TITLE: Hollow Hostilities
AUTHOR: Eleri McCleod
CATEGORY: whump, drama
SPOILERS: Anything through "Reckoning" is fair game.
SEQUEL/SERIES INFO: Jackfic-a-thon 2005
CONTENT LEVEL: 15+
CONTENT WARNINGS: whumpage and more whumpage
SUMMARY: Jackfic-a-thon 2005 entry. Trapped with his worst enemy, Jack struggles to escape without losing more of himself than he can spare.
DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. No copyright infringement is intended.
FILE SIZE (kb): 60kb
ARCHIVE: Jackfic, Gateworld, any others please ask
AUTHOR'S NOTES: For those of you who haven't heard of the Jackfic-a-thon, here's a quick rundown. Authors donate a plot bunny to the coordinator, who matches them up with another author. All we get are the bunnies and no clue as to who sent them in. The bunnies can be very specific or very general. Three months later, the pics are posted at The results can be a lot of fun. The original bunny assigned to me is located at the end of the fic.
My first Jacfic-a-thon entry. To my wonderful plot bunny donator, thanks more than I can say. I hope I did your story justice. g To my fab beta, Cokie, you always come through. Even at the very last minute. vbg As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.
"Will you halt that infernal pacing?"
"Will you just drop dead?"
Two sets of eyes glared into each other as the words reverberated into silence. Stone walls surrounded the two figures, one seated, one standing. One immaculately groomed and clothed, one a little scruffy and wrinkled.
"There is no way out of here. Pacing will not help. You are only wasting energy."
The pacing started once again, deliberate, steady. "If it bugs you it's worth the effort."
Sullen silence filled the tiny space, broken only by the scrape and fall of boot against stone.
"Sir, SG-1's ready for you."
"Thanks, Walter." Jack sighed quietly, running a weary hand across his face. The past few months had been hard. It seemed every time he felt like he was starting to get the feel for his new job some new crisis reared its ugly head and proved him wrong. What had Hammond been thinking in recommending him for the job? All he'd been able to do was bounce between the rock and the hard place uncontrollably and piss a whole lot of people off. His eyes stole over to the three waiting in the briefing room. What he wouldn't give to be back with them, risking his neck, covered in dirt, sand, or whatever else the universe had to throw at him.
Another sigh escaped as he squashed those thoughts ruthlessly. This office was his front line now and it was high time he stopped daydreaming about returning to his old one.
"Sit down, Carter," he ordered for the umpteenth time as he entered the briefing room, two familiar blue folders gripped in one hand. He was all for respect to the right people, but he wasn't one of them. "What have you got, Daniel? And please," he held a finger up in warning, "in five minutes or less this time."
Aiming a dirty look his direction, Daniel flicked on the view screen behind Jack's chair. A pleasant-looking vista appeared, leafy trees and ferns in the foreground opening to reveal a formation of ruins blow. "SG-5 took these photos yesterday. They found no sign of indigenous life and nothing else in the area." The pictures cycled closer and closer to the ruins, revealing a strangely familiar grey architecture. While pitted and worn from either time or weather, the final image was unmistakable.
Jack stared at a duplicate of the chair he'd almost died using in Antarctica not even a year ago. So much for brief. Anytime Daniel found an Ancient anything it turned in to a doctoral treatise. "I take it you want to go check it out." The complete emptiness of his tone warned him his face had turned to stone, that blank mask he used to shield his thoughts and emotions. Letting a quiet, deep breath out through his nose, he forced some animation back onto his face as he swiveled back to face the table again. He wasn't in the chair or the stasis pod anymore. And he had no intention of being near either ever again.
"Sir," Carter began, leaning forward intently. "We're hoping to find some indication of where this group moved. It could lead to a ZPM. Or who knows what else."
God help him from overeager scientists. "Teal'c, did you see anything in the area recon photos that hinted at a Goa'uld presence? Inscriptions, artifacts, dropped shoe laces?"
"I did not," he said. "I have never known this area of space to be heavily explored by the Goa'uld. It is too distant from anything to be useful to a System Lord. Even a minor Goa'uld would be hard-pressed to reach this far."
Before Daniel could continue in exhausting detail about why SG-1 simply had to go, Jack flipped his blue folder closed. "0800, tomorrow. Basic recon. Twenty-four hours. If there's enough worthwhile information, I'll consider a longer trip."
"Thank you, sir," Carter responded, climbing to her feet. "We'll take full advantage of the time."
"Take lots of notes," he returned. Watching silently as the three disappeared down the stairs, he pulled the second folder to the front. SG-10 was headed out in two hours and their final mission brief was due to start in just a couple minutes. Idly flipping through the pages within, Jack's mind kept returning to SG-1. He really missed his old job.
Awareness seeped from the blackness in stages. Cool air drifted across his face, teasing the short, grey hair. Light pierced his closed eyelids, emphasizing the pounding in his head. Where the hell was he? And how had he ended up lying painfully on some hard surface? The last thing he remembered was standing before a control panel, the echoing of Death Glider afterburner filling his ears. And then there was nothing.
Easing one eye open just enough to take in his immediate surroundings, he stifled a curse. Ba'al lay beside him, face slack in unconsciousness. Without hesitation, Jack rolled away and up to his knees. He ignored the furious pounding in his head, pushing stiffness to the side. P90 quickly coming up to bear on one of his most hated enemies, he held still. Ba'al didn't move, didn't react at all to the weapon aimed steadily in his direction.
Okay. That was weird.
Easing to his feet, Jack crept closer to the seemingly unconscious form. With one foot, he prodded the Goa'uld. "Wake up." Still no reaction. Frowning, he prodded a little harder. "Wake up."
Either the jab to the ribs or the commanding tone broke through. With a startled jerk, Ba'al awoke, eyes immediately focusing on Jack and the trained weapon. Neither man moved, each waiting for the other to break the stalemate.
"I see you have me at a disadvantage," Ba'al finally spoke, keeping his hands perfectly still at his sides.
Blood pounded in his ears as he stared down at the figure before him. Trigger finger tightening ever so slightly, Jack's jaw clenched with the effort to not end his problem that instant. "Just give a reason. Just one." The only sign Ba'al didn't appreciate the threat was a slight tightening of his dark eyes. At Jack's nod the Goa'uld slowly got to his feet, elaborate robes rustling. "Any idea where we're at?" Jack asked, not pleased to be letting Ba'al know so quickly his lack of information.
"None." He scanned the small room, hands still carried carefully at his sides. With a grudging nod, he continued. "The last thing I remember is standing before an unusual panel in a set of ruins. Alone."
With a sinking feeling, Jack straightened slightly. "Where were the ruins?" He listened intently as Ba'al perfectly described the planet, the ruins and the panel Jack himself had touched just before waking in the tiny cell. "I think we've been had."
"Had what?" Ba'al asked suspiciously, eyes narrowing. "I feel no different."
" 'Had.' It's an expression." Jack let a smirk cover his face. "It means duped, tricked, used. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept." Ba'al straightened, apparently offended at Jack's insinuation. The smirk grew slightly. It was so good to be on the giving end for once.
Too soon the arrogance came back. "If you're finished with the childish recriminations, can we move on to why we're here? I can see no reason to keep us within these walls."
Silently, Jack had to agree with the assessment. Yes, both men could be used for ransom. Yes, both were acknowledged leaders in their respective little realms. But that was the only connection between them. Well, there was the issue of extreme dislike on both parties. Somehow Jack didn't think that was the reason for their incarceration. Their eyes met in uncomfortable camaraderie. Looking away quickly, Jack lowered his weapon. Ba'al didn't know anything. He was too conceited to not lord any knowledge over the mere human. Another searching look around the cell confirmed it.
They were screwed.
Shimmering blue light flickered over his face and burned in his eyes. The three members of SG-1 moved confidently up the ramp leading to the Stargate below him. How he wished he could be with them right now, pack and weapon weighing him down.
The MALP had gone through just a minute before revealing nothing more threatening than the possibility of hay fever from the wealth of rich grasses and bright colored flowers dotting the expanse around the 'Gate. He'd given SG-1 the go ahead with no outward emotion. But something didn't feel right. He couldn't isolate the feeling, it was just a vague sense of, well, something. So he'd called down for them to have fun and was now watching them travel where he couldn't anymore.
The 'Gate shut down with a ringing susurration as Jack turned back toward the stairs. Chatter followed him up the spiral staircase leaving him wondering if he was going crazy. Where was his usually accurate bat radar now? Had it taken the week off? Or maybe he should be asking if it was taking the year off. There was no other explanation for his acceptance of the promotion that had turned his life upside down.
Quietly closing the door behind him, he looked over to the stack of reports sitting neatly on his desk. Walter had been efficient as always. Every time he managed to clear the pile down to nothing, the sergeant had another stack waiting for him. And he was avoiding the issue, like always.
Jack sat, easing back into the leather cushions. What was the real issue? Certainly not the paperwork inherent in the running of the SGC. Nor was it the fact that he was trapped in an office and not leading a team. Hell, it wasn't even the responsibility of hundreds of men's and women's lives in his questionably capable hands. If what Daniel and Carter suspected turned out to be fact, he wasn't going to be able to hide anymore, hide from himself or from his friends.
The Ancients' device had done something to him, something that hadn't gone away when Thor had taken the knowledge from his brain. He'd been avoiding even thinking about what had happened. He hadn't dealt with it years ago and he hadn't dealt with it last year. He'd simply shoved it to the back of his mind where all the other 'don't think abouts' got shoved and left it there. He wasn't going to be able to ignore it this time. He was going to have to face it. And he wasn't sure he could do that.
Muted sounds filtered up from the control room as Jack sat in silence, contemplating fate and where it had led him.
"You think I had something to do with us being here?" The furious tone was at odds with the perfectly still body, the coldly frozen face. "Do you really think I want to be stuck anywhere with you?"
They'd been dancing around each other for two hours, each barely taking his eyes off the other. Jack forced his hands away from his weapon, unsure how they'd gotten to the P90 in the first place. He certainly hadn't told them to grab hold. Who knew what he'd do with it? He'd tried to keep his anger, his fury in check, but the situation and his companion were wearing his already thin control down to the snapping point.
"I can see no other explanation," Ba'al reasoned, voice beginning to show the slightest sign of testiness. "You say that my Jaffa arrived after you and your team," the subtle stress on the last word raised Jack's hackles, "therefore you had to be the one who activated the device that sent us here. It is perfect logic."
"Screw your logic! I'm saying I didn't 'activate' anything." Jack couldn't look at him anymore, not and keep from smacking the smug smile from the bastard's face.
He didn't know what told him to turn around, to check on his enemy. But a tingling at the back of his neck had him whirling, eyes going to Ba'al, hands reaching for the P90. The Goa'uld had raised the ribbon device, a look of disgusted rage contorting the arrogant features. Without conscious thought, Jack crossed the distance, weapon separated from its clip in one quick, practiced motion. The eyes locked on his widened ever so slightly, intent beginning to turn to focus. But it was too late. Jack was already there.
His right arm swept high, knocking Ba'al's arm, and the ribbon device, out of the way. The P90 followed through, sweeping butt-first to slam into now unprotected ribs. Ba'al dropped like a stone, his surprised cry ringing in the small space. Grim satisfaction filled Jack for all of two seconds.
Then the pain hit.
Sharp, biting and exactly where he'd just struck Ba'al. The unexpectedness of the pain dropped him to his knees. Lungs frozen in shock, Jack gaped, trying to draw in air. He hadn't expected it, hadn't been able to prepare his body and mind against the awful sensation. Brown eyes lifted to meet equally dazed and confused ones across the small room.
Jack's lungs decided to work again and a heaving breath pulled a sharp wince as his ribs protested the sudden movement. What the hell had that been? He'd struck Ba'al, not the other way around, but they both were cradling ribs on their left sides. Both had pain-caused sweat beading above their lips and on their foreheads.
"What was that?" Ba'al gasped, fighting yet failing to not show the pain. "I've never witnessed such a reaction before."
"Yeah, well I've never felt it before," Jack grudgingly admitted. Damn. He hadn't realized he'd struck with that much force. At least Ba'al wasn't jumping up instantly either. Even with his snake the Goa'uld was still down. Gently, Jack probed his own side, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from flinching away. Nothing felt broken, but he'd definitely bruised a rib or two.
Ba'al was climbing to his feet, left arm gingerly cradling his side. "I suppose it's too much to hope that was a one time reaction." He didn't sound convincing.
Mirroring the Goa'uld, Jack reattached the rifle slowly. "I don't think my luck's that good," he agreed, suspicions swirling like smoke through his brain. "We need to test it."
"And you believe I will meekly sit by as you attack me? To use one of your so-clever phrases, I don't think so." He leaned back against the wall, either no longer in pain or hiding it really well.
"Don't I wish," Jack muttered under his breath, a minute adjustment to his rifle sling masking the comment. Summoning what little patience he had, he forced his voice into submissive calm. "I was thinking more along the lines of pinches on the arm and hair pulling, but if you really do want to get beat down," he trailed off suggestively, unable to stop himself. What could he say? Ba'al just brought it out in him. When the Goa'uld didn't answer, Jack closed his eyes with a sigh. "Look, you don't like me. I really don't like you. We already know this. But we do need to figure out what's going on and this connection," he gestured between the two them, "is a part of it."
Ba'al held his eyes in silent contemplation for a moment before stepping away from the wall. "I agree," he grudgingly admitted. Holding out one arm, an eyebrow raised. "You said 'pinch'. I'll hold you to it."
The threat didn't need to be acknowledged as Jack moved to meet the outstretched arm. One quick look told him Ba'al was ready. Gripping the embroidered cloth between two fingers, Jack pulled it back to expose a muscled forearm. If they really were connected somehow, this was going to hurt. There was no point in stalling. He twisted the piece of flesh and started counting.
He made it to two before the sharp pain exploded in his right forearm. Damn, that hurt. "Well, that's that." Ba'al didn't respond to the quip, just folded himself back against the wall. Taking two long steps back, Jack stared across the short distance to his enemy turned uneasy ally. How were they going to get out of this one?
"We think it's active."
"I'm sorry?" It wasn't really a question, but Daniel had caught him off guard with the comment. "What's active?"
SG-1 had returned half an hour earlier practically bubbling with excitement. Even Teal'c had openly displayed more enthusiasm than normal. Their post-mission briefing wasn't scheduled for another hour, but Daniel had made his way to Jack's office as soon as Dr. Brightman had declared him clean of Goa'uld and any other contaminates.
Setting aside the report he'd been drafting, Jack focused on his friend. "This can't wait until the briefing?"
"I know, I know, you're busy. But I wanted to give you some time to think about this before hand." Daniel stood before the desk, papers clenched so tightly in one hand the knuckles showed white. "We think the chair is active, along with everything else in the ruins."
Silence surrounded them. Daniel didn't have to say anything more. Jack knew what was coming next. 'Ever again' hadn't lasted anywhere near as long as he'd thought it would. If there was the smallest chance the ruins had a usable power source, they had to find out. And since everyone they could find with the Ancient gene had been sent to Atlantis with Weir, he was the only possible guinea pig. Fighting to keep his expression even, Jack forced the words into sound. "Thanks for the heads up. Get the rest of the pertinent information together for me as soon as you can. If there does turn out to be an active power source, we're going to need some help."
With a grin and a nod, Daniel swept from the office, leaving an empty stillness behind. While SG-1, and maybe a couple of others, knew that he was uncomfortable around Ancient technology, he'd revealed to no one his true feelings on his ability to use the stuff. Just the idea that he could operate a ship with only his thoughts was terrifying. And ever since he'd done it consciously, he hadn't taken the time to work out the implications. Actually, he admitted to himself, he'd run as fast and as far as he could every time the thoughts came to the surface. Oh, he'd told everyone he didn't remember a thing from his time with the Ancients' database stuck in his head and it was mostly the truth. Actual, concrete information he couldn't remember. Ideas, concepts, images, feelings, those all continued to bombard him when he let his guard down. They even pushed through his considerable walls whenever he was around any Ancient tech. And here was Daniel telling him he was going to have to spend time in the company of everything he was trying to avoid.
The next hour Jack remembered only in a hazy fog. He completed the report for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approved maintenance's request for more supplies, and started the draft for SG-12's annual evaluation. He could only hope what he wrote was appropriate because none of it penetrated the fog.
The chair loomed in his sight, silent and haunting. Flashes of memory filled him. Activating the first chair on Proclarouch Taonas. Pulling up the map of the Solar System. Healing Bra'tac. Destroying the ships.
Emotions attempted to choke him. Fear, as he once again lost the ability to communicate. Agony, as he took Bra'tac's pain, made him whole. Resignation, as Carter stood over him, pleading with him not to die.
And then nothing. A blank greyness that overrode all senses. No sound, no sight, no touch. No air blowing over his face. No sun to dazzle his eye. Just nothing.
A clatter from the briefing room snapped his head up, eyes searching for the source. Daniel was picking up the cap to the coffee carafe, laughing at Carter's comment, which was probably something about Daniel being a klutz. Scrubbing a hand over his face, Jack tried to push the intruding, latent pieces back into their place. It had happened. It was over. He had to move on.
With a quick glance at the clock, Jack grabbed his own coffee cup and headed out to meet SG-1. "Give me some good news, Daniel." Taking his chair quickly, Jack reminded himself not to be short with his friend. This was important information.
Daniel's face lit up with a huge grin. "That I can do. According to the inscriptions, the Ancients lived on the planet simultaneously with another people, possibly a whole new race. That's where the second set of writings come from. I haven't been able to get much from those yet." He shot an apologetic glance around the table as if it were his fault he couldn't read an alien language he'd never seen before. "But the Ancients speak about a people from far away. I think they're referring to a different galaxy. These people got stranded on the planet when their way home was destroyed. Unfortunately, they don't specify what happened." Glancing down at the notepad on the table before him, Daniel flipped a page. "The 'wise friends', if I've translated correctly, helped build the city, incorporating their own technology into the Ancients'."
"That's why we saw so many differences in the architecture and tech design," Carter added, pulling the first image from her folder. Two red circles highlighted a panel into sections, each distinctly different, yet strangely meshed into one design. "We couldn't get any of the controls to operate even though I found traces of an energy source."
Jack stared at the image, knowing what Carter wasn't saying. None of them had had the gene necessary to operate the technology. The symbols squirmed in his vision, a sense of vertigo overtaking him. Power levels and scanning controls, that's what the symbols designated.
"Jack," Daniel called, breaking into the blank-eyed trance he seemed to have fallen into. "You okay?"
But the moment passed and he was pulled once again into the symbols. Defense screen operation, internal sensors, 'Gate surveillance. Understanding flooded his mind, filled his gut with terror. Thor had taken it all away. He'd sworn it was gone and wouldn't return. The flashes he'd had were supposed to be all that remained, not this total immersion. He could feel his heart pounding roughly, his lungs dragging in deep, gasping breaths, but only as a secondary awareness. He struggled to pull away, to go to the voices he vaguely recognized.
Jack slammed back in his chair, chest heaving. One shaking hand covered his eyes, sweat uncomfortably cool on his face. "Thanks, T." That uneven voice couldn't be his, could it?
"What was that?"
"General, what just happened?"
"I, uh, I had a flashback. Sort of." Avoiding the incredulous looks shot in his direction, Jack pointed to the symbols circled in red. "I know what these are. And what they do."
"Since we can't kill each other, why don't we pretend we want to escape and instead focus on that?" Barely restraining himself from crossing the room and throttling his unwelcome companion, Jack forced an insincere smile to his face. Even he had to admit it was barely more than a baring of teeth.
Ba'al leaned more firmly into the wall at his back, arms moving to cross his chest. "And just how do you propose to get us out of here? Wave your hand and watch the locks magically fly open?" The familiar sardonic, self-superior smile covered his face as Jack continued to stare across their small cell. "Unless you think your precious Asgard friends are going to show up and whisk you away from all of this."
"No, I don't think the Asgard are going to show up. I doubt they even know I'm missing." Jack sat opposite the ornately dressed Goa'uld, struggling to hold his temper in check. He'd had enough of the consequences for letting it out to last him a lifetime. "I was thinking that between the two of us we probably have enough grey matter to figure it out on our own."
Either Ba'al took exception to the suggestion that they work together or to the implication that Jack thought he was an idiot. "What makes you think they will let us escape? We have already witnessed technology to outpace even the Goa'uld."
"Which you stole," Jack couldn't help interrupting. Shrugging innocently at the ferocious glare aimed his direction, he defended himself easily. "It's the truth, isn't it? Nothing to get your panties in a twist over."
"What I mean is," Ba'al continued, teeth ground together tightly. "They can clearly observe anything we do, at any hour. How else could they inflict the reciprocal damage as they have?"
"Okay. I'll give you that one," he admitted grudgingly. "But that doesn't mean we can't try. I've made it out of worse places than this on my own." The glare fired in his direction gave him a fleeting sense of satisfaction. Jack hadn't even been thinking of Ba'al's fortress. His mind had been more focused on escapes on Earth that he shouldn't have lived through. But he'd take the tiny victory where he could. Ba'al could glare at him all day long. They both knew nothing could come of it, at least until they did manage to escape.
Ba'al's arms crossed his chest arrogantly. "I stand prepared to be amazed by your," the pause was deliberate, "brilliance."
"Well, you're going to have to wait a little longer," Jack hated to admit it. "I don't have a plan. Yet. I was merely trying to point out that if we can stomach the idea of working together we can get out of here before we both die of old age."
Ba'al stared in silence for a long moment before turning away in disgust. "Why am I not surprised."
Before Jack could form a scathing reply, a shimmering sense of movement from one corner caught his eye. He had his rifle up and aimed before thought followed. Two small, square dishes filled with a cream colored substance sat innocently side-by-side on a round tray. An awful thought floated through his head as both he and Ba'al stared at the newly appeared items. A low rumble from his stomach underscored the unhappy thought. Seemed it was feeding time at the zoo. A bitter smile covered his face at the too close to the truth thought. Silently taking one dish from the tray, he sniffed it cautiously. It smelled like oatmeal. With a shrug he dipped the utensil hanging over the edge of the dish into the mush. A tentative swipe with his tongue confirmed his initial thought: oatmeal. Well, it probably wasn't really made of oats, but it was close enough.
When a few minutes had passed and he felt neither nausea nor a strange lassitude overtake him, Jack settled himself on the ground, back firmly against one wall. He ignored Ba'al's incredulous stare as he scooped out a spoonful. Or a whatever-it-was-ful, he thought with a grimace. It certainly wasn't like any kind of spoon he'd ever seen.
"Are you actually going to ingest that?" Ba'al asked, sounding both horrified and fascinated at the same time. Like a twenty car pile up on the highway, he simply couldn't look away.
"I'm hungry and if they, whoever 'they' are, want us dead all they have to do is not feed us." Even though he strove for a reasonable tone, he heard the sharp edge making its way in. "It's just oatmeal. I haven't keeled over yet. We need to keep our strength up if we're going to get out of here." And away from each other, he tacked on silently. See? He could be diplomatic.
Ba'al crossed to the tray as Jack continued to slowly lift the food to his mouth. It wasn't the best tasting meal he'd ever had, but it was filling. Muttered comments reached his sharp ears as the Goa'uld moved to mirror Jack on the opposite side of the cell. Quiet sounds crossed the short distance as Ba'al also took advantage of the sustenance. Unfortunately, the running denigration of the meal didn't stop as the mush disappeared from both dishes. Jack started counting and he didn't bother to stop at ten. Since he couldn't back up any of the threats coming so easily to mind, he had only one option.
He had to get out of there before it ceased to matter what kind of damage he'd cause himself in the process of acting out those threats.