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Needle In a Haystack

Chapter 2

Ferretti was the first through the 'gate, Rueben and Willy right behind him, one carrying the back board, the other a plastic medical box. Janet was behind them, with Lieutenant Driscoll bringing up the rear. Sam was sitting with Daniel, tears on her cheeks.

"Holy fucking Christ!" Ferretti mumbled when he caught his first good look at the man beside Major Carter.

Janet dropped to her knees. "I need to get him to the infirmary, stat. Easy, it looks as if every rib might be broken," she said, probing gently.

"The colonel, ma'am?" Ferretti asked Sam.

"He and Teal'c are looking for Casey," was the soft reply. "She wasn't here...but she had to have been the one who dragged him here...she had to be!"

"You two, that way," the Marine said to Lieutenant Driscoll and Willy Lopez. "You're with me, Kid."




Jack stared at the river. If Casey had come here, looking for water...shit! "Casey!...Casey!"

Teal'c shook his head. "She did not come this way, O'Neill."

That's a relief, he thought worriedly. No snakes in Casey's head. Good thing...that's a very good thing. No way in hell would Daniel survive that happening again! "You know this how?"

"There are no tracks in the mud. There has been rainfall in the past few hours. Nowhere have I seen the marks of anyone walking through this area."

He nodded. Simple things that he should have picked up! Pay attention, O'Neill! "Okay, so we look in the other direction."

"It is doubtful that she could have gotten far," the Jaffa said calmly. "The message was received less than an hour ago."

Yeah, that was a first. The Tok'ra had contacted them almost the second the message had come through. It had taken them forty minutes to get to the new Tok'ra base. He knew exactly what Teal'c was saying. Casey wasn't here. "Let's head back," he said hoarsely.

"We will assist in returning Daniel Jackson to the infirmary. Then we will be free to continue our search."

"Right," Jack agreed.

"O'Neill?" Ferretti's voice crackled from the radio on Jack's shoulder.

"Go ahead Lou."

"Doc Fraiser says we gotta get Doc back through the 'gate."

"On our way."

"Boys and I can handle it."

"Thanks, Lou. We'll meet you at the 'gate."

There was no reply. There was no need to reply. Jack and Teal'c jogged back to the spinney of trees and shrubs where someone, hopefully Casey, had hidden Daniel.




The wail of the klaxons welcomed them as they stepped onto the ramp. Jack, Teal'c, Ferretti, and Willy were carrying the backboard on which the nearly dead Daniel was lying. Janet had her arm around Sam, trying to comfort the woman. Driscoll and Kid followed, worry etched on their faces.

"Colonel?" General Hammond asked quietly.

"He's bad, sir. And no sign of Casey anywhere."

If it was possible for something as inanimate as the SGC to gasp with pain, then that was exactly what happened. It was as if the entire facility took in a breath of disbelief, of sorrow...and would hold that breath until the last member of SG-1 returned safely. The Marines in the 'gate room, and the techs in the control room, all reacted visibly to what had not been said. The fears that lurked in the hearts and minds of the premier team.

"I see."

"General, I'd like a chance to check SG-1 before releasing them for further duty," Janet said quietly.

"Very well, Doctor."

Janet took the lead. The archaeologist was dying. And if the secret of the team's Immortality was to be kept, she couldn't allow that to happen. The next few minutes could be critical for Daniel. For the entire team. And hanging over them, like the sword of Damocles, was the fact that Casey was still missing.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Dartal had left the house shortly after eating breakfast. Casey lingered over her coffee. The meal had been simple...wheat cakes sweetened with honey. Dates, and what tasted like apples.

She'd been trying to remember where she was. It seemed so damned important, to know exactly where she was. But that little voice that had been whispering since she'd awakened continued to warn her not to ask any of her questions out loud. Images danced in her mind, but she had no idea if they were real, or creations of her imagination. For the briefest of moments a face...with amazing blue eyes...filled her thoughts. It was gone before she was able to focus on it.

Nebetah watched the young woman from her place beside the work table. This one was much stronger than they suspected. She clamped down on the hope that tried to rise to life within her heart. She focused instead on the task before her. Her hands continued to wash the few dishes that had been used.

With a stretch, Casey stood to her feet. Amazingly, she felt a bit sleepy. "I think I'll lie down for a bit."

The older woman nodded. "You have been ill for many days. Rest now is the best thing for you."




He stood beside the butcher's stall and watched as the old woman made her way slowly toward the well, the young boy beside her helping her with gentle hands. Dartal frowned. He hadn't been told of any newcomers. But then, he'd been otherwise occupied. He strode toward the old woman as she seated herself on the bench in front of the square, wooden platform that protected people from falling into the only source of water for miles. It also protected the well itself, keeping the weight of those who drew from its life-giving depths from caving in the mud sides.

When he was close enough, the young boy, not quite a teenager, he noted, bowed low. "We were told that asylum could be found here."

Well, the kid has spunk, Dartal thought. Although he could hear the slight quaver in the boy's voice. "And from what...or whom, would you be seeking asylum?"

"Our village was taken over. The Hittites attacked without warning. Very few of us were able to escape. My...grandmother...yes, my grandmother and I heard at the oasis two days journey from here that this village was one of open hearts and arms."

Okay, so the old woman wasn't really his grandmother. Probably just one of the old hags of whatever village they'd come from. He hadn't heard of any attacks either. But that would be easy enough to check out. For the time being, he had no concerns about the two. A boy and an old woman could hardly cause him problems. "You are welcome to stay...for now. Be warned that I will check your story. If you are simply run-away slaves, you will be returned to your master."

The boy bowed his head. "We understand."


A  A  A  A  A  A


It seemed that every nurse and medic in the infirmary was by his bedside. Doing something. IV's were started. Bloody trousers were cut off of him, revealing more wounds. When the doctor saw the shocked faces of his friends, she pulled the curtain around the bed. Two medics approached the team, guided them gently to three waiting beds. Their vitals were taken. And then they were blessedly left alone. They didn't have to maintain their stoic demeanor. The three teammates sat side by side on one of the beds, leaning against one another, their faces reflecting their fear...their worry. They were on their feet in an instant when the curtain slid open.

Janet once again pulled the curtain closed around the bed where the still unconscious Daniel lay. She jotted down notes from her initial exam.

"Well?" Jack asked, his voice gravelly with emotion. They'd found Daniel. But not Casey. And he didn't relish telling the archaeologist that whenever he came around.

"He's been beaten, severely. The wounds are new, made within the last few hours, I'd say. He's been drugged, there's evidence of multiple injections on both arms. His ribs have been fractured, two broken, one lung is in danger of collapsing; his nose was broken, I'll try to set that before he wakes up. He has multiple fractures in his shoulders and arms. The fingers of both hands have been broken..." the doctor recited.

"Jesus!" Jack hissed.

Sam's eyes brimmed with tears. "He was trying to kill Daniel...slowly!"

"So it would seem," Janet agreed.

"We must return to the planet," Teal'c said quietly. "Daniel Jackson is safe here. He will be well soon enough. And when he is, Casey Jackson must be at his side."

"I agree, Teal'c," Jack nodded. "One of them sent that message. They made it off of that ship...together. Daniel wouldn't have left without her."

"Or she without him," Sam added. "It's possible that Casey managed to get them off of the ship, and 'hid' Daniel where she did, knowing that we'd find him if...when we came through the 'gate."

"The headless Jaffa we discovered beside the Chappa'ai may had aided in their escape, and was killed by those loyal to Ba'al," Teal'c said. "It is highly possible that Ba'al has his Jaffa looking for them, and in an effort to protect Daniel Jackson, Casey led them away from where she had hidden him. She may even now be hiding."

"Let's go. I want two full Marine teams with us. I'll talk to the general about that. Get the gear ready. We leave as soon as we can," Jack said. Not one of them mentioned the fact that the trail from the 'gate to where Daniel had been lying was as plain as if it had been marked with red flags. Right now all they had to go on was a message that had lasted less than ten seconds, and the fact that Daniel had been right where he was supposed to be. They wouldn't mention the fact that Ba'al might have followed them, and merely left the badly beaten Daniel to die. Which meant he'd grabbed Casey...again. Nor would they entertain the thought that the Jaffa they'd found had died protecting Daniel...for whatever reason, and it was possible that Casey had no idea her husband had even been on Ba'al's ship, and that she was still a prisoner of the Goa'uld.

Sam turned to Janet. "If he wakes up, and he's like Casey was-"

Janet smiled. "I know a few words of Goa'uld. And I can keep him sedated until the ker'nish'ta wears off, if need be."

The tall blonde nodded. "Tell him we'll be back with Casey, if he wakes up before we return."

"I will."


A  A  A  A  A  A


The old woman looked around cautiously. "See if you can find us something to eat," she said softly, pressing a small coin into the boy's hand.

"Yes, Grandmother," the boy said obediently. Those who watched him saw a boy on the verge of puberty. Although it was said that he was growing, and maturing, at an accelerated rate, when compared to other boys his age. He approached a stall where several types of bread were displayed. "I have this much," he said shyly.

The man behind the table smiled. "Then I suggest this bread," he said kindly, taking a small loaf of brown bread and handing it to the boy. He then took the coin, and gave the boy two smaller ones in return. "That will be just enough to buy two handfuls of dates from my friend over there."

The boy shielded his eyes, and looked in the direction the man pointed. "Thank you."

"You are welcome."

Moments later, he carried a small basket of dates and the loaf of bread to where the old woman waited. They ate silently, trying to remain as invisible as possible, sitting in the open, in middle of the dusty square.

Nebetah frowned. She was certain she recognized the old woman. But the boy...she'd never seen him before. It was possible that she'd seen the woman in the slave pens upon her arrival to this place. She sighed. It was of no matter. If the old woman was here, then she was no better off than any of the rest of the people of the village. Those who waited...passed time as they hoped and prayed for their imprisonment to be over.




She watched silently. The Others had agreed to the compromise. It was the best she could do. Satisfied that the situation was as under control as possible, she turned away. She had to be ready, be nearby, when The One was needed. She Who Was His Beloved would call for him. His heart would hear. He had to hear! With a sigh of frustration, her heart heavy with worry, she moved away slowly. She did not wish for any of those who might be nearby to sense her. She most certainly did not want him to suspect!


A  A  A  A  A  A


Jack, Sam, and Teal'c walked onto the planet for the second time in an hour. Someone had removed the Jaffa's body. It hadn't been anyone from the SGC...there'd been too much concern over Daniel's condition, and the fact that Casey was still missing. SG-2 and 3 closed in behind them.

"Okay, stay alert. I'm guessing the locals have been here," Jack said softly. The Unas had damned near had Daniel for dinner the last time the creatures had been encountered. Except, Daniel, being Daniel, had made friends with his captor. Who had in return protected him from the Alpha male. Managed to become the head honcho himself. Chaka. That was what Daniel had called him.

Teal'c carefully retraced the path that led to the trees. He frowned when he came to the spot where Daniel had been lying. A bit of yellow caught his eye. He bent down, examined the object closer. "O'Neill!"

Sam and Jack ran to the Jaffa's side. He was holding a small papyrus scroll. "I believe this was carried by Daniel Jackson." He pointed to the blood that stained one side.

"Open it up," Jack said.

"It's a list of symbols. Stargate addresses," Sam said, looking over Teal'c's shoulder. She ran her finger down the list. Began to frown. "This is for the Alpha site," she said, pointing to the first of the groups of seven symbols. It had been crossed out.

"It appears that Daniel Jackson wrote down the symbols of each planet which he could remember," Teal'c said.

"This is definitely for P3X 888," Sam said, her finger tapping the next to the last group.

"What's this one?" Jack asked. It was the only other line of symbols that didn't have a line through it.

"I don't know," Sam admitted.

"If this address worked, perhaps this is a second address that also worked," Teal'c suggested.

"Possibly. Only I really don't recognize it," Sam replied.

"Okay, we'll take this home. Send a MALP through and find out what's on the other side," Jack said. He grabbed his radio. "SG two-niner, come in."

"This is Newsome, Colonel."

"Major, we found a little note that we think Daniel left behind. We're going to check it out. You and Ferretti keep looking. Stay on your toes. Remember that river is infested with Goa'uld."

"Yes, sir," Newsome replied.

"Watch out for the Unas, too."

"Will do, sir."

"Ferretti, you copy?" Jack inquired.

"Heard you loud and clear," Ferretti replied.

"She couldn't have gone far. Give it two hours. Then head back through the 'gate." Jack hated like hell to give that order. But he knew as well as the searchers that if they didn't find any evidence that Casey was around, or had been taken by the Unas, in that amount of time, they weren't going to find anything. Radar was smart, she'd leave as much of a trail as she could, if she were in trouble. Unless she's hiding from Ba'al, his mind pointed out. If she was hiding, he argued, she'd hear the teams calling for her. Two hours, and they'd know if she was or wasn't on this planet.


A  A  A  A  A  A


It was impossible to return to the SGC and not check on Daniel. Janet had moved him to an isolation room. The same room where Casey had been kept after she'd been returned the first time she'd been Ba'al's prisoner.

"How is he?" Sam asked quietly.

"I've set his nose and every broken bone I could," Janet replied. "I have him completely bandaged. That should hide the fact that he's healing so quickly. I used a few of the herbs that Selmak suggested."

Jack frowned. "And when someone else comes in this badly hurt, and those leaves don't help, what will you tell everyone?"

"I don't know, Colonel. Since Casey has been here, injuries have been reduced to nothing more than the usual accidents," Janet admitted.

"And we're running out of time keeping it that way," Jack groused. He was well aware of the fact that General Hammond had only a matter of days, two weeks at the outside, before the president would pull rank and insist that everyone in the Mountain get back to work. He shuddered mentally. In the past year, there had been two deaths in the SGC. The lowest number ever. Only minor injuries. The number of those who lost their lives protecting Earth, the severity of the wounds incurred would increase the longer Casey was gone, and teams went through the 'gate 'blind'. They had to find Radar. For Danny's sake. For the safety of everyone in the Mountain. How in the hell had one little slip of a woman become so damned indispensable? Damn, how does she manage to cope with that burden? he wondered, awed once again by his young friend and her gift.

"Daniel's body will heal. It's his mind that worries me," Janet said softly. "If he and Casey were together when they got off of that ship..."

"Oy," Jack muttered. "Let's get a MALP. Take a look at this place."

Sam leaned over and pressed a gentle kiss against the bandages that covered Daniel's battered face. "We'll find her, I promise," she whispered.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Casey had stretched out on the long, wide sofa, curled around one of the multitude of generously sized pillows. Something told her she was used to being curled around something...no...someone. For just a second that handsome face with the beautiful blue eyes danced in her memory. Just as before, it was gone without her being able to focus on it, to see it clearly.

If she just had one of her books, she could read, she thought. Or better yet, her journal, so she could write in it. It was several moments before the thought impacted. Books? Yes, she remembered books. Thick, old volumes that were full of ancient stories. Small books that aroused her...bodice rippers. Journal? The image of a small, blue spiral notebook filled her mind, joined with the word. She remembered such things. But not where she was, nor how she'd come to be in this place! The frustration of the situation was going to drive her crazy!

She closed her eyes. The things she needed to know were in her memory. Of that she was certain. She just needed to reach them. How to accomplish this feat, however, was a question not easily answered.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Dartal had sent the message. Anderz would arrive within a day or so. He'd have to follow custom, there was no need to stir unrest among the citizens of his little corner of the astral plane. They were none the wiser about where they were. Or that their very presence was what gave him strength. It would also lull Casey into continuing to believe all that he told her. The charade would last as long as he needed it to. After his task was completed, he had no worries about her knowing exactly who he was, or what he'd done. She'd be unable to stop him, or change what had happened.

So he settled behind the desk in the building that served as his business. Trader, of all things. A title that amused him a great deal. Caravans came through on a regular basis. The village wasn't wealthy, by any means. Such an illusion was difficult to maintain. But none of the people starved. All had the ability to procure what they needed, at the very least.

From where he sat he was able to see the old woman and the boy. The kid was busy weaving a mat of some sort from several of the palm fronds he'd found on the ground near the few trees that graced the village square. When he'd finished, he tied them to a frame that Dartal hadn't noticed before. The kid must have gathered every stray stick of lumber he could lay his hands on. Dartal's gray eyes went to the barn. No doubt Ahmose had given him a few from one of the pens that held the goats in the small corral. The rough canopy offered shade from the burning sun, and they both sat, silently it seemed, and content enough.

It would have been within his rights to have shooed them from what was a public bench. But it was rarely used. Only when the women gathered every morning and every evening to draw water would one or two sit while waiting their turn. The nearby stall owners would no doubt question him if he tried. No, they were hurting nothing. Besides, having them there made it much easier to keep an eye on them.




"He does not know that his enemy moves among his sheep," the boy said softly.

"Nor is he aware that many of his sheep are goats," the old woman replied.

"I think that when the time has come, he will not see it, for his eyes are blinded by his own web of deceit."

The old woman grunted softly. "I don't care if he sees it or not. I just hope that we will be able to help."

"As do I," the boy said. "There are times when the true value of our hearts and souls must be determined by what we are willing to risk losing them in order to save."

She couldn't help but smile. Half of the time she had no idea what the boy was talking about. But he was good company. And was a strong soul with whom to travel.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Ferretti held up a fist. He'd felt the prickle of being watched for a good fifteen minutes. "Lieutenant, very casually, take your binoculars, and have a little look around. Start in front of us, then work slowly to my right," the major said, taking off his hat and running his hand through his sweat-dampened hair.

Driscoll grabbed the 'special' field glasses that he carried, and did as instructed, making certain that infrared sensor was on. "I count four heat signatures, spaced about a meter apart, from your shoulder back," he reported.

"Okay. Safety off. Doc will have our hides if we hurt any of those creatures, so aim high, over their heads." Ferretti walked a small circle. "Casey? Casey! Hey, Mrs. J! It's Ferretti!"

"Nope, nothing," Driscoll said, watching the red and orange spots.

"Mrs. J! Just wiggle a little bit if you can hear us!"

The lieutenant shook his head.

"Damn!" Ferretti checked his watch. Major Carter's scans had shown that two people had been hiding where they'd found Doc. They were only guessing that the second person had been Casey. If it had been, there was no way that she could be any farther than what they were now. She'd have circled around if she'd been forced to leave Doc's side, so that she could get back to him as quickly as possible. With all of the shouting they'd been doing, she was bound to have heard them, if she was anywhere within a mile or so. "Let's head back."

"Shit," Willy mumbled.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Sam finished checking the MALP. "It's ready sir," she said, looking up at the general and colonel.

"Very well, Major." General Hammond looked up at the control room window. "Dial the address."

"Yes, sir," Walter replied.

The general led the three members of SG-1 to the control room, where they'd watch the monitor, observe what the MALP 'saw'.

Jack was frowning, his arms wrapped around his chest. "Teal'c, you've worked with Casey a lot...you don't think she'd have hidden Daniel, waited until Ba'al's boys were just out of sight, and then activated the 'gate, do you?"

"In an attempt to lure them from the planet," Teal'c said. One eyebrow moved up. "It is indeed a move that Casey Jackson might consider."

"I'm not seeing anything," Sam said, watching as the camera moved slowly.

"That could be good," Jack said. "If Radar saw the MALP, though, she'd be out there flipping us the bird."

Chuckles filled the air. General Hammond sighed. "There has to be a reason for those symbols. SG-1, you have a go."

The three scrambled out of the chairs they'd been sitting in, racing for the door. They weren't giving up until they'd exhausted every possibility.


A  A  A  A  A  A


"Trees," Jack muttered, as soon as they stepped through the 'gate. Sam and Teal'c smiled at his comment. Four flagstone steps led to the forest floor, they moved slowly, cautiously. "Hello?" he called out. Gave a look of surprised innocence when his teammates whirled to stare at him. "What? It always works for the Space Monkey!"

The sound of branches rubbing against one another, the soft 'swish' of leaves had them all focusing intently on the area to the right of them, from whence the sounds came.

Two children, neither older than ten, stood just behind what appeared to be a large raspberry bush, fingers and mouths stained red, and stared at the strangers. Sam bit back a smile. The corners of Teal'c's mouth turned upward, a pleasant change from the severe frown he'd been wearing since Casey's disappearance.

Jack chuckled. "Hello there."

One of the children, who appeared to be a little girl, smiled shyly, until her companion, possibly an older brother, gave her a hard nudge. He glared at them. "Go tell Poppa. His new brother said anyone who came through the Chappa'ai were bad people."

Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "We are not bad people," he said quietly. "We seek the safe return of our friend."

The little girl gave a shriek of terror, and turned and fled into the undergrowth, her brother hot on her heels.

"Okay, that went well," Jack said, with his usual sarcasm. "What happened?"

"I am not certain. It seems that villagers nearby have been warned about anyone who appears through the Chappa'ai," Teal'c replied.

"Oy! Which means by the time we find that village, they'll be armed and waiting for us," Jack said.

"The boy said something...odd," Teal'c said. "He said his father's 'new brother' had given them the warning."

"New brother?" Sam gazed thoughtfully in the direction the children had disappeared. "Do you think they had help getting off the ship?"

"Possibly," Jack said.

"What if they weren't the only ones to escape? What if someone else escaped with them, and came here? Daniel and Casey went to P3X 888, that someone else came here."

Jack squinted toward the sun. "Makes about as much sense as any of this. Maybe they were hoping to throw old Ball off the track."

"Would it not behoove us to visit this village, to determine if our assumptions are correct?" Teal'c asked.

He turned to look at the Jaffa, trying to decide if Teal'c was laughing or not. "Uh...'behoove'?"

Teal'c said nothing, but his eyebrow moved upwards the slightest bit.

"You have got to quit playing with the online thesaurus," Jack grumbled.

Sam tried to bite back her giggle. Casey'd have had a smart aleck comment...and Daniel would've...Her giggle turned to a half-suppressed sob.

Jack reached for her immediately, automatically. "We'll find her, I promise, Sam."

Angry at herself for allowing her emotions to overwhelm her, and on a mission no less, Sam nodded tersely, pulled away, and began to head in the same direction the kids had.

The two men exchanged glances. They were all walking the edge. Daniel was safe in the infirmary of the SGC, but he wasn't 'back'. And he wouldn't be until Casey was. And the whole damned SGC was in danger of falling apart if those two weren't back on the job soon. Damn! How could just two people effect a place so much? Jack wondered. He followed Sam, knowing that the big guy had their six.




The village was nestled at the foot of a mountain, in a meadow that lay between the forest and the foothills. The afternoon sun glinted off of snowy peaks, brightened the flowers that waved in patches here and there, giving the entire scene a painting-like quality.

"Pretty," Jack murmured.

"Very," Sam agreed.

They moved slowly. Each of them wishing that Daniel, whose talents and skills made him the perfect ambassador, was with them. "Okay, Teal'c, you speak the language," Jack said softly, as they walked toward the edge of the village.

It appeared that there'd been something of a celebration going on...three tables had been pushed together, and were covered with a variety of food. From the looks of it, everyone who lived in the village was ambling around those tables. Several groups were talking animatedly...until they were nudged and poked, and fingers pointed in the direction of the approaching strangers. By the time they were close enough to speak to the locals, all were staring, and silence filled the air.

One young woman studied them carefully for a few minutes. A wide smile spread over her face. "Ca'see's friends! They are Ca'see's friends! Dan'yel has sent them to us!"

Jack understood two words. Well, three, but one had been repeated. 'Ca'see' and 'Dan'yel'. "You're on, big guy."

"We are indeed friends of Daniel Jackson and Casey Jackson," Teal'c said, nodding regally. "We seek to locate Casey Jackson."

A stocky man pushed past several men who'd been gathered around him. "She was with Dan'yel, at the place he'd found for us to escape to...she would not leave him. He is...he is alive?"

"He is," Teal'c acknowledged. "However, when we arrived, Casey Jackson was nowhere to be found."

"Ba'al!" Shanda hissed. "Ba'al has taken her again!"

He understood that word, too, Jack grumped. That dirty, rotten, no-good son-of-a-bitch! Either Ba'al had followed them through...he frowned, turned to Sam. "Is it possible that Daniel crawled to where we found him?"

"I...I...it might be," she admitted.

"Then it's theoretically possible that snake-face followed them, decided Daniel was as good as dead anyway, or thought he was dead, grabbed Casey and took off again. Crap!" He swung around, away from the people who watched them carefully. Pulled his cap from his head, then wiped angrily at his eyes with the back of his hand. "Find out what they know, Teal'c," he said softly.

With a sharp nod, Teal'c turned to the man who'd spoken. "Casey and Daniel Jackson were together when you left that place?"

Nutesh nodded. "Lady Ca'see would not allow us to stay. She feared Ba'al would come after us. Dan'yel was badly wounded...but she insisted that her friends...that you...would be there soon."

"We did not wish to leave her," Shanda added. She'd moved closer to Nutesh, took comfort from him when his arm went around her shoulders protectively.

"If it was her wish for you to do so, you were left with no other choice," Teal'c said, understanding their dilemma.

Sam had been staring at the young woman. "Ba'al's lo'taur! She was Ba'al's lo'taur!"

Teal'c looked from Sam, then to the young woman. "You were in service to Ba'al?"

Shanda nodded. "I was his lo'taur. Until Lady Ca'see...he made me her slave. She was kind to me, it was my honor to serve her," she added, her chin going up slightly.

"Casey is a very kind woman," Teal'c smiled.

"I am Nutesh," the man said, introducing himself. "Lady Ca'see prevented Ba'al from using his ribbon device on me...offered me that for which I had not dared to dream for many years."

"Freedom," Teal'c said softly.

Nutesh nodded.

"I am Teal'c, former First Prime of Apophis. I am now a Free Jaffa. I battle against the false gods at the side of the Tau'ri. My friends are O'Neill and Major Carter."

"Let us in on it, Teal'c," Jack said softly.

The villagers waited patiently while Teal'c explained who the two people were. "If Ba'al has once again taken Lady Ca'see, there is one place he will wish to take her," Nutesh said. "He has already begun to build a new city. I fear I do not know the location; I was not privy to such information. He will take her there, conduct the Purification Ceremony, and bind Lady Ca'see to him forever."

Shanda nodded in agreement. "He loves her deeply. He will forgive her anything. It is possible that he will convince himself that she had no desire to leave his side, but that her Dan'yel forced her to flee with him."

"Which means she's okay...for the most part," Jack said, when Teal'c had translated.

"You must be weary after your journey here, there is plenty of food, we would be honored if you would join us," Nutesh said.

"You honor us with your invitation," Teal'c said, trying to remember exactly how Daniel phrased such things. "But we must find Casey Jackson. When Daniel Jackson awakens, he will wish to see her. We do not wish for him to know that Ba'al took her from him for a fourth time."

Nutesh nodded. "I understand."

Teal'c stepped forward, handed Nutesh his radio. Then knelt on the ground. "These symbols will open the Chappa'ai to the world where we live. If anyone arrives here searching for Casey Jackson, open the Chappa'ai, and speak to us using this." He demonstrated how to use the radio. "Do not attempt to enter the Chappa'ai until you are bid to come, or you will be killed."

"I understand. If word comes to me, or if I remember something that might be important, I will contact you," Nutesh promised. He shooed everyone away from the place where the symbols had been drawn. He'd put them on papyrus immediately.

The trip wasn't a total loss, Jack thought, as they waved, then turned to retrace their steps back to the 'gate. They knew that Daniel and Casey had been together when they left Ba'al's ship. Chances were they'd managed to be together on the ship, even if they'd had to hide to do so. They also knew that Ba'al had followed them, and had Casey once again. And that he'd be hell bent to get this 'Purification Ceremony' thing taken care of. That whole thing had totally freaked Daniel out, so it couldn't be good, whatever it was. And, most importantly, if you were to have asked Daniel, they'd made new friends.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Two dogs were barking in the distance, the sun was touching the land far to the west as Nebetah picked up the large pot in which she gathered water twice each day. She was nearly to the door when Casey called out to her.

"I'll walk with you," she said.

The older woman frowned. "You father does not wish you to leave the house this day."

"Hey, the day is over. He never said I couldn't go out in the evening. You're going to the well. I can walk that far," Casey replied.

Being around this woman both terrified her, and filled her heart with such hope, such joy, that she feared she'd be discovered. Surely this woman knew who she was, what she was to do. If she wanted to walk to the well..."As you wish," she murmured.

Taking a bright yellow shawl from the peg beside the one which had held Nebetah's darker cloak, Casey tossed it over her head and around her shoulders, then followed the older woman outside. The front door of the house opened directly onto the street. She looked around with undisguised curiosity. She'd seen villages like this before. There had been photos, and...She frowned as the thought flittered away before she could finish it. Once again came the feeling that she knew things...more than what anyone around her understood. Things that had nothing to do with this place. And once again that tiny little voice warned her not to speak of any of her confusion, or voice her questions.

Smiles and warm greetings were passed to her as she walked along. She smiled in return, thanked her well-wishers for their concern, not recognizing a single one of them. Once again images of faces flickered in her mind...a handsome man with beautiful blue eyes...a man with warm brown eyes and a crooked smile...a woman with sapphire blue eyes and a friendly smile...a man with dark skin and a tattoo in the middle of his forehead...another woman - petite, big brown eyes full of warmth and laughter...a bald man with kind blue eyes and a smile full of friendliness...and before she could focus on any of them, they were gone.


A  A  A  A  A  A


The old woman took a deep breath. She had to be very careful. She waited until the woman with whom Casey'd arrived was taking her turn at drawing water from the well. It had worked before, kept her from slipping away from them. It had to work again! "Remember blue eyes. Never forget," she whispered.

Casey looked sharply at the old woman. Frowned when the old crone hid her face beneath the black veil that covered her head. There was something about the voice...


She whirled around to see her father striding toward her.

"Did I not tell you to remain at home?"

"You said for the day. It's evening now," Casey replied, waving her hand toward the sunset.

Dartal grinned. She was full of fire, this one. He pushed gently. Didn't like the amount of 'give' in the block, so he very carefully tightened it. He knew they were watching...somewhere. Unable to do anything to stop him now. But just in case, he added a hook. One that would render her memory useless...should he ever feel the need to pull it. Totally unaware of the fact that the young woman was able to sense his presence, and was already countering his efforts. Although she was unaware that that was what she was doing.

The odd...itching...feeling had returned. She'd felt it once before, just as she was waking up earlier in the day. The little voice told her to isolate the itch...to 'scratch it'. So that was exactly what she did. The hook that had been inserted in her mind would do nothing now. The best her enemy could hope to do was strengthen the mental block between her conscious mind and her memories.

The battle had begun. One of the participants believed the struggle was already decided. The other had no idea what was happening. The fate of a champion rested on the outcome of the war.

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