"It's a tomb, Jack. We're buried alive."
Daniel sat in the centre of the cubic chamber, next to a high brass candlestick with one single burning candle. The light it gave was dimmed and flickered across the painted stone walls.
"Yeah, but we're still alive. We just gotta find a way out of here." Jack looked around. "There's gotta be a door here somewhere."
He didn't want to think about the alternative. Unfortunately it wasn't entirely impossible that there was no door. More than a few of the galaxy's inhabitants had technologies that would make it possible to put their captives in a room with no entrance – and as such no exit. But, as aforementioned – not gonna think about that.
Jack ran his fingers over the wall, feeling for a crack that might be invisible in the low light. He would find it and he would blast their way out of here. After all, that was what he did – at least when there weren't any way for Daniel to talk their way out of it. That was their division of expertise. Daniel talked and achieved diplomatic solutions – and Jack blew things up.
On the third wall he searched he found what he was looking for. It wasn't more than a line in the stone, but he followed it and found it forming a perfect square on the wall. He turned to his friend with a self-satisfied grin.
"On your feet, Daniel. A few more minutes and we'll be out of this hole."
He grabbed his pack and dug out a piece of C4, quickly estimating the thickness of the wall and calculating the amount he would need to make a hole without killing them both with the blast. He affixed the explosives to the door and took the remote detonator in his hand. Then he shoved Daniel into the farthest corner of the room. Hunching down their eyes met for just a moment, then Jack flipped the switch and the detonation reverberated between the walls.
The blast blew out the candle and left them in utter darkness. Digging in his chest pocket Daniel remembered that the only thing that had been taken from them was their flashlights. He had thought it weird at the time, and it made no more sense now. Their captors had left them everything else, including their weapons, but had taken anything that could make a light.
"You okay?" Jack asked and Daniel felt him search for him in the dark. He grabbed the colonel's hand and gave it a squeeze.
"I'm fine. Let's see if we made it through."
In that moment there was a change in the darkness. Daniel blinked and saw shapes appearing out of the black. He could make out the figure of Jack right next to him. Then the features became clearer, as did the rest of the room. Looking around he took in the destruction. The floor was strewn with debris of varying sizes, the largest pieces as big as Daniel's own head. He shuddered at the sight of one of them just a few inches away. If it had flown just a bit further he wouldn't have been looking at anything anymore.
He lifted his gaze and looked towards the opposite wall. The air was still thick with dust from the pulverized stone, but he thought he saw a darker area where the C4 had exploded. What stood between them and it was curiouser though. The tall brass candlestick had survived the blast without toppling over, and atop it the candle burned again.
Jack didn't give the candlestick more than a quizzical look before he circled it and approached the hole in the wall.
His call drew Daniel's attention away from the candle. He crossed the room, trying to decipher the emotion in Jack's voice. As he got closer the dark patch in the wall became clearer, and he realized it wasn't the darkness of a tunnel beyond the blown out door. Framed by the jagged stone was a smooth metal surface, which bore no sign of being affected by the explosion that had obliterated the wall.
"Welcome to sunny PNX-463. Today we have a balmy 85 degrees Fahrenheit with no clouds so be sure to drink a lot and put on plenty of sunscreen. To your right you can see sand, and to your left there is more sand."
"We are just coming up on the first stop of the tour: the only tree in a five mile radius. Note its lack of leaves and the sandblastered branches, witnessing to the complete lack of moisture in this entire god forsaken place of death."
"Jack!" Daniel's raised voice finally halted the colonel's tour guide rant. "Are you going to do that all the way?"
"What, you don't like to listen to someone prattle on all the time like an energizer bunny of pointless information?"
"Haha…very funny, Jack." Daniel's voice dripped with sarcasm worthy of the very colonel he was talking to. "Actually I'd gladly listen to your guide book track. That is if you could get any of the facts right. Why don't you stick to shooting things and leave the talking to those with an actual multisyllabic vocabulary."
Sam and Teal'c, who walked a few steps behind, exchanged a concerned look. This wasn't their teammates' usual banter; there was an edge to the voices and the glares held real anger. They had always rubbed each other the wrong way, more or less along their growing friendship, but lately something had changed the good natured mutual teasing to badly hidden hostility. Sam knew what the problem was, but she had no clue how to help her friends get over it and make up like they had so many times before. As long as she'd known them the two men had had a never ending line of disagreements, about military objectives versus exploration, whether ruins were interesting, and shooting versus talking to solve a problem – but few had left them in such a stalemate of unspoken differences as the android Reese's death.
They tried to put on a good face, working together in a mainly polite fashion, and most people weren't the wiser. Sometimes however when only SG-1 were present their façade would fall down to reveal the rift between them. Sam wished they would just talk about their problems, but they were both equally stubborn in avoiding the actual subject. They bickered about everything between heaven and earth but never touched the name Reese or any of the events surrounding her.
"As you well know, Jack, there is both water and trees by the village," Daniel pointed out, unaware of the exchange behind his back. He was intentionally using the lecturing tone of voice he knew Jack hated. "The village which is full of life and proving that there is plenty of life in this 'god forsaken place of death'. Besides, the tree back there – it isn't dead either. It's an extraordinary example of the adaptability of living organisms…"
Jack groaned and put his fingers in his ears, and Sam could tell by the change in Daniel's posture that he was grinning with satisfaction.
A change appeared in the landscape. The uniform sand fell away into a wide canyon where a river flowed slowly between green irrigated fields. There were trees, just as Daniel had said, and a small collection of buildings. A few children played beside a group of women washing clothes in the river. Daniel immediately snapped into his greeting mode and strode ahead of the team to deliver his 'peaceful explorers'-spiel.