The Long Haul

Chapter 8: Two sides to every story

"Easy there, Tiger." Jack led Daniel over to a large tree stump near the campfire and set him down gently to warm up and dry out. "Rest up a minute while we take care of business."

The colonel gestured to Sam to look after Daniel, then moved off to assist Teal'c. He wanted to be sure the threat was properly neutralized.

Sam set down her backpack and began rummaging for her med kit. Daniel drew in a deep breath, which turned to a hacking cough when he let it out. The smoky atmosphere from the campfire was not entirely to blame.

Sam stopped herself from asking Daniel if he was okay. He was clearly a long way from okay. Instead, she unscrewed her canteen and handed it to him.

Daniel drank eagerly - though his arm felt like lead when he lifted it - 'til she admonished him, "Slowly, Daniel, or you'll make yourself sick."

Knowing it was wise counsel; he reluctantly put the bottle down.

"Better?" Sam tilted her head on one side, examining the raw wounds around Daniel's throat, feeling his feverish forehead and frowning.

"Thanks," he croaked. "I'll be okay." He waved an arm vaguely in the direction of Ro'Pita. "Take care... Princess... ankle..."

Nodding in understanding, Sam handed Daniel a tube of salve. "Rub this on your neck, it'll soothe and it's antiseptic."

Daniel applied it gratefully, glancing up at his teammates busying themselves around him. He was glad Jack had relegated him to the sidelines. He hadn't the energy to help out even if so ordered. He was weary beyond words and wanted nothing more than to keel over and go to sleep, but somehow at the same time he felt too restless and agitated. They still weren't safe. He had to stay alert. The supremely capable Colonel O'Neill may be there now to take charge, but Daniel daren't rest on his laurels. Somewhere at the back of his weary mind was the knowledge that they weren't on Salverit anymore. Unless Ro'Pita knew the gate address for Menda, which he seriously doubted, he would have to work out how to dial home. Oh Sam was smart, he was sure she could do it too. She'd been getting more adept over the past two years. But she was more used to computer programs and algorithms. It would take her longer...

'Stop it, Jackson,' he admonished himself.

Daniel took a hitching breath. His mind was running rampant. What was he thinking? That he was indispensable? Hardly. He was just too damned tired to think straight. Maybe he should just catch forty winks while he could. His eyelids were drooping, too heavy to stay open.

Then again, they were still in enemy territory; he didn't want to put the rest of the team in danger hauling his sorry ass out of there.

The thought drew his attention back to the activity across the other side of the fire. Folcan had regained consciousness, and Jack had him covered with his own energy weapon.

"Give me back my weapon," demanded Folcan, struggling against his bonds.

"Consider it confiscated," Jack barked back.

"These'll make the brass back home happy," Jack told Teal'c, nodding at the strange gun. "New tech for the nerds to back-engineer. New weapons for our arsenal against the Goa'uld."

"Indeed," Teal'c responded, leveling his staff weapon toward the wriggling captive.

"My brother will kill you for this," Folcan threatened, not realizing that Valton was bound and still out for the count behind him.

"I oughta kill you for what you've put Daniel through, all of you!" Jack aimed the weapon at Folcan's heart, assuming he had one, and fingered the unfamiliar trigger.

Daniel was touched by Jack's reaction, but couldn't have seven deaths on his conscience. He would never get used to Jack's 'shoot first and ask questions later' attitude. There were two sides to every story.

"No, Jack!' Daniel yelled as loud as his sore throat would allow. It was enough to have the colonel turn and look in his direction, frowning as his friend coughed and reached for the canteen.

"Nobody treats one of my team like this!" Jack asserted, steadying his aim.

"No!" Daniel took a couple of quick sips of the cool clear water. "Please Jack," he begged, "Don't kill them."

"You might as well kill us," the heavy-set Mendan was awake now, and the others were stirring too.

"Silence, Torg," ordered Valton.

"It's true. If we go back to the fortress without the princess, Emperor Drogor will kill us all anyway, so what's the difference?"

Daniel thought the name Drogor sounded familiar, but he was sure it wasn't one of the Goa'uld system lords they had encountered. His headache was too intense for him to try and figure it out right now.

Jack's interest was piqued in spite of himself. He prodded the guy next to Folcan. "You, what's the story? What does this "Drogor" of yours want with Princess Pain in the butt anyway?"

"None of your business," snarled Valton, earning him a right hook from Teal'c.

"Hold your tongue," the Jaffa instructed him.

"You. Speak," Teal'c commanded the Mendan that the colonel had addressed.

The guy looked nervously to Folcan, who nodded, "Tell them, Runalf."

"He is not 'our' Emperor Drogor," the one called Runalf began. "He and his men arrived in a huge vessel many seasons ago."

"Let me guess, he brought these weapons with him," Jack assumed. Like Daniel, he had noted the curious mix of simple farming folk like Ruygan and advanced technology.

"We've always been a peaceful community. We traded crops, livestock, textiles and such with our neighbors on Salverit and Nopatia through the spinrock. We were content. Then Drogor crashed landed here, on the far side of the Great Wood. He adapted his wrecked ship into a fortress, set himself up as Emperor and enslaved our people."

"He entrusts his slaves with weapons that might overpower him?" Teal'c queried. "Why did you not simply rid yourself of the intruder?"

"Hey, T!" Jack nudged the big guy. "Not so long ago you were wielding that staff weapon for the guy that enslaved you, remember?"

Teal'c inclined his head. "Your point is well taken, O'Neill."

He turned back to the captives, "But why did he not send one of his own with you on this mission to ensure your obedience?"

"He did," Folcan told them, "You killed him back on Salverit."

Runalf went on to tell them how Drogor and his crew were the only survivors of a world destroyed by the Goa'uld. Their ship was damaged in the escape attempt and they limped it to Menda. Convinced the Goa'uld want to track him down, his plan was to conquer all three planets, building an army to defend against attack and defeat the enemy who robbed him of his home world.

"We knew nothing of these Goa'uld before Drogor came," put in one of the other Mendans. "Now he's going to bring them here to wipe us out like they did his people. He's crazy."

"Quiet, Bildan," ordered Valton nervously, as if afraid Drogor would somehow hear them.

"Your friend was right about him giving us the weapons," Runalf commented. "Drogor needs us because his own troops are limited in number, but he isn't very big on trust. Which is why he wants the princess."

"Because of her gift," guessed Daniel, rubbing at his aching lower back.

"Exactly. He ensures our loyalty by holding our loved ones captive. He cannot do that for a whole army. He needs to be certain nobody is plotting against him. The princess' ability to sense whether or not someone speaks the truth is well known to be completely infallible. She cannot be deceived."

"What would prevent her from deceiving him, though?" Jack wanted to know. Trust the colonel to look for the double-cross.

"He has planted some of his men as spies in the marketplace on Salverit; far enough from the palace not to alert her Highness to their machinations. They have orders that if he does not contact them regularly to say all is well, they are to kill the King."

Ro'Pita, who had endured quietly while Sam tended her ankle and head, now squealed loudly in horror. "Father!"

"Calm down, Highness, he's in no immediate danger," Carter reassured her. She helped the princess to her feet and supported her as she hopped over to join Daniel sitting on the huge tree stump.

"Jack, we have to help these people," Daniel decided, still rubbing at his back.

Jack turned to him, his face in the firelight clearly reflecting the thought that along with his weapons, captivity had robbed Daniel of his wits.

"You gotta be kidding me, Daniel. Look at the state of you. Have you forgotten they're the ones who did that to you?" Jack was incredulous. He looked to the nearest thing they had to a medic. "Carter, is he outta his mind?"

"Daniel is running a high temperature, sir, so he could well be delirious. However, in this instance, I think he's right."

Jack's jaw dropped and he turned to the huge Jaffa warrior by his side for some support. "Teal'c?"

Teal'c inclined his head and paused for a long moment in contemplation. "It would seem that the real threat here is this Emperor Drogor. I have heard you state before O'Neill that the enemy of my enemy is-"

"-my friend," Jack finished with him. "Yeah, yeah, okay. I guess Boy Scout Jackson here is right."

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