I’d like to dedicate this to Celeste who beta’d it stringently.
Daniel absently polished his glasses, buffing them on the edge of his t-shirt as Jack O’Neill ran through his pre-mission warm up of jokes, insults and diatribes. Daniel was fairly sure that he had the colonel pegged in the few weeks they had been teamed; Jack O’Neill hid a soft centre behind a clownish façade. But protecting the soft centre was a bulkhead that you needed grappling hooks to get over. The thought of scaling it gave him a headache sometimes, even if Jack had given him the climbing equipment necessary.
"Contact lenses would be so much easier."
Jack had turned away from tormenting Teal’c and unerringly sought a softer opponent. Daniel withheld a sigh, his allergies were giving him Hell, he wanted to go through the ‘gate to the promised coastal ecosystem where there were no blooming trees or flowers, or whatever it was that was making his sinuses ache.
"Jack, what is the most defining thing about me?" he asked tiredly.
O’Neill leaned closely. "Geek?"
"Apart from that."
Daniel nodded as if teaching a rather stupid freshman. "I mean think about it – you’re sneezing, you feel like your head’s been caught in a vice, you’ve got what feels like dry sand in your eyes and your chest feels like you’ve got a bucket of wet sand on top of it. And you want me to stick pieces of plastic in my eyes?"
"You’re no fun." Despite the jocularity of his words, he peered closely at the archaeologist. "You want to sit this one out? It’s just a geological survey."
Daniel blew his nose like a trumpet. "No, the antihistamines will kick in soon. Janet’s given me some new ones – fenox-something or other. I should have grabbed a shower before kitting up; that would have helped."
"Chevrons engaged!" The announcement came over the loudspeaker.
The team automatically stepped back as the wormhole engaged, the event horizon momentarily destabilising and kawooshing out into the embarkation room.
"Here we go, campers." Jack cast an assessing glare at Daniel. The linguist shrugged and set his floppy Boonie hat firmly on his head before trooping up the ramp after Teal’c. Exhaling, he stepped through the horizon. He could have sworn that he felt his body disintegrating into its component particles, even though Sam swore that conscious thought wasn’t possible in the wormhole. If conscious thought was not possible, how was he thinking…?
Hot air hit him in the face as he was spewed out of the event horizon. Flailing his limbs, he twisted, rolling down the Stargate’s rocky pedestal. He was just about to roll off the pedestal when he came up sharply against an immovable object. Teal’c leaned down and picked him up. Amazingly Daniel’s hat had remained on his head. He sneezed resoundingly, feeling as if he was really clearing out his tubes.
"Bless you," Teal’c said as he set himself up to catch the other members of their party as they emerged.
"Whoa." O’Neill was flung out of the wormhole and rolled head over heels down the stony incline. Sam followed with an unladylike squawk. Teal’c caught the captain as Jack rolled off the pedestal and disappeared out of view.
"Jack!" Daniel crawled to the edge and peered over. The colonel lay flat on his back a meter below pillowed on damp sand. "Are you all right?"
"For crying out loud! Why didn’t you say that his damn thing was on its side?"
"Sorry, sir. It must have subsided since the MALP came through."
The MALP sat peacefully on top of a rock that was now several body lengths away from the Stargate.
"Jack, are you all right?" Daniel asked.
"Yes," he snapped and rose deftly to his feet, his weapon ready.
Relieved, Daniel finally took stock. The Stargate sat on an off kilter pedestal that overlooked a golden, sandy cove. The DHD was on another rocky outcrop separated from the Stargate by a rift filled with sand. Judging by the seaweeds and jellyfish growing near the edge, when the tide came in it brushed the channel. But it was the stretch of sand that drew the eye. A natural rock pier projecting into warm blue waters, bracketed the sandy cove.
"Wow." Jack turned in a circle. The sky, arching overhead was a pure blue and low on the horizon binary moons beckoned. "No trees."
Daniel craned his neck, looking at the bluffs overhead. The narrow ribbon of beach met sheer cliffs, which rose thousands of metres above their heads "I bet you that there’s trees up there."
"Carter, check the DHD, if this thing’s shifted we may have lost a connection or two or three."
"Yes, sir." Sam was already picking her way down the jaggy rocks to the DHD. The rocks were covered in green algae and a small crustacean scurried out from under a rock. "Yuck."
Daniel jumped down beside her. "What’s the matter?"
"Ugh, I hate sea things." She pushed it aside with the toe of her boot.
Daniel crouched down to peer at it as Sam continued picking her way over to the DHD, climbing up the other side of the channel.
"It looks like a crab, but it’s bright blue." He picked it up by its shell and held it up for Teal’c to see.
Daniel showed the crab to Jack, who was inscrutable behind his sunglasses. "Daniel, put it down; it might be poisonous. The most poisonous things are found in the sea." By the cant of his hip and the way he held his gun, Daniel could see that Jack was serious. He set the crab on the sand it scurried sideways into the rocks.
"Sir, the DHD isn’t working," Sam reported as she depressed the first symbol.
"Damn." O’Neill clambered up to join her. "What’s wrong?"
"Must have happened when the Stargate shifted."
"That’s helpful," Jack said laconically, "…but you can fix it, right?"
"Yes, sir." Already she was levering out the centre crystal.
Jack scanned the area taking into consideration the off kilter Stargate, which only the day before had rested on a flat pedestal. "Must be a lot of earthquakes around here."
"Many coastlines are characterised by fault lines. If you factor in erosion, that’s one of the reasons why you don’t generally find evidence of habitations or civilisations on the coast, even though, in general, humans gravitate to large water bodies ...uhm," Daniel trailed off.
"I concur, Colonel O’Neill. We are in great danger here. The activity of the two moons will also exacerbate the tides of this planet."
"Sorry, sir," Carter said from the depths of the DHD. "It will take time – I’ll have to figure out what’s wrong."
"Okay, when we don’t report in they’ll open the ‘gate and we’ll use the MALP to contact the SGC. Can they send through a power source strong enough to power the ‘gate?"
"No, sir," Carter said decisively. "I’ve been working on plans for a portable reactor which we could take to ‘gate without DHDs but we need a supply of the ‘gate element, naquadah. And I’ll have to figure out how to make one. Perhaps General Hammond can send a large generator through the ‘gate. It may take awhile."
"Or we fix the Stargate on this side or we need another lightning blast," Jack summarised.
"Sweet." Jack stood tall. "Okay, Daniel, Teal’c, find us a place to set up a base camp. We want to be above the tidal water line. If we are going to experience earthquakes, we want to be out in the open but we don’t want to be on the sand."
"Why?" Daniel asked, his natural curiosity aroused.
"Sand can go thixotrophic; act like liquid when it vibrates," Carter lectured. "During earthquakes it can turn into quicksand."
"Oh." Daniel looked at the sand underfoot. "I think we need to find a rocky plateau."
Teal’c stepped off the pedestal and dropped onto the beach. "We will go this way." He started walking towards the natural pier.
"I’ll go this way." Jack jerked his thumb over his shoulder, to where the sand continued to the edge of the horizon. "Check in every 15 minutes."
"I’ll stay here." Sam bent over the DHD.
caught up with Teal’c, slipping and sliding across the sand. He kept up with
"You told us once that the Goa’uld terraformed planets for human use."
"Trees do not grow on sand," Teal’c pointed out.
"True," Daniel nodded and bent down to poke in a rock pool. Little minnows swam to hide in the shadows. Using his staff, Teal’c picked his way sure-footedly over the rocks. Daniel plucked a handful of green seaweed that looked like tissue paper. A seahorse darted behind another clump of seaweed.
"Yes?" Teal’c immediately stopped and turned.
an Egyptologist, an archaeologist-cum-linguist, not a marine biologist… but
I’ve pottered around on a lot of beaches all over the earth—and *that* was a
seahorse, and *this* is a sand dollar," he came to a stop as if his point
had been made. Teal’c raised one eyebrow, indicating that it had not.
"…I’m trying to say that, okay, there are no terra-formed trees here, but
this is just like being on the equatorial coast on Earth. Like, around
"You believe that the Goa’uld have been here."
Daniel shrugged. "Maybe… yeah."
watched as the
Daniel scrambled to his feet. "If we can get up onto the cliff, maybe we’ll find some signs up there."
"We do not have climbing equipment."
"When General Hammond dials us up, we’ll get him to send us some ropes and stuff." He blanched at the thought. The bluffs were very high and sheer.
They rounded the edge of the cliff face to be greeted by the next cove. There was another half moon stretch of golden sand.
"I think we’re going to be camping on the sand, even if it does turn into quicksand."
"Perhaps the next cove."
Daniel shifted his heavy backpack, it was difficult walking on the shifting sand. "I don’t think Jack will want us to wander too far from the ‘gate."
"There." Teal’c pointed with his staff.
Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose to better focus on whatever Teal’c was indicating. A splash of water cascaded down the cliff face, falling into another swath of rocks. The waterfall gushed from a crevice half way up the bluff face.
"It’s a waterfall." Daniel said, stating the obvious, but failing to make any connections.
"The water will be filtered by the rocks, it will be pure."
"Ah, Jack will be interested."
Daniel jumped off the natural pier onto the sand. Again slithering and sliding, he scrambled up the shore to the plunge pool. A natural bowl of rocks, the lip of the pool was slightly higher than his head. The rocks were pitted and eroded by tides plus grazing limpets, so finding ample foot holes, Daniel climbed up. One large boulder formed a natural pedestal. The incautious would find it hard to resist; it was the perfect diving platform. Daniel scrambled on top as Teal’c started to climb. Water drained at one far end into a natural channel that drained down the sand and fed into the sea.
"Looks good." He crouched at the edge and inhaled. "Smells fresh."
Teal’c stood over him, watching the uninhabited beach. Daniel pulled the requisite water quality tubes from his technical vest and filled the pH test tube. He gave it a thorough shake. The results were positive. Holding the vial up to the sun, he squinted trying to interpret the colours against his calibration cards.
"Well, we can’t look for bacteria and viruses, but it’s neutral pH maybe a little alkaline. I bet it’s fun to swim in." He checked the water for heavy metals with the matching glass vials as he had been taught in basic training 101. "No heavy metals – only trace elements."
"I believe that we have found our base site."
"I think you’re right. Shall we walk a little further along?"
"One moment, DanielJackson." Teal’c switched on his VHF. "Teal’c to Colonel O’Neill – over."
"Yeah, Teal’c – over."
"I am checking in as prearranged. We have found a suitable base camp. There is an adequate supply of fresh water – over."
"You’ll never guess what I found – over," Jack said teasingly.
"I cannot guess – over," Teal’c said with an almost inaudible sigh.
"Ah, you’re no fun. Put on Daniel."
was at the
There was no answer.
"He is waiting for you to say ‘over’ and release the send button." Teal indicated to the offending button, which Daniel still held down.
"Oh, I forgot; it’s only the second time I’ve used it." He released the button. "Over!"
"They’re either chicken scratches or someone’s left a letter."
"I’m on my way." Daniel jumped down onto the sand and skidded over the sand to the pier. He clambered back over the rocks and down the other side, no longer distracted by the marine life.
Sam looked up from the innards of the DHD as he rushed by the pedestal. "Where are you going, Daniel?"
"Jack’s found some runes," he called out as he sailed past.
fun." She smiled at the
There was no sign of the Colonel on the southern beach.
"Jack!" Daniel continued along the shore. "Jack?"
"Here." As if by magic, Jack suddenly appeared.
"Oh." Daniel came to a complete halt. Jack had stepped out of a neatly camouflaged crevice. It was only visible head on, from an angle the crevice seemed to meld seamlessly with the cliff face.
"They’re written on the wall." Jack stepped aside.
Venturing in, Daniel was inexplicably reminded of the crashing rocks braved by Odysseus. One tiny little earthquake and you might resemble strawberry jam. The opposing faces of the rock face were about arms width apart and it was as black as the darkest night.
Daniel fumbled for the flashlight in one of the many pockets of his vest. The illumination from his flashlight picked up smoothed walls and a patina of old flaking paint. Large portions of the mural were missing, the quartz stone beneath had been polished until it shone like a black mirror. Fossilised creature swum timelessly in the stone. But it was the writings that drew Daniel’s eye. He had never before see their like. Turning on the spot, he aimed his flashlight upwards. The writings reached as far as the light shone. They went as far back into the crevice as he could see.
Already engrossed, he pulled out his notebook and started to work. "The swirling lines are repeated in stanzas of three. If the pattern was culminate, it might mean that…"
Jack stretched. "Well, the kids are happy." He looked over his shoulder at the crevice and then to the captain who had her head stuck in the DHD.
"How far do you think that the tide rises?"
Teal’c set his staff in the sand. "The debris half way up the beach may indicate the highest point." Flotsam and jetsam formed a pale line along the length of the beach. "But close to the edge of the cliffs there is evidence of erosion – whether or not this is a sign of high tides or tidal waves from the earthquakes, I do not know."
"You found fresh water?"
"In the second cove there is a potable water. It is both defensible and the highest point we have found."
Teal’c raised a deliberate eyebrow, implying that Jack was attempting to teach him to suck eggs. The colonel waved his hand in absent acknowledgement and then wandered down to the edge of the water.
"I wonder if there’s any good fishing?"
"I do not know."
have to get Uncle George to send us some tackle." He chanced a glimpse at
"I will go and see if I can assist Captain Carter in repairing the DHD."
"Knock yourself out."
Teal’c’s brow furrowed in question, but he did not ask.
"Help Captain Carter," Jack finally translated.
Teal’c bowed and left to pad through the sand to Carter’s side.
‘Boring,’ Jack thought. ‘Boring.’
Carter might get the DHD fixed in the next ten minutes or maybe in the next ten years. It was a picturesque sort of place, but he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life sitting on a beach, trying to avoid earthquakes. The surf washed over his feet; the tide was coming in.
"Teal’c!" he called.
"I’m going to check on Daniel."
"I will keep watch."
Jack saluted, and then wiggled through the gap into the crevice. He could see a flashlight bobbing ahead. His own light showed Daniel’s backpack abandoned on the floor. He stepped over it, shaking his head as he did so; the man should know better than to leave his kit lying around. The walls closed in on him. Jack didn’t think that he was subject to claustrophobia, but there was something very oppressing about the weight of the rocks on either side of them coupled with the threat of an earthquake. Ducking under an outcropping of rock, he brushed against a flake of paint – it came off in his hand.
"I’m all right."
"Not you; the images. Try not to breathe on them."
Jack raised his eyes heavenward. Daniel was peering at the picture, face screwed up in concentration. The kid’s glasses kept slipping down his nose.
"This is fascinating. I wish it was outside so I could see the whole thing, but if it was outside I wouldn’t be able to see the whole thing because it would be washed away. It’s like looking at the Bayeux Tapestry through a pinhole camera. Come back here."
Daniel caught his shirt cuff and began to drag him further back into the recess. As his backpack caught on another rock, Jack realised why Daniel had dumped his supplies. He released the straps on his backpack, dropping it to the sandy floor.
"See where the quartz gives way to granite – the images change. These are less sophisticated, I believe older."
"What does it say."
"I don’t know. C’mere … Bend down and cup your hands together… Give me a boost up. I need to see that pictogram."
Mentally cursing bossy archaeologists, Jack braced himself and offered Daniel his body as a ladder. Daniel had already removed his boots. He resisted the temptation to tickle the bare foot in his hands. "One, two, three."
Daniel launched himself upwards, his other foot came down on Jack’s shoulder. Wobbling, Daniel balanced on his shoulders, one hand resting on the rock face. Their balance was precarious, Daniel didn’t seem capable of keeping still when faced with such an interesting artefact.
In addition to the fishing rod, Jack added a ladder to his list of ‘much needed’ items. "What are you doing?"
"Flashlight – I put it in my pocket. Keep still, Jack, I’m trying to memorise this glyph."
"Keep still, Jack," O’Neill mimicked. "Stop moving around, damn it."
"I’m not too heavy for you, am I?" Daniel asked suddenly.
"Just stop moving around."
Of course, Daniel promptly disobeyed him, twisting to see the other side of the rock face. "The drawings and the mural are only on one wall."
"I don’t know. We really need to date these images. And I wish I could see the mural all at once," he moaned, frustrated.
"Have you seen what you wanted to see?"
"Do you want to get down then!"
"Sorry." Daniel suddenly realised his predicament. "How?"
Daniel inexpertly jumped off his shoulders to sprawl on the sand in the bottom of the crevice. Jack hauled him to his feet and brushed him off. "So, Daniel, what have you found out?"
"Well, I’m not entirely sure, it would just be conjecture on my part."
"Spit it out."
Daniel caught his cuff again and dragged him back to the mural. His light picked up one image. A massive figure stretched up the wall his head far out of reach of the poor illumination of the flashlight. Only fragments of the image remained. The circle of light unerringly showed the details of sumptuous fabrics and swirling jewellery with interlinked motifs. Daniel finally brought the light to rest on the figure’s right hand – it was dressed in silver.
"It doesn’t look like a ribbon device. It looks more like a glove," Jack noted, following Daniel’s train of thought.
"The glow around the hand looks very familiar to me," Daniel contradicted. "I’ve been on the receiving end."
"What about the one-eyed critters?" Jack’s flashlight picked up scaly monsters dripping in slime. Those with one eye glared balefully from the montage. Some only had one foot and others only had a clawed talon. Smaller figures, pot-bellied and pale white creeplets, danced around the one-legged fiends. "I’m getting a Chthulu vibe here."
"Oh, my… God." Daniel drifted closer to peer at the figures.
Used to his ways, Jack let Daniel mutter to himself as he scrutinised the smallest monsters, his nose a mere hairsbreadth from the scene. "Look, a bag!" Daniel’s finger jerked at a midget carrying a sack.
"And what does that mean?"
"Oh, I’ve heard of those." Jack rubbed his face. "Something that my grandma told me. Fairy tales?"
they’re mythological characters. The first inhabitants of
"The Wee Folk?" Jack had vague recollections of his great-grandmother, hauling him onto to her lap and telling him old tales of the old world.
"No," Daniel said quite absently, his fingers traced the images. "The wee folk were the Sidhe, the inheritors or perhaps the lower court of the Tuatha De Danann."
"Really? That’s clear as mud."
Daniel continued, ignoring the baiting. "The large figure is, I believe, Nuada Airgetlamh." Daniel turned his bright gaze on Jack. "Nuada of the Silver Hand, do you see where I’m going?"
Daniel confirmed. "Nuada was an important god in the panoply of Celtic
Gods. He led the Tuatha De Danann, who invaded
"Is there a point to this lecture?"
"Only in that if Nuada was a Gou’ald and he retreated to the other world of Tir Nan Nog, we’ve found another incursion by the Gou’ald on our planet. I wonder how the human Sons of Milesius defeated the aliens?"
"With a little bit of imagination your Formory-guys could be Unas."
"So could any ogre," Daniel dismissed his idea. "If the ‘gate was buried 10 000 years ago – and the carbon dating could be off – how come we find evidence of other cultures after the burial of the ‘gate?"
"They occasionally flew by in ships and grabbed people who were dancing around maypoles?"
"So why didn’t they…"
The earth shifted sideways inducing stomach-churning nausea. A rumbling growl of thunder echoed along the crevice.
"Go.go.go.go.go.go.go.go.go.go." O’Neill pushed the younger man before him. They bounced off the shaking walls. Daniel tripped over his discarded backpack and Jack fell over him. Jack’s flashlight went out, and Daniel’s was trapped under his body.
"Shit!" He couldn’t see anything. He pushed off what he knew was the small of Daniel’s back. The kid collapsed beneath him. A stone bounced off his shoulder and an intensifying growl above their heads made the skin on the back of his neck crawl.
Fumbling, half standing on Daniel, Jack found his feet. Staggering forwards, he banged his head on a jaggy rock. For a moment he saw stars.
"Jack!" Daniel hit him from behind propelling him forward. "Go!"
Arm in arm they careened off the rocks, Jack dragging and Daniel pushing. The southern wall grated towards them, forcing them to turn sideways.
"Shit!" Jack burst out onto the beach dragging Daniel after him. They collapsed on the seething sand, riding out the sand waves
The world twisted around them moving like a boat tossed in a rough sea. Jack grabbed Daniel by the collar as a surge of sand washed over them.
Then the sudden absence of shuddering was almost as great a shock as the earthquake itself.
They lay, revelling in the fact that they were still alive. Daniel sat up, spitting out sand as Jack struggled onto his elbows. He was sure that he had sand in his ears. But it was better than being crushed between the rocks.
"You all right, Daniel?"
Daniel was on his hands and knees hacking up sand. Wheezing up a storm, he collapsed on his side. Jack reached out and was sideswiped by a wave of dizziness.
"Sir!" Carter skidded to a halt beside them. "Are you all right?" She dithered between the two of them, unable to decide who required immediate assistance.
Daniel waved her towards Jack, as the colonel grated out, "Check Daniel."
Teal’c came running through the surf to their side. He had ridden out the waves of the earthquake on the pier between the DHD and the waterfall. Sand churned beneath his feet, as he ran up the beach.
"DanielJackson." Deftly, he manoeuvred Daniel into an upright position, supporting him against his side, allowing him to cough and spit and wheeze. In between his gasps for breath, Teal’c unhooked his water bottle. As Daniel’s coughing eased, Teal’c held the bottle to his lips, letting him take tiny sips of water.
"Sir." Carter distracted him from watching Teal’c and Daniel. She winced on his behalf as she examined his forehead. Tentatively, she reached out to touch his eyebrow. "I think you’ll need stitches. This is a deep cut."
"We should get off the sand," Teal’c advised.
"Ya think?" Jack struggled to his feet with Sam’s help as Teal’c drew Daniel upright.
Jack leaned on Carter, while Teal’c slung Daniel’s arm over his shoulder, helping the archaeologist along. Teal’c lifted Daniel bodily onto the DHD’s pedestal. He looked a little disgruntled at the manhandling but was coughing too much to protest. Teal’c looked as if he was going to help O’Neill but decided against it. Sam climbed onto the pedestal, and couldn’t resist giving him a hand. Once she had her patient settled, she hauled out the first aid kit out of her daypack.
"Damn, this is nasty, sir."
"Just tape it up. " Blood was clotting in his eyelashes. Ignoring him, Carter pulled out the antiseptic wipes and went to work.
Keeping his bruising eye closed, he squinted at their other team members. Daniel was on his hands and knees coughing raucously as Teal’c gently patted him between the shoulder blades. After a particularly violent bout, Daniel sat back on his heels. There were tears in his eyes. He gratefully accepted Teal’c’s water bottle.
"Word to the wise," he wheezed, "don’t ever try to breathe sand."
"Ya think? Damn it, Carter, what are you doing, digging in there for rocks?" He twisted away from her ministrations.
"Sir." She caught him by the chin. "I have to get the sand out."
"Are you injured, DanielJackson?"
"Just bruises." He rubbed his chest painfully. Exhausted from coughing, he slumped against the DHD.
"That was a ride and a half," Jack noted. "How did you two ride out the ‘quake?"
"The DHD remained stable; I was lucky. And the Stargate only moved a little bit," Sam reported.
"I was on the pier. It too remained stable."
"What else is on it?" Daniel wheezed.
"Fishing rod and ladder."
"Order me some chocolate chip cookies."
Jack held up a finger. "Noted."
"Oh, and a new pair of boots." He wiggled his bare toes. "Somehow I kept my glasses on."
"Shit, our daypacks," Jack remembered; they had left them in the crevice.
"Secure yourselves," Teal’c grated out.
Jack followed his line of sight out to the beach. The sea had drawn back beyond the low water mark revealing creatures rarely uncovered and long strands of seaweed and what looked like a giant bulwark spanning the cove. Further out to sea, water was swelling into a veritable wall.
"Ring around the DHD," O’Neill ordered. There was nowhere else to secure themselves.
"Rope?" Carter asked.
caught the coughing Daniel by the scruff of the neck and plonked him on the
opposite side of the DHD out of the immediate threat of the incoming water.
Carter was already scrambling to Daniel’s left hand side. They joined hands,
linking them as if trapeze artists. Jack caught Daniel’s right wrist in the
same grip. Daniel’s long fingers encircled his wrist. The
Teal’c took the brunt of the blow. Water buffeted them like a giant hammer. They rode out the storm, holding onto each other. The air was crushed from Jack’s lungs. He opened his eyes but could only see a wash of bubbles. The curtain parted and he saw Daniel, cheeks puffed out as he held his breath, holding on for all his worth. His glasses had long since gone.
The sea subsided, dropping them back to earth. Water drained away, gushing back into the bay, down the rocky cove. The sea swelled again but this time only reached their chests, battering them against the DHD. The next wave only reached the top of the pedestal, swirling around their legs.
Jack released his grip. "Report," he grated out.
"That…~cough~ could have ~cough~ been ~cough~ so much ~cough~ worse," Carter grated out.
"Injuries?" Jack demanded.
"I’m fine." Daniel rolled over onto his back, coughing heavily. He managed to eventually gasp, "You?"
Jack’s eyebrow was bleeding anew, and he knew that he had a nice crop of bruises developing on his chest.
"I am merely bruised, Colonel O’Neill. "My symbiote will heal me most efficiently."
"More info than I really needed there, Teal’c. Carter?"
"I’m fine. We were very lucky, sir. Did you see in the water?"
"Did I see what?" Jack blotted the blood with his shirtsleeve, but knew that he was merely spreading it around.
"When the water drew back, I saw buildings – more like constructions on the bottom of the cove. They were like bulwarks, paralleling back – one after another – as far as I could see. I think they were what cut down the force of the incoming wave. We should have been dashed to death."
"Instead of just feeling like we’ve been dashed to death," Jack said sarcastically. "I hate this planet."
Carter stumbled into a standing position, weaving. She braced herself on the DHD, patting it absently. "I lost my tools. Put them on the list, sir."
Her daypack had been washed away too. Only Teal’c had his supplies. He was already hauling out his medical kit and advancing on the colonel. Jack submitted to Teal’c’s care, he had a defter touch than Carter, probably because he was less tentative about the potential of hurting his patient.
"I am adept at stitches, Colonel O’Neill."
that was all the warning he had, as the first bite of the needle bit him. Jack
kept very still. It took five stitches to close the wound. The
"You are most welcome." Teal’c bowed. "DanielJackson, do you require first aid?"
"Whrr?" The linguist lifted his head, disturbed from what was obviously the beginning of a doze. He coughed lightly as he patted his chest. "No, I’m fine." Adding credence to his words, he struggled upright. "I’ll go see if our packs are still in the crevice."
A delicate aftershock refuted his plans.
"Maybe not." He plumped back down on his rump.
"Good idea," Jack drawled.
"Yuck." Eyes turned to Carter as she fetched a crab out of the DHD and slung it aside. She stared back at them defensively. "So I don’t like them. Shoot me."
Daniel crawled over to her side and stuck his head into the toadstool. He lifted out another crab and set it carefully on the pedestal. "All clear." He smiled.
"Thank you." She continued to poke at the DHD’s circuits with her Swiss Army Knife.
"I hate this planet," Jack moaned.
The shimmering wormhole stabilised and the MALP shifted, its tracks aimlessly turning in mid-air. The MALP had been tossed this way and that after the wave, ending upside down on the sandy beach. Daniel crawled forwards on his hands and knees and peered into the camera squished under the MALP. He waved his fingers sheepishly.
"General Hammond, sir."
"What is the situation? We expected you back hours ago."
"Slight problem. Seems like this oasis is subject to earthquakes and the tidal waves are a blast. The DHD is broken and we’re looking at a possibly long stay on Planet Rollercoaster."
Daniel raised an eyebrow in question, Jack shrugged. He thought that the name was appropriate.
"Do you require medical assistance?" Janet Fraiser demanded.
"Nothing we can handle, just cuts and bruises. Anyone coming through might have to say awhile," he dismissed the offer.
"Do you require any supplies, Colonel O’Neill?"
"Oh, yes…" Jack drawled. "Top of the list is chocolate cookies. Seriously, we require the following: portable seismograph; tools for repairing the DHD; a lightening rod would be very useful as a back up; climbing equipment -- pitons and several hundred meters of rope; full med kit; ALICE rucksacks for four and don’t forget the cookies. Oh, and a big portable generator would probably be a good idea."
"Fishing rod," Daniel reminded him.
"Oh, yes – fishing rod."
"General Hammond," Daniel butted in. "Can you send me a book entitled Celtic Myths? You should find it in my lab, it’s in my closet, and any other material pertaining to Celtic mythology."
The silence on the other end of the line was deafening.
"We’ve found evidence of the presence of a culture stemming from the Celtic world," the linguist explained, "a mural of Nuada Airgetlamh and firbolg and formorii. But it’s been ages since I’ve read my Celtic Mythology."
"I’ll get an airman to dig through your lab."
Jack smiled at the unintentional joke.
Daniel was curled over one of his books, dabbling his feet in the sea. He was scanning through the pages with a speed that left Jack invariably breathless. Sam and Teal’c were prodding and poking in the depths of the DHD. They had made some progress – but they had only managed to get one of the chevrons to engage. With Daniel researching the firbolg and formorii, that left Colonel O’Neill to set up camp. He did so with alacrity, near the DHD, working on the principle that the cove with the waterfall did not have the wave breaking bulwarks. Back-up supplies were riveted to the base of the cliff as were numerous pitons allowing them to secure themselves against the cliff face if another tidal wave engulfed them.
"Sam?" Daniel padded barefoot through the sand to their side. He had dispensed with his heavy BDUs and stripped down to shorts. However, he still wore the tactical vest and Boonie hat. Teal’c had stripped down to his t-shirt and wrapped a bandanna around his head. Sam wore her t-shirt and shorts. Jack had let them get away with it.
"Yes, Daniel?" Sam stood and wiped perspiration from her brow. The sun had risen to its apex and the dry heat beat down upon their heads.
"The constructions you saw in the water, were they man-made or maybe the sea bottom ruffled up or something?" He had been tucked behind the DHD; he had seen nothing.
Sam pondered, glancing to the side as she thought. "They were definitely built – interlinking large stones."
"Thanks." Daniel trotted over to Jack.
The colonel looked up from the tarpaulin he was stringing across the rift between the DHD pedestal and the rock supporting the Stargate.
"Jack," Daniel began, "did General Hammond send through any scuba equipment?"
Jack fixed a leery eye on him. "Everything but the kitchen sink and scuba equipment."
"That’s a pity," he griped and scanned the cove.
"Why?" Jack drawled.
"The formorii were sea gods. When they were defeated in battle they retreated into purgatory beneath the seas and lakes. Sam said she saw buildings out in the cove."
"You think we’ve got sea monsters out there?"
"Well, I don’t know about sea monsters, I mean, that is a preconceived notion based on the legends I’ve told you. But if the Gou’ald Nuada Airgetlamh banished the formorii to this world they would have retreated to the sea."
"And you want to go swimming out there?" Jack pointed out the gaping problem in his plan.
Jack’s lip twisted sarcastically. Earthquakes, tidal waves and now sea monsters. "I hate this planet."
"It would be nice without the earthquakes and tidal waves," Daniel said ingenuously, reading his mind. "I wish it was safe enough to go back in that cave. I’m sure that there were two distinct forms of writing. There was definitely a triad function to the pictographs but the mural was much more advanced. It indicates that they’re two different cultures or that the mural post-dates the pictographs, considerably. I can’t tell without carbon dating. Are you sure I can’t go back in that cave?"
"Yes, I can go back in the cave or yes, I can’t?"
"You. Cannot. Go. Into. The. Cave," Jack enunciated.
"What about after Sam gets the seismograph up and running?"
"We’ll discuss it then."
Daniel pushed his hat back on his forehead. "If I can get into that cave, I could probably answer…"
Daniel padded back to the sea edge and sat down. Jack was such a stick in the
mud sometimes. The books that
‘But why protect the land?’
Daniel rubbed his chest; his lungs felt horrible, he didn’t know if it was his allergies or the sand or a combination of both. The constriction was making him wheeze.
"Yeah, Jack?" He didn’t look up from his book. The firbolg and formorii were ugly buggers. Another example of demonising the conquered?
"Can you give me a hand?"
"Oh, sorry!" He grabbed his books, not wanting to leave them at the water’s edge, and dragged his feet back up to the campsite. Jack had hammered pitons into either side of the crevice and hand strung a tarpaulin between them.
"Grab that end and pull."
They raised the tarpaulin, forming a canopy between the rocks. It made a rather good tent.
"Hey, that’s good."
"I do have my uses," Jack said as he tied off his line. Daniel watched and then secured his rope. Jack began to haul their supplies under the canopy. Seeing his work was done, Daniel reached for his books.
"Ah, a, ah." Jack wagged his finger. "Time for a break."
Obediently, Daniel dug out the MREs from one of the backpacks. "Hey, look." Holding up a paper bag of cookies, he grinned.
"Share." Jack held out his hand.
"You don’t want to spoil your dinner," Daniel admonished, and passed him a chicken broth MRE.
They worked in silent camaraderie as they prepared food for all. Daniel in charge of the camping stove, boiling the water for coffee and Jack preparing the MREs. Neither of which they could really damage.
"Food’s up, kids," Jack called to the workers. "Get out of the sun for an hour."
"That’s an order, Carter. Giving yourself heatstroke won’t help us."
"Yes, sir," she said reluctantly.
Teal’c accepted his broth with a bow, his nose curled up at the slop, but he made no verbal comment. No one could be as expressive as Teal’c with the mere lift of an eyebrow.
"So, Daniel thinks that there might be sea monsters out in the cove," Jack said conversationally. "You ever seen sea monsters, Teal’c?"
"Yes," the alien answered succinctly.
"I do not kid." Teal’c set aside his broth half tasted. "Legend has it that the Gou’ald came from the primordial ocean."
"Yeah, but they’re not sea monsters," Jack protested.
"What then is a sea monster?" Teal’c asked.
Jack stopped just before he could launch into a rebuttal. He started to tell Teal’c just what a ‘sea monster’ was and then shook his head. "Good point, Teal’c."
The Jaffa bowed his head and an expression of satisfaction crossed his face fleetingly.
thinking more of the level of human-sized organisms that live in the sea,"
Daniel said helpfully. "We have legends on our planet of sea sprites,
mermaids, selkies, all manner of faeries that live in the sea and are
intelligent and interact with us. The formorii were the sea gods of Irish
"I have heard tell of Poseidon but I have not met him. He was a Goa’uld System Lord but retreated into the depths of the Galaxy into oblivion. There are planets which are inhabited by intelligent life in the seas – the Goa’uld use them as they use other slaves. However, I have not heard tell of a sea being used as a host, they appear to prefer to use humans."
Daniel coughed introspectively. "Ra told me that the human body was easy to heal. I guess if that’s the case we make pretty good hosts."
"Sweet, I’ve always wanted a claim to fame." Jack rubbed his bruised eyebrow.
"Humans also breed easily," Teal’c announced. "One female can have in excess of ten children in a lifetime."
Daniel ducked his head, hiding a blush as Carter frowned at the alien.
"I meant no disrespect," he said evenly. "I merely point out that it is in the interest of the Goa’uld to take slaves that are fecund."
"It’s okay, Teal’c." Sam smiled precisely. "We’re also intelligent."
Teal’c bowed. "Indeed."
sat on the sand watching the setting sun. This was certainly a nice planet if
you forgot about the earthquakes and tidal waves. He allowed the golden sand to
trickle through his fingers. If he looked to the cliff face and ignored the
sea, he could almost pretend that he was back home on
He concentrated on his book as his thoughts threatened to overwhelm him, he could almost feel the brush of her hair against his skin, the warm scent of her musky perfume and her hands running over his body.
It was easy to lose himself in his dreams. He needed to do something to distract himself.
"Daniel, where’re you going?" Jack drawled as he stood.
"Just along to the cave," Daniel muttered into his chest.
"Jack," he began.
"Don’t ‘Jaaaack’ me," the colonel mimicked. "You can’t go into the cave until Carter’s got the seismometer up and running."
"No." Jack gazed out from his perch on the rock as he watched the world around them. "Crashing rocks are bad for the health."
"Can I at least walk along the coast a bit?"
"I will go with DanielJackson." Teal’c rose to his feet as impressive as the Colossus.
"No, we’ve set up a secure point here to withstand tidal waves and there’s no where along the coast where you can get off the sand if an earthquake begins."
"We can’t sit on a lump of rock on the off chance that something nasty is going to happen," Daniel protested. "We’re a field team, we’re supposed to look around."
Jack snorted. "Now you’re interested in rules and regulations. Fact, Dr. Jackson, we’re at a good vantage point to observe the lay of the land and scope out any incursions from the sea or above." He pointed with the barrel of his MP-5-a1 at the cliffs. "Our priority is to get the wormhole up and running."
"I can’t help Sam, I can barely wire a plug – but I can walk along the beach and look for additional signs of civilisation."
"How about if we take some rope and pitons? If there is another tidal wave we can secure ourselves to the cliff face."
"And if an earthquake happens?"
"I figure if we went into the water it could buffet the effects."
"I don’t think that’s wise," Carter piped up from the innards of the DHD. "If the water swamped you, you’d drown."
"Come on, Jack, I’m willing to take the risk."
"Daniel, not until Carter has the seismometer working."
"Why can’t we switch on the seismometer?"
"I’m fixing the DHD, Daniel. I’ll look at the seismometer when I need a break," Carter said helpfully. "I’ll have to show you how to read the monitor and we need to set up probes and drill censors into the rock – it will take time."
Sighing, Daniel flopped back onto the sand and picked up the next book.
stood watch. As a
Colonel Jack O’Neill had a colourful way of speaking, Teal’c noted.
His commanding officer had lain down, planted his baseball cap over his face and immediately started snoring. Captain Samantha Carter was snuggled up in her sleeping bag, until only her blond hair peeked out. DanielJackson had curled in a ball and was wrestling with his sleeping bag. The occasional muttered word reached Teal’c’s ears. Daniel spoke to himself in many languages. Teal’c only caught the gist of his speech, names of false gods and of his wife, Shau’ri. Daniel suddenly coughed violently, a deep, hoarse chest tingling cough. Half-choking, he woke and reached blindly for his water bottle. Teal’c thrust it into his questing hands. Gasping, he spluttered and tried to drown his coughs in water.
O’Neill peeled his baseball cap off his face and sat up. "You all right?"
"Frog in my throat." Daniel waved him off.
"Do you require assistance?" Teal’c asked alertly. He had seen no amphibians on the seashore.
"It’s figure of speech, Teal’c, not an actual frog."
fixed a piercing gaze at the archaeologist then slumped back to sleep. Teal’c
knew that while for all intents and purposes the unobservant would have thought
that O’Neill was asleep when he spoke to Daniel, the warrior had in fact been
"Are you unwell, DanielJackson?"
Daniel sniffled again, dabbing a tissue against his nose, he muttered, "Dunno, it could be a cold or allergies. Janet’s pre-mission check should have picked up a cold, though? Maybe it’s a bit of both. I guess inhaling that sand didn’t help."
Teal’c listened closely, the linguist’s breath was laboured, wheezing in his lungs.
"You are ill."
"No," Daniel shook his head and popped a couple of antihistamines out of his tablet pack. "Good sleep and then I’ll feel better."
But he didn’t lie down and settle for the night, but remained slumped beside Teal’c, peering into the darkness.
"Is there something on your mind, Daniel Jackson?"
"Whrrr?" He sniffed noisily drawing mucous into the back of his throat before swallowing. "No nothing in particular. Just thinking."
"Of what are you thinking?" Teal’c persisted.
"I had a dream," he said, his tone dismissive. "Just stuff, it doesn’t make sense now."
The archaeologist had been dreaming of Shau’ri, Teal’c had overheard him speaking. But the young man would not speak of his wife. Teal’c bowed his head, shadowing his eyes. DanielJackson appeared introspective as he stared out into the cove.
"Looks nice doesn’t it." He nodded at the moons casting their reflected light onto the gently lapping water.
"It is indeed restful."
"What do you suppose that is?"
Teal’c followed Daniel’s pointing finger. Far off at the end of the natural pier, a dark ball bobbed in the water.
"I do not know." Teal’c stood.
Daniel joined him, hovering at his elbow. He pushed his spare glasses up his nose.
"Should we wake Jack?" he asked ingenuously.
An experienced solider; O’Neill woke instantly. With an easy movement he rolled to his feet, his weapon ready.
"What is it?"
"DanielJackson saw movement in the water, as did I. Look to the end of the pier, it still moves."
"You know." Daniel moved forward a step. "It’s not a ball or something floating; it’s too steady."
"I concur. It is attached to something beneath the water."
"You mean it’s a head, don’t you."
Teal’c nodded solemnly.
"Wow, do you think it is a formorian?"
"Sea monster?" O’Neill checked the clip on his MP-5.
"Well, we don’t know that," Daniel protested.
Carter joined them. "We’re being watched?"
"I believe so," Teal’c tipped his staff in the direction of the watcher in the water.
"So what are we going to do?"
"I could go down to the water’s edge and talk to them." Daniel took a step.
O’Neill reached over and grabbed the back of Daniel’s jacket without looking. "No, you don’t. They can come to us."
The black ball was joined by another shiny jet-black ball. As they watched another head joined the other two. Slowly they counted another eight heads, one after another surfacing.
"Two to one," O’Neill said lightly.
"Why is it always about confrontation with you?" Daniel snapped.
"Now’s not the time, Daniel," O’Neill retorted.
"They haven’t done anything, they’re just watching us."
"Do you see me shooting?" Jack rapped curtly.
One head separated from the cluster and moved along the pier. A flash of dark flesh broke the surface of the water.
The figure paralleled the beach, moving through the water smoothly. A limb occasionally broke the surface with barely a splash. Daniel stepped forward, but was stopped by O’Neill’s hand lying on his forearm. They stood together watching as the swimmer came to a stop directly in front of the team. The water lapped gently against the shore, a soft susurration.
"Another two have joined the others," Teal’c reported.
waters separated like Moses parting the
Ponderous out of the water, it marched up the beach.
O’Neill shifted his MP-5 in his hands and it stopped three body lengths from their camp. It spoke. Its words were strange, choppy and melodious.
"Ah!" Daniel held up his finger. "It’s a variant of Gaelic, sounds similar to gohelic-q."
Daniel responded with words that bore no similarity to English. Words tripped easily off his tongue, speaking another language with an ease that never failed to amaze the casual listener.
The being bristled, the heavy sensory hairs around his mouth standing tall.
"Oh, I’m sorry," Daniel blurted. "I didn’t mean to insult you."
"What’s he saying, Daniel?" O’Neill asked tightly.
Daniel abruptly stopped speaking, almost leaving almost a vacuum between his words. He blinked, quickly and then blurted, "Yes, he is a formorian. His name is Balor. He is the leader of his… clan… people… no tribe."
Without taking a breath, he switched back to Gaelic, leaving the other members of his team standing aimlessly in the sand.
people have been here thousands of years. They were defeated in battle and cast
through the ‘
"What about the Goa’uld?" Jack interrupted.
"Goa’uld?" Balor fixed his single eye on the colonel.
"No. no. no. no." Daniel bounced up and down. He spoke again in the language, his zeal making him stutter.
The formorian stepped backwards, spitting rancorously.
"He’s really pissed, Jack," Daniel said unnecessarily. He tried again to appease the being.
"Be careful, DanielJackson." Teal’c shifted, preparing to defend the linguist. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see O’Neill carefully lifting his MP-5.
"I’m not to sure what the matter is," Daniel said rapidly, wheezing as he spoke. "I’m not getting everything that he says. I don’t even know if he’s affiliated with or against the Goa’uld."
The formorian hissed and pointed at the Stargate.
"No, we’re not desecrating the altar. It’s a… a … Stargate… a gate between worlds. Oh…darn, wrong language." Spluttering, he repeated the words in whatever variant of Gaelic he was speaking.
took a deep breath, Teal’c saw pale liquid draining into its mouth from deep
within its body. He spat and Teal’c reacted. The
"What?" Daniel did not have time to move away.
The venom burnt through Teal’c’s utility vest, searing his skin. Rounds hissed past his ear, as O’Neill opened fire. His skin was going numb. The sound of the weapons fire was increasingly distant. With a disturbing sense of clarity, Teal’c knew that he was going to pass out. Slumping forward, he knew that the hands attempting to hold him belonged to Daniel. The smaller man could not support his unwieldy, larger weight. Teal’c’s legs went numb. He went down, pinning Daniel against the sand.
His last conscious memory was of the final report of Carter’s M-9 beretta.
Daniel whispered, he had no free air to speak properly. Teal’c’s head rested
heavily on his cheek, forcing his own head into the sand. The
His heart in his mouth he managed to wriggle his hand out from underneath Teal’c’s chest to fumble for his pulse. The faintest of heartbeats fluttered against his fingertips.
The sudden report of a pistol, shocked him back into here and now. He couldn’t see what was happening. He could hear Jack swearing loudly.
"Shit. Fuck." Jack’s swearing was short and to the point. "Desist, Captain."
The shooting stopped. Wriggling at bit more, Daniel managed to twist his head. They were surrounded. All he could really see were legs, but they were outnumbered by ten to one.
The golden light of a Goa’uld personal force field filled his vision.
::Who are you?:: The reverberating tones were unmistakably Goa’uld.
Jack reacted to the tone rather than the words. "Colonel Jack O’Neill, SGC. I am in command."
"Bring them," the order was succinct.
Teal’c was ripped from his grip and cast aside by a muscular formorian. Daniel could not fight; he had no air. His diaphragm spasmed, trying to draw a breath as he lay in the sand.
The massive formorian leaned over him, poisonous, pungent air washed over him. His lungs twitched, seizing, trying to cough. The paroxysm rocked his body, winded, coughing and wheezing he couldn’t move even if his life depended on it. The formorian dragged him to his feet.
::Carry him:: The Goa’uld spoke in q-variant Gaelic.
Daniel was tossed over a solid shoulder further winding him. Draped over the formorian’s shoulder, he could only gasp for breath. Water brushed his hair. They were wading into the water. Burning, salty water flooded his nostrils as they were submerged. He was going to drown.
::No. Give him here::
The formorian stopped. Daniel’s world twisted nauseatingly, as he was hauled upright. He had a fleeting glimpse of Sam, in another, larger formorian’s clutches as he held by the scruff of his neck before the Goa’uld.
Imperious eyes racked him from head to foot. Tall, almost elfin, the Goa’uld stood at least at seven foot. The alien wore his golden hair long and deliberately tousled. His face was framed by thick sideburns that bled fine lines into his heavy goatee.
Daniel could only cough and wheeze but there was something in the Goa’uld’s gaze that made his soul freeze.
Daniel was passed unceremoniously to the Goa’uld. He was pinned to the alien’s chest by a lithe, muscular arm. Daniel’s face was mashed against a silk covered layer of armour. With his hand free, the Goa’uld triggered his personal force field. The golden light shimmered around them as they stepped into the water. Although seriously winded, Daniel’s breath caught in his throat as he realised that they were submerging. They were walking underwater. The field only illuminated the immediate surroundings; he couldn’t see the others. If the formorii held them, they would drown. Had the Goa’uld only wanted him as a hostage? Daniel drew in another breath and started coughing anew. His vision was splotchy, blackness threatened to overcome him. Fish darted against the force field, attracted by the light, and bounced away. A dull clank heralded the next step of their misadventure.
Artificial illumination flooded an enclosed grotto. Formorii swam throughout the hall. Two held Jack and Sam. They struggled weakly in the formorii grasp, massive slimy hands covering their faces. The light passing through the water changed. The water was draining away. At a gesture from the Goa’uld, the formorii holding the humans swam to meet the dropping surface. Daniel remained clasped against the Goa’uld’s side, fighting for breath in the ambient air captured by the force field. The last of the water drained away, leaving puddles on the stone floor.
Sam was limp in the grasp of one of the formorii, coughing badly. Jack was awake and annoyed. His eyes flashed angrily. The formorian holding him had a tight grip around his neck, a step away from breaking it. The Goa’uld twisted, reaching over Daniel to deactivate the force field. The archaeologist expected to be thrust into the hands of one of the formorii, but the Goa’uld interlaced cold fingers in his hair and pulled his head back. Daniel gazed into disconcertingly amber eyes.
‘Oh god, he’s going to kiss me.’
A silver encased hand filled his vision. Set in the centre of his palm a red jewel glowed ominously. White-hot pain engulfed his mind.
::Who are you?::
::Where are you from?::
::Are you are a host-to-be?::
Shock, lack of air and pain cascaded together and unconsciousness beckoned.
Daniel folded backwards over the golden Goa’uld’s arm, boneless in his unconsciousness.
"No!" Jack jerked forwards, yanking against the rubbery black aliens gripping his arms.
The Goa’uld turned to regard them, preening in his glory. He seemed to revel in the image that he presented.
"Who is your Lord?" the reverberating Goa’uld voice made the skin on the back of Jack’s neck crawl. "Who is your Lord?" he repeated.
bald guy from
"I do not understand." The light flared in his eyes. "Who is your mother? Who is your father?"
"Now you’re getting personal."
The golden man let Daniel Jackson fall to the wet floor as he stalked into Jack’s personal space. Jack didn’t move a muscle as the Goa’uld leaned close. He met the amber stare with his own dark implacable gaze.
"You have not been absorbed. You are a host-to-be. Who sent you here? Or…," he turned to Carter and beckoned.
She planted her heels to the floor, to no avail, as her captor thrust her into the Goa’uld’s arms. He lifted his hand towards her.
"Back off, you bastard!" O’Neill grated.
But the Goa’uld simply caressed the side of Carter’s face with the back of his hand. "Charming. You too have not been absorbed. And you speak the language of the Chaa’pai? Have the Sons of Milesius survived on the plateau?"
The doors at the far end of the domed hall swung open. The Goa’uld penchant to grandiose displays seemed to be genetic. Two formorii entered and bowed deeply. Unlike the sea beings they had met at the beach, these wore dull black hammered breast plates and a short skirt of leather strips over a black suit of scales. A silver hand was embossed on the centre of the armoured plate.
A silent message was passed by the simple bow of a pearly black head.
"House them; I will deal with them later." With a flamboyant turn, he swept out of the Hall. Balor cowering obsequiously at his heels.
"I don’t like the sound of his breathing." Sam leaned over the unconscious archaeologist, her ear plastered against his chest.
Jack prowled around the confines of the sumptuous suite. The opulent room was windowless and filled with still air.
In the wake of the Goa’uld’s exit, one of the formorii had picked up Daniel and dragged him along the floor to their prison. Jack had protested, but the formorian had carted Daniel along like a sack of flour. They had been thrown into the suite and the door locked with a mocking *snick*. A large, plush bed dominated the room. Together Jack and Sam had moved Daniel to the bed. He had remained unconscious throughout their manhandling.
Laboured breathing now echoed through the enclosed room. Jack rifled through the pockets of his tactical vest. Their weapons had been taken but the formorii had left their other belongings. Jack flipped through his medical sachets and selected a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Carter watched him curiously as he mixed the powder with a draft of water from his bottle. Jack shuffled across the enormous bed to Daniel’s side.
"Charlie used to wheeze like that when he was getting a chest infection," Jack said by way of explanation, when Carter peered at him curiously. "Look, I don’t know; it won’t do him any harm. Prop him up on some pillows; he’ll breathe easier if he’s not lying flat."
Sam tucked more pillows behind the ailing archaeologist’s head.
"Higher." Jack balanced the medicine precariously on the mattress and then dragged Daniel into a sitting position. Together they managed to get Daniel set to Jack’s satisfaction. Daniel lolled to the side, deeply unconscious. There was a nasty burn rising on his forehead, courtesy of the Goa’uld’s ribbon device. Sweat beaded his furrowed brow.
"Damn Goa’uld," Jack swore.
"What about Teal’c? Is he alive?" Sam asked.
don’t know. With any luck Junior will heal him. I don’t think Golden Boy saw
his tattoo – or he would have known that he was a
"That venom looked pretty lethal."
Jack didn’t answer as he tucked himself against Daniel’s side and held the cup to his lips. He carefully dribbled a fraction of the liquid into Daniel’s mouth and massaged his throat.
"This is going to take hours."
"You got anything better to do, captain?"
By the time he had, in drips and drabs, managed to get the antibiotic into Daniel, the linguist had still not regained consciousness.
Daniel’s eyelids suddenly fluttered. "Jaaaa’ck?" he croaked.
"Hey, how are ya doin’?"
Daniel swallowed uncomfortably. "Head hurts."
"Not surprising; you had a run in with a new variation of the ribbon device."
"Teal’c?" Daniel managed.
"They left him on the surface," Sam informed him.
"Alive," Daniel muttered.
"What?" Jack leaned forwards. "Teal’c was alive?"
"Felt his pulse." Daniel breathed harshly. "Felt his breath."
"Well, that’s one mark in our favour."
"Yes." Daniel suddenly sagged backwards, his head tipped back on the pillows. Each and every breath was an effort which almost brought tears to his eyes. Physically trembling, he took a deliberately deep breath and then stopped.
"Daniel!" Jack shouted. Both officers reached for his throat, their hands meeting. Sam backed off, allowing him to feel for pulse. It hammered against Jack’s fingers as the heart laboured.
"He can’t breathe properly."
Daniel’s eyes opened a hairsbreadth as he took rapid and painful breaths. His entire being was focused on breathing. The door was flung open. Jack reacted, reflexively reaching for his missing weapon. A tall willowy woman, as elongated as the golden haired Goa’uld, and swathed in the same luminous robes, stood at the threshold. Her face was hidden in an enfolding hood.
"Come on in," Jack drawled.
Arrogant, she tossed her head back revealing the perfection of a Goa’uld. "I am the Daughter of Cecht."
She entered, behind her loomed two formorii, gleaming resplendent, their black blubber oiled. Jack couldn’t help but stare at the single unblinking eye in the centre of their fat, smooth faces. The formorii were unarmed; belatedly, Jack remembered their venomous breath. He jerked his head at Carter, indicating that she should retreat. Despite disagreeing with his orders, she obeyed.
The Goa’uld looked down at the almost unconscious archaeologist draped over the pillows. Daniel’s eyes were glazed, caught in an enfolding web of fever and lack of air.
"Did he inhale the Breath of Searbhan?"
"What? Searrievan? Huh?" Jack demanded.
"I think she means the formorian’s venom," Sam said helpfully. "He wasn’t spat on, but he was in the vicinity."
Cecht raised her arm and her sleeve fell back. In the centre of her hand a round device glowed.
"No!" O’Neill reached out to grab her hand.
The formorii bristled, their sensory hairs around their mouths standing proud. The larger one began to inhale.
"Sir, I think it is a healing device." Carter’s sharp words stayed his attack.
"It is." Cecht lowered her hand and played it a hand span above Daniel’s labouring chest. "He has inhaled the breath of Searbhan. His reaction is unusual."
"Daniel suffers from allergies."
"I do not understand. Allergies?"
Carter leaned forwards earnestly. "I don’t quite understand the reasons, but his body overreacts to substances. They can be food or particles in the air."
"I do not know if I can heal this." Cecht’s smooth brow furrowed. "It is of interest, however."
"That’s all well and good. But have you got some sort of anti-venom?" Jack scowled at the Goa’uld rankled by her dispassionate interest.
"To the breath of Searbhan?"
"Yeah, I think it will help, you know."
"Yes." She canted her head to the side, with the same sort of deliberate action that Teal’c could display. She spoke in a discordant language. The formorian at her side nodded, and then lumbered away. Concentrating, she once again began to wave the healing device over Daniel’s chest. The linguist’s breathing was sounding increasingly difficult, fresh beads of perspiration rose on his bruised forehead.
"This ‘allergy’ is part and parcel of what he is."
"Sneezy geek," Jack said then winced apologetically.
"This will kill him. He will drown in his own mucous," Cecht said dispassionately. "He would not make a good host." Her hand fell away.
"Keep healing him." Jack grabbed her wrist.
He never saw the blow. The formorian punched him in the side of his head. Stunned, he rolled off the bed.
"He is of no use except for experimentation. I would know more of these allergies." Her words sounded like a sentence of death. "With me, Rhadha."
Jack’s head was ringing as Sam helped him to his feet. "Fuck, where did she go?"
"She left with the formorii."
"Daniel?" O’Neill scrambled back on the bed.
Hard, fast, shallow breaths did little to help the linguist. Daniel strained for each and every breath. His eyes were open a mere sliver; he was in another place, lost in the web of fever and pain. The other formorian lumbered into the room, he held a bowl in his hands. Flummoxed by the fact that the Goa’uld had left the room, he stopped.
"Ah, the medicine." Jack darted forward. "The…lady told me to take it." He snatched the bowl from the monster’s hands. "Off you go."
Befuddled, the formorian bowed and then exited.
Jack peered at the contents of the bowl. A small well of oil oozed in the bottom. How the hell was he supposed to administer it? It was a large bowl and held a small amount of liquid.
"Sir?" Carter asked hesitantly.
"What do we do? Does he drink it? Do we blow it up his nose with a straw?"
"Oh." Suddenly scientific, Carter joined him. "It’s an oil. It’s probably volatile." She looked back to Daniel, whose lips had taken on a distinct bluish tinge. They had little time to spare; any delay would be fatal.
"Uhm, the site of the problem is his lungs – I think we have to administer the drug to his lungs – inhalation." She pondered. "Unless of course it is systemic then maybe he should swallow it. I don’t know if the digestive enzymes will inactivate it."
"You mean steam? Like eucalyptus with hot water?" Jack scanned the room looking for a source of heat.
"The formorian didn’t bring hot water."
"So there’s some in here." Jack rapidly and confidently began to search the suite. "Get some of the oil into his mouth, just in case."
Carter accepted the bowl solemnly. Hesitantly, she knelt at Daniel’s side and, gingerly, she dabbed a little on his lips.
Jack started on the far wall, scanning the scenic panelling until he came to a decoratively camouflaged unit. He methodically pushed every protrusion. A hiss heralded the wall retracting to reveal a bathroom unit as opulent as any other Goa’uld chamber. It seemed obvious that the projection above a porcelain bowl was for water but what turned it on? Jack resorted to the tried and true method of pushing every button he found.
"Sir? Have you found anything? I can barely hear him breathing."
Hot water gushed from the tap. "Success!"
Carter pushed him aside and tipped the bowl under the tap. Pungent fumes wafted upwards. A heartbeat later she was fretting over Daniel trying to figure out how to dispense the medicine.
"There’s no time for finesse," Jack said sharply. Daniel’s lips had turned a dusky violet, blue at the edges. His nostrils were flared and the skin around his nose and ears was grey-white; he was suffocating. Jack slipped off his jacket and flung it over Daniel’s head creating a tent. Carter anticipated his actions tucking the bowl under the makeshift blanket, balancing it on his knees.
"Now what?" he asked.
Jack hated waiting. Time for a reconnaissance of the room, try and find an exit, an escape and a method of attack. Carter stayed, kneeling at Daniel’s side. Her demeanour was stiff with worry. As ever, she tried to be professional and in control. But her wide eyes had taken on an anxious cast. The sound of struggling, wheezy breathing filled the room, not even muffled by the tent. How could someone breathe so harshly? It was as if the very flesh of his lungs were formed of glass shards.
Jack focussed on his search, he could do little to help Daniel. It all depended on whether or not the medicine worked. The hieroglyphs that normally decorated the walls of Goa’uld chambers were missing, instead more murals and intricate knot work decorated the room. When Daniel recovered he would have a field day. The door was fairly standard and locked. There was another intricately camouflaged unit beside the door. But aimless pushing of the buttons did not open the door. He should have taken out the formorian who had brought the medicine and tried to escape.
But then Daniel would be dead – suffocated as the passages in his lungs swelled shut.
"I think his breathing’s getting easier," Carter reported.
Jack left his search and settled opposite his subordinate.
"Daniel?" He laid a gentle hand on the archaeologist’s heaving shoulder.
Daniel started, jerking away from his touch.
"Easy, easy," Jack cajoled, as if gentling a horse.
Daniel coughed raucously, drawing in massive gulps of air. Sam grabbed the bowl as Jack eased him into a reclining position on the cushions. He arched his spine and heaved in another hideously wheezy breath. Unintentional tears tracked from the corners of his eyes, spiralling into his hair.
"Daniel, Daniel, calm down it will make your breathing easier."
The archaeologist was sufficiently conscious to fire a venomous glance in Carter’s direction. He alternated between wheezing and coughing. But, as Jack reassured himself, he was getting in enough air to cough. Daniel’s fingers were scrabbling over his shirt, plucking aimlessly at his pockets.
Jack finally twigged. "His allergy tablets."
"The antihistamines," Carter said simultaneously.
Jack found the blister pack of orange tablets. The prescription leaflet said one-a-day. Jack poked out two from their plastic pockets.
Daniel’s coughing had eased, he was draped over the pillows looking like a washed out rag, wheezing tightly. He watched Jack through slitted eyes, fingers drumming on the mattress.
They were hard little tablets. How was Daniel going to swallow them when he was barely able to breathe?
"We should crush them, sir. It will make them easier to absorb. They’ll get into his system faster." She patted down her vest, aimlessly looking for something with which to mash the tablets.
Pragmatic, Jack tossed them in his mouth and chomped down on the pills, grinding them into a mush. They tasted foul. Carter watched him, horrified, as he spat out the orange paste on to his fingers.
"Open wide, kid."
Daniel was in no condition to disobey but his eyes widened at Jack’s intentions. Since his mouth was open as he gasped for breath, Jack proceeded to finger feed him the medicine which might save his life.
Even if the antihistamines simply coated his mouth, they might help? Nicotine from chewing tobacco entered the blood through the mouth, would the allergy medicine? Phlegmatic, Jack continued finger feeding his friend. His throat worked as he struggled to swallow the mushy tablets.
"Water." Jack held his canteen before Daniel’s eyes before carefully dribbling a tiny swallow into his friend’s mouth. He licked his lips chasing after the moisture. Jack could only guess at the dryness of his throat from gasping and coughing for breath.
Daniel nodded and accepted another dribble. His eyes closed once, twice. Jack watched amazed as his friend slipped into an exhausted sleep. Daniel’s breathing was easier, his face didn’t look as pinched and he drew in a longer breath. His next exhalation was noticeably less noisy.
"Crisis over," he couldn’t resist a crack.
Carter sighed, sagging as her bones turned to jelly. "He could have died, sir."
"Ssssshush!" Jack hissed. "Instead of at the hands of the Goa’uld, his lungs turn to shit on him."
"Well, to be accurate, sir, the breath of Searbhan triggered the reaction."
Ignoring her, Jack clambered off the bed and continued searching the room. He wanted to punch someone out, preferably that damnable Daughter of Cecht. Simply dismissing Daniel as a medical anomaly, suitable only for experimentation – she deserved to rot in Hell.
Scrabbling outside the door caught his attention. He dropped into a defensive crouch as the door swung open.
Teal’c opened his eyes as the first sun of the day peeked over the horizon. Every bone in his body ached. The larvae within his womb was curled in a ball, exhausted by the demands of healing. It was no longer even capable of swimming within the nourishing mucous that sustained its life.
Their supplies were intact, left abandoned in their camp. Teal’c deftly repacked their belongings, breaking up their camp and securing their supplies against the mountain face with O’Neill’s pitons and rope. He stalked back to the water’s edge. Myth and legend said that the larval Goa’uld was capable of breathing underwater, but for a Jaffa to survive he would need to enter a deep state of meditation. He could not swim and siphon oxygen via the larvae. His dilemma was simple, how could he breathe underwater and rescue his comrades? The whoosh of the Stargate’s wormhole disturbed his contemplations. Impassive, but the cant of his shoulders spoke of deep unease, he stalked back up to the damaged MALP.
"O’Neill?" General Hammond’s voice sounded tinnily over the speaker.
"General Hammond, this is Teal’c," the alien said unnecessarily. "We have been overrun by creatures that DanielJackson called formorii. They have taken Colonel O’Neill, Captain Carter and DanielJackson. I believe that they were taken underwater."
Teal’c waited patiently as General Hammond processed his information.
"Was Captain Carter any closer to figuring out the DHD?"
"I do not know, but the DHD is still broken."
"I’m sending through a team to assist you."
Teal’c leaned forwards. "That is not necessary. I merely require the Tau’ri’s equipment for breathing underwater."
"I do not know of this word ‘scuba’. Send the underwater breathing devices and instructions."
"It’s not that simple, Teal’c. Siler has a plan which we’re going try. We’re going to disengage the wormhole. We’ll call you back in twenty minutes."
There was no one around to see Teal’c bottom lip jut out in dismay.
Jack pulled back from delivering a killing blow to the pasty greenish-white troll that waddled into their cell. It wasn’t the tiny goblin that stayed his attack but the two looming formorii behind him. Jack guessed that the figure was one of the firbolg from Daniel’s mural. If he remembered correctly from his grandma’s tales they had been enslaved by the Lords & Ladies – who he figured were the Goa’uld. But unlike the mural on the wall it had two legs and two eyes and it didn’t carry a bag. Jack couldn’t help but snigger; Daniel’s myths had got it wrong. The firbolg held a tray piled with food. As he accepted the heavy tray from the being, he couldn’t help but note the bruises and welts on its body.
"Thank you," he said kindly.
The firbolg scurried out of the room when the formorian grunted. Jack scowled at the bully. He noted the heavy ring in its nose and the heavy lowering brow over the single eye. He would recognise him again.
"Should we wake Daniel or let him sleep?" Carter asked.
The younger man slept the sleep of the exhausted, flaked out on his back, arms outstretched. Jack could still hear wheezing as he breathed shallowly. They could have lost Daniel just because he had pissy allergies.
"Yes, sir. What are we going to do next?"
"The door’s fairly easy to jimmy."
"But, sir, where are we going? The Stargate’s non-operational. We’re stranded."
"It’s better than staying here with the Gou’ald version of Mengele who wants to experiment on Daniel. We pick the lock. Quick run back to the entrance hall. We’re only seven to ten meters underwater; so we can easily swim to the surface. Then we sustain a holding action at the ‘gate. SGC can keep us supplied."
Since their last check, Daniel had turned over onto his side, and had curled up into his normal protective ball. The kid always slept as if he expected to be kicked in the stomach. His hair was twisted into sweat spikes. The wheeze was still discernible; would Daniel be able to swim even one meter let alone ten? They had been supplied with food. They weren’t in a torture chamber. Obviously they were touted as hosts. How many humans had came through the Stargate since the old gods had been banished? And Daniel was slated for experimentation.
"Daniel?" He shook the linguist’s shoulder.
The younger man opened a bleary eye, he coughed delicately as if afraid of hurting himself further.
"Jack?" he whispered with a voice hoarse from coughing.
"Hey, Daniel, you wanna get up?"
Despite his half-dead demeanour, Daniel read between the lines. Time was of the essence; they had to move. If he didn’t get up he would put his team at risk.
"Sure," he croaked. "I guess I fell asleep."
Jack levered him into a sitting position. "Sure looks like it."
Carter supported him on the other side. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I’m wearing a tight metal vest. I don’t suppose you’ve got any coffee on you?"
"Coffee? You think now’s the time for coffee?"
"Caffeine’s a broncho-dilator – it relaxes the muscles in the lungs," Carter said with her scientific hat displayed for all to see.
"Too much information," Jack snapped. "You going to make it?"
Daniel’s peered up at him from under his sweat twisted fringe. "I will," he said determinedly.
"Right, let’s quit ditch this gilded cage."
"Gilded cage?" As he allowed Jack pull his arm over his shoulder, he looked curiously through their cell. He immediately honed in on the decorative paintings. "Are those murals?"
"Seriously, Daniel," Sam said determinedly. "I don’t think it’s a good idea to stay around here – more so than normal."
"Really?" Daniel fixed his owlish gaze on the Captain.
"I really think so."
They propped Daniel beside the door as Jack worked on jimmying the lock. He didn’t have his lock picking tools, but all he needed was the splinter of metal tucked in his left boot for just such circumstances. Daniel was immediately attracted by the murals like a moth to a flame.
"This is a curious sort of cell," he whispered.
"I think this is where they keep people before they make them hosts."
"Oh," Daniel stuttered apprehensively. "How’s that lock coming?"
"Open," Jack announced as the door swung open.
Jack took point, poking his head out of the door. The corridor was empty. He though it curious that they had no guards. Surely, the Goa’uld couldn’t be that arrogant that they thought they wouldn’t be able to escape from such a simple cells? But the Goa’uld were arrogance personified. Daniel staggered along at Carter’s side. She kept a supportive hand resting under his elbow. The archaeologist stayed upright by pure force of effort. The next corridor was empty, once again heavily ornamented with statues and inlaid decoration. Taking point, the colonel darted ahead, rapidly moving along the wall to an intersection. After taking a furtive glance around the corner, he announced, "Clear."
Corridor by corridor, sweating buckets, they crept towards the airlock room. Jack was following his nose, but he had been gifted with an astute sense of direction, and he remembered their route.
"Sir," Carter whispered. "I’m worried."
"What?" Jack snapped, focussing intently on their team mate. Daniel was as white as a sheet and his eyes had taken on a definite glassy cast, but he was keeping up with their stealthy progress. The linguist leaned against a statue of a formorian, which if he had been in better health he would have studied.
"Why haven’t we been intercepted?" Carter hissed.
"Goa’uld arrogance? They never seem to think we can escape their clutches. I don’t think they’ve heard of surveillance." He dismissed her concerns; there was little that they could do about it. "You okay, Daniel?"
The linguist simply nodded, half supporting himself on the wall as he staggered after them.
Daniel’s lungs felt like raw bags of piss.
He could feel fluid gurgling in his lungs. There was a sore spot deep in the centre of chest, which almost felt as if it were bleeding. He hurt all over. There was a vague deep ache somewhere inside his head, making thinking very difficult. All in all, he was desperately allergic to something on the planet. His jacket caught on a damnable statue. Damnable because he neither had the time or energy to study the damn things. Although the one beside Jack looked remarkably like Apophis.
"Daniel!" Jack beckoned imperiously.
He nodded tiredly and freed his jacket from the statue’s outstretched hand. The air around him tasted of the musty odour of abandonment. He was familiar with the reek, it felt like a newly uncovered mausoleum.
"Jack," Daniel coughed. He paused, bending forward to brace his hands on his thighs.
"You okay?" The colonel was instantly at his side.
"There’s something weird here."
"Apart from the formy guys and the little green trolls?" Jack scanned the area as he spoke.
"No. We know the Goa’uld; they’re ostentatious, flamboyant and given to grandiose shows." He pushed out the next sentence before Jack could interrupt. "This place might be all of the above, but it’s also stale. They haven’t been here long or they don’t use this part of the building."
Jack grabbed him by the elbow and towed him along at such a rate he could barely grab at breath to jog let alone talk. At least they hadn’t clambered up any stairs. Jack said that he knew the way out, but how were they going to get to the surface? Sam, ahead of them, held up her arm gesturing for them to be quiet. She raised one finger.
‘One formorian or Goa’uld?’
"Stay here," Jack mouthed and pushed him forcefully into a deep alcove.
Daniel growled inwardly, vituperative phrases dripped off his tongue. Benched because of his vile allergies. It was school all over again – he was the automatic handicap to any team.
"Sir!" Sam yelled.
The thud of a body hitting a wall was unmistakable.
Galvanised, he ran out of his hiding place. Jack lay in a sprawled heap on the floor, he had been thrown clear along the length of the corridor. The golden Goa’uld held Sam in the grip of a ribbon device.
"Leave her alone!" Daniel flung himself onto the alien. Light flared and Sam fell away. Daniel yanked back on the Goa’uld’s arm, bashing the controls on the back of the unusual device against the wall. Crystal shards fell with agonising slowness to the ground. Daniel followed their path; surprised the devices were so fragile. The Goa’uld’s casual backhand caught him across the face. It was a weak blow by Goa’uld standards, almost as if he were chastising a child.
"You dare touch me." The host’s eyes glowed malevolently.
‘Oh, shit.’ A large hand encircled his throat, evidently the alien preferred to play cat and mouse.
Jack smacked into the Goa’uld hitting him low, a perfect block. They all sprawled on the floor. Somehow Daniel ended up under the two men. Jack got his knee in, grinding it against the alien’s ribs. A dull sound of knuckles hitting flesh echoed in Daniel’s ears.
Jack thudded his fist repeatedly into the Goa’uld’s bearded face. "I hate you people, you’re all shit." Again and again, Jack pummelled the golden man. Blood splattered his fists. His fist smashed into the alien’s chin and he flopped bonelessly.
"Jack, Jack," Daniel wheezed, "I think you’ve succeeded."
"Whoa," the older man rocked back on his heels. "You all right?"
Daniel wiggled his fingers encouragingly.
Unceremoniously, Jack rolled the Goa’uld off him. Daniel gratefully accepted his help, rising to his feet.
"You did a number on him."
"How long do you think it will take him to heal?" Jack shifted, antsy, on the balls of his feet as adrenaline coursed through his veins. Dark eyes scanned, looking for another threat.
Daniel shuffled away from the incensed colonel to Sam’s side. Crouching, Daniel tried to assess her condition. She blinked up at him half conscious, a line of blood trickled from her nose.
"Are you okay?" He waved his fingers in front of her eyes.
"I’m fine, Daniel." She wiped her face, spreading the blood over her cheek.
"If I chop his head off, do you think that a sarcophagus will heal him?" Jack held up a short, golden sword acquired from the unconscious Goa’uld.
"You can’t do that!"
"Why?" Jack asked as he tested the edge of his blade with his thumb.
"No," Daniel said passionately, he stood and bounced into Jack’s personal space. "The host did nothing wrong. You can’t decapitate him."
"Daniel, there’s no Thor’s Hammer here." Jack raised the blade above his head.
Lightning arched across the corridor. A bolt caught Jack high in the chest flinging him away from the Goa’uld’s side. The edge of the blast sent Daniel to his knees. Jack tumbled head over heels, fetching up against a statue. Daniel shook the cobwebs from his brain. The Daughter of Cecht held a ribbon device. On either side of her stood a reptilian formorian, both in their black scaled armour, the clenched fist symbol upon their chest. One held an unfamiliar weapon, almost like a handheld staff weapon. Lightning arched at its point.
"Oh," Daniel said irrepressibly, "you are from Celtic Mythology. Is Lugh around?"
That was his only question. The Daughter of Cecht brought her hand down in a high-handed gesture. Lightning discharged from the small staff weapon and Daniel’s mind went blank.
"Whoa!" Spluttering, Jack was abruptly, perfectly, one hundred percent conscious. Rapidly, he took stock. He was once again back in their gilded cage. But this time his comrades were missing. The last thing that he remembered was threatening to chop off the Goa’uld’s head.
He rolled off the bed, determined to find out where his friends were. Only then he realised that they had taken his BDUs; he now wore for all intents and purposes girlie clothes. He had seen ghastly clothes like these on Sara’s Sunday afternoon movie marathons – he wouldn’t look out of place in ’Alexander the Great.’ They had put him in a dress of all things. He was wearing a short dress that showed his knobbly knees. Angling his head, he examined the big golden broaches on his shoulders that secured folds of material across his chest. If any one saw him; he would die. First peering suspiciously around the room, he lifted up the hem of his short skirt.
‘My god, I’m was wearing pantaloons.’
Plus he felt fine, he didn’t hurt, even his clamouring knee didn’t hurt. Slowly he realised that the Daughter of Cecht had healed him.
’God damn, the bitch; why can’t she help Daniel?’
Furious, he paced the length of the room. Since they had been stupid enough to put him back in his cell, he knew how to escape. Before he reached the door it was flung open. The golden Goa’uld stood at the threshold.
"Hey, Golden Boy, how’s the face? I see all the bruises have been healed," Jack said flippantly.
The Goa’uld’s eyes flashed.
"Why is it you guys do that? The eye thing?" Jack waved his finger under the alien’s nose. "And how do you do it?"
"I am Nuada Airgetlam, I am your lord and master."
"Ya think?" Jack centred his weight on his back leg, moving into the offensive pose, fully prepared to go for the Goa’uld’s throat.
The Goa’uld reacted in kind, he raised his hand. The jewel in the palm of his ribbon glove began to glow. "We have healed you."
"Why thanks," Jack drawled. "I thought those things were just used to melt your brains."
"The Daughter of Cecht is the healer."
"Really, I thought she was more likely to poke probes up places where the sun don’t shine."
"Those who will harbour our children will enjoy perfect health."
"Well, you see that’s where I’m not playing with you."
Nuada spat haughtily. "You will come with me to the place of absorption."
"And if I say no?"
"Balor and Ghuin will simply drag you there." The two massive formorii stepped into view.
"Well, if you put it like that."
They still grabbed him. Firm hands encircled his biceps lifting him off the floor.
"Hey, Golden Boy, the condemned man gets a last request."
The Goa’uld raised a leery eyebrow. He folded his arms against his armoured chest. Jack couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Old Nuada Airgetlamh certainly took the cake when it came to ostentatious; gold armour, complete with fancy gold epaulettes and a gold cape. Daniel would probably be able to tell him why – apart from appalling bad taste.
"Aw, go on – it’s not as if you don’t have anything else to do being trapped on this planet." Jack smiled ingenuously. "Aren’t you curious what my last request will be?"
Nuada waved an absent hand.
"I want to see Daniel and Carter."
A malevolent smirk graced the Goa’uld’s face. "Yes, you may see your comrades."
"Daniel!" Jack stamped on the glass surface beneath his feet. The younger man was folded into the corner of a white box-like room. His arms were tucked against his chest, displaying his deep unease. Daniel had not been dressed up like a storybook doll, he still wore his black t-shirt and heavy green trousers. Both of which were looking the worse for wear. There was no obvious entrance. Jack stood looking down through the transparent ceiling.
"He cannot hear you." The Goa’uld even smiled like a snake.
"What he doing in there?"
"The Daughter of Cecht is most interested in him." He dismissed Daniel with a wave of his wrist. "She is interested in the wheezing noise that he makes."
"Allergies. They’re hardly unusual. Lots of humans have them." Jack would have blacked the Goa’uld’s eye anew if it hadn’t been for Balor and Ghuin watching him.
"Cecht has her own enjoyments – I leave her to them." He stalked away. "Say goodbye to your friend; you will not see him again."
"Daniel!" Jack stomped hard on the glass.
The linguist looked up, his brow furrowing as he squinted at the ceiling. Planting a hand on the wall, he forced himself to his feet.
‘Jack?’ he mouthed.
"She’s gonna experiment on you!" O’Neill hollered at the top of his lungs. Before he could get out another word, Balor planted a paw firmly between his shoulder blades and forced him away.
"Experiment on you." The voice was Jack’s but the words made no sense.
"Experiment on me?" He tried the words out for size. Who was going to experiment on him? The Lady Goa’uld? Daniel ground his teeth together as he thought. He vaguely remember the Goa’uld coming into the suite. Things had been rather desperate at the time, he’d been more concerned with breathing and Nuada’s ribbon device had given him a wicked headache. She had introduced herself as Cecht? Actually that made sense. Cecht was the Celtic God of Healing.
A Goa’uld who Healed. That actually had some creepy connotations. Experiments? Suddenly his skin felt clammy.
A cold north wind walked up his spine.
Jack had been above him. Daniel craned his neck. He’d searched the room thoroughly when he had first regained consciousness, but there was no exit, unless an entire wall moved. The walls glowed with a bright white light but the ceiling was dark. Maybe he was in a giant gift box?
‘A gift for Cecht.‘
Shuddering, Daniel shuffled back to his corner. He slumped down, giving in to the feeling of malaise eating through his bones. His chest hurt, he was still wheezing and there was a dull throb reverberating between his ears. He needed to get out of the box and find his friends, but enfolding exhaustion was overriding any thoughts of action. There was too much they didn’t know. Why did air breathing Goa’uld live underwater? He answered his own question: because the unstable nature of the planet made living topside precarious at best. That begged another question: why hadn’t the Goa’uld left such a hazardous planet? Three possible reasons sprung to mind: they somehow avoided the earthquakes under water and were comfortable (although given the sense of the abandonment that didn’t feel right); two they were after something on the planet and, finally, they couldn’t leave -- the DHD had been broken a long time. He liked the last idea. Legend had it that the Tuatha de Danaan had retreated to Tir Nan Nog or lived beneath lakes and mounds, evidently they’d managed both. So they had been defeated in a war and cast away. The Egyptian cadre of the Goa’uld had forsaken them?
‘They must be bored out of their snaky little minds,’ Daniel thought that quip was worthy of O’Neill.
The wall shimmered. Daniel was sure that he saw the wall shimmer. Curious, he tottered to his feet and stumbled over. As he touched it, it withered away.
"Ooops!" He jerked back, almost falling over.
The Daughter of Cecht stood before him with her ever present looming bodyguards. She was certainly beautiful, but she was abhorrent; simply a Goa’uld who wore the body of a human woman and changed simple loveliness to soulless, haughty perfection. The two formorii grabbed him.
"You know, you just had to ask and I would have walked with you." Daniel’s toes only just brushed the ground. "Excuse me, would you mind telling me what you’re going to do to me?"
"Silence." Head held high, Cecht strode ahead. She was the epitome of arrogance, she even allowed her golden cape to unfurl dramatically behind her. All in all, she made Daniel’s bile rise in disgust.
"Why? Will it make any difference to your plans?"
"Your babbling effects my concentration."
The corridors were a direct contrast to the suite and the route to the entrance hall. There was no ornamentation, just simple unadorned grey walls. But the corridors echoed with silent steps.
‘Where do they normally live?’ Daniel mused, as always easily distracted.
Cecht stopped at a seemingly blank wall, she raised her hand and passed it over a recessed gem. Daniel recognised it as standard Goa’uld technology. He was suddenly struck by the changes he had seen in the Celtic Goa’uld he had seen. Ra had forbade change for several millennia. Teal’c spoke of a thousand years of unrelenting consistency under the dominion of the System Lords. Nuada wore a different form of ribbon device. They did not have Jaffa but had formorii. Suspended between the ancient beings, he craned his head to look at their naked stomachs – there was no cross shape breach to a larval womb. Jack thought that they had been slated as hosts. Jack was a fairly competent person, but by no stretch of the imagination could he be considered perfect. He could see why Sam had been touted as a host. But if they wanted Jack they were not what you call discriminating. They had been forced into this situation. Abandoned or sentenced to this planet they would have been forced to adopt change merely to survive. The Goa’uld on this planet coped with change. The Goa’ulds’ unrelenting lack imagination was one of the few advantages they had over the aliens who had taken the role of the Egyptian and Greek Gods. These Celtic Goa’uld could be significantly more dangerous. They did however, share the same obdurate arrogance. Daniel realised that his thoughts were wandering or more likely he was trying to distract himself from the new veil of horrors he had to face.
The raised pedestal in the centre of the room was large enough to support a man lying supine.
"Sir!" Carter exclaimed. She too was wearing something out of the renaissance. The captain looked as uncomfortable as sin. They had dressed her as some sort of Greek beauty. Her hair had been twisted high upon her head sculpted into curls and locks. She wore a long scarlet shift, gathered at the bosom with another golden broach, with a white, sheer shift beneath. For all intents and purposes, to Jack untutored eye, she was wearing a couple of negligees. But, incongruously, she still walked as if she wore leather boots and carried a MP-5. The formorian beside her sported a bruised nose. Carter’s skin was notably devoid of any ribbon bruising and the blood had been washed from her skin.
"Yes, sir. Have you seen Daniel?" Carter said with her customary directness.
"Daniel’s with Cecht," Jack said through gritted teeth.
"What? No? What she doing to him?"
"What do you think?"
Carter gnawed on her bottom lip nervously. She started to say something, but trailed off mouthing words uncertainly. Finally, she blurted out, "Why are we here?"
Their fate was obvious; in the centre of the opulent hall was a witches’ cauldron, carefully scrolled with interlocking snakes. They could see the water churning as the larvae moved beneath. Dull scaly skin occasionally broke the surface.
Jack turned angrily on Nuada. "Any Goa’uld coming anywhere near me is going to have its head bitten off."
The Celtic Goa’uld was unimpressed with his display. With a characteristic click of his fingers he directed his prisoners’ formorii bodyguards to frog-march them to the edge of the cauldron.
"I would know where you come from. I think perhaps you came through the Chaa’pai rather than surviving on the plateau for aeons," Nuada said conversationally. "While the Daughter of Cecht would gain these answers through torture and intimidation, I will merely wait until one of my children conquers your memories and tells me all."
"Sir, I don’t think that they’re mature. They look ill."
"You’re not making me into a Goa’uld." Jack dodged right and planted his elbow in formorian’s solar plexus. Fighting dirty, he brought his knee up, slamming it up against the other guard’s genital sac.
The formorian reacted perfectly; folding over. Carter was darting back in forth in front of her foe, planting hard punches on his chest and avoiding long, ponderous arms.
The formorii were incidental – the main bad guy was Nuada. Jack flung himself at the Goa’uld. Deliberately the black ops Colonel caught Nuada by his chin. His momentum sent them both crashing him to the floor. Nuada’s head cracked against the ceramic tiles with the sound of a melon dropped from great height.
Jack rolled smoothly to his feet and with something akin to glee jumped on Carter’s formorian.
"You know you really don’t want to do this," Daniel said hopefully. "The fact that I’m allergic to things is really of no interest," he finished gamely.
"These allergies would preclude you from becoming a host. We have a grave need for hosts." The Daughter of Cecht held up a finger nail daubed with Daniel’s bright red blood before her eyes. "Your immune system overreacts to things of no consequence. It is likely that a newly matured child would find your infestation a chore."
Daniel craned his head to look at the seemingly young woman. He could only move a little bit, secured to the pedestal by white ceramic clasps around his arms, legs and neck.
"I’m really broken up about that."
"Yet otherwise the code of your life is… charming."
Daniel withheld a gag as she stared at him coquettishly. He’d seen that expression on Hathor. This was… Daniel struggled to think of an appropriate word, intolerable? Unendurable? Excruciating? Blood still trickled sluggishly from the wound in his bicep from which she had drawn her blood and cell samples. Torture made the bitch lick her scarlet lips and her pupils widen until they completely eclipsed fathomless sapphire irises. If she came closer he was going to cough mucous on her.
"If we can correct this aberration you will make a perfect host." She picked up a probe, a good long foot in length. "But then I would miss out on a learning opportunity."
Daniel screwed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth.
Teal’c viewed SG:2 with a raised eyebrow. Makepeace sat by the DHD stripping down Colonel O’Neill’s sand encrusted MP-5. The two other US Marines stood on guard, Lieutenant Keel watching the plateau and Captain Applegate watched the calm sea. Satisfied that they were competent, Teal’c crossed to the massive power source that General Hammond had sent through the Stargate. It sat directly in front of the now quiescent Stargate. Too heavy to move, it would only allow them once chance to escape, since when the event horizon formed it would disintegrate the heavy generator. There would be no more communication with the SGC, until they opened the Stargate, planet side.
In his hand, he held the instructions on how to jump-start a Stargate. The massive crocodile clips would bite the naquadah inner circle and over time, the ‘gate would absorb the energy from the generator. Teal’c glared up at the pure blue expanse of sky overhead; there would be no lightning to charge the Stargate on this world. The instructions stated that it would take an unknown amount of time for the Stargate to reach critical mass. Teal’c clamped on the clips and started the gas-driven generator. For all he knew, in the next minute there would be another earthquake and, potentially, the Stargate or generator would be damaged. The text that Teal’c had obtained from the SGC did not say for how long the naquadah would remain charged. The generator vibrated, a soothing low note, which reminded him of the chanting in the temple of the gods. His first goal achieved, Teal’c secured the final supplies from the SGC. General Hammond had sent first aid supplies, food, water and the underwater breathing apparatus. Stoic, logical and calm, Teal’c began to read the instruction with the SCUBA device, starting with a physics lecture regarding something called Boyle’s Law.
The crack of vertebrae snapping a spinal cord echoed through the Goa’uld absorption room. O’Neill let the formorian slide sideways to sprawl, dead on the floor. Breathing hard through his nose, he moved onto his next prey. He kicked the alien in the back of the neck pushing him off Sam to smash face first into the ground. Venom oozed puddling beneath his head, burning the marble floor.
"Sir?" Carter pulled herself out from under the dead formorian.
"You all right, Carter?"
"Yes, sir." Efficient, she bent picked up a discarded knife and then sliced off the long flowing skirts that threatened to hamper to her movement. Jack’s brow furrowed. Carter: skirt? He drew in a deep breath and looked away.
‘Carter’s got legs.’
"Sir," Captain Samantha Carter of SG:1 announced, reading his mind, "I have always had legs."
"Let’s get Daniel."
The venomous formorii did not possess any weapons, but Nuada had a jazzy looking sword. O’Neill took it as a souvenir and a deterrent. He spared a final glance at the brain splattered host and turned away without another look. The Celtic Goa’uld would rue the day that they messed with Jack O’Neill. The Daughter of Cecht had Daniel; Jack wondered if her neck would make that same satisfying crunch. Carter grabbed a spear from a statue with a canted hip. Jack was sure that Daniel would be able to tell him from which epoch it originated, or something.
"Do you know where Daniel is?" Carter said.
"Golden Boy took me to some cell; Daniel might still be there. It was north by north-west."
They sneaked along the gaudily decked corridors, ducking behind statues as slabby formorii passed. One of the tiny firbolg staggered by, laden down by a mess of laundry.
"Kree!" Jack stepped out from behind the statue.
The drone stopped dead, bleaching to a new level of terrified paleness, it dropped the laundry. Jack drew himself up as haughtily as any Goa’uld. It tried to speak but could only whimper.
"Take me to the Daughter of Cecht, kree." Jack shook his hand aimlessly in the firbolg’s face. "Kree. Now!"
Eyes bugging, the firbolg left the clothes on the floor and scuttled, still bowing frantically, down the corridor.
"After it," Jack ordered.
The poor little thing was so upset it could hardly walk straight.
"Do we even know if we’re going to Daniel?" Carter asked sensibly.
"Have you got a better idea?" Jack picked up the pace to walk alongside the distraught firbolg. "You can stop bowing."
The firbolg froze. The critter stared up at him with fried egg eyes.
"I’m a progressive sort of Goa’uld," Jack said pithily. "Tell me about yourself. Those formi guys they treat you badly, don’t they?"
The firbolg’s mouth fell open in consternation. ::Lord?::
"Well… you serve the Goa’uld and the formi guys. One of you little dudes came into our cell before and he’d been smacked around." Jack leaned forwards. "You guys speak English?"
"English?" the being ventured.
"You can speak?"
It nodded frantically. "I can speak the tongue of the Altar of the Gods."
"Daniel first; take us to Cecht."
"Now?" it asked pathetically.
Almost wailing, the being darted away. The two members of the SG:1 team hurried to keep up. Faster than its legs indicated, it almost outpaced them. Jack couldn’t help but think that time was of the essence. That glint in Cecht’s eye hadn’t boded well for their fellow team member.
The firbolg led them in a darting dance down ornate corridor after ornate corridor. They overran the transparent white cells embedded in the floor. The cell was empty. Other cells stood side by side. A couple of firbolg cowered in one corner.
Their guide led them down a marble staircase to a danker, more humid level. The walls were grey and devoid of the decorations above.
The firbolg stopped dead outside a plain door with one of the Goa’uld crystals. In a smooth motion, it dropped to the floor on its knees and genuflected.
"The Daughter of Cecht’s chambers, Lord and Lady."
"Is she--" Jack said with strained humour, "--alone?"
Carter took her place at the opening crystal. Jack brandished his stolen sword.
"On three," she mouthed.
Colonel O’Neill barrelled through the door. He registered that Daniel was lying on a ceramic table, distantly. Cold as ice, he launched himself at the nearest formorii. He buried his sword up to the hilt in the alien’s side, taking him down without warning. With a banshee’s howl, Carter threw herself at the other -- her foot impacting with the formorian’s genital sac. Jack winced even as he turned on the Daughter of Cecht. Ichor dripped from the short sword. The jewel in the centre of the Goa’uld’s hand glowed.
"Bring your hand up and I’ll show you the pointy end of this sword," Jack vowed.
Cecht sniffed and poked her nose in the air, but the glow subsided. Carter brushed by O’Neill making her way to Daniel’s side. His eyes opened a sliver and he stared up at her. Sweat had slicked his hair into twisted spirals.
"Hey," he tried through cracked lips, "you made it. Just in time."
The ceramic manacles were moulded without seams. Carter could see no way to release them. "Sir." She indicated the bonds.
Jack dragged the Goa’uld over by the scruff of her neck. "Release him," he ordered.
"You will not let me manipulate my gauntlet." She smirked.
"Carter?" O’Neill rounded on his subordinate.
"I don’t know the technology, sir. You might have to be a Goa’uld to make it work."
Jack twisted around behind Cecht, holding her firmly and laid the blade against her throat. "Any funny stuff and I’ll slit your snaky neck."
Carter stepped to the side as Cecht waved her hand over the manacles. They retracted, moving seamlessly into the pedestal. Daniel immediately brought his arms up, hugging his chest. Blood streaked down his arm, staining his t-shirt.
"Don’t move, Daniel, until I check you out," Carter beseeched.
"She hadn’t…" Daniel coughed, "really started."
Viewing the visibly injured archaeologist, Jack could only raise an eyebrow. "Ow."
Shaking her head, Carter ripped off one of the slips from under her shortened gown and bound up the wound on Daniel’s bicep.
"She wanted my code of life." The tips of Daniel’s ears blushed red. "I think I prefer that she did it that way than the other."
"Can you walk, Daniel?" Jack asked as he dragged Cecht to the open doorway. The colonel came up sharp by the entrance and craned his neck to peer around the corner. "Clear," he reported.
"Yeah, sure," Daniel wheezed, but he didn’t move a muscle.
"Daniel?" Carter’s eyes widened with consternation.
"Sorry, I can’t feel my legs. I think it was the sample she took."
"What?" Jack couldn’t help but demand of the Ice Queen.
"It is of interest," she supplied haughtily.
Jack stabbed her upside the abdomen, angling for her heart. Her eyes bugged, the blue in them flaring like summer lightning. She froze, only held up by the piercing blade. Jack let his arm drop and she slipped off the short sword to fall heavily to the floor. The colonel stepped over her, with casual contempt, back to his comrade’s side.
Daniel lay on the pedestal, watching mutely, his arms still crossed defensively.
"What did she do?" Carter’s hands froze a hairsbreadth above Daniel’s chest, afraid to touch in case he broke.
"Spinal fluid. I think." Daniel’s pupils were constricted with pain. "She kind of gave me an epidural first. Least ways… I think it was an epidural, it hurt a bit." His lips pursed.
O’Neill flashed Carter a shocked look. The astrophysicist submerged her fear under professionalism, turning to the vials beside the pedestal. She flipped through the sample containers. "Yes, blood and—" she shook a vial containing straw coloured fluid, "—spinal fluid."
"Is that all?" Jack asked.
"It’s enough, don’t you think?" Daniel said with something close to ire.
Jack nodded curtly, before turning back to Carter. "We can move him, can’t we?"
"I don’t think we can stay here, sir."
Jack carefully gripped his wrists and unfurled Daniel’s arms, which were still curled defensively over his chest.
"What ya doing?" he coughed.
"This." Jack pulled Daniel smoothly into a sitting position. Carter had already started to pull his legs around, pre-empting his thoughts.
Daniel let out a startled grunt as Jack hauled him into the classic fireman’s lifting position. "Aren’t I too heavy?"
"Yeah." Jack shifted his shoulders. "I can manage."
Long fingers gripped at his waist frantically. He had carried heavy weights over longer and more gruelling distances; he could carry Daniel. Jack shifted Daniel’s weight fractionally, hooking the back of one leg with his arm as he pulled on Daniel’s undamaged arm. Carter bent down and scooped up the short sword, she took point, moving through the door to the first junction.
"Damn!" she yelled.
"Carter?" Jack picked up his marching pace.
Carter was trying to pull the diminutive firbolg to her feet. "It…She was crouched by the doorway, waiting for us."
"Show us to the… what the hell do you call that place?… the room that filled with water… the docking room."
"Airlock," Carter supplied.
"You mean the entrance hall?" the firbolg asked innocently.
"Yes, the entrance hall," Jack directed, jerking his chin down the corridor. "Now."
"My lord." She genuflected until her forehead touched the ground.
"Quit with the bowing. Take us to the hall."
"Sire." She bowed once more.
"Now!" Jack yelled.
Terrified, the firbolg jump onto her webbed feet and scurried away. She was halfway down the corridor before Jack could blink.
"Hey, wait up."
Jack’s golden shoulder brooch was digging in a very delicate portion of Daniel’s anatomy. But he was trying to keep very still, so as not to tip over the colonel. He felt strangely cold, with icy perspiration beading on his brow. It had been so close, another heartbeat and he didn’t like to think what Cecht would have done. And he also felt hollow, as if Cecht had scooped out his innards with a spoon. Barely grunting – where did he get the strength? – Jack tromped up a flight of stairs out from Cecht’s icy domain. Abruptly, Jack shifted sideways hiding behind a pillar.
"Ow!" Daniel grunted as his head hit a wall.
"Sorry," he whispered.
Jack twisted and suddenly blood rushed from Daniel’s head to his feet as he was propped back against the pillar. His legs gave way and Jack braced him tighter. Daniel twisted his head sideways to check on Sam. She was hiding behind the next pillar down, clasping a confused looking green thing with great big googly eyes to her legs.
The sound of marching feet filled his ears. A phalanx of formorii marched past -- twenty pairs, each carrying a long golden spear. Balor marched at their head, naked, his black rubbery skin glistened if freshly applied with oil.
"Have you seen any other Goa’uld?" Jack mouthed, deliberately over-emphasising.
‘Two.’ Carter held up her fingers.
"Two?" Daniel whispered. "Only two Goa’uld?"
Jack peeked out to scan the surroundings as the final two formorii turned a corner. Garbed in white shiny scaly armour they were markedly different to Nuada’s black slabby guards. Before they could move they heard another troop of heavy aliens. Hand clamped over their firbolg’s mouth, Carter sank behind her pillar. Daniel watched entranced as an astoundingly tall, black haired, porcelain skinned Goa’uld strode along the corridor. But what drew his attention was the white flowing robe with the giant sunburst on his chest. A group of tall elven humanoids marched a discrete distance behind their lord, beating drums and playing pipes. They too wore the giant sunburst, but instead of robes with intricate knot work they wore tabards which stretched from neck to knee over crimson tunics.
"Lugh Samildanach, the High King, the Celtic Sun God. Also known as Lugh Lamfhada, that is, Lugh of the Long Arm," Daniel whispered in Jack’s ear.
"Daniel," Jack hissed.
"This amazing, look at his retinue. I think that one who was on his left…" Daniel craned his neck to look better, before Jack pulled him back to safety. "Did you see him, they shared the same long dark curly hair and pointed chin? I think that must be Cuchulainn."
Jack clamped his hand over Daniel‘s mouth. "Are you trying to get us killed?"
Daniel’s eyes widened in feverish consternation. "Sorry," he whispered against Jack’s palm.
Jack pushed into him, creating the smallest target as possible. But the parade of Goa’uld and formorii were noisy. The nazi-like stomp of the jack-booted formorii and the minion Goa’uld armed with bodhrans and pipes, announcing the approach of their King and God, kept the SG team safe.
Once the coast was clear, the irrepressible Jack O’Neill couldn’t help but say, "And they say Scottish Bagpipes are bad."
"It’s cultural," Daniel protested automatically.
"Can you walk?"
"Yes, of course." Daniel‘s legs, predictably, gave way. Jack caught him before he could drop an inch.
"Ups a daisy."
"Oh," Daniel managed before he found himself once more strung across Jack’s shoulders. He had a good view of Jack’s knees, and Jack was right; they were knobbly.
Sam was cajoling the firbolg who was quivering with indecision. The tiny denizen was painfully trying to understand what was happening. Her pupils expanded and contracted with consternation.
"Lords, Lady, the Shining One has descended, all feuds are to be set aside. We should go to the Great Hall to bid him welcome."
"No, take us to the entrance hall."
"But, my Lord, the Shining One…"
"Has descended, we heard. Come on, Bug Eyes, we want the entrance hall."
"But…" Caught between a rock and a hard place, it was almost painful to watch the thoughts scroll across her mobile face. "Your feud with the High Chancellor, Nuada Airgetlamh, is no more. We must pay homage…"
"Little one," Daniel said huskily. "We serve The Morrigu, she awaits us, only then can we meet with the High King."
"Your Lady awaits us at the entrance hall?" The firbolg latched onto the excuse with a sigh of relief. "Come, come." She hurried out into the corridor with Carter on her heels.
"Nice one, Daniel."
Daniel’s, head hanging upside down, screwed up his face deflecting the praise. "The Celts are a passionate people, their fervour for revenge is well documented." He grabbed a breath and managed to finish, "In an immortal race it stands to reason that the thirst for blood feuds would be curtailed by rules otherwise they’d kill each other."
Jack glanced sideways at him before continuing doggedly on. "Who’s this Morri guy we’re supposed to follow?"
"The Morrigu is the Irish Goddess of Death." Daniel coughed lightly. "She’s often seen as a crow or a beautiful woman."
"Right," he drawled. "Only you…"
Jack plodded resolutely onwards, one foot in front of the other. The intricate architecture caught the archaeologist’s eye, opening new windows on a mythology he had only browsed. Was Cuchulainn Lugh’s son by both birth and by infestation? The age old ‘chicken or egg’ question of the Goa’uld’s history – what came first Man’s ancient gods or the invading aliens? – demanded to be answered, but he never had sufficient information. The pieces of the puzzle were falling in to place. Lugh was on a royal progress, visiting his Lords and Ladies. Had Nuada Airgetlamh, Nuada of the Silver Hand, been banished to this decaying mausoleum? There was so much to figure out, but Daniel doubted that Jack would let him find out.
Gingerly, Daniel tried to wiggle his toes, and felt a distant movement. ‘Good,’ he thought hollowly, ‘soon I’ll be able to walk.’
The cold relief made his guts clench. The Daughter of Cecht could have permanently paralysed him when she had taken her sample. The pain had been excruciating.
"You all right, Daniel?" Jack huffed out as he stomped along the corridor.
"Feeling is coming back."
"Whooo hooo," Jack said lightly. "How’s the cold?"
"I don’t think it was a cold," Daniel answered too quickly, "…stopped wheezing. The anti-histamines have kicked in."
Carter, at the far end of the corridor, moved her hand in a short, sharp cutting movement. Jack darted, for all Daniel’s mass, behind one of the ever-present pillars standing proud of the main walls. Daniel braced himself as he was set on his feet. He could feel the cold marble stones through the soles of his bare feet. His knees threatened to give way, but again Jack clasped him firmly against his chest and pushed up against the stone pillar.
"No archaeological analyses, okay?" he hissed.
The marching pace sounded slow and deliberate. Tucked between Jack and the pillar, Daniel’s could see little around Jack’s bracing arms. But between the pillars and the wall as the formorii turned the corner, he could see the reptilian formorian carrying a byre, with a cloth draped figure. Jack’s eyes widened, with self-satisfied glee.
"Nuada," the colonel murmured.
"You killed him?" Daniel whispered.
"He deserved it."
"Have you seen a sarcophagus?" Daniel asked softly.
"No," Jack said with something close to delight.
Daniel raised a chastising eyebrow.
Jack gave an unrepentant shrug. "The Ice Queen’s got some sort of handheld healing device."
"You killed her too."
Carter, further along the wall, hidden in a recessed alcove was making desperate shushing gestures. Chastised, both subsided. Amazingly, the procession passed by without noticing them.
Jack bent grabbing Daniel’s arm in preparation to lift. As he was folded over Jack shoulder, he couldn’t help but protest, "Can we try walking?"
"Next time we duck into an alcove."
The firbolg was rocking from foot to foot. Carter held her by her hand, to prevent her from running off. But she was completely taken aback that a Lady had touched her, her mouth widen open, displaying a veritable forest of tiny, pointy teeth, that it was unlikely she would run away.
"How far?" Jack demanded.
"Come on." Carter smiled gamely at the little servant.
"Ahead, my Lady."
The team went back to their careful sneaking through the labyrinthine corridors of the Celtic Goa’uld stronghold. Twisting corridor after twisting corridor; Daniel suspected that a warped and out of shape mind had designed the fortress
"Jack, let’s try; put me down." Daniel finally cajoled as Jack turned a deep shade of puce.
Jack’s only answer was to bend forwards, planting his feet on the floor. Daniel locked his knees and was proud when he stayed up and stable. Jack made no comment as he hauled Daniel’s arm over his shoulder. On wobbly legs, Daniel made his way to the next intersection. Concentrating on staying upright, he let Jack guide them onwards.
"It’s a good thing the Goa’uld are into these knick-knacks." Jack waved his free hand at yet another corridor framed by ostentatious, glittering statues on pedestals.
"Huh?" Daniel lifted his head, from where he was regarding every careful footstep as Jack dragged him along.
"’Cos if they weren’t, we’d have nowhere to hide."
Daniel half snorted, a curtailed sort of coughing laugh. "Always look on the bright side."
"Who’s that?" Jack demanded.
Daniel peered intently at the figure, foiled to a certain extent by the loss of his glasses. "Uhm… No idea."
"Wow, I’m gonna make a note of this day."
"Celtic Mythology isn’t my field," Daniel protested. As he was dragged passed the fabric draped figure, he hazarded, "Guinevere?"
"You’re just guessing."
"Maybe." Daniel looked away avoiding the colonel’s intent gaze, but he knew that the man was smiling.
"Sir," Sam said cuttingly. "We’re here." She stood by a doorway twice their height, barred by a massive metal capped wooden tree trunk slotted through iron wrought ridges.
"The entrance hall, Lords and Lady." The firbolg smiled shyly.
"Thank you," Sam said softly, "you’ve been very helpful."
"It might be a good idea, for you to run off and finish your laundry," Jack said magnanimously.
"Yes, my Lord." She bowed deeply, until her head almost touched the floor. "Your wish is my command." With a final obeisance, she padded off on bowed legs to continue her work.
"I hope you two were taking notes. That’s the way I want my subordinates to treat me."
"You wish," Daniel sniffed. "Anyway, I’m not your subordinate."
"Sir," Carter interrupted, completely ignoring the banter. "We need to open this door."
Both men looked up at the heavy log. "Any ideas?" O’Neill asked Sam.
"Brute strength; there’s no mechanism. The formorii must move it." The log slid into slots on one side of the door. They had to push it from right to left.
Jack moved to set Daniel aside, but he protested, shifting away from Jack’s grip to reach up and add his strength to moving the tree trunk. The colonel took a stance on Daniel’s left and Carter on his right.
"On three," Jack instructed. "Three."
Strained grunts echoed down the corridor as the log shifted a bare foot.
"And again. Three."
Daniel swore through gritted teeth as they forced the trunk another few inches.
Perspiration darkened Sam’s gown and Jack informed everyone that his vertebrae were compressing as they levered the trunk a foot length.
"Garrr, I wish Teal’c were here." Jack blew out heavily.
"Three," Daniel snapped and they shifted the trunk another foot.
"Almost there," Sam cajoled. "Just another foot."
By dint of bone breaking effort they managed to push until the right hand door was free of the barring log. Sam stretched up on her toes and peered at the locking mechanism.
"Anyone got a nail or something?" she asked.
Both turned to Daniel who was the only one wearing SG:1 issued clothes rather than gloriously impractical silk gowns. The linguist patted his many BDU pockets.
"Er, no, I…uhm… Ah!" Rifling through the pocket on his left hip, he pulled out a fountain pen and offered it to the captain. "Here."
Sam held it before her eyes. "You’re not attached to it?"
"Not especially no."
Twisting it, she unscrewed it into two parts, and shook out the long metal ink cartridge. "This might do; it’s a big lock."
"Go for it," Jack directed half his attention on the door the other half on the long corridor that led to the chamber. They had nowhere to hide if someone turned the corner.
Sam leaned into the door putting all her concentration into the effort. Eyes half closed, she concentrated on the locking mechanism, probing this way and that.
"Carter," Jack began. Daniel waved him into silence.
"Ah," Sam froze and then moved the pen nib infinitesimally. They all heard the click. Sam smiled brightly and opened the door.
"Move." Jack ushered them both through before the door had swung halfway open. Once inside, the colonel leaned straight back into the door and slammed it shut. Stepping back, he squinted at it, trying to see the lock.
"Guess you can’t lock it from the outside," Carter noted.
Looking around, Jack could see nothing to bar the door on the airlock side. "Okay--" he pointed to the spaghetti mess of pipes, fluid-filled balls and Goa’uld jewels on the far wall, "--that must be the controls."
"Oooh." Intrigued by yet another new mystery to solve, Sam darted across the tiled floor.
"Uhm, look." Daniel pointed to a Goa’uld jewel embedded in the wall at the side of the wooded doors. "A second locking mechanism?"
"Looks that way." Jack waved his hand over the ruby jewel. The force field seemed to jump out of the floor, rocketing up to the ceiling to form a golden shimmering wall.
Daniel shared a knowing glance with the colonel. "If the hall fills up with water, a barred wooden door isn’t going to stop water escaping."
"But the force field will." Jack extended a finger, golden spider webs cascaded where he touched. "That’s locked up good and tight."
Daniel turned away, arms hanging loosely at his sides, to gaze down at the floor in the centre of the hall. "I didn’t spot that when we came here."
Jack sauntered along the edge of the mosaic Daniel was studying. A mermaid swam in a timeless ocean of tiny turquoise shards of stone. "You did have a big hairy Goa’uld in your face."
"It’s rather stylised. I wonder who made it." Daniel bent forwards and squinted. "Humph, you didn’t happen to see a library during your explorations?"
"No, Daniel." Jack rolled his eyes heavenward, before moving over to aggravate Carter.
Daniel’s lips curved in a smile as he settled down crossed legged to study the intricate mosaic. He sagged forwards, leaning his elbows on his knees.
"You all right, Daniel?"
Daniel craned his head, Jack stood over him bouncing uneasily on the balls of his feet.
"Yeah, I was just looking at the--" Daniel grinned, "--pretty pictures."
The humour hit the right spot. But Jack segued instantly into seriousness. "When Carter gets the airlock moving this place is gonna fill with water. We’ve got five or six meters to swim to the surface. You gonna manage?"
"I’ll have to, won’t I." Daniel shrugged. He inhaled deeply and started off a chest tingling cough.
"Yeah right." Jack crouched and tentatively patted him between his shoulder blades.
Daniel blinked at him through cough wrought tears.
"Tell you what." Jack rocked back on his heels. "We’ll tread water as this hall fills. When Carter tells us too, you just hold your breath, best you can, and let me do all the work."
"No arguments, Danny Boy. You’re not one hundred percent. You’re not even fifty percent."
"Sir?" Carter turned away from the melange of controls. "I think I’ve got it figured out. It’s fairly simple. It’s not really an airlock. What we have here are a series of pumps. We fill the entrance hall with water and then open the door to the sea." Sam pointed to the mosaic on the floor. "We swim up through the floor."
"How long will it take?"
"We can’t open the pumps too fast or we’ll be dashed against the walls." Sam’s expression turned abstracted as she calculated dimensions and area. "Five minutes. One of us will have to swim down and open the door when the water pressure is equal, that is, when the hall is practically filled with water. There should be an air pocket at the ceiling. It’s a good thing really that it’s not a pressure system to keep the water at bay, otherwise our lungs would burst before we reached the surface. We’d have to exhale on the way up." She flashed a concerned glance at the coughing Daniel.
"Do it, Carter. You get the door mechanism. I’ll help Daniel."
"Do it, Carter."
She released the mechanism, spinning a wheel clockwise. The mosaic dropped a mere inch and water rushed in to cover the circular design. Jack drew Daniel upright as the seawater sloshed over their feet. Carter spun the wheel another notch and the water gushed.
"I’ll open it fully when I can’t hold my breath anymore. I’ll then swim up and join you at the ceiling," Sam yelled over the rush of water. She had pulled off her overlying gown and cast it and a mess of jewels and brooches aside.
The water hit slapped the colonel’s bare legs and he winced. The Goa’uld tunic that he wore would probably go transparent when wet, the pinnacle of his embarrassment. Daniel shot him a sheepish grin reading his mind. The archaeologist wiggled his bare toes against the wet tiles.
Inexorably, the water level rose. Icy cold they all shivered. Carter began to tread water first, followed by Daniel. Jack waited until the water reached his nose, before lightly kicking off the floor.
"Okay, Daniel?" he asked easily.
Daniel simply nodded concentrating on treading water and breathing. Jack’s gown billowed around him, threatening to hamper his swimming; he belted the sash firmly around his waist. Gamely, Daniel continued swimming, gently moving his arms and legs. Jack was an old hand at swimming and could not resist the temptation to coast through the water like a porpoise to Carter’s side. She was swimming up to the surface to grab a lungful of air. Jack reversed his stroke, neatly turning on a pin and arrowing for the surface. They emerged together.
"Everything okay, Carter."
"Yes, sir. I’ll wait up here until the last minute and then swim down and open the hatch enough for us to escape."
Daniel was doggy paddling and looking up at the ceiling at the same time. He came to a stop under a domed part of the roof.
"Your air pocket, I guess."
"Sure looks that way."
Daniel simply nodded and returned to the bare minimum of effort need to stay with his head above the surface. Jack trod water between his two team members until just over a foot lay between the water and the ceiling.
"Yes, sir." With a curt nod, she ducked under the water, brushing by Jack with wide, practised strokes. Jack watched her plunge down to the bank of controls.
Daniel was gamely paddling as he flicked a cowlick of wet hair out of his eyes. His furrowed brow asked a question.
"Carter’s opening the door," Jack answered.
Daniel nodded mutely. He took in the deepest breath he could without setting off a coughing fit. He didn’t hold his breath, but took another, and another trying to thoroughly oxygenate his system.
Sam bobbed to the surface and dashed the water from her face. "I’ve opened it. Shall I go first, sir?"
"Knock yerself out."
She nodded and ducked down, slicing through the water. Jack began to count under his breath, at five he nodded to Daniel, who only smiled.
Almost as if rehearsed, Jack turned his back to Daniel, allowing him to grab his shoulders. For one inexplicable moment, Jack remembered playing with his son, Charlie, at the beach.
Daniel’s hands squeezed his shoulders. Jack took a final, deep breath, exhaled a mouthful and then dove. Daniel kicked in time with his strokes. The mosaic beneath them had somehow dropped and retracted into the wall revealing seaweed incrusted steps. Sam swam ahead, her legs gleaming whitely in the greenish fluorescence emanating from anemones dotted along on the wall. A stream of bubbles rose to the surface.
The urge to exhale was almost irresistible.
Jack swam on with easy strokes, focused on getting to the surface as quickly as possible. Carter disappeared through the mouth of the tunnel in a swirl of silk.
‘Just a couple of more yards,’ Jack thought. Once outside they could simply swim straight up to the surface. They were almost there; one more body length. Daniel’s fingers clenched compulsively. With one more full armed stroke, Jack and Daniel cleared the tunnel and met open water. A bare foot caught Jack in the side of the head. Surprised he lost a mouthful of air, the bubbles spiralling upwards. Daniel no longer held his shoulders, but flailed around him, seemingly grabbing water. Silk obscured his vision then smooth black, glossy skin.
‘Formy!’ Carter was held by a large formorian. She struggled weakly in its arms, half dead with lack of oxygen.
Jack kicked forwards, fingers held like blades as he aimed for the being’s eyes. Squishy flesh gave way and the high pitched scream echoed through the colonel’s bones. A long muscular arm caught him around his waist, pulling tightly and forcing the air from his lungs. He whooped loudly and instantly choked. The formorian clasped a webbed paw over his mouth and nose. Daniel flashed before him swimming madly for the surface. A formorian swam lackadaisically in his wake, playing with his prey. Daniel’s arms churned, barely moving him through the water. The formorian grabbed him by the ankle and yanked him backwards. Again – obviously practised with air breathers – the formorian sealed his mouth and nose with a large hand.
Jack kicked pointlessly, half blinded by growing black spots before his eyes.
Daniel was dumped onto the cold tiles of the entrance hall. It had been so close; but they had failed to escape. He could barely move and his wheezing lungs didn’t seem to be able to drag in oxygen from the damp air.
::Who are they?:: The ringing tones of a Goa’uld made Daniel finally lift his head.
Lugh Samildanach, the High King, stood over him, his retinue of white garbed formorii at his back. Daniel cast about: Sam hung over a naked formorian’s arm, wan and coughing; Jack lay face down on the floor, water draining from his lax mouth. Finding reserves that he didn’t know he had, Daniel crawled over on hands and knees to Jack’s side. A pulse beat against his fingertips as he pressed against Jack’s throat and he could hear wet breaths.
::They are not of the Family:: Lugh’s smooth brow furrowed. ::They are hosts-to-be::
::Sire:: Nuada began.
::Where did you find them?::
::They were found on the plateau::
Lugh ignored his cohort, simply dismissing him as one dismisses a truculent child. Teeth gritted with pure effort, Daniel stood, putting his body between the Goa’uld and his friend. The High King looked down a long, fine nose at the smaller man. Daniel met his gaze one on one. As arrogant as all Goa’uld, Lugh tossed a veil of glossy black hair over his shoulder and unfurled his cape. Daniel met the grandstanding head on, brow furrowed, eyebrows together and clean blue gaze, seething with passionate anger.
::Who is your mother? Who is you father?::
"I am Colonel Jack O’Neill, of the SGC. I’m in command." Jack was on his knees, dragged back to consciousness, when his team were threatened. Mechanically, Daniel grabbed his arm and helped him to his feet.
"You okay?" Daniel wheezed.
"Yeah, let me handle this, Daniel."
Lugh peered at them. "You speak the language of the Chaa’pai?"
::Our forefathers taught us:: Daniel interjected in Lugh’s tongue earning himself a fiery glare from the colonel.
::And you are?::
"Jack’s son. And this…" Lugh gestured with a silver garbed hand at Jack, "is your father?"
Jack bristled angrily. "I know that I have a splattering of grey at the temples…"
"Yes," Daniel interrupted, "this is my honoured father and my beloved sister, Niamh." He glared Jack into silence.
Clearly not liking the situation, Jack zipped his mouth shut. Poised on the balls of his feet he was ready to attack.
"So the Sons of Milesius survive upon the plateau?" Lugh asked with a decided Goa’uld flare in his eyes.
"We are the last." Daniel coughed miserably, dredging up a noisome rattle. "The code of life runs weakly."
"Huh?" Jack demanded.
Daniel muttered out of the side of his mouth, "Go along with it. I’ve figured something out."
::Three hosts-to-be:: Lugh moved into Daniel’s personal space. He endured as Lugh rested a hand upon his head. The cold silver of the Goa’uld’s ribbon device burned. ::My children will fight long and hard for the honour::
"This one is diseased!" Nuada bellowed as he pointed at Daniel. "I gave him to the Daughter of Cecht."
Lugh spun on his secondary. "You squander a rare and valuable host by giving him to the madwoman? And you call yourself my counsel?"
Nuada bristled, "I intended the father and the daughter as a gift for you, Shining One." He folded his hands, brought them to his chest and bowed fractionally.
"You have formorii on the plateau looking for the remnants of their Clan?" Lugh asked.
Daniel quietly retreated, backing into Jack, and whispered, "Lugh doesn’t know about the ‘gate. Nuada does."
"Ah." Jack drew himself straight, despite the condition of his clothes and bright red face. Sam hung limply against her formorian, but her fists were clenched and her eyes open and weighing all the words.
"Aye, my lord. We have found none of their ilk."
"You are the last?" Lugh turned to Daniel.
"My mother was some years older than my father, she died giving birth to Niamh and myself," Daniel said quietly.
Nuada’s golden eyes darted uneasily, but that was the only indication of his agitation. Daniel’s mind raced, his guts told him to go along with Nuada’s deception. Hosts were obviously beyond rare, a resource to be hoarded and given to the best of the Goa’ulds’ offspring.
"I will have them." Lugh’s mouth smirked.
"Would it not be more sensible--" the Daughter of Cecht strode into the room, haughty in her perfection, "--to breed them?"
"Brother to sister? We know what happens, look at the Egyptians; diseased minds beget diseased minds. You mock me, Daughter of Cecht." Lugh turned his back on her.
The woman seethed, eyes flaring brightly, but the Goa’uld signature was then eclipsed by the hatred settling on her face. Her madness was almost contagious, as if she diseased tendrils on those within her touch. Daniel saw the sickness in the Goa’uld in Tir Na Nog and wondered upon it.
‘I need to know how and why.’
"I’m never gonna be a host!" Impulsively Jack caught the Goa’uld around the neck and in a blindingly fast movement grabbed the Shining Lord’s sword and brought it to his throat. "Behind me," he exhorted Daniel.
Daniel stood opened mouthed and then moved into his shadow.
"Release Carter, or this guy dies."
Nuada simply laughed. "Your daughter dies if you don’t release the High King." He sauntered across the floor away from the group, plainly unconcerned by both possibilities.
A flare of light took then all by surprise. Jack was flung backwards, smashing against the wall with a backbreaking crack. The burn of the hand gauntlet continued to char inwards, the energy discharge holding him half way up the wall. The smell was indescribably sweet. Abruptly, the lightning crashed and he slipped down the masonry, to lie dead on the cold marble floor.
Daniel paced back and forth along the length of the sumptuous room. His mind was a blank desert of denial. They had killed Jack. His friend was dead. He had lain there, and it was obvious to all that Jack was dead. No living human body could sprawl in so disconnected a manner.
His friend was dead.
"They’ll have a sarcophagus." Sam’s eyes were wide, demanding that this had to be true; that her commander was alive. "They’ll put him in a sarcophagus. They have to."
"That’s Egyptian," Daniel blurted. "It has to be Celtic."
Sam’s face crumpled, but the tears were not harvested. "Colonel O’Neill killed Nuada Airgetlamh. There is a sarcophagus." She was resolute; her chin held high. Jack’s death wasn’t for forever, he would be revived.
"They will," Daniel vowed, he planted his fists into the barred door. "They will."
Jack had said that he had killed the Golden Goa’uld; there had to be a sarcophagus somewhere, when Jack killed someone he didn’t pull any punches.
"What if they don’t?" The scientist in Sam couldn’t help but ask.
"They have to." Daniel turned haunted eyes on the captain. "They have to. I mean, we’re valuable. We’re host-to-be, they won’t—" he fairly spat his disgust, "—they won’t squander a valuable resource. They have to."
He folded his arms against his chest and folded his heart against his soul.
Jack swam, held within his mother’s womb. Consciousness was a chore. Abruptly aware, he surfaced from a well of gunk. He was in a large vessel, floating in a gelatinous ooze. His hands sought his stomach, but his guts no longer spilled from his stomach. He had been healed. His hands ranged lower and he felt nothing but intact skin.
The room housing the strange sarcophagus was empty. Jack swam to the side and hauled himself out of the vat. He fell inelegantly to the floor. He simply lay there in a puddle of mucous, taking stock. The curve of the vat above his head was ornate. Carved warriors lined up, moving towards an intricate cauldron. Each warrior bore the wounds of war: severed limbs; open wounds and gaping guts, yet when they emerged from the bowl they were hail and healthy.
He had been healed.
His next step was escaping from this prison with his team mates. But first he had to find his feet and then his toga. There was no way he was going to traipse around this mausoleum naked.
"Damn, Goa’uld," he muttered, flexing his toes. "No one’s going to make me a snake head."
"Hello, Jack." The Daughter of Cecht knelt in a swirl of robes at his side. "And how are we feeling today," she said with false solicitousness.
"Peachy. I’ll feel better if you get the Hell out of my sight."
"I don’t know about that." Her fingernails danced over his bare ribcage to twirl his gel covered chest hair into peaks. "I think we have something to discuss. Maybe we’ll talk about… say… revenge?"
O’Neill emerged from the dark corridor and was summarily thrust into their cell. The door snicked shut behind them.
"You’re all right." Daniel couldn’t help patting the colonel down through his new silk toga. "You’re alive."
"Sure looks like it." Jack preened. It had the desired effect and Daniel backed off, a blush tinting his cheeks.
"They have a sarcophagus, sir?"
"Actually no." Jack flung himself onto the gold, tasselled draped king sized bed that dominated the room. He bounced with a delighted sigh. "They’ve got a big vat filled with snot."
"Oh?" Daniel focussed on him. "Can you describe it?"
"Yeah, It’s a big vat, filled with snot."
Daniel shot him a look.
Jack’s hands cupped to illustrate a bowl. "It’s bronze and big enough for a man. There’s lots of pictures on the side, lots of body parts."
Daniel vibrated with eagerness, making the connections. "It must be a Cauldron of Rebirth. There was one in Annwn that was guarded by nine maidens. Bran’s cauldron brought forth dead warriors alive but they were dumb. I think that one was guarded by a giant. You know, the Holy Grail was probably a cauldron. There was also Cauldrons of Plenty. These things had to be big, otherwise how did you get a warrior in it? Fascinating imagery… wounded warriors lining up to be dipped in the cauldron by a giant. Healed warriors walked forth. It’s sensible when you think about it."
"Well, yeah, that’s very interesting," Jack said dismissively cutting him off mid-lecture as Daniel started wheezing. "But we’ve got something else to talk about."
"Yes, sir?" Carter asked.
"The Daughter of Cecht has a proposition." He linked his hands behind his head and settled back on the pillows.
"A proposition?" Daniel coughed uneasily.
"Not that kind." Jack winced. "She healed me. And then she offered us freedom if we killed Lugh."
"What?" Carter’s eyes widened with consternation.
"We kill Lugh. We go free."
"Yes, sir," Sam responded tightly. "I understood the first time. Does the Goa’uld have a plan?"
"They’re going to take us to the capital, that’s where the juvenile worms are. We’re supposed to take Lugh out as they take us to the transport. There’s a statue or two with a sharp scythes we’re supposed to use."
"What about the vat that Nuada showed us? That held Goa’uld larvae; why take us to the capital? Where’s the capital?"
"Really?" Daniel interjected. "That doesn’t make any sense."
"Yes, there was a tank of Goa’uld. Nuada took the me and the Colonel there to be infested. It was similar to Hathor’s tank."
Daniel’s mouth fell open in a soft ‘O’ of dismay. "I’d got the impression that the hosts were very rare on this planet, so it stands to reason that they’d keep the number of larval births down."
"That depends on how long the adult Goa’uld can survive without a host. We know that a Goa’uld can survive in a human host for millennia with a sarcophagus. Maybe they just swim in a vat until a healthy host comes available."
"Ah, but they need a ‘queen’ to propagate. I suspect they're rare otherwise we would be dominated by Goa’uld."
"Unless," Sam countered, "the ruling Goa’uld – the System Lords – regulate the Goa’uld to reduce competition or there’s another form of attrition. There’s so much that we don’t know about them."
"We don’t know," Jack said acidly. "You can theorise to your hearts’ content when we’re out of here. Nuada has juvenile critters. But they’re not Lugh’s spawn, otherwise we would have been given to them, wouldn’t we?"
"They didn’t look very healthy," Sam said slowly.
"Oh, new stock? Clones?" Daniel suggested.
"One of Cecht’s experiments probably," Jack said.
"Ah! We’ve go…go... got all the clues we need," Daniel stammered in his eagerness. "The Celtic Goa’uld were cast through the Stargate with only a few hosts. And we know what happens when you breed closely related family, the recessives come through, so they couldn’t breed hosts anymore past a certain point. Maybe a host and a host can’t procreate? I imagine genetic manipulation of the human genome only took them so far."
"That’s why you said we were related," Sam said unnecessarily.
"Yes," Daniel nodded. "For some reason they forgot or lost the ‘gate or it was broken beyond all repair. Oh… that doesn’t make sense. Ra – or someone else—maybe sent a bomb through and buried the ‘gate. The earthquakes, uhm… planetquakes… revealed it fairly recently, I’d guess. Mythologically, Nuada was the first leader of the Tuatha De Danann, he’s been trying to get back into power and to do that he needs followers. Cecht and Nuada have been trying to repair the ‘gate and breed Goa’uld for their cause."
"Seems logical." Carter nodded.
"Cecht wants me to chop off Lugh’s head. Split that snaky Goa’uld in two."
"And bury the separate parts on either side of the planet probably."
"The question is, can we trust Cecht to set us free if we do?"
Jack and Daniel considered her words for a heartbeat. "Nah," they said simultaneously.
"So what are your orders, sir?"
"Easy, we take them all out. Cecht’s given us the weapons."
"We have another concern," Daniel interjected.
"Yeah, right, what?"
"We have to stop the Goa’uld using the Stargate to escape this planet."
"Why don’t we blow up that bridge when we come to it?"
"Just thinking ahead," Daniel said abashed.
"Whatever. I’ll take out Lugh. These snake heads get all bent out of shape when you attack the leader. Carter, you deal with Nuada. Daniel, guard our backs. Our goal is the transport. In the confusion after killing Lugh, we’ll make our way there."
"What about Cuchulainn?"
"Who?" Jack snapped.
"Lugh’s son. A warrior of the Red Branch. If the legends are true, he’ll probably be the one to go for."
Jack rolled his eyes heavenward. "So it will be difficult, so what else is new? I’ll take out Lugh and Cuchulainn."
"Actually," Daniel began, "I might have an idea. The Celts are a fond of their traditions. You can call him out..."
They were out numbered three to one as they were conducted from their room to where they assumed was Lugh’s underwater vessel. In addition, each member of SG:1 had an entourage of firbolg to cater to their every whim. As hosts-to-be they were to be cherished whether they liked it or not. Daniel smiled at his two servants, unlike Nuada’s slaves they appeared well cared for.
"Do you require something, master?" his most ornately dressed firbolg asked.
"How are we travelling to the capital?" Daniel asked ingenuously.
"In the Shining One’s Chariot of Light."
"Oh. How does it work?"
"At the Shining One’s command."
"Thank you," Daniel said tightly, actually that was probably very helpful.
Jack was eyeing each statue with an intent that was on par with an archaeologist in front of an ancient pot sherd. None of the statues held a scimitar. The corridor opened up into a large hall. A large manta shaped ship, similar in design to the smaller attack vessels that they had seen on Chulak, rested in the centre of the circular hall. Water draining into large puddles where its wings touched the floor. Jack grinned ferally. A giant porthole opposite them shimmered. The swirl of light mimicked the event horizon of the Stargate; a large force shield held back Celtic Sea. The Daughter of Cecht had lied; there were no statues with swords. With bated breath, Daniel waited for Jack to make his move. It did not deter the colonel. As Jack wrenched a spear from one of his guards, Daniel hit the formorian on his left, pushing him into another white garbed sea being. Carter let out an almighty yell as she drop kicked one of her guards. Revising their plan on the spot, Daniel raced towards the ship.
::Open!:: he yelled in Goa’uld.
The ramp in the base of the vessel dropped down. Daniel could feel a formorian on his heels. It loaned him extra strength. Metal clanged beneath his feet as he sprinted up the ramp into the bowls of the ship.
::Door close. Emergency!::
The formorian howled as he was crushed. Daniel emerged in the main deck behind an open cockpit. He squirmed between the pilot and co-pilot seats and scanned the pilot’s console, wheezing heavily. Teal’c had given them a breakdown of the working and innards of Goa’uld spaceships. The aliens’ tendency for ringing statements meant that they liked voice control mechanisms and that was in the linguist’s favour. The crystals were a lot more difficult to use.
::Main viewer on:: Daniel ordered, his voice harsh. The screen flickered, momentarily strobing before settling down to show that hall. Jack fought tooth and nail with Cuchulainn. Lugh was sandwiched between two of his guards who were watching the battle with intent eyes. Daniel couldn’t see Sam. Feverishly, he continued frantically scanning the console and there in the centre, between the pilot and co-pilot’s seats, was the weapons control Teal’c had described. He palmed the top most crystal of a mini dolmen and felt the whole ship shudder. He didn’t care if Jack was fighting an honourable battle with the Warrior Lord, Cuchulainn, he was going to end the fight now. Laser fire strafed the hall, scattering Goa’uld, formorii, firbolg and humans to the floor. Daniel slapped the crystal again scattering the people anew.
There were no weapons immediately to hand. Daniel ducked away from the cockpit back to the entry hatch ready to kick the first Goa’uld up the ramp in the teeth. Blood and guts caked the bottom of the slope; the formorian had indeed died when the ramp raised. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, Sam ran up the incline. Bouncing lightly over the gore, she held a spear.
"Guard the door," Daniel ordered. "I’ll get us started."
The archaeologist squirmed back into the main cockpit. Just for luck, he hit the fire button again. He had no idea how to change the inclination of the lasers on the wings, but it was for the best since they were firing high above Jack’s head.
::Engines on:: It didn’t work. ::Initiate engines::
"Why doesn’t it come with an instruction manual?" he asked rhetorically. He found the hand control to manoeuvre the wing lasers and changed the angle just a hairsbreadth so the Jaffa-formorii did not become too complacent.
"Daniel, how are you doing?"
"Jack?" Daniel yelled back.
"No sign yet," Sam called. "No… here he comes. He’s got Cuchulainn."
The colonel backed up the ramp into the area behind the pilots’ seats. He had a knife pushed deeply into Cuchulainn’s neck, threatening both Goa’uld and host.
"Daniel, close the doors."
"Uhm." ::Doors close::
"You know how to fly this thing?" Jack asked.
Daniel gestured at the joystick. "I haven’t figured out how to get it started, though. I’ve got the lasers working."
"Carter?" O’Neill directed. The younger officer slipped into the pilot’s seat displacing Daniel.
"I’m not fluent in Goa’uld." Her fingers danced over the various crystals and buttons.
"Ooh, the ship’s force field." Daniel leaned over Carter and slapped a crystal. The image through the viewer was now tinged with a golden glow.
Jack sawed at Cuchulainn’s neck until blood surged sluggishly along the length of the blade. "How do you start the ship?"
The taller Goa’uld stretched out a be-ringed hand. Daniel automatically shied away from his gesture.
"Try anything," Jack threatened, as he yanked off the Goa’uld’s jewellery with one hand, "and I decapitate your host and gut you in the same stroke."
Jack passed over Cuchulainn’s jewellery to Daniel, who accepted the potential weaponry with a wince. Not knowing what to do with the Celtic ribbon device and the torc, he stuffed them in his BDU trouser pockets.
"The bank of standing crystals situated before the pilot," the host’s voice reverberated.
Carter squinted at them, head cocked to the side as she thought. "I assume you press them in a specific sequence. But there are nine crystals, so there are 362,880 possible combinations."
"Cooky?" Jack prompted.
Cuchulainn’s eyes flared angrily. "Gold, gold, bronze, ruby, gold, emerald, gold," he grated.
Sam tapped out the order as he spoke, and Daniel crossed his fingers hoping that it wasn’t an auto-destruct sequence. The hum of the engines shook the floor plates. Unaware that she was chortling under her breath, Sam settled into the pilot’s seat and gripped the joystick.
The ship jumped up as she pulled back on the stick.
"Carefully," Jack grated, "pretend it’s a young…"
"Yes, sir," Carter interrupted his instructions.
The ship nosed towards the porthole. Pulling the knife free, Jack then manhandled Cuchulainn away from the cockpit, throwing him down onto the deck. He stripped off the Goa’uld’s belt and secured his hands behind his back. As the ship’s protective shield touched the porthole, force field sparks coruscated. Daniel winced away from the lightning jumping from jewel to crystal across the control panels.
"How do we shut off that force field, Daniel?" Sam asked as she moved the ship back from the shimmering wall.
"I haven’t a clue, but--" Daniel’s long fingers rotated the weapons’ control crystal, "--I know how to do this."
Laser fire arced across the hall, scattering formorii and firbolg anew. Daniel didn’t aim for the porthole, but the masonry above. Bricks and mortar shattered under the impact. The porthole’s force field fell and a wave of water inevitably rushed in behind it. Sam struggled with the joystick as the ship was buffeted by water. Tossed back and forth, the ship ricocheted around the hall. Cushioned by the force field, the occupants were unharmed. Supported by the bubble of the field they floated on top of the surging water, until they hit the ceiling. Only then did the water begin to seep through the field.
"Oh, that’s interesting," Carter observed, "penetration through the force field seems to be inversely proportional to the energy of the thrust…"
"So we’re not going anywhere if the force field’s switched on?" Daniel interpreted and leaned over Sam to drop the ship’s field. The ship fell several feet down into the water. A cacophony of grating noise filled the ship as the engines struggled with the mix of air and water.
"There must be a way to set the engines to water mode." The captain scanned the console along with Daniel. "Is this is glyph for ‘water?" Sam pointed to a lever with a symbol etched beneath. It was in the ‘up position’ obscuring another symbol.
Daniel squinted at the writings. "Yes, water." He craned his head to better look at the top symbol. "And it’s currently set for air."
"We haven’t got anything to lose, Carter," Jack said practically.
Sam pulled the lever down, the change in the engine dissonance was immediate. The deck plates and bulkheads thrummed as the engines worked easily.
"Go!" Jack pointed to the hole Daniel had made. Cracks were beginning to form in the ceiling and a clump of marble plummeted through the water.
"Yes, sir." Sam pushed the joystick forwards and the ship jumped at her command. Streams of bubbles obscured their vision. They moved through the curtain of foam. A formorian plastered against the view screen and then fell away in a tangle of limbs. Heavy stonework felt against the ship as they burst out into the ocean proper. Shafts of light from the Goa’uld citadel illuminated the world around them. Deep blue, the light scattered making the water glow.
"Look!" Daniel pointed out into the open sea.
Jack barrelled up beside Daniel, craning his head to look. An enormous submarine hung in the water. The mother ship was strewn with lights, shining like a Christmas tree. Unlike the Mesopotamian born Goa’uld, the submarine was animal shaped, drawn in organic lines, smooth and curved. The skin was marred by angular growths, with lights and antennas and hatches.
"Look at the size of that motherfucker."
"You know," Daniel said conversationally, "I thought this ship was a bit small for Lugh Samildanach. I guess they’re expecting us to dock."
"Get us the Hell out of here, Captain."
The ship lurched as Sam angled away from the mother ship. A new set of lights flared on the port side of the submarine. Tubes, unmistakably gun ports, blossomed in the metal fittings.
"How do you work these lasers?" Jack asked.
Daniel relinquished the co-pilot’s seat to the colonel, pointing to the weapons crystal. "Rotate it and the cross hairs show up on the main screen. Tap it to fire. Tap and hold for continuous fire."
"Cool." Jack tapped and held for continuous fire.
The barrage of fire that greeted their attack was a fly swatter to their biting gnat. Carter, swooping their ship to the side, avoided the majority of the blasts. A single hit connected, shaking the ship and water spurted from between plates in the right bulkhead.
"Get to the surface!" Jack yelled as another onslaught sent the ship spiralling down to the seabed. Sam fought with the controls, pulling the scout ship up as it brushed the sandy floor.
Daniel tumbled backwards fetching up against the bound Goa’uld. Shivering with revulsion, he moved away from Cuchulainn, back up to grasp the back of Jack’s seat. They arrowed through the sea, light brightening as they approached the surface. They burst out into bright sunlight, the ship leaping like a dancing dolphin. It sailed through the air, rising to the apex – engines cavitating as they sucked in air – before plunging back into the water. A new onslaught of projectiles greeted their plunge.
"And again, Carter."
Another blast separated the structural plates on the starboard side of the ship. Water gushed in. Sam pulled back on the joystick and sent the ship back to the surface. Jack leaned over ready the pull the switch which enabled the air-function when they emerged. Another blast rocked the ship, plates giving away under the barrage. They broke the surface, one manta wing trailing the sea. Jack pushed the lever up. The whole ship shuddered as water spewed from the wing intakes on either side of the view screen. The engines hiccuped, threatening to die, and then roared into life.
"Whoa, nelly!" The scout ship limped into the sky.
"Force field?" Daniel asked. At Jack’s nod he initiated the field.
"Sir," Carter nodded at the bank of red lights, "we’re in trouble."
"Get a fix on the plateau, it must be close."
The scout ship listed to the right as it struggled for elevation. Carter was tense as she egged the ship on. Daniel stood between them, arms resting on either seat, scanning the flat sea for the plateau.
"Turn, Sam, we can’t be too far from the Stargate."
"I’m trying, Daniel." Sam babied the vessel to no avail. But the ship turned infinitesimally to starboard, the stronger left engine overpowering the struggling right engine. Slowly, gratingly, they curved.
"There!" Daniel pointed.
The plateau loomed into view; they were close. The only land for miles it seemed to reach the sky. Trails of mist enclosed the summit.
"Try and take us down close to the beach."
"Yes, sir, I will try." You had to listen very carefully for the sarcasm.
The engines stuttered and the ship dropped a body length. Jack swore volubly. Daniel settled on gripping the back of Sam’s chair, as the engines suddenly caught and then continued its forward movement. The surface of the sea seemed to be coming up incredibly quickly.
"You want to pull up?"
"Daniel, brace yourself." Jack pointed to the footwell between his co-pilot seat and the console. "Get yourself in here, and adopt the crash position."
"Oh, no!" With Carter’s exclamation the engines cut out. They plummeted like the proverbial stone. Daniel’s stomach lurched as he seemed to rise from the deck. The ship tumbled sideways, Daniel grabbed frantically and missed Sam’s chair. The manta ship sliced sideways and belly flopped, the smack of the fall, driving Daniel face first into a bulkhead. Stunned, he fell back, sprawling on the deck plates.
Jack picked himself up out of the footwell where he had tried to stow his archaeologist. There was a lump the size of an egg in the centre of Jack’s forehead. Elbows planted on the console, he found his feet. Their force field finally bent, sending fractured circles across the golden field. As the field crumpled the ship sank, slowly slipping to the depths, canting to the side. The view screen was neatly divided by the boundary of air and water.
"Daniel? Carter? Report."
On the right hand side of the vessel, the captain popped up like a jack-in-the-box. Her hair was in spectacular disarray, plastered in swirls against her head. Her Grecian gown hung off her shoulder, displaying pearly white flesh. Cater yanked the folds across her chest back into a semblance of decency. Jack pulled down his own sopping wet toga against his body, making sure he was covered from neck to knee.
"Fine, sir. Daniel?"
Jack struggled out from in front of the co-pilot’s seat. As they sunk further, the water continued rushing in. It was at hip height. Daniel, head hanging down between his shoulder blades, braced himself against a support post -- coughing violently. The Goa’uld sat tight against the back bulkhead, smirking at Daniel as he hacked badly enough for watery bloody mucous to drain from his mouth and nose like a tap.
"What are you trying to do, drown yourself?" Jack said heatedly.
"Sir, we’ve got to get out of here." Carter pulled one of Daniel’s arms over her shoulder. His knees gave way, and both officers held him close. The water was rising rapidly. It was cold and heat stealing. The ship lurched and slumped further into the water. Through the view screen, they could now only see blue water.
"Daniel, get the doors open."
The beleaguered archaeologist could only cough and wheeze. There was no air to speak.
"What did he say to make the doors open."
"Barada?" Carter ventured.
The ramp remained solidly closed. Arms still around the coughing Daniel, Jack scanned the interior. Their best bet was to kick through the damaged panels that were leaking water.
"Colonel." Carter drew her superior’s attention to the view screen which, even though water birthed sparks shorted out the circuits left, right and centre, continued to work.
A familiar figure treaded water before them.
"Teal’c," Jack crowed, "you turn up like a bad penny."
The Jaffa read his lips and bowed his head slightly. Despite the scuba breathing apparatus – d.v. – in his mouth, mask on his face, he smiled -- minutely.
"Teal’c, get us the Hell out of here." Jack gestured maniacally to the ramp beneath their feet. "We’re taking in water."
The Jaffa seemed to bow and then effortlessly sliced through the water out of sight. Jack grinned widely as Makepeace was next to swim into view. The marine saluted lackadaisically, before jack-knifing and dropping beneath the ship.
"Release me!" the Goa’uld ordered.
"Shut up." Jack snapped, firing a venomous glare the alien.
Cuchulainn sneered, and settled back against the bulkhead. "My father will be here momentarily."
Jack ignored the Goa’uld’s threats. "How did Makepeace end up here?"
"Through the Stargate," Carter supplied.
"D’oh," Jack said at the obvious answer. Daniel still coughed violently between them, unable to draw an easy breath. There was a clang on the side of the ship. Evidently, Teal’c was working on lowering the ramp. The floor suddenly dropped beneath the trio. Sam and Jack treaded water, supporting Daniel between them. The Jaffa rose before them. He removed his d.v. from his mouth, "O’Neill."
"Oh boy, I am so glad to see you."
"As am I, Colonel O’Neill." He slipped the facemask onto his forehead. "The at’tu’rat is sinking rapidly, we should exit the vehicle."
Makepeace and Captain Applegate bobbed up behind the Jaffa.
"Nice kit, O’Neill," Makepeace smirked.
"Buddy breathing," O’Neill directed, regally ignoring his fellow colonel – he would pay for that comment later. He pushed the ailing linguist through the water to Teal’c. The Jaffa accepted his charge, clasping him against his chest.
"Daniel, you know what we’re going to do?"
Still too distressed to talk, Daniel grabbed Teal’c’s d.v. and held it up.
"I will ensure that DanielJackson makes it to the surface."
"Carter, you’re with Makepeace."
"Colonel," Sam acknowledged. She swam to the colonel’s side and allowed him to position her under his arm where they could swap the air breathing apparatus back and forth as they swam to the surface.
"Captain Applegate, you’re with me."
The red headed captain saluted before swimming to the colonel’s side. O’Neill checked that his team were secure before giving the signal.
"What about him?" Makepeace jerked his chin at the Goa’uld, who struggled to tread water with his hands tied behind his back.
"What about him?" Jack dismissed the snake with a shrug.
Carter and Makepeace submerged first, two competitive over-achievers striving to get to the surface before the rest of the party. Bubbles rose in their wake, tickling Jack’s bare legs.
"DanielJackson," Teal’c began, "breathe at your own rate. The Goa’uld within me will sustain me long enough to swim to the surface."
"No," Daniel wheezed. "You’ll need to breathe."
"If it is necessary to ensure that we reach the surface safely, I will tap your shoulder and use the d.v. momentarily."
"K." Daniel nodded. The d.v. clamped between his teeth, the valve hissing air as Daniel over-breathed, they sank beneath the surface.
Jack and Captain Applegate found their own rhythm, sharing the air breathing apparatus every five breaths. The at’tu’rat was sinking rapidly. Power stroking they ducked around the dropped ramp to emerge into the blue world of the deep. Applegate gestured with his thumb upwards. Jack needed no instruction, but teamwork was the name of the game. The captain tapped his watch indicating to Jack their rate of ascent to the surface. Already the ship was sinking out of sight. Ahead of them, Daniel and Teal’c rose slowly, a fountain of bubbles spiralling above their heads. Rising higher and higher they expanded. Tiny bubbles raced the larger, all vying to reach the surface. Jack’s own exhalations were a tenth of the pair rising above him. He passed the d.v. to Applegate, remembering to exhale lightly while his buddy breathed. The ship had sunk amazingly fast; looking down – the at’tu’rat was now a mere pinprick in the depths.
‘Aw, poor Cooky,’ Jack thought insincerely.
Jack continued swimming upwards without another downwards glance. He was more concerned at the rush of air above him. It appeared as if the air was simply escaping straight from the d.v.; neither Teal’c or Daniel attempting to breathe. Jack jerked his thumb vigorously indicating a faster ascent. Applegate counselled caution with a flick of his wrist. Jack knew the physics. However, dancing at the edge, he kicked and swam faster. Daniel and Teal’c were in trouble. The Jaffa’s great legs were churning water as he finished the last metre to the surface. Daniel simply hung, his lungs finally giving in to the abuse they had suffered. The Jaffa buffeted Makepeace and Sam out of the way as he burst into the air.
Teal’c was already flipping the archaeologist onto his back as Jack and Applegate bobbed up beside them. Both teams tried to help. Daniel resembled a wax effigy. Amazingly, a feeble pulse flickered against Jack’s fingertips; but no breath stirred the body. Treading water, Teal’c supported their friend. Jack knew that time was of the essence. He tipped Daniel’s head back over Teal’c’s arm, pinched his nose shut and breathed into his mouth.
Fifteen slow measured breaths as taught, and then a rest.
The pulse still fluttered unevenly. Jack waited, counting the beats of his own hammering heart as Daniel’s chest didn’t move. Concern flared in Teal’c’s expressive eyes. Daniel didn’t breathe.
"He’s not getting any air into his lungs."
"We should attempt to reach the shore," Teal’c advised.
"Go!" Jack directed. "Get the med kit."
Carter sliced through the water in a perfect crawl stroke. They were close to the plateau. The waterfall bay was directly ahead. Jack was close enough to see the plunge pool overflowing onto the pearly beach. Lieutenant Keel watched from the shore, binoculars at the ready. Seeing them he ran back up the beach to their stored kit. Jack leaned over and breathed again – clamping his mouth over Daniel’s. They had no time – they had to ensure sufficient air sustained the archaeologist. Another hellishly long fifteen breaths and waiting but Daniel’s chest did not move. Jack tried again.
Stars began to flash behind his eyes as he exhaled over and over to absolutely no avail.
"Come on, Daniel!" Jack ordered.
Teal’c towed them both through the water. Makepeace was at their side, lending his strength as they struggled. The surf pummelled them as their feet touched sand-bottom. Carter met them as the waters ebbed. She held a cigar shaped cylinder in her hand, the end of which she depressed against Daniel’s chest through his t-shirt.
"What’s that?" Jack demanded as she injected the contents.
Another wave rushed over them, knocking them off their feet. Together Jaffa and humans towed the younger man to the shore; Teal’c supporting the majority of Daniel’s weight on his broad chest. As soon as Teal’c could stand, he swung an unprotesting Daniel into his arms and forged through the surf to the beach side.
"He’s drowned; not allergic," Jack protested.
"Maybe, sir." Sam held Daniel’s legs as they finally made it onto the dry sand.
Keel had the med kit out and was tearing open a sterile intubation tube. A laryngoscope lay ready on the top of the box. There was no Celtic cauldron to bring Daniel back from the dead on the sandy beach. Jack supported Daniel’s head as Teal’c dropped smoothly to his knees. As one they lay him on the sand. The pulse at Daniel’s throat nipped frantically at Jack’s fingertips.
"We’ve still got a heartbeat." Jack leaned straight over and breathed into Daniel’s mouth. There was finally a sensation of give, and beneath the sopping wet t-shirt, Jack thought he saw Daniel’s chest move.
Jack shuffled on his knees to Daniel’s side. He tipped Daniel’s head back properly leaving sand encrusted fingerprints on his cheek. It was easier; there was no sensation of back flow and his chest definitely rose.
Carter was rifling through the med kit for another ampoule of epinephrine.
"I have an intubation tube." Keel, medically trained, made a concerted attempt to shift Jack away from his position and failed.
"Epinephrine." Carter slapped another auto-injector into Keel’s hand.
The medic circled his patient’s wrist in his other hand. "Why do you think I need epinephrine? I need information, Captain." He extracted his stethoscope from his med kit and lifted up Daniel’s shirt. Patches of his torso were flushed with a bright, sore looking red rash.
"Daniel’s been suffering from allergies exacerbated by exposure to a venomous substance." Carter explained as Keel planted the stethoscope over Daniel’s heart. "We almost lost him once. Daniel also thought might be coming down with a cold."
"Already sensitive lungs," Keel mused out loud. "The salt water could have triggered an asthmatic reaction maybe even anaphylaxis. Maybe he’s allergic to something in the water?" The medic whipped out his k-bar knife and slit open the fabric of Daniel’s fatigue trousers from knee to hip. He held the auto-injector against Daniel’s thigh and injected the epinephrine intramuscularly.
Jack paused in his artificial respiration long enough to order, "We’re going to have company any minute, Makepeace, Goa’uld."
The marine jerked his head at Applegate, who was already reaching for his MP-5. Checking their weapons they moved down to the waters edge and held their weapons. They made a fetching pair of targets.
Jack, beet red, bent back over his friend.
"Allow me, Colonel O’Neill." Teal’c gently laid his hand on O’Neill’s shoulder. Realising that he was rapidly becoming only capable of little huffs, Jack relinquished Daniel to Teal’c’s care. Jack sagged back, wheezing himself, as Teal’c placed his lips over Daniel’s blue ones and breathed.
The slightest of tremors stirred Daniel’s body, Teal’c froze mid breath and then backed off a hairsbreadth. The Jaffa’s entire body was poised to listen. Daniel coughed, a wet pathetic cough. The linguist gagged on the small amount of water he had inhaled.
"On his side," Keel directed.
All hands moved to turn Daniel over. He retched, splattering Jack’s bare knees and then he coughed and coughed as if heralding the end of the world. Keel pushed up his patient’s t-shirt around his ribs and listened to his lungs with a stethoscope.
"Lieutenant?" Jack asked, as he gently patted Daniel’s shaking shoulders.
"We need to get back to the SGC, Colonel O’Neill."
"Have you got the Stargate working?" Carter asked.
"Maybe… Let’s get Dr. Jackson to the ‘gate." The medic slipped a hand under Daniel’s shoulders in preparation to lift.
"Allow me, Lieutenant Keel." The enormous Jaffa squatted and slipped his arms under Daniel. With an ease that left most members of the SGC in awe, he stood and lifted. Clearly confused, Daniel struggled weakly. His breathing still sounded raw and hard.
"Daniel, we’re here. We’re going to the Stargate," Jack said, leaning over the cradled form.
Daniel’s brows drew together as he squinted at the colonel. "What?" he slurred.
Jack took his position at Daniel’s head, helping Teal’c to support his lanky length as Keel took his legs.
"Makepeace, we’re moving to the ‘gate; take our six. Carter, you’ve got point."
"Lieutenant Keel," Sam asked intently. "What have you done to get the Stargate going?"
"We came through with the largest generator Sergeant Siler could cobble together. We’re kind of jumpstarting it."
"Hours," Makepeace supplied over his shoulder, one weather eye still on the still sea.
"Sir." Sam turned to O’Neill. "I think it would be more useful if I went ahead and started to dial out manually."
Carter needed no encouragement. She set off, slipping and sliding over the sand. The ridge of rocks had shifted since the last planetquake; half swamped, it was less of an obstacle but it was still high. The captain clambered over and disappeared on the other side the outcropping.
"We have a sighting," Makepeace said calmly. He aimed at an at’tu’rat as he backed up the beach. Another manta shaped ship rose out from the water, hovering over the surface. They did not need binoculars to know that the Goa’uld in the ship were aware of their presence.
"Move it," O’Neill ordered.
Teal’c hefted Daniel higher in his arms and set off at a fast lope over the sand. Realising that he was incidental, Jack ran ahead, bare legs flashing. As he clambered onto the rocks, he could see Carter at the Stargate manhandling the inner circle. He turned to help Teal’c up onto the outcropping. But the Jaffa found his feet doggedly, aware that the seaweed and small rocks made his way treacherous. The report of MP-5 fire echoed around the bay. Makepeace had finally let rip, firing ineffectually at the at’tu’rat.
"I am endeavouring to, O’Neill."
Conscious of the fact that Daniel was stirring feverishly, Jack exhorted, "Keep fucking still, Daniel, or you’ll knock Teal’c over."
"Huh?" Daniel blinked owlishly and sank back into Teal’c’s arms, quietly.
As a wave of laser blasts pulverised rocks behind them, Teal’c jumped down onto the sand in the Stargate Bay. Keel, at his side, reached out and felt for Daniel’s pulse. His face was stiff with the mask of the concerned medic.
"Damn." Ducked low, Jack ran across the sand to the listing Stargate. The Goa’uld were firing high, obviously trying not to damage their hosts-to-be beyond repair. The falling rocks and ash were a danger all themselves. The captain had five chevrons dialled and was grunting with effort as she moved the circle to the next locking position. Despite the roar of the attacking at’tu’rat, Jack could hear the thrum of the generator.
"Is this going to work, captain?" he asked as he jumped on to the ‘gate platform.
"It’s our best plan at the moment."
Jack bent to help his team mate move the inner circle. The sixth chevron engaged with a flare of light along the whole perimeter of the gate.
"That looked healthy."
Carter ignored him. "Daniel identified the circle with the dash inside as the planet’s symbol."
It was, of course, the chevron opposite the final locking wing. Nails breaking, they struggled to push the circle around despite the grating sand. The final chevron locked into place and each light flared briefly in sequence.
"That’s a tad different."
"Ooops." Jack ducked as the event horizon kawooshed out of the Stargate obliterating the generator. The wave retracted with a snap back into the ring. Only the base plate of the generator was left with a fragment of the right bottom corner, it was as if a giant had taken a bite out of the equipment. "Wow."
The event horizon quivered, waves lapping against the inner circle.
"Molecular destabilisation," Carter theorised.
"Can we go?" Jack cut straight to the crux of the situation.
The manta ship swooped down the bay behind them. Hovering at house height, its laser turrets twisted to point at the team.
"Incoming!" Makepeace ran beneath at’tu’rat unfurling a hand-held rocket launcher. The marine knelt directly under the guts of the ship. The blast of the launcher blew sand around Makepeace’s ankles as the rocket was thrust upwards. At close quarters it seemed to imbed in the at’tu’rat’s force field, hanging in mid-air. Makepeace threw himself face first into the sand as the shell finally exploded. The blast blew up and out, fragmenting the bottom of the manta ship. Shuddering, the at’tu’rat seemed to hiccup before it flipped. Spinning onto one wing, it spiralled through the air, engines screaming. It impacted with the bluff face with a glorious explosion. Wreckage rained down on them, forcing the teams to throw themselves to the ground.
Jack sat up and brushed the sand from his face, "Marines," he said sarcastically.
Teal’c ran across the sand, limbs pistoning, a pure force of energy to behold. The medic sprinted in his wake. As the Jaffa leaped onto the Stargate’s pedestal the wormhole steadied, the wavelets smoothing.
"Go!" Carter urged.
Teal’c needed no second instruction, without pausing a beat he bounded, charge and all, into the wormhole. Jack jerked his thumb at his second-in-command. Carter nodded and stepped sideways into the event horizon to be whisked away.
"Keel, you next." Jack hauled the young medic up the rocks. He registered startled green eyes as he thrust the lieutenant into the wormhole.
Makepeace powered up from the sand, ducked low he ran, focussed on the Stargate. Jack watched as the second at’tu’rat swooped up the bay. It hovered directly before them. Nuada sat at the helm, his features expressionless, as he gazed at them.
"Applegate?" Makepeace demanded as he thrust his beretta into O’Neill’s hands.
"There!" Jack gestured at the captain, who was firing futilely at the at’tu’rat. The rounds from the captain’s MP-5 simply bounced off the manta ship’s force field. The captain, tucked between two rocks, had to traverse the expanse of sand to the ‘gate. Jack scanned the supplies he had tucked against the rocks. General Hammond hadn’t sent any rocket shells with that shipment.
"Applegate, now!" Makepeace ordered, as he attempted to lay down covering fire. The rounds spanged off the manta ship’s force field.
"Tell me you got another shell?" O’Neill demanded.
The hum of the at’tu’rat’s lasers grew; the energy charging. Nuada smirked as his hand was held poised over the weapons control. Jack sighted along the barrel of the beretta and aimed directly between Nuada’s eyes. Hitting the field, the round ricocheted upwards into the blue sky.
"If he fires at us he’s going to hit the gate," Makepeace observed. "I don’t think he wants to do that."
"Applegate, get your butt over here."
The captain shouldered his MP-5 and ran.
"Go," O’Neill told his fellow colonel.
"Not until my man’s safe," Makepeace said tightly.
Nuada fired directly at the rocks above their heads. A hollow resonance echoed through their bones. The reverberation sounding like the roar of an intensifying avalanche. Jack looked up at the rock face fragmenting above. Nuada was going to bring the bluffs down upon their heads. Applegate clambered up onto the pedestal. Makepeace grabbed his cuff and deliberately fell backwards into the wormhole, hauling his subordinate with him. The rock face disintegrated and came tumbling down. Still firing ineffectually at the at’tu’rat, Jack backed into the event horizon. His last glance was of Nuada smirking.
A gust of ash and stones pummelled Colonel O’Neill. He tumbled onto the metal ramp, rolling head over heels until he came up against Colonel Makepeace and Applegate.
"Close the iris!" Carter yelled. The iris slotted together, cutting the raining stones, ash and detritus off at the source.
Jack smirked as he planted an elbow in Makepeace’s ribs and sat up. Military order reigned in the embarkation room. The rangers on duty all ignored the newly arrived teams, focussed on any potential threat from the Stargate. Medics dealt with their patients. Daniel lay on a gurney, an oxygen face mask over his face. Fraiser was directing her staff with terse comments. Keel, who was holding an I.V. high, was imparting information in clipped sentences.
A white garbed medic helped Jack to his feet. O’Neill shrugged off his assistance and, preening, brushed down his silk toga – they had survived. General Hammond, his welcome face flushed with concern, stormed into the embarkation room.
"Report. Colonel O’Neill." Hammond’s pale gaze took Jack’s sopping wet toga. "Hmm, yes, report, Colonel O’Neill."
Jack tugged the silk skirt over his knees.
"There’s no time for that," Fraiser interrupted as she guided Daniel’s gurney past the rotund general. "O’Neill, Teal’c, Applegate, you’re with me; you’re going in the decompression chamber."
"We have a decompression chamber?" O’Neill asked.
"Yes," Fraiser said shortly. "Carter, Makepeace, report to the infirmary, Dr. Warner will do your checks."
"We’re fine," Jack objected, just because he could. "Why don’t Carter and Makepeace have to go to the chamber?"
"We came up at the correct rate, sir," Carter said helpfully.
"Hey, we didn’t come up that fast. We’re all right," Jack protested.
The exasperated glance that the doctor fired at him silenced the colonel. Jack fell in behind the suite of medics as they rushed Daniel’s gurney out the embarkation room.
"Intramuscular diphenhydramine, stat," Fraiser ordered. "Nicolas, get me a support kit, portable oxygen, I.V. Solumedrol, and albuterol med neb treatment and get them to the decompression chamber asap."
"Ma’am." Nicolas saluted, and ducked away from the gaggle of medics.
The sort of controlled chaos that medics were famous for filled the decompression chamber. Jack found himself tucked into the far corner, set on the lower tier of a bunk bed with Teal’c and Applegate and told, firmly, not to move. A nurse passed them blankets after asking if they had been hurt. Medical personnel barrelled back and forth setting up EEG and ECG equipment next to the bunk housing Daniel. Nicolas ran in, weighed down with boxes, a grunt behind him held an oxygen cylinder and coils of tubing.
"You, put that here," Fraiser pointed to the head of the bed for the non-com’s benefit.
A nurse squirmed between the grunt and Dr. Fraiser and began to set up the tank to lie on the bunk alongside Daniel’s legs, out of the way of the other equipment.
"Get CBC with manual differential; Chem 7; blood culture times two; I want to see if anything else is going on in there," Fraiser ordered another nurse, who proceed to draw vials of blood.
"Ma’am." Nicolas drew the doctor’s attention to staccato beat dancing across the ECG. "Blood pressure’s 90/60."
The swarm of medics hid Daniel from view. The mess of medical shorthand firing back and forth was like friendly fire, shocking, dangerous and unavoidable. It sounded bad. Jack chanced a look a Teal’c but he was, as usual, aloof, having nothing to offer to the medical staff; he kept out of their way. Applegate crossed his arms over his chest and sagged back on the bunk.
Drugs were called for, medicines and oxygen supplied. One nurse moved to the head on the bunk, revealing Daniel momentarily until another nurse took her place, and Jack thought he saw his team mate’s hand twitch.
"Epinephrine again," Fraiser ordered. "And get the albuterol med neb treatment started."
Then with a suddenness that was shocking the medical team piled out of the decompression chamber. The clang of the airlock door behind them reverberated through Jack to his toes. Fraiser was the only remaining medic.
"What’s up?" Jack demanded as he slipped off the bunk and settled on the floor at Daniel’s shoulder.
"You’re in the way of the ECG," Janet snapped, half her attention on the equipment and half on Daniel’s laboured breathing.
Jack shuffled sideways. "How is he?"
"He’s responding to medication."
Jack felt pressure on his eardrums, automatically he pinched his nose and blew. His ears popped. Janet was already at the airlock, haranguing her staff to reduce the rate at which the pressure was increased. Jack turned back to Daniel, his friend had a mask over his nose and mouth, and a fine, cloudy mist swirled as he wheezed. Daniel’s eyes flicked open, settled for a heartbeat and then roved around the room.
"Hey, we’re back in the SGC." Jack patted Daniel’s hand, careful of the I.V. needle in the back of his hand. "Teal’c turned up in the nick of time."
Daniel’s attention flicked to the right, begging a question.
"I am fine, DanielJackson." Teal’c joined Jack.
"Carter’s fine too, Daniel. She’s briefing General Hammond."
"Daniel." Somehow the tiny doctor shouldered Teal’c out of the way, making Jack fall back. She leaned over her patient. Unable to complain, Daniel submitted to a rapid examination, Fraiser listening to his heart and lungs. A quick check of his blood pressure was followed by yet another injection. Daniel winced under the mask.
"Don’t talk. Not a word," the doctor ordered. "Just breathe in the medicine."
Jack picked up the remnants of Daniel’s black t-shirt, sliced off his body by a nurse and cast aside. His BDU trousers were long gone. Jack shuffled around Janet to get the folded up blankets at the foot of the mattress.
"Is there anything I can do?" Jack held out the blanket.
"Thank you." Janet snatched the blanket out of Jack’s hand and drew it up over Daniel’s legs. "Now: out of my way," and she finished with a terse, "please."
Jack finished tucking the blanket around Daniel’s feet and then retreated back to the other bunkbed. Applegate smiled at him, a bare curling of his lip and shrugged. They shared a silent, disgruntled ‘Medics!’ Daniel turned his head fractionally on his pillow and peered at them short-sightedly. The temptation to wave was irresistible, so Jack waggled his fingers. Daniel’s eyebrows drew together, furrowing his brow in question.
"It’s okay, Daniel," Jack said.
"Yes, Daniel, just keep breathing calmly and slowly." She patted Daniel’s bare shoulder, before turning once again to the newly set up bank of monitors beside the bunk. "Oxygen saturation 85%," she said absently.
"Is that good or bad?" Jack demanded and was promptly silenced by the black look she fired at him.
"It’s fine and it’s improving."
"…what happened?" Daniel croaked and promptly began to cough.
Jack slid off the bunk to his side and patted his chest as it heaved. "We all got out, Daniel. Don’t talk, just listen." Jack began to speak, rattling on about the mission and Nuada, resisting the temptation to begin with: once upon a time.
Clean, brushed, cleared by medical, SG-1 sat around the briefing table. All were dog tired. Daniel’s breathing still hovered on the edge of a coughing fit, and he had the glazed expression of the heavily medicated. They had spent eighteen hours in the base’s decompression chamber, as the medics ensured that their charges were would not suffering from the ‘bends’ – bubbles in the blood – due to their rapid ascent to the surface from the drowned craft. Daniel listed sideways in his chair, and O’Neill unobtrusively pushed him upright.
"So these Goa’uld are not of Egyptian origin, Dr. Jackson?" Hammond asked gently.
Daniel shook his head, not wanting to speak in case he set off another coughing fit.
Carter took up the space. "Yes, they were undeniably Celtic in origin."
"And what is the ramifications of this discovery?"
"Different cultural groups in the Goa’uld," Daniel ventured very quietly. "We think that they had been exiled to Tir Nan Nog. Nuada – the Goa’uld Lord’s colonel-in-chief –was keeping the discovery of the gate secret from his fellow Goa’uld."
"Why didn’t they just leave?" Hammond asked.
"Devil you know? Devil you don’t?" Daniel whispered. "The DHD wasn’t working, maybe it had only just been uncovered by the planetquakes? Or maybe he had sabotaged the DHD so only his minions can use it, and they’re out looking for information and hosts?"
"Well now, they’re trapped on the planet." O’Neill interrupted Daniel as his wheezing increased. "Nuada collapsed the rock face on top of the Stargate as we escaped."
"Really?" Carter asked.
"I looked at him eye to eye as he pulled the trigger."
"Nuada’s --" Daniel coughed very gingerly, "--hid it from Lugh, he just has to dig it up."
"So we have a new threat, a new race of Goa’uld out there?" Hammond settled back in his chair, his expression was painfully sombre.
Carter was wide eyed. "And he knows that we’re out here."
O’Neill interlaced his fingers, turned his hands palm out and stretched. "We’ll just keep dialling Tir Nan Noggy, and when the gate opens we’ll send a warhead through." He smiled widely. "We have his number. We’ll deal with Nuada next time he raises his snaky head."
Soft-hearted Daniel, scowled at him. "What about the firbolg?"
"We can’t save everyone."
"We’re talking about beings that were on this world when we were young," Daniel hissed passionately. "We could learn so much."
Jack patted his shoulder insolently. "You’ll start coughing," he warned.
Daniel scowled at him, his forehead screwing up, but he lapsed into silence, gagged by his friable lungs. However, the purse of his lips argued eloquently that they should help the tiny firbolg.
"Dr. Jackson," Hammond spoke, "ending the threat of a new race of Goa’uld outweighs the possible liberation of unknown aliens. We cannot win a war on two fronts."
"So, sir, we’ll add Tir Nan Nog to the regular dialling sequence," Carter said, "and when the gate opens we’ll prevent them using it in the future."
Hammond nodded regally. "Mission closed."
O’Neill scowled into his mug of coffee. ‘Yeah right,’ he muttered sub-vocally. Somehow, he doubted they had seen the last of Nuada and his cronies.
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