Though Daniel had gone to bed with a feeling of contentment, he had not awakened that way. He had roused quite suddenly with a strong premonition of impending danger. It was not a feeling of an immediate threat, like what had warned him in time to get out of the path of the car, but rather the sensation that danger was yet again growing very near. Daniel didn't know how that could be possible when he was here at the SGC, unless this new feeling had nothing to do with the murder attempts.
The archeologist looked at the clock and saw that he'd slept in much later than he should have. He'd gotten very little sleep the previous few nights, and he guessed that it had finally caught up to him.
Climbing out of bed, Daniel went off to the bathroom for his shower, wondering what upcoming threat his sixth sense was warning him about this time.
Price exited the mens room, the reassembled and loaded gun tucked out of sight in his waistband. He had left the unconscious body of his escort in one of the bathroom stalls, figuring it would be quite a while before someone found him. It would have been easier to kill the man rather than render him unconscious, but the assassin had figured that, if the sergeant was found before Price was off the base, it would take a while for people to realize that his condition was not due to some kind of medical ailment.
The assassin went to where Kinsey had told him Doctor Jackson's office was located. Upon finding it dark and empty, he decided to try Jackson's quarters. Kinsey had been unable to tell him exactly which room it was, so he started asking some of the personnel. It took him a few minutes to find someone who knew.
Price took the elevator down to Level 25. It would make his job a lot easier if Jackson was in his room since it would not be under surveillance, meaning that he would not have to worry about the body being discovered right away
Price stopped before the door of Jackson's quarters and quickly glanced about, seeing that there was no one around. He gave a short, hard knock.
Entering the room, Price saw that the archeologist was only half-dressed, naked from the waist up, his glasses on the night stand. He was turned partly away, bent over to retrieve his T-shirt from where it was lying on the bed – an easy target for the assassin. Price quietly closed the door behind him.
"If you're here because I'm running late," Daniel said, "I'm on my. . . ."
Suddenly, the archeologist stiffened, standing up straight. He spun around, eyes boring into Price's with almost frightening intensity. In that instant, the killer realized that, somehow, the man knew who he was. He quickly snatched the gun out of his waistband and pointed it at his target. But before he could pull the trigger, an invisible force slammed into him like a gigantic fist and hurled him back against the wall. He slid to the floor, stunned both physically and mentally. What the hell was going on here?
Price looked up to see Daniel striding toward him, the look on the man's face telling him that he'd better do something fast or suffer the consequences. He made a grab for the gun, which was only a couple of feet away. An instant later, he cried out in pain and dropped the weapon, watching, shocked, as the plastic frame and grip melted into a useless blob.
Looking up into the eyes of Daniel Jackson, Winston Price, for the first time in his twenty years as an assassin, knew what it felt like to be truly afraid. Too late he understood all the warnings that Kinsey had given him. Jackson was no ordinary human being. He was like something out of a science fiction movie, only this was very, very real.
"Who hired you?" Daniel asked, his voice as sharp and cold as a piece of jagged ice. "You'd better tell me now, because, believe me, one way or another I am going to find out."
Price slowly got to his feet, edging to the left a little. "If I tell you, what will it get me?"
"Well, for one thing, it'll be a lot less painful for you. For another, you might possibly avoid getting the death sentence, that is if Jack or Teal'c doesn't get hold of you."
"And what would you do if I didn't tell?"
"Oh, I wouldn't kill you, if that's what you're thinking. There are lots of worse things you can do to someone than kill them."
Price had no doubt that Jackson was right. Deciding that he'd rather take his chances being shot than face what this man could do to him, he grabbed his belt buckle, which had a second and never before used purpose, and threw it to the ground. Thick smoke began pouring out of it. Using the smoke as a cover, Price wrenched the door open and rushed out.
Coughing, Daniel found his way out of the room and out into the corridor. The killer was gone, having disappeared around one of the corners.
Using his telekinesis to push aside the majority of the smoke, Daniel ran to the phone in his room.
"This is Daniel Jackson. There's an intruder on Level 25," he announced. "He's dressed as an Air Force major, with dark hair, a mustache and a scar on his right cheek. He just tried to kill me."
Mere moments later, the alert was blaring through the loudspeakers, and SF's began searching for the intruder. Upon hearing the alert – which had included the news that the intruder had just attempted to kill Daniel – Jack, Sam and Teal'c all rushed off to join the search, picking up weapons from one of the arms lockers.
It didn't take long before over half the military personnel were armed, all of them focused on a single goal: to find the man who had tried to kill one of their own.
Price knew that his chances of getting out of there were not in his favor, but he wasn't the kind of man to give up easily. The moment he was out of view of any security cameras and personnel, he had removed his disguise and switched the insignias on his uniform for those of a captain. The blond, clean-shaven man, whose face was unmarred by any scars, had already passed by several armed personnel with only a brief glance.
Kinsey had told Price that, in case of an emergency, there was another way out, through a door at the top of the mountain, which was not nearly as heavily guarded as the main entrance. The assassin figured that it was his only chance since the main entrance was probably locked down now. As long as no one stopped him because they didn't recognize him, he just might make it.
Little did Price know that, at that very moment, he was being hunted by someone who didn't have to rely on eyesight to find him.
As he had done once before with Emmett Bregman, Daniel slowly tracked the man who had just tried to kill him, the man who could very easily have killed Sam if things had happened differently at Daniel's house. The archeologist had tuned out his anger and was completely focused on the feeling of the killer's presence. He didn't stop to think about how he could sense the man even though he wasn't anywhere nearby. It's just the way that it was.
Daniel knew that the hit man would try to get off the base somehow, and there were only three ways to do it: through the main entrance, which would now be locked down and heavily guarded, through the door at the top of the mountain – which would also be guarded, but probably not quite as heavily – and through the Stargate. Daniel's money was on the door on the mountaintop, which was why he was very surprised when his senses told him that his quarry was going down, not up. Could the man be planning an escape through the gate? How could he hope to get past everyone in the control room and all the guards in the gate room?
Not questioning what his senses were telling him, Daniel got on an elevator and headed down.
Price was cursing himself for all sorts of an idiot. What had he been thinking when he pushed the button for Level 28? Actually, he knew why he'd made the mistake. He was not used to an underground complex, where the higher the number the further down you were. His mind had been focused on going up, and he'd lost concentration for a moment.
Price had no idea what was on these lower floors. Kinsey had made it clear that he was to stay off the 27th and 28th levels, saying that it was way too dangerous for him to be there. Well, dangerous or not, that's where Price was going for now. He'd have to head back up as soon as he could.
As the elevator doors opened, Price saw that several people were waiting on the other side. Knowing that it would look suspicious for him to turn right around and go back up, he exited the elevator. The military presence was much heavier here, and the assassin had to wonder what they were protecting. With extreme caution, he proceeded forward.
A large opening in the wall had just come into view when a shout had Price spinning around to see Daniel Jackson standing a few yards away.
"You can't get out that way," the archeologist said calmly. "No one is going to let you go through the gate."
'Gate? What gate?' Price wondered. Was there another way off the base?
At that moment, a woman, clearly unaware of the danger, walked past Price. Knowing that he needed leverage, he grabbed hold of her. Wrapping his arm about her throat in a hold that would snap her neck in an instant, he called, "Stay back!"
Attracted by the raised voices, several people came running, a few of them SF's. As they pointed their weapons at him, Price tightened his grip on the woman's throat, who began to choke and gasp for air, her panicked movements and wide eyes evidence of her fear and distress.
"Stop!" Daniel yelled, waving at the SF's. "Back off!"
Seeing what was happening, the men pulled back a little, though they kept their guns trained on the assassin.
Not knowing where he was going, but guessing by what Jackson had said that there was a way out of the mountain through that big doorway, Price began to back up, moving sideways with his back partially to the wall and using the woman as a shield. Reaching the doorway, he glanced inside. Beyond was a very large room with a ceiling so far up that it couldn't be seen. Several armed guards in full military gear were in the room, which held a huge ring carved from some kind of stone-like material with strange symbols on it. There was a metal ramp leading up to the ring.
Price entered the room and immediately had every weapon there pointed at him. Not knowing where else to go, he moved toward the ring, warning everyone to stay back or he'd kill the woman. Over the loudspeaker, he heard the call for security forces to come to the gate room.
"This is General George Hammond," another voice then said. "I don't know who you are, but I am ordering you to release that woman and surrender yourself."
Price looked up and saw that there was a room on the other side of a large window. The man who had just addressed him, as well as several other people, were staring down at him.
Price looked around at all of the armed men who faced him, but none of them worried him nearly as much as the single unarmed man who was also there. Daniel Jackson was staying far enough away not to seem like a threat, but Price knew that the distance between them wouldn't stop the man's paranormal abilities. He had encountered many dangers and challenges in his years as a killer for hire, but he had no real defense against the power of a mind that could do the things he'd witnessed. The woman whose life he held in his hands was the only thing protecting him at that moment.
Price cautiously stepped up onto the ramp and backed up several feet.
"There's no escape," the archeologist told him. "You can't get out of here. They won't open the gate for you."
At that moment, two things happened: there was a loud, mechanical sound from somewhere above and behind him, and, a moment later, a klaxon blared a warning.
"Unscheduled off-world activation," someone announced.
Startled, Price looked over his shoulder at the ring to see that a part of it had lit up.
Up in the control room, Hammond ordered the iris to be closed. The protective barrier began to shut, then abruptly stopped and retracted. It tried to close again, only to halt and open back up after contracting just a few inches.
"Sir, the iris won't close," Sergeant Harriman announced.
Sam, who had just entered the control room, along with Jack and Teal'c, quickly went to a console to find out what was wrong.
"Damn!" she cursed. "I thought we fixed that." She looked at Hammond. "There's a power fluctuation, sir, and it's affecting iris control." Realizing what this meant, she leaned over and spoke into the microphone. "Daniel, we can't get the iris closed."
Sam's announcement filled Daniel with dread. He looked at the assassin, who was showing no sign of moving off the ramp, and realized that the man did not know what the Stargate was – and, therefore, had no idea that, in a matter of seconds, he and his prisoner would be disintegrated if they didn't move back down the ramp.
"Listen to me," Daniel said urgently. "You have to move now! You've got to get off that ramp or you're going to be killed."
"I don't know what kind of trick this is, but I'm not falling for it," Price said.
"It's not a trick!" Daniel told him, his voice rising in urgency. "Please, just step back down the ramp a few feet. That's all I'm asking."
"Not a chance."
Beginning to panic, Daniel tried to figure out what to do. He could try to close the iris himself, but since he had never done it before, he wasn't sure how quickly he could do it. He feared that it would take too much time. His second option was to psychically lift both the assassin and Sheila Waters off the ramp, but he was afraid that the man would react by killing the woman. What he had to do was get her free from the killer's grasp.
Deciding what he had to do, Daniel focused his power on the arm around the woman's throat. Price screamed as a spot on his arm began to burn. His hold on his hostage broken, he staggered backwards as Sheila stumbled away and ran down the ramp.
A second later, the all too familiar sound of the Stargate engaging had everyone's eyes turning to it, including Price's. He spun around just in time to see a roiling fountain of what looked like water rush straight at him. He threw up his arms over his face . . . and then he was gone.
Daniel closed his eyes for a moment, not wanting to see the gruesome remains of the man who had been hired to kill him. If he'd only been a little faster, he might have prevented the assassin's death.
"Crap," he whispered and turned away. He walked over to Sheila, whose pale face made it clear that she knew how close she'd come to dying.
"Are you all right?" Daniel asked.
"Yes, I-I-I'm okay. God, I was almost. . . ." She looked at the Stargate, and her eyes fell upon the horrible sight of a pair of feet ending in blackened stumps. Her face went even whiter, and she looked like she was about to pass out. "Oh, God," she choked out. "That could have been me."
Daniel grabbed hold of her shoulders. "Yes, but it wasn't. You're okay, Sheila."
The woman took a few deep breaths, getting control of herself. "Yes, yes, I am, thanks to you. Thank you, Daniel."
Suddenly and unexpectedly, Sheila threw her arms around the archeologist's neck. Stunned by the action, he just stood there for a moment, then lightly returned the hug.
The woman drew back after a moment and kissed his cheek. "Thank you so much, Daniel," she said with a smile, then left.
It turned out that the incoming wormhole was from one of the SG teams, who were reporting an hour ahead of schedule because of an interesting find. As soon as the general finished talking to them, the gate disengaged.
"Doctor Jackson, please come to the briefing room," Hammond said. He looked at Sam. "Major, I want that problem with the iris fixed pronto. Make it your top priority."
Daniel, Jack, Teal'c and the general all went to the briefing room.
"Okay, first of all, please tell us what happened, Doctor Jackson," Hammond requested.
Daniel recounted the events that took place in his room.
"So, you never found out who hired this man?"
"No, sir. I'm afraid not."
Hammond turned to the others. "All right, people. I want to know how that man got on this base. This was a serious breach of security."
"Without the proper authorization, I don't know how he could have managed it, sir," Jack said. "Ever since that Ashrak breached security, we tightened things up a lot, as you are well aware. This could only mean that someone with connections to the military made arrangements to get him in here."
The general nodded. "Which does not make me feel any better, Colonel. There is something rotten in Denmark, and I want to get to the bottom of it. I will not allow my people to be threatened like this."
SG-1 had rarely seen General Hammond this angry before and knew that the man meant business.
After the meeting was over, Jack went with Daniel to the archeologist's office while Teal'c went to speak with the personnel at the checkpoints to learn if they remembered anything significant about the assassin.
The first thing that Jack saw when he entered the room was the blob of melted plastic on the floor. He knelt beside it. Within the remains of the plastic, he could make out the shape of the gun's barrel and a few other pieces of metal.
"You do realize, Daniel, that you're lucky those rounds didn't go off," he said.
"At the time, I was a little too angry to think about the gunpowder in the shells, Jack. But the next time someone tries to shoot me with a gun, I promise I won't melt it."
The colonel rose to his feet and walked over to where the belt buckle was. He picked it up. "You said that this thing was some kind of smoke bomb?"
"That is just so cliché, and you know how I hate those."
"Cliché or not, Jack, it worked."
Jack continued to examine the buckle. "Did you see these bullets? I'd bet my paycheck that they're not just decorative." He looked at the buckle even more closely. "Hmm. I wonder. . . ." The colonel began pushing here and there. After a moment, he discovered something. "Well, will you look at that."
"What?" Daniel came up to him to look.
"This thing's got a hidden compartment." Jack fiddled with it some more and found the way to remove the bullets. He hefted one of them. "And these are live rounds. I think we just figured out how he got that firearm in here. A lot of it was probably plastic, and he stashed the pieces in his clothes. All of the metal parts went in here." He fingered the rectangular hole. "It's kind of small, but the magazine could have fit there, though it couldn't have held more than three or four rounds."
"It was a small gun, maybe a .32," Daniel told him.
Jack nodded. "It would work."
"Let me see it."
Jack handed the buckle to Daniel. The moment the archeologist touched it, a rapid series of images flashed through his mind, then settled on a single scene. Stunned, Daniel stood stock still as the truth behind the murder attempts hit him.
"Daniel? Daniel, what is it?" Jack asked, seeing how his friend had spaced off. The archeologist blinked a few times and looked at him. Something in his eyes told the colonel what had happened. "You saw something, didn't you."
Daniel turned away. "Yes."
Daniel paused. "I can't tell you."
"I can't tell you what I saw."
"Why the hell not?" Jack's eyes narrowed. "You know who's behind this, don't you."
Daniel sighed softly. "Yeah, I do."
Jack's voice hardened. "Then tell me who it is."
The archeologist turned around and looked at him. "I can't, Jack. If I do, you'll kill him."
"You're damn right I will! He hired someone to kill a member of my team! More than that, he hired someone to kill a friend!"
Daniel stared into Jack's eyes. "And, as your friend, I'm going to protect you from doing something that would likely put you in prison."
"Dammit, Daniel. I don't need your protection!" Jack yelled angrily.
"Jack, listen to me. You once kept a secret from me to protect me. Now, I'm doing the same."
Jack knew that Daniel was talking about the time that the colonel went undercover to flush out the men who were stealing Tollan and Asgard technology. But that was a totally different situation.
"And don't say that was different," the archeologist said, echoing Jack's thoughts. Crap. He hated it when Daniel did that.
"Just because you're the team leader doesn't mean that you're the only one with the responsibility to protect the rest of us," Daniel continued. "It's my responsibility to protect my teammates, too, if it's within my power. And it's my responsibility to protect my friends."
"Daniel, this person has to be dealt with, otherwise, he'll just keep trying to have you killed."
"I know. I'll handle it."
Jack gave Daniel a hard stare. "Handle it how?" He knew that the linguist wasn't capable of murder. It just wasn't in him. Heck, the guy had felt guilty after blasting a tank full of infant Goa'uld, despite the fact that every one of those Goa'uld would have eventually enslaved a human being like Sha're or Skaara.
"Don't worry about it. I've got a few ideas."
"Daniel, I don't like the idea of you confronting this person alone."
Daniel shook his head. "I'm sorry, but that's the way it has to be."
Jack realized that nothing he said was going to budge the man, and that brought his anger back. "Fine," he snapped.
"Jack, please," Daniel said, pleading for understanding. "Just let me handle this on my own. I promise you that, by the time I'm finished, I won't ever have to worry about a threat from this person again."
With a little investigating, SG-1 found out that the man who had tried to kill Daniel was a well-known assassin responsible for at least six other murders and assassinations, and those were just the ones that the feds knew about. Though the FBI had his fingerprints on file, they'd had no name or physical description to go along with the prints.
It had been confirmed that someone had gotten into the military's database of hand prints and added the assassin's to it, giving him a completely false identity. Someone had also created the fake orders that authorized the hit man to be on the base.
It was very possible that the rogue NID group, with their former connections to the military, could still have ways of doing things like this, but when Daniel's teammates asked him if that group had something to do with the murder attempts, he said he didn't know, that he only knew who had ordered the hit – and the faces of the other two men who were partners with the hit man.
With the help of a young captain who had taken art classes in college, Daniel created a sketch of the two cohorts of the assassin. The pictures were sent to the FBI, who were able to identify the men and provide addresses.
A short while later, a military strike force was sent to apprehend the men. Jack, Sam and Teal'c were among them. Daniel had wanted to go as well, but General Hammond insisted that he remain on base since the threat to his life had not fully passed.
The two men were together when the strike force moved in and apparently decided that they weren't going to give up without a fight. The firefight that followed left one of the men dead and the other in critical condition. The injured man died a few hours later, never having regained consciousness, which angered Jack. He'd been hoping to find out from the guy who had hired them since Daniel was still refusing to reveal that information.
The archeologist was now on his way to General Hammond's office, and he had a good idea why he had been summoned.
"Please take a seat, Doctor Jackson," Hammond instructed when he arrived. Daniel did as he was asked. "I've learned that you know who hired those men to kill you."
"And that you refused to tell Colonel O'Neill who it is."
"Would you care to tell me why?"
"Because I knew how he'd react. I don't want him going to jail because of an act of revenge for my sake or out of some belief that he's protecting me."
"And you're sure that's how he'd react?"
"Considering who it is that ordered the hit, I'm pretty sure."
The general studied him for a moment. "You know, I could order you to tell me who it is."
"Yes, you could, sir, and I'd have to respectfully refuse."
"I could also order you to be confined to the base until this person is brought to justice."
"I really hope you won't do that, General." One way or another, Daniel was getting off this base, even if he had to break his way out.
"But I'm not going to do either of those things."
The last sentence caught Daniel by surprise. "You're not?"
"No. I have trust and faith in you, Doctor Jackson, and if you feel that you need to handle this on your own, I'm not going to stand in your way. I know that you won't do anything that would violate your principles or compromise the Stargate Program in any way."
"Thank you, sir."
"There is just one thing that I want to say. Be careful, Son. We've already lost you once. We don't want it to happen again."
Daniel left the office a short while later and headed back to his office to make his plans for putting an end to the threat to his life.