Lingchi (also Ling Chi or Leng T'che) – A form of execution used in China until 1905 in which the condemned person was killed by using a knife to methodically remove portions of their body over an extended period of time. Also known as Slow Slicing, The Slow Process, The Lingering Death, and Death by a Thousand Cuts.
In this "universe", Yu succeeded in killing Anubis all those centuries ago, so he never ascended. Because of this, the events of Summit/Last Stand never happened. The Goa'uld summit took place because of the heavy losses incurred by all of the System Lords during the fighting going on as a result of the power vacuum created by the deaths of Cronus and Apophis. They were meeting to discuss the establishment of a new order rather than continue fighting and wiping each other out. However, the real culprit in the majority of those losses was Anubis, so, without him around, the losses suffered by the System Lords weren't heavy enough for them to make such a decision. Also, the Tok'ra base at Ravanna was not destroyed because Anubis was not around to discover its location and send Zipacna to attack it, meaning that there are a lot more Tok'ra still alive. And, of course, Osiris never joined forces with Anubis. There are other differences as well because of Anubis' demise, but these are the only ones that affect this story.
This story begins some time after the events of The Sentinel.
General George Hammond and the four members of SG-1 focused their attention upon the sixth person sitting at the briefing room table.
"We have received word that the System Lord Ba'al is meeting with another Goa'uld in several days to discuss an alliance," Bra'tac announced.
Jack's eyebrows lifted fractionally. "An alliance? The so-called alliance between Apophis and Heru'ru didn't work out so well for Heru'ru. Granted, we had a little bit to do with that, but the fact that Apophis had all those ships waiting in hiding kind of makes me think that he might have been planning something anyway."
"That may be true. However, occasionally, the Goa'uld do form alliances if each party believes it will benefit themselves. Most of the alliances are short-lived."
"I bet," Daniel murmured.
"Who's the other Goa'uld?" Sam asked.
"This we do not know, though word has it that it is not a System Lord."
Jack asked the next question. "So, where is this little chat supposed to be taking place?"
"On a barren world called Afinon, which has no Stargate," Bra'tac replied. "The solar system is devoid of life and contains nothing of value to the Goa'uld, so it is an ideal place to hold such a meeting."
"What do we know about Ba'al?" Hammond asked.
"I've done some research on most of the present System Lords," Daniel answered, "and, by all accounts, Ba'al is a pretty nasty character."
"Aren't all Goa'uld nasty characters?" Jack countered.
"Pretty much, but some are worse than others. Ba'al once wiped out the inhabitants of two star systems, sixty million people, rather than lose them to Sokar in a territorial dispute."
"Nice guy. Sounds like it's way past time for him to get his comeuppance. I wonder if we can use this meeting to do that," Jack smiled, "maybe with the help of our shiny new Al'Kesh." He paused. "Okay, so it's not exactly shiny or new, but it's new to us."
Sam smiled ever so slightly. The colonel was still crowing about the recent mission that netted them an Al'Kesh Attack Bomber. Unlike the mothership they acquired last year, this ship wasn't going to be lent out to the Tok'ra, so the SGC would have full use of it, although, since it was intel from the Tok'ra that enabled them to capture it, a case could be made that it would only be fair to use it occasionally to aid their allies on missions.
"It is likely that, due to the untrusting nature of the Goa'uld, both Ba'al and the other Goa'uld will not be permitted to bring a large fleet to the meeting," Teal'c said.
"So, they'd be in a weakened position," Jack responded.
"Yes, but even if they each bring just one mothership, that's way more than we could handle with an Al'Kesh," Sam pointed out.
"Too bad the planet doesn't have a Stargate. Then we could lob a big bomb through the gate, and that would take care of everything." Jack's face lit up. "Hey, here's an idea. How about if we blow up the sun like we did that other one?"
"If you recall, Jack, that other time resulted in us getting blown four million light-years across the universe," Daniel said.
Sam had a thoughtful look on her face. "Yes, but that only happened because we were delayed in getting out of there. If we left as soon as the Stargate was launched into the sun, we'd be fine. And an Al'Kesh would be large enough to carry a Stargate in its hold. It's definitely something to think about."
"Don't you think that perhaps we should contact the Tok'ra first and find out what they know about this meeting before we blow up another sun? They also might have operatives on one of the ships that would be there."
Hammond nodded. "You are right, of course. We could not make this kind of strike without first talking to the Tok'ra."
The Tok'ra were contacted a short while later. In response, Jacob came through the gate. He was asked if the Tok'ra knew anything about the upcoming meeting between Ba'al and the unknown Goa'uld.
"We did hear about it, but I'm afraid that we don't have any more information than you do. We were thinking about getting some operatives in there to find out more about it, including the name of the other Goa'uld."
"You might want to hold off on that," Jack told Sam's father.
Jacob was told about the idea to destroy the sun as they did Vorash's. This made the former general smile ever so slightly.
"You know, blowing up suns isn't exactly a habit you should get into."
"Hey, at least it doesn't cause cancer," Jack quipped.
"I don't know if the council would agree to doing that a second time, although it would definitely be nice to get rid of Ba'al. He is now one of the most powerful of the System Lords, having gained a lot of power in the fighting that went on among the System Lords after the deaths of Cronus and Apophis. Not only that, but he is also one of the most intelligent, very tech savvy. One of our operatives infiltrated his forces by posing as a minor Goa'uld and was stationed in a secret stronghold of Ba'al's for several months. Before we pulled him out, Kanan was able to map out the complex and gain intelligence about all of its defenses, and, according to his report, Ba'al has been successfully experimenting with various technologies using gravity that could potentially be turned into weapons. We all agree that, sooner or later, he's probably going to become a big problem."
"Well, then it sounds like now would be a good time to get rid of him so that he doesn't become a problem later on."
Jacob nodded. "All right. I'll present this to the rest of the council and see what they have to say. If they agree with the mission, and if you don't mind, I'll tag along just in case you need my help."
"Hey, you're always welcome, Jacob . . . unlike most of the other Tok'ra."
Jacob headed straight back to the Tok'ra base. He returned three hours later.
"The Tok'ra think that it wouldn't be wise to blow up another sun," he announced, "but there is another option, an idea that came from something you guys did. Afinon never had a Naquadah mining operation because there were no deposits large enough to warrant the effort. However, the soil of the planet is laced with traces of Naquadah."
"Oh, I know where this is going," Sam said. "You're proposing that we do what we did when General Bauer was in command of the SGC."
The other members of SG-1 shared a glance. Sam was talking about the incident that nearly resulted in the destruction of Stargate Command and could have ultimately destroyed all life on Earth. Bauer ordered that a Naquadah-enhanced nuclear bomb be constructed by Sam. What she didn't know until later was that the plan was to detonate the bomb on a planet that contained Naquadah in the soil. It was hoped that the blast would cause a chain reaction, destroying the whole planet, a test to see if it would be a feasible form of attack against the Goa'uld since most Goa'uld-controlled worlds had Naquadah.
The bomb was sent through, and, despite Sam's warnings, the Stargate was kept connected as it was detonated. The gate was not destroyed in the blast, as the "intelligence" Bauer was provided said it would be, and deadly gamma radiation began pouring through the gate. Thankfully, the gate disconnected after the thirty-eight-minute window, otherwise, even if they had blown up the base, burying Earth's Stargate with it, the gates would likely have remained connected, and the radiation may have eventually escaped into Earth's atmosphere, poisoning the planet.
Jacob nodded. "Now, although Afinon's Stargate must have been destroyed or buried a long time ago, there are small remnants of structures and a ring platform that no longer works. Our best guess is that the meeting will take place in that general area. As the Tok'ra confirmed, that bomb you detonated turned the entire planet into one big ball of superheated plasma. If we did the same with Afinon, the bomb could be planted far enough away from the meeting area that it wouldn't be discovered, yet it would still do the trick. And because there is no functioning ring platform, the only way to get on or off the planet is by ship. They wouldn't be able to get away in time to escape the destruction."
"And you're sure that nobody lives on that planet?" Daniel asked. After the bomb test, he had been worried that the SGC may have been responsible for the deaths of thousands, perhaps millions of people since only a fifty-mile radius from the gate was searched. Thankfully, according to the Tok'ra, there had been no intelligent life on the planet. He wanted to make sure that the same was true with this one.
"Yes, we're sure. It was abandoned a long time ago. In fact, the planet is pretty much devoid of life, perhaps due to some kind of global mass extinction."
All eyes turned to General Hammond.
"Very well," he said. "I will have to talk to the president since it will require the use of a Naquadah bomb, but you have my permission to proceed."
Sam got busy on the bomb. Since the ill-fated incident with the first one, the program had continued perfecting Naquadah bombs, recognizing that a day might come when such a weapon would be needed. However, due to their limited supply of refined Naquadah and the difficulties in getting more, the bombs were considered extremely valuable.
The president approved of the plan, and SG-1 and Jacob headed off to Afinon in a scout ship equipped with a cloaking device instead of the Al'Kesh since the change in plans required that they be able to remain out of sight yet stay close to the planet.
"We should be arriving a full day before the Goa'uld do," Sam said, "so we'll have plenty of time to set up the bomb."
"If at all possible, we want to keep the Goa'uld guessing about what happened and why," her father added, "so, after the bomb detonates, we'll take the ship to the other side of the sun before we engage the hyperdrive. It will hide the hyperspace window from the sensors of the motherships."
"Leaving everyone on those ships scratching their heads and wondering what made the planet go boom," Jack said.
Jacob nodded. "If we're lucky, all of the Goa'uld will start accusing each other of being responsible."
It took two days for the scout ship to reach Afinon's star system. They landed on the surface ten miles from the spot where the Tok'ra figured the meeting would take place.
"Lovely place," Jack remarked, looking around at the barren landscape, seeing not one plant or any other signs of life.
The bomb was buried just below the surface, and Sam tested to make sure that the remote triggering device was operational.
They took the scout ship to a location where they were close enough to keep an eye on what was going on, but far enough away to be well out of the danger zone. And then they settled down to wait, the part of the mission Jack hated most.
As expected, Ba'al and the other Goa'uld arrived the following day, the two motherships taking up positions above the planet, remaining a respectful distance from each other. After several minutes, a lone transport ship was launched from each of the vessels, carrying the Goa'uld to their rendevous point.
"Has anyone thought about what we're going to do if they pick an entirely different spot for their meeting?" Jack asked.
His question did not need to be answered since the ships did land in the place where the Tok'ra guessed they would. The team waited ten more minutes to give the Goa'uld time to disembark.
"Okay, I'd say that's enough time," Jacob said.
"Let's blow the place," Jack ordered.
With the push of a button, the signal was sent. Seconds later, a bright spot bloomed on the planet. With shocking speed, it spread across the surface, consuming everything in its path. Within moments, the entire planet was transformed into a bright white ball of incandescent light, as if it had been turned into a miniature star.
"My God," Sam murmured. Even knowing what was going to happen, she still hadn't quite been prepared for the sight of the planet's destruction.
"According to the sensors, neither ship made it off the planet before it went," Jacob announced.
"So we did it?" Jack asked.
"I'd say so, though we can't be completely certain yet. We'll have to wait to find out for sure. By the time we get back to Earth, the Tok'ra should know if we were successful."
Jack looked at the two motherships. "You know, I'd pay a lot to see the look that must be on the faces of the guys on those ships."
Using the sublight engines, Jacob took the scout ship to the other side of the sun, then engaged the hyperdrive.
When the team made it back to Earth, they were greeted with the news that, according to intelligence gathered by the Tok'ra, the mission had been a complete success.
"Congratulations," Hammond said to SG-1 and Jacob.
"Thank you, sir," Jack responded.
"So, what happens now?" Daniel asked.
"Well, in regards to the Goa'uld, there will likely be a scuffle over Ba'al's territories," Jacob replied.
"Maybe some of them will kill each other in the fighting, and we'll get rid of even more snakes," Jack remarked.
As they left the briefing room, Jack announced, "I'm in the mood to celebrate. How about we all go to my place for pizza and beer?"
"Sounds good, sir," Sam replied.
Jack turned to the Tok'ra in their midst. "Jacob? You're welcome to join us."
"Thanks, but I need to get back to the base. We'll be busy monitoring the situation and seeing how everything turns out."
"So, who do you think will end up getting Ba'al's territories?" Daniel asked.
"That's hard to say, although Lord Yu is in the best position to take advantage of the sudden vacancy."
That evening, SG-1 gathered at Jack's place.
"Score two more dead snakes," the colonel said with a smile as he and his teammates sat in his living room, their stomachs full of pizza and beer bottles in their hands, except for Teal'c, of course, who held a glass of juice.
"I can't believe we managed to pull that off without a hitch," Sam commented. "Things usually don't go that smoothly."
"Well, maybe our luck is changing. It's about time that things really started going our way." Jack looked over at Daniel, who was frowning down at his beer. "Daniel? How come you don't look so happy that we got rid of two more Goa'uld?"
Daniel blinked and looked at him. "What? Oh. No, I'm happy, although I really didn't have anything to do with it. I was just along for the ride."
"Well, if you look at it like that, so was I. But we were all there as a team. It was SG-1 that did this, and you're a part of SG-1. Right?"
Daniel paused before answering. "Right."
SG-1 hadn't been at work for long the next day when there was an unscheduled incoming wormhole, which turned out to be a call from the Tok'ra. It was Jacob who came through the gate. He gathered with Hammond and SG-1 in the briefing room.
"I'm afraid that I have some news," the Tok'ra said. "Some new information has come to light about the meeting."
"Oh, don't tell us," Jack groaned. "Ba'al escaped after all."
"No, it's been confirmed that he's dead. This is about the Goa'uld he was meeting. We found out who it was."
"Who?" Jack asked, wondering about the somber expression on the former general's face.
Jacob turned to Daniel. "I'm really sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, Daniel. It was Osiris."
"Oh my God," Sam gasped. She turned to the archeologist and watched as the color drained from his face.
"We figure that Osiris was planning on using an alliance with Ba'al to strengthen his own position," Jacob continued. "We're not sure what Ba'al hoped to get out of it."
Daniel didn't hear Jacob's words, his mind filling with grief and guilt over the knowledge that he'd helped kill Sarah.
"Excuse me," he choked out, then bolted from the room.
"Damn," Jack cursed. Why, out of all the Goa'uld in the galaxy, did it have to be Osiris?
"We should have found out who it was before," Sam said, weighed down with her own burden of guilt. "If we had known, we wouldn't have done it."
"There just wasn't time, Sam," Jacob told her regretfully. "We had to act quickly or lose our chance to get Ba'al." He sighed. "I'd tell Daniel that the chances that we could have rescued Sarah were never very good and that she was better off dead than being a host, but I doubt it would make him feel better."
Sam shook her head. "First Sha're, then Robert Rothman, and, now, Sarah. I can't even imagine how he must be feeling."
It was a very sober Jack, Sam and Teal'c who went to Daniel's office a short while later. None of them were surprised when they saw that he wasn't there. Jack called the front gate and confirmed that Daniel had left the base.
The colonel scrubbed his face with his hands. "Crap. What a mess."
Upset and hurting for her friend, Sam said, "We need to talk to him, sir."
"And say what, Carter? He's lost yet another person he cared about because of those damn Goa'uld, and I don't think that a few platitudes are really going to help."
"Daniel Jackson has suffered a great deal of loss because of the Goa'uld," Teal'c stated. "But he is strong and will persevere."
"Yeah, but how long is it going to take before he gets over it this time?"
The tears slipped silently down Daniel's cheeks as he sat huddled on the couch, grief and guilt warring for supremacy inside his heart. Sarah was dead, and all his hopes for saving her were gone. He'd failed to save her, just as he had failed to save Sha're, only, this time, not only had he failed to save a person he cared about, he had participated in killing her.
Daniel got up and went to the bedroom. Not turning on the light, he laid down on the bed. He stared into the dark of night as the guilt and anguish kept pulling him under. Ever since Sha're's death, a feeling had been growing inside him that all the things he'd done in his life had been for nothing, that nothing he ever did really mattered. What had he truly accomplished except to do things that ultimately resulted in the death of someone who mattered to him? Sha're was dead because of him, Robert died in an effort to save him, and, now, Sarah's blood was on his hands.
Daniel felt like a condemned prisoner doomed to the slow death of lingchi, the Death by a Thousand Cuts. Sha're and then Skaara being taken as hosts, his rape at the hands of Hathor, the guilt of what he did while under the influence of the sarcophagus addiction, seeing his beloved wife pregnant with another man's child and then losing her again to the Goa'uld inside her, the commitment to Mental Health, watching Sha're die before his eyes. The list went on and on, each one a cut that left his soul bleeding.
Sometimes, he wondered why he even kept trying, kept fighting, especially when, no matter how hard he tried to make a real difference, he mostly succeeded in doing nothing much at all.
Maybe it was finally time to stop trying.
Jack stood at the door, trying to compose the words he was going to say. Daniel had not come to work today, hadn't even called to say he wasn't coming in, which was totally unlike the usually considerate archeologist. There was no mystery about why Daniel wasn't there, of course, but the fact that he was also not answering his phone was really worrying the other members of SG-1. Not even when Sha're died did Daniel completely cut off communication like this.
Sam had volunteered to come talk to Daniel, but Jack told her that he was the one who needed to do this. Now that he was actually here, however, he really didn't know what to say and was starting to wish that he'd let Sam come. She was a hell of a lot better at talking about feelings than he was.
At last Jack knocked on the door. When he didn't get an answer, he tried again with still no response. Maybe Daniel wasn't home. His car was in its usual parking space, but he might have gone out for a walk.
Jack thought about leaving, but his worry over his friend kept him from doing so. Instead, he pulled out the key Daniel had given to him and unlocked the door.
"Daniel?" he called softly. Getting no reply, he stepped inside and shut the door. He glanced about, seeing no sign of the archeologist. Concluding that Daniel must be gone, Jack headed for the kitchen to get a beer and await the man's return. But then he saw the food that sat uneaten on the kitchen table, and a sick feeling of deja vu hit him, deja vu caused by another time that he came to Daniel's house and found an uneaten meal on the table.
Jack's eyes went to the French doors leading to the balcony, the balcony that Jack had refused to set foot upon since the day that would be burned forever upon his memory, the day he found his best friend inches away from taking his own life.
The sick, tight feeling growing in his stomach, Jack approached the balcony. The doors were closed and the blinds drawn, hiding the balcony from view. He stood before the doors for a moment, then slowly opened one, his eyes coming to rest upon something he really didn't want to see: Daniel standing at the railing. For a gut-wrenching moment, Jack's mind transposed the image with that from his memory and saw his friend on the wrong side of the railing, hands gripping the metal bar, moments away from letting go. The colonel shook off the stark image and looked again to see that, this time, Daniel was on the proper side of the railing . . . which was still not at all to Jack's liking.
Jack took a step out onto the balcony.
"Um . . . Daniel?" he inquired hesitantly. He got no reaction from the archeologist. "I . . . decided to stop by and check on you. You weren't answering your phone."
"I didn't feel like talking," Daniel replied in a low voice that was almost monotone.
"Well . . . I can understand that. But I'm here, so maybe we can talk now . . . or something. How about if you, uh . . . come on inside. Okay?"
Daniel made a little choking sound that could have been an abbreviated laugh.
"Are you afraid I'm going to jump, Jack? Don't worry. I'm not suicidal."
That made the colonel feel only a little bit better. "I'd still feel a whole lot better if you came inside," he said. 'Away from that railing,' he finished in his mind.
Daniel's grip on the railing tightened for a moment, then he stepped away from it. He brushed past Jack without looking at him and went into the living room to the unlit fireplace, where he stared into the cold, dark opening, hands on the mantle.
"I really don't feel like talking, Jack," he said.
"Okay, then I'll do the talking. I understand how you feel, Daniel. I've lost friends, too, because of the brutality of war, and it's never easy."
"And were you ever actually the one who killed any of those friends?"
"Daniel, you didn't kill Sarah. You didn't push the button. You weren't the one who approved the mission. You weren't even the one who came up with the idea."
"But I was a part of the mission. You said it yourself, Jack. It was SG-1 that did it, and I am a member of SG-1, so I am equally responsible for her death."
Jack cursed silently as his own words came back to bite him in the butt.
"Okay, so you were there. But we didn't know, Daniel. None of us knew that it was Osiris on that planet."
"But we should have known. We should have waited until we found out. When we encountered the Eurondans, I didn't think that we should take sides in a war that we knew nothing about until we at least found out who the people on the other side of the conflict were. I knew it was wrong to rush in and aid in the destruction of people who were a complete unknown to us. But, this time, I didn't care. I didn't really question it. It didn't matter to me who it was that Ba'al was meeting. All I cared about was that it was a Goa'uld. I let my hatred for them override my common sense and morality, and Sarah paid the price."
"Daniel, how many Goa'uld are there out there? Thousands? What were the odds that it would be Osiris who was meeting Ba'al? I sure didn't consider that it might be her. Neither did anyone else, including Jacob. We saw a chance to kill a System Lord, and we took it. If it had been any other of all those thousands of Goa'uld, we would still be celebrating."
"But it wasn't any of the others. It was Osiris. It was Sarah."
"Yes. Yes, it was, and you need to accept that and move on. You're not to blame for this, Daniel."
Tears filled Daniel's eyes. "I wanted so badly to save her, Jack. I wanted to do with her what I failed to do with Sha're. But I failed her, too." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I've failed with everything."
Before Jack could ask what he meant, Daniel was gone, fleeing from the apartment. With a long sigh, Jack lowered himself into a chair. How was he going to fix this? How was he going to make Daniel see that Sarah's death was just a tragic, unintended consequence of their ongoing war against the Goa'uld?
Jack remained waiting at the apartment for an hour, then gave up and went home. Not feeling the least bit hungry, he got a beer from the fridge and settled in the recliner, where he just sat and stared, not consuming the beer either.
Maybe the best thing to do would be to just back off and let Daniel come to terms with this himself, as he did with Sha're's death. It might take a while, but he would eventually get through these feelings and move on.
Jack decided to suggest that the archeologist take a few days off, which would probably be for the best. He'd have to tell Carter and Teal'c to leave Daniel be, though he knew that the major wouldn't want to do that, just as she didn't want to when Daniel was grieving over the loss of Sha're. But among the many things that Jack had learned about his best friend during these years was the fact that, when Daniel was hurting, he preferred to suffer in solitude. That was one way that the two of them were exactly alike.
Knowing that he wouldn't get an answer, Jack called Daniel's cell phone.
"Hey. It's Jack. I hope that you're actually listening to your messages and not just deleting them. I'm thinking that it would do you some good to take a few days off, maybe even go somewhere. I'll clear it with Hammond, so you don't have to worry about calling in a request." Jack paused. "Well, that's all I have to say. I guess I'll see you when you come back in."
Hanging up the phone, Jack finally took a drink from his beer bottle, hoping that a few days away from the SGC would help Daniel deal with this newest loss in his life.
Daniel listened to the last message from Jack. The archeologist knew that a few days away weren't going to fix things. It wouldn't even help. It wouldn't change the cold, hard facts of Sarah's death or of a life that had been one failure after another. Nothing would change that. But there was something he could do that might allow him to live what was left of his life with at least a small measure of peace, something he would never find as long as he continued to struggle in a fruitless attempt to make some kind of real difference in a war that he'd never wanted to be a part of in the first place.
Daniel sat at his desk and booted up his laptop. He opened the text editor and began to type.
This letter is my formal notice of resignation from the Stargate Program, effective immediately. I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer work for the program in any capacity. My reasons for this are personal and have nothing to do with any individual within the program. I wish to state for the record that General George Hammond is a fine commander and someone for whom I have nothing but the highest regard and respect.
Doctor Daniel Jackson