Sam stared at the little device like it was a poisonous snake. Or an extraterrestrial one. It was hard to believe that this little thing was giving the Tok'ra scientists so much grief.
Even after weeks of trying they still hadn't been able to get to the data stored on it. They had gotten as far as the second password but that was it.Needless to say, it was frustrating the hell out of the technicians, enough to allow the Tau'ri a chance at breaking the code. Not that they believed Sam could do anything they hadn't tried, but it was worth a shot. And Sam had promised herself to crack the code, even if it was just to spite this arrogant Tok'ra engineer.
The big problem with this plan was that, after several days, she was no further along than she had been at the beginning. She was about ready to use the oldest approach known when confronted with uncooperative technology: just throw the thing against the wall and hope that the problem would solve itself.
"Hey Carter, build any good gizmos lately?"
Sam suppressed the urge to jump. Barely. She hated it when the Colonel sneaked up on her like this. She knew he had stealth training; he didn't need to prove it to her all the time!
"Sorry Colonel, but no. I'm still trying to decrypt Thoth's diary-device. It's quite challenging."
Meaning: 'I have no idea what to do with this thing'
"The Tok'ra haven't got any idea either?" A quiet, strangely amused voice from the doorway asked. Daniel stood there, leaning against the doorframe, smiling at his two friends.
"None whatsoever." Sam answered, shaking her head "At least none they are sharing with us."
Jack looked at the device for a moment, before shrugging and turning away.
"I still don't see what should be so great about this thing." He muttered, then said louder to Sam:
"You heard about our next mission…?"
Daniel tuned his friends out and walked over to the table where the device lay. How often had he seen his Master use this thing? How often had he observed Thoth activate it and enter the necessary codes? Theoretically he should be able to get it working.
Carefully Daniel picked the device up and looked at it from all angles. It was only as big as his spread hand. In the middle there was a big crystal, like the Goa'uld usually used for storing information. The crystal was imbedded in golden structure that reminded one of a spider web. The most outward circle was a bit wider, with hieroglyphs engraved into it.
Looking over to his friends and finding them deeply in conversation, Daniel turned back to the diary and started pressing the symbols. Unlike the Tok'ra scientists Daniel didn't falter at any passwords, he knew the master-code to evade all the others. It was a nice trick; you just had to know how to use it.
With the last symbol activated, the device came to life: A holographic image appeared over the crystal, reminding one a bit of Heliopolis, displaying the last entry. The hieroglyphs were easy enough for Daniel to read and so he started shifting through the entries looking for any useful information.
"Wow!" sounded Jack's astonished voice behind him. Daniel looked shortly over his shoulders with a smile on his lips. Sam was a bit more vocal about her surprise:
"How the hell did you do this?"
Daniel turned around with a sheepish look in his eyes.
"I cheated. I knew how this thing works."
"I hate you!" Sam declared only half in jest.
"I'm sorry?" said Daniel; trying out the best puppy-eye-look he could muster. He was good at this and he knew it. He just didn't like to use it so much because, to be honest, he felt silly playing up on it. But it was a good weapon.
Sam still glared at him, but there was a traitorous twinkle in her eyes:
"You knew how to get to the information and still let me get frustrated about it?"
"Well, I wasn't entirely sure if I could remember the correct codes. And then it wasn't you I wanted to get frustrated but the Tok'ra."
Sam continued glaring, but there wasn't any real force behind it. Jack, who had listened silently to the exchange, decided that this was the ideal point to ask a certain question he had wanted to ask Daniel a long time:
"You don't like the Tok'ra much, do you?"
"It has nothing to do with liking them, Jack, I like Selmac well enough; I just don't trust them."
"Any special reason? I mean besides the fact that they're snakes, too?"
Daniel shrugged, a bit uncomfortable with this line of questioning.
"I have a few unresolved issues concerning their trustworthiness. You know the saying: once bitten, twice shy."
It was very clear from the faces of Sam and Jack that this answer did not answer anything, but it was equally clear from the look in Daniel's eyes that he didn't want to discuss this matter any further. So a change of topic was in order:
"They're going to be pretty galled that we managed to open up the device, won't they?" Jack commented, again looking at said device, while remembering Anise's arrogance concerning the abilities of the Tau'ri. This should knock her down a peg or two. Sam, having the exact same thoughts at the moment, grinned too.
"Have you found anything useful yet?"
At Jack's question Daniel turned once again back to the displayed information. A slightly devilish smile crept onto his face as he read through it.
"Daniel?" Sam asked, knowing this particular look. It meant he had found something good.
"Come over here, Sam, and look at this!"
Sam did so and looked at the holographic symbols. At first they didn't make any sense whatsoever to her and she already wanted to ask Daniel what he had found, when she discovered a group of symbols that didn't fit in with the rest. Six symbols.
Daniel nodded happily.
"These are the coordinates of Thoth's second residence world, if you believe the text. Do you think the General would be interested in this?"
Sam and Daniel shared a grin with Jack. This was indeed very fascinating information. And the Tok'ra would be sooooooo mad that it hadn't been them who discovered it.
As far as planets went, this one was rather beautiful. The climate, at least in the parts where the Stargate was located, was mild, and the gate was located in the middle of a large, green forest. Jack's first comment, when he had seen the pictures of this planet, had been (quite predictable):
"Oh. Trees. Something new."
Which (equally predictable) earned him two annoyed looks from Daniel and Sam. Teal'c had looked impassive as ever, apart from the nearly invisible twitch of his lips.
The forest was a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees, the ground overgrown with fern, little bushes and whatever else you expected (or didn't expect) to find. In fact, the woods were so thick that it would have been close to impossible to travel through them for longer distances if it hadn't been for the narrow path leading away from the gate.
The gate itself was nearly completely surrounded by the high trees and only a little paved square in front of it was free. The burned, destroyed vegetation behind the gate showed that it hadn't been used for many years before the SGC had sent the first MALP through. That was actually rather good news, because it meant that the Goa'uld had most likely left this planet alone after Thoth's death. Which in turn meant that there was a good chance for SG-1 to discover some useful stuff without having to fight for it.
After a short talk with the Tok'ra representative (They had been pretty miffed about the Tau'ri figuring out the device), General Hammond had decided that it was a good idea to send SG-1 to the planet. The UAV had shown that there was a small town within a half-hour-hike from the gate and that this small town had an old temple-ruin at its outskirt. It was as good a place to start looking around as any other.
So SG-1 had gated to the planet and was about to embark on the journey to the village. Jack cast a cautious look around. Everything seemed peaceful enough, but he still couldn't shake the feeling of danger. Paranoia was understandable considering his life since the Stargate had been opened (and, to be honest, before that, too) but that didn't mean it wasn't annoying sometimes.
"Okay kids, lets move it!"
The four started towards the town and still Jack couldn't get rid of his paranoid feelings. A short glace back to Daniel, who was talking quietly with Sam, showed that he wasn't entirely alone with them either. Daniel, even while talking, kept looking around nervously as if he was expecting an ambush any minute. On the other side, Teal'c looked as stoic as ever and Sam didn't seem to notice anything amiss either.
The path led out of the forest after awhile and along a steep ledge. If you walked up to the edge you could overlook the valley where the town was located. Daniel (because of his fear of heights) was very thankful that the path was located far enough away from the abyss so that one couldn't see the depth. Additionally a slight slope led up to the edge.
A fallen obelisk came into view. It looked very old and weathered, but even from the distance Daniel could see the hieroglyphs engraved into the stone. Curiosity warred with his fear of heights for a moment before his curiosity won (like usual).
Jack turned around, looked first at Daniel, then followed his friend's look, then rolled his eyes in mock annoyance. Nevertheless he gave his friend a short nod.
When Daniel reached the obelisk's remains he took the time to cast a short look around the valley below him. Just because he really didn't like heights did not mean he couldn't appreciate a good view. Suddenly Daniel stiffed and stared. He couldn't believe what his eyes were telling him just now.
"Uhm, Jack? There wasn't a pyramid-ship on the UAV pictures, was there?"
Jack felt as if someone had doused him with ice water. Was his team cursed or what? With this thought in mind he hurried over to Daniel and had his own look around the valley. There it was: a Goa'uld ship. A smaller one, but still big enough to be cause for alarm. Taking a look through his binoculars Jack could see the distinguishing figures of Jaffa milling around the ship and through the town.
Suddenly Daniel's head shot up and his whole body went stiff.
"Do you hear this?" he asked, whispering. Jack frowned and concentrated on his hearing. At first he couldn't hear anything exceptional and he already wanted to ask Daniel just what he was supposed to hear, when he noticed it:
The rhythmic thump of marching Jaffa. And they were coming closer.
Hurriedly turning around Jack could see that the other two of his team heard the approaching danger, too. Not willing to loose another minute Jack gestured for them to get moving, while he himself was already making his way back towards the gate.
"Come on, kids. This planet has just gotten way too hot for my tastes."
None of the others could or even wanted to disagree. As fast as possible they tried to make their way back to the Stargate before they were discovered by the approaching patrol. But despite everything, their retreat wasn't fast enough:
Without warning a blast from a staff-weapon stuck the ground close to the group, hurling dirt into the air. A rough voice behind them screamed for them to stop, but this was about the last thing the members of SG-1 were considering. The four started running.
The hope to actually outrun the troop of Jaffa was pretty slim, but it was squashed totally when the gate came into view: four other Jaffa were stationed in front of the gate and aimed their staff-weapons at the members of SG-1 as soon as they stumbled into the clearing.
//Where the hell did they come from?// Jack thought while he franticly searched for a way out of this situation. The only way to the gate was the path they had been on so how had the Jaffa gotten to the gate without them noticing?
Jack didn't have time to ponder on this problem; he was preoccupied with their abysmal situation. In the end, they had no other choice but to surrender. They were plain and simply outnumbered.
//How the hell do we always manage to get ourselves into this kind of situation?// Jack asked himself as he agitatedly paced through the cell they had been put into. All weapons and gear had been taken from them, leaving them with only their clothes. And now they were trapped in one of these damned Goa'uld cells which walls looked so smooth that you couldn't recognize where the door was supposed to be.
//Wonderful. Just. Freaking. Wonderful!//
Trying to find a way to vent his frustration Jack kicked against the wall, only to be painfully reminded of the fact that, even with boots, his bones were weaker than the material the cell was built of.
After the Jaffa had led them towards the mothership it had only gotten worse. Without detour they had been dragged into the main throne-room where the Big Boss awaited them already. Another snake with delusions of godhood.
What followed were the usual declarations of greatness and glee about capturing the elusive Tau'ri. Jack sometimes wondered who wrote the Goa'uld's lines. Whoever it was, he really needed a lesson in creativity.
After the Goa'uld (who had, despite all his grandeur, omitted his name) had finished gloating, SG-1 had been hauled away and put into this cell, awaiting their captors decision regarding what to do with them. As far as Jack understood, there were two possibilities: either he executed the team outright, basking in the glory of having managed what several major gods hadn't managed or he sold the team off to the highest bidder for some favours in order to climb the ladder in the Goa'uld hierarchy. Neither of these two prospects agreed very much with Jack.
Overcome with frustration once again Jack hit the wall with his flat palm. It hurt, but it was welcome distraction from his frustrating thoughts. How the hell where they supposed to get out of this dodge?
"O'Neill, please refrain from injuring yourself. You are needed in full health in order to escape."
Teal'c's dry voice penetrated the haze of frustrated fury that had held Jack captive and he slumped down next to Daniel who sat huddled on the floor, knees drawn to the chest.
"Sorry, T. I'm just so… so annoyed that these kind of thing always happens to us."
Teal'c's eyebrow travelled towards his non-existent hairline.
"It is indeed strange that situations like this more often than not happen to our team. But, until now, we have always been able to escape these unfavourable circumstances."
Jack sighed deeply and closed his eyes. Teal'c was right – SG-1 was still alive even after being hunted or captured more times then the Colonel liked to think about. And their team only existed for about two years.
Opening his eyes again Jack cast another look around the cell. It looked like a box with golden walls, big enough for four people but nevertheless causing claustrophobic feelings. Carter was sitting probed up against the wall, worrying her lower lip, obviously thinking hard. Jack knew that look. Both Carter and Daniel got it when they where retreating into their brains, sorting through thoughts in an attempt to come up with a solution for something unsolvable.
Speaking of Daniel, Jack turned around to look at his friend who sat next to him on the floor. Jack didn't like what he saw, not really. Daniel was too quiet, his face expressionless, the look in his eyes unreadable.
Daniel's head shot up and he cast a startled look around.
"You aren't getting lost in your own head again, are you?" Jack asked, trying to hide his worry. To get out of this predicament they would all have to be fully alert.
"No, not really, just thinking about some things."
"Like what?" Sam questioned from her place, having given up on coming up with a suitable escape-plan for the moment. Daniel took a deep breath before he answered:
"Like the Jaffa's tattoo. It's Thoth's seal."
Daniel found himself suddenly in the absolute centre of everyone's attention. For a second no one spoke then Jack asked quietly:
The moment the words left his mouth he rued them. It was a pretty dumb question considering whom he was asking. Absently Daniel answered:
"As sure as anyone can be. I don't think, I'll ever forget this sign."
While Daniel spoke Sam had walked over to him sitting down next to him in silent support. After his last extended trip down memory-lane they all were very aware of Daniel's aversion towards Thoth. And the reasons for it.
Suddenly a thought stuck Jack that threatened to take his breath away. With great apprehension he asked carefully:
"Uhm, Danny, this Goa'uld who's playing boss here, that isn't Thoth, is it?"
"No." Daniel declared in a surprisingly strong voice considering the subject while shaking his head in emphasis "That most definitely wasn't Thoth. Despite the fact that I know without a shadow of a doubt that Thoth is dead and gone, this guy has a completely different attitude."
Jack listened attentively. It weren't the words that raised the red flag inside his mind, but the nearly undetectable undercurrent of hatred and fury that lay in Daniel's cool voice. There was more to this than the painful memories.
"So, you absolutely sure that this isn't…"
"Yes! Jack, I saw Thoth being killed. Three shots with a zat. No way in hell could he have gotten away."
Jack chose not to consider certain implications that statement brought to light. If Thoth had been executed by an angry Ra and Daniel had actually seen it… no, he would think about this later. When they were safely at home. Preferable after a beer or two. There were more pressing problems at the moment.
"But who is the guy in charge here then?"
Daniel cast a thoughtful look over to Sam, who had asked this question:
"I'm not hundred percent sure, but I could make a pretty good guess. I think it is Khannas."
Daniel's tone of voice as he said the name reminded Jack of cold steel: hard and unforgiving with a hidden edge. He was rather puzzled at this, the name didn't tell him anything. Sam on the other hand seemed rather startled at the sound of the name.
"What is it, Carter?" Jack asked slightly concerned. Sam just shook her head in confusion.
"I don't know, sir. For a moment there, I thought I recognized the name. I felt… I don't know, loathing when Daniel said it."
"Not surprising." Daniel commented dryly "What you felt was most likely a remnant of Jolinar's memories. Khannas wouldn't be exactly popular among the Tok'ra."
His voice was still cold as an arctic storm, paired with a sarcasm, which was only seldom heard from Daniel. There was no doubt among the other members of the team now that Daniel once again knew more than he was telling.
"Why is this, DanielJackson?" Teal'c finally asked, "I remember Apophis mentioning this name, but Khannas always seemed to be an insignificant player among the system lords."
"I take it, Apophis never mentioned this Goa'uld particular history?"
Daniel was obviously trying to sound causal, but his success was debatable.
"If he did so, I can not remember."
"Well," Daniel stated calmly. Too calmly. Everybody who knew him knew that he was hiding a world of emotions behind his level voice "Khannas didn't start out as Goa'uld, but as a Tok'ra. He was actually one of the first. He pretended to work with the resistance on earth but turned out to be a traitor who sold out the rebels in the end. His name actually found its way into earth mythology as one of the names of Saitan in the Qur'an: Khannas is the deceiver. Pretty aptly named if you ask me."
During the last sentence of his little speech Daniel couldn't hide his emotions concerning this subject completely any longer. A heavy bitterness had crept into his voice, a bitterness that made his friends shudder involuntarily.
"Why do I have the feeling that you have a personal grudge against him?"
Jack sounded wary as he asked this. Daniel sent a tired smile over to him, which couldn't hide the sudden flash of pain and deep-rooted hatred in his eyes.
"You are right, it is personal. For a while he stayed around Thoth's court, supposedly as a kind of go-between for Thoth and his priests. He was also my contact to Chel. At least that is what we all thought. I trusted him and that was a mistake."
Daniel's tone was sharp as a knife, his eyes blazing with suppressed rage.
"He is the reason why the resistance nearly fell apart before it had a chance to really get started. For a bit of power he sold out the trust of hundreds. His betrayal cost many people, good people, their lives…"
Suddenly the fury left him and an expression of bone-deep pain settled into his expressive eyes. So low that his friends nearly missed it he added:
"…it cost me my brother."
Daniel trailed off after this whispered statement. When his friends already thought he wouldn't say anything else, he started talking again. First quietly, then with more and more steel in his voice:
"… He was good as a spy; I have to give him that much credit. No one suspected him. If I hadn't overheard him talking with Thoth that one day, I probably wouldn't have known either…"
Da'yell silently crept through the secret passageways in Thoth's palace his naked feet never making a sound. He had good reason for his secrecy: Thoth had returned from an extended trip just today and Da'yell really didn't want to draw unnecessary attention to himself. He got enough of it without trying.
Thoth had been gone to visit Tefnut, which was the second reason why Da'yell felt it safer to avoid his master as best and as long as he could. Thoth never was in a particularly benevolent mood when he returned from his missions to Ra's daughter.
Nevertheless, Da'yell was curious what Thoth was up to. And he wanted to find Khannas to see if the Tok'ra had any news from Chel.
The opening to Thoth's throne-room stood slightly open when Da'yell reached it. Just a little gap, enough for him to look through and observe but not enough to be noticed from the outside. As silently as possible he crept closer and peeked into the room. He could see Thoth comfortably sitting on his throne while Khannas was standing close to him. Thoth looked thoughtful, his eyes distant. Finally he started speaking:
"So, they are trying to rebel?"
"Yes, my lord. They will try to liberate themselves first and then start further actions."
Da'yell's eyes grew wide as he listened to these words. He could hardly believe what he was hearing there. This couldn't be.
"And what is so special about this particular movement that you felt it necessary to bring it to my attention? There was never a time without some of the humans suffering from the delusion they were able to fight us."
"This time, my lord, I fear it aren't just a few humans. There are already many ready to join this cause and additionally they are receiving help from Tefnut."
Da'yell could feel his breath coming faster and faster. What was Khannas doing? Why was he telling Thoth all this?
"So you are implying these puny beings have actually a chance?"
Thoth's voice was practically dripping with sarcasm but Khannas didn't let it bother him as he continued gravely:
"If not to win, my lord, then to cause grave damage. By my knowledge, they are organized in a way that could cause a great disruption before they are inevitable beaten down. It would help your standing among the gods greatly if it was you who took the necessary steps first."
Thoth fell silent again, his face a mask of concentration. Da'yell had grabbed the wall behind him for support, his eyes tightly shut. After a minute Thoth spoke again:
"And who is the leader of this little rebellion?"
"A slave in one of the northern quarries. He goes by the name Chel. But he wouldn't be the only problem. They are getting information from the inside your palace."
"What do you mean?"
Thoth was leaning forward, very interested now. His voice was cold as ice. Da'yell shivered, knowing this particular tone of voice only too well. Khannas was smiling:
"Your personal slave, my lord, is spying on you and passing information on to this Chel…"
Da'yell had trouble now listening to the talk over the loud thundering of his heart. He had trouble actually believing what he was hearing.
"…I was able to win their trust and therefore know that he is also very involved in this blossoming rebellion."
"I will deal with my slave" Thoth announced his voice hard as steel. A voice that didn't bode well for Da'yell's near future.
"What do you propose we do about the rebels at the quarry?"
"I think an example should be set. Show them the consequences of going against the gods."
Thoth nodded absently.
"Go! I must think about this."
Bowing deeply Khannas left. Da'yell remained in his hiding place, momentarily too stunned to do anything but stare straight ahead. Then, suddenly he started moving. He ran through the passage back to his quarters, trying to think of a way to contact Chel before it was too late. Before all of their work against the Goa'uld had been for nothing. Before he lost his friends.
"… I never managed to warn them. They died without ever realizing who the true traitor was."
Daniel was leaning back against the wall, his eyes closed. His voice sounded kind of sad with the underlying note of barley-controlled rage still in it. After what he had just told his friends the latter was very understandable.
Jack, carefully (he didn't want to end up threatened by Danny) put his hand on his friend's shoulder in a gesture of silent support. He had a distant idea that there was something that Daniel wasn't telling them. Something that would provide another piece to the puzzle about his past.
Quietly Jack said, trying to establish eye contact:
"They thought it was you, didn't they? The one who deceived them, I mean."
Daniel nodded dejectedly not opening his eyes. Speaking so softly that he nearly went unheard he said:
"Chel was among those Thoth had had killed to make an example. I am not even sure what led him to the conclusion, but he thought and still thinks that it was me who sold the resistance out."
"And since then he's tried to kill you?"
At Jack's words Daniel opened his eyes, looking at him with a sad, bitter smile on his lips. Instead of answering verbally, he just shrugged. He hated it but there was nothing he could do against Chel's stubbornness.
"I think Khannas had something to do with Chel thinking me the traitor." Daniel said softly "The bastard pretty much pulled my life apart… and then he doesn't even have the decency to recognize me."
It was clear that his fury was overcoming Daniel's melancholy but before the talk could progress any further they were interrupted by the too-well-known sound of approaching Jaffa. A quick look between the four of them was enough to communicate a basic (very basic) plan. This ability to nearly instinctively understand each other in dire situations like this was one of the reasons why their team was so good (and had survived until now).
When the two Jaffa who had gotten the order to retrieve the prisoners for some questioning opened the cell they saw only two of the supposedly four captives. Daniel and Sam sat huddled together at the far end of the cell, looking weak and fearful, like the perfect victims. It was disconcerting for Teal'c and Jack, who were hiding by pressing themselves against the wall left and right to the doorway in order to stay out of the Jaffa's field of vision, how well the two other members of their team could pull off this particular role. They had always known that Daniel was a very good actor when he had to be, but seeing Sam playing helpless was something they weren't used to at all.
After a second of internal alarm and confusion the two Jaffa, who had apparently been infected by the Goa'uld's general arrogance, dismissed the situation. Most likely the other two, who in the guards minds were the more dangerous ones, had been placed in another cell. It wouldn't be the first time their colleagues or their god failed to inform them about something like this.
Still, it was never wrong to be cautions. Slowly one of the two went into the cell, advancing on the "younger" members of the captured Tau'ri team. The other one remained behind, just outside the doorway.
The first Jaffa came closer, completely fooled by the aura of fear Sam and Daniel tried to project, but as soon as he was close enough the two exploded into motion:
Using his knife none of his friends had realized he still had, Daniel concentrated his attack on one of the few vulnerable spots in the Jaffa's amour. He knew that this wouldn't really do any demage, but it was enough of a distraction for Sam to grab the zat-gun, which hung at the Jaffa's hip and use it. Daniel just managed to get out of the way of the blast. A moment later the problem was literally non-existent anymore.
The other Jaffa of course had tried to come to his comrade's aid as soon as he saw the unsuspected assault. He never made it beyond one step inside before Jack and Teal'c attacked.
It didn't take long before this Jaffa too lay dead at their feet. The zat took care of any evidence.
Immediate danger over Jack turned to Daniel and favoured him with the best glare he could manage.
"Daniel? Why didn't you tell me you still had your knife on you?"
"You didn't ask?" Daniel replied a sheepishly to Jack's sarcastic words. In truth he hadn't really thought about it until maybe a second before he attacked. It was damn embarrassing, but he had actually forgotten that it was there. He was so used to carrying hidden weapons around that he would notice their absence but not their presence.
Jack still glared at Daniel.
"For future reference: consider yourself asked every time."
After making this clear Jack turned his attention the rest of the team:
"Let's get out of here!"
Armed with the dead Jaffa's weapons the team started their way, silently creeping through the corridors and more or less skilfully avoiding random Jaffa patrols. They knew that they had to hurry since it wouldn't take to long before somebody discovered their absence.
As if this very thought had jinxed their flight, alarms suddenly sounded through the ship.
"Oh for crying out loud!" exclaimed Jack "Can't something go without problems for us only just once in awhile?"
The others chose not to comment on this. They were too busy trying to get out of there. While sneaking through the various hallways Daniel absently glanced over the hieroglyphs that adorned the walls. He was rather startled when he found passages he knew. Passages that talked about the greatness of Thoth and the accomplishments of this particular Goa'uld. It couldn't be, now could it? Khannas wouldn't be so brazen to take Thoth's ship after being more or less responsible that Ra had chosen Thoth as the scapegoat for the rebellion.
On the other hand…
Determined to prove himself wrong Daniel walked a few steps along the wall, using the inscriptions as a guide. If he was right then it should be right here…
"Daniel?!" Jack called rather irritated when he saw his friend wandering off. Why couldn't he just once stay in one place?
Daniel didn't listen to Jack (like so often). He had found what he had hoped not to find. One single symbol, looking inconspicuous and innocent like all the others, but the moment he touched the hieroglyph its outlines started to glow.
"Danny! What did you do now? I thought I told you often enough not to touch anything."
Daniel just sent a short glare towards Jack over his shoulder.
"Jack, calm down, I know what I'm doing!"
"Just why doesn't this reassure me?" was Jack's slightly sarcastic reply to this. Daniel just rolled his eyes in exasperation and waited. Thankfully before Jack could say anything else the mechanism Daniel had triggered did its work: a section of the wall slid inward and revealed a long, narrow and dimly lit hallway.
"Voilà!" Daniel said, grinning while turning towards his friends. Jack and Sam stared while Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow in a sign of mild surprise. Daniel was pretty sure that the Jaffa knew what kind of sesame he had just managed to open.
"And what is this?"
Jack's voice was an interesting mix of worry, anger and simple resignation.
"Our way out of the ship. If we use this way, we should be able to escape undetected and undisturbed."
Sam, who was already looking around inside the newly opened hallway, couldn't help but ask:
Daniel's cheeky grin withered a bit before he answered:
"These passageways are used by the slaves to get around the ship quickly and quietly without getting in the way of the gods or the soldiers. Since Khannas put out a ship wide alarm in order to catch us everyone other than his warriors should be staying put. With a bit of luck we can get out of here without encountering anybody… And Jack, I suggest we get in and continue our discussion there before we are found here!"
There was nothing Jack could say against this even if he had wanted to. The four of them got in and Daniel closed the doorway behind them.
They started their way down the passageways, Daniel taking the lead since it was obvious that he was the only one who knew the way. But that fact itself brought other questions to the front and in the end it was Sam who couldn't keep her curiosity under control any longer.
"How exactly did you know that the entrance to this passages would be there?"
She didn't have to ask how Daniel knew about this way at all, that was pretty apparent. Daniel never stopped walking while answering, his face a mask of concentration as he tried to remember the correct way through this virtual labyrinth.
"Because I used this way before."
"If you knew such an easy way, why didn't you tell us when we were trapped on Apophis' ship?"
Even if he was slightly annoyed by the accusing tone of Jack's question, Daniel had to admit that it was a justified enquiry.
"Because these passageways aren't exactly easy to find. You have to know where to look for the openings and I didn't know where to look on Apophis' ship. And before you ask, I'm pretty sure that neither Teal'c nor Bra'tac knew where to look for this way either."
Jack's questioning look transferred over to Teal'c who confirmed Daniel's words:
"That is true, O'Neill. Since Jaffa do not use these passageways as a rule, we may be aware of their existence but not of their exact location."
Daniel didn't feel the necessity to mention that most Jaffa thought it way beneath their dignity to even consider using this route. For some moments the group made their way silently, everyone caught up in their own thoughts.
Jack, while keeping a wary eye on the surroundings kept mulling over Daniel's last statements. Experience had taught him by now that his friend told important things in a way you wouldn't notice that they were important until way later.
"One moment!" Jack exclaimed suddenly, stopping dead in his tracks "You said you used this way before. Does this mean…?"
A strange non-smile spread across Daniel's face, a mixture between melancholy and anger. It was an expression that allowed a short glimpse at the hard warrior that lurked behind the façade of the geeky scientist. Jack ruthlessly suppressed the shiver that threatened to run down his back.
"You guessed it. This is Thoth's old ship."
Daniel's tone became mocking as he continued:
"It's the perfect proof of the inability of the Goa'uld to generate something akin to original thought. Even the texts on the walls are still the same, talking about the great god Thoth…"
Daniel's rant continued low key while he walked on. Sam and Jack exchanged a bemused look. It wasn't the first time that Daniel would comment about the Goa'uld's inability to invent anything by themselves. More often than not Sam would join into the tirade, adding her own scientific perspective. They both found this pastime rather liberating every now and then.
The low-key commentary about the mental shortcomings of the Goa'uld had two effects. For one it helped relieve the tension a bit but it also helped Daniel himself to keep from thinking too closely about some memories his presence on this ship stirred up. Memories of a time when he had used these hallways daily with a constant feeling of fear in his heart, a slave to his god.
He remembered fleeing through these hallways after his master had lost his life to Ra's fury.
Better not to think about it.
After their way through endless seeming hallways and over several flights of stairs, they came to a stop in front of a closed door. Unlike the others they had encountered on their way so far, this ones opening mechanism looked slightly more complicated. Daniel glared intensely at the various symbols.
"What's the matter, Daniel? Forgotten your key?"
Jack tried to sound flippant but he couldn't fully hide his sudden worry. Daniel looked over his shoulder towards his friend and shrugged:
"Not exactly. Just give me minute to remember the correct code. My memory may be very good, but even I have trouble remembering a combination I only ever saw others use."
"Why have you never used it yourself?" Sam wanted to know. Daniel didn't turn around, still studying the door.
"This door leads out of the ship. Thoth never trusted me this much."
Daniel said nothing else, but started pressing buttons. With a slight whoosh of air the door opened. Daniel turned around with a smile and a raised eyebrow. Jack chose not to voice what came into his mind just now. Instead he took the lead again.
For once it seemed as if they were in luck. At least it appeared so until they reached the gate again. The way there had gone without any complications. To be on the safe side they had left the road about halfway to the gate and made their way through the thick forest. It took them longer (and earned them various small scratches) but in the end it was safer.
When they reached the gate however their luck ran out: The Chaapa'ai was guarded by a large group of Jaffa.
"And what now?" Jack asked whispering, not taking his eyes off the guards. Daniel followed the look and said with apprehension:
"Well, it wouldn't be the first time that we would have to fight our way to the gate."
Jack shook his head:
"These are to many. We wouldn't stand a chance and only end up captured again… If we're lucky."
"With a diversion we might have a chance."
Sam's words were said without any real conviction behind them. They all knew that the chances for such a diversion were pretty slim at best, impossible at worst.
Hadn't someone once mentioned that impossible didn't exist for SG-1?
Suddenly the Jaffa around the gate stood to attention. The members of SG-1 stiffed stiffened, fearing that they had been discovered but a few moments later the majority of the Jaffa started to march away, leaving only two guards behind.
Jack altered his look between the retreating Jaffa and the two remaining, a truly confused expression on his face.
"And what is the meaning of this?"
They couldn't be so lucky. It was just not possible.
"I would guess Khannas is recalling the troops so they can help search for us." Daniel replied with a satisfied smile on his face "He probably doesn't think we will make it to the gate."
Jack's look turned thoughtful as he tried to come up with a plan to get these last two obstacles to their return home out of the way, too.
A few minutes later, when the retreating Jaffa were well out of hearing rage range he and Teal'c started to take action. Carefully they made their way around so they would come out behind the gate. Sam and Daniel kept their own weapons ready in case something unforeseen happened.
It didn't. From behind the two guards came suddenly zat-blasts, killing them before they had any chance to realize the situation.
Guarded by his friends Daniel made his way over to the DHD. They had decided to go to the Alpha-site, since they couldn't go directly to earth without their GDO's and even if Sam could remember all designation of the planets they had visited, Daniel was the one in the team who could actually remember all the gate-addresses.
He had already started pressing the symbols when something made him look up and over into the forest. It was his luck. During the following seconds Daniel didn't think he just reacted. The moment he saw the lone Jaffa with his weapon trained at him, Daniel grabbed his own zat-gun and shot, while at the same time shouting a warning to his friends. The shots fired nearly simultaneously, but Daniel had the better aim.
The Jaffa crumbled to the ground, unconscious, while Daniel himself felt a searing pain at his right shoulder.
"Daniel!" shouted Jack when he saw his friend fall. He ran over to him, while Sam and Teal'c scouted the area in case there were more unwelcome surprises hidden.
"How are you?" Jack asked, kneeling next to Daniel.
"I'm fine. At least I'll be in a minute."
While answering Daniel looked at the angry burn at his right shoulder with a mix of detached interest and annoyance. Jack was already getting ready to contradict him, when he noticed the bluish-white lightning dancing over the wound, closing it before his eyes.
"Another jacket ruined!" Daniel commented frustrated. Jack stared at him.
An unsure smile appeared on Daniel's face while he spoke. With newly flaring guilt Jack realized that Daniel was still afraid of his reaction to his friends nature.
"Well, you have to admit this is something that's kinda hard to remember."
Holding out a hand Jack helped Daniel back to his feet.
"Dial up, so we can get out of here!"
Daniel nodded and resumed his position at the DHD. Teal'c and Sam stepped out of the forest, looking extremely on guard, weapons drawn and ready.
The gate established and Sam walked through, closely followed by Daniel. Jack and Teal'c shared a short look then followed their teammates.
The gate dissolved behind them, leaving no sign of their passage.