Stargate Horizons

Instrument of Torture
by Maureen Thayer

Categories: Angst, Humor
Rating: PG
Content Warning: Mild Profanity
Spoilers: none
Author's Notes: This little fic suddenly popped into my head one morning as I lay in bed. Don't cheat by reading the end first! You'll spoil the whole thing.  I promise that you'll be smiling at the end.

They were coming for him again, just as they had every evening since he was captured.  Daniel didn't know how much more he could take.  There had been times when he felt just seconds away from the breaking point, when he almost wished that his captors would kill him and end the suffering.  In all the years that Daniel had been on SG-1, he'd gone through a lot of things, but none of it was like this.  This was torment on a whole different level.  The word "torment" really couldn't come close to describing it.

If only he could communicate with his captors.  But the language of the humanoid people was completely alien, and no one had shown any interest in trying to understand him.  They locked him up in this place during the day, then took him out each night for the seemingly ceaseless hours of torture.

Daniel heard the door being unlocked.  Four of the aliens came in and gestured for him to come with them.  Gathering his courage, Daniel stood and went with them.  They traveled down the city streets, then across a virtually deserted square to the same building that he'd been taken to every night.

He could get through this.  He could.  Soon, his teammates would rescue him.  He had to hold onto that belief.  It was the only thing keeping his sanity intact.

Six days.  It had been six days since Daniel was captured during a mission to a planet populated by what they had thought was a peaceful alien society.  Jack blamed no one but himself for what happened.  He'd let his guard slip.  The aliens had seemed harmless, rather goofy-looking with their big ears and enormous eyes.  And they'd seemed so friendly, even though none of SG-1 could understand a word they said, including Daniel, who'd tried his best to communicate with them.  The archeologist had shown nothing but patience and courtesy to the aliens, using hand gestures to convey what he was attempting to tell them.  Perhaps that's why the aliens targeted him, why it was he they took.

Jack didn't want to think about what the aliens had been doing to his friend all this time, what kind of torture they might have been putting him through all this time.  He knew that Carter was worried sick.  She hadn't rested since they made it back to Earth, desperately trying to find a way to disable the energy barrier the aliens had put in place around their Stargate, which prevented anyone from going more than fifteen feet beyond the gate.

And then there was Teal'c.  Jack was certain that the big Jaffa blamed himself for Daniel's capture.  His face was even more stone-like than usual, his jaw often clenched tight, a look in his eyes that said he would happily rip apart every one of those aliens if they'd brought harm to Daniel.  Well, he'd just have to stand in line.  Jack had first dibs on the ripping and tearing.

"We have almost arrived, O'Neill," said Teal'c from the cockpit of the Goa'uld scout ship.  Jack walked up and looked out the window.  They'd lucked out in getting the ship, which had a cloaking device.  Even so, it had taken two days to get to the planet, two days in which Daniel might have suffered through unspeakable torture.

They wouldn't be rescuing the archeologist alone.  Two other teams were with them, armed to the hilt and ready to blow away any threatening aliens.  They were going to get Daniel.  Jack and his teammates weren't leaving this planet until they did.

Sam fidgeted.  She never fidgeted, yet that's what she was doing now.  Guilt was eating away at her, guilt over her inability to find a way around the barrier that had kept them from rescuing Daniel.  She'd tried everything she could think of, but nothing had worked.  The alien technology proved to be impervious to everything she threw at it.

The colonel had told Sam that it wasn't her fault, but that didn't make her feel any better.  Her best friend was the prisoner of aliens who might be torturing him, and she'd been powerless to do anything to save him.

Sam wished that the aliens had taken her instead.  She knew that she wasn't alone in that wish.  More than once she'd seen a look in Colonel O'Neill's eyes, a look that spoke of the guilt he was feeling over having failed to keep a member of his team safe.

God, what might those aliens be doing to Daniel?  What if he'd been killed?  What if they came all this way only to discover that he was dead?  No.  He couldn't be dead.  He just couldn't be.

Sam joined her teammates in the cockpit and watched as they exited hyperspace and began their descent to the planet's surface.

'We're coming to get you Daniel.  Please, please still be alive.'

Teal'c's gaze was fixed upon the planet before them.  They were going to rescue Daniel Jackson.  He would accept nothing less, even if he had to sacrifice his own life to accomplish it.  Nothing would stand in his way.

The burden of guilt still weighed him down.  After so many decades of serving the Goa'uld, he should not have lost focus as he did, should not have let his guard drop for even a moment.  By the time they realized that Daniel was in danger, it was already too late to rescue him.  Their escape through the Stargate had been out of necessity, but the fact that they'd had to leave without Daniel had been eating away at Teal'c every moment of every one of these days.  The Jaffa knew that for O'Neill it was even worse.  As the leader of SG-1, O'Neill was responsible for the lives of the people under his command, yet he'd had no choice but to break one of the most fundamental codes of both Stargate Command and the colonel's: to never leave someone behind.

But they had now returned for their teammate and friend, and they would do whatever it took to rescue him.

Teal'c piloted the cloaked ship to a meadow on the outskirts of the small city.  It was night, which they would use to their advantage to sneak in and snatch Daniel Jackson from his captors.  And if a battle was what they would have to fight, then so be it.  They would be victorious.

Daniel was led down the aisle under the gaze of the people sitting on either side, smiles that appeared almost gleeful on every one of their faces.  The audience made it ten times worse, their cheers and what must be the equivalent of boos driving the participants in Daniel's living hell to new heights – or new lows, depending on your point of view.  The archeologist's point of view was most definitely the latter.

He was taken to The Chair, the harmless-looking piece of furniture that had held him through every one of these nights of torture.  Cheers accompanied him being seated.  He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, gathering his willpower and bracing himself for what was about to happen.

And then it began.

Eyes and ears alert, Jack led his two teammates, SG-3 and SG-5 toward the town.  Two members of SG-5 had remained behind on the ship, ready to take off the instant Daniel and the others were onboard.

As they reached the edge of the city, the rescue team paused.  The streets were deserted, not a soul in sight, unlike the day SG-1 was here last week, when the place had been teaming with life.  Now came the task of finding Daniel.  The archeologist's GPS locator was still functioning, but, since they couldn't be sure that it was still in his possession, Sam and Teal'c had adjusted the ship's sensors until they were able to differentiate between the archeologist and the aliens.  This told them that, as they suspected, Daniel and the locator were not in the same place.  It also told them that the linguist was presently right smack dab in the middle of the city.

Using hand signals, Jack gave instructions to the rescue team, and they proceeded forward.  After ten minutes, they still hadn't seen any of the aliens.  According to the sensors, a huge portion of the population was gathering in a large building not far from where the sensors had pinpointed Daniel to be.  Had everyone in the whole town gone there?  For what?  The sensors had shown Daniel to be on the move as well, heading in the same direction.  Did the gathering have something to do with him?

The rescue team managed to make it all the way to the center of the city without being spotted.  There before them was a circular structure, which looked somewhat like a small, enclosed stadium.  Keeping low, the team ran across the open area to one of the entrances, a large open doorway.  Jack peeked his head inside for an instant, eyes darting about for signs of anyone.  The doorway opened onto a wide corridor, which headed off in both directions.  Directly ahead was a broad staircase, leading upward.  Jack could hear the sounds of a crowd up there.

At that moment, another sound began: a terrible wailing scream.  It chilled Jack all the way to the bone.  Was that Daniel?  Dear God.  What were they doing to him?  And then came another noise: the sound of cheering.  The bastards were torturing Daniel before an audience!  Jack felt like he was going to be sick.  He looked at his teammates.  Sam's face was pale, her eyes wide with horror, and Teal'c looked like he was ready to rip someone limb from limb.

The horrible sound went on for a full minute before ceasing.  Then came louder cheers and some lower sounds that might have been boos.

Clutching his P-90 more firmly, Jack signaled to everyone what to do, then he and the others dashed across the corridor to the stairs.  As the two members of SG-5 took up position on either side of the entrance to the staircase, the rest cautiously ascended the steps.  When the wail started up again, it took all of Jack's willpower not to go running full speed up the stairs.

Unchallenged, they made it to the top and looked down at the sight before them.  Several thousand aliens sat around a central stage, and on the stage was the source of the horrific sound – which was not the captured member of SG-1.  Instead, it was one of the aliens, who appeared to be wailing into something that looked like a microphone.

Jack looked about for his teammate, finally spotting the archeologist.  Daniel was seated at a long table, two aliens sitting on either side of him.  The aliens had varying expressions of delight and disapproval on their faces, or at least that's what it looked like to Jack.  As for Daniel, he looked like a man on the very edge of endurance, someone who'd suffered more than any human should ever have to endure.

At that moment, someone spotted the team from Earth.  Cries of warning arose, silencing the cheers and the god-awful caterwauling of the alien on stage.

Keeping the aliens covered, the rescue team made its way down the long staircase that descended to the stage and where Daniel was seated.  No one made any move to attack.  Actually, they all looked rather resigned and disappointed.

Daniel, who'd apparently spotted the team, had leapt out of his chair and was just about crawling over the aliens seated at the table in his haste to get to his rescuers.  None of his captors tried to stop him.  He ran up to the team.

"Oh, thank God!" he cried.  "I couldn't have taken much more of this.  I really thought I was going to lose my mind!"

"Daniel," said Jack.  "What's going on?"

"I think it's . . . it's a singing contest."

Jack's eyebrows rose.  "A singing contest?"

"Every night, for hours and hours.  God, Jack.  It's been horrible!  You think that painsticks, and ribbon devices, and those things the Bedrosians had were bad?  I'd take any of those things over this!  Please, please get me out of here before they make me judge any more contestants."

"You're a judge?!" Sam exclaimed, trying very hard not to laugh.

"Yes, or at least I think so.  I still can't understand a thing they say.  After every contestant, each of the aliens at the table took a turn saying something, then they'd all look at me."

"What did you do, Daniel Jackson?" asked Teal'c, who also appeared to be amused.

"I-I-I just smiled, and nodded, and made noncommital noises."  Daniel clutched Jack's arm.  "Please, Jack.  Get me off this planet."

The colonel saw the wild desperation in Daniel's eyes.  "All right, let's get out of here."

They made it out of the building without incident.  They wasted no time leaving the city.  It wasn't until they were onboard the scout ship and in the air that Daniel appeared to relax.  He sat down heavily on the floor, head resting against the wall, eyes closed.  His teammates approached him.

"So . . . a judge in a singing contest, eh?" Jack said, his voice dripping with amusement.  After six days of being worried half to death over what was being done to Daniel, Jack now felt like laughing out loud.

"Don't start with me, Jack," the archeologist growled.  "You have no idea what this has been like.  That one you heard singing?  He was one of the better ones!  Or maybe he was one of the worst, by their standards.  Most of the other judges didn't seem to like him.  All I know is that at least he didn't make me feel like my eardrums were going to start bleeding.  Being an archeologist, I've seen and heard of a lot of different instruments of torture.  I've now added another one to the list.  I think it's possible that they've done this to other people visiting their planet, forced them to be judges.  They didn't act like it was anything out of the ordinary."

Jack sat beside Daniel and patted his shoulder.  "Well, it's all over now, Paula, with your hearing still intact."

"But maybe not my sanity," Daniel muttered.  He glared at Jack.  "And why am I Paula?"

Jack grinned.  "Because you're too darn nice to be Simon, and you could never say 'dawg' without it sounding completely ridiculous."

That was apparently too much for Sam, who snorted out a giggle.  She instantly apologized to Daniel.

The archeologist looked at his amused teammates, his gaze coming to rest on Jack.

"Fine.  Go ahead and laugh.  But I'm warning you, Jack.  And I really do mean this.  If you ever, ever make me watch the auditions for American Idol again, I will kill you."

Smirking, Jack patted his shoulder again.  "Hey.  Look on the bright side, Daniel.  It could have been worse.  They could have made you a contestant."


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