Stargate Horizons


They got back to work bright and early the next morning, not stopping until lunchtime.

"So, how much longer is this going to take?" Jack asked over the meal.  "It's all fine and dandy for you guys since you're keeping busy, but Teal'c and I are up here just twiddling our thumbs."

"I do not twiddle my thumbs, O'Neill," Teal'c responded.

"Okay, so I'm twiddling my thumbs.  The point I'm making is that there's nothing for us to do here."

"There is still a tremendous amount of data that we want to retrieve, sir," Sam told him, "and we haven't even finished going through the table of contents.  We could be here a week and still not get all the stuff that we think would be of real value to us."

"Carter, we are not staying here a week."

"I know."  Sam sighed.  "I just wish that you and Daniel weren't the only people who can get the transporter to work.  That makes it so much more difficult."

"I am quite intrigued by that," Egeria said.  "I have to wonder precisely how it is that Daniel and Colonel O'Neill differ from other humans."

"Well, Thor said that Colonel O'Neill was genetically advanced in some way," Sam told her.  "Obviously, he must have been born that way.  The question is, was Daniel born different, too, or does it have to do with his ascension?  I can only imagine how much the geneticists will be wanting to study their DNA and find out what's going on."

Jack made a face.  "Yes, and I cannot express how much that thought makes me squirm.  I don't like the idea of somebody toying with my DNA."

"Well, it's not like they'd be toying with it when it's still inside you, Jack," Daniel responded.  "It isn't going to hurt you at all for them to study a sample of your DNA."

"Well, I still don't like it.  The last time somebody did something with my DNA, I got cloned, which was an unpleasant experience from start to finish."

Surprised, Egeria gazed at him.  "You were cloned?"

Everyone briefly filled her in on the actions of Loki, the rogue Asgard.

"You know, there's something else we need to consider," Daniel then said.  "If Jack was born with that genetic difference, I should think the odds would be good that he's not the only one."

Sam nodded.  "You're right.  There could be others on Earth who are genetically advanced as well, but, unless we can identify the specific differences, it would be pretty much impossible to find anyone else who is."

With a will power committed to completing his assignment, the Ashrak pushed aside the agony in his body and slowly covered the distance to where his target was located.

The explosion of the hyperdrive engine seconds after exiting hyperspace above the planet had almost resulted in his death.  If the ship's hull had been breached, he would have been killed.  But, though severely damaged, it held firm long enough for him to reach an altitude where he could breathe.  It would be impossible for him to fix the damaged engine, so he would have to abandon the ship and leave the planet through the Stargate.  Fortunately, the sublight engine and sensors still worked.

More troubling than the state of his ship were the devastating injuries he sustained.  Second, third and some fourth degree burns covered much of his body, his right arm a twisted ruin.  He would heal, but it would take time, time he could not afford to take if he was to complete his mission.  Failure was not an option, and the Goa'uld for whom he worked would not take kindly to any long delays.

Unfortunately, the damage to his body and the weakness it was causing would mean that he could not attack in the manner he usually would, with a knife or his bare hands.  Even if he was certain that he had enough strength, the unmistakable smell of his own burned flesh would give his presence away long before he could get close enough to strike.  Therefore, he would have no choice but to kill at a distance.  The weapon he carried, however, would not work as long as he was cloaked, the cloak's energy output interfering with its functioning.  This meant that he would have to drop the cloak before firing.  Though it would make things more difficult, the Ashrak was confident that he would succeed.  He had never before failed on a mission, and this would not be the time that he did.

SG-1 and Egeria finished their lunch and headed back toward the complex.

"Instead of you and Teal'c hanging around the complex, why don't you go walking around the city?" Daniel suggested to Jack.

"And see what?  One crumbling ruin looks just like another to me."

As an archeologist, Daniel wanted to say something in response to that, but decided not to do so.  "Well, I should think that taking a stroll through the ruins would be less boring than just staying in one place."

"I'll think about it."

They were about twenty yards from the complex when Teal'c thought he heard something.  He turned just in time to see a man appear out of thin air and aim a weapon at them.

"Get down!" the Jaffa yelled even as the weapon discharged.  The blast barely missed Daniel as he grabbed Egeria and pulled her to the ground.  Teal'c fired his staff weapon, but the attacker had already disappeared.  Straining his ears, Teal'c heard running footsteps and fired a blazing volley of shots, hoping to get lucky and hit the man.

"Teal'c, what is it?!" Jack yelled from a kneeling position, his P-90 swinging around from side to side as he searched for the person who'd fired at them.  Sam was doing the same thing, facing the opposite direction.

"A man with a personal cloaking device," the Jaffa replied.  "My guess would be that he is an Ashrak."

Egeria gasped.  "A Goa'uld assassin."

Daniel was suddenly very worried.  "And I think we can all guess who he's here to kill."  He briefly met Egeria's eyes, seeing that she knew he was talking about her.

Movement off to the left drew Sam's attention that way.  She saw the Ashrak a split second before he opened fire.  She cried out a warning even as she began firing back.  The Ashrak's shot came so close to hitting her that it singed her BDU sleeve.

"Damn!" Jack cursed.  "We need to get some cover.  We're sitting ducks out here.  Form a circle, Egeria in the middle."

Everyone stood, the four members of SG-1 forming a protective circle around the former queen, each of them facing outward, their eyes constantly scanning for the Ashrak.  They began to cover the remaining distance to the complex.  Before they'd made it halfway, the Ashrak appeared again, Daniel being the one to see him this time.  He didn't hesitate to fire his Beretta, but the man was gone again in an instant.

They all relaxed just a little when they made it inside.  Jack saw SG-12 coming at a run and gestured for them to take cover.  He got on the radio and told them what was going on.  He then turned to his team and Egeria.

"We're still not secure in here.  There are too many entrances to this building to cover effectively against a guy that we can't see.  He could come right up to us, and we wouldn't even know it until one of us got a knife in their chest.  Carter, I suppose it's too much to hope that there's a Naquadah generator here that you can do the same thing to as you did at the Alpha Site to make that Ashrak visible."

"No, sir.  We had no reason to bring one.  At least there is one good thing.  Apparently, the Ashrak can't fire his weapon while he's cloaked.  If he could, we'd probably all be dead by now."

"Unfortunately, I doubt that little limitation is going to keep us alive for long.  What I don't understand is why he's trying to take us out from a distance.  I saw up close and personal what those guys can do when they're motivated.  He could plow right through us."

"He appeared to be injured," Teal'c responded.  "His face was deeply burned, and his right arm was severely maimed."

"If he was so badly hurt, why didn't he wait until he was healed before coming after Egeria?" Sam asked.

"Once an Ashrak has been given an assignment, he is expected to carry it out in the allotted time," Teal'c explained.  "Failure to do so would not be tolerated by the Goa'uld for whom he works."

"Well, whatever it is that happened to him, that's probably the only lucky break we're going to get with that guy," Jack said.  He got on the radio to SG-12.  "Kelly, I need you to get to the comm station and contact the team at the gate.  We need TERs if we're going to have any hope of getting this guy."

"Yes, sir."

"And warn everyone else to stay away from here.  There's no point in giving this guy more targets."

Sam shook her head.  "Sir, even at the fastest possible speed that they could cover the distance, it will still take hours for a team to get here from Earth."

"We need to get to the lab," Daniel said.  "The Ashrak can't follow us there."

Jack nodded sharply.  "Good thinking, Daniel.  Get Egeria to the lab.  Carter, you cover them.  Teal'c and I will cover the door."

As quickly as possible, Daniel, Sam and Egeria made their way into the depths of the complex, each of them expecting the Ashrak to appear at any second.  They all breathed a sigh of relief when they made it to the tower room.  They ran to the base of the tower, aiming for the transporter.  They'd just reached the spot when, suddenly, the Ashrak was there.  Daniel called out a warning, but it was too late.  Egeria's cry of pain burned through Daniel's mind as the three of them were beamed away.

In the lab, Daniel caught Egeria as she collapsed and lowered her to the floor.

"Oh, God," he choked out upon seeing the wound in her chest.

With Sam's help, they moved her off the transporter, then Sam packed the wound, telling the distraught Daniel to hold the bandages in place.

Egeria's eyelids fluttered open, and Daniel met her pain-filled gaze.  Trying to keep the fear out of his voice, he began stroking her hair and said, "You're going to be okay.  You're going to be all right."

"You are not hurt?" Egeria asked in a strained voice.

"No, I'm fine, and you will be, too."  He looked up at Sam, whose eyes betrayed how worried she was.

"What's going on?" asked one of the scientists.  "What's happening?"

Sam briefly explained the situation to him and the other scientists.  She then turned back to her fellow teammate.  "Daniel, as long as the Ashrak is in that room, Teal'c and the Colonel won't be able to make it down here.  We can't even warn them that he's there."

Daniel had no answers or solutions.  Fear was a tight knot in his belly.  Egeria needed immediate medical attention, but they couldn't leave the lab without the danger of the Ashrak getting them.

At that moment, there was a flash of light, and Jack and Teal'c appeared.

"Crap," Jack cursed when he saw the wounded Egeria.  "How bad?"

Sam didn't answer aloud, but her eyes told him that it was bad.

"We were worried that you wouldn't make it down here," she said.  "The Ashrak attacked us in the tower room."

"We came into the room firing.  If he was still in there, he probably hit the deck.  I bet he's up there right now, scratching his head and wondering why the transporter isn't working for him."  Jack walked up to Daniel and Egeria and knelt at his best friend's side.  Daniel looked at him, and he saw the fear in the younger man's eyes.  He laid a hand on the archeologist's shoulder.

"We're going to get out of this, Daniel, all of us."

Daniel returned his gaze to the woman he loved.  Seeing that she was shivering, he stripped off his jacket and covered her with it.  He pressed a kiss to her forehead, fighting back tears.  He knew that, if they didn't get her help soon, she was likely going to die.

Jack got to his feet and pulled Sam and Teal'c off to the side.

"Any ideas?" he asked.

"Not at the moment, sir," Sam replied.  "All we can really do is wait for those TERs."

"And what if SG-12 didn't make it to the comm station?" Daniel asked, having heard her.  "If that Ashrak went after them, they wouldn't have stood a chance.  He could kill everyone up there."

"Didn't you say that there were other transporters?" Sam asked him.  "What if we transport to one of them?  Then we could make our way to the gate."

The archeologist shook his head.  "I don't know where they are.  The computer only gives street and building names, not where they are geographically.  I could pick the wrong one and put us even further from the gate."

"Well, that would be better than just sitting here and waiting," Jack responded.

"I do not believe it would be safe for us to leave," Teal'c said.  "Once the Ashrak confirms that he cannot transport to our location, he will likely return to his ship and begin scanning the area in search of us."

Sam nodded.  "He's right.  That's what I would do.  As long as we're here, he won't be able to find us, but the second we leave, the sensors will be able to pick us up."

"You must surrender me to him," Egeria said weakly.

Daniel stared down at her.  "No."

"Daniel, my life is not worth all of yours.  I am the one he wants.  Once he knows that I am dead, he will leave."

"No!  We are not going to give you to him!"

"You bet we're not," Jack said.  "We don't do things like that."

Trying to be as careful as possible, Daniel pulled Egeria's upper body onto his lap, wrapping his arms around her to give her some of his warmth.  He stroked her cheek gently.  It felt cold and clammy, which told him that she was going into shock.  He felt so helpless, trapped in this lab as Egeria lay seriously wounded, unable to do anything to save her.  He knew that, if she died, the better part of him would die with her.

Daniel lowered his face closer to hers.  "I love you," he whispered.

One of her hands touched his face, though he could tell that the movement hurt her.

"I love you," she said back to him.  She caught his eyes.  "If I do not live, you must be strong, Daniel."

Tears flooded Daniel's eyes.  "No.  Don't say that.  You have to be all right.  I can't lose you."

"Daniel, please.  I must know that you are going to carry on without me.  Promise me."

Before Daniel could reply, she began to cough.  She turned her head to the side.  And then Daniel saw the blood.

"Sam!" he cried.

The major ran over.  Seeing that Egeria was coughing up blood, Sam told Daniel to lower her back to the floor.

Once Egeria stopped coughing, Sam wiped her mouth, then gave her a little water.  A short while later, she lost consciousness, her breathing ragged and labored.

Sam looked at Daniel.  "Her lung must be damaged.  I'm worried that it might collapse."  She paused, not wanting to say the next words, that she didn't think Egeria was going to survive much longer.  "Daniel—"

"No," he interrupted firmly, knowing what she was going to say.

"Daniel, if . . . if it happens, there's the sarcophagus."

"She'd have only eleven or twelve hours, Sam, maybe less before it would be too late.  How many hours are we going to have to wait here before we dare leave?  Then how long will it take us to get her down there?"

Jack stepped up to them.  "We'll get her there in time, Daniel.  I swear to you that we will."

"And what if it doesn't work even if we do?  We all know that it's been overused.  It could fail."

The others had no answer to that.

Grief welling up inside him, Daniel stared down at Egeria.  There had to be something he could do.  There had to be!

And then he knew.

Daniel's teammates watched as his gaze lifted to the chair across the room.  His face hardening with determination, he got to his feet and strode up to it.

"Daniel, what are you doing?" Sam asked.

"I'm getting us out of here."

"Daniel, you can't!  You don't know how to use that thing."

Ignoring her, the archeologist sat in the chair.  It immediately lit up and began to recline.  In the next moment, Daniel felt something connect with his mind, and, all at once, his senses expanded.  He felt the presence of the drones and knew how to make them work.

Blazing with golden light, two of the drones shot out of the tower, controlled by Daniel through a mental bond.  He used their sensors to search for the Ashrak, his eyes seeing what they saw.  Over the city they flew, looking for the smallest trace of the assassin.

And then Daniel felt it, or, rather, the drones did, an energy signature above the city, one that could only be coming from the engines of a ship.  At his command, the drones homed in on the craft, its cloak of invisibility worthless in hiding it from them.

A warning blared onboard the Tel'tak.  Shocked, the Ashrak looked up to see two brilliant balls of light heading straight toward his ship.  It was the last thing his eyes ever saw.

Down in the lab, Daniel sensed rather than witnessed the destruction of the Ashrak and his ship.  He opened his eyes and raised the chair to an upright position.

"He's dead," he announced coldly, feeling not the tiniest shred of regret over having taken a life.

His teammates shared a glance, their eyes then going back to Daniel as he left the chair and went to Egeria.  He lifted her into his arms and carried her over to the transporter.  The two of them were beamed away seconds later.

Jack turned to the scientists.  "Come on, boys.  You're going to have to leave your toys behind for now."

As quickly as possible, they got all of the scientists out of the lab.  They told the men to go back to camp and informed everyone else in the city that the danger was past, then gave instructions to SG-12 to contact the team at the Stargate and let them know that the TERs were no longer needed.

By the time Sam, Jack and Teal'c caught up to Daniel, he'd almost reached the place where the ATVs were parked.  Egeria hung limp and still in his arms.  The moment they saw her, they knew that she was gone.  When they saw the look in Daniel's eyes, they realized that he knew as well.

Daniel never let go of Egeria as he got on his ATV.  He sat her sidesaddle in front of him, tenderly holding her to his body, her head tucked under his chin and her legs draped over his left thigh.  It broke Sam's heart to see that.  The look on his face was one of both devastation and determination.  She, Jack and Teal'c all knew that he would not let anything on that planet or anywhere else in the universe stop him from getting Egeria to the sarcophagus.

The trip through the pass was made more slowly than normal out of necessity, Daniel unable to travel quickly with his burden.  As the hours passed, he felt Egeria's skin grow gradually colder, death stealing the warmth from her body.  The pain inside him was almost unbearable, a raw, bleeding wound.  His only hope lay with the sarcophagus, that it had not been used so much that it would no longer function.  If it didn't work, there would be nothing left for him.  He'd lived through the death of one woman he loved.  He didn't know if he could do it again.

When they reached the camp outside the city, they traded their ATVs for a horse-drawn wagon, unable to take the motorized vehicles into the city because of the danger of frightening any horses they passed.  Daniel sat in the back with Egeria in his arms, Sam beside him.  Jack and Teal'c were on the seat, the colonel at the reins.  He drove the wagon as quickly as he could safely do so, his eyes glancing often over his shoulder and down at Daniel and the woman in his arms.  The archeologist hadn't said a single word since his statement that the Ashrak was dead.  Jack didn't want to think about what was going to happen if the sarcophagus didn't work.

When they reached the sarcophagus, and the two men guarding it saw Egeria, they immediately stepped aside.  As Daniel placed her inside he was praying that it would work.

All four members of SG-1 waited tensely as the sarcophagus turned on, every one of them afraid that it would suddenly give out.  The minutes passed, none of them certain that it was actually working.

At last, the lid opened.  Daniel stared at Egeria, his heart in his throat.  And then her eyes fluttered open.  Not even giving her a chance to sit up, he scooped her out of the sarcophagus and crushed her to him, burying his face against her shoulder.  And that's when the tears came.

Feeling him trembling against her, his tears wetting her shirt, Egeria just held him.  She looked at his teammates and saw the smiles on their faces.

"Was I dead?" she asked.

"Yeah," Jack answered.

Daniel lifted his head and pressed a kiss against Egeria's lips.  She wiped his tears away and smiled into his eyes.

"I am well, Daniel.  All is well."  She returned her gaze to the others.  "What of the Ashrak?"

"He is dead," Teal'c replied.

"Come on," Jack said.  "We need to get home.  Hammond's going to want to know what happened."

All during the trip to the Stargate, Daniel never let go of Egeria, his emotions still raw.  He had come so close to losing her forever.  He knew that there would be nightmares in the days to come.

General Hammond listened somberly to SG-1's recount of what happened, his gaze going to Egeria, then Daniel when he learned of her death.  In the archeologist's eyes, the commander of Stargate Command could see the lingering traces of the anguish he had suffered.

"The fact is, sir, that we were incredibly lucky," Sam said.  "If that Ashrak hadn't been injured, he could have easily killed all four of us."

"But would he have?" Daniel asked.  "If his contract was to kill Egeria, would he have killed all of us if it wasn't necessary?"

"If an Ashrak has been sent to kill a specific individual, he will usually target only that person, although he will kill as many as are needed to complete his mission and escape," Teal'c replied.

Sam noticed a frown on Daniel's face.  "What is it, Daniel?"

"I was just thinking that, in that case, him being injured might have actually been worse for us.  If he hadn't been injured, he could easily have snuck up on us, killed Egeria, then been gone.  We could then have taken her to the sarcophagus.  Instead, he almost killed all of us in his efforts to get her."

Sam thought about it.  "I guess you do have a point.  It's kind of ironic, isn't it, that his injury might have actually made things worse for us."

"Maybe," Jack responded.  "Personally, I gotta think that Ashrak wouldn't have passed up the opportunity to kill all of us and score a few points with the Goa'uld."

"I guess that's something we'll never know," Daniel said.  "It doesn't really matter now.  He's dead, and we're not."

"Yes, and you demonstrated quite nicely how effective that Ancient weapon is."

"On that subject, Doctor Jackson, can you explain the process you used to control the drones?" Hammond asked.

"It was all done by mental command.  As soon as I sat in the chair, I felt my mind interface with the computers and control systems.  I could actually feel the drones and knew immediately how to make them work."

"That's amazing," Sam said.  "It also means that there is very likely no way at all for us to find another way to control those drones.  I wonder if that chair could be used to access all the data in those computers."

"That will have to wait, I'm afraid," Hammond responded.  "We have a far greater concern now, namely, who sent that Ashrak after Egeria."

"I fear that it could be one of many Goa'uld," the former queen replied.  "I am hated by all of them for what they perceived as a betrayal of our species.  Any one of them would rejoice in my death.  However, Ashraks will work only for a System Lord, so we need look no further than them."

"You know, I'm thinking that hiring one of those guys isn't Yu's style," Jack remarked.

Egeria nodded in agreement.  "You are correct.  I do not believe that it was him."

"Now, Ba'al, on the other hand, is just the kind of slime to do something like this.  My money's on him."

Daniel frowned.  "The point is that, whoever did it, when they find out that this Ashrak failed, they might send another one."

"And there's something else we need to think about," Sam said.  "The only way that Ashrak could have known that Egeria was on Egerania was if he came here first and found out from someone."

That was sobering news for everyone.

"How can we protect this base from someone who is invisible?" Jack wondered.

Sam thought of something.  "There might be a way, sir.  We could modify a TER to emit a broad beam, one that would cover the entire width of the corridor near the second checkpoint.  If we could get hold of one of those cloaking devices, I may be able to devise a sensor that will detect the unique energy signature and emit a warning, then activate the TER."

"Don't you have the one that the Ashrak at the Alpha Site used?" Daniel asked.

Sam shook her head.  "It was damaged when Bra'tac killed him."

"We also have to set up something to protect the guys at the checkpoint," Jack said.  "An Ashrak could take them out before they had a chance to shoot him."

"I am sorry that these things are necessary because of my presence here," Egeria said.

"Don't be sorry, Egeria," Sam told her.  "The truth is that we're lucky some Goa'uld never sent an Ashrak after us.  They're not exactly fans of ours."

Hammond nodded.  "Major Carter is correct, and she brings to light an oversight on my part.  After the incident with the Ashrak at the Alpha Site, I should have secured this base against infiltration by someone using one of those cloaking devices.  That oversight nearly proved fatal for all of you.  I intend to rectify it now."

"Okay, so how do we get one of those cloaking things?" Jack wanted to know.  "Goa'uld flea market?"

"The Tok'ra may be able to help with that," Sam replied.

"Does that mean that we have to tell them about the lab?" Daniel asked.

"I don't think so.  All we have to say is that Egeria was with us off-world.  We don't have to tell them where."

A sharp gasp from Egeria made everyone turn to her.

"What's wrong?" Daniel asked her.

"If the Goa'uld know about me, then it is likely that they also know that the Tok'ra have a new queen."

The archeologist was suddenly very worried.  "And the last thing that the Goa'uld would want would be for the Tok'ra to start swelling in numbers."  He turned to the general.  "We need to contact the Tok'ra immediately and warn them."

The Stargate at the Tok'ra base was dialed, and a message was sent through.  It didn't take long for the Tok'ra to respond.  Jacob and Ka'resh came through the gate.  In the briefing room, they were told about the Ashrak attack, although they were not told that Egeria had actually been killed by the man.

"This is quite distressing," the female High Council member said.  "You said in your message that you fear that Aranae is in grave danger.  You believe that she is the target of another Ashrak?"

"It wouldn't surprise us," Sam replied.  "The Goa'uld aren't going to want the Tok'ra's numbers to increase."

"The location of the world upon which our queen resides is known only to the High Council and a handful of other Tok'ra.  It is not even recorded in our computers."

Jack stared at the female Tok'ra.  "And are you willing to bet her life that that's enough to protect her?"

"Jack's right," Jacob said.  "There is no way to be absolutely certain that the Goa'uld will not find out where Aranae is."

"Then what do you suggest?" Ka'resh asked.

Sam told her and Jacob about their plans to protect the base against infiltration by a cloaked person.

"For the present time, we can have the TER active all the time, but that will eventually deplete the power," she said.  "We need to get hold of one of those cloaking devices so that I can make a sensor that can detect the energy signature.  If we can set up something like that for here, I don't see why you couldn't do the same for the base where Aranae is.  That won't protect her if the Goa'uld decide to send ships to blast the place, but at least it'll give you protection against a cloaked Ashrak."

"In the meantime, it might be safer to have Aranae stay here," Daniel suggested.

Jacob and Ka'resh shared a glance, both of them nodding slightly after a moment.  They turned back to the others.

"I think you're right," Jacob said.  "We'll have to clear it with the rest of the council, of course, but having Aranae stay here until we can get defenses put in place at the base would be the best course of action.  As for getting hold of a personal cloaking device, it won't be easy.  There aren't many out there, and any Goa'uld who has one doesn't advertise it.  But we'll do our best."

Jacob and Ka'resh returned to the Tok'ra base to talk to the other council members and to warn the secondary base that there could be a threat against Aranae's life.

As Sam went off to begin modifying one of the TERs, Egeria and the rest of SG-1 went to get some dinner.  The dark-haired woman could tell that Daniel was worried and knew that he feared for her safety.  She was concerned as well, although her fear was more for the safety of the daughter who had taken on the mantle of the Tok'ra queen.  Here on Earth, Egeria was more protected, but if the Goa'uld learned of Aranae's location, she would not be safe no matter what precautions were taken on that base.  Egeria knew about the destruction of the Tok'ra base on Revanna.  What the Goa'uld had done before, they could do again.

After finishing her meal, Egeria found out from Daniel what food Sam liked, then got something for the major.  Sam was grateful for the "room service" and snatched bites off the tray as she continued to work on the TER.

Egeria watched her work, admiring the display of the astrophysicist's intellect.

"Will it take much longer to complete?" she asked.

"No, not long.  I just need to make a few more adjustments."

"Good.  I know that Daniel is worried, and I am sure that installing that will ease is mind."

Sam looked up at her, hesitating before saying what was on her mind.  "I think it just about killed him when you died.  None of us knew for sure if the sarcophagus was going to work or if it would give out from overuse.  He never let go of you, not on the entire trip back to the city.  He carried you in front of him on the ATV."  She shook her head.  "I can't even imagine what that did to him, holding you for all those hours when you were dead.  I know what it would do to me if I'd been in his situation."

Egeria's throat tightened.  She had not known that Daniel carried her dead body on the long drive back to the city.

She said goodbye to Sam and went up one floor to the archeologist's office.  She found him working on his mission report.  When he looked up at her, she crossed the room, pulled him up out of the chair, and gathered him into her arms.  Wondering about the reason for the hug, Daniel quite willingly accepted it, pulling her close and resting his cheek on her hair.

After around half a minute, Egeria looked up at him.

"Samantha has told me about the journey back to the city, how you held me for all those hours."

Daniel's eyes immediately left hers.  He didn't want her to see the pain he felt when he thought about her death and the hours that followed.  But she was having none of that.  She cupped his cheek and turned his face back to hers.

"Do not hide your pain from me, Daniel."

He closed his eyes for a moment and gave an unsteady sigh.  "It hurt," he said in a low voice.  "When I realized that you were dead, I—"  He broke off, his voice cracking.  "I kept thinking, 'God, please not again.  I can't lose her, too.'"

"But you did not lose me, Daniel.  I am here, alive and well, thanks to you."  She searched his eyes.  "I know that you now fear for my safety."

Daniel separated from her and sat on the edge of the desk.  "I should have known this might happen.  I should have realized that, sooner or later, the Goa'uld would find out about you and might try to kill you.  I just wanted to believe that everything would be okay."

"This is not your fault, Daniel.  Please do not feel guilty over this."

Daniel stared at the floor.  "I had hoped that. . . ."


The archeologist let out a sigh.  "I'd hoped that, sooner or later, you'd be able to live off-base, and we could spend more time together at my place.  But, now, every time we leave this base, I'm going to worry that some invisible assassin is out there tracking us, waiting for the moment to strike."

"Daniel, we cannot allow our lives to be ruled by the fear that someone will come to kill me.  During all those years that I was in hiding from Ra, I knew that, at any time, he could find me, yet that did not stop me from doing things like taking a walk on a nice day or visiting people in a nearby village or town.  I will not let this situation prevent me from doing things with you like what we did on Monday or spend a night with you in your home.  I refuse to let this cheat us of those moments of joy."

Daniel pulled her back into his arms and kissed her.  He then rested his forehead against hers.

"I love you," he told her.  "I will do whatever is necessary to keep you safe . . . but you're right.  We can't let the threat from the Goa'uld control our lives.  I wouldn't give them that satisfaction."

Egeria smiled and pressed another kiss to his lips.  "Good.  Then, on your next leave, we can go to Rome."

Daniel returned the smile.  "You bet."

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