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TITLE: Listen When The Heart Speaks

AUTHOR: Tiv'ester

E-MAIL: tivester@lycos.com

STATUS: Complete

CATEGORY: Angst, drama

SPOILERS: Too many to count

SEASON/SEQUEL: End of 3rd? Sequel will be "Soldiers Follow Orders, But..."

RATING: PG

CONTENT WARNINGS: Body-inhabiting parasites, a few words, references to violence, and there's a gunfight.

SUMMARY: Jack does not accept the fact that Daniel has resigned from the SGC, but when the truth of his friend's disappearance is known, it may be too much for the Colonel to bear.  Can Jack help save Daniel from a fate worse than death or will he lose him to an enemy feared even by the Goa'uld?

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Stargate SG-1.  Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions.  I have written this story for entertainment purposes only.  No money has exchanged hands.  No copyright infringement is intended. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.  Pictures can be found at Gatewatcher.



**************************************************


I should have known.  At least, I should have known better.  After all this time of being friends with the man, you’d think I’d get a clue.  But, no, there I was, underestimating him again.  He’s not called ‘Dead-Again Daniel’ for nothing, you know.  I gave him that nickname after that ordeal on Oannes when Nem kidnapped him and brainwashed us into thinking he was dead.  How many times has he been dead and come back to life?  Why don’t I ever learn?   For one terrible moment, my head kept telling me to accept the reality that he was dead, my gut was screaming for me to do something to bring him back, but my heart was speaking the only truth I should have listened to and didn’t—Daniel was still alive.

From the personal diary of Colonel Jack O’Neill



Jack O’Neill sat alone and completely dumbfounded in his usual seat at the conference table.

At first, he had accepted that Daniel was late for another meeting he was to have with Jack and the General, then that acceptance grew to annoyance, but now that annoyance had ballooned to sheer and total disbelief.  Jack had stared at General Hammond, speechless, when his superior officer delivered the letter to him.  He had not wanted to believe that the impossible had happened.  Now, since their early morning meeting had effectively been cancelled, he reread the letter of resignation he held in hands.

Daniel had resigned.  Left.  Scrammed.  Hit the high road and didn’t let the door hit him on the ass on the way out, thank you very much.

And why?  Dying several times had not hindered Daniel’s desire to stargate all over the galaxy.  His wife’s death had thrown him into a depression that the rest of the team waited patiently for him to return from, which he did with more than a little help from SG-1.  Skaara’s decision to fight alongside the Tok’ra had worried him somewhat, but Jacob Carter swore to Daniel that he would personally look after his brother-in-law.  Finding Sha’uri’s son and deciding that his well-being would be better served with the alien they encountered on Kheb had not thrown him for very long.  Leaving Nick with the ‘giant aliens’ had not really bothered him very much since their relationship had not been close enough to form a deep bond of family.  No, every setback, every hurt, every loss suffered had not been capable of destroying that indomitable will known as Daniel Jackson.  Yet, written down in black and white on a letter Jack held in his own two hands—hands that had held a scared, confused, hurting Daniel in a wrecked storeroom after a sarcophagus had almost completely destroyed him, hands that would have gladly carried Daniel from Klorel’s ship even though the archaeologist was fatally wounded—were his friend’s words of resignation brought about due to his inability to find satisfaction in his job.

What was wrong with this picture?

Something was terribly wrong.

Immediately after the shock wore off, Jack had left the base and driven like a madman to Daniel’s apartment.  All he found were empty rooms.  The doorman told Jack that he had seen Doctor Jackson leaving the night before with a backpack stuffed with books and papers muttering something about finally doing what he loved to do.  Unfortunately, the doorman had no idea where Daniel was going.  Doctor Jackson had left no forwarding address.

Jack had returned to the base and started searching Daniel’s office hoping to find some clue hidden somewhere that might tell him where his friend had gone.  There was none.  Nada.  Nothing.  What confused Jack the most was that Daniel had left the majority of his books and his most important personal belongings there.  Maybe he was planning to come back?

Why didn’t he call Jack and talk with him? Why didn’t Jack know that Daniel was unhappy? Where the hell was he?

So, Jack O’Neill sat alone and completely dumbfounded at his usual place at the conference table.  All efforts so far had not turned up any sign of Daniel.  All of his phone calls had met dead ends.  He felt like he was running out of time.

General Hammond entered the conference room and saw his second-in-command reading the letter again.   Doctor Jackson’s departure was not the only problem they were facing.

“Colonel?” the General interrupted his thoughts.  “We may have a bigger problem on our hands.”

“And what would that be?” Jack’s voice seemed flat, void of emotion.

The General placed a small stack of papers before him.  “It seems that Doctor Jackson is not the only one to leave without warning.  I have 51 other resignations here.  It appears that all of our civilians are resigning.”

Jack flipped through the other letters.  This was more than strange.  It was downright bizarre. The reasons listed for resigning varied from the inability to work in a military environment to dissatisfaction with the mess hall food.  For whatever reason, every civilian at the SGC had jumped ship.

“I’ve received word already that permanent replacements are being sent here from other secured locations,” the General informed him.  “Apparently, this mass exodus is not a surprise.”

“It’s not?”  Then, “How did your superiors find out about the resignations this fast?” Jack asked him.

“I had to inform them the moment I received this many letters. I was told that this event was not unexpected at the Pentagon.  In fact, the individual I spoke with told me that they had received reports of discontent being a widespread problem felt by the nonmilitary personnel assigned to Cheyenne Mountain.  They had been considering replacements for the past few months.  They were only waiting for the right time to bring them in.  We can honestly say that they now have the opportunity.”

Jack sat quietly for a moment.  “Carter should be arriving in about an hour. She went with Fraiser and Cassie to the mountains.  Teal’c’s due back this morning from visiting his family.  Losing Daniel’s going to be hard for them.”

“Not any harder than it has been for you, Colonel.  I’ve already made a few phone calls myself.  No one seems to know where any of the civilians are.  None of them.”

“Yeah, I’m running into the same problem.  No Daniel, no info.  It’s almost as if he fell off the face of the earth.”

“Around here, Colonel, that’s not unheard of.”

The General realized that Jack was not trying to make a joke.  He was worried.

“Jack?”

“It’s not like Daniel, sir.  He wouldn’t leave without calling me or talking to me.  A couple of days ago, we were talking about SG-1 having some time off.  About how he’d like to go to Hawaii some day.  I’d almost talked him into going deep-sea fishing.  He wouldn’t just leave without saying goodbye.”

“I know.  If our superiors are conducting some sort of covert operation that requires them, I don’t know anything about it.  There's something very strange going on here, but with the Pentagon telling us that everything is all right and not to worry about the situation, my hands are tied.”

Jack folded Daniel’s letter and shoved it in his shirt pocket.  “If the Pentagon says don’t worry, then we’d better worry.  If this is some sort of shuffle, some trick of--if NID is up to something and anything happens to Daniel, there’ll be hell to pay.”

“Hell will be the least of their worries,” the General agreed solemnly.  This entire event stank of a setup. Without any information, the two men could only hope that Daniel was safe.  “Let’s hope that this will all be explained in time.  In the meantime, SG-1 has been assigned a new linguist.  A Captain Hiram Roberts.  Air Force.”

**************************************************

The initial meeting Captain Hiram Roberts had with SG-1 was stiff and formal.  They met in General Hammond’s office unofficially.  One look told Jack that this guy was career military, but exactly which military career he was working on was a mystery.  He reeked of NID.

In truth, Captain Hiram Roberts was military through and through. He had joined the Air Force as soon as he was eligible and quickly rose through the ranks. He had been a member of Covert Ops for two years.  Several successful missions had earned him points with the Military-Powers-That-Be, and he was now the youngest captain in the Air Force.  His record showed that he had served and commanded with distinction. The military was more than just his life, it was a proud heritage that he was honored to follow.  He was happy to let anyone and everyone know that every male member of his family had been in the Armed Forces starting with some great, great, great whatever who had served with George Washington.  In fact, this particular ancestor was rumored to have been with Washington when he crossed the Delaware.

Okay.

Carter found him slightly arrogant and more than a little chauvinistic.  Teal’c did not like him.

The first mission they served on together was perhaps the dullest one on Jack’s record books.  They were all somewhat apprehensive of the behavior of their new teammate on his first off-world mission, but Roberts proved that he was more than a capable soldier.  He took his turn on point and at watch without any complaint or question.  He followed Jack’s orders to the letter.  He listened with avid interest to the stories they told around the campfire of past adventures.  He asked questions about Ra, Hathor,  Apophis, Klorel, Heru'ur and Amaunet.  He commented on the team’s resourcefulness and quick thinking.  He was amazed at their off-the-cuff solutions to their almost-suicidal predicaments.  Needless to say, Roberts was impressed with his new situation in life.

Although Jack could not fault him for his performance on missions; in fact, his behavior was impeccable, it was his attitude the Colonel had trouble with.  He was altogether too sure of himself.  Jack had the impression that Roberts felt that he should have been on SG-1 all along and that Daniel’s departure was long overdue.  Why would anyone want a civilian on the team anyway?  The Stargate project was too important to leave in the hands of some allergy-ridden geek.  Although Roberts never spoke these particular words aloud, his bearing screamed his believed superiority over the archaeologist.  This attitude alone irritated the good colonel.  Daniel may have left for good reasons, what they were Jack had yet to discover, but he was one hell of an almost-soldier.  No matter what happened to the team, no matter what dangers they encountered or threats they survived, Daniel always gave 200%.  He would be the first to walk through Perdition’s Flames to save a complete stranger, and he would give up his own life to save a team member.  Daniel was the only person to truly appreciate the Stargate, both for its scientific and military objectives, and Roberts just did not understand when Jack would “politely” tell him not to degrade Daniel’s time on the program or dismiss his contributions.  The only reason Jack had not had the man reassigned was because he could read and speak Goa’uld as well as Daniel or Teal’c.  Where he learned Goa’uld was just another little mystery Jack was determined to uncover since Roberts had hedged his way around the question enough times.  He could tap dance around an issue better than a used car salesman.  Well, Roberts did obey orders and did not go wandering off to look at some rock—no, artifact that just happened to appear in his field of vision.  He managed to get the job done without getting into trouble.  Damn, but Jack missed having to bail Daniel out of every mishap he fell into.

Almost one month after Captain Roberts joined the team, General Hammond called him into his office ‘for a chat.’

Captain Roberts entered and stood at attention.

“At ease, Captain.  In fact, why don’t you sit down? This isn’t a formal meeting.”

Roberts sat down, but he looked as if he were sitting at attention. “Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.”

“I was wanting to know how things were going for you on SG-1.  How are you finding things?”

“Fine, sir.  I’ve never seen a better group of people working together.  I have to admit that when I read the profile for the members, I was surprised that they formed into such an efficient team.  They seemed to be so completely opposite to each other that I couldn’t understand how they could work so well as a unit.  Then I met them, and I could not believe the camaraderie.  It was almost as if they could read each others’ minds.”

Hammond laughed. “Yes, I was told that their chances of surviving as a team was slim to none. The folks at the Pentagon gave them a week, but here we are over three years later and they are the best we’ve got.  Actually, I was wondering how you were fitting in with them.  Doctor Jackson had carved out a fairly large niche in the group.”

“Well, sir, I won’t say that it’s been easy, but the others have tried to make me feel like a part of the team.  I know I have a lot to prove, Doctor Jackson left some pretty big footprints to follow, but I can handle it.”

“Good,” the General said quickly.

“If you don’t mind my asking, sir, um, well—this isn’t something I would ever ask Colonel O’Neill.”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“I was wondering about civilians like Doctor Jackson being on the SG teams.  I mean, we’re military.  We’ve been trained to withstand a great many things in the event of capture.  What would happen if one of the civilians that used to travel off-world was captured and tortured?”  Roberts seemed genuinely curious.  In fact, this question had come up often among the officers at the Pentagon and the White House.

“When I first put the teams together, Doctor Jackson fought to be on SG-1.  They were going to Chulak, his wife had been kidnapped by Apophis and taken there, and nothing short of a hurricane was going to stop him from going to rescue her.  Colonel O’Neill agreed to let him go.   After they returned with the Goa’uld prisoners and Teal’c, I talked to Colonel O’Neill about Doctor Jackson and his continuing help here at the base.  I learned that day that I had completely misjudged the man.

“Colonel O’Neill told me a great many things during that conversation that had not been in his initial report.  Doctor Jackson had been killed on Abydos in an attempt to save O’Neill and was resurrected by Ra.  He not only helped rally the Abydonians against Ra, he helped kill him.  On Chulak, he had offered himself up as a host just to be with his wife after Amaunet had possessed her.  After that meeting, I discovered that Doctor Jackson was much smarter than almost anyone else here, and the only person I’ve ever met that can match him is Major Carter. She told me once that Daniel did instinctively what she had to learn to do—how to think out of the box, whatever that means.  He speaks 23 languages and has usually processed every bit of information from A to Z while most folks are just halfway to B.

“When we buried his wife on Abydos, I learned just how important he is there.  His father-in-law, Kasuf, spent several hours telling me about Daniel’s exploits and heroics.  Daniel was a teacher and a somewhat reluctant leader, but Kasuf told me about several defenses he organized when a rival clan from the east attacked Nagada.  Once, a child became lost in the desert and a massive search was mounted.  No one could find him.  It wasn’t until later that Sha’uri, his wife, noticed that Daniel had not returned with the last group of hunters.  Three days later, Daniel came walking through the front gate, exhausted, dehydrated, but with a very much live little boy in his arms.  Kasuf said that Daniel almost died from exposure.  Another time, a herd of mastages got loose from their stalls and stampeded down the street near Daniel’s home.  A little girl that lived nearby was in the middle of the street, right in the path of the stampede.  Daniel ran out and threw her out of harm’s way but couldn’t get away himself.  A few of the mastages ran him over. He was unconscious for two days.  Kasuf said he knew that they had lost him that time.  More than a few people were surprised when he woke up.

“I guess what I’m saying is that the more I knew Doctor Jackson, and the more trials SG-1 overcame, the more sure I was of his ability to handle anything that SG-1 might come across out there.  Any apprehension I felt about letting him go headfirst into danger disappeared.  Like Major Carter said, Doctor Jackson did instinctively what the rest of us learned to do.  He would have made one hell of a soldier if he could get past being a civilian.

“As for the other civilians that were here, none of them were officially assigned to any of the teams, but most of them had gone through the Stargate a few times when the mission warranted someone in their particular field.  They learned to behave like soldiers when necessary, scientists when they could.  If and when he was ever captured and tortured, Doctor Jackson was the only one I could be sure of not to talk.  The others, well, I know they would try but I could say the same thing about every soldier that goes through that Stargate.  In all honesty, Captain, I have no apprehension about letting certain civilians join the SG teams. They’ve proven to be tougher than a lot of soldiers I’ve served with. Daniel Jackson is the best of the lot.”

Roberts nodded his head in agreement.  “I had read a few reports about him but it was mostly in conjunction with his role as the linguist for SG-1.  His personal dossier read more like a press release and wasn't very informative.  I learned a lot more after I got here, sir.  I have to admit that his exploits are impressive.”

The General laughed.  “Impressive is not the word I would use for Doctor Jackson.  I don’t think they’ve invented a word in the English language that quite describes him.  His linguistic skills alone would have earned him a place here, but it’s everything else he’s accomplished that has made him so valuable.  He is literally the case of ‘you have to see to believe.’  In fact, I think he is the only person here I couldn’t intimidate.  He sees everyone as an equal, no matter what their rank.  He will explain something to me the very same way he’d explain it to anyone else.  Except for Colonel O’Neill. Sometimes, I think Doctor Jackson enjoys baiting him with a few multi-syllable words he couldn’t possibly understand.”

Roberts noticed that the General kept referring to the archaeologist in the present tense.  “Yes, sir. I’m meant no disrespect to Doctor Jackson or any of the others.  I was just curious.  I know how important the Stargate is, and this is the first top secret military site I’ve been assigned to that allows this many civilians to work this close to the subject matter so early in the project.”

“That’s a good attitude, Captain,” the General said cautiously. “Always be curious.  However, the more time you serve here, you’ll discover that both civilians and soldiers can be suspect.  We’ve found traitors in our own ranks.”

“Yes, sir.   Is that all, sir?” Captain Roberts asked.

Now came the reason the General had called Roberts into his office.  “One other thing, Captain, when Doctor Jackson returns, I will be reassigning him to SG-1.  His contributions are self-explanatory, and I need him on my first team.  I was wanting you to know that your skills have been noted and appreciated, and I will be keeping you on a team.  SG-2 needs a linguist as skilled as you.”

Roberts seemed slightly confused.  “I thought Doctor Jackson resigned, sir.”

“He did.  I will be doing everything in my power to recruit him again as soon as we find him.  I've been given leave by the President to make any accommodation I think necessary to secure his return.  We have some allies out there that will only talk to us if Daniel’s the one doing the talking, and if the truth be told, we need him.  And Captain, this is in no way belittling your abilities.  Your command of the Goa’uld language is remarkable.  We need more people like you.  I just need Doctor Jackson with SG-1.”

“Yes, sir.   I understand.  You need you best people on your best team, and since it’s only a four person team, a lot of your best people have to wait their turn.”

“That’s about it.”  General Hammond replied.  “I think I’ve kept you from your duties long enough, Captain.  Thank you for coming.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dismissed.”

Roberts saluted smartly and left the General’s office.  After he had left, General Hammond sat for a moment contemplating the conversation.  Something there just did not sit right with him. Roberts had never been assigned to projects with a lot of civilians? Why would Roberts be so curious about the civilians that had left?  And why the avid interest in Doctor Jackson?  He had been stationed at the SGC and been traveling with SG-1 for a month, before that he had been stationed at the Pentagon and Area 51.  He had been given access to the reports for the last three years.  He should have known about every person at the base, personal dossiers notwithstanding.  If nothing else, Colonel O’Neill would have mentioned Daniel and his many exploits.  It was almost as if Roberts was fishing for information—fishing for the General’s grasp on matters pertaining to one Daniel Jackson.  O’Neill was right.  Roberts was up to something. This man needed to be watched.

**************************************************

Seven months later.

Colonel O’Neill sat in the control room, bored and worried.  SG-2 was an hour late reporting back in after their last transmission.  Feretti had said that they had found some old friends but new allies.  What the hell did that mean?

Major Carter had taken a seat at the control desk rhythmically tapping her fingers to a tune she was humming.  She was just as bored and as worried as her commanding officer.

Teal’c, however, had been standing behind her, his mask as stoic as ever.  Didn’t he ever get bored?

General Hammond walked up to Jack asked rhetorically, “Anything?”

“No sir.  No calls.  No messages.  No letters.  You know how kids are these days. They leave home and never keep in touch.”

Hammond grinned at Jack’s levity. Never let it be said that Jack O’Neill would pass up a chance for a sarcastic remark.

“What did you make of Major Feretti’s comment about these new allies being old friends?”

Jack leaned forward and watched as the many lights on the console flashed on and off.  “I don’t know, sir.  Could be that it’s someone we’ve run into before that just never wanted to help us out before.  I guess we’ll find out as soon as SG-2 gets back. What has me worried is that he wouldn’t tell us who it was over the vid-link.”

“It could be that they wished to remain anonymous until they could meet in person,” Carter suggested. “Maybe they were worried about how many people would know they were coming if they identified themselves on an open channel.”

“Maybe. Once they get here, despite Major Feretti’s assurances to the contrary, I want some unofficial guards placed on our new ‘friends’ until we know for certain who they are.”  Hammond turned to see Captain Roberts enter the control room. The thought of Roberts’ company did not give him the ‘warm fuzzies.’  Eight months of working together had not forged SG-1 into a 4-man team.  They were just three friends and a fourth wheel working on missions.  Their effectiveness had fallen, but they were still the best team he had.  Daniel's absence was still being felt.  Hammond’s attempts to find Jackson through legitimate and less than honorable sources had not been successful.  The man had just disappeared.  Hammond had progressed from being concerned about his young friend to being almost scared for his well-being.  Jack had been right.  Daniel would not have left without talking to anyone.

“Sir, I’ve checked all of the data on the planet again, and from what the MALP showed us and our readings suggest, there is little chance of human life as we know it.” Carter explained.  “The temperature appears to be below freezing year round.  If these are old friends, they must have had a good reason for being there.”

“Maybe our friends were just passing by like the Tollans were doing?” O’Neill suggested.

“Maybe,” Roberts joined into the conversation. “This planet is definitely not of the spa and resort variety.”

“You never know, Roberts. There are hills, snow, a fine powder. These folks might have been getting in a little skiing.” O’Neill told him.

Teal’c, who had always been polite to Roberts but had little liking for him and his narrow-mindedness, contradicted him by stating, “Not all people have such varied conditions as the Earth possesses.  I have met cultures that would consider a snow-covered planet a pleasant climate.  Yet I do not remember the SGC having encountered such a species.”

“That doesn’t mean no one here hasn’t met up with them at some point,” Roberts muttered under his breath, obviously trying to start an argument.

“It does not,” Teal’c responded coldly.

The klaxon began to sound, stopping any further debate.

“Incoming traveler!” Lieutenant Harriman said. He glanced at the computer readout. “It’s SG-2, sir.”

General Hammond glanced at the computerized confirmation of the transmitter’s signal.  “Open the iris,” he ordered.

The General watched as the shimmering event horizon allowed Sergeant Parman, the newest member of SG-2, to rush through and run down the ramp.  His clothes were torn and bloody, as if he had just left a fire fight.  As soon as he looked up at the General, he gave him the signal that meant that something was very wrong.

Hammond grabbed the microphone as the members of SG-1 hurried down to the gate room.

“What’s the problem, soldier?” the General called down to him.  Please don’t let it be a panicky soldier.

The sergeant looked almost relieved when Colonel O’Neill approached him.“  Sir, we came under attack by Apophis and his cronies about an hour ago, right after our last contact with you.  Those new allies Major Feretti told you about helped us defend the Stargate until we could dial out safely.  Major Feretti is bringing them through.  They’re 46 of them sir, along with six dead bodies.”

As they spoke, more members of the SG-2 team entered through the wormhole.  Emerging with them were these new “allies” helping the wounded walk and carrying the dead.  Most were carrying packs strapped to their backs, some wore holsters with a small hand device, while others had weapons that looked like triggerless rifles slung over their shoulders.  Their clothes were not conventional by any means. They appeared to be animal hides fashioned into apparel. Their heads were covered with a heavy material and only their eyes showed through an opening. These people must have gone to great lengths to protect themselves from the cold of that planet.

“They say they’re not Goa’uld or Tok’ra, sir, but they’ve got a parasite in them.”

“What?” Jack shouted. He motioned for the Red Alert button that General Hammond ordered to sound.

“No!  Don’t sound the alarm!”  Parman yelled frantically.  “You’ll understand as soon as you meet them!”

Against his better judgment and after a few moments thought, Jack ordered the red alert to be cancelled. Parman seemed genuinely worried about offending their guests.

Silence settled over the Gate Room as General Hammond joined them.  They watched as their new “allies” delivered the wounded members of the SGC to the medics’ care.  The dead bodies were respectfully carried to gurneys and were then guarded reverently. Apparently, these folks did not take death lightly.

“Major Feretti, report,” the General commanded.

Major Feretti approached General Hammond, and, in an oddly apprehensive voice, said “Sir, there’s no way I could have explained this over a vid-link.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, there was no way I could think of to tell you...” He stopped in mid-sentence, suddenly remembering he was talking to a superior officer.  “General, we found out what happened to the civilians that left eight months ago. The news is not good.  They didn’t resign.  From what little I know, the civilians were killed by persons unknown, dispatched somehow through some unknown Stargate and left for dead on PTX952. Apparently, there was a Goa’uld-like life form there known as the Kha’ti.  They’re symbiotes that take dead bodies for hosts. That way, they don’t interfere with anyone’s life and don’t have to worry about anyone’s memories. They took our civilians.  And before you ask, sir, Daniel Jackson was among them.”  Feretti spared Jack a quick glance.  “I’m sorry, Jack.”

Sorry?  Daniel?  What? Too fast.  Too much.  Jack kept thinking that this was too much impossible information coming at him too fast.

“Daniel’s a host?” Carter asked incredulously. Their Daniel?

“But to a Kha’ti?” Teal’c added questioningly. Obviously, he knew about these creatures.

The General held up a quieting hand. “Major, did you say that our people were killed?”

“Yes, sir.  They’re dead, and I don’t know much more than that. We got a little busy about that time when Apophis came calling.”

Worriedly, Feretti motioned for one of the new “allies” to join him.  “Sirs, allow me to introduce you to Vaelen, the leader of the Kha’ti.” One of the strangers approached and bowed his head slightly in the General’s direction. “Master Vaelen, this is General Hammond, the leader of our facility, and Colonel Jack O’Neill, the second-in-command. This is Major Samantha Carter, Captain Hiram Roberts and Teal’c. They’re the members of SG-1.”

A pregnant pause passed between the General and Vaelen, but then the newcomer took the initiative to enter the second phase of the meeting. “I greet you in friendship,” his voice spoke in the metallic two-tone echo present in Goa’ulds and Tok’ra, “Please allow me to apologize for the manner of our meeting. I would not have it thus, but propriety and circumstance dictate otherwise.”

“I don’t know if there’s any need for apologies,” Hammond explained quickly.  This individual did not have the arrogant stance of a Goa’uld.  The best plan was to play this politely until he knew who these new players were.

“There is a very good reason. There is no easy way for me to tell you a truth you will not wish to hear.  Major Feretti expressed his surprise at the situation, and I would not wish to offend you.  I know you are a good man and a capable leader, General Hammond, but I fear what must be known will be disturbing to you.”

He knows I’m a good man and a capable leader? Hammond thought quietly.  Who is this?

“I’ve told them some of it, sir, but you’ll need to explain the full details.” Major Feretti almost looked sad, apologetic.

Vaelen nodded his head in acceptance. “Thank you, Major. I know we share part of the guilt, so the punishment should be ours.”

Without further hesitation, Vaelen removed his headdress to reveal a horror Jack O’Neill had hoped he would never witness again.  Here was a member of his team looking at him but with a different person inside looking out. Feretti had not lied. This was Daniel! He was looking at Daniel!  Daniel?  Yes, definitely Daniel.  Blue eyes, light brown hair, and a—beard?  Definitely Daniel. Daniel was a host to a ...Kha’ti? What the hell was going on? Too much.  Too fast.  Way too fast. How could another member of his team be a host?  Even Carter’s surprised gasp and Teal’c’s subdued look of confusion did not register with the good colonel. Roberts was immobile.

Shock.  Silence.  Horror. The unbelievable was standing before them, and no one could say one word about it.  Awareness came to them in waves.  Kha’ti only took dead hosts, Vaelen took Daniel—Daniel was dead. Full realization hit the original members SG-1 team like a sledgehammer.

Vaelen broke the silence. “You were acquainted with my host,” he commented quietly. “Major Feretti seemed surprised as well when we first met. I would appreciate any time you could give me in order to explain the circumstances that brought about the event.”

Well, he’s polite, Hammond thought. Daniel—no, Vaelen displayed none of the arrogance associated with the Goa’uld.  This was definitely not a Goa’uld.  They couldn't act this well.

“We can discuss matters in the debriefing room nearby.  If you would please follow Sergeant Siler there, he can show you where it is, and we can begin as soon as you’re ready.”  Keep things polite, George.  “Is there anything else I can do for your people before we talk?”

Vaelen glanced over to the group standing quietly and patiently in the Gate room.  “Our wounds are minor and are healing.  My people do require nourishment and some rest.  If I may be so forward, sir, we could also use clean clothes. We will follow any security precautions you deem fit to impose, General.”  Vaelen smiled at Hammond’s look of surprise. “I, too, have been responsible for soldiers and commanded bases, sir. I understand the need for security protocols.  We are at your service.”

“Thank you, sir,” Hammond did not miss the marks of respect in Vaelen’s words.  Even his body language was non-threatening, just accommodating. Hammond decided that showing the same respect to his guest might go further than military bluster and pulling rank on his visitors.  “Sergeant Siler, please show our guests to the bunk rooms on Level 27, find out what they would like and have the mess hall send food there.  Also see to any other basic needs that they may have.  Make sure someone’s there to help them if they need anything.”  The General turned to Vaelen, and asked, “If there is anything else we can do at the moment—“

“There is one thing I must do, sir.” Vaelen motioned his hand and the six gurneys holding the dead bodies were brought to him.  “General, my people and I only number 46. 52 of your people were sent through the Chappa'ai. I respectfully return the bodies of the six remaining members of your command.”

The general looked at the six wrapped forms. Their dog tags were around their necks identifying them as six of the civilian members of the SGC.  Hammond had the medics take the gurneys and transport them to the morgue.

“I am sorry, sir,” Vaelen said lowly. "It would seem that I am bringing you only bad tidings.”

“No. I’ve wondered for a long time what happened to my people. And now I know.  I do wish we could have met under better circumstances, Master Vaelen. This is not a welcome I would wish for myself if I were in your shoes.”

“I understand, General. You have been very gracious, and I thank you.”  With that said, Daniel--no, Vaelen and his people followed Sergeant Siler to Level 27.

"General?" Jack finally found his voice.

"Don't worry, Colonel.  I haven't taken leave of my senses.  There are soldiers guarding them every inch of the way with orders to shoot to kill if necessary, and they are under constant camera surveillance.  If they're supposed to be new allies, let's not treat them as enemies until we know that's what they are."  Hammond turned to Teal’c.  “Do you know about the Kha’ti, Teal'c?”

“Very little, General. Like the Tok’ra, they fought the Goa’uld. However, they were believed to be exterminated long ago.  Formal knowledge of the Kha’ti is discouraged by the System Lords.  Speaking their name would warrant grave punishment. I believe that the Goa’uld would consider even this small number of Kha’ti to be a threat.” Teal’c explained this in his usual deadpan way.

“Do you think the Tok’ra would know of them?”

“Perhaps.”

General Hammond walked over to Major Carter and whispered, “Try to contact the Tok’ra. Get one of them here immediately if not sooner. They may be able to give us a hand with this situation, if we need one.”

“Yes, sir.”  Her voice was a little shaky.

“You all right, Sam?” Jack asked her.

“No, sir, not really. That was a symbiote in Daniel’s body, a symbiote that can only possess a dead body.  How could Daniel be dead?  You can’t kill him. It’s been tried before. I mean...how?”

“I don’t know,” Jack answered softly.

Hammond glanced at his best team. The next few hours would not be easy on them.  They had to discover the truth about their visitors.  Allies? Hammond could only hope so.

No one noticed Captain Roberts as he sneaked out the door.

One hour later, the group was gathered together for a debriefing all of them would have liked to avoid. When General Hammond discovered how many of his guests would be attending the debriefing, he changed the venue. The main conference room was much larger than the debriefing room and was therefore designated as the site to hold the meeting. General Hammond sat at the head of the large conference table; to his right, Colonel O'Neill. Opposite O'Neill sat Vaelen now dressed in borrowed military fatigues. Former SG-1 practice had established that O'Neill and Jackson always sat on one side of a debriefing table, Carter and Teal’c on the other. This kept the Jackson/O'Neill verbal confrontations to a minimum. This time, the General knew, O'Neill had to be in a position to watch Vaelen, to see if somewhere buried within Jackson's body Daniel still existed. A few verbal clues from Vaelen had suggested that he knew things an alive Doctor Jackson knew.

Beside Vaelen sat Jacob/Selmac. He had been one of the three Tok’ra that had arrived just minutes after Carter contacted them.  A quick explanation of what had happened followed, and the team was surprised to learn that Selmac and Vaelen were old friends, fighting in many of the same battles. His assurances that Vaelen was genuine and that the Kha’ti opposed the System Lords went far to help reassure the General, if not O’Neill.  Since Selmac knew Vaelen and Jacob knew the SGC crew, explanations should be easier and less cumbersome, especially if Vaelen now possessed Doctor Jackson's gift of the spoken word.

The remaining members of SG-1, the Kha'ti, the Tok’ra, and several guards were scattered around the room. There was some unease from the members of the SGC, and the Kha’ti felt it keenly. Having the bodies of people you once knew standing before you again and it is not them inside their bodies must be a strange feeling. The Kha’ti were trying to be respectful of their hosts’ colleagues, but the situation was strained.

This was going to be a difficult conversation.

General Hammond began the debriefing with a quick statement.  “I hope you do not mind my having guards posted here. It is merely— “

“Sir,” Vaelen interrupted him with a wave of his hand. “We understand perfectly the complicated situation our presence has created for you. Your security must be maintained at all costs. There is no need for apologies.”

Hammond smiled and nodded his appreciation to his ‘guests.’ “Well, then, Master Vaelen, whenever you’re ready.”

Vaelen took a moment as if to form his words carefully. Selmac placed a supporting hand on his shoulder. Both knew that this was going to be a painful explanation.

“Allow me to tell you what you already know, General.  We are the Kha’ti.  We are symbiotes who, like the Goa’uld and the Tok’ra, require a host within which to live.  This we have done, as you can see.  What you do not know is how we blend with a host.  The Goa’uld subjugate and enslave a host, using the body as they will, without regard to the life inhabiting it.  The Tok’ra blend with their host, each sharing control of the body.  Their union is a welcome symbiosis not regarded as abhorrent.  Our blending, although far less intrusive on an individual, is probably considered the most repugnant by symbiotes.  We only inhabit dead bodies so we do not interfere with anyone’s personal life or tread upon their memories.”

For a moment, Vaelen allowed his words to penetrate the knowledge of those present.  Then, “Due to our fugitive state brought about by our resistance to the Goa’uld, we have wandered the stars for a very long time until, over one year ago, our ship was damaged by an enemy attack and crashed on the planet you call PTX952.  Our host bodies were damaged greatly, well beyond our abilities to repair, and, one by one, they ceased to function.  You must understand that a dead body requires far less maintenance than a live host.  Our healing abilities are mostly restorative, not regenerative.  A dead body can be extended far longer than a live one if restored.  We cannot regenerate tissue even with a sarcophagus.

“Approximately eight months ago, the Chappa'ai engaged, and the bodies you see before you were cast through the vortex.  At the time, there were only 46 of us still alive when we 500 strong at the time of the crash.  These new bodies had been pierced with metal projectiles in their chests and heads.  They were newly dead and eligible for restoration, our host bodies were failing us, and so we abandoned our former bodies for these new ones.  Afterwards, the Chappa'ai was silent.  We have had several Jaffa ‘visit’ but they came in ships.  We fought them and won, but those victories required the destruction of their death gliders.  We could allow no one loyal to the Goa’uld to return with the knowledge of our presence; however, our actions meant that we had no means of escape either.  We may have had the Chappa'ai, but how were we to know where we could find a safe haven where the Goa'uld would not be?"

"Then, earlier today, Major Feretti and SG-2 came through the Chappa'ai.  They were the first to use it since we acquired our new hosts.  Needless to say, the Major was surprised at finding us on a world thought to be uninhabited, and he was much more surprised to find us in the bodies of his associates.  His most puzzling question, which he asked me more than once, is how did 52 Tau’ri civilians pass through the Tau’ri Stargate without anyone’s knowledge.”

“That would be a valid question, sir,” General Hammond informed him.  “No one goes through that Stargate without my knowledge.  And I know for a fact that no one has gone to PTX952 through our gate before today.”

“Major Feretti expressed the same conclusion, General.  I had no answer for him.  Before he contacted you, I asked the Major if our existence should be made known to you, but he seemed to be at a loss for words.  That is not surprising given the situation in which SG-2 found themselves.  The expression on his face seemed to indicate to me that there could be a great deal of confusion or trouble.  Reluctantly, I asked him to withhold our identities until we could speak personally.  As we were discussing the Major’s suggestion to return with him to the SGC, Apophis’ ship appeared.  Undoubtedly, with a great many of his death gliders destroyed and as many Jaffa unaccounted for, he must have realized that PTX952 was the planet upon which we had found a refuge.  He fired on the planet as a means of destroying us.  I would suspect that Major Feretti has gone into some detail of those particular events at his own debriefing?”

General Hammond said, “Yes, he did.  Any information you can add to his would be helpful.”

“The attack was led by Dervans.  They belong to a race of what you might term shadow warriors, a species whose actions are enigmatic and contradictory.  Their attacks are swift and lethal.  You would be dead before you realized that a Dervan was in your presence.  Along with their physical prowess, they are technologically advanced.  They interact only with the Goa’uld because they believe only the System Lords are of a ranking not beneath their dignity to speak with, yet even the mightiest of the Goa'uld  fear the Dervans and have sought their annihilation.  Friendly enemies, as it were.  The Dervan code of honor dictates that they are loyal to the Goa’uld System Lord whom they serve, whomever that may be, and under their auspices have hunted us for many ages in an attempt to exterminate us.  There are those who believe that once they have destroyed the Kha'ti, they will turn their attention to the Goa'uld and decimate them.  We have ‘given them the slip,’ as you would say, many times.  The Kha’ti have made great enemies who consider our existence an evil to be eradicated from the universe, and these enemies have joined forces with the Dervans against us on occasion.  As for these last attacks, Apophis could be lashing out for many agendas.  Their behavior suggested that they were searching for something or someone.  The last time I dealt with Apophis personally was several centuries ago in the Border War between him and Ra.”

Teal’c spoke for the first time.  “It was believed that all of the Kha’ti perished in that war.”

Vaelen nodded.  “Yes.  Most did.  We numbered in the tens of thousands once.  During that war, our numbers were reduced to less than one thousand.  Now, we are the only ones left.  All the others have gone to the river.”

To the river?  O’Neill did not comment on that one.  He knew that the Tok’ra were not particularly religious, and he knew that Goa’uld had no particular religious convictions other than their belief in their own godhood, but going to the river was an Abydonian slang reference to the afterlife.  A person’s spirit would travel to the river to begin its voyage into the next life.  Daniel had once confessed his own beliefs of what the afterlife might look like.  After all, he had shaken hands with the Grim Reaper on more than one occasion.  He should have a better idea of the Hereafter than most folks.  He liked the idea of going to the river, climbing in a boat, and sailing past the far shore into eternity.  Anyway, how did Vaelen know of the reference and did he know of its significance to his host?

Major Carter asked quickly, “Do you have a home planet?”

“Not any longer.  It was destroyed long ago by an armada of Goa’uld ships.  We have been spacebound since then.  I realize that you must be forming alliances in order to fight the Goa’uld, and finding any resistance groups would be a help, but the only help we can offer you is ourselves, however pitifully small that help may be.”

Roberts had remained silent, watching the interplay between Vaelen and the others present at the table.  This creature did not behave like Daniel Jackson.  He did not sound like Daniel Jackson.  How many memories could a symbiote gather from a corpse?  He needed to find out.

“Master Vaelen,” Roberts finally spoke up.  “I have a question to ask, but it might be hard for some of the folks here to hear it.”

“Your question regards our hosts?”

“Yes.”

Vaelen, who had tried to avoid particular specifics on the subject, acquiesced to the Captain.

“You said that you only inhabit dead bodies.  Is there anything of the host remaining?”

Vaelen looked as if he had been hit.  The room was quiet, no one even dared breathe.

Vaelen answered him, his voice showing great respect for those lives that had ended so the Kha’ti could live.  “When an individual dies, there is a release of energy from the body.  Sometimes this energy imprints certain memories on the mind that can last for hours after death.  A Kha’ti will have some small measure of the person that has been replaced, some distant thoughts, an awareness of places or events, even food cravings, but the person is gone.  I am sorry.”

Roberts tried again.  “Then there are no memories of their last moments?  How they died?  Anything?”

Roberts saw every Kha’ti in the room shake their head.  All except Vaelen, that is.  That particular Kha’ti held Roberts gaze far too long for his liking.  Almost as if---no, that was not possible.  Daniel had left no memories to trouble Roberts.  Yet, Vaelen’s gaze seemed to slice through him, almost as if he knew something.  This guy would have to go.

“Well,” General Hammond broke the silence, “The next question is what to do.  We have a common enemy that we’re fighting, and we need all of the help we can get. We would gladly take any information or help you would care to give us, Master Vaelen.”

Selmac shook his head and smiled. “Even Vaelen would agree that there are no objections in telling you Goa’uld capabilities, but the Kha’ti cannot give you technology the Tau’ri are not ready for, General Hammond.  That would cause untold of problems for you.”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack complained.  “You mean to tell us that our people help save their hides, and all we’re going to get is a thank you?”

“Is that not enough?” Selmac asked him.  “And if it were not enough, from what has been said today, it was the Kha’ti that saved Major Feretti’s team.  I did not know that your people asked for remuneration for a good deed.”

“I’m not asking for remuneration.  Just a little consideration.  The Tollans, the Tok’ra, even the Asgaard keep asking for our help to do these good deeds, it would be nice to have a few gadgets to help us.  It’s not like I’m asking for the design to your spaceships, although that would be nice to have.”

“That will not be possible, Colonel O’Neill,” Selmac told him.

“So we just keep getting thrown into the fire?  Never mind the frying pan?”

Before Selmac could answer, Vaelen raised his hand to get the Tok’ra’s attention.  “Selmac, don’t be an ass.”

Oh, damn, O’Neill thought to himself.  That’s Daniel!

“Colonel O’Neill is correct.  The Tau’ri have been placed in repeated jeopardy due to the inability of technologically superior races to admit to themselves that they’re imaginatively inadequate to deal with the Goa’uld.  If they now accept an alliance with the Kha’ti, and we are some of the greatest enemies the Goa’uld have ever encountered even if we are few in number, they will be placed in far greater danger than should be necessary.  The Tau’ri have proven themselves far worthier than any of us.  You should know this.  Your host is a Tau’ri and father to one who sits at this table and jeopardizes her own life to perform these good deeds.  Although I agree with you that their civilization has not reached a level to comprehend many of our ‘gadgets,’ I believe that some technology should be shared with them.  The weapons we used on PTX952 are advanced but basic, nothing beyond their realm of comprehension.”  Then, to O’Neill, “Taggers are small hand-held weapons with the destructive power of a staff weapon.  It can destroy a death glider.  We have also developed a hand-held energy shield that is mostly impenetrable but small.  It works best in close quarters combat.  You may fire a weapon through the shield toward an enemy, but the enemy will experience great difficulty penetrating the shield to harm you.  Don’t expect anything big, Colonel.  What you call 'small whirligigs' may the best we can offer you at this point in your technological development.”

“Hey, that’s all I’m asking for here.  Just a little consideration.  And small whirligigs.”  O’Neill stared into Vaelen’s eyes, and for just a moment, thought he saw Daniel staring back at him.

**************************************************

Janet Fraiser walked down the hallway toward General Hammond’s office.  She was holding some file folders tightly in her hand, the expression on her face clearly told everyone to stay out of her way.  Officers moved aside when they saw her coming toward them.  Whatever was bothering her, they could only hope they had nothing to do with it.

Janet knocked on Hammond’s door and opened it before she was given permission to enter.  Colonel O’Neill was sitting there.  She had an idea that their conversation had not been a happy or productive one.

“Doctor?” Hammond gazed up at her questioningly.

“I have the autopsy reports on the six bodies Dan—Vaelen brought with him.  You’re not going to like this.”  She handed him the folders and stood back, crossing her arms.

Hammond opened the first folder and read the report.  He opened the second, the third, all of them.  Every one of them revealed the same conclusion.

“Sir?” Jack saw the unbelievable look cross his superior’s face.  “What is it?”

“This is the proof we needed to back up Vaelen’s statements.  All six were killed with a variety of weapons, one of them bullets from an AK-47, another a nine millimeter.”  He shoved the folders over to Jack, then got up and paced his small office.  “52 civilians under my command are dead, murdered on my watch, sent through some Stargate and now they’re hosts to an almost extinct group of parasites who fight the Goa’uld.  Would someone like to connect the dots for me?”  He wasn’t surprised when no one answered him.

Jack reached the last folder and read it carefully.  He remained quiet as the general continued.  “Doctor Fraiser, have you had a chance to examine any of the others to determine the status of the hosts?”

“Not yet.  I thought I might insult them by asking them to offer proof of their hosts’ conditions.  They’re very polite.  I don’t think that accusing them of lying would be a good idea.  I was hoping you might think of a way of asking them.  You and Vaelen seem to understand each other.”

Hammond sat down again.  He was glad he didn’t have very much hair because right now, if he had any, he would have pulled out every strand of it.  “Vaelen was a general himself.  He would know why you would be asking, and he wouldn’t take offense.  But I think you’ll find that examining all of them will not be necessary.  I have a feeling that you’ll produce the same results you found with the six bodies.”

“I’m afraid I have to agree with you, General.”

Jack placed the folders back on the general’s desk.  He stood and saluted the general.  “Excuse me, sir.  I believe there’s somewhere else I need to be.”  He left without waiting for permission.

Janet glanced at the General.  “Is he all right?”

“Not right now, Doctor.  Imagine how you’d feel if you believed that your best friend was safe and sound for eight months, only to find out that he had been murdered and his body hidden on some remote site.  Colonel O’Neill is feeling more than a little guilty that he wasn’t there to help Doctor Jackson when he was in trouble.  Now, he won’t rest until he’s discovered who killed him and how he was transported to PTX952.  He will get his revenge, and Heaven help those who murdered Daniel Jackson because the only help they’ll get is from the Almighty.”

**************************************************

Jack sat quietly in his on-base quarters.  The day’s events had been too harrowing to digest all at once.  The guilt he felt was overpowering.  He should have known that Daniel did not leave willingly.  Jack should have known that Daniel was in trouble.  He should have known something was wrong.

When there was no evidence to the contrary, Jack had finally come to believe that Daniel had left without a word, had packed a few meager possessions and took off to some remote archaeological dig in some unheard-of area.  Daniel had left and had never even called Jack to let him know if he had found any new rocks to look over, any new writings to translate, any shoestrings to trip on.  Jack’s disappointment in his friend had become anger.  Yes he knew he had been angry at Daniel for leaving, for going back to archaeology when his world was broken beyond repair – his career ruined, his wife dead, her son safely hidden away by the creature they had encountered on Kheb – what else did he have since his personal life was ashes?  Archaeology and what he might be able to salvage out of his career.

Now, Jack’s anger turned into overwhelming guilt.  His best friend was dead.  He had been dead the entire time and Jack had been angry over the fact that Daniel had never called.  Daniel had needed the Colonel’s help eight months earlier, but that help had not been there.  It did not come, and Daniel had been killed along with 51 other SGC civilians.

No – Jack knew his friend had not been killed.  He had been murdered; his body thrown through some mysterious Stargate where a bunch of parasites that just happened to need new hosts were hiding. Coincidence?

The Kha’ti.  Allies of the Tok’ra.  Fighters of the Goa’uld.  Thieves of dead bodies.  His best friend’s continued nightmare.  Now what were the Tau’ri supposed to do?  Welcome their new acquaintances with open arms?

Jacob/Selmac had vouched for Vaelen.  Jack had watched as the two friendly symbiotes met after a long separation.  He listened as Selmac and Vaelen reminisced over battles, planets, acquaintances, even beer.  He saw the ease with which the Kha’ti moved amongst the Tok’ra.  He felt the raw anger and raging jealousy when he realized he would never again reminisce with Daniel over battles, planets, acquaintances or beer.  He would never again have to explain hockey rules to a half-attentive Daniel whose mind was usually revolving around something archaeological.  He would never again have to listen to a drawn-out explanation about some obscure planet’s association with some lesser-known mythological character.  How could Daniel be gone while his body was still walking the corridors?

Dammit, Daniel.  You don’t know what I’d give just to hear you tell me again that it’s an artifact.  Not a rock.

Jack’s thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Go away!” he yelled.  He was in the middle of a pity party and did not want to be interrupted.

The door opened anyway, and ‘Daniel’s’ head peered around the door.  His eyes were distracted for a moment, almost as if the observer were experiencing deja vu.  

“May I enter?”  The Kha’ti’s voice.  Not Daniel’s.

Jack did not answer quickly.  He hesitated just long enough for Vaelen to know that this was a surprising request.

“I asked General Hammond's permission to have a soldier bring me here.  I must speak to you, O’Neill.  There is something you must know that no one else may hear.”

For a moment, Jack wanted to throw the Kha’ti across the room – only for a moment.  No matter what ‘creature’ stood before him, there was some Danielness about him, and he was an ally.  Okay, for Daniel’s sake, he would listen.  He motioned Vaelen to a nearby chair.

Vaelen appraised the Tau’ri before him.  He could feel the anger rolling from the colonel, but something was telling him that there were more feelings consuming the colonel, guilt and betrayal chief amongst them.

“So what do you want to tell me?” he asked his visitor.

“Please be patient, Colonel, for it is a long story indeed.  I am the only Kha’ti in this situation, but it is a situation that must be remedied at the earliest convenience.”

Nice.  A long-winded snakehead.  What would Daniel say to that?

“And this situation would be –“ the Colonel began.

“Daniel Jackson is not completely dead.”

Jack was stunned.  Selmac had said that the Kha’ti could only animate dead bodies.  Vaelen was animating Daniel’s body so Daniel must be dead, right?  But if Daniel was alive, how could Vaelen co-exist with him?

“Daniel’s not dead?” Jack asked him.

“Not completely,” Vaelen told him almost apologetically.  “Please hear me out, O’Neill.  I must tell you what has happened, and then we must decide what action to take.”

“We must decide?  Why us?”

“For my part, I am housed within a living prison, and alone I am unable to do much to rectify the problem for reasons I could not begin to explain.  Whether by fate or by chance, my life and Daniel’s life have merged.  I have a responsibility to my host since it is not our way to take living creatures.  I owe him his life back.”

Jack nodded his head.  “And I get to share in the decision-making process because…”

“Because you are his best friend.  He trusts you above all others.”

Jack felt the tears well up behind his eyes, but he refused to let them come.  Some best friend, huh Danny-boy?  I couldn’t have let you down more if I had been the one to shoot you myself.

“So tell me.” Jack finally muttered.

“What you were told in the debriefing room was true.  The bodies were sent through the Chappa’ai, we took them as hosts, and we have inhabited them ever since.  What I could not tell anyone then, and only now can I tell you, is that although I believed this body dead at first, I heard whispers almost from the moment of the blending.  I would have memories of Abydos and Sha’uri even though I have never been to Abydos nor ever met this woman.  I feel the pain of her loss, which for Daniel must be excruciating.  At first, I thought these wisps of memories were the residual traces of the host that are imprinted on the mind at the time of death, but when full days and events are remembered in whole and with clarity, that can only mean that the host is alive.  This is very disconcerting for both host and symbiote since Kha’ti do not have the ability to allow the host to come forward.”

Vaelen paused for a moment.  He had to know that Jack understood the urgency of the situation.

Jack sensed that he was supposed to say something at that point.

“You can’t let Daniel come forward.  You mean, he’s trapped inside his own head?”

“Yes. Moreover, Kha’ti do not usually have to contend with their hosts memories.  I have tried to respect Daniel’s privacy, but some of his memories have emerged rather forcefully, but they are disjointed and confused.  He is not quite whole.”

“What are you not telling me?” Jack asked him.

“Too many things that cannot be disclosed in a short amount of time.  There are many things I still do not understand.  The one overriding impulse that I had no understanding of until I came here was his need to find you.  The part of Daniel that still lives has a great deal of faith in you, O’Neill.  He believes you can help him.”

Vaelen stood and started pacing around the room, using his hands to help him speak (a very Daniel-like mannerism).  O’Neill was not a scientist.  Vaelen had to keep this explanation simple.

“Consider for a moment that your being considered a living creature is more that the union of flesh, blood and bone.  You have an energy that contributes to your existence.  It houses your memories, your intelligence, your self-awareness, your soul as it were.”  Vaelen waited until he saw Jack nod his head.  So far, so good.  He was keeping up with the Kha’ti.  “Now consider that this energy must be . . .all together in one place for a person to be alive and whole.”

“All together where?” Jack asked.

“Not ‘all-together in one place’ literally, O’Neill.  But for the sake of this conversation, let’s say the mind.”

“The noggin.  Gotcha.”

“Now, when a person dies or comes near death, this energy begins to . . .scatter and is no longer all together.  When this person is revived, this energy gathers itself back together.”

Again, Jack nodded his head.  “Keep going.  I’m still with you.”

“I believe that when Daniel was shot and sent through the Chappa’ai, he was almost dead, his energy just beginning to scatter.  I must have merged with him during that process and began reversing it.  Since I am Kha’ti, my experience with live hosts is academic, but I believe that the Kha’ti might have the same healing abilities for living hosts as the Tok’ra and Goa’uld, only ours are dormant.”

That was a complete reversal of what he had said in the debriefing.  “You think that you’ve been healing Daniel, getting his energy back together.”

“Exactly,” Vaelen agreed with him.  “Again, I am only theorizing, but I believe that once Daniel’s energy is at 100% cohesion, I will be able to leave him for a new host without endangering him.”

“Yes!” Jack jumped up and was hard pressed not to shout his relief to the ceiling.  “If you’re right, and all you have to do is get Daniel to 100% co-whatever, where is he at right now?”

“His presence has been growing stronger over the last months.  We have faced many Jaffa in ground battles recently. I began to remember old battles that Daniel had participated in, not myself.  I remembered killing Ra, and I had not seen that particular Goa’uld in many years.  More and more memories were presenting themselves to me, and, at times, I became too distracted to lead my people. When I started to remember this facility, these people—you--the memories came more quickly, as if one memory was linked to another and was being pulled to the surface.  When we arrived through the gate this morning, I heard a coherent thought come from him.  He said ‘finally.’  Then, without warning, many of his memories flooded into my mind, more events from his life became abundantly clear.  I saw these events as if they were my own.  He became more alive than I have ever felt him.  He is here, O’Neill.  If I were to put a numerical value on his cohesion, I would say 70%.”

“And what do we do now that we know he’s alive?” Jack asked him.

Those blue eyes that had seen far too much in a short life turned toward Jack.  “I have given this some thought, but I am flying by the seat of my pants, as you you would say.  Basically, I think we should try to resurrect his memories.  I have a few ideas on procedure, but until we do know the story of his death in its entirety, this must remain our secret.  Kha’ti regard taking a living, unwilling host as an abomination.”

“Fine.  I’ll keep it on the QT.  But the second you can find Daniel in there,” and Jack pointed to Vaelen’s head, “I want to talk to him.  Understand?”

“Perfectly,” Vaelen answered.

O’Neill was far too happy to discover that his friend might still be alive that several moments passed before realization dawned on him.  “Wait, you said you know everything about Daniel?”

“No, not everything. I know a great deal of his personal life, his friends, his family.  Some memories are very clear and specific, others are vague.”

“Then you know how he died?  Who murdered him?”  O’Neill knew that whoever had murdered Daniel and the other civilians would return to finish the job if his friend’s existence became common knowledge.

“I know how he died.  Many of those memories were very clear when we blended.  You will not like the answer.”  Vaelen cautioned him quietly.

“I don’t like this whole situation.  I need to know everything you know.”

Vaelen’s attention never wandered from O’Neill.  “Daniel received a summons from General Hammond to accompany two uniformed guards to Area 51.  The summons informed him that SG-9 had discovered a vast abandoned city on the planet they were exploring.  Due to some pressing military considerations, only the civilians from the SGC could be spared for a two-week archaeological expedition with SG-9 as their military guard.  Daniel was to go to Area 51 and assemble any and all equipment that might be needed for the dig.  He thought this was a strange request, but he had seen the military do many strange things and thought no more about it.  Once he had arrived, he met the 51 other civilians there.  They had come for the same or somewhat similar reasons, each according to their position here at the base.  Knowing that these events did not follow General Hammond’s usual procedures, he asked to see several of the others’ summons.  He compared the General’s signatures and found them to be identical.”

At Vaelen’s pause, Jack asked, “And?  So?”

“Daniel knew that no one can write their signature identically time after time and that General Hammond steadfastly refuses to ‘use a stamp,’ I believe that is the phrase.  The summons had been forged.”

“Oh.  I knew that.” Jack commented.

“Once he brought this to the attention of the others, they promptly tried to leave.  They were caught and taken to room that housed a—Daniel called it a homemade Stargate.”

That got Jack’s attention.  “Homemade?  As in someone there might have hammered one together?”

“As in.  This is why you have no record of any civilians going through your Stargate.  Soldiers came; Daniel and the civilians were told that their presence at the SGC was no longer required.  The soldiers fired their weapons and killed the civilians.  Daniel was not dead yet, he still held on to life.  He saw a soldier engage the Chappa'ai, he even saw the symbols.  Before their bodies were sent through the vortex, Daniel heard the soldier in charge tell them to ‘put their people in place.’  Then, they were transported to PTX952.  I believe you know the story from there.”

“Do you know who any of the soldiers were?”

“No.  I believe that Daniel knows, but I cannot find that memory or he’s hiding it from me.”

O’Neill got up and began to pace around his office.  “Damn!  Nothing ever changes.  The guy with all the answers is the guy that needs the help.  This sucks.”

“That is another reason we must make every attempt to rescue Daniel.  You have traitors in your ranks, and Daniel is the only one who can tell you who they are.  The more disturbing aspect is the fact that Daniel and the others were transported to a planet we just happened to be residing.  I am not one to believe in coincidence, Colonel.  I believe there was a reason behind the choice of PTX952.  We must resurrect every memory buried within Daniel in order to help him reach cohesion.  He will speak for those who have fallen and against those who harmed them.”

The silence between the two men was penetrating.  Each knew the seriousness of the situation.  “You’re going to have to tell this to Hammond.”

“I will, but not yet.  In order to keep Daniel alive and safe from those who did him harm, I truly believe that we must keep this between ourselves.”

“But if there’s a conspiracy against—“

“There is a conspiracy, Colonel.  Of that, you already know.  We have no reason to suspect General Hammond, but his life could be jeopardized as well.  We will need more information than Daniel’s scattered memories have given me before informing the General of these circumstances.  Either Daniel must be cohesive enough to speak for himself or the perpetrators must be uncovered through his memories.”

“Which means I get to go snipe hunting?” O’Neill asked sarcastically.

“Of course.  You might find that our working together might be interesting.”  Then, in an effort to lighten the mood, Vaelen asked, “Now, can you tell me one thing?”  

“Sure.” O’Neill answered.

“Exactly what is hockey and what does Daniel mean when he asks when are the playoffs?”

Jack smiled.  Oh, yeah, this is going to be interesting.

**************************************************

Thus began what Jack called the All-Time-Great-Snipe-Hunt.  Hoping to gather Daniel’s energies together faster by unburying more of Daniel’s memories, Jack introduced Vaelen to his host’s life.  Books, articles, papers, research, even e-mails that Daniel had read or written were perused at a startling rate.  Artifacts that Daniel found the most interesting found their way into Jack’s possession for Vaelen to study.  At one point, Jack had called an item a rock and was quickly corrected by Vaelen that the rock was an artifact.

Jack wished that he could have Sam and Teal’c help him bring Daniel’s memories back, but Vaelen had been adamant on the subject.  No one could know yet.  He refused to endanger anyone’s life until they were more than certain of the conspirators’ identities.  Although Jack understood this, he hated keeping his other two teammates out of the loop.  Roberts seemed to be keeping himself scarce, as if he were trying to avoid the Kha’ti, but since he had never met Daniel it was not surprising that he had no desire to speak with Vaelen.

Jack hoped that Sam and Teal’c could forgive him for not telling them about Daniel as soon as he had been told the truth.  After going undercover to smoke out that little weasel Makepeace and the ferret he worked for, Maybourne, Jack had sworn never again.  Never again would he jeopardize his relationships with his friends.  Although Carter and Teal’c understood the necessity for secrecy, Daniel had been hurt the most by what Jack had said.  Their friendship had suffered the most.  Jack had done everything he could think of to regain Daniel’s trust.  It took a while, but Daniel finally forgave him, or said he did.  After a few months, Daniel was watching hockey games over at Jack’s place again, his mind only half on the game, half on some rock that was found on a distant planet.  Things were back to normal.

Then this whole Kha’ti mess had to happen. Jack wanted to rip someone apart, he just did not know who.  If Vaelen could only get to those memories or if they could resurrect Daniel then he, Sam and Teal’c would do just that.

Vaelen was diligent.  Every working moment was spent either talking to General Hammond about the Goa’uld or showing Sam how to build a variety of ‘whirligigs’ including taggers and shields.  During a few restful times, Vaelen discussed the history of the Kha’ti with Teal’c or buried his nose into Daniel’s reports.  He had instructed the other Kha’ti to work with the Tok’ra and the Tau’ri to help set up more effective defense systems at the SGC or redefine battle tactics for hand-to-hand combat.  They spent many hours practicing with taggers and shields.  Vaelen was trying to keep everyone he knew away from him so he could be around those who knew Daniel and could help him.

For this, Jack would always be grateful, yet there was a part of him that had befriended the Kha’ti.  Vaelen had not stolen Daniel, just did what was necessary to live and acceptable to his kind.  Now, he was trying to reverse his error.  His unselfish actions had garnered the respect of one colonel.  Jack called Vaelen friend.  Perhaps this alliance would be a good thing after all.

For five days, Vaelen and Jack worked on pulling Daniel’s memories from his mind.  For five days, they had some small successes.  Vaelen would know things that Daniel had kept secret from everyone but Jack.  Certain comments would be said that could only be attributed to Daniel.  This was working.

At the beginning of the sixth day, Vaelen knocked on Jack’s office door.

“Come in.”

Vaelen entered.  The expression on his face showed that he was not happy.  “The others wish to return with the Tok’ra today.  It is believed that we have given you sufficient weapons and information at the present time, and the desire to return with others like ourselves is very strong.  I do not believe this will be a set-back for the plan to restore Daniel Jackson.”

Jack sat quietly.  He knew that the Kha’ti was going to leave with the Tok’ra as soon as they could.  He just had not expected it to be this soon.  “How far along is he now?”

“Almost 95%.  He started talking with me last night. His words were somewhat confused, like he couldn’t remember them, but he was speaking in complete sentences.  He is so close to being whole again, I am so close to freeing him, I—“

“How much longer do you think?”

“If I could have another two days, and if we could find me a new host body, Daniel could be watching the hockey game with you this weekend.”

Jack stood and walked over to his friend—friends—and said, “Then we have got to tell General Hammond what you know about what happened to Daniel.  I think you’ve remembered enough to at least start an investigation and maybe we can keep everyone out of danger and you here for a couple of more days.”

Reluctantly, Vaelen agreed.

**************************************************

Sam, Teal’c and General Hammond waited in the conference room for Jack and Vaelen to arrive and start this impromptu meeting.  Mysteriously, Vaelen had asked that Roberts be sent out of the base for some inane reason and for no guards to be present.

“Anyone have any idea what this meeting’s supposed to be about?” the General asked.

“No, sir,” Carter answered him.  “The Colonel didn’t say.  He just said that he was bringing Vaelen, and they had something to tell us.”

“O’Neill’s behavior has been most strange,” Teal’c commented.  “He has moved all of Daniel Jackson’s possessions into his office, and he and Vaelen have been searching through them.”

“But searching for what?” Carter asked him.

“I do not know, but every day I have observed several soldiers bringing boxes from storage.  Earlier today, I noticed O’Neill trying to find a particular book belonging to Daniel Jackson.  He seemed quite insistent that he find it.”

“Well, I don’t know what they’ve been working on, but it must be important.  They’ve been meeting every day.”  Carter told the two gentlemen. 

“I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough,” the General said.  “I can hear them coming now.”

Vaelen entered the conference room with O’Neill.  He saw that Sam and Teal’c were sitting at the table with Hammond quietly discussing some matter among themselves.  Unconsciously, he walked toward the coffeepot and poured himself a cup of coffee.  

Jack was the only one to notice see this very Daniel-like behavior.  Even Vaelen did not seem to notice that he had performed another action that was quintessentially Daniel. No matter where he went, Daniel always headed for the coffeepot first.  Jack always joked that Daniel lived on two food groups:  chocolate and caffeine.

Vaelen quickly downed the drink, savoring the flavor for some odd reason.  He was preoccupied with the matter they were about to discuss that he did not take the time to think that the body needed this drink or that the coffeepot was always the primary goal when his host entered a room.  He quickly poured himself a second cup without thinking.  The consequences of this lack of awareness and reflection stunned them all.

Only moments after drinking the coffee, Vaelen fell to the floor, clutching his head in agony.  He felt someone grabbing his arms and sitting him against the wall.  O’Neill, maybe?  He could hear the Colonel talking to him and Major Carter’s voice somewhere in the background.  He could hear Hammond calling for medical, O’Neill telling him not to call for medical.  Vaelen then fell into the dark recesses of his host’s mind.

Suddenly, Vaelen’s head jerked back and slammed into the wall.  Jack saw the eyes stare at nothing and then track to his position.  Those silent eyes told Jack what he had been needing to hear since the moment he realized his friend was trapped within his own body. There was fear in the blue eyes staring at him.  There was a silent plea for help crying out to Jack.

“Daniel?”

“Vaelen, sir.”  Carter absently corrected him.

“Trap, Jack…a trap.”  Daniel’s voice! Not a symbiote enhanced double echo, but Daniel’s voice.  Both Sam and Teal’c stood staring at their friend, both of them too stunned to speak.  This was what had been preoccupying the Colonel for the last week.  Daniel was still alive!

“What trap, Danny?” O’Neill asked him. 

Daniel’s hand inched up and grabbed O’Neill’s arm as if he were anchoring himself to reality.  “NID?  Some of them...Darby’s people.  Get… rid of us…replace with … military.  Can’t…trust Roberts…One of them.  He…killed me.”

“Who’s Darby?  Who’s ‘us,’ Danny?”

The effort Daniel was exerting just to speak was monumental.  Jack could see the strain in his face, could feel the strength in Daniel’s grip.  “Civilians....more than that.  Couldn’t …trust us…to keep quiet...about the...”

“Stay with me, Daniel.  Quiet about what?”

Daniel tried to answer, but no words came out.  His eyes were becoming lackluster.  He was falling back down.  That meant that Vaelen was coming back.  Vaelen did not know all of the details about Daniel’s last moments.  Jack needed to talk to his friend.  His human friend.

“Daniel, don’t you dare go back down there.  You stay here.  That’s an order!  You’ve got that?  For once in your life, do as I tell you!”

Daniel could not follow his orders, Jack knew that.  He was still too weak.  He was not at 100% cohesion. 

Then, again, Daniel’s head jerked back and slammed into the wall again.  He saw the four concerned faces looking at him.  In that annoying double echo voice of his, Vaelen asked, “What has happened?”

Teal’c answered for the group.  “You experienced great pain and fell to the ground.  Then Daniel Jackson spoke and warned Colonel O’Neill of a trap.”

Vaelen glanced at Jack who said “Whoops.”

“Sir,” Carter asked the Colonel.  “What’s going on?”

“In short, Daniel’s trapped, not dead, and Vaelen’s trying to help him get strong enough so he can leave him and find a new host.  The problem is, no one can know about this because the people who killed him might come back after him.  We have to keep this one secret.  That’s what this meeting was supposed to be about.  We were going to tell you all we know.”  Then, to Vaelen, “Care to explain what just happened?  You said that Daniel couldn’t surface  ‘cause the Kha’ti didn’t know how to switch.”

“That is true.  If Daniel’s theories about a sarcophagus and a zat gun are correct, then…”

Sam interrupted him.  “Then that might be the way to help Daniel.  He always believed that--”

“Yes!” Vaelen interjected loudly.  “Major, I believe there is sufficient evidence to support his theory.  We may be able to effect a positive result, then...”

“Then what?” O’Neill asked exasperated.

“Give us a few hours to research the theory, Colonel. I don’t want to speak out of turn.”

“Fine,” Jack commented.  “Don’t speak out of turn.  Just theorize out loud."  Hell, if he could deal with Daniel and Carter speaking their incomprehensible theories at the speed of light, he could listen to Vaelen guess about what was going on.  “In case you’ve forgotten, your people want to leave soon.”

“Yes, of course.  I did not think of that.  Time is essential.  A zat gun immobilizes the symbiote and allows the host to surface.  A sarcophagus helps immobilize the host and allows the symbiote to have control.  A sarcophagus deadens, a zat gun energizes—“

“And coffee has caffeine, and caffeine energizes!” Carter finished for him.  She and Daniel had spent many hours discussing the effects of a sarcophagus on a host.  He had mentioned how, when he was suffering from its effects, he had felt detached and not in control.  He said that it wasn’t until he and Jack had fought in that storeroom that he regained control, even if that control were reestablished at the time he was pointing a gun at the Colonel.  He surmised that the adrenaline pumping through his veins during the fight had counteracted the effects of the sarcophagus.  This was a logical theory since the sedatives that Fraiser had injected him with had made the effects worse.

“Sir,” Carter spoke to the Colonel, “if Daniel can only resurface when his body is in an energized state, we should be able to reproduce that safely.  It might not be harmful to either Daniel or Vaelen.”

Jack helped Vaelen stand up, noticing that Vaelen still had a vice-like grip on his arm.  “There’s more to it than that, Carter,” he told her.  “Daniel’s not quite Daniel just yet.”

“I do not understand,” Teal’c told the Colonel.

“Neither do I,” the General added.  “He just spoke to us.  He is in there, isn’t he?”

Vaelen sat down at the table, his legs feeling slightly shaky.  “He is here.  He is alive.  I do not have the ability to willingly allow him to surface and speak with you.  This episode has strengthened him.”  He glanced at Jack and said, “He is now at 98%.  Another day and I can move to a new host—if one can be found.”

Carter looked confused. “I don’t understand.  What’s 98%?”

Jack motioned them all to the table. “Sit down, folks.  This is going to be a long explanation.”

A while later, after explanations had been given and questions had been asked and some of them answered, no new plan to reconstitute Daniel’s memories could be produced.  They did not have much more information than when the Kha’ti had first arrived.  Memory restoration and reenergizing the host seemed to be the only choices.

Teal’c spoke.  “Daniel Jackson said that Captain Roberts killed him.  If that is true, we should capture him as soon as possible.  He would be able to tell us who is involved in the murders.”

“And if he doesn’t talk?” General Hammond asked.  “All of the other hosts for the Kha’ti are truly dead, as far as we know.  Doctor Jackson is our only hope in discovering what is going on and who is involved.  Right now, we are the only ones that know Doctor Jackson is alive, and right now, that should remain our secret.  In the meantime, we’ll start a thorough background check into the 52 replacements.  It could very well be that not all of them are involved in this.  Some might have come here because they were ordered to.”

“I do not think so, General,” Vaelen said quietly. “Daniel is allowing me into his memories, into his final moments.  He has kept me from them because he does not wish to be reminded of them.  Yesterday, Colonel O’Neill showed me photographs of the 52 replacements.  I realize now that all were present when the murders took place.”

Teal’c’s balled his hands into fists.  “Then they shall die slowly.”

“Take a number,” Jack muttered.  “But Roberts is mine.”

“What I want to know about is this Darby.  I don’t know that name,” Hammond said.

As soon as the General had mentioned background checks, Sam had moved to the computer and was quickly bringing up the information on the 52 replacements and someone named Darby.  “According to the personnel database, Area 51 has a Quinton Darby stationed there.  He's a colonel with NID.  He was Maybourne’s assistant.  Nine months ago, he was transferred to Area 51 and put in charge of Acquisition Interpretation and Determination.  That’s what they call deciphering and decoding the items we bring back through the Stargate.  That puts him in a perfect position to pull off a stunt like this.  He would have access to all of the resources and information he would need.”

“Why would your superiors allow such an event?” Vaelen asked her.

“They probably didn’t know.  Our government is departmentalized.  One group can do one thing without the knowledge of any other.” Sam kept typing on the keyboard of the computer.  More information showed on the screen.  “Here’s something.  His commanding officer is a General Thayer, former Covert Ops.”

Jack let out a yell.  Vaelen had grabbed his arm, anchoring himself again.

“Daniel?” Jack asked quickly.  Please let it be Daniel.  He could practically hear the younger man's heart racing.  Didn't adrenaline energize as well as caffeine?

In Daniel’s own voice, he answered, “Peru...Thayer in Peru...seven years ago?”

Sam started typing, finding the information.  “Hang on, Daniel.  Here it is.  Seven years ago, Thayer was a colonel.  He led a covert ops team in Peru.  His mission was to relocate a village to a more secure location.  They were ambushed, all but two of them were killed.  Thayer was shot in the leg leaving him with a bad limp.  He was transferred to the Pentagon after he was issued a medical release from covert ops.  Rumor has it that they were taken down by a band of civilians.”  She kept typing, then her eyes almost lit up with excitement.  “Whoa!  Here’s something else.  All 52 replacements had been under Darby’s command at some point in their career.”

That was all.  Daniel fell back into his own mind, Vaelen returned.  “As you can see, Daniel knows a great deal of this situation, probably a great deal more than he knows.”

“What is the connection between Daniel Jackson and General Thayer?” Teal’c wanted to know.

Vaelen shook his head.  “I don’t know.  All I know is that there is one.  Daniel does not like him, but he is not allowing me into those memories.  He says ask him tomorrow.  He wishes to have all of his information in a coherent form before telling me.”

“Daniel’s actually talking to you?” O’Neill asked him.

“Yes.  He is speaking much clearer than before.  This is a good thing, Colonel.”

The klaxon sounded at that moment.  “Unauthorized traveler,” the warning blared.  The five occupants left the conference room and hurried to the control room.

“Report, Lieutenant,” the General barked.

“General, we have an unauthorized traveler, and the iris will not close.” Lieutenant Harriman’s fingers flew over the controls in an effort to override whatever command held the iris open. He was joined by Major Carter in the attempt.

“Sir, the iris has been deactivated externally,” she told him.

“Get extra troops into the gate room.  Major, I want control reestablished right now!”

“Yes, sir,” but both knew that it was too late.

Teal’c left to join the guards in the gate room, picking up his staff weapon along the way.  O’Neill was close behind.  After the meeting they just had, they were eager for a fight.

Three figures emerged from the vortex, a life form unknown to the Tau’ri.  Their armor looked as impenetrable as a Goa’uld’s, their faces furry grimaces with fangs.  “Surrender the Chappa'ai,” the middle creature told them in a deep, loud voice.  “We claim this planet, and you will bow down to the gods.”

“Holy Hannah,” Daniel’s voice muttered.  Only Carter heard him.  Then, “Dervans,” Vaelen told Hammond and Carter.  “They were the creatures that attacked when we were on PTX952 with SG-2.  Given enough time, they can override any defense system through a carrier wave that can only be transmitted through a Stargate.  They must have tracked us here regardless of your treaty with the Goa’uld. These three are working for Apophis.  Notice the emblems on the weapons--”

Further explanation was stalled when the firefight erupted below them in the gate room.

Vaelen clutched the microphone in his hand and yelled into it, “Retreat!  Fall back!” Then, into his personal communication device, “All Kha’ti, Dervans have entered the base.  Prepare your weapons and rendezvous at the gate room.”

Soldiers, trained to obey orders, immediately obeyed Vaelen’s without question.  The authority in his voice was unmistakable.  They moved away from the Dervans, their weapons firing constantly.

Vaelen looked apologetically at General Hammond.  “Forgive me, General, but your weapons will have no effect on the Dervans.  Their armor is made of a material you have never seen before and is protected by an energy shield which is impervious to metal projectiles such as yours.  Our weapons will have a greater chance of defeating them.  And before you mention that there are only three of them, one Dervan destroyed every member of an enemy Goa’uld compound not long ago.  The three of them could easily decimate one of your cities before you even have a chance to mount a defense.”

“What the hell is going on?” O’Neill yelled as he ran back into the control room.

Vaelen had to take charge.  “Major, lock down your gate room.  Use whatever internal countermeasures you have until we can attack.  That may slow them down.”

“Slow them down?” Carter asked as she did as Vaelen suggested.

“Trust me, Major.  Very little stops them.  And before you ask, we left our kryptonite back on PTX952.  We’ll have to attack them in close quarters.”

As Vaelen issued orders, Hammond explained to O’Neill and Teal’c about the Dervans.

“Oh, that’s just great!” O’Neill exclaimed.  “How are we supposed to fight them?”

“You don’t.  We do.”  That was the only answer O’Neill would receive from Vaelen.  “Use your self-destruct option only as a last resort, General.  We may be able to stop them.  If we do, you will have information against an enemy even the Goa’ulds do not have.  The Dervans are very intelligent and almost invulnerable.  We may be able to withstand more than you.”

“With our help, perhaps,” Selmac ran to him and placed a tagger and shield in Vaelen’s hand.  “As my host likes to say, the Tok’ra have a few tricks up their sleeves.”

“Good.  Selmac, I will take the first line, you take the second.  The Tau’ri will be the final line of defense after we fall.”  Vaelen and Selmac grasped each other’s arm in a warrior’s handshake, and Selmac led the Tok’ra and some Tau’ri soldiers to the far end of the entrance hall.  They were to hold the fall back position and be ready to move forward once the tide turned against the Kha’ti.

“After we fall?” O’Neill asked him as Vaelen prepared to join his fellow symbiotes.  “Can you or can’t you beat these guys?  Look at them!  They’re just standing there!  Our weapons didn’t even scratch them.”

“They’re waiting for you to attack them again.  They know that your basic weapons are ineffectual.  They know you are organized, that you will bring up your most destructive weapons next.  They will gauge your abilities from that attack and respond accordingly.  They will not expect us.”

“And why is that a good thing?”

“We have stood against them before many times.  We were victorious a few times.  They are logical thinkers.  Our being here will not be a surprise to them because they would have surmised that we left with the Tau’ri, so we must find some way to confuse them.  The only method that comes to mind is a frontal attack.  At first, they will think we are the Tau’ri with advanced Kha’ti weaponry.  That will be a surprise and may confuse them.  We will only have a few moments in which to damage them.  Afterwards, once they realize who they are fighting, we will only be able to stop them by outnumbering them.  It is a very slim chance, but it is the only one you have.”  Then, “Apophis must be desperate to have sent them to destroy us.  If he’s willing to go this far, you realize that even the treaty you have with the System Lords will not stop him.  He is determined to have this planet.”

“This isn’t your fight,” Hammond told him even as he was strapping on a gun.

Then, surprising them all, came Vaelen’s answer in O’Neill form.  “Wanna bet?  The Dervans hunt us, General.  They have killed many Kha’ti.  This is our fight.  Talk to Daniel the next time you see him.  He’ll explain it to you in excruciating detail.”

“I hope I can look forward to that discussion,” the General told him as Vaelen ran to his people.

From their vantage point in the control room, General Hammond, Lieutenant Harriman, SG-1 sans Roberts, and the Special Forces troops watched the mother of all firefights.  Taking cover behind their hand-held shields, the Kha’ti defended their position valiantly with taggers and zat guns.  Despite their bravery, their efforts could only be measured in personally devastating results.  The Dervans had expected the Tau’ri to attack, not the Kha’ti.  They did not anticipate the ferocity of the assault.  The weapons each side possessed were of such a destructive magnitude that the walls of the gate room were riddled with gaping holes from the blasts.  The smoke from the weapons became too thick to see through, and, when it finally cleared during a lull in the fighting, one Dervan lay dead on the platform, one was injured, and the third still stood tall and defiant.  The Kha’ti ranks had been almost decimated.

“You defy the will of the gods?” the Dervan asked them.  “Look about you, Kha’ti.  Only eight of you still stand.  You are an abomination to the Goa’uld.  Your kind will not be missed.”

Vaelen peered out from his shield.  In a defiant smile, he said, “In the words of my hosts’ people, ‘Nanny nanny boo boo.’”

With a quick jerk of his wrist, Vaelen aimed the tagger and shot the wounded Dervan in the belly through a hole in the armor, surprisingly killing him. He had found the ‘Achilles Heel.’  “A weak spot?  Does Apophis know about this?  I wonder what the System Lords are going to say when we tell them that their Dervans were defeated by some homeless Kha’ti.”

The Dervan screamed defiance and loosed a bolt of energy from a strange looking weapon at his belt.  The energy beam enveloped Vaelen, and he screamed in excruciating pain.  The force of the blast threw Vaelen out of the blast doors and into the far wall.  As he hit the floor, he heard the sounds of the fight starting again.

Vaelen was barely conscious when Jack reached him.  His breathing was coming in short gasps, his eyes betraying the pain felt by both the host and the symbiote.  Through the pain, he saw Selmac and his line of defense run into the gate room with more Special Forces troops close on their heels.  Major Carter and Teal’c were waiting at the blast doors for O’Neill.  All were armed with taggers, zat guns and shields.  There was a chance for their survival, however slim.

“Take it easy, Vaelen.  The medics are on their way.”

“We’ve stopped...two of them.  You and Selmac may be able to kill the third.  There may.... be a way...a better way—“ his voice was stopped by a coughing fit.

“Don’t talk, pal.  Let the doctors take care of you,” O’Neill said.

“Not . . your fault, O’Neill,” he told the colonel.  “What they did to Daniel. . . not your fault.”

“I know that.”

The sounds of the fight filled the hallway, the screams of the dying rent the air.  The strange sounds of eerie silence followed in their wake.

“Then stop feeling guilty about it and do something about it.”  With those words, Vaelen died.

Disbelief filled Jack’s eyes.  Vaelen had promised he would help Daniel, they were so close to bringing Daniel back, and now this?  They were both dead?  O’Neill did not have the time to mourn his friends.  He had to help stop the enemy from taking the Stargate.  Quickly, he joined the soldiers in the gate room.  He would mourn afterwards.

Another round of gunfire from the Special Forces troops filled the air with smoke and noise as they exchanged fire with the alien.  Taggers, zat guns, rifles and 9 millimeters were firing simultaneously at the Dervan, the Dervan’s weapon scattered its lethal barrage back at the Tau’ri encamped behind Kha’ti shields, some of the rounds finding their marks.  O’Neill and Carter took position to the side of the room and fired every round they possessed into the Dervan’s armor, hoping to penetrate the thick metal.  Teal’c’s staff weapon blasted repeatedly, but to no avail.  That armor was thick!

When the smoke cleared again, the one surviving Dervan glanced around the gate room.  He knew it was over.  He stood physically unharmed on the platform in front of the Stargate, only his armor showing signs of intense battle.  Bodies littered the gate room.  The Kha’ti were now eradicated from the world.  The Tau’ri Stargate was his.  He would now open the gate and allow his master to come through and claim his prize.  Though he stood alone, he looked at the fallen members of the SGC—dead, dying and wounded.  They could not harm him.  They were weak.  He was strong.

Still, these weak creatures kept fighting back.  A third group of soldiers in thick vestments and even stranger looking shields ran into the gate room, their weapons pointed at him.  Tok’ra technology?  Didn’t they know that he was invulnerable to all of their puny weapons?  These shields looked like they were made of metal, not naquada.  Such inadequate defenses for the people touted to have killed the mighty Ra and Hathor.  Perhaps Apophis had been mistaken when he described the Tau'ri in detail to him.

Leading these suicidal fools was none other than General Hammond himself.  He stood before his troops cowering behind the metal shields.  Colonel O’Neill and a Tok’ra stood beside him, their Kha’ti shields held tightly in front of them. Someone knew that Kha’ti technology was superior.  Must be the Tok’ra, the one who led the second attack.  Selmac.  Wasn’t that his name?  The Dervan knew many of his victims’ names.  He would know all of their names before the day was over.

“Why do you resist?” the Dervan asked them.  “I rule until my pharaoh arrives.”

“Sorry,” O’Neill yelled back.  “We’re Americans.  We already overthrew the king two hundred years ago.  Haven’t had a use for another one.”

The Dervan bellowed a roar at such insolence and fired his weapon at the soldiers who took cover behind the shields and returned fire.  The fighting was intense.

After an eternity, the General barked out, “Cease fire!”  As the smoke cleared, the Dervan still stood by the Stargate, obviously alive but no longer unharmed. His armor was pierced in many places exposing him to the expert shots of the soldiers, but his underbelly was still protected.  This could not be.  How could the Dervan still be standing?  “What the hell...”

The Dervan’s attention was captured by the impossible.  Walking through the door into the gate room was a very much alive Vaelen.  Impossible.

“You are dead!” the Dervan screamed at him." I killed you.”

Vaelen raised his weapon, a combination of several staff weapons held together and reinforced by a Kha’ti power booster salvaged from a shield.  Point blank range.  The Dervan’s face paled considerably when he realized the firepower of the weapon.  This one could kill him.

“You are dead!” he repeated.

“Vaelen’s dead,” Daniel’s voice quietly split the tension in the air.  “I’m very much alive, and you can see your pharaoh in hell.”  He fired the weapon repeatedly, striking the Dervan in the lower abdomen, melting the armor until one blast found its mark. The pain-filled scream that split the air shattered the glass separating the gate room and the control room.  The effort was too much after the previous attack.  Daniel collapsed where he stood.

**************************************************

“Vaelen?”

He crawled, he dug, he fought his way back to consciousness.  The darkness around him was thick with memories that were definitely not his, yet they were his.  He remembered every battle, every intrigue, every word spoken to him for thousands of years, but he was only 34 years old.  How could this be?

“Vaelen?”

The roar screaming through his jumbled mind grew louder as the dueling memories fought to merge and coalesce into one continuous history.  For what seemed like an eternity, he fought to maintain his sanity throughout the mental maelstrom, then, as quickly and as quietly as a sunrise, silence ensued.  His mind accepted the foreign thoughts as his own as another’s history became his history.

“Vaelen?”

Was that Janet?  It sounded like her.  Who was she talking to?  Vaelen?  He should know that name, shouldn’t he?  Why was everything so confused?

“Can you hear me?”

Slowly, he opened his eyes.  Janet’s face came into focus, her concerned, smiling eyes looking down at him.  His eyes darted around the embarkation room.  People were rushing to aid the wounded; medics were entering with gurneys to carry away those who could not walk on their own.  What he did not want to see were the many forms lying on the floor covered with sheets.  The Dervan, he noticed, was dead, his body lying crumpled on the ramp near the Stargate.  Jack appeared in his line of vision and helped him to sit up.

Janet helped to steady him.  “Vaelen, you’re almost as good as Daniel when it comes to giving the colonel gray hairs.  Cute trick, by the way, pretending to be Daniel.”

“I am Daniel.”  His voice came out in a hoarse whisper, but everyone in the gate room heard, every movement stopped instantly. 

The General, standing nearby, rushed to the fallen man’s side.  Looking into tired blue eyes, the general saw the soul of the young man he had grown to respect, not the soldier who had earned his trust.  The military stare was missing from those eyes.

“Doctor Jackson?”

“Yes, sir?”

“How do you feel, son?”

For a moment, Daniel considered his answer.  “Like Teal’c used me for a sparring partner.  Everything hurts.”  But he did not know why.

Jack, who had been silent since the younger man first spoke, finally found the breath to speak.  “You just took a hit from the Dervan.  Or Vaelen did.  Remember?”

Perhaps Daniel had not truly woken up, but at the mention of the Dervan’s actions, the memories did a final flip-flop into place deep within the depths of his own mind.  The last eight months were as clear to him as if he had performed the actions himself, not Vaelen.

In a tired voice, he said “Oh, yeah.  Vaelen said I’d never forgive him if he let all of you die when he could stop it.  Said he was trying to keep the landlord happy.”

Keep the landlord happy.  Vaelen had been willing to do anything to free Daniel from his living nightmare.  He had promised Jack that he would take every chance and every precaution to return Daniel to him.  The device that the Dervan used had brought about the deaths of all the Kha’ti, including his friend Vaelen.  Perhaps the release of Vaelen’s energy gave Daniel what he needed to live.  Jack would never be happy that Vaelen was dead, but he would rejoice in the fact that his best friend was back.  One life for another.  Jolinar had made the same choice for Carter.  Vaelen had returned the soul of the SGC.

Daniel moved away from Jack, slowly getting to his feet.  He did notice that Jack had grabbed onto his arm and was helping him get his balance.  Surprisingly, or maybe not too surprising, Hammond was on his other side helping his unsteady legs support his weight.  He found Jack staring at him worriedly, he noticed everyone else in the embarkation room doing the same. 

“What?  You’ve never seen a dead man come back to life? Don’t you know my reputation around here?”  Everyone looked smugly at each other and proceeded on with their work, grinning and taking surreptitious glances at one of the true legends of the SGC as he proved his own legendary luck once again.

Jack chuckled.  Yep, Dead-Again Daniel had done it again.  He had called the Grim Reaper’s bluff by drawing to an inside straight with a wildcard tucked up his sleeve.  “Are you okay?” he asked his friend.

“Don’t know.  Right now, I don’t want to look too closely.  Ask me later.”  Daniel’s voice sounded weak and far away.  He was so tired, but there was something he had to do.  He had to see the Dervans for himself, with his own eyes.  Vaelen’s tales of the Dervans were hideous.  Daniel just had to prove to himself that they were dead.

With Jack’s help, he stumbled over to the body of the Dervan that had been so difficult to kill.  It was deteriorating rapidly.  In a few hours, there would be nothing left, not even the armor.  Vaelen’s memories told him that the Dervan’s body turned “in” on itself.  It went through some sort of chemical change upon death, the internal organs dissolving into a highly acidic substance that quickly destroyed the body.  He’d have to explain why the scientists would not have any body to study, but explanations could wait.  There was a more pressing matter he was about to attend to.

“Jack?”  Daniel almost pleaded.

Luckily, Jack was still well practiced in the art of reading Daniel Jackson’s mind.  He said to the General, “Sir, I think it would be better to talk to him later.  He’s about to pass out.”

Without further ado, Daniel did precisely that.

**************************************************

Two very long days passed.  Daniel lay unconscious in his former “usual” bed in the infirmary.  O’Neill was sitting in the very uncomfortable stiff-backed chair that he had sat in too many times before waiting for the accident-prone archaeologist to wake up from his latest escapade.  He refused to leave even though Carter and Teal’c had offered to sit with Daniel.  Instead, they took turns bring the Colonel food, coffee or company.

General Hammond, a shrewd man if ever one existed, knew that his second-in-command had his own personal penance to pay for his belief that the archaeologist had betrayed their trust and left.  There were far too many demons to exorcise from the Colonel’s mind, and the best way the General knew how to help O’Neill was to allow him to enter that mother-hen-from-hell-mode that he reserved for one particular accident prone archaeologist.  If the trauma Major Carter experienced when she was taken host by Jolinar was any indication, Doctor Jackson would need all the help SG-1 would provide.  Then again, given Daniel’s remarkable ability to bounce back from danger, he might be the one giving support to SG-1.

Hammond was no different than the rest of the SGC.  He kept walking to the infirmary to check on Doctor Jackson even though he had given Doctor Fraiser orders to inform him the moment any change was noticed.  She kept giving the General the same update. Daniel’s heart rate, respiration, EKGs and EEGs were indicative of an unconscious human.  His body had absorbed the remains of the symbiote, so Daniel should have the same remarkably strong immune system Major Carter had received after Jolinar’s death.  Because of that fact, he had no need for any IVs or oxygen.  His body was not showing any signs of trauma after his “death” and subsequent return to life.

Still, Hammond was disturbed to see SGC’s once-resident whirling dervish so still.  Even as Vaelen, the form was constantly in motion.  What concerned him more was to find the Colonel staring intently at the inert body of the archaeologist.

“How are you, Colonel?” the general asked almost nonchalantly.

“Fine, sir.  Tired.  Annoyed.”

“Annoyed?” Hammond asked him.

“Yes, sir.  I’d really like him to wake up and talk to me.  Complain about being stuck in the infirmary, rambling on about some rock he found, even tell me to go to hell.  All he does is stay unconscious.”  Jack was worried.  His usual sarcasm did not seem to alleviate his mood.

“Well, when he does wake up, I’d like to know all about the trap he was warning us about and how deep Captain Roberts is involved in it.  Roberts has been found and is now sitting in a cell a few levels from here.  No one has spoken to him or told him why he’s there so he hasn’t told us anything yet.  As it stands now, only you, me, Major Carter and Teal’c know that Doctor Jackson spoke to us before Vaelen died.  We’ve managed to keep it quiet, but once word gets around about his revival in the gate room, the people involved in setting this trap are either going to run and hide or strike at him again.”  He took another look at the sleeping scientist.  “I’m hoping that with the information Doctor Jackson has, we might be able to piece together who the conspirators are, even without Roberts help.”

“I know.  Maybe this time we can stop them.  I didn’t help him last time.”  Jack was about to have another pity party.

The General moved a chair next to O’Neill and sat down.  Finally, he said, “Colonel, no one knew that there was a conspiracy going on or that anyone was in any danger.  You are not responsible for your team every minute of every day.  Sometimes there are forces that operate that are beyond our control until we know they exist and even then we have to fight tooth and nail to stop them.  Sometimes, there are casualties.  We’re military, and we know this for a fact.  Doctor Jackson has been around us long enough to know that there are shadow operations that go on without the consent of higher authority.  He would place the responsibility of these actions with the perpetrators.  Have you ever stopped to consider that Daniel does not blame you for what happened?”

Jack sat up straighter in the chair.  Uh oh.  Military mode.  “That’s what Vaelen told me, sir, but it doesn’t change the fact that a member of my team was in danger, and I did nothing to help.”

“Let me remind you, Colonel, that even though you are his commanding officer, I am the General.  I hold ultimate authority here.  If anything, this entire situation should have been discovered and exposed eight months ago when they first disappeared, and it was my responsibility to investigate.  If Doctor Jackson wishes to tell someone to go to hell, it should be me.”

Another voice called for the general’s attention.  “You want me to tell you to go to hell?”  Both General and Colonel looked toward the direction the voice had come from.  Bright blue wondering eyes gazed at both men.

Hammond had to grin.  “Well, son, you might want to,” the General told him.  “We were just discussing the possibility.”

With an effort, and a little help from Jack, Daniel sat up.  He did not feel tired or sick, just a little detached.  His hand automatically went to Vaelen’s beard.  That was the first thing he had to get rid of.  “Well, sir, if you really want me to tell you to go to hell, I will.  You’re the General.  You give the orders.”

Now the General was laughing.  They had always teased Daniel about his lack of military discipline.  He would always reply with ‘I’m not military.’  “Or is there someone else you’d like to tell that to?”

Jack almost held his breath.  The quick glance Daniel gave him was the one that said ‘here was a set-up.’  A classical Jackson/O’Neill maneuver that even General Hammond could not always see coming toward him.

“To tell you the truth, General, I didn’t really want to tell anyone anything.  It’s something I’d rather see get done.”

Jack took his place in the set-up.  Both he and Daniel knew the routine by heart.  “Down time would be good.  An all-expense paid two-week trip to Egypt would be just what the doctor ordered.”

“Hawaii sounds better.” Daniel corrected him.

“Hawaii sounds definitely better.”  Jack kept going.  “Of course, time off is such a small repayment for everything that’s happened.”

“You think we could get more?” was Daniel’s innocent question.

“Don’t see why not.  After all, this entire episode goes far above and beyond the call of duty for any civilian—“

“Thank you, Colonel.  All right, Doctor Jackson.  Name your demands.”  The General knew better than to get trapped into one of their set-ups.  He’d seen it done too many times in the past and refused to fall into it. 

“Well first of all, sir, I wasn’t fired from the SGC and I didn’t quit.  I’m owed eight months back pay plus hazard pay.  I still have a job, don’t I?”

The General nodded his head. “Absolutely. There’s no one else on this base, or on this planet for that matter, that can put up with Colonel O’Neill’s tirades as well as you can.”

“Hey, sir, I resemble that remark.” O’Neill crossed his arms and sat back in his chair.

Daniel continued.  “And since those conspirators you’re wanting to know so much about are responsible for my extended holiday, I’m sure they didn’t make any arrangements for accommodations, so that probably means I’ve lost my car, my apartment and my bank account.  I’m owed those, too.”

The General saw immediately that Daniel had put some thought into this.  “Anything else?”

“A two-week all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii.”

“And if you don’t get everything you want, then you’ll follow orders like a good little archaeologist and tell the General to go to hell?” Jack asked him with a bemused smirk on his face. Oh yeah, Danny with the quick wit and dry sense of humor was back.

“Well, if I have to, I have to.  But at least now there’d be a good reason to do it.  The least you could do is throw one of your tirades.”

“Well, never let it be said that I never did the least I could do.”  He looked to the General and asked, “Will it take a tirade to get us to Hawaii, sir?”

The General could not help but laugh.  O’Neill had been wanting to get some down time for SG-1, and with SG-1 complete again, there was a very good reason.  Jack had used a few verbal quips to cue Daniel to ask for that down time.  Besides, it was good just to hear the two of them together again.

“I think all of that can be arranged.  Is there anything else I can get you?  Color TVs for every room?  VCRs?  DVDs?  New computers?”

Daniel, in a loud whisper to O’Neill, “Sounds good to me.  Can you think of anything else?”

O’Neill, in a loud whisper to Daniel, “The TVs sound good.  Carter would love a new computer.  Teal’c’s biggest complaint is that we can’t get The Discovery Channel or The History Channel very clearly here, so a better satellite dish would be a good idea.  A decent cook in the mess hall is in demand big time.  You got any ideas?”

“Food’s awful.  Coffee’s terrible.  The room service stinks.  This place would never make it on the Triple A list.  We’re looking at a massive internal renovations here.”

“Gentlemen,” the General interrupted them.  “Other than Doctor Jackson’s lack of money, home, transportation and luaus, what do you believe is the most pressing problem I can possibly correct in the shortest period of time?”

The two men conferred quietly, and then Jack answered him.  “The coffee situation, sir.”

“It’s that bad?”

“Absolutely, General.”  Daniel said in his most non-effacing manner.  "The last cup Vaelen drank almost put him in a coma.  It was terrible.”

“Coma. Right.  Any recommendations?”

Both Jack and Daniel spoke up.  “Colombian.”

The General threw up his hands in amusement.  “I’ll see what I can do.”  He started to walk away when Daniel called him back.

“Sir, if you’ll give me a couple of hours, I can tell you what I know about that conspiracy, but it may not be much more than you already know.”

“If you’ll give me a couple of hours, I can get you that Colombian blend.  If you’re feeling up to it, son, we’ll debrief at 1100 hours.  Doctor Fraiser has already said that debriefings are fine as long as we have them here for the next couple of days.  I think if you even try to get out of that bed, she’d pull rank on me.”

Both Jack and Daniel answered, “Yes, sir,” and watched as the General walked out.  He heard the two men’s voices as he walked away.  O’Neill was commenting about Daniel’s beard, Daniel correcting him about who really owned the beard.  It sounded like their usual good-natured banter.

Yes, it was going to be good to have everything back to normal.

**************************************************

Captain Roberts sat in his cell, his mind not agreeably engaged in the possible outcomes of his incarceration that had began three days ago.  He guessed that he had been found out.  They knew that he was somehow involved with the civilians’ disappearances.  They knew that he was working with NID.  Oh, hell, if they knew any more than that, he was toast—not to say that he wasn’t breakfast food already.  Teal’c looked as if he were ready to expose Roberts’ intestines to the daylight.  Carter’s look was downright scary.  And Colonel O’Neill, well, the attitude Roberts observed from him only confirmed his theory about O’Neill’s true nature.  The man would probably rip Roberts apart into pieces so small even the insects couldn’t find them.  All this because he followed orders like a good little soldier and helped rid the SGC of those pesky civilians. One civilian in particular.

No one would tell him anything.  The last report he overheard was that the Dervans had destroyed all of the Kha’ti and over forty soldiers before somebody got them.  That meant no one could really finger him for anything.  Since he was with the NID, his superiors would probably “transfer” him back to Washington.  No more official travels to other planets.  No more formally meeting aliens.  Basically, no more ‘boldly going where no one had gone before.’  Formally and officially, that is.

His musings ceased when the door opened and Colonel O’Neill walked in.  They stared at each other for a moment, then, O’Neill opened the door wider and motioned for someone to enter.

“You’re good at dealing with nameless faces, Roberts.  Let’s see how you do with someone up close and personal when you meet them for the first time.”

A familiar presence entered the room and stood before Roberts.

“I’ve met Vaelen before, Colonel.”  Didn’t he hear that all the Kha’ti were dead?

“True, but you’ve never met this man before, at least not properly.  One-time captain and soon to be incarcerated Hiram Roberts, let me introduce you to 3-time PhD winner and activator of the Stargate Doctor Daniel Jackson.”

To say that Roberts was speechless would be redundant.  To say that he was flabbergasted would be an understatement.  Oh, yes, he knew his goose was cooked.

“Cat got your tongue?” Daniel’s voice sounded clear and human.

Roberts tried to talk, but all he could do was stammer.  “You...no...you’re...you’ve got to be...how...there is no way in hell you’re alive.”

“You’re right, Roberts.  Unfortunately for you, this isn’t hell.”

The two men stood opposite each other before Roberts’ legs finally gave out on him, and he sat down on the cot.

“You’re not stupid,” Daniel told him.  “You know exactly how deep it is, how far you’re in it, and trust me, no one’s going to give you a shovel.  If you want to save any of your hide, you had better talk fast.  And remember, I was there.  I know a lot about your friends myself.”

“You don’t know what you’re asking.” Roberts said.  “No one talks.  No one would.”

“You don’t know what I’m telling you.”  Daniel took the chair Jack offered him.  “You’re loyalty to that small group of people will get you killed in a very unpleasant and painful fashion.  If you talk, I can make arrangements so you’ll live.”

“You can’t protect me.”

Daniel smiled. “Wanna bet?”

Roberts did not know Daniel personally.  Everything he knew was from the NID intelligence reports, and none of the reports ever mentioned that Doctor Daniel Jackson knew how to play hardball.  For the first time since Roberts had laid eyes on the man in front of him, he suddenly realized why even the marines called him ‘sir’ even though he was not military.  He had strength, purpose and respect.  This was no ordinary scientist.  If Roberts had taken the time to look, he might have noticed that before he agreed to help kill the scientist.  He was definitely in trouble.

The silence became unbearable. Roberts knew that the decision was his.  Life or death was the only option on the table, and the man he had helped murder was offering it to him.  He had a feeling that if he turned down Jackson’s offer, death would be coming at the hands of Colonel Jack O’Neill.  Daniel would not stop the airman, and he was probably the only one who could.  That scared him more than talking.  He was no hero.

“I was recruited by Colonel Darby two years ago.  Our main objective is to protect Earth and the Stargate.  We knew that the SGC authority had to be completely military if it was to remain secure.  Even though the other scientists had to be gotten rid of, they were unimportant--barely a blip on the radar screen--but you were a problem.  You held authority here.  Even the officers listened to you.  Darby was ordered to get rid of you first, but that would have been too obvious.  He decided that getting rid of all of the civilians at the same time and replacing them with his people was the only way to be sure.  You were tricked into going to Area 51 to be dealt with.  Darby has a Stargate he fashioned out of naquada sent back to him and Maybourne before the SGC found out how the second Stargate was being used.  After the second Stargate was decommissioned for good, Darby built his.  The problem was he could dial out, but it's real tricky for anyone to dial in.  That’s the one he used to dial up PTX952.”

“Why PTX952?  Darby wouldn’t have just pulled that planet out of a hat.”

“No.  I found out after the Kha’ti came through that there was a deal.  Some of Maybourne’s people are still out there collecting information.  They made contact with an individual who could secure plans to several Goa’uld weapons.  This individual wanted some humans, specifically Tau’ri, for some reason and no, I don’t know what that reason was.  PTX952 was named as the drop-off point.  Darby sent all of you, dead, to PTX952, and this individual probably saw that as a double-cross.  Darby got whatever it was he was wanting at no cost to him.  As near as I can figure, his plan to get rid of you and this individual’s need for humans just happened at the same time.  No one knew about the Kha’ti being there.”

“Who was this individual that was delivering these plans to Darby’s people?”

Roberts hesitated, then saw O’Neill take a step closer to Jackson.

“I never heard a name.  Wasn’t even human.  Just some independent operator keeping one step ahead of the Goa’uld.”

“What did they look like?” Jack pressed him.

“All I heard was that they were furry.”

Furry.  Dervans were furry.  They just had three Dervans who worked for Apophis shoot up the embarkation room. And guess what? Apophis had access to all sorts of weapons.  Roberts was not painting a pretty picture.

Daniel thought for a moment.  Darby could almost hear the mental gears turning.  “And why was I the specific Tau’ri Darby was ordered to target?  I don't think anyone here would agree that I've ever had very much authority.  It is a military base,”  Daniel prompted him.  He ignored Jack stifling a snicker.

“You?  Darby was still pissed about your showing Maybourne up when the Tollans came.  He’s always said you had no right.  I don't know why he was ordered to go after you personally.  I'm not that high up in the organization.”

Daniel was quiet.  For a moment, Jack began to worry, then the archaeologist said in a low voice, a menacing whisper, “You helped murder 51 innocent people just to get rid of me.”

Roberts did not move.  He did not make a sound.

“Continue.” Daniel did not request it. Roberts knew it was an order.

“I contacted my superiors after SG-2 returned from PTX952.  I was ordered to observe the Kha’ti and, if they showed any signs of their hosts remembering the operation, I was to give the order to have them dealt with.”

“Kill them?” Daniel asked him.

“We have to protect Earth, no matter what the cost.  If a few of our allies die in the process, they will have given their lives for the greater good.”

“And who are ‘we’?” Daniel asked.

Roberts did not answer.

“I want to know about Darby’s superior.  I know who it is.  So do you.  Talk.”

Again, Roberts looked uncomfortable.  “General Thayer.  His overriding goal was to get rid of you.  I don’t know what you did to him, but he was ready to kill you.  He told Darby to find a way.  Then the deal for the exchange went through.  Everything just seemed to come together at once.”

“Where is this homemade Stargate now?” Jack asked him.

“I don’t know.  Darby moved it after he sent Jackson and the others through.  I haven’t seen it since.”

Daniel was angry, but it never showed on his face.  He was far too calm. “We already have some of your accomplices under arrest, those being the other 51 replacements NID sent in.  I can tell you what the verdict will be at their trials.  I want a detailed list of all names, positions, responsibilities and activities of your cohorts within the hour.”  Daniel was not giving Roberts any cordon.  He deserved none.

“No way, Jackson. I’ve talked, that was the deal.”

“You’ve told me what we already know, what we’ve guessed and what I’ve already told the General.  I want what we don’t know.  Talk or die, Roberts.  This quiz is not multiple choice.”

Roberts glanced at O’Neill’s chiseled stone face.  Die by the hands of the NID or let Jack O’Neill rip him apart piece by piece.  He had no choice.  He talked.  He gave them the names, places, finances, even code words and security procedures that he knew about.  The information was not as much as they had hoped, but within the hour, Jack and Daniel had enough evidence to bury many of the people involved in the conspiracy, and luckily, most of the conspirators they knew of were at the SGC.

To Roberts’ surprise, he was released from his cell the next day and escorted to the gate room.  The original members of SG-1 stood there with the Special Forces guarding the Stargate.  Standing beside Jackson were strangers, one an older man that seemed vaguely familiar.  He and Jackson were conversing quietly with Teal’c contributing to the conversation occasionally. Carter and O’Neill stood by laughing at whatever was being said.  Even General Hammond was laughing.  Perhaps things were better than he thought.

“Captain Roberts,” General Hammond said as soon as he noticed Roberts was being led into the room.  O’Neill was in full military mode.  “For your involvement with the crimes committed by Colonel Darby and the NID, you have been sentenced to life imprisonment.  In the interests of diplomacy and harmonious relations with one of our allies, your sentence will be carried out on the desert planet of Abydos.  You will be under the direct supervision of Kasuf, the elder of Nagada.”

Kasuf approached Roberts, looking at him as if he were a bug he wanted to step on.  “You were responsible for the death of my good son.  You have insulted my house and assaulted my family.  You are not worthy of life, but you will live because my good son says you should.  Dead, you would regret nothing.  Slaves we once were, a slave you will be.  Perhaps then you will learn the value of a human life.”

Roberts jerked his way toward Jack.  “Now, wait a minute.  The deal was I talk, I go.”

“No, Roberts,” Jack said smugly.  “The deal was you talk, you live.  After some time living through the punishments Kasuf and the Abydonians have for you, you’ll probably wish you were dead.  You might have heard that Daniel's a hero back there, and they don't like folks messing with their heroes.”

The Abydonians that had accompanied Kasuf to earth took charge of a struggling Roberts.  “You can’t do this!  We had a deal!”

“And we’re keeping our end of it, partly because your information turned out to be true,” General Hammond told him.  “Master Kasuf has been here for the last three days discussing exactly what your punishment should be since you attacked a member of his house.  Your punishment was his idea.  On Abydos, you wouldn’t have even been given the consideration of life. A murder is punishable by death there.  You can thank Doctor Jackson for allowing you to live since you didn’t show him the same courtesy.”

Roberts scowled at Daniel." One day, Jackson.  One day.”

“Keep it up, Roberts.  Kasuf has ultimate authority back home.  You give him any problems, and you’ll be begging us to kill you.” Daniel’s gaze was terrifying.  He was serious.  One glance at Kasuf was testament to Daniel’s statement.  Roberts wished he were dead.

Lieutenant Harriman dialed the coordinates for Abydos and watched as Kasuf’s two helpers dragged a resistant Roberts through the wormhole.  Harriman wasn’t alone in his desire to see the Captain get punished, and he wasn’t alone when he wished that the punishment was allowing SG-1 to vivisect him. Harriman would have paid for tickets to see that spectacle.

Kasuf spoke in Abydonian to Daniel and gave him a fatherly hug before following his companions.  At the Stargate, he turned and waved at his son-in-law who waved back.

“What did he say?” Jack asked Daniel, hoping that it wasn’t personal.

“Earlier, I had asked him when death quit being a permanent condition.  He just said he was glad it wasn’t.  He didn’t want to have to bury me, too.”

**************************************************

Daniel had been eerily quiet since Roberts’ dramatic departure from the gate room two weeks earlier. 

General Hammond had asked him to go through Captain Roberts’ research to determine what other information could be garnered from his papers.  He might not have been complete with his verbal statement.

With Sam’s help, Daniel pored through the data files, e-mails, voice mails and manual notes Roberts had left behind.  They discovered that although Roberts had been a very effective spy, he had been atrociously clumsy by leaving behind proof of his work.  The two scientists found detailed mission reports, outlines of artifacts, military significances, strategic importances, allies, enemies, potential ‘victims.’  They also uncovered a few more names of Roberts’ superiors and contacts.  They soon developed the theory that the decision to trade weapon schematics for humans was a test arranged by Apophis to determine just how traitorous some of the Tau’ri would be to get what they wanted.  The Goa’uld needed allies in all quarters, even the enemy camps.  Daniel and Sam had unearthed a wealth of information and evidence of conspiracies in the upper echelons of the military.  The one problem they could not overcome was that not one shred of physical evidence pointed toward Darby or Thayer.  All they had was Roberts’ statements, and they would never stand up in a court martial.  For that very reason, it was decided to keep Darby and Thayer's names secret.

And Daniel was eerily quiet through it all.

Once Hammond had enough evidence to start gathering together the rest of the perpetrators and arresting them, O’Neill decided that his eerily quiet friend needed a break.

Jack walked down to the sleeping quarters where Daniel had been billeting for the last two weeks until his new apartment was ready.  He had refused Jack’s offer to bunk in his guestroom as he had upon his return from Abydos.  It took a few days, but Jack finally realized that Daniel was still suffering from some sort of shock.  He just needed time to adjust.  After all, he’d been dead, taken host by a parasite, and revived from the grave.  The fellow had definitely had a busy few months.

Jack found Daniel alone, sitting on a bunk, staring into space, eerily quiet.  Okay, try to snap him out of it, Jack told himself.

Quietly, Jack sat on the bunk opposite Daniel.  The younger man was apparently unaware of him.

Jack cleared his throat.  That got Daniel’s attention.

“Oh.  Hi, Jack.  Didn’t hear you come in.”

“Obviously.  Where were you?”

“It’s hard to explain.”

Daniel could not tell him everything yet, but Jack sensed he wanted to tell him something.  Take it slow, O’Neill, he told himself.  He’ll tell you when he’s able.

“Well, if you didn’t make any plans tonight, there’s a hockey game on.  How ‘bout we grab a pizza and some beers and yell at the television?”

Daniel looked at Jack quizzically for a moment.  Come on, Danny.  I’m trying to reach out here.  Meet me halfway.

Then, almost reluctantly, Daniel agreed.

After the game was over and the pizza was eaten, the two men had retreated to the roof and had found a few local sights (the new neighbors) to focus the telescope on.  Just like old times.  O’Neill had tried to inject some bit of normality in the evening.  He felt that Daniel needed that.  Too many things had happened to quickly for them.  Even Sam and Teal’c were still sifting through the last few weeks.  They were finishing the last of the beers when Daniel finally became a little talkative.

“I can’t tell you about a lot of it, Jack.  They’re not my secrets to tell.”

“I’m assuming you’re talking about Thayer?” Jack asked quietly.

“Thayer, yeah.  Look, about him, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and did something he didn’t like.  Don’t ask what because I can’t tell you.  I don’t know Darby.  I only met him that one time.  I can tell you that Thayer will try again.  He’s not the kind to forget a grudge, even when he’s in the wrong.”

“Well, when he does, we’ll be ready for him.  At least we know who the enemy is this time.”  O’Neill took note that Daniel did not make a comment.  “We’re the only ones that know about Darby and Thayer.  We'll keep it quiet until we have some actual proof of their involvement.  We will get them, Danny.”

“I keep hoping it would seem like a dream, but it doesn’t.  I remember everything.” Daniel mumbled to himself, ignoring the conversation about Thayer.

That’s would be enough to bother anybody.  Jack told himself.  Still, there’s something else. “Everything?” he prompted.

Daniel nodded, his full attention was on the beer bottle in his hand.  Could Jack understand what was troubling him?

“And the memories are too much?” Jack asked him.

“They’re not my memories, Jack,” Daniel said in almost a whisper.  He had finally said it.

For a few moments, Jack did not know what to say.  To tell the truth, he did not know what the real problem was, then it dawned on him what Daniel was not saying.

“You mean that you have all of Vaelen’s memories?  Even the ones from thousands of years ago?”

Again, Daniel nodded.

“You don’t mean impressions like the ones Carter has from Jolinar.”

“No.  Full-blown memories in Panavision and stereo surround sound.  He was a soldier.  He fought and killed and ordered people to die.  He lost everyone he ever cared about.  He saw entire planets destroyed and civilizations uprooted.  He was a general among his people and would do anything to keep them safe.  He always felt like he failed.”

“He didn’t.  He kept them alive longer than anyone else could have.” Jack commented quietly.

“I told him that.  He kept apologizing to me for ruining my life, and I kept telling him that he didn’t do that.  If it weren’t for him, I really would be dead.  At the end, when he was dying, he asked me for a favor.”

“And that favor was...” Jack prompted him.

Daniel took a deep breath, and said, “He asked me if I would remember the Kha’ti for future generations.”

Jack’s forehead crinkled up as he tried to decipher that one.  “And that means...”

“That means he left me all of his memories, everything that ever happened to his people.  He asked me to write everything down so they would be remembered.  And it’s not just that.  He had a lot of military information he left me--how to fight the Goa’uld, base locations, weapons, technology, battle plans, battles.  Some of the memories he left me I don’t even want to think about.”

Jack almost smiled.  The problem Daniel had been suffering from was the guilt from someone else’s memories and the sheer abundance of an alien’s knowledge tucked into that massive brain of his.  Okay, problem identified.  Now, how did they fix it?

“Well, that’s what I’m here for.  You start writing down the history of the Kha’ti and I’ll help you out with anything military.   We’ll deal with everything else as it comes up.   How’s that?”

“I’ve already started.   I’ve filled up at least one gig of the laptop I’ve borrowed.   There’s just so much to get down.   It might take me the rest of my life just to write it all.”

Jack slapped Daniel’s shoulder.   “Let’s just hope it’s a long time before you’ve finished it, Space Monkey.  I’d like to get out of practice writing your eulogy.”

The End

The players are in place. The die is cast.  The conspiracy is unfolding.  This is only the beginning.  How will it end?


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     This is my very first fanfiction story.  E-mail  me and let me know what you thought of it, but please be kind.  I love feedback!

 


   
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