“Unscheduled offworld activation!”

The announcement rang through the halls of the SGC and in General Jack O’Neill’s office. He looked up from his paperwork and grimaced as the speaker blared the message again. 

Was a team due to check in or return?  He didn’t remember seeing that on his daily schedule.  Searching the top of his desk for said schedule, he came up empty-handed.  A quick survey of his in-box produced the same result. 

Wait.  He had used a piece of paper to make that airplane while listening to someone in Pentagon scheduling rattle on about tomorrow’s top brass visit.  Reaching for his trash can, he discovered someone had emptied it.  On second thought, he was sure it was still on his desk—somewhere.

Meanwhile, a third message reminded him that someone was dialing in and he should probably go see who it was.  Which sounded a lot more exciting than reviewing files for the meeting with the brass.

He quickly left his office and headed down the stairs to the control room. 

Arriving at Walter’s side, he glanced over the tech’s shoulder.  “What’ve you got, Walter?”

“No IDC, yet, sir.  SGs 3 and 9 are offworld, but not due to check in until tomorrow.”

At that moment, Daniel Jackson came bounding up the stairs, coming to stand alongside Jack.

“Hey, Daniel.  What are you doin’ here?”

“Hey, Jack.  Just wanted to see who was dialing our gate.  SGs 3 and 9 aren’t due to check in yet, so—“

“How do you know that?”

“It was on this week’s schedule. Remember, we talked about it in Monday’s briefing?”

“Yes, Daniel, I remember Monday’s briefing,” Jack said with mock patience as he glared at Daniel.

“Receiving IDC, sir.  It’s the Tok’ra.” 

“We haven’t heard from them since Jacob died,” Daniel stated.

“Oy.”  It had only been a couple of months but it still hadn’t been long enough for Jack.

“Jack?”  The voice held some urgency and Jack saw that Daniel was looking at him with eyebrows raised.  “Don’t you think we should . . . “  Daniel’s hand turned in circles, index finger rotating as if that completed his sentence. 

“Oh, I suppose,” Jack replied with a sigh.  “Walter, open the iris.”

“Yes, sir.”  The reply was quick, as was Walter’s hand as he pressed it to the screen.

Metallic whirring accompanied the iris retraction, revealing the blue event horizon.  Several seconds ticked by and Jack exchanged a glance with Daniel.  Two figures suddenly emerged from the wormhole, taking two steps before coming to a stop facing the armed SFs. 

“I don’t believe it,” Daniel said as he stared at their visitors. 

“Well, there’s something I never thought we’d see again,” Jack stated.  “Just like a bad penny,” he muttered under his breath.

There on the ramp stood Anise.

Daniel and Walter both looked at Jack expectantly.  Jack rolled his eyes, then bent and grasped the microphone.  “Stand down.” 

The SFs relaxed and lowered their weapons as the visitors continued to stand on the ramp. As the wormhole shut down, Jack turned and headed for the stairs with Daniel on his heels.  They entered the gateroom, and, as Anise caught Jack’s eye, she dipped her head and began descending the ramp with her companion, a young man carrying a small leather case.

Jack noted that she hadn’t changed much--no signs of aging, which was to be expected he decided. Her sense of fashion hadn’t changed, either; she wore a tight-fitting leather skirt and low-cut leather top along with thigh-high boots.

“General O’Neill, Doctor Jackson, it is a pleasure to see you again,” her dual voice intoned.

“Yes, it’s always a pleasure, isn’t it, Daniel?” Jack turned slightly to look at his friend.

“Welcome to the SGC,” Daniel said, ignoring Jack.  “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you.”

“Yes, it has.  I have been doing research, which is why I have come.  May we continue our conversation in the briefing room?”

“If we must,” Jack replied.  “After you.”  He made a sweeping motion with his arm. 

She dipped her head again and began walking towards the stairs, followed by her companion.  As Jack fell in beside Daniel, he whispered, “Mark my words, this will not end well.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Everyone had taken seats around the briefing table--Anise and her companion on Jack’s left and Daniel on his right. 

“This is Paresh, my assistant,” Anise said.  “Paresh, this is General Jack O’Neill and Doctor Daniel Jackson.”

“I am pleased to finally meet you,” the young man added.  “I have heard much about you.”

“All good, I hope,” Jack commented with a smirk.

“What brings you to the SGC?” Daniel asked with a sideways glance at Jack.

“We have made what we believe is an important discovery and are in need of your assistance,” Anise replied, pinning Daniel with her gaze.

Jack looked from Anise to Daniel and back, not liking the implication of that request.  “What kind of assistance?” 

Her attention moved back to Jack. “Actually, it is Doctor Jackson’s help that we require.”

The anxiety that had begun when Jack had first realized who their visitor was quickly hitched up a notch at her statement.  His bad feeling was getting stronger.

“How can I help you?” Daniel asked.

“We have discovered some ruins that are Ancient in design.”

Jack watched Daniel’s eyebrows shoot upwards at that statement.  Anise turned to Paresh who was opening the case he had brought.  He pulled out a small device and handed it to Anise.  She took it and pressed a pad on the top.  A screen lit up, revealing a picture of some type of writing on what looked like stone.  She handed the screen across the table and Daniel reached for it, holding it reverently as he began scrutinizing it.

The briefing room remained silent while Daniel continued to examine the writing on the screen.  Until Jack couldn’t stand it anymore.  “Daniel?”

Daniel lifted his head and looked at Jack, eyes wide, as though he just realized Jack was there. 

“Care to share, Daniel?”

“Uh, well, it’s Ancient, but it’s a variation I’ve never seen.”

“Can you read it?” Anise asked.

“Maybe . . . some . . . a little.” 

The room went quiet again.  Jack’s glare was wasted as the other man had returned his attention to the screen.

“Well, what does it say?”

“I’m not really sure.  It talks about great power and something being hidden.  It’ll take some time to work it out.”  Daniel looked across at Anise.  “Have you been able to decipher any of it?”

“Very little.  That is why we are seeking your help—your expertise with Ancient is well-known.”

“This looks like only a portion of the entire text.  Have you brought the rest for me to look at?”

“No.  The writing covers an entire wall in the ruins.  We did not want to risk bringing images of the entire wall, for fear of what would happen if they fell into the wrong hands.”

“Oh?”  Jack was interested now.  “Why would someone be interested enough to steal it?”

“We are aware of the events that occurred on Dakara.  However, there are still goa’uld out there, Ba’al included, who are searching for other Ancient technology that would help them rebuild their power and possibly give them an advantage over all others.”

“And you think this writing describes Ancient weapons?”  Jack asked.

“Yes, we do.  We believe it is extremely urgent that we decipher this writing and locate any weapons or other technology before someone else finds it.”

“Well, I’m going to have to see more to be able to decipher it,” Daniel pointed out.

“Which is precisely why we wish for you to accompany us to the ruins.” 

There it was, Jack thought, the other shoe dropping.  It gave Jack some small satisfaction to have the Tok’ra—especially Anise—come running to them for help, or more precisely, Daniel’s help.  But at the same time, there was no way he was going to send Daniel offworld with this woman, treaty or no treaty.

“Daniel is pretty valuable to the SGC.  I don’t think we can spare him right now.”

“Jack?”  A glance at Daniel revealed pinched eyebrows and a set jaw.  Daniel wasn’t going to let this go easily.

“No, Daniel.”  Like that’s gonna work.

“Jack, this could really be important.”

“It’s always important, Daniel.  We need you here, so, no.”

“General O’Neill,” Anise interrupted, “The council feels this is most urgent and wishes to remind you of the treaty between our people.”

“Jack, there’s nothing urgent for me to work on here.  I think I should go.”

“Daniel, Carter’s off playing at Area 51 and Teal’c’s off working with Bra’tac getting the Jaffa organized.  And I have a big meeting with the brass tomorrow, which means SG-1 is unavailable.”

“Doctor Jackson will be well-protected while he is with us,” Anise placated.  “You need not send a team with him.”

“Not gonna happen.  Daniel’s not going anywhere without backup.”

“SG-7 is the next team in line for a mission—they could go with me,” Daniel suggested.

Jack suddenly wondered how they had gone from Daniel not going to deciding which team was going to accompany him.

“That would be acceptable, General.  But we must hurry.”  Anise didn’t give Jack time to disagree.  “How soon can you be ready to leave, Doctor Jackson?”

“Just give me a couple of hours to get some things wrapped up and I’ll be ready to go.”

“Now just hold on a minute,” Jack ordered.  When he had everyone’s attention, he turned to Daniel and saw the eagerness in his eyes.  He already knew what the answer would be but he asked the question anyway, hoping Daniel would at least take a minute to think it over.  “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes, Jack.”  The answer came without hesitation.  So much for thinking it over.  Daniel continued, “We need to figure this out before one of the goa’uld becomes aware of it.”

Daniel paused, seeing the concern etched on Jack’s face.  “I’ll be fine, Jack.”

Jack sighed deeply and looked from Daniel to Anise. He knew what the answer would be if they took this to his superiors; with the prospect of more Ancient weapons looming, they wouldn’t be able to get Daniel through the gate fast enough.  He was stuck.   “All right.  Daniel can go with you, accompanied by SG-7.  But I’m only gonna say this once—he’d better come back in perfect health or you can kiss that treaty goodbye.”

Anise looked suitably chastised.  “You have my word, General.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Stepping to the doorway of the room, Jack silently observed the man who was stuffing books into his pack like a kid who was just told he was going to Disneyland.  Jack had tried to think of an argument that would keep Daniel here, but none of his ideas sounded convincing, even to himself. 

Jack always worried about his team—and they were still his team, even if he wasn’t going through the gate with them anymore—whenever they went offworld without him.  And now, not only was Daniel going through the gate without him, he was going without the rest of SG-1, too.  He really had a bad feeling about this.  There was just one argument he hadn’t ruled out and it was time to give it a shot.

He strode nonchalantly into the room and stopped next to Daniel’s desk.

“Daniel.”

Daniel paused in his packing and looked up.  “Hey, Jack.  Almost ready.”  He went back to organizing his pack, sticking some power bars into one pocket.

“Uh, Daniel.”  Daniel looked up at him but didn’t stop his packing.  Jack forged ahead.  “Are you sure you want to go off with her?  Alone?”

Daniel did stop then and gave Jack his full attention, so Jack continued.  “You know, seeing how the snake has a ‘thing’ for you?”

Daniel’s eyebrows climbed past the rim of his glasses.  “A ‘thing’?”

“Yeah, you know—the ‘hots’?”

Daniel’s face twisted into a grimace.  “I’d forgotten about that.”  He paused.  “That’s just . . . disturbing.”

“I know!” Jack agreed.

“Thanks for reminding me, but I’m still going.”  Daniel returned to his packing.

“Well, you can’t blame me for trying.”

Jack could see Daniel trying to suppress a smile.  Securing the closures on his pack, he faced Jack again.

“I’ll be fine, Jack.  SG-7 will be with me.  If there really are more Ancient weapons out there, we need to find them before the goa’uld do.”

“I know,” Jack agreed softly.  “I just wish SG-1 were going with you and the Tok’ra weren’t.”

Daniel placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder.  “So do I.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A short time later Jack and Daniel were standing at the foot of the gate ramp, along with Anise, Paresh, and SG-7.  The seventh chevron locked into place and the liquid cloud whooshed outward from the gate, settling into the rippling event horizon.

“Well, you kids behave yourselves and don’t forget to call home,” Jack said.

“I didn’t realize we were going to summer camp, Jack,” Daniel replied with a smirk.

“Playing in some ruins is probably like going to camp for you, Daniel,” Jack retorted.  Turning to the leader of SG-7, he instructed, “Major, check in is in twenty-four hours—don’t be late.”

“Yes, sir,” Major McKenna responded.  

The members of SG-7 moved into position, surrounding Daniel and he glanced back to see Jack smiling.   

“Hey, Doctor J,” Lieutenant Carson said as he took his place beside Daniel, “We’ve got your six.” 

And apparently my three and nine as well, Daniel thought looking at his escort.  This was definitely Jack’s doing.  “Hi, Luke, it’s good to have you along.” 

“Lookin’ forward to it,” the lieutenant replied with a smile. 

“Let’s move out,” Major McKenna ordered, moving into position in front of Daniel. 

Jack watched as Anise and Paresh led the way, followed by McKenna, Daniel and SG-7.  Just before stepping through the gate, Daniel turned and gave a nod of his head to Jack.  Then they were gone and the gate shut down, leaving the room silent.   Jack continued to stare at the inactive gate for a few seconds, remembering the private conversation he’d had with Major McKenna.  Do not, under any circumstances, leave Daniel alone, even for a second.  At the first sign of trouble, yank him out of there—and be prepared for a fight if you do.  And don’t trust the Tok’ra.  Other instructions had been given, but those were the most important.  Jack turned and headed for his office, wishing he were going with Daniel instead of preparing for tomorrow’s meeting.  Sometimes being “the man” sucked.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Daniel stepped out of the gate into bright sunshine.  Lifting a hand to shade his eyes, he scanned his surroundings. 

The gate sat on a stone platform in a clearing in the midst of a dense green forest.  The air was warm and carried the pungent smell of mossy earth and decaying wood.  Insects buzzed the air and colorful birds flitted from tree to tree. 

He breathed deeply, savoring the feeling of traveling through the gate to explore.  They weren’t here to fight the goa’uld or the replicators; they were here to decipher an ancient language and unlock its secrets.  How long had it been since he had done that?  Too long.  And yes, it might lead to Ancient weapons but he tried not to focus on that—he preferred to think of being able to work at his leisure, not under impossible time constraints to finish.  Well, except for the fact that Jack had given him five days.  But, if he was making progress he knew he’d be able to talk Jack into extending the deadline. 

SG-7 exited the gate behind him, weapons raised.  The two Tok’ra had stopped at the base of the gate platform.  Anise held her hand up, signaling for the rest of them to stop. She announced to the forest, “This is Anise.  We have returned from Earth—our mission was successful.  It is safe to show yourselves.”

Movement in the trees caught Daniel’s attention and he watched as four Tok’ra—spread evenly around the gate—revealed themselves.  They stood facing the travelers, zats raised. 

Anise turned to SG-7’s leader.  “Major McKenna, please ask your men to lower their weapons.” 

Major McKenna shifted uncomfortably, looking over the Tok’ra facing them. Daniel could tell he was reluctant to do so.  This wasn’t getting them off on the right foot.

“Please Major, they’re our allies,” Daniel urged. 

Major McKenna glanced at Daniel, then turned to his men.  “Lower your weapons.”

SG-7 did as ordered and the Tok’ra followed suit, putting away their zats before moving to join the group at the gate.  Daniel inwardly breathed a sigh of relief.  He hoped things wouldn’t be this tense the entire time they were working here. 

“You must be Doctor Jackson,” one of the new Tok’ra said.  He looked like a man in his early thirties (who knew how old he really was, thanks to the symbiote), with light brown hair and green eyes. 

“Yes, I am,” Daniel replied, extending his hand.

The Tok’ra grasped it, smiling.  “I am Trovahn.  I have admired your work for quite some time and am pleased you have come to lend your expertise.” 

“Thank you.  I’m happy to be here.  I hope I can be of help to you.”

“It is getting late and we have some distance to travel to reach the ruins.”  Anise had told them it was about a two hour walk from the gate. 

Daniel searched for a path and spotted a narrow dirt trail leading away from the gate before becoming lost in the trees.  It appeared to be the only one, and looked as though they would be lucky to be able to walk two abreast. 

They organized themselves so there were two Tok’ra in the lead, followed by Major McKenna and Lieutenant Roth.  Anise and Daniel were next, followed by rest of the Tok’ra and the other two members of SG-7. 

Daniel clipped his sunglasses on and adjusted his pack.  He was already sweating in the brilliant sunshine before they’d even begun walking.  The travelers headed down the path, conversation minimal as each concentrated on their footing—avoiding the numerous tree roots covering the trail. 

A few minutes into their hike, the path began winding through an area strewn with large boulders.  As Daniel reached out to steady himself, the unmistakable sound of zats firing filled the air.  He reached for his sidearm as he dove to the ground, scrambling behind a boulder where he was joined by Major McKenna. 

Daniel searched the area, seeing Griffen and Matthews unconscious on the path.  Lieutenant Carson had taken cover behind the boulder next to them. 

“Lieutenant,” McKenna called out, “get Doctor Jackson back to the gate.”

“No!  I’m not leaving,” Daniel countered. 

“General O’Neill gave me specific orders,” McKenna said as he fired at whoever was shooting at them from the boulders on the opposite side of the path. 

“I don’t care,” Daniel continued to resist.  He had lost track of Anise and the rest of their Tok’ra escort. Who the hell was shooting at them?  Who even knew they were here?

Suddenly, zats sounded from behind him and Daniel watched as McKenna was enveloped by the familiar blue electrical charge, dropping him to the ground.  Turning quickly, Daniel saw three Tok’ra facing him, zats raised.  A sideways glance revealed Carson had also been felled.

“You are surrounded, Doctor Jackson,” Anise’s voice sounded as she stepped from behind the boulder.  “Drop the weapon.”  Trovahn and another Tok’ra stepped around the boulder to join her. 

 He slowly rose, weapon still in hand, and turned to Anise.  “What’s going on?”

“I am sorry, Doctor Jackson.  We need you and this was the only way we could get you alone.”

“I’ve already agreed to help you.  Why do you need me alone?  SG-7 wouldn’t have interfered with our work.”

“I am afraid they would have interfered when they discovered our work does not involve translations.”

Daniel was really confused now.  They weren’t working on translations?  “What are we working on?”

“It will all be explained when we reach our destination.  Please, give your weapon to Trovahn.” 

Oh, this was so not good.  “Uh, I think I’d like to hang on to it until I get some answers.” 

“We do not have time for this,” Anise continued.  “All will be explained to you, but now we must go.” 

Trovahn stepped closer to Daniel and reached out for the weapon.  “You are outnumbered—please hand it over.”

Six zats were trained on him.  He might be able to take out one or two of them, but not all.  And did he really want to kill them?  Choose your battles.  They hadn’t hurt him--yet--so there was always the chance he could talk his way out of this at some point.  Knowing he didn’t have much choice, he reluctantly held his weapon out and let Trovahn take it from him. 

“Thank you, Doctor Jackson,” Anise said.  “Now, please, let us return to the stargate.”

The gate?  Then they weren’t going to stay on this planet.  He knew that would make it next to impossible for the SGC to find him.  Where were they going?  What did they need him for that they didn’t want the SGC to know about?  The situation was getting worse by the minute. 

Four Tok’ra surrounded him, zats still trained on him, and urged him to start walking.  As they stepped back onto the path, he saw four more Tok’ra, two of whom were working on securing the hands of the unconscious members of SG-7.  The other two headed toward McKenna and Carson. 

“What are you going to do with SG-7?” 

“They will be left where your people can find them.”    

Daniel stopped suddenly.  “You’re leaving them here?  Something might happen to them.  Wild animals or—“

“They will be protected from harm,” Anise interrupted him.  “We must hurry—keep moving.”

One guard grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him back in the direction they had been going, giving him a shove.  With a last glance back at the men who were being left behind, Daniel resumed his trek back to the gate.

In a few minutes they reached the clearing where the stargate sat.  Anise stopped the group in front of the DHD.  She turned and faced Daniel, giving orders to his guards.  “Prepare him.”

That didn’t sound good and Daniel lashed out at the guard who moved close to him, knocking the zat out of his hand.  Before Daniel could strike again, a blow to the back of his head sent him to his knees.  Hands grabbed his arms and pulled him upright again.

“Please do not make this more difficult,” Anise pleaded, looking truly distressed.

Daniel rubbed the back of his head while other hands searched him, removing his GDO, radio, knife, and finally his pack. 

“Maybe if you’d tell me what’s going on,” he said angrily.

“In due time.”  She turned away from him and faced the gate.

The hands searching him grasped his wrists and pulled them behind his back.  He felt metal snap around them, securing them in place.  Next, his glasses were removed and a piece of cloth covered his eyes and was secured at the back of his head.  Panic flared briefly in his chest.  Now even he wouldn’t know where he was.  How had a simple request for help from an ally turned into a kidnapping?  And how could he stop them from taking him through the gate? 

“You’re jeopardizing our treaty,” he warned.

There was no response as he heard the DHD symbols being pressed and the ring begin to turn. 

“Anise, it’s not too late.  Let me go and we can still talk about this.”

His words were ignored again.  The gate finished locking and Daniel heard the familiar whoosh of the wormhole connecting.  Hands latched on to his upper arms and he was led up the steps and into the unknown.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Daniel felt off-balance as he exited the wormhole.  Blindfolded and without the use of his arms, he stumbled and would have fallen but the hands gripping him steadied him and prevented it.

Guided down the steps, Daniel was then pulled forward.  Evidently, he wasn’t going to be allowed to see his surroundings since no one removed the blindfold.  The path beneath his feet was fairly smooth—possibly dirt—and he was able to walk at a decent pace with only a couple of stumbles.  Occasionally, the path rose and fell over small hills.  The sun beat warmly down, only rarely obscured by what Daniel assumed were trees.

He couldn’t tell how much time had passed, but eventually he was guided down a somewhat steeper path that ended in complete shade.  Here the group stopped and he heard a scraping sound.    

Daniel was pushed forward again into cooler air and onto a floor that was hard and smooth like stone.  The blindfold was suddenly pulled away and he blinked until his eyes adjusted to the light.  He glanced around at the familiar crystal walls of a Tok’ra tunnel.

“This way,” Anise directed. 

Hands still bound, Daniel followed her through the tunnel, guards still surrounding him.  They passed a couple of connecting tunnels, but overall, the place seemed small.  Definitely not like the large complexes on Vorash and Ravanna.  He only saw two other Tok’ra on their trek, making him wonder where everyone was. 

After a very short walk, the group stopped at the entrance to a small room.  Daniel was guided inside, and while three of the guards stood with zats aimed at him, the fourth released his bound hands. 

“You may rest here for awhile.  I will send someone for you when we are ready to talk with you.”  Anise’s voice had changed—it was human.  This was the host, Freya. 

“Can’t you tell me what’s going on?”

“All will be explained shortly.  I am sorry you must wait.  Please know that this is very important, Doctor Jackson.  We do need your help.” She turned and moved back to the doorway.  “I will have some food sent to you.” 

“Wait—“

But she had already left the room.  Cell, actually, he thought.  Might as well call it what it is.  The guards outside the door pressed a control and Daniel saw the shimmer of a force field fill the doorway.

Turning back to the room, he saw there was a small sleeping platform against one wall and a small, round table with a single chair against another.  He dropped down on the cot, rubbing his sore wrists, and tried to figure out what the Tok’ra could possibly want that would make them go to such lengths to get him alone.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Daniel still had his watch and was able to see that an hour had passed since he’d been brought to this room—cell—whatever.  A half hour had gone by since they’d brought him a plate of food and some water.  Between the hike from the gate and the time he’d been in his cell, he’d had plenty of time to contemplate why he’d been kidnapped.  He knew it must be pretty important to the Tok’ra if they were willing to risk their treaty with Earth. 

But what did they want him for if not to translate?  They had access to all of the SGC’s mission reports and had been brought up-to-date on current events when Jacob died.  So, he couldn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know.  Unless . . .   What if they thought he could tell them more?  An uneasiness began to settle over him.

Just then, Anise appeared in the doorway.  “Doctor Jackson, we are ready for you.”  The voice indicated that the symbiote was back.

The force field on the doorway lifted and the guards in the hall raised their zats and aimed them at him.  “Please come with me.”

Daniel knew it wouldn’t do much good to resist; the only way he was going to get answers was to go talk with the Council.  He moved towards the door and a guard held out what looked like a pair of silver bracelets. 

“That’s not necessary,” he said, stiffening.  

Anise looked at him earnestly.  “Will you cooperate?”

“I give you my word,” he replied, hoping this meant he would remain free.

Anise began to smile, but quickly sobered.  “Very well.  Those won’t be needed, Alevron.”

The guard glanced from Anise to Daniel and back, his lips parting as though he wanted to protest.  Instead, he put the cuffs away without a word and stepped aside so Daniel could pass.  It was then Daniel realized this was the guard he had punched.

Anise led the way, Daniel surrounded by guards, and they quickly arrived at another room.  Daniel expected to see a large meeting room like the one on Ravanna, but instead found himself in a much smaller space.  There was an average-size round table in the center of the room, with eight chairs spaced around it.  Four of those chairs were occupied by Tok’ra, the rest empty.  Daniel began to wonder if the Tok’ra population was decreasing faster than they had thought.  He recognized two of the Tok’ra, Paresh and Trovahn, but not the other two—a man with brown hair and eyes who looked to be in his forties, and a woman with dark hair and green eyes, probably in her thirties.  Anise indicated Daniel should sit and took the chair next to him.

The Tok’ra he didn’t know spoke.  “I am Gairven and this is Melaina.  It is good to finally meet you, Doctor Jackson.”

“Well, I would say the same if I hadn’t been kidnapped and brought here against my will.”

“We are sorry for that,” Gairven said, “but we could not take the chance that someone would find this place.”

“Earth is your ally.”  Daniel’s frustration seeped into his words.  “Why does the High Council need to hide from us?”

The other Tok’ra glanced uncomfortably at each other, but Gairven continued to hold Daniel’s gaze as he answered.  “Because we are not the High Council.” 

“Excuse me?”  What the heck was going on?

“We are a group of mostly scientists working without the knowledge or approval of the High Council.”

Renegade Tok’ra?  Daniel’s gut clenched.  What was their agenda?  Why would they feel the need to conceal their activities from the High Council?  And why did they need him?

“What do you want?” he asked warily.

Anise took over from Gairven.  “We have been quite interested in events that have taken place over the past two years, since your return to human form.”

There was no question in Daniel’s mind where this was leading.  General Hammond had managed to put a stop to Area 51’s demands that they get a chance to “study” him after his first return from the higher plane with a well-placed call to the President.  Jack had done the same after his second, more recent return.  If his own people wanted to study him, he shouldn’t be surprised that the Tok’ra did, too.

Only they weren’t making a request.  A secret faction had kidnapped him and taken him God knew where, and he had a feeling they weren’t going to settle for asking him a few questions.  They probably weren’t going to take “I don’t remember” for an answer and just send him on his way.  These were scientists; they arrived at answers by study and experimentation. 

He had to put a stop to this—there was no way he was going to let them poke around in his brain and possibly succeed in gaining access to Ancient knowledge, if there was any there for them to find. 

“If you’ve read the reports you know I can’t remember anything from when I was ascended.”

“That is what you have stated officially,” Anise stressed the word, “but we know you have, on occasion, been able to access that knowledge.  You remembered the location of Bra’tac and Ry’ac and aided in their rescue.  You were also able to stop the replicators while one of the human form replicators probed your mind.”

“Those were unusual situations.  I can’t just tap into a well of Ancient knowledge whenever I feel like it.”

“As we understand it, the second time you descended, you returned to human form of your own volition.  You were not sent back by the Others and did not have your memory erased.  We believe you still hold that knowledge and, with our help, it can be accessed.”

Damn.  They had read the SGC reports.  The last thing he wanted was for someone—anyone—to be able to tap into the knowledge of the Ancients.  He didn’t trust anyone, Earth or the Tok’ra, to use that knowledge wisely.  And he wasn’t sure what would happen to him if the knowledge were released.  Thoughts of Jack slowly deteriorating as the Ancient knowledge overwrote his brain flashed through his mind.  Not something he wanted to experience personally.

“What if I say no?”

The Tok’ra fidgeted uncomfortably again.  Anise reached over and placed a hand on his arm, but it was Freya’s voice that spoke.  “Doctor Jackson, I cannot stress how important this is.  The victory at Dakara did not rid the galaxy of the goa’uld.  There are still some out there and we must do whatever we can to protect ourselves and to prevent them from rebuilding their power.  Please, you must help us.”

Daniel took a deep, calming breath.  How could he get them to understand?  “The power of the Ancients is too great for anyone—human or Tok’ra—to handle.  We don’t need it to defeat the remaining goa’uld.  Their power has been greatly diminished and they have lost their Jaffa armies.  Don’t ask me to do this.”

The room was silent for a few seconds before Gairven spoke.  “I am sorry, Doctor Jackson, but we do not agree.  We were hoping you would help us willingly, but your consent is not required.  Trovahn, is everything ready?”

“It is.”

“Then take Doctor Jackson and prepare him immediately.”

His plea had fallen on deaf ears—he was out of options.  He didn’t know what they had in mind, but he didn’t want any part of it.  Trovahn and  Paresh left their seats and moved around the table towards him.  Daniel glanced at Anise—Freya—whoever, and saw the sad, resigned look in her eyes.  He would get no support from her.

There was obviously a small number of Tok’ra here.  That meant there was a chance—a slim one—that he could get away and make it back to the gate.  It was worth a try.  Before Trovahn and Paresh could take hold of him, he jumped up, picking up his chair and tossing it at Trovahn, who was closest.  He dove for the door and headed into the hallway, surprising the guard standing outside.  The man reached for his zat, but Daniel was quicker, swinging his right fist at the man’s jaw.  The blow knocked the Tok’ra to the floor and Daniel took off down the hall, the sound of footsteps following him.

He turned a corner and continued running, passing a couple of startled Tok’ra along the way.  Turning another corner, he came face to face with two Tok’ra, zats aimed straight at him.  He lifted his hands in surrender just as a stream of blue energy enveloped him.  He didn’t feel the impact as his limp body hit the floor.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

His head felt fuzzy and there was a dull throb behind his eyes.  Sounds began to filter through the haze and he was soon able to distinguish them as voices.  Daniel decided to risk opening his eyes, shutting them tightly as light sent spikes of pain through his head.  He tried again, more slowly, and was able to distinguish a plain, bare wall in front of him.  He also determined that he was sitting upright.  Starting to turn his head to scan his surroundings, he discovered he couldn’t move it.  Panicking, he tried to move his arms and legs, finding he was totally immobilized.

A face leaned into his field of vision—it was Anise.

“Doctor Jackson?  How are you feeling?”

“Peachy.  What’s going on?”  He tried to keep his voice steady.

“We are ready to begin our first attempt at accessing the Ancient knowledge.”

Daniel felt her press something against his temple and push; he flinched as it sent a jab of pain through his head.  A memory device.

“Don’t do this.”  He tried to move against his restraints, but they held him fast.

“You have experienced the memory device before so you are familiar with how it works,” she continued, ignoring his plea.  “We will begin at a low setting.”

Anise touched the control device to the disk on his temple and he stiffened. A screen was rolled in front of him showing what looked like static on a TV screen.  The lines of static began to jump around and Daniel focused all of his attention on clearing his mind. 

“What do you remember of the accident on Kelowna?”  Gairven’s voice was at his ear.

A quick flash of Jonas’ face appeared on the screen and disappeared, followed by another flash of the window breaking as he hurled himself through it.  That too faded, leaving the screen in static again as Daniel concentrated harder.

“What did you feel when you were dying of radiation poisoning?”

Daniel’s breathing sped up as faint images appeared on the screen and began to sharpen:  Janet’s face leaning over him, whispering words of comfort, a nurse with a roll of bandages, Sam crying, Jack sitting with his head in his hand.   He worked on slowing his breathing, not letting his mind wander from the images of his friends’ faces, drawing strength from thoughts of their friendship.

“Was there much pain?”

He continued to focus on his friends, trying to avoid thinking about the horrible pain he had felt.  He knew they were trying to find something that would break down his defenses.  Slowly, pain did begin to form, starting in his center and radiating out through his arms and legs, intensifying.  It was like experiencing his death all over again.  He knew he couldn’t take this for long.

“What did you feel when your body became energy?”

An image of Jack flashed on the screen, his voice soft, “Jacob, stop.”  Panting with the pain, Daniel forced his mind to think of Jack:  Jack fishing, Jack watching hockey, Jack playing with his artifacts.  The images created a slide show on the screen.  The pain began to ease, but his body continued to tingle with pins and needles.

“This is not effective,” Gairven stated.  “His mind is too strong.  Increase the intensity two levels.”

Anise looked from Daniel to Gairven and back, hesitating briefly before touching the control to the disk on his temple.  A buzzing filled his ears and he tried to stay focused.

“What did you see when your body ascended?”

Sweat began to run down his face and neck and his body quivered as he strained to resist focusing on the question, instead keeping images of Jack in his mind.

“Did you see Oma Desala?”

The screen flickered but the images of Jack remained. Jack eating pie, Jack walking up the ramp to the gate.

“Did you meet other ascended?”

Daniel knew he needed to find another way to resist.  He began to mentally review the meditation steps Teal’c had taught him, hoping to relax his body while staying in control.

As he calmed himself, the screen began to settle into a plain, gray fuzz.

“What happened?” Gairven asked.

“I’m not sure,” Trovahn replied. 

“His vital signs are slowing,” he heard Paresh add.

“He is using a technique to calm himself, much like kel’no’reem,” Anise said.

“All right, let us introduce another stimulus,” Gairven directed. 

“Gairven, maybe we should let him rest for awhile and make another attempt later,” Anise suggested. 

“No, we must try now.  You know that we could be discovered at any moment.  The High Council will be searching as soon as they realize all of us are gone.  And when their people do not check in, the Tau’ri will discover the deception and will stop at nothing to get Doctor Jackson back,” Gairven reasoned.  “They will look on us move favorably if we are able to provide them with important Ancient knowledge.”  

Trovahn stepped up to Daniel and pulled the neck of his t-shirt down, pressing a small, round disk to is chest.  Another was pressed to the temple opposite the memory device. 

Trovahn moved away and Anise stepped close to Daniel so that she was looking him in the eye.  She placed a hand on his cheek.  “I am sorry, Doct—Daniel.”

“Please . . .  help me,” he whispered in a voice ragged with pain.

She shook her head.  “I can’t.  Just give them what they want and this will all be over.”

A tear trickled from his eye and she reached out with her finger, tenderly wiping it away.  “I’m sorry,” she repeated before moving out of his line of sight.

“Everyone clear?  All right, begin,” Gairven directed.

Pain like white-hot fire seized his body and he jerked in his restraints, a scream ripping from him before he lost consciousness. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Morning, Walter.”  Jack was met by the sergeant as he climbed the stairs to the briefing room.  He’d already been at the SGC for several hours, but had yet to make it to his office. 

“Morning, sir.”

“It’s an exciting day, Walter.”

“It is, sir?”

“Oh, yes.  A big meeting with the Washington big wigs.  What could be more exciting?”

“Uh, I don’t know, sir.”

They reached the briefing room and Jack headed for his office.  “Then you need to get out more, sergeant.” 

Walter stopped walking.  “Yes, sir, I mean . . . yes, sir.  Oh, there’s someone waiting for you in—“

As Jack reached his door, a figure stepped into view.

“General Hammond!”

“Hello, Jack.”

“I didn’t expect to see you until the meeting, sir.  You’re here early.”

“Yes, I am.  I have something I want to discuss with you before the meeting.”

The pleasant expression that had graced the general’s face shifted, becoming more serious. 

“Okay, have a seat.”  Jack closed the door and took his own seat behind the desk.  It struck him how odd it was to be on this side and Hammond on the other.  How many times had they been here, roles reversed?

Hammond sat down, leaning slightly forward, contributing to the sense of seriousness in the air.

“Jack, I’m going to lay it out for you.  At the meeting this afternoon, a reassignment of personnel is going to be discussed.”

Ah, oh.  That didn’t sound good.  Jack braced himself for Hammond’s next words.

“The Pentagon and the IOA agree that they would like to see Colonel Carter stay on at Area 51.  They believe that, with the goa’uld threat pretty much eliminated, her expertise would be put to better use in research.”

“What about SG-1?  She’s still the team leader.”

Hammond looked as though he was about to deliver more bad news.  “It’s not just Colonel Carter, Jack.  They want to reassign Doctor Jackson, too.  You know he put in a request to go to Atlantis.”

Yeah, he did.  And he had been pretty pissed about it.  But he knew how important this was to Daniel, and he wouldn’t stand in his way.  “Yes, sir, I’m aware of that.  And I also know Teal’c plans to spend most of his time getting the Jaffa nation on its feet.”

Jack felt a now familiar twinge of sadness at the thought of his teammates going their separate ways.  Even though he no longer went through the gate with them, there was something comforting about knowing the rest of them were still a team and were still going through the gate.

Hammond shifted, leaning even closer to the desk.  “That’s not all, Jack.”

He searched Hammond’s face, trying to figure out how bad this was going to be.  But he was patient and waited for the general to continue.

“The President has asked me to leave the position of Head of Homeworld Security and become a special advisor to him.”

Now he couldn’t keep quiet.  “But, general, we need you there—the SGC needs someone who will look after their (its) interests in Washington.”

“I agree, and so does the President.”

Jack didn’t see how that would be possible without Hammond.  “But—“

Hammond held up a hand to cut him off.  “That’s why we have chosen you to take over the position.” 

Jack couldn’t finish his sentence and was having trouble forming a new one.  They wanted him to be Head of Homeworld Security?  That would mean leaving the SGC, leaving his team, and going to Washington.  He was just getting the hang of being “the man” at the SGC; how could he be “the man” at Homeland Security?  “They actually want me?”

“It was my recommendation.  In fact, my one stipulation for leaving the post was that you would be my replacement.  The President was in agreement.”

“Really—he was?”

Hammond chuckled then.  “Yes, Jack, he was.  You know this place and these people better than anyone and that’s who we need in Washington looking out for them.”

Jack pursed his lips as he considered what this would mean.  Could he leave his team?  Of course, Hammond had just said they would all be moving on to new projects.  Maybe it was time he did, too.  But who would run the SGC?  If they didn’t pick the right person, things could fall apart, just like they had under General Bauer.

“Have they chosen someone to run the SGC?”

“No, that will be your job.  To be approved by the President and the IOA, of course.  Does this mean you’ll take the job?”

Did it?  He needed a little time to think it through.  “I’d like to give it some thought.  You know, sleep on it, mull it over, run it up the flagpole and—“

“I get it, Jack.”  Hammond cut him off.

“How long do I have to decide?”

“A couple of days.  The IOA isn’t exactly a patient group.”

“Oookay.  I’ll let you know.  And General, thanks for the heads up.”

“Anytime, Jack.”

Glancing at the clock, Jack said, “It’s almost time for Daniel and SG-7 to check in.  Wanna come down and say ‘hello’?”

“I’d like that.  I miss seeing everyone here.”

They left Jack’s office and headed for the control room.  Walter greeted them.  “General Hammond, it’s good to have you here, sir.”

“Thank you.  It’s good to be here.”

Jack glanced at his watch—a couple of minutes past check-in.  No big deal.

The two generals continued to stand, watching the big ring below—the big, silent ring.  Normal activity continued in the control room, with Walter giving them an occasional sideways glance.

Ten minutes came and went and still the gate remained quiet.  Jack exchanged looks with Hammond, and he suddenly felt a pang of remorse for all the times the general had had to wait on SG-1 to check-in. 

“Give them a few minutes, Jack,” General Hammond said quietly.

Another five minutes was all Jack could take.  He knew Major McKenna wouldn’t miss a check-in—even by a few minutes--and risk Jack’s wrath, unless something was preventing him from doing so.

“Walter, dial it up.”

“Yes, sir.”  The sergeant began the dialing sequence while Jack stood trying to keep from thinking the worst.

The wormhole engaged and Walter made the radio call.  “This is Stargate Command calling Doctor Jackson and SG-7.  Please respond.”

Silence.  Walter made another request for contact but the radio remained silent.  A third call was made with the same result.

“Shut it down, Sergeant, and get SG-3 up here ASAP.  Tell Reynolds that I want to talk to him.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Walter—“

“I’ll contact Colonel Carter and Teal’c, sir.”

Tight-lipped, Jack dipped his head in appreciation before he and Hammond headed for the stairs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

His entire body ached, muscles too sore to move, and his head felt like it was in a vise. 

Daniel slowly opened his eyes, blinking until they adjusted to the light. 

“How are you feeling?”

Daniel turned his head towards the voice, happy to find he could move it, and found himself looking at Anise’s concerned face.  But the voice had been human, which meant this was Freya.

“Been better.”  His own voice was raspy, his throat dry.

“Here.”  Freya held a cup and slipped a hand beneath his head to help him lift it.  He took a sip, then another longer drink before putting his head back down.

He could tell he was back in his cell, but was relieved to find he was unrestrained.  Which was a moot point since he hurt too much to move.  And why was that?

“What happened?”  His voice sounded only slightly better.

“There was a malfunction.”  Anise was back.  “The equipment issued a much stronger charge than it should have.  I am sorry.”

“Yeah, well, that’s comforting.  I didn’t know the Tok’ra were into torture.”

“They were trying to find a way to break through to your subconscious.  I believe this knowledge could be very valuable but I do not agree with some of their methods.  I am truly sorry for what has happened.”

“Then help me get out of here, or contact the SGC.”

“I cannot.  I would be stopped before I could reach the gate.”

Daniel knew there was no way he could make it to the gate—he didn’t think he could even get up from the platform he was lying on.  The vise around his head tightened, making it throb.  He closed his eyes, too tired to argue.  A shiver ran through his limbs and he felt a blanket pulled up to his chin and a hand gently grasp his arm.

“It is a residual effect from the device.  It will not last.”

“Don’t . . .  let them use it again,” he pleaded, eyes still closed.

“They are going to try another method.  Please don’t try to resist.  Let them in—let them have what they’re looking for and they will let you go.”

“Please . . . no . . . “  He didn’t think he could take much more, didn’t know how he could stop them from gaining access to the Ancient knowledge.

“I won’t let them go too far—I promise.”

He felt soft lips press a kiss to his forehead before he lost the battle to stay awake.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The air in the SGC briefing room was full of tension. 

Jack sat at the head of the table, Hammond, Sam and Teal’c on his left and Colonel Reynolds and Major McKenna on his right.  Walter’s calls had brought Sam and Teal’c back before SG-5 had even returned from the planet.

They had sent a MALP first, then Reynolds had led SG-3 through the gate.  Eventually, they had discovered SG-7 inside a containment field a short distance down a rough path leading from the gate.

SG-7, hands bound, was unhurt and the control for the containment field had been left in plain sight just outside the field, along with the team’s packs and radios.  They hadn’t seen who attacked them, but Jack was getting a clear picture of the Tok’ra being their main suspects.  The only thing missing had been Daniel, and what the Tok’ra wanted with him that required this elaborate set-up, Jack couldn’t guess.  Actually, there was one other thing they didn’t have—a gate address to wherever they’d taken Daniel.

The silence that had fallen over the room was broken by the blaring announcement of another unscheduled offworld activation.  Jack leapt from his chair and headed for the stairs, followed closely by Sam and Teal’c.  Everyone else left the table and moved to the window, looking down on the gateroom as SFs filed in, taking positions around the room, weapons raised.

As Jack, Sam, and Teal’c reached the control room, Walter called out, “It’s the Tok’ra, sir.” 

Jack didn’t hesitate.  “Open the iris.”

Relief that this might be Daniel returning was tempered by the fear that something had happened to him and this was just the Tok’ra bringing the bad news. When did they ever bring good news?

The iris opened and everyone waited anxiously for someone to come through.  Then the event horizon rippled as two figures emerged, took a few steps on to the ramp and stopped, looking upward to the control room. 

Two Tok’ra.  And neither of them was Anise.  Jack’s heart plummeted to his shoes.  He collected himself and managed to announce, “Stand down,” before heading for the gate room.

part 2

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