Hell, Revisited Ch. 2

That bastard, Locke, weighed a ton unconscious. O'Neill struggled at first but realized there was no way he'd get the man up a flight of stairs without help. Maybe down stairs, but definitely not up. He knew they'd been seen and it was only a matter of minutes until a local patrol would search this building and find them.

The telltale blast and flash of concussion grenades going off in the front room was clear indication time had run out. He turned to make a dash to the stairway but stopped short as two concussion grenades were tossed in the room. His only recourse was to go to ground and cover. He knew the soldiers would be on him in a moment but he'd rather be conscious than unconscious when they found him. The blast faded and he jumped to his feet, heading for the exit. Before he made it to the foot of the stairway he was cut off by a pair of very angry men. He stopped short and held his hands out to his sides to show them he was hiding no weapon. The sound of the helicopter leaving was unheard after the arrival of their friends and the impact of a gun stock to the back of his head.

Some time later O'Neill awoke. He was in a cell, certainly, but there was not even a speck of dust on the floor. A bit clean considering he knew where he was, or at least in what country he was. He stood and realized he'd been relieved of his vest, jacket and all equipment, right down to his shoes and socks, leaving him barefoot. The room was windowless, possibly a storage closet he thought. Maybe they were holding him until others could be dispatched to pick him up, and this was the closest place.

Unfortunately he also noted the door was quite well sealed and though there was a small vent near the floor and another one near the ceiling, he could feel no air flow through them. Must be some cross ventilation though, he thought. There was a drain in the middle of the floor and the light was from a single bare bulb overhead. The time wore on and his stomach started to growl. Not quite their MO to let him die without trying to extract at least some information.

After several hours he'd dozed off and was awakened by the door being unlatched. Two soldiers entered and roughly escorted him out of the cell. He was stunned to find himself in a lab instead of a prison. Not nearly as large as the other one, but similar, and no windows either, probably underground he thought. Thanks to his training he was already making mental notes of all the exits, and anything that might be of use to him in the future. He looked around at the equipment and back at the guards. "So is this when the torture starts?"

The older of the men swung his weapon around catching O'Neill in the thigh and spat a command at him to be quiet. Presently a well to do looking Arab man entered the room.

He gave orders to the men to back off but not leave the room. O'Neill pretended to look confused even though he understood every word.

The man now turned to him, "Sit, American!" and motioned to a plain metal chair. O'Neill complied, no point in making any moves just yet.

"You will tell me what it is you are doing in my country."

O'Neill just looked at him passively.

"What have you done with the scientist Wallace?"

O'Neill continued to stare.

"It is no matter. He was most likely on your helicopter. The one we shot down early this morning. There were no survivors, so you see why it is I am asking the questions of you." The man paced slowly with his head up in an air of aristocracy. He brushed a piece of lint from his sleeve.

O'Neill glared at him this time. No way was that the truth, he knew his team had made it, they had to.

"What is your name, American?"

"O'Neill."

"Rank?"

"Jaffa."

His captor looked at him with narrowed eyes, "You want to play games with me? Very well, Jaffa O'Neill, I teach you some good games." He barked some orders at the guards who dragged O'Neill to his feet and down a hallway through some doors and into another room.

'Oh, this looks more like it' he thought noting it was much less sterile than the lab environment. Also less inviting, with chains on the walls, a couple of rings imbedded in the ceiling and a long steel table against one wall. A long chain ran from a clip in the wall through one of the ceiling rings and swayed as they entered.

He was shoved into the center of the room and winced as one of the men clamped handcuffs on his wrists and tightened them down. The hanging chain was unceremoniously hooked to the short chain between the cuffs and his arms were suddenly jerked upward over his head. He was held in a position where his feet were on the floor but supporting little of his weight unless his stood up on his toes.

The proprietor of the lab walked around O'Neill slowly assessing him and came to a stop in front of him. "Now, you will tell me what I want to know."

"Go to hell." His arms were already aching at the strain of the unnatural position of his shoulders.

"Oh, I don't think so, Allah willing. I am Bashir, and this is my lab, so was the other one. You have stolen from me and killed several of my people. It is only right that I require an explanation. Now tell me your rank."

"Supreme Commander."

Bashir motioned and the guards pulled on the chain lifting O'Neill completely off the ground. He squawked as his shoulder joints pulled and his wrists bore his full weight in the cuffs.

"How can I trust what you say if you will not answer even simple questions?" He motioned to a guard again who picked up the end of the long chain and swung it so that it impacted O'Neill's ribcage wrapping around him like a whip made of metal. His breath blew out as he tried to cringe away from the pain but had nowhere to go, dangling there from the ceiling. The second guard had moved to his left and now stepped in and jabbed him firmly mid stomach with the butt of his rifle. The momentum caused him to swing back and as he came forward the guard did it again. If he'd had anything in his stomach it would have come up right then.

O'Neill's breath was coming in short gasps, "Colonel, I'm a Colonel. You son-of-a-bitch." He didn't really want to give up any information, but well, rank was expected even by the Geneva Convention, wasn't it?

Bashir motioned for them to let him down and they released the chain at once dropping him all the way to the ground in a heap. He groaned as his knees hit hard and then his hands, weighed down by the heavy chain.

"You see, I am a merciful man. We will talk again later, the outcome will be up to you." With that Bashir turned and left the room followed by the guards.

O'Neill lay on his side on the floor for a long time it seemed, knees drawn up, holding his still manacled hands over his stomach. One of the guards returned and set a simple saucer in front of him and poured water into it, letting some slosh over onto the floor. He tossed a chunk of hard bread into it, splattering even more water onto the floor. He then spat into it and walked out.

O'Neill inched his way the few feet to the saucer and removed the bread, the bottom of it now sopping with liquid. He turned it toward his mouth and sucked at the water, swallowing bits of soggy bread with it. There was little left in the bottom of the saucer and it was too flat to pick up without spilling so he scooted up closer until his head was directly over it and sucked and licked at it like a dog, trying to get every last drop before it evaporated and was gone.

His thirst temporarily sated, he pushed himself to a seated position and looked over the room. Why were these places always painted gray? His situation was not good but this Bashir guy was an amateur in the torture department. By Goa'uld standards, that is. Once you've been tortured by them everyone else is a distant second. O'Neill smirked, they'd stopped and he wasn't even unconscious yet, and they'd fed him the first day. Yeah, rank amateurs. But even an amateur could do a lot of damage.

He turned his wrists under the metal cuffs and tried to rub away some of the soreness. The metal hadn't cut his flesh yet but if he was hung up there many more times it surely would. He rubbed his feet a bit too as they were cold from the concrete floor. He stiffly rose up and saw how far he could go still tethered on the long chain, not very far. After working on the chain for a few minutes he was able to disconnect it from the cuffs so he could walk freely about the room. He could see through the small window in the door that one of the guards was standing just outside the opening.

It felt good to move and stretch a little and he walked around the perimeter of the room. If he could just find a scrap of metal or something he could pick these locks with he'd be happy. Seeing that it was unlikely he'd escape, at least this early in the game, his mind wandered in other directions.

Why was he here instead of in one of the more common, and dirty prisons? The one he was in during the Gulf War was hideously filthy. It stank, and not just of sweat and excrement, but rotting flesh. The mental torture from having to endure the conditions was almost as bad as what had been done to the prisoners. He'd watched several good men die, more of neglect than forced injury or execution.

This 'different' kind of internment made him wonder if his capture had even been reported up the chain of command to Baghdad. Maybe old Bashir didn't want Saddam to know he'd lost some major technology and at least one of the men who knew how to make it work. Of course maybe Saddam didn't even know about the technology, or even the lab. No, that would be too unlikely.

The questions just raised more questions in his head. After several hours the lock on the door was turned and Bashir was back, looking way too relaxed.

He patted his stomach and belched. "Ah, it is always good to feast with my friends and family. My brother roasted a lamb on a spit for us, it was most delicious."

O'Neill looked in his direction without seeing the man at all. Keeping his emotions under a tight rein. Perhaps he should have eaten that hard crust of bread.

Bashir continued, "So now, O'Neill, tell me, how did you locate this lab?"

"I followed the stench and knew I'd find the rats."

"Rats you say, maybe when we are done here I will feed you to some rats. Maybe I will put you on my brother's spit and let you roast slowly for a day. I would enjoy hearing you beg for mercy. I could videotape it and send the tape to your General Hammond so he would know what a coward you really are."

O'Neill didn't flinch, didn't even blink, but inside his mind kicked into high gear. What had those bastard scientists told Bashir! If he knew about Hammond, he probably knew about the Stargate and a lot more.

Bashir was a bit put out that he didn't get the response he wanted from O'Neill. "You see I know much of your governments secrets. So tell me how much of this Naquadah do you have?"

"What's that?"

Bashir motioned to his men who advanced on O'Neill and dragged him over to the steel table, which was now moved out from the wall. He was forced to lie on it face up. Heavy straps were tightened across his knees and hips and the cuffs were removed but only so heavy straps could be fitted around his wrists and tied together under the table, so his hands were pulled over the edge. Somewhere along the way they ripped his T-shirt off leaving his upper body bare.

One of the guards draped a length of chain across his neck and pulled it tight down to the table. Bashir walked around it, as if he was checking the restraints to his own satisfaction, but O'Neill guessed it was really just to enjoy the feeling of power over another human being.

When he reached the head of the table he gave the neck chain a harsh jerk making O'Neill gag and sputter. His chest heaved up off the table as he tried to pull in a breath.

A technician entered the room with some long clear tubing and what looked like one of those old-fashioned glass IV bottles they used before everything medical went to plastic. O'Neill wondered if he was about to be drugged or worse, though it wasn't the Iraqis method of choice, for torture anyway.

The technician set up the bottle and hung it on a hook in the ceiling. The end of the tubing was hanging straight down over his chest and O'Neill could see it was way too short for an IV.

Bashir was watching with some interest from the other side of the table. "Tell me your security code for Cheyenne Mountain."

O'Neill couldn't help but snort. Was this guy serious? Bashir snapped his fingers at the technician, who nodded then fiddled with the tubing for a moment. Satisfied, he stepped away. Bashir leaned back against the wall and waited. Although he was showing irritation, apparently patience was something he had in abundance.

O'Neill felt something drip onto his skin right in the center of his chest. At first the sensation was cold, like water but within a minute it was stinging. Another drip fell nearly in the same spot as the first. It splattered a tiny bit and felt cool at first then warm.

Bashir now watched in amusement as O'Neill tilted his chin down straining against the chain so he could see better what was happening.

Another drip fell. It smarted at once and O'Neill finally realized the liquid was doing something to him. 'Shit' He thought, they were dripping acid on his skin. As another one hit he made a grimace and started to try to wriggle away from the hanging tubing.

Bashir just laughed. "Tell me your identification codes while you still have skin O'Neill!"

O'Neill shot him a glare. "Sure. Three point one four one five ni- Aak!" the guard yanked back on the chain around his neck at Bashir's request. Well they weren't as stupid as he'd thought.

The guard leaned heavily on the chain and O'Neill began to struggle at his bonds, unable to get a breath. Finally the man released his grip and O'Neill sucked in air, wheezing through his bruised airway.

Bashir snapped his fingers at he technician and nodded. "I will give you something to think about for the night, tomorrow if you are alive you will talk with me or I will give you more to think about."

With that Bashir turned and left the room followed by his entourage. O'Neill was left alone, strapped quite securely beneath the little dripping bottle.

He struggled as hard as he could but the straps were too tight and as he moved around all he succeeded in doing was allowing the acid to hit on previously untouched areas. Eventually the liquid started running down his sides and pooling beneath him on the hard surface of the table. Luckily the bottle had not been a large one, obviously Bashir intended for him to experience pain, not death just yet. O'Neill considered leaning his weight back and forth and tipping the table over, but he figured he'd surely break or even crush one of his arms in the process.

O'Neill didn't know when the bottle's contents were finally exhausted, by that time he was numb from the pain. His sides were raw where the acid ran run down his skin and his back was beginning to blister where he'd lay in the pool of liquid all night, but the worst by far was the front of this chest. Before half the bottle was done the skin over his sternum had already blistered. Now it looked more like a third-degree burn, or a staff blast, the flesh crusted with now coagulated blood and body fluids. That part of the human body didn't have much muscle and with the skin gone, the bone was nearly exposed. He knew it was going to be bad when he noticed it didn't really hurt anymore, the nerve endings had been destroyed.

It may have been morning, he really didn't know, but a couple guards came and dragged him off to the small cell where he'd been before. He was tossed in without so much as a word from them. They treated him to another platter of water and stale bread and left him alone. He was tempted to use the water to rinse off his skin but it was really more important to maintain hydration at that point so he drank greedily. He rubbed his sore shoulders and lay against the wall, allowing himself to rest from the ordeal.

Ali Al Salem Saturday 02.15.03

Carter had spent most of the day arguing with General Pike in an attempt to mount a rescue mission to get O'Neill out. He reminded her a great many times that the success of such a mission would be negligible, given that the Iraqi were now aware of their interests. Most likely O'Neill had been moved to the main prison in Baghdad, right under Saddam's nose. Pike considered sending her back to Cheyenne Mountain immediately, she hadn't been part of the team originally and now that the rest of the mission was a scrub, she wasn't needed anymore.

That notion met with heated resistance and Tuck and Corbin were backing her all the way. Pike wouldn't relent without orders from above though and the trio was off to Ahmed Al Jaber to meet with the next General up the chain of command. He, however, was more interested in procuring the remaining pieces of technology than with a search and rescue mission. In his opinion, O'Neill was MIA, and probably under such intense security they'd have no chance of getting him out. He told them they'd have to wait until the diplomats could get involved and work out a release.

Carter did manage to get one string pulled. Her only ace in the hole. The Major General had agreed to allow her to contact General Hammond via a secure link and inform him personally of O'Neill's status.

Hammond was sitting in his office awaiting the call as it had been set up a several minutes earlier by intermediaries. His red phone rang and he answered, "Hammond."

"General, Sir. This is Major Carter."

"Major, this is quite unexpected. I take it something has happened to warrant your going to these measures?"

"Yes, Sir. You know the reason the Colonel and I were transferred out, correct?"

"Yes, I was cleared by the President himself at the request of Nellis and the DTRA. They considered with the unusual nature of your mission, more than just the personnel resources of the SGC may be needed."

"They were right. Possibly. Our mission was only partially successful. We were not able to retrieve the two smaller devices, and likely one of the scientists is either dead or back in the hands of the Iraqis. But, Sir, that's not the real reason I'm calling you." She paused and caught her breath, "Sir, Colonel O'Neill is missing and presumed to have been taken prisoner."

Hammond felt the color rise starting in his neck and going all the way to the top of his head. "Major, I don't know what to say. Is there any hope of rescue at this point?"

"That's why I'm calling you. The Air Force is denying the incident and as far as they are concerned the Colonel went MIA during a skirmish at the border. They said now it's a matter for the diplomats." She spat the last word out.

"Well I'm not sure what I can do on this end, there's only so far the President can go given the current state of International affairs. But I'll talk to him."

"I don't really expect the President to authorize a search and rescue, I'm not actually looking for any help from our own government." She paused. "Sir, we have access to other allies."

Hammond stood and slammed his hand down on his desk. "Consider the call made, Major. I'll contact you in Kuwait as soon as I hear something. Just in case the Tok'ra or the Asgard aren't available, are you working on another plan?"

"Not much of one yet, Sir, but I've got plenty of volunteers."

"Good, I am going to call the President with this information, we'll need a go ahead for whatever plan you come up with. And Major, were going to get him out."

"Yes, Sir, thanks. I'll be here."
Sunday 02.16.03

It seemed O'Neill was spending a long time in the small cell. They had turned out the light and it was hard to judge time but he could guess from the stubble on his face about how much had passed. The overhead bulb flicked on and the door was opened by one of the guards. Instead of dragging O'Neill out for another go around, they forced another man into the room and slammed the door. O'Neill eyed him closely. Caucasian, maybe late forties, and no signs of torture, not yet. Maybe he'd just been caught and hadn't met Master Bashir yet. The man looked frightened and huddled in a corner away from his cellmate.

"I'm O'Neill. Who are you?" O'Neill forced his mouth to work right despite the swelling and dryness of his mouth.

"Parker." The man was looking over O'Neill's injuries. "You been here long?"

"Nah, just a couple nights. Thought I'd extend my stay awhile though, I'm enjoying myself so much."

Parker looked at him warily, "They've been asking me stuff about some weird technology, but I don't know anything. I think they're gonna kill me if I don't offer them something soon. Do you know what they're talking about?"

"Nope."

"So, they've obviously tortured you. What have they been asking you?"

"Oh, name, rank, email, favorite color."

Parker shook his head; the sarcasm was lost on him, "But nothing about the devices?"

"What about 'em?" Oh, that was a slip. His head must be more foggy than he thought. He knew better than to trust even a fellow prisoner with Intel.

"So you do know something. If you tell them, maybe they won't hurt you anymore."

"I don't know anything."

"Sure. Well at least you could tell me what I'm going to be tortured for. You know they'll do to me what they did to you, and I really *don't* know anything."

"How'd you know to ask about a device? It could have been anything, a weapon, a chemical formula, a computer program, anything." O'Neill closed his eyes. The puzzle pieces were fitting together even as he spoke.

Parker shifted his position. "Okay, I know a little. But you know a lot more. If you haven't noticed these aren't Iraqi regulars, they're like scientists or something. A little information might go a long way with them."

O'Neill thought, 'not Iraqi regulars', he wondered if that was the truth. "Parker, where did you come from?"

"Uh, New York City." He spoke it in a stilted way and O'Neill noticed the distinct lack of a New York accent.

"No. I mean how were you captured?"

"I was on a border patrol, and I was picked up."

"So why are they asking you, a border guard, about technology?"

"I don't know. Maybe they ask everybody. You know what it is, don't you? Why don't you tell me?"

O'Neill was certain now he was being interrogated. He repeated wearily, "I don't know anything."

Parker was getting angry now, "You do."

O'Neill was tired of this conversation and lay down against the wall intending to rest in preparation for his next meeting with Bashir. He closed his eyes and ignored the source of his irritation.

Parker stood and spat a few curses at him.

O'Neill spoke with his eyes still closed, "You swear well in English, given that it's not your native language."

The curses now came forth in Iraqi, much to the dismay of the Colonel. He'd so hoped he was wrong. He opened his eyes to see the man remove the silver disk from under his shirt and morph. He was not Bashir but he was definitely Iraqi.

Damn, what would they try next? The man pounded at the door and was released with a scowl from the guard.
Carter, Tuck and Corbin were discouraged, no, scratch that, disgusted. And with their own government, no less. It was afternoon now and they'd gotten no further at all with the higher ups in command. Everyone understood, but no one would help. The whole mission was so classified it was entirely off the books and completely denied. So when Carter got a message that a call was coming in for her from stateside she literally ran down the hall to get it.

"Major Carter here." Her voice was stern and militaristic.

"Sammy?"

"Dad? Where are you?"

"Well, George put out the call for us and I just happened to be in the neighborhood, so I came on over."

She knew he was lying. Since things had gotten so much better between them, he would jump at any chance to take a more active part in her life. A great improvement from before. She mentally calculated how long it might have taken Hammond to get a response and then how long until Jacob would have arrived. "So you came by ship- not by gate? Just how hard did you have to push your engines to get here?" She knew he couldn't have been *that* close.

"Almost burned them up."

"Dad." He could almost see her shaking her head through the phone. "Have I told you I love you?" She felt a bit of moisture in her eyes as she remembered another time she needed his help.

The doors slid open before them and Jacob stepped forward, furious. "Are you out of your minds? What the hell are you two doing here?" He directed the question toward Sam and Daniel and after a short conversation, is that what you call it when your father yells at you? She'd uttered one short sentence as an explanation. "Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c need your help." He went from livid to calm in a split second, and gave his answer, "Good enough."

"I love you too, kid. Now tell me what's going on." Selmac was urging him to get on past the pleasantries. "George has already given me some background and let me tell you I am less than thrilled by the fact my only daughter has been put in some serious harms way."

"Oh, Dad." She griped. "They really needed me and I had plenty of backup, besides, the Colonel was here." The implication was left unsaid, that if O'Neill was anywhere around, she'd be safe.

Jacob didn't argue the point. It was time to face the reason he was called. "Do you have any idea where he's being held?"

"Not really, but I've been going over some of the Intel and I've found some very interesting things." She purposefully dropped the sentence right there.

Jake had been around enough to pick up on the fact that she was talking about some high level classified Intel- something she couldn't discuss on the phone, no matter how secure the connection. "Sam, I'm here to help. I can be there in two hours."

"Aren't you at Cheyenne Mountain?"

"Sure, but I did come by ship, you know. It'll take George longer to get me an appropriate uniform than it will to get to your location. I can ring down to a secluded spot. Just get me coordinates."

Carter's eyes lit up with hope. Maybe, just maybe, this whole affair would be over soon. The relief was evident in her voice as she ticked off numbers to him. "See you soon, Dad."
After the failure of the 'interrogation' session, Bashir was getting irritated. It was now evening and they'd gone another round of pompous superiority versus sarcasm and O'Neill was wondering if they still cut out people's tongues for insolent words. If so he was well on his way to becoming mute.

"Damn, don't you guys ever come up with something more interesting? You're boring the hell out of me."

Their latest effort had been in the chain room again. O'Neill was locked into the rings on the wall forcing him to stand with his arms outstretched. The guards had already been given orders to do their worst to him and they proceeded to beat him until he was unconscious then shake him and splash on water to wake him up again and again.

Bashir wasn't even asking questions any more. He just sat back in a chair and watched the guards have their sadistic fun. O'Neill occasionally caught a snippet of their conversation- things like, 'for Allah', and 'filthy American pig.'

The exposed skin of his chest and sides that was untouched by the acid now was an assortment of colors, none of which was pink flesh. They'd also opted to go with a more barbaric torture using something he swore was an electric cattle prod. Whenever it touched his skin a jolt of electricity caused him to spasm and lurch uncontrollably at the restraints. They had found a particular delight in his alternately screaming curses and moaning when they jabbed him in the groin with the thing. The pain was unimaginable and he could only hope it wasn't doing any permanent damage. He resorted to kicking out at them with his knees and bare feet as long as some strength remained.

They were insistent and continued until he was unable to fight back anymore. It was more than any human could possibly bear and his shaking legs gave out, allowing his body to sag downward against the wall. His head drooped forward and he wept quietly before the men, ashamed that he'd been so quickly broken. Even Ba'al hadn't brought him to this point.

They released him from the wall and bound his wrists and ankles tightly. He was left in the middle of the floor lying in his own blood, sweat, spit and tears. His chest heaved and shook as more tears ran silently down his face and dripped to the ground. Exhaustion finally claimed him and he was thankful to give in to unconsciousness one more time.
At Al Salem Airbase, Jacob had arrived the night before and was glad to see his daughter unharmed. She'd been pleased to see her father, too, but her grief at the situation facing them was obvious. That afternoon an aide had arrived at the base and delivered a package to General Pike who had scheduled a briefing almost immediately. Major Corbin and Captain Tucker were permitted to attend as well.

The General's expression was sorrowful as he put a tape in the VCR and turned it on. "Before I begin, what you are about to see is going to be difficult to watch. The content, however, has been verified."

He started the tape and sat back to observe the reaction of the assembled officers. He'd already seen the tape through, more than once, and had no desire to see it again. The atmosphere in the room tensed as the tape played and the content became evident. Carter had to force her gasping breaths to quiet, and she squeezed her father's hand until her fingers were numb. His were too, but he didn't let on.

At one point Selmac had quietly taken control, allowing the human half of their bond to rage inside his own head. His eyes narrowed as he noticed the man's chest with a horrible burn, reminiscent of a staff blast but bloody and blistered around the edges instead of charred. From Jacob's knowledge of Iraqi torture methods he realized it must have been from some kind of corrosive agent. It was hard to tell where the burn ended and where the other bruising began, there was so little uninjured skin on the man's body. His legs would probably be in a similar condition under his trousers.

They watched in horror as the Iraqis demonstrated their ability to inflict even more pain with electricity, probing him repeatedly in every sensitive part of his body. The man screamed and jerked spasmodically as the current went through him. Selmac could feel from deep within the fury of several hundred years seeing sick and perverse individuals such as these force their will upon those unable to fight back. Not weak, just temporarily overcome. He felt a hatred he'd rarely ever let surface before, surprising Jacob at the intensity of it. This would not be allowed to go on. Tok'ra or not, blessing of the ruling council or not, fire from hell or heaven, this would end.

He glanced at Carter and felt a sudden tenderness seeing she could no longer watch the display and had closed her eyes. They snapped open again as a familiar voice was heard agreeing to give the torturers anything they wanted. The face was badly bruised and swollen, but the identity of the unfortunate man was clear to them all. The final scene was of O'Neill, bound and lying in the middle of the floor, sobbing.

Selmac's attention was now required to hold Jacob in check even more. The idea of degrading a man to this point was unbearable, to both of them.

When the tape was over it was Carter who broke the silence first, though her voice cracked as she spoke. "It's a fraud. There is no way Colonel O'Neill would be compromised like that. Whoever checked that tape was mistaken."

Corbin reached his hand out to her, "From what they did to him, no one would blame him. He's just trying to survive."

She pulled away from him like he was poison, "That's exactly why he wouldn't give them what they wanted." She was clearly fighting back tears now. "You don't know him. The more they hurt him, the more he would resolve to hold the line against them. He's done it before and he'd do it now." Her jaw was quivering as she spoke and she turned into her father's shoulder to hide her loss of composure.

Selmac used the opportunity to exchange places with Jacob and he turned his attention to Pike. "She's right. I know this man, and though I'm sure the torture did in fact take place, those are not the words of Jack O'Neill. Recheck the tape. Have the voice analyzed for changes in inflection and any possible splicing." Pike nodded an acknowledgement.

Tuck was at a loss. He'd heard of Iraqi atrocities but never witnessed them, even on tape. He looked at the father and daughter grieving for O'Neill and felt another pang of guilt for leaving him behind. He resolved right then and there he'd back these people any way he could. He thought O'Neill had gained the respect of his team very quickly and after seeing the devotion of these two who knew him much better, realized the man had a depth he could only guess at. If they trusted him, he would too. "Sir, I've got a contact over in surveillance, he does a lot of work related to authentication. Let me take the tape to him. If something's not right, he'll find it."

Pike looked to Jacob for his approval then nodded and handed the tape to the Captain. With that done, Jacob herded his daughter out of the room to a more private place they could talk.

Once they were alone she was embarrassed to have shown so much emotion regarding her CO, and forget the other guys, in front of her father, no less. "Dad, I'm sorry. I was pretty unprofessional back there." As she spoke she wiped away a streak of mascara from her lower eyelid.

He had been in constant physical contact with her in one way or another since the video began and now had his hand resting on her shoulder. He gave an audible sigh, "Sam. Don't be." He paused and sighed again. Selmac was warning him to speak cautiously. "There may be some things I dislike about Jack, but SG-1 is possibly the best team I have ever seen in all my years. Even Selmac agrees it's remarkable. And one thing I've learned is that though everyone contributes, no team can excel beyond its leader. He's too valuable an asset to lose."

"Dad, it's not-" She began to chide him for talking about the team when he knew well and good it was about O'Neill and no one else, but he cut her off.

"Besides, Sam, I really, really do like him. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. If getting him back is gonna make my little girl happy, then I'm gonna get him back."

She looked at him with a shock on her face. Did he just say what it sounded like he said? She let him pull her into a tight hug and rock her gently like she was a child again.

Happy now, Selmac? I've just given her permission to be with him. Jacob snorted in his mind.

No, I'm not entirely happy, and no you really didn't. That was a little vague, don't you think? Besides, we're a long way from a successful rescue. If we wait much longer the healing device will be of little use, he'll need a damn sarcophagus. Jacob was obviously a bad influence on Selmac.

The point was made but Jacob lingered enjoying a moment of closeness with Sam. She reminded him so much of her mother at times like this, when they needed each other.

"What does Selmac think of all of this?"

The question caught him off guard and he answered truthfully despite himself, "He thinks I'm being a pain in the ass, as usual."

Carter smiled into her father's shoulder, she had an idea that some of her father's softening up was the result of Selmac's nagging. Not that she minded.

After another jab from Selmac, Jacob relaxed his grip, "We've got a lot to do, Sammy. What say we get started?"
After many hours the tromping of boots was again heard outside the door. Bashir entered, looking quite refreshed. "So, O'Neill, what shall we talk about today?"

O'Neill didn't meet his gaze. He could barely move, it had been over a day since he'd had any water at all and the dehydration was adding to his growing list of bodily damage.

The dark man stroked his beard and slowly circled O'Neill, coming to a stop directly in front of him. "I fear if our discussions are not fruitful soon I will be forced to conclude you are not worth my continued attention. You realize you have been treated better then most in your position. Because of the lab, I enjoy a certain leniency from my superiors, but their patience is limited as is mine."

He leaned forward slightly to look him in the eye. "Perhaps you are not one is who is persuaded by physical means. I have something to show you."

He stood up and exited the room. The guards dragged O'Neill along, out to the lab area. There he was dropped into a chair and Bashir motioned to a video screen. He pressed a button on the remote and a clip began to play. It was a security video of the lab the night of the break-in. O'Neill pressed his lips into a thin line as he watched himself and the others ransack the lab. His voice was clearly heard giving instructions to Corbin as to how to use the mimic device. His eyes narrowed. He thought they'd disabled all the cameras and were in the clear.

"You see how I know you are familiar with this technology. There is no point to denying it. We are also adept at certain technologies." With that, Bashir changed the tape in the machine and started a different clip. This one left O'Neill aghast at the sight of a man being tortured. As he watched he suddenly realized he was looking at himself on the screen. He was shocked that he didn't even recognize himself at first, there was so much blood and bruising.

There was another thing too, the sound was all wrong. He heard himself saying 'tell you everything' and 'praise Allah'. It was his voice but he was saying things he knew he never did, or maybe so, but not at that time or in that way. From the angle of the shot it could not be clearly seen whether he was speaking or not. His lack of food and exhaustion was interfering with his ability to think straight but he realized they'd taken the audio from the security camera and spliced it to make him seem to say what they wanted.

The tape went on and his voice was speaking again, "I'll give you everything you need, a weapon, a chemical formula, a computer program, anything." O'Neill cursed under his breath, they'd recorded his words in the cell with that imposter, too. The video was actually quite impressive, and quite damming to be truthful. He knew the Iraqis were not above blackmail and this would serve them well.

"I see you are impressed with our work. Are you not?"

"So you want me to talk or what? You're gonna send that tape to my boss?"

"You misunderstand, O'Neill. You have already spoken. A copy of this recording has already been allowed to be confiscated by Kuwaiti forces. You see, you are either a traitor or you are dead to your own people. Your only bargaining power for your life is the knowledge you possess, which your government now believes you have given to us." He smiled wickedly.

O'Neill could feel a little stinging in his eyes. Bashir didn't want information; he only wanted the pretense of obtaining information. As the realization sunk in, all hope O'Neill had of ever leaving here was dashed to pieces. "I won't tell you anything, you might as well kill me now, save yourself the trouble of keeping me." His eyes looked down to the floor, defeated.

"All in good time, O'Neill. For now you amuse me." He turned and barked to the guards, "Take him!"

They took him back into the room and chained him up. He barely lasted through an hour of their attentions. This time they added a new twist. They heated up an iron rod with a propane torch until it glowed and then touched it too his skin, effectively branding the imprint of the metal into him. He didn't know what hurt more, the electrical burns or now the thermal ones. Added to that, at some point he'd bitten his tongue in the midst of a spasm and it was now swollen and bloody. When he passed out for the third time they left him alone.

Many hours later he'd awakened to blackness and had to convince himself he was still alive. It wasn't too hard; really, death could not possibly hurt like this. That rest of that day and all night they left him chained to the wall. His arms were supporting his weight and it felt like the limbs were coming right out of their sockets but he had no strength in his legs to stand. So he just hung there, drifting in and out of consciousness.
Jacob was quite impressed with the level of available Intel. He, Sam, and Corbin had been going over movements in and out of several Iraqi prisons and had concluded the Colonel was not interned in any of the usual places.

It was late that evening when Tuck burst through the door, waving a file around with his hand. "I knew it! I knew it! Boy have I got something to show you guys!" He laid out the file and started passing reports and graphs to them. "The tape was spiced. At least the audio portion, anyway. Here, look-" He pointed to a discrepancy marked in red on a chart. "Here the Colonel's voice is under stress with an uneven breathing pattern, and here, just-" He quickly scanned some information from the page, "0.06 seconds later his voice is relaxed, conversational, almost sleepy sounding they said. The background noise doesn't match either. The tape is a definite fraud."

He sat back in a chair and folded his arms across his chest, quite pleased with himself. Carter gave him a weak smile, she knew he was trying to help, but in her mind it was already a certainty the tape had been altered. Nothing had changed.

Corbin opened his mouth and said what she didn't. "This is great, Tuck, but how does it help us find him?"

Tuck frowned, at first deflated, and then thought for a moment. "They told me it's almost unheard of to find work of this quality in Iraq. They were pretty sure it's not through regular government channels."

Jacob's ears perked up. "You mean it could have come from some sub-level of their government, perhaps an offshoot?"

Sam gave him a crooked smile, "Like an Iraqi NID?" Her eyes went to Tuck and Corbin, then back to her father.

The older man nodded to her, "I think it's time I met this 'scientist' you rescued."
The next morning Jacob was given permission to speak with the man.

Doctor Wallace was sitting in the interrogation room with Jacob across the table from him when General Pike arrived in the next room where they could be observed. Carter was already seated and listening intently to the conversation on the other side of the one-way glass.

"So you admit selling out to the Iraqis."

"Yes, but you can't know the frustrations of working with all this wonderful technology and not being allowed to really see what it can do. The research was taking too long, we were held back all the time."

Why didn't you request a transfer to the NID? They are a lot less strict than the command at Nellis and you might have been able to freelance a project if they found it interesting."

He hung his head. "I tried. They said I didn't have high enough clearance. Said I had to work my way through the ranks for a while yet."

"So you took a short cut. You found someone else who would listen."

"It was one of them, the NID, I mean. He asked me if I'd be happier working in a small off-site lab, away from so much government protocol and I jumped at the chance. I didn't know it would be in Iraq."

"You're saying you were still working for the US government while in a lab in Iraq?"

"Well, no, that's how I got here. They're working together but the Iraqis wanted me to keep the research back from the NID. I got stuck in the middle, they offered me money and any equipment I wanted just for some weapons research. I only gave them the stuff we already tried, it was a dead end."

"So why were they keeping you?"

"The other scientist, Locke, thought we could just enhance Iraqi weapons with the Naquadah and they'd be happy. He needed me to validate his work. I tried to pursue other areas but the Iraqis were insistent, they would have killed me if I hadn't agreed to help Locke."

"You know he's dead. His body was left near the border, some kind of warning to us, it seems."

Wallace grimaced, he suspected they'd never be believed if they went back after the break in. If he'd tried like Locke, he'd be dead too.

So you were completely separated from the NID or any other US government contact at that point?"

"Yes, but-" He wavered and bit his lip. "I always suspected the NID and the Iraqis were still sharing information, or at least information was still getting back home. I don't know." He pounded his fist on the table.

Jacob glanced at the glass where he knew Sam was seated. He nodded slightly. They had a lead at least. Maybe the NID did have a contact at the lab, and just maybe that person knew where O'Neill was being held.

Jacob concluded the interrogation and met up with his daughter outside. Pike had given her permission to contact Hammond again, but this time she wanted a more secure connection than the military could supply. They went to a secluded part of a hangar and Jacob activated the rings to his ship still cloaked in orbit. Carter used the ship's communicator to contact Hammond and relay the NID involvement. Within minutes he had spoken with the President and obtained permission to get full cooperation from the NID. In no time he had the locations of three secret labs in Iraq and an NID contact in each one of them.
O'Neill didn't know how long he'd been left, but it seemed like quite a long time. He woke and then drifted back off several times and his limbs were getting increasingly stiff from lack of motion. They'd offered no more water and his mouth was so dry he couldn't even lick his cracked lips. He was sorry he'd cried if only because he'd lost the precious water from his body.

He tried to stand up and relax his shoulders but his legs would still not obey, he was almost completely numb from the hips down. He noticed a pungent smell from his chest where the wound was now draining a sticky yellowish fluid; it was badly infected, as were the numerous burns and lacerations on his skin. The concrete of the cell had felt uniformly cool earlier but now with the combination of dehydration and fever from the infections, his temperature was fluctuating. Sometimes he felt extremely hot and at other times he shook uncontrollably from the chill. He estimated it might have been a week since his capture, but he couldn't be sure. One thing he was sure of, he wouldn't last a second week at the hands of Bashir.

His mind wouldn't stay clear either. He would lapse into delirium and then pass out again. During those times when his mind gave way to the fever, he did find some peace.

He remembered being hot with fever before, and Carter was leaning over him, dressed in some kind of isolation suit. He could barely see her face through the mask. She was asking him to do something but he couldn't quite make it out. He remembered saying yes to whatever it was. Then there was movement and he was carried off.

Then he recalled being freezing cold, wet and shivering. And Carter was there again and he was holding onto her as if his life depended on it. The memory was comforting and he relaxed enough to fall into a deep sleep. His breathing became slow but was still labored as his lungs had started to fill with more fluids his body could not replace. His organs were shutting down as his body inched closer to death.
Jacob and Carter returned to the base and after briefing Pike, got together with the rest of the team. One of the labs on the list was the one they had destroyed so it was down to just two choices. The NID 'moles' were supposedly sent word to locate and reveal the location of Colonel O'Neill if they were able.

As they waited for a response from the infiltrators, the team planned. Jacob insisted it was too dangerous to take helicopters in again, both labs were well within Iraqi borders and an incursion would be more than just a one-night affair, besides, something of that magnitude would likely start an all-out war. He contacted Hammond again, this time via regular channels and made an unusual request.

An hour later he had his response. O'Neill's entire team, including the helicopter pilot had their clearance level raised. He contacted Sam and gave her the word, it was time to introduce the team to their ride.
With more explaining than she really wanted to offer, Carter had convinced General Pike to give them use of the hangar at the far end of the airfield. It was cleared of all aircraft and personnel as soon as they were able to manage it.

Jacob now stood at the head of a long table in the seemingly empty hangar. General Pike was in attendance, sitting at the other end of the table, and Carter was to the right of her father. The rest of the team was gathered around, intently listening.

"As of right now, all of you have been given additional security clearance. What you are about to hear and see stays within this group. You will not discuss it with anyone else, no matter how many stars they've got on their shoulders. You thought you were part of an elite group before, mark my words, you have no idea what 'elite' is. But you will in a few minutes."

He paused and scrutinized the faces at the table. "Our primary mission will be the extraction of Colonel O'Neill from enemy hands. It has been determined that an incursion by land or air by usual means is unfeasible in this case. However, we do have a way. I have at my disposal a stealth aircraft capable of transporting us to a designated location deep within Iraq."

"Captain Hastings, I'm told that if it's got wings, you can fly it. Am I right?"

Hastings nodded, wondering what the General had in mind.

"Lieutenant Lambert, your specialty is communications, you will assist the Captain aboard the craft. The rest of you need to do some in depth mission planning. Major Carter has all the Intel we've gathered thus far. Now if you'll excuse us, General, the Captain and Lieutenant need to become familiar with the aircraft."

They stood and followed him as he motioned out to the central area of the hangar. Hastings shrugged his shoulders back toward the team, as there was no aircraft here for him to see. As they walked further Jacob activated a device on his wrist and the Teltac decloaked several meters in front of them. Jacob smiled at their reactions as both Hastings and Lambert jumped in shock at seeing a ship appear out of nowhere.

Carter moved to the head of the table and waited for the men to quiet. She thoroughly enjoyed seeing the awe in their eyes. It was something she missed in herself, she'd become so accustomed to alien technology she sometimes forgot the wonder of it all. "That, Gentlemen, is a Teltac. It's a type of cargo ship capable of air and space flight, and as you saw, can be cloaked. It is virtually undetectable by any technology we have on the planet. The ship also carries a device called a 'ring' transport. This device will put us down behind enemy lines and extract us while the ship stays safely in a low orbit several miles above. We will need coordinates as exact as possible to do this. Once inside the Iraqi stronghold, we must locate Colonel O'Neill and get him out. We will then return to the Teltac and direct weapons fire upon the lab. Our secondary mission is to destroy the third lab before returning home."

The General spoke up, recovered from seeing the ship appear. "Now I see why you requested the LOSATs. But they're not really meant to take out something as large as a building, you know."

Mitchell looked up a bit confused. "What's a LOSAT?"

Tolbert grinned, "Line Of Sight Anti Tank missile. Coolest thing you've ever seen. Brand spankin' new too. They've just been added to our armory this month."

Carter nodded at his enthusiasm and touched several keys on her laptop before turning the screen to face the men. At the touch of one last key a short video played showing a Hummvee outfitted with LOSATs. The missiles being compact and light did not need to be carried by tanks or other heavy equipment. In the video one of the missiles was fired and Carter provided some narration.

"As you can see the LOSAT can be launched from virtually any platform. The reason is that the explosive force needed for a launch is minimal. Three seconds after the missile exits the chamber, a rocket motor ignites and as you can see it literally accelerates until the target is impacted. It's nearly impossible to intercept."

Corbin was on the edge of his seat with delight, he'd never had the chance to shoot off something this much fun, he couldn't wait.

Carter had something more for him to ponder. "The substance we recovered in the first mission is called Naquadah, and it doesn't potentiate explosive power by a factor of one hundred as you have been previously briefed. It can create a blast one thousand times the power of the base explosive."

Tuck gasped, "I was carrying that stuff and you didn't see fit to tell me?"

Carter was truly sorry she couldn't divulge more information earlier. "Captain, we told you as much as we could given the level of security." She turned to the General, "We're going to enhance the LOSATs with Naquadah. Not only will they take down buildings, we're gonna have to be careful to not take out a whole block."

"Our first task is to mount a launch platform for the LOSATs aboard the Teltac. You will find all the necessary equipment and supplies already here. General if we may?"

The General left them to their work and before they were done responses came in from the two moles. O'Neill was being held near the Al-Rashidya prison just north of Taji. The other lab was at Al-Shamma'iya prison just east of Baghdad. Apparently these fortified locations made an excellent location for lab facilities. They enjoyed all the benefits of increased security without attracting attention.

The moles were instructed to leave their respective vicinities and prepare to escape back to allied territory or simply vanish into the local population, their choice. But they were warned to be as far away from the labs as possible.

They spent the rest of the day planning and in Captain Hastings case, flight training. The team had been dismayed to not be able to watch the aerial exercises as Jacob had kept the ship cloaked the entire time. It was now nearing dusk and General Carter slapped his hands on the table and ordered everyone to go rest for a couple hours. The mission was a go for 2300 hours.

He literally had to drag his daughter to the commissary for a break. He got them each a simple sandwich and coffee. Didn't need anything too heavy on the stomach right now.
Carter only nibbled at her meal. "Dad? If the Intel is off, we won't have another chance will we?"

"Sam, don't do that." He shook his head. "It's gonna be all right." He reached across the table and took her hand. She was surprised when his head dropped signaling Selmac's appearance. When he spoke his voice was with the normal tones of the host.

"You fear we are already too late."

Carter nodded silently, still not quite sure if it was her father or Selmac.

"Be assured, child, he is alive. We are certain of it, but you are correct, if we fail, he will have run out of time. These people rival the Goa'uld in the atrocities they commit and he has been without medical care for some time now, so you must be prepared to act quickly." He slid a dark leather pouch across the table to her.

As she picked it up she could feel the shape through the covering and she knew exactly what it was, a healing device. She shook her head, "You can use this a lot more effectively than I can."

"True, but we are likely to be occupied. You must go directly to him and make sure he is stable enough to travel."

She started to shake her head again but Selmac continued. "Your presence will be as important as your ability to use the device."

The kindness in his eyes made her melt and she looked down at her plate with a flush of embarrassment. It was sometimes hard to remember Selmac had been around for several hundred years and was most perceptive when it came to reading between the lines, blunt too. She clutched the healing device tightly and forced a small smile.

After a droop of his head, Jacob was back. He raised his head to look again at Sam but did not speak. He, of course was aware of the full exchange between Selmac and Sam and a tiny part of him felt he should be embarrassed to have urged her with so obvious a point. Then again, it wasn't him, it was Selmac. It just was so damn confusing sometimes.
At 2300 hours sharp the group assembled in the hangar, kitted up and ready to go. Jacob and Hastings were already aboard checking the flight systems. Hastings had taken to the ship like a duck in water, relishing every minute in control of the craft. He and Lambert would stay aboard during the mission allowing the others the task of the extraction. This time the pilot swore he'd rather ditch the craft itself than leave without the Colonel. (Jacob hastily assured him it would not come to that.) Lambert would handle air to ground communications and activate the rings at the proper time.

By 0015 they were already in position above Al-Rashidya. The lab would hopefully be deserted except for two or three guards this time of night. One would be at the entrance to the underground bunker and the other somewhere within, presumably at O'Neill's location. The prison section would be well guarded and their response time to an emergency within the lab was only a guess at this point. It would have been preferable to enter the structure in a way that was less dramatic than the rings but it was a calculated risk that the unusual sounds and vibrations would confuse the Iraqis.
O'Neill was awakened by a strange sensation in the wall to which he was still chained. Not exactly an earthquake, more like a large engine was somewhere nearby, humming. He could hear the noise now too, a quick whump, whump, whump. Five times or was it six? It was so familiar, but his fevered brain couldn't quite place it. There was something fearful about the sound but something comforting as well, it certainly didn't belong here in Bashir's Palace of Horrors.

He heard a voice yelling in Iraqi and someone running then there was muffled weapons fire. Now that sound he knew well, even muted with silencers. He struggled to maintain some level of awareness, listening as the sounds drew near. He wanted to stand or at least raise his head to see who was coming but his body was far past obeying him now and his head lolled on his shoulder, impossible to lift.

Overhead and far away an alarm sounded.

More sounds, soft and nearby, a clink and a chunk then the door swung wide and two figures dressed in black darted into the room. Tuck unlocked one of the cuffs then handed the key to Carter so she could get the other one. He wasn't very surprised at how easily he held the man up in his arms; he'd lost so much weight. After the cuffs were loose he lowered O'Neill to the floor so Carter could make a quick physical assessment before they could move him.

Stretched out on the floor, if it wasn't for his length he would have looked slight. Carter bit back tears as she surveyed the broken body. Seeing the film had not done much to prepare her for seeing it in person. His condition was worse than in the video, if that was possible, now his torso was almost completely dark purple from the bruising. Between the bruises, the dirt and blood, not a patch of pink skin could be seen. His eyes were sunken, staring forward. The normal deep brown vibrant color had been replaced by a grayish haze. She could feel the heat of fever before she even touched him.

"Colonel! It's Carter, we're here." She held his face in her hands and wiped some of the blood and dirt away. "Colonel, look at me." With one hand she gingerly felt his neck for a pulse, it was so weak it took her a minute to locate the right spot. She could see his chest rising unevenly as he breathed but heard too the rasping and moisture-laden sounds of pneumonia. One side of his chest wasn't moving in unison with the other like it should and she suspected a collapsed lung or at least some broken ribs.

Tuck looked back at them and grimaced, "Major, you can't do anything here, let's get him out."

She took in a deep breath, "Not just yet." She took the healing device out of her pocket and after seating it in her hand, held it over the center of his chest. Just like CPR, she thought, address the most necessary things to sustain life first. ABC, airway, breathe, circulate. She ticked off in her mind what she wanted the device to do.

It was a strain but desperation set in and as she concentrated the soft yellow light broke free from the device and flowed to his chest, repairing the damaged heart muscle and bruised lungs. Tuck was having trouble keeping his eye on the door, he was so fascinated by this latest piece of technology.

Soon O'Neill was breathing evenly and much more deeply. Tuck reached for his wrist and checked the pulse, finding it strong. He smiled at the Major, "Nice trick. He's gonna be okay."

She slumped for a moment from the strain but quickly regained her composure and pocketed the device. She once again held O'Neill's head in her hands and encouraged him to wake. His eyelids fluttered and then opened slowly. She could feel his face breaking into a smile under her fingertips when he recognized her. "Knew you'd come."

The words were hoarse and barely above a whisper but it was his voice and her emotions threatened to burst forth. Unable to answer aloud she nodded several times as she bit her lip and blinked back the tears. He reached up and ran his fingers across her cheek where some of the tears had escaped leaving a rivulet down to her chin. "Don't cry, S'okay."

She clasped his hand and pressed it more firmly to her cheek. Tuck had backed off to give them a moment of privacy and now clicked his radio. "Tolbert, give me a hand, we'll have to carry him out."

In another minute the large man darkened the doorway. O'Neill turned his head to see the new arrival and waved his hand. Tolbert at once smiled that big toothy grin that lit up against his dark skin and crossed the room. The two men easily hefted O'Neill to his feet and carried him through the door. He wasn't yet able to bear any of his own weight but it didn't matter, they wouldn't have let him anyway.

They wasted no time in returning to the site they'd ringed down. Jacob, Corbin and Mitchell had cleared the area of another two guards and were now standing ready to address any other threat. The claxons continued to blare overhead and muffled shouts and footsteps were heard on the floor above them.

The trio couldn't help but feel relief as their comrades arrived. "Hurry up!" Corbin shouted, "They're coming!"

Once they were gathered closely together Jacob signaled the ship and the familiar hum of the rings permeated the small space, the sound bouncing off the concrete walls.
Once on board Jacob took a look at O'Neill's injuries. "Jack, you've looked better."

O'Neill looked up at him just then realizing Jacob had brought a ship and rescued him. "Well you've just made my top ten list of favorite people. Where'd you come from anyway?"

Jacob laughed. "Hey, I thought I was already on that list! I was in the neighborhood, just passing by. Try to rest, we've got some unfinished business with your Iraqi friends, I'll get back to you in a few minutes. Okay?" He glanced at Sam and nodded, she'd be staying with the Colonel. The team could handle the LOSAT's just fine without her.

As soon as they were aboard, Hastings had maneuvered the craft away to the north and down from three miles to just under two and then turned the nose back the way they'd come.

The targeting computer was situated at the co-pilots chair and Corbin finished typing in the proper commands then turned to Hastings. "Ready?"

"Holding steady at 10,000 feet. Fire control at your command."

Corbin touched the keypad and the ship shivered as the launcher ignited and the missiles were deployed, speeding on their way, screaming on their way would be more accurate. As they approached target the speed increased dramatically and in only a few seconds there was a massive explosion on the ground.

Corbin grinned and looked over to Jacob, "Naquadah, huh? I like it!"

The commotion was not missed by O'Neill although he was in no shape to get up and go see about it. "Carter? What are they doin'?"

She smiled down at him. She had been carefully cleaning the caked blood and grime from his face with a wet cloth, the only part of him she thought she might touch and not cause additional pain. "There were three labs. The one we destroyed the first night and two others. The NID already had them under surveillance, that's how we got the Intel on where you were being held. The President wants an end put to the Iraqis doing research on alien devices so part of the mission was to take out the other two labs. The one you were staying in has just become a pile of rubble."

He nodded slowly. "Fitting end, I must say. Those bastards had absolutely no sense of humor."

She grinned, "We're heading to a site just east of Baghdad now, to hit the third lab. Then we'll drop off the guys at Al Salem and take *you* to the Air Force Hospital in Kuwait City."

"Yeah, you want to tell me just what my team is doing aboard a Tok'ra vessel? Doesn't that violate about fifty protocols? Pike will be livid."

"General Pike authorized it after Hammond saw to it that every one of them had clearance. They're a great team; this mission wasn't ordered, obviously, every one of them volunteered, even when they thought we were going in with helicopters again. Hastings is here, too, in the pilots chair, now he thinks he can fly anything."

He smiled, "Shit, he could fly anything before. They're a good group, couldn't have done better if I'd hand picked them myself." His smile gave way to a wince as he shivered.

Carter pulled a blanket over him, "It's pretty bad, isn't it?"

"Just a little." She read his lie easily and opened the med kit at her feet. She quickly found the morphine vial and began to prepare an injection. Lambert noticed her with the syringe and suddenly felt embarrassed. He was the team medic and in all the excitement he hadn't even thought about treating his injured CO.

"Here, let me do that. Sir, I really should start an IV, from the looks of those burns and lacerations, you are probably badly dehydrated, it would make it easier to give you medications, too."

O'Neill smiled at the young man and nodded. "Go to it kid. Carter, could I have some water while he's doing that?"

When she returned the Lieutenant had already placed the IV and was hooking up a drip of Lactated Ringer's solution. As the young man slowly injected morphine into the IV line, Carter helped O'Neill raise his head a little and sip the cool water. In only a few seconds he was already feeling the drug and his head felt heavy against her arm. She handed the cup to Lambert and gently eased him down to the cot.

They were in position to fire the second round of missiles and Carter slipped into the control room to stand behind the pilot's chair. She got as much pleasure from watching the team react to the explosion as seeing it for herself. It was an awesome thing seeing the weapon in action. When she returned the Colonel was fast asleep.
The second target was destroyed as easily as the first and the ship's course was turned towards home, set on autopilot for the time being. Hastings took a break from his pilot duties and went to check on the man he'd been responsible for leaving behind. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. The prone form held nothing in common with the vibrant and steely eyed warrior he'd saluted several days before. He'd seen POW's in bad shape before but it was usually due to neglect rather than the outright brutal pummeling this man had endured.

He sunk back against the wall, feeling too guilty to approach further. He could see over Lambert's shoulder as he placed layers of saline soaked gauze over what could only be described as a huge gaping 'hole' in the man's chest. He turned away and looked, unfortunately, into the eyes of Major Carter. It was obvious she'd been crying, the black smudge she used to darken her face for the mission was wiped clean from her cheeks where the tears had run. She looked back at him, oblivious to his crime and subsequent guilt and offered him a weak smile before turning her attention back to the Colonel. Hastings never considered himself a coward but he literally ran the few steps back to the control room, no way could he face her too.

When they arrived at Al-Salem Carter was insistent they get O'Neill off first. For the sake of secrecy he'd be moved to a helicopter and airlifted to the hospital in Kuwait City. It was just too problematic to 'ring' down near the facility. Jacob, however, wanted the team to go first- he staunchly stood his ground against his daughter. She finally relented realizing that in pursuing an argument they were wasting valuable time.

The team was gathered and sent to the surface leaving only the two Carter's with O'Neill.

"All right, *Dad*" She laid the sarcasm on thick, "You got your way, now let's go."

"Not so fast Sam. You know it just could be I have a reason."

She glared at him sensing another delay coming and watched his head bow signaling she would next be talking with Selmac.

"Major Carter, this is my doing. Do not be too hard on you father. Give me the healing device."

Carter dug the item out of her pocket and handed it over suddenly feeling a twinge of guilt. Was there something Selmac knew that she didn't? Had her efforts not been enough?

"You're going to use it on him again before we go?"

"I believe it is imperative. While Colonel O'Neill is presently stable, thanks to you, I am concerned with his recovery. Do you recall the tape General Pike allowed us to see?"

Stupid question. "Of course."

"But you didn't watch it all, did you?"

Carter shook her head, not sure where this was going.

"The same was true for your father. He became emotional-" Selmac paused with an odd look on his face, allowing Jacob to admonish him, then resumed. "He became angry at the sight of such atrocities. As you are aware, I intervened. I did watch- closely, and I believe some of the injuries inflicted are of a more permanent nature, at least as far as human medicine is concerned."

Sam interjected, "The acid burn on his chest."

"Yes, for one. Jacob tells me the treatment would involve a long process of skin grafting which would most likely leave behind deep scars."

"There's more?"

With a nod but not offering any more information, Selmac walked over to O'Neill's side and pulled the blanket away, frowning at the sight of the gaping wound. "You know, for the number of injuries this man sustains on a regular basis he really should consider being blended. It would save everyone a lot of trouble."

Carter grimaced. What was that? Symbiote humor?

Without another word he circled his hand over the area allowing the warm light to flow out of the device. Sam was awe struck at the rapidity of the healing. While she had repaired some serious damage, the results had been almost entirely internal, the surface injuries had remained unchanged. Now, almost magically, fresh pink tissue grew and filled in to close the wound. Selmac didn't stop until it was gone leaving only a hazy pink blotch across center of the affected area. There was still obvious bruising but it was time to move on to other areas.

With a great sigh Selmac lowered his hand. He didn't even glance at the Major as he reached out and ran his hands down both sides of O'Neill's chest, testing the ribs. Satisfied with the results he began to press lightly on several areas on the stomach. The frown returned when he pressed on one spot and elicited a moan from the unconscious Colonel. He quickly undid the clasp and zipper of O'Neill's BDU's and felt the lower portion of his abdomen.

Sam arched an eyebrow. If O'Neill had been awake and realized Jacob was feeling all over his belly he'd have a friggin' royal fit. Luckily the morphine was doing its job and he didn't stir. Despite Selmac's stern demeanor and Carter's understanding of the seriousness of the situation, she couldn't help but envision the Colonel waking up right then. It'd be a hoot.

He shook his head, suddenly bringing her back to reality, "There's severe trauma here. His abdomen is hard, probably full of blood. He's on the verge of going into shock and there's no way to tell if something is still bleeding inside."

Selmac noted the burn marks he suspected he'd find and knew it would be much worse lower down. "Major, perhaps you should give me a few minutes here?" He motioned to the far side of the room.

She glared at him but complied. Selmac moved some of the clothing out of the way to get a better look then immediately covered him again.

God damn fucking bastards!

Jacob. I told you what to expect.

God damn, shit-faced, no good ass-

*Jacob! *

How do you glare at someone who is inside the same body? Somehow they figured it out.

You must control yourself. It will only impair our ability to use the healing device.

Okay. Right.

We must begin.

Carter watched as her father closed his eyes and composed himself then circled the device over the lower part of O'Neill's body. The yellow light spewed forth even brighter than before and after a short time the worst of the purple bruising began to fade. The deep burns closed leaving patches of new pink skin.

What really only took a few minutes seemed like hours to Sam. Finally the light faded and Jacob took an uncertain step back, catching his balance. He reached over and pulled the blanket back up, "Let's get him moved."
The flight was short and the Emergency crew was ready and waiting for them. O'Neill was prepped for emergency surgery but it was delayed when the X-ray and lab results came back far better then the doctors had hoped. He still had a fair amount of overall bruising and a laceration on his head that required stitching, and his lungs were not quite up to par just yet. Tests showed he still had some blood in his abdomen but he was stable enough the doctor's didn't think there was any active bleeding. His blood work was nearly normal considering what he'd been through and he was given antibiotics only as a precaution, and some painkillers. More than anything he just needed IV fluids and rest.

Several hours later he was dozing quietly in bed. Something made his nose itch and he reached up to find one of those oxygen tubes stuck on him. He yanked it off and rubbed his nose furiously. Awake now, his hand moved to rest on his chest. No bandages there, he could feel only intact skin beneath the thin hospital gown and patted around several areas finding only normal sensations. There was no pain, only a little stiffness in his shoulders, and he was tempted to rip away the sheet covering him just to make sure everything was back to normal when he noticed the mop of yellow hair lying on the bed. It, of course was attached to a body that could only belong to one person.

He smiled and lightly brushed his fingertips over the hair, he didn't want to disturb her just yet. The smile dropped momentarily as he looked around the room and saw they were not alone. On the other side of the bed, leaning back and snoring softly, was Tuck. Stretched out across a long seat under the window was Corbin, and beside him, leaning precariously and looking like at any moment he would fall onto Corbin's head was- Hastings? He wasn't sure, but it had to be.

He scanned the floor looking for any more and found Tolbert sitting on the floor, with a deck of cards quietly playing Solitaire.

"Hey, T." He whispered to get the Lieutenants attention. "What's all this?" He gestured around the room.

Tolbert looked up and grinned with every tooth in his mouth showing. He silently rose and came to the bedside, whispering back, "Just wanted to make sure you were okay, Sir. Lambert and Mitch are here, too, they went for coffee."

O'Neill shook his head and smiled, then remembered the big man carrying him out of the cell. He reached out to shake his hand, "T, thanks."

The slight movement in the bed was enough to wake Carter and she raised a sleepy head. "Colonel? You're awake?"

"Carter." He grinned as she tried to rub the sleep out of her eyes.

She looked around the room embarrassed. "When did all these people get here?"

"Beats me, I just woke up."

A sleepy voice answered from the far end of the room where Corbin was just sitting up, "I think we all came one at a time and well, nobody left." He poked a finger into Hastings arm, making him twitch and wake up.

Tolbert nudged Tuck with his hip and he almost fell off the chair he jumped so hard. The missing lieutenants entered the room and smiled at the change from only several minutes before. "Glad to see you're up Sir. They said you couldn't have any coffee if you woke up but there's juice, and ice."

The Colonel would have accepted anything wet at this point, and thanked the young man. They passed out the remaining coffees and a friendly banter ensued among the group. Everyone was glad to see the Colonel awake but were surprised he looked so well after the mess he seemed to be back on the aircraft.

"Ah, you know modern medicine, they work miracles all the time." Then on a more serious note he added, "The real miracle was getting me out of there." He scanned the room pausing to look each one of them in the eye, stopping at Hastings. "It's good to know I'd never be left behind. All of you saved my life."

The silence in the room was broken when a nurse walked in and nearly dropped the tray she was carrying, "What are all you people doing? You're not supposed to be in here!"

Corbin ducked his head, "Oops."

Everyone slowly made their way out of the room under the wary eye of the nurse; stopping to shake O'Neill's hand or salute before leaving. As the room cleared O'Neill groused, "Can't even *one* of them stay?"

Obviously this nurse was one who enjoyed having power over her charges. She arched an eyebrow at him, "One."

He turned his head to Carter and motioned his eyes to the side of the bed, then back to her. She smiled and took a seat where he'd indicated. The nurse made a huffing noise and hurried the rest of the visitors out, letting the door close harder than necessary as she left.
"So."

"You're back."

"Yeah." He patted down his chest, "and in one piece, I think." She momentarily dropped her eyes and he caught the meaning. "Touch and go there for awhile, huh? Sorry."

She looked at him, "For what? Staying alive? We were the ones who left *you*, remember?"

His eyebrows arched upward. "I think I remember making it an order. That changes things."

"Not enough."

"C'mon, Carter. I'm okay. It's over. Party time. By the way, is there anything to eat?"

She giggled. "I think I can scrounge up some Jell-o if you'd like."

"Where'd you find Jell-o? I thought there wasn't any in Kuwait."

"Remember this is a hospital. They've always got Jell-o, but it'll probably be green."

"Ew." He stretched out a few sore muscles and then settled back into the bed. "So, tell me, how'd you get me out? You know I had the weirdest dream about it."

"Of?"

She was looking way to innocent and he lifted his head to look her directly in the eye. "Transport rings."

"Oh, well, that wasn't a dream, Sir."

"Tell me, how did you manage to get clearance for something like that? You're telling me I was rescued by ship, and not one of ours?"

She squirmed a bit in her chair to his utter delight. He actually did remember some of the rescue, mostly the part before the morphine.

"When we got back we tried to get clearance for a rescue but top brass wouldn't touch it, so I called Hammond. And *he* called my Dad."

"Jacob brought a ship here? To rescue me?"

She grinned and playfully touched his arm, "He likes you a lot more than he lets on, you know."

"Maybe. I had a lot of injuries, too. So unless I've been unconscious for several weeks, there's no way I could be this much better. Jacob have something to do with that, too?"

"Yeah, he did. He brought a healing device with him, wouldn't let you off the ship until he had a chance to use it."

It suddenly occurred to him that she and her father must have put a lot of effort into getting him back not to mention butting heads with several Generals and bureaucrats in the process. He frowned, "I seem to always be making you come after me." He took her hand and squeezed it tight. "Thanks, for every time."

She looked back at his intense eyes and smiled, squeezing his hand in return.

There was a soft knock at the door and Jacob walked in. O'Neill didn't move but let Carter yank her hand back as she quickly stood and backed up from the bed. "Dad! I thought you were spending the day at Al-Salem with General Pike."

"We finished up a while ago. He's a good man." He extended his hand to the Colonel. "How's it going, Jack?"

"Not bad, Sir. Not bad at all." The men shook hands.

Carter smiled back at O'Neill, "I, uh, I'm gonna go see if I can find that Jell-o."

After the door shut, O'Neill clasped his hands in his lap and regarded the older man. "So, Jacob? Sam tells me you were responsible for putting me back together."

"Sam did her part, too, she stabilized you so we could move you out of the cell. You were in pretty bad shape, you know."

"She got the healing thingy to work for me?" He grinned, then became serious again. "Jake, I was a lot more aware than you might think while they were torturing me, even at the end. I know everything they did to me. I had a lot of injuries- all over."

"Yes, you did."

He made a face, "And you saw-"

"I did."

"Ah." He paused and looked down at his hands. His eyebrows rose in unison, then went way down. He closed his eyes and added, "She didn't-"

"No." Jacob chuckled, "But she's got a pretty good idea. You can't keep much from her."

"Uh, huh." Ooh, he did not do the embarrassment thing well *at all*. O'Neill crossed his arms over his chest and glanced at Jacob then looked down. He was perfectly still except for one foot that just wouldn't stop moving. Somehow he knew this would be easier if Jacob were somebody else, like maybe a doctor, but *not* a USAF General, Tok'ra liaison, and father of the incredible woman who was his 2IC. Uh, wrong train of thought. Not going there. He made a pouting face and glanced at the door to make sure Carter wasn't returning. "And you-" He was purposefully letting Jacob finish his sentences.

"Jack." Jacob smiled at the totally pitiful state the Colonel was in. "Don't sweat it so much. It was actually Selmac who was running the show. Its like I was in the room but not actually *doing* anything. I wasn't even fully aware of your injuries until Selmac pointed them out. I've never seen him so angry."

Confused, O'Neill continued, "So, why?" He tried not to sound ungrateful, because he was, he really, *really* was, but he just had to know.

At that moment Carter walked in bringing a flush to the Colonel's face. Couldn't she have waited a measly two more minutes?

Jacob continued unphased by her entrance. "Selmac was concerned primitive Tau'ri medicine wasn't going to be enough this time, can't have a eunuch running around the SGC."

That did it. Even the foot stopped moving. O'Neill felt all the color drain from his face but in reality he was getting redder by the second.

"Besides, we had a perfectly selfish reason."

He risked a cautious look at the older man who was grinning like the proverbial cat who ate the canary and was already heading for the door.

Sam was looking back and forth between the two with suspicion, "What are you talking about?"

"Selmac and I. We'd like to have more grandchildren someday. See you later kids."

Oh. My. God.

The Jell-o made a loud splat and the spoon clattered to the floor. Two mouths gaped opened like a couple of goldfish.

A long drawn out, "Uuhhh. Carter?" He jutted out his lower jaw and clamped his teeth together then wagged a finger at the now closed door, "Did he just say what I *think* he just said?"
Epilogue;

O'Neill had another unexpected but pleasant surprise waiting for him that evening, a satellite video link from General Hammond.

The older man's image appeared before him already smiling. "Colonel O'Neill! Great to see you, son. How are you doing?"

"Not bad considering. Very glad to be on the right side of the border though."

"I imagine so. Since your mission has been completed both you and Major Carter will be receiving transfer orders back to the SGC by the end of the week. Are you up for travel?"

"You know Jacob's still here. We could be back tonight."

"Missed us did you?"

O'Neill paused and looked down at his hands, suddenly serious. "General, let me put it this way, I'd rather deal with the damn snakes than men who just act like them."

Hammond noted the change in his tone and felt a twinge of sorrow for what the man had gone through. There was still some obvious bruising on his face. "I'll keep that in mind, Colonel. Anything I can do for you here stateside?"

"Maybe there is. Carter told me you got my team's clearance upgraded so Jacob's ship could be used as transport, right?" He nodded to her standing just out of sight of the screen.

"Yes, I did. Had to make a few phone calls but all of them had top notch recommendations and it wasn't a problem at all."

O'Neill's eyes brightened. "In that case, Sir, I've got a recommendation of my own. I'd like to offer each of them a position at the SGC. They're good men with a lot of talent to offer."

"It's true we've taken some heavy losses." Hammond looked thoughtful. "Five of them, correct?"

"Six, I'd like to include Captain Hastings, the helicopter pilot, he's already taken first seat on Jacob's ship."

"Permission granted. Tell them all, they've got a job here, if they want it."

O'Neill grinned, "Thanks, Sir. See you soon."

The link terminated and he let Carter wheel him back to his room. "You do know I can walk."

"Not just yet, 'till the Doctor's say so."

"I could make it an order."

"My papers have already come through. I am not presently under your Command and you're not back on active duty anyway."

He was quiet the rest of the way back to the room. When they arrived he eased himself back into the bed, thankful he hadn't walked, his muscles were still sore. He leaned back and closed his eyes.

Carter stood for a minute at the foot of the bed watching him then crossed the room to the window and drew the blinds. "You need to rest."

He perceived the darkening of the room through his eyelids. "That an order?"

"A suggestion."

Some expression crossed his face she couldn't decipher. "I spent a lot of time alone, in the dark."

"I'm sorry." She hadn't thought about that. "I'll open them."

"No. Don't. Just don't leave, okay?"

He felt the mattress dip under her weight as she sat on the side of the bed facing him. He sat upright and scooted over to make more room.

"I'm not your CO." He stated matter-of-factly, looking toward her but not at her, their shoulders lightly brushing.

"Nope."

"Good." He shuddered as a painful memory intruded and his hand responded by reaching out for her, stopping just short of touch. He hovered for a moment, uncertain, then leaned over to lay his head on her shoulder and let his arms encircle her tightly. He took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.

In a spontaneous reaction she hugged him back. This was not exactly what she was expecting and her brow knit with concern. She vaguely recalled his escape from the cryogenic chamber. He'd been hurt and scared and his guard was down. Just like now.

He shuddered again and she hugged him more tightly and rubbed her cheek into his hair. "It's okay. It's over."

He held on for a minute then relaxed his grip. They say it's good to cry, therapeutic even. God knows he cried enough the last few days he should be able to turn it on at will, and this would have been a good time, but he couldn't. Not now.

He sighed heavily and leaned back on the bed, looking so lost and sorrowful she could have cried for him. Instead she turned so she could lie beside him with her head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest.

She closed her eyes and felt him breathe and after a long while she thought he was asleep. His chest rumbled as he spoke.

"How many."

"How many what?"

"Grandchildren."

Her hand involuntarily reached up and pinched her own nose.

She shook once. And again. And made a sound. Was that a snort? She was giggling.

He elbowed her with mock irritation.

"Hmmph."

Funny, that didn't seem to come from Carter. And what was that tapping noise? He opened one eye to venture a look.

She was back, a figure in white, hands on her hips, tapping her foot incessantly. "Mr. O'Neill! Really!"