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Fanfiction: Addictive Mysteries

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S4 The Light
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Team friendship. Mild Sam/Jack UST.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Addictive Mysteries


‘Sir…’

Jack O’Neill couldn’t prevent the smirk that ghosted over his face before he smoothed his expression and glanced back at the blonde Air Force officer behind him. He had been wondering how long it would take for Samantha Carter to bring up the incident on the beach and try to apologise ever since they had started their perimeter check of the Goa’uld palace that would be their home for the next couple of weeks. She had lasted longer than he had anticipated – they were heading back having ensured there was nothing in the immediate area for concern. The area around the palace was deserted, desolate. Still, Jack turned his gaze back to the front and kept his brown eyes scanning his surroundings as he waited for Carter to continue.

‘…about before on the beach, I’d like to explain, if I could…’

‘You were in withdrawal, Carter.’ Jack cut in briskly. ‘So was I.’

It seemed all the human members of SG1 had become addicted to some kind of radiation generated by a machine in the main room back at the palace. The radiation caused a chemical imbalance in their brains and when they had tried to leave – even just to explore the beach – they had suffered withdrawal symptoms. Jack could remember the itch along his skin, the restless urge, the churn of unusual nerves in his stomach, and the feeling of overwhelming negativity encroaching on every thought. It was a strange emotional mix of anger and depression. He had recognised the first signs of it on the beach having experienced a sharper version of it when he had been back on Earth and had initially tried to focus on the positive, but Carter’s outburst had triggered his own heated reaction.

They had yelled at each other. They never really yelled at each other. Sure, they disagreed with each other occasionally, and sometimes quite strongly, but he couldn’t remember another time when they had shouted in anger. And it had been such a stupid argument. They had thought at that point they might be stuck on the planet for the rest of their lives and he would never have seriously kept their ranks forever – hell, he would have been lucky if he’d lasted the week. Of course, it hadn’t just been the shouting – there had been the grabbing.

He pulled a face. Jack couldn’t quite remember who had grabbed who in the end. All he knew was that his hands had been fisted in the material of her jacket; hers in his. His eyes had held hers fiercely. Passionately. He didn’t kid himself; two more seconds and his lips would have been on hers. If Teal’c hadn’t interrupted them…but Teal’c had.

Jack grimaced. He figured he and Sam were still going through another kind of withdrawal. They had confessed feeling feelings for each other, and they had needed to take a step back from each other to keep their military relationship front and centre. They had made progress keeping everything locked down but the yearning to be closer than the regulations allowed lingered. If they had truly been stuck on the planet for the rest of their lives…Jack repressed the urge to sigh as his wishful thinking.

‘I’m still sorry, sir.’ Sam’s voice pulled him out of his musings. ‘I was out of line.’

‘Will you just forget it, Carter, I have.’ Jack said tersely.

‘OK.’ Sam muttered, clearly taken aback by his tone.

He stopped abruptly and whirled around to glare at her. His mouth opened to remonstrate about her insubordinate tone before he snapped it shut. He sighed and his expression turned rueful as did hers. ‘It’s happening again, isn’t it?’

Sam nodded slowly, the ire in her blue eyes dying away. ‘I think so, sir.’ She checked her watch. ‘We’ve been out of the palace for almost twenty minutes.’

‘We should get back inside.’

It wasn’t an order but she nodded again. They both picked up the pace.

‘At least, we know how long we stay away from the palace before the withdrawal effects start.’ Sam said.

‘There’s that.’ Jack agreed. He glanced over at her. ‘We should probably keep track of that kind of thing.’

‘I agree, sir.’ Sam gestured. ‘Actually I was hoping to run some more tests on the radiation; it may help us accelerate our detox and we could leave earlier.’

‘Good idea.’ Jack nodded encouragingly.

Sam smiled at him. ‘I thought you were looking forward to some vacation time.’

Jack shrugged as he returned her smile. ‘You know the last vacation we took off-world wasn’t so bad.’

Sam’s smile widened and she ducked her head.

Jack hid his own smile. They’d been stuck off world for just over a week after dealing with the Replicators on Thor’s ship. Although Teal’c had been visiting every day with supplies, it had been just the two of them on a planet alone. After an initially tense couple of days, they’d had fun with their time on the planet; cloud-watching, playing chess, picnics…he was thinking they could do the same. Sure, they weren’t alone this time – their team-mate Daniel Jackson was similarly stuck along with Loren, a young boy they had found in the palace, but Jack figured that was a good thing all things considered.

‘Maybe when we can spend longer out of the palace we could all have a picnic on the beach.’ He suggested brightly. His eyes flickered to her hopefully.

‘That would be good, sir.’ Sam responded. She smiled again.

Jack felt his spirits lift. It was just because they were back at the palace and feeling the radiation again, he assured himself. Nothing to do with his feelings for a certain Major. Nothing at all. Nadda.

Right.

o-O-o

Day Two

Daniel pushed his glasses up his nose and stared at the writing on the wall. He frowned and jotted down another note. He’d discovered the room earlier. When Loren had admitted he had rarely strayed from the large room his parents had chosen, Jack had insisted they did a full sweep of the palace in daylight, checking out each room and ensuring the palace was as deserted as they had assumed. The main rooms near to the centre of the palace and the Stargate they had designated living quarters for their stay.

The rest of the palace had been a voyage of discovery from an archaeological perspective; room after room of treasures and finds. It had been the room they were standing in though that captured Daniel’s attention. It was in what he had determined had been the servants’ quarters and was covered by Goa’uld writing. It was the same dialect as the writing on the columns in the main palace but Daniel knew it would take time to translate the whole room.

‘What do you think it means?’ Loren asked excitedly. He was hovering next to Daniel having taken photos of the wall earlier.

‘I don’t know.’ Daniel admitted, turning to look at him. Loren looked back at him with inquisitive brown eyes and dirty blond mop of hair. ‘But we’re going to find out.’

‘OK.’ Loren nodded enthusiastically.

Daniel pointed at the far section. ‘Why don’t you start copying the text from that wall? I’ll focus on this one.’

Loren set about his task with a quick shy grin at the archaeologist. There was a childish eagerness to please that was at odds with the young man exterior. Not for the first time Daniel wondered how long Loren had been alone in the palace. Certainly he had been alone long enough for his parents’ bodies to have decomposed.

Daniel felt a wave of compassionate empathy. He knew what it was like to be an orphan and to wonder if there had been anything he could have done to save his parents. Jack had told them of Loren’s confession; of how his parents had become addicted to the radiation and the light show in the main room; how Loren as a young boy had stopped feeding his parents to drive them from the room and how he had turned the machine off. His parents had gone mad with the withdrawal symptoms and ran into the sea. They had drowned. Loren blamed himself for their deaths. Daniel wished that Loren had shown himself when SG5 had first arrived and had been able to tell them the truth; SG5 might not have died if Loren had done so but Daniel couldn’t find it within him to blame the young boy. Loren had been scared and he hadn’t truly known the value of the information.

The archaeologist focused back on the writing. He began to meticulously copy down the text into his journal. The radio crackled. Daniel reached for it absently.

‘Daniel.’ The Colonel’s voice sounded tinny.

‘Jack.’

‘You might want to get back here.’ Jack informed him crisply. ‘Carter’s found something that might interest you.’

‘Sure. I’m on my way.’ Daniel signed off. He gestured at Loren. ‘Why don’t you continue here? I’ll check out what Jack and Sam want.’

Loren nodded and Daniel was certain he saw a certain flicker of relief on Loren’s face. The corridor back to the main part of the palace was broken into patches of sun and patches of shadow. Daniel shivered and shrugged away the creepy feeling. The palace was empty. Nothing was hiding in the shadows. He was relieved though to get to the opulence of the central rooms. The bright warm colours chased away his uneasiness as he made his way into the room with the radiation machine.

‘Hey.’ He headed straight for where Sam was crouched over the central console of the machine. ‘Jack said you found something?’ He frowned as he realised the Colonel was missing. ‘Where is Jack anyway?’

‘He went to do a perimeter check.’ Sam explained.

‘Is that wise?’ Daniel asked concerned. ‘I mean, going out on his own? What if he starts suffering from withdrawal?’

‘He’s only going to be ten minutes so he should be fine.’ Sam gestured dismissively. ‘Come and take a look at this.’

Daniel knelt beside her and shook his head. ‘What am I meant to be looking at?’

Sam gave a quick smile. ‘You see this here?’ She tapped the crystal compartment with her screwdriver and moved around the console. ‘Here.’

He shifted to see what she was pointing at; an open panel that revealed a different metallic structure beneath. ‘OK. That’s odd.’

‘That’s not all.’ Sam tapped it. ‘I’m picking up energy readings. I think this is the source of the radiation.’

‘You think this device was built first and the Goa’uld came along, took advantage of the effects and built the light show on top?’ Daniel summarised.

‘Exactly.’ Sam nodded, her face alive with bright intelligence. ‘We know the Goa’uld are effectively scavengers.’

‘It makes sense.’ Daniel wet his lips. ‘Although it does raise other questions.’

‘I know.’ Sam beamed at him. ‘We don’t even know what the original purpose of the device was. I mean,’ she waved the screwdriver, ‘I doubt the device emitted the radiation for the purposes of getting the occupants of the room, uh, high. The calibration controls we’ve been using to dial down the radiation were built by the Goa’uld.’

‘You think the radiation was a side-effect of some kind?’ Daniel asked, folding his arms around his body.

‘I do.’ Sam frowned. ‘Of course, finding out why the machine was created might be difficult.’

‘We haven’t seen any evidence of a culture living here before the Goa’uld.’ Daniel commented, thinking out loud. ‘But I did notice the décor is different in the servants’ quarters compared to here.’

‘So…’

‘So, I think you’re right. I think the Goa’uld found this place and moved in.’ Daniel expanded. ‘They only bothered redecorating the main rooms that they used.’ He wet his lips. ‘You see what I’m saying?’

‘I do.’ Sam replied.

‘Do what?’ Jack asked, walking in. He unclipped his gun and placed it on the floor before he sat down.

‘Understand what he means, sir.’ Sam explained.

‘Well, I’m glad one of us does.’ Jack remarked, his brown eyes twinkling at her. He gestured at Daniel. ‘She fill you in?’

Daniel nodded. ‘I think she’s right. This place existed before the Goa’uld. You know I found a room filled with writing on the wall. It might tell us something. Loren’s back there now beginning to transcribe it.’

‘How is he?’ Jack asked casually.

‘OK.’ Daniel confirmed. He softened as he realised Jack was feeling bad about yelling at Loren the day before. ‘He’s just nervous around you after, well, everything. He’ll get over it.’

‘He always seems to run away whenever I’m around too.’ Sam tried comforting Jack too.

Jack exchanged an amused look with Daniel.

‘That’s different.’ Jack commented.

‘Why?’ Sam demanded.

‘Well, you know.’ Jack gestured with his cap. ‘Because he’s a,’ he made another gesture with his cap, ‘and you’re a, you know.’

‘Scientist?’ Sam suggested tartly.

‘Sam, I think what Jack is trying to say is that you’re the first woman Loren’s seen since he became, uh, a teenager.’ Daniel pointed out gently.

‘Gee, thanks, Daniel.’ Sam said dryly.

‘Maybe you should get back to translating.’ Jack suggested, waving Daniel out as Sam threw her CO a knowing look.

‘Yes.’ Daniel agreed trying not to smile. ‘Translating.’ He backed out of the room. His mind turned swiftly to the mystery Sam had revealed with the strange device. He hoped the writing on the walls would reveal more.

o-O-o

Day Four

Sam accepted the dish of macaroni cheese that Jack handed her with a quiet murmur of thanks and took a moment to look around the small room they had designated as a kitchen-dining area. It was just down the corridor from the Stargate and the perfect spot to store their supplies. A large table had been requisitioned from another room for dining and a number of eclectic chairs placed around it. It wasn’t home but it provided them with a sense of normality, Sam mused. She didn’t think Loren saw it the same way though; the young man took his dish from Jack with a frown. Sam hid a smile; she couldn’t blame him. The pasta and cheese sauce looked a mess. Not that she could complain too much; whenever she made the dish it usually looked the same. She followed Daniel’s example – the archaeologist was inhaling the food – and dug in hungrily. After a moment, Loren followed.

Jack finally sat down with his own dish, choosing to sit next to her at the table with a small smile. He took a forkful and pulled a face. ‘There’s ice-cream for dessert.’ He promised.

‘I take it we got more supplies?’ Daniel asked as he scraped his dish clean.

‘Hammond sent them through earlier.’ Jack informed him briskly. ‘Teal’c said hi.’ He scowled at his macaroni. ‘He’s going on some mission with SG3.’

Sam hurriedly shovelled in another mouthful to prevent herself from smiling openly at the Colonel’s frustrated pique and envy at Teal’c’s assignment.

‘So how’s the translation coming?’ Jack asked waving his fork at Daniel.

‘Fascinating.’ Daniel said putting his dish down. ‘We’ve only just started piecing it together because it took us a while to realise that whoever wrote it, wasn’t writing sequentially.’

‘What do you mean?’ Sam asked genuinely interested. She hadn’t had a chance to see what Daniel was doing as she was so caught up in dismantling the Goa’uld light device to get to the real machine underneath.

‘The writer wrote a couple of sentences on one wall, then he’d move to another, then another,’ Daniel gestured, ‘and so on. It’s like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle of words.’

‘Sounds like…you.’ Jack said, stirring his meal.

‘Have you actually translated anything about what it says?’ Sam asked.

Daniel nodded. He gestured at Loren. ‘Loren worked out which was the starting point.’

‘Good job.’ Jack praised the young man who blushed furiously and ducked his head.

‘You said there was ice-cream?’ Daniel asked, his blue eyes shining hopefully at Jack.

Sam got up and reached into a small cold box at the back of the room. She tossed Daniel a carton. He eagerly pried the top off and started spooning up ice-cream. Loren looked over at Daniel curiously. Sam threw him some ice-cream and he quickly put the rest of his macaroni cheese aside to eat ice-cream.

‘Carter.’ Jack complained. ‘This is supposed to be a balanced meal.’

Sam handed him a tub of ice-cream.

Jack’s lips twitched and he accepted the ice-cream, setting aside his own main meal without hesitation.

‘We have managed to translate some of it.’ Daniel admitted, licking his spoon. ‘Sam was right. The Goa’uld did find this place and move in. I’m figuring that the writer was one of the human slaves that served with the very first Goa’uld who discovered the palace.’

‘Wow.’ Sam murmured around a mouthful of ice-cream. ‘So, he’s telling the story of the Goa’uld finding this planet?’

‘I think so.’ Daniel shrugged. ‘I’ve only managed to match a few sentences, but it would seem like it.’ He pointed with his spoon towards the room with the light show and radiation device. ‘So, what about you?’

‘We’ve managed to dismantle the light show in the room without disturbing the Goa’uld power source.’ Sam confirmed.

‘That’s a relief.’ Daniel commented dryly.

She smiled. ‘I have most of the original device uncovered now.’

‘Any writing?’ Daniel asked hopefully.

‘No.’ Sam confirmed. ‘The metal is unlike anything I’ve seen. I think it’s an alloy of some kind. We’ve sent a scraping back to the SGC for analysis. The design is unusual.’

Jack nodded as though in agreement. ‘It’s weird.’

Daniel stared at Jack before turning questioning eyes to Sam.

She nodded. ‘The Colonel’s been helping me.’ He had too – actual help rather than just standing protectively watching her back while she worked. He had an engineering degree but he usually liked to keep that quiet. It had turned out to be a bonus in carefully taking apart the light show.

‘Oh.’ Daniel returned his gaze to the older man.

Jack glared back. ‘What?’

‘Well, you have to admit,’ Daniel pointed out, ‘you usually don’t help, help.’

‘It may have escaped your notice, Daniel, but there’s not a great deal to do around here.’ Jack pointed out tersely. ‘Besides, Carter needed the extra pair of hands.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Daniel’s apology was sincere. His blue eyes met the Colonel’s. ‘I know you’re smarter than you let on.’

Jack stared at him in surprise. ‘OK.’ He replied slowly, clearly wondering if Daniel had lost his mind.

Sam looked at Daniel curiously, wondering what had prompted the apology.

‘So what do you think it does?’ Daniel asked hurriedly.

‘We don’t really know.’ Sam admitted as she finished her ice-cream. ‘There doesn’t seem to be a purpose. All the device seems to do is emit radiation.’ A yawn caught her unawares and she apologised even as she gulped in the oxygen.

‘Looks like it’s time for bed.’ Jack said firmly. ‘Let’s all clean up and hit the sack.’

‘Sounds like a good idea, sir.’ Sam agreed. She smiled at Loren and he almost dropped the empty tub of ice-cream he held. ‘You all done, Loren?’

‘Yes.’ He smiled at her shyly and handed her the empty carton as she held her hand out. ‘Thank you.’

‘Why don’t you go wash-up, Loren?’ Jack suggested.

The young man took off before anything else could be said.

Sam saw the look of disappointment on the Colonel’s face. He loved kids but Loren was keeping his distance. She figured it was partly a reaction to the Colonel’s behaviour in pushing Loren to tell them the truth but also because the young man considered Jack to be a father figure. Loren continued to be shy around her too. She wasn’t sure if it was because she was a woman; maybe she had been designated as ‘mother figure’, she thought ruefully. Loren did at least treat Daniel like a big brother and the two were spending most of their time together. It left her and the Colonel – Jack – alone a lot of the time.

It had been good for them, Sam considered as she helped her team-mates clear up and they headed for their temporary quarters. She and Jack had fallen back into the same relaxed bantering they’d had when they had been stuck off-world waiting for the SGC to put the second gate in place after the whole thing with Thor and the Replicators. It felt like they were friends again. Maybe friends constrained by their military ranks but friends. For the first time since she’d had to sit in a chair and confess her feelings for him, Sam was actually feeling completely at ease around him.

She got ready for bed quickly. Her room was sandwiched between Jack and Daniel’s. The archaeologist had taken the room next to Loren; Jack the one at the end. Sam climbed wearily into bed and shut off the light, plunging the room into darkness. Strange shadows played across the ceiling and she turned over resolutely in her sleeping bag, pillowed her head on her arm and closed her eyes. Tiredness stole over her and sent her into sleep…

The sound of something crashing outside had Sam bolting awake. She breathed heavily as she got her bearings. She pushed back the sleeping bag and quickly reached for the gun she had placed by her side. She switched the light on the gun and padded out of the bedroom.

The corridor seemed empty and she made her way carefully to the main room, sweeping the dark corners with light. She eased into the hall holding the Stargate; down the corridor to the room where they had stored the supplies. Her heart pounded as she picked up movement. The beam of light fell across the Colonel.

Sam breathed a sigh of relief as Jack held up a hand in acknowledgement and waved her over. He was standing over the food supplies.

‘Woah.’ Sam murmured as she saw the torn cartons and packets. They were in shreds.

Jack nodded in agreement. ‘It looks like it was wild animals. I heard footsteps running away when I got here.’

‘How did they get in?’ Sam asked, her eyes sweeping over the room.

‘Good question.’ Jack pointed with his own gun down the corridor. ‘That way.’

Sam followed him, backing him up as always. The breeze stopped them both and Jack glanced back at her and pointed at the open door. She nodded silently. They moved into positions silently, following through into the room with swift efficiency, guns poised. The room was empty but the window was wide open.

Jack inched over and looked out of it. His eyes narrowed as he tried to make out shapes in the darkness. He shook his head. ‘They’re gone.’ He secured the window.

‘I guess we’re going to have to do a perimeter check every night.’ Sam sighed. ‘Make sure they don’t get back in.’

‘Yeah.’ Jack glanced back over at her and she was suddenly aware that she was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and he was wearing nothing but his BDU pants. From the way his eyes swept over her legs, the same thought had just occurred to the Colonel. They looked at each other in silence for a long moment.

‘We should get back; get some sleep.’ Jack said gruffly.

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam agreed. They turned back to the living quarters and said goodnight in the corridor. She climbed back into her sleeping bag and got comfortable. She pushed the incident with the animals out of her mind and settled back to sleep.

o-O-o

Day Five

The floor of the room was covered in pieces of paper. Daniel had moved to translating sentences on one piece of paper and swapping them around trying to find where they fitted in the overall picture. Loren was currently trying to work out the pattern while Daniel concentrated on translating.

‘Hey!’ Jack called out as he entered and lifted two plates. ‘Breakfast.’

Both Daniel and Loren abandoned their places to grab at the food. It had been a long two hours since they’d gotten up only to be informed about the animal attack. Barely any of their food had been edible and Jack had resorted to dialling home to request additional supplies.

‘Thanks.’ Daniel said taking the plate from Jack. He smiled at the sandwich and started eating.

Loren thanked Jack and started in on the second plate.

Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels taking in the room and its contents. ‘How’s it coming?’

‘Slowly.’ Daniel admitted between bites. ‘How about you?’

‘Carter has the device uncovered.’ Jack confirmed absently. His eyes were on the young man next to him. ‘Hey, Loren. Have you ever had any animals get in here before?’

Loren shook his head rapidly. ‘No.’

‘You sure about that?’ Jack asked.

Loren flushed. ‘The only animals are the ones I used to snare in the old gardens.’

‘What did they look like?’ Jack asked.

‘Small. Brown.’ Loren described briefly. He demonstrated the size of the animal with his hands.

‘Like mice.’ Jack determined.

‘Mice?’ Loren looked at him inquisitively.

‘The description you gave,’ Daniel explained, ‘it sounds like a small animal we have back on Earth called a mouse.’

‘Oh.’ Loren said. ‘Are they tasty back on Earth?’

‘Tasty?’ Daniel’s eyebrows rose and he refused to glance at Jack in case the two of them set themselves off laughing. ‘Uh, no. Well, I’ve never really tried one.’

‘I have.’ Jack said.

‘Really?’ Daniel’s head snapped around. ‘When?’

‘Iraq.’ Jack replied bluntly. He shrugged. ‘I don’t remember them being tasty.’

‘The ones here are.’ Loren sprang to his feet. ‘I could show you.’

‘Maybe another time.’ Jack said hastily. He leaned a shoulder on the doorframe. ‘Whatever got in here last night wasn’t a mouse.’

Loren stirred uneasily.

Daniel decided to take pity on him. ‘Loren, I left my journal in my room. Could you run back and get it for me?’

‘Sure.’ His smile was quick and easy. He left the room swiftly; not so fast to be running but with more speed than a normal walk.

Jack watched him go and shook his head.

‘For what it’s worth,’ Daniel said, ‘I think he’s telling the truth.’

The military man sighed. ‘Maybe.’

Daniel gestured with the remains of his sandwich. ‘You know Loren had the machine turned on full all the time he was here on his own. It’s possible the radiation was keeping any larger animals away from the palace. Now that we’ve reduced to it under half of the radiation strength, it’s maybe no longer enough to deter them.’

‘Carter said the same thing.’ Jack admitted. ‘I was just checking.’

‘You don’t trust him.’ Daniel realised. ‘Loren, I mean.’

‘He’s not exactly been up front with us, Daniel.’ Jack pointed out, walking further into the room and pacing over to the window, avoiding the papers on the floor.

‘He explained all that.’ Daniel sighed and stuffed the remainder of the sandwich in his mouth.

‘If he’d told the truth from day one, SG5 could still be alive.’ Jack said. ‘You might not have…’ he stopped abruptly.

Daniel swallowed his food hurriedly as he realised why Jack was angry with Loren on some level; because of what had almost happened to him. ‘I never did thank you for pulling me in from the balcony,’ he murmured, ‘or carrying me back through the gate.’

Jack shrugged away Daniel’s gratitude. ‘You’d do the same for me.’ He cleared his throat. ‘What were you thinking about on the balcony anyway? You weren’t making a lot of sense.’

‘I guess not.’ Daniel sighed. He crossed his arms over his chest. ‘Mainly about Sha’re and what happened with Shifu.’ The week before he’d met Sha’re’s son, the Harcesis child fathered by Apophis. Shifu had been a revelation, a glowing energy being who had made Daniel question some of the choices he was making. All the choices he was making, if he was honest.

‘You, er, need to talk?’

Jack looked almost as comfortable about making the offer as Daniel felt about receiving it.

‘Not really.’ Daniel confirmed.

Jack nodded and Daniel could see the relief in his eyes.

‘You know, Jack, Loren’s just a kid. None of this was his fault.’ Daniel said quietly.

‘I know.’ Jack sighed and shoved a hand through his grey hair, disturbing the strands. He gestured around the room. ‘Carter and I are going to secure the building. We’ll leave you to it.’

o-O-o

Day Six

‘So, that’s kind of disturbing.’ Jack pointed at the broken window with his weapon. He and Carter had both woken again during the previous night to a loud banging noise. They had headed back to the same room where they had found the open window the night before; the window had been shut but they could clearly see that something had tried to get in. Jack had ordered a search first thing in the morning.

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam frowned. Her blue eyes narrowed on the deserted land around them. Her gaze caught on something.

‘What?’ Jack asked.

Sam crouched down and he followed her hand as she pointed at the muddy soil.

‘Tracks.’ Jack realised.

There were a mess of them; large paw prints, faint marks that looked like scratches from claws.

‘Pack animals.’ Jack concluded, motioning at the number. ‘Whatever they are.’

‘They’re big, sir.’ Sam added. ‘With the size of those paws, I would say they’re somewhere between a bear and a large dog.’

‘Sweet.’ Jack stood up. ‘There’s no sign of them now.’

‘Probably they’re nocturnal.’ Sam traced the path of the animals back to the beach. ‘They may be some kind of sea creatures.’

‘Actually, I don’t think they are.’

They both turned at Daniel’s voice. He was standing just behind them. He waved a piece of paper at them. ‘I, uh, found something in the translation.’

Jack gestured at him. ‘Well?’

‘The first part of the translation was all about how Aku, who was a young scribe, became a slave to a Goa’uld called Kilta.’

‘Kilta?’ Sam questioned.

‘I’ve never heard of him before.’ Daniel said, pushing his glasses up his nose. ‘I don’t think he appears in our mythology.’

‘OK.’ Jack motioned for him to continue.

‘Anyway, Kilta came here because there was talk that there was a race of aliens who had engineered some kind of warrior creature – a killing machine.’

Jack felt his heart sink. ‘Of course there was.’

‘When Kilta arrived on the planet, the palace was deserted and had been for years. No race of aliens and no warrior creatures.’ Daniel continued. ‘Kilta searched the palace but all he found was,’ he read from the paper he held, ‘some journals in a strange language none could read and a device in the centre room.’

‘The one emitting radiation.’ Sam murmured.

‘Kilta realised the radiation caused certain pleasurable qualities, he had the slaves redecorate and build the light show. He began to invite other Goa’uld to the palace.’ Daniel said.

Jack gestured impatiently. ‘Didn’t we know about this already?’

‘Yes,’ Daniel admitted, ‘but Kilta found out after his first visitor that the human slaves died when returning to their own world. Aku says that Kilta believed it was the radiation machine and after that he told the visiting Goa’uld not to bring slaves; that his would serve.’

‘But the machine was calibrated to dial the radiation down.’ Sam argued.

‘When the palace stopped being a, a desirable resort,’ Daniel continued, ‘Kilta realised he needed to find a way for his own slaves to leave. But then it went wrong.’

‘Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to like this?’ Jack took his cap off and rubbed at his hair.

‘Because you’re not going to like this.’ Daniel parroted back to him. He nudged his glasses again. ‘On the fourth night, creatures began to approach the palace.’

‘Let me guess,’ Jack said caustically, ‘the warrior creatures.’

‘Kilta thought so.’ Daniel agreed. ‘He tried to capture one the next night but lost five Jaffa in the attempt.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Kilta decided to leave the creatures alone after that and it seemed to work; they came close to the palace but didn’t attack anyone, but the last night when the device was completely switched off, Aku says the palace was woken by the screams of a Jaffa on guard duty.’ He paused, his blue eyes meeting Jack’s. ‘The palace was attacked en masse.’

‘Nice.’ Jack commented.

‘Aku describes them as, and I quote ‘night creatures unlike any I have seen; teeth and claw equally as sharp, large as a, a – well something I can’t translate – and intelligent. The pack works together; even the shots of the Jaffa did not stop them.’’ Daniel concluded. He waved the paper at them. ‘Kilta realised that the radiation device kept the animals away from the palace.’

‘It’s the deterrent.’ Sam realised.

‘Exactly.’ Daniel sighed. ‘When the device was dialled all the way down, the animals attacked.’

‘He dialled the radiation device back up.’ Sam realised.

‘And he left the next day taking the slaves with him.’ Daniel nodded. ‘Aku’s last sentence says that he was happy to go home and leave the palace with its strange monsters behind.’ He pulled a face. ‘There’s nothing more. We don’t know if he died from the withdrawal symptoms back on his home planet after being re-exposed to the radiation.’

‘This is great.’ Jack said. ‘So we have the same choice? Leave and die, or stay here with the radiation on full to prevent being a night-time snack?’

‘There’s, uh, one other thing.’ Daniel said, shifting his weight. ‘The journals that Aku talked about were hidden in his room. They seem to be written in an early form of cuneiform.’ He looked at them. ‘I can read it but it’ll…’

‘Take time to translate.’ Jack sighed.

‘And I don’t know if it’ll actually give us anything of value.’ Daniel pointed out. ‘It could be a, er, recipe book for all I know.’

They all looked at each other disheartened.

Maybe they were stuck forever after all.

o-O-o

Day Seven

Sam stared at the device, tapping the screwdriver gently against her thigh. After the revelations of Daniel’s translations the previous day, they had consulted with the SGC and Janet Fraiser over the radiation: could they risk going home after only a week of reduced exposure – the device was already dialled down to twenty per cent? Janet had said no. They didn’t know enough to be able to guess at the effects. According to the petite doctor the right way of weaning themselves was to stay where they were and keep reducing the radiation, staying twenty-fours when it was reduced to zero just in case.

The Colonel had then covered the other option: staying forever with the radiation on full. They’d decided against that one too. The planet wasn’t safe. It wasn’t just the creatures but as Janet pointed out, they had no idea what the effects of the radiation on their bodies and minds would be long term.

The final plan was to speed up the detox; the radiation had been reduced by half again in the hopes that they could leave sooner. Until then, they secured the palace and fallen back to the main room with the device and the corridor with the Stargate. They hoped they could defend the rooms they were in when the radiation hit zero. The animals had tried to enter again the previous night but had been foiled by the locked windows and doors. They were instigating a watch and Jack had asked for Teal’c to return as soon as his mission with SG3 completed.

Sam couldn’t help but feel they were missing something, something important. She propped her chin up on the blunt handle of the screwdriver and frowned at the device.

‘Hey.’ Daniel nudged her. He sat in a cross-legged position beside her surrounded by the journals. He vaguely gestured at Jack and Loren playing chess behind them. ‘Looks like they’re finally getting along. How are you doing?’

‘You ever get the feeling you’re missing something?’ Sam asked with a rueful smile. She rubbed the back of her neck.

‘All the time.’ Daniel said, patting the journal he held. ‘At least, we know this is about the creatures even if I can’t understand most of it.’

Sam sighed heavily. ‘Maybe this technology is just beyond me.’

Daniel smiled at her confidently. ‘If anyone can work it out, it’s you.’

‘Thanks for the vote of confidence, Daniel.’ Sam patted his arm. ‘But I don’t think it’s warranted in this case.

‘You can work anything out.’ Daniel insisted. ‘Anything. This, me taking over the world, anything.’

Sam looked at him curiously, a faint line appearing between her brows. ‘Are you OK, Daniel?’

‘I’m fine.’ Daniel smiled at her reassuringly. ‘So, what do you think you’re missing?’

‘We think this device was built to emit the radiation and keep the creatures away from the palace, right?’ Sam expanded.

‘Right.’ Daniel agreed happily.

‘What if it wasn’t?’ Sam postulated. ‘What if that wasn’t the purpose of the device at all?’

‘You’re going back to the original theory that the radiation was a side-effect?’ Daniel responded thoughtfully.

‘Think about it.’ Sam said. ‘Say there was a race of people here who created the creatures. But then the creatures turned on them. This device had to take time to build so what did they do while it was being built?’

‘Maybe they built it beforehand and created the sensitivity to the radiation as a failsafe within the creatures.’ Daniel said.

‘But why keep them away completely?’ Sam shot back. ‘If you created the monsters as weapons wouldn’t you want someway of controlling them beyond simply keeping them away from you? I don’t know.’ She sighed heavily. ‘Wouldn’t you want to be able to send them on missions, train them to do what you wanted?’

‘You have a point.’ Daniel mused.

‘What if this device was meant to control them?’ Sam asked.

Daniel nodded. ‘I could go for that theory.’

‘But what if it was broken?’ Sam continued thinking out loud. ‘And rather than emitting some kind of radiation that controlled the creatures, it started to emit radiation that drove them away.’

‘You might be right.’ Daniel said, his brow furrowing.

‘So if it’s broken…’ Sam continued.

‘It could be fixed.’

‘But then,’ Sam said despondently, ‘if it was broken why didn’t the original race of aliens just fix it?’

‘Maybe they weren’t around anymore.’ Daniel mused. ‘Maybe they died out, and over time the device broke, driving the animals away from the palace.’

‘So, when the Goa’uld arrived…’

‘The palace was empty and they assumed the radiation device was meant to be the way it was like we did.’ Daniel said excitedly. ‘So, all we have to do is fix the machine.’

‘Maybe.’ Sam sighed. ‘I don’t know how it will affect us though.’

‘You mean the withdrawal?’ Daniel tilted his head as he considered it. ‘According to Aku’s writing they only seemed to attack the humans and Jaffa when the device was switched off completely.’

‘So, our last night.’ Sam bit her lip.

‘What are you guys talking about?’ Jack dropped to sit beside them.

Sam and Daniel both turned to meet Jack’s curious gaze.

‘Sam thinks she’s found a way to control the creatures.’ Daniel explained.

‘Well, not quite control, sir.’ Sam explained her theory.

Jack considered it carefully and frowned. ‘There are a lot of what ifs and maybes involved here, Carter.’

‘I know, sir, but…’

‘But if she’s right, we don’t have to worry about our last night here.’ Daniel said. ‘If she can fix the machine during the day then hopefully we won’t suffer any after effects but we’ll be able to stop the creatures from attacking.’

Jack looked at her. ‘You think you can fix it?’

Sam met his eyes. ‘I don’t know, sir.’ She said honestly. ‘But I can try.’

‘OK.’ Jack nodded slowly, quirking an eyebrow upwards. ‘Let’s do this.’

o-O-o

Day Eight

‘Teal’c! Buddy! It’s good to see you.’ Jack greeted the missing fourth member of SG1 as he stepped out of the wormhole and onto the planet.

Teal’c inclined his head. ‘It is good to be back, O’Neill.’

‘Hammond fill you in?’ Jack asked as they stepped away from the wormhole and back into the room with the radiation.

‘He did.’ Teal’c confirmed confidently. His pleasure in being reunited with the rest of SG1 was evident in the way his dark eyes warmed as he greeted Daniel and Sam who looked up from their work to wave at him absently. The archaeologist sat in the middle of a sea of paper with Loren helping him organise the translation; Sam was glued to the machine.

‘Sun just came up so we’re just about to dial the device down to zero.’ Jack confirmed. He was dressed for battle; his vest over his black t-shirt, gun in his hand. He was ready. The animals had tried a different entry point the night before. Another window was smashed. He figured without the radiation, and a frenzied set of animals, the glass and the doors weren’t going to stand up. The palace was old and falling to pieces.

‘We’ve set up an outer perimeter of mines and traps.’ Jack explained. ‘Hopefully that will take out most of them.’ He pointed at the barrier of furniture by the rear entrance to the room. ‘We’ve set those up in the Stargate corridor too but…’

‘It will not hold them for long if Daniel Jackson’s translations are correct about the creatures’ abilities.’ Teal’c finished.

Jack patted his shoulder. ‘Have I told you it’s good to see you?’ He motioned at Daniel and Sam. ‘Daniel thinks the journals might be able to tell us more about the creatures and Carter’s trying to work out how to fix the machine.’ He looked back at Teal’c. ‘As soon as the dial hits zero, we’ll have until dark to get the device to work properly or…’

‘Or the creatures will attack.’ Teal’c nodded. ‘I understand, O’Neill.’

‘If they can’t get the device to work before dark then we will need to keep the animals away for as long as it takes for them to get the doohickey working.’ Jack completed.

Teal’c gave a nod of acknowledgement. He knew what was needed and he was prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with his team-mates and defend them.

Jack turned back to the others. ‘You kids about ready?’

Sam nodded. ‘Yes, sir.’

Daniel shrugged while Loren nodded nervously.

Jack pointed Teal’c to the right side of the corridor; he’d take the left. They all believed that they would be fine in daylight but Jack wasn’t taking any chances. ‘OK,’ he said authoratively, ‘Carter, switch it off.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam reached into the machine and turned the device off.

There was a moment’s silence.

Jack let out a slow breath and waved at Sam. ‘OK, do your thing.’

Sam grimaced and moved back to the machine. Jack made his way to his guard point. It was going to be a long day.

Eight hours later, Jack sighed heavily. He figured his frustration was only exceeded by Sam’s. She looked more and more frustrated with each hour that passed.

‘Carter.’ Jack crouched down beside her. She had a streak of dirt and grease across her face.

‘I’ve fixed the radiation leak, sir.’ Sam confirmed. She pointed into the depths of the device and he glanced at the patched tubing.

‘And how are you getting on with the rest?’ Jack asked it lightly but his chocolate eyes were deadly serious.

She looked despondent. ‘Not good, sir.’ She waved a hand at the machine. ‘The problem is we have no idea of the real function of the device; what it was supposed to do, how it was supposed to work. I think I’ve figured out the function of some of the individual components but I don’t understand how they should work together.’

Jack checked his watch. ‘We have an hour of daylight to figure it out.’

‘Wait!’ Daniel stood up suddenly, clutching the journal he held in his hands. ‘I think I’ve got it.’

‘Let’s hope it isn’t catching.’ Jack muttered.

Sam bit back a smile.

Daniel shot Jack a look and waved the journal at him. ‘I think these are instructions.’

‘Instructions?’ A gleam of hope entered Sam’s blue eyes.

Daniel nodded enthusiastically. ‘Instructions.’ He pushed his glasses up his nose and walked over to them quickly. ‘I think it’s describing how they intended to control the animals.’ He looked up at them, his eyes sparkling with excitement behind his glasses. ‘I think it’s talking about the machine.’

‘Well, what are you waiting for?’ Jack asked, waving at the device. ‘Have at it!’ He moved back to his previous position and watched as Daniel began to talk Sam quietly through the machine’s workings. Loren hovered near to them anxiously.

The hour passed quickly. Jack checked his watch. ‘Time’s up. How’s it coming?’

‘Almost there, sir!’ Sam called out. The reply was muffled because she had her head stuck in the centre of the machine. Jack was inclined to worry for a moment that it wasn’t safe.

‘How much…’

‘That one!’ Daniel confirmed to their female team-mate, cutting across Jack’s question.

‘Right.’ Sam muttered and reached back into the machine with her wrench.

The loud explosions outside of the palace had their heads snapping around in startled realisation.

‘Show time, kids.’ Jack snapped briskly. ‘Carter, Daniel, get that machine working now!’

Daniel and Sam exchanged a look and returned to the device.

‘Loren!’ Jack waved at him to get behind a stack of furniture where he could hide out of the way. The young man picked up the zat Jack had given him; it would be his only means of defence if the animals made it to him.

Jack removed the safety on his gun, as he crouched behind the furniture and took aim. He looked down the corridor, back towards Teal’c.

The Jaffa gave him a reassuring nod. He hoisted his own weapon into position. He had eschewed his staff weapon given Daniel’s translations suggested the staff weapons had no effect on the animals.

The Colonel dragged his attention back to the corridor as the sound of breaking glass reached him. ‘Heads up! Incoming!’ He yelled over his shoulder. He kept his eyes on the corridor. They widened at the first sight of the animals.

They were big.

Really big.

A mix of hyena and bear.

They were too far away for Jack to see anything else but the hairs rose at the back of his neck in automatic visceral reaction. Fight or flight? He took a deep breath and aimed.

Shot after shot rang out.

Between the gaps of furniture, he could see the dark forms lurch and fall but they just kept coming. How many of them were they? Jack could hear behind him that Teal’c had started firing. They were getting surrounded.

He ran out of ammo; he changed the clip with a swift efficiency that spoke of his years of experience.

‘Carter!’ he yelled over his shoulder.

‘Just a few more minutes, sir!’ She promised, shouting back.

Jack couldn’t spare them a glance. He ran out of ammo again. ‘Now, would be a really good time!’ The wall of furniture wobbled as creature after creature threw themselves against it. Jack scrambled back, slamming the ammo into his gun as the barrier gave way at the top.

A creature jumped on top of the stack of furniture; black eyes glowered down on Jack. The lips pulled back in an angry snarl to reveal razor sharp teeth; claws digging into the wooden dresser it was perched on.

Jack felt his heart pounding as he met the creature’s stare; alpha male to alpha male. He brought his gun up and fired as it jumped. The shots hit it in the shoulder and chest and altered the jump, landing awkwardly by Jack’s feet. Injured, it lunged forward and managed to grab hold of Jack’s leg in a horrific grip.

Jack screamed in pain, firing madly at it. More gun-shots from the door of the room. The Colonel glanced back to find Daniel with his handgun. The archaeologist scampered across the space and grabbed Jack’s arm. He dragged him into the room as Teal’c retreated too.

A group of creatures advanced on them.

‘Got it!’ Sam slammed the last component into place. There was a humming sound.

The animals stopped.

They looked confused.

Sam landed by Daniel’s side, her own gun poised confidently in her hands. ‘Daniel?’

‘I don’t know.’ Daniel admitted.

One after one, the animals began to lie down.

‘They’re waiting.’ Daniel realised.

‘For what?’ Jack asked, ignoring the pain searing his leg, the blood soaking into the BDU pants.

‘Perhaps they are waiting for orders.’ Teal’c suggested calmly.

‘Great.’ Jack grimaced. ‘How do we call them off?’

Daniel moved carefully back to the journal he had discarded and flipped through it. He pushed his glasses up his nose. ‘Aca veo! Veo!’

The animals ears pricked up and they looked at Daniel for a long moment.

The archaeologist swallowed nervously but held his ground. ‘Veo!’

One of the animals got to its feet and moved away, heading back the way it had arrived, jumping up and over the furniture to leave. Another followed it. Then, another.

Five minutes later, the room was empty.

Jack looked at Daniel questioningly.

‘Oh.’ Daniel held up the journal. ‘I told them to go.’

Jack could feel the sweat running down his body as he lowered his gun. ‘Teal’c, Daniel, dial us home!’

‘Shouldn’t we wait longer to see if there are any after effects of the radiation?’ Daniel asked.

‘Daniel.’ Jack glowered at him. ‘We’re going home.’ Sam was already bent over Jack’s leg, assessing the damage. The Colonel let himself fall backwards, his arm over his eyes as he gave into the pain. He nodded as she informed him of her intentions to bandage it. He dimly heard Daniel and Teal’c dialling the Stargate. It was over. It was his final thought before darkness descended.

o-O-o

‘Oy.’ Jack slapped a hand over his face to block out the bright infirmary lights and rubbed his eyes tiredly.

‘Nice of you to rejoin us, Colonel.’ Janet assured him as she adjusted his IV.

Jack lowered his hand and took in her twinkling brown eyes. He glanced around and saw the two other beds occupied by Daniel and Sam. They were clearly asleep.

‘Just a precaution.’ Janet said as his eyes darted to hers. ‘I wanted to make sure that there was no effect from coming home less than twenty-four hours after the radiation was reduced to zero.’

‘Is there?’ Jack asked worried. It had been his decision to pull the team out.

‘So far, so good.’ Janet picked up his chart. ‘You’re doing OK too even if you are sporting twenty stitches in your left shin. We’ve given you some antibiotics to make sure the bite doesn’t get infected.’

‘Thanks, Doc.’ Jack frowned. ‘Where’s Teal’c?’

‘He’s with the young man you brought back; Loren, is it?’ Janet tucked her pen back into her pocket and replaced his chart. ‘I contacted Colonel Ferretti at the Pentagon. He’s offered to take him in. He’s on his way.’

‘Good choice.’ Jack nodded. Lou Ferretti had transferred to the Pentagon the year before but he remained attached to the Stargate programme. He had the right security level and his laid back style would make it easy for Loren.

Janet smiled at him. ‘Get some rest, Colonel.’ She smiled at him. ‘That’s an order.’

Jack watched her leave and pulled the covers more tightly around him. His leg twinged and he ignored it as his eyes drifted over to Carter and onto Daniel. He trusted his team and he knew they would have taken care of everything; making sure the planet was locked out of the dialling computer, leaving the appropriate warnings for any other visitors to the palace. They were all safely home. He closed his eyes.

He really needed a vacation.

fin.

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