Like a nuclear submarine
surfacing too rapidly from the depths of a
silent, black ocean, the sounds of the outside world assaulted my ears.
The strident sound of beeping was the first thing I noticed. These
sounds were ones that I'd always associated with the Infirmary. Somehow,
I knew that wasn't the case this time, but wasn't sure just how I knew
that yet. Because of my hunch that all was not as it seemed, I ignored
my initial impulse to automatically open my eyes. I used the time to
scan my surroundings by utilizing my other senses.
My ears continued to supply only the beeping noises. However, their
slow, easy, rhythm had been replaced with a more rapid tempo. From past
experience, I knew that this would inform whoever was monitoring my
vital signs that I was conscious. That meant that I would be having
company soon. Crap.
In a desperate attempt to make the most of the time I had left to
answer some questions, I tried to move a finger. Receiving no response,
I realized that I couldn't feel anything. In fact, my entire body felt
like it wasn't there. That was so not a good sign. Was it? I don't think
so. As in nope, not at all, no way, no how.
Feeling more alarmed now, I frantically rummaged through my most
recent memories, trying to find answerers that would explain my present
predicament. Nothing came to mind at first. With an effort, I tried
regulating my breathing. Since I couldn't feel my chest expanding and
contracting, that was hard to do. Reasoning that if I was conscious, I
had to be breathing, I resolutely ordered myself to imagine that I was
carrying out this task as usual. After a moment of inner debate and
confusion, I was able to accomplish this and knew I had succeeded when I
heard the pace of the beeps from the heart monitor slow to its previous
Once again, I cast my mind back over the memories I had of my recent
past. When I was able to hold the picture of my recent promotion
ceremony in my mind, I felt a momentary flash of triumph. Using that
image as a starting point, I could piece together some of the events
which had resulted in my being promoted to Brigadier General. I smiled
inwardly as I relived those moments of pride and excitement as President
Hayes and General Hammond fastened those silver stars on my shoulders.
Those memories automatically led to the events that had followed.
After pinning the stars on my shoulders, the President had proceeded
to blow me away with his announcement that I'd been awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor by a unanimous vote of the Congress of the
United States. Well, spank me rosy! I couldn't help but wonder what
they'd used to blackmail Kinsey with in order to convince him to vote
for something like that? Everyone knew about the mutual hatred we held
for each other. The Commander in Chief must have gotten some pretty good
dirt on him for that bastard to go along with awarding me the nation's
highest military commendation.
According to what Hammond had said, the President had ordered him to
submit his resignation as quickly as possible. All I could say about
that was 'shucks, couldn't happen to a better guy'. One could only hope
that something that great would happen immediately. Of course, in my
reality, sweet occasions like that never ever happened and always got
screwed up at the last minute.
My mind continued to process the events following the ceremony in an
effort to piece together what had landed me here. Where ever that was. I
could remember saying good-bye to the Asgard representatives before they
beamed back to their spaceship, "The O'Neill II". They had promised to
keep in touch and keep monitoring me, and my teenaged clone, John. So
far, so good. No problems there.
Then the party followed. No problems there either, even though the
spiked bowl of punch had pretty much left the entire staff
'swinging-from-the-Stargate' drunk. My friend, Lou Feretti, had warned
me about that one, the booze in the punch that is. Even though I'd
stayed away from partaking of its contents, I'd decided that the staff
of the SGC had earned the right to get blitzed out of their ever-loving
minds after surviving the latest attack on our home planet. Because I
was their new CO, I'd arranged for an extra-large supply of hangover
remedies to be available to them when they woke up. Since, I couldn't
let anyone drive home drunk, I'd made arrangements for everyone to sleep
it off in the safety of Cheyenne Mountain at Stargate Command.
Because I was so new to my position, I'd decided to live in my
quarters on base for the next few weeks as I made all the changes
necessary to ensure a smooth transition. The previous head honcho of the
SGC had been a female civilian appointed by the new President by the
name of Dr. Elizabeth Weir. Her reign had been short and tumultuous due
to Anubis deciding to take out Earth once and for all. Thankfully, she
had the balls and guts to overrule Kinsey when he tried to veto my
team's mission of searching for the Lost City of the Ancients. That was
when he'd gotten bawled out by his boss and told to "shut the hell up",
according to Hammond.
The only thing that would've made that news any sweeter to my ears
was if I could've been a fly on the wall to witness that conversation
for myself. Being able to watch Kinsey get his pee-pee whacked would've
been such sweet revenge. Not that he could have much of one in the first
place. A pee-pee that is, considering that his balls were virtually
non-existent. Compared to him, Thor's balls were the size of Teal'c's.
Not that I'd been checking out the size of T's...whatever. OK, bad
example. Yep, in my opinion, Kinsey was definitely a dickless wonder.
Mentally, I reviewed some of the changes I'd made with the input of
Hammond and the President. I'd given Feretti a long over-due promotion
to Light Colonel and made him my 2IC at Stargate Command and command of
my former team, SG-1. That was an arrangement that was much more
comfortable for me than having Carter in that position. Placing Feretti
as her direct commander gave both of us a little space to maneuver and
explore our feelings toward each other. In addition, it gave her more
time to concentrate on her scientific mumbo-jumbo, which was her forte
anyway. Even though being the top dog at SGC made me her CO, at least
she wasn't reporting directly to me.
As for Feretti's qualifications, he'd been with the program as long
as I had, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be able to
do the job admirably. Hell, he'd been there with us when Daniel and I
made that first trip through the wormhole to Abydos all those years ago.
By working closely together, I knew that we would get the SGC whipped
Then, I'd sent Carter, Teal'c and Daniel, along with Dr. Weir, down
south to head up the investigative team that was checking out the
Ancients' Outpost under the Antarctic ice. Between Daniel's interpretive
linguistic skills, Carter's scientific abilities, and Weir's diplomatic
expertise, I had no fears that they'd have that place all figured out
soon. And with Teal'c along, nobody would dare mess with them.
But, I still didn't have a clue as to where I was and how I'd gotten
there. All I knew was that I most definitely was not in the Infirmary at
the SGC. With a sigh, I realized I wouldn't find out the answers until I
opened my eyes. Initially, I was unable to do this, which scared me a
little. Just what the hell kind of drugs did they use on me? Crap. As
the beeping sounds of the heart monitor machine sped up, I realized I
could discern the presence of someone standing beside me. Their breath
tickled the inside of my ears as they spoke to me.
"You might as well open your eyes, O'Neill. We know you can hear us."
Damn, just who was this jerk, anyway? His voice didn't ring any bells
for me, so I redoubled my efforts to open my eyes. After a few moments,
I was rewarded with the sight of a fuzzy face-shaped figure in front of
"Very good, Jack. You don't mind if I call you Jack. Do you?" He
ignored the fact that I was incapable of objecting to his unwanted
familiarity and continued.
"Your ability to recover from our medications quickly is excellent.
You will make a most rewarding test subject for me." I tried opening my
mouth to reply, but was unable to accomplish this simple task. With an
effort, I was able to grunt, which seemed to surprise my mysterious and
"You were administered a drug soon after you were detained in order
to prevent any inadvertent injuries while you were transported to our
facility. Do not concern yourself with your inability to speak, as this
side effect will dissipate soon. Don't you remember how you came to be
our...guest, Jack?" At my look of puzzlement, he continued. I had a strong
feeling that he was going to be near the top of my shit list. In fact,
this asshole seemed to have a snake-like flair for the melodramatic.
"Ah, well, that's not really surprising, Jack, as temporary
short-term memory loss is another one of this drug's side effects. Based
on my past experiences while using this medication, you should regain
more muscle control over the next thirty minutes."
Well, this asshole was right about one thing, the paralysis was
slowly lifting from my muscles. Experimentally, I tried licking my lips
and knew a brief moment of triumph when I felt my tongue moisten them.
God, but they were dry and cracked. Now I could feel that a nasal
cannula was in place, feeding me oxygen. Just how long had I been here?
And where the hell was I?
"But I digress, Jack. Where are my manners? You must have a million
questions about your current...situation. Am I right?" I cautiously
ordered my head to nod, not trusting myself to be able to talk yet. If
this guy wanted to spill the beans to me, who was I to stop him?
"You should feel honored to be our guest, Jack. Thanks to you and the
foresight shown by my employer, great strides will be made toward the
defense of our planet." Interpreting the look of confusion on my face
correctly was all the excuse that this blabbermouth needed to continue.
To my disappointment, he was interrupted and turned to speak to someone
"Ahh, Mr. Smith. I have good news for you. Our guest is awake and
seems to be recovering from his medication quite nicely." Mr. Smith? Oh,
how cliché could you get? Please. Note to self: Speak to whoever is
writing this stuff and get better lines for the villains.
To my horror, suddenlya well-known face hovered over mine. Kinsey! I
deliberately closed my eyes, having no other way to show the disgust I
felt toward this man. Crap, I couldn't even spit on the bastard.
"Jack O'Neill. Or should I call you General O'Neill now?" purred my
captor condescendingly. Since I couldn't tell him exactly what I thought
of him, I opened my eyes to give him my coldest glare.
If I could only stall these guys a little longer, maybe I would have
the chance to get the hell out of Dodge. Already, I could feel tingling
sensations in my legs and arms that signaled the end of my paralysis.
With the gradual return of sensation in my arms, I realized that an IV
line was attached to my left arm. Cautiously, I licked my lips and
cleared my throat, and realized it was a movement that now came easy to
me. Now, maybe I could try speaking.
"General to you," I rasped. Not bad for a first try. His sneer was
replaced with a frown. Ooh, didn't expect that from me, huh? Well,
that's just too damn bad. My eyes followed him as he walked around my
bed, scratching his chin. Then his smile returned and he chuckled.
"General O'Neill, then. Well, no matter. You are in no position to
make demands of me. Unlike my former political partner, Hayes, I'm
willing to take the necessary risks that will ensure the survival of the
people of our planet. Too late, I discovered just how soft and easily
manipulated Hayes and Weir could be. Unfortunately, for me, I made the
mistake of trusting that they understood the necessity of a strong hand
to control the Stargate. However, they have not triumphed, no, not at
all. While it is true that my plans have suffered a slight setback, my
vision will yet prevail. And I have you, General, to thank for that.
Would you like to know how you will assist me, Jack? Because, you will,
you know," he smirked.
Yep, the asshole was spouting typical villain-type lines. Any minute
now, he'd be twirling his non-existent moustache. If I acted quiet and
helpless for long enough, he'd tell me all about his 'great vision'.
After that, I could devise a way to throw a little C-4 into it and blow
it all to hell. I grunted by way of reply. Sure enough, that was all the
encouragement he needed to boast about his 'great vision'.
"You're the key, Jack. Or at least what's inside your head is." I
raised one eyebrow by way of asking him what the hell he meant by that.
I had the feeling I knew where he was going with his little tirade, but
figured if I could keep him talking long enough, I might have time to
figure out how I could stop him.
"When I learned that you had retained all that knowledge from the
Ancients, I just knew that it was a sign from heaven. It was as if God
himself had given me the mission to use this information to safeguard
our planet and our race. I tell you Jack; it was like a divine
revelation and I was confident that I'd discovered the entire purpose of
my life. Which leads me to you, Jack." Kinsey was smiling that
condescending smile of his again. Placing his hands on either side of
me, he leaned over to look me directly in the eyes.
Without warning, I struck his nose with the flat of my palm. With a
little bit of luck, the force of my blow would drive his nasal cartilage
into his brain and kill him. His head snapped back and he screamed as he
fell to the floor. A spray of blood spattered all over the hospital
scrubs I was wearing and everything nearby. Awkwardly, I
maneuvered my legs off the opposite side of the bed. Then the force of
gravity did what comes naturally and pulled the rest of my body to the
floor. Reaching over to my left arm, I jerked out the IV needle and
threw it as far away from me as possible. I'd like to say that it flew
clear across the room, but it didn't. Guess that drug stuff was still in
my system. Then I ripped off the nasal cannula strap and the other wires
that were attached to my chest and the heart monitor.
By now, I could hear the sounds of running feet, the clanging of an
alarm, and the moans of Kinsey. Crap, that meant he was still alive and
kicking. Well, on to plan B, Jack. With considerable effort, I managed
to struggle to my knees. Using the bed as a support, I got to my feet
and took a rapid recon of the room.
Kinsey was still on the floor and the evil doctor type was on his
knees beside him. The room I was in appeared to be rectangular in shape
with three dull-gray walls and a window taking up the fourth one. Their
décor would probably get them a spot in the "Evil Doctor's Laboratory
Monthly Gazette". Judging by the observation window, those goons wanted
to keep a close eye on me. That was so not going to happen, because I
was NOT going to be their latest 'lab rat'! A door was situated across
the room from me. It looked to be a million miles away, because of my
weakened state. In between the door and me were the bed and a bunch of
fancy medical equipment.
As quickly as my weakened body allowed, I staggered around the bed,
using it for support, and headed for the door. The one thing I had going
for me was the surge of adrenaline in my bloodstream. I knew once that
was gone, I wouldn't be able to do much. So, that meant I had to get as
far away from this hellhole as quickly as possible.
That damn alarm hadn't let up yet, and I could see the figures of
more men gathering in the observation room. Ignoring them for now, I
continued to head for the exit as fast as my bare feet could move me.
Kinsey and the Doctor didn't seem to notice that I was leaving. Needless
to say, I didn't stick around for a long good-bye.
Upon reaching the door, I jerked it open. Luck was still with me, as
it wasn't locked. My forward pace sent me staggering out into a hallway,
right into a line of unfriendly-looking goons. Deciding I had nothing to
lose, I just kept stumbling toward them, as there was no place else to
go. Swinging my arms, I managed to knock a few of them down. Just when I
thought I might make it after all, I felt a stinging pain in my upper
back. My legs and arms turned into jelly again as I slipped to the floor
to lay facedown. Damn! So close...those assholes must've darted me. Then
everything faded to black
Once again, my sense of hearing returned first. Beeping. That's all I
could hear. This time, I could remember everything leading up to my
aborted escape attempt and could feel myself breathing. Well, that was
definitely a plus in my favor. Just like before, the tempo of the beeps
sped up to announce my return to consciousness.
I figured now would be the time to test the limits of my boundaries.
A pinching soreness in my left arm meant that the IV had been installed
again. Experimentally, I tried moving a finger. Was able to do that. One
down, a bunch more to go. Next came the hand. Movement was definitely
restricted there. Crap. That meant restraints. Well, duh! Wonder why
they did that, Jack?
When I tried moving my legs, I ran up against the same limits.
Restraints there too. Cautiously, I slitted open my eyes, but slammed
them shut immediately. My eyeballs felt like an extremely bright light
had seared them. I heard a groan and damned myself for not having better
control. There was no way in hell that the evil Doctor wannabe could've
missed that. Any minute now, I was going to have company. Moving my head
to the side, I tried opening my eyes again. If the bad guys were going
to show up, I at least wanted to be able to see them. Maybe I could fry
their brains out with my withering glare. NOT!
"Oh, for crying out loud," I muttered. Sure enough, the Doctor guy
was back. Didn't see Kinsey though. Wonder how his nose was feeling?
Hope he had the mother of all headaches. That's it, Jack, think happy
"Good morning, Jack," came a familiar sounding voice from a speaker
on the wall. Lifting my head up a little, I was able to make out the
figure of Kinsey peering at me through the observation room window. It
looked like his nose was all taped up. His face probably looked like Ho
Chi Minh's casualty report.
I laid my head back down and didn't say a word, although I was
smirking and doing a victory dance on the inside. The ridiculous chant
of 'I broke Kinsey's nose, I broke Kinsey's nose. Nyah, nyah, a
boo-boo!' kept running through my mind. It would've been even better if
I'd killed him though. That slimy, yellow-bellied,
son-of-a-running-dog's voice let me know he wasn't finished talking
"The gloves are off now, O'Neill. Before your vicious attack on me, I
was planning to let you go after you gave us all that information. But
now, I can't. Oh, and don't bother getting your hopes up that your
friends will rescue you, because they won't. No one knows where you are,
Jack. I've been planning something like this for years and had this
underground bunker built where no one can ever find it. It was built
especially to my specifications and is so well hidden that even your
whore, Carter, wouldn't be able find it with her gadgets." That last
remark got to me, just like he knew it would.
"Why aren't you down here, Kinsey? Afraid I'll kick your yellow ass
again?" I snarled. With satisfaction, I watched as he reflexively
stepped back from the window.
"No one has even missed you yet, Jack, because you sent your friends
down to the base at the Antarctic. You've already been my guest here for
two days. Doesn't that tell you something? No one can find you here
unless I want them to. And I don't intend to let you get off easy this
time. You'll leave here only after I've gotten what I want and not a
His words brought back the memory of leaving the mountain late Friday
night. I'd been looking forward to a relaxing four-day weekend because
of the federal holiday. Most of the staff at SGC were taking advantage
of the extended weekend and heading out of town. Only a skeleton staff
had remained on duty at the base. Crap, he was right.
He'd said that I'd been here for two days. If they'd grabbed me on
Friday night, that meant today was Sunday. I'd told everyone I wouldn't
be back to work until Tuesday morning, barring any emergencies. That rat
bastard must've noticed that I'd been doing some thinking, because he
couldn't help rubbing it in a little more.
"Getting worried, Jack? Would you like to know who's getting you
after I'm finished?"
"What the hell do you want from me, Kinsey?" I growled in my most
"I want what's in your head, Jack. Tell me the secrets you learned
from the Ancients."
"Oh, how cliché can you get? I suppose this is the part where you
rant and rave about torturing me and the Spanish Inquisition. What? No
comfy chair? Oh, but I forgot. 'NO one expects the Spanish Inquisition.'
Go to hell, you dickhead!" The quote I'd used acted just like bullet
shampoo and went way over his head. Guess he didn't watch too much
"No matter, I really didn't expect you to just give me the
information. You know, your refusal just makes this a little more
interesting for me. Because, I will get what I want, Jack. I always do.
And when I've gotten what I want, Ba'al will get what he wants," he said
with a knowing smirk. I froze at the mention of that Snake's name. Even
after two years, I still hadn't gotten over what he'd done to me in his
House of Horrors. The memory of it still caused my stomach to clench
"Do you know what Ba'al wants, Jack? He wants you. Imagine that. In
fact, he wants you so badly that he's willing to make a deal with me.
Would you like to know what it is?"
"Are you nuts, Kinsey? Making a deal with those snakeheads is
suicide. They'll turn on you in a heartbeat. Those snakes were selling
each other out when our ancestors were still climbing out of the trees,
you moron! What the hell did that scum-sucking Snake promise you?" I
"The safety of Earth, of course. That's all I've ever wanted. Money
means nothing to me anymore. It's nothing compared to having power.
That's what I get out of the deal, Jack. Power. No more President Hayes.
Just President Kinsey. Ba'al promised me he'd take care of it after I
deliver you to him. He's orbiting our planet in his cloaked Mothership
"You stupid bastard! Don't you get it? Those snakes don't keep
promises any better than you do. Your little bargain will put our entire
planet at risk. What's to stop him from taking over and throwing you out
on your yellow ass once he has me? Huh? Did you even stop to consider
that? Well, you should, because it isn't just me I'm talking about here.
Everyone will lose, except Ba'al. That includes you too, Kinsey. What's
to stop him from killing you once he has me? Huh? Because he will. You
can count on it." My yelling had left me panting on the table. Crap! It
looked like Jack was up a shit creek without a scoop and there were a
whole shit-load of people in the same boat with me.
"Doctor, I suggest we get started as Jack is getting overly excited."
I twisted my head to the side to get a better look at what the mad
scientist wannabe was doing. With dread, I watched as he injected a
syringe of clear fluid into my IV port.
Its effects were immediate. A warm tingling feeling stole over my
body and I had trouble keeping my eyes open. My mind was feeling fuzzy
and it was hard to think straight. I kept struggling to keep my eyes
open, although I couldn't remember why it was so important that I do
that. Through the drug-induced haze, I heard a voice.
"He should be ready soon, Mr. Smith."
"Good, inform me when he's ready. I have some arrangements to make."
The voices faded away, and I felt like I was floating. Time was
meaningless and nothing seemed real or important.
"Jack? Can you hear me, Jack? Answer yes if you can hear me." For
some reason, it seemed vital that I reply. I tried nodding my head and
"That's good, Jack. Now, I want you to listen to me. Your team is in
trouble, Jack. Major Carter needs your help."
"Yes, Jack. She needs to know about the Ancients. Tell me about the
weapon in the Antarctic. It's important, Jack."
"Major Carter needs to know about it, Jack."
"I'm...sorry, Carter, but I...can't." A part of me wanted to give them
the information, but I couldn't, because I really didn't know what they
were talking about. When I searched my mind for it, the information just
wasn't there. Dimly, I heard a voice in the background. It sounded
angry. Then, my body tingled and felt all weird again. My head started
hurting and I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. Somewhere, someone
groaned. Then I heard nothing.
I awoke to hear arguing. My head was pounding so much it felt like
the cannons from the 1812 Overture were going off inside it. My mouth
felt like something furry had crawled into it and died. Tasted like it
too. Still couldn't think very clearly. I tried opening my eyes.
"Can you hear me, Jack? Answer yes, if you can hear me."
Automatically, my mind supplied the answer.
"Yes..." I whispered.
"That's very good, Jack. You must listen very carefully to me, Jack.
Major Carter needs you to tell me about the Ancients. Where is the
weapon you used against Anubis, Jack?"
"Listen, Jack. Where are the weapons you used against Anubis?"
continued the oily voice persuasively.
"I...don't...know," I murmured softly. Once again, I really couldn't tell
them, because I didn't know what they wanted.
"You said this would work, Doctor. Why isn't it?"
"It should be working. He's on the highest dosage I've ever used on a
test subject. Maybe it's because of his Special Ops training."
"Nonsense. He's just stubborn. Give him another dose, Doctor. Maybe
then he'll talk."
"But, it could kill him." That was the oily-smooth voice and it
sounded nervous. Somehow, I thought I should recognize the other one,
but my thoughts were too slippery to pin down. I tried opening my eyes.
When had they closed?
"I don't care if he dies! Give it to him, Doctor!"
"No! My Master desires him alive!" boomed a gravely voice that
somehow made me shiver inside.
The only person I could see in the room was a guy in a white lab
coat. Everything seemed so dreamy, almost surreal. My thoughts still
seemed to be bouncing around in my head like some kid's demented super
ball. Since no one was asking me questions, I remained silent.
"Renek. I didn't expect you so soon." That voice had come from the
guy in the observation room. By lifting my head a little, I could see
him through the window. Standing beside him was big honkin' Hulk wannabe
who looked like someone had pissed in his Froot Loops. Hurriedly, I
dropped my head back down because the smallest movements made me feel
dizzy and nauseous. The headache wasn't letting up any, either.
Swallowing rapidly, I did my best to keep from puking my guts out,
but it was a battle I was destined to lose. Turning my head to the side,
I retched painfully onto the sheet beside my head, but the only thing
that came up was bile. Guess there wasn't anything in my stomach to puke
up. The dry heaves just made it more painful, though. When I tried
curling up on my side to protect my aching stomach muscles, I discovered
that I couldn't move my arms from my side. Restraints? When had those
Momentarily, my cramping muscles took my mind away from those
questions. They were cramping so hard that it was hard to breathe and I
could feel the puke drying on my face and in my hair. Finally, my
stomach calmed down a little and I could catch my breath. Through the
foggy haze in my brain, I could hear loud voices around me. They seemed
to be arguing right next to my bed. When did that happen?
"You don't understand, Renek, I'm not finished with him yet. By the
terms of our contract, Ba'al clearly agreed that he wouldn't get O'Neill
until I was finished with him. General O'Neill hasn't told me what I
want to know yet, so your Master will just have to wait." Suddenly, I
heard the smack of a fist against flesh, followed by a startled yell and
the sound of something hitting the wall.
"Be warned, foolish Tau'ri. My Master will not tolerate such
impudence from a Has'shak fool such as you."
"Silence, Shol'va! As First Prime of my Lord Ba'al, I have come to
claim what belongs to him. Jaffa, kree! Bring the Tau'ri O'Neill to me.
Tal'shak! Do it!"
"No, you can't! It's too dangerous to move him now because the drug
could cause irregular heartbeat and respiratory fa..." The man in the lab
coat grunted as he was slapped across the room to lie next to the other
My reverie was broken when I felt large, rough hands fumbling at my
arms and legs, releasing the restraints. A sharp pain in my arm signaled
that the IV had been jerked out. Then I felt myself being pulled roughly
off the table. With one hulking guy on either side to hold me up, they
dragged me toward their leader and followed him out of the room. I was
still trying to get my feet under me so I could at least walk, but my
legs weren't cooperating.
The rest of the trip was pretty much a blur, so I must've passed out
or something, because, the next thing I knew, we were outside in the
nighttime air. My captors seemed to be in a hurry, and my bare feet were
taking a beating, so I didn't have the time or energy to spare for any
sightseeing. Soon after the four of us clustered into a tight circle, we
were surrounded by a shaft of intense white light. As five silver rings
appeared around us with a high-pitched whine, my surroundings
When the light and rings vanished, my guards started dragging me with
them again. My legs still weren't cooperating, so I just let them carry
my weight. Obviously, we were no longer outside. Looking blearily around
me, I noticed that the walls around us were covered with gold and
symbols. One part of my brain recognized it, but my thoughts will still
so disordered that I couldn't quite understand what it meant. However,
the sight of those walls made the hairs on the back of my neck stand
straight up and my stomach start cramping again.
Helplessly, I felt the bile rise once more in my throat. I tried
swallowing it back down, somehow knowing that it wouldn't be a good idea
of piss off my guards. But it was a lost cause. There wasn't a whole lot
of anything to puke up, but the dry heaves still hurt like hell. And I
was right about pissing off the guards. While one of them held me up,
the one with the puke on him punched me in the stomach so hard I
couldn't even breathe.
Without missing a beat, they each grabbed an arm and continued to
drag me down the hallway while I struggled to catch my breath again. It
seemed to take forever, but I was finally able to draw some air into my
lungs. It hurt like hell though. The floor under me shook as if it were
being bombarded by something. Didn't distract the guards who were
dragging me, though.
My thoughts still seemed hard to hold onto as they continued to
careen wildly around inside my brain like a crazed squirrel on speed.
For some reason, my body seemed to be getting weaker and more
uncoordinated instead of stronger. It was even getting hard to hold my
head up, so I just let it sag forward. The task of drawing air into my
lungs was taking all my concentration anyway, so I ignored the passing
scenery. It was all probably done in the usual over-the-top gold décor
anyway. The floor shook a couple more times as we continued down the
hall, threatening to throw us all to the floor.
When my escorts finally stopped, I was breathing in noisy, wheezing
gasps. After they let go of my arms, I slumped to the floor onto my
knees. Proudly, I tried my best to keep my face off the floor by
propping myself up into a sitting position. Even that little action cost
me and my breathing became even more ragged and labored. From the way
that black and gray splotches were dancing in front of my eyes, I knew
something was horribly wrong. Wait a minute, hadn't that doctor said
something about how moving me could be dangerous?
My heart seemed to be pounding so hard that my eardrums were in
danger of bursting. The feel of a cold floor on my face made me aware
that I'd lost the battle to remain upright. My arm hit the floor with a
smacking sound when someone turned me over. This left me staring at the
ceiling. A dark shape moved into my range of vision and I heard him
speak in a deep echoing voice that filled me with a gut-wrenching
"What is the meaning of this, Renek? O'Neill was to be brought to me
"My Lord Ba'al. The Tau'ri Shol'va used a dangerous drug to
interrogate him. He has been dealt with as you ordered."
"No matter, Renek," he replied as he bent over me and caressed my
cheek with one hand.
"What a pleasure it is to see you again, Jack O'Neill with two L's.
You will not escape me so easily this time. This, I promise you." He
must've noticed that I could hardly draw any air into my lungs at all
now and was breathing in short agonizing gasps.
"Jaffa, kree! Take him to the sarcophagus." Then my eyes widened as a
blinding white light that brought a strange feeling of comfort invaded
my senses and consumed everything. Charlie...!
When I opened my eyes, I was still surrounded by a glowing white
light, but somehow, it didn't seem as comforting as what I'd experienced
before. Turning my head slightly to the side, I could see that I was
lying on my back in a rectangular box. The grating sound of stone
rubbing on stone above my head provided me with a clue as to my
whereabouts. Moving my head back to look upwards, I could see the top of
my box splitting open. Memories came flooding back and made me gasp out
loud. Ba'al! I was in his sarcophagus again. Did that mean I'd died? Ya
think? Crap. That gutless bastard, Kinsey, had killed my ass. Just wait
till I get my hands on him!
Beyond the open lid, I could make out two dark figures looking down
at me. Squinting my eyes, I tried to make them out, although I had the
sinking feeling that I already knew their identities.
"The Tau'ri, O'Neill, lives, my Lord." That must be one of his Jaffa,
probably his First Prime.
"Excellent, Renek. Have him prepared and brought to me in my
chamber." Considering that I still heard it in my nightmares, I had no
trouble recognizing that voice. There was no doubt in my mind that it
belonged to Ba'al, a snakehead that made most Goa'ulds seem like a walk
in the park.
Two hulking guards pulled me roughly out of the box just in time for
me to see him walk out the door with his First Prime. This is so not a
good thing. Jack, you're really in deep shit this time. Just who's going
to haul your sorry ass out of the fire this time?
In hindsight, I realized that I'd seriously misjudged the tenacity of
my enemies when I thought that I'd be relatively safe if I stayed on
Earth. I'd made the erroneous assumption that the umbrella of protection
provided by being in the good graces of President Hayes would be enough
to discourage any of the homegrown bad guys from trying to grab me. To
further complicate matters, I'd believed Thor's promise that the Asgard
would watch out for me. My present circumstances were a painful
illustration of what could happen when you underestimated the
intelligence and hatred of your enemy. The promise of protection from
the President and the little gray guys hadn't been worth squat.
Evidently, my guards thought I had an important appointment to keep
with His High Royal Snakiness, because they didn't waste any time
dragging me out of the room and into the hall. From the faint vibration
I could feel in the floor, I guessed that I was aboard one of his ships
and we were in hyperspace. The walls around me were covered in the usual
'kneel-before-your-god' gold décor. Couldn't these guys be a little more
original in their decorating?
Glancing down, I discovered I was dressed in a chillingly familiar
costume of matching brown pants and long-sleeved shirt. The floor under
my feet felt cold. Guess their clothing allowance for prisoners didn't
cover shoes. For once, I didn't annoy the hell out of my Jaffa
companions with my witty repartee, knowing I needed to conserve my
strength for the coming confrontation. I was so not looking forward to
Nervously, I plastered a fake smirk on my face, practicing for when I
would have to make it look convincing for Ba'al. This wasn't an easy
task because of the memories I held of all those times he'd tortured me
to death. They were so fresh in my mind that it almost seemed like it
had happened yesterday. Trying my best to prepare by emptying my mind, I
felt a strange numbness settle over my body. It almost felt like I
wasn't really there. The last time I'd felt that way was when I was
recovering from my last visit with this particular Snake.
Dr. Janet Fraiser had called it psychic numbing and assured me that
it was actually quite healthy. She'd said it was the mind's way of
dealing with experiences that were too painful to remember without going
completely bonkers. Well, I guess whatever the hell I was walking into
certainly qualified on all counts. Only trouble was, once the real pain
started, I knew that this so-called psychic numbing wouldn't help at
all. Nope, not one bit.
As we rounded a corner, I could see that my guards were leading me
toward an open door. Gee, three guesses as to who was behind door number
one, and the first two don't count. Turning to one of my guards, I
started my song-and-dance number, hoping the Snake waiting for me would
buy it. Somehow, I knew he wouldn't be fooled by my flippant,
devil-may-care attitude, but I had to try.
"If you don't mind. I'd prefer to pick door number two," I commented
with a smirk. The response was immediate, as well as painful. His First
Prime, Renek, greeted me at the door with his fist. This guy just did
not have a sense of humor, I thought as I was dragged before the Head
Snake. Hopefully, he hadn't broken my nose.
As was usual for all Head Snakes, he was seated on a throne-like
chair, looking pleased to see me. Wonder if that was one of their rules?
Let's see. How would it go? 'When meeting prisoners, always sit on your
throne, speak with over-used clichés, and demand that they kneel before
their god.' I'd heard their standard lines so often, I already knew them
"Yeah, yeah. I know. Kneel before your god, Tau'ri scum. Yadda,
yadda, yadda. Right?" Noting with satisfaction the look of surprise on
the Jaffa's faces, I allowed myself a moment of triumph.
"Well, here's my line. Go to hell, you snaky-assed son of a bitch!" I
growled menacingly. Their response was also immediate and predictable. A
staff weapon hit the backs of my legs, and I groaned as I sank
unwillingly to my knees.
"Very good, Jack O'Neill with two L's. I like my prisoners to have
spirit. It makes my...work...so much more...challenging and...enjoyable," Ba'al
answered with a feral smile.
"Well, as I live and breathe. If it isn't my old pal, Base Ba'al. Oh,
wait. I have you to thank for that. Don't I? Well, if it's all the same
to you, I'll be on my way. Can't stand long drawn-out good-byes. You
know how it is, places to go and people to see," I answered as I
struggled to my feet. Didn't make it far though, not with those two
goons leaning on my shoulders to keep me on my knees.
"Silence, Tau'ri," thundered Renek.
"Well, you know what, big guy? Never could follow orders very well.
Just ask my boss."
Movement jerked my attention back to the dangerous Goa'uld in front
of me as he chuckled, low and deep. Rising from his throne, he moved
down the steps toward me, eyeing me like a piece of meat. I tried to
keep eye contact with him, but couldn't as he continued to circle around
me like a great white shark, assessing its prey before the fatal strike.
He stopped in front of me, still smiling and stroking his goatee. He
chuckled again, low in his throat. God, how I hated that sound. That
same evil sound had haunted my nightmares all too often.
"You have no idea how long I have waited for this moment, O'Neill. It
is a pity, though, that such courage and vitality is wasted on such as
you." Abruptly, he turned and returned to sit upon his throne.
"Time grows short, Colonel O'Neill. Tell me what you know about the
Ancients and perhaps I can be persuaded to let you die a painless
death." The smile was gone now. In its place was the deadly glare I was
so familiar with.
"That's General O'Neill to you, Mr. Bocce Ba'al," I snarled between
"Should that signify something to me? Perchance, your new title
implies that you are even more valuable to me now than before. Hmm?"
"Bite me!" Crap. Once again I'd dug my hole even deeper by running
off at the mouth.
"Ahh, but, General O'Neill. You should know by now that my methods
of...persuasion...are not that...primitive." Oh yeah, I knew. As if I could
forget just what his methods were when they involved pointy knives and
dripping acid. Double crap.
"Oh well, to each his own, I always say," I replied, trying to shrug
indifferently but it was hard to do with those two goons leaning on me.
I treated each one of them to one of my patented 'withering glares' but
they didn't budge an inch.
"Do you guys mind? You aren't helping my back at all, ya know. And
while you're at it, cut out the 'silence Tau'ri' crap. It's so
Ya know? Jaffa just don't have any sense of humor at all. My first
clue was when my nose was being ground into the floor and my mouth was
bleeding. Gingerly, I probed my aching teeth with my tongue, checking
for loose ones. Didn't feel like I'd lost any. Yet.
"Such spirit, O'Neill. But it is a wasted quality for you. Do not
count on being rescued this time. While my ship has its shields in
place, they are impenetrable by the Asgard transportation device. With
the defeat of Anubis, all that was his is now mine. As for your Tau'ri
friends, it is true that your primitive fighters attacked me while in
orbit around your pathetic home world. However, my superior forces
annihilated them all. You are all alone, Jack O'Neill, with two L's. And
you are mine to toy with for as long as I wish." Once again, he stood
and looked down upon me.
"Prepare him! Jaffa, kree!" he ordered as he snapped his fingers. Ya
know what? Although it's a cliché, those guys really do jump when he
snaps his fingers. So, I went along with my escorts as they half drug,
half walked me out into the hallway and into another room.
The minute I laid eyes on it, I knew that it wasn't a fun place for
Jack O'Neill to be. This room seemed to be Ba'al's version of 'Play
Land' and resembled the movie sets of medieval castle dungeons. All the
usual stuff was there: manacles, chains, whips, knives, and a long table
complete with restraints at each end. Didn't see a spider web thingy,
though. As if he really needed it with all those other toys for him to
play with. In short, everything that would make a sadistic,
scum-sucking, slimy-assed, snakehead like Ba'al happy. Jack O'Neill was
not a happy camper. Nope, no siree, bub. Not at all.
The Jaffa version of Twiddle-Dumb and Twiddle-Dumber led me over to
the table. Sure, I fought them every step of the way, but it didn't do
any good because I was still recovering from the sarcophagus and feeling
weak and disoriented. They threw me onto it lying face up and proceeded
to restrain my hands and feet with the manacles. They even fastened an
iron band around my waist. When they were finished, I couldn't move
anything but my head, fingers, and toes. Those guys certainly knew their
jobs and probably got a hell of a lot of practice at it. Wonder what
their resumes looked like? When they stepped back, Ba'al's First Prime
stepped forward and drew out a nasty-looking toad-sticker and held it
near my neck with a grim smile.
"Whatcha doin, Red Neck? Afraid you'll miss out on some of the fun?"
He ignored my comment and used the knife to slit my brown shirt from
top to bottom, deliberately nicking the skin on my stomach just enough
to make it bleed. Then, he did the same with both the sleeves and threw
the tattered remains of my shirt to the floor. The cut on my stomach was
stinging, my face hurt, and I couldn't help the shiver that passed over
my body. Yep, it was official. Jack O'Neill was in 'a deep state of
Thankfully, the Head Snake didn't keep me waiting for long. Not that
I was in a hurry to get hurt. Don't get me wrong, I hate pain. In fact,
I'm allergic to it. It's just that I don't do waiting well, because
while I'm waiting for something to happen, no matter what it is, my mind
is busily imagining all the terrible things that might occur. And my
mind has a very fertile imagination. While the event is actually taking
place, I can at least devise some way to deal with it, even if the only
thing I can do is die. Besides, the ceiling in this room was BORING and
lying spread-eagled flat on my ass left me nowhere to look but up. My
first clue that His Royal Snakiness was in the room was when I heard his
First Prime snap to attention.
"The Tau'ri has been prepared according to your instructions, my
Then, I heard two sets of footsteps coming toward me. Instead of
turning my head to look, I just kept my eyes fixed on the ceiling. I
knew who those footsteps belonged to and it sure wasn't the pizza
deliveryman. There would be plenty of time for looking at my
tormentors...later. I let the Snake speak first, knowing that he would.
His huge, honkin' ego wouldn't let him wait.
Behind him, I could hear the sound of equipment being moved. Oh joy.
Well, at least they hadn't tied my head down. By banging it against the
table, I could distract myself from the pain they would inflict. Don't
laugh, it really works, and I had the sinking feeling that I was going
to be banging away real soon. Ba'al didn't waste any time with chitchat
and got right down to business.
"One last time, O'Neill. Tell me what you know about the weapons from
"Afraid I can't do that, Skippy." By now, that Snake was standing
right next to me, looking down into my face with that nasty, evil smile
"How should we start this time? Knives?" he asked.
As he had turned his face to the side, he didn't seem to be watching
me at that moment, but I knew that he was. He wanted to gauge my
reaction to the various play-toys he was naming off. Therefore, I was
trying to keep a poker face so as not to give anything away. But, let's
face it. He knew how to get to me, as we'd danced to this music before.
We both knew that it was all just part of the game. He continued
rattling off ways to get me to talk, in an effort to shake me up.
"The branding iron, perhaps? No? Maybe the Tal'vic Acid...?" He smiled
when he saw me cringe. I knew it was coming and I really tried to stop
the flinch, but it was a purely reflexive reaction on my part. Huffing
the air out of my mouth, I began to prepare myself. When things had
gotten bad in the past, I'd developed the ability to zone out. It was
kind of like retreating to a part of your head where the pain wasn't so
"Ahh. So it will be the Tal'vic Acid. An excellent choice. This acid
is my own special mixture, blended so that it does not eat its way
through the body too quickly. It burns just fast enough to...magnify...the
agony to exquisite proportions." Yep, this guy could teach a few things
to the Iraqi's. Not that I was going to provide him with a job
reference. Now, he was watching me again, and held that damn bottle of
liquid fire right over my chest.
"Tell me about the weapon." He upended the bottle and squeezed out a
Drip. Just like before, it began with a tickling sensation, which
grew into an itch, and then erupted into a burning pain that wouldn't
stop. Biting my lower lip with my teeth, I tried to prevent the moan
that wanted to leave my mouth. The head banging had started.
"Where is the weapon, O'Neill with two L's? If you tell me, I will
give you the antidote." Now, he was holding a bottle in each hand,
knowing that it would make my silence that much harder to maintain.
"No? Very well, then."
"Arrgh!" This time I couldn't stop my outcry and banged my head
again. My wrists and ankles felt raw, from jerking repeatedly against
the restraints. The acid was slowly eating through my lungs and it was
getting harder to breathe.
"You've already used it on Anubis. What harm can come of telling me
about a useless tool that has served its purpose?"
"I...don't...know," I ground out between clenched teeth.
Oh God, it hurt! Just like before, the acid had spread to my
bloodstream and I could feel it burning through my veins. I coughed and
tasted blood in my mouth, so I spat it at him. Didn't hit him though, as
I didn't have any umph behind it. Got to be able to breathe to spit for
distance. Although it did make me feel good to see him flinch away.
Then, the sneer was back on his face again.
"Tell me and I will reward you with the antidote," he continued
reasonably. I just shook my head, not having the breath left to
"You pathetic Tau'ri have such fragile bodies," as he set one of the
bottles down on the table behind him.
"It is so easy to kill you. A little acid...." Drip. "...Here and..." Drip.
"...There. And it's..." Drip. "...Over." With each pause, he chose a different
spot on my torso to anoint with his most unholy potion
"Noo!" I whimpered.
"Tell me about the weapon. Then, I will stop." Shaking my head again,
I only had enough breath for a whisper.
"No..." From prior experience, I knew that the end was close. The end
of this session, but not the final one. I only could hope that it would
all finally end soon and I would be allowed to die one last time. But,
with the luck I'd been having lately...
The lighting in the room seemed to be getting
dimmer and I could hear the sound of my heart thudding irregularly in my
chest. It seemed to be beating slower with each passing second and my
vision was fuzzy around the edges. Then the light came for me, just like