TITLE: Don't Even Breathe

AUTHOR: Pheral

E-MAIL: kamilshka@hotmail.com

STORY STATUS: Completed

SEQUEL/SERIES INFO: N/A

SEASON: 5

SPOILERS: None

CATEGORIES: Hurt/Comfort, Drama.

PAIRINGS: None

Content Level: 13+

CONTENT WARNINGS: Much Jack vumpeeng.

SUMMARY: A co-operative and friendly planet have their fair share of problems, and as would be expected Jack gets right in the middle of them.

ARCHIVE PERMISSIONS: ThePointOfOrigin site, Helio, JackFic site.

DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and it’s characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, this story is for fun and I sure as hell didn’t get any money. No copyright infringement is intended and you can’t post this story anywhere else without asking me first damnit! But I’ll probably say yes ‘cos I’m orfully nice. (to everyone except Jack that is)

FILE SIZE: 138KB

AUTHORS NOTE: This was inspired by 2010 (okay - I stole the idea completely, happy?), or at least a little bit of it was. Thanks to Ruth for the beta, hope y'all enjoy this folks.

Don’t Even Breathe

Jack twisted the cup this way and that in his hands, examining every facet of the pottery which was strikingly similar to that of a mug that he had in his own cupboard at home.

So strange, he pondered, that things can be so similar yet so different. Narrow your focus for just a second, to the chairs or the doors, and you could easily believe you were on Earth. Widen your focus, however, and the sky opens up and you realise that we are millions of years away from Earth and everything that I call home. Actually, that's not strictly true, to coin a tacky phrase 'Home is where the heart is' and I guess my heart - or what's left of it - is with SG-1. I guess that's why I'm finding it easy to feel comfortable here, on Tecna, or as Carter would have it - P3X 852.

A voice suddenly cut into his reverie, '…do you not think so Colonel O'Neill?'

Jack looked up to the leader of the opposite delegation who was leaning forward and nodding slightly uncertainly, and he became suddenly acutely aware that all eyes were on him and that they expected a response.

'Oh, of course,' he replied in a confident tone.

That's it Jack my boy, when in doubt just plough on through, God knows what you've just agreed to - 'yes of course you can destroy our planet', 'yes of course you can abduct us for experimentation', any day, go ahead, knock yourself out. I wouldn't be surprised if they were using a tactic on me; boring me to death with Daniel-talk, lulling me into a false sense of security and then posing the big question when I'm not really paying attention in the hope that I'll be stupid enough to 'just say yes'.

What can I do though? I can't exactly say 'could you repeat the question please and indeed the whole discussion because I found it too boring for words and had to entertain myself with some of your delightful crockery.'

I think Letacnian might have sympathised but not so the others, and Daniel would probably have had something to say when we got back to terra-firma too. God knows I want to avoid that.

The leader smiled smugly to his patriots at his answer and Jack saw Carter turn her head slightly and give him an odd look. He shifted his gaze to Daniel and gave him a pleading stare, using his eyes to ask the archaeologist to tell him he hadn't just condemned Earth to a sudden and horrible death. Daniel smiled reassuringly at Jack and turned his attention back to their hosts, he was feeling lenient and found Jack's loss of concentration in the proceedings actually quite familiar and comforting. He felt safe on this planet; negotiations had been going well and had indicated that these aliens harboured nothing but a frank desire to maintain peaceful relations and trades with Earth.

Jack sighed quietly in relief as it became apparent that he had said 'yes' to the right thing, and he fell back in his seat again, his hands still gripping the cup tightly. He let his eyes roam over these potential allies, taking in their pale faces and long, dark hair. Their technology was almost parallel to Earth's - if slightly advanced- and their moral codes and sociological development shared a lot in common too. The mission had taken on a pleasant air - having ascertained that the inhabitants were safe SG-1 had been accepted with growing indulgence, treated well and given more and more privileges as the different races got to know and trust each other. Jack, himself, had formed something of a bond with a man who introduced himself as Letacnian, and was the leading protector of the heads of office on the planet. He was strong and calm, a warrior and evidently skilled, and in him Jack saw a kindred spirit. Carter and Daniel had their own favourites amongst the people and they had all become very comfortable in their new ally's home planet.

Of course, given the way things had been going it was in Jack's nature to presume that something to bound to go wrong pretty soon. His slight concern had manifested itself in distraction, and more recently the examination of crockery rather than paying attention during the meal time discussions. Jack flicked his eyes back to the cup again marvelling that he had one so similar at his house, he couldn't quite get that straight in his head and he was enjoying the small amazing fact, letting it chase away all the difficult decisions that his job demanded of him, all the complicated discoveries and harsh truths. He revelled in the smooth surface and easy pastel shades of a simple, familiar cup. Finishing this indulgence and finding his mind eased some, he returned his attention to the conversation lest the aliens asked him another question.

He lifted his head in time to see an aide whisper into their host's ear quietly. The host, who had introduced himself when they met as Beramiam, but whom Jack chose to refer to as 'Burma', smiled to his guests from earth, 'as you know we have been trying to organise for you to meet the High-Tecnan here, and it seems the time is now convenient. He is on this continent on business and wishes to join us here shortly, to discuss the agreements between our two planets.'

Daniel nodded eagerly, 'and what position does the High-Tecnan hold in your society?'

Beramiam leant forward towards Daniel, 'the High-Tecnan has dominion over several continents on our planet - he looks over hundreds of thousand of people. His word, however, is not law, we have found that giving power to one person alone is a dangerous thing,' he turned his eyes to the table as if he were remembering some deeply shameful transgression passed. O'Neill nodded, grateful not that these people had made mistakes, but that they had learned from them. Beramiam caught his understanding expression and sent the leader of SG-1 a thankful smile, 'I will be happy to explain the details of our governing system to you at a later time, but the High-Tecnan's arrival is imminent. Will you please join me, and perhaps excuse some traditions that may seem pointless to you?'

Carter cast a quick and curious glance at her CO, and seeing him rise she did the same, following him and the rest of the occupants of the meal table into an adjacent room. O'Neill cast his eyes up to the vaulted ceiling in the bright roomy space, pillars leading into a slightly narrower hallway that continued off into the distance.

'What traditions would those be?' he asked airily, ever cautious of alien rituals. Letacnian, who had fallen into step beside O'Neill, fielded his question as they stopped at the edge of the vast space. 'It is a long upheld tradition for the High-Tecnan to walk across this span of space alone before meeting with any delegation. There are similar rooms across all our governed continents. In the past it has symbolised the all-powerful stand of our leader and his freedom from the impurities of the presence of the common people. Things have changed immensely since these times and these values are no long entertained, but the tradition has stuck.'

O'Neill nodded, glad to hear that this tradition had no standing reason in their society any more. He fingered his gun impatiently as he began to make out some movement at the other end of the long, wide corridor. He wore only his gun on his BDU belt, his other weapons had been left in the quarters that SG-1 had been offered. He had stopped wearing his Zat and P90 on their second day on the planet, assured that a show of such firepower was neither necessary nor helpful. Daniel had gone some way to persuading the Colonel to abandon his weapons, but even the archaeologist knew better than to expect O'Neill to go without his sidearm. The Colonel had proved fairly happy to pander to Daniel's wishes and had in fact been planning to leave his heavier weaponry behind anyhow - he felt comfortable on the planet, comfortable enough to limit himself to one gun and four clips. Never let it be said that Colonel O'Neill was ever unprepared.

Jack watched a tall man draw closer to them from afar, flanked closely by a gathering of sturdy looking men, who he presumed to be security. Turning to Letacnian he commented quietly, 'I bet the security aren't too happy about letting your guy walk down that corridor unattended.'

Letacnian smiled slightly, 'on the contrary Colonel, we have defence mechanisms in place in every one of these buildings. They detect the heat from weapons fire and also a certain signature present in many of the dissidents that plague our planet and aim to kill the High-Tecnan.'

'Really?' O'Neill commented quietly, his interest piqued. Letacnian picked up on his tone and turned completely towards him, 'I am sure I will be able to organise a demonstration for you Colonel,' and he smiled happily at O'Neill's eager expression. He found this Earth leader to have a very similar attitude to himself, and enjoyed the man's company.

O'Neill's eyes moved back to the space before them and watched the High-Tecnan walk forward into the open corridor. The men that had flanked him moved about seven metres to the side of the corridor where there were small walk-spaces separated by pillars, by which they could walk along side their leader and rejoin him on the other side of his solitary approach. He walked gracefully towards them, but did not hold himself in a way that repelled O'Neill, he merely looked to have a certain amount of self-respect. He did not look pompous and his face, as it drew nearer, seemed to be kindly. Jack could just make out laughter lines on the man's tanned face, guessing that he was roughly sixty years in age. His red robes flew around him as he quickened his pace, drawing nearer, casting a smile to Beramiam and letting his eyes wander to the SG-1 team that awaited him.

O'Neill's eye contact with the High-Tecnan was broken when he heard a harsh whisper behind him. He turned sharply to see a flustered looking aide pulling hard on Letacnian's clothing and talking quickly into his attentive ear. He saw Letacnian's eyes widen and then he was gone, running at a sprint towards the doorway, leaving the aide behind. O'Neill took a tense step towards the aide and grabbed his arm, 'what is it?'

'Some one has broken into the central system and has been destroying the electronics…a pointless act of vandalism,' the small man explained breathlessly, his expression easing now that he had delivered the news and done his job. Jack nodded and released the man's arm, turning back to the High-Tecnan. The man had got no closer than ten metres when O'Neill's concentration, and that of everyone else, was interrupted again - this time by Letacnian himself. The man ran full pelt back into the room, hollering at the top of his deep voice, 'the security system has been compromised! Get the High-Tecnan out!'

O'Neill wheeled around, turning full circle to Letacnian and then back to the High-Tecnan, watching the man's face turn to confusion and then fear. In that second Jack's eyes were caught by the sleeves of hot red light that were suddenly glowing on the walls of the corridor, increasing in brightness even as Letacnian screamed. 'No! They have been compromised - get him out of there!' The first beam of white-hot light struck out and hit the High-Tecnan right in the head, forcing him to his knees with a shocked yelp. A startled security guard went to run to his leader's aide, but a beam from the device struck him across the shoulders and then the head and he screeched, falling to the ground. Another darted forwards and got further before being hit twice and screaming with pain, falling to the ground and lying still.

Seeing more beams strike the High-Tecnan, O'Neill's training and instincts took over and he spurted into action, charging at the corridor and the fallen leader. He heard Carter shout out behind him but his attention was encompassed by his goal as he sprinted forwards. His feet hit the polished floor of the corridor as he felt the first beam hit him. It burrowed into his stomach with shocking pain, like a concentrated electric shock, but it didn't incapacitate as fully as the Colonel had expected. He sped towards the leader and barrelled into him as further beams shot into his legs and head, filling his senses with red-hot pain. The force of his tackle brought the two men to the ground, but he had done it right and the High-Tecnan flew towards the side of the corridor away from where O'Neill lay sprawled on the floor. As the beams shocked fire into his limbs he staggered to his feet, sure that adrenaline alone would get him to safety.

No sooner had he got to his feet that something kicked into his left hip with amazing force, whipping his feet out from under him as he heard a deafening 'boom'. He hit the hard ground with jarring heaviness, his mouth wide in shock and pain as the white-hot beams encompassed his vision. He half curled on his right side, suddenly aware of a flaring pain on his left hip, burning into his flesh as he tried to prevent himself screaming out.

From their standing point, SG-1 had watched their CO charge towards and tackle the High-Tecnan, brutally shoving him to safety and then rising to rescue himself. Carter had shouted out again as a beam of light hit the Colonel right on his sidearm and they had witnessed the weapon explode with an echoing bang, throwing the Colonel briefly into the air and then onto his back on the ground. Carter felt Teal'c's hand grip her arm as she started forward, and then Letacnian skidded to a halt beside them at the edge of the security system's reach. His desperate face took in the situation and he shouted to O'Neill, 'it is reacting to movement! Don't move! Don't even breathe!'

Somewhere through the pain O'Neill heard the alien's warning and he forced himself to stop moving, even as the beams continued hitting him. Resisting the instinct to react after each burst of pain he gradually stilled himself, curled on his side, and he felt the beams subside. A beam hit his chest and he forced his breathing to an unnatural stillness, trying to calm the panicked heaves that came from shock and pain. His hands were clasped in close to his chest tensely and as the beams stopped altogether he began to suffer completely from the burning pain that wrapped around his left hip and thigh. Rolling his eyes downwards he stared at where his gun had been and where there was now a smouldering patch of BDU and what he could only hope wasn't skin - charred and smoking. He lifted his eyes up and took in the scene, trying to distract himself from the sensations that made him want to writhe on the polished floor. He watched Carter talking hastily to Beramiam, one of her arms still gripped by Teal'c. Daniel was staring right at Jack, his face frozen in shock and deep concern. He caught Jack's gaze, 'Jack?! Stay still Jack, are you okay?' Jack nearly exploded a nasty reply then, but a small voice that reminded himself of his situation managed to turn the anger into a cough. As his chest rose he realised that coughing wasn't much better and the beams attacked again, shooting through his chest. He screwed his eyes tight and concentrated on stilling the repetitive coughs. Finally getting control he opened his eyes to an even more concerned Daniel peering at him and an even more agitated Carter, gesturing wildly. Jack blinked painfully and, controlling his breathing, he shouted tensely, 'turn it off!'

Daniel wheeled round to Carter, the leader and Letacnian. 'What happened?' he enquired with more than an edge of desperation in his voice. Letacnian breathlessly pointed to the exit,

'dissidents have sabotaged the central control system and adapted the security beams to their own purpose - I could not turn it off, please Major Carter, a scientist could be of help.'

The words were no sooner out of his mouth than Carter was nodding and setting off for the exit at a jog with a quick glance towards her CO as she went.

His mind ever with his team, the Colonel called out urgently, 'Teal'c go with her!' and then fell silent again leaving Teal'c to bow his head quickly and set out after the Major. Daniel stood feeling totally and utterly helpless as Tecnans streamed round him towards their fallen leader and wounded security guards. He saw the leader squirm slightly under their ministrations and was satisfied that he was alive. He turned back to Jack, stepping as close to his friend as he dared - some ten metres away - and sank down onto the ground.

He tried not to look at the fallen guard some distance behind Jack, even from here he could see that he was not breathing, he was dead. It only served to remind Daniel what could happen to his friend and he forced his gaze back to Jack. Even from this distance he could hear Jack's quiet curses, his eyes closed and his face taught with pain. Daniel's face screwed up slightly as he watched thin lines of smoke rise from the black charred area on Jack's hip. 'The High-Tecnan is okay Jack, and we're going to shut this thing off real soon, Sam's on it.'

'Well tell her to hurry up,' Jack's cracked voice protested, his eyes not opening, 'I think I'm still cooking here.'

God I'm on fire, next on the menu - tenderised leg-de-Colonel, charred on the outside and bloody on the inside. Here I am being burned to the bone and there's not a darn thing I can do about it except swear at the powers that be! Damn but I knew this mission was too good to be true, when is it ever easy? I should have known that if the people we dealt with didn't screw things up, then someone else would. Damn terrorists, why do they think they have the right? Why do they think they have the right, the universe over, to enforce their opinions through violence? And why do they think that violence will be the thing that makes everyone sympathetic to their cause? Because by God, I'm not gonna be sympathetic when I get my hands on them.

'I know Jack, I know,' Daniel's face creased into distress, almost mirroring his friend's face. Jack's eyes opened at that and his face softened somewhat, 'it's okay Daniel, just turn this thing off,' he remarked, trying to ease the man's worry. Daniel nodded and then turned slightly as he felt Beramiam's presence at his side. The alien looked down the Daniel with distraught eyes, 'I am so sorry that you have been caught in this horrible attack - what your Colonel has done will be remembered for a long time, he has saved the life of the High-Tecnan.'

Jack resisted the temptation to shout, and I'm not dead yet either! But he stifled it, not entirely sure that he had the energy anyhow. Through vision that was peppered with little dancing red dots he saw Daniel nod distractedly at Beramiam. He was grateful that his head rested on the cool marble floor as it went some way towards relieving the throbbing heat in his skull. Now that the shock and pain was lessening slightly he was able to devote real attention to his situation. Compared to the BBQ being held on my hip, these laser beam thingys aren't that bad. Sure they hurt like all get-out, but they don't hurt as much as my leg - so relatively speaking they're not too bad. My position, however, ain't that good - I'm curled up and for the moment it's giving me some relief, but in a while this is going to get uncomfortable and unless Carter took a crash course in alien technologies recently - I think I'm gonna be here a while. What I really want to know is, why the hell weren't the security guards throwing their own hides out here into pain-land to save their almighty High-Pacman?

Through the roaring of his own pulse in his ears, Jack heard Daniel phrase that exact question to Beramiam, but in a slightly more diplomatic guise.

'Beramiam, what went wrong? Why were the security guards not able to pull your leader to safety?' Beramium's eyes instinctively shifted to look at the guards in question, his eyes lingering on the one that lay deathly still some metres behind Jack.

'The security beams were designed to inflict pain, maximum damage and also paralysis, no Tecnan has ever been able to get more than two metres when struck by the weapons. Most die, as you can see,' he paused mournfully, giving Jack's fuzzy mind time to realise that the guard that lay behind him must be dead. He closed his eyes as Beramiam went on, 'your species must react to the devices differently to have enabled your leader to get that far before collapsing. I believe that if his, uh, gun had not exploded he too would have got to safety. Remarkable.'

Something in Jack's mind clicked at the word 'gun' and he opened his eyes, shifting his gaze to Daniel who was sitting cross legged on the floor in front of him, 'Daniel,' he croaked, and then attempted to clear his throat without moving. 'Can't we just shoot these things out?'

Daniel looked up to Beramiam questioningly. The leader had jumped slightly at Jack's voice, and was now staring at the Colonel as if he hadn't expected him to be conscious, 'I fear that even your metal bullets would be picked off by the beams, they are very fast and very sensitive.'

'Gotta have me some of these,' Jack mumbled to himself, and then to Daniel he said, 'give it a go anyway Daniel, worth a try at least.' Daniel nodded and climbed to his feet, fumbling for his gun with hands that were still shaking slightly. He cocked the weapon and took aim at the closest of the red slots of light that glowed in the walls of the corridor. Easing back on the trigger he fired the gun and felt it buck in his hand. A blinding explosion in the middle of the room marked the premature demise of the bullet as a beam struck it mid-flight, and then Daniel's attention was grabbed by Jack's yelp of pain. He looked over to see the last of three beams strike the Colonel in the leg, chest and head. He winced as Jack struggled to stay as still as possible, his eyes closed tight and his harsh voice uttering curses as the beams ceased.

'Not doing that again then,' Daniel stated helplessly, putting his gun back in its holster. 'Sorry,' he called to Jack, uncertain what else he could do but apologise.

'S'okay Daniel,' Jack muttered just loud enough for his friend to hear. 'Go see how Carter and Teal'c are doing, then go to the gate and report to Hammond.'

'Are you sure Jack?' Daniel queried, looking around the room and not feeling to good about leaving Jack alone.

'I'm not going anywhere Daniel, and no-one is getting to me,' Jack smiled tensely, 'I'm about as safe as I could be on an alien planet.' Daniel pursed his lips at the Colonel's flawed humour, still unconvinced. Beramiam saw his uncertainty and spoke up, 'I'll stay here with the Colonel Daniel, so you can report to your planet. I hope, uh, that this will not damage our relations?' Daniel smiled at the man's concern. From anyone else he would have taken such concern as insulting - a lack of care for the Colonel's predicament - but from this man he took it as a compliment, an eagerness to stay friends with Earth.

'We acknowledge that this was not your doing Beramiam, don't worry, we just want to get Jack out of this as soon as possible.' He looked down to Jack and nodded, 'okay Jack, I'll go, Beramiam is staying here and I'll be back real soon.' Jack had to fight hard not to nod at that, it was such a built-in response. Instead he issued a quick, 'yup,' and watched Daniel jog off towards the door that Carter and Teal'c had left through a while ago.

Jack was suddenly acutely aware of the huge space that he was lying in the middle of, vulnerable and hurt and alone. He wrestled his mind away from the tempting self-pity and instead set a pain-fuelled and intense glare on Beramiam. 'So, who are these terrorists?' he asked, hoping against hope that this alien could talk as fast as Danny, because then at least he would have some distraction from the burning pain in his body that was getting worse by the second.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel charged past worried faces and frantic aides rushing to who-knows-where, occasionally pausing to ask directions from a guard. It wasn't hard to describe who his friends were, he had got it down to asking 'where?' and making a circling motion on his forehead to indicate Teal'c tattoo. Colonel Jack 'special-ops' O'Neill would be proud, he thought.

Entering a small corridor he began to cough lightly, detecting the smell of burnt plastic and seeing a faint layer of smoke coating the low ceiling as he ran onwards. He came to a closed door at the end of the corridor and knocked loudly and urgently on the cold metal. The door was flung open and Letacnian greeted him with a somewhat stressed face. 'Ah Daniel, come in,' he rushed the words out and pulled Daniel inside, pointing him to where Carter had her face buried in a wall of blackened electronics and smashed computer screens. Teal'c stood stoically by her side and turned to Daniel as he walked over, 'how is Colonel O'Neill?'

'He could be better Teal'c, but he's holding on. We tried shooting the devices out but that didn't work. How are you guys getting on?' Carter turned from her work with a disheartened expression, 'frankly Daniel, I'm not sure I have a clue what I'm doing. They've called the guy that designed this and he's due anytime. For the moment I'm down a few tools that I could do with, and maybe some help from the SGC.'

'Well Jack told me to check on you guys and then report in the Hammond, so I could ask for anything you need?' Daniel suggested.

'Great, thanks Daniel. Here, I'll write you a list,' she clutched at her BDU's and scrabbled for a pencil and note pad with grubby hands while Daniel peered at the charred remains of the computers, 'they really did a good job huh?'

'They were given too much time, the fault is mine, they may have installed any amount of protected programs in that time,' Letacnian remarked, a crestfallen expression on his strong face. Unwilling yet to say that the alien was completely free from blame, Daniel merely rested a hand briefly on his shoulder as a sign of support.

As Carter found her paper and started to scribble urgently, Teal'c voice rang out in the smoky room, 'can we not utilise some kind of metal shield, move it over O'Neill so that he might be protected and retrieved?'

Daniel shook his head slowly, 'it seems that anything that moves in the security area sets off the beams to not only hit what is moving but also Jack as well, regardless as to whether he's moving or not.'

Carter looked up, 'that's what the bullets did?'

'Yes.'

Carter winced softly at the thought of what her CO was going through, finishing her list and handing it to Daniel. 'There you go Daniel, thanks. Should one of us go sit with the Colonel?' she asked, aware that everyone knew she meant Teal'c. Daniel shook his head, 'Jack ordered Teal'c to stick with you, I think it makes him feel better to know he's with you. Beramiam is with him now and I'll be quick so I can go sit with him again. Just get this thing turned off Sam.' Carter nodded, feeling rather hopeless but unable to voice that to the people that were counting on her. Daniel stuffed the list into his pocket and turned to leave, breaking into a jog as soon as he left the room, and making his way quickly to the Stargate.

The Gate on this planet was in a huge room, set at the back and primarily an ornament seeing as the Tecnans hadn't ever had the need to use it. Daniel threw a nod in the direction of the guard who stood by the ring and hastily started punching in Earth's co-ordinates on the DHD, jamming his hand down on the inner dome. The tense knot in his stomach undid itself as the event horizon exploded to life, throwing blue water outwards and then settling back to a rippling wall. He ignored the startled guard to his right and fingered his walkie-talkie. He had no intention of going back to Earth and leaving Jack alone for longer than was necessary when he could just as easily radio what he needed to through the wormhole. He pressed the right button and talked into it clearly. 'SGC come in, this is Daniel Jackson.' He waited for a few seconds before being rewarded by General Hammond's rough and slightly concerned voice. 'This is General Hammond, what's going on son?'

'We have a problem here General. Dissidents, terrorists if you will, among the Tecnans have sabotaged a security system here and Jack is trapped, and hurt. We need some things from you.' Daniel paused and waited for the reply.

'Alright Doctor Jackson, what do you need?'

-------------------------------------------

Daniel walked briskly back to the security area, having requested equipment and personnel from the SGC. He was glad to inform the General of the situation s it seemed to lift a weight off his own shoulders - shift the sense of responsibility, and he knew that the Doctor was planning to come through the gate too. He knew that he would benefit from that more than Jack, but for that he was still grateful. He was also relieved to get the scientists from the SGC to help Sam. He had left instructions with the gate guard to lead the travellers to Daniel when they arrived and now he marched back into the vast room where he had left Jack.

There were a few guards standing along the walls of the room, and at the doorway as he walked through, but still the room looked huge and empty. Beramiam sat cross legged on the floor in front of Jack and Daniel picked up on their conversation in mid-sentence as Jack asked something, '…any kids?' Daniel saw Beramiam's head drop heavily to his chest as he answered, 'yes, two girls. It is a sad thing.'

As Daniel approached he realised that they must have been talking about the dead guard that lay some metres behind Jack. He flicked his eyes to the still alien form and then diverted his gaze back to Jack. It was strange to see a man who was so frequently moving and fidgeting, to be exactly the same position as when he had left him. Daniel couldn't help but wonder if it was getting uncomfortable by now, curled on his side, his hands held tensely against his chest. His face was coated in sweat and lines of tension marked out his muscles not only on his face but around his neck as well. He didn't seem to have seen Daniel, and that worried him slightly as he rested a hand briefly on Beramiam's shoulder and called out to Jack, 'I'm back Jack.'

Jack seemed to enliven slightly at that, if that were possible for a man who had to stay deadly still at all times. His gaze slid over to where Daniel sat down, 'hey Daniel - did you check in?'

'Yeah, I told them what happened, they're sending some equipment and people to help Sam, and Doctor Frasier is coming too.' That piece of news elicited the expected groan from the Colonel, and he rolled his eyes dramatically, There is only one thing worse than being subjected to a Doctor's ministrations and continual concern, and that is being subjected to their ministrations and concern when it can't actually help you in any way! What does she think she's going to do? Talk me better? Knowing Doctors she'll probably try.

But then that's not fair because despite being a Doctor, Janet is also a friend and when it comes to situations like this she's very nearly a member of my team. God, being confined like this could make a guy real cranky. Being confined in a massive room doesn't make the situation any more enjoyable either. The more I start to forget how much those beams hurt, the harder it gets to remember to stay still. There are so many things that I now realise I do all the time, fiddle with my hands, roll my head, sigh, bounce on my feet. I can't do any of those things and I'm finding it harder and harder to prevent myself. There's so much floor around me that it's almost impossible to resist just rolling onto my back and stretching out, wriggling and writhing until the horrible fiery pain in my hip goes away. Well, some distraction is better than none, so talk Jack.

'How are Carter and Teal'c getting on?' he asked as loudly as he dared, not overly anxious to induce another coughing fit any time soon. Daniel picked at his shirt absent mindedly, 'whoever did this really wrecked the computers, Sam isn't really sure how long it's going to take Jack. ' Daniel neglected to mention that Sam wasn't even really sure that she could fix it at all. 'The Tecnan's that built the device are coming here to help, once they're here I'm sure they'll get it fixed. You just have to hold on until then.'

'Holding,' Jack muttered bitterly.

'How's your leg?'

'Medium-rare,' Jack mumbled, and then loud enough for Daniel to here he replied, 'fine Daniel, fine.' Daniel huffed slightly, he knew it was too much to ask that Jack should tell him the truth, I think he doesn't realise sometimes that for me to listen to him is the only way I can help, and there has been no time when that is more true than now - I can do nothing else for him but talk and listen. He certainly doesn't make it easy though, Jack has done many things for me but he has never made my life easy.

Just as Daniel was struggling to find something to talk about, something to distract Jack from the charred remains of his side and hip which thankfully had stopped smoking, he heard voices and footsteps from behind him. Turning his head he glimpsed a troop of people in SGC uniforms heading their way and he scrambled to his feet. Beramiam stayed where he was sat as Daniel jogged over to meet the arrivals. 'Hi, hi,' he rushed, identifying the scientists and pointing to the direction that Sam and Teal'c had gone, 'Sam and Teal'c are waiting for you down there, er,' he scoured the room and caught the attention of one of the guards standing by the door, 'could you show my friends to the central control system please? Thank you.'

They marched off and left only Doctor Frasier, clutching a bag stuffed with equipment and peering around Daniel. He eyed the bag and shook his head, turning back to Jack, 'I don't think you'll get the chance to use any of that Janet.'

Doctor Frasier looked over to where they were walking and cringed, she could see Colonel O'Neill from here, lying very alone and very still in the middle of a huge white space. He was curled up, his head resting on the floor and his eyes open, fists clenched. She hadn't been told much of the situation but it was becoming clearer now that there really was no way that the Colonel could move at all. This was likely the same position that he had been in for the last hour or so. 'How is he Daniel?'

'I don't really know, he hasn't said much but I know he was in a lot of pain and probably still is. His gun exploded when it was hit by one of the beams. His leg was smoking a while back,' Daniel smiled grimly at how absurd that sounded. He didn't look over to Janet to gage her reaction, he could guess just as well. Beramiam stood as the Doctor and Daniel joined him, holding out a hand to the petite human visitor. 'I am Beramiam, you are welcome here, I hope that you will be able to do more for Colonel O'Neill than we have.'

Frasier nodded slightly, her eyes fixed on the Colonel as Beramiam released her hand and made to leave, feeling that his presence would now more hinder than help.

'Hi Colonel, it's Doctor Frasier.'

'I'm incapacitated Doc, not blind,' the Colonel replied, in a much more acidic tone than he had intended. He instantly regretted it and resisted the temptation to fidget uncomfortably.

'Come to give me encouragement have you?' he asked, with false humour.

Frasier smiled indulgently, well aware that the Colonel's situation can't be making him too happy. 'I need to know how you're doing Sir, so I can help you better when they get these thing turned off. And perhaps I can help you deal with this.' She copied Daniel and lowered herself to the floor, crossing her legs and looking to O'Neill again. 'Okay Sir, exactly what hurts, and why?'

Jack found that he was desperate to let out a huge and very defeatist sigh. 'I'm just not going to get out of this am I?' he asked, with a weak smile.

'You know I love to have a captive audience in my job Colonel,' Janet replied with a dark grin, 'now tell me exactly what happened.'

Jack suppressed another sigh, moving his gaze down to the white floor in front of him. 'When the beams hit the High-Pacman-guy I ran in and shoved him out of the way. I was going to get out too, but my gun got hit, it exploded. I've been here ever since,' he finished, feeling like he was telling some twisted bed-time story.

Well, Janet mused, that wasn't the most elaborate reconstruction I've ever been treated to, but for the Colonel I guess it was damn talkative. 'And how long ago was that?'

Daniel checked his watch quickly, 'about an hour and a half ago now.' Janet watched Jack's brow furrow at that, she guessed it had felt like a lot longer to him.

'Colonel, can you see the wound on your leg?'

'Unfortunately,' Jack answered in a gravely voice.

'Is it bleeding?' Jack rolled his eyes down until he could just stare at his hip. Just looking at the blackened area made it hurt more. He let his gaze examine it as objectively as he could, taking in the ripped edges of his BDU's, the blotches of what might be molten metal sticking to his leg, the crispy, flaky surface that he knew was his skin. 'No blood.'

'That's good,' Frasier commented, 'that means it's cauterised. How about these laser beam wounds?' Jack looked around for a second, trying to find one that he could see. He had been hit plenty of times but couldn't see any marks, he knew there were some on his hands but they were too close to his chest for him to be able to see without moving. 'They aren't bleeding either,' he replied, figuring a guess was better than nothing. Frasier nodded and turned to Daniel, 'do we know what these weapons do, how they work - are they lasers? Electric shocks - what?' Daniel shook his head,

'I don't know, I guess if you wanted detailed information you'd have to ask the Tecnans that made this device. They should be with Sam by now. Also, there was on Tecnan guard who got hit by a beam, they took him off somewhere…' he trailed off and looked around, as if there would be a sign to indicate the way to the local hospital, 'I'm sure we could find out where.'

Frasier nodded, unwilling yet to leave her patient. 'Daniel, could you go and talk to the scientists - ask them about the beams, see what you can find out for me?' Daniel cast an uncertain glance at Jack, meeting the older man's tired gaze. 'Go Daniel, I'll be here when you get back.'

Daniel grinned, nodding to the Doctor and climbing to his feet.

When he had left hearing range Doctor Frasier looked back to the Colonel, 'how do you feel?'

Jack let a small smile flick across his face, God she knows everything this one - get the subject alone, vulnerable and captive, and then suck them for information. Does she know how close her methods are to all out torture? At least she can't give me drugs - I suppose that's one thing to be grateful for, I may not be able to get out of here, but no-one else can get to me. I wish I felt that safe though, I hate not being able to see what's behind me, and it's worse knowing there's some dead guard behind me, poor sod. If those beams killed him, God knows what they're doing to me.

'I'm tired,' Jack replied, deciding to give the good Doctor something to work with.

'Is there no way you can move at all? Not even slowly?'

'Don't think so, I can't even sigh,' Jack replied, almost too quiet for Janet to hear. The truth was that he didn't know how fast he had to move to activate the security devices, but he really didn't want to try. He felt a drop of sweat make its way down his nose, and he wrinkled his face as it itched furiously. It was starting to get unbearable as he watched it gather in the tip of his nose. Then he suddenly realised that it wasn't just that he wasn't mean to move, it was that nothing was meant to move. His eyes widened slightly as he wondered whether the drop would set off the beams. He guessed they would. 'Looks like you're going to get a demonstration after all Doc,' he commented, looking to Janet with a slightly quirky smile.

'What?' Frasier asked, her brow furrowing, leaning forward. Jack gritted his teeth, feeling adverse to explaining the situation. Instead he decided what to do, they were going to hit him anyway, so he might as well make use of the situation and move to a better position while he could.

'What?' repeated Frasier, anxious to know what was going on that she couldn't see. Her question was soon answered. She was too far away to see the drop of sweat hit the marbled floor but she saw the first of the white-hot beams fly from the wall and hit the ground just in front of Jack's face. He seemed to move purposely, rolling onto his front slightly as the beams hit him again and again, striking his head and his torso mainly, at least nine times. Janet stayed silent while he lay and waited for them to stop, his mouth wide open in a silent scream and his eyes screwed shut. Finally they ceased, leaving him lying half on his front, his left arm splayed out on the floor in front of him, frozen in a pose quite close to the recovery position. Janet watched him carefully, watching him trying to stifle panicked breathing, his eyes still tightly shut, his mouth shut too and his jaw clenched painfully hard. She figured it was natural for him to move into that position, they don't call it the recovery position for nothing. It makes me happy too, because it has to be easier for him to breathe in that position, and if he falls unconscious he'll be okay. Couldn't have done it better myself - maybe he is a good patient after all, she let slip a small smile at the thought, despite the circumstances.

'Colonel?'

'Give me a minute,' O'Neill replied softly, his voice tense and concentrated. The sharp movement had awakened all kinds of feelings in his leg that he wasn't partial to, and he was reminded in techni-colour of just how painful the beams were when they hit. His cheek rested on the cool floor now, and for that he was glad as the sharp shooting pains weaved through his head, sending red dots once again flying across his vision even with his eyes shut. He could feel the cool marble beneath his left palm too, it cooled the pulse point on his wrist, he could feel the blood flow pulsing against the pressure of the floor. His heart was hammering far too fast, trying to deliver enough oxygen around his body to compensate for him not being able to breathe hard enough. Instead he panted, trying to keep his chest as still as possible.

After a while of lying still his breathing calmed down and the flaring pain in his leg dropped to manageable levels again. He started to appreciate his new position as he started to relax, letting the tension in his arms and chest dissolve.

He opened glassy eyes to find Frasier staring at him in concern, her whole body posture crying out with the desire to run over and help him. He smiled slightly, 'I'm okay. Nice light show huh?'

Frasier fell back onto her haunches, letting out a breath that she didn't know she had been holding. She hated sitting helpless and unable to do anything, unable to even give the Colonel anything for the pain while they waited for this mess to get sorted out. For a brief moment she wondered if there really was any point in her being there, but then she shook the thought aside - if nothing else her presence freed up the rest of SG-1 to try and solve the problem. She saw his eyes slide shut sluggishly, 'Sir, don't go to sleep Sir. I'd prefer you stay awake.'

Jack almost snorted with laughter at that, that's because you're not the one with an explosion site for a leg and a body that's being used for testing some kind of twisted laser-acupuncture. Nevertheless he opened his eyes again. Frasier nodded, 'good,' and tried to think of some way of keeping him awake.

She didn't have to struggle for long before she heard footsteps behind her and turned to see Daniel half-walking half-running back to her and Jack. She saw his expression turn to concern as he noticed Jack's new position and he stopped beside her.'What happened Jack?'

'You should have seen it Daniel,' Jack replied in a gruff voice, 'it was like something out of Mission Impossible.' Daniel rolled his eyes melodramatically and looked to Janet for an explanation. She returned his look, having worked out herself now what had set off the security device, 'a drop of sweat Daniel. That thing is really sensitive.' Daniel nodded and turned back to the man in question, 'Jack, Sam thinks she's making progress, and the others are really helping her - just a little longer.' Then he turned to Janet, 'I found out where the guard is being looked after, it's near here and Beramiam said it would be fine for you to go see him.' Janet nodded.

'Where do I go?' she asked, standing and grabbing her bag. Daniel waved his hands in the air vaguely, 'it's down there,' he pointed, 'turn left, through the courtyard, um, up the stairs and then you'll see the hospital type building.' His eyes partly closed as he struggled to remember the directions, 'I would have got someone to take you but everyone is running round like mad, they're all a bit shaken up after this.'

'Understandable,' Janet nodded. 'Okay, there should be some of my people coming through the gate soon with a stretcher, you can tell them I'll be back shortly.' Daniel nodded and Janet turned to the Colonel, 'I'll be back soon Sir, don't go to sleep okay?' She only just heard his answering grunt and started to walk away in the direction Daniel had pointed, turning her head back to him briefly, 'talk to him Daniel.'

She heard him sit down on the floor heavily behind her as she left the room and entered a darker corridor that sloped upwards slightly. Peering about herself with a curiosity borne of not having been through the gate very often, she made her way up the hallway and then made a left. Shortly she emerged into the sunlight of the planet, looking up into the sky in wonder that this was another planet entirely from the one she was standing on mere hours before. Her head turned as a rushed looking alien bustled past her, casting her a polite look before disappearing down another corridor to her right. All the inhabitants of this planet seemed to favour long dark hair, although she had seen a few with red hair too. What they all did have in common at this time at least was they all looked stressed and very, very busy. Janet couldn't blame them, from what General Hammond had passed on from Daniel she gathered that this High-Tecnan had even more standing than their President. Walking on she saw the stairs that Daniel had told her about and she started to climb, noticing an increase in the amount of guards stationed at doors. She came to the top and stepped onto a large patio, made from slabs of white rock. Some metres ahead of her was a huge door to a building - the only one in sight and therefore what she presumed was the hospital. Throwing a smile to the guards that stood at the doors she stepped inside, feeling the cool air of the stone building hit her.

As soon as she set aside a tall woman walked over to her, leaving a desk that faced the entrance. She smiled and put her hand to her shoulder briefly in what Janet guessed was a greeting. 'You are the Earth Doctor, yes?'

'Yes, Doctor Janet Frasier.'

'You are most welcome here Doctor, I am Wrenaium, we are all so sorry for what has happened to a member of your people - how does he fare?' the kindly woman asked. Janet smiled in return.

'He is doing okay, that's why I'm here - to see if I could look at the guard that was struck by one of the beams and ascertain what kind of damage they do.'

'Of course, of course, Tay-Tecnan Beramiam told us that you were coming for such a purpose. Here, let me take you to the guard, I am afraid though that he is not doing well, we are doing all we can but…' she trailed off and gave Janet a sad look. Frasier returned it as she followed the woman down a white corridor, the air warming a bit as they progressed, 'I am truly sorry to hear that,' she commented, and she was. There was one thing that seemed to be universal and that was the grief that a Doctor was destined to suffer every time a patient died under their care.

They came to a series of corridors and inter-joining passages peopled by what looked like maybe this planets' equivalent of nurses and assistants, with doors leading off the main corridors. Some were open and Janet could see rooms with beds inside, some empty, some occupied. She was struck by how similar it seemed to an Earth hospital, but then, she pondered, how could it be different really? What do I expect - hovering robot-nurses and bizarre stasis chambers? She laughed at her own stereotypical view of 'aliens'. I've watched too many B movies, she concluded and turned her attention back to her surroundings.

They walked on and the bustle decreased as the guards increased, leading Janet to believe there was more than just one guard being cared for at this hospital. 'You brought the High-Tecnan here didn't you?' she enquired.

'Yes,' Wrenaium nodded with only a slightly hesitation, 'we were the closest place, and he needs the attention, he too is not faring well.' Her face took on an even more melancholy expression, and Janet once again felt a pang of sympathy for this woman who was fighting not only for a patient but for a leader too.

They approached a door with two sturdy guards at its door, facing outwards, and past that there was another door, unguarded. Suddenly Janet flinched as an alarm rang out through the corridor, stating something that she couldn't make out in an urgent voice. Tecnan's appeared from behind her and Wrenaium darted forward. 'Please wait!' she shouted back to Janet, and disappeared into the unguarded door, leaving her in the corridor as other aliens ran past her carrying devices or wheeling equipment. The alarm stopped abruptly and Janet could hear faint sounds from the room ahead of her. Anxious not to get in the way, she stepped to the side, her eye caught by the door that the guards flanked. Stepping closer to it and peering in, her face folded into momentary confusion. A figure stood over the lone bed in the room, bent down close to the room's occupant. At first Janet thought she could see the figure in the bed struggling, but then she decided he was fitting instead. Alarmed by what she saw and what the guards obviously didn't, she darted forward. 'Hey!' was the only thing that came to mind and she shrieked it shrilly, bursting into the room past the guards. She felt one of them grasp her arm but she squirmed free and ran through the door, entering the room and seeing the figure rise in surprise. His face twisted into shock, he grabbed for her and had more success than the guards, managing to get a hold of her hair and pulling her in towards him roughly. She was momentarily disorientated and could only focus on the tight hold that he had round her neck and the cold sharp pressure that she felt on her neck. A deep voice emanated from somewhere above her and she felt her captors chest heave as he spoke. 'Don't try anything, I will kill her - I don't want to but I will!'

She heard herself let out a small yelp as they moved forward and she realised that her eyes were closed. He pushed her forward and she opened her eyes to see them moving out of the room past the guards who were gripping their weapons tightly, watching their every move. Her desperate and shocked eyes latched onto those of Wrenaium, who was standing pressed up against the far wall. The Tecnan Doctor was staring in disbelief as Letacnian, one of their most revered Tecnan guards, dragged the Earth Doctor away.

--------------------------------

Doctor Frasier's assistants had arrived with the stretcher shortly after she had left Jack and Daniel, now they sat on the edges of the room, talking quietly to themselves - both new to the Stargate travelling concept. Daniel was slouched in his sitting position, his voice constant and unerring as he informed Jack about the deeper meaning and implications of the monuments that SG-4 had found on a recent mission. Jack's eyes were half shut, staring at the archaeologist's face as he talked and talked. Okay so I asked him to talk about anything, but this is getting a bit much even for me. I need him to keep me awake, not bore me to death.

He was getting to the point where exhaustion was overcoming the desire to move or fidget, and it was welcome relief. His leg was throbbing rhythmically with hot pain, along with a myriad or laser burn sites all over his body. The worst were on his head, and there were several on his neck that felt like they had seared right through his arteries. They probably have, he realised.

He was just about to exercise the one method of control he had and order Daniel to stop talking, when something changed subtly. He saw Daniel's head lift slightly, and then jerk to the right. Daniel couldn't identify what had changed for a second, and then he latched onto it, his eyes darting to the red slots on the wall which were gradually dulling. As he watched them they died completely and Daniel rose to his feet stiffly, looking from the slots to Jack. 'I think Sam did it!' he shouted to Jack, not containing the excitement and relief in his voice.

'You think?' Jack enquired harshly, not too keen to try his luck with the sensitive security device. Daniel grinned, 'oh come on Jack, the lights have gone out, it must be off,' and he took a step forward.

'Wait!' Jack cried out, but Daniel was already walking forward. He stepped into the security area and stopped. Nothing happened.

'Oh,' Jack commented. Daniel broke into a jog as he heard the medics behind him rise to their feet. He reached Jack with a grin borne of relief, and he placed a hand on the man's shoulder, glad to finally be able to offer some physical comfort. 'Hey Jack,' he smiled, crouching down.

'Hi,' Jack returned, 'you look a lot better close up you know - less fuzzy.' Daniel's smile widened, but his returning comment was interrupted by loud, urgent footfalls behind him. He turned to see Sam and Teal'c charge into the room, followed by a few startled looking Tecnans. They covered the distance fast, and joined Daniel and Jack.

'Sir! Are you okay?' Carter asked, concern written all over her face as she got the first glimpse of her CO since the incident occurred. She placed a hand on his side delicately as he coughed and shifted his arm, revelling in the ability to move again. 'You fixed it then?' he asked, relief evident on his taught face. Carter nodded, but her face was twisted slightly, 'yes Sir, but we have a problem. We discovered an embedded code disabling the system - we were able to identify the saboteur…'

She was not given time to elaborate, because at that moment the very saboteur that she needed to tell her CO about burst into the main chamber. Letacnian ran awkwardly into the room from a far door, headed for the Stargate room, his speed hindered by the Doctor that he held tightly against himself and pushed ahead of him. Frasier locked eyes with Carter as SG-1 rose to their feet in shock. Letacnian paused momentarily, as if embarrassed for a brief second and then he regained his composure. 'Don't try anything!' he shouted, still heading for the Stargate room and making it evident that he had a weapon held to Janet's throat. Guards streamed through the door after him, their weapons held high and their expressions that of confusion. Jack painfully moved stiff limbs and moved himself to his elbows on the floor. 'Letacnian?' he murmured, utterly shocked. The alien's eyes met his for a split second and then flicked away. Jack pushed against the floor with his hands, grabbing for Teal'c's arm. 'Help me up,' he ordered. Carter gripped his arm, 'Sir I don't think you should…'

'Help me up, that's an order,' Jack barked, and he clutched Teal'c's arm until the Jaffa returned the grip and heaved him to his feet. Jack was helpless to prevent his eyes springing tears as the pain from his leg rose to a crescendo, overtaking his senses and stopping him in his tracks. He reeled for a second, gripping Teal'c arm with both hands while Daniel held him round the waist from behind. Opening his wet eyes and once again seeing the man that he thought was a friend dragging a Doctor who was definitely a friend across the room, Jack's resolve returned. He lurched forwards erratically, throwing the weight onto Teal'c as he felt Carter walk close to his right side, and he cast a hand over her shoulder too. They limped forward at the frantic pace that he set, and they followed Letacnian into the Stargate room.

Daniel hovered helplessly behind his friend as they all entered the room as Letacnian reached the DHD, the guards that stood at the Stargate, backing up with their weapons raised.

'Letacnian?' Jack repeated, the confusion and hurt clear to hear in his voice. Letacnian looked up at the sound of his voice, and his hand stopped over the DHD controls. He met Jack's gaze, his face falling, 'I didn't mean for you to know this Colonel, I didn't mean for any of you to get mixed up in this.' He cast a downwards look to the Doctor.

'You sabotaged the security machine?' Jack asked, guessing that was what Carter had found out. Letacnian nodded sadly. 'I didn't want to hurt anyone, I never meant to harm you. But we had to, we had to do this - no-one was listening, this was the only way to make them listen.' His voice was almost desperate, and it seemed to Jack that he was not only trying to convince everyone else of his just means, but also himself. Jack's face was contorted now not only with physical pain but with bitterness, 'I thought…' he struggled for words.

'I trusted you,' he said simply. He had developed a friendship with this man over the last few days, they had talked, laughed. Jack thought he had got to know him, thought he had got to know a man who had dedicated his life to protecting the Tecnans and their justice and governing system. This man standing before him spoke with the same voice, and had the same mannerisms, but he was betraying everything that Jack was convinced he would be forever true to. What was infinitely worse that he seemed to be almost ashamed of it - he had destroyed his career, his life, for something that he was ashamed of.

Letacnian's hand came down on the first symbol on the DHD and he waved the guards further away so that they would have no chance of seeing the address he was dialling. As the first chevrons lit up and the gate whirled around, his strong voice sounded over the noise. 'I'm sorry that you had to see any of this, but my people have been crushed by this society, we are dying, ignored and unheard. It can't go on. If my actions have brought attention to our plight then…I am glad,' he finished somewhat uncertainly. Jack shook his head slowly as the gate sprung to life, 'I can't let you take Doctor Frasier,' he warned sadly. Letacnian nodded, backing up to the gate slowly and pulling Janet up with him. 'I will not take her,' he replied. He paused momentarily in front of the even horizon. He bent his head slightly and said softly, 'I am sorry.' Janet nodded her head imperceptibly. Letacnian raised his head again, regaining his eye contact with Jack and keeping it as he released his grip on Janet's neck and stepped backwards into the event horizon.

Janet stumbled forward as the gate dissipated behind her, and she fell haphazardly to her knees on the stone steps that led up the gate. The silence that had weighed the room down so heavily was broken and a bustle of voices started up as guards turned to each other in shock. Jack stared at the empty Stargate ring with a heavy heart, but his feelings were forgotten again as the adrenaline wore off and he sagged suddenly. Carter and Teal'c gripped him solidly to prevent him falling to the ground as he moaned, and they lowered him slowly onto the cool marble floor. He lay back on the flat surface and put a hand over his eyes, watching dots once again dance across his vision, swirling mad patterns. He felt weak again, so tired, but his thoughts returned to what had just transpired. 'The Doc?'

'I'm okay Colonel,' a slightly shaky voice answered his query, and he lifted his hand to see the Doctor leaning over him. Her face was a little pale but otherwise she appeared to be okay and he could see her professional attachment taking over as she peered at his leg wound. He watched her motion to someone out of his vision and sensed Carter move away from his right side. He closed his eyes again, hoping that the darkness would calm the pouncing headache that flared through his skull. It failed miserably and merely increased his perception off all the pains that were slowly overcoming his senses.

He felt a sharp prick on his left arm and opened his eyes quickly, meeting Frasier's gaze. 'Sorry Sir, just something to help with the pain,' she commented with a comforting smile. Sure enough he felt a familiar warm feeling as the burning pains eased somewhat, allowing him to relax muscles that he didn't even know he had tensed. Above the low hum of voices that now filled the room he heard Janet speak to him again, 'we're going to get you on the stretcher now Sir, then we'll get you home, okay?'

'Sure,' Jack replied lightly, preoccupied and tired, he was ready to just let things carry on around him - he was desperate to sleep. He heard the stretcher placed beside him and made the effort to lift his head and look over to it. He ignored the subsequent stars obscuring his vision and tensed up, ready to move. Teal'c moved to his feet, apparently following a direction from Janet that he hadn't heard, and Carter and Daniel hovered somewhere at his head. Before he was ready to help he felt hands grip his legs and chest and lift, he stifled a cry of pain and splayed his hands on the ground as he was set down on the stretcher. His head fell back against his wishes and he decided he was a little more out of it than he had thought. Feeling the stretcher move and lift beneath him, he relaxed completely - finally letting himself rest properly as he heard the Stargate activate and waited for the cold sensation that indicated his return home.

The fabric of the stretcher bowed beneath him as he was carried up the steps. He felt them halt briefly and he sucked in a breath as someone pressed something to his hip. He opened his eyes to Janet's apologetic face and then they were moving again, blue filling his vision and icy fingers gripping his body as the wormhole transported them across the universe. Deep blue gave way to the grey ceiling of the SGC as they landed on the ramp, the metal clanking beneath the feet of SG-1 and the stretcher bearers. He watched the ceiling move above him as they traversed the corridors of the base, following the familiar route towards the infirmary.

Time shifted somewhat and he found himself on a gurney suddenly, guessing he had blacked out for a second. Opening eyes that he didn't realise he had closed he looked up into Doctor Frasier's face, and that of a good few nurses too. She was out of her fatigues and back in 'infirmary-white', again his mind tripped back to what had happened and he noted the tension in her face. 'You okay?' he mumbled.

'I'm fine Sir, everyone is fine - all we have to do now is get you better,' she smiled. He felt a sharp pain in his leg and tried to lift his head, why is it that 'getting better' always involves some kind of poking?

'Don't try to move Sir, just let us work here, you've got a nasty burn on your leg and we need to clean and dress it,' Janet instructed. Jack mumbled a quiet response, whatever you say Doc, as long as I *can* move - I'm happy.

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Jack's fingers danced over the white sheets on his bed, rumpling the material and folding it into little waves. He revelled in the movement that he so often took for granted, raising a hand and stroking the hair back from his forehead, his fingers bumping against a small patch of gauze that was taped over a laser burn at his hairline. He fiddled round its edges, letting his eyes roam around the infirmary at the same time. He sighed, something he'd been doing a lot of now that he was able to again, and he stared at the doorway as familiar voices echoed down the hallway. He sat patiently in his comfortable bed as the sound of his team got closer and closer and finally reached his door, the three members of SG-1 spilling into the infirmary and moving over to his bed. 'Hey Jack,' Daniel smiled and plonked himself down in a seat by Jack's bedside.

'Sir. How are you feeling?' Carter asked brightly, as she too took a seat and Teal'c claimed his regular position at the foot of the bed.

'Good Carter, good. The briefing?' he enquired. Teal'c nodded lazily, 'it was adequate O'Neill.'

Jack smiled at the Jaffa's characteristic lack of enthusiasm, 'damn it Teal'c, don't make me jealous.' He was pleased to see Carter and Daniel grin at that. Daniel leant back in his chair, letting the smile linger on his face. 'We heard from Tecna. The High-Tecnan will live but unfortunately, we won't be seeing him again.'

Jack shot him a puzzled look. Daniel continued hesitantly, 'apparently members of the Tecnan dissidents have been disappearing for months now and they had no idea where. After seeing Letacnian's plight into the Stargate they have decided that they can't take the risk that the dissidents are building a force on another planet.'

'They don't know that,' Jack exclaimed. Daniel shook his head in agreement,

'no, but they are scared of what might happen if it is true. Let's face it Jack, they haven't explored other worlds, we came to them and asked for friendship - they may have appreciated it but they didn't need it. They have no real need for the Stargate.'

Jack plumped a hand down on his bed-side heavily, suddenly feeling tired again, has all this been for nothing? Another battle and yet more benefits that Earth won't get the change to reap. Someday our luck *has* to change. Right?

He shifted his tired eyes round to his team, their expressions mirroring his own feelings. At least they're not looking concerned for a change, I've spent far too much of my time recently looking at concerned faces. Speaking of concern, they may not be worrying but maybe I should - they look beat.

'Kids, you look like you wouldn't suffer from some food and sleep, you know,' and when they looked back at him reluctantly he continued, 'yet again, I'm not going anywhere - Doc Frasier can beat any security system hands down when it comes to keeping me in this infirmary.'

They grinned again and rose to their feet, not without a certain amount of stiffness to their movements.

'See you later Sir,' Carter smiled as she left, Daniel trailing behind her.

Jack shifted his gaze to Teal'c who was standing solidly at the foot of his bed. To Jack's Jaffa-experienced eye he looked to be a little troubled. 'Something on your mind Teal'c?'

Teal'c shifted his stance slightly, 'I must confess, O'Neill, to being a little confused as to Letacnian's motivations.'

Jack sighed heavily, his mind unwillingly brought back to that nasty subject, 'Teal'c,' he began, searching for the best way to explain what had happened and why. 'I suppose you could say that Letacnian and his kind felt that they were being ignored and…' he paused, '…prejudiced against, by the people that long ago conquered their people.'

Teal'c frowned slightly, 'how could such a transgression go unnoticed, or not be corrected?'

'Letacnian only told me of a little of the history of his people, and I get the feeling now that he left a great deal out, so I am also very much in the dark here Teal'c. But I can guess that the people that did the conquering found it very easy to trample and then turn their back on those that fell to them. Sometimes ignorance and prejudice isn't something that is intended, often it just happens and it is one of the hardest things to fight against. Letacnian and his people got desperate I guess.'

'And this desperation led to violence?'

'It so often does yes. Letacnian was a terrorist,' Jack frowned at the word, 'I didn't see it Teal'c - didn't have a clue.'

'To my knowledge, no-one suspected Letacnian of this betrayal. He hid his intentions very well,' Teal'c commented, hoping to ease the Colonel's mind.

Jack nodded, 'he did, and I think he was able to because what he did was so against his character. He sacrificed himself for his people's cause, sacrificed his own self-worth. That's what makes this whole thing so horrible - not only did he betray the people that trusted him, but he betrayed himself, and that is the worst kind of treachery.'

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