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22 June 2009 @ 05:55 pm
SG-1 Fic: A Loose Bolt in a Complete Machine (PG-13) (3/5)  
Fandom: Stargate: SG-1
Title: A Loose Bolt in a Complete Machine (3/5)
Author: Em
Rating: PG-13 for language and violence
Word Count: ~50,000 (in 5 parts)
Pairing: Jack/Daniel
Summary: SG-1 returns to Tekhne to extract Gerard, the inventor of the Vinculum (in Jack-speak, "internet in the brain"). But the mission goes south when Daniel is captured. Unable to remember where he is or what mission he was on, Daniel faces mental and physical abuse that threatens to break him. Can SG-1 rescue him before his mind completely cracks? Why is it Daniel they're after? And won't anyone believe that Jack's receiving messages from him?

Continued from Part 2.



* * *


Jack's minute had taken longer than Gerard's and ended in a hole in one of the walls. Gerard said it didn't matter since they'd have to move to a different apartment, but Jack tried to keep Carter from wandering into the kitchen all the same.

"Not much has changed," Gerard told them as they geared up for reconnaissance. Dawes had moved from his previous base, taking a page from Gerard's book about staying mobile. "Henley and Dawes are still dead-locked. Henley has control of the government and the Vinculum, but Dawes causes enough problems to keep Henley from consolidating his control."

"No one's had enough down time to make any advances with the Vinculum," Carter clarified.

"They've been too concerned with defense and offense." Gerard sighed. "Though I'm surprised Henley hasn't made any headway if he has my brother. He didn't understand the electronics, but the interface between the nanites and the synapses was his design."

"And that's what they'd need to exploit, right? To be able to track individuals?" Carter had a better grasp on this than Jack did even though he had the damn nanites in his head and could look up half of this history through the Vinculum.

"Not quite," Gerard said. "There's still a base code that would need to be altered. But the way the nanites interact is unique to each person, so it's part of it, yes."

Carter shook her head. "I'm impressed. I can't imagine the technology involved with creating that kind of interface." She smiled, tucking her laptop into her bag, once again trying to play nice with the science natives.

"Well, it helps when your technology is already to that level." Gerard smiled back; it was the first time Jack had seen him actually smile—it was kind of terrifying, really, all toothy like he hadn't smiled in a long time and had forgotten how to.

"If you are so proud of your advanced technology, why do you look upon the past?" Teal'c frowned at the view screen hanging on the wall. It probably bothered him that he couldn't keep watch from the window; the same thing had been bothering Jack since they'd picked up with Gerard. The lack of windows made everything seem more oppressive—plus it was a tactical disadvantage.

"Nostalgia Screens," Gerard said. He stood up and touched the screen like it was a window. The way Gerard gazed through the window, it reminded Jack of a man who was watching his wife walk away, watching his life end.

Gerard turned from the window sharply. "Our technology took a sharp turn towards nanotechnology and the populace took a sharp turn towards the past. People dressed in fashions long dead, they burned gas lamps, corporations built mechanical horses to draw carriages in the streets. . . . Nostalgia Screens allowed people to believe they lived in another time—while the technology that would lead to their demise grew closer and closer, becoming more and more refined and deadly."

"Do you really believe that?" Carter cocked her head, clearly not willing to turn technology into the villain here.

"I have respect for technology and knowledge. I don't think the Vinculum is a bad idea, just . . . it was too easy to exploit it." Gerard frowned.

"I still can't feel Daniel," Jack said, turning the subject away from how the Vinculum could be abused (he needed to think about that later—and stop cataloguing all the ways Gerard's invention could screw up Jack's favorite planet). "It's been hours. I thought he'd be back online, or whatever, by now."

"They're probably using blockers. Dawes knows I'll be looking for him—that you'll be looking for him." Gerard touched a corner of the window and the gas lamps extinguished, the glinting bronze that lined the streets and signs turned gray, and then the whole view screen went black. Gerard stayed looking at the black screen for a long moment—like he was mourning a forgotten time.

Will Daniel know I'm looking for him? The question was utterly unprofessional and not the kind of thing he could say in front of his team, but Gerard already knew how Jack was compromised when it came to Daniel.

Gerard looked at Jack. "He probably won't be able to contact us." But he might still be able to hear you.

Jack nodded at Gerard's IM, and spent the rest of the evening as they crawled through tunnels and came up empty-handed trying not to be too distracted as he thought at Daniel, telling him over and over again that he was coming for him. Just hang on, Jack thought to him, You know me; I'll come for you.

* * *


It had been weeks, Daniel thought. It was hard to keep time when everything seemed like morning even though it was always dark. Plus he wasn't sure he was sleeping through every night, but every time he woke up, guards came, fed him, and put him to work.

The restraints were new, though.

They put on the restraints—heavy metal manacles—when they came for Daniel in the morning, removing them only after they'd arrived at the excavation site. Daniel supposed he'd put up a fight one time too many. The first few times, he'd let them punch him, not fighting back, but then he'd heard Jack's voice in his head, like a fire in his skin. The will to fight, to rebel, all summed up in the voice of one man, whispering, "Don't let them do this to you. You're better than this. You're more stubborn than I am."

He'd lashed out then, kicked and punched, his arms pin-wheeling wildly so that they couldn't hold him down easily. It was comforting when they fought back, like Daniel still had some modicum of control. He punched, so they had to punch. It was a barbaric form of communication, but it was something.

Rough hands gripped his skin, pinching the tight flesh as they shackled his wrists. He'd lost some muscle tone in the few weeks, but not his strength; years of fighting Jaffa, of training with Teal'c and Jack, don't fade so easily. When he fought back, three burly guards had to hold him down and hit him until he was unconscious. He guessed Jack would approve that he fought back so hard, but maybe not that he fought back so often. Daniel's precious brain was filled with lots of languages and lost knowledge. It was filled with pieces of his life, too, memories that had slowly flitted back to him after he'd been Ascended, like Sam's favorite flavor of Jell-o and the feel of the scarred leather notebook that saved him in a knife fight in Egypt. He still had holes, lots of holes, and a missing year—a whole year that Oma wouldn't give him back—but he thought maybe he was getting more holes. It was holey. Holier. "Holier than thou" was what Jack called him once. It was during some verbal altercation about some culture, or Jack not listening, or Daniel not listening, or whatever they always fought about. For some reason it stuck with Daniel that Jack said that about him once upon a time. Maybe it was because the Goa'uld always acted "holier than thou" and Daniel didn't want to act like a Goa'uld. Acting like a Goa'uld was bad.

His face stung, sharp from a slap, and Daniel blinked, only now realizing that he'd been muttering to himself as they shuffled him along the hallway. He closed his mouth, wanting them to take him on to the dig. They were outside the peltac, and Daniel thought they could make it into the antechambers—if not to the actual peltac—today.

Of course he couldn't tell anyone this, since he wasn't allowed to speak.

The guards brought in the other men after they unshackled Daniel—it was just the two men who'd been there on Daniel's first day. They were good at moving the debris, and they took nonverbal direction well. It was almost as though they responded to Daniel's thoughts, but whenever Daniel tried to communicate something other than "move that" or "more light," they seemed to not hear him.

The ha'tak had crashed some time ago, though they hadn't run across any bodies yet. They weren't far enough inside to check for escape pods (though those wouldn't help Daniel while the ha'tak was on the ground). Maybe the crew had escaped in a Stargate on board. . . .

"Could be a possible escape route," the Jack in his head noted.

It was weird to have Jack in his head. He'd had Jack in his head before, but that was different. (Wasn't it? Maybe it wasn't because this felt so similar.) Before Jack had been like emotional text in his head—something that could be blocked out if Daniel really wanted privacy. (But with Jack, why would he?) But now this was Jack's voice, Jack's thoughts, Jack's being all in Daniel's head with no Jack. It was Jack bloomed from Daniel, and that was weird.

A whip cracked over his shoulders, the long leather thong cutting into the back of his shirt. The guards pushed him towards the wall, the other men moving as well. Daniel shuffled forward, his latest injuries (a twisted ankle of all things) slowing him marginally. The doors parted and two guards brought in a woman. Daniel blinked at her. She reminded him of Sha're in many ways—she was older than her years, had obviously seen horrors beyond what her young age should have experienced. Her eyes were set in dark circles, her hair a matted mess of brown curls. She curved her shoulders inward, but there was something in her eyes that wasn't fear—like she was just acting.

The guards pushed her forward and she stumbled. A sympathetic pang lanced through Daniel, regardless of his first impression. (It was like someone had pressed a button, though, like the emotion wasn't real. Of course he'd been hearing Jack, so maybe Daniel wasn't the best judge of "real" at the moment.)

The doors shut, the guards moved away from Daniel, and work resumed as normal. One of the guards held a tool belt out to the woman. It was like the one Daniel had except hers had a spade. (His had been removed after he tried to stab one of the guards. The Jack in his head had cheered and whooped, "Guess all those self-defense skills came back intact.") The guard who handed her the tool belt nudged her forward until she stumbled and moved. She kept moving until she reached the wall where Daniel was crouching, watching her from his peripheral vision.

Some part of Daniel triggered him forward, the compassion sparking in his mind but not his chest. He held his hand out, his lips curving only slightly (he'd been beaten nearly every time he laughed, though normally that was because he was laughing at the guards). He hoped the kind words he wanted to say were evident on his face: "It'll be okay. I'm not going to hurt you."

She glanced over her shoulder, the guards shifting slightly, turning to each other. Her mouth opened slowly, her lips carefully formed the words. "I'm Amelia."

Daniel held up his brush and pointed to her tool belt.

She caught on quickly and located the same brush in her belt, holding it up.

Daniel nodded and then spread his palms, indicating for her to squat as he was. She squatted beside him and then leaned over slightly, whispering, "What are we doing?"

Daniel shook his head slightly, and brushed at the wall in front of them. He'd been carefully brushing away the dirt from one of the control panels. He didn't know if it was operational, but he figured that uncovering it would not only kill time but might provide an advantage if their captors didn't understand the technology. (Who knew what they would do with Goa'uld weapons; he shuddered to think of them getting the Goa'uld pain sticks.)

She brushed at the wall in the same careful way Daniel did. Her skin was pale, her hand movements slow and controlled. There was little about her that seemed shy. Dexterous—that was what she evoked—an intense dexterity in all things.

He felt her eyes on him, but couldn't warn her that the guards tended to punch when he didn't look at his work. He snapped his fingers, trying to draw her eyes back to the control panel, but she opened her mouth at the same time. "What's your name?"

The guards turned at the sound, one of them moving over quickly, his large limbs swinging with his momentum. Daniel turned quickly when the guard raised his arm, jumping to his feet, getting in between Amelia and the guard's fist.

"You can't help being the hero." Jack's voice had a laugh in it, but Daniel was seeing stars. The guard hit Daniel again and his vision blurred black. He landed on all fours and Jack snarled, the snarl rising up until it was coming out of Daniel's mouth. He didn't get up; he didn't fight back any more.

Amelia was frozen beside him, her eyes wide; the brush was loose in her fingers. One guard grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. When she steadied he let her go and she rocked back on her heels. The guard kicked Daniel, but not with any force, more a physical way of saying, "Get back to work."

Daniel pushed up, willing his bruised muscles to contract, to lift him upright.

"Better do as he grunts." Jack's sarcasm brought a smile to Daniel's face, which he hid behind a grimace.

He picked up his brush and went back to dusting away the dirt. He pointed at the wall when he saw Amelia hadn't moved. She jumped like she'd been daydreaming and his movement had brought her back to herself. She knelt next to him and mimicked his motions.

"No talking," he breathed.

She glanced over her shoulder, her hand continuing to move in short flicks. "Thank you." Her lips barely moved, already adept at moving and speaking with economy.

"Daniel," he said. She tilted her head, her eyebrows knitting for a moment, and then a smile lit in her eyes and she went back to work.

Daniel shook his head, trying to get rid of the last of the blurred vision and ignore Jack's totally inappropriate and unnecessary words, "Too young for you, Daniel."

He closed his eyes, thinking at Jack: Then come save me.

* * *


Jack startled awake, Daniel's message loud and blinking in his head. Then come save me, it said. It had been two days with nothing from Daniel and then this, a clear message: come save me. Fuck.

They'd radioed the SGC before moving to a new apartment. Hammond wasn't entirely satisfied with their current status, but he'd agreed when Jack refused the search-and-rescue team. They had seventy-two hours to find Daniel and get off the planet. A rescue was implied, but Jack knew from experience that rescues couldn't always be provided.

He rolled up off the couch, earning a raised eyebrow from Teal'c, and waved it off. Teal'c had been keeping watch while Jack and Carter scored some rack time. Gerard slept less than any SG-team member Jack had ever met. Though Jack assumed that if he'd been hunted and surviving by himself for five or six years, he'd get used to sleeping as little as possible, too.

In the kitchen, Gerard was at the tiny table, a small device in front of him and in about a hundred different parts.

"Can't sleep?" Jack asked a similar question every time he woke up and saw Gerard still awake. He wasn't sure if it was a joke now or not.

Gerard shook his head, answering absently. "Sleep and I don't get on so well."

"I can imagine." Jack picked up one of the nuts—it was amazing how technology developed on worlds a galaxy apart and yet they still needed lug nuts to hold their advanced shit together. "I think I got a message from Daniel."

"Think?" Gerard put down his silver wand tool and looked up at Jack.

"Eh, I was asleep. I just. . . ." Jack lowered his voice. "I don't want to get everyone thinking it's him and then find out I was just having a dream."

Gerard nodded. "The Vinculum can make dreams more vivid. That's one of the reasons why I advised against installing the Vinculum in teenagers."

"Plus you don't have any parental blockers on this thing," Jack joked.

"What?"

He shook his head, holding up a hand. "Never mind. Can you trace the message or confirm it was Daniel or something?"

Gerard nodded. "Share it with me."

It still freaked Jack out a little that his brain was essentially the internet. Hacking Daniel's mind aside, Jack had enough trouble keeping track of his emails and ordering Christmas gifts online for Carter and Daniel. Plus he didn't think he had a very good firewall or whatever, to keep people out of his head. He should probably see if Gerard would teach him some defense or install anti-virus for his brain since the complications on Tekhne had grown more complicated and they'd be here longer.

It wasn't a stretch to say that Jack hated this planet.

Gerard shook his head after a few moments. "I think it's Daniel, but the signal's degraded, like someone's putting it through the wringer and his message just barely eked through. He's probably projecting constantly, like, um, his thoughts are turned to eleven?" Gerard wrinkled his nose and Jack could tell he'd pulled the expression from Jack's thoughts.

"And someone's tamping down his thoughts?"

Gerard nodded, frowning.

Jack felt his blood turn to ice, the block settling in his stomach. "He's being interrogated."

Gerard bit his lip and then picked up the silver wand, holding it to one nut. The nut spun and when Gerard touched the same wand to a screw, the nut attached itself, spinning until it was tight and in place.

"He probably doesn't know he's being interrogated." Gerard's voice was soft, like if maybe he didn't say it loudly it wouldn't be true (or maybe just that Jack wouldn't freak out about it).

"Dawes didn't do that enough the last time we were here?" Jack lifted himself onto the counter, the flat black surface warming suddenly.

"Uh." Gerard pointed to the stove. "The button there."

"Wha—? Shit." He hopped off the stove and pushed a couple buttons until he found the one that turned off the burner.

Gerard kicked out the other chair at the table. "Perhaps something more civilized?" The corners of his mouth turned up in a smirk.

Jack smirked back and pulled the chair out, spinning it around and straddling it just to be contrary.

Gerard covered his smile and connected a few more bits of machinery, quietly watching the bits connect themselves together. Jack could easily tell why Gerard found this as restful as sleeping. Jack had heard Daniel muse once about a philosophy that some blocks of marble had statues within them, like it was the marble's destiny to be Michelangelo's David or to carry the sorry visage of some crazy Goa'uld. The way Gerard made the nuts and bolts move, Jack could believe it was true. Like this pile of metal was destined to become whatever Gerard was building and Jack and Gerard were just lazily observing.

"Dawes was interested in Daniel, I think," Gerard finally said. "He sent people after him once. Well, I guess after him—they were at the Stargate and they dialed Earth."

"Yeah, I know. We locked out the IDC we used while we were here, but recorded when it was transmitted again." Jack twisted his lips and looked away. "We have an iris on our 'gate."

"I know," Gerard said. "The men Dawes sent through died."

Jack nodded. There were times when he loved the iris and other times when he had to face what it actually did.

"He doesn't hold that against you. He's not out for revenge. That's. . . ." Gerard sighed and put the wand down. "Derek's not motivated like that."

Jack raised his eyebrow. "Derek? You're on a first name basis with him?"

Gerard half-smiled, that guarded look in his eyes, like he was holding back a whole wealth of information that might change Jack's mind about him. "I used to work with the government," Gerard reminded him. "And Derek did as well. We used to—well, we agreed somewhat on certain things, and disagreed sharply on others."

"What did you agree on?"

"That Henley wasn't the best man to lead the government. That there needed to be a change. That there could be a better way." Gerard shuffled in his seat and picked up the wand again, this time moving more purposely and faster.

Jack nodded. "I can guess where some of your agreements ended."

Gerard scoffed.

"What was so interesting about Daniel, though? I mean, he sent people through the Stargate for him?" Jack leaned back and scratched his head. Sure, he'd go through the 'gate after Daniel, but he was a little invested in the archaeologist.

"I don't know," Gerard admitted. "He's a natural with the Vinculum; strong minded, but I can't imagine Dawes would chase him down just because of that. There are plenty of people here adept with the Vinculum."

Jack rubbed his chin. "Strategic information about Earth or the planets we've visited?"

"Your mind's easier to hack." Gerard's mouth opened in a surprised "oh," like he hadn't meant to say that out loud. "Sorry."

Jack shrugged; it was true. As hardheaded as he was, Daniel was twice as stubborn. His persistence was one of the things that had drawn Oma to him. It was one of the things that had allowed Daniel to Ascend. Oma, Ascension . . . balls.

Jack covered his face, trying to think back over the years, figure out exactly when they'd first learned about Ascension, when they'd been here, if Daniel had known then. . . .

"Ascension?" Gerard asked.

Jack looked up, meeting Gerard's guilty gaze. He waved it off. "I'm easy to hack, I get it."

"Sorry," Gerard mumbled again.

"Have you heard anything about Ascension? Anything from Dawes?" That would explain a lot, actually. It was insanely frustrating; it seemed more and more like everything in the universe came back to the Ancients and all their special-ness.

"No, but Dawes is pretty good at keeping me out, and every time I've hacked him, he's traced me. I won't—" Gerard looked up and met Jack's eyes. "I won't do that unless I have to. It's stupid and risky."

"Stupid and risky are pretty much par for the course in my plans."

"Yes, I know." Gerard frowned.

"Knowing why—or probably why—makes me feel better at least," Jack admitted. It wouldn't really help them—except maybe when Dawes found out that Daniel didn't really know much more about Ascension than he did the last time he was here.

"You know a bargaining chip," Gerard agreed. He manually connected a few of the lug nuts, not tightening them all the way.

Jack heaved a sigh. "Too bad the bargaining chip is a dead end."

"What?"

Jack shook his head. "Not important. So, interrogation, huh? Fun times."

Gerard raised his eyebrow mouthing the words, "Fun times?"

"So he has Daniel set to broadcast or something?"

Gerard shrugged. "I'm not sure what he's doing. Daniel's pretty strong—"

"Tough nut to crack," Jack commented.

"Right. So even setting him in the Open Network wouldn't really work. Besides, Dawes wouldn't be able to make Daniel hear the questions over his own thoughts."

Jack raised an eyebrow.

Gerard waved his hand. "I told you to shut off for a reason. Open Networks not only amplify your thoughts on the Vinculum and send them out to any receivers in the area, but they make it more difficult to receive and therefore know that someone's approaching you."

Jack nodded, pursing his lips. "Handy security alarm they have."

Gerard nodded. "Yeah, I invented that, too." He shook his head. "There's so much now that I question. Why did I invent the Open Network? Why did I even invent the Vinculum? Worse: why did I let Henley have it when I knew what he'd do with it?"

Jack shook his head, knowing some of the answers, but also knowing that Gerard didn't actually want answers. It was the same way as when Daniel asked why he hadn't taken Sha're with them to the cartouche room, and when Jack asked himself why he'd left his gun where Charlie could get to it.

"The Open Network wouldn't be useful for interrogation. He'd get more creative." Gerard rubbed his cheek, his skin turning red from the friction.

"But he's still broadcasting, you said. Wouldn't Dawes try to, you know, stop that?"

"Maybe he's not concerned about it? It's been two days and this is the first message you've gotten. Maybe . . . maybe Daniel's distracted—or can't remember how to use the Vinculum." Gerard's head tilted to the side, his hand stalling against his cheek.

Or he's in too much pain, Jack thought, his stomach sinking. He pushed aside that sickening thought. "How would you interrogate someone?"

"Oh." Gerard sat back. "I don't know. I've never, I mean, interrogation, I haven't. . . ."

Jack narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. "You've been on the run for what, six years, and have never interrogated anyone?"

Gerard's mouth snapped shut suddenly. "There was a time. . . ." He seemed to think about what he was going to say. "I never had a problem hacking in," he finally said. "And I never had the pleasure to interrogate someone like Dawes or Daniel—someone who's actually adept with the Vinculum."

"How would you do it?" Jack repeated.

Gerard was quiet for a long moment and then leaned over his machine parts, studying them as he spoke quickly and quietly. "I'd distract his mind while I went into his subconscious and planted questions. I'd take my time." He looked up at Jack. "He wouldn't know what was happening to him," he repeated, though this time it sounded more ominous.

"Where is he?" Jack asked.

Gerard shrugged. "Tomorrow we'll start looking in South City. I think we've checked Lower City thoroughly enough—besides, I think I'd know if Dawes was lurking around here."

"Home turf?"

Gerard nodded. "Before everything—the Vinculum, the revolution, the bombs—I had a machine shop. It wasn't much, but it was mine."

Jack nodded. "I know how that is. I was retired once; planned to move out to a cabin in Minnesota. Just me and the fish."

"Fish?" Gerard asked.

Jack smirked. "And I thought you'd question Minnesota."

Gerard shrugged. "Some things come through clearer on the Vinculum than others."

"Yeah." Jack understood that. He couldn't get a message to Daniel and he couldn't get a location on Daniel, but he knew one thing about Daniel—he needed Jack to save him.

* * *


Daniel worked side by side with Amelia, and their quiet partnership deepened. She anticipated his needs, rather than reacting to him, clearing away debris before Daniel even realized it needed to be moved. She had an eye like an archaeologist, like she knew how to uncover things. He wondered what her life was like before all this, if she'd been an archaeologist or if she'd just been a barista or a wife or a lawyer, an artist.

The questions piled in his head and sometimes he couldn't hold them in any longer. He muttered to himself, speculations about Amelia and the two other male prisoners, speculations about the Goa'uld who once ruled this ha'tak, the people he or she had subjugated, the Jaffa that had served them, what had brought down the ship. He muttered in Ancient or Spanish, German, sometimes Russian, just so he could think freely without being beaten by the guards. They seemed to think the other languages were just babbling and that Daniel was coming unhinged.

They weren't wrong. Sometimes he babbled. That was what Jack had said. "Daniel, focus; you're babbling again."

Daniel didn't mean to babble.

As they moved closer to the peltac, Daniel got a clearer picture of the history of the ship. A Goa'uld hand reader was found under some girders. The page-turning device was shattered, but Daniel could still read the first page—a set of gate coordinates and the location of an attack. The gate address seemed familiar—maybe even a recent mission, though he couldn't put the address to a planet with a Goa'uld presence. He pretended the whole of the page meant nothing (not that anyone asked—no one spoke to him except for Amelia) and set the reader to the side, planning to keep an eye out for another page-turner.

Daniel was confident that when they pushed forward, they'd find a weapons store. If the ship had been on the way to an attack—or was returning with information—it was certain to be well-stocked with weapons. He could picture the rows of staff weapons, the boxes of zats. He was always the first to make headway into new areas—he'd been able to explain once that it was to test the wall integrity. But in an armory, he'd be able to requisition a weapon and could hole up in the room until he'd killed all the guards, until he was free.

"That's thinking!" Jack said. "That's the way to keep thinking! Is there an armory off the peltac, or should we redirect their focus? We should be looking for the weapons."

Daniel wasn't sure; he couldn't remember. Maybe Oma had taken the memory.

"Oma took all the good stuff," Jack muttered. "You even forgot how to blow me."

Daniel blinked hard, not quite believing that Jack would say that—especially that Jack would say that on a mission in front of armed guards.

"I'm just a voice in your head, Danny-boy. Get your panties out of a twist."

Daniel rubbed at his eyes, then his temple. Having Jack in his head was wearing on him.

"Come on, Daniel. Focus. The armory: where would it be?"

The anger pooled in Daniel unexpectedly, the feeling suddenly flooding his system. "I don't know, Jack. I already said: I don't know!"

A fist struck Daniel's cheek and his head snapped to the side. He didn't realize he'd spoken aloud again. Sometimes he forgot and responded to Jack. Usually he could keep his muttering back to Jack in Spanish (the one other language Jack mostly remembered), but sometimes he slipped because he imagined Jack next to him with a shovel and a snarl and Daniel couldn't help but yell.

Yelling at Jack felt normal.

Normal was what kept Daniel sane.

"Calm down, Daniel. We'll work on the plan. There's time, there's time."

Daniel wasn't sure there was time. He was hallucinating Jack, for crying out loud. Maybe he'd get out, but how much would there be left to save.

"You're still all there." Jack smiled, friendly and open the way he got with small kids and dogs.

Not all there, Daniel thought. Oma sent him home with holes. He was missing things. Something big, he was missing something big—something bigger than what Oma took. He felt it just on the edge, like if he just reached out he'd be able to actually touch it.

He looked at Amelia and his vision jumped as Amelia went from looking bruised and dirty to sharp and severe. When he blinked she was normal again, but everything else was off—like it had been paused, the colors muted like in an aged painting. He was missing something big—

Daniel dropped his trowel and went down.

* * *


A blow to Daniel's ribs jerked him awake. The guards shoved his trowel into his palm as they hauled him to his feet, holding him upright until he gained his footing. He blinked at the excavation site, trying to focus on the task at hand. He must have been out for just a minute. Usually when he blacked out they took him to his cell and he woke up there. Just like rebooting the machine, he always started back at the login screen. He blinked harder, the details coming more into focus: the rocks spattered with his blood (his?); the pain in his temple; Amelia looking scared, a purple bruise over her eye, her right arm cradled to her chest; Jack waving at him like an idiot.

"Rise and shine."

He snorted at Jack as the guards moved him past, his feet finally finding themselves so he could stand on his own. He raised his hand (the one not holding the trowel—he'd learned that lesson quickly enough) and the guards released his arms. He touched his hand to his temple, his fingertips coming away wet with blood.

Amelia didn't look at him as he approached her. She'd been hit the day before for doing that, but the bruise over her eye was new, had just happened. Daniel remembered now. It was why she was cradling her arm to her chest. One of the guards had grabbed it and pulled. Hadn't he heard a crack before he'd stepped in, rescued her again?

"She looks all right. Mostly," Jack said.

Daniel tapped her shoulder, gesturing her to a different job, something sitting on the floor that she could easily do one-handed. Usually he saved those jobs for himself—nursing bruised ribs, swollen ankles, damaged knees ("You're still three knee surgeries behind me," Jack joked)—because he was beaten more often than the others.

"You resist more than the others." Jack smiled fondly.

The two men—Daniel hated not knowing their names—resisted through their dirty looks. They rarely actually fought back, but they glared, the frustration and anger not yet beaten out of them. They were both younger than Daniel, and could be brothers, but Daniel wasn't sure why he thought that. They had dark hair, but different faces—well, Daniel suspected they had different faces, the scars on their cheeks and bruises that changed every day made it difficult to tell. But they way they moved around each other—there was a familiarity in their moves, a certain synchronicity that only came from moving around a person for years.

Jack folded his arms, raising his eyebrow. "Remind you of anyone you know?"

Daniel mumbled, "Shut up," when the guards moved away.

Amelia looked up at him sharply when he spoke, but he shook his head slightly, closing his eyes, and she went back to her work.

People should have names, Daniel knew. Even if they were prisoners and the names Daniel gave them weren't what they called themselves, people should have names. Names gave power, naming things gave power. Daniel could use all the power he could muster.

"I feel like I've lost all my power over you. Will it help if I start calling you 'geek'?"

Daniel glared over his right shoulder, seeing Jack and not the guard standing behind him.

Daniel realized with some clarity that the longer they all stayed here, the less human they would become. Something was eating away at each of them, chipping away at their compassion and will, their empathy and emotion. The way the two men snarled at the guards—and sometimes each other, Daniel admitted—the empty look in Amelia's eyes, the way her movements sometimes ceased entirely: they all were losing something important. Daniel still had Jack.

Daniel watched the men, sneaking glances throughout the day, running through names in his head. Originally he avoided the Egyptian names that sprang to mind, but as he continued to watch, he realized those weren't the names he was considering at all. They were the names he thought he should consider—again, like someone else was in his head, thinking his thoughts, trying to select the ideas Daniel should choose, trying to influence him, or steer him away from his own ideas.

No, the names that came to his mind were natural, like he knew their names, their real names.

Jacob.

Gerard.

The names swam in Daniel's mind, feelings and images attached to them. His mind felt huge and unconnected, like his thoughts were everywhere, could be anything, that he could know whatever he wanted if he just asked.

Where am I? he asked the stream that surrounded his thoughts. A topographical map sprang to his vision, a single yellow dot flashing beneath the surface. I don't understand, he said again and the map overlaid with plans of a city and then pictures of ruins. Underground, he knew that, but there were no signs of a crashed mother ship. There should be a disturbance, or markings on the topographic map. Something!

"Daniel, focus! Focus!"

His trowel struck the guard's arm—when had he raised his hand? Jack winced; they both knew what came next.

The guard struck Daniel across the face and Amelia went sprawling. "Was she hit?" Jack asked.

Gerard moved out of the way, but Jacob stepped forward. The other guard stepped in front of them, blocking Daniel's view of them, but he could hear the sounds of flesh striking flesh. He could hear the way Gerard cried out. The way Jacob groaned after a punch.

Daniel was hit again across the face, his neck getting whiplash. He didn't have time to think about Jacob and Gerard, he couldn't cry for them, and like this—when this was happening—he couldn't think of them as people, couldn't care about what happened to them. He had just enough left to care about himself.

"You don't care about yourself any more," Jack snapped. "It's why you saved those damn Kelownans. You don't care about yourself. I care about you. I've always cared about you."

"At least you're good for something." Daniel's lip split open on the next blow. Jacob and Gerard must have been knocked unconscious because three guards focused on Daniel.

Daniel fell, his head hitting so hard that it bounced off the stone floor. He felt something snap or pop or squish and it felt like his resolve breaking. He wasn't unconscious, but he wasn't moving. He was okay, not badly hurt (been hurt worse, much worse, been dead). He was just . . . still.

"Get up!" Jack screamed.

Daniel closed his eyes, seeing fireworks behind his lids. Like the fireworks display Jack took him to just after he descended. Jack kept talking about the Fourth of July displays his dad had put together for all the people vacationing over the summer at the lake in Minnesota, but Daniel didn't have many childhood memories of fireworks. Or maybe he did but he couldn't remember them at the time. Things came back slowly after he descended, and the less recent it was, the slower it came to him.

The fireworks now streaked yellow, pink, and green that almost faded into the black.

"Daniel! Get up!" Jack ordered, but Daniel didn't much feel like taking Jack's orders. "You will not die here. You will not die like this. Damn it, Daniel! I'm coming for you!"

Daniel could see Jack standing over him; could see Jack's face turning red, the anger in his eyes, the spittle just catching at the corner of his mouth like a pimple.

He just wanted to play dead. He wanted to lie there and let the guards take him back to his cell, wanted to go to sleep without being beaten until he was unconscious. He just wanted to shut down on his own for once.

He stayed still and then let his body go limp when the next blow came. He relaxed entirely, letting his mind float, his thoughts quiet and to himself. Even Jack shut up.

"You don't have to keep doing this," Amelia said, her voice hard and forceful. He almost flinched—Amelia shouldn't get hurt, not while he was just playing dead.

"She can take care of herself," Jack whispered. Daniel felt like Jack was brushing his brow, gently touching his bruises and tutting over the mess they'd made of his face.

Daniel felt something, like words with no voice. It was commanding and made his flesh prickle, which he hoped no one would notice.

The words said, "Then find another way."

Another way to what, Daniel wondered. Had this happened every time he passed out? Were there always voiceless words floating around?

"There's always a motive, Danny-boy," Jack said. Daniel hated when Jack called him "Danny-boy." Jack knew that.

The reset came in an instant, Daniel flicking off unbidden, but sure when he woke in his cell that he'd just been in the peltac a moment before. There were rings in the peltac he rationalized. He must have been transported by the rings.

* * *


Jack jerked awake from the dream. He'd been falling asleep more often than usual, dozing off in armchairs while waiting for Carter and Teal'c to return from recon, sleeping more soundly through the night, one time he'd leaned against a wall during dinner and the next thing he knew Carter was gently shaking him awake. Every time he woke up, though, he could feel Daniel with him, just on the edge of his thoughts, more than a dream—it was Daniel, Daniel's thoughts, essence, his . . . him.

This time, Jack was sure he'd gotten through, maybe even gotten lucky.

"Sir?" Carter was poised over him, a blanket in her hands, her P-90 still slung over her shoulder.

"Carter." He blinked, letting his eyes adjust to the light a little more completely, trying not to lose the topographical map that had popped up in his mind, trying to file that and the other images he was positive had come from Daniel in a folder marked "urgent."

"I didn't mean to wake you. You were out when Teal'c and I got back and I just thought. . . ." She held up the blanket.

"No. I woke up on my own." Jack waved it off, taking the blanket from her hands and setting it to the side. "What's going on out there?"

Carter shook her head. "Not much, sir. We were in the tunnels all around the area, but there hasn't been much movement."

"The Vinculum?" Jack sat up, putting his boots on the ground, realizing now that his leg had fallen asleep from the awkward position in the chair. He rubbed his thigh, trying to get the circulation going again.

"Gerard said it's been normal traffic." Carter sat on the coffee table where Jack's feet had been. "Sir, are you all right?"

"What?" Jack looked up meeting her eyes. Carter had dark circles under her eyes, circles that made Jack feel guilty. He'd been passed out half the time and she'd taken up the slack, been the one worrying and setting up recon missions with Teal'c. She was worth more than her weight in naquadah, especially in weird high-pressure situations like this.

"You've been sleeping. A lot. It's. . . . I didn't know if maybe it was stress." Carter looked away and bit her lip. "I know it's . . . Daniel," she hesitated before saying his name, adding weight to that rock in Jack's stomach. "It's hard not to think about the last time he went missing."

"There are similarities, but this is different," Jack said gruffly. He stood up, ignoring the pain in his leg. "What is out there? 'No movement' isn't much of a report." He needed to pull his act together, make it clear that he wasn't getting dragged down by this, that he was still in command . . . that he wasn't compromised by his feelings for Daniel.

"We searched the tunnels on the south end." Carter pulled up a map on her laptop and pointed to an area that was highlighted yellow. "It's caved in here and here." Carter indicated the cave-ins on the map, placing X icons on the tunnel. "So we didn't get to explore this area, but the debris from the cave-in clearly hadn't been disturbed in some time. I think it's unlikely that anyone had been through there."

Jack narrowed his eyes at the screen. "I don't know. Their technology . . . I wouldn't put it past them to have some rock-mover machine that could precisely move everything and put it back into place."

"Sir, that would be nearly impossible."

"I have the internet in my head, Major."

Carter opened and shut her mouth, giving Jack the distinct impression that she was about to tell him that a similar technology wasn't that far off on Earth. Thankfully she was wise enough to let it slide.

"I just think it's a dead-end, sir. Teal'c agreed," she said pointedly. Jack nearly cracked a smile at that—as though invoking the name of Teal'c would end the argument.

"How many other areas do we have to search over here?"

Carter tapped the map, shifting the yellow highlighting. "Here, here, and here. We'll go out again in another hour or so. Sir." She paused. Whenever Carter paused it was because she was going to say something Jack wouldn't like. He took a wild guess.

"You think we're wasting our time."

"I didn't say that."

Jack waved her off.

"We don't have any leads. We're just . . . blind." She shrugged.

"We know Dawes works underground to avoid the satellites. That's not blind, it's . . . . glaucoma." Jack winced at the analogy, but he was reasserting his leadership role, which meant some false confidence was in order.

"Wait. Which area did you say we need to search?"

Carter tapped the map again. When one of the tunnel systems lit up a picture flashed in Jack's mind. There was a crumbling statue on a set of marble stairs—a crumbling building with large brick archways was in the background.

"Here next," he said.

Carter looked at him, her eyebrow rising.

"I have a hunch."

Carter licked her lips. "All right. . . ." Her eyes searched Jack's face and he could feel her uncertainty, that rare thing that happened between them when Carter actually questioned his orders. "I'm going to catch a quick nap."

Jack nodded, still staring at the map (trying to ignore her look), pulling out the topographic map and images he'd had in his mind when he woke up. "Okay. I'll talk to Gerard, Teal'c."

"Sir." Carter lightly touched his arm, her eyes soft and sincere. "I understand your desperation to find him, but it seems like a long shot."

"Him coming back from the dead was a long shot. This is easier than that." Jack frowned, really wanting to end this conversation before it began. He'd spent a lot of time in Carter's lab while Daniel was Ascended, and she'd started to pick up on the things he didn't say. He didn't need her getting any closer to the truth about their relationship or why he was completely incapable of giving up on Daniel.

Carter let go, holding up her hand. She stepped backwards. "I just need about twenty minutes, Colonel. Wake me when you need to."

Jack watched her cross to the bedrooms, her P-90 over her shoulder. He could just imagine her curled up next to her weapon, hugging it like it was a teddy bear.

"Gerard?" Jack turned and headed into the kitchen, knowing Gerard would either be there at the table or in the garage. This apartment they were squatting in was slightly larger, so the galley kitchen actually had room for a full-sized table where all four of them could sit. The attached garage also gave them tunnel access. Advantageous if they were worried they'd be attacked by Henley, dangerous since it gave Dawes easy access to their hideout. Teal'c watched over it during the night, even though Gerard assured them it was secure. Gerard's idea of secure, though? Rigging it with explosives. Not exactly how Jack defined secure, even on his craziest of days.

"Hmm?" Gerard was at the table, once again with nuts and bolts spread out before him. This time, though, his mini-energy cannon weapon was in front of him as well. It looked like he'd removed the nozzle, maybe was making some adjustments.

Jack put the laptop in front of him. "What's here?" Jack tapped the yellow highlighted part.

"Uh . . ." Gerard squinted at the screen, going back to his work a moment later. "The old telegraph office."

Jack blinked. "Excuse me, the what?"

"Telegraph," Gerard repeated. He tapped his finger on the table. "Messages transmitted through a wire. Each letter is a series of—"

"I know what a telegraph is," Jack cut him off. "Why the hell do you have a telegraph office when your world is like this?" Jack touched the pad by the door, turning off the lights.

"Because," Gerard said, leaning over to turn the lights back on. "In the face of all that technology—all those shiny lights and advertising that went straight into your brain instead of being yelled in the streets—people longed for a simpler time, for a world that was long dead. And corporations ate it up." Gerard stared hard at the weapon on the table. "If I hadn't caused it, I probably would have enjoyed it, too. I've always felt like I would have fit better then."

"What's it look like? The telegraph office."

Gerard narrowed his eyes for a moment, giving Jack a look that strongly reminded him of Daniel when Jack pretended to be lazy and stupid. A moment later he received a picture through the Vinculum. The exact picture he'd had in his mind when he startled awake.

"I know this place," Jack said. "When I woke up, it was in my head. This picture was in my head."

Gerard shrugged. "You've been looking at maps of South City for two days. It's not surprising that the Vinculum would keep searching while you were asleep."

"No." Jack pointed to the map, wishing he had a copy of that picture to physically prod. Didn't the Tekhnens know about printers? "It felt like it came from Daniel."

Gerard put down his tools and rubbed his forehead. "You've been saying that since he was taken. It's possible it's him, but I can't find any hard evidence that it is. There's no signal to track. Nothing. Jack. I'm sorry, but I don't—"

"It's Daniel," Jack growled, enunciating each syllable. "I know the way he thinks, the way he feels. I just, I know him."

Gerard sighed again. "I know you think that, just. . . ." Gerard picked up his silver wand thing again and started putting the nozzle of his weapon back on, his movements crisp and quick—completely different from how he normally worked. "We'll have to be ready for it, I suppose."

"You suppose correctly," Jack said with a nod, relieved Gerard was coming around. "So you should finish fixing your doodad." Jack flicked his fingers at the weapon parts.

Gerard gave him a screwy look. "I'm doing that. Why don't you go be Colonel-y? Elsewhere." Gerard flicked his fingers the same way Jack did.

Jack gave Gerard a look that hopefully said you-may-be-hardwired-into-my-brain-but-I-can-still-kill-you, and then turned and left.

Didn't say that at all, Gerard said through the Vinculum.

Jack smiled; deep down he really did kind of like Gerard.

* * *


Daniel woke in his gray cell and scrambled for a wall. The center of the cell—only touching the floor—was disorienting because there were no walls, no landmarks, and it was like living in a void (not all that different from this place, but when he worked he had a purpose, at least; he could touch things and remember, he could forget the fear). The void was what he imagined happened to people who didn't emerge from a Stargate. Their minds were out there, but their bodies no longer existed. They were just thought—not like being Ascended, that was different. Ascended beings could still affect things. They could travel, explore, learn. If they wanted to they could escape, go some place new; they could touch . . . sort of.

Some days Daniel longed for Ascension.

"No, Daniel! You are not going glowy on me. I'm coming for you, just hang on."

Daniel was hanging on, but Ascension was looking better and better. He'd didn't even know why—hadn't he been human again for only a few months? Hadn't he loved being human again? Hadn't he loved being with Jack again? Why was Ascension foremost in his thoughts? Why was he thinking of Ascension as an escape rather than a path? When you Ascended, you let go of your physical self, your burdens, your pain; you gave it to a higher plane where those things didn't matter (except pain always mattered, just for an Ascended being it was a different kind of pain, a different kind of burden); it wasn't meant to be an escape.

No, Ascension wasn't the way out. It wasn't.

Jack was the way out.

Daniel sat up, felt dizzy, and collapsed again.

* * *


They found a Jaffa once they moved past the peltac and down the corridor towards the glider bay. He was behind a large slab of rock Gerard and Jacob moved with some effort. He had a staff weapon in his hand and Daniel stared at it, wishing he'd been alone, wishing he could have taken it and swung it around as fast as Teal'c and swiftly killed the guards.

He pictured it clearly; Jack encouraged him.

But it was already too late. The guards stepped closer, one seized the staff weapon, and they used it to push Daniel away from the body while they searched it. They removed the armor, divvying it up and putting it on ("Gross," Jack said. "Don't they know his flesh is probably like, melted to the inside of that?"), and one of them touched the symbol on the Jaffa's head. Ma'at. They'd never met Ma'at so why did that seem familiar to Daniel?

They only found the one Jaffa, so Daniel suspected that the ha'tak was damaged and the crew jettisoned. He didn't think it could be repaired—not that he'd be able to repair a mother ship given his very limited knowledge passed on by Sam—but the glider bay. They were almost to the doors, but would it be worth it? Would the guards be on him in a second, pulling him away from the door before he'd even decided to act?

Maybe they could come in through the side, he could send Amelia through since she was smaller, tell her what to look for and have her report back to him with a signal. He could keep the others out of the way and just involve Amelia. He could take Amelia with him because a glider seats two.

"What about the others? Gerard and Jacob?" Jack was incredulous, horrified. "Why would you trust her over them?"

Daniel was pained; it wasn't that he trusted her over them, it was just. . . . He didn't know. He felt connected to her, or like he should be connected to her. If he was planning an escape, shouldn't he take her with him?

"What about them?" Jack pointed at the two men. "Why don't you save them, too?"

"Because I can't save everyone!" Daniel shouted.

The staff weapon spun up and hit him in the chin, knocking him off his feet before the echoes died down.

He felt Jack kneeling over him, could almost feel Jack stroking his face, but it was Amelia's voice he heard. "You don't have to save anyone, Daniel," she whispered.

Daniel's eyes fluttered open and she was there, his head pillowed in her lap. Despite the dirt and abuse, her hands were still nimble and dexterous, her touch soft.

One of the guards hovered over her, the staff weapon raised to strike. Daniel sat up quickly—much too quickly; the room spun—and held up his hands. Amelia shrunk away as well, resuming her work without another word.

The guards went back to their positions and Daniel tried to let his head and stomach settle from the rolling.

"Are you all right?" It took Daniel a moment to process the words.

He nodded once, and stared at his work, moving his hands just to prevent the guards from coming over to hit him again. He tried to focus on what he was doing. Jack, of course, was standing beside him, playing with a yo-yo.

"Stop talking to her, Daniel." He was jealous. How stupid. Like Daniel cared about this girl in any way other than the fact that she was trapped here with him.

"¿Celoso?" Daniel asked.

Jack screwed up his face for a moment, clearly not knowing the word.

"Jealous," Daniel whispered in English.

"Me?" Jack did a walk the dog, taking a few steps away from Daniel. "Please. Like I'd be jealous. You have me, what else would you want?" He smiled, that huge Jack grin that was both infuriating and endearing.

He missed Jack. He missed the way Jack touched him all the time in little ways. He missed Jack's smell.

"Hey, I'm right here." Jack's smile was softer now and he reached out to cup Daniel's cheek. "I'm right here, and soon I'll be here for real. Just hang on for me." He looked over his shoulder. "And stop picking up pretty girls, okay? I thought you were over that."

"I'm not picking up—" The staff weapon jabbed against the back of his knee, folding his leg. Amelia bit her lip, her hand still as she watched him. He threw out his arm, trying to get her back to work, and she picked up the nonverbal message.

Daniel straightened himself and picked up his brush again, bowing his head slightly. The guard didn't hit him any further and let Daniel resume working.

"You have to focus," Amelia whispered. "They're going to beat you until you die. I don't think you want that."

Daniel snorted. Some days death was preferable.

"You don't want that," Amelia repeated. "I don't because then I'd be alone with them." She cut her eyes to Gerard and Jacob, shivering a bit.

It didn't make any sense, though. Gerard and Jacob hadn't done anything to her. In fact they didn't speak or look at her. To them, it was like she didn't exist, or maybe they just didn't care about her.

"They're all right," she said. "But they don't . . . they're not you." She smiled shyly, ducking her head. Her cheeks colored slightly and Daniel was amazed she remembered how to be coy in a place like this. There was a bucket in his cell full of piss and shit. And she was blushing and shy.

Jack crossed his arms and circled her. "I don't like her. She smells off."

Daniel snorted. "I smell off."

She chuckled lightly. "We all do, I imagine. But I'm not holding that against you."

Daniel brushed away some of the debris, picking away a few larger pieces. He was near the outer wall. There was a control panel and a door somewhere along here. The farther they moved into the ha'tak, the more familiar it became. It could just be that the layouts in all ha'taks are similar—they all have flashy gold paneling and lots of cargo bays—but Daniel felt more familiar with this place, like he'd been here before, walked the halls and knew it very well, like it was something pulled from a memory. Of course a ha'tak crash landed on another planet—a ha'tak that likely belonged to Ma'at, given the symbol on the dead Jaffa—it seemed unlikely that he'd been on the ship before.

And yet. . . .

"I wish I could melt away, don't you?" Her eyes were bright and glassy, like she was looking for an answer.

Daniel shook his head. "Then I wouldn't have your company." He mumbled his words, mingling in some Latin accidentally. Sometimes it was like his thoughts were bleeding together and things came out muddled and confused.

"I mean it," Amelia said. "Escape. Melting seems the only way. Unless you have some way out of here. Can you melt?"

A flash of white light flooded Daniel's vision. It wasn't like melting, but it was like exploding gently, turning from flesh and blood into light and energy. It didn't hurt (or if it did, Daniel didn't remember it), but it was like suddenly being too hot and then just as suddenly being completely weightless. Jack described it as Daniel's body being encased in light, but Daniel knew that his body had become the light. He couldn't explain the physics of it, but he knew how he felt, the way his body had shifted and his mind had kept going, limitless, and knowing, curious.

"You could just Ascend," Amelia said.

Whoa, wait, when had he told her about Ascension? Did he just say any of that out loud? He couldn't tell any more. His mouth worked for a second, his brain trying to recall a conversation he was certain he'd never had. He was muddled most of the time, like someone was sequencing his thoughts out of order to prevent him from putting too much together too fast (his capture and convalescence here was a constant puzzle and every time he got to close to the rebus, he was punished for trying to check the answers).

"I . . . it's not that easy," he finally said.

"Then what is it?"

"Difficult." He turned away from her, shutting his mouth tight. He didn't know why, but he didn't want to tell her about Ascension. She knew the word and that, for some reason was trouble enough.

"Alien females are always trouble enough." Jack glared at her.

Daniel tilted his head; the guards were standing stationary by the door. He'd been talking to Amelia for some time and the guards hadn't even moved. He'd been talking and he hadn't been punished. That wasn't normal.

"Back to work," a guard behind him grunted. The whip cracked over Daniel's shoulder. Not expecting the blow, he dropped to one knee. "Back to work," the guard snarled. Daniel felt him getting closer, but for some reason his legs wouldn't work, wouldn't push him back up.

The guard hit him once behind the head and Daniel fell forward, his face landing next to Amelia's tool bag. Through slit eyes he saw her talk to the guard, her face calm but commanding. He didn't see her get hit for that, but he was sure she would be. They always hit him.

* * *


~Continued in Part 4.