Deception

General George Hammond opened his drawer and pulled out the large manila folder with the ubiquitous ‘TOP SECRET’ stamped on the front. He stared at the folder and felt his stomach flutter and his mouth go dry.  He had done a lot of distasteful things during his career in the U.S. Air Force.  He had sent many good men and women to their deaths.  Unfortunately, things like that went with the job.  But this?  Putting the burden contained within this folder on the shoulders of a young man whose strength, bravery, resourcefulness, and downright brilliance had been nothing short of amazing.  Well, this left a taste so bitter George doubted he would ever be able to wash it out.

A rapid knock on the door roused George from his thoughts; he glanced at his watch and smiled.  No one had ever accused Doctor Daniel Jackson of being early.

“Come in!”

“Sorry I’m late, General,” Daniel said hurriedly as he came in and closed the door behind him.  “I wanted to make some last minute additions to the translations you requested on P2C-9V2.  I think you’ll find that I’ve—“

“Done an exemplary job as always, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond interrupted kindly.

“Oh, uh, thank you, sir,” Daniel murmured, frowning slightly.

“Sit down, please.”

Daniel sat down and placed his thick file in front of him.  He finally noticed the folder under the general’s hand; he frowned and looked up.

“I’m not here because of P2C-9V2, am I?”

“No, son, you’re not.  You’re here because of P7B-1N3.”

“P7B-1N3,” Daniel murmured, shaking his head.  “I’m sorry,  I don’t remember that one.”

“That’s because we haven’t gone there,” Hammond replied, smiling in spite of himself at Daniel’s bewilderment.  “According to the Tok’ra, the planet is called Dendera.”

“Dendera,” Daniel repeated.  “Dendera was a neighboring city to Abydos in Ancient Egypt.  They honored Hathor,” he added with a scowl.

“It’s unlikely these Denderans worship her,” Hammond said.

“Considering she’s dead,” Daniel said.

“No, considering you,” Hammond corrected.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry for the subterfuge, Dr. Jackson, but I’m sure you’ll understand after you read this,” he said, pushing the folder towards the younger man.  “I thought long and hard about whether or not I should even show this to you,” he said gravely, “but you deserve to see it.”

Daniel stared at the folder, a million thoughts flying through his mind.

 “Shouldn’t Jack be here?” he queried, the folder as yet untouched.

“The information contained in this file is on a ‘need to know’ basis, Dr. Jackson.  Colonel O’Neill does not fall into that category.”

George recited the words in an even tone.  He’d done this before, and not too long ago.  In that case, Colonel O’Neill had been in the loop and the rest of SG-1 were out.  George had seen what that undercover operation had done to the members of SG-1, specifically Daniel Jackson and Colonel O’Neill.  It had taken the young archaeologist a long time to recover from the lies necessarily perpetrated by his friend and CO.   Now, Dr. Jackson was the one in the know, and he was plunged right back into the mire.

Daniel shook his head slowly, his eyes focused on Hammond’s.  He did not want to proceed.

“Read the report, son,” Hammond said gently, reaching over and opening the folder.

Daniel looked down at the report, and with a feeling of trepidation he began to read.

George watched in wary silence as Daniel began to read.  He observed the rigidity in the shoulders and the increasing tenseness around the mouth.  Sometimes, I hate this job.

“This is absurd,” Daniel said, shaking his head.

“Read all of it, son,” Hammond ordered quietly.

Daniel’s mouth was grim as he continued to read, and it took all of his self control not to fling the report into the trash.

“Where did you get this?” he demanded, closing the file in disgust.  “From Maybourne?”

“From Jacob,” Hammond replied, “and before you jump to any conclusions, son, don’t think for one second that I believe you are in any way responsible for what’s happening on that planet.”

“Thank you,” Daniel said quietly, his outrage diminishing.

“According to Jacob, the Tok’ra received rumors of a planet where the people where eager to become hosts.  As you know, the Tok’ra are in dire need of hosts and procuring willing hosts is not an easy task.  They sent two operatives by ship to investigate, and what you see in that report is what they discovered,” Hammond explained.   “This intel is already three weeks old, and God knows what’s happened in the meantime.  The only good news is we know there is a Stargate and we have the gate address.”

Daniel sat back in his chair, his arms wrapped tightly around his middle.  “So, somebody claiming to be me is convincing the Denderans that the Goa’uld are now a benevolent race just because a few System Lords have been destroyed?  That the Goa’uld  never wanted to be these terrible beings, but they were slaves themselves to Ra and the rest?” he said incredulously.

“That would appear to be the case, yes,” Hammond replied.  “This man, claiming to be you, the liberator of Abydos, is telling these people that the symbiotes will give them eternal life and good health; they are benign creatures who wish to serve only the host.”

“How can these people be so gullible?” Daniel asked.

“You read the report,” Hammond said gently.  “The population is diseased.  Hundreds have died already and there is no cure.  Desperate people will believe almost anything, Dr. Jackson, especially if it’s what they want to hear.”

“What they need to hear is the truth, and they need to hear it from me,” Daniel said.  “Not an imposter pretending to be me.  Does this, whoever he is,” he said, waving his hand, “even look like me?”

“Some things were left out of that report,” Hammond explained, “but the individual claiming to be Dr. Daniel Jackson has been observed by the Tok’ra and he looks nothing like you.  However, I think you will agree that the man in question can be very convincing,” he said, pulling out a photo and sliding it, face up, to Daniel.

Daniel stared at the photo.  There was no mistaking who it was, or more correctly, who it looked like: the ‘devil may care’ look; the smile that was as welcome as an embrace; the expressive brown eyes that could warm your soul and make you feel like you’re the most  important person in the world.  The same dark eyes that could look right into you and not waver while a beloved voice told you there was no foundation to your friendship.  Yes, this man could be persuasive.

Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head.  “You don’t really believe this is Jack.”

“I believe no such thing, Dr. Jackson.  This photo was taken two months ago while SG-1 was busy relocating the Enkarrans.  But even if Colonel O’Neill had been on vacation, or had gone AWOL at that time, I wouldn’t believe it,” Hammond said fervently.

Daniel nodded, grateful for the shared sentiment and then his eyes widened.  “A mimic device?  Like in the foothold situation?” he suggested hopefully.

“I’ve already had Major Davis check that out.  The devices we know of are all accounted for at Area 51.  Truth is, we have no idea what we’re dealing with,” Hammond admitted.  “It could be clones or androids for all we know.” 

“What do we know, other than whomever or whatever it is has a somewhat distorted familiarity with me and Jack?” Daniel asked.

 “Damn little, I’m afraid.  We don’t know what Goa’uld is behind this, and we don’t know where the hosts are sent.  But as I said, we know there is a Stargate and Jacob has obtained the address.”

Daniel looked down at the photo in his hands and felt his stomach clench.   “And you don’t feel Jack has the right to know about this?” he asked, looking up at the general.

“To inform Colonel O’Neill of these findings and then forbid him to participate?  No, Dr, Jackson, I will not do that to him, or to Major Carter and Teal’c.  You read the report,” Hammond reiterated gently.  “Intel states there is no evidence of English being either spoken or written.”

“But a dialect similar to Abydonian is, which makes me the obvious choice,” Daniel said.  “When do I leave?”

“I’m not ordering you to do this, son,” Hammond said.

“You don’t have to.  I’m volunteering,” Daniel replied.

George’s heart swelled with pride at the civilian scientist’s courage.

“I won’t think any less highly of you, Dr. Jackson, if you don’t want to do this.”

“I couldn’t save Sha’re and Skaara from being taken as hosts, General.  If I can make a difference to these people, I want that chance,” Daniel said passionately.

Hammond met Daniel’s clear blue eyes and nodded.  “Jacob can be here in four days.  Selmak understands the language, and he believes he can slip you in unnoticed.  These are examples of the local writing,” he said, pulling out a thick folder from the pile on his desk.  “I’m afraid that’s the only backup I can provide.”  

“Jack isn’t going to like this,” Daniel said, taking the folder.

“I’ll deal with the colonel, Dr. Jackson.”

“How are you going to keep this a secret,” Daniel asked. 

“SG-1 is due for some well-deserved down time.  I will insist everyone, including Teal’c, leave the base.   You will be attending an exhibit on Egyptian artifacts in London, England,” Hammond said.  “If I understand correctly, you’ve tried twice to get to that exhibit.”

“Something always came up,” Daniel said as he stared at the papers in front of him.  “No, Jack isn’t going to like this at all,” he repeated absently.

“I’m sorry to lay this on your shoulders, son,” Hammond said sincerely.  “If I could think of anyone else who would remotely have a chance of diffusing this situation—”

“I’d lock them in a closet and throw away the key,” Daniel said with a small smile.  “I’m not one to blow my own horn, General, but I’m your man.  It’s also my reputation and Jack’s on the line and that’s worth fighting for.  If news spreads, or pictures get out, the consequences could be irreparable.”

“Thank you, Dr. Jackson.  Once again, we are in your debt.” Hammond said sincerely.

“Well, I better start studying,” Daniel said, standing up.  And avoiding Jack.

George watched Daniel leave, and he shook his head sadly.

“I’m sorry, son.”

                                    *************

“You don’t know what you’ll be missing, Daniel,” Jack said for the third time in as many days.

“Jack, I told you, it’s not because I don’t want to go fishing, or watching the water or whatever it is you do,” Daniel said, waving his hand, “but this exposition in London is only on for two more weeks.  I’ve had to cancel twice already in the past six months.  Catherine says it’s wonderful and I’ll regret it for the rest of my life if I don’t go.  If I’d known you were going to do this then maybe—”

“Fine, have it your way,” Jack grumbled, closing his locker with more force than necessary.  “At least I can count on Carter and Teal’c.  They understand the meaning of ‘team’,” he snapped as he strode out of the locker room.

Daniel flinched at the words and their implication; he felt a rush of anger.  Damn you, Jack.  You have no right to judge me.  He slammed his own locker shut.  It wasn’t as if he didn’t want to go to the lake with his team.  He felt hot, bitter tears.  Of all the times Jack could have organized an impromptu team retreat, he had to pick now.

“Why now, Jack?” Daniel sighed.

Daniel knew why, and it certainly didn’t make him feel any better.  Jack was doing it for Daniel.  The past year had been the shits, to put it mildly.  It started with his burst appendix and then everythingseemed to go downhill from there.  SG-1 risked their lives battling the Replicators, thus saving the Asgard and Earth, while he lay recuperating in the infirmary.  SG-1 functioned perfectly well without him.  Daniel had been ecstatic when they returned home, but with the exception of Teal’c, they had barely acknowledged his presence.  The chilly reception had hurt, but he had been too happy and relieved to see them alive to dwell on it.   Then, to turn a triumphant situation almost tragic, he had basically sent Jack and Teal’c onto the doomed submarine to destroy the Replicators that had landed on Earth.  Worse, he ordered the sub to be blown up while they were still on it.  Thank God, Thor came through when he did.  That had been the highlight of Daniel’s year.  What followed was pretty much a series of personal losses and failures with very few bright spots.  Daniel had lost his protégé, his mentor, his ex-lover, and in some ways, Sha’re’s son.  But the loss that cut deepest was the growing estrangement between him and Jack.  Daniel didn’t know when it all started to unravel, but if he had to put money on it, he’d say it started with the Replicators and his absence from the team.

“Are you unwell, Daniel Jackson?”

Daniel looked up sharply.

“Teal’c!  Uh, hi.  No, no, I’m fine.  I was just…thinking,” Daniel said lamely.

“Your thoughts appear troubled,” Teal’c said solemnly.

“I’ve just got a lot on my mind, Teal’c.”

“O’Neill tells me you will not be joining us on our retreat.”

“No, no, I won’t.  I have a, uh, prior engagement,” Daniel said uncomfortably.

“An exhibition of Egyptian artifacts.”

“Yes,” Daniel said, a little more testily than he meant.

“I see,” Teal’c replied.  “I wish you well on your journey, Daniel Jackson.”

“Thank you,” Daniel sighed as he watched his teammate leave.  Et tu, Teal’c?

                                    **************

Daniel took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

One more day.  One more day to perpetrate the lies and the deception.

He looked at the backlog of paperwork piled on his desk.  There was no point in starting anything because the truth was, he didn’t know if he’d be back to finish it.  What he had agreed to do was extremely dangerous and any manner of things could go wrong.  He could quite easily be captured on the spot and put to death.  But then, that was a risk every SGC member accepted when they walked through the Stargate.

Daniel sat back in his chair and gazed at his myriad collection of artifacts gleaned from the four corners of the world and beyond.  He stood up and walked over to the bookshelf that always seemed to attract Jack.  There was a time when, on any given day, Daniel would be guaranteed a visit by a bored or hungry colonel.  Daniel had even toyed with the idea of locking his door, but he didn’t have to do that because Jack had just stopped coming.  He still showed up now and then, but the easy camaraderie that Daniel had taken for granted was gone; a thing of the past.  Daniel missed it.  He missed Jack.  A lot.  He reached out and picked up a fertility figure with a large belly and even larger breasts; she was one of Jack’s favorites.  He smiled sadly and blinked through a haze of tears.  He couldn’t leave things the way they were.  He was about to embark on a solo mission that could very well be his last.  His friends deserved better.

                                    **************

“Hey, Sam.”

“Daniel, hi!” Samantha Carter said, surprised but pleased to see her teammate.  “How’d your meeting with General Hammond go?  Is he anxious for my report?”

“It went fine, and no, he didn’t ask about your report.” Daniel said, glancing away.

“Oh,” Sam said with disappointment.  “Oh well, more time to work on these,” she said with an impish smile.

“What are you working on?” Daniel asked, peering over her shoulder.

“Just trying to make sense out of those crystals SG-3 brought back,” she replied.

“Getting anywhere?” Daniel asked.

“Not really, but it’s still fascinating,” Sam grinned.

“Yeah, um, I was wondering if you’d like to go for lunch, say in an hour or so?” Daniel queried.

“Sure, I’d love to.  What’s the special today?”

“Actually, “Daniel said, chewing his bottom lip, “I thought that maybe we could go off-base somewhere.”

“Just the two of us?” Sam asked in surprise.

“Uh, no, not necessarily,” Daniel said, wondering when it became so awkward to invite Sam for lunch.

“I’m sure Teal’c would love to come,” Sam said, wondering why she felt uncomfortable with the idea of being alone with Daniel.

“I’ll go and ask him right now,” Daniel said, heading towards the door.

“And the colonel?” Sam inquired.

“Uh, sure,” Daniel acknowledged.  God, this is not what I had in mind.  Daniel figured he deserved it though.  Sam was just reminding him that they were a team.

“Daniel?”

Daniel turned and looked at Sam whose eyes seemed very bright.

“If you don’t get any takers I’d still love to come,” she said.

Daniel smiled.  He’d take what friendly overtures he could get.  He sure as hell wasn’t going to get any from Jack.

“Thai food?” Daniel suggested.

“Perfect,” Sam smiled.  And maybe I can convince you to come fishing with us.

Daniel left the room, closing the door behind him.

Sam slumped in her chair.  When had it become so difficult to talk to Daniel?  She felt ashamed of her knee-jerk reaction to his request, and she promised herself she wouldn’t try to shamelessly manipulate Daniel into canceling his trip so he could join the rest of them at the colonel’s cabin.She sighed wistfully.  She knew the retreat would be so much more fun with Daniel along.  She loved the colonel and Teal’c, but Daniel was special.  There was so much they could talk and laugh about.

“What the hell am I doing?” she muttered to herself, wiping her eyes.  “We’re just about to have lunch together and I’m acting like he’s dead.  Where’s that damn calendar?” she mumbled, shuffling papers on her desk.  “Did I miscount again?”

                                    ****************

“Teal’c, there you are,” Daniel said.

“Indeed I am, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c replied, stretching his legs.

“Just starting or just finishing?” Daniel asked, looking around the gym.  With Teal’c he could never really tell.

“I am concluding my workout.”

“Great.  Sam and I are going out to lunch to that new Thai restaurant.  Do you want to join us?”

“It would be my pleasure, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c replied.  “Will O’Neill be joining us as well?”

“I’m about to find that out, but Jack’s not too pleased with me at the moment.”

“Indeed,” Teal’c said simply, his face impassive.

Daniel fidgeted and looked at his watch.  “Shall we meet up top in one hour?” he suggested.

“I will be there, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c confirmed.

“Great.  I’ll, uh, go and ask Jack,” Daniel said, taking his leave.

                                    **********

“Hi, Jack.”

“Daniel,” Jack acknowledged, glancing up from his report.

“I was, uh, wondering if you’d like to join Teal’c, Sam and me for lunch.  We’re going out for Thai food,” Daniel explained, his words coming out in a rush.

“A mini retreat?” Jack asked with a trace of sarcasm.

“No, just lunch,” Daniel said evenly.

“Well, thanks anyways, but I’m busy,” Jack said, looking down at his report.

Daniel frowned and stared at the bowed head.

“Jack, I’d really like you to—”

“Three words, Daniel,” Jack said, sitting back and fixing Daniel with his dark eyes.

Daniel shook his head in confusion.  “I don’t know—”

“New York City,” Jack said, his voice clipped and even.

Daniel frowned and shook his head again.

“Doesn’t ring any bells?” Jack asked.

“Should it?” Daniel asked, feeling the acid in his stomach burn.

“Ask Catherine.” Jack said.  “I was just talking to her.”

“Catherine?  Why?” Daniel asked, suddenly feeling claustrophobic.

“Because she’s a friend and that’s what friends do, Daniel.  They talk.  Ah, I see you’re familiar with the concept,” Jack said in response to Daniel’s ‘cornered’ look.

“If you’ve got something to say, Jack, then say it,” Daniel said, his anger beginning to rise.

“New York City,” Jack repeated, the words like bullets shooting into Daniel’s chest.  “Your ‘be all, end all’ exhibit in London is going to be in New York in November.  That’s less than five months away.”

“Jack, everything’s booked and paid—”

“The Air Force paid for your fucking tickets and hotel.  Re-book,” Jack said, standing up and leaning heavily on his desk.

“Why?  So I can go to this ‘be all, end all’ fishing trip of yours?” Daniel retorted.

Jack glared at the man standing across from him and shook his head.

“No.  You know what?  Forget it, Daniel.  You’re not invited,” Jack said decisively, sitting down and effectively dismissing Daniel.

Daniel’s shoulders slumped in weariness and defeat.  This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go.  He stood there, unsure of himself and even more unsure of Jack.

“Why are you still here?” Jack muttered, not looking up.

Because I want you to understand, Jack.  Because I want to tell you everything.  Because I hate this … this thing between us.

Daniel blinked his eyes rapidly and cleared his throat.

“We’re meeting up top at one o’clock.  I hope you’ll come,” he said, and then turned and left Jack’s office.

Jack heard the soft click of the door closing.  He sat up and threw his pen against the wall.

“Damn it to hell,” he muttered.  He hadn’t meant to come down hard on Daniel.  He had planned on being fair and reasonable, but Daniel’s obstinence always seemed to bring out the worst in him.

                                    ****************

Daniel returned to his office, locked the door and leaned back against it..

“Shit, shit, shit,” he murmured, sliding down to the floor and fisting his hands in his hair.

God, Jack, you don’t understand.  I can’t tell you the truth.  I want to, but I can’t.  Please don’t hate me.

Daniel now understood what Jack must have felt like when he went undercover for the Asgard, the Tollan, and the Nox.  Lying to your teammates; lying to your friends.  He wasn’t any happier for the knowledge.  Right now he despised his knowledge.  It’s what got him into this mess in the first place.

“You’re going to have to trust me, Jack,” Daniel whispered.

                                    ************

Jack checked his watch.  Ten minutes till 1300 hours.  He’d have to be fast.  He’d decided to join his team for lunch and maybe teach Daniel by example.  Something was going on in that overcrowded brain of his, and if Jack could shake him up a little, well then that’s what he’d do.

Jack grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.  The phone rang and he stopped, debating whether or not to answer it.

“Damn it,” he muttered, deciding he better answer it because he couldn’t remember if his voice mail was on or off.

“O’Neill,” he said, picking up the phone.

 “Now, sir?  I was just about to head out for—”   Jack listened quietly and rolled his eyes. “I understand, General.  Yes, I’ve got the report here.  I’m on my way.”

Jack put the phone down heavily.

“Crap.  I knew I shouldn’t have answered it.”

                                    ****************

Daniel purposely showed up five minutes late hoping that Jack would be in attendance.

What the hell was I thinking? he thought dully as he saw Sam and Teal’c waiting patiently, and not a Jack in sight.

“Daniel, is Colonel O’Neill coming?” Sam asked.

“No, I guess not,” Daniel said.  “He was pretty busy.”

“Well, that’s his loss,” Sam enthused, slipping her arms through Daniel’s and Teal’c’s.

“Are we off to see the wizard, Major Carter?” Teal’c asked, looking down at their linked arms.

“Only if he’s cooking Thai,” Sam laughed.  “I’m starving.  Let’s go.”

Daniel felt his heart lighten.  He was going to treat his friends to lunch, and he was going to enjoy himself.  He’d put Jack and the upcoming covert mission out of his mind, at least for awhile.

                                    ************

Sam was still laughing as she, Teal’c, and Daniel stepped out of the elevator.

“Oh, God, I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so much,” she gasped, holding the stitch in her side.

“I, too, enjoyed myself, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said solemnly.  “Thank you.”

“We should do this more often,” Sam said.  “It’s a shame the colonel couldn’t make it.  He would’ve had a great time.”

“We’ll get him next time,” Daniel said.

Sam reached out and clasped Daniel’s arm, stopping him in the hallway.

“Daniel, I promised myself I wouldn’t ask this, but are you sure you can’t change your plans and join us at the colonel’s cabin?”

Sam regretted her words the instant she said them.  The light in Daniel’s eyes went out and he seemed to visibly shrink.

“Forget I even said that,” Sam cried, flinging her arms around him.  “I know you have your reasons.  It’s just that I’m going to miss you,” she said fervently, hugging him tight.

“I’ll miss you, too, Sam,” he said, surprised at the display of affection.

Sam pulled back and smoothed out Daniel’s shirt.

“I hope you have a wonderful time, Daniel, and I really mean that.”

“I know you do, Sam, and thank you,” Daniel said sincerely.

“Your absence will be keenly felt, Daniel Jackson, but I wish you well,” Teal’c stated, bowing slightly.

“Thanks, Teal’c,” Daniel said, placing his hand lightly on Teal’c’s chest, “and you’ll be fine without me.  Just take lots of bug spray and ear plugs.”

“Oh, that reminds me,” Sam said.  “I have to gather up my CD’s and stock up on batteries.  I like opera, but…”

“I could lend you my copy of Gadmeer music,” Daniel said, his eyes twinkling.

“You want the colonel to throw me in the lake?” Sam laughed.

“Actually, I wouldn’t want Jack to get anywhere near that music; it’s irreplaceable.”

“You talking about me?” a familiar voice asked.

“Jack,” Daniel said, turning around in surprise.

“How was lunch, kids?” Jack asked.

“The food was excellent and the company was even better,” Sam said, smiling brightly at Daniel.

Daniel, uncomfortable with the compliment, looked at Jack and shrugged.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t make it, Jack,” Daniel said.

“Yeah, well, the general had other plans,” Jack said.

“The general?” Daniel inquired, hoping against hope that Jack was now in the loop.

“Yeah.  Short guy, balding, heavy-set.  He runs the place,” Jack explained.  “I’ll introduce you sometime.”

Daniel’s hopeful look vanished in an instant, and he gazed down at the floor.

“I do not understand your behavior, O’Neill,” Teal’c said.

Jack didn’t miss the note of disapproval or latent anger in Teal’c’s voice, and the truth was, he couldn’t blame him.  He was being an ass again.

“It’s just a joke, Teal’c,” Daniel placated, looking up.

Intuitively, Jack knew Daniel was trying to help, but invariably, it rankled to the core.

“Thank you for that clarification, Dr. Jackson,” Jack said acidly.

Daniel sighed inwardly at the nomenclature.  Jack was obviously pissed and wanted Daniel to know it.

Newsflash, Jack.  I’ve known for months.

“Uh, Daniel, I’ve got some experiments I need to attend to before I leave,” Sam said, clearly wanting to avoid witnessing a scene.  “I’ll see you later, okay?”

“Sure, Sam,” Daniel said, not blaming her one bit for desiring a hasty retreat.

Sam looked at Jack.  “Sir,” she said curtly, dismissing herself.

“Major,” Jack nodded and watched her leave.

“Teal’c, you don’t have anywhere you need to be?” Jack asked, turning his attention to the Jaffa.

“Indeed I do, O’Neill.”

Teal’c didn’t move and Daniel found himself automatically looking at Jack to see if he perceived their teammate’s behavior to be a bit strange.

“Well?” Jack said, raising his eyebrows.

“Well what, O’Neill?”

“Shouldn’t you be going where you need to be going?” Jack suggested impatiently.

“I am already here,” Teal’c replied, fixing Jack with a dark stare.

Oh boy, Daniel thought.  “Uh, Teal’c, can I ask you a favor?”

“Of course, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c replied, looking benevolently at Daniel.

“Um, Jack and I need to talk.”

Teal’c looked at Jack and then back to Daniel.

“Are you quite sure, Daniel Jackson?” he asked, clearly displeased with the request.

“Yes, yes, I’m quite sure.  Please, Teal’c,” Daniel said.

“Very well.  I will be in my quarters, Daniel Jackson.”

“Thank you.  I’ll come by soon,” Daniel said.

The two watched Teal’c walk down the hall and around the corner.  Daniel could feel Jack’s eyes boring a hole into his skull.

 “What the hell have you been saying to them?” Jack asked vehemently.

“What do you mean?” Daniel asked in surprise.

“Cut the crap, Daniel,” Jack growled.  “Carter couldn’t wait to get away from me, and Teal’c, hell, he was ready to eat my balls.”

“Jack, I haven’t said anything to them.  What the hell have I got to say anyway?  It’s not like we’ve been sharing any secrets lately.  Oh, dumb, Jackson.  Really dumb.  “Or anything for that matter,” he added.

“Which is precisely the point of the fucking fishing trip,” Jack snapped.

“Damn it, Jack.  I promise I’ll go the next time, butI can’t do it now.  It’s just not possible,” Daniel insisted.

“There won’t be a next time,” Jack said coldly and walked away leaving a dejected and weary Daniel.

                                    **********

This is just peachy, Jack thought dismally as he glanced at the dark profile of his silent passenger.  He looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Carter looking like she’d lost her best friend.  Yeah, just peachy.  He turned the wheel sharply and pulled over to the side of the road.

“Sir?” Sam said, snapping out of her depression.

“Is there a problem, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked.

“Yes, there’s a problem.  There’s a big honkin’ problem, but it’s between me and Daniel.”

Jack twisted around in his seat so he could see both of his teammates.

“Look, you may not believe it, but I miss him, too.  I wish he was here, but he isn’t.  Now, we can go to the cabin, kick back and relax, or I can take you guys back and I’ll go alone.  It’s up to you,” Jack said.

Sam felt immediately ashamed of her selfish indulgence, and Daniel’s parting words rang loudly in her mind:  Sam, help Jack and have fun yourself.  This trip is important to him, and he’s doing it for all the right reasons.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world, sir, honestly,” Sam said.

“Teal’c?” Jack queried.

Teal’c, too, had received a request from Daniel to ‘make’ Jack’s trip.

“Undomesticated equines, O’Neill,” Teal’c replied with a knowing smile.

“All right,” Jack grinned.  “So, who’s ready for Carmen?”

Dual sounds of misgivings caused Jack to chuckle as he slipped a CD into the player.

“Okay, Pink Floyd it is.”

                                    ****************
“It’s good to see you again, Daniel,” Jacob said, shaking the younger man’s hand warmly.

“You too, Jacob, although I wish it were under different circumstances,” Daniel replied.

“Amen to that,” Jacob agreed solemnly.  “George,” he said, turning to Hammond, “we need to talk.”

“My office,” Hammond replied, his chest tightening at the grimness in Jacob’s eyes and voice.

“Ah, excuse me, but I presume you mean me as well?” Daniel queried.

“Of course,” Jacob said, an unmistakable sadness in his voice.

“Things have gotten worse, haven’t they?” Daniel asked.

“It’s not good, Danny,” Jacob acknowledged.

“Let’s go to my office,” Hammond said quietly.

                                                ***************

“Oh, my God, I’ve got something!” Sam cried, clutching her fishing rod.

“What?” Jack said, pushing his hat up off his eyes.

“I’ve got something!” Sam repeated excitedly.

“Are you certain you have not snagged the bottom, Major Carter?” Teal’c asked as he came over to assist her.

“Teal’c, I have been fishing before.  I know what a fish feels like,” she said.

“You have?” Jack asked.

“Of course, sir.  My father used to take me and Mark all the time,” Sam explained as she grappled with her prize.

“You never told me that,” Jack said indignantly.  “Teal’c, did you know Carter used to fish?”

“I did not, O’Neill.”

“Carter, why didn’t you ever tell me you liked to fish?” Jack asked, hurt evident in his tone.

“I didn’t say I liked it, sir,” she said pulling back sharply on her rod.

“Do you require assistance, Major Carter?” Teal’c asked.

“No, Teal’c, I’ve almost got him.  Boy, he’s gotta be fifteen pounds at least,” she bubbled.

“Carter, let me help.  You’re giving him too much lead,” Jack said, reaching for her rod.

“I’m fine, sir,” Sam said, moving out of Jack’s reach.

“Damn it, Carter.  Let me—”

“Major Carter, look out!” Teal’c warned.

“What?  Oh—”

“Carter!” Jack shouted, snagging Sam’s sleeve.

Teal’c watched in bemused fascination as his teammates went over the edge of the dock and splashed noisily into the water.

“Teal’c, my rod!” Jack gasped.

Teal’c leaned over and deftly plucked the rod, minus a fish, out of the water.

“I’m afraid you fish is gone, Major Carter.”

“Damn it, Colonel,” Sam said, shaking the water off her face.  “You did that on purpose.”

“Hey, I was just trying to help,” Jack said defensively.  “Here, you’ve got something in your hair.  Crap, it’s moving,” he said, snatching his hand back and grimacing.

“Get it off!” she yelled.  “What is it?”

“Hold still,” Jack ordered.

Sam held her breath while Jack leaned over carefully and then liberally splashed her in the face.

“Gotcha!” he crowed.

“You bastard!” Sam sputtered, spitting out water.

“That’s ‘bastard, sir’,” Jack reprimanded.

“Cannonball!” a voice suddenly boomed.

“Teal’c, no!” Jack and Sam shouted as they backpedaled frantically from the sight of a two hundred fifty pound Jaffa hurtling towards them.

                                    **************

“This changes things,” Hammond said gravely.  “I’m sorry, Dr. Jackson, but I can’t allow you to go.”

“General, we can’t just sit here and do nothing.  Innocent people are being destroyed,” Daniel said.  “Not to mention the fact that both Jack and I are being used as pawns.”

“It’s too dangerous, Doctor.  You heard Jacob.  The Stargate is now guarded around the clock, and  I can’t provide you with backup,” Hammond said firmly.

“I’m not asking for backup,” Daniel insisted.  “I may be a civilian, but I’m not a ‘babe-in-the-woods’.  Not anymore.  I’ve learned from the best.  Besides, I have no intention of dying.”

“Doctor Jackson, I’m not questioning your abilities.  The Tok’ra pulled their last operative out of Dendera because the situation became too volatile.  He was damn lucky to get out alive.  You’d likely be killed as soon as you set foot on that planet.  Whoever this ‘Daniel Jackson’ is, he’s not going to welcome any outsiders,” Hammond explained patiently.  “He knows he was under surveillance.”

“That means he’s scared, General,” Daniel insisted, “and if there’s some opposition to him I can work with that.” 

Daniel turned to Jacob.  “Jacob, Selmak, can you get me through the Stargate?”

Jacob’s eyes flashed and Selmak spoke.

“We can get you through the Stargate, Dr. Jackson.  However, we can not guarantee your safety.”

“I’m not asking for guarantees,” Daniel said.  “Just get me in.”

“Danny,” Jacob said, accepting control from Selmak, “I can disguise you as a Denderan, but if he suspects you, he won’t hesitate to kill you or, worse, make an example of you.  He looks like Jack; he sounds like Jack; he—”

“But he isn’t Jack,” Daniel said.  “I can deal with that.”  I just won’t think about it too much.

“General, please.  I deserve the chance to clear my name and Jack’s.  I can’t do my job knowing someone out there is convincing innocent people to become hosts.  I couldn’t save Sha’re.  Please, let me try to help these people,” Daniel entreated.

George looked at Jacob and saw the same reservations in his old friend’s eyes, but he also saw the same pride and resignation.  Daniel deserved the chance.  He returned his gaze to Daniel.

“Make the necessary preparations, Dr. Jackson.”

“Thank you, sir,” Daniel said sincerely.

“I wish I could send you more backup, son,” Hammond said.

“I know, sir,” Daniel smiled, absolving the older man of his guilt.

                                                **************

Jack finished stringing up a line on which they could all hang their wet clothes.  He couldn’t believe Teal’c had done that.  Where the hell did he learn about cannonballing?  And the resulting water fight was a sight to behold.  Who knew Carter could hold her breath that long?

“The shower’s free, Colonel,” Sam said, toweling her hair.

“Thanks, Carter.  You can hang your stuff here,” Jack said.

“I still can’t believe Teal’c did that,” Sam smiled, draping her clothes over the line.

“That’s what I was just thinking,” Jack said.

“I wish—” Sam bit her lip and shook her head.

“Yeah, I wish Daniel was here, too,” Jack said.

Sam smiled and nodded, surprised but pleased with her CO’s admission.  SG-1 was going to be just fine.

“O’Neill, do you require more firewood?” Teal’c asked.

“Couldn’t hurt,” Jack said.  “I’ll give you a hand.”

“There is only one axe,” Teal’c said.

“Crap, I keep forgetting to bring another one.”

“I can handle it,” Teal’c said stoically.

“Never doubted it for a second, big guy.  By the way, where did you learn to cannonball?” Jack asked.

Teal’c smiled.  “Daniel Jackson.”

“Daniel?” Jack and Sam said in unison.

“Indeed.  He told me if I got the chance I was to do it.  He said it would be most pleasurable, and indeed it was.”

Jack smiled.  Maybe Daniel found a way to join them after all.

                                    ****************

“General, if something happens to me, if I don’t come back, would you please see that Jack gets this,” Daniel requested as he handed Hammond a sealed envelope.  “Jack is, uh, a little angry with me right now,” he said awkwardly.  “I understand his anger and I know it’s not personal.  I need Jack to know that, too,” he said earnestly.

George took the envelope and turned it thoughtfully in his hands.  He looked up at Daniel with clear blue eyes.

“I pray to God the colonel will never have to see this, son,” he said huskily.

“So do I, sir, but…” Daniel’s voice trailed off.

“If it comes to that I’ll make sure that Jack gets this letter,” Hammond assured him, “and that he understands.”

“It won’t come to that,” Jacob said firmly, looking at the two men.

Daniel smiled gratefully, but turned back to Hammond.

 “I’ll look after it, son,” Hammond promised.

“Thank you,” Daniel whispered.

“General Hammond, we’re ready, sir,” Sergeant Davis announced.

“Dial us in, Sergeant.”

“Yes, sir,” Davis responded, clearly unhappy with recent developments.  He hated covert operations.  Someone always got hurt, and they always involved his favorite SG team.  He said a silent prayer for Dr. Jackson as he dialed the coordinates.

The Stargate engaged and the event horizon appeared.

George’s eyes met Jacob’s and an unspoken message was sent and received: Jacob would bring Daniel back or die in the process.

 

Jacob walked up to the wormhole and through two shock grenades into its midst.

“Are you ready, Dr. Jackson?” Hammond inquired softly.

Daniel looked up at the control room, the briefing room, and the general’s office.  He didn’t know if he’d be coming back, and he wanted to remember it all.

“I’m ready,” Daniel said, looking back at Hammond.  “Goodbye, sir,” he said, extending his hand.

George took Daniel’s hand and then pulled him into a rib-crushing hug.

“God speed, son,” he whispered, his voice faltering.

“I’ll be back,” Daniel vowed, his own voice thick with emotion.

George stepped back and saluted his young subordinate sharply.

Although the hug was worth more than a thousand salutes, Daniel knew there was no greater honor the general could offer.  He nodded in appreciation, quickly turned before his emotions betrayed him, and joined Jacob.  Together they walked through the Stargate.

George remained at attention until the wormhole disengaged.  He brought his hand down slowly and thought, not for the first time, that it may be time to retire.  He’d let himself get too close.

                                                ***************

Daniel looked from the unconscious guards on the ground to the remains of the shock grenades that had temporarily incapacitated the two sentries.

“I hate having to be grateful to Goa’uld technology,” he muttered as he pulled the hood of his robe up over his head.

“You must speak only in the local dialect,” Selmak warned. “We will follow this path as it is rarely traveled.  Keep your face hidden.”

Daniel nodded and walked silently behind Selmak as they entered what Daniel could only describe as a rabbit trail; a very much unused rabbit trail.

After twenty minutes of getting his robes entangled in brambles, Daniel had enough.

“Selmak, this path, and I use that term lightly, is rarely traveled because it hasn’t been used in years,” he grumbled.  Who the hell could find it?

“Your grasp of the Denderan language is admirable,” Selmak said as he helped Daniel free his robes from a stubborn bush.  “Perhaps we should have taken the road.”

Daniel stiffened and fixed Selmak with a thorny gaze.

“You mean we’re in this…vegetation because you didn’t trust me with the language?” Daniel asked heatedly.

“It was a precaution, Daniel,” Jacob said, assuming control.

“I was talking to Selmak,” Daniel said, his lips tight.

“Selmak felt you were getting a little edgy and thought you’d rather talk to me,” Jacob explained.

“Passed the buck, did he?” Daniel muttered.

“Pretty much,” Jacob smiled.  “I told him you wouldn’t go anywhere unprepared, but you know the Tok’ra.”

“I also know that if anyone catches us in here we’re going to look pretty damn suspicious.  I mean, who in their right minds would be in here unless they were blind or hiding from something?” Daniel said.

“You are correct,” Selmak said.  “Please, forgive us.”

“Us?” Daniel said, unable to hide a smile as he could imagine what Jacob was saying to Selmak.

“We’re taking the road,” Jacob said, assuming control once again.

“Thank God,” Daniel sighed.

Thirty minutes later they were on the outskirts of the town.  They had passed a few individuals and exchanged pleasantries without causing concern.  Daniel was starting to feel that maybe things wouldn’t be too bad.

“You’re telling me this now?” Jacob growled.

“Excuse me?” Daniel said, furrowing his brow.

“Not you, Danny,” Jacob said, waving his hand.  “Damn it.”

“What is it?” Daniel asked.

“Selmak says you have to go on alone.  We have to go back to deal with the guards when they wake up,” Jacob said, clearly not happy with the news.

“What do you mean ‘deal with’?” Daniel asked, desiring to avoid bloodshed.  The guards were clearly not Jaffa, but Denderan.

“I will flash my eyes and say they have passed the test for potential hosts for only the blessed would have survived the blast,” Selmak explained.

Daniel scowled, but nodded.

Selmak’s eyes flashed briefly, and then Jacob smiled.

“Take care, Danny.  I’ll find you,” he whispered.

Daniel smiled at Jacob’s use of English.  “I’ll be fine,” he assured the older man.

                                    **************

Daniel thought he was prepared, but his first glimpse of his ‘double’ still came as a shock.  Worse, was the adulation being showered upon the man, and the chanting of ‘Jackson’.  Daniel shivered and looked around at the people, careful to remain hidden in his robes.  He had to find someone with that ‘look’.  The look that said, ‘You are full of it.  I’ll go through the motions, but when your back is turned…’

The crowd suddenly parted to open a path for the false Dr. Jackson and his entourage to sweep by them.  Daniel hung well back, not ready to meet the eyes of this man, but not wanting to appear obvious, he made an attempt to look like he was eager to get a closer look.  It was easier to do than he thought.  To his surprise, he was roughly shoved back as desperate people reached out and begged for the chance to become hosts.  Daniel wanted to yell at them and tell them the truth of the horror that awaited them if they succumbed to this man’s charms.  He looked at their faces and saw the desperation Hammond and Jacob had warned him about.  He also saw the ravages of a disease.  He glanced down at his own arms and the burns that Jacob had put on his unblemished skin so he would blend in.  Daniel had always wondered if the healing device could wound as well as heal.  Now he knew.

A hand suddenly gripped his shoulder and Daniel stiffened.

“It’s about time you showed up,” an English voice whispered in his ear.  “We need to talk.”

Daniel turned, and his eyes widened at the familiar face.  Aris Boch?

“Meet me at the well when you hear the gong,” Aris said, reverting to the local language.  “That should be in about two of your hours.”

Daniel nodded and returned his gaze to the imposter and his entourage, but his mind was whirling.  Oddly, he felt his spirits lift at the sight of the bounty hunter.  He also had a funny feeling that Aris Boch had something to do with the savior looking like Jack and being called Dr. Jackson.

After their hero had departed, the crowd began to drift away by ones, twos, and threes.  Daniel spotted Jacob and wondered how long the older man had been watching his back.  Smiling, he strolled up to the man.

“A bounty hunter I know wants me to meet him at the well when the gong sounds,”
Daniel murmured.

“You don’t mean Aris Boch?” Jacob said, familiar with SG-1’s run-in with the bounty hunter.

“The one and only,” Daniel replied.  “I have a hunch he’s involved in all this.  He said it was about time I showed up.”

“Do you trust him?” Jacob asked, his brown creased in concern.

“Strangely enough, I do,” Daniel shrugged.

“Well, he did save one of us,” Jacob murmured, “But still…I’ll come with you.”

“No, I think I should go by myself.  We don’t want to attract attention, remember?  But stay close, okay?” Daniel requested.

“We won’t let you out of our sight,” Jacob said.

“What does the gong signify?” Daniel asked.

“As far as we know, it seems to signify a siesta of sorts.  Everyone drifts back to their homes, or finds a quiet place to meditate.  The well is half a mile down that road.  You’ll have to throw in a few luts for good luck.”

“Luts?” Daniel queried.

“Here, you’ll need this,” Jacob said, handing Daniel a heavy pouch.  “It’s the local currency.  The gold pieces are called ‘ahkans’.  One ahkan is worth ten ‘luts’, which are the red ones.”

“Am I rich?” Daniel asked, feeling the weight of the bag.

“You won’t starve,” Jacob smiled, “but don’t spend it all in one place.”

“I think I’ll go and mingle,” Daniel said, tying the pouch to his belt.  “There has to be someone here who thinks Dr. Jackson is full of it,” he remarked.

“Be careful and stay in sight,” Jacob warned.

                                    *************

Daniel bought two spicy meat kebabs and a gourd of refreshing sweet water for himself and Jacob.  He found Jacob and gave the older man one of the kebabs.

“Thought you might be hungry,” Daniel said.  “The food is delicious here.”

“Thank you,” Jacob said, touched by Daniel’s consideration.  “Our operatives put on ten pounds while they were here.”

“I can see why,” Daniel said, licking meaty juice off his fingers.

“Have you learned anything?” Jacob asked, pulling off a morsel of meat.

“Nothing we didn’t know already.  These people are sick, dying, and scared.  They look at this Jackson as their only means of survival.  I did detect, however, a little grumbling about who gets selected,” Daniel explained.

“Let me guess,” Jacob said, “the young and the beautiful.”

“Pretty much,” Daniel said.  “They have selected a few elderly people, but I doubt very much if they were allowed to live.”

A loud gonging noise suddenly resounded through the square.

“There’s my cue,” Daniel said, finishing his meal and washing it down with some water.

“Don’t try to lose me,” Jacob warned.

Daniel smiled and headed down the road.

                                    **************

Daniel found the well without difficulty.  There were a few people sitting around it, and he quickly spotted Aris Boch.  He casually walked up beside the bounty hunter and tossed a few coins into the well.

“May your wish come true, friend,” Aris Boch said.

Daniel lowered his head and murmured, “What have you done?”

“You wound me,” Boch replied, placing his hand over his heart.

Daniel glowered and Boch smiled.

“Okay, let’s get to it then.  Who’s your shadow?”

“Fair enough,” Daniel replied.  “He’s a Tok’ra.  Major Carter’s father, in fact.”

“There’s a story here,” Boch said appreciatively.  “Let’s go for a walk, and bring your friend.”

Daniel motioned to Jacob and the three men walked idly down the road.

“So, are you going to tell me why someone who’s a dead ringer for Jack is going by my name and convincing people to become hosts?” Daniel asked quietly.

“I needed something to attract your attention,” Boch responded reasonably.

“I knew it,” Daniel murmured.

“How did you know he’d get the news?” Jacob asked.

“Once I knew the Tok’ra were sniffing around it was just a matter of time before the Tau’ri knew.  No offense, but your Tok’ra operatives could use a little more training in the art of concealment,” Boch said.  “The last one damn near got himself killed.  Had to pull in a few favors to get him out in one piece.”

“What are you doing here?” Daniel asked.  “Other than the self-appointed savior, there doesn’t seem to be anyone here who’d have a bounty on their head.”

“I live here,” Boch replied.  “I’ve retired.  I’m even married.”

“I don’t believe it,” Daniel said.

“I hardly believe it myself,” Boch smiled.

“Mr. Boch, perhaps we could get back on track,” Jacob suggested.

“Is he always this pushy?” Boch asked, looking at Daniel.

“He used to be a general in the US Air Force,” Daniel shrugged.

“That explains it.  Okay, as I said, I’ve retired here.  I came quite by accident.  Emergency landing; disgruntled clients on my tail.  Boring story,” he said, waving his arm.  “I was injured and these people were kind enough to take me in.  The woman who cared for me is now my wife.  I fell in love with her and this planet.  Also, I’m not getting any younger.  Figured it was time for a change.”

Daniel nodded, unsure of the explanation.  He had a hard time believing a man like Aris Boch would give up the thrill of the hunt for marriage and retirement on a benign planet.  But then he thought of Sha’re and found it easier to believe.

“What about roshna?” Daniel inquired.

“That’s why I was being chased,” Boch replied, a glint in his eye.  “I have enough to last a lifetime.”

“So you settled down in this idyllic world and then a snake appeared in the garden,” Daniel surmised.

“Damn Goa’uld,” Boch growled.  “And to think I used to work for those bastards.”

“He’s not a Goa’uld,” Jacob said.

 “You mean that prima donna, Jackson?  No, he’s a shape-shifter,” Boch replied.

“A shape-shifter,” Jacob murmured.

“A real shape-shifter?” Daniel said, his excitement obvious.  “We thought he might have been an android or a clone, but a shape-shifter, yes, that makes sense.  We met one before.  Well, sort of.  I guess it was more of a hallucination thing.  Very nice.  He was being persecuted by the Goa’uld.  I wonder if it’s the same species?  Then there was that time with the Coast Salish spirits.  Have you seen its natural form?”

“Danny,” Jacob said with patient exasperation.

“What?” Daniel asked, glancing at the older man.

“He hasn’t changed a bit,” Boch said to Jacob.  “But to answer your question, no, I haven’t seen its natural state.  It looked like a friend of mine when I first encountered it.  Long story short, it’s working for a Goa’uld called Khepri.  He’s not a System Lord, but if he succeeds in his plan he’s going to be very powerful.”

“Khepri,” Daniel said.  “God of creation.”

“And he’s creating his own army,” Boch said.

“Why this planet?  Why these people?” Daniel asked.

“It’s small, harmless, has a Stargate, but basically, it was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Boch explained.

“And the people are dying and easy pickings,” Jacob added.

“They are now,” Boch said darkly, glancing around to ensure they were still alone.

“You mean Khepri did this?” Daniel asked in horror.

“That damn Goa’uld purposely exposed them to a deadly pathogen,” Boch said grimly.

 “Food or water borne?” Jacob asked, thinking of the meal he and Daniel had just ingested.

“Skin contact as far as we can tell,” Boch said.  “You can’t see it or smell it.  It’s also genetically engineered for the physiology of the inhabitants so you can rest easy on that score,” he explained.  “The first signs are blisters, usually on the extremities, and then it starts eating you from the inside.  I see you’ve done your homework,” he added, gesturing to the burns on Daniel’s and Jacob’s arms.

“Your wife is ill,” Daniel said softly.

Aris Boch’s countenance changed dramatically and Daniel saw the grief and fear before the professional mask of the bounty hunter once again looked out.

“The blisters appeared ten days ago,” Boch confirmed.

“Long after you tried to get our attention,” Jacob said more to himself than anyone else.

“No one deserves this except the damn Goa’uld,” Boch hissed.  “I know you care for the hosts, Dr. Jackson, but I can’t be worrying about them, too.”

“How did Jack and I get involved?” Daniel asked.

“The shape-shifter recruited me to help convince the people to cooperate.  It knew I was different and had been around.  It can be quite inventive and persuasive,” Boch added grim-faced.

Daniel didn’t need the man to elaborate.  The uneasiness in his eyes told enough.

“So,” Boch said, dismissing his experience, “I wondered who else in this universe hated the Goa’uld as much as me.”

“And you thought of us,” Daniel said.

“The destroyers of Ra, Hathor, Seth, Sokar, and Apophis.  Did I miss anyone?”

“Chronos,” Daniel said.

Boch whistled in appreciation, but his face was grim.  “I also heard about your wife, Dr. Jackson.  I’m sorry.”

“Thank you.  Sha’re is free now,” Daniel said, but deep sadness shone in his eyes.

“Yes, “Boch said uncomfortably, “well, anyway, I still had my computer graphics and voice imprints of you and the rest of SG-1.  I—”

“Wait, wait, wait.  You have voice prints and graphics of us?” Daniel asked incredulously.

“I am a bounty hunter, or was,” Boch corrected.  “Give me some credit.”

Jacob patted Daniel on the arm and nodded to Boch to continue.

“I played to the creature’s ego and convinced it that if anyone could influence these people, it would be Dr. Daniel Jackson: the man who unlocked the Stargate, spoke Goa’uld, and  killed System Lords.  If anyone knew there were good Goa’uld out there, it would be him, and if anyone could pull off the deception, it would be it.”

“Sweet,” Daniel grimaced, unconsciously mimicking Jack..

“Your exploits are legendary here,” Boch said, “and if Dr. Jackson says Khepri is a decent, loving Goa’uld just wanting to help.  Well …” he said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Lambs to the slaughter,” Jacob murmured.

“And you switched identities of me and Jack because?” Daniel queried.

“I knew a Daniel Jackson look-alike would draw attention once I got the information out there, but a Jackson that looked like O’Neill?  Well, that would be a mystery too good to pass up,” Boch explained.  “I used my connections to get the information out there as much as I could.”

“In the hopes the Tau’ri or Tok’ra would hear about it,” Jacob said.

“And we’d come running,” Daniel finished.

“And here you are,” Boch smiled.  “I have to admit though; I am surprised Colonel O’Neill didn’t insist on coming.”

“He doesn’t know,” Daniel said quietly.

“I see,” Boch murmured thoughtfully.  “I sense another story.  Just as well.  This is a very volatile situation.  I have the utmost respect for Colonel O’Neill, but he can be a little abrasive.”

“A little,” Daniel smiled.

“What exactly do you expect Daniel to do?” Jacob asked.

“Tell the truth,” Boch said.  “Convince these people that the Goa’uld are all the same: parasites who care nothing for the host.   Creatures that are pure evil.  I know what you’re thinking, ‘How the hell is he supposed to do that?’” Boch turned to Daniel and resumed.

“There is a small underground resistance movement.  They can help.  The shape-shifter is an opportunist.  Believe me, I know the type.  Once things get difficult for it, it’ll be out of here faster than—”

“How are dissidents treated?” Jacob interrupted.

Boch looked uncomfortable, but said, “Not well.  If they’re lucky they’re killed outright.”

“That’s encouraging,” Daniel murmured.

“How many have been caught?” Jacob asked.

“Five and they’re all dead,” Boch said flatly.

Daniel looked at Jacob.  Both men knew it would come down to this, and they knew the possible consequences.  Jacob had Selmak to help him through the worst.  Daniel had his innate tenacity and fierce sense of justice.  It would have to be enough.  Daniel nodded and looked back at Aris Boch.

“I think you should start introducing me,” Daniel said.

Aris Boch smiled and felt an odd sense of pride in the young Tau’ri.  Maybe when this was all over, and assuming they were all still alive, he would be lucky enough to think of Daniel Jackson as a friend. 

“I knew I picked the right man,” he said quietly.  “I’d like you to meet my wife before we get started.  I want her to meet the real Dr. Daniel Jackson.”

Daniel, embarrassed, glanced at Jacob who smiled paternally.

“The burden of being a legend, Danny,” he shrugged.

Daniel shook his head in surrender and wondered what Jack would do if he were here.  Ruffle my hair, probably, he thought ruefully.  Daniel sighed; he wished Jack was here.  No, not here, but aware of what he was doing.  He wanted Jack to be a part of this.

“In the immortal words of Jack O’Neill,” Jacob said, “Let’s move out, campers.”

Daniel’s spirits lifted, and he smiled.  In his own inimitable way, Jack was a part of this and it gave him some comfort. 

“This way,” Boch directed.

Jacob clapped Daniel on the back.  He knew Daniel was missing Jack, as well as Sam and Teal’c.  If he could fill in just a little bit then he was more than willing.

You’re a good man, Jacob, Selmak said in his mind.

I’ve got good friends, Jacob replied.  They’ve rubbed off on me.

You feel the task is too great for Daniel Jackson, Selmak prodded gently.

I fear that Daniel will not give up.  If he dies…Jacob’s thought trailed off.

It will be over our dead bodies, Selmak said gently.

You really know how to cheer a guy up, Selmak, Jacob said affectionately.

I do what I can, Selmak replied with a martyred sigh.

                                    **************

Aris Boch’s wife, Cora, was lovely.  Daniel couldn’t describe her any other way.  She was warm, gracious, and vibrant.  Even the ugly blisters marring her skin couldn’t hide her gentle beauty.

Daniel watched as Boch administered to his wife’s sores.  The man was besotted, and his hands trembled slightly as he touched her wounds.

“Aris, I am not made of Gorian crystal,” she chided fondly.

“Gorian crystal?” Jacob queried.  “You’ve seen it?”

“Had some,” Aris corrected.  “It was a long time ago.”

“What’s Gorian crystal?” Daniel asked.

“Just the rarest and most fragile crystal in the known universe,” Jacob explained.  “The material is actually spun by a spider, now extinct.  There hasn’t been any crystals made for centuries.  A person could make their fortune with just one piece.”

Daniel’s eyes widened and he looked knowingly at Aris Boch.

“You gave it up,” he said softly.

“For a fortune, yes,” Boch murmured, dabbing ointment on his wife’s face.

Cora’s eyes twinkled and she beamed at Daniel.

“My people are very secular, Dr. Jackson.  No outsider has ever been allowed to stay here.  To marry one was unthinkable,” she said, clasping her husband’s hand firmly.  “To even consider such a union, the dowry would have to be extraordinary.”

“Like Gorian crystal,” Daniel said gently.

“Yes,” she smiled.  “My father was a merchant, but ill health had ended his career early.  He had seen places on the other side of this world which haunted him in his dreams.  He longed to return before his death, but the cost was beyond anything we could ever hope to achieve.”

“Until Aris Boch,” Daniel smiled.

“Yes,” Cora smiled, caressing her husband’s stubbled cheek.

“Yes, well dear, I don’t think they are really interested in all this personal stuff,” Boch said blushing.

“We can talk later,” Daniel said impishly, “but right now I think it’s time I made my presence known.”

                                                ******************

Things were going too well for Jacob’s comfort.  Aris Boch had introduced them to a number of individuals who were more than willing to listen to the real Daniel Jackson, but emotions were high, and living proof of their being deceived was threatening to make them reckless.  One slip, one misspoken word to the wrong person, or within hearing distance of the wrong person, and Daniel would be exposed before he was ready.

“Daniel, I don’t like this,” Jacob whispered, steering Daniel away from a young couple whose child was covered in blisters.

“This is genocide,” Daniel said darkly.  “You’re not supposed to like it.”

“You know what I mean, Daniel,” Jacob sighed.  “The rebellion is growing too fast.  Someone is going to make a mistake.”

“We can’t leave now,” Daniel insisted.  “Look at these people.”

“I’m not saying we should leave.  I’m just saying step back a bit.  The seed has been planted.  Let it take root and see what comes to fruition.”

Daniel looked quizzically at Jacob, and the older man nodded.

“All right, all right, so Selmak said the seed has been planted etc., but I agree with him.  You’ve done more than enough, Daniel.  Let’s see if these people can do the rest.”

“What about the disease?” Daniel said.  “Even if the Denderans do rebel and overthrow this shape-shifter and Khepri, they’ll still have the disease to deal with.  We have to help them.” 

“We will,” Jacob assured him.  “We can get blood and tissue samples.  Between the Tok’ra and the SGC we’re bound to find something to help them.”

“Then do it, Jacob.  Do it now.  Get the samples and go back through the Stargate,” Daniel insisted.

“And leave you here alone?” Jacob said incredulously.

“I’m not alone and besides, I’ll be fine,” Daniel said.

“Well, I won’t be,” Jacob countered.  “Not after George and Jack get a hold of me.  Not to mention Teal’c and my own daughter.  Hell, it’s bad enough I left you earlier.”

“Aris Boch will keep me safe,” Daniel said.

“He couldn’t keep his wife safe,” Jacob pointed out.

“All right,” Daniel conceded, “but can we at least get some samples through to Janet?  Get her started on something.”

“I’ll see what Boch can rig up for us,” Jacob said.  “You stay here.”

Daniel watched Jacob leave and was tempted to call out, ‘What, you’re leaving me alone?’  Instead, he sat down and thought about his friends.  Were they enjoying themselves at Jack’s cabin?  He hoped so, but a little selfish part of him also hoped they missed him.  A bigger part of him wished he was with them.  Wished he was there for Jack and for their friendship.  It wasn’t easy for Jack to take the fist step in a personal issue, and his call for a fishing trip had been a major step.  Daniel just hoped he’d have the opportunity to explain to Jack and to apologize for any misunderstanding or damage his absence may have caused.  That Jack would be angry was a foregone conclusion.  Going behind Jack’s back was never a good idea.  Going behind his back to do something dangerous may just well be the ultimate sin.  Dangerous, Daniel thought with a shiver of guilt, Jack would call this suicidal.

                                                *************

Jack stared at the coffeemaker as it burbled away brewing yet another pot.  He was surprised at how much coffee they were going through considering he and Carter were the only ones drinking the stuff.  He suspected they were both taking up the slack for Daniel.  In a crazy sort of way he felt Daniel was with them when he had a cup of coffee in his hand.

“This is nuts,” Jack muttered.

“Sir?”

Jack turned to see Sam standing in the doorway, her own cup in her hand.

“Hey, Carter.  You’re not finished already, are you?”

Sam shrugged.  “It must be the fresh air, sir.  I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff.”

“Call it what it is, Carter,” Jack sighed, taking her cup and refilling it.

Sam looked at him in confusion as he handed back her cup.

“It’s called, ‘missing Daniel’,” Jack said.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Sam said, looking down at the floor.  “I really am having a wonderful time.”

“But?” Jack prompted.

“I can’t explain it, sir,” she said, looking up flustered.  “I just feel, I don’t know, guilty.”

“Guilty for having a good time without Daniel?” Jack asked.

“I know it’s silly, but—”

 “Carter, it was Daniel’s choice not to come.  It’s not like he wasn’t invited.  Besides, he’s probably having the time of his life in London.”

“I do not believe he is, O’Neill,” Teal’c said, entering the kitchen and the conversation.

“Not you, too,” Jack groaned.

“Why do you say that, Teal’c?” Sam asked in alarm.

“Oh, come on you guys,” Jack groused.

“I believe Daniel Jackson is in danger,” Teal’c said.

“In danger?  From what?  Coming home with an English accent?” Jack cried.

“I do not believe he has gone to London,” Teal’c stated.  “I believe he has gone off-world.”

“Oh, my God,” Sam exclaimed.  “It all makes sense now.”

“What makes sense?” Jack asked in exasperation.

“Daniel,” she replied, looking at Jack.  “It’s been ages since we’ve gone out for lunch.”

“For crying out loud, Carter, you’re losing me here,” Jack said.

“I’m sorry, sir, but it seemed very important to Daniel that we got together.  Some of the things he said,” she murmured, deep in thought.

“Indeed, Major Carter,” Teal’c agreed.

“All right, would somebody please clue in an aging colonel here,” Jack urged.

Sam looked at Teal’c and the concern in his dark eyes caused her stomach to spasm.  She looked at Jack.

“Colonel, I think Daniel was trying to say goodbye,” she said in a horrified whisper.

Jack’s heart hammered in his chest, and he felt his blood rushing in his ears.  Daniel was fine.  He was in London having the time of his life.  He wasn’t off-world risking his life for God knows what.  That was absurd.  Wasn’t it?

“Son-of-a-bitch,” Jack muttered.  Carter was right.  It did make sense.  It made perfect fucking sense and he should have damn well seen it.   Deep down he knew that Daniel was aware of how important this trip was to Jack and to their friendship.  No exhibit, no matter how exotic, would entice Daniel away from the chance to ‘clear the air’.  What would keep him away would be a situation he didn’t want to think about.

“You’re just mentioning this now?” Jack said tersely, his dark eyes on Teal’c.

“It was only a feeling, O’Neill.  It was not until I was unsuccessful in achieving kel-no-reem that I felt compelled to speak of this matter.”

“Teal’c, you think he’s gone on a mission without us?” Sam asked in concern.

“I do, Major Carter.  One he could not tell us about because—”

“Because he damn well knew I’d never let him go,” Jack interrupted.  “Goddamn him.”

Sam and Teal’c both knew Jack’s anger was directed more at himself than at Daniel.

“Sir, General Hammond must have known,” Sam said.

“Of course he knew, Carter,” Jack growled.  Well-deserved down time, my ass.  “Did you bring you cell, Carter?”

“I’ll get it,” Sam said, hurrying to her room.

Jack whirled and threw his mug against the wall.  Any enjoyment he’d been having had just been sucked right out of him.  If it was true; if Daniel was off on another world with Hammond’s knowledge and approval, and SG-1 in the dark, then it had to be something Hammond knew Jack would not allow, even over his dead body   Christ, Daniel, what have you done?

“Sir?”

Jack looked up to see Sam holding out her phone.  He took it and dialed the general’s direct line.  He waited, swore, and hung up.  He punched in another number.

“This is Colonel O’Neill.  I need to speak to General Hammond.”

Jack waited impatiently for his connection to be completed.  He felt a twinge of guilt as Sam and Teal’c began to clean up his mess.  Abruptly, he returned his attention to the phone.

“Tell him it’s an emergency, Sergeant!”  Jack bellowed.  His jaw clenched as he listened to the response.

“Give the general my regards,” he snapped, closing the phone with a snap.

“He won’t speak to you?” Sam ventured.

“Would you?” Jack replied, fixing her with a determined glare.

“Are we going back to the SGC, O’Neill?” Teal’c inquired.

“We’re going back,” Jack confirmed.

                                                **************

Daniel got quickly to his feet when Jacob returned.  “Can  Boch help us?”

“He can, but there’s a problem,” Jacob replied.

“What kind of problem?”

“There are adequate supplies for what we need and no shortage of willing donors,” Jacob explained.  “The problem is in delivery.”

“You mean ‘gate access,” Daniel guessed.  “Can’t you just do what you did before?” he asked, waving his hand around.

“Too risky,” Jacob said, “but Boch says he can access the Stargate.  He’s in pretty tight with one of the bodyguards, a fact that doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence, to be honest.”

“You don’t think he’s actually working with Khepri?” Daniel asked in surprise.

“Daniel, I don’t know what to think.  Boch has been a bounty hunter, mercenary, smuggler, or whatever, for most of his life.”

“He gave up this Gorian crystal for love,” Daniel said.  “That has to count for something.”

“Not if she’s in on it,” Jacob said.

Daniel stared in shock at the older man; he shook his head.  “No,” he said firmly, “I refuse to even consider that.”

“Which is why it’s my job to consider it,” Jacob said.

“It doesn’t make any sense, Jacob.  What would be the point?  Go through this whole charade to get me here, and then what?  Kill me?  Well, I’m here and no one’s attacked me.  No one’s even interrogated me.  No one’s—”

“I didn’t say I understood it, Daniel,” Jacob interrupted wearily.  “I just don’t like it.”

“You sound like Jack,” Daniel said, annoyed and bemused at the same time.

“Is that a bad thing?” Jacob asked.

Daniel considered the question.  “No, it’s not a bad thing,” he replied softly.

“Daniel, I know you wish Jack was here, along with the rest of your team, but right now, I’m the only one you’ve got.”

“And I’m grateful you’re here, and Selmak,” Daniel said in earnest.  “Please, don’t think otherwise.  I just think the longer we procrastinate, the harder it’s going to be for us to succeed.  We have to act before our presence becomes common knowledge because when that happens, well, the ‘shit hits the fan’ as Jack would say.”

“I’m afraid I have to agree with you and Jack on that score,” Jacob sighed. 

“You said Boch could help with the ‘gate.  What exactly did you mean by that?” Daniel asked.

Jacob frowned and then reluctantly explained.

“Boch sometimes delivers goods to where Khepri is.  Once there, he says he can access that Stargate and send the samples to Earth.”

“That would mean giving him the gate address and a GDO,” Daniel said, seeing the problem instantly.

“Which we can’t do,” Jacob said.  “Even if I trusted him implicitly, we couldn’t take the risk.”

“No, but you could do it,” Daniel said.  “You could take the samples to the SGC.”

“So could you,” Jacob replied.

“I can’t leave these people,” Daniel insisted.  “How would that look?  They believed Khepri, or Jackson,” he winced, “had the solution to their disease, and now I’ve turned their world upside down.”

“Khepri turned their world upside down,” Jacob corrected.

“The point is: I will not leave these people,” Daniel said passionately.  “You’ll have to take the samples to the SGC.”

“And leave you—”

“Damn it, Jacob, you have to!  We came here to convince these people to stop throwing themselves at the Goa’uld, and to expose this imposter for who, or what he is.  But even if everyone believes us, what’s the point if they’re still diseased?  They’ll die regardless, and we’ll have let it happen.  I am not going to stand by and do nothing.”

Jacob looked into the blue, determined eyes, and knew he was beating his head against a brick wall.

“This is why Jack has gone grey,” Jacob muttered to himself.

“Jacob, we have to take this chance,” Daniel said, his voice softening. 

Daniel Jackson is right, Jacob as you well know.  To stop now undermines everything we have tried to do.

“Damn it, Daniel, and damn you, too, Selmak,” Jacob growled.

“Selmak agrees with me,” Daniel said, tasting victory.

“Just promise me you’ll stay hidden until I get back,” Jacob pleaded.

Daniel smiled.  “I promise I’ll do my best to stay hidden.”

“I don’t know how Jack does it,” Jacob murmured.  “The man should have an ulcer the size of Colorado by now.”

                                                *************

“Incoming traveler,” Sergeant Davis announced.  “It’s Dr. Jackson’s IDC, sir.”

“Open the iris,” Hammond ordered.  “Be alert, people,” he said to the SF’s in the gateroom.

Once the wormhole engaged and Jacob stepped through, Hammond was in the gateroom in record time.

“Stand down,” he ordered the guards.

“George, I don’t have a lot of time.  I have to get back; I don’t want to leave Daniel any longer than I have to,” Jacob said in a rush.  “Daniel’s making amazing headway, but the people are dying from a disease genetically engineered by the goa’uld.  These are blood and tissue samples from healthy and sick individuals,” he said, holding up a large container.  “Get Dr. Fraiser working on this right away and send some to the Tok’ra.  If we can find a cure it’ll make our job a hell of a lot easier.

“Slow down, Jacob,” Hammond said.  “How is Dr. Jackson?  Have you made contact with the imposter?”

“Daniel’s doing a bang-up job, George.  We haven’t confronted the imposter, but he’s a shape-shifter.”

“A shape-shifter?  How do you know this?” Hammond asked.

“Aris Boch told us,” Jacob said, wincing.

“Aris Boch?  The bounty hunter?  The one who kidnapped SG-1 and—”

“He’s different now,” Jacob said.  “He’s the one who—”  Jacob shut his mouth, deciding that the less George knew, the better.

“The one who what?” Hammond demanded.

“It’s a long story, George, but trust me, he’s on our side.  He got me through the Stargate to the goa’uld’s world.  His name is Khepri.  He’s a minor goa’uld with big ambitions.  This is the address,” he said, handing Hammond a piece of paper.  “From there I went to Cimmeria, just in case.  If anyone followed me, or saw the address, I figured with Thor’s Hammer back in place, Cimmeria would be safe.  I wish I could explain everything, but I have to get back to Daniel.  And don’t forget to contact the Tok’ra.  If we can’t find a way to fight this disease those people are dead, and even life as a host will hold more appeal to some than death.”

“All right, Jacob.  I’ll get Dr. Fraiser on these right away.”  He turned and leaned into the intercom  “Sergeant, dial in the coordinates for Cimmeria.”

Davis nodded and began the dialing sequence.

“Thank you, George,” Jacob said.  “I know this is a lot to take in.”

“You and Selmak do what you have to do, Jacob, and bring yourselves and Dr. Jackson home.”

“We will,” Jacob promised, shaking Hammond’s hand firmly, before sprinting up the ramp and through the event horizon.

“General Hammond?”

“What is it, Sergeant?” Hammond asked.

“Colonel O’Neill, Major Carter, and Teal’c have just signed in.”

“Of course they have,” Hammond sighed to himself.  “Thank you, Sergeant.  I’ll be in my office.”

“Yes, sir,” Davis replied in sympathy.   He wouldn’t want to be in the general’s shoes right now for anything.

                                                **************

With the exception of a few words exchanged with Jacob upon their arrival on P7B-1N3, Daniel had studiously avoided speaking English.  So when Aris Boch entered the room speaking English, his senses went on double alert.

Daniel looked up and shook his head.  “I do not understand,” he replied in the native tongue.

“Come on, Doc.  You can speak freely here,” Boch said in English, gesturing to the empty room.

Daniel glanced around and wondered when the room had become deserted.  He felt his skin crawl, and when he looked back at Aris Boch he was looking into the dark, familiar eyes of Jack O’Neill.

                                                **************

“The Colonel’s been in there a long time,” Sam murmured, glancing at the general’s closed door.

“Indeed, however, the decibel level has decreased considerably,” Teal’c observed.

“Maybe we should wait somewhere else,” Sam suggested.

“A wise decision, Major Carter.”

They turned to go when Hammond’s voice suddenly boomed over the intercom.

“Major Carter and Teal’c, report to the Briefing Room immediately.”

Sam practically tripped over her own feet to get to the Briefing Room and away from the general’s door, whereas Teal’c moved swiftly and with a natural poise that Sam envied.  The sat down and waited.

                                                ***************

“So, you’re Dr. Daniel Jackson,” the shape-shifter said quietly.  “It’s true then: Aris Boch lied to me.  No matter.  He’ll live long enough to regret that.  That  must mean I’m the other one, Colonel Jack O’Neill, is it?”

“Show your true form,” Daniel said, giving up the pretense of not understanding English.

“And spoil the fun?  I think not,” the creature replied, staring at Daniel with a cold, mocking stare.

“You’re not me, and you’re not Jack O’Neill,” Daniel said evenly, trying not to flinch from the familiar brown eyes.

“You won’t know who you are when I’m finished with you,” the not-Jack replied ominously as he pulled a harmless looking object out of his robe; an object  that Daniel knew would be anything but.

“Do you know what this is?”

Daniel looked from the object to the creature.

“No, but I’m sure you’ll enlighten me,” Daniel replied casually.

“I like your attitude, Dr. Jackson.  It’s quite simple, really.  The best torture devices often are: maximum pain with minimal external damage.  Takes a lot of the fun out of interrogation, actually.  The internal damage, however, can be quite…exquisite,” the shape-shifter mused.  “Shall I demonstrate?”

“I’d rather you didn’t, if it’s all the same to you,” Daniel responded dryly.

“Perhaps Aris Boch’s lovely wife would make an ideal test subject.  Shall I send for her?”

“That won’t be necessary,” Daniel said.

“Noble as well as brave,” the creature mused, circling Daniel and caressing the object in his hand.  “Just the sort of qualities to rally the masses.  I’ll give Boch credit.  Your name did carry weight.  It made my job so much simpler.  But now, thanks to you, I have to watch my back.”

“My heart bleeds,” Daniel said sarcastically.

“Oh, it will, Dr. Jackson.  Believe me, it will.”

                                                ********************

“It seems our haste was unnecessary,” Teal’c stated, addressing the lone occupant in the room.

“What’s taking them so long?” Sam muttered, drumming her fingers on the table.

“Perhaps O’Neill is not ready.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Sam murmured.  If the general was waiting for the colonel to calm down, it was bad news indeed for Daniel.

“They are coming, Major Carter,” Teal’c whispered.

Sam looked up as she heard the general’s door open, unconsciously holding her breath  Her breath whooshed out of her as both men entered the room, wearing rigid masks of anger and concern.  She feared the worse.

 “Major Carter, Teal’c,” Hammond said solemnly, acknowledging their presence.  “The information you are about to receive does not leave this room.  Understood?”

“Yes, General,” Sam said, unnerved by Hammond’s ice-cold eyes.

Teal’c bowed his head in acknowledgement.

Sam looked at her CO, but Jack was not making eye contact with anyone.

Oh, God, Daniel.  What’s happened to you?

                                    ***********************

The pain was as brutal as it was sudden.  Daniel opened his mouth to scream, but as with the debilitating effects of the ribbon device, no sound issued forth.  He wrapped himself into a ball as gut-wrenching cramps incapacitated him.  Only when he could hear his own ragged breathing did Daniel realize that the device had been removed.  He swallowed convulsively as blood pooled in his mouth.  He had bit the inside of his mouth quite badly.

“Ah, good.  It still works.  Do I have you attention, Dr. Jackson?”

Daniel looked up and blinked through tears as the blurry image of Jack morphed into Jacob.  A panicked thought raced through his mind: what if it wasn’t Jacob who left with the samples, but the imposter?

“You look a little confused there, Doctor.”

Daniel looked away and spit out another mouthful of blood.  He wiped his mouth with a shaky hand.

“Why … are you doing this?” Daniel asked, his voice weak in his own ears.

“Torturing you?” the creature queried.

Daniel shook his head.  “Working for the Goa’uld.”

“Oh that.  As Aris Boch would say, the usual: ‘fame and fortune,’” the creature smiled.

“If you know the Goa’uld then you know you can’t trust them,” Daniel said, looking once again into the face of Jack.

“Are you trying to convert me?” the mocking voice of his friend asked incredulously.

“Khepri is using you,” Daniel said.  He tried to get up off his knees, but the ensuing cramps immobilized him.  He slumped back to the ground.

“We’re using each other,” the shape-shifter corrected.  “Believe me, I no more trust the Goa’uld than you do, but enough about me.  Where’s your friend?”

Daniel watched with trepidation as the body before him transformed into Jacob.

“I don’t know,” Daniel answered truthfully.

The figure before him altered back to Jack.

Daniel swallowed hard as the creature kneeled down and placed the device against Daniel’s shoulder.

“You know something?  I believe you.  You know something else?  I don’t care.”

Fire seared through Daniel’s shoulder and down to his fingertips.  Pain radiated through his chest and back.  He fell forward onto his hands, gasping for breath after the device was removed.  He wondered how long he could go through this.

“The beauty of this thing,” the creature said, fingering the device thoughtfully, “is the pain can be localized or magnified.  It has a number of settings, you see.”

Daniel stared at the ground, his peripheral vision catching glimpses of different colors emanating from Jack’s hand.  Not Jack.  Not Jack.

“Look at this:  black.  What do you think, Dr. Jackson?  Black for mild or black for extreme?” his tormentor mused.  “Well, I don’t want to kill you accidentally, so let’s test this out…here.”

Daniel’s hand exploded in pain.  His fingers curled convulsively into the dirt as the device pinned his hand to the ground.

“Ah, extreme, wouldn’t you say, Dr. Jackson?”

Daniel’s hand spasmed violently long after the device was removed.  He stared at it dully as Jack’s voice continued to taunt him.

“The really remarkable thing about this is that it can also heal.  Wouldn’t that feel nice, Dr. Jackson?  Let’s see, now what color was that again?  Green, I believe.”

Daniel screamed hoarsely.

“Oh, dear, it must be yellow then.  There, how’s that?”

Daniel fought hard not to sound grateful for the healing warmth that melted away his pain, but his whimpers of relief betrayed him.

“I bet that feels nice, doesn’t it?  Are you ready to cooperate?  No?  Tsk, you Tau’ri are so stubborn.  What’s your favorite color, Doctor?  Or should I call you Daniel?  Surely O’Neill must call you Daniel.  He’s your friend, isn’t he?  Is he your best friend?  Look at me, Daniel.  Look at your best friend.”

Daniel stubbornly refused to look up.  Jack’s voice, his Jack, rang in his ears.  Damn it, Daniel.  Look at it, for crying out loud.  It’s just yanking your chain.  Don’t give the bastard any more excuses to hurt you.

“Play it your way, Daniel,” the creature sighed.  “Blue’s a nice color, don’t you think?  Blue sky; blue water; blue eyes.  Show me your eyes, Daniel.”

Daniel looked up and glared into the creature’s dark eyes.

“You’re nothing but a puppet. A simple toy used by the goa’uld,” Daniel said, his voice as icy as his eyes.  “Once he’s finished using you he’ll break you and throw away the pieces.”

The creature’s eyes darkened and  Jack’s voice echoed in Daniel’s mind: Damn it, Daniel.  Now you’ve pissed it off.  Daniel’s heart beat a little faster when the familiar-looking lips twitched upwards into a smile that was anything but merry.

“Red, I think.”

                                                *************

“Are we dismissed, General?” Jack asked tightly.

“Yes, Colonel, you’re dismissed,” George replied, his voice grim.

Jack rose from his seat and left the room without a backward glance.

Sam looked worriedly at Teal’c and then at the general.

 “Sitting on the sidelines is never easy for a commanding officer, Major, especially one of the colonel’s caliber.”

“Nor for anyone, General Hammond,” Teal’c said solemnly.

“No, of course not.  Jacob assured me Dr. Jackson was safe,” George reiterated, wondering if he repeated it enough times he’d actually believe it himself.

“No disrespect, General,” Sam said, “but we all know how quickly circumstances can change, and in a situation such as the one Daniel and my father are in—”

“I understand and share your frustration, Major Carter, believe me, but this was a strictly voluntary assignment.  Dr. Jackson knew the risks as did your father.” 

Sam bit her tongue as she knew her response would only belittle herself and her rank.

I wouldn’t buy that bull, either, Major, George thought as he watched her control her emotions.

“Is there nothing we can do, General Hammond?” Teal’c asked.

“Yes, there is, Teal’c.  We can ray for their safe return,” he said quietly.

Teal’c bowed his head, but the general’s words did little to ease his mind.

                                                            ***************
“Son-of-a-bitch,” Jack growled, slamming his fist into the heavy bag.

Jack was hard-pressed to say who he was more angry with: himself, Daniel, or Hammond.  Hell, throw Jacob in there, too.

Jack ripped his gloves off and threw them down in disgust.  He wasn’t accomplishing anything hiding in here.  Daniel would tell him he was behaving like an ass.  He was a commanding officer, for crying out loud.  He had people depending on him; on his strength.  He wasn’t Daniel’s only friend.  Carter and Teal’c were feeling like hell, too.  He couldn’t help Daniel, but his team still needed him, and he needed them; all of them; especially that pain-in-the-ass archaeologist who he missed like hell even when he was mad at him.

“Damn it, Daniel.  You could’ve told me,” Jack whispered.

And then what would you have done?  Jack’s mind taunted.  Tell him what an idiot he was?  Insist on going with them and getting everyone killedt because you couldn’t speak the freaking language?  Grow up, O’Neill.  He didn’t tell you because he knew you’d make his life miserable; more miserable than you already have.  He put his life on the line for a race of strangers, again, not to mention your sorry-ass image.  And he didn’t want you to worry.   You should be grateful you selfish son-of-a-bitch.

Jack sat down heavily and massaged the back of his neck.

“God, Daniel,” he murmured, “watch your back.”

                                                **************

A thousand angry bees buzzed in Daniel’s brain.  He retched again, a dry, hacking spasm that tore at his insides like razor blades. He wrapped one arm tightly around his ribs while the other shook violently as it sought to hold him up off the ground.  He flinched as  strong arms encircled him.

“Daniel?  Daniel, what happened?”

The language was Denderan and the voice familiar.  Daniel looked up through pain-ridden eyes into the concerned face of Jacob.

“Shape-shifter,” Daniel said hoarsely.  “He knows.”

“Where’d he go?” Jacob asked, reverting to English.

Daniel shook his head, the effort to talk too much.  He needed to clear his mind.

“We should get out of here,” Jacob urged.  You’ve done your best; it’s up to them now.”

“Won’t…won’t let us leave,” Daniel rasped.

“I can get us out.  You’ll have to dial while I distract the guards.  Can you do that?”

Even in Daniel’s condition that didn’t sound right, and he didn’t need Jack’s voice to tell him to be alert.

“We should—”  Daniel grimaced as his insides spasmed.  “We should talk to Selmak,” he gasped.

There was a moment’s hesitation and Daniel prayed that Jacob was passing control over to Selmak.

“There’s no time,” Jacob said.  “I’ll catch up with Selmak after I get you home.”

Daniel nodded as his heart beat faster in his chest.   “Give me a minute,” he whispered.  He needed time to think.  Where was Jacob?  Had he delivered the samples?  Had he been captured?  No, he didn’t know Jacob was Tok’ra.  Was Aris Boch a prisoner?

“I know you’re hurting, Daniel, but we don’t know when he’ll be back.  Everyone seems to be heading towards the square.  He might be getting ready to make an example of you,” the pseudo-Jacob explained.

“I think he’s done that already,” Daniel said, straightening up gingerly.  He had a high pain threshold, but he also thought the shape-shifter had done a little healing on him while he was unconscious.   “We can’t dial home; it’s too risky,” he said.  “We’ll have to go to the Gamma site first.”  There was no such thing as a Gamma site, but it wouldn’t know that.

“Whatever you say.  Let’s just do it.”   

Daniel nodded slowly, trying not to show his elation at tricking the shape-shifter.

The imposter grabbed his arm and hoisted him to his feet.  “Come on, let’s go.”

“I can’t go fast,” Daniel gasped.  He had a high pain threshold, but he was still very much in pain.  “I’m going to need rests,” he said, hissing through a spasm.

“That’s okay.  I don’t think anyone will stop us.”

Daniel glanced briefly at the familiar eyes that shone with a glint that did not belong to his friend.  He masked a shiver as a wince of pain and pressed his hand to his abdomen.

 

                                                ****************

“Gotta love these things,” Jack said, picking up one of the spent shock grenades and gazing at four unconscious Jaffa.  “Let’s tie these jokers up and send their weapons back to the SGC.” 

“O’Neill, this one bears the mark of Apophis,” Teal’c said, turning one of the bodies over.

“And Cronus, sir,” Sam added, kneeling beside a Jaffa.

“I’ve got the lovely Hathor over here,” Jack grimaced.  “Teal’c, who does number four belong to?”

Teal’c approached the last Jaffa.  “Khepri, O’Neill.”

“That’s our snake,” Jack said, walking over to Teal’c.  “That’s a scarab,” he said, looking at the emblem.  “Khepri’s a beetle guy?”

“Indeed,” Teal’c replied, his eyebrows raised as both he and Sam looked at Jack in surprise.

“Hey, I read,” Jack exclaimed.  “Besides, Daniel’s got one he uses as a paperweight, and they’re running all over the place in The Mummy.   Bugs,” he muttered, shivering.  “So, if this Khepri has a bunch of displaced Jaffa working for him he’s probably keen on keeping a low profile.”

“Until he is ready  to take his place among the System Lords,” Teal’c said.

“Sweet,” Jack muttered.  “Well, come on, kids, let’s see what we can find out before these guys wake up,” he ordered.  “You’re sure they’ll be out for awhile Teal’c?”

Teal’c immediately zatted the four unconscious Jaffa.

“I am sure, O’Neill.”

“Okay, just checking,” Jack murmured, as he took point.

                                                ****************
The trip to the Stargate was long and arduous.  Daniel stumbled several times, but the shape-shifter was never more than a foot away and caught him every time, albeit roughly and impatiently.

“There it is,” it whispered.

“Why aren’t there any guards?” Daniel panted, trying to catch his breath.

“I don’t know, but I’m not going to complain.”

I bet you’re not, Daniel thought glumly.

Daniel swayed on his feet as he tried to get his fuzzy brain back on track.  If he screwed up now he was toast.

“Come on, we’re almost there,” the pseudo-Jacob grunted, gripping Daniel’s arms with a force the real Jacob would never use.

Daniel winced from the pressure, but allowed himself to be led to the DHD.  He’d run every address he could remember through his mind.  There had to be one he could use that wouldn’t endanger anyone, but would still give him a chance to survive and see this mission through to the end.

“First the Gamma site,” Daniel said, leaning heavily on the DHD.  He took a deep breath and then quickly depressed seven symbols.  He didn’t need to look at the man beside him to know that his fingers were being watched like a hawk.

The wormhole engaged and Daniel’s heart beat faster.

“Let’s move,” Jacob said, grabbing Daniel and pushing him towards the event horizon.

“Easy, Jacob,” Daniel gasped, as recent injuries all screamed at once.

“Sorry, I just want to get away from here.  Our luck can’t last forever,” Jacob said, easing his grip, but not letting go.

Tell me about it, Daniel thought grimly.  Gathering his waning strength, Daniel limped to the Stargate.  He sighed in gratitude as the imposter released its hold on his arm.  They entered the event horizon and exited onto a barren landscape.

Daniel immediately headed away from the Stargate and the DHD.  He hoped that as long as he looked like he knew what he was doing, the shape-shifter would tag along for fear of tipping its hand.  Daniel took some satisfaction in the fact that he must be confusing the hell out of this Jacob by not immediately dialing Earth.  Daniel had no intention of revealing Earth’s coordinates to anyone, least of all someone working for a Goa’uld.

Daniel passed the familiar fire pits and could see the water’s edge in the distance.  God, please be there.

                                                ***************

“So, Teal’c, why would a goa’uld want to surround himself with a bunch of other snakeheads?” Jack asked, kicking a rock out of his path.

“He would not, O’Neill,” Teal’c replied.

“Okay, so what’s Beetlehead really up to?”

“I do not know,” Teal’c said gravely.

“But you have a hunch, don’t you, Teal’c?” Sam asked.

“I do not do hunches, Major Carter.”

“No, but you do have experience in the wacky world of Goa’uldom,” Jack said.  “If you were a Goa’uld, why would you want a bunch of sick, dying people around you?”

Teal’c stopped and turned to face his comrades.

“Slaves, O’Neill.”

“Slaves,” Jack repeated.  “Okay, but why the song and dance?  Why not just take them by force?”

“Maybe Khepri only has a few Jaffa, Colonel,” Sam suggested.  “Only one of the guards at the ‘gate had his symbol.  Maybe he can’t take anyone by outright force.  Or, maybe he just takes perverse pleasure in having them come to him.”

“That would please a Goa’uld greatly,” Teal’c acknowledged and resumed walking.

“And then what, he cures them by reversing whatever he did to infect them in the first place?” Jack asked, following Teal’c.  “And they’re so grateful for their lives that they stay and serve?  They don’t even try to contact their families?  It doesn’t smell right,” Jack frowned.

“They are unaware that he is the one causing their sickness,” Teal’c stated.

“Were unaware, Teal’c.  I bet they sure as hell know now where the disease came from,” Jack said.

“Daniel,” Sam murmured, taking comfort in voicing her friend’s name.

“Yeah,” Jack said.  “And why the hell is it posing as Daniel?”

“Actually, sir, it’s you posing as Daniel,” Sam corrected.  “In a matter of speaking.”

“Boch,” Jack spat.  “He’s got to be behind this.  When I get my hands on him I’ll—”  Jack was stopped short by Teal’c’s immoveable bulk.

“What is it?” Jack whispered, his skin prickling.

“Do you not smell it, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked softly.

“Smell what?”

“Death.”

                                                **********************

Daniel limped along the water’s edge, studiously avoiding eye contact with his companion who seemed to have an aversion to the water.

“You know,” Jacob said.

Shit.

“Know what?” Daniel asked innocently, continuing to walk slowly, his eyes scanning the water for any signs of disturbance.

“Don’t play games, Dr. Jackson,” the creature hissed as it grabbed Daniel’s arm and spun him around.

Daniel watched with a feeling of trepidation as the creature morphed from Jacob to Jack, and then back-handed him painfully across the face.

“Where the hell are we?” it asked.

Waiting for a friend.

“Where are we?” it roared, the pain device appearing in its hand like magic.

“How the hell should I know?  I just dialed a lucky number,” Daniel said obstinately.

The ensuing pain forced Daniel to his knees.  He swallowed bile and looked desperately out to sea.  He saw the water boil and he gathered his strength.

“I don’t need you or the Goa’uld,” the shape-shifter snarled.  “Look upon the face of your friend while he kills you.”

“Go to hell!” Daniel shouted as he lurched to his feet to distract his tormentor from seeing the ancient Babylonian emerge from the sea.

Daniel screamed as white-hot pain burst in his chest.  It was over.  He had failed.

Nem looked from Daniel, writhing on the ground, to the other who he remembered as a friend of Daniel.  He looked back at Daniel, opened his mouth and roared.

                                                ***************

Jacob listened in stunned silence as the young Denderan reported recent events.

“No,” Jacob said, shaking his head.  “I didn’t go through the Stargate with Daniel.  I left him here.”

The Denderan insisted he saw Jacob leave with the young Tau’ri and the cold truth hit Jacob hard.

Oh, God, it’s got him.

It is not your fault, Jacob, Selmak prodded gently.

I left him alone, Selmak.  He’s hurt and he thinks he’s with me. 

Daniel Jackson knew the risks.

That doesn’t mean anything, Selmak and you know it, Jacob shot back.

How could everything have gone so horribly wrong in the space of an hour?  Daniel was missing.  Aris Boch was missing.  Did Boch trick them all?  Was he really working for the Goa’uld?

We will find him, my friend. 

Danny’s smart.  Maybe he knows it’s not me, Jacob sighed, trying to banish unsavory images from his mind.

 

                                                *******************

Jack winced at the sight: an open pit containing bodies in varying states of decay.

“Oh, God,” Sam said, her voice muffled by her hand.

Teal’c stared impassively at the carnage, his face grim, but his hand clenched tighter around his staff weapon.

“Not slaves then,” Jack said, breathing through his mouth.

“Not slaves,” Teal’c repeated and moved forward.

“Teal’c, stay back!” Jack warned.

“My symbiote will protect me, O’Neill,” Teal’c replied as he carefully entered the pit.

Jack sighed and looked at Sam.  “One of these days, Junior’s going to surprise him and take a hike.”

Sam nodded, but stared in horrid fascination as Teal’c approached the bodies, sending up waves of buzzing insects.

“Christ, let’s move downwind,” Jack muttered, grimacing from the foul odor wafting towards them.

Sam obediently followed, her fascination having give way to horror and dismay.

“Sir, what if—”

“They’re not there, Carter,” Jack said adamantly.

“Yes, sir,” she replied, praying the colonel was right.

They watched in silence as Teal’c rejoined them minutes later..

“Daniel Jackson and Jacob Carter are not among the dead,” he reported.

“Thank God,” Sam breathed in relief.

“So, what killed them?” Jack asked, breathing his own sigh of relief.  “The disease?”

“I believe they were murdered,” Teal’c replied.  “Some of their internal organs have been removed.”

“Their organs?” Jack frowned.

“Oh, God, sir.  Maybe Khepri is harvesting and selling organs,” Sam said in horror.

“For transplant?” Jack asked, scowling at the thought.

“No, O’Neill,” Teal’c said.

“What does that mean?” Jack asked, not looking forward to the answer.

“It is a ritual that has not been performed for many centuries, but human organs were once a great delicacy among certain System Lords,” Teal’c explained.

“Now, that is just sick,” Jack said in disgust.

“Nevertheless, O’Neill, it is true.”

“Why humans organs, Teal’c?” Sam asked, her curiosity piqued in spite of the grisly topic.

“A Goa’uld who can harvest humans for their organs instead of their bodies as hosts, or as slaves, is a very wealthy, respect, and feared Goa’uld,” Teal’c said.

“Those folks aren’t human,” Jack said, gesturing to the bodies in the pit.

“Semantics, O’Neill.”

“Okay, this whole thing is getting way out of hand,” Jack growled.  And Daniel’s in the thick of it.  Crap.  “Let’s get back to the SGC and report to Hammond, and why the hell didn’t you tell us about this little snakehead quirk before?” Jack asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I did not wish to cause you undue alarm,” Teal’c replied placidly.

“Undue alarm,” Jack muttered.  “So, what, we’ve just been lucky that so far no one’s wanted to shish kebob us?”

“I am unfamiliar with that term, O’Neill, but if you are referring to ‘chowing down’, it is because your notoriety precedes you, and you are of more value alive than on a plate.”

“Well, I feel a whole lot better, already.  Carter, how about you?” Jack asked glibly.

“Not really, sir,” Sam grimaced.

                                                **************

part 2

 

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.