Chapter One

His butt hurt. And his back. And the elbow he bruised when he collided with whomever it was he collided with, the result of which was him staring at that dull grey ceiling for the third time that week. There has to be a good reason for all this. Papers fluttered down around him, slicing the overhead lights into odd angles. Muttered apologies floated past his ear, and he felt hands underneath his arms, pulling him upright. He allowed it, trying to regain some sort of dignity and not doing a very good job.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Jackson. . .didn't mean to knock ya on your arse. Guess we both had a nose in our books, eh ?" Stan Greyson chuckled and made a show of busily collecting the papers that littered the hallway. Several people stooped to pick up the odd sheet while others merely shook their heads and walked past.

Daniel grabbed the few books he had been toting and tried to re-file the tossed papers into his folder. "No, no, it's okay, I can walk and chew gum, but maybe walking and writing briefing notes was a bit ambitious."

Stan smiled and passed his stack over. "Were you like this back in Chicago? 'Cause I don't remember having to clean up your messes."

"Yeah, well, can't say I remember you being around to clean up my messes. It was a great way to pick up girls, though."

"Oh, come on. You?"

Daniel managed a chuckle. "Well, they usually picked me up. Off the floor."

His friend held up his hand. "Now wait, this doesn't mean a date, does it?" Stan smiled at the slightly startled expression he received. "So, got a briefing?" He cocked his head to look at a final sheet of strange symbols before passing it to the archaeologist.

"Yeah, actually I'm running late. Thanks for the help."

"You're joking, right? I was the one that caused it. I'll even write you an excuse for the General if you need one." Stan mimicked writing on a pad as he walked backwards down the hall, narrowly missing two other airman.

"Uh, why don't you watch where you're going instead?" Daniel nodded at the people behind Stan while reorganizing his bundle, then glanced at his watch. The General was going to have his still-sore ass. Maybe the impromptu note would have been a good idea after all, lighten the mood a bit.

He rounded the corner and hurried on. A chill floated lightly over him, and he looked up to see if one of the air ducts was open. It wasn't, and he realized the chill was now making him shudder and filling him with a sense of foreboding that he couldn't understand, giving him a knot of expectation in the pit of his stomach. Silly. He shook it off and cursed loudly at his watch, then opted for the stairs which were faster than the elevator this time of day. He flung open the door, praying no one was on the other side, then slammed hard against the side rail as the floor rocked beneath him, an explosion bruising the air. Papers were airborne again, but it was the last thing on his mind. Pushing his glasses back onto his nose, Daniel stumbled to his feet, his documents forgotten, and rushed to the elevator where he watched wide-eyed as several soldiers gathered around the shaft where he would have been, trying to pry open the doors while yelling into their radios for help. Without further thought he ran to them, the need to assist overriding any anxiety he might feel as to the consequences of his actions. He could feel the fluid heat, the metal doors burning his fingertips, causing him to constantly pull them away and shaking them in frustration. The door was open barely an inch when a fiery light burst through the opening, knocking Daniel flat on his back, his breath scorched, his face burning, his eyes tearing. He tried to roll out of the way. There was a weight on his legs, a furnace above, and he was caught in the middle of hell. He coughed and raised his head, the yells and screams burrowing frighteningly into his head, and felt the panic as others ran around and pressed in to help. He tried to pull in a breath, wanting to tell them to back away, that he couldn't breathe, he couldn't see, just back the fuck up and leave him alone. He never got the chance.

General Hammond had just taken his seat at the conference table when everything shook violently. He slapped his hands on the table and watched the glass of water he'd just poured spilled out over the glossy wood before he could grab it. Alarms pealed as he jumped to his feet, colliding with Colonel O'Neill in the doorway. "What the hell happened?" he demanded.

"We don't know, sir. We're getting calls from all over." Major Carter was at the colonel's shoulder, spinning on her heel as they ran to the control room. Everyone was talking over everyone else, people slamming frantically into each other as lights continued blinking and the sirens wailed . Hammond's first glance was at the stargate, which remained stationary. His next glance was at the screens that were flipping across various security sites before landing on a ghastly scene.


Carter was already plugged in, her head tilted towards the earpiece she'd donned. "Apparently there was an explosion, sir, level 23 elevator shaft. Medics and security on the way."

"Anything from NORAD?"

"Not yet sir."

Hammond nodded and turned. "I'd take the stairs, sir!" Harriman yelled behind him.

The hall was filled with an acrid smell. Hammond shouldered his way through, noting the injured and medics while trying to avoid jostling them. He passed several MP's, each with a wary look on their faces, nearly concealed by the large helmets. The area was much warmer than it should have been, and he began to notice the pungent smell of charred flesh, just distinguishable from the smell of overheated metal. The General put his hand over his mouth and was instantly passed a face-mask. "Cause?"

One of the emergency personnel walked over to him, taking his upper arm gently and leading him into an open room, and out of the way. "Not sure yet, sir, but with due respect, you shouldn't be here. It could be elevator malfunction, it could be one of those chemicals in transport, but until we know it's safe you shouldn't be here without proper precautions." He gestured at the mask. "That may not be as efficient as we hope. We're talking the possibility of radiation, they've gone for the suits."

"Understood!" Hammond coughed. "Get the rest of these injured out of here and seal off this corridor." He pressed the airman on and cautiously stepped out, pulling back as a gurney wheeled past. He exited through the blast door to find Teal'c on the other side.

"Any news, General?" The Jaffa's voice was unusually somber. His large mouth was turned down, the corners twitching with anxiety.

"Not yet, Teal'c. Right now all I know is that there was an explosion and people were hurt. At the moment I don't even know who or how many." Hammond did hesitate in his speech, but walked quickly down the hall with Teal'c keeping stride.

"That is what I have come to tell you, General. Dr. Frasier has informed me that DanielJackson is with her."

Hammond paused. "Dr. Jackson? Please tell me he wasn't in that elevator!"

"I have my doubts that anyone inside the elevator survived, General. DanielJackson was in the hallway when the blast hit."

Hammond had turned upon hearing the news and was now walking rapidly to the infirmary, dodging airman and emergency personnel. "What of the other injured?"

"There are several. I do not know any further details."

Hammond gave a nod. He entered the infirmary minutes later, and was immediately shoved aside by Dr. Frasier, who was about to bitch when she realized who it was she was facing. "General! I'm sorry, I didn't see you. . ." she gave an apologetic glance but continued on her path, flicking a syringe with her fingernail. She gave a shot to a man in obvious agony and rubbed his arm as he moaned.

Hammond kept it brief. "What's our status, Doctor?"

"Six with severe burns," she responded quickly, "three with minor, and as far as I've heard three dead, but that's not confirmed, there hasn't been time."

Hammond nodded and glanced over the infirmary until he spotted the still form of Daniel Jackson on a distant bed. He was almost afraid to ask. "Doctor Jackson?"

"Unconscious, superficial burns, scorched throat and eyes. Nothing severe, but he'll be uncomfortable for a while." She pushed by him and prepared another needle.

He knew when he was in the way, and this was definitely one of those times. "I'll be in my office," Hammond said, edging aside and bumping into a cart. "I want a report asap."

She hardly glanced at him. "Yes, General."