Appeared in Brotherhood 3
Jack and Daniel have been taken hostage and it's up to SG-7 to rescue them.
Only the Strong Survive
“SG-7, report to the briefing room.”
Colonel Chris Larabee dropped the pen he had been using to fill out the endless paperwork required by the Stargate program, and rose from his chair. Rounding the desk, he exited his office mentally establishing the location of his men to ensure they were on base to hear the announcement.
Captain Vin Tanner was most likely at the shooting range sharpening his already exceptional sharp shooting skills. While Major Wilmington was undoubtedly trying to get one of the nurses’ phone numbers, using his teammate, Nathan Jackson’s training in the infirmary as an excuse for his presence.
It didn’t take ESP for Chris to know what the other three members of his team were up to. Josiah Sanchez would be in his office deciphering some ancient text or artifact. Lieutenant JD Dunne was probably conducting an experiment – that is if he had been allowed back in a lab after blowing up the last one. And while Chris was certain their remaining associate, Captain Ezra Standish was on base, he didn’t want to try to even guess what he might be doing. Complaints detailing Standish’s activities would arrive on his desk shortly.
When General George Hammond had promoted Chris and placed him in charge of SG-7, the general had stated that he planned to use the team primarily for search and rescue. Upon hearing this, Chris had insisted he needed three additional personnel added to the standard four man unit. He requested an EMT, a tracker, and what was originally described as a diplomat, though after meeting Ezra, Chris decided conman was a more fitting description.
Since their inception, SG-7 had been extraordinarily successful. They had gone to the aid of each of the twenty-two teams at least once, in the case of SG-1, several times. So far, no one had died after SG-7 had been dispatched. It was a record Chris hoped would never be broken.
Loud clanging following his every step, he climbed the metal stairs to the briefing room. He paused when he heard a familiar heavy tread behind him. A quick glance confirmed the identity of the man was Josiah Sanchez. Chris stayed where he was allowing the archeologist to catch-up with him. “Is SG-1on a mission?” he asked.
Josiah nodded. “They are.”
“Then I know why we’ve been summoned,” sighed Chris. A broad grin from his companion produced the “Larabee” glare.
As he took the last step into the briefing room, Chris studied the men already seated around the long table. At the head was General Hammond. To his right was Teal’c , confirming Chris’ suspicion concerning the team in jeopardy. The Jaffa’s left arm was in a sling and there were a number of deep cuts on his face. Chris judged the wounds to be recent and serious since the alien’s symbiot had not had time to heal them.
Next to Teal’c were Buck, JD and Nathan. The chair to Hammond’s left was empty, Chris noted in exasperation. He had yet to convince his team that where he sat during a briefing was irrelevant. One of these days, he would arrive first forcing someone to take the seat closest to their superior.
Quickly sitting next to Vin, Chris waited for Josiah to take the chair on the other side of Ezra before acknowledging, “SG-7, reporting as ordered, General.”
“SG-1 is in trouble--”
“Again?” Buck interrupted.
Frowning at the comment, Hammond glared at Wilmington as he continued, “Teal’c will fill in the details.”
With a polite nod to the older man, Teal’c pressed a button on the remote in his good hand. Weeds and tall grass appeared on the TV screen that had been setup between Hammond and Chris. Barely visible among the wild growth was a DHD. “This is P31-7701.”
“Will we need a weed-whacker on this rescue?” asked Buck.
“Major Wilmington,” Hammond said, in a voice that left no doubt how he felt about the remark.
His face conveying no emotion, Buck’s words said another. “Sorry, sir.”
“About ten clicks from the Stargate,” continued Teal’c, ignoring the exchange, “we discovered a village with what DanielJackson described as a medieval castle.”
Chris offered, “From the looks of you the population isn’t very friendly.”
“On the contrary the villagers treated us well. Major Carter and myself were injured by soldiers from the castle.”
“Which means,” said Vin, concern making his voice raspy, “Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson need rescuing.”
“I believe so,” Teal’c tonelessly reported. “The last time I saw them, they were surrounded by castle soldiers. My own injuries and those of Major Carter prevented me from going to their aid. The major and I managed to escape into the nearby forest. Eventually, we made our way to the Stargate.”
With an encouraging smile, Nathan relayed, “I was in the infirmary when Teal’c and the major were brought in. Major Carter was stabbed in the side. She lost a lot of blood but she’ll be fine.”
His attention turning to Hammond, Chris asked, “Does the MALP show any activity around the ‘gate?”
“None,” said Hammond.
Teal’c shutoff the monitor. “The condition of the area surrounding the Stargate led DanielJackson to conclude it was not culturally important to the indigenous population. Our short time with the villagers proved they were unaware of its existence.”
Rising, Chris said, “Permission to depart in ten, General?”
“Granted.” Hammond acknowledged.
“I will join you, Colonel Larabee.” Teal’c climbed to his feet.
Though he sympathized with the man’s concern for his teammates, Chris would not allow compassion to endanger his own team or the mission. It was clear Teal’c was in no condition to engage in any strenuous activity.
“I’m afraid not, Teal’c.” Hammond vetoed the proposal. “You know I can’t let you go through the Stargate until Dr. Fraiser releases you for duty.”
Grateful his superior had so easily defused what could be a sticky situation, Chris nodded to his team. “Let’s ride, boys.”
Mentally preparing himself for the pain he was about to inflict, Colonel Jack O’Neill pulled the zipper on his coat down to the halfway point. Taking a deep breath, he held it as he lifted his left arm with his right and slipped into the opening he had made. Under the circumstances it was the best he could do for the broken limb.
As he had anticipated, the pain was almost enough to make him black out. As his breath hissed through gritted teeth, he fought to remain conscious. If he succumbed to the black void it would be his death sentence, just as it had been for his friend and teammate, Daniel Jackson.
Though he knew he was only torturing himself, Jack allowed his eyes to drift to the two bodies in the cell across from his own. Daniel had fought well, but in the end his superior fighting skills had been no match against his opponent’s weight and size. The crazed prisoner Jack had dubbed Fred, because of his resemblance to the character from the Flintstone cartoons, had worn Daniel down before going in for the kill – though at a cost. The Neanderthal lay unconscious near the body of his adversary.
Jack wasn’t absolutely certain Daniel was dead. However, it was difficult to think otherwise after seeing the beating the younger man had taken. Jack almost hoped he was dead. In these conditions there would be no medical treatment capable of healing the broken body. He knew what would happen when Fred regained consciousness. The brute would show no mercy to his enemy, whether Daniel was alive or dead.
A noise drew Jack’s attention to his own cellmate. Though a few inches shorter and a couple pounds lighter, thus earning him the moniker Barney, he could be the twin of the wild man sharing Daniel’s cell. Jack had held his own against the assaults until the last attack. His attention focused on Daniel’s plight, Jack realized his mistake when two hands wrapped around his left arm and twisted it as though it were a wet rag. He had successfully fought the blackness threatening to engulf him, and poked his slobbering foe in the eyes. The man’s howl of pain was loud enough to hurt Jack’s ears. Since then, Barney had kept a respectful distance. Jack knew it was a momentary reprieve.
From what he and Daniel had been able to discover before they were forced to fight for their lives, the men sharing their cells were insane. It was unclear whether SG-1’s incarceration with them had been by design or chance. They had seen no one except the guards who had captured them in the village. Jack knew his only hope lay with Teal’c and Carter. If they had managed to escape, rescue was just a matter of time. Time, Daniel no longer had and Jack was in very short supply.
Though the feed from the MALP showed no activity around the Stargate, Chris and Vin curled into balls when their feet hit the platform on P31-7701. One rolled to the left, the other to the right. Their weapons were in their hands, their fingers on the triggers the moment they came up into a crouch. His hands doing the talking for him, Chris indicated that Vin should take a look around. Vigilantly covering the younger man’s back, Chris waited for the audible acknowledgement the area was safe.
“All clear,” Vin finally called.
Completely trusting the eagle-eyed man, Chris climbed to his feet and activated his radio. “Come on through, boys.”
Within seconds, the remainder of SG-7 stood on the alien planet. Each man immediately moved away from the ‘gate, their eyes searching for any indication of danger.
“Buck, you and JD secure the Stargate,” ordered Chris.
“Yes, sir.” Buck mockingly saluted. While his action was light-hearted, his voice was serious when he said, “We’ll set up claymores along the ridge just in case you bring some unfriendlies back with you.”
Chris studied the area before nodding agreement. The Stargate was at the bottom of a bowl like depression. A low ridge circled it, possibly a reason why the population was apparently unaware of its existence. “Good idea,” he approved. “Teal’c said the castle was ten klicks north. I’ll check in with you in two hours.”
“We’ll be waiting. Good luck.”
Vin moved out, taking point with Josiah, Nathan and Ezra following at equal distances behind. Chris covered their six. There was a time when he would have automatically taken the lead, mostly because it was the more dangerous position. But he was a good enough leader to know his men’s’ strengths and weaknesses. Vin had an uncanny ability to see and hear things long before anyone else. His skills had already saved his teammates numerous times. To have anyone else at point would be endangering the team unnecessarily.
Vin hadn’t been the only teammate to surprise Chris. Each man had shown capabilities above and beyond those they had been recruited for, even Buck, who Chris had known since high school.
When Josiah, Nathan, and Ezra suddenly went down on one knee, Chris realized he had allowed his thoughts to distract him. Belatedly, he followed Vin’s hand signal to stop and be quiet. Unable to do so verbally, Chris mentally cursed himself for jeopardizing his men. His heart thudding in his chest, he watched as Vin melted into the forest. Furious that he had been so lax, he wondered when they had left the gently, rolling hills near the Stargate and entered the wooded area. So many of their missions were on worlds covered in foliage it had become difficult to distinguish one planet from another. But no matter how much they resembled each other in appearance, each had its own perils.
Time passed slowly. Chris was tempted to try to follow Vin’s trail. Two things held him back, his responsibility to the remainder of his team, and the knowledge he wouldn’t find any trace of Vin’s passage, unless Vin wanted him to.
Just when Chris was sure he couldn’t wait another minute, Vin appeared with a man dressed in clothes Chris had only seen on mannequins in a museum. He wore what appeared to be a burlap sack for a shirt and trousers, and simple sandals for shoes. While Vin wasn’t treating the man as though he was a prisoner, the sharpshooter had his P-90 in his hands with the safety off.
“Who do you have here, Vin?” Chris asked, rising to his feet and crossing to the two men.
“He says his name is Gawain,” revealed Vin.
Surprised to hear the villager shared a name with one of King Arthur’s knights and hoping he would live up to his namesake, Chris asked, “What are you doing out here?”
“I was looking for Teal’c and Major Carter.” Gawain nervously regarded the men surrounding him. “You are dressed in the same strange garments. Are you their friends?”
“Yes, we are.” Josiah’s softly spoken acknowledgment eased the man’s wariness.
Knowing he would get more information from the villager in a relaxed state, Chris shot Josiah a grateful look. “Why were you looking for Teal’c and Major Carter?”
“I saw the king’s soldiers had hurt them. I thought they might need help.”
Josiah clapped the man on the shoulder. “That was very kind of you. They were indeed injured, but our people are taking care of them. They will recover.”
“However,” said Chris, “two other men who were with them are missing. Do you know what happened to them?”
“The king’s soldiers took them.”
“Where all those who oppose the king go,” Gawain bitterly observed, “the dungeon.”
“Of course,” growled Ezra, “what self-respecting castle wouldn’t have a dungeon. Would it also have a moat and a dragon?”
Puzzled Gawain shrugged his shoulders. ”What is a dragon?”
“Never mind.” Chris briefly glared at Ezra. “Is there a way into this dungeon besides the obvious route?”
Gawain shook his head. “Not that I am aware, but much as changed since good King Rupert’s death. Our lands are no longer peaceful and happy since his brother Philip became king some five cycles ago.”
Hoping he wasn’t wasting time Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson didn’t have, Chris probed, “What kind of changes?”
“The soldiers for one, in all my years and those of my father and my father’s father, the soldiers were for ceremonial purposes. They never carried weapons. The castle was open to all. Now, soldiers guard the entrance.”
While Chris could hear the sorrow in Gawain’s voice, it wasn’t his job to correct this world’s wrongs. His only duty was to O’Neill and Jackson. “What did our friends do to provoke the soldiers?”
“You do not have to do anything these days,” Gawain snorted. “Being different is enough to condemn you.”
“We’re here to rescue our friends,” Josiah revealed. “Will you help us?”
“I would if I could. But as I said, there is no way into the castle.”
Chris tilted his head in the direction they had been traveling. “We would like to see for ourselves.”
With a wave of his hand, Gawain acknowledged, “You were headed in the right direction.”
With Vin at point, Chris had never been in doubt. “Let’s ride.”
Jack rested his forehead against the bars of his cell. The cool metal eased the pounding in his head. A half-smile curved his lips as he remembered Daniel’s surprise when they saw the barrier. He hadn’t been worried about being incarcerated or even nervous about the man sharing his cell. Only Daniel would wonder how a medieval castle of the eighth century would have features that resembled Earth in the days of the old west.
A noise from across his cell brought Jack’s head up. He tensed waiting for another attack. Barney turned on his side. A soft snore indicated he was still asleep. Fear pounding his heart against his chest, Jack took deep, slow breaths to calm his nerves. He knew he was just delaying the inevitable. His injuries would prevent him from mounting an adequate defense the next time Barney pounced. Death was just a nap away.
As his gaze rested on Daniel’s still form, Jack allowed himself to hope Teal’c and Carter had managed to escape. His last view had shown both were sporting bloody wounds. The SGC wasn’t expecting SG-1 to contact them for another four hours. Unless one of them made it back to raise the alarm, a rescue team wouldn’t be dispatched until they failed to make their check-in, more than ample time for the injured major and Jaffa to bleed to death.
The only consolation Jack could find in the entire disastrous mission concerned SG-7. Jack knew Larabee would be furious when his perfect record was broken. The idea of pissing off his fellow colonel gave Jack a small measure of pleasure.
For a second time, Vin halted their march and disappeared into the overgrown forest. Chris fought to dampen his irritation. On the one hand, he knew Vin had a good reason for the delay. But Chris also knew rescuing O’Neill and Jackson alive could depend on a margin spanning a matter of minutes.
When Vin suddenly appeared at his side, Chris wasn’t totally successful in muffling a cry of surprise. Embarrassed, he snapped, “Report.”
“Yer gonna wanna see this.” Vin beckoned the men to follow him.
This time, Chris stayed close to the tracker. So close, he almost walked up the man’s back when Vin came to an abrupt stop about a quarter mile from the faint path they had been following.
Vin pulled back a bush with an arm. “Look.”
Doing as instructed, Chris dropped his eyes to let them rest on the body Vin had uncovered. Though the flesh was badly decomposed, the uniform was in almost perfect condition identifying the person’s employment, if not his name. “Jaffa,” whispered Chris.
“The flesh is too eaten up ta tell what system lord he served,” Vin pointed out.
A hand covering his nose and mouth, Ezra said, “Does his employer really matter? We know he’s the enemy.”
“It might,” Chris answered, “if this world is facing an invasion.”
“I don’t think so,” said Vin.
“What makes you say that?”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, Nathan, but it seems ta me it would take four months or more in this climate for the corpse to disintegrate to this degree.”
Nathan knelt near the exposed skull. “I agree.”
Receiving the confirmation he needed, Vin continued, “If a system lord was plannin’ an invasion it would’ve been launched by now. We would’ve been captured the minute we walked through the ‘gate.”
“Gawain,” Josiah addressed the villager, “you said five months ago everything changed.”
“Months?” A puzzled frown creased the villager’s smooth forehead.
Hesitating, Josiah substituted, “Cycles?”
“Yes, that is when King Rupert was killed in a terrible accident and Philip became king.”
Instantly realizing what Josiah was implying, Chris ordered, “Nathan, check the pouch.”
With a look of distaste on his face, Nathan pulled rubber gloves from his bag. Brushing aside the protective shield covering the corpse’s stomach, he gingerly slid his hand into the X incision. Shaking his head, he pulled free and climbed to his feet. “It’s empty.”
“One time, when I was talking to Teal’c,” Josiah said, “he told me how important it was to extract the symbiot when it matures. Leaving it in the pouch too long could alter his body chemistry drastically enough to cause him to go insane.”
“If a Jaffa was on a planet,” theorized Chris, “without hosts--”
“Or a host this Goa’uld deemed unsuitable,” Ezra added.
“Then he might look elsewhere for one with more power,” finished Chris.
Gawain’s attention focused on each man as he provided his theory. “What are you saying?”
“Philip’s actions are not his own,” supplied Josiah. “There’s a parasite inside him causing the changes you’ve noticed.”
“How do we get this parasite out?”
Surprised that Gawain accepted their explanation so readily, Chris also knew they didn’t have the time to sugar-coat the truth. “The only way to stop him, is to kill him.”
“Kill our king?” Gawain stared aghast at the SG-7 leader.
“Either that, or be prepared for the violence to escalate.”
“The Goa’uld are not nice,” Josiah simply stated.
“B-but--” Gawain stuttered.
“Look,” interrupted Chris, “I’m sorry this happened to your king, but right now we have two of our own people to find.”
Chris knew he sounded heartless, but he had a job to do. After they rescued O’Neill and Jackson, he would consider the villagers’ dilemma. SG-1 was his top priority at this moment in time.
Buck gently patted the mound of dirt with his hands. Because he knew where to look the claymores he had planted were clearly visible. He was confident their presence would remain undetected by the enemy…until the explosives blew up under their feet.
A cautious glance over the rim of the depression showed nothing to the naked eye. Retrieving the binoculars from his pack, he searched in each direction allowing his gaze to linger along the track where his team disappeared. He hated being left behind, even though he understood the importance of securing the Stargate. He just hoped his friends wouldn’t run into trouble requiring his or JD’s expertise. Buck didn’t envy Chris’ position. One wrong decision could lead to the deaths of his team as well as the one they had been sent to rescue.
Confident he had done all he could to secure the area, Buck scooted down the hill to rejoin JD. A quick check of his watch showed him it was almost time for Chris to check in.
Though Buck knew JD was bored, and disappointment that he had been left behind, the kid hadn’t allowed his feelings to interfere with his duty. “How’s it going?”
“I think we should’ve brought that weed whacker,” grumbled JD, tearing at the vegetation smothering the DHD.
“I’ll send your request to the general when we contact him.”
The radio on Buck’s shoulder crackled. Keying it open, he professionally answered, “Charlie two, here.”
“This is Charlie one,” Chris’ voice echoed from the small box. “Report.”
“Gate is secure. No sign of hostiles.”
“Stay alert, Vin found the corpse of a Jaffa. Its symbiot was gone.”
Stiffening at the news, Buck brought his rifle to bear and carefully searched the area. He was pleased to see JD doing the same. When Chris had first recruited Dunne, Buck had his doubts concerning the young science geek just out of the Air Force Academy. He had never been prouder then when JD had shown his abilities as a warrior equaled those of his IQ.
“We believe the Jaffa was alone,” Chris continued. “But stay on your toes.”
“Always do,” assured Buck.
“We found the castle. I’ll contact you again before we go in.”
“Roger,” Buck acknowledged, dropping his hand from the radio.
A Jaffa! Though nothing in the preliminary reports he’d heard had led Buck to believe they would encounter the Goa’uld, he wasn’t surprised. Parasites had a way of infiltrating even the most secure areas, and this planet could hardly be termed secure.
“JD, you got the home address figured out?”
“Yeah.” JD pointed to a symbol near the top of the DHD. “This is the place of origin.”
Buck carefully studied the indicated glyph before familiarizing himself with the position of the other six he would need to dial Earth. More often than not, their missions required a quick getaway.
He was mentally dialing home for a third time when the Stargate activated. Motioning JD to take a position behind the ‘gate, Buck knelt near the DHD carefully watching as the seven glyphs lit up. He relaxed slightly when he recognized the address.
The wave had barely retracted when General Hammond’s voice came across the MALP’s loud speaker. “SG-7, report.”
“Major Wilmington here, sir.” Buck crossed to where the camera would pick up his image and transmit it through the wormhole back to Earth. “Colonel Larabee just reported in. They located the castle. They also found the body of a Jaffa, minus its symbiot.”
“Do you require reinforcements?”
“Negative, sir, not at this time.”
“Dr. Fraiser has released Teal’c for active duty. He has requested permission to join you.”
Buck’s mouth formed the words to deny the request, until he realized how he would feel if it were his teammates who were missing. “Let him come, sir. I’m sure we could use his expertise.”
As he waited for the large alien to exit the wormhole, Buck didn’t regret his decision. He knew Teal’c would respect the chain of command. However, like Buck, he would do whatever was necessary to save his friends. Since they both had the same agenda, Buck didn’t think there would be a problem melding the Jaffa withSG-7, as long as it was only temporary.
Hidden in the dense shadows of a tree, Chris studied the castle. It did indeed have a moat. It also had a single-gated entrance, and a large number of armed guards. Frustrated, he took off his cap and ran his fingers through his hair. “Gawain, are you sure this is the only way in?”
The villager nervously nodded, taking several steps away from the glaring leader.
“Dial it down, Larabee,” Vin advised. “It’s not Gawain’s fault.”
Embarrassed, Chris switched his gaze back to the seemingly impenetrable fortress. “Anyone got any ideas?”
“One thing we’ve learned about the Goa’uld,” offered Josiah, “is they plan ahead.”
“Including mapping escape routes,” Ezra said, with a broad grin.
Frustrated that the two men had obviously thought of something he hadn’t, Chris prompted, “So?”
“One of the first things our predictable young Goa’uld would have done is add a secret tunnel leading out of the castle,” said Josiah.
Chris thoughtfully studied the massive structure. “Even if he did, it could take us months to find the opening.”
“Not,” Ezra contradicted,” if we concentrate our search on the southeast side of the compound. It would be the most direct route to the Stargate.”
Vin added, The tunnel has ta be fairly recent. New growth should make it easy ta find.”
“For a mole, maybe,” grumbled Ezra.
Easily falling into position as they cautiously skirted the medieval structure, Chris pressed the button on his radio. “Charlie One to Charlie Two.”
“Go ahead, Chris.” Buck immediately replied.
“There’s only one obvious way into the castle, and it’s heavily guarded. However, we think the Goa’ld might have dug a getaway tunnel. We’re going to look for it.”
“Roger.” Buck added. “Dr. Fraiser released Teal’c for duty. “He came through a couple minutes ago, and would like to join you.”
“Negative,” said Chris, knowing it would take the Jaffa too long to cover the ten miles separating them. ”Tell him to wait there with you.”
“Roger. Keep us posted.”
Despite the voice screaming in his head to stay awake, Jack felt his eyelids slowly creep down. His head dipped forward until his chin touched his chest. His body was giving in to his exhaustion and pain. In every fiber of his being, he knew to surrender was to die. Maybe, if there had been one sign Daniel was alive, he would have an incentive to fight. Alone, hurting, Jack could find no reason to continue his suffering.
A roar from across his cell brought his head up so fast it snapped against the wall behind him. Moaning lightly at this new pain he had inflicted on himself, Jack saw a blur diving down on him. Instinct and self-preservation brought him scrambling to his feet, he side-stepped and ducked. A massive arm brushed over his head as momentum smashed the charging man into the space Jack had just vacated.
The agony of his broken arm robbing him of his usual agility, Jack stumbled back against the bars of his cell. The icy cold penetrated his jacket, bringing him back from the black void threatening to engulf him. His head throbbing until he thought his eyes would explode, he saw Barney climb to his feet. The small victory had cost Jack dearly. His mind ordered him to move, but his body could not obey.
Barney rushed across, slamming Jack against the bars and driving every breath from his lungs. Hands wrapped around his neck. Jack brought his good arm up, trying to reach his opponent’s vulnerable Adam’s apple. Distance and his own weakness prevented him from striking an effective blow. What little pain he was able to inflict only made Barney madder.
A gray veil over his eyes, empty lungs burning, Jack knew he had run out of time. A loud bang echoed around the chamber threatening to deafen him. Blood splattered on his face from the hole that had appeared in Barney’s forehead. Jack barely had time to admire the location of the shot, when the hands around his neck dropped away, leaving him without support. He fell, his landing only partially cushioned by the body of his assailant.
“Good shot, Vin.”
Jack silently cheered, and cursed as he recognized Chris Larabee’s voice. Why couldn’t some other team have been in trouble requiring SG-7’s assistance? He would rather have been rescued by Makepeace and his marines.
“Ezra, can you pick these locks?”
Hearing Standish working on the door to his cell, Jack croaked, “No, Daniel first.”
“Don’t worry, Jack, we’ll get you both out.”
Dazed, Jack saw the door to his cell swing open. Larabee and Nathan Jackson rushed in as Standish turned his talents on Daniel’s cell door.
“Where are you hurt, Colonel?” Nathan demanded.
“It would be easier to tell you where it doesn’t hurt,” moaned Jack. Ignoring the hands probing painfully at his ribs, he watched as Ezra and Josiah Sanchez pulled Fred off Daniel. Jack steeled his emotions, waiting to hear the words that had been echoing in his head – Daniel’s dead.
“Nathan,” Josiah called, “you better get over here. Dr. Jackson is in a bad way.”
Shocked, Jack gasped, “Go.”
“Chris.” Vin’s quiet command drew his superior’s attention.
Jack followed Larabee’s gaze to where Vin Tanner was guarding the stairs leading into the dungeon.
“We’re about to have company,” warned Tanner.
“Nathan, we gotta go,” Chris ordered.
Feeling hands trying to tug him to his feet, Jack offered what little assistance he could. Leaning heavily on Larabee, he stumbled to the entrance of his cell.
“If we move Dr. Jackson, we could kill him,” protested Nathan.
“And if we don’t, we’re all dead.” The look on Chris’s face didn’t match his harsh words. “Josiah, can you carry Daniel?”
Sanchez’s answer was to gather Daniel in his arms. With Ezra’s help, he regained his feet and exited the cell.
As a disgruntled Nathan crossed to his side to offer additional aid, Jack assured the healer, “Daniel wouldn’t want anyone getting hurt to save him.”
“Ezra,” Chris ordered, “lead the way, Vin, cover our six.”
For once, Jack was grateful for Larabee’s pragmatism. Their first priority was to escape. Injuries had to be put on hold – even if they were life threatening. At least no one would get left behind.
The radio’s silence playing on his nerves, Buck paced in front of the Stargate. It seemed like hours since Chris had contacted him to say they had found the Goa’uld’s tunnel and were using it to enter the castle grounds.
A check of his watch showed Buck it had been less than forty minutes since the call. This information didn’t relieve his mind. Even knowing an operation of this type would be expected to take over an hour didn’t help. There were times when being shot at was easier than waiting in relative safety.
“Such unnecessary activity will not benefit your team,” Teal’c observed.
“Maybe not,” growled Buck,” but it benefits me.”
Teal’c bowed his head. “Then, you should continue.”
Wishing he could come up with a snappy retort, Buck made a decision. “I’m going to the edge of the forest. I’ll be closer if Chris and the others need help. JD, you and Teal’c--”
“I am going with you.” Teal’c raised his staff weapon.
“Somebody needs to secure the ‘gate.”
“Lieutenant Dunne is capable of doing so. According to your report to General Hammond, there has been no activity since your arrival.”
“What about the Jaffa Vin found?”
“It appears he arrived here alone, months ago.”
While Buck knew Teal’c’s expertise could be invaluable, he was loath to leave JD on his own. There were times when he wished he could split himself in half.
“Buck, go,” urged JD. “I’ll secure the Stargate. There’s plenty of cover if anyone comes through.”
Since this was the course of action they would have to take if there was one of them or three. Buck finally agreed. “Call if you need backup. We won’t be far.”
“I know what to do,” JD said. “This isn’t my first mission.”
“All right, old-timer,” Buck teased, “check-in every fifteen minutes.”
“Buck,” protested JD.
“One more word and I’ll make it ten.”
JD’s mouth opened before quickly closing. When it came to their job, Buck never fooled around. It was clear JD knew the threat was not an empty one.
“Talk to you in fifteen,” JD conceded.
“Let’s go, Teal’c.”
Buck trotted up the side of the ‘bowl’. The adrenaline pumping through his veins was doing more for his nerves than anything else could have – except for receiving a call from Chris.
Jack kept looking back, hoping to see Chris and Vin catching up with them. Tanner had covered their six while they made their getaway from the tunnel. However, they hadn’t gotten far when the noise and activity behind them made it clear their absence had been discovered. The sounds of pursuit plagued them until they were deep in the forest.
When Vin failed to rendezvous with them in a reasonable amount of time, Chris had chosen to go back for their missing teammate, while the remainder of SG-7 proceeded to the Stargate – no matter how ardently Jack continued to protest.
“Colonel O’Neill,” Nathan chastised, “we could move faster if you would stop looking back.”
“Something’s wrong, they should’ve caught up with us by now, considering we’re going only slightly faster than a turtle.”
From his new position guarding their backs, Ezra succinctly stated, “We know.”
“You have to go back for them,” Jack insisted.
Gently shifting the weight in his arms, Josiah said, “What we have to do is get you and Dr. Jackson to the Stargate.”
“Leave us here,” Jack suggested. “You can pick us up after you’ve found Larabee and Tanner.”
A rueful smile on his lips, Nathan shook his head. “If we did that our lives wouldn’t be worth the proverbial plug nickel.”
“Colloquially expressed, but quite accurate, Mr. Jackson,” observed Ezra.
“I out-rank, Larabee,” Jack reminded them. “I could order you to leave us.”
“Colonel O’Neill,” said Ezra, “the worst you could do is court-martial us. What Colonel Larabee would do is too frightening to contemplate.”
Curious despite himself, Jack asked, “What would he do?”
“I shudder to think.”
“Ezra,” Josiah whispered, concealing his bulk behind a tree, “someone’s coming from the direction of the Stargate.”
Jack allowed Nathan to ease him under a thick bush as Ezra quickly shifted to the point position, his P-90 leveled.
Almost immediately the southerner relaxed, raising his weapon so it pointed at the sky. “It’s Buck and Teal’c.”
Grateful he would finally have an ally, Jack greeted, “Teal’c.”
“It is good to see you, O’Neill,” returned Teal’c. “Is Daniel Jackson badly wounded?”
“He’s taken a helluva beating,” said Jack. “But Nathan thinks he’ll be all right once he gets medical attention.”
“Then we must see that he does so immediately.”
Jack opened his mouth to explain the situation but was unable to get a word out before Buck’s concerned voice echoed in place of his own.
“Where are Chris and Vin?”
“Vin was covering our six,” Josiah explained. “When he didn’t catch up with us, Chris went looking for him.”
Taking command, Buck ordered, ”Josiah, you and Teal’c get Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson back to the Stargate. The rest of us will find Chris and Vin.”
“Major.” When Jack saw the concern on Wilmington’s face, he swallowed his anger at the precipitous decree. However, he decided to make one amendment he was certain would help all of them survive. “Standish can help me. Take Teal’c with you.”
Biting his lip, Buck finally nodded, “Yes, sir. Josiah, you, and Ezra stay and help JD guard the gate. If we haven’t contacted you in two hours go through and tell General Hammond to erase this address from the computer. No one is to attempt a rescue. Is that clear?”
Josiah reluctantly nodded.
Though he wouldn’t do so out-loud, Jack had to admit Larabee’s team was well trained. As he watched Wilmington, Jackson, and Teal’c move out, Jack had to fight the urge to follow them. Though Standish would be instrumental in preventing him from doing so, it was his own body that was the real traitor. He knew he would be lucky to be standing on his own two feet by the time they reached the Stargate. His presence would be a hindrance on any rescue attempt – not a help. Part of being a good leader was knowing when to let someone else take charge. Now was a good time to show he had earned his rank.
The castle guards made so much noise, Chris had no trouble avoiding them. He knew he should terminate his search. There were only three reasons why Vin would have missed the rendezvous: he had been captured, he was wounded, or he was dead. There was nothing Chris could do if it was the latter, but there was plenty he could do if either of the other two conditions existed.
Pressed against a tree, he tried to get his bearings. Unwilling to endanger the civilian any further, they had sent Gawain back to the village before they entered the tunnel. Now, Chris wished they hadn’t. Gawain knew this forest, he might have known where Vin was hiding.
Hearing two guards crashing through the brush, and certain they were headed straight for him, Chris stealthily shifted to his right. There was an abundance of heavy bushes offering a more secure hideaway. They would offer him a refuge while he figured out what his next move should be. If he kept running around without a plan, he was certain to stumble across a patrol.
As he crawled through a narrow break in the hedge, Chris knew they could never venture this close to the castle again. Hammond would never authorize a mission to save one man they all knew would have returned to the Stargate if he was able. But Chris also knew he couldn’t live with the uncertainty. He had to know what had happened to Vin, even if it cost him his life.
A branch scratched Chris’ cheek as he emerged into a small open area. He halted all forward motion when the barrel of a P-90 was struck in his face. His initial relief at finding his friend quickly turned to fear when he saw an arrow protruding from Vin’s left side.
Barely able to suppress a gasp of horror that would reveal their position, Chris examined the wound. He knew the anatomy well enough to realize the arrowhead was uncomfortably close to Vin’s heart. He also knew better than to remove it. There was little blood, telling Chris the tip was plugging its own hole. Treatment would have to wait until they returned to the SGC. The main goal was to get Vin where he could get the help he needed. Moving him would not only be painful, it would be dangerous. If the arrow shifted it could kill him.
Chris’ eyes met Vin’s for the first time since his arrival. He read the blue orbs as easily as he read a book. Move, and Vin’s chances of making it to the Stargate were slim to none. Stay put, and they were sure to be discovered by the palace guards eventually. Judging by the condition they had found Jackson and O’Neill, the latter tactic was tantamount to a death sentence. Now Chris knew how Jack felt when they had been forced to take Daniel from his cell without administering medical treatment. But Chris was as certain of Vin’s wishes as O’Neill had been of Jackson’s. Vin would take that one chance in a million rather than no chance at all, even if death didn’t come easily.
Unable to carry Vin and both their weapons, Chris pulled the magazine from his gun and pocketed it. Quietly taking the rifle apart as though he was going to clean it, he broke the firing pin, burying it and several other key components he scattered the rest. If the weapon was discovered, he hoped it would be impossible to reverse engineer.
Gently taking Vin’s rifle from his shaking hands, Chris threw the strap over his right shoulder as he offered the left to his friend. Even without Ezra there to tell him, Chris knew the odds of Vin making it home alive were slim to none. However, one thing Vin had always been good at was bucking the odds. There was one certainty, having seen how the Goa’uld treated its prisoners; Chris vowed they would not be taken alive – even if he had to shoot Vin himself.
Buck gestured with his hands, indicating Nathan and Teal’c should take cover. This was the third time in less than fifteen minutes they had been forced to hide or chance detention. While their search pattern was less than efficient there were enough guards to make that point mute. It was only a matter of time before they were detected, and while crossbows were no match for P-90’s, in the right hands, both weapons could be equally deadly. Even so, it would end in slaughter for their opponents. This was not something Buck wanted to contemplate, nor was it a course of action Chris or Vin would condone. Reluctantly, Buck realized they would have to abort the mission, and let Chris and Vin reach the Stargate on their own – or not – whichever the case might be.
When the guards moved off, Buck abandoned his shelter knowing they might only have minutes. As he turned to address Nathan and Teal’c, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Dropping to one knee, Buck swung his weapon up to his shoulder and sighted his target. Equal measures of exasperation and relief filled him when he saw it was Chris and Vin. Both emotions were swamped by fear when he saw the arrow protruding from Vin’s side.
Teal’c rushed past Buck, his passage barely stirring the air. Amazed by the huge alien’s speed and quietness, Buck remained in his defensive position, regaining his feet only after Teal’c walked by him with Vin cradled in his arms. Unable to verbally acknowledge his relief, Buck let his eyes do his talking as they met Chris’. It was obvious Vin was badly injured, but at least Buck wasn’t being forced to abandon his friends – a far worse fate in his eyes.
They were nearly to the edge of the forest before Chris deemed it safe to stop their headlong flight. Buck was surprised their leader had been able to wait this long.
“Teal’c, hold up,” Chris ordered. “Nathan, see if there’s anything you can do for Vin.”
His back to the proceedings as his eyes continually scanned the area, Buck asked, “What happened, Chris?”
“I don’t know.” There was a note of suppressed anger in Larabee’s voice. “Vin hasn’t said a word since I found him.”
Buck wasn’t sure if Vin was physically unable to respond or if circumstances had warranted complete silence since the two men hooked up. Either way, it really didn’t matter.
“Nathan, how is he?” Chris demanded.
“The arrow punctured Vin’s heart.”
Wincing, Buck felt the bile rise in his throat. He just couldn’t accept that Vin was dead.
“There’s nothing I can do for him here,” continued Nathan. “Once we get him back to the SGC, I think he has a good chance.”
His eyes straying from their vigilance, Buck stared in shock, first at the pale form of his injured friend, then at Nathan. “Nate, you said the arrow is in his heart, right?”
“Yes,” Jackson confirmed.
“How is he still alive?”
“The heart is a lot more resilient than most people think.”
To Buck’s surprise, Nathan briefly smiled.
His own voice filled with incredulity, Chris said, “So Vin’s going to be all right?”
“I didn’t say that,” cautioned Nathan. “It all depends on where the arrow pierced the heart and how much damage was done.”
“Let’s ride,” ordered Chris.
Though it was a small consolation, Buck was glad that if Vin died, he would do so among friends.
Jack rested his head against a pillow, absently watching as a doctor encased his broken arm in plaster. He had been informed it was a bad break that might eventually require surgery. They – Jack assumed the physician meant the proverbial medical collective – would have to keep a close eye on it. Jack barely acknowledged the admonishment. His eyes never left the curtained-off bed where Frasier was working on Daniel.
It worried Jack that his friend had yet to regain consciousness. It made the pain from his injuries an intrusion to be ignored. Besides the arm, he had been informed he had two broken and three cracked ribs, a mild concussion, and numerous bruises and contusions across his shoulders and torso. Jack only knew that despite some pretty strong painkillers, he hurt. He wouldn’t allow the doctor to use anything more powerful until he knew how badly Daniel was hurt, and learned the status of Larrabee’s team.
The alarms sounded, indicating the Stargate had been activated. Jack sat up, intending to see for himself if SG-7, and Teal’c were returning.
“Colonel,” Dr. Warner protested.
Frustrated, Jack laid back on his pillow. He would have to wait – something he had never been very good at.
The passing minutes were interminable. Jack wasn’t sure what he wanted to happen first: to receive news concerning Daniel’s condition, confirmation that SG-7 had returned, or the doctor finishing his cast so he could have mobility to confirm these things for himself.
He didn’t care if he was supposed to stay in bed. One advantage to being a colonel was the ability to do what he wanted.
The doctor patted his arm. “All done, Colonel.”
These were the words Jack had been longing to hear. Carefully sitting up, he threw back his blankets. The pain that coursed along bruised muscles, and broken bones wasn’t as bad as he had expected. Knowing it was due to the drugs he had been given, he swore he wouldn’t miss any of his scheduled medications.
“Colonel, I’ve finished the cast,” Warner admonished. “It doesn’t mean you’re well enough to run around the base.”
“Not going to run around the base, just to the control room.” Jack grunted as he swung his legs off the bed.
“O’Neill.” A deep familiar voice greeted him.
Jack’s head swiveled to bring Teal’c into view. He regretted the movement when his head started to spin and his vision blurred. All too familiar with the effects of a concussion, he ignored his discomfort. “Teal’c, did you find Larabee and Tanner?”
While Jack often became irritated with Daniel for being overly verbose, Teal’c’s tendency to be epigrammatic could be equally as annoying. “And? So? Are they all right?”
“Colonel Larabee is well.”
Afraid to hear the answer, but needing to know the truth, Jack asked, “And Tanner?”
“He took an arrow to the heart.”
Jack closed his eyes to hide this new pain. He considered himself lucky. While he had lost friends in the fight against the Goa’uld, he hadn’t lost a member of his team. With Tanner’s death, Chris had lost both. “Where’s Larabee?”
“In the viewing room overlooking operating room three.”
“Who was hurt?”
“Only Lieutenant Tanner was injured.”
“You mean he’s alive?”
“There would be no need to operate if he was not.”
Fighting the urge to smack his friend, Jack held out his good arm. “Help me up.”
“Colonel O’Neill,” protested Warner.
“I promise, I’ll only walk down the hall.” If Teal’c hadn’t been griping it, Jack would have raised his arm to enforce his pledge. Not that it really mattered, he outranked the physician. Nothing was going to stop him from going to Larabee’s side. He might not always see eye to eye with his fellow officer, but that didn’t matter in this kind of situation. If things were reversed, and it was Daniel on that table, Jack would appreciate all the encouragement he could get.
Teal’c continued to assist him on the short walk to the viewing room. Jack wished he could shake him off, but he was afraid he would end up flat on his face if he did. His body didn’t have room for any more bruises.
When they entered the viewing room, Jack wasn’t surprised to find the other six members of SG-7 scattered around the narrow area. All the SG teams tended to close ranks around their own due to the whole life and death thing. What was amazing about SG-7 was there were seven of them, seven different personalities and beliefs. Jack had advised Hammond to refuse Larabee’s request to make additions to his team. The job they did was dangerous, requiring complete confidence each other. Jack hadn’t thought that was possible between more than four people. He was glad SG-7 had proven him wrong – though he would never admit it to Larabee.
“Colonel O’Neill, glad to see you’re all right, sir.” Buck rose from his seat next to his team leader, and offered it to O’Neill.
Wishing he could refuse Wilmington’s sacrifice, Jack realized he better sit before he fell down, something he knew Larabee would never let him live down. “Thank you, Major.”
“How is Dr. Jackson?” Josiah asked.
“He has a concussion,” revealed Jack, “along with broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and severe bruising. Dr. Frasier thinks he’ll be all right.”
“If you want to return to the infirmary, we’ll keep you updated concerning Vin’s progress,” suggested Nathan.
Though the proposition was tempting, one look at Larabee’s face told Jack where he was most needed. Since they wouldn’t allow him to sit with Daniel, he might as well be here where his presence might be appreciated. Though, Jack suspected Larabee was unaware there was anyone else in the room. That would all change if Tanner’s operation took a turn for the worse.
Chris listened to the machines surrounding Vin’s bed hiss and whirl. He knew the pattern of each sound. One missed beat and he would be out of his chair, seeking a doctor. They had tried to tell him Vin would be fine. The machines were only there to aid in his healing. But it was still difficult for Chris to believe someone could take an arrow to the heart and not only survive, but be in stable condition only hours after surgery.
The encouraging prognosis had allowed Chris to send the rest of the team to their homes. They had obeyed, under protest. Chris just wished he had the authority to force Jack O’Neill back to his bed. His face so pale he looked half-dead, O’Neill sat in another chair next to another bed, keeping his own vigil. Chris didn’t blame him. Daniel was as important to O’Neill as Vin was to Chris. Once again, Jackson had survived certain death. Chris hoped the man was part cat. Though, even nine lives didn’t seem enough considering the archeologist’s track record.
Chris had been aware of O’Neill’s presence at his side during Vin’s operation. But he had been unable to acknowledge the support. There were so many ways he and his fellow colonel were alike. Others would dispute it, pointing out that Jack was quick with a witty remark, while Chris rarely spoke. But these were minor differences. There were other far more important attributes linking the two men, most notably, their tragic pasts. They had both lost young sons. And, while Chris had also lost his wife to death, Jack had lost his to grief.
One way they varied greatly was how they had responded to their respective tragedies.
O’Neill had actively considered suicide. Chris hadn’t contemplated putting a gun in his mouth, he had simply stopped caring whether he lived or died. He had volunteered for every dangerous mission that came his way. It was remarkable they had both found salvation in a job where they courted the very danger they had once sought. Only now, they fought to survive, because they had forged new families in the form of their teammates.
“Whaddya thinkin’ . . . about?”
Relief at hearing the familiar voice leaving him momentarily speechless, Chris stared at his friend’s pale face. As close as they were, he knew he couldn’t tell Vin the truth. To do so would be exposing O’Neill’s vulnerability as well as his own. “I was wondering why you decided to stand in front of a man with a crossbow.”
“Didn’t . . . lucky shot.” Vin breathily revealed.
Curious, Chris asked, “How so?”
“I was . . . hidin’ in a bush. Bastard tripped . . . accidentally fired his . . . bow.”
“What did he trip on?”
“Not on, over.”
Wondering if Vin was being deliberately vague, Chris snapped, “Could you be a little clearer?”
“He tripped over . . . his own feet.”
Astonished, Chris clarified, “You got taken out by a clumsy oaf?”
“I can’t wait to tell the others.”
“You do . . . and I’ll tell them how you got lost . . . looking for me.”
“How did you- -” Chris trailed off as he sheepishly shook his head. “You didn’t until I just told you?”
Vin merely smiled.
Grabbing Vin’s forearm, Chris pledged, “Your secret’s safe with me.”
“As is yours,” said Vin. Changing the subject, he asked, “How’re Dr. Jackson and . . . Colonel O’Neill?”
“In better shape than you.”
This was one sentiment Chris couldn’t agree with, but he knew better than to voice such an opinion. It was their job to rescue the other teams. The death of even one person meant they had failed. The one thing all the members of SG-7 had in common was the conviction that failure wasn’t an option.
Noticing Vin was fighting to stay awake, and knowing it was for his benefit, Chris rose from his chair. “I’m gonna go get some shut-eye. Why don’t you do the same, Cowboy?”
“Kinda . . . tired,” Vin admitted, his eyes already closing.
Chris only made it as far as the door before Vin fell asleep. As soon as he knew his friend was out, Chris returned to his vigil. He knew he would get more rest in the hard, straight-back chair than in the softest bed. It had been too close this time. He wasn’t ready to abandon his post just yet.
When Daniel’s eyes finally opened, Jack didn’t speak right away. He had been through this routine before, so knew what to expect. Daniel would have to reorient himself before he understood a word Jack spoke. Daniel was the first, and Jack hoped, only person he would ever meet who lost his ability to hear on demand.
“Hey,” Daniel finally whispered.
Following his cue, Jack returned, “Hey.”
“You all right?” Daniel’s eyes rested on the casted arm.
“Better than you.”
“That’s not saying much.” A frown wrinkling his brow, Daniel asked, “Sam? Teal’c?”
“Also better than you, they managed to evade the guards and make it back to the SGC.”
Daniel groaned. “And they sent out a rescue team?”
Knowing Daniel wasn’t asking a question, but seeking confirmation, Jack simply nodded.
“Damn,” Daniel softly swore. “Now I’m going to have to put with Josiah’s smile.”
Puzzled, Jack clarified, “Sanchez’s smile bothers you?”
“It can be so condescending.”
“Well,” said Jack, groaning softly as he shifted in the hard plastic chair, “I’ll take his smile to Larabee’s smirk.”
“You have a point.” Daniel frowned. “At least, he has no reason to glare at us.”
Jack hated to burst Daniel’s bubble, but he would prefer to deal with an upset Daniel now, than an angry one later. “Yes, he can. Tanner got hurt.”
“Took an arrow to the heart.”
“And he’s still alive!”
There was a shocked note in Daniel’s voice rather than a questioning tone, which meant he already knew Tanner hadn’t died from his wound. “How did you know Tanner’s still alive?”
“You’re not dead,” said Daniel.
“Larabee wouldn’t kill a superior officer.” As Jack rethought his statement, he found himself speaking in unison with Daniel.
“Yes he would.”
“Chris is even more protective of his team than you are, Jack,” Daniel observed. “Which, I wouldn’t have thought possible.”
“It’s a helluva thing when you have to be as worried about a fellow officer as you are the enemy.”
“Guess we better stop getting into trouble.”
“Yeah,” Jack snorted, “like that’s going to happen with you around. Next time we see a castle with a moat and guards, and I say let’s go back to the Stargate, listen to me, huh?”
The conversation obviously tiring him, Daniel quietly agreed, “Yes, Jack.”
Daniel might agree now, but Jack knew the next time they encountered a castle, Daniel would forget his promise. They would probably get captured, again, and SG-7 would have to rescue them – again. When he saw Josiah Sanchez, Jack decided he would encourage the archeologist to smile at Daniel more often. Somehow, Jack vowed, he would save Daniel from himself.
Though he would never wish any of his teammates ill, Buck was quick to take advantage of their misfortune. Visiting them in the infirmary gave him a good excuse to be there. And, if a pretty nurse just happened to cross his path, he wouldn’t let the opportunity to make a new acquaintance pass him by. So, when he entered the room Vin now shared with Daniel Jackson due to an influx of injuries, Buck was disappointed to find the small space overflowing with not only his own team, but SG-1. Nothing cramped his style more than a crowd, especially when two of those present were arguing.
“Jack,” said Daniel, “Vin tells me there was a Goa’uld inside the king.”
“Daniel,” Jack attempted to interrupt.
“We have to go back--”
Nearly breathless, Daniel countered, “That Goa’uld has made slaves of those villagers--’
“We have to save them--”
“They don’t know what they’re up against--”
“Jackson,” said Chris.
Larabee’s voice was no louder than O’Neill’s , but it came as no surprise to Buck that it was more affective. Daniel’s open mouth, clearly indicating his intention to continue his argument, closed without another word escaping.
“Jack has been trying to tell you,” Chris explained, “that SG-9 and16, are on 7701 as we speak. They’ve already informed them about the Goa’uld, and King Philip has been dispatched.”
Buck wondered why Chris hadn’t simply stated that Philip had been killed by his own guards after they had been convinced the man they were protecting wasn’t really one of their own, but a parasite. A single Goa’uld without an army wasn’t a match for even the simplest of weapons.
“After learning about democracy,” Josiah took up the explanation, “they decided to elect their next king by popular vote.”
Ezra finished, “Gawain, a villager we encountered who was instrumental in your rescue was appointed to the position.”
“Gawain,” whispered Daniel, “was purported to be one of King Arthur’s knights. He--”
His eyes glazing over, Jack interrupted, “Once the SG teams return to Earth, Gawain has decided to bury the ‘gate to prevent any further accidents.”
“It appears the villagers have chosen a wisely,” observed Teal’c.
“So, Daniel,” Jack said, patting his friend’s arm, “there’s nothing for you to worry about except getting better.”
“Take your time,” said Buck. Noting the indignant look on O’Neill’s face, Wilmington quickly put up his hands in defense. “With SG-1 on medical leave, SG-7 might get some down time.”
His hands shuffling a deck of cards, Ezra shook his head. “I wouldn’t count on it.”
Eyeing the pretty nurse who was trying to make her way to Vin’s side, Buck unhappily sighed. Ezra was right, if SG-1 didn’t go off-world looking for trouble, trouble would come to Earth looking for SG-1. It was almost a certainty.