The Long Haul

Chapter 9: Friend or foe?

Jack addressed Folcan, "How long we got 'til this Drogor guy gets antsy 'bout you not turning up?"

"We must deliver the princess to him by loss of sun on the morrow after morrow. Else my wife will pay with her life, as will Valton's, and Revan's son-"

"—Okay, I get it." Jack waved off the list. "So, we have two whole local days," Jack nodded to himself. "Right, here's the plan. Teal'c, you stay here and find out all you can about this 'fortress' from our new friends."

"As you wish, O'Neill," Teal'c nodded.

"This Drogor is not gonna get his hands on the princess. We'll take her home with us and get that ankle properly sorted. I'll round up some reinforcements and together we'll take this Drogor out."

Valton looked skeptical. "You have an army at your disposal?"

"Air force actually," Jack shot back with a grin, "but we don't need a whole army. Trust us, we've done this sort of thing before."

"Why should we trust you? If this fails our families will die. We have much to lose. And what of you? What do you gain from helping us?"

"We're not gonna let that happen. But it's a fair question." Jack shot a pointed look at Daniel, "Aside from knowing we've rid the universe of one more bad guy? The satisfaction of getting your families re-united? Well, for starters there's these energy weapons, and hopefully there'll be more good stuff in that 'fortress' that we can put to better use than you guys."

Daniel cleared his throat and glared meaningfully at Jack. He knew Jack wasn't really against helping these people, or just out for new weapons and technology. He knew Jack well enough to be certain that he wouldn't stand by and see their families suffer, especially when innocent children were involved. Jack just liked to play tough guy. Plus he was ticked off with Daniel for needing rescuing again, so he liked to needle him. At some point there would probably be the barbed comment about saving the 'damsel in distress,' oh and Ro'Pita too. Daniel was used to it. The gruff exterior didn't fool him; he knew how much of a softie Jack could be underneath. Just as much of a sucker for a good cause as Daniel, even if he'd die rather than admit it openly.

"Oh yeah, and we get a whole planet full of grateful new friends. We're real big on seeking out new life forms and new civilizations aren't we, Carter?"

The captain nodded as she stifled a giggle at her superior officer's Star Trek quote.

"So, what's it to be?" Jack asked Folcan, gesturing with the energy weapon, "Friend or foe?"

"It would seem we're in no position to refuse, friend," Valton responded, trying to assert his position as leader even in defeat.

"Sensible decision," Jack shook his head as if to say – sensible for them, but what about us?

Daniel could just hear Jack asking him, "What have you gotten us into this time?"

Jack took Teal'c to one side and instructed quietly, "Keep 'em tied up 'til we get a good head start, just in case they decide to renege on our new alliance. If and when you think it's safe to trust them, set 'em loose and head for the fortress. If not, come alone. I'll get Hammond to assign some men and we'll meet you there."

Teal'c inclined his head in acknowledgement.

"Okay, campers, let's get this show on the road," Jack walked around the fire to Valton's horse and retrieved Daniel's weapons and watch from the saddlebag, returning them to their owner.

"C'mon Daniel, let's get the princess home."

"Then can I have a nice long soak in a hot tub?" Daniel fastened his watch around his wrist, pleased to have it back.

"Sure. You okay?"

"Oh yeah, I'm fine. My feet hurt, I ache all over, and I'm so tired I wanna sleep for oh, about a month, but I'm fine. Oh, did I mention my feet hurt?"

Daniel stood up to follow his friends out of the camp. He took one staggering step, wincing at the white-hot agony throbbing through his feet. His knees buckled but Jack caught him again.

"Daniel?"

"Just gimme a minute, I'll be fine."

Sam hurried to support Daniel from the other side.

"Sit down again, Daniel, before you fall down," she made it a command rather than a suggestion.

Too tired to argue, Daniel sat back on the tree stump and lifted his right leg, resting his calf on his left knee and grabbing his ankle. His mud-stained boots were clearly the worse for wear.

"Here, let me take a look at you," Sam knelt down in front of him and started to unlace his boot.

"Uh, I don't think you wanna be doing that, Sam," Daniel warned her. "I've been in the same socks since we were back on Salverit. It's gonna be pretty ripe in there."

Sam removed the boot regardless.

"Arghh, god!" Daniel gripped the edge of the tree as the boot came off, his head jerking back as a wave of pain shot up his leg.

The sock was indeed pretty rank.

Jack put a hand up to his nose, which wrinkled in disgust.

Sam donned a fresh pair of surgical gloves and eased the sock off too.

As the cold night air met his bare foot, Daniel inhaled sharply, "Dammit that itches."

"Holy Hannah! My god, Daniel!" Sam dropped the sock, her eyes wide at the state of his foot. It was a mass of blisters and sores, some of which had burst and were weeping or oozing puss. The whole foot was bruised and swollen and clearly infected.

"No wonder he has a raging fever," Sam looked over her shoulder at Jack, who was pulling an even more horrified face. "This is the worst case of foot-rot I've ever seen."

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