The guards on duty at the main gates of Cheyenne Mountain watched as the Air Force staff car dropped of its two unlikely looking occupants, and their bags, before driving off again. The older of the two was a couple inches over six feet tall and his short cropped hair seemed to indicate that he was, or had been, military at some time. His friend, though, was another matter entirely.
He was a good few inches shorter but his hair certainly diverted attention from that fact. It was a little past shoulder length and a riot of tightly curled strands. He looks like a cross between a grunge student and a hippy, thought one guard dismissively. To be frank, the mismatched pair defied a conventional label. Not many outsiders who looked like the smaller man appeared at Cheyenne Mountain; especially not wearing jeans, hiking boots and fleece shirts! These had to be the two civilians that Major Carter had had added to the security log.
The oddly mismatched pair exchanged a glance, picked up their bags, and then began walking towards the main guard-post. The senior guard on duty stepped forward and said, "May I see some ID, please?"
Jim and Blair reached into their jacket pockets and pulled out the leather wallets that contained their badges and ID.
"Yes, we've been expecting you. I'll see about getting you checked through and arranging a security escort to take you to Major Carter."
If the call for help from Jack and Daniel hadn't already convinced them of the seriousness of the trouble that their friends were in, the trip here had. They'd been given an hour to get home and pack some stuff before a military escort had arrived at the loft to take them to Cascade International. A military jet had been sitting on the tarmac waiting for them and had been given priority clearance to take off.
The few hours flying time had given them a chance to catch their breaths and think about the ramifications of what they were going to have to tell the military. Neither of them had been particularly thrilled, but, when weighing their worries against the health and well-being of Jack and Daniel, there was no other option they could or would take. They'd deal with the consequences of their revelations at a later time.
They waited patiently as the guard made his call. About five minutes later, an Air Force Lieutenant appeared and provided them with two visitors badges that they were instructed to wear at all times within the facility. Once the badges were clearly displayed, the lieutenant said, "Follow me, please. Major Carter is waiting for you inside."
Blair had never been in a secure military facility - thank God; if he had, thought Jim, it would have been because they had been taken, a thought that had caused more than a few disturbed nights sleep for them both. Consequently, his Guide was taking everything in with wide eyes and a faint grin. Jim fought a chuckle - Sandburg looked like a kid let loose in a candy store.
Amused as he was at Sandburg's exuberance, his assessment was far more wary. It had not escaped his attention that the lieutenant was taking them away from the main NORAD complex. When the second elevator started counting off sub-levels in the high twenties, one thought stuck in his mind. Jack, what the hell are you involved in here that necessitates this much security?
The lieutenant escorted them down a lot of anonymous corridors to what was obviously a conference room. One thing struck Jim as they entered the room; the people waiting on them were not used to this room. This was obviously not where they usually had briefings, and that added another question to his steadily growing list. What was this place?
Left alone with the people in the room, there was a rapid visual assessment of the opposing players - which would have been amusing if each group hadn't been so worried about Jack and Daniel. The people in the room came up with a similar reaction to that of the guards at the main gate. Blair and Jim saw two highly intelligent and clearly fatigued women, and an older man who had an air of command that Simon would envy. Introductions followed.
The two lady majors got a toned down blast of the Sandburg charm. Jim knew his Guide was too worried about Jack and Daniel to even think about flirting. Besides, Frasier was a doctor - not a good sign.
As one, everyone found a seat. Before any of the military got a chance to speak, Blair jumped in with, "Where's Jack? What happened to Daniel?"
Quiet glances passed between the military officers in the room. General Hammond sighed and said, "Before we proceed, we need to ask you some questions and lay out a few rules regarding security matters.
"This facility is highly classified..."
"General Hammond, sir," broke in Jim, "we'll sign whatever you need us to sign. Our captain wants us back at some point - till then, let's just worry about the reason we're all here in the first place.
"Neither Jack nor Daniel breached security and told us anything about what you do here. Having worked with Jack on several occasions in the past, I know that you've not got him flying a desk."
He grinned at the hastily stifled chuckles that that produced; even the general's lips twitched in amusement at that thought, while Blair just rolled his eyes and sighed. Subtlety was not his partner's strong point.
As the amused chuckles died down, Jim's face grew still as he said, "By now, you know about Jack and Daniel - what they are. What Blair and I are.
"I have no idea how Jack's latent abilities got 'brought on line', and frankly, at this point I don't think it's relative. What we're here to help with is the consequences.
"I told Major Carter to tell you about us after I called her; I presume she did so. Did she show you Blair's dissertation?"
Blair chimed in with, "What else do you need to know from us right now before you let us see O'Neill?"
General Hammond looked at the detective addressing him. Jim sighed softly as he saw the look on the general's face as he looked at his partner. The man would soon learn that not much fazed Blair, certainly not a stern stare, though Simon was working on it...
"Yes," said General Hammond, "there is. Detective Sandburg... about your dissertation... and that press conference that you called."
Hands clasped lightly on the table in front of him, Blair stared calmly back at the two star general that was trying to stare him down. Tilting his head slightly, a small smile on his face hid his resignation at the fact that he was getting questioned on this topic again, Blair said, "As you probably figured out by now, I lied. I had to.
"I went in front of the cameras and said that my life's work was a fraud. I had no other choice. I couldn't do anything else and protect Jim at the same time. As it was, two of our friends were seriously injured and more were endangered because of the fact that the press was hounding Jim.
"Let me be clear, here. My dissertation was released and published without my authorisation by an act of sheer stupidity on my mother's part, and the greed of an unscrupulous publisher and the senior administration of Rainier. They were too busy seeing dollar signs and Nobel Prizes to think about the cost. Protecting the identity of my subject never even entered their thoughts.
"We couldn't work in the fishbowl that we found ourselves in, so I did my best to fix it. It probably wasn't the best way to go about it in the long run, but the press conference served its purpose. It was immediate, and it was public. It was too good a story for the media not to print it.
"A Sentinel protects his Guide. A Guide protects his Sentinel. Satisfied, sir?"
General Hammond remained silent for a moment and then he smiled. "Loyalty... that is an explanation I can accept."
Blair nodded his acceptance at the approval offered - not that he needed any, but it was still nice to get - and said again, "Where's Jack and what happened to Daniel?"
There was a pregnant pause as the three military officers shared a quick moment of silent communication. The General spoke again.
"You've been honest with us, and it has been duly noted. Your secret will be as safe with us as I can make it. In order for you to fully understand what happened to Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson, you're going to be briefed on our own particular secret. I'm sure you'll understand the need for absolute secrecy when we're finished, and I'm afraid you will be required to sign some documents to that effect. National security is at stake."
Ellison's calm, "Give us the forms," was a pleasing surprise. He had thought that it would take more persuasion than that to get these two civilians to sign on - especially considering the lengths they had gone to, in order to stay anonymous. After all, Sandburg's press conference had had the sole goal of rendering them unimportant... normal. Signing these forms could easily - if they fell into unscrupulous hands - put them right back in the spotlight again; that could cause the wrong people to start asking questions about the validity of Sandburg's denunciation of his work. These two men were willing to take a big risk to help their friends.
Non-disclosure forms were duly produced, read and signed; a simple procedure after all. The folders containing the forms were duly sealed and placed to one side. General George Hammond placed his hands on top of the briefing table, palms flat and voice calm, saying, "This is the SGC. We're a separate entity from NORAD. Far more secret. SGC stands for Stargate Command.
"I'll let Major Carter explain the rest."
The blonde major smiled at them and said, "Basically put, teams from the SGC - using an ancient device uncovered during an archaeological dig in Egypt - travel to other planets and explore the galaxy."
"WHAT?!" demanded an astounded pair of detectives.
Samantha Carter grinned. "It gets better..."
An hour and several glasses of water later, Samantha Carter had answered the last of the questions that Jim and Blair had come up with on the Gate, SG-1, the Goa'uld and the goals of the SGC.
Jim looked at the Air Force officers in front of them with profound respect. This duty they were assigned to was something so far beyond standard military training...
Face still betraying some of his understandable surprise, Blair Sandburg took a deep breath and said, "How bad is Jack?"
It was the doctor - Janet - who answered his question.
"Colonel O'Neill suffered mainly minor injuries. Cuts and bruises... nothing that he hasn't had about a hundred times before. Slightly more serious, in terms of his physical well being, are the severely bruised ribs that he suffered.
"All that, I can deal with. I freely admit to being out of my depth with regard to his 'other' condition he has lapsed in to. He was coherent enough during the medical tests we carried out, but that changed several hours after the remainder of SG-1's return from the planet where Dr. Jackson was taken. Sergeant Siler was dropping off a report on the technology they encountered on their last mission and that was when he found the colonel on the floor of his office, completely unresponsive.
"From reading your dissertation, my best diagnosis is--"
Blair looked at her and said, "He's zoned, hasn't he?"
Janet Frasier nodded.
Leaning back in his chair, Blair glanced over at Jim. His Sentinel shrugged and nodded. "Okay," said Blair. "Daniel was taken about half an hour or so before Jim called Major Carter, right?"
Glancing briefly at the General, Major Carter said, "Yes."
"It took about six hours to get us here," said Jim. "Daniel's missing and Jack's been zoned for at least an hour. Is that a fair assessment of the current state of play?"
"Yes, detective," said General Hammond, watching with interest the way the two detectives seemed to communicate with their eyes... like another team that he knew.
"Okay," said Blair Sandburg, looking at Janet Frasier. "Much as I'm worried about Daniel, the first order of business is Jack. A zone is a bad thing, a zone that's lasted this long is even worse. I need to see him now."
Dr. Frasier checked quickly with Hammond and then headed off to the infirmary, Blair Sandburg in tow.
That left Jim in the conference room with the two Air Force officers. First things first, thought Jim. "Sir, I really need to call my captain. Blair and I kind of lit out of the PD like the hounds of hell were chasing us. My boss and our co-workers heard me call Major Carter. They know we're with the military. You - we - are going to need to come up with a cover story if Blair and I are going to be here for any length of time."
"So noted, detective. You can call your captain as soon as we have a better idea what is going on with Colonel O'Neill and the fate of Doctor Jackson."
"Thank you, sir," said Jim. "Is there anything else that you want me to tell you while Blair is helping Jack?"
George Hammond leaned forward slightly in his seat at that offer. "Yes, detective. Dr. Frasier has read your partner's dissertation, Major Carter knows what you and Jack can do. I've only been briefed 'third hand', so to speak.
"Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your 'Guide'. Explain to me how this phenomenon that has happened to Jack O'Neill is not going to screw up the best team I've ever been privileged to serve with."
Jim leaned back in his seat... where to start? "Well, first of all, General. Jack's senses are not a phenomenon. All Jack and Daniel would say to us was that he was brought online by some artificial means. That doesn't matter, sir. The thing you have to understand is that Sentinel senses are - according to Sandburg - a genetic throwback to more primitive times. Jack could have stuck his finger in an electric socket for all Blair and I care. What we know is that the genetic predisposition for the senses was already buried deep within Jack in the first place. You can't bring something online that wasn't there.
"As for Blair, my first impression of him was he was nuts and/or on drugs. My second real impression of him was somewhat different... he'd just saved me from being creamed by a garbage truck when my still out-of-control sense of sight zoned on a Frisbee being thrown in a park across from the road I was in the middle of crossing.
"By the end of my first week in what my friends and I like to call the 'Sandburg Zone', the 'crazy' grad student I had just met had taught me enough about using my senses to help me catch a serial bomber before she could detonate her final bomb in a coach full of tourists.
"I could - and will, if necessary - give you literally hundreds of examples of how using my senses has led us to evidence that allowed us to do everything from catch armed robbers to stop assassins to rescue cats from trees. To me, there is one example that is the most important to me.
"We were trailing a serial killer that assumed the personas of his victims before strangling them and dumping them in their own bath tubs with a yellow scarf tied round their neck.
"The psycho chose Blair as his next victim and abducted him from the loft we share. Using sentinel sight I came across some forensic evidence missed at an earlier scene - duck feathers. With that information, I got my captain to unseal some water taken from the lungs of one of the earlier victims... my sentinel sense of smell detected duck waste.
"We narrowed the location of our psycho's hideout down by looking for abandoned ponds near old warehouses. We found the location and I managed to get to Blair with literally seconds to spare. David Lash resisted arrest and tried to kill us both. I took him out.
"Was I a good detective before the senses? Yes. Am I better one now? Check my crime-solve statistics for the past four or five years. Blair and I are the best detective team in the Pacific North West."
George Hammond was silent as he digested the information that he had been given. It was an impressive list of facts to be sure, but it still did not answer one question for him. "I'll bear that in mind, detective. I have one final question. How would you describe a Guide to anyone like me who had been told about - but never seen - Sentinel senses in action?"
Jim Ellison was silent for a long moment as he thought about his answer. "General, that is not an easy thing to do. A lot of words spring to mind; teacher, partner, confidant, focus, and protector. Now that he's taught me, I can use my senses without needing Blair constantly by my side. Other colleagues can bring me out of mini-zones, not as easily or quickly as Blair can, but they can do it.
"They wouldn't have a clue where to start with a major zone. That needs not a person that can act as my guide, that needs my Guide. He's like a beacon, if you will. I can always sense him. I can always trust him to guide me back to myself.
"My Guide is my best friend, and, in many ways, closer than a brother. I can function without him, if necessary. To be the best person, the best Sentinel that I can be, I need him in my life. Implicit trust is the bond that binds a Sentinel and Guide together. When you can see what that can do, then you'll understand fully."
"And Colonel O'Neill?" asked General Hammond.
"Jack's been stripped of his control, of his centre. Blair can pull him back from the zone, but nothing is going to make him whole until he has his Guide back. Until he has Daniel back."
A long and eloquent silence met that statement and the two SGC personnel met each other's gazes. A not unexpected answer. Jack had never dealt well with Daniel's absences - be it being held captive by Nem or thinking he'd been left for dead on one of Apophis' motherships. In the past few months the entire SGC had seen the bond between the two men getting stronger; now they knew why.
Breaking the silence, the general said, "Detective, tell me more about some of these cases of yours."
Jim had just finished a condensed version of the tale of Alex Barnes, Blair Sandburg and Rainier's fountain when a phone call interrupted them.
Hanging up the phone, General Hammond turned to the second in command of SG-1 with astonishment on his face and said, "We're needed in the infirmary, Major. That was Dr. Frasier, Colonel O'Neill is awake and coherent."
As the three made their way towards the door, the half grin on Ellison's face was concise and to the point. "Told you," he said. "That's what a Guide can do. That's why we need to get Daniel back."
Blair ignored the curious glances he garnered as he and Dr. Frasier walked through the corridors of the SGC. He was too busy trying to get a feel for Jack's physical and mental state and, what, if any, medicines and procedures had been used on him since he got back from wherever the hell Daniel had been kidnapped.
He and Dr. Frasier walked into the infirmary and Blair quickly assessed the situation in front of him. He walked slowly towards the bed holding Jack O'Neill and stopped just out of reach of the foot of the bed. His eyes never moved from the sight of Jack O'Neill lying on the bed, unfocused eyes gazing sightlessly towards the ceiling.
"Clear the room. Now."
Janet Frasier's eyes widened at the command in her visitor's voice, and the guards stationed inside the door clearly bristled at the civilian's usurpation of authority.
The young detective turned his head to meet her gaze and instinctively Janet took in a breath at the expression of authority in his eyes. It was not the detective that was addressing her, it was, she was just beginning to realise, the foremost Sentinel expert in the world and a Guide expecting obedience.
"Everyone leave what you're doing and leave the infirmary."
In a protesting voice, one of the guards said, "Ma'am--"
"That is an order, gentlemen."
Blair stopped the departure of the man that had been sitting at O'Neill's bedside with a simple wave of his hand, saying, "You're Teal'c?"
At the nod that greeted his query, Blair smiled. "I'm Blair. It's nice to meet you. You stay, please. I might need you.
"You too, doctor."
Once everyone else had left, Blair moved to stand at the right side of the bed. For a long moment he did nothing else, and then he reached out with a gentle hand and placed his palm on Jack O'Neill's chest - just where his heart was.
After her initial surprise that O'Neill had not instinctively flung the young man away, Janet watched and said nothing. Over ten minutes passed and she began to fight the urge to intervene... this wasn't working.
A surprised gasp from - of all people - Teal'c caught her attention. She turned her gaze back to the man on the bed and her eyes widened in disbelief. The colonel was awake; more to the point, the colonel was aware.
He had raised his hand to mirror Blair's gesture and his palm was pressed to the Guide's heart. It was his eyes that really caught Janet's attention, though; she couldn't ever remember seeing them that anguished - not even the time that the rest of SG-1 had been unaware that Daniel Jackson had survived the destruction of Apophis' ships.
"Blair... they took Daniel."
Thumb rubbing soothingly over Jack's heart, Blair ignored his two observers and whispered, "Ssh, Jack. It's all right. We know what happened. We heard your call for help. That's why we're here."
For the first time since SG-1's return through the Stargate, Janet saw a faint glimmer of hope appear in Colonel Jack O'Neill's gaze. "You mean--"
Sandburg actually smiled. "We're here to help get him back, Jack. Nobody messes with the Guides, man."
Janet sighed in relief as she saw Jack give a smile at that statement. At the next words out of Sandburg's mouth, though, she switched from friend to doctor.
"What are the dials at, Jack? I won't let you go through the Stargate at anything less than your best. It's the only way we're going to get Daniel back. Never mind the fact that he'd skin me if I didn't make sure you were looking after yourself."
The chagrin in Jack's face at being told he was going to be 'looked after' was almost priceless, thought Janet. Daniel could effortlessly make the colonel feel that way; now it looked as though Blair could too. Must be a Guide thing.
"I'm fine, Sandburg."
The Guide didn't say a word, he just left his blue-eyed gaze on the colonel's face and apparently that was enough. When Jack quietly admitted that, "Touch is spiking," Janet's jaw literally dropped. Before he leaves, Blair Sandburg has got to teach me that look!
Eyes widening in concern, Blair ignored O'Neill's protests and lifted his T-shirt. His lips narrowed at the clearly visible rash covering O'Neill's torso. In an almost inaudible voice, Janet heard him say something about 'dials'. From the way the colonel's head was tilted slightly to the side, it was clear that he was focused on every word.
After a moment, Blair looked at him and said, "Better?" Janet watched as O'Neill nodded.
Blair turned to Teal'c and said, "Teal'c, I need you to do something for me."
After seeing his commanding officer returned to being fully functioning, Teal'c was more than ready to listen to the young human in front of him. He said, "How may I be of assistance, Guide Sandburg?"
Blair smiled. "Just call me Blair, Teal'c. Or Sandburg. Whichever you prefer."
"Sandburg," repeated Teal'c, trying the word out. He nodded again.
"My partner and I left some bags at one of your security check-points. I need you to get them and bring them here. As soon as you get back, give Jim's to Jack." Blair then turned his attention back to the still less than centred Sentinel.
"Jack, I want you to pick out some clothes to wear. I don't want you in a uniform till I've had a chance to make some arrangements.
"Can you both do that for me, please?"
"It will be as you wish, Sandburg."
Janet watched as Blair smiled at the gentle giant and said, "Thanks, Teal'c."
Once the Jaffa had left, Blair turned his attention to Janet. "I assume that when Jim and I go through the Stargate with the rest of Jack and Daniel's team, we'll have to be wearing the same type of uniform they do?"
Unsure at the reasoning behind the question, Janet nodded and said, "It is standard procedure, Blair."
"That's what I thought," said Blair with a sigh. Okay then, I don't know if this reaction is just symptomatic of the stress he's under or if his tactile responses have changed, but there are going to have to be some changes to the way SG-1's uniforms are cleaned."
"What?" asked a completely bewildered Janet Frasier.
"It happened early on with Jim, too... when his senses first re-emerged. Jack is having a reaction to the detergent used to clean the uniforms.
"At the very least, his uniforms need to be dealt with separately - preferably treat all of SG-1's uniforms the same way. Ideally, make the change throughout the entire SGC."
"Dealt with how?" demanded Janet suspiciously.
Blair gave a smile. "I'm not suggesting you stop wearing uniforms, doctor. I'm just saying that you need to change detergents. Jim and I have found that Ivory Snow works best - try that first. If that doesn't work use a trial and error system till you find one that doesn't irritate Jack's sense of touch."
Janet gave a slight frown. "Is it really--"
"Yes, it is really that urgent and that necessary. I will not allow Jack or Jim into uniform until I can be sure that they're not going to have an adverse reaction to wearing one.
"Consider it an order, doctor."
Janet gave the man in front of her a long look for his effrontery, but nevertheless, she felt herself saying, "Yes, sir."
"In the meantime, you can call General Hammond if you want. Jack will be ready to go back through the Stargate within the next few hours - if you do as I ask."
Janet nodded. She knew she was out of her depth with Jack and Daniel. If Blair and Jim said Colonel O'Neill would be okay to go on the rescue mission, she was more than willing to take their word for it.
Less than an hour later, there was a planning/briefing session taking place in the 'true' briefing room of the SGC. On one side of the table sat Dr. Frasier, Sam Carter and Teal'c. General Hammond had his normal seat at the head of the table. The remaining three seats facing the others were currently empty. The intended occupants of those three seats were currently staring out through the bullet proof windows to the Gate Room below.
Blair Sandburg stared in awed fascination at the huge metal ring in the room below them. So that was a Stargate. God, Daniel must have flipped when he first saw that thing! The stunned silence to his right indicated that his partner was also more than a little impressed at what he saw. To his left, a drawled, "How do you like them apples?" had him chuckling quietly. The quiet pride in Jack O'Neill's voice was more than justified.
Turning back to the rest of the occupants of the room, Blair fought to keep his laughter from escaping. He had the distinct impression that the military still didn't know quite what to make of himself and Jim - other than that they needed them to help get Daniel Jackson back.
He wasn't sure which was funnier... their amazement at the sight of Jack and Jim now looking like a matching pair of bookends attired in jeans, hiking boots and comfortable shirts or the fact that they'd instinctively placed Blair Sandburg between them to shield him from any potential threat. Man o' man, did these guys ever need a quick lesson in Sentinel Behaviour 101. Top of the list being: Nobody messes with the Guide. The resulting Blessed Protector Mode could be a lot to take in for the uninitiated in the ways of a Sentinel.
Sentinel soft, Blair said, "Guys, stop hovering over me and sit down before we give these people a coronary. Fun as this is, we've got work to do."
Once everyone was seated, briefing folders liberally sprinkled with words like 'Top Secret' were opened. "All right then," said General Hammond. "For the benefit of our guests, let's go back over the events that led up to the abduction of Doctor Jackson..."
Twenty minutes later, discussion was in full flow and the military were being overly bleak in their attitudes as far as Blair Sandburg was concerned. If it wasn't for the fact that he knew how much these people were concerned about Daniel, he would have been laying in to them about the negativity surrounding the room.
Sitting beside his partner, Jim Ellison could practically feel the annoyance vibrating within his mild-mannered partner. Deciding to head off a Sandburg lecture at the pass, Jim turned his attention to his fellow Sentinel.
"Jack. Go over what happened at the alien Gate for us again. I get the feeling we're missing something."
"Damn it, Ellison! Don't you think I've tried to think if it was anything we - I - overlooked!" snapped Jack O'Neill.
On the other side of the briefing table, bodies tensed. Much as they were delighted to have Colonel Jack O'Neill back 'in the land of the living', that outburst showed that he was still not completely himself. Not that he didn't offer his own outbursts on many an occasion; he just didn't normally do so with clenched fists pressed against his temples!
The next few moments left them silent. Teal'c and Janet got to see a Guide in action once again, and General Hammond and Samantha Carter got to see what Blair could do.
Feeling Jim sigh his exasperation behind him, Blair had to restrain himself from naming the many, many occasions when one James Ellison had been less than open to reason about the apportioning of blame. Instead, he said, "Let me, Jim." At the gentle encouraging pressure of his partner's hand on his shoulder, Blair Sandburg turned his attention to the other Sentinel in the room.
"Jack... Jack. Look at me." At the other man's seeming refusal to move, Blair sighed and forcefully turned the older man's chair round to face him directly.
"Jack. Jack. Damn it, O'Neill. I don't have time to deal with two pig-headed Sentinels. You're Daniel's responsibility.
"We are going to get him back. Now look at me!"
Across the briefing table, more than one set of eyes widened at the command in the tone of the seemingly mild-mannered man addressing the obstinate commander of SG-1. Sitting behind his Guide, Jim Ellison just grinned.
Smiling softly when the colonel's eyes opened, Blair said, "That's it, Jack. Focus."
Sighing, Jack O'Neill couldn't help but smile at the calm expression of the man in front of him. Blair reminded him so much of Daniel. Danny wouldn't take any crap from him either.
"What do you want me to do, Blair?"
Smiling, Sandburg said, "Jim..."
Knowing instinctively what his Guide wanted, Jim moved from his seat to go stand behind Jack's seat and placed to reassuring hands on his friend's shoulders, murmuring, "Listen, Jack. Do as he says," as he did so.
Gently moving Jack's hands so that the sensitive fingers were resting against the pulse-points of his own, Blair said, "I want you to focus on us, Jack. Just me and Jim. His touch on your shoulders, my pulse against your fingers.
"Close your eyes and relax. Just like Daniel and I taught you. Take your time. When you feel relaxed, you let us know and we'll continue from there."
It was a good few minutes later but eventually Jack murmured that he was ready.
Blair smiled. "Good, Jack. Good.
"Okay, Jim and I are going to remove our touch now. I want you to keep hold of this relaxed state, though. Just breathe. That's all you have to do for me."
Slowly, Jim removed his hands and took a step back and, at the same time, Blair gently moved his hands away from Jack's fingers. He watched carefully as Jack's fingers twitched at the loss of sensation but he could see that the Sentinel had done as he asked and maintained his semi-trance of relaxation.
"Okay, Jack. We're going to do a little sensory recall. Just like the exercises Daniel has been doing with you. Okay?"
"Yes, Blair," said Jack in a soft tone.
"I want you to remember at all times that you're here safe and sound in the SGC with your friends and colleagues. These are just sense memories. They can't hurt you. We're going to use them to help get Daniel back. Just stay with us."
"Understood." That response was of a soldier obeying a command - a fact that did not go unnoticed by the military personnel in the room. There was a lot more to Sandburg than would seem at first appearances.
"Go back to the last calm memory you have of you and Daniel together on that planet, Jack. Do you have it?"
At the smile on the Sentinel's face, Blair smiled. "What are you doing, Jack?"
"We're talking about Sentinel stuff. Had a problem. Told Danny. He said he'd fix it."
"Did he?" Blair asked, concerned. He wouldn't let Jack go on any rescue mission if he was suffering from any Sentinel problems.
Sensing the concern in the tone of the Guide addressing him, Jack gave a prompt response. "It will not affect my performance on any rescue mission, Sandburg. It was in relation to a problem with my sleeping patterns over the past couple of weeks. Daniel offered a solution that will work but he was taken before it could be implemented."
Seeing the confusion in his Guide's eyes, Jim spoke up. He had a feeling he knew what Jack was talking about. "Chief, it'll be fine. I think I know what he's getting at. It won't be a problem."
Blair was about to argue that but he caught the unspoken message in his partner's eyes. Not here. He gave a minute nod of acceptance, but his eyes demanded an explanation when they were alone. At Jim's nod of acknowledgement, Blair turned his attention back to the matter at hand.
"Okay, Jack. What happened then?"
"Got the call from Carter on the radio to say that she and Teal'c were under fire. Daniel and I proceeded to their location. Sam and Teal'c had been collecting samples from what the UAV had identified as a long-abandoned facility that had potentially once belonged to The Ancients They had been surprised by enemy fire from unknown assailants and had been pinned down behind some ruins, though they were returning fire.
"The arrival of Daniel and myself allowed them the opportunity they needed to fall back. We provided covering fire as Sam and Teal'c retreated. Daniel noticed one of the aggressors taking a bead on Sam and took him out before he had the chance to fire--"
A startled gasp from Sam cut off Jack's recitation of the events that had led up to Daniel Jackson's abduction. This was the first that she'd heard about this. Then again, the colonel had been in no fit state to be debriefed when they first returned. Daniel had saved her life... again.
Sighing at the interruption, and glaring his annoyance at its source, Blair brought Jack's attention back to his tale. "What happened then, Jack?"
"The fire seemed to die off after Daniel took that guy out. At the time, we didn't think much of it. It seemed like the first lucky break that we got that day. We made for the Gate as fast as we could. Had no idea what we'd done to piss off the bad guys this time, but decided that we'd do our worrying from the other side of the Gate and not come back till we had some reinforcements..." Jack's voice trailed off, and Blair knew they were now getting down to the nitty gritty.
"And then what happened, Jack?"
"Ambush at the Gate," said Jack in a tense voice. "New guys but dressed like the others. They came out of nowhere!"
Voice soothing, Blair said, "I know this is hard, Jack. But we have to hear it. What happened then?"
"Something hit Daniel and he went down," said Jack in a tortured tone. "He staggered to his feet again and pushed me through the wormhole. I tried to hold on to him but someone had grabbed hold of his arm.
"I heard him cry out for me but it was too late. I couldn't turn back and I couldn't reach him!" The room was deathly silent, though all eyes were on the single tear running down O'Neill's cheek.
"Ssh, Jack. He's alive. You know it. We know it. We'd feel it if he was dead."
Gulping audibly, Jack said, "I know. But he was hurt!"
"We'll get him back, Jack," said Jim Ellison.
"Jim's right," said Blair. "We'll get him back. I already told you, nobody messes with the Guides.
"Now think, Jack. You were scared for your Guide and your team. Whether you were consciously aware of it or not, all your senses were on full alert. Is there anything that you can think of that seemed out of place. A word? A sound? A smell?"
There was silence in the briefing room at the intense frown of concentration on the face of Jack O'Neill.
"South con-- southern count-- Southern Continent! That's the last thing I heard before I materialised in the Gate room here! Southern Continent!" Jack's eyes snapped open with a smile of triumph.
"Good, Jack!" said Blair.
Ellison, Sandburg and O'Neill all directed their gazes towards General Hammond. They needn't have worried. George Hammond was already on the phone giving orders.
"I want a UAV ready to go within the next hour. It will be doing long range reconnaissance of the southern continent of the planet where Doctor Jackson was abducted."
The general opened his mouth to continue but found himself once again usurped by the long-haired detective from Cascade.
"All right then, while we wait on this UAV thing doing its stuff I need to borrow Jack and Teal'c for a while."
"Why?" asked a George Hammond who was quickly becoming resigned to the fact that the young man in front of him would never follow the military mindset.
"In your initial briefing to us, you mentioned 'staff' weapons and 'zats' - which I'm presuming are some form of weapon also?"
"Yes, Detective Sandburg. So?"
Blair sighed and looked at his Sentinel for support. Still standing at parade rest near Jack's chair, Jim said, "General Hammond, sir. It would be beneficial if Blair and I could familiarise ourselves with these weapons before we go through the Stargate on any rescue mission. While we are familiar with most standard forms of automatic weaponry, it would only be prudent to familiarise ourselves with new and alien technology in a somewhat more controlled environment than in the field.
"It will also give Blair the opportunity to ensure that these weapons in no way aggravate any Sentinel senses."
George Hammond smiled apologetically at the other detective. "Of course, Detective Ellison. I should have thought of that myself. Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill can get what you need from the armoury."
Looking at Blair Sandburg, General Hammond bowed to the inevitable and said, "Is there anything else, Detective Sandburg?"
Blair smiled. "No, General Hammond. Just the uniforms, but Dr. Frasier already knows about that."
"Very well, dismissed. We shall reconvene in an hour. The UAV should be ready to launch by then."
An hour later, fully satisfied that the alien weapons in the SGC arsenal were not harmful to the two Sentinels currently in his care, Blair found himself back in the briefing room and standing sandwiched between his two overprotective charges as the UAV was prepared to launch.
The sight of the Stargate in action was amazing. As one, he and Jim turned to their friend to say something. The grin on Jack's face was the first genuinely happy emotion that they'd seen on his face since they got to Cheyenne Mountain. They laughed aloud at his comment of, "It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it."
Two hours later, they had at least some of the answers they were looking for. There was a huge complex near the northern edge of the southern continent. A manned complex. A busy complex. Jim and Blair had been perplexed as to how the 'bad guys' could have got from the Gate to there so fast, but, as luck would have it, the UAV had been able to provide the answer.
On more than one occasion, the footage from the UAV showed people arriving and leaving from different locations dotted around the complex by something the others called a 'ring system'. The familiarity in the voices of the SGC personnel assured them that it was something that had been encountered before.
"That means that there has to be at least one set of rings near the ruins we were investigating. And that means that while it may have been a site that The Ancients used at one time, either the Goa'uld or the Tok'ra have used it since."
"Which means we have to be doubly careful when finding and using it," said the grim voice of Colonel Jack O'Neill. Turning to General Hammond, O'Neill said, "Sir, permission to--"
"Permission granted, Colonel. You, your 'guests' and SG-2 will leave within the hour."
"Sir?" prompted Detective Ellison. "The call?"
General Hammond smiled and said, "I hadn't forgotten, detective. You can call your captain from my office and say that you're going on a rescue mission in search of an old colleague. If necessary you are to say that you are familiar with the area. If your captain has any questions he can call me via I number I will provide. That's the best we can do."
"Thank you, general. It'll be enough."
Dressed in the same combat green uniforms as everyone else, Blair Sandburg still managed to bounce in place, his hair pulled back in a ponytail by a leather tie.
From above them, General Hammond addressed them, his voice reverberating around the Gate room. "Good luck, people. Bring him home safe."
"Move out," said Colonel Jack O'Neill.
Carter and Teal'c took point, SG-2 in the middle and the Sentinels and Guide brought up the rear.
"Okay, Jim, Jack, dial everything down to normal. Daniel can work with Jack on a deliberately enhanced Sentinel going through the Gate at another time. First of all, we have to get him back. No taking chances for now, dial everything down."
Looking at his two companions, Blair said, "Ready?" They nodded.
"Okay, Jack. Take us through. Let's go get our brother back and explain to the nice bad guys that nobody messes with the Guides."
Grinning, Jack said, "Follow me," and stepped through the wormhole. Less than a second behind him and in sync as always, Jim and Blair took their first step through a Stargate. The rescue mission for Doctor Daniel Jackson was under way.
Much to Samantha Carter's disgust, her CO's first action upon the rescue party arriving on the planet was to order to stay at the Gate with two of the members of SG-2.
"Sir," she said, her one word response clearly indicating her disagreement with her orders. A feeling that grew to confusion as the colonel smiled at her.
"Don't get so worked up, Carter. You're coming with us."
Jack O'Neill turned and gestured to the area surrounding the Stargate, the hill behind it, the woods situated to the left and the path leading towards it from the right.
"The rest of us are going to scout ahead to the ruins where you and Teal'c were ambushed. He'll be quickest at identifying the site or sites where the rings are active. When that happens, we'll call you to come join us. This half of SG-2 will guard the Gate and Ferretti and Nicholson will guard the rings we'll be travelling by.
"Till we call you, I want you to remember our first visit to Chulak. Major, get creative. I want charges laid that will defend the rescue party as we return with Daniel. Hopefully they'll never be needed and we'll remove them before we get the hell off of this planet. I want them ready to use, though... just in case."
The almost feral grin she gave her commanding officer had Jim and Blair raising their eyebrows in surprise; the rest of the SGC personnel just grinned. Major Carter had a certain unique and extremely creative approach to laying claymores and the like.
That settled, Jack turned to order the remainder of the team into action and found himself halting at the hand raised by the current sole Guide member of the team.
"Jack, Jim, I don't presume to think I know anything about military tactics while within a hostile alien environment, but I do know about Sentinels. Jack, your sight is your strongest sense, Jim's is hearing. Both of you do a sensory sweep of the surrounding area. Is there any sight or sound of hostile aliens in the immediate area?"
SG-2 looked on in confusion, and Ferretti eyed his former CO expression demanding answers. Jack sighed and said, "Trust me, Ferretti. I'll explain back at the SGC. For now, just take my word, okay?"
"No sign of any surprises on the path, Blair."
"There are no unaccounted for heartbeats within a thousand yard perimeter, Chief."
Jack turned to the team. "Teal'c, you're on point. Ferretti, Nicholson, on our six. Let's move out."
As their pace was not set at a full out retreat to safety, it took almost forty minutes to reach the closest of the ruins. A full out precautionary sweep of the area - with Blair remaining close to the more vulnerable of the two Sentinels, namely Jack - took another fifteen minutes before O'Neill and Ellison were satisfied that there was no danger to the rescue team.
Moving from broken pillar to disused building to crumbling wall, it took Teal'c another ten minutes to locate the rings at the site. At that announcement, a suddenly tense Jack O'Neill put in the call to get his second in command heading to the area with a stern admonishment to 'watch her back' as she made her solitary way along the path that they had traversed.
Blair sighed. Jack's tenseness did him no favours, as it was still going to take forty minutes for Carter to get from the Gate to the ruins. While Teal'c, Ferretti and Nicholson discussed suitable defensive and monitoring positions from which to protect the rings, Blair quietly drew the two Sentinels off to a quiet corner of the ruins. Teal'c had been initially doubtful of the wisdom of this action and placing no sentries till his commanding officer had smiled and tapped silently at his ear. A questioning glance to the impressive young human guide, and the reassuring smile he received in response, settled his concerns. The sentries might not be easily visible in their role, but that did not mean they were not on guard.
"Okay then, guys. Till Major Carter gets here I want to hear all about this little problem that Daniel said he knew how to fix before he got taken..."
Major Samantha Carter arrived in due course, none the worse for wear and wearing a self-satisfied grin that made the SGC personnel smile. Their path back to the Gate was as secure as human hands and ingenuity could make it, of that there was no doubt.
Jack allowed her ten minutes to catch her second wind and then the remainder of SG-1 and their Sentinel and Guide allies activated the rings. They had been on the planet for just over two hours and every moment drew them closer to their objective - the safe return of Doctor Daniel Jackson.
When Samantha Carter was ordered to stay behind and out of sight this time, she did not object. She fully understood her CO's reasoning. While there were undoubtedly more rings in this area, this was the only set that they knew about - their only line of escape. They had to be monitored and guarded against any sabotage.
"Be careful, sir," she said, and got one of Colonel Jack O'Neill's patented grins in response.
"Don't worry about us, Carter. We'll get Daniel and be back before you know it."
"Yes, sir. Be careful anyway."
Identifying and getting in to the building that - according to the UAV footage - was the place the bad guys had Ôreturned to base' was easy enough. The problem was what to do when they got inside. Staring at the long and anonymous corridor in front of them with heaven knew how many side corridors branching off from it, Jack was opening his mouth to order a standard search pattern when Blair beat him to the punch.
"Okay, let's see if we can't narrow this down a bit."
All for anything that would cut the search time, Jack said, "How?"
It was Ellison that answered him. "He's your Guide, Jack. It doesn't matter whether you're both in your back yard having a barbecue, in the middle of the SGC or on an alien planet out in the midst of the galaxy, he is imprinted on you at an instinctual level.
"Send out your senses. Listen for his heartbeat. Look for his scent... his sweat, his aftershave. Listen for his voice. If he's anything like Blair when he's kidnapped, then he'll be vocal in telling his captors exactly what he thinks of them.
"I'll help, of course, but he is your Guide. You have the better chance of finding him. Point us in a direction and we'll go."
When Jack shut his eyes and started walking down the corridor, Teal'c quickly moved to assume point. He would watch out for O'Neill until Daniel Jackson was back at his side.
Blair Sandburg's call to halt brought him to an immediate stop. Turning his head slightly, Teal'c saw that O'Neill was standing near one of the corridors that branched off to the left of this main access corridor, head tilted to the side. James Ellison moved to stand next to O'Neill and mirrored the action, and then stared intently down its length.
Placing a gently comforting and yet restraining hand on his fellow Sentinel's arm, Jim said, "Daniel's about five hundred metres down the corridor. There are a lot of angry voices, his is just one of them." Grinning slightly, he turned to Jack and said, "He's very fervent when he wants to be, isn't he?"
Even though his face was still creased with worry, Jack did allow a wry chuckle to escape him. "Blair may talk more than Daniel, Jim, but Daniel does so in twenty odd different languages. Half the time I don't know if he's cursing like a sailor or admiring the flowers."
Blair gave up on looking disgruntled at the idea of him talking too much and laughed at the idea of what Jim Ellison's reaction would be if he had to cope with an extremely multi-lingual Guide. The mental images were scary.
"Does it sound like he's in any immediate danger?"
Jack and Jim exchanged a quick glance and Jack said, "No. If anything, besides some underlying fear, he sounds exasperated and furious. Like he gets when he's trying to explain to the rest of us that a square peg really does fit in a round hole - if you look at it from the perspective he's telling you to."
Jim echoed Jack's sigh, feeling exasperated, and he saw that even Teal'c's expression bore a hint of the same emotion at that announcement. He knew that feeling very well.
"Suggestions?" asked Jim.
Blair looked at Jack. He was the Sentinel acting on instinct here, the one separated from his Guide. By the sounds of things though, Daniel was in no immediate danger. Tentatively, he said, "How about Teal'c stays out of sight - just in case - and we go knock on the door and say we'd like Daniel back now?"
Blair studiously ignored Jim's muttered comment of 'self-preservation instincts of a suicidal lemming' and cocked his head to the side, staring at Jack and rocking back and forth on his heels.
Jack opened his mouth to veto the idea out of hand and found himself saying, "What the hell, why not?" He didn't miss the 'have you taken leave of your senses' glare that Jim directed at him. He returned one of his own that screamed, 'hey, he's your Guide'. Besides, the suggestion was just crazy enough that it would probably work.
Motioning Teal'c to a position guarding their path back towards the direction of the rings they had used, Jack then exchanged a look with Jim and Blair and they headed off down the corridor towards the room where Daniel was arguing. Once in position at the door, with Jim and Blair poised and ready at either side of the doorway, Jack raised his 'zat' gun and prepared to fire; only to be stopped by a hissed, "What the hell are you doing, Jack?" from Blair. "We're supposed to be knocking on the door, remember?"
"You knock doors your way, Sandburg. I'll knock 'em mine." Jack shared a shit-eating grin with his fellow Sentinel... Ellison understood his reasoning perfectly.
Muttering under his breath about mule-headed blessed protector Sentinels, Blair bit back further comment. Jack was a Sentinel acting on instinct. A Sentinel without a Guide. He knew from their briefing at the SGC that Jack's treble blast with the zat would only destroy the door. It was probably a good idea to let Jack vent a little steam on an inanimate object before they talked to the natives.
"Whatever, man. Let's just do it."
Grinning ferally, Jack O'Neill smoothly raised his arm and fired his zat at the door blocking him from his Guide. In a move so smooth that an observer would have thought that the trio had been working together for years, they swept into the room with grim faces and weapons raised.
The stunned silence inside the chamber they found themselves in was almost funny. There were approximately twenty people in what was obviously a conference room of some description. Only two of the people were armed, and, while they looked furious to be doing so, they carefully lowered their weapons to the floor under the stern and watchful gazes of Jim and Jack. Even without a word being spoken by either side, the rage and contained violence in the gazes of the pair of Sentinels was clearly palpable within the chamber.
There were a series of long benches positioned in a horseshoe at the far side of the chamber, with a huge table of some sort in front of them. All seats on the benches were filled. There were three seats at the table facing the benches. Daniel sat in the middle one, flanked on either side by two silently scowling natives. The two disarmed guards had stood one at either side of the horseshoe seats, presumably as ceremonial guards.
Deciding to leave the glowering to the experts, Blair did what he was best at; he ignored the potential powder keg around him and called out in a cheerful voice, saying, "There you are, Daniel! We've been looking for you all over! How you doing, man?"
Listening to Blair play to the room, Jim rolled his eyes in exasperation, Jack stifled a snort of exasperation and Daniel grinned.
"Blair! What the... How did you... It's great to see you! Jack didn't give you too much trouble, did he? I know how he gets."
Having finally got the impression from the atmosphere in the room that the doom and gloom scenarios he'd been imagining had not happened, Jack had relaxed slightly. Temporarily ignoring their audience, he glared at his Guide and said, "What do you mean, 'I know how he gets'?!"
"Dan-iel..." retorted Jack. Glaring around the room, O'Neill continued, "Forgive a guy for caring, why don't ya? I'm not the one that got abducted by a group of armed and hostile aliens for no apparent reason, am I? That's you, same as usual. I swear I should keep you attached to a leash!"
Everyone in the room could hear the relieved tone under the tirade. Jim and Blair fought to stave off their relieved laughter; after all, they'd been there a time or two themselves and more than one detective in the Cascade PD had listened to the fallout of their reaction to kidnappings, hostage situations and the like.
Before Daniel could retort, Blair interrupted with a, "Um, Daniel, what is going on? We felt the attack, you know. Jack's and your calls for help knocked us damn near catatonic at work. I won't even go in to the state Jack was in by the time we got to the mountain. We came here hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. And what do we find? You in a roomful of aliens that are patently not trying to kill you. Instead, you're yelling at them. You mind clueing us in here?"
Face apologetic, Daniel raked his Sentinel with an assessing and worried gaze at hearing how his abduction had upset everyone. "Sorry guys. I was just so glad to see that Jack was all right that I wasn't thinking.
"Everything was a complete misunderstanding."
"A complete misunderstanding? They attacked Carter and Teal'c! You had to kill one of them! They chased us all the way back to the Gate. They took you! What do you mean a misunderstanding?!"
Faces around the room blanched at Jack's roar. Daniel stepped forward - knowing his heavy limp would do nothing to settle Jack's anger - and placed a gentle and reassuring hand on his Sentinel's forearm.
"Jack, I'm fine. Everything's fine. I injured Tamar badly, yes. He will survive. As to the rest..." Daniel motioned for a grey-haired woman to come forward and stand beside him. "This is Consul Meliana; she is in charge of this continent's monitoring complex."
"Monitoring complex?" interjected Blair, as Jim finally lowered his weapon to a less overtly threatening position.
"The people on this planet are not indigenous. They are members of a race once protected by The Ancients. This planet houses several archives like the one Jack had downloaded in his head a few years back. For untold millennia volunteers from their military and scientific personnel have monitored the planet for any sign of The Ancients' return and to protect the treasury of knowledge that is stored in secret sites around the planet."
"That doesn't explain why they attacked the others or took you," pointed out Jack in a still less than friendly tone. Surprising everyone, it was Meliana that replied to that.
"The group that attacked your friends are newly arrived in service here... Jack, isn't it? They were out checking on the subsoil sensors surrounding the ruins near the Stargate and were taken by surprise by the appearance of your two friends. There have been no unexpected visitors through the Stargate in living memory. They panicked, especially when the saw the emblem of a System Lord on one and their sensors indicated trace markers of a Goa'uld parasite in the other's body. They reacted to a perceived threat. It is no excuse, it is the truth.
"You were chased to prevent you escaping with knowledge of this place back through the Stargate. Your friend was taken as a source for potential information. Of course, once we got him back to this facility and assessed him we realised the grievous blunder in our actions."
"How so?" asked Jim, beating Jack and Blair to the question.
Surprising all three of them, she bowed her head to them all in respect before saying, "Our internal sensors do a full scan on anyone we bring in to the heart of this complex to ensure that no one carrying a parasite can get beyond the outer corridors.
"Having seen the Jaffa with you, we took no chances and subjected your friend to a full scan the second we brought him in. We found no parasite, as you well know, but his brain chemistry indicated something we had only heard of in ancient historical records... a companion guide."
"Come again?" said Jack in a bewildered tone.
Blair, his excited eyes widening in astonishment, said, "Oh my god! They can identify a Guide by his brain chemistry!"
Jim's head whirled round. "What?"
Practically bouncing in place, Blair sent an excited grin to his fellow Guide and said, "I've always been sure that there has to be a physical indicator somewhere in the brain that would indicate the connection needed to be a Guide.
"It can't all be just blind guesswork between Sentinels and Guides. Somehow, somewhere, I think we use a part of the brain that other people don't. All it takes is for a Sentinel and Guide to meet, synaptic responses get triggered, and then, with luck, they forge a connection. There's just never been a way to test that theory. Medical technology at home doesn't even come close to being sophisticated enough."
"Let me get this straight," said Jack slowly. "Just by figuring out that Daniel was a Guide... my Guide... you realised that 'Oh dear, we've made a terrible mistake'?"
"Yes," said Meliana, simply.
"No," said Jack. "I don't buy it. If that was the case, you'd have let Daniel go and we wouldn't have come here to find Daniel closeted in here yelling at all of you."
Meliana opened her mouth to reply but said nothing. Instead, she turned to glance at a now sheepishly blushing Daniel Jackson. Seeing the expression on his Guide's face, Jack briefly shut his eyes and slowly counted to ten before saying, "Daniel..."
"Jack. Look! I'm sorry I worried you, I was just trying to get Meliana to see sense."
"About what?" asked Jack suspiciously. Daniel only got this bouncy when something was really important.
"Once they found out I was a Guide they couldn't be apologetic enough. When I asked them why, I was told it was because if I was from a race that could still produce the ancient watcher/companion pairs then I couldn't be a threat. Apparently a Goa'uld cannot infest a Sentinel. They cannot cope with the enhanced senses of the host's body. You see what I'm saying? If another System Lord like Hathor tried to implant you with a symbiote, Meliana says that you wouldn't be... that you couldn't be taken as a host, the symbiote couldn't handle it. A Guide may help train you how to use your senses, but at the most basic level you are using your own instincts to process and manipulate all the data your senses can pick up. Symbiotes may be able to manipulate a human body, but they don't understand enhanced senses. They can't manipulate them.
"I was trying to get her to come back to the SGC and explain all this to Dr. Frasier. This is too important not to look into. She refused because their race has supposedly been reclusive for millennia."
Heart beating fast at the thought that he'd never need to fear the horror of another forced implantation, Jack realised that in Daniel's place he too would have been fighting to talk sense into Meliana rather than hot-footing it back to the Stargate.
Blair and Jim looked at each other for a long moment. The SGC was not their responsibility, but they could see the strategic value in the information that Daniel had unwittingly stumbled across. Blair did see one stumbling block, though. "Uh, Daniel, I don't mean to be a fly in the ointment but--"
"They didn't mention that Guides couldn't be hosts?" asked Daniel. Blair nodded and Jim and Jack suddenly focused their attention back on their Guides.
"I was out of it a couple of hours before they did their scans and then went all crazy when they realised I was a Guide. I did ask, but I never really got a clear answer." Turning to Meliana, he said, "You care to give that explanation another try?"
The woman smiled and started to talk...
"So, basically what you're saying is that after a connection between a Sentinel and Guide takes place, that the Guide's brain chemistry changes slightly as an empathic bond begins to form. That a Goa'uld can eventually overcome a Guide's personality, but it more or less drives them mad in the process?"
"Yes, Daniel Jackson," said Meliana. "According to our historical records the last two times it happened on our world the Sentinel could sense the change in their Guide and killed them before committing suicide. The Goa'uld learned their lesson, it seems; they cannot infest a Sentinel, and choose not to infest their companions.
"Okay then," said Blair in a soothing voice, "are we all agreed that the attack and Daniel's 'abduction' now come under the heading of unfortunate misunderstanding?" At the grudging nods from the main parties in the room, Blair continued. "All right. I suggest that we tell Teal'c that he can stand down. He can go tell the others that Daniel is safe and well and that we're entering into talks with the planet's inhabitants."
While Meliana and her people were still reluctant to even consider leaving the complex to visit the SGC, they did agree to talk to the representatives from the Tau'ri now that they were here. Jack sent Teal'c back to let the rest of the rescue team what was going on, and Jim added a request that General Hammond call Simon Banks to let him know that both he and Blair would be home in a few days.
Shortly thereafter, a temporary agreement was reached. While Meliana and her people still refused to visit the Tau'ri homeworld, they did agree that a representative from the Tau'ri could come to the complex to be instructed in the unique resistance to Goa'uld infestation offered by a Sentinel's senses.
Doctor Janet Frasier spent the next couple of days going over all the information Meliana and her people gave her. With Sam's help to monitor the tests and equipment used, both Sentinel/Guide pairs went through a series of baseline tests to prove that everything that the SGC personnel had been told was the absolute truth.
In addition to this information and the vast database of information that the SGC personnel were given to take back to the Tau'ri as a gift from Meliana's people, Jim, Blair, Jack and Daniel returned for a three day visit to her homeworld.
Once there, they were treated as honoured guests and spent their days discussing the history of Sentinels and Guides on Earth, as well as their own personnel experiences as such. The watcher/companion bond was so far buried in ancient records on Meliana's homeworld that it had almost become legend rather than historical fact. The last known pair had served and protected their people for almost thirty years before falling victim to an accident that had taken their unique gifts from common knowledge into forgotten fact. Blair and Daniel's academic counterparts in this new world were ecstatic at being able to talk to living examples of these ancient pairs.
At the end of the visit, the Sentinels and Guides returned to the complex to make their farewells to Meliana. An agreement had been reached between the SGC and Meliana's people. Both the world they monitored and their homeworld would be locked from the dialling computer at the SGC. As requested, no one from the Tau'ri would contact them. The only way for communication to be resumed would be if Meliana's government authorised it. Left on the homeworld at the end of their visit was one of the SGC's standard 'we're your friend' boxes. The instructions for which address to send it to had been given, as had the firm warning about the iris protecting Earth's gate and what happened to unannounced visitors that encountered it.
Then, the Sentinels and Guides went home. The rescue mission had not gone exactly as expected, but Daniel Jackson was back at Jack O'Neill's side and all was right with their universe. They had new information from a race that was at least now a friend, if not a future potential ally. They had been given startling information regarding Sentinels and Guides, and - not that they really needed it - Meliana's people had shown them scientific proof of what they had already known in their hearts and souls; the pairs were connected on an instinctual, genetic and soul-deep level.
Reaching the Stargate, the Sentinels sent their Guides through first, following close behind and guarding the other halves of their souls the entire way home.
Two days later, Detective James Ellison and Detective Blair Sandburg managed to slip quietly into the bullpen of the Major Crime division of Cascade PD. They should have been back the day before but there had been one more meeting that they were requested to attend. One they couldn't say no to. One that had some surprising results.
Their presence had still gone undetected and the reason they managed this astounding feat was because all eyes were locked on the shouting match going on between Captain Simon Banks and Police Chief Warren.
"I don't care what you're trying to pull, Banks! They've gone too far this time. Disappearing for over a week without so much as a 'by your leave' is completely unacceptable. I don't care if you say that they were specifically requested by the military for a rescue mission. I don't care if God was the one that requested them. They've pulled this type of disappearing act once too often. I'm starting immediate dismissal procedures on Ellison and Sandburg!"
"It's all right, Captain," came a quiet voice from the doorway. Heads whipped round at the familiar voice of Detective James Ellison. "I'm actually surprised we haven't been put on suspension already."
Warren's fuming glare didn't flinch from the calm expression of the detective he'd just threatened to fire. Ellison turned his head to his partner and said, "Chief?"
Blair held up one hand as he talked into his cellphone and said, "Yes, General. It's like we expected. We hate to do this but... that's great. Okay, hang on."
"Chief Warren, sir. Could you please take this call? It will explain everything."
Stalking forward, Warren angrily snatched the phone from his detective's hand and said, "This is Chief Warren of the Cascade PD. I don't know who you think--
"Mr. President! I'm sorry, sir. I--
"Yes, sir. Of course. I understand. They are two of our most valued officers, sir. Of course... Yes, sir. I will... Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Goodbye."
Face somewhat ashen, Chief Warren looked round the suddenly silent bullpen into the calmly expectant gazes of Ellison and Sandburg and hissed out, "The President has explained that you were called in on a search and rescue operation at his express request, gentlemen. He says that for reasons of national security nothing further can be divulged. Only that you both did an exemplary job and that he thanks you on behalf of a grateful nation."
You could have heard a pin drop as he continued to relay his conversation. "The President also wanted to express his gratitude to you and all your colleagues for the exemplary work that you do in continuing to keep the streets of Cascade safe for your fellow citizens. He asked that I pass on a message to you all to, 'Keep up the great work'."
Knowing when to admit defeat, Chief Warren quietly left the bullpen. Once he was gone, the rest of their friends just looked on at them in amazement. Somewhat unnerved by their friends' unusual stillness, Blair said, "What?!"
"Nothing, Hairboy," assured Henri Brown. "We're just glad you two are back. Things have been a bit hectic while you were gone." Nods and murmured agreements met that statement and the bullpen quickly got back to work.
By day's end, Ellison and Sandburg had caught two armed robbers and stopped a purse snatching while they'd eaten a late lunch in the park. Everything was back to normal. Sort of. Major Crimes practically hummed with energy. Their return seemed to be the impetus for a sudden rise in successful closure to open cases. All around the bullpen, detectives worked at filling in reports on the cases that they had closed that day.
Jim and Blair still garnered a lot of surreptitious looks from various members of the police department. Word had quickly spread of whom exactly had taken the wind out of Chief Warren's tirade in mid-yell.
Ellison and Sandburg were different. Everybody knew that even if nobody talked about it. Still, disappearing for days and returning with the thanks of a grateful nation and a call from the President himself was a bit much, even for them. The inner circle of Major Crime had looked at them with concern in their eyes after Chief Warren had left.
Simon had been a bit more blunt about it. He'd called them into his office and hissed, "The President?!"
It had taken a great deal of patient explanation and some yelling before Simon had been persuaded to agree that, while it was not an ideal situation, it was at least a very public one. Unnamed government agencies would find it a lot more awkward to try and do something to the detectives with the unusual press conference in their past. Not everybody had bought the fraud story. Too many things had happened around Ellison and Sandburg for everyone to fall for it.
The President publicly acknowledging them for helping them did one other thing. Blair couldn't and wouldn't recant his 'I'm a fraud' speech. Most of Cascade no longer thought about it, but, for those who did, it was going to be a lot harder to poke holes in his credibility - not after a public acknowledgement in their workplace of thanks for a job well done by the President himself. There was no way that the department personnel would keep gossip like that quiet. Word would get out to the DA's office and to the Press... it might take a few days to trickle down the gossip pipeline, but it would get out.
Besides, they'd tried to reason with the President about the need for secrecy - for the SGC if not for them. The President had been firm. Anybody that went searching would get as far as NORAD. Nobody talked about the SGC.
To the Cascade PD, Major Crime, and in particular their friends; Ellison and Sandburg were back safe, and that was all that mattered. For some reason - and none of them would ever publicly acknowledge why - they'd sleep easier tonight knowing that those two were back in their accustomed roles of protecting the city.
Meanwhile, in Jack O'Neill's house, he and Daniel had just finished up the chess game they had started two days before the mission in which Daniel had been kidnapped.
Exhausted after the long debriefing of the day before, in which they had briefed the General on the results of their visit to Meliana's homeworld, and figured out a way to protect Jim and Blair from the attention of the NID - namely the General calling the President on behalf of the pair from Cascade and arranging the meeting in the Oval Office - not to mention a day of moving boxes and storing Daniel's belongings, they decided to turn in for the night. It was back to normal in the morning. Back to working in the bowels of a mountain and protecting the planet from alien danger in an unsafe galaxy. It was a crazy job, but it was theirs.
Thirty minutes later, inhaling the gentle fragrance of the new sheets on his bed, Jack O'Neill sent out his sense of hearing to the room down the hall. A muffled "Good night, Jack," followed by the soothing lull of his Guide's heartbeat sent Jack into the first peaceful sleep he'd had in an age.
Daniel was back safe and sound, all was right with the world.