This is a story I wrote a number of years ago. I've edited it a bit, tweaked parts so it would be more palatable, but it's still essentially intact. Please be warned-this is a dark, DARK piece. There are intimations of nasty, brutish, inhumane acts. If that's not your cup of tea, please don't read.
The impetus for this story came from a discussion about what might be the worse thing you could do to the characters of SG1. There was another question about what delineates the boundary between gratuitous violence and necessary violence. This story, then, came out of those two prompts.
Finally, with most of my stories, I love to research illnesses and disorders. The disorder in this story is PTSD. I hope I did it justice. Again, dark...
What I did not research, however, since it's part of the whole "scifi" genre, was the initial injury to Daniel Jackson. The "suspension of disbelief" clause comes into play at this point...
I don't own the characters, nor the show, nor do I wish to do anything with the intellectual properties of the show other than befriend them for a bit.
The beast held the glass, slick with condensation, in front of its body without moving, without looking at Levan, without wondering when the glass would be taken. It was always taken. It always would be.
Sitting in his oversized leather chair, Levan rotated his ankle, the joint cracking and popping. He glanced at his fingernails, noticed a speck of dirt under one and cleaned it out. He took the glass and drank from it. Without giving thought to the readiness of the beast, he passed the cup back and let go of it. Levan swiveled around in his chair to face his desk and began to sort through a stack of papers, until he became aware that the creature was still near. Levan glared hard at the beast, blistering it with eyes that spewed hatred and disgust. He pointed to the ground, and it quickly knelt, lowered its forehead and hands to the floor, the empty glass still in its hand.
"No! You…you idiot!" Levan bellowed. He kicked the glass from the beast's hand, sending it crashing against the wall. The beast's petrified expression darted from the glass shards to Levan's shoes and back to the glass. It knew it had to make a decision, the right decision. The simple creature knew it should be able to figure it out—remain crouched until Levan told it what to do, or clean the broken glass. Its mind tumbled with the decision. Finally, the creature chose to clean up its mess, crawling as fast as it could to pick up the strewn pieces of jagged glass. Its hands shook as the beast made frenetic movements to pick up each piece. Numb with trepidation, the creature didn't feel the glass slicing into its fingers, but became aware of the injuries when it saw the droplets of red staining the floor. Desperately, it pulled the sleeve of its garment over its hand and tried to wipe away the smears before Levan caught sight of them.
The beast heard the crack against its jaw before it felt the actual pain. Then, in a split second, the creature felt its head smack against the floor. Splinters of glass dug into its cheekbone. Trembling and afraid, the terrified creature remained huddled on the floor.
"Terrak!" Levan yelled, kicking the beast's legs away from his path toward the door. "Terrak! Get in here!"
"Yes, Levan," Terrak said, racing into the room.
Levan strode back to his desk, stopping next to the recoiled creature. "Do you see this?"
"Yes, Levan," Terrak replied, regarding the twitching body on the ground.
Levan looked upon the creature, silent and cowering, with disgust. Levan pulled a thick hand across his mouth and slapped Terrak viciously across the face. And then again. Terrak recovered, showing no display of pain or emotion whatsoever.
"This is useless," Levan informed him. He kicked the beast away, a piece of rubbish, something repulsive left thoughtlessly in his way. "And you, as its keeper, are responsible for it."
"Yes, Levan," Terrak replied.
"It is useless and stupid." Levan stepped to his desk, fumbled through a list of files on his desktop monitor, and brought up one in particular. Seething with anger, shaking his head and muttering expletives, Levan read through the document, occasionally glancing in contempt at the beast. "How long have we had it?"
"Seven tarceps Levan."
Levan fingered each line of the document, searching for the loophole he needed. "I'm a patient man, Terrak. But this is…this is intolerable." He sharply punched the monitor, sending a tactile message for the monitor to turn the page. He scanned the document, becoming more and more agitated. His eyes fell to the figure curled up submissively next to his desk, the broken glass still cluttering the floor of his office. Levan's face became red with acrimony. Terrak became aware of his owner's anger and fell to his knees, screaming into the creature's ear.
"Clean up your mess, you ridiculous fool!" Terrak barked. The beast scampered to its knees, bent over the broken pieces, and once again attempted to clear the glass as quickly as its trembling hands would allow. Thin rivulets of blood raced down the creature's bruised cheek. Pinpoints of red splattered the ground, sailing from its frenzied hands.
"Terrak! Do you not see the mess it's making?" Levan cried, taking the document and pointing it at the mixture of blood and broken glass.
"Yes, Levan. I am sorry, Levan," Terrak said.
The beast, anxious and frightened, glanced up at Levan, unsure of what should be done.
Levan's eyes widened with horror. "Did you…Terrak, did you see that?" he asked, staring at his servant in incredulity.
"I am sorry, Levan," Terrak replied, yanking the beast from its crouched position. Terrak spun the beast around to face him, fisted its rough, cut-away collar, and slapped the creature, once, twice, three times, brutally and in rapid succession. "You shall never look at Levan again!"
The beast's ears rang from the beating. Its vision grayed. The creature reached out a hand to steady itself. It scratched a pattern on the floor—up and down and up and circle, circle, circle. Blood dripped from the creature's fingers to the floor, and Levan became further incensed.
"Remove it, Terrak! Now!" he screamed, stepping away from the sullied area.
Terrak grabbed the beast by the wrist, jerked the stunned creature off its knees and dragged it out of the room, where he beat the beast until its fear and confusion were gone.
The guard unlocked the heavy door, and the old man, stooped and unkempt, shuffled into the room.
The creature lay panting in a tangle of bloodied limbs. One eye swollen shut, the other swimming in a sea of blood, the beast waited for the healer, silently and trembling.
The old man dropped his satchel next to the beast and lowered his gnarled body to the ground. His arthritic joints creaked and moaned when he knelt next to the ravaged body.
"You are a hindrance to yourself," he said, wiping the sweat from his forehead with a craggy hand. The old man reached into his bag and produced a bowl into which he poured a mixture of coarse powder and sticky fluid. He combined the ingredients with two bent fingers, stirring it into a thick paste, earthen and musty.
"If you are lucky, you will be sold," he said, watching the consistency drip from his fingers into the bowl. "If not, Levan will kill you."
The man's rheumatic fingers dipped into the salve and scooped out a portion, which he smoothed onto the beast's battered face. The creature flinched. The man pressed his hand to the beast's shoulder, steadying it. "Be still. You know this will sting only for a moment. Of all Levan's creatures, you should know that. I spend half my time healing you. When will you learn? Probably never." He continued to smear the putrid concoction across the beast's raised cheek, over a split lip, an open gash across its ear. Another dollop was smoothed across the eyes, until the beast's entire face was covered, its injuries hidden under the oozing paste.
"Of course, if he were planning to kill you, he wouldn't bother with having you healed, now would he?" The man pushed aside the bowl and wiped his fingers on the beast's soiled garment. He pulled a knife from his sack, pressed it next to the tender, pulsating skin on the beast's neck, and sliced into the rough material of its robe. He drew the knife down, through the burled and scratchy cloth, slicing the bloodied material away. The old man tore at the seams, exposing the beast's shaking body to the dank air. "Oh, what a mess," he mumbled seeing the distention of the abdomen, the bruising over the legs, hips and ribs. "Why do you do this to yourself?"
The old man straightened the beast's body, laying the creature's bloodstained hands next to itself. "No, I suspect you will be sold, and soon," he said, taking a metallic sheet from his sack. He unfurled the sheet over the beast's body, covering the creature from its neck to its filthy feet. The old man leaned precariously across the beast, tucking the sheet around and under the body, making sure it came in contact with every critical point—the broken ribs, the fractured elbow, the abdomen swollen with trapped blood.
"Levan and the consortium had such high hopes for you. The last creature died during the purging. But not you. You were stronger than Levan expected. Stronger and more stubborn. You have always been stubborn, beast. That is why I must spend my time repairing the damage." The old man pressed his hands to the ground and slowly raised his curled form. He tottered to the wall of the dank room and stopped next to a console. He keyed in a pattern, and from the back wall, a circular pattern of light moved forward, ascending upon the creature to surround it. The light began at the base of the beast's feet, engulfing them in garish light. "Unfortunately, Levan has found you to be untrainable and stupid. Stupid."
The particles of light slid across the beast's ankles and legs, sending currents of electric pain through the creature's body. The old man watched with apathy while the beast silently twitched, flinched and convulsed. Under the blanket, the beast's fisted hands rattled against the ground, its body arching under the encompassing torrent of pain.
The old man found himself bored with the sight and turned his attention to the wall where a centipede slithered quietly across. He watched it, fascinated by the skittering symmetry, the coordinated articulation of movement. While the buzz and whir of the energy field slowly encircled and scraped across the beast's body, the man gently placed his hand on the wall and waited for the insect to crawl into his palm. The antennae of the insect grazed against the old man's hand before propelling itself up and over the callused skin. The man's mouth opened to a decayed smile while the legs of the centipede tickled his skin. Without taking his eyes off the roving insect, the man reached for the console with his free hand and increased the strength of the light beam. The beast's heels dug into the floor, its body seizing under the onslaught.
The arthropod writhed across his hand, dipping between each finger, a wave of legs moving across the soiled hand. He lined up his two hands, and the insect moved from one set of gnarled fingers to another, silent and undulating.
"What a marvelous creature," the old man reported, stroking the segmented body with great affection and care. He turned his palsied hand over, allowing the centipede more surfaces on which to scamper. He heard the soft grunts escaping the beast, glanced up to see the light had made its way to the beast's neck, and reached over to the console, turning off the healing particle stream. The circular machine receded into the back wall.
He stooped down, falling the last few inches onto aged knees, and lowered his hand to the ground. "There you go, my little friend," he cooed, allowing the insect to peel off his hand and onto the stone floor. It slithered away, into the darkened shadows between abutted stone.
The old man tore the metallic sheet from the beast's newly restored body, wrapped the sheet over his hands, and shoved it into his sack. "You do this to yourself," he spat, taking a piece of the beast's discarded garment from the floor. He used it to wipe the salve from the creature's face, scraping away the gritty paste to reveal freshly gained scars. The old man slapped the beast's shoulder. "Get up," he ordered, pointing to where it should go.
The beast rolled to its side, rolled to a weakened elbow, pressed itself up from the floor and sat up, kneeling on the back of its legs. The creature's head slumped forward, a combination of exhaustion, pain and humiliation pouring through it.
"Drink this. Go on," the old man said, pressing a cup into the beast's chest. The beast took it and raised it to its lips. The steaming, rancid liquid spilled across its lips and into its mouth, but the creature knew better than to gag. A savage beating had taught it never to gag again. The beast swallowed the liquid and placed the bowl next to its body. The creature replaced its hands in its lap, awaiting the next step.
"For a stupid creature, you are very strong. Your injuries were severe, but somehow you survived. You always do," the man said, pulling himself up by leaning his entire weight onto the beast's shoulders. The old man shuffled to the wall and grabbed a long hose, turned the spigot, and pelted the beast with water.
The icy temperature of the water seized the beast's lungs, but it remained motionless, allowing the water to peel away the remnants of the salve, rinse away the by-product of the particle spray. The formidable stream of water needled the beast's still throbbing skin, but it didn't move. There were some things it was able to learn. Some things it could remember.
The old man turned off the water and let the hose smack against the wall. He grabbed a parcel out of a cubby in the wall and tossed it at the beast. "Here is your new garment. Put it on. Levan will expect to see you soon," he said.
The beast pulled the sack-like robe from off the floor and searched for the bottom opening, turning the garment in its hands, becoming more and more frightened when it couldn't produce the hem. The old man bristled, rolled his eyes, and ripped the cloth from the beast's hands. The beast flinched and turned its head, readying itself for the imminent onslaught of discipline. Instead, it felt the coarse material skimming over its skin.
"The intelligence of pulp," the old man muttered, yanking the beast's arms through the sleeves, ripping the garment over its torso. "If you were lucky, Levan would kill you, put you out of your own misery. End your wretched life." He pushed the beast away, repulsed by the creature's inability to do the simplest things. "But you will be sold. Yes, I'm sure of it. Like an ox, you are stupid but strong. Levan and the others will be able to command a good price for you."
The beast pulled the robe past its hips and over its legs. The creature, panting with fear, smoothed the harsh sheath against its thighs, and then became still, compliant once again.
"Pick up my tools and hand them to me," the old man ordered, waving at his things, nudging the beast with his booted foot. The beast gathered the healing tools, stuffed them into the man's sack, and offered them to the old man.
"You should be grateful, creature," he said, limping toward the door. "Levan has been very patient with you. Your next owner surely will not be as tolerant." The old man knocked on the door, regarded the beast with disdain, and waited for the guards. "You will likely be killed then. Pray that you are." The door swung open, and the old man tottered out.
The beast slumped to the ground, binding its arms around its waist, pressing its forehead into the filthy, wet floor. Its warm breath ricocheted off the ground and settled against its face, brought the pathetic creature a modicum of comfort that it knew it didn't deserve. The beast brought its hands to its mouth and breathed into their union.
One hundred hair-like feet crawled over the beast's ankles and calves. One hundred minute legs slithered under the beast's gown and over its knee, changing their straight course to dip over the taut slope of a rounded thigh. The beast opened its mouth to scream but that ability had been taken from it months ago. The creature wanted to scrabble away, but was paralyzed with fear. It pressed its shaking hands to its mouth and screwed tight its eyes.
One hundred legs whispered across the beast's hips, stopped at the tight intersection of abdomen and thigh, and diverted its course across the beast's stomach, brushing against the constricting muscles.
Adept at only two things, the beast called on one and disappeared. It moved away from dinning silence, from touch, from fear. It pressed into the darkness, folded the edges of awareness in on itself, and ceased to be.
Until the beast was gone.
"As I was saying," Levan continued, holding the door open for his guest, "we had very high hopes for the creature when it came to us." Levan motioned for the man to take a seat in front of his desk.
Denjo Blont sat down in the chair. He was broad and stout, a look of uncompromising scrutiny in his face. He had come a great distance to purchase the creature for his clients, and the formalities associated with such a purchase bored him. Blont wasn't interested in details, only numbers.
"You'll find all the pertinent information within," Levan said, handing Blont a small chip.
Blont took the chip, inserted it into the monitor on his side of the desk, and when the data appeared before him, began to skim over the information indifferently. "You paid 52,000 Mead for it?"
"You ask 62,000, and yet you've only been in receipt of the creature for less than…" Blont flipped back to the original bill of sale, "…less than the seven tarceps."
"The consortium feels this is a fair price. After all, the creature has been purged and trained, at our considerable time and effort," Levan informed him.
Blont paged through the information, glancing at the data, the pertinent notes. One particular notation struck him. He shook his head skeptically. "No, this can't be right," he said, turning the monitor to Levan.
Levan craned his neck to see what Blont was questioning. "Yes, that is correct."
"The most we've ever had to administer."
"Over what period of time?" Blont asked, the pages of data cursing over the monitor. He began to feel the deal turning sour.
"Ten suns," Levan said.
Blont's eyes fixed on Levan. "Ten suns?"
"It received 25 corrections within the first two suns," Levan said. "The third sun, it received eight. By that moon, our trainers felt confident that purging had begun and that the creature could stand more. So, you can see, 62,000 Mead is a fair price."
"But it is purged, correct?"
"Yes, completely," Levan assured him, nodding his head with confidence. "The creature is strong, to be sure. It is strong and healthy, and able to be physically pushed beyond any creature of its kind. However, it does not meet our needs sufficiently, and the consortium is willing to sell it. We ask only to recoup the price of ten suns worth of purging."
"Is it trainable?" the man asked, taking the chip from the monitor and tossing it on the desk.
"Imminently," Levan said. "The training it received for its particular job was well learned. It has been my personal beast, and I have been well satisfied with its performance. Unfortunately, it never was able to understand the more basic rules of our society. This is not the fault of our training or staff. It is merely a matter of the creature being unsuitable for our needs. Pardon me, won't you?" Levan rose from his seat and stepped toward his office door. Terrak rounded the corner of the door and listened for Levan's instructions. Terrak nodded and hurried off. Levan walked back to his desk and sat back in his large overstuffed chair. "Please excuse the interruption."
"Certainly," Blont said.
"If I may be so bold, it is my understanding that your interest in the creature is purely for research," Levan said, rocking back in the chair.
"Correct," Blont said. "That is why we jumped at the chance to purchase it as soon as we heard the consortium was putting it up for sale."
"Tell me, what type of research will you be performing on the creature?" Levan asked.
"It is only a creature. What do you care?" Blont asked in return.
"I take an interest in all the creatures that pass through here. They are things, it is true, but even so, they deserve a bit of dignity," Levan said.
"Once I give you the 62,000 Mead, the question of its dignity will no longer be your concern," Blont said.
Levan stared back, mildly disgusted with the buyer's disdainful attitude. He nodded in acquiescence and said, "Very well."
Blont reached inside his tunic to pull out a satchel. He poured into his hand coins of different size and composition. He tossed them gently, unearthing a few coins in order to see the amount. He pawed through the currency and handed six coins to Levan. "62,000 Mead."
"I think you will be very satisfied," Levan said, accepting the payment over the expanse of the desk, and in exchange, offered Blont the information chip. "You may keep this. It now belongs to you along with the creature."
The door to Levan's office opened, and Terrak stepped through with the beast shuffling close behind. It kept its head down, both eyes cast to the ground.
"Ah, here is your creature now," Levan said, rising from his seat, extending an invitation to Blont to peruse his purchase.
Terrak stopped in the center of the room and brought the beast to a halt. Blont rose from his seat and stepped slowly around the creature, looking for the distinguishing marks his client had described. Blont paused in front of the creature, chucked it under its chin and waited for it to lift its face.
The creature automatically did as it was told, but kept its eyes averted, knowing the price to be paid for looking a master in the eye.
"Look at me," Blont said, tapping the creature against the forehead.
The beast raised its eyes, stared off at nothing of consequence.
"Yes," Blont hissed, finding the strange color of the beast's eyes riveting, just as his client had described. "Yes, this is the one."
The creature's eyes, empty and lifeless, contained a color Blont had never seen in a creature. It was the color of the Burankin moon during the harvest, the color of deepest jewels.
Blont wrapped a rope around the beast's waist and tied a slipknot in it. He wrapped the other end of the rope around his own thick, sullied hand, all the while peering salaciously into the creature's striking features. "You will come with me," Blont told the beast. It lowered its eyes and followed Blont from the room.
"It was a pleasure doing business with you," Levan called out, but Blont and his new possession had left the office.
There was a breeze that left no discernible sensation; a scent that sparked no recognition; a light that awakened no response. The beast scuffed along behind Blont through the dusty streets of Xiotank, unaware of its surroundings, unaware it was alive.
Their walk had been carried on in silence. The beast kept a few paces behind Blont; Blont now and again checked to make sure the pitiful creature was indeed following him, giving the rope a swift yank. The beast stumbled, fell with an awkward thud against the ground, and slowly righted itself.
"Come!" Blont barked. The beast fell in step with Blont, its head lowered, its shoulders stooped, unaware of the blistering heat, unaware of its lingering fear.
The beast had no way of knowing how long they had walked, only knew apathy. Only knew fatigue.
But then it was brought to a halt. A stabbing in its ears shuddered through the beast. A stimulus, shrill and biting, clawed at its ears. The creature shut its eyes to close out the painful discordance. Touches and movement surrounded it, made it dizzy with fear.
Faces and the piercing throb that punched against its mind crowded around the beast, confusing the creature, filling its head with too much. The faces pulled the creature, placed hands on it, entered its head in excruciating sibilance. The beast pressed its chin to its chest and tried to disappear.
A horrendous cacophony exploded in the beast's mind, pulling its sparse attention up to take in the sight. The creature was being directed to step into the swirl of the large ring. Flesh deep memories of the pain circles brought bore into the creature. Made the creature's last thought scream in abject terror. Another circle, another purging, another healing...
The ring dropped from its sight, the sky appeared in its stead. A circle of faces jumbled above the beast, blurred and graying, hovering close to its face. The beast's skin no longer responded to touch, no longer processed sensation.
The beast closed its eyes and capitulated to the endless cycle of death.
Janet Fraiser and members of her staff raced through the halls of the corridor based on one single command—"Medical team to the embarkation room!"
An almost daily ritual, usually ending in a sprained ankle, an allergic reaction to histamines no one could possible have thought to look for.
While she ran next to the clamoring gurney, Janet silently checked off all the teams. SG3 and SG5 were on base. SG8 was off world but had checked in not minutes earlier stating their boredom. SG6 and SG11 were off world, but thoroughly enjoying themselves along the shores of an interstellar paradise.
That left SG1.
There is no way, she told herself. SG1 had been looking for Daniel for months now, always returning disheartened and without answers. There is no way that this time they found him. Just no way.
"Let's pick up the pace, people," Janet ordered, sailing through the final hall to the embarkation room doors. The second they crashed through the double hung doors, she saw the impossible.
"Get him on the gurney!" she yelled, reaching out for Teal'c to meet them at the end of the ramp.
Teal'c quickly but with great care laid Daniel's limp, battered body onto the white sheets. The lifeless limbs fell in grotesque configurations, defying their natural resting positions.
"He passed out right before we came through the gate," Sam said, her eyes darting between the professionalism of Janet and her staff and Daniel's pallid countenance.
"Let's move it!" Janet bellowed, ripping the side rails up and taking hold of the bed. At a break-neck speed, she and her staff ushered out the gurney.
Sam stood unable to pull in the smallest of breaths. She began to feel herself getting sick, her stomach revolting at the sight of her once robust friend.
"Oh, God," she groaned, dashing from the ramp. She made it as far as the double doors before she ducked behind a generator box and threw up.
"Major Carter," Teal'c said, placing a hand on her back. "Are you not well?"
"She's fine. Briefing in ten minutes," Jack retorted, passing them on his way to the locker room. "Make that five." He threw the doors shut behind him and strode down the hall, leaving in his wake the stench of fury and indignation.
Teal'c ground his teeth together and dismissed O'Neill's behavior out of hand. He turned back to Sam and stooped to speak with her. "Shall I help you to the lavatory?"
Sam pulled a trembling hand across her mouth and cleared her throat. She spit the remaining bile from her mouth into the splashed puddle on the ground. "No. I'm fine. Thank you, Teal'c. I'm fine."
"It was indeed unsettling to see DanielJackson in such a condition," Teal'c said, guarding over her, keeping the other passing personnel away.
"That's not Daniel," she said, hunched over her knees. "There's no way that…that can possibly be Daniel."
"I am quite certain it is," Teal'c assured her. "It is clearly evident that he has suffered great hardship, but I am confident that we have, indeed, brought DanielJackson home."
"We brought something home, Teal'c. I don't know if it's Daniel," Sam said, feeling her way against the wall to the door. She stumbled out of the embarkation room and down the hall to the bathroom where she vomited again.
"Let's get that IV going now, people," Janet ordered.
So began the flurry of activity. Sets of hands attached leads to Daniel's chest, others cut and ripped away his sack-cloth garment. While one worked methodically to start a femoral IV, and another to start a subclavian, a third nurse placed an oxygen cannula under Daniel's nose, draping the tube over his ears.
"I need Ringer's lactate running," Janet said. She placed her stethoscope over scars and bruises on his chest, listening for the shallow, lethargic sound of his breathing. "I need blood gases."
"Done," said a nurse, producing a vial of dark red fluid. She raced out of the room to the lab.
"Daniel?" Janet said, continuing to listen for any irregularities in his heartbeat. When Daniel did not respond, she called out his name again. "Daniel? Can you hear me?"
"Temp is 104.2," a nurse called out.
A pulse ox was attached to the tip of his scraped forefinger, and a Foley catheter was snaked up to his bladder.
Janet stepped to the head of the gurney-nurses and technicians perfunctorily moved out of her way.
She pulled the penlight from her lab coat pocket and opened his right eye. "Daniel? I need you to wake up now." Janet repressed the twitter in her gut when she pulled the lids open to reveal those eyes that she thought she might never see again. Those eyes that were constricting with the light, slowly but surely. "I've got a Glasgow of…call it 12."
"Doctor, O2 is at 98%," a nurse reported over the bare and scabbed body.
"Any signs of active bleeding?" Janet asked, flicking the light across his left eye.
"No, ma'am," they answered back, one after another.
Janet replaced the penlight in her pocket and reached behind Daniel's head to his neck. She tipped her face down, concentrating on the work of her fingers as they palpated the cervical vertebrae through the long, dirty hair. "How's his belly?"
The resident pressing against Daniel's impoverished abdomen answered, "Belly's soft with scant bowel sounds."
A technician wheeled in a gangly machine and waited for the orders he knew would be coming.
"Daniel," Janet said, raising her voice a notch above the cacophony surrounding him. She placed two fingers in his hand and wiggled them. "Daniel, squeeze my fingers, okay? Come on, Daniel. Squeeze my fingers." Daniel's hand remained motionless under her touch.
"Pulse is 100; blood pressure is 80 over palp," came the reading.
"Fluids open wide," Janet said.
One after another, the nursing staff worked their hands over his limbs, checking for recent fractures.
Janet stepped next to the orderly holding the portable x-ray machine. "I want a single view chest film and a flat plate abdominal," she said, peeling off her gloves.
"Yes, ma'am," the orderly replied, wheeling the machine within the circle of procedures.
A passing nurse slipped a sheet of paper into Janet's hand. The data showed more of the same—metabolic acidosis: a body in shock. "Push the sodium bicarb."
Janet looked up at the sound of the gently rumbling voice. "General Hammond?" she said, walking up to him. She was surprised to see the general in the infirmary so soon after SG1 had arrived. He didn't usually want to be anywhere near the infirmary when there was a crisis. It wasn't his place, he often said.
The general remained next to the entrance of the trauma room. "How is he?"
"Well, sir," Janet said, taking a moment to glance over the once strong and healthy body. Her eyes caught sight of the upraised scars along Daniel's brow, the yellowed bruises staining his ribs, "he's been ripped up and put back together somehow. I won't know the extent of his injuries until I get a look at his x-rays, but for right now, we're working on getting him stabilized."
"Is he conscious?" General Hammond asked, shaking his head in disbelief over the obviously abused body.
"No, sir, he isn't. He's in a deep state of unconsciousness. We're going to be taking him to radiology as soon as he's stabilized," Janet told him.
"Doctor Fraiser?" said a nurse somewhere in the scrum around Daniel.
"Sir," Janet said, turning from him, grabbing a new pair of gloves.
"Go," General Hammond said, understanding all too well that she was needed to take care of Doctor Jackson.
"What do we have?" Janet asked, quickly snapping her gloves on.
General Hammond stepped outside the infirmary, pulled one hand across his mouth, shook his head and cursed.
Jack hunkered down in the black armchair, his hands folded solidly on the table in front of him. He stared with steely indifference at the wall over the empty chair on the other side of the table.
Sam and Teal'c stepped into the room and quietly took their seats. Jack's sightline never diverted, and Sam thought it best not to try to gain his attention. Teal'c took a fleeting glance at O'Neill and just as quickly looked away.
"Let's begin," General Hammond said, entering the room. He lowered his girth into the chair at the front of the table and opened a file.
"Well, General, it seems our contact came through for us...finally…" Jack said, turning his head to speak directly to the general.
"We arrived on R43-972 yesterday to set up the exchange," Sam said. "As I'm sure you remember from the mission report we filed previous to proceeding with the mission, we took with us a quantity of uranium 235. We set up camp in a safe house near the gate on 972 and waited for the exchange."
"Denjo Blont, a mercenary we met on one of our previous search attempts, did indeed have the information and wherewithal in order to find and extract DanielJackson from his…imprisonment," Teal'c said.
General Hammond's nodded, the memories of all Daniel's injuries corroborating the information perfectly well.
"We're not certain about that, General," Jack said, glaring at Teal'c for his slip of the tongue. "All we know is Blont was able to come up with Daniel, we gave him the uranium, and then we came home."
"From the looks of his condition, he wasn't out there casually roaming around the universe, sir," Sam added, tipping her head in disbelief over the colonel's cavalier attitude.
Jack chose to ignore her. "At 21:50, Blont and Daniel arrived at the gate. This Blont character gave us a disc of some sort," Jack said, tossing the chip onto the table. "He didn't exactly speak English, so I don't have a clue what it is, but he seemed fairly emphatic that we should take it."
The general picked up the disc, turned it over in his hand. "Major, do you have any idea what this is?"
"Well, sir, I haven't been able to look at it, but my best guess would be that it's some sort of ID. Something that needed to stay with Daniel. Blont kept pressing it against Daniel and pointing to his head," Sam said. "I'll take it to my lab, see what I can come up with."
"See to it," General Hammond said, handing the disc to Sam. "So, this…Blont person…"
"Person might be a stretch, sir," Jack interjected. "He looked to be three chromosomes short of being an actual person."
"Fine," General Hammond said, taking note of the distinction. "When this…mercenary brought Doctor Jackson to the gate, how long was it before you were able to dial home?"
Sam nodded, and said, "When they first walked up-"
"Who are they, Major?" the general asked.
"Blont and Daniel, sir."
"Are you telling me Doctor Jackson walked to the Stargate?" General Hammond asked. After having seen the condition Daniel was in not moments ago, the general found the idea of him being able to walk absolutely unbelievable.
"Yes, sir," Sam answered. "Moments after the exchange, in fact while we were walking toward the event horizon, Daniel stopped and then…"
"It was as if he could no longer go on, General," Teal'c interceded. "He collapsed in my arms."
General Hammond ran a hand over his pate, his face turning crimson with disgust. "You'll forgive me, people, but I was just down in the infirmary, and I'm having the damnedest time comprehending how Doctor Jackson was able to walk at all."
Sam was hardly able to contain the apprehension in her voice when she asked, "Is he…?" .
"He's holding his own," the general offered. He studied the faces of his flagship team. "I realize this has been a particularly trying time for you all. I applaud your perseverance and determination. I also realize that until we can talk to Doctor Jackson, try to come to some conclusions about what happened, there's going to be a great deal of unanswerable questions. Give it time, people. You've waited this long. Another couple days won't hurt."
"Yes, sir," Jack said for the team.
"I'm sure you're all ready to hit the showers, get a hot meal. I won't keep you any longer. Dismissed," the general said, rising from his seat.
"Thank you, sir," Jack said, rising also. When the general had left the room, Jack sat back down.
"Sir," Sam quietly said.
"What is it, Carter?"
"About Daniel," she said.
"Carter, you know everything I know. What could I possibly tell you?" Jack asked, pressing his fists into the table.
Sam stared at him, ground her teeth together in anger and prudence, and then shook her head. "I'm sorry, sir. I realize we're all in the same boat."
"Yeah, well," Jack said, closing his folder with a slap, "we wouldn't be in the goddamn boat if orders were followed in the first place."
"Sir," Sam said, knowing that the sound of disbelief and hurt in her voice bordered on insubordination.
"Leave it alone, Carter," Jack warned, glaring at her. "Now, I have a report to write up. So do you. It's time we got back to what we do, and what we do is work for the United States Air Force. This little foray into scavenger hunting has gone on long enough. We're done. We found Daniel. It's over. Now it's time to get back to work."
"Yes, sir," Sam said.
"I want to see the copy of your report on my desk in two hours," he said, striding out of the briefing room.
"Yes, sir," Sam quietly said in the wake of the colonel.
"DanielJackson is back with us, Major Carter," Teal'c said, sensing Sam's growing confusion. "It is indeed a time to rejoice, is it not?"
Sam bit down on her thumbnail and glanced at Teal'c. "Yes. It is. Thank you, Teal'c."
"May I assist you in the writing of your report?"
Sam stood up, supporting her weight on the table. "I think I can do it. Thanks anyhow."
"You are most welcome," Teal'c said, rising in respect.
"Teal'c," Sam said, half way to the door.
"Did you see what I saw?" she asked.
"If you are referring to the hollowness in DanielJackson's countenance, then yes, I did."
Sam and Teal'c locked eyes, understanding each other's concern and pain.
Understanding that they had found Daniel, but wondering how much he had lost.
Sam peeked inside the room and was met only by the soft chirping of machines, the omnipresent smell of alcohol and latex, and the sight of a long-lost friend.
She padded into the room and edged in close to the side of Daniel's bed. At least he's clean now, she thought, remembering the smudges of dirt on his hands and feet, the way his hair had clung to his skin in greasy strands. Sam wondered if his long bangs, curving over his eye, were bothering him. She reached out with a steady hand and pushed the soft hair to the side, and when she did, strange, glinting strands of silver sparkled, hidden among the ubiquitous brown. Had he been gone that long? Was it age or his ordeal that had brought his hair to gray? Sam felt the sting of tears close to the surface. Her fingertips lingered next to his temple, brushing aside his hair, discreetly touching him, just to feel his warmth, know he was alive.
"Hey, Sam," Janet quietly said, stepping up to the opposite side of the bed. She kept her hands deep within her lab coat pockets and just looked at him, not so much as his physician, but with the concerned eyes of a friend.
"His hair is so long," Sam said. It was all too much to take in—cracked and bloodied lips, disconcerting scars on his face and neck. She tried to find a safe spot on which to concentrate, but found only more vestiges of the unthinkable. She shook her head at the obscenity of it all. "Why would anybody do this to him?"
"I have no idea," Janet quietly said. "Sam, his injuries…" She had to stop, clear her throat, try to begin again without losing her composure. "Whoever did this knew what they were doing. Daniel's injuries…"
"Janet?" Sam said, becoming apprehensive at the thought that perhaps Daniel was even worse than he looked.
"I'm sorry," Janet said. She shook her head. "I need to file my report with General Hammond before I can discuss this with you. You understand, don't you?"
"Of course," Sam told her. She fixed her eyes on Janet's, trying to find some unspoken message in her expression. Janet blinked against the tears filling her eyes, tilted her head, and then turned away, escaping to the sanctuary of her office.
"Excuse me, Major," a second lieutenant said.
"Oh, sure," Sam said, stepping aside so the nurse could take Daniel's blood pressure. She picked up his limp arm, placed his forearm between her body and arm, and wrapped the black cuff around his bicep.
Sam slid to the end of the bed and mindlessly watched the nurse pump up the collar. Sam's eye followed the lifeless arm past the black inflating cuff and through the nurse's hold to the dangling hand. The fingers bounced with each move the nurse made. Sam watched the long fingers attached to the freshly scraped palm sway and rock. Her eyes moved away from the open, outreached palm to the wrist.
"Oh, my God," she uttered.
A macabre grid of uneven scars clawed into Daniel's wrist. Sam stumbled to the side of the bed and grasped his hand, touched the scars with her trembling fingers.
"Major?" the nurse said, looking over her shoulder.
"I'm…" Sam tried to speak, but the sudden realization of what Janet was trying to tell her bore down on Sam like a tidal wave. "I'm sorry. I just…"
"It's okay, Major. I'm finished here," the lieutenant said, allowing Sam to take her place. The nurse walked to the opposite side, checked to make sure Daniel was receiving enough oxygen, and that his IV was dripping at the appropriate frequency. Then she smiled at Sam and left the room.
Sam waited for the nurse to leave before taking a closer, anxious look at the scars. She ran her fingers along the lengths, shaking her head in disbelief. A terrible, crushing thought crossed her mind, and she laid his arm down, reached across Daniel's body for his other hand and lifted it.
"Oh, no," she whispered. Raised and stretched skin crisscrossing his wrist sent shockwaves of terror through her.
"Oh, Daniel," she cried, holding his hand, caressing the ghastly tissue with her own tremulous fingers. "What did they do to you?" Sam closed her eyes, didn't want to see the signs of his hopelessness anymore. She replaced his hand at his side and ground her fists into her eyes. "Oh, Daniel." She wept for the months lost, for the unconscionable acts he must have endured. She cried and sobbed for the despair he surely felt, and for the desperate attempt to escape it.
"Oh, Daniel," she wept, leaning into him, kissing his rough cheek just above the oxygen tube. She brushed back his long hair, tried to quiet the sobs racking her body, and showered his pillows with tears.
Tears and supplication, in equal parts, for the horrors she knew had brought Daniel to such an act.
Janet walked through the quiet halls of the mountain, her back and legs stiff from use. She'd been on call for fifty hours straight, and she felt grubby and achy and tired.
One more stop, one more duty, and she could crash in her quarters for a good, solid twelve hours. She pulled on the tight muscles in her neck, twisted her head around to quell the burning pain. Twelve hours of quiet, perhaps a few hours of sleep and, more than likely, of worrying about Daniel.
Janet slapped the file against her thigh while she walked. It was so late; she knew she'd just be dropping the file on General Hammond's desk for his approval in the morning when he returned.
And that was probably a good thing. Information like the stuff in the file would keep anyone awake for hours wondering, ruminating, and gasping at the sheer brutality of it.
If she weren't so damned tired, Janet thought she'd be up doing much the same. There is grace in exhaustion, she decided.
Rounding the corner to the General's office, Janet opened the file and made sure it was in order—all the pertinent information, the copies of blood and fluid analysis, even a few Polaroid shots just to bring it into perfect obscene focus. Standard in such cases. Standard for this kind of trauma. Standard procedure that seemed ridiculously inappropriate for such a completely unsettling and grotesque case.
The door to the general's office was open, so Janet stepped inside and laid the file on his desk. Then she turned around to get started on that twelve hours of peace and quiet she was forcing herself to take.
"Doctor Fraiser?" General Hammond said, stepping out of his personal lavatory.
"Oh, General. I thought you'd gone home," Janet said, taking a few steps inside the room.
"I was thinking I'd just stay on base tonight," he said. He looked at his desk. "Is that Doctor Jackson's file?"
"Yes, sir. It is."
General Hammond walked to the front of his desk, sat down, and tapped the folder apprehensively. "Doctor Fraiser, I was just going to have a drink. Before I open this folder up, would you like to imbibe with me?"
"Oh, sir, you don't know how much," Janet said, taking a seat in front of the general.
General Hammond opened up one of the drawers in his credenza and produced a bottle of whiskey and two cups. "To tell you how much I drink here in my office, I received this bottle as a gift from Jack O'Neill two years ago." The general placed the two glasses on the desk, unscrewed the top off the whiskey and began to pour. "I've looked in on Doctor Jackson from time to time, and something tells me I'm going to want a drink before I hear your report." He handed one of the cups to Janet, raised his and offered, "To the Air Force."
"To the Force," Janet said, clinking her glass to his.
General Hammond rocked back in his chair, downed a swig of the smoky liquid, and let it sit on his palate. He stared wearily into the glass and watched the film of alcohol slide down the side of the cup. "Now that I've had a little of this, why don't you tell me what I'm going to find once I open that file."
Janet emptied her glass and slid it onto the desk. General Hammond was shocked by how quickly she had drunk it, and peered into her eyes. "That bad?"
"I'm afraid so, sir," she said. She folded her hands in her lap atop the still crisp front of her dark blue skirt. "Frankly, sir, I'm not sure why he's alive. Whoever had him must have had some sort of accelerated healing device, because there's no way he suffered all of those injuries at once. He couldn't have lived through that much. Plus, the fact that the scars and fracture sights are all of differing levels of healing suggests he's received the assorted injuries over an extended period of time."
"What kind of injuries are we talking about?" General Hammond reticently asked.
"There's calcification of fractures to his skull, both collarbones, his right humerus, his left wrist in three different places, assorted fingers and ribs."
"Dear God," the general uttered in horrified astonishment.
"Yes, sir, and as you make your way down the rest of his extremities, you find much the same. He has pneumonia, which we're aggressively treating. There's the tissue damage, from a lesion on his aorta to thickened scar tissue around his kidneys and abdominal cavity." Janet propped her elbow on the armrest of the chair and ground her palm into her aching eyes. General Hammond waited for her to go on, but when she seemed unable to, he poured her another shot of whiskey, and pushed the cup closer to her. "Thank you, sir," Janet said, her voice choked with emotion. She picked up the glass in one shaking hand, downed the amber liquid, hardly allowing it to pass over her tongue. Janet held the cup in her lap, focusing her thoughts on the cylindrical rim. Focusing her emotion to push aside the inappropriate anger and personal issues. The alcohol seeped through her bloodstream, flooding her muscles with numbing reprieve from pain. She nodded her head, signifying she was ready to go on. "I've never seen such massive damage, and all healed. I'm hard pressed to understand this sort of brutality, sir. The trauma, this inhumanity that was perpetrated upon Daniel, it's..." When she could not give words to her whirling thoughts, Janet simply shook her head, and said, "I don't know how he survived."
"Son of a bitch," the general muttered, turning away from Janet and training his eye somewhere deep into the glass partition between his office and the briefing room, looking for the spot on the map where people, aliens, monsters could live that were so barbaric. He ran his fingers against his crimson brow, unnerved and inflamed. "How is Daniel now?"
"We have him heavily sedated and intubated. He needs time to rest and heal."
"Is there anything I can do?" the general asked, his blue eyes glistening with sympathy.
"You can go in and talk with him," Janet quietly suggested, shrugging her shoulders. "The sound of familiar voices is always welcome."
"Then that's what I'll do," he said. General Hammond grasped the bottle of whiskey, turned it a few times where it stood, and then tipped it to pour another drink. "I suppose this bottle has seen the last of my credenza drawer," he said. He filled his cup again and dropped the empty bottle into his garbage can.
"Sir, I think I'll go to my quarters unless there's anything else I can do for you," Janet said, standing and smoothing her skirt down.
"No, you go right ahead," General Hammond said, nodding. "And thank you, Doctor. I appreciate the information. I know this can't be easy for you."
"No, sir, it isn't," Janet agreed. She made it as far as the door before she thought she'd tell him the rest. Tell him the truth about all Daniel's scars. "Sir…"
"What is it, Doctor?" General Hammond asked.
Janet took a deep breath and decided enough was enough for one night. "Thank you for the drink."
"Goodnight, Doctor," he said, and when he longer heard her heels clicking in measured steps through the hall, General Hammond tossed back the rest of his drink, set the glass on the desk next to him and ran his finger along the lip.
He was an old soldier, and being such, he had seen every variety of pain a human could endure, but there was something about the humiliation of torture that infuriated him. Something about the complete lack of respect and regard for another person's dignity that lacerated his core.
Something about Doctor Jackson being treated in such a way.