Category: Angst, H/C, Drama, AU
Warnings:
Rating: R

 

            “Welcome to the mad house.”

            His head felt heavy, resistant like an albatross hung from his neck. Looking up, he squinted at the face barely a foot away from his nose. The man’s greasy hair flipped over his eyes and his stagnant breath curdled Daniel’s senses. As he attempted to discern the statement, the man cackled at him, spun in a circle and moved away. Startled, Daniel leaned back in his chair and glanced at his surroundings. It was then he realized he sat in a wheelchair in the middle of what looked like a waiting room – a waiting room occupied by several other people in bathrobes or pajamas.

            He tried to shift in his seat, to stand up only to notice the bindings around his wrists and ankles preventing him. Daniel narrowed his eyes as he surveyed the room.

            “What?”

            “Doc’s up!” screamed the man who had greeted him.

            Grit scraped against his corneas as he blinked his eyes and wished for his glasses. A woman dressed in hospital scrubs came into the room and bent down on one knee to address him, “How are you feeling today, Doctor Jackson? It’s good to see you’re with us again.”

            “Again?”

            She patted his arm and the kindness in her eyes warmed him. “This always happens after a treatment. I’ll get these bindings off and call Doctor Mackenzie.” She started to unlock the restraints. “He’ll want to know you’re awake.”

            “Mackenzie? Awake?” Confusion fogged his brain, seeped into his vision. “Can I have my glasses?”

            “You know you’re not allowed your glasses, Doctor Jackson.” She angled the chair so that she could reach the bindings on his opposite wrist and ankle. “I’ll wheel your chair closer to the television so that you can see it, okay?”

            “I don’t, I don’t want to watch television.” He coughed, his throat raw and aching as if he’d been screaming. Taking in a deep breath, a sharp pain stabbed into his side. “Where’s Sam?”

            With pursed lips, the nurse shook her head and, standing, backed a step away from him. “Major Carter hasn’t been to see you this week.”

            “It’s Lieutenant Colonel Carter,” he corrected. Had he been injured? Was he in the Air Force Academy Hospital?

            “Pretty sure it was Major the last time she was here.” The nurse rolled the chair in front of the television much to the chagrin of several of the other occupants of the room.

A woman with disheveled hair and a torn bathrobe spat at him as she cursed, “Damned blind idiot can’t even remember what day it is.”

“Now Daisy, you promised no spitting if you were allowed to come to the common room,” the nurse said while wiping Daniel’s face of the spittle. He tried to bring his hand up to brush her ministrations away but the looseness of his joints prevented him. “Will you sit down and be good now Daisy?”

“Not if the fucking idiot is allowed in here. Last time he barfed all over the rug,” Daisy snickered. “Pink puke.”

An image invaded his senses, overwhelmed him. He recalled this room, this place. He remembered sitting in this place, the world spinning about him without center. It wobbled about and tilted. As the vision assaulted him the nausea welled up and he forced himself not to vomit. Swallowing he looked up to the nurse and asked, “Water?”

“After a treatment you’re always a bit disoriented and nauseous. You remember that Doctor Jackson?” The nurse walked to the water cooler and filled a small paper cup for him. “Here.” Taking the cup, he downed the water in one gulp. It wasn’t nearly enough and he asked for more but she refused him. “We don’t want you being sick again now do we?”

He shook his head and leaned back in the chair. What treatments? Why was his doctor Mackenzie? The fuzziness of the television and its loud volume banged into his concentration like a wrecking ball slamming into the side of a building. Every time he tried to capture a thought or image the ball shattered the brick work, the foundations of his memories. “Mackenzie?”

“Yes, he’ll be here a little later after rounds.” The nurse started to walk away but stopped before she rounded the nurse’s station near the wide door way to the common room. “Now Doctor Jackson don’t you try standing up again, you remember what happened last time.”

A flash invaded his senses and he saw himself collapsing into a heap on the floor, the other inmates bickering over him about what to do. Daisy and a man kicked him and laughed in the broken images. He only nodded to the nurse as he realized he knew her name. Brooke. Brooke Livingston.

He turned away and stared at the television for long minutes. He only recalled flashes and pieces of himself. What had happened? Where was his team? Why was he here? Who were these people? Inmates – in his mind he called these patients inmates. His greeter, the man with filthy hair and missing teeth skipped over to him and swayed in front of him until his sight averted from the television.

“Forgot again, didn’t ya?”

He couldn’t see the harm in admitting to it, especially since he needed someway to figure out what was happening.

“You’re dead,” Daisy called from the corner of the room near an old man. The old man stared into the corner of the room, his mouth slightly parted and his eyes glossy and flat.

“Shut up!” His greeter growled at Daisy. “How many times do I have to tell ya to keep your damn pie hole shut, you dirty whore.”

“Ho, I’m a ho.” She began to prance about but the man standing in front of Daniel ignored her.

“Once again, I am his royal highness Peter the Great.”

“Peter the Great?” Even in his confused state, Daniel knew this was absolutely ridiculous.

“Oh of course, not the Peter the Great but Peter the Great Reincarnated.”

Oh, that made so much more sense, on oh so many levels. “Peter the Great?”

“Yep and you are Doctor Daniel Jackson. You think aliens are after you. You also think there’s some big ol’wheel of fortune that spins around and instead of getting the dollar prize you get some beaming thingie to another world or something.”

“Beaming?” His mind showed him, flung him along the course of a wormhole and he felt the curve and throb of it in his stomach and in his throat.

“Of course, Doctor Mackenzie will tell you we’re all crazy, but that’s just a matter of opinion.” Peter sat down on the couch. The stuffing in the arms stuck out and he tugged at it, pulling out tuffs.

“How long have you been here?” Daniel asked. If Peter had been here when Daniel was admitted maybe he could backtrack and figure out exactly what went wrong.

Peter gave a grin and laughed. “You really did get a bad treatment this time, huh?”

“Stupid fuck,” Daisy walked over and sat on the arm of the couch. “You been here the longest of all of us. Even Zombie over there.” She indicated the blank old man.

Something crawled inside of him, wrenched his intestines and yanked hard on his lungs. He gasped as he asked, “How, how long?”

“Nearly seven years.”

“Seven years?” Daniel repeated.

“Yes Doctor Jackson, you’ve been here for seven years.” The voice was unmistakable and even through the daze of his clouded memories he placed it.

Turning he confirmed his fears. “Doctor Mackenzie.”

The man gave a short nod and said, “You remember Doctor Jackson you were seeing decaying corpses in your locker as well as vast pools of water.”

“No,” Daniel shook his head. This was wrong. Glancing around he only vaguely recognize his surroundings yet a creeping sensation brushed the fine hairs on the back of his neck. “Decaying corpses?” No, this isn’t right. This happened years ago. They found out it was a manufactured device to kill the Goa’uld. He was shaking his head, repeating the words no no no.

“Let’s bring him back to his room. I think the treatment was a bit harsh on him today.” Mackenzie directed two orderlies to his side and one started to guide the chair toward the hallway.

“I don’t remember any of this,” he said, peering over his shoulder at Peter the Great. “What happened to me?”

Mackenzie’s hand fell onto his shoulder; the weight pulled him down as if an anchor of lead dragged him to the depths of the ocean.  “Let’s not make a scene again today. Let’s wait until we get to your room.”

Peter the Great gave him a salute, turned to Daisy and tackled her as the nurse raced back in the common room to stop the ruckus. The old man in the corner never flinched. The wheelchair gave distance to his focus and he began scanning the hallways of the hospital, getting his bearings as Jack had taught him to do. Had Jack taught him these things? A dizzying wave overcame him and he retched.

“Get him a pan, he’s sick again,” Mackenzie said and one of the orderlies appeared with a small pan for him to throw up in. He filled it as his nostrils flared from the sting and acidic taste. “Don’t worry son, we’ll have you tucked up in your bed in a minute. My mistake for having the nurse bring you to the common room. We should have realized the treatment was too intense today.”

“Please,” Daniel choked back the bile. An orderly wiped his face with a brutal swap. Ignoring the man, he looked up to the doctor. “Please I don’t understand what is going on.”

Mackenzie gestured to the orderly pushing his chair and they entered a small hospital room. The bed took up most of the space. The long narrow window had bars on it and no shade or blinds. All he could see from the pane was a brick wall of another building. A tiny chest of drawers, battered and water stained sat in the corner. But what drew his attention were the restraints on the bed. They were worn and stained. Swallowing, he tried to force the throb of his heart down but it smashed through his hollow defenses.

Before he realized what was happening, the two orderlies had him under the arms and were hoisting him into the bed. His legs hung from his hips; he attempted to move them but a strange numbness pervaded his muscles. They got him onto the bed, twisting his body around as if he was not a person, as if he wasn’t alive. Throwing a blanket over his lap, the one orderly went about adjusting the sheet. He noted immediately that they started to restraint him, locking him in the bindings at wrist and ankle.

“I don’t think that’s necessary. Really,” he said and jerked at the restraints.

“Doctor Jackson, please don’t make it necessary for me to remove you from your private room to the Correction Room.”

Correction Room? His mind reeled and he fisted his hands. Correction Room? Flashes of the white padded room invaded his senses. God, no, it couldn’t be, could it? He hated to beg, he hated to be in the mercy of Mackenzie but this man was his only link to what had happened. Settling himself and closing his eyes for a minute to accept his current situation, Daniel opened his eyes and asked, “Could you tell me what’s happened? I don’t remember why I’m here.” He was proud his voice barely cracked. It hurt deep within him to even ask this man for information.

Mackenzie walked to the side of his bed, his hands in his white coat pockets. After the orderlies had left and the door closed behind them, the doctor said, “Your treatments cause this amnesia and over the next day or so some of your memories should return.”

Daniel nodded. “Thank you but can you tell me what’s happened?” He licked his cracked lips.

The doctor smiled and Daniel almost detected sympathy. “About seven years ago, you displayed symptoms of schizophrenia.”

“Yes I remember that,” he supplied.

“Yes, you started to see things and hear things. It was determined that you were especially vulnerable to effects of Stargate travel due to your family history.” Mackenzie gave a little laugh. “It took some time for us to figure out that there was a family history, about your grandfather. We had it wrong at first but we eventually found out about him.”

“Nick.”

“Yes Nicholas Ballard. Once we pinned the link to family history of mental disease to Stargate travel, it became easier to screen potential candidates for gate travel.”

Daniel shook his head. “No, no. It was a device, Machello’s Goa’uld killing device. It went into Teal’c.”

The doctor gave a sigh and walked away from the bed to stand near the window. He stared out at the brick wall. “Daniel, you have to accept your delusion as just that. We’ve talked about this before. There never was a Goa’uld killing device. We’ve discussed this.”

“I want to talk to Jack. Can I please talk with Jack?” He stilled his hands, he didn’t want to look any crazier than they – whoever they were – decided he was.

Mackenzie dropped his head and turned back to Daniel. Raising his eyes, he said in a soft voice. “Daniel, I told you before Colonel O’Neill died shortly after you were committed.”

It was like a stone, a large boulder, slammed into his chest, breaking ribs and crushing his heart. “What? What?” The breath in his lung evaporated, slipped away.  “Jack isn’t dead.”

“Colonel O’Neill died while trying to help the Asgard against the Replicators.”

He remembered the fight against the Replicators, the many battles they had against the machines. He saw ReplicatorSam stab him through the heart, felt himself dying, slowly sinking into that cold place right before death claimed him. “No, Jack didn’t die. He nearly died in the Russian sub, but he didn’t. It took years but we defeated the Replicators with the weapon on Dakara.”

“My, my, our imagination is truly running at full steam today.” Mackenzie went to the door and pressed the button to have it unlock. A nurse came to the door and he leaned out to whisper something to her. Returning to his bedside, the doctor shoved his hands back into his pockets. “If you continue to fight the treatments Daniel, we’re never going to get anywhere. You’ll end up in this facility for a very long time.”

Something clicked into place and this small victory brought him a sense of relief. “That’s just it. Why am I not in a secure facility? Those other patients obviously don’t know about the Stargate program. The one, the one called Peter the Great he described it as the wheel of fortune with beaming technology. If I’m crazy why am I not in a secure facility?”

Mackenzie rubbed his eyes and sighed again, his demeanor tired of the same conversation. “After five years the government decided you were no longer a threat to national security because your tales keep changing. You live in a world all your own Daniel. You have one version where you died for a year. No you called it Ascended for a year and in another version you turned into someone called Jonas Quinn for a year. No one believes anything you say because Doctor Jackson you make no sense. You are delusional.”

Panting, he felt his palms begin to sweat and the numbness in his legs tingle. “What about Sam? She comes to see me right?”

“Yes Major Carter and Teal’c do come to see you.”

Daniel nodded. “Okay, what about Mitchell?”

“I don’t know a Mitchell. He must be a new construct of your delusions. We’ll discuss this Mitchell person tomorrow during our next treatment session. We’ll figure out what he represents.”

“Represents? He’s part of SG1. Lt Colonel Cameron Mitchell. He joined Stargate Command right before I was supposed to go to Atlantis.”

Mackenzie laughed. “Oh Daniel, now we’re going to start talking about Atlantis again? How many times do we have to go over that is a fairy tale.”

“God I can’t remember touching a Quantum Mirror. Maybe it was a gate malfunction. It wouldn’t be the first time the gate did something very strange with dimensions,” Daniel said to himself.

“Doctor Jackson for the last time, there was no gate malfunction and the Quantum Mirror was destroyed years ago. You know that.” Mackenzie waved the nurse into the room as she opened the door and peered in. “I’m giving you a sedative.”

“I don’t want a sedative. I want to know what the hell is going on,” Daniel said through clenched teeth. He tugged and yanked at the bindings restraining him. “Goddamn it. I don’t know what you’re playing at but I’ve been a part of SG1 for ten years. I did happen to Ascend, I never became a person called Jonas Quinn and General O’Neill is not dead.”

The two orderlies followed the nurse in. For the first time, Daniel noted she carried a small tray with a filled syringe on it.

“Don’t you dare give that to me. Don’t you dare. I demand to talk to Lt Colonel Carter.”  One orderly grabbed hold of his arm and twisted it to present his veins to the nurse as the other orderly laid over his chest his full weight against Daniel. Gasping, Daniel yelled, “Damn it, Mackenzie you have to let me talk to Sam.”

“I don’t have to let you talk to anyone Daniel.” Mackenzie face suddenly appeared, encompassing all of his visual field. “You see Daniel, you are in my custody and I can do whatever I see fit to do to you.”

The puncture of the needle and the burn of the sedative reverberated with the words, making them echo in his head as he fell into oblivion.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

And in that darkness I see upon the face of god a form both beautiful and shattering.

He whispered the words to himself, repeating them time and again as he awaited the light. The darkness stole over him and he wondered how much longer they were going to leave him in the middle of the padded white room with no lights, no food, no water and no way to relieve himself. This was the correction room.

Correction Room.

A tremor racked his body and he fought to control the shiver of his shoulders against the bindings tying his hands together. Daniel refused to believe the stories they fabricated, struggled against their insistence that all that he knew and comprehended to be real was in fact a fantasy.

Mackenzie sentenced him to the correction room when he refused to state that he had been committed to a mental institute seven years ago. In his duress, he bashed his bound wrists against the table in the doctor’s office sending several objects flying and turning over the coffee Mackenzie had been drinking. Orderlies were quick to answer the doctor’s calls and they strapped him onto a gurney and flung him into the dark room. After hours, two orderlies returned to the room, pulled him off the gurney kicked him several times in the gut and left him in the darkened room.

His mind wandered. Being an archeologist and akin to spending vast amounts of time underground without a natural way to gauge the time, Daniel was fairly accurate when estimating how much time had past. Two days.

Two days.

So far.

If they left him much longer he would die of thirst. His bladder had long ago betrayed him and his mind taunted him. He kept circling back to the words he read in the book of Origin.  The face of god.  Maybe Mackenzie was right, maybe he had made it all up. Maybe Mackenzie was a vehicle of his imagination as well. He might still be a penniless professor, crazy and starving somewhere. Or maybe he was being punished by the Ascended. Maybe he never left that Way Station – the diner he once had waffles in with his grandfather after his parents died. He could still be there and the rest of his life a ruse to test him to see if he would take the path toward enlightenment.

He was thirsty.

His stomach protested. He made a full catalogue of his current situation. He was almost always restrained. They told him it was because of his combative attitude. He was never left alone for more than a few minutes at a time. He was fairly certain that they drugged him at night. The only time he was left to his own devices was when he was tossed into the correction room. From the time he woke up in the common room, Daniel figured he had been in the correction room three times with each time stretching out. His calculations indicated approximately two weeks had past since Peter the Great welcomed him to the mad house.

Someone would miss him soon. Wouldn’t they? He squeezed his eyes shut and all he saw was flashes of blinding white light. His eyes were complaining about the neverending darkness by reacting with fake white light. It made his head swirl and his empty stomach lurch. When they had returned from Atlantis, he recalled telling General Landry that he would need to do some work and research. After spending some time on Camelot, he’d switched his search to England when he met Carl – Earl of something. The exhaustion ate away at the little details, the names, the places. But he was sure the last thing he remembered was being in England – so his team probably still thought he was in England. Weren’t they supposed to be back from their camping trip? He couldn’t juggle the pieces of the puzzle.

Soon, they would come soon, he told himself.

He heard the drop of the lock first, then the twist as the door began to open. He kept his eyes partially closed to ward off the sting and pain of the light streaming into the room like a searing brand into his brain. The two guards masquerading as orderlies walked into the room. One shoved him to the floor and put a knee to his chest. Struggling he batted at the man but the orderly grabbed his throat.

“Stop you fucking bastard.” A fist smashed against his cheekbone and flashes burned his vision.

The other orderly jerked off his scrubs, cursed him for pissing himself and then pulled on new pants. “You goddamn piss yourself again, you can lick yourself clean next time.” He punched Daniel hard in the crotch, yanking the breath out of his lungs and causing a roar in his ears. “Get him up, Mackenzie wants him to undergo another treatment today.”

“No,” Daniel gasped, his voice barely responding. Stiffening his body, Daniel grappled against their hands, feebly attempted to kick at them but his legs were constantly numb and weighted. A kidney punch toppled him and he gulped air like a fish in toxic waters. More orderlies appeared and his fight was done. “Don’t do this, please.”

His pleas were ignored as they always were. His ankles were bound to the gurney they threw him on and his arms were tied down as well. His hands were still bound in front of him.

“This isn’t a God damned hospital, it’s a prison,” he cursed at them as they raced the gurney down the darkened hallways. Where the hell was he? Why the hell were they doing this to him?

They wheeled him into the Mackenzie’s mad laboratory as Daniel came to call it. He almost laughed at the absurdity of it. It seemed that Mackenzie had transmuted into some kind of Doctor Frankenstein and Daniel had transformed into the monster creation. Without addressing the doctor as they entered the orderlies immediately swung the gurney around and situated it so that his head was under the white light of the surgical lamp.

Mackenzie stepped into view, his face passive and quiet in its aspect. At times in the past, Daniel had nearly forgiven the man his transgression for the misdiagnosis all those years ago when Machello’s device had invaded his brain. The remnants of forgiveness withered and died.

“Today Daniel, I think we’ll talk about your obsession with death.” Mackenzie nodded and Daniel felt hands grip his head and place a brace about his neck.

“I told you I want to speak with Sam.”

“And I told you that we won’t be speaking with Major Carter until you show some signs of trying to accept the situation.” Mackenzie leaned over him as the nurse pasted electrodes on his head. The device they used reminded Daniel of the memory device from the planet Galar. That device had altered Mitchell’s memories, made him believe he actually committed a crime. What if these people – who ever they were – had one?

“I don’t want another treatment.”

“You need another treatment Daniel. Because you’ve been fighting them, well let’s just say the pain and the resistance go hand in hand.” Mackenzie watched as the nurse rounded the gurney putting extra electrodes on his chest to monitor his heart. “Now you know this device will scan your brain for any activity and it will correct you if you are accessing parts of your brain that are fantasy.”

“It doesn’t do that,” Daniel said.

Mackenzie just sighed. “Daniel, please I want to help you but you are leaving me no other choice.” He paused for a moment then stared pointedly at Daniel’s legs. “Do you ever want the feeling back in your legs?”

“What?” Daniel knew they were drugging him but it never occurred to him that they would be deliberately crippling him. He had assumed the numbness in his legs was a side effect of the other drugs.

“Think about it.” Mackenzie said then began, “Let’s talk about this time you said when you died.” He referenced a chart, flipping pages as he did. “You died this time of radiation poisoning and that a resurrected Colonel O’Neill supported your decision to not get treatment.”

“He isn’t dead and he supported my decision to ascend,” he corrected.

“Ascend?”

He inhaled and closed his eyes. If he didn’t answer the questions, they would turn the device that netted over his head on. Something had been modified in its workings because it no longer fed memories into his head. Instead the device specifically probed the deeper recesses of his memories, causing him to relive and replay his own memories again and again. It must have been modified with the Tok’ra memory device. When he fought against its invasion, jarring bolts of electricity streaked through his head causing tears to run from his eyes. The pain had been so bad once he sobbed and begged Mackenzie to stop.

“Yes, ascend to a higher plane of existence.”

“Like heaven.”

“If that’s what you want to call it, sure.”

“Daniel.”

“Okay no, not heaven. But an existence with higher beings seeking enlightment.” He closed his eyes for a moment and licked his dried lips. “Can I have some water?”

“Maybe later.” Mackenzie dropped back and settled in a chair next to the gurney. “So you’re a higher being?”

Shaking his head, he sighed. “No, I never said that.”

“But you said you ascended to an existence where higher beings sought enlightenment.” A scrawling scratched the air and Daniel realized the doctor took notes.

“The Ancients were able to ascend, I was helped by an Ancient named Oma Desala. This is all in the files.”

Mackenzie gave a great sigh as if dealing with a petulant child. “Daniel, you know there are no files on this – not at the SGC anyway. The only files recording this are the ones I’ve stored in my office.” The doctor nodded and the nurse started to tap on a keyboard.

“No, no!” Daniel struggled and pulled against his restraints. The flow of power through the net encapsulating his head jolted through him and he cried out. “Stop, stop.”

“Again, Ms Livingston.”

The nurse hit the key and his body arched up off the table as if hit with a bolt of lightening. As tears broke over his lids, his resistance faltered and in that moment brilliant lights iridescenced before him. The colors danced and played and his body floated, his words echoed and he brushed against something both beautiful and shattering. Gasping out, he blinked to clear his vision but he failed; he was trapped within the images.

A cold crept through him and his body trembled but not from the chill. The swimming images oozed through him and into him. His skin flayed and melted into the landscape about him. Sands swept up by winds pelted his face and he gulped for air.

Through the visions playing out before him, a voice anchored him to his reality. “Tell me what you see Daniel. Do you see the desert again?”

“Yes,” he answered but his voice sounded so very far away.

“Reach out to the others,” the doctor directed.

“Others?”

“We need you to merge with the others, as you once were. Open your mind, Daniel, open yourself up to the Ancients.”

A warning within him coursed through him, squeezing his heart until it was hard to breath. He heard her voice then, the calm and soothing tones of his once savior, The fire of the candle must be heeded.

“I can’t,” he whispered.

“If you want your freedom, you will.” Mackenzie clawed his shoulder and leaned over him. “If you don’t Daniel, you’ll remain here for the rest of your life.”

He sobbed out as the searing pain streaked through his brain like a dagger piercing his skull.  He stammered, “The fire of the candle must be heeded.”

“No more of that drabble. Make sense.”

Swallow hard against the nausea the pain brought, Daniel heaved in a breath. “What, what do you want me to do?”

“Have you made any progress, Doctor Mackenzie?” A distant voice cut through the fog.

“He’s very resistant to the device. We may need to modify it further. The barriers within his brain have made it quite difficult to access his memories.”

“We need those memories, Doctor. He holds the only key for our defenses.”

“They just might be inaccessible.” Mackenzie had moved away from Daniel’s bedside. With his vision blurred, he found it impossible to identify the visitor. Mackenzie continued, “When Orlin descended his brain slowly decomposed due to the burden of the knowledge. Daniel’s personal defenses are formidable and I believe his benefactor Oma has constructed something within him to prevent invasion.”

The man stepped up to the table and stared down at him. His features warped and for a moment Daniel thought he recognized the man but a wave of dizziness hit him and he closed his eyes. When he opened them again, the man was gone replaced once again by Mackenzie.

“We have very little time Daniel. If I’m not able to break through those barriers in your brain, you could face something even worse.”

“Worse?” His throat was parched, his stomach pained and empty.

“Don’t fight the device. Allow it to penetrate the walls blocking your memories.”

“Walls?” He was so confused, so hungry. “Can I have some water?”

“Please Ms Livingston, again.”

Before he could scream his objection, the electrodes attached to his scalp pulsated and his brain throbbed through the sharp burst of energy fracturing his senses. Again images wavered in his sights, his hearing dimmed by a roar. As he passed through the ever changing lands and skies within his mind, he tasted the decay of one and the growth of another. His stomach rebelled and he swallowed down bile. Words whispered in his ear. He saw places and wonders, both terrifying and brilliant. The worlds of the Ancients hovered over him; he stared at the nightscapes beyond and within him, understanding yet not knowing all at once. These were the places and times the Ancients once experienced. Knowledge unfolded before him and he leafed through all that was before him, touched, tasted, saw, heard and smelled. Lights like those on a Christmas tree blinked on and off, bells rang and he comprehended all. Links closed him together with these places, with this knowledge.

“Daniel,” a voice came out of the night and called him.

He didn’t respond, couldn’t respond as something rose up like wave made of black liquid. It took on the cloak of night and rose from the places of wonder and terror before him. It rose with grace and horror, it came at him and he screamed as it rendered him senseless and ate away at his mind.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            Bureaucrats. 

            He hated bureaucrats. They administered and didn’t act. They argued and didn’t listen. They judged and didn’t comprehend. He sank down onto the thick cushion of the leather chair and rubbed his fingers through his silver hair, then laid his head back. Sighing he closed his eyes and tried not to replay the whole damned conversation in his head again. Senator Fisher and the Appropriations committee were fools. The International Committee for the Stargate Program was idiots and his opinion of the President was rapidly sinking into the depths of the ocean.

            At least it was Friday and he had a trip to the cabin planned. Oh Minnesota and the heaven that is thee, I come to thee. He smiled, crooked and cocky all at once. He despised being a General, the uniform scratched and the view of Crystal City from the Pentagon filled him with remorse for the sight of the green again.  The lakes of Minnesota with or without fish would do him good. He didn’t think he could stand another meeting where administrators and paper pushers told him how to fight the Ori.

            Sometimes he wondered why he left Colorado in the first place.

            The door creaked open and Colonel Donaldson peered in. She was a calm woman with a tight bun and little to say. Overall she was a competent deputy if not boring and aloof. “General O’Neill, there’s a Lt. Colonel Mitchell here to see you.”

            “Mitchell?”

            “Do you want me to have him get an appointment for later this afternoon?”

            He waved at her. “No, let him in.”

            She widened the door and Mitchell sauntered in. The man always looked like he was at a baseball game. As Jack considered him he decided that Mitchell would probably make a good short stop. He had the ability, the eye for it. He stopped himself – God he needed to get back to hockey country. Even though D.C. had a team, the local coverage of hockey was pathetic. Thank God for satellite television.

            “General, sir.” Mitchell leaned over the desk and offered Jack his hand. Standing he gripped the hand and gave it a strong shake.

            “Mitchell, good to see you. What brings you to Oz?” He gestured for the man to sit down and then eased back into his chair.

            “Thank you sir.” Mitchell was in his dress blues. He carried his hat and played with the rim of it as he spoke to the General. “We’re concerned, sir. We weren’t able to get in touch with you over the last few days.”

            “I’m touched, really Mitchell, but the SGC doesn’t need to make sure I’m okay.” Jack flipped his pen on the desk, twirling it as he spoke and leaned back in his chair. He crossed his feet as he reclined with his heels on the edge of the desk. “Actually I just came back today. Had a meeting in Malibu.”

            “Malibu?”

            “Duty calls.” He smiled. Actually it was a damned boring meeting and crappy weather to boot. No golf to be had at all.

            Mitchell shook his head – a gesture to seemingly clear his head. “No sir, we aren’t worried about you.” As he said it, Mitchell seemed to realize how that must sounds and stumbled over his words. “Now sir, you got to understand we care about how you’re doing.”

            He feigned offence. “Mitchell, you harm me.”

            “Come on, General, give a guy a break here.” Mitchell had the audacity to glare at him. “You were the one that sent me to the SGC with no mention of SG1 breaking up.”

            He examined his fingernails and smiled. “Yeah that was a classic, wasn’t it?”

            “Whatever you say, sir.”

            “Mitchell.”

            “Sir?”

            He gave a circular motion with his hand to move the conversation along. The younger man quickly caught on and nodded. “Surely. We were getting worried about Jackson.”

            “Daniel?”

            “Yes, Jackson took a flight out of England a few weeks back. He was supposed to finish up there and meet us at the cabin.”

            “I hope you cleaned up your mess out there, I’m scheduled to go for a little R&R over the weekend,” Jack warned.

            “You can bet on it sir,” he assured then continued, “But Daniel didn’t show up. We figured he was still in Washington but after some time went by and still no Daniel.” Mitchell shrugged. “We all knew he would make any excuse to get out of the cabin thing.” He raised his hands. “No offense sir.”

            “None taken.”

            “Thank you.” He inhaled then said, “Straight out, Jackson has gone MIA.”

            He studied Mitchell, listened to the incredulous words and had to fight not to let his jaw drop down to his knees. “Let me get this straight, you haven’t heard from Daniel in weeks?”

            “Two and half to be exact and even that isn’t really exact.”

            “Lieutenant.”

            “It’s Lieutenant Colonel, sir.”

            “Not for long.” Patience was not his strongest suit.

            Mitchell had the good sense to clear his throat, adjust his seating position to actually look like he was standing at attention and begin again with his explanation. “We’ve received several messages sure, sent from Jackson’s Blackberry. He had some research to do in D.C. and so we didn’t think it was a problem.”

            His anxiety deflated a degree.

            “But then along about three or four days ago, Sam figured out that the messages didn’t actually come from Jackson’s Blackberry.”

            “Not from his thing-a-majig?” He hated that little computers were named after fruit. What next? A Cumquat transporter?

            “Evidently, Sam calculated or triangulated or,” Mitchell moved around in his chair as if hot pokers were burning his ass. “Really sir, I’m sorry but I really didn’t listen.”

            “Kinda phased in and out when the babble started, huh?”

            “Something like that.” Mitchell smiled. “Anyway, the messages were disguised to make us believe they came from Jackson’s Blackberry. We tried to contact him, looked into where he said he would be staying, called you and nothing.”

            He rubbed his forehead, the worried started to itch his scalp and he wanted to dig his fingernails into his skin and really just rip at it. “Let me get this straight. You lost my archeologist.”

            “W-what?” Mitchell coughed once. “Your archeologist.”

            Jack stood up and started to pace while counting off all the reason’s that said archeologist was his archeologist. “One, he was on my original team. Two, I brought him back from Abydos, Three, he was on my team for what eight years give or take – the one he was ascended does count, Four, he was under my command as commander of the SGC and he is still under my command as head of homeworld security. And that’s five if you’re counting.”

            Mitchell nodded, let the room fill with silence to clear away Jack’s frustration. “We’d like your help.”

            “What are we waiting for?”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            Would he come back?

            Daniel watched the door, his head hanging off his shoulders as if by a tattered thread. Drool made a pool on his knee as the stream of it leaked from his mouth. His tongue felt thick and swollen in his mouth. A pain burned his throat and he struggled to swallow. The ache throbbed into his ears.

            When would he come back?

            Daniel glanced at the door again, wishing for it to open. Hope lingered and festered within him. It should die, his mind rambled and babbled to him.  He shifted on the floor in the padded room. They left him here again. He hadn’t eaten and had barely anything to drink. He concentrated on the door.

            He didn’t want to see the images encroaching upon his vision.

            At the edges, crawling and creeping toward his reality, they came. It reminded him of a slowly seeping stain, spreading out across his mind. If he shifted his focus only slightly, he saw it, witnessed places and times. His rationale mind told him these were his memories, his moments with those ascended, yet his brain rushed away from it, denied it. In weakened moments in the correction room, he turned to these memories and lost himself within the confines. Walked the long corridors of lost palaces, observed the beauty of artisans, felt the fracture of stars and galaxies as he experienced both life and death of the universe. The higher plane showed him more and showed him the little seconds of life. He tried to recall only the moments he spent watching over his friends, his family but it was impossible. All the knowledge of the ages was never meant to be contained within the human brain.

            He wept.

            The door creaked open and his head shot up.

            “He’s getting weaker,” the silhouetted figure said.

            The taller shadow stayed at the edge of the room, never truly entering the space. “He stinks. When’s the last time someone bathed him?”

            “I’ll have the orderlies clean him. We have to put him in here because he’s stubborn and refuses to cooperate.”

            “We need that information Doctor.” The figure pulled something out of his pocket. “He has the key to what the ascended know. If we know what they know then we can fight these damned Ori.”

            “What about Orlin? Can’t we try again with him?” Mackenzie answered, his voice sharpened and strung with fear.

            “Can’t. The project failed. He’s catatonic.” The light from the hallway streamed in toward the figure and for an instant Daniel saw his face. “Jackson is our only key. I’ve had the engineers modify the device. I want you to use it at maximum immediately.”

            “We can’t chance it. Doctor Jackson hasn’t completed recovered from the last session.” Mackenzie paced the small space between the figure and Daniel. “If we treat him again there could be permanent brain damage. I’m not sure he’ll completely recover as it is.”

            “Doctor Mackenzie, I don’t really care whether or not he’ll recover. We both have a job to do and it involves saving this planet.” Pointing at Daniel, the figure said, “If we have to sacrifice Daniel Jackson then so be it. Get that information and get it now.”

            Mackenzie stood without answering.

            “Do you understand?”

            Mackenzie only nodded.

            The figure slipped away and the door began to glide closed.  Mackenzie stepped into the lighted away with his hand on the door. Peering back at him, the doctor whispered, “I hope you understand Daniel. It’s for the best.”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
PART II: The Discovery

            His eyes ached and he blinked in order to clear the blur of fatigue and the dry mountain air. It was one thing he didn’t miss about living in Colorado Springs – the dry air. It desiccated your skin, oven fried your mucous membranes and just generally made life a parched hell. Jack glanced around the briefing room at the SGC, all of the members of SG1 both original and the new configuration gathered around the table. Landry sat to his right and Mitchell to his left. Carter sat next to her colleague with Teal’c next to her. The new one -Vala - who really wasn’t a member of SG1 but seemed to have some bizarre connection to Daniel settled into a chair next to Landry. She had her hair in ponytails which he thought was too young for her age. Her demeanor reminded him of a mischievous puppy but her eyes belied everything she tried to portray.

            She was worried for Daniel.

            Truth be told, so was he.

            Daniel’s implanted transmitter to locate him had somehow been disabled. According to all the engineers over at area 51, that was impossible. The fact that SGC personnel even possessed transmitters was supposed to be a secret. The only lead they had at this point were the errant email messages.

            Carter gave a quick rundown of how she traced the signal using words like triangulation, squarification or stratification or something like that. He really hated it when she went on and on about nothing in particular. Get to the point, he screamed in silence. For some strange reason she kept on and he imagined the room filled with flying numbers and integral signs and all that other mathematical stuff. He glared at Landry, who seemed entranced by Carter. The man obviously had not been around Carter enough to know when to shut her up.

            He leaned forward in the chair and with arms on the table raised his hands and said, “Let’s get to the point Carter, can you or can you not tell me where Daniel is.”

            As she chewed her inner cheek and pursed her lips, Jack knew he was in trouble. “That’s the point sir.”

            He raised a scarred eyebrow.

            “We’re tracking the emails. We can narrow the search to a fifty mile radius of D.C.” Carter coughed once. “We have operatives closing in on the location even as we speak. But we don’t believe Daniel is actually in the area or ever was. That’s why we had Cam bring you out here.”

            “Jack,” Hank said.  “Daniel has been kidnapped and we believe it may be by someone with access to SGC database and information.”

            “An inside job?”

            “Daniel Jackson presents a valuable asset O’Neill. His knowledge of the Ancients is especially telling during these perilous times.”

            “So our plan of action is?” Jack studied Teal’c then scanned each of their grim faces, stopping on Vala.

            “Well don’t look at me, I’ve no contacts on this world. If I did, Daniel wouldn’t be in this predicament. And if he’d listened to me in the first place and taken me with him I could have watched his eight.” She winked at him.

            “Six,” Mitchell corrected and rolled his eyes as his turned away from Vala and back to Jack. “Sam has contacts at area 51 we’re hoping come through for us.”

            “Just a waiting game now, sir.”

            “I don’t like this at all,” Jack commented then stood. Hands clasped behind his back so that he wouldn’t rake them through his short hair again. He stared down at the Stargate. It dominated the room, hell it dominated the briefing room too. But this program, this place was here because of Daniel. Waiting was not an option. “Hank, I have to use your phone.”

            “You know where it is.”

            Nodding he left the briefing room without a glance to the rest of his former team mates. He went directly to Landry’s office and without pause reached for the red phone.

            It was time to get serious.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The whispers persisted. Through the storm raging within his mind, the hiss of voices seared and cut the air. Like a sandstorm, the dust of the landscapes cycloned about him. These landscapes were both foreign and familiar to him. In lucid moments, he comprehended their meaning, their time and space. The knowledge swirling at the periphery of his vision beckoned him yet a deep fear warned him away. He could not place the admonition but knew if he accepted these gifts he would lose something more precious. He would lose himself.

            So he fought against the invasion of his brain. With strength that faded and broke, Daniel struggled to hold the fortress within him. But the siege was never ending and his defenses broke, tattered and crumpled. He would lose himself against the tornado, against the inquisition.

            The whispers continued. Jogging his brain, he jolted against the noises in the silence. He opened his eyes and expected to find the dark of the correction room once again, but instead he sat in the wheelchair in the corner of the common room. His compatriots, the other inmates, huddled close to him conferring with one another, frequently glancing at him. He made no move to alert them of his waking state. He couldn’t feel his mouth, couldn’t feel his limbs. His head hung, limp against his chest.

            “Hey Doc, you up?” Peter the Great eased closer to him, his large round eyes perked with questions. Daniel didn’t understand why the man would care.

            “Yeah, yeah, the nitwit’s up.” Daisy leaned over him and stared into his face. “Barely really there. Eyes all glossy. They’d just about made him into a ghost now.”

            Peter the Great slapped her away and knelt by the wheelchair in which Daniel was strapped. His voice low, he spoke in hurried tones. “I heard you was back here. I heard you was talking about some big battle.”

            He blinked his eyes and shook his head. He had no idea what the man was talking about. He remembered nothing. Only the correction room. He shivered as the memories of the pain trembled through him.

            “You mumbled you know?” Peter the Great said. “I heard you. You mumbled about some big battle.”

            Daisy paced back and forth, rocking as she did. “More like talking about nothing. Probably some booger battle.” She cackled as she circled them.

            Shaking his head, Peter the Great ignored her and turned to him. “Some battle in the snow. You remember?”

            Daniel nodded. This he could recall. “Antarctica. Yes, Antarctica.” The words hurt to say as if his throat and lungs were burnt out from screaming. “Lost city.”

            “Lost, that’s for sure,” Daisy laughed and pushed him.

            Peter the Great shoved her away then knelt down by Daniel’s side. “You ignore her, you know. She’s cracked in the head.”

            A rare cogent moment passed over him and Daniel squinted at the man. His filthy hair stuck to the sides of his head and, when he sniffled, he used the back of his hand to clear away the mess. “What, what do you want?”

            “Before they got me, you know before the agents came and got me, I led a message board on line. You know, on line. We had a theory about the conspiracy to cover up heaven’s gate. You know, there’s all kinds of evidence. They say I’m nuts. But I know what’s out there.”

            Daniel closed his eyes. “I don’t know what you’re saying.”

            The man bent in, his foul breath overwhelmed Daniel. “Earth’s under attack by aliens and the government’s got some secret device to fight them. Couple years back there was all kinds of evidence of a big battle over the South Pole. I’m telling you, they’re keeping it all from us.”

            “What – what do you want from me?”

            Peter the Great knelt and whispered into Daniel’s ear. “I know you ain’t been here seven years. They keep telling us you been here seven years but I just saw you for the first time a couple of weeks ago.”

            “What?” Daniel gripped the arms of the wheelchair, his knuckles turning white.

            “If I help you, will you use your contacts to get me out of here? You know those secret government people that run everything – even control the President and Congress.” The man puffed out a hot breath at him. “You promise me to take me with you when your people come, I’ll contact them. You just tell me. I got it in good with the nurse. She likes me. I even get to use the phone once in a while.”

            “Jack,” Daniel murmured, his parched throat rebelling as he fought back the tears. “Jack O’Neill. Two, two ll’s. Call the Air Force.”

            “Doctor Jackson,” Mackenzie called from the doorway as he entered the common room.

            Daniel quaked at the sight of the man, then gave a furtive glance to Peter the Great. His heart ricocheted off his chest wall, skipping and skidding. He gasped for air as if someone just punched him in the gut. With only his eyes, he pleaded for Peter the Great to remain silent.

            “Daniel, you’re upset.” Mackenzie laid a firm hand on his shoulder. His bones caved inward and he shrank in the wheelchair.

            He murmured a negative reply, not wanting the doctor to remove him from the room. He felt his nostrils flare as he started to hyperventilate.

            “Daniel would you like to go back to your room?” Mackenzie clenched his shoulder and Daniel moaned in response. “I could have one of the orderlies bring you back to your room, clean you up a bit.”

            Peering up at him, Daniel begged him with his eyes. “Please don’t. Please.” The restraints binding him to the chair sliced into his wrists and his numbed legs barely tingled anymore.

            “He’s done had it, Doc.” Peter the Great shifted forward and knocked his knuckle on Daniel’s forehead. “But you’ll see, Doc. Him and me, we’ll prove you wrong. Right?”

            Daniel shook his head, his eyes widening at the implications. No! Something screamed in his brain. Sweat beaded in his hair line, lined his cheek.

            Peter the Great smirked at Mackenzie. “Daniel and I, we know what’s going on. Some damned alien conspiracy, ain’t it?” He was nodding his head and pacing about the room. “Daniel told me about the big space battle over Antarctica. I know what’s going on.”

            “That’s enough Peter,” Mackenzie commanded. His voice rose over the agitated man drawing the nurse to round the station adjacent to the common room and assist.

            “Can I help Doctor?”

            “Please have the orderlies come Ms Livingston.”

            “No, no, no,” Daniel said, bashing his fists against the padded arm rests of the wheelchair. He felt the wounds on his wrist split open again, blood leaked out. “No.”

            “Ms Livingston, now.”

            The harried nurse nodded and raced off as Peter the Great danced around Daisy taunting her. “God damned whore, just about sleep with everyone.” Peter started to gnaw at his hands as Daisy squealed. “They just tell me it’s some conspiracy theory, making it all up. But it ain’t. Damned aliens are after us all. I saw them. Their eyes flash and they got snakes in their heads.”

            Mackenzie’s attention snapped to Peter and then back to Daniel. “Damn it nurse, get in here and get Doctor Jackson a sedative.”

            “I don’t need a sedative,” Daniel said.

            “You’re distressed Daniel, anyone can see that.” The doctor strode to the nurse’s station, reached over the high divider and pulled a phone to his ear. “Get me the Colonel immediately. Who the hell do you think it is? There’s been a breach. I want someone to tell me why the hell they recommended this site for the operation. It isn’t secure.”

            Ms Livingston followed by several orderlies rushed into the room. Mackenzie pointed to Daniel and ordered, “Get him to the treatment room. Hook him up and give him the maximum setting.”

            “But Doctor, he just had a treatment.”

            The nurse leaned away from the doctor as he yelled, “I don’t give a fuck. Maximum setting and if he’s still coherent afterward do it again until he’s out. I need this to be erased.”

            The nurse stood there, her mouth agape staring at the doctor.

            “Do I make myself clear?”

            She didn’t answer. The orderlies shifted nervously behind her. Daniel whispered in a haunting voice, “Please please please.”

            “Nurse Livingston, you do realize this is a military facility and you do as you are told?”

            She came to herself and her gaze dropped, then she nodded. “Yes sir. Sorry sir. We’ll get him there immediately.”

            “Someone get this fool back to his room, his common room privileges are revoked.” Mackenzie indicated Peter the Great.

            Daniel didn’t fight, he didn’t try. The nurse quietly touched him on the shoulder and spoke in soft tones as she wheeled him down the hallway. “It’ll be all right Doctor Jackson. You just rest. I’m going to give you the sedative and then I’ll give you the treatment. It shouldn’t be too bad. It shouldn’t hurt too much.” Her voice broke as she spoke. “It doesn’t hurt does it? I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.” She continued her litany as if she was trying to convince herself.

            In his weakened state, Daniel inhaled a shaken breath and realized for the first time he had no way out. He knew he’d been away from the SGC for a long time; his team should have started to look for him. They hadn’t. No one knew where he was; no one came for him. A tremor passed over him as the orderly guiding the nurse helped him up and onto the table. He didn’t struggle, his limbs hung loosely at his sides. They strapped him down, braced him to the table and captured his head in the modified alien device.

            Peter the Great was obviously insane. Perhaps he was as well? Perhaps all the conjured images were warped illusions of his mind. Mackenzie might be trying to help him, right? But words Mackenzie had spoken, things Daniel had heard caused him to doubt it. Things didn’t add up. Peter the Great told him he hadn’t been here for seven years. Right? What was real? Who was real?

            The first jolt sent him into the black oblivion of pain, the second catapulted him into the memories locked away in the recesses of his brain, places he should not tread. The recollections flowered before him like some night jasmine blossom. Beautiful and intricate yet disturbingly frail. He released himself into the memories, opened the door to allow them to envelop him.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            The slackard slumped in the chair stared out into space. His eyes dazed with little focus. Jack glared at him, then shoved the heels of his hands into his eyes and rubbed. God damn it, where the hell was Daniel? The junkie sitting in front of him in one of the holding rooms under Cheyenne Mountain had been arrested and brought in for questioning regarding his illegal possession of Daniel’s Blackberry.

            “Don’t know, man,” he mumbled and slicked his hair away from his eyes. “I got paid, that’s all. They gave me some money and told me to send some messages to an addy.  Rigged it so it could look like it came from the fucking Blackberry. That’s all I know.” He scratched his belly and sniffled.

            “Can you give a description of who hired you?” Mitchell asked as Jack continued to pace the room.

            “I told you, I told the cops that brought me in. I told everybody. I ain’t never seen them.” He considered Jack. “I want a lawyer. I should have a lawyer.”

            Spinning on one heel, Jack put a hand down on the table and leaned over the weakling. He seized the man’s t-shirt and growled, “You’ll be lucky if you just don’t disappear after we’re done with you.”

            “You can’t do that.” The man panted as he struggled against Jack’s grip. “I know I got rights. I got rights.” He looked to Mitchell for confirmation.

            Mitchell grabbed hold of Jack’s fist and said, “Sir, please this isn’t helping any.”

            “It could if someone would give me a gun.”

            The man yelped and started batting at Jack’s closed fists. “You can’t. People will miss me.”

            “Tell me who the hell hired you.”

            “I don’t know.”

            “Tell me who the hell hired you.”

            The man glanced away to Mitchell, pleading with his eyes and then back at Jack. “I don’t know anything. I swear. All I know is they wanted me to send these messages until the 16th.”

            That stopped Jack, halted him dead in his tracks. “The 16th? What happens on the 16th?”  His fists clenching the man’s t-shirt relaxed a degree.

            “Don’t know,” he whined as Jack jerked him. “All I know is that they said the project would be terminated by the 16th. No need to send anymore messages.”

            His hands opened, fingers splayed. Two days. God damn it. They had two days to find Daniel before, shit. Shit. Shit. “What other messages were you going to send?”

            The man raised his hand and gestured to the slate black door. “It’s all in the files the looker took from my place. I just typed them out and sent them. I swear.”

            Jack wasn’t looking at the man anymore he was out the door and striding toward Carter’s lab. God damn it to hell. Shoving past airman as they scrambled to get out of the way, he confiscated an elevator two technicians were loading some equipment on and pressed the button for the level with her laboratory. The ride was only minutes but seemed like hours as he ticked off the floors. The doors swished open and he raced out of the lift and went to her lab.

            Carter hunched over her computer, Teal’c stood next to her as they examined the screen. She straightened as she glimpsed him and said, “Sir.”

            “We have less than two days.”

            “Sir?”

            “The perp they brought in told me that on the 16th he was supposed to send the last email message.” Jack rounded the table and yanked a stool out from under it to sit on. “The project is supposed to be terminated then. Whatever the hell Daniel is caught up in is going to end in two days.”

            “Last message?” Carter stated and then her fingers flew over the keyboard, the clicking like hens pecking. “Here is the listing of the messages he was supposed to send. Most of them aren’t useful. Just hi how are you doing messages, still looking for the key to Merlin’s weapon. Another theme throughout the messages was always about how he felt responsible for bringing the Ori to our galaxy.”

            “Carter!” Did he really have to keep her on target at a time like this?

            “Yes sir,” she said and pointed to the screen. “The second to last message is the one Teal’c and I were just studying.” She shifted the screen. “Read it.”

           
*Dear Sam and Teal’c,
                        I’ve failed. The translations I hunted down do not refer to Merlin’s weapon at all. I’ve wasted so much time. I don’t know where to go from here. I cannot stand to see this end up the way I know it is destine to finish. I have one more chance, one more avenue. I’ll write you again tomorrow and tell you what I know.
            Always,
            Daniel*

            Reaching over to the keyboard she tapped a few keys and the last email message popped up on the screen. “It isn’t pretty sir.”

            He scanned it and closed his eyes. It elaborated and detailed the lowest points of Daniel’s life. He swallowed hard as he read it. Christ they were going to make it look like a suicide.

            “We have to find him, sir.”

            “I know, we only have two days.”

            “Less than that O’Neill.” Teal’c presence sent an unwavering calm through the air.

            “Less?”

            “If whoever has perpetrated this crime against Daniel Jackson was observing and validating the email messages where being sent on time then they would know that the man they hired to do the task.”

            “Has been arrested,” Jack finished for him. “Christ.”

            “Has the President given you any assistance?” Carter asked then nodded to Mitchell and Vala as they entered her laboratory.

            “He said he’d look into it.”

            “Seems to me if this President of yours knows anything, he’d of told you.” Vala sighed as she reclined against the table. “I think he’s in on it.”

            Mitchell put a halting hand up to stop him from attacking Vala. “How do ya figure?”

            Shrugging she said, “He seems to be stalling to me. He’s playing it close to his vest as if he’s trying not to tip the balance.”

            “Damn it, she’s right.” Jack agreed. “If he knows that someone inside has Daniel and doesn’t want to admit it to us.”

            “But why?  The President has been pretty supportive of the SGC overall, right?” Mitchell asked.

            “But the Ori present a whole new parameter. He’s dealing with a new equation, new unknowns.” Carter shook her head. “I’m not surprised the President is working on all available fronts, but I am surprised he would let it go this far. Or that he even knows what exactly has happened.”

            Jumping up, Jack clapped his hands. “Why Daniel? Why would they take Daniel?”

            “He knows Ancient,” Vala offered.

            “The expert on it as a matter of fact,” Mitchell said.

            “Daniel Jackson was Ascended and as such may have connections to the Ancients and thus be a resource of Ancient knowledge.” Teal’c glared at Jack. The stare ate into his core, refused to let him rest.

            “That’s it, isn’t it?” Jack said.

            Carter nodded. “Orlin. If they’re retrieving the information then they’re putting him in jeopardy.” Her voice faltered, cracking as she spoke. Vala laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “If they succeeded.” She let the sentence drop as if it was an anchor. It fell, sinking through the depths of their fears to rest upon the cold realization of what was happening to Daniel.

            “It will not matter whether or not Daniel Jackson survives. His mind will no longer be that of the man we now know.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            Plausible Deniability.

            My ass, Jack thought and tried not to throw up on the whole proceedings. Landry hung up the phone and waited for Jack to explode. He was mildly surprised that he was able to hold his temper more than five minutes, was delighted that it was six minutes before he actually said, “My ass, Hank. I don’t believe for a second that he doesn’t know what is going on.”

            “There might be some truth it what he said Jack,” Landry noted. “He admitted to authorizing an investigation into what Doctor Jackson knows about his time with the Ancients.”

            “An inquisition, Hank, let’s call it what it is.” Jack stood up and walked around the chair. He grabbed the back of it and clenched it, trying to release the tension. “Daniel has no time.”

            Hank nodded his somber attitude spoke volumes.

            “Did he give you any avenues?”

            “One.”

            Jack waited, his hands aching as he worked the leather of the chair back.

            “I didn’t understand it much, but he said it would mean something to you.” Hank slid a sheet of paper across the desk. “A planet designation.”

            Jack studied the paper, the letter and numbers smeared as he closed his fist about it. “There aren’t many of these I remember, but this one, this one I do.”

            “Jack?”

            “This is the planet where Daniel died.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
PART III:  The Tangled Web
The seventh chevron locked and the influx of the wormhole flared outward in an illusionary water spout. There were times when Jack watched it that he forgot what it really was and thought if he stepped through it, the sensations assaulting his body would be cool and wet. He wasn’t entering the event horizon this time. In fact he awaited the return of SG1 from Nem’s planet.

            The planet’s designation scarred his brain. He recalled the horror, the blankness of the void filling him when he thought of Daniel’s ‘death’ on Nem’s world. The conflagration of flames consuming Daniel’s flesh still permeated his nightmares. He swore he could still smell the singe of flesh, the char of bones. None of it was real of course. Nem, the amphibian or whatever it called itself, had the technology to replace their memories with reconstructed images. The illusion though not real evoked strong primal emotions in Jack to this day. Normally he kept those thoughts locked in the far recesses of his mind but as he recalled the moments of the false death, his brain still froze, his fingers still tingled, his jaw still set.

            As he awaited the newly reconfigured SG1 team to emerge from the event horizon, Jack remembered the device used by Nem could be used to break open long since lost memories. The pain Daniel suffered to get the information on Nem’s dead love had been formidable. The twist of Daniel’s face as he endured the cluster headaches over the weeks following the ordeal haunted Jack. To this day, Jack believed that Daniel experienced headaches due to his time on Nem’s world but his stubbornness wouldn’t allow him to admit it.

            Teal’c led the way down the ramp as Mitchell and Vala followed behind him. Carter hadn’t joined the partial SG1 team having begged off to hunt down another lead. A lead he had to point out, she refused to tell anyone.

            All three of them were in wet suits and they were dripping wet. Though Jack was used to having the teams report directly to him when arriving Earthside, the team correctly stepped up to Landry. Teal’c spoke for them.

            “General Landry, we have inspected the underwater habitat of the creature designated Nem. It did not seem to be occupied for quite some time.”

            “No one was home,” Mitchell interpreted.

            Teal’c gave Mitchell a sidelong glance but then continued, “We were unable to locate the creature Nem but we did note that there was no evidence of the device he once used on Daniel Jackson and the other members of SG1.”

            Vala nodded. Jack had come to know the woman for her flamboyant over reaching dramatics about situations. Her subdued attitude unsettled him. He called her on it. “Vala?”

            She fiddled with the mouthpiece of her scuba equipment. “From my understanding and correct me if I’m wrong, none of you actually know what this device looks like, right?”

            She waited for a moment and when no one popped in to answer, Vala prodded, “Right?”

            “That is correct,” Teal’c said and did a short bow to concede the point.

            “Then how do we know it’s actually gone?”

            Carter walked into the room and answered, “Because we do. It was retrieved by the Daedalus a little over a month ago. They noted when they went there that Nem had abandoned the place and using Daniel’s description of the memory device took it.”

            “And where did you come up with that information?” Mitchell asked.

            “Contacts at area 51.” She turned from her counterpart to Jack and Landry. “Sirs from my information, a research project was approved to recover as much information from Orlin as possible.” She paused for a moment, swallowed and then said, “They were going to use the device on him but it didn’t work. He was as they put it ‘too far gone’.”

            “So their answer to that problem was to use Daniel?” Jack finished for her.

            “None of my contacts can”

            Mitchell waved her off and completed her sentence for her. “Either confirm or deny Daniel’s involvement. Cut to the chase, what can they confirm? ‘Cause I don’t give a rat’s ass what they’re gonna deny.”

            She bit her bottom lip, inhaled then exhaled before answering. “I pushed and I called in some marks.”

            “Carter you don’t have marks,” Jack said.

            “How do you know sir?”

            “People!”

            “Sorry sir.” Carter widened her eyes and scowled at him before she continued, “As I was saying, I called in some favors and I found out something pretty interesting. This is top secret stuff sirs. I’m not even sure I’m supposed to have access to this information. But here it is - the assigned investigator on the project is Doctor Mackenzie.”

            Surprisingly, it was Teal’c that pronounced his one word reaction. “Shit.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            Rock, rock, rock.

One two three, one two three.

Rock, rock, rock.

Say it again. Say it again.

            He rode the music in his head, circling it over and again, listening to its beat and its cadence as if it was a lifeline to another world, a different place than this cold dark cell. Where had the padded white room gone? Why had they delivered him to this basement room.

            He glanced around, there was a small light up near the ceiling. A bare bulb hung on a wire from the high ceiling. The low wattage was insufficient to brighten the room to any degree. He stared at the light at the ceiling as if it was the sun. It was his only hope.

            If they gave him light, he was still worthy of something. Right?

            Rock, rock, rock.

            The frigid concrete floor seeped with cracks and crevices. There was no where on the floor itself that he could sit to keep dry. It was a moot point anyway, since they chained him with a manacle at his ankle to the middle of the floor.

            At least the tingle of his legs and the throbbing pain of blood in his lower extremities told him that feeling had finally returned. He laughed a little, what did it matter?

            His mind ached. When he attempted to remember, to latch onto the figments of his memories sharp daggers blistered his brain, burned what little he could see into shards. Mackenzie, that was it, Mackenzie had given him a treatment.

            A treatment. Yes that was it. He’d had a treatment.

            Why?

            What was a treatment again? It was to help him. He’d forgotten something. Something important. What?

            Rock, rock, rock.

            But something bad was happening. Right? Something bad.

            He stared up at the light. When he closed his eyes he saw only the afterimages, taunting him, swinging in slow arcs behind his lids. Something bad had happened. Mackenzie said it was his fault. He needed to recall something to help. If he didn’t it would be all his fault.

            He whined low in his throat. Something was wrong. Why was he here?

            Rock, rock, rock.

            Mackenzie told him, he failed. He nodded - that was it. Mackenzie told him there was no hope to recover what had been lost. They’d tried everything. In the end, Daniel remembered begging him, pleading that they treat him again with the device. He’d remember; he knew he would.  But he hadn’t and Mackenzie told him it was over. They had failed. He had failed.

            Something deep in the hollow of his chest plummeted. It hit hard and cold in the pit of his belly.

            The project would be terminated. The whispers of Mackenzie still rang in his ears. Terminated.

            “The project is to be terminated,” Mackenzie had said to the indistinct figure. “I don’t know how you’re planning on it but I want no part of it. Doctor Jackson is an integral part of the SGC. Without him, you’ll lose the fight with the Ori.”

            “It’ll be done quickly. I don’t want any of the other patients to be in the way. Have him moved to the basement room,” the figure sighed. “Such a shame we couldn’t find out more. Unfortunately for Doctor Jackson his team members are too resourceful. We’ll need to dispose of the body so that they won’t be able to find him.”

            “What about the suicide plan?”

            “Abandoned. The SGC knows too much. We’ll have to get rid of him as quickly as possible.”

            “The SGC knows too much? How much?” Mackenzie had asked as Daniel lay on the table the feeling of being scorched from the last treatment still overwhelming his senses. “Do they know of my involvement?”

            “Unknown.” The figure moved off. “Don’t worry Doctor, you’re well protected. I’ll have my men come by and take care of him. Just get him to the basement room as soon as possible.”

            The basement room.

            My men come by and take care of him.

            Dispose of the body.

            He’d failed.

            The creak of the door alerted him. He turned toward it.

The project is to be terminated.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            He followed the sway of the truck with his body as it made its way through the winding roads. A strike force of Marines and SGC personnel surrounded him. He kept his eyes narrow, his expression grim. His whole stance was uninviting and malicious. Yet, Jack fought to stuff down the growing apprehension, the twisting knot deep within his gut as he thought about Daniel.

            They were going to be too late.

            They already knew that. He stifled a gasp as he nodded to himself. He couldn’t show stress, he couldn’t show weakness. These men and women gathered about him in the transport vehicle depended on his leadership skills, his command to direct them on this mission.

            But was it a mission to retrieve a body?

            Mitchell stood next to him, his head bowed and eyes closed. He wondered as he studied the younger man if he prayed before a mission. Some did, he knew that. Some prayed, some called their mothers, some slept. He just stared. Stared and focused on the movements and motions he would need to go through without thinking. Surveying the grounds, taking a quick stock of what was there and what wasn’t. Watching the shadows and the corners of every building and structure. Allowing the trigger of the P90 to become a part of his hand instead of an instrument of his hand. Screaming out to his soldiers, waving them forward in a surge like a tsunami to cover everything in their path.

            In the seconds as he reviewed these last details, his boots were on the ground and his men and women were thrusting forward – ramming into the broken gate the truck just destroyed of the private facility.

After they linked Mackenzie to Daniel’s disappearance tracing the man’s movements had been fairly simple. Mackenzie was not trained in intrigue or espionage; the man left tracks the size of an elephant. From the information they’d been able to reconstruct Daniel had taken a British Airways flight from England to Dulles approximately three weeks ago. Upon landing, someone masquerading as Air Force had met Daniel at the gate as his ride to the Pentagon. It seems Daniel was going to stop by and surprise an old friend. He never made it. In fact he never left the airport. His next stop had been Denver. His last stop had been this private nursing facility on the outskirts of the skiing resort Keystone. They’d been able to backtrack every piece in the puzzle once they’d followed Mackenzie’s tracks to the facility. He’d been on special assignment as commissioned by the international committee and sanctioned by the President. Stupidly for him and fortunately for them, he thought this made his trips to the small mountain resort look innocuous.

A few specially place words to the President by Jack had broken down the barriers and had dealt a blow Jack knew it would take some time for even a President to recover. The President’s horror at the details Jack lay on the table regarding what happened to Orlin and what could potentially happen to Daniel led to the permission being granted to stop the project. The only problem was the group handling the project was the international committee, thus their dilemma.  Officially they were not permitted to lay a hand on the project. Unofficially, the President told them to clean house.

Political consequences be damned.

As Jack landed on the gravel, his boots gave way but he quickly righted himself and gestured for his group to move forward. Without hesitation the armed men and women charged toward the facility. It looked like an old Queen Anne style mansion. They stamped up the wide stone steps and raced through the glass double doors. Nurses and orderlies pitched backwards, cowering as they overwhelmed the small narrow halls.

“Daniel Jackson!” Jack screamed out. “Someone tell me where Daniel Jackson is now.”

The nurses paled as he pointed the P90 at them. The orderlies stood frozen against the walls. Several of the patients started to cry out while one or two began to bang their heads against the nearest solid object. Carter and Teal’c mirrored his movements, circling around him as if they were all birds of prey.  Mitchell stepped forward and in his sweetest Southern voice said, “Now folks no one here wants any trouble. Just ante up the goods.”

“Ante up the goods?” Carter winced and shook her head.

“I know, I know,” one of the patient’s waved his hand but Jack cursed in disgust.

He went to the nearest nurse. She looked like a nice woman, straight blonde hair pulled in a tight bun at the back of her head. She had pretty eyes but they were worn and showed years of silent depression with little joy in life. “If you tell me, it’ll go easier on you.”

“I know!” the patient called again. “Doc’s dead.”

Jack whizzed around and pointed the weapon at the man. The patient raised his hands in some form mimicry of surrender. “I ain’t done nothing but expose the truth.”

“Exposed yourself to me,” a woman patient accused then laughed in a screech.

“Shut up Daisy,” the patient snarled at her. He pressed his hand on the dark strands of greasy hair to paste them to his head. “I seen them take him to the basement. You go to the basement, you die. I seen it.”

“Where are the stairs?” Jack threatened the nurse with his gun and she gestured to the hallway.

“Down the hall to your right.”

He didn’t feel his feet move, he didn’t see the trek down the hall or the stairs he skipped to get down into the basement. He heard the click of a gun as he tore down the hallway, as he bashed through the old wooden door.

In the middle of the dimly lit room, Daniel knelt with hands tied behind his back, with a blindfold over his eyes. A gun butted up against the base of his skull. As Jack burst into the room, the gun exploded.

“No!” Jack yelled at the same time the trigger was pulled.

At the same time, Daniel turned his head to the sound of the door crashing open.

At the same time, the assassin jerked and the bullet missed its main target – Daniel’s head. It grazed over his shoulder instead and Daniel dropped to the ground, writhing in pain.

The assassin spun his weapon upward and pointed it at Jack but the addition of Carter, Teal’c and Mitchell in the room stopped him. His gun wavered, jumping from person to person until he settled on lowering it to point at his original target. “I go free or he dies. Right here, right now.”

Jack said nothing. He glanced down at Daniel. His friend was filthy, thin, and bleeding. “I don’t want any evidence, Teal’c.”

“What?” the assassin asked.

Before the man made another sound, Teal’c fired. The zat gun hit its target. Once, Twice. Three times and the evidence faded into memory.

Jack rushed to Daniel’s side and yanked the blindfold off. “Daniel?”

“My fault, my fault.”

“Daniel?” Jack whispered as Carter came to kneel by his side. There was something poignant and special about the moment. Teal’c stood over them and for the first time, Jack felt as he had all those years ago. Together – as a team – not separated by thousands of miles, sometimes millions of lightyears.

“We need to get a med team, sir.” Carter pulled open her pack and started to clean Daniel’s wound. “He’s in shock and it’s not from the gun shot wound.”

“God damn it.” Jack called into the hallway as the rest of the unit fanned out to cover them. “Get me a med team and someone find me Mackenzie. I want his head on a platter.”

Turning back to his friend, Jack said, “Stay with us Daniel. Just a little while longer. You’ll be okay.”

But his words echoed in Jack’s head. “My fault, my fault.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            His stomach flopped over and he gulped back the need to vomit. They’d rescued Daniel but to what end? He dropped his gaze from the window of the observation room and steadied the blast within his ribcage. His own heart rebelled; the palpitations seared through him and made time stand still for those seconds as his heart raced. Damn it, if he wasn’t careful Daniel wouldn’t be the only one in need of a medical team.

            His eyes drifted upward of their own accord; he didn’t want to see, didn’t want to accept what had happened to his best friend. Maybe it was something perverse that made him look like turning to catch a glimpse of a car wreck on the highway. But something in the pit of his nauseous stomach refuted that conclusion. He looked because his own link to life existed in that room, existed in the soul of the man locked in the room below.

            The door to the observation room opened and Vala walked in. He was mildly surprised to see her. He hadn’t spent too much time with the woman and overall she’d impressed him as being a pest.

            This time though she slipped into the room without a word and peered to the room below, staring at Daniel’s form. He sat upright in the bed, wires and tubes attached to him. A bandage swathed his shoulder where the bullet had split open the flesh and torn muscle. Although the gunshot wound was only a graze, its damage was serious due to the close range. Ligaments torn and shredded by the bullet would take time to heal. His weight showed only that they’d barely fed him. Yet none of these physical injuries nor the starvation pained Jack as much as watching Daniel rock back and forth on the bed. He never stopped, never stopped murmuring and mumbling to himself.

            They’d rescued his body but what of his soul?

            “It can’t end like this,” Vala whispered.

            Jack turned to look at her and saw an ache so striking in her eyes he knew it reflected what his own spirit felt. “No, it won’t.”

            She met his gaze. “How do you know?”

            “Daniel always survives.” He wanted to crack a joke but the wounded look in her eyes stopped him. “I know him, he’ll survive.”

            She nodded and raised a hand to wipe away an unshod tear from her eye. “He’s the only one that really believes in me.” Glancing up to the ceiling, she murmured something under her breath and then lowering her eyes, said, “Damn it Daniel, no one’s ever done this to me and you’re not going to be the first.”

            He smiled at that, though he didn’t truly understand what her reference was or what she was accusing Daniel of. He did comprehend how it was to be Daniel’s family and how the archeologist had a real talent at putting you through the ringer.

Straightening her shoulders then, Vala faced him and demanded, “How do we get him back?”

Taken aback, Jack opened his hands and fumbled for words.

“You’re the big General, right? The one responsible for killing Goa’uld left and right. The one responsible for stopping little bug like machines from taking over this fair planet of yours?” She pursed her lips and huffed as she waved at the window. “This should be a piece of cake for you.”

“Maybe you’re not versed in Earth professions but the last time I looked as a General I didn’t hold a medical degree or any type of scientific degree.”

She inched closer to him, her breath warm against his shoulder as she tidied the lapel of his jacket. “It seems to me, General, sir that you command a whole bunch of scientists and medical personnel. It seems to me, every single one of them should be diverted to fixing up Daniel.”

“It seems to you.”

She leaned back and nodded. “It seems to me.”

Stepping away from her, Jack disengaged her hands and mockingly flicked off any dust or dirt left behind by her. She grimaced.

“Well then,” he said. “It seems I have some people to call.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Doctor Lam and Carter crouched over the instrument. Their heads nearly touching as they delicately wove wires into the base of the complex computer system. Teal’c stood with his hands behind his back, a frown furrowing his brow. Mitchell and Vala remained apart, whispering to one another occasionally as they watched the proceedings. As he scanned the occupants of the room, his sight fell on the last one.

            Daniel.

            He huddled in a corner of the room. Doctor Lam allowed it because she found it doubly difficult to keep him in the bed and calm at the same time. His stirrings and continued stutters ended up with him having a hysterical fit. Restrains only set him off further. Jack observed Carter and Lam trying to rig the damned instrument or device – whatever the hell it was from Nem’s planet to do what it once had – wall off real memories. They’d tried to use the device from Galar but it only made matters worse. So Carter and Lam were reduced to attempting to configure the device to reconstruct the wall in Daniel’s brain, the barrier once probably constructed by an Ancient, Oma. How the hell were they going to mimic something an Ascended Being did?

            Everyone in the room kept their eyes averted from Daniel’s form. He sat behind a wheeled instrument, his hands to his mouth as he murmured restlessly. Though he constantly moved, rocking to and forth, his mumbles never ceasing, the stillness of his eyes struck deep inside Jack’s core. The silence of Daniel’s intelligence killed something inside Jack.

            He left the small group as they – each in their own way – prayed for Lam and Carter to succeed. Bending down on one knee, Jack reached out to Daniel and tugged his hand from his mouth. “Would you like something to eat Daniel?”

            “But it isn’t right, it fell years ago. There’s no hope there.” Daniel gripped Jack’s hand and searched his face. “You know you can’t go there, right? The Ori know. There’s no sanctuary.”

            “Whatever you say, Daniel,” Jack said. “Do you want something to eat? You have to be hungry.”

            He shook his head and pulled his hand out of Jack’s grasp. “The doctor said I can’t eat, not yet.” His eyes skipped about the room, never landing, never focusing. “Once I remember, I can eat. Can’t eat yet.”

            Jack let his head drop. God damned Mackenzie. He bit the inside of his mouth not to say anything. Daniel’s reaction to Mackenzie had been revered as if the Doctor had brainwashed him to believe he was on Daniel’s side. God damn it, once they found that coward he was going to string him up.

            “I have some applesauce on the tray, Daniel. Doctor Mackenzie said it was okay.”

            Daniel’s flickering gaze jumped to Jack and stopped. “Okay?”

            “Okay, he wants you to eat.”

            “Okay, okay, yes,” Daniel said, pushing his short hair up to stick in strange angles on his head. “Yes, applesauce, if he says so.”

            Jack offered his hand and Daniel touched it as if it might burn. The slices on Daniel’s wrists were now ugly scabs. “Here, let me help you.” He pulled Daniel up to stand and wrapped an arm around his waist. Whatever they’d given Daniel had affected his legs. He stumbled and staggered as he made his way to the gurney. Teal’c joined them and assisted in helping Daniel onto the bed.

            Laying back, Daniel closed his eyes and sighed as if the coolness of the sheets comforted him. Jack took the cup of applesauce and spooned it. “Come on Daniel, open wide.”

            Without opening his eyes, Daniel opened his mouth and let Jack feed him. It smacked Jack hard in the chest to see his friend so complacent, like a frightened rabbit. Christ, he was going to kill Mackenzie.

            “Sometimes,” Daniel said in a low tone. “Sometimes, I remember.”

            Jack nodded though Daniel still hadn’t opened his eyes. “Another spoonful Daniel.”

            “Most of the time, I can’t remember what’s my memory and what’s theirs.” Daniel opened his eyes. “It hurts too much to hold onto reality, Jack.”

            The cup and spoon fell from his grasp as Jack grabbed Daniel by the shoulders, forgetting his wound. “Daniel?”

            “It’s too much Jack,” Daniel groaned. “It’s too painful.” He met Jack’s gaze and slowly lifted his hand and placed it on Jack’s shoulder, mirroring him. “Sorry, sorry. Can’t stay.” His head collapsed into the pillow and Jack saw the perspiration running down the sides of his face, his hairline soaked from the effort.

            Jack held onto Daniel a moment more as his friend slid into sleep. He laid Daniel back, then cleaned up the applesauce, taking the time to compose himself before he confronted the others.

            “Carter, tell me you have something?”

            She glanced up; she paled as she saw the expression on his face. He had to work on his stonewall features again. “Carter?”

            Righting herself, she nodded and said, “They did some interesting modifications to the device sir.” She raised her hand in surrender. “I’m not going to go into the technical details.”

            Would wonders never cease?

            “But what I do want to say is they changed the head piece considerably. I don’t believe that Nem ever had it rigged to cause pain on purpose if someone didn’t recall information or a repressed memory.” Carter stood and shook out her pants. “They built this head piece that seemed to operate by giving something like an electro-shock treatment while retrieving memories.”

            Lam stood as well and joined in the explanation. “Daniel’s had several of these electro-shock like treatments in addition to the pain the device normally imparts. It’s a surprise he’s able to function at all at this point.”

            “Will Daniel Jackson recover?” As Teal’c asked his question, both Vala and Mitchell stepped forward.

            “If we can wall off the Ascended memories again, and allow him time to rest. With the right meds, there’s a possibility.”

            “But there’s also a possibility, he won’t?” Jack vocalized their unspoken fears.

            Lam only nodded her agreement.

            Swallowing, Jack set aside that possibility and moved forward with his next question. “Can you wall off the memories?”

            Carter took the stage then and said, “I think so, by using the device like Nem used it on us when he replaced our memories of what happened with a false memory, we might be able to re-establish a wall.”

            “How can you be certain all the right memories will be walled off?” Vala asked.

            “That’s where our experience with Orlin comes in,” Lam said and went to a computer in the room. She tapped a few quick commands and a brain scan appeared. “Orlin’s brain scanned showed the deterioration but it also showed us where in his brain he accessed ‘Ancient’ memories.” She pointed to the screen in the lobes of the brain.

            “By hooking up Daniel to Nem’s device as we scan his brain, we might be able to figure out where exactly his Ascended memories are stored. Once we know that we can center the device to replace those memories with a false one,” Carter explained.

            “Okay, sounds good,” Jack said, his arms folded. He didn’t know if he really believed it would work. “When do we try it.”

            “Soon, we have a few more things to test, but we’re close.”

            Jack grimaced and ran a hand down his face as he stared at Daniel’s quiet form. “I don’t know how much more time Daniel has.”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            “Jack!”  He jolted awake to find arms about him, steadying him. Tremors coursed up and down his spine, quaked his muscles as if he’d run a marathon and his body was rebelling. Bright light assaulted him and Daniel squeezed his eyes closed but tears still ran freely down his face.

            The person holding him hushed him and ran a hand up and down his back. “Calm down, everything is all right.”

            “What?” His body jerked and trembled but he fought against it.

            “Let it be, Doctor Lam expected this,” Jack said. “You okay now? ‘Cause this is a bit too much to be just a buddy moment.”

            Daniel gave a little laugh but his fists clenched and opened again and again as Jack eased him down on to the pile of pillows. A quaver hit him again and he closed his eyes, his body shivering against an unfelt chill. “What happened?”

            “What’s the last thing you remember?” Jack asked as he reached for the cup and the pitcher of water. He poured some and gave Daniel a drink. “Take it slow.”

            Daniel nodded and only sipped on the straw presented to him. Frowning, he pinched the bridge of his nose and said, “Getting off the plane from England. Why? What happened? Why the hell are you here?” He groaned against another attack of tremors. “God what happened to me?”

            “I have to get Doctor Lam in a minute Daniel but,” Jack looked down to get Daniel’s attention. “I wanted to make sure for myself. What do you remember?”

            “I told you,” Daniel said, squinting his eyes. “Where are my glasses? I got off the plane from England; there was some guy there to pick me up. That’s all.” He glanced down at his emaciated form and said, “Jack? What happened?”

            Jack grasped his hand and said, “You were kidnapped by certain operatives in the government attempting to retrieve your memories from when you were Ascended. Do you remember any of that?”

            “Yes Doctor Jackson, do you recall any of your treatments under Doctor Mackenzie’s care?” Doctor Lam asked as she strode up to his bedside, hands in pockets of her long lab coat.

            “Mackenzie?” Daniel looked around the infirmary. Everything seemed in place, yet nothing made sense. He had an overwhelming urge to vomit and seconds later gestured for the pan. Jack jumped to his feet, grabbed the desired item and shoved it under Daniel’s chin as he proceeded to get sick.

            Doctor Lam dabbed his face clean with a towel and said, “Is that a yes or a no.”

            “Thankfully a no, I don’t remember.” Daniel stared at Jack, his heart begging him to look for solace in his friend.

            “Certain sectors of the government convinced the President it would be a good idea to find out what you know about your time with the Ascended.”

            “But I don’t remember much, if anything at all.”

            “Is that still so?” Doctor Lam asked.

            “Yes, why?” Daniel answered but as soon as he said it, he knew he was lying. Flashes and fragments, patchwork shreds of his memory littered his brain. They were insubstantial as if ghosts. It felt like he could reach out to the images, touch them, experience them but that they faded away into smoke. Something was there beyond his reach, just at his fingertips and as he stretched to reach for it, the nausea spun forward again and he gulped air.

            Jack reacted and brought another pan to him. He quelled the urge and brushed the offered pan off.  “I’m fine, I think, fine.” He nodded to reassure himself more than his audience. Not looking at them, but with a bowed head to keep the dizziness in check he asked, “What happened? How long did they have me?”

            “We figure from the time you got off the plane until about three days ago.” Jack sat on the edge of his bed. “About three weeks, Daniel.”

            “Three weeks?” He snapped to attention and stared at Jack. Something unspoken passed between them. This wouldn’t have happened had Daniel been under Jack’s command. Would it? No. Daniel shook his head, no. But the SGC was - as Jack would put it - a whole new ball game now. Daniel was the expert, experienced, the mentor and was expected to look after himself. He surveyed his thin wrists, the bones sticking out, the bruises from being restrained. “Obviously they didn’t feed me well.”

            “No they didn’t.”

            “What else?” He was almost afraid to ask. “What else did they do to me?”

            Doctor Lam interrupted and said, “I think I should probably do a thorough check before we get into the details of what is known.” She pulled out her stethoscope and hooked it to her neck.

            Holding up a hand, Daniel concentrated on Jack. “I’d rather find out what happened to me, these details. I’d also like to know why the hell the President thinks he has the right to detain an innocent person due to an inkling said person might have information which could be useful for the war against the Ori?”

            Jack inhaled and then slowly exhaled as if the burden of the President’s guilt lay squarely on his shoulders. It was not Daniel’s intention to infer or accuse. At the moment, his mind reeled from the sensory input, the loss of days, the loss of his freedom and his person. He felt betrayed but most of all he felt violated.

            “I’m trying to find out answers to all of that right now Daniel,” Jack said as he rose from the bed. He crossed his arms in a fold that mimicked Daniel’s own self hug. “Honestly? I don’t believe the President realized what he commissioned when he let these people loose on you. I believe he thought they would ask you some questions, possibly hypnotize you to dig out those walled up memories.” Jack looked away then back at Daniel. “It got out of hand.”

            “And what exactly does that mean?”

            Doctor Lam insisted again that she get to do her physical of Daniel but he refused and glared at Jack. Doctor Lam closed her eyes, gave a brief shake of the head and then said, “If it’ll get me my exam then tell him what you know.”

            The words made no sense, a jumble of puzzle pieces without pattern or linkages. The statements were ludicrous and he would have laughed at the absurdity of it all had it not been terrifying to know. To know that secret government forces had abducted him, kept him prisoner for weeks, tortured him with a modified alien device and tried to kill him caused a tide to wash over him. It started as just a fine spray, light and chilling but then it grew to overwhelm him, to drown him. As Jack continued Daniel raised his hand and stopped him.

            “Maybe later, Jack,” he whispered. This was his government, a government while he never fully trusted, he believed in. How could they do something like this to him? “I’m tired now and Doctor Lam has this exam thing to do.” He closed his eyes.

            “Exam thing Daniel?”

            “Yeah, exam thing,” he said but didn’t open his eyes. He knew that Jack waited there for a few minutes before quietly dismissing himself from the infirmary.

            The physical exam was completed with efficiency and professionalism. Doctor Lam seemed to read his need for silence and thankfully gave him his space. Before she walked off, she placed the buzzer in his hand and said, “If you need anything, press the button. We’re here for you.”

            Daniel nodded yet still did not open his eyes. They were there, weren’t they? The whole of the government was watching him? From Jack’s account, they hadn’t captured the men responsible though the President promised a full investigation of the incident. Mackenzie was still at large. Factions of the government saw him as a tool and instrument to fight the Ori. Perhaps he should do the noble thing and let them experiment. Perhaps he should give himself over to science and let them try and retrieve the memories that Doctor Lam and Sam just tucked so neatly away in his brain again. But Jack had related that both the doctor and Sam were unsure that they had been able to completely reconstruct the wall fortified by Oma DeSala. His mind could fracture and splinter again and he could end up worse than he was or even as bad as Orlin.

            So his choice was simple, give himself over to the government or fight the Ori through other means using everything else he had at his disposal.  He wondered what was the right choice? Afterall, he was only one person and if he sacrificed himself he might be able to save his whole world, his whole galaxy.

            Dropping his head into the pillows, Daniel ignored the hunger of his body and laid in disturbed repose.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            “Jack, shouldn’t you be on your way back to Washington?” Daniel said as his friend assisted him through the door of his apartment. When he thought he was on his way to Atlantis before Vala came back into his life, before the Ori became his constant nemesis, Daniel sold his house and moved into a small loft apartment that often made him wistful for his former larger apartment. This was a nice apartment though smaller. It overlooked a park instead of a parking lot and it had mile high windows. He liked the windows, loved them. It had been his one request when he was looking for a place to stay.

            He teetered as Jack let him walk on his own toward the living room. The weakness from suffering weeks of near starvation still exhausted him, thus the walk up the three flights of stairs nearly drained him.

            “Doctor Lam doesn’t want you alone right now. She wants you to eat and if you haven’t already forgotten the only reason she let you out of the infirmary is because I promised to stay a while and watch over you.”

            “You mean play nurse maid. I don’t need a babysitter, Jack.” Daniel fell onto the couch with a large huff and tried to still his throbbing heart. The hard pumping jarred him and made his vision gray in and out.

            “You okay?” Jack asked.

            Daniel nodded. “Okay, just need to catch my breath.”

            “I’ll get you some juice.” Jack went to the kitchen. He called from the other room. “Carter restocked for you. Don’t know about all the blue jell-o but the steaks are nice.” He brought Daniel the glass of orange juice. 

            Daniel accepted it without a word. He took a gulp of it and then said, “Thanks but really Jack, I’ll be fine.”

            “No you won’t.” Jack sat in the chair opposite the couch. His posture was not relaxed as he sat with elbows on knees, on the edge of the cushion, hands clasped in front of him. “Listen Daniel, we still have no idea if this little experiment we did to wall off those memories actually worked. We also don’t know if you are still in danger from those operatives. I’m not leaving here until I’m satisfied on both fronts.”

            “Well then you better have your stuff sent over,” Daniel pointed to the back of the apartment toward the narrow hallway. “There’s a small spare bedroom. I use it as an office but you can have it.”

            “Daniel.”

            “Jack.”

            He didn’t reply just stared.

            “Listen Jack, there’s always going to be someone out there that is going to think I know something that I don’t,” Daniel explained. “You can’t protect me, not always. And as for the memories.” He stopped. Searching Jack’s eyes, he found his answer so he confessed, “There are times now that they are there. Before, before this whole incident I knew there was something just out of my grasp. Now, now I can nearly touch it. There’s a thin filament, a thin membrane between my conscious mind and the memories.” He swallowed. “I don’t know what the trigger will be to cause it to break but.”

            “It is hair thin,” Jack finished for him.

            Silence dropped over them; it felt like the roar of the ocean on the verge of a hurricane. To answer him, Daniel only nodded.

            A solemnity washed over Jack as Daniel watched him. “There’s something else Daniel.”

            “Don’t tell me Mackenzie got a full pardon or better yet the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

            Jack let a crack of a smile grace his lips before he continued, “That asshole has yet to be found so no and no on both counts and I intend to keep it that way regardless.” He leaned back and gripped the arms of the cushioned recliner. “It isn’t only people on this world that are going to be interested in what Daniel Jackson knows.”

            “That isn’t breaking news Jack.”

            “You have to know Daniel,” Jack said. “You have to realize the Ori see you as resource as well.”

            Daniel sipped the juice and then said, “I realize I’m a liability to Earth, to this galaxy.”

            Leaping to his feet, Jack began to pace. “Christ Daniel, you aren’t a liability, that’s not what I’m trying to say.”

            “Then what is it you’re trying to say?”

            He stood deflated in the middle of the small living room with the expansive windows. “Nothing, everything.” He looked everywhere but at Daniel. “You’re in danger Daniel and I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

            He fingered the rim of his glass as he spoke. “I know Jack.”

            Jack walked to the ceiling to floor windows, hands in his back pockets and as he stared out at the city below he said, “If something happens Daniel, you know I’ll be there for you.”

            Making his way over to his friend’s side, Daniel glanced down at the city, at the park as twilight faded the details, the lines and distinctions of the landscape. His memories of when he was Ascended had once been in shadow like the night but now he glimpsed them as if they were like the forms and figures below him – dimmed by the twilight of day. He wondered how long he would be able to hold out against another invasion of his mind.

            He trembled and Jack’s hand gripped his shoulder. The solace he sought, he found in his friend.

            “Do me a favor Jack?”

            “Um?”

            “Let it be for now,” Daniel said as he turned to him. The glint of street lights reflected in Jack’s eyes. “For now, can we just let it be?”

            “Sure,” he answered. “Sure thing.”

            Daniel released a breath and hung there, leaning against Jack for a moment. Once steadied, he peered up at his friend and asked, “What’s for dinner, I’m starving.”

            “That’s my boy,” Jack said and clapped him on the back. “How about pizza and beer?”

            “Sounds like a little bit of heaven.”

            “Only if there’s hockey involved,” Jack replied.

            And Daniel had his first real laugh in weeks.

THE END

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