A Light in the Darkness
By Bekah See
Sam was restless. For over a week now, she and Daniel had been working on the artifact they had found on their last expedition, and so far, they hadn't gotten anywhere. Sighing, Sam got up from her stool and stretched, popping at least three vertebrae in the process. Daniel looked up from where he had been studying glyphs etched into the side of the – whatever-it-was.
"Break time?" he asked dryly.
"Absolutely" Sam said, putting down her tools and starting for the door.
Daniel grinned and followed her out of the lab and down the corridor toward the mess. It would probably be deserted at this time of night, but they could at least get some coffee and think about something else for a while— yeah, like that's gonna happen, he thought wryly.
Sam chose a table near the coffee cart and sat down with a sigh. Daniel sat across from her, studying her face. "You okay?" he asked tentatively. Sam flashed him her bright smile.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired. We've been working on that thing several days, and we're no closer to understanding what it is than when we started."
"I know. The writing on the artifact is like nothing I've ever seen. I can read over 20 languages, and none of them are helping me. The only deciphering I've been able to do is to determine the symbols are not Goa'uld, Asgard, Ancient, or any variation of any language originating from earth."
"Furling?" Carter suggested.
"Dunno" Daniel said with a shrug. We've never met them so I have nothing to compare it with. Actually, I have a feeling that this is something completely different."
"Great." Carter said glumly. "Completely different usually means long hours of tedious study that gets us absolutely nowhere until we find some frame of reference with which to compare whatever it is we're trying to figure out."
Daniel sat up very straight. "That's it. Why didn't we think of it before?"
"We need a frame of reference. We need to go back to the planet where we found the … thingy."
"Oh no you don't." Carter said sternly. "The last time we were we had barely set foot past the gate before the inhabitants started shooting at us. There's no way Hammond is going to let us go back there. We're stuck with whatever we've already got."
"Which is … nothing." Daniel said, lowering his head and running his fingers through his hair."
Carter slumped. "Yup, pretty much."
"Morning, Carter!" Sam jumped at the sound of her CO's greeting and looked guiltily around at him as he entered her lab.
"Good morning, sir" she stifled a yawn—barely.
"Long night? Again?" Colonel Jack O'Neill leaned just inside the doorway, arms folded, and a knowing smirk on his face. "You know, sleep is usually a good thing if one wishes to not fall comatose at work."
"Sorry sir." She gestured to the inert object on her desk. "It's just that I cannot for the life of me figure out what this thing is supposed to do."
"Really?" Jack said, eyebrows raised in surprise. "As in no clue at all?"
"No, sir. Not even an hint of one."
"Welcome to my world." he grinned at her before turning and sauntering away.
Carter chuckled and dropped her head onto her arms, trying for all the world to stay focused on what she was supposed to be doing.
The thing was, she knew Daniel was right. They needed to go back to the planet and look around to see if they had missed anything. But she had been right, too. As soon as they had set foot through the gate, the inhabitants of the planet had started shooting at them, blue streaks of fire raging all over the area. O'Neill had yelled at her to dial out while the rest of them covered her. She had complied, pushing the seven symbols in sequence, just as she had hundreds of times before. The gate opened with its characteristic splendor, and they had all made a break for it. Daniel, typically, had tripped on his way to the event horizon, and also typically, had stopped to examine what had tripped him. What he found and pulled out of the dirt before running through the ring to safety was the device that now had them so stumped.
Normally, if they couldn't figure out the nature of something they found offworld, they simply did a cursory examination, took careful pictures and notes on what they knew, and sent it to Area 51 for further study. There was something about this one, however, that kept Sam coming back to it. Maybe it was the fact that they had never seen anything like the writings covering the outside, or maybe it was the material it was made of – they'd never encountered it before.
Whatever it is, Sam mused to herself, it's sure beautiful.
She picked it up, turning it over in her hands as she studied it. Okay, she thought, let's start from the beginning. Physical description: roughly diamond shaped with one point being about three inches longer than the opposing point, which curves down about 50 degrees from the horizontal. The "top" and "bottom" points are equidistant from the center, and are identical in shape and length. Her thoughts began to drift, and her eyes momentarily losing focus as she gazed at the object. She shook herself. Dammit! I really should get more sleep. Three hours in two days just doesn't seem to be enough. She sat up, letting her head fall back and rolled her shoulders a couple of times to loosen them. Then she returned to her review. The material, whatever it is, is slightly warm to the touch, even though there is no discernable energy emanating from it. Color is pearly white, almost glowing, with colors running through every part of it. White is the sum of all the colors blended, so that makes sense. She ran her long fingers over the etched surface, tracing the glittering characters, and wondered what in the world they could mean.
"Hey" For the second time that day, Sam jumped at the sound of Jack's voice. "Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you… again." Sam glared at the Colonel, who didn't seem the slightest bit sorry. "Wanna get some dinner?"
"Thank you, sir, but not this time. I really need to go home and get some sleep."
Jack seemed a little crestfallen. "Okay. See you tomorrow."
Sam nodded at him. "Yes sir." She watched him walk away, and felt a little pang of regret that she hadn't taken him up on his offer. But she was way too tired to hang around and try to be sociable. Wearily, she got up and collected her things before riding the elevator to the surface, getting in her car, and blearily driving home. She stumbled into her house, threw her things on the floor (a testament to how tired she was) and collapsed into her bed. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
Sam was walking in darkness. A suffocating darkness, completely devoid of anything even remotely familiar, and she felt utterly alone. She looked around, her scientist's mind trying to figure out where she was. Was she dreaming? Did something happen to her during a recent mission? No, she distinctly remembered coming home and dropping into bed. So she had to be dreaming. But then why was she so lucid? Usually, if she figured out she was dreaming, she woke up right away. So it couldn't be a dream.
"Hello??" She cried out to the darkness, hoping that someone, anyone, would hear. Her voice echoed back to her out of the blackness. She was starting to get a little nervous, now. She had never felt so completely alone. "Is anyone there? Where am I??" Now she was really spooked. She started running, although she couldn't see where she was going. "Hello?" she called again, real fear in her voice. "Hel—" suddenly she stopped short. Something had changed. She saw something ahead of her, shining brightly in the darkness. She started toward it, slowly at first, then faster and faster. As she drew near, she began to see it more clearly. Roughly diamond shaped, white pearly surface, colors dancing over and through the writing that covered its exterior. The object from the planet. Well, that makes sense, her rational mind told her, you've been poring over that thing for a week. You have every reason to be dreaming about it. Except that she still didn't believe she was dreaming. Reaching out, she hesitantly touched it, running her fingers over the markings as she had done at the SGC. But this time, something happened. The markings began to change, rearranging themselves into characters that she instantly recognized as her native language. Eagerly, Sam moved closer, peering down at the pearly facade, seeing her reflection shining through the now readable words. She read:
Protect against the ruthless
Rip away the veil
Safeguard those who need it most
Care for the called
Sam read it again and again, trying to make sense of the words. As she stared, she noticed that one of the markings, set into the top point of the object, had not been translated. She studied it, running her hand over it as she had done before, hoping the marks would rearrange themselves again. They didn't. Sam looked up, aware of something changing in the dimness. A strip of light had appeared in front of her, like a rip in the fabric of the blackness. Dazzling brightness was seeping through, bathing her in soft white beauty. Hesitantly, Sam reached out, intending to pull aside the fringes of the dark. She sensed something on the other side. Something she had not known in a long time if she ever had. It tickled her senses, pulled her forward. With each passing moment, she wanted it more, yearned and longed for it, even though she wasn't sure what it was.
Then it was gone.
Sam sat up in her bed, almost sobbing with the abrupt separation from whatever it was that she had wanted so badly. She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Lowering her head, she pulled deep calming breaths, trying to settle the pounding of her heart, and to remember what had shaken her so badly. Slowly, the images returned, and along with them, the feelings. The sensation of absolute isolation, the thrill of being able to read the inscription, and that feeling coming through the tear in the darkness. She remembered how tantalizing it had been, but even now, she could not put a name to it.
Calmer now, Sam debated with herself about whether or not to head directly back to the SGC with this discovery, and decided that Daniel was probably fast asleep. Not to mention she was still dead tired. Sam lay back down on her bed, and slept.
Her alarm clock woke her up several hours later. Or rather the lack of sound it made as it finally gave up and shut itself off was what officially woke her. She rolled over, and looked at the green numbers: 6:10. "Damn" Sam muttered as she jumped out of bed. She was late, and she needed to talk to Daniel before he got busy with some random translation.
"Daniel! Daniel, are you in here?" Sam was in his office, looking around stacks of books and shelves full of various strange looking artifacts, trying to find her friend. She was nearing the back of the room when he walked in, hair tousled, and glasses a little skewed as he nursed his first cup of coffee.
"Sam? What's up? You look better. Get a good night's sleep?"
"Uh, yes and no, but yes, I feel better. Hey, I might have a lead on the artifact we found on P3X-712."
He squinted at her. "Really? How'd you manage that if you were home sleeping?
"Well, actually, now that I'm going to say it, it sounds a little strange, but I had this dream-vision thing." Daniel raised his eyebrows at her and Sam dipped her chin. "Look, I know it sounds crazy, but in the dream, uh vision, uh, whatever, the markings on the object rearranged themselves into words I could read. Daniel, I even remember what it said!"
"Um, Sam, it was a dream. Your brain was probably trying to give you some resolution to the frustration you've been feeling lately."
"No, Daniel, it was more than that. Don't give me that look, I know what you're thinking. Can I just tell you what it said, and you can look at it and see if it fits?"
Daniel looked again at the paper that Sam had handed him with her "translation" of the writings on the object. "Rip away the veil" he murmured to himself. His brain was running over all the mythos and legends of earth, trying to make a connection as he had done so many times before. "Veil, veil, veil…" Something in the back of his brain niggled at his attention, but he knew that if he went after it too hard, he would lose it completely, so he left it on the back burner while he moved on to other lines in the text. His eyes moved back and forth from the paper in his hand to the object on the cluttered lab table in front of him.
Sam paced a few feet away, her thumbnail between her teeth, obviously lost in thought. As Daniel's eyes flicked back to the markings again, he stopped dead in his tracks. Throwing the paper down on the table, he leaned in close to the object, staring at a particular symbol that had caught his attention. He took the device in his hands, and stared, turning it around and around, never taking his eyes off of it.
Sam noticed the movement. "Daniel? What is it?"
"I don't know." Daniel said slowly. "But it may be that…"
"Well, this symbol here," Daniel pointed to the glyph that had caught his attention, "reminds me of something I saw when I was still in school. But if it's what I think it is, then it's so ancient that…" He trailed off, muttering to himself.
"I thought you said the inscription wasn't a variation of any language found on earth."
"Yeah, I may have been wrong about that. Sam, if your translation is correct, then we may have a major find here. We really need to go back to that planet."
General Hammond looked up from his seemingly endless mound of paperwork to find Major Carter looking expectantly at him. "Major? What can I do for you?"
"Sir, request permission for SG-1 to return to P3X-712."
"Why in the world would you want to go back?? You barely made it out the first time you were there."
"Sir, I think we may have something on our hands that could help defend earth against her enemies, but we need to know more about it to be sure. Going back to the planet is the only way we can find out if the artifact we found is a viable option for defense."
"Major Carter, I don't know that I'm willing to send my flagship team into what is obviously a highly volatile situation to find something that may or may not even be there."
"I understand that, sir, and I have a few ideas to make things a little less hot when we get there."
Hammond studied her for a moment, noting the energy and earnestness in her blue eyes "Alright, Major, I'll hear you out. Briefing at 1100 hours."
Carter grinned at him in relief. "Thank you, sir."
"P3X-712", Carter said, looking around at her team and General Hammond. The last time we were there…"
"We almost got our butts blown off." O'Neill interrupted.
"Yes, sir, I was about to say that sir. But this time, if we plan it right, we should be able to go back with a much bigger safety margin."
"Um, excuse me," O'Neill again. "but, why in the world would we WANT to go back there? Last time I checked, none of us really wanted to have our butts blown off. That would be…" he circled his wrist as if searching for the perfect word, "…bad".
"Yes, sir, I realize that, but Daniel and I have been studying the artifact we found on our last visit, and we believe it may have some major implications." She nodded at Daniel to continue. Daniel leaned forward, folding his hands in what O'Neill recognized as his lecture pose.
"The markings on the object seem to tell us what it's supposed to do. Now, at first, we weren't able to make heads or tails of them, but then I noticed this…" he took up a black remote and flipped to the image of the mark he'd noted earlier. "It could be a derivative of one of the most ancient languages ever recorded on earth…"
"Daniel, I don't care what language it's in. I just want to know what it says." Jack said forcefully.
"Okay, roughly translated, it means 'to watch over' and as far as I can tell, the context seems to be looking after those who are oppressed. Now we know that the Ancients are one of the most advanced branches of humanity ever to evolve. The Asgard, and even the Goa'uld are much older races than we are, and are also much more advanced. The glyph pictured here may predate even the ancients, and if it represents a benevolent race who was dedicated to protecting those under its care, then we may be able to utilize the technology to defend earth."
Jack sighed, and looked at Hammond. "What do you think sir?"
Hammond thought for a moment, then looked at Carter, "What did you have in mind to protect yourselves, Major?"
Col. Jack O'Neill glared at the red siren lights as they blared their warning that the gate was in use. "Why does that stupid thing have to go off when WE'RE the ones opening the gate?"
Hammond shot him a look before grabbing the microphone. "Whenever you're ready Major."
"Almost there sir. I've replaced the rockets on the UAV with flash grenades which will be dropped when and where we tell them to. As soon as it goes through, we will be able to ascertain what kind of opposition exists around the gate, then we'll fly it out over a range of 10 kilometers. Once we've established where the enemy is hiding, we'll drop the grenades. SG-1 will then go through and neutralize the enemy with zats…"
"Yes, Carter," O'Neill said dryly into the mike, "we were in the briefing room with you, remember?"
Carter looked up sheepishly, "Sorry sir. I'm almost ready. You might want to come down here."
O'Neill sighed and looked at Teal'c. "You ready to do this again?"
Teal'c looked at him. "Major Carter's strategy seems to be sound. Do you not think this is a good idea, O'Neill?"
Jack looked at his large friend and grunted before heading out of the control room and down to the gate room. Teal'c bowed to Hammond before following.
"Ready?" Carter asked them as they assembled at the side of ramp which held the waiting UAV.
"Launch it" O'Neill ordered.
The technician on duty pressed a button and the RC plane shot off into the event horizon. SG-1 readied their zats and stepped up onto the ramp.
Sergeant Harriman's voice rang into the gateroom, "UAV has reached its destination. We're receiving telemetry. It looks like there's multiple hostiles around the gate area, but they're clustered into three zones, one to the north, one to the east and one to the north west. The UAV is now flying its recon path to a distance of 10 kilometers." He paused for a moment. "The area is clear after the first defense zone around the gate."
"On my mark, drop two grenades into each of the hostile groups." O'Neill ordered. "Three, two, one, Mark!"
Jack and his team ran to the gate and through the ring. Coming out the other side, they encountered no resistance, but knew that wouldn't last long. O'Neill ran to take out the men lying slightly stunned to the east, while Teal'c went north and Carter and Daniel moved northwest. A few minutes later, they all met back in front of the gate.
"That went well." Daniel commented, holstering his zat.
"Now what?" O'Neill looked at Carter questioningly.
"Now, we look around for anything that seems like it might be related to the object we found last time. It was buried right in front of the gate, so we may not have to go too far."
"Alright. Stay in radio contact. Daniel, you're with Teal'c, Carter, you're with me."
Carter and O'Neill moved away from the others into the brush ringing the stargate. Jack stayed close to her as they looked for signs of anything that might prove useful . She could feel the heat of him buzzing through her as it always did when he was near her, and she moved away from him slightly, knowing the distraction could pose a problem. Suddenly something caught her eye, and she moved toward it, away from her CO, who was looking at a particularly interesting purple bug. Sam's danger sense made her skin prickle, but she ignored it, intent on uncovering the black markings she had noticed on the ground. As she got closer, she glanced up and saw how far she had moved from O'Neill.
"Sir, I've found some—" Jack glanced up just in time to see her enveloped in a circle of rings and transported out in a flash of white light.
"—thing. Uh-oh." Sam said softly as she was rematerialized into what was very obviously an alien structure. She readied her P90, looking carefully around in the gloom for movement. When something caught her eye, she very nearly started shooting just for the sake of it. It wouldn't have helped. The gas coming up through vents in the octagonal floor had her out cold in a second.
The first thing Sam noticed was that she was shivering. The second thing she noticed was why. Whoever had moved her had taken, not only her gear, but her clothing as well, replacing it with only a linen shirt and trousers, and she was very cold. Sam looked around groggily, trying to clear her head of the last of the effects of the gas. She sat up carefully, taking stock of her body. Her head was pounding, but that was to be expected. Her shoulder hurt too, probably from falling after she had passed out. She rubbed it, hoping to ease the ache a bit, but only succeeded in deducing that a massage was not what was needed. It felt like some of the tendons were pulled. She held her injured arm close to her body and used the other one to push herself to her feet. Quickly realizing this was not the best of ideas, Sam sat down again, and leaned back against the nearest wall, panting with the effort to not vomit all over herself. Once she got her stomach back under control, she looked around again, this time from the relative safety of the floor.
She was in what looked like a normal barred cage. Sam squinted, trying to see what was beyond. Blackness stared back at her. Sam automatically clamped down on her rising panic with a discipline borne of years of training. This felt a little too close to her dream for comfort. She felt the complete aloneness surrounding her. Her team had no idea where she was, and she had no idea who had taken her or why. She looked around again, then did a double take as she saw movement outside her cell.
Jack O'Neill stormed through the SGC, swearing and cursing. He was furious with himself for allowing Carter to be taken right from under his nose. It had happened so fast, that he hadn't had time to react. He had seen her disappear and had yelled for Daniel and Teal'c, who had come running. "She's gone." He'd told them, "Carter just got transported off somewhere."
"Where was she standing?" Daniel had asked, looking around.
"Over there, but don't get too close, Daniel, I don't want you off space monkeying around too."
Daniel had moved carefully over to the area O'Neill had indicated, studying the ground for markings. He saw the black marks that had caught Sam's eye and circled around to the other side. The previous activation of the rings had disturbed the foliage covering the transport site. Daniel brushed off some of the remaining debris and looked up at O'Neill. "These are Goa'uld writings, Jack, but they're different from the ones we see today. Older and more archaic. If I'm reading these right, they're set to transport up, like to a ship in orbit."
"Great. That's just peachy. C'mon, boys, let's get back to the gate and figure out what we're gonna do to get Carter back."
Jack shook off the memories, knowing that recalling his failure over and over again was not going to help.
He entered the briefing room, joining the remaining members of his team, and his CO, and flopped down into a seat.
"Alright, gentlemen, you want to tell me what happened?" Hammond asked.
"We had split up, sir, to try and cover as much ground as possible. Carter was with me." He took a deep breath. "I heard her say she'd found something, I turned around, and she was gone. Transported up to god knows where. Request permission to return to P3X-712 to mount a rescue operation."
"Um, Jack, going back to the planet through the stargate isn't going to help us much if she's on a ship somewhere." Daniel said carefully. "They may not even be in orbit anymore. But we do know that the rings that were used to transport Sam were of a very old Goa'uld design. Maybe some rebel faction or an offshoot of the Goa'ulds we deal with today.
"Perhaps I may be of assistance, O'Neill" A flash of bright white light made them all jump, as Thor appeared in their midst.
"Thor! Are you a sight for sore eyes! Yes, you can help. Can you take us back to P3X-712 and get us onto the ship where Sam was taken?" Jack took it for granted that Thor already knew what was going on. He always seemed to know.
"That is why I am here." Thor said. "I am aware of Major Carter's capture, and will help you get to the place where she is being held. However, I cannot do more than that, as I must return to my own galaxy and continue the fight against the replicators."
"Great! Let's go!" Jack jumped up and was about to take off for the gear up room when he remembered something. "Um, that is, if it's alright with you, sir." He looked at Hammond.
"You have a go." Hammond said. "Godspeed."
Sam glared out into the darkness at a shape that was barely visible. "Who are you and what do you want?" she called.
The figure moved closer to her cell, finally stepping into the light pooling around the cage from the lamp overhead. What Sam saw made her gasp an scrabble back as far as she could away from the creature in front of her. It was huge, at least 7 feet tall, with thick black leathery skin and glowing yellow eyes. Muscles corded its limbs, which were pocked and marked with yellowed and oozing scars. Its head was enormous, a thick bull snout bisecting its face and gigantic ram's horns curling up and over the back of its skull. Even in her terrified state, Sam's mind linked the creature with minotaurs of ancient legend. Half man, half bull, they were said to be ferocious fighters and fearless warriors. They were also supposed to be mean as hell.
The creature moved to the door of Sam's cage and unlocked it. He strode in and grabbed her by the arms, causing her to cry out in pain as it jostled her injury. The beast dragged her out of the cell and down a dark corridor. Sam tried to see where they were going, but her eyes hadn't yet adjusted, and she was blind. After a few minutes of walking, the minotaur stopped in front of a metal door and opened it with a touch panel mounted on one side.
Looking through the door, Sam caught sight of a large cylindrical room with metal walls. A harsh blue light was emanating from the center of the ceiling. The creature holding her arm dragged her inside, threw her on the floor, and left, shutting the door. Sam immediately got up, and started looking around the room for some other way out. There was none. The walls seemed to be made of one giant sheet of metal, and their was no second door, nor any windows. Sam heard a clank coming out of the ceiling above her and looked up, while automatically ducking down to make her 5'9" frame as small a target as possible. Coming down out of the ceiling were a pair of shackles. The creature who had dragged her into the room returned and approached her. Sam knew this might be her only chance to get away. The door behind the creature was still open. She stayed where she was, emanating terror that was not entirely an act, and waited for the creature to get closer. Then, taking a quick breath, she whipped her foot around, trying to kick its legs out from under it—and just about broke her tibia in the process. She doubled up, clutching her shin and groaning while the creature grinned down at her.
"There is no escape, human. Don't make me injure you further. My master wants you at full strength so that he may feed upon you for a long time."
Carter stared up at him. "Who are you?" She asked, struggling to keep her voice steady.
"I am Barok. I serve Sorell, the greatest god to ever live." Barok then reached down and grabbed Sam by the arms. She cried out as he effortlessly lifted her above his head. He didn't seem to notice her feet as she drove them as hard as she could into his torso. He began securing her wrists into the cuffs dangling from the ceiling. They were tight, and the metal immediately began to dig into her skin as the chains slowly retracted back into the ceiling Sam was pulled off the ground and left dangling several feet in the air. Barok looked her over, nodded his satisfaction and left the room, closing the door behind him.
"Sam." Sam looked around, trying to figure out who was calling her name. She shook her head, convinced she was hearing things.
She was left hanging, her injured shoulder sending shooting pain all the way down the side of her body as it was forced to bear her weight. Sam closed her eyes, trying to control the pain and terror coursing through her.
Sam looked up from where she hung, alerted to a presence by the sound of the door opening, and swallowed hard. The creature that walked in looked much like Borak, but was at least half a foot taller, and his physique made Borak look like a prepubescent boy. His horns were huge, curling twice before ending in brutal points. He carried a Goa'uld pain stick in his hand.
"I am Sorell." The creature said. Sam stared in shock, for Sorell spoke in the unmistakable dual tones so distinctive to the Goa'uld.
"Why have you brought me here?"
Sorell sneered at her, "We'll get to that, little human." He strode around behind Carter, and dug the pain stick into her spine.
Jack O'Neill paced his spartan quarters aboard Thor's ship, impatient with how long it was taking to get to their destination. Sam had been missing for two days now, and it looked like it was going to be hours before they got to P3X-712. Finally, Jack could stand it no longer, and left his room, heading for the bridge. If he kept to himself too long, he knew he'd go insane. He needed to talk to someone.
Thor was on the bridge, monitoring the ship and their progress. He turned as O'Neill entered the broad room. "We are still on course, O'Neill. I assure you we are making excellent time."
"Yeah. Hey, thanks, Thor. I owe you one."
"No, O'Neill. You have saved us many times. It is my honor to be able to help you find your…friend."
Thor's hesitation made Jack look up quickly, but then he shrugged it off. He must have imagined it. "Um, Thor, if I might ask, how did you know about Carter's disappearance? And how did you know that we'd need your help to get her back?"
Thor looked at him for a time, blinking his huge black eyes. "I was told by someone we revere very highly that my earth friends needed help, so I left to find out why. The planet you call P3X-712 is en route from my world to yours. While passing by, I detected the presence of a ship in orbit around the planet. It was of an old Goa'uld design I had not seen in generations.
"I slowed down long enough to scan the vessel, and detected a single human life form. There were also many other life signs, all non human. I concluded the human life form was that of a Goa'uld host, and moved on, downloading the information into my computer banks for later study. When I arrived on your planet, I began to monitor your radio broadcasts and overheard General Hammond reporting the disappearance of Major Carter from planet P3X-712. Soon after that was when I appeared to you and offered my assistance. When I learned of your situation, I deduced the human life form I had seen may have been Major Carter's. If indeed it was her, then she is in grave danger, O'Neill. Even if you do find her, you must be prepared to face the worst.
Sam writhed and twisted in her chains, her mind a blur of pain. When Sorell finally removed the pain stick from her back, she slumped, exhausted and hurting. Her captor circled around to the front of her, and looked into her face. He grunted with satisfaction. "You're strong, little human. I didn't think you'd last one day, let alone two. Unfortunately, as effective as these pain sticks usually are, they don't leave any lasting effects for you to think about later. So, we'll have to try some, shall we say, more conventional means of breaking you."
"Why?" Sam whispered. "What do you want?" She had asked this many times in the last days and had never received an answer. She didn't expect one now, and was surprised when Sorell spoke.
He smiled evilly at her. "It turns out that there is a planet from whence all you pathetic humans originated. I admit this might be old news for some, but my kind have been a bit isolated for the last hundred years or so. Since I heard of it, I've been researching this planet, which you call Earth. It turns out there are many myths and legends in your background that haunt the subconscious minds of your people. Monsters and demons and the like." He leaned closer, his hot stench sending a wave of nausea through her. "Their fear, once properly exploited, will feed and strengthen us for a very long time. All I need from you is the coordinates to your precious little planet."
Sam looked straight at him. "Fat chance."
Sorell grinned, then backhanded her across the face. White hot streaks of agony shot through her head and neck as she reeled from the blow. Then, she felt nothing.
Sam was back in her cell, of that much she was sure. The light causing blinding pain in her head was white, not blue, and she definitely wasn't hanging by her wrists anymore. Sam opened her eyes slowly, letting them adjust and looked down at herself. She was lying on her side on the cold floor of her cell. She tried to remember what had happened in the last two days, but her mind retreated a bit, not wanting to relive the horror. Gritting her teeth, she forced herself to think about it, to remember where he had hurt her.
"Sam, let me help you." That voice again. This was the third or fourth time she had heard it. She looked around wildly, trying to see who was talking to her. She saw no one. She must be hallucinating. It wouldn't be the first time. She concentrated on what she had been doing.
She knew that most of her injuries would not be visible, so she closed her eyes and did an internal exam. Her temple pounded where Sorell had hit her, her jaw was sore from clenching her teeth against the constant waves of pain breaking over her. Her shoulders ached from being strained in the cuffs, and her wrists were a bloody mess. Breathing hurt, telling her she had some kind of injuries around her ribs, although she didn't think any had been broken. Her back was sore from the application of the pain stick, and just for good measure, her legs were throbbing too, although she couldn't remember if he had touched them. Overall, she decided she would live, but not happily. Sorell must have tried to inflict maximum pain with minimum damage, or she would be in much worse shape right now. As Sam completed her self-examination, her mind wandered back to her predicament. She knew she couldn't handle much more of this before breaking, and black despair began flooding her mind. What was wrong with her? She'd been tortured before, and hadn't felt this horrible helplessness. But deep down, she knew what it was.
Always in the past she had been able to find a way out of any situation using the considerable power of her intelligence. And if she wasn't able to help herself, her team always came through to save her life. Somehow she knew that wouldn't happen this time. She had no idea where she was, and didn't think they knew either. Had they even found the ring platform that had brought her here? Did Jack see her disappear? Sam buried her face in her hands, fighting the desperation threatening to overwhelm her.
The sound of grating metal made her look up at the door of her cell where Barok had entered. He was holding two bowls, which he dropped carelessly on the floor before turning and leaving again.
Sam groaned aloud as she sat up slowly, not wanting to unnecessarily aggravate anything she didn't have to. She moved toward the closer bowl, where some form of greasy liquid glistened. Sam picked up the bowl and smelled its contents. And almost gagged. It smelled like Barok had, well, done something unpleasant into the bowl before giving it to her. Sam put it down as far from her as she could reach, and looked into the second bowl. She sniffed it, then sipped cautiously. Water. Nasty rancid water to be sure, but water just the same. Sam sucked the bowl dry before curling up against the frigid wall, knowing she needed rest. Three hours later, Barok returned, hauling her out of her cell and back to the metal room.
Sam screamed and screamed. She screamed until her throat was red and raw, and her voice started to give out. Her mind began to retreat from her body, shutting down rather than be overwhelmed by what she was going through. Before she could black out entirely, however, Sorell pulled the pain stick from her spine. Sam's body slumped in its shackles, her head hanging, tears sluicing the blood and dirt down her face and into her mouth.
"Please," she gasped, sobbing. "Please stop this."
Sorell walked slowly around her hanging form, studying her for a while before speaking. "You know, there's more to this than just wanting information. Your terror and pain feed me, human. They make me strong. Once I have sufficiently fed, and you are spent, I will kill you, and my brethren and I will go find your planet with or without your help. We have been running from place to place for centuries, trying to elude those who would destroy us. Now, with the resources of Earth available to us, we will finally be able to leave this ship and venture out into a world where the fear we leave in our wake will make us strong again. We will have to stay in the shadows, at first, and bide our time until we are ready. And when we are, we will take over your world and begin, once more, to build our domain. With that much pain and panic to feed us, we will be unstoppable."
"You're a fool, Sorell." Sam spat, panting for breath. "Do you have any idea how many Goa'uld system lords have tried to wipe us out? Do you know how many we've killed? What makes you think you can succeed where so many others of your kind have failed?"
"Because", Sorell whispered, drawing a wicked looking knife from his belt, "I am not like the others."
Sam woke up once again crumpled on the floor of her cell. Her body was a mass of agony. Moving was out of the question, so she lay still, feeling very helpless and alone. Fire burned along her stomach and ribs from the deep cuts inflicted there; she felt as if she'd been flayed alive. Sorell had used his knife quite efficiently, choosing areas of her body that were sensitive, but not vital.
The despair that was now ever present in her mind began to rise again. She thought of Jack, about how she felt about him. She wondered if she'd ever get the chance to tell him she loved him.
Sam began to cry softly. She didn't know what to do, and she hated that above all things. She'd always had options, always been able to find a way out of any predicament. She retreated in to her agony, crying aloud, feeling herself begin to give up. She knew that she would break soon, and tell Sorell whatever he wanted to know. She always thought she'd die before giving in to torture, but this was way beyond her ability to cope. Self-loathing compounded the torment already festering in her mind.
"Samantha. Sam open your eyes, child. Come on, that's it. Open your eyes."
Sam heard the voice, but wasn't sure if it was real. Slowly she opened red rimmed eyes and looked up. What she saw made her blink hard several times, trying to clear her vision. A man sat beside her, holding her hand and speaking to her in a voice that was so quiet and calm, that she immediately decided he must be an illusion. "No Sam, I'm not an illusion."
Sam didn't have the strength or the will to argue. She laid her head back down and closed her eyes, trying to ignore the man sitting next to her and get some rest.
"Pretending I'm not here won't make me go away, child. I'm here to help you get through this. My name is Joshua." He stroked her hair "Now sleep, little one. Sleep"
Sam felt her eyes closing and she dropped into a dreamless sleep.
"Okay, guys, only a couple more hours to go, and we're there. Are you ready to do this?" O'Neill bounced on the balls of his feet, obviously eager to get moving.
"Indeed, O'Neill. We are ready. But I believe we should speak to Thor regarding what it is we will be up against."
"Right. Good idea, T. Let's go find the little guy."
Daniel, Teal'c and O'Neill found Thor on the bridge of the ship.
"Don't you ever take a break?" O'Neill asked the alien.
Thor blinked at him. "Rarely." he answered.
"Right, well, we were wondering if you could give us some insight into these Goa'uld we're gonna be fighting."
Thor looked at them each in turn. "If I am correct, and I believe that I am, this breed of Goa'uld is more evil and carnal than any of the others. They called themselves the Soh'tu, which roughly translates as "The Reviled". They were shunned and hunted by the other Goa'uld for they killed and maimed human breeding slaves without regard for their overall survival as a race. The other Goa'uld saw them as a threat to their continued existence and hunted them almost to extinction.
"How did the other Goa'uld know who was who?" Daniel asked.
"The Soh'tu only take hosts from a specific race of non humans that resemble your legendary minotaurs."
Daniel perked up at this insight. "Really? Why would they be so selective about who carries them around? And why would they choose that particular form?"
"The creatures they use are called the Moja, and they are strong, fearsome, and very long lived. They are also thought to thrive on the fear of other beings, gaining strength from the terror invoked in their prey as they are being eaten alive."
Daniel looked a little sick, "Is this true? Do they really physically benefit from the fear of their prey?"
"I do not believe so, Dr. Jackson, as they still must consume food, but as long as they believe it, they will act upon that belief."
When Sam woke up a little later, the stranger was still there. She looked up at him, studying him as he sat next to her holding her hand. "You're still here. You must be a hell of an hallucination."
"You're not hallucinating. I am very real."
"You really expect me to believe that you just waltzed in here without those monsters out there noticing?" She heard the weakness of her voice, but was well beyond caring.
"Believe what you wish. Your belief or unbelief does not change the fact that I'm here."
Sam wearily looked him over. He was of medium height, with short brown hair, and beautiful brown eyes that were impossibly kind. His skin glowed slightly, and she started a little as she realized the glow looked very much like the light coming through the darkness in her dream. Did that have something to do with him? She was too tired to follow the thought. Even if he is an hallucination, she decided, maybe that's better than being completely alone.
She sat up, groaning as her multiple injuries protested. "All right, Joshua, why are you here?" He sat calmly, holding her hand and supporting her as she moved. He looked at her with eyes that seemed to see right through her.
"As I told you, Samantha, I am here to help you through this. You are hurting greatly."
Sam laid back down as her head began to swim. The blackness in her mind, temporarily kept at bay by the revelation of the stranger, came back to her. She said nothing at first, trying to keep herself under control. She failed, and tears leaked out of her eyes.
"If you're here to help me, why are you just now coming to me? I've been here for days." Joshua said nothing, letting her speak her mind. "He'll come for me soon, you know. He'll come and he'll dig that damn thing into my back or use that knife again and I'll lose myself to everything but what he's doing to me. My control is totally gone…"
"Maybe that's for the best."
Sam sat up abruptly and whipped her head around to stare at him—two moves she immediately regretted, as they jostled several injuries, "What?! Why is it best if I lose control?" She was shouting, now, tears running down her face. "Do you want me to feel helpless?" "Do you want me to be in agony?" Sam slumped, sobbing, "I can't do this anymore!" She broke down, hiding her face in her hands.
After a minute, she felt gentle hands on her shoulders, stroking, massaging, and rubbing away some of the pain tearing her soul apart. Her sobs slowed, and a quiet like she'd never know began to steal over her. She fought it for a moment, not knowing what it was. Then she realized what it was Joshua was doing for her. She gave in to it, feeling the heat of his hands on her back and shoulders, gently smoothing away her hurt. She turned to look at him.
"Joshua, I'm sorry."
"Sam, the only reason you can see me is because you allowed your control to slip. When you're constantly in charge of yourself, those things outside of you are not visible to you. Like my help. I will stay with you, but only if you let me."
Sam gazed at him, letting herself drown in the purest love shining in his eyes. Then something caught her attention. She had been so intent on his face she hadn't noticed what he was wearing. The tan khakis and white button up shirt were nothing special, but now she noticed a pattern embroidered in white on his shirt. It blended so well that she had to squint to make it out, and her scientists' mind perked up a little.
"What does the marking on your shirt mean? I think I've seen it before."
Joshua smiled at her, "It's my name."
Sam smiled back at him, until the sound of the door opening made her terror come flooding back into her like a wave. "Joshua, help me, please!"
Joshua touched her face, and she felt some of the fear leave her. "I will, child. Trust me."
"Okay, boys, here we go. Got everything?" Jack double checked his own equipment, while discreetly making sure Daniel had everything in the right place. "Thor, beam us out."
"Good luck, O'Neill." Thor said, looking at him. "Until next time."
Sam was back in the round room, back in the shackles, and back off the floor, but this time she didn't feel the terror that had pervaded her for what seemed like weeks. She was still frightened of being hurt again, but it wasn't a dread threatening to overwhelm her. Sorell sauntered into the room as he had so many times before, but stopped when he saw her face.
"So, human, something has changed. What could it be, I wonder…"
Sam kept her eyes on the wall in front of her, refusing to be baited.
"Could that be hope I see in your eyes? Perhaps you are thinking your friends will come for you? We'll just have to see about that. I have something to show you, human. Three humans transported over here just a few minutes ago, trying to find you. Unfortunately for them, your fear of the last few days has fed us well, and we are stronger than ever. We easily overtook them."
Now Sam did look at her captor, her heart pounding in her chest. "What have you done with them?" she choked.
"See for yourself." Sorell gestured to the wall in front of Sam, which slid to the side, revealing Jack O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c, all hanging from shackles just like hers, and all very obviously dead.
Sam started to scream. "Nooooo" she cried twisting her body around in agony. She clamped her eyes shut, her mind in chaos, fearing she was going to go absolutely insane from the misery coursing through the very essence of her being. "No, please, no" she whispered now, though to whom, she didn't know. Then, she remembered. "Joshua" she whispered. "Joshua, you promised you'd be here. Where are you? Please I need you."
"I'm here, Sam", she heard in her ear. "I told you I'd be here and I am."
"Joshua, please, my friends" she sobbed, eyes still clamped shut. "Please tell me this isn't real."
"Sam, you know those men better than anyone. Look with your heart, not with your mind. Tell me what you see. Come, child, you must trust me. Look at them."
Sam shook her head, her eyes still closed. "I can't. It's too hard. I can't see them like that."
"I will help you, but you must trust me. Now open your eyes."
Sam did, opening her eyes with a huge sense of dread. She felt Joshua's now familiar touch on her shoulders, felt his strength enter and flow through her. She raised her head, now able to look at the death of her friends with clear eyes. She studied Jack first, that face that she had loved for so long. She ran her eyes along the bright silver of his hair, and over the lines that covered his face. She looked at his eyes, staring straight at her, unseeing, then she stopped short. Something was missing. Or rather, something was not missing that should have been. The scar over his left eye that bisected his eyebrow was not there.
Sam looked quickly at Teal'c next, hoping she would find a similar disparity. He was stripped to the waist, and his symbiote pouch was clearly visible, but it looked occupied, like he still carried a Goa'uld larvae. Sam knew that since he had started on the tretonin, Talc's pouch had closed up and no longer looked so… fresh.
Hopeful, now, Sam looked at Daniel. His glasses were missing, and she could see the strong lines of his handsome face. She looked hard, trying to find something that would tell her this was not her beloved friend and companion. Then she remembered that Daniel had cut his cheek slightly on their first trip to this planet. Quickly, she scanned his face again, and did not see any sign of a laceration anywhere on him.
"Thank you." she whispered, grateful beyond all belief that these were not her friends, swinging dead in front of her eyes. She turned to Sorell, who still smirked at her from where he stood.
"You're lying." She said simply, confidence glowing in her eyes.
His smile vanished. "Am I?" He asked. "Perhaps. But it doesn't matter. I'm done with you." He raised his palm, a Goa'uld hand device wrapped around it, and the horribly familiar energy flow sprang from it. The beam saturated Sam's head with a blinding pain. It went on and on, and Sam knew she was going to die. Then, abruptly, it stopped, and she slumped, her body totally spent, her mind barely hanging on to consciousness. The familiar sound of a P90, a 9mm handgun and a Jaffa staff weapon rang through the room. Sorell looked around at the door just in time to see O'Neill arrive at a dead run, his weapon blazing. In the next instant, Sorell was dead on the ground.
After the minotaur had fallen, Jack looked up and saw Sam. His mouth dropped open and he almost stumbled. "TEAL'C, DANIEL!!" he roared. He ran to Sam, and grabbing her legs, he supported her weight, taking it off her shoulders. Behind him, the rest of his team burst into the room. Teal'c took aim with his staff and blasted the chains dangling Sam from the ceiling. She fell heavily into Jack's arms, and he lowered her to the ground, cradling her to his body.
"Sam, don't you die on me now" he ordered. He felt for her pulse. It was there, thready and weak. "We have to get her out of here. Are the charges set?"
"Affirmative, O'Neill. We can leave at any time." Teal'c confirmed.
All three men, Teal'c carrying Sam, ran for the door. Jack led the way, furiously blasting Moja left and right. Daniel covered their six, running hard to keep up with his more athletic friends. Finally they entered the ring room, and Teal'c and Daniel took up positions within the circle inscribed on the floor. Jack flipped the switch that would ignite the C4 planted around the ship, then punched in the ring commands and jumped inside just as they were activating. An instant later, they were planetside and running for the gate. They met with no resistance. Thor must have cleared the way for them before returning to his war. O'Neill was profoundly grateful for the foresight of his friend. They reached the gate, dialed out, and ran through as soon as the event horizon had stabilized. As they exited the wormhole, Jack turned to Teal'c and took Sam into his arms to carry her to the infirmary. As he did so, she smiled and whispered, "Thank you, Joshua." Jack frowned, wondering what was going on inside her head, and ran with her through the door.
Sam was floating in darkness again. The device that she had been studying when all this started floated in front of her eyes, complete with the untranslated symbol. And again she saw the tear in the blackness beyond the device. Sam reached out, determined to step through this time. She willed herself forward, through the rip, and stepped into a land of shining light. Looking around, awed, she caught sight of someone moving toward her. It was Joshua. Sam grinned and ran to meet him, laughing as he caught her up in his arms and swung her around. "You're safe, now, Samantha."
"I know. Thank you for helping me. Without you, I don't think I could have survived."
"I have always been, and will always be with you."
Sam smiled at him, grateful beyond words. "Can I ask you something?"
"What is the purpose of the artifact we found on that planet?"
Joshua held up a hand, and the artifact appeared. "This one?"
"Yes, that's it. We couldn't figure out how to make it work."
"This artifact, as you call it, has one simple function. It opens the mind of the one who studies it."
Sam looked at him, puzzled.
"After you spent so much time studying it, you had a dream, which explained the meaning of the text to you, right?"
"So it wasn't just a dream?"
"No, child. It was a vision, if you will, that I gave you to prepare you for what was coming."
"So you knew what was going to happen?"
"Yes. I knew you were going to need me, but I also knew accepting my help would be hard for you, so I put the idea in your mind beforehand."
Sam still didn't understand, but had a feeling that wasn't going to change.
"What about the inscription on the device—what does it mean?"
Joshua studied her, as if trying to determine how much she could handle. "It is the edict of those who work for me." He held out his hands to his sides, and two enormous men in full battle armor appeared on either side of him. He lowered his hands, and they disappeared.
"Oh. Um, okay. Can I ask one more question?" She sensed she was running out of time. Her eyes were once again drawn to the symbol embroidered on his shirt. "I've seen that marking before. It's on the device, but it wouldn't translate for me like the rest of the text."
"You weren't yet ready to see it." Joshua stepped close to Sam, and taking her head gently between his hands, he kissed her forehead. That elusive feeling that Sam had never been able to name stole over her, leaving her totally content. Joshua released her from the embrace, and Sam could now read what was written on his shirt. She smiled, finally able to put a name to the feeling that had eluded her for so long. "Thank you, Joshua."
Sam woke to a bright white light shining in her eyes. For a moment, she panicked, thinking she was still in that cold horrible cell. But no, she was warm for the first time in what seemed like forever. And she wasn't lying on a hard surface, but on a comfortable bed, with blankets wrapped around her, and a pillow under her head. She scrunched her eyes against the light, and it immediately snapped off. Warm, familiar hands touched her face, and she heard a dear voice say her name.
"Sam? Can you hear me?"
Sam opened her eyes, her vision clearing quickly, to the concerned gaze of her friend, Dr. Janet Frasier.
"Yeah," she said, licking her lips, "I can hear you. Can I have some water?" Immediately a calloused hand put a cup of water in front of her face, and a strong arm helped her sit up just enough to drink some. Sam swallowed a little and lying back, she looked up at her CO. "How long was I out?" she asked softly
"Three days. You had me a bit worried there, Major."
Sam smiled tiredly at him. "Sorry sir. I had me a bit worried too."
Jack looked at her, uncomfortable. "Listen, Sam, I wanted to say I'm sorry. You obviously went through more than anyone ever should. And you did it alone."
Sam looked deep into those unfathomable black eyes and saw the pain and guilt Jack felt over her captivity. She reached up, and put a bandaged hand to his cheek. "Please don't blame yourself, sir. Thank you for coming after me. And don't worry, I wasn't alone."
Sam was sleeping again when Daniel Jackson walked into the room, hoping to get to talk to her. Dr. Frasier intercepted him at the door. "Oh no you don't. She needs to sleep more than anything right now. And I can tell from your face that whatever you've got to tell her will just rile her up."
Daniel looked guiltily at Frasier, then over at Sam. "Right. Sorry. I'll just come back later."
"Daniel." He stopped when Sam said his name.
"Hi Sam. How are you feeling?"
"Pretty crappy, actually. You?"
"Good. Good. Um, I'd better let you sleep or Doc Frasier here is going to start threatening me with large needles."
"What did you come here to tell me?"
Daniel glanced over at Frasier, who was glaring at him. "It's not important right now." Daniel insisted. "I'll tell you when you're feeling better."
"You're going to tell me that you figured out what our mystery glyph means."
"Well, yes, actually, that's exactly what I was going to say. How did you know?"
Sam smiled at him, eyes still closed, and said simply, "I know you."
"Oh. Well, in that case…" he looked warily at the doctor again, but she just sighed and waved for him to continue. "I finally remembered where I had seen that other marking before, you know, the one that spoke of a veil? Anyways, I dug out the book, and while I was researching it, I found another symbol that resembled the glyph you couldn't translate in your dream. It comes from an ancient Hebrew dialect. Probably the oldest known language on earth. It means--"
"It's okay, Daniel." Sam said softly, looking directly at him, now. "I already know what it means."
Sam nodded. "It means 'Prince of Peace.'"