Title: Familiar Strangers
Email: maychorian at hotmail dot com
Category: Crossover, Drama, Action/Adventure, Hurt/Comfort
Summary: SG-1 gets to go to another galaxy. Yay! Or maybe not so yay, since there are bad guys there, too. And good ones. Yay! Yeah, it's gonna be another one of those days.
Timeframe: Pre-TPM in SW, late 4th or early 5th season in SG.
Spoilers: Lots of little ones.
Note: The Star Wars movies don't exist in this Stargate universe. Slightly non-canonical then, sorry. Also, this title kind of sucks, so I might change it if I think of something better. Ideas?
Disclaimer: If you recognize it, I don't own it. Or him. Lovely hims.
Part 1: The Second of Two Options
Colonel Jack O'Neill stepped through the gate and scowled at the landscape. More trees. Great. And rocks. Lots of lovely rocks, too. Some hills, curving around them . . . the Stargate seemed to be in the bottom of a bowl-shaped depression. No signs of civilization. The rocks around the Stargate weren't even in a circular pattern indicating that this had once been a temple. Unusual, but not unheard of. Apparently the Goa'uld hadn't used this particular gate for a long, long time.
Behind him came the slurpy wet sound of someone stepping through the wormhole, and Major Samantha Carter immediately started chattering. "Sir, can you believe that we're actually in a completely other galaxy, completely separate from any we've visited before? From the all indications in the Abydos map room, this might even be the only gate in this entire galaxy! Apparently the Goa'uld weren't able to gain a foothold here, and it certainly would be fascinating to find out why. Perhaps the indigenous species here were too advanced, were able to fight off a Goa'uld invasion. If that's true, this could be our best chance yet to find allies and technology that could help us fight them."
Jack vaguely remembered something of that being mentioned in the briefing. There was some sciency reason for why this other galaxy jump didn't take an Ancient power device like the last time, and Carter was even more excited about that. But Jack remembered only a handful of the dozens of polysyllabic words she had tossed at him in her flurried, high-pitched-with-delight explanation, and none of them meant anything to him. Jack simply trusted that this was amazing and really, really cool.
But look at the place. Rocks and trees.
Apparently he had voiced his last thought aloud, because suddenly there was Daniel Jackson at his elbow with that trademark reproachful look shining behind his glasses. "You've said that before, Jack, remember? Rocks and trees. And look how that turned out."
Jack grimaced. He didn't need to remember that particular frolic through the Stargate, thank you very much. Scientists. They could never let this stuff go.
Another slurpy noise announced the arrival of Teal'c partway through Daniel's usual reproachful speech. The Jaffa warrior merely nodded solemnly, holding his staff weapon straight at his side. "We would be prudent to remain cautious, no matter how innocuous the situation appears."
Jack nodded impatiently. "Yeah, yeah, I got it. There's a reason it says 'Colonel' on my uniform, kids. Everything is under control."
Daniel blinked his big blue eyes in the most innocent and annoying way possible. "But, Jack, it doesn't say . . ."
O'Neill rolled his eyes, effectively shutting the younger man up. "All right, let's take a walk. Any guesses on which direction might bring us closer to signs of civilization?"
Slow head shakes all around. There were no faint paths, manmade thing-a-ma-bobs, chemical traces in the atmosphere, or big flashing signs declaring "This Way to the Emerald City." So the varied skills of Teal'c, Daniel, Carter, and O'Neill were useless. It happened.
Jack tilted his head to the side, then let his arm flop up randomly. "Let's go that way."
There were no objections. The colonel took point, followed by Carter, Daniel, and Teal'c watching their six, as usual. As it ought to be. This was as familiar to them as breathing by now. Another world, another hike. It would either be really boring or incredibly interesting and traumatic, probably—those were the only two options their missions seemed to take.
When they topped the ridge and were able to look beyond the bowl-shaped valley the Stargate rested in, Jack started to get a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him they were probably looking at option number two, here.
"Get down," Jack ordered instantly, already falling to his stomach and pulling out his binoculars. His team obeyed, laying down beside him on the ridge to peer down at the big honkin' sign of civilization below.
"It's not a city," Daniel murmured, gazing at the complex of buildings, black and foreboding in the late afternoon sunlight. His eyes seemed to take in every detail at once, flitting here and there, fascinated and focused. "Too small, and the buildings all have the same kind of architecture, very utilitarian, no sense of aesthetics . . . maybe an institution of some kind."
"A military installation, perhaps," Teal'c said. Of course he had already spotted the patrols walking in pairs around the walls and across the short-cut lawn, uniformed and heavily armed. Jack had seen them too, and the sour feeling in his stomach got a little heavier.
"I keep catching a kind of bluish glimmer in the air around the base," Carter said, sounding as fascinated as Daniel. "Perhaps it's some kind of force-field. That might explain why the MALP didn't pick up any chemicals in the atmosphere, if this complex is self-contained. Or these people might have learned how to eradicate pollution in their world."
"Or their technology could have traces we just don't recognize as such," Daniel pointed out. "This is a completely different galaxy, after all—everything could have evolved in a completely different manner from Earth."
Carter nodded again, her eyes sparkling with scientific curiosity. Great. The Wonder Twins were already way out there. Jack was liking this less and less as time went on.
Daniel made a shift as if to get up, and Jack reached over Carter and grabbed his jacket. "Oh, no you don't. No way you're waltzing up to the front door of that place and starting your 'peaceful explorers' bit until we know more about them and the situation. For all we know, these could be the kind who shoot first and never ask questions at all."
Daniel blinked his baby blues, completely nonplussed. "Actually, I was thinking that you should do it."
"What, waltz up to the front door?"
"Yes, Jack," the younger man said with infinite patience. "They're military. You're military. Solidarity of the species. I'm sure you'll get along."
Jack snorted and went back to watching the patrols he could see. There were five in view, and he was willing to bet that there were a bunch more he couldn't see, lurking in the shadows. This whole deal was starting to look more and more familiar, and not in a good way.
"Will we even be able to communicate?" Carter mused. "I mean, we've hypothesized that something to do with the Gate technology allows us to communicate with other humans as if we spoke the same language, not including terms that can't be translated easily. But it's not the same with the alien species we've encountered. Daniel might have to learn a whole new language before we can talk to these people."
The archaeologist-cum-linguist shrugged, taking this in stride. He was used to picking up new languages the way other people picked up bad habits. The last Jack had heard the count was at twenty-three, but he wasn't sure if that was still accurate.
Teal'c merely inclined his head. "They do appear to be human, at least from this distance. Though that is not conclusive evidence."
"Wait a second . . ." Jack drawled, suddenly suspicious. He zoomed in on something he'd barely noticed while skipping from one patrol to the next, then abruptly cursed. "Bars! There are bars on the windows!"
He lowered the binoculars and took in the whole picture well and truly—the thick-walled buildings, the heavy gate, the shimmer of a force-field, and the many, many armed guards. "This is a prison." He spat the word like poison. The ball of lead in his stomach increased ten-fold.
Jack did not like prisons. Nothing good ever happened to his people there. Chulak, Hadante, Netu, the Cor-Ai . . . Iraq. But then, he'd been alone in Iraq. No Carter or Teal'c or Daniel there to worry about.
Or to come to the rescue, guns a-blazin'.
Nope, Jack was definitely not taking this trip down memory lane. That wasn't going to be an issue here. Not going to happen. Ever.
"I think we should reconsider the whole 'waltz up to the front door and introduce ourselves' plan. If these people are hostile to strangers, we'd be delivering our mutton behinds to the wolves."
His teammates nodded. Jack could see their own memories of prisons filtering behind their closed expressions and shuttered eyes. Sure, prisons were necessary for the containment of criminals. But far too much of the universe seemed more likely to imprison the innocent than the guilty.
"Well . . . there's a paved road leading away from the gate." Daniel offered an alternative, as usual. "We could follow that until we come to a city."
Jack glanced along the road. Dusk was starting to fall, but he didn't see any city-glow along the line the strip of pavement seemed to take. No city-glow anywhere on the horizon, actually. If one was out there, it was good distance away. More than a few hours' hike.
"It's getting dark for that," he decided. "Let's see if we can find a cave or something to set up camp and wait 'til morning. Meanwhile we'll keep a watch on that prison complex, see if we can learn anything."
By full dark they had found a decent-sized cave about a half mile away and along down the ridge. They had set up a perimeter there and stowed their supplies, but now all four of them were back here laying on the top of the ridge, watching the only sight there was. A search around the rest of the valley had yielded nothing else of note. They had left the SGC at mid-morning, Colorado time, and arrived a couple hours before sunset here. None of them were tired enough for sleep yet. So they watched the prison.
It wasn't like they'd actually learned anything, yet, except that these people took their security very seriously, and all of the guards appeared to be equally competent and professional. No sign of a leader, no vehicles heading in or out, nothing that could be construed as friendly or the least bit open. Nothing to indicate whether this culture was reasonable or ethical or at all likely to help them.
Jack had been making up conversations between the guards he was watching to keep himself entertained. ("Hey, Bob, catch the game last night?" "Frank, you crazy man, you always say the wildest things." "What? I'm just trying to pass the time here." "Kiss me, you fool!") Carter was still fascinated by the blue shimmer of the force-field, the kind of thing you could only see out of the corner of the eye, elusive and entrancing. Teal'c's face revealed neither boredom nor interest. And Daniel had just yawned for the third time. Not because he was bored, Jack wagered mentally. Stupid kid has probably been pulling all-nighters doing translation work again, he thought with half exasperation, half affection that was nearly hidden from himself.
He was just about to suggest that Daniel go back to the cave and make some coffee—either that or sleep—when a sudden commotion snapped his attention back to the prison complex. Alarms were blaring, lights flashing, guards shouting and running. A pointed finger from Teal'c finally enabled him to find the cause: a slim figure in ragged, light garments running full-tilt across the grass, a half-dozen guards converging on his position.
Jack brought his binoculars to bear even as Carter murmured in surprise at this sudden development. How did one prisoner, alone, obviously limping, manage to escape what was clearly a high-security force? The colonel caught only a glimpse of a pale face, barely more than a blur in the flashing light, before the escapee was engulfed in a tangle of limbs and weapons and dark uniforms as several guards crashed into him at once. But he was pretty sure he'd seen bruises and cuts on that pale face. A bunch of them.
He lowered the binoculars for a moment, staring down at the roiling cluster of uniformed guards just a few yards from the limits of the force-field. It was clearly hopeless. Even if the prisoner hadn't been caught by the guards, the energy wall was impenetrable. Escape from this place must be impossible, barring massive malfunctions or outside help.
Outside help . . . Despite his better judgment, Jack's hand began to stray toward his weapon. He knew that they shouldn't interfere—they didn't know enough about the circumstances or the people involved. Even if the case was clear-cut, their projectile weapons and limited energy firepower would probably make no dent on that force-field. It was a lost cause and he knew it.
But that prisoner down there was fighting desperately, no give, no surrender. Outnumbered, outgunned, outweighed, and probably weakened by days or weeks of maltreatment, he still battled against the odds, throwing off the dark-clad arms that surrounded him, landing punches and kicks wherever he could. O'Neill blinked in astonishment. This desperate little escapee fought with the skill and tenacity of a soldier, a warrior, a martial artist.
This was no ordinary prison, and that was no ordinary prisoner.
And then, impossibly, the ragged stranger managed to break away from his captors. Several of the guards fell back as if they'd been hit by some kind of energy blast, but when the escapee stood alone, his hands were empty. Immediately he turned and sprinted toward the energy wall, only a few paces ahead of more running, yelling guards. He reached the force-field directly opposite their position on the ridge and raised both white, shaking hands as if to push futilely against the wall.
Jack could only watch, sick and helpless, certain that they were about to watch a brave soul be recaptured by those who had obviously brutalized him. And then probably executed for daring to run. But there was an odd flash of blue, sending sparks across the dome, allowing it to be seen in its entirety for the first time.
When Jack's eyes cleared, the man was on this side of the shield, scrambling up the bare slope toward the ridge where they hid. The guards inside pounded against the force-field with the butts of their weapons, yelling for the shield to be lowered, voices loud enough that Jack could hear the words. So, okay, communication wasn't going to be a problem.
But security might be. The escaped prisoner was heading right toward them. Jack waved his team back into the trees with a few gestures, hoping the guards hadn't spotted them. "If he gets this far, this guy could tell us what's going on."
They melted back into the underbrush, hiding themselves at intervals to intercept the stranger. Jack picked a tree between Teal'c and Daniel, listening for pursuit, hoping not to hear it—hoping for just one set of footsteps.
Apparently it took awhile to get that shield down. Jack could still see the blue glimmer above the ridge when he heard soft running footsteps on his nine o'clock, heading toward Teal'c. And then the sounds of another desperate struggle, despite the hushed baritone of Teal'c's voice instructing the escapee to "Be still."
Jack ran for the spot, aware of Daniel and Carter moving behind him. It was a bit hard to tell in the spotty illumination of the alien moons and the flashlight on his jacket, but Teal'c was definitely fighting with a man half his size, and though he was only trying to restrain his opponent, he wasn't having an easy time of it. The blurred figure in tattered off-white garments fought with the strength of terror and the skill of a veteran warrior, all flashing fists and feet and elbows and knees, trying only to get away.
"Whoa, whoa, easy there!" Jack hissed. "We're not gonna hurt you, I swear!"
The shorter fighter startled at the colonel's appearance and jerked sideways. It gave Teal'c the opportunity he needed to wrap both arms about the slim torso and pin him back against his broad chest, grabbing the skinny wrists in his big dark hands and trapping his arms crossed over his abdomen. The prisoner lunged against the tight hold, cracking the top of his head against the bottom of the Jaffa's chin, then fell back, panting, when the strong arms didn't loosen.
Jack gasped at his first clear view of the guy's face. "Jeez! He's just a kid!"
The escaped prisoner's hair might have been reddish once, but it was hard to tell under the grime and tangles. Jack caught a glimpse of a bright iris, maybe blue, but not the clear, uncomplicated brilliance of Carter and Daniel's eyes, maybe greenish or grayish, too. A thin braid hung in front of the youngster's ear, mussed and straggly, tied with colored strings and beads. He couldn't have been more than sixteen or seventeen years old.
Daniel crashed to a stop at Jack's elbow as the kid started to struggle again, kicking backward at Teal'c's legs and twisting to and fro. The archaeologist gaped for a moment, then immediately fell into Diplomatic Daniel mode, trying to make nice with the natives. "Hey, it's okay, we're not from the prison. We're not from around here at all—we're peaceful explorers, came here through the Stargate. We just want to talk to you."
He reached out a hand, soothing, and the kid's eyes flashed wildly between him and Jack, then to Carter, when she also arrived. Damn, so many bruises, and those just where Jack could see them . . .
"You will not be harmed," Teal'c assured the kid, the deep sound rumbling through his chest. Jack recognized that hard glint in the Jaffa's eyes—he didn't like what had been done to this boy, either. Probably thinking about his son, and the slow, painful way he would kill anyone who hurt Ry'ac like this.
Strangely, it was Teal'c who seemed to get through to the boy. He sagged back against his captor's chest, head lolling on the broad, supportive shoulder. "Hurting me now," he rasped.
Teal'c loosened his grip immediately, though he looked ready to tighten it again if the kid tried to run—or keeled over, which seemed ten times more likely. "I apologize."
The boy just concentrated on breathing, eyelids fluttering and legs bending as his adrenalin ran out.
"Ah, my name is Daniel Jackson," Daniel said quickly. "This is Major Samantha Carter, Colonel Jack O'Neill, and, uh, Teal'c."
Jack lifted a hand in greeting. "Call me Jack."
The kid blinked slowly, then drew himself up straighter, formal, polite. "Obi-Wan . . . Kenobi."
"Great. Obi-Wan. Nice to meetcha."
The boy—Obi-Wan—flinched at something they could not see or hear, his wide-eyed stare jerking to the ridge. Jack followed his gaze just in time to see the blue shimmer disappear, and the distant yells became much louder. The boy pushed against Teal'c's arms again, but it seemed like mere reflex, terror alone dictating his actions.
"Time's up, campers. Kill the lights and let's get back to the cave before the cavalry arrives."
"Are you capable of walking, Obi-Wan Kenobi?" came Teal'c's solicitous rumble in the new darkness.
More determination than strength in that answer, but he was a gutsy kid. Jack shouldered his P-90 and slung one slim young arm around his neck to support the boy, Teal'c doing the same on the opposite side. Still, they hadn't made it halfway back to the cave when Obi-Wan collapsed, his legs simply folding beneath him. A flash of moonlight caught his eyes shut, face ghostly beneath the bruises and cuts. Without a word, Teal'c scooped the unconscious youngster into his arms and carried him like a child.
O'Neill fell back on their six, allowing Carter to take point. He obscured their tracks and, once they reached the cave, hid the opening with some artfully arranged tree branches. They would still hold off on a fire until they were sure the pursuit had given up, but this would help.
Inside, he crouched at the entrance, listening to the distant sounds of the search. With his nod, Carter risked a single light so she could examine Obi-Wan, laid carefully on a sleeping bag spread by Daniel. Jack let her poke and prod the kid until he couldn't stand it anymore, then whispered, "How's he doing?"
Carter shook her head, face twisting in the puzzled, displeased expression she got when faced with a problem she wasn't sure how to solve. "He doesn't look good, sir. That's all I can say with any degree of certainty. Three cracked ribs on his left side, one possibly broken. Cuts and bruises everywhere . . . God, so many of them . . . Skin clammy, forehead warm, breathing shallow and irregular. He might have internal injuries." Her fingers pressed gently on the boy's abdomen, and he whimpered even in unconsciousness. Carter winced. ". . . probably has internal injuries," she amended.
"Well, I think it's safe to say that he's been tortured." Daniel's lips were pursed in that familiar hurt/defiant/confused expression he used to greet moral outrages, his forehead deeply creased. One hand rested on Obi-Wan's forearm, bare where the sleeve was ripped, lightly rubbing the chilled flesh. Jack would lay good money that Obi-Wan wasn't even aware of it, but Daniel didn't really care. "Whatever his crimes were, they couldn't have merited this, this brutality."
"No crime." The voice was wispy and faint, young, and much, much too weary. All eyes moved to the boy's face just in time to see his eyelids flicker, then slide open. "I committed . . . no . . . crime."
"Hey," Carter said gently, moving a hand up to touch the side of his face. "Hello, Obi-Wan. I'm Sam. How are you feeling?"
The boy's eyes flicked around, catching them all, resting for a moment on the concealed entrance to the cave. He tipped his head back to find Teal'c sitting cross-legged at his head, stoic and impassive. Then he let himself lay flat again with a tiny sigh. "I am . . . afraid. I don't want them to . . . take me again. I cannot . . . answer . . . their questions."
"Cannot or will not?" Jack asked.
A tiny flicker of a smile crossed the pale features. "Will not. I will not betray . . . the Order."
"Well, thank you for your honesty, but I was really asking how you felt physically." Carter offered him a warm smile and ghosted her fingers over his swollen cheek.
"Oh." The boy blinked. "Very bad. I don't suppose you . . . have any bacta?"
SG-1 exchanged confused glances. "Sorry," Daniel answered for them all. "We're from very far away from here. Another galaxy, as a matter of fact. We've never heard of . . . bacta."
Jack could tell that Carter was dying to ask for explanation, but was holding back until the kid felt better. "We have our own medical supplies," she said instead. "I'm going to do my best to patch you up a bit now, all right?"
O'Neill averted his eyes as his 2IC started doing unpleasant medical things to that poor, battered kid, occasionally assisted by Daniel or Teal'c or both. The sounds of footsteps and voices outside were getting more and more faint, so hopefully the search was dying down—perhaps it would be abandoned until morning. The unfortunate side-effect of concentrating so hard on his hearing was that he was able to catch every stifled little gasp and moan that escaped Obi-Wan's lips. He was one tough, stubborn little runt, though.
Eventually Daniel started talking, asking questions, probably as a distraction tactic. "So . . . Obi-Wan, how did you come to be in that prison if you've committed no crimes? Are you at war?"
"No . . . no war. The Republic has no . . . standing armies. The galaxy is at peace, officially. Only . . . local conflicts. Pirates. Lunatics. That sort of thing. The Jedi are all that the Republic needs."
"What are the Jedi? Like a police force?"
"Of a sort. Jedi are . . . guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. Warriors, diplomats. Some are healers, negotiators—" the kid gasped as Carter did something particularly painful— "there are many branches of expertise. Some planets have constabulary forces, but the Jedi belong to the Republic."
It seemed to be a subject on which Obi-Wan could speak eloquently and at length. His voice became dreamy, content, drifting toward sleep. Obviously the thought of Jedi was comforting to him. Maybe these were the good guys, then.
Jack hadn't missed the fact that Obi-Wan hadn't answered the question of how he'd been imprisoned. It might be the effects of a mild concussion, though, the dreaminess and disorientation.
Daniel had been silent, digesting this. Then he asked, "A Jedi, is that what you are? You said you would not betray the Order. The Jedi Order?"
Jack glanced over and saw the boy's face tense, misgiving. Still trying to hold onto his secrets if he could—so far he'd told them nothing that any random citizen of the galaxy wouldn't know. Good for him. Hold on to that stubbornness, kiddo. Speaking from experience, it can only help you.
"You are a warrior," Teal'c rumbled, calm and certain. "You have skills far beyond your stature and age. Your words, too, are well-chosen. By your own description of the Jedi, you have revealed yourself."
Nice, Teal'c. Speak to him like one crafty fighter to another. Probably the only way to gain his trust.
Obi-Wan hesitated for a moment longer, then nodded. "I am a Jedi Padawan."
Jack opened his mouth, then closed it. The unfamiliar term would be explained eventually. They always were.
Daniel was still looking for big-picture stuff, not niggling details. "Then the people who captured you . . . they wanted you because of your status as a Jedi. Are they enemies of the Republic?"
The boy's eyes clouded. "I . . . do not know. Their motivations never became clear. At first I thought I'd been taken for use in bargaining, negotiating. But then there would have been no need for questions. I never fully understood it—those who dealt with me didn't seem to know, either."
"Dealt with," yeah. Nice euphemism for beat, tortured, degraded and imprisoned.
"You should sleep now," Carter said gently, stroking the boy's hair back from his forehead. "I gave you an injection for the pain. It should be helping now. Do you feel sleepy?"
Obi-Wan nodded lethargically, his large bluish eyes fixed on her face.
"Sleep," Daniel said with amazing tenderness, his fingers brushing over the back of Obi-Wan's hand. "We'll talk again when you wake, and I'll tell you about where we came from."
"No one will harm you while you are here," Teal'c said. "I will not allow it."
"Got that right," Jack called across the cave, just to feel included.
A ghost of a smile fluttered across the boy's face, and he slipped easily away into slumber.