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The three teams looked around as they pushed the ATVs away from the 'gate. "If I were ever to paint a picture of hell, this would be it," Texas muttered.
The ground was dry and cracked, what few trees there were seemed to be dead. The sun overhead beat down on them, and Jack insisted that all of them apply extra sunscreen immediately. Rocky hills surrounded them, the peaks worn down from centuries of exposure to the elements. A slight breeze was blowing, but the arid air was too hot to allow it to be any sort of relief.
Casey climbed on back of the ATV behind Daniel. She shivered slightly. When she put her arms around his waist, 'that' feeling, the one that had darkened her soul while they made love, danced through her brain once again. "No!"
Daniel turned and looked at her. "Case?"
Her green eyes were haunted with pain. "I love you, Daniel. I'll always love you," she whispered. "Please don't ever forget that."
He climbed off of the ATV, pulled her off and held her by her arms. "Casey, look at me. What's wrong? What do you see?"
She shuddered. "Darkness. Such darkness. So cold, and lonely," she whispered.
Jack, Sam and Teal'c stood beside them, SG-6 closing ranks behind them. The Marines stood just as close.
"Okay, Casey, I want you to look at me. Look at me Angel," Daniel said softly. She continued to stare into the distance. He took her chin gently in his hand. "Look at me," he commanded.
Jack frowned, shifted from one foot to the other as Casey continued to stare. He moved to stand directly in her line of sight, hoping that whatever it was, his presence would break the 'connection'.
"Casey, look at me. Look at my eyes," Daniel said, a bit more forcefully. Still her green eyes remained staring into the distance; past...through...Jack. He looked up at Teal'c. "I have to see what she's seeing. If I don't…uh…knock us both out if you have to."
"I understand, Daniel Jackson," the Jaffa replied.
Daniel reached out, touched her mind. She was terrified. He could see…feel…the darkness she had described. 'Angel, where are you?' He felt her touch, could feel the fear. Finally he saw her. She looked terrified. 'It's okay, babe, I'm right here. Come take my hand.'
She felt him, the soft, gentle touch, the love that reached for her. She tried desperately to reach him, but couldn't seem to bridge the chasm that had suddenly appeared between them.
'It's just an illusion, Angel. Look at me. Just look at me. It's not real. I'm right here, I'm not going to let anything happen to you.' She was standing on the other side of the deep pit that had opened between them. He attempted to move over it, felt himself falling, grabbed at the rocks on the steep wall and pulled himself back to safety. 'Casey, move back, I'm going to try and jump.'
'No! Please, Daniel, don't! You'll fall, and I'll lose you forever!' She was panicked. Her cheeks were wet with tears.
He picked up a rock and tossed it into the crevasse. He counted slowly, waited to hear it hit the bottom. He never did. He shivered. For an illusion, this seemed too damned real. The ground beneath their feet began to shake, and he was tossed to the dirt. When it was over, he sat up and looked around. The cliff where she had been standing was gone. "Casey! No! No!" he shouted.
The others watched as Daniel stared into Casey's eyes. When he began to yell, Teal'c jerked him away from her. The young blonde man fell to the ground, shook his head, then looked around him.
"Daniel?" Jack said.
"I have no idea what just happened," he said hoarsely. "Except that she's gone. It was dark, I couldn't see her. When I finally found her, there was this huge crevice. I thought it was just an illusion, so I was going to walk to her, get her. I fell, managed to grab onto some rocks, and pulled myself back to the top. Then there was an earthquake, and when I could get back up, the cliff where she had been was gone."
Sam turned his hands over. Although the skin was whole again, there were still traces of blood on them. They all exchanged worried, nervous looks.
Casey continued to stare into the distance; seeing…hearing…nothing that was happening around her. Daniel gently picked her up, sat down on the steps that led to the gate, and held her close. "Tony, go to those ruins. Take the top layer of plaster off of that column. You'll have to be very careful. Then take pictures of what you find."
Jack shook his head. "Daniel, you're the expert. You need to do this. Tony will take Casey back to the base. Then he'll rejoin us."
He shook his head stubbornly. "No. I have to hold her. I have to be here if…when…I have to be here when she needs me."
"Perhaps we should take Casey Jackson with us to the ruins," Teal'c suggested. "She can be in no more danger there, with us, than she is right now. Perhaps it is better if she does not leave the planet."
Daniel nodded. "I'm not leaving her, Jack. I'm not letting go of her."
The older man finally nodded. "Can you drive the ATV and hold her at the same time?"
"Watch me," Daniel replied. He allowed Teal'c to take her just long enough to get onto the vehicle, then took her back in his arms. It wasn’t going to be easy, but he could do it. "I might not be able to go as fast as the rest of you. Go on, I'll catch up," he said.
Still troubled by the events, the three teams set off for the ruins.
A A A A A A
She picked herself up off of the ground, dusted herself off. It was so dark! The silence was deafening! She reached out, tried to reach him, to feel his gentle touch once again. There! He was there! So far away…it was so difficult…she gasped, then gave up trying. She attempted to get a feel for where she was. Great idea, she thought, if only I could see my hand in front of my face! She reached for her flashlight. Turned it on. Hmm…looked like a cave. Okay. Let's just see where it leads.
Her watch, she had discovered, was completely useless. The second hand had stopped moving. She wandered for what seemed to be hours. It was hot, and she was drenched with sweat. She took a drink from her canteen, then sat down, put her back against the stone wall. Just long enough to catch my breath, she told herself. She tried to remember what exactly had happened. They had 'gated to PR3 195, and she was on the ATV, and she had wrapped her arms around Daniel's waist…then …then she woke up here. Wherever 'here' was.
She closed her eyes. Opened them long enough to turn off the flashlight. Better to conserve the batteries now, she thought. Something totally weird was going on. In a flash that terrifying feeling washed over her; leaving her breathless, her pulse racing, her heart breaking. Gone! He was gone! Taken from her! She shook her head. No, that wasn't right. He wasn't gone…she grasped at images that danced before her…she saw him standing on a cliff, reaching for her, trying to get to her…then an earthquake…then…falling…it seemed that she had fallen for such a long time…
How did she get here? She continued to probe her memory, searching for the answer. When had they entered a cave? Something began to poke at the back of her mind…
A A A A A A
Daniel had closed her eyes, not wanting the dust and grit to fill them. Her head was against his shoulder, he held her as tightly as he could and still drive the ATV. They had stopped for a rest, to give their legs and butts a chance to get the blood circulating again.
"Doctor Jackson, if we take the pack off of your ATV, and put it on this one, you can sit back farther, and hold her, and I can drive," Texas offered.
"Thanks, Texas. I think I'd like to try that," Daniel replied. When they were ready to resume their journey, Teal'c once again held Casey until Daniel was settled behind the young redheaded Texan. He held her tightly to his chest. He didn't dare reach for her, not until they were stopped, and Teal'c could watch out for him. "Where are you, Angel?" he whispered in her ear. "Don't leave me, babe. I love you, I need you too much." Memories of a nightmare haunted him. Tears filled his eyes as he thought of her in that room; there…but not there…her mind, her heart, lost to him. At least, he thought, trying to draw some comfort from it, she hadn't been raped and sodomized and abused like she had been in his dream.
If Texas had to sit a little bit farther forward than usual, was a bit uncomfortable, he would never mention it. Casey was a considered apart of SG-6 by those team members; a teammate, a woman he loved like an older sister. He knew that Tony was in love with her, knew that his dark-haired friend was doing his best to keep that fact hidden. Trenton was totally in awe of her, and Major Parker respected and admired her. He could feel her body against his back, and wished that she was conscious, and teasing him, rather than being catatonic.
The ruins came into sight. Jack was finally able to convince Daniel to let Teal'c hold the unconscious woman while he worked on the pillar where the new, garbled glyphs had been painted. Both men were hoping that an answer to the mystery that faced them would be found.
Daniel worked painstakingly to remove what turned out to be new plaster. After three hours, he had enough removed that he could see, and read the glyphs beneath. "Oh, god," he moaned.
"What?" Jack asked sharply.
"'The journey of the mind is dangerous. Through the darkness two paths lead, one to the light, the other to death. Only the strong of will, and brave of heart, can survive'," he read.
"That doesn't sound good," Sam admitted.
"So how did this 'journey of the mind' get started?" Jack wanted to know.
Daniel shook his head. "I have no idea." He began to look around, read the other walls and pillars. "According to this text, the temple we're standing in was used for secret rites of passage for priests and priestess' of Amon-Ra. They called forth the spirits of the underworld, and were challenged to the death. Those who survived became ordained and went on to work in his temples."
"So these…uh…spirits…are still loose and running around?" Jack asked, looking around nervously.
"I don't know, Jack. I'm betting that they are. Or at least one. Someone, or something didn't want us to find that. I’m betting that there's more here that we need to find. Start looking for places that look…new."
After thirty minutes, Trenton called out, then pointed to a section of wall that was void of glyphs. It did indeed appear to be new. It was another four hours before enough of the plaster had been removed for Daniel to read the glyphs beneath.
He stood up, excitement in his eyes. "We can help her!"
"How?" Sam asked.
"We have to perform the ceremony of the 'Watchers'." He began to race around the temple, reading several sections of glyphs. "Teal'c, we'll need torches, it's going to be dark soon. See if any of these sconces will light." He carefully took his wife into his arms, kissed her forehead, then put her in the middle of a mosaic that covered the floor, in the center of what appeared to be a pentagram. He laid her on her back, crossed her arms over her chest. He searched through his pack, found his notebook. He carefully drew out half a dozen hieroglyphs, one on each piece of paper, then laid them on her body, from her throat to her boots.
"What do we need to do?" Tony asked quietly.
Daniel looked up at him. "We need to kneel here around her, and pray…or meditate…that she'll find the path she seeks."
"For how long?" Jack asked.
"Until she wakes up. Or dies," was the hoarse answer.
"If she dies, won't she just reanimate?" Major Parker asked.
Daniel shook his head. "No. This is a fight to the death, for her very soul. An Immortal body makes no difference." His face was pale and drawn, his blue eyes haunted.
"Hell!" Jack swore. He looked at his young friend, as she lay motionless on the floor. Come on, Case, figure it out, he thought desperately.
The three teams situated themselves around the comatose young Immortal, held hands, and began to fervently pray that she would find her way back to them. In the shadows, a dark, shadowy being watched carefully.
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