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CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The mole waited patiently for either the reconfirmation of standing orders or for new orders to be sent from the superior officer’s command. When neither came, the mole initiated the standing orders written almost eight months earlier, orders which would take weeks to carry out but, in the end, would ensure the Organization’s success.

The mole possessed no moral code or feelings for human beings. The orders were the only motivation the mole had, and the orders would be followed to the letter.

Without hesitation, the mole opened the file containing the revised standing orders and implemented the first one. The order dictated that a message be sent to a certain individual with an incendiary personality to deal with the Organization’s greatest stumbling block: Daniel Jackson.

**********

Daniel was tired. He flipped through the channels on his brand new (even bigger screen, thank you Jack O'Neill) television and found nothing on that held his interest. He switched off the television and listened to the silence that filled his apartment. He would have a great deal to do tomorrow regarding bank accounts, beach condos and Mustangs.

'.......Help.......'

Daniel sat up straight. That wasn't his imagination! That was the voice he had heard a few times. He didn't believe in ghosts, not yet anyway, so where was it coming from? Was it someone's idea of a joke?

'.......Help.......'

He listened intently to the silence and waited for the voice to repeat.

'.......Daniel.......'

Daniel didn't want to believe it, didn't want to admit it, but there it was. In a very unsteady voice, he said out loud, "Vaelen?"

'.......Help.......me.......Daniel.......'

Daniel lunged for the phone, his mind almost screaming the denial of what it knew to be true. He frantically dialed the only phone number his fingers could remember, and he waited for an answer.

Finally, he heard, "Yeah, what, uh, hello?"

"Jack --"

"Daniel? It's 1:00 in the morning! Wait a minute, what is it? What's wrong?"

"We've got a problem,” he said, his voice catching mid-sentence..

“You only have problems at one a.m. What --"

"Jack, Vaelen's alive!"

Daniel didn't hear anything for a moment, not even Jack’s breathing, then, "Daniel, how...I mean...how? That's impossible. Vaelen's dead."

"I just heard him, Jack. I thought it was my imagination before, but this time I know I heard him. He's --"

~~~

"Okay, okay. I believe you. Vaelen's alive," Jack said quickly as he got out of bed. He didn't want to start an argument, not when Daniel sounded like he did. He knew that tone and there was only one option open to him: he had to get up and get moving. Wait a minute...did Daniel say before? Oh, no. This could only happen to them. Most people at the SGC knew that dead was usually a line you didn't keep crossing back over after you crossed it once. Usually. But when did anything follow the normal rules of life and death at the SGC?

Enough introspection. Where were his clothes? Right. The shirt was lying on the dresser. His pants were on the floor -- right where he had thrown them. "What did he say?"

"He said help me. Jack.... he’s there. Where I was. And he's alive. How could he be alive? He died when the Dervan shot me... him.... us. I felt him die. I know --"

"Whoa, Daniel. Take a deep breath before you hyperventilate." Jack knew from long experience that Daniel didn't panic, not ever, but there was a definite edge to his voice he'd only heard few times before -- and it didn't sound good. This really had taken him by surprise. Where were his shoes? Oh, he'd kicked him under the bed. "Look, I'll drive over to your place as soon as I get my shoes on. We'll go to the base and call Carter. Maybe she and Fraiser can --"

The line went dead.

"Daniel?"

Jack only heard static. He'd been disconnected. Now what was going on? Okay, no problem. Worry about dead phone lines later. He had a disembodied-what-should-have-been dead symbiote to worry about and a friend with a what-should-have-been dead symbiote dancing around somewhere in his head. Not a concept he wanted to deal with but when did he ever get to pick and choose his disasters? He ran out of his bedroom through the hallway to his front door. He grabbed his keys off the table next to the door and rushed out, barely remembering to lock the door behind him.

As he drove away, his mind kept wrapping itself around Daniel's words and the implications that they brought with them.

Vaelen was alive.

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

Jack tried to not break too many traffic laws while traveling to Daniel's apartment, but he couldn't stop from speeding just a little in his rush to get to his friend.

Vaelen's alive!

How in the hell could that be possible? The symbiote was dead. Daniel had the protein marker in his blood. He had the Kha'ti DNA welded on to his own. He had all those memories. He had all the little perks and not many of the problems that went with being blended. There was no way that Vaelen was alive.

Vaelen's alive!

That one sentence kept running around his head. Vaelen's alive! Daniel said Vaelen was alive so Jack wasn't going to argue the point. They'd lost too much time in the past when he doubted Daniel's word, and Jack wasn't too old to learn new lessons when they presented themselves. No more wasting time. He had to get to Daniel, get him to the base, find out what was going on... he almost ran a stop sign in his haste, but stopped just as a pickup truck slowly crossed his way. "Come on, come on..."

Finally, after twenty minutes travel time, he turned down Daniel's street and was stopped by a police officer halting traffic. Jack rolled down the window of his car and motioned the officer over. Pulling out his identification, he showed his credentials to the police officer. "I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill, Air Force. What's going on?"

The officer pointed toward a building just around the curve. "There's been a fire, sir. All traffic is being diverted to the side street."

"Which building?" Jack demanded.

"The apartment complex."

Oh, hell. He should have known. "Officer, a member of my team lives in that apartment building. I need to know if he's all right."

"I'm sorry, sir. No one is allowed --"

"This man works with classified documents, officer. Sensitive military information, if you get my drift. Do I need to say more?" Jack was hoping that the police officer would get his meaning quickly and let him through. Since the town owed a great deal of its well-being and profits to the base, the police and the military tried to work hand-in-hand without stepping on each other's toes. Much. Each group usually allowed some leeway to the other -- if convenient.

The police officer seemed a bit confused for a moment, as if trying to decide what to do. Finally, against his better judgment, he said, "Sir, if you'll park your vehicle here on the side of the road so the ambulances and fire trucks can get by, you can walk there. Just keep your identification visible and stay out of everyone's way."

Jack uttered quick thanks and pulled his truck over to the shoulder. He didn't waste any time running to the apartment -- or what was left of it.

More than several ambulances and fire trucks were there. It was a five-alarm fire if it was one. The fire fighters were valiantly trying to put out the flames, but they weren’t having any luck. The blaze hadn't been contained and enveloped the building from basement to roof. The smoke was too thick to see through, but the firefighters continued battling the blaze as the paramedics tended to the wounded. Jack couldn't count the number of lookers-on. It seemed that everyone from the neighborhood was watching the spectacle. Jack frantically scanned the crowds. He didn't see Daniel.

Jack didn’t have to see Daniel to know that he would be right in the middle of the most trouble and noise. He just had that talent, so that was the direction Jack headed.

He stopped running when a firefighter grabbed his arm and tried to push him back. "Sir, you have to stay away from the building. The structure is very unstable. Please go back to the other --."

Jack pulled out his identification again, surprised that the other man could even see it through the smoke. "One of my people lives in that building. Doctor Daniel Jackson. Have you heard if --"

“Jackson? The guy that lived on the top floor?” The firefighter looked perplexed. He didn't need a problem with any flyboy, but even the fire department had instructions to try to cooperate with the military.

"Yeah."

"He’s the talk of the day. He's out of the building. He's being taken care of at the first ambulance. It'd be better if you walked on the other side of the street, not this one. We don't need anyone getting in the way while we rescue the other survivors."

Survivors? Without thinking about the consequences of that statement, Jack took off as fast as he could. The first ambulance? That was all the way at the end of the street! Again, Jack ran in that direction, trying to not see the injured people being tended to by paramedics or being carried into ambulances. Even what used to be the apartment building couldn't get his attention. He saw the first ambulance ahead, several people surrounding it. Sitting on the ground by the ambulance was a very dirty, smoky-looking Daniel in tattered, burnt clothes. He was holding something to his head. A towel? An ice pack? Whatever it was, it was red.

There was a lot of blood.

Jack rushed through the people, trying to take care not to hurt or jostle any of the victims and knelt by Daniel's side.

"Danny?"

Very slowly, Daniel turned slightly dazed eyes to him. There was a severe gash on his head, many more covering the parts of his body that Jack could see. There was a lot more blood than Jack first thought.

"Daniel, what happened?"

"Your friend's lucky to be alive," the paramedic said as he joined them. He peeked under the towel to inspect the gash. Constant pressure had helped, but it was deep and still bleeding. Seeing the identification clipped to Jack's belt, he asked, "You're military, huh?"

Jack nodded his head. He glanced at the paramedic's nametag. Great. The guy's name was Mayborn. Same name, different spelling. Life couldn't be that cruel -- wait a minute. Yes, it could. Life had an ironic sense of humor where SG-1 was concerned. "Yeah. He's a member of my team. Do you know what happened here?"

Mayborn shrugged his shoulders. His patient didn't seem to be the stereotypical military grunt, but what was stereotypical anymore? "Apparently, a fire started in the basement. Don't know how. There're rumors that the boiler blew up. That took out a few people on the first floor. The fire spread pretty quickly, and a lot of families got caught inside. I was told that your friend here ran back into the building a couple of times to rescue some people trapped on the upper floors. He got stopped when a beam caught him on the head and trapped him. The firefighters managed to get him out, but he was hurt. I thought he was hurt worse than he was, but I guess that was because of all the blood. What I thought were gashes are only scratches."

“Oh?” Jack didn’t ask further. He didn’t have any way to ask why that had happened. Right now, he had to get Daniel to medical personnel who already knew how gashes could become scratches in a matter of quarter hours. “Daniel? Can you hear me?”

Daniel didn't seem to realize what was going on around him. Shock? Concussion?

Mayborn took Daniel’s wrist to get a blood pressure reading. "Look, his pressure's good, so is his heart rate. There are no obvious broken bones, but he's still been through the wringer. He's barely responsive. We're getting ready to transport him to the county hospital now --"

"No," Jack argued. "He'll have to go the Academy hospital or to our infirmary."

"Uh, sir, the local hospital’s only 5 miles away, we're not permitted to go to the Academy hospital without authorization unless it's the closest facility in a life and death situation. Usually, military personnel get transferred from the others. I can contact my dispatcher to get permission, but --"

"No choice," Jack told him. "He works on classified projects, and we can't take the chance that he'll talk when he's not in full control of his senses. Look, you guys are going to have your hands full getting most of these people to the local hospital. He can't go there. I'll take him myself. My truck's back in that direction." There was no way Jack was going to let a civilian doctor get a look at Daniel's blood work or take x-rays. No need to let anyone know that Daniel wasn't quite as human as he used to be.

Mayborn was about to protest when a bloody hand grabbed his arm. "It's okay," Daniel mumbled slowly. "I'll go with him. Leave you free to help these other people."

Surprised at the fact that the gentleman had finally spoken, Mayborn told him, "Sir, it's not safe. You're hurt and need medical attention, quite possibly on the way to the hospital."

"It'll be okay. Jack knows.... medic... stuff. He's... had to do... it on occasion."

Mayborn didn't ask any questions about that, but he also didn't look at all convinced. Jack settled the argument. After all, the guy was just doing his job. "Look, Mayborn, he's coming with me. I'll take him directly to our infirmary. As long as he's like this, awake and talking, everything should be all right, right? It’s only about fifteen minutes from here."

"Mayborn!" Another paramedic called. "We've got another one. You finished?"

"He's finished!" Jack yelled back. Then, to Mayborn, "You need to take care of these other people. I'll take care of him. We'll sign off on any paperwork we need to."

That ended the argument as far as Jack was concerned. Mayborn must have realized that arguing would be pointless because he handed Jack the paperwork absolving the ambulance company and the paramedics of any responsibility should Jackson's health suffer as a result of not going to the hospital by ambulance. Being very careful, Jack helped Daniel stand. The injured man was moving, but he was in a complete daze. He leaned heavily on Jack as they made their way back through the throng of people. Weaving through the debris and skirting around the people was a bit difficult, but they managed to traverse the long distance. Jack didn't remember parking his truck this far away! Finally, they made it back to the truck, and Jack settled Daniel into the passenger's seat. Daniel was so rattled, he couldn't help fasten the seat belt.

"How are you doing, Daniel?" Jack asked, but didn't really get an answer. His friend was still too out of it. "Okay, I'm going to call the base and tell them to expect us. You hang on, okay?"

No reply.

Jack jumped into the driver's seat, cranked the engine and peeled back out onto the road. Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, he quickly called the base as he said he would and then he placed a call to an old friend of his. This friend had a reputation of doing whatever needed doing -- whenever he needed to do it -- however he needed to do it. Jack grinned at the thought that this old friend of his reminded him a little of Matthew Augustus Jennings. Mercenaries weren't all alike, but those two were. Right down to their sense of humor. Given the events of late, Jack wasn’t willing to take any chances that this really was a boiler blowing up.

No one answered the call. Instead, Jack was patched through to an answering machine. "Yo, this is Vic. And if you're hearing this, you're listening to a machine. Since I ain't gonna answer right now, leave a message. I'll get back to you if I think it's interesting."

Yep, leave it to Vic to have a message like that on his answering machine. "Vic, it's Jack O'Neill. Need a favor. A friend of mine's apartment burned down tonight. I need you to find out how it happened. It's the Eagle’s Crest Apartments on Cypress and 3rd. Let me know what you find out. The sooner, the better."

"Vic?" Daniel murmured.

Daniel spoke again! Jack was beginning to wonder if that so-called little speech Daniel gave Mayborn was a fluke or his imagination. "Yeah, Vic. Old friend of mine. How are you doing?"

It took a moment for Daniel to answer. It was as if he was trying to collect his thoughts before speaking. "I've got a headache."

"Yeah, I guess you do. You got clobbered by a building."

"Oh." Moments passed, then Daniel asked, "Where are we going?"

He was definitely out of it. "The base," Jack told him. "Warner's on call, but he said he'd get Janet in." He paused a moment, then added, "You do realize I'm going to send you the cleaning bill, don't you?"

"Cleaning bill?"

Oh, now was a great time to get Daniel to agree to just about anything. Maybe he could get him to wash and wax the truck? Nah, that'd be too cruel. "In case you haven't noticed, you're messing up the upholstery."

Maybe it was for the first time, but Daniel looked down at himself and saw what a mess he was. Cuts, blood, bruises... how did he --- the fire. Right. He had rushed back in when he saw that the Goodman children were trapped in their apartment. He'd seen them as they tried to open the window in their bedroom. But how... the beam. Once he went in a third time to help get Mr. and Mrs. Henry out, the beam fell on him. He remembered Mr. Henry yelling something, Mrs. Henry yelling for help. He vaguely remembered seeing the firefighters coming toward him to get him out. He had tried to lift the beam himself, a task that should have been relatively easy for him, but he couldn't move very well. He could only lay there trapped as the fire came closer and the smoke got thicker. "Oh." Another oh. He wasn't communicating very well, was he? "I'll get it cleaned," he mumbled.

"Daniel, I'm joking. Try to stay with me here. You're not exactly firing on all cylinders."

"Okay." Daniel unconsciously kept the towel pressed to his head. He was still losing a lot of blood, but scalp wounds bled a lot, didn't they? He healed fast. He'd be okay. Right?

"Jack?" he almost whispered, his head really feeling like a house had fallen on it.

"Yeah?" Jack slowed the truck as he drove into the parking area of the base, the medics rushing out to meet him. Hang in there, Daniel. We're pulling up to the base right now.

"Vaelen's alive."

Vaelen's alive. There it was again. Those two little words that turned his night upside down. "Yeah, I know," Jack said quickly. "Do me a favor. Don't tell anyone else about this just yet. At least, not until all your cylinders are working, okay?"

"Okay," Daniel said as the medics opened the passenger side door.