Jack hated to be tied up. And he absolutely hated it when he, Daniel and Carter were tied up. At least Teal'c was loose. Evidently the Jaffa had been considered an untouchable because of the symbol on his forehead. Either that or he was already dead. But for whatever reason, the large alien was not with them.
He glanced over at his other two team mates. Neither Daniel nor Carter was conscious. It was a good thing in the short run, as they weren't doing any actual suffering yet. But with their luck, it was a temporary condition. In the long term, they needed to wake up, as he couldn't even begin an escape without them. Both of his kids were strung up by their wrists to the same tree's limbs and stripped down to bare minimum coverage as he was. Carter was actually below what she would consider acceptable; even her sports bra was gone. Daniel, sans glasses, was also down to bare chest, as O'Neill himself was, but he wouldn't care as much as her. All boots were gone; trouser remnants just only a thread or belt.
The next thing he could worry about, besides their modesty or lack thereof, was what the hell were they being kept like this for? Were they prisoners, hostages, what? He didn't know...really. Not a clue, just hanging around.
If he tried really hard at looking over his left shoulder, on another tree and set of bonds were some of the people that they had been visiting with when the hammer had dropped. But they obviously had a clue. They were quietly speaking to themselves, not quite loud enough for him to hear. Occasionally, a cry of pain would-be a little louder...or maybe it was a wail of grief over their situation. He couldn't really tell as Daniel had been doing his linguistic translation thing. He hadn't picked up the lingo himself yet. But Jack could tell distress noises when he heard them...and he was hearing them now.
From his immediate left, O'Neill heard Daniel. He gasped a little for air then grunted slightly as he came too. The boy was tough; he had to admit it. Not even a whimper...just that light sound when reality came crashing in on him. "Daniel, can you hear me?" Jack hissed at him, trying to get his attention. "Danny!"
"Daniel, over here." He looked at his friend, willing him to comet.
"Here." He heard...felt the younger man becoming more alert.
"Beside you. She's still unconscious." Then Jack had to ask the question. "You okay?"
"Hurts, but yea, I'm intact I think." He looked at Jack. "Oh."
"Yeah...oh." Jack wanted to reach...touch...to be sure that his two team members were mostly uninjured, but of course, he couldn't being all tied up and such.
"Can you see if Carter's hurt? You're closer."
Daniel managed to stand a little, taking the weight off his arms and wrists where the leather thongs were cutting off the blood supply and feeling in his hands. He turned painfully to see the young female Major. He looked as carefully as he could for wounds or signs of injury. "She looks all right so far as I can tell. Just tied up like us."
Jack stood a moment before jerking on his bonds again. "See if you can figure out what the hell we're doing here like this, Daniel. Why we're being held. I can't make out the language at all."
Daniel nodded, putting himself in listening mode while Jack continued to struggle, trying to find a weakness in the leather thongs on his wrists.
After a few minutes, Jackson turned farther around to face their 'friendly' natives. He spoke quietly to the other prisoner sat the next tree. They answered him and the wailing began again. "Jack."
"Yeah." He thought he felt the rawhide leather give a centimeter or so.
"Uh, Jack. We have a bit of a problem here."
"Such as?" He was sure it had given, so he kept trying to stretch it farther. But it was decreasing the blood flow to his hands.
"Our captors are from an enemy tribe. Jack, they're cannibals."
On that piece of information, O'Neill paused a moment and took a deep breath. "Cannibals, hum. And we're invited to dinner?"
"Apparently so." The younger man paused. "We really need to get out of here, because I think we're the first course."
"Trying Daniel...trying; but someone took my knife and...uh, I'm only getting a little result here. I think a rescue would be good about now."
Carter moaned softly as she began to regain consciousness. Daniel, being closer to her, called out softly. "Sam. Sam. Are you with us yet?"
"Uh huh." She sniffed. "Oooah, oh."
Jack could hear her start to move around, making her own discoveries. "Carter."
"Uh, here Sir." She wasn't real clear about where her here was but she was with them. "What...?"
Jackson tried to turn back to face her. "We're being held captive by a different tribe. Maybe even species...we've got to get loose, Sam. They've got us for food."
" 'Kay." She seemed to be thinking as she shifted trying to take pressure off her arms.
"Not here, maybe free, maybe dead." Jack kept working his wrists around in the leathers. "Don't want to wait that long." He stopped long enough to try and twist around to see her. "Status?"
"Cold, Sir. No weapons, but no wounds."
Daniel was trying to get more information from their former hosts, the other captives. He talked for a few minutes, and then turned back to O'Neill. "No good. It seems like these are the indigenous inhabitants of this world. When the Katai were seeded here by the Goa'uld, they became bitter enemies. We're about to be sacrificed to their God, to defeat the other one."
Carter had been listening, processing the info. "I thought you said they were cannibals?"
"Well, after the sacrifice whatever the god doesn't want they get to eat."
"Efficient." O'Neill grunted. He was definitely getting his hands looser. The blood running down his arms seemed to be helping stretch the leathers.
"Jack." Daniel called to him. He turned to look. A group of 'indigenous natives' were approaching. They were shorter, stockier and uglier than the friendlys they had been captured with and appeared to be ready for business, all carrying very sharp looking stone knives, flaying knives.
"Circle up; try to keep our backs together." Jack was hoping they were close enough to try this defensive tactic. Couldn't hurt. Daniel made an effort and shifted his tether point on the tree branches closer to Carter. She tried to get closer to O'Neill. They couldn't quite touch but it was better.
The natives circled around them, making comments to each other. Luckily Carter was more on the slim side and not really obviously female with her hands stretched tightly above her head. "Daniel, Carter don't let them in our circle."
The aggressors were getting braver. One young male came close and made a lunge towards Jack with a stone-headed club. O'Neill waited until the hero got close enough then kicked out, catching him in the belly. The man fell, gasping for air and rolling on the ground. His buddies drug him out of harms way and yelled derisive sounding words at him. Another one took a try at Carter, but her toe connected with his jaw. He fell forward into Daniel who kneed him in the groin. The native lay there gagging until another one drug him back. But they weren't dissuaded, so easily. Their next feint again at Carter resulted in a bloody cut on her leg, tearing her BDU's and calf muscle. Jack tried to reach her attacker, but as he swung sideways he felt a burning sensation as one of the primitive's stone knives scored his side.
Two of them were trying to gang up on Daniel, possibly to hurt him or just to draw him out. One of them made a side feint and as he covered their center, he felt a hard blow to his upper leg. Both his attackers withdrew but one left his blade in Daniel's leg. He could feel the blood start to run down the back of his knee. He cursed them in the common language of the planet. The startled natives drew back.
The watching Kati shouted encouragement to them. Jack looked over his shoulder and saw both his team members bloodied. "Status!"
"Still here, Sir. But Daniel's hurt."
"Back left thigh, above the knee. I'm still good."
Jack knew that this couldn't continue for long. They would be literally bled to death very soon. He could feel the warm flow of his own blood being soaked up by what was left of his BDUs waistband. "What did you say to them?"
"Oh, I don't know." The younger man replied. "I think I cursed their firstborns as cowards."
"Hey, it worked. Do it some more." He needed time; the wrist ligature was definitely loose now with all the jumping around. "My hand's almost free."
"Sir...your status?" Carter called out.
"Cut, bleeding and pissed, Major." Jack continued to twist in his bonds. "Not in that order." He stopped to catch his breath.
"Jack, they're coming again." Daniel was terse, concentrating on his breathing through the leg pain.
As their attackers started the circle dance again, Jack could see them judging the condition of their victims. He watched them warily as they passed closely to him. He smiled at them...trying to bring them to him. A youngster, fifteen years old maybe, took up his challenge and came straight in with an upraised knife. O'Neill met him with the side arch of his left foot under the ear, knocking the native down under him. The youngster fell on his belly under the Colonel and Jack stamped down quick and hard on his assailant's neck. He heard/felt the bones break under his weight.
This had a definite affect on their tormentors. They backed off some distance watching as the seasoned warrior pushed his victim out from under his feet. O'Neill again started to work on his bonds, only peripherally aware of them. He didn't even notice when they finished their discussion and moved away, leaving their unfortunate comrade behind.
Several minutes later, the group returned in mass. They cautiously circled around Jack giving him a wide berth. But they were moving in on the weakened Daniel. He was bleeding from the deep wound and was obviously in trouble. Sam tried to shift her position to cover her teammate. But one of the larger men managed to get his hands on her and while taking a beating himself, it allowed the rest to tackle the young archeologist. Jackson, who was weakening, was not out yet. Using his bonds to balance on his injured leg, he managed to trip one of his foes and fight off another, relocating teeth in the one and kicking the other one out of range. Sam brought her heel down on the bare foot of the man grappling with her, and then dislocated his knee with a well-aimed foot.
Again, the natives pulled back to reorganize. These pale skinned strangers, thought to be fodder for the gods were becoming a problem. The elders' seeing the injuries and the one death and were unsure of the validity of the sacrifice. The victims had not appeared to be unusual other than their light skins. But...The older warrior was a man of great power, killing a powerful hunter with one blow. The young one continued to fight on bravely with a crippling injury and the woman fought like a panthath with cubs. They needed a sign from the gods, guidance for their offering. So the Shaman was called and he and the chief retreated to the hut area.
"Daniel, what's happening?" Jack demanded catching his breath.
"Uh, yeah." The linguist was beginning to sound a little out of it. "They've called in the big guns and are trying to decide if we're worth all the trouble. Evidently we were just supposed to go along with the sacrifice idea without objecting." His voice rallied. "You scared them pretty badly when you killed that man."
"Oh, you mean the one with the knife trying to filet my short ribs?"
"That would be him, yes."
"Oh, well." Jack sounded unconcerned. "How you doing Danny?"
"Tired, Jack. A bit dizzy."
"It's the blood loss. Carter, is he still bleeding?"
"Yes, Sir." She managed to arc around to see Jackson's leg. "It's still holding a knife."
"Carter, that weapon is yours if you can get it. Daniel."
"Sam, you can have the damned thing. I don't want it anymore."
"Danny, the only thing I want you to do is stop bleeding. That's an order."
O'Neill was concerned about his friend's condition but there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it until he managed to free himself.
As the evening wore on, the three SGC captives were left alone. O'Neill knew that it was just a tactic to allow their wounds to weaken them more. And by all appearances it was working. He knew that Daniel's injury was not only going to cripple him and interfere with their escape but the blood loss alone would kill him soon. As the darkness grew in intensity, Jack continued to work with the rawhide until finally his right hand slipped its bonds. He grasped the length in hand to maintain the illusion that he was still attached until full dark had fallen. "Carter, Daniel."
"Yes, Sir." Sam answered, Daniel didn't.
"Cut, not bleeding anymore and still pissed."
"Not good, still bleeding." She replied for her teammate.
Then a quiet voice said. "Still pissed."
A quick flash of relief washed over Jack. "Stay that way Danny, it'll help. My hands are free, as soon as the village quiets down; we're blowing this burg.
"Works for me Jack. The reservations were screwed up and the accommodations are shoddy." Daniel's voice was a little stronger this time.
"Good boy. Hang in there, kids. The steaks are on me at O'Mally's."
"It's a date, Sir. I'll buy the wine."
"Carter, you're on."
Later that evening after the fires of the village had been put out and the natives had retired to their huts, O'Neill finally felt it was time to start their escape. He cautiously released the thong that he had been holding in his right hand and lowered his weight to the ground. He stood for only a second, allowing the burning sensation of returning circulation to bring him to full alertness. Quickly, bending over and retrieving the knife that his earlier victim was still holding. He next cut Carter down, supporting her by her arms for a second till she recovered her balance, and then turned to Jackson. Once the two officers released him from the tree, O'Neill slung Daniel's arm over his bare shoulder and supported his semi-conscious friend as the three teammates left the village behind and faded into the darkness of the surrounding forest
They traveled about a mile and a half before the Colonel called a short halt at a small, rock-bottomed creek. The water appeared clean, clear and cold and the large moon clearly lit the small clearing in the brush. Jack knew they couldn't pause long, a few minutes at the longest, but he had to get the knife blade out of Jackson's leg and try to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. He lay his friend down on the firm earth by the creek and removed his blue nylon web belt from what was left of his BDUs around his waist. Daniel was fully aware now, watching O'Neill's preparations in the blue tinted moonlight, knowing what must come now. Jack cut the bloodied, torn pant leg off of Daniel above his knee, glanced up at the younger man and made eye contact with Daniel, who nodded. He wrapped the belt tightly around Daniel's upper leg twice above the protruding knife and tightened it down. This should slow the blood flow down until it could clot on its own.
Sam, meanwhile, had sacrificed what was left of her long trouser legs for the cause, cutting them off mid thigh length. One had become a sort of bandeau top for her and the other had been torn it into a makeshift bandage for her teammate. It was down, dirty battlefield first aid but all they had to offer him. Jack looked from Daniel to Carter then back at the embedded blade. Carter slid up next to her teammate and offered him a twist of cloth as a gag. He took it between his teeth and looked up at her; she met his eyes and laid a hand over his mouth. Jack had watched them until this moment, and then in a quick firm move, he pulled the flint blade from Daniel's leg. All that could be heard was a low strangled cry as Daniel lost consciousness completely.
Quickly O'Neill tightened the tourniquet another notch then tightly wrapped the BDU bandage around his friend's thigh. The blood welled up from under the cloth and dripped onto the soft dirt for a few seconds then finally slowed its pace. Jack took a deep breath and looked at Carter. Her face was almost as white as Daniel's. "It's over. We'll give him a few moments then we'll have to move him." She nodded her comprehension. Then Jack took the primitive knife and leaned over to the water and washed it clean of Daniel's blood. He then handed it to her. "Here." She nodded wordlessly and took the weapon from his hand. "Daniel wants you to have it. Keep it and use it on the bastard that did this to him."
"I know." She looked down again at her friend's ashen face. "I will."
After a scant few moments, O'Neill looked down at his friend. "Let's go." Carter looked at her commander, questioningly. At his expression, she got up. O'Neill rose, then reached down and grasped the unconscious man's shoulders and pulled him to a sitting position. Carter took his arms and then the colonel bent and took the linguists full weight on his shoulder in a graceless fireman's carry. She slipped the knife into her waistband and followed O'Neill and his precious burden into the woods again.
They traveled like this for quite a while. The colonel was making his way through the dark tangled wood, much more slowly than he liked. But Daniel was a dead weight on his shoulders and he couldn't afford to stumble or fall, possibly further injuring the helpless man or himself. Carter hung back to cover their trail and watch for followers. She didn't see anyone, but was sure the primitives would discover their escape soon enough. They continued on for two hours. Finally, O'Neill called a halt. He pointed to a darkened area off to the side of the trail embedded in a rocky ledge. "Carter, see if the bear's home."
She nodded silently and cautiously approached the rocky opening. There was no light in the stygian darkness within so she picked up a small stone and threw it into the den. Hearing nothing, she entered holding her knife in one hand, the other out in front. The ground was soft earth to her bruised, cut bare feet, and silence echoed in her ears. Eleven steps and she reached the uneven rear stone wall of the cave. She started to the right, gently scraping her fingertips on the wall. She passed the opening and continued her circle. When she came again to the opening Carter called to her Commander. "Colonel, it's empty." O'Neill wasted no time in entering. "Eleven steps back, it's more a nook than a cave. I can't touch the ceiling. The floor is dirt."
She heard him grunt as he squatted to offload Daniel. She moved over to help him. "Soft dirt is good, Carter." They supported the injured man until he was lying flat on his back. Sam felt for a carotid pulse and breathed a sigh of relief. Her hand brushed O'Neill's in the dark. Just for an instant he grasped her hand. "You've done good, Major."
"Thank you Sir." A quiet moment. "He's still unconscious?"
"Yea," A disembodied sigh and she heard him sit down. "You know for a skinny kid, he's damned heavy."
"He's not so skinny anymore, Sir. At your insistence."
"Well, I guess I wanted him to be able to tote me around all creation, not the other way around." More scuffling noises as O'Neill stretched out on the ground. "You got the time Carter?"
"Yes, Sir. My watch was in my pocket. It's oh one hundred hours plus13."
"The witching hour, Major. Wake me at three."
"Yes, Sir. Sleep well."
Too soon he felt her soft touch on his shoulder. "Colonel, it's time."
"Thanks Carter. Time hack?"
"Oh four fifteen."
"Carter, I told you to wake me at oh three hundred." He grumbled softly at her.
"Sorry, Sir. I heard inthree. Doesn't matter, it's still pitch dark and no witches have shown up."
"What? Oh. Okay, it's done. Here this spot is still warm." He bent down to check on Daniel. Good breathing and pulse okay so he was holding his own, but they all needed water and food soon.
As he removed his hand from Jackson's throat, another one caught his. "Jack?"
"How ya doing, Danny."
"Tired, dizzy, leg hurt. You?"
"Tired, hungry, feet hurt, okay."
"Just tonight. When daylight comes, we'll move again. Rest."
The hand released his. Jack unerringly patted him on the head and then moved out to the cave's opening.
Sunrise found O'Neill doing a perimeter check about twenty yards out from their cave. He thought he had heard water running and had found a spring. It was much smaller than the creek had been, could even be its source. Jack was able to take a long deep drink of the icy water that bubbled out of its limestone mouth. He sat there a moment listening for any sound of movement. Satisfied there was nothing moving but himself he started to rise, then a shiny reflection caught his eye. As he watched a large water snake, five feet long and as big around as his forearm, swam lazily up the small rapids. O'Neill smiled.
By the time he got back to the cave it was early morning. He glanced into the sheltering overhang and had to stop and smile at his 'kids'. The two of them looked like puppies cuddled up to each other in the morning chill, sharing body heat. He sat down and started to 'fix breakfast'.
"Okay, troops. Rise and shine. Time to eat."
Carter sat up and looked at him sleepy and confused. "Sir?"
He walked in and gave her a hand up. "Come on Carter. Get up and go wash your hands and face. I'll get Daniel taken care of." At her blank expression, he turned her bodily and pointed. "Fifteen yards to the right is a spring. Go." At his push, she left.
"Daniel, you with me?" An affirmative noise responded as the young man rolled over. "C'mon." Jack grimaced as he took Daniel's weight on his shoulder again, pulling his right arm over it.
"Just out of the cave for now. When Carter gets back, to the spring. You need to drink water and clean your leg better. It's as good as that stuff you pay a buck a bottle for back home." Daniel was holding his hand to his middle with a confused expression on his face. "What?" Jack demanded.
"I know why my leg hurts, understand why my head hurts but can't figure out why my chest hurts."
"That's not your chest, that's your belly, and I probably did it hauling your butt up here over my shoulder."
"Oh. Uh, thanks."
"Don't mention it. You'll return the favor I'm sure." He jerked his head towards the cave's mouth. "Here's Carter back. Let's get you over to the spring." After helping Daniel 'clean up' and supporting him while he drank his fill, the two men returned to their cave.
Carter had sliced up the already cleaned snake's carcass and divided the small bite sized pieces into three even piles. They sat in the morning sun at the mouth of the small cave and ate the raw meat with gusto. "Not bad, a little tough but filling." O'Neill commented as he sat back.
Daniel was sitting with his back against the wall. "Nobody can bring home the bacon like Jack can, right Sam?"
"Yea, but it tastes like chicken." Carter replied. O'Neill and Jackson just looked at her for a moment and then snorted.
O'Neill threw his last piece of snake meat at her. She caught it and popped it in her mouth, grinning back. "Well, now that we've all slept, drank and eaten, let's make some plans. He leaned forward with a small stick to draw in the dirt. "I think the gate is this way. Carter, I want you to hot foot it back and dial out to Earth."
She nodded, but had a question. "No GDO?"
"I know. Throw rocks at the damn wormhole. How's your Morse code?"
"SOS. What's SG1?" Jack gave her the code in the dust.
"Do that three times, then disconnect. That should get us their attention and send us a MALP.
Daniel was watching. "What are we going to be doing?"
"Slow but steady, partner. We'll limp in at best speed, but Carter maybe able to bring relief quicker than we can get there." He glanced at the dry, bloody bandage on Daniel's wounded leg.
"I can walk, with a little help." Jackson replied. "Maybe a walking stick."
"Can do easy. Major, much as I hate to lose your company, take a last drink of water and head out." She nodded and got up. "Don't go through the wormhole without an invite from Hammond. I don't want you going splat on the Iris."
"Absolutely no splats, yes Sir." She nodded, looking unhappy at leaving the two men alone.
"Git! We'll be along." The two men watched her lithe form as she trotted out of their clearing. "Okay, Danny-boy, a walking stick it is."
Teal'c had come awake in a very unhappy mood. He was lying in front of the Chappa'i bound hand and foot with some very strong vines. He remembered being at a village, assisting Danieljackson with his translations when a hue and cry had been set up from the far side of the village. People were literally running over themselves to get to the surrounding forest. SG1 had been separated at the time of the attack and chivied along with the rest of the crowd. He had briefly seen Jackson but had lost him in the press of panicked natives. Then a gas bomb had been thrown and he and the whole group that he was with had lost consciousness. Here, he had awoken helpless to any enemy that came along. He had been struggling with his bonds throughout the night and now, he could finally feel them beginning to give. More time elapsed, and then he finally got a hand free at the cost of some skin and a fingernail. A few more minutes and his feet were free. Now all he had to do was seek sustenance, locate his teammates, provide aid and/or rescue them, get them all back to the gate and go to SGC headquarters. An O'Neill-ism came to mind. 'A piece of cake'.
As the big man stood stretching out his cramped and cold muscles, he was surprised to see their pile of backpacks lying beside the Chappa'i. Investigation proved that it was indeed their gear including the GDOs. Evidently he was not only unwelcome, but all their equipment, weapons and food were also denied by his attackers. He allowed himself an imperceptible smile. This was indeed a benefit. But first he had to locate everyone. Teal'c strapped on a zat, pocketed two 9-MM pistols, two of the GDOs, picked up his staff weapon and started back up the trail that had led them to the original village site.
Samantha Carter was trying to jog across the rough woodland but seems to spend more time walking than trotting. The ground was littered with rocks of varying sizes, broken branches, thorns and generally sharp things. Her bare feet were getting such an abusive workout she'd be in white cotton socks and tennis shoes for a week. She had once again been amazed at the Colonel's ability to sublimate pain. How he managed to keep on going last night, carrying Daniel for over two hours through the forest with no shoes or leg protection she couldn't even begin to imagine. And then he'd been as happy as a schoolboy when he somehow had caught and killed their snake breakfast.
Jack had located a likely looking tree branch to serve as Daniel's walking stick cum crutch. About five feet long, six inches around with a v-notch at one end where the tree had branched out, it probably wasn't as comfortable as Doc's aluminum and rubber models but it would have to serve. He wished he could provide some sort of foot protection for both of them. His were pretty cut up from the run through the woods last night. He'd soaked them in the cold spring water this morning but they were going to bother him for certain. When he returned to their cave, Daniel was no where to be seen. Jack gave a low whistle and got an answer from the left side of the cave entrance where the sun was blocked by some leafy bushes. O'Neill had briefly thought about trying to stay hidden for another day, but decided that retreat was the better part of valor here, with one missing and one wounded. He hoped that Carter could locate the Gate and bring some transportation for Jackson. The young linguist was going to be a slow go for today at least, but the stab wound had finally stopped bleeding and by all indications no major tendons were involved. "Ready, Daniel?" He handed the stick to his friend.
"As I'm going to be I guess." Daniel looked at him nearsightedly, as he took the staff. "You're limping." He pointed out.
"Yeah, cut my foot in the dark last night." O'Neill shrugged. "Little sharp rocks."
Jackson nodded. He knew how and why Jack had done it, for him, again. Daniel fitted the rough-cut crutch under his shoulder. "I'm ready. Let's go." The two men started through the rough underbrush. After about an hour, O'Neill called a short halt. Daniel was definitely slowing down. Jack knew that his leg must be killing him by now and he had lost a lot of blood before the injury could be treated. Besides his feet hurt too.
"Jack, I'm okay." Daniel protested at the halt.
"Daniel, I need you to pace yourself. Remember, we've got about ten, twelve miles to cover." O'Neill tried to make it sound reasonable.
"But we've covered less that two."
"Yea, and at the end of the next two, we'll stop again." He indicated Jackson's leg. "You've started to bleed again. You've got to be able to walk the whole ten, not run six and me carry you the last four." He had to grin at Daniel's expression. "I know, it won't happen, but see my point?" Daniel nodded. O'Neill got to his feet. "I'm gonna try to find water, and check our back trail. Be back in a short."
The officer started a circuitous route that went out about 50 yards starting in the front and cutting back to the left. There was no spring to be found in the immediate future so Jack started back parallel to Daniel's resting spot. But as he turned back on to their 'trail' to eliminate any accidental sign, he heard voices. Their escape must have been found sooner than he had hoped. They were too close and he knew that the younger man could not run on his injured leg; plan two was going to have to do.
Jack jogged back to their rest area. Daniel was off the trail and not too conspicuous but he found him easily. "Look, they're right behind us." O'Neill waived off Daniel's protest. "I'm going to camouflage your position and do the mama bird thing. You need to sit tight and let them go past you. Once they've cleared, you do best speed to the Stargate. I'll circle off and lose them then meet you there. Okay?" Daniel didn't say anything, just glared at him. "Okay, Danny?"
"No, it's not. But I guess it's for the best." Jackson didn't sound happy. "I don't like being separated. I can find the gate, but...what about you?"
"I'll meet you there, if your not there I'll circle back for you. If I'm not there then wait for Carter or Teal'c." Jack shrugged. "I still don't count him down."
Daniel nodded grimly. "We won't leave you behind."
"I know, I'm counting on it." He grabbed Daniel and shuffled him back farther into the brush, then gripped his shoulder in a quick embrace."Gotta go. You be quiet and let the plan come together, okay." Daniel glared up at him. "I'll take that as a yes." He looked back towards where he had heard the voices, and then took off at a limping trot.
After Jack made his decision about his next step, he hurriedly hustled Daniel back off the path and up under the low-hanging thick leafy tree boughs. There amidst a little verbal cajoling and not a few threats, he convinced his friend to 'sit tight, shut up and behave himself'. He then loosely draped some of the tall grass back over the blind and, looking back over his shoulder to ensure trail camouflage, Jack left Daniel.
His plan was simple. Hide his injured teammate from the hostiles, lead them on a wild goose chase, lose them, circle back, pickup a pissed off archeologist then run away with all possible speed. Easy enough, just like a momma bird; and like that bird he was unarmed, barefooted, naked and wounded. Piece of cake. O'Neill led off directly away from the path that they had been traveling. He had in mind to go back to the cave's spring and use it to hide his footprints until it ran into the larger stream. If he could get far enough ahead of them, he could take their original trail back to the Stargate.
Sam Carter was proceeding on at her best speed. Her plan was simple. She was to get back to the Stargate at best speed, locate assistance from Teal'c or SGC, return to her teammates and assist their return. She was jogging back to the Stargate wincing over stones and cursing at thorny brush and trees in the cross-country trip. But her knife wound hadn't bled since she cleaned it earlier this morning at the spring, she had eaten and drank her fill and she was determined to bring help to the Colonel and Daniel. The two men were more tired than she was and more severely injured. If she could get help this side of the gate, either by locating their missing teammate, Teal'c; or by encountering an SGC Search and Rescue team she would return and assist them. Not accomplishing this she would have to attempt to contact SGC via wormhole and get a message through without the benefit of a GDO. Sometimes things were just never easy.
Teal'c was heading back to the area where he had lost contact with his team. His plan was simple. He had gone through the four packs that had been left with him at the Chappa'i and he had removed any extraneous items from one of them to lighten the load. He kept the two zatniketels, two 9-MM pistols, a medical kit, and some of the food and water. Hoisting the pack on his shoulders and picking up his staff weapon, he started down the trail to the original village intent upon finding and assisting his missing teammates. Then they would return to the Stargate.
Daniel had disagreed with Jack's plan to hide him and then draw the primitives off on a false trail. Though he knew that he didn't have a chance in hell of outrunning the natives, he was not sure that Jack could do a successful marathon cross-country foot race either. The older man had been tired and sore this morning, even admitting to sleeping past his inner clock's promptings. But the Colonel had been insistent and in the end, had won. O'Neill had helped him to a more secure hiding place. Then, before he left his friend, Jack had pulled Daniel into quick rough hug. He had then left Jackson without a word. Daniel had lain quiet and hidden while the group of hostile natives were in his immediate area. But after about half an hour, he clambered to his feet and continued his slow, painful journey to the Stargate.
Jack hated the idea of leaving Daniel unarmed in the wilderness, unable to protect himself from any attack. But if he could get the natives to follow him long enough he knew that he could lead them far enough away so that his friend could make his way back to the 'gate, Carter and safety. O'Neill had waited until he could clearly hear the enemy coming up the trail, and then started out cross-country. The sharp, protruding rocks reopened the cuts on the soles of his feet, the thicker brush caught and scratched at his bare legs, but he continued pushing his way through the heavy foliage. The first three miles or so remained fairly level but then the terrain changed. He seemed to be heading uphill, the larger trees beginning to be farther apart with more of the shorter brushy varieties appearing. Then the loam soil became rock-strewn moving towards a rocky promontory. Once he topped the rise, the ground should drop back down into the brushy, forest that would lead back to thematic Village. O'Neill didn't know if he would find assistance there or if the village would be deserted. But he had to get their pursuers away from his helpless friend. He started up the rise that led to the crest of the promontory.
Sam had traveled several miles over the last two hours. It was almost noon. The lay of the land had flattened out and the flora had taken on a friendlier aspect. Though she was in good shape, her bare feet were beginning to bother her. The cuts and bruises that she had collected the night before had picked up dirt and she thought she felt one or two thorns embedded in the soles of her feet. But the only relief she would permit herself was to reach the Stargate. As she topped a small rise, she suddenly paused, then dropped to the ground. She had seen movement. Carter raised herself to her elbows peering through the tall grass, trying to see what had caught her eye. As she watched breathlessly, she could see what appeared to be a large, dark, mottled shape freeze and blend with the surrounding landscape. Squinting into the bright sunlight, she recognized the profile. She gratefully rose to her feet and started in his direction, waving at him to get his attention.
Teal'c had been striding down a faint path watching the ground for sign, when he saw a light-colored flash in the distance. He stopped and stepped back into the sheltering trees. Then he saw the woman rise up from her hiding place and trot down the slope to him, her blond hair shining in the sunlight. She was limping as she ran and was wearing little clothing, a few scraps of the BDU uniform and no boots at all.
"Majorcarter." He greeted her warmly; supporting her as she gratefully sank down to a sitting position to catch her breath. "What has happened? Where are the others?"
"I left them to get back to the Stargate and hopefully find you. We escaped from a village of hostiles." She replied smiling at him in relief, accepting a drink from his canteen. "Daniel has an injured leg and the Colonel is helping him along, but we're pretty much intact." Her breathing was returning to normal. Daniel thought we were about to be sacrificed to some local deity so we decided to leave instead. What happened to you after the attack?"
"I remember nothing after the initial attack on the Village. I and several of the Katai were rendered unconscious by a gaseous vapor. When I awoke, I was bound hand and foot and laid in front of the Chappa'i. Our equipment was also there."
She looked at him excitedly. "Our weapons too?" At his nod she smiled again.
"Yes," He replied. "I am carrying two Zatnikatels and two pistols. I also have medical supplies and some little food." He reached into his BDU pocket and handed her an energy bar. She eagerly took it from him and started to eat.
"The Colonel and Daniel are up the trail about four miles. We escaped last night after dark. We spent the night in a small cave." She took another swallow of water from Teal'c's canteen. "We need to get back to them so we can help them get to the 'Gate." The warrior nodded.
"Is Danieljackson seriously injured?" Teal'c asked.
"Well, it's a deep knife wound on his upper leg. He can't walk by himself and I'm sure it's infected by now." She accepted the 9-MM pistol, tucking it into what was left of her pants waistband. "The Colonel had to carry him out of the camp last night, so they're both pretty bruised and banged up."
"I see." He looked her over carefully, seeing some minor injuries that she had failed to mention to him. "And yourself?"
"I'm fine." Carter replied truthfully. "I'm tired, scraped up a bit and my feet hurt, but pretty intact considering."
Teal'c drew his knife and started to cut one of the flaps off the backpack. He glanced at his teammate's feet and started to cut it into two smaller pieces leaving longer strips on the sides.
She watched him, confused. "What are you doing?" She asked as she swallowed the last of the food bar.
He knelt down in front of her. "Your feet are injured, yet you must continue to run. These covers will give you some protection." He gently picked up her left foot and placed it on the heavy canvas material then began to shape it around her and tie it together in strategic areas. She watched curiously as primitive footwear began to take shape. "Wow, moccasins." She said as the second piece of footwear took form. When he had finished, she stood up.
"Is that not better?" He asked as she glanced up at him gratefully.
"Much better, thank you." She smiled at him.
"I'm pleased to be of assistance. Now we can go on." He shouldered up the abbreviated backpack and the two of them turned back to the forest.
Daniel had waited a half an hour after the primitives had passed him. He had lain hidden in his leafy den as they passed within five feet of his location. They had been talking amongst themselves, complaining that these sacrificial victims were causing a lot more trouble then they would probably be worth in the long run. Evidently, besides the man that Jack had killed, another of their tormentors had died after they had left. But the Shaman and the Chief were determined that these Great Warriors would impress the hell out of the gods and they wantedSG1 back by tonight, the full moon. After a few minutes, they had passed on out of his hearing in pursuit of Jack.
O'Neill had given him instructions to wait full thirty minutes before attempting his solo journey to the Stargate so it was time for him to leave. Daniel really wanted Jack to return but he knew that the Special Operations trained military man was trying to draw them as far away from him as he could. If he waited any longer, he might interfere with Jack's 'time schedule'. So, Daniel painfully clambered to his feet, and using his makeshift walking stick limped with all due speed down the rough 'trail'.
Daniel had been traveling all morning when he noticed birds taking off from a copse of trees that he was approaching. He hobbled off to the side, painfully kneeling next to some underbrush, peering myopically at the tree line. Damn it, he hated losing his glasses at anytime, but this could very well get him killed. But when he finally got a clear look at the cause of the disturbance he blew out a sigh of relief and collapsed the rest of the way down on a tuft of soft grass. Sam and Teal'c had seen him and were coming for him.
The two had been following the trail that Sam had come down on and when they saw Daniel they had immediately zeroed in on him. He looked up at them from where he was sitting, smiling wanly. "Daniel, what happened? Where's the Colonel?" Teal'c immediately presented him with a canteen of water. Sam asked worriedly, checking him out physically. After only a moment, she retrieved the medical kit and started unwrapping his injured leg.
He watched her as she pulled the makeshift bandage off his leg, the cloth sticking and reopening the wound. "I don't know." Daniel replied." He heard somebody coming after us. Jack made me hide and he led them away. He said he'd lose them and come back but, well, I haven't seen him since then. Either he had to take them a long way or..."
Teal'c, who had started making Jackson a pair of the canvas backpack moccasins like Carter's, finished his thought. "Or O'Neill has been recaptured."
"Yea, well, there's that possibility." He grimaced as Sam packed a clean gauze dressing on his leg wound and started to rewrap it with an ace bandage. "Thanks, Sam."
"It's getting infected." She looked up at him. "We need to get you back to the gate."
"No." He corrected her. "You need to go find Jack." Daniel took a bite out of the energy bar that Teal'c had given him. "I'm in no danger. I'll just keep going back by myself. You and Teal'c can backtrack me and see what happened to Jack. I'll meet you at the gate."
"Daniel, your wound is pretty bad." She informed him. "It's been bleeding again, and you're getting weaker." She put a hand on his cheek. "You're already feverish."
"Sam, I'm okay!" He argued. "Give me some Motrin and point me in the right direction to the Stargate." He caught her hand and held it, making his point. "Go find Jack. He should have been back two hours ago. If they've got him, well, the full moon is tonight. The mightier a warrior the better fitting a sacrifice he'll make." He looked at Teal'c for support. "I can walk, well, sort of anyway. But Jack maybe running out of time."
"Daniel, we can't just leave you here defenseless..."
"Okay, leave me one of the guns." He was beginning to get angry with her. He looked at the big warrior. "Teal'c, please go! If you find him on the trail then you can come back and get me."
"Very well." He finished Daniel's footwear and nodded at Carter who stood up. Teal'c handed the younger man one of the pistols and belt. "Major Carter, I must agree with Danieljackson. We cannot risk delaying our search for O'Neill."
"Okay." She thought for a moment. "Daniel, try to get back to the Stargate and wait for us there." She unfastened her GDO from her wrist and gave it to him. "We'll backtrack and locate the Colonel. If we don't return by tomorrow, contact SGC and have General Hammond send reinforcements."
Finally satisfied, he nodded. "How far is it?"
"It's about eight miles. You should reach it by nightfall or a little later."
Daniel nodded grimly. She handed him a small container of Motrin. He slowly got to his feet, leaning heavily on his walking staff. He fastened the web belt and holster around his waist then picked up the canteen and clipped it to the belt. Teal'c handed him two more energy bars. "Fine, meet you back at the gate."
O'Neill wasn't completely sure what had happened, either a root handhold had torn loose or a foothold had collapsed under his weight. One minute he'd been climbing down the rough rock face of a cliff, the next he'd been falling. And as the joke went, it wasn't the fall that hurt, it had been the landing. On impact he felt his trick knee buckle under him. When he managed to get to his feet, his leg would no longer support his weight. It was only a matter of moments before his pursuers were upon him. During the scuffle that ensued, he believed that he had injured and possibly killed several of the Primitive natives. At any rate, he had done nothing to endear himself to his captors and they showed their dislike by beating him almost senseless, dragging him back to their village and tying him back to the same damned tree that he had worked so hard to get away from the night before. The other Katai captives that had been taken at the same time as SG1 were also still there, also awaiting their respective fates.
As evening arrived and the shadows lengthened, the indigenous natives began what could only be described as a party with food, drink and musical accompaniment. The drums had started early and soon whistles and chanting joined in. As the shadows lengthened into the evening celebrations seemed to continue to rise in crescendo. When darkness had fallen and bonfires lighted the party, the main event began. One by one the prisoners were cut down, stripped of their clothing and forcibly pulled away from their fellow captives. As each one was taken to the group gathering, a roar came from the crowd. Within a few minutes, the victims had started to scream.
From his area, O'Neill couldn't see what was happening but the sounds were pretty self-explanatory. As the hours wore on, their numbers were depleted and he was only one of a very few captives left at the tree. Jack recognized the chief, and the medicine man of the friendly Katai. The others remaining must be the upper crust of the tribe and they were all being held for the big event at the end of the evening.
Jack could appreciate the mental suffering that these tribal leaders were going through. He was glad, at least, that he saw no sign of his team. The others had either escaped completely or been killed outright, hopefully the former. He was fairly confident that Carter and Daniel were free, but he hadn't seen Teal'c since their initial capture. But the big Jaffa was pretty hard to kill. Both of his 'kids' would grieve for him, but they could go on together. O'Neill regretted his own death at this particular time in his life. He would have liked to continue to fight back against the Goa'uld, to try to protect his planet, but he did feel some satisfaction that 'his' two geniuses, Daniel and Carter, would continue the battle for him.
Finally, the 'priests' came for him. When they cut him down from the tree's support, his leg again folded under him. His captors spent a few minutes beating on him with short sticks before they finally realized that the only way he was getting where they wanted him to go was to drag him. Not that he didn't try to fight them but he didn't have much strength left to argue with them either. He was unceremoniously stripped naked of his few remaining scraps of clothing and hauled away by four of the natives.
They held him by his arms and supported him, dragging him from his tree, through the fire lit area and into a large field that looked like something right out of Dante's inferno and its seventh level of hell. There were stone blocks, four foot by four foot standing three feet high, littering the field in a pattern resembling a gothic meadow of headstones. On each of the stones, a sacrificial victim was laid over on their backs, their arms and legs stretched down to the ground and secured, laid out in a gruesome altar-like display. Most of the Katai were still alive, some of them moaning some crying. All of them were bleeding profusely, scored with long knife slashes down each of their limbs and across their abdomens.
Jack was pulled to the prominent front tier of the field and jerked over a stone, its rough surface scraping his skin on his back and buttocks. His guards roughly pulled his arms above his head, extending his body over the arch of the rock and tied him to some anchorage on the corner by the ground. He could feel his feet and legs being secured in a similar manner. He managed to kick out, knocking one of his tormentors off his feet, but a second later he was tied securely, helpless to defend himself. After a few minutes of respite, He saw one of the high religious leaders, this one wearing a carved, wooden mask, raising his arms above his head and singing in the guttural language. The 'priest' was wielding a sharpened flint rock blade and chanting to the fierce rhythm of the drumbeats. There was a dreamlike quality overlying it all, as if he were watching it happen to someone else; he could see the blue moonlight shining on his own pale skin, the whites of the priest's eyes glinting through the mask's large eye-sockets, his teeth shining in the moonlight as the man chanted. He could smell the stench of the blood in the damp night air.
Then the shaman lowered the knife blade to O'Neill's belly and the burning pain brought him back to reality as he was cut from throat to groin. He could see the black flint blade separating his skin on his arms, then on his thighs. He could feel his hot blood trickling away, down his ribs, down his arms, down his legs. Then, he could hear his own voice screaming...
It was late in the night as Carter and Teal'c approached the primitives' camp and the two members of SG1 became even more vigilant and cautious. They had followed Jack's trail until the savages had captured him. They didn't know what they would find in the village, other than that their Colonel had been hunted down and taken...again. The central bonfires had burned down some time ago; the natives were all quiet; either in their huts or lying unconscious or asleep in the center of their village. As the two teammates passed through the common area on the outskirts of the encampment, their first view of the large ceremonial field in the bright moonlight was something out of the surreal. A large area of several acres held an arrangement of stones the size of tables, stones that had been laid out in a grid map of sorts containing over fifty in number. The apparent 'alters' were all of a size and shape, and arranged for ceremonial purposes. As the two friends approached, these stone's surfaces looked distorted, as if they were alive, moving in the clear blue-white light of the planet's large, bright full moon. Drawing closer, it became apparent to them what they were seeing was all too real; it was too alien, too horrible for anyone to imagine. The tops of the stones appeared to be writhing; their surfaces flexing and warping in the cold blue light of the lunar reflection. Then as the man and woman came closer, they could see why.
Lying on their backs, and tied to each stone belly up, their arms and legs tied to stakes driven into the darkly sodden ground, were pale, nude human bodies some still living, still breathing, still tormented. Each limb was secured by a separate, leather thong and scored lengthwise by long bloody gashes carved into their flesh. From these engraved stigmata at each juncture, the warm blood had coursed from the pitiful victims' bodies to flow pleasingly to the earth in small, ornate rivulets.
The air was thick with the sickly, sweet stench of fresh and drying blood, with the thin, wailing cries and the soft, opulent moans of the victims. Carter looked to the Jaffa for assurance, for him to confirm to her that this couldn't possibly be real. But no such assertion was to be found there. His face was a mask, reflecting a vision of hell even he couldn't have imagined. "Teal'c, where's the Colonel?" She whispered to him.
He nodded, indicating the field of suffering. "He is out there, Majorcarter, somewhere. We must find him." He took a breath of the fetid air. "We must find him before it is too late."
The pair stepped off together but soon realized for them to locate their missing leader in time they must separate. If O'Neill was in this field of ruin, his time was surely almost spent. They parted reluctantly, circling throughout the labyrinth of dead and dying bodies. The very land laid heavy, weighed down with blood from so many beings; horribly muddy, soaked with the very life force of the tortured. Some of the sacrificial victims were already dead, their faces forever frozen in the rictus of the horror that had ended their life. A few were still conscious, still struggling to free themselves from the nightmare. But most were already oblivious, giving themselves over to the surcease of unconsciousness. Carter looked carefully at each person, studying him or her, afraid that in all of this horror that she would not recognize the man she was seeking, because of a numbness or her inability to see him in all the dreadfulness. She could see Teal'c checking carefully also, sharing her fear that they would be too late or in too much of a stupor to be sure of his identity.
Finally, after her fear had telescoped time and reality had shifted for her, she felt rather than saw Teal'c find him. He was in the front row, his stone a place of importance to honor his stature as a warrior, to show the god his worth. Teal'c sought her out and motioned to her to come and she quickly moved past the nameless victims that separated her from her two men.
He was blessedly unconscious, almost unrecognizable; his well-known face a mask of blood and streaked dirt, his familiar body clothed only in his own blood. His life's strength had run down onto the stone and the ground from his wounded flat belly and savaged hyper-extended limbs. She stood watching, helpless to assist as the great Jaffa warrior knelt at his leader's side and cut him from the pagan altar. She witnessed the gentle power that lifted O'Neill's lifeless body into his arms and the holy rapture in the giant's resolve to liberate his prophet from the level of Hades into which he had been cast down. Then abruptly, swiftly, they were moving, leaving the field of the damned behind them breaking free into the clear, clean air of the night.
When they had escaped the confines of the monstrous village into the sheltering forest, they stopped briefly to rest and recover. She numbly dug into the backpack to retrieve their limited medical supplies. She took a few precious moments to bind the worst of his wounds and give him medication for the pain and shock he would feel upon his return to consciousness. The two teammates had not spoken, only reacted, relying upon their training in emergency first aid to carry them through the surreal moments. Check for heartbeat, faint; check for breathing, shallow; stop the bleeding, apply pressure; protect the wounds, with gauze pads and wrap securely; treat for shock, morphine but not too much. Don't hurt him anymore, don't stress his weakened system, don't scream your distress, don't give in to your tears, don't imagine the worst, and don't ever give up on him because he never ever would give up on you.
Besides the deep, bleeding wounds on each limb, O'Neill's abdomen, face and throat were also scored to cause even more blood loss. He needed suturing, he needed transfusions, he needed Dr. Fraiser to work her magic, he needed...they needed...to go home. Once again, Teal'c gently lifted him in those strong arms like a sleeping child and carried him towards the Stargate, towards home. Sam threw the remaining supplies into the long-suffering backpack and followed them into the night. She also carried a 9-MM pistol, the Staff weapon and two zatniketels. They would not be stopped again, no matter the cost.
Daniel had managed too limp, fall and crawl the last few miles to the Stargate. He sat at its base, leaning against the DHD. It had taken him all afternoon and well into the night with the support of his walking staff. Once, he believed, he had even fainted. He had come to lying in and under the middle of a large thorn bush. He had managed to extricate himself without too much peripheral damage. His canteen was empty, the food bars had been consumed, he was exhausted and he was worried. Sam and Teal'c had not returned for him. That meant that they had not found Jack. He had expected them to show back up in two or three hours with O'Neill in tow, cracking jokes about his slow pace in their irritating and endearingly sarcastic, concerned way. Daniel would give anything right now to hear that grating, caustic voice refer to him as plant-boy, or space monkey.
He also knew that he was supposed to dial home but somehow, he couldn't bear to leave this planet without the team. Dialing home was always an option, leaving without his teammate was not. He settled back against the pillar to wait.
Several hours later, he awoke with a start. He had fallen asleep at the pedestal of the Stargate. He felt chagrined at his own weakness, falling asleep on a hostile planet was a good way to get dead very quickly. His only excuse to himself was well, he was very tired and the 800mg Motrin was relatively strong especially in the light of his taking four of them.
But it was now daylight of day three on this lovely planet and he was more than ready to leave. His teammates were long overdue and he was at his patience's end. He picked up his walking staff and using it to support his weight; he started back up the small rise that led away from the Stargate.
When he finally got to the top of the hill, he stopped and rested his leg. As he looked down across the brushy countryside, he could just make out what appeared to be two figures moving towards him. But without his glasses, even by squinting, he was unable to immediately identify who or what they were. Finally the smaller figure saw him and waived. It had to be Sam, which made the other one Teal'c. But the large warrior was obviously heavily burdened with something; they had found Jack! But Teal'c carrying him meant that he was badly injured or... worse. Daniel wouldn't even admit to the other possibility.
Sam had started a jog up the path to reach him more quickly. "What are you doing still here? I told you to go back to SGC." She demanded.
"Sorry, but I couldn't leave you. Every time we get separated, you know something happens to the Stargate." He shrugged then looked past her expectantly. "Jack? You found him. How is he?"
She looked down at the ground, and then faced her friend. "He's bad. We need to dial out and get home as soon as we can." She reached for his arm and pulled it over her shoulder to support him. "Come on." She started walking him towards the Stargate and the DHD.
Daniel looked over his shoulder at Teal'c. "How bad, Sam? What happened?"
"Bad, Okay. Come on." She pulled him back down the hill towards their way home. "We didn't get there in time to prevent the...the ceremony. They sacrificed him, tortured him, but we found him before... he's still alive, barely. We've got to get him back to Janet." Once at the dialing device, she wasted no time but immediately started dialing out.
Daniel waited by her side but then stopped her from dialing when he could see Jack's undressed state in Teal'c's arms. "Wait," He demanded. "We can't take him through like that. We have to protect him from the wormhole." He limped back to the Jaffa. "The cold alone could kill him." Daniel stepped away to one of the packs piled up by the pedestal. He pulled out one of the sleeping bags and unfolded it on the ground. Teal'c understood what he was doing and gently laid O'Neill nude, injured body down in the protective nylon cocoon. Daniel stopped his preparations, shocked at his first clear sight of his friend, at what he saw. Teal'c reached for the quilted materiel and took it from Jackson's hand. Daniel looked up at the Jaffa mutely; their eyes met acknowledging the proof of Jack's ordeal. He then helped Teal'c in closing the sleeping bag. Once the injured man was secured, the Jaffa nodded to Carter and she started dialing Earth's seven symbols, then sending the iris code. When the wormhole established itself Daniel and Sam started hastily pitching their equipment into the Stargate. After everything was through, Teal'c gently picked up his burden again and entered the maelstrom. The two scientists followed immediately.
Major General Hammond had come to the observation window as soon as the chevrons started engaging. SG1 was three check-ins and a day late. This inevitably meant problems. As the wormhole stabilized, backpacks came rolling out, obviously thrown from the other side. Then Teal' stepped through carrying a bundle in his arms. Major Carter and Doctor Jackson came next with the young woman supporting her injured, limping teammate. The General wasted no time in hitting the P.A. System's ON switch. "Medical team! We need a Medical team to the Gateroom!" Hammond didn't even remember his journey to the floor. He caught a glimpse of O'Neill's blood covered, white face as the med techs assisted Teal'c. The sleeping bag's formless shape was laid ever so gently on the medical gurney. They opened the sleeping bag to assess the injuries, and then rushed him pell-mell towards the infirmary. He turned to the remaining members of SG1 but one look at their faces told him all he needed to know. The two younger members were half-naked, injured, exhausted and, this mind, incapable of responding to any thing other than an order to follow O'Neill to the hospital area. Two more gurneys appeared and he nodded Jackson and Carter onto them and they were gone. Teal'c alone stood, his head bowed, to answer to him.
"Is he still alive?" Was all Hammond asked him.
"He was when we entered the wormhole, I could feel his heart beating. "Was all that Teal'c could say? He looked up at the General. "He was captured and sacrificed to their god in a ceremony. We only found him after..."
General Hammond could only lay his hand on the big man's shoulder. "You did your best son."
"I only hope it was good enough." He looked towards the gate room's exit door.
Hammond sighed and followed with his eyes to the doorway. "Go on and get yourself checked out and cleaned up. They'll let us know when they know something."
Teal'c nodded and left the room. Hammond stood by himself for a moment then went to his office. He couldn't do anything but wait now.
Several hours later, General Hammond finally gave in to his anxieties and went up to the infirmary. He glanced around and saw two of the persons he was looking for, Major Carter and Teal'c. She was lying in a hospital bed and he was sitting in a chair next to her. "How are you feeling, Major?"
"I'm fine, Sir. Just a little tired. I really don't need to be here." She sounded like she had been repeating that phrase over and over to anyone who would listen to no avail.
"Majorcarter is being kept so that she will rest. She has shown no inclination to do so." Teal'c responded. "We are awaiting word on O'Neill's and Danieljackson's conditions."
"They're both in surgery, Sir." Carter explained. "Janet is repairing Daniel's leg, and Dr. Warner is working on the Colonel." She looked up at the General. "I'll be fine once I get some answers from somebody."
The doors picked this moment to be pushed open and admit Dr. Fraiser. She joined the two men at the young woman's bedside.
She came in and pulled the surgical mask and hair restraint off. It revealed a satisfied physician's face. "Daniel will be fine. He'll need some therapy on his leg, but I was able to reattach the ligament and muscles without too much trouble. There's some infection, but we caught that soon enough." Janet smiled at the two members of SG1. "There was some good first aid done."
Sam looked up at her friend from the bed. "That was the Colonel. He carried Daniel barefooted and in the dark over some rough country. W
hen we finally got him to where we could get the knife out, he did that too." She stopped and rubbed her eyes. "How's the Colonel doing?"
Fraiser shook her head. "Dr. Warner is still in surgery with him. I do know the main problems were loss of blood, shock and exposure. The cuts are all deep but pretty superficial in nature in so far as there was no major organ damage."
Teal'c nodded. "The technique used for the sacrifice was to drain the victim of his blood and his power so that his strength could flow into the god." He shook his head. "If we had arrived sooner..."
Dr. Fraiser shook her head at the big man. "And if you had arrived later, he'd be dead. Considering everything, you both did well." She looked up at both of them. "If you hadn't remembered to wrap him in the sleeping bag...:"
Sam shook her head. "That was Daniel's idea. I was so shook up I was dialing home all ready when he stopped us."
Dr. Warner appeared at the other end of the hallway still wearing his surgical scrubs. He looked down the hall for them then walked towards the four tense expressions. When he reached them he smiled tiredly." That Colonel of yours is one tough cookie." He remarked to the worried team.
Janet smiled at him. "Then, the results of your surgery..."
"Are good." The older man finished for his colleague. "We replaced three pints of blood, sutured the worst of the lacerations and cleaned up the rest. He'll be fine." He nodded at the other three. "Good emergency treatment in the field all ways makes our job easier in the surgery."
Fraiser arched an eyebrow at the two as if to say 'see, I told you so'. Warner continued. "If you hadn't been so careful he could have gone into shock and been lost that way. You did good Major. You too, Mr. Teal'c."
Carter brushed aside the compliments. "When can we see him, well, the both of them?"
"They will both be in the recovery room until tomorrow." Warner replied. "Colonel O'Neill is intubated and won't be released to the ward until he regains blood pressure and volume." He looked at Janet and continued. "Dr. Jackson will probably be moved tomorrow morning when he has recovered from the anesthesia." Dr. Fraiser nodded at his assessment. The surgeon looked at the clock hanging in the hallway. "I was going to come and report to you now, General Hammond. I have hospital duty at Peterson tomorrow, so I'll leave both these men in Dr. Frasier's more than capable hands."
The General nodded at the good news. "Thank you, Doctor but I believe you already have. Go on home and have a good rest." The surgeon nodded his thanks, turned and walked away, waving his hand at them over his shoulder as he left.
"Teal'c, I know you haven't eaten anything but nutrition bars for the past two days. I'm sure there's something down in the commissary worth eating." Fraiser smiled at the two men. "Go on, they won't wake up until tomorrow at the earliest. You'll be able to see them then."
Hammond and Teal'c paused a moment, looking at each other. Hammond finally said. "Teal'c, would you join me for dinner? I'm sure we can find something there."
The Jaffa inclined his head to the General. "I would be honored to share a meal with you General Hammond." He looked down at Carter then said gravely. "I will see you in the morning, Majorcarter. Sleep well."
She smiled at him. The two men left together. Sam reached a hand to Janet, who took it in hers. "You need to get some sleep too, Sam. You were showing definite signs of shock when you arrived here."
"I know. I just needed to know they will be all right."
Fraiser patted the hand that she held. "They will be. Tomorrow I'll have Daniel moved down here. I'll have to see about the Colonel. He may be a bit longer. But," She paused for effect and smiled at her friend. "They will be okay." She released Sam's hand and pulled the sheet up a little higher. "Now, you need to sleep, young lady."
Sam managed a smile, "Yes, and if I don't, you'll make sure I will, won't you?"
Fraiser stood back and watched her. "Don't tempt me. Now go to sleep."
Jack O'Neill was dreaming of a lake. It was in the mountains, a clear deep lake with a sloping shoreline that faded off into tall pine trees. He could hear a spring gurgling as it fell over rocks into the lake. The loons were calling to each other, and in the far distance he could lean back and see a golden eagle in the distant sky. But he couldn't lean too far or he'd upset the wooden rowboat he was sitting in. The sun was warm on his face and he smiled as he saw his red and white bobber floating a few feet away. It was peaceful here, and very quiet. There was no one else with him; only the loons, the eagle and the boat all alone out in the middle of the beautiful lake.
Daniel woke from his surgery to find himself safely in bed in a semi-private room. His main discomfort was the ever present I.V. and an immobilizing soft cast on his left leg from his hip to his big toe. Daniel wondered about it, as he didn't remember that much damage other than the stab wound. His roommate was Jack, who had obviously also had the attentions of the surgical staff. But while he awoke with a minimum of equipment hooked to his body, O'Neill was festooned with the full gamut of medical science. There was the mandatory I.V. and monitors but along with them were a blood pressure cuff, a throat tube and more bandages than he'd ever remember seeing on one person. Even his feet were bandaged. What he could see of Jack's face over the breathing tube and under the butterfly tape was still extremely pale, almost bloodless. It made his friend appear small and frail, something he never had associated with Jack O'Neill unless he was literally at deaths door.
He must have made some movement to attract attention. He had heard some soft shoe scuffing, and then Janet Fraiser appeared in their room. "Hey," She spoke in a soft voice. "How are you feeling?"
He looked up at her concerned expression. "Not bad, thirsty." She nodded and reached for a glass of water. She watched him carefully as he drank it.
"You lost a fair amount of blood with that leg wound. We've cleaned it up and repaired some ligament damage." She indicated the cast.
"Oh." That explained the cast. He looked over at his friend. "How's Jack?"
"Serious but stable." She glanced in O'Neill's direction then went over to check one of the monitors. Then Janet returned to sit down in a chair beside Daniel. "Lacerations, loss of blood, dehydration, shock and exposure. Not any one thing, just a combination of them all, mainly the blood loss."
He nodded. "He scared me this time."
She nodded and replied. "Me too."
Daniel watched him for a while, listening to the machinery supporting his friend. "He saved my life, again."
"I know. Sam told me." Janet took Daniel's hand in hers. "He'll be all right, Daniel. Sam told us how you insisted on using the sleeping bag before you came back. You probably saved his life too."
Daniel thought about that for a second, then. "Good. I really wanted to." Janet squeezed his hand and smiled at the young man.
He slowly became aware of the fact that he was still alive. He lay there reveling in the fact of it, appreciating the pain, grateful for the sounds. He could hear beeping, ticking, dripping, pulsing and whooshing; all of which spelled life. Even the dull throbbing pain that outlined his pulse and heartbeat was welcome in its delineation.
He could feel crisp cool sheets next to his skin, he could feel the pressure of a cuff on his arm, and he could feel something hard in his mouth and throat forcing him to breath in a steady rhythm. Slowly he opened his eyes, just a crack, to discover the white speckled acoustical tiles arching above him. They looked comfortingly familiar; he had seen them before. Slowly, to keep the wonderful pain to a dull whisper, he tilted his head to the side. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see another bed holding another familiar shape. The young man lying in the bed was propped up on some pillows engrossed in a book. No, wait he was looking at him. Studying him with blue eyes, analyzing him. He felt a warm comfortable emotion.
"Jack?" Daniel thought he saw some movement from O'Neill. "Jack, are you awake?" Jackson struggled in his bed trying to reach the call button. Somehow it had fallen and he couldn't quite reach the cord from his position. The cast on his leg was awkward and heavy restricting his movements." Finally, in frustration he called out. "Nurse! Janet! Can anyone hear me?"
Lt. April Connor, nurse, was on her way back to her station when she heard Dr. Jackson call out. She immediately stopped in her walk to the desk and turned back when she heard his voice. "Nurse! Is anyone there?" She spun on her heel and went back towards the small semi-private room where the two members of SG1 were recovering.
"Dr. Jackson, what's wrong?" She immediately entered the room. "Dr. Jackson are you all right?"
"Check on Jack...Colonel O'Neill. I think I saw him move." She stopped momentarily to check on the civilian and find his call button, but he waved her on to the other bed. The older man was lying quite still but did appear to have moved a little from her last check. Then she saw that his eyes were indeed half-open and he was watching her. She quickly flipped the switch on the wall intercom. "Dr. Fraiser to Wardroom B. Dr. Fraiser to Wardroom B." Then she started her checks on his vital signs.
Janet Fraiser heard the call in her office and immediately put down the paperwork she had been working on. Walking quickly through the open ward and into the small room where presently her two SG1 members were resting. Daniel was sitting up watching the young blond nurse doing the standard physical checks on Colonel O'Neill.
"Janet, he moved! He was looking at me." The young man said excitedly.
She nodded at him and crossed over to O'Neill's bedside. The Colonel was noted for his unusually quick recovery times and it had been two days since his team had brought him back from the planet where...Well, never mind, he was definitely showing signs of waking up. She picked up his hand in hers and leaned over where he could see her. "Colonel O'Neill, Jack, can you hear me?" No response. "Jack, if you can hear me, you're in the infirmary at SGC. Your team is all back safely and you're going to be all right. You've had surgery and you've got a tube in you to help you breath." She thought she saw his brown eyes shifting back to her under the half-closed lids. "Colonel...Jack?" Janet turned to Jackson. "I'm not sure he's cognizant yet, but he's making an effort." Her tone changed. "Daniel if you don't stay still, I'll tie you to the bed."
Yes, it was all starting to sound very familiar to him. He managed to squeeze Janet's hand. She immediately turned back to him. "Jack, can you hear me?" She repeated.
'Okay, okay, I can hear you.'He squeezed her hand and rolled his head to make eye contact. Then he looked back at Daniel who was watching him intently. But he couldn't talk, had that damned tube in his throat again. He hated that.
"Colonel O'Neill, I'm going to remove the breathing tube now, okay?"
'Hell, yes Doc. Please.' her hands were busy with something on his face.
"Okay, Colonel, here we are." A very uncomfortable sensation as the soft plastic was removed from his throat, a gag reflex, and then relief. He didn't have the strength to talk, but it felt so much better. He looked at her gratefully and nodded ever so slightly.
Janet started to repeat herself, in case he hadn't been listening the first time...as if. "Colonel, you're in the infirmary. You've had surgery. Your team is safe." 'Thank God'. "Daniel is next to you. He's had leg surgery." 'Oh, Yeah the leg'. "Sam and Teal'c are fine." 'Teal'c's alive! Great!' "They're in their quarters." 'Bet me. She's in her lab playing with something.' "Try to get some sleep, Jack. You need to get your strength back." 'Yeah, can sleep for a week. Tired. So tired.'
He nodded at her, trying to smile. She returned it with 20 percent interest. Dr. Fraiser felt his forehead then patted his hand. Then she motioned to the nurse, turned to Daniel and put her finger to her lips. "Shush. Let him sleep." He could see Daniel nodding seriously at her. Jack managed a wink in his direction. Daniel's face lit up like a summer sunrise. Then Jack faded back to the lake.
Several hours later he woke up again. Hospital, bed, Fraiser and Daniel. 'Oh, yeah. I remember now.'
Daniel noticed his movement again. He looked over and spoke to him. "Hey, how ya feeling? Do you want me to call the nurse?" Jack shook his head slightly. He just wanted to lay here and relax. He hadn't felt this tired in a long time. Daniel nodded at him knowingly. "Just rest, Jack. Everything's okay. I'll just read here, but if you need something..." But Jack just nodded and closed his eyes again.
He continued to doze off and wake up for the rest of the day. People would come and go. One time it was Carter, the next Teal'c. Doc would come and do something to or for him. Daniel was always there in the next bed to speak a few words of acknowledgement and comfort. Once he woke up and General Hammond was there, to say a few words to him. But he always returned to the warm comfortable rest.
Then, that night, the badness came back. He was on the altar, tied down again. He could see the 'high priest', hear the chanting, feel the coldness of the knife. He must have yelled out. Suddenly, Daniel was there, holding him, calming him, speaking softly to him, telling him they were safe. He was awake. The lights came on and a nurse's voice was talking, fussing at Daniel for leaving his bed. Daniel telling her to be quiet goes away. They were all right, he was fine. They were home. There was the sound of furniture being moved, scraping on the floor. Daniel's voice talking to him again. Settling him. He slept, exhausted by the nightmare.
Daniel had been asleep, but something was disturbing him. When he opened his eyes to find out what it was, he could hear his friend muttering in his sleep and tossing restlessly. It was late at night and all the main lights were out, but he could see by the glow of the monitors that Jack was in the throes of a nightmare. He pushed the call button to summon the nurse, but when O'Neill started to fight against something in his dreams, Daniel took action. He pulled the tape and his I.V. needle out of his arm and swung his legs off the bed. Then, by putting all his weight on his uninjured leg, he managed to hobble over to his friend's bedside. Daniel reached him just about the time Jack tried to sit up, fighting the restrictive wires and tubes, and he was able to catch him before something was pulled, jerked or ripped loose. He wrapped his arms around Jack's shoulders, holding him and talking softly to him, trying to calm Jack down. Finally the older man ceased his struggles. Daniel, and the nurse who had come at a run, was able to settle him back down into his bed.
"No, I'll stay here." Daniel had argued with the young woman. "I want to be able to reach him if it happens again." Finally she had acquiesced and pulled two chairs over to the bedside for him. One to sit in and one to prop his leg up on. Then she handed him the call button and left the two of them alone.
The next morning when O'Neill awoke he was still safe in his bed but Daniel was in a chair next to him, asleep with his leg's cast propped up on another chair. He was holding Jack's hand. Jack turned to look at his friend. "Danny."
The younger man blinked his eyes then looked at Jack, a warm smile lighting his expression. "Hi ya."
"Hi yourself." He indicated the young man's position and remembered why he was there. "Sorry."
"No problem." Daniel released his hand and stretched in the chair. "I've had a few nightmares myself. How are you feeling?"
"Better." He took inventory. "Not bad really. How's the leg?"
The young man scowled at the cast encasing his left leg. "Ligament damage. I hate casts."
Jack nodded. "Yeah, a real pain in the mikta. But otherwise?
"Not too bad, course I'm on Janet's happy pills."
A tap on the open door caught their attention. Fraiser entered the room and frowned at Jackson, shaking her head. "Daniel..."
He just smiled at her. The frown segued into a smile. She had heard all about the episode last night and really could not have expected Jackson to do anything but what he had done. She stepped over to O'Neill's bedside. "You look much better today." The doctor said encouragingly. "Ready to try some solid food and some company?
"Sure thing, Doc." He whispered his voice still weak. "So when can we blow this joint?" He knew it wouldn't be soon, but if he didn't start asking she'd think something was really wrong with him.
"Let's try something simple first, shall we, like sitting up in bed." She was relieved that he was beginning to act normal again. The heavy-duty sleep regime had been starting to worry her. She turned and helped Daniel back into his bed. As she adjusted the covers, she said in a low warning tone. "I know why you did this, but don't do it again. Okay."
He replied just as quietly, "Not unless I have to." They exchanged understanding looks.
"Okay, Colonel." The nurse had arrived and the Doctor pulled the curtain between the two men. "Let's get these bandages changed, and then you two can have some lunch.
Several hours later, General Hammond, Doctor Fraiser and the other two members of SG1 were gathered in the hospital room. Hammond wanted a very informal de-briefing with the team so that they could close the survey's paperwork. Carter and Teal'c were primarily responsible for the report. Daniel could talk, when necessary; and O'Neill was basically supposed to listen to his team's report, nod encouragingly and fall asleep, as needed.
"So Sir, the original indigenous inhabitants basically used the transplanted tribe's people as sacrifices to their native god. We were just considered an added bonus." Carter was speaking. "When Colonel O'Neill managed to kill the one man during their attack on us while we were still tied up, that increased his sacrificial value as a warrior."
"Indeed," Teal'c put in. "While I was rejected as a suitable sacrifice because of my mark of service to the Goa'uld. After I was rendered unconscious, I found myself and all of our equipment delivered back to the Stargate."
"Well, how did you manage to get Doctor Jackson away from village the first time when you all escaped?" General Hammond asked. "Wasn't that when he sustained the injury to his leg?"
Daniel listened curiously. He remembered the fight and being stabbed. But the next thing he knew Jack and Sam were treating his leg injury by the creek, then waking up in the cave the following morning.
"After the Colonel managed to free himself by breaking his bonds and cutting us down from the tree, Daniel was all ready pretty much unconscious from loss of blood and shock. Colonel O'Neill carried him several miles until we were safe enough to treat his injuries. Daniel woke when he pulled the knife out of his leg, at the stream." She paused and looked over at O'Neill. He looked uncomfortable and scowled at her. She grinned back. "Later, he found the cave and we rested. The next morning, the Colonel found water for us and killed a huge snake so that we could eat before we continued our escape attempt."
Daniel nodded, remembering his friends care of him. "After we ate and they readied my leg, Jack sent Sam on ahead to find the Stargate, or maybe Teal'c to help get me back. But when he heard the natives coming up behind us, Jack hid me and led them away to keep me safe. That's when he was recaptured."
O'Neill couldn't keep quiet any longer, he was getting embarrassed. "Oh for crying out loud, it wasn't such a big deal. If I hadn't fallen on my bum knee that wouldn't have happened."
Teal'c took up the tale. "When Majorcarter found me I was enroute back to the original village. We retraced our steps and located Danieljackson who was concerned that O'Neill had been recaptured. He continued onto the Stargate and we went on to the village where we located O'Neill. Unfortunately we were too late to prevent the ceremony, but we were able to extract him and return to the Stargate. Once there, we dialed home and returned."
"Daniel was the one who insisted on wrapping the Colonel in the sleeping bag to prevent his condition from deteriorating further." She smiled at her teammate. "I probably wouldn't have thought about it. I just wanted to get us home."
Hammond just shook his head in wonder. These people never ceased to amaze him. Their talent, courage, and skill were truly awe-inspiring. "Well people, once again, a job well done. Your team is, of course, on stand down until everyone is physically recovered. Those of you who can return to duty will do so just on an as needed basis." He stood up and looked over at his second in command. "Just take it easy, Jack. Don't rush anything."
He nodded his acquiescence. He might be able to get to a nice quiet lake and do some R and R fishing after all. Hell, they all deserved a little vacation. After General Hammond left, he motioned to Carter and Teal'c to stay. "Laid it on a little thick, don't cha think?"
Carter looked at him, mystified. "What?"
"Make me sound like some damn Rambo or something. Trying to ruin my reputation?"
Daniel just looked at him from the safety of his own bed. "Jack, give it up. Rambo is nothing compared to you guys."
Teal'c turned to Sam. "What is a Rambo?"
"He's a movie hero." She smiled at her boss. "What do you say, Colonel, Your house, Friday night?"
"As soon as I can escape from Frasier's clutches, you got a deal Carter. You bring the pizza and the beer, American beer this time. In fact invite the good Doctor and Cassie too. Maybe she'll let us out earlier."