By the end of Wednesday, Daniel pretty much had all the furniture he needed and had begun to turn his attention to decorations. The only request that Jack made when it came to the decorations was that Daniel not get any tribal masks, stating that the ones the archeologist had up in his old bedroom were hideous enough to give even the ex-Black Ops officer nightmares.
Daniel's decorating plans would have to be put on hold, however, since they were scheduled for a mission on Thursday. It had been over five weeks since SG-1's last off-world mission, and everyone was eager to get back out there.
When SG-1 stepped onto M5H-798, they went from the cold of November in Colorado to the heat of summer. UAV images had shown a village about ten klicks to the southeast. To the west of the settlement were some ruins that bore a striking resemblance to the ones on Vis Uban, which meant that they could be ruins of an Ancient city. The plan was to go to the village first, then do a preliminary recon of the ruins to see if it was worth extending the mission several days and bringing in more people.
"So, how are you enjoying your new house?" Sam asked Daniel as they headed down the rough path leading to the village.
"It's great, a lot roomier than my other one. The neighborhood's also a lot . . . friendlier. I think that half my neighbors have already dropped by to introduce themselves."
"Well, that could be a good thing or a bad thing, all depending on how nosy they are."
"Yeah, I already had to use the standard cover story with several of them. At least mine is more convincing than yours. It makes sense that the military would have need for a linguist/cultural expert/diplomat and that such a job would often require trips out of the country. I can even make excuses for my occasional injuries by saying that a diplomatic mission went sour. You generally don't get gunshot wounds studying deep space radar telemetry."
"True. How they ever came up with that cover story is beyond me. It's typical of the military's lack of imagination, though."
SG-1 was a little over halfway to the settlement when Jack noticed that the sun had advanced a whole lot farther across the sky than anticipated.
"Carter, did the info from the MALP and UAV happen to mention that the days on this planet are apparently a whole lot shorter than they are on Earth?" he asked, his tone telling everyone that he was not pleased.
Sam looked up at the sky, noting the position of the sun with surprise. "We were aware that the days were shorter, but not this much shorter."
"Well, there's no way that we're going to have time to go to the village, and the ruins, and make it back to the gate before nightfall."
"What do you want to do then, sir?"
Jack thought about it for a moment. "You and Teal'c go on to the village, Carter. Daniel and I will cut through the woods to the ruins. We'll take a quick look around and meet you back at the gate at . . ." he looked at his watch, "1400 hours. Judging by how fast that sun is traveling, it'll probably be getting close to sunset by then."
The team split up, Sam and Teal'c continuing to the village, while Daniel and Jack left the path and headed in the direction of the ruins. They were nearly there when Daniel suddenly came to a dead stop. Jack was going to ask what was wrong, then he saw the distant expression on the linguist's face.
That expression abruptly changed to alarm, and Daniel snapped out of his trance. "Jack, Sam and Teal'c are in trouble!"
"The villagers are servants of Baal!"
"Well, yes, we already knew th—"
"No, you don't understand, Jack. They're loyal servants!"
"Crap!" Jack grabbed his radio. "Carter, Teal'c, come in!"
"Carter here, sir," replied Sam's voice.
"Major, get out of there, now! Daniel says that those villagers are loyal to Baal. They're going to turn on you."
"What?! All right, sir. We'll—"
The way Sam's voice suddenly broke off told Jack and Daniel that the colonel's warning had come too late.
"Sir! We're under attack!" came Sam's voice a moment later. They heard the sound of Teal'c's staff weapon firing.
Daniel was off in a flash, running full-speed toward the village. Jack hurried after him. As he ran, Daniel cursed himself for not having sensed the threat sooner. His senses were now screaming at him, telling him that Sam and Teal'c were in grave danger. Jack was also cursing himself, realizing too late that he shouldn't have split up the team.
Nearly out of breath, Daniel and Jack made it to the village. The archeologist barely slowed down. He barreled into the clearing, ready to mow anyone down who showed signs of hostility. It didn't take long before several of the villagers came at him with weapons. The ground before them erupted as fire spewed from it. Screaming, the people fled. Marching forward unswervingly, Jack on his six, Daniel used his heightened senses to detect the approach of every villager, blasting each one back with fire or his telekinetic abilities. To Jack, the archeologist looked like some kind of avenging angel, and he knew that only Daniel's innate sense of morality was keeping him from doing serious harm to the people.
Daniel's senses had been questing through the village for the presence of Sam and Teal'c, and the fact that he could not feel them was terrifying him. God, please don't let them be dead.
By the time they reached the center of the settlement, several buildings were on fire, having been set alight by Daniel's attack. Some people were battling the blazes as others were running away in terror from what they perceived as a demon.
Daniel homed in on one particular man, whom he knew was the village leader. The man was standing defiantly with several others, facing him.
"Where are they?" the archeologist demanded to know, walking right up to the group.
The villager leader spat at the ground before Daniel. "You are enemies of the great and powerful god Baal!" he said.
Daniel's eyes narrowed dangerously. "You want power? I'll show you power."
An instant later, a huge nearby sculpture of Baal exploded violently. A moment after that, the village leader found himself dangling three feet off the ground, an unbreakable force holding him prisoner.
"I'm going to ask you again," Daniel growled. "Where are they?"
All of the man's defiance fled in the face of Daniel's terrifying power. "Gone! They are gone! Some of the men took them to where Baal's Jaffa would retrieve them and take them to face our god's judgment."
"Where is this place?"
The man pointed a shaking finger to the south. "There. In the temple that lies at the foot of the hills."
Daniel let the man down. He looked around, seeing the fire that was slowly consuming the village. Taking pity on the people despite their actions, Daniel snuffed out the fire. He turned back to the headman, who was gaping at the no longer burning buildings.
"Baal is not a god," Daniel told him. "He is a parasite inside a human body who uses technology to make himself look like a god. He has no power other than that, and I could kill him as quickly as I could any of you. My people and I have already killed several others of his kind. Stop worshiping a false god and stand up for yourselves as free human beings."
With that having been said, Daniel strode past him, Jack in his wake.
"Wait!" called the village leader. Daniel stopped and looked at him. "Who are you?"
The archeologist paused only a moment before replying, "I am Dan'yar." Then he resumed walking.
Once they were out of the village, the two members of SG-1 increased their pace to a fast jog. Daniel pushed his headache to the back of his awareness, turning his entire attention on making it to the temple as fast as possible. He recalled the location of the structure from the UAV footage and knew that it was a good two miles from the village.
Jack trotted beside Daniel in silence, half of his mind on his missing teammates, the other half on what had just happened. He wondered if he'd ever get used to seeing his friend wield that kind of power. Daniel in full attack mode was a terrifying sight to see. Once again, the colonel was thankful that the archeologist was a good person, for, if he wasn't, they would probably have just left behind a trail of bodies and a village burnt to the ground.
The sight of a Tel'tak coming in for a landing in the distance made Daniel and Jack leap forward into a run. They were still a good quarter of a mile from the temple, however, when the ship lifted back into the air. Daniel knew with absolute certainty that Sam and Teal'c were on it.
"No!" he cried, coming to a halt. He and Jack watched helplessly as the craft shot away. There was nothing that Daniel could do to stop it without taking the chance of killing his friends.
"Are Carter and Teal'c on it?" Jack asked, already knowing the answer.
"Yes." Daniel turned to him. "They're being taken to Baal, Jack." There was anguish in the linguist's eyes. "You know what he might do to them."
"Yes. Yes, I do," Jack responded, feeling ill. The thought of Sam and Teal'c being tortured the way that he was made his stomach clench painfully. "Come on, Daniel. We've got to get back to the SGC. We need to figure out where they would have been taken so that we can mount a rescue."
The two men made their way back to the Stargate, bypassing the village by cutting straight through the woods.
General Hammond was very worried when Jack and Daniel reported what had happened. A message was immediately sent to the Tok'ra, asking for information on where Baal's location was.
"It could be days before they reply," Daniel said, "even weeks, especially now that the alliance is over. We can't wait that long."
"What would you suggest, Doctor Jackson?" Hammond inquired.
"The rebel Jaffa. They may know where Baal is. As far as I know, some Jaffa are on Albaren at all times. We can go there and ask if they know anything. If those who are there don't, they might be able to contact some of the rebels in Baal's army."
The general nodded. "Very well, Doctor Jackson. Take SG-20 with you."
Jack and Daniel didn't waste any time making preparations to return to the planet where Daniel had fought in hand-to-hand combat against Har'tec.
Jack could tell that Daniel was really worried. As they and SG-20 waited in the gate room for the wormhole to be established, Colonel Bray came up to them.
"Tough break about Carter and Teal'c," he said.
"We'll get them back," Jack declared.
Bray nodded, then looked at Daniel. "Doctor Jackson."
The man hesitated a moment. "Sorry about your house and everything."
Surprised, Daniel said, "Thanks."
Bray returned to his men. Jack glanced at Daniel questioningly. The archeologist could only shrug.
Exiting the wormhole onto Albaren, the men from Earth were greeted by Jaffa aiming their weapons at them. The weapons were soon lowered, however. One of the Jaffa came forward, bowing his head deeply.
"Dan'yar. We are honored by your presence," he said.
"Thank you. The honor is mutual," Daniel responded, which clearly pleased the Jaffa. "We have a problem. Two of the members of SG-1, Major Carter and Teal'c, have been captured by Baal. We were hoping that someone here might know where Baal is so that we can rescue them."
"I do not have that knowledge, nor, I believe, do any of those with me, but others here may know. Come. I will take you to the others."
The Jaffa took Daniel, Jack and SG-20 to the same ancient amphitheater where Daniel fought Har'tec. When they arrived, the archeologist immediately recognized the figure of Ka'ter among the Jaffa assembled there. The man came forward with a warm smile, clasping Daniel's arm.
"Dan'yar. It is good to see you again."
"It's good to see you, too. I wish this was just a social call, but something's happened. Major Carter and Teal'c have been captured by some of Baal's Jaffa, and we can only assume that they've been taken to him."
"This is grave news. Baal will not treat them kindly, especially since they are members of SG-1."
"We know. That's why we have to rescue them as quickly as possible. Is there anyone here who might know where Baal is?"
Ka'ter thought for a moment. "There are two from Baal's army here at the moment. It is possible that they may know. We will ask."
The first Jaffa they questioned did not know Baal's present location, but the second one told them where the Goa'uld had been as of several days ago, which was within his stronghold on the planet Kreth.
"Is there a Stargate there?" Jack asked.
"Yes, but it is heavily guarded," the man replied.
"That won't be a problem," Daniel declared. "But if we go through the gate and take care of the Jaffa on the other side, will it alert Baal to our presence?"
"Not unless other Jaffa see what you have done. The Stargate is some distance from the stronghold. But to get into the structure, you would have to defeat many Jaffa, and Baal would surely know then that you are there."
"What information can you give us on this place?" Jack questioned.
The Jaffa gave them as many details as he could. Fortunately, he had been stationed there once, so was quite familiar with the layout.
After getting the gate address from him, Jack, Daniel and SG-20 stepped away a few yards. Ka'ter joined them.
"This sounds an awful lot like that stronghold that Baal had me in," the colonel said, "and it took the intervention of Yu and his fleet to make it possible for me to get out of there."
"Yes, Jack, but the difference between then and now is that my hands aren't tied by the rules of the Ascended," Daniel told him meaningfully.
Jack met Daniel's gaze. "Yeah, but, back then, if you would have been allowed to blast everything to hell, it would have been a piece of cake for you. You didn't have to worry about frying your brain by overusing your abilities."
"I'm willing to risk it, Jack. We're talking about Sam and Teal'c."
"I know, Daniel."
Ka'ter stepped forward. "If you intend to attack Baal to rescue your friends, then I pledge my service to you, as will many others among the rebel Jaffa. We will do this not only to save Teal'c and Major Carter but also to defeat the false god, Baal."
"Ka'ter, it's possible that many of your people could die," Daniel told him.
"From the day that each of us first rebelled against the Goa'uld, we knew that we might one day have to sacrifice our lives to defeat them. We do not fear this. Let us fight at your side, Daniel Jackson. Let us help you strike against Baal and destroy him."
Daniel's eyes went to Jack, who met his gaze.
"It's your call, Daniel. You decide," the colonel told him.
Hoping that he wasn't making a terrible mistake that he'd live to regret, Daniel said, "All right, Ka'ter. I would be honored to fight with you and your fellow Jaffa against Baal."
Ka'ter smiled and clapped a hand on the archeologist's shoulder. "Return here at this time tomorrow, and there will be an army awaiting your command."
On the walk back to the Stargate, Daniel was utterly silent, his mind filled with what lay ahead. Jack chose not to talk to him, figuring it would be best to wait until they had complete privacy.
When they returned to Earth and filled Hammond in on everything, the general was reluctant to give the green light for the mission.
"We've run up against this situation before when Colonel O'Neill was Baal's prisoner," he said. "At that time, it was deemed that the stronghold couldn't be penetrated, that it would take too many men."
"Yeah, but, this time, it wouldn't be just us, sir," Jack argued. "We're going to have a whole bunch of Jaffa right there fighting with us."
"It's hard to say," Daniel replied. "It really all depends on how fast Ka'ter can gather the rebel Jaffa. If I had to guess, I'd say maybe a couple of hundred or so."
"Which should be enough to get into that stronghold and free Carter and Teal'c, considering that we have Daniel's abilities on our side," Jack stated. "Add three SG teams to that, and I'm pretty confident that we'll succeed."
Hammond fell silent as he made his decision. Daniel hoped that the man would say yes since he really didn't want to have to go against Hammond's orders. But, one way or another, Daniel was determined that he was going to go get Sam and Teal'c, even if he had to do it alone.
"All right, you have a go for the mission," the general finally said.
"Thank you, sir," both Daniel and Jack responded.
"There is just one thing, sir," the colonel added. "I want Daniel to be in command of the mission."
Daniel's head snapped around sharply, and he stared at Jack in shock. "What?"
"Please explain, Colonel," Hammond requested.
"Sir, we all know that the Jaffa who are joining us aren't going to want to take orders from me. Remember what M'zel said at that meeting after the Alpha Site was attacked. However, they will take orders from Daniel, or, rather, from Dan'yar. Ka'ter even said as much. It was pretty clear the last time we were on Albaren that the rebel Jaffa will willingly accept Daniel as their commander in battle. Because of this, it only makes sense that he be put in command of the mission. Also, since his abilities are going to be a big factor in getting us into that place, it would be better for him to be the one to decide what the best approach would be. After all, he's the one who really knows what he can and can't do."
Hammond nodded. "You have a good point, Colonel." He turned to Daniel, whose face bore a faintly panicked expression. "I can't order you to take command of this mission, Doctor Jackson, but Colonel O'Neill is right on both counts. You are the most logical choice to lead."
Daniel didn't say anything right away, and it was clear to the other men that he was in the middle of an internal struggle to decide what to do. Finally, he spoke.
"To be honest, sir, I don't know if I've got what it takes to command this mission." He drew in a deep breath. "But if it's the best way to rescue Sam and Teal'c, then I'm willing to try."
Hammond gave Daniel a gentle smile. "I have confidence that you're up to the challenge, Son."
Twenty minutes later, Daniel was sitting on the bench in the locker room, staring unseeingly at the towel in his hands.
"Hey. You okay?" Jack asked, sitting beside him.
"Oh, other than being worried sick about Sam and Teal'c and being scared half out of my mind, I'm just peachy, Jack."
"Daniel, look. What did I tell you before? You've got what it takes to command. I have zero doubt of that."
"I know, Jack, but I don't have zero doubt of it."
"What are you afraid will happen?"
"That I'll screw up royalty, that I'll make a mistake that will get people killed."
"Welcome to the club."
Daniel looked at the colonel.
"Daniel, do you think I go into every mission with absolute confidence that I'll do everything right and all my team will make it back alive? Think again. Every time we go on a mission, every single time, there's the thought in the back of my head that I'll make a bad decision that will cause the mission to fail and possibly get one or more of my team killed or badly injured. There has been more than one occasion when that fear became a reality. The commander who thinks that he's perfect and never makes mistakes isn't fit to lead since that kind of attitude will get his men killed real fast. So, you're not feeling anything different from what a million other team leaders have felt, especially on the first command."
Daniel sighed softly, his gaze leaving Jack's. "I just don't think I could handle it if I did make a mistake that got people under my command killed, people who are trusting me to get them through the mission alive."
"It isn't easy when it happens, Daniel," Jack said quietly. "Trust me. I know."
Daniel turned to look at his friend, seeing a haunted shadow in Jack's eyes. "Do you ever get over it?"
"The truth? No, not if you give a damn."
Daniel nodded, his gaze remaining locked with Jack's. "I hope I don't have to find that out personally."
"So do I, Daniel."