Daniel Jackson is alive – for now. If you want him to remain alive you will adhere to the following instructions.You will not come looking for him. You will wait for further instructions and prepare to deliver a ransom in accordance with those instructions.If you do not follow these instructions to the letter Daniel Jackson will die.
The briefing room fell silent when Sam finished reading the typed message on the note in her hands. She hadn't been the one to find it – that had been Jack. When their resident geek hadn't showed up for work after their weekend leave he had tried calling on the phone, but after the third attempt went unanswered he had decided to go check on him. It was entirely possible that Daniel just hadn't heard the phone because he was too immersed in a translation or some such, but Jack couldn't help worrying. Unfortunately, this time worrying had been exactly the right thing to do. Jack had found the front door ajar and the apartment had been a complete mess of toppled furniture and broken antiquities. The note had been on the table, and barely had he read it to the end before he rushed to gather the rest of his team.
Jack leaned forward onto the table, resisting the urge to grab a nearby pen and fiddle with it. He could see the same tension that surged through him in the faces around him. Sam was easiest to read; she wore her feelings on her sleeve, but he would never make the mistake of counting that fact as lack of strength. They all had strength around this table, different kinds that all served their purpose. General Hammond had the strength of a commander; to lead but also to fiercely care about those he led. Jack had always respected him for that. Teal'c's strength was otherworldly, once as alien to Jack as the man himself had been. Now, after years of working together, struggling together, fighting and – literally – dying together, Jack had come to understand him. Despite Teal'c's perpetually stoic face he could see the steel in his eyes that spoke clearly of what awaited whoever had dared lay a hand on Daniel. Daniel – he has strength as well. Jack wasn't sure if he knew it himself, but Jack did. He'd known ever since that first mission to Abydos, ever since the bottle eyed geek took a staff blast meant for him. He'd saved everybody back then, like he always did: the abydonians – me. Jack would have to rely on that strength to keep Daniel alive until they found him.
Realization dawned; his worry ridden thoughts had scattered and run away with him in the silence. Am I getting too old for this? Maybe it's time to consider that retirement again. Maybe…when Daniel's safe. He forced his thoughts back – and halted his fingers again on their way to finding a fiddle toy.
"So, what do we think?" he asked, a nod to the note the only elaboration.
Sam met his eyes, reading his thoughts – or at least guessing them. That was the beauty of a good team. She studied the note again, running her finger along the typed lines as if it would make them divulge anything further.
"It looks legit," she said in the end, and the scowl Jack gave her made it clear that wasn't the answer he'd wanted.
"Yeah," he said, "but what's the chance that's really the case."
There was silence again as they considered his words, all of them reaching the same conclusion. Jack had a point; it wasn't very likely this was as simple as a none-Stargate related kidnapping.
"What shall we do?" Teal'c asked, and his grim voice made it obvious what he wanted to do, even if the note had explicitly said not to come looking for Daniel. Jack knew the feeling, and he suspected there was a similar grimness echoing in his own voice when he spoke. He had no intention either to abide by the kidnappers' instructions.
"We're going to find whoever took Daniel," he said, standing up with his hands firmly planted on top of the table. "And then we'll ask them politely to give him back."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow.
"And if they refuse?"
"We ask them not politely." Jack's voice dropped to an ominous growl. "If they think they can just take Daniel and they're not going to pay for it, they don't know who they're dealing with."
Teal'c smiled, not with joy but in stone cold determination. It was the kind of expression that could scare a man out of his skin, but at the moment it just made Jack glad to have him on their side. His eyes shifted to Sam, and he saw the struggle in her eyes. She was right there with them, having no problem with disregarding the ransom note fully and entirely, but protocol demanded their commander's permission to mount a rescue mission. Jack frowned and met the general's eyes. There was no conflict there.
"Keep me posted," Hammond said and gave him an approving nod, "and let me know if you need anything."
A wave of marginal relief washed over Jack's features before they settled back into grim determination. His thoughts weren't scattered anymore. They still screamed with worry, but his military experience was already focusing the feeling into a knife edge that would cut down anything that stood in the way of finding Daniel.
Sam and Teal'c hurried to their on-base quarters to get changed into street clothes, while Jack impatiently paced back and forth in front of the elevator waiting for them. He hadn't gotten changed out of his when he rushed into the base under Cheyenne Mountain with the ransom note in his hand and metaphorical steam coming out of his ears.
Finally, after far too long in Jack's opinion, Teal'c appeared around the corner wearing khaki cargo pants and a muscle tee under a billowing trench coat. As he walked he pulled a beanie over his head to cover the golden Apophis emblem on his forehead. A few steps behind him came Sam, holstering a zat'nik'tel in a shoulder harness under her black leather jacket. In her free hand she held two more zats that she handed to the two men.
"The general authorized these for us," she said as way of explanation.
Darkness. Daniel blinked and reopened his eyes wide. Still darkness. There was not the tiniest sliver of light to see by, to tell where he was. Lacking sight he turned his attention to his other senses. Hearing. He strained his ears, concentrating, but the silence was as thick and impenetrable as the darkness – almost. If he lay completely still and held his breath he could eventually make out the soft sound of water dripping. It reminded him of a leaky faucet, but somehow he doubted that was what it was. Smell. The dark space around him smelled wet and earthy. It was the smell of underground. Maybe a cave? Sense. The ground he lay on was uneven and despite the dank smell of the room it was relatively dry. He spread his hands out from his body and across the surface, finding rock under a thin layer of sand and…straw?
He sat up and with one hand over his head he carefully got to his feet. There was no ceiling in reach, not even when he stretched up on his toes. Reaching his hands out in front of him he started moving forward, and after a few steps he reached a wall. His sensitive fingertips danced across the rough stone, finding straight lines dividing the surface into square blocks. Manmade, not natural, he noted. He turned ninety degrees and with one hand on the wall and the other stretched out in front of him he continued his exploration, counting the steps to determine the size of the room. One, two, three, four, five… Another wall connected with the one he'd followed and almost immediately his fingers slid across a new surface – wood. A door?
Eagerly he felt for the door handle, but no matter how he searched he couldn't find it. He ran his hands all over the wooden surface – even up high and low – twice, but the wood was perfectly solid. The edges sat seamlessly into the surrounding stone, leaving no purchase for him to pry on. He tried pushing; throwing his weight against the door, but all he managed to do was bruise his shoulder. Despite the wood feeling damp under his hands, which he hoped would have weakened it, the door didn't budge. It must be barred from the outside. His dawning suspicion had just been confirmed. Someone had shut him inside this dark room.
He tried to remember what had happened, racking his mind while he continued the mapping of the room. The last thing he remembered was going to bed with one of his favorite books. The wall with the door is eight steps long. He had a vague recollection of waking up with the book lying open on his chest. His glasses must have been crooked, they always got squashed when he fell asleep reading. He paused and felt for the spectacles on his face. They weren't there. I must have lost them, or had them taken from me.
He continued measuring the wall, reaching the corner at eight steps. The back wall was again eight and the last closed up the room to a pretty much perfect square. There was nothing on the walls as far as he could tell. The only anomaly in the solid stone was the equally solid wooden door. Daniel tried tackling it again but that only added to the soreness in his shoulder. There were no windows either, unless they were further up than he could reach which would make them of no use to him anyway. The lack of windows would account for the lack of lighting, though.
On his hands and knees he explored the floor. The search turned up a bucket, which by the smell of it was what passed as facilities here, and a ragged blanket on top of a heap of foul smelling straw. I guess that's the whole of it. He sat down on the blanket and tried again to remember how he had ended up here. There was the clear memory of going to bed, reading, and at some point drifting off to sleep. Then there was the more fuzzy recollection of waking up. What was it that woke me? He closed his eyes, despite the action feeling quite redundant in his current location, and tried to put himself back in his apartment, in his bed.
The book had been heavy on his chest. Jack always teased him that he didn't seem to understand the 'light'-part of light night reading. His glasses had definitely been crooked, uncomfortably dislocated off of the ridge of his nose and pulling on his left ear. He remembered taking them off and trying to adjust them, but ultimately putting them back on with a note to himself to fix them in the morning. I wonder if it is morning yet. The darkness made it impossible to judge the passage of time – and apparently to concentrate as well. Or is there some other reason for that? He tried, yet again, to remember. I got up to see what had waked me. And then what happened?