Written For: sg_betty in tealc_ficathon
Prompt: Teal'c and Daniel Jackson combining their knowledge, Drama and/or adventure, A happy ending
Betaed by: redbyrd_sgfic
"Huh?" Daniel Jackson looked up with a quizzical frown. On seeing Teal'c, his face lightened. "Oh, hey, Teal'c, didn't know you were coming. It's great to see you."
Teal'c moved further into the crowded office, reaching out a hand to his old friend. Daniel Jackson clasped his arm, Jaffa style. "I did not know myself until this morning."
"Trouble on Chalara?" Daniel Jackson said, clearing a stack of books and papers off a stool and dragging it close to the large table that served as a desk. The office had changed little since Teal'c had been away among his people. It was still cluttered, overrun with books and papers and artifacts from many worlds.
"Indeed." Teal'c said, frowning.
"How can I help?" Daniel Jackson said. "Do you need an outside arbitrator?"
Daniel Jackson had provided invaluable assistance in such a role in the months since a new world had been selected as the Jaffa capital world. The destruction of Dakara had destroyed much of the fragile alliance of Free Jaffa, and the defeat of the Ori had done little to heal the breach. Without Dakara to serve as a common rallying point and symbol, many of the factions had simply scattered. "Not this time, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "It is your archaeological skills which are needed."
"Archaeology?" Daniel Jackson said. "Were we wrong that your new capital planet had never been inhabited before?"
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "The children of Kordac'an traveled from the city with their tutor to polish their skills as trackers. When they did not return on the appointed day, searchers were sent out to find them; neither the children nor their tutor were found. Our best trackers could not discover where they had gone. In the area they had been camping, a stone carved with Asgard writing was found among some bushes; but there is no indication that there is any technology in it, nor anything that might explain the disappearance."
"You believe otherwise," Daniel Jackson said, watching him.
"I have seen Asgard technology concealed in such simple ways," Teal'c said. "But my people are unfamiliar with the Asgard. My word was sufficient to prevent any accusations of misconduct. For now."
Daniel Jackson shook his head. "Kordac'an will assume one of his enemies did it, and start attacking people, both figuratively and literally, if we don't find them soon, I take it."
Teal'c inclined his head. "He has many enemies to choose from."
"Right," Daniel Jackson said. "He does have a talent for making them. And a talent for bringing old feuds and rivalries to the surface." He stood. "Let me get my things and talk with Landry. Doesn't sound like there's much time to lose. SG-5 is on base, they're pretty good with search and rescue if we need the backup."
"An official visit from an SG-team would be excessive and inflammatory, under the circumstances."
Daniel Jackson paused. "Ah. Whereas a visit from an old friend …?"
Teal'c bowed. "Would be most welcome."
"Well," Daniel Jackson said, "it's definitely Asgard." Preliminary examination done, he put the camcorder back in his pack, picking up his notebook. The stone in front of him was about four feet tall, the height of most Asgard, and formed a cylinder two feet in diameter, all of which was now visible as the surrounding bushes and ferns had been cut away. The top two feet of it were inscribed with Asgard runes; aside from that, and its regular shape, it looked like any other stone or boulder in the area—ordinary, rough, moss-covered stone. To a people used to the splendor which the Goa'uld used even on their technology, it looked very unimpressive. Teal'c knew better. "It says something about 'sanctuary' or 'escape'—not sure exactly. The dialect is very old." Daniel Jackson began writing in his journal. It was a familiar scene; the planet shared a similar climate and plant life to many planets with Gates, and Teal'c had spent many hours standing guard while Daniel Jackson studied alien artifacts.
"This proves nothing!" Kordac'an said. "My sons disappeared days ago, not millennia."
He would have stepped forward to threaten Daniel Jackson, Teal'c thought, were Teal'c not standing almost between them. Kordac'an was a hothead and even more given to using his fists than most Jaffa warriors. Teal'c had had many meetings with the man turn into brawls, and the current situation had not improved his temper.
"Maybe," Daniel Jackson said, "but there's something …"
Teal'c, alerted by the tone of his voice, glanced down at his former teammate, taking a step towards him.
Daniel Jackson scraped a chunk off moss off the surface of the stone artifact, fingers tracing over the runes uncovered. "That's odd. This moss has been disturbed recently."
A blinding white light engulfed them. When it ended, Teal'c blinked to clear his eyes and found himself in a field filled with grass and small bushes. In the distance rose a single mountain, dominating the landscape. Teal'c could not be sure—he had never seen it from this far away, nor from this direction—but it appeared to be the long-dormant volcano near which they had located their town. Daniel Jackson was also with him, in the same position he had been in relative to Teal'c. He recognized the beam which had taken them as Asgard technology. There was, however, no stone or artifact that he could see, nothing which they might decipher to take them back to the settlement.
"Well, I guess we know what happened to them," Daniel Jackson said.
"Indeed. And also where they went. The vegetation has been disturbed in this direction." Teal'c pointed out the tracks he saw.
"Are you sure that's them?" Daniel Jackson said dubiously.
"It could be the passing of several large animals," Teal'c said. "However, such tend to travel in habitual routes unless driven by outside forces. I see no other such paths through this field. And they appear to be heading towards Mount Dakara."
"Is that Mount Dakara?" Daniel Jackson asked, shading his eyes.
"I believe it to be so," Teal'c said.
"I don't suppose there's anyone back at the settlement with a radio?" Daniel Jackson asked.
"Mine is the only one on-world, to my knowledge. I have it with me."
"And those Goa'uld communication devices?"
"Are far too rare and expensive for personal use, even by members of the council."
"So, walking it is!" Daniel Jackson smiled cheerily, although the expression did not reach his eyes. "It'll take us a couple weeks to walk all the way back, if we can't find another transportation device."
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "We must also find Kordac'an's children and tutor."
"Well, at least it should be obvious that they weren't kidnapped by another faction leader," Daniel Jackson said.
Teal'c thought this was overly optimistic, but did not say so. "It would still be best to return them as quickly as possible."
"Well, we've got to find them, first," Daniel Jackson said. He tucked his journal in a pocket of his tac vest. "Lead on."
They had not traveled long, perhaps two hours, before Teal'c paused, studying the tracks they had been following. The ground was wetter here, and the only grass was present in tufts here and there between the brush, making tracking much easier. "I believe the tutor, Rak'nor, is ill."
"How do you know?" Daniel Jackson asked.
Teal'c pointed. "His footprints have been growing erratic, the stride shortening and the footprints no longer in a straight line. He is almost staggering. Here the footprints of the older boy, Ner'c, join his, as if the boy is attempting to support him. And the footprints of the younger boy are deeper, as if he is now carrying a greater weight, such as the packs of his tutor and elder brother. Yet there is no blood, nor any sign of a struggle."
"But a symbiote should take care of any illness." Daniel Jackson frowned. "I thought Kordac'an disapproved of tretonin? Why would he hire a tutor for his sons who used it?"
"Rak'nor does not use tretonin," Teal'c said, starting to walk again. "Something must have happened to his symbiote."
"So why isn't it affecting the boys?"
"Li'tac is too young for a prim'tah," Teal'c said. "As for Ner'c, prim'tah are difficult to find, even for the eldest son of a Council member. Kordac'an is looking, but has not yet found one."
"So it's something that affects the symbiote, but doesn't affect Jaffa on Tretonin, or at least doesn't affect them as quickly," Daniel Jackson said. "We were transported here by an Asgard transporter that came from an artifact that referenced the Protected Planets Treaty."
"It may have killed Rak'nor's symbiote, as a defense mechanism against Jaffa and Goa'uld, much as the device on Cimmeria transported Jaffa and Goa'uld to a prison from which they could not escape without killing their symbiotes," Teal'c said, nodding.
Daniel Jackson winced. "You know, I hope we're wrong. If that's the case, it's not safe to have Jaffa live here unless we can disable the protections. Given all the debate and recriminations that went into choosing a replacement capital after Dakara was destroyed, I really don't want to have to start the process all over again."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow.
"And … you probably look forward to it even less than I do." Daniel Jackson paused. "Not to change the subject, but how much tretonin do you have with you?"
"I have enough doses to sustain myself for seven days comfortably, or ten days with some reduction of strength and endurance." Teal'c, like many Jaffa on Tretonin, carried a supply with him at all times for use in emergencies.
"That's—is that enough to get us back to the settlement?" Daniel Jackson asked. "If we can't find another Asgard device that will take us back and have to walk the whole way, will you make it?"
"Possibly." There were many factors—Teal'c still was not exactly sure, for example, how far away from the settlement they were. He glanced at the mountain; it had grown no visibly closer in the hours they had walked. And he had no idea what the terrain between here and there was, nor what other emergencies might crop up along the way. Daniel Jackson had his handgun, and Teal'c a zat'nik'atel in what O'Neill called his "Jaffa man-purse" but neither possessed a greater weapon. And Teal'c's voluminous robes were more appropriate to council chambers than a week-long march across uncharted lands. He looked back at his teammate; there was no point in dwelling on matters which were out of either of their control.
"And if we find them before he dies, Rak'nor will need some, and we have no idea how much of a supply Ner'c has left." Daniel Jackson cocked his head. "How long had they been out camping?"
"Nine days," Teal'c said. "They spoke with various people four times during that period; I do not know if they received additional supplies."
"So Ner'c will probably need more tretonin, too," Daniel Jackson said. "So, I guess I need to find an Asgard device that can take us back, and soon."
Teal'c nodded, graciously. "That would be appreciated, Daniel Jackson. We must also find them, and we do not know how long their head start is."
"Lead the way," Daniel Jackson said.
They did not catch up to their quarry that day, nor did they spot any indication of Asgard technology. By the time the sun set, they had left behind the field for a deciduous forest, and the temperature had dropped significantly. Chalara had a large moon which provided greater than normal illumination at night, but little of it filtered through the branches of the large trees all around them. Even had Daniel Jackson packed a flashlight in his tac vest it would have given insufficient illumination to track with, so they stopped for the night and set up camp with the ease of long familiarity.
"So, I've got two candy-bars and a power bar," Daniel Jackson said as he dropped a load of wood next to the fire-pit.
"I have a meat pie," Teal'c said, "and there are several edible plants in the area." He blew carefully on the dried moss he had struck sparks into, helping it grow with the skill of decades of practice.
"It'll get us through tonight, but tomorrow we're going to need to look for food in addition to the kids," Daniel Jackson said.
"Indeed." Neither of them had come prepared for an overnight camping trip. It would lengthen their journey, but there was no help for it. At least their quarry would probably need to spend time gathering food, as well. And the wider area covered while hunting and gathering might lead them to another Asgard device they might otherwise have missed.
Once the fire was burning, both sat close by it, soaking in heat to ward off the night's chill. Their shared food, supplemented by what local vegetation Teal'c could identify as edible, was not enough to fill either man, though it was enough to stave off hunger.
"Y'know, I'm glad Jack always insisted on keeping basic survival gear in our tac vests," Daniel Jackson said, passing his canteen to Teal'c. "I thought he was paranoid at first, and was annoyed because it meant my tools were in my pack, and less accessible. Hated it."
"I remember," Teal'c said. He took a drink, thankful for the stream they had passed an hour before stopping for the night, ignoring the faintly chlorine aftertaste of the water purification tablet. Carrying a few basic necessities in case of emergencies with him while out on missions was a tactic Teal'c had used as often as possible while under Apophis' command, and one that had been taught him by Bra'tac. But a Tau'ri field uniform could hold much more than a Jaffa field uniform, and he had been surprised at the amount of things O'Neill believed absolutely necessary to any mission through the Stargate. He had had cause to be appreciative of the younger man's forethought on several occasions.
Daniel Jackson brought up other reminiscences of their time together on SG-1, and they passed a pleasant evening in quiet companionship before lying down to sleep.
They found Rak'nor at only three hours past daybreak the next morning. He was still alive, but breathing only shallowly, lying next to a makeshift fire pit which had been doused with sand.
Teal'c knelt beside the other Jaffa, performing a quick and efficient assessment of his condition. "His prim'tah is dead. There is no obvious cause." He gave Rak'nor a shot of Tretonin.
"So where are the boys?" Daniel Jackson asked.
"They must reach the settlement soon, or Ner'c will run out of Tretonin," Teal'c said. "And short of giving Rak'nor some of Ner'c's tretonin, there is nothing they could do for him. He may well have told them to leave him behind so he will not slow them down." He did not know Rak'nor well, but the man had seemed an honorable one, who would not have hesitated to lay down his life for his charges.
"We can't be that far behind them, now," Daniel Jackson said.
"They will travel faster, now they no longer have to support Rak'nor," Teal'c replied.
"While he'll slow us down," Daniel Jackson said.
"Rak'nor has already chosen to be left behind, that his charges might have a better chance of survival," Teal'c said, looking down at the other Jaffa. "Ner'c is thirteen. Li'tac is eight. To my knowledge, neither has experience traveling through wilderness alone." Teal'c shuddered to think of Ry'ac, at either age, alone in wilderness with only another boy for company and aid.
"You want us to leave him behind?" Daniel Jackson said, disapproving.
Teal'c stood. "There is not enough tretonin for all of us to return alive if we must walk the entire distance," he said. "If we find the children and an Asgard artifact capable of transporting us, we can come back for him. If we do not, the most we can do is prolong his suffering and endanger the others." The Daniel Jackson Teal'c had met over a decade earlier would have argued the point, wasting precious time. But Daniel Jackson had learnt practicality, and though Teal'c sometimes grieved the loss of that part of his young friend's innocence, it also relieved him at times like this.
Daniel Jackson nodded, face hard. "Right." He gestured for Teal'c to lead the way.
They heard the boys before they saw them.
"We have too seen that log before! Twice! You just don't want to admit that we are lost!" Teal'c had never heard the child speak, but the voice was that of a boy whose voice had not yet started to lower into an adult range. Li'tac, then, whining in the way of young ones disgusted with their elders.
"We are not lost!" his older brother shouted back. "Father and Rak'nor have trained me well! I know how to find my way!"
"Then why don't you do it," came the reply. "I wanna go home."
"Stop being such a baby!"
It degenerated from there, and Teal'c was able to walk up behind the two of them unnoticed, no special stealth required. "You are lucky there are no kreshna-wolves on this planet," he said dryly, amused at the way they jumped in surprise, "or else they would have followed your squabbling and eaten you by now."
"Master Teal'c!" Ner'c said, in tones of great relief. Teal'c trusted he was smart enough to know that regardless of what he told his younger brother, he had indeed been lost. Teal'c had been able to cut much time off their interception by traveling in a straight line rather than following them in circles. "Have you come to take us home?" the boy asked.
"Where's Master Rak'nor?" Li'tac asked. "Have you given him tretonin? His symbiote died."
"We have indeed found Master Rak'nor," Teal'c said nodding gravely, "and have given him tretonin." He turned to Ner'c. "How many days' supply do you have with you?"
Ner'c's face fell. "Only two. Do you have a ship to take us back?"
"We do not," Teal'c said. From the look on the boy's face, there was no need to spell out what that meant.
"We?" Li'tac said, looking past Teal'c to where Daniel Jackson stood a few feet away.
"I'm Daniel Jackson," Daniel Jackson said, coming closer.
Li'tac's eyes widened. "Of SG-1?" His voice was hushed with awe.
Daniel Jackson smiled. "Yeah, that's me. Teal'c called me in when you guys disappeared. If we can find another stone with Asgard writing—like the one you found that sent you here—I can probably figure out how to get us back home the way we got here."
"Stone?" Ner'c said, confused. "There was no stone. We were walking through the forest on our way back to the town, and then we were in the field with Mount Dakara off in the—" he cut himself off, as his younger brother hugged himself and visibly struggled not to cry. "What did you do, Li'tac?" he hissed. "Did you cause this? If Master Rak'nor dies it will be your fault!"
"Hey, there's no way he could have known what would happen," Daniel Jackson said. "It was an accident, and no one's fault." He knelt down in front of Li'tac. "It's okay," he said. "Can you tell me what happened?"
Li'tac rubbed his face, before giving a nod. "I was walking behind Master Rak'nor and Ner'c," he said. "And we'd been out in the woods for days and I was so bored. They both just mostly told me to be quiet and watch the whole time. And I saw the stone off to the side, and it had some kind of writing on it and it looked more interesting than anything else I'd seen. So I went over to look at it, and then Master Rak'nor got angry because I wasn't following and yelled at me and I jumped and knocked into it and then we were in the field and then Master Rak'nor got sick and then we got lost and then—" he broke off, gasping for breath.
"Hey," Daniel Jackson said, patting his shoulder, "it's okay. You couldn't have known. It's not your fault, and we can get back if we can find another stone like that one."
"What does it look like?" Ner'c asked.
"It was about your height," Teal'c said. "A round column of stone with symbols inscribed on it. The stone itself is an ordinary stone. It may be covered with moss or hidden in bushes."
"I've already seen it!" Ner'c said.
"Where?" Li'tac said. "I didn't!"
"That's because you're a baby," Ner'c said. "And you're too short. I only saw the top of it, out of the bushes around it."
"I am not a baby!" Li'tac said with a huff.
"Please take us to it," Teal'c said, cutting off further bickering.
To Teal'c's surprise, Ner'c was able to lead them to the Asgard stone with a minimum of wrong turns and lost time.
"Well, it's definitely similar to the one that sent us here," Daniel Jackson said once the brush around it had been cleared away.
"So make it take us home!" Ner'c said.
Daniel Jackson sighed. "It's not that easy. I have to translate it first, figure out what I'm doing. Otherwise, I could just end up sending us back to the clearing we landed in the first time. Or somewhere else."
"In any case, we must retrieve Master Rak'nor before we leave," Teal'c said.
"Why don't you do that now?" Daniel Jackson took out his journal and began rummaging through the pockets of his tac vest. "This is an older dialect than I'm used to, it may take some time to work through."
"Very well," said Teal'c. "Ner'c, you will come with me. Li'tac, you will stay with Daniel Jackson."
"I want to come too!" Li'tac said. "Why do I have to stay behind?"
"Daniel Jackson will be focusing on his work," Teal'c said. "He will not have attention to spare for his surroundings. You must stand guard. We do not know what animals there are in this forest."
"I will protect him," Li'tac said, puffing his chest out self-importantly.
Ner'c laughed, and Teal'c frowned at him. True, the ideal of this child protecting Daniel Jackson was laughable, but Li'tac was too tired to keep up with the pace Teal'c intended to set, and needed to rest; and Teal'c remembered enough of Ry'ac's childhood to know that being set a task, a responsibility, was an excellent distraction from being left behind.
Not needing to follow the track of lost boys, it took them less time to reach Rak'nor than it had taken Teal'c and Daniel Jackson to find the children after leaving him. Teal'c explained the tracking skills he was using to Ner'c as they went; it provided instruction as well as keeping the boy's mind occupied and not dwelling on the uncertainties of their situation.
Rak'nor was conscious, when they found him, and the tretonin had given him enough strength to start walking after them. He had not come far.
"Teal'c!" he said when they came into sight. "What are you doing here?"
"We have been searching for you," Teal'c said. "You were transported here by an Asgard device. Daniel Jackson and I followed."
Rak'nor frowned at Ner'c, swaying slightly. "Where is your brother? I told you to keep going and watch after him."
"We did continue on, Master Rak'nor," Ner'c said earnestly. "Then Master Teal'c and Daniel Jackson found us. Then I found another device that may take us home! Daniel Jackson is figuring out how to use it even now! Li'tac is with him."
Rak'nor blinked. "We will be transported home?"
"If the device works as Daniel Jackson believes it does," Teal'c said. He observed the way Rak'nor was unable to stand fully upright. "Your body is not yet accustomed to the tretonin," Teal'c said. "There is a period of adjustment. I believe you require another dose." He took one from his bag and handed it over.
"There is enough tretonin for us all?" Rak'nor gripped the cylinder lightly, holding it away from his body.
Rak'nor's shoulders sagged. He bowed, but his face showed revulsion rather than gratitude. After a few seconds of hesitation, he injected himself with sure fingers. He had undoubtedly seen Ner'c do this many times.
"We should return to the others," Teal'c said. He turned and began walking slowly back the way they had come, doing Rak'nor the courtesy of not drawing attention to his current frailty.
Twilight had fallen by the time they rejoined Daniel Jackson and Li'tac. Daniel Jackson was seated in front of the stone, scribbling in his journal with the aid of a flashlight while Li'tac slept next to him.
"This is fascinating," Daniel Jackson said as they approached. "I think this was a precursor to the system set up on Cimmeria. A test-run, if you will, as they were trying to figure out how to set up the Protected Planets treaty and defend the Protected Planets without needing to hover all the time. The idea was, if you were being chased by Goa'uld or Jaffa, you run to the pillar and it takes you away and takes the symbiote of any Goa'uld or Jaffa who follows you. There are apparently pillars scattered all over the place, and they can take you to several different locations. They may have doubled as public transportation. Anyway, they abandoned the system and designed a different one for the rest of their planets."
"Why?" Ner'c said. "It works even today."
"The technical aspects work, yes," Daniel Jackson said, leaning back, "but the system itself is not a good way to protect people from the Goa'uld."
"Why?" Ner'c said. "Oh! I suppose people could not always make it to a pillar before being captured or killed."
"Indeed," said Teal'c. "Also, while a Goa'uld who was swept up in the beam would be neutralized by it, a Jaffa would not be."
"It almost killed Master Rak'nor," Ner'c said. "That is very effective."
"Yes," said Daniel Jackson, "but it took him hours to become incapacitated by the loss of his prim'tah. If you're fleeing from Jaffa come to burn out your village and take slaves and hosts, you probably don't have the time to wait hours for them to be incapacitated."
"Oh," said Ner'c.
"Have you figured out the device?" Teal'c asked.
Daniel Jackson hesitated. "I believe so," he said, "but it's hard to be sure when I can't touch the artifact at all. I didn't want to disappear on you three, leaving you stranded here."
Rak'nor knelt beside Li'tac. "Come," he said. "Awaken. It is time to go home." He shook the boy's shoulder.
Li'tac stirred, opening sleepy eyes. "Master Rak'nor?" he said, yawning. "I'm so glad to see you again!"
Daniel Jackson packed his gear back into the pockets of his tac vest. "Everyone ready to go?"
"Yes," Teal'c said.
Daniel Jackson pressed a certain rune on the surface, and in a flash they disappeared.
"Thank you for your help, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said as they strolled through the corridors of the SGC to Daniel Jackson's office.
"It was no trouble," Daniel Jackson said. "I'm just glad everything turned out okay. You planning on sticking around for a while?" They turned the corner and he opened the door to his office.
"There is much work to be done," Teal'c said with regret. "Among other things, we must now either attempt to remove the Asgard defense system or find another planet to be our capital, now that we know it is not safe for Jaffa with symbiotes."
"Oh, that'll be fun," Daniel Jackson said with a grimace. "My condolences. Still, it's better than having to deal with Apophis. Or Ba'al. Or Anubis. Or Replicators. Or the Orii."
"Indeed," Teal'c said with a smile. He had endured much and fought long that his people might have the freedom to indulge in petty bickering if they so chose. And even if the current generation was too suspicious and fragmented to build the Free Jaffa nation Teal'c dreamed of, perhaps the next generation might be less bound by old habits of mind. Young Li'tac's interest in Daniel Jackson, a scholar, would not have been acceptable ten years ago. Perhaps it could be encouraged. He tilted his head. "You may visit any time you like."
"Same to you," Daniel Jackson said. "Without the Ori, my workload has gone way up—somehow, all the paperwork we put off while trying to save the world has all come back to me now. Plus the fact that we're starting a few purely research offworld digs, now. Which I'm in charge of." He brightened. "It's great to have the time to do real digs, so I guess I can't complain too much about the paperwork." He sat down on a stool next to his work table. "Do you think the Council would allow us to send a team to Chalara, study those devices and see if we missed anything else? It could give us fascinating clues to the development of Asgard technology and the Protected Planets treaty."
"It may be possible," Teal'c said. "A smaller team would be more palatable to the Council than a large one."
"Right," Daniel Jackson said. "I'll put together a proposal, have it ready for the next time I see you." He frowned. "We really need to get together for a team night, like old times, particularly since Sam's back in this galaxy. I'll call Jack, see if he can set something up."
"I look forward to it." Teal'c clasped Daniel Jackson's arm in his, bowing as he did so.
"So do I, Teal'c," Daniel Jackson said.
Teal'c could feel Daniel Jackson's eyes on him as he turned and left, heading back to the Gate room.