subconsciously chewing on her bottom lip, as she positioned herself on the ground next to her CO, her own flashlight clutched tightly in her slightly trembling hand. After they had each taken a couple more deep breaths, Jack and Sam shined their lights into the hole to learn the fate of their teammates and friends.
The first body the lights landed on was that of Sgt. Harriman. They were gratified to see him turn his head to the side and raise a hand over his eyes in a feeble attempt to escape the harsh light. His only obvious signs of injury were a large cut on his cheek and the unnatural angle of his other arm, which told them it was broken. There was, of course, the danger of internal injuries.
"Sergeant, can you hear me?" the Colonel called to the man but received only a low moan in return. Suddenly the Sergeant began to shift position.
"Walter! Walter, listen to me. Don't try to move, okay? We'll be down there in a few minutes." While it was reassuring that he was alive, Sam knew he could cause further harm to himself if he moved too much with internal injuries. Harriman seemed to understand her and became still once again.
Sam kept her light on Harriman while Jack moved his to where Daniel lay a few feet to the left. His heart caught in his throat as he finally got a clear view of his friend. Daniel was lying slightly on his left side, propped up by a large rock positioned half way down his back.
Jack had just began to consider the possibilities of a spinal cord injury when his attention was drawn to a line of blood coming from a large gash on Daniel's right temple. Dust had mingled with the blood to change the hair around the wound from its normal light brown to a deep reddish-black. The majority of the right side of Daniel's face was covered in blood and it had run across his forehead, leaving gruesome red trails on its way to form a pool on the ground beneath his head.
"Daniel? Danny, are you with us here, buddy?"
"I can't see if he's breathing, sir." Jack could hear the slight quiver in Sam's voice as she fought to keep control of her emotions.
"He-he's alive, s-sir." Harriman' breathless voice helped alleviate the immediate fear that Daniel might be dead.
"Sit tight, Harriman," the Colonel instructed. "We'll be right there." He pulled back from the edge to tell Teal'c to prepare the climbing gear but quickly realized that the equipment had already been set up. He thanked Teal'c and they all prepared to lower themselves into the pit. Each was lost in their own worry of what else they might find wrong with their injured teammates.
Harriman awoke as he was caught in a blinding light that cut a fiery path through his tightly closed eyelids and straight into his brain. It proved surprisingly difficult to complete the simple task of moving his head to the side. The only thing the action accomplished was to increase the already indescribable headache that threatened to tear his skull apart.
An involuntary moan escaped his lips and he raised his right hand to further shield his eyes from the invading light. He would have used both hands, but something seemed to be wrong with his left arm.
Harriman heard a voice calling to him from somewhere above him. Above him? What was going on? Where was he? A sudden flood of memories assaulted him. He was in a cave. There was an explosion. The floor...Dr. Jackson!
The Sergeant's eyes suddenly snapped open and he tried to raise himself up in the hopes of finding the young man who had been with him. He instantly regretted it as his entire body protested the action and his head swam.
Another voice somehow reached him over the sound of his own blood roaring through his ears. It was Major Carter, but what was she saying? Don't move? He could do that. In fact, it was probably about the only thing he was capable of doing at that point.
Harriman settled back down and decided to use the opportunity to take a mental inventory. Actually, he didn't feel all that bad considering what had happened and the fact that he probably should have been dead.
He had had enough broken bones in his 42 years to realize that was what was wrong with his left arm. His whole body ached in general, but his remaining limbs seemed to respond correctly to his commands, and he could take a deep breath with only minimal discomfort to his ribs. He could feel a multitude of cuts and bruises everywhere on his body and he felt like someone was using a jackhammer on his brain. Concussion? Oh yeah. He was quite familiar with those as well. All in all, he considered himself very lucky.
The harsh light that had been assaulting his eyes suddenly dimmed slightly, allowing his headache to recede just enough to take the unbearable edge off. The voices once again floated down from somewhere above him. This time they were not calling to him, however. They were calling to Daniel.
Harriman could hear the note of barely controlled panic as the Colonel called to his young friend. His eyes snapped open once again upon hearing the Major's comment about not being able to tell if Daniel was breathing.
Harriman bit back a cry as the light invaded his senses and his headache returned with a vengeance, but he forced his eyes to remain open. He saw a beam of light slicing through the semi-darkness and followed it to where it rested on the too-still archaeologist. Squinting to see with eyes now unaided by glasses, he could just make out the slight rise and fall of the other man's chest.
"He-he's alive, S-sir." Harriman put every ounce of strength he had into making his voice heard by the people so far above him.
"Sit tight, Harriman. We'll be right there." The relief was audible in the Colonel's voice.
Jack, Sam, and Teal'c lowered themselves to join the injured men as quickly as was safely possible. Teal'c went to the Sergeant's side and, after administering a healthy dose of pain medication, splinted his arm, cleaned and dressed some of his larger wounds, and helped him sit up, leaning against a near by wall.
"I'll be okay, Teal'c," Harriman gasped out, as he clutched his injured arm tightly to his chest. Even the act of moving that short distance left him breathing heavily and aggravated his wounds. "Go help them with Dr. Jackson." He laid his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
After assuring himself that Harriman was as comfortable as possible, Teal'c left him to join the others at their youngest team member's side.
Upon reaching the bottom of the pit, Jack and Sam had gone immediately to Daniel. Jack's first impulse was to move his friend away from the rock his back was propped against and into a more comfortable position. Fortunately, his limited medical training kicked in and he was able to restrain himself from doing that potentially harmful act. He turned hopeful brown eyes to his 2IC as she began a preliminary exam.
Starting at Daniel's head, Sam gently poked and prodded every inch of the man's body; wincing in sympathy each time she felt the bone give way at her touch.
As she was finishing the exam, Teal'c joined them. "Major Carter, Sgt. Harriman' wounds have been tended. He has a broken arm and concussion. All other injuries appear to be minor. What is the condition of Daniel Jackson?"
Sam took a deep breath and sat back on her heels. Her eyes never strayed from Daniel as she seemed to contemplate the question.
After several moments of tense silence, Jack could stand no more. "Major!" he snapped. A member of his team, a friend, was down, and he needed answers. He instantly regretted his harsh tone as Carter turned her eyes towards him and Jack saw they were full of unshed tears. His voice was much softer when he spoke again. "Sam, how is he?"
"Sir, I'm no doctor. My training in basic field medicine, though more thorough than yours or Teal'c's, doesn't even begin to cover something like this!"
"I know, Sam. It's okay. Just do your best."
Sam gave a grateful nod to her CO. "The cut on his forehead has already stopped bleeding and I'm sure he has a concussion, but I don't think he has a skull fracture. That's about the only good news."
"Go on." Jack encouraged when she paused once again.
"His pulse is weak and far too rapid. His breathing is shallow and I could feel a number of broken ribs. There's no telling how many are cracked. I couldn't feel any other obvious broken bones, but it's highly possible that there are some. Then, of course, there's his back." Sam sighed deeply and looked to the Colonel and Teal'c, a defeated expression on her face. "Sir, I just don't know. I recommend we immobilize him on a stretcher and get him out of here. We won't know of any other serious injuries until we either get him back to the SGC or he wakes up."
As if on cue, Daniel chose that moment to rejoin the land of the living. At the first sign of movement, his teammates were all at his side holding him still.
"Danny, can you hear me?" Jack held his breath waiting for a reply. He was discouraged to note the distinct lack of movement in the lower half of Daniel's body.
Daniel's weak struggles against the arms gently holding him finally ceased and a low moan escaped his lips.
Sam leaned in closer to Daniel from her position in front of him and cupped his face in her hands as she repeated the Colonel's question. "Daniel? Can you hear me?"
A slight nod and an affirmative sounding grunt answered the question.
"I need you to try to stay very still, okay?"
"...mmm...'kay." Had she not been leaning so close to Daniel, Sam would never have heard the whispered response.
"Can you tell me where it hurts?"
Daniel's lips curled into a slight smile, which quickly turned into a grimace. His eyelids fluttered open slightly and two pain-filled blue eyes locked with Sam's. "Ev'wh'r," he finally answered as he gave her another brief flash of the smile before his eyes slowly closed again.
"Okay, Daniel, I need to..."
"Danny! Can you feel your legs?" The Colonel interrupted Sam as his patience finally ran out.
"Jack?" Daniel's eyes snapped open again at the sound of his friend's voice. He did a visual sweep of the immediate area as best as he could from his horizontal position, until he finally spotted Jack leaning over him from behind his back.
"Right here, buddy." Jack gently ruffled the injured man's blood-stained hair.
"Sgt. Harriman! He was right next to me when... Where is he? Is he alright?" Adrenalin surged through his system and Daniel began to struggle again attempting to find the Sergeant, but was quickly and easily held back by the rest of the team.
"Dammit, Daniel! Lay still!"
"I'm right here, Dr. Jackson, and I'm fine...more or less." Harriman had managed to get to his feet and made his way over to join the others at Daniel's side. He appeared to be better than when Teal'c had left him, but the lines around his eyes and mouth showed that he was obviously still in pain, despite the medication. He was doing his best to hide that fact from Daniel.
O'Neill cast an appreciative look at Harriman before returning his attention to his young friend. "See, Daniel? Harriman is fine, Teal'c's fine, Carter's fine, and I'm fine. Everyone is fine! Now, will you please lay still and answer my question? Can you feel your legs?"
He punctuated each word of the question as if the emphasis could not only make Daniel give them the answer they wanted to hear, but also make that answer the truth.
Daniel took an inordinate amount of time to consider what should have been, in Jack's opinion, a simple yes or no answer. He was about to repeat the question again when the answer finally came.
"Uh, yeah. But, um..."
Another long pause and Jack's nerves were on edge. "But? But what? Come on, Danny, talk to me."
"Legs are...heavy. Hard to move..." The rest of Daniel's words changed to indecipherable mumbles as the adrenalin left his system as quickly as it arrived and he began to lose the battle for consciousness.
Once again Carter took control of the situation. "Daniel, I'm going to inject you with some morphine." Suiting actions to words, she pulled the syringe from the med kit, checked the dosage, and injected the medication into a vein. "Once the shock wears off, you're going to be hurting."
Sam cleaned away the blood and dressed the wound on Daniel's temple while the Colonel removed the lightweight, collapsible poles for the stretcher from Teal'c's pack and they began to snap them together.
By the time Sam was satisfied that the morphine had had adequate time to take full effect, the men had just finished tying the canvas to the assembled stretcher poles.
Sam and Jack gently rolled Daniel further on his side and held him while Teal'c moved the rock he had been propped against and appropriately positioned the stretcher. They then eased Daniel onto his back on the stretcher, being very careful not to twist or bend his back in any way, and secured him in place with safety straps across his chest, waist, thighs, and ankles.
Satisfied that Daniel wouldn't be able to move and possibly harm himself further, Jack stood and took a step back to assess the situation. He looked thoughtfully around his surroundings and then up towards the ragged edges of the gaping hole above them. The ropes they had used to climb down were still dangling over the edge.
Making his decision, he took a deep breath before addressing the others. "Okay kids, I know that there are tunnels down here," he pointed his flashlight beam towards one such tunnel to illustrate his point, "but it's too dark and we don't know where they lead. Unfortunately, I don't think we can spare the time right now to find out. I think our best bet would be to try to exit the same way we entered. What do you think, Teal'c?"
"I believe it would be possible to safely lift Daniel Jackson and Sgt. Harriman out of here if great care were to be used."
"Okay. Sergeant, do you think you'll be able to walk back to the stargate with a little help?"
"Yes, sir. I think I can manage that."
"Great. We'll just take it slow and steady. Teal'c, you climb up first and then you can lift Harriman out. I'll climb up next and you and I can bring Daniel up on the stretcher."
Hearing no objections to the plan, Teal'c quickly climbed back up the rope.
Colonel O'Neill was just beginning to secure Harriman into the climbing harness when he heard sounds coming from one the tunnels behind them. He whirled around and saw lights in the tunnel heading towards them.
The Colonel realized that there was no time for the rest of them to make their exit, so he quickly disconnected Harriman from the harness and silently signaled for Teal'c to pull up the ropes and hide himself.
The last of the climbing ropes had just disappeared over the edge of the hole and Jack had whirled around with his weapon drawn, when the first shadowy figure emerged from the tunnel, followed by two more.
The Colonel was spared the decision of whether they should try to talk with these beings or just zat them and get home ASAP as at least a dozen more figures, carrying primitive but lethal looking weapons, emerged from various tunnels and quickly surrounded the team.
The one Jack assumed was the leader of the group stepped closer. He appeared to be human, with short dark hair, angry black eyes, stern features, and a firm square jaw. His clothes were something O'Neill might have expected to see worn in an old western; simple brown pants, leather boots, and a white shirt with overly large buttons and short sleeves that were rolled up to reveal a considerable amount of muscle. 'Wild Bill', as O'Neill dubbed him, stood before them with his back ramrod straight and a weapon similar to a crossbow clenched tightly in his hands.
O'Neill still held onto a faint hope for a peaceful exit from the situation, until the other man signaled those with him to close in on the team by bellowing a single word.
From his position peering over the edge of the ledge high overhead, Teal'c watched as the alien group closed in on O'Neill and the rest of the team. He was as surprised as everyone else when the leader used the Goa'uld command.
He didn't feel his Goa'uld larva's unease that usually accompanied close proximity to another symbiote, so Teal'c doubted that these beings were either Goa'uld or Jaffa. Could these be the descendants of the freed slaves of whom Daniel Jackson had found evidence on their previous visit to PCX1100? Teal'c knew from experience that, despite their status as slaves, some were fiercely loyal to their 'Gods' and would not hesitate to injure or even kill anyone who voiced a negative opinion of the Goa'uld. His friends could be in serious danger.
"Now, hold it RIGHT there!" O'Neill's voice brought Teal'c's attention back to the scene unfolding below him. Two of the planet's inhabitants had moved as if to pick up the stretcher, which held the unconscious Daniel Jackson. The Colonel had quickly positioned himself between his fallen comrade and the advancing men.
Watching helplessly, Teal'c found it nearly impossible to restrain himself from taking action as the leader viciously backhand O'Neill, causing the Colonel to stumble backwards several steps, trying to maintain his balance. The other two men quickly forced Major Carter to her feet and away from the position she had occupied at Jackson's side before roughly lifting the stretcher and retreating into the tunnel system. The remaining three team members were soon herded after them.
Teal'c briefly considered returning to the SGC for reinforcements, but quickly vetoed that idea. If he left now he would lose track of his team. All the manpower the SGC had to offer would do no good if they didn't know which direction to take in the tunnels.
As soon as the last person had exited the area below him, Teal'c lowered one of the ropes and climbed down. Keeping himself hidden within the shadows, he silently followed the others.
Harriman and three-quarters of SG-1 were led through twists and turns in the tunnel system that were too numerous to keep track of. After over two hours of walking, the tunnel opened into a huge room that housed a large village. Surprisingly, most of the buildings were made of wood.
Everything about the village - the buildings, the streets, the people - practically screamed 'old west'. Jack half expected John Wayne to come swaggering out one of the buildings at any minute.
As in the original cave room and some of the tunnels, the strange glowing rocks provided a light source for the village.
The procession finally paused in front of a small, windowless, stone building near the center of town. 'Wild Bill' turned and, in Goa'uld, addressed the small group of young boys that had gathered. One of the boys shouted something back before turning on his heel and running off.
A shove to O'Neill's back by one of the guards indicated that they were to enter the small building. The natives placed Daniel against the back wall of the single room inside. Carter immediately went to his side to check his condition.
The guards quickly left and shut the door behind them. Out of curiosity, the Colonel tried the door and found that it was indeed somehow locked. He gave a frustrated sigh and turned to face the others. "Well, this sucks," he said matter-of-factly. "Suggestions anyone?"
"Lud'ran said something about bringing someone called Kaeger here," Harriman answered, as he made himself as comfortable as possible sitting on the hard rock floor and leaning against an equally hard rock wall. He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall. "It sounded like he's the leader around here. Perhaps we can..."
"Wait, wait, wait!" O'Neill interrupted. "Lud'ran?"
Harriman opened his eyes and looked up to see the Colonel and Major staring at him as if he had just grown an extra head. "At least that's what the kid called him."
"You understand Goa'uld?" Carter asked with obvious surprise in her voice.
"Well, uh, yes I can. It's actually easier for me to read, but I can speak and understand some." Seeing the surprised expressions remaining on the others' faces he added, "Dr. Jackson offered to teach it to anyone who was interested. I figured it would be best to know everything possible about the Goa'uld."
O'Neill shook his head, gave a slight chuckle, and mumbled something about ordering Daniel to get a life outside of the SGC. "Did you happen to catch anything else?"
"Not much, sir. Just something about us being intruders that they found in the mines and this Kaeger guy would know what to do with us."
"I assume that they mine the glowing rocks. Dr. Jackson and I heard some sounds of metal striking rock just before the explosion. The explosion itself was probably part of their mining process."
The Colonel noted a distinct lack of input from his normally scientifically minded 2IC. A conversation like this would usually prompt her to go into a long-winded speech full of techno-babble and theories about the rocks, their uses, the mining process, or even why these people were living underground in the first place. Instead, she was silently kneeling beside Daniel, gently lifting first one of his eyelids then the other.
"Carter, what's going on?" O'Neill crossed the small room and lowered himself to his knees beside her.
"I'm not sure, sir. I can't get Daniel to respond to me. He won't wake up."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, Major, but didn't you dose him full of happy juice to keep him out of it until we could get him home?"
"Actually, I gave him a pretty small dose of morphine because of the concussion," Carter explained, never once looking up from her patient. "I wanted to be able to wake him up after we raised him to the surface, and again every hour or so. I don't see signs of internal bleeding or any other severe injury. I'm just afraid his head injury may be worse that I thought."
"Crap. Dammit, Daniel." Jack placed an affectionate hand on the younger man's cheek. "If anything can go wrong it will. You just can't catch a break, can you?" Jack mentally kicked himself. He had been so worried about Daniel's back and the possibility of paralysis that he hadn't even given the head injury a second thought after hearing that it was no longer bleeding and speaking to his seemingly coherent friend.
After a brief moment of silence, the Colonel stood and began to pace the small room. "Stone walls, no windows, and only one locked and probably well guarded door. If that's not bad enough for you, they've taken our weapons, packs, and supplies, we have two injured men, and no access to medical help." The only things they had been left with were their vests, but even those had been searched and anything even remotely resembling a weapon removed.
Jack stopped pacing and kicked the wall out of frustration. The ill-conceived action caused a fierce pain to shoot from his toes all the way to his lower back. He bit down on the curse that jumped to the tip of his tongue and scrubbed his hands over his face before running them through his rapidly graying hair.
"What about Teal'c, sir?" Harriman questioned.
Teal'c followed the group as closely as he dared through the twists and turns of the tunnel system. He was sure to mark each turn they took.
He hung back as the tunnel opened up to reveal the town. He watched as his friends were led into the small stone building. Their escorts soon exited and barricaded the door. They spoke among themselves for a moment before departing, leaving two large men to guard the door.
The village was bustling with activity. Now was not the time to attempt a rescue. Teal'c would bide his time and act when appropriate. He settled himself into a secluded part of the tunnel to wait.
The team had just lapsed into an uncomfortable, tense silence when the door was opened once again and two armed guards entered. O'Neill and Carter rose to their feet and stood in front of the injured men, ready to protect them if necessary.
The guards each took a sideways step to allow an old man access to the room from between them. The man was ancient. His features were worn and covered with so many deep wrinkles that his age was impossible to even guess at. His long white hair and beard were well kept and he wore regal golden robes instead of the simple pants and shirts worn by the others.
"I guess this would be Kaeger," Harriman quietly noted.
"Ya think?" Jack commented unnecessarily.
The old man - Kaeger - spoke a few words in Goa'uld and then paused, obviously waiting for an answer. Unable to respond himself, O'Neill cast a questioning glance to Harriman, who had risen to stand at his side.
"I think he asked if we were sent here by Apophis," the Sergeant translated.
"Apophis?!" O'Neill exclaimed. It was the last name he wanted to hear on this planet.
The guards tensed at O'Neill's outburst.
"Sir," Carter cut in, "if their ancestors were slaves to Apophis, then they may be afraid that we've come to take them back. Telling them the truth could very well be a quick way to get home."
O'Neill considered the wisdom of this for a moment then nodded his approval to Harriman.
Harriman reviewed his knowledge of the Goa'uld language before responding to Kaeger. "No, we were not sent by Apophis. He and his kind are not gods. We are their enemies and have witnessed Apophis' death."
The simple statement caused an explosion of activity in the room. The two guards dashed forward faster than anyone would have thought possible. One grabbed Harriman by the neck while the other raised his weapon until it was mere inches from the Sergeant's face. Simultaneously and with equal speed, O'Neill and Carter attempted to step between Harriman and the guards.
Kaeger seemed to hesitate for a moment and an unreadable expression danced across his face. He stopped his guards before further harm could come to the team. "Kree! They are to remain unharmed. Bring him!" With that, Kaeger turned and left the room.
The guards were obviously not pleased that they had been stopped. Their cold black eyes settled on Harriman with a look of utter contempt. One motioned with his weapon that he was to go with them.
"Sergeant, what's going on? What did you tell them?" O'Neill asked in a wary voice.
"I just told them that we were enemies of Apophis and that he was dead. I guess it wasn't what they wanted to hear. Kaeger wants me to go with them."
"Oh, I don't think so." The Colonel was not about to allow one of his team to be separated from them.
"It's okay, sir. He instructed that we weren't to be injured. Besides, it doesn't look like I've got much choice in the matter."
O'Neill relented. He didn't like the idea of one of his team, an injured man no less, walking off with the same men who obviously wanted nothing more than to kill him. However, as Harriman had pointed out, he didn't have much choice.
The two officers watched helplessly as Harriman was ushered, none too gently, out of the room and the door was shut and locked behind them.
Sgt. Harriman was led to the only other stone building in the area. Unlike the building in which the team was being held, this one was huge. It reached up to touch the cave ceiling, probably five stories above.
Intricate pictographs were carved into the rounded exterior walls. Harriman could have kicked himself for not noticing it sooner. The pictures depicted people worshiping a heavenly being. The being was raised in the air on a platform above the kneeling worshipers. The head of the being closely resembled Apophis' serpent helmet.
These people had obviously not stopped worshiping the false god.
Once inside the building he was taken into a large, round room where Kaeger, Lud'ran, and a young woman were waiting. The room had the same feel as a courtroom. He somehow knew that this was where the town's decisions were made and judgments passed. The only furnishings were a large desk that was elevated several feet, behind which Kaeger sat, and several rows of chairs on the opposite side of the room from the desk. It seemed likely that they were used for an audience, but for now, they were empty. The 'defendant' was obviously made to stand in the center of the room, where Harriman had been positioned.
The walls were adorned with numerous tapestries and more pictographs, but the thing that caught Harriman' eye was the wall behind Kaeger. On that wall hung several Goa'uld devices including staff weapons, zats, shock sticks, tablets with page turners, pieces of armor, even a ribbon device, but, most importantly, a healing device.
The thought entered his mind that, if he could get possession of that device, perhaps Major Carter could use it to help Daniel.
Harriman was pulled from his wishful thinking as Lud'ran broke the silence.
"You claim to be enemies of our god! You claim to have witnessed his destruction. You lie and will be punished!" Lud'ran raised his weapon and took aim.
"Lud'ran!" Kaeger stopped him with a stern voice. "I said that they were to remain unharmed. Leave us and take the guards with you. I wish to speak to this man alone."
"But what if he were to attack you?"
Kaeger chuckled and waved a hand to indicate Harriman' bruised form and broken arm. "In his condition he is fortunate to be able to stand. Should he attack, I believe Miesh'ka and I would be able to subdue him."
The two men simply stared at each other for a long time. An obvious battle of wills and challenge of authority was taking place. Eventually, Lud'ran backed down. With a disgruntled huff, he ordered the guards to follow him out of the room. The remaining three silently watched his exit.
"Lud'ran is young and hungry for power. I fear for my people, only males are allowed to lead and my only son died several years ago. With no male heirs, Lud'ran will become their leader when I am gone."
It took a moment for Harriman to realize that the words were not spoken in Goa'uld. "You speak English!"
"If that is what you call this language, then yes, I speak...English." Kaeger stumbled over the unfamiliar word. "As I'm sure you know, I am Kaeger, leader of my people. This," he indicated the young woman standing to the side of the desk, "is my granddaughter, Miesh'ka."
"I'm Sgt. Walter Harriman of the SGC, uh, Earth."
"Ah, Earth, the first world. Your people are known to the Goa'uld as the Tau'ri." Kaeger raised himself from behind the desk and approached the Sergeant. "Why do you come to our world?"
Somehow, Harriman no longer felt threatened by the old man. Kaeger's haggard features had softened and the young woman, Miesh'ka, had a gentle smile upon her face.
He related the story of how and why SG-1 had come to this world. He made sure to be as honest and open as possible without giving away classified information. In return, Kaeger shared some shocking information.
Two hours later, Harriman was returned to the holding cell and found two very anxious Air Force officers. O'Neill and Carter both jumped to their feet and rushed to his side.
"Are you alright? What's going on? Did you learn anything that can help us out?"
O'Neill's rapid-fire questions were silenced as Harriman issued a discrete hand signal to inform the superior officer that they should talk later, after his escorts had left.
As soon as the door was shut and the team was alone, O'Neill turned to Harriman with an expectant look on his face.
"Well, sir," Harriman began, "First of all, there's a power struggle going on between Kaeger and Lud'ran, but that's not really too important at the moment. What is important is the fact that these people's beliefs have evolved. To them, Apophis is more of a gentle protector than war lord. Kaeger's ancestor was Apophis' most trusted servant and the only one to know of the Goa'uld's true identity and agenda. That information was passed down to each new generation in their line. Now, the only ones with this knowledge are Kaeger himself and his granddaughter, Miesh'ka. They see no reason to make it public knowledge.
"It was the Asgard that brought them here just over 300 years ago. Apophis was going to destroy the inhabitants of one of his planets when it appeared he was losing a battle with the Asgard. The Asgard made themselves known only to Kaeger's ancestor. He convinced them to leave his people in peace. No one has seen or heard from them since.
"They live underground because there is some sort of radiation on the surface that is harmful to them. Somehow these glowing rocks filter out that radiation and recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen. The Asgard must not have realized that there was a problem with the planet or they wouldn't have left the people here. It took these people several decades to find out what was making them sick and how to avoid it. Hundreds of people died."
"Great. Carter, did your readings show this radiation?" O'Neill questioned.
"Yes, sir, but everything showed to be well within tolerable levels for humans. They must have a slightly different tolerance level."
"Colonel, there's one more thing."
The seriousness of the Sergeant's voice immediately gained the Colonel's full attention. "What is it?"
"They have Goa'uld technology. Staff weapons, zats, a ribbon device...and sir, they have a healing device."
O'Neill and Carter stared at him in stunned silence.
"The people were transported here along with anything that was near them. It was Kaeger's ancestor's job to look after the ribbon device and healing device. He was holding them when he was transported. I explained that Major Carter might be able to use it to help Dr. Jackson. Kaeger seemed reluctant, but he said he would consider the request."
"Let's hope he agrees, and soon." O'Neill allowed his gaze to wander to his injured friend. "We still haven't been able to wake him and now he has a slight fever. If we don't get him some help soon..." His voice trailed off. No one wanted to think about the consequences he alluded to.
After another hour had passed, the door opened once again. Instead of the usual pair of guards, a lone young woman entered carrying a bucket of water and a tray of food.
"Miesh'ka." Harriman stood and made his way towards the woman.
"Miesh'ka?" O'Neill questioned. "Kaeger's granddaughter? One of the good guys?" He approached her cautiously and relieved her of her burden.
"My people are not evil, O'Neill, just misguided about the Goa'uld."
"Yeah, well, why don't you prove it by letting us go," the Colonel snapped.
"Lud'ran would see it as a form of weakness and openly challenge my grandfather. He has a strong following among the people. Many would be ready for the change in leadership."
"Miesh'ka, " Harriman interrupted, "what about the healing device?"
"Unfortunately, my grandfather believes that it may also be viewed as a weakness to show mercy to the enemies of our god by allowing you to heal your friend. It was only after much debate that I was allowed to bring you food and water. I will continue to speak to him about it."
Miesh'ka turned and was about to exit the room when a large intake of breath from the back of the room caught everyone's attention.
Sam and Jack rushed to Daniel's side hoping that he was finally waking up, only to find his body convulsing, straining against the restraining straps.
"His fever's spiked, he's seizing!" Sam announced in a panicked voice. She quickly removed her vest and jacket, folded one of the sleeves over on itself, and forced the fabric between Daniel's teeth to prevent him from biting his tongue. She held his head steady and whispered quiet, reassuring words to the unconscious man while Jack attempted to further restrain his body.
The seizure lasted a full minute. With one last shudder, Daniel's body was still once again. Too still.
Sam quickly checked for vital signs. "He's not breathing and I don't feel a pulse!" Immediately, she removed her jacket sleeve from between his teeth and began mouth to mouth while Jack positioned himself to do chest compressions.
One, two, three, four, five, breathe. One, two, three, four, five, breathe.
"Dammit, Daniel! Don't you dare do this to me!" Jack shouted.
Harriman and Miesh'ka watched the tableau unfolding before them in horror. Unable to do anything to help, Harriman made sure they were well out of the way. He was so distracted by the scene that he did not hear Miesh'ka mumble something before running out of the room.
Sam placed a hand on Jack's shoulder. "I've got a pulse, sir." She leaned down close to Daniel's face. "He's still not breathing." She continued mouth to mouth.
After two more breaths, Daniel began to cough weakly and breathe on his own. Sam turned his head to the side so he wouldn't choke. His breathing was shallow and raspy and his pulse was very weak.
Miesh'ka rushed into the room again with tears streaming down her face. She didn't say a word; she simply thrust a small wad of fabric into Harriman' hand and rushed out again.
Confused, Harriman unwound the fabric to reveal the healing device. "Yes!" His exclamation earned him questioning looks from his companions. In lieu of a verbal explanation, he simply held the device out to the Major.
Sam accepted the healing device. She simply stared at it for a moment. Its cold weight was somehow comforting as it rested in her palm. A part of her was afraid of it. She remembered what it took to activate the technology. Though she had used a healing device before with little affect to herself, she kept remembering using the ribbon device and how emotionally unstable she had been afterwards. The two worked on the same principle and now wasn't the time to have an emotional break down.
Of course, the deciding factor was Daniel and his desperate need for medical attention. She would gladly give her life to save that of Daniel or any member of her team. She wasn't about to let her fear of Goa'uld technology be the downfall of her friend. With the decision made, Sam went to work.
After slipping the healing device onto her hand, Sam closed her eyes and held it over the prone form of her injured friend. The device glowed lightly for a few moments before flickering and shutting off again.
Sam sighed, frustration evident in her voice. "Using this kind of Goa'uld technology is extremely difficult, sir."
"You can do it," O'Neill assured her. "Just concentrate."
"Sir, I'm just not sure if I can." Her tone had changed from frustrated to defeated.
"Carter...Sam...listen to me." Jack placed his hands on her shoulders, turned her to face him, and caught her sorrowful blue eyes with his own determined brown ones. "Daniel needs you. If you can't get this thing to work he WILL die. You were able to do it for Cronos. I know you can do it now." He hated to place the burden solely on his 2IC's shoulders like this, but right now, she was Daniel's best - and probably only - chance at survival.
"Yes, sir." With new resolve, Sam squared her shoulders and returned her attention to Daniel.
As she had done with the ribbon device during their encounter with Seth, she closed her eyes, held the device over Daniel, and put all of her concentration into the task. Sam channeled all of her emotions into the healing device. She felt the anger at their current situation, the fear of failure, the joy of having SG-1 as her family, the love for each member of that family, and the pain she knew she would feel if Daniel or any member of that family were to die.
There were other thoughts and feelings that she somehow knew belonged to Jolinar. Realizing that it was these remnants from the Tok'ra that were allowing her to activate the device, Sam channeled these as well. The intensity was incredible!
From somewhere within the tidal wave of emotions, Sam could feel Daniel. She could somehow feel the injuries he had suffered without feeling the physical pain from which his mind had withdrawn. Many of her initial concerns were confirmed. He had several broken ribs pushing against his lungs, two cracked vertebra that were slightly pinching a nerve, and - yes, there it was - a hairline fracture in his skull. Fluid had collected in the area and put pressure on the sensitive tissue beneath. She concentrated most of her attention there.
Sam could sense his undefeatable spirit and firm resolve to live. Slowly, as his injuries healed, Daniel's essence came forward. His breathing evened out and deepened to the slow, steady rhythm of sleep.
Suddenly, the healing device shut itself off. It had done its job.
Sam allowed her hands to fall into her lap and slumped back, exhausted, with tears freely flowing down her dirt-streaked face. She was tempted to give in to the alluring tug of sleep, but if they were going to attempt an escape, each of them needed to be at their best.
She rose to her feet, unsteadily made her way over to Sgt. Harriman, and lowered herself in front of him more or less in a controlled fall.
Harriman was surprised at the Major's willingness to heal him. The dark smudges under her eyes and her unsteadiness on her feet told him that healing Daniel had taken its toll on her. When she raised the device in front of him and closed her eyes, Harriman placed a restraining hand on her arm.
Confused, Sam opened her eyes. "What's wrong?"
"Major," Harriman gently said. "You're in no condition to do that again. You need to rest."
"Don't worry, I'm fine. It will be better if we're all as healthy and mobile as possible."
"Sergeant! That's an order," Sam snapped, then immediately softened her tone. "Besides, I think it will be easier for me to do this now. It's hard to find the correct mental balance to work the healing device. I don't want to risk not being able to find it later."
Harriman grudgingly agreed and allowed her to continue.
Sam closed her eyes and held the device up again. It was easier to heal him than it was Daniel. She didn't know whether it was because his injuries were less severe or because she had already touched on the requisite emotions and they were so raw and close to the surface.
Once again, the healing device shut itself off when the job was done.
Sam moved herself around so she was sitting with her back against the wall between Harriman and Daniel. She was pleased to see that the Colonel had already removed the bandage from the young man's head to reveal the now untarnished skin beneath. To her other side, Harriman had just removed the splint from his arm.
"How does it feel?" she questioned.
"Better than ever," came the reply. "I think you even cured my Carpel Tunnel Syndrome."
Sam smiled wearily, her eyes already beginning to close.
"Major, lay down and get some rest." O'Neill instructed. "That goes for you too, Sergeant. In the morning we'll think of some way out of this."
Both quickly complied.
O'Neill took a moment to look over his team.
Carter was obviously exhausted, both mentally and physically.
O'Neill found her discarded jacked, rolled it into a ball, and gently placed it under head. The action didn't even cause the Major to stir.
This wasn't the first time she had been forced to use this kind of Goa'uld technology, but he certainly hoped it would be the last. She had once told the Colonel how hard it had been to use the ribbon device against Seth. She had been forced to focus all of her hatred and anger. It had disturbed her to discover how much of those black emotions she harbored. Using the healing device on Cronos a few months earlier had been another shock. Helping a Goa'uld, especially one who had caused such personal pain for Teal'c, went against everything they believed in. O'Neill had no doubt that if the treaty to make Earth one of the Asgard's 'protected planets' had not been on the line, Cronos would be undeniably dead, cremated, and his ashes disintegrated in the wormhole's flux. Once again, his 2IC had made him proud.
Harriman was clearly feeling better. O'Neill found himself feeling extremely lucky and grateful that he had agreed to let Sergeant Harriman come on this mission. One evening, after returning from the alternate reality, Daniel had told Jack how the 'other' Harriman had quickly complied with the order to help defend the base from the invading Jaffa. Even knowing that it was the equivalent to a death sentence, Harriman had wasted no time in joining the battle. Somehow, Jack knew this Harriman would do the same. The man had really come through for them. If he hadn't been able to get his hands on that healing device...
Jacks eyes wandered to Daniel. The young man was still secured to the stretcher, but his breathing was much easier and the lines of pain on his face were now gone. Jack settled himself into the small space between Daniel's head and Carter. His hand automatically reached out to check the archaeologist's pulse. Finding it to be strong and steady, he brushed the hair away from the spot where Daniel's near-fatal head injury had been only minutes earlier, before letting his arm rest across his friend's chest. Damn, they had nearly lost Daniel again today. Try as he might, Jack couldn't shake the memory of Daniel's already injured ribs cracking and breaking as he had attempted to coax the life back into his friend's body. Jack knew he could have easily sent a broken rib through Daniel's lung, but the alternative - definite death - was not an option. Not wanting to dwell on these unwanted negative memories, Jack sent a silent thank you to Daniel's overworked guardian angel, set his internal monitors so he would wake at the slightest noise or movement, and allowed his eyes to close.
Teal'c had stayed hidden in the tunnel for hours before the activity in the town began to slow. As the nighttime hours approached, several villagers placed covers over many of the larger rocks, dimming the light level substantially.
Realizing that this could be used to his advantage, Teal'c rummaged in his pack and pulled out a pair black pants and t-shirt and quickly changed out of his brown desert fatigues. He waited a few hours more before leaving his bulky pack behind and heading into the village, staff weapon and zat in hand.
He traveled quickly and kept out of sight, ducking into the shadows any time a villager drew near. Soon, he was crouching alongside a building near the one that held his friends.
From his position, Teal'c could see the two men diligently guarding the door. He decided that his best course of action would be to zat the guards and hope the noise didn't attract the rest of the villagers. With any luck, he could free Harriman and the rest of SG-1 before anyone realized what had happened.
Teal'c raised the zat and took aim.
The command came from behind him. In the blink of an eye, Teal'c lowered the zat, picked up the staff weapon, primed it, and whirled around, aiming the weapon at the chest of the young man who had crept up on him.
The look that crossed the young man's face confused Teal'c. It was something between confusion, disbelief, and awe.
The native lowered his weapon, knelt on one knee with his head bowed, and began rapidly speaking in Goa'uld. "You have come! My people have dreamed of this day for generations. Kaeger must be informed." He finally raised his eyes questioningly as Teal'c stood.
Unsure of what the youth was talking about, Teal'c gestured for him to stand. He noted the small crowd that had gathered and the young girl who had run to the building Harriman had been taken to earlier. "Kaeger, he is your leader?" he questioned. He assumed the villager was talking about the old man in the golden robes.
"Yes, he is. He will wish to know of your arrival right away."
"Very well, take me to him."
Teal'c was led into the tall, round building. He noted the carvings on the outside walls as well as those in the 'courtroom'. These were obviously the descendants of Apophis' slaves. Teal'c mentally spat the name. Even though the Goa'uld was dead, he couldn't control the anger that rose within him at the thought of his former master.
As expected, Teal'c found the old man seated at the desk in front of him with the large man from the cave to his right and the young woman to his left. Now that he had a closer look, he recognized the woman as the one he had seen going into the building that housed his team.
The old man rose to his feet and walked forward, closely followed by the man and woman. They stopped a short distance in front of Teal'c and the old man spoke. "I am Kaeger, leader of my people. This," he indicated the other man, "is Lud'ran, my second, and this is my granddaughter, Miesh'ka."
Teal'c dipped his head slightly in acknowledgement.
"So," Lud'ran said. He raked his eyes over Teal'c, taking in every detail from head to toe before finally resting them on his tattoo. He continued with barely disguised contempt in his voice. "You are the great god Apophis."
Though his years of training allowed Teal'c to show no outward signs of shock, inside, his head was swimming. He finally understood what was happening. These people still worshiped Apophis, but didn't know who or what he was. Upon seeing the tattoo on Teal'c's forehead, they had assumed he was their god.
Having the mark of Apophis had gotten the team in trouble a number of times in the past. Usually, inhabitants of a planet would see the tattoo and assume he and SG-1 worked for the Goa'uld. They would then try to seek revenge for the wrongs done to them at Apophis' hands.
Dr. Fraiser had once offered to remove the mark with what she described as a relatively simple procedure. At the time, Teal'c had wanted to keep it as a reminder of all the evil he had done while in service to the false god. It was to be his mark of shame for all to see. Now, however, he wanted nothing more than to rid himself of the repulsive thing.
The thought of being mistaken for the parasite made his stomach churn and his blood boil. White-hot rage flew through his veins. Kaeger preempted the vehement denial that sprang to his lips.
"My Lord," Kaeger bowed deeply at the waist. "My ancestor was your most trusted servant. He guarded ALL of your secrets well while in your service. They were passed along my line and now are known only to Miesh'ka and myself. We, your loyal servants, praise your return and offer, as tribute, four of your enemies that were captured by my men."
Teal'c understood that Kaeger somehow knew he was not Apophis and he heard the underlying message clearly in his words. The old man was begging him not to deny the presumed identity and was offering to turn his friends over to him.
He thought over his options for a moment. Seeing no better solution, he mentally agreed to play along, despite the protest screaming from within his very soul. "I have, in fact, come for those you have captured. Take me to them, now."
Teal'c watched as Kaeger and Miesh'ka visually relaxed. Lud'ran, on the other hand, appeared to become even more annoyed at the turn of events. Teal'c knew that, if he wasn't careful, Lud'ran could be trouble for them.
Jack's eyes snapped open, his whole body tensing as it went on alert. Something had awakened him, but there was nothing obviously wrong.
"Ow! Watch the grip, will ya?"
"Daniel?" Jack looked down and realized that, in a subconscious effort to protect him upon waking, he had gripped Daniel's shoulder so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. He released his hold and moved around to the younger man's side.
"Jack, what's going on? Why am I tied down like this? Let me up, will you?"
"Not just yet, Danny. How do you feel?"
"Uh, fine, why?"
"No headache, dizziness, or nausea? How about your legs? How many fingers am I holding up?"
"What?" The rapid-fire questions had thrown Daniel for a loop.
"Just answer the questions. If you get them right, then, and only then, will I remove the restraints."
Daniel gave in, realizing that it would be better to play by Jack's rules for now. Once he was upright he could ask his own questions. "No, no, no, fine, four, Dr. Daniel Jackson, and July 8, 1965."
Jack allowed a broad grin to settle on his face as he began to release the straps restraining Daniel. "That's two too many answers."
"Yeah, well, I thought I would save us both the time." After the final strap was released, Daniel quickly rose to his feet. He swayed slightly as a wave of dizziness washed over him. "Whoa, head rush."
Jack instantly placed a steadying hand on his arm, concern once again replacing the relieved smile. "You okay?"
"Sure, just got up too quick, that's all."
"Take it easy and go slow. You've been pretty much horizontal for the last..." Jack glanced at his watch, "ten hours. Oh, and by the way, you died again. Just thought you might like to know."
"What?!" Daniel's voice raised in pitch and volume.
"Geez, Daniel, easy on the eardrums! You'd think as often as you've died and come back to life, you'd be used to it by now. This makes, what, number three?"
"Uh, four, I think." Daniel replied distractedly. His brow furrowed in concentration. "The last thing I remember is...the cave!" Daniel swirled around, frantically looking around the small room until his eyes landed on the peacefully sleeping forms of Sam and Harriman.
"Take it easy, Danny," the Colonel soothed. "Everyone is okay. Long story short, the rescued slaves are still on this planet and we're their prisoners. Harriman, who you apparently have taught to speak and understand the Goa'uld language, has learned that, over time, they've forgotten how evil their lord, Apophis, was. Their leader, Kaeger, knows everything but, due to a power struggle with Lud'ran, he can't let us go without appearing weak and giving Lud'ran the perfect opportunity to overthrow him. That would be a very bad thing, especially for us, as Lud'ran doesn't appear to take kindly to people saying his god is dead. Fortunately, Kaeger's granddaughter was able to slip us a healing device which Sam used to heal you and the Sergeant."
Daniel just stood there for a moment, processing the information with his mouth silently opening and closing, apparently at a loss for words. He finally settled for a simple, "Oh."
"Oh? Is that all you have to say?" Jack snapped with no minor amount of irritation edging into his voice. He had spent the last 10 hours worrying himself sick over the young man's health, even having to bring him back from the dead - again. They were now trapped in a small underground cell by people loyal to the Goa'uld Apophis and all Daniel could say was 'oh'?!
"Oh...wow?" Daniel ventured, not sure what had gotten Jack so upset. He was saved a severe tongue lashing, courtesy of one Colonel Jack O'Neill, as their conversation woke their two sleeping teammates.
"Daniel!" Before he could even acknowledge who had called his name, Daniel suddenly found his arms full of one blonde Air Force Major cum astrophysicist. Her arms reached around his neck and squeezed tightly.
"Uh, Sam, it's great to see you too, but, um, I kind of need to breathe here."
Sam quickly released her grip and stepped back, only slightly ashamed of having thrown herself into Daniel's arms.
"Daniel," Harriman greeted, "I'm glad you're okay."
"Um, thanks. I understand your lessons in Goa'uld have paid off."
"Well, actually the people I spoke to the most happen to speak English."
"Really? How did they..."
Jack interrupted the conversation, his earlier irritation apparently gone. "Daniel, why doesn't Harriman fill you in while you get yourself cleaned up." He indicated the younger man's still blood stained hair.
After they had all cleaned themselves up a bit, they sat down to eat the food Miesh'ka had brought them the evening before and discussed their options for escape.
Harriman watched and listened as the three members of SG-1 bounced ideas back and forth. One would start a specific idea and the others would continue to build on it, as if they could read each other's minds. Harriman would interject his own comments every now and then. Each idea was given due consideration before either being rejected or set aside as a 'possibility'.
As the conversation began to wind down, Harriman' attention was drawn to Daniel as he began searching his vest pockets for something. Before long he pulled out a small hard case, which housed a new - undamaged - pair of glasses, and proceeded to put them on. Harriman could only stare, open-mouthed.
Daniel, feeling he was being watched, turned to see the shocked expression on the Sergeant's face. "What's wrong?"
Daniel ducked his head and smiled. "Like I said, you'd be amazed at what you can find in these pockets. Supply thinks of everything." He made a small gesture to the other man's vest.
Harriman searched his own pockets until he found a similar case containing glasses identical to those he had lost.
All four joined in the light laughter that went a long way towards temporarily easing the tension.
The humor of the moment had not had time to fully dissipate when the door was once again opened. The team stood and stepped back as the two guards entered.
Surprised to see the once comatose archaeologist now seemingly unharmed, the guards shouted something in Goa'uld and trained their weapons on him, but were halted by a deep bass voice.
Harriman recognized the voice and his theory was confirmed when Teal'c entered the room followed closely by Kaeger.
"Here are the prisoners, to do with as you see fit, my Lord Apophis." Kaeger announced as he bowed before Teal'c.
"Apophis?" Harriman, O'Neill, and Daniel questioned simultaneously. All four members of SG-1 turned to stare at Harriman in astonishment; they were all accustomed to Jack and Daniel echoing each other's thoughts, and the fact that Harriman was joining in just demonstrated how well he had melded with the team in so short a time. Harriman, of course, had no idea why he was suddenly the focus of their scrutiny and simply shrugged in bewilderment.
Harriman couldn't help but note the clenching of Teal'c's jaw and the anger that flashed through his eyes at being called Apophis. He realized what they were doing. Kaeger had found a way to free SG-1 without appearing weak before of his people.
"You will come with me," Teal'c simply stated at he leveled his staff weapon at them.
The rest of SG-1 had apparently caught on to the ruse and allowed the guards to tie their hands behind their backs before being led out of the room.
Once outside, Kaeger motioned to one of the tunnels. "My lord," once again Teal'c's jaw clenched, "this tunnel will lead you directly to the Chappa'ai." Kaeger was understandably eager for SG-1 to leave. He was risking a lot for the sake of the team.
They were stopped at the entrance to the tunnel by a voice behind them.
"My Lord Apophis!" Lud'ran's voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Teal'c turned and shot the man a look that was surely intended to kill.
"I do not believe you are our god. I challenge you."
Daniel took over the role of translator and quietly relayed what was being said to Jack and Sam.
Teal'c neither confirmed nor denied the accusation. He refused to admit to being one of his worst enemies, but he knew admitting to the deception would surely lead to trouble for his friends.
Lud'ran repeated himself. "I challenge the 'great Apophis' to a fight to the death!"
Teal'c had no time to react as Lud'ran suddenly pulled a knife and lunged at him, catching the front of his shirt, but, fortunately, not damaging the skin beneath.
The rest of SG-1 and Sergeant Harriman watched helplessly as their teammate was attacked, unable to come to his aid because of the ropes confining their hands.
The two opponents faced each other, walking in a slow circle, each ready for the other to make a move. Lud'ran made several swipes with the knife, which were easily avoided.
Lud'ran charged again and brought the Jaffa down onto his back by tackling him at the knees. He straddled Teal'c's waist and forcefully brought the knife down towards his heart.
Teal'c was able to catch his opponent's hand before the knife made contact, and then he threw his weight to the side in an attempt to get Lud'ran off him. The men ended up rolling over several times, fighting for control of the knife. Each man landed fierce blows on various parts of the other's body.
In the end, Teal'c's superior strength won out. He wrestled the knife away from Lud'ran and pinned the other man securely beneath him.
Breathing heavily, Teal'c raised his hand, holding up the knife as if to deliver the fatal blow, but then pulled back abruptly. Instead, he leaned in close to Lud'ran's ear and whispered. "Had I been your 'god' I would have shown no mercy and you would be dead now." With that, he threw the knife aside, pushed himself off Lud'ran, turned, and began to make way back to his team.
In a fit of rage, Lud'ran screamed, picked up the knife, and charged after Teal'c. A staff blast hit him squarely in the back, killing him instantly. The team watched in shock as the man fell and Kaeger stood behind him holding the still smoking staff.
Kaeger walked over and stood above the fallen man. "I always knew your arrogance and hunger for power would be your downfall. At least now you will not be able to drag my people down with you." After a moment of silence, he addressed SG-1, who were being untied by Teal'c. "It is time for you to go. Miesh'ka and I will show you the way."
Kaeger and Miesh'ka accompanied the five-man team as far as the end of the tunnel that opened up approximately 100 yards behind the stargate.
"Thank you for all you have done." Harriman addressed Kaeger.
Kaeger reached out to clasp the extended hand. "I apologize for detaining you and for being unable to return your belongings. I will see to it that everything is destroyed and the weapons do not fall into the wrong hands."
"That would be best." Jack stepped up to shake the old man's hand.
"Will we be allowed to return one day?" Daniel questioned as he, too, exchanged a handshake.
"That would not be a good idea. My people still worship the false god Apophis. Those claiming to be his enemies will not be welcomed. I hope you understand."
"We do," Sam responded.
"Your people would be wise to cease worshiping false gods," Teal'c commented.
"Yes, but even a welcome change comes slowly. My people are not willing to give up their religion easily. I will see to one change. I will assure that, when I am gone, my granddaughter will lead my people." He put an affectionate arm around the woman. "She is very wise and will make a great leader."
The team bid a final farewell and stepped out of the tunnel and onto the surface of the planet.
"Okay, Daniel, dial it up." O'Neill instructed. "Come on, kids, it's time to go home."
Daniel entered Earth's coordinates and pressed down on the large red crystal in the center of the DHD. Once the wormhole was established, he entered the numbers of the IDC into the transmitter still strapped to his wrist and signaled the okay to the team.
SG-1 and Sgt. Harriman stepped into the event horizon and back out onto the metal ramp at the SGC.
General Hammond took note of the team's disheveled appearance. Everyone seemed to be moving under his or her own power, though, and no one appeared to be injured. "Welcome back, SG-1. You're right on time. How was the mission?"
"Oh, the usual, sir." O'Neill replied casually as he descended the ramp. "Teal'c got promoted to godhood, Daniel died -again, Carter got to play with a healing device, Harriman made some new friends, and I...well, sir, I've never been more proud of my team and their abilities."
Unsure of what to make of the Colonel's statement, but confidant that he would hear more about it in the debriefing, the General addressed Harriman. "So, Sergeant, what did you think of your first trip through the 'gate?"
"Well, sir, honestly," he cast a sideways glance to the team, "I expected it to be a bit more...exciting."
His statement was met with a series of groans from SG-1, and a 'for cryin' out loud' from the Colonel, as they pushed past him and made their way to the infirmary for their post-mission exams.
"What? What did I say?" Harriman exchanged smiles with the General before heading after SG-1.