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Deceptions and Illusions
Daniel tied a bandana around his head. It would catch the sweat that was beginning to pour off him before it could run into his eyes. He glanced at Casey. She was watching the path intently, her fingers caressing the trigger of the P90. For a few seconds, he let himself think about those same fingers touching his body. Focus, Danny, he warned himself sharply.
"Case?" Jack's voice crackled softly from the radio on her shoulder.
"How close are they?"
She reached for Daniel's hand, closed her eyes, barely waited long enough for him to get a hold on her mentally before she was searching the path in front of them, racing just above the dirt. Shit! Why hadn't she noticed that before? "Jack…ten minutes, maybe less. And these guys are…well, they have on Jaffa armor. But they aren't your typical, run-of-the-mill Jaffa."
"Shit! Okay, campers, get your zats."
Casey rolled to her side, pulled her zat from the holster, snapped the power unit into place.
They heard the patrol before they could see it. The clinking sound of Jaffa armor always made his heart pound with trepidation. Daniel eased lower to the ground, his hand on the back of Casey's neck, gently pushing her lower as well.
She didn't need to be told to get down. She knew that his action was one of love, done unconsciously, and it warmed her heart for the few seconds she had to think about it.
"Wait until they're all in this ravine," Jack's voice whispered on the radio by her ear.
The first of the Jaffa began to enter the narrow gully. They were moving quickly, much faster than normal Jaffa. Fingers wrapped around zats, hovering on the indentation that served as the trigger. Hearts pounded, eyes focused on one intended target. Lungs filled with air and held the breath, waiting for the order to open fire.
For the Jaffa on the road beneath them, it seemed as if all hell had broken loose. Zat fire appeared to come from everywhere. The leader of the patrol tried to order his men to retreat to the safety of the open road behind them, but those in the rear were already falling victim to the rain of death. Their bodies were creating enough obstruction that those trying to run began to stumble and fall, and ultimately became victims as well. It was over in just under five minutes.
"Turk, take your men and make sure those assholes are dead. Give 'em cover, people," Jack ordered.
The Marines moved slowly, carefully among the dead Jaffa. The others stood to their feet, zats at the ready should any movement be noted.
"Clear!" Turk's voice called.
"I would suggest that we find a way to get rid of these bodies. We do not know if more patrols may arrive through the Stargate," Teal'c said.
Jack nodded. "Good idea."
"About forty feet back is a nice cliff, drops off about a hundred feet into brush," Major Parker said.
"Let's do it. Move it, kids. We don't have a lot of time to waste on this," Jack said.
Sam and Casey stood guard as the men began to drag the heavy bodies of the dead warriors to the cliff. In less than twenty minutes the path was clear.
"Let's go," Jack said. Once again the three Tau'ri teams from Gamma set out for the ruins.
A A A A A A
Steven Rayner had never known such pain. When he had first arrived through the Stargate, he was looking back, hoping that the Marines in the 'gate room wouldn't follow him. When he had turned around, he came face to face with ten armored men. And they had their staff weapons, something he had seen only in Teal'c's hand, aimed at him. He was taken roughly, and marched nearly non-stop for two days. He was close to dead by the time he was dragged into the ruins. He barely remembered a woman with black hair and dark eyes looking at him.
When he woke up, he was in…well, at first he thought he was in a tanning booth. Except that it didn't exactly look like a tanning booth. When the top opened, and he sat up, and he found five of those armor-clad men staring at him, everything that had happened rushed back into his consciousness.
A tall man, his black hair showing signs of silver, had watched him, an amused smile on his face. He had spoken to the woman, she had smiled and bowed graciously. Steven had no idea what had been said. He only knew that two of the armored goons had grabbed his arms and dragged him from the…sarcophagus! When he realized what he had been in, he put a hand experimentally to his side. It didn't hurt!
He rolled his eyes, tried to ease the pressure in his shoulders as he hung limply from the chains. He had been right. There were other rooms in the cavern. They had not, however, been full of artifacts. He had been dragged through three of the subterranean rooms, and cruelly hung from manacles that protruded from the rock walls. Two men came into the room, accompanied by one of the metal-plated goons. He was sure that they were asking questions, but he didn't understand a word they said. He had tried desperately to explain that fact to them. Every time he had failed to respond to them they way they wanted him to, he had been struck. Eventually the men left. Then a thin, wiry man with a smile that turned his blood to ice had approached him, and he had entered hell.
If he thought the beating Daniel had given him was painful, this was at least ten times as bad! Every muscle ached, the places where he had been cut now burned, the pain in his head from numerous blows was almost enough to render him unconscious. Almost.
The sound of approaching footsteps made him groan out loud. He was going to die now. He was sure of it. Three of those armor-clad men, Jaffa, his mind offered, walked toward him. Two of them came close, one supporting him with an arm around his waist, the other unfastening the metal cuffs that surrounded his wrists. His arms dropped, useless to him after being held above his head for so long. He closed his eyes as they dragged him away. He wasn't even aware when he was placed once again in the sarcophagus.
He opened his eyes. Oh, god, no! A mental check of his body confirmed his worst fears. He was completely healed. No pain. No wounds. His fingers moved over his belly, where a large gash had been. The muscle was firm and smooth. The sound of stone against stone, with an odd metallic echo thrown in, filled his ears. He closed his eyes. He had read the mission report Casey had made about her time as prisoner in Nergal's 'special rooms'. He was certain she hadn't suffered as much as he was suffering right now.
A A A A A A
Daniel lowered his binoculars. "We're going to have to get into that cavern. That's where they have him."
Jack groaned. "Yeah, we'll just march right through their camp, skip down those stairs, dance in there and grab him, then do the entire thing again, in reverse."
He rolled his eyes. "I never said it was going to be easy. Or even doable."
"Too bad there isn't a back way into that place," Sam said quietly.
Something began to poke at him. He looked over at where the temple stood, the outline of its walls silhouetted against the sky. His eyes traveled to where the opening in the rock wall afforded entrance to the stairs. Back to the temple. The cavern would be about…there…and the temple was …"There might be," he whispered.
"Might be what?"
"A back way into that cavern!" He was already rising to his feet.
Jack grabbed the front of his jacket and pulled him back down. "Daniel? What have we talked about before? You do not just jump up and take off when we're trying to remain hidden." He shook his head mentally. After all of these years, all that they had been through, when Daniel was focused on his rocks, nothing filtered through to him!
"Sorry," Daniel muttered. "But we have to get into that temple."
"You did notice that they seem to be using it as well," Jack replied dryly.
"Yeah, I know. But I have an idea," Daniel said. "We wait until they're sleeping."
"Go on," Jack said quietly.
"There has to be an entrance somewhere inside that temple that leads to those caverns," Daniel said. "The people would take the stairs, but the priests and priestess' would seem to just 'appear' in the cavern. An illusion meant to keep them in power, in control."
"Think you can find it?"
"I'm pretty sure I can."
"If there isn't one, the most we can do is wait until we see Rayner."
"It might already be to late," Teal'c pointed out.
"Yeah, I know," Jack admitted. "I'm going to depend on you and Sam to let us know if he has a snake in him. If he does, we take him out."
"Casey, is he…?" Daniel asked quietly.
She closed her eyes, searched carefully. That priestess was certainly aware that something, or someone, was looking around. She could feel the woman trying to shield the cavern. "Not yet. But…I couldn't see much. That black-haired bitch is starting to block me. Hopefully she won't figure out that I'm on the planet," she murmured.
Jack nodded. "Okay. Let's see if we can't get closer to that temple. As soon as they're all asleep, we take out the guards and get Danny inside."
Slowly, carefully, the teams moved toward the fallen rock wall that surrounded the temple. It took nearly an hour for all of them to be in position. Once again, all they could do was sit and wait.
A A A A A A
Turk and his men quietly removed the guards who had been placed around the temple. They positioned themselves around the plaza, hidden by stones from the fallen walls. Teal'c was familiar enough with the dialect spoken that he was sure he could answer simple questions, if asked. He would wait in the shadows, buy them any time they might need for escape. SG-6 remained hidden in the brush about fifty feet from the temple and its plaza, affording them a better view of the camp which had been set up near the wall and that opening. They would sound the warning if anyone approached the Marines' positions.
Daniel led the rest of SG-1 inside the structure. He quickly found the altar, and began to examine it carefully. Casey helped him, looking for the particular symbols he had 'sent' to her. Neither of them were even aware of what he had done, not aware that yet another facet of their special bond was beginning to manifest itself. Sam and Jack kept guard just inside the entrance.
He looked diligently for thirty minutes. Just when he was about to give up, his foot struck the corner of the altar. It shifted slightly. He grinned. "Found it."
Jack hurried over. "Okay, here's what we're gonna do. The four of us are going to go down there. We're gonna leave 6 and the Marines out here, we're gonna have to come back out the way we go in."
The team nodded in agreement. Jack alerted Teal'c, Major Parker and Turk to the plan, with strict orders to maintain control of the temple.
Daniel pushed the altar aside, wincing as the sound of it scraping against the floor echoed around them. His flashlight revealed stone steps, and lots of spider webs. "I'd say it's been a long damned time since they've used this," he mused.
"Why?" Jack asked immediately.
"I have no idea," Daniel murmured. He was examining what looked like cuneiform on the walls that rose up on either side of the stairs.
"Do they not know about this…tunnel?" Casey asked.
"I don't know," Daniel replied. "It's possible-" he broke off.
"What's possible?" Jack asked.
"It's possible there was a cave-in, and they just haven't opened it back up," Daniel said.
"Now is a hell of a time to think of that," Jack moaned.
"Hey, this is our best - our only - chance of getting down there," Daniel reminded him. His zat held firmly in his hand, he led the way down the stairs.
Jack motioned Sam and Casey to follow, he brought up the rear, watching carefully as his team descended into the darkness in front of him.
The sound of voices, chanting in a sing-song manner, filled the air around them as they made their way slowly downward. Daniel held a hand up behind him, peered carefully around the corner. Felt his heart constrict in his chest.
A A A A A A
Two Jaffa pulled Rayner from the sarcophagus. He struggled, wanted desperately to break free, even though his mind told him that escape was impossible. He glanced at the walls as they led him through the room. Wondered absently if Daniel had studied these drawings any further. The goons on either side of him half dragged, half carried him through the other chambers. Instead of taking him into the room where he had been tortured, however, they took him deeper into the underground complex.
The tall, dark-haired man stood looking at him. He motioned with his hands, and in a few seconds, Rayner stood naked before him. The man walked around him, nodded slowly. He looked at the black haired woman, smiled at her.
With a devilish smile of her own, the woman approached him. Under different circumstances, Rayner was sure he would find her attractive. Beautiful, even. When she leaned close to him, he could smell her perfume. He gasped out loud when her hand wrapped around his flaccid manhood. In seconds she had him hard as a rock and panting.
The man laughed, and he settled himself on what looked like a throne carved from a single boulder. He nodded, and watched as his Jaffa put the prisoner face down on the altar.
Rayner could feel the hands holding him down. He was able to turn his head and look at the man. He shuddered when those dark eyes met his. The black haired woman took a pole-like apparatus, probably three feet in length. The end had four prongs on it, as if it were made to grab, or hold something.
The man leaned back, and closed his eyes. A few minutes later, he began to scream. His body began to convulse, and then…
He shuddered so hard that the hands holding him down were forced to grip him tighter. A…thing…a creature of some sort, crawled from the mouth of the dark haired man. The woman grabbed it with that…pole. She nodded toward the still twitching body of the man. Two Jaffa took him gently by the arms, and dragged him away. When her dark eyes locked on his, he broke out into a cold sweat. He didn’t need to understand what she was saying, as she performed some sort of ceremony, or what the men and women who lined the room were chanting. His eyes were focused on the shrieking, writhing creature at the end of that pole. That was a Goa'uld. And they were going to put it inside him. He began to fight. "No! No! Goddamn it! No!" Tears began to stream down his cheeks.
"Did you watch that damn thing burrow into her neck? Listen to her scream while it wrapped itself around her spinal column, implanted itself in her brain? Were you there to watch while Sarah became a prisoner in her own mind?"
Daniel's words echoed in his brain as the woman moved ever closer. He was about to suffer the same fate as Sarah. He was going to be a prisoner in his own mind. He screamed, the sound full of fear, anger, frustration.
A A A A A A
Daniel closed his eyes as the Goa'uld burrowed into Steven's neck. He looked up at his companions, shook his head. The man's screams were enough to let them know what was happening.
Jack frowned, then held up his fingers, wiggled them.
He wanted a count of the bad guys. Daniel eased his head around the corner of the rock wall, counted as quickly as he could. Held up five fingers, crossed his fingers and held up five more.
Jack swore silently. He shook his head, then held up his weapon.
Daniel counted off ten.
Well now, twenty-five people in the room. Ten armed. The problem was, they all had to get down the stairs and into the room together in order to take even half of that group out. Not possible as narrow as the stairwell was. He shook his head again, then pointed behind him. Right now, there wasn't a damned thing they could do about this situation.
'Daniel! We have to go! Now!'
Daniel noted the look in her eyes. He was already turning. He glanced up. Jack had seen her too. He was leading the way as quickly and quietly as he could.
Her heart was pounding against her ribs when they climbed back into the temple. "We have to go, Jack, now. And we're gonna have to book to get to that 'gate."
In a flash he understood. "There's a chance he could smell you," he said flatly.
Casey nodded, the guilt on her face there for all to see.
"Don't you dare!" Daniel hissed.
"Yeah, don't you dare!" Jack echoed. "Let's bug out, campers."
That famous SG-1 luck was with them, and holding, as the three teams raced for the 'gate. Casey fought feelings of guilt the entire way. She was a liability to the team. A risk. For their sake, she needed to quit. But to let Daniel go off world without her made her shake with fear. He couldn't retire, he was The Chosen.
Jack had ordered them to stop and rest. He watched as Casey moved away from the group, sat down and pulled her knees up under her chin. When Daniel headed for her, he grabbed his arm. "Let me talk to her," he said softly.
Daniel glanced at his Wife, then back at his best friend and CO. He nodded.
He lowered his tall frame to the ground. God he loved this Immortality thing! No aching back, no sharp pains in his knees. "Hey."
"Hey." Her voice was so soft he could barely hear it.
"Now, I have a pretty good idea what you're thinking," he said quietly. "Let me tell you something. You aren't the only one he could smell. That any of them could smell, if they just paid attention to their senses. Daniel and I have been sweating pretty good. We sure as hell were sweating in that stairwell. There's a pheromone that men put out. Sort of testosterone sort of thing. It can get pretty…strong. Sam was there too, and she uses the same shampoo that you do. So, don't get all cocky and think you're the only one who can give off smells and pheromones."
Casey looked over at him, his features shadowed in the dim light of the moons above them. "Thanks, Jack."
"Anytime, Case." He stood up. "Ready to move out?"
He stopped and turned around to face her. "Yeah?"
"About the sweating thing…I wasn't going to say anything."
He could just make out her grin. "Smartass."
Daniel caught her hand as she moved passed him. "Are you okay?"
She squeezed his fingers. "Yep. He's not as dumb as he likes to pretend."
He smiled, looked over at his friend. "He never has been."
The teams stopped twice more to rest, finally arriving at the 'gate just before noon planet time. They expected to run into another patrol, or to see gliders flying toward them at any given moment. The true gods, however, seemed to have decided to allow them a perfectly safe escape. None of them were going to question the blessing.
Dirty and exhausted, the teams stumbled down the ramp. Duncan was waiting for them. "He's not with you."
Daniel shook his head. "We were about ten minutes too late. Steven Rayner…died…last night. Dagon, however is alive and well."
Duncan nodded his understanding. "How much did he know?"
"Computer logs show he studied most of our past missions. He doesn't have access codes or the 'gate addresses to any of our allies. I'd say he probably has the one for Gamma. Knowing Steven, he was convinced he was going to make some great archaeological discovery there, something I had 'missed', and he would have wanted to get back to exploit that," Daniel replied.
The Highlander looked up into the control room. "Kyle scramble all the codes. Tell Alpha and Beta to do the same. Just in case," he said.
"You got it, boss," Kyle replied.
"Get cleaned up, get something to eat. We'll debrief in an hour."
The teams walked slowly down the corridor. "First Sarah, now Steven," Daniel said softly.
"And neither one of them your fault," Casey told him. "You do understand that Sarah was taken over before you ever got to Chicago. If you hadn't have gone back for Doctor Jordan's funeral, you wouldn't even have known about it."
"That's right, Daniel," Sam said. "It's lucky for us that you were there, it prevented Osiris from killing more people. I think it was probably a good thing that she…he…escaped. There's the chance his presence on Earth could have exposed the Stargate program long before we were ready."
"Exactly," Jack said. "As for Rayner, he did this to himself. He knew that there were Goa'uld there. He knew what could happen to him. I still say the guy is crazy."
"I concur, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "In none of this can any blame be placed on you."
He smiled. "Thanks," he said softly. He put his arm around Casey's shoulders, pulled her close. The faces of his friends were full of love, concern. And the absolute, unshakable believe that he wasn't to blame, not even for hiring Dr. Steven Rayner.
"Let's get cleaned up, kids."
"Yeah, let's. You guys are a bit…strong," Casey said. She glanced up at Jack. Smiled at the wink he gave her.
A A A A A A
Nicholas was sitting up on the bed, playing with two new dump trucks. He looked up and squealed with delight when his parents entered the room. "New twucks, Mommy!"
"I see that. So who caved in and bought them for you?" she asked. Casey picked him up and hugged him tightly, careful not to pull on the IV that was still in his hand.
"That would be me," Dr. Montigue said, entering from his office. "Mrs. Desala told me about his love for digging. And for dump trucks. He's been a model patient, and I thought that deserved a bit of recognition."
"When can we take him home?" Daniel asked, his son in his arms now.
"As soon as you're ready to leave. I performed an MRI. He's bruised, but healing quite nicely. We had a little discussion about running into furniture, didn't we, Sparky?"
Casey looked at Daniel. 'Sparky?' she mouthed.
Daniel grinned and shrugged.
"No wunning in the house awound the fuwnituwe. I'w get huwted if I do that," Nicholas said, nodding his head.
Erin hurried into the room, a dish of ice cream in her hands. "I wondered if all the racket meant you were back," she said, smiling. She put the ice cream on the hospital bed table and hugged her daughter. "Were you successful?"
Casey shook her head. "No, unfortunately. We were very lucky, though, we got to the ruins and back to the 'gate without being detected."
"Damned lucky," Daniel agreed.
A A A A A A
Casey tossed her napkin onto the paper plate, leaned back in her stool. "Okay, anybody willing to eat this last piece of pizza?"
Daniel shook his head, finished off his beer. "No way. I couldn't hold another bite."
Emily was still working on her first slice, although it had been a fairly large one. Nicholas had just a few pieces of crust left from the slice and a half he had eaten.
"Well, it will make a good midnight snack," Casey said. She stood up, gathered the plates and napkins. "Who's up for a walk to the park?"
"Me!" Emily shouted.
"Me!" Nicholas squealed, watching his sister.
"Count me in," Daniel grinned.
She cleaned up her children, watched Daniel out of the corner of her eye as he watched her. "You're doing it again," she said softly.
"Doing what?" he asked, his voice just as soft.
"Looking at me like I'm something special."
"I am? Sorry. I meant to look at you like you're the goddess of my world," he replied.
She giggled. "You're a smartass."
"Must have learned it from you." He grabbed her around the waist as she walked by, pulled her close. "I love you."
"I love you." She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
"You make love now?"
Daniel looked down at his daughter. "What did we talk about?"
"Make love is private and nobody else's business, so we should just not bring it up," Emily responded quickly.
"That's right," Daniel replied.
"Let's go to the park," Casey said, her cheeks still pink. She had a feeling that it would take several 'talks' before Emily finally understood that her parents really didn’t want to talk about making love. At least, not with their four-year-old daughter.
Daniel held her hand tightly. Emily was teaching Nicholas how to skip, and the tot was doing more jumping than skipping. A soft touch against his mind turned his eyes toward his Wife. She smiled up at him, that smile growing wider when he returned her gentle caress. His Wife was safe. His kids were safe. All was well in his world.
A A A A A A
He paced the floor. This host was strong…his memories, intriguing. Especially those of a woman with green eyes, and long blonde hair, and a man with dark-blonde hair and blue eyes. Both possessed powers that he wanted. And would soon have. He sat down on his throne.
"Ready to engage hyperdrive, My Lord."
Dark eyes flared with pleasure. "Do so."
Steven Rayner screamed silently.
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