Um...Untitled by cheerful minion

Title: "Um … Untitled"
Status: Finished
Author: ocean gazer:
Date: 30 Dec. 2001
Category: challenge (Heliopolis #1248), action/adventure, humor (or so I hope <g>).
Rating: Oh, I’d think it’s PG13, for minor violence and bits o’ bad language.
Pairing: none … just friendship.
Season: Hmm … season three, fairly soon after The Devil You Know.
Spoilers: Well, it does give away all the episode titles through season five. In terms of actual episode content … pretty miniscule spoilers for Singularity, In the Line of Duty, Tok’ra I and II, Fair Game, Jolinar’s Memories, The Devil You Know.
Archive: Pink Rabbit, Singularity, Heliopolis … anyone else, you can always ask *g*.
Disclaimer: Don’t own any of ‘em, which is a good thing since I have no room for any more people in my house (let alone a flippin’ Stargate). They still are the property of those who have owned them all along … the lovely and tolerant folks of MGM, Showtime, Double Secret, Gekko, so on and so forth. I promise to play nicely with them and will put them away when I’m done. No one has offered me money or honorary scholarships or a Caribbean cruise or any other sort of payment for this demented work of fiction … aforementioned owners are welcome to run off with anything in this story that strikes their fancy. (Please?)
Notes: The actual challenge reads as follows: "This is a silly challenge, but I think it would be fun to write a fic that includes all of the episode titles from the show in the dialogue. … Extra points if you manage to give it a plot and make some sense." Don’t know if I’ve succeeded on either count … this challenge is harder than it sounds <g>. This is also my first effort at writing in third person omniscient, rather than a single POV, so I don’t know how well it works … I’ve rewritten it enough that I can’t tell if it sucks or not. A multitude of thanks to Barb for her patiently given encyclopedic assistance, and thanks to my sorceress for hinting that she wanted a new story to read. Feedback welcome, hope you enjoy.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |


Part 2

Scant minutes later, SG1 and Janet found themselves being herded down a rough trail. Oddly enough, the five of them were walking together--Teal'c in front, Jack and Daniel next in line, and Sam and Janet bringing up the rear of the captive procession. There were armed men in front of them, to the sides of them, and behind them, but no one seemed to be paying all that careful attention to them. Of course, it also wasn't like there was any way they could get out of the cluster of armed men surrounding them, especially since their hands were still tied.

Still, mindful of his role as leader, Jack spoke quietly and earnestly (and with more than a trace of unconscious irony). "Ok, we're in a bit of a bind at the moment …"

Janet and Sam, in perfect synch and reveling in being able to imitate the colonel, chorused, "No kidding."

Jack bit back the smile that threatened to emerge at the momentary diversion from darker thoughts, replaced it with a scowl, and continued undaunted. "THE FIRST COMMANDMENT for a situation like this is that if anyone sees any WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY to get free and escape, you do it. No questioning, no looking back, just get the hell out of here and try to get help."

Daniel looked like he was about to argue, but the look on O'Neill's face silenced him and he nodded, even though everyone knew that he would never actually follow that particular order. The two women exchanged glances with each other, knowing as well as anyone that those left behind might be killed out of vengeance before help could arrive, but nodded in agreement with the colonel's instruction. They were career military; they knew the stakes involved in being taken captive, and knew what their responsibilities were.

Teal'c didn't even bother to dignify the colonel's comment with a response since he knew perfectly well what his duty should be. He asked quietly, "So what is the second commandment, O'Neill?"

Jack shrugged the best he could with his hands tied behind his back. "Beats the hell out of me. Usually it's hard enough to get that far." In fact, maybe there was only one commandment after all, since O'Neill couldn't think of any other rules, no matter how hard he tried. In fact, that was the only thing that really seemed relevant, other than not revealing any incriminating information, and even that was a moot point most of the time with the type of foe faced by the SGC. Their usual enemies either had mind control devices or simply didn't consider humans important enough to have any useful information. And in this particular case, their captors already knew the relevant and crucial pieces of information.

Daniel, concentrating hard on not tripping over assorted tree roots in the path, and more interested in motives than tactics, asked Janet, "I know I've seen this Seth guy around, but where does he work? I mean, what does he do at the SGC?"

Fraiser racked her brain for a moment, surprised that she couldn't exactly remember. "I don't actually know for sure. He's one of the rare people who only seems to come to the infirmary on days and shifts when I'm not there, which is a pretty hard thing to do, given the hours I keep. I think he works in Purchasing, but don't hold me to that."

"So where's he get the delusions of grandeur?" Not surprisingly, the sarcastic voice belonged to none other than O'Neill.

Janet figuratively shrugged. "Beats the hell out of me. I'm a medical doctor, not a psychiatrist." Of course even if she were a psychiatrist, not having had any interaction at all with the man, she still wouldn't have any better answer to the question.

Carter, who had been uncommonly quiet since the captivity began, offered thoughtfully. "Maybe he just snapped one day. We deal with some things that most people are just not able to handle, and all the psych tests in the world can't predict how people will respond for certain when they're faced with something they never would have imagined." She stepped agilely around a fern that for some reason had decided to grow in the middle of the trail, only half seeing it, still focused intently on what she saw in her mind's eye.

As if she was reading Sam's mind, Janet mimicked the agile side stepping around the plant life, and jumped in to finish the thought. "It's THE CURSE of having an unconventional job … there will always be people who can't handle what they see or what they find themselves doing IN THE LINE OF DUTY. Most of the time, it's the people on the front lines who break down, and we notice it quickly and are able to help them. But in a case like this …"

It was Sam's turn to finish the thought. "No one realized he was becoming delusional." She shivered unconsciously at the thought that a man had gone so far around the bend without anyone noticing and being able to help him. Not a pleasant thought at all.

Daniel's voice was quiet and reflective, a murmur scarcely louder than the whisper of the evening breeze through the trees. "THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD go I."

O'Neill's voice dripped with annoyance, eyes rolling back in his head at the way the younger man always seemed to think he was susceptible to doing the worst things in the world (almost like an ethical hypochondria). "Not hardly, Daniel. You're made of a lot tougher stuff than that."

Despite their predicament, the younger man beamed brightly, his attention focused on Jack to the point where he was in danger of tripping or walking into a tree or running into Teal'c, which would have roughly the same effect as the tree. "Wow, I think that's the best compliment you've ever given me."

The colonel offered a tiny, embarrassed shrug--overt displays of affection or emotion not really being his thing. From behind, the two women noted the gesture, turned to each other, and shared a bemused look … since Daniel looked like an overly eager puppy and O'Neill looked like he was a cat who had just been discovered befriending mice. Ironic, really, that the two men actually were friends. Sam, at least, couldn't think of two people who were a better example of the Odd Couple … well … except maybe herself and Teal'c. Nah, even they had more in common than the old-fashioned soldier and the new-age archeologist.

Janet smiled at the note of pure happiness in the archeologist's voice, since--as his doctor--she knew as well as his teammates that he had depressive tendencies, and keeping him focused on the positive was always a good thing. But she effectively turned the conversation back to the topic at hand. "I just wonder whether there was one particular thing that caused him to snap, or whether it was more of a cumulative effect."

Sam, easily following her friend's lead and back to playing verbal 'tag-you're-it' with the doctor, supplied smoothly, "And where do these other people come in? I don't recognize any of the rest of these people … so why are they caught up in the same delusion as Lazarus? Or are they also people who have worked at the SGC and we just never knew they were there?"

Jack, glad for the shift in topic away from the more mushy side of things, snorted his disagreement with that train of thought, kicking a pebble as if to emphasize his point. "That's an awful lot of people to have gone nuts. If it were one or two, maybe I could buy it. But not this many."

Next to him, Daniel stepped deftly around a rock. His attention still on the ground, he muttered, "THE ENEMY WITHIN the gate is a more threatening foe than the enemy outside."

The colonel looked sideways at his teammate, easily deciphering Daniel's disagreement in the words of the textbook quote. "Yeah, that's true. But I seriously doubt any of these people have ever worked at the SGC … despite the popular misconception of the brainless, semi-literate soldier, you do have to have at least a few working brain cells to get into the military and work on classified projects. And I don't believe for a second that there's some vast fifth column at the SGC who is in cahoots with this guy. I think we're dealing with one lone wacko who's somehow convinced a bunch of dumbasses that they're the descendants of THE FIRST ONES."

Janet inserted quietly, "Which still leaves us with the question of what happened to cause Lazarus to become delusional …"

"… and how he convinced these other people to follow along with his delusion," Sam finished neatly, her tone quiet as well.

Daniel sighed heavily, his attention still on his feet as he deftly stepped over a rather large root protruding from the ground. "Well, until we know what's going on BENEATH THE SURFACE in his mind, it'll be hard to figure out what's going on with the others." A short pause, and then, "They certainly don't seem to be the brightest bunch around."

Jack interrupted him, apparently eager to correct the younger man. "Don't you mean under the surface instead of beneath the surface?"

Sam made a hasty choking sound, as did Janet--both of them trying hard to swallow their amusement. It was an admittedly weird time to be focused on the pedantic, especially since it was not even close to O'Neill's usual outlook on the universe. The men seemed oblivious to their stifled reaction, with Daniel pointing out patiently, "Same difference."

The colonel's response was an eye roll and the softly uttered, "Whatever."

Teal'c broke in abruptly, his voice easily carrying back to their ears. "I am beginning to feel like something of THE FIFTH MAN here." There was just the faintest tinge of reproach in his voice.

Janet, always one to be helpful when possible, spoke quickly, before anyone else could comment. "Don't you mean a fifth wheel, Teal'c?"

"Whatever." The big man continued as smoothly as if her interjection had not taken place. "The point remains that rather than wasting energy and breath on determining this man's mental state, we should be concentrating on a means of escape from him." Really, spending so much time talking was simply wasting energy they could otherwise be hoarding for their eventual escape attempt.

Daniel, who had a penchant for odd phrasing and an annoying ability to have an opinion on everything, argued, "But it's far easier to fight back against THE DEVIL YOU KNOW than the devil you don't know."

Teal'c actually stopped in his tracks, turned around to face his companions, and quirked his eyebrow in confusion. "These men are not DEMONS, Daniel Jackson."

Used to exchanges like this, Sam explained in a patient voice, "It's a figure of speech, Teal'c. It means that the more we know about an enemy, the easier it is to defeat him."

His response was softly spoken, but the practical words had the effect of a shout. "In general, I would agree. But a delusional man does not act in predictable ways, no matter how much you understand of him."

Now that qualified as another conversation stopper, and in some ways it was a good thing, as the sun was beginning to set and it was becoming harder for the group to walk and talk at the same time, since the downward slope was steep and the trail was actually getting rougher and more inclined to have unexpected obstacles than it had been higher up.

After what seemed like forever, they were finally at the bottom of the trail and in the valley. Then they got to climb another, smaller hill and take a wildly twisting path … to the point where Sam (who usually had a good sense of direction) couldn't even tell where they were in relationship to General Hammond's cabin. She fervently hoped that the colonel or Teal'c had managed to keep some kind of mental map on the off chance they could escape … since the archeologist was hopeless with directions anywhere but in landscapes that looked like Egypt (which this most definitely did not) and the doctor was hopeless with them anywhere but the safe confines of a city. Finally, just about the time both Daniel and Janet were panting with exertion and allergies, and Sam was feeling on the light-headed side herself, Seth held up a hand, effectively calling a halt to the hike.

In the falsely jovial tones of a tour guide, he gestured to a rough looking log cabin half hidden in the trees and informed them in his best menacing tones (which were anything but, since he sounded like Vincent Price on helium), "This is the tomb … it will be your home until we have chosen the method by which we will kill you."

For a long moment, no one said anything, and this time Sam offered the quip, figuring that if she was going to get hit anyway, she may as well get to have the fun of mouthing off. "Isn't a tomb usually where you put people after they're dead?"

The response was predictable and no one bothered to answer the very valid question. Janet felt a stab of concern go through her as she looked at Sam, who had fallen to the ground and was struggling back to her feet as best she could without the use of her hands. That she managed it at all was mighty impressive in the doctor's book, let alone managing it with all she'd been through. The men were being shoved into the cabin, hands still bound, Daniel complaining that he was hungry and Jack complaining that he was thirsty. Janet made her way quietly to her best friend's side, only half-hearing Seth say that he might allow them to be fed if they behaved but that they were not going to be untied and that they would each be tied to a separate iron ring on the wall so that they could not untie each other.

"You okay, Sam?" There was real concern in her voice, not only for medical reasons, but because she hated being helpless and watching her friends suffer.

The blonde woman's face was crinkled in pain, but she met Janet's gaze squarely. "I'll be fine," she answered reassuringly, before a tiny, teasing note entered her voice. "Just got a bit of a headache for some odd reason."

Janet smiled, seeing a tiny grin flit across Carter's face. And then out of the blue, she was struck by a thought. "I wonder … if they think …" Sam turned confused eyes on her friend, but before she could ask the obvious question, Janet whispered, "When they take us into the cabin, pretend to pass out and don't 'wake up' until I tell you it's ok."

Sam raised an eyebrow, having absolutely no idea what purpose that would achieve, but nodded, trusting that her friend had a plan. Before Janet could explain further, the guards seemed to finally notice that the inside of the cabin was two prisoners short, and they came over, grabbed the women, and pushed them through the door.

With a performance that Janet thought was truly Oscar worthy, Sam staggered for a moment, and then fell--managing to land on a flimsy, elf-sized dining room table and break it into kindling before crashing dramatically to the floor of the cabin.

Assorted shouts of concern filled the air and Janet immediately dropped to her knees beside her best friend. She could hear O'Neill swearing inventively and Daniel repeating Sam's name over and over like a mantra. Seth appeared beside the doctor and stared down at the unmoving woman.

"What's wrong with her?" he demanded, his tone haughty, but with an underlying emotion that couldn't quite be named.

Janet felt a surge of anger at the whole, stupid mess they were in because of the man-who-would-be-god standing beside her. She didn't even bother to suppress the emotion when she spoke. "Why do you care? You're just going to kill us anyhow."

His eyes flashed with a dangerous light, reminding her that whatever else he might be, he clearly was not entirely sane and pissing him off was not probably the brightest thing in the universe to do. Arrogance flooded his voice. "Yes, we will. But I want you all conscious and aware when that happens … to know how powerful your new gods really are … it will be a PROVING GROUND for the loyalty of my followers before we conquer the rest of the world. Now, what's wrong with her?"

She offered a bitter laugh and shrugged helplessly, the words coming out of her mouth before she could think better of them. "How the hell am I supposed to know? I can't exactly examine her with my hands tied behind my back."

She winced, much as O'Neill had done earlier, afraid she'd pushed just a little too far. But much to her surprise, rather than smacking her (or, as was more likely, Carter) for being insolent, he jerked his head at one of the guards and the man came over and untied the thick ropes. She rubbed her abused wrists thankfully, and Seth grabbed her by the hair and whispered in her ear. "You can examine her, but don't try to escape or attack. I'm not a stupid man and I know all the tricks you might try."

She simply nodded (since she figured it wouldn't help matters to tell him exactly how stupid she thought he was) and he released his grip and stood beside her as she cautiously began to examine her friend. She rooted around in her pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. Looking up at Seth and doing her best to look completely distraught, Janet asked plaintively, "Could I get some water to wet this with? I need to get this blood cleaned off so that I can see what the extent of her injuries are."

There was a definite greenish cast to the man's face and he swallowed convulsively. Without a word, he turned and made his way over to what passed as a kitchen, filling a clay bowl with water. She thanked him as he handed it to her, and then dipped the cloth in the water, dabbing gently at her friend's temple and cheek.

She wanted to laugh as Seth desperately tried to cover his revulsion at the sight of blood. Seeing it up close and personal like this was a far different matter from seeing it at a distance while he and his men were busy herding their prisoners. He couldn't quite look at Janet as he said, "I need to check something outside. But don't try any tricks, my men are watching you."

He didn't seem to expect a reply and she didn't think it was necessary to offer one, since the only ones she could come up with rivaled the colonel's for sarcasm, and somehow she just didn't think that would help matters in the slightest. O'Neill and Daniel were more than making up for her silence, alternating between calling to Sam to wake up and furiously telling their captors that they would not get away with this. Janet glanced around, seeing that the guards were either busy in a battle of half-wits with Daniel and Jack or were studiously looking anywhere but at Sam and her bloody temple.

As unobtrusively as she could, Janet quickly rolled Carter onto her side. She took another quick glance around, saw that only Teal'c was paying any attention to her, and slid her hand into her pocket, palming her pocketknife. She then slipped it into Sam's right hand, and she could feel the other woman's start of surprise. For an unconscious woman, she was quick on the uptake, and closed her fist around the doctor's gift.

Janet glanced up at Teal'c, and the nearly imperceptible nod of his head was enough to tell her that no one else had witnessed the transaction. With a huge sigh of relief that her ill-formed idea had actually worked, she rolled Sam onto her back again, and set back to work at her original task of cleaning away the blood.

And just then, Seth re-entered the cabin and the lame arguing between captives and captors stopped. Lazarus stepped to Janet's side and asked, "Well?"

Obviously patience wasn't one of the man's virtues. Janet sighed melodramatically and made one final swab against Sam's temple. "I think she'll be okay, but I just don't know. She clearly has a major concussion and I'm worried about a possible skull fracture." She almost couldn't keep a straight face then, knowing that anyone with an ounce or two of common sense would know better about the likelihood of a fracture. Given the look on his face, he was taking her statement as unquestionable gospel. Apparently she'd found another of his non-virtues.

She reached out and gently caressed Sam's cheek, speaking in her best coaxing doctor's voice. "C'mon, Sam; wake up, hon. We're all really worried about you."

And right on cue, Carter was off on another Oscar worthy performance as she pretended to regain consciousness, her moans and pained whispers almost believable. Janet spared a quick glance at their companions, afraid that Jack and Daniel would be beside themselves with worry. But Sam's extremely obedient response to the doctor's words seemed to have tipped them off that the women were up to something: Daniel's eyes were full of avid curiosity and O'Neill looked suspicious … intently interested, but suspicious.

The doctor turned her attention back to soothing her patient. "He-ey there, Sam … welcome back. How do you feel?"

A tiny moan and then a theatrical whisper. "It's like I've got a CRYSTAL SKULL that's about to shatter into a million pieces." She opened her eyes and blinked hard against the light.

Janet was about to say something else to further the act, when she was shoved aside by Seth, who had his hand tangled in Carter's shirt and was pulling her to a sitting position. Genuine outrage flooded the doctor, since the part about the concussion was unfortunately true. "What the hell are you doing? She's in no condition to sit up like that!"

His eyes hard, the man glared at Janet. "Even though she is hurt, she could pose a threat to us. She must be tied up." After a beat, he seemed to remember that the doctor was untied as well. "Oh yes, you must be tied up too." Without further ado, the two women were dragged over and tied to iron rings in the wall, imitating their comrades. Seth did seem to take a bit more care with Sam than his lackeys took with Janet … though he was not precisely what you would call gentle. Carter, for her part, pretended to pass out again.

At least the doctor hoped she was pretending.

Fifteen minutes later, when they were finally alone in the cabin (Seth and his men had taken an extremely long time to tell the group that they would not escape … as if SG1 and Fraiser had failed to notice that point before), Sam opened her eyes and smiled at the rest of the group. She could see the relief on Janet's face, and she felt a bit guilty about playing her role with such enthusiasm. Teal'c offered a nod of the head--his version of an enthusiastic greeting, and the colonel and Daniel both looked as pleased to see her as if she'd been gone for a week.

O'Neill was the first to speak, getting right to the point. "So ladies, mind letting the rest of us in on your SECRETS?"

Daniel was only half a pace behind in opening his mouth, though several steps ahead in the loquacious department. "Yeah, um … what's going on … I mean, are there any REVELATIONS you have to make … about what you're up to … that is, assuming you're up to something … I mean, it seems like you're up to something … I mean, I thought Sam really was hurt at first … but then … well, I mean, I know you're hurt … but not hurt hurt like I thought … and it's not that … I mean, I don't mean to make light of your head … I know it must hurt like hell … but …"

"Put a sock in it, Daniel," was Jack's less-than-patient response to the stream of words. The younger man blushed crimson, but didn't bother to either argue or apologize. O'Neill smiled at the archeologist to show that he wasn't really all that annoyed before turning his attention to the two women. "So," he drawled casually, "mind telling us what's going on?"

Sam smiled widely. "Well, sir, I have a pocketknife."

Jack smirked. "Good one, Carter. I've got a pocketknife too … and it's in my pocket, which makes it something of a moot point." Just what he needed … his second in command starting to imitate him in the sarcasm department.

Janet's smile matched Sam's, and for a disconcerting moment, they looked like a pair of Cheshire cats. "Actually, colonel, she has a knife in her hand." Pausing for effect, and enjoying the surprised looks on Jack and Daniel's faces (and the smug look on Teal'c's), the doctor finished, "I gave mine to her when I was examining her after she pretended to pass out." She felt a surge of pride as she spoke, quite pleased with both her hastily formed plan and the successful execution of it.

Jack actually looked impressed at her actions, but--true to form--quickly squelched the expression and complained, "You could at least give a guy some warning. I thought for sure Carter was in trouble."

Janet didn't even bother to try and hide her sarcasm, figuring that the colonel should get a taste of his own medicine from time to time. "Of course, sir. Would you like me to yell through a bullhorn next time so that everyone knows what's going on?" Really, the man was too much sometimes.

Suitably chagrined, he simply rolled his eyes, leaving Teal'c to ask Daniel, "What purpose would it achieve to yell through the horn of a bull? And in our current predicament, where would we acquire such a creature?" Daniel opened his mouth, but the question actually left him momentarily speechless.

Sam, meanwhile, was squirming around the best she could in her restraints. She'd managed to get the blade of the knife open and was trying to find an angle that would cut the rope in strategic places without causing her to bleed to death in the process. Carefully, aware of Janet's anxious eyes on her, she started to saw through the thick ropes.

An hour later, she was still sawing.

"For cryin' out loud, Carter, aren't you done yet?"

Sam frowned at her CO, but said nothing, not really in the mood to be called on the carpet for insubordination … even if they weren't exactly on a mission. Daniel, being a civilian, had no such qualms. "Jack, try and have a little patience for once. If she cuts her wrist doing this, it won't help us escape."

Feeling the need to speak on behalf of his teammate, especially given how well she had performed the subterfuge necessary to enable her to have the knife, Teal'c chided, "Indeed. If she injures herself in this endeavor, our enemies will be able to track us following her BLOODLINES."

Janet tried to stifle a laugh. The colonel didn't even bother to hide his amusement. Sam's frown simply deepened. Teal'c looked at them blankly, confused by their reactions.

Daniel spoke gently. "Uh, Teal'c, I think you mean they could follow her trail of blood. Um … bloodlines are what are passed down genetically … like ancestry."

The big man remained unperturbed, adamant about his stance. "Whatever. The point remains that if Major Carter injures herself, we are all at risk."

Janet shot a questioning look at the woman who was the centerpiece of the discussion. Jerking her head towards Teal'c, the doctor muttered, "When did he start saying 'whatever'?" Granted, she wasn't around SG1 all that often, but it did not sound like the usual overly formal way the man talked.

Sam shook her head minutely, to avoid setting the world spinning, and whispered back, "I have no idea. I think maybe he's been spending too much time with the colonel." Now that she thought about it, his use of the word was a completely new development.

Jack, apparently overhearing the conversation, called out grumpily, "It's all in your POINT OF VIEW. Personally, I think I'm having a good effect on him." After all, he was the one who invited the Jaffa over to watch sports and was teaching him about beer and trying to find out what … er … assets Teal'c found attractive in women. Nothing but good things, in his less-than-humble opinion; he was helping the alien get acclimated.

Both women were, unfortunately, aware of the things O'Neill was teaching the Jaffa, since Daniel had told them one night when he was confined to the infirmary and doped up on morphine, which had an effusive effect on the man. But fortunately, the duo was saved the trouble of coming up with a suitable response that didn't overtly accuse him of being a very bad influence when Sam triumphantly pulled her arm free from the rope. Scant seconds later, her other arm was free.

"Alright, Carter," the colonel exclaimed, forgetting that moments before he'd been annoyed. "Now we're getting somewhere."

The major made her way over to Janet, since she was closest in line, and proceeded to free her friend from her bonds. Once the doctor was rubbing her wrists gratefully, Sam turned her attention to Daniel, since he was the next closest. Once he was free, the blonde turned the pocketknife over to Janet. Seeing the concerned look the brunette gave her, she hastened to explain, "I'm ok, really. Just a little shaky."

Janet frowned, not exactly buying the stoic act, but turned her attention to cutting O'Neill loose, figuring that the sooner they were all freed, the sooner she could have a couple minutes to check on her friend. Daniel got up and wandered over to a tiny refrigerator. Apparently he was still hungry.

But before he could open the door and see what culinary delights lay in store for them, the cabin door opened, and Seth and a guard entered. "How did you free yourselves?" bellowed the leader, as if he truly expected an answer, and as if he was blind to the sight of Janet working on freeing O'Neill.

Without waiting for an answer, he rushed at Daniel, gun raised as if to strike the prisoner, and the guard rushed at Carter, his gun in similar position. Daniel tried to back away and tripped, which saved him from getting his face bashed in. It also caused Seth to trip over him, carried by his own momentum, and they rolled together on the floor, each trying to subdue the other. Sam, for her part, ducked under the clumsy swing the guard sent her way. She landed several blows on him, to the point where it was about all he could do to block her fists … he couldn't even manage to get the gun into a position where firing it might be a threat to anything other than his own feet. He was clearly no match for her, but then the rolling fighters crashed into the back of her legs, causing her to lose her balance and have to struggle to remain standing, and the momentary distraction was enough for the guard to finally get his bearings back. He swung his gun around and pure luck caused him to hit the most-tender spot on her temple, and this time it was no act when she collapsed.

He raised his gun to strike her again, but before he could do any more damage, Janet was there, and her knee connected with the most-tender spot of his anatomy and he collapsed on top of Sam, who had herself landed on top of Seth and Daniel. Somehow, the guard's gun missed the archeologist's head and connected with his own leader's head with a hard smack, which no one in the room saw as anything other than poetic justice.

Janet, stronger than she looked from handling dead weight patients, hauled the moaning guard off of her friend, and shoved him aside, letting him curl up in agony on the floor. She then started checking pulses and eyeing the damage done, her attention centered on Carter.

Jack, straining against his loosened bonds, his voice thick with aggravation at still being tied up and missing a good fight, asked, "So how are they?"

Janet allowed her own frustration with the entire experience to come out in her tone, her voice catching unprofessionally as she took in the fresh injury to Carter's head. "Sam is unconscious … I need to get a better look at her … see how bad it is."

O'Neill heard the emotion and understood its cause, and his voice gentled as he prompted, "And the fruitloop and Daniel?"

Distractedly she answered, "He's out COLD … LAZARUS, I mean. The guard is still conscious, and so is Daniel."

As if to punctuate her words, the archeologist waved his one free hand in the air and spoke from his position on the bottom of the pile. "I'm fine, Jack. I just want to get these people off of me."

The plaintive note in his voice pushed Janet back into her best doctor mode. Gently she slid Sam off of the pile of bodies, then grabbed Seth by the collar and dragged him over to where the guard was regaining his senses. A sudden surge of anger flowed through her and she elbowed the guard, knowing from her medical training exactly where to hit to knock him out.

Daniel picked himself gingerly off the floor, while Janet turned to examine Sam. He paused beside the doctor, looking down at his teammate, and then was quickly recalled to duty when Jack said calmly but urgently, "Daniel, finish getting these ropes off me and then we need to free Teal'c. It's only A MATTER OF TIME before someone notices these two are missing and thinks to check in here."

"Right." Daniel moved over to the door and shut it, then quickly cut through the remainder of Jack's bonds before turning his attention to Teal'c's, moving with considerable haste and a lack of caution that made even the unflappable Jaffa grimace slightly.

Meanwhile, Sam was stirring under Janet's lightly probing touch. She looked up to see concern sketched on the face of her friend. "Hey, Janet," she said softly. Wasn't much of a greeting, but it had the effect of lighting the doctor's face like sunshine. She lay perfectly still as her friend continued to look her over … more than content to just rest for a moment or twenty. This definitely didn't qualify as the best vacation she'd ever had. Considerably less than the best, actually.

Several minutes later, Sam was upright and as good as could be expected under the circumstances, and Janet was looking relieved at that fact; Teal'c was free (and miraculously unharmed given the archeologist's enthusiasm for his task), and Jack was looking relieved at that. Seth and the guard were gagged and tied securely to the iron rings in the wall, and Daniel had finally gotten to open the refrigerator in search of food. He was disappointed in his search, since it revealed only some energy bars--which were rock hard from being kept cold. O'Neill grabbed a handful of them anyhow, saying that they would need to eat sometime.

O'Neill started to lead his team out of the cabin when Daniel cleared his throat nervously. "Uh, shouldn't we take their guns with us or something? You know, in case someone comes after us … so we can defend ourselves?"

Janet stared in shock for a moment at the normally pacifistic civilian and then whispered to Sam, "When did he start getting all macho and weapons happy?" The idea of the man actually wanting to have a gun close by was such a foreign one that it almost did not compute.

Sam shrugged somewhat helplessly, her blue gaze focused on her teammate as if he'd suddenly morphed into someone else. It was about the last thing she'd expected to hear him say. Unable to formulate any other response, she settled for the quiet, "Beats the hell out of me."

Once again, Teal'c spoke while O'Neill was still trying to figure out what--exactly--he should say. "We are significantly outnumbered, Daniel Jackson. Having two weapons with us would do nothing to protect us from twenty men armed with weapons. We could barely be assured of killing half of our enemies before we were out of ammunition and then we would most assuredly all perish as well."

Daniel's face fell and he looked like the big man had run over his puppy. Jack patted his arm clumsily and shot a glare at the Jaffa. "You're a big help," he said acidly. "Why'd you have to bring up the whole death theme?"

Teal'c's eyebrow rose slightly--a dramatic display of annoyance. "I was unaware that you wished for me to tell lays, O'Neill."

"Lies, Teal'c … you tell lies … fibs … untruths."

The big man seemed unperturbed at the lesson in grammar tenses and semantics. "Whatever. The point remains that I am simply speaking the truth. It will do no one any good if I act as though two weapons will effectively protect us when they will serve only to assist in our destruction."

Sam and Janet both stepped forward, the sudden motion effectively breaking the uneasy tableau. Carter's voice was quiet, but full of much needed practicality. "We can argue about this all we want once we're safely out of here. Right now, the best thing we can do to help ourselves is to get as far away from these guys as possible."

O'Neill wholeheartedly agreed with that sentiment. He turned to Daniel, who still looked a little stricken by Teal'c's cheerful assessment of their situation. "We're better off not taking their guns … if they catch up to us, we'll have a much better chance if we surrender than if we start shooting." The archeologist looked a little happier as he heard his usual philosophical stance being quoted by a military colonel, and complacently allowed the older man to lead him out of the cabin, Teal'c--shaking his head slightly in either amusement or disbelief, it was impossible to tell--following right behind.

As the women followed in their wake, Janet tugged lightly on Sam's sleeve and stretched up to whisper, "Is it just me, or does this whole experience just keep getting more and more surreal?" A low, affirmative chuckle came as a response.

Stealthily they all made their way away from the cabin and the guards, moving slowly and as quietly as a group of five people can move on unfamiliar terrain in the dark. Once they reached a place where Jack thought they were out of earshot, he skidded to a halt.

Before he could open his mouth, Daniel's was open and moving. "So, what's the plan?"

Jack jerked his thumb over his shoulder and gestured to the steep hill behind them. "We're gonna have to go back over this hill to the valley and then backtrack from there and climb up the hill to get to Hammond's cabin. We've still got the van there, so once we get to the cabin we'll be able to get the hell away from these psychos and get word to the SGC about this Lazarus guy."

Daniel chewed his lip nervously. "It's a nice plan … really. But there's one thing you've forgotten." Jack shot him a quizzical look, so he elaborated. "The trail we took from Hammond's place to this place is on the other side of the cabin, not on this side."

O'Neill couldn't resist a smirk. "I know that. Obviously we aren't going up the trail." Dead silence greeted that statement. "Think about it. We can't go back that way or they'll see us. They won't think that we've climbed up this way … through the trees … in the dark … without a trail … or flashlights. It'll give us enough time to get away and get to safety. Besides, it's shorter to go back up to the cabin from this side, rather than taking the trail." Before his companions could shake off their shock and think of anything to say, he added in his best persuasive tone (the one he used when the situation was really desperate and he was trying to keep everyone calm), "Relax … it'll be fun. Trust me."

Janet--as quick with a quip as the colonel--was the first to recover her wits. "Fun? Are you absolutely insane?" she whispered in annoyance, O'Neill's attempt at being reassuring obviously not having that effect on her at all. "All it would take is ONE FALSE STEP for someone to break an ankle and then we wouldn't be able to escape."

Daniel jumped in again, his whisper equal parts incredulity and worry. "And what if someone trips and falls? They could bump someone else and cause them to fall as well … it would be a CHAIN REACTION and we could all wind up injured and in a heap against a tree or at the bottom of the slope."

Sam's voice was hesitant … she didn't like the idea any more than her companions, but she didn't have a much better plan to offer, and the lack of one made her reluctant to second guess her CO. "Colonel, why can't we just go subdue the guards and tie them up and then make our way back up to the cabin?"

Teal'c--taking his turn to speak, but also speaking out of turn since the question was to O'Neill--replied calmly, "We do not have any more rope with which to bind the guards, we are vastly outnumbered and may not be able to avoid recapture, and we may well be injured in the course of a fight."

O'Neill shot an annoyed look at his friend for interrupting (since it seemed to him he was getting interrupted an awful lot), but merely echoed, "What Teal'c said." He used his best persuasive voice. "Look, I know it seems like I'm taking DESPERATE MEASURES here, but this guy is out to kill us, so the faster we get out of here undetected, the better off we'll be. URGO, we go up the back way."

Despite the gravity of the situation, three human voices whispered in perfect synch, "It's ergo."

The colonel didn't even bother to dignify that with a "whatever." Instead, he continued on his original train of thought. "It's the best shot we've got at getting out of here. Besides, I'll take the lead and blaze the trail and Teal'c will be last in case anyone needs help."

Janet knew she was playing with fire, given the underlying note of steel in O'Neill's voice, but she couldn't just leave it at that. "Sir, I know our options are limited, but I'm worried about Sam." She realized that there wasn't squat either one of them could do about it and that escape took precedence over non-fatal injuries, but she was a doctor through and through and had to at least voice her concern.

Predictably, the woman in question argued, "I'll be fine, Janet, really." Actually, she wasn't feeling all that great and the world was having an unfortunate tendency to spin at the most inopportune times. But she knew they needed to escape and she was bound and determined not to slow them down … and if there was one trait that Sam Carter had in spades, it was determination.

O'Neill rolled his eyes impatiently, but his tone was kind. "Look, doc, I am too. But we really don't have much choice. We need to get up over this hill and get to the next one so we can reach the SUMMIT, since that's where Hammond's cabin is, before these idiots figure out where we are. We'll all help Sam and we'll work together so that no one else gets hurt. But we need to get a move on it."

Janet opened her mouth as if to argue some more, then shut it abruptly and conceded with a one shouldered shrug, knowing they really had no choice. Knowing it didn't make her like it any better, however. O'Neill nodded and mouthed "thank you" and then without another word, led the group into the dense underbrush, moving with as much care as his haste would allow.

"Why do I feel like we're the Israelites on the EXODUS out of Egypt?" Janet quipped to Sam in an attempt to bolster her own flagging spirits.

The blonde woman smiled as she turned to follow her companions, deliberately keeping her tone light. "It's a good analogy, only I don't think the colonel makes a very good Moses."

The man in question turned around, a suspicious look on his face as he tried to decide if they were complaining, and if they were, whether they were going to continue it for the entire journey. With his eyes focused on the duo, the whispered exchange was effectively silenced, and O'Neill turned his attention to the task at hand as he led his people into the wilderness.

Daniel was right on Jack's heels; another inch closer and he'd be actually stepping on the older man's feet. Sam followed him, with Janet trailing close behind to keep an eye on her friend, figuring the middle of the group was probably the safest place for the wounded woman. Teal'c kept a respectable distance behind them, his ears perked for the slightest sound of pursuit, and his eyes focused on his companions to be watchful of any difficulty with which they might require his assistance.

After what seemed like years but was probably only an hour, O'Neill called a halt. He turned to Teal'c. "Any sign that they're behind us?"

The Jaffa spoke with certainty, even though his eyes were busy scanning the dark landscape. "To the best of my knowledge, they are not following us."

Daniel's voice was laced with uncertain hope. "Out of sight, OUT OF MIND?"

Jack laughed, running a tired hand through his hair, ruffling it. "Sorry, Daniel. I don't think they've forgotten about us this quickly. They're stupid, but not that stupid."

The archeologist snorted at that. "Oh, I don't know … they're definitely on the bottom of the LEARNING CURVE." He paused for a moment, rubbing his arms in an effort to ward off the chill. "They're probably stupid enough to build a bomb and set it so that it can only be detonated with a DEADMAN SWITCH, rather than by some kind of remote."

Jack choked with laughter at this point, no small bit of smugness in his tone as he got to correct the younger man. "Uh, Daniel … deadman switch is an old railroad term … it was a way to stop a train if something happened to …"

Before O'Neill could explain any further, the archeologist made a dismissive gesture with his hand and pouted, "Whatever. They'd still be stupid enough to do something like that … to build something they had to detonate themselves." He didn't care if it was exactly the right term or not … it sounded perfectly good to him.

The colonel's eyebrows twitched in a sign of his amusement and he coughed to hide his continued chuckles; Janet bit her lip to keep from laughing aloud, not wanting to hurt Daniel's feelings; and Teal'c simply shook his head ever so slightly at yet another mystifying conversational twist. Sam, taking pity on her teammate though her eyes were twinkling suspiciously, added with forced brightness, "Or they'd build a bomb to not detonate if something mechanical fails and call that a FAIL SAFE."

Teal'c cocked his head to the side, not following that logic in the slightest, and feeling safe enough from pursuit to indulge his curiosity. "Why would that be incorrect? Is not a fail safe a prevention of action if certain conditions are met?"

Janet, beating Sam to the response, said, "That's one meaning. But it also means a way of ensuring that a device continues to work in spite of mechanical failure."

Daniel, apparently recovered from his momentary sulk, threw in his two and a half cents. "It's a word that has more than one meaning and where the meanings may appear to be contradictory."

Teal'c shook his head slightly again, a gesture which spoke volumes on him. "Your language is indeed most strange. It is most amazing that you are able to effectively communicate with one another at all."

Before he could pursue that subject any more, O'Neill passed out the stolen energy bars. "May as well rest for a few minutes and get our strength back." He looked back over the path they'd just blazed, though he could see only darkness. Everyone but Tealc' sank gratefully to the ground, needing a moment to catch their breath and regain their strength. The sound of tearing foil wrap filled the night … followed in quick succession by the sounds of chewing … and chewing … and chewing.

"FIRE AND WATER," Daniel mumbled indistinctly, his mouth full of the never-ending-energy-bar-bite.

Sam, her own mouth still full, contented herself with the hastily murmured, "What?"

An audible sound of swallowing, and then the archeologist was able to reply clearly, leaning back against a tree trunk. "I'm cold and thirsty and was just thinking how nice a drink of water and a blazing fire would be right about now." Not to mention a change of clothes and a nice hot bath and an evening spent with nothing more menacing than a history book.

Jack, who somehow had eaten his entire bar in the amount of time it took the others to get through the first bite, automatically contradicted his friend. "It's not cold, Daniel."

"Yes, it is."

"No, it isn't."

"Jack, it's so cold I'll need to sit BETWEEN TWO FIRES in order to warm up."

"It's not cold, Danny-boy. If it was cold, I'd be able to see my breath."

"It's too dark to be able to see your breath … and it's still cold."

Janet opened her mouth to interject her three cents worth, only to be quieted by Sam's hand pressing over her mouth. She took the hint and remained quiet, while the debate raged on with an intensity suggesting it was as important an issue as whether the toilet seat should be left up or down.

Finally, a subtle note of exasperation in his tone, Teal'c said decisively, "This conversation is significantly hampering our escape." There were times when he thought he would never understand the point of pointless arguing.

Sam chirped ironically, "And it's giving me a headache."

Janet said … nothing. There were several things she wanted to say, but all of them were guaranteed to set the men off again, albeit on an entirely different sort of argument … one that involved her. And at this point, that idea was about as enticing as a root canal without anesthesia.

Jack sighed loudly, not liking the thought of a forfeit, but knowing that escape would--at the very least--allow for a rematch. "He's got a point. We need to get moving again. I really don't have the slightest bit of interest in seeing those guys again."

At that, Sam shrugged herself off the ground, helped by Janet, who had managed to stand up more quickly. Daniel unfolded himself like a long legged pretzel, and O'Neill jumped energetically to his feet. Teal'c waited patiently. Without a word, they all fell into the same formation they'd been in before, following O'Neill into the underbrush.

The group moved slowly, single file, the harsh sounds of their breath and the slight rustle of fir needles and rocks under their feet the only sounds in the crisp night air. O'Neill somehow seemed to know where they were going, but to Janet's eyes, the night covered trees and steep inclines all seemed to look the same. She suspected Daniel was as lost as she was, and given the way she could see Sam was having to concentrate on just putting one foot in front of the other, she rather thought the other woman didn't know where they were in the hills either … or more likely didn't have the energy necessary to care. After a while, they came to an abrupt break in the trees. Janet looked up reflexively and sighed in relief. She could just barely see the semi-familiar outline of the cabin's balcony at the top of the steep slope of dirt and rock.

Before Jack could say a word, Daniel said, gesturing to the slope in front of them, "You can't be serious."

O'Neill didn't have to ask to what the younger man was referring. "It looks worse than it is. It's really an easy climb. The dirt is packed hard and the big rocks are stable … like they're cemented into the side of the hill. We won't have any problem getting up it."

Janet shot a sharp look at the colonel, not quite believing that he was serious about going up that way, and not at all liking the idea of participating in the sport of mountain climbing (well, hill climbing, anyway) without any actual climbing gear. "And you know this exactly how?"

Even in the pale glow of the moon, she could see a flush settle over his face. "Well … uh … the last time I was here … lost a bet … had to go up this way …" He cleared his throat, then spoke defiantly as if daring anyone to contradict him. "It's really not a bad climb and once we get to the top, we can grab hold of the balcony edge and lever ourselves up. Use each rock as a FOOTHOLD and it's as easy as climbing a tree."

Sam walked over to the slope, reached out a tentative hand, and felt the dirt of the area in question. "Are you sure it's stable, sir? It feels almost like this is NEW GROUND … it's moist and crumbly … and it hasn't rained here in several days."

O'Neill turned his patented glare on her. "I know you're a PRODIGY, Carter, but since when have you been an expert in soils and climate … or meteorology, for that matter?" It was bad enough that she was always contradicting him about scientific stuff, but this wasn't even close to her area of expertise and this time he knew perfectly well what he was talking about.

She bit her lip, self-conscious under the abrasive words, and became intent on studying her feet. Janet moved next to her friend and placed a light hand on Sam's back in a gesture of support. Turning her own patented glare on O'Neill, the doctor spit acidly, "And I suppose you've got a PhD in all three subjects?" Fraiser liked the man, even got along with him when he wasn't in the infirmary, and she knew he was a good leader. But it bothered her to see him upbraid Carter when he didn't like what she had to say, especially since she knew the other woman tended to be sensitive to that sort of thing.

Jack didn't even bother to hide his exasperation, both with her challenge and with Carter's question. "No, but I have the practical experience because I've actually climbed the damn thing. Look, I'm telling you it's no big deal … it's like climbing a tree."

Daniel, indulging his need to share his opinions on everything, jumped in. "I think he's right. The rocks are really close together and I don't think it will be hard. I mean, I'm sure I can do it, and if I can do it, anyone can, right?"

The women looked at each other, sharing a look of profound discomfort. Sam screwed up her courage and tried again. "Sir, with all due respect, I understand that we're in a hurry. But it would be too easy for someone to fall and then we'll be in a very vulnerable position if Lazarus and his men are following us. Why is this faster than simply going up through the trees to the left? Is it really worth the risk?"

Surprisingly, Teal'c had the answer to the first question. "Because this is where two hills separate. This is the bottom of the hill that leads to the general's cabin, whereas if we go left and climb up through that tree line, while it appears we are on the same slope, we will find ourselves on the top of a different hill and we will have to then climb down it and then go up the correct one."

Jack said triumphantly, "Thank you, Teal'c. And before you ask, yes, we could go across this patch of dirt to the trees on the right side and be on the right hill, but there are so many rises and hollows in that whole area that it would take three times longer to get to the top." He paused briefly, just the very faintest touch of hurt in his voice when he continued, "And Carter, I wouldn't suggest it if I didn't think it was worth the risk."

She offered her CO a tiny shrug--the gesture equal parts embarrassed and apologetic. Still uncomfortable with the situation, she shared a long look with Janet, apparently hoping the other woman had a better argument than she'd presented. The doctor simply shrugged, not able to think of a single thing to say. Jack took their silence as agreement and instructed, "Ok, Daniel, you go up first and I'll be right behind you in case you need help. Carter and Doc, you come next, and Teal'c, you keep an eye on all of us." Pleased to have won the argument and convinced he was right in the first place, he couldn't resist a smirk as he added, "Don't worry so much, Carter, Fraiser. Relax … it'll be fun. Trust me."

As the boys started up the slope, Janet said in a low whisper for Sam's ear alone, "Fun? He's nuts." Then, more bitingly, she continued, "That man is the BANE of my existence."

Much to her surprise, there was an exasperated snort of agreement from the blonde. "Mine too," she commiserated glumly.

Continue to Part 3

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