On a Slow Ride Through Molasses – Part one

It was there, right in front of him. He could just reach out and. . .

Jack sat back, his muscles quivering just from the imagined movement. He eased himself back as far as he could, feeling the coolness of the plastic-like substance of the wall through his T-shirt. The corner was hard against his spine, but at least it gave him some support, support he sorely needed if he wasn't to slip sideways. If he went down he doubted he could get back up.

"Colonel – I'm sorry, sir." Ferretti's voice seemed to drift to him across a vast distance, echoing strangely, and Jack realised he had shut his eyes. He didn't bother opening them, just nodded and turned away. There was a rustling, then a grunt followed by noisy swallowing. He didn't need to see to know Lou was drinking from the large bowl set just a few short inches from Jack's position.

God, what he wouldn't give for just one mouthful. Without conscious thought his eyes snapped open and his gaze latched on to Lou's bent head. The major was kneeling, lapping at the water like an animal, his arm stretched backwards, the chain tethering it to the wall taut and pulled to its fullest extent.

Lou sat back on his heels, his gaze meeting Jack's briefly before he turned his head away, looking uncomfortable, but not before the drops of liquid beading on his lips caused Jack to swallow back a groan of frustration.

They had been here for three days – three interminable days forced to do nothing but sit and wish he was anywhere but in this surprisingly clean prison. The walls were painted a cheerful pale violet color, even the simple toilet facility partitioned off in one corner color co-ordinated – as was the bowl on the floor at his feet. There were blankets in a pleasantly contrasting shade of blue, and the small window set high in the far wall was curtained in a light gauze fabric patterned with soft swirls that looked to Jack like clouds in a summer sky.

He had plenty of time to contemplate the curtain while SG-2 and the rest of SG-1 were off on their daily exercise and bathing routine. The first time the other seven in the cell with him had been unhooked from their long leads and taken out he had panicked, thinking the worst, but they returned a couple of hours later none the worst for their experience, in fact way better off than he was. Apparently they had been allowed to wash, then were taken into a large fenced yard where they had been left out in the sunshine until they were once again brought back to the cell, their left hands cuffed to their tethers once more.

"O'Neill!"

He jerked awake, shifting his weight as he pushed back against the wall, and gave Teal'c a grateful nod. It wouldn't do to fall.

Yes, their captors had been more than generous to his men – it seemed it was only their leader they had a problem with.

Him.

"The guards change twice while we're in the exercise yard, sir." Carter spoke in a low voice – even though the locals didn't seem to speak any language they recognised it didn't do to assume they couldn't understand. "And they carried out the same ritual today as yesterday, so it could be some sort of religious observance."

"I think it must be, Jack. They faced the direction of the stargate each time and seemed to be praying. It's understandable if some Goa'uld has been visiting here."

"Probably praying the snake'll stay away."

Carter gave a small laugh at Ferretti's comment. "Whatever the reason, I think we can use that ritual to our advantage. Their attention is definitely less on us and more on praying."

Jack nodded, the strong leather gag chafing and sticking on his sweaty skin. He swallowed and straightened, unable to prevent a cough that rose from deep inside and pushed its way up. He rode it out, head down and eyes closed. It was several minutes before he was able to relax a little, raising his head to press it against the wall.

Whatever they were going to do to escape they'd have to do it quickly or do it without him. Three days with no food or water was taking a toll that soon would be beyond his ability from which to recover. The next time he drifted off, he would probably stay drifted.

Daniel seemed to think it was something he said, but Jack didn't think so. No – it was that huge cosmic joke that had painted a target on his back and stuck a 'kick me' sign over the bullseye. He had barely spoken two words, and he doubted they had even understood those. Nope – he was the leader of their intrepid band and that seemed to be more than enough.

Daniel's attempts at communication had been met with total indifference and a simple 'meet and greet' had degenerated into farce within minutes. Totally outnumbered and not wanting to provoke a bloodbath, the two SGC teams had been disarmed and marched off the short distance to this conveniently situated prison, nice and handy to entertain any unsuspecting travellers who walked uninvited on to their planet.

As prisons went, they could have, and frequently were, thrown into worse. The food was regular and while not gourmet cuisine it was a cut above the normal dry bread and thin soup – at least so he had been told. His hands were locked tight behind his back and fixed by a chain to the wall, while the others were just too far away to reach him, even if they could have done something.

As an exquisite refinement of his torture, the water and food were placed right beside him, close enough that it could be reached by his companions while he could do nothing but watch.

At first they had been reluctant to eat and Jack had grown frustrated at his inability to yell at them. What was the point in them starving themselves? Who would it help? If they had any chance of escape they had to be fit and ready. It was Teal'c who talked sense into them in Jack's place, giving them exactly the same talking to Jack would have if he'd been able, albeit without the shouting.

A wave of dizziness hit and Jack lifted his head, breathing hard. The dizziness was becoming almost a permanent condition, making it hard to concentrate. He opened his eyes, the cell blurring as it swayed, the walls surging in to meet him then receding in an undulating pattern that made his stomach rebel. He felt something rise within him, and the acid taste of bile filled his mouth.

Oh shit! His desperate swallows did little to help, just prolonging his panicking struggles as the gag blocked any chance he might have had to breathe.

"Colonel?"

He hear voices shouting and merging, chains rattled near him, but it all became nothing but background noise to the choking gurgles from his own throat as he succumbed to the darkness.

xoxoxoxoxoxo