Title: A Loose Bolt in a Complete Machine (1/5)
Rating: PG-13 for language and violence
Word Count: ~50,000 (in 5 parts)
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?
It's a story about firefights, Ascension, figuring out your place after a long absence, and of course, being able to IM someone's brain.
Notes: This is a sequel to The Advantages of Mind Reading, but can be read as a stand-alone story.
Special thanks to my alpha and beta readers: princessofg for cheerleading through the outline and drafting process, green_grrl for pushing for more, and momebie for once again not getting upset that I borrowed our OCs for fanfic.
written for stargate_summer
recced by green_grrl at stargateficrec
Fanart by theantimodel
[Fanmix] Half Doomed and Semi-Sweet by momebie
A year was a long time, Gerard couldn't help but think. But he'd spent so much time at the Celare Opera House before all this that even when it was split apart, its insides gaping wide, he still knew his way through it with his eyes closed (Vinculum or not). He picked his way through the walls, climbing over the bracings that had eroded with the exposure to the elements. He'd climbed over these bracings with Daniel Jackson, and when he closed his eyes and focused he could still smell the smoke from the weapons fire, could still feel the way Jack's strange electric-weapon raised the hair on his arms. He could still remember the last time he'd been feet from Representative Henley. . . . Part of him wished he'd let Jack kill Henley, or that he'd done the job himself.
But he'd needed Henley to keep Dawes and his revolutionaries in check. And he'd needed Dawes to keep Henley from being able to focus his resources on developing the Vinculum. Too many people wanted to abuse what Gerard had made, and he was just one man—he couldn't do much to stop them by himself.
Gerard had spent the past month waiting for Henley's men—the Tekhnen Guard—to finally stop watching the 'gate. He'd been paying attention to when they were lax, hoping that one day they would leave lesser-trained men on guard and then he could make his move. Henley seemed convinced that one day someone else would come through the Stargate, but was unwilling to go through himself. Of course Gerard was unwilling to go through as well.
The Vinculum wouldn't work on other worlds and that was why Gerard had been hesitant to leave with SG-1 the last time they'd come. It was difficult for Gerard to imagine a world without the Vinculum, really. He didn't know if he could go back to a time before, to not having the knowledge of his world at the edge of his thoughts. He'd be so . . . limited.
He approached the gap that led to the outside, crouching in the shadows. There was one armored car and two guards, exactly as the satellites he'd accessed through the Vinculum had shown. He scanned the area visually, aware that Henley wasn't as stupid as Gerard sometimes took him for.
"Two guards in the shadows," Gerard mumbled to himself. "Someone's learning."
He concentrated for a moment, using the Vinculum to communicate with the satellites and direct them to another location. Hopefully Henley wouldn't notice that they'd moved until Gerard was done.
Gerard adjusted his grip on the pistol, always feeling awkward clutching the weapon. He'd never been good at the physical part. Making the weapon, fixing it, inventing worse ways for humans to kill each other, that's what he excelled at doing.
He crept around the perimeter, crawling over debris and detritus, creeping closer to the soldiers who were reclining in the shadows. They were both off their guard, one with a cigarette—the old kind that were hand-rolled, the kind Gerard's father used to smoke—and the other shuffling a deck of cards.
His weapon discharged nearly silently, twice, and he felled both men. It'd be easier that way, Gerard convinced himself. When SG-1 came through the 'gate, it'd be easier if the guards didn't wake up.
The two nearer the 'gate didn't notice the little noise of the weapon's discharge. Gerard focused on the Vinculum, reaching out to hack into their minds, overloading the nanites and their systems. Both of the men fell to the ground, asleep.
"Don't say it was too easy," Gerard muttered as he jumped over the broken wall. "Saying it's too easy always makes things worse." He slinked along, looking over his shoulder and surveying the perimeter every few steps. "Don't say it was too easy."
He reached the pedestal—the DHD, the woman had called it—and focused on his memories of Daniel, on the glyphs that made the address to his home. He pressed the glyphs that came to his mind, each lighting in sequence, and then pressed the center crystal. The Stargate spun, the chevrons lit, the vortex making more noise than Gerard would like. But the wormhole connected. Gerard felt the hair on his arms stand up, the excitement unspooling in his stomach like tendrils.
He held Jack's repaired radio to his mouth and switched it on. "H-hello?" Gerard said into it. "Jack? Daniel?"
He let go of the transmit button, waiting.
It took a moment, but then the radio crackled. "This is Stargate Command. Who is this? Where are you transmitting from?"
Gerard closed his eyes, kissed the radio, and began transmitting again, relaying whatever information was requested.
"Your elbow is in an uncomfortable place," Daniel reported.
Jack dug his elbow in deeper before rolling over, chuckling when Daniel made a soft unf sound. "If you don't like my elbows, you could go home."
Daniel rolled onto his stomach, the sheets slipping down to barely cover his ass. "Home is far away. And I don't have a problem with your elbows."
"You just have a problem with where my elbows are located," Jack finished. The red numbers on Jack's digital clock showed it was only fifteen minutes until his alarm, but thankfully SG-1 was off duty. Being stranded off-world always sucked while it was happening, but there were after-the-fact perks such as a standard two-day stand-down.
"You ever think it's weird to be used to getting home at four in the morning after being on another planet where it was afternoon?" Jack stared at the alarm, willing it to turn itself off.
"You ever think it's weird that I sleep in your bed?"
Jack shoved at Daniel's calf, his toes catching Daniel's ankle. "I'm starting to think it's weird when you don't."
"Huh." Daniel flicked his foot, dislodging Jack's toes. He tried not to take it as a dismissal, and just brought his foot back over to his side of the bed.
They'd been sharing a bed before Daniel had died. It wasn't an every night thing—that would be too risky—but between the few nights they swung it and sharing a tent off-world, it was a little like domesticity.
Then they'd gone to Kelowna. Then Daniel died. Then he came back without a memory and Jack had to wait, staring into blue eyes he knew so well, reminding himself that Daniel's body wasn't his until Daniel remembered it was.
Of course Daniel being Daniel, even though they were sleeping together again, he seemed unaware that Jack had any ownership over him.
"You catching some sleep now?"
"Mmm," Daniel sleepily replied, clearly halfway to dreamy-land already.
Jack turned to his side, fought with the covers a bit, stared at the chair and tried to figure out which dark shapes were his clothes and which dark shapes were Daniel's clothes. Before he could throw the covers off and call sleep a wash, Daniel spoke up. "If you're not tired, I can get up."
Jack snorted. "Get some sleep, Daniel. I'll just. . . ." Jack sat up and waved his hand. "I'm sure there's something I need to do."
"Mmm," Daniel said, tucking the pillow under his chin. "Throw out the leftover Chinese. It's two weeks old."
"It didn't smell two weeks old," Jack muttered. He slipped into a pair of discarded boxers while Daniel chuckled softly.
Jack patted Daniel's foot as he walked past, earning himself a half-hearted kick, and headed into the kitchen, first checking the fridge for the Chinese and deciding, okay, yes, Daniel was right and the leftovers were a little, um, sentient. He pitched the Chinese into the garbage and then dragged the can over when he noticed a few other nondescript boxes of leftovers that he couldn't remember getting. He was in the middle of tossing out something with white fuzz that he thought might have been chicken at some point when he heard the buzzer from his alarm and then Daniel's curse.
Jack couldn't help laughing—he knew he'd forgotten to do something.
Daniel stumbled out a few minutes later, wearing his glasses and nothing else. "Well, sleep isn't happening."
Jack chuckled again. "Sorry about that. I forgot I didn't turn it off."
"Right, right." Daniel waved Jack off and then stifled a yawn. "Make breakfast to make up for it?"
Jack shrugged. "I suppose I could." He leaned over to kiss Daniel's cheek and then stopped, suddenly not sure if that was okay. He reached over Daniel, instead, opening the cabinet behind him to pull out the instant coffee. "Can you get this started?"
While Daniel worked on the coffee, Jack tried not to think about the fact that he didn't know where he stood with Daniel. Daniel had remembered some basics—it wasn't just a series of buddy fucks—but Jack still didn't know where it was going, if it was going somewhere or not, if they'd actually get back to where they'd been. He wanted to be there again, to have Daniel sleeping next to him regularly—to have him be something permanent—but the way Daniel reacted . . . he wasn't sure Daniel wanted to be regularly sleeping next to Jack.
Jack mentally kicked himself. He kind of sucked at not thinking about his relationship with Daniel.
Daniel was staring at the coffee—that zoned look that normally came after he'd been in his office all night and was emerging for his first cup of warm caffeine in several hours—when the phone rang.
A ringing phone was pretty much never a good thing as far as Jack was concerned. He shared a look with Daniel—what was wrong now?—and answered the phone.
"Colonel O'Neill, I hate to call you in, but there's a—"
"Situation," Jack grumbled. "There's always a situation."
"Jack, I'm sorry. I know it's been a while since you had any down time."
Jack waved it off, even though Hammond clearly couldn't see the action. "I'll be there soon."
"Jack," Hammond hesitated; it was the kind of hesitation that normally meant there was something really bad. "Major Carter's already on base, but I tried calling Dr. Jackson and he didn't answer his phone." Jack's eyes cut over to Daniel who was now leaning his bare ass against Jack's counter.
"He probably left the cordless off the charger," Jack said, feeling a tight knot in his stomach as he lied.
"Jack. . . ."
"I'll handle it," Jack said.
"Thank you, Colonel." He disconnected and Jack could just envision Hammond sitting in his office, his lips pressed into a thin line. Hammond hadn't indicated that he knew what was going on between his 2IC and the SGC's leading linguist—or that he'd ever known considering that even after Daniel's funeral, his condolences had been oblique references to losing team mates—but he wasn't clueless. Eventually Hammond was going to put the pieces together and then, Jack wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen. Maybe it was better for them that this relationship remained undefined; maybe it was better that it remain unexplored.
"The galaxy in danger?" Daniel was pouring the coffee, leaning over it like he was getting a coffee-steam facial.
"Didn't say exactly." He accepted the mug from Daniel, and watched as Daniel added sugar to his own mug. "Daniel, maybe we shouldn't—"
"We shouldn't," Daniel cut him off. "But we seem to anyway. I'll go get dressed." He walked out of the kitchen, his hips swaying in that annoying Daniel way that Jack normally forced himself to not notice. He set his coffee in the sink without taking a sip.
Carter passed Jack a briefing folder when he sat at the table. Daniel was already there, and looked up distractedly. Jack arched his eyebrow, cueing Daniel's line.
"I was already on my way in," he said. "You didn't go all the way to my apartment, did you?"
Sometimes Jack found it creepy how easily Daniel could lie to the rest of them. "You may want to turn your cell phone on." He sat down, his thoughts already on the briefing folder. . . . "Gerard?"
"Yeah," Daniel said. "Bet you weren't expecting to hear from him again."
"I really wasn't," Jack said quietly. The mission to Tekhne had been a few months before Daniel died, a little over a year ago. Planets undergoing civil war rarely contacted them again (mostly because they refused to give military aid). When they did recontact the SGC, it was usually within a few months because one of the factions had seized control and the government had finally coalesced.
The SGC usually still turned them down.
He glanced over the transcript of Gerard's transmission. Apparently the political situation on Tekhne had grown even more wildly out of hand—the fighting between Representative Henley and the revolutionary Dawes was growing more one-sided—Gerard was requesting asylum for himself and his brother. "He has a brother?" Daniel shrugged, Carter shook her head, and Teal'c flared his nostrils.
"Maybe we weren't actually at Gerard's home."
No way, Jack thought. They'd been there two days with no signs that anyone else had lived there besides Gerard. And the place was too well stocked to just be an outpost or something. Something was off.
"Colonel." The General took his regular seat at the head of the table. "Looks like your friend needs some help."
"Yeah," Jack said, spreading a hand over the pages that detailed their last mission to the planet. He didn't need a reminder of it. The locals had an injection that they'd been kind enough to share with Jack and Daniel, giving both of them the Tekhnen equivalent of internet in the brain. Jack privately counted that mission as the start of his relationship with Daniel, even though they'd had sex before the mission. The internet-in-the-brain thing had been the first time Jack had known Daniel wasn't just in it for a buddy fuck. Of course that had been a year and a death ago; things changed.
"When we left, I wouldn't have expected it. He seemed kind of. . . ." Jack searched for the word.
"Fatalistic," Daniel supplied. "Resigned."
"The political situation wasn't ideal," Carter reported. "The insurgents—"
"Lead by this Commander Dawes?"
"Yes sir," Carter said. "They offer enough military resistance to keep the current governing body off guard, which prevents them from doing, well, any more damage."
"Internet in the brain, sir," Jack said. "It's not all it's cracked up to be."
"So, they're using it as a weapon?" Hammond looked among the members of SG-1, catching both Jack's and Carter's eyes. There was a cynical part of Hammond that wasn't shocked, Jack knew him well enough to know that, but another part, the overwhelming part, was disgusted at the depths humans would go to destroy and subjugate each other.
"Tracking," Jack said. "Through satellites, though maybe more now. Hell, you can hack into your enemies' minds—maybe, I don't know, reprogram their brains." Jack swallowed hard, trying not to remember how he'd tried to hack into Daniel's mind to find out how he felt about Jack. Petty and stupid, the words should be emblazoned on Jack's forehead.
"Is that what you experienced?" Jack was pretty sure when Hammond knew they'd left something out of a report. He tended to turn a blind eye when things got a bit vague; he knew enough about what went on off-world to know that sometimes the rules imposed by the US military didn't apply—and sometimes those events didn't need to be on official records.
"No, sir," Daniel replied. He caught Jack's eye for a moment, but by the time Jack blinked, Daniel's gaze had shifted. "But Gerard was able to use the Vinculum to overload a person's mind, essentially, and cause them to go to sleep."
"Interesting trick," Hammond commented.
"Useful. It's how he broke us out of Dawes's compound." Jack preferred the bloodless escapes to the bloody ones, but it still freaked him out that Gerard was able to do that—that he'd done it to Jack and Daniel.
"Hopefully you'll find it useful again." Hammond shut his briefing folder.
"Sir?" Jack scanned the briefing read-out, trying to catch up quickly.
"You're going back to Tekhne."
Daniel raised his eyebrows. "Are we not going to grant Gerard asylum?"
"We are." Hammond stood up. "But there was some complication and Mr. Gerard has asked that you extract him."
Jack groaned. "Complication? Sir, the last time there were complications on Tekhne I had the internet shoved into my brain."
"I'm aware of that, Colonel. Hopefully it won't be a problem this time."
Carter looked between Jack and Daniel before responding. "Sir, we don't know that the nanites that were originally injected into the Colonel and Daniel have deactivated. We ran tests to make sure they're not transmitting, but when we get back there they could just. . . ." She cycled her hands in a way that made Jack think of rebooting.
Hammond shook his head, hands spread. "Your friend made it clear he wanted SG-1, Major."
"I don't think Gerard would trust another team." Daniel closed his briefing folder and pushed away from the table, turning to Carter. "And I don't think the nanites will be a problem. Jack and I got the hang of them eventually . . . and we'll have Gerard to help protect us from any sort of outside attack."
"We know the situation this time." Teal'c's voice startled Jack; sometimes he nearly forgot the big guy was sitting was next him. "Representative Henley cannot be dishonest with us this time."
"If Henley so much as shows his face—" Jack growled.
"Colonel," Hammond warned. "Your mission is to extract Gerard. The Pentagon is very interested in this Vinculum he invented."
Daniel cut a look across to Jack. "Uh, General, Gerard was very specific that he didn't want to spread that kind of technology to another world. He watched it tear his own planet apart. What happened on Tekhne—"
"Will be taken into consideration, Dr. Jackson, but those aren't the kind of decisions we're in authority to make." Hammond frowned as he said his fed line.
The Pentagon wanted to make the Vinculum available on Earth? Apparently Jack hadn't described the invasion of privacy horrifically enough. "General."
"Colonel, you have your orders," Hammond snapped. Jack pushed the General—he pushed him a lot—but that voice? Jack knew when to back the hell off.
"General." Daniel, however, did not know when to back off, but the General had already retreated to his office. The door shut a moment later.
Daniel looked across the table to Jack, the horror clear on his face. Jack understood, Jack agreed, but Jack had been given orders and they could argue about this later (or while they geared up, Jack thought, since he was sure Daniel wouldn't leave this one alone for two minutes let alone an entire mission).
"Yeah, I know." Jack stood, putting some distance between himself and the table, his feet moving towards the locker room. "I experienced the whole internet-in-the-head thing, too, Daniel. But orders are orders. Let's get Gerard and then argue about it."
He glanced from the corner of his eye. Daniel's mouth was set in a firm line, the consternation and moral outrage almost comical.
Jack was out the door, but he heard Carter softly say, "Come on, Daniel," and by the time Jack had his locker open, Daniel had entered the locker room, the look on his face stern, but with less bite. Whatever Carter had said had tamed him for the moment.
They all geared up in silence, Jack quietly going through the checklist of the things in his pack, making a note to check out extra ammo once they got to the armory (Jack didn't really trust Gerard and his "complications"). Teal'c left the room before the others, and that was when Daniel stepped closer and sharply whispered, "No hacking this time."
Jack double blinked. What? "What?"
Daniel looked over his shoulder—really bad at the whole discreet thing, Jack didn't think he used to be that bad at it—and then leaned closer. "After everything we've been through . . . if you want to know something, ask me."
"Not planning on doing it again." Jack held up two-fingers. "Scout's honor."
Daniel smirked. "You weren't a boy scout."
"Yeah, well, it's the sentiment that counts." Jack shut his locker door, stepping closer. It was easier to be around Daniel when he was in uniform. Jack had always been good at compartmentalizing.
"It's kind of like a second honeymoon," Daniel muttered.
"An extraction is a second honeymoon?" Jack arched an eyebrow.
Daniel shrugged. "Like anything in our lives isn't at least kind of fucked up."
The locker room door swung open and SG-2 walked in, caked in mud. Daniel jerked back, and Jack let his face slip into Colonel-mode. He nodded to Ferretti, arched an eyebrow at Daniel, and headed out the door, taking a cleansing breath once he was in the hall. Daniel was right—hardly anything in Jack's life wasn't fucked up.
He didn't lay eyes on Daniel again until they were in front of the 'gate with the rest of SG-1. Daniel nodded to him, but that was the only indication that Daniel even knew he was there. Jack busied himself with his last-minute colonel-y things, half-listening to Carter and Daniel talk about the probability of the nanites still being active. He was almost through his final check when the 'gate began spinning and Harriman's voice came over the P.A. system.
"Chevron one, engaged."
"You are apprehensive." Teal'c stood next to Jack, his face covered in odd shadows from the lights in the 'gate room.
"Huh? Ah, no. Just another jaunt to the other side of the universe. No big deal." It was entirely unnerving the way Teal'c would just make a statement that was completely accurate.
"I would be apprehensive as well. Our last visit to Gerard's planet was . . . more than we expected." Teal'c did that thing that almost passes for a smile.
Daniel and Carter were still mind-melding, but Jack stepped closer to Teal'c and lowered his voice anyway. "The, uh, brain-thing?" Jack shook his hand next to his head. "Disturbing, yes. But it's no big deal." He adjusted the bill of his cap, trying to stay nonchalant as Harriman called out that chevron six was engaged.
"Certainly, O'Neill." The good thing about Teal'c was that he let things drop.
"Chevron seven, locked."
The event horizon whooshed out from the 'gate, giving the 'gate room an eerie blue glow. "Guess it's time," Jack said, scratching his chin. The MALP rolled forward and they waited until a signal came back, giving them the all clear.
"SG-1, you have a go. God speed."
Jack half-smiled at the General's words. There was something comforting about them, something that made traveling through the 'gate all right. The way the General said them made Jack feel protected, like God couldn't help but obey Hammond's commands (even though Jack quite frequently disobeyed Hammond's commands).
Of course Hammond said them before every mission—even the bad ones.
As Jack stepped through the 'gate, he said a silent prayer that this wouldn't be one of the bad ones. However, somewhere in his gut he knew—he knew it would be.
When Daniel stepped through the 'gate it was like someone turned on floodlights and cranked up the sound. Everything was louder; everything was brighter. Daniel was vaguely aware that it was night and therefore brighter wasn't quite right, but it was. Like his first few moments after he descended, regardless of the time of day, it was brighter. He grabbed his forehead, squinting his eyes, and when he leaned over he saw Jack doing the same.
Carter and Teal'c both sounded worried, but there were other things happening, louder things happening, and Daniel could only hear those things, a din of noise and words, some of which weren't in any language Daniel knew. He tried to chase down a word, focus on the root, figure out the etymology, but it was foreign, entirely foreign, alien. The Vinculum—Daniel's mind finally drew the word from its own cache.
We're under attack. The thought pushed into Daniel's mind, and he knew it was from Jack. It was exactly the kind of over-reactive, aggressive thought he expected from Jack.
"No, Jack," Daniel said, closing his eyes and taking off his glasses. "It's the Vinculum. Jack? Jack." Daniel reached out blindly, his hand landing against a jacket sleeve. He tried to root his experience on the sleeve, the texture of the cotton, the memory of watching Jack put it on. . . . It was getting easier to think, to sort his own thoughts from the cacophony of the Vinculum.
"Daniel?" Sam's voice came from the owner of the sleeve he was gripping.
"It's the Vinculum," Daniel repeated. "Kind of overpowering. Is Jack . . . ?"
"O'Neill is all right." Teal'c's voice was off to his right, where Daniel last remembered seeing Jack.
He slowly opened his eyes, squinting carefully as he let his eyes adjust—the night suddenly dimmer, lit by a scattering of stars and two bright moons, one of which was full. "I forgot what this is like."
"The last time you were injected, you were in a controlled environment," Sam said. Her voice was soft and soothing, like a gentle flowing current—the analogy brought up a topographical map of a nature conservatory somewhere in northern Tekhne. "Henley had you in a lab, remember? It probably wasn't as . . . raw as this."
Jack cursed. "I hate this," he ground through grit teeth. It was the same tone of voice he used every time he was shot.
Daniel finally released his hold on Sam's arm. "It was more gradual last time, but it's not just that." Another image flashed over Daniel's mind, this time historical photos of the Celare ruins that surrounded them; the opera house; the statuary of Ma'at, the Goa'uld who once ruled this planet, hundreds of years ago; the brass fittings and gas streetlamps that once stood sentry before each storefront. "Controlling the Vinculum takes some time."
"And some Motrin," Jack groused. "Lots of Motrin." He was gripping the bill of his cap, wincing still, though standing a bit straighter. Daniel almost felt bad for him—even though he'd mustered the concentration to hack into Daniel's brain, Jack hadn't been as comfortable with the Vinculum as Daniel was.
"Sir?" Sam fished into the medical supplies on the MALP and pulled out the requested Motrin. Daniel almost laughed—it was pretty rare that Jack actually received the medical attention he needed.
Jack swallowed the Motrin dry. "All that I dreamed it would be." He closed his eyes for a moment and Daniel could see him compartmentalizing the pain, closing it up in some box marked "Not Colonel" and tucking it away so he could do his job and think clearly. When Jack opened his eyes, the pain was gone from his face. "All right, people who were not incapacitated by the internet in their brains, what's the situation?"
"Two guards by the 'gate, but it looks like someone on our side got here first—they're knocked out," Sam clarified. She looked around again. "The area looks clear, sir. And we've been standing here long enough that if unfriendlies were around. . . ."
"Fucked, right," Jack said. He scanned the area, but Daniel could tell Jack wasn't just seeing the landscape. The Vinculum was like an internet browser for your brain, and if you knew the right search terms, you could find a lot of information—which was more useful than Ascension, for all Daniel could remember. Daniel had had to guide Jack through it last time, but the man wasn't stupid; surely he remembered what he'd learned.
"We are not alone," Teal'c said quietly. He didn't divert his eyes, but his nostrils flared and Daniel just knew exactly where Teal'c meant.
"Casual," Jack said. "Carter, do you have visual?"
"Negative." Sam's eyes met Daniel's and he stepped to his left. He tried focusing, wondering if Teal'c had been wrong, or maybe just a little wrong.
"Jack, I think I can. . . ."
Jack held his finger to his lips, giving Daniel a hard look. I tried IMing him, Jack sent through the Vinculum.
Daniel rolled his eyes. Maybe he's not receiving messages, Daniel thought back.
Jack's facial expression telegraphed all the sarcasm of his words. What, is he Away From Brain?
Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack and then tried to access the Tekhne satellites. It was how Gerard safely traveled above ground—checking to make sure no one was watching and retasking satellites if they were. Daniel thought he knew how to access them . . . if he just . . . tried. . . .
He felt Jack shake him hard, coming back to himself quickly. It was a moment later before he realized his vision had gone gray and was just now returning to normal.
"What are you doing?" Jack whispered sharply.
"Trying to access the satellites." Daniel yanked his arm out of Jack's grip. He'd tried to tell Jack, but instead of listening, Jack had just made a lame joke—as per usual.
"You looked gone." There was a wideness to Jack's eyes Daniel had missed at first glance; the corner of his mouth tugged downward. They were subtle facial expressions, sure, but Daniel knew Jack better than to miss them.
"I'm all right." Daniel's eyes ticked over to Sam, wondering what she was seeing: a superior concerned about a subordinate or something else?
"O'Neill." In one word Teal'c effectively conveyed that someone was approaching. Daniel tried to go back to looking for the satellites, knowing it could be the one tactical advantage he could offer, but Jack pinched his arm, grounding Daniel solidly on what was happening in front of him. Jack pulled him behind the MALP, taking cover (though Daniel didn't know why since whoever was approaching could have shot at them by now).
A figure was moving in the shadows of a toppled sculpture of Ma'at. The figure had wide shoulders, a slouch to his posture, and moved with an awkwardness that came from spending too much time hunched over machines and books. He raised one arm.
"It's Gerard," Jack said.
"Are you sure?" Sam asked. She was sighting with her weapon, one eye squeezed shut.
"I'm sure," Jack said, scratching just under the bill of his cap.
He finally emerged, a wry smile pulling the corners of his mouth. "Nice to see you again."
"Are we safe?" Jack asked. He pointed upwards.
"Yes. And I handled the guards when I dialed you."
"Handled," Jack mouthed, arching an eyebrow. Daniel was sure he was remembering the disoriented feeling that came from having the nanites overloaded.
Gerard turned. "Come on, though. If I leave the satellites turned away for too long, I'm sure they'll get suspicious." He turned back. "Can you send the, uh." He foundered for the word for a moment, and Daniel felt him in his head, skimming his thoughts. "MALP—back through? I don't want anyone to know you're here."
Jack narrowed his eyes. "This is an extraction. You're here; we can extract you. Where's your brother?"
Daniel looked around as well, noting that Gerard seemed to be alone.
"We should get under cover," Gerard said, not answering Jack's question.
Jack stepped closer. "Gerard. Where's your brother?"
Gerard's lips wobbled, reminding Daniel of a man on the edge. He grabbed Jack's arm, trying to pull him back. Gerard may not be threatening, but Jack and Daniel had the Vinculum in their heads and Gerard could knock them out without breaking a sweat.
"He's. . . ." Gerard paused, like he was weighing the best way to explain the vague complication he'd reported to the gate technician. "Henley took him as a political prisoner two years ago."
Jack turned to Daniel, muttering, "You have to be fucking kidding me."
Daniel stepped around Jack, pulling him back a bit. "Uh, what?"
Gerard cast wide eyes to the sky. "We have to go. Now. Please."
Jack pushed Daniel aside. "How about you first tell us what the hell you think you're doing. We didn't come to fight a war."
Gerard took a deep breath. "Would you have come if I'd told you the truth?"
They wouldn't have. Gerard had been in their heads enough to know that wasn't the way the SGC worked. Maybe Jack worked like that—his loyalty to people above his loyalty to the program—but the SGC had an end game and they didn't take kindly to alien manipulation.
Jack rolled his eyes and then gestured to Sam and the 'gate, the nonverbal order enough to get her moving forward to send the MALP back to the SGC as requested. "You're lucky I still feel somewhat indebted to you."
Daniel hid his smile, knowing Jack meant more than the previous rescue and intelligence—he meant Daniel. "The Stargate isn't exactly quiet. Are you sure this will do any good?"
As if on cue, the roar of the whoosh sounded in the background, and Daniel could hear the cadence, if not the words, of Sam reporting that some breaking and entering was involved, and they would radio the SGC in forty-eight hours.
"Tekhne Guards are stationed here around the clock, and Dawes sends regular patrols by the Stargate." Gerard shrugged. "Why take the chance?"
Jack took a deep breath—the kind that usually came before Daniel tried his patience—and then gestured for Gerard to lead them. Teal'c had gone to cover Sam at the DHD, and a few moments later the rest of SG-1 joined them in the shadows. A ruined statue of Ma'at towered over Daniel; part of her face looking up at him from the ground. He'd seen the statue when they'd come to the planet the first time, working with Teal'c to identify the Goa'uld and analyze the possible threat while they were on the planet. Daniel had been through the Vinculum; no Goa'uld artifacts had been found aside from the statuary. Apparently when the Goa'uld left or were defeated, they'd taken everything with them.
"Things are . . . different," Gerard said as he led them through the ruins, occasionally stopping and listening. Sometimes Daniel thought he was accessing the Vinculum, but Gerard used it so naturally that he couldn't tell. "I'd rather not say more until we're safe."
Daniel tried accessing the satellites again, to see what Gerard was seeing, but he couldn't do it easily and finally Gerard touched his arm.
"Please stop," he said. "You're good with the Vinculum, yes, but you're not that good and if you keep doing that, well . . . you'll give away our position. . . ." Gerard cast a glance to the left—Jack was glaring at him, and he shut his mouth even though Daniel was certain he had something else to say.
They traveled in silence, moving into ruins that looked less familiar. Slowly Daniel started to realize that it wasn't just that the ruins were less familiar; they were traveling in a different direction. He exchanged a look with Jack, but it was clear Jack had already figured it out. Jack nodded curtly, and that was all that was said about it.
"Here," Gerard finally said. They hadn't traveled that far from the 'gate—Gerard must have been watching the 'gate through the Vinculum, waiting for their arrival. Staying this close to Henley's guards was dangerous.
"New digs?" Jack asked after they'd gotten in the door. The layout was similar to the last place Gerard had told them was home. A short narrow hall opened into a large room with a few chairs and bookshelves, three doors leading off from there. Daniel could see the opening into a kitchen, but the other doors were shut. In Gerard's old home, one door led to the bedroom and the other door to the bathroom. Primarily utilitarian, this home seemed more stripped down, temporary.
"I've had to move around more," Gerard said after flicking on a light. The soft yellow light filled the room, making the room seem smaller and warmer.
"Sir?" Sam scanned the room, still in soldier-mode. Teal'c stood by the door, his staff resting at his side, but ready to be snapped up at a moment's notice. It was his stance that made his distrust obvious, but Daniel was certain Gerard wouldn't notice.
"Um. . . ." Gerard's eyes flicked to each of them. He was skittish and if he thought they wouldn't help, they'd never get anything from him.
Daniel unhooked his pack and set it on the ground. "You've been moving around more?" he prompted. Jack gave Daniel a look, but Daniel held up a hand, trying to remind Jack that he was the one qualified to bridge the language barrier—even if that barrier was just nervousness.
"Yes." Gerard looked to each of them again. "Would you like to sit?"
Daniel did so immediately, thanking him, but Teal'c and Jack stayed standing (Jack crossing his arms and looking more skeptical), and Sam finally sat when Daniel gave her a long steady look.
Gerard gave a look that Daniel translated as "well, that's something," and sat down as well.
"I'm sorry for dragging you back into this, but . . . I didn't really have a choice." Gerard ran his hand through his hair and for the first time he looked tired, leaning forward with his head in his hands. "Dawes has been closing in on me more and more quickly. I've had to stay on the move, just barely keeping ahead of him."
Sam looked around. "Do you have several safe houses like this?"
Gerard looked around dismissively. "Abandoned apartments. When Henley started bombing the Lower City and South City, people died, moved. Some of the homes were buried under debris or miraculously were missed."
"So Dawes hasn't found any of them." Jack looked at the wall on which hung a large screen displaying a pleasant cobblestone street with black gas lamps lining the path. The dichotomy between the technology and the Victorian street intrigued the archaeologist in Daniel.
"I don't think so," Gerard said, his eyes narrowing. "I've only been here a few nights. There are several apartments in the area and I've been switching between them. I've been doing this for a while."
Jack held up a hand, like he hadn't been implying that Gerard was an amateur, and surveyed the "window" again. "Does this thing get Pay Per View?"
Gerard smirked; he must have skimmed the reference from one of their minds. Gerard was different now—there was still the nervous desperation, but he'd lost some of his sadness, like he'd recently regained something vital. At the time, Daniel had thought that sadness—whatever it was Gerard had lost—had been part of why Gerard had helped them. Undermining Henley and Dawes had been one thing, but he'd seen Jack and Daniel together, he'd been inside their heads and he knew what they meant to each other. Protecting that kind of relationship for someone else could be a powerful motivator if you'd experienced your own loss. Daniel knew something about that.
"So, you called us for an extraction?" Daniel prompted again, glossing over Jack's joke. Gerard hadn't told Hammond everything, but since they were here, Daniel was hoping he'd finally come clean.
Gerard nodded. "It's different since—" He cut off suddenly and then smiled tightly, and picked back up again like he hadn't spoken. "The balancing act isn't working any more. Something's changed. Dawes has gotten better at tracking me, but there's a buzz through the Vinculum—Henley's confident."
Jack scratched the back of his head. "The political situation on your planet makes less sense than the one on ours." Jack stepped forward, glaring, all aggression. "Why don't you cut to the chase and tell us why you asked for us."
"Your brother?" Sam clarified. She was sitting on the edge of her chair, back straight. If anyone could pretend to lower her defensiveness, Daniel had hoped Sam would help him out.
Gerard opened his mouth and then closed it. "How about I make something to eat? I don't know what time it was when you left your planet. . . ." He was already standing and moving towards the kitchen when Teal'c stepped in front of him.
"It would be of great assistance for you to tell us the story of your brother now."
Gerard's eyes widened, his face going slightly paler.
"T," Jack said softly, which was enough to get Teal'c to step to the side.
Gerard turned back to them, his hand reaching behind him to clutch the doorframe. "I don't know where to start."
"Why is he being held prisoner?" Jack finally sat down, his P-90 resting across his legs. Well, Jack was almost being non-aggressive. It was an improvement, Daniel supposed.
"That's a long story," Gerard said.
Jack unhooked his pack. "Apparently we've got the time." He looked over to Teal'c. "T, you want to take a seat?"
Teal'c's nostrils flared. "I am fine, O'Neill." Teal'c's shoulders dropped slightly, but he kept guard of the door. Daniel inwardly rolled his eyes. His teammates were more paranoid than Gerard.
"Well. . . ." Gerard shifted on his feet and then stepped closer to the doorframe, leaning against it. He took a deep breath. "My brother is a neurologist. He helped me invent the Vinculum."
Jack smacked his hand over his eyes. "You said Henley and Dawes wanted you because you'd invented the Vinculum."
"With my brother," Gerard snapped.
"If Henley's had him for two years, what does he need you for?"
Gerard leaned his head back, looking up. "My brother knows how the nanites interact with the brain, but not with the Vinculum—or with each other. He's only one half of the production line. They need me to, to create and improve the coding." Gerard clicked his tongue.
Jack took it in, casting a look to Sam to confer. She frowned slightly, considering it, and then shrugged, her unofficial way of saying, "Sure, sounds scientifically vague but reasonable."
"You knew we wouldn't come for a rescue, but we would to extract you." Jack narrowed his eyes.
Gerard pushed away from the door and crossed the room, running a hand over the books on a shelf. Daniel couldn't imagine why there were books. Either the war had been going on longer than Daniel thought or not everyone had been given the Vinculum.
Jack pushed the conversation. "You could have used us the last time we were here. Why wait?" It wasn't that Daniel forgot that Jack was shrewd; it just sometimes surprised him despite that.
"Because I thought he'd been killed." Gerard delivered the news off-handedly, but it wasn't any less of a shock.
"You thought he was dead?"
"Well that explains why you didn't try to rescue him sooner. So, what happened?" Maybe he was identifying too closely with Gerard, but he had to know what Gerard had lost, how painful that had been. Daniel had gotten over losing Sha're, but he hadn't gotten over the loss. He probably never would, and finding people who identified with that loss—there was just something powerful about that; it was one of the things that continued to draw him to Jack. Maybe it was the thing that made him feel so distant from Jack now—Jack had suffered a loss much more recently and it was a loss Daniel couldn't even remember, let alone understand.
Gerard sighed heavily, giving the distinct impression that it was not only a long story, but an exhausting one. "Jacob and I disagreed about how dangerous the Vinculum could be in Henley's hands. He trusted Henley to be responsible. I. . . ." Gerard chuckled bitterly. "I was more paranoid." He ran a finger over the metal shelf, holding it up to examine the dust it had collected.
"Jacob was in Henley's cabinet for years. There's a lot that maybe isn't necessary to understand." Gerard shrugged. "But when I went into hiding, the civil war was full scale and the Lower City had been bombed to hell." Gerard held his hands out, indicating the results of that destruction around them, the ruined buildings and gaping wounds of civil war. "Jacob eventually broke from the government and we . . . worked together." Gerard swallowed hard. "We were breaking into the capitol and I saw him get shot. I had to leave him behind—" Gerard's voice choked off, and he turned away for a moment.
Left behind—how many times had Jack said, "No one gets left behind"?
"How'd you find out he was alive?" Sam asked softly.
"Accidentally." Gerard turned back to them, his eyes dark and glassy. "I'd been deep in the Vinculum, trying to find out why Dawes had been able to find me so quickly, actually, and there the information was."
"Sloppy work," Jack remarked.
Gerard scratched his head. "I'd thought of that. It was too easy, especially after two years."
"Someone knew the right buttons to push," Sam said, her eyes on Jack, nodding, the two of them already doing their silent military planning. Daniel felt strangely left out, unnerved that Sam could communicate in a silent glance with Jack the same way he could. Something had happened in the year Daniel had been Ascended, but none of them were talking about it.
"That's why I contacted you," Gerard confessed. "I can't get to him on my own, but also . . . I'm not sure I trust the information."
Wrong thing to say, Daniel thought.
Jack stood up, the P-90 snapping against his chest. "We're not your back-up. You called us for asylum—because of the circumstances regarding your world and our iris, we agreed to come—but that doesn't mean we're here to wage your personal war."
"It's not a war," Gerard snapped back, stepping towards Jack. "It's my brother."
Jack rolled his eyes and looked to Teal'c. "A little help?"
"The SGC is not prepared to allocate resources to aid in a civil war—"
"I'm not asking for help in fighting a war," Gerard said to Teal'c. "Or in resources beyond the four of you," he said to Jack. "But I need your military expertise, your weapons," he looked to Daniel, "and your ability with the Vinculum."
Daniel's eyebrows jumped. "My what?"
Gerard shook his head. "You work with it naturally—few people adapt to it as quickly and completely as you have. If I'm going to break into Henley's compound, I need someone else who can use the Vinculum that easily."
"I, I can't put people to sleep. I don't, I don't know what you expect me to do." It'd been a year since he'd used the Vinculum—not to mention that he'd lost nearly all of his memories from that year and a lot of other stuff was still slow to come. Sometimes memories stumbled upon Daniel and other times he groped in the dark for something he knew was there.
"You have the potential, Daniel. I know you can do more." Gerard's eye sockets were bruised purple, his skin sallow and greasy. He was exhausted, on edge, desperate—Daniel found it difficult to say no, and terrifying to say yes.
"Gerard," Daniel started.
"No," Jack snapped, glaring fiercely at Daniel. The message came through the Vinculum: You're not risking your brain for this.
It's not a risk to my brain, Daniel responded.
Jack's thoughts forced their way into Daniel's mind again. No hacking this time, remember?
"That was a rule for you," Daniel mumbled.
"This isn't the way we work, Gerard. We don't just come in and rescue people."
"Isn't that exactly what we do?" Daniel had had enough of this. They were here; they'd come to Gerard's aid before they knew how they could aid and now Jack was pulling—what, SGC mission statements? "All we do is rush in and rescue people. What do you think this whole fight with the Goa'uld is?"
Jack turned so his whole body was facing Daniel. "Daniel."
"Jack." Daniel stood up, needing to feel on even level with Jack. "What do you call it, Jack, if not stepping in and rescuing people?"
"The Goa'uld are a galaxy-wide threat, Daniel Jackson. They are our primary opponents."
"And another SGC directive is to find technologies that can aid in our fight against the Goa'uld." Daniel gestured at Gerard. "Found. Now, we also need to find his brother and apparently, Gerard knows where he is, so we just need to—"
"Daniel!" Jack snapped. He stepped closer and the look in his eyes was dangerous—a pleading he usually reserved for when Daniel was suggesting something potentially suicidal. It was that look that made Daniel pause and wonder if maybe Jack was right.
Jack turned to Gerard after a long moment. "Tell us the rest, but I can't promise anything." He pointed sharply at Gerard. "And I won't promise Daniel, so you can come up with another option for that."
Daniel bristled—he could agree to Jack's hesitance to commit to a rescue mission of unknown odds, but wasn't Daniel's choice about how he would help Gerard his choice?
Gerard smiled faintly. "Over dinner, perhaps?"
Jack shared another look with Sam. "Carter, I think the food here is probably fine, but we can stick to rations. . . ."
Sam looked between Jack and Gerard, her mouth slightly parted. "If there's enough food to go around. . . ." She shrugged and tried to make eye contact with Daniel, but Daniel turned away.
"Why don't I help you, Gerard?" Daniel stood, wanting to put some distance between himself and his team. "I remember what some of the cooking utensils do and I'd like to learn about some of the others." He gave Jack a look as he followed Gerard into the kitchen—begging Jack to think it over as a human and not just a colonel. Jack just shrugged in response, the Vinculum connection between them open and empty.
Daniel tried not to think too much about Jack while Gerard quietly explained some of the cooking utensils. The kitchen was cramped, just like the one in the other apartment Daniel had seen—the kitchen more like a galley with a small table jammed against one wall with barely enough space for two people. Daniel tried to stay out of Gerard's way, flattening himself against the wall, feeling at times like a ghost.
He'd barely felt human since coming back from the dead. He was usually careful not to say it like that—Ascension wasn't the same thing as being dead—but being human again was like being resurrected, like being something else, something not quite human and not quite Ascended. Being here, having his thoughts splayed open for Gerard and Jack, wasn't an easy thing. He just wanted it to get easier. Maybe gaining control of the Vinculum would help. Maybe he could regain what he'd lost faster—gain access to those missing memories and feel whole again.
Maybe this relationship with Jack would be better, too. Daniel was constantly worried he'd forgotten something—how they should act together, if Jack expected him to be someone he'd forgotten. Maybe they'd been wrong to try this again, Daniel thought. Maybe it was something neither of them could handle. Maybe they'd both been too damaged to risk a relationship that didn't end at the bedroom door.
But they were here, they were trying again, and maybe the Vinculum would help Daniel if Jack would just let him try.
Gerard served up plates of food, the utensils delicate with curling ornaments. "Probably family heirlooms," Gerard had said. "People in the Lower City were poor, but they were desperate before they'd part with something like this."
They ate in the living room, Teal'c finally moving away from the door and relaxing slightly, though Gerard probably didn't know since Teal'c still hadn't sat down or let go of his staff weapon.
"We're not here to fight a war," Jack suddenly said, breaking the sound of chewing.
"I didn't expect—"
"We're not here to fight a war," Jack repeated with some emphasis. "But we're here to extract you and your brother."
Daniel finished chewing and swallowed his mouthful of food. "We're going through with it?"
Jack sat back, his brow furrowed. "Don't throw a parade over it."
Gerard glanced between Jack and Daniel and then set his plate on the low coffee table. "I still . . . I'm going to need Daniel's help."
Jack, I can handle it. Please.
Daniel tried to hold back the rest—that he thought working in the Vinculum could help him access his own missing memories, he tried to stay focused on Gerard's problems and on helping him—but it was on the surface, and besides it was Jack, he probably had an idea of Daniel's thoughts already.
Jack kept his gaze off Daniel and didn't send back a message through the Vinculum. "That's Daniel's decision," he mumbled.
Daniel repressed the urge to kiss Jack—or at least look longingly at him. "Can you catch me up to speed?" he asked Gerard.
Gerard nodded. "It shouldn't take long."
"All right." Jack set down his plate and sat forward, gesturing to Gerard. "Tell me about the security at the capitol. The last time we were here, I wasn't exactly figuring out how to break in."
Gerard told them about the layout and the automated and manned security, bringing up floor plans for Jack and Daniel through the Vinculum. Daniel tried to listen, keeping focused on the tactical plans Jack was making, but his thoughts kept straying, wondering if the Vinculum could pierce his subconscious mind and give him back the memories Oma Desala had hidden from him. Finally Gerard turned to Daniel, training him how to access the satellites without drawing the attention of the state. By the time they'd finished it was a few hours until sunset, and Jack insisted they catch some rack time before they headed off on this crazy mission.
~Continued in Part 2