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The three men emerged through the gate on Nanda. None of them was thinking of the time when they had been there before. They were focused on one thing, and one thing only—finding Jessie before it was too late. Mitchell headed straight for the main building in the town square. Entering it, he took the stairs two at a time to the second level.
"Brojorn!" Cam looked around the room. "Brojorn!"
A woman came around the corner. "Colonel Mitchell?"
"Ileah. Where is Brojorn?"
"He isn’t here, Colonel Mitchell. He had some business to attend to."
"When will he be back?"
"If things go smoothly, two, maybe three days from now. Possibly a week." She frowned at the look of quiet desperation on Mitchell’s face. "What is wrong?"
"Someone took Jessie. We have no idea who, or where she’s at. I was hoping Brojorn would be able to locate her."
Ileah understood what Mitchell was saying. She shook her head sadly. "There’s no way I can contact him. You would have to wait for him to return."
"Are you sure there’s no way to get a hold of him?"
"I’m sure, Colonel. If there was, I would do so."
Mitchell knew she was telling the truth. "Is there anyone else who could help us?"
"Brojorn is the only one whose psychic abilities are strong enough to possibly pinpoint Jessie’s location."
Mitchell swallowed hard against the lump in his throat.
"If you wish, we could notify you as soon as he returns."
He nodded in her direction. "I’d appreciate that." He turned and made his way down the stairs, Spencer and Pisano close behind. Mitchell tried to ignore the dread settling in the pit of his stomach. He just couldn’t shake the feeling that they were running out of time. At the moment he was focused on getting back to the gate, and inflicting some serious physical pain on some Tok’ra operatives. If it hadn’t been for them, they wouldn’t be in this fucking position to begin with. His anger had honed his attention down to tunnel vision, so it was nothing short of a miracle that he noticed the small movement off to his right as they made their way down the path to the gate. Turning his head, his eyes focused on the small girl standing by the tree. His steps slowed.
The little girl motioned to him, and Mitchell walked over, kneeling down in front of her. The expression on her face was solemn, her light blue eyes showing an intensity that surprised him.
"Jessica needs you."
Mitchell’s eyes widened slightly. "Aylen, sweetie, how do you know that?"
"She’s hurt. She needs you."
He blinked against the threat of tears. "Honey, do you know where she’s at?"
The little girl’s brow furrowed, her eyes focused as if she was looking at something far away. It was then that it struck Mitchell, what it reminded him of. It was the same look Brojorn had gotten at times when he had conversed with them in the past.
"I need something to write on."
Mitchell looked back at the guys, and Spencer hurriedly pulled out his notepad and a pen. Aylen took it and began to write, carefully drawing the symbols only she could see. She handed it to Mitchell when she was finished.
"Jessie’s in the temple. Your other friends will need to go with you to protect you from the bad ones. But hurry. She’s very weak. You don’t have much time."
Looking down at the paper, he saw she had drawn the symbols of a gate address. He reached out and gave her a quick hug. "Thank you," he whispered just before he turned and began to run.
Whoever was responsible for the engravings didn’t want their secret to be readily revealed. Jessie was working as quickly as she could, but it was like traipsing through quicksand. Unfortunately, Kaitsenko was not a patient individual. He had been in twice already, each time growing more incensed when she didn’t have the information he wanted. He took out those frustrations on Jessica physically.
Kaitsenko strode into the chamber. "Have you found the location of the temple?" he demanded.
Jessica was starting to lose her temper. "Look, I told you, as soon as I figure it out, I’ll let you know. So far, there has been no mention of any temple…"
The impact of his hand against her cheek echoed throughout the room, the
force of it knocking Jessica against the table. "I grow tired of your
"I’m not making excuses! It’s written in four different languages! If it were a simple task, someone would have figured it out already!"
Kaitsenko swung, intent on striking her once more, but Jessica instinctively blocked him. His face registered his surprise, but it was short lived, replaced by full-blown anger. She managed to defend herself against several of the blows, but she was fighting a losing battle. Twice his fist connected with her ribs, once with her jaw, knocking her to the ground. Each time she fell, he grabbed her by her upper arms and hauled her to her feet. Just as he was about to hit her again, she managed to gasp out, "If you kill me, you won’t ever find out where that damned temple is, because I can guarantee no one else will be able to figure it out for you."
He tightened his grip on her arms, resisting the urge to shake her. Gritting his teeth, he snarled, "Find that temple, or I guarantee your death will be extremely painful, and very, very slow." Shoving her away from him, he strode angrily from the room.
Jessica turned back to the wall, trying to ignore the pain in her face, shoulders and chest. She could barely move her left arm. As long as Kaitsenko’s men were outside of the chamber, killing him and/or trying to escape was out of the question. There was no doubt in her mind that they would kill her without a second thought. She tried to focus her attention back on deciphering the puzzle in front of her, praying it was going to be a while before Kaitsenko returned.
Two hours later, she sat in stunned silence as she translated the last of the relevant text. Oh, there was no way in hell she could let this fall into Kaitsenko’s hands. Picturing the Stargate in her mind’s eye, she grabbed a piece of paper and quickly jotted down a note. Folding it several times, she slipped it down inside her boot. Taking another paper, she wrote down a different address from memory, adding in some directions that, if compared to the engravings, would seem like an accurate translation. She had just finished writing when Kaitsenko returned, followed by Thomon and two others.
"Your time is up. Have you located the temple?"
Hoping she could sound convincing, she handed the paper to Kaitsenko. "To the best of my ability, this is what it translates into."
Grabbing the paper, he scanned what she had written. "Did it describe what lay within?"
‘Okay, time to put the old acting abilities to the test.’ "It refers to the temple as the protector, or something protected." She pointed at a portion of text on one wall. "Right after that, the language switches, again, and it starts talking about the ceremony worshippers would perform after a gathering." She turned back to him, putting her hands on her hips. "As much as this text jumped around, I’d be really surprised if this had been written as one inscription. It’s very disjointed and certainly doesn’t flow like many ancient translations do…"
Kaitsenko lashed out, his hand connecting with her mouth, knocking her down.
"What the hell was that for? Do you have a problem with women, or do you treat everybody like dirt?"
He handed the paper to one of the men. "Have the others prepare to move out."
"Yes, my lord."
When he had left, Kaitsenko signaled the other man, who walked over to the table, placing whatever he had been carrying upon it. He, too, left the room. Thomon stood nearby.
Jessie watched as Kaitsenko went over and unwrapped whatever it was. When he turned, there was almost a pleasant look on his face. Considering he was such a sadistic bastard, this was not a good sign.
"I hope you have given me the correct information." He looked at Thomon, inclining his head towards Jessie.
"My lord, is this really necessary…"
Kaitsenko’s eyes grew cold. "Do as you are told, or you will be next."
"Yes, my lord." Thomon’s lips were drawn in a tight line. He walked over to Jessica and grasped her arms just above her elbows, turning her to where she had her back to Kaitsenko.
"What are you doing?" she asked nervously, and she began to panic as she saw the look on Thomon’s face, the regret in his eyes. She started to struggle, but despite his slender build, he was surprisingly strong, and she was unable to break his grip. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Kaitsenko had what looked like a thick leather strap, about two to three inches wide. He was fitting something onto the end of it. When she saw what it was, she began to struggle in earnest. The laughter that reached her ears was pure evil.
"If I don’t find what I seek, when I get back, I guarantee you will wish you had never drawn breath."
Jessie felt Thomon’s grip tighten, and Kaitsenko said, "This is a little something to ensure you’ll be here when I return." Jessie heard the strap cutting through the air just before it impacted with a thud in the middle of her back. She jerked so hard there was a sickening pop that came from her left shoulder. Her eyes locked with Thomon’s as a white-hot pain began radiating from just to the right of her spine. She lost muscle control of her legs, and Thomon guided her down to the floor, a small act of kindness, him not letting her fall. Kaitsenko moved around until he was in her line of vision, a malevolent grin spreading across his face.
"Make yourself comfortable." He pulled out what looked like a hunting knife. "I’ll be back as soon as I can. If you have misled me, you will become well acquainted with some of my toys." He turned the blade in front of her face, the light glinting off the metal blade reflecting in her eyes. With a chuckle he stood, motioning to Thomon to follow him as he left the room. Jessie listened to the sounds of their retreating footsteps. She was panting against the pain in her back. Her legs refused to move, yet she still had sensation in them. Was that a good sign, she wondered? He had driven something into her back; she had seen what looked like a spike on the end of that strap. The thought that he had just cut her or stabbed her in that fashion quickly receded. The pain was getting worse; there was definitely something left behind in her. Focusing on her right arm, she moved it slowly until she was touching her back. Feeling with her fingertips, she felt the stickiness of blood, but the site of the pain was just beyond her reach. Jessie could feel the sweat starting to bead up on her face. She whimpered as a wave of pain moved down her back, running down her legs to her feet. The whimpers turned to groans as the pain grew exponentially, and the groans turned to screams, but no one was there to hear her.
SG-7 returned, relaying the information they had obtained from Aylen. SG-1 and SG-7 got ready in record time. A quick search of the database revealed the gate address to correlate with an uninhabited planet not far from Tanoa.
"I’m guessing the ‘bad ones’ Aylen talked about are the ones who took Jessie, if the planet is uninhabited," Mitchell said as he handed out weapons.
Daniel gave Casey a Beretta. "Going by the info in the database, there’s a structure about two clicks north/northeast from the gate."
Jack nodded. "We’ll dial in, send a stun grenade through, and then follow. If we don’t have company, we’ll head straight for the temple. If we do, we’ll improvise."
They gathered in the gate room—Mitchell, Pisano, Spencer and Teal’c, Jack, Sam, Daniel and Casey. Eight were going through the gate. With any luck, nine would be returning.
In between the waves of pain, Jessie had tried to keep track of the time. No sunlight reached the interior of the chamber to keep tabs on the passage of the day, so she had to rely on her watch. She couldn’t control the muscles in her legs, and she was growing progressively weaker from whatever was in her back. The planet she had sent Kaitsenko to had some ruins on it, writings in Ancient. They had already been recorded and catalogued, so she knew they contained nothing of significance. But, since Kaitsenko’s understanding of Ancient was just as bad, if not worse than Jessica’s initial attempts at it, it might just buy her enough time. At least that had been her original plan. Enough time to escape. So much for that thought.
Whatever this crap was, it had virtually immobilized her. She hadn’t been able to move more than six inches from where they had dropped her. And, at the moment, that was the least of her problems. Her voice was so hoarse from her screams, she was barely able to make any sound anymore. Not to mention the pain had grown so intense it was messing with her head—she was starting to hallucinate. Trying to focus on her watch in one of her last moments of clarity, she let out a soft moan. Had it really been twenty-four hours already? Or was it thirty-six? It felt like it had been a lifetime ago.
She was so cold. The chills that shook her body did little to make her feel warmer. What could pass for a ghost of a smile crossed her lips. If there was anything positive to look at, it was the fact that she would probably be dead by the time Kaitsenko made it back. Although, she couldn’t imagine anything he could do to her that would hurt any worse than what she was going through right then. Lying on the floor, she looked at the wall directly in front of her. Ironic, wasn’t it? She was going to die surrounded by what she loved to do—just hadn’t thought it would be on another planet.
A shaky sigh passed her lips as sadness washed over her. She thought of her family briefly, knowing their grief would be hard. She thought of the friends she had made over the last year or so. A tiny smile lifted the corner of her mouth. Sam, Casey. The best friends a woman could have ever asked for. A tear slid down her cheek as her mind settled on Cam. "I’m sorry," she whispered. An ache of loss settled in her chest, a loss of what might have been, what could have been. She remembered his eyes, the mischievous twinkle when he’d tease her, the intensity during her training, the gentleness when he made love to her. She was glad she wouldn’t have to see the disappointment in his eyes when he found out how badly she had fucked up. Jessie whimpered. The pain was building again—another wave was coming. It was too much for her body, too much for her mind. Her instinct for survival gave out, and she welcomed the darkness that overtook her, her consciousness giving up the battle for the blessed gift of not feeling the agony any longer
After rolling the stun grenade through, they counted down and then came through, weapons at the ready. They were relieved to see they were alone, at least for the moment, taking note of the footprints in the dirt around the gate. Someone had been there recently. Moving as quickly and as quietly as possible, they headed in the direction of the temple.
It took them about fifteen minutes to reach the temple. A quick surveillance still showed nothing. Pisano and Spencer remained outside, ready to warn of any impending danger. Mitchell led the way in, his friends close behind him. Finding several paths leading off the main corridor, Jack and Sam took one route, Daniel and Casey another, while Teal’c followed Mitchell. Mitchell passed the cells, noting the one that had a plate of half eaten food on the table. Glancing at each other, he and Teal’c made their way down the hallway. Coming upon an open doorway, Mitchell crouched down, weapon in hand, and peeked inside. Not seeing anyone, he stood and stepped into the room. Time slowed to a crawl for him as he saw something. Not something—someone—on the floor. The dread that had been with him for the past few hours tightened painfully in his chest. It was Jessica.
He was barely aware of Teal’c using his radio to alert the others. He knelt down beside Jessie.
"Oh God," he said, his words choked off as he brushed her hair from her face, noting the dark bruises on her cheek and along her jaw. At first he truly thought she was dead; the only thing that made him realize she wasn’t was the amount of heat radiating from her body. He gently ran his hands over her, checking for broken bones, encountering the sticky wetness on her back, and seeing the blood on his hand.
Jack was the first one through the door. His heart lurched as he saw Mitchell pick up Jessie in his arms, refusing to let Teal’c help him, the tears in the man’s eyes as he turned towards Jack. He thought they were too late.
Mitchell shook his head. "She’s alive, but she’s burning up. Some kind of wound to her back."
They wasted no time heading back to the gate. In fact, they were more than three quarters of the way there when they heard it activate. With a quickness borne from years of training, they silently blended in with the landscape, using the trees and brush as cover. Mitchell’s eyes flickered over Jessie, and he breathed a sigh of relief that she was out cold and he wouldn’t have to worry about trying to keep her quiet.
From their hiding places, they watched six men make their way past them, heading in the direction of the temple. One they recognized immediately—Kaitsenko. There was no doubt in their minds these were the ones responsible for Jessie’s kidnapping, but given her grave condition, they had no choice but to remain silent, waiting until the men were far enough way that it was safe to activate the gate and escape. Jack patiently kept time, and then signaled them to move on. By the time they made it to the Stargate, Daniel had already dialed home and sent their code.
Hammond watched as nine people came back through the gate. His sigh of relief was short lived, though, when he saw the expressions on their faces, and the stillness of Jessica’s body in Mitchell’s arms. The fact that they were yelling for a med team let him know she was still alive; he hoped with every fiber of his being that she would remain that way.
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