Alternative Destiny series
Title: Diplomatic Solutions Series: Alternative Destiny, immediately following First Step Forward Fandom: Stargate SG-1 Genre: Time Travel / AU Rating: PG Summary: With the heady rush of success in extracting SG-2 from Goa'uld territory, the SGC now turns its attention to the missing SG-1 on P3R-636 and questions of what to do with the young Sodan warrior who helped out SG-2.
Stargate Command, April 1996 CE
Following the hair-raising but ultimately successful retrieval of SG-2 from P3X-237, the team in question had a quick shower and checkup, before being ushered into the briefing room for their report. Jack attended as well to give his report of the rescue efforts, while Daniel and Sam where present as the heads of the anthropology and science departments, respectively. In retrospect, it hadn't been as much of a disaster as it had felt like at the time, though Kawalsky suspected that he hadn't hidden his dissatisfaction with Lance and Astor as well as he thought he did.
"It is a pity that you weren't able to obtain a live Goa'uld larvae this time," General Hammond was saying, "but I understand that you wanted to save the life of the young man you brought back with you. As for the Jaffa translation device, it will be turned over to the science department. Captain Carter, your team will need to find out how it works and what its limitations are."
"I can help you test its limitations," Daniel immediately volunteered.
"Yes sir, and thank you Daniel" acknowledged Sam, her mind already spinning with plans.
"Now, as per the original goal of the mission," Hammond continued, "did you find any sign of Hathor?"
"No sir," answered Lance. "From what we could tell, the planet was already claimed by another so-called god. Also, none of the men we encountered showed any signs of her...influence."
"It's highly possible that the symbiote could negate the effects of Hathor's mind-altering agent," Janet spoke up.
"If she had no way of controlling the people there, she probably wouldn't have stayed," hypothesized Kawalsky. "The gate wasn't guarded until we escaped, so it would have been easy for her to leave."
"Any possibility that she might've joined up with the local snake lord?" Jack threw out the question, only half-rhetorically as he looked over at Daniel Jackson with a questioning eyebrow.
"I'll need more information to guess one way or another," Daniel mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "According to mythology and her own accounts, Hathor is antipathetic to Ra. If the Goa'uld in charge of P3X-237 was allied to Ra, or even if he already had a queen and didn't need another one, then she would have probably left instead of revealed herself."
"We could ask Ianshu who the ruler of that planet is," Lance interjected. "He's some sort of rebel Jaffa who are against the Goa'uld."
Jack nodded absently. "Yeah, if these Soda people--"
"Sodan," corrected Daniel absently.
"--are carrying raids on enemy territory," Jack continued, ignoring the correction, "they ought to have some kind of intel system." He paused and squinted at Kawalsky. "That is, if he's on the up and up."
"Hey, now, Jack," Kawalsky immediately protested, "the kid saved our lives! They were talking about executions when they locked us away."
"Colonel, do you have reason to believe that the young man SG-2 brought back is a plant?" General Hammond interrupted before an argument could start. "After all, it seems a stretch that there would already be a trap set for us on that planet when Earth is just starting to use the stargate."
"He might not be a plant for us," Jack muttered and rubbed his temples, his mind thinking of the classified information regarding the Tok'ra that SG-2 was not aware of.
"We should talk to him and find out," Daniel proposed. "Wherever his real allegiances lie, he could still reveal a lot of useful information, and a lot of little things could confirm or deny his story."
"A lot of people would like to speak to our guest," Hammond informed them. "In fact, Special Agent Kennedy is coming back from the Pentagon to ask some questions as well."
"Wow, that's fast," Sam noted.
"What kind of questions?" Daniel asked at the same time.
"Of the forces that he claims to be fighting against - troop strength, technology, weaponry."
"I'd like to know that myself," Jack quipped, his eyes narrowing to belie the levity of his words. "But we already have people from Military Intelligence here." He nodded at Lance. "Why do they need to fly in someone from Washington?"
"They might have some different questions," Hammond replied dryly; then admitted, "there may also be tests."
"Tests?" Daniel jumped on the last statement. "What kind of tests?"
"Maybe you haven't noticed, Dr. Jackson. But he's the first alien species we've run into, and he's carrying the larval form of another hostile alien inside his body. You don't think that qualifies him as a subject of scientific interest?"
"Uh, what kind of scientific interest, exactly?" Daniel persisted, "because this is sounding like they want to use him for medical experiments."
"I have to agree with Dr. Jackson there," Kawalsky spoke up. "I don't think the kid saved my team so that he could become a 'subject' for U.S. Military Intelligence." He slanted a momentary sideways look at Captain Lance.
The woman in question bristled. "I don't believe it's in the best interests of Military Intelligence to antagonize a potential ally either," she said coldly. "If they want test subjects, there's plenty of enemy Jaffa out there."
"Not that we should be performing experiments on other sentient beings, enemy or not," Sam shot back sharply.
"Captains, Doctor," General Hammond raised his voice to stop the argument that was again threatening to erupt. He swept a stern look over the table. "I promise that Ianshu will be treated with dignity and respect for as long as he remains a guest of this facility. Beyond that, I can't promise a damn thing."
"In that case, can we speak to the condemned first?" Jack asked sardonically. "After all, the kid should at least get a chance to defend himself before the circus gets here." He returned Kawalsky's surprised look with a sympathetic one.
Hammond nodded at him, ignoring the sarcasm he'd come to expect from the unorthodox colonel. "Very well. Be aware that Special Agent Kennedy arrives in a few hours. You're all dismissed."
The door to the isolation room that Ianshu had been housed in since he'd arrived opened to admit Jack and Daniel. Kawalsky had intended to come with them, but had been unwillingly dragged off by a determined Dr. Fraiser for further treatment of the wounds that he had sustained during his escape.
"Hi there," Jack greeted the young man simply, knowing that his translator would allow him to understand English.
"Am I a prisoner?" Ianshu immediately demanded, his chin jutting out in a classic display of challenge. Jack was uncomfortably reminded of his son having that same expression the last time he'd forbidden the boy to play with toy guns.
"No!" Daniel jumped in with an answer, regardless of how obvious it wasn't true. "Uh, no, of course not. You're just--we're..." he trailed off helplessly and looked to Jack for help.
"We're just being a little careful," Jack continued his sentence smoothly.
"You took my cloak from me when I came," Ianshu accused.
"Cloak?" Jack asked blankly, before realizing, "oh, the invisibility device?"
"It self destructed when it was removed."
"Huh, I didn't hear a boom," Jack quipped, turning to Daniel, "did you hear a boom?"
"Look, we're sorry about that," Daniel told Ianshu. "The people here have never met a Jaffa or Sodan before. Honestly, they're just a little scared of you."
Ianshu looked between the two humans in confused suspicion. "I am no threat to you," he said.
"Maybe," Jack replied, "and maybe we could even be allies. We just don't know you well enough to make the call...yet."
Ianshu stared at him for a long moment, then slowly sat down on a nearby chair. "An insincere friend is more to be feared than a wild beast," he recited, as if to himself.
"Oh wow, that-that's a Buddhist saying," Daniel noted. At the puzzled look Ianshu gave him, he immediately waved the comment away. "Anyway, we just need to learn more about you, so we can become friends."
"I will not betray my people to you," Ianshu warned him, though it was apparent that the boy was softening in the face of Daniel's guileless enthusiasm and Jack behaving himself for once.
"Of course not," Jack assured him, sincerely hoping that it wouldn't come to that, for Kawalsky's sake if nothing else. "Like he said, we just want to know some basics about you and your people."
Taking Ianshu's pensive silence for assent, Daniel threw out the first question. "You told SG-2 that the Sodan were different from the Jaffa, but you appear to be a similar race. Can you tell us what's the connection between the Sodan and the Jaffa?"
For a moment, Ianshu considered the question, as if examining it for any attempt at tricking him, before he finally responded. "The Sodan were part of an elite command force under the Goa'uld Ishkur. Thousands of years years ago, they drove fear into the hearts of all those that would oppose his rule. But the further they ascended among the ranks, the more they were able to discern the truth -- that he was not a god at all, but merely an impostor. Our true gods are those that came before us."
"What do you mean by that?" Daniel asked, honestly surprised that a people who had delivered themselves from one false religion would so quickly fall into another one. "The 'true gods are those that came before us' bit," he clarified.
That question garnered him an odd look, but Ianshu didn't hesitate to answer this time. "There is a even older Jaffa legend of a primitive world the Goa'uld discovered ten thousand years ago. They call the natives the Tau'ri - meaning 'Those of the First World'. It is said that was where forms of this type evolved." Ianshu gestured to himself to indicate what he meant. "It is said the Goa'uld took hosts among the natives. Others were made into Jaffa. The rest were taken as slaves and seeded among the stars to serve them. Later, when the wars between the Goa'uld and the Asgard began, the knowledge of that world was eventually lost."
Jack and Daniel exchanged startled glances, both realizing the import of what they were being told.
"Ianshu," Daniel began hesitatingly, "the... 'beings of this form'... evolved here, on Earth."
"Earth?" Ianshu looked at him in confusion.
"Earth," Jack confirmed. "What you just referred to as Tau'ri."
"We have scientific evidence--" Daniel assured him, "--paleontological and archeological records!"
"We know that Ra came here in the distant past," Jack added. "Our ancestors rebelled five thousand years ago, and our stargate had been buried since then, until recently."
"This is the world of the Tau'ri?" Ianshu asked in disbelief.
"Known to us fondly as Earth," Jack corrected.
"Or Terra, if you want to get scientific," Daniel added pedantically.
"Terra?!" Ianshu suddenly surged out of his seat, sending both Jack and Daniel falling back a step at his suddenly movement.
"Whoa there!" Daniel attempted to sooth the agitated young man with both hands in the air. "What's the significance of the name 'Terra'?"
This time, they were subjected to a much longer searching stare from Ianshu before he finally regained his seat. "You--The Goa'uld do not know that name, and would never use it," Ianshu finally said. "The legend I spoke of before was a Jaffa legend. It is not the truth that the Sodan knows."
Jack and Daniel exchanged bemused looks. "What?"
Ianshu took a deep breath and shook his head. "When Ishkur branded the ancestors of my people as traitors and ordered their deaths, the Sodan tried to fight, to show them the truth, but the odds were too great against them. They fled, attempting to find Kheb, a world which promised enlightenment and was feared by the Goa'uld. They did not find it, but instead they found another world of the true gods. There, they studied the writing left behind. It spoke of the gods as the true first instance of 'beings of this form'... It spoke of the gods creating a second evolution in their image on a world called Terra."
"You're talking about the Ancients," Daniel breathed, "--the Altera."
"They have been called that," Ianshu confirmed, still shaking his head in amazement.
Daniel seemed to come to a sudden decision. "Wait here--" he told both Jack and Ianshu, before suddenly rushing out of the room.
Ianshu barely acknowledged him, lost in his own thoughts. Jack also remained silent, turning over the conversation in his head. On the one hand, everything that had been said so far wasn't a surprise to him, largely due to the information he had unfairly obtained from Destiny's download and the files from the alternate future. However, the likelihood that the Goa'uld would know this information, or even admit it if they did, did speak volumes for the sincerity of Ianshu's allegiances.
A few moments later, the door slammed open again when Daniel rushed back in. Barely pausing to close the door behind him, he took out a sheaf of photos that Jack immediately recognized as the Ancient writing from the meeting room wall in Heliopolis. The message conveyed in the writing was innocuous enough, so he let the act slide, even as he mentally made a note to talk to Daniel about treatment of classified information later.
"Here," Daniel said, panting slightly from his rush, "the writings that you spoke of, did they look something like this?"
Eyes widening as he looked at the photos, Ianshu nodded. "You know of the gods?" he asked.
"Well, we call them the Ancients," Jack answered, "just like what they call themselves." He tapped a finger on the signature at the end of the Ancient text in the photo. "We don't actually worship them..."
"You truly are the Tau'ri," Ianshu murmured, and Jack wasn't sure if his answer even registered.
"Yeah, I guess we are," Daniel agreed, finally regaining his breath.
"I prefer Terrans," Jack muttered, not really liking the idea of referring to Earth-humanity by a name given to it by enemies. Judging that Ianshu was less resistant to being questioned at this point, he decided to turn the line of questioning toward something more useful. "So, about the planet that you met SG-2 on..."
"Chulak?" Ianshu asked with a small hint of confusion.
Jack guessed that was the planet's common name, which admittedly sounded much better than P3X-237. "Do you know which Goa'uld it belongs to?"
"Chulak belongs to Apophis, one of the most powerful System Lords under Ra."
Jack addressed the next question to both Ianshu and Daniel. "Do you think he might harbor Hathor when she escaped to his planet?"
"Ah, I don't think so," Daniel answered first. "According to mythology, Apophis was allied to Ra, and since Ra imprisoned Hathor, it's not likely that she'd be on good terms with Apophis either."
"Apophis is devoted to his queen Amaunet," Ianshu added. "He would have no use for another."
"So she's probably skipped the planet," Jack mumbled. "Damn." He eyed the young Sodan warrior thoughtfully as a new thought occurred to him. "Ianshu, do your people maintain some kind of intelligence gathering operation on the Goa'ulds?"
Ianshu looked back at him dubiously, obviously hesitant at sharing potential military information.
After a moment, Jack decided to try a different track. "Look, we have a team that went missing on--" he turned to Daniel and made a gesture for the scientist to fill in.
"P3R-636," Daniel finished for him. The archaeologist turned over the picture from Heliopolis and scribbled down the gate symbols for that planet.
"Yeah, that," Jack deadpanned, idly wondering why scientists bothered to memorize minutiae like that. "Do you know which Goa'uld it belongs to?"
Ianshu peered at the address, brows furrowed in concentration, with all the appearance of someone who wanted to help, but who couldn't quite remember something useful.
"Here, this might help." Jack snatched the pen and paper from Daniel's hand and scribbled a rough sketch of the Milky Way Galaxy with the relative locations of Earth, Chulak, and P3R-636. He ignored Daniel's odd look directed his way; it wasn't his fault he was a better visual learner than book.
"That area of space was formerly of Ra's territory," Ianshu said at last. "But the worlds there have been abandoned a thousand years, when Ra last moved the heart of his territory and they became too distant for his ships to control."
"Could another Goa'uld have taken over?" Daniel asked.
"Perhaps, but their power would be weak," Ianshu informed them. "Ra had no queen after Hathor; nor does he use Jaffa for his warriors. His underlords have little power to bolster themselves without Ra's support."
"Our surveillance of the planet showed there were a lot of guards with a symbol on their heads like the Jaffa do," Jack mentioned, waving at Daniel to sketch the symbol in question.
"The symbol doesn't look like anything that I've seen in Egyptian mythology," Daniel said as he sketched the image. "So I assumed that it belonged to a Goa'uld who's never been to Earth."
"It is the mark of Seti," Ianshu declared once he examined the sketch. "He is a minor underlord of Ra, long presumed dead."
"Could he be alive still?" Daniel wondered, looking to Jack even as he addressed his question to Ianshu. The two humans shared a look of understanding - after all, Seth was still alive on Earth after all this time.
"Perhaps if he had a sarcophagus," Ianshu allowed, "or switched hosts every few hundred years. However, these guards cannot be true Jaffa. No underlord of Ra has ever had access to a queen. It is something that is restricted to the System Lords."
"So at most just one Goa'uld, a bunch of fake Jaffa, using probably old Goa'uld weaponry" Jack summarized. He looked thoughtfully at Daniel and Ianshu. "We can work with this."
General Hammond stifled a sigh of exasperation at the stubborn man standing in his office. He'd thought he'd been aware of what he was getting into when he was assigned to the Stargate Project, but apparently he'd underestimated how much of a source of trouble his unorthodox 2IC was.
"Colonel, the operational procedure that was made clear to all SG teams before they departed for potentially hostile territory is that if they miss all the scheduled contacts, the gate address will be blocked from further exploration and there will be no attempt at rescue."
"With all due respect, sir, the operational procedure is wrong!" Jack exclaimed. "We should not be leaving our people behind until we've at least tried to rescue them!"
"As much as it pains me, Colonel, neither can we afford to lose even more people people by sending them into danger without the slightest idea of what went wrong the first time," Hammond pointed out reasonably.
"General, we're not going in completely blind," Jack immediately riposted. "The kid that SG-2 brought back has intel on that area of space."
Hammond gave his 2IC a flatly incredulous look. "Colonel, this isn't my first barbecue. That young man could not possibly have provided enough information to justify a high risk rescue operation into hostile territory."
"We already know we're dealing with normal humans just dressed up as Jaffa," Jack pointed out, "with at most one Goa'uld on the planet." He leaned in toward the general and tried to carry his point across by sheer force of will. "We know that the planet belonged to Ra, who outlawed writing to his slaves. Even if he's abandoned the place, there's nowhere enough time for them to be anywhere near a match for us in military tactics and strategy."
Taken aback by the impassioned plea coming from the usually irreverent colonel, General Hammond hesitated as he consider the argument put forth. Truth be told, he did not want to leave anyone under his command to the mercy of goodness knows what dangers were out there in the galaxy either. Had he not been worried about the silence from SG-1 and the planet they were sent to, he would not have hesitated in ordering a rescue party any more than he had for SG-2.
"Are you confident that you can do this?"
"We can do this, sir," Jack confirmed. Then, sensing that the general was on the verge of capitulating, added, "Just give me SG-2, a marine team or two, Carter, Daniel, and Ianshu."
"Now hold on there, Colonel," Hammond protested, frowning at the list of personnel. "The marine teams and Captain Carter I have no objections over; and if Dr. Fraiser clears SG-2, I see no reason they can't accompany you either. But might I remind you that the NID will be here to interview Ianshu? Also, what reason do you have to take Dr. Jackson?"
Jack shrugged with exaggerated nonchalance. "Just that, if there is a Goa'uld on that planet, Ianshu's the one who can identify it. If there isn't, then we might need Daniel to translate for us on the fly. He is the best at what he does, sir."
General Hammond gave him a hard stare, not fooled for a moment. "Your proposal to include Ianshu wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that you disapprove of the NID, would it, Colonel?"
"Well, let's just say that if it's between giving us a better chance at getting our men home, and letting the NID turn him into a guinea pig, I'll take door number one."
With that kind of attitude, it was a wonder the man rose as high in rank as he did, Hammond thought ruefully. On the other hand, a man who thought like that was more likely to get the job done right when all the chips came down. To be fair, while the NID had a say regarding the disposition of Ianshu once they had taken the young man off the base, while he was a guest of the SGC, there was technically no rule that prevented Hammond from allowing him to accompany the teams on off-world missions.
"Very well," Hammond agreed at last. "I will speak to the Joint Chiefs and see whether we can get this rescue mission green-lighted, with our new alien friend.
The stargate on P3R-636 was well guarded. Unfortunately, the guards were not true Jaffa, and thus not possessing the advantages of heightened physical ability or resistance against chemical agents. It was much more easily, therefore, for the rescue party to incapacitate them with flashbangs and gas.
"SG-2, secure the prisoners," Jack commanded even as his eyes continued the sweep the area for further threats. "SG-3, secure the area and start setting up a perimeter."
Among the midst of the aye sirs, he stooped to examine one of the prisoners, using the tip of his P-90 to lift the hem of the man's armored shirt.
"Definitely not a real Jaffa," Sam noted as she walked up to her CO with Ianshu and Daniel. Ostensibly, she had been tasked to keep an eye on the Sodan, but her CO had given her slightly different orders to keep her eye on the civilian archaeologist who had insisted on coming along. "Their staff weapons are very old, and quite worn too."
"You can play with them later, Captain," Jack told her. "For now, we need more information. Lance!"
"Sir!" Captain Lance jumped to attention where she had been helping secure the last of the guards.
"Grab the one that looked to be in charge and some smelling salts," Jack ordered her, well aware that she was one of the few people here with professional interrogation in her background.
"You're going to interrogate them?" Daniel suddenly asked.
"They could have information on where SG-1 is and what we could be facing," Sam pointed out the obvious, surprised that he was asking.
"Uh, you're not going to torture them..."
"Professor--" Jack tried to interrupt.
"Doctor," Daniel corrected, interrupting Jack's interruption. "I mean, we don't even know if they had anything to do with SG-1's disappearance. This is a new culture we just met. Let me talk to them and find a diplomatic solution."
"Dr. Jackson," Jack repeated with heavier emphasis. "I don't know which Hollywood cliche you've got in mind, but there are plenty of ways to question prisoners without resorting to torture." He knew both sides of that line quite well, from personal experience.
"They would endure worse had a Goa'uld captured and questioned them," Ianshu spoke up suddenly, apparently siding with the military on the topic.
"Just because we're not as bad as the Goa'uld doesn't make it right," Daniel insisted stubbornly.
Jack didn't even bother to argue further, seeing that the archaeologist had already made up his mind about the subject. "If you'll let me finish, Dr. Jackson. You get one chance to talk them into answering our questions. Captain Lance will take over the interrogation if they don't play ball. Now go, we're on a clock."
Unfortunately for the guards, it soon became very apparent that not only were they fake Jaffa, they were not true professional soldiers either. Their world had gone for centuries without Goa'uld rule, and they were only human slaves which had rose up into power with very little resistance from the rest of the grateful population. Against a tag team of Daniel and Lance, the natives did not stand a chance.
From the captured guards, the SGC learned that SG-1 had been imprisoned to work in the mines at the command of the local king. They learned that said king had been one of the rebel leaders who slew the Goa'uld underlord who had previously ruled. There were concerns about how a supposedly human king could have survived for centuries. Ianshu hypothesized that there might be a working sarcophagus on the planet.
Regardless of the true identity of the local ruler, the first priority of the rescue party remained to recover SG-1. The mines, unfortunately was also well guarded, with only a single exit that could easily become a choke-point.
"Let me talk to them," Daniel suggested suddenly.
Jack turned around from where he was conferring with the other military team leaders. "What?" he asked, not sure if he heard the other man correctly.
"Jack, if it comes down to a shoot out, there could be people killed on both sides," Daniel pleaded. "Why not let me find a diplomatic solution?"
"A diplomatic solution," Jack parroted in disbelief, "with people who tossed SG-1 into hard labor just for being foreigners?"
"So they're a little paranoid," Daniel hedged, "but now we have some of their people, and those guards have all had nothing but good things to say about how their ruler treats them. If their king truly cares about their well-being, why not trade our hostages for our people?"
Jack squinted at the other man. "Or they could just kill you as much as negotiate with you," he said bluntly.
"Maybe, but if there's even a chance we can resolve this bloodlessly, shouldn't we at least try?" Daniel pleaded.
The two men stared at one another for a long moment.
"Sir, I can go and watch his back," Sam spoke up hesitatingly from behind Jack. "I think this might work."
"I, too, can accompany him," Ianshu suggested after another short silence. "In proximity of their ruler, I will be able to determine if he is a Goa'uld."
Finally, Jack sighed in acquiescence. "Alright, fine. But if you get the slightest hint that something's off, head back to the gate ASAP, got it?"
"Yes sir," Sam acknowledged.
Jack gave one last look at Daniel. "Do you need Lance's translator?" he asked. The SG-2 captain had taken one of the translators from a downed Jaffa while escaping from Chulak.
"No, I think I'll be fine," Daniel replied. "I picked up enough on the dialect when we were talking to the guards. It's very similar to--"
"Fine," Jack cut him off before the archaeologist could elaborate. "Go."
The odd trio slowly made their way from the cover of the forest to the doors of the Goa'uld ship that was now serving as a castle. As expected, they were immediately beset by guards.
"Wait! Wait!" Daniel took a step in front of his two companions and held his hands up to forestall them. "We're here to ask for an audience with your king!"
The guards paused for a moment, then continued to relieve the group of their weapons, before escorting them into the castle.
"On your knees," commanded the leader of the guard.
Daniel and Sam slowly knelt, followed more reluctantly by Ianshu. They looked up at the dais to see and old man lounging on the command chair, and a younger woman standing next to him.
"My Father, Pyrus the God slayer and ruler of this planet wishes to know who you are," announced the young woman.
"We're explorers," Daniel replied slowly, making sure to enunciate his words carefully. "We came to find our friends. They were dressed like us," he indicated himself and Sam, "--three men and one woman, who came to this world a few days ago."
"Liar! Thieves!" Pyrus suddenly snarled, leaning forward from his chair, "--You and your friends"
"Uh no! We're not lying and we're not thieves!" Daniel immediately protested. "I'm sure there was a misunderstanding..."
"You will tell me the truth or you will die. Put them in the mines!"
"Wait!" Daniel protested as the guards moved to grab them. "Wait! We have your gate guards!"
"Stop," commanded the princess suddenly, halting the guards. "What do you mean by that?"
"Look, you had guards around your stargate, and they attacked us when we came through," Daniel explained. "We, uh, resisted their attack and captured them, and if you'll just let our people go, we'll return your guards, and none of us will have to see each other again."
"You take my people and use their lives to threaten me?" Pyrus demanded hotly.
"No! No, no," Daniel protested vehemently. "We wouldn't kill them. We just--"
"I will not be dictated to by liars--!" Pyrus roared before he was suddenly cut off by his daughter.
"Father!" The princess stepped forward and put a calming hand on her father's arm. "Please, they are only four people. Why not just let them leave?"
"Shyla, you are too soft to rule," her father admonished. "How can we set an example for the other workers by punishing those who attempted to escape if we simply let them go?"
"You have already punished them, Father. The people will understand that you are exchanging them for the lives of our people," Shyla answered, her eyes pleading with her father.
Below, the three supplicants waited with bated breath for the king to make his decision. Finally, Pyrus signed in resignation and turned to them again.
"You may take the ones that are left with you," he proclaimed brusquely, "but you'll carry them away yourselves. I'll not spare any of my guards for it. And you will return my people!"
"Of course we will!" Daniel spoke quickly before the man could change his mind, then registered the wording of the command. "Wait--the ones that are left? What--?"
But Pyrus had already swept from the room. Shyla followed him, though not before casting a lingering glance over the three visitors, Daniel in particular.
The two humans and one Sodan slowly rose to their feet and left the building, before Sam radioed the results of their negotiations to the rest of the rescue team. They arrived at the entrance to the mines at the same time as Jack and two of the marines, along with the bound forms of the captured gate guards.
"Jack? Where's--" Daniel began, but was cut off by an impatient wave from the man in question.
"Later, Danny, after we get our people out," Jack said shortly. He shot a glare at the palace guards who'd followed the three negotiators and held up his P-90 to warn them off. "Ah-ah! Not until we get our people back first," he informed them threateningly.
Cautiously, the group made their way into the narrow passageway of the mines along with their hostages. It did not take them long to find the beleaguered forms of their lost comrades.
"Ferretti? Banks?" Jack called out at the soot-covered forms. "You alright?"
"Jack?" Ferretti muttered, staggering as he turned and dropped his pickax. "Oh my god, Jack, am I glad to see you!"
Jack looked at the men who looked like they had crawled out of a grave. It was obviously they'd been overworked with no regard for any need for rest. But more concerning still, there was Daniel's comment about "those who are left" and the fact that the group was still missing one person.
"Where's Lt. Barnes?" Jack asked with a sinking feeling.
Banks swallowed painfully. "They executed her after our failed attempt to escape," he said hollowly.
"To set an example, they said," Ferretti spat, obviously still having the energy to be furious.
Jack felt like indulging in some tantrums himself. However, conscious of the mine guards and palace guards still hanging in the back, he forcibly tamped down on his anger and focused on getting their people out of enemy territory.
"Move the hostages to the back and give a hand to SG-1," he ordered. "Let's get out of here."
The group made their way back toward the entrance of the mine as fast as they could. The sight that greeted them, however, caused Jack to swear colorfully even as he grabbed Daniel and shoved him out of the way of a stray staff blast.
"The king has betrayed us," Ianshu stated from where he and Sam had been pinned behind another rock. He didn't seem surprised.
"Why would he do that?" Daniel wondered, flinching slightly each time Jack fired back at the attacking guards.
"Politicians," Jack sneered, "never could trust them."
"But it makes no sense," Daniel insisted. "They know we took out their guards once. Why would he risk putting more of his people in danger."
"He must have thought he could take us by surprise," Sam suggested while carefully lining up her next shot.
"I'd never accuse one of being smart," Jack quipped as he pulled out a grenade-like object, pulled the trigger and tossed it out. "Flashbang!" he called out.
Everyone hunched down and covered their ears while the flashbang went off. It was immediately followed by more commotion coming from behind the guards as the ambushers themselves were ambushed by a waiting SG-2 and the remainder of SG-3.
At the same time, a commotion could be heard from inside the mines.
"Damn, they must have another entrance," Jack realized. "Looks like we don't have a choice," he told the rest of the team. "Make a run for the treeline while the guards out there are stunned. We can't let them box us in from two sides. Carter, Warren, take point. I'll hold up the back. Go!"
The beleaguered group made a mad dash from the tunnels toward the trees, just ahead of the guards that had burst from the tunnels behind them. SG-2 and SG-3 returned fire as well, dropping several of the the guards before the rest retreated. The SG teams slowly retreated from the mining area and regrouped back to the perimeter they had set up near the gate. Once there, however, it was obvious that something had gone wrong.
"Where's Jack?" Daniel gasped while attempting to catch his breath.
Kawalsky looked up from staring at the recovering SG-1 with a pale face. "A staff blast from inside the mountain took out a part of the wall while he was trying to get out," he said. "The colonel was caught in the rock slide."
"Oh no," Daniel shook his head disbelievingly. "He's...he's going to be okay, isn't he," he asked plaintively, looking around at the military men and women around him for reassurance. The looks that were returned were not promising.
"Where's Ianshu?" Sam suddenly spoke up. "Did he..."
"I lost track of him when Jack--" Kawalsky trailed off and shook his head. "One moment he was right behind Dr. Jackson and the next I couldn't see him anywhere."
"He must have taken the chance to escape," suggested Captain Wade from SG-3.
"No way," Kawalsky immediately protested. "He's an honorable kid--person. He wouldn't do that."
"Maybe he went after Jack?" Daniel suggested hopefully. The others, however, looked skeptical at his statement.
"We should head back to the SGC," Major Warren, the commander of SG-3, suggested at length.
"What?!" Kawalsky protested again. "We can't just leave Jack behind!"
"We don't have the firepower to storm their castle and retrieve him," Warren pointed out logically, "and SG-1 obviously needs medical assistance."
"Screw that," came the sudden rasp from Ferretti as he pulled himself to his feet, meeting Kawalsky's outraged look with his own of understanding. "Jack came for us when protocol said to leave us behind. There's no way I'm leaving him behind." He already keenly felt the guilt of failure in the death of one member of his team. He didn't want to also lose a friend on this mission as well.
"The colonel could be in real danger now that we don't have any hostages anymore," Sam pointed out as well.
"Indeed we do," the sudden voice that came from thin air made the entire group come suddenly to attention, guns raised.
Ianshu appeared out of thin air, pushing a slight feminine form onto the ground in front of the Terrans as he did so. It was Shyla, the king's daughter.
"I thought they took your cloaking thing from you?" Lance asked the young Sodan warrior bemusedly.
"You took my emergency backup unit," Ianshu told them, looking rather smug.
"Of course we did," Kawalsky smiled ruefully.
"So you used it to capture their princess," Colonel Banks stated the obvious. "That took a lot of guts."
Ianshu gave him a look of puzzlement, the colloquialism having not translated well. "These people will trade your leader for theirs," he stated the equally obvious.
"That's assuming they don't double-cross us again," Warren muttered.
"It doesn't matter," Banks retorted. "I agree with Ferretti and Kawalsky. We can't leave Colonel O'Neill to whatever sick punishment their king can come up with." Based on his personal experience, he did not wish the fate that SG-1 had endured on anyone. "But still," he held up his hand at Kawalsky's immediate enthusiasm, "we can't go in half-cocked. We need some kind of plan."
"Please..." came the sudden soft sob from the ground. Everyone turned to look at the princess cowering on the ground, though only Ianshu, Lance, and Daniel understood what she was saying. "Please, don't hurt any more of my people..."
"Let me talk to her," Daniel spoke up suddenly. "When we had our audience with King Pyrus, she seemed to be a more reasonable person. We never wanted to hurt anyone anymore than they want us around on this planet. I think can get her to come around and help us." He gave a pleading look at the three leaders of the SG teams. "Please."
Jack sputtered as he came back to consciousness again in the metal tomb of the sarcophagus. With a low grinding noise, the lid slid open, and he was immediately manhandled out of the device by a pair of guards and pushed in front of the raging King Pyrus again.
"Where have you taken my daughter!" demanded the king, spittle flying through the air.
"Right back 'atcha," Jack sniped back wearily, not understanding a single word the man was demanding of him, "--AH!" The staff blow from the ubiquitous guards sent him sprawling to the ground.
"Murderer!" raged the king. "Cursed be you and the Goa'uld you serve! I will find and kill every last one of you!"
Jack tensed, waiting for the intonation that signaled end of the rant and the eventual beating followed by staff blast, just like the last two times he'd been executed and been consigned back to the sarcophagus. Dying was worse than he'd ever imagined, especially when it became something temporary and repetitive. But even if the frothing king still had all of his marbles, Jack didn't have the answers to his question anyway.
"My liege!" another guard suddenly burst into the room, interrupting the royal rant just moments before the inevitable order for execution. "The princess has been sighted at the outskirts of the forest. Her captors are demanding your presence!"
The king spun around in surprise, before starting to bark out orders. "Rouse my guards! I will take an army forth and crush these servants of the false gods!"
"What of the prisoner?" one of the guards asked.
Pyrus did not pause as he stormed out of the chamber. "Kill him."
Third time is so not the charm. Jack barely had the time to think, before the hot burn of the staff blast rammed into him from behind.
He was surprised then, the next time he revived, that there were no guards to yank him out of the sarcophagus. Cautiously, he pulled himself out of the metal casket, and stared in surprise at the unconscious forms of the two guards lying haphazardly on the ground.
"O'Neill," the voice made him jump and he whirled around to be surprised again.
"Ianshu?" Jack squashed the impulse to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming. It wouldn't do any good against a hallucination induced by alien technology anyway.
"We must leave quickly," the young Sodan told him. "Dr. Jackson has convinced Princess Shyla to lead her father's guards away from the astra portia and the castle. We need to depart this planet before they realize they are misled."
"Right, sure, youbetcha," Jack muttered while he climbed out of the sarcophagus.
Ianshu caught his arm when he stumbled, still partly disoriented from repeated torture and revival. "You must remain very close to me," he told Jack. "My cloak cannot extend too far away from myself."
"Close. Right." Tamping down his uneasiness with the young alien, Jack forced a small grin onto his face and slung an arm around Ianshu. "Let's jet."
With another strange look at the man's colloquialism, Ianshu activated his personal cloak and carefully maneuvered himself and Jack out of the castle and toward the rendezvous point. There, they met with the three groups of safe and very relieved SG personnel.
"Jack!" Kawalsky was the first to run up to his friend and former CO and frowning when he didn't see any obvious wounds. "Are you ok? I thought I saw you get caught in a rock slide--"
"Peachy," Jack gave him a grimace of a smile, not intending to elaborate further.
"I had to revive him with the sarcophagus," Ianshu clarified for him.
"Oh my god," muttered Daniel. The sentiment was echoed by several others.
"I don't want to hear it," Jack snapped, shooting a glare around indiscriminately. "Let's just get the hell out of here."
It was a short walk back to the stargate. Jack stopped Sam before she could enter the dialing address for Earth, however.
"Sir?" Sam looked at her CO in puzzlement.
Jack looked at Ianshu instead.
"The rest of us are going to take one last look around," he said giving the young Sodan a meaningful look, "make sure we're not being followed."
"Sir?" This time the question came from Major Warren of SG-3, looking between the colonel and the alien.
"Good idea!" Kawalsky was the first to catch on. He had no wish to let the person who'd saved his team become a prisoner and test subject of the NID. "C'mon, guys," he gestured to the rest of his team, "let's take a look around."
Daniel was the second to catch on. "Yeah, of course," he said, tugging on Sam's sleeve and pulling her with him. "We'll just be, uh, over thataway..."
Colonel Banks raised an eyebrow at Jack, before gesturing to his team as well. "I think we should take a short rest, over behind those bushes."
Major Warren shook his head ruefully and stalked off as well, followed by the rest of SG-3. After all that the alien had done for their people, the marine commander could admit that he was a good guy.
Ianshu looked after the departing forms in surprise. He had expected to have to use his cloak to leave these people until they left before returning to the Sodan on his own. He had not expected that they would let him leave.
"Your people are indeed honorable," Ianshu said at last, forestalling Jack before the other man left himself. "I will speak to my people of yours and your world. Perhaps one day our people will meet again, warriors of of Terra, the First World." He made a gesture that was obviously some form of Sodan salute.
Jack nodded at Ianshu solemnly, and responded with a military salute from Earth. "Good luck against the Goa'uld yourself," he replied. "Maybe one day again we'll fight them together."
He then walked away without turning, while the sound of the stargate chevrons interlocking rang out behind him.
Notes: 1. I'm taking a departure from canon in my characterization of the Sodan. After 5000 years (though probably not that long in this timeline) of semi-isolation, self-rule, and studiously pursuit of the wisdom of the Ancients, they shouldn't still be a cardboard cut-out of Jaffa culture. Mixing Ancient ideology and Jaffa ideology, maybe something similar to the Shaolin stereotype of the wuxia genre (sans the celibacy bits)... Also, in order for them to successfully raid for symbiotes at the rate they must need them I assume they must have some kind of advanced intelligence system. 2. After much deliberation, Jack gets to be the first one with a death count in this timeline. Also made it a repeated death since "Frozen"/"Abyss" won't happen this time. I might as well get his quota of kills over with at once. As for Daniel...I'm sure he'll catch up in the death count somehow. Some things are just part of the character. (Oops...spoiler?)