The Mercy of Mot

by Denny J

The brush stroked gently across its surface, freeing the vessel from the dust of centuries.  Carefully, he lifted it from its resting place and held it up to the light.  It was a simple shape, made for everyday use, one line of decorative forms encircling its rim.  It could have been someone’s drinking cup, a small bowl for soup, or any number of other possibilities.  He thought back to a similar vessel sitting on a shelf in his office.  It was also of simple design, but it had held the shared drink of two newly-wedded people.

Who had this cup belonged to?  Was this all that remained of someone’s life?  All there was to mark their passing through this world?  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.   Grant me a place in your blessed dwelling.  

His throat tightened and his eyes began to water.  Damned allergies.  He swiped a hand acrosshis eyes and continued to gently turn the piece of pottery in his hands.

“You gonna add that to the box, or are you gonna make love to it?”

Comfort, Jack O’Neill style, meaning sarcasm and snide remarks.

“Funny, Jack.”

“Well, you know, just wanted to give you some privacy if you needed it.”

He didn’t rise to the bait, but instead pointed to his clipboard.  “Just hand me that inventory, if it’s not too much trouble.”

“Sure thing.” 

The clipboard appeared in front of him and he took it, carefully listing the newest find and sticking a small tag on the vessel to identify it.  He then picked up some paper and wrapped the vessel, placing it in the box with the rest of the objects he had unearthed that day.

“How ‘bout some lunch?”

“Not really hungry.  Why don’t you go ahead; I’d like to get some more of this done.”

“C’mon, Daniel, you need—“

“Jack—don’t.”

He heard Jack sigh.  He knew he just wanted to help—they all did—but Daniel really wished they’d quit hovering.

“You know, Janet’ll have my head if you come back in less than perfect health.”

Now it was his turn to sigh.  Janet had been reluctant to let him go offworld, even though it had been several weeks since . . .  Anyway, he knew she was more worried about his mental health than his physical health right now. 

“Fine, but you’re not playing fair.”

“It worked, didn’t it?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ah, P9X-030, a lovely spot to be bored out of your skull, Jack thought.  Ruins, ruins, and more ruins.  Daniel should be in heaven, but looking at him now, sitting across the table from this planet’s version of archaeologists, Jack could see there was no spark of excitement in his eyes, his voice, or any other part of his body.  Oh, he smiled in all the right places, added comments when appropriate, but Jack knew his heart wasn’t in it. It might fool the others, but it didn’t fool Jack.

 Daniel picked at his lunch while discussing the day’s finds with Jerob and Cora, husband and wife and also heads of the archaeological team working on these ruins.  Sam had planted herself on Daniel’s right, while Teal’c sat on his left, pretty much where they had been ever since . . . well, since Sha’re had . . .died.  Daniel’s shadows.  Of course, Jack had been keeping an eye on him as well, but hopefully wasn’t so obvious about it.  Jack had a pretty good idea of what he was going through, and had tried to give him some space, as long as that space was within Jack’s eyesight.

It was their first mission since Sha’re’s death.  It had only been three and a half weeks since the funeral.  Janet had wanted Daniel to have more time to recuperate, but Jack had privately told her and General Hammond that he thought the best thing for Daniel would be to get him out of the mountain and back through the gate.  They had all been a little concerned about Daniel’s claims that Sha’re had “spoken” to him through the hand device.  They had tried to be supportive, even though they were skeptical, and Daniel had eventually quit talking about it. 

P9X-030 seemed like the perfect place for Daniel to get his feet wet again.  The activation of the gate and subsequent deployment of the MALP had startled and surprised the team of archaeologists who were studying the ruins.  The current society appeared to be about a hundred years, give or take, behind Earth, technology-wise.  The ruins themselves were quite some distance from civilization, and the archaeologists had had to communicate with their base--about a day’s travel away--to let their leaders know about the people who wanted to come for a visit.

It had all worked out, and SG-1 had come through, welcomed by the dozen archaeologists working on the site.  The ruins were extensive and had only been discovered two years earlier, this team only having been here for six months.  Daniel had been semi-excited to discuss the excavation with his counterparts on this world.  They had been even more excited by some of his suggestions regarding newer excavation methods. 

Three days later, they were still camped at the ruins, SG-1 waiting for a group of government leaders to reach the base camp, at which time SG-1 would make the trek to meet with them.  Carter had been anxious to discuss trade, as she had detected a significant amount of naquadah present.

Sam excused herself and headed toward the food table where Jack had planted himself to watch Daniel.  She put some fruit on her plate and moved to stand next to him.

“He seems happier now, since he’s been working in these ruins.”

“Not happy, Carter, distracted.  Something to occupy his mind instead of . . .” He left the sentence unfinished.  No need to say it—they both knew what it was.

They heard laughter and saw the young couple sitting next to Jerob hug and then kiss as others at the table continued to laugh at whatever had been said.  Jack saw Daniel smile, then look away.  Seeing that Teal’c was engaged in conversation with the person on his left, Daniel quietly got up and slipped away, heading towards the edge of the ruins.

Sam looked at Jack.  “Not distracted enough, I guess.”

“I’ll go check on him,” Jack said.

“You want me to come with you?”

“Nah, but thanks.  Don’t want him to think we’re ganging up on him.” 

“Okay.”

It only took him a few minutes to find him, standing at the edge of a small bluff, looking out across the landscape. The thick forest on the other side of the ruins began to thin out as the land fell away from the bluff, becoming an open plain with only a few trees dotting it here and there. 

Daniel’s body practically shouted “leave me alone”, but Jack ignored it. Fools rush in, I guess. 

“Hey.”

“I don’t want to talk, Jack,” Daniel responded, not turning around.

“Oh, I just came to enjoy the view.”

He walked up to stand beside Daniel.  After a few seconds he said, “Yep, it’s a great view.”

Silence was the only response.  After several minutes, Daniel spoke.

“I want to stay here, Jack.”

“Sure.  Take all the time you want, I’m in no hurry to get back.”

Daniel sighed.  “No, not here here,” he said, waving his arm around.  “Here, on this planet.”

“Hammond’s given us several days to wrap this up, but I’m sure he’d give you more if you asked.”

“Don’t be obtuse, Jack, you know what I mean.”

“Not gonna happen.”

Daniel whirled around to face him then, blue eyes flashing with anger.  “Why not?”

“What, you’re just gonna pick some random planet to run away and hide?”

“I’m not hiding!”  He calmed his voice before continuing.  “These people could use my help excavating these ruins.  It is my field of expertise, you know.” 

“These ruins are huge—you could spend your entire life working on them and not finish.”

Then he saw the anger fade from the blue eyes to be replaced by sadness. 

“You’re talking about staying here permanently.”

“Yes.  I’ll quit the SGC.”

“What about the boy?”

The anger was back.  “Oh, that’s rich.  You all but tell me I’m crazy and now you want to tell me you believe me?”

Okay, wrong thing to say.  “How about this, then.  You’ve only been here three days—you don’t even know these people. And now you want to stay with them?  Hammond might not give you a GDO.”

Daniel looked away from him as he replied softly, “I’ve done it before.”

Jack’s own frustration turned into anger.  “So, what—you gonna stay and get married?”  The second the words left his mouth he wished he could take them back.

“Go to hell, Jack,” Daniel said icily as he turned and headed back to the lunch area.

Jack sighed.  How had he lost control of the conversation?  Probably because he never had control of it in the first place.  Instead of helping Daniel, he had pushed him further away.  He turned and followed Daniel back towards his team.  Maybe they’d have an idea of how to fix this.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Daniel bypassed the lunch tent and headed towards an area of the ruins where he had been translating some writing.  The sting of Jack’s words only strengthened his decision to make a change.   He had spent a good deal of time contemplating what he wanted to do now.  Now that Sha’re was gone.  Now that his reason for going through the gate was gone. 

At first, he had felt numb, which was quickly replaced by an ache that hurt clear to his soul. He realized he had spent more years looking for her than he’d had with her.  But he had been able to see her one last time; hear her beautiful voice speak to him.  I love you, Danyel.  It felt like big pieces of him were being torn away; the first piece ripped away when he was only eight, another when his grandfather refused to adopt him, and another equally large piece just four weeks ago.  He didn’t think he could afford to lose any more—there wouldn’t be anything left of him.  And if he lost Jack or Sam or Teal’c . . . No, it would be better to go where there was no chance of another piece being ripped from him.

When the grief had become overwhelming, he had focused his energy on trying to persuade his team that Sha’re had sent him a message through the hand device.  That she had asked him to find her son.  They had tried, as gently as possible, to tell him that it wasn’t possible, that it was just a way for him to cope with the grief.  Eventually, he had started to believe it too.  He had felt even more lost without the support of his friends.  He didn’t feel like he belonged at the SGC anymore.  Maybe it was time to go back to his roots—back to the work he loved to do. 

The people here were wonderful.  Jerob and Cora reminded him of a couple of archaeologists who had mentored him on a dig in college.  They had been excited to listen to his suggestions regarding excavation methods and especially interested when he told them he could translate the writing found in the ruins, something they had been unable to do.  He felt useful. 

He had considered staying on Earth to pursue his interest, but quickly realized that he would have no peace there.  He was privy to too much classified information for them to just let him go.  And then there was the NID.  He really didn’t want to think about what kind of danger he would be in from them.  No, staying offworld was really the only option.

He stopped when he reached a stone stele covered in writing.  He had been working on it earlier, but had taken a break from it to help uncover some artifacts the archaeological team had found.  He recognized the writing when he first saw it—it was Phoenician.  Jerob and Cora had been surprised and extremely happy when he informed them he could translate it. 

Hoping to resume his translation, it dawned on him that he didn’t have his notebook. Retrieving it would mean he’d have to go back to where everyone was congregated, and that was something he just didn’t want to do at this point.  So instead, he sat down across from the stele and let his eyes roam over the inscription, working it out in his head.

A shadow blocked the sun from his eyes and he looked up to see Sam standing beside him. 

“Jack send you after me?” he snapped, sounding petulant.

“You don’t think I’d come talk to you without being ordered?” she replied equally testy.

He ducked his head.  “Sorry.  Just residual anger from Jack’s little pep talk.”

“Didn’t go well?”

“You could say that.” 

He still wasn’t looking at her and didn’t offer any more, so she decided to change the subject. She sat down next to him, shoulders touching, and looked at the stele. “How’s the translation coming?” she asked, pointing to the carved stone.

He looked up at the stele then.  “Pretty well.  It’s in praise of the god Mot.” 

“Who was he?”

“To the Phoenicians he was the god of death.”

“Nice.  What does it say about him?”

“This part here,” he said, pointing to a section of the stele, “talks about him being just.  ‘He who calls upon the mercy of Mot shall be heard and they will be judged justly.’”

 “Sure we’re talking about a goa’uld?” Sam replied, smiling at the absurdity of a “just” goa’uld.

“Just a little propaganda,” he said, giving her a small smile of his own.

“Now that sounds like a goa’uld,” she returned, pleased that she had been able to coax a small smile from him.

They were quiet for a few moments before Daniel spoke again.

“Sam, you didn’t come over here to hear a lecture on Phoenician gods.  What’s up?”

“Actually, Daniel, I do enjoy hearing your lectures.”  She bumped shoulders with him them, eliciting another small smile.  “But you’re right, there’s more to it.  The call from the base camp came in—the leaders have arrived and are waiting to talk to us.  The colonel wants to leave first thing in the morning.”

“I’m staying here, Sam.  The three of you can handle it without me.”

“Why?  Daniel, you’re our cultural expert and the best negotiator we have.”

“They’ve already agreed to trade; this is just a formality—a chance to meet face to face.  The details of what will be traded should be easy to work out.”

Sam didn’t like the feeling she was getting.  Since when did Daniel turn down a chance to meet the locals—especially the leaders of a society?  Something else was going on.

“Daniel, what were you and the colonel talking about?”

He was quiet just long enough that Sam thought he wasn’t going to answer, then he spoke slowly and quietly.  “I told Jack that I want to stay here, on this planet, permanently. I’m going to quit the SGC.”

“Daniel, you can’t!  We need you.  Especially if we’re ever going to defeat the goa’uld.”

“I’m an archaeologist, Sam.  I don’t think anything I do is going to make much difference when it comes to defeating a powerful alien race bent on galactic domination.”

“But you’ve already made a significant contribution, Daniel.  We wouldn’t have accomplished what we have without your help.  Look, I know you’re upset and still hurting from losing Sha’re, but please reconsider.  At least think about taking a leave of absence instead of quitting.”

“My mind’s made up, Sam.”

“But—“

“I don’t want to talk about it.  Please, Sam.  Let me get back to work on this translation.”

End of conversation.  She was being shut out.  Deciding she’d make things worse if she pressed him, she relented.  She grabbed one of his hands in hers and squeezed. “Okay.  I’ll see you later.  But, just think about it.”

He squeezed back before releasing her hand and getting up to move closer to the stele.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Daniel had worked until it was too dark to see.  At some point he had sneaked back to get his notebook without being seen.  He had also avoided his teammates for the rest of the evening, grabbing a plate of food before heading to his tent.  Sam had told Jack about Daniel’s decision not to go meet with the leaders and Jack had released his frustration by kicking the nearest wall, which, unfortunately, was made of rock.  Sam had announced that she could find nothing broken in his foot, which did nothing to ease the pain in his foot or his spirit.  Once Teal’c had been filled in on Daniel’s decision to leave the SGC, he had requested permission to go and speak with Daniel about the matter.

“Daniel Jackson.”

Daniel looked up from his book and saw the large shadow standing at the entrance to his tent.  He wasn’t surprised—he’d been expecting a visit from his third teammate.

Sighing, he said, “Come in, Teal’c.”

Teal’c entered and remained standing by the tent opening, hands clasped behind his back.

“I must speak with you, Daniel Jackson.”

“I know what this is about, Teal’c, but like I told Sam, I’ve already made up my mind.”

“I beg you to reconsider.  I am the one responsible for taking Sha’re from you.  It is I who should leave.”

He didn’t want to contribute to the guilt Teal’c felt at having to take Sha’re’s life in order to save his. “No, Teal’c.  I meant it when I said you did the right thing.  She’s not suffering any more, and I thank you for that.  But I need to get back to doing what I do best—archaeology.  And you need to do what you do best—fight the goa’uld.  Believe me, this is the right thing to do.” 

“Is there nothing I can say or do that will change your mind?”

“No.  But thank you for your concern.”

Teal’c bowed and left the tent.  Daniel felt a twinge of sadness that he would be leaving these people who had almost become like family.  All the more reason to leave now, he thought.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The next morning Jack and Teal’c stood outside the dining tent ready to leave.  Jerob and Cora and two other archaeologists stood with them, ready to accompany them to the base camp.  Jack had sent Sam to get Daniel and he saw her walking back towards them, alone.

“Where is he?” Jack asked, a hint of impatience in his voice.

“Hiram said he’s already out in the ruins working.”

Sam could see the muscles in his jaw tighten.  “What the hell does he think—“

“Well, sir, he did say last night that he wasn’t going with us.  He said we could handle it without him.”

In other words, we’d better learn to handle it without his help, Jack thought.  “Fine,” he said, pulling on his cap and adjusting his P-90.

Jerob and Cora had been listening to the conversation, and Jerob addressed Jack.  “I do not know the reason behind it, but it is obvious that Daniel is struggling with a great sadness.  I do not mean to interfere, Colonel, but may I suggest that it might be best to let him alone for awhile—give him time to work it out for himself.”

Except that he’s already worked it out and I don’t like the answer, Jack thought.  But instead, he answered, “You’re probably right.  Let’s move out.”

“Sir,” Carter said, hesitating.  “Let me stay and try talking to him.  Maybe I can get him to change his mind.”

“Great—half my team has mutinied,” Jack muttered.  “You really think you can talk some sense into that hard head, Major?”

“I have some experience in that area, sir,” she managed with a straight face.

He let the comment slide, seeing also the determination in her face and knowing she was as upset as he was at the thought of losing Daniel.  He knew she would do everything she could to change his mind.

“All right, you can stay.  Check in at twelve hour intervals. And Major—good luck.”

“Thank you, sir.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sam left her pack in her tent and went looking for Daniel. She found him examining a second stele, notebook in one hand as he ran the other over the writing on the stone.  She paused for a second, wondering how he would react to her staying.  Taking a deep breath, she decided to jump in with both feet. 

“Hey, Daniel, how’s it going?” she said, trying to sound casual.

He jerked his head away from the stele to look at her.  “Sam?  What are you doing here?  I thought you guys had left already.”

“The colonel and Teal’c went; I decided to stay and see if you needed some help.”

He narrowed his eyes at her and she could see a brief flash of anger in them.  But when he spoke, his voice gave no hint of it.  “Really.  I’m surprised Jack agreed to that, and I’m surprised you’d rather stay here than meet their leaders.  But, sure, we could use some more hands.” 

She had no doubt he had figured out her real reason for staying, but she continued with the act of offering her assistance, hoping she would find the right time to get him to talk.  “Actually, I thought it would be more fun to help you, especially if our time together’s going to be limited.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Late afternoon found Daniel finishing his translation on the second stele.  He set his notebook on the ground and picked up his water bottle, enjoying the coolness of the water on his parched throat.  The afternoon was a hot one, and most of the people working in the ruins were either taking a break or working in the shade.

Glancing around for Sam, Daniel spotted her sitting on the steps of the stargate dais drinking her water.  Anger briefly flared again, but quickly dissipated.  He couldn’t stay mad at her.  He knew she was waiting for an opportunity to try and talk him out of leaving the SGC, but he really was glad to be able to spend some time with her before she went back to Earth.  He could feel his resolve weakening as he thought about how much she had become like a sister.  He really needed to stay strong if he was going to resist whatever argument she came up with.  He knew in the long run he was doing the right thing.

Daniel watched as Hiram stopped to say something to her.  Suddenly, he saw Hiram drop his own water and grab at his chest.  At the same time, Sam leaped up and grabbed for him as he toppled towards the ground.  As Sam eased him down, Daniel saw the arrow sticking out of his chest.

 Sam reached for her sidearm as shouts began sounding from different areas of the ruins. Daniel saw some of the workers running for cover, an arrow striking one as they ran.  He ducked behind the narrow cover of the stele, reaching for his own sidearm, only to discover he didn’t have it—it still lay with his pack in his tent. 

Searching the ruins he began to see glimpses of their attackers—men in simple tunics and leggings, some carrying spears and some carrying bows.  He glanced towards Sam again and saw her take aim at one of the invaders.  So focused was she on her target that she failed to see another attacker approaching from behind.

“Sam!” he shouted, leaning around the stele so she could see and hear him.  “Behind you!”

She fired on her first target and Daniel could see she would be too late to hit the second.  Wracking his brain for the right word, he yelled, “Stop!” in Phoenician, hoping his guess was right and they would understand him.

The man behind Sam came to an abrupt halt and looked in Daniel’s direction.  A third man standing a few feet to Sam’s left also turned towards Daniel’s voice.  Sam used their brief confusion to turn and aim her gun at the man behind her.  But she was too late as he had already raised the blunt end of his spear and he brought it down on her head before she could fire.

“Sam!” he shouted again, leaving the relative safety of the stele to face the attackers.  Raising his hands to show he carried no weapon, he tried another word, “Friends,” he said in Phoenician.

The third man seemed to be considering what he’d said, holding up his hand to stop the second man from advancing.

Yes, he thought, maybe they’ll listen to me.  The thought was followed by a stabbing pain that erupted high on his left chest, knocking him backwards into the dirt. 

He struggled to catch his breath as he lay on his back looking upward.  The intense pain brought tears to his eyes and he could feel something warm trickling down his side.  He risked tilting his head to look down at himself and saw the shaft of an arrow sticking out of his chest, just below his left collarbone. 

A shadow passed over him and he looked up to see that Sam’s attacker was standing over him, his spear aimed at Daniel’s throat. 

Daniel said the only thing he could think of.  “I call upon the mercy of Mot.”

Suddenly, the third man was also standing over him, reaching across to block the man with the spear.  Daniel’s vision began to gray out and it occurred to him that he was going to die not knowing if Sam had survived.  Another person I couldn’t save.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A stab of pain thrust him back to consciousness.  He felt hands pressing his arms and legs into the dirt, holding him in place. He tried to pry himself free, moaning as the movement sent spikes of pain through his chest.  He struggled to open his eyes and managed only a slit.  He saw the third man standing over him, giving directions to those holding him down.  He was older than Sam’s attacker and appeared to hold more authority. 

The man spoke to Daniel, and he tried to process the words.  The man placed one hand on Daniel’s chest and with the other, took hold of the arrow.  He didn’t need to translate to understand what was coming next. 

“Wait—“ he began weakly, but the word transformed into a scream as the arrow was pulled from his body, and he fell into darkness again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

He drifted back to awareness once again to find himself lying on a blanket in the shade of the ruins.  Moving cautiously, he found his left arm was bound tightly to his chest, which had been wrapped with strips of cloth, his t-shirt pulled partially over it. 

Sam. 

He tried to sit up, wincing as he jarred his shoulder, reawakening the pain.  He laid his head down again, panting through the pain, and searched for her from his prone position.  He spotted one of the people who had attacked them bent over something against another wall.  A woman was sitting next to whatever it was.  As the man straightened and moved away, Daniel saw that the object was Sam.

“Sam,” he croaked.  Was she alive or dead? The fear of losing her tightened his chest and he began to wonder how could he have ever thought of leaving his friends. Trying to clear his throat, he tried again, without much improvement.  “Sam.”

Seeing he was awake, the woman left Sam’s side and knelt next to Daniel, holding up an animal skin pouch. 

“Water,” she said in Phoenician. 

He nodded his understanding and she put one hand behind his head to help him raise it, tipping the skin with the other.  He savored the wetness as it eased his dry throat. 

“Thank you,” he said in her language.

She gave him a small smile, and gently eased his head back down.  “Rest.”

“My friend,” he said glancing towards Sam “is she all right?”

“She is recovering.”  With that, the woman moved away to speak to the man who continued to stand guard over them with his spear.

Recovering.  He felt relief wash over him.  Not dead.  But she wasn’t awake, either, and he wondered how badly she was injured.  He hoped the woman was right and that she was going to recover.  But he had another problem, and that was:  who were these people and why had they attacked?  He really needed to speak with whoever was in charge and sort this out.

He felt his eyes trying to close and fought it, but finally he succumbed again to sleep.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Arguing voices pulled him out of sleep and he woke to find man number two and man number three standing next to him, deep in a heated discussion.

“They have defiled the sacred place—they must die!” said number two, pointing from Daniel to Sam.

“But he called upon the mercy of Mot—it cannot be ignored.  They must be judged by Eshmun.    He will decide their fate,” number three countered.

Their conversation halted abruptly when they noticed Daniel was awake.

Number two moved swiftly to where Daniel lay and grabbed hold of the neck of his t-shirt, pulling him into a sitting position.  Daniel gasped as his injured shoulder was jostled.

“Who are you and why do you defile our sacred ground?” Number two hissed, his face inches from Daniel’s. 

“Enough, Melqart,” the other man said, placing a hand on the arm holding Daniel upright. “There will be time for questions later.  We must complete the ritual and prepare to leave.”

Melqart gave a grunt of disapproval, giving Daniel a shove as he released the hold on his t-shirt.

Daniel hit the ground again, grabbing his left arm and groaning as the pain flared.

Melqart followed the older man as he headed towards the stargate where the entire group of newcomers seemed to be gathering.

Realizing they were alone, Daniel slowly pulled himself into a sitting position, breathing hard as he cautiously checked around him to see if anyone was watching.  Hoping to stay un-noticed, he decided to stay low to the ground.  He got to his knees and, using his free arm, he began moving towards Sam, trying not to cry out as he jarred his injured shoulder.  Reaching her side, he began feeling for any injuries.  Finding no broken bones or other injuries on her body, he moved to her head.  His fingers quickly found the large knot on the back of her head, due, no doubt, to being hit with Melqart’s spear.  She moaned as he moved his fingers over the lump.

“Sam?” he whispered.

She didn’t open her eyes or make any other movement, so he tried again. 

“Sam, it’s Daniel.  Can you wake up?”

He was rewarded with a flutter of eyelashes and then a slit of blue looked in his direction. 

“Daniel?”  He barely heard her say his name. 

“Yeah, it’s me.  Just lie still, you have a head injury.”

“No kidding.”  The blue disappeared as the eyes closed again.

“Stay with me, Sam.  You shouldn’t sleep with a head injury.”

“I’m awake,” she replied, partially opening her eyes.  “What happened?”

“We were attacked by a group of people—you were hit on the head.  Do you remember anything at all?” 

It took a few seconds for Sam to reply as she appeared to consider Daniel’s question.  “We were on P9 . . . P9X . . .” She looked at Daniel for help.

“P9X-030.  That’s right.”  His concern hitched up a notch at Sam’s inability to remember the planet designation.  “Anything else?”

“Sorry . . . can’t think clearly, and I really don’t feel so good.” 

Daniel saw her go a shade paler and quickly helped her roll onto her side, where she promptly threw up.

She moaned as she rolled onto her back again.  He wished the woman with the water would come back, but as it was, he had nothing to give her.

Sounds of chanting pulled his attention back to the gate where all of the attackers had gathered.  Daniel counted about a dozen men and three women. The older man lifted something above his head, then lowered it.  The chanting continued as the crowd stepped back, surrounding the steps of the gate, just out of danger zone.  The older man stepped up to the DHD and began punching the glyphs.

“Sam, they’re dialing the gate!”

“What?”  She took hold of Daniel’s arm to steady herself, causing the pain to flare in his chest again.

Daniel and Sam watched as the man pressed the center crystal, the blue splash of the wormhole springing outward then settling back into a rippling pool.  The chanting stopped and the older man stepped forward, said words that Daniel couldn’t quite hear, then tossed the object he held into the event horizon.  One of the other men approached and handed him another object.  He held out the second object, recited the words again, and tossed it in also.  It was all repeated a third time and a fourth time, followed by the crowd bowing their heads until the wormhole winked out. 

“What do you suppose they threw through the gate?  And where?” Daniel said.

“Who are these people?”  Sam asked. 

Daniel turned to her and could see her eyes looked glazed.  She continued to grasp his arm, her body listing towards his. 

Just as he was about to help her lie back down, a familiar voice rang in his ears. 

“Get up, you vile scum!”  Melqart was bearing down on them and before Daniel could move, he was grabbed by his good arm and dragged to his feet.  He was wrenched out of Sam’s grasp and she slumped forward.  Another man approached Sam and grabbed her hands.  Pulling them together, he began tying them with rope.

“Hey—that’s not necessary,” Daniel began, “She’s not a threat to—“

His words were cut off as Melqart took Daniel’s good arm and pulled it painfully up behind his back.  Daniel gasped as both sides of his body protested. 

“You will not speak.  We are leaving and Philo has decreed you are to come with us.  If it were up to me, you would already be dead.”

Philo must be the older man who was apparently their leader.  Maybe he would be willing to listen.  These people used the gate; he didn’t know to what extent, but maybe they would understand about visitors coming through it.   “I need to speak with Philo.  This has all been a misunderstanding—“

His arm was pulled even tighter and Daniel was sure it was going to snap.  It sent him to his knees, gasping in pain, but Melqart followed him down, never releasing his hold.

“I said do not speak!  I will cut out your tongue if that is what it will take to silence you.  I may not be allowed to kill you—Eshmun will decide that—but I can make you wish for death.”

He released Daniel’s arm and he fell forward onto the ground, every movement causing his shoulder and chest more pain.  And now the pain in his right arm was rivaling that of his left.

“Now, get up—we are leaving.  See that your friend does not fall behind.”

Daniel wondered how they expected Sam to be able to make the trek to wherever they were going, but he wisely held his tongue.  He struggled to his feet and moved to Sam’s side.  The man who had tied her hands pulled her to her feet where she swayed.  Daniel moved so he could put his right arm around her waist, grimacing as it protested being stretched again.  They evidently thought he wouldn’t be much of a threat with one arm bound to his body and the other one hanging on to Sam.  They were right.

“Adon,” Melqart said, motioning to a young man Daniel hadn’t seen approach, “you are to watch them closely.  If they try to escape, you may shoot them again.”

Daniel saw the young man—he could only be thirteen or fourteen—smile in appreciation.  “Thank you, Father.  I would gladly put another arrow in this one,” he said pointing to Daniel.

This young man—child—had been the one to shoot him?  And apparently he had no qualms about doing it again. 

“And he will not miss,” Melqart said, placing his arm on the boy’s shoulders.  “He has already proven himself to be an excellent marksman.” 

Adon smiled, reveling in his father’s praise. 

“Now it is time to move.  Adon, Cadmos will assist you.  Keep them moving.”

“Yes, Father.”  He turned to Daniel. “Go—I will be right behind you,” he said, pointing with the tip of his bow.  Daniel noticed he had a full quiver of arrows slung across his back. 

“Lean on me, Sam,” Daniel offered as he started moving them forward, Adon and Cadmos close on their heels. 

Sam took a couple of wavering steps before finally getting into a steady stride.  She glanced at him once, then put her head down again.  He knew she must have a killer headache.

For the first time since the attack, Daniel searched his surroundings for other members of the archaeological team.  He saw four of them—two men and two women—hands tied, being pushed forward by two of their attackers.  Fortunately, they all appeared to be in good health.  As they moved past the walls of the ruins heading towards the forest, Daniel saw the bodies of two more—one of them Hiram.  Images of Hiram and Dido kissing at lunch the day before flashed through his mind and he felt a pang of sympathy for the young woman.  Another couple that would never see their future fulfilled.  His own pain flared again and he looked away.  At least that meant that there were four still unaccounted for.  Hopefully, they had gotten away and were hiding.  If so, they would be able to contact Jack and Teal’c’s group with the radio.  He hoped it wouldn’t take them too long to get back here.  Then they would just have to track them to wherever they were going.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jack took another drink of his water as he sat in the sparse shade of a scrubby tree.  If you could call it a tree.  More like a shrub.  But it was the closest thing to a tree he had seen for the last hour.  The vegetation had gotten sparser the farther they had gone from the ruins.  Jerob assured them that they would soon cross this dry area and return to a greener landscape. 

He spotted Teal’c standing in the blazing sun, his eyes searching over the terrain they had just traversed.  Jack recognized the body language.  Something was wrong.

Jack reluctantly left his spot in the shade and moved to Teal’c’s side. 

“What is it?”

“I am not sure.  I have an uneasy feeling about leaving Major Carter and Daniel Jackson.”

“I think the only thing they’re in danger of is getting a sunburn.  Or being bored to death.”

“I do not agree, O’Neill.”

Before he could respond, the radio that the archaeologists carried crackled to life.  He heard static and then some indistinguishable words.

Suddenly Jerob was calling to him.  “Colonel O’Neill!  Come quickly!”

Both Jack and Teal’c immediately left their spot and headed for the people gathered around the radio.

“Colonel O’Neill, our colleagues at the ruins say they have been attacked by an unknown group of people!”

Jack glanced quickly at Teal’c before asking, “What’s their status?  Anyone hurt?”  A knot of fear began to form in his stomach—he knew before he heard the answer.

“Hiram and Tanit are dead.  Six were taken prisoner, including your people.  They say both Daniel Jackson and Major Carter were injured.”

He knew it. Nothing was ever simple—or boring—when it came to his team.  If something happened, they would be in the middle of it.

“Are the attackers still there?”

“No, they say that the invaders left with their prisoners, heading into the forest.”

“Okay, Teal’c and I are going back to the ruins.  We’ll contact Earth and see if we can get some help for a search and rescue.  I think you’d all be safer if you continued on to your base.”

“We would be glad to return with you and help however we can.”

“No, that’s not necessary, but thanks for the offer.”

“We will contact our base and ask for assistance to be sent to you.”

“That’ll work.  Make sure they know not to shoot me and Teal’c.”

“Good luck, Colonel.”

“Thanks.”  We’re probably gonna need it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Two hours later found Daniel and Sam’s group still walking as the sun began closing in on the horizon. 

Surely we aren’t going to walk through the night.  The ache in Daniel’s chest was increasing with every step and the effort of keeping Sam upright was sapping all of his strength.  Sam stumbled again, almost bringing both of them down, but Daniel was able to regain their balance and keep them from falling. 

“Just a little further,” he told her, hoping it was true.  He was hot and starting to feel a little dizzy himself.  She didn’t respond, but kept putting one foot in front of the other. 

Finally the group came to a halt and Daniel saw they were in a small clearing where tents were already set up.  A fire ring was in the center and a couple of people began setting logs in it, while the three women went into one of the tents.

Adon put a hand on Daniel’s shoulder.  “Over here,” he said, pushing them towards one side of the clearing.  “Sit.”

Daniel helped Sam to the ground before following her down.  He was relieved to get off of his feet, even though he still felt hot and dizzy.

He looked around and saw that the prisoners were being separated into groups of two, spread around the circle so there was too much space for them to converse.  A man was moving from group to group, handing wooden stakes to the people guarding them.  When he reached Adon, the young man took the stakes and began pounding them into the ground with a mallet the man also handed him.  He took another piece of rope and began tying Sam’s already bound hands to the stake, leaving just enough room for her to lie down.  Next he grabbed for Daniel’s free hand and wound the rope around it and then tied it to the second stake. 

“That’s not necessary,” Daniel said.  “I don’t think I could get up if I wanted to.”

“So you say,” Adon responded.  “Still, I think we will be cautious.”

“Adon, we are no threat to you.  We are peaceful explorers.”

“Where do you come from and why were you in the sacred city?”

“We come from a place far away.  We were exploring the ruins--we didn’t know they were sacred to your people.  If I could just talk to Philo—“

“Adon!  Do not converse with the prisoners,” Melqart admonished his son as he approached.

“Sorry, Father.”  Adon moved quickly away from Daniel.

“I gave you a warning,” Melqart said, facing Daniel, “but I see that I must silence you.”

“No!  Wait!” Daniel pleaded, fearing that he was about to lose his tongue.

Instead, Melqart quickly pulled a rag from his belt, folded it, and stuck it in Daniel’s mouth, pulling it tightly at the back of his head and tying it.  

Relief washed over Daniel, even though the gag was cutting into the sides of his mouth uncomfortably and tasted rather nasty.  He could live with that. He saw Adon watching with what Daniel thought was a hint of sympathy, but it quickly disappeared when his father turned back to him. 

“Watch them closely.”

“I will, Father.”

Feeling the last of his strength waning, Daniel maneuvered onto his uninjured side and lay down.  Sam had already laid down and appeared to be asleep.  He hoped sleeping no longer posed a risk with her head injury.  He knew she had to be as exhausted as he was.  And it wasn’t like he was in any position to keep her awake.

That was his last thought as he drifted off to sleep.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Someone was patting his cheek.  He opened his eyes to see a woman bending over him.  Her dark hair fell over her shoulder and her brown eyes were shining as she smiled at him.  For a moment he thought . . . but memory came flooding back and he knew it wasn’t her.  It was the woman he had spoken to earlier.  A fist squeezed his heart as he realized that he would never again wake to see Sha’re’s face looking down at him. 

“Good, you are awake.  Are you in pain?”

Yes, but she had no medicine that would heal it.  He merely nodded his head. 

“You must eat something, then I will treat your wound.”

He shifted, trying to pull himself up without the use of his hands, groaning at the pain it caused his shoulder.  She quickly put her arm under his and helped him into a sitting position.  Dizziness hit him and he closed his eyes.  He was hot and his whole body ached.

He opened his eyes, almost saying ‘thank you’ before he remembered he couldn’t speak.  She reached behind his head and untied the gag, pulling the rag out of his mouth.  The corners of his mouth were cracked from the tightness of the cloth, and he ran his tongue over them.

“I am sorry Melqart was so rough.  Please do not think all of our people are like him.” 

She looked at Adon who was standing nearby.  “Please untie him so he may eat.”

Adon hesitated, seeming to debate whether or not he should, before moving to the stake and untying the rope.

“I am Yara,” the woman said, handing Daniel a small bowl.

“I’m Daniel, Daniel Jackson.”  He took the bowl which appeared to be filled with some kind of broth.  He thought of Sam and looked over to see she was still asleep. 

“My friend, she needs to eat something.  Could you help me wake her?”

“Yes, I will make sure she is fed.  But you need to eat also.  Go ahead,” she encouraged. 

The smell was inviting, so he took a drink.  He didn’t know how long it had been since he’d last eaten, but the broth was good and he drank until it was gone.  Taking in his surroundings as he ate, he realized it had gotten dark, and that everyone else appeared to be finishing their meal. 

Yara handed him a water skin and he drank deeply before handing it back.  He then used his right hand to help pull himself over to where Sam lay.

 “Sam, it’s Daniel, wake up.”

He was rewarded with a flutter of eyelashes and a small moan.  She managed to open her eyes and look up at Daniel, who smiled at her.

“That’s it.  There’s some food here for you.  Let me help you sit up.”

Yara helped him get Sam into a sitting position and Adon untied the rope holding her to the stake. 

“I don’t know if I can eat—not really feeling good.”

“Just try a little—you need something.”

Sam tried to take hold of the bowl with her still bound hands, but couldn’t maneuver it to drink. 

“Could you untie her long enough for her to eat?” Daniel asked Adon.

“I am not allowed to do that.”

Daniel turned back to Sam and held the bowl up to her lips.  “Let me help you.”

Sam acquiesced and took a few sips of the broth.  She pulled back and Daniel encouraged her, “Can you take any more?  Who knows when we’ll get another chance.”

She took two more sips and said, “I can’t.  I’m afraid it’s going to come back up.”

“Okay, how ‘bout some water then?”

Sam managed a few sips of water before turning her head away.

Yara took the bowls and water as Adon retied Sam and Daniel to their stakes.  He picked up the rag and moved to place it back in Daniel’s mouth when Yara intervened. 

“His mouth needs to heal.  Can you leave it off?”

Adon looked unsure but asked Daniel, “Will you remain quiet?”

Daniel nodded his head in response, hoping that would placate Adon. 

“All right, I will leave it off for now,” he agreed, placing the rag in his belt.

Yara set the bowls by the fire ring and returned with another one and a cloth.

“Lie down and I will take care of your wound,” she said, helping him lie down on his back.

She picked up the cloth and poured some water onto it, then wiped it across his face and neck.  The cool water was a contrast to his hot skin and it made him shiver.  Yara then began to undo the strips of cloth holding his arm to his body.  She was gentle, and Daniel closed his eyes, remembering a time when Sha’re cared for him when he was sick.  Sha’re’s hands had been so soft as she’d washed his fevered skin, her voice soothing as she comforted him.  He mourned the fact that he would never feel her touch or hear her voice again. 

“Leave him!”  No question who that voice belonged to. 

Daniel opened his eyes to see Melqart standing over him. 

“He has a fever.  I need to clean and tend his wound,” Yara replied, continuing her ministrations without looking at Melqart.

Melqart reached down and grabbed Yara’s arm, swiftly pulling her to her feet.  “You should be tending Tabouk’s injuries instead of wasting your time on this one.  Now go!” he ordered, releasing her arm and giving her a shove.

Yara looked furious, but bent and picked up the bowl before walking away. 

“Why is his mouth uncovered?” Melqart bellowed.

“The cloth cut his mouth, Father, so I left it off.  He has remained silent.”

“Oh, he has?” Melqart said, a nasty grin on his face.  “You have decided to be quiet now?” he asked, placing his boot on Daniel’s arm tied to the stake.  He slowly put more and more of his weight on the arm and Daniel bit the inside of his mouth to keep from crying out. 

“Stop it!”  Sam’s voice rang through the air.  The pressure on Daniel’s arm eased as Melqart turned to face Sam. 

“So this one has a voice, also!” Melqart moved to Sam’s side and grabbed her chin in his hand.  “I should have used the other end of my spear on you.  You would do well to keep quiet like your friend.”

Sam had no idea what the big man was saying, but out of the corner of her eye she could see Daniel shaking his head at her.  Deciding that provoking the man would not help them, she remained silent.

“Melqart!”  Another voice broke the silence, and Daniel saw Philo walking towards them.  This was the man he needed to talk to—the man who might listen to him.  But did he want to risk Melqart’s wrath by doing so?

“Is there a problem here?” Philo asked.

“Just making sure the prisoners are secure.”

“Do not injure them in the process.  And do not forget that their fate will be decided by Eshmun, not by you and not by me.  Now, your son is capable of guarding them, and I wish to speak with you.  Come.”

“As you wish,” Melqart replied reluctantly.  He cast a hateful glare at Sam and then Daniel before giving Adon a pat on the shoulder and following Philo to the other side of the fire.  Daniel almost called out to Philo, but decided to wait for a chance to speak when Melqart wasn’t around.  Besides, he couldn’t muster the energy to talk right now.  He just hoped he would get another chance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sam watched as Melqart walked away, then switched her attention to Daniel.  He was lying on his back, eyes squeezed shut, breathing hard.  She couldn’t believe what Melqart had just done to him.  She was pretty sure Daniel had a fever.  She could also see the unwound strips of cloth that the woman had removed from his shoulder.  Sam knew he was injured, but she had been so out of it she couldn’t remember what the injury was.  She just remembered him supporting her while they walked, keeping her from falling, guiding her.  And all the time he had been injured himself.

“Daniel,” she whispered quietly, trying not to attract any unwanted attention.  Adon seemed to be caught up in the stories that were now being told around the fire. 

He didn’t respond and she tried again.  “Daniel, are you all right?”

His eyes opened a slit.  “ ‘m fine.”  The eyes closed again.

She was frustrated that she couldn’t get to him and check him out herself.  She still had a killer headache and some dizziness, but was feeling slightly better.  Maybe eating something had been a good idea after all.  Now she was more worried about Daniel.  The clearest sign that he was seriously ill was that he wasn’t paying any attention to the storytelling that was taking place a few feet away. 

In frustration she tugged on the rope tethering her to the stake, but it held fast.  If only she could reach him and see how badly he was wounded.  But she wasn’t going anywhere.  Headache pounding, she lay back down.  Maybe the woman would return and take care of Daniel.  Or, even better, maybe the colonel and Teal’c would show up and rescue them.  That thought stayed with her as she drifted into sleep.

~ ~  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Darkness had fallen but still they continued their trek across the plain, retracing their steps back to the ruins.  Teal’c had assured him that he could find the track in the moonlight, so they had pushed onwards. 

Now, as they approached the bluff at the edge of the ruins, Jack’s senses were on high alert for any movement, any sound.  He knew the remaining archaeologists were expecting them, thanks to Jerob’s radio message, but he wanted to make sure they were the only ones waiting for them in the dark. 

In the moonlight he could see the small copse of trees that marked the base of the trail leading up to the ruins.  The archaeologists were supposed to be waiting for them there, having decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to stay in the ruins in case the invaders came back.  He and Teal’c stopped at the same time and he motioned for Teal’c to go one direction while he went in the other.  Taking cover behind a large bush, Jack whistled once, which was their pre-arranged signal, waited five seconds and whistled again.

“Here!” came a voice from the trees. 

A figure appeared, followed by three more.  Jack left his cover, MP-5 raised, and moved towards the group. 

“Everyone okay?” Jack asked.

“Yes, we’re fine, Colonel, and very glad to see you.”  It was one of the young men, Zen-something--Zeno, Jack thought.

As he got closer, Jack could see the members of the group appeared to be fine, physically, but were obviously still shaken up by what had happened.

“Let’s get back out of sight,” Jack said, motioning towards the trees.

Teal’c appeared and followed the group back to the trees.  The archaeologists had brought a blanket, a small jug of water, and what looked like a backpack, from their base in the ruins.  They didn’t appear to have any other supplies.

“Okay, someone give me the short version of what happened.”

Zeno proceeded to relate how they had heard yelling and saw strange people moving through the ruins, shooting at the archaeologists with bows and arrows, and some using spears.  He explained that two of them had hidden in an upper chamber in the ruins while the other two were close to the edge of the ruins and had fled to the bluff path.  He described Daniel yelling something they didn’t understand, Sam getting hit on the head, and Daniel being shot with an arrow.  This was followed by the group activating the gate, and then leaving with their prisoners.

Jack took off his cap and ran a hand through his hair.  He had been hoping the first report was wrong, but Zeno had confirmed it—his teammates were not only being held prisoner, they were also injured.  He flipped his watch open, estimating how much of a head start the invaders had on them.   As much as he wanted to take off right then, he knew he had to contact the SGC first, report the situation, and get some backup. 

“Are you sure none of the attackers stayed behind?” he asked Zeno.

“We only went as far as the main tent to retrieve water and supplies and came back here.  We didn’t see anyone while we were there.  They had removed all of our gear and tools that were in the ruins—they just dumped them outside the perimeter of the city.  They also knocked the tent over, ripping the canvas, but it didn’t look like they took anything.”

“All right, we’re going to go up and use the gate to contact our base.  If there’s no sign anyone’s around, you can set up camp there and wait for your people to get here.  Teal’c, take point.  Everyone fall in behind Teal’c and keep quiet.  I’ve got our six.”

With Teal’c in the lead, the group followed the path back to the top of the bluff.  After determining no one was in the immediate vicinity, Jack dialed the SGC.  Soon he was talking with General Hammond.

“Colonel, I’ll have SG-3 and SG-5 gear up and join you as soon as possible.  Stand by until further notice.”

“General, with all due respect, I don’t think we can afford to wait.  Both Carter and Daniel were reported to be injured and we have no idea where these people are taking them or what they’ll do to them.  Let Teal’c and I stay on their trail and we’ll keep in touch by radio.”

“Colonel, I do not want you and Teal’c taking on these people by yourselves.  We can have the other teams geared up and ready to go in less than an hour.”

“Sir, we may not have that much time.  Carter and Daniel may not have that much time.  I promise we won’t take on more than we can handle.”

“I’m ordering you to check in by radio before you make any move to free your teammates.”

“We will, sir.  Have Colonel Reynolds contact us as soon as they arrive on the planet.”

“Very well.  Good luck, Colonel.”

“Thank you, sir.”

 

Part 2

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