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Picking Up the Pieces 

 

Chapter 5

Even with the advantage of hyperdrive, the journey to another star system took time. Dinner had been a pleasant affair, the crew of the Daedalus were already forming close friendships with one another. Having the premier team of the SGC on board had resulted in a spontaneous ‘question and answer’ session, where numerous queries about the SG team missions the crew members had been studying, particularly those of the famous SG-1, were voiced. Questions to clarify certain events or actions. Sometimes to ascertain that what they were reading was real, and not a hazing prank for the ‘newbies’ of the Stargate Program, or even the imaginative musings of a bored file clerk. The team shared stories of their adventures, answered honestly, if a bit haltingly at times, any questions about captivity...and torture. For the crew, the time had been invaluable in helping them come to grips with what they would be facing. For SG-1, it brought to the surface memories that were best left undisturbed. None of the team spent a completely restful night. Nor would any of them admit to such. They would complain to one another about indigestion and nightmares, bolster one another’s spirits as they once again pushed memories of torture to the back of their minds. And continue on as if nothing ever bothered them.

It was well after breakfast the following day before the call for SG-1 went out over the intercom. "Finally," Jack groused, leading his ‘kids’ toward the elevator.

The team gathered on the bridge, and stared out at the planet that spun slowly beneath them. Brown and gold...definitely a desert planet. Sam was watching the scanner, searching for any traces of naquadah. Casey was reaching out as well, seeking the ‘feeling’ she was learning to associate with the Ancient weapon.

"Got it," Sam said quietly.

"Cavern," Casey murmured.

The major nodded over her shoulder. "Readings are coming from the mountain range near the equator." She frowned. "Sir, the ambient temp is forty degrees Celsius."

"Damn!"

"Uh...what’s that in good ol’ Fahrenheit?" Casey asked, looking from one face to the other.

"About a hundred and four," Daniel murmured.

"Oh, you must be kidding!" Casey declared. "I’m wearing my bikini!"

"No, you’re not," Jack countered. "You’ll wear your BDU, and keep your boonie on. You’ll burn to a crisp if you don’t."

She snorted softly. "Some choice. Broiled or baked."

Mitchell couldn’t hold back his snicker, noted that the other members of SG-1 were grinning as well.

"Working in heat like that is going to be tricky," Jack muttered.

"From what I can tell, we can’t afford to be under that sun for long periods of time," Sam continued. "The atmosphere is thinner."

"Breathable?" Jack asked immediately.

"Yes, sir. Oxygen levels are a bit higher than what we’re used to. Nitrogen levels are almost the same. We’ll be able to breath. But we’re going to be in danger of over-exposure. The atmosphere is similar to what we’d experience on top of...say...Mt. Everest."

Jack scrubbed a hand over his face. "Radar, you said ‘cavern’. Is what we’re looking for inside a cavern?"

Slender shoulders moved up and down. "That’s what it feels like."

"Could be a few degrees cooler in the shade," Daniel offered.

The team CO turned back to his gizmo expert. "Can you tell me how big that cavern is?"

Sam grinned. "Give me a minute or two."

Within less time than expected, Sam turned to face her teammates. "It’s large...the readings I can get indicate that it’s about 150,000 cubic feet. Just a rough estimate. That’s more than big enough to set the tents up inside."

Jack nodded. "Your rough estimates are good enough for me."

Daniel, Teal’c, and Casey nodded their agreement.

"If it’s that big, it will keep us out of the sun completely. Is it possible to use those doohickeys Thor gave us to beam directly there?"

"Yes, sir," Sam replied.

"Okay, campers. Geared up and ready to leave in ten minutes," Jack ordered. "Colonel, we’ll let you sit up here and twiddle your thumbs until we find...whatever it is we’re looking for."

"No problem," Cam smiled. "Sounds like an easy job."

"Just keep your ears and eyes open. Stay cloaked...no reason to let anybody who might be wandering around out there know that the Daedalus is parked here."

"Yes, sir," Mitchell replied.

"We’ll check in every four hours. If you don’t hear from us, send help," Jack said.

"Yes, sir."

Giving a glance at his ‘kids’, who waited patiently, Jack gave a sharp nod. "Let’s go."

 

 

 

Twenty minutes later, the team was standing inside a cavern...which was much larger than they had anticipated. The stones, rocks, and boulders that made up the cavern, and were scattered throughout the area, were shades of umber, splotches of brown, a few were as black as if they’d been burned. All looked as lifeless as the planet itself felt. The rock ceiling was a good thirty feet above them, and the far wall fifty feet from where they stood. The cavern stretched another fifty or so feet in either direction. The opening gave them a panoramic view of the rocky, arid landscape that surrounded the mountains. It was inhospitable at best. There had been no sign of water near the cavern, or even on the continent where they stood. Any life that might have once inhabited the planet was long gone.

They were all gasping within minutes. While they were surrounded by desert, which usually indicated dry conditions, the air felt heavy, making it difficult to breath.

And, in spite of being shaded, the heat was oppressive, and felt much higher than the readings on the ship had indicated. Sam pulled the hand-held scanner she had tweaked from her pack. Frowned slightly. "Temperature in here is one hundred twelve."

Casey dropped her pack. Her BDU shirt followed. She sat down on a nearby boulder, and began to untie her boots. The floor of the cave was dirt. Rather thick dirt, as a matter of fact. While there were rocks poking up here and there, they were all well rounded from age. This cave, she thought, was very, very old.

"Getting comfortable, Radar?" Jack smirked.

"Damn straight I am! If we have to be here, digging around looking for that - whatever it turns out to be - I am not going to die from heat exhaustion while doing it!"

Daniel was tying a bandana over his head to catch the sweat that was already beginning to trickle down the side of his face. "She’s got a point. We don’t have to worry about exposing our skin to any sunlight. No sunburns to fear." He stripped off his BDU shirt, and the black tee shirt beneath it.

"Very true," Jack murmured. He stripped to the waist as well.

Teal’c followed suit.

Casey studied the bare chests of the men of the team. "Screw it. You’ve all seen me in a bikini." Her tee shirt dropped onto the BDU shirt on the rock beside her.

"Amen, sister," Sam said, tugging hers off as well.

"Keep your boots on. Protect your feet," Jack said, frowning slightly. Unlike their bikini tops, the lacy bras the two women were wearing left very little to the imagination. He took a deep breath. Or at least tried to do so. Felt as if he were trying to breath in a furnace, while someone held a wet cloth over his face. It was just too damned hot to argue about what he could and couldn’t see.

"Forget it. It’s barefoot or nothin’," Casey retorted. "I’m not afraid of getting my toes dirty."

"It’s not the dirt I’m worried about," Jack replied. "Although we don’t know what kind of organisms might be in this stuff. There could be sharp rocks just beneath this dirt. Cuts on the soles of your feet isn’t a good thing."

Casey picked her feet up, stared at the gritty, dark brown floor of the cave for a moment. Then lowered her legs, digging her toes into the deep soil. "I’m Immortal. I can handle a few germs. This place is so old everything is rounded," she added.

"Desert sand never seemed to hurt us when I was on digs," Daniel added, pulling his own boots and socks off. "It helps you stay cooler as well."

Teal’c contemplated Daniel’s comment for a moment, then sat down to remove his combat boots.

There were risks in being barefoot. Bacteria in the dirt itself. Sharp stones that were hidden by the dirt. Creepy crawly things that could bite or sting, and cause a myriad of problems. But...both Daniel and Casey had legitimate points. "Carter?" Jack asked, slightly exasperated, when the major sat down on a boulder to remove her own footwear.

"I’ve been barefoot in worse places," Sam grinned.

With a sigh of defeat, making certain that Daniel had noted the pained expression on his face, Jack decided that if he couldn’t beat ‘em, he’d join ‘em. And it was cooler without the heavy leather boots and the thick white socks. "Okay, now that we’ve undressed, let’s get to work, shall we? Carter, tell me you know where that thing is," Jack said.

"Just a general direction," Sam replied.

"Which is...where?"

"Over there," she said, pointing to the left side of the cavern. The dirt beneath her toes was as hot as if it were beneath the sun. She shifted from one foot to the other. It wasn’t intolerable, but it was definitely hot. "There’s something odd about the heat in here."

"Such as?" Jack asked.

"It shouldn’t be hotter in here than it is outside. Should be a degree or two cooler. Just a minute," she murmured. Grabbed her radio. "Carter to Daedalus, do you read?"

"This is the Daedalus. Go ahead, Major," Mitchell’s voice echoed from five radios.

"Sir, scan the cavern area...start at about ten meters below surface, then down from there."

"What are we looking for?" the colonel asked.

"I’m not sure exactly, sir. Just tell me what readings you get." Sam noted that her teammates had formed a half-circle around her, watching carefully. "Just a hunch," she said, giving a slight shrug.

"Hunch about what?" Jack asked, a bit impatiently.

"I checked the orbit of the planet around the nearest star. It’s elliptical, which is a bit odd, but it’s not close enough to cause this much heat, not even here at the equator," Sam explained. "The star was giving off some weird readings as well...lots of sunspots, and the gravitational pull seems stronger than what I’ve seen before. That could be the reason for the elliptical orbit. But...still..."

The radios crackled to life. "Major, we’re reading extensive, active lava flows directly beneath your position. The lieutenant here says they’re not more than fifty feet down. You may not have much time to find that thing," Mitchell informed the team.

"Well, that’s just peachy," Jack grumped.

"Oh, Jack, you should have expected this!" Casey retorted. "We found the locations of the weapon pieces too easily. Did you really expect us to be able to actually waltz in and grab them without a hassle?"

"I was hoping," he shot back.

"Yeah, hope in one hand, spit in the other. See which gets full faster," the seer taunted.

Jack shook his head, grabbed his own radio. "Colonel, keep an eye on that lava. Let us know immediately if there’s any change."

"Will do," Mitchell replied.

"Let’s get to work, seems we don’t have much time," Jack said. At least the team wouldn’t be forced to spend the night there, he thought gratefully.

Shovels, picks, and hammers were pulled from the long, canvas bag that Teal’c had been carrying. Four members of the team exchanged glances, knowing in those looks that they were all remembering the same thing - the planet where they had been captured, and forced to work in a naquadah mine; the planet where Daniel had been severely injured in a rock slide, and as a consequence of Jack’s intervention to save his life, had been addicted to a sarcophagus by a princess determined to make him her king, while the other three had nearly died from exhaustion.

Daniel examined his memories of that mission...that planet...Shyla. He’d learned things about himself during that...incident. Things that shamed him to even thing about. His arrogance. His violent tendencies, when he was determined to get his way, even if his actions had been the result of ‘outside’ influence, such as that of the sarcophagus. His seeming propensity to addictions...whether it was a sarcophagus, or patterns of light that stimulated the human brain. He glanced at his wife. His addiction to her...to that sweet, sweet honey...was the only addiction he’d experienced that he didn’t consider to be a negative, to be a sign of his weakness. It was, in fact, an addiction which he reveled in...delighted in...an addiction from which he would never seek a ‘cure’. He shook himself mentally, and took the pick that Teal’c was holding toward him.

"If we find anything like gold or silver or diamonds or rubies or sapphires or emeralds, do we have to tell the Pentagon?" Casey asked, pick in hand.

Jack grinned. "I won’t if you won’t."

"Deal!" She hurried toward the section of wall that Daniel and Sam were convinced hid the weapon piece they were after, swung the pick, and broke a chunk of rock from the wall. Grimaced from the recoil that made the tool shiver in her hands. "Yeah, I’m loving this," she muttered. Just before she took another swing.

"Let’s get to it before Radar finds all the good stuff," Jack said, joining the seer by the rock wall, swinging his own pick, which was one of the three larger tools.

The sound of metal against rock, clouds of dust, and grunts of exertion filled the air. Within just minutes sweat poured from their bodies.

"It’s so hot," Sam said, wiping her arm against her forehead.

"We need to stay hydrated," Jack said. He set the alarm on his watch. "We’ll stop and take a few swallows of water every fifteen minutes. Starting now." Water bottles were pulled from packs, and the first drink taken. He nodded in approval.

For the next fifteen minutes nothing was said as the team continued to pick and hammer at the rocks that were hiding a piece of an Ancient weapon. The alarm on Jack’s watch echoed in the cavern, and they stopped, grateful for the break and the water. More was poured onto hands and wiped over faces and arms in an attempt to cool themselves at least a bit.

It was during their third water break that Casey began to unbutton her BDU pants.

"Uh, Case?" Daniel asked, watching her with a slight frown on his face.

"Stud Muffin, I can’t take it," she panted, tugging the sweat dampened cloth from her legs.

Sam frowned, grabbed her scanner. "Temp is up to one-twenty."

Jack wiped his forehead with the back of one hand. "I hate to admit this, but Case has the right idea. If we’re going to have to pretend to be miners, we’re going to have to stay as cool as possible."

Daniel nodded grudgingly. "I’ve been on digs where we put tarps over the sections we were working on, to give us shade, then stripped down and worked in the nude. It was the only way to stay cool enough to work."

"We’re not going that far," Jack growled.

The archaeologist grinned. "Whatever you say, Jack."

"Down to skivvies, gentlemen. You too, Carter."

BDU pants joined the piles of clothing that waited beside packs.

"Yeah, I feel cooler already," Daniel said caustically, tugging at one leg of his sweat-dampened boxers.

Ignoring the sarcasm, Jack surveyed the results of their work. Their efforts had resulted in a pile of loose rock that was forcing them to reach farther to try to hit the wall. They needed to keep the job as simple, and as easy, as possible. "Carter, Radar, the two of you start moving what we’ve chipped away to the other the other side of that boulder. We need room to work. Danny, Rocco, and I can swing these harder and faster," he said, pointing to the pick in his hand.

Sam nodded. She should probably argue just on principal, but it was hot, and swinging even the smaller pick was making her arms and shoulders hurt, and she had no need to prove her abilities to her teammates.

Falling into a rhythm, Daniel, Jack, and Teal’c began to concentrate on one area, while Casey and Sam carried what broke off to a pile that didn’t seem to be growing very quickly.

Jack had just swung, turning his head to prevent any rock chips from hitting him in the face, slightly stooped as he drove the head of the pick into the rock as far as possible. When he opened his eyes, he realized he was face to belly with Casey. The tiny platinum ring in her navel winked at him. His gaze dropped in an attempt to keep from looking up at the barely covered breasts of his young friend. The tattoos on her upper, inner thighs were just barely visible. Barely biting back a gasp at the thoughts that skittered across his brain...which was, he determined, far too overheated for his liking...Jack glanced up, relieved that Casey hadn’t noticed. He looked over his shoulder at Daniel. Good, the Space Monkey hadn’t seen either. Not that he’d done anything wrong, or even intentionally. When he looked back, Casey was crouched down, gathering several small rocks into her arms. He had a perfect view down the top of her bra. Jerking upright, he swung again, nearly hitting the back of Teal’c’s pick with his blow. "Sorry," he muttered.

Concentrating on the task at hand, he tried to force the unintended ‘peeks’ at Casey from his mind. Which were beginning to mingle with memories of missions past; the ceremony in that cavern where they’d all become Immortal, and Daniel and Casey had been put on that altar, and made love - The Joining, it had been called; the mission when they’d stopped hiking to take a break, and in searching for a private place to take a leak, he’d inadvertently stumbled across the spot where she was relieving herself. Then there was the mission when he’d been on watch, and had turned around just as she slipped into the water of the river they’d been camped beside, the morning sun forming a halo around her blonde head, and accentuating the tan on her skin. Or the morning Daniel had crawled out of the tent, and Casey had still been inside, getting dressed....Glanced at Daniel again. Lucky little shit.

Another heave, another impact on the rock. A large chunk of dusty rock came loose. Jack grabbed a smaller pick, kneeling down to work the section free. When he had broken the rock into four smaller pieces, he picked them up, to put them in a pile for either Sam or Casey. The last rock in hand, he turned slightly.

Sam’s lace-covered crotch was just inches from his face. Damn it! He glanced up. She was grinning at him. Just before she bent over and took the rocks from his hands. Giving him a good look at her perky breasts. He felt the surge of lust...tempered by his love...that raced from head to toe.

Daniel stopped, wiped the sweat from his face with one shoulder. "Case...are we getting close?"

The seer looked over her shoulder, her arms full of rocks. "How should I know?"

The alarm on Jack’s watch went off. "Let’s take a breather," he panted slightly. Only part of his breathless condition was due to the labor he was doing.

"Could you take a look, Angel?"

"I guess," Casey replied uncertainly.

"C’mere," Daniel said, holding out his hand.

Dumping the rocks onto the pile she and Sam had built up, she tried to dust her hands off. Realized that she was grimy from head to toe, due to the dust in the air and the sweat that continued to pour off her. Her teammates, she noted, were just as filthy as she was.

He wrapped his fingers around hers as soon as she was close enough, tugged gently. It was too hot to hold her, even though he wanted to do just that. Instead, he satisfied his need to touch her by holding tightly to her hand. Didn’t object when she held their entwined fingers just above her breast. "Close your eyes, Angel."

She obeyed without hesitation.

"Don’t think about it," he said softly. "Just concentrate on the feeling you said you picked up from the stele, that you recognized when you searched for the other piece."

With a slight nod, she centered herself. Took a deep breath.

Watching her carefully, Daniel put the pick she had been using earlier into her hands. "Trust me," he whispered, moving her closer to the rock wall. "Don’t look, let me guide you. Just...feel."

She nodded again. "Give me a minute," she said softly.

"SG-1, this is the Daedalus," Mitchell’s voice announced, startling the team slightly.

Casey nearly dropped the pick, her heart hammering wildly against her ribs.

Jack was the closest to his radio. He grabbed it, keyed the microphone. "Go ahead, Colonel."

"We’re picking up an increase in lava activity about two kilometers to the north of you. Seems to be having a ripple effect, pushing lava upwards in about a ten kilometer circle. If this keeps up, according to our geologist, you’re going to have molten rock beneath your feet in about two hours."

Jack grimaced. Crap! Just once, couldn’t the hard part of the job be easy? "Roger that, Daedalus. Keep us informed."

"Clear your mind," Daniel said softly, his lips beside Casey’s ear. "Don’t think, Angel, just feel."

She centered herself once again, Colonel Mitchell’s call having interrupted her concentration. Focused on the feeling she was learning to associate with the weapon.

"Show me where it is," Daniel whispered.

Casey raised the pick, struck the rocks just to the right of where the three men had been digging. Opened her eyes. "There," she murmured.

Daniel pressed a kiss to her temple. "Thanks, Angel."

"Just doing my job," she replied, giving him a smile.

"Good work, Radar," Jack said, grinning behind the grime on his face. "Okay, campers, we have less than two hours to get to this thing."

"Power," Casey said.

"What?" Daniel asked.

Slender shoulders moved up and down. "That’s what I sense."

Sam grinned. "Power source. I knew there was something that went inside the stele! It’s set up to hold something."

"Let’s get to it," Jack said, raising his pick, and bringing it down with a resounding ‘whump’.

The temperature continued to climb. During their water break, Sam reported that it had risen to one hundred and twenty-seven degrees Fahrenheit.

"If this keeps up, and that lava is moving up, we might not get this piece," Jack said.

"Might not be a bad thing, if Casey’s hunch is right," Daniel replied. "I’m not sure that even a naquadah device built by the Ancients can withstand the heat of a lava flow."

Jack glanced at his kids. The heat was affecting all of them, and they could easily succumb to heat stroke. "Okay, fifteen more minutes. If we don’t find it, we write this component off."

Heads bobbed up and down in agreement.

Teal’c swung his pick, and one very large section of the rock wall broke free. And revealed a hollow, almost like a bubble, nearly two feet in diameter. Sitting in the center of that hollow was a black device that looked deceptively familiar. That magical SG-1 good luck had kicked in, and left the teammates grinning victoriously at one another.

"ZPM," Sam said, reaching for the artifact.

"I told you it was powerful," Casey said, her grin matching that of her best friend. She watched as Sam stuffed the ZPM into a pack.

Before anyone else could comment, the ground beneath their feet began to shake. "Oh, crap," Jack muttered. "Just grab the gear, we’ve got to get out of here!"

Daniel grabbed his radio. "Daedalus, I think you’d better get us out of here, now."

"Hang on, SG-1, trying to get your signal."

Holding their clothes and picks in one hand, packs in the other, the team disappeared in five simultaneous flashes of light. Reappeared beside the transporter rings of the Daedalus. The tech gave them a wide-eyed look.

Jack looked at his team. They were dressed in nothing but their underwear, and were dirty as hell. "Don’t ask," he muttered. "Showers, team. Nice and cool. We’ll meet up on the bridge."

Overheated, as close to suffering from heat exhaustion as they could get without collapsing, the teammates shuffled through the corridors of the ship, too tired to care what the few crew members who watched, mouths gaping, might have thought of their appearance.

 

A A A A A A

 

Casey showered quickly, the water rationing system used on the Prometheus was in effect on the Daedalus as well. It felt wonderful to be clean again, the grime that had covered her washing down the drain. She worked lotion into her still damp skin, the soothing effects cooling her even more. Wearing a towel around her slender frame, and one wrapped around her head to absorb the water left in her hair, she sat down on the bench in the locker room. "I’m so tired," she murmured.

"From the heat," Sam replied, dropping down beside her friend. "We should probably try to eat something, and drink more. I wonder if the ship’s stores include Gatorade. That would help hydrate us."

"We could always ask."

A sharp rap on the door made both women jump.

"What?" Casey called out.

"Doc wants to see all of us in the infirmary," Jack’s voice replied.

"Figures," the slender seer muttered. "On our way," she said loudly.

Sam stood to her feet. Reached for the clean BDUs that had been placed in the lockers that bore the names of the female members of SG-1. "Wanna bet we’re going to wind up with IV’s?"

"Nope. Because I am not getting poked. Just give me a bottle of Gatorade or water, don’t care which. I’ll drink it. Hell, right now, I’d drink a fruit smoothie with that damned protein mix in it!"

Sam smiled. "Let’s go, before the colonel comes in after us."

"You think he’s still out there?" Casey asked.

"I know he is," Sam replied.

Green eyes rolled heavenward. "I was going to stop in the mess hall and grab water on the way."

Sam’s smile widened to a grin. "Which is exactly why Jack is waiting on the other side of that door."

"He doesn’t trust us...me?" Casey’s eyes went wide.

The chuckle that Sam gave was full of mirth. "He trusts you, Casey. He also knows you."

"I’d have gone to the infirmary...eventually."

"Exactly."

Casey couldn’t help but grin. "Bet it won’t be hard to talk him into making that stop anyway."

"Probably not."

Dressed, although Casey was carrying her boots, loathe to put them on before she felt completely cooled down, the two women stepped into the corridor. Not only was Jack leaning against the wall opposite of the locker room door, Daniel and Teal’c were lounging beside him as well.

"Well, hell, the gang’s all here," Casey quipped. "And before I get poked, prodded, and treated like a pin cushion, I want water."

"We should see if the ship has any Gatorade," Sam added.

"Good idea," Jack nodded. "Let’s find out." He pushed away from the wall, and led his team to the elevator.

The Daedalus did carry a supply of Gatorade, and each of the team members gratefully accepted the bottles that the mess cook brought to them. It took only a few minutes for the team to down the sport drinks, their thirst quenched for the moment.

"Let’s make a stop on the bridge," Jack suggested. "Let Mitchell know we can get underway to our next stop."

There were no arguments; just as they did at the SGC, any chance to postpone a trip to the infirmary was one to be taken, no matter what the excuse might be.

Mitchell watched as SG-1 quietly entered the bridge. He’d already heard about their appearance when they’d returned to the ship. "I take it that the planet was hot?"

"Hotter in that cavern than we anticipated," Jack replied. "Did what we had to do in order to stay cool."

The ship’s commander nodded. Grateful that he’d been spared seeing an underwear clad Casey Jackson. The transport tech insisted that even though she’d been covered in grime, the hot pink panties and bra could have only come from Victoria’s Secrets. He might not be susceptible to those pheromones she put out, but he was still only human. And a healthy male human at that. "Found what you were after?"

"Yep. Power source, or so Radar and Carter tell me."

"Cool."

"So, whenever you’re ready, we can head for stop number two," Jack said.

"Yes, sir, on our way," Mitchell responded.

The team stood and watched as the planet became smaller in the windows that offered a view of the space around the ship. Jack sighed. "Guess we’d better head to the infirmary."

Shuffling like a group of children being forced to go to their rooms for bad behavior, the team headed for the elevator, unaware of the amused grins of the command crew.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Doctor Marisa Lewis, the CMO for the Daedalus, had received reports about the famous SG-1 from the SGC CMO. Doctor Fraiser had warned her that they were trying patients at best, downright uncooperative at worst. And that all of them had a healthy dislike of the infirmary...any infirmary...and the personnel therein. Not that the team didn’t like the nurses, medics, and doctors on a personal level. They just weren’t fond of being subjected to what they considered to be unnecessary examinations. Due to her medical rating, her rank, and the fact that she might be required to do emergency first aid on the team, she was the only member of the Daedalus crew who knew about the secret the team harbored.

In spite of their Immortality, however, Doctor Fraiser had insisted that SG-1 be treated like any other team. And that often their own stubbornness created a need to make certain they weren’t concealing wounds or symptoms that might indicate a more serious problem.

She watched silently as the members of the team filed into the office, all of them casting curious and slightly guilty glances in her direction. Making a show of checking her watch, she pasted a smile on her face. "So glad you could make time in your busy schedules to let me take a look at you," Lewis said amiably.

"You’ve been talking to Doc Fraiser," Jack retorted accusingly.

"Guilty as charged. She warned me about the lot of you. Now that you’re here, onto the examining beds." Doctor Lewis motioned to the two medics and two nurses who were standing near the storage cabinets, having been in the middle of inventorying their equipment. "Colonel Mitchell reported that you were in extreme heat for nearly three hours."

"Got up to a hundred and twenty-seven," Sam confirmed.

"I want core temps taken. Blood pressure and heart rate." Her well-trained staff hurried to comply. "Have you had water?"

"Every fifteen minutes on the planet, we all just downed a Gatorade," Jack replied.

"Good. I shouldn’t have to start IV’s then."

"I’d prefer it if you didn’t," Casey said, smiling sweetly.

Doctor Lewis grinned. "Janet told me to be especially watchful of you. She says that Colonel O’Neill taught you well how to sneak out, or avoid any procedures you don’t want to endure."

"Some best friend she turned out to be," Casey muttered. "You’d think I went out of my way to avoid her when she has her CMO hat on."

"You do," Daniel chuckled.

"Not completely out of my way," the seer argued. "I just know which places to avoid at certain times."

"Important information to have," Jack nodded sagely.

"Why haven’t you ever shared that with me?" Daniel asked.

"Because she listens," Jack said, pointing at Casey. "And for your information, I have told you. Your response was something sarcastic about not being a child who was trying to avoid punishment."

"Whatever I said, I was right," Daniel retorted.

"Hmmph," Jack snorted.

The doctor was checking over the notes taken by the medics and nurses. "Your temps look fine, heartbeat and heart rate all good. Keep drinking water, have more Gatorade with your dinner tonight."

Five heads moved up and down in understanding.

The doctor glanced at the five ‘patients’ who watched her carefully. "I suppose you’re free to go."

Jack turned to his ‘kids’. "Naps. Now. We did a hell of a lot of hard, physical work in that heat. We need to rest."

The raven-haired doctor turned surprised blue eyes in his direction.

"Just because I don’t like the infirmary doesn’t mean I’m going to risk my kids," Jack shrugged.

"I understand," she said softly. "The colonel is right, rest now is the best thing for you."

"No argument from me," Sam said, hopping off the bed.

"I won’t argue the point," Daniel said.

"Me, either," Casey declared. She wrapped her arm around Daniel’s waist, snuggled closer when his dropped onto her shoulders. "I feel like I’ve been working at hard labor for days!"

Jack looked at Teal’c. "Well, Rocco?"

"I also look forward to resting."

The colonel turned back to the doctor, a smug look of satisfaction on his face. "There. Now you don’t have to worry about us. We’ll all snooze for a bit, then have dinner. And more Gatorade."

Doctor Lewis smiled. "Then I don’t expect to see any of you in here again. Unless you really need medical care."

"Not us, Doc, we’re careful," Jack exclaimed, leading the team into the corridor. "You can just ask Doc Fraiser about that!"

The willowy woman laughed. "I’ve already heard about the numerous times you’ve all been sick or wounded."

"No doubt," Jack muttered. Tossed a rakish grin in the doctor’s direction. "But we’re all careful now."

"Let’s go Jack, before you say something that gets us admitted," Casey said, tugging on Daniel as she moved toward the elevator.

The doctor’s soft laugh followed them down the corridor.

Fifteen minutes later, every member of SG-1 was sound asleep, dreams of Ancient weapons haunting their dreams.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

On the bridge, Mitchell watched the blur of color, the only indication that the ship on which he sat was being hurled through space faster than the speed of light. A fact he simply couldn’t wrap his mind around. Hyperdrive capability...stolen, it seemed from the Goa’uld.

That thought led to those about the Goa’uld themselves, the enemy of mankind in general, and of SG-1 in particular. Who hated whom more was probably dependent on which side of the equation one was standing. He could understand that hatred. He’d read the mission reports. Daniel Jackson had lost his first wife and brother-in-law to the Goa’uld. Had seen his wife as host to one of those creatures. That wife had been killed because of a Goa’uld. Had damned near lost his second wife, Casey, to the Goa’uld named Ba’al. Teal’c had spent his life in service to the Goa’uld, no less a slave than those poor souls who were captured and forced to serve their Goa’uld masters. All five of the team members had been tortured by Goa’uld, or rather, those in service to the Goa’uld, numerous times. That they were walking around, alive and sane, was something akin to a miracle, if the mission reports were to be believed. He had no reason to doubt them.

Good God Almighty. Everything he knew, everything he thought he knew, had been turned on its ear. The fundamental question of ‘are we alone?’ had not only been answered, but had been answered with a resounding, "Hell, no!" He shuddered to think of the absolute, utter chaos that the knowledge of the Goa’uld...their history on planet Earth, the fact that they’d ‘relocated’ so many indigenous people to other planets, their desire to rule the universe as ‘gods’...would do to the populace of Earth. He could well understand the panic that must have run rampant at the SGC when Ba’al had damned near spilled the beans.

Then there was the fact that there were other civilizations out there. Some humanoid, looked just like him, he’d read, and others so different that he couldn’t have imagined them. He’d seen the photos of Thor, who was an Asgard. Allies, according to mission reports. The Unas...could there be a sentient creature more different than a human being? Mitchell certainly didn’t think so! The Nox, suspected of being more powerful than the Asgard, but pacifists to the core.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, there were the facts about a group of aliens, or at least, people who hadn’t originated on Earth, arriving and mixing it up with the natives. Or so theory went. A race so advanced they had built a system of Stargates to allow almost instantaneous travel between planets. He snorted silently. It was instant enough for him! He wasn’t going to quibble over a couple hundredths of a second. And, they were learning, these ‘aliens’ had built other devices. Seemed to have left the damned things just laying around the universe for anyone to stumble on. From what he’d read so far, they should all be counting their lucky stars that the Ancients had been smart enough to dismantle this weapon of theirs.

Good God Almighty. Well, he thought with an inner sigh, he understood what General Vidrine had meant about needing good luck. If he thought it would make a difference, he’d hang every good luck ‘charm’ he could think of from the ceiling of the bridge. Couldn’t help but smile slightly. He might just do that anyway. Sure couldn’t hurt anything. Well, a horseshoe would probably give someone a concussion if it hit them in the head.

One thing was for certain, one fact that he had recognized immediately, at least as soon as the shock of what he was learning had worn off: he couldn’t imagine not being part of the Stargate Program. Couldn’t imagine not being in the fight to protect Earth. If he never served another hitch in the Air Force, he’d have done more good in the three years left on his enlistment than he had in all the previous years of his career. Even if no one else knew, no one else could ever know, he would know. And he’d sleep better at night with the knowledge that he’d done his best in the most important war mankind had ever waged.


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