SG-1 gathered around the bed of their teammate. Daniel had made the trip without any problems and was now situated in one of the isolation rooms. He was there for security reasons.
Sam looked down at the straps on the bed. The sight of them reminded her of when Daniel was going through withdrawal from the sarcophagus addiction. She never wanted to see those things on her friend again, but the cold hard fact was that there was a very good chance they would be needed. It made her sick to think about. The thought that sweet, gentle, caring Daniel might become the monster he described in his report was almost too much to bear. What were they going to do if that happened? How could they stand to lock him away in some prison cell, possibly for the rest of his life? There had to be a way of fixing it, of returning the memories to his subconscious. Hypnosis would do it, but, unless Daniel was a willing participant, it would never work.
Sam wondered if there was some way that the memory device could be changed so that it would block memories instead of bringing them out. The Tok'ra must not have a way of doing it. If they did, Garshaw or her father would have mentioned it when they were talking about using the device on Daniel. Sam made a silent oath that, if it turned out that the Goa'uld memories were in control of Daniel, she'd do everything in her power to find some way of helping him.
General Hammond came into the infirmary. One glance at the expressions on the faces of Sam, Jack and Teal'c told him how worried they were. He was worried, too. There had been many times in the past when he had thought they'd lost or were about to lose Daniel in death. But to lose him in the way they would if the Goa'uld genetic knowledge had been released into his conscious mind was far worse. Hammond did not want to see the young man he'd grown to greatly admire turned into the unfeeling person he'd become in that dream.
"Colonel," the general called quietly. Jack and the two other conscious members of SG-1 turned to him. "We have everything set up to view the tapes."
"Yes, sir," Jack said. "I'd really like to be here when Daniel wakes up, General. I . . . need to see if he's okay."
Jack knew that, in the dream, he had not been able to tell what had happened to Daniel, but he still believed that, in real life, he'd know, that he'd be able to look into Daniel's eyes and see if the man's soul was still there.
"I understand, Colonel, but the sooner we view those tapes, the sooner we'll know if those people succeeded."
"Yes, sir." He turned to his 2IC. "Carter, stay—"
Jack halted at the sound of a moan from the bed. Everyone turned to Daniel, watching him anxiously. Janet came over and joined them. A tense moment later, the archeologist's eyes fluttered opened. He immediately saw his teammates and the others looking down at him, varying degrees of worry and anxiety on their faces. Daniel met Jack's eyes.
"Jack?" he inquired in a raspy whisper. "You . . . found me?"
"Yeah, Daniel, we found you. You're safe," Jack assured him gently.
All at once, tears welled up in Daniel's eyes. "I fought so hard," he said, his voice full of remembered pain and fear. "They kept trying to make me remember, but I . . . but I thought about all the good things, about my parents, and Sha're, and you guys. I tried to block out the dream. But I didn't know if it would work. I didn't know." His eyes locked onto Jack's. "Please tell me it worked. Please tell me I'm me."
Jack looked intently into the pleading depths of Daniel's eyes . . . and saw there the man who was his best friend. He smiled. "It worked, Daniel. You're okay. You're still you."
Daniel's entire body went limp with relief. "I'm still me," he whispered. Then, with a sigh, his eyes slid shut.
Janet came forward and checked him. "He's asleep."
Sam looked at Jack questioningly. "Sir? Is he really okay? He looked like Daniel. He sounded like him."
"It's him, Sam," Jack said with utter confidence. "He's all right."
A huge smile lit Sam's face. "Thank God. He beat it, sir. He beat them."
"Yes, he did."
"Though I agree that it appears that Doctor Jackson is all right, we still need to watch the tapes to be sure," Hammond said.
"Yes, sir," Jack said in agreement.
"I think we should all watch them, sir," Sam stated.
The general and SG-1 went to the briefing room. The first tape they put in was the one from the VCR that had been taping whatever happened in the room Daniel was kept in.
On the screen, they saw the man they knew was Lieutenant Newman inject Daniel with something. A few minutes later, the effects of the drug became apparent. Daniel's face looked utterly peaceful, childlike. His voice, when he started to talk, matched his expression. Newman convinced Daniel to allow himself to be hypnotized, then proceeded to put him into a deep state of hypnosis.
SG-1 and Hammond watched as the lieutenant repeatedly tried and failed to get Daniel to remember the Goa'uld knowledge. It was clear that Daniel's fear of that knowledge was giving him the strength and ability to fight the drug and hypnosis.
Everyone's attention intensified when they heard a voice ask Newman what the problem was. None of them recognized the voice. It was clear that, whomever that voice belonged to, he was Newman's superior. They all guessed that it was the late Major Howell.
The lieutenant said that he wanted to try something new and turned back to Daniel. He asked the archeologist if he was afraid that the memories of the Goa'uld would take control of him. Daniel's reply made everyone's heart ache for their friend.
"Yes. I don't want to be a Goa'uld. They made Sha're a Goa'uld. They made her do terrible things. I did terrible things when I was a Goa'uld in the dream. I killed Teal'c. I hurt Sam and Jack. I-I murdered millions of people. I can't let that happen for real. I'd rather die first. I made Jack promise to kill me if it happened."
Sam couldn't stop the gasp that came to her lips at Daniel's last sentence. She looked at her C.O. His expression was stony, but she thought she saw something dark and haunted in his eyes.
Newman tried to convince Daniel that he didn't have to worry, that he wouldn't be taken over by the Goa'uld memories, but when the lieutenant mentioned wanting the weapons, Daniel's reaction was one of grief and terrible shame.
"T-the weapons? I-I used the weapons to kill people. I blew up Moscow. All those people, men, and women, and children who never hurt anyone." Daniel said, his voice heartrendingly sad, tears falling down his cheeks. "No weapons. I can't give anyone the weapons."
"God," Sam murmured. She wanted to rush right to the infirmary and give Daniel a big hug, to tell him that it wasn't him, that he was too good a person to ever do anything like the things that happened in that dream.
At that point, Newman gave up, having concluded that no amount of cajoling or promises was going to work.
The recording ended, and Sam put in the next tape. This one showed Daniel in the room where they'd found him. Everyone could tell by watching him that Daniel was drugged. It had been confirmed that he was injected with a powerful mind control drug. Jack knew that the drug was very effective. He'd personally seen its effects during his days in Black Ops. Many strong men had succumbed to it.
As they all watched the tape, three-dimensional images began to form above the holographic projector. Fascinated, Daniel's teammates saw scenes from their teammate's life appear in the air. But they were not the memories that Daniel's captors wanted. Every time that Newman asked about the dream Shifu gave Daniel, the archeologist responded by thinking about moments of love and happiness. Each time that the lieutenant probed Daniel for the Goa'uld memories, instead of those appearing, there were scenes of Daniel's parents, or of his year on Abydos, or, quite often, scenes of friendship and comradery with Jack, Sam and Teal'c. There were times when the images would fade and be replaced by things that they recognized must be from the dream, but, every time, Daniel would fight harder, and drive the evil memories from his thoughts.
"Yes! He beat it! He beat the drug!" Jack crowed. Once again, Daniel's stubbornness and incredibly strong will power had saved him.
Sam was grinning from ear to ear, and Teal'c was looking smugly pleased. Hammond, too, was smiling with delight.
"He certainly did, Colonel," the general said, filled with pride for the young man.
They all quieted and continued to watch the tape as Newman tried again and again to get Daniel to give them what they wanted. Partway through, someone entered the room, and they heard the same voice they did on the other tape.
"Any success?" the man, whom they were now pretty sure was Major Howell, asked.
"I'm afraid not, sir," Newman replied. "I can't get him to focus on the dream. He's deliberately filling his mind with other memories." There was a note of both surprise and respect in Newman's voice. "No matter how much I try to make him remember the Goa'uld knowledge or anything about the dream at all, he counters with stuff like that." He waved his hand at the holographic image, which showed a scene of what looked like a dig in Egypt, Daniel's parents in the foreground.
"You gave him the drug?" The major's tone of voice made it clear that he was not at all happy.
"Yes, sir, and it did seem to take effect on him, but he's fighting it, Major, and he's winning."
"That should not be possible."
"Sir, it's not unheard of. It's rare, but some people have been known to successfully fight the drug."
"The guy's a damn archeologist! This was supposed to be easy!"
"Well, sir, we were obviously wrong."
'Oh, yeah. You were wrong, all right,' Jack thought smugly. 'Turns out you don't know Daniel very well. Nothing is easy with him.'
"Then give him more."
"Sir, that could kill him."
"Before or after he gives us what we want?"
The cold callousness in Howell's voice made Jack wish that the man was alive and in their custody so that he could kill the major himself.
Newman did not answer. Instead, he was staring at Daniel. He bent over the archeologist, a genuine expression of concern on his face. He began examining Daniel.
"What is it?" Howell asked.
"There's something wrong. I think he's going into shock," Newman replied. "Daniel? Daniel, can you hear me?"
"Don't feel so good," Daniel replied in a weak voice.
The lieutenant examined him further. Despite his gentleness, Daniel let out a moan as the man palpated his left side. Newman let out a soft curse and turned to Major Howell, who was still off-camera.
"I think he's bleeding internally, sir. There must have been internal damage."
"I thought you said he was all right except for the ribs and concussion."
"I believed he was, sir. He showed no symptoms of internal injuries before. Major, I'm not a doctor, and I have no x-ray machine or any other medical equipment here. I did the best that I could."
"I don't want excuses, Newman!" Howell yelled, finally stepping into the view of the camera. "Keep pushing him. The bleeding is weakening him. We can get him to crack. We might still be able to salvage something."
"But, sir! He needs a doctor," the lieutenant said, obviously not happy with the order. "He'll be dead within a couple of hours if he's bleeding as badly as I think he is."
"What difference does it make? You know our orders, Lieutenant. Jackson is to be killed as soon as we get what we want from him."
"Sir, I think we're making a mistake. If we get help for Daniel, we can try again another time. We can't let him die."
"Don't question your orders, Lieutenant!" Howell snapped. "Resume questioning him. Now!"
At that moment, those watching the tape heard the sound of gunfire. SG-1 knew that it was their own weapons they were hearing.
"What the hell's going on?" Major Howell yelled.
A new voice shouted. "We're under attack, sir! The house has been infiltrated."
"Damn, damn, damn! Go! Get out there and keep them busy!"
There was the sound of people leaving the room. Howell turned back to Newman and Daniel. "We're out of time. Kill him. I don't want him identifying us."
As Howell started to turn away, everyone saw an expression of determination come over Newman's face. He pulled a gun and pointed it at Howell.
"Daniel was right. I don't want to be a Goa'uld either." Then he pulled the trigger twice, hitting Howell once in the head and once in the chest. Pausing only a brief moment to glance at Daniel, Newman fled. A short while later, SG-1 saw themselves on the screen.
Sam turned off the VCR.
Jack shook his head in amazement. "Well, I think we all know what happened. Daniel did it again. Somehow, some way, he got through to Newman and changed his mind. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. That guy never ceases to amaze me."
"Ditto, sir," Sam said with pride in her friend. "That's our Daniel."
Daniel's eyes fluttered open to see a ceiling that was neither white nor featureless. The sight filled him with relief, as did the familiar sounds of the infirmary. He'd never have thought that he would actually be glad to be there.
As he lay in the bed, Daniel remembered the last time he woke up and what Jack told him. Once again, he examined his own mind and emotions. He was okay. He was himself. The Goa'uld memories were still in their hiding place.
"Welcome back, Daniel."
The archeologist turned to see Janet smiling down at him.
"I never thought I'd say this, Janet, but it's really good to see you."
The doctor smiled. "Well, considering what you've been through, I can understand that. I should imagine the feeling will change once you've been here a few days. Are you thirsty?"
At Daniel's nod, she spooned some ice chips into his mouth.
"Thank you. So, what happened? What's wrong with me, other than the broken ribs and concussion? I already figured out those two things."
"Your spleen ruptured. We almost didn't get you into surgery in time. But you're going to be all right."
Daniel thought about that. First, his appendix, now his spleen. What was next? "What about my shoulder?"
Janet frowned. "Your shoulder?"
"My left shoulder started to hurt just before they began using the memory device on me."
"Ah. That was a symptom of the ruptured spleen. You can sometimes suffer pain in the left shoulder or left side of the neck."
"Oh." Daniel didn't bother asking how a ruptured spleen could affect a person's shoulder or neck.
Just then, an SG team came in for their post-mission physical.
"Well, I've got to get back to work," the doctor told Daniel. "Are you doing all right? Do you need an increase in your pain meds?"
"No, I'm good. Thanks, Janet."
"Okay. Call if you need anything."
A couple of minutes after the doctor left, Sam came in. A brilliant smile lit her face upon seeing that the linguist was awake.
"Hi, Daniel," she greeted cheerfully. She took hold of his hand.
Daniel smiled. "Hey, Sam." He gazed at her face so intently that it made the major a little uncomfortable.
"What? Is something wrong?" she asked.
"No. I'm just happy that I still care."
"In the dream, I didn't care about anyone, Sam, not you, or Jack, or Teal'c, or anybody else. Thinking about it now, I realize how . . . empty I was. I had all that knowledge, all that power, but I was still empty."
Sam squeezed his hand. She looked down at it. "We, um, watched the tapes."
Sam met his eyes. "You did really good, Daniel. You beat the drugs; you beat them. We're all so proud of you."
Daniel gave her a smile of gratitude. "Thank, Sam." The smile faded. "I was afraid that I would fail, that I would. . . ." He didn't finish. "So, what happens now?"
"Same as usual, Daniel," Jack answered from a few feet away. Teal'c was with him. The two men came up to the bed. "You suffer through the doc's tender loving care for a few days, get all healed up, and then everything goes back to normal around here." Jack gave Daniel a smile. "So, how ya doin'? You know, you really gotta stop this whole nearly dying thing. You've already made my hair turn grey. Next, it's gonna start falling out."
Daniel smiled faintly. "Sorry, Jack. I'll try harder next time to avoid the near-death thing."
"You do that."
"Even though it probably saved my life this time."
"How do you figure that?"
"Well, if I hadn't been injured, they'd have started working on me right away, and one of two things would have happened. Either they would have eventually succeeded or they'd have realized it wasn't going to work and killed me."
"They wouldn't have succeeded, Daniel," Jack told him confidently.
"I concur," Teal'c stated.
"We saw what you did, Daniel," Sam said, "how you beat the drugs, and the hypnosis, and the memory recall device. Even if they'd had several more hours, I don't think it would have made a difference. In fact, I'm sure of it."
"You're just too doggone stubborn, Daniel," Jack said, smirking. "That's all there is to it."
The tiniest of smiles touched Teal'c's lips. "Indeed."
Daniel wasn't as confident. "I hope you're right."
"You bet we're right." Jack responded.
"So, what happened to the men who had me?"
"Major Howell, the man who was in charge, is dead, and so are most of the others," Sam told him.
"What about Roy?"
"Oh, um, that's not really his name. Tall, dark hair, about my age. He was the one who attempted to get the information from me. I tried to talk to him, to make him see that what they were doing was wrong, but I just couldn't get through to him."
"Oh, you got through to him all right," Jack said.
"He's the one who killed Howell."
Daniel's eyes widened. "He is?"
"We saw it all on the tape. When Howell realized that a rescue team had come to get you, he told Newman – that's his real name, by the way – to kill you so that you couldn't ID them. Newman refused and killed Howell instead. He said something weird before he did, though. He said that you were right and that he didn't want to be a Goa'uld either."
Daniel stared thoughtfully up at the ceiling. "I'm glad," he said at last. He looked at Jack with a smile. "I think that, if you'd gotten past the urge to kill him, you'd have liked him. He's a Die Hard fan."
"Well, that's definitely a point in his favor." An expression of realization came to his face. "Wait a minute. Roy. You mean. . . ."
"Yippee-ki-yay," Daniel confirmed.
"Sounds like my kind of guy. Of course, I'd still have had to beat him to a pulp for being involved in your kidnapping."
"Of course. I wonder where he is now."
"Not in this country, I'd bet."
Daniel's expression turned troubled. "He betrayed them."
"You think that they'll go after him?"
"It's hard to say. They might be too busy with their scheming to get advanced technology to bother trying to hunt down one guy."
Daniel nodded, hoping Jack was right. "So . . . it's over." He looked at his teammates. "Or is it? Am I going to have to keep looking over my shoulder?"
"I think that, once the rest of that group finds out that you couldn't be forced into remembering the Goa'uld knowledge, even after everything they did, they'll give up," Sam replied. "Trying again wouldn't accomplish anything."
"It's over, Daniel," Jack said with conviction. "You don't have to worry anymore."
The ringing of his phone drew Jack's attention away from the report he was writing about Daniel's rescue.
"Hello, Jack," said Maybourne's voice.
"So, I hear you got him back."
"We sure did. A little worse for wear, but he'll be fine."
"I also hear that they couldn't break him."
"Nope. And not for lack of trying."
There was a pause. "I guess there's more to Jackson than meets the eye," Maybourne admitted.
"Anybody who really knows Daniel could have told you that, Harry. They are going to leave him alone now, aren't they? It isn't going to do them a damn bit of good to try again."
"After the dismal failure they suffered this time, yes, I think they'll leave him alone."
"Well, just wanted to say hello, Jack. Give Jackson my regards."
Jack hung up the phone, a faint smile on his face. "You really are something else, Maybourne."
Still smiling, Jack returned his attention to the report.
With a sense of relief, Daniel slowly eased himself onto his couch. He'd just been released, albeit reluctantly, by Janet, who had kept him in the infirmary for five days. She had wanted him there at least a full week, but he was getting stir crazy, and the doctor finally caved under his repeated pleading. Of course, she had given him strict orders to rest – meaning no work – eat only the things on the list that she gave him, take his meds when he was supposed to, and come in for a checkup twice a week. He was also not allowed to drive, so he'd be relying on others for transportation for a while. Today, it was Jack who brought him home. The man was now in the kitchen, putting away the groceries they'd stopped to get.
"So, you think you'll survive without any of your rocks to play with?" Jack asked after he was finished.
"It'll be tough, but I'll try."
"You can handle it." Jack glanced at his watch. "Well, I need to get going. We're still on for tonight, right?" He, Sam and Teal'c were planning on coming over for dinner and videos.
"Okay, see you later. Call if you need anything."
After Jack left, Daniel stayed on the couch, his eyes closed. His broken ribs were still quite painful, only Janet's happy pills making it possible for him to move around without being in agony. Unfortunately, the pills also tended to make him drowsy. He'd probably be spending a lot of time sleeping.
Finally finding the will to get up, Daniel went to his phone to check his messages. Most of them were nothing of importance. When he got to the fourth message, however, Daniel froze at the sound of a very familiar voice.
"Hello, Daniel. Roy here. I'm sure that, by now, you know my real name, but I think I'll stick with Roy. It has a nice ring to it. I'd guess that your teammates told you what happened. Perhaps you've even watched the tape. I just wanted to say thanks. For a while now I've been wondering if the people I worked with were going about things the wrong way, but I didn't have the courage to cut my ties with them. They're not the kind of people that you can just walk away from. But that time I spent with you really taught me some things. You are one hell of a guy, you know that? You have got to be the most stubborn, determined man I've ever met. You're also pretty damn smart. What you said about comparing us to the Goa'uld really hit hard. I realized that you were right, that the people I worked with had sacrificed a huge chunk of their integrity and were doing things that put them only a few steps above the Goa'uld.
"I'm sorry about what I put you through, and I want to make it up to you. I've sent some information to you about the people I worked with. I'm afraid that I was kind of low man on the totem pole, so I don't know many of the players. In fact, other than the guys who were there at the house, I only know one for sure: Colonel Marcus Breck. He was in charge of your kidnapping, and he was Major Howell's direct superior. What I sent you should be enough proof for you to have him arrested for your kidnapping. Just do me a favor, okay? Don't tell anyone who you got the information from. I don't want those guys coming after me. You should receive the package in a day or two at the SGC. I sent it there to be on the safe side.
"So, I guess that's all I have to say. Maybe we'll meet again someday, though it probably won't be for quite a while since I'm going to be steering clear of the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
"So long, Daniel, and take care of yourself."
Daniel sat in silence for a long time after the message had ended, hoping that, wherever Roy was, he'd be okay.
Removing the cassette from the machine and replacing it with an empty one, Daniel took the cassette with Roy's message and, after pulling all the tape from the cartridge, set fire to it. As he watched it melt, his thoughts turned to something that Sam told him a few days ago.
"I was thinking about how you compared the Goa'uld genetic knowledge to Pandora's box. In the myth, Pandora was supposed to guard the box, to keep it safe. But she failed because she took no heed of the warning to leave it alone and let her desire to know its secrets get the best of her. You were right, Daniel. The Goa'uld knowledge is like Pandora's box. The difference is that, unlike Pandora, you heeded the warning and fought to keep the box closed. And you know what? I can't think of anyone on this whole planet who could do a better job of guarding this Pandora's box than you."
Disposing of the remains of the tape, Daniel headed into his bedroom and laid down. Minutes later, he drifted off into dreams in which no Goa'uld played a part.