Chapter 17 - Agitato sostenuto
O'Neill was heading for the locker room to change before going home when the klaxon went off. Instantly, his sixth sense started twanging. His gut reaction said Danny was in trouble, but he fought off the feeling as all Daniel's recent accusations came flooding back
~ she was beginning to trust me, Jack - something you never do ~ you never trust my judgement, do you? ~ I'd be internationally respected, Jack ~ all I get around here is 'Shut up, Daniel!' ~ If you want to regain my trust, you'll have to start showing some trust in me - beginning with our next mission ~
He gritted his teeth and carried on walking. He had to trust Daniel. If it was S.G.-7 returning early, it didn't mean they'd hit trouble. And if they had had problems, they weren't necessarily serious ones. Maybe they were just bringing back some samples for analysis... If so - and Daniel saw him hanging around like Mother Hen - again - hell, he'd 'know' O'Neill didn't trust him, 'know' he wouldn't ever trust him Try telling him, then, that Jack was just concerned for his safety.
O'Neill tried to ignore all the S.F.s hurrying towards the 'Gate Room. It was normal procedure after all and was nothing to do with him. He carried on walking. The locker room suddenly seemed a long way from the 'Gate Room. He pushed the door open and stepped slowly inside, still wrapped in his own thoughts. Supposing the worst had come to the worst? That Daniel was knocking on Heaven's door again. More of Daniel's accusations came flooding back.
~You walked off, Jack - just walked away and left me sitting there, on the 'Gate Room floor ~
Jeez, he couldn't win with Mr. Temperamental! Well, for his own piece of mind, he was going to do a little crafty snooping. He bethought him of his problem knee. It might as well make itself useful. His cover story would be that he needed painkillers.
When he reached the infirmary, Dr. Fraiser wasn't there, but the nursing staff were bustling about with quiet efficiency in the I.C.U. This did not look good. He decided to play least-in-sight, and waited. Didn't have to wait long.
The infirmary doors flew open as the orderlies arrived with someone on a gurney - Dr. Fraiser escorting. A nurse was holding up an I.V. drip. O'Neill couldn't tell exactly who it was, but could see enough to know it wasn't Daniel. Fraiser was rattling off instructions as the gurney was wheeled into the I.C.U. Dr. Wells, looking pale but otherwise O.K., was following on behind. O'Neill put out a restraining hand, noting the blood on his uniform.
"Jaffa. Just came out of nowhere."
Wells looked vaguely at O'Neill as if he'd just asked him for the cube root of 813.
"Er, don't know. He - he never came"
A voice over the tannoy called Dr. Fraiser and a medical team to the 'Gate Room. O'Neill released Wells and ran out of the infirmary as Fraiser and her second team collected their equipment for the next emergency dash.
Major Sanchez was still laid out near the bottom of the ramp when O'Neill reached the 'Gate Room. The triage team were working on him till Fraiser arrived. O'Neill pushed his way through the mass of S.F.s and leaned over the ramp's barrier. Sanchez groaned. His eyes flickered open. He recognized O'Neill.
"Jaffa," he wheezed.
"I know. Daniel...?"
"Shot. Staff weapon. Think he might be"
"Don't say it, Major! We'll get him back, I promise."
And then Sanchez disappeared from sight under a flock of white-coated medics.
O'Neill homed in on General Hammond.
"Permission to lead a rescue mission, Sir!"
"Permission denied," Hammond responded and encountered a fierce look of reproach. "S.G.-3 and S.G.-5 are handling this. I've already briefed Colonels Harrison and Ives."
"Permission to go with, Sir," O'Neill persisted.
Under his 2IC's intense gaze, he relented.
"If you can be quick enough, you may join the rescue mission. M.A.L.P. transmissions indicate there are no Jaffa in the Stargate chamber at this time. No heroics, Jack. Right? I don't want to lose any more men.
The marines were already prepared to ship out. As the ramp was cleared, the 'Gate was activated. No time to gear up. O'Neill commandeered an M.P.5 from the nearest S.F., checked it and followed the last marine through the 'Gate.
Chapter 18 - 'Foreign Sand' - fieramente
The chamber on the other side was empty and silent. Colonel Harrison signalled Lieutenant Silverwolf to check the stairway, which he did using a small periscope to scan the surrounding ground. After a 360 degree sweep, he signalled 'all clear'. The marines charged up the steps on to the surface.
O'Neill went up the steps and looked across the barren land and sighed.
~ Your paradise world, Danny? You must have been so disappointed to find this instead ~
The marines had fanned out to conduct a search of the planet. It seemed a waste of time. There was no sign that anyone had ever been there. But, being marines, they'd been given a job to do and they'd do it.
O'Neill was puzzled. Surely there should be some signs of a fire fight? S.G.-7 must have fired back - mustn't they? He wondered where Alli - it must have been Alli on the gurney - had been shot. Hadn't seen any blood so far. Except on Wells's B.D.U. He noticed Lt. Silverwolf scanning the ground a little way away and went over to him. The native American went down on to hands and knees, sniffing.
"Find anything, Lieutenant?"
"I don't know, Colonel. I can smell blood, yet there's nothing to be seen."
He stood up and was about to brush the dirt off his hands, but stopped and looked at them in surprise.
"What's the matter?"
Silverwolf held up his hands. His right hand bore the yellowish sandy soil of the dry valley, but the grime on his left hand was an entirely different colour.
"I think it's dried blood," he said, and tested the stains with his tongue.
He nodded confirmation. O'Neill ran his hand over the same area and found further traces.
"My ancestors would have said there is strong magic here," Silverwolf said impassively.
O'Neill's instant reaction was absolute disbelief, then he wondered how Daniel would have reacted - Daniel with a mind so open it was a wonder his brain hadn't fallen out long ago. Tried to think back to their last conversation before Daniel left on this mission... Were there any clues there in what he'd said? Apart from 'plant boy!' et al....? Yes. Maybe.
~ I know what's out there and I know what it'll look like ~
Silverwolf's soft voice brought him back to the present.
"You know," O'Neill said in a unusually thoughtful tone. "I think your ancestors could've been right."
"There's a race we first came across several years ago, called the Nox - could cloak an entire city. Guess this lot are at a similar technological level..."
He scuffed his boot through the sandy soil till he heard a familiar metallic clink. There was nothing to see until he had it in his hand.
"Take this to Colonel Harrison," he said, handing over the spent P90 cartridge.
O'Neill scanned the valley before him.
"Where the hell are you, Danny?" he murmured.
As if in answer, the planet's setting sun reflected from something further down the valley and shone into his eye. This time, he gave his intuition an unexpected outing and set off to investigate. It was further away than he'd realized and he felt a little like Daniel, taking off on his own. Finally, he laid his hand on what he sought.
It was half a spectacle lens. O'Neill ran his hands over the ground. They came up with the same rusty brown dirt... This was where Daniel had fallen then. So where was he now? Frantically, he scrabbled around in case Danny was lying there, dying unseen Or... No! Not going there. Definitely not going there.
"Daniel!" he yelled from hands and knees. "Where are you? I can't see you. Gimme a clue here!"
He shut up then and listened - very carefully. Not a peep.
~ Think, O'Neill. Getting nowhere fast here. ~
Had the Jaffa got him? Maybe. Did they have this level of technology? They had cloaking for their ships, but it wasn't all that advanced. Besides, Daniel had claimed to have been here before. Wanted Jack to trust his judgement. Right. So. Put himself in Daniel's boots... Daniel knew as much as anyone about the Jaffa - well, Teal'c excepted of course. Would surely recognize signs of a goa'uld planet. Wouldn't be this far from the 'Gate if he knew there was a real threat here. Despite his own accusations, O'Neill knew he wouldn't wilfully endanger his team-mates. More likely playing the hero again, as he had on Ra's ship and on Klorel's... Bad memories. Bad vibes.
But if whoever lived here was up with the Nox technologically, they could beat the shit out of the goa'uld. Unless they were frigging pacifists. Either way, maybe Daniel was with them. Damn it, he could be any-fucking-where and he'd never know! Never even know if he were alive or...
"Sonovabitch!" O'Neill bellowed in frustration and pounded on the foreign sand with his fists. "Where the fuck are you?!
A voice seemed to come to him - Daniel's voice - borne on the breeze.
"Trust me, Jack..."
"Oh don't give me that fucking Shifu crap!" O'Neill raged, looking round for the source.
The air shimmered some yards away, and then he saw him - saw Daniel - floating a few feet above the ground, curled into a foetal ball, eyes closed and naked as a new-born. He seemed to be contained within a sphere of pale bluish opalescent liquid. But the thing which rivetted all O'Neill's attention was the fist-sized hole in Daniel's shoulder.
It was surrounded by a border of charred and ragged flesh. Splintered shards of bone projected into the hole and shiny white sinew drifted out from it. Worst of all, he could see all the way through to the other side.
"Daniel!" he breathed, getting to his feet and reaching out to touch.
Two shadows fell across him.
"Colonel O'Neill," shouted the owner of one of the shadows.
"It's Daniel," O'Neill replied, turning to face the marine, his face white with shock.
The marine's face remained expressionless.
"Colonel Ives requests you to return," he said, but it didn't sound like a request at all.
"We have to fetch Daniel," O'Neill stated.
"There's no trace of Dr. Jackson, Sir. The search has been called off. Please come with us."
O'Neill's head whipped back towards Daniel, but there was nothing - just a faint haze like a fading mirage.
The marines grabbed him by the arms and hustled him back up the valley. In his mind an unfamiliar voice said,
"Go in peace, Rakhemtha. Blessed be."
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