Title: When in Rome part 1
Spoilers: Tin Man, Need, Prisoners, maybe a few other episodes mentioned in
Season: any after Sam is a Major
Warnings: attempted NC (a very short scene); Lots of Jack-whumping; Lots
and lots of Daniel whumping. Lesser amounts of Sam, and Teal'c Whumping.
Language, nudity. Disturbing imagery of a religious nature. Abuse of
Summary: Strangers in a strange land, just trying to get home with a
little help from a friend.
Disclaimer and partial explanation: The character of Claudius is taken
whole cloth from I, Claudius, by Robert Graves. He was a real Roman
emperor, but this is a fictional account of his life. He is described as
having a very bad stutter, a limp, and chronic head twitch. He was also an
historian and far ahead of his time. I highly recommend the BBC production
of I, Claudius. Derek Jacobi plays the title role and is just superb.
It's available on DVD from Amazon.com. Daniel, Sam, Jack, and Teal'c
belong, of course, to the US Gov't. And MGM. Not me. The quote Daniel
translates is by Epictetus, from the Enchiridon, translated by Richard
Note on language: Daniel and Teal'c speak Latin, for the sake of argument.
Sam and Jack don't. When someone is speaking to Sam or Jack and Daniel is
not there, I use untranslated Latin (and poorly, I suspect). When we are
in Daniel's POV, I translate what folks are saying most of the time, Ditto
Teal'c. I'm very inconsistent with this, and it may grow confusing.
Note on Claudius' timeline: I'm setting this just prior to the birthday
party with Livia. Tiberius is Emperor, and Caligula is just a pervert and
a pest at this point. Claudius is 38 or 39 years old.
Bibliography and Thank yous: I,Claudius. Robert Graves, 1934. Also the BBC
production by the same name. The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome,
copyright 1995 by Chris Scarre. Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. Lesley
Adkins and Roy A. Adkins, 1994. The New College Latin and English
Dictionary. John Traupman, Ph.D., 1966. And Bill Thayer's website on all
things Roman, LacusCurtius. Danae, Karen, and Lems Betad the first bit,
but I got impatient and beta'd the rest myself. Thank you to everyone who
commented or made suggestions as this sucker was going up on SG1HC.
And a big big thank you to Stacey of the rabid plot bunnies. You kept me
Translations for the Latin are at the end of the story. Enjoy!
And, yes, I'm going for the longest part Zero in a fic in Stargate Fanfic
history : )
When in Rome
A clatter and a muffled gasp drew Claudius' attention from the scroll in
his hand. One got used to the palace slaves being about; they were
ubiquitous. Most of the time, they were also quiet. This one, however,
was new. He was also noisy. "//D-do you mind? I'm t-t-trying to r-
read.//" The scroll was a new history by Pollio, and one he had been
trying to get to for some time. The slave murmured an apology and began
picking up the scrolls he had knocked over. With a twitch of his head,
Claudius dismissed him from his thoughts and returned to the scroll.
A few minutes later, a rustle of paper caught his attention. The slave was
reading one of the scrolls, holding it very near his face. Intrigued,
Claudius watched for a time as the young man devoured the manuscript. He
studied the slave, almost as closely as the young man was studying the
parchment. A tall man, well formed, with light brown hair that brushed the
back of his neck. The loose tunica hid most of his skin, but what was
displayed was pale and unblemished. A Celt, perhaps, or a German. But
"//Do you kn-n-ow wh-a-at you're r-reading?//" The question was asked with
some amusement and a great deal of curiosity.
The slave looked up absently, his blue eyes wide with the effort of seeing
the small letters. "//Um..yes. Yes I do. It's Quintillius Maximus'
commentary on the Gallic invasion. I just don't know what it's doing
*here*.//" His Latin was perfect, but strangely accented.
"//Well, it's here because I was r-referring t-to it last night.//"
Claudius heaved himself to unsteady feet and lurched over to take the
scroll from the slave's hands, rolling it carefully. Plucking another
scroll from the pile, he handed it to the man and said, "//C-c-c-can you r-
Hesitantly, and again holding the parchment very close to his face, the man
scanned the Greek letters. "//It's Epictetus, isn't it? 'Some things are
within our power and some things are beyond our power. Those things within
our power include opinions, goals, desires, and aversions, in other words,
whatever affairs belong to us. Those things beyond our power include our
bodies, property, reputation, and public office, that is, whatever does not
properly belong to us. Those things within our power are naturally
"//Yes, yes, all right. You c-can stop. Who t-taught you to r-r-read Gr-
reek? And wh-why do you hold it so c-c-c-close t-to your face?//" He
snatched the scroll back and began rolling it up.
The slave placed his finger at the bridge of his nose, then rubbed his eyes
tiredly. "//Actually, I know twenty-three languages. Twenty-four if you
count Goa'uld. And I have to hold the scrolls close to my face or I can't
read them. I lost my glasses when we were,//" he paused, his eyes on some
distant place. "//When I was taken.//" He grimaced, looking up at
Claudius boldly, but not quite focusing. "//Is there anything else I can
do for you?//" He crossed his arms over his torso, and Claudius thought he
grew even paler in the dim light.
"//What is your name?//" He motioned the slave to sit, clearing off a
With a tired sigh, the younger man sat. "//Daniel. Doctor Daniel Jackson,
to be exact. And you are?//"
"//I am T-t-Tiberius Claudius Drusus N-n-Nero Germanicus. And your m-
master, D-d-Daniel.//" He said sternly. "//Y-you c-c-can forget that f-
fact with me from t-time to time; nn-never with any one else.//" Claudius
had never really stood on formality with his slaves. So long as they did
their jobs and stayed out from underfoot, he was content to take care of
himself for the most part. This slave, however, was intriguing. "//How
many l-languages did you say?//"
Daniel grimaced. "//Twenty-three. Most of them dead.//" He pushed at the
bridge of his nose again, a nervous gesture, and visibly tried to focus on
Claudius. "//You're that madman's uncle, aren't you?//"
Alarmed, he shushed the younger man, limping quickly to the door to look
for anyone passing who might have heard. "//Watch what you s-say, boy. Th-
that m-m-madman is the Emperor's favorite nephew. He'd have you f-f-flayed
alive if his spies h-heard you. Dolt.//" Satisfied they were in no
danger, he closed the door and sat down again. "//You w-won't last long
here if y-ou don't learn to m-mm-mind your tongue. And your manners.//"
The man laughed, a short and ugly sound. "//I know. I'm very new to this
whole house slave thing. Last week, I was a civilian advisor to a top-
secret government project. Last week, I knew where all my friends were and
that they were safe and how to get home.//" The slave was getting angry;
strangely, the angrier his words became the softer he spoke. "//Last week,
I could choose my own destiny. Last week, I could *see *. So I apologize
that I'm having a bit of trouble adjusting my attitude. It's been a very
Claudius blinked, dumbstruck by the slave's tirade. "//You're v-very
strange. And not, I think, quite in y-your right mind,//" he said quietly.
"//Where a-are you from?//"
The man seemed to deflate. With a sigh he said, "//Nowhere you've heard
of. America. Colorado. I need to get back to the kitchens, if that's ok?
Sam. I have a friend there who doesn't speak as much Latin as I do. I had
just found her again when I was sent up here. I don't think she knows I'm
in the palace.//" He rose, tucking the tray under his arm.
"//Wait.//" There was something he had read, something tickling in the
back of his mind. Something about strange travelers, and a circle of
light. He began riffling through his scrolls, tossing the fragile
parchments with abandon. "//It's here somewhere.//"
The slave waited with ill-disguised impatience. "//Please, I need to
"//Oh, for heaven's sake. What does your friend look like?//"
Exasperated, Claudius poked his head out the door and called for a
"//Blonde, like you, with short hair and a bruise on her cheek.//" Daniel
stumbled over the words, wincing. "//Her name's Samantha. Sam.//"
Claudius turned to the waiting messenger and gave him the description,
telling him to fetch the slave from the kitchen and bring her to his rooms.
"//Now.help m-me look.//"
Together they dove into the scrolls, un-rolling them part way to check
their contents before discarding them once again. "//What are we looking
for?//" Daniel asked.
"//You will know when we find it.//"
A few minutes later, both men were buried in loose parchment. A knock
sounded at the door and a woman was pushed into the room. She aimed a
stream of invective in a strange, guttural language at the messenger, who
shrugged and gestured rudely.
"Sam!" Daniel picked his way across the rustling floor and enveloped the
disheveled woman in a hug, holding tight with his long arms.
A grin lit her face as she returned the slave's embrace. The only word
Claudius understood was Daniel's name, but they spoke for some time in that
guttural language. She seemed very relieved to see Daniel, and kept
touching his arm, his face, almost as if to reassure herself of his
At long last, he turned her and with word and gesture, introduced Claudius.
With very hesitant and heavily accented Latin, she said, "//It is honor
Daniel friend of. Thank you.//" The older man had to smile; she was
trying so hard. She smiled back, her bruised, smudged face lighting up
"//Now that you have your f-friend, perhaps you would be so k-k-kind as to
help me l-look for a scroll. I think I saw it over here, last.//" And in
they dove again.
In the end, though, it was the woman who found what they sought. With a
startled cry and another stream of garbled babble, she grabbed Daniel's
sleeve and waved the scroll at him. He took it from her and carried it to
the table, unrolling it carefully near the lamp and bending over to bring
it into focus. Crow's feet formed as the young man squinted at the
brightly illustrated text, his mouth moving silently as he read to himself.
A large round object surrounded by symbols and text in a language Claudius
had never seen took up the center of the scroll. People were drawn moving
into the circle, but not emerging the other side of it. "//Can you read
this?//" He asked. No one had been able to translate that particular
manuscript, to the best of his knowledge. Claudius had picked it up as a
curio, a novelty, from a trader from Alexandria.
"//Yes.I think.//" Daniel stood up and rubbed his red eyes fiercely.
Samantha looked at him worriedly, her hand on his shoulder, and asked a
question. He shook his head and bent to the manuscript again. She looked
sadly at Claudius, then took a seat, waiting.
More lamps were called for, chasing all shadows from the room. Claudius
also called for a tray to be brought, and wine. Both slaves were far too
thin, though no one starved in the palace. On the whole, the palace slaves
were very well treated, so long as they obeyed.
The woman nibbled on the fruits and cheese, but declined the wine. Daniel
was oblivious, sunk deep in the parchment, his face mere inches from the
letters. It was late in the evening before he looked up again, meeting
Sam's worried eyes with a fierce and brilliant grin. He spoke hoarsely and
her eyes filled in response.
"//What did you say to her?//"
"//I told her we're going home. I know how. We just have to find Jack.//"
The fierce blue eyes were trained on Claudius now. "//Will you help us?
We don't belong here and we make terrible slaves. All of us have something
terribly important to do back home. Millions of lives, hell, maybe
billions of lives depend on us and what we do. Please help us.//"
The little room rang with the intensity, with the truth of the slave's
plea. Claudius hesitated a bare moment before making up his mind. "//All
right. I will.//" Daniel nodded at Samantha, translating softly. The
moisture that had collected in her pale eyes overflowed in two shining
tears as she broke into a huge grin. She launched herself at Claudius and
embraced him. He could feel her tremors as she strove for control, and he
hugged her in response, stroking her back and murmuring broken words of
comfort she would not understand.
It would take some work to track down one solitary slave in Rome, and more
work to free him, but Claudius was certain of a good story at the least
when it was all over. He rolled up the precious scroll and told the two to
bed down in his rooms. They would depart tomorrow, Gods willing, and begin
their journey home.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The oil lamps were burning low, and the musty smell of burnt olives was
heavy in the still air. The shutters were open, allowing an occasional
breeze to drift through the warm room. The scent of jasmine and orange
blossoms from the garden below trickled into Sam's awareness. The heady
scent blotted out the sense memory of the past few days. The smell of fear
and sweat in the pens, the rotten garlic riding on the breath of their
overseer. The odor of the kitchens; rotting meat and baking bread and too
many spices forming a nauseating miasma. Sam took a deep breath, inhaling
through her nose with a deep and simple pleasure.
Guiltily, she reigned in her enjoyment of the moment. The Colonel was
still out there and she doubted he was half as comfortable as she was at
the moment. His stubbornness would be a liability in this situation, as
would his sense of duty. She knew the Colonel would never stop trying to
reunite the team and get them home. That was his job and Colonel Jack
O'Neill took his job very seriously.
He would, she realized, probably get himself killed trying to do that job.
There was no Underground Railroad here, no abolitionist movement, nowhere
to run. There were even laws, she distantly remembered from a world civ
class eons ago, that promised death to anyone who was caught aiding a
fugitive slave. The odds of escape were very bad, which was how Roman
society maintained its hold upon the people it subjugated. "Nowhere to
run; nowhere to hide," she muttered.
Sam drew up her legs and leaned against the cool stone wall, looking out on
the moonlit garden below. She had learned quickly to grab these moments of
peace where she could, and the imperial gardens were beautiful by
moonlight. "I'd trade in a heartbeat for gun metal gray corridors and a
cup of stale coffee from the commissary. And to have Teal'c back." She
was occasionally ashamed of herself, a soldier so easily moved to tears,
but she missed the big Jaffa.
With a soft groan, the door to the small chamber opened on its stiff
hinges. Sam scrambled to her feet, fighting clear of the linen sheet, and
looked around for something to use as a weapon. She grabbed up a heavy
ceramic pitcher and held it ready.
"Sedare. E-ejus a me." She recognized the stammer before the man in the
dim light. Claudius looked into the room from the doorway, his expression
unsure and a bit uncomfortable.
Sam put down the pitcher and sat on the edge of the pallet-bed. "Um, hi.
By his unsure smile he understood her meaning, if not her words. "E-ego
audire tu. Daniel d-dormitum."
"I understood Daniel. Daniel.?"
The man cocked his head to the side, closed his eyes, and snored softly.
"Oh, asleep. Daniel's asleep, finally. Well, good. He looked terrible."
She rubbed her own eyes tiredly, wincing as her hand passed over the
darkening bruise on her cheek. Claudius just shrugged, clearly not
understanding her words. "Never mind. Thanks. Gratias." She leaned
against the wall, her warm skin soaking in the coolness from the stones.
"Si placet, Sam. D-dormitum es 'asleep'? I-ita?" Claudius took a chair
and sat, leaning forward. His head twitched from time to time, she
noticed, but it did not seem to distract him too much.
"Yes, I suppose," she nodded. "But Daniel is the linguist. He can."
"Si p-p-placet." He waved her to silence and picked up the pitcher she had
been planning to use as a weapon. "Urceus."
"Urceus? Oh, the pitcher! Pitcher." Claudius spoke the word back,
stammering just a bit on the first letter. Sam had to smile. She looked
about and then placed her hand on the lamp and named it. "Lamp."
"L-lamp. Lucerna. Bene! L-lamp."
By dawn, they had named everything in the room in Latin and English and
Claudius' stammer had almost disappeared. It would take more than one
evening for Sam to have a working knowledge of the language, but she had a
better grasp now than before. Now she just wanted Daniel to wake up so
they could start looking for the Colonel.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Dawn broke over the vineyard with the voice of two hundred groaning men and
the clank of chains. The pickers were up first, being prodded through
their morning meal and then out to the sloping, sun-battered vines, heavy
with ripe grapes. The line of workers trailed out of the huge dormitory
tent, grumbling into the already warm day. Guards walked down the row of
pallets, prodding the rest of the slaves to rise.
Jack rolled to his feet from the thin pallet he had been pushed onto the
night before. On arrival at the work camp, his tunica had been taken,
leaving him with just a loincloth standing between him and the open air.
The near nudity did not really bother him; after being stripped for auction
he doubted he was capable of feeling embarrassed anymore. Watching his
tent mates covertly, he quickly learned the most efficient way to wrap the
long bit of cloth, tying it off securely at his waist before joining the
line for chow.
"Damn, mornings are early here," he said, half-aloud. The man behind him
clouted his shoulder with a snarled, "Tace!"
"Hey! No need to get physical, pal." He rubbed his shoulder, wincing.
The man curled his lip in a sneer and pushed O'Neill forward as the line
began to move. "Thanks. I would have realized the light was green in a
A guard, keeper, handler, whatever, looked over at Jack with a bored
expression. "Tace, canis!" He tapped Jack's leg with a long, thin stick,
not really enough to hurt but enough to let him know it could. Jack
dropped his eyes to the ground and shuffled ahead with the pack. From the
corner of his eye, though, he surveyed the encampment.
Not many guards that he could see. The only chains were on the pickers in
the field. His eyes darted over the compound. It looked like a temporary
camp set up for the slaves' use during harvest season. There was one
permanent building, but he had not seen inside it as yet. The rest of the
operation was run out of tents and in the open air.
A wooden bowl was thrust into his hands, a thin and unappetizing gruel
poured into it by a bored looking woman. Thanking her, he carried his
breakfast to sit with the group of men under the only tree in the camp,
nudging his way into the shade with a snarl. He scooped up the gruel with
his hand, remembering the slop from Hadate with a grimace, and resumed his
No weapons, apart from sticks and a few knives. The guards were
outnumbered by their charges. Jack smiled, then schooled his face into a
mask of acceptance. Tonight, before the chains went on at bedtime, he'd
make a break for it. Then he'd find Carter and Daniel and a way home. He
wouldn't let himself think about Teal'c, or about the possibility of
"Progredi, canis!" A whistling sound, then a sharp pain across his upper
back brought O'Neill out of his contemplation and to his feet, glaring at
the sun-browned face of one of the overseers. The mass of men at his back
edged away from him, averting their eyes.
"What the hell?!" The words had not left his mouth before he realized his
mistake. The guard was bored. He was just looking for some entertainment.
Well, Jack was damned if he was going to be the source of that
entertainment. He dropped his gaze to the ground.
The man smiled at Jack; his mouth was full of broken teeth and the smile
never reached his eyes. "Vexatoris tu, Milesitis Senex?" He stepped up to
Jack, close enough for the smell of his rotting mouth to turn O'Neill's
stomach. "Eh?" The man knocked the bowl from Jack's hand, spilling the
thin gruel on the ground.
Keeping his eyes down, his face still, Jack shook his head. He had no idea
what the man was saying, but he was clearly trying to get Jack to start
something. Pitching his tone to respectful subservience, Jack said,
"Sorry, turdbreath. Fuck you very much."
"Heh. Milesitis Senex. Bene!" The guard cuffed Jack's head with a hard
fist and walked away laughing.
"Whatever." Jack's stomach rumbled, complaining, and he picked up his bowl
to scoop whatever was left of the unappetizing stuff into his mouth.
After breakfast, or what passed for breakfast, the guards moved through the
mass of slaves, separating them into groups for the day's work. Jack was
with the smallest group, and he found himself being herded to the only
building. The stucco structure was actually just two big rooms. In the
first was a raised platform, scored across with thin troughs and surrounded
by a stone moat. Through the open door, Jack saw a large press in the
It was in the first room, however, that Jack was stopped. With shouts and
shoving, he was pushed to stand on the platform. A loose iron collar was
affixed around his neck. It was attached to a chain that stretched up and
looped over the rafters of the dim building. Two other men were similarly
secured. They looked tired and worn, their skin stretched thin over
whipcord muscle, their legs and torsos covered with bruises and welts. One
of the men had a brand on his cheek. The letters "FUG" stood out in red
and angry relief against his sun darkened skin.
The door opened again, and a line of men carrying baskets walked in,
dumping their contents on the platform. Grapes.
"Iter facere, Milesitis Senex!" A familiar voice said. Jack looked over
his shoulder at the grinning face of his snag-toothed guard.
"Great. Wonderful." The other two men had begun marching over the grapes,
mashing them into a juicy pulp. "Marching. Thought I was done with that."
And he took a squishy step into the purple mass. "Ewwwww.. I hate
steppin' in squishy stuff."
"Tace! Iter facere!"
He heard the whistle as the cane sped through the air seconds before it
landed across his lower back. Grimacing, he trod forward and began
marching over the grapes.
"Celeris, Milesitis Senex." The cane licked fire over his calves as he
marched in place, the grape smell rising around him. Grape juice had
always been one of his favorites as a kid. No more.
Bearers brought in more grapes, scraping the stems and seeds into baskets
for further pressing. An hour passed, with the occasional shout of
"Celeris!" which Jack had translated to mean that he was to march faster.
The cane flicking like a brand over his burning calves helped in the
translation. Another hour and his thighs were aching and sore. The day
was warming up; the stucco building held the cool for a while, but now the
room was turning uncomfortably warm. He looked up from time to time to
look through the high window, marking the sun's passage. Another hour.
The other two chained men stopped immediately, sweat glistening on their
torsos as they took in deep breaths. Jack stopped a moment later, noting
for the first time just how thirsty he was. His legs felt like lead
weights, and his feet were sore from treading on grape seeds and stems all
The other men were quickly unchained and were pushed, stumbling, out of the
room. Two new workers were brought in and the command came again, "Iter
"Hey! A break would be nice!" Jack pulled angrily at the chain at his
neck. "Some water? Agua? H20?" He held an imaginary glass to his mouth
and took a drink. "Come on!"
The guard looked puzzled, and then a light dawned. "Aqua? Egere aqua?"
He grinned, showing off his state of the art dental work again, and took
down the sloshing water skin he had been sipping from for most of the
morning from its hook on the wall.
"Yes, aqua. I'd really like some aqua."
Uncorking the skin, the man took a long drink. Then he held the skin out
to Jack, but it was just out of reach. Straining against the chain at his
neck, O'Neill stretched, but his fingers fell far short. The guard laughed
and poured the skin out on the floor, the patter of liquid on the stones
making Jack even thirstier. "Asshole."
"Iter facere, Milesitis Senex. Milesitis grandis. Bellator vallidisium!"
The other two slaves were laughing now. Jack rolled his eyes and started
treading over the pile of grapes once again.
"Like I know what the hell you're calling me, jerk-off," he muttered.
Damn, he was thirsty.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Someone was dragging him over rocks. The movement was sporadic, as if the
person was having a difficult time, and the jerks were marked by low
grunting noises. Teal'c looked around. He was on a sheet of some kind,
moving slowly through a stand of trees. The sun was low in the sky, in the
East, so it was morning. He was very weak; his symbiote moved sluggishly
within, healing itself. There was pain in his side and he could smell
With an effort, he rolled free of his conveyance. The sudden lack of
weight caused quick forward motion on the part of the person who had been
dragging him, and Teal'c heard him cry out and fall to the ground.
Climbing painfully to his feet, Teal'c walked to where an old man lay,
cowering away from him. "Do not hurt me, demon. I am an old man.
The man spoke in a language Teal'c had heard the followers of Chronos use,
during Teal'c's service as First Prime of Apophis. He answered back in
that same language. "I will not hurt you. I am not a demon. Where are my
friends?" He stretched a hand down to help the man up. There was
something familiar about the bearded face, the wine stained clothes.
Grasping the old man's hand, he pulled him to his feet, looking intently in
the man's face. "Do I not know you?"
"Oh, no, no. I would remember. Thank you for not.for helping me up. Good
day!" And the man started to totter quickly back the way he had come.
"Stop!" Teal'c had found over time that his voice could influence the
actions of others, when pitched forcefully. The man stopped, looking
fearfully back over his shoulder.
"Ah, yes? Can I help you?"
"Indeed. You can tell me about this place. Perhaps this will help me find
my friends." A sharp pain in Teal'c's side brought a grimace to his face.
He placed his hand over the pain and pressed down. Warmth filled his palm;
looking down, he could see where the blood had run freely from the wound
"You are in pain?" The old man looked honestly concerned, but was backing
away down the trail as he spoke.
"I have suffered worse wounds. I will recover. Stop moving and tell me of
this place. What is your name?"
Nervously, the old man looked at his hands. "Selvanus. Do you remember
nothing of how you came to be injured?"
Memories were tickling the back of Teal'c's mind; a device of Ma'chello's,
a bright light, then, "Soldiers. No, not soldiers. They wore no uniforms
or armor. But they attacked us at a house. An old man had given shelter."
He paused, looking hard at the trembling figure. "He fed us and we then
slept until the others arrived. There was a battle and I took my wound."
"You were dead, we thought," the man supplied. "You lost so much blood and
lay so still."
"You were the cause, old man. Your food put us to sleep until the others
could arrive." Angry now, Teal'c advanced on the man and picked him up by
the shoulders of his tunica. He shook him, ignoring the flare of pain at
his side or the hiss of his symbiote inside his gut. "Where are my
"I.I d-do not know! Please." the man was rattled and terrified, but Teal'c
could not really find it in his heart to care about that right now.
"You know where they might be taken. You will tell me."
"Rome.to Rome! To be sold! Do not kill me, demon, I did not know!"
Teal'c dropped the quivering man and pressed his hand to his side. The man
crumpled into a ball in the dirt, hiding his face. There was no fresh
blood when Teal'c took his hand away. "You will assist me in regaining my
friends. You will give me clothes and the money you took for their
capture. Then I will leave and you will never see me again. Understood?"
The man nodded frantically and leapt to his feet, motioning Teal'c to
follow along the dirt road.
An hour or so later, dressed in a long tunica and sandals and armed with a
sharp knife (the best weapon the old man had to offer), Teal'c set out on
the road to Rome. A fat purse was tucked inside the folds of his cloak and
several apples and a good hard cheese hung in a cloth bundle from his
He knew he would need to stop soon and attempt kel-no-reem, to heal the
wound in his side, but Teal'c wanted to make a few miles before sundown.
Rome was at least two days away on foot, according to Selvanus, and he was
already several days behind O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, and Major Carter.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The sun slanting in through the shuttered windows woke Daniel at last.
Muttered voices from the next room drew him, pulling on his tunica as he
went, to investigate.
"//Now, now. Don't be coy with me. Let's just see what dear Uncle Clau-
Clau is hiding//."
"Stop! Don't do that! I don't understand you." Sam sounded a bit
panicked, and Daniel pushed the door to her chamber open. A tall, pale man
was looming over her bed, his golden hair highlighted by a circlet of
bronze laurel leaves. The man was plucking at the sleeve of her shift, and
tugging at the sheet. Sam looked mad enough to kill him with her glare
alone, but had not raised a hand to defend herself yet. Wise, considering
the situation, but things were escalating, from what little he could see.
"//Leave her alone!//" Crossing the tiny room in two strides, he took the
man by the shoulder and pulled him away from Sam's bed. "You okay?" he
asked, looking over her rumpled form with an anxious squint.
"I'm fine, but I'm fairly sure you shouldn't have done that, Daniel." Sam
scrambled out of bed and ran fingers through her tousled hair. "Who is
this guy, anyway?"
A good question, and Daniel had the feeling that he was about to have the
answer land on him with both feet.
"//How dare you lay hands on me, dog?! I'll have you boiled alive for this
outrage!//" The wild-eyed man advanced on them, his fists clenched, his
face red with rage. "//Well?! I asked you a question, dog!//"
"//I am sorry, Master. I thought it was rhetorical.//" Damn, that
'master' hurt to say. Daniel knew he had to talk fast, or the man would
make good his threat. Rome was not kind to rebellious slaves, not after
three uprisings that had nearly taken down the state, if memory served.
"//Master Claudius told us to wait here for him. I am Daniel of.Letopolis.
This is Samantha. She's my sister.//" He hoped the family tie would be
enough to excuse his actions. Bowing his head, he noted Sam copying his
actions and he blessed her mentally.
"//Oh.//" As quickly as the storm had struck, it was over. "//Your sister.
I see. Well, tell Uncle Claudius his nephew, Caligula, was here to see
him, will you, and, for goodness' sake, get a bath, the pair of you.//" His
tone was conversational now, pleasant and cheerful. "//Now, that's an
order. You're both very grubby. Get to the bathing chambers and have a
good soak before Uncle Claudius comes back. I'll tell him where you are if
he asks.//" Placing a hand on Daniel's head, then Sam's, he wafted from the
"What the hell was *that *?" Sam asked, a bit breathless.
Daniel ran fingers through his hair, rubbing his scalp furiously to get rid
of the feel of the man's cold hand on head. "That was Claudius' crazy
nephew, Caligula. I'm so glad we're leaving soon. You're my sister, by the
way, if anyone asks. From Letopolis."
"Okay." Sam looked a little shaken still, but unwilling to let the
potential forced intimacy of the past few minutes shake her up. "What was
he saying about baths?"
"You understood that?" Daniel was impressed. He moved over to Sam's bed
and twitched the linen sheets back into place, to have something to do. "I
didn't think you knew much Latin, Major-Doctor." The use of her titles, he
hoped, would help ground her, keep her within their shared reality of SG-1.
She needed to remember, to be reminded that she was Major Samantha Carter
of the US Air Force. Of them all, she had the most to lose, in the way of
control of self. Free women were not treated well in ancient Rome, much
less female slaves.
"I don't, or rather I didn't. Claudius was teaching me last night.
Baths?" She nudged him in the ribs, a tiny smile playing around her eyes.
"Follow me, Major-Doctor. I know the way."
The baths had been deserted in the late morning, and they were able to
bathe in privacy and return to Claudius' rooms undetected. "Much better."
Sam sighed and stretched out on the bed, letting the warm sun dry her hair.
"Think our host will be back soon?"
"Hope so. It's only a matter of time before someone comes looking for us.
Sam, are you okay?" He sat on the bed next to her, not looking at her, but
near enough to feel every breath.
This was the first time since they had recovered consciousness from the
battle in the farmhouse that Daniel had a chance to talk to anyone. He had
seen through the crowds when Jack had been dragged to the block, struggling
all the way, stripped down, and sold.
Then it had been his turn. He did not want to remember that just now.
He'd been led away before Sam's turn had come with the women's lot. It had
been such a relief to see her, alive and relatively unharmed, cutting up
turnips in the kitchen.
"I'm okay, Daniel. Just got my dignity a little bruised." She brushed her
hand over the livid bruise on her cheek, and smiled shakily. "I," she
paused, uncertain, "I saw you and the colonel. I'm so sorry, Daniel." She
reached out a hand and placed it, warm, on his back. "I'd have given
anything to stop what happened to you. To you both."
The crowd stretched before him, a multicolored, jeering blur. Cold iron
clamped around his wrists, holding his arms behind him, and tethered to a
ring on the ground. Efficient, practiced hands stripped him of the plain
tunica and loincloth he had been given to wear and washed him down with
cold water and harsh soap. Hard hands, tugging him this way and that,
examining him, lifting his lip to see his teeth. //What skills?// And a
placard, the word 'scriba' written in chalk, hung around his neck. Pushed
to the platform, more hard hands, dead eyes looking him over. Bidding.
Laughter at his blushes.
He shuddered. "Really wanted my sidearm right then. Or one of Jack's
famous last-minute rescues." He quirked a tiny smile. "For all of us."
"Yeah, him riding in out of the sunset, Teal'c at his side." She cut
Daniel turned and took her hand. "He might be all right, Sam. We don't
know he's dead. Junior.."
"Yeah. I know." Daniel knew the image her mind's eye was conjuring,
because his was doing the same: Teal'c, lying sprawled in a pool of dark
blood. The dark wound was too near Junior's pouch, and the pool kept
spreading. "We need to get out of here, Daniel."
She stood up abruptly and began to pace angrily. "I can't believe this,
anyway. Where the hell are we, Rome? Ancient Rome? How the hell did we
get here, Daniel? I mean, one minute we're coming through the Stargate on
PX2-373, then we're in the woods, with no gear, in the middle of nowhere.
I mean," she paused in her pacing, her short hair standing up in spikes
from her fingers running through it. With a glare at the door, she flung
herself into a chair, sprawled with her elbows on her knees. "How are we
getting home, Daniel?" Her blue eyes were wide and swimming with emotion.
Daniel stood and moved behind her, rubbing her shoulders with strong
fingers. The hard muscles of her shoulders tensed, then relaxed as he
kneaded them. "We're not in Ancient Rome, Sam. We're not even on Earth. I
finished translating the scroll while you were taking your turn in the
bath." She twisted under his hands and looked up at him. "Have you ever
been to Colonial Williamsburg, Sam?"
Comprehension lit her eyes. "Of course! But, where are the, I don't know,
"I have no idea. Maybe we're the patrons. The slaves, the people on the
street. An interactive historical drama of some kind." Daniel picked up
the scroll and held it close to his eyes, bringing the strange script into
focus. "This says, in essence, 'Welcome to Rome, we hope you enjoy your
Daniel shook his head. "I'm not. It also describes where the exit is. We
need to get to a place called Ponza. I'm sure Claudius has a map or
something around here." He rubbed his tired eyes and rolled up the scroll
again. "I really wish I had my glasses," he said.
"How bad are your eyes, really, Daniel?" Sam asked in concern. "I've seen
you function without corrective lenses before and you've never had this
kind of trouble. I always thought they were just, you know, for reading."
Daniel shook his head. "You've seen me in contacts, Sam, never without
some kind of visual correction. I'm pretty myopic. The first day without
glasses wasn't too bad, but the more tired my eyes get the blurrier
everything is. I can still read, though, if I hold things close enough."
He sat on the bed again and lay back, shutting his eyes. "This is the
longest I've been without them since I was a kid. It's.weird. Everything
is out of focus, and the brighter the light the worse it gets. My head is
killing me." Okay, he thought, enough with the pity party. "I'm going to
take a nap until Claudius gets back. Wake me if anyone comes in, Sam.
Especially if Caligula comes back. You shouldn't be alone here."
"I can take care of myself, Daniel. I'm a soldier." Her voice was miffed.
He opened one eye and looked over at her. Arms crossed, chin up, and he'd
bet her expression was an imitation of Jack at his most mulish. "And a
damn good one. But you don't have to fight every battle alone. I can
help, at least with the translating. All right?"
She sat for a moment, then uncrossed her arms and leaned on the table.
"All right, Daniel. I'll wake you. Get some sleep, now." Her voice
sounded sad, defeated.
He sat up again. "You okay?"
She nodded. "I'm just worried about the Colonel. Who's translating for
him? You know how he is. He's going to get himself in so much trouble. I
wish Claudius would get back."
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The long afternoon was wearily dragging on toward evening. O'Neill felt as
if lead weights had been tied to his feet and he'd been forced to do an
endurance march with a full field pack. The cane fell with more frequency
as he slowed his steps, tracing fire across his calves and lower back and
sending his temper into orbit. Barely, just barely, he stopped himself
from grabbing the instrument and shoving it somewhere inappropriate, but
immensely satisfying. Capitalizing on his captor's lack of English
fluency, he told them so. Repeatedly. With gestures.
Of course, that only made matters worse. The shift had changed twice more;
Jack remained chained to the ceiling. He'd been given water at noon, but
nothing to eat. The gap-toothed bastard with the cane had thought it the
height of comedy to pretend to release the collar, then walk out of the
building altogether. Jack had heard the rest of the workers at their noon
meal, and started working on the collar himself.
Unfortunately, the lock, while primitive, was strong and well made. He had
managed to climb half way up the chain to examine where it was fastened in
the ceiling before the worker's break was over and he was discovered.
"Non militaris. Marmoset nos! Concidere, marmoset." The guard made
coaxing noises and gestures, as if calling a cat out of a tree. Deciding
to climb down before they took more drastic measures than coaxing, Jack
came down again. The guard petted his grizzled hair, smiling and nodding.
"Bene marmoset." Jack snatched his head away and moved as far from the man
as the chain would allow, glaring. Then more grapes were brought in and
the march began again.
The world became the room. The steady raising and lowering of his legs in
the mass of purple grapes, the smell of ripe and over ripe fruit, the buzz
of flies and bees hovering over the discarded pulp, the occasional shout
and blow to break the monotony. Fatigue was a constant now, and Jack
watched the shadows as the sun moved, counting the minutes until night and
The air turned golden, then red as dusk fell. The shadows grew darker,
until the light was really too dim to see much at all. Finally, the guard
called out, "Desistere!" The call was echoed through the work camp and the
weary slaves came to an end of their labors for the day. Jack slumped at
the end of his chain, waiting to be released. During the long day he had
worked out his escape plan and, despite his fatigue, was ready to get the
hell out of this place and try to find Daniel and Sam.
His two co-workers were freed and pushed, stumbling with weariness, out of
the room. Buckets of water were thrown over the grape pressing stone he
stood on, sluicing off seeds, stems and bits of peel, flowing over his sore
feet in a warm wave. Then, the last worker was gone, closing the door
"Hey! Did you forget something?" Jack yelled, tugging at his chain
angrily. "For crying out loud! My feet are about to fall off, here!
Hey!" There was no response, no answering call. "Great," he muttered. "I
have got to learn not to antagonize the bad guys."
The chain was too short to allow him to sit, much less lay down. After a
day of almost constant motion, his legs felt like the bones had been
replaced by undercooked fettucini. His feet were raw and sore; shifting
his weight from one to the other helped a little, but not much. His bad
knee felt swollen and tight and the spots where the cane had struck were
hot and painful.
"Okay, so, no escape tonight," he said softly. "Tomorrow. If I can still
move by then."
The only window was high up on the wall. Jack craned his neck against the
rubbing of the collar to see if the moon was up yet. That was the only way
he could think to mark time. A silvery glow heralded the moonrise and
O'Neill kept his eyes glued to the silver sphere as it crept slowly over
An old memory niggled at his mind. The moon in another window, marking
time minute to minute as the night crept slowly by and the desert cold
crept slowly in. He had spent hours looking at the moon, having nothing
else at which to look. Mapping its contours had become a challenge and a
discipline. He had dreaded the few days a month when the moon was new.
This moon was full and bright. Old habits kicked in and he ceased to feel
the pain in his legs and his back as his mind went to the moon. He looked
for old friends, landmarks he had memorized as a child, but found none of
them. "What the hell? Where's Mara Imbrium? Where's the Lunar
Appennines?" Kicking himself to alertness with a rattle and a clink, he
straightened and really looked at the moon. "Where's anything?! That's
not our moon." The constellations, what he could see of them, were
different as well. "Where the hell am I then?"
Behind him, startling him out of his contemplation, the door creaked open.
He turned quickly and stumbled on one of the ruts in the stone. But for
the chain, he would have fallen. As it was, he choked and coughed as he
regained his unsteady footing. An oil lamp cast guttering shadows over the
room, hiding the identity of its bearer rather than illuminating. Jack
squinted against the soft light and identified "his" guard. "What the hell
do you want, asshole?"
The man grinned and hopped up on the stone, setting down his lamp. He
walked over to Jack quickly, the reek of wine and garlic making the older
man gag. He tried to back away but the chain at his neck confounded him
again, holding him within arms reach of the guard. "Shhhh. Quiete, miles
militis." Grimy hands reached out to him and the lamp lit a leer in the
younger man's eyes.
"Hey, you're not my type. Back off!" He was pretty sure that resisting
would mean something more than a few taps with that damn cane. Hoping that
playing hard to get would be enough, he crossed his arms and bared his
teeth. "I'm not interested, Colgate-boy." The man stepped closer,
reaching out to touch Jack's hair again and pressing his body tightly
against him, laughing drunkenly. He groped for Jack's loincloth, tugging
the end free and attempting to pull it off all together. "Goddamn it, let
me alone!" Then a harder tug and he was naked in the dark.
Hands, swift despite being slowed by drink, tied his wrists securely behind
his back before he could recover his wits. "Mei militis, speciosus." Jack
gritted his teeth and tugged at the cloth, trying to free himself as the
guard's clammy hands roamed everywhere. Callused fingers stroked his
scrotum and he yelped, more than a little panicked at the way things were
"Okay. Enough!" Drawing back, Jack wrenched himself away and kicked out
at the man. A short shriek cut off abruptly, and Jack was alone on the
platform. "I said I'm not that kind of boy," he said smugly. He looked
over the side of the platform and saw in the dim light the sprawled body to
the gap-toothed guard. He wasn't moving and his head lay at a very
unhealthy angle. "Well, hell. That's gonna make me Mr. Popular."
He tried calling for help, but no one came. He tried to loosen the
restraint on his wrists, but it was tied very well. As the night wore on,
he even tried prayer, but no one was listening.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Sam woke from a dreamless sleep to the sound of the chamber door opening.
Claudius limped into the room quickly and shut the door before she could
stand or speak. He looked happy and excited, words tumbling and tripping
from his mouth in a hiccupping fountain.
She grinned and put a hand on his arm. "Slow down. I don't understand."
Shaking his head with a twitch and a grimace, Claudius pointed to himself.
"I f-find Jack."
"You found the Colonel?" Sam stammered in relief. She surged up out of
the hard chair and caught Claudius in an enthusiastic hug. "Where is he?
How is he? Is he okay? When do we leave?"
Claudius looked from her to Daniel's sleeping form and pointed at him.
"Wake. Talk. Fast talk S-S-Sam you."
"Oh, right, sorry." She reached out and shook Daniel awake. "Claudius is
back. He says he found the Colonel."
"Yes!" He rolled to his feet and grasped Claudius by the arms, questioning
him in rapid Latin. Claudius answered and sat at the table, reaching for a
bit of fruit from last night's tray. "He says Jack was taken to work in a
vineyard a little to the south of here by a man named Callas. We're
leaving tonight. The cart is being readied now."
"About time. Let's go."
Holding up a stilling hand, Claudius spoke again. His stammer was a bit
worse but Sam caught the words "slave" "head" and "quiet." The older man
looked very uncomfortable, but determined.
"You're right." Daniel nodded. "He's right, Sam. Once we leave these
rooms, we have to behave like, well, like slaves again. Eyes down,
subservient, all that BS, at least until we get out of the city. Otherwise
we'll draw attention to ourselves and might make trouble for Claudius after
Nodding, Sam said, "I understand. I hate it, but I understand. But if
that asshole comes near me again, I'm going to break his arm."
"Asshole?" Claudius was confused.
Daniel translated the meaning, if not the content. Claudius looked over at
Sam with concern. "You o-okay, Sam?" he asked. "Caligula bad." he looked
up at Daniel and asked, "malevolens?"
"Bad man. Jerk. Asshole."
Claudius smiled ruefully. "Bene. Caligula is jerk." He patted Sam's arm
comfortingly and finished his fruit.
A messenger came to the door. "Cart's ready," Daniel murmured. "Time to
go. Oh, nearly forgot. Map." He whispered a quiet consultation in the
Roman's ear, who scrambled amidst his scrolls and selected two, tucking
them into the bag he had packed earlier.
They followed Claudius out of the room that had been their haven. The
stone halls of the inner chambers gave way to the lavishly decorated outer
halls and rooms. They met only palace staff, scurrying to finish for the
day. Laughter and the appetizing smells let them know that the evening
meal was being served. No one but the slaves walked the halls, and no one
stopped to question them.
The cart awaited them in the stable yard. Daniel assisted Claudius into
the back of it, settling him onto comfortable cushions like a loyal
servant. Sam climbed on after as Daniel clambered into the driver's seat
and took the reigns. Sotto voce, she asked, "You know how to drive one of
these things, Daniel?"
"In principle." He snapped the traces along the back of the black mare and
clicked his tongue. Sam sat at the back of the cart, her feet dangling
inches from the cobbled roadway, and held on tightly as the cart jostled
and lurched over the uneven stones. Palatine Hill surrounded them, the
buildings of the imperial family a cluster of marble and gilt growing rosy
in the setting sunlight.
Claudius spoke from time to time, guiding Daniel through the winding
streets. She drew her feet into the cart and scooted back, leaning on the
wooden side. A pillow landed in her lap and she looked up into Claudius'
smiling face. "Thanks."
She made herself more comfortable and watched as the city came into view at
last. "We're on the Via Appia, now, if this is a faithful reconstruction
of the city. That big wall to your right is the outside of the Circus
Maximus," Daniel said. "This road will take us almost straight south. All
the way to Terracina."
Fascinated despite herself, Sam drank in the sights as they passed slowly
along the endless busy streets. "This is an amazing piece of work, if it's
all a reconstruction. It even smells the way an ancient city should smell.
Have you asked Claudius about that, by the way?"
"You mean if he knows about what's really happening here? No. I'm not
sure I want to know the answer."
Claudius looked from one to the other, catching his name. He questioned
Daniel, who replied shortly and not very satisfyingly by the look on
Claudius' face. He glared at the back of Daniel's head and crossed his
Sam put a placating hand on Claudius' knee. He looked down at her in
surprise, then smiled at her kindly and patted her hand. "What did you
"Later, Sam. I told him the same thing. We'll talk once we get out of the
city, okay?" Daniel spoke to Claudius again, who relaxed a bit and nodded.
"We're approaching the outer gate now. Try to look, well, slavey."
The guards at the gate nodded them through, recognizing the imperial
markings on the cart, and then they were outside the wall and in the
suburbs. A few more minutes' travel had them outside the city altogether,
although houses lined the way for many more miles.
Their shadows grew longer to the side of the road. The creak of the
harness and the chirruping of night insects were the loudest sounds in the
growing dark. For a few miles outside the city, the way had been lit by
baskets of fire. They had passed a runner a mile back, moving from one
basket to the other and adding wood. Now, though, the only thing lighting
the way was the rising moon. Luckily, it was full and bright and their way
was easy and straight.
"We should be there by tomorrow, midmorning, according to Claudius. Why
don't you get some sleep," Daniel suggested. "I'll wake you in a few hours
and you can drive."
The back of the cart was cramped, but well padded with cushions and bags.
She curled up on a small pile of colorfully embroidered pillows and looked
up at the strange stars. A cool breeze made her shiver. Claudius noticed
and pulled a warm blanket from one of the bags, covering her with it. He
eased off of the padded bench to recline next to her, looking up at the
Pointing to a cluster of stars, he said, "Lepus." He held up two fingers
and hopped them up and down.
"Rabbit? I can see that." A cluster of stars low on the horizon drew her
attention. "What are those, those seven stars together there."
Claudius looked up, then smiled and nodded, "Nos Septum F-frater."
"The seven brothers. We have a constellation called the Seven Sisters back
home, but they don't look like that." The older man smiled and shook his
head, not understanding. Daniel translated softly. Claudius craned his
neck and asked Daniel a question. They spoke back and forth for a moment
or two, and then Claudius relaxed back onto the cushions.
"What was that about?"
"He wanted to know what we were talking about earlier, about this world. I
explained that we were from another planet and that part of our history
resembled this place. He doesn't appear to know anything about it, though.
I think he thinks he really is who he is, or thinks he is. And I fully
realize that sentence made very little sense."
Sam said dryly, "Oddly enough, I understood what you just said. Do you
think he's a clone or something? Or something like those 'bots of
Harlaan's?" She still had the occasional nightmare of her other self,
trapped on Harlaan's doomed world after being made 'better.'
Daniel shrugged. "We've seen no evidence of that level of technology. The
cloning thing is possible, I guess. I really don't care that much as long
as we get out of here soon."
The miles passed quietly for a time. Claudius and Sam started exchanging
words again, naming the cart, the horse, the road and anything else they
could see. It was like a bilingual game of I, Spy.
Daniel smiled to himself, remembering playing a similar game with his
mother, learning English and Arabic simultaneously. He had actually been
more fluent in the second language than the first, being immersed in it
practically from infancy, and had struggled to learn the English his mother
had insisted he use in camp. The game had developed from that. From her
love of learning had come his love of language and linguistics, a passion
that few of his foster parents had ever understood.
Now, listening to the Latin and English drifting up from the back of the
wagon, Daniel remembered hot Egyptian days and a dark-haired woman pointing
to a pile of fruit on a rug in the marketplace. "Figs, Mama," he murmured.
The wagon creaked on into the night, accompanied by the gold glint of
fireflies dancing among the trees along side the road.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Night fell. The pain was becoming bearable at last. A few hours of quiet
meditation had set the healing on its path. Soon, he would stop for the
night and spend it in kel-no-reem. The morning would see him fully
restored and ready to do battle once again.
The moon rose high overhead, lighting his path and turning the rolling
hills silver and gray. A cool breeze lifted the hem of his cloak, setting
the closely woven cloth flapping.
A fellow traveler had told him of an inn along this road, and now he could
see the flicker of torches in the distant dark.
Rome was another day away, unless he could find faster conveyance. He had
seen, much earlier in the day, a man being carried on the backs of four
other men. Apophis had used such a litter before, but rarely. The workers
in the fields he had passed were also slaves, he knew.
It was in his heart to free these people, but he did not know how. He
would meditate upon that as well, when the time came. First he had to free
O'Neill, DanielJackson and Major Carter, if they were indeed enslaved.
Then they would free rest of this world.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Morning found Jack exhausted and nodding, almost choking himself repeatedly
as he passed in and out of a light slumber. Then the doors opened and the
His collar was released and Jack was pushed down off of the platform. He
landed in a heap, unable to catch himself, and was pulled roughly to his
feet again. Shouted questions battered his ears, but he did not understand
and was too damn tired to try very hard. He stumbled into the bright,
quiet morning and was shoved across the hard packed dirt to where the
overseer, an ugly, red-faced, bantam of a man, was standing. Off balance
with fatigue and because his arms were still tightly bound, he was pushed
to the ground at the man's feet. He landed in a sprawl and lay there,
enjoying the momentary rest, while more shouting and gesturing went on over
The corpse was brought out. The overseer grabbed a handful of Jack's hair
and pulled him up to kneel. The overseer shouted a question, pointing at
"Yeah, yeah. It was an accident. I'm very sorry. Can we get this over
Apparently the overseer took Jack's tired nod for a confession. His
pinched face grew red. He shouted unintelligibly at Jack, pointing and
gesturing. Translating under his breath, Jack said, "You'll pay for this.
You're a bad bad man. Yadda yadda yadda." Wrenching at his hands for the
umpteenth time, he rolled his aching shoulders and settled his butt back on
his heels to wait for the man to wind down. Damn, he was thirsty. He
licked his cracked lips and swallowed.
Looking around, he noticed that he was the only non-guard out and about
this morning. The table was set up for breakfast, but he compound was
quiet and deserted, except for the guards and the overseer. Probably
didn't want the pickers to get any ideas, he decided.
It did not take long for the bantam to realize Jack had not the slightest
idea nor interest in what he was saying. He motioned two men forward and
Jack was hauled to his feet and they untied his arms at last. His hands
were throbbing, his shoulders on fire as he eased them forward with a
grimace. Someone shoved the loincloth into his hands, but he dropped it.
He caught the fabric the second time and tied it clumsily around his waist.
Once he was done, he was dragged over to the tree and pushed to sit
beneath it, which was fine with him. It was shady under that tree, and
almost cool. Very restful. He leaned his head back on the rough bark and
closed his eyes.
He had almost succeeded in falling asleep when he was pulled to his feet
again. "What now?" he asked in irritation. A litter was being carried up
the hill on the backs of four large men. "Now who could this be?"
"Tace, canis!" A hard shove sent Jack to his sore knees as the litter
crested the hill.
"I'm getting really tired of getting shoved around, here. Couldn't you
just, I don't know, point and grunt?" The guard raised a hand
threateningly and Jack subsided.
A well-dressed man emerged from the litter. He wore a long, white tunica
with green stripes and was draped by a length of green cloth, caught at one
shoulder. The overseer approached him, bowed, and pointed at Jack. They
spoke for a few moments, looking back at him from time to time with grim
expressions. Jack drew himself up to a kneeling parade rest and focused on
the distant hills. It was really kind of pretty here, he mused. Very
green. The air smelled good, like Minnesota but without the mosquitoes.
The man climbed back into his litter without another glance in Jack's
direction and he was carried back down the hill. The conference was finally
over, by the looks of things. The overseer walked back to Jack. He put
his hands on his hips and glared down at the kneeling Colonel. Speaking
very slowly, he said, "Nil mortus tu. Scia? Plecta mia tu. Carus para
dominus." He rubbed his fingers together in a universal gesture of coins
being rubbed together.
"Nil mortus. You're not gonna kill me? Oh, good." Jack nodded to show he
understood at least part of what the man had said. "Just don't make an
example out of me. I hate that."
Content that Jack understood him, the overseer called to another guard.
"Adde furca." The guard grinned nastily and ran to the main tent. He
returned minutes later carrying a large wooden contraption shaped like a
"Example time, huh?" He looked from the grinning man holding the wooden
thing to the overseer and grimaced. "I'm supposed to do what, exactly,
with that?" He wiped a trickle of sweat from his eyes, then looked around
at the ring of armed men surrounding the open yard of the camp. Not great
odds. The overseer motioned him to rise.
Jack hauled himself in stages to his sore feet, resting half way with his
hands on his knees. It was now or never.
Taking aim at the most bored looking guard, Jack was off like his namesake,
his bare feet pounding the dirt and kicking up dust as he went. It took a
moment for them to react, and by the time they did Jack was through the
guards and racing for the tree line. The work camp was on top of a low
hill, with the vineyards surrounding it on all sides. Beyond the fields,
groves of olive trees stretched over more hills into the distance. Beyond
reaching them, Jack had really not planned, hoping to reach some kind of
town or village where he could steal some clothes and start looking for his
Of course, the original plan was to do this in the dead of night. Not in
broad, way too bright daylight with every guard and overseer in the place
on his heels as he hoofed it. He berated himself mentally, but did not
spare the breath for anything but running.
Then he was falling, his legs tangled and useless in some sort of weighted
rope. He fell head over heels, tumbling painfully as his momentum carried
him forward until he rolled to a jarring stop against the trunk of the
first of the olive trees. "So close," he muttered. Then he was surrounded
again by angry-faced guards and hauled to his knees and held there.
They had brought that "A" thing with them. "Oh, wonderful. Well, you
know," he panted, looking up at the circle of faces, "screw you guys.
You're not putting that thing on me." He crossed his arms and glared at
them defiantly. This seemed to amuse them, all but one man who looked way
too much like Colgate-boy to be anything but a blood relative. That one
just stared at Jack, his dark eyes cold, and backhanded the kneeling man
into the dirt.
"Furca. Custodia agere." His voice was as cold as his eyes. None to
gently, Jack was hauled to his knees again, and held there. The apex of
the A was forced over his head, the heavy beams pressing painfully on his
sunburned shoulders. Then they secured his hands to the legs of the thing,
their numbers making his struggles a mockery. A collar, inset into the
furca, made certain he could not slip it off over his head.
When they were done, Colgate-boy's brother crouched before Jack, wrenching
the wooden framework to bring Jack face to face with him. He pointed to
himself and said, "Hastatus. Iteras."
Jack shook his head tiredly. "I don't understand."
The man pointed to himself again, shaking the furca once, roughly.
"For crying out loud! Hastatus, already!"
The man, Hastatus, grinned. "Bene." He pointed to Jack and said, "Canis.
The translation filtered through Jack's tired mind. Canis. Dog. "Go to
hell. My name is Colonel Jack O'Neill, United States Air Force."
Something of his tone must have filtered through, even though the meaning
was lost. Smiling coldly, Hastatus grasped the furca and pulled sharply
downward, forcing the legs of the thing to the dirt and dragging Jack along
with it. Unable to catch himself, Jack's throat landed hard on the
crosshatch, choking him. Hastatus bent down and hissed in his ear, "Canis.
Coughing, Jack struggled to draw a breath. He was bent, half-sprawling,
with his upper body held up by the furca and the whole weight of it was on
his throat. Hastatus leaned on the frame, holding it down as Jack
struggled, his feet kicking as he tried to kneel up and breathe again.
"Colonel J-Jack O'Ne." he gasped. Then his world went gray around the
edges. Then it went away altogether.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Claudius woke up abruptly, jolted out of sleep by the a particularly
jarring bounce. He looked up and saw that the young man was asleep. The
reins were slack in his hands and the cart was rolling along with one wheel
on the road and the other in the dirt. The mare was grazing happily on the
verge, and moving farther off the road with every step. "//Daniel. W-wake
up.//" He clambered over the back of the seat and took the reins guiding
the horse back onto the road with a lurch.
The young man woke with a jerk, blinking furiously in the bright daylight.
"Huh..what.?" He looked at Claudius in confusion, then rubbed his hands
briskly over his face. "//Sorry. Must have dozed off.//" He reached for
the reins again, but Claudius held on to them.
"//Get some sleep, my friend. You've been dr-driving all night. I can
manage for a bit. We're a couple of hours from the vineyard. There's an
inn, The D-Drunken Carter, I think it's called, just before the r-road that
leads there, if I recall correctly. We'll rest the horse, get some
provisions, and then see about freeing your C-C-Colonel, all right?//"
Looking back at his sleeping friend, Daniel said, "//But what if someone
sees? Won't it look suspicious, you driving while your sl.//"
"Wait." Claudius held up a hand. Daniel subsided, looking puzzled.
Reining the horse to a stop, Claudius dipped his hand in his pouch and
pulled out a coin. He handed it to Daniel. "//That's for your l-loyal
service to me and m-m-my family. Now give it to me.//"
Daniel handed it back, comprehension beginning to dawn.
"//Good. You've just bought freedom for yourself and your 'sister.'//" He
pocketed the coin again and clucked the mare into motion once more. "//Now
g-get some sleep.//"
He could tell the young man was pleased; his eyes were smiling as he
climbed into the back of the cart. Claudius only hoped Grandmother Livia
wouldn't be too angry when he came back without them at the end of this
little adventure. Of course, she rarely had any patience for him on the
best of days. She would probably just call him an idiot and stalk out of
the room. Well, he thought, I can live with that. It would not be the
"//The Drunken Carter, huh? Sam will love that,//" Daniel said sleepily.
Claudius smiled to himself. He was enjoying the company of these two young
people very much. It was very refreshing to be able to speak with someone
and not be interrupted with the end of your sentence.
At length, topping yet another hill, he saw the inn. The large villa
rustica was nestled into the trees at the valley floor, half of the bulk of
it hidden by the tall laurels. A stream babbled by it pleasantly, and he
heard the distant clang of metal on metal. That, and the column of white
smoke rising up from an outbuilding, told him that a blacksmith had set up
shop near the inn. He was glad of this; the boy's off-road driving had
loosened one of the wheels of the cart. A good blacksmith could set that
He pulled the cart to a stop in the inn's stable-yard, a large open area of
clean sand and straw. The inn formed one wall of the yard, and the open
stables formed the other two. There were few horses in the stables, most
of the travelers having moved on already. A bay gelding stamped in one of
the airy stalls and chickens scratched in the sandy yard, squawking
riotously as they rolled to a stop.
A young girl, no more than ten or eleven years old, scampered out of the
inn and took the mare's halter. "//Good morning, honored guests!//" The
child was tiny next to the black mare, but she held the halter confidently
as Claudius shook his charges awake and they clambered out of the cart.
"//Breakfast is over, but Pater is sure to have something for you to eat,
if you're hungry.//"
"//Th-thank you, child. Is the s-smith busy, today? Our c-c-cart is in n-
need of some repair.//"
Daniel looked alarmed at this. "//Repair? What's wrong with it?//" He
bent to examine the framework, calling Sam over to look as well.
"//It's all right. Just a b-bit of a loose wheel. Nothing that c-c-can't
be fixed.//" The stable girl was looking at him curiously; his head
twitched abruptly and she jumped, startled.
Claudius grimaced, then smiled kindly at the girl. She was just a
commoner, he reminded himself, and quite ignorant. Such reactions
shouldn't hurt anymore; he'd been getting them most of his life. "//The
smith?//" He prompted gently.
The girl pointed, then busied herself unhitching the mare and brushing her
down. "//T-thank you, child.//" He handed the girl a sestertius, then
limped toward the sound of clanging metal, Daniel and Sam trailing behind
They were speaking in their language, English, as Sam had called it, and he
caught a few words, but not the meaning. Sam sounded worried, urgent.
Daniel sounded like he was trying to calm her down. Taking a guess at
what they were talking about, he spoke over his shoulder as he walked,
"//We will only be here a short while. Then we go on to your friend. Tell
Sam we are v-very close.//"
"//You understood us? That's.you're a quick study. English isn't an easy
language to learn.//" Daniel spoke quickly to Sam, translating what they
were saying, Claudius supposed.
Rounding a corner, they found themselves in the smith's courtyard. A barn-
like structure stood at one end, its doors open wide. The clanging came
from inside; they followed the sound, meeting a wall of heat and noise as
The smith was a huge man, broad shouldered and ruddy from the heat of his
forge. His equally large assistant worked the bellows, stoking the coals
as the smith held a rod of metal in the fire. He brought it out, red-hot
and sparking, and set it on the anvil. Looking up briefly, he noted the
three people in his smithy and grunted at his assistant, gesturing toward
them with a toss of his head. He brought his hammer down with a sharp blow
that sent sparks flying.
The younger man, an apprentice, Claudius assumed, approached them.
"//We are h-having a problem with our cart,//" Claudius said. "//It has a
loose wheel. Can your m-m-master fix it?//" The boy motioned them back
into the courtyard. Despite the heat of the day, it was noticeably cooler
and much quieter outside.
"//My master,//" the boy said with a wry grimace, "//has enough work in
commissions to last the rest of the week. Let me take a look at your cart;
he usually leaves those things to me. I am Alvanus Artifex, apprentice to
Creopacis. Lead the way.//" The young man pulled on a relatively clean
shirt and gathered a few tools, leaning into the smithy to tell his master
where he was going. A grunt and a clang were his reply. Alvanus smiled
ruefully and motioned for Claudius to precede him.
The stable-girl was nowhere to be found, but the mare had been well tended.
She had been rubbed down and given feed and clean water and the cart had
been rolled to one side of the yard. Daniel wandered over to check on the
horse as Sam and Alvanus hunkered down and examined the loose wheel.
Deciding to leave the apprentice to his work, Claudius followed Daniel.
There was a question in his mind, and he was not quite certain how to ask
it. The story the young man had told of other worlds had seemed so far
fetched, yet the man clearly believed what he was saying. Which meant he
was either mad, or everything Claudius had ever believed about his world
was a lie. A fable to rival the tales of the gods. He had to know, to see
He picked up a stiff brush and ran it over the mare's flank, to have
something to do. Daniel was leaning on a post, looking vaguely toward Sam
and the large, blonde smith. His eyes were distant, though, as if he was
looking at something no one else could.
"//What do you s-see, Daniel?//" Claudius asked hesitantly. That was not
the question he had intended to ask, but for a moment the boy had reminded
him of the Cybelle. He had the same look of otherworldliness as had the
prophetess. The mare's shining coat glided smoothly under Claudius' strong
hands as he brushed the black expanse.
Looking back at Claudius, then down at the ground, Daniel flicked a quick,
nervous smile. "//Not much. It's too bright. I can hear Sam over there
somewhere,//" he gestured toward the cart, then rubbed his eyes. "//I'm
okay. What's the plan now?//" He turned into the dim shade of the stable,
his tense face relaxing somewhat in the softer light. "//Do you know this
Callas?//" The spell was broken. He would wait until another time to ask
"//Only by reputation. He makes ve-very good wine. I know nothing about
the man personally.//" He put the brush down and patted the horse's flank,
scratching her behind the ears. The mare leaned into his touch and he
scratched a little harder. "//I had planned to buy your friend back. Th-
th-that s-seemed easiest.//"
Daniel shook his head. "//Knowing Jack, he hasn't endeared himself to his
owners. That may work in our favor, though. Maybe they'll be anxious to
get rid of him.//"
A happy exclamation from Sam caught their attention. Claudius saw her slap
the bemused apprentice on the shoulder, a huge grin on her face. He limped
over to the pair, Daniel following. "//Is it fixed, already?//"
"//He lift, kick.//" Sam said, in her fractured Latin. She gestured to
"//It's a knack,//" the youth said modestly. "//There was not that much
wrong with it; I didn't even have to use my tools.//"
They settled on a fee of three denarii, with one more as a tip, and the
young man went back to his labors. "//Get Colonel now?//" Sam asked. Her
Latin was improving, really, Claudius reflected.
"We eat n-now." Claudius answered her in English. "No you eat y-yesterday
Sam broke into startled laughter. "//Okay, okay. We eat now. Then get
The innkeeper had set up tables and benches in the foreyard. The portly
man introduced himself as Horace "Not the poet" Hospes, and set down trays
of bread, cheese, and fresh fruits before his guests. It was not time yet
for the new wine, so they had to make due with an older, but quite
palatable, vintage. Sam and Daniel drank sparingly, adding more water than
wine, and seemed to enjoy it. There were a few other guests at the tables,
but not many. The morning meal was past; the noon meal was yet to be
served. Those who were at table were either late risers or travelers who
stopped on their way, as Claudius and his charges had done.
Nibbling on a wedge of pale Romano cheese, Sam turned to watch the other
patrons. "//She is very c-c-curious, is she nnot?//" Claudius turned to
ask Daniel. "//Every time I look at her she is finding things out,
exploring. She's so different from the other women I know.//"
Daniel swallowed his bread and nodded. "//I'm not surprised. She's a very
accomplished scientist, and a scholar.//" Sam turned to look at the two
men, realizing they were talking about her. "//She is also very
The woman looked from one man to the other. "What?" She put down her
cheese and threw a grape at Daniel. "//Stop talking around me. Latin good
Claudius couldn't help himself. He burst into laughter, loud, belly
laughter that shook the table and threatened to spill the wine. Daniel and
Sam just stared at him, which made him laugh harder. "//L-Latin good s-s-s-
s-speak? Oh my merciful heavens!//" He wiped his eyes, trying to contain
himself, but couldn't stop. "//Wine.give me wine.//" he hiccupped. Sam
pressed the cup into his hand and he took a gulp, then another.
"//You okay, Claudius?//" She asked, a smile playing around her lips.
"//Funny I not am, usually.//"
Of course, this set him off again. Even Daniel was starting to look
A shadow fell across the table, accompanied by the smell of sweat and
cinders. "//Who do you think you are, trying to cheat me!//" A harsh
voice bellowed. The smith, Creopacis, stood over the group, his huge fists
on his hips. Claudius hiccupped to a stop, blinking up at the man.
"//Ch-ch-cheat you?//" Damn the stammer. It was always worse when someone
was trying to intimidate him, whether he willed it so or no. A helpful
disability, dealing with the internecine dramas of the imperial family;
safer to act the fool than be taken for wise, especially since Tiberius had
become Emperor. It was not terribly useful, otherwise, and Claudius had
often wished himself rid of it. "//We p-p-p-.//"
"//Paid my apprentice far too little for the job?//" The man smiled
nastily. "//Yes, I know. The fee is seven denarii, you stammering fool,
not three. Now pay me, or I'll put your little cart back the way it was,
and then some.//"
Daniel stood up and stepped between the smith and Claudius. "//There's no
need to get hostile. We paid your apprentice what he asked. He said it
was a simple job and.//"
Creopacis held up a hand. "//Enough. I do not deal with slaves, nor
freedmen. I was speaking to your master, boy, if not your better.//" He
shoved Daniel to one side and advanced on Claudius, anger in his small
eyes. "//I'll have the money out of you one way or another, you limping
"Hey!" Daniel placed a hand on the smith's arm. "//That's enough of
Without warning, the burly smith turned and hit the younger man in the jaw,
knocking him to the ground. He lay still, in the dirt, blood leaking from
a split lip.
"Daniel!" Sam looked from her fallen friend to the hulking blacksmith.
She spit a stream of angry invective at him, which the man clearly did not
understand. He grinned humorlessly down into her face as she stepped up to
"//Out of my way, girl. I'll deal with you in a few minutes.//" He
reached out and, before she quite realized what his intent was, pinched her
Claudius did not see exactly what happened, but there was a quick and
violent scuffle. When the dust cleared the man was on the ground with Sam
kneeling on his back. His arm was twisted up painfully behind him, and he
was asking for her forgiveness in frightened and abject tones. She did not
look too inclined to grant it.
"//Claudius, help Daniel, yes?//" She asked.
He was on his feet and lurching to the fallen man before she finished
speaking. The scuffle had brought some of the inn's guests outside, along
with the innkeeper. He looked over the scene and smiled with some
satisfaction. Motioning for help, he went to where Daniel was measuring
his length in the dirt. "//We'll carry him inside; my mother knows
something of healing.//"
"//We apologize for the di-disturbance,//" Claudius began.
Horace shook his head. "//Creopacis is a bully. He's always been a bully.
It's time someone bested him.//" He looked over to where Sam was kneeling
on the man's back and chuckled. "//This story will be well worth the price
of your meal, and your friend's healing. Let us bring him in. Tell your
Amazon that she can let Creopacis up now. I do not think he will cause you
"Teal'c!" Sam's glad shout startled both men. She sprang up from her
captive and flew across the yard and into the arms of one of the patrons, a
huge, dark-skinned Nubian, who had just emerged from the inn.
The dark man returned her embrace, and again they spoke in English for
several moments. The man looked from Sam to Claudius, questioning, and
then Sam motioned Claudius forward. They went into the inn together, Sam
leading the way, to where Daniel had been taken.
As they arrived, an old woman was placing a compress on the unconscious
man's head, murmuring to herself. Claudius could smell herbs, but did not
know enough to identify which ones she was using in her poultice. Sam took
Daniel's hand, looking down at him with concern, and asked Teal'c a
question. Claudius missed the younger man's translations, feeling quite
left out of the conversation.
To his surprise, the Nubian turned to him and said, in a deep voice,
"//Major Carter asked where I have been. I have told her. I understand
you have been the protector of Major Carter and Daniel Jackson. I thank
you. I am Teal'c.//" His accent was stilted, but his Latin was very good.
Not quite as good as a native speaker, but enough to serve.
"//I'm C-C-Claudius. Very nice to meet you. Is Daniel going to be all
The old woman answered. "//He's fine. Just a nasty knock. He'll be
coming around soon. Now, all of you, get out of my..//"
"Sam?" Daniel's voice was weak.
She smiled down at him. "Hi, Daniel."
Teal'c stepped up and said, "It is good to see you, DanielJackson."
The young man's eyes opened wider, tracking from Sam to the Nubian.
"Teal'c?" He broke into a startled grin, then winced as it jarred his
head. He reached out and touched the man's arm, squinting up at him.
"You're not dead."
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Sharp pain in the ribs. Duller pain to the neck, head, throat. Jack
swallowed and coughed dryly, not really wanting to open his eyes, but the
foot prodding his side insisted. "All right, enough. I'm awake." His
voice sounded small and gravelly to his ears and his head was pounding like
He lay on his side in an awkward sprawl, the furca holding him half
propped, half pinned under its weight. Squinting against the sun's glare,
he tried to roll to his feet, but the furca stole all leverage, unbalancing
him. He fell back on the hard wood, wincing when the edges dug into his
new collection of bruises.
The foot probed again, and then kicked, aiming at the darkening bruise
where his ribs had collided with the olive tree at the end of his dash for
freedom. Agony blossomed and Jack bit back a yell of pain and anger.
Hastatus loomed over him, grinning, his breath every bit as fresh as his
dead kinsman's. "Salute, Canis. Bene somnus?" Jack just glared, trying
to catch his breath.
Hastatus drew his foot back again and Jack redoubled his attempts to move.
The furca weighed heavily on his bare shoulders as Jack struggled to sit
up. Finally, in a burst of impatience, Hastatus bent and hauled him up
onto unsteady feet. Jack swallowed painfully; his throat felt bruised.
Hell, his body felt bruised. He stood swaying, trying to find his center
of balance, but his keeper had other priorities. With a rough shove that
nearly sent Jack toppling again, they started the long walk back to camp.
"What did I say about the pushing thing?" Jack asked. Hastatus cuffed the
back of his head in reply. Wincing, Jack said, "You really need to take
some anger management classes, Hastatus ol' pal. Do something about your
interpersonal relationship skills."
"Tace." There was a whistling sound, then a line of fire traced across
Jack's back. He bit his lip, and shut up.
While he had been out, evidently, the slaves had been sent back to work.
He was pushed, cuffed, and otherwise chivvied through the vineyard, moving
through the ranks of chained men. "I really, really hate being an
example," he muttered. Very few of the men would meet his eyes. They
picked methodically, moving down a row at a time, their baskets slowly
filling with large, ripe grapes, so purple they were almost black.
Jack hoped like hell that Daniel and Sam were not in a place like this. He
tried not to think about them, concentrating instead on getting free
himself so he could go after them. Despite himself, though, images kept
popping into his tired mind. Danny with chains around his wrists, trying
so hard to talk their way out, then turning pale and angry when Jack was
brought to the block. Sam fastened together with a line of other women and
led away, looking pissed and scared. Teal'c lying in a spreading pool of
blood. Jack cursed under his breath. He had to get free. His team needed
Through the ache his body had become, Jack began to notice other, more
ominous symptoms. His skin was dry and hot. He had not yet stopped
sweating, so heat stroke was a way off, but dehydration was creeping up on
him, stealing his acuity, his energy. He needed water, soon. Heat stroke
was not something he wanted to experience again, especially with no handy
IV cannulas or bags of Ringer's to help rehydrate him. No way to free
yourself if your brain is fried and you dry up and blow away.
Knowing it was probably futile and that he would regret the next few
moments, Jack stopped a few feet ahead of Hastatus and turned. "Look, I
need water, or I'm gonna pass out. No more example for the other kiddies
to play nice. Just boring, old unconscious Jack. Soon to be boring, old
dead Jack. Your boss doesn't want that any more than I do."
Jack waved his hands, then regretted it as ropes cut into his wrists.
"Don't say tace. Aqua. I need aqua." He licked his cracked lips and
waited for a response. "Aqua? Please? Por favor? Placate?"
The man looked dubiously at him, and then his face broke into a nasty
smile. Jack rolled his eyes. "I hate it when they do that. Whatever
you're thinking, don't. Just give me some water, goddamn it!"
"Aqua. Sitis tu?" Hastatus laughed, then took hold of the furca and began
dragging Jack back to the camp on the hill. Pushing was apparently too
slow going. "Obtinea aqua tu. Sequae, Canis."
Pulled at a stumbling trot, Jack followed behind Hastatus. They passed
quickly through the camp and into the pressing building. Jack wiggled his
fingers at the three men on the pressing platform as he was dragged
through. "Hi, fellas. Having fun?" The men watched him pass with wide
eyes, their endless march slowed until he had passed. He heard a whisper
before being pulled into the next room: "Carnifex."
The inner room was cooler, being protected by thick walls. The cool stones
felt wonderful against his feet. He leaned against the wall, sagging and
bending at the waist, letting the furca drag him down for a moment and
resting his back and arms. Damn thing was heavy. Then Jack heard water
sloshing, and he licked his lips in anticipation.
Moments later, dirty, sandaled feet walked back into his line of vision.
His keeper wrenched him back upright, grinning into his face. "Aqua."
Then a rope was wrapped around his right hand and he was wrenched to that
side by a heavy weight. Before he could recover, a second sloshing weight
was forced into his left hand, balancing the scale.
Hastatus hung a dried gourd around Jack's neck on a string. "Aqua. Biba
toto queo." Jack bit back a howl of frustration and rage as the weight
dragged him down. Hastatus just laughed and patted his head
Bent almost double from the hideously shifting weight of the buckets, Jack
was turned and a rope was tied around his neck. A leash. His keeper
tugged it and he was forced to follow, or choke. He tried to drop the
buckets, but he couldn't bend his wrists far enough. The hemp rope cut
into his hands as he tried to wriggle free and water splashed on the ground
as he stumbled. Jack tried not to think about it as the cool drops
splashed on his feet. The smell of water was everywhere.
Hastatus stopped him in the outer room. He took the gourd from Jack's neck
and handed it to one of the men on the platform. They each drank, then the
gourd was returned. A tug of the leash and they were off again. Out of
the building, into the yard. Jack could not lift his head to see where he
was being dragged. Just the dirt, his feet, the rope, and the water, just
out of reach. It was maddening. Maddening, hell. It was infuriating.
The dirt gave way to grass, and then Jack was seeing grape vines off to
either side. He was stopped every few feet by a tug on the leash, allowing
the workers to drink their fill. Twice, they returned to the water barrels
to refill the buckets. Hastatus gave him a sip on the second trip, enough
to wet his lips, then poured the rest of the gourd on the ground. Jack
watched the water flow into the packed dirt and thought up yet another
creative way to kill his keeper.
The day wore on and Jack was led up one endless line of vines, and down the
next. His wrists and shoulders felt raw, his mouth like a desert, and his
back was about to break. His ears were still sharp, though, and he began to
hear whispers. "Bellator caederae Harundo." "Harundo mortus est."
Apparently, a certain gap-toothed bastard had been missed. By the looks on
the faces of the men in the fields, he would not be mourned. Jack drew
great comfort from that.
Coming to a stop, he looked up at Hastatus with cold eyes and straightened
his back with a painful effort of will. Under his breath he said, "I am
Colonel Jack O'Neill of SG-1. You are a waste of skin, you sadistic
bastard." He'd be damned if this jerk was going to see him cave. With a
toothy smile, he turned and offered water to the next man in line. By
chance, it was his companion from yesterday, the one with the brand on his
cheek. FUG. Jack wondered what it meant.
The branded man took the gourd and drank, then looked toward Hastatus. The
guard was looking away, his eyes on the progress of the pickers. Refilling
the gourd, the man held it to Jack's lips. "Bibae, cito." Jack drank,
gulping the warm water in surprise.
"Thanks." The branded man grimaced and hung the gourd back around Jack's
neck, then held up a bunch of grapes. Looking over his shoulder again to
be sure he wasn't seen, the man placed four grapes into Jack's mouth. Jack
chewed quickly and swallowed, the ripe grapes bursting in his mouth with
juice and a wonderful flavor. "God, that's good. Thank you. Gracias."
The branded man put a finger to his lips and scowled. He pushed him toward
Hastatus, who was looking back at him suspiciously, and turned back to the
The whisper preceded them and now, whenever Hastatus was not looking, Jack
received a dipper of water or a few grapes, or both. By the time the
buckets were empty for the third time, he was starting to feel almost human
again. A very tired, bruised, pissed off, Black ops trained human who was
no longer in danger of passing out from dehydration or low blood sugar.
Jack had his second wind, or maybe his third. At any rate, he wasn't going
to get any less tired with laughing boy as his goad.
He swung the buckets experimentally. They had a nice heft to them,
swinging ponderously at the end of their hemp handles. He discounted the
red stain creeping down those ropes; his hands had gone numb an hour ago.
Focus on priorities. Jack looked at the back of Hastatus' head, noted the
positions of the other guards and that, right now, he was positioned quite
near the trees.
He had a sudden, lovely vision of one of the buckets crashing down on his
keeper's head. Well, he thought madly, no time like the present.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *The Drunken Carter
Brushing the poultice from his head, Daniel sat up, then swayed. Their
host's wife scowled at him even as she put out a steadying hand. "//You
should not rise so soon. Creopacis has a hard hand, and you a soft
head.//" She scolded him in an acid tone of voice, but her eyes were
worried. "//You should stay abed until tomorrow at the latest.//"
The dimly lit room tilted as he struggled to his feet, then righted itself
queasily. "//We must go. Thank you for your help, Caupona, but my friends
will leave without me if I stay abed any longer.//" He took a cautious
step, then another. His head felt twice as big as normal, and throbbed
with every heartbeat. Nausea roiled in his stomach; the out of focus blur
before his eyes did not help matters, but the door was before him. It was
also opening, and he pasted a serene expression on his face to meet whoever
was coming through.
"Why are you standing, DanielJackson?" Teal'c, wonderfully solid and real
and alive, looked sternly down at his swaying friend. Sam peered around
the Jaffa's bulk and glared.
"Daniel, you look like.."
He held up a hand and made a Jack sound. "Aaarh! I'm fine. You're
leaving to get Jack and I'm coming with you." There, end of argument. He
stood straighter and walked toward the door, expecting Teal'c to move out
of his way.
Fortunately for Daniel's head, Teal'c's reflexes were very good. Daniel
registered strong hands supporting him as the floor reached up and tripped
him. With Teal'c's help, he found his way to a chair and sank into it. "I
am going with you to get Jack," he said. "If you try to go without me,
I'll follow you." If I have to crawl, he added mentally, and it might come
to that if my head keeps trying to come off.
"You can't walk more than five feet without collapsing, Daniel," Sam
pointed out. "How do you expect to rescue Jack?"
Caupona set a cup of steaming, pale green tea in front of him. "What's
this?" Grimacing at her confused expression, he translated quickly into
"//Willow bark tea, young man. It will help your head.//" She set a pouch
beside the cup. "//More for later. Drink, if you will not listen to
reason. One cup every four hours. No more and no less.//" Sam poked at
the bag and it fell over with a rustle of dried leaves. The mild aroma of
the tea eased Daniel's nausea and he took a cautious sip. It was bitter
and astringent and his head started feeling better almost immediately. The
old woman gave a harrumph, but looked pleased as the lines of tension eased
around her patient's eyes and mouth. She tidied up the bedchamber quickly
and bustled out of the room, leaving the three to talk.
Sam sat with a sigh as Daniel sipped the hot tea. "What *is * the plan,
anyway. Are we going to walk in and pull him out, or what? You're looking
better, by the way. Not quite so pale."
"Thanks." He took another sip, then said, "Claudius' idea was to buy him
back." Daniel finished the tea, feeling much better. The headache was a
dull throb now, and his jaw felt normal sized.
"Buy him back?" Sam sounded incredulous. "That's a terrible plan! What
if this Callas guy wants more for the Colonel than we have to offer? What
if he won't sell? Way too many variables." She stood and began to pace,
muttering to herself. "Frontal assault.no.too risky.. Need a way to free
him without question.relatives? Legal way.." Daniel watched her with a
bemused smile on his face as she worked through the problem.
Claudius came in quietly, looking very relieved when he saw that Daniel was
awake. "//What's wrong?//" He watched Sam pacing and noted how the other
two men in the room just stayed out of her way. He joined them at the
"//Sam's trying to think up a way to free Jack without buying him. She's
afraid Callas won't sell.//"
Pouring a generous cup of wine, Claudius said, "//It's a p-pity neither of
you are r-related to him.//"
Sam demanded translations and Daniel obliged. "What does he mean?"
"//Well, as the relative of a freeborn person, he would have never been
sold in the first place,//" Claudius explained. "//You could go to C-
Callas, claim blood-kinship, and Callas would have no choice but to f-free
your friend. But of course you're not.//" Teal'c translated softly as the
older man spoke.
"Of course! I thought I remembered reading something like that. That's
the plan, then." She grinned triumphantly.
"Um.one problem," Daniel said. "Jack doesn't speak the language. How do
we explain that? And, as our ham fisted friend the blacksmith pointed out,
I don't exactly look freeborn." Their clothes were actually not that
different from anyone else's, but they were of a poorer quality. Obviously
hand-me-downs. The problem, he realized, was the difference between the
way Sam and he were dressed and the way Claudius was attired. The
Emperor's nephew wore a tunica of good linen with blue piping, and had good
leather sandals, where Sam and Daniel were barefoot and much more shabbily
"The Taur'i have a saying, DanielJackson. The clothes make the man."
Sam nodded. "Once you're in better clothes, who'll know the difference?"
"And the language issue?" Daniel was half convinced.
Teal'c said, "Perhaps O'Neill has not said much since his arrival at the
Sam and Daniel exchanged a look, then looked back at Teal'c, who thought a
moment and then inclined his head in agreement. "You are both correct. It
would be uncharacteristic for O'Neill to remain silent under any type of
duress or involuntary servitude. But he would not be understood by his
"The Colonel has a way of making himself understood, Teal'c. Tone of voice
conveys a great deal." Sam grimaced and sat down. "So, Daniel, you're
Jack's brother. Claudius is a friend of the family. Teal'c and I are.."
"Staying here," Daniel said, interrupting. He looked away and down, not
meeting Sam's eyes, though she was close enough he could have seen her
expression. The sudden anger radiating off of her was warning enough.
In a low, very patient voice, Sam said, "It's a little too early in history
for chivalry, Daniel. May I remind you who kicked blacksmith tush and who
ended up with knuckle-marks on his face? I can't believe you would even
suggest, or think of suggesting that I stay here."
She was furious, but Daniel had to make her understand. "That was one man,
Sam. What if there had been two or three? More? We can't afford to put
you at risk, not when we're this close to getting home." He knew his
argument was not logical and could see her begin poking holes already.
With translation help from Daniel and Teal'c, Claudius was following the
conversation. Now he said, "//She should go.//"
Daniel turned to him, incredulous, and winced as the sudden movement made
his headache flare anew. "//What? Do you have any idea what could happen
to her if this goes wrong? If our bluff gets called?//" They would be
sold again, and Claudius possibly tried for theft. The penalty for
assisting a fugitive slave was death, for slave and freeborn both. Daniel
did not think Claudius' standing within the imperial family was so great as
to save him from prosecution.
"//MajorCarter is a skilled warrior, DanielJackson. If it comes to
fighting, I would have her at my side.//" Teal'c turned and translated the
conversation for the fuming Carter. She looked pleased and surprised by
Teal'c's words and flashed a quick smile at her supporters. She turned a
determined countenance to Daniel and said, "I'm going."
This was one fight Daniel could not see himself winning, but he had to make
them understand. He reached out and put a hand on Sam's arm. "Sam, I don't
doubt your ability. It's our ability to protect you if anything goes wrong
that I'm worried about. If it comes to fighting, we're sunk already. We
are on enemy ground, with no backup or weapons and vastly out-numbered.
The whole legal system and way of life for these people is centered on the
possession of other people. This is our one and only chance to get Jack
out and ourselves home. I just wanted you to be safe if things went wrong;
then at least you and Teal'c would be able to make your way back, maybe."
He could see her hackles going down and she patted his hand. "I understand
the risks, Daniel, but I need to be in on this. Just get the Colonel out
of there, okay?"
"That's the plan."
An hour later, a cart rolled out of the courtyard of the Drunken Carter.
It was driven by a blonde youth and guarded by an imposing dark warrior
with a fierce gaze that never stopped roaming, looking for threat. In the
rear of the cart sat two noble-born men, one slightly older than the other,
an uncle perhaps and a favored nephew. Horace waved them farewell from the
door of the inn, his little daughter at his side.
At Claudius' direction, Sam guided the mare onto a side track that led out
of the valley. Callas' villa was on the other side, spread out in the
distance like a blurry postcard to Daniel's eyes. "Having a great time,
wish you were here," he said softly. "I have no idea what I'm going to say
to this guy."
Teal'c turned and said, "You will think of something, DanielJackson. You
are a skilled speaker; O'Neill says that you can talk the posterior
extremities off of the hybrid of an equine and a donkey." Sam grinned.
Daniel contemplated throwing a pillow at the Jaffa's head, but decided it
would be out of character. "That's hind legs off a mule, and Jack
exaggerates." Sometimes being the straight man of SG-1 got old and this
was one of those times. When the stone-faced Jaffa was scoring points, it
was time to rethink the whole dry-humor, serious guy image. Daniel rubbed
his eyes for the thousandth time, taking refuge in the restful dark behind
his eyelids as he rehearsed his spiel. The sun's glare was making his sore
head ache and he was beginning to feel very nervous.
Looming closer, the villa was also coming into focus. It was a very
pleasant place, really, all beige brick and silvery weathered wood. Yellow
jasmine and honeysuckle covered the walls and their perfume scented the
breeze that blew down towards them. Daniel sneezed and wished for a
Kleenex and a couple of Benadryl.
The road led past the villa and over the hill, but Sam guided the cart into
the cool shade of the villa's stable yard. A barefoot servant stood
waiting for them and helped Claudius and Daniel out of the cart. The major
domo was called for and they explained their business there. "//I am
sorry. The master has gone back to the vineyards. There has been a
further disturbance that he felt he needed to take charge of. Would you
care to wait?//"
"//Ah, no. I believe we will seek him out. Thank you all the same.//"
They hurried back to the cart and filled the other two in.
"Do you think it's the Colonel?" Sam asked.
With a grimace, Sam slapped the reins on the black back and they continued
up the road. "I wish for once in his life, the Colonel could make nice
with the bad guys."
Daniel made a rude noise. "Yeah, like *that's * gonna happen."
They topped the hill and began descending into the vineyards. Row upon row
of sweet smelling grapevines stretched to the distance, climbing down the
hill and back up another. Lines of chained men were moving down the rows,
but Jack was not among them that Daniel could see. They moved on, the
sense of urgency growing stronger.
There were tents at the top of the next hill. They billowed like sails in
the rising breeze. A single tree stood, surrounded by hard packed dirt
marked by dozens of bare footprints. This appeared to be a central meeting
place of some sort; a camp set up for the harvest. The hill was at the
center of the sea of grapevines and from its vantage point, the entire
vineyard could be seen.
A litter stood to one side of the open area, abandoned, and now that the
cart had stopped they could hear sounds of a fight. The four scrambled
down from the cart, Teal'c pausing to help Claudius, and ran toward the
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Wrenching his body sideways, Jack brought one of the buckets down on
Hastatus' head. It made a most satisfying thud and the man fell like a
sack of russets. "Never knew what hit him." A heel strike placed at the
bastard's temple was just insurance; Hastatus was out cold. Freedom from
the furca hung from his keeper's belt in the form of a small knife. Jack
stooped and was immediately overbalanced, almost falling on top of the
"Dammit." He could not bend his hand enough to grasp the knife. He could
touch it, but did not have enough leverage to draw it out. Looking up,
Jack saw the row of pickers, mere feet away. The man with the brand on his
face was among them. Stooping out of the other guards' line of sight, Jack
ran in a low crouch along the line of grapevines. "Hey! A little help
A look of fear and alarm filled the branded man's face. He shook his head
and continued picking, not looking back at Jack.
In disbelief, Jack said urgently, "He has keys to these chains." He kicked
the chain at the man's feet. "You help me, we all go free."
The branded man looked over at the still figure of Hastatus. He saw the
keys, and his eyes widened. Then he closed his eyes and shook his head.
Next to him was a sandy-haired man who looked down at Jack and said, "Nex
omnes, Milesitis Senex. Tace ac abceda." They never turned from the
vines, never stopped the steady twist and dip of their labor. The guard
two rows down looked over at them, scowling, but did not say anything.
Jack ground his teeth in frustration. There was no way to make them
understand and no way he'd last long with this damn wooden albatross around
his neck. One last time, he tried to make them understand. "Just reach
over and get the knife. Knife." He mimed a knife in his hand, gripping and
cutting the ropes that held him to the furca. "Knife. Free. Help."
Comprehension dawned in the eyes of the branded man, but he did not move
away from the vine. He shook his head and tapped his cheek. "Fugitivus."
His voice was harsh and cracked, but his eyes were kind and sorrowful.
With that, he returned his attention to the grapes, leaving Jack crouched
on the ground, eating rage.
"Fine. Great." He loped unsteadily back to the fallen guard, the furca
weighing a ton on his bent back and shoulders, and scrabbled for the knife
again. His fingers were still tangled in the bucket rope, making his task
all the more difficult. The hilt was in his fingers, the blade slipping
free, when the body it belonged to began to move.
Panicked now, Jack grasped the knife hilt with fingers gone numb and pulled
just as Hastatus sat up and bellowed, "Effugio!" He pushed Jack backwards
and the knife went flying. The cry went up all around the vineyard and
guards came running from their stations to converge on the fighting men.
Jack came up swinging, the empty barrels moving like hulking flails that
clipped Hastatus in the jaw and kept the others at bay. His
maneuverability severely curtailed by the furca, Jack used the weight of
the thing as a ram, a pummel, a club. Distantly, he was aware that he had
lost the scrap of cloth at his waist during the fracas. It meant nothing.
That and his aches were forgotten in the immediacy of the fight as he
kicked and swung, knocking the less well-trained men on their asses. A few
of them did not get back up.
Hastatus recovered quickly and made a grab for one of the swinging barrels.
He missed and Jack translated his momentum into a sweeping kick that laid
the man out again. Two more took his place and Jack realized that it would
not be enough to break free for the woods. He would have to put down every
damned one of them to get free. Well, so be it. Served them right.
The overseer was screaming at him from a ways up the hill, but Jack
couldn't make out the words. When he looked up again, half blinded with
sweat and dust, the man in the green toga was next to him. Then Hastate
was up again and this time his grab was successful. He swung Jack around,
his broken and bloody mouth a grin of hate, and landed a punch to Jacks'
bruised torso. The older man gasped for breath, giving Hastatus the
opening he needed. "Necare mie frater, nothus! Canis! Mori tu!"
Hands made strong by hatred reached for Jack's face, head. One hand
clasped his mouth and nose, cutting off his air. The other was grasping
his hair, holding him in place. Other hands reached in, pushing him down,
pummeling, holding him while he struggled to wrench his face free, to gasp
one sip of breath.
"Desistere! Desistere jam!" The hands holding him down fell away, were
wrenched away and there was sweet sweet air flooding his lungs again. He
tried to stand, failed, and decided that the ground was a good place to be
right now. Then more hands were pulling at him and he kicked at the dark
form to which they were attached.
"Allow me to assist you, O'Neill," the form intoned. Jack squinted, put
down what he saw to exhaustion and oxygen depravation, and then looked
"teal'c." His voice was hoarse and almost inaudible. "you're dead. am I
"We are both alive, O'Neill." He looked around to see Carter on his other
side, grimly working on the ropes around his wrists. She was blinking
furiously and her cheeks were wet, but her fingers were sure. A yellowing
bruise marred one cheek and Daniel had a much more recent bruise to his
jaw. Jack wondered what had been going on.
"hey, carter...daniel. glad you could join the party." Jack's hands fell
away from the furca at last, only to be caught and gently lowered to the
ground. They felt like bags of wet cement, weighted and dead.
"Sam, get the water skin and my old tunica from the cart, okay?" Daniel's
voice was soft and dangerous, filled with a tightly controlled rage to
match Jack's. He didn't see her go, but Jack heard Carter's pounding
footsteps as the furca was eased over his head. "Teal'c, help me get these
ropes off of his hands."
Movement happened at the ends of his arms, but he couldn't feel anything
much. Then, before Jack could protest, Daniel shucked off his tunica and
eased it over Jack's head, down his arms, covering him at last. He blinked
up at Daniel and forced a lopsided grin. "you been workin' out, danny?"
Teal'c helped him to sit up and he swayed, then leaned back against the
Jaffa. Daniel gave a half smile, ducking his head and then resumed picking
bits of hemp from Jack's hand.
Carter ran back, giving Daniel a strange look as she handed him his shirt.
She crouched and held the skin to Jack's mouth, and he drank thankfully,
thirstily. Daniel pulled the tunica over his head, shrugging into the
loose garment with a grimace of distaste. He kneeled next to Jack again,
squinting. "You look like hell. Can you make it up the hill? We're
getting out of here as soon as I talk to Callas."
"Who the hell is Callas?" Jack asked. His voice was still hoarse, but
Daniel looked up the hill, then down and back at Jack. "Your, um, the guy
who bought you." He looked up at Teal'c and Carter. "Get him up to the
cart. We can go back to the inn after we're done here."
Jack watched as Daniel and a strange, limping man approached the man in the
green toga and the overseer. The four men began talking at once, but Jack
could not bring himself to care about what was being said. With Teal'c's
help on one side and Carter's on the other, he made his slow way up the
hill. Every ache, bruise, welt, and cuff was making itself known, and
reaction was setting in. Too soon, damn it. They weren't out of the woods
yet. Forcing himself to support his own weight, Jack topped the rise.
Hastate stood before them, between them and the cart. Anger glinted in his
eyes and he leveled a finger at Jack, shouting.
To his surprise, Teal'c answered in the same language. The guard paled and
backed away, then slunk back down the hill. "What did you say to him?"
Carter wanted to know.
So, for that matter, did Jack.
"He accused O'Neill of killing his brother and expressed a desire to
inflict further harm. I informed him that I would not allow that and if an
attempt was made on any in our group, the consequences would be most
unpleasant for him." Teal'c looked darkly angry at the man's retreating
form, then turned to assist Jack into the cart.
Carter piled the cushions high and helped settle the sore man onto them.
"Not much longer now, Sir. Are you comfortable?" She fussed with the
cushions, careful not to jar his lacerated wrists, until he was ready to
strangle her. Unfortunately, his arms were still on strike. He didn't
want to think about moving his hands.
"I've been better, Carter. Then again, I've been worse. Recently. Where
have you all been, and where did you find Teal'c?" The water, rest, and
shade were doing wonders for his mental acuity, even though a chihuahua
could probably best him two falls out of three at present. "Got any food,
by the way? The hospitality here stinks."
"Oh, of course." A wedge of cheese was produced, along with some dried
fruit, and, with Teal'c's assistance, O'Neill ate while his 2IC brought him
up to speed.
"So, we're in Westworld?" Jack flexed his hand experimentally and hissed.
"That's Daniel's theory?"
Before Sam could respond, Daniel and the other man topped the hill. The
walked at a slow pace to accommodate the stranger's limp and they came
alone. "It's done." Daniel said as they came in earshot. "Let's go."
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Helping Claudius into the cart, Daniel looked back over his shoulder at the
angry men coming up the hill. He had talked fast, spinning his tale of the
good soldier, one of the last surviving veterans of Quintillius Varus'
legions of doomed men. The soldier, addled in his wits until even his
language was lost to him, wandering away from family and friends only to
wash up on the auctioneers' block. It was a moving tale, and Claudius'
presence added verisimilitude and weight to the story, for surely a member
of the imperial family would not lie about such matters.
Then there was the issue of the murdered trustee. Harundo, his name had
been. Jack had apparently killed him on his second night here, for reasons
unknown. Callas had demanded payment for the price of the slain man, but
Claudius had quietly pointed out the condition in which Jack had been
found. The murdered man's brother had taken out the fee in O'Neill's hide,
and then some. Grudgingly, Callas had called it even and waved them away.
His overseer looked dyspeptic, and the slaves in the fields looked
Daniel did not start breathing until the cart was rolling down the hill.
Jack was tucked safely into the back, with Teal'c keeping a watchful eye
out for trouble. Sam was keeping an eye out for potholes, trying to drive
the cart as steadily as she could. Every now and again, though, a muffled
curse would rise from the pile of pillows and she would wince in sympathy.
Her shoulders were hard as rocks by the time they turned back to the
smoother main road, headed for the inn.
"Where are we going, anyway?" Jack asked. "Carter said you had a map or a
scroll or something." Now that the rough road was behind him, he was
starting to look a little more comfortable.
Reaching down, Daniel put a hand on Jack's forehead. He was still far too
hot and Daniel was not sure if it was a fever heat or sunstroke. "We're
going back to the inn where we found Teal'c. There's a woman there who can
help get you patched up." The headache was coming back again, making his
temples throb and his eyes ache. There was also something uncomfortably
wrong with his back. He rolled his shoulders trying to ease the tension
"If we have a way home, I'd rather trust Dr. Fraiser than the local witch
doctor." Jack tried to sit up, but his hands wouldn't obey him. "Carter,
aim this thing toward the exit and let's get out of here."
"Jack, no." O'Neill glared at him and Daniel hastened to explain. "We
don't have any first aid supplies and you're burning up. The 'Gate is a
couple of days away as near as I can tell, and you need to rest. You
really do look like hell, Jack."
He had to feel like hell, too. Daniel flinched at the memory of Jack,
naked and struggling under the weight of seven men as they tried to smother
the life from him. What skin had not been bruised had been sunburned and
god knew how long he'd been tied to that wooden thing. Long enough to
leave pressure sores on his shoulders, anyway. The tunica had two matching
stains now, one on each side.
Thankfully, he backed down. "Nevermind, Carter. Wake me when we get
there." With a final glare at Daniel, Jack relaxed into the cushions and
closed his eyes.
"//Your f-friend is very stubborn.//" Claudius commented.
Jack's eyes popped open, two burning cinders, and affixed on Claudius.
"Who did you say this was again, Daniel?" His gravelly voice was low and
dangerous. Claudius looked taken aback at the hatred simmering in the
older man's eyes, and he scooted a little farther from him.
Upon reflection, Daniel realized that Jack had probably very few pleasant
associations with Latin right now. "This is Claudius. He, um, rescued us.
Or helped us rescue ourselves. Got us out of the palace, anyway." He
gave Claudius a reassuring nod.
"//Actually, my name is Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus. Everyone
in Rome has at least three or four names,//" Claudius explained
diffidently. Daniel was suddenly glad he had not introduced himself with
all five names when he'd first met Teal'c. When Daniel translated for
Jack, he could see O'Neill was thinking the same thing. A smile twitched
his lip and he relaxed once again.
"Colonel Jack O'Neill, SG-1. Please'ta meecha."
"P-p-please'ta meecha. Ita, Sam?" Claudius looked up to his language
teacher for confirmation.
Jack looked from one to the other and rolled his eyes. "Does everyone
speak that damn language but me?"
Their haven came into view at last. Horace was waiting for them in the
foreyard, his daughter at his side and a basket in his hand. "//Caupona
said you might need this. She is waiting for you all. Facis, here, will
guide you. I will tend to your cart and horse.//" He cast sympathetic
eyes on O'Neill, standing shakily on his own but looking very tired and
battered. "//It is a short walk, and an easy one. Facis, take the
blanket.//" He handed the heavy basket to Daniel and shooed them down a
shaded path that ran behind the inn.
The laurels loomed all around them, old growth, creating a cool tunnel in
the trees. They walked slowly, in deference to Claudius' limping gait and
Jack's painful one. Teal'c stood at O'Neill's side, a strong grip ready to
hand, but the Colonel walked unassisted most of the way. True to Horace's
word, the path was level and easy, and soon at an end.
A dappled green clearing opened before them. The stream they had been
hearing wound from a large pond, over which hung willows and laurels in
shady perfusion. Caupona had lit a small fire and laid down more blankets,
hanging up a few to form a screen between two trees. The old woman
beckoned them forward, relieving Daniel of the basket with an impatient
gesture. "//Come, come, bring your friend. He looks half dead, not that
I'm too surprised, given what I've seen come down the hill, but no matter.
No blushes now.//"
Jack looked at Daniel, who said, "She wants to check you over."
"This is the witch doctor?" Jack swayed slightly and Daniel put a hand on
his shoulder, steadying him. "Are you nuts? She looks like my great-
He turned to go back up the path and nearly ran into the little girl.
"//Avia is really very smart. I had a pain in my tummy once and she gave
me some tea and made me feel better. The tea tasted icky, though.//"
Looking down at the tiny child, Jack seemed almost to deflate. Teal'c
rumbled a translation and he acknowledged with a tired nod. "Ok. I give."
Caupona smiled and guided him behind the screen. Muffled curses, both in
Latin and English, floated out intermittently. Daniel expected one of the
two to call him for translator services, but they seemed to be
communicating fairly well, in the universal language of Cranky.
Finally, the old woman came out and motioned to Daniel. "//Your friend is
much abused, but is in no danger from his hurts, though his side is
damaged. He has had too much sun, and too much work and worry for too
long. Take him to the pool and let the water cool him and hold him for a
time. Then let him sleep. Feed him when he wakes and keep his wrists and
shoulders covered. Time will heal the rest.//" She looked shrewdly up at
the younger man. "//You have not been drinking the tea I gave you, have
you? I thought not. Your head aches and your eyes blur. Your stomach
will not keep the food you give it, no? No. Lucky for you, I brought
some. It is steeping now.//" She threw up her hands in disgust and
disappeared behind the curtain once again.
In the stunned silence that followed the woman's barrage of words, Sam's
snicker was clearly audible. "How much of that did you get, Sam?" Daniel
looked over to the small fire she was tending.
"Oh, most of it. Come drink your tea." She held out a stoneware mug, full
of the steaming straw-colored beverage. "There's honey if you want
sweetener. I don't think they have cane sugar."
He took a sip of the astringent tisane and his eyes began to water. "Whew.
How long has this been steeping?" The ache in his temples was easing,
though. Digging through the basket, he found a wrapped bowl full of
dripping honeycomb. Pouring a generous dollop into the cup, he took
another sip. Better.
"Carter!" Jack's gravelly voice called from behind the curtain. Sam stood
up from the fire, coming almost to attention.
"Yes, Sir? Do you need some help?"
"No! Well, yes, but.. Just close your eyes, Carter." An elderly chuckle
was heard, and an answering growl as Carter turned. Her fair skin showed
the blush very well, Daniel thought. "Daniel, get over here!"
He startled, gulped the rest of his tea in a hot gulp, and ran over to the
curtain. Peeping behind it, he saw Jack lying on the ground. "Help me up,
willya? My arms feel al dente."
"That's Italian, Jack, not Latin." Daniel pulled him up and wrapped one of
the linen sheets around him. "Caupona wants you to take a little swim.
O'Neill looked at the pond, then back at Daniel. "I don't really feel up
to a dip right now, Daniel. Maybe later."
"Come on, Jack. It's just what the witch doctor ordered." He pulled the
slightly resistant Colonel to the water's edge. The water was cool, but
not cold, and so clear he could see their shadows on the sandy bottom.
Very reluctantly, Jack let Daniel pull him into the water, dropping the
sheet when the level rose above his waist. Daniel pulled off his tunic as
well, not liking the way it wrapped around his legs and tried to trip him
as he waded.
He pulled Jack deeper, easing him into a floating position and holding his
head securely above the water. The older man's legs had a bad habit of
sinking; he was all muscle and sinew, and not very buoyant. "Just relax,
Jack. Let the water hold you up."
"Feels good." The tension under Daniel's hands was slowly easing as Jack
relaxed into the water's cooling embrace. He closed his eyes and vented a
small sigh. Time and familiarity made their state of undress a non-issue.
Jack seemed to be content to let Daniel hold him indefinitely in the
soothing water. Daniel drew comfort from the contact, the solid reality of
his best friend, and hoped that his presence was a comfort for Jack. It
seemed to be; Jack's breathing was evening out and his face was relaxing
from the pinched grimace it had held most of the day.
The clearing was quiet for a time. SG-1 was together again, and that was
good. They were relatively unharmed, and that was also good. Daniel
looked toward the bank to the pale and dark blobs that were Sam and Teal'c
and felt complete again. His family was all around him and now it was time
to go home.
"Daniel, I'm curious about something," Jack said softly, interrupting
Daniel's reverie. He opened his eyes and looked up at his friend. "This
isn't really Rome, circa 27Ad or so, right?"
"Not according to Claudius' scroll." Daniel scooped up some water and
damped Jack's still warm head, pulling him into the shaded part of the
pond. Jack's limbs trailed along, boneless.
"We're in our own time, on a planet that someone or someone's have set up
as a kind of living history exhibit." His voice was getting stronger,
Daniel was pleased to note.
"Right. I think. Or interactive museum." Jack's skin was starting to
feel chilled. "Are you feeling better?"
"Much. Carter, cover your eyes again!" They waded back to dry land.
Teal'c was waiting with their tunics, warm and smelling of woodsmoke from
the fire. Jack groaned in pure sensual delight as the Jaffa helped him don
the garment, easing the fabric over his shoulders and belting it loosely.
"I've gone to heaven. You can open your eyes now, Carter."
"Hey!" Daniel yelped, and hastily dove into his shabby, but clean, slave's
tunic. Sam did not giggle, but it was a near thing. Jack did grin,
though, as Teal'c helped him sit down on the blankets near the fire. Sam
handed the Colonel a bowl of warm, fragrant broth, then handed a second
bowl to Daniel. "Thanks."
"So, to continue my question: Where did he come from?" Jack pointed at
Daniel took a sip of the meaty broth, stalling. "I'm not really sure." At
his nod, Teal'c moved over to the Roman and translated in a low murmur.
"Wait a sec, Teal'c. I'm not so sure we want to do that," Jack said.
"He's a part of all this, and from what Carter was telling me, he's also a
slave-owner, like Callas. Why are we assuming he's a good guy?"
"With all due respect, Sir," Sam said, "Claudius has been instrumental in
our progress so far, and a good friend as well. He knows the area, the
political climate, and has been more than willing to share information."
Daniel added, "Besides, he's the one who found you." He nodded
reassuringly at Claudius, who was watching the untranslated conversation
With a weak chop of his hand, Jack said, "He owns slaves, Daniel. Hell, he
owned you and Carter for a while. I can't believe you're defending him.
I'm surprised you're not up in arms to free all the slaves on this planet,
for that matter." The water had cooled O'Neill's fever, but not his
temper. The last several days had been hardest on him, both physically and
emotionally. Daniel had been with Sam, and then Teal'c. Jack had been
"I've been working on freeing the handful I know personally," Daniel said
calmly. He sipped his broth and wished the ache in his head would go away
completely. The tea helped but not quite enough. He couldn't quite make
out Jack's expression in the waning light, but he was pretty sure it wasn't
a smile. "If we have time, after we get to Ponza and find the gate, I'll
find my magic wand and free everyone else. You're always trying to get me
to prioritize, Jack. Don't be so surprised the lessons are sinking in."
There was a shocked silence from the rest of SG-1. Jack broke it, saying,
"Did you bring your magic wand, this trip? I thought I saw it in your
locker when we were gearing up."
"I am certain I saw it, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "DanielJackson, you must
have misplaced it when you misplaced your corrective lenses."
Sam was on Daniel's side of the fire, so he could see her impish smile as
she turned to contemplate him. "I've never seen you as the fairy godmother
type, Daniel. Fairy godbrother, maybe."
"Fairy Godfather," he corrected, ducking his head and smiling. "I'm gonna
grant you a wish that you cannot refuse."
He was rewarded by a surprised bark of laughter from Sam and a wincing
protest from Jack.
"Oh! OW! Don't make me laugh." Jack held his side, cracking up and
wincing. "That was the worst, absolute worst Brando impression I've ever
Daniel grinned as the levity banished the remainder of the shadows from
Jack's mood. "You should hear Teal'c's Han Solo."
Eyes streaming, clutching his bruised ribs, Jack looked expectantly at the
stoic Jaffa. Sparing Daniel a pained look, Teal'c intoned, "Never quote me
This set them off again, leaving Claudius confused, but relaxed as the
tension died away. "//Is all well, Daniel?//" he asked softly, under the
laughter. Daniel nodded and finished his soup.
The sound of running footsteps brought the laughter to an abrupt end. The
sun had almost set, leaving the path in shadows. Teal'c and Sam stood
quickly and faced the pathway, their stances set and ready for a fight if
need be. Jack scrambled to his feet, Daniel supporting him on one side and
Claudius on the other. The Colonel looked at the Roman in surprise when he
took his arm, but didn't shrug him off.
"//It's me! Alvanus.//" The blacksmith's apprentice announced himself as
he entered the clearing at a run. Lurching to a stop, he said, panting,
"//You must fly, now. Creopacis has gone to Callas to betray you. He
knows you are no freeborn, Daniel, and that you meant to deceive your
friend's owner to free him. Quickly, Horace has your cart and horses
ready. I will tend to the fire. Go!//"
"How'd he know." Jack said, then shook his head and allowed himself to be
hurried back down the dark path.
The stable yard was lit with the last of the sun's light, rose and gold
painting the inn and reminding Daniel of his last glimpse of Palatine Hill.
Horace was waiting for them once again, this time holding the harness of a
paired team. The black mare and a dappled bay were harnessed to a cart,
larger than they had arrived in, and partially covered. "//This is not our
cart, Horace.//" Teal'c pointed out.
"//It is now. You have food and bedding, and your belongings are in the
cart as well. Callas will find only delay here, but he will be quick to
follow you. Please, you must hurry.//" The genial man was all business as
Jack and Claudius were helped into the cart. "//I am to tell you, from
Caupona, that the red bottle is for you, Daniel, and the black and white is
for your aged friend.//"
Daniel glanced at Jack and smothered a smile. Some things were not meant
to be translated. "//Thank her for us, Horace. We owe her much. For that
matter, we owe you much.//" He scrambled into the cart, wincing a little
as the abused muscles in his back were pulled. The cart was a generous
gift, as was the additional horse needed to pull it. Hospitality was a
virtue in the ancient world, and it was considered rude to question such
things, despite the burning desire to know.
"//You owe me nothing, freeman.//" Horace drew back his tunica sleeves to
expose his forearms. His wrists were ringed with scars. "//I have paid a
debt today. I help you as one once helped me.//" He grinned then and
stepped back as Sam and Teal'c clambered in. "//Good journey to you, and
to the lovely Amazon. You should make the crossroads with the Via Domitana
by twilight tomorrow.//" He slapped the broad back of the black mare and
waved them on their way.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The cart clattered over the flat paving stones of the Appia. The old
soldier had settled in to sleep finally, Claudius was pleased to note. The
pile of cushions under the tarp covered portion of the cart was currently
being occupied by the Colonel, as Sam called him, and by the Nubian,
Teal'c. A full moon shone down on them, lighting the way for their flight
An hour south of the inn, Daniel had pulled the horses to a stop and asked
Claudius if he wanted to continue on this journey. "//You are putting your
life and reputation in jeopardy by coming with us. Maybe you should go
back to Rome.//"
Claudius had no desire to part company with them and said so. "//My
reputation, wha-at there is of it, is of little v-value to me. I am kn-
known to be a half-wit; perhaps my f-family will simply ascribe my behavior
to that. I am not concerned. Besides,//" he added, "//how often do I get
Daniel had nodded, conceding the point. "//We welcome your company,
Claudius. I was just worried for you.//" That had felt good. No one had
really worried for him since Postumus. Certainly, no one in his family.
Now, the boy was squinting again, trying to keep the cart in a straight
line and the horses at a brisk pace. "//Let me drive, Daniel,//" Claudius
"//You're s-squinting, and the way you're driving is f-frightening the
horses. I know your head aches from the b-blacksmith's b-blow, and your
eyes are bad in this light.//" Daniel looked almost convinced. Claudius
added, "//Your d-d-dark friend is asleep, Sam is almost asleep, and your C-
Colonel looks like a Greek tragedy. For once, I am the m-most fit person
in the group. Let me enjoy it!//" Daniel laughed, a quiet huff of humor,
then he nodded. "//Drink some of C-Caupona's brew and get some rest.//"
Claudius put his hand over the reins and pulled the horses to a gentle
stop. "//G-Go on, now. I know you have slept little in your w-worry for J-
Jack.//" He climbed onto the bench and waited while Daniel made up his
mind and clambered into the back.
With a click of his tongue and a tap on the reins, the cart was going
again. The clink of stoneware behind him told Claudius that Daniel was
looking for the well-wrapped amphorae that Caupona had packed. With a
small triumphant cry, Daniel found it and took a long swallow of the tea,
then sealed it again and returned it to it's nesting cocoon of blankets.
"//Wake me when the moon goes down, Claudius. Or wake Sam.//"
When he looked back over his shoulder, much later, Claudius saw a pile of
sleeping bodies, jumbled together like puppies. Sam was curled into a
loose ball, with Daniel's arm thrown over her waist and her head resting on
the Colonel's outflung arm. They were all deeply asleep, not shifting in
their exhausted slumber. All but one.
The dark warrior was sitting upright, his back braced against the sway of
the cart. He did not appear to be asleep; his breathing was too deliberate
for slumber. Curious. Despite his relaxed posture and closed eyes, he
almost seemed to be keeping guard over his friends. Returning his
attention to the road, Claudius decided to ask Sam later.
The road was quiet in the deep night. No other travelers were abroad at
this hour. The moon sailed across the night sky, lending a silver tint to
the scudding clouds and turning the gray paving stones over which they rode
into a wonder and a king's ransom.
The palace would be quiet at this hour, he reflected, except for the
nocturnal scuttle of assignations and slaves on errands. The cooks would
be up in an hour or so to begin the day's baking. Herod would be
staggering back to his apartments about now, grinning and smelling of wine
and cheap women. Claudius smiled, thinking of his lifelong friend. He
wondered what Herod Agrippa would think of his adventure up to now.
Freeing slaves, lying to free another slave, fleeing across country in the
dead of night with no idea what his final destination might be. Come to
think of it, Herod would probably be having a wonderful time.
Dawn crept up slowly, with still no sign of pursuit. The Via Appia was the
oldest road in the Empire, and had, in the Great Augustus' day, been
lengthened to the south and east to meet with the port at Brindisium. It
wound through mountains and swamps, over hills and valleys, through town
and farmland. By the markers, they had traveled about half-way between
Roma and Terracina, on the coast. The hills were becoming steeper, with
the Lepini range to the east and the sea to the distant west. Unless
Daniel wanted to detour at the crossroads at Arpinum, they would reach the
port city in two days. Ponza was a short boat ride beyond that, if the
winds would cooperate.
The trees were giving way to grassy hills that sloped to the coast. A cool
breeze blew off of the mountain range, and Claudius pulled his woolen
traveling cloak from under the seat and shrugged it on. It would be warm
soon enough, but now the cloak was welcome.
The world was waking up, though his charges slept on behind him, and he
stopped at an enterprising farmer's roadside stand to purchase some eggs
and fresh bread. Claudius asked, very casually, about unusual traffic
along the Appia, but the farmer denied seeing anything strange. No troops,
for example, nor Imperial guard. Satisfied, Claudius drove on.
The horses were showing signs of fatigue, though, and Claudius was feeling
tired and hungry himself. He began looking for a good place for a rest
stop, and was delighted to see a bridge in the distance. Bridges meant
water, and the horses needed that as much as a rest.
The stone bridge crossed a merry brook, full with melt water from the
mountains. Claudius crossed it and pulled off the road. There was a
beaten down area where others had obviously made similar stops. While the
four slept in the cart, Claudius built up a small fire, led the horses to
drink and picketed them where they could forage. This done, he returned to
the fire and set the fresh eggs to roast in the coals. He nibbled on some
of the bread while he waited, listening to the water's babble and enjoying
"Oh!" Sam's startled voice drew his attention to the cart. She was
sitting up, a confused expression on her face, her short blonde hair
sticking up like dandelion fuzz. "We've stopped." She looked around until
she saw Claudius, and her face broke into a sleepy smile. "//Morning.//"
"Morning, Sam. F-Food soon."
Gracefully, the woman picked her way through her sleeping companions and
climbed out of the cart. With an embarrassed look, she made a break for
some bushes, downstream Claudius was glad to see. After some minutes, she
returned and sat by the fire. He handed her a hunk of the fresh bread,
which she wolfed down with a very un-matronly haste. "That's good! Bene!"
He understood more English than he could speak at this point, and she more
Latin. A question had been plaguing Claudius for some time, and he did not
want to filter it through either the young man or the warrior. Now seemed
the right time to try to ask. In careful English, he said, "Sam. A
"Yes?" She reached into the food bag and took out an apple.
"Daniel is j-joined with you?" He mimed putting his hands together, as in a
"Joined? He's my friend." She was confused
"I d-do not understand word. Friend?" Claudius dug one of the roasted
eggs from the coals with a stick and rolled it into the grass to cool.
"Daniel talk to C-C-Caligula, soror, you." Sam looked puzzled at the
unfamiliar word. "Frater, soror." The rest of the eggs joined the first,
steaming in the cool air.
Confusion was followed by understanding. "Sister. Soror is sister. No,
I'm not Daniel's sister. Friend is," she paused, thinking. "Companion.
Someone you trust. Someone you like, or love, but not like a husband or
"Amicus." Daniel's sleepy voice drifted out of the cart. There was a
thump, and the cart shifted on its wheels. Much grumbling followed, most
of which was unintelligible. Sam was smiling and blushing, though Claudius
did not understand why. "And agape. The love of a friend is agape."
"T-That's Greek." Claudius pointed out.
"I know. Why have we stopped?"
"Horses needed a rest, and so did Claudius," Sam replied. Claudius tended
the fire and let the conversation go on around him. The more English he
heard, he reasoned, the more he would understand, even if it remained
untranslated. "I also want a bath. You and the Colonel had your little
dip yesterday; I want my turn. I smell."
"Well, I didn't want to say anything." He ducked down into the wagon,
avoiding the hurled hunk of bread by a hair's breadth. A grunt and
muttered exclamation from the Colonel told them where the missile had
landed. "Morning, Jack. Sam's delivering breakfast in bed."
"Mmph.I ordered a Western Omelet."
"We are not in beds, DanielJackson."
The three men clambered out, amid much groaning and stretching, and were
all soon sitting down to breakfast while Sam had her bath. The dark
warrior, Teal'c, translated everything that had been said for Claudius'
benefit, which left the Roman understanding only a little more than he had
prior to the explanation. That set the pattern, with the Colonel's tacit
permission; either Daniel or Teal'c would translate for Claudius and
O'Neill, unless asked not to.
"//So, Sam is married to none of you. Nor is she related to any of you.//"
He did not miss the amused looks that passed between O'Neill and Daniel.
"//That is correct, TiberiusClaudiusDrus..//"
Jack made a noise and held up a bandaged hand. "Aah! Don't even start,
Teal'c. You've been calling him Claudius all along and you can just keep
right on doing it." Teal'c raised an eyebrow, but did not comment further
apart from a regal nod of his head.
Daniel's mouth was twitching and his eyes danced as he murmured Latin in
Claudius' ear. "//He still calls me DanielJackson,//" the young man added.
"//Why do you ask?//"
"//Not for the reasons you're thinking. I'm m-m-arried.//" He tossed an
egg to Daniel. "//I'm just c-curious about your people.//"
Sam rejoined them at the fire, her wet hair slicked back, and clothed in
the pale blue tunic she had worn since leaving the palace. "I wish I had
something to change into. This is getting kinda old."
Remembering what Horace had said about provisions, Claudius climbed to his
feet and limped to the cart. After rummaging for a few minutes he found a
matron's green tunic and stola, tied into a loose bundle by a green and
gold brocade belt. The woman's eyes lit up when she saw the silk bundle.
"Where did you.. It's lovely, Claudius." She gave him a quick hug, much
to his surprise, and darted to the other side of the cart to change.
"//We were t-too recognizable as we were.//" Claudius said, his ears warm
from the woman's enthusiastic embrace. "//Now we are a small household. N-
No one will question.//"
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
"Damn, that man can snore. Think it has anything to do with the stammer?"
The Colonel leaned against the side of the cart, bracing his legs against
the gently rocking sway. Claudius was sprawled across the cushions under
the tarp, his twitching limbs limp in sleep.
There was something sweet about him, Sam decided, looking down at him.
Despite the snoring, which was, she had to admit, quite loud. "He drove
all night, Sir. I can put up with a little snoring." It was getting hot.
She slipped the stola off and rolled up the tunica's sleeves, wishing for
BDU's or at least a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
"This isn't a little snoring, Carter. This is a full-scale assault. I've
been in firefights that were quieter than his snoring, for crying out loud.
Can't you get him to turn on his side, or something?" He nudged the
sleeping man with his foot, but could not make him turn, then gave up. He
leaned his head back tiredly and closed his eyes. "Whatever."
Several hours of sleep had not banished her CO's fatigue completely, she
realized. Normally, the Colonel could be counted upon for several more
volleys, or at least a better quality of sarcasm. "Sorry, Sir. Nothing I
can do." The stress was wearing on them all. They needed to get home.
Traffic was picking up around them, wagons and horses competing with hand
drawn carts and foot travelers for possession of the roadway. They had
been passed by runners several times, carrying messages to and from the
towns along the path, but had not seen signs of anyone looking for or
inquiring about them. Sam thought Horace had probably sent Callas on a
snipe hunt back to Rome; that's what she would have done in his place.
She nudged Claudius again; he rolled over and quieted. "Magic touch, Sir."
She grinned at O'Neill's sarcastic smirk.
"Is Daniel asleep?" the Colonel asked her in a near whisper. Daniel was
laying under the tarp alongside Claudius, seemingly oblivious to
Not so oblivious. "Daniel is awake. Daniel is just resting his eyes. What
does Jack want?" The anthropologist sat up, rubbing his face and squinting
at the Colonel.
"Jack wants to know what the plan is." He was trying to tone down the
sarcasm, but it was an effort. "Where are we headed, Daniel? I heard
someone say Pond scum?"
"Ponza. It's an island off the east coast of the Lazio region of Italy,
where we are now." Daniel crawled out from under the tarp and began
rooting around for the bottles of tea the old woman had given them.
"I thought we weren't in Italy, or on Earth. I thought this was an
amusement park, albeit not a very amusing one." The Colonel was picking at
the bandages circling his wrists again, wincing and not meeting anyone's
eyes. Sam frowned at the scabs on his palms; at least nothing had looked
infected the last time he had allowed her to change his dressings.
Finding the bottle, Daniel took a long swallow, grimacing at the taste.
"Have you had your dose, Jack? The black and white one is yours. I think
it's a pain-killer of some kind."
"Yeah, yeah. Time to connect the dots, Danny. Report."
"Okay." No rummaging this time; Daniel knew right where the maps were.
Good thing, too, since they were SG-1's only way home. He unrolled them,
holding first one, then the other close to his face, then spread them out
on the floor of the cart. "We are *not * on Earth. Near as I can tell, we
have been immersed in a live action role-playing scenario that encompasses
the lives of the players. This map shows an exact replica of Italy, down
to the islands off of the coast but, as you can see, it is not attached to
the Europe that we know." He pointed out a very different coastline,
though the Mediterranean Sea looked about like Sam remembered it.
"It's Italy, but not really. Got it. Go on."
Daniel pulled out Claudius' scroll and handed it to the Colonel. "The
caption at the top says 'Welcome to Rome.' It's written in a derivative of
Latin and Etruscan that was in use several hundred years ago, Claudius'
time. Apparently, the park owners, for want of a better term, have a way
of diverting the Stargate system temporally. They've gone through history,
according to this, and plucked up famous and not so famous people at the
point of death and brought them here." O'Neill handed the scroll back
after giving it a cursory looking over.
"They temporarily divert the 'Gate?"
Sam piped up. "Temporally, Sir. They move in time, as well as in space.
But I don't see how that's possible, Daniel." The scientist in her
rebelled at the very idea of time travel, never mind that they had done it
themselves not so very long ago. "The only way we know of is based almost
entirely on chance."
Jackson waved at her impatiently. "I know, and I don't understand it
either, but that's what it says, the best I can make out. And the main
complex is on Ponza." He pointed to a small island midway down the
peninsula. "That's where we find our way home. There's a 'Gate there."
He held the scroll close to his eyes again. "In the grotto beneath the
city, you will find the Chapp'ai. We hope you will enjoy your stay."
Daniel rolled up the scroll and rubbed his eyes. The sun was just past
noon and the light must have been bothering him.
It did not escape the Colonel's notice. In a quiet voice, he asked, "You
doin' okay, Daniel?"
"Oh, yeah. Just a little eyestrain, Jack. Nothing to worry about." He
pushed absently at the bridge of his nose. "Have you seen the amphorae
Caupona sent with us? They are amazing examples of late period pottery and
"Don't change the subject. What's with the squint and where'd you and
Carter come up with those lovely bruises?"
Placing her hand to the faded, yellowing bruise on her cheek, Sam said
wryly, "Probably the same way you got yours, Sir. Not doing what we were
told." Daniel flashed her a quick, grateful look for taking some of the
weight of O'Neill's scrutiny.
The Colonel laughed at that. "That's my team. If you can't beat the devil,
spit in his eye." His voice was light, but something in his look told Sam
he wasn't buying it for a second. Still, he didn't push.
They stopped twice more to water and rest the horses. Traffic around them
varied with their proximity to towns; sometimes there was a great deal of
traffic, both foot and cart. Other times, they were alone on the road. At
no time, however, did they see signs of their pursuers. Well, it was about
time for their luck to change for the better, not that Sam believed in such
Traffic began to pick up again as the sun went down. "We must be near the
crossroads," Daniel said. He shook Claudius awake gently.
They heard the crossroads before they saw it. Music and the sounds of many
conversations at once heralded the place, a lively village that had grown
around the meeting of the Via Appia and the Via Domitana. They crested a
hill and saw the place, lit with cooking fires and the setting sun.
Unlike most villages of its kind, this one was unwalled. The Appia ran
into if from the North, while the Domitana ran from east to west. There
were few houses lining the roads, except at the town center; most of the
population seemed to be transient judging by the number of carts and wagons
dotting the landscape. Tents of various colors and sizes flapped in the
night breeze, and the tantalizing smell of cooked meats wafted toward the
travelers as they made their way down the hill. Sam's stomach rumbled in
"Hungry, Sam?" Claudius asked with a yawn.
She shrugged on her stola against the cooling air. "I've had nothing but
bread, cheese, and fruit for the last three days. A steak would look great
"I'll second that," the Colonel said.
As they rolled through the campground, they noted several open cook fires
where food could be purchased. At the Colonel's order, Sam and Daniel
went to get food while he and Teal'c set up a quick camp. The plan was to
rest for a few hours, then drive the rest of the night, just in case they
were still being followed. Claudius was to go after provisions separately
and keep his ears open for gossip.
They wandered through the campgrounds, Daniel trailing a little behind Sam.
The village was nestled at the base of a tall hill, or a short mountain
depending on your point of view. Scrubby laurels vied with old growth
willows and oak trees to the north, giving way to the beginnings of coastal
grasslands to the south. It was in these grasslands that the village sat,
rambling along the two roadways that intersected at the town center. It
seemed, as they moved through it, that the whole purpose of the village was
to serve the needs of the transient wagon trade, and travelers of other
types, that met up at these crossroads. Looking about with interest,
Daniel said, "This really is fascinating, from an anthropological point of
A toothless woman was selling flatbread and seasoned meat and onions; Sam
bought several and stowed them in a bag. "Gratia, matris." The woman
smiled and patted Sam's hand as she took the money. "What's fascinating,
Daniel?" She handed him the bag; he took it absently, trying to see
everything at once in the dimming light.
"This culture. We're immersed in an ancient civilization that we've only
been able to speculate about before. We have the literature of the day;
Livy and Seutonius' 'De Vita Caesarum.' And the poets, of course. But
extrapolating a culture from its literature is like...like the blind men
describing the elephant."
She thought she understood. "If someone in the future were to stumble
across, say, The Hobbit, or some right wing conservative's latest rant-
book, they might get some very interesting ideas about the 20th century."
"Exactly. I almost wish we had more time here, to study the less well-
documented aspects of Roman society."
A group of young women were circulating among the camping travelers. Every
now and then one would break away from the gaggle and disappear with a
smiling man, or men, into a tent. "I think an aspect of Roman society
wants to study you, Daniel." The women were drifting closer, looking at
her friend with libidinous eyes, if she was not mistaken.
"Hmm? What?" She pointed out the giggling gaggle and thought he blushed,
though it was hard to tell in the firelight. "I don't think they're
interested in me, Sam. In this tunic, with you dressed like that, they
have to think I'm your," he groped for a word, "property."
She turned a horrified look on him. "What? Why didn't you say something?"
She plucked the bag from his grasp and pulled him back toward camp,
glaring at the girls.
"It's not important, Sam. We know what the truth is." He let himself be
pulled along though, looking back at the pouting prostitutes with a
"It's damn well important to me, Daniel. Claudius has got to have
something else for you to wear." They made it back to the wagon without
incident and Sam handed off the tucker-sack to the Colonel.
"Gyros, Sir, or the local equivalent."
He took an appreciative sniff. "Smells good. Well done, Major. Pull up
some ground and let's eat." He reached into the bag with stiff fingers and
pulled out a greasy cloth bundle that really did smell like heaven.
Passing the bag, he unwrapped the bundle and took a bite. The first moment
of chewing was tentative, but then a look of pleased surprise filled the
Colonel's face. "Oh, yeah. Much better than MRE's. You shop from now
on, Carter." He finished the first sandwich quickly and reached for
"Yes, Sir. Daniel, why don't you see if there's something you can wear in
the cart." She fished a sandwich out and glared at him as he ignored her
and sat down by the fire.
Snagging the bag from her hand, he said, "Sam, if our little 'household',
as Claudius put it, didn't have at least one servant, we'd draw attention
to ourselves. Look around you."
Wondering what she was supposed to see, Sam let her eyes wander over the
campground's chaotic jumble of tents and people. A pattern began to emerge
as she analyzed the campers. Most of their fellow travelers were obviously
tradesmen and their families. Even these, though, had one or two people
who seemed to be doing most of the physical work. The more well-off
travelers had five or six. Somehow, even being immersed in the market,
back in Rome, had not brought the reality of their situation home to her as
much as seeing the blind acceptance of servitude among the common people.
She looked back at Daniel glumly. "You're right. We'd be noted. I hadn't
realized slavery was so pervasive." Up until now, even during that
humiliating auction, their position and condition had not seemed real to
her. When she had been traded to that warlord, on the third, no fourth
mission through the Stargate, she had always known she could walk away.
The only thing stopping her at that time was concern for the other women.
Here, there would have been no rescue, had Claudius not believed Daniel
that second night and decided to accompany them. They would have been
stuck at the palace forever, unless they had managed to escape, and then
what? As fugitive slaves, they would have had little hope for a long life.
She realized now what an amazing step Claudius had taken in throwing in his
lot with SG-1. His entire worldview had been toppled in the space of an
hour, yet he had risen to every challenge this journey had asked of him.
She got the feeling there was a lot hidden by his amiable façade, stammer,
and rambling ways.
Wiping his mouth, the Colonel said, "You take a lot of convincing, Major."
He grinned toothily and looked up at that alien moon. "Claude has been
gone too long. Daniel, you and Teal'c go look for him."
"Maybe he got waylaid by those camp followers," Daniel opined. He folded
the cloth in which his gyro had been wrapped and tucked it back into the
The Colonel looked intrigued. "Camp followers? Are we talking ladies of
easy virtue, here?" He wiggled his eyebrows at Teal'c, who did not react.
"I believe DanielJackson is referring to the prostitutes circulating
through the camp, O'Neill. TiberiusClau." Jack glared and the Jaffa
amended his words, "Claudius does not seem to be one who would partake of
such pleasures during a time of crisis."
"No, you're right. He did have a mistress named Calpurnia, if I'm
remembering correctly, but I don't think he'd be looking for companionship
right now." Daniel was starting to look worried. "Come on, Teal'c. Let's
see what we can find out."
The men disappeared amidst the tents, taking divergent paths to quarter the
camp. Once they were out of earshot, the Colonel fixed Sam with a
commanding look and said. "Okay, Major. Report. And I mean it, this
time." He crossed his legs and leaned forward, the fire picking out the
silver glints in his hair as golden.
"Sir? Daniel apprised us of the situation this afternoon." She swallowed
the last of her gyro with a mouth gone dry. It was nothing she was trying
to hide, nothing shameful, but she did not want to worry the Colonel for no
reason. What was done was done.
"Daniel's eyes. Your face. I want a report on the physical and emotional
well-being of my team, Carter." His voice was soft, but implacable.
She rubbed her cheek absently. "We're fine, Sir. Coping. Daniel's eyes
have been bothering him since we woke up in that clearing without our gear
and most of our clothes. He says the longer he's without his glasses, the
more tired his eyes get. The more tired, the more blurry; it's a cycle."
The Colonel grimaced, then nodded. "I understand. And the headaches?"
"Partly the same thing, as far as I can tell. The morning we retrieved
you, though, there was an altercation at the inn. The blacksmith,
Creopacis, accused Claudius of underpaying for a repair on our cart and was
being physically threatening. Daniel tried to intervene and, um," she
"Collected a sock in the jaw for his trouble?" the Colonel supplied.
She nodded. "Exactly, Sir. It knocked him out for a few minutes. Ever
since, his headaches and, I believe, his vision has been worse. He seems
to be recovering, though. The old woman said he would, in time."
"Caupona's tea must be some kind of anti-inflammatory. He's been running
around all over the countryside with a concussion and never said a word."
The Colonel looked up at the stars with an aggrieved expression,
communicating his opinion of civilians in general and Daniel in specific to
the deaf gods. "Wish Janet was here. If you tell her I said that, I'll
deny it." He managed a weak smile, and looked off into the darkness in the
direction Daniel had taken. Probably regretting sending him off to look
for Claudius, Sam realized.
"I was wishing for her myself when we found you, Sir. We're all
He looked at her again, his dark eyes in shadow as he built up the fire.
"And what are you recovering from, Major?" he asked softly.
"An ill-advised defiance, Sir," she said with a grimace. His face demanded
explanations. "After the auction, the steward who purchased me.got
frisky." He'd been all hands and leers; she could still feel his clammy
fingers on her skin, despite the earlier bath. "I kneed him in the groin
to discourage him and collected a sock in the jaw for my trouble." Along
with a few other blows, but those didn't show and were none of the
Colonel's business. She did not add that the smarmy asshole had refused to
give her anything to wear for hours, until they got back to the palace and
the kitchen matron had shoved a bundle of blue fabric into her hands.
She'd worn that tunic until Claudius had given her the silk one this
afternoon. With a shudder, she ran her hands along the slightly bumpy
fabric, and was thankful.
The Colonel's face was clearly readable in the dim light. He was furious.
"I'm fine, Sir," she hastened to reassure him. "Nothing untoward has
happened to any of us." Except maybe you, Jack, she did not say. Oh,
hell, yes she would. "Sir, Daniel said you had killed a man at the
vineyard. May I ask why?"
His fury fled, replaced by surprise. "Whoa! Good redirect, Major. You've
been taking lessons from Danny." Throwing a stick at the fire, he blew out
a breath and said, "It was an accident. My keeper, steward, whatever, was
getting frisky." He nodded at her, taking her words. "I wasn't in a
position to defend myself well, so I kicked him. He fell and broke his
neck. End of story." More sticks were hurled into the fire, raising a
swarm of sparks.
The fury was not banked down completely, she realized, and she did not want
to raise any demons with questions. There was at least as much untold in
the Colonel's story as had been in hers, but it was not her place to go
digging. Maybe Daniel would get him to open up, if he needed to. Daniel
was good at that.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Between the bright blobs that were cookfires, and the shifting blobs that
were people, Daniel was feeling a little dizzy. This was getting old,
fast. The whole searching thing, this whole insane week, would be much
easier if he could see clearly. Still, he reflected, it was better than it
had been this afternoon. The sun's glare had forced him under the tarp for
several hours, trying to rest his eyes. He had not been able to see much
of anything. Twilight seemed to be his best time.
He was also beginning to wish he'd taken Sam's advice and changed into some
other clothes. He was, evidently, just shabby enough to be taken for a
slave by any who saw him. His bare feet did not help matters; even the
poorest freeborn had at least one pair of sandals to his name. Thus far
he'd had a variety of responses to his questioning, most of them derisive
and patronizing. The group of drinking teamsters before him looked no more
promising than anyone else, but no less so either. Taking a deep breath
and pasting a pleasant expression on his face, he approached the group and
said, "//Excuse me. I'm looking for a man, about my height, with a limp.
One of men rose and said sharply, "//Go away, boy. You are not welcome
here. You've been bothering a lot of people. No one has seen your master,
if that's who he is.//" A hard hand came out of nowhere and pushed Daniel
backward. "//Take yourself back to wherever you came from and leave us
Clenching his fists in frustration, Daniel restrained himself. He nodded
tersely and turned to go. That same hard hand stopped him, whirling him
abruptly back to face his new friend. "//Is that how you take leave of
your betters, boy? You have no manners.//" The man grinned evilly,
looking over his shoulder at his laughing friends and sharing their humor.
Turning back to Daniel, he said, "//Perhaps you need someone to teach you,
boy. What do you say?//" The man had huge hands, rough and strong from
wrestling his horses and their load along the uneven roads. Daniel could
feel the bruise starting already, but he could not wrench his arm out of
Controlling his flinch, Daniel said, "//You really shouldn't try to teach a
subject you're not familiar with, Sir.// And I've been hanging around Jack
*way * too much." Not so far gone in drink as to miss the insult, the man
scowled and drew back his free hand, gripping Daniel's arm tighter.
"//Speciosus, there you are!//" A high feminine trill shattered the
tableau and the man's grip eased a fraction. Daniel took the opportunity
and wrenched his aching arm free. A fluttering, sweet smelling figure
gathered him into soft arms, scolding. "//I told you never to wander off
in camp, sweet. You never know what type of ruffian you'll run into.//"
She winked at the burly man and gave a shimmy Daniel could feel through her
layers of gauze and silk, promising nothing and everything all at once.
Unbelievably, the carter seemed to melt, returning to his cronies with a
laugh and a wave. She fluttered her fingers and drew Daniel away, latching
herself on to his sore arm with a murmured, "//Play along.//"
"Huh? Oh. //Sorry, Mistress. I got lost.//"
"//Silly boy!//" She scolded him roundly and drew him away from the
carters, weaving through the campground and pulling him after her.
Once out of earshot, he stopped her and said, "//Thank you, Lady, but I
The woman looked up at him and his heart stopped. Her face was a blur, but
he could see dark eyes, a broad forehead, and black strands of thick, wavy
hair escaping from her red veil. Her lips would taste like summer berries
and the yeasty flatbread he had never learned to make properly.
He realized she was speaking, and had been for some moments, but his brain
couldn't translate her speech into English and he realized with a sharp
sadness that he'd stopped thinking in Abydonian, had stopped dreaming in
the language of his wife some months ago. He listened harder, desperate to
understand, and then heard the Latin, through the muddle of languages in
Daniel bent and drew his face close to hers, trying to force his aching
eyes to focus. After an eternity, he was moderately successful and a
strange woman looked back at him with a fearful expression on her blurred
Well, he reflected, she had every right to be apprehensive. Feeling
foolish, he assumed what he hoped was a reassuring expression and said,
"//Forgive me, Lady. You remind me of someone I once knew.//"
Desperately looking anywhere but at the woman who was not Sha're, he noted
with surprise that the campground was a distance behind them. They stood a
few yards from a small stand of tall weeping willows, lit fascinatingly
from beneath by a campfire under the trailing boughs. He could make out no
details, but saw moving shapes in the fey light.
Drawing his attention back, the woman said, "//Was she very beautiful?//"
The bittersweet memory must have shown on his face, even in the dim light.
"//Very, Lady.//" His guide smiled up at him, thinking he had turned her a
compliment. "//Um, Lady? Where are we going?//"
"//To your friend, little one. He is waiting for you.//" Too late, alarm
bells began jangling in Daniel's head, and he pulled away from the woman.
"//It is not much further.//"
"//What is wrong with him, that he cannot come to us?//" Daniel asked.
The flickering light under the trees spawned another shape. It, he, called
to Daniel. "//Your friend is injured. He needs help. Come this way!//"
"Ah, no. I don't think so." He turned and bolted back towards the
campground, the woman's clutching grab slipping over his arm without
gaining a grip. A muffled curse and pounding footsteps spurred him faster.
"Jack!" Too far away, too much noise from the campground, too late.
"Jack!" Too dark. The ground was uneven under his bare feet and he
stumbled, staggered, and ran on, limping.
Pain at his throat as he was jerked to a sudden stop by handful of fabric.
Too slow. He pulled away with a rip of cloth, only to be brought down a
few steps later in a rolling tangle. Daniel found himself face down on the
ground, a heavy weight on his back. "//Give me the rope, woman!//" The
man's cracked voice ground out. Alarmed, Daniel bucked, but couldn't shake
his captor. He drew his arms in, underneath his body, and locked his hands
A dark voice, cold and evil, oozed into his ears. "//I'll dislocate those
shoulders, servi.//" Daniel gasped as the man's big hands fastened to his
bruised upper arm and shoulder and began applying pressure. The pain built
quickly, inexorably, hard fingers digging behind the socket of his shoulder
with practiced brutality.
The last thing Daniel wanted to do was lose the use of his hands, but it
felt like it was going to happen one way or another. "//All right!
Enough!//" He released his grip and squirmed until his arms were free.
The man laughed as he wrenched Daniel's hands back and tied them. "//Weak.
Pathetic. Just like your brother. Come on, dog, get up.//"
"My.who? Ow!" Wrenched to his feet, Daniel was sent stumbling back toward
the trees, away from camp. The ground was no more even on the return trip,
and the spiteful, prodding shoves from behind did little for Daniel's
balance. His ankle was wrenched more than once on the journey back, and he
was limping worse than Claudius by the time they reached the willows.
The woman had spoken this much truth: Claudius was waiting for them in the
trees. He was huddled at the base of one of the willows, gagged and tied
hand and foot. "//Claudius! Are you well?//" Daniel could not see any
injuries in the flickering light, but he seemed to be unharmed.
"//Your twitching friend is just fine, dog.//" The man shoved Daniel to
the ground next to the Roman and pulled Claudius to his feet. "//Fetch the
old soldier to me, old fool. And be quick, or this young fool will suffer
for it.//" He cut the bindings on Claudius' feet.
His eyes wide over the gag, Claudius looked down at Daniel in concern.
"//I'm fine. Tell Jack.// trap. Ita?" Claudius nodded, understanding,
and took off toward camp in a rolling lope that had their captor laughing.
"//Look at the camel run! Merciless gods, what a waste that man is. Why
did his family not expose him at birth?//" The man crouched next to
Daniel. "//Between the limp and the twitch, I'd have smothered the brat
before he learned to talk.//" He took a second rope and set about tying
Daniel's ankles. Better and better.
"I'll just bet you would." The woman had taken off her red veils and was
building up the fading fire. Tiny flames cast dancing shadows and ruined
what was left of Daniel's night vision until the fire caught anew. Then
the clearing took form for him, though it remained fuzzy and out of focus.
The old growth willows formed an arch over their heads, high enough that
there was no fear from the fire. Two horses stomped and shifted at one
side of the clearing, reeking of old sweat; other than the horses, they
were alone under the masking trees.
Desperate for information, Daniel turned his attention to his captors. The
man was huge, as big as Teal'c, with the rich, olive complexion and dark
eyes of most Italians. His long, black hair was pulled back into a tight
rope, and his tunic was clean, if wrinkled, homespun. The woman was
dressed the part of a courtesan, in silks and veils that reveled more than
they hid. She was careful to keep her eyes to herself, he noted. Both of
them were young, no older than twenty-five at a guess, though Daniel's eyes
weren't up to many more details than that.
Noting Daniel's scrutiny, the man sneered at him and said, "//You do not
know me? Did your brother not speak fondly of me, servi? I am Hastatus,
brother of Harundo, whom your brother slew two nights since.//" He stood
again, drawing Daniel up with him with effortless strength. "//My woman,
Vispilia, I believe you have met.//"
Without warning, he slammed Daniel against the willow's trunk and let him
fall, his breath knocked from him. Vaguely, through ringing ears, he heard
the man order Vispilia to fetch the magistrate. She scurried into the
night, looking sadly over her shoulder at the panting man on the ground.
Daniel wondered if his shoulders were dislocated after all. The pain was
terrible, and his back muscles cramped and spasmed in protest. He made no
move to rise, concentrating on regaining his breath before something else
happened. The pain eased after a few moments, and Daniel rolled into an
awkward sitting position, the tree behind him, its stout trunk partially
supporting him as he took deep, sweet breaths.
With breath, returned the ability to think. Daniel twisted his hands in
the ropes, glaring up at his captor in recognition. This man was Jack's
tormentor from the vineyard. The man who had been smothering O'Neill, who
had beaten and starved him.
Oblivious to the fury in his captive's eyes, Hastatus grabbed up a bag in
one fist and a handful of willow branches in the other. He stooped and
said, conversationally, "//Keep your eyes off of her, dog, or I'll pluck
them out. I saw you talking to her, saw how you wanted her. You won't be
wanting any woman for a long time once we are done here, nor, I think, will
any want you. Pray your brother comes soon, servi.//"
Daniel pushed himself back against the tree trunk, and said, "//I'm no
slave. And Jack isn't my brother.//"
Pausing his menacing advance, Hastatus looked down at Daniel thoughtfully.
"//You lie,//" he decided at last. "//I saw your care for him, at the
vineyard. You gave him your tunica and bathed his wounds. You spoke for
him to Callas, though you lied when you said you were both freeborn. The
blacksmith saw you arrive, the slaves of that twitching fool, you and your
blonde bitch sister. The old soldier is your brother; your brother of the
heart, if nothing else. As Harundo was mine.//"
With no warning, Hastatus forced the foul smelling sack over Daniel's head
and tied it around his neck. The world was muffled, now, but he heard the
swish just before fiery lines blazed across his bare arms. He rolled with
a yelp and drew his legs up, turning turtle. "//Wait! Stop!//"
"//Your brother had no mercy for Harundo. I shall have none for you.//"
The improvised whip fell again, laying fire across Daniel's legs, his feet.
"//Harundo was all I had in the world.//" Again, across his arms, his
back. "//This is justice.//" Then there was no further speech, just pain.
Daniel tried pleading, tried reason, stammering into the close and humid
sack. Tiring quickly of this, Hastatus gagged him by shoving some of the
coarse material into his mouth and tying it off with another length of
rope. He took a moment to finish ripping Daniel's tunica down the back,
ridding him of that bit of protection. The bunched fabric hung from his
tied wrists, tangling his hands.
The sack, the gag, and the throbbing pain in his head combined to steal his
breath away as Hastatus resumed his "justice"; Daniel had not the air or
the energy to roll away from the unseen blows. He curled into a ball the
best he could, and bit down on the gag, and endured. Air came in quick,
panicked gasps, and left in muffled shouts of pain and outrage. Claudius
had been gone for hours, days, by now. Jack will come soon. Jack, come
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
By Jack's internal clock, a gift of way too many hours standing watch,
Daniel had been gone half past too long. Teal'c had come back to camp
empty-handed some time ago, and there was still no sign of the Roman.
"Sam, Teal'c," he said with a sigh, "we have a wayward anthropologist and a
future Emperor to find." Jack hove to his feet with a heartfelt groan and
offered Sam a hand up. She looked at the bandages and gave a little shake
of her head, scrambling up on her own. Damn; he in no way wanted to be
coddled, but Carter seemed determined. To lighten the mood, his and hers,
he said, "Why does Daniel wander off like this, Carter? Is it a scientist
A not-quite insubordinate grin lit the Major's face, to Jack's relief.
A shout and a stream of curses drew O'Neill's attention; something was
disrupting the KOA Kampground. Moments later, the something collided with
the side of their wagon with a pained grunt. "What the hell?"
Sam was the first around to investigate. "Claudius!" Her voice was
alarmed and dismayed and Jack saw why as he made it to the fallen man's
side. The Roman was gagged and bound, though Teal'c knife took care of
that in short order.
As soon as the gag was out of his mouth, Claudius began to speak, or to try
to speak. His rushed words were halted and broken, and he made an
inarticulate noise of frustration. Listening intently, Teal'c shook his
head and said, "I do not understand him, O'Neill." The Jaffa said
something in Latin and Claudius nodded, taking deep breaths, trying to calm
himself. Carter handed him a wineskin, but his head was twitching too
violently to drink. "Calm. Slow, Claudius," she said.
After a moment, the nervous twitch eased and he tried again, focusing
intently on Jack this time. "C-C-Colonel. D-Daniel say t-t-t-t...," he
closed his eyes and took a deep breath, hitting his thigh with a frustrated
fist. Sam reached out and took his hand, and he smiled a tense, tiny smile
of thanks. "D-Daniel s-s-say t-trap. Has-s-status. Follow." Scrambling
to unsteady feet, Claudius beckoned urgently.
Hastatus. Well, hell. "Slow up, Claude. We can't go haring off without a
plan." As much as I want to, he thought. "Who does he have with him?
What's his plan?" How long has he had Daniel?
Waiting impatiently for Teal'c to translate and vice versa, Jack took stock
of their options. No weapons, no backup, no safe ground for retreat, in
hostile territory, and with a hostage situation. This trip was getting
better and better. If there had been a gift shop in town, he would have
sent Hammond a postcard. 'Having a wonderful time; wish I wasn't here.'
"Claudius says there is a woman in addition to Hastatus. He also says
Hastatus spoke of killing DanielJackson and believes there is a need for
urgent rescue. I am in agreement, O'Neill." The Jaffa looked ready to
chew nails, and he was standing in restless readiness that reminded Jack of
a boxed racehorse, itching for the starter's gun. Carter didn't look much
"Yeah, well, we need to think for a sec, if that's okay. Stand down, the
pair of you." What was the man's plan? Could it be as simple as it
appeared? Hastatus hadn't seemed all that smart, in his short acquaintance
with the man. Vicious and sadistic, but not smart. "Okay. We strike now,
retrieve Daniel, and retreat. We'll break camp now and move the cart to
the road. When we have Daniel, we'll retreat to that point and head south.
Claudius will remain with the wagon, ready to roll."
The Roman stammered a protest, which needed no translation. "Sorry,
Claude. You're needed more elsewhere." The limp would slow them down, if
it came to running. He could see by the look on Claudius' face that he had
guessed the real reason and was more than a little irritated with O'Neill.
Oh well, tough nookies.
"Right. Let's move."
In a matter of minutes, camp was packed up, the horses were hitched, and
the wagon was pointed south on the outgoing road. "Okay, Claudius. Which
way to Danny?"
Teal'c said, "He has told me where DanielJackson is being held, O'Neill.
Let us go." Without waiting, the restless Jaffa took of north, leaving
O'Neill and Carter to scramble to keep up.
They passed quickly through the campground, cutting to the east of where
Claudius had said Hastatus was holding Daniel. No need to emerge backlit
and give up their surprise. The cover was sporadic, with willows and the
occasional young oak tree dotting the landscape before merging with the
thicker growth in the foothills. Sam stumbled once, cursing the long skirt
of the stolla she was wearing, and Jack grinned in the dark. Well, he was
tired of wearing a skirt too, but at least his was short enough he could
Weaving through the trees, they finally saw their destination. A group of
old willows, a small campfire, and a pale, huddled figure on the ground.
Hastatus, however, was nowhere to be seen.
Jack motioned for the others to stop, and he fell into a crouch. His back
protested, and he almost fell altogether as the overtired muscles spasmed
painfully, but Teal'c's strong hand held him up. He nodded a thank you,
and studied the clearing.
They were close enough to see into the clearing, without seeing many
details. Two horses, one way too still linguist, one campfire. That was
it. No sadistic asshole and no woman. "They have to be around there
somewhere," he muttered.
Carter patted his shoulder and pointed into the darkness outside the
campfires' glow. A dark shape was crouched in the trees, waiting.
O'Neill nodded, pointed Sam north and Teal'c' south, indicating he would
draw the hostile's attention while they took him out at his six. With a
nod, they took off through the trees, silent as wraiths.
A mental hundred count later, O'Neill stood and walked toward the clearing.
"Hastatus! Come out, come out, wherever you are! Olly olly oxen kree!"
He had the man in the corner of his eye, but Jack's attention was focused
on Daniel. As he drew near enough to make out details, he had a hard time
keeping the majority of his mind focused on the mission.
He'd beaten him, the bastard. Stripped him down to his loincloth, tied him
up, tied a god damn bag over his head and beaten him until he was
unconscious. There were red welts all over Daniel's torso and over what
Jack could see of his arms. Bruises peppered his legs and ribs. And he
was so still. Only the barely perceptible rise and fall of his livid back
told Jack that Daniel still breathed.
"Did you have to do this, Hastatus?" Jack yelled into the night, his
throat tight with anger and not a little fear. If only Daniel would move,
The man in the corner of his eye stood, finally. Taking hold of a long
branch, he stepped up behind Jack and raised it high.
He never knew what hit him. Teal'c took him high, Carter went low, and
they had him secured before you could say, "Look out, there's a pissed
Jaffa and a seriously ticked off Major behind you."
"Good job kids. Let's get Daniel and get the hell out of here."
That's when the Magistrate showed up, along with about fifteen oversized
Hastatus looked up at the expression on Jack's face and started laughing.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
"//Wha-at do you mean, a t-t-trap?//" Claudius clambered down off of the
wagon. Vispilia, Hastatus' woman, clutched her veil close around her
"//After you left, my man sent me for the village consul and the
magistrate. We were here ahead of you and the consul knows what Hastatus
has told him. He will come with many men if you do not warn your friends
and flee now!//" She looked fearfully over her shoulder, as though by
saying her man's name he would appear. By the bruises, she had reason to
fear, Claudius thought. "//He means for you all to be taken into custody,
and executed. Ever since Harundo was killed, bless the day, he's been a
madman. Please, you must warn your friends!//"
He looked back at the wagon, the horses ready to go, and knew he couldn't
leave it. The horses would be stolen and they'd never make it to Ponza.
Seeing his reluctance, she said, "//I'll stay with your wagon. Worry
not.//" She smiled then, an amazingly gentle grin in her marred face.
"//Go on, now.//"
Suspicious of her ready offer, Claudius said, "//Why are you helping us?
You are Hastatus' c-c-creature. Wha-at do you gain?//"
She covered her face again, the veil turning a woman scarred by mischance
into a beauty. It looked like a burn, an old one, and covered the right
side of her face from brow to chin. She had been breathtaking once,
though, he could tell. With a calm, sure voice she said, "//Your friend
looked upon my face, unveiled, and called it beautiful. And the old
soldier killed Harundo. For these things, I gladly betray Hastatus.
Quickly, now, before the trap is sprung.//"
Cursing his slow legs, his slow wit, and his bad luck, Claudius ran. He
dodged through the thickening trees, stumbling now and again. At least,
this time his hands were free. His body still ached from the tumbles he
had taken on his trip out. He only hoped he'd be in time.
Slowing his steps as he approached the clearing, he realized he wasn't.
There was far too much activity. He ventured closer, hiding behind a stand
of brush, and looked for his companions. After a few moments, he spotted
The Colonel and Sam were sitting close to Daniel, who was upright, but
looking much the worse for wear. His hair was damp and spiky and he seemed
to be having trouble keeping his eyes open. Someone had propped him
against a tree and he was managing to stay sitting up, mostly. The dark
warrior sat nearby, listening and noting everything that happened around
They were not alone, unfortunately. The clearing was crowded with men.
The four of them, lined up in a row, each had a keeper. Then there was the
Magistrate, the Consul, Hastatus, a few more heavies standing guard, and
the horses. All in all, it was quite a little gathering. A noisy one,
too, as they were all talking at once. At least he did not have to worry
about being heard, Claudius reflected, but, by all the gods, now what?
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Jack glanced over at Teal'c, who was listening intently, and knew that he'd
get a report at first opportunity. At the moment, he and Sam were being
ignored, so he edged closer to where Daniel lay on the ground and began
picking at the ropes that held that damn sack on his head.
At his touch, Daniel pulled away, mumbling and clenching his hands. "Easy,
Danny. It's me." Jack had to keep his voice low. He wasn't sure how much
Daniel heard, through the sack and through his discomfort, so he kept up a
steady stream of chatter while he untied the ropes at neck, wrist, and
At first, Daniel flinched with each touch, but he calmed as Jack worked.
The stubborn knot that held the sack in place finally gave and he whipped
the coarse bag off of Daniel's head. He coughed and spat, taking deep
breaths. His eyes were wide and wild, and Jack held up his hands and said,
"It's ok, Danny. Only me."
Daniel closed his eyes against the brightness of the firelight, then
squinted up at Jack and said in a hoarse voice, "who.jack? dark." He
reached up and touched Jack's face. O'Neill noted the bruised hands with
dismay. The willow lash had fallen there repeatedly, the welting blows
transformed to bruises by the bundled fabric of his torn tunic. Damn, the
kid looked tired. His hair was all sweaty and sticking up like cactus
spikes, and his face was pale. Catching the fumbling hand, he gave it a
careful pat and looked over Daniel's head into Carter's frightened eyes.
Mustering a cheerful tone, he said, "Yeah, the gang's all here, Danny-boy.
You okay?" Dumb question, he chided himself. Of course he's not okay.
Nevertheless, the kid was nodding and trying to sit up. Sam helped, easing
him out of his protective huddle.
"Fine, Jack. Can we go home, now?" He sat up straighter and rubbed his
wrists, leaning against the tree for support, then jerking forward with a
pained grimace as the rough bark abraded his welts. Jack shook out the
ripped tunic and draped it over his shoulders, to keep out the growing
night chill. Morning chill; gray-rose light was beginning to outshine the
campfire as the sun topped the low mountains to the east. True dawn would
not be for an hour or more, at a guess, but the night was definitely over.
"Um.not just yet. Thought we might stick it out here for a while. Don't
want our hosts to think we're not enjoying the party."
"Hosts?" To Jack's profound relief, Daniel opened his eyes and looked,
well squinted, around. "Oh. Hosts. I see. Wouldn't want to seem."
".impolite?" Carter supplied.
"Exactly." With a tired sigh, Daniel dropped his head to his hands and
said, "Wake me when it's time to go, okay Jack?"
Their captors were ignoring them, still working out the pecking order, it
looked like. All to the good. "Can you run, Danny?"
Not expending the energy to sit up, Daniel turned his head and looked up at
Jack. "If I have to. I might need some help," he conceded after a
moment's thought. His voice sounded stronger, Jack noted with hope.
Stretching out one foot into the light, Daniel contemplated the bruises
around his ankle and the welts on the soles. Catching Jack's expression,
he said, "I'll be fine, Jack. I'll try not to slow you down."
"Oh, jeeze, Danny. What happened to your feet?"
Drawing in his legs again, Daniel said, "He could reach 'em. And I fell
some. I'll be fine, Jack." That was that, apparently. Just more reasons
for Hastatus not to live, in Jack's book.
Okay, running was a maybe, but they had to try, before someone got the idea
to tie them up again. "Carter, we make a break for it, head to the wagon,
and jackrabbit to Ponza as fast as possible. Whoever makes it to the
wagon. Remember, the maps are there."
The Major made a face like she was going to object and Jack held up a hand.
"Aaah! I know. No one is left behind." He looked Carter sternly in the
eye. "Neither Daniel nor I are in the best of shape right now, Major. As
a contingency plan for one of us falling behind, whoever makes it out heads
for Ponza. By Daniel's estimate, it's no more than two days away; less if
you hustle. It's reasonable to assume that whoever made this place has
some sort of advanced tech, yes?"
Carter closed her mouth and nodded thoughtfully, if reluctantly. "Yes,
Sir. I see where you 're going. We get to Ponza and come back with
whatever weapons we find there. We might even find our gear; it has to be
somewhere, and it's likely to be wherever the architects of this place have
set up their 'Gate. But I'd rather everyone made it, so no rescue is
"Well, duh! Look sharp for our opportunity, kids."
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* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Look sharp, Jack says. Can't look at anything sharp. Daniel laughed;
giggled really, but only a gig or two. Wondering what the singular for
giggle was, Daniel recognized the fatigue and eminent hysteria, and decided
it was preferable to moaning about, reflecting on his hurts, and wondering
when the knives were coming out.
Despite his fears, though, the distraction came soon, and caught everyone
by surprise. With a rattle of drums and a high, melodic double flute
playing a merry tune, a gaggle of giggling ladies entered the clearing.
They were dancing to the flutist's melody and playing up to one and all
with seductive hip wiggles and come-hither coaxings. They seemed to be the
same ladies who Sam had said were eyeing him earlier. Surely, he thought
with a fey turn, it must be past their bedtime.
The cloaked flutist looked vaguely familiar, but it was hard to tell in the
early morning light. He capered with a jerking humor that had the yawning
deputies grinning. The ladies danced amidst the guards, hanging on them in
laughing armfuls, and teasing the Magistrate.
Daniel kept his gaze fixed on Jack for his cue. Jack was on one arm and
Sam was on the other. The pulled him to his feet suddenly and then they
were running through the trees, shouting men behind them, though not too
close. The flutist followed, his limping run identifying him immediately.
"The wagon!" Jack said, supporting Daniel as they ran.
Sam and Teal'c were well ahead, were on the wagon before Jack and Daniel
cleared the tree line. Then they were falling together, a sharp pain
across Daniel's shin and the world fragmented by a stout net falling over
them both. Jack, beside him, yelled "Gogogo!" And Sam and Teal'c cut the
traces on the horses and were kicking them to a gallop, headed south. Then
the deputies were pulling them up, pulling off the net, tying their hands,
pushing them toward the village. "Getting tired of being tied up, here,"
Jack said unhappily.
Every step Daniel took was like walking on knives, and warmth trickled down
his shin where the tripwire had caught him. Jack was at his side, face set
and grim. "Sorry, Jack."
He thought Jack looked at him in surprise, but couldn't be sure. "Nothing
to be sorry for, Daniel. I didn't see it either, and my eyes are way
better than yours are, right now." They stumbled along, the world waking
up around them with startled looks and the song of an incongruous lark,
twittering in the branches of a fig tree. "This is my fault, anyway."
"Tace!" Hastatus grinned as Jack glared at him.
"You know, I still don't understand a word you're saying, you sadistic
This filtered through Daniel's fatigue and he said, "Shut up."
"Huh?" Jack sounded surprised, and a little hurt.
"He's saying 'Shut up'. Tace."
Limping along beside them, Claudius hid a smile. The three of them were
limping, actually. Almost like a chorus line. Daniel stifled another gig.
"I'd been wondering. Figured it out in context, back on the second day,
A sharp blow knocked Jack's head forward with another curt, "Tace!" Jack
glared over his shoulder, then fixed his eyes on the ground. Out of the
corner of his mouth, he said, "Daniel, how do you say 'bite me' in Latin?"
"At spes non fracta. Or, literally, morsus me. But he wouldn't
understand," Daniel murmured back.
"Hope not broke?" Claudius asked curiously.
Daniel was impressed. "You're really coming along with the English,
Claudius." He heard the whisper of wind as Hastatus' hand flew at his head
and ducked at the last moment. "I know, I know. Tace. //Go copulate with
a donkey, you son of a whore.//"
Claudius gasped and Jack looked at him in amazement. "I didn't understand
that, but it sounded damn impressive." Looking back over his shoulder
again, Hastatus looked none too pleased. "I think you said a little much
"Too late. We're here. He can't touch us, now," Daniel replied with some
'Here' was the hulking curia housing the courts and the offices of the
local magistrate. The three were pushed through the door and down an open
and airy hallway, lined with busts of the royal family. "Hey, there's you,
Claudius!" Jack noted as they were hustled past.
"//I never liked that c-carving,//" Claudius said, looking back at the
bust. "//It makes me look like I have a w-w-weak chin.//" A crack in the
floor caught his sandal and he stumbled, knocking into Daniel.
They were led through a door and down another hallway to some stairs,
leading down. A trio of crude doors stood in a line at the bottom, light
filtering in through a narrow window high in the wall. Sodden snores came
from behind one of the stout doors, so the deputies split them up, Daniel
and Jack in one cell and Claudius in the other.
The heavy doors were bolted securely, but the room wasn't dark. Another
small, high window let in light and air. "Hey, Claudie! Can you hear me?"
Jack shouted up at the open window, hoping a similar one opened into the
Faintly, Daniel heard, "//Daniel, tell your f-friend that my name is C-C-
Claudius. Not Claude or Claudie. And that I c-cannot understand him.//"
Dutifully, he translated, earning a chuckle from O'Neill.
"Yeah, well, I don't get him either."
The room was tiny, with a dirt floor and heavy stone walls. There was a
bench along each wall, the wood old and splintered, with a thin mattress
that reeked of sweat and urine. "Drunk tank," Daniel realized. "This
little village isn't really big enough for a prison. Probably this is just
their version of a holding cell." He turned and presented his bound wrists
to Jack. "Untie me?"
With a grunt, Jack turned and began fumbling with the knotted rope.
Hastatus had outdone himself, really, judging by O'Neill's muttered curses
and his own numbing digits. After a few minutes struggle, he was shaking
out his hands and wincing as the circulation returned. "That jerk really
has it in for you, doesn't he?"
Jack waited patiently until Daniel was at least partially recovered, then
turned and presented his hands. "Poor Claudie. Maybe the surly burleys
untied him before they shoved him next door." Daniel pulled him into the
light streaming down from their window and started picking at his knots.
"I don't think I can do this, Jack," he said after a few minutes fumbling.
"It's all one big knot. I can't see the individual strands." With a
wince, he knelt on the dirt floor and brought his face within inches of
O'Neill's bound hands. Resolutely, he started picking again, his long
fingers teasing out the coarse rope loops one by one. "So what do we do
"We wait. We also stall, try to escape, and other wise make infernal
nuisances of ourselves. Any luck back there?"
"Just about. Hang on." With a jerk, the last knot came loose and Jack was
free. The bandages around his wrists had protected them from the worst of
the coarse rope, but they needed to be changed now. Unfortunately, there
was nothing with which to replace them. Stifling a groan, Daniel stood,
then staggered, suddenly light-headed.
A firm hand caught him and guided him to the filthy bench. "Whoa, big
fella. Easy now." Gentle fingers pried up his eyelids, one then the
other. "Got some pretty even pupils there. Good. How's the head?"
Jack's face swam before him, melting in and out of focus as he tried to
force his eyes to behave.
"Better than my back right now. Both pretty sore." Truth be told, he was
sore all over. Feet to head, now. It felt good to just sit for awhile,
even if it was a little chilly. The cool damp of the wall felt good on his
inflamed back. "Did you grab my shirt, by any chance? The loincloth look
is so last week."
"Sorry, Danny. They didn't give me a chance." There was a rustle of
fabric and then a warm bundle of cloth was pressed into his hands. "Put
Touched, and a little surprised, Daniel looked down at the tunica. "Jack,
no. I'm fine. There's no need.."
"That mattress is filthy. We don't have access to antibiotics until Sam
and Teal'c get back and pull us out of here. I don't want those welts to
get infected. This is an order, Daniel." Jack was going all out, he
thought with a smile. Gruff, comanderly voice, logical argument.
Still, he felt obligated to say, "I'm a civilian, Jack."
There was a short pause, and he tried, really tried to read Jack's face.
When he succeeded, he decided he was better off not knowing. Guilt and
grief fought on that battlefield, and guilt was winning. "Hey, Jack? Stop
it." The tunic was still warm from Jack's bodyheat as Daniel slipped it
over his head. "Whatever you're thinking, cut it out. You couldn't have
gotten to me faster, couldn't have made me run faster, couldn't have
foreseen all those really *big * guys or the tripwire. The only thing you
maybe could have done different was killing Harundo. Or choosing to come
here in the first place.
"Why did you kill Harundo, by the way? Hastatus never said. I assumed it
Silence from his cellmate. "It was self-defense, right?"
The silence lengthened. Jack withdrew and sat on the bench opposite
Daniel, drawing up his legs and hugging his knees loosely. Finally, he
"Kinda?" Daniel drew his own legs up, mirroring Jack. At that distance,
he had no hope of reading O'Neill's face, so he shut his eyes and lay down
on his side on the odorous mattress, pillowing his head on his arm and
curling up his legs to conserve body heat. "Care to define 'kinda' for
Irritably, Jack said, "You're the linguist, Daniel."
"Yes," he agreed amiably, "and my knowledge of O'Neillese has expanded
amazingly over the years. All of my source books, however, are back on
base. All I have is my primary source. Luckily for me, he speaks the
language himself. So give."
"For crying out loud."
"That's not an answer," Daniel said in an annoyingly sing-song voice. He
was getting a little worried now, and sometimes Jack had to be goaded into
talking. Jack could be secretive, but this was edging into being evasive.
Daniel let the silence build, giving his friend time.
The minutes passed. The combination of fatigue and being allowed to lie
still for a few minutes on a surface that was not moving nor consisting of
dirt almost insured that Daniel would drop off. He was darn close to that
when Jack said, very softly, "He was going to rape me, Danny."
Oh. Oh, damn. His eyes still shut, Daniel just nodded, knowing that
everything he was feeling was showing in his face. "Go on." Lance the
More clotted silence, then the words came tumbling slowly out, limping to a
damned cadence. "I was tied to the ceiling and my legs were killing me
from stomping on these fucking grapes all day. Harundo left me there, the
little bastard. Couldn't sit down, couldn't lie down. He came in, late,
and he untied my loincloth and tied my hands and he started fondling me
damn it and leering at me and he wouldn't leave me alone so I kicked him."
"Good for you." There was a longer pause. "So how did he die?"
"We were up on this pressing platform where I'd been stomping grapes. He
fell off. Broke his neck. Didn't mean to do it, but I wasn't too sad
about it either."
One corner of Daniel's mouth twitched up, wryly. "I should say not."
Shocked silence from the O'Neill side of the cell, then a soft huff of
laughter. "Heh. Yeah. So, anyway, his brother has it in for me now. You
too, unfortunately, though I don't really understand why."
The bench was hard, the mattress thin, and there was no way Daniel was
going to get comfortable. He was too damn sore. Sitting up, he winced and
stretched hesitantly. His skin felt tight, and his ribs ached. "He thinks
I'm your brother." Looking up at the window, he could see shadows passing.
"Why would he think that? Unless you gave him the idea."
Daniel stood and dragged his bench over to the narrow window. "That's how
we got you out. Told Callas you were my brother, and cracked in the head."
"Hey, it worked. Don't knock success, however temporary your liberty
turned out to be."
"So what's so special about being your brother?"
Daniel climbed up and stood on tiptoe, trying to see out. "Claudius said
freeborn citizens couldn't be sold legally, under most circumstances, so he
had to let you go. I dressed up in a good tunic and toga and lied my ass
off. It worked too." Nothing but feet, human and animal, passing in front
of the building. He turned and sat, drawing his swollen ankle up on the
"Not a lot. I hope Sam and Teal'c remember to bring my glasses, when they
come back." He rubbed his eyes, palming them fiercely and wishing for
"How's the head?"
Daniel peered through the blur, wondering why Jack was asking again. It
was kind of nice, though, having someone worried for his well-being.
"Hurts a bit," he admitted at last. "I think I got a little hypoxic.
Getting better, though." Voices distracted him, coming from over his head.
"Shhh. Listen." He scrambled up again, holding his side, and tilted his
Claudius, and a woman. Talking in low, urgent tones.
"//.has gone after the master. They'll be back tonight and mean to hold
court tomorrow, when the district censor arrives. Why did you not go when
I warned you?//"
"//I had to f-free my friends. Wha-at will they d-do n-now?//"
"//Hastatus wants them dead. The master is likewise incensed against them.
Rumor passed us on the road of a battle in the vineyard, and the master is
sure to want the old soldier's life for inciting the revolt. Your Daniel's
"//He is n-not 'my D-Daniel'. He is a f-freeman. A citizen.//"
"//Then he will be spared the cross, at least. They will let him take his
own life. I fear his brother will not be so lucky.//"
Alarmed, Daniel almost fell from his perch. "What?!"
There was a flutter of red, and the woman made a sound of dismay. "//Oh!
You are here!//" She knelt before Daniel's window and pushed a bundle
through. "//It is not much. I am sorry. I must go.//"
"//Wait!//" He called after, but she was already gone. The bundle in his
arms was heavy, but not as heavy as his thoughts. 'Spared the cross?'
That was an aspect of Roman culture he had not considered even remotely
wanting to study further. He had known it was a practice here by the
stipes standing along the roadways of the towns through which they had
passed yesterday, and the ones outside of Rome. Thankfully, for his
stomach and for Sam's peace of mind, none of them had been in use at the
time. It had been a distant danger, if they failed to convince Callas of
their story, but Daniel had never really considered it seriously.
If what Vispilia said was true, it would be Jack who was.. His mind refused
to finish the thought. Just a mental image. He looked over at Jack,
curled up on his bench, bruised and sunburnt, and just couldn't wrap his
mind around it. It was too much, suddenly. Everything, this whole mission
was just too much. "One damned thing after another."
"What?" Jack asked. "What was all that about?"
"We've got to get out of here, Jack. Now. Somehow." Daniel knew he
sounded a little crazy. He felt a little crazy. Hysteria was one blink
away. The pain in his feet flared up as he stood, but he had to move, had
to pace. "Think of a way, Jack. Colonel. You can do it. Get us out of
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* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
He's losing it. I'm watching Danny lose it, Jack thought. "Um, Daniel?
Kinda stuck right now. Big door and lil' bitty window."
He chopped his hand down, cutting Jack off. "I know that. I don't care.
Think of something." The bundle in his arms was forgotten. He hugged it
to his chest and paced the length of the tiny room, then turned and stalked
back. "We have to go."
"Daniel," Jack said, trying for his attention. It didn't work. Danny
turned and took the five steps needed to bring him to the door. "Daniel."
Nothing. Turn, five steps, turn. "Daniel!" Jack stood and interposed his
body, catching the agitated anthropologist by the shoulders.
O'Neill just stood there, holding Daniel's arms, feeling the tremors begin,
keeping his eyes focused on Daniel's vague, darting, blue gaze.
Slowly, the panic faded from those eyes, and Daniel let himself be led to a
bench. Jack kept an arm around his shoulders, the shudders there faint but
perceptible. Whatever it was, it had the kid spooked, but good. Gently,
firmly, he eased the package from Daniel's arms and set it down on the
bench. "What did she say, Daniel?" The tremors grew more noticeable, and
he gave those broad shoulders a little squeeze.
Jack was getting spooked himself. Daniel did not frighten easily. Hell,
Jackson had been through a lot of shit in his life, a lot of loss and a lot
of scary situations. Had come out of it a strong, determined fighter.
When Daniel was afraid, Jack had realized long ago, he usually had a damn
"There's going to be a trial, Jack. Apparently, you incited a revolt, back
at the vineyard."
Feeling obscurely pleased, Jack said, "Hey, not such a bad thing. I am
Spartacus," he quoted with a grin.
The tremors under his arm turned into a twitch and Daniel pulled away.
"Don't joke, Jack. Do you remember what happened to Spartacus?"
A vivid memory from his movie-going childhood. The road to Rome, lined
with crucifixes and dying men. "Oh."
"Oh, is right." The worst having been said, or at least strongly implied,
Daniel seemed to collapse, slumping against Jack's side. O'Neill gathered
him up awkwardly, but not grudgingly. He needed the nearness, too. This
world was deadly, and every hand was turned against them, it seemed. "I'm
the lucky one," Daniel muttered blearily. "I get to open a vein." He
laughed once, grimly. "The joys of citizenship."
Jack tightened his arm around the huddled, suddenly much younger man, and
dropped his cheek to rest against the top of Daniel's head. "We'll get out
of here before that happens, Daniel. I promise. All we have to do is
stall 'em until Carter and Teal'c get back."
They sat like that for a time, drawing comfort in shared silence. Finally,
though, Daniel said, "Uh, Jack? Are we cuddling here?" He smiled shyly
and looked up at O'Neill's expression of fake outrage.
"Us? Cuddling? I'm sure there's an Air Force regulation or two against
it." Feeling not at all uncomfortable, despite his acting, Jack helped
Daniel to sit up. "So, what's in the package?"
"Package?" Daniel looked around myopically. "Oh, the package! I don't
know." He picked it up and unwrapped it carefully, feeling its contents
shift. "Hey, here's a shirt for you, Jack." He passed over the rumpled
linen tunic, which O'Neill gratefully pulled on. "Couple of blankets, some
dried fruit and a water-skin. Hey, breakfast!" He popped a bit of
leathery apricot in his mouth and chewed in delight. "They're spiced; try
Amazing. Terrified and in despair one moment and relishing fruit roll ups
the next. "Hand 'em over, Danny-boy. Got any dried peaches?"
Scowling, Jack grumbled, "I draw the line at anything even remotely
resembling grapes. Even dried up ones." He looked into the open package
and found another bundle. Plucking it out he opened it and found rolls of
clean fabric and a small pot of white, greasy, aromatic salve. "Your
girlfriend really likes you, Daniel. Take off your shirt."
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The horses' hooves pounded a staccato rhythm on the baked ground. Sam
crouched low over the mare's bare back and held on with her knees like her
Mom had taught her, back when Dad was based in Montana. She'd been nine,
and horse mad, she remembered. Now she blessed those wonderful hours with
the instructors as she held onto the remains of the wagon harness for dear
life and let the mare stretch her legs in a ground-eating gallop.
She'd left the main road just outside the village, on the chance that
they'd be followed. Since then, she'd been trusting the sun and Teal'c's
sense of direction to keep them going southward. Sooner or later, they'd
hit the coast, then ride east to Terracina and find a boat to either hire
or steal. She just hoped Teal'c could sail.
"MajorCarter!" Teal'c called from behind her. "Should we not turn back?"
Surprised, Sam pulled the mare to a trot, then to a walk. "No. Why do you
ask?" Slowing was a good idea, though. The horses needed to rest. They'd
been running for the better part of an hour and she could feel the heaving
muscles of the mare's trunk under her bare legs.
"We should return and aid O'Neill, DanielJackson, and Claudius."
"We will." She slid off of the mare's sweaty back and grabbed up a handful
of grass, rubbing the animal down as it stamped in the cool morning air.
"The Colonel wanted us to go on to Ponza and bring back whatever help we
could. We're outnumbered here, Teal'c."
The grass simply wasn't doing the trick. She threw it down and looked
around for an alternative. The morning breeze whipped the lengths of silk
around her legs, almost tripping her. "I've had about enough of this,
too." Looking down at her too-long tunic, Sam decided to kill two birds
with one stone. "Do you still have that knife?"
Teal'c nodded, not dismounting.
"May I borrow it? And come down for a while. Your horse is tired."
After a moment, the Jaffa pulled his knife and handed it, hilt first, to
"You are welcome." Looking impatiently over his shoulder back the way they
had come, he said, "I do not feel this is wise. Splitting our forces
weakens us." Still, he brought his leg over the bay's broad back and slid
to the ground.
"Colonel O'Neill's orders. And, I can understand them, Teal'c. Without
weapons of some kind, we can't hope to overcome those kinds of odds.
Fifteen to five, with two injured on our side, and that was last night.
More will be on the way."
"Nevertheless. It is not right to abandon the others. I will return to
"Like hell you will!" Sam glared up at the tall man. "We're going to
Ponza and we're going to find our gear or something to help the Colonel and
then we're going to high-tail it back and get them out of there, unless
they get free first, which is a real possibility. Get me?"
"The next words out of your mouth had better be 'I get you, Ma'am,' or the
Jaffa equivalent thereof."
Teal'c shut his mouth with a snap, looking down at Sam in surprise.
Well, at least she had his attention. Forcing herself to speak calmly,
persuasively, she said, "Teal'c, if you go back now, you might take out a
few of those men. You might even make it to wherever they're holding the
Colonel and Daniel. But you're going to have to kill to do it, and with
your bare hands. Those men had weapons. We don't. They had the advantage
of numbers and ground. We don't. Our only advantage lies in the fact that
we know the truth about this place, and where to go to get help. Or at
least the firepower needed to make an impression on the yokels. And, if
the 'Gate is on Ponza like Daniel says, we can bring reinforcements."
She couldn't hope to stop him physically, if her argument had failed. To
her great relief, after a few moments of mental nail biting on her part, he
inclined his head in agreement. "I get you, MajorCarter. Kel'cha."
Allowing herself a quick nod of satisfaction, she turned her attention to
the next thing that was causing aggravation. Her floor length tunic, which
was almost impossible to manage on horseback, needed some adjustment.
With a purely mental wince, and with a heartfelt apology to the weavers,
she cut into the beautiful silk tunic at just above knee height and tore it
evenly around. "Much better. I can ride now." She cut two large squares
from the yardage she had in her hand and handed one to Teal'c. "Wipe the
sweat off. Go with the grain of the coat, rather than against it." She
demonstrated, drawing the fabric firmly over the black hide of her mare.
It leaned into her touch, rumbling appreciatively.
After a moment watching her, Teal'c followed suit. "These are strange
animals." The bay stamped and whikered, startling him, and Sam hid a
"Don't listen to him, Fidelis," she said to her mount. The black ears
swiveled to her and the mare blew out a breath. "Let them graze for a bit,
then we need to find water. After that, we hit the road." Sam bent and
lifted a hoof, checking for splits or stones.
"There is no road here, MajorCarter." Teal'c was rubbing down the bay with
strong, sure strokes. "And if we were to find one, and then hit it, would
that not be painful?"
Hoof in hand, Sam looked up at the impassive face and suspected her chain
had just been yanked. No clues in that poker face, though. She chose to
answer the comment by not answering. "Check the hooves, like I'm doing.
Put pressure behind the knee and lift up on the hoof, then look for cracks
or stones. We don't want them going lame."
They spent about a half-hour letting the horses graze and rest. "When we
get to a town, we should get some blankets or something to put between the
horses and us." Finding a convenient log, she clambered gracelessly onto
the mare and noted the sun's position. "Let's go." The race south began
The day passed like that, riding and resting in turns. Despite her words
to Teal'c, Sam couldn't help but feel she was riding in the wrong
direction. Each mile farther from her team was harder to accept, yet she
had to go on. Her words to Teal'c had been nothing but the truth. Still,
she couldn't help wishing for her Triumph. Or a tel'tac. Or her sidearm.
If wishes were horses, she thought, topping a hill, and looked with relief
at the distant blue of the sea. Guiding the mare to the left, she put the
sea at their right and hoped they were not too far west. Sam urged the
mare faster, the sun now to her right and skimming the waves. She had
hoped to make Terracina by nightfall and it looked like that might just
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
A muffled noise in the corridor outside startled Jack awake. He rubbed his
eyes, noting that Daniel was still asleep, sprawled over the bench on his
stomach. The light was different and O'Neill wondered how much time had
passed. He hadn't meant to sleep, but there really wasn't much else to do
in the little cell.
Craning his neck, he could see a small sliver of sky through the window.
It looked like late afternoon, early evening by the light. Sam and Teal'c
should be a fair ways toward Panzer; at the very least, they were far from
here, which suited Jack nicely.
The heavy wooden door swung open with a loud creak. Jack scrambled to his
feet and faced the crowd of people at the door, Daniel at his back.
Masking his apprehension with anger and scorn, he said, "Don't you people
Next moment, he found himself pinioned against the wall by two big guys
with bad breath, his arm twisted high up on his back. He tried pushing
back, but they just twisted his arm up higher, making him stand on tiptoe
to escape the pain. "Hey! Ow! Okay! I'm not movin'."
Daniel had awakened at the scuffle and was sitting on the bench, holding
very still. Jack craned his neck and watched as a lithe young man stalked
into the room, followed by Claudius and a man in a green tunic and toga,
who looked vaguely familiar. Claudius looked very uncomfortable, and stood
silently at the back of the crowd. Jack wondered what the hell he was
doing here. Was he free? Were they? The hand on his screaming wrist and
shoulder said otherwise.
The youth stood before Daniel and said something in a teasing tone of
voice. The man in the toga answered him gruffly and nodded at O'Neill.
The vineyard, he remembered. The jerk in the litter, and then on the hill.
His 'master.' Jack decided to ignore the man and turned his head
painfully to focus on Daniel.
The young man was reaching out and trailing his hand through Daniel's hair
in a leering caress. With a wrench of his head, Daniel drew away. He
lowered his eyes and murmured something that made the man laugh. Then,
like a striking snake, he drew his belt knife and held it to Daniel's
throat, hissing a stream of harsh words into his ear.
Alarmed, Jack threw his weight backward, but he was pinioned tightly. They
were taking no chances. He swore at the guards and they cuffed the back of
his head, bouncing it off the wall to silence him. Undaunted, he kicked
backward and connected with something soft. The guard on his right
grunted; the one on his left jabbed a hard fist into his kidneys and kicked
the back of his knee. Stunned, silenced, winded with the pain in his side,
Jack felt his knees buckle. The hard hands would not let him fall, though.
He was pinned to the wall like a damned bug.
Claudius stepped forward, then, and laid his hand on the youth's arm. He
spoke quickly, haltingly and the knife fell away. The youth sneered down
at Daniel and turned and flounced out. Claudius smiled apologetically and
followed, leaving the man in the toga and the two surly burleys behind.
At a word, the thugs released Jack, and he half fell, half sat on the
bench, clutching his aching shoulder. The man in the toga stood over Jack,
hatred radiating off of the man like a fever. He spoke not a word, but
handed Jack a heavy pouch. "Fatum tui. Aspicio."
Quietly, Daniel said, "He says it's your fate. What is it, Jack?"
With his stiff fingers, O'Neill opened the stiff leather pouch and drew out
four iron spikes, each about eight inches long. "What the hell?" He
looked up at the grimly smiling man, who plucked the pouch from his
nerveless hands and tucked it into a fold of his toga.
"Cras, fugitivus," he said, and strolled out, followed by the two guards.
The door slammed shut behind them, leaving two shaken men in the cell.
"What the hell was all that about?" Jack demanded. The spikes had made his
skin crawl, holding them. There had been stains on them that he did not
think were rust. He wiped his hands on his shirt, trying to rid himself of
the sensation, but it didn't help. "Who was that little guy with the
knife? What was he saying to you?"
"What was in the pouch, Jack?" Daniel's voice was soft, and a little
scared. "He said it was your fate, that something would happen tomorrow."
"Well, that trial thing, for one, right?" Jack was really wishing for a
bar of lava and some good, hot water. Some of the red flakes had gotten
under his nails. Distracted, he picked at them. "What was all the
talking? I need translations, Daniel."
Stubbornly, Daniel said, "The pouch, Jack."
Anger flared, fear close behind it. "Daniel, there's times I really wish I
could give you orders!" He glared at the younger man, who glared defiantly
back at a point just over Jack's shoulder.
O'Neill's anger fled, replaced by a sort of sick dread. "Daniel? You
Wide blue eyes flicked around the room, but did not meet his. "You're
changing the subject, Jack." He was sitting tensely, perched on the edge
of the bench. Even in the dimming light, Jack could see the tension in his
limbs, the white knuckled grip on the bench.
"Never mind the damn pouch, Danny. Have your eyes gotten worse?"
"No," he said quickly. "I'm fine. Things are a little blurrier, and the
darker it gets, the less I can see. Nothing new. To answer your question,
the kid who came in is Gaius, also known as Caligula. He identified me as
a slave of the imperial family, and asked me where Sam was. When I didn't
tell him, he got testy." He was changing the subject; O'Neill had a
feeling he was a hell of a long way from being fine. Still, if that was
how he needed to cope, Jack was prepared to cut the man some slack.
He kept his voice light and said, "Testy, huh? What happens when he gets
"You don't want to know," Daniel said grimly. "The other fellow is your
former owner, Callas. He identified you as his and said you would meet
your fate tomorrow. Now," he leaned forward and said, "what was in the
Jack noted with relief that Daniel's eyes were tracking again. He pinned
Jack's gaze as securely as Jack had been pinned to the wall, earlier. Jack
took a deep breath and said, "Nails. Big ones. Four of them. Are they
for what I think they're for?"
Wordlessly, Daniel nodded.
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The slim form of his nephew glided up the steps ahead of him. "//Uncle
Claudius, how do you get yourself into these fixes?//" Caligula said over
his shoulder. "//If I hadn't come along when I did, you might have spent
the night in that dreadful little room.//"
Claudius stopped on the stairs and looked back at the door behind which his
new friends were held. "//Gaius, w-we'll speak l-later. I need to talk
"//D-Daniel? D-dear D-Daniel will be c-crow food in a few days, Uncle. He
kidnapped you, masqueraded as a citizen, and conspired with that grim
friend of his to commit murder! They're lucky to be getting a trial.//"
Caligula turned on the stair and tucked his arm around Claudius' shoulder.
"//Let's go see what there is to do in this quaint little town, or at least
if they have a decent room to let for the night.//" He drew the older man
after him, steering him up the stairs.
"//No! I mean.//" he looked into the angry, dangerous face his nephew
sometimes envisaged. "//Y-you go on. I n-n-need to ask questions before
the tr-rial.//" He pulled away gently and limped back down the stairs, his
shoulder blades itching. "//I'll catch up l-later.//" Gaius had never
turned that flashing anger on him, but Claudius had the uneasy feeling that
his age and infirmity would not stay the young, unbalanced man for much
Thankfully, the next sound he heard was merry laughter, and not the hiss of
a dagger being unsheathed. He sighed softly and wondered for the
thousandth time how so bright a flame as Germanicus could have ever
fathered such a black soul as his nephew's. Sending a quick prayer up to
the gods for his long dead brother, Claudius motioned for the guard to open
the cell door. Dubiously, the man did so, drawing it open with a gruff
"//Thank you. Wha-at's your name?//"
The guard was taken aback somewhat, but answered readily enough.
Claudius smothered a smile, but the man saw anyway and grinned sheepishly.
"//Mater had hopes for me as a soldier. She thought if I had to live down
my name, it would make me all the more fierce.//" He shrugged expansively.
"//It worked, I suppose, but I never made it into the service.//"
"//A p-pity. Well, Mansuetus, w-would you d-do me a courtesy? I have had
nothing to eat today and I am famished. C-could you have some food s-
The mild faced man shook his head sadly. "//Orders are no food for the
prisoners, nor water.//"
"//Ah, but it isn't f-for them, now is it?//" Claudius winked and opened
his money pouch, which had been returned amazingly intact when Caligula had
arrived. Teasing out a silver denaris, he let his hands twitch. The
guard's eyes followed the gleaming bit of metal as it flew into a corner.
He looked back at Claudius and nodded.
"//True enough, and you're not a prisoner anymore. I'll see what I can
do.//" He moved to the foot of the stairs and called for another guard to
relive him, scooping up the little coin as he went.
The cell was darkening as the sun set. The Colonel and Daniel were still
sitting on the rickety benches, but O'Neill stood as Claudius entered,
moving between him and Daniel defensively before he saw who it was. When
he did, the soldier did not bother to hide his contempt, nor his anger.
"What are you doing here?"
"Who is it?" Daniel asked, looking around O'Neill's hip.
"I-it is myself, Daniel," he said. "//We need to talk, and I do n-not yet
speak your language well enough. Your C-Colonel is angry, I can see.
Please tell him what I'm saying before he b-beats me.//"
With a somewhat bemused expression, Daniel spoke to his friend. Claudius
understood one word in ten, but enough to know his message had been
received. The Colonel turned baleful, but curious eyes on him and said,
"//Start with how you're out of your cell and we're still in ours. Jack
wants to know. It's something to do with Caligula being here, isn't it?//"
Nodding, Claudius said, "//It has everything to do with that. Apparently,
he was s-sent after me when I wa-as, eventually, missed.//" Actually, his
nephew had been planning a trip to Capri and had been asked to keep an eye
out for his wayward uncle on the way. "//He stayed over at the Drunken
Carter and heard about the r-revolt Callas was busily putting down. Being
the helpful lad he is,//" Claudius grimaced, "//he decided to investigate
and got the wh-hole story on your, our, escape and flight s-south.//"
Shortly after they had fled the inn, the slaves in the vineyard had turned
on their stewards. Many had made it free; others chose to exact
retribution on their master and attacked Callas' villa en masse. Between
the soldiers Caligula had brought along to guard him from attack on the
road, and the remaining stewards, the revolt was brought to a rapid close.
The ringleaders were being executed even now, crucified to make an example
to the rest of Callas' slaves. Daniel grew even paler when Claudius told
them of this, and the Colonel looked grim.
"//There is to be a trial tomorrow. The call for j-jurors is going out
now. I w-would represent you but m-m-my nephew has convinced the c-consul
that I am half-witted. This is why I can m-move freely. They think I was
All charges against Claudius had been dropped, though he was more than a
little angry at his nephew for being so high-handed. His reputation for
idiocy was an edged blessing. On the one hand he would not be tried for
conspiracy. On the other hand, his friends would be without
representation, and Claudius' testimony was likely to be overlooked. He
knew it had kept him safe within the poisoned bosom of his insane family,
but for the first time in many years Claudius regretted his assumed
"//I can probably handle it, Claudius,//" Daniel said.
A light knock on the door. It opened to the smells of cooked meats and
fresh bread. "//M-Mansuet-tus, my fierce f-friend, I thank you for my
dinner,//" Claudius exclaimed, rubbing his hands together over the sight of
the overflowing tray. A bulging, gurgling sack was slung over one brawny
shoulder, though there was only one cup on the tray. The Colonel edged
away from the guard, giving him room to set the tray down.
Smiling mildly down at the old soldier, the guard said, "//Sorry about
earlier, friend. I hope I didn't hurt your arm. Orders, you
O'Neill looked both surprised and contemplative as Daniel murmured his
translation, nodding in response. The guard smiled serenely and left his
lamp on the floor by the door as he left.
"//Eat, eat!//" Claudius urged, and the two men wasted no time digging into
Giving them a few minutes in peace, Claudius found himself wondering anew
at these strange people. Daniel had told him they were from another world,
a world that had experienced Roma in it's distant past. He had wondered
about the man's sanity for a time, until meeting up with Teal'c. He had
expressed his incredulity, his doubts, and the dark warrior had shown him.a
thing. A hissing creature that lived in the warrior's gut. Claudius had
never seen the like, nor heard of anything like it in all his reading.
After seeing that thing, that Goa'uld as Daniel had named it, he had to
believe. And, believing their story, he had to believe so many other
things. Things he really did not want to contemplate right now. Their
world viewed the Gods as myths, for one. Fables taught to schoolchildren.
Sending a prayer up to Jove to apologize for any accidental blasphemy,
Claudius wondered if Daniel was right about the Gods. Certainly, they did
not speak to mortals as they once did.
There was also the troubling issue of slavery. Daniel had said that
everyone on his world is born free. There are no slaves, although there
had been once. Now, it was illegal. Perhaps something could be made of
that argument at the trial tomorrow.
He was very afraid, though, that the outcome of the trial was a forgone
conclusion. Callas was out for blood, and the law was on the side of the
accusers, no matter how free the accused had been born. The Emperor looked
harshly on people who upset the status quo, however accidentally.
"//Thanks for dinner, Claudius,//" Daniel said. "//They haven't fed us;
Jack was getting a little hungry.//" Judging by the way the younger man
was inhaling his meal, that hunger had been mutual between them. Claudius
contented himself with one cup of wine, and handed the rest back to the two
men. Jack looked at the sloshing skin with disgust, and said something to
Daniel, who wrinkled his nose. "//Jack says they never made him wash his
feet. I think I'll pass, too.//" He handed the skin back to Claudius, who
shrugged and topped off his cup.
"//D-Do you have a plan? Where did S-Sam and Teal'c go?//"
Looking to Jack for permission, Daniel told him. "//They should be back in
a few days with help, or at least some weapons. We plan to stall until
then, and escape ourselves if an opportunity arises.//"
Claudius shook his head. "//They will not let you have that opportunity.
Callas has filled the Magistrate's ears with how d-dangerous the Colonel
is, how he killed a strong man with only his feet. You will both be
closely w-watched, and guarded at all times.//"
"Great," said Jack, nibbling on a bit of orange peel. "So we stall."
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The sun had slipped behind the hills at their back, but the light remained
for a time. They threaded their way through the busy port town of
Terracina, leading the tired horses. Just outside the city, Sam had taken
the precaution of disguising herself and Teal'c. She'd ducked behind some
bushes and wound the remaining lengths of silk from her tunic around her
breasts, flattening them. Her hair was short enough that she should be
able to pass as a young man, if no one looked too closely. A strip of
cloth also encircled Teal'c's brow, hiding the gold brand on his brow.
When she emerged from the bushes, Teal'c had raised an eyebrow at her
changed appearance. "I do not think that compressing your breasts will be
a sufficient disguise, MajorCarter." He stepped up and undid the belt at
her waist, letting the folds of fabric hide her hips and waist. "Better.
But if your intention is to appear male, you must walk differently and not
speak too much." Sam was obscurely pleased that the man had noticed, but
did not comment.
They decided their cover story had best be simple, and one that would allow
Teal'c to do most of the talking. Ponza, they had discovered in talking to
people in town, was something of a resort. There was a small town there
where wealthy Roman citizens kept summer villas, and there was a lively
tourist trade. With this in mind, Sam constructed their cover story.
Teal'c was a retired gladiator from the provinces, going to the island for
a vacation before continuing on to Rome, and Sam was his valet. It was
simple, and had the added benefit of explaining the glaring differences in
skin tone and dress.
Now that they were in the city, Sam decided they need not have worried too
much. There was such a variety of people passing though the port town,
they hardly stood out. Still, the cover story might make things easier
when trying to find a ride out to the island. "We need to sell the horses,
Teal'c. Or find a place to board them until we get back. We also need
In response Teal'c took the mare's reins in his big hand and handed Sam his
money pouch. "Where shall we meet, MajorCarter?"
She looked around for a moment in thought. "The docks. I'll probably be
done before you will. Find me, okay?" Teal'c inclined his head and
disappeared into the crowd.
It only took one haggling session over the price of a cloth rucksack to
make Sam wish she hadn't sent Teal'c off. The woman had wanted three of
the little silver coins, and when she found out Sam didn't speak much
Latin, she wouldn't be budged down from that. Glaring at the woman, she
shoved the three coins across the counter and shouldered the bag. The
sound of scornful laughter followed her as she went to find a baker.
Daniel would have probably been right at home in this place, Sam thought.
The open-air market was a chattering, lively place even in the growing
dusk. It reminded her of the markets in Iraq, right down to the colorful
canopies that shaded the vendors and the tantalizing, and less than
tantalizing smells. With memories of haggling in those markets in mind,
she made a better job of her next purchases, relying on hand signals to
bargain the price down on several flat loaves of bread, some dried meat, a
bag of hard little apples and another bag of olives.
The rucksack was getting heavy and her money pouch was getting light. Her
feet were also getting sore. Wishing for sneakers, she looked hopefully
around for a cobbler. Sneakers would be great, but sandals were probably
the best she could hope for, and she was getting tired of traipsing around
this place barefoot. After a few minutes wandering, she found what she was
Evidently a prosperous merchant, the cobbler had an actual storefront as
opposed to a tent in the market. A large sandal hung outside the shop,
advertising what was sold within. Sam pushed the door open and stepped
into the dim, slightly cooler interior. Lamps hung from the ceiling in a
smoky perfusion, lighting the place with a soothing, honey-toned
Looking around, though, she almost turned and left; this was not a shop for
the average person. The floor was covered with brightly colored rugs and
cushioned couches beckoned the foot weary Major to sit, if only for a
moment. She slung her backpack off and sank down onto the plush bench with
a sigh, running her hand over the soft linen in appreciation. She'd sit
for just a moment, she decided, and then go in search of someplace less
Just as she had gotten comfortable, the curtain at the back of the store
twitched open and a tiny, gray-haired man scurried out, hands waving and
talking a mile a minute. That lasted until he got a good look at the
person on his couch. She saw him take in her torn tunic, her grubby feet
and general air of weariness. Fully expecting him to shoo her summarily
out of his den, she stood with a wince and picked up her pack.
To her surprise, though, he laid a hand on her arm and smiled up at her.
"Sedea, sedea. Hospes vos." She sat obediently, which brought them eye to
eye. "Egere calci, hmm?" This was going to be frustrating, she thought,
then had an idea.
Putting her hands over her ears, Sam shook her head, then covered her mouth
and did the same. If the man thought she couldn't hear or speak, they
would have to rely on something other than her iffy command of his
language. He caught her meaning quickly and he looked at her with wide,
bright, sympathetic eyes. Lifting a sandal from a display of similar ones,
he pointed to Sam's filthy feet, then to Sam.
She nodded. He smiled and bustled about, finding a size that would fit her
feet. Despite her assumed deafness, the man kept up a steady stream of
chatter as he scurried around the shop, then disappeared into the back.
After a few moments, he returned with a basin of warm water and a cloth
over one shoulder. Kneeling at her feet, he picked up one foot and gently
immersed it, clucking over the thickening callus on her heel. He rubbed
lightly scented oil into her skin, kneading the day's aches away with
strong fingers before rinsing and drying her with soft pats of the towel.
I think I'm in love, Sam thought. She smiled her thanks at the tiny man,
who patted her knee and held up a sandal for her inspection.
After several pairs, most of which were discarded by the cobbler for one
obscure reason or another, they settled on a pair of sturdy brown sandals
with horses carved into the leather. Sam wiggled her toes, then smiled as
the little man drew the laces expertly up her calves and tied them. He
grinned up at her and stood, then paused in thought. Sensing his trouble,
Sam opened her money pouch and withdrew a silver coin. She held up three
fingers, a sum much too small to be accepted but a good starting point for
To her surprise, he held up two fingers. Quickly, before he changed his
mind, she fished out another coin and dropped them in his hand. He tucked
them into his sash, then looked up at her shyly. With an unreadable smile,
he took Sam's hand and drew her to her feet, pulling her gently toward the
curtained back room. His ancient face was alive with invitation and
Alarmed, she drew back, reclaiming her hand and shaking her head. The man
looked disappointed, and a little hurt, but did not press the issue.
Instead he took her hand once again and kissed it, patting it softly before
releasing it. Her alarm fled, leaving a kind of bittersweet wonder in its
wake. She wished she had more time to know this strange little cobbler,
but Teal'c was no doubt waiting for her on the dock. Gathering up her
backpack, she wiggled her toes in the amazingly comfortable sandals and
turned to go.
One hand on the door, she looked back into the shop. The wizened elf was
blowing out the lamps, one by one, and chattering happily to himself once
again. Seeing her pause, he blew her a kiss and winked, shooing her away
with a languid wave. She grinned and ducked back out into the darkening
night to find Teal'c.
Following her nose, she eventually found the dock district. It was bigger
than she had envisioned, and bustling in the waning light. Stevedores
carried cargo on and off of low-slung ships, and the smell of fish and
brine was everywhere. Sam wrinkled her nose and tried to breathe through
her mouth. Moving like she had a purpose, she snaked along the piers and
berths, looking for any sign of her teammate.
From one end of the docks to the other, she searched, but there was no sign
of the big Jaffa. Deciding he must not have finished his horse trading
yet, Sam spent a brass coin on a bowl of fish stew and another for a small
loaf of coarse bread, warm from the shopkeeper's oven. She seated herself
at one of the open-air tables and hoped Teal'c would find her soon.
She did not have long to wait. She had just popped the last bit of bread
in her mouth when she saw the tall Jaffa, wandering along the waterline.
Licking her fingers, she shouldered the backpack and made her way through
the crowds to his side. "Hey, Teal'c. What kept you?"
"MajorCarter. I regret the delay, but I am pleased to inform you that I
have found a ship leaving this hour for Ponza. I have negotiated passage
for us both."
Impressed, she said, "All right, Teal'c! Lead the way."
The ship was a square sailed merchant vessel. According to Teal'c, it made
regular runs to Ponza, carrying goods and passengers to the little island
twice a week. The trip would take a day, depending on the wind.
Sam did some mental calculations and realized that would have them back to
the Colonel in four days, at a minimum, if they found passage back
immediately. She just hoped they found what they needed quickly and that
the Colonel and Daniel could hold out until their return.
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Daniel scratched his chin and wished he and Jack had been allowed a trip to
the barber before this trial began. Jack looked rumpled and disreputable
enough, with several days' growth of beard and those bruises. The linguist
knew he did not look that much better. Thanks to Vispilia's salve, neither
of them was in much pain, but that was the best that could be said of their
physical condition. They had been collected by a troop of wary soldiers
and marched up the stairs at dawn. Now they sat on marble benches in an
open courtyard, waiting for the jurors to assemble.
"Nice place," Jack said, looking around. Daniel peered at the green blobs
that were probably plants, and the tall white blobs that he guessed were
columns, and wordlessly agreed. The fountain made a nice sound, he
thought, and wished he could go wash his face and take a nice long drink.
Somehow, though, he thought such behavior would be frowned upon.
He shifted on the hard bench, drumming his fingers on the cool surface, and
wondered where Claudius had gotten off to. He'd left them around midnight,
promising to meet them in the morning, but there was no sign of him yet.
Jack put his hand over Daniel's drumming fingers, flattening them gently.
"Cut it out. You're making me nervous."
"Sorry." He crossed his arms loosely, careful not to wake the pain in his
back. "I just hate waiting like this."
"Stalling, remember? They can take as long as they like. I'll sit here
all day and not complain."
That put things into perspective. Daniel found a reserve of patience and
stillness, tapped into it, and found himself settling down. He even
slipped into a light doze at one point, waking only when Jack nudged him in
the ribs. "Hey, Claudie!" O'Neill chirped happily.
The Roman looked considerably fresher than Jackson felt; he'd obviously
been to the local baths and availed himself of a clean tunic and toga.
Frowning as he crossed the courtyard, he said, "//Claudius. M-My name is
Claudius. Not C-C-Claudie.//"
Leveling a quelling glare at Jack, Daniel said, "//He only teases people he
likes, Claudius. Do not be affronted. It is his way.//"
Pausing in his limping advance, Claudius said, "//Truly? I had the
impression the Colonel did not c-care for me.//" He sat heavily on a
padded stool one of the guards had placed nearby for his use.
"What's he saying, Daniel?" Jack asked, hating to be left out of anything.
Daniel replied, "He thinks you don't like him."
"What gave him that idea?" O'Neill looked genuinely surprised.
"Well, when you first met.."
Jack interrupted with a grimace. "When we first met, I wasn't really
myself. Anyone with an Italian accent would have set me off. Tell him I
like him just fine." He smiled reassuringly at the Roman as Daniel relayed
A commotion at the door drew their attention. "//I have a right to be
here. You cannot deny me!//" Daniel flinched as he recognized the voice.
"What the hell does that bastard want now?" Jack growled at his side.
Feeling comforted by his friend's presence, Daniel just shrugged and wished
the man would go away.
No such luck, though. He shoved past the guards and into the room, taking
up a position by the door. Daniel avoided looking at the man, but could
not make himself totally ignore him either. So much of their problems now
were due to Hastatus. He was a silent, baleful presence in the room and
Daniel found himself staring at the man, trying to read him.
"//What are you staring at, servi?//" the man asked with a sneer in his
"//You are as much as slave as I, Hastatus. More, since I was born free.
What do you want?//"
"//To watch you die, dog. That's all.//"
There was something in the man's accent, something tickling the back of
Daniel's mind. Shrugging off Jack's warning hand, Daniel stood and walked
closer to the slouched figure. The guards tensed, but Daniel ignored them,
squinting to bring the swarthy face into focus. In the light, the man did
not look Roman at all. He looked more like the native workers Daniel
remembered from his childhood in Giza.
"Daniel! What are you doing? Get back here!" Jack said, exasperation
filling his words with tension.
"Just a second, Jack. //Hastatus, where were you born?//"
The big man looked surprised, the hateful sneer that twisted his lip
vanished for the moment. "//Why do you ask?//"
Licking his lips, Daniel said, in Late Egyptian, "** Because I think I grew
up in the same neighborhood. **"
Hastatus was silent for a long moment, then said, suspiciously, "** You are
a scribe. A scholar. You have studied my people, yes? **"
"Daniel.." the warning was clear in Jack's voice, but Daniel's inner
linguist had come out to play.
"He's speaking a pre-Coptic dialect of Egyptian, Jack. That's been a dead
language ever since the Arab conquest of Egypt in 640 AD. This is to
modern Egyptian what Latin is to us: a root language." Turning back to
Hastatus, Daniel said, "** It's true, I have made a study of your people.
But I was also born in Egypt. In Letopolis. Khem. How long..**"
Before he could finish his sentence, Hastatus closed the distance between
them. Startled, Daniel backed up, nearly colliding with a potted fig tree.
"** I do not care to hear any more from you, dog. You are excrement
beneath my shoe. You are carrion that yet lives and breathes. Your trial
starts soon, and will end soon I think. Go back to your murdering friend
and make peace with your Gods. **" With that, he turned and resumed his
place beside the door.
Shaken, Daniel walked back to his bench and sat down, holding onto the cold
marble for stability. "That man has a talent for hate."
Not too much later, a guard came and collected them. Once again surrounded
by armed soldiers, they were moved from the courtyard to the adjacent
building. The large, open forum was filled with milling figures despite
the early hour. The jurors, a motley bunch of yawning men, sat on benches
along one wall. The Magistrate sat at his table at the front of the room,
along with Callas and the Consul, a bland looking man with bad skin.
Claudius led the way to a line of tables opposite the jury benches.
Caligula was waiting for them, lounging languidly across his chair.
"//Good morning, Uncle. And good morning, esteemed clients. You look more
in need of a bath than ever, Daniel of Letopolis. A shave would not be
"//Clients?//" Daniel turned to Claudius, who nodded tiredly.
He did not get a chance to say anything more. As soon as they were seated,
the Magistrate called for silence. The milling spectators settled down and
Callas stood to make his case.
He soon had the room spellbound with an exciting tale of murder, the
kidnapping of a member of the imperial family, deceit, revolution, and
conspiracy. Daniel and Jack were painted as the evil instigators of a
homicidal attack on Callas' family, culminating in the deaths of several
trusted stewards, both slave and freeborn. "//The slave, Daniel, dared to
masquerade as a citizen, wearing the toga of a patrician. He claimed that
the man who murdered my steward, Harundo, was a veteran and enslaved by
error. I freed the man in good faith, thinking the error had been mine. I
learned some time after that I had been duped, and my slave had been stolen
from me. By that time, they had fled and my own slaves were in open
The jurors muttered among themselves. Caligula yawned.
"Why doesn't he say anything?" Jack whispered to Daniel.
Having been wondering this himself, Daniel said, "I don't think it's his
With a glare at the whispering men, Callas continued, "//Honored Consul, if
these men had not escaped in the night, they would be joining those of my
stock already executed. The only reason they are receiving a hearing here
is due to an ill-considered plea on the part of the Emperor's nephew,
Tiberius Claudius. I ask that they be given over to me for punishment as
soon as the jurors reach the inevitable decision on their guilt.//"
Turning his head, Caligula said in Daniel's ear, "//My, you *have * been
busy.//" With an evil little smile, he added, "//Are you certain you do
not know where that delicious sister of yours has gotten off to? No? Ah,
Climbing out of his sprawl, the youth bowed to the Magistrate's table with
a mocking grace. "//If it please you, Honored Consul, Magistrate Timos, I
truly have little to say in the face of such eloquence. The guilt of my
clients is obvious..//"
"//NO!//" Daniel shot up, pounding the table to drown out the sneering
voice. "//It is not obvious!//"
"Daniel, what are you doing?" Jack tried to pull the younger man down, but
"He's throwing the case, Jack. He just gave us to them. I have to do
something, say something. Courts of law are different here; they don't
have to prove anything, just convince the jury." Daniel looked at the
angry faces at the front of the room, and the closed faces of the jurors.
"I have to try, Jack."
O'Neill's hands twitched, released the clutch they had held on Daniel's
shirt. "Make it good, Danny."
Warmed by his friend's trust, Daniel edged around the table. The guards at
the corners of the room surged forward, their hands on their daggers and
Daniel stopped, raising his hands. "//Please. I only wish to speak.//"
The lead guard looked to the Magistrate, who nodded and motioned him back.
To Daniel, he said, "//You have no rights here. You realize this, yes?//"
Swallowing nervously, Daniel nodded, conceding the point.
"//Good. That being said, we will hear what you have to say on the behalf
of yourself and your coconspirator. Let it not be said that this court
deprived anyone of life without a due hearing. Since your counsel,//" he
stopped and glared at the petulant look on Caligula's face, "//has not seen
fit to argue your case, I will allow you to do so.//"
"//Thank you, Magistrate Timos.//" He looked over his shoulder at Jack and
Taking a deep breath, Daniel closed his eyes and gathered his thoughts.
"//Some of what Callas said is true,//" he began. "//I did lie to him to
free my friend. It is also true, by his words to me, that Jack killed the
steward Harundo. I submit to you, however, that any free man here would
have acted as we have done.//"
"//But you are not free men, boy,//" Callas said angrily.
Daniel shook his head. "//Oh, but we are. Free born and, until a few days
ago, free citizens of a mighty nation. A nation that holds no slaves and
where the practice has been outlawed for many years.//" Laughter rippled
through the crowd at his words. "//It's true. We came freely to this land
and were taken into slavery by force and deceit. Would not any of you try
to regain your liberty under the same circumstances?//"
The pasty-faced Consul bridged his hands together and said, with an
unctuous smile, "//If you were taken, duped as you say, then it is your own
fault. Gaius Julius, son of the noble Germanicus and the Emperor's nephew,
has identified you as the lawfully purchased property of the Imperial
household. Callas, a landowner of great reputation, lays claim to the man
you have claimed as your brother.//" He shuffled through his documents,
searching for something. "//I do not see his name here. Callas, the
"//Hastatus called him Milesitis Senex, but I do not know his true name,
"//His name is Colonel Jack O'Neill,//" Daniel said. "//And he is not a
Not unkindly, the Magistrate said, "//By our laws, he is. You both are. No
good cursing the tide, boy.//"
"//I have no choice, Honored Timos.// Daniel forced his fists to unclench,
ran shaking fingers through his hair, and took a deep breath. He turned at
looked back at Jack, sitting tense and focused. Remembered the pouch of
nails, and Callas' promise, and wished desperately for inspiration.
His gazed flicked to Claudius, who was writing furiously on a wax tablet.
Curious, Daniel stepped back to the table as Claudius turned the tablet
around for him to read.
Epictetus. //Be suspicious of convention// He looked sharply up at the
Roman, who just shrugged and motioned Daniel to turn and get on with it.
"//Claudius, how do you know of Epictetus?//" Daniel said in a low voice.
"//He was, will be born, in about thirty years, your time.//"
A look of pained confusion passed over Claudius' face, then it cleared.
"//I d-do not know how I kn-now of him. Does it m-matter?//"
"//It might,// Daniel decided quickly, "//but not right now.//" He turned
and addressed the court. "//With your permission, I would like to speak
the words of one of the great thinkers of this age.//"
The Magistrate nodded, glaring at the fidgeting Consul. "//You may.//"
"//Epictetus tells us to be suspicious of convention. To take charge of
our thinking and rouse ourselves from the daze of unexamined habit.
Popular perceptions, values, and ways of doing things are rarely the
wisest. Conventional thinking is essentially uncreative and uninteresting.
Its job is to preserve the status quo for overly self-defended individuals
and institutions, such as the institution of slavery.
"//Socially taught beliefs are frequently unreliable. The only life worth
living is one that is examined and vigilantly chosen, rather than
acquiesced to in apathy. With this in mind, honored citizens, I ask you to
place yourselves within the context of our experience and honestly examine
whether you would not have acted accordingly.//"
He turned now and directly addressed the jurors. "//My friend and I were
taken unawares and sold into slavery. Until that moment, we were as free
as you are now. In the span of an hour, sleeping to waking, we were
separated from our friends and deprived of liberty, dignity, and legal
recourse. Jack was subjected to harsh abuse, on a whim, of which he yet
bears the marks. Had he not defended himself from his tormentor, far
worse would have happened to him.//"
This was getting nowhere, by the looks on the bored faces of the jurymen.
Time to make it personal. "//If I were to tell you, sir,// he pointed to a
yawning man in the front row, who sat up with a glare, "//that as of this
moment you were owned by the man next to you, what would be your response?
Or if your dearest child, traveling to a distant land, had been taken by
bandits and sold, would you not move the heavens to retrieve him?//"
They were looking thoughtful now, and the crowd was murmuring at his back.
Yes, he thought, walk a mile in my shoes. Of course, I don't have any
shoes right now.. Focus, Jackson.
"//Our one desire is to go home. To return to our friends and resume our
lives far from here. Is there one of you, even one, who would not desire
the same, were you in our place? Who would not take whatever action
necessary to regain your liberty? I think you would do the same as any
person who was free in his mind, but not before the eyes of the law. Think
on it, honored citizens.//"
He bowed to the jurors, then to the Magistrate and the silent Consul, and
walked back to the defendant's table. His hands were shaking, and a whole
legion of militant butterflies had established a base in his gut. He
smiled wanly at Jack as he took his seat. "I didn't understand a word,"
O'Neill whispered, "but it sounded impressive. What did you say?"
"Told 'em to walk a mile in my moccasins, essentially. I think it went
well." Claudius still looked grim, though.
The murmurs were growing louder, and once again the Magistrate called for
silence. "//The accused will be returned to their cells while this court
considers the eloquent arguments of both sides. We will re-convene this
Back in the tiny cell, Daniel filled O'Neill in on what had transpired at
court. "Didn't you tell me that Claudius had freed you or something? Did
you mention that little tidbit?"
Daniel shook his head, "I couldn't. For one thing there were no witnesses,
and for another, Claudius' freedom depends on his not being seen as
"Yeah, but if the jury bought your free status, then you might have had a
chance. Claudius said citizens can't be.be.." he couldn't finish the
"Crucified? It won't come to that, Jack. I really think I made them
think, up there." He had to hope so, at least. It was all a matter of
time, now. Sam and Teal'c should be to Terracina by now. Maybe already on
Ponza. Three days, four on the outside. They would make it.
The hours crept by, marked by a square of sunlight from the window creeping
along the floor. "Y'know," Jack said, stretching, "Carter could probably
calculate how long we've been here by how fast that thing's moving."
Daniel was resting his eyes again, lying down with his crooked arm over his
eyes. "Stalling, remember? Let 'em have a good, long deliberation. I can
wait all week, if I have to."
O'Neill gave a little bark of laughter, and bounced a raisin off of
"Real mature, Jack. You know perfectly well I can't aim worth squat, right
"Daniel, you couldn't aim worth squat *before * you got knocked in the
head. Why should anything be different now?"
A groping hand found the long empty waterskin and Daniel heaved it toward
O'Neill's voice. He heard it clatter against the wall, followed by Jack's
derisive laughter. "Damn it. No fair ducking." Another raisin flew,
hitting Jackson in the nose. "Aim a little lower, Jack," he suggested,
opening his mouth. A tart little missile landed square on his tongue.
"Good shot. Betcha can't do it again, though."
They had run out of raisins and the little square of sunlight had crept far
up the wall when the door opened again and they were ushered back to the
court. "How does the Magistrate look, Jack?" Daniel asked. He squinted,
then gave up trying to read expressions from across the room.
"Glum. And he won't meet my eyes. Callas looks way too happy. This is
bad, Daniel." Jack glared over his shoulder at the smug Hastatus, seated
near the front of the audience, and then turned to face the court again.
Calling for silence, the Magistrate stood and said, "//This court has
reached its decision. While the arguments of the slave Daniel were both
moving and compelling, the law is very clear, especially in light of the
revolt of Callas' slaves. It is felt that, to condone illegal behavior,
however one might feel empathy with the motives of the perpetrators, would
be tantamount to calling for open rebellion in the empire. It is,
therefore, the majority decision of this court that both slaves be executed
in a manner that will discourage similar acts of revolution.//"
Numbly, Daniel translated the Magistrate's words for O'Neill. "Revolution,
huh? I'll damn well show them revolution." He stood and made it three
steps toward the Magistrate before Daniel was able to slow him down. "Let
me go, Danny."
Caligula's soldiers and the town guard were bearing down on them as Daniel
tried to push Jack back. "Time, remember?" He spoke in a rush. " Stall
'em. Don't give them an excuse to kill us quickly."
Jack glared at the younger man, then let himself be pushed back to the
table before the guards reached them.
"//Order, please!//" The Magistrate had borrowed one of the guard's
cudgels and was rapping it smartly on his table. Startled, Daniel noticed
that the room was full of commotion, and he and Jack were at its center.
The people from the town, sitting and observing the proceedings were
shouting at the jurors, who were gesticulating and shouting back.
Evidently, this was not a popular decision with everyone.
"We won over the populous, anyway, Jack." He smiled shakily and sat as his
knees gave out. "Lotta good that does, but it's something, I guess."
The Magistrate continued rapping as the guards cleared the room. "//I will
have order. All but the condemned and their council will leave the
room.//" Guards stationed themselves at the exits, solid and immovable.
When the room was clear, Timos stood and, to Daniel's surprise, approached
them. He leaned against the table for a moment, then stood and began
pacing. "//You will be taken back to your cell tonight. In the morning,
since I am told we have but one stipe, one of you will be nailed to the
crux. When that one is dead, the other will take his place.//" He passed
a weary hand over his face and said, "//I leave it to you to decide. I am
sorry.//" With that, he left the room, followed by the Consul.
"Sorry. He's sorry. Peachy." Jack said, after Daniel relayed the
Wracking his brain for everything he remembered about crucifixion, Daniel
said, "Actually, this might be a good thing."
Appalled, Jack gaped at Daniel. "What are you saying, Daniel?"
Not quite believing his own ears, Daniel said, "It takes days to die by
crucifixion, Jack. Plenty of time for Sam and Teal'c to get back here and
get us back to Janet. Some re-constructive surgery, a lot of therapy, and
I'll be fine."
"You'll be.over my dead body, Daniel!" The guards stood in a ring around
the room, looking tense and far too eager to use their cudgels.
Daniel nodded, "That's exactly what I'm afraid of. Sit *down *, Jack.
Please." He pushed a barely resisting O'Neill back to the bench, smiling
reassuringly at the guards. At least he hoped he looked reassuring. He
was a little afraid he just looked sick and a bit crazy. That was how he
felt, at any rate.
Ever since he, Sam, and Claudius had planned Jack's escape, he'd known this
was a possibility. That did not make it easier to contemplate. "I'm
younger, and in better physical shape right now. You're still dehydrated
and you have a cracked rib. You would last a day, maybe less."
Jack flinched, "How did you know about my ribs?"
"Caupona told me. Now, unless you think of a better plan, like some way of
getting the hell out of here tonight, we're all out of options."
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The huge square sail snapped and billowed above his head, then bellied full
in the rising wind. According to the captain of the vessel, they were
making good progress and would reach the island of Ponza within the hour.
Pleased with the news, Teal'c was in search of MajorCarter to inform her of
their imminent arrival.
After a minimum of effort, he found her at the bow of the ship, looking out
across the water. The wind had caught the short strands of her hair and
was playing with them as a cat might bat a bit of string. He held back for
a moment and observed her covertly with fond pleasure.
The women of the Tau'ri were very different from the women of Chulak, he
had discovered. There was a sharp bite in their nature, not unlike the
'salsa' that DanielJackson so enjoyed during their dinners at Chuy's. He
had noted in both MajorCarter and Doctor Fraiser a willingness to do battle
and a stubbornness that the women of Chulak, while beautiful and passionate
in their own way, could never match, being born to serve the gods first and
their families second. Even the spirited Dray'ak, his estranged wife,
could not match MajorCarter for strength of will and mind.
If only she was not so small, he thought. While he knew MajorCarter was of
average size for Tau'ri female, he felt large and ungainly next to her.
Dray'ak had been his match in that, at least.
As though she had sensed his presence, MajorCarter turned and smiled at
him, waving him towards her. "What did the Captain say, Teal'c?"
"We should arrive with ample time to locate the grotto described on
DanielJackson's scroll. The darkness on the horizon is, I am told, Ponza."
She nodded, looking back out over the water. "Good. I want to start back
tonight, if possible." Something caught her eye in the water below and she
leaned over the rail. "Teal'c, look! Dolphins." She sounded excited and
pleased and her eyes were alight with happiness when she looked back up at
"You should take care, MajorCarter." He stepped up to steady her as she
leaned over the water once again to watch the leaping sea mammals. They
were, he admitted to himself, quite beautiful creatures.
The Tau'ri turned and leaned against the rail, looking up at him bemusedly.
"Teal'c, can I ask you a question?"
He nodded, intrigued.
"You call the Colonel 'O'Neill.' Everyone else at the SGC, you call by at
least two names. DanielJackson, DoctorFraiser."
"Exactly. Except in the heat of battle, when you drop the last part of the
name for expediency, I assume."
"That is correct. You wish to know why?" She nodded. "Shortly after my
arrival, O'Neill came to my quarters and asked me a similar question. I
told him that it is a sign of respect, to acknowledge the full name and
ancestry of one's peers in conversation. The Tau'ri have very long names,
however. MajorSamanthaCarter would be very tiring to say all the time, so
I took it upon myself to shorten it, and have hoped I did not give
To his relief, she shook her head. "Not at all, Teal'c. But, you only
call the Colonel by his last name. Isn't that disrespectful?"
"That is the very point I made to him at the time. He instructed me to,
nevertheless, 'pick one', meaning one of his many names, and to 'stick with
it.' I have done so. No one else at the SGC has made that request as
There were times when Teal'c doubted the vaunted intelligence of SG-1's
astrophysicist. Such instances were not many, and they were widely spaced
in occurrence, but they did occasionally happen. This was not one of those
times. MajorCarter paused for only a moment before saying, "If you like,
you can call me by one name, Teal'c. I won't be offended."
Hiding a smile, Teal'c nodded once. "Very well.Sam."
She looked surprised, but did not suggest a different name, turning instead
to watch the leaping gray mammals once again. He wondered if she minded
his choice, but decided not to offer another at present.
They sailed closer, rounding the crescent shaped island to the east and
entered port in the late afternoon. The docks were much quieter than the
ones at Terracina. Teal'c found this very soothing, as was the still
ground. The endless movement of the small ship had been most unsettling to
his symbiote, which still roiled restlessly in unease. Stroking his
abdomen soothingly, he followed Sam's progress along the docks.
A hand on his arm stopped him. The Captain of their vessel, a red-
whiskered man named Ramos, stared after his teammate. "//How much do you
want for him?//"
Teal'c withdrew his arm from the man's grasp and scowled. "//My valet is
not for sale.//" He turned to follow after Sam, and was stopped again.
"//Come on, how much? He's a pretty lad and we've a long journey ahead of
us.//" The man smiled unpleasantly and leered up at the Jaffa.
His lip curled in disgust at the odious man. "//My valet is not for sale
at any price. I am quite attached to him. Please desist in making
unwelcome offers for his purchase.//" He took his arm back and walked away
quickly, following Sam's darting form several yards away.
"//I know all the captains who sail from this island, friend,//" the
Captain called after him. "//We'll talk again when you want to go back to
Undomesticated equines, Teal'c decided, would not force him to divulge the
man's intentions to MajorCarter. He caught up with her quickly and made
vague replies to her questions about the man. The Tau'ri was not happy
with his responses, but was soon distracted by the task at hand and did not
There were numerous dining establishments serving freshly cooked foods. At
Sam's suggestion, they stopped at one and purchased a meal of baked fish
and assorted vegetables in a spicy sauce that, oddly, calmed his symbiote
considerably. After the quick meal, Sam dug DanielJackson's scroll from
her knapsack and unrolled it on the table for their mutual study.
While neither of them could read the language, there was a map along the
edge of the writing, closely resembling the coastline along which they had
sailed to reach Ponza's harbor. The harbor itself was depicted, and an
arched opening to the west was marked with a circle and symbols similar to
the ones on the Stargate. "Daniel said we were looking for a grotto of
some kind. This must be the place, here."
"Indeed. Perhaps we can find someone to guide us there. This map is
lacking in many details."
Sam sat in thought for a moment, then brightened. "Our Captain. He can
sail us around to the other side of the island. It's probably only
accessible by boat, anyway. Most volcanic grottos are."
"That will not be possible, MajorCarter." He knew the rapidity of his
response had been a mistake the moment the words left his mouth. Now her
curiosity was roused and there was little that stood in SamanthaCarter's
way when she was curious about something.
In hopes of forestalling her inevitable questions, he held up a hand and
said, "It will be quicker to go overland and hire a smaller boat, I think.
It does not appear to be a great distance away. I will ask the food vendor
if there are boats for hire." He stood and put action to word, retreating
as a prudent warrior does when his position is about to be overrun by
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
They'd finally been fed. At Jack's repeated demands, the Magistrate had
sent down a fairly large meal and had refilled their waterskin. Claudius'
dinner had been an age ago and, despite his dread of what day would bring,
Jack found himself eating with a good appetite. Daniel, on the other hand,
"Eat, Danny. That's an order." He tossed the younger man an orange and
popped something wrapped in grape leaves into his own mouth. "This is
pretty good stuff."
"I'm not hungry." He peeled the orange anyway, sucking on the juicy
segments without enthusiasm. "I'm putting in for a month of down time when
we get back. This has got to be the worst mission, ever."
"Oh, come on. What about the mission to P8-1126."
Daniel winced. "Land of the walking poison ivy people? Yeah, that was a
bad one. Oh, or that planet with the purple sky, where you had to dance.."
"Hey! 'Nuff said. I've blotted that one out." He tossed a warm hunk of
bread at Daniel, who threw a bit of orange peel back and missed O'Neill
entirely. Jack chose not to comment. "Anyway, P5X-332 was lots worse than
Scrunching his face in thought, Daniel said, "P5X-332? I don't remember.
Oh! That wasn't so bad, Jack."
"Daniel, everything was gray. Even the people. It was the single most
boring place we've ever been. I was tempted to shoot something just to add
some color to the scenery!"
There it was. That was the sound Jack had been trying for. Daniel,
"I was desperate, Daniel! Going wacko! Off my rocker! And they were so
freakin' polite! And bland! I bet if we introduced them to garlic, the
civilization would die of shock within the week. The food had less taste
then MRE's, which, at least, taste like chicken!" He had to smile at the
sight of the normally dour young man, clutching his ribs and wiping his
"Even.," Daniel was trying to control the slightly hysterical giggles, and
failing miserably. "Even the Mac and cheese.. Oh, that hurts, Jack. Cut it
Taking pity, Jack shut up. He piled a bit of flat bread with cheese and
wolfed it down. Now Daniel would be able to think, now that he was out of
the depressed funk in which the verdict had left him. He had really
thought he had swayed the jurors, and it seemed he had convinced the
Magistrate, at least in part. That wasn't enough, though.
O'Neill looked at his options. The window was too small for two broad-
shouldered mooks like them. The door was too well guarded. In the
morning, armed soldiers would almost certainly surround them at all times.
Unless Claudius could find a way from the outside tonight, they'd have to
risk making a break for it in the morning. No way was he going to allow
Daniel to get nailed to a damn cross.
Daniel wiped his eyes as the last of the chuckles died away. "Thanks,
Jack. I really needed that." He took a long pull at the waterskin and
finished off his orange. "Fruit tastes different here, did you notice.
All Earth varieties, but just a little, I don't know, off. Not bad,
"Even if they, whoever they are, engineered the place to resemble Earth,
this is still a different planet. Stands to reason, differences in soil,
climate, whatever, would make things taste different. Right?"
"Makes sense." Daniel leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes.
"I've been trying to figure this place out. The scroll we found in
Claudius' room back in Rome was written in a combination of Etruscan and
very early Latin, which suggests the builders may have had a hand in the
creation of the real Rome, back on earth.
"No one really knows where the Etruscans came from; it's kind of an
archaeological mystery. According to legend the first Etruscan ruler,
Tarquinius Priscus, I think his name was, took control of Rome by peaceful
means. At the time, Rome was just a settlement along the Tiber, on and
around Palatine Hill, where the Imperial family still lives."
"I thought it had something to do with the Romulans."
"I'm going to pretend you didn't say that, Jack. Romulus and Remus were
the legendary founders of Rome, yes, but Rome was not, as they say, built
in a day. The Etruscans really got things rolling, introducing stone
foundations for buildings, tiled roofs, writing, and a whole political,
social, and military organization. After about a century, though,
Tarquinius' family was overthrown and the Roman Republic was founded. Very
revolutionary, for the times."
"Self rule and representation, rather than monarchy."
"So maybe these Etruscan guys were, what, Goa'ulds?"
Daniel shook his head. "I don't think so. Remember P3R272?"
"That little room where the thing grabbed my head and filled it with the
knowledge of the Ancients? Uh, yeah. Kinda hard to forget. You left my
favorite ball cap behind."
"All of your ball caps are military issue, Jack," Daniel pointed out.
"Yeah, but I had just gotten that one broken in good. What about P3R272?"
"What if," the younger man paused, then sat forward, peering across the dim
room with intent eyes, "What if the Etruscans were the Ancients? Or were
influenced by them, somehow. Finding the Etruscan language here is
like.finding Egyptian symbols in a Mayan tomb. Or on the Moon. There has
to be some causative connection, and I don't think it's Goa'uld, in this
His mind was working all right, but Jack needed it working on a solid plan.
"Which tells us what, exactly, Daniel? How does this help us?"
The younger man seemed to deflate, then perked up the next moment. "Well,
if nothing else, once we get out of here, maybe we can find out where they
went, and find some way to contact them. Thor hasn't exactly been
forthcoming on that subject."
"True. First things first, though. Getting out of here."
The light went out of Daniel's eyes and he leaned back against the wall,
closing them once more. "Sam and Teal'c will be back soon, Jack." He
rested his head against the cool stones and drew his legs up, hugging his
knees. "We'll be just fine."
The way he was drawing in reminded Jack of the marks he'd treated earlier
on Daniel's back and arms. "Turning turtle again, Danny?" he asked in a
soft voice. "We're gonna get out of here; sooner rather than later. Trust
In a quiet voice, Daniel answered, "I trust you, Jack. I just don't see
many alternatives right now."
A flash of red drew Jack's eye to the window. "The night is young, Danny."
He stood and hopped up on the bench to look outside. "You have a visitor,
Doctor Jackson. Get up here." The scarred woman, Vispilia, pushed
something into his hands before he could move out of the way, and then
Daniel was whispering to her.
While the two conspired, Jack opened the bundle. Two long yardages of
white cloth, two small daggers, and a clinking pouch.
"She says to be ready. What did she hand you?" Daniel hopped off of the
bench and peered over Jack's shoulder.
"Couple of togas, it looks like, along with some weapons and money. Looks
like we might get sprung." He handed one of the togas to Daniel and
wrapped the other around himself, trying to mimic the folds in which the
Magistrate had worn his. After a few tries, he gave up and just wrapped it
like he had seen Belushi do it. Daniel, of course, looked very authentic
when he was done.
"The daggers should be on cords; they go around the neck and tuck into the
togas." He drew O'Neill into what was left of the light and looked him
over critically. "Geeze, Jack, watch Animal House one too many times?" He
twitched the folds of fabric into shape, then stepped back and looked him
over again, ignoring the dirty look Jack was aiming at him. "Better. Now
"I guess we wait." The sounds of the village and the more distant sounds
of the campground were changing, he noticed. Getting louder. "Daniel, do
you hear what I hear?"
"If you hear a riot, yes. Get up there and tell me what's going on!"
Jack gathered up the lengths of cloth and climbed on the bench again,
peering out the window. The town square was lit by torchlight and was full
of agitated people, shouting and milling around. "Daniel, what does
"Um.freedom, or liberty. Is that what they're shouting?"
"Oh, yeah. You little agitator, you." He could smell wine in large
amounts, too. Craning his neck a little he saw jugs being passed among the
crowd. It looked a little like a combination of Mardi Gras and the
Democratic National Convention of 1968 out there, and it was getting uglier
the more inebriated the mob became.
The door behind them opened; Jack climbed down quickly and moved in front
of Daniel. "I wish you'd stop doing that, Jack. I can't see anything when
you do that."
It was Claudius. "Citius, citius!" He motioned them forward.
Daniel poked Jack in the back and said, "He said, quickly, Jack. Let's
go." He dodged around O'Neill and slipped out the door.
The guards were slouched on the floor, asleep. "He says he drugged them."
Daniel relayed as they hurried through the darkened halls. "Vispilia is
working the crowd out front to occupy the rest of the soldiers. We have
horses waiting out back." Jack put out a hand to steady him as he stumbled
down a short flight of steps.
"Daniel, can you see well enough to ride?"
The younger man nodded. "My eyes have been getting a little better.
Things are still pretty blurry, but you're wearing white. I'll just aim my
horse at your back and follow you."
They emerged into the cool night at last, the sounds of the mob muffled by
distance and the bulk of the building. "Whoa, wait a sec." Jack
recognized the man holding the horses as the mild faced guard from the
night before. "What's he doing here?"
The man smiled and handed him the reins to a big brown horse, responding to
Daniel's questions with a short murmur. "Amantes sunt amentes."
"Daniel?" Tell me what's going on before I lose it, please.
"Ahm. He says, all lovers are lunatics." A flash of red veils rounded the
corner of the building and the guard's smile grew warm and possessive. The
scarred woman came to rest in his arms, smiling shyly at Daniel through her
With a surprised smile, he greeted her, "Salve`, Vispilia."
"Salve`, Daniel." She looked worshipfully up at the man who embraced her
and said, "Nemo in amore videt."
Jack knew that one: Love is blind. He waved off Daniel's translation and
took the reins of one of the horses. "This is lovely, but we need to go.
Now. Daniel, saddle up."
"Um, no saddles." There were leather pads strapped onto the horses' backs,
and reins, but no saddles or stirrups. "Haven't been invented, yet.
Fourth century A.D."
"They had 'em in Gladiator."
"Don't get me started, Jack. We can talk about historical inaccuracies in
popular cinema on the road. Lets go."
Claudius stood on the steps, watching. "He not coming?" Jack asked as he
clambered gracelessly onto his mount.
"Apparently not, um.." They spoke for a moment, and then Claudius went back
inside the building. "He says to go on, he'll be fine. He's the emperor's
nephew, Jack. They won't hurt him."
Jack hated to leave the man behind, but he belonged here, after all.
"Maybe they couldn't find a third horse."
Daniel led his over to the steps and climbed on, taking the reins from
"Not yet. Follow me."
Wishing for less moon, or darker clothes, Jack guided his mount to the
east, well out of the torch light in the town center and avoiding the
campground entirely. They entered the tree line and spent a tense half-
hour circling the village, angling south to hit the road well out of sight
of the town. Except for the creak of the leather pads and the horses' dull
plod, they traveled in silence. Jack felt a bit like Orpheus, and had to
turn to make sure Daniel was still back there more than once.
The moon was high when they finally reached the lip of the valley and Jack
started to feel safer. Not safe, quite yet, but safer.
"Jack, I think we've been missed." O'Neill listened as the wind brought
the distant sounds of the village to them. Daniel was right, the tone had
changed from the distant roar of the mob to cries of alarm. With a curse,
he kicked his horse in the side and urged it to a gallop, hearing Daniel
doing the same at his six. Hopefully, they had enough of a head start,
they would make it fine, but now was a time for haste, rather than stealth.
The trees cleared before them and they were on the road, flying under the
moon's bright glow. Jack crouched low over his horses' neck and kicked,
willing the beast to go faster. The stacatto beat of Jackson's black
gelding moved up to his side and they were racing, neck and neck, along the
Appia. Daniel grinned over at him, elated to be free and moving toward
home at last, and he had to grin back.
And then he was flying, falling, rolling painfully along the stones while
his horse screamed behind him. Something in his leg snapped wetly and he
was screaming too, rolling to a stop, holding his leg and hoping Danny had
not stopped, please God, let him keep riding, keep going. There was
shouting all around, and many footsteps, and then the face he least wanted
to see was hovering over his. "Jack, oh God, Jack.." And then there was
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^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The island was not large; a fifteen-minute walk brought Sam and Teal'c to
the other side. They stood at the top of a short bluff and looked down on
a crescent-moon beach, the sand white as snow, which embraced a cove of
crystal blue water. "Wow. I wouldn't mind coming here on vacation," Sam
"Indeed. It is very tranquil." The sun was setting over the horizon, gold
and fire. "Are not the sunsets on the true Earth more colorful, Sam?"
They started down the hill, following a well-worn path down to the white
beach. "Unfortunately, yes. Pollution in our atmosphere makes the sunsets
back home much more vivid. A minor compensation, I suppose."
There were a couple of houses up on the bluff, but none down near the
water. A fisherman was spreading his nets out to dry, his catch probably
already sold in the little village on the other side of the island. "Maybe
he'll rent us his boat for a while. What do you think?"
"We have sufficient funds. I will make an attempt."
Teal'c went to talk to the man and Sam wandered down to the water, unlacing
her sandals and slipping them off as she went. The water was warm as it
lapped over her toes; gulls screeched overhead and dove in the falling
tide, hunting in the shallows and tide pools the retreating waves left
behind. Sam dug her toes into the sand, unearthing a startled clam, which
quickly dug its way down again. So many details, she thought with wonder.
Whoever made this place got most, if not all, of the details right. Right
down to the clams.
The fisherman in tow, Teal'c came back. "Alcyon will hire us his boat for
the evening. He also knows where there is a cave near here, although he
tells me there is nothing there but old eel hatcheries."
"We'll give it a try, anyway. There's enough light, I think."
The fisherman helped them get the boat into the water, giving Teal'c
directions as they went. Soon, they were rowing up the coastline, sheer
walls of volcanic rock rising to one side and the glass like sea at the
other. Fingers of rock reached up from the waters, the remnants of a
violent geologic upheaval many centuries old, by the looks of them.
Rounding a series of these fingers, Sam saw a darkness in the rock face.
"There it is. That must be the place." Teal'c looked over his shoulder
and pulled harder on the oars, guiding them into the grotto.
The water lapped up on a small beach inside the cave and Sam hopped out and
pulled the rowboat up on shore. It was dim inside the cave, but the
remaining sunlight reflected off of the waters and lit the interior fairly
well. They quartered the cavern and began looking. For what, Sam did not
"I really wish I had a flashlight. Or a klieg."
"A torch would also be useful."
"Nice cave, though. Roomy."
"There is nothing here, Sam."
It was a big cave, but there was nothing there apart from some old, dry
tanks and a lot of pornographic graffiti. At least, she thought it was
pornographic; the pictures were certainly vivid.
The light was waning; soon they would have to either head back or find some
way to build a fire and spend the night here. Neither option was
appealing. Sam was feeling the passage of time very keenly, despite the
lack of a watch.
"MajorCarter! Sam!" Teal'c called from the back of the cave and Carter
came running. He was standing before a faded mosaic, picked out in
seashells and bits of tile, depicting symbols like those on the scroll and
the Stargate. Time had knocked several fragments of the picture down,
fading the rest, but it was just legible.
"All right, Teal'c!" She unrolled the scroll and compared it to the
symbols, looking for patterns. "Wish Daniel were here," she said softly.
"To read us the directions."
The same four symbols repeated themselves several times on the scroll.
"How to implement, though." Tentatively, she pressed on the first symbol.
Nothing happened. "Nothing ventured, I guess." She pressed the final
three in order. Still nothing.
"The symbol of the Tau'ri is here, Sam." He reached up and pressed it
firmly. Immediately, there was a rumbling around them and they were
surrounded by floating rings and light and then were abruptly somewhere
Sam's first thought was, I'm so glad Daniel was right. Her second was to
crouch and look for Goa'uld or Jaffa. Ring devices were generally a bad
thing in her experience.
"This is not a Goa'uld vessel, Sam. The markings are different." He bent
and touched the dusty floor, leaving a visible mark. "I do not think
anyone has been here for many years." They stepped away from the rings on
the floor and began searching the room.
Silver-gray dust coated every surface, unmarred by hand or footprint. She
really wished Daniel could be here to read the embossed squares of writing
that covered the walls. Not hieroglyphics, nor cuneiform. Those she would
recognize, even if she couldn't read them. These resembled the writing
from Ernest Littlefield's planet, more than anything. Vertical lines of
blocky text that she had no idea how to even begin to decipher.
"Well, there's power, anyway." Panels in the ceiling provided a pale light
that reminded Sam of the cobbler's shop. "And where there's power, there
are generators and people to maintain them. Let's go looking."
"I will take point." Teal'c ducked through the open archway ahead of her
before Sam had a chance to object. Glaring at his back, she scurried
The room they walked into resembled a reception hall of some sort. It
looked more extruded than built, with softly organic lines and warm, lively
colors, now faded with the dust that seemed to cover everything. Honey-
gold light filtered down from the distant ceiling, bright enough to chase
all shadows from the room but not so bright as to be painful. There was no
sign of technology, apart from the physical building, and no sign of life.
"If DanielJackson was here," Teal'c commented, looking around the room in
fascination, "he would be calling out a greeting."
She gave the gawking man a gentle push and said, "Let's find our stuff.
Does this place look familiar to you, Teal'c?"
Slowly, he nodded. "Indeed. These forms and lines are known to me, but I
cannot say when I have seen them before." He ran his hand along the gently
flowing form making up the back of a chair. "It is warm to the touch,
"Yeah, and have you noticed how quiet our voices are? Almost like the room
is absorbing the sounds we make."
Sam jumped and turned, looking for the owner of the soft voice. "Teal'c,
you see anyone?" Her hands itched for the weight of her P-90. In lieu of
more decisive weaponry, she fell into a defensive crouch. It was very
reassuring to feel the solid bulk of the Jaffa at her back.
"I see no one. Show yourself, ha'taaka!"
"Oh, such language! I have not heard such words for a score of years."
The voice came from everywhere, and was low and melodic. At first, Sam
thought it was a young man's voice, then an old woman's. "Speak again, for
I do long to hear." That had been her father's voice.
"Who is speaking!" Sam demanded. "We are peaceful explorers from the
planet Earth, seeking help for our friends."
"Explorers? How wonderful!" a high-pitched voice exclaimed.
They were no longer alone in the room. A tiny dark-haired girl, no older
than five or six, was leaning over the back of one of the flowing chairs.
Her head was cupped in her hands, and she was drinking in the sight of Sam
and Teal'c with wide green eyes.
The girl was dressed as Sam had seen the children dressed back in Rome.
Her loose tunic was a pale blue and her feet were bare, and a little dirty.
She was missing one of her front teeth, giving her a slight lisp. "Tell
me about your travels. What are your names? Why do your friends need
help? How come your shoes have horses on them? Why is that man angry at
Sam looked up at Teal'c, who looked more surprised than anything. "He's
not angry; he always looks like that."
Her teammate turned upon her with a hurt look. "I do not always appear
angry. I was born with a grim visage." Turning back to the girl, he spoke
in a much gentler voice than Sam had ever heard him use before. "What is
your name, child? Where are your parents?"
"I do not have parents. Or I had one, but he is gone away. I am Culsu.
Who are you two? Oh, I made a poem!" The child covered her mouth and
giggled, bouncing with mirth.
Sam felt a grin stretch her face as well. "Well, I'm Major Samantha
Carter, and this is Teal'c."
"Why is your name longer than his? He's lots bigger."
Teal'c went down on one knee before the child. "Your name is the same size
as mine, Culsu. Yet you are far smaller."
"Oh! You are right!"
Grabbing the conversational initiative, Sam quickly said, "Are you here
alone? Are there any grownups around? We need to get back to our friends
quickly, and we might need help from the people here to do it."
"No people here." The girl climbed down off of the chair and climbed onto
Teal'c's back, wrapping her thin arms around his neck. "Lift, please."
Surprised, Teal'c stood, and the girl wrapped her legs around his waist.
"Thank you." Culsu rested her chin on Teal'c's shoulder and regarded Sam
very seriously. "Now we may speak eye to eye. Why are your friends in
Appearances, she thought. This girl is more than she seems. "You were the
one speaking before, in our minds. That was why we heard different people
speaking. Are you reading our thoughts?"
With a pout to do any five-year-old proud, the child answered, "No. Too
hard. I can speak into your minds, but not read them. It took a while to
access your language and reconfigure my interface to match your needs.
Now, how may I be of assistance?"
Startled, Teal'c swung the girl down to the ground. "You are no child.
What are you?"
Sam placed a calming hand on his arm and addressed the little girl.
"You're a computer interface?"
Culsu rolled her eyes, forcing a smile out of Sam. "In the simplest
*possible * terms, yes. Can we get on with things? If you're not going to
tell me about your travels, at least tell me what your friends are called."
"Doctor Daniel Jackson and Colonel Jack O'Neill. They're in trouble and we
have to get back to them quickly with help."
"Goodness, Major Samantha Carter. You people use a lot of names! I like
Teal'c's name better. Teeeel.ck. It makes my throat feel all hard and
tickley. You came through the Chappa'ai, right?" She took Teal'c by the
hand and began leading him away.
"To be honest, Culsu, I don't remember how we got here. I have vague
memories of going through the Stargate -- the Chappa'ai -- and then waking
up in the forest with the rest of the team, minus our gear and wearing.
The girl had led them into a long corridor that seemed to be made of glass.
The sea was all around them, a deep sapphire blue, dimly lit with diffuse
light from the corridor itself. The surface, far above, was dark with
night. Schools of fish darted past in silvery waves, and a luminescent pod
of jellyfish brushed the clear walls of the corridor in undulating billows.
"Who is Hannah?" the girl asked. "And what is it to be holy?"
She's worse than Teal'c, thought Sam. "It's just an expression of
surprise. This is beautiful, Culsu. Who built this place?"
"My father. Come quickly, now. You will remember soon and then you can
tell me about your friends."
Flickering reflections from the sea-corridor lit the room they entered.
"Lucerna!" the girl said, and the room was filled with amber light. "My
The room reminded Sam of her lab back on base. Not that anything scattered
on the many work tables even remotely resembled any technology she had ever
seen before, but in the general air of organized scientific chaos in which
she usually found herself. Too many projects, not enough time. "Father
tinkers," Culsu said, climbing up on a tall, mushroom-shaped stool.
"He is.was.a scientist?" Sam asked.
"Scientist, historian, teacher, alchemist, thief, murderer.. Father liked
to keep busy." She was searching the table, rooting through piles of
glowing filaments and what appeared to be sheets of clear crystal, as thin
At the child's description of her father, Teal'c stiffened. "Murderer?
Whom did he kill?"
"Oh, lots of people. Here it is!" She grabbed a conical device and
pointed it at Sam.
"MajorCarter!" Teal'c shoved the smaller woman out of the way and
intercepted the beam of purple light which erupted from the tip of the
device. With a choked off cry, he crumpled to the floor, holding his head.
"What did you do to him?" Sam knelt, fumbling for a pulse. He was still
alive, but his pulse was rapid. Behind his closed eyelids, his eyes were
moving as if he was dreaming. "What did you do?!"
The girl hopped down from the stool and hunkered down next to the fallen
Jaffa. "He will be fine, Major Samantha Carter. He is remembering. In a
few moments he will awaken and growl at me for frightening him, just as you
are doing now." She handed the cone to Sam and then sat, crossing her legs
and propping her elbows on her knees.
"Father was not a bad man," the girl said with a sigh. "He just wanted to
find out things. He made the place up there and then took people and made
them forget and put them in the world he had made in order to see what
would happen. Then he let other people come and live in the world he had
made, but he made them forget too well and they never came back to go home
"Then Father left, or maybe he forgot, too. He told me what to do, though,
if anyone came through the Chappa'ai. Make them forget and put them into
the world. Then, if they came back, make them remember and let them go
home. You are the first, though."
The little dark-haired girl smiled suddenly, her eyes alight with mischief.
"Can I tell you a secret, Major Samantha Carter?"
Her mind whirling, Carter nodded.
Culsu took Sam's ear in her little fingers and pulled her down to whisper,
"I was very naughty. I did not make you or your friends forget all the
way, like Father instructed." She giggled then, covering her mouth with
her hands and kicking her heels on the floor.
This was not a database interface, Sam decided. This was a mischievous
little girl who had been alone far too long. "Would you like to sit in my
lap while we wait for Teal'c to wake up?" she offered.
This made the girl grin ear to ear, and Sam found herself smiling in
response. With an eager nod, Culsu scooted until she was cradled in the
hollow of Sam's crossed legs and surrounded by her loosely draped arms.
"I've got a loose tooth," the girl announced, wiggling it with her tongue.
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
With an eerily human scream, Jack's horse toppled in mid-gallop, sending
his rider flying without warning. Daniel pulled hard on the reins of his
gelding in alarm, almost toppling himself as the horse reared and pranced
to a stop. He was on the ground before the animal stopped moving,
stumbling back towards his fallen friend.
O'Neill was crumpled on the paving stones, clutching his leg and making
inarticulate sounds of pain that tore straight to Daniel's gut. He kneeled
next to Jack, looking for injuries. There was movement in the night, all
around them, but he ignored it for now. "Jack, Oh God, Jack.." His right
leg was horribly wrong, sickeningly misshapen. Behind them, the horse
screamed like a lost soul, then was abruptly silenced.
Just as suddenly, Jack stilled. His eyes rolled back and he just slumped
under Daniel's hands, unconscious. "Thank heavens for that," Daniel
"//Hello, caronis,//" Hastatus' hated voice hissed in his ear. Startled,
Daniel looked up to see the hand that knocked him sprawling. Pain flared
across his cheek and he tasted copper; his head spinning, Daniel climbed to
his feet and wiped his mouth. Caronis. Carrion. Lovely.
"//I'm not dead yet, Hastatus.//"
Hastatus just laughed as soldiers closed around Daniel, tying his hands
before him and relieving him of the dagger around his neck. The soldiers,
Praetorians no doubt dragged here from Rome by the feckless Caligula, set
about securing the prisoners. They hauled Jack up over the withers of
Daniel's erstwhile mount and tied him securely. He groaned softly once or
twice but did not regain consciousness.
One of the expressionless soldiers tied a length of rope around Daniel's
wrists, then mounted his horse, giving the bound man a tug that almost sent
him sprawling once again. Knowing better than to object, Daniel kept his
eyes down and tried to watch his footing as the procession got underway.
He looked over his shoulder once or twice, trying to check on Jack, but it
was futile. The night, his eyes, and being constantly tugged made looking
anywhere but at his feet a risky prospect at best.
The moon was setting as they neared the village, but there was sufficient
light yet to see Hastatus' bulky form striding to one side of the soldier's
ranks. "//Caronis!//" the man exclaimed, catching Daniel's tired
attention. He skipped forward and leaned against a dark post,
approximately seven feet tall. "//I'll see you in the morning, caronis.//"
The stipe. Daniel's gaze flicked at it then focused on the ground once
again. Hastatus laughed, a harsh, mad sound in the still night. Daniel
felt a chill run down his spine, but kept his gaze down. One of the
soldiers called for silence, and another half-drew his gladius. With a
final chuckle, Hastatus complied.
He fell into step with the stumbling prisoner and said, conversationally,
"//I have asked my master to be allowed to assist in your execution. This
has been granted to me. Remember our time under the willow, caronis?//"
Daniel kept his eyes on the uneven paving stones, and did not respond.
"//I remember. I remember how you rolled like a dog in the dirt, and
yelped like a child. Your brother was the same way, weak and puling. Pity
about his leg; he will not survive the crux for long. He will watch you
beg for death first, though, and know that you hate him for causing your
pain. And you will suffer for days, caronis. I will mark you but lightly
before you carry the patibulum back up this hill, I promise you.//"
Daniel turned his head and stared at Hastatus. "//Where did you learn to
hate like this?//" Part of him just wanted to shut up the taunting threats
which were all to likely to be made good at first light. Part of him
really wanted to know, though. Hatred like this was not natural; it was a
conditioned response to something in the man's life.
The first part of his wish was granted. Hastatus shut up. They walked on
in silence, entering the much-subdued village. As they approached the
curia, though, the man spoke again. In a still voice that brought back
memories of Giza, Hastatus said, "**I learned to hate at the hands of those
who took me from my mother when I was a boy and chained me to an auction
block, far from my home. Harundo was sold to Callas at the same time as I,
and we were brothers in all but blood from that day until the day of his
death. Good night, carrion.**" He bowed mockingly and walked into the
"oh." Daniel was sort of sorry he'd asked. The man had done too much,
hurt Jack too much to allow forgiveness. Now, though, Daniel found himself
beginning to understand the man. He did not want this understanding, this
empathy. He had seen the human side of his enemy and found a little boy
who reminded Daniel too much of himself, torn from his parents and set into
a world that was, at best, indifferent.
The soldiers untied Jack and carried him into the curia, boneless as a sack
of meal. Daniel was shoved the same direction and, at length, found
himself in the same cell they'd left a few short hours ago. Jack had been
tumbled to the ground and left there, his broken limb askew and already
swelling. The soldier was leaving, closing the door and taking the last of
the light with him when Daniel realized they were going to leave his hands
"Ah, 'scuse me! //Please.a boon?//" The soldier paused at the door,
looking bored. "//My friend's leg is broken. Could you untie my hands so
that I can tend to him?//"
The soldier just laughed, then pulled the door shut, leaving the room in
almost total darkness. Daniel looked at the closed door for a moment in
disbelief, then turned and began groping his way forward with his foot. "I
hate this place. I'll never complain about the military mindset again."
A low groan near his feet made him stumble backwards. He hadn't realized he
was that close. The back of the bench hit his calves and he sat suddenly,
making the rickety thing creak and shift alarmingly. "Jack? You awake?"
He scrambled to his feet again and nudged his foot forward he made contact.
"Oh, ow.unfortunately.fuck.. What happened?" Awkwardly, Daniel helped him
to lie flat, pillowing O'Neill's head on one of the folded cushions. His
eyes were adjusting to the dim light finally, and he could see the ominous
swelling of the broken leg as compared to the whole one. It was nearly
twice as big, and looked darker, although it was very hard to tell.
"Hastatus." Daniel started working on the knots that held his hands
together, picking them apart with his teeth. "He was waiting, must have
figured which direction we'd go and set up a couple of miles outside of
town." The ropes were loosening, he thought, and kept chewing and spitting
out bits of fiber.
Jack was quiet, his harsh breathing the only clue he was still awake and in
pain. "Why?" he asked suddenly, startling the younger man.
Shrugging off the ropes at last, Daniel knelt and began examining Jack's
leg, by touch and limited sight. This set off a fresh round of curses and
Jack tried weakly to bat Daniel's hands away.
"I think it's a simple fracture, Jack, but it's hard to tell in this light.
Think you can make it up to the bench?" He flattened the wrinkled blanket
and then stooped to get a shoulder under Jack's arm. "Short hop. Come on.
Warmer than the floor." He was worried about shock.
"Danny.wait.oh crapcrapcrapcrapcrapCRAP!" Daniel folded the blanket over
the shivering man, tucking him in securely to hold in the body heat, and
then held the waterskin to his lips.
"Drink this. You need the fluids."
The warmth, water, and stillness helped a lot. Jack still shivered, but he
was becoming more aware by the moment. "Hastatus ambushed us? Shoulda
seen that coming."
Daniel found the remains of Vispilia's numbing salve and began delicately
working it into the broken limb. "Maybe. But we could just as easily
come out of the forest beyond him. It was a chance, and we almost made
"Daniel, why did you stop?" Jack's voice was harsh in the darkness, and
Daniel could not read his face. Angry? Sad? In pain?
"What do you mean? I had to. You would have stopped for me. I couldn't
leave you behind."
Jack turned his head away and closed his eyes, blotting out Daniel's face,
his eyes. "Don't fool yourself, Doctor Jackson. If the circumstance had
been reversed, I'd be long gone from here. I'd regret it like hell, but I
would not hesitate. I expect the same of you, if an opportunity presents
itself this morning."
He was pale, sweating and clammy. Daniel unwound his toga and began
tearing strips from it, then draped the rest over Jack's shivering body.
"I have to immobilize your leg, Jack, before they start dragging you around
and doing more damage. Should I try to set it?" Wondering what he would
use for splints, he looked around the cell and realized it was getting
brighter. The sliver of sky he could see had turned a deep gray. It was
"Hell no, don't try to set it. Did you hear what I said, Jackson?"
The other bench, he decided. Aiming a sharp kick, he began breaking it
down to its boards, being careful of nails. "I heard you." Before long he
had two planks of roughly similar length. "Don't try to set it. I won't.
I'm going to straighten your leg and splint it. That's all." He wondered
why Jack was looking so angry, then shrugged it off. The man had a lot on
his mind right now.
"That's not what I mean, Daniel, and you know it. If you get a chance,
make a run for it."
"No. Reach up and grab the end of the bench, Jack. I'm going to try to do
this all at once." He took the boards and laid them alongside the broken
leg and looped the strips from the toga underneath, tying them loosely.
"What do you mean, 'no'? This isn't a democracy, Danny; that was an
Daniel checked to make sure everything was ready. "Okay, grab the end of
the bench. On three, I'm going to straighten your leg out. Ready?"
"Did you hear me, Daniel?"
Jack glared. "So.?"
Daniel took a firm grip on Jack's foot and ankle; alarmed, Jack reached up
and grabbed the edge of the bench above his head. "Damn it, Daniel! Why
One hard pull, a scream, and two tugs and the deed was done. Wiping
moisture from his cheek, Daniel secured the splint with two more lengths of
cloth, tucking in the loose ends. He checked for a pulse on top of Jack's
foot and relaxed slightly when he found one. Jack was trying very hard not
to move at all, breathing through the pain until it subsided to a tolerable
He was still for so long, Daniel began to worry. "Jack? You still with
"Yashureyoubecha.oh FUCK that hurt!" Jack opened one, slightly glassy eye,
and said, "I thought you weren't gonna try to set it."
"I didn't. I just flattened the angle a bit." Daniel gingerly lifted the
immobilized leg and settled it on the folded pad. He flicked a glance at
the sky. It was getting brighter, going to be a beautiful day. "They're
coming for me soon, Jack." He piled the leftover bread and the waterskin
on the floor within reach.
"At which time you're going to make a run for it."
"I told you, Jack. No. No running. Not unless I can drag your heavy ass
with me, and I don't think I'll get too far like that."
Jack clapped both hands over his face and made a frustrated noise. Daniel
hid a smile; he loved provoking that sound, though he'd never admit to it.
"Just go, Jackson. I'm expendable."
"No!" The denial was ringing in the still morning air before Daniel quite
knew what he was going to say. "Not expendable! None of you are! Not
you, not Sam, not Teal'c. None. Of. You. Get me, O'Neill?" Daniel
stood and walked toward the pile of rubble left over from his bench
destruction. He kicked a board and leg that had remained connected
somehow, sending them clattering against the stone wall.
The joint did not break. The board and leg remained as strongly affixed as
ever. Daniel bent and scooped up the two scraps of wood and shook them at
Jack. "This is why, O'Neill. This is us!" He tossed the scraps into the
corner and dared his Colonel, silently, to comment.
"We're.uh.a broken bench?"
Daniel shook his head, "Connected, you ass. We're connected. And that's
why I'm not going anywhere without you." Realizing he was shouting in
Jack's face, Daniel's anger fled. He smiled sheepishly and sank to the
floor, leaning on the bench on which Jack was resting. "Sorry. It's
just.you're family. Hastatus was right about that at least."
Jack reached out and grabbed Daniel's shoulder, shaking him gently. "Danny
do you have any idea what they're gonna do to you?"
Daniel glanced over his shoulder and just nodded. "Archaeologist. I
probably know more exactly than you do what is about to happen. And yes,
I'm very frightened." He was, he realized, terrified. Strangely, he was
also calm. There was no choice in this so, as with so much in his life, he
would endure and survive until it was over. Recently he had acquired
people who would help him put his body and soul back together, when
everything was done, so he wouldn't have to do it alone. It was a distinct
improvement and a bittersweet perk to being a member of this strange
"Jack, it's a very simple equation. Sam and Teal'c will be at least two
more days, even if they've already started back. A healthy man can survive
up to seven days. The actual cause of death in most cases is asphyxia,
when the pain of pushing up to breathe becomes overwhelming and the
vic.person is exhausted. With one of your legs busted, you won't be able
to breathe and you'd die within hours." Daniel was surprised to hear his
voice break. He touched his face and it came away wet. Scrubbing it dry
before Jack noticed, he said, "So, the obvious candidate to go first is
He turned and faced O'Neill then, who was looking at him with disbelieving,
anguished eyes. The older man reached out and wiped a stray tear away.
Daniel blushed furiously and turned away but was stopped. Jack grabbed the
back of his neck, forcing eye contact, and said, "It's my job, god damn it.
Not yours. You're a civilian, a scientist, and we can't lose you. I
can't lose you."
"You won't. That's the plan. I hang on until the cavalry comes, then we
go home. End of discussion."
The cell door opened as if on cue, and three soldiers came in, filling the
room to capacity. The centurion said, "//It is time. I am to ask which
will be first.//"
Daniel stood and said, "//I am.//" He looked down at O'Neill. "Two days,
Jack. Sam and Teal'c will be back in two days, three tops. See you soon."
"See you soon, Danny."
Knowing it had to be killing Jack to just let him walk out, Daniel went
quickly and quietly, not looking back. Despite the fact that there was no
conceivable way to help him, Jack would be tearing himself up over not
fighting the guards, over missing the ambush, over everything. Jack was
good at guilt.
The guards didn't bother tying his hands, evidently deciding a crushing
grip on either arm to be sufficient to prevent escape. They dragged him up
the stairs and through the marble halls of the curia, past the busts of the
imperial family, and into the bright light of morning. The town square was
almost empty; most of the villagers were probably hung over, Daniel
surmised, and the transient population had moved on for the day. No risk
of a riot today, unfortunately. That might have delayed things a while
The town center was where most punishments were carried out, historically
speaking, he recalled. A stout post stood in the exact center of the town
square, thrusting up like a totemic phallus toward the cloudless sky.
There were people clustered around the post and, though Daniel could not
make out faces at this distance, he could hear Claudius' stammer quite
clearly and was glad the Roman had escaped custody.
Drawing closer, Daniel saw the Magistrate, Hastatus, and a bored and
yawning Caligula waiting with the stuttering man. "//Good morning,
gentlemen. You know, if you wanted to get some more sleep, Little
Boots,//" Daniel addressed Caligula, "//I'd be glad to go back to my nice
cell for a few more days.//"
Claudius hid a smile as Caligula glared at Daniel. Evidently having had
enough of the younger Roman's temper, the Magistrate stepped in hurriedly.
"//Daniel, Tiberius Claudius has spoken with me at length regarding your
case. While I cannot overturn your conviction, he has convinced me that he
did, indeed, free you on the road. While such an action is unusual, it has
been the law of Rome to assume a man to be free if there is the slightest
doubt of his status.//"
The Magistrate drew his own belt dagger and offered it, hilt first, to
Daniel. The guards released his aching arms and took a step back. "//I
offer you an honorable death, Daniel. One that will bring no shame to your
family and which will certainly be less painful and ignominious than the
one offered by the cross.//" To the Magistrate's left, Hastatus made a
strangled noise of protest, but quieted at the official's glance. "//Well?
Will you accept the mercy of the law?//"
Claudius looked uncomfortable once again, unsure. Knowing he had done his
best, Daniel nodded his thanks to his friend, but pushed the dagger away
with his open palm. "//I cannot accept, Honorable Timos. Tiberius
Claudius has spoken falsehood on my behalf, though not intentionally. I
was able to dupe him into thinking I was free, and that he had freed me
"//Poor Uncle Clau-Clau,//" Caligula said, laughing. "//Did you dip into
his purse while he slept and buy your way free? Why did you not simply
kill him as he slept? That is what I would have done.//"
"//That.never occurred to me.//" Daniel recalled that Caligula had been,
would be, killed by his own Praetorian guard, in conspiracy with key
senators, a few years into his disastrous reign. A few years too late, in
Daniel's opinion and then wondered when he had gotten so very bloody
minded. "//At any rate, I am no citizen, Honorable Timos. I thank you for
your offer, though.// And Sam and Teal'c will be here soon."
"//What?//" The Magistrate tucked his dagger back into its sheath, looking
Looking at Claudius, Daniel said, "//It is an ancient blessing. In time of
need.// Sam and Teal'c will be back soon. Go to Jack, keep him safe." He
saw understanding dawn on the Roman's face and saw him edge back toward the
curia, and then he was back in the hands of the guards.
They stripped him of his tunic and loincloth. The cool air of the morning
made Daniel shiver, though his skin was hot with embarrassment. He was
tied to the pole in the town center, face first, his arms stretched high
above his head. Feeling his exposure keenly, he looked around myopically
and noted that the town square was filling up. He heard the sound of
children playing, and mothers scolding, and pressed himself into the
splintered wood of the post, hiding as best he could.
The Magistrate called for silence and read the charges and the sentence.
There was an approving murmur from the crowd, to Daniel's surprise. The
guard on his left muttered, "//Mob's fickle. Cheering for you one day,
throwing things the rest. Don't take this personal, boy.//" His words
startled a laugh out of Daniel, and the guard looked at him oddly. "//You
touched in the head, lad?//"
"//No. Just feeling a little fey.//" This was a period of grace, of
stillness, and Daniel found himself relishing it. It would be over soon
enough. He had not been exaggerating when he told Jack he knew what was
First he would be flogged, then he would be forced to carry his cross bar
up the hill to the stipes. There, Callas' nails would be hammered through
the small bones of his wrists, pinning him to the patibulum. Probably,
they would tie his feet, saving the other two of Callas' spikes for Jack.
After that, the struggle for breath would start, and the long wait.
Provided Hastatus did not half kill him with the flagellum, he would
survive for five or six days before succumbing to exhaustion.
Plenty of time for Sam and Teal'c to get their slow butts back here and
pull them the hell out of this mess.
The tenor of the crowd changed, growing hushed. Hastatus had taken his
place, standing just within Daniel's line of sight, behind and to the left.
The big man held a simple flagellum in his hand, and wore an expression of
gloating anticipation. Fighting the urge to turn away, to close his eyes,
Daniel caught the man's gaze and held it, unflinching. "**I am no slave to
cower before you, Hastatus. I am afraid, but my soul is free. You are
slave to your hatred. Which of us is less free? **"
The gloating expression vanished, replaced by anger and, of all things,
confusion. Daniel smiled serenely and turned away then, wondering at
himself. Things were about to get very bad, and he was taunting the devil
to do his worst. "Definitely been spending too much time around Jack," he
Then there was no breath for words, no thought, nothing but pain and fire
as blow after searing blow landed on his bare skin. He lost his footing at
one point, shortly after his voice went hoarse from screaming, and hung
helplessly from the post by his wrists. Hastatus was methodical, moving
down his back, over his buttocks, to his legs, then back up the other side,
painting lines of agony with his harsh brush.
Somewhere around eighteen, Daniel lost count.
Sometime after he screamed his voice away, Hastatus stopped.
After a few moments, it dawned on Daniel that it was over. A few moments
later, another thought filtered sluggishly through his mind, and he decided
his wrists would hurt less if he tried to stand. The task was tremendous,
almost too much to accomplish, but he decided to try. His back and
shoulders screamed at him as he moved his legs, though, and he gave up the
idea as completely unworkable.
The ground came up to meet him as the decision was taken from him.
Someone, he reasoned slowly, must have cut the ropes. He gave up thinking
then, just glad to lie on his side on the soiled, churned, bloody ground
with no one hitting him. Bliss. Daniel closed his eyes for a moment, just
for a moment, and the world slipped away.
It came back with a wet rush as one of the guards poured a bucket of water
on his back, and Daniel awoke with a painful jolt. Sweat and blood
combined with the water, trickling agony into every lash and cut. If he
had a voice left, Daniel would have screamed. All that came out was a
"//Get up.//" The centurion hauled him to his feet and held him there
while the world turned around him in slow, dizzying jerks. He felt so
weak, so tired. Everything hurt, hurt worse than anything he'd ever
experienced. His brain felt like mush and he couldn't seem to draw a deep
breath. Every time he tried, his back would stab painfully and catch him
short. After a few minutes, though, the worst died down and he was able to
stand on his own. Not straight, but he was standing.
He slowly became aware of sound again, apart from his own harsh breathing.
The crowd was shouting, laughing, and yelling things. With the little bit
of his brain that was still working, he tried to translate what they were
saying, but gave it up after just a few minutes. This was probably the
entertainment highlight of the month, he thought, and tried to stand a
little straighter, swaying. He wished for something to cover himself; the
kids shouldn't be seeing this horror-show. "Perpetrates the system of
violence against the individual." he muttered.
"//What?//" The centurion at his side asked. Daniel just shook his head
tiredly. Another period of grace, he thought.
It was over in the next breath. Two soldiers approached, carrying a long,
roughly hewn log. They laid it across Daniel's shoulders, making him
stagger and nearly fall under its weight. When he had his feet once again,
they yanked his arms back and over the top of the patibulum and tied them
in place. The wood ground into his raw skin, forcing a whispered cry from
his bitten, dry lips. It was happening. It was too real.
Bent nearly double with the weight of the thing, Daniel stayed upright
mainly by force of will and by the knowledge of how much more it would hurt
his back and arms if he fell at this point. A hard shove to get him moving
nearly undid him, and he stumbled painfully forward. The centurion led the
procession out of the town square. Daniel blinked sweat from his smarting
eyes and kept them focused on the man's back. He concentrated on placing
one foot before the other; he would not think about what was at the end of
this little hike.
Despite the horrific weight bearing down on his raw shoulders, Daniel
slowed his footsteps. Oddly enough, this was another period of grace. It
would end when they reached the stipes.
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
After about five minutes, Teal'c awoke, growling as predicted. "You should
not surprise people like that, Culsu. It could be dangerous."
The tiny child looked gravely down at the recumbent Jaffa and then planted
a kiss in the center of his golden brand. "Sorry, Teal'c. I did not mean
to frighten you."
Sam hid a grin behind her hand as the child transformed the fearsome
warrior into putty. He sat up and accepted Culsu into his lap, scolding
with a fierce face, but gentle eyes. "Next time, you will warn me before
pointing anything at Sam or anyone else in our vicinity, will you not?"
"I promise," the child said with her slight lisp. "Now can you tell me
about your friends? Or does Major Samantha Carter need to remember too."
"Call me Sam, Culsu. And I think it's enough that Teal'c remembers. Can
you lead us to our things so we can start back? I'll tell you about Daniel
and the Colonel on the way."
"That will be satisfactory." The little girl sprang up and took Teal'c by
the hand once again, pulling him after her. "Come with me."
She led them back down the sea corridor, then down a series of branching
halls. As they walked, Sam told Culsu about their 'adventures' in the
world above, editing out the worst bits. The child was an appreciative
audience. She gasped and made sad noises when Daniel was belted by the
blacksmith, and clapped and bounced when they found Jack and rescued him.
"Now," Sam finished, "Daniel and Jack are waiting for us to come save them.
That's why we need our weapons."
".and Daniel's glasses!" Culsu piped up.
Sam smiled at the energetic mite. ".and Daniel's glasses so we can go back
and help them."
"Oh!" The girl stopped suddenly and turned to face the two adults. "I
just had an idea!"
Teal'c dropped to one knee to bring the girl to eye level. "What is your
The girl climbed onto Teal'c's knee and cupped his ear, whispering into it.
"Can you do that?" Teal'c looked surprised.
"Father would be very cross with me, but you will not tell him, will you?"
Culsu looked anxiously at Sam and Teal'c, biting her lip.
Teal'c shook his head solemnly. "Never. I think this is a very good idea.
We shall put it to practice when we have our weapons and DanielJackson's
"Wonderful! Come on!" The child hopped off of Teal'c's knee and scampered
down the hall, leaving the two adults to run after her.
Almost beside herself with curiosity, Sam decided to save her questions
until they got where they were going. The kid was fast and these halls
Finally, after what seemed like a mile of the looping tunnels, the girl
stopped before a door and reached up toward a panel next to it. She could
not quite reach, and stomped her foot in frustration. Turning, she looked
up at Teal'c and said, "Lift me, please."
Teal'c complied and the girl pressed her tiny hand to the panel. The door
swung open soundlessly. "Lucerna!" The room was bathed in amber light and
Culsu darted inside.
She led them down row after row of cylindrical bins, none of which were
labeled. The girl seemed to know what she was looking for, though. She
stopped suddenly, standing before a section that looked identical to all
the other extruded lockers, and said, "Here is where I stored your
Sam opened the first one and handed Teal'c his staff weapon. The Jaffa
curled his hand around the staff almost tenderly, and smiled. Grinning,
Sam looked in the next one and gave a yelp of joy. Her BDU's, folded
neatly in a stack, with her sidearm on top. "Yes! Teal'c, go around the
corner for a few minutes. I feel the need to get into uniform." She
reached into Teal'c's bin and tossed him his clothes, then shooed him away.
Refusing to be shooed, Teal'c instead stalked around the corner with
It took a matter of moments for Sam to peel off the grubby green tunic and
the band around her aching breasts and to slip, sighing, into the olive
drab and black she'd been dreaming about. Underwear, fatigue pants, bra, T-
shirt, socks, boots. Heaven.
Culsu was looking at her strangely, and Sam had to laugh. "Don't ask me to
explain, kid. I just feel much better now." She bent and lifted the tiny
girl into her arms, settling her on her hip. "Hey, wanna tell me what you
told Teal'c?" She kept a secure arm around the girl's waist as she opened
the next bin. The name on the jacket said O'Neill. She plucked out the
gate remote and the Colonel's uniform and P-90, setting them on the floor.
"It's a secret, Sam."
"You can tell MajorCarter, Culsu." Teal'c, now also back in uniform, came
around the corner. "She needs to know the plan, and it is yours to tell."
He held out his arms and Culsu climbed from Sam to Teal'c like a monkey,
ending up perched on his shoulders.
"I am so tall! I can touch the sky!" Teal'c kept a secure hold on the
girl's kicking feet, and smiled a tiny smile.
"Culsu. The plan?" Sam looked in the final locker and pulled out Daniel's
pack, uniform, zat, and glasses. This last she carefully tucked into a
secure pocket and snapped it down. She needed her knapsack, or something
else in which to carry this stuff.
"Oh! The plan! I can put you into the world near your friends, if that
would help. And bring you back here quickly, but only if I can come with
Stunned, Sam said, "That will help a great deal! How soon can we go?" Her
watch was less than useless right now; it showed 1300.
Squirming, Culsu asked to be put down. Once on the ground, she opened a
new bin and pulled out an empty cloth knapsack and started putting the
Colonel and Daniel's clothes into it. Teal'c quickly scooped up the P-90
and zats before the child could touch them. Sam tucked the gate remote
into her pack and then transferred the first aid kit to the backpack the
girl was working on.
"When the surface is light, we can go. There are certain places in the
world where we can put people. The nearest to your village is about ten of
your miles from there. It would be best not to travel at night. There are
bad people in the world."
Sam hefted her P-90 and checked the ammo. Still full. "I think we can
handle the bad people, and we need to get to the Colonel and Daniel as
quickly as possible."
Teal'c said, "The child may not accompany us, Major Carter. It might be
That stopped Sam short. She had not registered at the time when the girl
said she would have to accompany them back. Culsu was not really a little
girl, Sam knew. She was a construct of some kind, intended as an interface
with whatever computer system ran this complex, this world. She was,
however, very like a little girl; impulsive, vulnerable, hyperactive, and
cute as a button.
Now, for example, she was standing in front of Sam with her arms stretched
upwards. Bending to the girl's demand, she set aside her weapon and
scooped the girl into her arms. "I can take care of myself, Sam. I will
bring the remembering thing and put anyone who approaches to sleep." Her
big green eyes were pleading, reminding Sam of a certain guileless
"Are you sure you can't bring us back here unless you come with us, Culsu?"
The tiny girl nodded vigorously.
"Okay, then. But you can't go running off when we get up top, you get me?"
Teal'c spoke up then. "Culsu, I would advise you to say nothing at this
point except for 'I get you, ma'am.' MajorCarter will become testy
Sam stuck her tongue out at the Jaffa, who merely raised his eyebrow and
shouldered the now full pack. "Shall we go?"
The girl rode on Sam's shoulders, directing with nudges of her bare feet in
the Major's side, until they arrived at another large open room. "The
Stargate!" Sam was very glad to see that round circle of stone, and barely
restrained herself from running over and dialing home just to make sure it
was real. Unfortunately, that would delay their rescue, as General Hammond
would no doubt insist on a trip to the infirmary, a lengthy debriefing,
risk assessment, another debriefing once the rescue was a go, and who knew
what other delays.
Any delay was unacceptable.
"So, how do we get back into the world?"
A nudge in her right side turned Sam toward a flat black wall. "Say the
name of the village, Major Samantha," the girl on her shoulders instructed.
"Okay. Um.I don't know the name. It was a village on the crossroads of
the Via Appia and the Via.."
"Domitana," Teal'c supplied.
The wall shivered, and ripples flowed across it like water bugs skating
across the surface of a pond. An image formed slowly: dawn lighting a
clearing in a grove of ancient oak trees. "What now?" Sam asked, as the
A nudge on both ribs.
A giggle and another nudge.
Sam really hoped she had read the girl right, that she wasn't a threat, and
wasn't leading them into danger. She did not think she was wrong, but
there was always a chance. "Okay. We walk forward. Teal'c, take point."
Staff raised and ready, Teal'c stepped through the image. Sam followed,
the giggling girl patting the image and making ripples just before they
stepped through and into the clearing. Sam quickly swung the girl down and
brought her P-90 up. This was the same clearing. The one where they had
first entered this mad world.
"Okay. We're here. Now how do we tell which way to the village?" Sam
scanned the trees, the dawn-gray sky, and wondered where the hell they
"I think I know, MajorCarter." Teal'c moved into the trees, following a
faint path, and Sam followed, keeping half an eye on the skipping little
"Stick with us, Culsu. Don't go running off, okay?"
"Okay. What does that mean? Oh kaye. I know that they are letters, but
what do they stand for? In context, it means 'do you understand' or 'is
all well?' or many other things. Your language is very confusing, Major
Sam." The child kept up a running commentary in her piping voice, not
really giving the major a chance to answer.
The path ended in another clearing, in front of a familiar looking hut,
half tumbling down in disrepair. His staff weapon charged and humming,
Teal'c strode up to the door and knocked hard, rattling the unstable
"Teal'c, what are you doing?" Sam pushed the girl behind them and wondered
if the Jaffa had gone mad.
The door opened and an old man looked out, turned pale, and tried to close
the door again. "MajorCarter, this man is known to us. He sold you to the
slavers, do you not remember?" Easily stopping the door from closing,
Teal'c pushed his way inside. He barked something at the quivering old
man, who answered in a tremulous voice and pointed vaguely to the
"Kree, ha'taaka!" Teal'c pointed the staff weapon at the man, who paled
and pointed in the opposite direction.
Dropping his aim, Teal'c snarled at the man and strode back out the door.
"The village is approximately ten miles to our northwest." He swung Culsu
onto his back and began running. Sam followed close behind, breaking into
the ground devouring trot she'd learned in basic.
The sun was just coming up over the hills. If they could maintain this
pace, they'd hit the village in about three hours, if the old man had been
telling the truth. The miles fell behind them as they ran over hills and
through fields, startling the field workers who were just setting out to
work. Culsu was enjoying herself immensely, from her perch high on the
Jaffa's strong shoulders. Her long, dark hair fluttered like a banner in
the brisk morning breeze.
Sam felt like she could run like this forever. She routinely ran six miles
a day on her treadmill, but there was something invigorating about the air
in this world. The ground came up to meet her feet, cradling them as she
pushed off for the next stride. If it were not for the anxiety of
wondering how her teammates were faring, she would be enjoying herself
almost as much as Culsu.
The sun was well up when they topped the rise that looked out over the
village. The campground was empty, Sam noted. The village itself was
kinda quiet, with people going about their business in a subdued manner.
They descended into the valley, and entered the little village after
another fifteen minutes walk.
Their clothes earned them some strange looks, but no one would stop and
talk to them. Matrons hurried their children along before them like
clucking hens protecting their broods, and men gave them a wide berth as
well. Everyone seemed furtive, almost ashamed, and no one would meet Sam's
"I don't like this. How can we find the Colonel and Daniel if no one will
talk to us?"
They reached the city center, the place where the two roads met. It was
surrounded by marble buildings and a large open area, probably where they
held market. "Teal'c, do you think they already escaped? Maybe we should
"Carter!" The Colonel's voice was weak and distant. "Carter! Tell me
"Colonel?" His voice sounded like it was coming up out of the ground.
"Keep talking. Where are you?"
"In some damn cell. Look at the base of a big marble building. And hurry,
His voice sounded hoarse, tired, but she was glad to hear it. She quickly
located three small windows, near the ground. "Colonel?"
"Here, Carter!" The middle window, then. She knelt down and looked in,
but could see very little.
"Is Daniel with you?" She could make out two forms in the dim little room,
one lying down, the other sitting against the door.
"No, he was taken a couple of hours ago. Don't waste time with me; go find
Sam looked around for the building's entrance, then went in at a run,
Teal'c at her six with Culsu clinging to his shoulders like a miniature
jockey on a very strange horse. She ran down a long hall, looking for
doors or, failing that, someone to shake down. The ideal candidate quickly
presented himself as they rounded a corner.
Caligula looked at the militant trio in alarm and turned to run, but Sam
caught him in a headlock and slammed him against a white marble wall. She
twisted his arm up behind his back and said, "Where are Colonel Jack
O'Neill and Daniel Jackson?"
His voice growling, Teal'c translated.
The youth could not answer fast enough, though part of Sam wanted him to
slow down so she could have the pleasure of twisting his arm a little
higher. "What's he saying?"
"He will take us to the Colonel. DanielJackson is along the road to the
south of the village. He is very sorry and wishes he had never tried to
kiss you. You are, apparently, not at all attractive to him any more. I,
myself, find nothing wrong with your appearance, and am quite displeased
that he attempted to forcibly kiss you." The Jaffa snarled something in
Caligula's ear that made him go even paler.
Twisting the man's arm up a little higher, she got her revenge for that
little scare. "You make me feel all warm and rosy, Teal'c. Let's get the
Colonel and go find Daniel. I'll take Culsu; you handle this little
They made a curious procession, but the guards at the door at the bottom of
the stairs stood aside at Caligula's order. Sam zatted them for good
measure, buying some time. As an afterthought, she zatted Caligula too,
leaving him in a pile with the guards.
The Colonel was struggling to sit up, untangling himself from the blankets
and the sheet that covered him. Claudius was at his side, helping, when
Sam and the Jaffa came in.
"What happened?" A crude splint was tied to the Colonel's right leg,
immobilizing it. "Can you walk."
"Uh, that would be a no. I ordered you to go after Daniel." O'Neill sat
up at last, looking very pale and haggard. "Daniel.they were going to.they
whipped him. I heard it. About an hour, hour and a half ago. Claudius
knows where." He was obviously in a lot of pain, his words coming between
short breaths. Sam rummaged in her pack and found the pre filled syringes
of Dem/Phen. A shaking hand stopped her before she could get the cap off.
"Danny will need it more. Go get him, Carter. Go on."
Sam put the syringe away, the Colonel's words finally sinking in. Daniel,
whipped? By who? Why? Questions could wait though. "Colonel, our escape
route is approximately sixteen klicks to the northwest. Let Teal'c carry
you out and we'll get a wagon or something when we have you topside."
The Colonel nodded. "Okay. But you go now, with Claudius, and get Daniel.
They...it may be too late. May not. Hurry, god damn it!"
The urgency in his cracking voice spurred her. She grabbed Claudius and
dragged him out the door. He looked in alarm at the unconscious forms of
his nephew and the guards. "They're fine, Claudius. Just asleep.
Dormitum." He smiled, recalling their first English lesson together, and
nodded his understanding.
"Hurry, Sam. Daniel crucifis. Ita?"
Crucifis. Crucifix? Sam went cold with dread. "Shit. Come on." She hit
the street at a run, Claudius loping behind her, and said, "Where?"
The Roman pointed along the road leading south, and she took off at a
sprint. Every step was a prayer. Don't let me be too late, don't let him
be dead, don't please God let him be nailed to a fucking cross. The mind
wanders down strange roads under fear and stress, and she found herself
reflecting on the irony of praying to a supposed God who had allowed it to
happen to his Son, not to let the same fate befall her friend. Not that
she'd been in a church in years. Not since Mom. not since she was
fourteen or so. A few more sprinted steps and the prayer just turned into
The road was climbing now, leaving the city, and Claudius was still keeping
up. His limp was slowing him not a jot, though his breathing was coming
fast and gaspy.
No, she realized with a start, that was Daniel. She stumbled to a stop
against the mile stone, catching her breath and stared, her mind not able
to accept what she was seeing. It was so alien, so wrong, that it did not
connect. That could not be Daniel, must not be. Was.
The moment of disorientation passed when Daniel opened his eyes and looked
into hers. "Oh, Daniel." His image wavered and she furiously fisted tears
away with one hand, and zatted the guards who were stationed around the
cross with the other.
Daniel looked around in vague confusion, his breath shallow and wheezing,
as the soldiers fell away. "What." He had no voice left, Sam noted with
dismay. The word was a bare whisper. "Sam?"
The cross was short, barely tall enough for his tied feet to clear the
ground, and the cross bar seemed to be resting on the top of the main post.
His hands were curled forward like claws, and iron spikes were driven deep
into both wrists. Sam felt nauseated. "God, Daniel. I'm so sorry." She
had no idea how to get the battered man down without hurting him further.
Claudius came loping up at last, out of breath and sweating. He cried out
softly and looked sick when he saw Daniel. Sam started working on the
ropes that were pinning his legs to the post. Stepping up quickly,
Claudius removed his toga and eased it around Daniel's body, holding him up
as the ropes came away and taking all the strain off of the impaled wrists.
Daniel's breathing eased immediately, though Sam could see him shaking
from where she stood. He's in shock, she thought.
A tug on Sam's pant leg drew her distracted attention downward. Culsu.
"You shouldn't be here, little one!" She covered the girl's eyes, turning
her away from the heartrending sight.
"Major Sam, I can help." Culsu moved pushed Carter's hand away firmly and
held out her arms to be picked up. "Lift, please. Shoulders." The wide
green eyes looked very old, suddenly, and Sam reminded herself that this
was not a child at all. She bent and lifted the tiny thing to her
shoulders and let herself be guided over to the cross.
"Be ready, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus." Culsu took the head
of the cruel spike in her tiny hand and pulled, holding Daniel's forearm
steady against the beam. He came fully awake then, bucking weakly in
Claudius' arms and making a sound like a scream, but with no sound behind
it, only pain. Then the nail came free and Culsu threw it far away,
wiping her tiny hands clean on her tunic. "Other wrist," she said in a
tiny, shaky voice.
Sam stumbled over, wiping tears from her eyes. "Almost over, Danny. It's
almost over," she said, more to herself than to her twitching friend. Get
him down, dose him up, get him home. God, she was ready to go home.
"Here we go. Be ready to catch him." The nail came out with a shriek, and
Danny bucked again, a ragged groan whispering out of his abused throat.
Claudius caught him in his strong arms, then, as he sagged to the ground.
Sam put Culsu back on the ground and helped Claudius wrap the shivering man
in the toga, holding pressure on each wrist to stop the bleeding there.
Sam felt the shattered gravel of his wrist bones beneath her hand, and
wondered if Daniel would be able to use his hands again.
He looked up at her and smiled tiredly, but did not speak. After a while,
he closed his eyes and seemed to go to sleep, though he might have passed
out. Sam sniffed and zatted the guards again, who were showing signs of
waking. She hoped sufficient time had passed that they weren't dead from
the second shot, but she could not bring herself to be too concerned for
their well being.
"Claudius, can you bring Teal'c here with the wagon?" To her surprise,
Culsu translated in rapid Latin. After a moment's thought, she realized
there was no reason the girl shouldn't be able to speak Latin, but it had
never occurred to her to ask.
"He says he will bring them back soon, Sam. Will Daniel be all right?"
"I hope so. Hand me my backpack. I have medical supplies in there."
Claudius loped back down the hill to the village and Sam set about
assessing Daniel's injuries. A shot of Demerol and Phenergan for pain, a
shot of penicillin to stave off infection, and then she unwrapped the still
shivering man to assess his wounds.
She bit back a curse; his back looked like hamburger. She had nowhere near
enough supplies. Best to just concentrate on keeping him free of pain and
out of shock until Janet could get her hands on him. Where the hell was
Gathering Daniel into her arms, she wrapped the bloody toga more securely
around him and settled in to wait. She leaned against the mile marker
stone, Culsu a warm little weight leaning into her side. Daniel never
stirred, and his shivering gradually eased as the sun warmed them. The
bleeding seemed to have stopped; every breath he took while on the cross
had reopened his back wounds, judging by the dark stain on the wood.
Repositioning herself slightly, Sam made sure that, if Daniel woke, he
wouldn't see that damned tree. Sam did not want to look up and see it,
either. His head lolled on her shoulder, his breath light and warm on her
neck and smelling faintly of wine and something bitter. He did not stir.
At long last, the clop of hooves and creak of harness heralded the arrival
of the rest of SG-1. She shifted slightly and heard a very soft, "Sam?"
"It's over, Danny. All over. We're going home."
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
"Do you see them yet?" Jack bit back a curse as the wagon lurched again,
jostling his aching leg painfully. Trees passed slowly by, and O'Neill
felt like getting out and pushing.
The Jaffa shook his head, and slapped the reins over the backs of the stoic
pair of mules Claudius had commandeered from the Magistrate's stables. The
floor of the wagon was thick with mattresses and pillows, for which Jack
was very grateful. Two big sheepskins were laid over the thickest
concentration of padding, under the tarp in the back. O'Neill really hoped
it was overkill.
"We there yet, Teal'c?"
"I see them, O'Neill." Teal'c's voice was grim and angry. Jack looked
over the side of the cart again, but couldn't see anything. Claudius had
looked sick when he'd come stumbling back into the village square, and did
not look much better now. "MajorCarter! We have arrived!" The Jaffa
pulled back hard on the reins and handed them to Claudius, jumping lightly
to the ground.
No matter how Jack twisted, his leg prevented most movement. Daniel had
done a great job of splinting it, but the swelling had yet to go down, and
that was making even thinking of moving far very painful indeed. What was
taking so long? "Hey! What's going on out there?"
"Just a moment, Colonel." Carter sounded as shaken as Claudius looked.
Impatient, he tried to peer over the top of the wagon's wall again and
found himself face to face with a pair of sad green eyes. "Uh.Hi."
O'Neill lost his grip on the wagon and fell back on his cushions, clutching
his newly throbbing leg. The child climbed into the wagon and landed on a
pile of pillows with an "Oof." She was tiny, no older than five or six
years old, and barefoot. Her long, dark hair was tangled and windblown,
and her blue tunic had dark stains on it.
"Hello," she said. "I have a loose tooth." She poked her tongue against
it to demonstrate. "Major Samantha thinks it might come out tomorrow. I
am Culsu. Are you Colonel O'Neill?"
Confused and charmed, Jack nodded. "You can call me Jack, though. Where
did you come from?" He had a vague memory of a child back in the cell,
when Carter showed up the first time, but Daniel's screams had been echoing
in his memory and his only thought had been to get Sam on the road to
"My Father made me. His name is Caput Lupinum, but I call him Aita. Or
Father." The child moved to the rear of the wagon, wading through the soft
mire of padding, and smoothed out the sheepskins. "He made everything.
Here comes Daniel Jackson."
Carter walked around the back of the wagon, her eyes red, and unlatched the
back panel. "Hello, Colonel," she said, climbing in. She wouldn't meet
his eyes, focusing over his shoulder, or looking away. "Teal'c's right
behind me." She scooted out of the way, straightening the sheepskins as
she went, and partially blocking Jack's view. "Culsu, is there anywhere
closer we can go to get back? I want to get home as soon as possible."
It sounded like she was two words away from weeping, her voice thick and
clogged with the effort of control. Jack thought about why this might be
and scooted closer to the end of the wagon, ready to help.
The girl shook her head, answering Carter's question. "There's one ten
miles down the road, or ten miles over the hills. There is a portal hub on
Ponza, of course, and one in Rome. The next closest is near an inn, twenty
miles north of here."
Her little girl lisp was deceiving, O'Neill decided. "I have the
impression there is more to this little girl than meets the eye, Major."
Jack eased his leg straight, leaning back against the wall of the wagon
with a wince.
Carter nodded distractedly, and then Teal'c was setting Daniel in the back
of the cart, taking infinite care. Sam helped to position the far too
still man on the sheepskins, turning him on his side and bolstering him
with cushions so he wouldn't roll.
When the Major finally moved out of the way, Jack's stomach turned. He's
so pale, he thought. So still. They had him wrapped up, his bruised arms
free of the fabric's embrace, but wrapped individually and splinted from
elbows to fingers. The blood had seeped through at several places, but it
was drying now. Then he saw the hands, lying curled and clawed on the soft
sheepskin, and he could not look higher. Couldn't look to see if Daniel
were awake, damning Jack with his eyes.
"Sir." This was going to change the man forever. "Sir?" He could still
hear Daniel's screams, growing hoarser and hoarser, though no more
terrible, with each thunderous crack from Hastatus' whip. "Sir!"
"What!? Damn it, what, Carter?" He glared at his 2IC, looking crisp and
comfortable in her BDU's while Daniel was wrapped in a fucking shroud.
"What the hell took you so long, anyway? Stop to see some sights on the
way? Pick up some souvenirs?" His anger was irrational and he knew it,
regretting the words before they left his mouth. Still, the poison dripped
into the shocked silence and he could not stop himself. "I trusted you to
get back in time; *he * trusted you."
Making no response, Carter latched the wagon's end panel again and climbed
back into the wagon, settling near Daniel's feet. "This wagon has no
shocks, and we're going to be driving over some bumpy ground, Sir. I need
help bracing Daniel. Can you make it back here?" Her voice broke on the
last sentence. She busied herself propping pillows and bolsters around
Daniel's body, making certain he was padded on all sides and would not
roll. Only the occasional sniff gave her away, and she kept her eyes on
her busy hands.
Collecting himself, cringing with shame, Jack nodded once. He took a deep
breath and said, "Yeah. Sorry. Yes. On my way." He levered himself
partially upright and half lurched, half-limped back to the tarp-covered
area. Daniel looked even worse up close, pale and shivering in the mild
warmth of the day.
He was also awake, his eyes open and sleepy, staring up at Jack. Shaking
his head once, rocking it against the pillow, he whispered something Jack
couldn't hear. No damnation there, no accusation in those eyes. Just
fatigue, pain, and sadness.
Wedging himself against the side of the wagon again, Jack brought head and
pillow to rest in his lap, extending his unbroken leg behind Daniel to
support him further. Carter piled pillows around them both, making sure
O'Neill's splinted leg was raised and immobilized.
"Thanks, Carter," Jack said. She mumbled a reply, still not meeting his
eyes. He stopped her, catching a hand and then catching her eye.
"Carter.Sam, I'm sorry. You made it back way before Daniel guessed you
would. You did good, and I'm glad you're here."
Anger, shame, gratitude, and relief made for a strange expression, if that
was what Jack was reading in his 2IC's face. The warring features
eventually settled into a kind of watery smile, and she squeezed his hand,
hard. "With all due respect, Sir, you can be a real bitch sometimes."
"I am aware of that, Major. Carry on."
"We're set, Sir. Teal'c, let's go. Culsu, why don't you go up front and
keep Claudius company for a while."
"C-Culsu.gate-keeper of unnerworld.." Daniel's voice was barely above a
whisper, but Jack could hear it and he smiled down at the pinched and pale
face in his lap.
"Hey, Danny," he said softly. He brushed back the damp strands of hair
with his stiff fingers. "How ya doin'?"
"Feel like I got stepped on. Big el'phant. You?" The eyes were open a
bit wider now, but the voice was no stronger and Jack had to strain to hear
above the creaking harness as they got underway.
"Also pretty crappy. What were you saying about a gate-keeper?"
For a long moment, Jack thought his friend had fallen asleep again, then,
feather soft, he heard, "Etruscan. Culsu and Mania guarded the entrance.
The little girl picked that moment to bean Claudius on the head with one of
the more tasselly pillows. "Demons, huh? I can believe it. Where did you
get the kid, Carter?"
As they spoke, Jack could feel Daniel relaxing bit by bit, letting the
reality of his friends soak into his psyche, taking comfort in their
nearness. Jack brushed a few moist strands from Danny's warm brow and
found himself stroking the man's hair, soothing it back. He supposed he
should feel self-conscious, but it felt good, and he thought it might be
comforting. It sure comforted Jack.
Sam was doing the same thing to Daniel's feet, rubbing them lightly as she
braced his wounded body against the sway of the wagon. "When we got to
Ponza, we found Daniel's grotto. Culsu was there. I believe she's a
construct of some kind, like an android, but I'm fairly sure she's flesh
and blood. She has a loose tooth."
Jack nodded. "She showed me."
From the front of the wagon, the little girl sang, "I am an homunculus! A
changeling! A demon childe!" She solemnly handed Claudius a pillow and
Sam quirked a little smile. "Any way, she apparently has been following
her programming for years, putting people into this world after wiping
their memories, and just got lonely. She left us with most of our memories
intact and waited for us to find our way to her."
Plausible, but there was something about the story that had bothered Jack
from the beginning. "What about historical figures like Claudie, or that
Caligula guy? They didn't just wander into a Stargate and into this
picturesque little hellhole. History recorded their deaths."
Carter's hands stopped moving as she thought this over. "I, I don't know,
Sir. I hadn't thought.Culsu! Stop hitting Claudius with that pillow and
come here for a second."
"He was hitting me, too, Major Samantha." Claudius dropped his pillow and
attempted to look innocent. Culsu bopped him one final time and then
scurried over and plopped down against Carter's side, cuddling under her
arm until she was draped across Carter's lap. "Yes, Sam? How is Daniel?
Is he better?"
Jack looked down at the tousled head in his lap, noted the even breaths,
the limp limbs. Asleep, thank goodness. "He's resting, Culsu. I have a
few questions to ask you."
The little girl yawned, and wriggled into a more comfortable position.
"Okay, Colonel Jack. But I may not know the answers."
O'Neill nodded. "I can accept that. Tell me where Claudius came from."
"Lyons. Well, Rome, but he was born in Lyons. Ten BC. Why?"
Carter poked the little girl in the nose, eliciting a giggle. "What the
Colonel wants to know, mite, is how he came to be here, and young again."
"Oh! Well, my Father made a device that reaches into the past and pulls
people out. Claudius was nearly dead of Julia Agrippina's poison, but
Father turned back the hourglass and the sands flowed upward. The years
fell away, and the waters of Lethe washed away all memory of his life,
until he was a child again. I wish I could have fixed him; he has what you
call cerebral palsy. Father would not hear of it, though, and became quite
cross when I suggested it."
"Amazing." Sam was gaping down at her wiggling lapful with wide eyes. "But
it makes some sense. Not actual time travel, but manipulation of temporal
possibilities. And I suppose you put them back the same way, a whole new
life span lived, when they reach their natural death here?"
"Uh huh." The girl nodded, playing with the Major's dog tags.
A thought entered Jack's mind, and he said, "Can you turn back that
hourglass for oh, say, an hour? And what would happen?"
Culsu rolled over in Sam's lap and regarded Jack seriously.
"You would be an hour younger."
Jack nodded in annoyance. "And?"
"And what Colonel Jack? What do you want to know?"
Daniel twitched, groaning as the wagon hit a particularly jarring bump.
The little girl patted his feet, rubbing in soothing circles, and the semi-
conscious man calmed down, murmuring to himself again. Controlling his
rising temper, Jack said, "I want to know if it would heal Danny."
The little girl looked startled then bit her lip, thinking. Jack stroked
Daniel's head, combing through the drying strands with his fingers, and
rubbing the man's temples lightly. At length, the child said, "I think so.
I do not see why it would not. But you would want a day or so. Twenty-
four hours, rather than one. It would be as if the day had never happened.
No hurts, no memory."
"Perfect." Jack nodded in satisfaction. "Teal'c, drive faster."
The plodding mules would not, however, be hurried. It took the better part
of the day for them to find the oak grove once again. To Jack's profound
relief, Daniel slept through most of it. He was still sleeping when they
finally reached the grove and could go on sleeping, as far as Jack was
concerned, until they got him fixed up.
He called Carter and Claudius over to help him up, leaving Daniel in the
wagon for the moment. With Claudius under one shoulder and Carter under
the other, Jack hopped off of the wagon with little discomfort. "Culsu, go
do that voodoo that you do."
"You made a poem, Colonel Jack!" The giggling girl skipped forward and
stood between two oaks, her arms outstretched. A shimmering black curtain
stretched from one to the other. Slowly, the ripples cleared and Jack
could see strange shapes and glowing structures. To one side, he saw a bit
of a Stargate, and felt an almost overwhelming sense of homesickness. The
construct reminded him of the quantum mirror Danny had fallen into, but
this was just hanging there, strung between two trees.
"Teeeeel.ck, take point," the girl sang, and Major Carter laughed quietly
under O'Neill's arm. Then she stiffened as the sound of an arming staff
weapon brought the group to a stop.
"I don't believe this! Hastatus. Carter, hand me your P-90 'cos I'm gonna
kill that son of a bitch. What's he saying?"
"He says what they always say, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "Give up now, or you
are all dead."
"Well, *that's * not gonna happen."
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
The world was rocking softness and distant pain. Fading in and out, Daniel
vaguely registered that his head was in Jack O'Neill's lap, and that the
Colonel was stroking his head. Too tired to be surprised, Daniel gave in
to the softness, the closeness of his friends, and his fatigue and let
himself fade out again.
The next time he woke, the rocking had stopped. Gingerly propping himself
on one elbow, he looked around blearily, but the wagon was empty except for
gear and pillows. "Jack?" Daniel was surprised at the whisper of voice,
and the pain that accompanied it. He tried again, but with no better
result. After a third try, he gave it up as a lost cause and decided to go
looking for his friends.
This proved much easier to contemplate than to accomplish. He was tangled
up in a long sheet that was stuck to his back, and there was something
painfully wrong with his hands. His wrists. His mind shied away from the
memory of why his wrists hurt so badly, and he concentrated on sitting up,
then on swinging his legs over the back of the wagon. Someone had
thoughtfully left the gate off, and he sat there for a moment, waiting for
the sudden rush of dizziness to pass. Sam must have doped me up pretty
well, he thought vaguely.
"Culsu, go do that voodoo that you do!" Jack's tired voice and the
childish giggle that followed drew his attention. "You made a poem Colonel
Jack!" A child? Daniel wondered if he might not be hallucinating, but the
pulling agony in his back was too real. He had vague memories of a
childish voice, mixed with Jack's gravely voice, answering questions.
He leaned against the side of the wagon for a moment, his arms resting in
his lap, and contemplated standing. Perhaps it would be better to wait for
one of the others. Surely they'd come back for him. Lethargy turned his
limbs to lead, and he decided he was content to sit.
The sound of a staff weapon powering up brought him around instantly.
"//Surrender now, or you will all perish. You will return with me to the
Jack's irate voice said, "I don't believe this! Hastatus. Carter, hand me
your P-90, 'cos I'm gonna kill that son of a bitch. What's he saying?"
Standing carefully, Daniel looked around the side of the wagon. Hastatus
had Teal'c's staff weapon aimed at his friends. Jack was being held up by
Sam and Claudius, and Teal'c was carrying a little girl. They couldn't do
anything against Hastatus.
Gear. Backpacks. Daniel remembered seeing their backpacks in the wagon.
It was worth a try. With fingers that did not want to bend, Daniel
wrestled open one of the packs and upended it. BDU's, the gate
transmitter, and some MRE's. Nothing useful there, unless Hastatus could
be forced to consume the Tabasco sauce that the government insisted on
putting inside every MRE packet.
Daniel snagged another pack, his wrists aching with every jarring movement.
He set his jaw and opened the backpack, spilling its contents on top of
the first. To his profound relief, this one held a zat. Cradling it in
his stiff hands, Daniel looked around the side of the wagon again. The
tableau had not changed. He armed the hand weapon and fumbled for the
trigger, not quite able to feel it. Almost by accident, the weapon fired,
and Hastatus collapsed in a ball of blue fire.
The temptation to pull the trigger again was almost overwhelming. Daniel
was frightened by his sudden desire to annihilate this man, and he dropped
the zat before he could find the trigger again. He was not afraid of
killing, but only in self-defense. Never in anger, never in fear, and
never for the sake of vengeance.
"Way to go, Daniel!" Jack crowed.
Leaning against the side of the wagon, Daniel waved tiredly. Teal'c
scooped up his staff weapon and nudged the unconscious man over onto his
back. "What shall we do with this ha'shak, DanielJackson?" He looked
down at Hastatus with disgust.
Daniel shrugged. "I don't really care, Teal'c. Just wanna go home." He
clutched the toga with his clawed and crabbed fingers and avoided looking
at the man on the ground. The ground was starting to look pretty good,
actually, all cool and green. His whole body hurt terribly and he was
starting to shake again.
"Send him back with the wagon," Sam suggested. "By coming after us, he
became a fugitive. Let Callas deal with him." She looked to Daniel;
somehow the decision had become his. Well, there was a certain ironic
justice to it.
At Daniel's tired nod, Teal'c tied Hastatus' hands and hoisted him into the
wagon, clearing it first of their gear. He then led the mules back to the
path and sent them ambling on their way.
"Hate to just let that bastard go. You okay, Daniel?"
The bent man huffed a tired, bitter laugh. "No. Not really. Can we go
home now, Jack?"
A little girl approached him and looked up, solemnly. The child he had
heard earlier. "Follow me, Doctor Daniel Jackson." She pulled him toward
a shimmering portal that hung between two trees. "Home is this way." He
let himself be pulled through, stumbling momentarily until Teal'c steadied
him with a careful hand on his arm.
The room on the other side would have been fascinating, if he were not so
damn tired. He had an impression of organic shapes, warm light, and a
Stargate. "God, I'm glad to see that," he said. His voice broke and he
was surprised at how close he was to tears. "Home now?"
Sam and Claudius settled Jack on a low bench. "In a bit, Daniel," Jack
"Just a little farther, Doctor Daniel." The girl led him to a table and
said. "Lie down."
Daniel looked at Jack, who nodded. "She says this thing will fix you up,
Daniel. Go on."
He looked at the table dubiously. "Not like a sarcophagus?"
"Nothing like a sarcophagus, DanielJackson. Culsu thinks the procedure
will heal you."
A little alarmed, Daniel pulled away from Teal'c. "Procedure? What
procedure? And who is Culsu?" He had a vague memory of the name; Etruscan
guardian of the underworld, usually depicted as an old woman holding a pair
The little girl who had led him through the shimmering curtain held up her
hand. "I am. Me. I am Culsu. Nice to meet you." She covered her mouth
with both hands and giggled. "I made a poem."
Daniel had to smile. Her giggle was infectious. Still, "Tell me about
this procedure." He was starting to shiver again, and really wanted to lay
down somewhere for a while. Preferably a nice, warm infirmary. The room
was spinning slowly, and his knees were feeling very wobbly. "Why can't we
just go home?"
"Daniel, your wrists are shattered," Jack said bluntly. "Janet can't put
you back together again. Culsu thinks she can."
So that was why his hands wouldn't work right. The nails must have. He
tried to flex his wrists and gasped as the pain shot up both arms and
burrowed into his shoulders. "Okay. What do I do?"
"Just lie down, Doctor Jackson," the girl said.
With Teal'c's help, Daniel stretched out on the table. It molded itself to
his shape, cradling him with no pressure on his ragged back. It felt cool,
then warm, and then Daniel felt no pain at all as the light grew brighter
around him. He heard a distant hum, like a broken hymn, and tried to
follow the tune but lost it quickly, as the bed grew warmer beneath him.
Soothing warmth, melting into his aches and giving him ease.
The pain in his wrists went first, and he hands finally relaxed. The
healing warmth traveled up his arms, to the strained muscles in his
shoulders and back. Then down his back in licks of soothing heat.
He didn't know just how long he lay in the bed's embrace, but eventually
the light faded around him and the bed firmed beneath him. Taking the
hint, he sat up, wincing as the toga pulled on the welts left by Hastatus'
"How you feeling, Danny?" Jack asked.
Sam walked up and slipped something into his hands. "My glasses!" He put
them on, clumsy due to the splints, and sighed happily. Everything came
into focus for the first time in days, and the first thing he saw was that
everyone was looking at him. "What?"
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ *
Teal'c went with Daniel to change, leaving Jack waiting impatiently on his
bench. He looked around and saw Sam and Claudius whispering together in
the corner, the kid up on Sam's shoulders. Probably translating. They
looked excited and a bit worried. "Carter, shouldn't you be finding a DHD
or something?" His leg was hurting like hell and all he wanted right now
was Dr. Fraiser and her happy meds.
"Culsu will dial out, Sir. Before we go, though," she hurried over to him,
the kid still perched on her back like a parrot. "Claudius was telling me
that Callas had cru.executed several of his workers before attending your
trial. We were thinking that some of them might still be alive."
Jack kicked himself mentally. He'd all but forgotten about that. Kind of
strange, though, that the Roman would take an interest. "'Claudius, any
particular reason you're wanting to help out here?" He didn't think the
man had a guileful bone in his body, but he was also an unknown. "This
sort of thing has been going on for a long time now. Why haven't you tried
to stop it?" Culsu translated softly.
"Sir, I." he held up a hand and Sam stopped talking.
The man looked uncomfortable, listening to Culsu's translation. He replied
briefly, then limped away to start packing.
Culsu said, "His reasons are the same as my reasons." She stood before
him, shifting form foot to foot, picking at the dark stain on her tunic.
That's blood, Jack realized. Daniel's blood. "You were never real to me
before, Colonel Jack," she said at last. Her voice was very quiet, and
there was a sadness in her wide, jade eyes that had not been there before.
"Since taking on this form, I have gained a new perspective. I have seen
your love for your friend, the gentleness with which you held him. I have
felt anger myself, when I saw his pain. So fragile, but he fought me when
I removed the iron from his wrists. Claudius feels as I do, and we want to
change the world my Father made. He wants to stay when you go, and free
Father's world. Starting with the men from your vineyard."
"With our weapons, it would not be a long delay, Sir," Carter added.
"There's a portal near the Drunken Carter. We can be back within a half-
Jack looked up into the eager faces of his team and decided his leg could
wait a half-hour. "You have a go. But if it looks dicey, you pull out and
hare back here, get me? And take Teal'c with you. Culsu, run find him
quick and let him know what the plan is." The girl was off like a shot,
bare feet slapping against the floor.
"Th-Thank you, Colonel," Claudius said.
Jack nodded, a little surprised that the man had spoken. The Roman had
been hanging back for a while, he realized. Lending a hand where needed,
but not really interacting with the team much. Back in the cell, Jack had
been too preoccupied to notice the man at all. He had vague memories of
being handed food and water at intervals, but he had been too caught up in
what he was hearing outside to have any appetite. It had been worse when
the screaming stopped, though. He remembered soft, meaningless words, and
himself railing at his inability to change things. Claudius had stayed
with him, though he could have left at any time.
"Sam, how are you coming with the Latin thing?" he asked.
Sam looked up from the backpack she was loading and said, "Fair, Sir.
"Need you to translate for me." He beckoned her over.
She looked surprised. "Maybe you better wait for Daniel to come back, Sir.
You'd get better results."
"Just do your best. Tell Claudius thank you for all the help he's given
us. Tell him we never would have made it here if it hadn't been for him."
Sam smiled and said, "I've told him all of that already, Sir. But he'll be
glad to hear it from you."
Sure enough, the man smiled like a star going nova, it was that bright.
His whole face just lit right up. Jack had to wonder what the man's life
had been like when a scrap of praise would fuel that warm a glow.
A delighted squeal from down the corridor drew his attention. Teal'c,
Culsu on his shoulders, came charging in the room. Daniel followed close
behind, trying unsuccessfully to control his laughter. The Jaffa circled
the room twice, galloping like a racehorse, before swinging the little girl
high in the air and swooping her down for a landing. "There, infans. You
must stay here and mind O'Neill and DanielJackson. We will return soon."
"But, I must open the door for you on the other side. I must go with you."
Sam said, "This time it'll be too dangerous, kid. Can't you just open the
door from this side, or keep the door open for us?"
"Well, yes. I suppose. But I want to help, as I did with DanielJackson."
Jack controlled his flinch, saw Sam look guiltily at Daniel, and saw the
questions already forming on the younger man's face. Well, he never
intended to lie to the man about what happened. For a start, he would
probably work it out for himself. Better to meet it head on; at least he
would have no actual memories of his ordeal to keep him awake at night.
The man had enough nightmare fodder in his brain all ready.
"You can help by keeping our escape route open, infans," said Teal'c. "We
must depart now."
With a pout a mile long, the little girl opened the portal again. Jack
recognized the pathway to the pool behind the Drunken Carter, shimmering in
midair. "Good luck, kids. Be back before curfew." Sam, Teal'c, and
Claudius stepped through the portal and disappeared down the path.
The room was quiet when the three had gone. Jack tried to get his leg into
a more comfortable position, but on the hard little bench it was difficult.
It was throbbing, now, and he really hoped the rescue mission was over
Daniel was strangely quiet. He was standing, his arms wrapped around his
body, and staring off into the distance. Warning bells went off in Jack's
head. There were fascinating lines of script on the walls that he was
completely failing to show any interest in. Always a sign of trouble.
"Daniel? You okay?"
"You keep asking me that, Jack. I'm fine. Is there some reason I
shouldn't be fine?" The younger man's voice was tight with barely held
control. "Sam keeps looking at me like I'm going to shatter, and Teal'c
won't meet my eyes. What happened that I'm not remembering, Jack?"
"I saw the toga, Jack. I had to peel it off of my skin. The blood stains
down my back, my legs. Hell, my wrists." His voice cracked, but the
volume kept escalating. "You've got a fucking Shroud of Turin in there and
I haven't got a mark on me, except for a few welts and a fading goose egg
on the back of my head." He took off his glasses and rubbed his still sore
eyes, trying for some measure of control. "It's like, there's something
tickling at the back of my head, something that wants to be remembered, but
it didn't happen yet. I know that makes no sense. Like a reverse deja'
Crap. Jack looked at Culsu, who looked sad, but not surprised. "Sometimes
it is thus. Memories too strong for forgetting refuse to go. They camp
and lay siege at your doorstep, like frightened children yearning for your
hearth to warm them."
She scampered off and returned a few minutes later with a cone shaped
device. "This will make you remember, DanielJackson." She placed it in
his hands and went and sat in the corner, a little bundle of sadness.
Daniel turned the device over in his hands.
Best to meet it head on? Like operating without anesthesia was more like
it. If he didn't tell him, though, Daniel would make himself remember.
"Don't, Danny. You're right that something terrible happened to you. You
don't need to remember, all you have to do is ask. Isn't it enough to know
what happened, without remembering it?"
The man went pale at Jack's words as understanding dawned. They had never
been able to speak openly of it, but Daniel understood. "They did it?
Really did it? We didn't get away? I thought.. And Sam found me; that's
why she can't look at me." He looked at the device in his hands like it
was a poisonous snake. "You healed me, somehow, and the process erased my
memories, right?" He looked up at the little girl in the corner, who
nodded. "This will bring my memories back?" She nodded again. "What will
happen if I don't use it?"
"Nothing. You will remember everything in time, probably, except for
"And if I do?"
"You will remember everything. Vividly."
Crapcrapcrap.just once, Daniel, let it go. He could see the need to know
and the fear of that knowledge written plainly across the young man's face.
"Let it go, Daniel. Just this once. There's all kinds of hell I'd forget
if I could. Let this one stay buried as long as it likes. Trust me."
Daniel sat on the floor, his legs crossed, and looked down the barrel of
the thing. "I don't really want to remember, but it feels like cheating
The little girl stood up and padded over to him, taking the device from his
hands. "It is not cheating." She laid the thing to one side and then
picked up Daniel's hands and kissed the inside of his wrists, one and then
the other. "It is a blessing. The waters of Lethe cure as well as curse."
Daniel sat, lost in thought, then looked up at O'Neill, his eyes watery
blue, and smiled shakily. "Okay. We let sleeping dogs lie."
"There are no dogs here, DanielJackson."
Jack laughed, surprised, and the tension broke. "Culsu, are you sure
you're not related to Teal'c?" Daniel was smiling, though, and that was a
miracle. "I think there's a bit of family resemblance, don't you, Daniel?
Maybe around the eyes."
"I was thinking more around the ribs," Daniel said, and reached out with
wriggling fingers. He tickled the child unmercifully until she collapsed
in a pile of giggles in his lap. "Yep, definitely Jaffa material. Stoic,"
tickle, "stalwart," ticklegiggle, "and stout of heart." The girl jumped up
and ran to Jack for protection, hiding behind his bench.
"Save me, Colonel Jack!"
Far sooner than expected, the curtain shimmered and the rest of the team
walked through, alone. "Where's the rest of the party?" Jack asked.
"Horace Hospes sends his regards, O'Neill, and says not to worry."
Sam dropped her pack and sat on it, combing her hair with her fingers.
"Apparently he rescued the men the day after Callas left. Caupona is
taking care of them now, and they will be moved to a safer location soon."
She smiled fondly at Claudius. "Claudius has a villa nearby. He
volunteered the use of it until the men can fend for themselves."
"Generous. Okay, Culsu, dial us up. Time to go home."
"Sir, I don't think it's going to be that simple," Carter said. "We've
been gone for more than a week; our mission was supposed to be completed in
two hours. Surely the General will have blocked out our gate remote, won't
"True, but trust me. Culsu? Will you do the honors? Daniel knows the
coordinates." The two went off to confer and Jack motioned for Sam to hand
him his pack. He dug for a minute and pulled out the gate remote, punching
in numbers. "Emergency override. We never had to use it before, but
General Hammond wanted each of his team leaders to have a guaranteed
backdoor home, if things got dicey. The codes change at random, but we
should be okay."
"Should be, Sir?" Sam looked at the Stargate doubtfully. "With all due
respect, I have no desire to be splattered on the other end of the
wormhole. Can't we, I don't know, throw something in to test first? Morse
Jack looked around. "We could send a message through, ask for a response.
Good idea, Major." He quickly wrote out the coordinates to this Stargate
and a brief note to General Hammond, including the last three override
"Heads up! Activating," Daniel called. The 'Gate opened with a liquid
whoosh, then subsided again. "Alarms must be going off like crazy back
home." Jack handed him the letter and he sent it through. Jack activated
the gate remote, then sat back. Daniel looked longingly at the blue,
shimmering pool and said, "I really want to step through, Jack."
The gate vanished as suddenly as it appeared.
Culsu climbed into Sam's lap again, playing with her dogtags. "Gonna miss
you, Major Sam 'n' Teal'c. I do not have anyone to play with." She looked
up at the Jaffa with bright eyes and said, "Will you not stay and be my
"I cannot, infans. I am needed among the Tau'ri. But, at the Drunken
Carter, there is a little girl for you to play with, and an apprentice
blacksmith named Alvanus who, I am certain, will let you ride upon his back
if you ask him."
Sam looked at the Colonel with sad eyes. "No, Major, you can't keep her.
But she's welcome to come back with us if she likes."
The girl shook her head. "Claudius is staying, so I will stay."
"Claudius?" Daniel looked at the Roman in surprise. "Why? Come back with
us." He repeated himself in Latin, and the Roman answered him, the limping
cadence of his speech determined, but sad.
"He says he knows this place is not his world, but these people are his
people and he will not abandon them. If Culsu can make everyone remember
where they are from, he will help them find their way home," Daniel
translated. "I told him he was welcome on Earth and that Culsu knew the
The wormhole activated again, and a piece of paper came sailing through.
Sam retrieved it and handed it to O'Neill as the 'Gate winked out again.
"It says, SG-1, come home. Dial her up, Daniel, and let's move out."
Translations in order of appearance
Sedare. Ejus a me - Easy. It's just me.
Ego audire tu. Daniel dormitum. - I heard you. Daniel is asleep.
Si placet, Sam. Dormitum es 'asleep'? I-ita - Please, Sam. Dormitum
means 'asleep,' right?
Tace - Silence
Progredi - Move (forward)
Vexatoris tu, Milesitis Senex - Did I anger you, old soldier?
Iter facere - March faster
Desistere - Stop
Egere aqua - You want water?
Milesitis grandis. Bellator vallidisium - Great soldier. Mighty warrior.
Non militaris. Marmoset nos! Concidere, marmoset. - You're no soldier.
You're a marmoset. Come down, marmoset.
Tace - Quiet
Canis - Dog
Nil mortus tu - I'm not going to kill you.
Scia? - Understand?
Plecta mia tu. - You will be punished
Carus para dominus - Master paid alot (for you)
Adde furca - Bring the furca
Custodia agere - I will guard him.
Hastatus. - (a) spear or pike; also the guy's name
Iteras. - Repeat
Bene - Good
Salute, Canis. Bene somnus? - Hello, Dog. Good sleep?
Aqua. Sitis tu? - Water? You're thristy?
Obtinea aqua tu. - You will have water.
Sequae, Canis. - follow, dog
Carnifex. - Executioner
Biba toto queo - Drink all you can.
Bellator caederae Harundo - the warrior killed Harundo
Harundo mortus est - Harundo is dead
Bibae, cito - drink, quickly
"Nex omnes, Milesitis Senex. Tace ac abceda." (You'll kill us all, Old
Soldier. Be quiet and go.)
"Necare mie frater, nothus!"(you killed my brother, bastard) "Canis!
Mori tu!" (Dog, you die!)
Mansuetus - Mild or mildly, also the name of the guard who helps Daniel and